Is this thing on?

by Michael  

I do well for myself. My job puts me in a higher tax bracket than most, but it's also taught me that you don't "do what you love" necessarily (though if you can, high five), you do what you can and make it pay off. In the last three years doing what I do (essentially editing), I've poured over billions of words, but written relatively few of my own. I hate that. 

 

in the last few years, I've attended a few symposiums and conferences, and collected a bunch of rejections, and I even managed to piss off a writing mentor who taught me, through his passive aggressive Facebook unfriending, that I don't need everyone to like me... My wife today pointed out that new ideas were kind of bullshit. We don't crave new ideas, we crave new VOICES. I feel like I knew that, but that I forgot it along the way. I have a voice, but I've lapsed in expressing it... Tonight, on my third glass of bourbon, I felt like I wanted to pick a fight. I started, and deleted, a ton of inflammatory Facebook posts. I want to be heard, but I know in my heart that the thousand or so audience on Facebook that I have isn't the answer... 

 

The answer is that I need to start writing again. Honestly, it's a lot like the engines on the titular battleship firing up in Battleship. Bad movie? Maybe. But someone wrote it, and I loved it anyway. And it doesn't matter if ANYONE loved it; someone wrote it... I need to write. I need to edit my  own work. I need to claim that time for myself no matter how selfish that feels. 

Matt needs to go through training with Mr. Joka and Dahlia for the war he's inherited from his imperfect parents. Alex needs to hire herself a failed pirate captain so she can go hunting the Çalympia somewhere in the unexplored vasts rumored to house the Grande Zembriond. The Barnum Boys need to start debunking,  and Noriko REALLY needs that damned internship with Doctor Terror and Doctor Terror needs her if their show will ever hope to beat The Son of Killgari! My mom's story is woefully incomplete...

 

I am a writer, and I need to get back to the business of writing, Viking battle scars be-damned...

 

 

Thoughts on my Mom

by Michael  

 


My mom is dying. Let me reiterate that in a way that emotes more closely how I feel: I’m losing my mommy. But don’t be sad… Okay, that isn’t easy. Not by a long shot. I’m not even there myself yet. But… Yet. See, there’s the thing: she isn’t dead. Not YET. She will be, sooner than I’d like, but the fact is, it’s ALWAYS sooner than we’d like. Always.


There isn’t a way to escape death, and I hate that. I don’t know what perils immortality might bring with it, but there’s part of me that wonders if I could get through the loss of everyone I know… Not a chance. Not alone. And there’s another thing: I’m not alone. And neither is my mom. My sister lives close, and she has an amazing husband who’s love for her may rival even that of her own children. And my grandmother is with her right now too as she starts her chemo. My friends and family have been fantastic so far, reaching out and letting me know that they are there. It’s pretty amazing, and within this maddening shell of sadness, as much as I want to feel isolated in my fear and pain and loss, I cannot. I just can’t. You bastards won’t let me, and I love you all for it from the bottom of my heart.


I’m losing my mommy… But not today, and probably not tomorrow, and in a way, we, she and I and all who know her, are the luckiest types of people in the world. We KNOW it’s coming because we have guys in lab coats telling us so. Most people end up getting to deal with the surprise of death, and that’s another kick in the face that we just don’t want or need when dealing with that loss. Most of all though, it’s a LIVING reminder, here and now, to make the most of whatever sweet, precious time we have. We might like to imagine that we’re never going to face that, but the fact of the matter is, we all do. Everyone you know, have known, or will know, is already dying. They’re already gone in a sense, and we can’t do a thing to stop it. But we CAN love. We can remember. We can make the time we DO have count for something.



I’m an atheist, and my daughter, my precious four-year-old ginger, only understands that I’m sad. Now, she’s a bright kid, and I don’t want to burden her with philosophical or theological debates at bed time, but I felt I needed to explain to her why I’ve been so edgy and sad lately. In the course of our talk, I asked her if she knew what happened to us when we died. She did not. So I asked her if she knew what we were all made of, thinking of Neil Degrasse Tyson. She replied, “Chemicals”. Leave it to her to cite Hank Green, right? Anyway, I explained to her that when a star gets very, very old and dies, it explodes, and becomes a great gaseous nebula. She knows what nebulae are. She’s obsessed with space and wants to be a Martian astronaut some day. I explained that then parts of those dead stars floated through the universe and eventually became part of what makes US. There is part of a dead, ancient star in each and every one of us, and when we die, those parts of us go on to become other great, vast, beautiful things. Forests full of trees are made up of the dead stars that once made people who were loved, and cherished, and remembered. That seemed to comfort her just as much as it did me. She hugged me, and then she went to sleep. I love that kid. And my mommy loves me.


