Not to much new to say. My book Alice Zero – my greek mythology story and Alice in Wonderland mashup is live. You can purchase it here on Amazon.
Quite a few thank yous to mention here. Colleen Anderson, first and foremost. She made me write this, and to my surprise I loved the concept I came up with. Without you I never would have tried writing something like this, let alone, let myself walk through the doors I did with it. So thank you.
Kenzie Carr, you made me better. Much like the majority of the collaborators I choose, I’m lucky to have them and they make me better. Kenzie is one of the most enthusiastic people I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with and I can’t wait to do it again.
Vanessa Farkas-Brahmakshatriya for giving me some great ideas on the greek mythology mashup of this. It gave me thoughts not just for this book but the next one as well.
Miranda Krogstad for that workshop this year. She made me realize there was another character that needed to be in the story. I get better writing when I attend her stuff, and I appreciate it greatly that she helped.
Finally, I want to thank Heather Ans, who this book is dedicated to. If I hadn’t met the girl with the gorgon tattoo in real life, I never would have come up with the Gorgon Knight or the Greek Mythology angle at all.
I have learned in this life to believe people’s actions. Words are easy to come by. Take it from me, who cobbles them together on a regular basis. People talk. We communicate. We tell everyone stories.
Most people never fail to forget that what we do is what People’s actions tell me exactly what each and every person is. I’m not much into the whole perfection thing.
Perfection freezes people. It’s an unattainable standard and if we’re honest, shouldn’t even be an ideal. We fall short, and that’s life. That doesn’t mean we can’t go for excellence however. Excellence is a skill and a trait we can all shoot for. Sometimes we fail, but other times, we succeed.
How do we get to excellence? The simple answer is practice.
Practice fricking sucks. Really, that’s the challenge of it. It’s not glamorous, nor does it give you a sense of accomplishment, because that is the internal struggle. Getting up and doing something over and over again.
It’s a pain in the ass. The truth is that everyday we practice however. If we hear the alarm clock every morning and we hit snooze, and we do it each and every day, that’s practice. That’s creating a habit, and if there’s one thing to work on for me, it’s this. I just hate getting up early. Quite a few of us do.
There are other habits we form. Do you go outside and enjoy the day, or do you sit there, doing nothing? Do you work on that manuscript or do you sleep? Or eat? Or Watch television?
Some habits are easier to develop than others. The easy path I have found in life only has one requirement, and that’s doing absolutely nothing. Doing nothing is the easiest thing in the world, and changes you the slowest.
I have habits I’ve formed for my life. Some of them are good, but if I’m honest, some of them are terrible. And if I want to change the course of my life, I have to look at my choices with the same scrutiny I would when I write something. For you see, excellence can be a habit.
The best in the field work towards this objective. And if you want to get somewhere, you should too.
Discipline Comes From Within
What do you want?
The biggest secret I’ve learned about people is that they will do exactly what they want to do. So, be honest with yourself. If you want to be successful at freelance writing, what are you doing everyday to make it happen? Are you applying for freelance jobs? Are you contacting places to pitch? Or are you doing nothing?
Excellence must become a habit and that means doing the stuff that you feel is hard or unfair. In short, practice.
My podcast is an exercise in practice. I book interviews, I do them when it’s convenient for my guests to the best of my ability, I do the interview, I take the raw stuff, I edit it, produce the show and deliver. Some weeks it’s freaking fantastic. Some weeks I don’t do as well as I’d hope. I’ve done 419 episodes as of this writing. Every time I think I do a better interview, and every time I (hope) do better with the technical end.
The more you do, the more you realize you don’t know. When I was younger my biggest fear was being tiny. As I get older and realize I know less and less, I realize that this is a good thing. It means there’s always room for me to grow and change. And that’s awesome.
You’re never going to know all there is to know. There will always be new challenges. Technology may change, or there are new techniques. SEO is not a new thing but a lot of us are trying our best to master the skills required to be better.
I’m good, but I want to be great. That means each and every day that I have to put effort in. My creative writing is one of the biggest differences. I’m learning new techniques all the time. And I’m thinking more about how to tell the story that needs to be told. I want the emotion and resonance of what I’m writing strike home each and every day. The details of what happens aren’t important. HOW it happens and what emotions I’m trying to convey are what matter.
So now I know enough to look at a scene with that kind of critical eye. Because I’m thinking about it in those terms, I can imagine the story in greater detail and nuance. It creates depths I never considered before. I didn’t get to that level without the practice I had.
Talent can make things easier, but the most dangerous thing you can believe is that you are just good at something. It’s my biggest mistake, because I know what I’m doing, right?
