Warning, this is going to be crass.
School’s been shit the last few weeks, unless you live in Saudi Arabia (It’s under Iraq), you know that the Corona Virus as murdered everyone’s schedules. Whether that’s warranted or not is a discussion for another day, but I’ve been having to do my schooling online, much like pretty much everyone else in the country. I understand the need to flatten the curve, and that there’s no such thing as a well-timed emergency, but fuck dude. I have a hard time learning online as it is, but the school’s implemented a system where we still have all our lectures via the video conferencing platform Zoom. We’re having class at the same times, but instead of going somewhere to have human fucking being teach me something, I get to look at a little square on my computer. Now, this wouldn’t be too much of an issue if the classes were formatted to be video based, for instance Simon Whistler’s podcasts (all of them), PBS’s It’s Okay To Be Smart, and Kathrine Green’s The Art Assignment are all absolutely amazing learning tools. However, a lecture meant to be given in person over video chat is nothing short of godawfull. I know that my professors are not to blame, and I do not in any way shape or form hold it against them. We’re all victims of circumstance here, and I’m sure they’re just as frustrated with everything on their end as I am on mine.
One of the adjustments that’s been made has been turning to writing a lot more papers to absorb the material, as well as in lieu of in class discussion we read up on something and post out thoughts on the class’s in house forums. Which leads us to today. One of my classes we were to listen to a podcast, or read the transcript and respond to it with a short paragraph and talk amongst ourselves what we thought went into it.
Link to the podcast here: https://www.mapping-access.com/podcast/2020/3/16/episode-25-contraarts-access-with-emily-watlington
The episode introduction read as such: “The podcast about disability, design justice, and the lifeworld. This show is about the politics of accessible and critical design—broadly conceived—and how accessibility can be more than just functional or assistive. It can be conceptual, artful, and world-changing.”
In the interview, Emily Watlington, who suffers from Lyme Disease, talks about making art more accessible to people with disabilities whether it be not being able to see certain art because it’s in a place that’s not wheelchair friendly, or if the person’s blind and needs someone to tell them what’s in front of them. I didn’t hold too much issue with her or the host, besides a bit of agonizing over being too privileged, but the associated links to other artist mentioned on the podcast pissed me the fuck off. I may or may not be in for some heat for this one, but here’s my response:
“It’s hard for me not to be apathetic about this subject matter. Before I start digging into this, I’m going to preface with stating that I don’t have any cartilage in my knees anymore, I have disconnected tendons in my ankles (The corrective surgery has a 20% success rate), my tinnitus is so bad that sound rarely wakes me from sleep, and if you want to have some real fun, go look up mental effects of long term malaria medicine usage. I’m constantly in an extreme amount of physical pain, so, please don’t think that I don’t at least understand the disability aspect of the subject matter of the podcast and the linked article “Disability and the Politics of Visibility.”
All of this came off to me as “Poor me.” I understand the struggle, however there was nothing brought forward that suggested overcoming adversity. Yes, stairs suck, and so does sitting down, because it feels like there’s a knife in your kneecaps, when everyone else moving around, but I also know that the world doesn’t revolve around me and besides what’s dictated by the Americans with Disabilities Act, they don’t need to, and I would only be slowing people down by demanding their help.
In the podcast they mentioned Shannon Finnegan who’s work centers around making art that focuses on accessibility and disability culture. Finnegan’s work is abhorrently privileged. She hosted a protest of the Vessel at Hudson Yards, which is a series of 154 interconnected stairways. The protesters all signed forms that stated they won’t enter the structure. Her website bemoans that the Vessel is touted as ADA-Compliant, as there’s an elevator, but her problem is that the elevator doesn’t give the participant the experience of the structure, which is just climbing starts. This is kind of like writing a hate letter to Lady Gaga because you’re deaf and can’t hear her music. Do you know what disabled people want? It’s for everyone else to treat them like the didn’t have one. As of right now it’s 8:30 and I want to get this in by 9 so I’m not going to put a lot of research into this, but a five minute scouring of the internet looking for what her actual disability is bore no fruit, and maybe I’m wrong about this and she’s got spondylitis or narcolepsy, but I HATE when people who are not in a certain demographic use said demographic as a political tool.
Moving on, Emily Waltington seems like she at least has her heart in the right place, but she doesn’t seem to understand that no art is for everyone. Art doesn’t have to have a message, but it really should. And if there’s a message, there’s an audience, and if there’s an audience, it’s geared towards the people who would appreciate it. For example, there’s a song I like called The Mariner’s Revenge Song, by The Decemberists. It’s a long, acoustic ballad about a boy in the age of sail who’s mother is wronged and left to die by a scoundrel and then he goes on a eighteen year journey seeking revenge. The music in wonderful, the story is dramatic, and it feels good when I put my hands on the speakers as it plays. Now, a deaf person will never hear this song. If the lyrics were to be transcribed, they might read it, but even if they liked the poetic form it took, half the meaning is gone as it’s in the music.
Look, we live in an age where there’s something for everyone to enjoy, but it’s not the artist’s responsibility to provide that. The artist’s job is to create the art they want to create, whether it be high society fine art or painting flowers on gourds to sell at the craft fair. It’s on the viewer or listener to find the art that moves them.”
Shannon’s self righteous bullshit here: https://shannonfinnegan.com/anti-stairs-club-lounge-at-the-vessel
After the rant, another article about Andrea Crespo, who self identifies as, and I quote, “transgender dicephalophilic person with a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome,” was refered to me. Dicephalophilic, means that he identifies as a conjoined twin.
That’s a thing.
This dude has a BFA from the Pratt Institute and his art is subpar to that socially awkward weeb you hung out with in middle school who only drew furries and never got any better at it. I’m serious. His (Yeah, I know he identifies as “they,” and I normally respect that, but FUCK this guy) parents must have donated so much money to that school that they were able to hire Jeff Bezos as a barmaid.