I’m not losing my mommy; the universe just let me borrow her for a bit, and for that I am grateful. I am the luckiest man in the world to have had a mother like her, through the ups and downs, crazy times, happy days, and all the rest. I am a better person for having her give birth to me and raise me. I am an idealist, feminist, and a humanist all because of her. I went back to school and got my degrees and wrote and got published because I believed in myself, but it was my mom that taught me to do that. I’ll miss her when she’s gone. I miss her all the time anyway because she’s a thousand miles away and never picks up the damn phone. But I’ll miss her a little more when the chance of her answering becomes nil… Instead, I’ll talk to my own kids, my wife, and my step-dad. You see, even when we do die and pass back to the stars from whence we came, we also live on… For as long as people remember us. We are eternal in that way, in the things we leave behind. It’s the marks that we leave behind that define us. Maybe it’s a book, or a piece of advice, or a tradition we pass to our children, but what we do NOW… It matters.


Mom, if you happen to read this, thank you. I will always love you. And no matter why you don’t answer when I call, you will always be in my heart and the hearts of those who you have touched throughout life. I will be positive. I will stay as happy as I can and never forget that you taught me the skills I need to be a happy person. I love you…

Vlogging!

by Michael  

So, I've been smitten with the idea of vlogging for a while, and figured that now is as good a time as any to start. I've had a channel for a long while on which we had posted my interview with Jim Butcher a long, long time ago, so I figured, what the hell, let's give it a go. For this first one, I wanted to open a vlogging dialogue with my teenaged son. We already talk a lot, and we're very close, but more communication cant hurt. Hopefuly we'll get into this habitually and we can go from there.



Milestones; or Reflection On A Happy Birthday To Me

by Michael  

 

 

 

Thirty-five. There was a time when I seriously didn’t think I’d make it to this age. Some of that was just being young and unimaginative, but there was one time, the first time I failed out of college, that I gave myself the unimaginable goal of being “known” the world over by the time I was 25, or I promised I would kill myself. Of course, the internet happened, I made friends as far away as New Zealand, and I was spared coming up with a ridiculous excuse for why I wouldn’t take what I considered the coward’s way out. The truth is, it was little more than a sad, depressed note I’d left myself somewhere, and I never would have committed suicide, but there it was. I’m a little ashamed that I ever even put that thought into the world.

 

When I was in high school, I wrote a screed about how we had three options in life. We could join the mindless, mind-numbing zombies of the MTV generation. We could give up, admit defeat and take ourselves out. Or we could wear what Grant Morrison called “The Blank Badge” in The Invisibles. The idea was that we could choose, for ourselves, who we were, or we could be the failures of conformity society wanted us to be. I went off in that handwritten manifesto about how those who committed suicide were selfish and worthless, and deserved none of the sympathy some might give them. I said that suicide was still the failure of conformity, because it meant that you admitted that you had settled for someone else’s standards instead of your own. Essentially, if you took your own life, you won nothing and deserved nothing. There’s a lot of me that still believes that. I might add, now that I’m older, exceptions for the terminally ill, but then again, why not fight to the bitter end? I think about mortality a lot. I fear death in many ways, but I fear not satisfying myself more than I do death itself. But I digress.

I have had two people I cared about, though from a distance because I’ve slowly become more and more agoraphobic as I’ve aged, commit suicide in recent years. I miss them, but I am not sad for them. If anything, I’m angry at them. Even more angry when I consider them amongst those I looked up to when I was 19 and telling myself I only had until I was 25 to make it in the world. I wish they were still around. I wish they hadn’t been selfish. I sometimes start thinking about what might have been if I’d gotten over my self-imposed hermitage and reached out, but I stop myself. They never reached out to me either, so it’s not my cross to bear. Sorry, guys. I love you, but fuck you.

 

Here I am, ten years past one milestone, and now facing a new one. I’m the age required by law to run for the office of President of the United States. I won’t, mind you, because I curse too much, do not suffer fools, and I’m an atheist who likes porn, smoking, and English Football more than the NFL. Still, if I wanted to, I could. I was thinking about the idea of milestones tonight and I realized a few things. First, after 35, the age milestones are silly. At 16 you can drive. At 18 you can vote. Then at 21 you can drink, and 25 your insurance rates go down. The one at 35 is kind of deflating. Next is 65 and Social Security eligibility? Yuck. Second, milestones are what we make of them. It goes back to that Blank Badge idea, and something one of my former professors asked me once.

