Publish Nor Perish
I published my first novel “Zeus Rising” this past January. After decades of writing and directing hundreds of commercial videos and penning about a dozen feature screenplays–one produced, two optioned, and many received strong consideration–I felt a novel was the best way of putting more personal out work into the world. And I didn’t outline the piece like I normally do. I embraced the process–and the freedom–and just followed the story where it took me. Stephen King, in “On Writing: A Memoir in the Craft,” talks about snatching ideas out of the ether. That’s what I did, along with two rewrites, based on feedback collected from strong writer/editor friends, and about ten polishes to make sure the language told the story without getting in the way.
What resulted is a piece that most readers found darkly funny and a unique blend of Greek myth, ancient history, and modern scenes set in Los Angeles. I enjoyed writing about an immortal, largely powerless god who had seen it all and was still evolving while living in present-day L.A. It’s something only I could write. I guess that’s the point. I am proud of that. And I even started a small book tour at Ohio State (my undergrad alma mater) before the shut-down, and I re-started it earlier in June via a Zoom discussion hosted by UCLA near my current home. It's been great to share ideas and listen to family, friends, and new fans who I never met. If you want to peruse excerpts, lean more about my book tour, read reviews (including from Kirkus), and even buy the book, please visit www.zeusrising.com.
As someone who runs a creative marketing agency focused on aerospace brands, among others, I must admit I feared writing a novel. I was apprehensive about sharing the controversial ideas and experiences of an ancient god living in a modern world. Zeus still has a temper, talks sharply with God, is a ladies’ man (but kinder than before), and has powers that he just might wield again. He is no longer violent, but he will defend himself. And, Zeus is also arrogant, opinionated, and a bit jaded, but folks within the story—and readers—seem to love him. That makes me feel good. And he is desperately trying to become better and, like no one else, ever, he is dealing with baggage from thousands of lifetimes. That's his saving grace, his push to evolve. I was a little on edge about what my clients might think about the unruly character driving this story, in contrast to the more structured tales I help them tell, but I have received only support to this point.
I have come to consider commercial creative work and more personal work as being shaped by the same skills and process. This idea has become respectable and widely accepted in the last few decades. That said, I am a huge fan of Buster Keaton’s brilliant silent films from the 1920s. There is no one with more courage and grace—and who generates more laughs—from that era. He was truly an independent force of nature. But many do not know that he also did inventive “influencer” work for companies like Ford in his later years. It was also breathtaking work that allowed him to continue to invent and create while supporting himself. His more personal feature-film work was certainly more important than his commercial work (it’s the opposite for me I suppose) but the chance to create for a living is something to be nurtured and protected. I think the creatives you work with should be creating both commercial and personal work. Creating intellectual property of their own will enrich their lives but also your brand’s work too, since they'll feed off one another and enhance the work on both fronts.
We have all learned lessons from 2020. For me, it's being less guarded, more open, and certainly, like millions, more committed to speaking out and taking action against injustice that harms our friends and fellow citizens, most notably people of color. We all have to make sure America is living up to her promise of liberty and justice—for all. This is just the start, we have much work to do. And I think this ancient god, who is fighting to be modern, (and who may be a bit behind me in terms of modernity) has freed me up a bit. For that, I am thankful.
Zeus, a former king/tyrant, has come to believe that humanity does best when it is leading itself via democracy, but he also understands it is a fragile system. He is a fighter, in a respectful way, of course, and he is not backing away from humanity. And I will not back away from him yet either; I know he has more to say. My small army of fans have prodded me to create a series. Zeus, who cannot perish easily, still has many stories to tell. And, if you ever read my book, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear your thoughts. I will surely be better for it, as will Zeus.