Paying Attention To The Changing World

It’s complicated, but it’s another sign of the whole theory I have that we’re seeing a rerun of the 1970’s, but with uglier women, worse drugs, and (hopefully) better porn.

Think about this for a moment-magazines.

We’re talking classic paper magazines, the ones you can still find in small amounts in every supermarket and Barnes and Noble out there. Glossy covers, pictures, that kind of thing.

Once upon a time, there were thousands and thousands of those things. Name a lifestyle choice and in the 1970s and early-to-mid 1980s, there were probably a dozen or so different magazines at least that covered that lifestyle choice. Any reasonably large town or small city had at least two or more shops that was full of magazines-and maybe sold some other stuff as well. Supermarkets, one side of an entire isle was magazines, at least. Just about every major hub for public transit had a newsstand of some kind.

And, I kid you not, it was not a question of IF there was a lifestyle choice magazine out there in that era. It was just a question of if the store would order it for you and you weren’t embarrassed to buy it. Esoteric (and hopefully legal) sexual fetish? Had magazines for those. Niche literature creation? Yep. Magazines put out by movie and TV companies as a lost-leader item to sell the current dreamy teen hearthtrob star to teenage girls? In several dozen different flavors. Conspiracy theories about how the lizard people were working with the Gnomes of Zurich, then look in the grubby corner for the mimeograph.

You had the magazine nerds and they were some of the most…interesting people out there. For a given value of “interesting” and sometimes even “people.”

But, as the product life cycle left “late majority” and maximum profits, we hit the “laggards” end…and magazines started to die. And the shops that sold them died with them. I can recall-in the ’90s and ’00s-nearly eight shops around the SF Bay Area that carried magazines of all sorts. One or two I went to every week and like comic book shops, had a pull list. They’d pull the magazines you wanted, and you would come and buy them, no fuss, no muss. And, I was fairly light, maybe a half dozen magazines. I could see people leaving with nearly thirty or forty magazines at one time, and this seemed to be a regular occurrence.

Then…the pull lists started to get lighter and lighter. Often without warning. The shops had to pull out racks for magazines to sell other things. Eventually, they started to close or had to move into smaller spaces. Sell other things (foreign magazines, chocolate, greeting cards, etc, etc, etc…) as well, to get customers in the door. Move away from their original purpose and try to make money other ways. Those eight shops? I checked and there’s only three of them left-and one of them is making all the signs from here that they’re looking to close out soon.

There’s a lot of things to blame. And, the Internet is one of them. So was the coming of digital cameras and digital desktop production systems. When you can replace a dozen staff people and six different pieces of layout hardware with two people, a Mac, and InDesign, there’s a definite change coming. One of my photography teachers was talking about when he was in the newsrooms when (Kodak?) came out with their first practical digital camera. He was telling people to start looking at different jobs and polishing their resumes. The newspaper laid off almost all of their photographers, and the journalists either had to do their own photos or hit a level of rank to get one of the few pool photographers in less than ten years.

None of these companies learned how to pivot. Not really. The few “magazines” that I can recall that did kept their mast-head, but used it to sell things online. I think that there is maybe only one or two of them that even publish anymore.

And, we’re seeing that in the legacy industries-most comic book stores don’t sell comic books anymore, or not as their primary method of making money. The two local comic book shops tend to also sell adult (not that kind of adult) toys, nerd items, gaming supplies, Magic:The Gathering cards and play space, that kind of thing. In fact, one of them has maybe only 15% of their floor space dedicated to comic books in general (both comics and trade paperbacks), and if the owner didn’t hate manga, I think his manga section would be bigger and better stocked.

Games Workshop is trying to pivot to the “wider general audience,” because they don’t make their money on the rules for their games. They make their money on the miniatures and the secondary IP products and the speed and quality of 3D printing hasn’t so much taken off as exploded. Which is probably why they hired people from Hasbro and similar companies, to try and make this pivot. So far, if the controversies about Warhammer+ are to be believed, they aren’t doing very well.

I feel like this has gone on for long enough, so I’m going to close it off here. We’re having a shakeup in legacy industries. Some are going to survive because they can pivot. Some of them are not going to make it. And often, it’s the industry you think that will survive the most that falls the hardest.

