Days too Dark

Toxic Masculinity in Den of Thieves

Maaaaassive spoilers for Den of Thieves.

Den of Thieves is a cops and robbers bank-heist film that has be dubbed an inferior version of Heist, the quintessential example of this genre. One of key complaints about Den of Thieves is the amount of raw machismo that’s present, as 99% of the cast look like they’ve walked right out of the WWE. Because of this, a lot of the feedback and reviews of Den of Thieves tend to get lost in all the muscles and gunfire and lose sight of the message the film is actually trying to convey. Despite the apparent muscle-bound bone-headed plot, I’d put forward that there is actually a level of subtly that most people missed or just straight up chose to ignore.

Den of Thieves focuses on three men; Nicholas "Big Nick" O'Brien , a dirty cop who plays by his own rules, and Ray Merrimen, an ex-marine turned bank robber. Both these men are the epitome of Alpha males, they walk into a room and they own it regardless of what’s going on. The third is Donnie Wilson, a shorter, less physically imposing man who works in a bar. While the first two had years in the military or law enforcement and played football, Donnie only had a year and a half in the military, and played soccer. Straight off the bat, this guy is pegged as less masculine than the other two and he’s even told directly that he’s not in the same league as either of them.

“You aren’t the bad guys. We are.”

“You aren’t the bad guys. We are.”

We meet Big Nick when he walks onto a crime scene, clearly hung over, where he pulls a doughnut from the ground before eating half of it and tossing the rest next to the body. Screw procedure, to hell with contaminating the crime scene, Big Nick is a maverick cop who doesn’t give a shit but he gets results, goddamn it! A key part of his character is his attire, you could put him in a biker bar and he would blend right in. The beard, scraggly hair, rings and leather jacket all send the clear message that this is not a man with which you want to fuck.

God-fucking-damn, he’s just so cool…

God-fucking-damn, he’s just so cool…

And then in walks an FBI agent, Lobbin’ Bob, who has been called to the scene of the crime because it involved the theft of an armored car that resulted in the deaths of several police officers. Lobbin’ Bob is smaller, clean shaven with a nice haircut, and he’s wearing a suit. These two know each other and clearly don’t like one another. Lobbin’ Bob is everything that Big Nick is not and the later even makes fun of the former being a vegan. State and Federal law enforcement issues aside, there is a conflict in their different approaches to masculinity.

Big Nick is a man’s man and he likes to stay out all night, drinking and doing drugs with his buddies while banging hookers. We see him slinking home one morning, Everlast’s “What It’s Like” playing in the car, and his wife catches him deleting his call log in the kitchen. He was so drunk or stoned, or both, the night before that he accidentally sent her a text instead of the girl he’d just finished drilling. Needless to say, his wife takes their two daughters and leaves…. but not without mentioning that she’s going to go find a guy that can get his dick hard for her.

Looking at his home life, we can see that he’s surrounded by women which probably contributes to why he’s so married to the job. He probably feels so out of place there that he doesn’t know what to do with himself when he’s around them. Cheating on his wife aside, he is genuinely distraught when he realizes she’s taking their daughters away. On top of this, despite him clearly being able to snap her like a twig, when she begins to lay into him, he just stands there and takes it without hitting back. He may be a piece of shit, but he’s clearly got some principles.

Ray - an ex-marine turned career-criminal… I wonder what happened to him?

Ray - an ex-marine turned career-criminal… I wonder what happened to him?

Ray Merrimen, and a few of his gang of bank robbers, are ex-military. Despite turning to a life of crime, they’ve still kept some of that code of conduct and it’s translated into a sort of honor-among-thieves. While they’re quite content to gun down security personnel and police officers who stand in their way, they chose not to shoot any civilians even if they’re witnesses to the gang’s crimes. They were trained to shoot people in uniforms, not civilians, and so that’s what they do, they repeatedly let innocent bystanders go. Ray is ruthless, but just like Big Nick he’s not without principles.

Just a little chat…

Just a little chat…

While Ray doesn’t have any kids of his own, one of his gang, Levi Enson Levoux, has a wife and two daughters. His eldest daughter is about to go to her prom night, and her date arrives to pick her up. Levi takes the young man into the garage for a chat, where he’s met with half a dozen bodybuilders, Ray included, who could probably pull him apart like a chicken wing. They threaten the young man into treating Levi’s daughter right, and go into great detail about what will happen to him if anything happens to her. The cocky young man who walked through the front door to pick up his date leaves in a decidedly more terrified state.

…with this lot!

…with this lot!

The families of the men, the two who have families that we actually see, being all women is an important part of the film. Because despite these men choosing to surround themselves with other men, in the aspects of their lives where they don’t have any control they’re surrounded by women. As macho as Big Nick and Levi Levoux both are, neither of them have any sons and there will be nobody to carry on their names after they’re gone. As much as these men have tried to rid themselves of anything remotely feminine, they’ve been unable to fully escape it. It’s a hint that no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to live in modern society and escape women… because they’re a key part of it too.

