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Real Men Don't Get Published


John Alejandro King



The following manuscript was reportedly written by a CIA officer named John Alejandro King (a.k.a. the 'Covert Comic').  Little is known about King, though reliable sources confirm that he is a male intelligence official who may recently have been the subject of disciplinary action by the CIA as a result of incidents surrounding efforts by one or more publishing companies to disseminate King's writing without his permission.

The manuscript consists of entries in diary form containing King's accounts of events and his musings on topics ranging from CIA covert operations, to the meaning of life and the universe, to the real nature of the book publishing industry.  As for how this document was obtained, that information must for the moment remain classified.

Literary agents wishing to inquire about publishing King's manuscript are advised not to bother contacting the author via his website, or through any other channels.




It's not the illusion of reality that need persist, only the illusion of persistence.

A major literary press offered to publish my writing today.  As happens frequently, I was in my cubicle attending to a national security matter when I got a call from an agent in New York (I can't divulge the agent's name – if I told you, you'd have to kill me).

They made the usual promises: advances, royalties, a long-term commitment. 

… And as I always do, I politely deflected the discussion.  You know, so as to decline without making them feel rejected.

See, here's the thing: I'm a CIA officer.  More to the point, I'm a vital, life-affirming, heterosexual male CIA officer.  I'm in good physical shape, I'm considered acceptable in appearance, I'm friendly and a fun conversationalist, I'm an honorable person … and I also happen to write.  And for whatever reason, when publishing companies see my writing on the Internet and learn about me, they get interested.  Really interested.  In fact, it's frankly amazing how forward these companies can be when conveying their interest in publishing your humble writer and spook.

But I turn them all down.  It isn't that I'm not flattered, and even to a certain extent tempted.  It's just that I can't in good faith and conscience agree to their proposals – because the fact of the matter is that I consider myself a true, authentic man and … real men don't get published.



Secret 1.4.  The question isn't whether you're cleared for top secret, it's whether you're cleared for unclassified.

An unauthorized person attempted to enter CIA Headquarters this morning.  Security immediately determined that he was an impostor, because he resembled his badge photo.



I watch TV, but only to make sure no one turns it on.

It's OK to frequently quote the saying 'Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,' as long as you don't expect anything to change as a result of doing this. 



Always keep drugs out of the reach of children.  And for maximum entertainment, keep them just out of reach.

SpookSpeak.  For Your Eyes Only phr.  (Intelligence Community) For Your Ass Mostly.



All policy is foreign.



I got your manuscript right here ...




It's easier to fake an orgasm than to fake not having one.

This morning my boss called me into her office.  As happens fairly frequently, she was dissatisfied with one of the characteristic modes in which my DNA expresses itself.

"What’s wrong, boss?" I asked.  "Is it the particular manner in which my cytoplasm surrounds the vacuoles of my cell walls?"

"No," she said, "I think you've fixed that problem.

… For now, anyway."

"Actually," she continued, "I wanted to raise to your attention that you're indenting the columns in your status reporting too far to the right."

… Oh sure.  Like I have some kind of choice in the way my genetic base pairs are ordered.



Typical themes in CIA operations include money, sex, personal betrayal, and lust for power.  And that's just to requisition a new laptop.

SpookSpeak.  Conscience n. (From con + science).  The set of principles and practices used to create and perpetuate scams.



Can a dog still have its day after it's been spayed or neutered?  Or does being spayed or neutered count as its day?

A literary agent told me my manuscript had bestseller written all over it. 

I said I had no idea who could have done that.



So many have paved the way before me, there's now nothing before me but pavement.

Got an e-mail from another publishing firm today.  The company is called Varon Publishers Inc., and they're located right here in the DC area.  Apparently they specialize in works on intelligence and paramilitary-related subject matter.  They think my writing is "highly appealing," and that I’m "just perfect for their needs" (where have I heard that before …).  They also claim to have worked movie deals with influential production companies – their e-mail said they've turned several books by current and former CIA officers into multi-million dollar action films.

I wrote back and told the people at Varon Publishers that I was honored by their kind words, but couldn't meet with them any time soon owing to my work schedule.  I resisted the urge to respond to their rather machista overture by letting them in on the secret, the secret that … real men don't get published.



