I think most Americans will agree that 2017 has been a year of poor leadership. From our corporate leaders-to-the president, we’ve been watching a group of men trip over their own dicks.
I think most of us at one time or another have wondered why leadership positions are so often occupied by blowhards as opposed to calm, rational leaders?
I think this article from the Harvard Business Review sums up the reason why we’re so attracted to the overconfident asshole:
“This is consistent with the finding that leaderless groups have a natural tendency to elect self-centered, overconfident and narcissistic individuals as leaders, and that these personality characteristics are not equally common in men and women”
It’s Friday night, me and Mrs. Rawson just finished up watching two hours of murder porn (If you’re not in the know, murder porn are shows like Forensic Files, 20/20, Dateline Mysteries, etc., not actual porn where people get murdered in it). Now I’m in the office doing the usual things and kind of excited that my in-laws are taking the kids all day tomorrow. This is our “anniversary” weekend, only delayed by a couple of weeks. I haven’t been without the kids for two months, so I’m feeling a bit giddy.
Anyway, here’s some random Friday night shit.
I accepted a book contract for the first time in 2017. A bit of that lack was semi-intentional because of the usual busyness of parenting and focusing on my own projects. The book has a short deadline, but it’s been a fairly easy write so far. Of course, that entirely has to do with the subject matter I have to work with. To say the least, it’s one of the most interesting projects I’ve gotten to work on.
I’ll be ending my hiatus with LitReactor starting this month (Upcoming Best 0f 2017). My contributions probably won’t be as frequent as they were, but hopefully I’ll be popping up a couple times a month.
Nothing gets me more fired up and driven than having A LOT to do. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be able to focus on a single piece of work, but I like having a couple of other things in the fire to distract myself with if I have to take a step back.
Kind of like this blog post. I’m pacing between my laptop and desktop, mostly working on the laptop and then wandering over to the desktop when I get stuck and tap away at this or typing up some new poems and a couple of flash pieces. I like not getting bored.
Without a doubt, I’m a night person. I get a ton more done when the sun isn’t up and the house is asleep. Fatherhood has forced me into being a morning person; I’d say it’s a fair trade off.
That’s it, have a nice weekend.
Evening Soundtrack: Got My Mojo Workin’ By Jimmy Smith
I pretty much only speak to one adult human being a day, and two on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The adults are my wife and my mother-in-law. Other than that, I have a two-year-old, a moody eleven-year-old, two little old grumpy dogs, and a seven-year-old half feral cat who we inherited when we bought the house.
I don’t mind any of it one damn bit.
I’m not going to say I’m the type of person who says they don’t need people. We all know it’s a bullshit statement. Ask any ex-con what the worst thing about prison is, and they’re going to tell you solitary confinement. No, I like people just fine. I love spending time with friends and family. Dinner parties, Christmas get-togethers, art openings, I dig all of that.
But I have a breaking point.
Four hours seems to be my limit, and then after that, I need to go and hide out in my office for a few hours, music playing, a couple of books open, and the laptop powered up. Solitude suits me, but I’m pretty sure I would go a little bugshit if I was never around any people at all. Wandering down the street violently babbling to myself about satellites bugshit.
It would be full of ugly, that’s for damn sure.
I always like seeing old writing pals succeed. It’s a hard business we’re in, most days it feels like all you do is work (Which ain’t all that bad), but then all that hard work pays off. One of my oldest writing buddies is Frank Bill, and in the decade when we first introduced ourselves electronically, Frank’s career has taken off. And today, Frank’s second novel, The Savage, is out in the world. It’s an interesting take on the Post-Apocalypse genre and is as much a ballsy thriller as it is a novel of ideas (But, I’ll have the review up tomorrow, so you can read it then),
Anyway, here’s the set up for The Savage:
In the raucous and action-packed follow-up to Donnybrook, mayhem is still the order of the day-only more so
Frank Bill’s America has always been stark and violent. In his new novel, he takes things one step further: the dollar has failed; the grid is wiped out.
