Keep Politics Out of It? Couldn’t if I Wanted

It’s something you’ll hear about genre fiction these days — or even about an author or musician or some other art form that asks people to buy the result of that art:

“Can’t you just keep politics out of it?”

I can’t, and I won’t. For several reasons, but before I get to those, let me make one incredibly salient point regarding the leave-politics-out-of-it sentiment: it is dripping with privilege.clean

If you’re in a position where you can ignore politics and the way they affect things, that likely means you’ve never been targeted by or are largely immune from the aftereffects of politics. Historically, that means you’re white, male, straight, and/or a specific type of Christian (hint: it’s not the love-thy-neighbor type).

If you’re some combination of the above traits, you’ve likely been spared much of the worst politics has to offer. Countless people do not have the luxury to just ignore politics; for them, politics can mean life and death.

If you think that’s hyperbole, you’re not paying attention.

Now, with that out of the way… art — be it painting or sculpture or writing or whatever — is often a window through which we examine and comment on life and society. That means, inevitably, that art can and often will be political. Don’t let anyone tell you genre fiction in particular has always been apolitical (I pick genre fiction because that’s what I peddle in).

The dudebros who hate Brie Larson and the idea of a black Captain America and the mere hint of a Harley Quinn film where she’s not fawning all over Mistah J will have you think there was this utopia where comics and genre fiction were free from politics (this “utopia” was also almost exclusively white, male, and straight).

That is clearly, demonstrably wrong.

Genre fiction has always had political undertones, whether its audience saw them or not. The X-Men were an allegory for racism in the 1960s (and later evolved to represent other oppressed minorities, including the LGBT community). Superman was an alien come to America (created by two Jewish men). Wonder Woman was the original feminist superhero.

If we take fiction as a reflection of the world we live in, and not merely a way to escape said world, then it can’t help but be political — because like it or not, politics shape much of the world we live in. Ignoring that doesn’t make it less true.

Sometimes it’s covert. Sometimes it’s right in your face.

You see where I’m going with this?

More personally, I hear other authors tell me I should tone down my political opinions, lest I run the risk of alienating potential readers. I refuse, for a number of reasons:

I’m not just a writer. I’m a full-fledged person with opinions about the state of the country and the world — and I wouldn’t be doing my duty as a person and as an American citizen if I didn’t express those opinions (whether it be verbally, through donating to causes and candidates, or in the voting booth). My work does not rob me of my voice.

If I were to set aside my ideals in the interest of making just a little more money… well, then in a way, I’m no better than the greedy sycophant currently occupying the White House.

And to be perfectly frank, the people who would hate me for my political opinions wouldn’t like my work anyway. It represents everything they hate; it’s full of racial and sexual diversity, with a big heaping plate of what they would call “SJW bullshit.” So even if they did give me their money, they wouldn’t enjoy the product.

As the late Kurt Cobain once said, those aren’t the sort of people I want as fans anyway. He really did say that, on multiple occasions. And I feel the same way; if you’re the sort of person who looks at Donald Trump and those like him and you think that’s the sort of world we need to live in, pass me right on by. I don’t want or need your money.

So no, I will not keep politics out of it. Not out of the fiction I consume, not out of the fiction I create. I will not be silenced, I will not sit down. I will not allow my privilege to protect me; I will instead use it to fight for what’s right. My station as a writer, as a published author, has no bearing on my ability or willingness to use my voice to enact change.

And if that bothers you… well, that’s your issue, not mine.

 

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About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard, scratching a pencil over a piece of paper, or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitterGoodreads. and DeviantArt.

The Lesson From Kobe Bryant

I know, I know… what does a no-name author have to do with Kobe Bryant?

Kobe Bryant, basketball legend, was one of nine people killed in a helicopter crash in southern California on Sunday (reports are that one of the victims was his 13-year-old daughter Gianna). He was only 41, just three-plus years removed from the end of his playing career.

Forty-one is clearly too young to lose anyone, and the day was spent with countless people going on and on about how transcendent a talent Bryant was on the basketball court, the kind of person he was off of it, and why he was the sort of person whose death inspired mourning en masse, even outside the world of basketball.