My response to that reads as such:
“I don't know what's going on with Andrea Crespo. They (?) identify as dicephalic parapagus twins, even though there are pictures on the internet of the person and that's clearly not the case. I hold issue with that as it takes away from people who struggle with actual physical and mental issues. Say for example there's someone somewhere who suffers from gender dysphoria (which is a recognized condition by the NHS), and that person wants to reveal themselves for who they are on the inside. If they see someone like Crespo identifying as a conjoined twin for no apparent reason than to bring attention to himself, that's going to be harmful because it delegitimized the struggles of people who are already in the categories society deems as "other." Crespo also self identifies as having Aspergers, which again, is a real thing that someone can't just going around saying they have because they feel like they do. There's an entire field dedicated to research Aspergers that's trying to understand, and if possible prevent it. I know people with Aspergers and they don't just go around telling people they have it every chance they get. I know I don't know everything about this person, but from what I could find since tonight, I'd label Crespo as a shameless attention whore who need a gimmick because their actual artwork in uninspired, aesthetically unpleasing, low quality tripe, that if is to be considered worthy of being displayed at the Loius Vuitton Foundation, without a exuberantly generous donation from mommy and daddy, we might as well quit because art is dead.”
I'll let you know if I'm still in school next week.
Democracy was a mistake.
Alright, so let's talk about the music I was listening to when I wrote Six Pistols and a Dagger, Smokepit Fairytales Part VI. But first, a little in-depth background behind character development.
Before we go any further, SPOILERS.
On top of being a continuation of the journey the characters from Chainsmoke Your Problems Away, and Mourn the Liquid Dew of Youth, Six Pistols and a Dagger is a reflection of the life of Edward Teach (sometimes recorded as Thatch), who you might know better as Black Beard, and Shakespeare's MacBeth. Now, I have been planning this plotline for a hot minute. In the second installment of Smokepit Fairytales, when Penelope tells Hank that she's pregnant she says she's thinking of naming him Edward Thatch. Yes, everything that happened in the previous two books were building up to this book.
Another little fun fact for you, in real life Black Beard was hunted down by a Lt Maynard and killed by one of his men who history only remembers as "A highlander." Sources differ on the fight where Black Beard died, but he was shot eight to twenty times and stabbed at least twenty times, then kept fighting until a highlander came up from behind him and cut off his head. Yeah, I didn't make that up. Google that shit. There can be only one. Another note on that is O'Con's main men are McCloud and Ramirez.
Short rant there, let's get into the mood music.
Jolly Roger, Roger McGuinn
A simple song about piracy and life dedicated to committing grand larceny on the high seas.
Encounters In Space, Richie Kotzen
This song's from the soundtrack to the original Mobile Suit Gundam movie trilogy. There could be an argument made for the lyrics having some connections, but this is just a good space song, and the book takes place in space. so.... space.
Speaking of that.
Moonage Daydream, David Bowie
Another great song with a sci-fi feel. This one too is about the music.
Distress Signal, Lazerhawk
This one too is an instrumental, but I feel like this one would be more fit for something that was happening in port in the lighter parts fo the story.
Drunken Sailor, Roger McGuinn
This one should be self-explanatory as an old sea shanty.
Fifteen Men on a Deadman's Chest, Salt Sea Pirates
There's a part in the book where Thatch and Stockton find an abandoned ship who's crew is all dead seemingly from an in-fight. That's loosely based on the descriptions in this song.
Saturn, Bringer of Old Age, Holst
This is a slow-burning, bone-chilling song. I think it would capture the eeriness of when the crew was hiding in the clouds on Saturn.
The Gruesome Death of Edward Teach, Scissor Fight
I explained this one earlier, it's about Black Beard. It's also a brutal song about pirates that kicks ass.
This is the theme song from an old Soviet sci-fi series. This is another that has a deep melancholy sci-fi feel to it which I think fits right in.
Atlantic City, Bruce Springsteen
This isn't a sci-fiish song, nor is it about pirates. So, what's it doing here? Buckle up.
When Thatch and the crew were facing off against the sub, the American commander was pretty much playing chicken stalling for time, and since sailors live on their ships, well, Thatch blew up the chicken man last night, and he blew up his house too.
Boardwalks are just big decks, ships have decks, and they were all getting ready for a fight, and piracy is a racket, we're going to see what those racket boys can do. Also, speaking of pirates, they didn't belong to a nation, so that trouble was coming in from out of state.
Stockton and Chuck were killed, and a few books back it was reasonable to think Hank and Penelope were dead, well, everything dies baby that's a fact, and seeing as how in some form they all returned, well everything that dies someday comes back. So put your make up on, and fix your hair up pretty. And meet me tonight in Atlantic City.
I’m not going to lie, sometimes I miss living in the barracks. Now before you get started on inspections, cleaning, the lack of cooking methods, small ass fucked up rooms, the heat and AC being out, people being able to come into your room and fuck with you at any hour of any day, and idiots being idiots, and the general lack of freedom, let me elaborate on why.
I don’t sleep much. Even if I’m in bed before the sun goes down, I usually lay there until after midnight just staring at the back of my eyeballs. More often than not I opt to try to something proactive with my insomnia, usually something art or book related, unless I’m just not feeling it in which case I dive down the YouTube rabbit hole. I also like to drink. I’m perfectly fine either throwing them back with people in a bar or downing it while I’m alone at home working on a project.
The issue is, I don’t have anyone to talk to around here. I live in a nice house, but it’s out in the styx. They just put in a convenience store, but besides that and the church, the closest anything is at least a fifteen-minute drive, and even that’s just gas stations and a McDonalds. There’s not a whole lot about the Marine Corps I really miss. I was there for the clowns, not the circus. What I miss about the barracks, the only thing I can come to think of, was going outside at literally any hour of any day and find someone in the smoke pit to bullshit with for a while. I love my wife to death, but I’m convinced she’s part Koala because she sleeps twenty hours a day.
I only have one drinking buddy that lives around here, and he comes over every now and again, but besides that most of my friends in the area are a two or three hour drive away. Then after that the rest of them are in a different time zones. It’s not that I don’t have friends, it’s that I don’t have any around here. And even if I did, what are most people going to do when you text them “I’m bored. You wanna hang out?” at midnight on a Tuesday?
I think that’s why I go live on Instagram so much. I just want someone to talk to about dumb shit in the middle of the night.
I do have my buddy Chuck coming up later this week though. He’s gotta be my favorite house guest, especially when it’s just him. We sit down in the garage, crack open every beer I could find within a thirty-mile radius, crank up the music and rock out until the some comes up. More than once I’ve only gone to bed because my wife comes down stairs at six am and tells me I need to be functional when she gets home from work in eight hours. Fun fact, if you take an electric guitar, that’s plugged in, and play music on your phone and stick it to the pickup, it’ll transfer through to your amplifier.
