Sunday, March 11, 2018

I have always been fascinated by this observation

When you look at the top-selling music acts of the modern era, the North American ones are almost always solo artists, while the others are almost always groups. In the top 22, there are only five exceptions - mostly American rockers like Metallica, the Eagles, Van Halen and Aerosmith.

  1. The Beatles - English - Group
  2. Garth Brooks - American - Solo
  3. Elvis Presley - American -Solo
  4. Led Zeppelin - English - Group
  5. The Eagles - American - Group
  6. Billy Joel - American - Solo
  7. Michael Jackson - American - Solo
  8. Elton John - English - Solo
  9. Pink Floyd - English - Group
  10. AC/DC - Australian - Group
  11. George Strait - American - Solo
  12. Barbara Streisand - American - Solo
  13. The Rolling Stones - English - Group
  14. Aerosmith - American - Group
  15. Bruce Springstein - American - Solo
  16. Madonna - American - Solo
  17. Mariah Carey - American - Solo
  18. Metallica - American - Group
  19. Whitney Houston - American - Solo
  20. Van Halen - American - Group
  21. U2 - Irish - Group
  22. Celine Dion - Canadian - Solo
The trend gets tricky to track at 23, because Fleetwood Mac was a supergroup compiled from an English blues band and an American folk duo. And in the age of streaming, it's impossible to figure out where a modern star like Rihanna might fit in. But I feel like we have a large enough sample size to make for some interesting dinner party conversation.

It might be as simple as this. If you grow up watching The Beatles, you start looking for bandmates. If you grow up watching Elvis, you think you're supposed to make it on your own.

Or it might be more complex. There might be long running cultural trends at play. America's fascination with celebrity and rugged individualism, for instance. I don't know the answer. But it's fun to think about. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

You can thank me by kicking ass

Recently, I've gotten to connect a few job seekers with people I know are hiring. And they always express gratitude, which is nice. But here's how they could really thank me.

Follow up on the lead promptly. Research the company, so you know what clients they have. Research whoever's interviewing you, and show interest in the work they've done. Nail your interview. Show up on time, book or resume in hand. Be positive, be competent, be smart. If you get the job, work your butt off. No dropped balls, no missed deadlines.

When someone refers you, they're laying their credibility on the line. Maybe even risking a professional relationship. If you look good, they look good. And that's the best thanks of all.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Buried by charlatans

I enter Writer's Digest's Self Published Book Awards every year. Even though I have yet to bring home the top prize, the judges' critiques of Sever, Regret Things and Sin Walks Into The Desert have all been worthwhile - tough but fair, complete and useful, insightful and marketable.

This year, I sent The Baby Monitor: A Novella of Family Horrors to the competition. I believe in this little book. You can unwrap layers of meaning and metaphor from every page. And its characters and foreshadowing are much deeper than in anything else I've attempted.

I had high hopes. But Tuesday I got an email informing me I didn't win and delivering the judge's critique.

It was glowing.

Beyond glowing. It was a rave review, including perfect scores in the categories for Structure, Grammar, Plot, Character and Voice. The judge went through line by line calling out favorite moments:
"You have particular flair for repetition, a musical bent to your prose... The buildup of empathy throughout the story is powerful... I don’t just admire your use of metaphor, I admire the pace of them – just enough, like spice in a well-seasoned dish. The sheer propulsion of this climactic scene is priceless. An excellent book."
Writer's Digest is a legendary publication with serious cred. I know from experience their judges aren't nice to every book they receive, so it should be validating to get such a positive critique.

But accolades like these make me want to shoot myself.

Because The Baby Monitor has sold fewer than 60 copies despite hundreds of dollars worth of advertising, raves from Indie Reader, the support of my email list, and an audiobook available on all the major podcast platforms and my personal YouTube channel. Plus I've given away hundreds of copies and gifted 40 more with only four Amazon reviews to show for it.

Meanwhile, you know who I hear is making money in publishing? Plagiarists who buy ebooks, swap out a few adjectives, and republish them as their own work. Clickfarms that boost authors' page count for a price. And frauds who steal outlines and outsource their content to ghostwriters in the Philippines.

Amazon has given writers a way to publish fiction that never would've seen daylight a few years ago. An 18,000-word novella like mine would be dead in my desk drawer. So I guess I should be grateful. But right now I'm just frustrated. I've been buried by charlatans.

What's the answer? In moments of doubt, I watch this video and am reminded.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

What do you get when you cross painkillers, motorcycles and Flannery O'Connor

About a year ago, I got stuck on my couch for a week. I read the complete works of Flannery O'Connor and watched Ride with Norman Reedus. My head addled by Catholic allegory and open asphalt, I typed up a short story named "Get Along Fine."

It's an OK story, mostly valuable for the description of the highways between Denver and Albuquerque. But I hadn't the slightest idea who'd want to publish it. So I dared myself to turn it into a podcast. A year later, here it is.

The words and acting are obviously me, including Scratch's half-baked accent. All the music is me too, playing either a Fender Strat or an Akai MPK Mini. The photo is courtesy of ckirby on Unsplash.

The first episode is below. You can listen to the whole playlist on YouTube.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

So, VJ's been busy.

VJ launched a bunch of new work last week for Enstrom, Colorado Loves and CU South Denver. What impresses me most is the range. We're doing what's right for the client, whether it's long-form nostalgia, fast-and-fun documentary or inspiring motion graphics.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

"I suspect everyday life is trying to drive me crazy"

A few months ago, IndieReader gave The Baby Monitor: A Novella of Family Horrors a really insightful review. Today, they published an interview with me, featuring tidbits such as:
What inspired you to write the book: The bills on my counter and the alarm clock by my bed. My car breaks down and as soon as that gets fixed, my dryer breaks down. Sometimes I suspect everyday life is trying to drive me crazy. So I wrote a book about it.
I also talk about why genre fiction is superior to most literature. Please go give it a read!