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Ash Tree

Updated: 2015-09-17T00:12:39.222-07:00


Finally created an author site for myself. Take a look:

Isolated Tracks


I started a new blog devoted to the most amazing new phenomenon of being able to hear songs broken down by track: Studio Multitracks.

Apocalyptic Fiction


Now blogging at The American Book of the Dead.

Backword Books


Please check out the newly-formed book collective, Backword Books. As it says there:

Backword Books is a collective of self-published authors. We’re not quite a literary press because all of us use different services to publish (Lightning Source, Lulu, iUniverse, and CreateSpace to name a few). In short, we’re a unique collective that has yet to be done on any large scale, using a medium that is losing stigma and gaining credibility.

We all believe in our writing, and it’s been tested by those who know well: readers and reviewers. We also believe in the potential of self-publishing on the whole. In one sense, we’re refugees from an increasingly competitive landscape in traditional publishing, but we also don’t think of self-publishing as a type of defeat. Quite the opposite.

There’s strength in numbers and Backword Books hopes to create a new model for self-publishers to reach readers: a combination of self-publishing and the traditional literary press.

Update: Recently written up in Publishers Weekly. Check out the Backword Books contest - win 7 books by 7 authors. More info about us here:

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There's something very perverse about the Letterman-Palin fued, and the perversion's coming from the Palin side. Todd Palin already said that Letterman shouldn't joke about "raping" his daughter, as if all sex is rape. They had to clarify that he meant "statutory rape." And then today Palin said,

I would say that you and anybody else are extremely naive to believe that very convenient excuse of David Letterman's the other day. He took a couple of days for him to think of that excuse that, oh, no, he wasn't talking about my daughter who was there with me at the (Yankees) game, the 14-year-old. Well, I think it's a weak excuse.

Most normal reasonable parents would say - well, good, he wasn't talking about having sex with my 14-year-old daughter, that's a relief. But she wants to continue the attack as if she wants him to be talking about "raping" her 14-year-old. Everyone knows who he was talking about - the daughter whose pregnancy is all over the news. The true perversion belongs to the Palins.

I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said a thousand times - that the Palins are exploiting their daughters far more than Letterman did with a joke, but he deserves all the support he can get, and the Palins need more criticism.

Perhaps this just boils down to terrible, terrible political instincts. Like Rush Limbaugh stating that the Holocaust Museum shooter is a product of the left, not the right. To any thinking person, and probably people who don't think too much, this is transparent spin and a lie, and not the kind of spin that's kind of impressive in its boldness, but a lie that borders on delusion.

I guess this is all good news, really. The right has no idea how to speak to people.

End O' the World


I believe the children are our future...What's striking about this Max Blumenthal video is not the racism against Obama, it's finding out that Jews can be this stupid.

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On a related apocalyptic note, this is very awesome and soon to be released:


Update: After the shooting at the Holocaust Museum, I feel bad about the Jew quip, even if I was saying that Jews are usually smart. I'm Jewish by the way, or I would be if - you know - I ever went to temple. I'm more of a Woody Allen Jew.

In another related note, someone just sent me a self-published book - an old occult manifesto that includes Hitler's highlighting of his favorite passages. Yep.

Up Review


An unnecessary review, why spend so much time on a kid’s movie? Because people are for some reason loving this movie. And I have to say there’s something strange and sort of wrong that there were more adults at the screening for Up than parents with kids – including Ray Liotta, though he was with his kids.

I can deal with the fact that in the first ten minutes you find out the wife is barren and can’t have children – even though my daughter looked over at me and asked, “Why is she crying,” when she’s weeping in the doctor’s office. What do you answer to a six-year-old – because she can’t have children: she doesn’t yet know that people are unable to have children, and it’s not really necessary for her to know that. Certainly not within the confines of a children’s movie. You could say it’s good that these movies toughen kids up for the real world, but there is so much that is fantastical in this movie that the juxtaposition is beyond comic relief to being totally uneven. And then the wife dies.

