Happy New Year: 2019 edition…

Happy Hangover…

…Uh, I mean, NEW YEAR!

Yeah, there might have been some drinking last night, and that might be the reason I slept until noon today.

MIGHT.

We’re just talking hypotheticals here, people!

Anyways.

At a gathering of friends, on the night in question, I asked the group:

“What are you excited to do in the New Year?”

(Resolutions are bullshit. Makes some goals that turn you on and get to it.)

I’m digressing again, must be the alleged hangover.

So, their answers will remain their answers – that is to say, private – but I thought I’d share my answer with you:

I’m publishing my novel, “Drawn to Flame” this year.

If you read these weird missives of mine, then you’ve likely heard me mention it before.

And just as likely you’ve found yourself asking, “So, what’s with this book he keeps talking about?”

And that, in a round-about way is the point of this post.

I’ve come up with a back-jacket synopsis that I think will answer that question and, hopefully, get you interested enough to follow along.

So, here we go:

                                                                                  

DRAWN TO FLAME

Haunted by a past he can’t remember, and a gruesome case he’d like to forget, the last thing private detective Caleb Carson wants is to help a wealthy eccentric recover a stolen artifact – no questions asked. But the bills are piling up, and the money’s too good to refuse.

He’s got three days to retrieve an ancient dagger, but before he can even begin the investigation, Caleb is confronted by the world of hidden magic, and the men who will do anything to possess power.

Caleb’s no magician, but he’s used to whipping up a few tricks to even the odds. When a cult of fire worshipers marks him for sacrifice, things start to heat up in the sleepy city of Knoxville. If he’s not clever, the case, and his life will go up in flames.

Will Caleb survive, or will he burn like the others before him? Find out in Drawn to Flame, the first novel in the Third Eye Detective series.

                                                                                    

And there it is.

Starting off the new year with a big announcement.

And there’s more to come: release date and cover art reveal, maybe a giveaway or two.

Keep an eye on this space.

Until next time, Happy New Year!…

 

 

 

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The Abyss…

As it seems the Ghost of Sinus Funk Present has decided to manifest its own brand of holiday spirit inside my head, and I am now on everything but roller skates to deal with its less than tender ministrations, let’s talk about some more weird shit for a minute…

The Abyss is a concept in esoteric/ occult practices.

(And let me remind you that “occult” only means hidden, not supernatural or evil. What? You knew that? Of course you did. I never would have doubted you, if it wasn’t for the awe-inspiring amount of cold medicine I’m currently on. I know you’ll have the style and grace to forgive me, just this once.)

Anyways, the Abyss is also known as – wait for it – “The Dark Night of the Soul”.

What can I tell you, secret societies and ancient cults love their drama.

Okay, so what does all this mean?

Well, the Abyss is a part of any esoteric practice. In many cults, orders, religions, one is taught about the Abyss to prepare one to meet it, and, if one is worthy, to pass beyond it.

Why am I telling you about this?

Because I’m wired like a microwave and as weird as a white guy with dreadlocks.

(Bless you, if you can pull them off. I’m not hatin’ on you, just stating a fact.)

But really, I’m bringing this occult thing out into the open because the Abyss is not just something initiates to secret societies have to be concerned about.

Don’t worry. This will make sense, as soon as I explain it.

To wit:

The Abyss is the time, in any practice, when you begin to feel like you’re not making any progress.

Ok, I’ll unpack that a bit.

Whenever we begin to learn something, we tend to make progress fairly quickly. We see results early and often. This encourages us to continue in our pursuit of, well, whatever.

But, there comes a time when those results turn from torrent to trickle.

It is here where most people usually give up.

And this is precisely where, in occult teachings, one is instructed to not give up.

Think of the Abyss as the universe, or god, or whatever’s way of seeing if you’re genuinely committed to the endeavor.

(I’m not certain there is a whatever, but it works for the purposes of visualization, so, just go with me on this.)