The best advice I ever got from my teacher is that “Things come easy to you. You’re going to have to teach yourself when things get hard.” He was right. Thank you Mr. Stewart for that sage advice. Talent makes things come to you easier, but when you want to make the leap from good to great, sometimes that little step is elusive. Because the line is inches. Sometimes, talent gets in the way of you making that leap.
Sometimes we need to take a step back and look critically at where we struggle. It keeps us humble in a good way. By eliminating that we are good (or bad, that’s just as terrible) and just take the subject at hand objectively and measure out our shortcomings, we can become great at something.
The last thing we want to be is Michigan J. Frog. Michigan J. Frog could have been a legend, IF he had ever been able to handle a crowd.
Excellence is Habit
To create that habit, just practice, and be open to learning. We can always be better at what we do, even the things we are good at. When we meet the best, they never forget to be humble about their strengths, because they know they can still get better.
But it’s up to you. What do you want? Because at the end of the day, you do it. Be conscious of your habits. We all carry them.
Thanks for reading. If you guys have a minute, Check out my latest release Alice Zero, my epic poem that mashes up Alice in Wonderland and Greek Mythology. If you want something a little more traditional, check out The Cloud Diver. It’s my love letter to video games and science fiction adventure.
My latest podcast features JD Estrada. We talk about anything and everything here and here. Finally, if you like what you hear, check out my audio services page. Keep Surfing the chaos out there.
If we’re being honest, the odds are against us from the very beginning. We’re born to an astronomically high number, and while we’re here we got to deal with a zillion things beyond our control. We have to deal with plagues, we have to deal with violence, we have to deal with war, we have to deal with life.
Life is struggle and chaos and pain. And you’re not walking away from it. So our lives are about what we do with it.
The Will toPlan and Create Expectations
I tend to think we all come with power rings. We all have the ability to make our wishes come true. The challenge is figuring out exactly what we want. We all want money, people that love us. We all have a broad sense of what will make us happy. Most of us never go into specifics. How do we want to make us happy? What do we want to be?
Mapping out clear ideas of what we want with anything is going to get us closer to getting resolution to those problems. I wanted to fix my teeth three years ago. I made that decision in May, and it seemed kind of far away. But I knew what had to be done, so I researched Dental Departures, and went to the business of figuring out costs. This is going to be an ongoing problem for me, as I’m not at my objective yet, but going down there and getting those first surgeries was huge. I have a gameplan how I’m going to get there and I’m working towards it.
I have a gameplan as well for both my podcasting and my writing careers. With my podcasting, I want to see what other doors it could open. I’m applying at places across Canada and the United States that fit my skillsets. It’d be fun to be an announcer on CBC, so why not go for it? But I also have been applying to HBO and Vice and Cracked. I never thought I would be doing these things, but why not? Maybe I’ll even try WWE. Maybe.
Writing wise, I plan to publish three books this year. My second book is out in two days as I write this. Both are available on Amazon and I’m stoked. It’s been a great experience and I can’t wait to take my first book, The Cloud Diver wide in October. Alice Zero is coming out tuesday and I noticed a pattern. I’m climbing the charts in Canada faster. My ranking with Alice Zero was at 2508 in Kindle. It’s far lower now, but the image is still here. (By the way, if you got a minute, feel free to click and order one or the other. Combined that is 5.00. I promise you’ll get your money’s worth.)
Will my third book be out in time for the end of the year? Not sure. My unnamed series is my dream pulp series. I think people will dig where it’s going. All in all I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to with my books.
My freelancing has been a bit more of a struggle. The big decision you got to make with freelancing is what you are going to do. Going above, a clear map of what I’m doing is present above. Going below here, my role isn’t as defined.
I got a gig talking about things I love. I do reviews at First Comics all the time. I write critically about the things I’m passionate about, which is comics, games and books. Maybe I should be focusing there more. Seems like a good thought to me anyway. I need to roadmap there more. But I’m making money and slowly, things are happening.
The Will to Fight
“Don’t quit when it’s hard. Quit when it sucks.” That’s a good motto to live by. I’m making a big life change and it’s a crazy thing to do. Things cascade away. You have to be willing to work on the things that build you up. Newsletters for example, and your social platforms. You have a voice and you must put yourself out there to do things. This is the hardest thing, because sometimes it feels like nobody’s listening.
My podcast sometimes is a roller coaster of emotions. Sometimes it feels like nobody cares, and then one day you wake up and there are 200 downloads and your podcast is now in places like Ghana and South Korea. Life is strange and wonderful and you create momentum putting things out there, and you never know what catches on.
