Matters of Perspective

As the son of an artist, a parent of two creative kids, a student–and sometimes teacher–of martial arts, a trainer, and all the many other things I’ve had to be as a working class guy, I’ve seen a lot of different angles to the things that go on in our weird world. There are moments where I’m less patient than I might otherwise be because I’ve seen this all before. There are also many instances where I’ve been more patient than others around me because I’ve seen this all before.

My Dad was a painter, and every so often things would get better for the family when he sold a painting. When he wasn’t working on his art, he was usually working at least part time as a night auditor at different places. The short film script I wrote entitled “The Auditors” was at least partly inspired by this. Not so much as that it features much in the way of what he did, but it was the first time I heard the word, and it stuck with me. It is not a word I have heard often since, and this made it more memorable to me.

Recently, my daughters were discussing social media (they are both YouTubers) and they went into great detail about not only what content they wanted to create in the future, but all the other things that platform entails. They were seriously talking strategy for building their brands and growing their respective audiences. This led to a discussion of follower numbers on different platforms, and questions about why they differed so much. The same person or business could have a strong following on one social media, and get no traction on others. I have seen this firsthand, and it is hard to fathom. You can see social media engagement that doesn’t always translate into subscriptions, or ad revenue, or whatever you are hoping it will do. Some of my own projects did get their share of likes and click-throughs and all the usual things that are supposed to lead to Internet prosperity, and yet did not.

The amusing part of that discussion was where they asked what my highest follower number was on any platform, and then they declared that I was famous when I told them. It’s not even remotely the case, but from their perspective, it must seem that way. (They are teenagers, after all!) If you are measuring your followers in the dozens or hundreds, seeing a subscriber number over five digits has to seem like a lot. I tried explaining all the various reasons why it doesn’t mean much. There are indie writers I know that have hundreds of thousands…but then, they are also following nearly that many accounts themselves. It is a type of marketing approach for them, and doesn’t by itself make them well known. There are also many published authors with multiple bestsellers that have far fewer followers than that.

So these were some of the things I was contemplating when I was at a presentation this past week on the importance of branding for creative artists. As someone in the room asked “how many people do you know with fourteen million views on YouTube?” Well…I still don’t really know him, but now I’ve been in the same room with one guy who has. He had some excellent suggestions of course, and really knew his stuff on all the major social media sites. I’ll absolutely keep his advice in mind going forward.

To bring this full circle, some of my earliest memories are from when we lived in a ghost town in New Mexico. It was kind of like an artist’s commune in a way. There were several painters that I remember besides my Dad. For all of them, art was something done for it’s own sake. They didn’t have “careers” though they did most often have jobs while working on their art. Their influence is one of the reasons why I rarely place great importance on what society thinks. Art was what they lived for, making a living was just a necessity. Once I saw that society only wanted to pay them for their time rather than their art, and that all sorts of people within our culture were rigging things like a shell game, I was no longer interested in any part of the rat race. The sort of thinking that it produces led some publisher somewhere to declare Jack Kerouac as “unpublishable” which is laughable now, and should have been then. He is not my favorite poet, but only if you are thinking of everything as a commodity, and how you might market those commodities, and those thoughts are the absolute limit of what you can conceive of–could you possibly come to such a conclusion. There is a long line of rejected writers of various genres that went on to become bestsellers or outright legends later on, that attest to how wrong people can be when they are thinking with their business hats on.

Relating that back to the meeting, they always have an “introduce yourself” part of their events, and one of the attendees who mentioned making short films as far back as the 1970s, and as recently as a few years ago described himself as a “wanna-be”. Someone else chimed in that that’s better than a “has-been”. Most of the people in that room are creatives, and all of them just want to do their thing, whatever that is. There are writers, actors, directors, producers, cinematographers, musicians and composers, stunt people, grips, make up artists, and every other skilled position anyone would want on their squad. They all have different backgrounds, and differing levels of experience, but I would not call any of them a “wanna be”. Most of them that I’ve spoken with “wanna DO”. Most of them have done something, and would like to do more.