Alright, so I asked what you’d want to hear, or read, me rant about, and frankly, I’m underwhelmed because apparently, only smartasses answer anything. Then again that’s nothing new. This is, of course, the internet.
But before we get into that I want to talk about going LIVE on Instagram. As you may know, I usually go live on the weekends and converse with either my buddy Doc or whoever shows up to chit chat, and we go all night with it. Last night, for example, we started at around ten and went until three in the morning. I think that’s been good for engagement. But I’ve been thinking about starting a weekly show at a set time during a reasonable hour with prearranged guests. For example, maybe If I get finished reading someone’s book or if someone has a sweet art project they doing or whatever other dumb shit people talk about on podcasts, we’ll sit down and talk about it for a bit. A lot of people seem to want to take that kind of content off-site, which is fine if that’s what you’re into, but I’m wanting to do it on Instagram where it’s accessible to everyone. I’ll fill everyone in when I nail that down better.
But anyway, down to y’alls’ dumbass suggestions for topics.
Immigrants taking your jobs:
Check it out man, Jose the roof builder getting hired to do some work instead of you isn’t Jose’s fault. Report your employer to the IRS because that shit’s illegal and your boss will get busted for it. Jose’s just trying to get along, your boss is the asshole, and he needs fucked. So, fuck that asshole and call the IRS.
Second note on immigration, I think we should weld the borders shut. Not just from Mexicans, but Canada too. And we should probably stop letting Asians, Africans, Europeans, Aussies, Kiwis, and Indians over too. Like, we’re full dude. There’s already too many people here, and on top of that we’re literally living in Nazi Germany Kentucky and it would be irresponsible to let anyone come to America while DRUMF is president because he personally hand-built a concentration camp in Michigan and is sending all the undesirables there. It’s pretty brutal, look it up. It’s called Detroit.
Speaking of government fuck ups though, Carl asked about the government. Look, the government’s fucked. I love my county, but Washington DC is something else completely. They put the CUNT in country. And I know this going to veer off into an attack on voters instead of the “leaders” of the nation, but most of voters are fucking idiots. If you honestly believe that democrats and republicans aren’t two heads on the same snake, congratulations, you’ve been successfully brainwashed and you apparently didn’t understand a damn work of 1984. Historically Republicans have been WAY worse about taking gun rights away that Democrats and Democrats have enacted far more egregious legislature aimed at minorities. There’s a reason Droney McPeaceprize was also called The Deporter in Chief. And what’s worse is that Donald Trump on policy is JUST as bad as Obama, and the only reason you actually think he’s that bad is that he handles his own twitter. Okay, “That bad” might have been a little off. They’ve all been that bad. You can come at me with how any of them are different when you show me that they voted against increasing the DOD budget AND show me how they’re actively trying to imprison people who voted to maintain the Patriot Act, which by the way Biden helped lay the groundwork for in the 90s.
Vote third party.
Anyway, speaking of the average American voter being a fucking moron, let’s talk about keeping your kids home from school when they’re sick. Look, I get it, the state wants your kids there so they can fill them full of shit like “Columbus was a good dude” and “The government’s not out to get you” and “There were no racists in the north prior to 1860 and people up there totally weren’t also complicit in slavery because their entire economy was driven by outsourced slave labor and the entire fucking war was just Virginia’s fault” but if your kid’s sick, keep them home. I know you didn’t vaccinate your crotch goblins because that dumb slut Karen you went to high school with roped you into a “Multi-level marketing campaign” and she says that vaccines have heavy metals in them and will make you kid magnetically attracted to semi-trucks and your kid will be smeared on the pavement like an opossum just because vaccines cause autism, but Karen’s a dumb fucking bitch. If she weren’t, she wouldn’t be trying to rope housewives she went to high school with into pyramid schemes. Stop listening to her, and get your kids vaccinated. I know that even with the shots kids still get sick. That’s a condition of being human. But if that disgusting thing you call a child is gushing snot out of its nose like Niagara falls and sneezing on everything spreading germs like Saddam Hussien trying to kill the Kurds, leave your kid at home. Don’t have a baby sitter? Lock the door. Not hard. I know you didn’t prepare for this when you either got pregnant when you were sixteen or when you knocked up your cousin at prom, but it’s not the rest of our faults that you can’t control your shit. Stop pushing your chemical warfare spreading demons at us. I would rather you just mail me anthrax. And speaking of spreading germs, quit worrying about the Coronavirus.
Look, all you fucking generation Z zoom zoom zoomers do is cry about how much you hate everything, millennials don’t shut the fuck up about either going to Iraq (Yes millennials are turning forty) or how much they hate boomers, and you boomers need to just fucking die. Well here’s the solution people. CORONA VIRUS. It ONLY kills old people. God is LITERALLY giving us a gift with this. If you’re under 60, apparently all the virus does is give you a cold for a week or two. Why is everyone so upset about this. You pray to GOD that the boomers would just die off but you bemoan the method in which your wish is granted? What did you WANT to happen? Were snakes supposed to kill them? Was ISIS supposed to make a resurgence and then infiltrate America and slit your neighbor Getrude’s throat just so she doesn’t vote Republican this year? Look, dude, embrace the virus. Fuck, if you’re between 18 and 40, go GET the virus, stop washing your hands after you shit, and just rub your hands and tongue on everything at Walmart, and all of your boomer problems will solve themselves.
And yes, I left out Generation X, but they haven’t done anything since Limp Bizkit broke up. They did a thing or two for the nookie then they’ve spent the last thirty years crying about Cobain even though Nirvana was a shit band for shitty people who couldn’t appreciate what a good time they were actually living in. If Generation X wants to talk, they should have taken care of Iraq the right way in Desert Storm instead of putting off so millenials had to do it for them. And while we’re on that note, nobody wants to hear you say “Back in my day.” Like yeah, dude, we get it, you and your ways are irrelevant because you couldn’t evolve with the rest of society.
THE FUTURE IS NOW OLD MAN!
Rant Alert, if you don’t want to listen to me complain for three pages, the playlist is down where the videos start.
