Saturday, April 27, 2013

Why the hell should I care about the money?

It used to be that I didn’t care a whit about getting paid for my work. Yes, I wanted to get paid for working, but I’d give out Work with that all important capitol with no concern whatsoever. Now, I find myself somewhat more concerned about getting paid like a muthafucka, as the parlance puts it. Then, a couple days ago, my wife mentioned this change to me and it got me thinking.


It isn’t like the occasional $20-$50 makes any real difference in my life. Hell, most of the time I end up spending it all on copies for myself and family. Then there is the poetry, which can possibly net me the amazing pro rate of $5. That doesn’t even buy two gallons of gas or a meal at Wendy’s. Given the time it takes to create the Work, including both the initial writing and subsequent editing, the pay boils down to pennies per hour. I might as well not be getting paid at all.

And it isn’t like I am determined to build up a professional record for my grand writing career. I write poetry and short stories at a time when no one buys anything but novels. This shit will never be a lifestyle for me.

I think it has something to do with how seriously the publisher takes the Work they publish. By handing over money, they show that they are invested. That they care. No one is going to give you their hard earned cash unless they believe in the quality of what they are purchasing. Even $5 a poem can add up pretty damn fast when you fit 50+ poems in an anthology. That means that my work will be placed in proximity to other quality works, which means that it will be more likely to reach an audience that cares about quality.

It also makes it harder. It isn’t tough to get into some free webzine with a 60% acceptance rate, so the acceptance doesn’t mean anything. It‘s the equivalent of getting a medal for participation. Once you see that the guy who trips over his own feet and can’t catch a ball to save his life got one, it ceases to matter. 

However, striving to break into those tough to crack markets means that I have to improve. I have to be sure that I am writing the best possible stories or poems I can. I have to be leaner, meaner, more confident and affecting. I can’t slip.

I will likely never get into Apex, with their .5% acceptance rate, but my determination to try makes me better. That is what matters most. After all, the creation of word art may just be a hobby but it s one I take seriously. I want the work to be the best it can be. I want the stories that boil in my head expressed in the most powerful manner I am capable of. 

Otherwise, there is no point in doing it at all.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tooting my Own Horn

I realized that I have been moderately remiss in the pimping of the self, as it were. Sad, I know. I also realize that, as much as I would like to believe that the raw power and majesty of the art I exude through whatever orifices happen to be available would draw you all like the gravity well of a collapsing star, such dreams are not to be. Don’t worry. Not everything I write is as self indulgent as that sentence.

All that nonsense aside, the following currently available thingies have my name hiding in the TOC:

A Science Fiction anthology with a fairly obvious theme containing. My story, “Have I got a Deal for You” contains both a giant, talking space vagina (which my wife found absolutely terrifying) and Nirvana played as muzak.

A zombie anthology dealing with loss. The stories in this one tend to focus a bit more on emotional impact than gore (though there is plenty for those so inclined). The introduction is by Jonathan Maberry and C Bryan Brown delivers a nearly crippling tale in addition to my own “Beautiful Things”, a tale of the estrangement of a father and son.

Initially billed as a steampunk ghost anthology, I think of it more as generalized haunted machines. Somewhat  along the lines of King’s “The Mangler”, featuring stories grouped by past, present and future. I’m sure most of you will be more interested in the Joe Hill story, which I completely understand. However, while you’re there you might as well check out “Interchangeable Parts”. It’s my gift to those who dislike steampunk for socioeconomic reasons.

D.O.A. II (Blood Bound Books), due to be released in July, 2013

This should be a fun one. An extreme horror antho that will feature some of my heroes like Jack Ketchum, Wrath James White, Monica J O’Rourke and Robert Devereaux.  Also, while they may not be as big of names, I usually enjoy Robert Essig and Daniel I Russell. I felt a little sick with myself while writing some parts of “Under the Pretense of Propensity”, which is usually a good sign.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Can't we just agree to stop doing this?

I've been writing reviews professionally* for about five years now. It seems like kind of a stupid thing to take seriously, but I do. I think of it as a kind of art on its own that, when done well, can help people to make informed decisions when it comes to more creative art. It is precisely because I take reviewing so seriously that things like this bother me so profoundly.

This exemplifies, to me, the reason so few fans and artists take reviewers seriously anymore**. This is why you get statements like: “Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. Those who can't do either criticize.” These don't come across as professional reviews so much as a self important child on a street corner yelling Look At Me!

