home of the novel by George Berger
Welcome to Mendacities, the website — home of Mendacities, the novel.
What is Mendacities? A highly entertaining, mildly dystopian novel about three slightly eccentric rural high-school students who inadvertently stumble across the details of a somewhat sinister conspiracy — details which could cost them their lives. To save their families — and themselves — they decide to expose the conspiracy, or at least try to. Various adventures, including the not-entirely-intentional overthrow of the government, ensue.
It’s very entertaining, if I do say so myself. But don’t take my word for it; you can read the first three chapters right here (4MB PDF file), exactly as they appear in the printed book. Or you can read a larger preview at this website.
Mendacities: 68,000 words. 234 pages. One heck of an entertaining novel.
Just a warning to folks, some of my older books will be going out-of-print in the new year, so buy ‘em now if you want a copy. These are:
All The Wrong Reasons (will remain available in paperback in Unmarketable Dross): Mon 06 Jan 2014
Stanley and His Sword (will remain available in paperback in Unmarketable Dross): Mon 03 Feb 2014
Gorp: Mon 03 Feb 2013
Methilgar’s Ring: Mon 03 Mar 2014
Well Met by Gaslight (will remain available in paperback in Unmarketable Dross): Mon 07 April 2014
Never According to Plan (will remain available in paperback in Unmarketable Dross): Mon 07 April 2014
Here in Minnesota–and in much of the country–it’s cold and windy and just generally unpleasant. (As I type this post, we’re in the midst of yet another snowstorm.) That makes curling up with a good book sound like a great idea, and I happen to have a new release that someone somewhere is bound to enjoy. It’s called Gorp, and as you can see from the cover, it’s a contemporary love story.
It is in fact an actual (albeit odd–this is me, after all) love story, rather than a-couple-of-people-humping-like-drunk-rabbits. There’s one college student, one imitation college student, one religious cult, one secret society of militant old ladies; secrets and lies and emotions and head trauma and leftover Chinese food. There’s possibly even a talking cat.
It was released last Friday, and is available at most online retailers, like Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble and Kobo. The e-book retails for 2.99 USD; the paperback retail price is 8.99 USD, though Amazon and others may offer it for less (or more, for all I know).
If you are in the U.S. and act really quick–like, before Friday the 20th–you can even enter to win one of three free paperback copies. See here for details.
I was on the phone with an editor the other day, and they asked a question that I don’t get asked all that often at all:
“George, are you a woman, or… did you used to be a woman?”
A little context is in order: I write books. I’ve written… quite a few, in a bewildering variety of genres. Two or three have been straight-up, out-and-out (no puns intended) romances, including my most successful novel. That novel (An Accidental Fastball to the Heart) and a couple of the shorter books are F/F stories. Or, put in less obtuse terms, lesbian romances.
Hence the editor, who’d read part of Fastball, wondering, as you might do… if I used to be a woman.
The next question from the editor was, “So what on Earth made you want to write a lesbian love story?”
The answer to that’s kind of long and complicated, but here goes.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve managed to release two new titles.
The first was Writing Character-Driven Short Fiction, a short book about writing short… books. Not that I know anything about that, or anything. It’s probably only really of interest if you’re a writer confused about crafting and drafting short, well… fiction. Or if you’re a cat owner thinking about becoming a nudist, I suppose. (It makes sense once you’ve read the book.)
The second, just out now on August 9th, is Methilgar’s Ring, a short piece of epistolary historical fiction. Set against the backdrop of early WWI, it’s an assemblage of letters, notes, and diary entries detailing one well-meaning idiot’s perilous quest to locate a piece of jewelry, and thus acquire gainful employment.
If there’s any chance one or the other interests you, why not take a look? They’re cheap, they’re funny, and they might not completely suck.
Since my first book was self-published way way back in the dark ages of 2010, I’ve released something like eighteen titles, if you count pseudonymous e-books and the collection of short fiction I put out.
Yet, at the moment, I’ve got something more like thirteen books for sale. Why? Because I’ve been pretty ruthless about deleting the stuff that absolutely nobody buys or wants.
That sort of flies in the face of one of the fundamental virtues of e-publishing, as espoused by many of its biggest fans – that e-books don’t have a “shelf life”, and can sell, effectively, forever. Even if they don’t sell well, the economics of the “long tail” means you can still make something off of them, and if you just produce enough titles that don’t sell well individually, why, you can still succeed on sheer numbers.
There’s a method to my madness. Really.
I write books ’cause, well, I like to write. I’m not (just) in it for the money. Thankfully, I might add; I loathe the obligation, the necessity, to spend as much time – if not more – engaging in self-promotion as actually writing that all the social-media gurus insist is necessary for success. More than that, I like being able to write what I want, without having to take commercial concerns into account. Writing lengthy series is the best way to get fans, and sales, I’ve heard. Writing erotic romance about vampires and werewolves is another excellent ploy, I guess.
Writing literary novellas about farm animals? Writing historical adventures full of purple prose? Not so much.
I have no real interest in building a brand, or a following. I don’t want to be “a SF writer”, or “a mystery writer”, or “a romance novelist”. If anything, I just want to be “a writer”. And so I write whatever strikes my fancy, with no real regard for things like commercial appeal.
The only real problem with this is that a lot of things I produce come about because of strange and quixotic ideas that I find challenging. Unfortunately, while a small handful of fellow writers might find the results interesting, there’s probably a good reason that most of these things don’t get done much by others, and that’s because essentially nobody wants to actually read them for entertainment. Nothing like growing as a writer, honing useless skills, while missing the forest for the trees, huh?