And that’s the thing. It’s going to be hard sometimes. There are times it’s just not going to rain. It’s part of the game. No matter what, keep going.
Fight until You Win
The reason why you keep going no matter what? You don’t do the work for nothing. You are the one making the sacrifices. You’re the one putting the words to the page, or putting the lines on the page to make those images. You are the one putting in the time. Get something for it. You didn’t do all this just to say “here I am”. This isn’t show and tell.
Get something for it.
Sometimes it’s not obvious what you get in the moment. I remember wondering what the big deal was when I did my first book way back in the day. It taught me a lot of things, but I wasn’t seeing the results I hoped for. It turns out that the fact that I did it on my own led me to connect to a hero of mine. And yes, it didn’t work out like I ever thought it would there either, but if I hadn’t written that book, I never would have gotten the chance to work for one of my heroes.
How many of us get that opportunity?
You also acquire skills that can lead you to interesting places. I learned how to hire, fire, pay and complete projects on a deadline. All these skills are applicable in a pretty much any field. Showing up and doing the job is a rare thing, and you prove you can with the book.
My podcasting has led me to sponsorships, interviewing NYT bestsellers, award winners, people just getting started. I have talked about stoned flies and I have talked about BLM and everything in between. My platform has been used to promote people and myself.
I’m a freaking badass.
And so are you.
In Brightest Day
I can’t promise you’ll end up in the spot you shoot for, but you will end up somewhere. It’s a matter of being willing to go for it, and take the lumps along the way. The odds will always be against you. But that will never change. It’s about going forward and making yourself be heard, and imposing that will to want more.
So in summary:
Choose a path in everything. Be very specific about what you want.
Follow through on those goals.
Don’t be afraid to be sidetracked, but remember the destination
Keep fighting until you get what you want
Or until you get something you’re happy with.
Impose your will. You are not doing this to quit. You’re doing this to win. You can.
I believe in you. So keep going. Me? I got a map to draw.
So I’m approaching Six months into freelancing. Today was one of those hard days. My morning was great. I’ve had four different things happen in the last 24 hours. I’m getting good at making noise and stuff.
So first off, my latest podcast is up. Trista Robinson was my guest. And you know what? I enjoyed that conversation far more than I realized. Trista is a quiet, easy going, open minded person who I would have no trouble learning bad curse words with. She talked about being in her first lead as an actor, and I was fascinated to learn what would be a role that would challenge her. It’s a really good conversation. Check it out here.
That’s pretty good right? Follow that up, I got myself a new column out at First Comics News. My topic this week was Green Lantern 80th Anniversary. It felt like a nice burst of nostalgia with a couple of really amazing stories. Check out the review here.
And I even did an interview with the Amazing JD Estrada. Oh speaking of which…be right back.
Yup. That’s going to be my new facebook profile too. I did this incredible interview with JD Estrada in which I was the one being interviewed. JD is a cool human being. I love his energy and he’s a creative genius…and a sweetheart. He went to bat for me and I appreciate it. You can read that here.
But wait, there’s more. I mean, I’m doing a lot of good stuff right now to advertise me. Speaking of adverstising, I just did WWC. I did three presentations.
Here’s my presentation on Freelancing.
And I did two more. Here’s my annual Podcasting Presentation from When Words Collide.
And here’s the one I was most excited about, Advertising in the Apocalypse.
That’s a pretty cool list of things.
But wait, there’s more.
This was a pain in the butt to get up there. I worked so hard to get it up to preorder and out by now, but the universe said nope. Here you go. I lost my ability to finish the preorder due to computer issues. But for all my struggles,the book is ready to be pre-ordered. It’s all done. I’m not going to worry about this book anymore. Alice was a wild bit of chaos in the last week to write. Kenzie Carr did an amazing job illustrating it, and I can’t wait for you all to read it September 8th. So go preorder it now with just two clicks. A click to this link, and a click of the button.
And oh yeah, I launched my audiobook biz two weeks ago. I’m changing my whole routine of putting it all together.
So why does it feel like I’m not accomplishing anything?
That’s the struggle. Look at all that stuff I’ve done in the last week. I feel like I’ve done nothing. I’m still leaving stuff out. But yeah, it’s crazy to be in this position.
In my more vulnerable moments, I feel like I’m wandering through fog. I’m not sure what’s out there but I do feel eyes watching me. I have to keep moving forward. I made the leap to go out of my comfort zone. This doubt is normal, and I think I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t have this.
I think I’m doing everything right. Everything I can at the moment at least. So I have to have faith it will go somewhere, and it will, one way or another. In the meantime, I pitch, I narrate, and I write book three this year. Repeat.