As all this is going on, the robbers are planning to rob the federal reserve bank, while the cops are trying to figure out who they are, what they’re up to and how to stop them. Big Nick ends up nabbing Donnie, who wakes up in a hotel room full of police officers and hookers. They make light of the fact that he pissed himself when Big Nick tasered him and then basically torture him into telling them everything they want to know about Ray’s gang. Donnie tells them that he’s their driver and agrees to be a snitch for them. This tiny, unimposing man has suddenly found himself caught between two beasts who will stop at nothing to succeed.

Big Nick gets served divorce papers from his wife, and he tracks her down and actually confronts her while she’s on a double date with some friends and a new man. This new guy is tiny and timid, more so than any other male in the movie, and you can see that his wife has gone for the complete polar opposite of Big Nick. “Metro” would be the right word to describe the two men on this double date. Needless to say, Big Nick walks into the room and despite the fact that one of them is quite well-built, it’s obvious he’s someone who goes to the gym for fitness and isn’t actually tough. Big Nick threatens everyone, forces the man who’s on a date with his wife to hug him, and then signs the divorce papers and leaves. He’s the toughest guy in the room, everyone knows it, but he still leaves defeated.

This is where some of that aforementioned subtly comes into play. In the very next scene when he’s having a meet-up with Donnie to learn about the gangs plans, he’s in a men’swear store looking at suits. He’s been wearing leather the entire film, he made fun of Lobbin’ Bob for wearing a suit at the start, but right after the scene where he dominates the two men his wife was on a double date with he’s trying on a suit of his own. He’s already figuring out that maybe his approach isn’t the only, let alone best, way to deal with life. He’s lost his wife, he couldn’t scare her into taking him back… so he’s going to explore what the other guys are doing, by trying on a suit.

But there are still criminals who are going to rob a bank, so Big Nick goes and has a pissing contest with them, just to let them know he’s onto them. He meets Ray Merriman at the shooting range and starts showing off with his pistol, but then gets shown up himself because he forgot that Ray was a marine and can shoot at center mass like the trained killer he is. Not willing to give up just yet, Big Nick goes to strip club and picks up Ray’s girlfriend and bangs her… but then that was all part of the plan, because Ray told her to go along with it and to feed him some bad information. Neither men really saw this woman as worth anything, she was just a piece of trash to be used to get to the other. Ray doesn’t even care that Big Nick screwed his girl, he just goes ahead and sleeps with her afterwards as well.

Also, Donnie gets a gun in his face… but more on that later.

Also, Donnie gets a gun in his face… but more on that later.

Big Nick gets to see one of his daughters one last time before the big robbery, and he ends up breaking down in his car afterwards. Along with this, there’s a scene with Big Nick standing alone on a beach at sun rise, or sun set. Either way, it’s a moment of reflection for him. He’s not only got time to think about the battle ahead, but he’s got time to think about how he ended up standing there alone instead of being at home in bed with his wife. Den of Thieves does have lulls in the action like this, ones that hint that there’s more going on beneath the surface.

The day of the robbery arrives, and it’s suitably hectic. Big Nick and his team get fooled by a distraction, thanks to the bad intelligence Big Nick was fed by Ray’s girlfriend, where the gang pretend to rob one bank but quickly sneak away undetected to commit the real robbery elsewhere. Ray and his gang succeed in robbing the federal reserve bank, a historical first, but quickly get bogged down in a traffic jam. With Big Nick and his team close behind them, the two groups of men prepare for the inevitable shoot out.

They have this massive shootout between two lanes of stationary cars, and not all the civilians were able to escape the scene in time.

They have this massive shootout between two lanes of stationary cars, and not all the civilians were able to escape the scene in time.

One of Big Nick’s team is killed, most are injured, while most of Ray’s gang are killed. Levi Levoux’s dying words are of regret for his daughters. Once the dust has settled, Big Nick is left with no stolen money and a dead teammate, and it’s up to him to call the man’s wife and explain what happened. Lobbin’ Bob shows up, says he’s sorry about Big Nick’s dead teammate and then tells him that he really needs to stop smoking. He then offers him a piece of organic nicotine gum, and here’s the clincher…

He fucking takes it!

Boom.

Boom.

Big Nick has had nothing but contempt for Lobbin’ Bob the entire film, and every time they’ve met they’ve butted heads. But now, having lost his wife and kids, and having to call a fellow officers wife to explain that he’s been killed in the line of duty, he realizes that he can’t punch or intimidate his way out of every problem. And the guy who’s spent the whole movie eating doughnuts, drinking booze and taking drugs, suddenly takes a piece of organic nicotine gum. It’s not a 180 degree turn, it’s not even a 90 degree turn, but it’s a small step in the right direction. Big Nick managed to survive to the end, and although being the alpha dog has gotten him through the job, it’s left the rest of his life in tatters. Even though we never get to see if it’s successful or not, trying on the suit, breaking down at seeing his daughter, and taking the gum, all hint that he’s at least considering the prospect of changing his ways.

