As an artist, I have a love-hate relationship with technology. I love how my works, like the books I’ve written, can easily became digitized and distributed instantly all across the world, finding new readers. That’s awesome. But I want to puke when I discover that my works have been taken and distributed without compensation, or even credit, to me.
But it looks like some tech innovators might have the perfect antidote. Check out these posts on something called blockchain technology. I love how the first post uses the example of the famous GIF of Bowie’s faces, which by the way, was created by UK artist Helen Green, in case you never knew that 🙂
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve stumbled across some fascinating research into the benefits of reading. Not like anyone who reads really needs any more encouragement, but some pretty neat stuff happens to you when you spend time buried in books.
One article I read on the train home from work yesterday explained how reading fiction lowers your need for cognitive closure, which means you have a greater ability to accept and embrace ambiguity. That means you can make better decisions in stressful situations because you’ll be more thoughtful and patient, less panicky, and less inclined to grasp onto whatever you think will get the job done quickly. The article explores how the need for cognitive closure led to the ’93 Waco tragedy. It has some fascinating insights into what happened behind the scenes between a hostage negotiator and the FBI agent in charge.
A few days before reading the first article above, I found this piece about how reading fiction increases empathy. So there’s kind of this theme going on here—that reading fiction makes you a better person. Hmmmm. Makes me feel bad for people who don’t read fiction…but then, I guess reading fiction is the reason I feel this way.
One of my first paintings – of my idol – when I was fifteen
On the way to work this morning I turned on the car radio, a station I sometimes tune into because it plays Bowie, and I was pleasantly surprised to catch the DJ talking about David Bowie. At first I thought Bowie was the topic because of his recent birthday last Friday, and then it hit me that they were talking about him for longer than a birthday tribute warrants, and then the use of the past tense made it clear what had happened. And then I wished I could turn the car around and drive back home.
Bowie was my favorite musical artist growing up – by a long shot. And he still is.
I remember when I first saw him. I believe I was around 11 years old. I was watching a music awards show on TV, and someone appeared on the screen, wearing something that looked like a space suit. He was singing a song that was like no other song I had ever heard – Space Oddity – with its haunting, layered melody. The camera zoomed in on the face of the singer, and I was mesmerized. His different colored eyes, his ethereal, otherworldly features. He looked like someone from another planet. I asked my older brother who this was – and got the answer: David Bowie.
I quickly began collecting his albums – all of them sounded different and I loved every one. The Ziggy album was one of the first. There was something about his voice on these songs that made me feel like he understood me, like I wasn’t alone in this world. His voice still hits me like that.
Unfortunately soon after my fascination with Bowie began, he disappeared from making music for a few years, eventually returning with Let’s Dance. Although I was less a fan of some of his music from this point onward, he would still make many songs that are among my favorites.
It’s hard for me to believe that he is gone from this world. I have spent a very large amount of my life listening to his music. Growing up would have been so much harder for me without Bowie.
Some of my favorite Bowie songs:
Sweet Thing from David Live (1974)
Lady Grinning Soul from Aladdin Sane (1973)
Life on Mars? from Hunky Dory (1972) – but I especially love Bowie performing it in his recent years with Mike Garson at the piano – like he did below in 2005
If I’m Dreaming My Life from ‘Hours…’ (1999)
Slip Away from Heathen (2002)
Teenage Wildlife from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
Quite excited about what arrived this week in the mail… I’m particularly interested in The Story Grid, by Shawn Coyne, which I first heard about while reading Steven Pressfield‘s weekly posts. If you’re not a writer you might know of Pressfield from various books such as The Legend of Bagger Vance. Matt Damon and Will Smith starred in the movie version. If you’re a writer, you might know of him from his weekly posts or other works like The War of Art.
In his posts, Pressfield often provides deep insights into how he works – that’s the stuff I love to read about, mostly because it makes me feel a little less lonely when struggling with what seem to be impossible-to-solve story challenges. A couple of standout posts for me were Files I Work With, Part 2 and Files I Work With, Part 3. It was in these that he mentioned the book by his longtime editor, Coyne.
Here’s my sketch of Lucas Roth, the hero of the Mantis trilogy, sitting in a Manhattan diner after traveling back in time to 1940. Check out my sketch of Olivia Lane, the secret agent he ends up working with to track down the organization that murdered his father.
Something quite remarkable happened this week—my dream agent, Deidre Knight, offered to represent me!
It’s an accomplishment that has taken me back a few years to a day when I was driving home in the rain close to the anniversary of my father’s passing, over a decade earlier. I wondered how he was, where he was, what he would think of me. I wasn’t in a particularly good place in my life, and I would have given anything to see him one more time. As memories came to me, of playing the piano while he sang “Sorrento,” of him asking me to “photograph” a document with a photocopier, of trying to synchronize my stair climbing to his snoring when I came home late as a teenager, a story began to come to me—it was just a quick sequence at first: of a young man stepping through time, into a 1940’s film noir world, and being swept into a mystery involving the disappearance of his father… over the following weeks and months I began to develop what would eventually become Mantis.
To think back on that moment when it all began, to relive it so clearly, and to flash through the long journey of bringing the story to life, and to see now that the story has resonated with an agent I’ve long dreamed of signing with… well….the elation will linger for a long, long time.
Since the very early days of developing Mantis, I had a pretty clear image of Olivia Lane, one of the main characters in the novel. I close my eyes and she’s there. I often wonder who would play in a film version. I can’t quite settle on the actress. Any suggestions? My sketch above is what she looks like to me.
Below is the passage in which she makes her first appearance in the novel:
A hinge whines as the door opens slowly. A woman steps into the room. Blonde hair. Near white. A pompadour with long waves at the back. She’s wearing a square-shouldered green suit with a nipped waist and knee-length skirt. My brain freezes as I take in her face, her high, sweeping cheekbones and strong nose. Her soft cheeks and lips. It’s a level of beauty I’ve only ever seen a few times in my life. I would guess she’s a couple years younger than me, and though she seems to appear carefree at first, the muscles in her forehead are tight, strained, as if complex, furtive thoughts are whirling behind them.
Her eyes flit to me, a sky-blue assault on the senses. She gives me a little smile. Her maroon lipstick extends slightly beyond the contours of her mouth. I smile back, then, self-conscious of my staring, I look away.
Kay introduces me to Olivia Lane. She moves closer. She smells of cigarettes and perfume. Smoke and flowers.
She tells me it’s a pleasure to meet me in that clipped, fast way she has of speaking, then reaches into her white purse, pulls out a package of Camels and flicks it with her wrist. A cigarette pops halfway out. She offers it to me and I put my hand up to decline. She inserts the cigarette into a long white holder, lights it and takes a couple of quick puffs.