Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Like Any Wound, I Get Worse When Ignored

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Despite my attempts, Mr. Konrath has not responded to my challenge. Out of good form (and advice from counsel) I’ve decided to stop harassing him and move on to other folks.

I’m opening up the challenege; it’s now out there to any well-established author that is willing to help me raise some money for Kickstarter.
There are a few that I’ve got in mind, so, as of today, they’ve inherited the Konrath curse.

I’ll be sure to keep you all informed, should any takers step forward.

In happier news, the book is now available in print through CreateSpace. It’ll be showing up on Amazon within a few days, and by August it’ll be on a monkey-piloted mission to the sun -for further distribution.  

It seems folks have started noticing the novel, which I find exciting. It’s begun garnering reviews on very brilliant blogs and Smashwords.

Finally, there’ll be a book of short stories released this summer, and the long-awaited Holliday series finally begins this winter. You now have a reason to stay alive that long.

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An Open Challenge to JA Konrath

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

 

There’s no sense being coy about it; I think I can take him. 
For those who don’t know, Mr. J.A. Konrath is the author of thrillers such as Whiskey Sour, A Shot of Tequila, and his new release, Flee, which was co-written by the brilliant Ann Voss Peterson. 

He’s toured the nation, speaking at libraries and bookstores, conferences and conventions, and is one of the pioneers in electronic self-publishing, lending platform and legitimacy to the e-book revolution (even before it was cool). 

And this summer, if he accepts, I’m going to take him on.   

At the beginning of June, I challenge Mr. Konrath to make a post on his blog about our competition, and inform his readers that he and I are in a head to head sales duel.
Now, at first this may smell like a dirty ploy to increase sales, and it is. However, in a break from my traditionally rotten nature, I have something of an altruistic motive as well.  

Despite the scattered success stories of a few self-starters who hit the right chords at just the right times, we writers know that e-pubbing your manuscript without the explicit blessing of the Big Six irrelevants is likely a path to nowhere. Or rather, a path to single digit royalty statements and a muted, gray joy of knowing that six people read your book.

I’d like to show that’s not the case. I’d like to show that if you’re willing to put as much work into promotion as you did into writing, your horizons are vastly broader than the e-oblivion so many surrender themselves to out of a fear of hope.

Joe got where he is because he worked hard and had a good product to sell, not just because he was lucky. And because that work paid off, he’s now my target. I want to show that with a bit of help and a lot of work, even someone as “new” (to being published, anyway) and untested as me can compete with one of the greats, although perhaps for just a month.  

So, Joe, here are the particulars I suggest for the battle that I call “Beat Joe in June.” 

Time: June 1st, we both announce across the interweb (twitter, facebook, blog, etc.) that the duel is on. Whosoever gets the most sales for the month of June is declared the winner.

Weapon: 1 title of your choice. I’ve only got one at the moment, so I’ll obviously be going with that.

Stakes: (Apart from glory, of course) Should I win, you must write and eventually publish a short story called “Why Jonas is Great.” In the much more likely event of my downfall, I’ll write and publish a story called “The Day Chicago Joe Kicked My Ass.” 

Beneficiaries:(Apart from the competitors, the readers, and all self-pubbed or soon-to-be-so out there) Win or lose, I’d be willing to give 50% of my profits earned in June to Kickstarter programs and help keep the art cycle going.  You’ve already donated profits regularly to various causes; perhaps you’d be willing to match my 50% on the title you choose? 

And there it is, folks. Can a relative-unknown compete with a towering literary juggernaut? The challenge is made. Do you think he’ll show? Joe, if you’re out there, does this sound like something fun? You don’t strike me as the bashful type.After this, I fully intend to challenge Barry Eisler to a live Judo match at a writing conference. (Beware the  sankaku, my friend, even from a mere shodan)

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Stepping into the Void

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

The first book, “Ghosts of a Tired Universe,” went online today. 
Any amount of thanks and name-dropping I might do for all those who helped along the way would seem inadequate. As solitary and alienated as writers are, no book is created without a network of conspirators willing to spend their time and energy on someone else’s passion.

With this book, I wade out into the deeper waters I’ve been dreaming about since I discovered the audacity to hope. Whatever happens from here, I’m grateful for the hard roads and long hallways that taught victory through perseverance, and enlightement through mistake.

I invite you now to walk with me, dear readers, and together we’ll see just how far we can go.