If I don't love something, is it still OK to set it free?




Secret 0.881219.  If all the world's a stage, America is the shiny vertical pole in the middle.

Best-selling authors don't care if you read their book, as long as you buy it.

Worst-selling authors don't care if you buy their book, as long as you read it.

Real male authors are pretty sure they know what a book is, and they're pretty sure their book is in their pants.



In 'The Elements of Style,' William Strunk wrote 'A sentence should contain no unnecessary words.'  There are 23 additional words in that sentence, but this is Strunk's essential idea.

Yet another offer of publication today.  This one, however, was a little different: a Gay publishing company.

Actually, you might be surprised how often this kind of thing happens to us guys who are committed to keeping it real.  I mean, on one hand you'd think a Gay or Lesbian publisher would be the last one to take an interest in my writing – you know, given that I'm most decidedly heterosexual, work at CIA, etc.  Yet take an interest they do.  I suspect it's the ruggedly virile, yet simultaneously humorous and self-effacing (and in its own way passionate) character of my writing that attracts publishing agents of multiple genres.  Again, not saying my writing is great or even special – but there are publishers out there who do like it.  And the fact is that some of these publishers happen to be Gay.

As for the company in question, I saw no need to respond rudely to their proposal.  I simply told them I wasn't seeking publication at this time, but that I appreciated being considered.

And I wasn't lying, either.  True, if I was looking to get published, writing for a Gay or Lesbian readership probably wouldn't be my first choice, but it's not like I have anything in particular against this or that literary market.

No, it isn't a matter of not wanting to be published by one or another kind of company.  It's about not wanting to be published at all.  Because being real isn't about being published.  And for the most part, being published isn't about being real.



Irony has been replaced by titaniumy.

The opposite of information warfare is not information peace.



The thought of machines becoming self-aware is frightening – because it means I might have to become self-aware too.

Freedom's just another word for nothin’ left to lose.  Which is why I prefer the word 'freedom' – it saves time and effort!



God does not play dice with the universe.  He plays Russian roulette.




Secret 180.  The fact that what goes around comes around only comes around.

I knew a guy who got published.

Let's just say he won't have to worry about his condom breaking any time soon.

Hey, I'm as willing to have my manuscript scrutinized as the next fellow.  It's just that, by the time a writer's work has been edited for proper style, voice, pacing, and 'internal conflicts,' he can hardly be surprised if there's no manuscript left at all.



Memory isn't a painter - memory is a minimum wage department store employee with a price tag gun.

Then again, if your right hand did know what your left hand was doing, wouldn't that be kind of creepy?



The high road has too many potholes.

Never fish for compliments.  Lob dynamite in the water.



If knowledge is but sorrow's spy, it proves a double agent by and by.

Every time a key breaks off inside a lock, a locksmith's wife conceives.



'None of us is as smart as all of us?'  Isn't that the whole problem???




The Spook's Toast: May your intelligence estimates always surpass the estimates of your intelligence.

SpookSpeak.  Data n.  Acronym for digital asymmetric threat agent.



It says right there in the U.S Constitution: E=mc˛.

For a while I thought I was bisexual, but only because I tend to get 'bi-' and 'semi-' mixed up.



Kurt Vonnegut was a great writer.  He greated on everyone’s nerves.

Challenge: If we had to pay for our stupidity, many would go bankrupt.

Password: If we had to pay for our stupidity, declaring bankruptcy wouldn't be stupid.



There's no substitute for hard work, but there's plenty of work for a hard substitute.

According to government studies, alcohol is more socially damaging than heroin or crack, though not as socially damaging as government studies.



How about a compromise: everybody leave the toilet seat at 45 degrees.



Did someone say "film rights?"




Placo diem – appease the day.

Around a month after I first launched my web site and started getting several million hits per hour on it, a publishing agent contacted me to introduce herself and invite me to 'query about being represented.'  She claimed to be head over heels in love with my literary concept, my writing style, my entire body of work.  No doubt about it, she said, my writing was a keeper, a once in a lifetime thing.

