Saturday, August 28, 2010

My Creative State of the Union

For those interested, this is what I've been up to :

  • The Immanence of Myth proof copy has been taken off lulu. A handful of them went out to people, hopefully I'll get some feedback from you by the end of September, which is the deadline for this proofing run. I will then be working on integrating proofing input, doing another pass myself, and working on getting the formatting consistent so as to prepare it to shop to publishers. (Layout and final editorial will be, god willing, handled in-house by them.) 
  • The Hoodooengine album EgoWhore is very close to complete: 7 of the 9 tracks are in the final mixing and early mastering phase, and the remaining 2 tracks are close behind. This project is somewhat in the vein of Chemlab, KMFDM, and Ministry, with a lot of drum and bass and even crunk influences finding their way in there. It is dancy, over-the-top and sci-fi. We hope to pick up a label and be able to do at least some short tour support for it in the coming year. Either way the album will be made available online, on iTunes, and on Amazon, as soon as that is possible. This album was produced and arranged by Marz233, I did assistant production and guitars, and Johan Ess is on vocals. (Plus some special guests here and there.) 
  • I just completed a 2k word short story version of the first plot arc for the Nyssa comic script that I wrote last year. I've been having a hard time getting any sort of consistency out of the art development so I wanted to move ahead with a prose version. I'm contemplating putting together a pitch of the following plot arcs (which would constitute a novel) and shopping them to publishers as well. On the flip side, I am still interested in re-exploring a visual interpretation of the story with photographic source, possibly with Sean Jenx. One way or another one or all versions of this will be getting shopped around for print ASAP.
  • Murder The World is on hold until we find a vocalist for the project. For now we're going to focus on HoodooEngine. But you can enjoy our podcasts!
  • The Y script is being formatted for release with Weaponized as a hardcover book. It will likely include an introduction, I'm sure. We also intend to put together a free media offering to help bring the world of Y to you, which will include a debut of a couple of the HoodooEngine tracks. Release date TBA. 
On that note, anyone want to help me plan, organize, and implement these submissions so I don't have to completely stop creative output for two months? Well if want hands on experience of this kind of thing and have time to spare, we could work something out. You must be dedicated to the task at hand, confident, and be able to think on your feet. Email me. If not, I'll put the kettles on the back burner and get out the spreadsheets myself.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

No Write Way Redux (part 3 Drink To Success)

(read part 1, part 2

  Maybe you've tried everything I've suggested so far, and you're disappointed to find that you're still not a great writer. Don't worry. Most of us aren't. But there are other tricks we can try.
There's a story that Hunter S. Thompson used to re-type the novels of the “greats” like Faulker, word-for-word, so he could hear the “music” behind the language. That sounds like some brilliant myth-making bullshit to me, but we'll go with it. Maybe we can find some common element behind the methods of now-famous authors. Model their methods, and you model their success.
  If you take a hard look at the lives of Hemingway, Joyce, Poe, Hunter S. Thompson, Faulkner, Burroughs, Bukowski, and many other writers who have gained the mantle of post-mortem fame, we can see one commonality: they weren't teetotalers. That's a nice way of saying they were fucking drunks. (Many of them also had dead wives, but murder is right out.)
  If nothing else has worked for you, you too should try drinking. I suggest a good single malt scotch. At least 15 years in the cask. Some writers prefer a finer scotch than that, but I think that your writing skills will improve regardless of the vintage. After all, Hunter wasn't so selective. He drank Wild Turkey like it was water, and he was a fcking genius.
  You might still be staring at that blank screen with a feeling of horror. Spin the ice around in the glass. A firm, hefty glass. You want to feel the weight ofit in your hand. Stare through the ice to the source of your inner creativity as the ice slowly comes back to rest. For meThe sound of icee swirling brings on inspiration to unlock worls for your reader.
  Dont take my word for itf you dont beleve me. By way of demonstgraintg to you the effectiveness of this technique I have been taking a slug myself with each couple sentences. It's like mehtod acting in motion. A smooth action motion like the bolt of a rifle or draught of godhood. Drink to success, not excess. Are you a genius yet? I am
  If you still don't habve a grasp of your plot or characters, have another. Eventyally it'll work. Open up to the dfjf and moood enuff to wind the wyndlesssss. Tentacles. Plot twees.
     Terrors of night awAIT--

Saturday, August 21, 2010

No Write Way Redux (part 2 Methodology)

