A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Archive for February, 2022

An Announcement Regarding Some Of My Books

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 23, 2022

This is one of what I expect will be several announcements of some cool or groovy or awesome or for some maybe a ho hum (hopefully not too many of the latter!) piece of news/info regarding my writing career, my authorship, the status of some of my old, out of print books, and some other things I’ve been busy as hell working on since last summer. I hope someone will appreciate some of the info I’ll be putting out.

If you look at most any of my profiles that have to do with writing, whether it be info on this site, or perhaps my Poets & Writers Directory listing or my Authors Guild profile or even my Goodreads Author profile among many you could find, you’d find a couple of things that might stand out. 1) This actually is no surprising, but it’s been disappointing. Virtually every books I’ve written that was published has been out of print for awhile, some far, far too long despite some going into three and four press runs. Because of this, what little supply various retailers or booksellers had slowly dwindled to nothing and since then some books have been relatively easy to find used but most have been very difficult and some literally totally impossible. All but one of my books were $10 or less (Cells was $20 or $25, but it was a huge book). So I’ve kept my eyes open for the past decade just looking occasionally at what was out there, what the list prices were, what was in demand, etc. Those of you who have visited this site may have noticed a tab for a page I have at the top of the homepage titled “My Books — Crazy Prices” and some of them WERE crazy! I think that was back in 2011 and you can look at some screenshots for yourself but one example was two new copies of Cells, being sold by third party vendors on Amazon for $100 and $170 respectively! Nuts. One place was offering to rent students a copy of The Napalmed Soul for $65 per semester. (I’m updating that webpage with new, current screenshots of what’s out there now.) I’ve moved a lot over the course of my life, close to 35 times. During all of those moves, I had to get rid of stuff, dump stuff, I lost stuff and some movers were nice enough to lose or trash a ton of my stuff, the last group from two years ago succeeding in losing over half of the magazines, newspapers, etc., that I was ever published in — I’m talking tons of boxes with hundreds or more of contributor copies. To top it off, they lost EVERY damn copy of all but one of my own books! And not only were they out of print, but some of the early, distant publishers were very small presses and were long gone themselves, and as I mentioned, over half of my books were/are literally impossible to find on the market anywhere, any time, so I’ve been screwed out of any copies of my own books with one exception. Which has really ticked me off. I wanted a copy or two of each for my own library, and frankly I wouldn’t have minded a few more to get back into the stores or on the marketplace somehow since several have remained in demand for so unbelievably long. And I’ve gone years without seeing any.

