The other day, I was surfing the web for wholesale meats (when you quit your day job to write full time, it can’t hurt to save a few bucks on proteins and stick them in the freezer). The results are what you’d assume: companies trying to convince any Googler that their meat is the best meat, and you should buy from them. It’s what the internet is these days; a glorified Yellow Pages (except the ads manipulate you into voting a crackpot into the White House, and there are literal Nazis, and they’re concerned about frogs and for some reason, ethics in game jouralism. Also, there’s porn of literally everything).
Anyway, the third item in my search showed this:
…Yeah, that’s what I thought it said. Weird. Why on earth would a website ever want to advertise that it sells AVERAGE AND MEDIOCRE QUALITY MEAT????
So I had to click. And I caught on very fast: someone, somewhere, doesn’t know how to SEO. This is the front page of their site:
It’s actually quite a clever homepage. Reverse psychology. It’s pretty well written, too. Too bad the SEO engine they are using ignored the bulleted items and only pulled the first written copy from the front page.
I felt bad for them. They worked hard on their site. It’s well designed. It’s clever. So I had to write them:
The next morning, I got a reply:
A big oops, a shared laugh, and someone is going to make massive strides to improving traffic all because I wrote a quick email. I think that’s a nice thing. I think we could all use more of that on the internet; nice things for no other reason than to be nice.
I’ve been thinking a LOT about this the past few days; what the internet used to be versus what it is now. I’m not the only one, I know. Ever since Facebook was caught with its pants down (again — it’s happened a LOT over the last 14 years) over the whole Cambridge Analytica thing, it’s all Silicon Valley can really talk about: their ethics, and how they really do have them, and uh… Yeah, um. They’re not going to give up any — ANY — of the money they’ve made doing this shit, and they’re never going to change. But they DO HAVE ETHICS they swear. They pinky swear. (If you want to know more, read my series Precursor to Dystopia, which goes into great detail about all the ways we’re, as the title says, about to be a dystopia).
The internet is so, so, so broken. It put a despot asshole charlatan racist into the White House. It broke up the European Union. It routinely festers and erupts its dark pus onto our mood, almost by the hour, just by the sheer nature of how it has been allowed to be used and abused the past, oh, I dunno — however many years since the first pop-up ad showed up. A quick Google search reveals this essay, which says it showed up between 1994 and 1999 at Tripod.com, so Let’s say between 20 and 24 years. That’s how long it’s been allowed to be treated like shit.
But at first, there weren’t as many nefarious folks doing nefarious things, I think, because the volume of the internet was so low. That meant the opportunity to squeeze a dime (or steal it) was also low. So why bother? But as people caught on and saw that the internet was cool and had tons and tons of potential, so did the money, and the advertisers were the first prospectors.
TED just occurred, and all everyone can talk about is this amazing talk by one of the smartest, most insightful people I’ve ever read or talk to, Jaron Lanier. Please, take 17 minutes and watch it:
It will wake you up.
We can do better. Old to the internet or new, avid user or occasional Googler, we can ALL do better.
I’ve discussed at great length my leaving Facebook (these days, I only use it for my book and author pages — and God, it sucks even for that. But it is far, far healthier than it used to be in my life). I think the next step is to actively try to be better, by doing the things that used to make the Internet so great: helping. Discussing. Sharing. Playing nicely. Collaborating.
So, if you want meat that is not AVERAGE AND BELOW QUALITY, check out Allen Wholesale Meats. I like sharing that with you. And I can tell you that I’m committed to sharing more and more great things with you, both in the form of stories and things I make. I want to use the Internet for what its best for, not what it’s become good at.
[NOTE: This is the first blog post I’ve written while people watch via Google Docs! It was fun, if a little nerve-wracking. If you’d like to see this process and join in the conversation, support me on Patreon!]
My friend Joseph Rhodes (of Marlowe Kana soundtrack fame!) reminded me that today is the 65th “birthday” of MKULTRA (also called the CIA mind control program). Very shortly, MKULTRA was a program of experiments on human subjects centered around mind control using drugs, environment, and other factors to — among other things — extract confessions, implant suggestions, and otherwise fuck with people. It’s pretty gnarly shit, and well worth the read through the Wiki article (and deeper exploration is certainly fascinating, but get ready — it goes deeeeep).
He reminded me of this because, in my book series Marlowe Kana, the title character uses a flying “Superman Punch” move affectionately dubbed the MK ULTRA. He felt that was a neat correlation, and that I should make mention of it.
