We Are Now In Over Our Heads (In Bullshit)

 

A few years ago I heard about this guy who wrote a book (or perhaps philosophical treatise is the better word) on the subject of bullshit. His name is Harry G. Frankfurt and he appropriately titled the work “On Bullshit.” I didn’t read it – reading philosophy makes my head spin – but I’ve heard him talk about it a few times. It’s interesting stuff. The videos aren’t long, so if you’ve got 15-20 minutes, you should check them out.

Bullshit has been on the rise ever since the invention of mass media and the mastery of advertising over that platform. Until recently, it seemed mostly confined to people just trying to sell you something (whether it be a product or an idea), so it was possible – admittedly with some difficulty – to avoid stepping in any if you were savvy enough. The truth, after all, would win out. You just had to be patient or diligent or both.

But at some point bullshit started to creep past the levees of truth and began to slowly engulf other aspects of our society besides marketing and politics. Bullshit began to affect the way we interact with the world and not just the salespersons in it. In order to get a job, just as one example, it no longer is enough to be qualified and professional and somehow manage to not make inappropriate comments and lewd gestures during the interview. No! Now, you have to sell yourself. You have to push your brand.

 

"Why eat someone else's bullshit when you can sell them your own?"

“Why eat someone else’s bullshit when you can sell them your own?”

 

And after a hard day at work of continually selling yourself to your coworkers and bosses, you come home and watch TV shows that are no longer reliably fictitious and news that is no longer reliable at all. Sure, movies and TV have always been bullshit, but they never pretended to be otherwise. Now, however, we have Reality TV! That’s right! Entertainment has taken to bullshitting you about being bullshit!

As the level of bullshit rose even higher during this past campaign season, most people retreated to their echo chamber safe spaces so they’d only have to smell their own bullshit. But the bullshit level didn’t stagnate, as perhaps many of us hoped it would. Instead, it has finally overwhelmed us. We no longer can tell the difference between truth and fiction. Our comedy is our news and our news is our entertainment. This has become so much the case that we actually demand more truth in our comedy and less truth in our news.

Those links are worth checking out and considering. What have we done to ourselves that we feel we need to criticize a comedy sketch for not being factual enough? Why are we at the point where a man is so disturbed by what he has been told is true that he takes a rifle into a pizza shop to investigate fictitious reports of a child sex ring? Just how far down the rabbit hole have we tumbled? Is there yet further to go?

 

If we are Alice in this metaphor, we have to be wondering if this is a rabbit hole or a bull's... ummm... hole.

If we are Alice in this metaphor, we have to be wondering if this is a rabbit hole or a bull’s… ummm… hole.

 

People say education is the silver bullet to all the ills of the world. It’s not. Curiosity is the cure. You can’t force someone to learn. They have to be curious. A guy wrote a great piece about all of this talk about people living in “bubbles.” The only bubbles we really need to be worried about are the bubbles of the incurious. In a way, I respect that guy with the rifle. He didn’t harm anyone and indeed seemed intent on not harming anyone who wasn’t obviously raping children. What’s more, he took it upon himself to be curious enough to see with his own eyes. Obviously, I don’t think he should have discharged his weapon at all (nor even carried it into a pizza shop) but since he didn’t harm anyone and didn’t fire until people had fled, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Way to go, Clearly Misguided Dude. Keep on looking for the truth. Except, next time just leave the rifle at home when doing the reconnaissance work, OK? Only Patton was allowed to do a reconnaissance in force. Save the artillery for when the enemy has been located.

 

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I know I promised a Notes from the Self-Pubbed, but it turns out I was just bullshitting you. HA! Actually, I decided I’d hold off on doing another one until after the blog tour so we can get some comprehensive ROI data. Oh yeah! The blog tour! It starts in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

Don’t be afraid to contribute to the conversation, but don’t neglect the truth.

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Here’s What I Meant To Say

So, I had this big long post about the election ready to go and for some reason I couldn’t hit the publish button. It was a brilliant evisceration of the left’s nauseating tendency towards self-flagellation after any setback and a biting attack on the right’s hypocritical new “only the government can give me a job” stance. But, although it felt great to write it all down, I could not bring myself to post it.

 

With this button, I thee publish... Actually, let's just take a moment and think about this.

With this button, I thee publish… Actually, let’s just take a moment and think about this.

 

That’s because I realized that this isn’t a political blog, so I owe it to you and to me to stay focused on my writing, my career and the self-publishing/publishing industry. Also, it’s clear to me that several people have already published the things I wanted to say and expressed them much better than I did. Much of my post went too far and was too angry. I lost focus on the thing I really wanted to express, which was simply: Don’t stop caring about what’s important to you and don’t let internet soundbytes that pass along ridiculous generalizations bait you into the trap of contributing to the machinery of fear and hate.

