Holy mutha of metal, 2017 was a good one for music. I found it particularly difficult to curate the Best Of… list this year, partially because of the sheer amount of new music I was introduced to in Q1 and Q2 while writing for Ghost Cult, but also (I surmise) because the lack of commercial viability for most music in general means we’re getting art that is raw and passionate in its purity. “Selling out” is no longer an option, so the bands that stick around for the long haul are in it for the right reasons.
I had to go Top 20 instead of Top 10 this year, and yet it still feels incomplete. The Black Dahlia Murder, Vuur, Fit for an Autopsy, Camille, Os Tribalistas, Cannibal Corpse–all of these, and many others, put out excellent records in 2017. I submitted my list to Ghost Cult for their annual roundup about a month ago, and it has already changed since then. Even the top 4 might change on any given day, with Anathema, The Darkness, and Danny Cavanagh pinballing depending on my general mood.
Scroll on for select cuts. Or check out the entire shebang on my Official Best Of 2017 Spotify Playlist.
In the words of Marty DiBergi, “enough of my yakkin’. Whatddya say? Let’s boogie!”
1. Sepultura – Machine Messiah
2. Anathema – The Optimist
3. The Darkness – Pinewood Smile
4. Daniel Cavanagh – Monochrome
5. Cradle of Filth – Cryptoriana—The Seductiveness of Decay
6. Decapitated – Anticult
7. The King Is Blind – We Are The Parasite, We Are The Cancer
8. Prong – Zero Days
9. Bloodclot – Up in Arms
10. Lock Up – Demonization
11. Kreator – Gods of Violence
12. Once Human – Evolution
13. Queens of the Stone Age – Villains
14. Ego Kill Talent – Ego Kill Talent
15. The Haunted – Strength in Numbers
16. Myrkur – Mareridt
17. Dead Cross – Dead Cross
18. Novembers Doom – Hamartia
19. Paradise Lost – Medusa
20. Satyricon – Deep Calleth Upon Deep
- Published in Uncategorized
That’s right. I quit. As that old hilariously depressing piece of writerly advice goes, “If you can quit, you should quit.”
Well, I did. Stick that in your vape pen and smoke it, you self-righteous, know-it-all hipster.
Want the truth? Let’s talk truth.
I spent three years writing a book on contract, a book I sold on passion over substance, a book I thought was sure to be a hit from here to hell and highwater beyond. I’d been struggling at this writing gig for over a decade at that point, and this finally seemed to be my break. Scored a five-figure advance that I dropped on a suped-up, hot-rodded…uhh…Kia Rio…inside which I almost died when colliding with a 12-pound fawn on a snowy New Hampshire backroad during a pitch-black, winter evening’s commute home from my big boy job at a flailing digital marketing agency that catered to businesses around the same size as the baby deer I’d struck with my baby car.
It wasn’t my first book (wasn’t even my second or third), nor was it my first instance of car-on-deer violence. Or should I say deer-on-car violence, as it’s a pretty safe bet that the creature fared far better than the tin can I was driving. There’s a saying in these parts that you haven’t really arrived until you’ve hit two deer with two different vehicles.
Well, I’d officially arrived, both as a professional writer and as a New Hampshire-ite.
I was that kid in school who argued with his teachers, who crossed his arms and tossed his too-long hair and got all snotty and defiant when Mrs. Robinson in English 301 said it was impossible to make a living as a writer or a rock star or whatever my flight of fancy was that particular week. I played that gloriously naive and rebellious role fairly well all the way through undergrad and grad school, still refusing to accept the truth – then as a balding, late-starter some ten years older than the other students in my classes – when my mentors would say things like, “Don’t expect to make money as a writer. You get a degree to teach, and you write on the side for fun.”
To that I would cross my arms, toss my head (freshly shorn to hide the pattern of male baldness), and get all snotty and defiant.
“I’ll show YOU, DAD…I mean…PROFESSOR!”
For many years, even long before my “arrival,” the routine was more or less the same. Up at 5 am with a pot of coffee, stabbing away first at a TRS-80 monster of a machine, then a fourth-hand HP keyboard, then a shitty Dell laptop (with several broken keys that had to be replaced one-by-one as they broke because I couldn’t afford an entirely new keyboard), then a Macbook that miraculously survived the dumping of a full pint of Guinness upon it, and finally the little bluetooth toy I’m working on now.
Through it all I’ve spent a fortune on SASEs (and if you know what that acronym stands for, you’ll have an idea how long I’ve been at this), sold short stories and not-so-short stories. I gave stories away. I self-published, I published traditionally. I whored myself on any and every given social media platform, MySpacing and Tweeting and Facebooking and DeviantArting and Mediuming and WattPadding and Instagramming and Patreoning. I wrote essays for Yahoo! and album reviews for heavy metal websites. I blogged. I newslettered.
I had an Angelfire website, fer christ’s sake.
…and I got tired.
I got really fucking tired.
Tired of chasing publishers for payments and sales statements. Tired of submitting rush pieces by request only to never see them published. Tired of putting hundreds of hours into work that even my psychotherapist wouldn’t read all the way through.
Tired of putting hundreds of hours into work that no one read.
