Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Guest Post by Bernard Schaffer

There are some people, in any given industry, that have what it takes to lead. Not just thrive. Not just innovate. But to actually move the chains of what is possible, and drag the rest of us along with it.

When Joe Konrath talks, you're listening to one of those people.

On the great football field of independent publishing, Joe is a starting quarterback, calling the shots, making the big plays. He's got championship rings in the form of million dollar paydays and exclusive deals with Amazon. He's got widely celebrated contests with opponents that are filmed and studied and voted on by the public at large.

Me, I'm just a second string receiver. A utility player. I wasn't drafted high, there wasn't any fanfare. Nobody is screaming my name when I run out on the field.

They're doing what many of you are doing now. Scratching your heads going, Schaffer? Never heard of him. But I've got a little scrap in me. A little fight. If you give me a chance, I'll go all out trying to prove I deserve to be on the field.

When a major player like Joe Konrath says he's got an idea for something new, I stop what I'm doing, and I pay attention. And when he says he will give you a chance to ride his coattails and play in his sandbox, well, you'd be foolish not to at least try.

It was scary, to be honest.

When Joe first put the call out for submittals to the Jack Daniels universe, I had two immediate thoughts. One, I want to work with that guy and learn whatever I can from him. Two, it would seriously suck to be rejected.

Every artist must believe in themselves before they expect others to do so, though, so I sucked it up and got to work. I quickly banged out a 12k story that would later be called Cheese Wrestling and shipped it off. Fingers crossed. Impatiently checking my email for a response. I was proud of it, sure, but what really surprised me was that I felt good inside the Jack Daniels world. Pretty damn comfortable actually.

Konrath_CheeseWrestling_eResFINALWhen I got the acceptance email from Joe, it came with a challenge. He told me the short story was good, but novels sold better. Why didn't I step up to the plate and take a swing?

Now that was an animal of an altogether different sort.

Short stories get banged out. Sure, they're well-crafted and worthy, and sure some are literature, but the point is they can get done quickly. You aren't devoting a huge amount of resources and time to them, which is why they sell fairly cheaply.

But a novel is art. A novel is a statement of an author that speaks to where they are in their writing career and life. It is a landmark event, a personal statement, and if you're a writer worth a damn, a decent chunk of blood, sweat, and tears.

Obviously not everybody feels the same way. You can find thousands of novels, or novel-sized ramblings, that are as devoid of life as a reality starlet. But not from someone who actually lives this life.

Joe Konrath lives it. I live it too. I think that's why he and I get along. Oh, and also, because he's certifiably batshit crazy. But more on that in a moment.

The first thing I knew I needed for a proper Jack Daniels novel was a good drink name. All her books are named after mixed drinks, and I knew I needed a good one. Something interesting. Eye-catching. Unique. Turns out, that's easier said than done.

I scoured the Internet for interesting drinks and all the good ones had been taken. But I kept digging. I needed something nasty. Something muscular. Something dangerous.

Snake Wine.

JAKonrathKW_SnakeWine_FrontFINALSnake Wine is an actual drink, enjoyed mainly in Southeast Asia. Those crazy bastards take a cobra and let it ferment inside a bottle of alcohol, garnishing it with charming accouterments like scorpions and other snakes. Then, they drink it.

With that title in hand, I got to work straight away. I wrote Snake Wine in three weeks. It just came pouring out of me. I already knew Jack's character from Cheese Wrestling, and by God, if Joe Konrath wanted to throw me a touchdown pass, I was going to break every bone in my body trying to catch it.

When I finished the book I knew that it was a damned good story. No, scratch that. It was a damned good novel. I also knew that if Joe didn't accept it, I would burn the manuscript and never use it for anything else.

Snake Wine is, before anything else, a Jack Daniels book. It's infused with her heart and soul and I'd rather destroy it than slap a different name on the character and try to pass it off as my own.

Joe sounded a little surprised when I called him just a few weeks later and said I had taken him up on his challenge, and the novel was ready. I told him I'd found the perfect title, and no matter what else we changed about the book, it had to stay. It was completely unique, and nobody, but nobody, had ever even heard of Snake Wine.

