Blog Post #25 Top Ten Pods of 2018 (So Far, Anyway)

Hey Everybody.

My last post was a top tenner about this summer’s hottest songs. It was an easy format, fun to write, and a lot of people read it, so now you’re getting another one. Today’s blog covers my favorite podcasts of the year (so far, anyway). Some of them are recent discoveries, some of them I’ve listened to for a while, but all would receive my official stamp of approval if I had the ego to manufacture an official stamp.

I’m also in a big-time decluttering phase, so I’m not even sure where I’d store such a thing.

Anyway, without further preamble—the list:

Top Ten Pods of 2018:

10) Men in Blazers — I’ve listened to this pod for a while, and it always delivers. Rog’s woe-ridden Evertonian everyman is a perfect balance to Davo’s effervescent Chelsea-ness. I tend to identify with Rog’s views on life, but as a fellow Chelsea supporter, usually see eye to eye with Davo.

I originally ran across them on Morning Joe years ago and have followed them ever since. They were the highlight of my listening rotation during the World Cup and will be again now that the Premier League schedule has started in earnest.

This podcast will arm you with enough information to hold a conversation at one of those dive bars that open early on a Saturday so that people can watch soccer (football) games.

In other words, you probably won’t ever find it useful, but it’s still an entertaining listen.

9) Writing Excuses — I kind of feel obligated to mention something about writing since this is why a lot of you are here. Also, I listen to this pod every week.

I’m always looking for tips, tricks, and motivation wherever I can find them, and this show delivers them in easily digestible fifteen-minute broadcasts. Great for a quick walk with the dogs.

If you’re a writer, this pod will help you question everything you’ve ever done, and occasionally give you a fresh perspective on your writing for the day or week.

8) The Adventures of Memento Mori — Full disclosure: DS Moss is a friend of mine, but I’d listen to this pod anyway. Episodes examine the afterlife in a style that mashes-up Serial, Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, and … I don’t know, take your pick of one or more great Netflix docs (like Ugly Delicious for example). Check it out if you haven’t heard it, and tell your friends.

7) WTF — I’m sure you’ve heard of it, and actually, it should be way up higher on my list, but I’m too lazy to change it now.

Marc Maron is one of my favorite interviewers, if not my favorite. He’s able to utilize all the tools he’s collected in his life to take his listeners on open and honest adventures with his guests. He obviously has a great sense of humor, but you can feel the empathy, insecurity, and personal growth from years of therapy in his interviews. That may seem like a weird list of things to like at first, but it makes him a real guy. He puts himself out there, flaws and all—and it makes you like him. Well, it makes me like him, anyway.

He speaks, in depth, to the perils of addiction, of fame—or the desire for fame, and sometimes just  wonders where the cat he’d been leaving food out for went. There’s something there for all of us, and he consistently gets something out of his guests that no one else can. You see the same name in a lot of pods when actors are out pushing their latest project, but you always get a different interview with Maron.

Great for one-upping movie guy at the party with some insight an actor shared that most people might not know. Also great for lifting some of the strategies he’s learned from therapy and applying them to your own life. Maybe like how you don’t constantly need to one-up people at parties.

6) Harmontown —Dan Harmon created Community as well as Rick and Morty, and I’m a big fan of both shows. Harmontown has a structure but feels free and effortless.

For the writers out there who are still reading, there are plenty of writing tips and other jewels of wisdom you can collect from week to week amid all sorts of weird bits you’d enjoy if you like Rick and Morty. Harmon is another guy that’s open about his years of talk therapy, and I don’t mind copping his strategies either.

5) Bill Simmons Podcast — I’m pretty sure Page 2 on ESPN (.go.com) was the first blog I consistently read. It was either that or Ain’t It Cool News. Anyway, Page 2 was Simmons’ brainchild, and he went on to create Grantland as well as the Thirty for Thirty series for ESPN. Dude knows his stuff, especially when it comes to basketball, and is a great interviewer. His pods with Kevin Durant are legendary, and he has a great line-up of contributing personalities.

His gambling bits with Cousin Sal from The Jimmy Kimmel Show are always good, and his latest feature where his daughter comes on and talks about what junior high kids are into these days (Netflix, social media, it’s cute, but highly listenable. Yeah—I said cute but highly listenable, I don’t like cute. Sue me. I also just put a bunch of sentences into parentheses … I do what I want).

