Writer’s Block

January 12, 2022

Pitching your masterpiece, if any author truly is content with their final draft, to agents can be a trying experience. The whole route to being traditionally published is. Yet, if that is the writer’s goal, they can never be published unless they query a literary agent.

Sounds easy enough, but it’s quite the opposite. Agents only accept about 5-10% of the submissions they receive, and that’s being generous. Don’t be discouraged, however, as it may not be because the manuscript lacks quality, but more because the market is calling for something more trendy … or even a certain type of author to brand.

What writers must do is thoroughly search for the right agent for them. This becomes even more difficult because their profiles seem to almost mimic each other. Also, there’s a major imbalance in the demographic of agents, most being women ranging from their early-20s to middle-aged.

Of course, these agents are professionals and have an eye for what is good and what will sell. The latter is where the real issue is, and it starts with big publishers. They know the market better than anyone, but it’s strange to think that a group of people decides what is best for consumers to read. They know it because they shape it. So, in essence, who a writer is actually pitching to is a small demographic that promotes what they believe is best for the masses.

That’s if the book even gets out of the slush pile manned by interns. Sometimes the author doesn’t know anything about the preferences of the person reviewing the submission. So much for researching and effort.

There needs to be more parity in the literary world. Until then, aspiring authors must put more work into finding the best possible fit for their book. There are very good agents out there willing to work with a variety of people (so the profiles say). Authors have already spent years working for free and sacrificing their time, what’s another few months anyway?

December 29, 2021

When ESPN decided to sign a contract with the NHL to return to the network, I thought that it was big and that the league was finally on the same level as the other three major U.S.-based leagues. Well, ESPN even was showing MLS and the WNBA, so let’s say the other five major U.S.-based leagues. Now, I believe I was wrong.

I enjoyed watching the NHL on NBC. I thought the network did a great job with the coverage, the graphics were clean and they televised plenty of games throughout the week, including weekend slots and Stanley Cup playoffs on their main network channel. The problem with ESPN lies in the latter. With cable, I get far fewer games during the year than I did with NBC.

Of course, the new trend is streaming services. If I wanted to watch the same volume of games that I did while the NHL was under contract with NBC, I now have to purchase and subscribe to ESPN+. I am under the impression that this move wasn’t out of respect for the NHL’s growing popularity and exposure to a broader audience, it was to take advantage of said popularity from a, surprise surprise, financial aspect.

Streaming services have become nothing but another way to take advantage of people. They purposely produce exclusive shows instead of making everything available between platforms, and then advertise it so much to convince people they need it. Once you start subscribing to Netflix, Apple TV, Hulu, Peacock, Paramount, Amazon Prime, ESPN+, Disney+, and all the other damn services that keep popping up, it starts to add up more than actual cable for less content. Well, let’s say less quality content. Sure, each has an award-winning popular show, but a lot of stuff is just reruns and sub-par originals. Plus, you spend so my time searching for something, you end up wasting an hour just browsing instead of watching a program.

And for what? You don’t have to see commercials? They still collect your data to tailor advertising in other forms to you anyway. Plus, one thing people forget about commercials is they give you a break from shows and the opportunity to remember you have a life to live and things to get done. Without commercials, you can binge and waste a good five hours on the couch without even knowing it–and plus, how else do you think your favorite products stay on the market? Advertising. It all balances out; neither avenue is better than the next.

We got a little sidetracked there. In conclusion, ESPN has not done a good job with the NHL, and the move has not benefited the audience and fans–just corporate pockets.

December 9, 2021

To briefly further on yesterday’s complaint (below), my earbuds are not compatible with my new phone either. That means they, too, are useless, and I have to again purchase something much more expensive wrapped in even more plastic.

The factories must be exhausted from being overworked. Deep breaths into the air.

December 8, 2021

I have a new phone. This means I also have a new screen protector, case, two charging cables and an outlet adapter. It has been five years since I bought an upgrade, and I wish it was longer.

I love the technology and the features, but that is not the point. It’s also not about how, for the price of one phone, you could probably buy three televisions. The issue is the impact just buying said phone has on the environment. Apple was once sued because they were exposed for purposely slowing down past-generation devices, deceiving their loyal consumers into purchasing the next best thing–only to do the same thing two years later (give or take). Hopefully, companies have learned from the mistake, but it shows the gullibility of the buyers and how cooperations will take advantage of the vulnerable for more profit.

What also has been documented is that, at least in the past, devices such as phones, computers, televisions and so on are not easily disposed of in a non-harmful way. Then we must consider all the obsolete technology that we trash in order for our devices to be compatible. I have a television from 2016 and I can’t download Disney+ on it unless I buy a new television. How impractical is that?

Man, the things we complain about have changed. First-world problems.

