Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why 50 Cent knows more about promotion than you do.

I know a lot of people who spend a lot of time thinking about how to promote their work.  Most are writers.  And we suck at it (except for the ones who are brilliant at it but can't write for shit - yeah, I said it).  I recently got into an online discussion with some writers about hip hop.  Talk about a waste of time.  Let's waste some more.  


Let me pontificate a bit. I don't think that there is any question that Eminem is the biggest thing to happen to MAINSTREAM hip hop in quite some time. And I understand that the roots of hip hop go back farther than most people think (Afrika Bambaataa is often cited, but you can find the stirrings farther back).  I got into "good" hip hop in the late nineties - just so you know.  Anyway, it is interesting. When I was a kid, Vanilla Ice was the biggest joke in the world, and the idea that there would ever be a successful white rapper was ridiculous. Time passes.  Along comes Mr. Mathers. 


You could argue that he's fallen off his game a little, but he is truly a genius - there's no doubting that. When I was a teacher and working with high school kids (black and latino for the most part), they universally agreed that Eminem was the best rapper of all time. And I tend to agree, if we restrict ourselves to the mainstream. But, like with any kind of music, you have to look to independent, underground artists to find real innovation and creativity. Not that Eminem isn't creative, but he doesn't have as much leeway as someone who is making music without any expectations placed on them.  He has a big ass corporation depending on him to make them money.


The diversification of hip hop has been interesting to watch. There are rappers of all colors from all countries. And you don't have to look as far to find truly brilliant lyricists (I was a big Tribe and Nas fan back in the day, still am). But now you've got Aesop Rock. Del. Those guys are insanely good. Detron 3030 might be my 'desert island' album.  These guys are smart as shit.  Dead Prez did the best song about 'Animal Farm' ever...Orwell would have been proud. I used to read the book with my students when I was teaching English and then we'd listen to the song: 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubMQkPzc0Fs 
Check it out. It's pretty amazing.  And if you don't see the connection to what we're talking about...look again.



If you want to know what's going on in the underground now, keep your eyes on these guys (not that there aren't many others, but these guys are on it...and I happen to know NASTYFACE which makes me one of few.  He operates anonymously...and will be appearing on this blog soon.):
NASTYFACE 
swell 

Which brings up a connection I have made many times with punk rock and indie publishing. The PR revolution was all about DIY and taking back the means to production, distribution, etc. It was about community.  It was about looking at the conventions of the time and saying 'fuck it'.  Let's strip it down.  Rap/Hip Hop came on the heels of this with two turntables and a mic, and then they took it to the next level by MASTERING self promotion. You want to know how to promote your novel?  Look at the guys selling mix tapes out of the back of their cars. They are on the grind 24/7 and it works. It is all a question of how much time you are willing to devote to it. Eminem gambled everything because he knew he had what it took.  And he did.  I don't care for 50 cent, but he went from selling mix tapes to selling companies. Something to think about.
 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Day of the Dead"


Today, I am pleased to bring you a bit of short fiction by Salvatore Buttaci.  Check out more of his work-->  Click Here!
I held her in my arms, mi hermana, broken and bloody, her life slipping away. My young sister Renata who loved all God’s creation, raped and beaten. Abandoned here for dead.
“Renata, no me dejes!” Don’t leave me!
She locked her dark eyes into mine in a stare I feared gazed through me and touched that final veil.
“Who did this to you, mi querida?
Bubbles of blood popped from black swollen lips.  “Pañuelo,” she gasped. Handkerchief.
Quickly I withdrew from my back pocket a white handkerchief, shook it like a flag, then gently patted Renata’s lips. She moved her head away.
“No, no.”  A faint whisper. “pañuelo negro.” Black handkerchief.
Then my sister’s head lolled towards her left shoulder where a last breath breezed against my trembling hand.
A black handkerchief…Words of delirium?  A misunderstood whisper?
Not until five months later, on the eve of La Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, All Soul’s Day, did it come to me. At the grave of Renata, corazon de mi vida, heart of my life, I spoke aloud my prayers and my promise of venganza, sweet revenge.
At once, I saw in the muddled mind of my sorrow Renata’s unvoiced screams and the man with the black handkerchief now approaching her grave, a bouquet of carnations in his hand.
I threw all to the wind! My very soul into the pits of Hell! Dagger in hand, a family heirloom of honor, I struck down the dishonorable. Repeatedly I plunged the avenging steel into the heart of the demon Don Carlos, hurling him in a splashing aura of blood into the ranks of los muertos.
“Renata,” I whispered over her grave, “Descanse en el reposo ahora.”  Rest in peace.
And the law would never have found out if it weren’t for the fingerprints of my gloveless hand on the dagger jutting from the demon’s chest.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Versatile Blogger Award...

K.S. Brooks, writer and human being extraordinaire, was awesome enough pass this award along to me.  You should check out her awesome blog - HER AWESOME BLOG - for all kinds of good stuff.  It is truly an honor for me to win this chain letter...er, award...and I would like to dedicate it to Mr. Pish.  A lovable pooch owned by none other than K.S. Brooks.  And by dedicate, I mean, he can, like, feel good about it, but it's mine.  All mine.

So, as with any good award, there are rules.

1. Thank K.S. Brooks and link her blog, which I have done.
2. Share seven things about myself.
3. Pass the award on to 5 deserving bloggers.

Seven things, huh?  About me...and they have to be witty cause all the other bloggers got all witty and shit.  Great.

1. In college, I majored in Creative Writing and wrote a sonnet about pigeons eating vomit off my windowsill after I drunkenly puked out the window.  It was surprisingly well received.

