Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

On Sexy Androids and Holy Beer — A Chat With Jerry J. Davis

Written By: Tracy - Aug• 09•11
Jerry J. Davis is a vanguard author. Long before many writers were dipping a toe into the eBook market, Jerry was jumping in with both feet. His latest novel, Eleven Days on Earth is available through Kindle and Smashwords.

Jon August is dead.If that weren’t bad enough, the place he lands in the afterlife is one where souls prefer vodka, not beer. That’s a problem because Jon is a beer lover. Not just any beer, either. Good beer. Great beer. Because he knows that mankind’s civilization owes everything to beer. It’s the actual Holy Water.

Jon meets and falls under the spell of a mysterious goddess who helps him find his way back to the land of the living. Under the Bridge of Eternity, through the Sands of Time — to emerge not as a ghost, but a living mortal, one who can die again.

His mere presence upsets the balance of our world, and Jon finds himself a pawn in a power struggle between the modern gods — in particular, the feuding daughters of Time and Fate. One is acting as his guardian angel, while the other is trying to kill him. Jon must stay alive long enough to find the Holy Beer and, in the process, stop the power grab being made on our Universe — a struggle where not only is humanity’s fate hanging in the balance, but also the fate of our eternal souls.

Jerry’s other novels include Travels, which was originally distributed by Time Warner and God, Time, Perception and Sexy Androids.
When Jerry is not working on novels about sexy androids or holy beer, he has several podcasts that he helps put out including Don’t Quit Your Day Job, which started as a writing podcast and morphed into four friends picking on one another.

 

Jerry recently took the time to answer a couple of questions for me on bringing book to e-format as well as podcasting and everything in between.

 

You’re one of the first authors that I know personally that has been working with self-publishing through Amazon on the Kindle platform. What has the learning curve been like? Are there things that you wish you could go back and redo? Are there things that you’re glad you tried?

 

What helped me with this process, especially with the first book, is that I’m an experienced web designer and am comfortable working in straight HTML. Amazon’s DTP system (now called KDP for “Kindle Direct Publishing) has evolved quite a bit since I first used it (I was one of the authors who helped test it while it was in beta) and the easiest thing to do at that point was to convert the whole manuscript into extremely basic HTML with no formatting other than paragraphs and italics. When you uploaded it, their system converted that into their .mobi format, and then you downloaded THAT file and edited it again with an HTML editor to do final tweaking.

 

The good news is you don’t have to do that anymore. Invest $40 in Scrivener (MacWindows), put your manuscript into that (or write it there) and it will output it into any ebook format you want. Or output it into ePub format and then use the free software called Calibre to convert it into anything you want. From there you simply upload it.
I sell my books through both Amazon’s KDP and also Barnes & Nobels PubIt, which is essentially the same thing. The process is that you upload it, make sure it looks good, tweak the file, upload it again. And again. And again. Striving for perfection. There’s definitely a learning curve but it’s worth learning, because this is the future of publishing, and so the more you know now the more ahead of the curve you’ll be — and also you won’t end up having to pay someone to do it for you.

 

If I were to go back in and redo anything, it would have been to hire a copy editor to pluck out all the damn typos. We writers can bypass the publishing industry but it doesn’t mean we no longer need editors.

 

As far as something I’m glad I tried … I’m glad I invested in Scrivener. I can’t say enough good things about that software. It does for writers what Adobe Photoshop does for photographers … but without being too complex.

 

What are some tips that you would recommend for someone who is looking to get into self publishing? 

 

Partner with someone who’s good at editing, and who will let you know if your manuscript isn’t ready for publishing. Don’t jump the gun. A good writing group can do that for you if you’ve got the right mix of people. In fact, I think writing groups should evolve to become publishing groups, everyone dedicated to helping each other prep their manuscripts to the point where everyone agrees they’re ready — and only then publish.

 

Your novel Travels was through a traditional publisher.  What made you decide to self publish your latest work instead of trying the traditional route?