It brought to mind the whole point of my calling her flying punch the MK ULTRA: Because it sounded cool, and because her nickname in the books is MK, I felt that in the books’ future (100 years from now), people would have long forgotten what the actual MKULTRA Program was or what it entailed, and instead just consider it a cool sounding vaguely military-related name for a badass finishing move that their favorite soldier / celebrity used to humiliate her enemies.
It’s called “Semantic Change” and it occurs when words are redefined mostly by the way they end up being used, versus how they were originally defined. For example: we no longer use “decimate” to mean “Behead every 10th captured soldier to sow the seeds of doubt and fear in our enemy” (or, simply, “Reduce by 1/10th”). We don’t use “penultimate” to mean “the second to last item in a list” — we usually mean “MORE THAN ULTIMATE!” in the same way Ultimate means “MORE THAN EXTREME” (especially in taco and deodorant commercials). Fortuitous (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fortuitous) does not mean “lucky” — it just means “by chance.” And BAE now means “my significant other” instead of simply being an acronym for British AErospace (seriously, look it up https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bae), or a Korean surname. (Interestingly enough, I just discovered that Seth Godin covers some of this in his blog post today).
Hell, even the word “Literally” LITERALLY means “Figuratively” now (even though Mirriam-Webster tries to gloss over why, it’s still a travesty).
Language is weird. But, people are weird, so it follows that the thing they predominantly use to communicate with one another would, by default, also be weird.
So, that brings me to the point of this whole mental exercise: as a writer, do I have a responsibility to use words how they were intended to be used, or how they are colloquially used? Do I have an obligation to be right, or to be understood?
This topic is a fascination of mine. In fact, it’s the entire core of the podcast I did with Joseph in 2016 called The Joe And Joe Show. The idea: a podcast made in 2096, meant to emulate the culture, technology, and authenticity of the podcasts made in 2016 (arguably the heyday of podcasting). Much the way there are people who painstakingly recreate R&B studios to record music with the exact fidelity and sound of the classic recordings, or recreate 20’s radio dramas as accurately as possible to capture the period, we wanted to show that it is nearly impossible to recreate a time period accurately, including the vernacular and terms and social meaning behind them.
Think about how you remember, say, 20 years ago — 1998. You likely remember aspects from it as they happened, in context. I can remember three very distinct cultural acts in the 90’s — the holdover neon and metal days of 1990-1991, the shift from that into pure grunge and hip hop from 92-95, and the glossy repackaging of literally any band that wore plaid or copy the Wu-Tang clan. But if television and Netflix are to be believed, anything made now taking place in the 90’s like Everything Sucks!, Everclear and Nirvana’s Bleach shared the same airwaves. People wore neon green jumpsuits while others wore plaid and cargo shorts and Doc Martens, while still others were in JNCO jeans and Hot Topic shirts.
These things did not occupy the same space. But they’re all “The 90’s” to anyone who understands “The 90’s” through a vaseline-coated lens of either sub-preteen youth or Google searches.
If you want to refer to the 80s in shorthand, you say stuff like “totally!” And “gag me with a spoon” and call people Brad. And the truth is, no one really ever said gag me with a spoon, it was one line in one movie that people satirically began using as if it was a real term (and speaking of, as if is another of those delicious 80’s-isms that I just love bandying about in conversation to see if someone remembers it. The faces that I get from both boomers and millennials is usually worth the time it takes to explain what it means).
So, in hindsight, terms that developed in the 80’s and 90’s as jokes or simple in-jokes for shows, and terms that were used in general parlance, blend together the further you get from them. No one was actually telling teachers “Eat my shorts!” a la Bart Simpson. No one really asked “Where’s the beef?” (but ironically enough, WHASSSSUUPPPPPPP! Did become a full-on cultural phrase and my God, am I glad that shit’s over).
And this leads me to MKULTRA’s use in the Marlowe Kana universe.
There are a few avenues I can use to try to explain my use of the phrase:
- I’m so clever, I can see 100 years into the future that certain terms — in this case, MK ULTRA — lose context and blur into whatever meaning is grafted onto it much like our understanding of penultimate or decimate,
- I felt like Marlowe Kana’s nickname of MK would call to mind even the most infinitesimally small nugget of memory deeply lodged in passed-along history from parent to child, such that someone thought it was a vaguely government related term and she is a military person so it makes sense,
- It sounded cool, and then when the topic of it comes up, I retroactively attach all this weight and gravity around the topic of repurposed words and semantic change to justify it.
