You’re Using The Word “Bliss” Wrong, Goddammit

Good morning from the MACP. It’s dreary out there, man. Relatively chilly–the Carolingians are swathed like Shackleton’s crew, but this New England kid is ready for Mai Tais poolside. It’s a good day for The Good Fight.

Let’s get to it.

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One thing you ought to know about me, if we’ve only met recently, is that I am a total mark for Joseph Campbell. You know how people have that one author they read, generally in college, and it just rewires their entire neural net? Joe C. is mine.

My Facebook memories for today, rather than bum-rushing me with pictures of my dead father, served up this gem from “The Power Of Myth” that I’d posted last year:

“Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

Now, Madison Avenue would have you believe that the word “bliss” means “that feeling you get when you eat chocolate or sit in a bubble bath.”

Bullshit.

“Bliss,” according to Campbell, is almost like being on the proper flight path. You’re in the pipe, five by five. Deviate from that path, you fly into a mountain or get shot down by an F-22. But if you stay the course, you get to where it is you need to be. It’s like the thread Lachesis spins. It’s your route. And when you’re on the right track, it feels right.

It feels right because it is right, goddammit. It’s your doom, in the old sense of the world. You’re acting in accord with wyrd. Five by five.

I feel like I’m beginning to course-correct. I feel like my doom is giving me a big-ass thumbs up. You’re getting there, kid–just try not to fuck it up.

Working on it. I might even have a little chocolate today.

Not a bath, though. Never a bath.

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***

The Phil Coulson Power Hour, one of my favorite programs currently on TV, really chapped my ass this week. No spoilers, but consider this your warning if you want to know nothing.

All week long, the ads  pulled the “This Week: AN AGENT WILL DIE!!!” stunt, and the two-hour season finale was, and I can’t back this up yet, an elaborate torture device designed by Joss Whedon to drive us all nuts. A few weeks back, one of the characters had a vision of somebody’s death, and all we knew was that the dead person was in space, had a crucifix on a chain, and a SHIELD patch on their shoulder. And all through the episode, the crucifix and the jacket got passed around like it was a Harlem Globetrotters game. Come on, Marvel. I’m rooting for you here, but you gotta give me something. I stick up for you. Meet me halfway.

***

Thinking about doing a Free Fiction Friday segment, where I go into the Vault and drag something out to show yez. Let me think on that some. I’m also considering video messages, but you guys are going to make fun of my accent, I just know it

forget i said anything okay jeez

***

The Far Harbor expansion for the magnificent Fallout Foah comes out today, set in the great state of Maine.

I am calling it now. In the zone representing Bangor there’s going to be a big, spoopy Victorian, with wrought-iron bats flitting about the gate. Inside said edifice there will be either a skeleton or a Ghoul at a terminal. The terminal entry will be a horror story.

Ten to one odds. Somebody take the bet.

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Speaking of sai King, photos from the actual, real-life movie set of The Dark Tower surfaced this week, showing Idris “Goddamn” Elba in costume as Roland Deschain, scion of the line of Eld, last of the Gunslingers, and Mad Dog of Gilead.

He looks PERFECT. Dead serious. The Dark Tower is tied with Star Wars as my all-time favorite story. I know what I’m about here. Elba is Roland. The Guns are as if somebody went to Mid-World, just like you can do in the stories, somehow got ahold of Roland’s gunbelts, and brought them back. It’s unfuckingcanny.

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And if you want to talk shit about Elba not being able to play Roland because he’s Black, you can go fuck yourself. You’re not needed here, nor are you wanted. Go fuck yourself.

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AND ON THAT NOTE. I hope each and every one of you take a little time today. Take a breather. Kiss the person you want to be kissing. Make a nice sandwich. Tell a dirty joke. Because, you know what? Sometimes the little pleasures are the only things keeping the Abyss away. And that’s what we want.

Problem Glyphs Kickstarter–Hack Your Subconscious

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[REGRET IS A LESSON]

The campaign for the Problem Glyphs art book, by artist/bog witch Eliza Gauger and enabled by Strix Publishing, is now live on the Kickstarter.

This is a thing you want to be hip to, folks.

The concept goes like this: Starting in late 2013, people would write in personal problems to Ms. Gauger, anonymously, and she would respond with a hand-drawn sigil representing a possible solution, or simply lending support. The art created in response to the flood of requests is simply staggering.