 

I love the fact that I completely own the success or failure of my independently published books. If I fall flat on my face, I can’t blame anyone but myself. The tools were given to me, I did the work, and I get what I get from it … and what I’m getting is a much higher level of satisfaction. People are reading my works and I’m getting a couple steady little paycheck every month.

 

You see, I’m not much of a schmoozer. I am too timid to hound some poor editor into submission, and I’m sick of collecting rejection slips that say, basically, “I like your work but I have to publish someone else instead because I know I’ll make money off them, and you … well, you’d be a gamble.” I can understand where they’re coming from, they’re in the business to make money, and things are getting tighter and tighter, so they have to make sure they make money … and I am not a sure thing to a publisher.

 

And I’m getting older, and I’ve run out of patience, and I simply want to write, enjoy myself, and put it out there so that people can read it. Even if it’s a smaller audience, I like — no, I love — the fact that people are enjoying the stories that I create, because I enjoyed creating them — we both get to enjoy it. And that’s what it’s all about to me. Not being on some top seller list somewhere that makes me feel like I’m back in high school trying to compete with the popular kids. I was never a popular kid. I’m still not. And I don’t crave it. I crave the act of creating, period. Just creating. It’s pure joy to me.

 

Nothing about traditional publishing was joyful to me. It was all about pain and endurance. Screw that.

 

Tell me about Eleven Days on Earth. It looks a little like Kerouac meets American Gods. What’s it about? Where did you come up with the idea?

 

The idea formed organically. I originally stole a couple of ideas from myself, from long-gone manuscripts that went nowhere but had a few bright plot points. I put those together and wrote a short story which turned out to be awful, but I liked the premise — a man in purgatory finds a way back to the land of the living, and totally throws Earth’s synchronicity out of whack because he’s simply not supposed to be there.

 

Then I got the idea that synchronicity is actually controlled by a goddess, named Synchronicity, and she has a sister named Serendipity, and one loves the fact that this guy has turned up, and the other doesn’t — she’s furious about it.

 

And why does he show up? Because there’s no beer in the afterlife, and he wants to find what he believes is the Holy Beer. And it turns out there is a Holy Beer, and mankind actually owes all of civilization to it. It was the Holy Water of the ancients, it’s what the priests used to make (this is true, by the way) and there’s a lot of evidence that Jesus himself made and drank beer — that it was actually beer, not wine, in the Holy Grail.

 

Once the goddesses got involved, the story wrote itself. There were some plot points I had to work out (and I have to thank my good friend and fellow writer William Ledbetter for helping me during several caffeine-infused brainstorming sessions), but the story really formed like a living thing, not something that was planned — and it’s kind of amazing to me how it all fit itself neatly together. A lot of the fantasy is more like science fiction, because you get to see why the magical things work — it’s not really magic, it’s perception affecting reality. Having that all fit into place took the story to a whole new level of fun for me, as a writer. It explains Salvador Dali’s paintings, where missing socks go, and why evolution works. And not only do you get to see purgatory, but the island at the heart of the Bermuda triangle AND the mystical Great White Lodge at the heart of Shambhala.

 

What have you done to promote your most recent novel? How does that differ from how you promoted your first novel?

 

I didn’t do much to promote my first novel, and besides it being featured for a week on AOL, neither did Time-Warner. They told me there would be TV appearances, interviews, etc. I did get interviewed by the NY Times but they didn’t use it. I got a mention in Wired. But you see, just a few weeks after Travels came out, 9/11 happened, and … well, you can imagine. Suddenly the fact I was a newly published author was meaningless and unimportant. The world had changed.

 

Now I promote both Travels (which is still available as a POD via Grand Central Publishing) and my two ebooks via the web, via Twitter, and via podcasting. Occasionally I invest in Facebook ads — they worked pretty well for my short story collection, but not so much for the new novel.