The book is available through Smashwords.com, and can be read on almost any e-reader in the world. PDF format is there too, for those who don’t have an e-reader. Thanks again, and dare to do the improbable.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/55434

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On Burning Books

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

I don’t approve of burning books anymore than I approve of burning people. But, as Heinrich Heine pointed out so long ago (and as Christopher Hitchens reminds us) it seems that one inevitably follows the other.

A few weeks ago, that certain pastor in Florida made good on his promise to burn a copy of the Koran. The response from the Islamic world was what we’ve come to expect from the fundamentalist sects: outrage, murder, and madness.
The response from the western world, however, is what really troubles me.

Overwhelmingly, American journalists and media pundits have thrown the blame for these deaths and a perceived “increased risk to our troops” at the feet of this misguided pastor.
Now, think for a moment. What does this mean?

If you, for example, were to burn a copy of one of my books, would I have a right to shoot you? I wrote the bloody thing, after all. Would the news outlets and journalists of the world be chiming in saying, “Well, he did burn the man’s book, you know. It meant a lot to him.” Of course not.

And for you squeamish, un-evolved, compartmentalizing apologists out there who would point out that the pastor insulted the Muslim ‘religion,’ as though that made a difference, I have a question for you. Why does religion get a special pass? Why does one group of people have a unique right to be offended, and, as the aggrieved, then also have the right to raid and murder dozens who weren’t even involved?

If I were to burn the Mexican flag, (which I would never do) would any Mexican have the right to kill me? How about if I to take a blade to a stuffed elephant, could then republicans threaten my family? Ahh, but what if I were to burn a bible, and then get assaulted by a christian? I’ll bet some of you see that as different, somehow. This is the chasm in rational thought that I’m talking about.

If we attach faith to heinous behaviors, there comes a sort of queasy understanding from those that know their holy books are just as cruel, just as primitive, and just as steeped in myth and nonsense.

Free speech is a concept that has been shown to foster not just the most innovative and creative people, but societies as well. The right to express yourself and put forth your own ideas about even the biggest and most controversial topics is a human necessity. So long as I never threaten or harm anyone, I expect that the most horrendous passages in my books not be censored, not cause my life to be in danger, and certainly not cause the death of anyone.  (As they say, ‘my right to swing my fist ends at your nose’)

There’s a strange dichotomy in the air about some groups. Even otherwise freethinking, evolved human beings may rail against such medieval stupidity one moment, then  in the next, they’ll advocate the de facto observance of Islamic law by condemning those who don’t abide by it.

I, for one, am not bound by Sharia, and I will not be intimidated and frightened into blaming one stupid pastor for the murderous acts of thousands of misguided people acting under the shield of “religious faith.”

How dare anyone allow them that shield? How dare anyone give leeway for torture and public execution when that old con-job of “faith” is involved?

As an atheist, I find this offensive. As an artist, I find it unacceptable. As a human being, I find it a disgrace.

Where do you stand? Are you standing at all? Or, are you already bowing, perhaps?

Socrates was killed for “impiety,” and corrupting the youth with ideas. I won’t drink the hemlock, folks. I will turn pale, hemmorage and die in an empty cell writing blasphemies in my own blood before I allow anyone to tell me what I can or cannot express. I’d like to think you would too, but lately, I have to wonder.

Disclaimer: Yes, I am aware of and applaud “moderate Muslims” out there. Although your outrage over such overt acts of violence by your brothers in faith has always seemed strangely quiet, if not altogether absent. And yes, if it were any other group of any other kind that was trying to intimidate free speech out of our rights, I’d be just as fervent and combative.

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A Filthy Lie

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

So many people take comfort in mythology and metaphysics and wish-thinking. It’s never more clear than in the wake of some horrific event or another.

An earthquake will destroy a city, a tsunami might ravage a coast, and what one begins to hear are the half-whispered reassurances that it all belongs to a plan. No matter the tragedy, this or that system has it all worked out. Never mind that a plan (or omniscience, for that matter) would negate free will entirely, just trust that someone’s arms will be unfolded when you fall from the hill. If they aren’t, trust that there’s a pillow at the bottom.

It’s interesting that we don’t hear this more often about the smaller, more grating mishaps that manage to slime on by in silence. What about the lives of “quiet desperation” Thoreau mentioned?

I’ve noticed a largely agreed-upon fact that no one seems to mind, or they throw up their hands in helplessness when asked about it. It’s this: Most people aren’t happy. Most people hate their lives or are too trampled to realize that they should.