 

We were studying Virginia Woolf and I asked him why we studied her instead of someone more popular like Agatha Christie. I admit, my prejudice against suicides may have had something to do with my bias And besides, I told him, Agatha Christie was clearly the more successful of the two women. Dr. Russell asked me, “By what standard of success are you measuring?” Yeah, threw me for a loop. Sure, people still made movies out of Christie’s work, and her books have been read by more people, but have her books had an impact on anyone anywhere near the level of Woolf? Most people don’t know it, but when they get excited to get a glimpse inside the head of their favorite character, when the author gives them the ability to understand where a character is psychologically, it’s because the ghost of Virginia Woolf haunts all writers today. We explore epiphany and inner motivations because Woolf is our DNA. She changed the game. She forced writers and readers to do something new. Woolf is a weird case for me. She clearly embraced The Blank Badge, and for that, bravo. Yet, she was also a suicide, and for that choice I can’t help but feel animosity toward her. My thoughts on the issue are more complex than I feel I can deal with here. Woolf had a lot of milestones in her career, and while I’m tempted to compare myself to her and other writers, I know, deep down, that I cannot.

 

Chuck Wendig gave me some advice the other day. He said, “You’ll come back to it.” You see, I finished my novel a couple months back, and I want to do one more draft of the damn thing. I feel like I am afraid to start this last draft though, thus Chuck’s advice. I want this to be the first of many books I write, and so I want it to be as good as I can get it on my own before I start shopping it around. In my mind, finishing the book was a bigger milestone than any birthday has been. I do not have to bind myself to any age. I can and should set my own goals. If I don’t, I’m not embracing The Blank Badge. So, here’s to another year on the planet, but what I’m looking forward to this year isn’t some silly celebration with cake, but writing more, editing more, and hopefully selling my first YA novel. Cheers!

 

 

 

Somethin' A Teacher Can't Teach

by Michael  

 

What’s a god to a non-believer? I have no clue, but Jay-Z and Kanye West ask it, and it gets my juices flowing. I read a lot of posts from other writers talking about music, and most of the time I’m unimpressed. I mean, if you’re a white guy and you write Nerdcore shit, you probably listen to Prog-rock, or maybe something from the 80s. Last week you probably got excited about My Bloody Valentine. You have a special place in your heart for some New Wave, or maybe your youth was all about Alterna-rock.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of this stuff too, but I like a lot more than that too. Lately it’s been all about hip-hop. And let me tell you, it is not easy writing about a teenaged boy that hates hip-hop when you love hip hop. For the record, I’m a HOVA fan, and while I like Nas okay, if I had to take sides, fuck Nas. I don’t get into the whole East/West thing, mostly because I hated rap when that all went down. When the world lost Biggy and 2-Pac, I had two friends named Laurel and Rachel who had to explain it to me. They tried really, really hard, and I finally gave up… But something happened over the course of my life that I fellin love with rap music. The first for me was Dre’s “2001”. I don’t smoke weed, and my only real experience with gangs as a kid was staying out of their way because I wasn’t Latino or black, so they wanted nothing to do with me anyway. But that album wasn’t really about drugs or gangs, not really. It was about success and respect. It was about inspiration and mentorship. It was poetry, and I wish I hadn’t waited to see that.

 

Today I sat outside of my son’s school waiting for him to get out. He’s a freshman, and I’m that embarrassing dad who sits outside blaring his music. What? Dads don’t usually do that? Big brothers you say? Well, shit… I’m my own man I guess. Anyway… I was sitting out in front of the school, across the street actually, because since 9/11 it’s illegal to park in front, but I’m sitting there, and my music is thumping along. And I’m listening to this:

 

That’s Sage Francis, a rapper from the Twin Cities. He’s a “slam poet”, and I think his music is fucking awesome. The kids leaving the school in today’s blizzard seemed to dig it too. The non-hipster kids at least. They’d never heard this shit before though. They might have been more familiar with this:

That’s Jay-Z and Kanye. Great song. Great video. It's like the Tottenham riots brought to life and made into a sculpture of light and shadow! These are some of the songs that get me pumped. I get psyched hearing these songs. Saul Williams, T.I., Ludacris… These people aren’t just musicians, they’re poets. MC Lars, mc chris, even The Lonely Island… All poets. I don’t care if they make you laugh, they reach out and do something that I, as a writer, only wish I could do: They touch your soul. There’s something primordial that rap and hiphop taps into. Wretch 32, Example, The Streets… These voices aren’t just black, urban, and American. They’re universal, and they tap into something that’s inside all of us. Maybe it’s the rhyming, I don’t know, but damn if I don’t feel like dancing when Lupe Fiasco or Missy Elliot comes on. Look, if you’re a writer and you limit what you have coming in, you limit what you can put out as well. Shit, Ferlinghetti and Bukowski would be rappers today, and they’d be damn good too. If you don’t listen to rap or hiphop currently, I really, really encourage you to broaden your horizons. It’s a wildly diverse genre, full of men and women who bend words like Neo bent space/time; like Wesley Gibson bent bullets. What do you have to lose in partaking in a journey through some of the names I’ve mentioned? Come on, Sam-I-Am, try them and you may I say! Just for shits and grins, here's a fun one from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis:

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