I have suspicions that Ms. Gauger is some sort of cyborg. Like her hands pop apart into twelve separate pens, and she just goes shithouse. It’s an astonishing body of work, and it’s good work. There’s a glyph for every problem, from trans kids wanting to own their flesh and feel magnificent in it, to survivors of abuse wanting to change the narrative of their experiences, to people who want to get the hell off-planet. It’s what I point to when I want to illustrate the idea of art helping people. It’s sure as shit helped me, at some really lousy, low times.

Go, have a look.

 

Attitude Adjustments, Giant Carnivorous Whales, and The Money Chant

Good afternoon from near the Southern end of the BAMA Sprawl.

Feeling anxious today. Heart racing, chest aching, eyes scanning for an open exit. It happens–the brain gets bathed in too much of one neurochemical or another, and the Ape Mind starts seeing Smilodons lurking behind every bush. What can the Twenty-First Century Hominid do when faced with terrible, illusory felids?

That hominid does what that hominid can do–The Work. Always The Work.

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Many a nun has tried to break my hands and reset the bones into a proper Palmer Method configuration. They have all failed.

I took my own advice from last week and started writing freehand, and it’s absolutely a different beast from writing on a computer. You fuck up? Scratch it out. The self-editor is squeezed out by the indelible nature of ink. You’re stuck with two options: stop or keep going.

I think I’ve found what works for me.

***

My love of monsters, real and imagined, is well-documented. I happened to catch a documentary on National Geographic called Sea Monsters: The Definitive Guide, which was a delight. It compared monsters of legend against their zoological bases–the Kraken versus the giant squid, for example. But one beastie they covered just tickled my brain’s Monster Center–a whale from the Miocene called Livyatan melvillei. Basically an orca the size of a sperm whale with the craziest goddamn teeth I’ve ever seen. I mean, look at this sumbitch:

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***

Formulating plans to go to Heroes Con  in Charlotte over Bunker Hill Day weekend. I’m going to meet some friends, but it sticks in my mind that every author I know says to Always Be Networking while at conventions.

I do not know how to do this. I’m guessing it involves pounding my chest and singing.

***

That’s all my fragile mental state will allow, friends, so I’m out. Be kind to one another.

Old School

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It’s going to be a good day today. I know it is. It has to be. Good morning from the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain.

I tried something a little different yesterday: Writing.

I mean it! Actual, old-school pen-on-paper storymaking. Like the Pilgrims used to do!

I’d heard authors I admire say that they’ve taken, in greater or lesser measure, to handwriting manuscripts, at least in the first draft. I wasn’t feeling the work yesterday (hey, man, it happens), so I decided to give it a whack.

It felt like play. Like I was just screwing around. But lo and befuckinhold, progress!

I don’t know how it works–there’s a complex neurological reason as to why handwriting and typing use different parts of the brain, I think–but you can’t argue with results.

Another tool in the toolbox. Fuckin’ A.

***

Your favorite television program probably got cancelled yesterday. I empathize. I’ve been singing dirges to “Agent Carter.” Peggy, we hardly knew ye.

***

This week has been a goddamn meat grinder.  I haven’t had the energy to get to the gym until this morning, and man, I felt every second of my time there. Seeing Chris Evans’ ridiculous form on the big screen on Wednesday was a big motivator. If I had a physique like that kid, I’d have to be put forcibly into my shirts.

***

I’m still trying to figure out a format for this blog, something to make it a little more interesting and/or informative. I can only shill so much before people make the j/o gesture and move on.

At the same time, though, it’s a good place for me, personally, to set some intent. To figure out where my own head is at. Make myself accountable for doing the work. Does that make sense?

So far, it’s been fun, and I hope it’s been fun for you as well.

 

 

Fuck Lovecraft

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Good morning from the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain. It is four in the goddamn morning as I start this entry, Foo Fighters are on the VH1 Classic, and it is what it is, as if it could be otherwise.

I’m thinking this morning about where stories come from. It’s almost like a chemical reaction. Mix bleach and ammonia, you get deadly gas. Mix Experience A with Influence B, combine with Song On Ipod C, and you get a story. The beginnings of a story, anyway. You still need to put that ass in front of the keyboard and expend some mana, but you get the idea.

