Greatest 80s Music Videos – the Digest: “Once in A Lifetime” Talking Heads

When “Once in A Lifetime” debuted on MTV in 1981 it went into heavy rotation in the consciousness of everyone who saw it and became an instant classic. The Talking Heads went from being artsy underground musicians to the coolest of New Wavers. The video highlights all the early VHS video effects: multiple images, squiggly lines, static, washed backgrounds. Even with all this razzle dazzle there is nothing cheesy about the result, it has a timeless hip quality.

The video focuses almost entirely on the choreographed movements of David Byrne, lead singer of Talking Heads, and is a startling piece of performance art. From the moment Byrne appears on the screen in his slim suit, bow tie, and Buddy Holly glasses, like a nerdy Vegas magician — he single-handedly started the “hip to be square” movement — your attention is transfixed by his movements.

He pops up and down, hyperventilating. He is stressed and peculiar, seeming to be suffering from a panic attack or some mania. Perhaps he is symbolically diving into and out of the electric blue green ocean which undulates behind him. He jerks and sweats like an animated puppet or a distressed robot man. Toni Basil is the choreographer of the video, she of the famous Mickey video (Also an actress in Easy Rider. What a career!). In preparation for the video, Byrne studied documentary films at USC and UCLA of people in trances. Basil also showed Byrne films of people with epilepsy to widen his scope.

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack

And you may find yourself in another part of the world

And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife

And you may ask yourself

Well…How did I get here?

Byrne spoke to Time Out about writing the lyrics: “Most of the words in ‘Once in a Lifetime’ come from evangelists I recorded off the radio while taking notes and picking up phrases I thought were interesting directions. Maybe I’m fascinated with the middle class because it seems so different from my life, so distant from what I do. I can’t imagine living like that.” An examination of the lyrics reveals an existential subtext about the flow of life and the strangeness of arrivals and happenings. They are quite poetic and fun to ponder.

Letting the days go by

Let the water hold me down

Letting the days go by

Water flowing underground

Same as it ever was…


The funky rhythms and twinkly synth melody of the song are irresistible. All four of the Talking Heads (Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth) and Brian Eno are given writing credit for the song, from the album Remain in Light, their fourth album. The brilliant producer/musician Eno produced the song and is responsible for the way the song fades between different rhythms. But it’s the odd “moves” of David Byrne that really make the video. He mimics people in tribal footage, as though leading an elaborate video prayer ritual. My favorite is when he places his forehead on the ground and then swivels it toward the camera to sing more lyrics. He stumbles backward as if pummeled by unseen forces. Byrne later wears a giant suit in Stop Making Sense, the Jonathan Demme concert movie, further utilizing his unusual movement instincts.

There is a wonderful minimalism to the video. You really focus on the music and on Byrne and his trance-like possession. At the end, Byrne appears briefly in smoke (another classic 80s video meme) and then we see a more normal relaxed version of Byrne wearing a casual shirt, but still singing the lyrics. It is as though through his travails he has achieved enlightenment and clarity.

Here is the true test of the video’s power: 1.) find another adult person 2.) perform a chopping motion along the lower part of your opposite arm. 3.) Most of them will say, “Same as it ever was!”

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Movie Reviews of “The Master” and “Looper”

A study in contrasts, “Looper” is a tightly plotted high concept sci-fi thriller and “The Master” is a rambling low concept movie of stunning acting performances.  Each illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of their respective approaches.

“Looper” involves assasins (loopers) who kill and dispose of bodies time travelled by crime bosses from the future. Hooded victims blink into the present at precise times and are simultaneously executed, wrapped and disposed. The Loopers are paid in silver bars and party down with drug-laced eye drops and have telekenetic powers and adoring girlfriends who are sex workers. Joe (played by Joseph Gordon-Leavitt), is a slim, natty dresser who carries a modern “blunderbuss” as a weapon. He answers to a boss man played by Jeff Daniels and learns that a new super boss in the future is closing the loops by killing all the loopers. Everything is disrupted when Joe encounters his future self (Bruce Willis) who is trying to kill the 4 year old future-to-be super boss, who throws down with super telekenetic powers. Joe’s entanglements with a farm gal mom, Emily Blunt, give the plot a beating heart and complicate Joe’s motivations.

