My First Book Is Going Out of Print And That’s A Good Thing

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It was 2006. I wrote a book about all the mistakes of my 20s. It was fun to research, write, and release. I had dozens of conversations with people I might never have met otherwise. At one point, I even had a meeting with a producer from Hollywood about making a Ruin Your Life movie.

Ruin Your Life is meant to be a humorous manual of bad but not hurtful behavior. For the most part I think it still succeeds in that.  But there are portions of the book that I find myself unable to defend. Initially I thought this would mean cutting the objectionable parts and reissuing it, but I think cutting parts out of Ruin Your Life runs contrary to the spirit of the book. So I think the responsible thing for me to do at this point is stop publishing it. I have contacted my publisher to have the book be taken out of circulation. It will be out of print and I doubt I will be putting it back in print.

Ruin Your Life had a good run. It sold hundreds of physical copies and thousands of digital copies. I’m happy for the experiences that happened as a result of that book and apologize to anyone who was hurt by anything I said in the book. As always, the reason I portrayed things one way or another was I thought it would be funny. No harm was meant.

For anyone still wanting to get a copy, it is still available on Amazon as I write this. By this time next week it definitely will not be and it could be gone any time between now and then.

Thank you, everyone for your support. Rest assured that my next book, a novel will be out by this time next year at the absolute latest.
– Jack Cameron

QUINTANA SCRIPT EXCERPT*

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It was recently announced that Jon Turturro will be reprising his role from The Big Lebowski as Jesus Quintana. Below is a script excerpt from QUINTANA.*

TITLE CARD: 1990

INT. JESUS QUINTANA’S APARTMENT – LIVING ROOM

WALTER SOBCHAK sits on the couch. JESUS QUINTANA walks into the room he’s carrying one bottle of beer. He uses a bottle opener on the wall to OPEN the beer. He then DRINKS THE ENTIRE BOTTLE. He looks at WALTER.

JESUS
So. You want to roll with the Jesus?

WALTER
You and I are the only ones who give a fuck about the game, man.

JESUS
We need a third. Who you got, man?

WALTER
How about the Dude?

JESUS
The Dude does not roll like you and he does not roll like the Jesus. What about the little guy?

WALTER
Forget it. Donny’s a surfer. He’s out of his element on the land.

JESUS
Tell you what. Jesus is gonna think on it. You come back Saturday. We talk it out.

WALTER
I can’t. Not Saturday.

JESUS
You come see the Jesus on Sunday then.

WALTER
Sounds good. With you on the team, how can we lose?

JESUS
You know it, baby! Jesus never lose.

WALTER
You’re not going to miss any games being all the way across town are you?

JESUS
Shut the fuck up. You can count on Jesus. Jesus is planning to move to Venice soon.

WALTER gets up and heads for the door.

TITLE CARD: THE FOLLOWING SUNDAY

EXT. LA STREET DAY – WALTER SOBCHACK is walking down the sidewalk and encounters a LEMONADE STAND. There is an 8-YEAR-OLD boy behind the stand.

8 YEAR OLD
Hey. Hey, Mister. You want to buy some lemonade?

WALTER
What?

8 YEAR OLD
Do you want some lemonade?

WALTER
Sure. I’ll have some lemonade

WALTER takes a paper cup of lemonade and drinks it.

WALTER
That’s pretty fuckin’ good lemonade.

8 YEAR OLD
Five dollars.

WALTER
For lemonade?

8 YEAR OLD
Five dollars.

WALTER
Are you hustling me?

8 YEAR OLD
You said it was fuckin good.

WALTER
I can’t believe it. I’m being hustled by a fucking kid.

WALTER pulls out his wallet. He opens it. He has RECEIPTS and TWO ONE DOLLAR BILLS.

WALTER
I can give you two dollars.

8 YEAR OLD
You owe me five.

WALTER
You know what? Fuck it. Fine. My friend lives just down the street. Come with me. I’m sure he can front me five bucks for your little hustle.

8 YEAR OLD
Who’s going to watch my stand?

WALTER
Do you want the money or not?

EXT. – OUTSIDE JESUS QUINTANA’S HOUSE – DAY

WALTER & 8 YEAR OLD walk up to the front porch of JESUS QUINTANA’S house. Walter KNOCKS on the door. He waits. KNOCKS AGAIN. No answer.

8 YEAR OLD
Nobody’s here. Where’s my money?

WALTER
He’s here. He told me to meet him here.

WALTER tries the door. It’s unlocked. He steps inside. The 8 YEAR OLD steps in with him.

