When You Try To Acheive Your Goals, You Better Have A Plan B

 I've been getting asked a lot about when the next book is coming out. 

The truth is, I already wrote my second book. It just has someone else's name on it and will be in stores next year. 

And like Forest Gump used to say, "And that's all I have to say about that". (Legally I also can't say anything more than that.)

But. When is the next book coming out with my name on it? That's ... Well, the answer is complicated. I'm going to tell you why, and I hope in doing so I can convey to you the importance of having a backup plan. 

Especially when you want to do something that's risky. Like say, write fiction. Or launch your own product. Or start your own business. You get the idea.

You should, without hesitation, pursue your goals and dreams. I really do believe that, and I'm a coldhearted atheist who agrees with Maya Angelou and thinks this world is bullshit. (Or was it Fiona Apple who said that? No, wait. It was definitely Fiona Apple.)

But. But. But. But. But.

You should NOT do so without a backup plan. 

Because seriously. Shit can go wrong in a hurry, and you and I both know the game is rigged against 99.9% of us. 

So even if you make or pitch the BEST THING EVER!!!!!!!!!!! It may not matter because you didn't graduate from Stanford, or because your Dad didn't know this other guy's Dad, and on and on and on. 

You know what I'm talking about. The deck is stacked against you.

So, I am a huge believer that you should lead by example. 

Trust me, if you've spent the amount of time I have in the world of advertising and marketing, there is a real lack of people who do that. As there is in most places, and it's disheartening. But I'm not going to be one of those people. I got my own plans and my own Plan B. 

Let me tell you about them.

Vengeance, Nevada

I've talked about "Vengeance, Nevada" a few times on this blog, but this is the first time I've really tied it into the "big picture". So here it goes ...

I'm starting a two year program at the University at Buffalo this month.

There's a lot of reasons for this. They're not terribly important, unless you want to hear about people dying and getting divorced and meeting someone you like and letting them slip through your fingers. You know, depressing bullshit. We're going to skip all that.

What is important, to you, is that this is my Plan B. I'm leading by example.

Over the course of the next year, I'm going to write and self-publish "Vengeance, Nevada". It'll be out not long after the Spring semester finishes. 

So, when is my next book coming out? June of 2016. 

If "Vengeance, Nevada" does well, then in June of 2016 I'll make a decision. 

If the book doesn't make any money, then I'll continue into the second year of the two year program at UB.

If the book does well, then I'll press the pause button on grad school.

That's year one. If you make a Plan, it's good to have a short term goal (in this case, self-publish "Vengeance Nevada" by June of 2016), and then a long term goal. 

In this case, the long term goal is to move to LA and work in the movie industry.

So,let's say the book comes out and doesn't do well. That's ok. Now we go for the second part, the long term part, of the plan.

Option two is that by the end of my second and final year of school, I write (at least) three movie scripts and pitch them through my friends and associates to get them to agents out in LA.

Do they sell? Awesome! If not? Ok too!

Why is that ok? I got my backup plan. 

In June of '17, I will take my awesome degree and go out to LA anyway, with the ability to get a fun job working with college students as soon as the final semester concludes.

Thus completing one of my other objectives in life to never, ever, talk about marketing again. Seriously. By June of 2017, if I'm still talking about marketing, one of you has my full permission to kick my ass.

Keep It Simple

I have very basic goals here. I want to live in LA. I want to make and work on movies. Period. The Plan B (the degree from UB) gets me to LA no matter what.

So no matter what, that part of the goal is achieved. 

The other part, being a fiction writer who sells enough books to make a living, is risky. It's not easy to do, so I'm going to take a shot at it while making sure my backup plan is in place.

You should take your shot, and if you miss? That's totally fine. I don't mean that in the phony startup world's "embrace failure" kind of way. I mean it in a, "You took your shot and you missed. At least you took it. Now you've got this backup plan, and everything is going to be ok.

The difference is that it's easy to tell people to "embrace failure" when you're pissing away other people's money. But when it's your money, your life, and your wallet on the line, you should absolutely have a backup plan.

I hope you will never need it, but it's there if you do.