It’s an engaging stylized thriller, it’s “Matrix” meets “Blade Runner” meets “High Plains Drifter” meets “Time Travelers’ Wife.” The loopers wear dust busters, use large bore revolvers and talk like cow pokes, while Ridley Scott hovercraft search above urban streets lined with dusty, patched economy cars. The acting is good. The movie is a pastiche of sci-fi ideas, yet the result feels original. The raised stakes and ticking clocks and whispered plot points come so fast it becomes confusing, but the movie is riveting and satisfying.

***

“The Master,” the latest from American auteur Paul Thomas Anderson (“Boogie Nights” “Magnolia” “There Will Be Blood”), involves a troubled seaman, Freddie Quell (played brilliantly by Joaquin Phoenix) who tumbles out of World War II and into the world as a photographer, a migrant worker and a drunken hell-raiser. He randomly jumps aboard a new ship, captained by The Master himself (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), author of The Cause and leader of a cultish movement. And so a relationship begins between these two men built on high octane drinking and “processing” to rid Freddie of his past negative experiences. Freddie becomes part of The Master’s regular crew and beats up detractors of The Cause. It is unclear if The Master is manipulating and using Freddie as a guinea pig, is genuinely inspired by him, sees Freddie as a challenging spirit to conquer, or is trying to help him.

You cannot take your eyes off Freddie Quell in his scenes because you have no idea what he will do next. The close ups of him with flared eyes become terrifying. Such is the power of Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. We learn of a girl back home who jilts Freddie and is a source of pain. It is unclear if Freddie was destabilized by the war, by the jilting, or was completely nuts to begin with, and thus it is difficult to sympathize with Freddie and put his violent outbursts into context. The Master puts out a new book, is arrested with Freddie, and inspires his followers to naked dancing. The Master’s wife (Amy Adams) begs her husband to get rid of Freddie, and we are shown she is capable of mastering the master.

Some say the film is too scattered or too indulgent, and I disagree with this. Interviews with Paul Thomas Anderson do reveal the movie was filmed with various ideas in mind and was assembled in editing, yet even with lots of questions hanging, the film succeeds as a nuanced and mysterious creation. It is a film designed to trigger discussion of what really was going on, and why things happened the way they did. The film is wildly beautiful and a visual feast: Freddie Quell running across furrowed California fields, a lit yacht floating under the Golden Gate Bridge… The acting is truly extraordinary. Hoffman and Amy Adams are convincing and incredible. It is a heady film, but it fills your head with rare and wonderful stuff.

In a revealing scene toward the end of the movie, The Master tells Freddie (with both disdain and admiration) that everyone has a master, yet Freddie seems to live his life without one. It seems an important key to the movie.

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Greatest 80s Music Videos – the Digest: “Come on Eileen” Dexys Midnight Runners

The music video for “Come On Eileen,” a lethally infectious single by Dexys Midnight Runners, hit MTV in 1982 and that zippy violin melody and images of shirtless hillbillies have been burning in our brains ever since. 80s videos were beloved because they combined storytelling with music and few did it better than “Come on Eileen.” It’s a small movie. One of the most iconic videos of the 80s, one secret to its appeal is the archival black and white footage at the beginning of Johnny Ray.

Poor old Johnnie Ray

Sounded sad upon the radio


Moved a million hearts in mono

Ray was a popular singer from the 1950s and the sight of girls swooning and going nuts and writing his name on their penny loafers as he gets on an airplane immediately makes you feel nostalgic and happy, but also sad since nobody knows about Johnny Ray anymore. The black and white photos of Kevin Rowland, lead singer of Dexys, and Eileen romping as kids are adorable, and then they’re all grown up and wearing overalls. Something about kids turning into adults always brings a smile because you think: Look, gee, they’re all grown up now! They made it! (I used to think Kevin or Eileen were the children of Johnny Ray but this is not the case!) By now, you are emotionally invested.

The video goes to color as Kevin and Eileen share a small kiss, and then zooms in Kennington, London into a scene in so strange it could only be an 80s music video: it’s Appalachia meets London! This grungy corner jug band in overalls, shirtless and baring their armpits! Forget Savile Row and the Houses of Parliament, suddenly hillbilly is cool. And these gritty, working class kids are loud and proud. The video was directed by filmmaker and music video director Julien Temple, but the overalls thing was Kevin Rowland’s idea.