 

The way I’ve settled into it is that I do things for other people, which feels good, and then there’s a link to my books. If they click it, wonderful, if they don’t, that’s fine too. So I publish fun little blog items, how-to articles, just little useful or interesting tidbits — that acts as a draw via Twitter, and brings eyes to my websites (I run a bunch of them, because … well, that’s what I do for a living, I’m a webmaster) and on all my websites are highly visible but unobtrusive ads for my books.

 

 You’ve also been pretty active in pod-casting. How did you get started in doing that? What are some of the podcasts that you’re currently working on?

 

My good friend Melanie Fletcher wanted to start a podcast about writing and asked me to co-host it with her. We still do it, it’s called Don’t Quit Your Day Job, but it’s only occasionally about writing anymore … it’s more of a personal journal shared by four people who banter and tease each other, and we’re actively involved in the LGBT podcast community. (I’m not gay myself but am a “SA” or straight ally of LGBT.) Anyway, that’s how I got involved with podcasting, and from there I formed one of my own. It’s with my old friend Dan Leadbetter, and it’s about absinthe — something both of us really love and wish to help promote. That podcast is named Slow Death in the Afternoon: the Podcast (after Hemingway’s very own “Slow Death in the Afternoon Cocktail” — which is a mixture of absinthe and Champagne).

 

 Have you thought about podcasting one of your novels?

 

I have thought about it, and actually belong to a group who does exactly that (PodCrafters.org), but the thought of recording the novel out loud and then editing out all the goofs leaves me daunted. I’d rather spend the time writing something new.

 

Has podcasting been a useful means for promoting your work? 

 

I think so. It’s one of several different avenues where I gently promote it. If you have the desire to create a podcast, I say do it, because we now live in a world where anyone can have their own show. You just have to find something you’re passionate about and give value to your listeners. And then slip in a “by the way, there’s this book I wrote” every once in a while. Unless you’re very good at sales, which I’m not, I’d go with an approach that isn’t necessarily in the listener’s face. The last thing you want to do is annoy someone with your self promoting. It’s better to give them something of value and offer them an opportunity to give back, but leave it entirely up to them to do it … you’ll find people are a lot more receptive and happy about discovering your work. And someone who’s happy about it is much more likely to recommend it to friends — and that’s where you want to be, in that situation, where it’s readers recommending your works to friends.

 

To bring this back around to the question, I’d say yes, podcasting helps that.

 

 Imagine I just gave you a telephone. With it you can call yourself the moment that you decided to become a writer and give yourself advice. What would you say to yourself?

 

“Give up all your ideas of fortune and glory, kid — the glamorous life of a writer portrayed in Hollywood is a fantasy. Do it because you love doing it, and learn to do it really well, and spend the next 3-4 years patiently trying to find your voice.” Back then I spent more time dreaming of how cool it must be being a famous writer, than actually learning to write well.

 

What are you working on next?

 

I have three manuscripts I’m working on all at the same time, bouncing back and forth between them. One is the sequel to Eleven Days on Earth, one is a rather lusty fantasy set in a small coastal California town in the mid 70’s, and one is a pure science-fiction about interstellar colonies, but with a twist.

 

 How can we find you on the web? 

 

Best way to find me is to go to JerryJDavis.com (all links to Facebook, as well as my blogs and podcasts, can be found there). If someone just wants to follow me on Twitter they can find me @JerryJDavis (don’t forget the middle J). For those into Google+ I’m there as well (in fact I like it way better than Facebook): Google.com/profiles/JerryDavis

 

Any upcoming appearances that we should know about?

 

No planned appearances at the moment. If anyone out there is into Second Life, I do hang out there occasionally, and do readings etc.  There are a lot of interesting writing groups in Second Life, so much so that it can be distracting. If so inclined, you can find my virtual bookshop here (Second Life software required): http://slurl.com/secondlife/Bo​ok%20Island/173/206/36

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2 Comments

  1. Great interview! And I sure miss those coffee shop brainstorming sessions, Jerry. BTW, for anyone who hasn’t read Eleven Days on Earth…READ IT! You won’t be sorry. Its a fun, amazing read.

  2. T.R. Nunes says:

    Great interview filled with great advice!