I’ve been listening to Mos Def’s 1999 album, Black On Both Sides, a lot lately. It’s a great album, powerfully written and performed, it sounds like it could have recorded and released yesterday as opposed to seventeen years ago.
And that’s a problem.
The same problems, the same issues are still around, and chances are, if Mos had recorded the album in 1989, he’d still be singing about the same shit that plagues the black community and the poor of America.
Shit never changes and because of this, our country is in a cultural and creative malaise, and this ennui is crushing, constantly pushing us backward in time, or more accurately, keeping us in one place, our wheels spinning and burning rubber.
Anyway, along with Black On Both Sides, I’ve also been listening to A Tribe Called Quest’s first album in twenty years, We Got It From Here, Thank You For Your Service. It’s a great album and probably my favorite hip-hop record of 2016. Here’s ATCQ performing on Saturday Night Live this past weekend.
It’s the middle of the week and it’s summer, which means I have both the girls home with me. That also means this will be the only writing I get done today, at least until around eight o’clock tonight, and then I’ll probably be up until midnight because, you know, deadlines, money, all that shit.
I’m feeling a little nostalgic this morning and I started thinking about all the shit I cared about when I first started publishing that just doesn’t matter fuck all to me now.
Social media. I just don’t care anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I like social media, I like seeing pictures of your kids, vacations and reading about all the stuff you find important. But, I’m happy as hell that the age of “author branding” is a thing of the past. Or maybe it’s still thing? Who cares.
Having an agent. This was the holy grail. Getting an agent was pretty much on par with signing a book deal. Now, well, I make more money than most writers who have an agent, so what difference does it make? And don’t get me wrong, I dig agents, I know some really good ones. But, meh, if I need one, I’ll hire one. I just don’t consider it an accomplishment.
Genre. I realize this will always be something young writers care about (or writers who have a chip on their shoulder), but holy fuck is it a boring argument.
Education. Get your MFA, don’t get your MFA. Do whatever works for you.
“I love it so much I would do it for free”. You shouldn’t love anything this much other than your kids or your partner. I like writing, some days I flat out hate it. But I will never, ever do it again for free. Unless it’s this blogging crap, but it’s mine.
Getting bent out of shape about the “Big 5”, Amazon, traditional publishing, indie publishing, etc. Like I said about education, do whatever works for you.
Bitching about being a writer. SHUT. THE. FUCK. UP. Seriously.
Like I said, I’m feeling nostalgic today, so here’s some Tribe Called Quest.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are the days when the kids are over at grandma’s house and I shut myself in my office, turn off email notifications and block all calls except for my wife and my mother-in-law. I have six thousand words to write and I’ll get the bulk of it done during the six hours the kids and Mrs. Rawson are out of the house. I also do the best I can to ignore the internet and just work. But I still have a bit of a blogging bug up my ass and I imagine this will help get me started for the day.
I have the black out curtains drawn shut and the fan on high in my office and still hot as hell. I can feel the sun baking through the thick curtains.
I’m a firm believer that the Phoenix metro area needs to adopt ‘Summer’ hours during the six months of the year that it’s over 100 degrees during the day. 80 and 90 degrees at night is still mighty uncomfortable, but not at blistering and annoying as 110 degrees of direct sunlight.
I’m wrapping up the haunted house thing and then a science fiction thing today. The SF thing has been a slog mostly because of the publishers plot line, which is more or less repackaged Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica.
Yeah, I don’t normally like talking shit about publishers, but sometimes I think they have to put a little more faith in the author to come up with a serviceable plot line for their book.
Sometimes you’ve just got vent.
The baby woke up at 5 am so I decided to watch Filth. It was as funny and weird as the book, which I really enjoyed when I read it 18 or 19 years ago.
For me, it’s just another Monday, the only difference is I have Mrs. Rawson sleeping off a hangover upstairs and my oldest is spending the weekend at her grandparents. Oh, and I’ll be gorging on ribs and chicken wings in five or six hours. But other than that, I still have 4000 words to write and a semi-grumpy five-month-old to contend with. But I got a bug up my butt to do some blogging while the baby takes her morning nap. By the way, I’m going to be using bullet points because I really have no idea when the baby will wake up, plus I’m a little scattered today.
