Blog

A Real Writer?

I just received my first manuscript rejection from a New York literary agent.

I’m relieved to have this mandatory hazing ritual out of the way. Strangely, I feel more like “a real writer” now than any minor successes have ever caused. Perhaps I am consoled by a small sense of pride that this didn’t emotionally phase me. The juvenile phase of self-righteous indignation whenever someone calls “my baby” ugly has come and gone, thank God. (If fact, for a rejection it was quite civil).

I know that I’m happy with what I wrote; I know it can make some money for myself and some press; and I know there isn’t an agent or press on Earth who’s going to tell me “it’s perfect as it is; we’ll print it at once!”

There is an eerie peace to be had in knowing that it is now beyond my strength to alter without the aid of a professional editor. In some metaphysical sense, the process is already over. I just have to keep submitting.

Peter Hoheisel’s ‘South to the Rio Grande’ Available Now!

Hoheisel SttRG Facebook Announcement

My friend Prof. Peter Hoheisel’s new poetry book, South to the Rio Grande, is now available for purchase. It was a pleasure to work as his editor and defacto agent throughout this process, eventually finding the perfect home for this manuscript at New York’s Clare Songbirds Publishing House.

Peter is a free-verse poet inspired by the likes of Yeats and Rexroth, and his book comes as a breath of fresh air to anyone who still likes their poetry decipherable and meaningful.

You can read more about our collaboration, including an interview I conducted with him and our dual-appearance on a radio program, here.

On Scorsese

While I sympathize with Scorsese’s sadness concerning the absence of artistic merit on the big screen as of late, I am left to wonder whether Hollywood execs and accountants are solely–or even primarily–to blame. Isn’t it possible that technology has modified the market beyond any individuals’ control? Streaming has given the introverted population an excuse to avoid rubbing shoulders with noisy strangers or paying $20.00 for popcorn and soda. Consequently, the films shown upon the big-screen are increasingly those that lack the–shall we say, nuance?–that this portion of the populace demands. Now one need only cater to moviegoers who are contented with shaky-cam explosions, car chases, etc., because they are the only ones who actually go to the movies. Scorsese recalls a tribal cinema which had to tickle the fancy of intellectual and salt-of-the-earth types. Not only does this no longer exist–it is never coming back.

Of course, this cannot entirely account for the Idiocracy-esque dumbing down that mainstream entertainment is experiencing. No one is watching Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead on the big screen, yet the recent story decisions of both confirm that some of the world’s best-paid writers have entirely forgotten how to conclude a tale. This is probably due more-so to the influence of postmodernism than the free market. Today’s writers increasingly feel that they must subvert classical narratives to avoid being associated with the icky ancients (by ancients, I mean Jung & Campbell) who crafted them. Simultaneously, the temptation to “do something new” is overwhelming, and like any experimentation is bound to fail spectacularly many times before it produces a single success.

Scorsese fears the art of cinema turning into a theme park. But with no one buying admission to abominations like Terminator: Dark Fate, perhaps the cinematic imbalance between brain-food and nervous-system-candy is slowly but surely self-correcting. As for coaxing introverts away from streaming and back into theaters–short of burly bouncers who are legally allowed to pluck moviegoers’ intrusive smart phones from their hands and snap them in half, I just don’t see it.

‘Transgender’ Children: A Little Clarity Amidst the Chaos

Rather than focus upon any particular case of ‘trans’ children–both because I have yet to exhaustively research any specific case & because I believe we will be seeing many more such cases in the future–I’d like to explore the topic in general. I’ll save those who cannot bear differing opinions some time and disclose that my politics are moderate, trending right. However, as with my more formal writings, I hope to offer nuance that may be lacking in the mainstream discourse, some of which may offend conservatives as well as liberals.