The Abyss is the proving ground. It is where you show whether or not you are worthy to continue along the path.

It is meant to be hard.

Meant to weed out those without the passion and perseverance to succeed.

The point of the Abyss is to struggle through it.

Struggle long enough, diligently enough, and you will begin to see results again.

(The Dawn after the Dark Night of the Soul.)

(something perverse in me loves the pretension of that phrasing, but I digress…)

The Abyss is part of the cycle.

Make progress. Progress stalls or stops. Keep going, keep trying, keep practicing. Eventually progress resumes.

And it seems to be a commonplace enough archetype in the human experience that the various mystery cults and societies made sure to teach their chosen members about it.

Dig that.

The whole reason this allegory/ metaphor exists is to teach people how to negotiate this aspect of life.

Most of us lay people aren’t taught that. If anything, we’re taught that the halt in our progress is a sign we should give up.

“It’s just not for you.”

“Maybe you’re not ready.”

“Are you sure you really want to do this?”

I’ll bet, if you’re over the age of fourteen, you’ve heard one of these or something similar before. And if you’re not over the age of fourteen, where are your parents and why do they let you read this kind of thing?!

But here’s the thing: it’s not a sign that we should give up, it’s a sign that we should keep going.

If you want it and believe in it, you will.

But there is so much fear of failure nowadays – it’s pervasive in our culture – that the possibility of failing often makes a body give up when the going, well, stops going.

And apparently, that’s been a common problem throughout human history, or else, why would this secret teaching go way back to the mystery cults?

(So, it’s not just us. If that’s any relief.)

The Abyss is something all of us engaged in a progressive endeavor experience.

I’ve experienced it in my writing, and come through it.

I’m having a moment of it now, with my meditation practice.

But, knowing what I know about the cycle, I will persevere without fear.

And now that you know, I hope you will too.

Whatever it is you are trying to accomplish or learn or master, remember this:

The Darkness is a test of your worthiness to continue.

And all you have to do to be worthy is continue.

I hope that helps.

Now I’m away to stare off into space and try not to drool too much for a while.

May your holidays be awesome, whatever they are, and my the new year find you ready to press on, where ever you’re headed.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

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A Life of Sales…

I never wanted to be a salesman.

You can make a ton of money in sales. But you have to be good at it.

I suppose there is more than one way to be good at sales, but to my mind, I would have to believe in the product. I wouldn’t be able to just sell any old thing.

( I got conned into going to what I thought was an interview once. Turns out it was a “training” session for being an independent vacuum cleaner sales person. There was free pizza at lunch. I didn’t go back the next day.)

And now, roughly 20 years later, I find myself with a product I believe in, my novel “Drawn to Flame”.

(Admit it, you thought I’d started selling Avon, Amway, Herbalife, or some shit like that. Yeah, I would have too. Go ahead a breathe a sigh of relief now. I’ll wait.)

Now I have to learn to market my own work, and, if any of the things I’ve read/ listened to about self-publishing are true, myself.

Turns out there is more than just believing you’ve got a good product.

(Hint: among other things, it involves talking to people – to strangers. I know, I know. Let’s wait until the shivers subside…)

There’s branding, and e-mail lists, and learning how to create ads on Facebook and Amazon, and god knows where else. I’m still trying to nail down the specifics.

All of this is made more difficult by my relative lack of operating capital.

Money. I don’t have a bunch to spare. So, it takes me awhile to save up for things.

But I’ve been getting there, in fits and starts, which is better than the alternative.

And I’ve also learned, after years of research, that big traditional publishing companies – the Big 5  they’re sometimes called – don’t do much in the way of marketing for an author’s book anymore.

Oh, they used to, but not now.

Not unless you’re one of the special few.

(Hint, hint: I ain’t on that list. Most traditionally published authors aren’t either, as the facts go.)

So, what is a body to do?

Well, learn, for starters.