I lashed out from time to time, especially lately, blaming my once-beloved social media for dumbing down the world, shortening attention spans, spawning generations of people who only care about the latest international tragedy in as much as it allows them to play at empathy and overlay their profile photo with a flag of whatever nation happens to be attracting thoughts and prayers that day until the next trending hashtag.
But it wasn’t them.
It was me.
Writing just wasn’t fun anymore.
See, everything in the world is about ROI – return on investment. In marketing-speak, it boils down to investing a little to make a lot (or even just a little more). “It takes money to make money,” every perfectly coiffed talking head on CNN Money will tell you.
But ROI doesn’t just apply to money; it applies to everything. Time is an investment. Energy is an investment. And the return on those investments, in the creative arts, can be monetary or they can be emotional. A fan letter or a five-star review on Amazon is a return on investment. The joy you feel when creating – and knowing your creations are being enjoyed by others – is a return mostly greater than the two cents a word you make on a short story sale.
The time to reassess your strategy comes when the investments become greater than the returns.
Over time, the excitement of seeing your name in the wild loses its luster. You Google yourself less and less. It’s the opposite of a drug addiction; a heroin fiend will risk life and limb and love in search of the feeling they got from that first shot in the vein. A writer will just do it until it’s not fun anymore. I realize that is also the stark opposite of the long-revered, romantic vision of a suffering artist who continues to slog away in misery, drinking whiskey messy and smoking clove cigarettes into the night while toiling away on just the right fucking word.
Bullshit. There are more writers who quit halfway through their first novel than there are writers who become a caricature of Hunter S. Thompson or Charles Bukowski. Everyone is attracted to the idea of being a writer until they realize that, like anything else, it all just comes down to a whole lot of hard work and maybe just as much luck.
And for the last year or so, the joy I got out of writing simply wasn’t worth the time and energy and work I was putting into it.
That’s what we call a negative ROI.
So I quit.
…to be continued…
- Published in Uncategorized
A little backstory for you. Even though my Sepultura biography RELENTLESS was first purchased for publication in Brazil, in August of 2013, that edition was actually the last to be published (for a variety of reasons I can’t go into here) in early-2016. The band stayed incredibly busy during that period, celebrating a seemingly unending anniversary tour and–as is always the case with Sepultura–struggling through some unexpected difficulties.
When we finally got the green light to publish in Brazil, the editors at Benvirá requested I write a final chapter to cover what was then a two-year gap and close out the story. That bit was only ever published in Brazil, and in Portuguese, so if you don’t live in Brazil or speak Portuguese, chances are, you missed out.
What follows is a slightly expanded version of the Afterword in its original, unpublished, language. Print it out and staple it into the back of your copy of RELENTLESS. Or, don’t. (Okay. Please, don’t do that.) In addition, I’ve added a Post Script, never before published in any language, to celebrate my own RELENTLESS story coming full circle.
This one’s for you, SEPULNATION.
“We can really feel that the interest in Sepultura is stronger than ever…” —Andreas Kisser
In the music industry, these days more than ever, two years is a lifetime. Twenty-four short months can break or break up a baby band. It can see seasoned veterans rise above the underground or sink like a rock beneath it, and sometimes both in the same space of time. Trends change, fashions change, technology changes. People, and their tastes, change. Even heavy metal changes.
But for Sepultura, as the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Since the release of their acclaimed The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart on October 25, 2013, an album praised almost unanimously by both critics and fans as the band’s strongest work since 1996’s Roots, Sepultura has been on a tear, doing what they do best: working. And the fruits of those labors continue to pay off. As Sepultura wraps up a number of 30th anniversary events—new shows, new music, new merchandise, all of it paying healthy tribute to the past while the band remain tethered to the present—there is a palpable sense of respect and awe for what all of these gentlemen have accomplished through the years, and an excitement for what is to come.
As usual, however, there were difficulties.
The months before an album release are crucial for hyping the record, even in an era where sales matter less and less. Just as crucial is the timing of the first tour. For metal bands whose careers and livelihoods are made on the road, a setlist peppered with new songs can translate into sales while the album is still young. And the greater the sales in those first few months of release, the more a record company is likely to spend on future tour support.
In the middle of September, 2013, Sepultura announced a long-awaited return to the U.S. and Canada. Admittedly, the States has always been a difficult market for the band to tour. The country is huge and ruled by whatever tripe is popular on the radio, so when bands hit, they have to hit hard. Both Sepultura and their label, Nuclear Blast, recognized a great opportunity in launching the tour there to coincide with Mediator’s release.
The Tsunami of Metal Tour, also to feature Boston-based Unearth and Canada’s Kataklysm on the bill, was scheduled to kick off November 1st at the House of Blues in Hollywood, California, mere days after the release of the album. Pre-sale tickets, as well as meet-and-greet packages, sold quickly for many of the dates, but as September rolled into October, band and management grew quietly worried. To work in the US, even temporarily, the Brazilians required a classification H visa—a work visa—the paperwork for which could only be applied for once all travel and show dates were confirmed. A surprise delay in the processing of that paperwork put the entire tour in jeopardy.
The United States Congress had one job: pass spending bills that fund the government. But in the mess of bipartisan politics, Republicans and Democrats refusing to agree on the President’s controversial health care policy, and Congress’s inability to come to a decision by the October 1st deadline, most government functions ground to a halt.
Including the processing of visas.
