Julie, Julia, Chuck, and Bees

I spent most of the morning in bed watching Julie & Julia on Lifetime like a real man and it got me thinking about writing and blogging. I had a really good response to my guest post over at Chuck Wendig’s site about what a freelance editor can teach an author. I was surprised at how many people contacted me who had previously paid for an editor but were disappointed with the experience but didn’t know why. After reading my post they all realized what a quality freelance editor can offer.

Yesterday I was stung by a bunch of bees while I mowed the lawn and it sucked. The first time I was stung twice on the ankle, once on my leg, and once on my wrist. After a while I went back out again and got stung twice more on the other ankle and my toe. The next day most of the other stings are okay but the one on my wrist hurts like a mofo and is all swollen and stiff. I’ve been loading on Tylenol and Claritin to keep it under control but I’m keeping an eye on just in case. It got me thinking though about my fear of spiders and how irrational it is. I’ve never been bitten by a spider but they creep me out. But I’ve now been stung ten times by bees and they don’t bother me. Weird.

Today is much editing and some writing on my new book that I am very behind on and then more editing because I need money for bills and for the impending money suck of back-to-school and the kids’s birthdays.

Bee sting the next day. Stiff and painful.

Never Been Happier To See A Monday

Holy crap was that vacation exhausting. I think 8 days was about 3 days too many. By the time we got home Saturday we were all exhausted and crabby and sore and sunburned and tired. There were some fun parts of the trip I’m sure I’ll remember long after the bad memories fade, but for right now I’m happy to be back at my desk, back on schedule and out of the Florida-in-July weather.

I read a lot on by the pool and on the plane, which was nice, but only one of the books I read was fiction.  That was Frank Wheeler’s newest book The Good Life (coming in August from New Pulp Press). The others were books about writers and Saturday Night Live and the Spiderman Musical. I seem to be reading non-fiction SO much faster than fiction have have read most of these books in a day or two. Next up are more author biographies and then I suspect I’ll be get my itch for fiction back. Maybe.

For now I have to catch up on emails and phone calls and editorial work and it feels good to be busy doing the work I love.

If you missed any of the photos on Facebook, you can find them in my Flickr album here.

Guest Post: Josh Getzler – Telling Stories (Did You Hear The One…?)

So while Bryon is out having Princess Breakfasts in Orlando, he asked me to step in and write something. Now typically my blogging is reasonably specifically publishing-related, but Bryon told me to stretch a little. But I am who I am, and can’t help bringing it to writing.

It started last week, when author Ron Currie, Jr. posted on Facebook that if someone asked him how to write stories, he’d guide the person to Warren Zevon’s entire catalog. I’m hardly arguing with the choice (although I’m a bit more partial to Frank and Jesse James (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hk41aq2Klk) or (very aptly these days) The Envoy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkHn7WFrzCU), and one time I had an interview for a position on my college paper in the middle of a fraternity formal and sang Excitable Boy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJefPK_UkdM) in my tux.) But Zevon could really write a narrative, insert a tune you could hum, and make each album into a collection of short stories.

Ron’s little post got me thinking about some other artists who also understood narrative structure in addition to tunesmanship. And I realized as well that, like literature, there are certainly genres within popular lyrical storytelling. I mean, there’s YA (I’m looking at you, Taylor Swift!), fantasy (Terrapin Station (https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=iv&list=UUbinA8M1RT7eyTpSmYFSYZQ&v=GAIvo6QkOgc&src_vid=ugRct9pNQYM&annotation_id=annotation_1996822919), and, good lord knows, romance. So when I thought about some songs and artists I wanted to share, I realized I needed to narrow it down. So I got out of the shower (what? YOU don’t think of your blog topics in the shower?) and started to give myself some guidelines. I figured it would also help me avoid the “what do you MEAN you didn’t include The Queen and the Soldier/Stan/Eleanor Rigby” comments if I said from the get-go that what I’m thinking about are guy rockers who aren’t legends to everyone. Maybe I’ll hijack the blog again for those, but in the meantime, this one won’t have Dylan, Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Eminem, Elton, Springsteen, etc. And of course it’s subjective. But here you go: My favorite Story-Songs include the following:

1) Screenwriter’s Blues by Soul Coughing off their first album, Ruby Vroom. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mR9WJSX9pnU)   One thing I found in thinking about this list is that many of them fall into noir, and this one—about a guy driving, late at night toward Reseda (because after all, all of us, in one way or another, are going to Reseda) and talking back to a late night DJ—hits the wry darkness spot on (and the groove is oddly jaunty). Another one like this is

2) Drive, She Said by Stan Ridgway (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7iARb-JpaY) off The Big Heat, which is an album chock full of stories—Ridgway, best known for bursting out of a can of baked beans while singing Mexican Radio (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnx_sVLbGvQ) as singer of Wall of Voodoo, is the Dashiell Hammett of this list.

