The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

I uncovered this poem I wrote about the Humphrey Bogart classic 1941 noir The Maltese Falcon and thought it had an intriguingly dark mystique to it (spoilers for The Maltese Falcon follow).

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Sam Spade had to turn her in
Not just because she killed his partner
Because she played him for a sap
Him and every man she’d ever been with

The Falcon was a red herring
You could argue that his heart was too
As the elevator doors eclipsed her eyes
And took her down to hell

“When a man’s partner is killed
He’s supposed to do something about it”

He slides Exhibit A to the detective
The thousand-dollar bill
She tried to buy his loyalty with
If only she had thought to buy it with something else

There’s a smile on one side of his face
The truth rests on the other
He’s just made a sacrifice
To himself

“All we’ve got is that maybe you love me
And maybe I love you.”

There’s a cigarette where her lips could be
A fedora where her hands could have rested
A collar she could’ve wrapped her arms around
A lead bundle where his heart could’ve been

He tells his secretary to have Archer’s name taken off the door
His killer’s been sent up the river for twenty to life
It was duck soap when he figured it out
But it won’t make his bed any warmer tonight

“I hope they don’t hang you, precious,
By that sweet neck”

Boss Fight: A Poem about depression… and video games

I shattered all my armor
That time I took a hit
Went off on a fetch quest
To try to find my shit
Went outside my element
Too far for even me
Went over the edge
Of the realm of possibility
Mistook the map for the terrain
Hit an invisible wall
The platform vanished
And I had a great fall
Lost all of my progress
Damn near rage quit
Started swinging in the dark
Until I found something to hit

Depression is a boss fight
A fire-breathing dragon
With an infinite health bar
And wild attack patterns
It never sees stars
It never blinks red
And if you stop running
It will feast upon your head

I leveled up
For the fight ahead
Enchanted my helmet
To get right in the head
Filled up my health gage
Saw a mage about some sage
Did a serious inventory
Of all my baggage
But at the first trapdoor
I straight up choked
All my coping mechanisms
Straight up broke
Now I’m down in this arena
With this overpowered thing
I’ve no more fight in me
But I’ve gotten really good at dodging

Depression is a boss fight
A fire-breathing dragon
With an infinite health bar
And wild attack patterns
It never sees stars
It never blinks red
And if you stop running
It will feast upon your head

RETAIL HELL COVER REVEAL

New Author Photos Nighttime Edition

The other night my friend Bryan Politte and I took a walk around the lake with some remotely operated lighting gear. Our goal was to create portraits that looked nightmarish and weird, pictures that practically screamed HORROR AUTHOR. I think we achieved our goal.

My Reoccurring Nightmare

I’ve been having this weird reoccurring nightmare. The thing is I’m not up on all that dream interpretation jargon. My brain keeps trying to tell me something, but I keep missing the point. Maybe you could help me figure it out.

The dream takes place in a vast palatial estate in the middle of the forest. I have no idea who owns the property or why they built so far from civilization. All I know is that the beds are always filled and that the guests have no clue how they got in them.

While this can be a jarring experience, the guests always seem to settle in. No one ever makes a break for the exit. Besides, where would they go? Every window looks out onto bark surfaces. The pantries are surrounded by towering evergreens. The dining hall is built upon a swamp and the bedchambers sit in a field of reeds.

The forest is well on its way to reclaiming the building. Maple seeds swirl through the skylights, vines droop from the rafters, and pollen is built up on everything like snow. Muskrats swim beneath the floorboards, frogs congregate on the windowsills, and raccoons and crows fight for perches on the shingles. There are cobwebs in every corner, nests in every crossbeam, and cocoons in every gutter.

For its part the estate refuses to go quietly. The support beams are always groaning, the foundations are always settling, and the shutters are always slapping against the side of the building.

The estate has a footprint the size of a castle, yet there are no grounds, no carriage houses, and no paths leading to the front steps.

There’s only one way to find this place.

I come here on nights when I’ve spent too much time pacing the apartment, too much time in the kitchen drinking, and too much time on the pillow thinking. I lie down in the city and rise up from my bunk in the woods.

Despite the size of the estate I can’t help but think of it as a cabin. Perhaps it’s the pine strips stacked floor to ceiling, the hardwood screeching under foot, or the log furnishing. Perhaps it’s the quilts hanging from the banisters, the moose antlers, or the smell of maple in the air.

I breath it all in. Continue reading My Reoccurring Nightmare

New Author Headshots

My friend Keane Amdahl did me a huge solid by taking  these headshots for my author profile. What do you think?

These are the daytime shots. The nighttime shots will be up soon.

 

On Writer’s Block and Maladaptive Daydreaming

Like most writers, I have a fantasy prone personality. This proves useful when I’m visualizing the layout of a haunted hotel, filling the art deco décor with pipe organ chandeliers, gargoyles, and mirrored elevators. It proves troublesome when I feel an urge to sit in total silence for several hours imagining what it would’ve been like had I become the rock star my high school self was certain I would, contemplating how I would’ve downplayed public breakups, circumvented beefs with other artists in the press, and teased out topical new material.

