bITS 'N CHUNKS
Well shipmates, rather unexpectedly I have a brand new piece of unblemished fiction for you this year!
It's been quite a long time since I've entered the 36th Chamber of fiction publication, as I've bemoaned a few times in the past whilst I try to get my act together. Things are coming along pretty well but there are some things that just never change.
Submitted here for your approval is an anthology submission from last year that ultimately got the axe for length; I don't have any further plans for it as it stands so I'm passing on the savings to you. It's fanfiction so it's a little bit of a cheat in that regard Yes, I have an AO3 account but I'm kind of hiding from that right now. And as a fanfic it automatically warrants a NSFW warning.
The time is upon us once again!
"Fall? Libra season?" you say.
It is HALLOWEEN MONTH motherf!kers!
The time of year when hopefully we can all breathe a little easier and stretch our leathery wings, be free!
I have a lot of events coming up and I'm going to do my best to blog them here and other places that may want them, sometimes even if they don't. And you know I have a bevy of bullshit in the form of intense Halloween film scrutiny coming up as well. I have some "normal" posts to get out of the way, and from there on out we are nothing but Southern Underground Pro, Lucha Underground recaps, and all spooky biz all the time.
In the mean time, did you know I was recently a podcast guest? Catch me talking to my dear friend Raymond Johnson on Sex Out Loud radio (we'll call it radio!) this past Friday (9/22). Join us discussing some recent Twitter drama, Afropunk shenanigans, queer dating, and more! We don't get terribly explicit but there is a little shit talk and swearing so please be forewarned!
Also, can we just rewind to the time when I wrote a retrospective on the Sharknado franchise and it went low key viral lol.
This is really what it looks like when you take shit into your own hands, you know? Check out my (consistently, y'all) updated Body of Work page for more places I'm at when I'm not here, and definitely keep up on social media (twitter: @xenoxands & instagram @neutralcabal). This year, we'll be doing it real big so stay tuned.
Well, it's time to get back in the swing of things.
Look, I don't know where inspiration comes from. 'K? I don't care. As I think I've explained previously, I don't get too sentimental about my writing process. For me personally, I have to just do it. I can't really go hunting for clues because I'll exhaust my brain and quit.
Well, at some point, I had kind of quit.
I hope we all know at this point Alfred Hitchcock was... well, to say problematic skirts the issue of him being fucking terrible. To women, to coworkers, to his actors. He was like Kubrick x 1000 and Kubrick was no slouch. Hitchcock also happens to be my personal guide when it comes to writing and manipulation of fiction, so to say I've mentally canceled him or something isn't true either. Pairing the two is difficult in my mind sometimes. But Hitchcock (and Welles, and Kubrick, and...) was a notoriously difficult and meticulous man and would often fall into bouts of depression when he was done planning production and had to get to the actual directing bit. The directing bit wasn't challenging. I feel that.
I don't ask where inspiration comes from because that's the hard part. Writing, not so much. I've had so little and have been so mentally scattered. So when inspiration cropped up in a potential zine contribution, right or wrong goddamnit I took it and ran with it.
And so, I began to... write. I started on that project, first. Didn't like it, will table that one. But I decided in my head that I would finish a project I had started a while ago. Wasn't a fresh idea but it fit the criteria and, well, I need to finish it.
I went from that project to another in dissatisfaction and awe, and decided I finally had some time to shove a few things off my desk. But how to get back into something you haven't looked at for almost a year? How to recapture the mood? How to get to the ending I've long since forgotten since I live my life on the square and I don't write my endings?
(I really don't write my endings)
I decided on music. I would play a little mood music to recapture the mood. Not the music I was listening to at the time because I really don't remember and I kind of don't care. Just... music. After a while, I found myself listening to or thinking about the same things over and over. I made a quick experimental playlist of what's been getting me through chapters. When I'm ready again, another?
I am very excited about Alice in Chains's new album Rainier Fog, their first in over 5 (!) years released last month. But before we get to that, walk with me a second here.
As writers and maybe creatives in general, we are bad at externalizing things and great at internalizing. We have all felt the weight of frustration that we are not making a living doing the Thing That We Do full time; meanwhile we project the image that it's okay. It's fine. You work your way up the ladder. We give each other pep talks and advice while internalizing the comments of others not within the industry.