This brings us to the phone. Again, apps weren’t compatible with my old device so I broke and became broke in a matter of a day. The phone was $800 (I know, I’m cheap), but the USB-C cord that came with the device is double-ended. What this means is that my computer, my wall adapter and the slots in my car cannot fit this cord. The only way I would be able to charge my phone was if I bought a $30 wall adapter. In addition, if I wanted to utilize the USB-A ports on my computer and in my car, I had to buy another $30 cord. My phone case was $40 and my screen protector was also $40. At least $60 could have been avoided just by manufacturers making versatile technology which they are more than capable of doing because they have done it before. Another $80 was a result of manufacturers taking advantage of the gullible and vulnerable (me).

And every single item came separately wrapped in oodles of plastic, which if added to the old phone that doesn’t really work and the old cords that are good but now useless and the old cases that don’t fit anything anymore, that doesn’t bode well for the environment.

Yet, let’s blame cows and cars. Just to let you know, if you think about it, there are more people who have phones than meat and dairy consumers in the world. There are also more people with phones and all the accessories than there are people with cars–and the techies, who usually are promoting how we need to save our world left and right, repeat the process probably every two years.

Materialism and marketing are destroying this world faster than cow farts and exhaust. I’m not saying the latter two don’t contribute, they certainly do. However, don’t be surprised if the pace of climate change increased when the world became so dependent on technology.

November 15, 2021

There are certain folks who openly claim they are dark and unique. However, doesn’t that contradict the mystery? An individual shouldn’t boast those attributes. First, darkness is something that should only be spoken of in closed circles for therapeutic purposes. I don’t think someone who brags about being dark is actually dark or deep or anything other than a salesperson. The darkness comes out in one’s creativity if personally permitted, not through one’s claims. If an explanation is needed then so is the true intention of a person.

The same can be said for uniqueness; it is also seen. If someone can’t tell that you’re unique then you’re either hiding it, which is your right to do so, or you’re not truly unique. If a person is constantly explaining how unique they are, then they have no mystique. If they show it, it should be good enough for the public to process. People aren’t that dumb, they can figure something out. They also know when others are trying too hard to be something they aren’t.

November 1, 2021

Halloween was back to its normal form in the neighborhood after a wasted Saturday night last year during the pandemic. One of the fantastic elements of the cluster is that there is sure to be a haunted house or two in someone’s garage. A great performance was once again crafted, but outside in line was where something more unsettling took place.

I was behind two middle-schooled age kids, not even quite pre-teen, and they excitedly started a conversation. They were dressed as if they were participants on Purge night.

I asked, “What would you do on purge night if it was a real thing?”

One of the boys instantly responded with a beaming grin, “I would rob a place and take all the toys. Oh, and I would kill someone, probably my worst enemy.”

There’s no reason to put a lot of stock in the latter part of his statement considering the context of the holiday and whatnot, but it has stuck with me. This boy was smiling at a fantasy in which he could slay a person, influenced by a movie not suited for his age. Since we’re a society that has made blaming other people its new favorite pastime, who should the finger be pointed at here? The entertainment industry? The Internet and the accessibility to content? The parents? Or do we finally swivel that finger around and blame ourselves as a whole?

If I may quote Tears for Fears, “When people run in circles, it’s a very, very, mad world, mad world.”

October 28, 2021

As a struggling writer (there are only about five in the industry who aren’t struggling), there is something very unsettling about the market at the moment. And the moment has been dragging for a year and a half.

This isn’t necessarily directed at the publishing industry. Many people are still out of work due to the pandemic. Though this isn’t what the post is about, I keep seeing people on social media (keep in mind, these are people who most likely haven’t lost anything or been affected by the pandemic) saying, “just go get a job,” thinking they’ve solved everything. The reality of the situation is that most people are overqualified or underqualified for these positions that are seemingly so available. Not everyone has the certificates, experience, or degrees to be an IT specialist or nurse. Not everyone can just go into a trade or become a laborer or manage a restaurant or even be a line cook. In addition, one of the ugly traits of businesses, and this has to do with the modern approach to communication, is that around 75% of companies don’t even bother to respond, not even a rejection, to applicants, keeping the desperate in limbo and delaying their search for other opportunities.

I guess this is kind of about the publishing industry if that’s the case.

This brings us to our unsettling issue (finally). Many of these openings have obviously been fake. It’s not a coincidence that someone sets up an account, takes the time to apply to the company, and then the next week are bombarded by spam emails and phone calls. Of course, there’s no response to the application or even the follow-up. What is pathetic about this whole process is that, when the world is in its most vulnerable position, there are people out there taking advantage of the desperate. And for what? Data. How sad.

I wonder how many people would have rather been sick and quarantined for two weeks, or even risked their lives, than lose their job for over a year and watch their future dwindle to nothingness with no hope and a higher cost of living ahead.

October 21, 2021

I was discussing the industry with a couple who are good friends of mine the other day. The woman has a coworker who writes romance novels and brings home upwards of $5,000 a month in supplemental income for her work. That is fantastic. However, it poses questions.

Said coworker, judging by the woman’s status, has a nice-paying, stable career. She also has a contract with Amazon to produce a book a month. Hearing this, my immediate thought was twofold.