Believe it or not, three is not the answer. I know, normally I get super self-effacing when this kind of thing shows up, but no, really, it’s 2. I think it’s a strange yet prevalent enough thing that words change meaning over time that I wanted to include some aspect of it in the book. There’s also the devilish novelty of something so heinous as a government agency experimenting on humans with drugs to control their mind, willfully being made “cool” by attaching it to a military celebrity who competes in future corporate-military games like Next Top Soldier. Much like Jake the Snake Roberts’ DDT, or Adam Bomb , who wrestled in Japan quite often (Don’t even get me started on “heel culture” in Japanese wrestling — we’ll be here all night).
So, what’s the right call? I have to go ahead and say that my goal as the writer is to be understood. I think that it’s incumbent upon me to share with people stories that get them to a point of acknowledgement, rather than semantic correctness. If using a word colloquially does that, then I’m all for it. Of course, this does not give me license to simply use any word any way I want. That’s not the point.
The point is that sometimes, meaning is fluid. And sometimes, you try to let the fluid flow where it’ll do the most good, rather than where someone somewhere thinks it should be.
So, happy birthday, MKULTRA. Thanks for being so deeply disturbing that my books’ future finds it cool.
A lot of my creator friends (including my amazingly talented girlfriend Meghan Hetrick) have convinced me to use Patreon as a platform to build my “full time writer” business. So, I drafted one up, and asked them to check it out and give me some feedback. I plan to launch it May 1, and I wanted to accomplish two things: 1) explain the mission, and 2) offer people something exclusive at each tier, from $1 and up, that they would find valuable and interesting.
Not only did they like the rewards at each tier, the mission, and the layout, they even started contributing! So, it gave me a really great idea: I’m going to do a pre-launch signup bonus!
- Check out the Patreon — let me know what you think of the write-up, the rewards, the tiers, and the offerings.
- sign up before May 1, and you’ll get a copy of The Art of Marlowe Kana – Patreon Edition, an art book containing work from cover and concept artist Meghan Hetrick, character and animation artist Casey Edwards, and the genius website art of Alex Monik!
Even if you don’t sign up, I’d love your take on what I’ve offered and what else I could offer. Any idea is welcome, as is all feedback (and of course, donations!) And thank you very, very much for all your help and support!
If you want your passion project to fail before you even get out the gate:
- Combine “Make an impact with readers” and “Number of readers impacted” into the same goal.
I have a reader-friend, Rachel. She is on her third run through the first three volumes of Marlowe Kana. She loves the main character. She loves the dynamic between Marlowe and her sister, Jen. She loves the involvement of the President and the social commentary provided in his actions. She loves the universe. She loves that I let people figure it out as they read instead of providing massive infodumps and expository footnotes and technical manuals. She’s a fan. She’s precisely the person I’m trying to reach.
And you know what? Having reached Rachel, I am happy. Very, very happy. I have also reached Luca, Jessica, Joseph, James, Justin, Scott, David, Renick, Travers, Meghan, Rowena, Brandon, Chad, Jennifer, Nicole, and a few hundred others who have bought all three volumes of the book, left reviews, and dropped emails giving me feedback, almost all of it praise. This isn’t bragging. This is an admission. I never set out to do this.
Of course, this was a hope. But for the first time in my life, it was NOT the point.
Reach is not the same as impact. Even Steve Jobs knew that, and he changed the entire world three and a half times with his projects. He didn’t set out with the goal of creating Apple computers that end up on every desk right away. He had to iterate. First, build one thing. Make it the best you possibly can. Then, iterate on it. Make it better. And better. And better. Then, scale. Move up in numbers. Get your thing into more and more hands. And this is the most important: Make sure your thing is so good, people don’t drop it once its in their hands (metaphorically, of course… accidents happen, and I’m certain there are people who have physically dropped my books on the floor, but my hope is that they’re decent enough that they’ll pick them back up instead of leaving them there).
When I started Marlowe Kana in 2015, I didn’t expect to quit my job and focus on it full time. In fact, there was a time not too long ago where I thought my days of writing full time were over forever. I was satisfied with this. I was glad to have a good job, happy to have rebuilt my life, and pleased to be able to spend nights and weekends creating and writing about a universe that’s been in my head for years.
I think that’s the difference: I never once tied a metric to Marlowe Kana that wasn’t 100% about the quality of the writing. I simply wanted to learn how to write fiction that wasn’t pallid, hollow, self-serving, or boring.
