Did You Hear The One About Robert Silverberg, Georges St. Pierre And Chris Cornell?

Ogres may be like onions, but so are we, people. You know – Layers. Our lives unfold (at least without the persuasion of Alcohol of other un-inhibitor agents) slowly, as we get to know each other. We introduce ourselves by name, sometimes by country of origin, our profession, family situation, and other generalities. As our connection to each other deepens, more layers may shed, and we talk about elements of our belief system (though, some of it, likely leaks through our behaviors before), opinions on current events, or other topics, which continues to expose the core. Somewhere in this process, we talk about what we like. It’s this kind of conversation that makes some people raise a brow, when I share some of my more serious interests.
“Oh, you write? How interesting. What do you write about?”
“Yeah, what kind of music do you like?”
“Wait, what? M.M.What? is that the cage fighting? Hey, I know Conor McGregor!”

Confused The Big Lebowski GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

At this point, some conversations seem to peter out. I thought about this for a while, and even to my brain, which is engaged in the general love of these three areas of interest, it did feel somewhat random. Literature and music are related as arts, but what about the people punching each other in the face?
Well, I could state the obvious (and I will) – M.M.A stands for Mixed Martial Arts. But this is not satisfactory. While musicians and writers create some “product” through their artistic process, the fighters merely meet inside the cage and try to beat each other, then leave. So, where’s the connection? Where is the deep meaning, that drew me, and kept my otherwise distracted mind engaged?
It started crystalizing, as I left the house for a walk the other day. I was more than a little irritated with the music (if you can call it that) my kids were playing on the computer. I won’t name names, but it was one of the more recent pretty faces, in skimpy clothing, bumping to some catchy, repeating computer-generated groove. I put on my earphones and hit play as soon as I closed the door behind me. Good, old Soundgarden for the rescue.
Bear with me people, I will walk you through my process.
As I listened to the wonderful progression of “Blow up the outside world”, I mused about what makes me like the musicians I do, as opposed to the ones I am not a fan of. And as I waited for a light to turn green, an internal one flash inside my head. It’s the tools of the trade.
Which musicians do I like? I can list many, but the point is – what do they all have in common? Well, the ones at the upper part of my list are musicians who write lyrics, play an instrument (or 5), sing and perform. I am not a huge fan of many “performers”, as in singers with great voices who “just” sing. Don’t get me wrong, I respect a great voice, but this alone does not me, a fan make.

Writes, Plays, Sings, Perform. Rest in peace Chris

This immediately resonated with the writer me. What makes a good story? Surely, it’s more than a good plot. It’s more than a relatable character. More than proper spelling. A good story is made, by using – there it is again – the tools of the trade.
And just like that, I found the connection. A mixed martial artist is another person, who needs to have the tools of his trade in order to perform well.
True. Art is not a competition – as opposed to MMA – but they are all arts. A writer, a musician and a mixed martial artist all present something pleasing by bringing all their capabilities, talents, training and passion to the table. If the musician plays the right chords, but sings out of key, or if the writer tells a plausible story about a flat and boring character, or if the fighter shows up with the skills but is out of shape… we will likely be disappointed with the outcome. But if they connect everything – and it doesn’t have to be perfect – we are almost guaranteed some fun.

Mixed Martial Arts

This was a nice little moment of satisfaction, in being able to identify something that links some of my main interests, logically. But it also started me thinking about the next question – can I use this?
Can I draw from what I’m learning of martial arts, and apply it to another? Can my appreciation to the martial artist inform my writing? Not just as subject matter, but as applicable knowledge?
Well, I begin by asking what does a good MMA fighter need? Skills in striking, wrestling, BJJ (That’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu! Git yer head outta the gutter). He needs stamina, mental strength, discipline, patience. Practice is a must. I will stop here. I’m sure there’s more, even if the list as it stands is enough to deter anyone from even attempting…