Before I get into the mood music for my fifth novel, Mourn the Liquid Dew of Youth, I want to talk about keeping your chin up. Persistence is the most important thing you can ever have. It doesn’t matter how talented you are, or how much insight you have into something, if you give up after the first time something doesn’t work out the way you want it to, you’re going to be left in the dust. And as soon as you fall in the dirt and decide not to get back up, you’re done. So, if you’re serious about making someone out of yourself, you can’t give up, you can’t stop.
You have to sell yourself, and you can’t let it defeat you when it doesn’t work out. It’s discouraging, I know. I’ve had more than a full share of disappointment and heartache around my work and it started the moment I started marketing my work. I spent two years querying literary agents. I did the “right” thing and signed up for Writers Market, and did my homework on agents. I would find an agent who said they were looking for the kind of thing I was writing, then I’d go read their blogs, and every article they’d been interviewed in, and I would custom tailor a letter to fit that agent and send it out. Over that time, I hit every literary agency that I thought I could mesh with. I only ever got three responses. One said “No thank you” which I appreciate that they took the time to even write that much back because most of them don’t even give you that decency. The second wanted me to scale back the swearing and violence to a point where it wouldn’t have been the same book, so I told them no. And the third wanted me to change the aliens to Vampires to make my book Smokepit Fairytales a cross between Generation Kill and True Blood. Now, I like both those shows, but that’s not what I wrote, so again, no. So, I decided to go the Amazon route in late 2016. I don’t think I broke a thousand followers on Instagram until last year, and my followers on Facebook turned that page into a meme page and they couldn’t give a flying fuck about the books, so I’ll let you imagine how the launch was. If you self-published before you scammed fourteen thousand people into liking your profile page even though you’ve never published anything on any platform, you know already know how the release went.
Now, I’m not just here to complain. I’ve gotten very good feedback on my work. Over the course of six novels, that are admittedly in a niche market, I have more than a hundred reviews, and ALL but ONE of them are five stars. Yes, I know I just said “More than a hundred” like a badass even though there are indie authors that get that many the month they release a new book, about the same bland shit that's saturating the market, just because they’re moderately physically attractive and saw nice things about books they haven't read.
We’re talking about keeping your chin up here.
Stay with me.
Anyway, from what I can tell, if I can get these books in your hand, you’ll love them. I just have to figure out how to do that with everyone else.
Again, with the frustration, but again with keeping your chin up.
So, back to other people giving you a chance. You can only promote yourself so much. Anyone who’s successful as an indie artist is getting that success from other people propping them up. Other writers do a good job of helping others out, and the author in question’s followers post about their books. Then people who weren’t interested at all see all these other people taking interest and bandwagon on the piece.
However, on the issue of propping other people’s work up hoping that they’ll reciprocate, that’s a 25-75 shot. Granted, I like reading indie authors because they write about things that aren’t always found in traditionally published works, but if you’re going to do that as an indie author hoping for something back, you’d better be doing it out of the kindness of your heart, because only the people who get along with you are going to do it in turn. Keep in mind I’m talking about promotion, not sales. If you suggest another author, your followers are more inclined to read them.
I digress. Instagram isn’t the sole place to market. From what I can gather you have to be already successful on the platform to get people to pay attention to your work there and to be successful you have to be a complete and total narcissist and insist that you are god’s gift to mankind. Come to think of it, I kind of am a wonderful gift to this world. Maybe I should start acting like it. However, it vexes me to no end when I post a picture of my book and an absolutely killer review someone left and that’ll get sixteen likes, but a selfie of me doing nothing will get a hundred likes for some fucking reason, but whatever.
Moving on from social media is kind of hard. Not because I wouldn’t love to introduce my phono to the business end of my 1911, but because you NEED it to validate yourself as an author, not to yourself, but to anyone who may want to promote you. Think about it like this, if someone is going to write a story about you, they want that to work both ways. You get exposure with their fanbase in exchange for you sharing that story with your fanbase and they get more followers in turn.
Here are a few examples. On the advice of a buddy of mine, I write to some news outlets and pages stating who I am, what I’ve done, and that I’m working on my seventh novel.
I write this to task and purpose and don’t hear anything back. Granted I don’t know their inner workings, so maybe they’ve just been busy and haven’t gotten back to me yet, and perhaps it has nothing to do with me not having a large fanbase or being the center of any controversy.
I write to We Are the Mighty. Not so much as an automated reply. Again, maybe they’re busy and just haven’t gotten back to me yet because their inbox is filled to the brim.
I considered asking one of the guys from Funker530 because they’ve helped me out with some stuff in the past, but I haven’t been in a position to help them back yet, and I don’t want to seem all “ME ME ME” with those dudes because they’re cool and I don’t want to be all take and no give with them.
I got an interview with a local newspaper around here and even sat down for a two fucking hour interview with them only to have all of everything I said boiled down to a paragraph on an Instagram post on a page no one follows.
I’ve gotten several requests to be on people’s podcasts only to have them drop me for whatever reason a few days prior with empty promises of getting back in touch soon.
I know a couple of people who follow me back that could easily give me a boost up just by reading my book and talking about it to their fans for ten seconds, but those relationships always seem one way and as soon as I don’t have anything to help them out with anymore, it falls back to heart reacts instead of “What’s up” in the inbox.
I could have easily said fuck it and gave up after each of these things, but I’m still pressing on.
I had an interview with a different local newspaper this last week and that story should be up sometime this month and that’s a step in the right direction. Although I'm suspicious I'm only being written about because there's a blank space that needs to be filled.
I also got myself in contact with a literary agent, granted I didn’t get into his inbox with a query but merely asking for advice. But I’ll let you know what knowledge he passed down to me whenever I hear back from him. But again with that, I'm not asking him to help me out with promotion or publishing, I'm only asking for advice.
Most people out there won't scratch your back unless you can scratch theirs in return.
Even though perusing any kind of art independently is a myriad of constant discouragement, don't give up. Dig your heels in, and keep pushing. No one remembers people who quit. And I know it’s hard, but especially don’t be discouraged when you see someone who is less talented or noteworthy than you gaining more fame. Chances are they only got where they are because they had friends in the right places. I read an article today about someone I‘d met in the past, and the article on them highlighted the exploits of that person as if they were the only one to ever do it, when in fact that person’s “accomplishments” could only be called such when an imperial (Not metric) shit ton of overemphasis was slathered onto what actually happened. Hell, the few accomplishments that were noted in the article were confirmed as horseshit by the person the article was about in the comment section on someone else’s post after being asked about it. Then with eight seconds of investigating it turns out the author of the article was a personal friend of the person in question. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t get me a little upset, but you can’t let that kind of thing get you down. Don’t get discouraged when you see people get press for doing nothing, that’s all nepotism and we can’t do anything about it.