Whenever I’m writing a lot, I rarely read novels. Short stories, poetry, essays, I’m fine with, but I usually can’t handle an 80,000 word novel. I hate it, but it’s just the way my brain works.
This oddly doesn’t apply to book length nonfiction. I think it mostly has to do with the fact that most nonfiction doesn’t seep into whatever project I’m working on.
I really like Jon Ronson, his books are a ton of fun. I’m currently reading So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, it’s fun stuff.
I’m currently working on a haunted house trilogy of novellas. They’re a ton of fun, and, no, I’m not writing them under my own name.
Speaking of ghost writing, I have a new column at LitReactor about it. You can check it out right here if you haven’t already.
I pitched my first full length crime novel yesterday. The money’s good and the publisher is enthusiastic. I also hope I didn’t just jinx myself by mentioning the pitch, but I’m excited.
I don’t know if I’ll be writing it under my own name?
#1 question I’m most often asked about ghostwriting: Doesn’t it piss you off that it’s not your name on the cover? Most common answer: No, not one damn bit. I’m kind of over the whole “recognition” thing.
Okay, I am reading one novel, Dodgers By Bill Beverly. If you like The Wire, it’ll be right up your alley.
I really like Preacher on AMC. No, it’s not a word-for-word, panel-for-panel adaptation, but it’s fun. Although, I can see it going True Blood by season three if it lasts that long.
Mrs. Rawson got me hooked on Girls. That show’s some funny shit.
I haven’t watched any movies lately. Mrs. Rawson and I were going to see The Nice Guys on Saturday, but blew it off because we rarely have the house to ourselves and we were a little pooped out. Wrangling a baby is tough work.
Scarlett turned five-months-old on the 25th and I just fed her her first solid food this morning. Time is flying.
I listen to a lot of music. In fact, if Mrs. Rawson and my oldest daughter didn’t make me turn it off so they could watch TV, I would always have music playing. Anyway, I’ve really been into the MC Oddisee, so I’ll leave you with a track by him. I hope you’ll check it out.
Anyone who follows me on social media knows that a couple of months ago, me and Mrs. Rawson welcomed this bundle of awesome into our lives. In case you don’t know, her name’s Scarlett Iris and she was born on Christmas. Needless to say we love her more than a stoner loves hash oil and Captain Crunch.
Life leading up to this kid was a little hectic to say the least.
First off, we thought it was pretty much impossible that she would ever show up. You see, ever since the birth of our first born, Sadie, almost ten years ago, we’ve been trying to have another kid. But, for one reason or another, she just wasn’t showing up. Now this didn’t stop us from trying, but after about five years, I was fairly convinced there was no way we were going to have a second kid. The way I looked at it, we were lucky to have the first one and should be happy to have her because our oldest is flat out amazing. But the thing is, Mrs. Rawson’s stubborn (It’s one of the main reasons why I married her), and she didn’t give up.
But a year or so before I quit my soul suck of a job and started writing full-time, Mrs. Rawson more or less threw in the towel, too, and instead of having babies, we started adopting dogs.
In fact, we gave three of them a home and they proceeded to make us happy campers and make our house smell like a hamster cage (Quick word of warning: Adopting chihuahuas is awesome because there’s so damn many of them, but they tend to be very territorial and will piss and shit everywhere if you have another dog in the house. Yeah, they’re fucking awful). But the pooches did manage to fill the baby gap and are a hell of a lot fun. Then Mrs. Rawson started doing something else, we started dieting and exercising . Both of us lost weight, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves, and then Mrs. Rawson’s period was late.
It wasn’t like it hadn’t been late in the past, but this time out, it was a two whole weeks late.
Long story short, I went to the grocery store, bought Mrs. Rawson a pregnancy test and nine months later, we had eight and half pounds of cuddle monster on our hands.