I was talking with my associate Aaron Jacobs (follow his blog or my curse be upon ye) about H. P. Lovecraft–we were in Brooklyn, not too far from the setting of “The Horror At Red Hook,” the thesis of which is “What Are Those Immigrants DOING In There?!” Lovecraft’s racism is no secret, the way he used slurs as punctuation. But as we’re talking, we come to the conclusion that his bigotry suffused his entire body of work almost at a molecular level.

Horrors coming from beyond with agendas unknowable to even his learned protagonists? Accursed lineages borne of ancestors mixing with other races? A terror of the chaos lurking outside of his experience?

Holy shit–it’s baked right in. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

It’s a good thing that Weird fiction and cosmic horror aren’t locked into HPL’s xenophobia–the fear of the Unknown is universal, and even though Howie’s Unknown was African-American people, Jewish folks, women, and other human groups, the unease about what’s beyond the firelight was with us all along, and will continue.

And yeah, Lovecraft influenced me–the title of this very blog is taken from the the Arabic name, al Azif, of his go-to Shunned Tome. But once you see it, you can’t unsee it. You take what’s universal, and you leave what’s harmful. Always be critical. Always examine your lineage and see if there aren’t any monstrous fish-folk swimming around there.

You want a good deconstruction of Lovecraft’s fictional ecosystem, I implore you to check out The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle. It takes the framework of “Red Hook,” strips out the bigotry and the squamous, batrachian prose, and infuses it with the living, breathing soul of a haunted Depression-era New York. Dead serious, this novella is legit, my only complaint being that it feels like the first act of a bigger story. Go get it, then read “Red Hook,” and tell me which is better.

***

I saw a story this morning about an opera, an honest-to-god opera, based on The Shining, which looks interesting. Theater is something I’m not too well-versed in, and in this era of Hamilton ripping things up, that’s something that needs to change. My wife and I went and saw the touring production of 42nd Streetwhich was a delight.

***

My love of fictional spy Phil Coulson is well-documented, and a little creepy. I freely and fully admit to this. No content here, I just feel like it’s something I needed to let out there.

***

I only just saw the brilliant Attack The Block yesterday. Man, what a movie. I only knew John Boyega from The Force Awakens,  and his brilliant online presence, and his performance in ATB was shocking. Don’t be like me. See if if you haven’t.

***

That’s all I’ve got for now. I hope the day is kind to you. If it isn’t, grab it by the neck, threaten it with a knife, and ask it why. I’m right behind you, fam. Believe.

 

On Self-Improvement

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Good morning from the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain. It is half-past five in the morning, and I am so tired. I am an old man, and I need my rest.

I’m an early riser by nature. NOT a morning person. I’m actually a night person, but I crash out early most nights, so I enjoy the dark hours via the back door. I go to the gym most mornings before work, because if I don’t go then, I don’t go. I have my habits and routines, and adherence to them is vital if I want to get anything done.

It’s the same thing with my writing work. I take lunch al desko at my job and spend the hour working on my projects. If I don’t do this, I’ll wind up browsing Tumblr for Bloodborne/Battlestar Galactica mashup fanart, and that’s one hour gone, burned, one hour further away from getting my shit done.

I don’t think I’m a lazy person (said every lazy person since the first Australopithecus decided to blow off scavenging one day); I’m beholden to routine. If I fall into the routine of dicking around, it becomes a perpetual inaction machine, taking a Herculean effort to get back onto the straight-and-narrow. But when I am a Good Boy, the inverse is true. Success builds on itself.

I don’t have any writing advice for you. For that, go get On Writing by Stephen Goddamn King, or check out Chuck Wendig’s magnificent blog. I do what I do, and it seems to work. My only advice is to Get Busy And Stay Busy. Whatever it is you want to do, do it. Or do whatever you need to do in order to do it. Want to write? Write. Want to become an Olympian shotputter? Lift the weights, then put the shot. And if you fuck up? Forgive yourself. But get back on it.

That’s about all I can tell you because I’m still in the process. Luke Skywalker could mind-trick the lightsaber into his hand, but was he on Qui-Gon Jinn’s level? It’s all process, it’s all iteration, and it’s all to the goal of Getting Better.

Twenty years from now, when I’m standing on the cliff all contemplative, and you hold out my old story notes to me, I might be able take off my hood and give you actual advice.