Keep your chin up.
It’s not looking like anyone’s going to be giving me a chance any time soon, but that’s not stopping me from writing. I’ve been tearing it up writing the seventh installation of Smokepit Fairytales, and even if no one notices, I’ll be here for a long while, because that’s what has to be done. Sure, I don’t have friends in the right places that are willing to help give me a leg up, and I know I have to push the hard way. But whether you’re a writer, an artist, or a musician going the indie route, putting yourself out there and earning each crumb while you’re trying to get your slice, you can’t give up. I know that I’m a no-name writer who self publishes on Amazon, and I’m grateful for all the readers who have given me a bit of a chance by tossing me a few bucks and reading a book. I know who you are, and I’m grateful. Thank you!
And to all the authors reading this, Fifty Shades of Gray was originally self-published, and if that garbage can make it as far as it did, you can too. It’s garbage CAN, not garbage can’t.
Okay, so now that I’ve made this blog post earn the title RANT, let’s get on to the playlist. Also, spoiler warning for Mourn the Liquid Dew of Youth, Smokepit Fairytales Part V.
There is an internal soundtrack to this that the characters play in the book. The sheet music can be found in the back, and a link to the audio is at the top of the homepage on this site. But onto the mood.
Let me know if there were any songs you thought about during any of the books, or if there’s something you want me to bitch about for four pages in the future.
Astronomy, Blue Oyster Cult
This song is from a concept album that tells a story about a set of events that lead up to WWI, but I have no idea what this song is about specifically in the undertones. But it’s beautiful, and melancholy, and seems to call for some longing to the stars, much like the characters in the book want something deeper or different with their lives.
Pain and Pleasure, Judas Priest.
This song is reflective of the relationship between Thatch and Samum
“All the times I’ve cried, you give me pain, but you bring me pleasure, get out of my life.”
Ashes to Ashes, David Bowie
There are a few ways this song could be interpreted, but in this context, I hear it as wanting something to stop and to be at peace but not being able to find it.
Locomotive, Guns N’ Roses
Another song reflective of Thatch and Samum’s relationship. “You’re such a stupid woman, and I’m such a stupid man.”
The Man Who Sold The World, David Bowie
This song’s about conspiracy. In the book, the characters are fighting against a covert Coup and they stand face to face with the man who sold the world.
That Bastard Son, The Dead South
Thatch, the son of the previous books’ narrator, is kind of bastard, not that Hank or Penelope would know but “I don’t fell no more. I just liquor and dirty whores, ‘cause I don’t care no more.”
Lazarus, David Bowie
A song about death. I imagined the same tone as Thatch was driving Samum to the hospital after she slit her wrist.
Too Late for Love, Def Leppard
When Thatch is sent off Mars, more or less to be killed, he sends Samum a letter wondering if it’s too late for love.
I Thought I Knew It All, Megadeth
Another song about confusion and not knowing where to go or what to do.
See You Space Cowboy, Yoko Kanno
All good stories about failed romance and gunfighters need this song in the mix.
If you know, you know.
You're going to carry that weight.
I smoke. I smoke a lot. I smoke so fucking much that the amount of nicotine required to give me a buzz would kill Dale Gribble. On top of that my casual drinking is roughly on the same level as a Russian construction worker on holiday in Vegas. There’s been a number of times where I was just hanging around a bar trying to enjoy myself and someone wouldn’t leave me alone so we’d end up doing shots and they’d end up half dead in the head sick with alcohol poisoning while I ordered another glass of rum and walked outside for a cigarette. But let’s be clear on something, I don’t abuse alcohol. I teach it a fucking lesson. But we’ll save drinking stories for another day, today we’re going to be talking about chain smoking your problems away.
To say that tobacco is a stable of military culture is to say that the Pacific Ocean is slightly moist. The thing that plays into that, which most civilians seem not to be aware of, is the overbearing amount of downtime and colossal strain of boredom that comes with the monotony of having nothing to do. Say for example there’s a unit that gets every task they’re responsible for completing in the week accomplished before noon on Tuesday. They’re not going to just be let go. The two most likely things that will happen are being sent to clean something, even if it doesn’t need cleaned, or put on standby, which is just being sent to hang out somewhere until you’re needed. There were times that lasted for weeks when I was attached to infantry units where the schedule was get up for a formation that was held at five in the morning, then go hang out in your barracks room until about six that night. If you have a job that can be done in the rear, things aren’t often much better. Mechanics who get their shit fixed, administration people at smaller units, warehouse workers, if their tasks are completed, they still have to be available in case something comes up. Then if you’re deployed to a combat zone it gets worse. From what I’ve seen the standard schedule for a day with an infantry unit, you know, the guys that are fighting the damn war, is eight hours on patrol where something may or may not happen, eight hours on post just watching the desert with literally nothing else to do, and eight hours of rest to get anything personal one might need done. Such personal things include weapons maintenance, eating, cleaning and organizing gear, personal hygiene, and maybe even sleep. And keep in mind, you’re on the other side of the planet, it’s not like you can just go home. And this keeps up for at LEAST six months, if you’re not part something that might be filed under “The invasion.” Then God forbid you end up on ship where if you don’t have a job related to keeping the ship running, or you’re not pulled to be an auxiliary cook or cargo handler you have literally not a damn thing to do.
Then if you’re not deployed, and you’re single, you live in the barracks and there isn’t anything really to do there either and since you make less than twenty thousand dollars a year you either don’t have a car or it’s a piece of shit and you don’t want to risk it breaking down on the side of the highway trying to get somewhere. That and your plans for the night are to get so drunk you forget how to speak English and you wouldn’t make it past the MPs at the gate anyway and the closest bar is a sixty dollar taxi ride because they built the base you’re stationed at in the middle of fucking nowhere so locals wouldn’t complain about detonating thousand pound bombs, shooting rockets and artillery, and conducting live fire machine exercises at all hours of the night.