Pitch, Narrate, Write, Repeat.
Pitch, Narrate, Write, Repeat.
Just keeping on keeping on. That’s the struggle freelancers have. And the struggle is real. It’s all in your head. Keep going. Keep struggling. Rule 3, don’t quit. Be resilient, be ready to pivot, but don’t quit.
A couple of odds and ends before I head out, if you like my content, be sure to subcribe to my newsletter. There are cool things there if you are interested in more content from me. I’ll be previewing some of my audio work there, as well as a few surprises here and there.
Well, everything is in flux and flow. Waves of uncertainty surround us. While I am certain this time will pass, and that masks and social distancing will in time go away with it, not much am I certain of.
I ended up back in Windsor. I have gone full circle and I am completely rebuilding my life from scratch. I wasn’t stunned by this as much as you’d expect. This time was for me, a time to change. I went to BC to change. I had my personal gear to ride this wave in mind. So for me at least, this time of personal tribulation was to some degree planned.
No one could have seen this coming. But as I have written before in other places, I have been to this place where I have nothing to lose.
I accepted my lack of control of my circumstances from the start.
It made it easier to cope. I’ve been here before. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve struggled. So this time is nothing new to me. You just get up and go and keep going. This is chaos.
When I was a kid I remember going to the Pinery with my family. We went swimming and I remember these giant waves (or giant like considering my seven year old mind) and wondering if I should take the leap into them. My sister stepped in the water at six and got knocked on her butt after one wave. She decided not to go back into the pool.
But I wanted to do it. But I was afraid to do it. I couldn’t control where it let me go. Eventually the biggest wave I ever saw came towards the sure. In my mind I was going to do it. I went out there, and with all my might tried to leap the wave.
I landed on my butt.
It was fun.
My fear was gone. The worst had happened. And I jumped and got knocked on my butt quite a few more times. I kind of liked it.
Trying to fight the tide is pointless. No matter how big or strong you are, you just are going to have to accept where the water goes. It erodes and devours the shore with one gentle caress at a time.
In chaos the pieces all fall apart. It will take you where it will. There is no rhyme or reason. It is simply chaos. It does what it does like the waves in the ocean. It’s going to play by its own rules.
I’ve nearly died, I’ve had my body do things it shouldn’t beyond my control. I have suffered and I have starved. I’ve been here before, and so has most of the world. North America is getting shell shocked. Our privilege as a continent shows. We have no experience with anything like this. We are not Japan, or Pakistan or Singapore. They have faced this time and adversity.
In many ways, this time is no different than any other time. Diseases have always killed. There is always violence, and there is poverty and suffering. In this time that has only been made more apparent. The bubble is gone.
COVID is the big bad boogeyman right now. It is the latest thing. It will not be the last. Whether a treatment or a vaccine is found, eventually it will be normalized. It will be part of life.
But it has always been this way. Life is not something you control. It is something you experience. Some of us are in better positions than others. In some ways, we have to change. Sometimes we have to play games we don’t want to. It’s life. We keep learning and keep rolling.
But first, you must grieve. Things are going to be lost. My job is gone, but I don’t want it back. I have nothing. So there is nowhere to go but up.
And then, grab your board and let the waves carry you where you’re going to go. Right now, change is afoot. It’s uncomfortable and has no real discernible final destination. The tide is coming in. Instead of fighting it, we need to ride it. Grab that surfboard and just go.
Change is uncomfortable, but necessary. It’s the nature of life itself. We never are in control of the world. All we can control is ourselves. Be a dead man, let the waves take you where it will go.
Last night I had a very vivid dream. A demon had kept this thing in a cage and wouldn’t let it evolve. When I confronted the demon, it retreated, eyes red and scary. Later I would try to fight it, but thanks to something else, I got to see it exorcised. When I looked up the dream and what it meant, it symbolized that I was moving forward in my goals.
Which lined up perfectly with what I was thinking about.
It had been three months since my last interview in Vancouver. When I first arrived, I got a handful of interviews. I didn’t pursue it that much because I have a ton of material in the can, and I had to figure out my way in a new city. (Note: Still do.)
Last weekend I made a conscious decision that I was going to focus on my goals as I moved away from the day job. I’m still there for a bit, but I chose now to no longer be as concerned with it. I have other goals and I needed to start making them the priority.
The moment I made that decision in my mind, things clicked. It was like I told God “Okay, I’m ready to do this.” Ask and you shall receive indeed. I got contacted on twitter from a kickstarter campaign, and a friend asked me for some input on his campaign (who will air this thursday, more below) to help them out, I interviewed them for the podcast.