INT. JESUS QUINTANA’S HOUSE – DAY – MOMENTS LATER

8 YEAR OLD
Did we just break in here?

WALTER
Shut the fuck up, kid. Jesus lives here.

8 YEAR OLD
What are you talking about? This ain’t no church.

The two of them walk through the house, down a hallway. They hear the sound of a SHOWER just as it turns off.

The bathroom door opens. JESUS QUINTANA walks out soaking wet and completely NUDE.

The 8 YEAR OLD SCREAMS and runs out of the house.

JESUS
What the fuck, man? Get the fuck out of here!

WALTER
We were going to talk about our bowling team! Remember!

JESUS
Deos Mio, man. You break into my house with some fucking kid and want to be on my team. Fuck you, pendejo. Get. The. Fuck. Out. Jesus will never roll with you!

WALTER turns around and starts walking towards the open front door.

WALTER (muttering)
Stands around naked in front of a kid. Calls me names. Guy’s a pervert.

*Note: This is NOT really a script excerpt. It’s something I made up.

15 Minute Story #2: The Marty Party

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Oh, you’re going in the book, motherfucker. When I write that explosive memoir telling everything that’s happened, you’re going in that book. What will I call that chapter? Douchey Guys And The Men Who Are Fooled By Them? I’m sure you’d say it was just a Marty Party, but my friends were there and they saw you and they saw what you did and they told me. So now I know and now you know I know. I hope it was worth it.

You’d say you were too drunk to remember. You’d say you didn’t mean to kiss him. You’d say a lot of things, but you can’t right now, can you?

I can’t believe you walked into that party and said, “He couldn’t make it.” Yeah, that might be due to the fact that we got pulled over on the way there and thanks to our little pre-funk, I blew a .09 and got arrested. Did you bother to tell them that, asshole? No. Instead you got drunk, made out with Chad’s brother and then…

I spent the weekend in jail, you know. The whole damn weekend. You’re the only one who knew I was there and you didn’t bother to tell anyone. You just got your mac on and hopped up on that railing trying to show off your gymnastic skills. But you were drunk and the railing wasn’t stable. Marty’s place has a great view, but that view means quite a bit of a drop.

I wonder if it was painful. Now having a DUI is the least of my worries. I’m the guy who has a cheating dead boyfriend. My friends want to console me but they don’t know what to say.

Next month, Marty’s having his legendary Valentine’s Day Party. He hasn’t sent me an invitation. Thanks a lot. You ruin my social life even in death. I hope landing on those rocks hurt like hell.

Words by Jack Cameron
Illustration by Ossaín Ávila Cárdenas

About 15 Minute Stories
It’s good for writers to write every day, but it’s easy for life to get in the way of that. One solution I read about recently was to write a 15 minute piece of short fiction every single day for a month. You may not have time to do NaNoWriMoevery month, but if you like writing, you can always find 15 minutes.

So for the month of January, I’ll be writing and posting pieces of very short fiction that I took 15 minutes to write. I’ve asked that my friend, Ossaín Ávila Cárdenas join me by taking 15 minutes to draw an accompanying image for each story.  Ossaín is one of the owners of a local zine shop in Tacoma calledThe Nearsighted Narwhal

Being Wrong On The Internet

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People are wrong on the Internet. People will say things that are factually inaccurate and easily proven false. They will say things that any 5-year-old who hasn’t been hit in the head with a baseball can tell you are untrue. They will tell you that vaccines cause autism. They will tell you that more guns make people safer and that the last mass shooting was a hoax. They will tell you that everyone on the West Coast will get cancer within five years thanks to Fukushima. They will tell you there’s a secret root that cures all cancer. They will tell you about Obamacare killing thousands. They will bury you with absolute bullshit that if you heard anyone saying in a city park, you would just assume that person is a crazy person.

And yet, if you’re like me, when these people say these wrong things on the Internet, rather than ignoring their prattle like you would if a crazy person were ranting in a park, you feel compelled to correct them. You feel the need to make sure that if someone less intelligent than you were to stumble upon such a post, they would at the very least see your comment showing that the original post is absolute crap. Because what if an innocent and naïve person were to read the original post and think that it’s true? What if your comment is the only chance to stop some other person from sharing this obviously asinine crap? If not you, who will speak truth to stupid?

It’s been one of my pastimes over the last few years. One might even call it an addiction. I find a cause I’m interested in and I care about. I find people who disagree with my stance and I battle it out online with them. Whenever possible, I try to use links and facts and statistics to back up what I’m saying and try to insist that they do the same.

I’ll tell people that I like talking to people I disagree with because it’s the only way I learn. I’ll tell people how at one point I was a anti-choice, pro-death penalty, gun rights, Christian Quaker, and how through talking with people I disagreed with, I am now none of those things. And while that is true, it’s not why I do it.