I lost that message in my gigantic, forever-to-be-hidden manifesto. I’ll keep this version of the manifesto short, but I decided I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t at least communicate that message in response to everything that is going on.

My message is for everyone, on the left and the right. Please stop thinking government is the solution to all the problems of the world. You’re putting way too much pressure on a body of very fallible humans. Seriously, they aren’t lizard people. They’re just like you and me and they are not a monolithic organization. Additionally, some things people hate about the federal government are actually things their state government is responsible for and most people seem to not realize it. Speaking of which, do not excuse ignorance. Let’s not start cozying up to people who disregard facts and disdain intelligence. Some of the bloodiest revolutions in history that lead to nothing but repressive regimes were started by marginalizing and killing off the intellectual elite.

Finally, stay focused on what’s in front of you. Don’t be lazy and shout slogans at groups of cops or bodies of protesters. If someone has done you wrong, then find them and start a dialog about how to fix it. Use a lawyer if you have to, we have plenty of them. If no one has harmed you, only offended you, then ignore them. You’ve got more important things to do in your life than to let someone get under your skin. If someone has harmed a friend of yours and they’re afraid to stand up for themselves to seek justice, then go stand with them. It’s likely that you won’t ever be a victim, but it’s perhaps equally likely someone you know will be. Offer to help in whatever way you can.

It really does not need to be more complicated than that. If you see something on the internet that upsets you and you feel like you need to respond to it, then take the time to research it and figure out the appropriate course of action. Maybe you can write to your representative or maybe you can send money or even volunteer. But, if you feel like the best course of action is to comment on a thread somewhere, just be advised that no evil was ever righted by forwarding a meme.

 

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Okay, that’s good enough. I think that sums up the best of what I had to say. I’ll do you all a favor and save the worst of what I had to say for myself.

Do the write thing!

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Grant Scotland Goes To Print!

At long last the day has arrived! The Adventures of Grant Scotland is confined to merely existing in the digital world no more! Now you can find actual ink and paper copies of the chronicles of Grant’s deeds of dubious merit and doubtful virtue. So, if you’ve been waiting to have your shelf decorated with these handsome volumes or know someone who would appreciate the gift (Christmas is right around the corner) then you’re in luck.

 

image

When I hold them all in my hand at the same time I can’t believe the sheer volume of word-mass I have vomited forth to date.

 

At the moment, Dead Empire and the omnibus are currently available, but books two, three and four will be ready for order in a few days. You can find options for ordering the print editions on the Amazon pages of the Kindle editions, but here are the direct links:

Spy for a Dead Empire

The Adventures of Grant Scotland: The Unlikely Spy

Are you interested in hearing about the self-publishing print process? Maybe? I’ll tell you what. I’ll refrain from getting into the details here, but I’ll do another Notes from the Self-Pubbed next week for those who are interested. Something tells me people are a little too distracted by other events to be in a good place to concentrate on the nuts and bolts of my little cottage industry just now.

I may also do a post about the election, but I don’t want to get too political here. However, there have been a few things I’ve observed after Super Tuesday that I’d like to talk a little about, but I promise it’s not anguish-filled Trump bashing. Plenty of people are doing enough of that and I’ll no doubt do some of my own over the course of the next four years, but there has been some interesting internal debates among Dems/leftists that have got me thinking.

But for tonight, I’ll just keep it short and sweet. The next few months you will witness one of the things that makes our country great – the peaceful and orderly transition of power. Celebrate and be thankful you live in a country where that is the case. The rest of the stuff we’ll keep working on.

 

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I didn’t forget my contest winner! A signed copy of The Unlikely Spy will soon find it’s way to you, Daria Liston!

Reviewing books and tipping delivery people help make America great (again)!

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Now Available: Spy for a Greedy Villain

Finally! After delays, snafus and shenanigans too copious to recount, the Kindle version of Spy for a Greedy Villain, the fourth installment in The Adventures of Grant Scotland series, is now available! So far it is only the Kindle version. A few of those aforementioned snafus hit the print production line, so the availability of the print editions that I promised for all the books has been pushed back a couple of weeks. They should be ready by mid-month.

In the meantime, download Greedy Villain to your Kindle and get reading!

 

aogs4_cover_final

 

Not sure if you’re ready to buy? Just waiting for the print edition? Well, then let me whet your appetite with a little excerpt:

 


I gave him a brief recap of my espionage activities over the past few months, which included reports on the growth and temperament of the One God followers, the coming and going of any Huthan notables and the operations of Doogan and Quinn. At last I followed up with a summary of the harbormaster investigation and finished with the discovery of a ghost in the Lower Docks.

 

“There’s no such things as ghosts, Scotland,” Solin said.

 

“I know, but I haven’t worked up a better nickname for him yet.”

