When my father was in medical school, he did a rotation in the emergency room of a hospital in rural South Carolina. He saw some seriously weird and horrible stuff during his time there, and heard about even more, but one of his stories in particular has stuck in my head.

There was a local guy who showed up with a bullet wound in the middle of his forehead. It was a small-caliber, soft lead slug that hit and spread out across the bone in a nickel-sized circle without breaking it. It was accompanied by a powder burn, which indicated he'd been shot at very close range. The doctor cut the bloody lump of the bullet out, cleaned and bandaged the wound, and sent him home with a prescription for antibiotics and painkillers.

Several months later, he showed up at the ER with the same kind of gunshot wound. And again, a few months after that. And again and again.

It turned out that this guy had been going into crowded honky tonks and getting people to bet on whether he could shoot himself square in the head and walk away from it. Figuring they wouldn't have to owe any money to a dead man, people ponied up hundreds of dollars.

Once the pot was big enough, this guy would go out into the parking lot with the crowd of blood-lusty drunks in tow, pull out his pistol loaded with underpowered, soft ammo, and shoot himself point-blank in the forehead.

My father guesses that the first time, the guy was drunk and suicidally desperate. When his ploy worked, he turned it into a regular bar bet moneymaking scheme. My dad examined the guy after his fifth or sixth trip to the ER -- he said that the skin of his forehead was thickly scarred, and that the bone was starting to build up in response to the repeated bullet impacts. He also figured that he'd probably destroyed most of the pain nerves in his forehead (though of course the impact gave the guy a killer headache).

None of the ER doctors could convince this guy to stop shooting himself in the head. It wasn't just the money; this was apparently the only thing this guy was really good at. He liked the charge of cheating death. And he loved the expressions of horror, amazement, and frustrated anger he got from onlookers who'd paid their hard-earned cash to see a parking lot suicide.

I would fervently hope that none of the noders here would be thick-skulled enough to try a hugely dangerous stunt like this ... or thick-skulled enough to succeed.

A personal view on the writing/publishing world, in easy to digest bits

  • Full title: Shooting yourself in the head for fun and profit: A writer's survival guide
  • Author: Lucy A. Snyder (aka Lucy-S)
  • Year: 2014
  • ISBN-10: 0692208453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0692208458
  • Amazon customer rating at the time of writing this review: 4.7 out of 5 (7 reviews)

What?

Bram Stoker Award winner, author and noder Lucy A. Snyder shares her experiences and advice on the wonderland of writing and publishing. This is not one of those one-size-fits-all solutions and "tips" for writers, but the personal view of a single writer, sharing her experiences while recognizing how much things can be different from what she's lived through.

Book structure

The book is divided in 6 big parts:

  1. Finding your writing target: general advice for aspiring writers, including a few bits of not-so-nice truths about writing (spoiler alert: writing is hard, publishing is hard)
  2. Getting to work: Advice on the actual writing (writing a plot, a setting and characters), rejection and binge writing
  3. Your writing allies: Collaborations, writer workshops and literary agents (spoiler alert: these are also hard, but very rewarding)
  4. This Town is big enough for the Thousands of us: Conventions. Conventions everywhere.
  5. Helping your book make an impact: On getting people to talk about your book and actually buy it
  6. Master wordsmiths: The basics of author interviews and actual interviews and profiles
  7. Welcome to the genre jungle: Exactly what it says on the tin

Each part is composed of several short chapters dealing with related but separate topics

Why?

Because it's a way of helping aspiring writers who have little to no clue about the world of publishing. Because it's not just "Tips for being a writer" or a magic recipe to get published. Because some people have never considered about going to conventions or establishing writing workshops in a proper, ordered way. Because it's a point of view, and not the point of view.

What do you think, Andy?

As the Municipal Liaison of my NaNoWriMo region, I've met more than one fellow offering several "services" to me and the writing group: seminars, copyediting, publishing... the whole enchilada. I've often turned them down, partly because I'm afraid of scammers trying to prey on a group of naïve writers.

There are lots of things I'd like to say to my NaNos, but I'm not a seasoned writer, or anything like that. I'm just an amateur who decided to organize the region, but I'm no more experienced than any one of them. Lucy's book is precisely the kind of book I'd recommend them to read. Hell, the kind of book I'd buy to keep in our shared library. The kind of book I'd tell them to read if they're serious about writing (and many of them are). Rest assured, I'll buy and give away one copy in a raffle this November.

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