The broaching of this topic within the mainstream has cleared up a mystifying matter for me. For years I have asked anyone who would listen why it is that LGBTQ(XYZ?) proponents have insisted upon parroting the “born this way” cliche. In other words, why is it so crucial that every instance of non-heterosexuality be a case of nature rather than nurture? Or, to put the ball more squarely in the progressive court: Who are you to say that one cannot choose (for example) gay sodomy over straight intercourse? And by saying one cannot choose, aren’t you also subtly suggesting that–if it were possible to choose–it would be wrong to do so?

I have never received an honest answer. I don’t believe most of those I have asked know why they cannot or should not answer–but now I may. It is likely over this. You cannot defend pumping children full of hormones–and possibly taking the knife to them–if there is even the slightest possibility that one or both of their parents has pressured them into choosing to transition. You can only defend the practice if we live in a world where non-heterosexuality is 100% a matter of nature, to the utter exclusion of nurture.

This, of course, is bullshit. One need only consult prison sexuality, to pick one example–where many otherwise heterosexual males engage in homosexual activity as the only present alternative to celibacy–to see that persons who were not born gay can choose to be (or at least to act) gay. There are also numerous non-prison instances, such as the infamous Carl Panzram, who, by virtue of being a blockhead, concluded that though he  preferred girls, he might stand less chance of getting STDs from boys (hopefully I need not expound).

I am of course not saying that everyone is bi- or pan-sexual, for even in cultures like Ancient Greece where bisexuality was the norm, the existence of persons like Pericles (a staunch heterosexual) was acknowledged and accepted, however eccentric he may have seemed. I am merely illustrating that it is ideology, not fact, which motivates the LGBT[ad nauseam] fundamentalism of insisting that sexuality is always and only inborn.

If a society accepts the premise that anyone who is presented to them as ‘trans’ (i.e., is effectively trapped in a wrongly gendered body and yearns to be freed) was born so rather than potentially being made so by any confluence of factors (and let’s be honest, most all of the potential factors are starkly negative), then, per neighborly empathy they have nothing to do but clear the way to the stainless-steel table.

But if one recalls the gender dysphoria of yore (yore being a couple years ago) as a mental illness which could be present either at birth or brought about through a host of childhood traumas, then things are not so clear-cut. Suddenly one wants to look at transgender suicide rates as well. Suddenly one wants to look at how many ‘transgenders’ de-transition and spend the rest of their lives as good ole fashioned gay people. Heaven forbid one might even look up the name “John Money” and learn what sort of person popularized the idea of transgenderism.

In other words: if even a single provable instance emerges where a deranged parent brainwashed their child into “wanting to transition,” then the entire ideological house of cards is at stake. For there is much to lose beyond whatever perverse pleasure one takes in sexualizing children (more on that in a second); once the inborn premise is called into question it will quickly spill over into the already-broiling subjects of whether or not males-transitioning-to-‘female’ ought to continue being allowed to break female athletic records (or maim born-female athletes in combat sports). And I dare not even attempt to summarize the “TERF” Civil War that is currently raging among feminists; you have Twitter for that…

So, whether or not the ‘trans’-child agenda (truly, I know not what else to call it, for a sudden explosion, as if out of a void or vacuum, of a phenomenon hitherto almost unheard-of, is either 1. a miracle or 2. a mania, and per Occam’s Razor, I’ll take #2) succeeds is once again not a matter of how well the far-Left argues its point, but how conciliatory and spineless the center-Right continues to be. Deep down, I believe the vast majority of the certifiably sane still know that children, beyond what toys they prefer to play with and who they might play-pretend is their future spouse, DO NOT obsess about their own appearance, gender, genitals, orientation, sexuality, etc, and that any child who makes these a recurring theme of conversation, much less the focal point of their young existence, HAS BEEN TAMPERED WITH (mentally, if not physically). Psychologists of yore (again, yore meaning a few years ago) knew this to be a warning sign of abuse.

I must confess to you now, dear readers, that I doubt whether we have the cojones necessary to do the right thing here. I doubt it because of what we have already let our ‘family’ courts and ‘parenthood’ centers become. I doubt it because our pastors either say nothing or continue conceding in order to keep the offering plates full. We have been so dead-set on being open-minded as of late that our brains have fallen out. Perhaps it’s time to give Sharia law a chance.