Fold 1: A contract with Amazon isn’t a contract with a traditional publisher. This means she has spent enough money through their ad services to gain a lot of exposure, therefore, making money through advertising, not necessarily the book’s weight itself, that it benefits both parties.

Fold 2: Who writes a quality book in a month? That is, of course, a rhetorical question based on jealous assumption. Though, it’s something to consider. With outlines, edits, and drafts, it takes someone like myself almost a year, if not more, to produce what I can only say is contentment of the final work.

It appears that to be financially successful as an author, you must be willing to pay the platform and spit out some drivel in return. Advertising controls the world, not art, and it’s a shame. I remember when authors were these mystical, well-respected, intellectual individuals who people wanted to have a discussion with. Now, we beg for audience approval, and focused advertising brainwashes the new celebrities that social media has molded, the average person, giving them a sense of delusional fame that spreads beyond their circle.

I hope I’m wrong.

October 15, 2021

Last weekend, during my soccer game, two opponents complained about my style of physical play to each other. They they said it loud enough, however, that my teammates heard. At halftime, my players informed me of how the other team thought I was “violent” – though their claims where vastly exaggerated. When we took the field after the break, I politely addressed both players separately during game play and apologized, explaining how my “style” could have been misunderstood. Each pleaded that they didn’t say anything of the nature and furthered by claiming they said I was really good and that was all.

This is where the issue is. These players were about 15 years younger than me. Newer generations, as in the ones fresh into adulthood (whenever that may considered) are very confrontational as long as they’re in their safe spaces – i.e. the internet or small circle where they can whisper to each other just loud enough that it becomes someone else’s issue and no longer theirs. When approached person-to-person, I wouldn’t even say challenged, their ego transforms from uber-strong to rather feeble. This, of course, isn’t the case for all people in these age groups, but it’s definitely something that is common in the modern era of being “social”.

October 12, 2021

Does the allure of a storied franchise create confidence? Does past failure create uncertainty?

After last night’s ALDS Game 4 between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, it’s an intriguing thought to consider. Tampa Bay was the best team in the American League all season, but the postseason is a different story. Yes, teams like the Red Sox and New York Yankees have historically won, or so it is assumed on the surface, or been present in the playoffs, but why should that matter? Each generation has different players, coaches, and front office personnel. Yes, money has something to do with it because they can afford the best talent, but, if that was truly the deciding factor then they would also be the best regular-season team as well. Also, some of the players who step up in clutch moments are not necessarily the high-profile names. Sometimes the stars falter, especially if they haven’t been in big situations.

Therefore, the mystique of “evil empires” in sports seems to play a role in building confidence for whoever dons a certain uniform. Of course, for teams like the Red Sox, this works in a positve and negative regard. Did the curse play a factor in their past failure? Probably. But when the curse was broken, confidence replaced uncertainty and it has shown, no matter the generation.

On the other hand, Tampa Bay, or “Champa” Bay as I like to refer to them as, could have used the city’s momentum in the sports world as a confidence-builder. The city currently hosts the NHL and NFL champions from last season, and the Rays were in the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers last year. However, the aforementioned allure also is on the mind of the opposition.

The psychology of sports is quite interesting.

October 8, 2021

To further on Raymond’s autobiography, closely relating to the below post, the author criticized critique before it became out of hand as it has in the modern era.

“This means that art has got to be controlled, and by the very people whom I wish to God had never ever heard of it – those terrible, negative, purposeful people who, like a child with a scab, cannot leave art alone. They ridicule and criticise it from a sense of drowned guilt, vaguely aware that what they are reading, looking at or hearing either embodies beauty, the opposite of the horrors they perpetrate or else, by presenting itself as extremely ugly, it satirises and underlines the state of the world as run by bores and so, naturally, the bores themselves. (p. 124)”

Something to think about and discuss if you feel the need to.

October 5, 2021

I’ve come across two vitally important quotes to share from Derek Raymond’s autobiography, The Hidden Files.

“It isn’t the language that’s dead; it’s the people who use it… A language that can’t be spoken can’t be written. You must be able to hear what you’re writing. If you can’t, no matter how much noise you make with it, there is somehow silence. (p. 62)”

Yesterday’s Facebook outage should make us think about this and how social media has created this “dumbing” of language and a reliance on something that is unstable.

“People will rarely if ever pay you for creating something they cannot understand, or can see no immediately profitable use for. (p. 63)”

More and more I experience the fact that people do not value the artist or their time anymore, but it has clearly been going on for a while.

October 5, 2021

Even if you’re in doubt of your talents or path, as long as someone still thinks the dream is a possibility, it remains alive. A friend said something like that to me the other day.

March 13, 2021

3vE by Jason DeGray

The highly anticipated cyberpunk novel by Jason DeGray, 3vE, is now available. You can find the ebook on Amazon and other retailers, or you can pre-order a copy through UB’s shop!

March 10, 2021

It’s been a while, but a rebrand is in place. This will soon become my main “social media” feed. I’m working on cleaning up the site, so please be patient! New things are coming and I shouldn’t be long.

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