Bigger Elephants in the Room

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This is the very heavy US Politics post.  I talk about Fox and Socks next week as a balance to this.  So if you want to keep reading me in a political athiestic kind of way, come back to next blog.

Okay?

Let the show begin.

 

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This is not the only Orwell quote I’m going to use.  It is however the link between the recent blog post and this one.  But even though I confess that racism is a huge problem in the United States, there are bigger issues to be mentioned here.

Let’s go with the obvious elephant.

The United States is an open fascism.

Now, I’m not saying the US is a nazi party.   Nor am I saying the Hitler word.  However, I don’t think the argument exists to countermand this statement.  After all, another quote I want to say before I continue is this:

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power”  Mussolini.

If this quote is accurate, I do not think that there is a more perfect example of this than Trump himself.   Trump is the living representative of that merger.  I don’t think there is a counterargument to this.

Normally this is the place where I’d post a picture of the trumpophant.  I’m not doing that.  I’ve listened to the damage this man has caused on my facebook feed.  I don’t need to watch him on television nor do I need to follow his twitter.  Nor do I need to actually even try to listen to this man.

His superpower seems to be to get grown people to say and repeat what he does.   I find out that a kerfluffle on his twitter feed made the rounds all over my board.  And then after that I decided that this man has far too much power.

See, he’s a polarizing individual at the best of times.  And polarizing is good for ratings on television and clicks on the internet.  Polarizing is not what I want to see reflected on my very many friends on facebook.

Now, people may have differing opinions on just how good a president he is, and I won’t comment there.  I will say however that his true gift is how he manipulates the media into giving him all the publicity he could possibly want.  That I feel is his real power.  And he’s good at it.  You have to admire a man who is doing what he is best at.

I cannot do much about how he governs at this point, nor do I care to really care that much.  Instead, I decided that I would ignore what the man is saying and watching what the country is doing instead.

I suggest you do the same.

If you really want him gone, ignore his platforms.  As long as he is on the news, don’t watch the news. Do some research and due diligence on your own.  We have the all powerful internet at our beck and call.  We do not need to pollute ourselves with  fake news.  Let’s focus on the real issues.

Which may lead to the most damning element of all.

As a people we need to ask ourselves one question.  How did the US get there?  That answer is a book or two or a dozen, but if I had to sum it up, it would probably be the next statement.

Americans are ignorant of their own system and don’t know how to fix it.

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Call me cynical, but I have seen Charlottesville before.  I saw it with Rodney King.  I’ve seen it with other riots, protests, police arrests.  Yet, why is this response so violent?  Why is this being encouraged with apathy from above?

Because this isn’t just about race.  This is about class as well.   The US has a ton of problems ranging from its gun making – crazy when you consider the levels of destruction that are available to purchase today.   Kids are coming out of high school capable of running down a football field in record times, but haven’t touched books since elementary school.  How are they going to get to college?

Then there’s how money and taxes work.  The many government alphabet agencies that are out there.  Does anyone know how all the jurisdictions work?

So you have a government that is big and complicated and a mess that only seems to have their own agenda in mind, which seems of a more corporate variety…everything from medicine, to education, to prisons are all a business.

Not good.  We the people…who are the people?  Because it seems like no one I know.

How did we get there?  What do we do?

Maybe the reason we fight each other so much is because we don’t know what else to do.  I realize that when it comes to america no one has an easy answer.  How did we get here?  What can we do?  Standing up and speaking about it is a good first step, but it’s not enough.  Things need to change.

We need to be aware of what’s going on.   Instead of arguing about right and left, we should talk about what we want as a country and take a good long look at the face of it.  Because the truly scary thing about Trump is this – he is only the beginning if nothing changes.

And change is what we need.  Because we can tell the direction we are going in is not great.  What we need, more than anything, is to understand each other.  Turn off the distractions, and focus on what is real.  Focus on the secret beyond the illusion.

Trump at the end of the day is a character on television.  Perhaps that’s the biggest elephant of all.

We now return to regularly scheduled programming.

Elephants in the Room

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So I tend to keep my social presence deliberate and politically atheistic.   It’s simpler that way.  I see a LOT of dissenting views with it and have for the year since Trump was elected.  Comic book professionals and authors say all kinds of things about this.

I’m silent.  I like talking about ice cream and baileys or unicorns that fart rainbows.

But then Charlotteville happened.

So I have to state this disclaimer.  I’m a single, white, heterosexual male.   There are only two instances where in this country that has worked against me.  Once when my father and I were the only non Chinese people in a mall.   The other is in some of the less savory neighbourhoods in Detroit and Phoenix.  Being white in some of those areas…not so good.  But by and large yeah I’m usually in the privileged class.  I don’t pretend to understand what people go through on a day in and day out basis.

