Saturday, February 16, 2019

Content With Content: Media Consumed in January

He Whoo Watches and Waits
Today marks the first of a new monthly add to my blog where I intend to let readers know what I've shaving into my eyes, ears, and brain. What I've read, watched, and listened to (just the new acquisitions; the full list of music would be absurd.) and maybe a little about what struck me in the experiences. I'm always interested in what other writers and creative folks are putting into their heads, and I thought a few paragraphs on what I've been absorbing might be interesting to anyone who has enjoyed one of my books or is considering reading one.

But first, some math:
There are 168 hours in a week

I sleep between 6-8 hours a day, so let's say I average 7 and so the 49 hours leaves up with 119 hours.

I am fortunate enough to have a job where I work M-F 8-5 with about 45 minutes of commuting each way. That's 10.5 hours total a day, or 52.5 a week. I often travel in the job, which could ramp this figure up to 60 or 70 hours or more, and in certain situations I have to give up weekend or holiday time, but I also have a fair amount of vacation time so let's stick with the 52.5. We're down to 66.5 hours.

I write at least 30 hours a week. 10 hours on Saturday and Sunday, and 2-ish each M-F. Blogging counts but other social media doesn't. 36.5 hours remain.

Since the start of the year, I've been hitting the home gym & with showers that's about 12 hours a week. 24.5 hours to go.

I try to read an hour a day at least. Sometimes I do more, so I'll say 10 hours a week.

14.5 left for the rest of life--laundry, shopping, the DMV, a date with my long-suffering wife. There's some variance; if I'm researching something for a book that goes into "writing"--my terms, my definitions. Here I remember the advice Jack Ketchum once gave to a writing class I was in: "Sometimes staring at the wall is writing!". Most of my allotted thirty, though, is actually pen to paper or fingers to keys.

I mention the reality not to evoke sympathy--I have a great life and I love what I do, if anything I would escalated the hours spent on most of the segments above--but to indicate many things in life like health, a measure of artistic success, a measure of financial security, do not come easy, and they come with a price tag of time and often money as well. I've lived an extremely privileged life, in many senses of the term, I also work my ass off to make up for my many shortcomings in the "talent" department. For writers, I don't know if the time writing and reading is optional, it certainly isn't for me.

I'll start with What I Watched, then, because it's the easiest for me. I love television and movies but as you can see from the above I've not a ton of time left over to go deep into the stacks of Blu-rays I have lying around waiting to be watched.

1. I Still See You--including all of the deleted scenes, the commentary with Scott Speer and Bella Thorne, and all of the stellar bonus features, especially the ones starring me.

Guess what you're getting for your birthday?

2. L.A. Confidential--Set me on my path to read all of Ellroy this year

3. Monuments Men

All three were watched with Kim (Date night! What a prince I am!)because to keep the schedule I outlined above, sometimes you have to multitask.

1. Vice Squad Unreleased--Vice Squad
2. Saturnalia of the Accused--Argyle Goolsby (from Blitzkid)
3. The Mighty Rhythm Tribe--Buddy Miles
4. Land of Plenty--Bill MacKay and Ryley Walker

The four above were from eMusic; I've been a member for twelve years. At one time they had very weird and odd labels along with the back catalogues of just about everyone, but they have scaled back so their offerings are  a shadow of their once mighty warehouse of sounds. I might not make it to year thirteen.

5. A Decade of Dance Live--The Untouchables. Their album Wild Child was a turntable mainstay of my high school years and I was thrilled to learn this live set rom 1989 existed. From Discogs cuz it is out of print..
6. Catholic Boy--The Jim Carroll Band. Discogs again because also OOP. I have a dubbed cassette but no means to play it and just had the synaptic urge to listen--forgot how truly great it is.

Note this is a very short list compared to 2018, where I was listening to an average of 8 new albums a week in my capacity as a reviewer for the good folks at Metal Express Radio; I've a great deal more control over my listening now.

1. Dream Makers--6 Fantasy Artists (art book with some text)
2. The Hidden Lives of Owls--Leigh Calvez
3. Ireland--in the Travelers Tales series
4. Like Brothers--The Duplass Brothers
5. Dr. Haggard's Disease--Patrick McGrath, one of my favorite authors who any fan of horror or weird fiction needs to check out. I'd read this one before.
6. The Electric State--Simon Stalenhag An illustrated coffee table science fiction novella, I enjoyed this one immensely and have added Stalenhag's other work (he does the gorgeous paintings as well) to my list.
7. Astounding--Alec Nevala-Lee A history/Bio of John W. Campbell, Robert Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard and Isaac Asimov
8. Three Days To Never--Tim Powers. Might be my favorite Powers novel, which is interesting considering the breadth of his work.
9. Children of the Thunder--not my favorite Brunner, but I enjoyed it all the same. As much a horror story as science fiction
10. The Shores of Space--Richard Matheson. Genius book. If you want to write short stories, genre or not, you need to read Matheson.
11. The Atrocity Exhibition--J.G. Ballard. I love Ballard and this one alternately warped my mind and made me feel pretty dumb at times, but definitely was one I thought about for days after finishing it. This was the nice illustrated one with Ballard's annotations, put out by RE/SEARCH
12. Cheap Hotels--Daisanne Maclane Photos and text about cheap hotels around the world. Loved it.
Imay have stayed at this one