So I was going to move back Can Con until this coming week, and then I get another opportunity. I got to me three amazing editors for three different magazines and I got to pitch articles to write for them. Adding on top of that, I confirmed two more guests for my podcast down the road, and maybe a start into another prospective career.
Then my sponsor contacted me about another interview with a great company. And even with me getting started, this is one of the biggest of my career. I release the first of the two Kickstarter interviews.
So I was going to release the second episode as episode 338, but this was too good an opportunity. I got a chance to talk to Charles Yu and Marc Anthony Rodriguez. I couldn’t say no to that, and what they are doing at Vox Pop is damn cool. In Part 1 in particular, I learned a ton. Part 2 airs Monday, but you can listen to this one here.
Cool huh? And that wasn’t even the end. I got the opportunity to interview Melissa Mary Duncan, artist and business woman extraordinaire. We had a great chat, and we got to talk about art, and books. Look for that episode in April/May.
One shift in focus and suddenly it’s all different. My priorities are closer to what I want. The rest of this month is shifting the rest of the way for me. I made a choice when I came out to Vancouver to change everything. There is even more stuff I’ve done I have not mentioned yet, and won’t until more things come to pass. But I know I’m in the finale of how I did things before.
I dream too big and at this point I’m just going for it.
If you’re reading this, I got a question for you. What about you? What do you want, what do you focus on? Right now I know the world is acting a little crazy. Corona is running rampant. Personally, I feel it’s far less dangerous than advertised. I overheard medical staff at a lunch talk about it here at a restaurant I was eating at. From what they were saying, doesn’t sound so bad, but people are panicking.
I’ve been reading angry posts about elections. I’ve read about job losses (which sucks) and I remember my own feelings in 2008 in Arizona. Chaos is around.
But in adversity there is opportunity. I’ve picked a direction and I believe things can happen and I’m seeing things happening. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but I’m going to keep going for it and seeing where it all leads me. There will be chaos I’m sure, but there is opportunity.
The biggest challenge we have is seeing the good in our bad situations. What we can learn in those moments and where we can go from here. Believing that a path is there, even if we are in the dark about it. That we can survive and move forward whatever is thrown our way.
Maybe that’s bullshit. I don’t know. It’s got me through so far. This is what happened in just a week. Isn’t that cool? Isn’t that magical? I’m going to keep going. Let’s see where it all leads.
I keep getting 7 books that impact me, and 10 albums I love from facebook friends. So now that I’m in Vancouver, I thought I’d open with my lists of Josh this year. I’ll talk about them in Part 2, but I thought I’d touch on my goals for this year in my writing and podcasts here in Part 1.
Just Joshing (The Interview List)
So this is who I’m chasing. And yes, there are some big names on here. But I figure, why not?
Bonus two: Heidi Heilig, Kripparian, Diane Birch
The podcast is expanding already this year. I interviewed my first streamer and have some amazing guests already interviewed heading into Just Joshing 350 but these are the people I want to interview this year. Brandon Sanderson is the man, and I want to have a magic match with him. Lights is someone I’m a big fan of. I really dug Skin and Earth and listen to her music often when I write. Gail Simone would just be fun, but the one I’m secretly hoping on this list I finally get to?
Samantha Beiko. I’m a big fan of Sam. I became one two years ago at the Auroras. Scion of the Fox is on my reading pile right now, and I just dig her comic Krampus is my Boyfriend. She is a one of a kind talent who shines no matter what platform she appears. I want to sing something terribly on stage with Sylvain Neuvel. I met him in Ottawa and he is cool beans man. Youtube wing and a prayer on Youtube. It’s amazing. I may fly to montreal just to do it.
People I want to interview again
By Your Leave
I want to interview Fonda again because she’s done comics now and I’m more jealous. She’s also an amazing writer period, and I can’t help saying nice things about her. Sofia Evangelina gives me no excuses not to succeed. I feel like I could have done better by Kate Heartfield and I really like her books, and By Your Leave was definitely a fun experience.
Chris Marrs? Because I know there’s more to her and I want to hear that story.
I want to definitely write more this year. Last year I wrote a lot but wasn’t as productive as the year before. I’m close to finishing draft one of Phoenix Grand Prix and have started Cloud Diver 2. I have big goals for both this year. But first..
Release the Cloud Diver.
It’s really, really close. We’re finalizing the internal stuff right now, and I got some ISBNs to buy and copyrights to finish. That’s it. This bad boy is ready to fly.
I’ve already started seeing messages, so tonight, and today I say farewell back.
Who do I want to become?
In May my sister left Calgary to go onto greener pastures. With her and a few friends leaving, I had to weigh my own future.
