Voice Actor. Author. Alien. Human

COMMUNICATION FAILURE Gets A Cover!

After much waiting and anticipation, I’d like to present to you the amazing new cover for book 2 of the EPIC FAILURE series: COMMUNICATION FAILURE!


Once again, the main artwork was done by the brilliant Leonardo Calamati, one of the concept artists for the Guardians of the Galaxy movie who has also worked on art for Assassin’s Creed and is in general ridiculously talented.

Communication Failure hits shelves on October 17th this year - but you can already pre-order the book on Amazon, here.

If you’d like updates on book tour or other work, check me out on Twitter and Facebook, where I post updates about both my writing and my voice acting.

Failing at Failing - Response To A Guardian Article About Giving Up Writing

I always start these articles by saying that I’m not in the habit of responding to news articles…but I seem to be doing this a lot. So maybe I am in the habit of responding to news articles.

Here’s the one in question - an anonymous Guardian vignette in the books section about an embittered writer who mostly seems to be venting.  Not that venting is bad of course, but I can’t see any other purpose of the article except to bemoan a writing career that never got off the ground - and then, for reasons I can’t understand, tell writers to “shut up” about the novels they’re writing.

This article needs some serious attention. 


It’s not that I mind people sharing their opinions. It’s that this article gives so much discouragement about what a writing career really is that it’s potentially damaging to those who are current or budding writers. The article itself is short, but I’ll pull some quotes from it and respond as we go. 

Here’s the gist: to the author of this article,* you didn’t fail at being a writer*.

You never tried. 

“…over several months, my manuscript was rejected for reasons that bewildered me.”

Several whole months? Like, from beginning to end? People’s writing careers take years, sometimes decades to get off the ground, even after they get an agent. A friend of mine was writing novels for fifteen years before he published any of them. Several months in publishing is a sneeze’s time. 

Every editor has reasons they reject manuscripts, but ultimately it’s always because they don’t think they can sell the book. But there’s a more important question here: why weren’t you writing your next book while that book was making the rounds? If you spent those several whole months fretting, it was wasted time and years off your life from the stress. I’ve totally been where you are - it took me almost a full year of agent submissions to NOT sell my first represented novel. You know what I was doing during that time? Writing the next book and not having my soul crushed.

“I defiantly started a second novel. It was my masterpiece.”

If the second novel you ever wrote is the culmination of all your life experience, literary skill, and dexterity with prose, character, plot, and setting, you need to seriously broaden your scope of growth over your creative career. Most people I know didn’t publish their second novel. Or third. Or fourth. If thatwas you giving your best - if that second novel was the absolute best you had to give to the literary field - this was not your destiny. 

“…it bombed, too.”

No it didn’t. It didn’t have the opportunity to bomb, and that’s an important distinction for the health of your ego. 

Probably 8-10 people read the first three chapters of your “masterpiece” and then decided it wasn’t for them. Published writers have to make thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of readers happy. Many great pieces of fiction have remained unpublished for years because the current editorial staff in power at major publishers just didn’t have the taste for it yet. Thinking that you’ve “bombed” because some editors didn’t like your work is self-defeating, and may have contributed to why you quit in a huff after a measly couple hundred thousand words, if that.

I published the sixth book I ever wrote. Only two of them were even worth giving to editors. Six also seems to be a weird magic number for the other authors that I know; even some that make eight figures a year with their books couldn’t sell their first 4-5 books to save their lives. 

You’ve got 4 more to go.

“Four years on, I still can’t look at the new fiction tables in Waterstones; they make me feel like an infertile woman at a baby shower.”

Oh, wow. No. No it does not. If you said that to any of your female friends who actually have infertility problems, they would slap you in the face. The inability to create a child with the man/woman you love despite all of your best attempts is heartbreaking and a lifelong, terrible struggle. An editor telling you that he didn’t love your book is business. The fact that anyone would equate these two things tells me that you’re not really ready to be a creative in this world.  