The story kicks in with Kevin and his jug band pals playing on the corner and Eileen and her friend with a baby stroller wander by (Eileen is played by Maire Fahey, sister of Bananarama’s Siobhan Fahey, part of the Fahey 80s video dynasty). Eileen is unimpressed, she’s not stopping. So then Kevin corners Eileen by a chain link fence and he’s working on her, really hard, I mean he is pulling out all the stops, just singing his lungs out, to convince her of something the lyrics never make clear. MTV VJs sheepishly hinted it might be about sex, and the lyrics back this up:

You in that dress

My thoughts I confess

Verge on dirty

Oh, come on Eileen

Eileen is not buying it at all, so she peels off. She’s like: Yeah, I’m so not impressed with your greasy dungarees. Kevin’s celtic jug band mates come down the street snapping their fingers in time, like a street gang, and together they work the song even harder. They are not taking no for an answer. They pursue Eileen and her girlfriend, who are engrossed in girl talk (considering Kevin’s proposition?) (where is the kid in the stroller? abandoned?) So Kevin runs up behind her and grabs and spins her in the air — a classic Broadway move women cannot resist! Then it’s night time and the band is cranking on their instruments, and who comes up to join Kevin? Of course, it’s Eileen, and together they go off arm and arm.

The video is a tiny romantic comedy – they fight, they fall in love. Boy meets girl. Boy wears bandana and greasy overalls and starts a jug band. Boy wins girl.

Too-ra-loo-ra, too-ra-loo-rye, aye

And you’ll hum this tune forever

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Emoticons: Where They Come From & Why I Use Them

Anyone who has communicated on a social network or done some texting knows about emoticons, those clever smiley-faced :) and frowny-faced :( symbols. I count myself as a heavy user because I am an emotional and sensitive guy, a writer and an Aquarian, who enjoys adding emotional accent to what otherwise might be a droll and overly serious message. The disadvantage of social networking is the lack of human contact. No voice, no facial cues to give context to a typed comment. Adding a tiny face helps to make written exchanges slightly more friendly and nuanced. And you know when someone lays down a ;) or a :D that they are a certain kind of person. My kind of person.

When you meet someone in person and shake their hand do you otherwise maintain a completely stone-faced expression? No, you smile and at least try to act like it’s a nice thing to meet this person. You want things to get off to a good start.

Emoticons are a little something more. They go the extra mile. The distance of communicating in a text or on Twitter can be a source of frustration at times. It can be hard to tell if a “Thank you” is a routine thing, perhaps even auto generated, or something with real sentiment behind it, “Thank you! :)” And they’re just…some fun. They allow our typed exchanges an element of creativity.

You might think emoticons were invented by clever techies who were mucking about on American Online during the 90s, or the same geniuses who brought us the Sad Keanu Reeves meme. But actually emoticons date back to 1881, when the satirical magazine Puck published four emoticons. Vladimir Nabokov, the esteemed Russian novelist, suggested in a 1969 interview that he wanted to answer a question using a “typographical sign for a smile.”

The first person to suggest use of emoticons in relation to computers, and to suggest the emoticons :-)  and :-(  was Scott Fahlman, who posted a message to the Carnegie Melon computer science message board on September 9, 1982 at exactly 11:44 am (this historic message was saved for posterity from backup tapes 20 years later).

I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:

 :-)

Read it sideways.  Actually, it is probably more economical to mark

things that are NOT jokes, given current trends.  For this, use

 :-(

It is amusing that Scott, in a nerdy computer science way, refers to the alpha emoticon as a “joke marker” and then hints significant message board energy is being devoted to jokes rather then official department business. The usage of joke markers then spread to ARPNET and Usenet, exposing the wiseass tendencies of the computing pioneers who haunted these early manifestations of the internet.

Interestingly, western emoticons, which require a left head tilt to interpret (:0  shock, :@ angry) , differ from eastern emoticons, which appear level ((>_<)  troubled, (-_-)zzz  sleeping, (+_+) confused). This allows for more complexity (\(^0^)/ excited,  (=^.^=)  cat).  An extensive list of emoticons can be found here.