 

“I’m sure you’ll think of something. I have every confidence in your ability to accomplish inane tasks of trivial importance.”

 

“Everybody has to be good at something.”

 

“And while your limited mental capabilities will no doubt be severely taxed in that endeavor, I’ll do some checking into what could make a man entirely concealed in plain sight.”

 

“You mean invisible. You can just say invisible.”

 

“Were I interested in being as lacking in attention to details as you, I could use the word invisible, but luckily for the both of us I am not. Complete invisibility is impossible. Not even the greatest Aelfan wizards were ever able to accomplish such a feat. But, there are several ways a man can remain unnoticed. Take me for instance. For the eleventh time in a row you failed to spot me before I spotted you.”

 

“How am I not surprised you’ve been keeping score? At any rate, he didn’t sneak up on me, I’m telling you I looked right through him.”

 

“Except his boots. Unless in addition to invisibility you also believe in the existence of a sentient pair of boots?”


 

 

Yes, Grant is at last reunited with his endearingly abrasive taskmaster. Hilarious hijinks ensue.

It’s only available on Amazon right now, as are all the rest except for the omnibus, because I want to stay in Kindle Select for now. I still get the occasional borrow through that program and that’s more than I get from Barnes and Noble or Apple or the others. At some point I may re-distribute the series to other markets but my experiments with doing that have been less than rewarding to this point.

In other news, I just finished my initial batch of interviews and guest blogs for my first blog tour! Goddessfish has taken all of my choicest bits of juicy word meats and flung them to the hungry denizens of the blogosphere. Feeding time is scheduled to start right after Christmas, so stay tuned and I’ll let you know what sites to visit so you can follow me around! You won’t even need night-vision goggles and a windowless van this time! It’s perfectly legal!

 

"Well, that takes the fun right out of it. Doesn't it, Precious? Yes."

“Well, that takes the fun right out of it. Doesn’t it, Precious? Yes.”

 

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That’s all for now! Please to enjoy!

Commence with the reading and the reviewing and the ordering and the tipping!

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The English Language and its Discontents

Are you like me? Do you have a tendency to make off-color jokes about racial, ethnic and religious stereotypes? Do you pepper every conversation with a seemingly endless stream of sexual innuendo? Do you turn people’s words around to make a dumb joke when they are trying to raise a significant point?

 

"Heh-heh... Significant point...giggity."

“Heh-heh… Significant point…giggity.”

 

And are you endlessly entertained by all that? And does it bother you when people on the internet tell you it’s wrong to be like that and you should only say things that won’t ever offend anyone?

Well, then let me tell you how to handle this situation. First, ignore everyone on the internet who tries to address an entire group of people as if they are of one mind. Nobody likes those people anyway. Just kidding. We all do it from time to time. We all have rants where we generalize about certain groups of people. But you should still ignore other people’s rants, because that’s all that they are. It’s not worth taking them personally. They just missed the chance to address whatever it is that got them stirred up and now they’re blowing off steam.

It’s like this. If someone says something that offends you, then it is an issue between you and that person. It is not an issue with culture at large. Yet, somehow, we all leap at the opportunity to say “This is what’s wrong with the world today: People suck.” So, instead of addressing the issue with the allegedly sucky party, we retreat to the comfort of our safe spaces and make a gross generalization about whatever group we presume to be responsible. It’s tiresome and lazy, but there’s probably a very good evolutionary reason for why we’re like that. I think it’s called “Avoid situations where you might get your head bashed in and go see if you can make some allies.”

 

No, Brian. That's completely cool. You totally should get more bananas than me, because you're bigger. Makes total sense. Anywhooooo... I think I'll go see if anyone needs me to pick nits.

No, Brian. That’s completely cool. You totally should get more bananas than me, because you’re bigger. Makes total sense. Anywhooooo… I think I’ll go see if anyone needs me to pick nits.

 

But language can be a tricky thing. For every person who takes your meaning and agrees with you, there are those who misunderstand or just plain disagree. Political Correctness seeks to solve that whole problem by suggesting everyone play nice and avoid saying anything offensive at all.The problem, however, is that you can’t tell people what to say in this country. It’s one of the best things about us and also one of the worst. This election cycle is a prime example. A veritable case in point, if you will.

What’s the worst thing you can say about Hillary Clinton? She’s a crook! In bed with Wall Street! Did some ethically questionable things!

And how about Trump? He’s a crook! In bed with Wall Street! Did some ethically questionable things!

All those things are most likely true to at least some extent. The facts are out there to be looked up and I won’t belabor this post with them. Both of them have faults and it’s up to you as a voter to decide which ones are forgivable. It’s your right and privilege. But please, don’t let the language of the internet sway you. According to the internet both of these people mate with donkeys and plot genocide. The language of the internet is, to my mind, the very counter-point to the spirit and intent of Political Correctness.