8 of the 20 reviews quoted break the most important rule of reviewing: you are reviewing the work of art, not those who made it. They attack either the makers of the film or anyone who has the gall to enjoy the horrid pap those idiots shat out. All of them do exactly what he accuses Armageddon of doing: shout out one-liners without substance.

I get why this happens, especially as dependent as we are on Twitter and Tumbler and Facebook as we are now. A quick, biting quip is more likely to get passed along and aim people to you than a well reasoned, balanced statement of personal experience. It seems to work, initially. It may even get you a deal on a series of books. But it defeats the purpose of a review. It makes the reviewer look just as foolish as if they were blatantly copy whoring***. Also, few people bother reading anything but your cute little gag.

Reviews should never be about either the reviewer or the creator of the work. They should be about one person's experience of the work in question, conveyed in a way as to help others decide whether or not they will like it. Please note that the reviewer is not there to tell them whether or not they would or should like it. The review can, and in fact must be, subjective. This means that no matter how much you are paid, you are not an authority, but an adviser.

The distinction is important.

*Meaning that other people ask me to do them and occasionally pay me for doing so.

**Generally speaking, I consider it bad form to shit upon the recently deceased. They can't fight back and they have family that are trying to grieve for the lose of someone who likely meant quite a bit to them as a human being. It's just a dick thing to do. With that in mind, please understand that the following was not written to cast aspersions upon the character or person of Roger Ebert that was. I take issue with his review methodology and feel that his underlying critical theory, so dependent upon authorial intent, was outdated by a century or so.

***copy whoring: the act of writing a review around short, pithy exclamations in the hope of appearing on promotional art.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Guess who got a new toy?

I just received my brand spanking shiny and crisp Fridge of the Damned magnetic poetry kit, courtesy of Michael A Arnzen and Raw Dog Screaming Press. Of course, what good are toys if we don't play with them? With that in mind, I've today's NaPoWriMo to present:
Remember, folks, April isn't just about writing poetry, but also about enjoying it. Here's a bit of Mike Williams reading from Cancer as a Social Activity:Affirmations of World's End.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Keep Yer Gubment Offa Muh Murrij

I know you’re aware of the Marriage Equality debate that has been foaming at the mouth again. If you know me, you know my point of view and I won’t beat you over the head with it. That’s not what I’m concerned with today anyways. Right now, I’m more concerned with a sub-debate that has popped up in some (mostly, but not totally Libertarian) circles.

Why the hell is the Government involved in Marriage anyways?

It’s a valid question and seems obvious enough. Especially if you define marriage as a social (possibly religious) agreement between two people promising to take care of each other (you can even use the term “help meet” if you want to get biblical about it), then who I marry should only matter to me, my spouse and (if applicable) my chosen deity. There doesn’t seem to be much need for any government in that. Easy.

But then let’s use my own personal anecdote* to illustrate where I see the fault in this logic.

My current wife and I were together for eight years before we got married. We lived together for about Six and a half of those wherein she was in every way a helpmeet for me and I for her. We took care of each other and shared our lives as well as our habitation and bills. Everyone we knew understood this and, as we are not religious people, we didn’t particularly need a ceremony to cement anything. We could have simply declared our marriage in a social sense and be done with it. Maybe even bought each other rings and slapped them on our fingers as an outward statement of fidelity. If we wanted to be particularly showy and involve the family, we could have paid any number of people to perform a ceremony (I'm also certain that any church would have allowed it if we were members of that church). We didn’t need a government for that shit.

My wife didn’t have health insurance through her work and I was only able to add someone onto my insurance if they were my LEGAL spouse. If she got injured or sick and admitted into an ICU, the hospital could potentially keep me from seeing her because I was not a relative and I wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing about it. If I were to die, my sister would have more legal rights as to the fulfillment of my final wishes than her. Not of that touches on tax benefits, wrongful death benefits, inheritance issues, decisions on medical care should I not be fit (physically or mentally) to decide for myself and a litany of other issues.

Without a firm, legal backing bound by reams of paperwork held in third and fourth party hands and performed under officially recognized guidance, that is where we were.

So we said to hell with that bullshit and got the government involved in our marriage.
  *Obviously, as a personal anecdote, I don't expect that this reveals any universal truths. Just personal ones.