News Roundup

OK, folks, there’s a whole new batch of awesome stuff for you to take a look at. And some really depressing stuff, so let’s get that out of the way first.

January 2016 has undeniably started out on a less than happy note. In the last three weeks, we’ve lost Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Rene Angelil, Dan Haggerty, Dale Griffin, David Heartwell, and Glenn Frey. If you don’t know one or more of those names, don’t look them up–you’ll just get your heart broken at the wonderfulness you’ve missed. Many of the deaths were to cancer.  Too many. Far too goddamn many. And I’m personally expecting to lose two or three more people I love to cancer before the end of the year. So this is a shit start to the year, no question about that. Not to mention ELECTION YEAR and TRUMP and POISONED WATER SUPPLY and POLICE CORRUPTION and ohmygodddddddddd it goes ON and ON. Horrific.

HOWEVER.

Tempting through it is, I ain’t hiding under the bed with a bottle of Xanax. Not gonna happen. Instead, I’m going to look at all the amazing stuff that’s ALSO been happening. And I’m going to shout at you about how amazing YOU are, just because you aren’t hiding under the bed yourself. And if you are, I’m going to say you’re STILL amazing, and I’m going to do my best to coax you out so you can see all this other excellently happy news.

Here goes. Take a look at this:

Musician Jonah Knight is branching out into fiction! His short story, The Giant Killer, is coming out in Gaslight And Grimm: Steampunk Fairy Tales through eSpec Books.  They ran a wonderfully successful Kickstarter–take a look here for all the details–and are currently chasing down the last of the stretch goals. Since Danielle Ackley-McPhail is involved in this project, I can tell you that A) it’s a solidly reliable investment and B) it’s going to be high quality. Oh, and C) the backer rewards seriously rock. Free digital downloads of this that and the other from a spectacular array of names including Gail Z. Martin, Kelly A. Harmon, Jody Lynn Nye, Jean Marie Ward, and Danny Birt. Take a look at the Kickstarter and toss five bucks in if you can, boost the signal as loud as possible.

Speaking of music and Jonah Knight, last weekend was MarsCon of Williamsburg, VA. Why is that connected? Well, there were several concerts featuring a wide array of voices, including Jonah. And Danny Birt. And Mikey Mason. And S.J. Tucker. And The Blibbering Humdingers, and Griff’s Room Band, and White Plectrum, and… well. You had to have been there to appreciate the epic scope of the lineup this year. BUT WAIT. Thanks to staff photographer Earl Harris, there is VIDEO of many of the concerts. He’s sorting through the footage now, and I should be able to post clips by Monday next. Keep an eye on the MarsCon Facebook page in the meanwhile; other folks are posting their own videos, if you’re not willing to wait. (Earl’s vids are good, though. He had a feed into the sound board, for one thing, which makes the sound on his videos nice and clear.)

Two musicians who weren’t at MarsCon but who deserve a note here:

Devo Spice, nerdcore rap comedian extraordinaire (no, seriously, check out his awards and achievements, I’m not just being nice here), has a few new projects for you to sit up and take note of. For one thing, he’s creating a video game called Sneaky Monster, which looks like it’s going to be a LOT of fun and has a great origin story. For another, he has an absolutely hysterical new video out, Dinky McDiddlyboots, that you HAVE TO WATCH. He took a moment of teasing by fellow musician Shoebox of Worm Quartet, and turned it around into a great earworm of a song.

A new, Virginia-local discovery for me: Shelly Thiss, blues singer extraordinaire. I know, you haven’t heard of her, it’s okay. She doesn’t self-promote the way Devo does. (She really ought to!) I heard her sing at the Williamsburg Winter Blues Jazz Fest recently, and she completely astounded me with the power, strength, depth, and passion of her singing. Move over, Adele, Shelly just passed you like you was standin’ still. Shelly sings with the Mike Lucci Band, and if you visit their web site you can listen to clips of Shelly singing–and check out the songs she WROTE, too! Talented, talented lady. I’m very glad I met her.

