“The Literary Tempest and Combative Seas” A Stage in the Sky Update by Rock Kitaro
Date January 23, 2017
DNA ft. Suzanne Vega – “Tom’s Diner – Long Version”
If this is your first time here allow me to introduce myself. My name is Rock Kitaro. I’m an author specializing in the themes of revenge, rivalry, and rebellion. However, I’m thinking about adding romance to that list because “love” is almost always the main source of motivation for my characters. They just don’t know it. Neither do I.
I haven’t reached my goal of signing with a traditional publishing house yet, but I will. And when I make the best-sellers list you can look back on this piece as a proof of perseverance. I hope it encourages others who are coming up to plan on running the marathon, don’t quit after the sprint.
Allow me to begin by saying that the reason why I’ve exercised restraint in posting so much this past year was because I thought it would be prudent to say as little as possible. Ever since I was 23, I’ve committed myself to succeeding as an author in the publishing industry.
I’ve sacrificed weekends, holidays, vacations, money, and heart-felt relationships to get this far and I don’t want to ruin it by shooting myself in the foot. I thought that being an artist meant freedom and liberty through self-expression, but that’s a problem if your opinions aren’t welcomed by those whom you need to progress in this industry.
It’d be one thing if I was a non-fiction writer in which my platform was built upon provocative opinions as if that’s exactly what you were going to pay for with my books. However, I am a fiction novelist. I have to present myself to agents and publishers as someone worthy of investment. Allow me to explain.
“Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan” – popularized by John F. Kennedy
They say that silence is a sign of consent. I don’t think so. I believe that a wise man knows when to exercise patience, bide his time, and strike when the time is right. At present, the scene is chaotic. The waters are rough. Those who sail these seas are bound to get lost, stranded, or shipwrecked. Some have made it though. Some because they had head start. Others, because they don’t mind riding the waves created by the first adventures. And there are those who have emerged because they’re that damn good, far better than myself. Like, Roshani Chokshi. Her writing is ridiculously beautiful. And that’s alright. That’s okay.
With so many every day bravely joining the fray, I can’t help but wonder if my patience is really a sign of cowardice. As I get older I see my peers entering the next stages of their life while I continue on this road I’ve been traveling for seven long arduous years. Then, I think of the scene from HBO’s “Rome” where a young Octavian says, “The graveyard is full of middling swordsman. Best not to a swordsman at all than a middling swordsman.”
When I started self-publishing in 2011, I had no idea what I was up against. I didn’t think of trends or what was in-demand for the market. I simply wrote what I wanted in my own voice with the hopes that others would like it too. I had no idea about the highly selective nature of agents or publishers. I assumed that if you created a great, original story and show them something new, you’re in.
I won’t go so far as to say I was naïve, but I will say there’s more to it than that. It appears that after the success of books-turned-movies franchises like “The Hunger Games,” “Twilight,” and the “Maze Runner” everyone and their mothers have flocked to the publishing industry with the next best idea.
In 2012, when I self-published “The Three Kings of Ybor,” my e-books were just seven of 300,000 published that year on Amazon Kindle. I predict the number has only increased over the years as Hollywood continues to blast trailers that start with that deep husky voice saying, “Based on the best-selling novel.”
This isn’t a complaint. To realize what you’re up against and state it clearly shouldn’t be considered complaining. It makes things difficult but not impossible. In fact, it only makes the reward of success that much sweeter. If Lord Byron’s climb to success was but a hill on the beach, then mines will be to the top of Mount Everest. And beneath my feet will be the millions of books published by those shipwrecked, stranded, and lost.
But still…just as one wouldn’t climb Everest in the middle of winter, it’s best not to join the arena when destruction and obscurity is certain and swift. Until then its best that I build my ships, fortify its defenses and stock up for a voyage in which I might not reach land for many years. And build, I have.
By the end of 2015, I finished my flagship masterpiece called, “The Pierce Syndicate.” I promoted it to Literary Agents for a just a little over a month. This isn’t nearly enough time for me to call it a viable campaign, but something happened to me.
I confess, I became doubtful. Not because my story wasn’t ridiculously awesome but because “The Pierce Syndicate” is a huge project, well over 46 chapters and separated in two volumes. I put myself in the shoes of an editor at a traditional publishing house and asked “why would I take a chance on such a big project from a new author?”
The answer is, I wouldn’t. Not without recommendation. Especially these days where the entertainment industry leans heavily towards pop culture, an area I don’t like to be associated with.
Thankfully, God took pity on me. In the depths of my doubt, I honestly feel that the greatest creator noticed me standing alone under that single lamppost in the night’s freezing rain. He saw me look up to the sky and ask him, “What should I do?”
I think he smiled. Because in the span of a three-day weekend I dreamt of a new story in its complete entirety. I couldn’t believe it. The entire story, beginning, middle, and end just hit me like an epiphany. If that’s not a blessing, I don’t know what is.
