An Interview With This Guy


I recently did a pretty neat interview with the folks from the Creative Alliance here in Flint. The audio is a bit echoey due to some limitations in where they had to film but it turned out a lot better than I had thought. AND there’s a nice interview with a local performer as well.
So, if you wanted to hear me ramble about my writing and the newer books and such give it a look. I am the first interview, about ten minutes in.

Support System


In the excitement of creation it’s really easy to forget that essentially you’re on your own with that excitement. Unless you are in a band or worked on a collaborative piece it’s pretty much you on your own that did the work, put in the time, and will usually take the risks and reap the benefits. It isn’t that friends, family, and loved ones don’t care and don’t support what you are doing but everyone has their own things going on, their own projects, and their own lives and in the world of social networking EVERYTHING IS IMPORTANT! We have reached a point where we all  have the means and ability to tell everyone everything at all times and suddenly everything is desperately important. And you know what, it is, but it isn’t always important to everyone. I know I have been inundated with so many event and rock show and craft show and jewelry party invites that I don’t even pay attention anymore. Too many people invite everyone they know to everything they do and it’s numbed us to things we may actually want to know about. We’re over saturated with information. And even we creators forget that, well, it’s pretty awesome that we did something but someone else feels exactly the same way about their child’s birthday, or an anniversary, or just the fact that they are going to the movies. Often it feels as if we’re all just trying to shout over one another to get heard. And it isn’t that we don’t care about what everyone else is doing but that we just want other people, people we care about and have in our lives, to get as excited about things as we do.

I know for me that I think there’s a bit of a disconnect with how excited people get about my books. Not because they don’t care but because I have put eight books out in a small matter of years. I did this because It took ten years just to get a second book out and now that I can get them out without anyone else having control over that. For me, a writer, that’s HUGE! And I get that to some it just isn’t that exciting anymore. A book a year (and a couple times two books in one year) and the excitement wears off, at least for them. It is old hat. For me though, each one represents something special, something precious. Part of the problem is that, for me, I know books are not my Future. They just are not. I don’t have the time or money to invest in them and their support – something that really does drive me crazy – so it may seem like a ‘hobby’ to some. Something I don’t take seriously. I take my writing seriously but it’s something I have been doing for so long that the lack of any momentum has really made it hard to want to throw parades all the time for my accomplishments. And I also realize that, as much as my friends and family love and support ME the writing isn’t always their cup of tea. And like I said, we all have stuff going on.

We do this for ourselves. Sort of. I write because I love telling stories. I paint because I like to paint. We all do the things we do because they calm us, let us express ourselves, and let us find joy and peace in the day to day madness of life. We do it for ourselves but…that’s not always enough. There is a point in the growth of your art, whatever it is, where you need to share it. For me, to keep focusing as much time on it as I have and want to I need to be able to show myself – OK, there’s a market for all of this weirdness, awesome, keep it up – otherwise I can just write when I have the time and post it on here. If people see it they see it, if not, whatevs. I have been writing long enough that I want people to see the stuff, need them to see it but I also need the validity of people WANTING to read it. Otherwise it’s vanity. I will blog it up like no one’s business out of vanity but to keep putting books out that no one is reading is too far even for me.

We do it for ourselves. We do it because sometimes we need to escape and sometimes we need to celebrate life’s beauty but it isn’t always about us because without sharing what we do it doesn’t mean as much. Art is meant to be shared. It’s the sharing that makes it special. And just like art, our lives are meant to be shared. Our support systems are not always going to understand the things that make us who we are and that make our hearts sing and we won’t always know the same about them. And it is disappointing that not everyone gets as excited about our triumphs as we may but it’s that these people are there at the very worst of times and not just the very best of times that makes them so crucial to our lives. These are the people that keep us grounded and remind us that art isn’t the only thing that matters and even when we’re all yelling at one another on social media it’s that we all care about one another enough to stick around to see past the bad, past the good, and to remain there that means something and sometimes the hardest art of all is mastering the art of being there when someone needs you most.