But that’s not my problem with the movie. The movie’s about unfulfilled dreams – the wife dreams of going to an exotic locale in South America, so the husband attaches balloons to his house to fly there after she dies. Great! Imagination run wild! A fine premise. But when he gets to South America he finds that his and his wife’s childhood hero, an explorer, turns out to be a sinister villain.

So what is the lesson here? Don’t meet your heroes because they are not as good as they seem. OK, that’s a possible lesson – but it’s sandwiched onto a message of unfulfilled dreams. And the explorer also happens to be highly inventive – he’s invented a collar so dogs can speak. These dogs are also capable of flying airplanes. It’s another triumph of the imagination, except the explorer inexplicably is bent on killing the old man. It’s totally disappointing.

The movie would have been fine if maybe the old explorer gets hurt and needs to be saved somehow, rather than him dying from falling out of the sky, which is how this movie ends – a fight scene that had the kid next to me crying in fear. Why turn the explorer into a villain - the old man takes an entire lifetime to break away from the confines of his life, only to be pursued by someone who wants to kill him. It would have made a lot more sense for the old man and the explorer to commiserate somehow - to invent something together, not just become a routine chase movie, in which you're worried about an old man, a child, a flightless bird and her children, all being killed.

Why both writing a serious review? Because it was the first time my daughter left a movie and said, “I didn’t like that.” A movie cliche I would like to end right now: everything’s going great for the characters, they finally have a chance to relax – and inevitably something terrible happens. The characters don’t get five seconds to enjoy themselves. That’s why my daughter didn’t like this. I don’t want to use the word “bleak” or “dark” because that makes it sound kind of deep and she couldn’t take the imagery. It’s got talking dogs, it’s fundamentally silly, not a realistic portrait. The problem is because its bleakness is boring and frustrating and doesn’t fit the rest of the story.

All in all, I think this is an example of critics don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Because, you know, I’m right and they’re wrong. I think maybe they’re just desperate to like something, but all the positive reviews – in newspapers, IMDB, and Twitter, is kind of depressing. The movie has some problems.

Sara Jane Moore


This is fascinating...

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Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Cheap Kindle Fiction


Yes, I'm trying to play with Google search queries, but I like how this looks:


Besides ebook uploading, I got a new job, working for Makes me very happy - an hourly job, with benefits, still working at home. No more hustling so hard to find freelance writing work. I was getting very nervous because a freelance outlet I was working for went from content writing to web design. I've seen countless web start-ups fall through, but this one's on the way up and growing. A long time coming, this sense of stability. I had a day last week where I thought the bottom could have been dropping out. Bad time to be looking for work, but I had a couple of interviews and got the job. Nicely faith restoring. Life never makes me rich, but it gives me what I need. I knock on wood.



Yesterday I was feeling particularly toxic, which was worrying me. As I’ve written about, my health isn’t so great. Last night I had a dream about beating up my ex-wife’s new boyfriend, who turned out to be very tan and sinewy (haven’t met the guy), and then hanging out with Henry Rollins and my daughter, where diamonds littered the pavement. This morning I woke up feeling fine and refreshed, even though I woke up at 6:30 and didn’t actually get a lot of sleep. I think my health has as much to do with how I input and process information as it does with potassium, protein, salt, and everything else I need to watch. That’s true for everyone, but for me toxicity is a deeper issue.

Note: The American Book of the Dead is about a writer who resurrects his faith in himself through a series of prophetic dreams.

Read North of Sunset


Uploading North of Sunset to all the ebook sites, in preparation for doing the same with The American Book of the Dead. Here it is from Scribd:

North of Sunset (object) (embed)

Dan Baum


If you haven’t read Dan Baum’s (no relation) Twitter tale about working for and getting fired by The New Yorker, it is good reading. $90,000 a year for 30,000 words? Incredible. I should be a millionaire for the number of words I write a year – albeit nothing 1% as good or as necessary as The New Yorker (web content). But seems an absurd figure for the # of staff writers they have. A window into writing on that level:

New Yorker stories are so easy to read. Of course, the magazine does run everything through the deflavorizer, following

Samuel Johnson’s immortal advice: “Read what you have written, and when you come across a passage you think

Is particularly fine, strike it out.”