This weekend was When Words Collide and I had the privilege of interviewing eight amazing people.  Three different conversations ended up coming to the same topic of assumption and how people treat each other.  I thought I’d bring this up in light of what’s going on today.

When I was very young I had a bias towards a certain culture.  Part of that was my father coming from work.  Part of that was media manipulation.  Either way, it cost me a potential date.  I vowed from that point on I wasn’t going to let that happen again.  By and large I have kept that promise.

My podcast is the most visible aspect of this success.  My podcast has featured people from many parts of the world with different genders, beliefs, sexuality, culture, and values.  And every person has offered me a ton I have learned from.

My real secret?  Nothing more than talking and listening.  It doesn’t really matter who you are and what you do, you have something valuable to contribute.   Think about it like this:  No one has your perspective.  7.5 billion people live on this planet and not one person has the exact same point of view or life experience.  If you think about it, that’s actually pretty amazing.

It’s the biggest reason I still do my podcasts.  I get to talk to amazing people doing amazing things that have perspectives on things I’ve never considered.  It makes my world simultaneously bigger and smaller at the same time.  And it’s awesome.

If only the world shared my viewpoint more.

America has had a racism problem for a long time.  It has had one ever since the time when they battled Native Americans as they expanded.  Slavery has been a cornerstone of the foundations of the United States ever since the founding fathers.  The Civil War didn’t end the problems; they were buried.

The first elephant I want to point out to people is that perhaps some of the issues of police brutality in the US have to do with what founded them.   What do you think the slave traders became after the war in a lot of places?  It’s not a surprise then that certain police forces are different to people of colour than others when you consider that foundation.

Factor in the emphasis on education and poverty in the US and you can see the treatment.  Canada isn’t perfect in this either and I feel it’s something I’m going to close part one with my story.

One of my best friends in the world is a Metis living in Ontario.  We’ve been friends since high school and he is one of the bedrocks of my life.  Jon became a friend of mine after I stood up to him in a hall in high school, calling him out for some of same things he called me out for.

Turns out, we’ve had similar interests and hung out and been talking ever since.  Jon is a shrewd dude and I’ve enjoyed my time with him.  I can only imagine how he would have been treated if he had lived in Calgary

Calgary does some of the most brutal things I know when it comes to the native population.  I still remember a story of me working for a grocery store about twelve years ago.  I remember my boss, so furious at the native culture actually ordering me not to serve any of their kind.

This really did happen in Calgary.

We have a long way to go.

In all that has happened recently, I question sometimes if we truly learn anything.  My own doubts on how we grow and can do magical things is shaken when I see people not given a chance for how they look like or what they seem to be.

The only true way to defeat racism is with understanding.  And that only happens when we talk to each other.   We can disagree, and even have a civil discourse about it.  At the end of the day, we need to remember that we are all people who just want to be loved and understood by others.

That we are not alone.

 

One of my favorite scenes.  I’m coming back to this in part two.

Because what happened in Charlotteville was not just a matter of racism.  It was politics as well.

Something to think about.

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Once Upon A Time There was a Family of Kids Who Lived Happily Ever After

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Part 1 of this blog can be read here. Part 2 can be read here.  I suggest you do that before you continue.

Once upon a time there was a poet who wrote two epic poems.   Both of them by accident, both of them by magic.  Once upon a time the poet realized that he could write this world and these characters forever.  They were a part of him and he them.  They had enriched his world and made him better by coming to be.

And yet…

Times had changed.  They had nearly said everything they needed to say to him.  And he in turn had other stories to tell.  The sad truth the poet realized that once upon a time, is that even though that he could keep writing forever, him and his characters needed to go their separate ways.

This is where I started on this journey.

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I will never presume mine is better.  Coleridge is a master and someone that I can always go back to for more inspiration.  I’m not sure if mine will ever have that kind of impact.  I hope (what artist doesn’t?), but I don’t know for sure.

That said, I’m proud.

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This is where it finishes.

All journey’s evolve.

This is a story about the journey.  A vision from the Wandering God compels the Watcher to seek the city at the end of the world, and save the Wandering God before the Dragons get him first.

The Wandering God came to me like a poem in of itself.  A being who creates everything and leaves, always wandering onto new ideas, leaving behind old ideas without a second thought, or a whim.  I feel every writer is a bit of a wandering deity.  We create our creations and then move on.

