1.14.2016

Everyone Has a Bowie Essay, And So Do I


Ever since waking up Monday with the news of David Bowie's passing, my head has been somewhere else. It's been in David Bowie's world.

But I should first back up and say that I am one of those Bowie fans that a lot of scholars of the man would probably deride with a disdainful sniff. I didn't own every album. I never saw him in concert (though I'd always wanted to). I took David Bowie's presence in the popular culture and his status as one of the coolest and most innovative artists in the world completely for granted. In many ways, Bowie has never really been on a human level for me. He's always seemed at least half immortal. He was already hovering somewhere up above the rest of us, beaming down his talents like the sun.

And in his passing, I can't help but feel like the sun is now a great deal dimmer.
Oddly too, I feel my grief evolving over this in strange ways. I have not cried much, though I think part of that has to do with being on Zoloft. But in lieu of tears, I find myself completely preoccupied with him. I didn't get much work done yesterday, because I was researching Bowie stuff I didn't know about before, listening to songs on albums I had missed or completely forgotten about. My tastes for Bowie's music tended to fall to his earlier stuff--The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, Hunky Dory, and then jumping way forward to Let's Dance (I didn't concentrate as much on the Berlin years, though I'm making up for it now). I really lost track of his work after the late 90s, though I absolutely loved his collaboration with Trent Reznor, but I'm catching up on those as well.

But in revisiting this standards as well as the music of his I'd missed, I am struck by one completely unassailable thing: Jesus Christ it was all so fucking good. Even songs of his I wouldn't say are my favorites, none of them are actually BAD. There is such a wide variety of sounds, textures, themes, influences, and genres, but they're all united under this umbrella of cool, confident, intelligent, and completely rarified talent. The genius just fell out of the guy's pores like sweat. He never felt irrelevant. He never would have settled for it. He consumed as much culture as he could, past and present, and he continued to pave his way into the future.

But it wasn't just his music for me, which in one form or another has always been part of my life's background soundtrack. It was his movies too. Bowie was completely special in that he enchanted me with both artforms. I imagine if he'd written books too (something I've read he regretted not doing), he would have been a complete and utter god to me. The visual appeal of Bowie, his onscreen presence, was exciting and captivating. It could be even be a short cameo, and the movie was all the better for it. When he stepped through that storm of lightning in The Prestige as Nikola Tesla, I literally squealed in the theater. A movie I was already loving tremendously suddenly became one of my favorite movies, specifically because he was in it.


In fact, David Bowie was my first ever discernible movie crush. My father took me to see Labyrinth when it came out. I was seven years old and completely unaware I could feel feelings like that. I thought of him for years afterward, as I bridged into puberty. Seeing him again as I grew older was like throwing gasoline on a flame that had never extinguished. Years later, I introduced my kids to this same movie and they loved it. My daughter even had a Bowie crush of her own, probably because she could see a lot of herself in him. She has a similar creativity, a dare to be different mentality. I could easily call him a role model for her.


But WHY do I feel this way about David Bowie? What is it about him that captured me the way it has? Why do I look at this man and find a connection? I've never had the courage to be as visually expressive as he was, and my creativity will never be as avant garde as his was, but I have always had an undying and sometimes overwhelming attraction to people who color outside the lines and break the rules, who look at what we deem as "normal" and say "fuck that shit, I'm doing it my way." They look different, they dress different, they think different. They're bold when I can't be. They're daring when I can't be. They're in many ways my surrogates. They're my heroes.

I admit I have fallen down a bit of a rabbit hole since Bowie died. I'm watching live performances, I'm watching interview clips so I can get a glimpse of the man behind the persona. I'm watching clips of movies and shows he's done. I'm seeking out collaborations of his with other artists I admire. I've probably listened to his album Blackstar over a dozen times, not including right now as I write this. The rhythms have worn a groove in my mind. His voice, always remarkable to me, is even more beautiful with the knowledge that he was singing through the pain and wasting away of terminal illness. That someone could still be so brilliant and produce such beauty while dying is so inspirational to me. I have wanted to be more like David Bowie most of my life, but now I know I also want to be like him in death. Defiant and daring and creating until the very end.


In a sense, I'm attending a days-long memorial service inside my own head for David Bowie. It could actually be years-long. I might not show up to it with such intensity every single day as I have over the last few days, but the altar will always be there, and I will be putting flowers on it and lighting incense regularly. I'm so grateful that I got to be alive at the same time he was, though if anything, I think his light will carry on for generations to come.


1.13.2016

I'm In A StoryBundle!

Lookit me up there!
I guess you could call this my first real achievement of 2016, although it was actually achieved near the end of 2015. At any rate, the first book in my COLT COLTRANE series was selected to be in a StoryBundle by Jefferson Smith of the Immerse or Die Challenge! It's a huge honor, but I won't bore you with my own words. Here is Jefferson talking about what's in the Bundle, how the whole thing works, and his thoughts on the stories included.


THE 2016 IMMERSE OR DIE BUNDLE 

Curated by Jefferson Smith 

So here we are with the second annual ImmerseOrDie StoryBundle collection. Indie writing gets a bad rap for being full of poorly executed dreck, but hidden in that firehose of sludge, there are occasional gems. ImmerseOrDie's mission is to hunt those down so you don't have to.

If you don't already know how it works, the premise is simple. Every morning, I get on my treadmill, open a new indie fantasy or science fiction ebook, and start my morning walk. Every time I read something that breaks my immersion in the story—bad grammar, inconsistent worldbuilding, illogical character behaviors, etc.—the book earns a red flag, called a WTF. If I find three WTFs before I finish my 40-minute walk, the clock stops, the book closes, and I go off to write up a report about what went wrong, for the benefit of both readers and authors alike. (Check out the archived reports at http://immerseordie.com.)