Even though the government shutdown only lasted 16 days, there was little hope. The last time this occurred, late 1995 into early 1996, the Congressional Research Service estimated that 20,000 – 30,000 visas went unprocessed every day of the shutdown.
With the spending bills passed and US Embassy in Brazil back to full operation on October 17, management and tour promoters did everything in their power to rush the processing of the band’s visas. In the meantime, Sepultura celebrated the 20th anniversary of Chaos A.D. with a trio of shows at SESC Belenzinho in São Paulo that saw them perform the entire album live for the first time in the band’s history. But with no visas in hand by October 29, the day before they were scheduled to depart for Los Angeles, and no idea when those documents would arrive, the entire tour, regrettably, had to be scrapped.
Rather than rest on their laurels during this unexpected break, the band played a handful of gigs around Brazil to stay warm for the first leg of a European headlining tour—with Legion of the Damned, Flotsam and Jetsam, and others in tow—that would kick off on February 1st of 2014.
The following months saw Sepultura attacking gigs with a fresh vigor, excited as they were to show off the drumming talents of Eloy Casagrande on the first batch of original songs with his new family. Fans responded in kind. Tracks such as “The Vatican,” “Manipulation of Tragedy,” and “Trauma of War” inspired violent, old-school style moshpits, cyclones of sweaty bodies tearing through the mostly sold-out crowds, which were more and more filled out by younger generations that weren’t even as old as many of the band’s albums.
Sepultura had truly become elder statesmen.
Summer and early autumn of 2014 were spent mostly in Europe and mostly on festival stages, as had become a tradition, including the usual suspects such as Download, Hellfest, and Graspop Metal Meeting. There were a few notable exceptions. The first was a pair of shows in China. After all these years, the band continued to break new ground and spread their particular brand of Brazilian metal to places they’d never been before. The second was a return to South Africa for the first time in 11 years, and the third a very long-awaited return to Australia and New Zealand for the first time since 2003 and 1999, respectively.
Even during the occasional downtime, Derrick, Andreas, Paulo, and Eloy remained busy with both musical and non-musical projects, some band-related and others on the side. In late September, they flew to New York City for a surprise appearance—and reunion—with Les Tambours du Bronx, performing “Structure Violence (Azzes)” on a Rock in Rio stage constructed in Times Square to announce the inaugural U.S. edition of the festival. This was a major coup for Sepultura, granting them wide-scale exposure to an audience that would typically be difficult for a metal band to reach. The promotional timing fit; that same month, a CD, DVD, and Blu-ray document of the two bands’ collaboration the previous year was released under the title Sepultura and Les Tambours Du Bronx: Metal Veins—Alive At Rock In Rio.
Back in Brazil, Andreas passed some time writing the soundtrack to a television series titled Dupla Identidade, which the band would record as a whole. A crime drama revolving around the hunt for a serial killer, Dupla Identidade ran for one season, with all of Sepultura’s original music for the program released only digitally. While not considered an “official” release, the 10-song, 22-minute soundtrack is a unique, atmospheric mix of soundscapes and killer riffs, working nicely to fill the gap and tide fans over until The Mediator’s successor is written in 2016.
The band continued to expand the reach of their music, also penning a ferocious one-and-a-half minute anthem for DarkSide Books, a Brazilian publisher of horror and dark literature.
A long holiday break with a handful of Brazilian shows sprinkled in rolled into the kickoff of Sepultura’s celebratory 30th Anniversary Tour on February 4, 2015, at the Motorcycle Rock Cruise mounted in the beachside city of Santos in the state of São Paulo. Opening with a vicious rendition of Schizophrenia’s “From the Past Comes the Storms,” the first song Kisser penned with the band, the setlist featured a number of tracks that had not been played live in years. “Bestial Devastation” segued into “Kairos,” “Breed Apart” flowed into “The Vatican.” Old songs and new fit perfectly together, proving that the essence, the spirit of Sepultura was as strong as ever.
The anniversary tour continued on in Russia. Meanwhile, dates—and more importantly, visas—had finally been secured for a North American trek. But in April, another shift occurred in the administration as Sepultura quietly parted ways with the last Cavalera associated with the band, manager Monika. (For more insight into this story, check out the 7-page Sepultura spread in the November, 2015 issue of Playboy Brasil.)
They forged on, continuing to exalt their history with commemorative merchandise and a new song, “Sepultura Under My Skin,” written especially for those fans dedicated enough to honor the band in ink. The single’s cover, a mosaic of fan tattoos arranged by artist Javier Andrés to form the trademark tribal S, paid tribute to the unique relationship established between band and fans throughout the years. It was released digitally and in colored vinyl on June 9, but the song debuted live exactly one month before at Rock In Rio Las Vegas.
The Rock In Rio festivals are known, in part, for pairing artists of disparate styles together, and the Vegas edition was no different. At the close of their main set, Sepultura welcomed guitar legend Steve Vai to the stage, where the 5-piece performed a mashup of “Kaiowas” and Vai’s “Bad Horsie,” as well as the requisite “Roots Bloody Roots” with an extended lead guitar break. Streamed live on the Internet, Rock In Rio’s first US event was a rousing success, an extremely high-profile gig that once more raised the band’s profile and exposure. In fact, of all the musicians who played on that rock weekend, including Deftones and Metallica, the Las Vegas Sun marked Sepultura as a particular highlight, even featuring a gloriously coiffed Andreas Kisser in mid-headbang on the Sunday edition cover of their newspaper.
