A New Balticon Approaches. What might it herald?

So it’s been a long slog through a lot of paperwork but the Balticon schedule is finally being printed. It isn’t perfect but it’s as perfect as we could make it in that time. Between hotel confusion, massive changes in room availability, and me feeling extra ill for the past few months, it’s been an exciting and uncomplicated ride. /Sarcasm

So think my major takeaway from the process is that I need to cut back exactly what my duties are at Balticon. I think I did my best work on the convention when I was just helming New Media and even then I would have liked a co-conspirator to work on it. Turns out that’s likely to be happening with some new people offering to help out.

This year and last year I had at least three different hats and that’s a bit more than I think I’m really able to handle effectively when I’m also trying to work on my writing and other creative outlets. I notice I released substantially more content before I became Balticon staff than after and while I’m not certain one caused the other, it does feel that way when I want to work on my next project but I can’t stop thinking about what is going to go wrong in the database this time.

So what’s my schedule? Mostly spending time with the people I want to spend time with, I think. We’ll see how that goes. The last two Balticons I’ve been running around like crazy the entire weekend putting out fires. This year it looks like I’m not the head firefighter, which is okay. It’s a little scary when things transition from being all your responsibility to a shared responsibility- there is this fear of irrelevance when you’ve been seeing yourself as “the guy” for awhile and you start giving away control.

I like to think of it instead as taking back control of my own time. More time for building connections with people, more time to work on that group anthology I want to do, more time to finally get The Horde in print (you are not forgotten my dear Kickstarters!).

I guess that’s the big thing. I’m planning on doing less Balticon in terms of what my titles will be but in a way I’ll be doing more Balticon, better Balticon, since I’ll be able to focus on it more as well as fulfilling my own creative needs. Anyway, look me up at the convention. It’ll be good to see you. There’s been so many changes in the community this past year and I personally need to remember why I do the con work at all- to connect with cool people that matter to me.

So I guess I dedicate all my work on this year to PG Holyfield cuz I never did spend the time I should have with him and for me, in a way, he (along with all the other people we lost this year) is kind of the point of the thing.

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Oh My Ears Are Burning: Depression Music! or Opposite Action

If you aren’t familiar with depression, you might have missed out on the last three decades of pop culture. It’s kind of a thing from Morissey to Nirvana to somebody more recent I might not know as well. Maybe Justin Bieber? It would explain a lot.

I liken depression to a constant very thick head cold in which everything feels blurry, distant, and kind of not worth it. Or maybe I liken depression to overdosing on Benadryl in response to having a head cold. Or maybe I liken depression to being lichen.

It is an always changing always morphing attack on the psyche and it seriously messes with my productivity most days. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t impact everything I either do or don’t do in some way, from my writing to my music to how often I go grocery shopping to how many hours I logged playing Dead Pixels today (hint: more than I planned to).

One of the things that helps me is depression music. Specifically, music that bugs my depression.

When I was a teenager and I felt sad, I rocked out to sad music. Long ominous slow songs filled my room as I lay in bed and wrote poetry (or pretended to be writing poetry while eating crackers). Depression likes this music so it joins me and like has tea or something.

Instead, I now play happy music. Fiendish music. It still has to be music I like but music that has the opposite tone to my mood sometimes can force a mood lift or at least get me annoyed enough that I start doing stuff. It gets me feeling a little better then I start doing stuff and that gets me feeling a little better creating a cycle of goodness.

This music seems to grate on depression until it gets fed up and returns to its pit to come back and fight another day. That works for me. In this way I imagine depression to be not unlike some sort of evil predatory gnome that gets annoyed when you sing songs at it and hunts you from the darkness.

I’ve developed a playlist of songs that have only one unifying trait: they lift my mood or energy level. It’s possibly the most useful of all my many playlists. It’s a curated aural injection of happiness when I need it.

It’s also a nice excuse to listen to Bill Nighy’s “Christmas Is All Around Us” in the middle of April. Hush. It’s good for me.