I concluded that I had no good reason to stay in Calgary. I don’t want to downplay how good this city has been to me, so let me elaborate.
The first time I lived in Calgary I was still living with my dad, and I watched him suffer here. Calgary was not for him, and this city can be cruel to the people that don’t belong here. It coloured my first experience here. In 2009 when I came back broken, stinging from failure and having to start all over again.
Man, what a difference a decade makes. I’m all grown up, or something. First and foremost, I refused to let my dreams die. I didn’t quit, I didn’t succumb to bitterness, I kept grinding. I got back on my feet and kept writing. As of this blog there are three books out courtesy of Mirror World Publishing and my first book published by me is due soon.
I kept interviewing people. If you go back on this blog there are some amazing interviews with people like Simon Rose, Liana Kerzner, and many other amazing people. Getting the opportunity to interview Robert J. Sawyer led to my current podcast being a thing. Just Joshing has surpassed all expectations. Accomplishment wise, two Aurora Finals and a win is impressive. I’ve been featured in OnSpec because of the podcast. I have sponsors and people that believe in me. That is a hell of an achievement.
Beyond my aspirations, there was a lot of personal reparations. I was saved when I came back to Calgary. Still to this day a profound memory, showing up at the church at minus ten weather to take a dunk in the water. Going through that changes you. God is there and continues to be amazing.
I’ve fallen in love here. A woman named Gisel was able to open my heart in ways I never imagined. She opened the door to discover things about my heart I never thought would be possible. It has served me well since, and it’s been important in my development.
I can’t forget about my teeth. The one thing Calgary taught me is that I don’t have to carry my scars with me. I confronted my demons, and became someone different. Someone I could be proud of.
Someone that needs to keep growing.
So I’m leaving. When you read this, I’ll probably be on that jet plane. Not sure when I’ll be back again. But I need to thank the city and the people in it. I can’t name you all. There are too many people that believe in me and I cannot do you all justice. But here are a few:
Adam Dreece – Thanks for everything. Meeting you was awesome. Caleigh Cassidy – We still got to do a metal show sometime. Cory McConnachie – Love you bud. Thanks for having my back. Kayseas Redsky – Love you. Great to meet you. Lance Buan – Can’t think of a collaborator I’d rather have. Randy McCharles – Thanks for helping me into the writing community. Shelniel Bostic – I love how our friendship has grown. Suzy Vadori – There might not be anyone I believe in more.
There are so many more. Thank you to anyone I missed. And I know I missed a lot of you.
But I did have one last thing to say. I’ve moved quite a few times. One thing I’ve learned is that nothing stays the same. Relationships evolve, and time will make this no different. Life goes in every direction possible. But I do know, right here, right now, that I am grateful.
What’s next? I have no idea, and I love it. Life is change. I’m embracing it.
There’s a little spoiler about Just Joshing 300 I have to say. I have two amazing conversations with Calvin Jim and Jessica Renwick live at When Words Collide. I like talking to Calvin, and I’m looking forward to a full conversation with Jessica down the road. But what makes me really excited about this, is the last ten minutes.
I’m going to say it. I believe in you.
No really, I do.
Not just because of what you do, but because of how you changed me. This podcast has been a journey, and honestly, each and every one of you has made me better. Let’s go back to the beginning shall we?
Most things that happen well within my life are things I do not plan. Rather, they kind of come from the aether after I have the vaguest of ideas what I’m doing. I finally got a smartphone. I have been doing interviews by memorizing them and writing them down before handing them to the people interviewed to make sure I misquoted them. It was fun, but it was a lot of work.
Now I’d have the opportunity to record and transcribe. A lot easier to do. My first interview at When Words Collide where I’m debuting this? Robert J. Sawyer.
We have a pretty good back and forth. But what I remember the most is after. Rob met up with someone who asked him what he was doing, and he mentioned that he was being interviewed for a podcast. In my head, something clicked.
I could do a podcast. And so the journey began.
How many people say their first interview recorded was Robert J. Sawyer?
This has been the biggest perk of the whole journey. That all said, there are some key people I want to bring up in this. Very early on in the show I’ve met some amazing people who made a huge impact on my life. Also, some of these people have become great friends.
I have to start with Vanessa Cardui. Vanessa is one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. She has a very beautiful voice, but is also an incredibly sharp, sincere, tough and very giving person. I remember meeting her for the first time for the podcast. We ended up going downtoan to this little cafe on 8th and 6th in Calgary, all the while she walked and talked with me through Kensington as we sought a place. I’ve had the pleasure to be in her life off and on throughout the years, but this first conversation was a big leap of faith, and I thank Vanessa for doing so.