(read part 1

    Once you’ve riffed for a while on your characters, it’s time to dig into the foundation of your story. Find a theme, and maybe ask yourself some questions. Why are you writing a story about these characters? What’s at the heart of the story? We will look more closely at this, and I'll give some examples from my own process.
    William Burroughs once said (in his Review of the Reviewers), that “all 'good' writing must get at the human condition, it must have something of 'high seriousness' to it.” It’s hard to say just how literally he intended for us to take the word “high.” All the same, this is a valid point. In theory, fulfilling this requirement should answer the question “why should this story be told in the first place?” Though at the end of the day that decision will likely remain in the hands of feckless thugs with Amazon Prime accounts.
    As I said in part 1, a story isn’t so much about what happened. No matter how bizarre your narrative style, there is still going to be a theme, which is rooted in your ultimate intention in writing the story in the first place. It is only in relation to this theme, and the underlying intent, that you can tell if you’re on or off the bar as you move into the process of actually writing your story, so hold onto it.
    Most intro to writing teachers will tell you at this point to look for the conflict, since that is generally the easiest way to put your characters into motion. “Happily ever after” is a myth that many people have bought for their own dreams, but we all know the story ends there. Regardless of what it says about us, we're bored to tears by a lack of ongoing conflict and resolution. However, these conflicts needn't occur in the outside world: group A and B are vying for the same territory, Man A elopes with Man B's wife (which also amounts to a territory dispute in most cultures), etc. There are plenty of modern novels where very little happens at all outside the minds of the characters. Take Joyce’s Ulysses for instance. This isn’t to say it isn’t rife with conflict, it just happens to be primarily psychological. If you want to talk brass-tacks, it’s about a boring day in Dublin. (On the other hand, not all of us can be James Joyce.)
    This “brass-tacks” approach misses the heart of a story with that kind of intention. Different intentions call for different methods.