Anyway, I don’t watch sports like I used to, in fact, it’s pretty much limited to Premier League games these days, but I still like to know what’s going on. His pods are perfect for that. Lots of Fantasy Football talk, trade rumors, and inside baseball kind of talk (mainly for basketball, but the term still applies). This podcast is great for keeping you up to date in the overall world of sports so you can “well, actually” your annoying cousin Ted at Sunday lunch.

 

4) Planet Money — Short, sweet pods that give you that edge at the next gathering you attend. Another interesting story about how your son eats paste, Gerald? Fascinating. Now, let’s talk about how there’s a secret global postal organization that’s rigged postage rates so that it’s cheaper to mail something to the US from China than it is to ship from Texas to Louisiana.

Sounds crazy, right? Like it’s a conspiracy theory … it’s not. I learned it from Planet Money. Not the bit about Gerald’s son, Gerald doesn’t even exist for godssakes. The global post thing.

The episode focused on a cup manufacturer that freaked out because his competitor offers up the same design for less than it would cost him to ship his product, let alone manufacture it.

Segments are upbeat and easily digestible fifteen to twenty-minute pods that are also great for quick walks with the dogs.

3) Armchair Expert — Just started listening to this lately. Dax Shepard has a similar style to Marc Maron or Howard Stern and consistently draws unique interviews out of his guests.

He even does an after show wrap-up to tell you what he or the guest got wrong in the course of discussion (like if facts were misquoted or he used an incorrect turn of phrase).

This pod is great for whenever someone is like, “I need to find a new podcast to listen to.” You’ll be right there with the recommendation, and people will love you. They probably won’t write songs about you or anything, but they may just tip their coffee mug to you in the break room the following Monday.

2) Hardcore History — Dan Carlin. The man is a legend. Another great one for meetings or parties where you can correct someone’s pronunciation of Ghengis Khan, then prattle on like you know a ton about him—because you do. By then you’ll have listened to hours and hours of history about Ghengis Khan and his rise to power.

You’re getting history from a great storyteller, with multiple sources and points of view cited. A must listen.

1) Song Exploder — Do you like music? Of course you do, and odds are that the good people at Song Exploder have talked to one of your favorite artists. You can hear Jeff Tweedy, Amy Mann, St. Vincent, or the guy from Bleachers talk about the origins of one of their songs. Everything from the story that inspired it to the actual crafting. “I got this riff from here, and we were at this weird piano,” you know … stuff like that. You listen to thirty minutes of story and hear the song at the end, and at least for me, I always come away with a new appreciation for it.

Great for the late hours of a party where you may have been overserved. A song comes on, and you roll your head over to tell the person next to you. You tell them everything you know about it … and you know a lot. Three songs have played since you started talking and, oh no, where are they going…

0) Comedy Bang Bang— Zero? You can’t have a number zero; this is a top ten list!

 Ha, jokes on you! I will have a zero; it’s too late, it’s done.

Scott Auckerman is hilarious. He wrote for Mr. Show, a bunch of other things you probably thought were great. Comedy Bang Bang was a show on IFC, and one the funniest podcast out there. He interviews a guest at the top of each show, and then a bunch of comedians will pop in and improv. Contributors include Paul F Tomkins, Lauren Lapkus, Ben Schwartz, Thomas Middleditch, and Jon Gabrus.

Great for borrowing funny things to say in conversation, and of course, citing your source.

-1) Spontaneanation — Wait, I allowed zero, but a negative one? This is highly unorthodox, sir.

Well, buckle up because it’s the law, and it’s for your own good. Have you read vehicular injury reports since the mandate for seatbelts?

Hosted by Paul F Tomkins, it’s a similar format to Comedy Bang Bang except they take a scene from the guest at the top, let’s say Jon Hamm, and do a full-on improv scene as the second act to each show. It’s all scored by Eban Schletter, whose name you’ll learn how to spell from a song, and it is ooonly—the best.

Did you say Jon Hamm’s name out loud earlier? It’s just a figure of speech, dude.

-2) Raised by TV — Negative two? Fine, whatever. Just do what you want.

Lauren Lapkus and Jon Gabrus watched a LOT of TV growing up, but guess what? So did I, so I’m all in on this pod. Duck Tales, Saturday Morning Cartoons, Wrestling, and The Facts of Life—it has it all and more. 

Honorable Mention:

Oprah’s Master Class — Yeah. Honorable mention. It’s Oprah, who is more honorable? That’s right, no one.