I am not going to learn anything from someone who thinks 9/11 was an inside job. And there isn’t going to be a theologian alive who is going to convince me that God exists. There aren’t facts out there that will convince me that killing someone is the best way to show as a society that killing is wrong. Many of the things I see as true are things I’ve thought about and studied so much that in many ways I’m simply frustrated with those who see things otherwise. More to the point, I just want them to pay attention to the facts and see where that leads because I think if they do that, they’ll find themselves in a similar area.

I haven’t been doing it to learn. I’ve been doing it because it’s fun. And while I’m all for having fun, there are better ways to have fun than at someone else’s expense. Taking out my frustration and anger on people who have opinions not backed up by anything more than their feelings on the matter while enjoyable isn’t really what I want to be about. I’d rather take that time and simply make a compelling argument here on my website than get into a thread war on Facebook that inevitably ends with someone I might otherwise think is an okay person all pissed off at me because I’ve ridiculed them for having the audacity to post something stupid.

My point here is simple. I have things I need to do and things I want to do that all take priority over telling someone they are wrong on the Internet. So instead, I’m going to treat you like the crazy person in the park and simply walk away. Facebook friends who post too many bullshit stories will find themselves no longer part of my Facebook friends. Websites that post click bait will be ignored. Commenters so incredibly stupid that it’s strange they’re capable of literacy will be likewise ignored. In short, to all you climate change denying, 9/11 conspiracy, gun nut, anti-vaccers out there, I have better things to do with my life than to tell you that you are wrong on the Internet.
– Jack Cameron

The Cult of One Good Thing (Revisited)

POV CoverIt was the summer of 1995. I was 20 years old. I was going to Tacoma Community College. I was about to get married. I was living in a tiny basement apartment next door to Stadium High School. And I was absolutely clueless as to what the future was going to hold for me or what sort of life I’d end up leading. One day that summer I went to Stadium Thriftway and picked up a magazine with a worried looking Michael Richards on the cover (In 1995 Kramer from Seinfeld was the biggest star on television.). There was a big headline that said, “WHAT SHOULD I DO?” and yes, at 20 years old this was a question I asked myself all the time but that wasn’t the part that spoke to me. It was the smaller headline just under it that said, “Live like $70,000 while making $35,000 by Jesse Kornbluth (a man who knows)”. This was something I was definitely interested in even if I hadn’t a clue who Jesse Kornbluth was.

The magazine was called P.O.V. and as a comic book guy I couldn’t help but notice it said, ‘Premier Issue’.  I bought the copy and read it cover to cover. The Kramer interview was hilarious. Their advice about Skyy vodka being hangover proof was quickly put to the test and passed. And then there was the Kornbluth article, “The Cult of One Good Thing”.

Now before I go any further it’s important to note that at this point in my life I wasn’t making $35,000 a year. I wasn’t making half of that. My resume was short and unimpressive. But so what. There might be a thing or two in the article I could use and I’d probably be making $35K in no time anyway (not true but optimism in youth is eternal).

The basic premise of the article is that you can live a really amazing lifestyle (or at least appear to) by focusing on quality instead of quantity. This is true. The article suggested good clothes to buy and that joining various clubs and other social gatherings are the way towards a better life and to do so, one should avoid spending copious amounts of money on sub-par stuff for a sub-par apartment. Out in the world, no one knew what kind of place you lived in as long as you appeared presentable.

When I read all of this at 20 years old, it was a revelation. I felt like this article was giving me some sort of cheat codes to life. There was one particular bit of it that struck a chord with me. Regarding other people like yourself who aren’t making a lot of money he said, “At the end of long days, their idea of fun may be to flop in front of the tube and share their miseries; if you hang with them long enough, that will be your idea of amusement too.”  I had many people who did exactly this. Most of them watched sports which I found just mind-numbing. I had no interest in ever becoming someone who drank Bud-Lite while watching the Super Bowl.

Over the years, I would reread this article. I would quote relevant parts to friends from time to time. One friend asked me if they could borrow it and being a lender of things, I let him borrow it. He then promptly lost it.

I continued to purchase P.O.V. until it went out of business in 2000. And to be perfectly honest, I actually used almost none of Jesse Kornbluth’s specific advice. (I still don’t own a Brooks Brothers shirt.) But the theme of the article echoed in many of my actions. The idea of buying something of high quality regardless of price instead of something that was average and cheap stuck with me. Right now I do have beer in the fridge. They are four bottles of craft beer bought at 99 Bottles rather than a case of Bud Lite from 7-11.