The point is I haven’t had ANY of my own books for many years and I’ve wanted some for god’s sake! So a couple of months ago when I couldn’t sleep one night I was puttering around in the basement and found a biggish box labeled Places, opened it up to discover quite a few copies of that book. Yay! However, for whatever reason, despite being nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and some very good reviews and press, that book really hasn’t retained the value that some others have, so I was elated when a week later, I found a small white box behind some curtains against a basement wall that was labeled Shadows and I thought surely I’m not that lucky. But I was! Barely a fraction of the number of copies I’d found the week before, but still more than 20 and not only did a few major libraries’ Special Collections want a copy, but that book has been far more successful than I ever anticipated and is one of my most ripped off and pirated books (that is a different ticked off story) and its value has remained much higher than the original retail list price and at times has gone up to crazy figures. And I have screenshots, including ones of various pirate sites and IP thief sites, but I came across one a couple of weeks ago illegally selling a PDF copy for $100! For a $7 book! All of these criminals have been selling my stuff for years, but more and more the past few years, and I’ve not gotten a dime for it. In fact, I discovered last year they’re even selling my published scholarship for students to buy and use as their own and some of my papers do big business! Shocking. I never knew, I’m not very important, who’s heard of me, I never got a penny for those peer-reviewed publications and these assholes are making a killing because I’ve seen what some are charging. The worst of it is, academics don’t make a dime from publishing original research, at least not in the social sciences. You’re lucky if you get a contributor’s copy because I didn’t for at least a third of the journals that published my work. (Yes, I’m on Google Scholar, which isn’t remotely accurate about my work and citations. You can find me here if interested.) Anyway, what I found inspired me to start opening boxes I could both reach and maybe could physically handle — something embarrassing and difficult to admit as I was always strong but no longer am. So recently I found a small box within a larger box within an unopened wardrobe box and I was elated to find it had copies of all but a couple of my books! With some, there were just one or two copies, but with a few others, there were dozens! THUS, the point of all of this is those books of mine that I have sufficient surplus, after I donate 2-3 copies to some Special Collections libraries, will be the object of my focus as I attempt to find out how to get some out onto the marketplace, both ones that have been in massive demand and maybe some that never were listed for sale (predating Amazon — god!) in the first place, so I’m not sure if I can get them carried again by Amazon and other similar stores — I have an official Amazon Author page which has seen titles sadly decline from 9 to 7 to 5 to 3, etc. I approached Amazon about carrying some digital or tactile copies once more and they asserted they would only deal with the publisher when it came to that, and/or whomever holds the copyright rights. Which is me. And I had had no interaction or even knowledge of this one particular publisher in years, so I tried to look him up in New Orleans and found that he’d died a few years ago and there no longer was any company. Which got me worried. I started looking for the publishers and companies of most of the books I was interested in and found virtually none were either still alive or findable and most of the companies were long gone. I don’t know if Amazon will accept that and I intend to consult the Authors Guild legal department for advice, In the meantime, I see no reason why I can’t announce now my intended goal of making some available for sale here on this site, Yay! Of course I must figure out a way to accomplish that. I have a PayPal account and had a business account for some years for one or two businesses I owned before retiring. I also had a Stripe account. I suspect PayPal would be accommodating, but it’d be the logistics of simply setting it up here, provided they give me a go. Until then, I’ve figured out a possible way of making this feasible and workable until making it more obvious and official looking. I know how to do this from when I was a merchant previously, as well as a consumer. You can make a PayPal payment by sending it, provided you have a PayPal account, to the email address associated with the seller’s PayPal account (me) and unless things have changed over the past couple of years, it was that easy. There are other options too, but that’d be the first I’d explore. If anyone has any suggestions, recommendations, ideas, etc., I’d be grateful for any comments to help get this accomplished. I have no planned date or time for my next announcement, but it won’t be one involving sales. It should be pretty cool and I think many of you will dig it. Thanks and have a good one! — Scott

PS: some cover shots of some of the little books I may be trying to make available to the public…

My book Places (Sterling House Press, 1995), Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Grungy Ass Swaying (1993). A collaboration with Paula Weinman that I regret enormously. Raunchy and naturally representing me in the Library of Congress!

Distant Visions, Again and Again (1994). Probably known as my only “tranquil” book, the reviewers generally liked it while noting I apparently was taking a break between raunchiness and violence. Hah!

Shadows Before the Maiming (Gothic Press, 1999). One of 5 books I had published in 1999, I didn’t have any major expectations for this one. I found myself surprised to be reviewed, labeled, listed, indexed, cataloged, etc., as a Horror writer and this evidently was a book of Horror poetry. So much so that it was listed in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror for 2000 (Carol & Graf), as well as both the book and myself reviewed and listed in magazines, books, on websites, etc., and despite that appearing in 1999, it continues to this day and that book has remained in high demand and is viewed as a collector’s item that’s typically very hard to find.

How about some screenshots of pirate sites of groups ripping me off, making some of these books available illegally with me naturally not getting a dime, nor having even known of it until I started looking last summer. Nice gig if you can get it, I suppose…

For your amusement.

This tricky outfit looks virtually identical to the plausibly legit Open Library where one checks out a book at a time, as with a real library. This outfit is clearly trying to emulate the real thing while drawing people in to swindle them and the authors. I have an older screenshot with their insignia at the top looking identical, but it read “Digital” Library rather than the actual Open Library they’re now screwing. One of the many ways you can tell it’s a pirate site is — most do this and it’s clever — after listing title, author, ISBN, publication info, etc. — they, and most others, then try to confuse any bots or web crawlers that might spot them for what they actually are by filling the text of their webpages with garbage containing keywords — title — but in relation to what someone would literally expect, usually scientific or agricultural and as a result, they get passed over due to their “educational” content. It’s always a game of catch up with criminals.

A link for an illegal copy of my popular Never-Ending Cigarettes. Notice the textual gibberish.