To wit, I’ve read books and listened to experts on copy writing, ads, book blurbs, hooks, back-jacket copy, and everything else I can get my hands on. Everyone from traditional to self publishing, as long as they’re vaguely successful.

(There’s a secret, BTW. If you want to learn something, go to the people who are doing it well. It’s a good place to start.)

So, on top of trying to write the best stuff I can, I’m also negotiating the world of commerce. That’s okay, as I’d like to make a living off my writing.

Apparently, this wasn’t a thing a writer used to have to do.

But then again, we didn’t used to have the internet, and self publishing was only vanity-press stuff so you could hand sell a few copies of your work at some local convention or the other.

I’ve engaged a mailing list company, (Mailchimp, if you’re interested), and I’ve written the hook and the back-jacket copy.

Both of those, the back cover synopsis and the e-mail list/ newsletter sign up will debut here on the blog sometime in the next month.

And, come January, I’ll start the ramp up to the book’s release date.

So, if you need a recap: to self publish, among other things, write the best book you can, and learn to sell it.

And that means I have to become a sales person; gods help us all.

It is an ongoing process.

Thanks for coming along on this crazy ride with me.

It means a lot.

Until next time…

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Meditation on Philosophy…

I have a B.A. in Philosophy.

I’ve mentioned somewhere before, but it bears repeating, the exchange I’ve had – more than fucking once – with random people when I tell them about my degree. It usually goes something like this:

Rando – “What are you going to do with degree in philosophy?”

Me – “Whatever the fuck I want.”

But, strangely, that’s not the most common interaction I have on the subject.

The most frustratingly frequent response I hear is,

“I could never do philosophy.”

You know, it’s great that people start thinking I’m fekkin’ brilliant when they find out what I majored in, but it’s also depressing as hell to be told that people believe they can’t do it themselves.

Ok, maybe one won’t be graduating at or near the top of one’s class, but that does not mean one is unable to engage in philosophical exercise.

Truth be told, I think we engage in philosophy all the damn time.

Most of what we get into stays in the realm of Personal Philosophy, but it’s still philosophy.

Not convinced?

Alright, let me give it a whirl. And because philosophy is usually more about the questions than the answers, let’s start with a question:

Do you have any ideas about life, in general?

Yes? I thought you might.

Congratulations, you have a personal philosophy.

You’ve experienced life, to whatever degree you’ve experienced it, and come to some kind of belief about its general nature.

You probably didn’t sit down and puzzle it out. Likely, you didn’t ask yourself a bunch of questions about the belief or what led to it. You never spent any time looking like that statue by Rodin. But you have processed experience and come to a conclusion. This is usually what we refer to as wisdom.

The word Philosophy, literally translates to: the love of wisdom.

So, maybe you don’t love the wisdom, but you’re doing it anyway.

Go you.

I’ll just bet you also have some ideas about life.

You know you do.

I’ve not met anyone yet, above the age of thirteen or so, who doesn’t have some notion of what a good life would be.  Maybe they haven’t thought about how to achieve it, but they usually have an inkling.

Now, that’s not a well-defined, or I would argue, well understood personal philosophy, but it is still a personal philosophy nonetheless.

Have you ever thought about what it would mean if you were happy? How about successful? What about moral – have you thought about how you’d need to act to consider yourself a good person?

Of course you have, even if you didn’t give it sustained thought for long periods.

Even if you haven’t thought about it for ages.

And these are questions we’ve been asking ourselves for as long as we’ve had the capacity to ask questions.

They’re the same questions those dusty old Greeks asked. The same ones Buddha, and Lao Tsu, and Confucius asked. The same ones Hamilton and Jefferson, and Franklin asked.

Somehow, the majority of us has been conned into thinking, because some revered figure from history asked these questions, that the very same questions are somehow beyond us “normal folk”.

And that shit just isn’t true.

Geniuses happen, to be sure. But they are rare things and don’t come along often.