A few years ago I decided to find out what Jesse Kornbluth was up to these days. It turns out he’s still giving advice on the good life. He has a website called HeadButler.com which specializes in recommending awesome books, movies, and music. I subscribed to his newsletter immediately. Thanks to the newsletter I saw the excellent and haunting movie Winter’s Bone, I read Cara Hoffman’s incredible novel, So Much Pretty and even reviewed it on this site.  Recently I was thinking about that old article from P.O.V. and I decided to email him and see if he still had it. He wrote back and said that he did not have it.

If it were still 1995, that would have been the end, but since it’s not, I looked on Ebay and found a copy of the premier issue of P.O.V. for $12. This was four times what it cost in 1995 but I didn’t mind. After all, the theme of the article was that quality sometimes costs more.

– Jack Cameron

How I Write Part 7: Scene Cards & Sound Track

If you haven’t noticed, a lot of the things I’m suggesting may seem like they’d be more suited to moviemaking. There are reasons for that. When people read stories, they play movies of the stories in their heads. They can’t help themselves. So it’s best to make your story at least in some ways, cinematic.

By all means you should write whatever you want to write and if it turns out to be more literary than cinematic, that’s fine. My favorite book is Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but the main reason it hasn’t been turned into a movie is that it’s mostly about a father and son on a motorcycle ride. Of course anyone who has read the book knows that a lot more than that is going on, but there’s still the underlying story.

 That’s what this sort of outlining is about. It’s fine to have subtext, but that’s not the sort of thing you can teach. It’s in you and your story or it’s not and at least for me, I’ve found that this is the stuff I like to discover while I’m writing.

So, you’ve got your final outline. You’re ready for the last steps before you jump into the deep end and start writing. Take your final outline and a set of 3” x 5” cards. Write down each scene on each card. Nothing too descriptive. (i.e. “Amber comes  home and encounters burglar”) Every time the place or time changes, get another card. You now have a scene log.

Using your scene log, go through your cards and ask yourself two questions about each scene:

1)      Does it further the plot?

2)      Does it further the character?

If the scene doesn’t do at least one of those things, toss it out and get it out of your final outline. You don’t need it.

 Now you have a list of scenes on cards. As you write the scenes, throw away the cards. This, I’ve found can be incredibly therapeutic. You feel like you’re accomplishing something. Whenever possible use the cards instead of the final outline when you’re writing. This will help you avoid any urge to copy anything from the outline.

But wait! There’s one last thing you should do before you sit down to write your story. This may seem silly and inconsequential, but I’ve found it really helps.

I’m going to assume you have a reasonable collection of mp3s. If you don’t, you know someone who does. Go through your music and make a new playlist. This isn’t necessarily music you’ll be writing to, this is the soundtrack to your story. This music should set the mood you want for your story and will help you get into the frame of mind necessary for the story. Usually, over time, the music list gets longer and longer. This is good.

Now you’re finally ready to write your story. Follow these instructions and I can’t guarantee your story will be good, but it will be solid. Good luck!

I will be posting here throughout the month with updates and tips. It’s almost time to begin.

– Jack Cameron

How I Write Part 6: The Final Outline

Only a few days until the beginning of NaNoWriMo. This weekend is crunch time for me. I’m almost done with my prep work but there’s still some things to iron out.

This is the next to last step in my outlining process. The Final Outline.

Every step you’ve taken so far has changed your story. Your theme turned into a story. Your characters gave your story life. Your characters’ perspective gave you new insight into your story. Now it’s time to take all of that knowledge and turn it into something you can work with.

This is the outline you wanted to write all along, but you didn’t actually have enough information to do so. Write this outline in the order you want it in your story. If your story starts midway through Act II and flashes back to the beginning, write the outline that way. You’ve already worked out any chronology hiccups, so you should be fine. This is your road map if you get lost during the writing.

This outline can be as long as it needs to be. Try not to leave anything out. You can even throw in some dialog if it’s important to the story. There probably won’t be too many new surprises or significant changes in at this point, but you never know. If you do make any sort of major change, go back to your Perspective Outlines and make sure you haven’t screwed up anyone’s story.

Once you’re done with this step, you should feel pretty good about the story. Staring at a blank page shouldn’t scare you at this point. You’re almost ready.

Did I say ‘almost’? Yeah. There’s still two more things you need to do before you finally sit down to write. I’ll get to those next.

 

 

How I Write Part 5: Perspective

I think we’ve all had that experience where we’re watching a movie or reading a book and we suddenly realize that we thought of something that the writer didn’t think of. There’s a hole in the plot and the more you think about it, the bigger the hole gets. Anyone with any good amount of writing under their belt can probably remember plot holes of their own that they discovered. I know I have.