What better way to kick off a North American tour?
And just when it seemed the 30th Anniversary Tour might be coming to an end, Sepultura would book more dates. And more dates. And then some more. Clearly, they were having a blast. If any band planned to turn in after a streak like this, it would be a good way to go out.
But the boys from Brazil (and Cleveland) aren’t quite ready to retire. When asked by interviewers, “What comes next?” the members frequently respond with, “Maybe we go for another 30 years.” Ideas have begun to gestate for a new album. There’s a feeling in the air, as Kisser stated, that the public interest in Sepultura is stronger than ever. The guys are happy, healthy, humbled, and content with their place in the heavy metal lexicon.
Another milestone is creeping up. At this moment, January 23, 2016 is just a couple of months away, a date that will mark 25 years since Sepultura’s first appearance at Rock In Rio, on a sweltering summer day, in an unenviable time slot, where the promoters hoped—and expected—the Brazilians would make a little noise and then disappear forever.
But Sepultura is still here.
And they’re not going anywhere.
—November 12, 2015
Note from the Author
In January of this year–as if I didn’t have enough work to sift through already–I accepted a gig writing weekly album reviews for Ghost Cult Mag. My first assignment was, fittingly, Sepultura’s newest release, Machine Messiah. (Let me be clear; I wrote the review, but the score GC chose for that album wasn’t mine; I would’ve given it a solid 9.5 out of 10, a half-point short of perfection only because I believe perfection is always juuuuust out of reach, and rightly so. Why strive for something greater when you’ve already reached the apex? But I digress…)
The Wayback Machine tells me I first approached the band about writing their biography on April 21, 2011. Even though RELENTLESS has since been published in four languages worldwide, it was on April 21, 2017–six years later to the day–that a particular chapter in this journey came to a close.
Prior to this date, and due to a series of near-misses, cancelled concerts, and tightly wound promoters, I hadn’t yet been able to deliver contributor copies to the band in person (or even get my author copies tagged by the guys). I came close in the summer of 2016, road-tripping 650 miles across the northern border to catch them at the Amnesia Rock Fest in Montebello, Quebec. Thanks to ridiculously strict security, I was able to meet with Andreas Kisser and Derrick Green only for a few minutes, and thus the box of books in the trunk of my car went undelivered. (The day was won later, however, when Senor Kisser dedicated the set closer, ROOTS BLOODY ROOTS, to yours truly, in front of a rabid crowd of thousands. But there I go digressing again…)
Later that year, I mailed off the second-to-last batch of books to the band–the Brazilian edition–and was left only with a handful of copies in French that they hadn’t even seen yet. Then, in January, with the release of Machine Messiah came a U.S./Canada tour announcement. I was cautiously optimistic. The one Stateside show I could’ve made on the 30th Anniversary Tour had been cancelled, with the promoter trying to make last-minute demands that more or less amounted to him attempting to rip the band off. And before that, as noted in the Afterword above, the Mediator tour had been cancelled due to politricks.
Now, with the orange-haired troll doll we currently have in office, and his xenophobic crackdown on immigration and visa processing, I feared a similar situation might occur.
But, as Andreas would later tell me, Sepultura breezed into the country much easier than any time in recent memory.
It was on.
And there’s that date again: April 21, 2017. A buddy of mine (Trebmal Photography–check him out; he does good work)–rolled into Worcester, Massachusetts early. Matt had his copy of RELENTLESS (which he had read a number of times already…ahem), and I had a Wegman’s wine bag full of books. We ran into Tour Manager, Drummer, and All Around Good Dude Jeramie Kling almost immediately. (Yes, another parenthetical, this one simply to say Jeramie is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and if you don’t listen to his bands Necromancing the Stone and The Absence right now, I will hunt you down and…)
Within a mere matter of head-spinning moments, Matt and I found ourselves on the bus where this happened.
And then this happened.
And then this happened.
“Heavier than a two-ton heavy thing,” in the words of Mr. Kling. You ain’t kidding.
I followed the band down to Long Island the next day, where I would again photograph the show, and this time interview Derrick for a Ghost Cult video feature. (Note: As of press time, the interview has not yet hit the web. I will update this post when it does.) It was a sweet, relentless weekend hanging out with some of the nicest, most respectful and talented and welcoming and hard-working and professional humans on the planet. You can’t keep a machine like Sepultura running for thirty-plus years without crews like that.
So. MASSIVE thanks to Andreas Kisser, Derrick Green, Tio Paulo Xisto, and Eloy Casagrande for letting me play the kid in Almost Famous for…oh…six years or so. Equally as massive thanks to Jeramie the King of Klings, Maicon Scherer (the Master of Lightning), and Art “MAGIC IS REAL” Cruz for taking care of me. And super huge thanks to (Ghost) Cult Leader Keith Chachkes and acolyte Omar Cordy for the hang and for making me look so good on camera.
In the words of Jesse Hughes, “I love you motherfuckers so hard.”
Until next tour, until next time. The beginning of a new chapter awaits…
- Published in Uncategorized
I have a chub for spreadsheets these days.
God knows why. I’ve never been very organized. I have a sign above my desk that reads PROCRASTINATE NOW. My procrastinative tendencies engage in 3rd degree black belt level jiu-jitsu matches with my desire to, quite simply, GET MORE SHIT DONE.
