Thursday, January 17, 2013

On the 2000-Word Chapter Per Day Tip

So much for the “blog every day” resolution. One day off turns into two, into three, into...shit, I better say something. 

So, this: if I can finish writing Bleeding Kansas by the end of next week (26 January) I’ll consider such a roaring start to be a more-than-adequate counterweight to the failed resolution. 

The Saga of the Dead Silencer (the trilogy of which Bleeding Kansas is first book) isn’t going to be your standard Gosh It Sucks in the Post-Apocalypse/the Zombies Came, Everyone Died wire-frame dummy of a narrative. It’s going to have characters like people you actually know. It’s going to have attitude that’s real, not assumed. Unlike a lot of gore-for-gore’s sake books, it will not flinch when it comes to the Really Ugly Shit. I know, because every time I think I’m finished with a chapter, I have to go back and rub my narrative’s nose in the ugly even deeper.

Even when I’m done with the actual writing I’m not done: I need to create a Kindle file (.mobi) without those weird mid-paragraph breaks I keep seeing on my Kindle for PC, maybe find a CSS for automatic hyphenation so my paragraphs will look better. The same goes with the other e-book formats. I’ve seen too many actual “professional” novels that look like fourth-grade science projects when I read them on my computer.  I do not spend so much time on crafting my stories to have them look like refrigerator magnet poetry as composed by some dumbass’ drunk girlfriend.

That could take a week. I hope I can take that time crafting HTML (a .mobi file is supposedly nothing more than compressed HTML file) to come up with a Web site to promote the series. Yes, I’ll run chapters, along the lines of David Wellington. (Much respect; he knows how to tell a story.) I’ll need to scare up some art. Definitely scare up something better than this DIY shit I just came up with five minutes ago:

Photo taken by Ye Humble Scribe in the Smoky Hill country of north central Kansas where the main of my novel’s action takes place. Yes, I need to come up with something a little more ominous than a sunrise near a wind farm. Yes, I need to learn some basic design and Photoshop. Chill, son, I got this! 

All this, and I am on a deadline of sorts. That is, I need to get this thing up and running and selling before the money in my savings is gone. No pressure. Oh, no.

Back to work, then. I’ll try and check in every once in a while as I go.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Music for a Saturday Night Zombie Apocalypse

It’s the weirdest thing. No matter how much time I waste looking at online crap today I'll go back to my main document and blast out another 1,000 words of post-apocalyptic narrative. Some days it's so damned easy, like the game is mine to lose. I’ll think of a scene and a few keystrokes later, there it is. Most days I wonder what the hell I think I’m doing, like maybe I should auction a kidney on eBay or something.

It looks to be another one of those nights when I’ll quit only because my eyes can’t focus on the screen anymore. Meanwhile, let’s enjoy a charming little headbanger from Scars on Broadway, which, in light of my recent rants, addresses our current social anomie quite nicely. If ya gotta pitch a bitch, do it to a beat, I say.

If anyone needs me I’ll be deep in Bleeding Kansas, making it bleed artfully and in volume. Just for you! A merry Saturday to all, and to all a good night!


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Miracle on a Thursday

It’s always a miracle worthy of someone’s beatification when I make a deadline. In this case, I’m on track to accomplishing the midpoint of Bleeding Kansas in time for Friday, 11 January.

To get as far as I am now I’ve cleaned up, fleshed out, and cleaned up Part One: Mayday several times over before pushing through Part Two: Crash. I've had to re-imagine and rewrite  two problem characters, including my prickly hero. After tonight it should be a matter of one more pinch point, the Darkest Hour, the Inward Breath, the Boss Fight and the Cool Down. Which is to say, I’m halfway through.

So it’s forward into more fictional ultraviolence with the living dead and the human monsters against my hero. Meanwhile, my favorite Nirvana song, with a note to self about uploading my own music to YouTube. I don’t care for the damn slideshow; I just want the music!


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Shaming Years

My first exposure to Ray Bradbury was the short story “The Sound of Summer Running,” a excerpt from Dandelion Wine published in an elementary school reader. As a young boy I thought the tale of another young boy convincing a shoe store salesman to give him a pair of hot-shit sneakers (decades before kids got mugged for their Nikes) unbelievably corny. I knew there was no way some mean old man (and they were almost always mean in South Carolina where I grew up) was going to let a boy have even the worst sneakers in his store in exchange for running errands and chores.