That said, the show hasn’t lived up to its name quite yet.

You get to hear how Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys, and Jay Z came up to make it, but instead of the long format pods like ID10T, WTF, or Armchair—you’ll hear the cuts in the takes during the interview. The common thread so far is that no one had their career handed to them, but you’re not exactly getting a master class either.

The pod is great for people. Just in general. It’s Oprah; you might as well listen.

So you’ve done it, you’ve read another blog. Good job. Now, feel free to download one or more of the podcasts above, and go for a walk or something. Especially if it’s nice out, you can take the dogs. They’d probably like to go pee on something. I know mine always do.

Oh, and speaking of pods, here's an interview I did for Smells Like Infinite Sadness. It's Pod #10.

Blog Post #24: Top Ten Songs of the Summer

I caught up with an old friend recently, and after the usual small talk about how the 100+ degree Austin summer days are killing us both, we transitioned to what we were watching on Netflix (The Sinner), our favorite movie of the summer (Ant-Man and The Wasp), and favorite recent podcast discovery (The Adventures of Memento Mori).

I know, riveting stuff, I’m an incredible conversationalist.

The conversation got me thinking though; we didn’t talk about music. Why is that, and what are my favorite songs this summer? Unfortunately, nothing really stands out—probably because I’m old, but maybe, just maybe, it’s because the industrial music machine doesn’t crank out hits like they used to. Not to say the music is any worse than it ever was, but it just doesn’t have the same push.

Case in point—the World Cup. Robbie Williams led the opening ceremony with his hit “Let Me Entertain You.” I mean, cool, I like Robbie Williams, but that song was released in 1997.

Not to worry, the song of the World Cup was really “Seven Nation Army,” a legit, badass thumper that was released … in 2003.

Verdict: I’m definitely old, but apparently the arbiters of taste like the same type of music as I do, so look for a variety of Wilco songs to permeate this fall’s English Premier League broadcasts, I guess. Or whatever the kids are watching these days—get off my lawn.

With all that in mind, here are my top ten songs for the summer of 2018:

10) “Lucky Star” — Madonna. Released in 1983, I was seven years old and loved going to the pool. This song was always on at the pool, so it makes the list.

9) “Slam” — Onyx. Released in 1993, I was in high school, and it was fun to play basketball at the pool where I grew up in College Station. No, I didn’t live in a pool in high school. That wouldn’t happen until much later, and yes they set up a basketball goal alongside the pool so we could almost drown each other every day playing something between water polo, basketball, and mixed martial arts.

8) “Dreams” — Beck. I could have sworn I listened to it last summer, but the internet says October 2017, so check-mate brain! Anyway, I like this song, and I like Beck. Listed.

7) “Revival” — Me Phi Me. Released on the Reality Bites soundtrack in 1994, I listened to it non-stop as an angsty high schooler going into his senior year. The movie had it all—slacker vibe, filmed in Houston, TX (just down the road from where I lived, y’all), and Winona Ryder. Some of these things I liked more than others, but what I loved most was cruising around the neighborhoods of Central Texas with the windows down, blasting the song through my Discman, and letting everyone know I was listening to the latest in hip-hop.

6) “Cantaloupe” — Us3. Everything from the post above, but in addition, the track has trumpets. Do you like trumpets? Of course you do. Now enjoy these funky beats.

5) “Tempted” — The Squeeze. JFC, I guess just put the whole soundtrack of Reality Bites on here, with the exception of a couple of tracks (you know the ones).

4) “Axel F” — Harold Faltermeyer. You probably thought it was written and performed by Herbie Hancock … well, it wasn’t. I thought so too until I looked it up for this dumb list.

Released as part of the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack in 1984, it was everywhere that summer along with “The Heat is On.” This is the first song I remember hearing on the radio that didn’t have any lyrics. That was the summer of friends asking friends, do you know the name of that song? Which one? The one that goes doo-doo-doo (you get where I’m going with this). Every time it came on at the pool, the elementary school kids went nuts. Myself included.

3) “Ghostbusters” — Ray Parker Jr. Released in the summer of 1985, I almost didn’t include it on the list because it was really more of a skating rink joint, and I’m in more of a pool vibe here, but its summer greatness is undeniable.

Fight me if you disagree.

Just like Huey Lewis fought Ray Parker Jr. in court for stealing the bass line for “Wanna a New Drug” (and won). I guess I’d prefer to be Huey Lewis in that analogy, and since this is my blog, I am. Deal with it.

