Sometimes, The World Is Just Against You (And Sometimes, You’re Against Yourself And You Use The World As An Excuse)
I am hip deep in the middle of a pity party. I am sharing this with you in an effort to get the hell over myself.
To set the stage: In 2107, I put out three books (well, four, but that last one was clearly a joke). They were small, comparative to your average bookstore novel. The three were intended to be combined into a “Book 1” but I decided that was silly, and to keep them all individual. At over 150 pages each, they do qualify as books unto themselves. So, semantics aside, I published three real books in 2017.
Volume 1 of Marlowe Kana came out on on May 20, Volume 2 on June 19, and Volume 3 on September 17, 2017, and all three became print paperbacks on November 22nd (for those of you who, like myself, prefer the book-in-hand experience).
Proud? You bet I’m proud. It’s an awesome feeling to be back in the saddle and writing books again after a 10 year hiatus (2013’s Everyone Deserves To Know What I Think was a best-of-the-old-blog, and as such, was honestly just a cash grab because I was penniless and homeless, literally. Everyone who bought it, thank you). The momentum of the first pushed me through the second, which pushed me through the third, and in a year’s time, I tripled my bibliography. That’s kinda nuts.
When Volume 3 went live, I told myself I would take a few months to relax, rekindle, recover, and hit the ground running on January 1, 2018. I had momentum, and the overarching storyline for all nine volumes was established a while ago. But as far as particulars and how I like to approach each volume from a writing perspective, I needed time to build all of that stuff. Outlines, character descriptions, particulars, tidbits, governing principals… You know, all that writing stuff.
But I draw a line between “writing” (story, plot, characters, concepts, outlines, descriptions, story arcs, whiteboarding, and so on — what almost any writer would tell you is what makes up “writing”) and Writing — words on the page, intended for publication (after editing and all that of course… The First Draft, if you will). To wit: you can think and plan your story all you want, but the book isn’t written until you start page one, paragraph one, word one, and finish that last word of the last sentence of the last page. Period.
It’s January 14th, 2018. To date, I’ve written exactly one and a half pages in the new volume, Volume 4. That was on Wednesday, January 10th. I even announced in the Slack channel for the Marlowe Kana team that the first day of my new 90-day challenge had started, and that I was excited to finally get going on the actual labor of writing the new volume.
And then, things happened.
I got a nasty message from a guy I sent some cigars to in a sampler. He didn’t appreciate that his selection wasn’t as varied and out there as someone else’s in our cigar group. He’s the first guy to complain out of literal dozens I’ve sent cigars to. It put me in a sour mood and made me all grumpy. Also, I had to put in an additional few hours Friday night to fix a bug I just couldn’t figure out on the temporary HomestarRunner.com page we have in place to let folks know, a new site that isn’t dependent on Flash is on the way (oh, by the way, I’m working on the new Homestar Runner site. It’s made of HTMLS!). My day job got in the way a few times with last-minute asks that found me working in the evening when I got home. And last weekend, I hit my brick mailbox with my truck and cracked both a bit.
And just this morning, head full of gumption after last night’s staring at a blank screen and blaming every minor distraction for my inability to just write, I sat in my desk chair — READY TO WRITE — and it broke. Again. On the opposite side from where it broke a few years ago, sure, but still. It broke. And I had to fix it. DAY RUINED!
Day after day, these little things appeared that derailed my plan — nay, my DREAM — of coming home, pouring a fine drink, lighting a nice cigar, and writing all night. That Hemmingway shit. That Steinbeck thing. That Gaiman, King, Whomever-you-idolize fantasy of the Writer at work.
Only, it doesn’t work like that. I know this, because it has NEVER worked like that.
Not last volume, or the volume before, or Volume 1, or the book in 2013 (which was just a best-of-my-blog book and had no new writing in it), or the book before that in 2009 (which finished in 2007), or the book before that in 2006. It didn’t work like that for any of the over one thousand blog posts I wrote from 2002 – 2012. It didn’t work like that for the hundreds of articles I wrote for dozens of publications. It didn’t work like that when I was writing the first season of Screenland.
I’ve proven this to myself dozens of times over dozens of years, and yet, every single time I take time off and have to get started again, I fall for this stupid trap, thinking somehow that it’ll be different — you know, with the desk and the cigar and the fine drink and the genius just flying out of my fingertips. Or, more simply, the writer’s dream. The way it’s supposed to be.
That whole concept is delusional. Always has been, always will be. But it doesn’t stop my brain from fucking with me by bringing it up every single time I start something new.
Getting the first three volumes out last year was actually a multi-year process beginning in 2015, which required LOTS of found time, and lots more cancelled plans or passing on other fun things or disappointing friends and family because the only way I was going to get words on the page was to prioritize putting words on the page, day after day, night after night, regardless of how comfortable or fun or painful or forced.
This is Stephen Pressfield’s textbook definition of resistance. I am nose to nose with the scariest and most devilish enemy on the planet: my own ego.
By most points of feedback I’ve gotten on the three volumes so far, this book series is good. It’s intriguing to the readers who have read it. Each chapter makes you want to read the next; each volume makes you want to pick up the following volume and see what has happened. Those who have made it through Volume 3 email, text, message, and ask “Dude, where the hell is Volume 4! I gotta know what happens to Marlowe and Atlanta!”
That feels good. And it’s hard-won, because writing Volume 3 was only SLIGHTLY easier than writing Volume 2, which was only SLIGHTLY easier than writing Volume 1, which was hard in a way I can only describe in relation to training for a marathon after spending years on the couch. So in that regard, each volume after the first was its own marathon. It was only because I was trained up for the first, that I could do the second — which was STILL HARD. And the third? STILL HARD.
It doesn’t get easier. It’s work. It takes work to think about. It takes work to write. Night after night for months. The loneliest, hardest, most exhausting fun thing anyone could ever do. And here I sit, on January 14, 2018, actively fighting myself not to just quit and give up and focus on the day job and let those first three volumes be enough. Because the absolute last thing my ego wants to face is the possibility that they were flukes, and I really do suck, and all I’ve done is set myself up for a bigger fall.
It would honestly be easier if they sucked ass, because then there’s no stakes. But to know that there are people who are reading it and liking it and that the story isn’t pure garbage makes starting again so, so, so much harder.
As Seth Godin described in his amazing book The Dip, I’m in a hole in the first plateau on the gigantic climb that is this project. I’ve climbed this far and put in this much work and accomplished something, but there’s SO MUCH MORE to go. And to even get started on the next bit, I have to get out of this hole I’ve put myself into (which, despite being not that big, and atop the first big hill I’ve already climbed, feels like it might as well be at the bottom of the lowest point on Earth).
It’s a pity party. Plain and simple.
Staring up at the mountain ahead from this point I’ve reached, i’m filled with equal parts dread and awe. I know the old advice that sherpas give mountaineers, not to look up at the tip of the mountain, but to focus on the climb and only look down to see how much ground you’ve covered. I know that if I can just put my head down and start climbing, I’ll get another inch or foot or hell, even up to the next plateau.
I just really, really don’t want to. Cause it’s scary. So, these little minor things that show up and hinder my start are secretly very welcome to the enemy within me, my ego. It doesn’t want me to start, because it’s afraid of all the hard work ahead. Not just the work, but the possibility that all of that work will be for nothing when the book goes to my editor, Rowena, and she says “uh… this is shit, start over” (which has never happened despite being afraid of it every single time). And even if she does somehow manage to hack it apart and get it to an acceptable place, it might go to press and everyone reads it and goes “uh, dude, this is shit, why did you bother?”
Or worse, no one will read it at all.