2. I don't like sleeping in socks.  But lately I have been doing it.  Mid-life crisis?

3. My favorite kinds of music are old country and hip hop.  Take that stereotypes.

4. I once met Adam West.  I said, 'Nice to meet you, Batman'.  He said, 'You too, Boy Wonder'.  I was young.  It was the dopeness.

5. I don't own a TV.  I have no idea what is going on in the world.  And I don't really care to know.

6. Is there a cash prize with this award?  I mean, I like club sandwiches on an unhealthy level.  Like, if club sandwiches were people, I would be in jail.

7. I used to smoke cigarettes and hated all the judgmental non-smokers.  Swore I would never become one.  Guess what?  Keep your cigarette away from my daughter.  

(Bonus) - I can never, ever spell judgmental right (just did it wrong in a different way), and I judge myself for this.

So, thank you, K.S. Brooks.  I encourage you all to check out her blog for wit, good writing, and an attractive simple format (it's not one of those seizure causing blogs).

And now I will recommend five other bloggers you should really give a gander to (I don't know...they like geese):

Rosanne Dingli
Richard Godwin
Morgen Bailey - (Yes, I know K.S. nominated her, too.  She deserves two nominations.)
Mary Chase
Tom Kepler


Thanks again to K.S. Brooks for the words with which she graces this here internet.  Check out her blog and the blogs of the fine writers above.  Thank you one and all.  I must now go to a Christmas party and pretend that being surrounded by drunk people is an activity I enjoy.  And it was, before I quit drinking.  See 'judgmental (ha, spelled it right FTW) non-smoker' above.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Promotion in a fiverr world...

Thanks to the magic elves that make the internet run, it is now possible for pretty much anyone with half a brain (Joe Café) to publish a novel, make a movie, start a blog about their parrot, etc.  This is both good and bad. It is good because a lot of talented people are getting a shot they wouldn’t normally get. It is bad because a lot of untalented people are getting that same shot. Or I guess I shouldn’t say bad. Everyone deserves their chance, but it does present an interesting dilemma. Promotion. How can you make your novel, song, dance number, etc. stand out from the quagmire? It’s a good question. I congratulate myself for it. 
          
I talk to a lot of people about self-promotion, and what I usually say is something along the lines of…well, you promote your work the same way you would promote yourself. Be decent and kind to people. Think about how you can help the community you want to be a part of. Find people who are creating things you believe in and push their work.  No one likes a hard sell. It is far more effective to let people get to know you and your work on their terms. Less off-putting. Blah, blah, blah.
          
And then there is fiverr.com. For those unfamiliar, fiverr is a website where you can get anyone to do just about anything for $5, of which they keep four. I decided to do an experiment. Actually several. I’m not rolling in dollar bills (I quit stripping), but at five bucks a pop, you can afford to experiment a little. So, I did. Some of it you see here. I did a search for most popular services…who would have thought you could send some random woman your web address and it would be written on her cleavage and emailed back to you in less than five minutes?  I am here to tell you it can be done.  Go to fiverr and search ‘tayl0rwhat’. You, too, can have your name emblazoned on breasts bigger than mine.
          
The coolest thing I did on fiverr was to have a drummer play with my website on his drum and then have some guy plug my book. I have no idea who the people are. But it turned out awesome (search: Naiyyer). I am not sure if it sold any books or got any people to my website, but I like to think it did.

video

Promotion is a tricky thing. I wrote a book that I believe is pretty good. It’s no East of Eden, but it is getting good reviews on Amazon (except for one guy who apparently liked it, but ONLY if it cost 99 cents)…which brings up another point about the quagmire. It used to be a book cost more than a sandwich.  Now, you charge more than ONE DOLLAR for your book and some nozzle is going to claim he didn’t get his money’s worth. Creative work is being devalued. On my website, www.jdmader.com, there are enough short stories for a few collections. Some of them have been published before. Two of them got ‘positive rejections’ from the New Yorker. And they are all there for free along with essays and music and a lot of work that I put a lot of time into.
         
I’m not complaining (much). The ability to get your work out there... Kindle. Print on demand. Blogs.  The ability to do all that for free (without an agent) is huge. I have heard it argued, and tend to agree, that as a few years pass, the wheat will begin to separate from the chaff, but until then, it’s a big world out there. There are great, amazing self-published novels that you can buy for the price of a cup of coffee. And there are pieces of trash that you will pay the same price for. There are lots of ways to get your work noticed. Word of mouth is pretty powerful. But boobs never hurt anyone either.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Right now I'm gonna pass the mic...

Today, I get someone else to do the hard work for me again.  I asked L.A. Tripp to write this because he digs music and I am super interested in the way music and writing inter-relate.  As a musician, I have always found it interesting that writing is one of the things I can't do while listening to music.  Well, I can.  But I don't.  But many people I know do. Anyway, enough about me.  Read on.  Meanwhile, I'm gonna sip this coffee and try to get all these supermodels to leave me the hell alone...


Music, Mind over matter, and Me...

I've been asked several times how music affects me and my stories. Well, let me explain.

Music is a natural part of me. I grew up with it. I listened to it with my parents. I listen to it while I drive. I listen to it when I go out and dance to it. It only makes sense that I'd use it while I write, as well.

Here's my process.

I sit at my desk, settle in with my computer for a cozy little work session. But, before I get too cozy, I pull up my music on my phone, pop the earplugs in that we call headphones, and select some music. What happens when the notes start traveling from the phone, through the wire, into the earplugs, and resting in my ears? Well . . . they don't rest. Each note buries themselves into every fiber of me. I feel the beat, the symbols, the guitars, the voice. It reverberates through me. That symbol could tell me a character needs to get killed off. That bass line may tell me a tragedy is on it's way. The soulful voice may steer me toward a love connection forming. As these notes filter through my body, my fingers travel across the keys and write what is plotting in my head.