Remnick called to say he wouldn’t renew my contract come September. He said he didn’t like my work. There were those five long stories that were killed.

That’s a lot in three years, he said.

I argued that in all five cases, the quality of the work wasn’t the problem

Writers have problems at the top and the bottom.

Hollywood Novel


Thanks to Smashwords, you can now download North of Sunset in a number of formats - you set the price.



Potentially burning a bridge. Do I really want to criticize my current agent? Probably not, but do I really think I’m going to publish traditionally again? Probably not. If I do, it will be because a book I’ve put out myself was successful, in which case the criticism of my agent today won’t mean much. But my agent rejected my novel based on typos. She mentioned other things, but the fact that she mentioned typos at all is extremely very puzzling. Would an editor reject a book based on typos? It would be a day’s worth of work to fix.

The full criticism is:

That being said, I am afraid that I cannot accept your novel for representation at this time. There are several grammatical errors and typos that require editing, and I would also consider rewriting your introduction. Also, I fear you spell things out for your reader that would be better served being subtly hinted at. Since you possess such strong skills in character development, many of Eugene’s spoken opinions are unnecessary because you expose them in his interactions and dialogue.

I’ll accept everything else she said, but typos is just bizarre to me. Even if she was looking for some way to let me down easy, typos shouldn’t enter into the equation: because they can be fixed and fixed easily. Anyway, it’s confirmed now that I’m releasing the novel myself. I really, truly need the money of a book deal, but I really, truly don’t see how this is possible in the current state of things.

Star Trek & Me


J.J. Abram's dad was the landlord of the house I grew up in. I went to high school with writer Alex Kurtzman, a year below me:

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Alex Kurtzman & Bob Orci Interview - Star Trek from on Vimeo.

Literary Worth


I wrote one of my favorite posts I’ve written for the Self-Publishing Review. One of the reasons I’m so attracted to self-publishing is that it is so maligned. The same goes for UFOs. Something with such profound implications is treated as a joke. Self-Publishing is the UFO of literature. People mock it, denigrate it, but at its core it is such a great development: all writers have the ability to reach readers. No one is without a voice, no one is locked out.

That type of free expression should be celebrated, but it is more often criticized. It is a total mystery. Self-publishing’s not perfect by any means, but its positive implications outweigh its flaws.

So I wrote a post about how writers have often not been accepted during their own time. The method of publication should not determine a book’s artistic worth. The book had the same value before and after it was accepted by the artistic establishment. To say otherwise is to say that money determines artistic value. Just wrong. I write:

On the Road was written in 1951 – but it was not published until 1957, towards the end of the decade. Jack Kerouac did most of the writing that’s part of his legacy before On the Road was ever published. Is On the Road a better book in 1957 than it was when it was initially written in 1951? I think most people would say no: publication doesn’t determine worth. The book is the book.

There is something to be said for the magic of a movement. Kerouac’s On the Road wouldn’t have meant the same if it wasn’t a literary phenomenon that represented an entire generation. An argument could be made that if Kerouac was able to self-publish via print on demand in 1951 this would have limited his artistic impact. That’s a fair point, but it says nothing about whether or not the book is more or less worthwhile once it hit it big.

In our world, crap rises to the top- the lowest common denominator is often the most successful, so to say that success equals literary worth makes no sense at all. And who knows, maybe self-publishing can be a literary movement like the Beats, giving rise to artists taking over the system. In this day and age, maybe an On the Road being released through Lulu is exactly what leads to that book’s reputation. It’s a much different environment than 1951. If that’s even a possibility then self-publishing’s got merit, which is why people should let up with the criticism.