Van Dorn is eighteen and running solo, dodging the bloodthirsty hordes and militias that have emerged since the country went haywire. His dead father’s voice rings in his head as Van Dorn sets his sights not just on survival but also on an old-fashioned sense of justice.
Meanwhile, a leader has risen among the gangs-and around him swirls the cast of brawlers from Donnybrook, with their own brutal sense of right and wrong, of loyalty and justice through strength.
So, this is not the distant post-apocalyptic future-this is tomorrow, in a world Bill has already introduced us to. Now he raises the stakes and turns his shotgun prose on our addiction to technology, the values and skills we’ve lost in the process, and what happens when the last systems of morality and society collapse.
The Savage presents a bone-chilling vision of America where power is the only currency and nothing guarantees survival. And it presents Bill at his most ambitious, most eloquent, most powerful.
Not that anyone gives a shit about my opinions about music. But for me, music helps alleviate my depression and anxiety just as much as writing and reading does. Obviously, it’s important to me.
Anyway, these are all my number one albums. I cheated in a couple of spots and threw in a couple of ties. All of these records have had, and continue to illicit a strong emotional reaction from me. I hope you find something you like in my choices.
And, oh yeah, I know we’re a couple of months from the end of 2017, but I’m done with this year.
Turn Out The Light By Julien Baker
This is a ball kicker of a record. Emotionally powerful and Baker’s vocals are more than capable of handling the depth of the songs.
Process By Sampha
Soulful and honestly composed. Sampha is a superior storyteller and there isn’t a single misstep on this entire record.
We All Want The Same Things By Craig Finn
Let’s face it, indie rock has become elevator music. There’s exceptions, Craig Finn (And his band The Hold Steady) being one of them. Finn’s the Hubert Selby Jr. of rock.
Damn By Kendrick Lamar/Flower Boy by Tyler The Creator (Tie)
Both Lamar and TTC have hit their stride. Both albums are flawless (One bone to pick with Damn. Enough with the opening skits that end with gunfire. Seriously, it just didn’t fit with the overall feel of the record).
Love (By the way, “Love” gets my vote for song of the year.)
Flower Boy By Tyler The Creator
Take Me Apart By Kelela
Quiet and sensual and beautiful from beginning-to-end.
Cold Dark Place By Mastodon
The best thing about Post-Metallica metal is:
A) Most of the bands are WAY better than their 80’s predecessors.
B) Almost all of them have been road warriors for 15 or 20 years and only seem to get better with each new record (BTW, I’m by no means a headbanger).
Mastodon is one of the best examples of this, and their latest EP is one of the most thoughtful records of 2017.
Aromanticism By Moses Sumney
On the same level as Process by Sampha. Beautiful dream like vocals coupled with drifting, quiet melodies.
Gone Now By Bleachers
This was my album of the summer. It’s fun and bouncy with a decent amount of depth to it.
Every Country’s Sun By Mogwai/Luciferian Towers By Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Remember how I mentioned that Indie is elevator music. Neither Mogwai or Godspeed You! Black Emperor fall into that category. Both bands only seem to become more talented with each new recording. And it’s funny that both albums have almost ZERO vocals. Yeah, lead-singers suck.
Every Country’s Sun By Mogwai
Luciferian Towers By Godspeed You! Black Emperor
The Emancipation Procrastination By Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
The Emancipation Procrastination is made up of three separate albums–The Emancipation Procrastination, Ruler Rebel, and Dispora–and is one of the boldest jazz recordings to come out of New Orleans in at least a decade. Great record.
Anyway, those are my favorite records of 2017. What are yours? Remember, I don’t have comments here, so do your list making on social media.
I’ll be chasing the baby around the park in an hour or so, hoping that a couple of hours of running will tire her out enough so she’ll take a nap around two.
The big kid will be home at one and already asking what I’m making for dinner despite the fact she ate only 30 minutes ago. Mostly she’ll be gauging whether or not she’ll make her own food, or try to con me and Mrs. Rawson into picking up food.
Hopefully she’ll just want whatever I’m making.
This is Wednesday.