Now, I am not saying I am the best I’ll ever be, or even great comparative to any other writer in the Cyberpunk genre or any other.
What I will say is that there was a bar I set for myself when I began this project, and I failed to reach it across several iterations. The version of Marlowe Kana that became Volume 1 is the third iteration on the universe and at least seven full drafts after beginning the process of writing it. I learned so, so much writing the first book. And when I was done, I read what I wrote and compared it to my checklist for passing quality:
- The universe makes sense.
- The characters each have their own motivation.
- No one is a vehicle for wish fulfillment.
- Everyone has their own voice, personality, morals, and objectives.
- The tech — arguably the most defining part of Cyberpunk — is not in the way, and has a clear path from something existing in today’s world.
- It discusses, through the plot, all of my concerns with today’s political, social, technological, and logistical concerns in a far more constructive way than blasting Twitter and Facebook ever did
- It’s FUN.
I am super, super proud that I reached those goals. And when I started on Volume 2, I created a new set of goals:
- More clarity.
- Divergent paths for characters and their motivations.
- Interruption of core motivations and surprises.
- Challenges to the genre and to the reader.
- No easy paths to victory.
- No expected endings.
- Constantly challenging my characters — and more, listening to THEM as they spoke in my head and keeping honest to who THEY are, not who I as an author want (or even conceptualized) them to be.
For Volume 3, I iterated up again, and decided I wanted to surprise myself with the ending. And I did. The ending of Volume 3 was a shock to me when I came up with it. I never saw it coming. It just… Happened. Because that’s where the story took me.
Now that they’re written and out there, I have new goals for all three volumes — find new people to introduce them to. Get them interested. Seek out the audience that’s ready and eager for what Marlowe Kana has to say. Sales figures, traffic, and reach are only NOW becoming a part of my strategy, because I want to do this with every hour of my day every day, and I have to be able to eat.
It’s a huge, huge difference. I believe fundamentally that the goals I set were vital to the success of the series, because my definition of success was never, ever once measured by any factor outside of itself. And I assure you, that will be true for volumes four through nine as well. I will concern myself with sales once they’re done and out in the world. For now, I only have one goal for the upcoming books: Make them worthy successors to the last ones.
I honestly feel that judging how important your work is by how many people have it is asking to be punished. If I can’t make this work financially, I’ll go get a job and write nights and weekends. I will not stop telling this story, because it’s saying what I need to say, and I’ve fallen completely in love with the vehicle I’m using to say it. Of course, I hope that I am able to sustain and keep this going as my daily, full time gig (and I’ve leaned up my daily life in order to achieve that. It’s a good thing I love ramen and peanut butter sandwiches…).
But if I can’t, that’s ok, because that’s not why I started. My definition of success for Marlowe Kana is not tied to reach. It’s all about depth. And if Rachel, Luca, Jessica, Joseph, James… All of them are happy with all nine volumes, I’ll have done my job.
PO Box 962
Atlanta, GA 30030
7 April 2018
Mr. Drew Holmes
Lead Writer, Far Cry 5
Ubisoft Montreal; Ubisoft Toronto
5505 Boul St-Laurent #2000
Montréal, Quebec H2T 1S6
Dear Mr Holmes:
I have reached a Leap Moment™ in my life.
It’s a huge one. I quit my day job. My last day is April 30. As of May 1, I will be, once again, a full time writer.
I can say unequivocally that this is the scariest fucking thing I’ve ever done. Even scarier than the first time, because in that case, I had a decent selling book out in the world and a little cash padding due to the Penguin deal for the follow-up. This time, that is not the case. There is no book deal. There is no major cash cushion. There’s no plan B. There’s no safety net (There’s a little savings, but not a ton — I’m not entirely stupid, just a little crazy).
There is, however, a book series that I’ve poured my heart and soul into the past year and a half, and it’s taking off. As of right now, there are already three books in the Marlowe Kana series (eBook and Paperbacks for 1, 2 and 3), a soundtrack for volume 1, an audiobook in the works, and a statue of the main character, as well as some amazing art created by Meghan Hetrick. On deck: 6 more books (three this year, three next year), 8 more albums, 8 more audiobooks, and a line of action figures. That’s a LOT to do, and somehow I’ve been able to make it work part-time.
