The Buzz-Saw

Setting out on a mission of revenge, the hero is told to dig two graves. One for the villain and one for himself. When setting out on a mission of self-promotion I have learned to dig eight graves.

One for me, one for my dignity, one for my pride, one for that random werewolf that always attacks me, two for anxiety because that sucker is portly and depression resurrects him on the regular. Two more just because I like digging. And the eighth grave for this entire metaphor.

So, to whit: anxiety is getting out of the grave, but I defeat the werewolf?

This is my problem, you see? I’m a writer and a communicator, but my preambles are deadly. Weaponized elocution right here.

I’m the self-published author of two fantasy novels. And promoting your self is part and parcel of the experience — and something that more and more people are becoming familiar with. You can’t wander into any social media space without seeing people hawking and flogging everything from albums to alcoholic cookies. It’s something that innumerable people will offer to instruct you on in never-ending neon-rimmed posts on Twitter and FB. As the arsenal of marketing feels ever more at our fingertips, it becomes easier and easier to feel dumb for not doing it right.

I feel pretty dumb.

But this really isn’t about self-promotion. It’s about the buzz-saw.

So you make a thing. A book, a record, a drawing, a video. And then you pick it up Buzz_sawin your arms and you look at it. You like it. It’s got problems, sure, but it’s a good thing. But now you have to get that thing to other people. Fortunately, the human race has equipped itself with the most potent communication tool in history. So you put it up.

And nothing happens. Except you walk right into the buzz-saw. The deafening un-sound of one droplet in a rainstorm.

You bring the thing up at parties. In casual conversations, in careful status updates designed to hide the sales payload, in fervent harangues over too much beer, you put it up. And nothing happens. The buzz-saw whirs and more sawdust flies off of you.

There is a certain weight you need to carry your thing forward. A certain percentage of your psyche you need at fighting form. The buzz-saw cuts that weight off you. If you’re not careful you are splinters before you realize it.

You put it up again. You read guides, you watch YouTube videos, you go to conferences. Everyone tells you how to carry the thing. How to get the thing to the other people. The buzz-saw whirs. You put the thing up three times a day, five times, ten. You blog-hop and tweet and podcast and jibber. You find sawdust in your pockets and crammed in the crevice of your car’s console. You can’t use the cup holder anymore there’s so much of it falling off you.

A lot of nights it’s just you and the thing. Huddled under the brown comforter and thumbing your phone through the endless places you want the thing to be. Wistfully weighing other people’s things — things no better or worse than your thing! — and feeling the buzz-saw bite.

And you can’t stop. Not now, not ever. Because if you do, no one else will carry the thing. That light will go out and not even the dark will notice.

So you keep walking into the buzz-saw. People help you of course, it’s not all disintegration. A new review, a friendly word, someone makes a thing because of your thing [!], you get a great idea for a new thing, or a new part of the old thing, or an old thing you can do in a new way. There’s a lot of us on this side of the lumber mill and you take strength from swapping scar-stories. I’m always astonished by those that live in the teeth of the buzz-saw, mashing those buttons with fever intensity. We all roll our eyes — but I also quietly give them the gunslinger nod. They are stronger than I or less fragile or just made of more wood.

I am mostly sawdust. I am chicken-shit. I barely get touched by those metal fangs and I’m reeling back on the ropes. But — and this is the important bit — I don’t stop. At least not yet. At least not yet.

So to all who press against the buzz-saw, with their thing cradled carefully in their arms, I salute you. To all those who cannot or will not press on, I salute you. To all the things, a toast. May we all pass the metal destroyer and watch our things fly beyond us into a wider world.

[This originally appeared on Medium – is anyone else over there? I don’t really know what that place is for, if you’re over there could you help me figure it out?

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The Lines II

Puimun/DevianArt
Puimun/DevianArt

Lucas played the lines.

It was easy at first. So simple, bone simple, blood simple, like blinking or drinking or building a nest. He pressed the keys and the the light was there, the music to spare, he connected dots in the dark while the masked man gibbered softly in his ear.