Writing this book taught me why this was so.  I love my characters.  I love Will and his inventive mischief.  I love Nicki for being the smallest, fiercest person I know.  I love Kristen, for she is the toughest person I’ve ever met.

But we all have to change and grow and when I set out to write it I knew when I got to the other side of the story, that I had to put it down.  I owed them that.  For this world and these characters and this place and this time, I’ve said what I’ve needed to say.

This one was more planned than the others.  I knew the fate of the Wandering God, and I knew what the stakes really were.  I had an ending (mostly).  So I let them walk and guide me to the end of their story, wherever it lay.

I didn’t expect some of the things in there that happened. I didn’t expect the rock people that came to me.  Nor the empty space between nature and the city itself.  Perhaps my favorite chapter in this story is “Stories In An Empty World” where each kid tells a story about the empty and how it may have came to be.

It’s a grand adventure, with monsters, wonders and joys and sadness.

And it has an end.

 

This book to me is a culmination of a story of a journey in my head.  Writing this made me realize there were things about my health and my place that needed to change.  None of us can afford the danger of stillness.  No matter how happy or sad we are, we have to keep moving forward, for time always goes on.

We have to make the moments count.

So what’s next now?  I have no idea in terms of epic poetry.  I do have some ideas, but this is the last story in this world.  With the first we talked about freedom, the second, we talked about family.  This story was about faith in the journey itself and where it leads.  I hope if you get to the end you have the same satisfaction I did.

I guess there are only two things left to say.  The first is a caution.  Just because this blog says they lived happily ever after doesn’t mean that they in fact do.  I do promise that there is an end.  Beyond that?  Not telling.  Buy this book on October 17th, 2017 and find out.

The second?  Thank you for letting me explore this Once Upon A Time.  I learned so much on this journey.  I’m happy it happened.

Once upon a time, there was a boy in a tower, who dreamed of a world without dragons and once upon a time there lived a poet to tell his story.  #thereismore #thestormishere #greaterworldsthanthese #happilyeverafter

Once Upon A Time there were a Family of Kids

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So, the first book is done.  If you want to read the journey, click here for part 1.

Once upon a time I wrote a really good book.  I’m very proud of the Watcher.  But where do I go from there?

Once upon a time I dreaded the idea of doing a sequel to this.  I never planned the first book at all.  It was an accident.  This wouldn’t be quite so accidental.  I was continuing the story I started before.

But I had to try.  Once upon a time, I did.

Keep in mind, sequels by their very nature are harder than regular books.  You have to serve a bunch of masters doing one.  The first thing you have to do is look at what you think made the first book work, and try to keep that tone and feeling in book two, all the while doing something different.

What were my problems with this book?  There were a handful of them.  The biggest problem with the book was the Watcher himself.  He was such a defined character.  He had been the star of the first book and his journey had been amazing.  He had grown so much.

Kristen, Will and Nicki on the other hand were complete unknowns.  I had no clue who they were really, and if I didn’t I know the audience really didn’t either.  It would have been easy for me to just do another Watcher centric story with friends that would have served to add very little depth to them.

I needed to get to know them better.

The solution seemed obvious.

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The Watcher would go missing with this sequel and it would be up to his friends to find him.  (Or would they?)

I decided that either Nicki or Kristen would take the role.  Of the two, Kristen spoke to me the most.  She had been the most distant of the three characters in the first book, and a very good reason came to me why.

I had a start to my story.  Did I have an end?  Would the world come to me as easily as it did before?

Easier.  Now there is something to be said about sequels.  You know the tune to the music you are writing too more familiarly.  The trick about going on a journey with a different character is to have different things happen to them.  The City of Dragons is something I didn’t focus on in the first book.  What would a city of Dragons and Humans look like over a compound?

But it was also a little different too.  Kristen wasn’t coming from a place of anger the Watcher had in book one.  She was coming from a place of uncertainty.  She had been happy with the familiar comforts of her life in book one.  Now they were gone.  Forever.

Her evolution was my favorite of any character I written.  Here she was in jail surrounded by dragons and humans and just made a decision to bust out.  With her friends she succeeded in doing so bare handed.  She is a living breathing bad ass and tougher than this writer will ever hope to be.

And you know what?  I like this book better than I like The Watcher.  It does venture into some of the same themes.  But like good sequels I think it managed to build on what came before.  The Watcher was about freedom, but Stormdancer was about family.  It was about the bonds of friendship surviving in a world such as this, and that love can move through anything.

Also,  I think Kristen is a more well rounded character than the Watcher himself is at the end of book two.  And as you can see above, Florence Chan killed it with this book.  My favorite thing she drew in here?  A pez dispenser.