I’ll leave you with this for now: is “the slippery slope” still a fallacy? Or was it ever?

P.S. Have or haven’t progressive circles decided that circumcision is child genital mutilation? Because, unless I am very much mistaken, the surgical coup-de-grace of “transitioning” is somewhat more invasive than circumcision. (I am aware that the idea, at least for now, is merely to outpace puberty by administering hormones, with surgery as a decision for the future 18-year-old to make. Nonetheless, I believe the point stands). This may prove a very sticky wicket indeed–to only be offended by genital mutilation when God has something to do with it. Lord knows what mental proclivities that indicates.

Writing Playlist

The Welsh have an interesting word, hiraeth, which is meant to express homesickness, especially for a home that either cannot be returned to or does not exist. This word best expresses the type of songs that I seek out in order to grow my writing playlist–a collection of songs that (subjectively) amplify, rather than disturb, the creative process. Unsurprisingly, these songs typically gravitate to archetypal or Hero’s Journey themes. Their lyrics are engaging but utterly unsurprising, like the dialogue of dreams. And their melodies are often haunting enough to seem more at home about an ancient campfire or cathedral or battlefield than radio waves. Finally, they frequently follow classical music’s structural penchant for crescendo rather than the rinse-repeat of verse and chorus. Here are a few samples below, hopefully to inspire you in making your own writer’s playlist.

 

Preview of my Upcoming Novel

The first draft began around Christmas 2018, but the idea is much older. It came to me in Calhoun, Georgia around the age of seven or eight. It must have been informed by my mom telling me that the land we lived upon had once belonged to the Cherokee natives. We were, after all, only five minutes’ drive from where the Trail of Tears began. I remember ranking Andrew Jackson as my least-favorite president after I learned the back-stabbing role be played in the Cherokee removal. And I also vaguely recall being awed by Sequoyah–whom the sequoia redwoods were probably named after–an illiterate who made a written language from scratch to preserve what was left of his people’s culture.

The idea, quite simply, was of a sickly medicine man teaching his apprentice everything he knows before he dies. Eventually, a secondary layer was added: how might a powerful medicine man have tried to prevent the Trail of Tears if he had foreknowledge of it?

After a decade and a half of letting this concept simmer in the subconscious, my two main characters eventually let themselves in and began telling me their story. It seems that theirs is a sort of American Divine Comedy or Cherokee 300–romanticizing yet simultaneously reappraising the mythos of the United States in all sorts of unexpected ways.

Understanding them has so-far required two feet-worth of reference books. Cherokee culture is singular and thus challenging to learn; the lingering presence of any inapplicable “Cowboys and Indians” tropes (teepees, horses) is disastrous, especially when the story’s main setting predates Columbus and De Soto. My general ignorance of forestry/ecology has also had to be addressed. The goal, of course, is to notice all that they would have noticed.

IMG_3006

Without such details–simply jotting down the 5 W’s of the plot–their story is novella-length at roughly 15K words. But I will not be content until it’s a seething mass of fever-dream-like attention to detail at least in the neighborhood of novel-length. As far as timing, I am intentionally maintaining a slow-and-steady pace, because if I have one complaint with my previous self-publications, it’s that I was in too much of a hurry and it occasionally shows. Because this one will be pitched to literary agents or at least small third-party publishers, I am taking my sweet time and will continue redrafting until I’ve read something that could at least shiver in the shadow of American Greats like Jack London or John Steinbeck.

That being said, my best guess is that I will finish in 2020, which puts publication into 2021 or 2022. Now that I am well into the third draft, I not only hope but expect that it will be worth the wait.

-CLW

An Affordable Liberal Education

A dear friend recently asked me to put together a “curricula” of essential books to read–preferably ones that would kick-start the imagination of a creative writer and inform their craft. To his and my surprise, the list that resulted only contains 60 titles, and could reasonably be read in a couple of years. Nonetheless, I believe this list could replace most Bachelor of Arts programs today (in information imparted, if not credentials).