The common thread of all of the above — the world somehow conspiring against me to keep me from that pure, perfect writers’ bliss of romantic settings in which I get to be a genius, my editor, readers, external opinions on the story… Not only is it all pure fabrication and manipulation of perspective, it’s also not the point. None of it.
I don’t write this stuff because the environment I write it in is perfect. It hasn’t been. Most if not all of Marlowe Kana Volumes 1-3 was written in found moments, or on my back deck at the rental house I shared with Meghan with a small Wal-Mart fan pointing at me in sweltering heat, and a worksite propane heater in the shivering cold, and whatever other stuff the weather threw at me. It was written in the back seat of cars on road trips, or on airplanes, or in hotel rooms. It was written during lunch breaks and after late meetings at work.
It got written in spite of any discomfort, amidst fears that it would be hated (or no one would care, which is honestly worse). Because all of that stuff above is just an opinion. It’s how I feel. And the work doesn’t care one bit how I feel about it, it just needs to get done.
I write this as a sort of confession; to get it out of me and admit publicly that I’m procrastinating. Not so I’m held accountable by anyone else — I don’t really need that as much as I need to look my own self in the face and say “Dude, cut the shit. Fuck your chair, your truck, software bugs, day job blues, fear, validation, or anything else that isn’t writing words on the page of the next book.”
Nothing disinfects like sunlight, and these germs of fear, doubt, resistance… They need to be sanitized. So I’m pulling off the covers and letting the light shine on it. I have no idea how interesting any of this would be for you reading this, but thank you for doing so anyway.
So with that out of the way, it’s time to write. See you when I need to vent more crap.
I wrote a book this morning. Like, literally, this morning. It’s called “Nothing But Blockchain: Everything You Need To Know About Money Grabs, Bubble Markets, and How Hype Sells Things”:
I was inspired by an article this morning about a company that changed their name to include the word “blockchain” and immediately saw a 500% increase in their stock price. The newly cristened “Long Blockchain Corp.” makes iced tea (they were The Long Island Iced Tea Corp. previously). This is the latest entry in the surreal-but-very-expected hype cash-in maneuvers by people who want to capitalize on the ignorance and excitement of people who just learned what BitCoin (and blockchain) was a week ago, and can’t stop posting dumbass memes about how rich they’re getting literally 7 days after buying a millionth of a BitCoin.
Before that, companies that make bras, e-cigarettes, fruit juice, and literally dozens of other things hopped on the blockchain bandwagon and saw their stocks soar.
So I figured, why not write a book all about blockchain? Like, literally nothing but the word “blockchain” repeated for 300 pages.
It’s the perfect gift for that scuzzy uncle or frat brother or other person in your life who won’t shut the fuck up about cryptocurrency and blockchain, despite knowing nothing besides its current valuation according to yet another out-of-date exchange ticker’s approximate guess.
I did it for you. You’re welcome.
To set the stage: I am an ardent Episode 7 apologist. When discussing The Force Awakens, any of my writing friends who begin critiquing the movie are answered with an explanation that Kathleen Kennedy and JJ Abrams had one HELL of a monumental task: undoing the damage that Lucas did with Episodes 1-3. And I feel like they did that. The story was flat, yes. Every single beat was stitched together with simple “And then she… And then he…” connective tissue. There was fan service out the wazoo. And I loved it. Black X-Wing? Millennium Falcon? I don’t even care if it’s just the warmed-up leftovers of A New Hope served one day before they expire, I was 100% in.
Hell, I even shrug and still find love for Episode 1. It’s not as easy, but I do it. Because before I was a writer; before I made shows or content of any sort, I was a fan.
I FUCKING HATED IT.
I want to make damn sure you understand this one thing, if nothing else in this write-up lands: I made a pact with myself a few years ago to outright remove from my writing (and hopefully, my mind) any critique of another creator’s work that is based purely on taste and opinion. I swore I would remove “I hate this” from my lexicon when “This isn’t for me” would do.
This is not a piece about my tastes or my opinion. This is fact: Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi is a bad movie. It’s a bad story. It’s a bad piece of content. From a movie-still or screen capture perspective, it is pretty in moments, but from a story perspective, it’s so. so. so. so. so. so. so. so. SO. bad.
I can’t explain why without spoilers, so I’ll do that in another piece. But I will say this: when the movie ended and the lights came up, my girlfriend (who hated Episode 7) turned to me with a look on her face that I knew was “Oh God, how do I tell him I hated this one too?” and that look was quickly replaced with shock as she saw the look on my face.
“The title crawl was interesting,” I said. “And I liked exactly one moment with Luke Skywalker. Other than that, I hated every. Single. Second. Of that movie.”
She cackled, half out of shock, and half out of relief. Because she did too.
Thinking we were alone in our disdain, given the applause that rang out after the credits began rolling, we exited the theater and tended to the ceremonial “End of the Movie Bio Break”. I finished first and returned to the exit hallway to hear two guys discussing the movie.
Oh no, I thought, I’m going to have to walk away before I lash out at these poor dudes decked out head-to-toe in Star Wars clothing simply for liking a movie that I couldn’t even begin to explain why I…
“I hated it,” one guy said.
“It didn’t answer a goddamn thing,” the other said.
“THANK YOU!” I yelled as my girlfriend exited her restroom. “THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!”
I’m sure they thought I was insane for a moment. “You just validated the fact that I’m not crazy, and that that movie was a piece of shit.”
“It was!” they both said.
I never got their names, but we talked for a dozen minutes about all of the various weaknesses, plot failures, character misdirections, and other issues with a two and a half our commercial for more things based on the stuff introduced in this commercial, which themselves will invariably be thinly-vieled commercials for more things in the expanded-expanded universe, all of which makes NO GODDAMN SENSE or holds any cohesion with the source material, its characters, its settings, its mechanics (FUEL IS A FUCKING ISSUE? REALLY? SINCE WHEN IN STAR WARS IS FUEL A FUCKING ISSUE?)
From a writing-mechanics perspective, it’s shit.
From a storytelling perspective, it’s shit forced down your throat.
From an acting perspective, it’s like someone ate shit, puked that shit up, then ate it again and shit it out.
And from a pure “should this even exist?” perspective, it’s nothing more than a platform for toy sales, series spinoffs, and “extended universe” plays (LOOK FOR THE COOL CROSSOVER COMIC BOOK WITH THE GUY FROM THE CASINO (no, not the one that was shoved into the plot to basically give Benecio Del Toro some more screen time [HE WAS IN GUARDIANS 2, PLAYING BASICALLY THE SAME GODDAMN CHARACTER GAHHHHHHH]. I’m talking about the other guy with the macguffin on his lapel that they set up to be the entire fucking reason to even go to that planet, mostly to build characters that honestly were more fleshed out and whole BEFORE this building arc was shoved in here). I’m sure it’ll feature a REALLY BEAUTIFUL, MOSTLY RED cover by Mark Brooks, with seven or more action figure variant covers by John Tyler Christopher.)
I am 100% convinced the reason you see so many early reviews from publications claiming it’s great, original, unique, special, and otherwise positive is because Disney gathered every single reviewer from every single blog, publication, and outlet into a room and said “If you say even one single negative thing before this movie is released, we will bar you for life from screening ANY Disney or Fox production for the rest of your existence.” These are publications I trust: Ars Technica. Polygon. Io9. All of whom I can’t possibly trust ever again at this point, and no, this isn’t hyperbole.