But I’m looking at the Kobe Bryant news from a slightly different perspective. Set the sports angle aside for a bit…

Kobe Bryant was someone who found the one thing he loved in life, the one thing he breathed for, and he completely devoted himself to it (if you can, find his animated short film Dear Basketball, for which he won an Oscar). He poured everything he had into the game of basketball, and he was rewarded tenfold for it.

Sports or not, I think that’s something that speaks to us all.

Writing — the written word — is that thing for me. Has been as far back as I can remember. I’ve built so much of my life on writing. Newspapers. Magazines. Websites. And five novels. Even the years when I saw myself as the next Jim Lee, the next big comic book artist, writing still had a seat at the table.

But in recent years, I’ve slipped.

And I can’t help but think… what if that happens to me? What if my time comes and I’m left knowing that I didn’t devote myself as much as I could’ve? That I let the one thing I love more than anything slip like that?

My biggest fear in life is not being good enough. But it’s also what I mentioned above; having to leave this life not having given everything I possibly could to the only thing I’ve loved in all of my 38 years.

I’ve had other loves, other interests, but none have been as lifelong as writing. I have so many stories I want to tell still, so many lives I watch to touch with the written word. I truly believe that was what I was put on this planet to do.

I know video and all that are the big thing right now. But the written word is my gift. The one thing I have to give to this world, at my best and at my worst.

I am a writer. That’s who I am.

So if nothing else, let today’s tragedy remind me — remind all of us — to truly dedicate ourselves to whatever it is we love most in life. Whether that’s basketball. Or books. Or drawing. Or helping the less fortunate.

Whatever it is you love… dedicate yourself to it.

Because today, we lost a man who did just that, and we lost him far sooner than we should’ve.

I don’t wanna go saying, “I could’ve…” I wanna go saying, “I did.”

 

 

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About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard, scratching a pencil over a piece of paper, or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitterGoodreads. and DeviantArt.

Saying No to Audiobooks… For Now

In 2017, I made the decision to take my books out of the Kindle Unlimited program and start offering them on a variety of platforms. Today, you can buy my ebooks on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Apple iBooks, and my paperbacks are available on a variety of platforms, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s website.32372874_10155518469998581_5987555298229878784_n

One format my work isn’t available is the audiobook.

Now, don’t take that to mean I’m against audiobooks, because I’m not. I’ve never utilized them myself, but I know they’re popular with a lot of readers — whether because they’re time-strapped, always on the run, or taking in the printed word is difficult for them. In a perfect world, my work would be available for those people as well.

Alas, such a world does not yet exist. In fact, the cost involved in turning a book into an audiobook — the investment, if you choose that word instead — would be prohibitive.

Let’s be frank here: my work is not selling in the formats that are currently available. I’m not swimming in ebook sales, regardless of platform, and the boxes and boxes of paperbacks in my den don’t paint any prettier a picture. I’ve poured a lot of money into those, not to mention marketing efforts overall, and to this point have found limited success.

So I’m already doing this self-published author thing at a loss (and I figure that’s true for most of us). The production costs of converting even one of my books into audio — to say nothing of paying someone to record it — I can’t currently justify that cost.

Sure, I could do the profit-share thing, where whoever records my book as an audiobook gets a cut of my sales as their payment. But a) my sales as they are don’t amount to much, and b) talking to people who have converted their work into audiobooks, selecting that payment method is a good way to guarantee you’re not picking from the best audiobook recorders.

If I’m gonna do it, I wanna do it right (which is also why I won’t be recording them myself… to quote a meme, ain’t nobody got time for that).

This is by no means set in stone. Maybe someday I’ll be in a position where this is an economically feasible option for me. I pride myself in having my work available in as many different formats and as many outlets as possible; I hated being exclusive to Kindle when I was enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, because while the vast majority of my sales are on Kindle, I felt like I was missing something by not being on other platforms.

Even now, I wish my work was available on Google Play.

But I can’t justify the production costs or paying the talent (and I would pay them up front — they deserve to be paid for their work, much like any other artist). Not when the versions that are available are operating at such a loss. With me trying to refocus my efforts in 2020, I can’t justify a distracting side project that would put me even deeper in a financial hole.

