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Adventures In Publishing: The Ruined Man

After the excitement from “The Saga of Shamus” died down I took a step back and decided to work on my craft. Learn how to smith the words better. To accomplish this, I started writing short stories like a mad man. This was a relatively new field for me. Until then I had mostly written plays and novellas. I had just moved to Albuquerque and me and my friend Brandon would spend our weekend mornings writing. And believe me, I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I churned out at least one short story a week for a weeks on end.  Most of these stories were garbage and will never see the light of day. I collected my favorites and self-published a collection called “Twisted Yarns.”  I know what you’re thinking. Why would I self-publish again? What would possess me to want to undertake that exercise in humility again? To be honest, I was getting discouraged. Because even though I was churning out garbage short stories at a record pace, I couldn’t find anyone to publish them. Most of the stories I wrote were too long for the word counts of these publications. Flash fiction was really big at the time and everyone thought that if you couldn’t tell a story in under 1000 words, it wasn’t really a story. I don’t write 1000 word short stories. Hell, I don’t even write 3500 word short stories. My short stories start at 7500 words and usually top out somewhere around 10k.  And the few places that did accept lengthy stories gave me nothing but encouraging rejections. If you’re a writer, you know the kind.

“Great story, but not what we’re looking for right now.”

“Really enjoyed the story, but doesn’t fit our issue. What else do you have?”

And so on and so forth. Over and over again. One rejection after another in a constant flow of bad news. After a while the ego takes a hit. After a while you start asking yourself questions and doubting yourself and your talent.

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One of the stories to come out of this frenzy of writing was the original short story version of, “The Ruined Man.” The story actually followed the events of the upcoming book 2. I sent a copy to my old creative writing professor and he got back to me the same day with, “Turn this into a book! It NEEDS to be a book!” So that’s what I set out to do.

Turning a short story into a full-length novel is no easy feat. I’ve heard it said they are two separate modes of writing. A short story is like a passionate kiss from a stranger. It is fast, unexpected and leaves you breathless and wanting more. Whereas a novel is like a love affair. It’s slow, develops over time and is chock full of emotional highs and lows.  So the trick was how to turn a passionate kiss into a love affair. I decided to start at the beginning, like all good love affairs. I told the story of how Victor Wolf became the Ruined Man—a story that ended up beginning 15 years in the past.  The story, which ended up being book one, “The Ruined Man,” flowed out of me as if Wolf was telling it to me over afternoon coffee.  Before I knew it, I had completed the Purple Gates story and had to move on to the second half which covered the events in the short story.  Turning that into a love affair was difficult and took years. Literally years.  The few query letters I did send out about The Ruined Man were met with rejection (surprise, surprise). Even after the discouragement settled in and I quit writing, I would still go back to Wolf and tinker around with the novel. It soon became a monster. A monster that I loved like a child. A beast I wanted to protect from the slings and arrows of all the nasty assholes rejecting my work and chipping away at my self-esteem.  So I kept the book locked away in the fortress of my hard drive like the electronic manifestation of the Man in the Iron Mask.

Eventually, I quit looking at it altogether. Because I had finally had enough. Enough rejection. Enough criticism. Enough ridicule. Enough hearing loved ones talk about how I needed to “find a real job” and leave this writing thing behind. Those of you who know me know how huge this decision would be for me. All I ever wanted was to be a storyteller. Period. From the time my imagination started imagining I was making up stories. There is nothing I love to do more than get lost in my imagination and find a story there to share with others. I had spent years of my life not listening to all the naysayers. My high school teachers begged me not to be a writer. My college professors begged me not to be a writer. My parents REALLY begged me not to be a writer.

“There’s no money in it.”

“You’ll be poor your whole life!”

“Nobody respects writers! They are slackers and miscreants!”

Ad infimum.