The Pez dispenser came to me just while writing this.  I thought about all the religious artifacts in ancient times and just wondered to myself that what if all those things were nothing more than toys for children?  And maybe, just maybe, we just don’t know how to play with them any more than Kristen, Nicki or Will did in Stormdancer.  I really liked that thought.

Which leads to the final thing I want to discuss before I move on.  Rain dancing as a concept just intrigued me.  How could one make rain fall just dancing?  Only when I looked at my keyboard did the answer come to me.   What if dance movements were simply instructions inputted into a system?  How would I communicate that?

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dot, dot, line, line is a primer.  And now dear reader, you may see some hidden messages between Kristen and the world of the Watcher you never saw before.  Stormdancing indeed has a message.

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One other small change I should mention is that I wanted Florence to get a credit for this on the cover.  After all the work she put in, she deserved it.

One final note of serendipity and I will go.  During the stampede in Calgary it rains as it always does.  I needed to go out to a concert and it just so happens that Lights was performing.  Now she did make the mistake of a white shirt with no bra in the rain, but that aside, it was a great show.

I wrote Stormdancer to the Lights album Siberia and here I was once upon a time dancing in the storm listening to the very music that created a whole world.  Not only did I create it, I lived it.

Now you don’t need the Watcher to read Stormdancer, but I do hear that they go together like peanut butter and jelly.  You can buy them at Mirror World Publishing’s store or you check it out here, and if you do so, leave a review.

to be continued….

Once Upon A Time

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Sometimes the path comes to you by accident.

Good journey’s start with once upon a time.  So let’s go there.

OnceThe Singer upon a time I read this book right here.  It’s a neat book.  It was an epic poem that retold the story of Jesus, Paul and the book of Revelation.

It’s pretty good, very imaginative, and gives you a sense of a great epic unfolding.  I should at some point review this book in truth.  It really showed me just what could be possible with the whole poetry book thing.

It wasn’t just a poetry book per se.  It was a graphic novel.  There were illustrations and some very cool mythological concepts.  One such image was the glass in The Finale.  The glass reflection showing only one truth was just such a neat concept and it made me think.

Beautiful, flowing, musical, and maybe a touch preachy for those that don’t believe.  It doesn’t change the fact that I liked this a lot.

I wondered if I could write something like that someday.

Or maybe something like this.

 

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A wise man once said, seek what the masters sought.  This to me was the master goal if I ever decided to try and write an epic poem.  Coleridge to me was the man and I remember in high school wondering if I could write an epic like that myself some day.  Poetry seemed very hard to me (it still is to be honest).  But I told myself one day I would try.

One day.

Once upon a time I was in Calgary Alberta, and wanted to try a poetry collection.  I wanted to do something longer and a little bit bigger than a one or two page poem.

My day job still blows and I remember at the time being unusually upset.  Now I want to clarify something before I go, it’s not the job itself that I’m railing against.  If I’m honest, I’ve worked with some great people in the past, and I work with great people now in the present.  But at that moment I was sick of work.

I was sick of the waste of time, the futility of the struggle.  Why work just to get by?  It seemed (and seems) like the biggest waste of my energy.  A boy came in my head, looking out in the horizon, watching for the rain, dreaming of a time he could find his freedom.

I wrote that poem.  It was longer than any other I did.  I called it “The Watcher”.  I liked the first poem.  He captured exactly what I was feeling in the moment.

And then, once upon a time, I dared to ask what happened next?

I wrote that.  It was an action piece entitled Escape.  The Watcher kills his dragon masters and flees out into the unknown for the first time ever in his life.  I enjoyed that.  But I couldn’t stop there.  I had to know what was next.

And then after, next.

I knew then that I had a story here, told in a unique way.  I read it start to finish and thoroughly enjoyed it.  But I wanted to keep it unique.  During my time as an apprentice I found myself looking at how young adult books combine illustrations and design to challenge how a book can be read, not unlike the Singer Trilogy I mentioned above.

My stick figures tend to revolt, so I couldn’t do this myself.  I needed to enlist aid.  I found it in a comic shop.  Someone I had worked with had done a comic.  I really liked her work and thought she’d bring a unique angle to the project.  Fortunately, she agreed.

Her name is Florence Chan and her Twitch channel is here.  You should visit her on mondays.  She does amazing work.  She added a depth to the story that wasn’t there before, and gave me new dimension to consider.  I will say here and now that she made each book in the series better for being a part of it.

I need to mention my first editor here in Kristen Denbow.  Kristen enjoys my work and has been a great friend for me and been there when I really needed someone in my darker hours.   Even though she doesn’t make it to the last book, I need to take a moment and thank my friend who was there as an editor and dear friend.  Thanks Kristen.