To listen to some adults talk about Bradbury you’d think Jesus H. Christ himself wrote that piece. I already knew that anything adults recommended to me—as in, “this will be good for you to read”—was nothing I’d enjoy, so I ignored them. So much so that, years later, when classmate Ted Nolan gifted me with copies of R Is for Rocket and S Is for Space for my 13th birthday, I had to rack my brain on where I’d seen the name “Ray Bradbury” before. By the time I’d figured it out, it didn’t matter. I was hooked.

It was only a matter of time before I got my hands on a copy of The Martian Chronicles. It was a printing of the 1972 Bantam Pathfinder paperback edition, which looked like this:

I put this image here because if you don’t own a copy, and want a copy for yourself, this is the cover to look for in the used bookstores. If you find an earlier edition, good for you. Buy it, keep it, treasure it, never loan it out. Later editions are to be avoided like lepers with herpes. For two reasons:

1. Later editions leave out the story “Way in the Middle of the Air.” Granted, there is a strong case for omitting this anachronistic story about all the black people leaving a 1940s-era Southern town for Mars. But if you’re a purist who wants to read what readers from 1950 to at least 1997 knew and loved, you’ll squirm through the evil white Southern racist bastard harassing individual members of the exodus.
2. The individual stories are assigned a month and a year in a timeline. When Bradbury and his publisher put these stories together in 1950, a starting point of 1999 seemed reasonable. Even in 1974 when I read these stories 1999 was a Distant Future year. Not so much in the actual Real World year of 1997, though, and that’s when it was decided to push the future forward 31 more years. Bradbury’s First Expedition was now January-February 2030.

This is the deal-breaker for me. Yes, in 1997 we were nowhere near to colonizing Mars in two years but to me, that’s just it. We should have our noses rubbed in the fact that, if anything, Bradbury had originally overshot. We were walking on the moon in 1969. We’d started from nothing and made it to the moon in less than ten years. Thirty years after that we were back to next to nothing. All we had to show for ourselves in 1999 was cell phones and the Internet, music and movies on shiny plastic discs. 

Instead of ditching the expeditionary nature of the space program for a low-orbit cargo delivery service, imagine if we’d tried improving on the Saturn V, experimented with magnetic ring propulsion, etc. It’s not so far-fetched when you think of the trillions of dollars we’ve wasted on the $2,000 hammers and $5,000 toilet seats (among other things) charged to the Department of Defense. Imagine what we could have done with that money. 

Think of all the money and resources and talent we pissed away on Vietnam, the Cold War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraq. Imagine if we’d really used them for something. Something that did more than benefit a relative handful of shareholders and CEOs. Not only would we have the best free health care, the best schools, the best roads and housing, we’d have the next best thing to the Starship Enterprise on its way to the next-nearest solar system. 

I’m talking trillions of dollars. Tens of thousands of lives. So much talent and brainpower directed at dumb, sociopathic, homicidal bullshit. The potential was there. We wasted it all on scare stories, “domino theories” and imagined weapons of mass destruction. Then there’s the sick notion of “bringing freedom” to people while shooting up their wedding parties.

There’s a dark, not-quite-funny irony to this. Mars isn’t getting any manned visits from us by or even near February 2030 either. Not even if I live until 90, and that’s mid-century. We’re lame like that. 

Might as well cheer myself up with another irony: Bradbury was something of a Luddite. He distrusted progress. Me, I was counting on Star Trek to inspire more than flip-phones and iPads. Instead, it’s just another fantasy. No sex with wild-haired, green-skinned alien chicks for us. We’re going to die on this rock. All of us. Our Million-Year Picnic on Earth will likely last only a thousand more years, if that.


Tuesday, January 08, 2013

A Shaky Start

Looking at my living room yesterday I realized my mistake—snow or no snow, I should have brought in the boxes from the shed and de-Christmased the house not one day later than 26 December. Having the Christmas tree and decorations up from the last week of November through the first week of January did more than just wear Christmas out. It was a psychological block. It’s nearly impossible to get going on your New Year when vestiges of the old are still around.

I was proud of myself for having kept up the one-post-a-day since the week after Christmas. Since then I’ve deleted a post that simply left a bad taste, and I’m considering deleting two more. I’ve missed a few days because, frankly, I was bummed. The post-holiday letdown hit hard this year, and having that damned tree still up was part of it.