So, if you would like to glean the equivalent of a liberal education for free from your local library, I hope this list helps narrow down your search.

Essential Books

P.S. I’d also enjoy hearing critiques from any fellow bibliophiles on what should or shouldn’t have been included.

Brave New Money

I am not an investment advisor, financial analyst, accredited investor, or any other imposing title. This is just my opinion; always do your own research.

For the vast majority of my working life, I’ve been consummately conservative when it comes to investing. VOO & QQQ (S&P and NASDAQ index funds) have been my idea of risk exposure, and I always squirreled away a stack of silver as insurance again them. Consequently, like many others I instantly ruled out Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as Tulip Mania.

It wasn’t until I thought to sit down and read the white papers (formal business proposals) of Bitcoin and Ripple [XRP] that I began to decouple the thing itself from the greed-hysteria surrounding it. Satoshi Nakamoto’s paper read like a practical Wittgenstein, packing so much condensed brainpower that some have argued–ala Shakespeare theorists–that it must be the product of a group rather than an individual. And Ripple’s read like the cynical–and thus realistic–appraisal of Satoshi’s ideal. When I was done reading both, the comparison that sprang to mind was MP3 technology and what it did to the music industry–at first transgressive and terrifying in the guise of Napster, but quickly coopted and commodified by the likes of Itunes.

Like Napster’s triumphant P2P file sharers, quite a few early crypto adopters–particularly those branded “Bitcoin maximalists”–seem to labor under the impression that the banks of the world will willingly throw themselves upon Satoshi’s sword. The sentiment seems to be that regulators and old money are so slow and so stupid that they will never be able to catch up with this innovation or dream up a way to stop it. I would humbly suggest that however dimwitted the average politician may or may not be, the persons who really fund their reelection campaigns bear little resemblance to them.

Facebook’s Libra is a prime example. No one in D.C. (not even the politicians in sync with Zuckerburg’s stereotypical Silicon Valley politics) seems to welcome the thought of a tech corporation competing with central banks. To me, this suggests that Mark once again prioritized coding over communication. He lately seems an unintentional, even bewildered Ayn Rand protagonist, backed into a corner not because he was unwilling to grease palms but simply because he forgot.

Unfortunately for the proof-of-work cryptos like Bitcoin (indeed, perhaps almost all of them excepting Ripple’s XRP and Cardano’s ADA), Libra has brought them the wrong sort of publicity and attention despite how little they have in common with it. The bear has been poked, metaphorically and perhaps economically. What comes next is anyone’s guess, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that if someone got it in their head to take out all cryptos that don’t cater to Uncle Sam, a good place to start would be the dubious if not downright fraudulent Tether stablecoin that props much of this speculative market up.

But despite D.C.’s curmudgeonly view of Bitcoin, Libra, and co., that doesn’t change the fact that blockchain technology stands to make them and more importantly their puppeteers a lot of money in the coming years. Remember, you can get rid of Napster but keep MP3. Or, to bring things even closer to home, you can screw over a Tesla if you have an Edison.

I am of course referring to Ripple and their XRP (“booo, banker sh*tcoin!” echoes down from the rafters). Ripple CTO David Schwartz is a mind powerful enough to give Satoshi a run for his tulips; heck, some think he is Satoshi. But, far more importantly, he is surrounded by a team of cold, hard, Machiavellian pros who knew the second they read Bitcoin’s white paper that they should keep the MP3 and ditch the Napster. You know that Hollywood “7 Degrees of Kevin Bacon” thing? Well, it isn’t an exaggeration to say that Ripple is fintech’s and maybe even business’s current Kevin Bacon. It is downright bizarre just how many known names in finance and law have left behind “sure thing” positions to join Team Ripple. And there are several characters outside of staff, most noticeably the IMF’s Christine Lagarde, who are clearly playing favorites with them at every turn. (Listen for “level playing field” in financial/political discourse going forward–I am personally convinced this phrase is a substitute when referring to Ripple).