The melody of connection -of this like that – of short, lean, and fat. He could see the Under of things, the Hidden Heart of springs, the Secret tick of the clock in his grandmother’s parlor. Fingertips on keys, black and white, a stone piano singing in the quiet.

And how fine the lines were.

At first he drew them carefully and all one color of light. Bright yellow, fat as a caterpillar daydream, he could still see them when he shut his eyes. The faces of his friends reflected their delight in his beams of wild gold. The dots, the nodes they glowed, like planets brought into alignment, the way that Star Prophet  promised. It was so easy, like squalling off a log, easy as nigh, sundown and moon-mad.

Bold as brass, he changed the lines. Still true, and still bright. But blue and green and red and octavian orange. Big lines, small lines, razor-wire net of thought and light that spread around him like a symphony. He became a wizard, singing the lines, playing the times forever and ever dancing in the dark of things.

And still the man in the mask laughed, right behind his left ear. He could feel the man’s breath on his shoulder, the cold hands hovering when he slept.

Sometimes he would stop. Let the lines fade and let his eyes adjust to the dark. And then the man would hit him until the blood flowed.

“Play the lines, Lucas!” the masked man would howl. “Play them and play them right.”

And so he would play. He would play when his fingers hated the keys and  his heart bled the piano. It was so easy, like dying, like staunching a wound.

It was so hard.

Lucas played the lines and the dark crept closer. No matter how bright, no matter how many new colors he found, it crept closer. The masked man pressed near as a lover and whispered in his ear. Lucas loved the masked man. Lucas hated the masked man. Lucas needed the masked man.

Lucas played the lines. Who was he if he did not? Lucas loved the lines. Lucas hated the lines. Lucas needed the lines.

The masked man giggled softly in the dark and his cold hands slid down his arms and tapped a quiet rhythm on Lucas’ knuckles.

“One day you won’t play the lines, Lucas,” the oil-slick tone came from the mask. “One day you won’t play them right. You won’t play them quick enough, you won’t be sure and you won’t be fast. You’ll stumble in the dark and then I’ll have you. I’ll have you my beautiful boy and drag you down into the river, oh the river, oh the river…”

Lucas played the lines and wept. He played the lines and slept. Amongst the dark he wove and shone, he kept playing riddle and bone. Song and sorrow, ring and stone, forgotten music he played alone.

And the masked man laughed.

And Lucas played the lines.

[Sort of a continuation of this.]

 

When I’m Not Writing

Hey! Here’s that thing I’ve been working on that isn’t Riddle Box. My local and beloved community theater is putting on a production of Hamlet — a freaking rarity in those sort of circles. Here’s the super snazzy trailer video, if you’re in Georgia and want to come and watch . I’m playing Claudius and the Ghost, and I appear briefly in the trailer wearing a crown and an ill-fitting jerkin.

I finished.

MY. ROUGH.DRAFT.

Of the book.

That I wrote.

Ahead of schedule — 4 pages and about 5000 more words than I planned for the rough draft.

In the dark of the night, I got to type “THE END” for the first time in my life.

Man, it felt good.

Like great-good.

Like PUNCHING A MANTICORE IN THE FACE IN BETWEEN BLISTERING KEY-TAR SOLOS -GOOD.

Come on -- he freaking deserves it. WIPE THAT SMIRK OFF YOUR GOB, MANTICORE.

I know I’m a long way from being finished — I have a lot of editing, a lot of fleshing out, a lot of work still to do.

And let’s be honest — I’ll probably hate 45% of what I read, cutting and slashing with my seafoam green Sharpie.

And I know this is in no way impressive to the bulk of my WordPress pals — some of you with five or more novels under your name.

But this is my first time making it to base camp, before the final assault to the peak of BOOK MOUNTAIN.

So pass me some hot cocoa, and keep your snickering to a minimum.

"Where can I stash my keytar, y'all?"