PC gets a bad rap, in my opinion. When it first got traction, I was in high school/college. At first, I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why I should monitor my speech. After all, I’m a hell of a guy! Shouldn’t everyone take my words in the way I mean them? That’s how it is with my friends and family, after all.

 

Especially when I'm in my "writer's room." I can say whatever I want! And I even get Jello!

Especially when I’m in my “writer’s room.” I can say whatever I want! And I even get Jello!

 

But then I got out in the world and met people who are not like me. People who are not friends or family but who might be if I gave them a chance. See, the whole point of Political Correctness is that very often you are not around your friends and family. Being PC means understanding that. Being PC means understanding the people in range of your voice might be coming from very different backgrounds and might receive your mouth dribble differently than intended. It means thinking before you speak. That’s not such a bad thing, right?

I know the internet gives us the luxury of blurting out our thoughts with no filter under the safe blanket of anonymity and distance, but that doesn’t give us a carte blanche to be assholes. Trust me. I know I’ve said some stuff on this blog that can easily be called offensive, but I at least thought about those things first. Mostly, I was trying to be funny, but sometimes I was sincere. And if people take issue with it, then I completely respect it and I’ll try to explain myself if asked.

And if we become friends after that, well that’s when we can say things to each other that are as offensive as all fuck!

And laugh. But you can’t get to the laughter until you earn the trust.

 

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I know! I didn’t mention a thing about Spy for a Greedy Villain! Don’t worry. Everything is on track and I’m still expecting it to be available November 1st!

Some people review. Some people tip. Everyone should do both.

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The Cover Reveal and Other Things I Should Care More About

The talented and affable Mr. Thomas McGee of Rightly Designed has finished work on the cover for Spy for a Greedy Villain! And, now… without further ado I will reveal to you that which you have in breathless anticipation no doubt been awaiting. God, what an awful sentence. Who wrote that? Was he given permission to brutalize the English language so heinously? Actually, you probably don’t need a permission slip these days. Oh well… RAISE THE CURTAINS!

 

aogs4_cover_final

You already looked before I said “raise the curtains” didn’t you? Of course you did, you sneaky monkey.

 

You know, I really don’t get the whole “Cover Reveal” thing. I never even noticed it was a thing before I started self-publishing. What is it supposed to do? Generate buzz and excitement? Has it ever? I doubt it. I really do. I think it’s just another marketing gimmick that people do because they figure “why not?” It’s no-cost and it fills another blog post and generates a new tweet.

Well, hey. “Why not for me too” is what I always say when I’m saying things that aren’t quite true and don’t make much sense.

 

"Now you're starting to speak my language."

“Now you’re starting to speak my language.”

 

In addition to revealing the cover, I’m also revealing the release date for Greedy Villain. November 1st! Mark it on your calendar if you’d like but rest assured that I will remind you as obnoxiously and repeatedly as I can summon the strength to do so. Speaking of which – the strength summoning part, not the obnoxious part – I am planning to do a blog tour after release and have been investigating how these things work and they look HARD! You have to commit to doing at least one, but preferably several, guest posts and interviews per week over the course of four or eight or even sixteen weeks! Yikes! I can hardly stand talking about myself here as infrequently as I do. I don’t even know how I’m going to muster up the narcissistic wherewithal to launch what amounts to a dastardly coordinated surprise attack on the internet using naught but my massive ego.

Actually, when I put it like that, it sounds doable. Exhausting, but doable.

In any case, I no longer have a choice. Either I’m taking this whole enterprise seriously or I’m not. None of the lesser book promoters have yielded satisfactory results and Bookbub is still giving me the cold shoulder. The first three books haven’t collected a single new review in months. Purchasing a blog tour is the only viable way I can think of to get a few sales and a few reviews and push my name out there some more. I’ve done a little research on this and, like Bookbub, a blog tour almost guarantees you’ll get your money back, as well as pick up a few reviews. Also, they’re cheaper than I had priced them when I initially looked at them last year, so that’s good.

A friend of mine recommended I start going to fantasy/sci-fi conventions as an attendee and approach some publishers to help spread the word about the Grant Scotland franchise and also possibly pick up some extra work for e-zines and what not. It’s not a bad idea. I hadn’t really considered it, because I’m not too interested in writing for anyone else right now and I don’t want to give up rights to Grant either, so I doubt how sincere I’d be in approaching people in the industry.

Preferably, I want to attend a fantasy/sci-fi convention in a booth with printed copies of my books to sell or raffle off. It’s the self-pub way. I want to market to the consumers, not the producers. But, I also want to land a traditional publisher at some point for other projects I have in mind, so maybe getting my face in front of faces sooner rather than later might work. I don’t know. I’m having a tough enough time thinking about all the guest posts I’m going to have to write, nevermind my person-to-person pitch skills.