And the thing is, the one man to come out on top was Donnie. The small, unassuming guy that everyone else beat up and pushed around, he outsmarted them all and got away with all the money. He had his own plan going on the whole time, and despite being surrounded by guys twice his size with kill counts that’d make Rambo blush, he beat them all. And this is why I hated that this film got slammed by critics and movie-goers, because nobody fucking understood what it was trying to say.

Den of Thieves is an analysis and exploration of masculinity in the modern age, about how the old school ways don’t work anymore. You can’t be a caveman in the modern age, because we’re not running from saber-toothed tigers any longer. Reviews, articles and blog posts such as this, this, this, this, this and this all focus on the fact that toxic masculinity is present and seem to miss the fact that the movie is actually about toxic masculinity. Being a hyper masculine douche-bag either gets you killed, or leaves you with nothing - that’s the message of this story. The tiny and timid guy gets Big Nick’s wife, the soft and pudgy Donnie gets away with millions of dollars. You can be fit, you can be strong, but the Marlboro Man “tough guy” routine isn’t a surefire path to success anymore.

My problem is that Den of Thieves is a great exploration of this, but people were so quick to tear it down without even trying to figure out what it meant. If they’d actually taken a moment, they would’ve realized that it’s a film that appeals to guys, especially macho guys, but one that ends up showing them that this path isn’t always the best option in life. If they’d given it a chance, they would’ve realized that it’s actually helping bring about the changes they desire. Instead, people just saw the typical macho characters and decided that it was worth more as fuel for the outrage engine, rather than something that would appeal to those they actually want to change. Den of Thieves is a film that’s about men, for men. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it makes it the perfect vehicle to get a message across to them.

“You should listen to us, we know how you should behave as men…'“

“You should listen to us, we know how you should behave as men…'“

Shows like Orange is the New Black, The Handmaid’s Tale and Wynonna Earp are all shows that are insincere attempts to evoke some sort of social change, because they’re designed to preach to those already converted. Nothing those shows say is ever going to reach the ears of those their creators purport to want to change the opinions of, because they’re not designed for them. What guy, toxic masculinity or no, is gong to watch a film or show with all female leads, where all men are perpetual oppressors and enemies? It’s ridiculous to think such an approach would work, it’s ridiculous to the point of it being literally unbelievable. It’s like trying to catch a mouse with a bullhorn and then complaining when it doesn’t work - at a certain point, you should probably just admit that you don’t really want to catch the mouse.

Toxic Masculinity, or poor mental and emotional health for men, whatever you want to call it, is an important issue. Whether you want to admit it or not, there is something of a identity crisis going on with men in the modern age - we don’t know who to be anymore. Do we be like Don Draper and fuck all the women, or do we be like Conan and crush the skulls of our enemies and then fuck all the women? Or do we play video games and jerk off to porn in our parents basements, complaining that women don’t pay us any attention? Or maybe we should wear skinny jeans, drink soy lattes and try to get her just drunk enough that we can escape the friendzone? The roles of men and women are changing, and have been for the past century, and we’re still unsure where we all want to land when things settle down. I don’t want to backhand my future missus for talking out of turn and then demand she make me a sandwich, but at the same time I don’t want her backhanding me either.

My old man used to travel the world and go on all sorts of crazy adventures for work, while mum stayed at home to raise my sister and I. He had all the money and he would dole it out to her, always asking what she wanted it for and nitpicking over every cent. Also, he was gone for so long so damn often, that it was awkward when he was home. The family wasn’t complete with dad home, there was just an extra person in the house… one you had to tiptoe around. He’s been gone for coming up on eight years now, and let me tell you that you don’t want to be the sort of person whose absence makes life easier.

I’m not saying he was the devil, far from it, and I’m sure as shit not saying that I’m a saint. I’m also not saying that I want to do the complete opposite to him and give my future missus all my money and have her dole it out to me instead. The opposite extreme is just as bad, it’s the same situation only in reverse. You don’t have to become a complete whimp, and reject everything that it means to be a man… that’s just asking for trouble. But there’s gotta be some smarter middle ground that can be found, where things work out for all involved.

It’s a little easier to swallow this pill if you’re hearing it from a guy who’s clearly a successful alpha boss… instead of hearing it from some weak and pathetic failure who’s clearly just trying to lower the bar to the point where he becomes accepted.   Seriously though, Terry Crews is awesome and this is legit the only autobiography I’ve ever read. Check it out.

It’s a little easier to swallow this pill if you’re hearing it from a guy who’s clearly a successful alpha boss… instead of hearing it from some weak and pathetic failure who’s clearly just trying to lower the bar to the point where he becomes accepted.

Seriously though, Terry Crews is awesome and this is legit the only autobiography I’ve ever read. Check it out.

This all stems back to my own book, Days Too Dark. I wanted a character that was so down on himself and wrapped up in his own shit that he didn’t realize how much harm he was causing himself and others. You can get so twisted up by the expectations of yourself and others that you become this warped shadow of what you’re meant to be, one that is… dare I say “toxic” to the surrounding world. That’s what I wanted to explore with Days Too Dark - a story about a man, for men. It’s only part one, so things are going to progress from there and without ruining things - obviously he learns the error of his ways, all for the betterment of others, but also for himself.