Those things have helped me open the door to putting together some newer, pretty big projects. I can’t talk specifics right now, but trust me… You won’t be able to stop me from talking about them when/if they happen. (More on that very soon, I assure you). But in order to actually do any of these bigger, amazing things, I have to dedicate my full attention to them. I have to stop giving 40-50 hours a week of my life to anyone else and focus on the work I can do for myself, to take me where I want to be.
So, as I said, I have reached a Leap Moment™.
Behind me on the high ground, I have a lot of co-workers I have grown to consider real friends, a solid reputation, a decent paycheck, some semblance of job security, and the knowledge that without this particular job, I never could have rebuilt my life after everything exploded in chaotic hellfire in 2013.
In front of me, hovering well out of reach from where I stand, is a brass ring. A literal lifelong dream of mine could be fulfilled if I can make it all work (I’m trying to be coy, but I’m sure you’ve already guessed that there’s a chance Marlowe Kana could be turned into some other form of media. What the fuck else could I be talking about? It’s not a sure thing, but it’s a chance worth taking). All it takes is building up as much momentum as I possibly can, springing headlong to the edge, and leaping with all my might.
Below me: no cash cushion. No safety net. No backup plan. Just the jagged, painful rocks at the bottom of a long fall.
That’s why I’ve decided not to make that brass ring my only plan. Yes, becoming a full time writer again is do-or-die. But I’m not going to have just one path. It’s just… I don’t know what those others are quite yet.
I’m 41, and have been through the wringer more than once. I’ve had several chances to fulfill dreams, and I can say with a gigantic smile on my face and a single tear in my eye that I’ve achieved them, and then lost them due to shit well beyond anyone’s reasonable ability to foresee failure. I won’t get too deep into that whole story. I think by now, I’ve wrung my tear-soaked “My life fell apart” story dry.
Very related, I’ve reached a point in my life where I feel it’s time to leave the safe little alcove I’ve built for myself in order to re-establish myself with writing for a living. It’s time to get back on the field and be my own boss, doing my own work, on my own time.
It’s going to be hard. I know this, because it was REALLY hard last time, and I had the benefit of some insulation.
I’m going to be thinking very deeply about my strategy once I leave the daytime gig, and I hope to have a solid income plan built. I think the things I’ve come up with so far are pretty decent, but I know there are gaps and I need to sort those out.
Being very transparent: I have sorted my life out to a point where I have lowered my cost of living to an extremely manageable place. I’ve paid off a lot of debt and built my life in a way that it costs me very little to be happy.
But I still need to eat, pay rent, provide for my dogs and cats, and generally earn an income. And that’s what I’m going to be thinking VERY hard on the next month.
I make about $200/month on sales of the Marlowe Kana books right now. Hardly enough to live on, but it’s a start. I self-promote everything, and don’t spend much on advertising. I just keep the site updated and try to keep readers happy with a steady pipeline of print and eBooks. But it’s not enough, not right now anyway. I’m thinking on how I can make my daily writing habit a daily income. And I’ve come up with some ideas.
First, blogging. It’s my bread and butter, and it gave me a career once before. But this time, it’ll be a bit different. I think I’m well past the days where I can be the daily center of my own work all the time, every day. It’s just not healthy. And frankly, it’s boring. There are so many goddamn YouTube and Instagram and Facebook “celebrities” who simply babble on and on about themselves and their thoughts and reactions to basic bullshit, most of it dialed up to 11 for effect because if they don’t, they get ignored.
We absolutely don’t need another talking head. Besides, these days, I’m just no good at it. One could argue based on some of my past pieces that I wasn’t really great at it then, either. I have lost whatever it was in me that made me have to chase down jerks on the internet and yell at them. Having gotten it very wrong a few times didn’t help.
Where I WAS good was in teaching people things. Teaching the internet how to win a fist fight, how to actually get a decent tattoo, how to get over a divorce, how to deal with depression… these pieces are the ones I think back on immediately when I’m asked about what I’ve been most proud of. My random bullshit espousal about topic du jour? Not so much.
So, that’ll be the focus on this blog, from this point forward: Teaching.
I’m going to open the doors to my writing process. I’m going to record a series teaching folks what I have learned in the process of writing Marlowe Kana, about how to write fiction, how to organize a novel, how to structure plot, how to build characters, how to write dialog… I may not be MasterClass talent, but I can certainly share what I’ve learned about something I’ve dedicated the last year and a half of my life to.