 

"Hi! I'm talk! Do you have a minute to Dan McClure?"

“Hi! I’m talk! Do you have a minute to Dan McClure?”

 

I know. I should have thought of all this much sooner and been busy with it after book two rather than book four, but come on. It’s me we’re talking about here. If there’s a way I can do something backwards and make it more complicated than it has to be, then you can bet your lunch money that’s the way I’m doing it. But if I was any other way would you still love me?

Don’t answer that.

 

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Finished. Let’s you and me grab some hooch and dangle.

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The Adventure Continues

Hello?

Anyone still here? Hey. Hey, you! Yes, you at the buffet table. Look, I appreciate you hanging around, but I wouldn’t eat those finger sandwiches. They’ve been sitting there since July. I don’t think they’re-

What’s that? You’ve already eaten three of them? Okay. No problem. Just have a seat. No, not there. I was thinking maybe you could sit in the port-o-potties in the parking lot. Trust me on this one. You’ll thank me later.

Okay, so… Oh, good. Some people coming in. Welcome! Anybody have the number for Poison Control? No? Okay. No problem. That’s completely cool.

How about a tow service? A REALLY discreet towing service. Yes? Good. I won’t ask how you got this… Yes, and I won’t make direct eye contact with the tower. Got it.

Well, alright! Let’s get things started! Please, everyone, have a seat. Refreshments will be made available, just not right now. And don’t mind the cobwebs. Purely for effect. Spooky, right?

 

Personally, I can never pull off spooky. I never get past "I really need to dust."

Personally, I can never pull off spooky. I never get past “I really need to dust.”

 

Anyway, thanks for coming. I really appreciate it. I know it’s been a while since I’ve hosted one of these things. Sorry for not being around this summer. Time went by crazy fast, right? How was your summer? Was it crazy like mine?

Yeah? What’s that, now? Oh, that doesn’t sound good. Should you even be telling me… Oh, you buried the hatchet with someone? Ohhhhh. I see. And then you burned the midnight oil, but not anything else… or anyone else. Good, good. Sounds like a summer to remember.

Well, my summer was… What?

Yes. Yes, you’re right. It should probably be printed on the label that a fifth of Jack Daniels won’t put out a roman candle stuffed into someone’s jeans. Like, both labels, probably.

 

"If you've consumed anywhere close to even half of this in one night, you're going to do some stupid shit. There. We warned you."

“If you’ve consumed anywhere close to even half of this in one night, you’re going to do some stupid shit. There. We warned you.”

 

Anyway, I don’t mean to cut you off, sir. If you’d like to make a guest post, then we can arrange something, but tonight I just want to do my thing and then… ummm… go do something else. Sound good? We good? Alright! Have a finger sandwich.

So, I’m back with news for you! Book Four of The Adventures of Grant Scotland is in final editing! I’ve passed it off to my beautiful and talented editor so she can correct the thousands of mistakes I’ve made before I expose them to the public. She knows how eager I am to expose myself, so she’s always great about making sure I’m covered.

What’s that? No, I don’t know if she’s single. Sir, please. I promise I’ll get done shortly and then you’ll…. Yes, karaoke starts right after this. All the more reason to let me finish, right?

So… Oh. Well, thank you for saying so. I haven’t really paid much attention to my mouth, but thank you for saying it’s pretty. That’s… Well, that’s really something.

Sorry, everyone. WordPress has started renting out my space to people who use it more frequently. They promise they’ll give it back to me full time once I start posting more regularly.

Yes, sir. Thank you for the suggestion. I will consider hosting my own karaoke night. Sounds like a good idea.

Ummm… but where was I? Oh, yes! So, Book Four is almost ready for publication. The design of the cover is currently under the deft hand of my most trusted and professional artist, so I can’t reveal it yet. However, I can tell you the title of the book will be…

Drum roll, please.

Oh. I see that I don’t have a drummer anymore… No, sir. You don’t have to…. Yes, I’m sure you were in a band in high school….

Okay, that’s not really a drum roll so much as the machine-gun evocation from Metallica’s “One.”

Yes, it’s awesome… Yes, awesome and deep… Deep like most people would never understand, you’re absolutely right. Please, stop crying.

Anyway, Book Four’s title is Spy for a Greedy Villain!

RIM-JOB

Wait. That’s… That’s supposed to be rim-shot. You meant rim-shot, right? You see, that’s only supposed to come after a joke and…

Well, that’s a fair point, sir. Perhaps I am a joke.