More often it is the case that someone you and I would otherwise consider to be a “normal” person just gets obsessed with a subject and works their ass off on it.

You’d be amazed at what “normal” people, that just happen to give it the full measure – can achieve.

The pyramids.

The Manhattan Skyline.

The entirety of the Modern World.

Not bad for “normal” folk.

Now, I’m not saying you need to sit down and design a pyramid, or skyscraper, or new civilization – but if you want to, I encourage it.

What I am saying is this:

These questions:

What makes for a good life? What is success? What is happiness? What is right? How do we live together in something resembling peace?

These are some of the basic questions of human existence.

And you’re a human.

We all are, no matter how basic we seem or feel.

And these questions are yours to answer, for yourself.

Share the answers you find, or not, as you like. But recognize you’re asking them anyways.

You don’t have to leave it for some faraway “genius”.

They’re in you.

They always have been.

All it takes is for you to come to understand them, and in so doing, understand yourself.

And then, with almost no effort at all,

You’re a Philosopher.

Look at you, you beautiful thing!

Keep asking questions.

Keep looking for answers.

(like you could stop yourself now if you wanted to.)

Until next time…

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Making Your Way in Uncharted Territory…

So, I was watching one of the people I follow on YouTube. It was the first time they’d posted in a while. I dig their content, so I was curious about the absence.

By luck, it happens that this very topic was the subject of their post.

It turns out that they, (and yes, I’m purposefully being vague about specific identity here), have been having an identity crisis.

Because, apparently, we’re all supposed to have a set image we present to the public. And, if that is the case, it only follows that, before we can get to that place, we should have a set vision of ourselves.

At least, that’s the theory.

But I have a problem with this.

Actually, I think we all have a problem with this.

Allow me to explain. (in case you thought I was going to forget about our fucked-up culture and just talk about writing until the end of the universe…)

This particular person, the YouTuber I subscribe to, is in their late 20s.

Being in my 40s now, I thought:

How in the hell can you have an identity crisis, you’re barely old enough to know what your fekkin’ identity is?!

And that’s where I had the realization.

The only reason anyone under 30 should even approach the outer boundaries of an identity crisis is because our goofy-assed culture has been telling them, all of us really, that we have to have exactly who we are nailed down, in precise detail, as early as fucking possible.

That’s a problem.

Sure, we have examples of extremely successful people who are fairly young, but we have just as many, if not more examples of success being achieved much later in life.

40s. 50s. 60s even.

Except those examples don’t get anywhere near as much media air time as the youthful prodigies do.

Here’s a funny aside: if you look at the age demographic in our country, you’ll see that, because of birth-rate decline, there are more people in the “older” category. Just research some of the depressing statistics about Social Security, and you’ll get up to speed with a quickness.

Our culture mutates fairly quickly, anymore. So quickly, in fact, that people of the Millennial Generation are told to expect to have something on the order of 15 different careers in their lifetime.  Fif-fucking-teen.

Why, in a culture of never-ending change, would we drill into the heads of our populace, especially the most young and impressionable of us, that we have to create a crystallized version of ourselves by the time we graduate high school?

(Yeah, that life-plan bullshit started when I was in high school. I can only imagine it’s gotten more intense in the intervening twenty-some-odd years.)

But even beyond the institutional peddling of patently nonsense ideas, we are bombarded with endless articles about how much money we should have saved by the time we’re 30, or how much this or that we should have accomplished by the time we’re 25, or how far we should be able to shove our own heads up our own asses by the time we’re, whatever – you get the picture.

Put it all together, and we swim in a toxic soup of messages that all decree we should have every yard sale bit of our lives labeled and lined up in neat rows before we reach our mid-20s.

In the words of George Carlin, “It’s all bullshit. And it’s bad for you.”

Personally, I didn’t know, really know what I wanted to do with my life until the age of 27. And at that point, the world and my education had done nothing to prepare me to pursue that goal. So, I had to start my learning and make progress as I could. In essence, I began discovering my identity from there on out. I’m still exploring parts of it. I imagine I always will, unless I become boring.