I also want to dive deeply into the work that had to be done post-divorce and life collapse. I used to run a newsletter for people who were going through difficult life times. I miss giving the help and advice I was able to share there, but with a day job and trying to write a novel series, there wasn’t much room for anything else. Now, I can get back to that series and open those doors again. It may be in a different format than the newsletter, but I will be getting back to it.
There are a number of other smaller writing projects I’ve just not had time to dive into, that I’d like to explore again. Short stories and some screenwriting things that were once on the horizon, that I can bring back out of the “Maybe Someday” file.
I’ll also be updating you on the progress on any Marlowe Kana related projects, because of course I will. I’ll be proud. I have to share.
Now, as for the money part… That’s still up in the air. I am still shy about things like Patreon and Kickstarter. I’ve only ever used Kickstarter once, for the very first Art of Akira Exhibit, and it went okay. But I’ve never liked the idea of asking for money up front for something I haven’t done yet. It makes me lazy and builds too much expectation for me to ever make anyone happy. Prospects like Patreon or Drip are somewhat less cringe-inducing, but everyone I know has one… I dunno. Still thinking on that stuff.
One thing I do feel pretty strongly about including is the communal aspect of writing, like I used to do on Mentally Incontinent, the blog-turned-book series that Penguin bought. I wrote 5-6 stories about my life at a time, and then the community voted on the one that should be a chapter in the next book. Clearly that idea’s been done, and also I think it just doesn’t work for anything I’m doing right now.
So, I’m considering opening up the Google Docs access for every piece I write to subscribers and letting them see how I do what I do. It might be boring. It might be fascinating in a weird voyeuristic way. It might help someone else who is writing things get through a block or something. I have no idea. I just know I miss the community and collaboration aspects of what the internet used to be, and I’m going to be actively looking for ways to bring it back to my work.
So, there’s that.
(Also, I’m back. Hi.)
This evening, a member of the Marlowe Kana Discord channel was discussing writing his novel. He needed help around some writer’s block. The discussion became my first-ever “Tweet Storm” or whatever that is.
In the spirit of sharing what I’ve learned the last few years about writing, I’m sharing it here as well:
Writer's block? Let me help:
Character is [situation]. She must [ACTION], BUT [thing]. THEREFORE she must [action]. As a result, [thing] happens BUT [other thing], THEREFORE [thing]. And THEREFORE, [thing] As well, but [obstacle].
There. Fill in the blanks & have a first draft
— joe peacock (@joethepeacock) February 16, 2018
Writer’s block? Let me help:
Character is [situation]. She must [ACTION], BUT [thing]. THEREFORE she must [action]. As a result, [thing] happens BUT [other thing], THEREFORE [thing]. And THEREFORE, [thing] As well, but [obstacle].
There. Fill in the blanks & have a first draft.
I learned a long time ago to stop being self conscious about my process. Do what fucking works.
whiteboard shit. Pseudocode your formula, and put your story in it. Break that formula whenever it doesn’t quite apply. Make a new formula.
Storytelling follows structure for a reason: because our brains fucking like it, the EXACT same way 95% of all top 100 songs in all of history follow a ABACAB format.
it tickles our brain.
and never confuse story STRUCTURE with PLOT. it’s not the same thing. Structure is how you deliver the plot.
same as confusing a car with a trip… You use a car to take the trip.
But the trip is the good stuff. no one cares if you use the same car to take 10 different trips.
later, as a mechanic or technician, feel free to go fuck up structure and go crazy. Like instead of taking a car on vacation, ride your bike there. Same idea.
harder. less conveinent. WAY more of a challenge. VERY rewarding. No one will fucking applaud you, because you’re 6 days late and you look like shit. but it’s awesome that you did it and they’ll admire the effort.
so by all means, eshew that 3 act hero’s journey for a 5 act greek tragicomedy or fuck it, kill structure altogether. GO dadist. Whatever.
but know this: When the vacation is a 10 day all you can eat sushi fest in Tokyo, no one gives a fuck what airline you used to fly there.
and they ceratinly don’t care if you use that same airline to fly them on another dream vacation to go halibut ice fishing in alaska, and then again to go be the lotion guy at an all model topless beach or whatever.
trust me, they Just. Won’t. Care. ]
Announcing the Marlowe Kana Volume 1 Original Soundtrack by Sinewave Sionora (Yes, A Soundtrack For A Book)
Today is a very proud day for me. A project a year in the making is finally out in the wild. I VERY PROUDLY present to you: Marlowe Kana Volume 1, the Original Soundtrack by Sinewave Sionora:
I cannot tell you how proud I am of this record. First, it’s 100% original music, all inspired by Marlowe Kana Volume 1. Second, it’s expertly composed, performed, produced and engineered by Joey The Mad Scientist (Joseph Rhodes) and CVRT-1 (Jason Covert), who are geniuses. I’m not just saying that because I worked with them and they’re friends — they are literal geniuses. Jason’s organic, thick bass and guitar work complements Joey’s synths, drums, and vox in ways I couldn’t have possibly imagined before hearing it myself. I even contributed some crazy noises here and there!