So where does that leave you?
The smoke pit. The authorized smoking area outside the barracks, on the FOB, or if you’re on ship down at RAS Station 5 colloquially referred to as the smoke deck. You’ve got all kinds of time to burn and nothing to do beside smoke cigarettes to pass the time.
These Smokepit end up serving as a forum. People from all over your area come here to burn off a smoky treat and shoot the shit with whoever will listen. They’ll share stories, laugh at jokes, bemoan their lovers, and they’ll do it happily to someone new who hasn’t heard it before because they’ve already told their squad mates the same story fifteen times and they’re tires of hearing about it.
I drew a lot of my stories from things I’ve heard in smoke pits. Hell, my working title for Smokepit Fairytales was “Tales from the Smokepit.” I added the Fairytales later due to the fact that most of what you hear there is embellished bullshit someone said so that a stranger would think they’re cool.
When I was in the Marines, I was a cameraman. If you want to get technical, officially I did everything in the field besides photography. I was an illustrator (drew things), a reproduction specialist (printer monkey), videographer, and a psychological warfare specialist (Psyops, messing with people’s heads), but I was never officially a photographer. However, photographers were the only people who actually went out do to shit in my field, so I picked up a camera, learned how to use it, and on three of my four deployments I held a position of a photographer. And that was the best job in the Marine Corps. Infantry guys only see infantry stuff, mechanics only see mechanical things, and artillerymen only see cannons. As a photographer I’ve managed to see it all. And a lot of it came from convincing someone that they needed pictures of something that was happening and going along for the ride. I wiggled my way onto my last three pumps that way. Sort of. Anyway, it’s gotten me to where I wanted to go. But with all that bouncing around, comes the burden of always being the new guy everywhere I went. People don’t like new guys or attachments, which I was both, when what you’re doing is dangerous or complicated. Being new, you don’t know how things are done the way they do them, you don’t know the people, and they see you as extra baggage. This is where I would strategically use cigarettes to fit myself into whatever hole I needed to be in.
Say for example I show up somewhere new. That unit is already a tight knit group and they don’t know you from Adam. They have no reason to want you around, and no reason to trust that you’re competent enough for anything besides maybe being an extra body to stand watch. The second part of fitting in these situations is knowing how to use the machinegun and being able to carry as much shit on your back and keep up. I was never a good runner, but I could haul a hundred pounds of gear and ammunition, on top my own weapon, ammo, camera gear, and body armor up a mountain like no one’s business. The key I found to getting that far in though was smoking. If someone from the unit walks up to the Smokepit and he didn’t have his smokes on him, or he was out, I could become his new best friend right then and there. I’d bum them a smoke, and in turn they’d stand there and smoke it while they talked to me. All of a sudden, I’m not a stranger anymore. Granted it didn’t always work, and it took me some time to figure out how to do it, giving people cigarettes makes you a friend. Hell, come to think of it, out of my core group of what I’d consider good friends there’s only one who either didn’t meet in the Smokepit or was roommates with. And that other guy was on three deployments with me.
Anyway, those relationships I built with tobacco, or maybe better phrased as the relationship I built with cigarettes themselves is one of the reason I chose to make the covers of my books look like packs of smokes. Lucky Strikes, Camels, Chesterfields, Marlboro Reds, Newport Blues, and Marlboro NXTs respectively.
And speaking of books, let’s get to the mood music behind Chainsmoke Your Problems Away. I wrote that, as well as Mourn the Liquid Dew of Youth, and Six Pistols and a Dagger all together in 2016 and 2017 while I was stationed in Twentynine Palms. Some of the stories inside are embellishments of things that happened while I was there, but the majority of it was taken from my days with the 11thMarine Expeditionary Unit in 2011-2012. As with my first book, only a handful of the stories depicted actually happened to me, the rest all came from things that I had heard on the Smokepit or things I’ve seen happen to other people, you know, besides the core plots of fighting space Russians and their zombie viruses, overthrowing the government, and turning to a life of piracy.
Inside these three books there is an internal playlist that comes from the songs the characters hear and sing inside the books. The sheet music for that is in the backs of the books the song happens in. You can listen to that on Spotify or download it from iTunes. Here’s a link where you can listen to it for free on this website.
Here is the music I listen to while writing Chainsmoke Your Problems Away. These are the songs that best reflect the internal mood to the songs.
Also, from here on out, Spoiler Warning.
Life on Mars, David Bowie.
The first obvious thing is that the characters are stationed on Mars, and this book’s about life. The second thing you may not have noticed was in the chapter where Glædwine (The girl with the mousey hair) is introduced at the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, she’s reviewing an incident where sailors got into a barfight in a dancehall while in port. She hooked to the screen, but the video is a frightening bore that she’d seen a thousand times or more.
Singapore, Tom Waits.
Singapore is a magical place. As a matter of fact, its name mean’s Lion City. Lion city is the main colony the character make port in. It’s just as wild as Thailand, but just a little bit cleaner. There’s a real place there named Orchard Tower, that incoming sailors call the Four Floors of Whores, because while the upper part of the building is an apartment building, the first four floors are all whore houses thinly disguised as bars. This is a golden little open secret about the place, because even if you don’t pay a lady of the night for her services, the drink are terribly cheap. You can get hammered while your buddy goes out back for a blow job and between the two of you, you only spent thirty bucks. I remember when I was there, I was drinking dollar liters of Tiger beer and one of my shipmates asked to borrow a few bucks so he could go get a hand job. I lent him the cash and went back to drinking. When we got back to ship I asked him for the money back, he insisted that he’d get it to me later. Later never came. For a while I would see him and say “You owe me twenty bucks.” Twenty bucks isn’t a big deal. If he asked to have it, I probably would have given it to him, but he asked to borrow it, and I liked giving him shit. Eventually “You owe me twenty bucks” turned into “You owe me a hand job.” A couple weeks later that guy’s nickname was Hand job for the rest of the deployment. Moral of the story, don’t borrow money in a brothel.
Lay It Down, Ratt.
This is a great song to listen to while driving around the desert in a Corvette at two hundred miles an hour. It’s also a good song to have stuck in your head while rawdogging randos. If there was enough room in a corvette to bone in, well Whitesnake would obviously trump Ratt, but this is a close second.