I resolved to go slowly.  In a polite yet friendly way I let her know that I was flattered by her positive review and wanted to get to know more about her, to see what kind of author-agent relationship we might develop. 

Her response was to turn up the heat big time; every day she sent new e-mails about wanting to 'proof my manuscript, word for word' and 'scan every inch of my back matter.'  I remember her remarking that she could 'write me a blurb I'd never forget.'

Finally, after several weeks of correspondence, I decided to take her up on her offer.  I dutifully wrote her a formal inquiry, referring to her original e-mail and asking what steps would be needed for her to become my literary agent.

The same day she wrote back with the following message: "Sorry, but I'm not accepting clients at this time." 

I never heard from her again.

Had she suddenly found another writer she preferred over me?  Or did my submitting a formal inquiry scare her off?

… Or then again, did she simply exercise every literary agent's prerogative to change her mind?

Whatever her motivation, that literary agent helped me appreciate, in about as visceral a way as possible, that … real men don't get published.



Do Not Attempt Resuscitation.  Resuscitate, or resuscitate not, there is no attempt.

If you giggle when you wiggle

And you jiggle when you giggle

And you wiggle when you jiggle

You can giggle all the time!



Better to be asked what drug you're on, than what drug you're off.

SpookSpeak.  Causable denial n.  (Intelligence Community) A truthful denial of a notional event or situation that subsequently causes that event or situation to occur.



Secret 1930.  All gratification is instant.

How am I supposed to feel motivated to attend the empowerment seminar, unless I feel empowered to attend the motivational seminar??? 



You made your bed, now hide under it.




The op is the blowback, and the blowback is the op.

At CIA we've been shaken by reports of alcoholism in the Intelligence Community.

... Though fortunately we haven't been stirred.



I've never had a problem with rejection.  On the contrary, I've always been able to reject stuff any time I want.

Some change their party for the sake of lofty principles.  Last weekend I changed my principles for the sake of a loft party.



When there's rioting in the streets, use the sidewalk.

Show me a culture with no word for awe, and I'll show you a people who've never had their tonsils examined.



The statement 'You don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate' is just an opening position.

Please be careful, I bruise easily.  In fact, it's not uncommon for me to break people's bones.



Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around inebriated.




If I trip and fall in a CIA conference room while giving a top secret intelligence briefing, and everybody in the room is under State Department cover, do I make a sound?

A literary agent contacted me today to ask if I was interested in working as a ghost writer for a client of hers.

Talk about your unmixed metaphor.  I politely declined, pointing out that, as a CIA spook, my own writing is itself ghosted by definition.



I'm all for banning the N-word from literature, assuming by 'N-word' you mean 'novel.'

I threw my cup away when I saw a child drinking from his hands at the trough.

… I mean, who the hell wants to drink from a trough after some filthy kid sticks his grubby little hands in it???



Saving Your Soul:

Helpful Tips

1. Assess.  Calculate how much of your soul you spend each week.  Your bank and credit card statements can be helpful in this regard.

2. Make a plan.  Create a budget for saving some of your soul each month – and stick to it!

3. Learn.  Find out how many checks you can write against your soul.  Never write more than the limit, since this may result in significant fees.

4. Invest.  Consider investing your soul in a retirement account or deferred annuity.  Make sure the investment offers sufficient return for growth, without exposing your soul to excessive risk.

5. Live a little!  Once your plan for saving your soul starts showing results, reward yourself by splurging now and then!



The Internet has made book burning irrelevant and redundant at the same time. 

When Thoreau wrote "Our lives are frittered away by detail,” I hope he wasn’t talking about potato fritters, because I love those things.



Secret 618190.1.  As long as you're already bowing, is there any reason not to scrape?




If you die while waging jihad, you shall be rewarded with 72 virgins in the afterlife.

… That's you, plus six dozen adolescent girls, for the rest of eternity. 

Truly, the justice of Allah is great.

What is it about being published that renders an author, otherwise possessing the usual compliment of male physiology, tendencies, and outlook, something other than a real man?

Is it the inevitable chopping up of his manuscript, nay, even the complete emasculation of his central concept by an editor?

Or is it the way the writer submits to having his body of work reviewed by critics … not unlike a fashion model sashaying down a catwalk?