I’m not saying you should chase trends or try to twist your writing to hit the New Best Thing. So many companies have tried that and failed horribly (coughNew Cokecough). It does mean that you have to pay attention to the market and how market trends are going. Keep working on your current series, absolutely. But, what are people looking at now, in the “early adopter” phase of your market? And, do you know how to ride that trend somewhere? If not, how do you get from there to here?

Eyes open, it’s going be a crazy time for all of us.

Dealing With “Says”

One of the things I hate when reading other authors is how often they use the word “says.”

This is where you roll your eyeballs and go, “okay, have you got your black turtleneck sweater and round-rimmed glasses, because you’ve just turned into a literary hipster.” Don’t, because there’s a reason for this.

“Says” is easy, but it also doesn’t give you a chance to let your characters breathe and develop more personality and express more of the story. For example, maybe one of your characters is one of those kinds of people that talks with their hands as much as their words. And, you read every time he talks, the dialog comes out something like this-

“This new pizza place,” Willy grinned, fingers drumming along the top of the table, “best pizza I’ve had in years.”

-and now, if you didn’t have that additional description, Willy would be a little less fleshed out. He doesn’t smile, he grins. His fingers drum on the table-top and that means he’s always sort of moving, not quite sitting still. It adds flavor to the character, gives him a bit more characterization.

When I was writing Solist At Large and The Winter Solist, one of the things I always tried to keep track of-and put in the story-was how characters spoke. Adelaide likes to talk, and there’s a lot of emotion in her words. Sayuri is dry and laconic, but when she gets interested in something…she gets interested. Charles is every David Tennant character…and, yes, all of them. Ian is the classic mid-rank British Army officer of the Victorian era and is pomp and circumstance.

And so on.

This also matters, because it primes you. You start to hear these characters’ cadence, their patterns of speaking, almost as if you were hearing them in person. Then, when they stop talking that way…something has changed.

So, what changed?

That’s where the storytelling becomes interesting.

Writing And Academic Progress

It’s hard to write when all of your job interviews seem to get you two to three interviews, then “we’re looking for someone else, thank you for applying.”

Or variations on that theme. It’s made my dreams at night very surreal in a bad way and that hasn’t helped my mood any.

I’m looking at going back for my full, formal, four year degree. I didn’t realize just how many classes were online in the California State University system and if they can keep that going for Spring and Fall in 2022…I can finally finish up my degree program and get that sheepskin with a four year degree on it. It took me a while, but better late than never.

Actually managed to get past one of the first writer’s blocks moments on The Winter Solist and that’s been good.

And…looking at some kind of screen or divider so that I have a visual barrier between me and the family room. That way, I’m not watching Anderson Cooper pretend to be human when he comes on CNN.

Fingers crossed that the latest run of fires and disasters calm down soon. But, I’m still chugging away, one writing project at a time.

Hey, I Can See Some Light Here!

Short version-I’ve managed to get some writing done.

LONG version-in between dealing with the State of California, despising the whole process of interviewing for jobs (seriously, four interviews for a company and not getting the job?), general frustration with a world that seems to be run by idiots, and coming up on my birthday in about a month…

…the floodgates of my writing mojo have come back. This worries me-I don’t want to be Tim Bisly, who’s muses are angst and anger and frustration.

But, I have gotten at least two more chapters of The Winter Solist done, getting close to the big mystery and the final dance number. In fact…I’ve actually written part of the epilogue, so I can get a few events synchronized. And, I’m doing the “go through my previous chapters and start looking for issues” thing. I’m definitely going to call that progress. Once I finish with that, pull down a copy of Daz3D, build my cover, put the novel together and get it published. I will probably miss the one year anniversary for Solist At Large, but that I have a second novel done is a good thing.

Then, I start writing A Solist In Rome, where I might have my main character get PNG-ed from Italy.

Hopefully more good news coming soon. I’m looking into a moving screen so I won’t have to see the TV in the other room…and not go insane watching CNN. That would be a good thing.