Robert Silverberg

The focus of this exercise is the writing itself. Not the writer (I hope we already agreed there are parallels between the three professionals). So, what can we take from this list of skills, capabilities and habits, in order to help a story work? I’ll start with patience. The reader may not have it, but patience is the ability to act when appropriate, and wait when necessary. It’s in the pacing of the story. We don’t want to spill it all in one hurried stream of consciousness (well, not in a novel I’d say) on the one hand, but we also don’t want to keep the reader waiting for something to happen.
But the story needs to move forward, right? Just like a fighter who wants to win. Here is where some other skills come into play. The first thing that pops to mind is the art of the takedown. Sometimes you want to “floor” the reader. There are ways to do it. One is to sneak up on him with great speed, changing the level of your approach, grabbing him and putting him on his back. Other ways to do it is by using the great striking skill call “fake”. A jab might do the trick too. The idea is to let the story throw your reader slightly off. Not off the story, but a little off guard. A red herring is a tried and tested fake. slowly, teasing action, foreshadowing, is like taking jabs, preparing the ground for a good power shot. This also helps with pacing, so it’s a win-win situation.
What about Jiu Jitsu? There are a few things it could teach us. One of them is the shift of the power balance. If the story has your hero on his back, trying to avoid submitting to the antagonistic forces of the story, there’s a way you can help him turn the tables. The magic is in the steps. Normally, the fighters don’t just trade places. There’s always a struggle, both of force but also – even more so – technique. If you want to escape a dangerous position, and reverse the balance of power, you have to know the steps, and execute them one by one. Sometimes it will work, and sometimes it may fail, as your opponent may (and likely should) be at least as skilled and powerful as you. Let your character learn these skills. In fact, it’s a must if you want a character that develop over time. A white belt will rarely sweep a black belt without proper training and practice. This is also where mental strength comes into play. Your character may not be very strong in the beginning, and even if he doesn’t end as a very strong character, he will need to “toughen up” some, in order to handle the multiple obstacles, you put in his way.
So, there you go. I love music, literature and mixed martial arts. Not only does it make perfect sense, I can even apply lessons I take from one and implement in the other.


The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (2017 Edition)

Happy new year everybody!

2017 is in the past and we’re all looking forward (well, we all should) to a great 2018. I wish you all the best and all the rest this new year’s day.
One last look at the last year before we move on. They’re all mixed bags, right? nothing is good if something isn’t bad and nothing’s really bad if… you get it. So on we go with:

The Good:

Though I moved here late in 2016, it’s 2017 which was the first full year in Mexico for me. En Serio, this was one of the best years of my life so far (and we’re talking quite a few years here…). A lot to be thankful for. GREAT people, amazing food, different work experiences, a continued cultural education, all of which leading to a really satisfying and gratifying year. México, ¡te queremos!

I also got the chance to visit Buenos Aires, Argentina as well as Lima, Peru this year. Another one of those things I couldn’t imagine in early 2016.
2017 was also the year I got my back side in gear, gathered all of my courage and edited my debut novel (which is actually my second) and am in the process of submissions. This is very exciting for yours truly and I hope 2018 will top it by a nice acceptance letter (hint hint).

I started collaborating with and contributing to two very interesting websites. One is hazavit, which is a Hebrew sports websites managed and updated by true sports fans who want to have an interest free discussion about the athletes, teams and the sports we’re passionate about. The other is of course, combat docket, who I’m proud to share my MMA related posts with. A group of real MMA fans, and practitioners who also want a discussion of this sport, that goes past the hype and the chewed up material that circulates in many other outlets. Here are links to my articles on both sites. I hope you read them, then browse for much more content. There are brilliant writers on and I’m sure you’d like what you see.

Hazavit articles (Hebrew)

Combat Docket (English)

And just when I thought this year couldn’t get any better, came Georges Saint-Pierre, my all time favorite Mixed Martial Artist and after a 4 years hiatus, he took the middleweight title in a spectacular fashion.

