Steffan Piper's Blog
July 10, 2014
Well, fortunately, enough time has passed that the book has find itself getting translated. I'm very thankful to AmazonCrossing for making this happen. Having seen the translation and the book cover designs, I'm very excited that the story will now be reaching a much wider audience. No release date has yet been given to me regarding the German release, but I'm thinking it will likely come out sometime either just before or just after Christmas of this year.
Before I die, I do hope to see the book translated into Spanish, as that was always one of my main desires with this story. But with enough patience and maybe a few other books that are successful, it will occur.
People have been emailing me, asking if I've been writing. Things have been difficult this year with family concerns, thus the creative endeavors have slowed. I promise to return to the page the first moment I can.
All the best ...
October 3, 2013
You may have heard countless times in your life that authors shouldn't review their own books because it's usually an open door for a lot of gratuitous back-pattery and other forms of self-aggrandizement. I've heard that, too. And while I carefully hawk all my reviews far and wide, and have appreciated the good ones and laughed out loud at some of the bad ones, I'm going to review my own book regardless. It's a necessity and maybe a moral imperative at this point.
I need to tell myself a few things about what I'm doing that I'm not happy with, because I wish to do better, tighten up and internalize my weaknesses so I can digest them as completely as possible. Doesn't honesty always lead to growth and greater understanding?
Fugue State (2012 - Amazon Publishing) was moderately successful, earning back its advance and even made decent money during its initial release. The subject matter was that of the hero's journey told through the memoir framework of my real-life experiences through the Marine Corps during Operation Desert Storm. A lot of folks have loved the book, lauding the book with very thoughtful reviews as well as a small handful of negative ones; all of which I am thankful.
First, while the subject matter was out of the author's control as to which book he wrote first, and in which order, I'm left wondering about what exactly happened directly after the ending of the previous novel Greyhound when young Sebastien, then 12, was left recovering in bed at his grandma's house in Altoona, PA. The gap between the two books is a little too long and the reader is left to constantly wonder what happened in the eight years in between. (1)
Second, the opening section of Fugue State occurs in Eagle River, Alaska and while mesmerizing, perhaps the entire book should've taken place in this one setting and tell a more expansive story of what was going on prior to joining the Marine Corps, as I'm sure, like real-life, there was. Another hundred pages or so would've worked nicely. I would've actually liked to have had more character time with John McCandles as he was wonderfully memorable.
Third, the boot camp section was done incredibly well and honestly the high point. I found myself transported over to MCRD San Diego, 1989 the whole time both laughing out loud and nodding to myself thoughtfully. This was the book that it should've been, and highlighted better by being more compartmentalized. This could've been book two from the point where Sebastien joined, through when he returned home later in the book.
Fourth, while as the reader, and the listener of the audiobook, I understood completely what Piper was doing with the development of the sexual relationship of the character and doing so to highlight the staccato breakdown into Post-Traumatic Stress, the author might have been served better scaling back the graphic nature of the material. If no one told you this, Mr. Piper, then let me do this now. Everything has a place in the book, as does sex, just do so in moderation. Seven sex scenes in and I'm wondering if that much was warranted. While a lot of modern authors lean heavily and delve this ground, and there is no real penalty for doing so, just because you can, but that doesn't mean you have to. I did enjoy these things, but just consider my words next time. (2)
Fifth, be careful of homogeneous characters as there were a few. One lesson you could take away from the listening of the audiobook is the realization that you should describe the sound of what each person sounds like perhaps, and build on that. Saying someone has the vocal similarity to Bill Clinton, Tom Waits, Forrest Gump, zydeco playing Cajun Dr. John, etc. can make a big difference in the variety of voice in both the head of the reader as well as the narrator in the audiobook. Something to strongly consider from here forward for you perhaps.
Six. Titles are everything, my friend. While I've heard through the internet you wanted to title this Shit Bird which would've definitely been more interesting and direct, leaning on titles that people continually showed an inability to pronounce should've been a red flag to you, good sir. Yes, I imagine you are an obsessive perfectionist, who doesn't seek perfection as much as he does grace, but you must pay attention to this stuff. Remember that day when that musician asked you what a "Fugue State" was? Yeah, that should've been enough.
Honestly, it's not a bad read and it keeps the reader glued to the page the entire way through, even at 440 plus pages. Some people couldn't put the book down from the moment they opened it and stayed awake for 24 hours doing reading binges. They even stated as much in reviews, but just remember that when you're not a household name, hitting folks with 400 pages becomes dangerous territory. Just a thought.