That is all there really is. People doing stuff. I’ve been backstage at all sorts of things: theatrical productions, grand openings, tournaments, demonstrations, banquets, auctions, a parade, and probably some other things I’m forgetting. I’ve never seen glamour anywhere. Attempts at appearing glamorous, definitely. Everything is a slightly different kind of show biz. The Internet hasn’t changed much of what is out there, it just amplifies some things. Often as artificially as any old school roadside attraction. Things still go bust. Hype still sells crap, or fails to. Same as it ever was.

So, when all is chaos around us, and the sky is falling once again after the latest app redesign, just try to focus on what you want to do. Some of us have seriously lived through the death of entire technologies. A new app GUI isn’t that bad. If it’s not dead yet, and you aren’t either, it’s all good as long as you have a goal you are working towards.

The Waiting Game

Hey. Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you’re all having a good day. Currently at the hacienda it is beautifully gloomy. We’re just playing the waiting game over here, both me as a writer, and my family as…just one of many that may be effected by a second government shut down.

It would be nice if we lived in a functioning society, but such is life. All of January, one of us went to work without pay until that issue was resolved. The other of us realized he had chosen a very bad time to switch certifications, because those too must be paid for. This process got delayed til after that whole debacle was resolved, but now I’m fully shifting gears in the day job dept. More on that later. One editor is reviewing some writing of mine, I’ve just received my first official rejection of 2019 from a literary journal, (so that’s out of the way now) and decisions on two more are pending.

We shall see what happens with those. I’ll be sharing more this year though, here on the blog and elsewhere as things develop. For this next two rounds of submissions I’m back to targeting some of the paying markets which are very competitive. Other journals are on my list because they either appear to be a good fit, or in some cases, they have asked me to submit some of my work.

So the more things change, the more they stay the same. Some of my poems and short fiction experiments will be appearing this year on Instagram, online journals, and other places. I’ll update here with where to find them as these show up. Other things I’m working on …stay tuned. ūüôā

Good luck out there!

Happy Holidays!

Last night I was at a film group meeting at the Jewish Community Center in Tucson, and as it was the third night of Chanukah (Hanukkah) there were cookies and gelt after the event. It was nice. I brought a couple each back home for the girls. It reminded me to wish everyone Happy Holidays whatever you are celebrating this month. Here at our house, we are observing the usual Xmas celebrations with a fake Yule tree and lots of super hero and Star Wars ornaments. There are some Pagan and Buddhist elements also because we are non denominational like that. So the Solstice will be celebrated, but in a very open minded way.

The meeting itself was actually a networking event, which was fun but still involved speaking to people in a group setting. This is not my best event in the Human Olympics. It went as well as it could have I suppose. There are a couple of projects I’ll be looking for collaborators for in 2019, and it was a good first step.

On the writing front, two short film scripts I wrote this year are about to be evaluated by a consultant who judges for a major film festival, nearly two dozen poems are out on submission and a collection’s worth will be on their way to an editor after one last proofreading pass. The novel is nearly ready for its deep dive into the icy waters of the publishing world. Its BatDad is very proud.

At the halfway mark this month, we have a birthday, and then another teenager to deal with. After that is the Hallmark Xmas event, then the Generic Whitebread New Years. I’m almost done shopping. I think. Once into 2019, there is an anniversary, the real New Year (Chinese New Year!) and the last family birthday for a while. Then there will be few events aside from the projects I’m working on until the next Holidaze cycle.

I wish everyone the happiest of holiday seasons, and a very happy New Year! I’ll see you on the other side, hopefully with more frequent updates. MTFBWY.

8/8/18

It is a dark day. Which is great, because I absolutely adore heavy cloud cover. Here in the desert, the kids are back in school already and we are currently under a power conservation warning due to the extreme heat, so the rain could not have come at a better time.

I have a long list of Things To Do for Q4. One last round of submissions for 2018 is among them. After that, the only things on the writing front will be when some collected poems and two scripts get evaluated. I’ve been told to expect savagery on the script front, and I imagine the poems won’t get off easy either.¬† The second draft of the novel will follow those into the editor’s dungeon. (and it will be about damn time)

There are day job deadlines as well. In the next couple of months, I will need to renew my AED certification and then also re-certify as a trainer. It’s that time once again. There are some other goals and family obligations, so the last part of the year is looking to be extremely busy for me. I wish there were more hours in the day, but I do what I can with what I’ve got.