The end result is the story that you laugh, cry, and cringe at.

Hope you enjoy my works, and keep in mind the journey going on in me while you journey through the story.

L.A Tripp is a writer and an all around nice guy.  Check out his work and support a writer that truly supports the arts and his fellow scribes.   CLICK HERE

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A very Odd review...

‘Odd and Odder: A Collection of Sensuality, Satire and Suspense’, by K.S. Brooks and Newton Love is a book with a long name.  It is a book that, despite the names of the authors, is neither about trout nor cakey cookies.  It’s a book, alright?  Lots of words, put together into sentences and paragraphs.  Some prose, some poetry.  It’s the kind of book that approaches from the shadows and you don’t know what it wants.  Maybe you’re about to get the best ass-kicking of your life.  Maybe you’re about to get laid.  Maybe you’re about to encounter the heroin addiction that will follow you for the next decade, as your life crumbles around you.
‘O&O’ is the kind of book that makes readers glad they never gouged their eyes out with screwdrivers.  It makes writers feel like they got gut-punched.  It is the kind of book you can’t put down, especially if you superglue that shit to your hands.  Makes it damn near impossible. 
I happened across this book when it fell out of the sky and hit me smack on the top of my handsome head.  Well, actually, it fell out of the sky in the form of electrons or some shit and landed in my Kindle.  You get the idea.  The book came to me.  I sat down.  I used my eyes to transfer the words into images and thoughts and I liked what I read.  Hell, I like liked it.  My kindle hasn’t operated the same since.
‘O&O’ is the kind of book you read if you want to be entertained.  It’s not stuffy or pretentious.  Not like me.  I’m pretentious, and I stuff.  Usually a sock.  Gets the ladies’ attention.  Argyle especially.  Don’t ask me why.  I’m not here to talk about my prosthetic penis, I’m here to talk about a book.  The kind of book that makes you want to kick yourself in the face, drink two beers, and call and order pizza.
It keeps you jumping, this one does.  It’s like Muhammad Ali.  First a story – bam, to the gut.  Then a sprinkling of lyrics – a flutter of jabs to the face.  Then some satire – a hard right to the temple.  Not like a Buddhist temple.  That would be stupid.  I mean the side of your head.  Where it can kill you.  Bottom line, this book can, and probably will, kill you.  Whatever you do, don’t buy it.  Steal it.  Wait, don’t steal it.  Buy it.  Buy two copies.  You never know when you’ll be running from the house naked.  And you want to cover your ass.  But you can’t have your junk all flopping around.  I had to buy a second Kindle.  But I did it.  And you should, too.
In all seriousness, I’m going to be serious now.  Seriously serious.  This book is funny, touching, brilliant, and many more adjectives or adverbs or whatever they are.  Okay, now I’ll be serious.  What you have here is a collection of excellent writing.  Some of it is hilarious (Dark Alley is one of the funniest stories I have ever read).  Some of it is emotive – and hits damn close to home.  Brooks & Love (should start a country band?) have come up with a collaboration that gives you everything you want out of a collaboration.  The pieces don’t fight each other – they compliment each other – and complement each other.  The satire is raw and funny and fresh.  The verse is heartfelt and begs for an old guitar.  And there are surprises around every turn.  
There are books that scare and disgust.  There are books that leave you on the edge of your seat.  There are books that teach you how to knit in easy steps that anyone can follow.  There are not nearly enough books that you finish, with a smile on your face, thinking, ‘Damn, I’m glad I just read that’.


 "Odd & Odder: A Collection of Sensuality, Suspense & Satire" brings together the creative, off-beat minds of published authors K. S. Brooks and Newton Love. From short stories befitting The Twilight Zone, to lustful verses of poetry, to thought-provoking flash prose: "Odd & Odder" is consistently fresh, sometimes outlandish, and truly entertaining.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Case of the Missing Plot Bunnies...

My friend Stephen Hise graces us with his literary badassery today.  In this piece, he spars with the monolithic NANOWRIMO (national novel writing month)...which challenges writers to enrage their significant others every November.  Check out his blog: www.indiesunlimited.com to keep tabs on what is going on in the indie scene.


It was one of those days at the office – long as a Sunday sermon and half as fun. I hadn’t had a case in weeks and I was down to my last packet of Ramen noodles. The name’s Spade –Marlowe Spade. I’m a private dick. Well, private ever since that one unfortunate incident at the park.

I was just about to close up shop for the day when she walked in. Except for the dark circles under her eyes, the vacuous stare, the mismatched shoes, and the disheveled hair, she was just my type.

She plopped her pretty little bottom down in the chair across from my desk like a pile of old pastrami on the stale rye bread served at Gino’s Deli on Tuesdays. Why Tuesdays? Because the Health Inspector comes on Wednesdays.

“Mr. Spade? You’ve got to help me,” she said in a breathy voice.

“I know, sweet cheeks. How do you like NaNo?” I asked. Her eyes showed the first spark of life since she’d come in to the joint, but that spark disappeared like a sailor’s paycheck the next instant as she burst into tears.

I wasn’t sure whether she was crying because I’d seen right through her or she finally realized she was still wearing her bathrobe, but I’d seen it all before. Big NaNo picks these fresh-faced kids up right as they get off the bus. He promises them fame and fortune if they work for him. You wanna be a real writer, don’t ya baby? Well then you gotta put out for me – show me what you can do. Before they know what hit ‘em, they’re on the hook for fifteen, eighteen hundred words a day. A lot of those kids break, and even a lot of the ones who make it are never the same. Happens every year about this time.