Alright, but what does XRP actually do? Well, unlike speculative cryptos that are merely “stores of value,” XRP is positioned to solve specific problems. Most pressingly, these are international remittance (banks and other financial institutions like Western Union and Moneygram moving money across global borders) and nostro-vostro accounts (the necessity of one bank having to keep a large sum in another bank so it can cover remittances that it sends into that other bank’s jurisdiction, basically). But there is also the futuristic proposition of “universal liquidity”–something like a global, digital reserve currency that can seamlessly transition payments from one currency to another, be it fiat or crypto. (“…Or crypto” meaning XRP’s success does not necessarily mean BTC or anyone else’s demise). These are the problems that stand in the way of instantaneous transaction, or money changing hands as quickly as texts and emails do.

When you combine what XRP does (or can do) with who Ripple is, it becomes clear that Ripple XRP is an attempt to make Satoshi’s tech palatable to central banks and thus governments. Whether they have already succeeded is the juicy question. I believe the immediate fate of Moneygram will be an excellent indication. Western Union and Moneygram are the big boys in the world of non-bank remittance. Western Union halfheartedly “tested” Ripple’s tech, panned it in the press, and kept doing what they’ve always done. Moneygram, on the other hand, has recently embraced Ripple tech with open arms, which sent Western Union’s CEO scrambling to the nearest journalist to proclaim that he and Ripple could sign a deal any time if the price is right. Point being, if the underdog Moneygram suddenly seems as though it has a mysterious advantage over Western Union (current stock prices circa $2.00 and $20.00, respectively), this will be the best and perhaps final hint that Ripple has already sealed the deal with the powers-that-be behind closed doors. But if they have, the amount of ironclad NDAs that have gone out recently must be record-breaking.

So, with all that hinting, flirting, and general beating around the bush out of the way, I’ll now take a proper guess 25 years into the future. We’ll see if I look back with pride or embarrassment…

Bitcoin is a relic, but a very expensive one. Ripple is THE fintech company, with whole XRP tokens at a very respectable (but nowhere near 20K BTC) price. They’ll go public at some point, and the stock will be worth more than the token. What with instantaneous transaction now being taken for granted, they are primarily known by businessmen as the universal liquidity behind Quant’s Overledger (or something like it that hasn’t yet been invented). The average person won’t think about XRP at all; they’re getting paid and paying with cryptos such as or similar to Cardano’s ADA and even BAT, funneled through Overledger but meant to be nothing more or less than digital money mostly paid out in fractions. Amounts, to a certain extant, have become meaningless to regular folks–watch enough ads, post enough cool content, or do enough community service, and your creature comforts are covered without much thought. Indeed, buying things is nearly antiquated; now you mostly just subscribe to tokenized services. You don’t buy groceries; you subscribe to Walmart or Amazon and the drone drops your foodstuffs off every-so-often. But how will you get what you like? Easy; algorithms. Products trend and go viral; every object and software reports back collective metadata, rearranges itself to be optimal, becomes inherently desirable thanks to this automatic molding by the market’s “hive mind.” Conspicuous consumption on steroids? Yes, but tempered with self-righteousness. If California crops had a rough year, that popular bottle of Merlot will have to wait. Indeed, if you take one for the team and preemptively defer that Merlot, your stream of micro-payments will get a handsome boost, and pump some social credit-score along with it. Like a spooky synthesis of hardcore capitalism and hardcore socialism, the corporate-government is the godlike provider without whom all will starve, but it also inherently obeys the “free market” by “giving the people what they want” whenever possible.

…So, full disclosure: I own some XRP and Moneygram, but, as Ripple’s own Bob Way has put it, “not enough to make me worth kidnapping.” I also plan on acquiring some apartment REITs and BOTZ (a robotics/A.I. index). Now you know why.

Accountability (Mid-2019)

If you’ve read any of my other posts, I think you’ll be able to discern that “flexing on” people isn’t my style. Nonetheless, this post inherently contains some self-congratulatory pats on the back.