Wait. How did you even get a drum to make that sound? It doesn’t seem like a percussion instrument should be able to make a slurping-

Oh… Oh… No, you don’t have to show it. I’m sure you’re instructional video is wonderful. Maybe you can share it after karaoke? Okay? Honestly, I’m almost done here.

Look for Spy for a Greedy Villain (TICKLE-SLURP) to make an appearance on virtual store shelves this fall! You won’t want to miss what Grant Scotland gets up to next! And stay tuned to this blog! More delicious details and well-aged appetizers to come!

 

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Okay, we’re done. Seriously, though… Sir? You still awake? Send me the link to that video. That shit is cray-cray.

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Moving on… as we sometimes do.

That’s something my high school Algebra teacher used to say during class. He was a bit of an odd duck, but a great guy and probably a decent math teacher. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never met a mathematical formula I wasn’t allergic to in some way. But he tried his best to help me out and that was enough to earn me a weak “C” and let me get on with life and never have to do another scrap of math homework ever again, so I guess that says something good about his skills.

 

Yeah, I got a solution for X. I got it right here.

Yeah, I got your solution for “X” – RIGHT HERE!

 

But “Moving on… as we sometimes do” was a little phrase he’d use whenever he seemed to sense that he needed to move on to the next point he was trying to make instead of letting himself get bogged down. That’s more or less where I’m at with my writing now. I’ve been holding off on any further major revision work on book four while I go back and tear apart and reconstruct the “metaplot” – that’s the collection of continuing plot elements that bridge all the books. Sometime after book two came out and while I was writing book three, I had decided I wanted Grant Scotland’s adventures to revolve more or less around a major multi-volume story arc. The biggest reason for this was that I felt I couldn’t mimic the exploits of Robert Parker’s Spenser or Ian Fleming’s James Bond over an extended series in a fantasy world. Without an environment set in our modern world, I think reading about Grant solving crimes and engaging in clandestine operations would get old and silly rather quickly. I think (but I don’t know for a fact) that this is why Glen Cook stopped writing the Garrett, P.I. books. Well, his name is still on the new books, but it’s pretty obvious that ghost writers have taken over the series for the last few installments.

A fantasy world is hard enough to create out of whole cloth. To do so and then leave 90% of the cloth away from the reader’s eyes seems insane. My original idea was to have major plots typical of fantasy books unfold around Grant and have him only be tangentially involved. This would insure Grant could continue to have adventures without end and I would not have to stipulate a series finale. But in plotting it out I realized it was too much work for too little reward. Grant needs to be much closer to the epicenter of these events or the readers are going to feel like I don’t care about what’s going on, so why should they? On the other hand, Philip Marlowe can avoid getting involved in World War Two and Spenser can get away with barely acknowledging 9/11 happened, and these characters were and are as popular and readable as ever. So, why can’t Grant just float along and live his Grant life and just have a series of adventures with little to no connection between them?

 

Grant's idea for the T-Shirt design as well as his most often recommended solution to any and all of my plot problems.

Grant’s idea for the T-Shirt design as well as his most often recommended solution to any and all of my plot problems.

 

The answer I settled on is that I don’t think most fantasy readers have the patience for that. Or, more accurately, they want more from a fantasy world than just set-dressing. Secondly, the world of Spenser and Marlowe is changing and everyone who read those books knew it. Chandler and Parker didn’t have to mention it – it was already obvious to all of their readers. Unfortunately, I have no such luxury. If something changes in Grant’s world, I have to let the reader know about it or else the environment seems stagnant and dull. The real world changes, so mine should too. However, the reader is never going to see it change unless Grant is more actively involved.

So, for a while there I was not “moving on” but rather sticking in place and rebuilding the scaffolding around Grant’s adventures. However, that work is completed and I now have a new outline for world events that solves a few critical questions I had to answer for book four. I can now return to revising it with confidence.

That’s all for now. Time to get back to work.

 

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End of post! Thanks again for your continued patronage.

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A Love Letter to Gaming

Been a little while since I last posted. I could make excuses about being too busy or concentrating on AoGS4 revisions, but I honestly just needed to take a little break from writing. I had been going strong for the better part of three years and was beginning to show the signs of burnout. At least I think they were burnout signs. Although writing is never easy, it was becoming more and more like a chore and less like a labor of love. On top of that, I was beating up on myself for not doing it faster or better. In addition, the task list on the self-publishing/marketing side just kept growing. There it sat in front of me, like a pile of dirty laundry, passive-aggressively waiting for attention and assaulting me with its guilt vapors.

 

"Oh, did you need clean socks today? Well, maybe you should have thought about that yesterday, hmmm?"

“Oh, did you need clean socks today? Well, maybe you should have thought about that yesterday, hmmm?”

