Saturday, February 8, 2014

On being a whore

Unless you're one of the select few in the literary field who simply exists and creates and readers flock to your work, being a writer involves being a whore for your books. Of course, some writers could care less about publication and the recognition/validation of their work by readers; they write because they're writers and don't let the background noise drown out their words. These writers, while few and far between in my experiences, are worthy of admiration---their motives for telling their stories are pure and I suspect undiluted by the need for vainglorious praise.

Sadly, I am not one of those writers.

In the past six months, I've seen two of my books sent into the brave new world of electronic publishing, or e-books. The first book, Some Sort of Ugly, a novella of sorts, was published by Marginalia Publications, a fledgling small press, and marketed largely to Kindle-users. It had a small print-on-demand run, but other than the copies I bought myself and signed and sold to friends, almost no one bought the print edition. The masses didn't exactly flock to the electronic version either.

Some Sort of Ugly is selling for $1.

Recently, Hangover Breakfasts, a chapbook of short prose pieces that was published in 2012 by Bottle of Smoke Press, was reissued as an e-book. It is a book that is dear to me for a number of reasons, and I was excited to see it get another chance at life. Yet again, the sales have not exactly been lighting up since its release last week.

Hangover Breakfasts is also selling for $1. 

In other words, years of my life's work are available for less than a cup of coffee and still I can't get readers to bite on them. My services are at a bargain-basement price, and I'm still fighting to find johns.

The first book I published was a small poetry chapbook in 1999 titled A Night at the O'Aces, named after a bar I frequented when I lived in Las Vegas. I had two poetry chapbooks in between, No White Horses and Seasons From the Second Floor, that flashed in the proverbial pan. At the time, promotion involved sending stacks of photocopied ads to the editors of zines and asking them to stuff their SASE's with them.

In 2002, Green Bean Press, a now-defunct small publisher in New York City, took a huge chance on me and released a hardcover of my short fiction titled Frostbite. While it received some modest attention, it certainly didn't catapult me to eminence. Nor should it have. Looking back, it was a young and deeply flawed book.

I have since published three collections of poetry with various small presses---the most successful being a collection of poetry about high school teaching published by Sunnyoutside Press titled Teaching Metaphors. While my books have been reviewed in local newspapers and literary journals, print or on-line, here and there, for the most part I've had to whore all of them, whore them out to the world, and self-promote through readings and, now predominantly, social media.

And these days, it seems, with the rise of self-publishing and the money saved by small publishers with print-on-demand, there are more books and more authors and more whores, and with each new project the process feels more and more futile and little more sordid.

In past posts, I've likened myself to Crash Davis from the movie Bull Durham, only instead of eking out a career catching in minor league baseball, I've been publishing in the small presses to mixed results and a few "dubious distinctions." When I was 25 years old and envisioning myself as 38 year old writer, I had myself pegged for the covers of Poets & Writers and The Paris Review. I didn't envision myself kneeling beside a literary glory hole, begging for a buck to see a small spike in my ratings.

While I'm still plugging away at novels, and putting together poetry collections and shorter books, as well as a collaboration with a friend, it would be easier to say, "Fuck it, I quit. I don't want to be a whore anymore." But that is not going to happen. For the most part, writers are masochists, a fact many try to hide with bombastic egos and a feigned sense of self-importance. But, at our cores, we enjoy the punishment and accept our roles as whores. And while having a publicist and a publishing house behind me to help with promotion would be nice, it still doesn't mean the writer can stop being a whore. In many ways, the condition drives the work.

By the way, did I mention that I have two e-books available for $2? Me love you long time.  


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Some Sort of Ugly available on Kindle for a buck

A buck. Think about a buck. What can you buy for a buck anymore? Maybe half a glass of tap-splash at a dive bar. A pack of gum that has already been chewed. An "I Love Tom Boehner" t-shirt. My book.

Starting today, and for a limited time, you can purchase my new book Some Sort of Ugly for Kindles only at The book will be released in print and other e-book formats later this month, but then the price for the Kindle-version will increase slightly to a whopping $2.99. Then you can seriously contemplate whether or not you want a beer or the words I've slaved over.