(Image Credit: The city of Buffalo comes from Wikimedia Commons)

Everybody Hates Adam Sandler (But It's Not Why You Think)

I'm not an Adam Sandler fan. I guess I should tell you that upfront. However, I can smell a pageview pile on from miles away, and that's exactly what's going on lately with the guy. So much so that I'm starting to feel bad.

I'm all for mocking celebrities, but at the same time, I want to know what's fueling it. Am I making fun of the guy because I have something funny or unique to say about him? Or am I making fun of him because it's fueling my disgusting and societally corrosive business model? If it's something unique and funny, then by all means make fun. But ...

Guess which one is going on here?

Without repeating too much of what I've been saying since 2009, (just read the book) the online media rarely covers stuff just to cover stuff. Or because they have an opinion they want to share with you simply because that's their opinion too.

That's why you see Last Week Tonight clips posted every Monday morning, but no one doing the kind of reporting and presentation that leads to those clips being posted in the first place. It's the path of least resistance and maximum (pageview) value. No work. All reward.

There's a lot of reasons for this, and they're all dumb and boring.

 tl;dr, go get yourself AdBlock Plus or one of the other adblockers and you'll be doing the world a favor.

The faster the ad dollars for pageviews business model dies, the sooner we as a society win. 

As far as Sandler goes, making fun of the guy and his awful movies is now like making a Nickelback joke. There's nothing especially funny to it, you just make the joke because you know it's safe and won't offend anyone. "Ha Ha! I hate the things you hate!"

I call this a "Safe Take". 

Bloggers / journalists write in such a way now, thanks to the pageview business model, that they take the safest position possible when talking to the audience.*

 This way no one is offended, especially the advertisers, and the blogger / journalist can sound like they're your friend and not someone feeding a giant shitty company who doesn't actually care about you at all.

"I'm your friend. I like all the things you like, or at least what I think you like thanks to Google Trends. But wait, what's this, opinion is changing on this thing you like. I don't like it anymore. Booo! Let's boo this thing together!"

That's seriously how most bloggers / journalists working for pageview driven outlets sound like now. There's no personality. There's no individuality. It's just this Faux Friendly, safe position voice that's being used to present you stuff that (usually) other people reported on first.

Adam Sandler makes bad movies. This has been true since the '90s. It's not news. It's not new. But because I guess Nickelback jokes are passe, we need someone else to pile on, and the pageview driven media has found their guy.

So why are we making fun of the guy? It's not because "Pixels" sucks. (It does, but did anyone seriously think it wouldn't?), it's because making fun of Adam Sandler is good for business.

*The only time a journalist / blogger will take a position on something is when they're doing a "hot take". If you ever go to Salon.com, and you shouldn't, basically everything on there is a hot take meant to antagonize or piss you off. The idea being that you will 1) Share the thing that pissed you off / agreed with and 2) That they'll piss off so many people that what they said will generate a ton of pageviews and coverage from other media outlets.

(Image Credit: SomethingAwful.com)

This Spot On Impression Of Bray Wyatt Perfectly Sums Up The Whole Hulk Hogan Thing

If you don't watch WWE anymore, or have never watched it but are familiar with the Undertaker character, Bray Wyatt is basically the new Undertaker.

In this Funny or Die video, this guy does a spot on impression of Bray Wyatt, and then completely sums up the entire situation between Hulk Hogan and Gawker and the release of the private (but no less disgusting) racist comments Hogan made on that tape.

You Ever See A Boxer Dance With A Rose In His Mouth?

I'm not going to lie, I'd pay so much money to watch a parody of ESPN 30 for 30 that was based entirely around Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!

Until such a thing exists, the following video comes pretty damn close.

P.S. I can't speak to the Virtual Console experience on the Wii U, but the Virtual Console experience on the Wii concerning Punch-Out!! was awful. The lag made certain opponents (i.e. the world's oldest twenty-seven-year-old at the end of this video) impossible to beat.