There will be reversals of opinions, hedging, and otherwise paving over the past sometime between Christmas and New Years, and by the time this thing hits home video / streaming services, you’ll begin seeing the major outlets coming out with new reviews that trim back that 10/10 or 100% review to the mid 70’s. Then, sometime in the future after the cessation of net neutrality has all but obliterated the everyone-with-a-megaphone internet we have become and people begin going back to lives of consumption with moderate opinion sharing, you’ll see a return to common sense and an appeal to your trust as consumers as reviewers finally come out and say “yeah, Episode 8 was a full-on piece of shit crammed down your throat because Disney literally owns everything and can’t do a single brave thing worth a shit, for risk of creating weaknesses in their all-powerful consumer appeal.”
There. There’s my spoiler-free review.
Look for the very specific, full-o-spoilers catharsis later today, not because I think you need to read it, but because I need the therapy.
This morning, we had to say goodbye to my good friend of 11 years, Buzz Buzz (also sometimes known as “Buzz Buzz Buzz” or “Buzzy Buzz”, or simply “Buzz” if you prefer brevity). Buzz has been a fixture in my life since the day I stole him in 2006.
Yes, I’m not proud to admit it, but I stole a cat. But it was for a good reason.
Back in those days, my ex worked for the Humane Society. They didn’t yet have a real foster program, and when really great but unadoptable pets came in, there wasn’t really anywhere for them to go. Employees would take them home and rehab them to get them to a place where the shelter could adopt them out without liability. That’s how we got Buzz. He had a chronic sinus infection that simply would not go away. Due to that, the Humane Society was going to have to put him down. My ex stepped in and took him home, hoping to rehab him and get him to a state where he could find a good home.
Well, he did. It was my home. I fell in love with him and couldn’t let him go.
It’s called a “Failed Foster” — when a foster cat doesn’t make it back to the shelter, because the employee (or foster parent) decides to keep them. But before the official foster program was started, there was no way to legally hand these animals over to the foster parents. Everything was done with a wink and a whisper. It wasn’t shady or anything, it was just the way great animals who, through no fault of their own couldn’t be adopted, had a second chance.
During the day, he’d play the role of welcoming committee for any new animal that came in after him. He was everyone’s big brother. He showed the new fosters around the house and made sure they felt welcomed. He helped the more skittish of the bunch understand that the gigantic hairless ape with the tattoos and buckets of food (me) was only there to take care of them. At night, he’d take up residence on my chest and sleep and purr. I never had the heart to move him. He was just too damn adorable. When I’d roll over at night, he’d just take a few steps northward and find a spot on my head, sleeping there for the rest of the night, night after night, for 11 years.
Back when I was married to an employee of the Humane Society, and there was no OFFICIAL channel for great animals to find homes after going from “unadoptable but lovable” to simply “lovable,” he made dozens of foster animals feel welcome and helped them acclimate for the days, weeks, or sometimes months they were at our house. Eventually an official foster program took root there, and these days, there are hundreds of foster parents on the roll at the Humane Society. It’s awesome. But back then, Buzz was absconded with and taken into custody quite illegally. And I’m not sorry at all.
One day, I was at the shelter and saw Buzz’s record. Because he was never officially adopted or processed (again, because there was no LEGAL way to do it back then), I marked him ‘DECEASED’ so that there wouldn’t ever be a question as to where he was. I never wanted to give him up. I shouldn’t have done that. I don’t regret it though. I burgled Buzz and made him mine and now, this morning 11 years later, he’s passed on.
So really, all I did was prematurely update his record, knowing one day this would happen. Right? I mean, that’s a great justification. Don’t try to erase it with logic or “reality”. And if you do, don’t think less of me. Or, if you do THAT, try to make it a short experience.
After the divorce, Buzz moved into my friend Mike’s tiny one-bedroom apartment with me, Julius (my other orange cat), and Haggis (the 17 year old veteran dog we lost earlier this year). We all slept in the living room. Mike objected at first — there really wasn’t room for all of us. I did something bad; I showed up one day with the cats and said it was just a temporary thing, knowing fully it wouldn’t be. I knew once Mike saw Buzz and Julius, he wouldn’t be able to send them away. I am a bad person, I know. But it was for the right reasons. I have been thankful every single day since we moved out that I did that to Mike, and thankful even more that Mike took them in. He knew what I was doing, and let me do it anyway. That’s how it goes with people who have been friends for 20+ years. We don’t talk these days, and that’s also how things go after a divorce and massive life upheaval. I hear he has a kid and a wife now. I hope he’s doing well.
Buzz survived a period of my life that a marriage, many friendships, my house, my career, and most of my possessions did not. He is a survivor. But far more than that, he was a constantly positive force in my life. No matter what happened, or where we were living (even in my truck for a while), or what was going on, there he was, ready to sleep on my chest and get pets for hours at a streak. He ended up becoming very close with my girlfriend Meghan, and the two shared a bond that made me tear up more than once. He adopted her, much the way I had adopted him… Without any fanfare or paperwork. It just happened. And life for all of us was better for it.
A few months ago, Buzz developed a mass in his sinus cavity. It grew very rapidly. He had some surgery to remove it and it didn’t really work. A biopsy revealed a rapidly malignant carcinoma. We exhausted all of the options that weren’t cutting out the portion of his upper jaw bone where the mass had spread, subjecting him to a day of surgery, months of recovery and chemotherapy, and the rest of his life without an upper right jaw.
He didn’t really mind the mass. Every day, he’d find a way to chase sunbeams (even on the cloudiest of days) and attack dangly strings and tassles from sofa covers. He spent the last month of his life much like the first 131: sleeping on my chest and head, sneezing on me periodically.
I didn’t mind.
The last few weeks, his bad days began to outnumber the good. Even on the worst days, he still responded happily to pets, purring loudly and, due to the chronic sinus condition he’s had since birth, Buzzing (which is where he got the name). This weekend, he didn’t perk up the way he usually does when a reflection of a sunbeam danced across the floor, or when the tuna pouches were opened, or when his brothers approached and wanted to play. It hurt to admit, but his quality of life was no longer such that keeping him around became a purely selfish thing. That is cruel.
I will steal a cat. I will force that cat on a friend when I move in after an ugly divorce. But I refuse to be cruel.
I imagine Buzz in kitty heaven right now, eating bags of tuna and getting pets from Prince and David Bowie. And seeing it typed out, “Bags of tuna” just looks… Weird? I said that because tuna comes in envelopes now, I guess? And Buzz likes tuna, and my brain is like “what’s bigger than an envelope? Oh a bag!” and now I have a mental image of a grocery bag filled with tuna meat sitting next to David Bowie as Prince reaches down and grabs a hunk and feeds it to Buzz. Oh, and in kitty Heaven, David Bowie is free to embrace his “Fursona” and wear a cat suit and go by David Meowie. So now you have that in your head: David Bowie in a cat suit (furry, not ninja-type) holding Buzz while Prince feeds him tuna meat from a sack.
Also, all of that forces another weird thought through my head: we don’t really say “chicken meat” or “tuna meat” or “lamb meat” when we want to eat those things. We just order lamb, chicken or tuna. But we never order “cow” — maybe because dairy comes from cows too? And that could get confusing:
Me: “I’ll have the cow.”
Server: “Liquid or solid?”
Me: “Solid, please.”
Server: “Cow Cheese or Cow Meat?”
Me: “…Well, neither now. That sounds terrible. I’ve lost my appetite.”
Server: “Salad, then?”
Server: “Which kind?”
Me: “Cow, with sprinkled cow.”
Also, ordering a cheesesteak would be super weird. You’d have to order a Philly CowCow.
Anyway, rest in peace, Buzz. You were one of my best friends ever. Say hi to David Meowie for me.
Changing The World, Starting With Myself (or, Dudes Behaving Badly Isn’t Just Dudes Being Dudes, It’s Assholes Being Assholes And I Know Because I Am One)
It seems like lately there’s a torrent of revelations about men — specifically white and straight men – behaving badly.