Men have the ability to fuck shit up when needed, we used to hunt and chase down wild game and fight off the warriors of enemy tribes. We can either use that strength to lift up those around us and make them feel safe and secure, or we can push them down and make them feel scared and weak. The thing is, we all die eventually and nobody is intimated by a corpse. If you’ve spent your whole life making those closest to you feel intimidated and afraid, they’ll breathe a sigh of relief once you’re gone and never have a nice word to say about you… if they ever speak of you at all.

Films like Den of Thieves are needed, because they analyse the male archetype in a way that men will find appealing. But if they’re always torn to shreds because they’re not more female-focused, then the message will never get across and the desired change will never be achieved. Everyone knows you get better results when you change things from the inside, rather that from the outside. You can get a show like Orange is the New Black to screech at men about how shit they are, or you can get a film like Den of Thieves to show them that there’s a better way of doing things... in a language and manner they’ll actually understand. Both have Pablo Schreiber in them, so take your pick.


“God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes,
'Cause then you really might know what it's like to sing the blues “









Fucking Annoying Frequently Asked Questions

A while back I wrote a book, Days Too Dark, and while it’s been pretty well received there are a few questions about it that keep popping up. While I’m always down for some creative critique, answering the same questions over and over becomes a little tiresome.

So that’s why I’ve written this handy FAQ for people who’re reading Days Too Dark! If you’ve got any questions, then check this before you come and ask me…

Is Mars you?

Ugh… yes! How is that not clear at this point? There’s literally a photo of me in the damn book.

You just wish you were as badarse and cool as Mars is!

Did you even understand the point of the book? Does he seem like he’s happy, about anything?

A protagonist who’s a straight white male? That’s sooo original… you Alt-Right Nazi!

Well, it’d be weird if I wrote a story about myself… but then I wasn’t who I am in the real world.

Also, just FYI - there’re multiple fleshed out characters who aren’t straight, aren’t white and aren’t male. There’s also a heap of handicapped characters, too. They’re all in there, I just don’t make a big deal out of it.

So, basically… #FOAD

Did you really kill someone and take their lungs?

No, but then the whole world didn’t end in 2011 either… because that’s the point of divergence.

Why is this written so weirdly?

Have you ever heard Australians talk? We’ve got a pretty weird accent and most people have trouble understanding our lingo. I figured that after two decades of no outside influences (like American television) the dialect would only become more pronounced.

If you don’t like it, then ya shit outta luck ya bloody drongo!

Why did you call it “the Gloom”?

It’s a metaphor for depression!

Did you really get in a car crash?

Yes!

Did your mum really drive you through a bus fire?

Yes!!

Were you really in a cyclone?

YES!

Did you reeeeeeea-

YEEEEEESSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why do mushrooms grow from corpses?

Ever heard of “waiting until the sequel”?

A spear, a bayonet and a trench knife… pretty weird weapons for a post-apocalyptic story, don’t you think?

They’re symbolic. One was his fathers, the other his grandfathers and the final belonged to his great-grandfather. He’s inherited their weapons, as well as their demons, and he’s carrying on their fight.

But why a spear?

It’s the most widely used weapon in human history.

The spear looks totally different in different pictures, you fucked up!

I know it does. No, I didn’t.

Brisbane is on the east coast of Australia, not the south. Wtf is going on?!

Just read the bloody book.

Mars is such a Mary Sue, he even has different colored eyes!

1)      I don’t think you know what Mary Sue means…

2)      I have different colored eyes, hence Mars having different colored eyes.

Mars is sleeping with a woman who is fifteen years younger than him, that’s nothing more than disgusting wish-fulfillment!

There’s not a lot of options for either of them, and neither are mentally or emotionally healthy enough to be in a relationship. It’s not an ideal situation for either of them, which is kind of the point.

Why do all the characters have such weird names?

They’re not weird, they’re just not Western European. Russians have Russian names and Pacific Islanders have Islander names, etc. The only character who’s got a truly weird name is Maralinga, and even then it’s a name that’s found in the country of his birth and it has narrative significance. So basically, shut up.

The military being the bad guys is such a cliché, this story sucks!

I know it’s a cliché…

What’s with all the roses?

Inside joke. Count them and then google it.

There’s an awful lot of 9’s in this book.

There’s a good chance that there’s a lot more than you think there is…

What’s with the cover?

It’s one of the cards from the Rorschach test. Can you guess which one?

This is a blatant rip-off of The Last of Us!

Why? Because it’s got an arsehole protagonist and lots of mushrooms?

I started writing this before the Last of Us was even announced. I did a university speech on the Cordyceps Virus jumping to humans and creating fungi-zombies before The Last of Us was even announced. Trust me, I don’t need to steal anything from The Last of Us.

The Last of Us is one of those interesting titles that achieved such mainstream success, that people start to see shadows of it’s influence where ever they look… regardless of whether or not the connection is actually there. They’re both character driven, Post-Apocalyptic stories that focus on broken men and their relationships with those around them. It’s easy enough to see how people could think I was “inspired” by The Last of Us, but that simply isn’t the case.