If you are an occasional emoticon user or a hardcore person I say: I get what you are doing and good for you. :D \m/ If you have never used one before I urge you to give it a shot. It is a tiny way of giving, with a little sprinkling of absurdity, but a way of giving nonetheless.  You’ll be surprised at the positivity which comes back to you. :)

Robb’s Guide to Popular Emoticons:

:)  the classic smiler, good for most occasions

:D the chucky cheese big smile, conveys a bigger happy factor

;)  the winky smile, goes one further than the classic smiler, more playful

:-) the Scott Fahlman original, conveys good will

:(  I feel your pain, friend. But hey, cheer up!

:O  surprise, like totally omg!

:-*  secret telling, no one else on Twitter will hear!

\m/  rock on!

<3  my heart goes out to you.

Please feel free to add your favorite emoticons as well! ;)

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What Writers Need to Know About Book Cover Design: An Interview with Artist Lee Libro

Effective cover art has always been an important part of publishing a book. In this dawning age of self-publishing and indie writers a good cover artist is an important member of every author’s publishing team. I was lucky to come across the talented Lee Libro who created the cover art for my novel, The Pursuit of Cool. I am interviewing Lee here today to get some insights into book cover design and creation.

Tell us something about your life and what led you to being a book cover designer.

I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember. I was the youngest of four children and was often left to my own devices to self-entertain. Growing up in a very hot, un-air-conditioned inland Georgia town in the 60s, this meant drawing with a stick in the red clay, or painting on our side porch to escape the heat or sometimes just looking up at the stars at night to ponder my existence on our little patch of dirt…all these things shaped me and my artists way.

As it turned out, I was told that the destiny of any artist is to be a starving one, so in college I pursued my love of words instead of art. I majored in English, worked in Marketing and Advertising, then later as an editor for over two decades. I came to my senses in my forties, either that or I had more time as my five children got older and I rediscovered my talent in watercolors and also painting large format canvas that I showed in several art shows. All along I explored imagery and my artistic vision through words as a writer. I’ve written several short storied, published a novel and have two others in the works. Naturally, this led to the need for book covers and as word has gotten around, I have been designing book covers for other authors for the past three years.

Tell us about your experience as an artist and graphic designer. What types of art are you drawn to? What artists have inspired you? Do you produce fine art or other types of art besides book covers?

 I’m pretty eclectic. I love art from nearly every era in history and can appreciate most artists’ work. Extremely abstract art is the only art I might have issue with, because I believe art is all about connection. Art that is too abstract doesn’t do what art should do, which is to provide a clear meeting point between the artist’s inner vision and the world’s viewing of it. With some art, the artist’s intended message is not received by the viewer and so the connection isn’t there.

I paint realistic watercolors, fantasy acrylics and I also like to draw in India ink or colored pencils. My latest piece is an acrylic painting in progress that tells a story, entitled The Release of Desire at the Sea of Possibility.

Some examples of my artwork can be viewed here: http://www.imagekind.com/MemberProfile.aspx?MID=bcb647f1-cc01-4e25-91be-8b1f16dae75f

When it comes to creating a book cover, while I might lean on my artistic sense, I don’t necessarily use my art, but rather I create computer generated files from several elements which I photoshop in order to achieve the writer’s vision.

What do you consider the most important factors in producing successful cover art? Are there any things that are best avoided with book covers?

Just as in writing, with cover design there’s a simple rule. “Keep it simple.” A complicated image doesn’t relay a message as quickly as a more complex one. Immediate impression is vital because you want to provoke an impulse from the viewer. In addition, a simpler image translates into a clearer thumbnail for viewing online than does a complex one.

To what degree is a book cover “art” and what degree is it “marketing?”

 Well, this could be the beginning of a debate in linguistic meaning. Art means many different things to different people. I believe when referring to the art of book covers, it’s 99% marketing. The art of a book cover is actually in the marketing. This is not to say that some great book covers don’t deserve to be framed J or that well known fine art can’t be used as a book cover, The Girl with the Pearl Earring for example. But in this era of self-publishing, the bottom line doesn’t depend on pretty, but rather visibility and meaning. In other words, capture your audience!