If you think the volume of revelations is staggering, imagine what it must feel like to live day after day, week after week, as the target of this behavior. And take a look at who is being called out — the highest of the high society; the most powerful of the powerful. They’re in the news because their names are newsworthy, but for every one of them, there’s ten thousand other BroDudes who have behaved badly.
I had a conversation this morning with my manager (a woman) and another coworker (a black millennial male) about sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and other bad behaviors. In that conversation, I shared that in 1996, when I was 19, I worked in the dotcom industry and was a witness in both a sexual discrimination suit and a racial discrimination suit, in the same year. The experience left me with one huge, important, written in ALL CAPS point: DON’T FUCKING DO THAT. Not at work. Not in private. Not ever. It’s just gross.
But it wasn’t the ramifications that impacted me so deeply. It was the emotional state of the victims. In both cases, the people involved were not maliciously litigating or trying to “milk the system” or any of the bullshit that my white, straight, almost entirely male co-workers would say they were. In fact, in both cases, the victims were pushed by their families and encouraged by those of us who saw it happen to tell their stories.
They were scared. If not for the lawyers and police officers in the room during both depositions, I would have been too — and I didn’t do anything wrong. I was a white straight male with youthful brilliance in an industry that rewarded (with gobs of money at the time) youthful brilliance, and I was terrified to simply tell the people in the room what I saw happen, for fear of losing my job, ruining my own career, and forever being stamped as some sort of “rat” or tattletale.
Mind you, I was not a victim. I was not on the receiving end of any harassment. I was not a woman who clawed and fought her way as far as she had to a position of some stature only to be leered at daily, catcalled in the office, and outright sexually harassed by her manager. I was not a young black man who was held back from a team lead position not once, not twice, but three separate times, despite being the most brilliant advice giver in the group and one of the best teachers I personally ever had in the industry.
And even I was scared to open my mouth and simply say “yeah, that happened. I saw it.”
I didn’t let the fear stop me. “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes” is a thing my dad told me years before, and instilled in me from the day he adopted me. But I also have a white armor on my skin that didn’t make me a perpetual target my whole life. I had genitalia and spoke with a gruffness handed down from dude to dude across millennia which kept me in the company of a default safe space for bad behavior to even exist.
So I told the panel what I saw, in both cases. And in both cases, the one overriding thought that sat in my brain: “How the fuck did this even happen?” I was thankful that the harassers wouldn’t be getting away with it, and I was glad that the victims had the opportunity and support to speak their truth.
But what about all the people who don’t have that support? What about the people physically threatened by a larger, or more wild and threatening, harasser? What about the middle manager who is a mother of two supporting her kids, paying rent, getting food, and attempting to merely survive under the management of a man who thinks it’s ok to pinch her ass — or, even talk about pinching her ass — because opening her mouth and saying something would put her kids’ lives in jeopardy?
But it’s not just single mothers with kids that make my eyebrows furrow and fists clench when I hear about it. ANY MAN who thinks its okay to inflict himself on ANYONE ELSE pisses me off at my core. But that doesn’t mean I’m innocent. I’ve raised my voice at people in an attempt to get my point made — albeit, I never MEANT to intimidate them with my size and language, the fact that I am a giant of a human couldn’t help but play a part in that. I have pushed and been unrelenting in my arguments to try to get my way at work and in meetings and on projects. Never once was it with the idea that I could just “scare” someone into doing what I want, but by not being mindful of what I was truly communicating, I have no doubt that I’ve been on the bad side of that equation in my career.
And this is someone who is TRYING. Who is aware of the hurt harassment and threats can cause. I wrote an article in 2012 that completely objectified and diminutized women in the geek culture mainly just to make a point that my culture — a culture I felt that I took beatings for for being a young geek in a culture that didn’t, at the time, celebrate geeks and instead picked on them — was being invaded by “Normies” and the group I chose to point that fact out was “Fake Geek Girls.”
I was a fucking asshole. And I was the most shocked person in the room when people called me out on it. I couldn’t understand at all what I’d done wrong. “These people are charlatans and trying to cash in on a culture built on passion and love, that we SUFFERED at the hands of the Cool Kids to build! What did I do wrong?”
First, I picked on women. Of all the things I could have picked on, women became the target. Second, I didn’t get the memo that times had changed, and geek culture was cool, so anyone who wanted to do something cool got to be a geek if they wanted to. Third, I attacked instead of discussed. And fourth, I didn’t admit my mistake immediately, because I was ignorant to it.
All of this from a guy who, at 19, had to watch a woman and a black man both fight through hell just to tell people they had been wrong, and swore he would never, ever be a part of that problem.
Well, I was. Not in a sexual assault way, not in a racial discrimination way, but in many many ways typical of toxic masculinity and obliviousness to privilege, I contributed to a culture that can — and very obviously does — produce people whose blunders aren’t just dumb, poorly thought out articles entrenched in a mindset a decade old, that offended people because he’s a bit closed-minded about people who are curious about and want to check out (and hell, even profit from) the cool thing of the time. That attitude is the soil that the crops of harassment, assault, discrimination, and bad behavior grows.
Even when I thought I was the best of the bunch… I was still part of the bunch.
It took half the internet raking me over the coals for me to realize, no matter how great I thought I was for being one of the “good guys,” the mere fact I was unaware of my subconscious behavior from a societal privilege and toxic male bullshit made any attempt to be “a good guy” useless.
To say I couldn’t help it is only fair in the context of pointing out that a realization had to be made. But that was in a time (5 years ago) before “Woke” was a catchphrase and “Toxic Masculinity” was actually part of daily discourse. Thankfully, I had friends and people who, although offended and upset with me, listened when I asked them to teach me and help me understand. Even though it was challenging for them (sometimes, they had to have felt like they were talking to a wall), they did it. And it got me to a point where my eyes opened and I realized just how much a piece of the overall puzzle I am.
The real work took place when I issued a challenge to myself: “Can you change the way you think? And if not, can you at least acknowledge that there’s another way to see things?”
I am going on record that this challenge is harder than any physical, career, sports, monetary or social challenge anyone could ever go through. To climb Mt. Everest, it takes lots of money, lots of training, lots of guidance and practice. But all of those things can be acquired simply by pointing in the direction and getting them. They’re tenacity based.
Changing your own mind? That’s the hardest thing in the world, because it requires one to admit two things: 1) that the mind needs changing (which often times, we just don’t need or want to admit, because why bother? Clearly our mind has worked this wya this long, and it’s only for OTHER PEOPLE that I would need to change… This is a lie, but it’s what your brain would say) and 2) the change is worth making.
In this regard; in a society where we ALL benefit and ALL suffer by the overall direction we all take it, I argue that there must be a change in the minds of every single person in this country — and very esepcially the white and straight males among us. The idea that men are “just men” when they inflict themselves on another person in any way — verbally or physically — is folly. The idea that an alpha male mindset creates victory is folly. The idea that toughness has ANYTHING to do with how much you can beat another person at anything is folly.
Being a man is not about being strong at the expense of anyone else. It’s about being strong enough to be yourself in the face of pressure. Your TRUE self. The self that has feelings. The self that gets hurt. The self that recognizes the beauty in another person and their existence.
It’s the self that secretly feels gross and dark anytime you make a joke at someone’s expense just to get a laugh from your peers, because that makes you the alpha male. Its the self that knows it’s wrong to push a woman into saying yes for anything, merely because you’re bigger and stronger. It’s the self that laughs at jokes about those things. It’s the self that is crying out deep inside you to please, God, just stop fighting this dumb war of perception where you somehow seem stronger than you really are.
I share this now, with you here, not because I think I’m the guy to change anything or fix society or otherwise put his foot down against all these bad actors who have done terrible things.