Every Rose Has Its Thorn, Poison
There’s a lot of emotional trauma and heartbreak in this book. I wanted to challenge myself to write a story that was anti-romance. There’s a million and a half romance novels out there on the market. I wanted to write the exact opposite. Romantic relationships in the military are hard on a good day when both people care. And when it doesn’t work out, you just have to internalize it and move on.
Thatch, Stockton, Chuck, and McKenzie are hell raisers in every sense of the word. And sometimes it feels tough to them, but they haven’t gotten enough of it. Being in the fire and the heat only adds to the effect.
Asian Hooker, Steel Panther
Remember what I just said about Singapore?
Kitchen Ace, Andrew Hulshult
This song is a metal cover of a song originally from the game DOOM. Doom, if you haven’t played it is about a Marine killing demons on Mars. Thatch and the gang are Marines stationed on Mars who go up to capture a Russian Bioweapon that turns people into demonic zombies. This song is rip and tear.
I Sawed the Demons, Adrew Hulshult
Same as above.
This one’s reflective of Thatch’s tumultuous relationship with Samum.
I’ve Seen That Movie Too, Elton John
Another one referring to Thatch and Samum’s relationship. Crazed star crossed lovers who don’t buy each other’s bullshit.
Party in the U.S.A., Miley Cyrus
By this time in the story, Mars is the USA, and when they’re not on ship, these characters are partying. That and this is one of the greatest party songs ever made. Fight me.
Alert! Metal Gear Solid Soundtrack
There was a good amount of sneaking around on Volgograd trying to either get into the hospital or away from it, and this song brings back memories of playing MGS and sneaking around trying not to get caught by the guards.
Hang’em All, Carpenter Brut
Electronic music that’s got an ominous tone. I think this would have fit while the Marines’ ship was going down and they were boarding the Russian vessel.
I’ve heard a lot of authors talk about how their friends and family don’t support their work. I would like to think that wasn’t a universally applicable statement, however I do feel it when someone says something relating to that, and I see it mentioned enough to know that it’s a thing people struggle with. It happens to me too. The vast majority of my group of friends and family haven’t even picked my book up. My dad’s read my first three books, but put hasn’t picked up the fourth yet, and that’s been out for a minute. He did tell me that he sent my first book to a prison library though. A guy he used to work with has been an inmate since the nineties and I guess they trade books. From what I understand I’m popular on death row at the Florida State Prison. My sister has also read my books, and apparently the crew on her C-130 really enjoyed them. Family wise though that’s it. My aunts, uncles and cousins seem to be completely disinterested. One of my aunts dismissed my first book as smut when I asked her about it. That struck me as a little off, as immediately prior she was regaling me with the all the insights of the Game of Thrones and Fifty Shades of Grey book series. Part of me was disappointed, but I did take solace in that someone who enjoyed the never-ending monotony of A Song of Ice and Fire and the outright tripe that is Fifty Shaded of Gray for their grittiness, violence, and overt sexual actions couldn’t even stand to read through the first few chapters of my work. Personal friends haven’t been much better. I’d say that I have four friends that read all six of my books. Two of them are amazingly supportive, one of them read them and told me he loved them then moved on with the conversation, and one friend keeps trying to tell me about things she read in the books that I didn’t write in the damn things. I really do appreciate everyone who’s taken the time to sit down and read what I’ve wrote, but the majority of those people are strangers on the internet. I do find it a strange phenomenon. There are a lot of supper supportive people out there that have never met me in person. And if you want my opinion, I think that’s better than the alternative. I wrote my books for people who have been in the same kind of struggled I’ve been in. My target audience post 9/11 combat veterans. What do upper-class, house wife, aunts know about trying not to get killed 24-7 for months on end only to come home and not be able to turn off that part of the brain since it’s been on so long. How are snooty, overprivileged cousins who know that one day they’re going to be rich off inheritance supposed to relate to staying at a bar all night until your pay posts and you can close your tab because you don’t want to go back to the barracks and stare at cinderblocks until you go insane? What do the people who partied hard in high school, peaked at nineteen, then had six kids before they turned twenty five and are stuck in middle America with some bullshit job know about attempting to form meaningful relationships with people you only get to see two or three times a year between training and deployments that usually crumble so you’re left to adapt to living the life of one night stands and drunken escapades. THEY DON’T. If you’re writing just for your friends and family, then why bother put it out to the world? If that’s the case, go to Kinkos, print off a few copies and give them to them. You didn’t grow up with your parents or their generation, and your siblings, cousins, and friends from your home town probably had completely different lives after you moved out and started your own life, and they just can’t relate. The good news is, there are people out in the world that think like you and want your work to relate to. The only issue with them is finding them and getting your work to them. Strangers praising your work on the internet is the greatest thing that can happen. Think about it, they don’t owe you anything, you’re not paying them to say the things they do, they have literally ZERO reason to give a flying fuck about you and your work. So, when someone does say something good about your work, they mean it. They have nothing to gain from telling you that they enjoyed your book, or art, or music, or whatever it is. Savor the strangers on the internet.
Alright, this was supposed to be a completely different rant, so you can probably expect another one coming up later tonight or tomorrow.
Appreciate the people who appreciate you.
3/1/2020 0 Comments
So, I’m going to double hit this one. I’ll get to the playlist in a minute, but I’m going to vent about something else first. Well, two things actually, “Best Selling Authors” and “Combat Veterans.”
I follow a lot of indie authors on Instagram, and they have a varying amount of success. Some of them write amazing work, but don’t market themselves well. Some are absolutely kicking ass at putting themselves out there, but their books suck. For the most part, if I hated an author’s book though, I just don’t review it. Call it professional curtesy if you want, but I wouldn’t want someone highlighting my work as tripe, so I try not to do it to other writers. Well, at least not indie writers, we’re all in the same boat and something egregious would have to happen for me to get on Instagram or Facebook, wave a flag, and declare Shithead McIlliterate over here can’t write for shit. I will however knock the shit out of more famous authors. They have a platform and can take it. Case in point, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green is an Absolutely Unremarkable Plight on Literature. Fucking godawful. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t want to hear a forty-year-old man in a happy marriage with kids write a novel about a bi-curious, teenage, lesbian’s menstrual cycle. That and the story was predictable, and bland.