That’s it, probably only for now though… I’m sure there will probably be more questions that get asked over and over and I’ll update this FAQ accordingly.

Post Apocalyptic Music

A lot of authors have this thing where they've spent so long working with a character, that they start to hear songs that they use to help define them. If an author spends long enough working on a project then they're likely to end up with a whole goddamn mixtape that they think perfectly defines their character and their fictional struggles. 

Funnily enough, Britney's post apocalyptic song was released just ten days after the world ended in my story.

Funnily enough, Britney's post apocalyptic song was released just ten days after the world ended in my story.

Well, as some of you know I spent the worse part of 7-ish (I forget exactly) years on Days Too Dark, and during that time I encountered quite a few songs that I thought fit quite well with the story and themes I was trying to put forward. Some of the songs were actually mentioned in the book itself for this reason, others were just songs that worked really well with the overly angsty crap that the main character is drowning himself in. 

Below is a list of songs that I felt meshed well with Mars and Days Too Dark as a whole, the specific number of them is curious and not just because there's almost enough for a stand alone album here. So, without further ado... the Maralinga Marquardt Mixtape!

  1. Battle Cry - Imagine Dragons
  2. New Divide - Linkin Park
  3. Down Under - Men at Work
  4. What I've Done - Linkin Park
  5. Atlantic City - Bruce Springsteen
  6. Thunderstruck - ACDC
  7. In the Air Tonight - Phil Collins
  8. Paint it, Black - The Rolling Stones
  9. Monster - Imagine Dragons
  10. The Unforgiven - Metallica
  11. Carry on Wayward Son - Kansas
  12. House of the Rising Sun - The Animals
  13. Back in Black - ACDC
  14. Demons - Imagine Dragons
  15. Nine Inch Nails - Hurt
  16. Gary Jules - Mad World
  17. Knocking on Heavens Door - Guns'n'Roses
  18. Silence - Marshmello

Now... there's an obvious theme there, one that I'll get into at a later date. But even with a cursory glance one could tell that these songs speak of conflict, torment and a shitty self-esteem. There's a few hints in there at where the story is going to go too, so if one were to listen to each of these songs they might have an idea of the roads that Mars is doomed to walk.

Imagine Dragons' song 'Radioactive' is a great post apocalyptic song, with a video that's a little more lighthearted than you'd inititally suspect.

Imagine Dragons' song 'Radioactive' is a great post apocalyptic song, with a video that's a little more lighthearted than you'd inititally suspect.

Funnily enough though, the song that I think speaks for Mars the best is the last addition - Silence, by Marshmello. There's a kind of sorrow about things that've happened, but also a regret about the choices that've been made in response to those troubling events. That's exactly the kind of mood I was going for with Mars, he's someone who has legitimately been through some seriously fucked up shit, but his own choices haven't made his situation any better. It's a great song, and if you haven't heard it then you should definitely give it a listen.   

These are just the songs that have lyrics that I think suit what I was going for with Days Too Dark, and will be going for with the subsequent books in the series. There's a whole other slew of songs that I've got saved on YouTube that're pure inspiration, but I'll get to them in another blog post.

Days Too Dark - Price Drop

Like most things in my life, annoyingly, this involves booze.

I sell booze for a day job, I only recently started drinking again because I hit 5 years sober and my new partner said she'd like to have wine with me on occasion. So I do that, but I'm still not that much of a drinker, which is pretty weird considering I'm around alcohol all the time.

What I see, as someone who sells booze, is the patterns that people go through when they're making their purchases. I never thought this would be useful to me in my actual career as a writer, but then the best lessons in life always sneak up on you. 

We'll take two different beers, Hollandia and 150 Lashes. Hollandia is a cheap shitty Lager that sells for $30 a carton and never goes on sale, while 150 Lashes is a popular Pale Ale that hovers around $50-$60 depending on the sales. Now, without a doubt, 150 Lashes is better than Hollandia, some might even go so far as to say it's twice as good. A shitty beer for $30 or one that's twice as good for $60, it seems like they should be selling at roughly the same rate when quality and price are taken into account.

But the thing is, Hollandia is outselling 150 Lashes like crazy... because most people, even those who can afford it, just aren't willing to pay $60 for a carton of beer. It doesn't matter how much time and effort when into its development and manufacturing, how much it costs to produce it - people just don't want to pay that much money. 

Especially when you take into account the fact that you can get two cartons of Hollandia for the same price as a single carton of 150 Lashes.

Hollandia is "good enough," and there-in lies the issue. You drink beer to get drunk, you can try to make it fancy with your craft beers and what not but at the end of the day it was developed to keep the peasants in line and it's always going to taste like shit compared to what else is out there. 150 Lashes may taste marginally better than Hollandia, but it's the same percentage of alcohol so it's not going to get you any more drunk.

Lol who drinks beer while reading a book?

Lol who drinks beer while reading a book?