I ignored them all and pursued my dream only to find out they were right. As I said in my last blog, I was one voice in a cacophony of thousands trying to get heard. Few people listened. Fewer cared.  Everybody wants to be a writer but nobody wants to read. I was discouraged, disgusted and frustrated and I was getting real tired of rejection. So I decided to leave it behind and get a job in IT. There is nothing more soul-crushing than giving up on your dreams.  Very little else will take the light from your eyes and the life from your step like losing a piece of who you are. But I had to. I couldn’t take the pain any more. I couldn’t take the feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. I couldn’t take the smoldering disappointment I felt radiating from everyone around me. I had been defeated. So I stepped back and “gave it to God.”

I felt it leave in that moment—the fire I had kept stoked for years just didn’t die, it was snuffed out. As my imagination dimmed, a sharp pang stabbed my heart. It felt exactly like breaking up with someone. The loss was immense.

Franz Kafka said a non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. Franz Kafka knew something about it because I learned the truth in that statement pretty quickly. My whole life I used writing to process the world around me. The stories, poems, plays and essays I’d written were fueled by a myriad of emotions. But that was gone now. I didn’t have an outlet for creative expression. Those were dark days.

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During the summer of 2016 I came across Michelkin Publishing’s call for submissions. They were an indie house out of New Mexico and they were seeking local writers with books about New Mexico. Bonus points for magical realism. My thoughts immediately went to The Ruined Man, but I quickly pushed it back. I had quit writing. I didn’t want any more rejection.  I gave it to God and He decided to keep it. All my passion for writing was gone. But I kept going back to it for days. Finally I relented.

“It’s no big deal,” I convinced myself. “You haven’t gotten a rejection in years, you can handle at least one. It doesn’t even matter. It’s not like you’re a writer anymore, anyway. Accepted or rejected, it’s all the same now. Besides, it’ll be rejected for sure. No doubt.”

So I went to Michelkin’s site and filled out the submission form and included a summary of my monstrous word-baby. I clicked send and was hit with a brief spike of excitement that was quickly dulled over. Then I waited. Waited for the rejection I was sure would come.

“Dear Mr. DeGray,

Thank you for your submission but we can’t find room for you right now.

Signed,

Every publisher or agent ever”

The morning I got the email from Michelkin’s publishing department that’s what I expected it to read. But that’s not what it said. They actually said they liked the summary and wanted to see the first 50 pages. I couldn’t believe it. I was shaking as I dove into the electronic dungeon of my hard drive. My heart pumped wildly as I opened the key and let my Monster in the Iron Mask see light for the first time in ages. I spit-shined the manuscript and sent them what they asked for. Then I waited again.

And waited.

And waited.

Months later I got another email. Again, I expected this to be the one where they thanked me for my time but they had decided to pass. Again, not what happened. They felt the first 50 were solid and wanted to see the whole manuscript. I almost cried. No joke. I spent the weekend polishing up my beloved brain-child and sent it off to them. And then I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

By this time I was getting anxious. It was December now and I hadn’t heard a thing from them since the end of September. I was convinced they hated it and hadn’t gotten around to sending me the rejection yet. I tried not to care, but the fire had been sparked inside me again. It burned with a tiny flame. Like a tea light–a miniature flicker of light in a sea of dark hopelessness. It was fragile and I knew that this rejection would snuff it out for good. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was the cosmic plan behind it, the killing blow that would ensure I would never get back up. And then it came.

December 10, 2016 I was at my niece’s birthday party when I got an email from Michelkin Publishing. My throat instantly dried and I was hit with a rush of excitement. I took three deep breaths and returned to the party. Later, after I had gotten home, I paced around for at least an hour terrified to open the email. Finally, I steeled my resolve and read the email.

They said they’d be happy to publish my manuscript. In two books. I cried. No joke. And that tiny flame suddenly grew into a blazing beacon.