And here's where Joe proved to me what a maniac he really is.

He listened to me describing the bottling process, how they stuff a cobra into the flask, and ferment it, and he stops me in mid-sentence and says, "I know."

"You know? What do you mean you know. Nobody knows about this."

"I do. I've got a bottle of it on my shelf and I'm looking right at it."


Well, as it turns out, ladies and gentlemen, it was not bullshit. Joe texted me a picture of his personal bottle of Snake Wine, and that is the photo we wound up using for the cover.

See what I'm taking about? That's why he's the top dog. You think you've got him finally one-upped, and the man just dunks on you.

One final thing before I go. Cheese Wrestling was a collaborative effort between both of us. I sent Joe the original story, and he Konrath'd it up, and it's a much stronger piece as a result.

However, he actually wrote two different versions of his edit that read like completely different stories. We are packaging all three in a "Directors's Cut" special edition for Kindle Worlds, which might interest fellow authors out there who want to see what the collaboration process looks like.

Snake Wine is all mine, with one secret, thrillingly awesome fact, that I hope Joe doesn't mind me sharing with you.

He edited the book.

In the midst of high-profile debates, major publishing deals, family duties, writing, and the responsibilities of running the massive Konrath empire, he took the time to edit my book.

So, while Snake Wine is my vision of Jack Daniels and her world, it does have traces of her creator, and direct lineage. I'm sure if people like it, it's a world I'll be returning to in the future.

Also, for the record, Joe not only owns a bottle of snake wine. He's also tried it. What does fermented cobra soaked in grain alcohol taste like, you wonder?

"Death," Joe told me, very matter-of-factly. "Snake wine tastes like death."

Which, given the nature of my book, is very fitting, indeed.

Joe sez: You can buy the novel SNAKE WINE on Amazon for just $3.99. It goes down a lot smoother than actual snake wine, which is the worst thing I've ever put in my mouth. Everyone who tries it agrees. No one can do a full shot. Ten drops is the most anyone can handle. Remember being a kid and walking through a field and turning over a piece of cardboard and seeing a dead mouse or rat or snake or frog? Remember that smell? Well, liquefy it and drink it, and that's what snake wine tastes like.  

The book is a lot better.

CHEESE WRESTLING is also available for $1.99, and was a lot of fun for me to work on. Three versions of the same story for one cheap price. Check it out if you haven't, and also check out Schaffer's work. Start with SUPERBIA

Schaffer forgot to mention that he's a cop, so it has been interesting for me, who writes about cops, to talk to one and see how he fictionalizes the truths he lives every day. If you're looking for truth in your thriller fiction, look no further.

Check him out, and check out other Jack Daniels and Associates Kindle Worlds stories, 45 and counting. Think you can write better stories than some of these? Prove it by doing it. Looking for new authors to read? If you like my writing, give these a try. 

Summer is here. Read. Now.


Charles R. Rutledge said...

I enjoyed the story Cheese Wrestling quite a bit and will definitely give Snake Wine a try.

Mark Edward Hall said...

Cool post, Bernard. I'm going over to pick up Snake Wine right now. Although I've never tasted it, I certainly have heard of it. I was in Southeast Asia back in what now seems like another life, a place where I encountered even stranger things than Snake Wine.


Congrats Bernard. I loved Cheese Wrestling and will be picking up Snake Wine this week. I actually wanted to name my third Jack Daniels/OzValt Grant novel, Corpse Brandy - Corpse Wine but Joe said he already had some publishing under Snake Wine. Good deal. I look forward to reading Snake Wine!

Rick said...

The Cheese Wrestling link goes to the Snake Wine page.

And I'll try both, please.

Bernard Schaffer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bernard Schaffer said...

Hey now. So happy to be here with all of you. I'll be checking in from time to time, so if you have any questions about the books or collaboration process, fire away.
@Mark: from what Joe has always told me, you're lucky you never tried it.
@Bryan: actually, Corpse Brandy sounds like a hell of a title. Nice job.