There’s a whole lot more to be thankful for, but
  • Those are things I’m not going to spill over in the interweb.
and
  • I don’t believe in the saying “Count your blessings”. You shouldn’t count them. Just be thankful. So thanks 2017. You’ve been good to me.

The Bad:

On a whole other level, 2017 was the biggest bitch since 1994…
Numbers-wise perhaps, 2017 wasn’t as bad as say… 2016. But God damn it 2017, you took Chester Bennington. You took Malcolm Young. You fucking took Chris Cornell, and you took Tom Petty, you musical thieving whore!

And The Ugly:

Well, we still have wars raging, hunger devastating lives, greed and corruption everywhere. Nothing new. Just more of the ugly sameness that we can’t seem to break off of.

But I am an optimist, and I still (and forever will) believe that the vast majority of humanity is good. And I’m a hopeful person. I know that we’re far from done.

On that positive note, let me wish you all a happy new year. Don’t be strangers now eh? come back here and check up on me once in a while. Good times ahead!


Mission from god – The Missing Pieces

Last week the muse struck me, as I was listening to some music. I wrote this post, drawing lines between writing a novel and making music. I hope you liked it.
But after submitting that post, it dawned on me that I’ve omitted a few critical puzzle pieces. I alluded to them in comment, but they are far too significant for me not to address with a bit more depth.
So, we put the band back together and we’re thinking about new materials, recording and with some luck, live concerts. We have everything we need for people to hear music. But there are just a couple of things we really should’ve thought about earlier…

Lead singer!

Extremely rare, are successful and popular ensembles which are not identified with a strong lead singer.
We’d love our fans to have a face for our band, don’t we? In literature, that is our protagonist, our hero. Our Kurt, or John, or Freddie. You get the picture. Someone to root for.
When Nirvana recorded ‘Nevermind’, the producer – Buch Vig – wasn’t happy with Kurt’s vocals as he did them. After some thought, he “tricked” Kurt into adding Dave Grohl’s backing vocal by telling him (the truth, I might add) that’s what The Beatles did. And the result? Kurt’s raspy, screech-y voice, layered with dave’s high pitched, downplayed backup. That in itself made that album as legendary as it is.
The same goes for our novel. One character does not a novel make. One needs some backup. And it could be a friendly figure, like little Steven to Bruce Springsteen – you know, to make it fuller. But it could be an antagonistic relationship – in fact, we must have that element. Axel without Slash and Duff? Give me a break.
But one thing’s important. Our band must have a clear voice. There is one, and only one lead vocalist.
Yes, The Beatles featured at least 2, but here is my reply:
  • The Beatles are legendary.
  • John sang this song with Paul backing and then Paul sang another while John backed him up.
  • John is the undisputed lead singer, and whoever says differently should be shunned! Or maybe not. You get the point.
with-the-beatles-3
Ah! But what about boy/girl bands?
Well, first of all they suck.
Besides, when everyone sings together, it could be harmonious, but it is normally either confusing or sounds downright bad. And even within these bands, every singer has his lines, his spots. Even in great choruses, there’s a lead.
I think we got that down.
And, perhaps the most important thing left to do… Write some damn songs! Put words in the mouths of the singers, teach the band members how to play, decide which style of music we want to do next.

Yes, that is you, the writer.

You decide what kind of music gets played. Is it upbeat? Slow romantic, perhaps classic? Is it loud? What kind of lead singer do you want? You’ve got to know this guy very well, you don’t want him to stop showing up for concerts or surprise you with uncharacteristic behavior – well not to the extent he breaks up the band at least.
Who are his backing vocalists? What do their relationships look like? How do they help him grow?
What are the songs about? Are they very personal? Are they politically infused? Is there something the band stands for?
There you go. Now we have the complete package, and once we’ve hired some vocalists and wrote the lyrics and the tunes, we can finally see the stage lights waiting for us to come up.