It was something of a shock, as I was standing at work watching the regulars walk in to buy their 3rd carton of Hollandia for the week, when I realized that this applies to eBooks as well.

It doesn't matter how much time and effort you've put into a project, people just want something that's going to distract them for a few hours. This is especially true in the indie-market, where the bar is so low. Low quality isn't just what people are expecting when they purchase an indie author's ebook, they expect to pay low quality prices. 

Now, obviously everyone thinks their own work is great, but you can look at a project and gauge how much time and effort has gone into it. That's never going to be a perfectly fool proof method of sorting the good from then bad, but generally speaking, the more time a creator has spent polishing and perfecting something then the higher quality it's going to be. 

But just like with the booze, the customers don't care how much time, effort and money you pumped into a project, they just want a distraction. And a distraction that costs $10 may be great, but there's a $2.99 distraction over there that's just good enough and that's a whole lot cheaper. 

I've spoken to a few other indie authors over Twitter and some of them are hard working and talented, they put their heart and souls into their work and it really shows. I love talking to these people who are really passionate about the craft of writing, I always learn something when I have a conversation with one of these people.

But then there are others, they talk of writing a single draft, editing it and then publishing. That just sounds fucking horrific to me. I may be coming at this from an artistic standing rather than a money making one, but putting out a product that quickly just sounds lazy and cheap and I honestly don't know how anyone could publish such a rushed creation and comfortably put their name on it.

I guess that's what pseudonyms are for?

I guess that's what pseudonyms are for?

But that's what we're dealing with, you can put all the time and effort into a project but if people aren't buying it then nobody is ever going to read it.  Of course, everyone would prefer the 150 Lashes to the Hollandia, it's just that they're not willing to pay for it. If they cost the same then they'd no doubt chose 150 Lashes, but they don't so they go for the cheaper option. As much as I'd like to say that I'm solely doing this for the art, I would also like to live off this art as a full time job some day so I do have to learn to play the game. 

Nobody cares how much it cost me to pay for the editing and the artwork of Days Too Dark, nobody cares that I literally spent years of my life writing and re-writing this story. The truth is that the vast majority of my friends and family can't even be fucked buying a copy, let alone going online afterwards to give it a review. The amount of people, so called friends, that have asked me for a free copy of my book is absolutely sickening. If I can't even get people I know to pay for the book at full price, what hope do I have of getting the wider world to give enough of a shit to dip into their pockets? 

I'm never going to be the type of indie author who pumps out trash in the hopes of making a quick buck. I'll keep taking the hard road and putting in the effort, I'll take the time to work my plots and make sure everything is water tight and if I find errors then I'll go back and fix them, even after release. Because that's what I need to do to be able to look at myself in the mirror and call myself, not just a writer, an artist. The only difference is that I'll be lowering all my prices to the bare minimum, to compete with those that don't put in the time... or the effort. 

It's my fault for assuming that people would be willing to pay more for my work, definitely a sobering lesson in humility that I won't forget. From what I can see, even those who have been in the game for a long time still mostly sell their content for pennies. It seems that that's just the way it is these days, indie-stories are the new pulp fiction. Cheaply bought and quickly forgotten. It seems like a hard industry to adjust to, but it's what I've been aiming towards, because I appreciate the creative freedom it affords me.

Fuck it... I'm in it for the long haul.

Fuck it... I'm in it for the long haul.

It's a tough pill to swallow, but I've got to take the good with the bad. The good thing is though; I can afford to play this game because I currently have a day job, where people buy the inferior of two products simply because it's cheaper... because one distraction is just as good as another.

If you want to check out Days Too Dark then head on over to the Amazon page, it's now a whole lot cheaper that it initially was. 

Madnatory Post Apocalyptic reference...

Madnatory Post Apocalyptic reference...

Days Too Dark - a Post Apocalyptic Update

Sorry for the massive gap since the last entry, life has a way of happening. I've been working on the digital and physical proofs of my upcoming novel, Days Too Dark, and there have been some interesting complications. Beyond that there's been a massive spanner thrown into my plans in the form of a new girlfriend, so I've been trying to get to know her while also trying to figure out just what the hell I'm going to be doing with myself next year. With all that's going on, I haven't really had much time to do much of anything remotely video game related, which is just...  

I hate to start a blog post with a picture of Trump... but he's just so succinct. 

I hate to start a blog post with a picture of Trump... but he's just so succinct. 

For those who've been following, my book, Days Too Dark, will be released next month - just in time for Christmas, so why not buy it as a gift for the post apocalypse fanatic in your family? But seriously though, I have been putting some serious time and effort into it, and it's proving to be a really interesting and challenging project. I've had a great team working on it though, so even though we've encountered more than our fair share of hurdles we always managed to find a way over, or around, them. The biggest hurdle, that we're all going to have to deal with though, is how much I'm going to have to sell it for.

Yay, Capitalism? 

Yay, Capitalism? 

