That Whooshing Sound You Hear Is All Of My Major Life Changes Passing By

Oh my.

So our baby came early, Go Natalie, and I’m sure you all saw the pics on Facebook but here’s a few if you missed them. She’s a beauty and I love her, but she still doesn’t seem real. The newborn phase has never been one of my favorites with the kids, I like them when they start developing personalities and such and doing more than drooling, but she’s already very expressive with her face and I think she gets sarcasm.

What does feel real is my new job. After a day and a half of inane and mind-numbing orientation, I got to jump in with the real work and start plotting and planning my next 3-4 years or so here (at minimum). I like having a job I’m good at and that uses my skills and experience and I also like the structure and the security of the fully-benefited 9-5 life. I signed up for dental and life insurance like a boss. I’m sure you’d all love a picture of my new cubicle so here you go:

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Tapping Out Of The Full-Time Freelance Life

I’ve known for a while that the full-time freelance lifestyle wasn’t for me. I haven’t talked about it much here because, mixed with my residual feelings about losing my Exhibit A job, I didn’t want this site to turn into a pit a negativity. But it’s been affecting me anyway. I haven’t been sleeping well, I’ve been sick and tired all of the time, and I’ve just generally been an unpleasant person. So I’ve been looking for a new job. One that I would enjoy and be good at and excel in. I set some pretty high expectations and I’m happy to say I found what I was looking for.

So as of October 13, I’l be rejoining the University of Michigan Health System as the Manager of Web Content for the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. I’m so excited to be rejoining one of the best universities in the country and, more importantly, I’ll be doing something I’m good at and doing it somewhere that will genuinely help better the world.

As for my freelance editing business, I’m taking a bit of a hiatus on new projects while I finish up with the projects I already have in the pipeline. I still enjoy this work and want to keep my hand it, but on a much more selective basis and not as my main source of income. And that brings me to the biggest reason I wanted out. I’m sick of the publishing industry. I’m sick of the gossip and the fear-mongering and the paranoia and the tediousness of it all. After seeing Exhibit A collapse so quickly, I’m gun shy about ever tying my family’s livelihood to that industry ever again.  As a reader I’m excited about all of the great new books I’m seeing and as a writer I think I’m set up with one of the greatest up-and-coming publishers in the business. But as an editor I hated the hustle and hated the uncertainty and hated the volatility and hated having to be part of another inane conversation about which publishing path is the best.

Also, despite recent evidence, I’m a writer first and I’m excited about being a professional writer again. So thank you to everyone who supported me and encouraged me and gave me the breaks and contacts that made this move possible. This has been a crazy year so far and I’m so happy to once again be on top. I was getting kind of sick of whining all the time.

I’ve Been The Parent Of A Six Year Old For 24 Hours Now

How did this little guy get to be so big. Happy Birthday buddy.

 

I shouldn’t be writing this right now. For one, I’m up to my eyeballs in work (yay!) and some very important pieces of work are waaaaay behind (boo!). But also, Spenser’s birthday was yesterday and I let it pass by without commemorating it here. That’s not good. I took that picture above last night before we left to go out dinner and I was shocked how old he looked. I like having little kids and I know I won’t have little kids for very long, but it’s not rushing by me as fast as I expected it to. Part of that I think is because I document and examine every aspect of it here and other places which kind of drags the process out.

It’s important to me to document and reflect on stuff like this because this place has become more of an archive of my life than my major every day online presence. I was reading a piece over at John Scalzi’s place where he was talking about just this thing and he was wondering where his website fit into his overall online personality. For me this site has always served as a diary where I can vent and reflect and document the important (and not so important) moments in my life so I can go back and read about it later. It seems like every few days I’m checking the archives here to see what I was thinking at a particular moment or when a specific thing happened. Just yesterday I was checking to see when I got my first iPhone.  I don’t anticipate that going away any time soon either, especially as the publication of my first novel is on the horizon and my kids are getting older and getting into more activities I want to write about.

So anyway, a bit of reflection for you all to prep you for Tuesday next week which is my birthday and will result in a whole lot more self-centered reflecting. My life is many things, but unexamined is not one of them.

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.