Friday, December 30, 2016

Rank Yourself

Part Four of Seth Godin's Freelance Course Questions

1. Compared to others who do what you do, rank yourself on: reputation, knowledge, expertise,
tools, handiness.

Reputation: This varies depending on the field. In music, my reputation is high. Illustration and design would rank second. Writing would come third, where I am now starting to build my reputation in a field where it is very difficult to have one, no matter one's talent.

Knowledge: My knowledge is considerable in all those fields.

Expertise: My expertise is high in all my chosen fields. Again, highest in music, then visual art, then writing.

Tools: I have all the tools needed for the work I do.

Handiness: I would rate high in my ability to deliver the promised work.

2. Which will you invest in developing?

I will invest currently in developing the soundtrack field of music composition and production for games audiobooks and films, illustration in the gaming and publishing field, fiction writing, and in Dream Tower Media which brings all of these talents together.

List Of 10 Things You Deliver to Your Client

Part Three of Seth Godin's Freelance Course Questions

(Things that aren’t the thing. Things like timeliness, confidence, respect, a story, etc.)

1. A unique, intuitive, and holistic approach to creative work

2. An absolute commitment to excellence and the confidence to deliver what is promised

3. An upbeat, joyful, friendly attitude reflecting my love for people and the work I do.

4. Respect, interest and compassion toward those for whom I am creating or collaborating

5. Creating for my audience and clients with the same concern with which I would create for myself

6. Decades of experience as a curious empathetic person and decades of expertise in my field

7. Respect for the knowledge, experience and expertise of audiences, clients, and collaborators

8. A talent for creating unique and inventive solutions

9. A passion and excitement for whatever I am creating

10. Patience and perseverance in the face of difficulty

What Do You Provide?

Part Two of Seth Godin's Freelance Course Questions

1. What do people buy when they buy something from you?

A commitment to excellence and to the person or people for whom I am creating, and my unique unmistakable quality as a person and an artist.

2. Leave out the easy, repetitive, generic stuff... What you are doing that’s difficult?

Creating with an intuitive approach that yields more original, authentic work, and combining multiple talents to create an environment where people can experience themselves (their perceptions and emotions) and the world in a different way.

Who Are You?

I'm doing this online course about being a freelancer (which I am in case any of you haven't noticed by now) by Seth Godin, and I'm supposed to post these questions and answers publicly. This refers to me as author Robert Zoltan, illustrator Zoltan, composer Robert Szeles, singer songwriter producer for Kiss the Girl, and owner of my company Dream Tower Media, through which I am trying to bring all of my talents (and talents of others) together.

1. What do you want to do? (Not your job, but your work, now, tomorrow, and in the future)

I want to create beauty and truth through various media (music, art, literature, and a combination thereof), opening a window onto transcendence.

2. Who do you want to change, and how do you want to change them?

I want to give people a greater appreciation for meaningful art, and a deeper experience and enjoyment for those who already appreciate the arts, moving all people to a greater love and joy for the wonder and mystery of life.

3. How much risk? (from 1 [a little] to 10 [bet everything]), how much are you willing to put at stake to make the change you seek?

From 1 to 10, I am willing to risk between 8-10 (depending on the day) to make the changes I seek.

4. How much work are you willing to do to get there?

I am willing to do whatever work is required to achieve this goal without sacrificing my long term mental or physical health.

5. Does this project matter enough for the risk and the effort you’re putting into it?

Yes, this project does matter enough.

6. Is it possible — has anyone with your resources ever pulled off anything like this?

Yes, other people have succeeded to various degrees, whether on a large scale (someone like George Lucas, Disney or Edgar Rice Burroughs) or a smaller scale (successful independent publishers).

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Making of the Blue Lamp Audio Drama 2: What a Dumbell!, or, Ouch! I Just Made Something

Giving birth to a creative idea, especially in a form as complex and large in scope as an audio drama, comes with a fair amount of suffering and hardship. It is demanding mentally, physically, and emotionally. I had to take a three-week break from working on the production of The Blue Lamp drama because it was simply overwhelming me, causing anxiety and depression. In the last couple of months I have been emerging from a difficult time, and transitioning into a happier, emotionally stronger, and more stable place. But even at full strength, a project like this could run me over and leave me feeling like so much roadkill. Recording, re-recording, constant editing and revising, decisions on where to put sound effects and musical cues, composing and producing original music, finding or recording my own sound effects, (not to mention having to do the preparatory marketing as well), etc. I am doing a job meant for four to six people at least.