I loved the fact that this was a story about the author's life and that the bulk of it occurred as written. The continuing story of Sebastien Ranes is fascinating and sometimes a shock as we always learn that the differences in the lives we lead and the way we are raised can some days make the hairs on the back of one's neck stand on edge.
Well done, Mr. Piper. Please do better. Strive to continue to tell engaging stories and do so both effectively and succinctly. Look forward to reading your coming books.
I can only hope that Fugue State IS NOT Steffan Piper's Pinkerton, but only time will tell.
Steffan Piper / Sebby Ranes.
(1) This book is actually close to being finished and is currently titled Come Up Screaming.
(2) The Seven Hundred Dollar Raincoat, released 8.8.13, continues along the lines of being more adult in tone and content.
October 1, 2013
7 very quick points I want to make about what I learned regarding my last book. This is me being succinct, LOL.
A few surprising words of development about my Top Gun Children's book ...
September 30, 2013
Probably one of my most important videos concerning writing to date. If I were to advise myself in the past, this is what I would tell myself about Fugue State and all future writing projects. It's long, on the side of 18 minutes, but important.
September 28, 2013
Just thought I would tease you guys a little bit and offer up the preface I wrote for Waiting For Andre. This may or may not make it into the book later. These things are hard to say and you never know how people are going to react to openings like this. But I think this is a great opening for the uninitiated.
And yes, the date at the bottom of the document is correct. The document is a rough first draft, so again, no reward for typo fishing.
All the best, hope you enjoy it. This is a gift from me to you. I have so many dedicated readers that wait patiently, I thought you folks deserved a little something for being supportive.
September 27, 2013
September 25, 2013
August 30, 2013
Just a note: Today was a great day today. Putting up the FINAL cover for $700 Raincoat and getting that thing - completely off my desk - was the equivalent of lifting a lifetime's worth of self-doubt off my shoulders. Carrying the burden of storytelling is no easy matter.
I know I cannot express what putting a book out into the world actually means to me, as some people think we only do this for the money, because well, many do. Anyone who has read any of my books, knows too well that I write memoir and I'm very blunt about the things that have happened. Pat Conroy owes me a drink for sure.
Of all the books that I've written, so far, I've had a much more emotional investment in The $700 Raincoat because those days, like I said in the back of the book, seem like yesterday, and I can still see them vividly in my minds eye. While editing Fugue State was difficult, reworking this one was downright painful. Some of it I just had to hit 'accept change' and turn the page because I just couldn't bare to look.
Getting it out there and getting it read by people is the real therapy we get when we're so invested in our stories. I honestly hope that as time passes it becomes as popular as Greyhound already is. Yes, I didn't write a series of novels about a boy who stays innocent forever, I wrote stories about a boy who does grow up and does so alone.
Too long, didn't read? Sorry. I can be that way. I wrote 422 pages about The Persian Gulf War and my experience inside and around it.
I want to say thank you to everyone that has supported me with this book and lent me a hand. I didn't get to today alone. You may not have known the difficult time I was having, but it's time to step forward, but in some cases step further back. 1985, it seems. I have no Doc Brown.
Not everyone is going to be in your corner when it gets difficult to deal. Some folks are just going to smile and create some distance. I'm a big boy and used to it. When Monday morning comes and I hit *publish* on the paperback version ... I'm likely going to feel like a new person. Forgive me now if I start to behave like one.
I appreciate the hard work from all of you with your kind words, hard work and word of mouth. I'll do my best to be worthy of it and keep writing.
August 14, 2013
I used to write a section in my blog called 'No one's going to read this, so let me tell you:” this is probably one of those.
I woke up this morning after a really bad nights sleep. I rarely dream about the military, but I think that's what they call PTSD, when you do. Especially if it's not the good kind of dream that you normally have. I have few nightmares, but this was something like that, but perhaps worse.
Every night, regardless of how long my day is, I always love to slip into bed at the end of it, because I know what I'm going to dream about. I can usually control it and shape it and direct it. I usually dream of women. Smiling faced females, frolicking around in their underwear, laughing, talking, cavorting with me, all of that. I can't tell my wife about this reality because she's insanely jealous, which is something I just don't understand at all. This truth would go over like a lead balloon with her. There would be tears, or if not tears, anger and lots of it.