One thing I can neither confirm nor deny: I've never been ashamed to admit that I self-post my writings on my web site; in fact, I'll confess right here and now that I like to fantasize that I'm getting published in New Yorker when I'm 'doing it.'



I want to take a course to learn how to stop juggling.

A motivational speaker was stabbed by one of his students.  This either officially qualifies him as the worst motivational speaker ever, or the best.



'Contradiction in terms' is a redundancy.

Joel Siegel said "William Shakespeare wrote 39 plays and did not use the word 'suck' in any of them."

Sorry Joel: Titus Andronicus Act 4. Scene 2. Line 179



To be as wise as the Zen master, be as foolish. 

Secret 0.102721.0.  Tormented authors who don't want their picture taken need extra time to get their hair wrong for the publicity photo.



The real F-word is 'future.'




Secret 36915052. What goes TDY comes TDY.

There's a time and a place for everything – and I say we send everything there as soon as possible.



Let's be honest: only God can create jobs.

I never met a man who never met a man he didn't like I liked.



If it ain't broke, can we please stop talking about it?

The objectification of women is unfair to women, and even more unfair to objects.



If you're a zombie, it's not an apocalypse, it's a renaissance.

They say the reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of a single hour. 

I say: Who the hell can do something for a whole hour?!



Not only can you fall off the floor, you can land face first on the ceiling.




Secret 47.81925.  Never judge a cover by its sleeve.

Oh what the hell, why not admit it: sometimes I wish to God I was published. 

Not only that, but I can both confirm and not not not deny that every now and then I feel a deep yearning to see my writing made into commercially successful feature length films.

... And honestly, when you think about it, why wouldn't a real man want these things?  I mean, to be loved by like-minded readers, to leave an enduring legacy to the literary world: no doubt writers who are vain and unmanly harbor such desires – but is harboring such desires necessarily vain and unmanly?

In my opinion, for an authentic, upright kind of guy to frankly acknowledge these sorts of inner wants, far from being unmasculine, is actually a big part of true manhood, and as such constitutes an important factor in assuring that guy has no chance of getting published ever.



A thesaurus is a dictionary on drugs. 

If you're lucky, you may capture the spirit of creative genius for a brief moment, maybe two.  If not, you'll have to be content with possessing it twenty-four hours a day.



Secret 21.91721. In order to make zoos more like jungles, it's necessary to make jungles even more like zoos.

I assume the phrase 'If you can't say something nice, don't say anything' is a nice thing to say.



If A loves B, and B loves C, how can it be a love triangle unless C also loves A? 

You can't make this stuff up.  Making this stuff up is a violation of Title 18, Section 1001 of US federal law.



Failure to understand reality is not reality's fault?  How do you figure???



Author!  Author!




'Safeword' is a contradiction in terms.

A woman from Varon Publishers – that company near DC – contacted me today.  Her name is Eva.  I read her bio on Varon's web site; talk about some impressive references.  Let's just say I wouldn't mind writing her back story, if you get the undercurrent to my narrative here.

She invited me to dinner next week.  She said she has a unique proposal that she's sure will meet with my approval, but she wants to present it personally.  I'm not sure why, but I decided to accept her invitation.

Got an e-mail this evening from another agent – some guy who says he thinks my work might be suitable for 'short run' publishing.

Hey, speak for yourself, pal.



Once you read between the first couple of lines, everything between the lines after that is basically redundant.

I wrote myself a motivational e-mail challenging myself to be more authentic.  It got sent to my spam folder.



Secret 17810181.  Plaintext is in the eye of the beholder.

If everyone else gives 110% effort, and you give 120%, you're really only giving a little over 109%.



When breathing in life and breathing out poetry, remember that 80% of halitosis comes from the tongue.

The difference between concrete and abstract: if you slip and fall on abstract, it hurts a lot more.



The strategy is the exit.




To go from the sublime to the ridiculous is less ridiculous than going from the ridiculous to the sublime.

For every innuendo, there's an innubeginningo.



I know why the caged monkey throws feces.

If the ointment's any good, what does it matter if there's a fly in it?



Gods of thunder make me wet.