2) “The Humpty Dance” — Digital Underground. Released in 1990, “The Humpty Dance” belongs on any best-of list, and that includes this one. Science.

1) “The Way” — Fastball. Released in 1998, this song made me want to move to Austin. Granted I lived in Abilene, TX, a town known mainly for its wind, dirt, and church/human ratio, but I loved the video and really wanted to be able to play the guitar solo (I couldn’t).

So that’s it, folks. The sweet tunes of the summer of 2018, brought to you by a similar mind trust as the programmers of the World Cup. Hope you enjoyed it (both the blog and the sporting event), and feel free stop back by for more pointless articles like this.

Your pal,

Brian

Blog Post #23: The Michael Jordan of Blog Posts - or - What I Learned by Listening This Week

I started listening to Dan Harmon’s Harmontown podcast this week (I know, I know … I’m late to the party, whatever) and was lucky enough to hear a jewel of knowledge from the episode titled “Huh huh huh huh.” I may have missed some “huhs.”

He talked about “Want” vs. “Willing.” What we want versus what we’re willing to do about it.

A lot of us have wants—most of us have wants … OK … maybe all of us have wants. Are our wants realistic, are they too big—too vague? Are they so big and so vague that they keep us from doing anything about them?

“I want world peace.”

Not many people are in a position to change the world as individuals. If you evaluate this want on its face versus what you can do to affect change, you may end up doing nothing. The attitude being, “I want world peace, but there’s nothing I can really do about it, so I’ll just go take a nap.”

However, you might be able to put a dent in that want based on what you’re willing to do about it. “I want world peace, so I’m willing to be nice to people this morning.”

There. Now we’re managing the want. Breaking it down into a bite size morsel that we can do something about. I’m not willing to be nice to people all day—I don’t even know if I can do that. But I can probably handle the morning.

That’s great, Brian, be nice to people—cool takeaway.

OK OK, fair enough (but I’m quoting the podcast, so get off my back, OK).

Maybe if you’re on this blog, you’re a writer, or some other type of creative.

“I want to write a perfect novel.”

OK, good want. Unrealistic, but it’s a natural want. It’s a want that can keep you from doing anything, though. You can’t think of that perfect sentence to start your article, short story, or novel—so you go take a nap … or check Twitter … or go watch TV (you know what you do when you’re distracted, fill in the blank here).

-but-

“I want to write a perfect novel, but I’m willing to sit down and write for an hour this morning. Regardless of quality.”

You’re on your way. You won’t write the perfect novel, let alone chapter in that hour, but you’ll write. You may even fall into a perfect concept. You may construct a perfect sentence. You may create a perfect character.

-or-

You may create a good character—maybe even a great one. You may write a very good chapter.

The point is, you will have written something. Something you can revise and make better, rather than do nothing because you psyched yourself out.

It’s a great methodology to keep the great from being the enemy of the good.

 

Anyway, that’s my bit this week. I listened to a podcast and learned something. I did some other stuff too that maybe you’ll hear about some other time, but for right now, the lesson I learned above wins the space for this week’s blog.

 

PS: Also enjoyed John August’s Launch podcast about his experience of writing, selling, and launching a book as well as Song Exploder. A podcast that has musicians come on and break down songs from how they wrote it, to how it was recorded.

 

Highly recommend both.

Blog Post #22: Short Stories and You

Today I'm here to promote another tab within my own website called "short stories."

I know, it's exciting.

Figured I'd put something here for those who check out the blog every week (thank you, btw) who think I may be slacking. Of course, I'm slacking, but I still managed to get some content up this week, and here it is: https://brian-corley.com/short-stories/

The first post is called The Minotaur in the Cube Maze and I hope you enjoy it. If you like it, feel free to shoot me a note, sign up for my mailing list, or retweet the link on Twitter. You could also mention it to random strangers while waiting in line for coffee, talk to your Uber driver about it ... if you're an Uber driver (or Lyft, they're great too), you could talk to your passengers about it. If you're a lifeguard, you can tell that kid to stop running and "WALK!" Then maybe mention something about this great blog you like to read while you have everyone's attention.

There are a million different ways to talk about the things we love, don't let me pigeon hole you. You do your thing.

Blog Post #20 Take a Look at Me Now

This past week I listened to a thoroughly enjoyable, yet slightly sad This American Life Podcast episode about break ups titled: Break-Up. If you listened to it, it had some great stuff, especially the Puppy Boy bit at the end.