“Show me what you’ve got,” I said. She fished a couple of pages out of her robe pocket. I pulled the wadded up chewing gum off it and took a look. I started reading it. It looked promising at first−her female character was taking a shower, but somehow little Miss Writesalot managed to write the shower scene without any steam. I tossed the crumpled manuscript on the desk.

“Baby, I’m gonna tell you straight. You don’t need NaNo to make it in this town. The big six mob is busted, they’re dead and don’t even know it yet. If you wanna write then do it, but on your own schedule. You don’t need Big NaNo to call the shots.”

“Do you think I can, Mr. Spade?” She looked hopeful as a cocker spaniel at a Thanksgiving table.

“I know you can do it doll face. Indie is the way to go these days. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise,” I said.

“Oh, Mr. Spade! How can I ever repay you?”

I looked at the calendar on my desk and saw it was Tuesday. “Why don’t we go grab a pastrami on rye? You can buy. Then, let’s you and me go re-write that shower scene.”

Another case closed and another satisfied client.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

'Apostle Rising' by Richard Godwin



A little change of pace, here's a review of a book you should definitely, definitely purchase immediately.

            Apostle Rising, by Richard Godwin is an extremely good read.  It is also extremely hard to categorize.  It defies categorization.  This is one of its  many strengths.  It is a detective novel.  It is a mystery.  It skirts the edges of gothic horror.  Some of it is written (brilliantly) in verse.  It is dark.  It has depth.  It gives a nod to Noir.  It is so well-wrought and complex that it is almost like two novels in one. 
Did I mention that it is dark?  So dark that parts of it are hard to stomach, but it is well worth the trip into hell.  The prose is beautifully written.  Godwin certainly knows what he is doing.  The story is tight, with enough twists and angst to satisfy the most critical ‘crime novel’ fan.   It is a book that will stick with you.  The beauty of the words resonate long after you have read the last page.  And the darkness will tug at you, reminding you that the world is full of lots of different kinds of people.  And some of them are intensely frightening.
            Our protagonist is Detective Chief Inspector Frank Castle.  He is of the old school…the kind of cliché we love so much he’s not a cliché, but an archetype.  He drinks too much (whiskey of course).  He is incapable of feeling joy.  He is, in fact, haunted by a string of murders that almost drove him insane (the ‘almost’ is questionable).  The Woodlands Killer nearly drove him mad, but he hung on, only to find himself up to his eyeballs, years later, in copycat killings that are so much like the old cases that it would make any hardboiled detective dive into the bottle. 
Castle is aided by his partner DI Jacki Stone, a tough woman who is faced with the toughest case of her career.  Meanwhile her marriage is falling apart due to the stresses of her work and her inability to leave it at the office. 
And then there is Karl Black, a sociopathic, religiously obsessed manipulator who played a large role in driving Castle insane with the original investigation and gets Stone in on the act with the new one.  He is a fantastic character.  He is evil, yet his charm (and his ability to get under the skin of Castle and Stone) make him a pleasure to visit.
            There are more characters of course, and they are well rendered and interesting, but I don’t want to give too much away.  So, we have our cast of characters.  And we have death.  Dead hookers and dead politicians, brutally murdered by…who?  Some of the murders match the MO of the Woodlands killings.  Some don’t.  Some are clearly biblical taunts.  Some are attacks at the establishment and political corruption.  All are vivid and terrifying.  London is literally covered in corpses.  (A personal note here: I am often accused of writing ‘Dark’ fiction…Godwin’s murder scenes are enough to make the darkest thing I have ever written piss itself and run in fear.  This is not a critique.  It is worth noting, though.  The murder scenes are so vivid and real that you might not want to read them if you are alone in the house.)
            The genius of this book is that Godwin plays with so many forms (and with such a light touch), that it defies cliché in what can easily become a clichéd form.  Crime novels can enter the realm of cliché very easily.  This one never does.  Godwin is undeniably well informed about religion, compulsion, corruption, and delusion, and the way he weaves them all together is truly impressive. 
            There are people who read books and want to figure out “who dun it”.  I am not that kind of reader.  I like to be surprised.  But, even if I was that type of reader, I would have been shocked at the eerily twisted conclusion to this novel. 
            If you like crime novels, you will like Apostle Rising.  If you like horror novels, you will like Apostle Rising.  If you are interested in religion and human psychology, you will like Apostle Rising.  Hell, if you like well written books, you will like this one.  Godwin is a gifted writer who knows his craft, knows when to play the right cards, and he will get inside your head…just like Karl Black.

Author Bio: Richard Godwin is a widely published crime and horror writer, whose work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including recently Pulp Ink. Apostle Rising, in which a serial killer is crucifying politicians and recreating the murder scenes of an unsolved case, is his first published novel. It has received excellent reviews and is under offer for two foreign rights acquisitions. You can find out more about the author at his website: http://www.richardgodwin.net/.  His Chin Wags At The Slaughterhouse are popular interviews he conducts with other writers: http://www.richardgodwin.net/blog.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

OCD and Writing...OCD and Writing.

When I was twelve or thirteen, things started getting weird.  I had to do everything an even number of times.  I started worrying about germs a lot.  I worried about what other people were thinking about me.  I worried, period.  I began to over-analyze EVERYTHING.  Including my tendency toward over-analysis.  I did not know what was going on.  I was ashamed.  It wasn’t until years later, reading Howard Stern’s book ‘Private Parts’, that I realized I was not the only one who did these things and felt this way.  That there was even a name for it.  Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  Since then, things have gotten better.  I don’t worry about even numbers much.  Germs are still an issue.  I have come to terms with the fact that I think very differently than most people.  Self-medication worked pretty well, but it almost killed me.  I even tried medication from the doctor.  That did kill me.  It took away the OCD, but it also changed my personality.  I didn’t realize this at the time.  In hindsight, while I might have been ‘happier’, I like being me…germphobia and all.