So finally, it was done.

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Not bad.  Of course, once the book was done I had no real plan.  The initial idea was that I would sell this as an ebook and print the odd one here and there at conventions.  I had no big plans.  I mean, it was poetry, who would publish it.

Once upon a time there was this author in Windsor Ontario that I interviewed when I bought her first books in a local bookstore.  They were neat and I admired her guts for doing so.  She bought one of the early Smashword editions and read it and liked it.

She then asked me what I was going to do with it.  I told her my grand plans as I’ve written here.  I figured that would be the end right?  But it wasn’t.  It turns out this author was starting her own publishing house based in Windsor and offered to publish the book on the spot.

Her name was Justine Alley Dowsett.  She is the publisher of Mirror World Publishing.  You should check out her website and buy books there (mine for example.)

http://www.mirrorworldpublishing.com/

Somehow, I got published.  I never sought the door with this in particular, it came my way.  I’ve always said in the past that if you can get just one yes, that’s all it would take.  I got my yes without ever asking for it.  It was really awesome and still one of the coolest moments I’ve ever had happen to me.

And I have to say, it turned out rather well.  I’ve managed to time and time again surprise readers who have looked.  Poetry isn’t a big sell.  Even my publisher isn’t quite sure how to approach my books sometimes.  That said, it captivates people who open the contents of the book.  I’m proud I did it.

I should also mention my Amazon page for this book.  It’s here.   If you do so happen to be curious about the book yourself, please leave a review.  It’d be nice.

And then, another came to me one day, about a girl and a storm…

To Be continued.

Jesus Condoms or How Warren Ellis ruined me for reading

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I’m not kidding.

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I didn’t think they were real.  I thought they’d be a myth you know.   Just imagine, that some woman have had condoms inside them with a long haired hippy talking about a second coming.  It reminds me just how strange the world really is.

Warren Ellis taught me that they exist.  They exist in the bible belt in the middle of the United States.  (They also apparently exist in Germany according to my sister, along with these, which oddly make more sense in my world that they exist.)

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See?  That to me makes a lot more sense in my brain.

Maybe there is something wrong with my brain.

Maybe.

I digress.

Warren Ellis has been shocking my worldview since the end of my college days.  The novel thing is still a relative new thing for him to be known for.  The first thing of Warren Ellis that I read is a book called Man of the Atom.  It was a one shot for Valiant Comics.  I knew something was off when I heard the Seleskis talk about their dating life.  I never heard of anyone exposing themselves while wearing a rubber chicken suit, but this was the introduction.

My next great work of his?  Transmetropolitan

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This book is filthy.  The opening line of book one is “Up a goddamn mountain…” and I’ve loved it ever since.  Everything from gecko cats to bowel disruptors to filthy assistants and “Where’s my fucking column?” .  Just classic stuff.  It shows the world around me in ways I never considered.   It talks about the strange, and wonderful.   It goes into detail about the world and magic that people take for granted.

Patrick Stewart wrote once about this book “That I’ve lived in the city and that I’ve read this paper.”  And reading it more and more, you do.  There are broken personalities, colorful characters and  just a wonder of people and possibilities literally on the street.  Just like real life.

Warren Ellis is at his best when he juxtaposes absurd (yet very believable) situations with a combination of big ideas and people that try to live up to them.   If you love journalism, particularly in the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas vein, you should read volume 1 at the very least.

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I have two Warren Ellis stories and they both involve this book.  Let’s talk about the book first for a second.  So, Mike is a detective who has bizarre cases and this one is no different.  The secret constitution of the United States, designed to reset people’s moral compass.  What makes this even stranger is that the secret constitution has been circulated for porn for the last hundred years, and Mike has to find it.  This strange odyssey into the underbelly of america is delightfully indecent.  (Re: Jesus condoms)

So yeah, Warren Ellis story number one: Back in the Myspace days on American independence day Warren took a shot at President Bush.  Now to be fair, he was right.  That all said, England has no right to say anything when they are forever shackled to Prince Charles and the rest of the Royal Family.  We had a pretty fun back and forth about that.

But my other story ties to Warren Ellis the human being.  After I read Crooked Little Vein I emailed him and he replied.  Reading that email I realized something really important about Warren Ellis the person.

Ready?

He’s a sweet man.

I know.  You expect him to be carmudgeonly and angry and pissed off at the world.  In truth, he may be the shyest, sweetest writer I’ve ever talked to.  And it made me look at his work differently.  This is a human being, who cares about the world, and other human beings.  Writers can be pretentious folk, but it’s always great to realize that people do care, even in a world as crazy as this.