I share this with you now because I’m doing that for myself. And I hope that you’ll do the same.
Hi there, fair reader! In case you didn’t know, I’ve written a new book. It’s a damn good book. I believe in this book with my whole heart. It’s literally what I’m betting my entire future on. So it means a whole, whole lot to me. It also means a whole lot to the folks who have read it so far.It’s gotten stellar reviews on Amazon from the folks who have read it, and the email has been great. One review sent to me just today:
“I’ve been mulling over what it is that draws me to MK [Marlowe Kana]. She’s a strong female lead, but it’s more than that. I feel like every teenage girl needs to read this book, every young woman, every pair of sisters. There’s something deeper to it…” — R.W.
And now that volume 3 (and thus, Book 1) is complete, it’s time to turn to promoting the book and trying to get as much attention for it as possible. Not just because I want to sell lots of books (but I do! But that’s not why) — but because this story deserves to be read. It’s something I have worked extremely hard on, which is not by itself reason enough for you to care, I know. And it’s tempting to tell you every single plot turn, subplot thread, character, and world-building element here in this post, but I really want you to discover those things on your own.
So, we will start with the absolute easiest way you can help me:
• Read the book.
It’s free on the website, and Volume 1 is free on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and Barnes and Noble! And Amazon makes it super easy to buy the three-volume ebook set of Book One, where you get to read about political and corporate manipulation of an entire society’s mental wellbeing through media. A cybernetically enhanced super soldier named Marlowe Kana — the nation’s biggest star and three-time United America’s Next Top Soldier winner — is convicted of treason. But a splinter group of citizens called The Sovereign aren’t okay with that, and they bust her out! The entire country’s military & security division — a combined police / army force run by Imagen, the corporation that employs literally everyone — hunts her down. The chase reunites her with long-absent family and friends in not so fun ways.
…I’m saying too much, aren’t I? I really want you to find out all about MARLOWE KANA by reading it. It’s GHOST IN THE SHELL (the manga and movie, not that terrible racist ScarJo vehicle coated in neon) meets SILICON VALLEY and people are loving it. And did I mention, it’s FREE? Go!
From there, here’s some other things that would really, really help:
• Sign up for the email list.
It’s also free. And now that things are rolling on the “spreading the word” part of this project, it’ll be the place where I announce things like the upcoming audiobook and soundtrack (yes, this book has a soundtrack!), the paper book, release of book 2 and book 3, and other cool things. The email list in question is found here!
• Tell your friends.
Let them know there’s this new book out there which is free to start reading that even people who “don’t read” are really loving. It’s especially written for fans that love science fiction and/or cyberpunk stories, but also want deep character-driven storylines and a plot well-rooted in modern events, with excitement at every turn.
There’s no getting around it: reviews drive sales and attention. Think about when you go to buy a thing on Amazon et al. First thing you look at: How many stars. Second thing you look at: How many reviews. You want to know you’re not buying a dud and wasting your time. It would be a HUGE help if you could toss up a review (honest ones of course! Even if it’s 4 stars or 3 stars or even 1 star… Just share what you think honestly. Of COURSE I would love 5-star reviews, but the truth is, if you’re motivated to review the book, I’m honestly more interested in what you think than in simply adding another 5-star review to the list). People are comparing it to William Gibson, which I think is too much for my brain to handle. But I’m honored!
• Help get the word out.
I have stickers, handout cards, and flyers I can send to you if you’d be willing to volunteer to hand them out. Place them in bookstores and coffee shops. Pepper your local college campus with them. Do you volunteer for a literary or comic convention and want some to stuff into bags? I would LOVE that! They’re beautiful. They’re elegant. They’re FREE. Just email me and we will connect it all up.
• Help me get reviews for MARLOWE KANA.
Do you run a blog or site? Does that blog/site cover books, science fiction, cyberpunk, geeky stuff, nerdy stuff, or anything in-between? I would love to send you review copies of MARLOWE KANA! Do you know anyone who writes for a site like that? Nudge them (gently! Please don’t beg) toward MARLOWE KANA and let them know this book rocks. Social review is ubiquitous in MARLOWE KANA, and is the method by which people get access to services and engagement. Wait, I’ve said too much.
• Do you own a billboard or a building in an eclectic neighborhood and would be willing to donate space for a mural?
I have a team of graffiti artists who would LOVE to do a MARLOWE KANA themed mural. Gimmie space, I’ll give you art! You’d think I’m being hyperbolic, but no — I’m serious. I’ll get my painter friends together and come slather your free space with art that rocks, and subsequently, markets my book, since graffiti features heavily in the plot line. But I don’t want to give too much away.
• Do you own a skywriting plane (or know someone who does)?
Let’s talk. I want to skywrite MARLOWE KANA in the skies of small towns across the country. No one will notice or care. But it’d be fun Instagram material, you have to admit! In the world in my book, skywriting is impossible due to the atmospheric generators that enable life to continue existing… But here in our world, it’s an option!
• Are you a game developer / conceptualist?
This story would make one hell of a game. I have ideas. You have talent. I’d love to talk to you about converting the IP into a playable badass story where people get to destroy things meaningfully… You know, in the context of a larger social narrative set in a world that forecasts the inevitable track that our real one is on? Yeah… that. Games feature very heavily in the subplot in the book as well, as the entire society is driven by entertainment. But they’re a different kind of game… I don’t want to reveal that part yet. Remember, I said I wouldn’t give too much away.
• Do you know anyone (or are you someone) at Netflix, Hulu, Amazon or Apple in show development?
Whooo boy, Marlowe Kana is just SCREAMING for the serialized 12 episode-per-season story release. Reviewers on Amazon have even said so. Imagine having your development hands around a GHOST IN THE SHELL type serialized drama that you could do all the things with that you really, really wish someone had done for that pile of neon-tinted crap that was the American release of GITS? Just imagine. Imagine it hard. Really, really get in there and think on it… Yeah, there’s a soft spot there, isn’t there? Well I have one too. And I want righteous justice for that travesty myself. It’s one of the reasons I wrote Marlowe Kana. Help me take that retribution to the next level, my new friend in show development. Let’s teach those folks a lesson in ACTUALLY GOOD NOT PANDERING CYBERPUNK AWESOMENESS that tells a story about the near-future wreck that we’re currently on track to becoming! Let’s show them how to correctly illustrate and narrate a future where one corporation controls all things, technology is a dependency to survival and not just a neat way to force your phone’s voice assistant to say “titty sprinkles”, and the consequences of playing God with the human body! YES PLEASE, LET’S!
…But you’ll have to read the book to really find out about all that stuff. Right. Yes. No more reveals. Back to how you can help me:
• Are you personally, yourself, Mike Lazzo at Adult Swim?
Mike, baby, let’s talk! Adult Swim’s core demo loves to laugh and you’re killing it on the yucks. But remember the days when you did Cowboy Bebop and everyone was like WHOA and you were like YEAH? This is a story that we can develop together that will satisfy that late-night need for darkly-humorous drama set in a visually stunning near-future cyberpunky utopia (yes, utopia… It’s a core part of the plot that the United American State is a utopia for its 40 million citizens, because no utopia can exist without somewhere else being a dystopia. The rest of the world serves as grist for the mill of the UAS’s constant tech dependency and… Well, that’s book 2 stuff. Let’s talk about that when we’re ready. I’m really bad at not revealing things).
• Do you happen to personally know David Fincher (Fight Club, The Game), James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), Gary Ross (Hunger Games), Steven Spielberg (Minority Report, AI) or any screenwriter attached to them?