Another great discovery for me at the Winter Festival was the beer. There were many, many craft beers on display. Some were okay, some were terrible–seriously, folks, a beer is a beer. Quit adding so many damn fancy things to it. Lemongrass? Pineapple? ROSEMARY? *shudder* yick. Fortunately, I found one that I absolutely loved: Lickinghole Creek’s Chocolate Heir Apparent Russian Imperial Stout. I went out looking and found it at my local wine & beer shop, which made me very happy indeed. I will add a caveat–according to the beer-ista (what else should I call someone smart about beer who works at a wine & beer specialty shop? I like beer-ista, myself), the blend served at the Festival was extra chocolatey, more so than what’s in the official bottle. I haven’t opened it yet–it’s a big bottle, I need to have someone to share it with!–but I’m looking forward to seeing the difference.

In fiction news, I suggest checking out the following titles forthwith:

A Small Price To Pay, Leona R Wisoker — How far will you go for freedom? A short origin story about one of the plot points in the next Children of the Desert book. Also, a look at just how freaking brutal Lord Evkit can be. Currently available through pre-order–only $0.99, truly a small price! Available through Smashwords, and a fair chunk of it is up for sample reading. Also be sure to read Fallen City, a longer treatment of a different backstory point in the series, this one involving the cryptic Deiq of Stass.

Mussorgsky Riddle, by Darin Kennedy — What, you’re sick of hearing me talk about this title? THEN GO FREAKING READ IT ALREADY so I can shut up about how marvelous it is. The sequel is currently in editorial, and I’ll tell you AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN that it’s even better than the first one.

Vendetta, by Gail Z Martin — I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s the next book in the Deadly Curiosities series, and I’m *ahem* dying for the chance (meaning: time) to read it. I love the DC series SO much. I think it’s hands-down the best stuff Gail’s ever written.

So if you’re snowed in along the East Coast, download one of those books.

And speaking of snow, it’s piling up here in Williamsburg, so I’m going to sit and admire it for a while. This is my absolutely favorite time of the year! Here’s wishing you a safe and happy snowpocalypse 2016! 😀

Items Of Interest

Here’s another roundup of cool things you might be interested in looking over:

What if Sherlock Holmes had to accept that the supernatural does, in fact, exist? For an answer, take a look at a new anthology, An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, edited by A.C. Thompson. Contributors include Tally Johnson, Lucy Blue, S.H. Roddey, and several more. It’s published by Mocha Memoirs Press, which is owned and run by author Nicole Givens Kurtz. Full disclosure: I haven’t gotten around to reading this one yet, but based on hearing bits of it read at various conventions in the past couple of months, it’s on my TBR list. I love the concept! I’ve always wondered what Sherlock would do if faced with irrefutable evidence of the paranormal.

Next up, take a look at BrewinOvations. I ran across them at a recent convention and was really impressed with their switch plate covers. They craft everything from candle holders to clothing, wooden boxes to patio lanterns. It’s an impressive array of creative dedication, and quite possibly a great source for that last minute holiday gift you’ve been wanting to grab.

Orchard Organiss is another really interesting business to check out. Their web site is unlike anything else I’ve seen lately: a web-comic/t-shirt design company. There appears to still be some development of the concept in progress, but it’s a very intriguing start!

Interested in erotic SF? Take a look at Ora J.McGuire/Nickie Jamison’s web site, oopswrongcookie–the site name alone was enough to get my interest! Again, I haven’t read any of this author’s work to date, but she’s on my TBR stack based on how she presented herself at Chessie and AtomaCon.

Latest great music showing up on my Pandora playlist: Katzenjammer, Utada Hikaru. Also, if you haven’t already heard of the beautifully surreal podcast Welcome to Night Vale, take a listen right now–they even have an app for your phone/iPad that makes sorting out the stream dead easy. And there’s even a Nightvale novel out now! That is definitely on my TBR list, lemme tell you….