October of last year, I committed to maintaining accountability in regards to my goals. Since then I’ve adhered to and improved my “Ledger” method (of writing down significant goals, then documenting how I pursued them on a day-to-day basis). But I have been a little lax in updating others on this progress (or, to be frank, achieving anywhere near an ideal blogging consistency). Let’s remedy that.

First, the improvements to the method. I’ve found that it is psychologically powerful to be able to see the entirety of the Ledger’s goals all in one place. While it’s sometimes depressing to see how far there is to go, this disadvantage is outweighed by the pleasure of marking off victories and being able to better envision an ideal future. Here is what my Ledger visual looks like [excepting redactions], for anyone who might like to adapt it for themselves:

ledger pic

It started out as the janky Powerpoint approximation of a pyramid.

The green base at the bottom summarizes what I “cannot do without” and must provide for monetarily. The words in white represent large financial goals (meaning they ought to be totally paid-for before I commit to them).

The orange squares in the center represent six “genres” of goals. In my case, those are (T-B, L-R) Reading, Writing, Tech, Minimalism, Health & Miscellaneous know-how. Obviously, if all six of these boxes are ever checked off, I’ll come up with new ones.

The grey apex represents the general daily routine whereby everything below it on the pyramid can gradually be accomplished.

The yellow circles (L) detail the extensive Tech square.

The blue & grey squares/rectangles (R) represent the state of my finances, writing projects, and what I ought to be primarily focusing upon each year. According to this, I could conceivably cross off or at least have begun to master everything in the orange squares (except all of my writing goals) by 2024 (or 30 years of age).

Alright. That’s well and good, but what have I actually done this year?

  • I’ve read at least one quality book a week, every week. At that rate I’ll finish my Reading goals long before 2024.
  • My debut novel is in its 2nd draft and going better than expected.
  • My fairly elaborate (although not at all lengthy) work on nostalgia is ready to be published.
  • I’ve started earning Tech certifications / learning JavaScript and Python and am practicing regularly.
  • Thanks to Humble Bundle making Sony Vegas Pro and Magix audio software affordable, I’ve gotten passable (not yet good) at audio and video editing.
  • I’ve maintained or improved my sleep and exercise schedule.

What have I done wrong?

  • Slacking on meditation. It is way too easy to convince yourself to neglect “doing nothing.”
  • More screen-time spent gaming or watching Twitch and Youtube than coding. Tsk tsk!
  • Continuing to indulge my introversion. My single-minded pursuit of the Ledger goals, while perhaps admirable “in a vacuum,” has provided me the perfect excuse to shun all socializing, which of course exacts a heavy toll in the long-term. I have no peer friends, much less a girlfriend. Loooser.

In summary: I’ve done pretty good for me and great compared to “past me.” But, it took me much longer to get here than some (wherever “here” is). And there is no telling how much longer it would have taken without the exceedingly rare and exceptional familial support that I have.

If you’re paying really close attention, you’ll notice I’ve taken off some ideal travel destinations from the Ledger for now. This is because I’ve determined to think more about growing what money I have than how to spend it.

If you’re really, really paying close attention, you might wonder how my resolve to stop buying video games has gone? Well, my deadline cutoff–the release of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night–is 48 hours away. I see no reason to think I’ll go back on my word in this respect, since I haven’t in any other. I don’t feel dread about it either; coding is the most difficult thing I’ve ever tried to learn and I could really use re-appropriating that valuable gaming time towards it. Also, cutting off the monetary vidya hemorrhage would mean my only non-essential spending is books.

To conclude, here’s some stuff that has improved my 2019 so-far that might improve yours as well.

InStockTrades.com

I was hesitant to buy any books online (even comics) elsewhere than Ebay or Amazon, but their competitive prices made me take the risk and I’m glad I did. I recommend paying the extra $4.00 for upgraded shipping and trying the Monstress series if you haven’t already.