 

So, I took a deep breath and just decided to let it all go and live for a little bit. I didn’t take any trips or anything like that. No aimless road voyage to a random appointment with destiny. No excursion to the top of a lonely mountain to meet a wizened mystic. No trek through the wilderness in search of peace and meaning. I decided I’d just stop trying so hard. I was still writing and revising and researching, but not as much as I had been and without pressuring myself.

Usually when I need to relax and escape from my life and recharge my batteries, I turn to computer games. Oddly enough, that didn’t happen this time.

Games have always been a part of my life. It’s hard to say exactly why they’ve been so important to me, but the easiest answer to reach for is that they engage both my strategic and creative thinking capability like no other form of stimulation I’ve found. Reading is wonderful. Drugs are nice. Booze is great.  Sex is awesome. Smoking is sublime (which is the title of a book about quitting smoking that I never read and now that I’m almost three years quit I’m not likely to – but dat title, tho!).

 

It's especially sublime when you can make it look like this, but it's easier to quit when you realize you can't.

It’s especially sublime when you can make it look like this, but it’s easier to quit when you realize you can’t.

 

But games have always been a kind of entertainment that pressed all the right buttons. In any game I’ve ever played I’ve felt a sense of familiarity. No matter if it was the first time I played, whenever I began to play I always felt I was on good ground. A safe place. Old territory where I instinctively felt I had an edge, a confidence I never truly possessed in any other aspect of life.

Board, tabletop, card, role-playing, computer – it never really mattered the specific type of game – I always felt I was at my best at play. It was a venue where conversation was never forced – there was always the game to talk about. It was a created space where creativity was encouraged because the game needs its players to play along. It was a narrative invoked by its audience and its authors and the game’s story could only unfold if it was played in good company.

For many years I played games to satisfy a need for a form of socialization and creativity I could not find anywhere else. In some ways, I still do. But recently I’ve found that sense of comfortable space is no longer as comfortable as it used to be. A game, after all, is only a game. It is temporary. The experience is simulated and takes place within a semi-defined constructed reality. This doesn’t lessen its importance as a created and creative space. I’ve just found that I’ve become dissatisfied with the finite nature of a game.

Now it sounds like I’m about to endorse massively multiplayer games, which have no definite end or winner, but that’s not the case. I have nothing against those games and have played my fair share. No, I haven’t arrived at some epiphany that condemns games because of their ephemeral nature. Rather, I have arrived at a personal realization (a more self-referential sort of epiphany, I guess) that the things I’ve most prized about playing games have been replaced by writing.

When I stopped, I sort of missed it. It wasn’t the physical act of writing so much (certainly not!) as the mental act of creating and controlling characters, plots and worlds. When I tried to play games, I wanted to be constructing the narrative. I found I was spending creative energy fighting the game’s rules and limitations to construct a narrative more to my liking.

That’s when I realized I no longer needed games as an escape. My escape has become not so much the act of writing, but in being the writer. That’s a little unclear. Let me try again. I imagine it’s because I’ve exercised my writing muscles diligently enough that they now have a heavy influence on my mind whenever my creative side is engaged, but I’m less interested now in being told a story than in telling it myself. Maybe I’ve just grown more comfortable with exercising some sort of control over my own world instead of one imagined in a game space. In one way, it’s sort of sad. I fondly remember losing hours and days in gleeful exploration of the beautifully constructed and detailed universes of Baldur’s Gate, Fallout or Mass Effect. Or spending time thinking deeply about every aspect of strategy in games like Total War, Hearts of Iron or Civilization.

 

civ5screen

“Oh, so conquering the world isn’t enough for you now? It’s like I don’t even know who you are anymore! I… I think I need to start seeing other players…”

 

In another way, it’s incredibly liberating. I feel confident now that the experience of game playing will be less satisfying than the experience of pure creativity. I had been using game playing as a reward for writing 1,000 words or revising two chapters or researching news on self-publishing and setting up promotions. Now, I’ve come to the realization that I can be just as fulfilled as I used to be by not forcing myself to stop writing when some arbitrary word limit is reached so I can capture some escapism in gaming that is no longer there. And on days when the writing is too hard, I can let myself off the hook and imagine what I want to have happen instead of what should happen. It may not help with reaching immediate goals and accomplishing tasks, but it feels more honest.

I’m at about the half-way point in the journey I had planned for myself when I started writing seriously. My goal was to get six Grant Scotland books out in five years. The series may never be as successful as I had initially hoped, but six books was my estimation of what it would take to give it the best shot I could. Not to say it will end at six books, just that I won’t let it go until then. Anyway, I’m at year three and about to get book four finished, but I think I just realized that the road is long and I’ve been trying to move along it too fast. It won’t help to overheat my engine by forcing it to run hot. So, I guess a few weeks ago I let myself coast for a bit. And when I did that, I found that instead of returning to my old ways of spending free time, the writer inside me came out. Maybe he’s not fully ready to sit in the driver’s seat, but he’s in the passenger seat, keeping me awake by telling me stories and jokes and helping with directions.