Other than wallowing in the beautiful tedium, I’m goofing around with the website, adding pages and attempting to gather links to all of my online writing. It’s the perfect job for a Wednesday, mind numbing.
So, since I don’t have anything else to say, here’s a James Baldwin quote.
“If you are going to be a writer there is nothing I can say to stop you; if you’re not going to be a writer nothing I can say will help you. What you really need at the beginning is somebody to let you know that the effort is real.”
As I’ve been submitting my writing, I’ve been, of course, running into pay to submit journals and magazines. I get why a lot of them do it, you have to keep the lights on, the website functional, and pizza for the grad students every once in awhile. But as much as I understand the reasoning behind it, I tend to avoid any publication where there’s a reading fee like most of the writers I know because of two reasons:
I’m a writer, so that automatically means I don’t have a lot of money to throw around.
I think reading fees are entirely biased towards the upper-middle class. (By the way, if you want to encourage diversity in literature, it’s a good idea to not charge working-class kids to read their work.)
But let me ask: Are you ever tempted to pay a submission fee?
Have you ever thought about paying for “priority” submissions. You know, paying to have your story moved up in the slush pile.
How about contest fees? Would you be willing to pay for that?
Let me know what you think.
And no, I don’t have comments here, but isn’t that what social media is for, right?
Okay, over the last few days I’ve been receiving messages and e-mails regarding a couple of questions I asked on Facebook. The first question was this:
Basically what I wanted to know was do you admit to liking artists, performers, athletes, et cetera, like Chris Brown and Kiefer Sutherland?
Next day, I posted this one.
This one is a little less frivolous and VERY open ended. This is when I started getting the messages and here’s how I responded.
Mrs. Rawson and I are fine and happy.
The kids are okay.
Writing’s going good
No, I didn’t do anything. Why would you even ask that?
If you were standing in front of me right now I would break a bottle over your head.
Long story short, I asked both questions about something I’m writing, so thanks for participating if you did, the couple of minutes you added to the discussion means a lot.
“Anyone who says they love writing probably sucks at it.”
– Bob Odenkirk
I’m really not one to complain about writing life. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve done my fair share of it both privately and publicly in more than a few columns for LitReactor. But what do I really have to complain about? I mean, I work two-to-four hours during the day while Scarlett’s playing, eating, or napping. And after the rest of the house is asleep, I typically plant myself in my office and work another two-to-five hours at night. It’s a good life, I take care of my family and make up imaginary people, it’s the life I’ve always pictured for myself. On top of that, over the past year, I’ve gotten to do nothing but work on spec projects. Because I haven’t been taking on contracts, I’ve managed to wrap up a mountain of projects that I’m extremely happy with, although rewriting the book length stuff has been a bit of a slog (Shocker, I’m a writer who doesn’t enjoy re-writing).
Along with the book length stuff, I’ve also churned out a lot of short stuff, too, and since July I’ve been sending the short stuff out en masse. As of last night, I have 54 pieces of writing floating around on the interwebs and all of those have been sent to paying markets.
If you’ve never sent out your stories and poems to pro and semi-pro markets, it’s a long and frustrating process. The average wait time is between 4-to-6 months, and more likely than not, your precious snowflake of a story is going to be rejected. After the rejection, you’re going to brood, you’re going think the editor who rejected you is nothing but a big fat idiot, and after a few days, you’re going to send that story to another journal with hope in your heart that the next editor will recognize your genius and publish you.
And the thing is, I’m perfectly fine with rejection, it’s part of the process, I get it. The only problem is, I can’t even get an editor to reject me. This, more than anything else, is driving me bugshit. So much so that a few weeks ago, I decided to stop sending out until I started getting some responses. I was happy with the decision for a couple of weeks, but I was still writing and finishing new material and last night, I added four more pieces to my Submittable queue. The journals I sent out to have a turn around time of 8-to-12 weeks.
I’m an idiot.
I also feel like a powerhouse. I feel creatively unstoppable despite the fact that I really have nothing to show for my work other than two pages of online database constantly mocking me and taunting me about my life choices.