The thing with Amazon is that they're a business and they're looking to make a profit. Shock horror, I know. I'll give you a minute to collect yourself. The point is that they're happy to print my book and sell it for me, but they're going to make damn certain that they'll make a profit on it. Now, this set up isn't that big of a deal for most books - they're simply a cover and a word doc with some fancy formatting. This is an easy sell because because the amount of effort and costs involved on Amazon's part are relatively low, which means they can sell it for a relatively low price as well, but this just isn't the case with Days Too Dark.

My book is an epistolary novel, which means that it's laid out like an actual real world journal and that each page is made to look like an actual hand written journal. Now, some epistolary journals, such as Warday (thanks again Evan C. for the great recommendation) are epistolary novels but set out like a typical book - which is fine. But I wanted something that was more than a normal book, I wanted something that readers could pick up and engage with in a way that revealed more to them about the world they were reading about than just words alone could. Days Too Dark has a story, obviously, but it's also cram packed full of artwork and other artifacts from the world that have been crammed in there. If you just read the story on it's own, you'll get a pretty great story... if I'm allowed to be so humble, but you'll be missing out on a lot of detail. There are details that are placed in the drawings and inserts that give hints to the narrators state of mind, or of the truth of a matter that he's unaware of or simply not willing to write about. 

To make things simple - here's an example of an epistolary novel from the Gears of War universe. Mine will be a lot like this... just without the backing of a multi-billion dollar corporation.  

To make things simple - here's an example of an epistolary novel from the Gears of War universe. Mine will be a lot like this... just without the backing of a multi-billion dollar corporation.  

So I didn't fork out thousands of dollars for artists and graphic designers just for shits and giggles, I actually paid all that coin to create a deeper and more enriching experience for those that read the story. The downside of all this is that I'm not going to be able to charge the same sort of prices as others who sell eBooks and print books on Amazon - not even close. Even with the price differences between eBooks and print books, there's going to be a massive difference. For Amazon to make money on this goliath of a book, which has a full color picture for every page and comes in at over 600mb for the eBook, they're going to have to sell it for a pretty steep price.

Now, straight away that means that I'm going to lose out on some readers - which is fine, I get that. There's going to be a large percentage of people who will see the price of this book, which is published by an indie author, and just refuse to even think about it, and that's cool. It's stupid, but it's cool. If you're comparing this book to *just* a text-based book, then yes - the price does seem absurdly steep. But if you take into account all the artwork and other visual elements that're included, you'll realize that you're getting more than *just* a text-based book.

Don't be comparing my epistolary novel to any old normal novel...

Don't be comparing my epistolary novel to any old normal novel...

So you'll pay more but you'll also get more - which always makes sense. I'm also working on a competition with some mates over in the states to give away a few copies of the book as well, but we're still finalizing all the details there so I'll have to keep you posted on all of that. Beyond that, everything is progressing as it should and I'm already looking at the next project that I'll be working on, which thanks to an over enthusiastic fan, has been decided for me. I'll have to tell you about that next time though, because this post has already spiraled into much more than I'd originally intended.

I was going to write about the new girlfriend, but then common sense came up and beat the shit out of me - who wants someone writing about them on the internet when you've only been dating a month? Madness...

Until next time!

I'll just leave this here...

I'll just leave this here...

A Writing Update

Sorry for the lack of posting over the past few weeks, I've become strangely busy of late. 

Exactly this kind of busy...

Exactly this kind of busy...

Beyond the fact that I managed to complete the first draft of an entire project last month, one month ahead of Nano, I've also been trying to decide which project to start next. I've also been studying and practicing for my TESOL assessment and there's a tiny Taiwanese woman who keeps trying to kill me, for some reason...

So, I've been busy - but it's always been the good and productive kind of busy. I tried to play a video game and I couldn't, it felt like a waste of time. You know you're in a productive state of mind when something like that happens.

My social life has taken a turn for the worse lately too.

My social life has taken a turn for the worse lately too.

The two projects I could chose from were sort of neck and neck, and they're in the same setting but I decided to go for the bigger of the two. This will be book two to the book I'm about to release, so it makes sense to get a start on it as soon as I can since I know how slow and pedantic I can be. The other project was a much smaller side story to this trilogy, I may still do it down the line but it's just not necessary at this point. Better to focus on the main event and get it out and done with, that's where the action is. 

I've really got to learn to be smarter with my time and money, that's one thing getting this first book together has taught me. I am an absolute dunce when it comes to time management and finances and I need to get better if I plan on staying in this industry. I suppose you've got to make stupid decisions at the start so you can make smarter ones down the line, it's all about the learning process... and all that jazz. 

So my plate is kind of full and I'm trying to decide what I'm going to be doing next on a number of fronts. Not all of these decisions are as simple as choosing which writing project to start next either, so hence the blog has suffered. Sorry about all that, my bad. 

I am looking at getting the new Fallout board game though, I'm strangely excited by that. I've been meaning to lean into my nerdy side a bit more recently, it's a part of myself that I've rejected and ignored for far too long. There's a few people I know that can just enjoy whatever they want, however ridiculous, and I kind of envy them that ability. Board games and other aspects of nerd culture are just two things that I've always wanted to get more into but never managed to allow myself to do. It probably sounds stupid, but it'll make sense in a few weeks for anyone who reads this upcoming book.