The Wesleyan Murder


In my novel, The Golden Calf, the lead character, Ray, gets a job working as a security guard in a liberal arts college and becomes infatuated with a student named Helen. He begins writing her letters:You don't know me. I've seen you around campus and I'd like to meet you but I don't know how to go about doing it. I'm shy in my own way. The reason I'm writing this is because I think we have something in common. We both want something out of life and we can't find it here. I thought we could meet sometime. Help each other out. Save ourselves.Helen doesn’t answer his letters and he becomes infuriated, breaking into her room and delivering this letter:I saw you with that boyfriend of yours. Who is he? Does he care about you? Not like me. I would care for you like you've never been cared for before. I know the pains of the world so I know how to avoid them. I could have been your shelter. But you ignored me. If only you knew what you were ignoring. One day I'm going to be great and you'll regret you ever let me go. I'm the one. Do you have so much better to do? I've seen your friends. They're not very interesting, like most people here. They care only about themselves. And what do they care about? Frail, vile, boring people like themselves. Maybe like you. I thought you wanted to get away. I was wrong. You're just as weak. You don't even deserve my time. You're just as selfish because you won't even write me back. But remember, I've got the upper hand. I know who you are but you don't know me. I'm the one and you didn't realize it. You're too petty. Maybe the best way to get back is to get revenge.The murderer of the girl at Wesleyan has echoes of this. Whenever these things happen – the VA tech murders, Wesleyan – I think that I’ve justified abhorrent behavior by making it entertaining. Ray’s a fun character. Disturbing, but amusing. This isn't fun at all in reality, and the book was written during a time when school murders weren't happening every other week. So I wrote a scene in The American Book where the father finds his daughter doing porn online. He confronts her, saying:“This isn’t only about beauty, or intelligence, or experience, Sophia, or what I’ve written as fiction. It’s about something just being plainly wrong. Murder is illegal for a reason. I’m sure to murder someone would be a significant learning experience, but that does not make it right. The world is disintegrating—it is becoming more of a stupid, terrible, violent place and it is better to not contribute to it. I know when I was younger I liked to write about violence, even about sexuality. But that was when violence and rampant sexuality were not so common as they are today. Believe me, Sophia, you know I’m no conservative. I just think that with the world heading where it is, it is important to fight the good fight.”The worse the world gets, the less dark fiction serves a purpose - maybe. That's an inner dialog I'm having. You know, this is nothing though. I wrote a book that is echoed by stuff that’s happened in real life. All I did was predict some people’s instincts. I don’t know what it would be like to be J.D. Salinger and have your novel actually inspire Mark David Chapman to kill John Lennon, one of the best people to ever live. I’d want to go into hiding as well. I’d want to kill myself. So, no, I don’t want to disown my book, not at all, but it’s tough to feel like you're glorifying something that has led to the death of actual people.[...]

District 9


The movie "District 9" may have the best viral marketing campaign ever. Check out:

And a protest video:

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The Elephant in the Room and the 800 lb. Gorilla Get into a Fight