It says things like:
“Your writing sucks cock and balls.”
“Did you actually think you could make a living at this shit?”
“Why don’t you just get yourself a job and go back to doing this shit as a hobby.”
By the way, the little/big doubtful voice sounds exactly like my dad.
Most days, I tell the voice to shut the fuck up. Most days I push it down and work. Most days I go to bed with a smile on my face and excited for the next day.
But then the voice comes back–like it did this morning as I made coffee–and I want to start punching myself in the face just so I can feel something different other than self-doubt.
Yeah, I’m a bit dramatic, but you get what I’m saying, right?
At least I hope you do.
Anyway, thanks for attending my pity party. It’s been fun, but it’s time to push down the voice again and get back to work, because it’s a shit ton better than sitting around and letting the voice win.
Morning Soundtrack: Red Before Black By Cannibal Corpse
Normally this is where I say I’m not going to write a book report, but there’s not much of a description from the publisher:
An intensely moving tale of survival and madness along the river’s edge. A father and son fishing lesson become a nightmarish voyage to the sea in this visionary testament to the lengths we will go for those we love.
“If he ever dies, I’ll kill myself.”
“It’s the end if he dies. I won’t be able to bear it here. I love him too much.”
You really don’t understand the meaning of existential dread until you have children. For you no children folks, I’m sure you’re shaking your head, maybe chuckling. But I’ll tell you, it’s true. Human beings have been obsessed with immortality since consciousness sprouted in our little lizard brains. And let’s face it, there is no Heaven or Hell, this is it, and the only way you exist after you’ve shuffled along into the dust is your children. They carry your genetics and memory, and it’s going to be the only way you’re going to remain in the land of living. A lot of people screw it up, make a mess of their kids, the kids become killers or social workers hoping to pull kids out of the fire they were forged in or destroy them. But if you do it right (And sometimes you can screw up a kid even when you are doing it right.), there’s a better chance than not you’re children we’ll go on to preserving the things you taught them, continuing your tenuous connection to the living.
With his latest, emotionally brutal novella, In The River, Jeremy Robert Johnson fully examines the all-consuming horror of losing a child. Steeped in the ritualism of father and son bonding, the plot of the book focus’ on a day of fishing along a tumultuous river bank. Being a Johnson story, the setting is a bizarre world where giant catfish like creatures hide in the deep crags of the river patiently hunting the sun-drenched surface from the dark, sniffing out weakness and blood. And while these razor-toothed behemoths provide a spectacular jumping off point into the madness and despair which dominates the narrative like a skulking, mud spattered shadow.
Johnson’s typically satiric, conversational voice is non-existent in the novella, he instead finds a mournful, James Ellroy influenced tone that matches the depth of the story. Johnson’s sentences are blunt instruments, simple in design, but meant to cause maximum damage. If you haven’t caught on, In The River is an intense read and as a long time Johnson reader, it was a bit of a shock to the system because of both the subject matter and the overall narrative tone; not that either of these things are bad. Johnson has been long establishing himself as one of the premier writers of the weird alongside such talents as Kelly Link and Stephen Graham Jones, and with In The River, he demonstrates a depth of storytelling that cements him not just as a rising voice, but one that has arrived.
In The River is a fierce, distinctive gut-punch of a read with enough gritty darkness to to bring even the most jaded reader of dark fiction to their knees.
Alrighty, real quick, the latest issue of Gamut Magazine, As usual, it’s great line up:
Fiction By Steve Rasnic Tem, Michael Wehunt, Usman T. Malik, Dino Parenti, H.L. Fuller, and Lina Rather.
Non-Fiction By Mackenzie Cox, Max Booth III, Diddle Knabb, and Keith Rawson (Yeah, me).
Poetry By Andrew McSorley, Laura McCullough, Jerome Daly, and Lindsey Adkins.
As usual. Richard Thomas and crew have done a phenomenal job. Click here to subscribe(Yes, folks, it’s subscription based, but well worth your hard earned dollars).
Morning Soundtrack: 4ever Is A Mighty Long Time By Big K.R.I.T