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Archive for June, 2012

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Lose The Map, Keep The Compass

There’s a lot of talk these days about the future of publishing, writing, being creative, etc. etc.

You must self publish! You must publish with a big house in New York! You must publish through nothing but Amazon! Buy Indie! And so on.

People are taking sides. Which, though I think is kind of dumb, I understand why. People want an answer. They want a formula. They want to know that if they do X+Y they get Z. And so they look at other people’s successes and other people’s paths and think, “Aha! THAT is the way!”

And they follow this like it’s a new messiah wandering through the desert.

It’s the same shit we learn in high school and college. If we follow all the rules we’re guaranteed a particular outcome. Take your classes, get your credits, and it’s all unicorn glitter and handjobs from there on out.

Which is so much horseshit you could fertilize a field with it.

Life’s a crap shoot and we’ve got no guarantees that we’re going to win the lottery, find a soulmate, live past 50. Whether it’s that pony you didn’t get when you were five years old, or that six-figure, multi-book deal with all that fuck you, movie-option money that never materialized, there’s something that didn’t happen the way you wanted it to.

We’re lucky if X+Y even equals a fucking number.

I was reading an interview in Wired the other day with Joi Ito of MIT’s Media Lab about how to survive in this fast paced world of change. He was talking about Silicon Valley venture capitalism and the Internet, mostly, but the ideas hold true for publishing, writing, or hell, just about anything else.

One of his points was that things are changing so rapidly that if you blink everything’s going to be different.

The maps no longer work. But the compasses do.

When the terrain is shifting so quickly, it’s more important to know where your goal is than it is to know how you’re going to get there.

And right now in publishing and writing and getting your creative work out there, things are changing very, very quickly.

Knowing how you’re going to accomplish something is absolutely essential. But what works today may not work tomorrow. And if we want to be successful we need to be flexible. We need to be willing to change our strategy so when what works now doesn’t serve us we can shift with the terrain.

If that sounds bad, it’s not. We have options now that didn’t exist ten years ago.

Personally, I think that’s pretty goddamn exciting.

So do what works for you. Not what works for someone else. Their maps are useless for your journey because it’s YOUR journey. Chances are the map you have in your mind is pretty useless, too.  Just remember where you want to end up, keep your eye on that and stay flexible.

Ditch the map. Keep the compass.

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Wanna Help Destroy My Street Cred?

Fireside Magazine is almost funded. As of this particular moment it’s at $5139.00 out of $6K and there are 37 hours to go.

If they raise that last $861.00 then there’s going to be one more issue of fantastic fiction by Jake Kerr, Kat Howard, Damien Walters Grintalis, a comic by Steven Walker and Brian White and a cover by artist Galen Dara.

Oh, and me.

And that’s where things get kind of interesting for me.

See, the short story I’ve written is… not my usual fare.

It’s not crime. It’s certainly not noir. There is no swearing. There is little violence. It’s, dare I say, positive?

It’s a ghost story. On a starship. With George Gershwin.

Yes, THAT George Gershwin.

If this story gets out then any possibility of my being known as some hard-boiled, tough as nails, noir writer goes pretty much down the shitter.

So if you help fund this issue you will be responsible for helping destroy my career. Won’t that be fun?

I think it’d be fun. That’s why I did it.

So, if you have a hankering to see what kind of weirdness I can write when I’m not shrieking obscenities at the sky and waving my junk around like a Tourette’s suffering monkey, consider tossing a couple bucks at the project.

It might not be my usual fare, but I think you might like it.

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Los Angeles Died A Little More Yesterday

In case you hadn’t heard Ray Bradbury finally went to the great beyond the other day. I hope that whatever afterlife he’s got it’s as fantastic as his imagination. Which would be pretty goddamn hard to top.

Born in Illinois in 1920, Bradbury moved to Los Angeles in 1934 and from that point on he was one of us. He ate up Hollywood with a spoon, sneaking into movie theaters, watching stars at The Brown Derby. He met Heinlein at Clifton’s Cafeteria and bugged Forrest J Ackerman at the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society.

And he wrote and he wrote and he wrote. He wrote stories, books, screenplays. He was a storyteller among storytellers.