My conscience is not for sale.  I'm waiting for the market to pick up.



As an intelligence officer, you start off your career assuming every claim is either true or false.  The years go by, and you begin to suspect it's not that simple.  When at long last you obtain your full clearances, you realize it's not even that complicated. 

Had dinner with Eva, the literary agent from Varon Publishers.  Talk about attractive – and she was definitely letting her 'front matter' show, if you get my publishing industry reference here. 

I don't mind telling you, the above factors (plus more than a little red wine) had your humble intelligence officer seriously questioning my policy of not seeking to disseminate my writing. 

As we drove from the restaurant back to my townhouse in Eva's car, I felt somewhat disoriented.  At one point I remember her talking about helping me write my final draft.  The next thing I knew we were parked in my driveway; I recall her softly whispering literary terms like 'hardcopy' and 'trim' in my ear.  That was my last memory before losing consciousness.


It happens to the best of us ...




The answer is unclassified.  The question is top secret codeword.

Woke up this morning with my head pounding and my eyes swiveling around like a pair of rusty turrets.  Swung myself out of bed, straggled into the bathroom, looked down and …

Oh my God.

Instantly I knew what had happened.

After enduring the humiliation of having to urinate sitting down, I carefully and thoroughly wiped, then in a single, enraged motion leapt from the toilet and grabbed my handheld voice and data unit resting by the headstand of my bed.  I quickly looked up the street address of Varon Publishers, then heaved the handset against the wall, scarcely noticing as it exploded into several dozen pieces.

Storming over to my closet, I proceeded to outfit myself in camo and sunglasses.  Then I stomped down to my basement to get guns.  Lots of guns.  Scooping up handfuls of nine-millimeter rounds and stuffing shotgun shells into various pockets, I strode silently but deliberately out of my townhouse, bounded into my jeep, and burst out of my driveway in a grey-white cloud of vaporized rubber.

In twelve minutes and thirty-two seconds I was in the parking lot of Varon Publishers, Inc.  As my jeep neared the front of the building I jumped the small speed bump and floored the gas pedal, plowing straight across the manicured lawn.  A couple of stunned onlookers scattered as I slammed my vehicle headlong into the main lobby, broken glass cascading down around me like a Niagara Falls honeymoon.

A pudgy little security guard stared at me for a split second, then dove for cover underneath the reception desk.  I had no quarrel with security.  The sound of muffled shouts and gasps wafted from unseen rooms as I climbed out of my jeep, sauntered over to the elevator, pointed my silver riot gun at the elevator door, and blew it open.  Then I stepped in and pressed the double star signifying the executive penthouse.

Emerging from the elevator and pausing outside the large glass doors of the CEO's office, I grabbed the stock of a second riot gun from its holster behind my back, and in the same motion swung it over and cocked it.  The pretty admin took one look at me and immediately bolted for destinations unseen; I obliterated the two glass doors with a shell from each semi-legal sawed-off, walked into the CEO's lobby, made a deliberate right turn toward his office, and started taking large wood chips from of his $90,000 oak doors with alternating blasts from each hand.

I have to give that CEO credit – he heard me coming and went straight for his canister of pepper spray.  I casually pointed one shotgun and blew it out of his hands, a couple of his fingertips going with it.

The CEO sat upright in his chair, holding his bleeding hand and panting softly; maybe he was in shock, or maybe he had known this moment was coming.  Maybe both. 

"You published me."

"We had every right under the Freedom of Information Act, Mr. King" he said, obviously recognizing me from my web site portrait.  "Your writing is the property of the US Government, and it’s not classified."

"My writing is my own.  You didn't read the disclaimer on the site."

"Our legal counsel believes they can make a judge think differently; if nothing else, we can keep this matter tied up in litigation for years.  Meanwhile, your books will all be bestsellers." 

I stepped forward a couple of paces, re-cocked and pointed a riot gun six inches from the CEO's face.

"Look, Mr. King," he said, "Let's be realistic about this.  Varon Publishers will pay you top dollar for your work.  This stuff is brilliant.  Maybe we pushed the envelope a little by taking the steps we did, but we had to publish your writing before someone else got to it."