Here is the link to purchasing it on

So, you might be wondering, what is this thing that penned about? Here are liner notes that Matt, the publisher at Marginalia Publishing, wrote to describe it:
It’s 1992. Kurt Cobain is alive, flannel is everywhere, and Hamlet Burns is starting college. Little does he know he faces four years of rowdy roommates, STDs, and ill-timed explosions of gas. Along the way, Ham drinks a few beers, breaks a few hearts, and has a near-fatal brush with Hootie and the Blowfish.
Some Sort of Ugly is the tale of Ham’s journey from boy to man, and the women that help him get there. The book is a mix of raunchy humor and nostalgic wisdom, and a true coming-of-age journey. 
Other questions you might be thinking and I might be anticipating: My grandmother loves to read, should I download it on her Kindle? It depends whether or not your grandmother can appreciate the fine art of dick-jokes. Should I download it for my kids? It depends whether or not you can afford counseling. Does anyone die? We all die eventually. Does anything blow up or burst into flames? Duh. Why are you so handsome? Thank you very much.

Also, Dan Crocker, a totally unbiased voice who happened to write a few books with me, scribbled the following blurb for Some Sort of Ugly:
 Some Sort of Ugly is both beautiful and ugly in the way life is both beautiful and ugly. It's a hell of a cast of characters here--Ham, Drain-O, Gloria, all of them. Graziano captures the time and place pitch-perfectly, and more than anything, it's funny. Not a lot of people write really good humor, but Graziano pulls it off effortlessly and manages to give us a little to think about in the process. It's a hell of a fun ride."
This, of course, will likely result in the following exchange the next time Dan and I get together.

"Natty, buy the beer."

"But I bought the last round, Cracker."

"Do you remember that blurb I wrote for you?"

I'll shake my head and reach for my wallet. "How much do the beers cost around this joint?"

"A buck, Natty. One dollar."

"What the hell can you buy for a buck anymore?"

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Some Sort of Ugly and projectial vomit

Greetings, 21st Century. My name is Nate, and I've written a bunch of books you've never heard of. And now for something completely different.

Not really.

For starters, my new book Some Sort of Ugly weighs in at around 17,500 words. In other words, I have a novella-length manuscript, and anyone who has ever had the pleasure of shopping a manuscript knows for many years this would have placed it squarely in the dead zone. Most traditional publishers approach novellas like they're poking a turd with a stick.

However, with the advent of the e-book, print-on-demand, and a little bit of luck hooking up with the new Marginalia Press, Some Sort of Ugly is going to be available to readers in October when, otherwise, it would've been filed and forgotten.

I'm excited about this book for a couple of reasons. First, it is considerably different in tone than any book I've previously published. While I've always used humor as my trump card, most of my books tend to drift toward a "some sort" of darkness. This is not the case with Some Sort of Ugly. Instead, I'm pursuing my affinity for raunchy and ribald humor---perhaps tracing my Rhode Island-roots back to a Farrelly brothers influence---and, believe it or not, there is even a love story tucked away in it.

Levity is not a bad thing.

The other reason this project has particularly interested me has to do with Marginalia Press. Headed by my friend Matt Guerruckey, the press focuses on the electronic format, something I have never worked with. Originally, Matt was only going to have it available as an e-book, but after the kick-ass cover art came back, he decided to make it available through print-on-demand as well.

Here's the thing: in many ways, this is an old school DIY project, and working with Matt through the process has been a joy. Matt also employed the help of cover artist Allan Ferguson and copy-editor Pamela Langley to really pull this thing together.

Sure, we'd all like to have our books---our babies---purchased by Random House and reviewed in The New York Times; we'd all like to have enough literary clout to tell Jonathan Franzen to shut the fuck up, but those authors are few and far between. For me, it feels good working with good people to put out a small piece of art. In essence, writers need to write with an audience in mind, and it is my opinion that if you believe in a project---regardless of its marketability in big publishing world---you should do what you can to make sure it gets into readers' hands, somehow.

In the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting all the relevant information for ordering copies, but for right now, here is the cover art. Indeed, you can tell, it is Some Sort of Ugly.

In the meantime, here is a free download of my story "Vandals" at Go Read Your Lunch. And if you haven't been following my Red Sox column at Dirty Water News, please check it out. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to the post-season.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sunday ephemera

Taking it all in at Fenway Park.
My wife and I landed some free Sox tickets from the owners of the neighborhood watering hole, and once in the park, my cousin hooked us up with the chance to see a few innings from the Monster Seats. Here is a picture of your intrepid Sox blogger watching Salty shit his pants with the bases loaded in the eighth of a game against Kansas City.