But maybe my sales improve some day to the point where I can invest that kind of money. Maybe I’ll find my audience, and then the demand for J.D. Cunegan audiobooks will exist to the point where I can put the time and effort into creating them.

Right now, though, my writing career is very much a case of prioritizing. And right now, my priority is creating new content in the hopes that that entices people to check out the rest of my work. I have to make what I have work before I can go chasing after other things.

Sometimes, it’s best to know what’s not possible to help create what is possible.

 

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About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard, scratching a pencil over a piece of paper, or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitterGoodreads. and DeviantArt.

Being Honest with Myself

I gotta be honest with myself about a few things from a creative standpoint. I think I’ve let my ambitions outpace my abilities, and it’s led to a level of frustration that’s left me unable to create anything.Behind the Mask

I have a ton of projects I want to do, but the time my day job leaves me, how tired I often am, how good at drawing I’m not… there are limits I need to acknowledge and accept.

Note: I am not abandoning any of my projects. Everything I intend to create will see the light of day.

Eventually.

That means Bounty: Origins is on hold. As are commissions and my other artwork. And my NaNo fantasy romance project. I will return to these… I just can’t focus on them right now, not at the detriment of everything else.

Priority No. 1? Well, it’s in my Twitter handle… finish Betrayed (Jill Andersen #5). Dec. 4 will mark two years since the last book was released. That’s unacceptable.

Finish Betrayed. Launch the next series after that. And then I can figure out what’s my next step. Focus. Commit. Stop chasing every idea that pokes its head out from the bushes.

Pick a project.

Work.

Finish.

 

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard, scratching a pencil over a piece of paper, or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitterGoodreads. and DeviantArt.

The Godsend that is NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again. No, I don’t ,mean the Christmas trees going up in WalMarts and Targets around the country (seriously, can we not get through Thanksgiving first?). I’m talking about National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, as the kids call it).

That… is what the kids call it. Right?

Anyway, for the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is a challenge in which you have 30 days to write 50,000 words. It sounds maddening, and it can be (but less so if you consider that averages out to 1,667 words a day). Truthfully, the maddening part comes at the end of the month, when Thanksgiving approaches and family obligations take precedence.

But there is one benefit to NaNoWriMo, particularly for someone like me.

I’ve made no secret, both on this page and on my social media platforms, about my writing struggles of late. My lack of productivity has taken a toll in recent months, not only on my (lack of) word count, but also in terms of my emotional well-being. Writer is a large part of my identity, and if I’m not writing…

But one thing about NaNoWriMo, and why it’s such an important program, is that it establishes the habit of daily writing. It’s difficult to meet the 50,000-word goal in perfect circumstances, but if you’re not writing every day, then the task is even more daunting. Not that there’s shame in not reaching 50,000 words; there isn’t, and any progress made during NaNoWriMo is to be celebrated.

And in the interest of transparency, I’ve reached the 50,000-word mark every year since 2014, but none of my projects have been finished by the time November ended. That’s where the habit of daily writing comes in. Ideally, that habit carries beyond November into the rest of the year.

Which, again, is the whole point.

Three of my novels — Bounty, Behind the Badge, and Notna — started as NaNoWriMo projects. The fifth Jill Andersen novel, Betrayed, was my NaNoWriMo project last year, and this year, I’m using NaNoWriMo to take on a story and a genre I’ve never tried before.

That challenge, and NaNoWriMo as a whole, has been invigorating. Just yesterday alone, I knocked out almost 4,000 words on my NaNoWriMo project — a fantasy romance titled Unforgotten (working title). I also wrote 4,000 words in completing a short story for an upcoming anthology (from the same folks who brought you Cracks in the Tapestry).

Without NaNoWriMo, I’m not sure I’m a writer — and if I am, I seriously doubt I’d be published. Establishing that habit, treating writing as a journey rather than a destination, is what November is all about. It’s the perfect tonic for a lack of productivity, and I can’t wait to see what other words the month will bring.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this month, best of luck to you! What are you writing? I’m J.D. Cunegan on NaNo’s website, so become a writing buddy if you’re so inclined.