Notice the identity of the seller in the cute little URL. I’ve spent MONTHS trying to access that site and it’s like it knows I’m the damn author or something because it’s blocked me every time no matter what browser, what device, what IP. Until finally … the next screenshot.

Note the standard pirate tactic, or one of them. Totally accurate book info, including even IDs from WorldCat, etc., and available in 5 different digital formats, but look at the content below and once again, biology — cells. Way to beat the good bots. This is an educational site, obviously. Many of them load the keyword, usually the title, into the gibberish 2-3 times per sentence which I would think should be a red flag to a properly coded bots, but I guess their AI isn’t as advanced as one would think…

And now for the amazing SHADOWS

This one really gets me. No physical copy of course because no one has any (except me now!). But a PDF version and for $100??? I never made that for the whole damn press run! ASSHOLE! THIEF! And just flat out brazen about it. Grrr…

The next and final one is hard for me to comprehend as a service because I can’t imagine them having any customers — for me. It’s a company called Dataresearchers and I guess they’re legit, maybe, and they don’t appear to be ripping me off at all. They not selling anything by me as far as I’ve seen. What they ARE selling are custom writing services to students for outrageous amounts of money and the two ads I’m about to show in a collage so it’s one graphic just blows my mind because I don’t have any idea at all who in the hell would pay anything for these services. I’m not that big or important or even known! Check it out…

Yes, you are not hallucinating. On the left, they’ll charge a handy fee to write a custom BOOK REVIEW (???) on my Shadows Before the Maiming? I actually AM being taught in some universities and am in some textbooks, but I can assure you it’s not for “horror poetry.” Rather, original literary criticism on authors like Yeats and Jane Smiley among others. A book review? As crazy as that is, even crazier is the service advertised on the right. They will write a “custom essay” INCLUDING a graduate thesis or freaking doctoral dissertation on me — Scott C. Holstad! For ungodly amounts of money. Frankly, it’s nearly a compliment, to be honest. But also to be honest, I think if I ever found out that anyone anywhere were actually doing their dissertation on me for any reason, I’d probably have a heart attack on the spot from the shock! There’s a greater chance of me flying to Mars on my own with no vehicle, oxygen, anything than someone getting their doctorate on me.

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On Thomas Ligotti’s Book, Death Poems