And now, six months later, my first published novel is actually out. It feels great, I can’t lie. It’s blissful to no longer be a monster courting insanity. All dreams are worth living. That’s what I took away from this adventure in publishing. No matter who you are, no matter what your secret dream is—live it. Don’t let the wet blanket of hopelessness put out your fire. Don’t let the criticism and disapproval of others guide the direction you take.  It is YOUR life, after all. You are the one who has to live it, so live it well.

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Adventures in Publishing: The Saga of Shamus

With my new book, “The Ruined Man,” coming out Friday I got a little nostalgic for my journey as a writer thus far. And though “The Ruined Man” is published by Michelkin Publishing, I started out in the self-publishing world over 10 years ago.

I began my journey into the publishing industry in 2006. I had written a book called, “Absolutely True Retellings: The Saga of Shamus.” It was a YA fantasy adventure heavy on the social satire. A lot like Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.  I wrote the entire thing out on legal pads sitting at coffee shops in Lubbock, Texas. I still write like that to this day except I write at coffee shops in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Shamus was the first novel I ever completed and as such, I thought it was one of the best stories ever told and I wanted the entire world to read it and love it as much as I did. I tackled the daunting task of copying everything I’d written into Word and passed it along to an English professor friend to edit it down.

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After that I tried tackling the even more daunting task of finding a way to publish my book and get it in the hands of readers the world over. Now keep in mind this was the end of 2006 and the first half of 2007. The publishing industry looked quite different than it does today. Self-publishing was basically unheard of and no one in the legitimate publishing industry took it seriously.  I attended seminars where I was told by agents and editors that if I decided to self-publish I would never be taken seriously in the publishing world. In short, I’d ruin any chances I had of becoming a traditionally published author.

Needless to say this terrified me. I immediately began researching how to get an agent, write a query letter and all the other hoops you have to jump through to go the “traditional route.”  As I said before, the publishing industry was very different ten years ago. Readership was declining and ebooks hadn’t become popular yet. As a result most of what traditional houses were publishing were novels ghost written for celebrities and books about wizards.  To complicate things further, traditional publishing houses weren’t taking on new writers like they had in the past. They tended to view unknown authors as a liability and any money spent on them was wasted. It didn’t take long to realize that even if I were to get the attention of an agent or the Big 5, they weren’t going to pay much, if any, attention to me. Marketing, promotion and getting people reading my book would all fall on me. So I said, “Fuck it.” If I had to do it all myself, I was going to do it all myself. I was done wasting my time trying any of the traditional methods of publishing either mainstream or independent.

Still put off by the stigmas of self-publishing, I started looking into vanity publishers and hybrid publishers. For those who may not know the term, a vanity publisher is a book publisher who will turn any manuscript into a book regardless of content or quality. A hybrid publisher combines elements of traditional publishing with vanity publishing. In both cases the services offered carried a hefty price tag that more often than not rose into the $10,000 range after editing fees, formatting fees, layout fees, cover design fees and a marketing package that was tagged on with the promise of helping you “promote your book.” These promotional packages mainly included kitschy bookmarks, flyers, fact sheets and the guarantee that the company would send a press release via spam mail to anyone on your contact list. I waded through countless offers from vanity publishers until I happened across a supposedly legitimate hybrid publisher called, BookPros.

Word on the web was that BookPros would only take on your project if they felt it was high quality and commercially viable. I submitted my manuscript and waited to hear from them. A BookPros representative called me a few weeks later. They told me they loved my manuscript and wanted to get started working on it immediately! I was stoked. I was elated. I was above the moon. The president of the company even got in on the call and told me what a wonderful author I was and that I was brimming with potential. I mean, what artist doesn’t want to hear that? BookPros went on to inform me that they worked closely with a professional marketing firm to promote myself and my book. I would be flown to their offices to undergo media training and the whole bit. At this point I was nearly in tears. This was everything I had been waiting to hear. Every naysayer could suck eggs, all my self deprecation would vanish in the presence of this all-powerful validation I received. My ego, properly inflated by all the flattery, agreed instantly. Then they told me all this could be mine for the low, low, discount price of $12,000. Didn’t take me long to say, “Forget that bullshit,” and resign myself to self-publishing.