    For example, with my first novel (Join My Cult!), I was writing about the plunge into the subconscious that can occur with some adolescents. The entire story, (if you want to call it a story), is centered around that painfully vital, melodramatic and sometimes even terrifying feeling of not belonging, of perceiving a world that no one but your closest friends seem to see. It’s about that, and not what happened at the beginning or end of the story. Those events are just like the glue holding together this odd collage of mental artifacts. If you are telling a story that focuses on the internal, rather than the external, then a clear sense of theme and character psychology becomes even more essential, because there’s nothing else there to move it forward. Most of the content amounts to the deranged ramblings of the characters themselves, whether it is posed in first or third person.
    With my second novel in this vein, (Fallen Nation: Babylon Burning and its updated version, Fallen Nation: Party At The World's End) you have many of the same characters rising out of that state and coming into their own and going out into the world, if in their own bizarre, rockstar-messiah kind of way.
    Even though many of the central characters are the same, these projects seem very different because they are being approached with different methodologies. Again, match methodology with the intention of each project. In a sense, each time you write a book, you have to re-learn how to write a book, if you don't want to write the same thing over and again.
    Every book you write should in this sense be your first. Each theme, each grouping of characters, each intention demands a completely different execution. Different characters demand a different use of the language, and a unique means of exploring the story. Consequently you have a different writing style that is going to arise in the process of bringing that to life. You have to re-discover and re-interpret your voice and your approach to writing, which is why it’s so damn hard to give a step by step process for how to write a novel.
    We may all fall back on conventions, turns of phrase or techniques that availed us in the past, but the more we can avoid that the better. It’s very much like the clichés that musicians resort to when improvising. Some writers will tell you to never resort to cliché. I disagree. However, cliché should only be utilized intentionally.
    A final note on the topic of your theme: if you find yourself purposelessly rehashing, leading with style instead of substance, then it’s time to zero back in on the vital kernel inside your story, and try to be true to that, or there’s really no sense in wasting your time. Or the time of your would-be readers. I know this flies in the face of the marketing sensibility that says that when you find your market, you should just keep shoveling the same shit. Not to come off like a sniveling artiste, but I'm talking about challenging yourself, and constantly endeavoring to be a writer. Not pandering to the desire of a market.
    Back to writing. Now that you have a sense of your characters, and probably a bunch of disconnected scene sketches that you wrote in the process of coming to know them, you can get to the actual story.
If your story does require a complicated plot, I suggest diagramming it out, scene by scene, chapter by chapter. When diagramming Fallen Nation: Babylon Burning, I got out a big ream of paper with a co-conspirator and created a plot arc for each character with a different colored crayon. At the points where events would make different characters paths cross, the lines would also cross. In these intersections, I had to think about what the different characters were bringing to that point in time – the ever repeated character motivation – and how this might catalyze them to work together, in opposition, or simply pass each other by entirely.
    One way or another, start playing around with your story visually on a time-line. I recently adapted Fallen Nation into screenplay format with a regular writing collaborator and good friend, Jason Stackhouse. This process, too, was different. We spent the first few all-night sessions drawing out plot arcs on his kitchen table with dry erase pen, and only when we were satisfied that it all made sense as a composition did we begin divvying up scenes and actually writing. In screenplay format, every beat and every page counts for time. There might be some argument to be made that if you want to write a tight novel, rather than a more meandering one (arguably like my first two, especially the first), then you should plot it out as if you're writing a screenplay. Every action and motivation plays counterpoint to something else.
    We decided on a three act arc, and broke each act into three piece, each of which had between three and five “action points,” most of which became individual scenes. Make flow-charts in Viseo if you feel the need. Your diagram will either come, or it won’t. Make a new method for each project if it suits you. Maybe you want to write a novel where key plot decisions are decided by throwing darts at a wall. More power to you.
If this diagram process is really holding you up, you're not necessarily sunk. You can probably move on to the next step, at least for a short while. Actually writing. You’ve spent quite some time – probably several months – preparing to write your novel. Now comes the part where you write it.
    During this phase, you need to turn off all the critical voices and random impulses in your head. “This is going to suck,” “I should just watch eel porn,” “Should I write it this way?” “I wonder what the etymology of the word bulwark is?” … Show the text to no one that will throw you off track. Share it only with confidants that you trust to not hate you after you've asked them to read three thousand and two versions of the same text. Just be as true to your characters and your theme as you can be, and write. (Remember: this is the fun part. So have fun now, because you may not during the editing phase, and if you're like me, you sure as hell won't during marketing.)
    There is too much to be said about the details of writing a book. For the most part you pick it up as you go along, and if all goes well, your voice will come out of that struggle. However, I want to point out the importance of dialogue. It may be naturalistic, it might be more poetic or formal depending entirely on the intention and tone of the piece as a whole. No one naturally talks like the character's Aaron Sorkin wrote for West Wing, but it's still mostly great dialogue because it matches the tone and intention of the show. My first novel might seem a horrible example of “natural dialogue,” mainly because the primary characters talk like 19th century Philosophers stuck in 18-year-old bodies. You need to be true to the characters… If that’s how they talk, be true to it. If you’re unable to hear their voice, write a couple scenes just in dialogue. Give characters something to argue about or some situation to think through together. Add the other details later. If you still can’t find their voice, you need to get back at your character, and try to find examples of those personality traits in the people and media around you. Find their voice, and come back to the writing process.
    If you get stuck at any point, put down the pencil. (Or the keyboard.) Write something else. Or try this. Lie down, and close your eyes. Do some deep breathing, move yourself close to sleep without slipping away, and then focus in on that character again. Imagine them in your minds eye, at the point that you got stuck at. And just watch. Now sometimes of course you’ll get nothing. They’ll turn into giant pink elephants or you’ll get distracted thinking about crazy zero-G sex or what you’re going to cook for dinner. But sometimes the characters will take over, and that block will melt away.
    This leads me to another point. If in the process of actually writing, your characters feel like they want to go in a direction that wasn’t in your plot diagram, for the love of whiskey let them. If it hits a dead end, the worst thing that happens is you have to delete a couple pages. As a general rule of thumb, if your characters don’t overtake you and your well planned structure and lead it in a totally unplanned direction at least a couple times in the course of writing a novel, you probably need to spend more time breathing life into those characters.      
    Finally, and this one can’t be under-stressed: write something every day. Or barring that, as frequently as you can manage without learning to completely loathe writing. Or alienating all of your friends. That sounds really obvious, right? But you’d be amazed how many people do all the planning, and then peter out when it comes to the work ethic.
    A book is literally built a word at a time. I'm told the average novel runs somewhere between 75,000 – 250,000 words. You may have this romantic idea in your head of an author going in and hammering out his opus in a brief, intensely melodramatic fugue, like Handel in fact did with his Messiah. Every word is perfect, and it comes out full-formed.
    Sure, maybe it'll be like that for you. More likely than not, most of your favorite books were written slowly and consistently, a couple thousand words a day. At the end of the process 30,000 words might have been shaved off, and then another 10,000 added to tie together those desiccated loose ends. Not every day is going to give you a gem, that doesn’t mean you didn’t benefit from the effort. Just get up the next day and keep at it. Good luck!

Next I’ll be getting into the editorial process, branding, and the other intermediary steps between your first draft and the PDF you send to the printer.