Consider my shortest-lived title, Breakfast for the Sun God. It was published in February, and unpublished four months later, having sold exactly three copies worldwide. It’s an erotic comedy novella, written for an anthology of cheesy (pun intended) food-related erotica that never actually saw the light of day. I very rarely write erotica, because I find it immensely boring. Stuff happens, characterization nobody cares about is displayed, and then people screw, the end. There’s rarely much of a plot to speak of, and it bugs me that incredibly crude language is de rigueur, because I, personally, don’t find people who cuss like sailors attractive. (YMMV, obviously.) Also, it seems like cheesy euphemisms are also expected – heaving busoms and throbbing manhoods and whatnot, and those, too, are exceedingly dull and unoriginal and boring. So, in order to help motivate myself, I decided to write a piece of erotica in which not a single “dirty” word was ever used and not a single typical cliche’d euphemism was employed. I also decided to make it an erotic comedy, since writing comedy is fun, and to make it so that the guy in the story never actually got a “happy ending”, just to kind of defy expectations.
So, what I wound up with was a M/F/F menage-a-trois novella with sheep jokes, some obscure mythological imagery, not a single word a junior-high student would get reprimanded for using, and which used spaceflight as a metaphor for all the various sexy matters. I thought it was fairly funny, and had some good characterization, a tight-knit plot, good dialogue, that sort of thing. I’m in no way ashamed of it, please understand; I’m actually quite proud of how the sex scenes turned out, and the (I think) rather clever imagery used to convey what was happening and to whom.
Nobody bought it. The sales rank on Amazon dipped down to a truly laughable level. It never even acquired a single “people who bought this product also bought” suggestion. Needless to say, nobody actually wants to read a book as terrible as that. As fun and entertaining a challenge as it was to write, I’d managed to completely miss everything that made erotica attractive to normal people.
The other titles I’ve unpublished were written under similar circumstances. The Crimson Scars was written to prove two very obscure technical points about writing fiction, one having to do with the design of short stories, and one having to do with viewpoint. It was a pretty fun adventure story with a kind of cute twist ending – but it was (among other things) written in a
fun hellishly evil blend of first and third person. Technically, the entire story was in third person past tense. However, 98% of the story was one character relating the actual narrative to another, in dialogue, in first person past tense. Yeah. I could explain why I did it that way, but let’s just say it sounded like a fun challenge and seemed like a good idea at the time, and leave it at that. Readers, I might add, were less-than-enthused about this fundamental “mistake” in viewpoint, and the cover pretty much sucked sweaty donkey balls, as well. Since it had served its dubious purpose and made the points I wanted it to, I un-published it, to the dismay of exactly nobody.
I could leave most of the removed titles up for sale, sure. So they didn’t sell well. Long tail, right? That $2.50 they make me per year adds up over a couple decades. And just because a book isn’t selling now doesn’t mean it won’t become popular in the future, everyone is quick to point out. That might actually be true, even – but if it is, it’s based on some fundamental assumptions, like that the book in question is reasonably accessible, or that the author has a good long-term strategy to improve visibility. For the most part, mine aren’t, and I don’t.
A part of the reason I chose to remove these various titles is kind of strange and complicated, but worth mentioning. For a year or two, I was fairly active on a large writing forum that shall not be named. For most of that time, other writers there accounted for, I’m fairly sure, the vast majority of my sales. I’ve since left that forum completely, for reasons that really aren’t relevant here.
This is a good thing, because my productivity has increased, and – especially compared to the asinine drama of the last few troll-filled weeks there – my mental health and self-esteem have also fared better. (There’s really nothing quite like being told you’re part of the very problem you’ve devoted considerable effort to combating, but I digress.) It’s also a good thing because, well… people who aren’t writers are now reading my books. Admittedly, the slow trickle of sales to folks at the forum was nice, but it was easy to forget that the tastes of writers often have little in common with the tastes of average readers. And the average reader doesn’t “get” most of the titles I’ve deleted so far this year. They were too weird, too avante-garde, too based around amusing but esoteric craft-of-writing minutae that non-writers don’t understand or care about.
I no longer get bogged down in pointless arguments about pedantic writing matters. Crappy unpopular e-books that nobody ever buys no longer serve a secondary purpose as object lessons or examples with which to win discussions. All they do is confuse and alienate readers, and I have few enough readers that, well, upsetting either of them isn’t really in my best interests. So, poof, away go the e-books the market has demonstrated an overwhelming lack of demand for. Once a title passes the one-million sales rank on Amazon (where I sell 99% of my e-books), which means something like six to eight weeks without a sale, it’s now gone forever, poof. I don’t really care about “brand George Berger” that much, but I guess I’d rather look marginally successful than prolific.
My next release, incidentally, is another of those self-indulgent turds nobody’s going to want to willingly read, either – it’s a historical urban fantasy (set in a very unpopular setting and time – eastern Europe, 1915) epistolary novella (i.e. an exceedingly unpopular format, and less-than-popular length for the genre) written in period-correct prose (i.e. unpopularly long-winded and purple). Why the hell would I write such a thing? Because epistolary fiction is fun to write, and I think it provides a lot of interesting opportunities that are relatively unique to the format. The choice of language is a slightly tongue-in-cheek response to all the people who piss and moan about the widespread inclusion of modern language and vocabulary in historical fiction, showing that even just ninety-eight years ago, accurate period language is annoying and nigh-incomprehensible to readers of today. Yeah, you guessed it – it seemed like a good idea at the time.
(Hey, have you read my thriller novel, yet? It was my one big effort to write a reasonably commercial book. Sadly, I went and fucked it up by including really unique three-dimensional characters and some offbeat humor, but if you overlook those flaws, it ain’t super bad, otherwise. It might sell better if it didn’t cost nearly three bucks, but at least allow a talentless hack a little bit of pride, eh? It’s called “Without A Spark”, and you can get it at Amazon, and all the various places that books are allegedly sold.)