My friend Rosanne Dingli recently wrote an excellent piece about writers and depression - http://rosannedingli.blogspot.com/2011/09/authors-and-depression.html.  She suggested I write about writers and OCD.  Instead, I will write about one writer (me) and OCD.  Otherwise, I might have to do research or other distasteful things like interview real, germy people and shake their hands and…you get the idea.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a colleague of mine.  We are both teachers.  I remarked to her that all the good teachers I have ever known have been weird.  Weird in different ways, but weird nonetheless.  Eccentric.  Neurotic.  We both share the affliction of having overactive minds.  I think about a million things all the time, and it is tiring.  She suggested that good teachers are weird because, when you are teaching (well), you are engaged in the moment completely.  There is no room for the myriad thoughts that swarm like mosquitos most of the time.  I think she is on to something.  It would explain why I like fishing (‘zen’ concentration) and motorcycles (‘don’t want to die’ concentration).  But I digress, let’s talk about writing.

Writing fits this pattern.  When I am writing, I am not thinking about anything else.  Not even thinking about writing, really.  I enter a weird, detached state.  It is quite soothing.  There is also the issue of control.  Part of OCD, for me, is fear of the things I can’t control, i.e. germs.  And the compulsions that help me feel like I do have a bit of control.  Washing my hands a million times a day.  The counting I used to do.  Etc.   Writing is a great way of being in control.  When I am writing fiction, I am God.  I control my characters.  I control the plot.  It is my world.  (This is not completely true, but I convince myself it is).  Regardless, writing gives me two things that my OCD craves … control and escape.  Without being hung over or strung out … and without fundamentally changing my personality.
          
OCD is an interesting affliction.  My wife always says that she could never have OCD because she can’t remember things long enough to obsess about them.  I remember everything.  Or at least the non-important things … like to check the stove twice before I leave the house (the number thing isn’t totally gone, I guess).  But that is the real bitch of the disorder.  People who have OCD realize it makes no logical sense.  I know that most people don’t think about germs all the time and they live happy and productive lives.  There are people who are afraid to write anything down because they might write something ‘bad’ in the middle of what they are writing.  When I had to turn the lights on and off sixteen times before bed, I knew it was ridiculous, but by performing the compulsion, it eased the pain of the obsession.  It is a weird position to be in.  You know what you are doing is ridiculous, but the ridiculous action (whatever it is) scratches the itch that will otherwise keep you up all night.
          
OCD is related to Tourettes and this makes perfect sense to me.  Screaming profanities in public is frowned upon.  Being so worried about doing it that you end up doing it makes sense.  My wife laughs when people hurt themselves.  My friend Kyle laughs at funerals.  They are both extraordinarily nice people, but they KNOW they shouldn’t laugh.  They want to not laugh so badly that they end up doing it.  I get it. 
          
I think a lot of people have minor OCD tendencies and don’t realize it.  When my wife and I started dating I would come over to her apartment, take my shoes off by the door, and go upstairs.  When it was time to leave, they would be neatly lined up next to each other.  No big deal.  I am not one to judge.  So, the next time I lined my shoes up neatly.  It took a couple times for me to realize that when I left them reversed (right shoe on the left side), they would be ‘corrected’ when I left.  I asked about it.  Turns out my wife can’t see shoes like that and not imagine mangled limbs.  I get it.
          
One of the nice things about having OCD is that I don’t judge other people for their ‘quirks’.  Everybody has something.  I know a lot of writers and a lot of them carry hand sanitizer everywhere they go.  It makes perfect sense.  In a world that is scary (OCD is the fight or flight response gone haywire) what better way to deal with your OCD issues than by retreating to a world where you can control everything and your mind is 100% occupied by the task at hand?  This post ended up a little longer than I had planned.  It is time to go back to the real, dirty world now.  But writing will always be waiting for me.  And that knowledge gives me more strength than booze or Paxil ever did.

You can find my books HERE. And my fiction blog HERE.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Guest Blog - The View from Across the Pond

Morgen Bailey is an extremely talented writer.  I also am quite fond of her as a person, so I asked her to do a guest blog.  After some witty banter (which she excels at), we decided it would be interesting to have a reflection (no pun intended) on what it is like to be a writer in the UK (across the pond).  I recently did a guest blog for Morgen about writing music vs. prose, and she has been kind enough to interview me and critique two of my short shorts.  You can find all these things at her blog below.  Heck, here's a few links, too:
morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/guest-post-‘four-tracks-and-typewriters’-by-author-jd-mader/
http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/bailey%E2%80%99s-writing-tips-podcast-%E2%80%98red-pen-session%E2%80%99-no-1/
http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2011/09/17/bailey%E2%80%99s-writing-tips-podcast-%E2%80%98red-pen-session%E2%80%99-number-4/
I ALSO HIGHLY ENCOURAGE YOU (HENCE THE OBNOXIOUS CAPS) TO CHECK OUT THIS SNIPPET OF MORGEN'S FICTION WHICH I THINK IS QUITE BRILLIANT:
http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/short-story-extract-the-threadbare-girl/


Without further ado, here is the piece Morgen wrote:


The View from Across the Pond


When JD asked me to write about this topic my clichéd heart sank. Apart from the obvious language differences (colour vs color, bonnet vs hood), nothing popped into my rather-overused-lately brain. Until I started thinking about it.