However, the first story has stayed with me all week. The one about a relationship between two people that had a shared affinity for Phil Collins, and during the break-up, she paraphrased the lines from “Against All Odds,” and recited them to her now ex-boyfriend. “How can you just let me walk away? I’m the only one who really knew you at all.”

I know, I know—it’s corny, but it got me.

But then—then! Phil Collins enters during the next scene, and he’s on the phone talking to her about writing Against All Odds and giving her advice on how to write her own break-up song. What???

Maybe it’s hard to understand now, but growing up in the eighties, Phil Collins was a bonafide rock star. Sure, he may have kind of looked like one of your friend’s dad, but he was still cool. Now, all of a sudden, here he is again, back in my life, talking about song writing.

He didn’t have much air time on the show, but it seemed like from the conversation he had with the contributor that he really listened to what she had to say. She was a completely untrained writer. Couldn’t play any instruments, and had never written a song. Still, he gave great advice: simple is better.

I recommend the episode for anyone reading this hoping to get any writing advice, you have to hear it for yourself.

She went on to write a few songs, then collaborated with a couple of people to finally bring the break-up song to life. She was surprised that they picked the song that they did. It was from her “crazy pile,” and didn’t think anyone would read it.

I wonder if it was because it was so simple and straight from the heart, that it seemed easy to write, and she thought that writing had to be harder. Or was it too scary to write, so she didn’t want anyone to read it?

I think as writers, we’ve all had that moment. The moment where we almost delete something because it seems too close, too honest, too strange, too weird, too preachy … but we keep it on the page just in case.

 I think sometimes those are the moments we find our voice.

Where we move past agonizing over a sentence or paragraph because it’s not good enough. We think that there should be flowery words because this writing is forever! Once it’s on the page, we can’t change it.

We freeze ourselves out and cover our real intentions.

I remember the moment where I finally got out of my own way. I was probably two years or so into trying to write songs. I’d start a verse or two, look at it, retool it—replace my vocabulary with fancier words. Read it later, think it was garbage and throw it away.

I’d complete songs here and there, some better than others, but I couldn’t find consistency.

One morning I finally told myself that it can’t all be Shakespeare. Literally those exact words, “It can’t all be Shakespeare.”

That was enough, and I was free.

I just wrote whatever came into my mind from then on and got out of my own way. Some songs were better than others, but I was writing consistently. Some songs flowed out in one piece, that I’d be happy to play, while others—not so much. But after a while, I had a catalog to draw from. I could borrow verses, choruses, and bridges from songs that didn’t work and mash them together to create a Frankenstein’s Monster of mid 90s angst.

It translates to writing short stories and novels too.

That first draft is going to be ugly. So is the second, and the third. Eventually, you’ll get there over time—you just have to make sure you don’t stop yourself. What’s more, it’ll be your voice. You may not sound like Shakespeare, Neil Gaiman, Anne Rice, or Ursula Le Guin, but that’s OK—the world already has their work.

So, there it is, a blog with a great podcast recommendation, and a piece on voice. Also, let me tell you something, Phil Collins’ stuff still holds up.

I’ve had “Against All Odds” in my head all week, and that’s a good thing.

Blog Post #19 LitFest Pasadena (California)

By this time next week, I’ll be done with my first book festival panel. Incredibly excited to participate in the Shades & Shadows event at LitFext Pasadena next Saturday, May 19th. If you live in Southern California and want to make the trip, the event will take place from 8:00-10:00 pm at the address below:

 

Pasadena Playhouse

Friendship Room

39 S El Molino Ave

Pasadena, CA  91101

 

I’ll be reading a passage from Ghost Bully alongside some other great writers from the area. Hope to see you there!

P.S. I know I said there would be dumb jokes and writing tips for this week's blog post, but apparently I'm a huge liar. Sorry.

Blog Post #18: The blog that votes and buys cigarettes.

The Twitter Bug, and what it means for you.

 

Pretty good headline, huh? Disclaimor: I’m not a security expert, but I used to work for a large technology company that talked a lot about cyber security.

Some of us use the same password for everything—it’s easier to remember that way. Maybe you worked hard to create a strong, easy to remember password like Gh0stBullyismyF4vBook100%. Phrases like that are great (better than a password of, say: password). In fact, it’s exactly how you want to think about passwords, so you have a better chance at avoiding bots that are good at guessing those types of things. However, the problem with having one password for everything is that once someone figures it out, they might be able to get into all your other accounts as well.