Warren cares.  And it shows in his work.  Check it out sometime.

 

Just Joshing 100

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It’s been one hundred episodes.

One hundred.

Wow.

So before I talk about the episode, I want to begin with a thank you.  Thank you to each and every person who took the time to listen to any of the episodes I’ve produced in the past.  This episode is special for a number of reasons.  The first is that this is the hundredth episode (obviously) but the second reason is the story behind this.

This was my first live show.  The episode was recorded At Owl’s Nest Books in Calgary, Alberta Canada on Wednesday, May 24th, 2017.  Now if you are aware of the weather that day, you know I was a little worried about the day.  After I got my awesome cake, the trees bent, the rain fell, and we had hurricane winds out there.

There was a question of whether or not anyone would show up.  I had rum, I had cake, Axel had brought whiskey, and we waited.  Fortunately, people showed and the show went on.

I opened up the show with a little bit of a monologue.  Heck, you only get to one hundred once right?

This being a live show called for some live guests.

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Robert Bose has yet to be on my live podcast offically, (that will soon be amended).  That said, he’s someone that I’ve wanted to have on the show for while. Robert is a heck of a short story writer who has a ton of credits in quite a variety of publications.

Through Coffin Hop Press Robert is releasing his first short story collection, Fishing with the Devil.  I personally dig the fact that Robert wrote a short story based on the fact that his grandfather is the devil.  That’s a hell of a tagline and his reading really captured a sense of what to expect this July.

I look forward to seeing Robert again on the podcast, and really dug the glimpse I got into his collection.  This July, check this collection out.  I know I will.

 

 

 

My next guest has been on the show before and has his first Noirvella coming out this July.

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Axel Howerton is probably one of the most talented writer/publisher/performers I’ve had the privilege to have on the show.  We continued some of our conversation from last time, and got into the history of Coffin Hop Press.  We both talk nicely about Sarah Johnson.

Then in my view, Axel just took it to the next level with his reading from his book.  He just killed it.  I really want this story.  Up until this podcast, I didn’t quite have a good idea of what noir was until Axel defined it.  Con Morte is a dark and vivid place that hits you hard the moment you hear him start reading from it.

This is damn good and also coming out this July. Axel and Robert are both going to be getting my hard earned dollars with their works and I’m encouraging you to do take a look at both of Robert’s and Axel’s stuff.

This July looks promising indeed.

 

Like I said at the event, I tried to design the live event like a talk show.  Now with a talk show you close the event one or two ways.  You either find someone funny, or you bring about someone with great musical talent.

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I’ve had Vanessa Cardui before on the show as well.  I wanted her back for a number of reasons.  She’s one of my most popular guests ever, and she’s also fantastic live.  She’s an amazing musician well versed in a variety of instruments and Styles.

We talk about her album Patience which is going to be released September 7th, 2017.  We talk about the process this album took and one of the big reasons why this album took so long.

Also, she performed as musicians are known to do from time to time.  Vanessa performed a pirate song called Chapter 122, which is a direct reference to Moby Dick.  It’s an excellent song about rum which the whole group managed to sing to.

We talked about her chosen venue, and the odd coincidence/serendipity it ties to this image and much, much more.  Vanessa is one of my favorite guests and she delivered a fun interview and a great performance to close out the show.

Well, almost.  I closed out the show with a bit of my poetry book The Wandering God.  All in all it was a fun show I was happy to do it.

I promise this, at some point I will do another show like this again.  But this show was special for a lot of reasons.  It was my first live show, and it was one hundred.  But all the circumstances, the people – it was one heck of an experience.  I went outside my comfort zone, and was rewarded with something truly special.

Before I close with the link to the podcast, I want to make one small thank you to Vanessa.  She mastered the live episode for me.

And what would a live episode be like without a cool preview?

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This is the cover from Tom Bagley for Coffin Hop’s Christmas anthology.

Coffin Hop Press.  : http://www.coffinhop.com

Vanessa Cardui: http://Vanessacardui.bandcamp.com

Listen here:  Just Joshing Episode 100

The Boxes we build ourselves

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I always try to encourage people to believe that they can do anything.  I rarely ask the opposite.  So my thought for today is a question for each of you.

Ready?

What can’t you do?

Now I know that all of us have things we’re not good at.  For example, I can’t draw worth a lick.  My stick figures revolt at the thought of this attempt.  Another example of something I don’t do well is sing.  Singing isn’t my forte.  At When Words Collide last year, I got the opportunity to do some karaoke.  I murdered a song by U2 and believe me I still haven’t found that tune that I’m needing for.