Plot holes can kill a story and given all the work you’re putting into the story, it’d be nice to avoid them. There is no easy way to do this, but I do know a couple of techniques that work fairly well for me.

Even with well developed characters, there are times that the plot can get away from us. Things happen in the story because we need them to rather than because of the actions of the characters. This is when your plot starts to fall apart. Here’s how you stop this from happening.

It’s time to write some more outlines. Rather than telling the whole story like in previous outlines, these are different. Take every character and write their story. This is the same story you’ve been working on, but it’s from just that character’s perspective. It only includes the knowledge and experience that character has. If the character is a main character, it’s likely to include almost all of the story. If it’s an insignificant character, the outline might be very short. Write the outline like the character told you the story of what happened.

Now I know it probably seems like a lot of work for nothing. You might think you can get away with just doing this with the main characters, but really, the more characters you do this for, the better off you’re going to be. Occasionally you’ll find that you assumed a character had knowledge he didn’t actually have or you’ll find that a character was apparently doing nothing for an extended period of time simply because you didn’t need her in the plot for a while.

There are people who think you can skip this step, but I really think it’s one of the most important things you can do for your story.

– Jack Cameron

How I Write Part 4: The Big Outline

You know your basic story. You’ve fleshed out your main characters. If you’re anything like me, once you know your characters, they’ll start changing the plot on you. This is a good thing. Character-driven stories are easier to write and more fun to read. Let them take you where they need to.

Read over your original outline. Read over your character sketches. The thing you want to remember is that right now, none of it is in stone. You can still change anything you want to. And again, changing things at this stage is a lot easier than changing things later.

Now that you have the characters and outline in your head, it’s time to write the Big Outline. Unlike the previous one, you want to write down everything you can think of in this one. Include, plot, subplot, character moments, and anything else you think you might need. This outline should be a few pages long. Write it from beginning to end. If your story jumps around in time, this is a good chance to make sure you have the chronology correct.

If you’ve done your job right, there will probably be a few surprises. Now that you know who you’re dealing with, they’re likely to make different choices than you had them make in the original outline. Now is the time to let these things happen. If it goes somewhere that doesn’t fit with the rest of the narrative, you can always junk it or use that particular part for another story. And you can always change the character if you need to.

Once you’re finished writing the outline, read it over a couple of times. This is your story. If you don’t like it at this stage, change it. You’re going to be spending the next few weeks wading through this story so if it isn’t a world you want to be in, fix it fast. If the author isn’t interested, then the readers definitely won’t be.

At this point, there are a lot of people out there who would just start to work on the actual writing, but I don’t think it’s time yet. There are still things you should do before you hit the ground running. We’ll get into those next.


How I Write Part 3: Main Character Sketch

The most important thing in any story is character. If you know your characters well enough, they’ll tell the story for you. Good characters can even save a bad plot. This is why it’s important to put together character sketches of each major character. Again, Feature Filmmaking At Used Car Prices informed a lot of what I put together here though a lot of it is my own as well.

It’s fairly simple and gives you a good idea of what kind of character you’re dealing with. You should do this with every major character in your story. Most of this stuff probably won’t even make it into the story but having the character background makes it easier to figure out how your character will behave in any given setting.

Character Name and Age

Physically: This is mostly self-explanatory. What does your character look like? Do they drink or do drugs? Do they exercise?

Family Background: Are they an only child? Do they come from a broken home? Did their father beat them? Were they treated like royalty? What was their childhood like?

Education: How did they do in school? Did they like it? What was their favorite class? Did they play sports? Did they go to college? What kind of school was it? Were they popular?

Social Life: Do they have a lot of friends? Do they go out drinking? What kind of places do they like to go to? Do they have parties? Have they had sex? Do they go out with anyone? In short, what do they do with their lives?

Work History: Where do they work? How long have they worked there? Where did they work before that? Do they like their job? Is it a career job or something just to get by?

Other Details:

So you know what they look like, what kind of family they have, how educated they are, what sort of friends they have, and what their job is like. Now it’s time to make this character just a little more real. 

Hobbies: Do they collect comics books? Do they knit? Play chess? Gamble? Not only does this help round out the character but if you need the character to be doing something, you have something.

Habits: Do they chew their nails? Drive fast? If they switched bodies with someone what would be the give away that of who they really are?

Phobias: What is your character genuinely afraid of. It can be something as silly as spiders or as universal as death. Knowing their fears will help you really get inside their head.

 

You don’t have to answer all of these questions, but you get the idea. Below is a character sketch I put together for a project that was never completed. Continue reading