   Despite what bloggers may think blogs change very little. At best they make you think, or make you laugh, or show you something you didn’t know was out there. But it’s in those moments that the spark of an inferno lays.  

Flint is a city notorious for its issues and it gets frustrating to see people focus on them and not the world being done by the people here to better the city. For someone like me, that lives here and has lived here for some time it gets upsetting to see that the work people do and want to do gets pushed aside by some glory hounds and wanna-bes that have the connections and gloss to get the press, the funding, and the attention that these others don’t. I am tired of seeing people granted money to do art shows for people who are not held out of traditional art shows and events. I am tired of seeing money funneled into groups that want to bring in and compensate outside artists before and above the local arts community we have here. I am tired of the same people doing the same shows over and over and over. For too long the arts establishment has stayed safe and not fostered the arts scene as they should and then you hear people decry the ‘brain drain’ when all of our young people leave the area. With little work being done to create jobs in the area and less being done to support the young and struggling artists it’s no wonder these people feel the need to leave.

I do art from time to time but I am no artist. I don’t focus on it enough and am terribly sketchy in my talent but that I was invited to do shows out of the city and was able to show my work in Detroit to any degree meant the world to me. Heck, selling art to strangers was amazing for my confidence and is the sort of reinforcement artists need. They don’t need people criticizing them for their style and for their lack of experience they need support and opportunity. It says something that there is a grant funded super arts group that focuses on press friendly art shows that tackle such great issues as POVERTY, HUNGER, um…STUFF with an emphasis on out of town artists when so many locals have felt the need to create their own collectives to encourage, support, and create together. My first foray into Flint’s arts scene was in such a group and that group has definitely influenced the arts in the city but they never were able to make real in-roads to changing the culture.

And the arts culture in Flint HAS to change.

Flint is a city struggling for a new identity and we have the things to create one – multiple colleges, lots of college students, a brilliantly conceived cultural center, a successful monthly Art Walk and young and established artists that are desperate to show their work. This is your identity. This is your key to retain young people and draw older folks into town for shows, for the city to capitalize on the assets that are here. There is a criminally under utilized waterfront performance space. There is an openness in the local businesses to work with artists. And by building off of the Art Walk there is an established and regular event that can used as a base to draw more people here for arts events. But there needs to be a change.

There needs to be more support for the smaller art shows, for the more unique events, and more work needs to be done to spread the funding around. Let organizations that have established themselves stand on their own and find their own funds and stop granting them the same money over and over because it’s safe and looks good. Stop rewarding mediocrity and hold grantees responsible for the money they take as well as the trust they lean so heavily on.

There is a divide in Flint that is growing by the day. A divide that is more than just money – though that is clearly a mammoth in the room – and it is between the people on the inside and those on the outside. Those on the inside keep getting the funding, the press, and the lights and those struggling to just survive and find their voices must beg, borrow, and all but steal show space and then have to decide if it’s worth remaining here if they have to fight so hard just to keep doing something that for them feels like the most natural thing in the world.

The arts cannot save a city but it can revitalize, reinvigorate, and renew a city’s people and can serve as part of a foundation that a future can be built upon. Look to Grand Rapids, Michigan if you doubt me. Art will not save Flint but it can give the city an opportunity to retain the very young people that it will rely on to repair the damage that has been done to the city over the past decades.


Because Giving Up Is What We Do


Living in Flint, Michigan isn’t easy.


Yeah, I know, run through your Open Mic Thursday stand-up routine for me about how crummy the city I love is and I’ll move on when you’re done.



The thing about this area is that yeah, there’s a lot of things that are going on here that are bad, not ‘not good’ but bad. I am not going to belabor that point because the local and national media has a pretty good grasp on things here, at least the crime and all the bad things going on. It’s a drag. The thing is though that in pointing out all the bad things here the good is overlooked. Hope and all that stuff doesn’t make for engaging news, I get it, and I am not going to act as if the story of someone murdered or robbed is less important than the story of a festival or a new business. The math doesn’t work out, nor should it.