***

I’m trying to decide if I want to speak on the whole Hugo Award Sad Puppy bullshit. If I did, I’d be doing it as a fan of genre fiction, and frankly, I don’t think anybody needs another voice in the chorus.

You make yourself look smart by keeping your mouth shut. And cousin? People think I’m wicked smaaht.

***

Newsletters are becoming A Thing. Here are my favorites.

Orbital Operations is Warren Ellis’ weekly missive from the Thames Delta, in which he tells us what his world looks like. I have ripped off its formatting for this humble blog. I fear the arse-eels.

Technoccult by Renaissance man Damien Patrick Walters is good for you. It runs the gamut of what’s going on, and what’s going to be going on. It’ll make you smarter.

Caterwauling by Ian Vincent, modern Cunning Man, observer of cult and culture, and John Constantine IRL. An incisive reporting on Fortean doings and the intersection of the very old and the very new.

There. None of you can say you weren’t told. You’re welcome.

***

I have to take my cat Onion to the vet today, but when I get home I’ll be working on stories for Projekt One. The piece in question is set in my old neighborhood back in Boston. That’s right: The Town. I sometimes worry that I’m cramming too many stories into one square mile surrounding a Masonic obelisk.

Worry is for the others, darling. I do what I do, and if it doesn’t resonate, it doesn’t resonate.

***

More tomorrow, kids. Enjoy yourselves, be kind to one another, and don’t take any shit.

Why Write? More specifically: Why write…THAT.

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The short answer is: Because if I didn’t I would go crazy and die.

The long answer is a little more involved. Let’s talk. C’mon down the basement.

Ever since I was a little kid, I have been obsessed with folklore and myth. From my little kid’s copy of Bulfinch’s Mythology, to my subscription to The Mighty Thor, to the Freddy Krueger movies I watched way too much, I think my skullmeats are hardwired for story.

And when you think of it, the stories we tell kids are fucking HORRIBLE. Two neglected children menaced by cannibal. Girl locked in tower, unable to get haircut. Farmgirl concussed in tornado hallucinates magical world that is not Dust Bowl-era Kansas.

Ever see “Watership Down?” Cartoon about bunnies my ass.

So, yeah, that’s part of it. Centuries of fucked-up fairy tales twisted my brain, sure.

But why all the monsters?

Look around. The monsters are everywhere. I do people a favor by slapping tentacles on them. Makes it easier to deal with.

If a Thing shambles out of a dark corner, you know what to do, how to react. Run, scream, or hit the motherfucker with a 2×4. That’s easy. That’s baked-in knowledge. Instinct.

The monsters in real life, though, they look just like anybody. They don’t have horns or flabby, dripping paws or eyes that burn like coals. They’re the ones you need to watch out for.

Maybe I hope to show you the monsters in their easily-digested scaly forms so you’ll know when to swing.

***

I’m still working out the ins-and-outs of blogging. I’m not very good at it. I wanted to put some freebie fiction on the page somewhere, but that looks like a colossal pain in the prick. Maybe I’ll do it as a newsletter. I don’t know–early days, still.

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I’m working on several short stories for a SEEKRIT PROJEKT that I hope to be able to announce by summertime.

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Reading recommendations: you love ’em, I have ’em.

The Bread We Eat In Dreams by Catherynne Valente. I would read her shopping lists. I don’t think she’s capable of making something sound less than sumptuous. Amazon

Cassilda’s Song, edited by Joseph S. Pulver. Wonderful stories in the King In Yellow mythos, all done by woman authors. Tremendous. Amazon

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I think I’ve taken up enough of your time, and I appreciate every second of it. Watch this space, and tell your friends. Until next time, good day from the Midatlantic Coastal Plain of the United States.

A New Home

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I apologize for any confusion I might have caused with my move to a WordPress blog. But once I posted on Brand X, I was machine-gunned by people asking me “Why are you using Brand X? You should use WordPress.”

And here I am, on WordPress, with a brand-spanking-new URL. Add it to your lists. Add it to your phone. I might call you in the night.

So, let me sum up: I am a writer, this is my writing blog, Weird fiction, horror, all that good stuff, social media over there, gonna put some fiction in the corner, human garbage fire, et cetera et cetera.