3) A Southern cousin to this crew is Kevn Kinney of the Atlanta band Drivin’ n Cryin’ which mixed the jangle rock of early REM with country and some ill-advised metal. Kinney clearly learned a bit from Dylan in his solo MacDougal Blues (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4LFsJAvE3k )  after he spent some time in the Village in the 80s, But my favorite of his stories is the lament of an old man whose kids are trying to move him out of his home to Residential Living in DNC’s House For Sale (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nOFTGeHVxw). And this brings up another theme—the lonely man lamenting the mistakes he made and trying to make the best of them. A great version of this, from one of the best, most unsung troubadours, is

4) Father’s Day, by the brilliant, undersung Australian pub-rock band Weddings, Parties, Anything. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYKNqftCkSQ) Songwriter Mick Thomas has an entire catalog of poignant songs about day-to-day domestic life that range from the quietly wistful Step In, Step Out (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fx-stB_EpQU) to the more optimistic Ticket In Tatts (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTrUGM8f6E4). These songs (particularly Step In) brought to mind one of the greatest skewerings of this kind of song,

5) Fairytale of New York (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9jbdgZidu8) by the Pogues and Kirsty Macoll, which really needs little discussion. The Pogues in general are one of the greatest story-song bands, and one of the most amazing sights of my life was watching Shane Magowan a couple of years ago, toothless and hammered out of his gourd, spin around, fall completely off the stage, and not miss a word of Sickbed of Cuchulainn (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZIISfOm3dI) from the brilliant Rum, Sodomy and the Lash.

Obviously there are loads more. I didn’t get into Pogues progeny’s Dropkick Murphy’s roiling Flannigan’s Ball (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChkjbkyyzzQ) or Dire Straits’ take on Romeo and Juliet (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxfjSnMN88U) or my wife’s entry, David Gray’s Babylon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zI_SBAkdKzc). And on and on and on (and country songs and hip hop and women). But I tell you: this is a Norton’s Anthology of short fiction, with a melody and a rhythm.

What are some of your favorites? Include them in the comments here, or on my preview post on Hey, There’s A Dead Guy In The Living Room. http://heydeadguy.typepad.com/heydeadguy/2014/07/click-bait.html

 

They’re Like Documentaries, But In Book Form

I’ve been having trouble getting my brain to stick with anything fiction-wise lately, so in an effort to shake things up I picked up a non-fiction book from the library. It was called Theater Geek by Mickey Rapkin, the author of the book Pitch Perfect was based on and it detailed a summer he spent at a performing arts camp. It was awesome. I read the entire thing in a day. The I read a biography of Dashiell Hammett and Bossypants by Tina Fey. All very quickly. Three books in four days and it put me three books over my entire reading total for last year. I’m still not feeling any novels calling my name so I’ve been on a hunt for good non-fiction.

Right now I’m reading a book about Detroit and kind of a memoir by Charlie LeDuff who was once a reporter but is now kind of an annoying local news personality on our most annoying Fox affiliate. The book is great though and for someone like me who writes a lot about Detroit, I’m woefully under-read in it’s history and struggles. It’s also a cool way to say how another writer was made.

I got some great suggestions on Facebook about what to read next and I also picked up a book by Jay Mohr about his time as a writer with Saturday Night Live and a book by Colson Whitehead about the time Grantland sent him to Vegas to play poker. All very much right up my alley. As much as I like documentaries and short non-fiction, I’ve never really done much non-fiction reading unless it’s research for a specific book project. I think that needs to change though. I don’t want to become one of those annoying writers who gets older and says they don’t read fiction anymore, but I think there’s a balance. Hopefully it will refresh my palate for novels, because there are some new ones coming out soon I want to read.

Saturday Photo: Jock and Nerd Edition

I’ll have a longer post about my day at DetCon1 later, but here, have some photos from the day. We took a break during the middle of the day to go over to the baseball game in town. Some guy at the box office was with his son and had two extra tickets in great seats and gave them to Spenser and I. That was pretty cool. I also got to see my dad who was there in a suit with my aunt. A delightful day all around.