About The music:
“Electronic” is the easiest term for it. If you like Massive Attack, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Aphex Twin, Tycho, or other artists who juxtapose deep thunk with intricate synth and live instrumentation, this is right up your alley. There’s elements of Vangelis (Blade Runner), Trent Reznor, and even grunge sludge like Sleep, Earthless, Clutch, The Melvins… There’s literally something for everyone on this record. But it’s not a gumbo of sounds — it’s very methodically orchestrated and each track is purpose-driven to communicate the feel and tone of each chapter of the book.
About Sinewave Sionora:
What started as a joke in a parody of “Music Review” podcasts that Joey and I did in 2016 became this crazy project called Sinewave Sionora. Shortly after I wrote Volume 1, I shared it with Joey. He immediately asked me if he could write some music inspired by what he was reading. My answer was “Wait, what? You really want to do that? HELL YES!” I’ve never heard of a book with a soundtrack before, but hell, why can’t there be one? Or, nine, as the case may be!
“I wanted to make something that was unique in it’s own right,” Joey said, “but had major hooks to the storyline. Everything from the music comes directly from the book in some form or fashion. It’s a pure cyberpunk album through and through and I am very happy to share it with the world.”
About This Album:
You can pay-what-you-want for the album at Bandcamp (even 0.00 if you want it for free — you know how I work, I don’t believe in forcing a toll for access to stuff I’m doing). You can also stream it free at Soundcloud, and it will be in iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and other music services this week.
What You Can Expect From Here:
Eight more albums! Because there’s 8 more books! Music for volumes 2 and 3 has already been recorded, and we are writing more to go with the new stuff I’m writing in volume 4. So, good news — if you like this album, there’s MUCH more where this came from!
Tomorrow, I turn 41.
Today, I sit in the chasm between two possible lives, both of which I’ve lived before.
One was defined by being painfully average – so sad about my middle class life that I had to blog about it daily just to justify it, resenting that my special brain isn’t being put to use in some high concept design or writing role, depression about the possibility of whatever work I want to create being ignored and hated — which I then drown out with my vices (games, food, booze and masturbation), all the while trickling out just enough work to keep just enough people giving me just enough praise to feed the bottomless validation monster inside me, both in my career and online.
The other life I’ve lived was one where I became enlightened to all of these things, unafraid to do the hard work to make things that matter, replacing praise-based validation with the wildly more powerful validation of a job well done. Focusing on the three corners of the trinity, work, writing, working out: mind, body, and soul in alignment to push forward out of whatever mire I am in, allowing external to be external and being solidly in touch with the internal.
Right now, I am taking a break from staring at a blank page in my word processor, watching the cursor blink on and off and on again, trying to make words appear by willing them into existence. Occasionally, I do, and they’re crap. I delete them and start again. This has been the situation for a week and some days now. I’ve taken it VERY seriously. I have not given up. I have not retreated to video games, booze, weed, or masturbation to delay or ignore the fact that there’s a hard job sitting before me, and if I want to have another volume of my book out in the world, I’ve got to start hammering keys and producing work.
But goddammit, it’s hard. I want to look away and then back and see before me a perfect, polished, completely perfect manuscript. I look away; I look back.
Blank screen. Blinking cursor.
I cannot run from who I am, and I cannot be who I’m not. I am predisposed to laziness, sloth, indulgence and gluttony. I LOVE those things. I really, really do.
But I love looking at something I’ve made and knowing I did something worth doing more. The problem is, the cost of the first batch of things is so low, it makes the cost of doing the work look insane by comparison.
Drink, smoke, eat, play games, fuck around, and have fun
Give up hours, days, weeks, months, parties, get-togethers, hangouts, social life, and in some cases friendships in order to put the necessary time into making things I want to make, on a schedule that is somewhere short of “maybe someday.”