Tragedy, bummer though it is, is universal. Joy isn’t. I wish that wasn’t the case but it is. We all feel pain, we all know tragedy. Not everyone knows joy. And in a city that has a lot of struggle to overcome it doesn’t really seem reasonable to expect everyone to jump for joy at the small successes and the little victories.


It’s so easy, so very easy to burn the world down.

All it takes is a match and something flammable.

It’s building things, things like hope that create a foundation for people and for the future, that are hard to do. Hard to make.

There is no glory or honor or true joy to be found in tearing things down yet we are a city that thrives on negativity. And again, some negativity is natural and reasonable but there’s a point where you start hurting yourself for attention and a point past that where you hurt yourself because it’s the only thing you know and that’s where we are. We just don’t know HOW to be hopeful anymore. So many have been waiting so long for the clouds to part that you begin to wonder if there was ever a sun at all. Ah, but the thing is that sometimes you have to make your own light. And you know what else fire is good for – creating light.

The same passion people put into their negativity can be put into doing things. And sure, an art show, a craft show, a concert, a bicycle tour, a car show, none of those things alone makes the city a better place but together they start to change perceptions. They start to change minds. Every little act, builds to bigger acts. Every small event opens the door for more events and bigger events. Events and ‘happenings’ lead to more people coming into Flint, spending money in the city and spending time here. The more good and fun things going on the better chance that all the young people that go to school here will spend time here doing more than just GOING TO SCHOOL. And the more people coming here, being here, spending time and money here the more attractive it is for businesses to come here to take advantage of all those people.

Simplistic reasoning?

Sure it is, but it’s HOPEFUL reasoning and there is reason TO it.

I’d rather be hopeful about Flint than to spout nonsense like it should be bulldozed and burned and ignored. It is just so easy though to give up because then you can’t get hurt, you can’t get disappointed, and you look like a genius when things go or stay bad.

Only, you shouldn’t root for the fall of a city and its people.

You shouldn’t root for destruction.

It’s petty. And small. And mindless. And childish. And it’s so black hearted that it makes you wonder what it is that gives those people any joy at all, because if watching people flounder and watching a city die is your kick then you’ve got way more trouble than Flint.

We’re at a point in Flint where we can burn the city down or light it up and I choose to light it up. I choose to believe that the small things, the small events, the small businesses, and the little bits of kindness and civility we offer one another can make a different and can change the tide. There are a million reasons why things got bad in Flint – jobs left, poverty grew, education fell, people moved away, drugs and violence grew, and apathy and frustration skyrocketed. Those are just SOME of the reasons things got bad but you know how they can get better – Hope. And yeah, it takes more than wishing on a four leaf clover to change the fate of a struggling city but it’s like kicking an addiction – if you don’t take that first step, no matter how small, you can never learn to kick.  You can never learn to run.

And who knows what will happen in the end? I know where I stand though and isn’t with a can of gasoline in one hand and a match in the other. No, I stand here blowing on the embers of the spark that makes Flint so special, hoping that eventually those of us who believe and work to make this a city to be proud of will be here to see the Phoenix rise from the smoldering ashes. 

What Is “Bad"?


   There is particular sort of hubris that comes from anyone bold enough to decide they are qualified to tell people the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ but it grows ever more vast when it becomes more than just a sort of sign-post opinion and is presented as a firm entitlement to tell people their tastes are lacking.

Oh, criticism.

As someone who has reviewed movie for ages I have walked the line for a long time when it came to telling people about the movies I was watching. I have always tried to make it know that the movies I am reviewing are playing to my tastes and that I am reviewing it from that standpoint. I mean, people like different things and for different reasons and that’s what makes us all interesting. Even horror nerds can never agree on what it is we all like, but, again, those differences build the bedrock for what molds interesting discussions and impassioned arguments.

Everything has validity.