I always wake up happy and I always smile when I slip into bed because every night I know what's coming. It may sound perverted but that's part of my reality. It keeps me smiling throughout the day. I usually laugh in my sleep, and on those nights, I always wake up feeling rested.
The other night, I asked myself before falling asleep why I always dream about the same thing. Why do I always dream about half-naked girls smiling and carousing around with their bare legs like warm hands reaching for me? It just didn't seem normal and I've often wondered what everyone else dreams about. I always ask my son what he dreamt of the night before and most of the time he doesn't have an answer. Sometimes he'll say “Oh, I can't tell you, papa.” When I ask my wife, she never has an answer either, thus I really feel left out in terms of wondering why I have 'nothing' to share.
Last night, I dreamt about Saudi Arabia and the days that followed when I came back in late 1991 - 1992. I remembered how full of sand everything was and how it was in everything I owned and how, after I had gotten back my uniforms that I didn't take overseas, how the sand had gotten into that stuff too. That sand was like a kind of lime, it had this white green tint to it, caked up around everything and seemed to have a smell that when transferred to ever other object that it connected with. Pretty soon, everything I owned after I came back had that smell and had sand around it, caked on it and in pockets and seams, books. My dress blues, my sneakers, my civilian clothes, paperwork. The shit wouldn't go away. Everything. My hands stunk for a long time as did my skin. I could just smell that place for far too long. The sand was the culprit.
The problem was that as that shitty, lime colored sand started taking over my uniform, and I remembered how other Marines who didn't go to Saudi would look at me. There was something wrong with me. Why was all my gear and clothing all fucked up? Why were my boots caked in this shit no matter how hard I cleaned them?
In the Marine Corps, it's the 'Esprit de Corps' which makes you a Marine and having your gear and uniform 'squared away' is a huge part of it, especially around other Marines. They now looked at me like a shitbird (the worst kind of anything), like I was unsat (unsatisfactory), like I was deserving of a Big Chicken Dinner, a bad conduct discharge. All because of this fucking sand and these feelings I couldn't shake that I no longer belonged. No one helped, no one said 'what's wrong, why is your shit so fucked up?” No one saw the problem that was so clear in my dream last night.
In retrospect, I probably should've burned all that stuff I brought back, but nobody really had a clue. Nobody was taking preventative measures. The day I discharged, I took every piece of military gear I had, and I made the point of putting them into black trash bags and throwing everything into the dumpster outside, in plain view of everyone. They were mortified at the sight of it. There was value associated with a military uniform, both monetarily and prestige.
In my dream last night, someone did ask my those questions though and I had a response. Perhaps it was my way of finding something all these years later. After -- I had already written 'Fugue State'.
Another Marine asked me “Why is your shit so fucked up? How come you only have one seabag of stuff?”
“When I came in here,” I responded, “I watched you carry in three seabags. One had your uniforms, one had your civilian clothes and the other had your problems.”
“I have more problems than gear. The gear I have is all fucked up and my problems are everywhere.”
In my dream, that was the best I had as a comeback, however lame, but now I understand.
In psychiatry, they would call all my dreams of the naked girls, 'masking'. I'm not stupid, but most people don't like lifting up rocks inside their head to see what's under them. Why do I mask the way I feel about my pain and my failures, especially those concerning being in the military, with panty wearing girls? Every night? I'm a shallow jackass? Doubt it. Some people might say that.
Maybe I have to. I dream every night. Many days, lucidly.
Do you dream lucidly? Do you know what that is? Lucid dreaming is where you're in the dream and it's like your awake. The night before I had a dream where I 'woke up' in my sleeping bag, in a shelter, on the Appalachian Trail, from one specific night back in 2006. Yes, my dream started with me waking up. Lucid dreaming is part of the Universe's way of fucking with you when you least expect it. It wasn't a dream that was made up, or not real, it was me reliving a moment where I had woken up, around 5:30 in the morning, to discover that I was covered in snow in the hiking shelter. That's what I dreamt of. That moment where I woke up. I relived it. Lucid dreaming. Sometimes it sucks, most times it's awesome. Naked girls, good. Hiking, good. Military breakdowns, bad.
Last night's was the worst. Feeling like I didn't belong, like I wasn't a part of everyone else and I was worthless, along with being back in the barracks (which is what I dreamt of) was something I wouldn't want repeating on a regular basis. I guess I have my answer as to why I dream of girls.
I don't think that's perversion. I think it's self-preservation. It's a little before five am and I'm going to go back to bed.