There better be Deathclaws... 

There better be Deathclaws... 

On another note, this diet I've been on for the past three weeks has been paying off big time. I am seeing some seriously fantastic returns for the amount of effort I'm putting in, and once my six weeks are up I'll be able to tell you all about it. I'm still taking it easy because of my back, and I'm learning what I can and can't do these days, but at the gym I'm reaching the maximum weight that the machines have. There comes a point where you've got nowhere to go beyond just upping the reps you're doing, and so pretty soon I'll have to head back to the free weights. I'm just hoping that everything is in place and stable before then. 

Beyond that, my book is nearing completion and I've been doing the old back and forth with the graphic designer on the other side of the world. We're only awake at the same time for a few hours each day, but we're hammering through it to get it done. It's still looking good for a release this year, I just hope that everything stays on schedule for that to happen. I'll let you all know when the exact release date is when we're closer to completion, there's all this complicated behind the scenes business these days. Multiple platforms to release on, marketing and advertising, networking, all these different fields that I know nothing about but which I'll have to master at some point. 

Ah well, it's all part of being a writer.

Till next time!

Till next time!

My Post Apocalyptic Project

So I was meant to come home and start working on my secret project tonight, but while at the gym I ended up talking to this lovely woman... until 1:30am. So, obviously nothing much has or will be written tonight. However, I will be damn sure to get at least a blog post out!

I have big news in relation to my upcoming book; after an overly long time of faffing about - it's now all in the hands of the graphic designer who will be putting it together for me. This is the last stage of the project, I can't even edit it any more. This  fact alone is terrifying the shit out of me. Just to give you some context, here's a pic from my computer. 

That first file had a bunch of stupid directions in it that were throwing out the word count, but basically it was written in March 2011

That first file had a bunch of stupid directions in it that were throwing out the word count, but basically it was written in March 2011

March 2011 is the earliest copy I've got, but I know I started this story in late 2010. So that's a good seven years that I've been tinkering away at this story, building and adding to it. Now that it's out of my hands I'm obviously relieved but also freaking the hell out - I've been able to work with it for so long!

Those are some interesting jumps in word count there, each time the story has grown in complexity as I've thrown more and more into it. It's not like I've been working on it for seven years straight either, it's done a lot of sitting around while things peculate.

The thing with this story is, and part of me is screaming that I'm even writing this down, it's mostly based on my life. The original inspiration for the story was a dream I had, and the setting never changed, but the plot has grown over the years as I've dug deeper and deeper into a lot of childhood issues that have left some damage. I don't know when exactly, but at a certain point it stopped being just a story and became an outlet for me, a way to deal with some of the stuff I'd been through while growing up.

The main character is based on me, but he's not me. It's a worse off, never tried to fix himself, version of me. My worst case scenario, if you will. I don't know why I even though it possible to write a story about myself and keep that fact a secret, but I've been operating under that delusion for a few years now. But I've been looking at the artwork... and there's pictures of me in there and there's just too many anecdotal stories for readers not to notice something was going on. 

I think I needed to tell myself that I could hide the fact that it's based on my life, but this close to release I can't maintain the lie anymore. The vast majority of characters in this story are based upon people I know, and the vast majority of situations are real events that have happened. The world didn't end though, well... not for you lot, so you're going to have to use some common sense to figure out which parts of the story are true and which are fiction. I think you'll be surprised by the ratio, however.

This story is going to piss some people off...

This story is going to piss some people off...

You don't end up in therapy, for three years, if everything went as it should have. There are going to be some characters in this story who are not shown in the best of lights, and the protagonist is definitely one of them. He's just at the start of his journey though, so cut him some slack.

For other people who don't like how they're portrayed in the story, well... take comfort in the fact that you had an impact on my life, even if it wasn't for the best. I'm not out to get anyone specifically, I should clear that up, but certain individuals are going to get called out for certain things they've done in the past. How they chose to take this is up to them... 

But, to end things on a lighter note - I've got something of an announcement. To kick off the count down to completion, and hopefully, subsequent release - I'm doing a cover and title reveal! 

Those tears will look better when they're backed by cardboard....

Those tears will look better when they're backed by cardboard....

Days too Dark is the name of my upcoming novel, it's a Post Apocalyptic Log set after the world was plunged into darkness. It's an exploration of the narrators background as well as the end times - and why the former makes him so suited to the later. This is his actual journal mind you, so it's going to be jam packed with his scrawled writing and there's some fantastic artwork in there from a few very talented artists. 

What this means though, is that I had to get creative with the cover. He can't have an awesome picture of himself standing outside some ruined building, the tattered remains of civilization scattered about, because this is his actual journal. It's got to look like something that a person would be writing in after the world ends! So this is what I came up with... I managed to get a little creative with the symbolism, and I get that it's not the most flashy cover but it meshes really well with the overall project. 

There's still a little way to go before I'm ready to announce the release date, but I figured that I'm all giddy with excitement so I'd give an announcement.

So that's it! What do you all think?