What is your process of designing a book cover? Tell us about your creative method. Some cover artists are quite restrictive about the number of “tweaks” they allow the author to have when they are creating a cover. Something I appreciated about working with you is that your approach to working with authors on a cover is a “team approach.” Please explain to everyone what you mean by that.

 I work closely with the author to understand their objectives, their audience, the main themes in their book and any specific images that may be key to their story. The author is the director; I’m the implementer of their vision. That being said, the whole process begins with concepting. I want to ensure that the cover that goes on the book is the best choice, and that the author is confident in proceeding. Concepting allows the author to basically see preliminary cover concepts with just a small deposit, before proceeding and committing to final. It allows them to see an array of ideas from which to choose.

I begin after speaking via phone or e-mail with the author about the book, and sometimes followed by reading excerpts if necessary. The preliminary layouts in the concepting process will allow the author to review different looks for the book cover, usually just the main image and the font styling for the title and author’s name. This is because I build the front cover first and then from this, spin-off the design of the back cover and spine.  Once one of these concepts is chosen, we proceed to building the final file, which is a full spread front-spine-back cover created to the printer’s specifications. The whole process from there is an organic one entailing communication back and forth via e-mail accompanied by a proof file to the author at every juncture until completion. For more information, please visit:

http://www.literary-magic.com/p/faq-book-cover-design.html

At what point in the writing process do you think writers should start thinking about their cover art?

Writers can begin to imagine their book cover at any point in the process. I would go so far as to say that sometimes there is a central image that spurs on the story. An author might like to have a preliminary cover for inspiration as they forge onward, but the final cover cannot be completed until the interior file of the book is formatted and final. This is because word count affects the number of pages and therefore the thickness of the book, thus the spine. I design book covers with front, back and spine as one file and in order to provide the printer with a proper file, the parameters have to be concise.

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Prometheus: A Review of the new Ridley Scott Movie

I have long been a fan of Ray Bradbury’s science fiction (think, R is For Rocket) and Ridley Scott’s sci-fi movies because I like the way mixing humans with robotic and alien life forms seems to bring out the best and worst of humanity. “Prometheus” is an engaging and wondrous movie, and a worthy addition to the Ridley Scott pantheon of movies about lonely doomed space ships travelling the cosmos and lonely doomed droids (“Alien” (1979) “Blade Runner” (1982)). This is Scott’s first sci-fi movie since “Blade Runner.” It begins  at the dawn of time with a space ship delivering a giant pale creature who tumbles into a waterfall, spreading DNA to young planet earth. In the year 2089 the heroes of the movie, scientist lovers Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) find cave paintings pointing to the star origins of these “engineer” spaceships and they are on their way.

I liked the characters in this one. Dr. Elizabeth Shaw is a plucky, sincere scientist bent on making contact with the engineers. Holloway, also a scientist, has kind of a bad boy slacker vibe, unusual for a scientist. The most enigmatic character is David (Michael Fassbender), a human-like droid who is perky, unflappable and has patterned himself after Peter O’Toole’s performance in “Lawrence of Arabia.” Like most droids he seems to resent his lack of full humanity and this breeds an agenda. Being a droid also makes him a savior, a flawless tech-charged superhero, and David seems drawn to the God-like nature of the engineers. Vickers (Charlize Theron) is the corporate manager of this space venture, and she gives orders and sashays around the ship with enough droid-like detachment to question how human she is. Weirdly, David refers to her as “mommy.”

So the crew lands on this drab, rocky planet and they take off in cool dune buggies wearing oval aquarium heads which thunk into each other and they have no idea of the catastrophes that await. Something I appreciate about Ridley Scott is his mixture of live action with actors in wild locations, engaging sets, and special effects. The focus is on the actors in their futuristic costuming, with holograms or goopy liquids in supporting roles. The Ridley Scott way of doing things seems more real to me than full CGI movies. To me going full “Avatar” is a bit too cartoonish, and it leaves me cold.

Another staple of doomed spaceship movies is crew dissension. The crew of Prometheus wakes up from their liquid time suspension capsules (a movie device so accepted it is practically settled science) and sit on folding chairs to watch a holographic presentation from the wrinkly septuagenarian founder of the Weyland Corp, the underwriter of the voyage. They are immediately cranky and have no idea what they have signed up for or the degree of danger they will be exposed to (spoiler alert: extreme maximum danger). Who signs up for two years of suspension to a distant galaxy without asking a few basic questions?