I don't really play games much anymore, but I'm awfully tempted to track down an (operational) NES and copy of Punch-Out!! to play. You should do the same. It's a blast, as opposed to most games today, where you have to continuously cough up money, otherwise your enjoyment will immediately evaporate and be replaced with a filthy pool of despair. 

The latest Magic: The Gathering Duels is a great example of that.

White Italian Plumbers Can't Jump

I remember being really excited for this movie when it came out. Granted, I was in Elementary School, and I thought my Magic: The Gathering cards were worthless (D'oh!), so what did I know?

There was even a magazine that was filled with nothing but glossy photos from the set of the movie. I carried it around everywhere for a month. No idea what happened to it, but I'm betting it's in the same place now as my dignity.

Anyway, here's an honest trailer for the Super Mario Bros. movie. A movie that you'd think is the worst video game movie ever made, until you remember there was also a Double Dragon film.

And oh man, you do not want to remember that there was a Double Dragon film.

The Dilemma Of The Modern Writer (And Pretty Much Everyone Else)

I have this philosophy with blogs that goes like this: You should never blog (or post a status update on a social network) unless you have something to say and a goal to achieve.

So, let me give you an example of what I mean:

I saw Ant-Man this weekend. It's entirely forgettable but enjoyable. I could not tell you, less than day watching it, what happened in it beyond that I enjoyed it when I saw it.

Why would I share that with you? Why would anyone care? What do I get out of sharing that with you?

Not a lot. I'm just stealing time from people and filling this quiet void that doesn't need to be filled.

Unless ...

Unless I tell you my goal is to make a movie involving a superhero (Liberty), and I'm citing other superhero movies here both to entertain you and to make mental notes of mistakes that were made and things that were done that I really liked.

Then what I'm telling you has context and a point.

Having a point, for the reader, is important, because if you can't answer the question for them of "Why am I reading this?" Then the simple answer is that they shouldn't be. (That's true for a lot of things. If the customer / person you're interacting with doesn't get a good answer to "What's in it for me?" then there's little chance they'll continue interacting with you.)

Of course, when you're a writer though, we work in a dumb industry.

Publishers (just as an example, but you can easily replace "Publishers" here with "The Media" or some other company, especially in anything that qualifies as the "entertainment industry") want to see that you have some kind of presence. That includes blogging frequently. Even if you have nothing interesting to say.

This leads to a lot of noise pollution, and some of it is pretty bad. 

There's nothing you can do about this. It's just what happens when an industry hasn't realized that most of the online metrics of success are totally meaningless and easily gamed. Not to mention, the total ignoring of a simple and true philosophy that's been demonstrated again and again and again: If something is popular offline, it is popular online. It's rare that the reverse is true unless there's some kind of interference (a celebrity, the media, ect.)

The reason for this is also kind of simple when you think about it: People's networks are generally very small and information, unless it's something bad or negative, doesn't travel very far. So online or off, there needs to be some kind of amplification, and that doesn't happen simply because you have Twitter. Usually the amplifying effect belongs to the realm of the well connected or wealthy. (See: The Big Club.)

Publishers / The Media / Whomever expect you to have great numbers, but in order to get those great numbers, you're either published or about to be published and there's interest in you.

 (No interest? No traffic, which is why no one is reading your blog or listening to your podcast or watching your YouTube channel. If you want that stuff, you need to generate interest, and that usually means getting published or about to be published as a writer or getting a lot of press coverage some other way.)

So, you start a blog because of this dumb obligation created by nice people who don't know any better because members of The Big Club and the media have decided this fiction they're backing is unquestionably true. There is too much money to be gained from it. 

(P.S. It was alleged by a lot of authors who covered the first Dot Com Bubble that the journalists writing about those companies also owned shares in the companies they were praising. I don't know if that's true, but I'd suspect it was. Also today, a lot of journalists covering tech companies tend to leave media outlets to work FOR those tech companies, so even if they don't have shares in them today, there's certainly an interest on their part to not say anything that'd challenge them or the myths they create.)

What should you do?

Look at the industry you want to work in. If the industry has some expectation that you produce "content" (I hate that word), then you have to produce content. There is no choice. Not until you break in, become famous, and can do whatever you want. Just ask "Game of Thrones" author George R. R. Martin, who still uses LiveJournal.