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 7, 2022

Death PoemsDeath Poems by Thomas Ligotti
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m disappointed because I had been told I would love this book, I guess because I’ve had some “horror poetry” books published over the years. Mebbe so, but I’ve had far more books of poetry in other forms published. It’s simple, and I kind of feel this largely applies to this author’s entire canon — I like the themes, tone, morbid world view (much of which I tend to share), but that doesn’t make this guy a good writer and for god’s sake, I doubt anything could save this train wreck of so-called poems that don’t suck because they are formal or because they’re confessional or populist or postmodern or experimental or anything. He’s just a really bad poet! And honestly there’s no shame in that. It’s irritated the shit out of me to see and hear more and more people over the past couple of decades excitedly telling everyone they write poetry. At this point in time, EVERYONE thinks they’re a poet, and damn good at that. Trouble is that’s bullshit and always has been! Just because you throw together a few lines, maybe even self-publish a small volume of verse, doesn’t make you a fucking poet! I cringe every time I have to go to a wedding or funeral cause I know I’ll hear the worst kind of crap written by sincere, well meaning people. And they’ll get applause. From an audience that doesn’t realize the stuff they grew up reading and studying 50 years ago is so obsolete and a part of the distant past, they don’t realize they’re both showing themselves to be amateurs and a bit ignorant. Not that one has to be on the cutting edge. Many mainstream poets I can’t stand are still GOOD at their craft. Many populist poets, spurned by the Academy, like Bukowski, despite the image he fostered, knew how to write a poem and good ones. He knew the literary and poetic “rules” AND he knew how and when to bend or break them and pull it off effortlessly. Here’s a very famous American writer nearly everyone in the world has heard of and who has millions of fans (including me). Could tell a mean story, had real talent and influence. Most people can name more than one of his novels. But how many people know the titles of Jack Kerouac’s books of poetry? Right, no one. And I have them all. The fact is, no matter how famous or successful a writer he was, he was by god one of the absolute worst published poets of the past century! Wretched shit! Just cause you think you know poetry or you put lines down or a couple of people make flattering comments doesn’t mean you’re a real poet and certainly doesn’t mean you’re GOOD (using Kerouac as an example). People object and argue It’s subjective, and there is a bit of truth to that, but that’s not limited to poetry. That’s the argument made and the difference between the hard sciences and the soft or social sciences. You could make a legitimate argument that not only are poetry and literature subjective, but so are philosophy, religion, the arts, social studies, etc. But that’s why some general guidelines exist in each of these areas. That’s why you will study Hegel, Sartre, and Schopenhauer in philosophy but if you innocently (and ignorantly) ask virtually any philosopher or philosophy professor why we don’t study Ayn Rand, you typically get one of two reactions: side splitting laughter lasting uncomfortably too long or a hostile lecture about what a lightweight dittobrain brain she was, a “faux” intellectual whose “school” of philosophy she created is viewed as little different from how L Ron Hubbard is generally viewed. And they’re right about her. And just to prove I don’t have an anti-Rand bias, I was devastated when I found that one of my favorite writers and philosophers, a damn Nobel winner, ALSO typically isn’t included in Philosophy syllabi or viewed as a “real” philosopher — Camus! And I’ve long thought he was one of the three greatest existential philosophers in history, a view not shared by the “pros.” See, there are guidelines that can be employed that AREN’T necessarily in black and white, thus allowing a Donald Hall and Mark Strand to co-exist with Bukowski and Ferlinghetti as “legit” poets — even if that doesn’t always sit well with them. So Ligotti? I’ve gone on too long now and am tired, but it doesn’t matter if your language is formal, informal, experimental, etc. It still has to flow, to “sound” good on the page. If formal, what fits into the rules of rhyme, meter, stanzas, etc., must sound as natural as possible, must flow, not draw attention to itself and detract from the overall poem because it feels and seems forced. And while it’s harder to argue for rule adherence in free verse, just that one topic still applies. The language should actually seem and sound MORE natural, normal, flow comfortably, even in the case of surrealists or LANGUAGE poets. Because they know what they’re doing, what rules they’re intentionally breaking and why they MAY be successful at it. Ligotti’s poetry is made up of lines, words choices, a stilted dictation and lack of flow; it distracts from any point or message he may or may not be attempting to convey. It’s amateurish, buffoonish. It sounds like someone’s illiterate grandpa might. Fans may protest and argue “That’s the point, you dolt! He’s TRYING to make people uncomfortable with his poetry and his writing style, word choices, grammar usages, etc., are all part of that. How stupid are you?” (Meaning me.) Well, a rebuttal that’s I think many would agree with is been there, done that. It’s not remotely original but is definitely legitimate. I’ve done that myself with a number of poems and short stories when I was experimenting with postmodern metafiction. But while legit, just because someone may attempt to do that doesn’t mean they succeed or are any good. Which is the case here. I’ll end by throwing out a few names of authors who did exactly that, but SUCCESSFULLY, and are well known and loved by many (though still rarely in academia). One considered one of the best was William Burroughs, starting with his infamous Naked Lunch and most of his work thereafter. He and a partner are credited with popularizing and honing the “cut up method” to create almost meaningless text but still text one could get something out of. Ironically he was not the first, as Tristan Tzara and the Dadaist movement actually created and generated that technique. In the horror genre, there are fiction writers and the occasional poet who venture there (and also not “straight” horror, but more like dark surrealism that can incorporate horror elements). In no particular order, some who come to mind might include Anthony Burgess, who was SO linguistically experimental in his shock novel A Clockwork Orange that he had to spend an ungodly amount of time inventing a new damn language to fit the characters and the book (complete with glossary at back). Obviously Vonnegut, but some more current writers in the field who may occasionally succeed where Ligotti does not might include Boston, Crawford, Wayne AS, and most obvious of all, the late Harlan Ellison. I’m not saying this author has to be or become them. But he’d be well advised to do what most serious, professional writers do, and that’s study and analyze them to see where and how he/one can grow and improve, with your own voice intact ultimately. But until Ligotti shows evidence he’s done that, or from little I know of him, even gives a shit, I’ll continue to feel generous in giving 2 stars to this book and he’ll forever be relegated to the barely knowns, the wannabes, the amateurs who some think know what they are doing when such writers really don’t. Not recommended.

View all my reviews

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