Expect me when you see me.

 

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

–Gandalf

May the 4th be with you

Greetings, citizens of the Galaxy.

There’s not much going on over here on Tatooine. Oh sure, there might be a droid army blockade going on somewhere, or an Imperial raid happening in some wretched hive of scum and villainy, but those things are far, far away.

I’m about to get back to work on the second draft of novel #2. It’s coming along slower than expected, but is going well. I’m happy with where the characters are taking it, even though they seem to be dragging it out a bit here and there. Editors may have words with them later, but that’s not my problem. Just a few minutes ago, I finished the script to another project that I’ll be working on after said novel gets submitted for their approval. Which is cool!

So tonight is more writing. Tomorrow there is boxing and an improv class, then the only things on my (planned) schedule are Thai fighting next weekend, and a ComicCon the weekend after that. If all goes well the rest of this month, and nothing unforeseen happens–this time–it should be fun. Which I’ll need, because the school system will also release the krakens around that time as well. For SUMMER. The ENTIRE summer. Yes, I agree. It is¬†horrific.

If you don’t hear from me for a while, remember…the Force will be with you. Always.

Best laid plans

As the saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray”.

So there I was, surrounded on all sides by the undead, a goblin army, and several editors, when suddenly…

Stuff happened.

Sure, I was dutifully plugging away at the novel and two scripts (when I needed to think about what was about to happen in the novel) and then I took an arrow to the knee.

No, that’s not quite right. It was a bite to the leg, but on the inside, a bit above the ankle, but nowhere really near the knee. It went unnoticed for 24-48 hours because I am nigh invulnerable and WTF is a tick?

Now I am on a superbly annoying medication that must be taken every 12 hours for TWO WEEKS. Most horrifying of all, is that it must be taken with FOOD or unfortunate things will happen. Given that I have been an intermittent faster for years now, and I typically fast for around 16 hours before eating, this is most vexing.

I was actually on a very focused training cycle that–had it remained uninterrupted–would have taken me nearly all the way to Rippedville, where I then could have undertaken a secondary Quest to get absolutely shredded and subsequently do A THING. I wasn’t even DRINKING for goodness sakes! If you can’t imagine what a sacrifice that is, …what are you even doing here?

But now…that quest must be abandoned. At least temporarily. Perhaps I can attempt it again once the leeches are done with me.

It’s a dark and dangerous world, Adventurer.

The smallest detail can unravel weeks and months of painstaking planning with random crap. The only way to deal with it is to plan more awesome stuff, and go on and do those dungeon crawls. Isn’t that what life is about? Risking life and limb in a dark and fearsome place to maybe get a halfway decent reward with enough hard work? I think so.

The random setbacks of the world just don’t know what kind of stabbity rogue they are dealing with. Yet.

The Ides of March

Oh, Hi.

It appears to be March. Not just March, but the most famous part of March. At this very moment, my Mom is in Vegas for March Madness, and millions of people around the world are observing the now annual traditions of posting amusing references to That One Guy that ignored omens left and right on his way to getting stabbed an unknown number of times.

Even with the aforementioned Holidaze, I had hoped to post an update almost any time prior to¬†now. Yesterday, on the eve of the Ides, I entered a chapbook contest. This was one of my goals for the year, and that is now done. There are several other poems out on submission, four that will see the light of day next month in a magazine, and then there’s that pesky novel that is still being polished up. (Side note: I’ll be looking for a few more beta readers soon. Writers/Editors strongly preferred, but aficionados of crime fiction, detective stories and/or paranormal and urban fantasy novels would also help. If you fall into one of these categories, or know someone who does that may have time or interest in reading and critiquing that manuscript, let me know).

Once that is Finally. Freaking. Done. I have two short projects to work on as it goes through beta feedback and its own submission process. Those will be much more fun to work on since I get to do more than sit in a chair! That should make for a nice change of pace.