No Write Way Redux (part 1)

Working on a revamp of an old blog series I started back in 2007. Right now being guest blogged on Feckless Goblin's page:
There are many ways for a would-be author to get their work into the form of a physical book these days. We are going to cover those later, but it struck me that in most articles I’ve seen about self publishing, whether the final product is a physical book or a blog of some kind, the actual process of writing a novel is often overlooked.
The down-side of easier access to publication is a reduction of signal-to-noise. In other words, if everyone can publish a blog or a print-on-demand book, the chances of that book being unrefined or even worthless increases exponentially. It took me two novels to really catch my stride, in my estimation, so part of this has always been, and will remain a tautology: “how do you learn to write? Write!”
(Read full article.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fans of my books apparently like assault rifles

Every now and then I get an email from someone who's been reading my books, a listener from a podcast, or an album. For several years they came in ten or twenty a day, lately it is more of a trickle thanks in part to the fact that many of the projects I've worked on have been delayed so it's been a while since a release, and people are also using email less I think. Be that as it may, sometimes these emails lead to interesting conversations, even future collaborations. (Though: No, I will not write your idea as a story and split the profits, and no, I will not read your 500 page manuscript about alternate histories and sacred geometry without having any idea of who you are or what I could do to help you.) Sometimes these conversations take on a more disturbing tone-- "I'm trying to figure out how to mic the inside of my head so I can prove that I can read thoughts," the occasional bizarre death threat, you know that kind of thing.

But this just amused me.

"I support the authors/artists I like when and where I can. A year or two ago I might've printed this out at work, but my co-workers get suspicious when I print out 400+ page documents at work and then explaining yourself can be just plain awkward. The first time I read JMC I had it puked out of a printer at this long-term care pharmacy I worked at, among several thelemic libers, and miscellaneous oddities. The faces the pharmacists would make when they thumbed through the documents made it all worthwhile though (we received RX orders on the same printers so they'd freak out an assume it was a fuckton of prescriptions to fill at first. Got one to at least start reading JMC, don't know if he ever finished). 
Had to order the Cunt Coloring Book to qualify for the free shipping on lulu and just so you know, your proof copy is cutting into my incendiary rounds funds for my AR-15 for this weekend. There will be a significantly reduced risk of forest fires in my area thanks to you. :("


Originally uploaded by agent139
Book cover design for hardback copy of "Y" script, BLUEPRINT OF A RITUAL EXPERIENCE.

Published by Weaponized. Design by me. Art by the incredibly talented Daniele Serra and myself. Release date TBA.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dead Language Now For Sale

Foolish People have released DEAD LANGUAGE through their new imprint, Weaponized. Check it out. (And... check out my foreword.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Special G-Spot Interlude: MTW in the studio part 2

Professional lunatic James Curcio takes over again for an episode and brings you back into the studio with MTW. This episode takes us even further out of the realm of good taste than the first, through a melange of tracks in progress, various prank phone calls, conversation outtakes, and flat out mind-fucks. Topics include independent music production techniques, catheters as tripping toys, amyl nitrate, psychological malaises of suburbia, voodoo, trickster Gods, and a lot more.

The tracks in this episode are taken from MTW’s upcoming release Nothing Is Sacred, and two tracks from Captain Zombie, another project being cultured in this dank basement. The outro track is provided by DJ Homicidal Rapist.

Check out the albums when they’re released if we don’t all OD on cough syrup and fermented yak semen, or invoke a wrathful demon that replaces all of our bodily fluids with nutella.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Immanence of Myth: Proof Copy Temp Available.

I've decided to temporarily share the link for the proof copy of the Immanence of Myth that we're using for editorial purposes, as this is somewhat of an "open project."

This has been through one round of editorial (only @3 more to go! ... Before it's ready for a publisher to probably have another round.) This is for those of you who have been dying to get your hands on the material, and for those of you who actually want to have a hand in proofing.

For those of you interesting in putting a pair of eyes on it, email me with some semblance of credentials ("I am fairly literate" may do depending on my mood at the time) and I can also share the PDF version.

If you do- I will only receive proof input in the following format: page number, paragraph: deletion / addition (comment).

If your proof input is considerably helpful, you will be listed as one of the proofreaders in the credits. Don't expect that though if you provide two typos, or mostly stylistic suggestions. Proofing is for grammar, flow, typos. Stylistic suggestions are acceptable but not the bulk of what we're looking for. That's my job. Also, as a note, we have a proofreader already signed on for the project internally. I figure the more eyes on it the better at this stage.

This link will be taken down in 2 weeks. The proofing process will be running until September 30th, at which point I'm going to do one more copyedit pass with all the proof input and then start sending MS' to publishers.


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