Suzy Vadori I met at my second when words collide. She was having a good time and getting into all kinds of mischief as we all do on the second night of the conference. Suzy is someone I treasure. I admire her drive so much. She’s a great writer, and has a great future in front of her. But for all that, she’s one of the very few people I have no doubts at all.
We have to mention a legendary individual as well. GW Renshaw is one of the sweetest men I’ve ever met. Sharp as a blade, but also just one of the kindest, gentlest men I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with. We ended up chattting one When Words Collide all night. Just a fun conversation.
But I can’t help but mention my chat with Adam Dreece. Adam is an amazing human being. This conversation is still memorable to me just because this was the genesis to a great friendship. Adam is one of the few that I can go to, and he’s done a lot of amazing things. I can’t wait until he makes the plunge with his next series. As is, I feel for me, this conversation was life changing.
The show’s quality improved with some key suggestions here and there as well. John Fleming was the one that recommended I cut back the intros to something less than two minutes. For the most part, I keep to his advice. Listen to any episode post episode 100 and you will hear it.
Also, I ditched the music as well. I think this show is best bare bones. I’ve dabbled with the idea here and there to make a jingle. But for now, I like the raw tone.
It’s amazing what a lack of budget at the beginning forced. Necessity does indeed make the mother of invention. I don’t have the money to rent a studio space, and while it’s now possible for me to reserve quieter rooms (thank you Calgary Public Library) the show’s atmosphere is different with each and every episode. The most common background is Skype as a lot of my guests are abroad, but there are a few memorable ones I’m putting below. Episode 40 involved me and Brendon doing an interview while I was being driven to Winnipeg airport. It’s probably my favorite of the early interviews and I encourage a listen.
The other is a recent chat I had with Konn Lavery. It’s amazing how lettling in little bits of chaos makes the conversation feel that much realer. In this case, you can hear us literally go from a diner to a cafe and all the steps in between, including the dead air. It feels realer this way, and maybe just maybe even when I can regularly do a studio that I won’t. This made this show genuine, and I don’t want to lose that.
I feel I can say that without the podcast, I’m not sure I would have fixed the teeth as fast as I did. I probably still did it a bit too late to be honest, but where I wanted to go with the show required me to make changes. I’m still a work in progress, but it definitely was something that I’ve improved and it’s amazing to think about where I was as a person, then.
What Success Feels Like
So yeah, throughout this journey I’ve been rewarded time and time again. It’s as though I’m meant to do this. This podcast one the 2018 Aurora for best fan related work, and is a finalist this year once again. Even if I don’t win, this has far and away grown beyond my wildest dreams.
It was appropriate that I found out about my victory at episode 198 when I was about to air this. Liz hadn’t known she was going to win, and it was an interesting chat, as Liz and I reversed roles for the purpose of this interview. I was the one that was asked questions and I was the one that answered. I couldn’t think of a better episode to air my results than this one. Both of us deserved it. Liz is great.
What I’ve learned
This has been my journey. Ultimately the guest may be why people come to listen, but the only reason the show has lasted as long as it has is me. I have now 300 episodes in the rear view and about 30 more to use going forward. But it’s all my journey. It’s about where I have been and where I’m going.
I started as a guy willing to do anything to get interviews. In order to do that I had to learn to open myself to the world. Everyone is different, and unique, and that meant that in order to get the people I want to, I have to get people to come aboard. I needed to open up, even if I disagreed. I welcomed everybody and everything. I have interviewed not just writers, but comedieans, comic book creative teams, musicians, politicians, rock bands, and more.
Thank you all. But I want you to know that I believe in you. Not becauseo f just who you are, but who you made me. Someone more open, someone willing to learn, and work with others to succeed.
I’ve learned not just to be motivated but inspired. I’m always looking forward to listening to the next story, because it changes mine. I’ve learned so much, and I couldn’t thank you enough for being there for me.
You’re awesome. I’m looking forward to where your story goes from here. I want you to know, I am rooting for you. I am your fan. I see how amazing you are. Thanks for making me a better person. Here’s to 300 more.
If you listen to my podcast with any regularity, you will find that my interviews are often conversations more so than question and answer type deals. There are reasons for that. I thought today because I don’t do craft too much on my blog, that I’d give an insight with how I approach interviews and what exactly I’m seeking when I do a podcast.
I started doing interviews at a site called comicbloc back in 2003. I had seen some of my favorite writers in comics such as Dirk Manning and others break into the industry and thought it would be a good path to start with. I figured that big name artists and creators would not be interested in chatting with me, so I made an emphasis on focusing my time with independent creators and publishers. Years later, I realize that my path hasn’t diverged as much as I thought it would, but I digress.