So here we are.
I have a lot going on this year. You could say I’m making up for 2016, which was far less than stellar for a number of reasons I won’t go into right now. There’s DISPATCH, my monthly Patreon litcom about a 9-1-1 emergency dispatch agency on the brink of collapse after a series of mishandled calls. There are weekly heavy metal album reviews for Ghost Cult Mag. There are novels and novellas, and old stories published on Wattpad, and new stories written in the fire of the moment with no consideration or concern as to where they will end up.
I just couldn’t keep track of it all.
Hence the spreadsheet.
At my day gig (yes, I have one of those, as discussed in my last post about diversification and branding), we sell lots of stuff. Lots of very, very expensive stuff. And we live off of spreadsheets. Because when you sell lots of very expensive stuffs, you naturally need to keep all that shit in order. You have to know what you sold. What isn’t selling. What has the potential to sell. Who is buying. Who is not buying. Why aren’t they buying? FOR GOOD GODDAMN SKYWALKER’S SAKE, WHY AREN’T THEY BUYING?!
Ahem. Sorry. Off my meds today.
So. Yes. I brought my work home with me, in a sense. I’ve taken that day gig reliance upon spreadsheets and carried it home in the brown paper bag I use to steal the toilet paper from the restrooms.
What? No. Forget that last part.
But, seriously now, I’ve found spreadsheets to be a legit godsend for a disorganized procrastinator like myself.
When there are too many irons in the fire, you lose sight of the irons and burn up in the fire.
So here’s a glimpse of my personal editorial calendar—in media res—until the end of May, 2017. My chore list, if you will. It keeps me motivated, it keeps me on track. Perhaps it will help inspire you to make your own. Perhaps it won’t. Maybe you’ll look at this and say aloud in a bold, Game-of-Thronesy voice, “Shame, Korolenko. I’ve been making spreadsheets since before Al Gore invented the internet.” Or maybe you’ll be so disgusted with these embarrassingly basic and infantile attempts at organization that you’ll poop in your hand and throw it at the computer screen in disgust.
Whatever you do, do it quickly. Then get the fuck back to work.
- Published in Uncategorized
Two words for you today:
The former: that sacred and cardinal rule of investing.
The latter: the process of establishing an identity that reflects you, your business, your work.
Les Deux: my sacred and cardinal rules of advice when publishing in this chaotic modern world of bits and bytes. And with the ‘net and social media conditioning us all to have attention spans shorter than Tom Cruise, the trick is never allowing people a chance to forget your name.
Because they will, if you let them.
Don’t let them.
As with any piece of writing or publishing advice, your mileage may vary. What works for me may not work for you. But it also might. Maybe it will give you an idea or three. Maybe it will inspire you to try something new, something no one has ever done. Maybe it will make you want to turn off your computer in disgust and spit on the floor because nobody tells you what to do, man.
But this is what works for me. (And sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes it feels like no one is reading anything I write. That will happen to you, too. Don’t stop.)
There is no such thing a “typical” career in writing. (Many grumpy old farts who’ve failed more than they’ve succeeded may tell you there’s no such thing as a career in writing period. [Period period? Who writes about periods, anyway?]) The “traditional vs. Independent” argument is dead, long ago replaced by a sort of hybrid approach.
Publish traditionally when it makes sense to do so (and is possible). Publish independently when it makes sense to do so. In short, your goal is simply to get your work in front of as many eyes as possible.
This is both easier than ever, and harder than ever.
Easier, because the internet gives us access to the entire world.
Harder, because the internet gives every writer access to the entire world.
That means there’s a lot of noise to cut through.
And also a lot of work. Every time a new publication medium is launched, I sign up and publish something. Anything. But I try to make it original, a piece that hasn’t been published anywhere else. I’m on Patreon. Prose. Medium. I’ve published platform appropriate essays on LinkedIn. Nine months after I created my Wattpad account, I finally launched the first chapter of a new take on an old story just a couple of days ago. I also write weekly album reviews for the online heavy metal zine Ghost Cult. All this is in addition to—not in place of—writing two books a year.
Some writers will tell you to NEVER AND I MEAN NEVER NEVER EVER give your work away for free. From a professional’s perspective, it’s good advice; your work has value, so if you give it away for free, you’re devaluing it.
However, in this industry, that argument is like an incontinent old grandfather: it doesn’t hold water.
Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “You have to spend money to make money.” It’s one of the ten commandments of marketing. It might even be the first commandment. Promoting your work is tough, even without all the online noise we sift through every day. And while I don’t advocate spending (read: wasting) money on Facebook ads or Google ads or Spamazon ads, I absolutely believe in occasionally giving work away for free.
Say you have a trilogy of books for sale on Amazon. Your sales have hit a slump and you have zero ideas what to do. Why not run a campaign where you give the first book away for free? Everyone loves free stuff. And here’s the bonus: if they dig that first book (which they will because you rocked that shit), perhaps they’ll buy the second. And the third. And then everything else you publish after that.
Don’t think of it as “devaluing.”
Think of it as “promotion.”
(And stop with the “shameless self-promotion” phrase; it makes you sound needy even while you’re trying not to sound needy.)