Most of my interviewees are from the US (others from Australia, Europe etc and here in old blighty) so when we ‘meet’ on the likes of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, it’s then that the differences become more apparent. When I go to my computer first thing in the morning I’m bombarded by email replications of LinkedIn thread comments (invariably off-topic, but usually still writing-related) with a hub of ‘usual suspects’. As I’m jumping in the shower, I imagine American and Canadian writers jumping into bed (presumably their own but who knows?), Europeans jumping into their cars to go to their wish-I-could-give-it-all-up-and-write-full-time jobs and Australians jumping up and down as they realise that the casserole they’ve cooked for tea is searing through the too-thin tea towel.

They now have become a virtual family to me, most having taken part in my interviews and some, like JD, have asked me to partake in their sites (I’m always delighted to say “yes”) and the world just gets a little smaller each time.

One question I ask in my interviews is “In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?” and it’s pretty much the only answer that remains almost static. The country varies, sure, but it’s the second part that has surprised me, with almost all the 120+ interviewees saying something along the lines of “we have the internet, there are no borders” and it’s true. We may be individual souls hunched over our computers, eyes growing redder and sky darker, but inside that electronic box is a world of hearts all beating about the same thing: writing. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction (sorry non-fiction but I prefer the former) we all have one thing in common: we want people to read what we produce and want to know how to reach as many readers as possible; the latter being the hot topic wherever you go.

Yes, like JD, we’d all love a second house (mine would definitely have a sea view) but, bar the exceptional few, we’re not in it for the money, we’re in it for the one thing that Rosanne Dingli (one of our beloved Australian kin) asked in her recent interview of me, how I get so much done (blog posting twice a day et al) when I have a semi-day job, dog, house etc. I said it was a little-known liquid that I’d happily bottle for her… something which goes by the name of ‘passion’. If we want to write, and be writers, we all have it.

There are so many obstacles on the journey (many of those removed thanks to the advice of fellow writers) that we have to have skin thicker than Zola Bud’s feet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barefoot_running, to go off at a tangent – which is not like me! :) – is really interesting) and, in my experience anyway, it’s the rejections that determine how passionate a writer you are (I am).

But, at the end of the clichéd day, it doesn’t matter where you live, if you’ve got it, you just need to go out there and… well, get it!

Morgen Bailey

Me again, I would like to thank Morgen for taking the time to write this and for all the wonderful things she has done for me and other scatterbrained writers like me who don't thank her sufficiently.  :)  Check out her blog.  Shout her name from the rooftops.  In a world full of selfish weirdos, she is a rare commodity indeed.  


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Guest Blog - Boyd Lemon, "Write!"

As you may or may not have noticed, I have not been real good at keeping up with this blog lately.  I've been putting a lot of my focus towards fiction and promotion.  Mainly promotion and not much writing unfortunately, which makes today's topic particularly apropos.  I will be featuring more guest blogs and interviews and reviews and things that require other people to do the work for me as we move forward.  :)

A little background.  Boyd Lemon has been kind enough to do this guest blog.  He is a writer I met online.  His memoir Digging Deeper (see below for more info) is a truly remarkable read.  I usually have mixed emotions about memoirs.  Some are great.  Some are like chewing concrete.  Most are ho-hum.  Boyd's is astounding.   I say this for several reasons.  One, it is the story of his life and, in particular, his failed marriages - and he is remarkably honest and forthright in telling his story (honest writing usually equals good writing).  Two, he takes you through the process of writing the memoir, which gives the reader insight into his process.  And three, I genuinely think my life has improved as a result of reading this book.  It forces you to look at your own relationships and priorities.  Boyd took one for the team in this case because I am determined to avoid some of the mistakes he made...and was generous enough to share.

Without any further ado, here's Boyd's take on why you (as a writer...although I think much of the advice can be applied in other areas) should stop fucking around and start grinding.


WRITERS: HOW TO JUST SIT THE HELL DOWN AND WRITE
By Boyd Lemon
Sounds easy.  If you want to write, well, sit down and write.  You do your laundry when you want clothes to wear.  You go to the grocery store when you run out of food.  You call a friend if you're lonely.  If you want to write, why don't you just sit down and write?
I‘m not going to answer that question, because I don't know the answer.  I do know that, with rare exceptions for unique individuals that seem to be a different species, most of us who want to write sometimes or all of the time find it exceedingly difficult to find the time to write, to sit down and—in the words of a certain shoe manufacturer, "Just do it."
When it crosses our minds that we should be writing, instead we think of something we just have to Google; we must get those dirty dishes out of the way first.  We haven't meditated yet today, and now is the perfect time.  It's too noisy.  We're expecting the washing machine repairman in a half hour (never mind that it's a four hour window that starts in a half hour, and the odds of him/her arriving at the earliest time are slim).  We don't feel well.  The lawn needs mowing, etc., etc.  We'll write tomorrow.  And tomorrow, we'll write tomorrow, and so on.  And the ultimate—we're just too busy!
Then, finally we manage to sit down to write, and our brain freezes.  Despite the numerous things we have thought about to write over the past month, nothing, absolutely nothing, comes to mind, as we sit in front of the computer or at our desk, pen and notebook in front of us.
I have been reasonably successful at overcoming this old bugaboo, and I want to share with any writer willing to pay attention.  If this little article helps one writer to write, I will be thrilled.
It can be done in steps (not 12, just 7), and anyone, I mean anyone, can do it.

