Batdance

When I was a kid I was one of Prince’s more casual fans. It wasn’t that I disliked his music. Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I did, in fact, love it. Hell, for better or worse, “Raspberry Beret,” “Peach,” “Little Red Corvette,” and “Kiss” basically helped me form my idea of the ideal woman. Truth be told, in more recent times, this image might have had something to do with it too:

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If that looks familiar, it should because:

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I know. It confuses my sexuality in all the right ways. And don’t even get me started on what some of Prince’s New Power Generation stuff taught me . . . .

Anyway.

In 1989 I hadn’t been quite so schooled in my own preferences yet. I didn’t own any of Prince’s tapes or records or anything like that. I just listened to his songs when they came on the radio or watched his videos when they popped up on MTV.

It was a different time, kiddos.

On June 23rd of that year, my casual relationship with Prince’s music changed as I sat in the theater at the premier of Tim Burton’s Batman. When I watched that movie as an 11-year-old impressionable comic book nerd I realized someone outside of comic books could take them seriously, could make them into something everyone enjoyed. At the time (and to this day) I thought everyone should enjoy comic books. I thought the superhero concept was far from an immature trope that should be relegated to adolescent boys’ bedrooms. Sure, people within the industry and fandom had thought this for ages. Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp ThingFrank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returnsand Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth are all 1980s releases that treat the superhero concept seriously. But Burton’s Batman was in beautiful celluloid, before my eyes, mainstream. The world at large was finally taking comic books seriously. Fast forward to 2016 and holy crap. Am I right?

Anyway.

Back to Prince who, rumor has it, basically created the soundtrack for Batman in, like, 10 minutes or something, after only watching half of the movie. And I loved that soundtrack, people. Hell, I still do. I don’t know what’s going on through most of it, but that doesn’t matter. It’s so funky! And check out the video for “Batdance”! What the hell is going on in it? It’s insane and . . .

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When I realized I loved it, I realized that not spending my hard-earned cash on more Prince music was an egregious error. I wasn’t purchasing his work because it was outside the scope of my world. I wasn’t getting out of my safe and familiar shell. Though I enjoyed it, I was doing to his music the same thing the world was doing to comic books.

I remedied that situation immediately and Prince’s music has been with me since.

 

I’m giving away some books. Want ’em?

Have you heard of Former yet? Some folks really like it. I think you might too. In fact, I’m so behind it, that I’m giving away a few copies. That’s right! I’m giving some away! What?!?!?! Enter here to win a free copy of Former!

Doesn’t that sound awesome?

I'm faced with a conundrum on #SpringBreak Day 5.... What to do with my comp copies of #Former? #writing

High school journalists

Occasionally cool things happen at high schools. Contrary to what pop culture might have you believe though, it isn’t often. Last weekend the Bellevue West Winter Guard team became world champions. The day they returned to school, our student journalists were there to report on it. Here is what they came up with:

If you would like to see more of what these students do, check it out here. And hey, why wouldn’t you want to see more? These kids are clearly awesome.

That season finale though (no spoilers really . . . kind of . . . just watch The Walking Dead first)

I don’t watch a lot of television. And when I do, I tend to binge an entire series or season then let the contraption sit for a while. I do, however enjoy The Walking Dead, thanks in no small part for my affinity for the comic book. While it is not perfect and season two was a particularly monotonous march to what I like to call “the good stuff,” overall, it is a solid piece of small screenery.

The season six finale on Sunday April 3, 2016 is something else though. It is brilliant.

There. I said it.

At first, I didn’t feel that way. At first I was like, “As a writer, I find that cliffhanger trick cheap. There was no reason for it.” Perhaps I should have placed exclamation points behind those two sentences . . . .

Anyway.

The more I thought about it and processed it though, the more I realized the ending actually made perfect sense from an emotional standpoint.

“What?!” you might be screaming at the computer screen right now (particularly if you watched that episode of The Walking Dead with the same amount of bated breath as I did.

But hear me out.

If Negan’s first big kill is revealed at the end of the season all of us fans have approximately six months to process it. When the show returns next October everyone on the outside (the fans) is like, “Whatever, I’ve processed this. It sucks, but I’ve gotten used to the idea that ___________ is dead,” whereas none of the characters are used to it. Emotionally speaking, we are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

On the other hand, with the cliffhanger, with us knowing Negan killed someone but not who, we (the fans) are even more anxious about who it is. We are unsure. Therefore, we’re actually in a worse emotional position than the characters on the show. We’re even more strung out on emotions than the people who witness their good friend, fellow survivor, and compatriot get brutally murdered. So come October we’re all ready for the big reveal, we’re all sitting on the razor’s edge as we contemplate who it might be, then we’re all their with all of the characters at the same time.

Brilliant.

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A Nebraska Teacher’s Spring Break in Photos

First, let’s get this out of the way. There were no beaches or bikinis in my spring break this year. I wouldn’t have minded beaches and bikinis but that’s not how it panned out for me in 2016. Despite the lack of those two completely awesome things, it was a good spring break, a quiet one . . . uneventful, easy. And that’s worth something. I believe it was Bilbo Baggins who once said, “But where our hearts truly lie is in peace and quiet . . .” and since I’ve always considered myself something of a hobbit–albeit a particularly tall one–I’ve always found that quote . . . relevant.