But Hank Green is every level of successful, and I watch most of his Youtube videos, even though I don’t agree with him on a lot of things. I still respect his opinions because he’s thought them out, and I think his heart’s in the right place. And even thought his book is a best seller, it wouldn’t have been if he wasn’t already famous. I don’t think him, or his brother for that matter, have any business in the literary community.
Now this leads me to the first real point in this rant. Stop putting “Best Selling Author” in your bio if you aren’t one. This isn’t out of spite, I’m trying to look out for you here. I follow a lot of authors on my writing account, most of that’s just following for the sake of following. On my main page however, I’m specific with who I follow. If I’m watching you, it’s because you’re doing something right. However, I often find myself looking at someone’s profile that was suggested to me and their headline is “Best selling author.” At this point I get curious and check them out online, and they’ll have one book out from four years ago that has three reviews on amazon. One review will be two or a three star review, the other will be a one star, and the five star review that is there was blatantly posted by the author of the book. Now I think the author’s full of shit and there’s no way I’m going to follow them, much less buy and read their work. Unless you can put what list someone ELSE has deemed you a best seller on, don’t tell me you’re a best seller.
And speaking of disingenuous, let’s talk about you fuckers calling yourselves “Combat Veterans.”
Look, I get it, you’ve gotta hustle and any edge you can get is worth the cut. But if you’re not a combat veteran, don’t fucking say you are. There’s a difference between having been in the military (Veteran), having deployed (still just veteran), having deployed to a combat zone (You might be able to put “OIF” or “OEF” before the “Veteran” part, but that’s still veteran), and having been shot at and returned fire (This last one would be “Combat Veteran”)
It is OKAY to have been in the military and not done anything. It’s okay to have been deployed and stuck on an airbase as a clerk or a cook or a mechanic. But just because you were deployed to a combat zone, that doesn’t mean you’re a combat veteran. Hell, you could have been infantry and out on patrol every day, but if you didn’t actually see combat, you’re not a combat veteran. Stop telling people you are. Combat is a lot like sex, the people you hear talking about it the most have no idea what the fuck they’re talking about. Remember that kid in middle school who said he’d had sex with like a hundred girls? That’s you if you’re doing this, and If I see it, I just assume that you’re starving for attention, and the only interesting thing that ever happened to you was spending seven month in Al Asaad or Leatherneck eating at the DFAC and pushing paperwork. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Hell, write a book about working on HMMVs or helicopters and being frustrated that you’re not going outside the wire, or about standing duty as a gate guard in Twentynine Palms checking IDs for four years. There’s gotta be something interesting that happened there, and I’ll read that. Just don’t fucking lie to us about what you’ve been through.
I read this one book that the author marketed as memoirs about being wounded in Fallujah then being harassed for being too sexually active. When I read the book, turned out she chipped a tooth or some shit in Fallujah eight YEARS after the battle, then she started fucking her boss and his wife started stalking her.
Don’t feed me bullshit to get a few bucks out of me. I’m trying to read books written by sincere authors. Let your work speak for itself. Your work might not be for everybody, and again, that’s okay. Hell, there are some people I tell not to read my books because I don’t think they can handle jokes about catastrophic anal bead malfunctions in the first chapter.
Alright, enough ranting, let’s get to the Paragon of Man’s mood playlist. Also, I really meant for that whole rant to be about a paragraph long, but this blog is called “Rants” for a reason.
Spoiler Warning for the Paragon of Man after this.
I didn’t start writing the third book for a couple of years after the first two. It was later 2016, or maybe early 2017. I was stationed in Twentynine Palms and wrote most of that book in my barracks room when I wasn’t busy trying to break the world record for most alcohol consumed in one sitting. And to be completely honest, I don’t remember writing the first draft. I don’t remember most of 2016. In face I have a friend in Houston I visited in 2018 who had a lot of my art on their wall and I recognized that the work was mine, but I didn’t remember painting them.
However, the writing playlist survives, and I can tell you about the moods they set.
Jūrā gāju naudas gūt, Teiksma
I’m not sure what the actual lyrics to this are. I know it has something to do with being lost at sea though. It’s melancholy melody fits that mood.
Boat on a River, Styx
This one is on the list because of the feeling of woe and the association with water, seeing as how the characters were sailing for half the book.
Rooster, Alice in Chains
Walking tall, machinegun man, they spit on me in my homeland. Hank ain’t gonna die.
Way to Fall, Star Sailor
Hank hadn’t heard from his wife in a couple of years. He doesn’t know where she is, and he can only hope she’s still alive. There wasn’t much light in his head.
Compass, Sarah Longfield, Zella Day cover
This one I imagined being more from Penelope’s perspective, awaiting the return of her traveler. I wasn’t a big fan of the original song, but Sarah Longfield’s cover is haunting beautiful.
Blue Jeans, Lana Del Rey
Another from the Penelope point of view. She very could have easily left for space with the other refugees that did, but she stayed on a destroyed Earth waiting for Hank, possibly for a million years.
I Just Want You, Ozzy Osbourne
More or less the same sentiments as Blue Jeans, only from Hank’s perspective. He too could have stayed anywhere else. Hank could have stayed in Scotland, Canada, or just wondered the old world, but he came home just for the possibility of a Penelope.
Dance with the Devil, Breaking Benjamin
Most of my work is just certain characters’ dancing with their demons. This one fits the narrative.
Midna’s Lament, Richaeed, Nintendo cover
This was originally from the game The Legend of Zelda, Twilight Princess, but this dude nailed it to the wall. There aren’t any lyrics in it, but this may possibly be the most beautiful rendition of any song ever written.
Demons on the Prey, Andrew Hulshult, DOOM cover
Another metal cover from a video game song that just radiates ominous dread. This could have been playing while the Marines were trying to escape the cult in Scandinavia. And speaking of Scandinavia…
Kylan Paassa, Moonsorrow
I love this band, but I don’t feel right listening to them when there’s not six feet of snow on the ground and it’s reasonable to assaulted by Norsemen.
The Lost Vikings, Dethklok
Another song about lost Vikings wondering the sea in search of something called home.
Temple of the King, Rainbow
The medieval melodies combined with Dio’s magical lyrics set this in my mind to something mystic. I think the song’s actually about the crucifixion, but the crying to God for help and looming death fit with The Paragon of Man.