So. Stamp your name everywhere you possibly can. Which leads me to…
At my day gig (yes, I have one of those, and unless some magical unicorn of popularity trots along and gently massages your bumhole with its horn of life-altering success, you probably will too), I work in digital marketing for a global biotech company. What is our driving initiative every year? (If you said “Eat more tacos,” oh how I wish you were right [although I don’t know why you’d say that because it’s totally random].)
Strengthening our brand. Increasing our brand’s visibility.
A brand is more than just a logo. It’s your identity. It’s your voice. It’s how you interact and communicate with your audience. It’s the look and feel of your website. It’s your Facebook and Twitter banner images.
As a writer, your brand is you. What do you want people to think when they see your name? More importantly, how do you want them to feel?
You’re the only you in the world (and thank god for that because more than one of you would be too much). Exploit your individuality.
And don’t be shy about it.
“But Jay,” I hear you say (since we’re already on a nickname basis, you and me), “how can I do that without annoying everyone on Twitter?”
Easy. Don’t be annoying.
Spread your work like a virus into every corner of the web. Offer quality work on a consistent basis, align your social profiles, and treat every aspect of promotion as but one piece of a greater whole.
Don’t let anyone forget your name.
- Published in Uncategorized
DISPATCH. Patreon. A match made in some place where matches are well made.
tl;dr – I’m publishing a monthly serial called DISPATCH at patreon.com/jasonkorolenko, where you can fund the series creation by subscribing on a “name your own price” basis.
What Is DISPATCH?
DISPATCH is a project that has been marinated and simmering in my brain for many years. It is the story of an emergency dispatch agency on the brink of collapse after a series of mishandled calls, and–more importantly–it’s the story of those people on the other end of the line when you dial 9-1-1. They are human, just like us, and they are fallible, just like us. Inspired by the mockumentary format of programs such as Derek, The Office, and People Just Do Nothing, and the single-room setting of Cheers and Taxi, DISPATCH is a literary sitcom, a litcom if you will, that blurs the line of genre. It is comedy and drama, it is emotional and irreverent. It is about people and relationships. It’s about everything, yet like Seinfeld, it is also about nothing. But that’s life, isn’t it? If I do my job correctly, DISPATCH will make you laugh and cry and seethe in anger and clench your butt cheeks in frustration and hopefully just duck and run through a gauntlet of emotion in every episode.
What Is Patreon?
Patreon is similar to Kickstarter or IndieGogo in that the platform allows for artists of all creative persuasions to crowdfund their work. The difference is that Patreon projects are funded either by project or by month, which means you can support artists on a continual basis as they create. It is the perfect platform for DISPATCH, as this project will be ongoing and long-term, with new episodes posted on the first of every month. And you pay what you want. Cool, right? $1 a month, $2 a month…whatever you feel it’s worth. There’s no risk; cancel anytime you want, and you can even check out a sample “pilot” episode for free at Patreon.
So pop on over to the DISPATCH Patreon Project and take a taste. Let me know what you think.
And as always, thanks for following along.
- Published in Uncategorized
My therapist tells me to be more honest. That people respond to honesty. I’ve been debating whether or not to post this (whiny) missive for (attention) a while. The post editor here on my website says I’ve revised the draft fifty-three times (fifty-four, now) over the last couple of weeks, so I hope it has crept closer and closer to honest with each rewrite.
You may have noticed my absence on the socials. Don’t worry; it’s not you, it’s me.
Wait. No. That’s not right. It’s not you or me. It’s them.
You know who I mean. Those mouth breathers who spew lungfuls of negativity with every post, tweet, or comment. Those annoying little social seagulls that craw and shit all over everything, then fly off to circle some other unsuspecting target before diving in to pick at a fresh scalp. (True story.) It’s an epidemic. Social media is the world’s biggest playground, populated with besties as well as bullies, except the besties are often only okaysies and sometimes Idon’thaveanyideawhoyouaresies, and the bullies in real life usually leave you alone if you crack ’em once or twice with a good old Stockton slap. Real life bullies don’t like it when you fight back because they feed off of fear. Show them you’re not afraid, show them you’re willing to fight back, and all of a sudden they gotta go because their mommies are calling them home for dinner.
There is no fear on the internetz because the internetz is not real. Well, it is, but it’s a strange, distorted sort of real. A Twilight Zone where likes and hearts are priorities and pics or it didn’t happen. You fight Negative Nancies on the socials and all it does is encourage these douche spigots. (That’s right, they are like faucets full of douche. Problem is, once you turn them on, you risk drowning in gooey pools of douche because THE HANDLE IS BROKEN AND THEY NEVER TURN OFF.)
Now, I’m hardly the first person to point out that social media is infested with pinheads who talk shit because there are no repercussions. And I’ll be among the first to admit it’s kinda silly when people announce that they’re leaving Facebook or saying Bye Felicia to Twitter because of this, that, and the other thing.
I get it.
It’s just as narcissistic as posting ten selfies a day with your tongue waggling out of your face. Akin to showing up at a party that’s not so much fun, and instead of just slipping away quietly, you jump up on the coffee table and announce that you’re splitting because this party SUCKS and HARRUMPH. Or like writing a thousand-word essay about the illusion of social media, and how it’s not really social at all but just one big mess of self-importance that bleeds into itself and becomes a cesspool of nonsense, on your website that only a handful of people will read. I know. Guilty. Put the cuffs on and holster the taser. Don’t worry. I won’t try to run.