 

I’m Building A Monster and I’m Naming It Blomic

I’m creating a monster. I hope it goes crazy and decides to rampage across the countryside. Until it names itself, I’ll call it Blomic.

Blomic is a hybrid of blog and comic. I like writing stuff. I like reading webcomics. I draw stickfigures of only mediocre quality unless you want to read a comic about Abraham Lincoln’s Punk Rock Band singing songs about Walruses. True story actually. So I have instead taken blogging software, this novel I wrote awhile ago, and webcomic sensibility, and put together something that has probably been done before but is new to me.

Blomic likes jokes and twisted insights. Blomic likes to have at least one headtwisting jokesight per post.

This particular Blomic also aims to have a developing story told seemingly through the semi-coherent ramblings of an immortal disembodied brain that calls itself the Storyteller.

This Blomic was born from deep thoughts I’ve been having about the nature of writing, the internet, writing, the relationship between audience and story, and a bunch of other stuff. Also, laziness. There. I said it before anyone else could.

Blomic encourages reader interaction. I’m crowdsourcing revision. I’m taking applications for plot lines. It’s a work of chaos pretending to be a work of fiction.

Blomic is my first attempt at writing in a new ethos to be named at a later date.

Blomic has six heads, three eyes, and four pairs of legs. It isn’t a spider. I don’t exactly know what that means yet but I’m sure it’ll have plot significance later.

This Blomic uses a WordPress.com template and hates its own color scheme but that cannot stop the Blomic signal from reaching across universe.

This Blomic calls itself Storyteller Chronicles and can be found at Storytellerchronicles.wordpress.com.

Maybe you’ll like it. Maybe you won’t. I’m in the same boat. It’s an experiment. Be a dear and check it out. Blomic is still young so it probably doesn’t know how to bite yet.

UPDATE: Now the link works! Oops.

Blogging Sucks

I recently read Chuck Wendig’s blogging advice. It’s good stuff.

It first of all set me straight on the monkey taming blog I’d long wanted to do but have given up on as not culturally relevant or legal which was quite useful. More importantly, he addresses the necessity of blogging as a concept for a writer.

Most of the writers I know who are good writers aren’t consistent bloggers. I saw Amanda Palmer in concert last night who for part of the show talked about her dying blog and how other things are much more effective in allowing her to connect with her audience.

When I blog, I think I’m yearning for Geocities to come back and let us create little fun internet communities. That happened to me in an anonymous blog a decade or so ago with WordPress and that was great. Loved it. But I don’t think blogging is like that anymore. Plus Google Reader got assassinated by evil gnomes and thus we don’t really have a dominant RSS feeder. Good job on that one, gnomes.

I woke up a few weeks ago hating writing in all the various ways one can hate writing and I just wanted to write stuff I liked. I wrote a little manifesto that I’ll probably share eventually that has guided the conceit of a SECRET PROJECT I’m working on but the main point is, I don’t make enough money off books to hate writing them. So I’m going to write them for me. And you. Both of us. Go team.

So I have this blog that’ll be like “Hey here’s the news and occasional ramblings of the Patrick and any other people who make sense to have here” and that’s the blog. I’m more interested in webcomics, serial stories, interaction, and all sorts of other stuff. So welcome to my personal PR firm. It’s kind of weird but I think the key is this: to make blogging work for me, I have to make blogging work for me.

So I’ve got this new project in the works that should be posted and shared soon. It’s actually already soft launched but I want some more momentum on the creative side before I mention it.

I have a story coming out in the new Dirty Magick anthology from Lucky Mojo Press.

Balticon is in the works.

So… there. News. Enjoy! Watch this space or something. Huzzah.

All You Can Eat: Weight Watchers tries out a thought provoking Super Bowl Ad

I don’t watch network television but thanks to some decent shows running right now I have ended up on Hulu watching things like Agent Carter. That’s a topic for another time but I sure do like it.