Those early days of self-publishing were exciting and filled with promise, like when the bell rings on the last day of school and a summer of endless possibility is just over the horizon.  And believe me, the self-publishing sites creeping around at the time were definitely taking advantage of the doe-eyed authors lining up to be the next big thing. Because that’s what they were promising—no “promising” isn’t exactly the word. They never actually told anyone they were guaranteed to be a best seller; they just failed to correct everyone’s false impressions and hopeful delusions.

Back then, we thought that if we published through a self-publishing imprint like Authorhouse or Xlibris that our books were going to end up on the shelves of every bookstore from one coast to another. Our books would be on the shelves next to Stephen King, Clive Barker, James Patterson and Michael Crichton. We thought we were going to be able to proudly tell everyone in our lives, “I published a book. And you can go to Hastings (God rest its soul) and pick up a copy!”  We were wrong. Utterly and completely wrong. It came to light much later that few, if any, self-published books actually made it off the publisher’s website. Oh sure it was listed on Ingram and available for bookstores to order, but we didn’t understand what this meant. We didn’t realize that our books were being listed with everyone else’s books and that a floodgate had been opened, flooding an already struggling industry with thousands upon thousands of new books to choose from–most of them unedited, horribly formatted drivel with a terribly designed cover carrying price tags anywhere from $10 to $30. That was another thing we didn’t “get” at first. These self-publishers allowed us to set our own price and determine our own royalty payments. So the higher the cost, the more royalties we would receive. Have you ever seen a horribly designed paperback weighing in at 300 pages with a $30 retail price? I have. I’ve seen hundreds. Guess how many of them are the next big thing?

After the truth about self-publishing came out the industry got an even worse reputation. All the wannabe authors took it personally and believe me, we were furious. Self publishers were likened to charlatans selling snake oil and empty dreams. And in their ivory towers, the Big 5 sat smirking, thinking they had weathered the storm and would once again rule the roost. Turns out they were wrong, too. But hindsight is always 20/20.

During all of this, I chose Lulu as my self-publishing provider. Back then, they didn’t seem as plastic as the other self-publishing sites. They also had rigorous standards for including books on their global distribution lists. Authors could publish anything they wanted on Lulu’s site, but if it was going to Ingram it had to be considered “industry standard.” I had to submit my book for approval and have it evaluated. This added a level of legitimacy I felt the other places lacked. So I began the laborious process of putting together an industry standard book.

At the time I was working as an ISS teacher in Lubbock which afforded me ample time to work on formatting, editing and designing The Saga of Shamus. I worked on it for at least 8 hours a day for six months straight. When I wasn’t working on the book I was researching industry standards and practices trying to figure out how to get seen in the flotsam of self-published garbage that had washed up on literature’s shores in the past few years. I was proud of my book, after all. I still am I believed in it. I thought it was worthy of recognition (and I still do). I wanted to find some way—any way—to get it in the hands of people who would read it. Social media really wasn’t a thing yet so I had to get creative with my promotional opportunities. Naturally, for an author, the first thing that comes to mind is a book signing.

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Alas nothing was sacred in the self-publishing industry and seemingly overnight it was awash with authors clamoring to do book signings.  You couldn’t walk into any Hastings (God rest its soul), Barnes and Noble, Boarders or even down the hall of a shopping mall without coming across a self-published author peddling his books. So I jumped right in and starting slinging books with the best of them.

That experience was…ultimately an exercise in humility. People walked by purposely avoiding eye contact as if I were a bum asking for spare change. The few that did stop did so out of pity or mild interest as if I were a disabled bum asking for spare change.  And the rare few who left the table with a copy usually ended up leaving it elsewhere in the store as if I were a Jehovah’s Witness handing out Watchtower pamphlets.