This week Twitter realized that every user’s password was written into an internal log before completing a masking/hashing process. Meaning that if you knew where to look, you’d see usernames and passwords instead of ####$@$%@#$% or something to that effect. They don’t have an indication that there was a breach, but they’re letting us all know just in case someone else figured it out first or would have … because … of course they would have.

What does this mean?

When a hack occurs, someone or a group of someones figure out how to hack a database. They may know that user: Gh0stBully logs in with the email of BestBookEvarrr@madeupemailserver.com and uses the password: J0n4hSoC00l

Now, they can run a script that tries to log into Facebook, Insta, Twitter … your bank … log in, change the password, and presto-change-O, they’re now you for all intents and purposes. Because a lot of people don’t just use the same password for everything, they also use the same email address a lot of times as well.

Furthermore, it’s not just big companies like Yahoo, Google, or Twitter that get hacked. It could be your favorite blog about, and now your info is out there on the dark web (spooky sounding, right?) for all to see, which is why it’s crucial to have a different password for every site.

But how you say—how in the world could I ever remember all the passwords?

You can’t, probably.

I can’t anyway, so I use a password manager called LastPass. There are a bunch out there, so do your research, but for like thirteen bucks a year, I get super-secure, unique passwords for each site, so I don’t have to freak out if one gets hacked. I just change the password for that site and move on with my morning. Maybe peruse my favorite donut blog, I don’t know.

 

Password managers take some work to set up initially as you go around and load your sites and create new passwords for them all, but afterward, they’ll make your life a lot easier. Just remember to change your password for the password manager periodically … and don’t write it down on a post it and put it on your computer monitor (people really do this)!

TL;DR (Too long; didn’t read)

Twitter found a bug in their system. Change your password and take a look at a password manager if you haven’t already.

Back to dumb jokes and writing tips next week.

Blog Post #17

Another busy week of editing. Additional side quests and revision continues to dominate time spent on book two, so much so that I’ve barely been able to get past chapter twelve so far. I’m confident that the work done up front will all pay off for all of us down the line though (writer, characters, and reader … well, maybe not all the characters).

Talked to a friend about a podcast that could lead to an audiobook for Ghost Bully. Probably premature to write about it here, but why not? We’re thinking a couple of chapters a week that would finish out on Halloween (or the week of), what do you think? Go ahead and @ me wherever you feel like on social media.

Also looking forward to LitFest Pasadena next month, and thinking about which scene(s) to read. Funny, scary, or action? Maybe something that encompasses all three. A little nervous about a public reading, but it’s part of the storytelling gig, and it seems like an incredible event hosted by Shades and Shadows, so I can’t wait.

Blog Post #15

Started the revision process for the second book this past week after letting it sit for about a month. I noticed a difference in my attitude between the first revisions of Ghost Bully, and I’m pleasantly surprised.

I’ll never forget writing (in bold, mind you) The End on my first book. It was exhilarating—I’d done it. To quote Lisa Mangum, I was ready for my “Rich and Famous Contract,” where do I sign? Turns out it doesn’t work out like that for most people.

I’d read plenty of advice from other authors like Neil Gaiman or Jim Butcher that tell us to let our story sit for a while until we forget about it, so I did. Reading Ghost Bully again for the first time, I was horrified to see than many typos (in a dazzling variety), misspelled words, poor grammar, etc.… and that was before I knew what I was really doing wrong. I’d curse myself as I fixed the problems with the prose or dialogue, punching up jokes as I went along, and thinking I’d fixed everything by the time I finished.

Then cursed myself all over again on the next revision.

This past week, I’ve been more forgiving of myself. This time around, I’m treating the manuscript like a piece of scrap metal that needs to be beaten into shape and polished before sending it out into the world. It’s OK if jokes aren’t hitting right now, or parts aren’t connecting like I thought they might … or that I even forgot to put the connections in. I just need to fix the story. It’s a much healthier attitude, and I’m happy I’m in that place … at least at the moment.

I’m also thankful to have a writing group this go-round to give me direction and counsel on how the story is shaping up and ways to improve it.

There’s a lot of work to do between now and the release next year, but I’m excited about doing it. I’ll be revising this thing pretty much non-stop until the Fall, but it will be worth it, and I hope you enjoy it.

