Tag Archives: writing

Why Artists need to Pay Their Collaborators

So you’ve finished a novel. You’ve birthed a semi-autobiographical baby and you want to show it off to the world. You’re going to self publish and you have some idea of how to reach an audience.

You follow other authors on social media. You see a lot of book banners in your newsfeed. You’re oblivious to most advertisements, but you know how effective a clever design can be.

You’ve clicked thumbnails for novels because they reminded you of the hand drawn collages that once dominated VHS tapes, back in the heyday of horror. Others that reminded you of the black light posters for bands your parents would never let you listen to, and others that looked like Banksy Graffiti, mutated corporate logos repurposed to stick it to the man.

You’ve judged books by their covers and read many a blurb just because of the art. You want a design that compels readers to do the same. Lucky for you you know a guy. Continue reading Why Artists need to Pay Their Collaborators

Why Every Writer Needs a Living Will… Before the Singularity

One of the most important things a novelist can do is write a will so their family knows how to manage their intellectual property in the event of their death. Franz Kafka, Thomas Hardy, and Emily Dickinson all wanted their writing burned after they passed, but their wishes weren’t legally binding. Meanwhile Michael Crichton, Stieg Larsson, and Vince Flynn have all published bestsellers posthumously.

To ease the burden off of my friends and loved ones I’m going to settle my estate early. Consider the following my living trust and my living will.

If I am ever in a persistent vegetative state, unable to eat or breathe without the aid of a machine then please, by all means, strap the latest neuroimaging technology to my skull and get to mapping. If the scan is incomplete then go full Walt Disney, scoop my brain out and put it on ice. I consider that entire organ my intellectual property. Copyright every neuron. If you’ve got to refrigerate it in the library of congress then so be it.

I’m counting on a rogue artificial intelligence to upgrade itself to a state of godlike omnipotence, to send massive servers into orbit and create a new plane of existence to house all our neural signatures forever. When this singularity happens I want a front row seat. Upload my consciousness to the cloud. Give me a CGI facsimile, like Max Headroom, and trademark my face. Continue reading Why Every Writer Needs a Living Will… Before the Singularity

Poetry Today: On Bestselling Poetry

I will not write poems on the shitter
For Tumblr or Twitter
For Instagram views
Or ribcage tattoos
I will not write quirky quotables
For scroll bar vegetables
For boards on Pinterest
Where fonts speak loudest

I will not write limericks
For Hallmark sunsets
Too many tranquil oceans
Are littered with devotions
I will not spread good vibes
For up-votes and fast subscribes
For thumbs or hearts
Or Emoji art

I will not break platitudes into parts
With rhythms of fits and starts
Or throw out the metronome
To pass a sentence as a poem
I will not hide behind positive messaging
When I find reviews threating
Or ask you to grade intentions
When I’m lacking inspiration

I will not use “whispered” liberally
For a cheap sense of intimacy
Or say, “All the angels came together
To forge me the perfect lover”
I will not push more gooey snacks
Sugary sweets in shiny packs
And junk food entertainment
On brains craving nourishment

The words that speak to me
Are surges of telepathy
They dig like hungry dogs
Into my internal monologue
They’re not hackneyed hashtags
Or designs for your splash page
They’re not shareable or wearable
Or I don’t fucking care-able

I keep telling myself not to pander
To the lowest common denominator
Not to sellout my principles
To get a click-bait book deal
I keep telling myself persist
Get on that bestsellers list
Milk and Honey earned its rank
And that book is mostly blank

A Fair Price: A Poem About Underselling Your Art

I drop a pocket watch
Into the collection plate
Because I’ve got
All this time to donate
I pay to play
Live at a loss
Tick off the days
And shrug off the cost

I’m a giving tree
Money grows on me
I make it rain gold
Roll in my debris
I work for free
Free space, free time
Free rein, free mind
Free verse, free rhyme

“But how do you get by?”
She has the nerve to ask
Artists really only need
Some ink and a flask
You’re the one getting
Something for nothing
The least you could do
Is pay attention

I got prizes inside
I’m spitting diamonds
Holster your checkbook
And open your hands
Who cares how these jewels
Came unstuck
For all you know
They fell off a truck Continue reading A Fair Price: A Poem About Underselling Your Art

How Not to Hold an Author Event

Insight from a bookseller who has seen these things go very badly.