It’s not fair to look at the work of one person or a hundred and to dismiss it out of hand, even if the work is clearly awful. As a reviewer you just see some things that blow your mind that they were made. For me, it’s the level of passion that salvages a work though. Some things are not good, are bad, but at least they were made with passion but then there are things that are made to cash in on a trend and that just drives you crazy. But just because I think that the work is silly and derivative doesn’t mean everyone will. There is a customer, a consumer, an appreciator of everything.

But what is there a ‘bad’?

There is a bad but bad is subjective. As is good. The same person that loves Mozart may hate Whistler. The person that loves GWAR may love ballet. And at the core of things, at the center, who the heck said that anything is inherently ‘good’? There is a classism and snobbishness to the idea of dubbing things good and bad with the notion that things that were enjoyed initially by the wealthy are inherently good. The love of classical music does not make one any more cultured than a love of gangster rap makes one a deviant. The idea that there is a base of goodness from which to draw from, to use as the measuring sick is a farce and people need to understand that.

Because…there’s nothing, nothing that is by its nature universally good. Nor universally bad.

  I get very frustrated when people have the gall to go on a crusade to save others from ‘bad art’, as if a degree in art history and an appreciation of obscure artists makes one cultured and enlightened. Any time someone wants to tell me what is ‘bad’ and what is ‘good’ I immediately smell pretension and self service and want to get far far away because there’s always a pitch and the pitch is always their opinion on what is ‘good’.

Oh dear.

The wrongheadedness of such enlightenment is mind numbing. It’s like calling someone fat and telling them to put down the pie instead of helping them see how delicious the food that is better for them is. At its base, any time you tell someone what their opinion should be is presumptuous. If someone chooses to like this or that or whatever it’s their choice to make and it isn’t really our business to tell them otherwise.


There is always wiggle room.

I think what bothers me more than anything about the idea of ‘bad’ art is that people are taking a chance to truly enlighten and are using as a way to grandstand. You go in to broaden your horizon and get a lecture on art styles that do little to piqué your interest. Art is such a subjective thing that it’s a little silly to think there’s a one size fits all sort of taste meter.

So where do we start?

Why don’t we go about things with a new focus with less shaming on someone’s taste and more horizon growing of that taste. Not because what we like is better but because what we like is different and may be something THEY also like. I look at it this way – there are a lot of people who love the artwork of Thomas Kincaid. Mr. Kincaid’s work reached a level of pop fame and crossover appeal that made the general public fall in love and the art major cringe. So here’s the thing, instead of shaming someone for liking his art and mass-marketed art why not show how that art is similar to another artist, or other artists, and help to expand that person’s artistic palate. THAT needs to be the thrust of this conversation, not to shame or to speak ill of ANY sort of art. The hope of anyone that is well versed in something should be to help teach people some of the things they have learned. Education baby, not degree flaunting.

I think people forget that as a nation, as a people we are not the most educated in the arts. People would rather spend money too see a movie more than they to read a book. They’d rather buy a poster of a celebrity than they would a print of classic art. We need to not shame people for their tastes and their interests and work to help broaden those tastes. There’s room for the profane and the divine. There is room to like modern pop music and to love roots music. People don’t need to be shamed, to be lectured to about how bad what they like, or what they love is. Instead we should see if there’s room to teach them about what we love to see if they’ll love it also. We need to treat one another more like friends because a friend influences without judging, inspires without forcing, and accepts that sometimes our tastes are not always going to be compatible.

Bad Art?

I suppose but that’s a little subjective, isn’t it, despite what degree gives you the self determination that your understanding and grasp of art is so rounded as to tell people their own appreciation is lacking. Perhaps we should focus less on how ‘bad’ things are and instead focus on how inspiring art in general is because every art, every artist goes through phases, and grows in skill, talent, and vision and to dismiss art, and its artists out of hand is unfair to the artist and those that may hold their art dear.

Hey, what do I know, I’m just someone who makes art. I sure as hell ain’t no artist.

