Another Open Letter to Bieber

Yes, here we are. Again. And like before, I know that you won’t see this. Hell, even your “people” won’t see this. And if they do, they won’t show it to you. Clearly your behavior in the news shows that nobody is driving the Bieber Bus.

Let’s hit a short summary of my previous issues…

  1. Memoirs don’t happen before you get a drivers license. Hell, you need a good reason for them to happen before you can buy a beer at the bar.
  2. If you have to tell people (especially your peers and fan base) you’re an artist and should be taken seriously, you’re not an artist. Respect is earned, not demanded.

I can tell the last open letter went unread as this newest bit displays a decided ignorance to the previously mentioned issues. And no, I’m not talking about the monkey. I mean, come on… we’re talking a monkey. If I had the cash, I’d totally get one too. I get it. Not having all your paperwork in order when taking it to a foreign country… THAT I don’t get, but I can forgive that one.

For those wondering (though none likely are), I’m not even talking about the pissing in a bucket thing. Teens do stupid shit. It’s kind of their thing. Well, most teens. And most of the time, their stupid shit is neither destructive, nor on display for the whole world. If I can see past some of the outlandish stunts Miley is doing in the public (hell on national television), I can look the other way here. Teenage douchbaggery, I get it.

And then you do something that the majority of the world cannot. You visit one of the Seven Wonders. Outside of a game of old school Civilization on a computer, most of my people will only see this through a web browser. So when faced with the Great Wall before you, the answer that popped into your head was to have your guards carry you up in on their shoulders?

In this day and age where my wife has me stop the truck so she can take pictures of the deer in the campground with her iPhone, how did you not understand people would be capturing this moment of Joffery-like behavior? Why don’t you just hired a guard with a seriously burned face and a sword, piss him off and call it a day?

You claim to be an artist. Art, especially music for me, is about the story. The story is about the experience. Here you were afforded one of the most potentially moving experiences of a lifetime – ANY lifetime – at the age of 19. And instead you decided to ride it on the backs of others. This shows that you don’t even take your own art seriously. How do you expect us to?

There’s no denying you have musical talent. But that is only part of it. Much like John Scalzi’s essay on how being a white male is like playing life on easy mode, possessing musical talent is like playing the musical game of life on easy mode. You’re already within reach of the prize.

My current favorite musicians (though I am nervous about claiming favorites in anything) are Wayland. The band does 320 to 330 gigs a year. They drive around in a retro-fitted airport shuttle towing a trailer with their gear. The last gig they had to cancel was because the rear axle on their trailer broke and it was taking time to repair. When a similar issue happened driving from the Pacific Northwest to Reno, they wrote a song about it. About the experience. Were I to see Mitch, Phill, Tyler… hell, even Dean… being carried up the Great Wall I would be considering the Warrior Wall back at my condo.

Not that they would consider it. They are from blue collar working stock. Each and every show they are genuinely appreciative of everyone that comes out to support them. And they have shown through their dedication, work ethic and passion that they are artists. Not a single one of them needs to tell me to take them seriously. That’s a big part of the reason I do.

You are left as a young man, not even legal to be in a bar, with more money than most people ever see in their lives. You have opportunities that most people can only dream of. Get your house in order and figure out what to do with it. When Patrick Rothfuss was left with (what he called) a “stupid amount of money” from his New York Times best-seller, he started a foundation that gave money to needy people. It inspired other artists to join in on the effort. He took his privilege and made it the privilege to others.

In both of the examples above, I have mentioned specific artists that I respect. Midwest folks, who made good. I am not saying to do what they do. Use the example to find your own path. And by that I mean your own path, not pointing one out to those whose backs you’re riding on. You’re a grown-ass man, stand on your own two feet. Prove you should be taken seriously, don’t expect it.

Zombie Joe

he who should rarely be taken seriously, except for now… 

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Sparked Image Thanks to @ChazztheJazz

For those of you not familiar with the YouTube guy known as “chazzthejazz” in most social networks (or Charles St. Micheal in his actual videos), he is a rather irreverent east coast actor. And while he leans more to the right as opposed to my left of center leanings, I get his sense of humor. Quite often it is obscenely off color, but then again… so am I. Follow along, it’s a windy road. Use the buddy system. Hold hands if you need to.

He has a schedule of events, one day being “Drinking and Smoking”, a video where he drinks, smokes (vapors) and talks about whatever strikes his fancy. This past week there was one where he was talking music and bands. Though he was part of a Queen cover band at one point, he told a story about a friend doing music in LA in the 80’s. If you want to get it straight from the tap, I’ll embed the video here. It is just under 30 minutes though.

For those looking to get straight to the point, in the mid 80’s, even though there were bands in every bar on the strip, you could step into any pawn shop on Sunset Blvd. and see the most amazing vintage guitars hanging on the wall. So, in theory, you could get a hell of a deal on a really sweet guitar. But that wasn’t it.

Each piece hanging on the wall represented the corpse of someone’s dead dreams. They came out to LA to break into music and were left with selling their piece to be able to eat, get home… so they could live. It hit me pretty strong considering the story of one of my favorite bands, Wayland. It had some parallels.

