Greetings, readers! I have been meaning to start a periodic newsletter about my writing and other creative work. Here is my first attempt. It’s an eclectic roundup about my new book, a forthcoming short story, academic work, and recommendations for other creatives I love.
In March I finally launched Eating Glass: The Inner Journey Through Failure and Renewal, which I’ve been chipping away at for five years. I’m pleased to say that embracing my story has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life. The outpouring of support from friends and colleagues has been amazing, and many early readers have shared stories about their own brushes with failure. I feel incredible relief at bringing everything I have internalized into the light. It’s amazing how much power we can unleash when lean into fear.
I put together a book trailer, partly because I wanted to let readers see some of my favorite visuals from the nonprofit effort that inspired the book. I’m a little sheepish about the aesthetic quality, but it’s authentic, from the heart, and gives a sense of the book.
If you like the book and want to support it, here are a few ways you can help:
- Leave honest reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. The review count is one of the fastest clues for busy shoppers about whether they should take a book seriously.
- Share with family, friends, or colleagues who might appreciate it
Connect me to any influencers you know who might be interested–such as authors, bloggers, speakers, or podcast hosts.
- My next big project is recording an audiobook version. I will announce that here when it’s ready.
I have been getting back into writing fiction lately, and am delighted to announce that I have a short story appearing in the upcoming Derelict anthology, titled “Celestial Object 143205.” You can preorder the ebook or the Kickstarter edition at this link. My contribution is a near-future SF story that features a competition between the United States Space Force and an eccentric Chinese billionaire. It will appeal to anyone fascinated by Elon Musk’s ventures with SpaceX.
My blog has been quiet lately, but I did add a couple new pieces in March. Leaning Into Fear is about two things: one of my hardest rock climbs to date, and the decision to publish Eating Glass. The Pursuit of Connection asks what our lives would look like, if we sought to maximize connection rather than wealth.
In January I taught an Irregular Warfare course at the School of Advanced Air & Space Studies (SAASS), and in February I served as course director for the SAASS Technology & Innovation course. You can find both syllabi at the links. It was fantastic being back in a classroom and connecting with our amazing students.
I finished writing three other short stories recently and am currently shopping them around. Two received rejections recently. Although I would have preferred acceptance letters, the rejections actually felt good; they were tangible indicators that I’m moving again. I also received the nicest rejection letter of my life, from an editor I know:
Dear Mark, It’s great to finally see a new story from you. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to consider “Letter from Slowtime.” The story is sweet, moving, and nicely done, but I’m afraid it’s not quite right for me. I look forward to reading your next submission in the queue.
That story will go back out to a different publication later today. Fingers crossed.
I have been slow getting back into academic writing since late 2017, given how painful my PhD experience was. I can’t even look at my dissertation without crushing anxiety. However, releasing Eating Glass gave me a new measure of energy, and taught me what I think is a useful heuristic for life: tackle whatever creative work fills me with the most fear.
This week I dug out my Stanford research, as well as notes and research ideas that my department at Stanford deemed too unconventional. I have been pursuing one overriding academic interest for about 15 years: how to conceptually model complex wars with multiple sides, and how to think about strategy in those wars. Diving into this again is vertigo-inducing, but this is where I think my big academic contribution lies. My goal in April is to complete a journal article that bites off the first piece of this.
Things I Love
Launching my book has reinforced for me just how hard it is for creators to get noticed in a noisy world. So I want to use my own modest platform to introduce you to other creators I love. Here is this month’s selection:
Army officer and blogger Joe Byerly is a hero of mine. We met at the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum around 2013-2014, after which he began writing From The Green Notebook, a blog dedicated to leadership, mentorship, reading, and writing. Over seven years Joe grew the blog into a thriving community. Joe and his growing team just launched the From The Green Notebook podcast. I loved their recent interview with Steven Pressfield; Pressfield is one of my favorite authors, and Joe and his cohost’s enthusiasm for the author in this episode is contagious.
Speaking of Steven Pressfield, his new book A Man at Arms came out on March 2nd. I haven’t read it yet, but I can’t wait. His book The Gates of Fire, about Thermopylae, ranks among my favorites, and The War of Art is among the best books ever written for creatives.
While we’re in this DEF-Pressfield nexus, DEF founder Ben Kohlmann started a podcast a few months ago called A Random Walk with Ben Kohlmann. He has lined up a really amazing set of interviews, but I especially loved his interview with Michael McClellan, author of The Sand Sea. Long story short, Michael put in many years of effort and wrote more than a million words in order to finally produce The Sand Sea—a sweeping historical fantasy set in a world based on the late 19th century. Michael devoted himself to his art, put in the long obedience required, and birthed a masterpiece. Oh, Steven Pressfield also mentored him and heartily recommends the book. I am halfway through The Sand Sea and am captivated; it’s one of the best fantasy novels I have ever read. It is dark and gritty at times, but features everything I love in fiction: amazing prose, a rich cast of three-dimensional characters, and a beautifully imagined world.
On a different note, Audrey Assad is one of my favorite singers. Her voice is a conduit through which beauty pours into the world. She made her name as a Christian singer, but as she has become more agnostic, her music has turned towards themes of exploration, mystery, and searching. Her journey has shaken some of her fans, so I wanted to help connect her to new ones. Some of my favorite songs include Irrational Season, Evergreen, and her cover of Mumford and Sons’ Sigh No More.
Lastly, I met Andrew Liptak when he co-edited War Stories, an anthology of military science fiction to which I contributed a story. Andrew is one of the smartest and most prolific observers of science fiction around. He offers both a free and inexpensive premium email newsletter called Transfer Orbit, which includes SF news and commentary. His premium newsletter is now my primary way of keeping up with the field.