Let them know you have one hell of a property they need to make a movie out of. It’s a gripping fast-paced politically-driven near-future social-commentary-lined story where a badass woman breaks things in dynamic fashion for good reasons. It’s up their alleys. And not just them — if you know anyone who wants to make Marlowe Kana into a film, I’m down. Super soldiers, biometrically-controlled environments, It’s just begging for the big-budget treatment.
• Are you, personally, David Fincher, James Gunn, Gary Ross, or Steven Spielberg?
Oh man… Wow. Well, this is certainly an honor! Wow… who would have thought that [David Fincher / James Gunn / Gary Ross / Steven Spielberg] read my little blog? Wow man… Just wow. I’m overwhelmed! I love your films! I really love that part in [Fight Club / GOTG / Hunger Games / Minority Report] where [technology-driven aspect of modern living] was used as a metaphor to show [aspect of psychology where the human ego strives to outdo the human brain’s limitations and subsequently sets it up for failure… Much like Facebook growing far beyond the bounds of being able to control their own platform and thus setting up the world — the no kidding, entire, literal fucking planet — for political hijacking by Russia due to the mass manipulation of emotional and psychological wellbeing through their shit platform]. That part rocked! Wow… Cool! Well, hi! Also, please make a movie out of MARLOWE KANA.
• Are you connected to an ancient spacefaring alien race who are scouring the galaxy looking for resources, and happen to have Earth on their radar, and are on their way to come conquer and subsequently ravish the planet?
Well, tell them not to, please. Cause that’s not cool.
Do you just like stickers and want some free ones?
Well, email me, and I’ll send you some. I’ll even cover the stamp. Just promise you’ll put them on that one notebook or laptop or iPad that you take to the coffee shop so other people will see it and ask about it!
As I’m sure you’ve all seen in some form or fashion, I’ve been writing a new cyberpunk sci-fi series called Marlowe Kana. Fiction in general is a new genre for me, much less Science Fiction and Cyberpunk. It’s been a hell of a ride so far, and despite all the pain, fear, aggravation and suffering, I’ve loved every second of it.
So, for my first Book Report, I want to share some of what I’ve been going through, learning, and beating my head against.
Writing fiction is hard. Like, hard hard. Like, harder than anything I’ve ever written before, hard. Up until this book, I’d only ever written one other piece of fiction, and it was terrible. In fact, longtime readers will know that it was the very first written iteration of this novel, only with completely different characters and plot. Everything else I’ve ever written has been journalism, opinion pieces, blog posts, anecdotal stories from my youth, and silly things. A few trolling pieces here and there. Some loud and vitriolic stuff. Some really important stuff about social matters, and other really important stuff about divorce, depression, self respect and just about everything else.
Thousands of pieces over 16 years. It’s only now that I’m doing fiction, for many reasons that I’ll get into in another post sometime. And let me tell you, this shit is no joke. It’s work. Fun, joyous, amazing, hard, tiresome, sometimes-you-wanna-set-fire-to-literally-everything-you-have-written-and-give-up-for-the-rest-of-your-life-frustrating, hellish, heavenly work.
First, you’re responsible for the reality of your work. Not just the physical writing – which by itself is a feat. 25,000 words is a tiny novella, and it takes a month or two to write if you’re writing every single day – and I’m doing five of those, per book, for a total of 15 volumes and 300,000+ words. You also have to get it edited, re-edited, and copyedited. If you’re self-publishing, then you also have to get it typeset, printed/digitized, get a cover designed and made, published in whatever form and stores, and market the thing. But the writing itself, that’s hard hard work. The sheer sticktoitiveness it takes to just sit down and chop away at word craft is a lot.
But that’s not even one tenth of the actual work. That’s just the typing. the WRITING… that is the super hard part.
For every single writer, this holds true: you not only have to create characters, settings, technology, scenarios, plots, motivations, story arcs and events out of thin air, you have to make them all make sense. More than make sense – you have to raise these people like children and tend to their environment like a cautious parent, if that parent was Nicollo Machiavelli. If you’re giving even half a shit, you also have to make each character independent, such that you’re not FORCING them into things, you’re guiding them there and seeing what decision they make, and then acting accordingly. And if you’re giving a whole shit, you have to eloquently describe ALL of the above to the reader in a way that lets them know what’s going on, without being some voice in their head telling them what they already figured out minutes ago. And that’s just “Writing Fiction 101.”
If you’ve never written fiction before, the first time you let someone who is close enough to you to tell you the honest truth read your stuff, you’re in for one hell of a reality anvil to fall on your head. You will be called out for any number of things you had no idea was even part of the process. Things like the three-act rule. Plot cohesion. The story arc. Action elements and beats.
You may end up hating characters you thought were your favorite. You may end up loving characters that were tossed in on a whim. And speaking of whims, you will have more whims than you ever have plot points, and you have to beat yourself stupid to keep from including every single one of them – and the ones you DO include, you have to go back and research as thoroughly as you did all of your plot, characters, tech and settings. Then you have to make damn sure your whim didn’t just invalidate something you’ve already written. And INEVITABLY you will end up altering the course of your plot completely.
It’s a lot.
Some things that I’ve learned in the course of all of this have come from reading books on writing fiction. Others from great videos from other writers and directors and storytellers. Still others came from very honest people in my life with experience doing fiction work, who were honest enough and loved me enough to tell me the absolute truth about my writing.
And that’s what this series is going to be about: all the little things I’ve learned along the way that I wish I knew starting out. Now, I am only two volumes into a five-volume serialized novel, which is my first fiction novel. I am hardly any kind of expert. I don’t want anyone to think otherwise, or think that I think otherwise. But, something I’ve always known to be true: there’s no harm in sharing information. And doing something – pass or fail – qualifies anyone to share what they know of the experience, even if their perspective might differ from someone else’s.
It is in that spirit that I am going to write these Book Reports. They will detail lessons I’ve learned, videos I’ve found, books I’ve read, sources I’ve studied (and what I have learned from them), and tricks I’ve developed to get my ass in gear and get going even on the toughest days. I hope it helps, or at the very least, entertains. I’ll post #2 this weekend, and plan to cover basic action lessions I had to learn the very (VERY) hard way.
Fight Or Flight In The Modern World (Or, “I’ve Made Everything Matter Way Too Much And I’d Like To Stop That Now Please”
Our limbic system is hard-wired to make us panic. It’s the system in charge of, among other things, fight or flight. It’s been in us since well before we were homo sapien. We are a species into the six figures worth of years of existence, and it’s only been in the last several hundred years that we haven’t had to actively participate in our own continued existence beyond the minimum effort. And in this modern life, in this modern society, it is often hijacked and used against us.
You see it on every single news channel. There’s ALWAYS “Breaking News!” And it’s always presented as if the entire world was fracturing in half over the knee of this particular nugget of information. Dozens of pretty and handsome faces have careers around framing the information that comes at us daily in such a way that keeps us watching. In ads for things as simple as deodorant and snack chips, choices are framed in a way that make us think in a fight-or-flight way: If I don’t use this deodorant, girls won’t flock to me and boys might see a white ring in my shirt, exposing my flaws. If I choose the wrong mouthwash, I’ll be despised. If I feed my dog the wrong food, they will be lesser dogs. My cat will not live more than a few years if they don’t get the Sheeba stuff. This one brand of shirt will fix my popularity problems, because I MUST run with the proper herd.
None of this is new information. We all know it, and we’ve been dialed into it for years. But what I was blind to until this weekend is how deeply it has affected my own way of thinking on a second by second basis. It’s not just the Fox News and CNNs and Unilevers and Purinas of the world that do this to us. We do it to ourselves, subconsciously, every single day.