But that’s not to say all of it was bad. Sitting at those folding tables with copies of my book fanned out before me filled me with pride and even a sense of accomplishment. I had done what I set out to do. I self-published an industry standard book. I took control of marketing and promotion, and even if it weren’t some nationally recognized book tour; I got out there. I met people, talked to them, told them my story and did it all with a smile on my face.

My best book signing event took place in Datil, New Mexico of all places. Datil is so small that calling it a town is being dishonest. Most of the people in the area are ranchers and live a much slower paced life than their city dwelling brethren. I had gotten some illustrations done for Shamus by an artist who was from the area. When word got out that she had done illustrations for my book, the library emailed me and asked if I would be available to do a signing during their upcoming library hootenanny. I readily agreed. It was an experience unlike any other.  There were more people there and interested in my book than at all my other events combined. I sold all the copies of my book that day while a band played country music in the next room.  I even received my first fan gift: a small pink elephant made of glass. The context makes perfect sense if you’ve ever read The Saga of Shamus (hint, hint).

To be able to move a complete stranger with something I’d written made the struggle worth it. In the end, that’s what I took away from my adventures in publishing Shamus. When you really get down to it, we aren’t writing for ourselves. We are writing for the world. For our audience. And when we meet that audience face to face and interact with them–when we see the admiration and appreciation in their eyes a writer can’t help but walk away thinking, “I did something right. Something good. Something other people enjoy and are inspired by.” And that, friends, is what it is really all about.

The Ruined Man is out!

That’s right. My paranormal thriller The Ruined Man is available for early purchase before the official release date on Friday. Get your copy of The Ruined Man paperback!

And check out the trailer up on Youtube. 

The Ruined Man Trailer 

Cover Reveal for upcoming book “Twisted Yarns”

Hello blogoverse! I’ve been away for a while working on my new collection of short stories, Twisted Yarns! I am pleased and more than a little excited to announce that it is now available for sale on the publisher’s site! That’s right. Now is your opportunity to delve into the warped and whimsical worlds that bounce around my imagination. And while you’re there, check out some of my other titles. Amazon and other retailer availability is coming soon. Cover design credit goes to the ever-talented Chris Deichman.

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So what are you waiting for? Open a door to your imagination and get lost in Twisted Yarns!

This Just In: Bad Parents Off the Hook with New Marijuana Study

Good news for shitty parents everywhere. A new study has shown that marijuana users have abnormalities in their brains in the areas that control motivation and emotions. What does this mean for you as a less-than-perfect parent? Well, if your kid is a spoiled, entitled, unmotivated sociopath then good news is he’s probably a pot head.

There was really nothing you did wrong, horrible parents. Were you emotionally distant? Didn’t show your kid enough affection when they were growing up? Or maybe you pushed TOO hard, molding your kid to conform to your ideals until they resented you for it and began to crack? Did your kid grow up to be a cold, emotionless sociopath? There’s nothing wrong with that. Blame it on the drugs. And not just any drugs. Oh no, no. Forget about the effects that antidepressants have on the developing brain. Don’t pay any attention to the fact that nearly all of the mass shooters in the past twenty years were on prescription meds. Those drugs are perfectly safe and acceptable because they have billion dollar lobbyists influencing the incorruptible politicians that run our country. What’s really to blame here is pot. Yup. Pot.

We were warned about this decades ago with the release of the documentary film “Reefer Madness” which cataloged the ill effects that marijuana use has on the adolescent psyche. But we didn’t listen. Those damned hippies and blues musicians popularized it in the mainstream and our country has been suffering a steady decline ever since. Gone are the days of the self-motivated go getter. The times of the over-emotional pussy who bawls at the beauty of a sunset are long past. And left in their wake is the era of the unmotivated, entitled sociopaths. And it’s all because of marijuana. This news comes as a relief to awful parents everywhere.