Sure, there are plenty of good, normal people out there. But it’s exhausting, don’t you think, sifting through all the garbage to find the gems? Filtering it out. Unfollowing. Blocking. Deleting the apps from your phone one day and then reinstalling them a few days later because, goddamn, Instagram tastes just like crack. Go ahead, lick an Instagram post if you don’t believe me. (And then Snapchat it ’cause EVERYONE WANTS TO SEE YOU LICKING YOUR PHONE.)
Sure. You can quit anytime you want. You just don’t want to. And so could I, but I learned it by watching you!
As a writer, I used to think it was necessary to have an active social media presence if I wanted to sell books. And publishers will often demand that writers have an active Facebook fan page (even though Zuckerberg’s Edgerank algorithm has strangled organic post reach to 3% – 6% of your fan base, forcing you to buy ads or “boost” posts (for cash money honey, of course) if you want anyone to–GOD FORBID–see them). They’ll say you have to tweet a certain number of times a day, and they even give you a formula – 80/20, meaning that only 20% of your tweets should be promotional in nature, while the other 80% should be spent “building relationships.” They tell you to adhere to the Fair Follow Policy, whereby you immediately follow every single person who follows you, therefore, you can promote your work to the same 5,000 people who are actively trying to sell you their work to you.
While some of my books may have been sold through social channels, I’m not convinced the number is substantial enough to really matter. In a recent post about this very subject, author Chuck Wendig wrote, “Social media can sell some books. Publishers, however, don’t want to sell ‘some’ books. They want to sell all the books.” While I’m certainly leagues away from Chuck’s level of notoriety, I do have five of those little word collections available in various parts of the world. And though I’ve done *some* online marketing (GAH, THAT WORD!), I’m just not sure they would have sold much better if I’d spent more of my time “building relationships” on the socials. And I’m not sure they would have sold significantly fewer copies if I hadn’t promoted them at all.
Reading this, you may be thinking I’m a hypocrite. You may be saying, “You’re responding to online negativity with a post that reeks of negativity.” And you’d be absolutely correct. Positivity is contagious, and negativity, for me anyway, is even more so. It’s difficult to remain clean when you’re bombarded with trash at every turn. And as someone who naturally tends to reach toward the half-empty glass, I find it all just making me angry and depressed.
So I think I’ll step outside for awhile.
In the meantime, I will be finishing up the second draft of a novella that is very quickly expanding to novel length, and continuing to work with my agent to see Relentless – 30 Years of Sepultura published in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. Bookmark this page and check back frequently for updates, rants, ravings, and revelations that will hopefully make my therapist proud…
…or at least stop shaking his head with disappointment.
- Published in Uncategorized
Or, How Hollywood Ruins Everything Eventually
After I graduated high school in [YEAR REDACTED], firmly convinced college was a waste of time because I was going to be a rock star goddammit, I got a job working third shift at a factory that made desks and chairs for schools. Budding rock stars, I knew, did not go to college while practicing their chops and growing their hair; they worked in construction, they worked in factories, they worked in fast food joints. Jobs that were easy to get and easy to quit.
My weekends began on Friday mornings at 7 am. I’d leave the building covered with grease and stinking of oil, skin pricked with metal splinters and raw from welding sparks. Quick shower, and then back out to spend a rather large percentage of my paycheck on guitar strings, comic books, and tacos. I’d stay awake sunset to sunset, and at 8 pm, switch off the lights and on the television. This was pre-Netflix, pre-torrent, pre-On Demand, remember. If I wanted to catch the latest episode of The X-Files, I had to watch it when it ran. The only other option was to wait until summer hiatus to catch the rerun. Which, for my whiny and impatient little 18-year-old self, wasn’t really an option at all.
I recorded every episode, bought every magazine that featured Mulder and Scully, clipped out every TV Guide article about The X-Files. Considered cutting my hair and wearing a suit and tie. Desperately wanted to get my hands on one of those slick navy blue windbreakers with FBI printed on the back in huge yellow letters.
Yeah, I have an obsessive personality. I’ll cop to that.
So when I heard David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were returning for a mini-season eight years after the last X-Files movie and nearly fifteen years since the final episode of the television series, I tried to temper my excitement with trepidation because, well, nostalgia is a drug that raises expectations to unrealistic heights. We’ve all been burned by it before. (Don’t even speak to me about KISS’s Psycho Circus album, their first after “reuniting” in the studio with original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. I will plug my ears and yell LA LA LA LA LA in your face until you stop talking or I pass out, whichever comes first.)
No spoilers here. However, if you haven’t seen the new season yet, you might want to move along because these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. I don’t want to influence your opinion one way or another until after you watch, at which point I will then completely denounce and decry your opinion if it varies even slightly from mine.
After watching the season finale, and the godawful episode that preceded it, I spent some time collecting my thoughts. Actually, I spent some time (a lot of time) spewing my verbal diarrhea on Twitter, that place where the art of verbosely shitting all over everything has been taken to a new level. Mind you, I’m not a troll (at least, I don’t think I am), and I’ve never been the type to cut down others for no reason. That is, I’ve never tweeted to a musician, writer, or artist YOUR FACE IS STUPID AND YOUR ART MAKES ME WANT TO DIE. But my disappointment with The X-Files–a show I loved so much that I’d set my first aol email password as sculder1313–was too great. I had to let it out, lest be consumed by it like a human/fluke worm hybrid creature.