*

Also, watched Loaded, the second season of A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Nailed It this week on Netflix. Highly recommend along with The Magicians which ended their season with a bang this past week as well. Fun and well thought out story telling on that show, can’t wait for next season.

Blog Post #14 Hoppy Easter

I’m almost upset when people don’t post “Hoppy Easter” whenever they’re posting pictures of their kids wearing bunny ears … or at all. Hey, this is the one holiday you can make a hilarious play on words with well-wishing … as a group. I suppose you could wish your friend a “Hoppy” Birthday if they were into IPAs or just sprained their ankle and refused to get crutches.

Blog Post #11 (Stranger Things)

Welcome back to another mailbag where I'll take your Qs and throw back some As. Ready? Here we go!

Question #1

Dear Brian,

Would you enable comments on your blog so we can say mean and hateful things?

Signed,

Let The Good Times Troll

 

Dear LTGTT,

I'll think about it.

Brian

Question #2

Dear Brian,

I'm from Germany and your book changed my life! Thank you for writing it.

Signed,

Euro Number One Fan

 

Dear ENOF,

I don't believe you.

Brian

 

Question #3

Dear Brian,

Hiya! I practice judo in Austin, and wanted to see if I could sign up with the Psy-Kicks.

Signed,

Kicking It Old School

 

Dear KIOS,

First off, I see what you did there with the intro, good work. Secondly, they're not real. Sorry.

Your Pal,

Brian

 

Well thanks everybody, glad we were able to get through this without any SmartWool questions--double checking ... nope, no SmartWool questions this week. See you again next time!

 

Welcome to Blog Post #10 ... Brought to You by, SquareSpace!

I don't really have a sponsor, that's just who I pay for this site. I like them though, easy tools to learn, highly recommend.

Anyone watched Ugly Delicious on Netflix? It’s great. Interesting food conversations beautifully shot—the whole nine. This week’s food decisions were heavily influenced by the docuseries—lots of delicious fried food eaten without much balance for health. Time to rectify that this (Sunday) morning with an intense new class at Crush Fitness here in Austin. I’m not looking forward to it (I know it’s going to kick my metaphorical ass), but I am looking forward to switching things up a bit.

Oh … and hey, let me drop this in I finished the rough draft of my next novel! What’s it about? Well, I’m not going to say just yet, but you’ll like it. Probably.

What am I going to do now? Now I’m going to focus on a short story, the first in a series, set in the same universe as Ghost Bully that I hope to have out by this summer. Want more information? Sign up for the mailing list, and I’ll get you exclusive details.

That and editing the new novel—lots of editing. Like the time I spent watching Ugly Delicious? Now probably editing. Time spent watching Mute? Editing. Time spent walking the dogs? Same amount of time on that, I’m not a monster.

So that’s what’s going on with me this week. If you haven’t checked out Ugly Delicious or Mute on Netflix, go ahead and change that and see if you like it. Altered Carbon is amazing too as long as I’m handing out recommendations.

Of course, if you haven’t read Ghost Bully, check that out. If you have, maybe tell a friend. I’d ask you to review it on Amazon and Goodreads because that’s a huge help to independent authors, but that’s just annoying, and I would never annoy you!

Blog Post #9 (The nine-a-ning)

It’s been rainy every day for almost three weeks and my Vitamin D level is low. We don’t experience this much in Central Texas.

BRIAN: I don’t know that I can remember the sun … it’s been weeks. Do you remember? The warmth, the strain on your eyes as you try to focus into the horizon? The light that shines down and illuminates the trees, the flowers … giving life to the plants that produce the very air we breathe.

STARBUCKS CASHIER: Sir, I’m going to need you to push the card all the way in or it won’t read the chip.

BRIAN: Ah yes, chips … do you remember the time before chips?

 

Not much to write about this week, so I figured I’d basically write a long tweet. This is the kind of stuff that keeps people coming back week after week. I know, you’re welcome. Tell you what, let me take this space to do a little author begging. Sales of Ghost Bully have been strong so far, so thank you for that!

If you liked it, please write a review on Amazon or Goodreads.com and tell your friends. That would be a huge help! Appreciate all your support.

Oh, and I’m almost done with the rough draft for the follow up to Ghost Bully, expect it to be done by the end of the month. Right now, the plan is to have that book out in early 2019.

That’s too long to wait you say! Well, I’m sorry, I say! Here’s some other news: I also to expect to have a short story in the Ghost Bully universe out by this summer, so look forward to that!

Blog Post #8

“There is no artistry in perfection.”