Some fantasies boost our imaginative powers while others just eat our hours. That brings us to one of the most insidious forms of writer’s block an aspiring author can face:Maladaptive Daydreaming. Continue reading On Writer’s Block and Maladaptive Daydreaming

He Has Many Names Cover Reveal

Between the Extremes

Expectation arrived early
Reality was fashionably late
Expectation put out a vibe
Reality didn’t take the bait
I pulled up a stool
Between the extremes
Got too drunk to sort
This whole quantum scene
Where maybe things are
Or are not happening
Where everything is open
To misinterpretation
Now Mr. Brightside is blaring
Because the DJ is a sadist
And when the pre-chorus hits
I don’t want to think about this shit

Between the possibilities
I lost the path
Here I’m stuck on the sidelines
Doing the math
Either you’re lying
Or in plausible denial
Passive aggressive
Or as cold as crocodile
To think we gave special care
To somebody else
Kept it in the shadows
For the sake of his health
Now that we’re through
Why are you so keen to be
Bringing your party
Into the light with me?

Of disco balls and gaslights
Open arms and bar fights
I’ve got an axe to grind
Between two minds
Of diamond rings and casual flings
Body blows and mood swings
I’m the dunce
In two places at once
You were right
I’m just a two-faced hypocrite
One side is fighting tears
The other is making a show of it
I’m trying not to believe
I’m trying not to hope
I’m trying not to backslide
I’m only trying to cope

I watched someone propose
In the place we first met
He got down on bended knee
While I tried so hard to jet
I couldn’t make it out
Before she said, “Yes”
And when the applause hit
I was a total fucking mess
I have one trigger
One weakness, one curse
I’m not asking you to fix it
Just not to make it any worse
My stitches are fresh
The blood is still pumping
I’m begging you, please
Don’t pull this string

I happened to you
You’re ongoing to me
You’re so over it
I’m waiting to be
I don’t need the last word
It’s all yours take it
Tell me right off
But go off with it
Have the life
That I’ve already botched
Find true love
Just don’t make me watch
Leave me where you found me
Between the extremes
Reality and expectation
To live out my daydreams

5 Lessons I Learned Writing The Pigeon King

When an aspiring podcaster finds his balcony overrun with pigeons he learns that madness doesn’t migrate, some sounds cannot be suppressed,and that isolation can serve as an invocation entity known as The Pigeon King. Read the short story now on Amazon.

Everything The Writer Sets Up Must Payoff

I wanted to write a story about a man who had such an intense aversion to noise pollution that he goes totally insane. I chose pigeons as the source of his torment because they couldn’t be reasoned with and I made the hero a podcaster to make his dilemma all the more maddening.

I figured the hero’s podcast would be something like This American Life, human-interest audio essays, that sort of thing. It just needed to be something that he could record alone, because madness, as you know, is an intimate experience.

I decided to make the subject of his recordings the Japanese shut-ins known as the hikikomori. This would setup the theme of isolation and foreshadow the madness to come.

It wasn’t until much later that it occurred to me that my hero’s critical perception of the hikikomori would factor into the ending.

A few chapters in I’d decided a monster known as the Pigeon King monster would show up in the third act, but I had no clue what it would do when it got there. In a lesser story it would’ve pecked our hero’s eyes out and that would’ve been that, but I decided to go for a twist and have the Pigeon King challenge the premise of our hero’s podcast, bringing everything full circle.

There Are Legal Limits to Your Pop Culture References

So it turns out you can say your hero is an obsessive fan of Harry Potter. It’s okay to name drop famous characters so long as you’re not giving them staring roles, but the more you reference Wizarding World lore the closer you get to that blurry line. Once you quote dialogue from another source you’re over the line completely.

This may not be an issue when you’re posting on fan fiction forums, but it is when you’re selling things on Amazon. Having read the site’s terms and conditions I decided to gut the bulk of my hero’s references.

Hint at the Supernatural Before the 3rdAct

IfThe Pigeon Kingwas a movie I imagine a lot viewers in the audience going, “Wait, what?” during the 3rdact. I mentioned that there’s a monster, one that manifests in a way that defies all physical, and medical, logic. It’s pretty clear in the first chapter that something bizarre is afoot in our hero’s condo, just not thatbizarre.

The most rewarding twists give the audience just enough evidence to sense the possibility of a twist on the horizon while leaving them smacking their forearms saying, “Why didn’t I see that coming?”

Ultimately I think I kept too much of the mystery to myself.

A Clear Genre is More Important than Originality

When you’re pitching to a film producer the last thing you want to hear is, “That sounds complicated.”

That’s producer-speak for this story would be too tough to sell audiences.

I could tell you that The Pigeon Kingis a story about one man’s strugglers with a pigeon infestation, but that sounds more like a Looney Tunes cartoon than a short story.

When I shot a Twilight Zone-esque book trailer for The Pigeon King I made it a point to mention “something supernatural summons these squawking squatters” but I couldn’t commit to calling it a horror story. Sure, there’s a sense of looming dread that leads to a great big supernatural reveal, but most of it is played for laughs.

I like genre blurring stories but they are a tough sell, especially for a relative unknown like myself. If I really wanted to put my best foot forward on Amazon I should’ve lead with my next short Retail Hell, a story about a subterranean superstore that leans a lot harder on horror.

Closing Thoughts

I love The Pigeon Kingas it’s written. It’s just is one of those stories that’s tough to sell to people without spoiling the ending. The next batch of stories I’m putting on Amazon are more premise driven and their genre and tone are more evident by their titles. Continue reading 5 Lessons I Learned Writing The Pigeon King

Advice for writers, stories about the world they live in.

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