I look around at my desk and myself this morning. I am wearing pre-made clothing I got off a rack at a store. I am drinking pre-made tea out of a plastic bottle. I am typing these words on a pre-made laptop with lots of pre-made software. Essentially, the last hour and the next hour will consist of my making pixels appear and occasionally disappear on the screen. I will get up and go pee into a toilet filled with municipal water that I pay a very small sum to have piped into my house (with premade pipes, by the way). I will probably grab an apple or banana as a snack — hunting and gathering in the kitchen downstairs from a pre-made fruit bowl filled with fruits that I didn’t have to pick myself (outside of making sure the bananas were the right mix of green and yellow tint, and the apples had no bruises).
I am a human being in a modern first world society. And that, my friends, is a lovely thing to be. Life is fucking good. And yet…
I can’t go a day without overthinking about a transgression someone has performed. If it wasn’t in that calendar day, I’ll reach back a week or a month or even years, because my brain can’t just sit still and enjoy what’s going on in front of me.
- I constantly make the trivial into the monumental. Just this morning alone:
- I yell at drivers who cut me off.
- I scream when someone rides up in the left-turn lane in front of me, and then stops and puts on their right turn blinker, blocking me in while trying to get three cars ahead of another lane.
- I flip off people who ride in the HOV lane with only one person in the vehicle.
- I get angry when people don’t wait their turn at a four-way stop.
- I want to throw a brick at cars that take up more than one parking space in the lot near where I work.
- I get flustered when people don’t stand to one side on the escalator and let me pass.
And this is all just in the first 30 minutes of my morning routine. I could enumerate many more transgressions throughout my morning into lunch, and still more during the working day until I head home, and then the traffic ones fire up again, and then I’m home and on the internet to do the work I demand means more to me than anything… But first let me check my download stats on my book or see what’s going on in the feeds — why is there only 12 downloads of my book today? Why doesn’t anyone love my writing before they’ve even had a chance to read it? Why do I even bother? FML, I hate everything, blah blah blah. And this doesn’t even take into account my frustrations as a writer trying to make it back up a mountain I climbed years ago, or as a screenwriter breaking into an industry I’ve sat near and around for years, or as a happy human being in general.
So petty, right? It would be embarrassing to admit these problems to you if I wasn’t also keenly aware of just how petty and asinine they all are. And occasionally, I’ll catch myself in the death spiral of complaining about the injustices of daily life, and I’ll remind myself of this piece I wrote about the moment the house of cards that my life once was came tumbling down and I was left with nothing.
That perspective helps. And so does this one, which I wrote a few years later about how I’d come to enjoy peace and quiet and the simple things.
So, fast-forward to now, and I realize that 4 years out from the moment my life fell apart, I’ve rebuilt it decently and the struggle has faded… Everywhere except in my brain. I get stuck in survival mode because I’m wired that way. But that’s not my shrugging off responsibility for it, as if I can’t help it and I’m just going to have to live with it. I know I’m better than that.
So today, I tried something new. I decided to start from the other direction. Instead of being caught in the whirlwind of everyday life and reacting to every little thing, only to catch myself and have to remind myself of how hard it could be (and how hard it has been before), I am trying starting from the simplest assessment of my life.
This morning, I wrote out one paragraph that sums up my life:
I’m Joe. I am a web designer. My hobbies include writing documentaries and cyberpunk science fiction, as well as collecting cigars and whiskey. I have 2 dogs, 5 cats, and my girlfriend whom I love very much. I’d like to be in better physical shape and eat better.
By breaking each point that adds up to what is “me” I hope to keep them in mind when forces in my life and in my head challenge any of them.
I’m Joe. Easy enough.
I am an experience designer. This is what I do for my day job, and in some capacity my entire career since 1995. If it’s not websites, it’s video stuff, if it’s not that it’s books, but in some way i’ve been building experiences for people since I got a computer. It’s how I pay the rent.
My hobbies include writing documentaries and cyberpunk science fiction, as well as collecting cigars and whiskey. I want to be a full-time writer again one day, but if I’m being honest with you and myself, my career has not been fully about writing for at least 5 years. So, it’s my hobby, and I do love it. It pays, but not very much — enough to keep a little extra money around for cigars and whiskey, my other hobbies. These are the things I do because I love them, and will continue to do forever regardless of who gives me permission or money (or both). These can also become the source of a LOT of my irritations and frustrations, because this is where I let things matter way too much. I have hopes and aspirations and every day I’ve not achieved them, I make myself miserable by dwelling on the lack of advancement instead of focusing on the joy. This is where the most balance needs to be attained, and it helps IMMENSELY to remind myself that these are my hobbies. I do them because I love them. Having goals around reader counts and views of the documentaries I wrote and acquiring that rare cigar or whiskey is healthy. Making it matter more than it should is a recipe for pain.
I have 2 dogs, 5 cats and a girlfriend whom I love very much. This is the reminder that whatever else I do all day, every day, on whatever project with whatever goals, I have these lives in my life and they are what matter most. I put it in the middle because the rest of everything else revolves around this core.
I’d like to be in better physical shape and eat better. I have an impulse for survival buried deep in my primal programming, and when I’m not deeply engaged in a form of physical activity, it begins to work on me. The need to move. The need to hunt. The need to compete. The need to constantly be paying attention and surveying the world for threats. When I have a physical activity I participate in daily, that energy gets let out there. When I’m eating right, I run on clean fuel and don’t feel sluggish. I know I need to return to physical activity and proper diet. If I go all-or-nothing, I’ll probably succeed in the short term and then crash again when something big happens, because it’s ALL THAT MATTERS and if some unfortunate event occurs that derails it, then I get into “why bother?” territory. If I keep it like this — wanting to make sure I am physically active and eat right, instead of “I want to be the Crossfit Masters Champion in a year” or some shit, I can keep it balanced. If I want to dial up my activities and go after a fitness related goal, great. But I’m not a “failure” because I don’t (yet), nor is that a reason to give up on my goals.
It is something you hear about a lot — life balance, keeping things in perspective, etcetera and so on. We all know the words and the general theories. I think we all come to these kinds of realizations in life at some point, in our own way, in our own time. This was mine: I make EVERYTHING matter way more than it needs to.
Not that any of this is not important. It’s all important. But it doesn’t need to matter as much every second of the day. There’s no need to wind myself up and begin panicking because things aren’t going according to a plan that I made too grand and over-important.
I think it’s healthier all the way around for me to start with the basics and work from there. Should I want to add another sentence to that paragraph, so be it. If I decide I want to be the Crossfit Masters Champion, great — I can add that in. But I need to make sure it fits in with the rest of the paragraph. And that means keeping it at the same tone and level as the rest, and putting it in the proper place. Does it come at the beginning of the paragraph or the end? Where does it fit in my life? And should I remove another sentence to make room for it? These are all questions that are good to ask, and I will ask them if and when it becomes important.
But as of right now, it’s not. What is: I do good work in my job, I write fun things that I hope others like to read, and I spend time with my family. Inside of all of that, I’d like to eat better and work out more.
It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.
I was genuinely proud of the latest review on my book:
I shared it to my book’s Facebook page earlier in the week. Then, curiosity overtook me… What would happen if I actually “BOOSTED” the post? Could it translate into action and get people downloading the book and/or liking the page?
Now, as you know, I left Facebook about 6 months ago. I started a new account last month to administrate the pages for my blog and for my book, and aside from making sure stuff gets posted there, I don’t hang out there. the only things I find Facebook useful for are cigar groups, seeing pictures of my friends’ kids, and promoting my book. The first two are free, but the third has been a challenge. I’ve done the reading and see it firsthand: Facebook Pages are a trap. Unless you’re a celebrity, or one of these content-thieving jerks like FuckJerry or Fat Jew or whoever, who blatantly steal and then paste your URL on content that’s very “share worthy” by the most basic life forms that barely qualify as human life, you’re kinda screwed on Facebook when you create a Page.