1.              Write out a weekly schedule for one month in the future (preferably the next month) that does NOT include any time for writing.  Be painstaking and realistic; that is, include everything that you feel you are obligated to do each week, including some time for recreation, and I repeat be realistic.  This is a necessary step whether you work two jobs and take care of seven children, are a stay at home mom, a doctor, a lawyer or an Indian Chief.  Don't forget to include sleeping and eating time, as well as personal hygiene (like a shower and brushing your teeth).
2.              Study your schedule.  Somewhere in there you can fit in some writing time, even if it is only a half hour a week.  Write it in--be realistic.  It is critical that in this early stage you don't over-commit, or you will fail.  If the only time that appears realistic is Sunday morning before your husband gets up, schedule it then.  An hour or two per day would be ideal, but if you don't realistically have that much time to spare, don't write it in.  Schedule what is realistic.  Schedule as many sessions as are practical, but each session should be no longer than a half hour at first.  Ten minutes is enough.
3.              Set up a place to write.  It can be anywhere that is not too noisy and not apt to create too many distractions—from a dedicated room with an antique desk and a view of the ocean to a small table and chair in the corner of the kitchen.  Stephen King wrote his first best seller at a small table in his service porch by the washing machine.  It doesn't matter where, but you need a special place that will accommodate a computer if that is what you write on, or a notebook and pen, a chair and enough light to see.
4.              This may be the most important step.  Buy or get out an existing calendar, put it on your writing table or tack or tape it to the wall above your table, and write on it each time you have scheduled to write for that first month—in large letters and numbers, maybe even in red, and check it off later when you've done it.
5.              Now, treat yourself to something you enjoy, but don't do often, that you can afford—a massage, a walk by yourself or with a loved one in a peaceful setting, an ice cream cone, a movie—you get the point.  When you finish, pick a quiet place to sit down, and promise yourself that you will keep these appointments you have made to write just as if they were doctor's appointments or job interviews.  Tell yourself they are among the most important appointments you have ever had in your life.  They are, if it is important to you to write.  And you are not fooling yourself; they are appointments—appointments with yourself, the most important person in your world.
6.              Before your first writing appointment, pick a topic to write on for your first scheduled writing.  It can be anything, and if nothing comes to mind, Google "writing prompts" or "writing topics", if you have to.  But it can be anything—my first kiss, my last kiss, cornbread, I remember…., I don't remember…., my mother, my father, what is most important to me, what I love, what I hate.  Anything!  Repeat this process before each time you sit down to write.  Don't wait until the time comes for your appointment.
7.              When the time comes, get a timer or stopwatch, set it for the time you have set aside and put it on your table.  If you don't want to see it while you write, turn it away from you.  Sit down.  Pick up your pen or turn on your computer.  And start writing.  Keep your hand moving on the page or your fingers moving on the keyboard.  Don't stop until your timer or stopwatch goes off.  Start over at the beginning if you have to.  Don't worry that you are not staying on the topic.  Right whatever comes into your head--funny, tragic, sad, detailed, whatever.

Do not read what you wrote, at least, not for a long time afterwards.  I can assure you that most of it will be crap, but eventually there will be some gems there.
After the first month, if it is realistic, increase the number of sessions per week that you write, and increase the amount of time, slowly, gradually, and if and only if it is realistic.  Most published writers write no more than one to three hours per day.  Think about it: if you write one page a day, five days a week, or three pages a day, three times a week, you will have a book in a year, or less.  After a few months, read what you have written.  You will be surprised how good some of it is—and how bad some of it is.  That's okay.
One other tip, I would like to pass along.  Once you have established the routine—and it is a routine—of writing regularly, reach out to other writers and schedule writing practice with them on a weekly or even monthly basis if that is what is realistic.  If you don't know any writer's, post on Craig's List; search MeetUp.com for writers’ groups in your area.  I can almost guarantee you will find writer’s groups this way, unless you live in the Mojave Desert, and probably even then.  Read aloud to each other what you have written—always with the understanding that anyone can decline to read aloud if he or she wishes.  This practice will help you continue writing.  It is harder to break an appointment with somebody else who is counting on you than to break one with yourself.  And if you can, pick a pleasant place, a café you like, a courtyard, a garden.
Finally, for more inspiration on motivating you to write regularly, read Natalie Goldberg's books, Writing Down the Bones, Thunder and Lightning and Wild Mind.
-Boyd Lemon is the author of "Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages," a memoir about the author's journey to understand his role in the destruction of his three marriages.  Available in paperback and ebook editions on Amazon.com, BarnsandNoble.com and by order from your local bookstore.  Information, excerpts and reviews: http://www.BoydLemon-Writer.com.

   

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Being better...