I was feeling pretty up with all the increased traffic from BartCop. But what to do for a follow-up? And that increased traffic? A hundred or so more views. Real Web sites rack up views in the thousands. So when do I make a real Web site? How do I make a real Web site?

The post I deleted, and the ones I’m considering deleting, pose problems of tone and direction. Look, we all know the USA is Game Over, this isn’t a free country and the police are not our friends, etc. For all I know I could make a name for myself in that very large, very crowded echo chamber, but I’m sick and tired of making myself depressed about things I can’t do anything about. Why not talk about the things we all can do? Without becoming some equally tired Motivate Your Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed Ass site, that is.

I’ll figure it out as I go. Seems to be the way these things work. Keep thinking aloud to myself until something brilliant turns up....



Saturday, January 05, 2013

A Twelfth Night Singalong

It was getting to be a bit much. I’ve always had trouble with post-holiday season letdown, and my blues were such that I’ve put all resolutions on hold for tonight, Twelfth Night, that I might crack some cold ones and sing/howl along with my music turned up loud. The New Year will get going in earnest on the 7th—and it’s just now as I write this that I realize what a Christing long Christmas season this has been. After so many years of late starts, Thanksgiving fell on 22 November, and the media marketing machines were in full hum well before that. No wonder! A clear case of Too Much of a Good Thing.

I need to get on with my catharsis and closure, so I leave you with one of my All-Time Favorite Songs by one of my all-time favorite Americans, Steve Earle. Here he is with the Dukes, with the ultimate wail-along from their cliché-beating sophomore album, Exit 0God, the way the piano player brings the drama home at the coda gets me every time....

Happy Twelfth Night! “If music be the food of love, play on....”


Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Powering Through the Post-Holiday

It’s a wrap, people. Yesterday was the last holiday of the holiday season. Normally I’d be treating this as the Ninth Day of Christmas and staying up late drinking though January 5. This year I’m letting all of that go. 

It’s not just that I’m using this month for a tolerance break/detox (though that’s a big part of it). My attitude towards the season is evolving. It’s just as well my work on The Crisis That Was Christmas is on hiatus until I finish The Saga of the Dead Silencer. I don’t expect to have a completely different book written. A lot of the chapters I’ve already completed cover bullshit about the season that’s flat timeless. It will be a broader, more mature perspective, though.

I’ve come across some interesting views on the Web in the last couple of months that are coloring my thinking. I’d like to incorporate them into my Dead Silencer trilogy, while building Cringe City around everything I’ve learned the hard way about being a man in a culture that has infantilized its men, turned them into the cultural equivalent of blackface minstrel show characters (lazy, buffoonish, sex-obsessed, in need of a stable mother figure to keep them straight, etc.).

As much as I’d like to talk about these views I have to figure out an approach. I know some people who will be grossly offended by the ideas I’m reading now. As these are people I respect it’s not a simple matter of saying “Fuck ‘em!” and plowing on. Also, I don’t want to get into the habit of writing long posts that people will quit reading halfway through (as I find myself doing with more and more Web posts by others these days).

I don’t like having to slow down to figure things out. I need to be on the go, throwing down finished product, moving on. As always, though, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. The main thing is to keep doing. The first and last questions should always be, “What do I need to do right now?”

Right now, that’s wrap up this blog post and get back to work on The Saga of the Dead Silencer. I’ll figure everything out as I go along. If I slow down, I slow down.

The main thing is to keep powering through.

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey!”
“Yeah, so, what are we doing out here in Bumfuck? Can’t this thing go any faster?” 


Tuesday, January 01, 2013

An Auspicious Beginning

I didn’t mean to rant as I did with my last post, and I’ll be damned if I let the first day of 2013 go by on such a negative note. Shitty TV programming aside last night was probably the best New Year’s celebration I’ve had in decades.

I was feeling good by the time midnight rolled around. Instead of hollering “Happy New Year” right away, though, I stood on my back patio and sang “Auld Lang Syne.”

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet
For days of auld lang syne!

My voice carries better than most so I took care to mind my pitch and tone. This was no jokey, drunken reading. Robert Burns’ lyrics about honoring the good times past are sacred to me. 

When I was done, I paused for a beat. Then I shouted “Happy New Year!”

About a dozen voices responded in kind. I had no idea I’d had an audience out there in the freezing night. 