13. The Art of Bryan Talbot--Bryan Talbot, intro Neil Gaiman. Art and some text
14. Women--Frank Cho. All art
15. Zombie Spaceship Wasteland--Patton Oswalt. Humorous memoir mixed with comedic writings. Loved it' there were times reading it where I felt Patton and I may have lived parallel lives, especially in the chapter regarding his experiences working at a small movie theater. Speaking of theater, he's great on the new Mystery Science Theater 3000

Fifteen seems like a lot, but many of these were art with little text and all but the Brunner, Powers and Astounding are probably under three hundred pages. I think The Atrocity Exhibition took me the longest to get through but was one of the ones I thought about the most.

Thanks for taking the time to root through the junkheap of my mind looking for treasures. If you would like to pay the reader/writer bond forward, please consider taking one of my books home with you by clicking HERE and buying all you can afford. Such generous purchases will ensure I can keep reading and writing in February and the months to follow. Thank you!
My books

Monday, February 11, 2019

Passions Just Like Mine--Raymond Chandler

My love for the work of Raymond Chandler happened in the reverse of my usual progression in that I saw it dramatized on television before I read any of it. The item in the center is the DVD collection of Philip Marlowe, Private Eye starring Powers Boothe which ran on HBO from 1983-1986. I think the show was one of the first episodic series that ran there, long before HBO became the original programming juggernaut with shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, and Deadwood (which Boothe also starred in). There were only eleven episodes, but I must have caught the first one after school in 1983 (my prime television watching years were my early teens; hours and hours of MTV, HBO, The Movie Channel, and Creature Double Feature. Once I was in college I watched almost no television at all other than Carson's The Tonight Show with my mother when I was on break).

I was fourteen in 1983, and a heavily committed horror, science fiction, and fantasy fan and reader (and war and role playing game addict--you know, one of the cool kids), but I was instantly taken in by Boothe's deadpan delivery and tough guy demeanor, the snappy dialogue, the classy costuming and sets, and especially the opening theme song.  I think the one I like is "Marlowe's Theme" by Moe Koffman, but I'm not certain because there was a much inferior second opening theme song in the later episodes and that's the only credit I can find. I've never found a legitimate recording of it but you can catch it in YouTube clips if you don't want to spring for the DVDs.
Smoking is bad, kids. So's murder.

On my next trip to the Paperback Booksmith I was on a mission to find some of this Raymond Chandler guy's stuff, and I came home with the copy of Trouble Is My Business in the photo above and was hooked for life. Not only did the show (a couple of the episodes are kind of clunkers, but the majority are stellar) and that book open up the world of Raymond Chandler for me, it opened up a lifelong love of noir and detective fiction, especially series detective fiction. Over the years I'd read Ross MacDonald, John MacDonald, James Lee Burke, James Crumley, Robert Crais, Robert Parker, George Pelecanos, Walter Mosley, Stephen Greenleaf, Ed McBain, Elmore Leonard, Harlan Coben, Dashiell Hammett, and many others.

Just looking at that short list of authors I realize I've read at least two or three hundred crime and noir novels over the years. No wonder I have to write about my passions! I never leave my house to talk to anybody, whut with all the writin' an' readin' I been doin'!

Up next is James Ellroy as I mentioned HERE, and, having been sucker-punched by the mastery of The Song Is You by Megan Abbott last week I'm going to read all of her by the end of the year, too--anything to keep the neurons firing.

I already had a copy of The High Window, but as I may have mentioned elsewhere I'm fetishistic about covers and books in general and just look at this:
A confession: it was only a dollar at the Book Barn
That one and Trouble are my favorite covers of the ones above; my least favorite is the Eliot Gould/rubber chicken of The Long Goodbye, which is weird, because that might be my favorite book as far as the writing goes. I've seen the Gould movie and many of the other Marlowe movie adaptations, but Boothe is the guy I always see in my head when I'm reading the books (yes, Boothe and not Bogart, sorry). I also love the radio show starring Gerald Mohr, but I can somehow still see Boothe in my head when listening.