When you start doing interviews, questions and answers are a great start the ice breaking process. Questions to me are like small talk. It’s a way to find commonality with the interviewee. Generally I don’t know people very well the first time I meet them and have to figure out the ways to chip at the exteriors people have.
On a written platform, these kinds of interviews have a ton of merit. For one thing interviews are snapshots of the person you are engaging with. People want a sense of who the person or their project is on the other side of the process.
From a purposes of media, the big advantage is time. There are what, maybe two thousand words max you can do on a page like this? How many minutes does someone have reading an article from a mobile phone while they are on the train to work? Questions and answers really condense a topic into a very manageable kind of bite. Even on a podcast, if an interview is only about fifteen minutes, this works quite well. Questions and answers are great small talk, and in that kind of time, small talk works.
If this is the kind of interview you do, there are challenges with those limitations.
If you are going to do an interview like this, you need to figure out the story you want to tell. Interviews are storytelling as well, and you need to pick your angle. For one thing, how many questions do authors get about their appearance or genre or about a famous story they did. One of the biggest compliments I have received from my guests on my podcasts is that this isn’t a standard interview. I don’t ask the same questions anyone else does. I have a specific focus when I engage with the people I’m talking to. So my questions have to deal with that focus.
This lesson didn’t come quickly to me. I remember especially with my first few interviews that my questions were very generic. And that’s fine for a beginning. At some point though, you do need to ask yourself what you want to know about the person you are dealing with. Having that kind of planned out makes the questions that come to you easier.
Coming at someone with that kind of agenda may seem disingenuous, but the truth is very often you go in blind. It’s easier to engage with a subject if they have an idea of what they are talking about. Gradually I became more comfortable with the questions I was asking. This process took a few years.
I did it this way for years, even when I started doing interviews on my blog. Until I met Simon Rose.
Simon is an amazing children’s writer and publishes some outstanding books for that genre. I remember coming into the interview with about a page or so of questions. I threw those out of the window immediately after we started chatting. Simon was such an engaging individual on his own, that I realized that the questions I would ask him would get in the way. So I didn’t. I just did a back and forth conversation with him, which turned out quite well.
After interviewing Simon, I threw away the concept of questions. Don’t get me wrong, I still use them from time to time. Like I said, questions are like small talk. They are great to break the tension and get to know someone enough to engage in a conversation. But once you are through the ice, you need to have substance in the conversation. I am a big fan of Rolling Stone interviews with people. There is a real sense of a conversation being told in the magazine and I dig that. It feels realer, is more engaging, and it’s a better soundbyte.
I said above that questions and answers for about 15 minutes is engaging. If you’re good at them, you can do a half hour. After that though, I start to disengage. Maybe it’s because my attention span isn’t what it used to be, but I think it has more to do with the fact that questions and answers don’t sound real after a while. No one tlaks that way in real life. We engage in more of a back and forth and we improvise as we interact. That’s the real experience in enjoying someone’s company, and that’s the experience I try to accomplish on my podcast.
Most of the time it works. I have scared a number of guests when I say not to worry about questions beforehand. I don’t worry about what we are talking about. I have a couple of icebreakers but by and large, I really don’t have a gameplan, with a few exceptions.
The big advantage to my approach is that it feels organic. It’s more like how people talk, and it comes across much more genuine. Questions with this approach are used to continute the momentum of the conversation, but not drive it. This kind of interview really lets people see who the person is.
This approach does have a couple of flaws. The first one you can overcome, the second…not so much. The first one is that if you don’t have a goal with the conversation the chat will go everywhere. My goal with my podcast is to showcase who the person is. That is far more important to me than anything else going on. Because that is the goal, the interviews work. I’m not interested in making someone look bad, and it gives the person the freedom to talk about whatever they want to. If the goal is specific, the road to getting there doesn’t matter.
What does matter however, is if the person is comfortable enough to engage you on this level. Some people aren’t. And no matter how you try to find openings, they will only go so far. You have to accept that.
If I know I’m dealing with a guest like this, I develop a set course we start with. I find that some people are very guarded (rightfully so in some cases), but are open to back and forth on certain topics. Those interviews do require a little more care, and is maybe the middle of the road with the style I enjoy than question and answers.
Finally, I’ve learned to improvise. Every person you are talking to is different. Some people can laugh, some are intense. What everyone has in common is that everyone has a story. Your job as the person doing the interview is to find it. You ask questions, you engage, you talk. Their response tells you everything you need to to get a story.
It’s why I love my podcast. Every week there’s another story being told.