Self Serving Lane


   I have posted about this before but I think it bears repeating. 

If it’s your passion – you find a way to make it happen. 


Sometimes YOU need to make it happen. 

With the advent of donation websites artists are suddenly becoming fancy panhandlers, shaking their paint brushes and camera bags for money for projects they want to work on. Now, we all should know that artists don’t make a lot of money. Like every ‘art’, unless you are part of a small percentage of people who find that niche and really become a ‘name’ you just don’t make a lot of money doing Art. And that’s fine. Art is a passion. If it’s a job then you better put out plainly marketable and salable stuff. But if you do Art because it makes you happy and you like it, well, you have to go in understanding that you may not make a living at it. 


Because there’s a weird line that we’ve crossed. 

People need to understand that ANYONE can create art. Truly, ANYONE. But it takes time, and practice, and patience, and work. So because people feel like ‘I can do THAT’ they don’t take art seriously and don’t feel it’s worth what people want to make for it. 

There’s also the issue that artists need to appreciate the market and not get mad when they don’t always get paid what THEY think the art is worth. Sadly, it’s the buyer that has the power. Unless you have a very salable piece or a name you can sell you are at the mercy of the buyer and the buyer doesn’t always want to pay what art is ‘worth’. I have sold paintings and books that I felt were ‘worth’ more than they sold for but then I stepped back and realized – Hey, someone wanted that, they HAVE it, neat. And that worked for me. But I am not a ‘professional’ artist. At all. But that doesn’t mean I don’t take it seriously. 

The thing of late is that marketing for art has become too easy. Too easy because we don’t work to market anymore. We do some shows, meet some other artists and be-friend them, and then we just sell to one another. And that’s cool but, well, I wanna sell to strangers. I want people with no investment in ME to want my work. I don’t want to guilt friends into doing it. 

And it does hurt when you don’t get the support you wish you did from friends – I always wish more friends cared about my books and art than do but, if they care about me that is all that matters, isn’t it? But there’s a bad, bad habit artists get into when they pitch over and over and over to friends because you focus more on them and less on the new customers and clients. 

We stop working at being artists and work at being panhandlers. 

We set up donation sites for our projects, and funding sites and beg people to support us and our art because it’s our passion, and that’s awesome but, well, it’s OUR passion, not theirs. This is a project for you but for them maybe the project is putting up drywall, or helping sell Girl Scout cookies, or saving the eco-system. And you have to ask yourself – what am I doing for them?

Because that’s the thing – you are asking a favor with no collateral on the line. Sure, you will give them a memento of you project but it’s YOUR project. YOUR business. Not theirs. All too often these days we artists are happy to turn to a funding site to raise money for thing we want to do. We don’t generally NEED to do them because if we did we’d find another way to do it. I mean, so I want to paint with orange. Well, I can go buy orange paint. I don’t have the money. Well then, I guess I mix up some yellow and red and see what I come up with. That’s Art. 

And that is why not everyone can do it. 

Everyone can take a picture, write a story, sing a song, but not everyone can do it well, or find ways to do it that are unique, or find a way to do it when it looks impossible. 

That’s the work of Art. 

We can’t do every project we want to do. There isn’t enough time, aren’t enough resources, and there isn’t enough US to go around. We have to make the hard choices. And to me, one of those choices is when to go to others to fund what you want to do. 

I don’t know that I could do it. Being a writer it’s a little easier to say that, but I do also paint, and do take photos. I am sure I could find stuff for people to fund and support. For me though, I can’t do that because this is MY work, MY business, and MY benefit if it works out. I need to find a way to make it work. We’re artists, we’re supposed to make it up as we go along and find ways to make the impossible happen. 

We can’t keep relying on friends to buy our work and support us and make our dreams come true. That’s our job, and maybe it’s time we started putting the work back into that part of things once more. 