The Q-Tip Is Getting A Lot Of Work

Staying on top of my writing has been always been an issue-and it hasn’t gotten better lately.

Until I get a job, it’s all looking for a job and doing the work hustle and helping keep the house up…so that leaves precious little time for writing.

The world has gone crazy, and you get the feeling that there is nobody behind the curtain and nobody is keeping the machinery from falling off a cliff.

And, that’s when my brain needs to escape the most. And, when I have the last amount of time to do any writing.

What really frustrates me and pisses me off? I had two jobs that would have been perfect-no commute to San Francisco, reasonable work hours, one of them was even in marketing (which I got a certificate for), and it would have been nice to get a job in before the disaster hits in a few weeks as everybody and college graduates and everyone that has their unemployment running out looks for work that doesn’t involve asking for fries.

It’s frustrating and tiring. But, more resumes, more job hunting, hopefully more posts here and more things to get my SEO scores up and have Google-sempai notice me.

It’s Not About Frank Miller

So, in the news from the Perpetually Offended class (who transcend all political boundaries), Frank Miller was uninvited from the Thought Bubble Festival in Yorkshire. It was at the insistence of the other guests, because of his graphic novel Holy Terror, which even he admits was not one of his best works. But, because it was written and published within ten years of 9/11-back when a lot of people were afraid that the next “conversation” with the Islamic world would involve explosions and dismembered bodies-it didn’t age well and it didn’t read well when it did finally come out. Fair enough, everybody is allowed to screw up on occasion-and the better you are, the more obvious your screw-ups are.

But, this isn’t about Frank Miller.

Not directly, at least.

Why Frank Miller was canceled (and, he’s probably laughing to the bank, regardless-there’s probably a cancellation fee in his contract with the festival) is the same reason why manga and crowdfunded comics are beating out the “traditional” comic book market. It’s why, despite Warren Ellis having a comic book rockstar lifestyle in the late ’90s and early ’00s and everybody in the industry knowing it-many of the same people that were “angry about the revelations” were the same people that were on his various forums as his groupies. They got jobs because he went to bat for them, were a part of the world he created, and when his steps faltered…the knives came out.

Many of these people know-deep in their hearts-that they aren’t as good as Frank Miller.

And they never will be. They never can be.

If Frank Miller dropped dead tomorrow, Holy Terror will be buried in the text somewhere. He’s going to be remembered for Daredevil:Born Again (the definitive Daredevil story), Batman:The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City, 300, and more. Many of his smaller and one-shot works are still well-regarded to this day and that just makes his few mistakes all the more noticeable. If you have Frank Miller show up at your convention, he’s going to fill up any panels he shows up at. Fans are going to come for him. And, for most of these creative people, they know that they won’t even reach a tenth of his popularity.

Let’s take a look at the remaining guest list for Thought Bubble, just to see who’s left. Of all the names here, I recognize only four of them. One I wonder why he’s here (Chuck Palaniuk), mostly because while he’s done comics…he’s not exactly a comic book creator as his primary job. One I would prefer not to be in the same time zone (Magdalene Visaggio), because I have never been impressed with her work. And the last two (Gail Simone, Scott Snyder)? They’re B-list at best, with Scott edging out Gail because he did the “Night of the Owls” story-line for Batman, and I can actually recall that.

They might be able to fill up one or two of the secondary auditoriums, but I wouldn’t go on a Saturday (when ticket prices are probably the highest) to see them. I might glance in to see how their panels are…maybe. And they-and the rest of the guest list-has to know this. Frank Miller would have been the big draw. The rock star.

And, if I had a table there, I’d have been happy for him to be there. Why? Because, the more people that come to the convention are more people that are coming by my table. The more people coming by my table, the more possible and actual sales I’ll make. There are more people seeing what I’ve made, taking my fliers, buying my comics and art, and that means I am showing up on people’s radar. It also means that I’m getting more sales-which means that I can pay for the table, the production costs, the hotel room (if it isn’t a local event), eat somewhere where the question “do you want fries with that” isn’t usually asked, and maybe turn a profit to start on other projects with.

I wouldn’t come just to see Gail Simone. She wouldn’t be the thing that would tip me over into getting a ticket, especially in the post-COVID convention era.