And that’s where I get confused and begin thinking about retreat. With the world spinning out of control and all kinds of external chaos taking place my old brain is showing up more and more. It wants to mask pain with jokes on my blog and video games and food and booze. It wants to retreat to what it knows will numb me in times of pain.
Problem is, my new brain knows it doesn’t work at all. In fact it makes it worse by delaying the inevitable. And what’s more, there’s the added frosting of guilt for not using the time I have to make the work I know I need to make on the lazy cake I’d be baking for myself.
My new brain knows that the first step to getting better is to stop making it worse. The second is to do the work, day by day, hour by hour, second by second if need be.
I have a good job. I have a great girlfriend. We have a nice house, excellent dogs and cats, and a cool game room. There’s food in the fridge and I take hot showers daily. I want to disappear into that, like I did when I first got restabilized after everything fell apart. But the time for taking comfort in the mere fact there was comfort to be taken is over. It’s time to work.
But dammit, I would be lying if I didn’t say I don’t want to.
Tomorrow, I turn 41. I very likely have more years behind me than I do ahead of me. I have lived a pretty nutso life, and I have done some really cool stuff with it. But I’ve wasted more days than I’ve put to good use, by my count.
But here I sit, staring at that blank page with a cursor going blink. blink. blink. blink.
Type a few words; delete those few words.
Blink. Blink. Blink.
But that’s the work. It’s been this way with every book I’ve ever written. It always starts this way. With every blink of the cursor, I find myself staring at my own will, wondering who will blink first.
You better believe that I will stare this cursor down until it submits to my will.
(I’m bringing back the old “Random Thoughts” feature. I hope you enjoy.)
• I haven’t been to a chiropractor in a while. I should probably go sometime for myself, and not just when someone else needs to go.
• It’s interesting to see a business owner of any sort, much less a doctor, run the office by themselves. This doctor’s office staff has called in due to the snow and ice, and he’s the only one. He’s clearly not used to doing the paperwork, as he has no idea where any of it is. Nice guy, though.
• Yes, I’m aware that a chiropractor is not a doctor by default. This doctor has a doctorate. I think it’s in religious studies, though, judging by the decor, the radio station playing overhead, and the seating.
• I swear to god, chiropractors furnish their waiting rooms with the worst possible furniture for your back on purpose. I’m pretty sure this is a church pew:
• Christian Pop Radio is playing in the waiting area. It’s intriguing to me how hard evangelical entertainment tries to emulate secular entertainment without outright acknowledging that’s what they’re doing. It’s almost like human beings are hard-wired to find certain stuff catchy and interesting, and we all want to enjoy them, but some force puts artificial limitations on them to the point where, you can retain the beat, tone, timbre, and even vocals of, say, a Taylor Swift or Mumford & Sons song, but change the words around to mention Jesus and “Him” a lot and it’s all ok to enjoy. Meanwhile, the song (or movie, or comic, or other thing) they ripped of? Of the devil, of course.
•I guess words matter than action in those cases… And many other, judging by every single “Christian” politician in office right now.
•How tall is this peacock? Or, how short is this child? Or is that even a child? Is it a little person?
• And how the hell did those two elephants and those two bears both fit in that tiny boat? Or are they SUPER GIGANTIC elephants and bears and the ark is regular-ark size? And holy shit, those bears are bigger than the elephants, and the giraffes are brontosaurus size:
• What exactly is “regular ark” size? When God supposedly commanded Noah to build the ark 300 cubits in length, 50 cubits in width and 30 cubits in height, was that a super-sized ark? Or a regular sized ark? Were there other arks around for comparison? How did Noah even architect this?
• And how exactly is an ark roughly 1/22nd the size of the average American Zoo hold two of every animal, which would include EVERY species ever, since evolution isn’t a thing and there’s no way a subset of animals on Noah’s Ark could have interbred or cross-bred or evolved into anything other that what it was to begin with?
• How is it that people who believe that boat could have even existed, much less did the job of preserving the species, rely on the fact that it was written down by some guy at some point and handed down over millennia, while there is actual photographic evidence (and lots of it) of the size of Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd being one of the smallest in modern history but that’s “Fake News?” As is the recording of him saying “Grab them by the pussy” that he even admitted to and apologized for, but suddenly it’s fake? Why is evidence such a problem in a culture built on belief of flimsy premises with less than convincing evidence (and in most cases, none at all)? Why wouldn’t evidence simply reinforce a belief, or help foster a new one?
• I really should have had breakfast before I came here.