While gathering my thoughts (read: barfing all over the X-Files hashtag), I came across Kaly Soto’s piece in the New York Times that read as if she had plucked the words directly from my brain computer. I also began Netflixing and chilling with the original series, starting at the pilot, to make sure my teenaged enjoyment of those old episodes wasn’t just a byproduct of extreme boredom and crippling loneliness.
Nope. The old episodes (especially once they hit their groove in season two) worked just as well as I remembered. Which got my writer gears grinding, wondering, It worked back then; why doesn’t it work now? And my Holmesian conclusion is thus:
They’re trying too hard.
More specifically, they’re trying to mold the show (mold it, or as the English might write, mould it. So they’re moulders. Moulders. Geddit? MOULDERS?!?) so it fits in with the current style of dramatic programming–young, sexy, snarky, modern. They’re trying to fit in with the Lucifers and the Sleepy Hollows. And that’s fine, as long as it’s genuine. (Never mind that I personally can’t stand those shows, but hey, different strokes and all that). But it doesn’t feel genuine. It feels forced. The original X-Files was all that–young, sexy, slightly snarky, modern (for its time)–and naturally so because of the writing, the characterization, and that strong chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson. They didn’t have to force it.
Let’s chat a bit about Mulder’s psychotropic trip in the penultimate episode. Yeah, how can I not go there? (Please forgive me David Duchovny, if you happen to read this; I sincerely have nothing but the utmost respect for you as an actor, but…) That scene was embarrassing. In the context of, say, Californication, I might have enjoyed it thoroughly. In the context of this show? Sorry, but no. It felt like I was watching a Saturday Night Live X-Files parody sketch.
And I guess that was my main problem with the new season, in the shell of a nut. It just didn’t fit. There is talk of possibly filming another. But if the writers continue down this path, turning the show into some sleek, soulless dramedy full of quick-cuts and punchlines over paranoia, rather than keeping with creator Chris Carter’s original intent to “scare people’s pants off,” then I’m tapping out.
In other words, the truth may still be out there, but I’m not sure I want to keep looking for it.
- Published in Uncategorized
It’s times like these I’m glad I don’t make my living as a music journalist.
Because many music journalists, whose work I otherwise read and respect greatly, seem oddly silent and unopinionated in the face of a controversy that needs to be written about, discussed, debated, argued, and quite simply, talked about.
Journalists report the news, they don’t shy away from it. Still, these writers–who in the past have loudly and boldly broadcasted their sometimes scathing opinions about an artist’s work–now appear timid and reserved, unwilling to comment.
Because they are afraid to lose their meal tickets.
Allow me to set the scene…
FADE IN: A small, dank club in Hollywood, California. It is January 22, 2016, and a slew of heavy metal musicians and fans have gathered for DIMEBASH, an annual celebration honoring the life of PANTERA guitarist Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott, who was shot and killed on stage by a deranged “fan” on December 8, 2004, while performing with his band DAMAGEPLAN. Alcoholic beverages (including Dime’s trademark Black Tooth Grin, a deceptively intoxicating mix of Crown Royal with a splash of Coke) are flowing freely. The music is loud, the smiles are many. Everyone who had the pleasure of knowing–or even simply crossing paths with–Dime knew that the guitarist dealt in smiles and laughter as much as he dealt in riffs. The evening goes off like a heavy metal 21-gun salute…that is, until former PANTERA vocalist Philip Anselmo, who had been performing his band’s classic tracks with handfuls of metal dignitaries, ends the night in what appears to be fury, thrusting his right arm out in a brisk sieg heil, and then shouting from the edge of the stage:
I’ll let Machine Head’s Robb Flynn, who also performed at DIMEBASH (with Phil) and had previously shared the stage with Pantera a number of times, take over for a few minutes. Watch the whole video. It’s quite enlightening.
It begs the questions:
Why do we allow our heroes to get away with such disgusting, reprehensible behavior? Why do we ignore it or find excuses for it? Is it because, in our admiration, we’ve elevated these people to such levels where they have become untouchable?
Whatever the reasons, there is a disturbing lack of professional musicians speaking out against Phil’s behavior, as Robb Flynn mentioned. And understandably, if wrongly, so. These are working musicians. Their livelihoods could be affected if they publicly shamed such a high-profile figure as Anselmo (who has become a sort of metal Mel Gibson, at this point, though not yet as ostracized). Flynn himself acknowledged that fear.
Equally, there are a number of music “journalists” who are avoiding the topic completely.
Because they’re afraid of losing that big interview with Anselmo when his next album comes out. They’re afraid of losing the headline. They’re afraid of losing their bylines.
They’re afraid of losing their meal tickets.
Me, I’m just a writer and a lifelong heavy metal fan. I love Pantera. Their music provided the sonic background, the soundtrack, to my high school years in the early 90s. I own one of Dime’s signature guitars. He’s one of the main reasons I starting playing back then, and continue to play today. But I’m glad I’m not a writer who makes his living covering music.
Because all I want to say right now is FUCK YOU, Phil Anselmo, you ignorant cunt.
And there aren’t many working music journalists who seem to be saying that.
- Published in Uncategorized