They had gone out to LA and were told they were a midwest band. They needed to tour. To play the midwest. They needed to live where their home was, the heart of their music. So they did. Phill’s white guitar didn’t wind up on the wall somewhere the memorial to the death of a dream.

manuscriptsWhy do I bring this up? Musicians aren’t the only one facing this. I was in a meeting with an editor here in town. His office is the attic of a three story house. And, as you would expect from an editor, the attic is filled with books, more books, a couple desks… some more books. You get the idea. I sat at one desk and he sat at the other. We talked over a length of bookshelves that held manuscripts. Two of them stood out to me. The name written on the page that bound them together catching my attention.

It really pressed upon me on the drive home. The well-known and prolific author whose name was on those manuscripts died recently. The man was gone from the world, but there his story sat, awaiting revisions. Awaiting print. They may decide to release it as is, it may get a polishing by someone else to ready for final release. The holder of his estate (his widow) may choose to leave it unreleased.

The thought of the last novel of this great writer potentially being unreleased reminded me of that Les Paul hanging on the wall of a pawn shop in LA. The final display of a lost dream. Though in this scenario, it isn’t the dream of the artist that is potentially lost and gone from the world, but the dreams of the readers that would be inspired by the last telling of a tale this man would ever do.

Of anything in the last couple years, this is the most motivating. I can think my writing is crap. If nothing else I need to have someone else tell me that. Because even if my stories fit a niche market and I need to self publish to get them out in the world, I’m fine with that. The idea that someone’s day could be lightened by the story of me doing horrible, horrible things to my main character, but it wasn’t… seems like a loss to me. A loss for both of us.

The music of Wayland, Halestorm, Bobaflex and others inspires a lot from my stories. They drive them. Their art fueling mine. What if somewhere, some kid would feel the same connection to something I write? That seems like the best reason ever to keep going. Doesn’t it?

Having problems staying focused? Unsure if the effort and time put into this art is worth it? Consider the potential loss to the other person and what potential to create they may lose by not having that inspiration. Sit your ass in the chair and write.

Stop planning. No more outlining. You don’t need Neil Gaiman’s fucking gazebo* (unless you are Kelly McCullough). Sit your ass down and write. I have heard the first million words you write are shit. Best to get them out of the way early.

*with compliments to Doyce Testerman on the quote

Second Post! Playlists!

I know. Two posts in one day!

No, the sky isn’t falling. Hell hasn’t frozen over. The Seventh Seal hasn’t been broken. (Really Demi Moore is alive and well.)*

Basically, blame Melissa Olson. She is working on the follow up to her debut novel Dead Spots and was looking for songs that readers felt personified Scarlett, her protagonist. This had me considering music, and my playlists. Well, that and the fact that I had no idea that Macklemore and Lewis were playing in Milwaukee last night. How did I not know this?

But I digress. *deep breaths*

The problem here is that I read 1-2 novels a week. I read Dead Spots a while ago. Which means Scarlett is blending into a haze of protagonists from a lot of different other novels. This is part of the reason I don’t wait before starting the review as a general rule. Especially for Wicked Lil Pixie, as those are full reviews.

At the same time, I have been working with a number of go to bands that have been sitting on my playlists quite a bit lately. I’ll drop a few of them into the post here. Leaning towards ones with videos I can post, because who doesn’t like music videos?

Bad Ass Female Protagonists (or Villains)

For this I have been going towards Halestorm and In This Moment. The songs are rough, raw and have that growling female vocals that just scream (literally in some instances) power to me. So, I’m just throwing this out there for Melissa as this is what I remember without confirming by re-reading a chapter or two. These songs say “powerful female protagonist” to me.

Halestorm – Love Bites

In This Moment – Adrenalize Me

Halestorm – I Miss the Misery

In This Moment – Blood

Other Protagonists (mostly my male ones)

For the most part, I have songs that feed into a theme I am going for. In most of my stories the heroes have at least a bit of the feeling of being a freak. Not normal. To this direction, a lot of the songs lean towards being not normal or supporting the dual nature of a person. Which, when you think about it, is a lot of academic thought put behind the motivation and inspiration of a cool song.

Halestorm – Freak Like Me

Wayland – Welcome to My Head

In This Moment – Welcome to the Gun Show

Volbeat – Sad Man’s Tongue

Wayland – Reno (best video I could find – unreleased song – next album)

Volbeat – Still Counting

Honkeytonk Monster Hunter (inspiration)

In this instance I not only do a severe jump in genres, but this is a one-for-one. The artist singing these was the direct inspiration for the protagonist. Not much else to say here, other than… “That boy can sang!” 😉

Ben Dukes – Down in Flames

Ben Dukes – Old Fixer Upper

Summary

For the purposes of Melissa Olson, the top section on bad ass female protagonists works best. But it is far from the only playlists I work with. In an effort of full disclosure, most of my Halestorm and In This Moment songs are for my female villain/serial killer. But I stand by their uses. After all, the villain is the hero of their own story.