Any kind of artist knows that 95% of what you do is going to involve failure, rejection, and then hopefully learning from it. As a voice actor, I book less than 10% of what I audition for. You forget the ones you miss, take something from them to incorporate into future work, and move on.

What the hell were you going to do when people started giving you one-star reviews on Amazon? Write a letter to the Guardian saying that now you knew what Vietnam felt like? 

Look, my purpose here, aside from a bit of a textual eye-roll, is not to berate anyone, but offer a little bit of perspective. Whoever you are, the fact that you made it on editors’ desks and you have an agent that is pushing for you is indicative that you have real talent. Maybe it’s unrefined. Maybe it’s not marketable. The way people react to your work is out of your control. The way the market is going is out of your control. 

But you know what is in your control? Writing great fiction. Gaining great life experiences to infuse that fiction with life. Reading great fiction to inspire and educate you. 

Whoever you are - and whoever is reading this that is feeling the same way in your own career - I implore you to accept the fact that first, you gave up preeeeettty easily something that you considered your “destiny.” Two, you are not “scarred” - you just weren’t ready to be an artist. And three, you have a choice to either keep writing or not keep writing.

Choose now. And then do it. 

 

Excellence and Arrogance

Lately I’ve been getting very interested in the lives and mentalities of today’s most successful business owners, entrepreneurs, and creatives. I guess I’ve been drawn into a prototyping mentality - the idea that people have certainly done what I’m doing, have done it better, and have a wealth of experience that I can learn from. The end result is that I make less mistakes, avoid some of the pitfalls that they fell into, and accelerate quicker on my own path. 

I was listening to a speech by Bo Eason, an ex NFL player and now successful motivational speaker, and he spoke a bit about the struggles he had with wanting to be the absolute best at what he did. That may not sound like a struggle, but it was more about what it did to his mentality and how he interacted with other people. It got me thinking.


There exists this state that sits firmly in between arrogance and excellence that I feel like I’ve been tiptoeing around in for a lot of my life. In work environments and social circles, I’ve had supervisors accuse me of arrogance or condescension. I had one boss in the Air Force, who was probably the worst manager I’ve ever had in my life, specifically go out of her way to knock people down a peg (and gossip about it with other airmen afterwards - she was a real superstar).

I’m not saying folks have always been wrong. I’m not saying there weren’t times where I put too much swagger in an underdeveloped idea, or lacked the empathy to present myself in a way that was considerate to others. It’s a personal weakness of mine, and something I’ve been struggling with for my whole life. But I also think it’s something that’s grossly misinterpreted, to the detriment of anyone who wants to exude one of the most powerful, alluring, and dangerous aspects of personality there is: confidence.

That fickle ally: confidence. People constantly say that’s what make someone attractive over anything else. It’s what star athletes say liberates them on the field of competition. But too much of it - or just a little of it for the wrong reason - and the contempt is quick in coming from all around you.

That’s why I think it’s extremely important to try and occupy a duality that’s actually sort of looked down upon in many respects, especially in politics (god forbid someone changes their mind when they get new information! Be loyal to your ignorance or we won’t vote for you! I digress).

I like to have “strong opinions, loosely held.” I love that phrase. I first heard it on a Tim Ferriss podcast, in which he was interviewing a prominent - and brilliant - Silicon Valley venture capitalist and technology buff. The phrase gives shape to the amorphous philosophy I’ve been developing since high school that kind of started with the way I approached music. When I was not playing, I always considered myself a student. There was always something I could do better. When that instrument started making noise in a performance, however, I was the greatest player in the world. Those times when I let one of those two attitudes slip into the wrong situation is where I got in trouble. Either my playing was flat and boring, or I reached a plateau and couldn’t get any better.

A fantastic quote by one of my favorite composers, Frederic Chopin, was delivered to one of his students. He warned:

“I see that timidity and lack of self-confidence form a kind of armor around you, but through this armor I perceive something else that you don’t always dare to express, and so you deprive us all.”