I hope you all get standing ovation.

Putting The Band Back Together (Mission from God and all that)

When I sit down to write, I normally play some of my favorite “writing music”. Examples? Any Pink Floyd (Atom Heart Mother being in the lead), some unplugged rock albums (Nirvana, Alice in chains), Neil Young’s Harvest and Harvest Moon and so on and so forth.
While sitting down to write the other day, I started thinking about writing – as in writing fiction – and music.

But let me take you on a brief bunny trail first, before I start making my point (this is not fiction after all).

When I first attempted playing guitar, I learned a few chords and sat with a couple of guys who already played. I listened and I remember the realization that the guitar does not actually mirror the tune the singer was singing, but rather accentuating it. Lennon and McCartney aren’t singing C, F, G or whatever the heck it is. These chords draw the broad strokes of the song. So maybe it isn’t as complicated as I thought? How about solos then? Some songs are identified with the guitar solos. But these don’t define them either. They are decorations. Some really fancy ones, but decorations all the same…

Back to our little discussion about writing fiction and music.

If I think about a novel as a song. An Epic if you’d like. A stairway to heaven. Sure, you can learn the main riff, and pull off a nice home-made rendering of this song. But you still did not create that masterpiece that withstands the tests of time.
When I plan a novel, I (so far subconsciously?) think about the end result and I want it to sound like a complete package. That means, putting the band back together.
Let’s see here.
Before we can even entertain writing a novel (especially a novel), we must hire the drummer. Without the cool guy in the back, you might as well write a comic strip. Why? Because your novel must have beats.
You absolutely must have a bass player. The drummer may be cool, but please… show me a rhythm section that produced anything really good without the bass player. Bonham/JP Jones, Chad Smith/Flea, Ulrich/Butron/Newstead/Trujillo? Need I say more? These guys help make the beats more… pungent?
Then come the Rhythm guitar. Because your story doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Or maybe it does… then leave this guy and get started. The point is, your story happens in a place and a time. It – if you will – sings to the tune of its background. It adheres to its rules. It makes sense.
With the above, you most certainly can start a novel. It may be a minimalistic one. But these may be the bare bones of the band we need for this task.

But if you want to write a bigger one. If you’re on a mission from God!

band-back_-together-thumb-900x900-193613-777x437

Then you must add the solo guitar guy. This guy will make your language dance, your imagery fly and your scenes come to life.
The Saxophonist is needed for love. You can have the cheesy tunes, or the classic. Down and dirty or implied. The Sax can paint it anyway you want.
How about a brass section? Want your climax and other turning points to reach that dramatic peak? You have the option to let ‘em rip.
That’s all I guess… You could take this imagery to the classical world and build an orchestra (and some already have). In art, there’s no limit. Only what works for you.

So pick up the phone (or your laptop), and put the band back together. I know I will.


Every Fighter Is A Song

Howdy!

My sincere apologies for the delay, but you know how it is… work work work. All’s I can say – it beats the alternative…

Well, in the last couple of days I was toying with an idea about tying two things I love together into one post. Music and MMA. Now, we know that fighters have their walk-in music. Some choose a song based on their current mood, or if they want to make a specific statement. Others have a song they always use. That’s all nice and dandy.

But what I was thinking about was – what song IS that fighter? Which song could represent a fighter? So with that in mind… Continue reading

You sold out!

Hello ladies and gents, welcome back.

In recent weeks I’ve done a bit of reblogging. I shared some nice posts (see references below) I found on WordPress while busying myself with some important everyday life tasks, on top of plotting my next book. Continue reading

MUSE – As Advertised

Welcome good men and women.

Today, I thought I’d share some of my appreciation for a band I learned to love and respect.

I won’t try to convince you that their music is awesome (it is), or that their concerts are great (they are). I’m not really going to talk about their music at all. Continue reading