In February of 2016 I set about writing “The Slave Quarters,” a crime mystery featuring my character Cloud Beaudry and his bundle of sunshine, the conniving ghost Maggie. I’m afraid of writing the plot here because it’s never been done and I don’t it to be stolen. But the coolest thing about this story isn’t even the plot. It’s the first-person narrative in which you’re put in the shoes of a very manipulative (for a good cause), misanthropic detective who’s chalk full of hidden agendas and ulterior motives. I think that’s what makes him so human though. Because I believe almost everyone has ulterior motives. The only difference between Cloud Beaudry and most people is that he’s aware of it. It’s very entertaining, just wait and see.
The “Slave Quarters” took me only three months to write from beginning to end and it was the coolest thing about 2016 by far. I enjoyed it so much. I’ve never been on a cruise. I’ve never been to Disney World. But if I had to pick between a cruise, Disney World, or spending three months writing that book, I’d gladly choose writing the book. Because I am able to travel through time and space. I smell, hear, and see things that don’t exist, that haven’t happened. My ability is that good. Articulating it is always what I have room to improve on.
By July 2016, I started querying it to Literary Agents. This was a campaign that lasted from July till the end of October. And while I know this is a process that every author has to go through, it wasn’t enough for me. The period of July through October is four months. To spend four months of my life just mailing query letters and receiving rejection after rejection (which is to be expected) would drive me insane. I needed to keep creating, keep writing, keep building more ships! I needed more cowbell!
Thus…by the end of July and after reading the “wish-list” of over 100 literary agents who clearly want strong female protagonists or stories centered around women as the main character, I revisited a dream project that I conceived back in 2009. Lol, again, this is an original story that hasn’t been done and the last thing I want is for someone to read this and steal my characters, thus ruining a genre that I’m hoping to resurrect.
I will say that the title is called “The Knights With No Lords”. The main character is a strong female protagonist, but if you know me, then you know I’m a practitioner of the Byronic model. My characters struggle with a sense of what’s right and wrong, mainly because their dark selfish desires are obstructed by the knowledge of what’s good and decent.
I confess, “The Knights With No Lords,” is probably the toughest project I’ve ever worked on because the female lead is seventeen. I already told you about my imagination. Sometimes I have to go places I don’t want to go in order to write emotional dialogue that feels true. When it comes to the romance, I drew on my own personal experiences. While frustrating, it’s also funny as hell. There’s always some virtue or personal conflict preventing me from being with the woman I want. Again, not pleasant, but still entertaining nonetheless. It’s led to thoughts like this:
“If good girls fall for the bad guys, then who do the bad girls fall for?”
I’ve presented that question to a friend of mine and he said, “nope. The bad girls still fall for the bad guys.”
Haha, I don’t know. Either way, “The Knights With No Lords” explores the idea. I’ve finished it just before Christmas and I’m now in the process of editing it. I’ve even enlisted one of my closest friends to help on that endeavor. By April, I plan to have it copyrighted to start sending it to query agents.
We’ll see if my female protagonist is good enough to win the hearts of those agents. And I do feel a little sad in saying that. Part of me acknowledges that I wrote this book for agents more so than the reader. But maybe that’s what I needed to do all along. Either way, I won’t stop building my ships. My android and thumbdrive is full of premises and projects just screaming to be developed. It’s all a matter of patience, diligence, and perseverance.
That’s the main thing I wanted to share with you. I haven’t been posting on this website in a long while because, as you can see, I’ve been a busy man. And I know there are producers and agents who would say, “But still. You gotta keep giving people something. You have to keep your online presence known.”
And to that point I won’t say I that disagree…but more so I just have a greater deal of self-respect for my work. I’ve come a long way from launching vessels that wind up lost at sea. Twitter and Facebook may have been a viable marketing platform in the past, but now it’s
oversaturated with peddlers of their products.
If you tout your own work it doesn’t have the same strength as someone else saying on their feed, “You gotta check out this author!”
In my seven-year journey I’ve been through the trials and errors. I’ve marketed myself through social media for at least two years and you need money to advertise and draw customers to your books. You really do have to spend money to make money and I’ve racked up a debt. I’ve done crowd-funding campaigns. I’ve reached out to my family and friends. I’ve contributed to other blogs, supported other authors, and made myself a part of writer communities.
Again, these aren’t complaints. Football players practice in the sweltering heat to prepare for Sunday. Olympians train and sacrifice so much just for one summer to reach gold. Singers and actors exercise discipline and practice for their roles. If you make up your mind to do something and fully commit yourself to it, you’re going to have to work hard and it won’t happen overnight unless of course you know someone or wore born into money.
There have been so many times I’ve thought about quitting. The pressures of life, commercialism, societal expectations, familial responsibilities, devotion to God, intimate relationships, and the tense corporate ladder that I’m expected to climb. It’s like they’re all a bunch of Apaches firing arrows at me as I ride my steed with no cover in sight.
If you were to ask why am I trying so hard…because there are a multitude of authors who have succeeded and maintained healthy relationships with spouses, children, and cool circle of friends. They’ve attained that proverbial balance that people keep telling me about. So why can’t I?