But this StoryBundle is not just the few books that were clean enough to squeak past my 40-minute guard dogs. After that first round, survivors were then run through a second gauntlet in which they had to do more than simply avoid WTF triggers. This time they had to grab my attention, hold it, and deliver a complete and satisfying story. Not just clean production, but an entertaining read. And not just for 40 minutes, but for the entire book.

The result? Seven glorious books plucked from the indie firehose of suck, plus two of my own so you can judge the judge for yourself. These are not high schoolers trying to score cash for their rambling first drafts, nor are they trunk novels written by established writers padding their revenue streams with weaker work. These are great stories from truly unknown writers who have all kinds of game and are now hunting the savannah in search of you, their audience. If I've done my job right, this StoryBundle will be just the break you've both been waiting for.

But enough about me. Let me introduce you to my posse.

The Girl at the End of the World by Richard Levesque

I hate this book. The problem is that I'm a wimp. I just can't deal when a character I like gets subjected to horrific experiences. I hate that sense of building dread as I turn each page, hoping desperately that things won't get worse, only to be tortured by the fact that they do. I really do not want to be there. And yet, for some reason, I forge on. Why? Because I'm a loyal friend, and if these brave and deserving characters who have earned my friendship must go through hell, how can I possibly let them go there alone? So I soldier on, if only to bear silent witness to their struggle. I hate that it falls to me to do that job, but I do it anyway. For them. But the author who did that to them? Him I hate. And the book? I hate that too. But it's a delicious kind of hate, and if you've got any shred of a soul, you'll hate it too. Every single page of it.

Colt Coltrane and the Lotus Killer by Allison M. Dickson

I'm a sucker for the hard-boiled detective standing between his grimy city and its final plunge into total darkness. Then give him an ass-kicking robot sidekick who seems more Studebaker than Terminator? I simply cannot look away. The fact that it was a great story to boot was just icing on the cake.

Dark Matter by Brett Adams

When a young man sets out to give himself a "beautiful suicide" and instead gives himself superpowers, I'm curious. Throw in a resurrected Nazi with similar powers trying to hunt him down and I'm full-on fascinated. But Dark Matter is more than just an intriguing premise. It has everything I look for in fiction: intelligent ideas, surprising twists, and a dollop of mystery, all delivered within a steady matrix of confident, evocative prose. Smart writing that tells a ripping tale? Yes please.

Rust: Season One by Christopher Ruz

Imagine Stephen King siring a love-beast upon the dead and moldering remains of HP Lovecraft. That's Rust. Right from the opening scene that leaves us questioning just what is real and what is not, Ruz plunges us full-screaming into the chaotic afterlife of one Kimberley Archer, who is either single and dead, or living in hell, unable to escape the devoted husband and child she has no memory of ever having met. This one will creep you out completely.

The Vampire of Northanger by Bryce Anderson

Jane Austen's long-lost vampire novel. I confess I haven't read Austen, but this modern re-imagining of her work—by translocating it into a world where vampires are real—makes me want to give her a try. My only fear is that her entirely vampireless exploits won't live up to the dark and nuanced ballet of inter-species manners that Anderson has fashioned from her more pallid offerings.

Catskinner's Book by Misha Burnett

My most gripping reads are almost always the ones where the very premise itself grabs my attention in a choke hold, and such is the case here. Long-time loser James Ozwryck finally has a life: a small apartment, a regular job, and a steady income. There's even plenty of time for video games. It might not be much, but it's his. And to keep it, all he has to do is let a demon borrow his body from time to time. You know, to kill people. It's a pretty sweet deal.

Pilgrim of the Storm by Russ Linton

Everyone loves an underdog story, but those usually involve human underdogs. This time however, our hero is a lowly insectoid boy, Sidge, born into a race of slaves but valiantly trying to make good in the world of his human "betters." Instead of being lauded for his efforts to fit in though, his impudence has only made him a target for further derision and abuse. But surely that will get better once he rises to a position of respect, right? So all he has to do to win that position is to survive a dangerous cross-country journey with the very people who seem to hate him most. Then at last things will finally be better.

Strange Places by Jefferson Smith

Continuing in the tradition of Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, I wrote the Finding Tayna series for my daughters, to give them images of a modern heroine going boldly forth, taming a strange world that thought it was taming her, and doing so with style and humor.

Oath Keeper by Jefferson Smith

It's easy to call yourself the queen of rejection and champion of the timid when things are going well. But the mark of a real hero is how she copes when life serves her a pile of real suck. Well, here cometh that suck. (Book 2 of Finding Tayna.)

– Jefferson Smith

The initial titles in the 2016 Immerse or Die Bundle (minimum $3 to purchase) are:
  • Strange Places by Jefferson Smith 
  • Rust: Season One by Christopher Ruz 
  • The Vampire of Northanger by Bryce Anderson 
  • Dark Matter by Brett Adams 
  • Colt Coltrane and the Lotus Killer by Allison M. Dickson 

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $12, you get all five of the regular titles, plus four more:
  • Oath Keeper by Jefferson Smith 
  • Pilgrim of the Storm by Russ Linton 
  • The Girl at the End of the World by Richard Levesque 
  • Catskinner's Book Vol 1: The Book of Lost Doors by Misha Burnett 

The bundle is available for a very limited time only, via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!

It's also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.
  • Get quality reads: We've chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package. 
  • Pay what you want (minimum $3): You decide how much these fantastic comics are worth to you. If you can only spare a little, that's fine! You'll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles. 
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there's nothing wrong with ditching DRM. 
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to charity. 
  • Receive extra books: If you beat our the bonus price, you'll get the bonus books! 
StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com. For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.