Going back to where we started regarding success stories, there’s a common thread of advice I keep hearing from all of the most successful people in the world. If you’re scared of being confident, of pursuing excellence, because there is pressure all around you to remain mediocre, then you need to change your environment. Immediately. Always remember that you are the average of the five people you hang around with most; if they are making you guilty of your own strengths, then you’ve gone as far as you can go until you swap those folks out for someone who genuinely thinks you have the capacity to be the best in the world at what you do.

Bottom line? Being able to approach people confidently, to approach your work or your hobbies or whatever without timidity making you second-guess yourself, allows you to perform like you are actually preparedto perform. Being able to let go of that confidence and learn, communicate, and improve is just as essential. Saying to yourself “I am absolutely doing this right, until I learn that I am doing this wrong” is, in my strong opinion, the way to excellence. But, of course, if you have another way to look at it, I’m open.

The First Month of Mechanical Failure

I can’t believe that MECHANICAL FAILURE has been out for over a month now. It’s been a crazy, wild ride - one that I never really imagined would happen.

We had a great launch party over at Barnes and Noble Santa Monica. They were gracious and pleasant hosts, and kept announcing me as the voice of Fox McCloud over the speakers.

Barnes and Noble literally compared me to Douglas Adams, which left me about one sneeze away from peeing my pants in excitement. The Hitchhiker’s Guide books are absolute icons of science fiction humor, and to be compared to such awesomeness was so aweseomly awesome. And I even made impressions overseas at SFCrowsNest, which helped allay some fears I had about my humor not working as well in the UK.

Some marvelous reviews came flying in on the Amazon page, which has somehow stayed in the 4-digit book rankings on the Kindle store. That’s really great tenacity for a debut novel. It means that out of the bajillion books on Kindle, Mechanical Failure has steadily remained in the top 7,000 or so. It even dipped as low as 5,900. Those are numbers I can live with. Probably my favorite review was this one, where I inspired someone to neglect his newborn and his wife. That’s the kind of disruption of lives I like to see.

In a moment of fan awesomeness, I literally had someone specifically request that I write an iconic Star Fox quote in their copy of the book.

And of course, I had a homecoming book-signing in my hometown of Sparta NJ, where I sat in this classy setup. I feel like I need to be wearing a smoking vest here, or something.

So where do we go from here? Well, I’m setting up some other signings all across the country; keep an eye on my events page, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter if you want updates on when I’ll be in your neck of the woods. WORLDCON is coming up in Kansas City from Aug 17-21st, so you’ll find me there as well. In the meantime, I’ll be trying not to forget about my other career as a voice actor, and sharing news on some big projects in the pipe for 2016.

Lastly, a big THANK YOU to everyone that helped make this possible. I could never have done any of this without an incredible network of support from family, friends, and industry professionals. There’s a lot of truth in the saying that no man is an island. But I did go boogie boarding the other day and floated on my back for a few minutes in the Pacific Ocean…so I guess that’s a load of crap.

*Haven’t checked it out yet? Head over to my books page!*

Welcome to the New Website!

Hi everyone! Some of you more discerning, observant types might have noticed that something is slightly different about joezieja.com. Well, you’re right.

In partnership with the excellent designers over at Cubicflow, I’ve taken all of my disparate internet resources and merged them into one, comprehensive page. I discovered that trying to split myself into multiple personas was both inefficient and bad for my therapist, and I wanted a central web location.

You might have been redirected here from Voices By Joe, which used to be the home for all of my voiceover stuff. Don’t fret! You’ll still find all of the same content here, but it’s organized in a more streamlined, easy-to-access format. As of right now, please continue to use the contact form to reach out to me regarding new projects. I’ll likely be shuffling around some email addresses soon, but it will hopefully be transparent to you.

If you find anything out of sorts, please feel free to either let me know here in the comments section or give me a shout on the contact page. You may find that you’ll need to re-follow the blog if you had done so previously. You’ll find a space to do just that over to the right. While you’re at it, I encourage you to hit me up on Facebook and Twitter, where I post all kinds of news and fun stuff on a daily basis relating to writing, humor, voice acting, and general nerdery.

For now, enjoy exploring the new site!

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