Archive | February 2017

Alison Armstrong and the Independent Creators Alliance FB group

alison-armstrong-with-michael-easton-roger-howarth-aug-2016

Roger Howarth, Alison Armstrong and Michael Easton last summer.

Alison Armstrong is a gifted author I met through online fan groups for Michael Easton, the General Hospital actor who inspired my vampire soap opera thriller Hope Dawns Eternal. Alison and I met in person at a GH fan event in New Jersey in 2014. This morning she’ll be meeting Michael and his GH buddy Roger Howarth at another event in New Jersey. Since I couldn’t afford the trip this time around, I sent Alison a copy of Hope Dawns Eternal in hopes that she can hand it to him directly, along with a letter and a couple of poems I hope he’ll enjoy.

Back on October 8, 2016, Alison and I both participated at an Indie Authors Day held at libraries nationwide. Soon after, at my request, she sent me the following post about the event:

Having attended an Indie Book Fair recently as an author, I learned some valuable information regarding marketing and distribution; however, the overall message of the advice left me feeling disheartened regarding the arbitrary standardization of the publishing industry and upset about the commoditization of the arts in general.  Instead of focusing on creativity and literary talent, the speakers at the book event emphasized orthodoxy in page design (justified text, avoidance of stylistic content-driven page and paragraph breaks, etc.) .

Although I support the importance of proper grammar and punctuation and feel that these aspects, along with originality in content, expression, and style, are essential in quality writing, I do not believe that standardization of font, margins, and other traditional publishing practices should be given such a high priority.  Nevertheless, despite the increasing numbers of indie authors, the publishing industry persists in perpetuating typographic conventions that are usually not used in Word or other common writing programs.  In so doing, the publishing industry imposes an arbitrary standard to differentiate between traditionally published and print-on-demand authors so that the “indie” writers may feel pressured into purchasing services to make their work appear more like traditional published materials, thereby making their work less independent, more restricted by financial concerns.   Along with the standardization of text format , book publishers seem to be promoting an increasingly conventional approach to cover design, resulting in a glut of covers featuring monotonously similar figurative clichés associated with the book’s genre,  such as the faceless torsos displayed like slabs of cosmetically enhanced meat on the covers of lurid romance novels.

The arts in general, especially in the United States, are generally viewed in a similar way as those hunky yet generic slabs of flesh, something to readily consume as entertainment or profit from.  Favoring the familiar, the already established, the tried and true moneymakers,  publishing companies, recording companies, and movie studios sign fewer new authors, musicians, and filmmakers.  The newbies and the “indies,” therefore, seek new ways of gaining exposure for their work.  However, as with the “indie” book fair example, even some resources and organizations presuming to work on behalf of the independent artists devalue certain aspects of individualistic expression.

Independent authors, musicians, artists and filmmakers represent a challenge to the financially-driven industries that struggle to maintain a monopoly on the arts by propagating lookalike, superficially pleasing but often substanceless clones. The literary renegades, such as William Burroughs and J. G. Ballard, the ravaged voices of Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith, these muses of rebellion and individuality epitomize the freedom, intensity, and expressive potential of the independent, creative spirit.  

Inspired by artists such as these, I have created the Independent Creators Alliance group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/269464480120915/ ). I invite creators in any of the arts to join in solidarity, supporting each other and the ideal of artistic freedom. I envision this group as a place to express our ideas regarding the arts and integrity to our vision while connecting with other creative people. It can be a place to network, brainstorm ideas, share sources of inspiration, and collaborate perhaps on projects. In these rather depressing times, we need the arts more than ever to heal the soul.

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Alison Armstrong at Indie Book Fair last October.

Alison makes some provocative points that are deserving of further discussion. I’ve joined her Independent Creators Alliance group on Facebook, and I hope you will too. And by all means check out her books Revenance and Toxicosis, both available on Amazon. But don’t confuse her with the other Alison Armstrong, who writes books about how women can please and communicate better with men. That’s definitely the wrong Alison!

Donald, the cock of the walk: inside a twisted mind

Bashing Donald Trump is a popular pastime among the writers I know, especially the poets. Wondering what I could add to the flurry of fiery condemnations, I decided to try writing from the point of view of The Donald himself. As the author of mysteries and suspense novels, I love getting into the heads of my villains, including vampires and serial killers. But who knows what lurks deep in Donald’s twisted mind? What in his gene pool or his family history has made him the scary monster he is today? I have absolutely no idea, but here’s one possible take on the subject.

Donald the Bantam Rooster speaks his mind

It’s the Year of the Rooster—chinese-year-of-the-rooster

Melania just told me.

The Chinese New Year fell on January 28,

Just eight days after my coronation.

What’s that you say? Inauguration?

Big deal—what’s the difference?

Either way, I’m finally Emperor.

I’m cock of the walk—

I’ve got a lot to crow about.

This can’t be mere coincidence.

New Year, New America—

See, even the Chinese are bowing down to worship me.

They named the New Year after my sign.

Me, the Sun God. I like the sound of that.louis_xiv_of_france-by-rigaud

What’s that you say? Louis XIV used it first?

Wasn’t he the guy who built all those palaces

And filled them with gilded furniture?

I learned about him from Ivana

When we were furnishing Trump Tower

And Mar a Lago. Hey, that’s a good comparison,

Me and Louis, but my buildings are much bigger.

Besides, wasn’t he a scrawny little wimp?

I watched the Netflix series. Sad.

What’s that you say, Jared?

The Rooster’s not my sign? What is it then?

The Dog? You’re kidding, right?chinese-zodiac-dog-year-of-the-dog

Intelligent, honest, obedient, loyal?

No way! How dare the Chinese Zodiac slander me?

Maybe we should nuke them, whaddaya think?

Go ahead, make my day. Bomb them to oblivion.

No more “Made in China” clothes.

A trade bonanza!

What’s that you say? The Fire Dog,

Because of my Birth Year, 1946?

Same as Bill Clinton? Even worse.

That filthy horn dog, screwing all those

Tasty bitches while lying Hillary looks the other way.

Compared to mine, those bitches were skanky.

Remember Monica, that pathetic porker?

A five, and the others were eights or nines at most,

While mine are always tens.

Just look at my daughter Ivanka—donald-ivanka-trump

No, don’t, on second thought.

If Jared could read my mind, he’d kill me.

What’s that you say, Jared?

I’m only kidding. Can’t you take a joke?

What’s that you say?

The Year of the Rooster is especially bad luck

For those born in the Year of the Dog?  

What utter crap! I don’t believe a word you say.

The truth is always lies.

Matter of fact, you’re fired!

I wrote this poem three hours before last Monday’s Poets Speak Loud, the monthly open mic at McGeary’s Tavern in Albany. Thanks to Mary Panza, Dan Wilcox, and Thom Job of Albany Poets, who have kept this event going over the past ten years. The deadline is always a powerful incentive, especially since I know my work will be met with applause and (when appropriate) laughter.

The poem went over well, so I read it again last night at a private party for poets and their significant others. Once again it met with hilarity. Afterwards, people told me it was refreshing to hear something about Trump that was actually more funny than terrifying. One woman told me I’d be great on television. Hmmm…is YouTube in my future? Maybe, if it will help me sell more books.