It’s going to be a long trip. Maybe longer than I had planned, but that’s okay. This writer guy seems like a good companion. I just hope he brought some snacks.

 

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That’s all for this post! I’m feeling refreshed and happy you took some time to let me tell you about it.

Know what this author-delivery man likes? Reviews and tips, that’s what!

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Immortality and Other Musings

If you could live forever, would you do it? The obvious answer is “yes, duh” but that’s only because the face of the question doesn’t go deep enough. Pretty soon, we’re going to have to start doing some heavy thinking about this topic. What if you could live forever, but you had to stay locked in a room and hooked up to machines for all eternity? Or what if only the brain could be kept alive, so you could only experience immortality as a floating consciousness? Like maybe a consciousness hooked up to a virtual reality that can only simulate the real universe? But if the virtual reality was indistinguishable from physical reality, would you even care?

 

morpheus_pill

“You take the blue pill and-” Let me just stop you right there, Morpheus. I’m with Cypher on this one. Gimme the blue pill.

 

Maybe. But what if the body could be somehow cured of aging? After all, it’s just a gene that can be turned off (theoretically). Granted, true immortality at the cellular level would require much more work than that, but suppose that work gets done. What then? Sounds fantastic for the individual, but potentially disastrous for the human race. If no one dies, the population would increase so dramatically and so quickly that we would be unable to feed ourselves, employ ourselves and (eventually) house ourselves. All societies across the globe would have to adopt austerity measures heretofore unimaginable. What kind of life would that mean for our immortal race?

The only answer to that seems to be interstellar spread of our species. But man, we’d have to spread like wildfire to keep ahead of our population growth. But what kind of species would we even be at that point? Would we even be human anymore? We’ve been dying every instant we’ve been alive. We hold these truths to be self-evident: Everybody is born, everybody dies and everybody poops. Everybody poops, right? That’s not just me? I’d look it up, but that’s a Google search I’d rather avoid.

And how unfair to everyone who has lived and died up to this point! Nyah, nyah. You all had to die, but we don’t have to. Ugh. The guilt.

But, of course, we wouldn’t be truly immortal. I mean, turning off aging doesn’t make you immune to a car accident or a disease or a case of sudden, high-impact lead poisoning. With no fear of aging, we’d have a much larger fear of anything that involved any sort of risk. We would never want to gamble our precious immortality on anything as chancy as a night out on the town. We’d become a race of shut-ins.

But let’s go a step further. What if you no longer had to worry about your body at all? I mean, you’d still have a body, but it could be replaced. After all, consciousness is simply a collection of data being processed by a powerful organic computer that is the brain. What if you could just download that information into another brain in another body? Die in a car crash? That’s okay. You remembered to back up your brain last night, right? They can just download your latest save point into a new body. You wake up and get set to go to work and then see the day is Saturday and not Friday. Whoops! Must have bought it on Friday. Oh well. I hope the office knows I had to call out dead that day.

 

boss_late

“You were dead on Friday? That sounds pretty convenient. I want a coroner’s report on my desk Monday morning or you owe me 8 hours.”

 

Which brings up another question. When you wake up in your new body, are you really you? Sure, your memories are all there and you look like you, but did the REAL you actually die and now this new person is just some sort of clone? See what I’m saying? If you died, would you actually wake up in a new body, or would your consciousness disappear at the instant of death the way it does now and the next day a clone wakes up convinced he is you?

How would you know? How would anyone know? And what about that cloned body? Even if it was grown in a tank and has been preserved at some ideal age of twenty-something, doesn’t it already have some nascent consciousness of its own? Even if it never experienced anything, if it’s a brain in a physically matured body, hasn’t it already begun to form its own personality? Would your personality just overwrite that one when it gets downloaded? Would that be murder?

Sounds like some great ideas for science fiction stories, don’t they? And some great books have already been written about all of that stuff. I’m sure more will be written. I might even try my hand at playing with one or two immortality ideas. I don’t know if I’d be interested in immortality in real life, though I imagine at the moment of my own death I’d most likely think – “Well, maybe just a few more years couldn’t hurt….”

 

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Oh, hey! Did you hear? Spy for a Dead Empire just got reviewed by Andrew Ferrell on his blog. I didn’t even have to pay him or anything! Always nice to wake up in the morning and see that someone has enjoyed my book so much they wrote a review.

 

"Yep... A good day."

“Yep… A good day.”

 

That’s all for this post! Just some random thoughts loosely connected in a larger theme too complex to tackle in any one blog post. Back to writing and revising Grant Scotland!

Be like Andrew and leave a good review! Be like Jim Carrey and leave a big tip!

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