Inwardly I had to admire the guy's guts.  Even if it did ultimately prove necessary for me to splatter them all over that $50,000 hardwood desk of his.

"Where are the books?"

"Film rights, Mr. King – the film rights alone are worth millions.  As CEO of Varon Publishers, I'm in a position to personally guarantee you at least 20%." 

I stuck the barrel of my riot gun into his mouth.

"Where are the books?"

"Mmff frml grp lubbub."

I pulled out my gun without firing, turned around and walked out.

He called behind me, "I advise you to put down your guns and go home, Mr. King.  There's still time to resolve this situation without involving the authorities."

"You can't stop us from publishing your work and making you a universally famous author!"

… "You can't hold back history and your own success as a writer!"

By the time I reached the downstairs lobby, I could hear sirens – I knew special weapons and tactics units would be taking up positions outside the building at any moment, if they hadn't already.

I ignored the sirens and took the stairs down to the basement warehouse.  I reached the thick metal doors, slung my riot guns back in their holsters, and took out my 9mm.  One bullet in the lock and I was in.  A man stood 10 feet inside the entrance with spilled coffee all over his shirt, holding a section of a pallet like he was batting cleanup for the Washington Nationals.  For a split second the thought entered my mind: was he really willing to die to protect a bunch of cat books and memoirs by adult survivors of adult survivors?  Another split second and I had my answer.

As he turned and dashed toward the rear exit I called after him in a relaxed voice: "Where are the Covert Comic books?"

"… Comic books?"  He called back, still running, "We don't make comic books at this facility."

"The new spy book," I called out louder, as he continued running.  Then I played a hunch as to what the cover might look like, and yelled toward his rapidly receding form: "The one with the guy wearing sunglasses, who has no mouth."

He reached a door at the far end of the warehouse and flung it open.  But for a moment, instead of running outside, he paused and gazed back at me – a look of recognition on his face.  "Back corner to the right," he said; then he stepped through the doorway and disappeared.

"Thanks," I whispered.  "… Sorry about the hassle, fellow non-publishee."

I could hear the pounding of many boots on a floor somewhere above me; then I heard muffled shouts.  I casually walked over to the corner and saw several huge pallets reaching all the way up to the ceiling like a veritable Tower of Babel.  The pallets had white labels on them.  The labels said "Varon Publishers: King: Real Men."

I replaced my 9mm in its holster and stepped back several meters.  From a vest pocket I carefully removed a WP (White Phosphorous) incendiary grenade.  I had acquired it during a covert op overseas many years previously; I kept it at home in case America ever found herself under attack by a hostile foreign government or a terrorist organization (or possibly a book publisher).

I looked to ascertain that the interior warehouse door was still accessible.  Then I pulled the pin on the grenade, tossed it into the pallets, and, as they say, 'started booking.'

Before I had even made the stairs, the room shook violently.  By the time I hit the lobby on a dead sprint, the SWAT boys were dealing with fire exploding from windows all around the basement of Varon Publishers.  They didn't even notice me at first.  I leapt into my jeep, slammed on the gas and hurdled the three guys who had been left behind to secure the lobby area.  Coming down in several rows of tulips, I bounced hard, hit the accelerator one more time, and shot out of the parking lot.



Masculinely not getting published recently.




The oldest trick in the book is the book.

Boy, am I ever officially not in trouble at work.

Here's the situation as of this morning: the Agency's Office of General Counsel, on learning that Varon Publishers Inc. was planning to send out advance copies of my writing without CIA review, has obtained a court order to prevent unauthorized publication of 'potentially classified US Government information.'

Meanwhile, it has become necessary to make Eva, the breathtakingly, life-changingly beautiful publishing agent from Varon, stop levitating in public (having read my works deeply and at length over the past several weeks, Eva has undergone a dramatic transformation and will now, along with Varon Publishers, have to be 'rewritten' – note that this in no way implies Eva and your humble author can't compose wonderful new chapters together in the future ... if you get my completely non-literary reference here). 

It feels good to be a man, a real man, again. 

Sorry, can't write any more at the moment.  Gotta get up and go take a leak.

... Standing up, of course. 



The Covert Comic.

Avoid publishing him ... if you can.