I wouldn’t come just to see Scott Snyder.

I definitely wouldn’t come just to see Magdalene Visaggio.

Frank Miller just might tip the balance for me.

And, all of these “creators” can never forgive him for that.

So, it’s not about Frank Miller. It’s not about Warren Ellis. It’s not about R. Crumb. It’s not about how people are crowdfunding comics. It’s not about how manga is sexist, racists, bigoted, and all of the other naughty words. It’s not about the “GamerGate” boogieman that they drag out when they need a straw-man to burn.

It’s about small people with envy. People that have been promised greatness in one way or another-and they realize that they’ll never quite get it. They’ll forever be not quite good enough. And, if they can’t be great…nobody else should be great.

And, they are some of the first people to tear down others.

Attacking Your Brain With A Q-Tip…

…through your ears.

It’s been…hard to write. I don’t know how it is for other people, but looking for work is like dating for me. I hate the process of dating, especially the first few dates, because…you don’t know. You don’t know what works, what doesn’t work, what thing that you think is normal and expected won’t end everything right there. And…you’re left hanging for hours, days, weeks…and wondering if you should try something else and what you did wrong…

And, job fairs are even worse. It’s like speed dating, but with more possibilities of things going wrong.

Yes, it’s been hard to get anything done that hasn’t been job-hunting or psychological/social survival.

At the very least, I’m probably up one Taco Bell meal in sales of Solist At Large, so that’s something. (And, waiting for the day that I can measure my sales in something a little more substantive than that.)

Hopefully happier news coming up. Fingers crossed.

Brain Chugging

I’m really going to have to get more organized in how I write.

Case in point, The Winter Solist A-plot needs things from the B-plot and a bit of the C-plot sets things up for the end of the novel and the main part of the A-plot for A Roman Solist. The C-plot is the entryway into the A-plot for A Roman Solist, and it’s important because we have to introduce at least two or three new characters.

The problem is…I’m having problem getting the plots to synchronize. I’ve had to do a tear-down from about chapter nine or so twice to get to chapter 17. And now I’m stuck at about the half-way point, again. I don’t think I’m going to have to tear it down, but…

I’m going to have to set up one of those plot-tracking spreadsheets for A Roman Solist, and I might have to take a few days with The Winter Solist to try and get it organized as well.

And, I can also see why a lot of authors hate first-person perspective. You have to keep a lot of balls in the air-and a lot of this stuff has to be done in the backstage, because your main character isn’t omniscient. Usually.

Back to the salt mines.

The Danger Of Hope

I’m sitting here, and I’m wondering about hope.

I’m also mildly intoxicated (two beers, but one of them was a 13-14% one that was like drinking cheap cold medication but it was free beer, and free beer is never had at a loss except when you dump the penalty weight), so there’s a certain kind of oddness to the thoughts.

Hopefully, the last sixteen months of quarantine and stay-in-place and “flatten the curve” will be coming to an end. Or at the very least, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and it isn’t a genetically engineered cat bunghole.

Hopefully.

What does this mean for me? Looking for a new job, got a second interview last Thursday and maybe some help to get another job by an “on the job training program” for a second job. My optimism isn’t high in both cases, but I didn’t expect to get a second interview for one job. Who knows at this point and time in my life?

I still have some time on my unemployment, barring something weird happening. But, “something weird happening” has described the last sixteen months for me. Change is always weird. Even change that is welcome and wanted. And, while the jobs that I’m looking for aren’t my ideal jobs, my ideal jobs might only exist in my imagination or in a world two or three generations ago.

Still, hopefully.

Hope is dangerous, isn’t it? I’ve been in relationships that I should have given up on much earlier, because of it. Because of the sunken cost fallacy. Because you hope that next toss of the dice will let you win.

But, still…you have to hope.

The alternatives are not enjoyable. I’ve been the alternatives and they aren’t fun. No thank you.

Writing is going as well as can be expected. I’m doing a bit of a diversion into a short story/novella project that’s set after A Roman Solist and before book #4. Not sure where it’ll go-or if it can go anywhere. But, I need to write it.