“I’m so relieved,” sighed Terry T. 35, a mother of a 15 year old boy. “We’ve always given [Brian] everything he wanted. We fawned over him, inflated his ego and self-esteem and tried to show him that the world owed him everything simply because he was born.” But despite their aggressive parenting, Brian was acting strangely. “We noticed some attitude changes in Brian recently. Most notably a lack of motivation to do anything but play video games all day and scathing disrespect to anyone who upset him. My husband and I thought it could be us, but then we found the copy of “Dazed and Confused” in his Blu-Ray player and it all became clear. Our little angel was a pot head.”

But it’s not just adolescents being devastated by marijuana. Reginald Lee, a 65 year old construction worker, recalls his account with his 35 year old son.

“My boy has always been kinda kooky. You know, into reading and writing and all sorts of artsy shit. Anyway, he graduated college and got a job delivering pizzas. Telling me he refused to waste his life feeding a system that’s sole purpose was the subjugation of the human spirit or something like that. Of course I kicked his ass and made him go to work with me. Well, about two weeks into it, I caught him smoking a joint on his lunch break. At first I thought I was to blame somehow, but that didn’t stick well with me. I mean, I was only trying to raise the boy right. Then I heard about this study and it all made perfect sense. I did raise my boy right. It was the damn pot that turned him into a lazy good-for-nothing.”

In an era of rampant self-entitlement, emotional dullness bordering on the sociopathic and a near-catatonic lack of motivation, this study acts as a breath of fresh air for concerned parents everywhere. It’s not you.

It’s not the emotionally dulling drugs you put your kids on from the time they were toddlers. It’s not the lack of attention or even paying them too much attention. It’s not about buying into the lie that “everyone is a winner, hooray for participation trophies!” Nor does it have anything to do with society’s complete lack of accountability. Nay, good reader. Here in the modern world, it’s always someone or something else’s fault. And this time, thank God, it’s marijuana’s fault. So go back to what you were doing. Live your lives in blissful ignorance taking comfort in the fact that whenever scapegoats are needed, science is there to provide them for us.

What’s your passion?

Tonight I was walking into the corner store and sitting outside was a man smoking cigarettes and asking for change. Usually, I decline them, but tonight something moved me. When the man asked if I could spare any change I said, “Sure. I’ll give you all the change I have if you tell me something.”

He said, “What do you want to know?”

“What’s your passion?”

He looked at me quizzically and said, “What does that mean?”

“What fills your heart? What drives you onward?”

Without hesitation he answered, “Love, brother.”

As I was giving him my change, I asked him one final question. “What have you been doing to pursue that lately?”

He shook his head sadly and looked away. “Hell. I don’t even know anymore, man.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I have a list of passions that fill my heart. But when I ask myself what I’ve been doing to pursue them, I have to admit to myself, “Hell. I don’t even know anymore man.” And why don’t I know? Why have I given up on all these things that add meaning to my life? I suppose for the same reasons most people do. Because we let life get in the way. We tell ourselves, “I’ll start on it tomorrow.” The only problem with that is Tomorrow never comes. It always turns into Today. And it’s always so hard to find the time today; there’s too much to do.

But what is passion? What does it mean?  Ultimately, our passion is what we were put on earth to accomplish. What we individually do to make and leave the world a better place. But that has been distorted and confused. We live in a world where passion has been mistaken for emotional outbursts. Look at reality television. It’s nothing but cheap emotional manipulation saturated with advertisements. The same can be said for social media outlets. Every time I scroll through a feed I go through a range of emotions. This post makes me angry. This post makes me laugh. This post tugs at my heart-strings. This post wants me to buy a new razor. And on and on. These things aren’t passions they are sleazy emotional ploys. We shouldn’t be filling our heart with them. They give our lives no meaning. In fact, they only take from us. By the time I get to the bottom of the feed, I feel empty. I usually slam my computer shut in disgust and tell myself, “Way to go, genius, you just wasted another 20 minutes of your life.” So what’s the alternative? The answer to that is easy: force a change. If you know better, do better.