Page posts get PURPOSELY buried on peoples’ newsfeeds unless one of two things happen: 1) the person selects “always show first” on your page and forces it to show up in their feed, or 2) you pay money. Period. It’s right there on every single post you make:
And if you “boost” the post (AKA, pay the protection money), this is what you see:
Final results from spending $50 on a “boost post” ad on Facebook:
Nearly 5,000 impressions:
2 new followers in Instagram, despite over 600 likes on a single Instagram post (that didn’t result in followers or conversions to the Amazon page):
1 new page like:
15 kindle books downloaded (but 14 were downloaded on Wednesday without the spend… so, net result: 1 ebook download):
(In hindsight, checking the “Run promotion on Instagram” checkbox was a huge mistake, considering 90% of my impressions ended up there — something Facebook does NOT tell you at any point until the campaign is over, they just do it:
Net result: I spent $50 to have 2 new people follow my moodboard on Instagram, one new person to like my page, and POSSIBLY one new person to download my eBook. In other words, I wasted $50.
Your results may vary.
(UPDATE: Now it’s #6!!)
I haven’t blogged about it yet, but I’ve been working for the past year and a half on a novel. It’s called Marlowe Kana, and the first volume is now available on the website for the book, Kindle, Nook, iBooks and Kobo.
Here’s the cover, which was done by the lovely and talented Meghan Hetrick:
I started posting chapters to the site about a month ago (here’s Chapter 1; you can read all the way to Chapter 8 on the site right now, and Chapter 9 will go live Monday morning), and last week finally got the ebook for Volume 1 into the various digital stores. At some point on Thursday, Amazon finally got around to correcting the price and made it free. Overnight, the book went from #99,000 or so to #51 in Cyberpunk in the Kindle store. As I write this, it is now #8. This blows me away. I did NOT expect this.
I even got my first review — a lovely 5-star note on why this reader likes what he got:
What I’m Up To With This:
The strategy here wasn’t to have a huge launch or make a big splash. I want my books to ALWAYS be free on the web, no matter what the content, size, or format. So, I decided to post a new chapter every Monday from now until the book is complete in 2018. Every single Monday, you can go to my site and get the next chapter in the complete story for free.
I also want to collect the chapters into volumes — five of them, for the first book — and make them available to folks who prefer e-readers and collected formats (and also hopefully make a few bucks on my writing so I can get back to doing that full-time). My strategy is to give away the first volume (Chapters 1-10) for free, and then release the other 4 volumes at $2.99 each. The chapters will still be free every single Monday. Once all 5 volumes are complete, I plan to release the paperback of the full story for the regular book price of $14.99.
I want something for everyone: chapters every single week for those who like keeping up with things as they’re released, smaller volume collections for those who like reading in chunks and binging every month or so, and a full book for those who prefer watching 5 seasons of a show in a weekend.
The plan was to do my work and stay ahead of the curve, releasing things on a regular schedule and letting people who are interested know what’s going on as I do it. I didn’t plan any marketing blitzes or media outreach or review strategies or any of that crap until after the fifth volume is out. I wanted the full book to be complete and in the world before I began the hard work of trying to get attention for it.
But somehow, somewhere, someone beat me to the punch, and the free Volume 1 Ebook got linked somewhere. Amazon doesn’t show you where, so I guess that’ll be a mystery until the search results in Google surface it. But whoever did it: I’m super, super thankful! Thank you for getting some attention for my new novel!
Why I Have All The Feels:
It’s been 10 years since I finished writing my last book (The one I released in 2013, Everyone Deserves To Know What I Think, was a collection of prior writing. Nothing new. Doesn’t count). As a lot of you know, my previous books were all about my life, my adventures, and my friends and loved ones. Well, most of that life is gone now. Some of those loved ones are no longer in my life. I went through some serious growth and a lot of transformation the last few years. So, when I decided to return to writing, the one thing I knew I wouldn’t be doing is the same thing I used to do, because I’m just not that guy anymore.
So, I decided to write fiction. I was once told by a good friend that writing about yourself and journalism are certainly writing, but you don’t really know how hard writing is until you try to invent a world and all the people in it, and make it make sense. And man, was he ever right. This book is HARD. And the embarrassing truth is, I honestly thought when I started that it would be a breeze.
All of my experience the last 15 years has been in spinning yarns about the zany crap I have seen and been a part of. So, it’s easy to go “And then this happened, and then THIS happened, and THEN…” And if questioned, you get to say “Well, that’s just how it happened.” Your only job is to make people feel something about it.
When you write fiction, you still have the job of making people feel… But what they are feeling about? You have to make all of that up. You have to make it whole, interesting, and real. You have to give each and every person a personality, a life, a reality. You have to make them operate with other whole and interesting characters, in situations that you invent that must ALSO be whole, interesting and real. And all of it has to take place in a world you must describe without insulting the reader, but also without leaving them behind.
In fact, my first draft of this book was so viciously ripped apart by my friends who actually know the craft of writing that I deleted it completely and started over, but only after reading every book, watching every video and studying every work I could on the art of writing fiction. And it was an act of love when my friends criticized my work — they didn’t have to be honest, but they were, and I am a better person and writer for it.
It’s been a LOT of hard work simply making this book exist, in a way that isn’t complete crap. So that alone has been a challenge. But the other half of it is that I’m doing something I used to do, but in a different way… Which means the old ways don’t work. The entire world of publishing has changed. I no longer have the connective tissue I used to have on the internet to get things out into the world (and that’s very much on purpose… Who I used to be and the connections I used to have were built on a lot of immaturity, attention-seeking, balderdash and bravado. I never want to be or see that in me again, so I had to walk away from those old places).
Sitting down and writing for days and weeks and months used to be how I made my living. These days, I work full-time again, and my writing is the thing I do on nights and weekends because I must. It feels familiar, because that’s how my career began. Going back to the beginning is tough. It feels so familiar, but it’s all completely different. And there’s nothing more exhausting than standing at the foot of a mountain you once climbed and seeing that its entire face has changed, and knowing you have no idea how to do this thing you used to do all the time is scary.
But here I am, and I’m not quitting. No matter what.
So to see my book unexpectedly get some attention all on its own… and to hear from folks that it doesn’t suck… Well, that’s certainly a recipe for a little tear-shedding. So thank you all very much for sticking with me these years, and for checking out this new thing I’m doing. It means the world to me.
Writing, and a whole lot of it. This book is one of three in the complete story. At the end of it all in 2020, there will be three complete paperbacks, which will also be available as 15 ebook volumes if you prefer. And every single chapter of every single book will be available for free on the Marlowe Kana website (where I am also stretching my wings in web development and playing with CSS animations, 3D transforms, WebVR and other really neat web stuff! If you’re into rich digital experiences, it might be up your alley!). Volume 1 wraps on June 5 when I post Chapter 10. The next Monday, June 12, I’ll start Volume 2 on the site, and the ebook will go live in all the stores shortly after. If you don’t like waiting week after week, you can get it for $2.99 and get ahead of the curve 🙂 The same strategy will apply for volumes 3-5 — as soon as those volumes begin on the website, you can get the ebook and read ahead.
Once volume 5 is finished, the paper novel collecting all the volumes will be available for purchase, and I’ll begin working on Book 2, and then finally Book 3, each following the same strategy: Free on the website chapter-by-chapter, $2.99 for the volumes in the digital stores (volumes 6-10 for Book 2, Volumes 11-15 for Book 3), and paperbacks collecting the volumes for book 2 and book 3 available for $14.99.
I hope you’ll join me for the ride!