Bernard Schaffer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

Bernard it's funny you telling the tale about finding Snake Wine thinking that you had to be the only one to hear of this. LOL! I did the same thing while looking for a title like Corpse Wine, the closest WAS Seagull Wine where the Eskimos put a seagull in a bottle to ferment. LOL! My books are a little sick. HA!

Unknown said...

Hi Bernard. I look forward to getting into both these. It looks like you're writing a series (of shorts) as well...or is is called a serial. How's that going for you? I like the name you chose. I came up with the concept for mine, then went looking for drink names. When I found it, I almost fell over.

Bernard Schaffer said...

@Silas: Grendel Unit is going great, thanks. Getting ready to write the last installment in the near future and then set it aside for a little while. I think all of Joe's collaborators could tell a great series of tales about finding a good drink name title. He should have us all send them in and publish it as a blog. Best of luck!

T. M. Bilderback said...

Great post, Bernard!

I haven't gotten around to Snake Wine yet, but I'm looking forward to reading it!

I've been a little busy...LOL

Bernard Schaffer said...

@T.M. Let me know what you think, when you get around to it. I know what you mean!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I can't write in a world where manly men place dead animals in containers of alcohol and salute the work. I won't be submitting.


The TROLL lives!

Bernard Schaffer said...

I just about cried myself to sleep reading that. now I have to find the strength to go on.


Nice Bernard. LOL! You're in good company.

JA Konrath said...

I can't write in a world where manly men place dead animals in containers of alcohol and salute the work.

You just devastated every museum curator, taxidermist, and biologist who regularly reads my blog.

Bernard Schaffer said...

At least Anon called us manly men.

Bernard Schaffer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen Leather said...

I'm just glad you didn't go for Dead Baby Mice Wine, Yes, it's a thing! http://sploid.gizmodo.com/this-ancient-korean-wine-recipe-calls-for-dead-baby-mic-1476389264

Anonymous said...

Why do these guest articles always have to start with the same sycophantic praise and worship of konraths genius and practically putting him alongside nostradamus as some kind of visionary. Its embarrassing.

I hope coca cola are watching this kindle worlds experiment, maybe theyll start letting people all over the usa use coca cola branding and make their own coca drinks for sale in the shops - according to konrath its the way forward and doesnt risk damaging your brand. Maybe soon theyll be lots of people sharing the apple branding and making their own computers and using the ford badge on a variety of cars made all over the world.

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

Bernard! The book looks fantastic! Love the title. Congrats to you. Excellent blog post.

Bernard Schaffer said...

@StephenL: Sometimes you have to wonder how a thing like that gets started. Who is sitting there looking at a bunch of baby mice and it suddenly dawns on them, "I bet I could make wine out of their dead corpses."
@TracyS: Thanks. Really appreciate it.
@Anon: Is this the same Anon as before? Can't tell. Regardless, I don't recall heaping on any undue praise. Joe's repeatedly demonstrated an ability to stay ahead of the curve, and make large amounts of money as an independent author. Can you say that? I doubt it. At least not based on the quality of your post.
But I digress. I'm pretty sure the concept you're grasping for with your Coca Cola and Ford references is called franchising. While it would not make sense for those companies to try it, it has certainly worked well for a few others that you might have heard of.


It's all on the table folks. Lets try everything to be successful and entertain the masses. Not sure why some people have to be such trolls in this posting. Thanks for the tip on the new editor Bernard I sent her an email tonight. Best!

Walter Knight said...

Let's turn the innovation around. I invite Joe to write a sequel to my "Zombie Missouri" apocalypse novel, ride my coattails. I'll bet money could be made.


That sounds cool. Joe you're more than invited to write in my OzValt Grant thriller series or if your looking to write something completely off the wall - we're talking Buckaroo Banzai crazy take a look at Pizza Man, Taco Bandits, and Chuck A Chik see if you got what it takes to write something like that lol!

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"Guest Post by Bernard Schaffer"