We let ourselves become convinced that happiness is this false sense of security called the American Dream and we’ve sacrificed our passions on the altar of this great god called Mammon. We’ve been conditioned all our lives to believe that if we do everything according to plan, go to school, get a job, make money, get a house, fill it with shit, then we are supposed to be happy. But that’s not the case. I see more and more people unhappy with their supposed achievements. But this doesn’t necessarily mean more and more people are realizing what they need to be doing is following their passion. Too many of us are immersing ourselves in an ever-expanding myriad of distractions in order to ignore the fact that we’re miserable and unfulfilled. We are all guilty of it. We can’t really blame ourselves too much, I mean, it IS the world we were born into. But it’s not the world that we have to live in. It’s not the world that we have to leave to our children.

Things are how they are because we’ve been fooled into accepting a fiction as reality. We CAN change. We CAN refuse to accept the lie and start living in truth. But in order to do that we have to start TODAY. Are you ready? If so:

What’s your passion?

And what have you done to pursue it lately?

Daily Wisdomisms: Philip K. Dick (The Empire)

Another excerpt from The Exegesis taken from the appendix to VALIS. This particular excerpt rings true to my soul. Enjoy!

The Empire is the institution, the codification of derangement; it is insane and imposes its insanity on us by violence, since its nature is a violent one.

To fight the Empire is to be infected by its derangement. This is a paradox; whoever defeats a segment of the Empire becomes the Empire; it proliferates like a virus, imposing its form on its enemies. Thereby it becomes its enemies.” PKD VALIS p. 235

What PKD calls “The Empire” I have always dubbed “The Machine”. But my beliefs on it have matched PKD’s even before I read the passages. It’s true though. If we look throughout history at all of the uprisings, revolts and revolutions that started out with such noble and pure intentions, those rebels who came to power afterward soon turned out like the very despots they overthrew. This is part of the Machine. It eats everything around it and turns it into a lifeless extension of itself. This can be very clearly seen in the arts. Every artistic movement that has arisen has been assimilated into the Machine and turned into a mass-produced mockery of itself. The same can be said for social movements. The Beats, the Hippies, the Punks, the Occupy Movement, the Tea Party, etc. The Machine swallowed them all. Infiltrated them, labeled them and neutered their influence. Thus, in order to defeat the Empire we must leave it behind.

 

Daily Wisdomisms: Kierkegaard

“yea, so long as every nerve in you is aquiver, whether when you are stealing softly about, or when you step out boldly and Janzian music within drowns out your consciousness—then you feel you are living.”

—Kierkegaard

 

It’s brilliance, it’s passion, it’s inspiration that matter in these uncertain times. These are all there is left to hold on to. The illusion is crumbling beneath our feet and with it goes everything reality holds dear.

Daily Wisdom-isms: Robert E. Howard

I’m fairly sure some of you have heard of Robert E. Howard. I’m sure all of you have heard of Conan the Barbarian. Conan was Howard’s most popular character though he birthed many others. He’s also credited with single-handedly creating the genre of “sword and sorcery”. Where did this pioneering writer see most of his works printed? Strictly in pulp magazines. The junk mags of the depression era. He, sadly, never published an actual book during his life. Today’s anecdote comes from a conversation he had with Novalyne  Price Ellis, the local English teacher.

Ms. Price commented that she wanted a side job writing for the pulps like Robert did.

He looked her square in the eye and said, “It’s one or the other. You can’t do both.”

—taken from “One Who Walked Alone.”

And isn’t it true? There’s this line. This unspoken step in the proper social progression. See, when we’re young, we have all these grand ideas for the legends we’re going to make for ourselves. We’re told over and over that we can be ANYTHING we want to be. So we want to be things like painters, actors, astronauts, writers and pro athletes. These desires ultimately shape who we become. But here’s the kicker: Somewhere along the way these dreams get abandoned.

Artists end up architects. Actors become politicians. Writers become English Teachers. And pro athletes sell cars. This happens in almost every instance because at some point most people abandon the search for their dreams and become comfortable in a “practical lifestyle”. But why?