But I’ve always been precocious. For some people, it happens much later than almost-30. Some people reach the autumn of their lives before really knowing what they’re meant to do with the time they have left.

AND THAT DOES NOT FUCKING MATTER!

It really fucking doesn’t. I promise.

The only reason we think it does is because we’ve been led to believe we can compare two dissimilar things. Quick tip: you can’t. It’s all apples and oranges when it comes to comparison. There literally can be no basis to judge.

I’ve said it before: we can note differences. But assigning value does not logically follow from noting differences.

Anyways, I feel like I’m getting off track.

Let me state, unequivocally, I am not pissing on anyone who feels like they’re having an identity crisis – young or old.

I’m not.

I love you, and I hope you pull through it.

What I’m saying is this:

The only reason any of us would even be in that position is that the idea that we should have it all together at an early age has been shoved down our  brain-throats our entire fekkin’ lives.

That shit just isn’t true. And it’s seriously fucking unhealthy to believe.

Life is a learning process.

And it only reaches a stopping point when we die.

Until then, it’s constantly moving, changing, mutating.

And so are we.

(This is not to say that you will never have an identity, we all come to that understanding of ourselves, eventually. But it is to say there’s no need to feel rushed about it. Don’t know what you want to be/do in your 40s? Fine. It’s just not time for you yet. 50s? 60s? Same deal.)

There is not a guidebook for life. Regardless of what articles, list-icles, and click-bait internet headlines would have us believe.

We’re all figuring this shit out as we go., and it’s different for each one of us.

That’s what is.

And what is, is all we’ve got.

If you don’t know what you want to do or be, it’s okay.

If you don’t know who you are yet – whatever that means – that’s okay too.

Just don’t give up looking, and you’ll figure it out, eventually.

And then, the time will be right for you.

We are all explorers in uncharted territory.

We all have to draw our own maps.

I wish you all a steady hand and a good journey.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

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Of Beta Readers and Critique Partners…

So, there’s two things you probably need to know about, if you want to be anything like successful as a writer:

Beta Readers & Critique Partners

(Maybe you’re that one, lone genius, toiling away on your masterpiece without the need for input or feedback – but the odds are against you on that one. A quick test: if you’ve ever noticed a plot hole in your writing – not right away, but like fucking months later – then you’re not that genius person. You’re just like the rest of us. And well, if you want what you write to read by an audience, involving other people is going to be a requirement at some point.)

Now, it’s important to recognize that those two entities are meant for different purposes.

Which is the reason I’m writing this post – to elucidate the differences.

Let’s start with Beta Readers:

Beta Readers can be anybody. Really. Anybody at all.

They don’t need to be writers or editors or even particularly well-educated. They just need to be readers.

The point of a Beta Reader is to get an audience’s view of the work.

Does it bog down anywhere? Does the reader get bored? Confused? Any characters that are notable for either being awesome or complete pieces of shit.

You ask a Beta Reader if they liked it or didn’t, and what they did or didn’t like about it. Does the story make sense? Any plot holes? That kind of thing.

Beta Readers are absolutely essential to discovering if the story is doing what you, as the writer, want it to do.

Critique Partners on the other hand need to have a bit more specialized knowledge.

First, they need to be readers, and preferably writers of whatever genre you’re writing in.

Second, they should know something about story structure. How does a story come together? How does it keep moving? What about tension? Foreshadowing? Thematic elements? Motifs? Plot beats?

You get the picture.

A critique partner doesn’t need to have an English degree, but they need to be at least passingly familiar with how a story works or doesn’t work.

And they need to be able to be honest with you about what’s not working.  They don’t have to tell you how to fix it. In fact, when they do it’s usually wrong. But they have to be able to tell you. That means both finding a good partner, preferably one who understands tact, and making sure, as the writer, you’re presenting an open and receptive mind.