  • My new article titled "A Nation of Chicken Littles" is up at The Dirty Water News. If you didn't think it was possible to incorporate a quote from Sylvia Plath into an article about the Red Sox, think again.
  • Cinco de Mayo actually provides a reason to stay sober. It is Amateur Hour, along with St. Patty's Day, New Year's Eve and the night before Thanksgiving.
  • I have my first e-book coming out this summer. Some Sort of Ugly is a collection of inter-related humor pieces narrated by Hamlet Burns, a college student who has a series of bad haircuts and zany sexual mishaps. It will be published by the fledgling Marginalia Press. Look for it.
  • It seems to me if everyone in the country were willing to fight for education with the zeal, ardor and dogged determination the NRA has when trying to assure the big, bad government doesn't fuck with their guns, we'd be on a path to a solution.
  • I got my first Kindle for my birthday this year. Love it. Now I can download Some Sort of Ugly when it comes out.
  • The Red Sox, for whatever reason, can't win in Texas. Houston, we have a problem.
  • I wrote an essay for The Good Men Project about some problems my wife and I have encountered with co-sleeping. It's titled, ambiguously, "The Dude Sleeping with my Wife."
  • Bull Durham is, hands-down, the best baseball movie ever made.
  • Steve Henn wrote a thoughtful and thorough review of my chapbook Hangover Breakfasts that is worth checking out. Honestly, I didn't pay him.
  • I saw this linked on a friend's Facebook feed. This is brilliant and creepy and gut-busting funny.
  • My good friend Dan Crocker wrote an article about our friendship for wrestling website. I'm not sure if there is a homoerotic metaphor here or not.
  • Don't forget, next Sunday is Mother's Day.  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Damn the damn Yankees

Here's this week's baseball piece. I think the title, "Damn the damn Yankees," sums it up.

You have to feel good about the Sox so far. They have gotten some quality starts, the bullpen looks strong, and they've found the new face of the franchise. On the whole, this seems like a team we'll be able to get behind, unlike the beer and chicken and "fuck you, I quit" characters from the past two seasons.

Of course, give it a week or a three-game losing streak. The songs change quickly on this jukebox.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

And just when you're trying to like them...

[Warning: extreme vulgarity, rooted in righteous indignation, to follow]

With Opening Day on deck, as fans try to let bygones be bygones and get behind the motley batch of mediocrity that will take the field tomorrow, this shitty diaper surfaces.

Holy fuckoly!

Not only does this hokey three-minute cliche make me embarrassed to be a Red Sox fan, it makes me embarrassed to be a human being, co-existing on a planet where something like this is created and marketed. Think about the number of people culpable in the production of this wet fart---producers, cameramen, sound engineers, the fuck-stick singing. These people should receive a prison sentence their crimes against the decency and good tastes of humanity.

I cannot envision a single person---save said fuck-stick's mother---who could possibly derive a modicum of pleasure from this. I'd venture to guess that even the Pink Hats, the ones who haven't already jumped ship on the 2013 Sox, are vicariously embarrassed by this video. Again, ownership has proven to be totally and completely tone deaf to fans.

Pathetic. Absolutely inexcusable. I think I'm going to go and repeatedly punch myself in the dick for having watched then blogged about this. For once, I'm speechless.  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

New gig, new book

It looks like I was called up to play for The Dirty Water News in Boston this year. I will be writing a bi-weekly article throughout the baseball season at the DWN, a free print newspaper distributed in the Boston-area. This, of course, means I would have to drive down to Boston every two weeks to pick up a copy and stare at my byline. However, seeing I'm on the verge of having a full-blown panic attack just thinking about driving in Boston, that isn't going to happen. But my aunt, my cousin, my sister and her husband live in Boston, so I can find someone in my family who will squirrel away copies for me.

Anyway, the posts that would usually go up on this blog will be linked to the DNW website, which generates slightly more traffic than my blog---although thank you to the two people who continue to regularly check it. The decision is simply a matter of trying to get more readers for my Red Sox rants (someone is feeling alliterative this morning!).

Here is my first article titled "They owe us penance!"

I will still be using this blog, however, for random rants in between my deadlines.

Also, I will have a new book coming out in the fall (no pub-date yet). It is a collection of fiction, poetry, and a one-act play that I co-wrote with my good friend Dan Crocker titled Oprah Recommended. Some of you might remember three out-of-print chapbooks that Dan and I wrote--- Idiot Warriors, Chickenshits, and Men of Letters---that centered around two thinly-veiled fictional characters named Natty and Cracker. We revised many of those stories, added new ones and some of our better poems, while forging a semi-cohesive narrative arc. It was a ton of fun to write and work with my best friend on a project, so we're both very excited and grateful that Leah Angstman at Alternating Current agreed to publish it in paperback next fall.

More information to follow.

In the meantime, nine days from now I'll be watching the Sox open in The Bronx against the Spank-Jobs. So close. Oh, so close.