Sometimes, the pain is quite simple and straightforward. As in the case of me recording some sound effects with my portable H1 Zoom recorder. I was dropping dumbells on the floor to imitate the sound, that would be telling. Anyway, one time when I dropped them, I somehow managed to get my finger caught in between the two dumbells. You can hear the results  in the sound clip... "******!!!!"

Click Here to Hear the Artist at Work

Monday, September 26, 2016

Making of the Blue Lamp Audio Drama 1: A Bright-Eyed Boy and a Cheap Recorder

I was visiting family in Michigan for my niece Alex's graduation. We were on our way to one her clarinet recitals. I was in the back of the SUV with my other niece, Liz, and I think I was telling her about my recent artistic ventures and how I wasn't quite sure what I should do next. For some reason, my mind went way back to when I was twelve years old, to the fond memory of creating an audio drama of an Iron Man comic book. Back then, all I had was a cheap cassette recorder, a cheap RCA microphone, my dad's short wave radio, a couple of walkie talkies, whatever I could find in the house, and, my imagination. I did every voice except Iron Man (my friend did that), even the women. Iron Man pounding on a robot was me pounding on a cake pan. Iron Man breaking through a wall was me smashing a tray of ice. Reverb was created by recording in the shower. Lots of sound effects were created by mouth sounds. It was one of the most fun, fulfilling projects I ever did. No deadline, no grandiose business dreams, no aspirations of praise, fame or money. It was summertime. And that was enough.

As we all stepped out of the vehicle in Michigan, it dawned on me. I said to Liz, "If I could do anything I wanted, without concern for money or anything else, I would do an audio dramatization like that." When I got back to Silver Lake (Los Angeles), I immediately started creating the audio drama for The Blue Lamp, my sword and sorcery story that was published in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. I knew I had all the skills required to do it (music composer, music and sound producer, mixer and editor, voice actor, illustrator, graphic designer, etc.). I had no idea what I was getting myself into!

Here I am, three months later and still working on it. I now have over seventy five audio tracks! It took about three hours to read the initial manuscript (about 8400 words, or 16 single spaced Microsoft Word pages) and nine hours to edit that down. That was just me reading the story and doing initial edits. The time spent since I would not even try to measure. Searching for and creating sound effects, creating the reverb for different room spaces, finding the right voice talent other than myself, recording the character performances, and most challenging of all, composing music for what amounts to a fifty minute movie! I had only done some limited symphonic arrangement for some of my pop songs (mainly for Seduction Revolution, but a few for Kiss the Girl as well). This was something completely different. Thank god for Vienna Instruments software. It gives me the real symphony sounds I need to compose and produce the music. But the challenge of this much composition, and to produce the sounds so that they sound played the way real musicians would play them, is one of the most challenging things I have ever done.

I am enjoying the results. I hope, come November 1st, that you will too.

The hardest thing is to be patient, and to keep my focus on the love and joy of the work. Because I know, the truth is, in today's fractured, info-overloaded, self-promoting society, all of my wonderful work may only be heard by a few. I hope for some financial and critical success with it, of course. But I am coming to a certain understanding about life that is helping me to release the anxiety of such things. In the end, the present moment, and my state of consciousness, is all that really matters. The world cannot give or take away anything from what I truly am. I only hope that this audio drama will give some people joy, to help them escape from a false world of competition and stress and unnecessary demands, and to escape into a world of adventure, romance, and mystery—a world that reflects the truth of our own world behind the scenes of the illusory one we have created in our fear.

In that world, in the world of the story of The Blue Lamp (the world of Plemora), mystery hides in common objects, adventure awaits behind every door, and even when courage and strength or even love are not enough, something ineffable (call it Lady Luck, God, the Source, whatever you want, it is ineffable and thus cannot really be understood or explained or even named) comes to our aid, if we give ourselves over to that mystery and trust LIFE. I have tried to do that in embarking on this great adventure of the dramatization of The Blue Lamp. I hope I have unlocked a door to Mystery, opened a window to Eternity, created something that is in some way, transparent to transcendence. Or at the very least, I hope I have created a rollicking good adventure that will help make your next bout with traffic a pleasurable one. Sure, all those other people will be stuck bumper to bumper on the freeway, but you? You will be with poet swordsman Dareon Vin and the Indari warrior Blue, exploring the wonders of the city of Merth, and the mystery of The Blue Lamp!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Blue Lamp Dramatization Teaser Trailer

The teaser trailer for the audiobook adaption of my sword and sorcery story, The Blue Lamp, is now out! Produced by Dream Tower Media. The Blue Lamp was originally published in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. The upcoming audiobook is a complete dramatization with professional voice talent, sound effects, and an original symphonic musical score. Enjoy!