Yeah, there’s a lot more to the story. Mrs. Rawson’s pregnancy was a little tough on her mentally (which, in turn, made things tough on me) and physically. Plus, we had a few medical scares outside of the pregnancy. First off, back in November, my blood pressure was so high that for the first time in my adult life I had to go to the emergency room. It was scary as shit but my doc ended up getting me on a solid drug regiment that got me straightened right out (I also had an ongoing ear and sinus infection that tormented me right alongside the blood pressure for three solid weeks). On top of that, my father-in-law (who also happens to be my best friend and who I honestly consider to be my father) was diagnosed with cancer and had to go through a pretty rough stretch of chemo and then surgery. He’s fine and the prognosis is good, but he’s still having to go through another round of chemo and radiation. It sucks, but we’re pretty sure he’s going to be okay.
But despite all the troubles, we did end up getting Scarlett, and she’s just as awesome as her big sister (who, by the way, absolutely adores being a big sissy), and is healthy and happy. And really, that’s all that matters.
Before you shuffle off, I’ve got a wee bit of writing news to pass along (You didn’t think you were going to get out of here without me tooting my own horn, now did you?) as well. first off, my third short story collection, Please Stand By, was accepted by 280 Steps Publishing, and it should be seeing the light of day at the end of 2016 (it seems like forever, but I’m sure it’ll be here before I know it). 280 Steps is a hell of an outfit and I’m happy to be apart of their already stellar lineup. Also, a new short story of mine will be appearing in the anthology Unloaded: Crime Writers Writing Without Guns. The project was put together by my pal Eric Beetner, and I’m damn proud to be apart of it (Biggest bonus is I get to share page space with both Joe R. Lansdale and Joyce Carol Oates).
Next up in the news train is my writing pal and LitReactor (By the way, folks, I’m on a brief hiatus from LitReactor due to the whole baby thing, but I should be returning to duties in April) cohort Richard Thomas’ new online magazine, Gamut. The first year line-up is really something special. The fiction line-up includes the cream of the crop of dark fiction and poetry:
Stephen Graham Jones, Laird Barron, Brian Evenson, Usman T. Malik, Matt Bell, Damien Angelica Walters, Letitia Trent, Mercedes M. Yardley, Alyssa Wong, Benjamin Percy, Lindsay Hunter, Axel Taiari, Amanda Gowin, Laura Benedict, Nathan Ballingrud, Dino Parenti, Ted E. Grau, Rebecca Jones-Howe, Sarah Read, Paula Bomer, Kelly Luce, Livia Llewelyn, Josh Malerman, Carmen Machado, Peter Tieryas, Kevin Catalano, Paul Tremblay, John Langan, Nina McConigley, Nik Korpon, Craig Wallwork, Steve Himmer, Antonia Crane, Steve Rasnic Tem, Kristi DeMeester, Tara Ison, David James Keaton, Cassandra Khaw, Nikki Guerlain, Lucy A. Snyder, JS Breukelaar, Helen Marshall, Amelia Gray, H. L. Nelson, Craig Davidson, Jacklyn Dre Marceau, Lincoln Michel, Jeffrey Skinner, Nickole Brown, Cate Marvin, Paul Guest, Blas Falconer, Carrie Jerrell, Gary Jackson, Erica Dawson, Laura Van Prooyen, Simone Muench, Charles Jensen, Ace Boggess, and Jeannine Hall Gailey.
And somehow me, Max Booth, and RK Arceneaux managed to weasel are way into this project as columnists. Richard’s got a Kickstarter going on right now to fund this bad boy with some really great rewards attached to it. You can go right HERE to chip in a couple of bucks.
And last but far from least, last Monday I had my first public reading in around five years courtesy of Brian Dunn and Robert Hoekman. These two have put together a great short fiction reading series called, Spillers, and I was lucky enough to participate in the third event along with Troy Farah, Ed Tankersley, Leah Newsom (whose story, “Walking Downhill” was a highlight of the reading for me), James David Nicol, and my pal and fellow Gilbert resident, Patrick Michael Finn.