The easy answer is that I’m just different. I wrote another article about that so I won’t get into it. I will tell you there’s a quote from Pres. Theo Roosevelt that resonates deeply with me. He wrote: “Dark care rarely sits behind the rider whose pace is fast enough.”
Pres. Roosevelt wrote this after his first wife and his mother died in the same night. To cope with the pain, he ventured into the Wild West and kept himself busy with the rigors of frontier life.
I dare not compare my pain to Roosevelt, but there is pain in my heart. That’s why I can’t even go on vacation for more than three days before the angst surfaces. I wonder if this is the case with other workaholics. For me, keeping my mind focused on a story or project keeps my mind from wondering about old flames. It’s morphine to regret, loneliness, and despair.
I recently told one of my exes, someone who’s still one of my best friends, that I see her face everyday. I know that sounds creepy by today’s standards, but she understood and was touched. And I wasn’t lying. When I think about my exes, or enemies, or failures and embarrassment, the emotions rush over as if it’s happening all over again.
Oddly enough, this doesn’t work so well with the positives for some strange reason. For the positives, I have to seek in the real world what I’ve done and remind myself of how far I’ve come, or those who do support and love me. I’m not sure why I’m like this. But it doesn’t matter.
At this point, I’d like to point out that I’m not a miserable person. In spite of all the pitiful sad stuff I just told you, I really do like the man I’ve become. I’m tall, strong, caring, and generous. The few friends who have stuck with me over the years, I treat like jewelry because they are rare and extremely valuable. I laugh at just about everything and I have a strong relationship with Jehovah our heavenly father. I started reading the bible from start to finish about a year and a half ago and I’ve just started 1st Timothy.
Also! I’ve taken up boxing. It’s tough but I enjoy it. If you scroll down, you’ll read one of my essays about how I used to weigh 378lbs. Now I’m down to 215. I can run, jump, and fight like a son of a gun. So don’t pity me. I have my scars just like everyone else but I wear them like a champion! Not to mention, God’s blessed me with the ability to turn my negatives into a positives. Even when I step into the boxing gym, depleted and fatigued from the work-out the night before, all I need to is think about certain group of people and I’m Mike Tyson in his prime if only for an hour.
It’s like my life is a steamroller. To keep going I have to chuck coal into the furnace. With all the times I’ve stumbled and fallen down, my fuel supply if infinite. I have no doubt that I really am going to live life till the wheels fall off. But still…I plan to live life my way, seeking first the kingdom of God. We can’t all be party animals and thrill-seekers. Not all men are in it for the thrill of the chase. Some of us like to stay put and build.
There’s one other subject I’d like to discuss. It’s about Facebook and I’m sure I’m not alone in saying what I’m about to say.
Facebook has become a platform of pictures and political correctness. In 2016, I’ve posted hundreds of thought-provoking questions and theories that get little to no interaction. But let someone post a picture of their vacation, their material things, their visage (as if we forgot what they looked like yesterday) then people flocked to that with likes and comments.
People say, “You shouldn’t expect praise or likes or…”
All of that’s bullshit. Why post anything if not with the hopes that someone in this expanded universe would see it? There’s nothing wrong with admitting you hope people will like what you put out, and what’s worse than people not liking it, is people completely ignoring it. And as an artist, I refuse to rehash old gems once I’m published as if I just thought of something new, when in reality, I’ve had it for years. For that matter, I’ve decided on my 30th birthday to stop posting on Facebook. I’ve decided to stop scrolling down Facebook to see what my friends and family are up to. And dude, I’m telling you…it’s done wonders for my health.
If you try it, you’ll find yourself washed with that nostalgic freedom, to a magical time where you only found out what people were up to when they friggin told you. Ignorance is a bliss! A magical bliss where you can walk to work and smile at other humans without worrying how they feel about some stupid current event/fad/trend/movement.
It really was one of the best decisions of my life and I’m lovin every minute of it. So while everyone is riled up on a daily basis about what’s going on in Washington DC, New York, or Los Angeles, I sand down the rails of my ships and check the hulls for leaks. I smile knowing that I’m drawing closer to God and wait patiently till the day that I cast off.
“But Rock. What if that day never comes? What if the seas stay rough and only continue to get worse? Don’t you think you’re wasting time? You’re going to waste your life waiting forever. There will never be a perfect time. You need to just go for it!”
I smirk, wipe the sweat from my forehead, and peer outward to those dark stormy clouds.
“You might be right. Knowing me, at some point, I am going to say fuck it and just go for it. Maybe I am wasting time building all these ships that might never see the open seas. My ambition isn’t so dulled that I’m contempt with having these magnificent pieces linger away despite the immense pleasure I’ve derived in constructing them. I guess that’s what you should look out for.”
“In the thick of the chaos as ships become tangled with ships, and cannons blare, and the torrential downpour becomes so heavy that you can barely see the light of day, look out that you’re not caught in the way of my formidable fleet. At least you’ll be able to hear me coming. I have a tendency to laugh out loud when I’m scared out of my mind.”