Those are limitations I came with.  We all have those kinds of things.  Now I can overcome these things.  The secret to that is practice, practice, practice.  Some things I will pick up quickly, while others I will still struggle with.   Given enough time, I will pick the things I struggle with up too.  If that is, I put the proper time into them.  For now, my stick figures will revolt and it may be best Bono never hear my take on his song.

But there’s another can’t.

The can’t you listen to.

It’s that voice inside your head that thinks you can’t overcome the obstacle in front of you.  This is the harder one to answer, and the one I’m putting to the question.

What do you believe you can’t do?

A lot of our limitations aren’t physical abilities but are the ones we put ourselves.   Now they usually start with some kind of outside inference.  I’ve been called crazy (I’ve embraced this one a bit), weird.  One of my heroes actually called me the weirdest person he ever met.  That still stings a bit coming from him.

Personal gripes aside, we all have those things.  Some of us have them as trigger words.  At least two people I know very well respond to the word stupid in near rage.  I don’t need a psychiatrist to know that those people somewhere believe that.

That’s not cool.   But it really makes me want to hear what those friends of mine say to themselves.  Our mental voices reinforce our walls.  If we tell ourselves we can’t do something, we’ll believe it, and not do it.

A lot of time, it’s an illusion.

I’ve written about this before, but if you haven’t read the blog in the past, one of my favorite stories about my dad was the time he took me to fanshawe dam in London Ontario.  I remember we were walking along the stream when my dad just looked up.

“Josh, you want to climb that?”

I looked up.  I really didn’t but I didn’t want to let my dad down so I nodded.  Dad was with me at first, and we slowly started to scale upward.  Shortly after we went up I remember slipping climbing and sliding back down the hill.  I was at the bottom and I decided I didn’t want to try and scale up the hill.

Dad vaulted up the thing.  My dad in his prime could do some incredible things and here was him just making the thing look easy.   I had no choice but to try.

The whole time I went up the thing I said out loud “I can’t do it.”  Every inch I bellowed this thing out.

I can’t do it.

I can’t do it.

Until I did it.  I was so shocked.  Somehow this thing that was impossible was not only possible, but I did it.

Can’t is a very dangerous box.  We all have our limitations.  None of us have all the skills in the world.  I have a lot of limitations and things that don’t come to me as easily as it does to others.  That doesn’t mean I can’t work on those things.  With some effort, I will grow.

But I try not to tell myself I can’t do something.  It doesn’t mean I will succeed, but it does mean that I won’t beat myself.  Most things in life we want come down to what we can see ourselves going forward to.  The more fantastic dreams can be yours.

Can’t is an illusion but a powerful one.  It’s a box we build ourselves.  And one we need to avoid doing to ourselves at all costs.  Just imagine what you can accomplish if you change that voice from can’t, to can.

People that Inspire You – 200th Blog

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Before I begin, let’s do a little bit of fun.

My podcast has been on a roll of late, and the last few episodes should give you an idea as to why.

My last three episodes have been with Colleen Anderson, JM Dematteis and Saima Khalid.  Click a name to listen to their episode.  My show is approaching the 100th episode of being on the air and it’s been a thrill.  The show is Just Joshing and I hope you check it out.

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Why do we struggle?

It’s an age old question and I don’t think there is an easy answer.  Struggle, pain, those things have been debated for ever and ever.   I’m not going to discuss where I believe struggle comes from or why it exists.   Instead, I’m going to point out people in my life, who face their own obstacles every day.

My dad is my hero.  It’s no secret to those that know me.  He came from an incredibly tough neighbourhood and overcame being a statistic and right now is helping people in Windsor Ontario with holistic medicine.   He is a genius at using food as medicine and does in a way anyone can learn to apply themselves.

My sister makes me smile.  She didn’t have the same kind of support I had with family, and yet is one of the kindest most decent people I know.  She’s gifted, smart, and maybe one of the sweetest people I know.  I’m her brother, and I know there’s a bias there, but I’m super proud to have her as a sister.

I have a friend who beat the odds living today.  He’s a chef and one of the sweetest dudes I know.  He’s a chef and he’s been there for me in ways I’ve enjoyed.  Sometimes i think he’s the devil in my life – others, he’s the wise man.  I am proud to know him.

I know this one person who sometimes feel she’s worthless.  Thoughts of how to proceed with her life tend to make her pause.  I can only offer kind words here and there.  I don’t pretend to fully comprehend the pressures she faces in the world we live in.  That said, she is smart, she has a hunger to learn.  She taught herself english.  She communicates incredibly well and understands well beyond some people I know here.  I think she’s amazing for having that kind of drive.