The event was pretty damn amazing, with around 150 people showing up on a Monday night at the Crescent Ballroom to support the short fiction scene. I’ve got to give some mad respect to Brian and Robert for all the work they’re doing with Spillers, and I’ll definitely be attending the next event. By the way, if you’re interested in hearing my story, “Temporary Man Of The House” you can download it right HERE.
Anyway, thanks for reading, and I’m sure I’ll be seeing you again when I update the website again in a year or so.
So I finally finished Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki By Haruki Murakami last night. It took me a couple of weeks to wrap it up largely because I was reading three review books around it, two of which were absolute monsters in size.
Basically, here’s the premise of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage: Tsukuru Tazaki’s four high school best friends dump him a year after they all start college, the loss devastates him, and then he spends the next decade living a fairly hollow and lonely existence, at least until his girlfriend, Sara, encourages him to confront his friends and find out why they told him to hit the bricks. Which he does, and this, basically, is the entire novel.
Seriously, if I mention any greater detail, I’ll spoil the entire book.
I won’t say I hated Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki. In fact, I found it very calming and meditative. But—and here’s my biggest beef with the novel— nothing really happens. Once Tazaki discovers why his friends ditched him all those years ago, the novel is pretty much done, and the big reveal happens midway through the book, so for almost 200 pages, you basically have Tazaki complaining about what a boring and awful person he thinks he is. (By the way, he’s not. He’s boring like the rest of us are boring.) There’s no real emotional pay off, either. Life simply moves on and Tsukuru Tazaki keeps being Tsukuru Tazaki.
If you’ve never read Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is not going to be the best place for you to start off. In fact, despite the hoopla surrounding the release of the novel in both Japan and the United States, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is very much a minor novel in an otherwise impressive canon of great novels.
Alright, so next up in my tour of Murakami is After Dark, which is already starting out pretty strongly.
It’s hard to believe, but my daughter’s summer vacation is only four days away from being over with. This is the first summer where I’ve stayed home and for the most part, it’s been fun. There’s been a few challenges, of course, the midget is pretty good about occupying herself through out the day, but she still gets a little antsy, and usually I’ll have to take an extended break from whatever I’m working on to play video games, or head out for a quick outing to somewhere we both enjoy (Usually the bookstore.). And, of course, there have been times where she turns into the littlest Hitler and attempts to boss me and Mrs. Rawson around (Last night was particularly bad. The midget tried to bully us into going and picking up food instead of just eating what I made for dinner.), those moments, however, are usually short lived. But they have been occurring more frequently as we get closer to the first day of school. I can’t tell if she’s grumpy or excited about re-starting school? She’s, unfortunately, inherited my pokerface when it comes things she’s excited/pissed off about.
The one thing I have liked about this summer is that it’s been quiet. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve never been a constant chaos kind of family. We like the quiet and togetherness and try our best to not disrupt it. But this summer has been particularly quiet and I feel that we’ve grown a lot closer as a family. Most evenings when the day is done, all we’ll do is maybe watch a half hour of television (I think one of the real benefits of dropping cable and going 100% streaming is our overall time watching television has been cut in half, if not more.), but most of the time we just talk, joke, and sometimes play a board game. After the girls have gone upstairs, I usually put on some music, and then do nothing but read until I get tired. I know, it’s sounds boring, but I find it very peaceful. Hopefully we’ll be able to maintain this as the school year goes into full swing and as our new addition to the family grows larger and larger (Mrs. Rawson is experiencing the usual first four months of new baby: Morning/afternoon/evening sickness, hard fatigue, the usual stuff she honestly thought she would never have to go through again.), but I’m guessing it won’t, and that’s okay, because sometimes you need a little chaos.
Even though I will miss having the midget around all day, I will say that I’m looking forward to having the house to myself during the day. I’m a creature of habit, and I do tend to get a lot more work done when it’s just me and the dogs.
Anyway, in case you haven’t seen it yet, I wrote a listicle (By the way, folks, I fucking hate listicles. But, you know, it seems like a whole bunch of people are into them.) for LitReactor about one of my favorite novelists, Barry Gifford. So if you haven’t already, please feel free to check it out.