And remember, even if you don’t reach 50,000 this month, anything you do create is worthwhile.

 

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard, scratching a pencil over a piece of paper, or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitterGoodreads. and DeviantArt.

A Hard Truth and a Paradox

Typically, the more you do something, the better you get at it.

Seems simple enough, right? Isn’t that what we teach the youngsters among us? Practice makes perfect? No one is good at something right out of the gate? You have to work at whatever craft you want in order to become good at it?

Well, it appears this does not apply to writing books.

I mean, one would think that after writing and publishing five novels (and a collection of short stories), I’d be pretty darn good at this. One would think the more I do it, the easier it becomes.

Uh… about that…

Writing is a fickle beast, and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to when it shows up. Actually, that’s not quite true… there are a few things that have come together to conspire against the act of putting words on the page (insert Russia joke here).

First of all, there’s that pesky thing called a day job. It’s great in a sense, because it pays me well enough that I can afford to invest in my writing. I can better afford such things as promotional services, cover artists, editors, conventions and the like. But it also drains me, the day-to-day hustle leaving me exhausted when I get home — so much so that writing, as enticing as it is during the work day, proves elusive after hours.

And yes, I realize that to some extent, that issue is my own lack of discipline. I readily admit I’m not as strong in that regard as I should be. I know as much as anyone that the real work of writing occurs when you don’t feel like writing. And yet, there are nights when I can’t bring myself to open that manuscript.

Even if I do open it? That blinking cursor just stares at me. Mocking.

The cursor hates me. I don’t know why.

It’s not like I’m bereft of ideas. I resorted to outlining in an attempt to (finally) finish Betrayed. I’m even fairly certain where to go with the next two Jill Andersen books, Bitter End and Big Apple. I’ve come up with several potential short story or novel ideas that are so outside of what I normally write that I’m excited to tackle them (I just… haven’t yet, though with one of them, that’s because it’s my NaNoWriMo project, and until the calendar reads November…).

I even had a short story I was writing for an upcoming anthology — from the same people who brought you Cracks in the Tapestry. But it derailed not even 4,000 words in, and I’ve yet to find a way to salvage it. That anthology might wind up happening without me.

Dec. 4 will mark two years since my last published novel. Two freaking years. For a guy who was once pumping out new releases every six months. What the hell? What happened? I thought this was supposed to get easier the more I did it, not soul-crushingly difficult.

I know part of the reason my sales are so bad is because I haven’t released anything lately. It’s generally accepted that consistent new content is the best way to get people to buy your stuff, and I have failed massively in that regard.

Maybe NaNoWriMo is the kick in the ass I need to get back in the game. But as it stands right now, I’m far better at daydreaming about writing than actually, you know, writing.

Please tell me I’m not the only one.

 

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About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard, scratching a pencil over a piece of paper, or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitterGoodreads, and DeviantArt.

NEWS: New Price for NOTNA!

Great news, everyone!

Notna is now just $2.99 for ebook!

36384932History’s most peaceful race created one of its deadliest weapons.

Forged in the Living Flame by a long-extinct alien race, The Gem of Notna is the stuff of legends, on par with Pandora’s Box or the Holy Grail. But once archaeologist Dr. Jack Corbett stumbled upon the crystal deep in the Amazon, he triggered a whirlwind of events and found himself neck-deep in a centuries-old holy war. The Divine and the Underworld have been locked in a virtual stalemate for the past three hundred years, and the Gem of Notna could be the key to breaking it.

With the gem in his possession, Jack discovers a world of monsters and gods, as well as an entirely different plane of existence that watches over our own. Old grudges resurface, fallen warriors are reborn in the most violent of ways, but at the end of the day, the fate of the world may well rest in Jack’s hands.

J.D. Cunegan (BountyBlood Ties) introduces Notna, a supernatural fantasy epic that will leave readers flipping through the pages with every twist and turn. Grand in scale and steeped in the very comic book lore that lured Cunegan to writing in the first place, Notna proves that anyone can save the world – or die trying.

Pick up Notna on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple iBooks, and paperback.

Also, don’t forget to check out Legends of the Gem, a collection of short stories that dives further into the history of the Gem of Notna.

 

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.