A little bit about where some of my misanthropy comes from. And some of my urgency. I’ve had one of the most fucked up years on record. Not relative to people who live in a warzone, but relative to my life. Last winter I found out that my health had deteriorated considerably. It’s something I’d known about since my early twenties, but my body was failing to a deeper degree. I have kidney disease. It’s something I’ve rarely written about here because it’s sometimes not healthy to obsess about it. But it’s a major part of my life. My kidneys are at 20% capacity, which means I'm low enough to be on the waiting list for a transplant.Sometimes I feel like crap, sometimes I feel normal – though I have a feeling my version of normal is a healthy person’s version of toxic. Think about how you feel after eating junk food, drinking too much, and not sleeping: like that. Cold on the inside, bad. So I’m on medication everyday. And I’m on a stupidly difficult diet. It’s not just that I can’t eat a lot of protein or cholesterol or salt, I also can’t eat potassium, which is in a lot of healthy food: spinach, tomatoes, chocolate, bananas, potatoes. Almost everything has potassium in it and I can only eat so much a day. Hear that Brian Spaeth? Baked potatoes are my enemy. Potassium Chloride is what they give people on death row to stop their heart. Hearing about my health was just a total blow to my worldview. I’d spent years upon years struggling as a writer, struggling through a difficult marriage, living by the faith that at some point I'd see some reward and some leisure, only to find that my body was falling apart. It felt like a deeply unfair epilogue.This sense of my body falling apart has been core to my writing. As my body deteriorates, so too is the world. I didn’t write an apocalyptic novel by accident. Everything around me and in me seemed to be fading. I didn’t make the lead character sick, though he is autobiographical to some extent – me in 20 years time, but more me right now. But I didn’t want to make him sick because it would make him less universal. But anyone who reads the book should know where I’m coming from. I think about life and death a lot. Figuring out what might happen after you die – a key component of The American Book of the Dead – hits me somewhere deep.I did make the character in the novel struggling in a marriage, however. Which is what happened. My wife and I separated last June. I take care of my daughter every other week. I’ve been going to incredibly depressing “transplant classes” surrounded by people who are 70 and over. Learning how to be a father and mother both, living on my own again, without much of a support network as I face this extraordinarily difficult time.Meanwhile, my writing career is stagnant. At a point last year, around the time of diagnosis, I was thinking about never writing again. I’d given it my shot – nothing was going to happen. I thought something had died in me. Thankfully it hadn’t – and a positive result of the separation is that I worked on and finished my novel. Starting the Self-Publishing Review in December was in a way to will myself back into the publishing game – to care about industry stuff again, which I once followed.But my anger about the state of publishing, and the vitriol I display against agents, is because I feel an incredible sense of urgency more than I even did in the past about not wasting the rest of my days writing for other people and being abl[...]

Watch Hugo the Hippo


I wrote a post a while back about "Hugo the Hippo," a movie my dad wrote. He also wrote the book. Back then there weren't any Youtubes of the movie. Now there are many. Revel in the weirdness. That's Jimmie Osmond singing:

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Commenters say things like:

"This film is so freaky!! I used to watch it when I was younger and It still scares me..."


"this film made me cry for weeks"

You can hear and download all the songs as well. Check out Zing Zong - like something from "Hair" and "Jesus Christ Superstar." Andrew Lloyd Webber isn't all bad.

Samantha Brown is Not Naked


I'm getting tired of the number of "Samantha Brown naked" referrals I get to this blog, based on this post a long time ago and an off-hand comment. Never seen Samantha Brown on TV with clothes or without. But for all perverts, here's a picture of Samantha Brown looking at you as if you're naked:


King Kong Theory


I like this quote from this interview on Dogmatika:Anger is not depression, anger is working with desire and humour. Anger is destructive, but very active.I’d never heard of the film or the book written by Virginie Despentes, King Kong Theory:Gives an account of how Despentes became notorious: reviled and admired in equal measure for her rape-revenge novel turned film, "Baise-Moi", she is the poster girl for modern female rebellion. This book describes the ways her ideas have been shaped by her experiences of rape, prostitution and working in the porn industry.The movie has porn-like scenes of rape, mixed with intense violence. Frankly, I don’t know if I care to ever see the movie or anything like it. I’m becoming increasingly a pansy when it comes to darkness in film and lit. Me, who’s written books about killing a celebrity, a porn star who joins a suicide cult, a serial killer, and recently, human extinction. Why I like her quote is people have totally misinterpreted the anger in my first novel (or even the last post) – not understanding there’s a kind of humor, and even joy, in certain types of anger. Basically, it’s another form of passion. I like where she's coming from, I just don't know if I like where she's going. Her movie seems to only exist to disturb. A reviewer on IMDB says, “Somehow, everything was so much overdone that I couldn't take this film seriously anymore. There was so much sex and violence that I got the strong impression that the film was trying very, very hard to be offensive, as if it was aiming at superlatives in ugliness, rather than in telling a convincing tale about two women caught in a spiral of crime.”Life is shit. Daily, there are people murdering their entire family because of unemployment, driving a car into a group of strangers, stoning a girl to death because she’s been raped, etc. Why then is putting these types of images into a fictional film at all necessary. It’s understandable if art starts to reflect how degraded we’ve become, but really all this does is add to the degradation. Even if it takes a moral position – this behavior is bad – so what? Does anybody need to be taught that rape and murder are bad? It’s tough, because it’s a conservative position. It’s not much different than people’s reactions to Stravinsky – too dissonant. Why, that’s just noise! But at what point does extraordinary violence in movies actually do harm? Imagine a world where you have snuff-film type violence, porn-style sex, on free TV. The taboos have been broken. The problem is not the taboos. Porn could be on TV (this is actually in my science fiction novel, a porn sitcom comes on TV called “Stick it to Me”), which could be seen as a kind of progress: sex is natural and shouldn’t be hidden away. But that’s in an ideal world, where people would take rape and violence on TV as a justification. Adding more desensitizing images on public TV isn’t necessarily a sign of progress because people are too stupid to process the information. It’s an argument for censorship - saving people from themselves. There's an inevitable slippery slope when you start doing that, but the first instinct is not necessarily corrupt.So, I don’t know. The world is likely going to have many more tragedies. Depicting these tragedies in art doesn’t necessarily transcend those tragedies. Just reminds you that life can be shit, nothing more. I’m not sure the us[...]