The thing is, though, we are bad at normalizing that very thing. I'm willing to bet a lot of us have day jobs that have nothing to do with creative endeavors; and if you're one of the lucky ones that was able to parlay your passion into a career. That's great. Both sides of this are fine but we need to normalize one of these things.
I'll start. Hi, I'm not the mythical hellbeast I wish I was. I'm actually currently working in the financial sector while I'm still staying afloat with freelance writing. That's fine but sometimes I admit it's not. It's very hard knowing that the thing I want to do most doesn't always pay consistently, whereas my day job is just a day job. And as my city goes through the growing pains with costs of living outpacing wage increase and bills keep stacking up higher, it gets really hard to fathom going back to a time where I could work on fiction undisturbed and swing high profile rejections like, "that's okay, I'll get em next time". In fact, no. It's really discouraging, fam.
The job affords me benefits and the ability to take care of myself, my family, and a herd of cats. Writing brings me joy. I have the ability to increase my profile when things are going well and I'm steady. But I can't act like things don't get a little funky sometimes. I can't act like I don't wish it was more. I can't act like sometimes I just don't have the strength to keep trying and I wonder what it would be look like if I didn't.
I'm not always steady. As a human being, I'm not immune to taking serious Ls from life as I've alluded to previously. Those Ls have slowed down my contributions to my own site and the others I write for. That's all okay, except when it's not. The truth is, as much as I'd like to have a complete breakdown and get past the Anger stage of grief over my turbulent situation this year (and believe you me whether I want them to happen or not, those meltdowns came), my bills don't stop because I'm depressed. My obligations do not slow down because shit is tough. Those things are... not okay but to put it best it kind of is what it is right now.
That's the part I'm trying to get to. Normalizing real ass experiences that color our world. Things aren't fair and they suck and then sometimes they suck a lot. A lot of the success stories you see are just that... success. And stories. Theirs, not ours all the time.
Alice in Chains was the biggest band in the world to me when I was little, right up there in my metal pantheon with Megadeth, Metallica (I know), Judas Priest, etc etc... and Pearl Jam! Even into teenagerdom I couldn't imagine them struggling, even after Layne tragically died I didn't really comprehend what all went into keeping an artistic dream alive. There's a lot to be said about de-mystifying things. Some people need the drama and allure, and some people need to hear the truth but maybe slant. It was okay that I was living a mild delusion about one of my favorite bands and I had no concept of how tough the music business is because, well, I wasn't in the biz nor was I trying to be.
Jerry Cantrell's solo album Degradation Trip came out in June 2002 and in my young life I had seldom been readier for an album release. One of my favorite singers had died, the band was over, Boggy Depot was pretty dope but I was interested to see what Jerry was going to do on his own, so to speak. Back in those days (and still now) I read a lot of music journalism and I love artistic insight interviews. What do these songs mean? What are the lyrics? Where and why did you write them?
You know how things, sometimes, get lodged in your brain and you think about them for days or years? To this day, I still think of an interview from around that time that I glimpsed, off hand. It wasn't in a big magazine. I actually had to hunt it down with the help of Wikipedia and the Way Back Machine because I know I saw the damn thing. Jerry is a pretty open guy and this humble but brutal interview with NY Daily News contains several takeaways about how difficult making this album was, emotionally and financially. Nestled almost like an accident amongst the information in the short article -- so scant I had to Ctrl+F the damn thing -- is this line:
In fact, it cut off his funding while the album was being recorded and Cantrell mortgaged his house to keep it going.
I thought: wait a second. That can't be true. Mortgaged his fucking house? At that age, I couldn't really grapple with the severity of that statement but I felt it. So that's what it takes? From then on, I really started reading behind the scenes interviews with my favorite authors and musicians. I mean, really started paying attention. I listened. Rather than the de-mystification breaking any illusions of an easy life I had, I actually respected and appreciated the honesty. I started turning away from anything fake and superficial and that represented my break from a few ideals.