“It’s one or the other. You can’t do both.”

So what about the intrepid fools who don’t give up? Some people never lose sight of their dreams. Some people can’t. No matter how hard they try to fit in, to become comfortable and complacent.  Sure, these passionate fools cross the line from time to time. Even starving artists have to eat. But they never stay. The pull of their dream is too strong, their passion too great. For these daring individuals, life isn’t about seeing how high you can “level up” your material junk. It’s about creating. It’s about leaving behind a legacy that will live on and inspire lives long after they’ve passed.

Novalyne Price never wrote for the pulps. She was an English Teacher for most of her life and her only published work was a memoir about her experience with Howard that was written after she retired. And Robert E. Howard? He never crossed the line into proper social progression. He committed suicide at age 32 and his legacy survives to this day.

Incident At A Barbecue Restaurant (Partly Inspired By True Events)

Counter Girl: Welcome to Big Booty’s BBQ. What can I get for you today?

Vegan Man: We’d like a pound of chopped meat.

Counter Girl: You’re aware that our meat has meat in it?

Vegan Man: Excuse me?

Counter Girl: Our chopped meat is made with meat cooked in our BBQ sauce.

Vegan Man: Wait, what? We came here for the vegan cuisine. We’ve heard wonderful things about your vegan brisket and tofu honey ham.

Counter Girl: We don’t have that.

Vegan Man: So what you’re telling me is that your meat has actual meat in it?

Counter Girl: Yes sir.

Vegan Man: This is unacceptable. I’d like to see a manager.

Manager: (After a brief moment) Hello sir. I’m the manager. How can I help you?

Vegan Man: I was wondering if you were aware of the meat content of your meat?

Manager: I am sir. Our meat is made with meat. Copious and unapologetic amounts of meat.

Vegan Man: Well what are we supposed to eat then?

Manager: I’d suggest the chopped meat. It’s delicious and simmered in barbecue sauce.

Vegan Woman: But we’re vegans!

Manager: I’m sorry to hear that.

Vegan Man: Excuse me?

Manager: Are you illiterate vegans too?

Vegan Man: Where do you get off?

Manager: Usually in the privacy of my own home. But I was asking about being illiterate vegans because that big sign outside says “Big Booty’s BBQ”.

Vegan Woman: We can read, thank you very much.

Manager: Then what about blindness? Are you blind vegans?

Vegan Woman: Why would you ask that?

Manager: Just trying to understand you. I don’t have your particular affliction. Maybe you went blind from vitamin and mineral deficiencies? The reason I ask is because to either side of the words “Big Booty’s BBQ”, which you seem to be able to read, there’s a picture of a smiling cow and pig. Now if were a picture of a smiling broccoli and tofu I could understand your confusion, but…

Vegan Man: Look. We’re vegans. And we–

Manager: Yes. You’ve mentioned that. And then mentioned it again. And again. I get it. You stuff yourselves so full of tofu and unfermented soy that your voices soften and your bodies get all plump and squishy. You know who else is a vegan?

Vegan Man: Who?

Manager: The cows and pigs that become our delicious chopped meat. Grain fed vegans from day one. Really adds a flavor to the meat…

Vegan Man: Why are you looking at me like that?

Manager: Like what?

Vegan Man: Hungrily. Almost like…

Manager: I was wondering how you’d taste as a cow? Because to be honest…

Vegan Woman: See? I told you we should’ve went to Vegan Town!

Vegan  Man: Enough woman! You know that place is full of hipsters and wannabes! And their tofu burgers are shitty at best.

Vegan Woman: At least they don’t want to eat us!

Manager: Hey! I resent that! Just because you’d probably make delicious barbecue doesn’t mean I want to eat you! I was just wondering. It was purely academic. Now, what would you like to order?

Vegan Man: We were thinking about the chopped meat…

Manager: You know our chopped meat contains meat, right?

Vegan Man: You’re kidding…

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