That’s enough for now. Have fun going through the various links, and I hope you find a great holiday gift or new favorite among the above offerings! 🙂

Interview With Mikey Mason

MarsCon of Williamsburg, VAAt MarsCon 2015, I found myself in a bar with Mikey Mason. I took a chance and asked him if he’d be willing to do an interview with The Scribbling Lion. Since he was tired from a weekend of rocking out some incredible concerts, and had already been drinking for some time before I asked, I figured more than likely he’d forget all about it by morning. Apparently he managed to hang on to my business card, though, because he contacted me two days later and said So how do you want to do this interview?

Email, was the answer we arrived at, which was fine by me; I handle most interviews that way. It works out best for everyone, gives the busy folks time to pick at it in their spare moments and think through their answers. So I sent him off a list of questions to choose from and moved on, figuring I’d hear back in a week or two, if at all.

Three hours later, he returned this very thoughtful, forthright, and well-written answer to all of the questions.

I’m still in shock.

Read and enjoy!

AND NOW, GENTLEFOLK, MIKEYYYYYY MASON!!Mikey Mason Live

Which came first for you, in a practical sense: singing/playing/podcasting/writing music? How about in a professional sense–which one did you begin promoting first, and why?

I began singing at an early age—very early. Singing with the radio in the car, singing with music class at school. I remember being told by the music teacher in 2ndgrade that I had a nice voice. She probably said that to all of us, but it stuck with me and made me sing louder and stronger. In fourth grade, my teach (Mr. Loveless) asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I answered, “Paul Stanley.” (From KISS.)

Mr. Loveless laughed and said, “That job’s probably taken, already…”

In middle school I decided I wanted to sing with a band, and by high school was doing so. Music was always present in my life.

Professionally, I had reached a crossroads of sorts where I didn’t know what to do in a creative sense to find fulfillment. There were a lot of options: I draw, paint, write, sing, produce video, whatever. I may not be the best at any of it, but I find it all fun and fascinating. I knew I needed something specific to pursue around the year 2000.

At that time my wife (then girlfriend) and I narrowed it down to either doing “serious” music or doing musical comedy. She voted serious music; I went to comedy.

It wasn’t that I didn’t trust her instincts or anything. It’s very much the same feeling you get when you make a decision by flipping a coin. As soon as the coin is in the air, you know which side you want to land facing up.

By 2010, I was a full-time standup comedian (using my guitar, of course). All it took was me focusing only on that instead of everything all at once, and maintaining that focus over time.

Among your currently produced works, both musical and podcasts, what are your two personal favorites and why?

As a whole, I’d say my favorite podcast to do is Beer Powered Time Machine.

BeerPoweredTimeMachine

It’s billed as “a celebration of good beer, storytelling, and personal histories,” but that’s really just a dressed up way of saying I like to drink beer and laugh with my friends. It’s relaunching this year after being on hiatus for about a year.

As far as albums go, I think my favorite so far is probably Storm Coming, the EP of songs inspired by Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I threw my normal rulebook out the window, played with styles and recording techniques, and purposefully tried to not make it funny. I just got to write music and record it.

I also absolutely love the live recording from MarsCon (Live from Mars). There’s something incredible about hearing the audience sing along with me, and doubly so about being able to stop singing during a song while the audience keeps going…

That said, I have favorite songs from every album… I like the stuff I write and record. Some say it’s narcissistic or egocentric. Some musicians say, “I can’t listen to my own music.” I say musicians should be writing and playing stuff you enjoy. If you can’t listen to the music you write and perform, why should I?MMasonStormComing

When you decided to begin promoting your creative efforts at a professional level, what prompted that decision?