What has caught my attention more is the Weight Watchers commercial I keep seeing since even a paid Hulu account makes you watch some commercials. You can watch it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvUO_jU8XlI

So basically it’s a two minute recap of everything that has been expressed about addictive consumerist culture in fills like Requiem for a Dream or songs like “All You Can Eat” by Ben Folds. It’s filled with disgusting images only slightly modified fro their origin in films about food factories, commercials, cooking shows, all punctuated by the narrator encouraging you since “you gotta eat.”

At the end the sensory overload of the video passes and we are left with an empty white plate and Weight Watchers presenting themselves as the solution to the overwhelming pressure that had been the majority of the visual so far. Weight Watchers says that we can be free ro that if we use their service and, honestly, I think it is an admirable goal to help fight that sort of consumerist culture.

The food we are shown is never appetizing but always desired, not for its own quality but for the ever increasing need to fill a void. Weight Watchers has pegged itself as the solution to this pressure, a method to self discipline through better eating and ultimately regaining control of your life.

This is one of my favorite advertisements that I’ve seen in a long time. I love the ideas behind it, the recognition that eating issues are less about the food itself and more about eotions, control, pressure, and self image. It isn’t selling thinness, it’s selling the idea of being in the driver’s seat of your life instead of a passive victim stuck in line at a drive thru.

But does it work? From what I’ve read it aired during the Super Bowl, a festival of excess dedicated to even more heart burning chili dip. For many it’s a chance to binge on the very food the commercial points out as disturbing nad overpowering while socializing. For others it’s about that food and sports. And then there are the people who are only in it for the commercials but even then those who want the commercials want the hilarious Budweiser frogs of yesteryear, not something thought provoking and potentially life saving.

So was it an error to air an ad that was basically an attack on the sport of excess in the iddle of their annual high point? I’m not sure. I imagine most people ignoring it since there wasn’t a talking frog or awesome stars like Danny Trejo or Steve Buschemi cast as the Brady Bunch sticks with me.

It’s a Superbowl ad for those of who are there to completely ignore the television and get home as soon possible. Are we a growing dynamic? I don’t know. But it’s a nice thing to watch when I temporarily entertain the thought of going to Old Country Buffet for all you can eat chicken wings.

State of the Head Union or… A Blog For The Sake of Blogging

I’m trying to get back in to blogging again. In a regular steady sense. A “I’ve taken my blog fiber and now can predict my blog movements” sense. That joke will either win or alienate readers. Either way, I’ll stay classy.

So let’s do the standard thing people do when their blogs aren’t updated in awhile. Let’s update!

The Headcast has been delayed for a few months. I’m still slogging through audio editing. I lost another audio editing partner to the perils of work and life so I’m doing it solo again. Given the long self indulgent takes I did while recording the first chunk of Horde chapters, there’s quite a bit to slog through. My goal was to have 2 out in January. I’m still hopping for one by Febuary first and then back to the regular schedule from then till the end of part one.

I’ve been writing as well. I’ve completed about a quarter of a new novel dedicatd in memory of P.G. Holyfield set in a universe where dreams and people survive in the near earth spirit world. It’s going well but needs to get finished.

Balticon progress. This is what people ask about. Well we’ve nailed down soe of the changes to the convention due to the massive renovation the hotel did. We simply have less space. I’ve got my form letter drafted for inviting potential guests and most importantly, there are other members of the literary team who are helping.

Health has been… better? More activity, less focus. You decide if that’s a good thing. I prefer focus. I think more stories get done and out there.

I’m finishing up a story submission for an anthology continuing a thread from last year’s Hounds of Tartarus from the Dirty Magick anthology.

Most exciting for me, I acquired an H5 and a nice new mic that hopefully that will help motivate me to do some new episodes. I know I should finish the Horde first. There’s lots of editing to be done on that part. We’ll see.

I’ve got some new ideas in the pipeline and hopefully a few  more of them will be coming out in the next few months. Thanks for not forgetting about me, internet. I am still here.