So here we are, all these years later and I'm asking myself to do the same. Can I still respect myself and preserver through perceived failures? I listen to Rainier Fog and I hear the weariness. It's a kind of weary that only gets more intense with age, tempered by hope and optimism but always with skepticism and self-deprecation hiding behind it with a garrote. There's a bit of passive anger as well as we scream in shock and shake our fists at world events that keep blossoming to horror.
There's a lot of things we don't understand until we hit a certain high, a certain bottom, or a certain age. Pre-teen me didn't understand the concept of home ownership let alone borrowing money off the house (way, way pre-recession) to fund a studio album that may not even show returns. Who could care that much? I do. Someone does. It's in you and you care. But we've got to stop beating ourselves up and consistently not do it.
The album? I love it. Not quite as hooky Black Gives Way to Blue and not as loud as The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, but it sure is a record for when you're going through some serious shit or walk your way out of it. And I wish you well.
Hello, it's me again, the owner of this site.
Well shipmates, it's been quite a wild ride these past few months. I lost my day job, regained a day job, lost that day job, took a vacation for a while. I was not really in a position to do all that, but for the sake of my mental health I had to do that.
In that time, I did work. I wrote. I did a little something something. I went to wrestling again. I disappointed myself. I read. I maintained the illusion of productivity and when I screamed and tore that all down, I did absolutely nothing. And I can't say I didn't enjoy it.
But let's talk about a... weird experience that I didn't really get into at the beginning of the year.
So a while ago, I did a The Biz post on paid in exposure versus paid in cash. In that post, hopefully I expounded that I'm a little more lax in my ideas of writers getting "paid" in exposure. Does it always work? Not really. You get your name out there in front of someone, but being paid for your efforts and labor is a lot better than not. But I do believe the question then and always is, how the hell do you stop getting paid in dust?
It's... hard. And in 2018 the year of our lord, I feel like I'm back to square one with that position.
I've taken a gamble on volunteer contributions. Generally these are projects I strongly believe in and are fun to do for me. These blogs are free, obviously. Recently, if you don't follow me on social media, you may not know that I've been doing recaps of Lucha Underground for Blerds Online. If you've tumbled by my space recently, you'll know that I love wrestling. Scratch that, you'll know that I fucking love wrestling. I've enjoyed the challenge of recapping a television show, something I've seldom done... and a balls to walls wrestling show at that. I feel like I would like to do that in the future, but for now I'm just trying to finish the end of the season.
I do other blog projects for free, too. I have no real expectation of getting paid in that arena. I'm glad to offer my expertise and get a few new eyes on me in the process, and try something different.
But what happens... marginalized folks, feel me on this. What happens when you're the token? What happens when conditions and terms aren't clear?
There was an article I contributed to a site a while ago. I very much believed in this project and it was an analysis that I wanted to contribute, but per the site guidelines and owner themselves I was kind of expecting some money. In the course of hashing it out with the editor, I noted that not a single time did we ever discuss online payment. The obvious answer is because: it wasn't happening. There was a bit of fine print that wasn't explained to me. And because my contribution was a website blog, I would get a gift package as a compensation (which I never received, mind you). I'm not afraid of naming and shaming but in this case I'd rather not, I have a strong suspicion that no one's really submitting to that place. Plus, I kind of did on social media already. Whoops!
Another one I'm not about to name is... well, you ever get paid for something then quickly realize it was penance? Kind of like how people will eat a shitty diet consistently then turn around and drink a gallon of water and assume it'll purify them? I submitted a piece to a popular satirical news site because they were looking for black writers. I fit that bill. News writing isn't really my thing, but I decided to swing at it. Plus, they paid. Oh, they paid alright. In the end, they paid for my blackness, never published the piece (to be fair, it was pretty niche), then hired two black staff writers right behind me so they didn't need me anymore.
Why would I tell that story? Because it's whiteness at work. It's confusion. It's so long & thanks for all the fish, but I didn't really need it. You know? That was my first time feeling tokenized in a very long time and I was happy to forget how gross it felt up until that point.
I'm fine. I keep trying, of course. I try not to burn bridges, but the Leo/Aquarius combo in me sometimes just can't keep it chill. And I want you to know, too. All I can say is... be careful.
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...