          I'm sitting on my bed with a nice breeze coming through the window, and I have been ruminating on what I can do to be a better person.  Not that I'm a terrible person.  In some ways, I am a pretty good one.  But I am too selfish.  Too self-centered.  I wish I wasn't.  There are all kinds of excuses.  I grew up moving around a lot.  Like every two years.  It was hard for me to trust people.  It was hard to make friends.  I came to the realization as a child that I would wear a poker face.  That I would put myself first.  That if it came down to someone getting hurt (I mean mainly emotionally/verbally here), that it would be them and not me.  To be quite frank, I was kind of an asshole for a long time.  The weird thing is that people liked it. I have had old friends tell me they miss the old me.  The one that wasn't afraid to verbally tear someone to shreds.  Maybe it was powerful.  But it wasn't fun.  It didn't make me feel good.  Over the past decade or so, I have tried to change and make amends.  But I still haven't gotten it right, yet.  So, tonight, I'm sitting here with the breeze keeping me cool.  Thinking about the vacation I am about to go on with my wife and daughter.  My wife is so nice it is ridiculous.  My daughter...well, she's just shy of three, so she has her moments...but she is pure sweetness.  Most of the time.  Sometimes she looks at me or says something to me that makes me want to weep and punch myself in the face simultaneously.  Rarely, it is something mean.  Usually, it is something so genuine and free of bullshit that is sends shivers down my spine.
         So, anyway, the conclusion I have come to is that this is something that needs to be consciously worked on.  I work out so I can fit in my pants.  I write and work on my 'craft'.  I work hard with the kids I am fortunate enough to work with.  I work hard keeping my motorcycles in good condition.  I take care of my knife collection like the knives are made out of crystal.  But I don't ever consciously work on being better at being a human being.  That needs to change.  It will be hard.  I see other people who are so kind and genuine that it is almost astonishing.  To use my wife as an example again, she not only would never hurt someone on purpose, but she allows herself to be hurt to spare pain in others.  It is a pretty remarkable thing to see.  And it is humbling.  Because I spend a lot of the time thinking about how situations can work out to my advantage.  How I can profit...not monetarily, but how I can get what I want/need.  It makes me ashamed.
          Like I said, we are about to leave for a vacation, and I am taking a stand.  I am going to spend more time with my daughter.  I am going to be more thoughtful when dealing with my wife and friends.  I am going to try and undo the damage that being an insecure, lonely, frightened kid did to me.  I am not religious, but I do believe in the major themes of most religions.  I think the meek should inherit the earth.  I think I should love my neighbor.  I think I covet too much.  I am a teacher and not wealthy, and I visit friends who have much more than I do monetarily, but they do not have the greatest wife in the world.  They do not have a daughter who worries about them when they have to get a root canal.  Somewhere along the line, I got my priorities a little bit skewed.  Sure, there are far worse people than me, but there are a hell of a lot of people who are better than me, too.  From now on, I am going to try and give more than I receive.  I am going to try to be more empathetic.  I am going to do more random nice things for people...not because it will make me feel like a "nice guy"...but because it will make them feel good.  And that is important.  It is more important than the kind of car I drive.  It is more important than my OCD...which makes me very selfish at times.  It is more important than anything.  We all leave this place at some point or another, and I want to leave having been one of the good guys.  We have enough parasites.  Even minor parasites.  It is time for some serious self reflection.  I'm really good at giving advice, and not so good at applying it to myself.  I'm going to work on that.  More than anything else.  If my pants don't fit, I can always get new ones, but I can't resize the kind of person I was if I wait until it is too late.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Social Networking = Instant Nostalgia

            I recently allowed myself to be convinced that Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and the like were good ideas…not things I should fear, cowering in the corner of my cave with club in hand, wrapped tightly in a bearskin.  And, it turns out they are good things.  But I still have some reservations.
            The best thing to come out of the conquering of my luddite tendencies was that I got a job.  This is huge.  Not only did I get a job, but I got a job doing something I love and am good at to boot.  I’m also getting more hits on my blog.  More people are listening to the music my friend Pat and I have spent decades recording.  I’ve reconnected with some people I genuinely am glad that I will get to talk to again.  But there is part of me that is still resistant. 
            I have thought about this quite a bit.  It doesn’t make sense, but it is the same reason I have moments where I absolutely hate the internet.  Don’t get me wrong…I am, without a doubt, addicted to the internet.   I appreciate that it affords me an easy way to stay in touch with people…a venue for my creative endeavors…the ability to look things up really quickly (like a few minutes ago when I couldn’t put my braincells on the word ‘luddite’).  It is the most amazing advancement we have made as a species.  But it has changed things. 
            Here I was writing along, and I thought, ‘ahhh, what do you call people who fear technology?’  Had my answer in ten seconds.  But there is part of me that misses the feeling of remembering something you have been trying to think of for days.  That nagging, torn cuticle masochism that leads to the ‘aha’ moment where you say, “luddite!…that’s the word I’ve been trying to think of”. 
            There are other things I miss.  I haven’t been to a library in a LONG time.  I don’t get mail anymore unless it is a bill or something I bought on eBay.  Or junk mail.  I feel like an old man banging his cane against the monitor sometimes.  The internet is wonderful…but things were wonderful before, too…a different kind of wonderful.
            I spend a lot of time on the motorcycle forum I am a part of.  And now on Facebook.  I spend a lot of time finding various amazing (and many not so amazing) sites on the internet with which to amuse myself.  But I spend a lot less time sitting in cafés and chatting with people than I used to.  I read less.
            I guess it could be argued that progress always involves the death of the old way.  And I am not saying I want to be Amish.  Hell, a little girl down the street showed me her chickens today (my daughter was very impressed), and all I could think of was, ‘do chicken’s carry diseases?  Mites?  Bird flu?’
            I am the first one to admit that I like modern conveniences.  I spend a lot of time on a pocketknife forum, too.  I collect ‘traditional’ pocketknives.  And we spend a lot of time waxing poetic about the ‘traditional’ ways of life that are disappearing, but it is pretty hypocritical and dumb, too.  I like buying milk.  I don’t want to milk a cow.  But, then again, I have never milked a cow.  Maybe it’s awesome. 
            What I think doesn’t matter, anyway.  The ball is rolling and has been for some time.  But it makes me wonder what kind of world my daughter will live in.  Which makes me nostalgic for things that we still have.  Which is a weird concept in and of itself.  And that is why, despite the fact that I like the internet.  And despite the fact that I think social networking is ‘neat’.  And despite the fact that I can’t go three hours without checking my email, I will always drag my feet.  Because I already miss the way things are.