For nine days I did next to nothing school related. I saw a few movies, read a few books, and snapped a few photos. The quiet also reminded of a simple fact that I take for granted too often. I have a pretty sweet life. Here are the photos on my Instagram account I took over spring break to prove it, not to you though. To myself. Sometimes I need that, especially when a person I’ve never met enters my office at the end of my first day back after break to rudely complain about typos in old yearbooks.

Anyway.

Remember to take some photos of the good times. They’ll come in handy later. They always do. I promise.

The other side of the pen

I used to write reviews for a couple of pop culture websites. One of those websites paid me actual real folding money and the other paid me a short ton of free comic books and neat merch. Currently, I write reviews of books by authors somehow connected to the Omaha, NE area for EAB Publishing over at their Tumblr page. Because I have been, am, and will be on the other side of the reviewing table, having my work studied, reviewed, etc, I have a simple philosophy when writing reviews. If I cannot find something to like about what I read, I do not review it . . . . Hell, I don’t even finish it usually . . . . One of my good friends has told me on more than one occasion that I remind her of a golden retriever. I am happy a lot, try to find the goodness in everything, and ultimately . . . yes . . . I can be somewhat naive. I don’t begrudge her that opinion. In many instances she is 100% correct. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is especially true about me when I write reviews.

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When people–and with art it is almost always ‘people’ not ‘person’–put their time, energy, heart, and soul into the creation of a thing, the least a reviewer/critic can do is find something positive to say about that art.

Truth time though.

I’m sure I’ve written a handful of negative reviews. Though I stand by those reviews, it pained me to write them then and it pains me to think about them now. Sometimes all the time, energy, heart, and soul one possesses is not enough to make a work of art good. Sometimes there isn’t enough time, energy, heart, and soul in a work of art to make it good. Sometimes the bad is so egregious that, against his better judgement, the critic has to act as gatekeeper. But it’s all subjective, right?

Wrong.

Writing is an art but it is also a science. When one is critiquing a work of art, one must always take into consideration the simple fact that while tastes vary, a well done work of art is a well done work of art. For instance, I’m not Taylor Swift’s biggest fan but I recognize the fact that she is madly talented.

Oh, who am i kidding? I love T-Swizzy.

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Anyway.

As reviews of my newest novel, Former, role in, I’ve been pondering this reviewing philosophy. I think, overall, it’s a good one. What do you think?

Wait.

Don’t answer that.

I can’t handle the criticism . . . .

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I kid . . . I think . . . .

Ah.

I’ll direct you to my last post.

Good day.

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Writing is hard

I have lived the better part of my adult life with Max Dinkman in my head. He is a 17-year-old boy with problems upon problems who kind of, sort of, maybe a little bit resembles me when I was a 17-year-old boy with problems upon problems. Max was born in my head and is probably the result of sleep deprivation, too much self-medication, and a frightened imagination running wild through the back roads of Northeast Nebraska . . . . A strange copulation indeed.

Anyway.

I’ve written an almost 600 page epic about his life from October 31, 1999 through May 5, 2000. Two parts of this epic have already been released by EAB Publishing as The ABCs of Dinkology: Life and The ABCs of Dinkology: Time In-Between. Prior to that, WSC Press released The ABCs of Dinkology, which is like a test version of Life. Three more will be available soon: The ABCs of Dinkology: DeathThe ABCs of Dinkology: Life After Death, and The ABCs of Dinkology: Rebirth. Then Max’s story will–for the time being–be over.

Yesterday I shared a draft of the final book with another person. I had never done that before. It was a jarring experience. Though between writing about Max’s seven month odyssey, I also wrote a couple other novels, a handful of short stories, a smattering of poems, a few essays and journalistic pieces, and a token academic paper or two, something about Max’s story is different . . . .

When I finally decided it was time to share the fifth book with another human being I had to go in and make a few last-minute adjustments, additions, and cuts. I had been avoiding one addition in particular for years. A part of me felt that if I kept what I knew must happen in my mind and never released it onto paper, it couldn’t happen. It’s ridiculous, I know. After all, I’m the creator. If I know an event has to happen then it has to happen. So I put on my big boy pants and I did it. It was physically and mentally challenging. It left me a mess. As I knew it would. Yes. I was bawling at my computer while the words poured from my fingers. What I was doing was horrible. It was a necessity but it was about as far from enjoyable for me as writing has ever been. It was tragic. It was heartbreaking. And there was a lot of it.

Max’s story has never been a happy one. It has its comedic moments, to be sure, like all lives do. But the tragedy outweighs the comedy. Though I’m certain I will write more novels with the same theme, message, scope, etc. of Max’s . . . and I may even come back to Max someday . . . this first series will always be the hardest because this one taught me that my stories are true . . . even if they’re made up.

I had been avoiding writing this last tragedy in Max’s life because I knew it would hurt to see the words in print, more so even than hearing it described in my head over and over for years. It’s so solid now, so concrete. Max and the people who inhabit his story are real. True, they are not real like us, but they are real. When bad things happen to them it hurts them as well as the readers. But I think most of all it hurts the writer.

Writing is hard.

On the plus side, how about a little sneak-peek of The ABCs of Dinkology: Death courtesy of Dave Ravenberg?

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