(It doesn’t suck if they’ve an eye for grammar and continuity, but it’s not a necessity.)

Writing is usually a seriously solitary endeavor, but revision can and likely should be a group effort.

As writers, we’re too close to our own work. We need fresh eyes. I know that, personally, sometimes I’m in such a rush to get an idea down on the page that I leave significant parts of it written only in my head. And when I reread it, my head automatically translates those missing pieces.

So, I need someone who isn’t a native speaker to tell me where I’ve let important shit out.

I’m on my 5th novel – I stopped counting the short stories – and it still happens. Hopefully to a lesser degree than it used to, but there it is. Or, there it isn’t, which is more frequently the case.

Now, if you write only for yourself – it’s a hobby and you’re not interested in letting others read what you’ve written – that’s a completely valid way to spend your time. And you can ignore the preceding.

But, if you want other people to read and enjoy your work, you’ll benefit from having a group of readers you can count on to provide feedback in these areas.

Finding people you and your writing fit with is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

I have no advice about that.

I generally impose on my friends to be my beta readers.

So far, no critique partners I jive with. But I’ll keep looking.

(Helps that The Wife is pretty much English savant.)

Anyways, good luck on your writing journey. If you’ve got questions, or you’re looking for another set of eyes, leave a comment and we’ll talk.

Until next time…

 

 

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Process…

Hello to all the people participating in NANOWRIMO this year!

Sorry I couldn’t join in the fun, but I have too many irons in the fire right now, and not enough asbestos gloves.

But you look good. Keep it up.

Thinking about the effort that goes into even coming close to completing National Novel Writing Month got me thinking about process.

I’ve spent more than 20 years now trying to figure out mine. I’m still working, although I’ve got it mostly nailed down. Now if it will only stop squirming…

Anyways…

There are plenty of people out there, writers and not, who give advice about process.

In fact, you can’t throw a pinch of salt over your shoulder without hitting a handful of writers who will each have a different way that, if you don’t follow it, you’re – dare I say it? –  not a real writer.

And they’re wrong.

All of them.

Truth is, if you write and keep writing, you’re a fekkin’ writer. And no one can say otherwise. (There is a difference between writer, published, and successful – that should be obvious based on their descriptors.)

But, besides the point of what makes someone a real writer, the more important thing to note is that we all have a different process for writing.

All of us.

Oh, yours, mine, and half the people we know might have similarities, but they’re not the same.

Some writers do well with structure. They perform better with the daily discipline of sitting down and hammering out words.

Some writers don’t.

Some writers, like me, really can only write everyday under certain special circumstances.

(I found out, last year, that NANOWRIMO wasn’t one of them. If it is for you, that’s awesome.)

Here’s the thing: it is impossible to compare two unlike things.

We can juxtapose. We can analyze the differences and similarities.

But when you’re comparing an apple to an orange, how do you judge? By what standard?

And thereby hangs a tale.

We can’t. All we can do is point out where methods intersect and diverge.

If you want a good rule for whether or not your process is working, or good, or whatever, I’ll offer this:

Does it let you get the work done?

If the answer is yes, then it’s working for you. Truth be told, that’s all that matters – if it works for you.

Maybe you write everyday and maybe you don’t.

(Personally, I don’t. But, like I said, lots of irons in the fire.)

Are you doing the writing? Are you finishing your projects?

That’s the metric you should gauge your process by. If it isn’t letting you do the work, and complete it, then maybe you want to examine your process and try out different methods.

Maybe not.

(Free advice is usually worth what you pay for it.)

Anyways, for all of you banging away at your NANOWRIMO word count goals, and all of you staring out into space thinking about what comes next, and everyone in between, I hope your writing goes well. I hope, fast or slow, steady or intermittent, you’re taking the time to enjoy this weird activity we can’t not do.

And since we can’t help ourselves but write, we might as well enjoy it while we do.

Until next time…

 

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