Another friend I know is about to become a mom.  She’s scared sometimes, because I know she worries about the kind of mom she’s going to be.  She’s dealt with a lot in her life, and may be the second toughest woman I know.   She’s going to be a great mom.

You can find inspiration with the people in your lives.  Those people who chase dreams and try to make them real.  Those who face unbearable obstacles and still persevere and strive to live.   Those who want more and show incredible ability to do so.  People truly tend to forget how amazing they really are.  I can use anyone in this example.

We all struggle.  We all have things to overcome and learn and deal with.   It can be depression, it can be abandonment, or loss, or knowledge and responsibilities.  It can be a question of purpose.  I may be describing you in there somewhere, or someone you know.   If you look hard enough, you can see those struggles and put yourself if not in people’s shoes completely, empathize.

So for you that face things head on, thank you for taking away my excuses.  Thank you for amazing me in what you do and how you do it.  Thanks for being inspiration in just being yourselves.

We all forget how great we are.  In how we stand, we can inspire others.  When we can see where people struggle, then the walls can come down and maybe, just maybe we can help heal each other.

For are all are in pain.

But we can all be healed.

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Thanks for being here for 200 blogs.  Thanks for those who read and are inspired by what I write, and thank you for inspiring me to write.  This is only the beginning.

Ninety Percent of Your Battle

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Before we begin the blog, gotta say I’m really proud of two things.  The first is I have a youtube channel now.  Hooray right?  Right as I type this thirty some odd episodes are up there for you to listen to.  My channel is here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBr8pyMELcMcaHLd4qTWyaw

Watch and let me know what you think.

The other thing?  I got to talk to a comic book legend in JM Dematteis.  Been a big fan of his since his Silver Surfer run and have read a lot of his material since.

The episode is here. I also read a bit of The Cloud Diver at the end of episode.

Cool right?  On to the blog.

There is no guaranteed path to success.  I’m not saying that this will insure that you will always achieve your desired outcome.  Success and failure have no assurances.

I have a friend who has this cynical view of dreams coming true.  “You can be anything you want to be,” he says in that sarcastic tone.   There’s a tinge of sadness every time he says this.  A friend of mine I haven’t talked with for a long, long time finished the thought.

“..If you’re good enough.”

It’s a very unspoken part of the sentence.   Not many people say it, but a lot of people believe it.  That’s the problem.

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I don’t know about you but that images pisses me off.

But we all feel this way sometimes.  Not good enough for that girl, that job, that career, whatever.  We beat ourselves most of the time when we think like that.  Our minds are powerful.  If we tell ourselves we can’t do something, we can’t do it.  With very few exceptions.

Thing is, can’t do it is in our heads a lot.  One of the most important lessons of my life involved my dad.  At eight years old, he took me to Fanshawe Park.  There we walked along the stream and then, for whatever reason, decided to scale the hill.   I was eight and little and small and looked at this hill with dread.  To be honest, I didn’t want to do it.

Dad scaled the thing with ease, which meant I had to try.  The first time, I fell…well, more like skidded down the hill.  I really didn’t want to climb the thing again.  Dad encouraged me.  I on the other hand, discouraged myself.

“I can’t do it.” I said to myself.  I kept climbing, saying that mantra over and over again.  To my surprise, somehow I found myself on the top of the hill.

This is one of my most important lessons.  Can’t is a concept.  Worth is a concept.  Deserving is also a concept.  Life is inherently unfair and that isn’t exactly a bad thing.

That hill taught me that I can do anything and that confidence carries me into situations sometimes I had no idea what exactly I am doing.  (My career can be described in jumping into situations I had no idea what I was doing, but whatever.)

But there are no guarantees.  Success and failure are possible outcomes.   That said, ninety percent of all your battles are just one thing, and that’s this:  If you want something and you want the best chance to succeed at getting it, show up and take action.

It sounds simple.   In essence that’s what you do when you go to work, that’s what you do when you go on a date, that’s what you do when you choose to do anything.  Show up and do something.  There are no guarantees after that, but really, that’s ninety percent of the work with anything.

Don’t let those negative thoughts beat you.   Just do the above paragraph.  Show up and deal with the task in front of you.  Every task in life is just those two things.   You are big enough, brave enough, smart enough,  and capable of doing anything if you just do those two things.

Show up, and do the work.  And don’t let any voice in your head tell you that you can’t do it.  Don’t sabotage yourself.  Because, why not you?

Greatnes...just-ahead