There is alot of great action in this movie, be it droid basketball feats, wildly savage attacks from mutant crew members, huge keeling spaceships rolling in the desert, or self-operations performed inside iPad vending machines. The usual Ridley Scott questions of alien life are asked: Should we embrace alien life forms out there? Should we kill them out of fear, or should we run for our lives because they are out to destroy us? The struggles of these characters bring these questions to life in some new and intriguing ways. The ending has sequel written all over it, but still satisfies. Check it out, I found it worth the price of admission.

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Interview Regarding THE PURSUIT OF COOL, Writing, Finding the Muse, and Looking Forward

This interview originally appeared on the Literary Magic blog of Lee Libro. Please visit her website when you get a chance. I have reproduced the interview here in its entirety.

 Lee Libro: Robb Skidmore, a writer of short stories and novellas, recently released his first novel. The Pursuit of Cool, a coming of age novel set in the 1980’s explores the pressures of that era through brilliant character development. I’m pleased to interview Robb here today to give you an inside look at his writing process and a behind-the-scenes view of this colorful novel.

LL: Tells us about yourself. Describe The Pursuit of Cool and tell us why you were compelled to write it.

RS: I started writing in college, scribbling rants and autobiographical bits in journals. I’ve been writing fiction in a serious and constant way since the mid 90s. I published some short stories starting in the late nineties. I knew early on writing fiction and attending workshops that I wanted to write The Pursuit of Cool. Once I started I went into this long series of drafts and edits. It became a personal crusade. Writing a novel is kind of a love affair: there is beauty, triumph, difficulty and heartbreak. In a very general way, The Pursuit of Cool is everything I learned about myself and America up until the age of 25. I think writing it was a way for me to understand my youth.

LL: Who will enjoy reading this book and why?

RS: People who like a strong narrative story with carefully crafted characters. I think Gen X and Gen Y people will recognize all the pop culture references. I’m a big fan of music and movies and all the characters in the novel are influenced in this way as well. But there is a universality to the struggle and self-delusion of youth and I think just about anyone can relate to that. Adult readers of YA might also enjoy it since it is a coming-of-age story.

LL: Character development is key to a good story? Introduce us to the three main characters shown on the cover of The Pursuit of Cool.

RS: None of the characters translate directly, but the fellow on his knees would have to be the protagonist, Lance Rally. He’s a ragingly ambitious, pop culture obsessed, tragically romantic young man. He has big dreams and is a sponge to everything around him. He’s a guy who both men and women can relate to. He is desperately trying to understand the feminine other.

The woman on the left is probably Lynn Van Oster. She is a very driven, serious psychology student and a gifted dancer who dominates every dance floor. She’s the kind of girl who gets all the guys without really trying. But she is secretly very insecure.

The woman on the right is Veronica Boyer. She is a gothy feminist who is summa cum laude student. Kind of a wild child who is fond of ghost pink lipstick. She knows all the coolest bands, is always cutting edge and will rip your face off if you get her mad.

LL: Some of us are familiar with your short stories, such as “We Were Gods “ and your ebook novella, The Surfer. Tell us a little bit about the themes you usually include in your writing. Is The Pursuit of Cool an extension of any of these themes, or is it a departure?

RS: “We Were Gods” has a collective narrator and is about our tendency to separate ourselves from and demonize others. The Surfer is about the resilience of the human spirit under horrible circumstances, and the beauty and cruelty of nature. The Pursuit of Cool also has some intense externals that the protagonist is struggling against while an internal struggle takes place. Pop cultural notions, family obligation, academic pressure, and social expectations — all these pressures converge on Lance.

LL: Tell potential readers what you hope they will come away with after reading your novel, The Pursuit of Cool.

RS: I hope they will look at all the characters in a sympathetic way. I hope readers will question some of the choices they have made, or are making, and that they question if they are living an authentic life. It takes a lot of courage to do that. It takes courage just to figure it out. I also hope they will question just what “cool” actually is, and who invented this. I thought a lot about the 1980s and what was going on then while I wrote the novel, and I hope people relate it back to their own lives.