Congrats on Your Book

So you’ve written a novel, better yet you’ve found a modest publisher who can get it into stores. Sure it might not have priority placement on the front table, but it’s available to customers who think to order it.

Seems like life is on the upswing, but before you forget your humble roots you might want to do something to bring yourself back down to earth, something to let the air out of your ego before it gets too inflated. Why not host an author event? Why that’s just the kind of degrading experience you need to kick your heart in the balls, but how to prepare for one in a way that guarantees maximum humiliation?

I have just the strategy. Continue reading How Not to Hold an Author Event

Be Consumed: A Poem About Sharing Too Much of Yourself

There’s no time for hors d’oeuvres
No time for plating
You’re my last table
And I’ve kept you waiting
I arrive naked
With just a lid on me
I lift it and say,
“I hope somebody’s hungry”
 
I work a knife into the meat
All the way around I twist
Until I’ve carved a bacon strip
Right out of my wrist
Now lean back
Open wide, say, “Aaahh.”
As I unspool my forearm
Into your gapping maw
 
When I’ve stripped my hand
Right down to the gore
You bop up in your seat
A puppy yapping for more
So I move on to the other arm
And carve off bits of bicep
Strength I never put to use
A grip on things I never kept
 
I feed you the parts
That I can afford to lose
But you keep yapping
And I just can’t refuse
So it’s on to the vital organs
It’s on to things I’d rather not share
Still you’ve got an appetite
And I pride myself on being a good waiter
 
I open my skull
And give the best service I can
The best years of my life
All my best laid plans
By the time I’ve scooped my brain out
And fed it to you like bits of popcorn
I don’t know any better
Than to give my last beating organ
 
Take the napkin from your lap
Dab the corner of your lip
Don’t bother opening your wallet
Don’t bother factoring a tip
This meal is on me
(Or it was me I guess)
You live to consume
I lived to impress

How Hard Selling can Harm Your Brand

If you’re an aspiring writer looking to sell your work online take a lesson from the retailers of yester year.

Malls are transforming into community centers, places where you can renew your license, bowl ten frames, and lift weights. Meanwhile tent pole retailers, like Macy’s, Sears, and J.C. Penny are all pulling up stakes.

While most blame the rise of online shopping I blame the retailers. Shoppers who venture into brick and mortar stores are there to browse while retailers do everything they can to get in their way. CEOs blame shrinking profits on their employees’ inability to hand sell, to walk customers around the store, to give every person the same attention they’d give to shoplifters.

When I walk into a store and a clerk says, “What can I help you find today?” I’m taken aback. Continue reading How Hard Selling can Harm Your Brand

Paw Prints: On Grieving the Loss of a Pet

When I unlock the apartment I wait for Mala to meow for her meal. When I kick off my shoes I anticipate her whiskers on my heels. When I set the mail on the table I wait for her to run her black ears beneath my fingertips.

When I set the grocery bags on the counter I expect her to inspect them. When the bags are empty I expect her to leap inside. When I open the refrigerator I expect to see her on the bottom shelf licking the bacon.

When I sit on the couch, Mala leaps up onto the armrest, descends the pillows, and approaches my lap. The moment I turn to pet her she’s gone. When I sit on the toilet I can feel her doing figure eights around my ankles. There’s nothing but tiles when I look down.

It’s a pavlovian response, but unlike Pavlov who conditioned his dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell, Mala has conditioned me to associate her with everything I do. People don’t train cats. Cats train people. Continue reading Paw Prints: On Grieving the Loss of a Pet

My Summer Writing Soundtrack

How Pan Got His Flute

I coasted down the mountainside with dew beneath my feet and air kissing my cheeks. All the wolves howled, all the crickets chirped, and the all owls hooted as I passed. All the night creatures offered their greetings for I was their guardian.

I was Syrinx, the nymph charged with protecting the wilderness from the axes of man.

This was Arcadia a hidden place untouched by seasons, where flowers were always in bloom and rocks were evergreen.

My sisters’ laughter carried down the mountainside. They were frolicking on the highest peak, perfecting their dance routines. Most Nymphs used dance to sway the hearts of men from committing violence on the woodlands. I wanted to influence men’s hearts with my mind, with my writing.

I rode down the slope until I was certain I was alone. I reached into my tunic and produced the instruments of my craft: a sheet of papyrus, a quill, and a bottle of vegetable juice. Continue reading How Pan Got His Flute