Tuesday, August 14, 2018

I've written an unpublishable mashup of a novel

Between January 3, 2013 and February 8, 2017, I put out eight novellas. That's a clip of a new book every six months. What's been the hold-up since?

The good news is I'm on my third draft of a novel. The bad news? I'm fairly sure it's unpublishable.

Mary Monster isn't going to be easy to sell. It's a mashup of urban surrealism and gothic horror. Dance Dance Dance meets Penny Dreadful. My first-person protagonist narrates the story in an awkward combination of 1976 Manchester and 2002 Manhattan slang. He drops dozens of indie music references, some explained and some that'll only make sense to the sort of person who obsesses over The Smiths. Meanwhile, the titular Mary speaks in wholly imagined accents, double entendres and literary allusions.

I tried to embrace all this artifice. In fact, I ran at it. In places I rewrote things to feel purposefully self-conscious, so readers have to slow down and make choices about what to Google and what to let go.

How do I explain this work in a query letter? And even if I could, who'd want it? Fantasy publishers will find my style obtrusive. While literary agents are going to be turned off by all the zombies.

But I can't self-publish, either. The type of people who download self-published fiction are looking for error-free genre fun. That means the first wave of consumer reviews would be terrible. Some jerk would claim my book was filled with typos. Another would drop the where-was-the-editor bomb. And snap, Amazon's algorithm would bury Mary Monster before it got a chance to find a niche.

To publish this book, I either need to find a publisher who believes in it. Or an audience ready to champion it. And I'm not sure either exists.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Things I thought after rewatching Frailty

1. "I can't believe how accurate my memory of this movie is." Typically I forget scenes and transpose lines. But my recall of Frailty was almost shot-for-shot accurate. I suppose that's because it's a movie I've replayed in my mind constantly since the day I saw it.

2. "I wish I was watching this movie with an extremely religious person." The end of Frailty left me absolutely floored. For awhile I considered it one of cinema's greatest twists. But the second time through, I saw how completely Paxton telegraphed the solution. So was Frailty a twist film at all? Or did my secular paradigm make it impossible for me to put the clues together?

Monday, July 30, 2018

Royal Gorge Bridge and Park: Sign the Bridge

There are big projects and then there's this. For year two of the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park's Come Across campaign, VJ has teamed up with Lumenati and Dave Hagan to burn thousands of real signatures into the bridge's wooden planks. If you didn't make it to one of our events, you can sign your name online.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

We are all clients sometimes

I worked on American Crew and d:fi for years. And every time I get a hair cut, I'm reminded how a stylist has all the same stresses I do.

We're both hired for our artistic training, taste and expertise. And judged by people who have none.

We both have clients who say they want cutting-edge work when really they want the same product they got last month.

We both obsess over the consumer who sees the end product. But don't always show enough empathy for the clients who have to put their names on it.

There's no big breakthrough here. It's just useful to remember. We're all clients sometimes.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Bestway Disposal: Hey, you looking for a ride?

Our client Bestway Disposal has the best trucks and friendliest drivers. And we wanted to prove it. So a few weeks ago, we offered several very important people luxury transportation to an event in Colorado Springs. Then we showed up in a big, red garbage truck.

Congrats to the team that pulled this off. The never-say-die creatives at Vladimir Jones. Our talented production partners at Bionic Giant. And most of all the people at Bestway Disposal. It was their hilarious, genuine, hard-working drivers who made this project a success.

There are a couple examples below. But please go check out the supercut and more videos on Bestway Disposal's website.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

We need a better word for "atheist." Here's an idea.

One way to measure conscious bias is to ask Americans if they'd support a Presidential candidate of a given ethnicity, religion, gender or sexuality. By that measure, atheists are the most discriminated against group in America. Somewhere around 43% of Americans openly admit they believe atheists are unfit to be President. And seven state constitutions explicitly ban atheists from elected office.

I'm a word guy. A copywriter, author, blogger, poet and lyricist. So it probably makes sense that I've been wondering if the word "atheist" is part of the problem. Broken down to its roots, atheist quite literally means "no god." It defines a belief system by the absence of a competing belief system. No wonder people won't vote for an atheist. It sounds like we believe in nothing.

And that's wrong. Most atheists are positive, moral people. We believe we have a personal responsibility to save the planet and lift up our fellow humans. And we feel an urgency to do it ethically and immediately, because after we die it'll be too late.

Why wouldn't you want a President like that?

Perhaps we need a new word for atheist. One that sounds like it could be a positive belief system. "Humanist" and "secularist" are both unacceptable, because neither means "death is the end." They only define our current relationships with each other and our government. In fact, as far as I know, there is no noun for someone who says, "This life is all we got. Make it great."

So let's create one.

I'm going to suggest Vitaist. (With a capital V. Pronounced, in my head, vy-TAY-ist.) It's derived from the Latin word for life. I did a quick Google search and couldn't find it in use anywhere.

Go on, try it out. Would you vote for a Vitaist Presidential candidate? I sure would. But if you have another idea, let me hear it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

I have revised my opinion on why Millennials are so obsessed with travel

Millennials' passion for travel is well documented. Research will tell you that to them, "experiences matter more than things." But I always had a tiny, terrifying suspicion Instagram Culture had convinced a whole generation it's more rewarding to photograph life than live it.

I've recently discarded that theory, too. (Or last least downgraded it to Interesting But Unprovable Cocktail Conversation Fodder.) My new theory is Millennials are obsessed with travel because technology makes it easy as hell.

Don't want to figure out exchange rates? No worries, your credit card now works worldwide. Ditto your cash card, which means no more hunting for safe spots to buy local currency.

Google Translate makes it easy to get around without knowing a single word of the local language. (No more spending your pre-trip months memorizing a list of key phrases like, "Where's the bathroom?")

And you can junk your transit schedules and your maps. Just type in the monument you're searching for and Google will provide real-time directions. Unless you're Gen X or older you have no conception of how seismic this change is. I can't emphasize it enough. I have vivid memories of standing on street corners with paper maps unfolded wide, spinning in a circle looking for something, anything that might give me any clue where the hell I was. I remember the stress of having to keep one hand on my wallet and one hand on my backpack while I craned my neck up at a spinning list of bus departures written in a foreign language. All those worries are just... not worries anymore.

No wonder every Millennial I know spends their vacations overseas. Travel is awesome and beautiful and educational. And these days, it's as simple as ordering pizza.