Trimming The Fat


   For me there’s few things as upsetting as editing my writing. Well, wait, that’s not true, I really like editing my work when I am doing the editing but when it comes to someone else, well…I think loathe is letting the act get off a little easy. There is just something so clinical and cold to it all that it really rubs me the wrong way…when someone else does it.

Ah, and there’s the rub.

Now, I am not going to tell anyone that I am some genius that can edit their own work and can make stories into pieces of magic that transcend the page. No. That isn’t me. BUT I can tell you that I know the story I want to tell and know it pretty well. And in knowing the story I want to tell I am a pretty good person to go back to find errors, fix errors, and fill out the story where it’s a little weak. I know what the story is trying to be, and in that, I am a pretty good person to get it to where it is heading.

Ah, but not always.

Because sometimes you’re just too darn close and you NEED other eyes on the work. You need someone else to look at it and tell you what you’re missing, where the story is weak, and can sometimes tell you the brutal truth when something just doesn’t work.

And the truth then is brutal, and it hurts, but if it’s a longer work, if it’s a big work it’s easy to lose sight of the road you’re on and easier to stray off into unnecessary tangents. You are just too close to the work to get a good feel for what needs to be done so you need someone to step in and to pull you back onto the path again. But there’s a fine line there, a very, very fine line in how to do it.

My issue with editing and editors specifically is that they are looking at the story the in a way that benefits THEM – they are helping to shape the story that THEY want to read, and I guess that’s fine if it’s their book that the piece is going in, or if it is something they commissioned, but outside of that the editor has to be VERY cautious on how they mold that work. An editor is great for grammar, for repetition, and for the mechanics of what makes a piece work. An editor knows the cold mechanics of all of this, but what they don’t know is the emotional context and the reasoning behind it. They don’t always appreciate the writer’s stylistic choices, choices which oft times SEEM repetitious and awkward yet are part of the story.

I have gone through that more than a few times where editors felt that aspects of my style didn’t work, and where they wanted to re-shape the story to fit what they wanted it to be. Now, I was putting these stories into their publications so I wasn’t going to really argue much beyond the cursory bit of standing my ground because it’s THEIR release, not mine, but I also made sure that whatever changes I made were only for THAT version of the work and that when it came time to release it myself I would put MY version out then. Because I would rather the story be a tad awkward and reflect MY vision than be something that reflects someone else’s vision because it’s MY story, not theirs. Something I do wonder if editors forget.

The writer, love it or hate it, is an artist, just an artist that uses words and I wonder if too often the artistry of what they are doing, or trying to do, is lost under the axe of an editor. And heck, we need editors to make sure we don’t let fail something that could be special were it not for some simple mistakes. I needed one on the novel because my grammar is poor at best and some things needed to be tightened. And I lucked out in getting a friend to do it that respected the vision of what I was trying to do and they helped me make the book better. Ah, but my editor on the novel also brought distance with them, a distance that didn’t get them involved too deeply in the shaping of the book beyond the cosmetics. And I suppose that’s my personal preference – I would rather my story, my book, fail because of me, because I didn’t do my job than to have someone step in and change what I intended the work to be. I would rather fail or succeed by  my own hand rather than trust someone else to do what is right, what is best.

In saying all of this I have to admit that I am very, very curious what the relationship with an author and an editor are like when it comes to professional work because I bet you it’s a lot different. I would like to think so at least. In MY mind I picture the editor and writer sitting down to discuss changes, ideas, reasoning, and together shaping the book. It still would feel weird to me, but an editor is like a music producer – there to help you ‘sound’ better, but again, it’s a find line between making sure the sound is clean and the song moving forward and the producer/editor stepping in to change the music, the tune, or add or subtract something that they don’t fully appreciate.

Writers need editors. It’s just a simple fact. We need them because we don’t always get it right. We don’t always make the path clear. And in a perfect relationship the editor will come in and make sure that the story moves forward with as few obstacles as possible and will guide the author forward so that they can make sure that they feel the work still reflects their ideals and vision. And if that isn’t the goal of the editor, well, maybe they need to look into other work.