Click here to watch!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ronaldo and the Magic Moth

It was the final of the 2016 Euro Cup in International Football. Portugal versus the home favorites, France. No one had even expected Portugal to reach the final, and France was the heavy favorite. The main chance for Portugal was their not very secret weapon, the attacking forward from club Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo, considered by some as the greatest player in the world.

Within the first twenty-five minutes of the game, Ronaldo was tackled hard by Dimitri Payet of France. The anguish on his face from the physical pain boded ill for him and Portugal. As the medics worked on him on the field, the emotional anguish on his face, and the tear rolling down his cheek, boded even worse. Players know when they are injured badly enough to not be able to continue. They took Ronaldo off the field, did what they could, wrapped his leg and sent him back on the field. He tried to continue, but within a few minutes, he sat down and raised his hand, the signal that a player must permanently leave the game due to injury.

As Ronaldo sat spread-eagle on the near perfect grass, looking down with intense heartbreak on his face, a moth fluttered over just under his eye and landed on his cheek. Ronaldo, in his almost child-like sadness did not even respond. He simply let the moth stay there. He was taken off the field on a stretcher. The chances of a Portugal win were now even lower than they had been before.

Yet Ronaldo’s tears of despair turned to joy when Portugal scored a goal in overtime to defeat France and win the championship of the 2016 Euro Cup. People joked about the moth, but when I saw it, I was moved by the mystery of its appearance. It seemed to be comforting him, trying to tell him that things were not as they appear to be.

We never understand why things happen, especially situations that seem unfortunate, disadvantageous, or even tragic for us. If Ronaldo had stayed on the field, the game would have played out differently. The question is, would Portugal still have one? That possibility has perhaps played out in an alternate universe from ours. We will never know. But it is very clear that the answer is quite possibly, no. What seemed a tragic event may have been the key to Portugal’s victory. A lesson for us perhaps, that we should not be so quick to judge events and resist what is. If we accept what is, we may find ourselves in line with the power and intelligence of Life itself. Or, we can resist what is and suffer. It is a difficult choice to make at times when appearances seem so convincing, our thoughts run amok, and we allow emotions to overwhelm us. Yet the choice, ultimately, is ours.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Artistic Freedom and Our Backwards American Culture

In light of the recent censorship of some of my illustration ads by Facebook, and thinking of such incidents as the exposure of Janet Jackson's nipple, I want to show just how backwards our present American culture is when it comes to nudity and art. Read this statement by the Vienna regional court when charges were brought against the artist Gustave Klimt for exhibiting studies from his painting, Medicine. Remember, this was circa 1907:
"It should hardly need mentioning that no narrow boundaries must be drawn with regard to the objects of an artist's imagination or the execution of an artistic idea. Nor must there be a prohibition on the natural depiction of nudity, which has always been the part of any art. And whenever we are dealing with a serious work of art, purely governed by aesthetic considerations, it would be inappropriate to speak of an offence against people's sense of morality or modesty."
"Medicine" by Gustave Klimt

Sea of Oblivion by Zoltan (me). One of my
illustrations censored as a Facebook ad.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Vibration of Mysterious Wings

What began as a survival mechanism in the brutally difficult first two-thirds of the last month turned into a kind of daily ritual. Right before or after lunch, I sit on my terrace in a chair facing the sun. I meditate with my eyes closed, clearing my mind, watching the variations of colors, ranging from pale gold to dark reddish purple through the lids of my eyes. I sat today, listening to the wind rush through the palms and feeling it upon my face, half-aware of the colors, warmed by the sun washing over me. So unlike my mind in the last three months or so, I was in a state of tranquil bliss.

I was startled by a hum and vibration of air that almost brushed by right ear. Thinking at first it was some dangerous insect, I jerked up and opened my eyes. Immediately I recognized what it had been, and as confirmation saw the hummingbird shoot off into the air and out of sight. I suppose I couldn’t help my reaction.

But I still feel a lesson was being shown to me. If I had stayed still and simply opened my eyes, I would have been rewarded with the presence of a hummingbird hovering so close I could touch it. Perhaps it was my stillness, within me and without, that drew it near. But then I reacted in fear. When we are afraid, the beauty of the universe shies away from us. If we have the composure to be still, to watch and listen, when encountering something new and strange, we may be given the gift of a wondrous sight, maybe even a revelation. Life, the reality operating behind the scenes of the material world, is trying to engage us, to reveal itself. We just have to not react in fear. We just have to be still and wait and watch, at least for a moment. Who knows what may be revealed to us?