 

That’s my favorite take away from this past week. I heard the line while listening to and exchange between Chris Hardwick and John August on the ID10T podcast (formerly Nerdist). I’m not sure if Chris made the statement himself or was quoting William Randolph Hearst regarding tiles within his castle (see, I’m not sure, and I’m not re-listening—artist).

The quote was in reference to tile laid perfectly within the Hearst Castle that WRH had a problem with because it was too perfect. He apparently liked little flaws because he thought it gave the overall look character.

I’ve heard Dave Grohl make similar statements on why he likes to record analog vs. digitally. Keeping some imperfections so that it sounds like humans playing music and not a computer.

This gives me comfort as someone who has told stories his whole life but is starting out as a newbie writer. I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to tell the best story I can.

Sure there are bad tile jobs out there, bad songs, and bad books … but we all have to start somewhere, and we all get better at things as we go along. I’m happy to help amplify Hardwick’s mantra of ‘go make your thing’ because he’s right. Too many times we listen to the voice that tells us we can’t do something. The fact of the matter is you won’t know until you try. So try and make your thing this week. Start on that outline for your first book, or move from the outline to the first sentence. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just start.

Write out that first chorus of your song. It may not be McCartney and Lennon, but that’s OK because we already have their stuff to listen to.

Or go watch a how-to video on youtube and practice with some spare tiles on plywood. Go make your thing.

Blog Post #7 (Launch Week)

I’ve vacillated between writing a deeper dive of the Superstars Writing Seminar from last week and talking about marketing a book once it’s out. After some deliberation, I’ve decided that marketing wins. Marketing always wins.

So for you indie writers out there, or maybe even first time published authors at a traditional house: you’ve written your first book, now what?

Well, now it’s time to get some advance reviews, prime the sales pump with Facebook and Amazon ads, and come up with a bunch of hilarious tweets and ‘grams to wow the world with your imagination. So did I do any of that? Eh, some. I wish I did more, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

For example, I didn’t know how long it took for Amazon ads to catch on and take off. Frankly, I’m still not sure. I read a book by Brian Meeks on how to price and position, but the average bid has increased significantly since he wrote his book. So what now? Option one is to throw my hands up in despair, which is tempting, but not particularly effective. Option two is to dig in and try new things.

I’m not sure how effective Facebook ads are, but marketing has a cumulative effect. It’s not like everyone is going to see an ad one time and buy your product, regardless of how great it is (you know, like my book: Ghost Bully). Facebook allows you to target your ad, to your audience, worldwide. There’s value to that, and I just need to figure out how to mine it. My ‘one click down’ lesson so far has been to make sure to link the appropriate Amazon site to the country (e.g., Amazon.ca to Canada, Amazon.co.uk to the UK … you get where I’m going with this).

I thought it would be cool to make a ‘band poster’ to advertise the book in places where people wait around in line for great food (like the Soup Peddler or Moonlight Bakery) and in coffee shops … wherever you’d see a band poster. Surprisingly, that’s been pretty effective … moreso than the Facebook ads so far.

So the net of all this is, I’m not sure what will work, and what won’t work. I’ve done my homework on how to position everything above. Read tips and tricks for ad optimization, spend, etc.… even floated up my own ideas. It’s only been a week since the book has officially been out, so we’ll see.

My main takeaway so far is that I need to keep writing everyday, regardless of what happens. That second book is going to be ready by next year at the same time. When I have nervous energy, I can go do something about it (hang posters, write a blog post, draft my version of a hilarious tweet … whatever). Ultimately, the work will speak for itself, but in the meantime, I need to endeavor to get it in as many hands (and minds) as possible.

If you enjoyed Ghost Bully, you can help too. Put up a review on Amazon or Goodreads, print out the poster from the Street Team tab and hang it up at your favorite place that has a bulletin board, or just tell a friend.

Blog Post #6 (The most creative title yet)

I’m writing today’s post between bouts of packing up my hotel room after spending the past week in Colorado Springs at the Superstars of Writing Seminar. I learned a ton, met a lot of talented people, and did my best to stay hydrated in the high altitude.

It was time and money well spent if not just for the craft day query letter and logline seminar with Lisa Mangum or the tip from a Tribe (that’s what attendees call ourselves) member to use https://www.yasiv.com/ to help maximize my marketing dollar.

I’ll write more on lessons learned and key takeaways in future posts, but for now, I have a plane to catch!