I loved the way the language in crime novels could be alternately playful and then stark and harrowing, sometimes within the same paragraph. As a reader with a burgeoning desire to write I also loved the concision and brevity in most crime fiction, an interesting stylistic counterpoint to the often florid and purple dark fantasy I'd been reading, not to mention the technical and pedantic prose in much of the science fiction I grew up on. I love the idea of being able to follow a character (or characters) through a novel every year and I don't even mind when the plots sometimes seem recycled if the character and the way they perceive and intersect with the world around them is unique. I don't commonly suffer from writer's block, but if I'm feeling like I'm swimming through mud and the work is starting to feel like something other than fun, my #1 recovery strategy is to take a break and read a couple series' detective novels--or Trouble Is My Business.

If anyone has any recommendations for other authors or series detectives I should check out, I welcome your comments. Anything set in Hollywood--especially 1930-1960--goes to the top of the stack.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

QE 2: January Results, Writing, and the Owl

He Whoo Watches and Waits
In January I wrote a blog post entitled Queer Eye, My Daughter, and I that related some of the experience and pleasure I had binge-watching the two season of the show with my daughter over the holiday break, and in doing so basically laid out a self-improvement (or self assessment, at least) plan for the year. A year, by the way, that I will--Lord willing and the creek don't rise--celebrate a half century of haunting this earth. The plan involves taking an honest inventory of where am in life with regards to five categories, as I see them, as exemplified by the men on the Netflix show Queer Eye, known to fans as the Fab Five. There's a certain value in "reporting out", both in terms of the accountability doing so provides and in the added motivation to not look like a chump for poor performance, plus there might also be a little thrill of pride to be felt when one performs well, as I believe I did in January. And so, an honest assessment on in the five QE categories:

KARAMO: In my previous definition of what Karamo represents, I failed to mention that a key component is how cultured one is, how open to new experiences, and by extrapolation I would add how intellectually aggressive. These characteristics, coupled with taking responsibility, being self confident, and putting yourself out there make the Karamo scale of key importance in driving one's overall QE score (and as I mentioned in the previous post, could be the most limiting if one's initial score is high!) For January, I'm giving myself a four and half. I read fifteen books, and more importantly to myself, and I would guess to most people following this blog because they found it after reading one of my novels, I wrote two-hundred forty one and a half pages this month, which is a personal best since I've been tracking such things. That's 241.5, and it includes a bunch of chapters on a new YA novel which my agent seems enthused about. 241.5 pages would be enough pages for a short novel if it was all one project and all fiction, which it isn't, but as the duration and output of writing is the single biggest factor to my overall happiness, I'm very happy I was a writin' fiend in January. As "putting myself out there", what little I'm doing is all virtual, but five blog posts (included in my page count) and periodic social media posts (not included in my page count) is more than I usually do.

TAN: "Make an effort with your personal appearance". I gave myself a 1 when I started, I'm raising that to 1.5 for January because I bought some new clothes and a watch I really like. I might have given myself a two but I haven't actually worn the clothes, or left the house except for work, a couple dates with Kim, and my trip to the Book Barn. I'm writing this now in a fifteen year old pair of sweatpants and an even older XL Haunted Mansion t-shirt, which now looks like a billowing circus tent on me (more on that later),

I did wear the watch, though. I love it. I got it off eBay.

I know what time it is

BOBBY: "Create and maintain a physical environment that promotes productivity, creativity and inner harmony". I was a three last time and a three in January, although I received from my mother in law that wicked sweet owl in the photo at the top whoo now watches over me when I work, and the bottle next to him is "Phantasm", which a good friend gave me to celebrate the release of I Still See You. The wine was fantastic.

ANTONI: Make nutrition healthy and enjoyable, cook for others. I'll go from 2 to 2.5 here. My Austerity diet is a weird time for me (see Secrets of Weight Loss, Revealed) because I eat next to nothing, but I have cooked a great deal in January, mainly stir fries and exotically spiced roast vegetables.  But Kim ate some of the stuff that I made and I thought it was great, so half a point seems fair.

JONATHAN: I'm giving myself a full point here, going from a two to a three. "Take care of yourself physically"--I had a personal best in terms of miles run in a month at a little over 155 miles, which is insane. I'm one step away from the half century mark! Last week I started planking and weightlifting, too, which I usually don't do until I am below my target weight in the mistaken and thoroughly unscientific belief that I immediately start regaining the weight when I lift, as though the meager barbells I hoist will inflate my arms and chest muscles to epic proportions after a few straining sets.

I also bought some "product" for bald men, which is supposed to moisturize and "add luster" to my pointy head. We'll see. But I am pretty excited that I got some product--I haven't had any beyond deodorant, toothpaste, shaving cream, and cologne for a number of years. I miss shampoo.

So it was a great month, self-improvement and productivity-wise. Beginning of the year, twelve points out of a possible twenty-five; after one month I'm already up to fourteen and half points with improvement in four out of five categories, well on my way to be a fully-actualized human being.

Stay tuned for February, that hideous month where I, like Karen, typically must do battle with the dreaded Blue Fog. Which you know all about if you've read my book Passing Strange, the third novel in the Generation Dead series.
Karen's book, but her cover is Generation Dead's 

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