Till then, go read Paul Cooley’s The Black or something. I hear it’s pretty good. 

Sometimes It Takes An Ensemble: Guest Post by Paul E. Cooley

I had an interesting question the other day. Patrick Scaffido observed that all the reviews for my new novel The Black discuss characters in generalities rather than specifics. If you read the blurb for all my other works, the main characters jump out at you in the descriptions. But why not for The Black?

Let me back up a bit. I am best known for my psychological horror/thriller stories like Tattoo and Closet Treats. But I’m also known for writing extremely dark historical fantasy. Regardless of genre, though, characters have always been the main study of the story. I like to bring interesting people to life and then do terrible things to them to see how they survive.

The Black is another of those tales, but instead of telling the story through the eyes of three or four characters, I chose to try something different. One of my favorite books, Relic, has four main characters but it drags in viewpoints from minor characters as well. Hell, some of them aren’t even minor–they’re nano.

I chose to change my story-telling style for two reasons. The first? Because I hadn’t done it before. I believe writing requires you to challenge yourself. Every story needs to be better (and different) than the last. I strive to incorporate lessons I’ve learned into any new endeavors. That means stretching. I had to stretch quite a bit when I co-authored The Rider with Scott Sigler. That was a first too–my science-fiction novel. It was a terrifying and yet very rewarding experience. When it’s published later this year, I hope readers agree that it’s a good tale.

The second reason is a bit more pedestrian. Many thrillers use the style found in Relic and Stephen King’s Needful Things. A lot of characters inhabit those novels, but we only get slices of their lives. Usually right before those lives end. The characters we come to love are the main ones, but without the rest of the ensemble, the tale just wouldn’t be as complete or fun.

When you write a book in this manner, especially when there are four main characters just as important as one another, it makes it difficult to focus on just one. Therefore, reviews and blurbs are either going to mention them all, or simply acknowledge them as an ensemble.

I’m presently working on the sidequel (paraquel?) to The Black and I’m following the same, dare I say, formula of ensemble. I loved all the characters in the last book, and I’m really digging these poor saps I’m bringing to life at the moment. I can’t wait to tilt their world on its edge and see which of them actually manage to survive it. Yes, it’s a sadistic pleasure.

Notice what I haven’t yet said in this missive? I haven’t mentioned the word “plot” once. That’s because the characters make the plot. Pure and simple. I know what’s going to happen, but I don’t know how it’s going to happen. The characters help me figure that out. Their personalities, traits, and skills drive the story and conflicts. The plot grows out of their interaction with the world I’ve created.

Sometimes characters grow organically even after you’ve given them a ton of skills. Their personalities live in how they speak, think, and observe. The ensemble brings more opportunities to create beings that may exist for only a page or two before disappearing into the aether. They are little swatches of color in the much larger story tapestry. And they are damned fun to write.

So don’t be surprised if I write a few books like this. Stories like those contained in the Garaaga’s Children universe are quite different. In some ways, they only function if the narrator is trapped in the mind of a single character. My Fiends tales have been much the same way. But they don’t have to be.

I’m writing these stories the way they need to be written. I don’t overthink these matters while writing, although I do tend to analyze my work when I’ve finished it. Sometimes I’ll come up for air after a writing sprint and ask “what the hell am I doing? And why?” The answer is always “I have no idea, but I like it.”

The reviews for The Black keep coming and all I’ve heard thus far is praise. I must have done something right. This is the best-selling novel I’ve ever written. Maybe I’ve finally found the proper balance between character study and that ephemeral beast known as “plot.” Regardless, I have more stories to write. I’ll save the philosophical mea-culpas for after they’ve been published.

Written by Paul E. Cooley.

Find Paul E. Cooley’s website at Shadowpublications.com

Find his latest book The Black here and at Amazon.com.

I personally recommend his book Closet Treats for mindwarping character driven horror.