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. 🙂

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.

 

Contrast

A stately procession

of perfect silhouettes

cast in proper fashion

of shadow play etiquette

dissembling (i

t

s

da

mna

b

ly

gninedaed

Projected princes, princesses

Kings, Queens and combatants

a pantomime of yesterdays

successors and advancements

we are

tahw

we

yldetaeper

d

o,

dearie

os t’nod eb a teppup

–turn things on their heads!

–nrut sdaeh no rieht sgniht!

Why not?

© 2016 Peter Newland


Ideas. Where do they come from, anyway?

This poem is one that isn’t going to be submitted again. (It was part of one submission last year as a counterbalance to the more structured poems that I was trying to sell at the time, but no dice). It’s one of those that doesn’t fit anywhere. It may be in the collection I put out whenever there is enough of them to call it a collection. It is interesting, but was just a weird little experiment in styling with some e.e. cummings influenced word play and formatting fun.

It could have gone on, with the same contrasting verses style, but it would have been just more of the same. It’s the rare poem that holds my attention and genuine interest beyond a page length. Once you’ve got the idea across (whatever it is) it is done. Poems are odd things anyway. Even poets don’t always like poetry. I’ve written songs, stories, poems and essays, and every other form of writing is easier to access, understand and comment upon.

It depends as much on mood in the moment of reading as it does on anything else, really. In putting together recent submissions, one day I might feel a verse truly missed the mark, and on another might not see anything else that could have been done with it to convey that idea. So I can understand how someone might look at the above and think “WTF is this crap?” I have myself. At other times, it seems okay. It is just a sort of short hand Socratic dialogue in verse form. “Contrast” is point-counterpoint, call and response structured and non in the same poem.

It is just discussing the pretense we engage in when we structure expression along certain lines, which can be done beautifully, but is a contrivance. So the imagery of pomp and circumstance in some measured, precise lines and then the Jester says “yeah… screw that.

It was fun.

Some of the other poems I’ve struggled with recently are more structured. Some seem to write themselves and the expression of the idea is not terribly difficult to fit into the form I’ve selected. Other times, it’s just brutal. Yes, if we keep working at it, we can always craft the verses into something workable. If we do it well enough, we may even find a way to keep the meaning we intended clear. It’s only when we somehow surpass even that stage that our meaning might be conveyed to a reader  without too much pondering on their part. Writing evocatively becomes more challenging when you are restricted to fewer words. Everyone should try writing poetry and songs, even if that isn’t really their thing. Just making the effort can teach us a great deal.

Glitches in the Matrix

Ever have one of those days/weeks/months?

Where time slips away from you while you are a) doing what you are supposed to be doing and/or b) doing what other people were supposed to be doing, and thus c) getting not much done because of the many points where a) and b) intersect in your life?  Like glitches in The Matrix, weird stuff just keeps happening that shouldn’t happen in a well maintained virtual reality.

So it’s Monday, and nearly the end of February. I killed my workout earlier today, then went and ran errands. Came back to edit an exercise video (from the workout I filmed) and the camera goes into charge mode. This is an annoying looped state of uselessness where it does nothing but flash the “charging” symbol and won’t shut off even if you unplug it–even though it’s not really “on” either. Oh sure, the screen lights up, but will it allow input? No. It will most likely stay just the way it is until fully charged because that’s what cameras do when they’re begging to be replaced!

Earlier this month, I went to upgrade a software application for my consulting biz and the payment failed. This was after needing to send my web hosting provider a renewal payment through Paypal because that charge also was denied. Were there funds in the account? Absolutely! Was there a problem with the new chip card? Apparently not, as I found a competing app while trying to locate an alternate payment option for app #1, and there was no trouble with that transaction. So. New app. Now all I need to do is port over all the data I had in my ex-app to the shiny new app. I still have no idea why Armed Forces Bank hates charges from perfectly legit businesses in Vancouver, BC, but apparently that’s mutual. At least one of the charges that didn’t go through didn’t register on my bank’s end.

And that was prior to Facebook denying an ad campaign for this same biz by saying “your ad wasn’t approved because the image depicts physical attributes in a way that may upset some viewers.” This was a surprise. Never had that happen before. Once I saw the part that said “you can appeal this disapproval” I thought–hey! I’ll do that. Someone will then see that the image in question is in fact the header image to the biz page on Facebook. Then there will be no problem. Right? Wrong. FB apparently doesn’t want small businesses advertising with them (at least not those that show images of what might happen to you if you get off your ass and work out).

So, thanks everybody! Those were very effective time wasters.

After all that, I printed out a script and wound up needing more ink.

When I find Agent Smith I am going to Kung Fu the living hell out of him.

 

 

The “Other” other story project

A few nights ago I printed out the first script of the story drafts of  another project I am working on whenever time allows. This is an A/V project that I hope one day to film and put out there. It has a diverse set of influences, so the project will involve an original Urban Fantasy storyline, some martial arts choreography, a design aesthetic inspired by Steampunk/Cyberpunk–but is neither, and  a few other experiments I’d like to see happen with special fx and drone footage.

This will be an Indie project, and I am hoping to be involved in every aspect of its development and production so I can learn as much as possible. One of the first steps I am going to take after finishing the next two scripts, is to show them to two of my old martial arts teachers who have both worked on multiple Kung Fu movies and get their opinion on what challenges we might face in realizing the vision for the story on screen. After that, I’ll be moving on to working out the specifics of some of the choreographed fight scenes I’ve been imagining, and commissioning some more high level concept art of some of the design elements that will be well beyond my ability to create.

For now it’s just one of the stories I am working on. When I take the binder with the first three episodes of the story to my advisers for feedback, it will start to become a much more ambitious project with multiple collaborators. I’m looking forward to that.

The story has been building itself in my mind for  a few years now. It has influences from Babylon 5, to the Dresden Files, Bruce Lee movies, Warehouse 13, and some very impressive Indie productions that made themselves look amazing with very little capital behind them. The quality of independently produced entertainment has skyrocketed in recent years. From DSLR cameras that can film cinema quality imagery, to special FX software that is more affordable than ever, effects that were very high end years ago can now be replicated at your house with enough time and effort. It’s an amazing time to be alive!

When it reaches the point that it is more than an idea I have in development at the hacienda, I’ll be sure to let everyone know. Whatever form the project takes, once it’s more than just me and the narrative of the story, it will get its own social media channels, website, and whatever else it needs to reach the audience that might enjoy it. Until then, it may be the subject of the occasional blog topic, because there is a lot that goes into realizing a story in film. One of my primary motivators in considering the idea was that there would be so much to learn, and the opportunity to collaborate with other artists in a variety of areas to realize the story in a multimedia format. That, to me, is inspiring. In this story I have much more to look forward to than just sitting alone in a room pouring words onto a page. There will be other people involved! I hope I remember how to talk to people that aren’t only in my head. That could help. 🙂

Now that I’ve blogged about it, I have to get back to writing the first draft of the next script and then get back to work on the second novel that is making itself difficult for me to finish.

Until next time, true believers!