People began setting off their fireworks. For twenty minutes there was much hollering and pop-pop-pop throughout my neighborhood. I wish it could have gone on longer. 

For those first few minutes of quiet after the fireworks I stood in the darkness. I took in the smell of cordite, the sight of the naked aspen branches black against the red-gray city-lit clouds. I spent a minute going through my memories of New Year’s Eves past, took one last mental snapshot of this year’s edition. Then I went back inside.

I stayed up an hour later than I’d originally planned, slept many hours later than originally planned. I drank too much, of course, but I have a whole month to get over it. I’ve already got a lot of my resolutions in progress. If I can keep my fingers to the keys and my eyes on the prize 2013 will be the year I get some books on the market and some bills paid down. I might even lose some weight while I’m at it.

Here’s hoping all is well with you and yours out there in Internetland. Now that the partying is done, let the real celebrations begin! 


Old Dead Man’s New Year’s Suckin’ Eve

I wish I could find a shot of Jenny McCarthy lying on the pavement with a life-size cardboard cutout of Justin Bieber. I suppose I could find one if I looked hard enough. As it is the image of the 1990-something Playboy Playmate of the Year looking very much like an inflatable sex doll complete with grotesque eyes and huge red mouth is burned into my brain. No sense in burning yours. 

Christ, why did we even have this thing on? Oh, yeah, so we could listen for the Big Ball in Times Square coming down while we stood outside waiting for midnight. That’s pretty much the only thing Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve has ever been for, so far as I know. I’ll watch a little of it while I’m pouring drinks. It’s always the former year’s Sorta Big Thing lip-synching in front of a dance squad. I normally don’t think a lot of it.

It really bugged me this year, though, So forced. So fake. So old. Even Ryan Seacrest is starting to look haggard. He kept name-checking the late Dick Clark for his “influence” and it got really annoying, especially alongside the more-played-to-death-than-usual Names and Faces of Those Showbiz Kids We Lost This Year. (Seriously, who gave a fuck for Whitney Houston’s coked-out ass before she died?) For God’s sake, the show was well on its way to becoming a sick joke these last few years with Dick Clark’s barely animated corpse-to-be slurring through his stroke. It’s just as well he died because he apparently didn’t have the good sense to simply retire.

My wife, noting that Dick Clark’s name was still in the title of the show, asked rhetorically, “So when Ryan Seacrest finally dies, are they gonna call this Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Seacrest’s Replacement?” Yeah, probably.

Call me old-fashioned, but I remember when rock was about youth and energy, not old people who can barely speak and squawking has-been B-listers. New Year’s Rockin’ Eve is now this age’s New Year’s Eve with Guy Lombardo, with infinitely more ticky-tacky. 

Except I honestly never watched Lombardo’s shows—they were for the grandparents, even my own generation’s parents didn’t watch it—so I really can’t compare. It’s a fair guess, though. There was something extra-special sad seeing all that blue schwag in the audience—blue top hats, blue noisemakers, etc.—with the Nivea logo stamped all over it. All corporate, all the same, so many obedient sheep doing what they’re told. Rock used to rebel against that. 

And while we name-check the dead old guy we go from one has-been and not-quite-ever-was to another. Jenny McCarthy, with that weird, angular-faced witchy look former babes sport in middle-age.  A chunky Jessica Simpson flogging Weight Watchers (a major  sponsor for the show—I can remember when this would have been embarrassing). Fergie, looking like she was puked out of a time machine set for 1986 with her big-shouldered ugly dress and bloodshot eyes. And—you’ve gotta be fuckin’ kidding me—MC Hammer. That’s right. Taco Bell’s and White America’s Former Favorite Rapper, The King of All Has-Beens.

This image, which I found this morning, is morbidly hilarious when you think about it:

From left to right, The Summer Shit of 1990 and the Summer Shit of 2012. Dancing into oblivion (and for fuck’s sake, STAY THERE!). Photo credited to Michael Stewart/WireImage.

I dunno about you, but I’m looking forward to a year in which Psy and Carly Rae Jepsen are So Last Year. Yes, there is much promise for 2013.

Seriously, though, I’m going to have to find something else to track midnight with. A show about popular music named for an old dead man, featuring people who might as well be dead themselves—this was just too much. Add this one to the list of New Year’s resolutions. No more New Year’s Suckin’ Eve.