LL: Is there any one thing in particular that you’ve found helpful in your writing regimen? It could be a program, an app, a piece of advice from an old elementary school teacher, even a favorite chair.

RS: I always do a meditation before writing to clear my head. I write on a computer, but I like to write notes and outlines on a legal pad. I find it helpful to organize my thoughts and keep focus, and it’s easier to free associate on paper. I have found that music can help writing because it frees something in my head and adds its own emotional nuance. I like to listen to jazz, specifically Miles Davis, or classical music, or New Age.

LL: What advice do you have for other writers looking to self-publish a novel?

RS: Go for it. Now is a great time to get work out there to pick up readers and build a following. I do think it’s a good idea to blog for awhile and get on some social networks before you put something out. Write stories for awhile and improve on your weaknesses before you publish your best work. I am convinced this is the best time ever to be a writer. With technology, the ability to directly connect to readers has never been easier for writers. Blogging, social media, ebooks, publishing on demand – these are powerful tools that writers now have on their side.

LL: What have you published? What else have you written? Do you have any unpublished manuscripts laying hidden in your desk drawer?

RS: I have published short stories in Gawker, New Orleans Review, New Millennium Writings, South Carolina Review, Oasis, and Twelve Stories. I have also written a novella about a high school science student who is sucked into being a scam artist. I’m debating if I want to expand it and make it a novel or clean it up and publish it as a novella.

LL: Can we look forward to more novels by Robb Skidmore?

RS: Yes, absolutely. I am excited about writing more novels! I have a sequel to The Pursuit of Cool in mind. It involves the character Ian LaCoss during the 90s. Also, I have half-written a treatment for a futuristic series of novels I would like to write. It’s about the way technology is challenging human beings as never before. To me, the most exciting thing about being a writer is that on any day I might get an idea that might turn out to be the next thing I devote years to writing.

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The Pursuit of Cool is Officially Launched and on sale

When I started out writing The Pursuit of Cool years ago, I had a vague idea that someday I would finish it and then someday and somehow it would be released into the world. When I started writing seriously in the mid-nineties I knew that I wanted to write this novel. I don’t know how many drafts I have written. Many. Working on it was joyful, exhausting, and crushing, depending on what stage of the process I was in. Writing it I really grew as a writer, and as a person. It has been quite a journey but I won’t bore you with all the details. The best way for you to know what I am talking about is just to read it.

The initial reviews have been good, which is a relief. I want to thank all of you who subscribe to my blog or who follow me on a social network. I have learned a lot from you in the last two years, and you guys have made my journey worthwhile.

Well, the day has come for my novel to spread its wings and fly. And that is a joyous day indeed! So, you may find The Pursuit of Cool on Amazon in both Amazon Kindle ebook and Amazon paperback, and on Barnes & Noble in Nook ebook. Thanks for reading, and if you enjoy it please consider giving a review on Amazon. Positive reviews will help with sales, and they will be really appreciated by this author.

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New Facebook Author Page is Up

I decided it was time to start a Facebook Author Page during the ebook setup for my novel.  At the end of the book there are links to my website and Twitter, and I wanted an easier way for Facebookers to connect than my FB profile. The trouble with Facebook profiles is that people like to keep them private. And there is that worry about Friending someone you don’t really know and being rejected. The beauty of the Author Page is that you hit the Like button and you get the Author updates you need without exposing those photos of your acne-ridden junior prom to anyone and you are done and everyone is happy.

I will be offering exclusives and giveaways from the page, so even if you already are Friends with me on Facebook, be sure to hit the Like button on my Facebook Author Page so that you don’t miss out on anything.  :)

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Cover Reveal for THE PURSUIT OF COOL !!

The cover is the work of graphic artist Lee Libro, who did a fantastic job. A book cover is important on many levels, not the least of which is marketing and conveying a sense of the story within. I think of book covers as being the artistic face of the story, and as hard as I have worked on THE PURSUIT OF COOL itself — the words, the story, the characters, the moments big and small — I am pleased I now have an artistic face which I feel is an exciting and appropriate one. Lee did a great job with the whole package, but I am most pleased about the three figures, who in an iconic way convey some of the angst and intrigue within the story, as well as the era they inhabit.

The official launch date is now set for April 17, 2012. So get ready!

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