Have a safe and happy Ides of March, everyone. Please practice safe scrying and ensure no animals are harmed in any attempts to foretell your futures. Tea leaves are cool, maybe a good astrologer or tarot card reader if you know one. Or maybe you could just stay home and play it really safe.

 

Blackouts and backups

It never fails to fail.

Technology, that is. In 2016, I was writing on a laptop during and after the move, because until things were settled it had the most up to date files for several projects. At the time, I backed them up periodically, as progress was made. This became my practice after losing a large portion of a draft in a hard drive failure about eight years before. For the most part, I’ve kept up with this fairly consistently. There have been a couple of times recently where I failed to backup the most recent fits of progress at the worst possible moments. Murphy’s Law in action, I suppose.

The laptop became stuck in an update loop. It would power on, but the screen remained black. This went on for a while. At some point while trying to get it to come back to life, I realized that I might not have saved some of my work and checked my desktop computer, and my thumb drives, and my cloud storage. I found that several of my most recent poems and some other writing might have just vanished into the nether. One of the poems that will be published this spring was among them. It was still fresh in my mind, and I attempted to recreate it in case none of the original files were recoverable. Long story short, the original version of “Gathering Darkness” was recovered and that is what will be appearing in the magazine in a few months. It’s a good thing, too. My stab at recreating it after the moment of inspiration had passed came nowhere near the same quality.

If past is prologue, this entire process may repeat. Now it’s the desktop that has gone into a coma after an update. So I’m working on an old PC that is still running Windows 7. Much like the time I lost the poems, this has led to about a chapter’s worth of setback. As before, I’ve reconstructed what was lost. In the case of the novel, it may have become better than it was. It wasn’t until I had written just past where I had left off that I remembered how I’d done it previously. If that other computer wakes up someday and the old version is recovered, I’m betting on the second scene being the best of the two.

Either way, even if there is a recovery, there is some time lost. The novel won’t be finished until after the new year. It is close, but no cigar. I’m focusing on the positive–that it will be done soon–& it will be one of two books submitted in 2018. Technical difficulties notwithstanding.

 

 

Holidaze

Happy Holidays!

There. Now that I have formally declared War on Christmas, we can proceed.

This time of year is very nearly non stop holidays for me. Birthday, Thanksgiving, another Birthday, Christmas then New Years Day all within ten to twenty days of each other. There will be a brief respite in January before the anniversary, Valentine’s Day, and then another Birthday come around in February. So I’m a little distracted.

There are a little more than a dozen scenes left to write in my current work in progress. Most of those will be short late breaking news style developments as it rolls towards the conflagration at the end. The final chapter I’ve had in mind since the story idea first hit me. I remarked at some point on Twitter, that if I had any plot holes in the WIP, I could fill them with bullets, and it would¬†work, because it’s¬†noir!¬†¬†But I believe every question gets answered by the end. I am hopeful that it may be finished by the end of the year, but I don’t do deadlines. I mostly do touchy-feely “is this right for the story?” style check-ins with my muses. Crazy, I know.

Some more of my poems will be published this spring. When that magazine comes out, I’ll have more details. Other poems are out on submission and we’ll see what happens with those. With response times being what they are, I might not know until mid 2018. It is a goal of mine to have the collection submitted next year. There are a few presses I’ve looked into so far, but no decision has been made on that just yet. That too, will lead to more waiting. Everything always takes longer than I expect. Just the way it goes.

One fun thing we were able to do during this Holidaze season, was right after my favorite holiday (Halloween) we got to go to Tucson Comic Con,¬†and it was on the same weekend as the Day of the Dead. So…comics and getting to see the All Souls Procession for the first time! It was the perfect weekend.