Though many of his works draw on his childhood in small town Illinois, like SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES or DANDELION WINE, L.A. infused much of his work.

THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, with its themes of a dislocated people coming to a vast and unknowable wasteland that they can make their own in whatever way they choose, has the feel of an Illinois boy coming to the Southland. There are perils, but there is hope and salvation.

He wrote FAHRENHEIT 451 on a rented typewriter in a UCLA library basement. The nation was gripped in the throes of Communist fear during the height of the Hollywood Blacklist.

Wherever he got his inspirations he was able to take them and sculpt them into tales that could make you laugh or shiver or cry. The man was a genius no matter what form he was working in.

And he was an incredibly nice guy.

I met him twice as a fanboy. Once at a talk he gave at my high school of all places, and once at a signing about ten years ago. Even then, after having had a stroke and shaking in his wheelchair, he was talkative and pleasant and you could see that despite his physical misfortune, the mind that was behind those thick glasses was sharp as a goddamn scalpel.

Ray Bradbury was so many things that L.A. is losing. Its sense of wonder, its feeling that dreams can come true here. You can’t go any further west, and Ray bradbury was one of the people who made that feel like a blessing.

I can’t think of a more heartfelt appreciation of you and your work, Mr. Bradbury, than this.

May you sip dandelion wine through endless summers days, sir.

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A Bit O’ News And Some Pimpin’

DEAD THINGS

First off, my second novel, DEAD THINGS is available for pre-order. It doesn’t come out until February and it’s a follow-up to CITY OF THE LOST.

Eric Carter is a necromancer. He sees ghosts, talks to the dead, compels them to his bidding. He’s turned it into a lucrative career putting troublesome spirits to rest or taking on more dangerous things. For a fee, of course.

When the sister he left fifteen years before is brutally murdered, Carter goes back to Los Angeles only to discover that her murder was bait to bring him home. Someone wants him for something, but who and why? The gangster looking to settle a score? The girlfriend he left in the lurch? Maybe the best friend who inherited all his problems. Not to mention the ghost of the mage he murdered the night he left town or maybe the patron saint of violent death herself, Santa Muerte, who’s taken an unusually keen interest in him.

Carter has to figure out who’s gunning for him and get them first. Because it’s not just his life on the line, it’s his soul, too.

So, if that grabs you by all means feel free to pre-order it. More…

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Fail Often. Be Awesome Sooner

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”
-Will Rogers

I would like you to do something for me today.

Fuck up.

Really. Fail at something. Fail hard. Really blow the shot. Fall on your ass.

Then get up and do it again. But better.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to be awesome at something. Not good. Not the best. Just awesome. Because that, oddly, takes the edge off it for me.

There’s no competition in awesome. It’s like being pregnant. Or dead. It’s a binary that has no comparison. You’re not more or less awesome than somebody else. You’re either awesome or you’re not.

“Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.”
-Salvador Dali

And awesome kicks that idea of “perfect” in the teeth. Perfect is horseshit. It doesn’t exist. Perfect’s a subjective standard no matter what you’re talking about.

A perfect sentence? A perfect painting? A perfect brushstroke? A perfect handjob? What does that even mean?

Abso-fucking-lutely nothing.

But here’s the thing about getting to awesome. Nobody’s awesome out of the gate. Some folks have awesome coded into their genes, sure, but they still have to work to get it out.

That means you have to try – and fail – a lot. And not just try little shit, either. I’m not talking about tying your fucking shoes. I’m talking about discovering new planets, breaking out of your molds, figuring out who and what you are. You know, big things.

And the sooner you get to failing, the sooner you get to awesome.

I know some people are doing the NANOWRIMO Summer Camp. I’m all for anything that gives people a push to accomplish something they’ve never done before.

You know, like cattle prods.

And I know that some of those people are a little nervous about finishing, or having a good book, or a coherent story, or something that doesn’t read like an autistic monkey threw their feces all over it.

If you’re one of those, stop worrying. Just do it. It will probably suck. That’s okay. The next one won’t suck as much. And the one after that will suck even less. And then the next and the next and the next.

Eventually you’ll look at what you’ve done and say, “That’s awesome,” because it will be.

But it’s not going to happen unless you do it a lot and fail a lot.

So go out there and fuck up, people. Awesome demands it.