Be you one of the millions starving or dying of disease, be you a soul-sucked trailer-trash simpleton, or be you a stock-broker so high strung that hanging yourself would be a redundancy, most of the people in this world are unhappy most of the time.

How many people do you know that genuinely love their work? How many even like it? Odds are good that you spend most of your waking time doing something that not only fails to bring your bliss into focus, but also sinks your joy battleship. A disturbingly high number of people are miserable creatures much of the time; they’ve just gotten used to it.

If it is indeed, part of a plan, then I think we can agree it’s a terrible one. I, for one, would rather risk ruining whatever climax the plan had in mind than live my life in some partially denied, mostly dishonest, unreal, deterministic depression. It’s for this reason that I’ve written characters that step off the path.

The sense of fate can make boredom out of saving the universe -who cares what you do if it was decided for you? And pure, free thought seems impersonal, unguided, a bit forced, maybe.  

I wanted creatures whose existence was more complex than either of these philosophies. When every path is blocked, they move in the wide-open direction of dimensions that dance on the edge of our recognition.  Happiness might just live in the blind spot of our mirror angles. Our compasses are broken. As much as we benefit from the ideas of others, our own lack of creativity and perspective limits us.

For the sake of my own development (and maybe yours too), I’ve worked very hard at giving the reader multi-dimensional beings that move so far from the trivial roads that the normal becomes almost unrecognizable to them. The lines of reality so myriad and overlapping that the original, droll black and white parallels have succumbed to an ultraviolet spiral leading . . . well, nowhere in particular. Nowhere pre-ordained, but certainly not somewhere accidental either. And that’s the point.

Our lives and attitudes are manifestations of what we’ve come to accept about the nature of ourselves, and our limitations. We’ve convinced ourselves that we exist only within certain parameters, beyond which is nothing. That’s the lie.

My characters exist in that nothing, leaving marks on the rocks so that when we eventually get there, we’ll know that someone came along before us and moved farther still, on ahead.

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Book Bios- #1 Somewhere Dreaming (Now called Ghosts of a Tired Universe)

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

There was a forest that seemed to keep itself seeped in winter dark and perpetual silence. If you were to sit down in the gray and the wet and the wind, the ghosts would start to gather. 

They’d shake animal skulls at the edge of the clearing and send unseen stares that you feel on your back, but you’d always turn to see nothing. Nothing following, nothing hunting you, a nothing that never gets tired.

Always that silence sweeps into your eyes, ominous images of pine tree soldiers in perfect silhouette stillness. Or the weight of omnipresent light diffused into the same thin gruel for all of time- cracks in the heaving belly of dark. 

Eventually you’d adjust. Endure as permafrost, frail on the periphery of a terror that you’ve resigned to. No place to spend a life.

You know the place; you’ve all been there.  It takes itself a bit seriously, but with good reason; it’s no joke.

That’s where I started writing Somewhere Dreaming, a scream into the void, unwilling to accept the silent universe.

Book #2 bio coming soon. You might say it’s slightly lighter fare.

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The Shoulders of Giants

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

 

As with any generation, we’re in a state of evolutionary flux, moreso with our art than perhaps anything else. It’s no coincidence that the greatest writers of all time have drawn inspiration from the titans that bounded around the mythical mountaintops before them. 

There’s a whisper of Robbins’s off-beat flamboyancy in Franzen , Vonnegut-esque hints of alien existentialism in Robbins, the hand of Joyce in Vonnegut’s work, and so on back into the cuneiform days.

In fiction, if we’re honest, we’ll admit that there are two primary categories: fluff and further.  Fluff has it’s place, much like taco-bell in the fast-food lineup. Every once in a blackout-drunk we’ll treat ourselves to the non-meat biohazard sour cream buffet.  After all, we’re not dying nearly quick enough, right?

There’s no judgment here; I wouldn’t wish a life devoid of cliché erotica and moody vampires on anyone.  My question is this- How healthy is it to fill our frontal lobes with filler for every meal?

Levity and dirty sex and dubious spy capers find their way into furthering our literary evolution sometimes, but I suppose I’m a damn snob.

More than any specific criteria, books that I read move me and change me most when I can hear their words echo down the long hallway of human passion.  This is the “further” category.

There’s something to the ghosts of lost writers being superimposed on the page that gives me a communion with not just the fellow (or madam) whose name graces the cover, but with the collective consciousness of the once-trail-blazers who’ve passed their energy entirely into the new breed of interior explorers.