I love everything about ComicCon. The comics, the people who like them, the awesome artist’s booths that are always there, the cosplayers, you name it. The celebrity guests are cool too. This year I actually did a photo op for the first time, because it was¬†Gates McFadden! of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In previous years, I’ve attended signings by some of my favorites like Ray Park and Nichelle Nichols, but had never taken part in one of the photo ops. So that was a bit of a different experience. She’s a nice lady. It was a much more brief interaction than the signings, once they verify that the image the photographer has taken is good, they have to move on to the next person in line. When I met Ray Park at the El Paso SciFiCon signing, we had time to chat about martial arts while he was signing my Snake Eyes print. While we were talking, I asked him about the Sleepy Hollow promotional posters he had at his table, and confessed that I had no idea he was in it. He confirmed that he was the Headless Horseman for the fight scenes, and signed one of those for me as well! Which was awesome and unexpected. He’s just a really nice guy. I mention this for a couple of reasons: one, I have been very fortunate in all the interactions I have had as a fan with actors, rock stars, and athletes. All of them have been very kind and approachable. Also, the other personal highlight of this comic con for me, related to¬†fight scenes as well.

Just like that earlier convention, when I randomly one day picked up a copy of What’s Up magazine at a convenience store a few days before the event and the wind blew it open to the page where the first words I read were El Paso SciFi Convention, and the second thing I saw was the name¬†Ray Park. Naturally, my first thought was¬†Ray Park!? I. Am. There.¬†The Force was with me. It knew I’d want to meet Ray, so it made sure that happened.¬†I had the same feeling of serendipity when I saw this on the Tucson ComicCon schedule:¬†The Fundamentals of Fight Scenes.¬†¬†

If I had come for¬†no other reason, it would have been perfect timing. That¬†other project that I have sometimes mentioned in passing, will involve a lot of fight scenes. While I have (albeit around twenty years ago) taken acting classes, and even an acting for TV and Film class specifically, and I’ve been involved in numerous martial arts demonstrations over the years, both in Kung Fu and Capoeira–I had never actually worked on a choreographed fight sequence for stage or film. Sure, back when I was studying and teaching martial arts actively, we goofed off and recreated some of our favorite Kung Fu movie moments, or made up new ones to entertain ourselves–but that was just for fun.

As that workshop showed me, (it was much more of a workshop, than a panel) staging that kind of choreography to entertain other people–whether that is from the camera’s perspective, or that of where a live audience will be–is very different. There are distances and angles at which our depth perception fails us, and we will totally believe what we are seeing from our perspective. There is an¬†art to it that is just as intricate and challenging as full contact sparring, but the distancing and timing are very different for obvious reasons. This panel answered some of the questions I was planning on asking some of my old Kung Fu and Wushu teachers about, and gave me a very good idea of how I need to be working on things as I develop this project.

After all that, the awesome comics I got (including some Snake Eyes, the Falcon mini series, a cool issue of Marvel team up with the Sons of the Tiger, and the Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #19 featuring the very first appearance of the original White Tiger!), we walked down to see the All Souls Procession which was quite an experience. Even with the sullen teen and angsty tween pestering us to just go home already.

So…that was Nov. 3-5th. Meant to write about it earlier, but stuff keeps happening. Now I’m shopping for things for two weeks from now and two weeks after that, and then a month and a half after that. Oh, and everything else I have to do. If you don’t hear from me til oh…somewhere around February 27th or so, it’s the holidaze.

 

Happy Halloween

 

Writing over here gets done in between other tasks. Or after everyone else has gone to sleep. During this fall break, one of those times has been pushed back to late night hours. Progress is made. Slowly, but surely.

A few nights ago, I got word one of my poems will be appearing in the fall issue of Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine! I’m very happy with that, as that particular poem is one of my personal favorites. That may be the only one to find a home from that last round of submissions. Waiting on word from one last literary journal, and then it will be time to pick my next shots.

Those next shots will be a cross genre combination, because as soon as I’ve typed the last words into the novel’s second draft, it will be time to query on that. Once that process begins, I’m hoping to have the time to haul out novel number one, wheel it into the operating room and try to make that Frankenstein monster¬†live. ‘Tis the season.

In one of my other projects, there are three scripts completed, and I am beginning to break down the next three for whenever there is time to start on those story drafts. If I’m lucky, sometime this fall or winter I’ll be able to have some of my mentors look the project over and give me some feedback on it. From there, we’ll get a much better idea of where to take it.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. I’m now going to go do nothing but decorate, dress up and take selfies with seasonal filters on until it’s over!

Have wonderful Nightmares before Christmas, everyone.