Storming the Gatekeepers


On Nathan Bransford’s blog comes one of the worst blog entries ever penned by an agent. It perfectly summarizes the vast stupidity rampant in the gatekeepers of publishing. I’ve written screeds before about how agents themselves aren’t that talented. They can’t necessarily recognize talent because they don’t really care about writing as art. They care about writing as money. He begins:One of the more unique aspects of writing is the way people associate themselves and their identities with their words on the page. People don't just spend time in the evening reflecting on the capricious vicissitudes of life and/or zombie killers from another planet. It somehow becomes more than that.You can see this in the way people talk about writing: some people compare it to oxygen, i.e. something that they can't live without. They don't say, "I like to write, it's fun, I enjoy it." They say, unequivocally, "I am a writer. It's who I am."I'm going to be honest here and say that while I don't judge people when they define themselves as writer, whatever their publication status, I find it a little unsettling when they make it an overly intrinsic part of their identity.First of all, people just don't tend to define themselves by their hobbies. You don't hear anyone shout to the rafters, "I AM STAMP COLLECTOR!" or "I AM A CONNOISSEUR OF REALITY TELEVISION!" And until you're making a living at it, writing is a hobby. It's something you do in your spare time. (Right?)Let’s put aside the phrase “overly intrinsic” for a moment, which is kind of like saying “darkly opaque.” But how on earth is a person who thinks writing is a hobby supposed to separate good writing from crap? Writing is a vocation. Great art is an expression of a person’s soul – and an expression of the audience’s soul as well. To say you can achieve that in a mere hobby is seriously not understanding what it takes to create art. And if you don’t understand that writing’s a hell of a lot deeper than a hobby, you’re never going to be able to recognize writing that has any longevity.Have I created a great work of art? I can’t say I have, but I know what it is to believe in writing like it’s a religion. I know that I write to reach beyond myself, not to pass the time. And if you’re not trying to do that, chances are you’re not writing something worth reading. It also implies that writing only becomes a vocation when you make a living at it. This is gatekeeper-think: that the gate is more important than the process. Do I take rejection too close to heart? Absolutely. This entry is anger-filled in a way that I wouldn’t be if I’d been readily accepted by the publishing establishment. But I have such limited faith in that happening that ideas like this go very deep under my skin. I don't like seeing the system die. This is regressive thinking: it’s just art. Art matters. To say otherwise is actually kind of tragic. Unsurprisingly, the entry has a bunch of cheerleaders. One of the curious things about the popular agent blogs is that they’re populated by people who write commercial fiction:I think of my writing as a product, so I don't take it so personally when I et rejected. when you're producing widgets off an assembly line, it's hard to get all choked up when when of 'em doesn't sell, because you know there's another one about to fall off the line.That’s a real comment, not a parody of a commen[...]

Transcendent Man


This looks fairly awesome.

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