I was working full time as a middle manager at a residential youth placement facility, focusing on behavior management of at-risk youth, and had been doing comedy on karaoke nights at local bars. I had funny songs that I recorded the backing tracks to CD, and the KJs (karaoke jockeys) would let me do one of my funny originals instead of singing a song from their books. One of the bars actually had a comedy night that was booked by a national booking agency, and one of the bar owners there really liked me and saw the effect my funny songs had at their karaoke night. I had done an audition at that bar to try and play at their comedy night. I played about 20 minutes of funny songs to 6 or 8 people who weren’t paying attention (one of them being the other bar owner) and was pretty sure they weren’t interested.

AftMMasonbwHeadshot2er work one day, I got a call from the bar owner who I thought wasn’t paying attention, wanting me to fill in as an opening act. I did 26 minutes that night, received an incredible response from the crowd, and was asked back. I also got a copy of my performance on CD and sent it to a booker for a comedy club nearby(ish.) They called me after a few weeks and booked me to play at the club with a national headliner for later in the year.

When I performed that week, my first performance of the week was literally shot as part of a regional NBC TV show, so my first appearance on a real comedy club stage landed me on NBC.

I spent most of what I’d made that week on getting a copy of the performance on DVD, and used that to book myself with new national booking agencies. Within a few years, I was receiving enough work to drop to part time at my day job. In less than two more years, I was able to quit the day job altogether.

When you began promoting yourself as a professional, what did you expect would happen and how has it measured up against what has actually happened?

I had delusions that things would move much quicker than they did, that opportunities would present themselves, and that I’d be much more successful than I am in much less time than I’ve been doing this. What I’ve realized is that opportunities are often hidden behind tons of hard work. It’s usually necessary to put in the work first, to sacrifice, to take risks. In these days of instant fame via reality TV and YouTube, that’s not always true, but it’s a good rule to work by.

MMasonYouTubeHoundsI’ve slept in my car at rest areas and in tents and in the Four Seasons hotel in LA. I’ve played on riverboats and in movie theaters and in bowling alleys (literally on the lanes—more than once!) I’ve played resort casinos and country clubs and dive bars. I’ve played biker rallies and political fundraisers, pizza joints and birthday parties. I’ve played theaters and colleges and plenty of comedy clubs. I’ve even performed in an alley. I’ve had great shows that made be feel like a rock star and crap shows that I wouldn’t wish on anyone and meh shows that just felt like I was going through the paces. And none of it—ever—was what I thought it was going to be.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten? What are your long term goals as a creative professional?

MMasonBarbarianJetpackIt’s so hard to have a specific vision for me. I want to make a living doing whatever I want to do. I want to make movies, make art, make music, write, perform, make and play games, do theatre. All at once. Somehow, it doesn’t seem as unreasonable a goal or as unattainable a job description anymore. I think it can be done. I think I can do it. I’m sure as hell gonna try.

What advice do you have for “newbies” taking their first professional steps in the fields of music performance/music creation/podcasting?

Learn by doing. Get with the cult of done. Get things done. Do something. Then do something else. Repeat forever. Never stop. Swim through your creativity like a shark: it has to be moving in order to breathe. Keep moving. Don’t give up. Don’t stop.

If something is beyond your resources right now, shelve it for later. Don’t forget about it, but keep moving forward until your resources allow you to do that thing, too. Make your own opportunities. Volunteering helps, but once you’re good enough to get paid: get paid. Research is fine, but reading about doing something is never as effective as doing something.

If you’re not failing you’re not growing.

Measure your progress and success against yourself, and while you’re at it, love yourself. Nobody else will ever have a better reason to love you than you. Be nice to people. All of them. Even the jerks. You never know how it can pay off, but when it does, the dividends are better than money. (Not to your landlord, though.) Love what you do, like what you like, and don’t put others down for doing the same.

Stop reading this and go make something. Right now.

MMasonDangerousGiftsMMasonNerdRageMMasonComedyRockStar

YES INDEED. GO CREATE MORE FANTASTIC STUFF. I’M TALKING TO YOU. AND YOU. AND YOU…. why are you still here…?