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My DetCon1 Schedule (Including A Super Cool Opportunity To Hear Me Read From A Super Cool Project)

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Holy wow, how did it get to be Friday already? Lots of work to finish up today because tomorrow I’ll be heading downtown Detroit to participate in the DetCon1 festivities. And what is DetCon, you ask? Anytime the World Science Fiction Convention is held outside of North America, there is a North American Science Fiction Convention held for those who can’t travel internationally due to cost, logistics, or secret double lives. This year it’s in Detroit. Yay!

I’ll also be bringing Spenser with me for his first full-day fandom event. I took him for a couple of hours when I went to ConFusion last year and he really enjoyed himself so this should be great for him. He keeps calling it the science fiction invention though, which I find hilarious.

So, I’ll be around, likely hanging about in the bar and panels when I’m not on a panel myself. And what might those panels be?

11am  Teens Talk to… Editors
Duluth A
Track: Teen
Type: Panel
Tony Daniel, Sarah Hans, Bryon Quertermous
We always pay attention to who wrote the book or story, but we forget the people behind the scenes. Editors talk about what they do and answer questions.

1pm  What Am I Looking For?
Mackinac East
Track: Writing
Type: Panel
Diana M. Pho (moderator), Richard Flores IV, Kate Baker, Neil Clarke, Sam Morgan, Bryon Quertermous
Agents and editors talk about the sorts of projects that interest them individually and answer general publishing questions.

5pm  Michigan Voices 2: Short Readings
Joliet A
Track: Literature
Type: Reading
Jen Haeger, Cindy Spencer Pape, Harry R. Campion (M.H. Mead), Margaret Yang (M.H. Mead), Bryon Quertermous
A group reading featuring Michigan authors.

I’m particularly excited about that reading because it will be the first time anyone has ever been exposed to the urban fantasy novel I’ve been writing on-and-off on for the last year. If you’re near Detroit, pop by and say hello.

Plugging The Hole In My Soul With A Hyper-Commercialized Mouse

Thanks to everyone who reached out after my last post, even the smart asses. I really do appreciate it. This is something I know I’m prone to but I find if I talk and write about it I stand less of a chance of wallowing in it and spiraling into the worst of it. I put myself on a schedule instead of just sleeping in late and wasting the day away, which has helped, as well as showering and shaving regularly. It’s amazing how the small bits of normalcy can contribute to a health state of mind. I also went full-on organizational nerd and did up some calendars and spreadsheets and filing systems to help me keep track of stuff and feel more in control.

I also booked a trip to Disney World with part of my severance check. That made me feel REALLY good. This will be our first time staying on Disney property and I’m so excited. I’ve already booked all of our dinner reservations and started booking FastPass activities. Staying on site with a dining plan makes it seem almost like an all-inclusive vacation. A Disney bus will be there to meet us at the airport and take us and our bags and will bring us back. No worries. And I think the kids are at a perfect age to enjoy all of it as well.

Feeling Funky But Not In The Marky Mark Kind Of Way

I’ve been in kind of a nasty funk for a while now and I’m getting sick of it. I can’t sleep, I have too much on my mind but during the day all I want to do is nap. I’m not hungry, nothing sounds good to read and I haven’t felt like writing. All I want to do all day is sit on the couch and frown. Even TV doesn’t make me feel better. Going to the movies has worked here and there (Spenser and I saw How To Train Your Dragon 2 today and it was a phenomenal movie) but I can’t spend all day every day at the movies so something needs to break.

Obviously losing my job is a big part of it, but the bigger part is what to do next. I should be eager to resume my free-wheeling freelance life. I’ve enjoyed the projects I’ve worked on so far and I have some more cool projects lined up through August, but I can’t settle in. I spend too much time looking for jobs, either more freelance work or a permanent job. This is odd for me because I’m not usually the sort who craves steady work or security. I’m guessing having a family has a lot to do with it. If I just had to worry about myself I think the feast or famine nature of freelance wouldn’t get to me as much. But lately, all I really want is a nice steady gig in a bland office tower in a downtown area with benefits and a pension plan and office potlucks.

I really hope this is just a temporary funk because the last time I felt like this I was miserable and didn’t write or read for about two years and I don’t ever want to feel anything like that again. I just need to keep on pushing, keep on surviving, and keep on trying. I picked up a non-fiction book about summer theatre camp from the guy who wrote Pitch Perfect. And I’m going to take a break from writing the Murder Boy sequel to write some more on my secret fantasy novel that I’ll be reading live from next Saturday at the North American Science Fiction Convention. Hmmm, I actually forgot until just now that’s coming up as quickly as it is. Maybe that will help break me out of this funk.