Look at your to-read pile and ask yourself how many of the on-deck tomes stick their noses out another inch or two into the future, and maybe try to focus a bit more on those. It’s our job to climb and give a better view for the oncoming usurpers and arrogant upstarts that’ll rule our old stomping ground tomorrow.

Perhaps our progeny of readers and artists could be better served than looking down upon idiotic celebrity memoirs and hallucinatory conspiracy theories. Not an unreasonable position, I don’t think, but feel free to tell me otherwise.

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On Atheism

Monday, February 21st, 2011

 

Although every aspect of a person is inexorably tied to all the other little quirks that make one who he/she is, I’d like to take a moment to address a certain, what-may-appear-to-not-be-entirely-relevant part of myself. A part I have intentionally stated, but notice, not given any special attention. Until now. 

I am an atheist. 

One of my many gifts to my readers is that I’ll divulge relatively little about myself personally, giving them the freedom to see their own interpretations and make my stories truly their own. As much as possible, I try not to limit the myriad possible meanings of any metaphor I may spout. This issue, however, this little characteristic of myself, is something I’m willing to let out of the caja de Pandora, as it were. 

This site, and all others of mine, are devoted toward my work, the stories, not to me. Sure, the words are mine, but they are merely a matter of me trying to funnel the great whirlwind of “us” (meaning humanity) and “this” (meaning the universe) through a Jonas-colored lens, hopefully making something beautiful and clear that perhaps has always been there, but was never fully realized before. 

My stories deal with the super-natural, the magical. There are gods and demons and failed universes and sacred archways and mythic mountains and so on. And it’d be easy to say that I was making an appeal to a real higher power, that the over-arching concepts or bashful subtext was an endorsement for believing in real-world magic. It isn’t. 

Perhaps I’m just a lazy writer; maybe it’s just my style, but I find that the freedom the supernatural gives me allows for a more potent metaphor. What better concept than an “aura” to explain the powerful presence of a rare person? What better idea than a “soul” to convey the seat of passion in someone moved by a moment? 

We know what these words really mean, and we can remove the super-natural connotations to them and still unflinchingly use them in precisely the same manner as we have been for years. So please, read deep, read far, read into yourself, but don’t read yourself into me, if you get me. 

Although I’m happy to discuss my views on the matter with anyone who comes a’ callin’, allow me this caveat: You will lose. It’s not cockiness or malice or even gloating, it’s just that there are a few topics in this world where I’ve put a lot of time, energy, and brain power into defining what I think about them. Writing is one; god is another. 

This, of course, doesn’t mean that I’m never wrong about either of these (as my spelling and punctuation occasionally gives away) but it does mean that I’ve probably heard your argument before. Nevertheless, if you insist upon making your disagreement known, feel free to do so. If yours is a version of an old argument that has already been deconstructed (and believe me, it probably is) I’ll gladly inform you of the name that argument has been given and provide you with link(s) to videos where you can see for yourself. If it’s something genuinely new and exciting and interesting and possibly a game-changer in the cosmic battle between rationality and superstition, I’ll be happy to respond myself. 

So, now that’s out and clear, the focus is once again (and hopefully will forever hereafter be) the work. Introspection, booze, rejection, and eventually . . . publication. 

Here are a few links if you want to learn more.

http://www.atheist-experience.com/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEFhEFbVcWE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8aOqcQ_Mis

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo

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Woman Falling

Friday, February 18th, 2011

 

It’s strange how the most unremarkable of moments can be fractured by your mind. I saw a woman fall the other day, and her drop split apart into infinitesimal interconnected pictures, the downward motion suddenly the least interesting characteristic, just a catalyst for the more powerful transformation of one instant into another.  

There was a certain grief around her eyes, not shock or fear. The blonde frame around her face retreated and exposed the old woman hiding inside a still-too-young-for-minivans girl, of a fearful 32. 

Maybe just last year she would have caught herself, not surrendered so quickly. I clearly remember her arms not even bracing, but groping lethargically, like out-of-orbit satellites on tragic trajectories toward some inevitable void.   

There was probably some gentle trauma of a landing, as insignificant and quiet as she herself had become. A pretty young girl went gray in front of me, and mourned herself just long enough to give me the perfect metaphor for the rest of her life. 

Every wrinkle cream, young boyfriend, and hair dye, every hidden stretch mark, topless car and nightclub lie will be covered by the growing shadow of the long, slow fall that will eventually pull her into an oblivion of her choosing. 

She didn’t even notice; I wonder if I would.

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