If there is no expectation, than I'd suggest to stay quiet and not post any status updates or blog posts. Because the odds are good that for every ten posts that you create, as innocuous as nine of them are, that tenth one could come back and bite you in the ass. If you want to share your opinion with your friends, text them instead. A funny blog post or Facebook status won't be so funny if you lose your job or ruin your career over it.

Especially when you have predatory companies like Buzzfeed and Gawker (among numerous others) looking to generate pageviews by faking controversy and using your post / status update as the eye of the storm they're creating to please their advertisers.

(Image source and credit)

Come Listen To The "Vengeance, Nevada" Playlist (Version 1)

If you use Spotify, you can listen to the playlist in its entirety right here.

If you don't use Spotify (shame on you), here is the playlist with the songs and artists for you to check out and purchase / pirate on your own.

The songs and their relationship with the story won't make much sense now, but it's a fun playlist anyway. I will tell you that everything ties into the story somehow either in terms of lyrics referring to things that happen or the song itself representing something going on. 

Originally the soundtrack was very country music heavy, but the Trace Adkins song is the only one left from that version of it. Then it was a '60s based soundtrack, and a few tracks survived from that (they're hard to miss below). The one below is the final version that was put together after the outline of the story was finished.

So, when Vengeance, Nevada comes out for you to purchase this Fall for $0.99, you can see how the playlist matches up with the story and listen to it while you're reading.

And, because I'm a child of the '90s and still remember using overpriced stereo equipment to tape stuff from one cassette tape to another, or from the radio to a cassette, the playlist is split into two parts. Just like the old days.

Side A

Sands Of Nevada (Mark Knoplfer)

This Summer Is Gonna Hurt Like A Mother Fucker (Maroon 5) 

House of the Rising Sun (The Animals)

Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash)

Red Eyes (The War On Drugs)

God Only Knows (The Beach Boys)

Hearts Like Ours (The Naked And The Famous)

Shut Up And Dance (Walk The Moon)

Arlington (Trace Adkins)

Side B

Calamity Song (The Decemberists)

Algiers (The Afghan Whigs) 

Cough Syrup (Young The Giant)

The Times They Are A-Changin (Bob Dylan)

Midnight City (M83)

The Legend Of Chavo Guerrero (The Mountain Goats)

MoneyGrabber (Fitz and the Tantrums)

How Far We've Come (Matchbox Twenty)

(The Walkmen above is the exact one I owned and used until 2000 when I got one of those MP3 CD Players.)

P.S. I may shift, add, or subtract songs from this list as I'm writing this. Every so often I'll check in and post a revised version if you're not following along on Spotify.

Writers Do The Work

There is no shortage of books about Las Vegas. But when you go looking for books about the history of Nevada itself? There's not a whole lot to choose from.

So, I went with a book that's been used in high school and college classrooms across the state. 

I can't speak for other writers, nor would I ever pretend to do so, but if you're going to write about an existing thing, you should know everything you possibly can about it. At least that's my attitude.

So with Vengeance, Nevada (the short story I'm working on), I want to know everything I can about some of the less populated corners of the state since that's where the story would take place.

I was just out in Vegas a couple of months ago, but I may wind up taking a trip out to Reno and going for a drive into the outer regions of the area just to get a visual on it. If I do, I'll take a whole lot of pictures and share them here on this blog.

The nice thing about my graduate school schedule is that I have Thursday through Sunday off, so I could theoretically fly out Thursday morning, get settled in that day, and then go out Friday and Saturday to check things out before coming back Saturday night or Sunday morning.

We'll see how that works out, but I'm very much into the research phase of things, and hopefully I can convince more than a few of you to be as proactive as I'm being when it comes to research for a fictional story.

Then again, I've never actually written a completed fiction story, so I'm not so sure I'm the best guy to talk to about this.

(Liberty doesn't count because it's a 22 page comic, and that may sound like a lot, but you find real fast that when you're plotting out a comic, you have way less room than you think in each issue because of the way things are paced.)