WTF? 2019 already?
Writing & Submitting:
From the outside there’s not much progress on the writing and submitting front. There is a lot of churn on the page however.
The literary manifesto is moving through revisions. A friend with a little more time and money is attempting to start up a literary journal, and we’ve been talking about serializing the manifesto there. So, that’s meant reshaping the revision process to make them fit that format.
At one point while writing things for the new fiction project, I’d cranked out something like 40,000 words just in exploration—short scenes, or bits of dialogue, internal monologues, descriptions of places or events—nothing in order and nothing connected. Most of it written in journals. I can’t remember when I finally started piecing it all together into a narrative, but it feels like i’ve been doing it for the last year or so (with some big pauses as I did a revision (again) to both The Palace of Winds and Far Nineteen). I now have somewhere over 40,000 words of a connected story, with only about 10 to 15% of that coming from the exploration text.
A friend who wants to be a writer seemed confused when I told her that I didn’t think writing was “fun” and that I didn’t do it for “fun.” It’s an urge, a compulsion, a practice for me in the way that religion is for some, or tai chi. Another friend, one who isn’t and doesn’t want to be a writer, wondered why I spent so much time talking about and thinking about how I was structuring the story instead of just telling the story. The comment made me realize that, for a lot of people, a writer talking about how a story is put together is a bit like watching processed food being made: you probably don’t want to see chickens turned into sludge and then formed chicken nuggets. You just want to eat the chicken nuggets. But for me, the process of generating a manuscript is extremely interesting—it might even be fair to say that it’s fun. In the course of my writing life over the last twenty-two years (!!!!!), I’ve written five novels—published one—and begun serious work on a sixth. I define serious work as exceeding 30,000 word barrier, which is roughly 100 pages or so (a piece is considered a “novel” at roughly 60,000 words, less than that is generally considered a novella). I have a few other projects that are sitting somewhere under the 30,000 word range and would love to get to them, but being a writer with a day job is an exercise in that old cliche “burning the candle at both ends” which is exhausting since I live alone with two cats who refuse to pick up after themselves . . . anyway . . . the point is, not every story should be told in the same way as every other story. Sometimes, the tension, the plot, the meaning of something is best revealed by juxtaposition rather than a linear sequence. Sometimes, what appears to be a simple boring story if it were told in a linear fashion (Old Joe walks across the room with the help of a cane) can become monumentally dramatic ONLY when placed in the wider context of life, but how do you present that wider context in a compact space?
In other words, what is “fun” for me is giving myself a challenge and seeing if I can pull it off. We miss so much of the human spirit if we think our triumphs, failures, heartbreaks, or losses, only happen on a grand scale or with world shaking consequences. That erases the human condition in a way. An old man walks across the room with the help of a cane . . . and for him it’s a triumph. Why? How did he get there? What happened to him before that moment? And how do you fit the life story that makes that small effort monumental to that old man into just 60,000 words? That’s why, for me, every story has to be told differently, which demands a different structure and, even, a different way of discovering the story.
The last episode of Bad Business is on the way, hopefully second week of January. Be on the look out. Another Outrider Live will be released sometime around the end of January.
I’m working on getting some additional live shows scheduled and recorded, so those will be landing occasionally through out 2019. Later this month I’ll begin recording another short, seven part series with my friend Jenn Bukowski where we’ll discuss her essay series on Problematic Badass Female Tropes. There’s no release date on those. Again, I’ll be recording all the episodes in advance, and then releasing is a quick burst.
The Bad Business series is good, but logistically it was a mess. It took us something like seven months to record all the episodes, there were technical problems (all my fault), and that put us behind the proverbial eight ball when it came time to the release schedule. So, please, give a big huge massive thank you to my producer, Heather Eden for her hard work. I’ve learned some good podcasting lessons and won’t make certain mistakes again.
The current reading list:
King: A Street Story by John Berger
The Anti-Christ Handbook: The Horror and Hilarity of Left Behind Vols. 1 & 2 by Fred Clark
The New Male Sexuality: The Truth about Men, Sex, and Pleasure by Bernie Zilbergeld
In The Cemetery of the Orange Trees by Jeff Talarigo
The Evening Road and In The House in The Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt.
A Dance to The Music of Time: 1st Movement by Anthony Powell
The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, and Civilization by Martin Puchner.
Honestly, the one that’s really the most fun to read right now is Fred Clark’s Anti-Christ Handbook. Clark writes The Slacktivist blog on Patheos and has, for over a decade now, been doing the “Left Behind Fridays” where he breaks down a section of one of the books in the Left Behind series and explains why it is both theologically wrong and artistically bad. He is ruthless and funny at the same time. I used to read the LB Fridays, but then faded away. When I saw he’d finally collected the essays from his Slacktivist blog about the first LB book and released them as an e-book on Amazon, I allowed myself to break my anti-Amazon stance and grab a copy.
Every time I get to this section, I lament the fact that my music discovery efforts are flagging. Again, I blame the lack of a decent independent radio station, but the truth is I’ve not adopted the habits needed to consistently search places like YouTube, or music podcasts, to find new music I like. Yes, the local “alt-rock” station owned by Clear Channel is better than not having an Alt-Rock station, but fuck me I don’t like hearing the same set of songs over and over every time I put on the radio. I didn’t have any kind of opinion of bands like 21 Pilots or Hozier when I first heard their songs . . . I was indifferent until Clear Channel started playing their songs once an hour. I got in my car on four separate occasions one day, drove to work, then drove home from work (8hr gap), drove to a pub to meet friends for dinner (2 hr gap between home and trip to pub), then drove home after dinner (hour and half gap from arriving at pub and leaving pub) – – and I heard that Hozier song “Take Me To Church” each fucking time. I will never buy an album by that artist now because hearing that song is rage inducing.
I feel like I’m missing out on cool new music.
The night before writing this, I went to see Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse. That was, I think, the best Spider-man movie so far. I never kept up with the comics after about the age of 12, but I kind of wish I had. Of course, I’m of the age where my first experience of Spider-man outside of the comics was the 1978-79 TV show The Amazing Spider-man.
Other than that, I’ve seen What We Do In The Shadows, Tag, and I’m rewatching the Showtime series Californication on Netflix.
Of those, I was most surprised by Tag, which I’d expected to be a bit like The Hangover, but it turned out to be quite a touching look at enduring, long term male friendships – especially since it was based on a real-life group of friends who’ve been playing tag since they were kids (here’s the original WSJ article that inspired the movie and a recent Bustle article with video).
1) This year needs to be better than last year.
2) I don’t really have many close male friends and that bothers me.
3) My father would be 72 this month. His youngest son, my half brother, will be, i believe, 18 on March 15. I don’t know him. His mother hates me (and I don’t particularly care for her) and she didn’t want me to be in touch with him. Such is life. He lives in Buffalo, NY. Maybe someday, now that he’ll be 18, he’ll reach out. Our father would have liked that. He wanted my sister and me to have a relationship with him, but after our father died, our brother’s mother didn’t want us around him.
4) My new year started off with a rejection letter. I don’t even remember which manuscript it was for.