We are the Internet

Full disclosure: I saw a design like this on chezapocalypse.com for their Cthulu themed YA Romance novel Awakened and I loved it.

As more information archeologists dig into the web, content creators have been getting the short end of the pickax. Dependent on services to host our treasures, we’re finding them hidden, buried behind copyright claims, closed off to adventurers who once sought to share them. The internet is still their dig site of choice, but it feels like we’re being shut out of it.

Last year, YouTube launched an Auto Content ID system to seek out copyrighted material from videos. It matched waveforms to a sound library. It protected YouTube from litigation, but it had an adverse impact on content creation.

These measures were to stop users from uploading entire albums and films scene by scene. Problems arose when critics needed to show b-roll from theatrical releases, DVDs, and video games to discuss them. Better safe than sorry, the copyright bots gave warnings to videos that used clips within the guidelines of fair use.

In the aftermath of Content ID, YouTuber Angry Joe wondered if game publishers were taking advantage of these changes to quell criticism, claiming infringement to censor bad press. His fear was that these new restrictions would reduce his show to a talking head with no visuals (fortunately, this wasn’t the case).

The panic generated by Content ID is one example of how artists are at the mercy of corporate entities.

Earlier this year, Facebook changed the way posts from Pages appeared in News Feeds. They wouldn’t show up until the Page Manager paid to push them. Authors trying to build a following were destined to be nickeled and dimed. With every link and every book announcement, they’d have to pay a micro-transaction.

These changes limit all the social elements from an author’s platform. Why post an amusing anecdote if you have to pay to promote? Why share a life event if it will reach less than one percent? Why upload a clip of an embarrassing karaoke duet if it’s not within your budget?

Unless your followers are checking your page, commenting and liking on their own, your voice will be reduced to a marketing drone. Your Page will be a graveyard for links to be buried in. I’ve written about Facebook’s changes at length, but I fear they’re part of a broader trend.

Hail Hydra!
Hail Hydra!

The FCC have proposed changes to their net neutrality policy, lifting regulations that make internet service providers neutral on the flow of info. ISPs will have the ability to charge websites more for express traffic. Data with financial backing will get to its destination faster than upstarts can afford to compete with.

I’ve written a satirical short on the subject, but these are my genuine feelings on it.

If Facebook is the only social network that can afford to stay in the fast lane, they’re the last ride we’ll get to see our friends. If YouTube is the only video-sharing service on the motorway, they can control whatever we say. If Netflix is the only streaming service on the Autobahn, we’ll be paying more to ride along. Less entrepreneurs on the expressway means less competition, and higher costs for everyone.

At the turn of the century there were a dozen search engine options. This ruling will make sure that Google will always be the only game in town.

Think about it like this: if BuzzFeed is the Walmart of the internet, your blog is the mom and pop shop in its shadow. If UpWorthy is the big chain restaurant your site is the hole in the wall struggling to make a name for itself. If ViralNova is Fox News your blog is late night public access television. They’ve got readers, sharers, and advertisers. They can afford to give service that you can not.

These changes to net neutrality will make it even harder for the little person to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

I have an irrational fear that the Internet will devolve into the worst parts of television: news feeds becoming cesspools of advertisements, ad walls blocking entry into every site, commercials running before every captcha.

Our participation will be limited to voting on talent competitions. Meaningful content will hide behind subscription costs. Unique perspectives will shrink. Unique voices will be drowned out. The tone of the conversation will shift from sharing ideas to buying and selling. Content creators will be reduced to consumers.

There’s a lot of money in making us feel ugly, lonely, and incomplete. Advertisers give us these problems so they can sell us the solutions. The more bandwagons we’re exposed to the more isolated we feel. The more attractive figures we’re shown, the more our mirrors distort. The higher our expectation for happiness, the more depressed we get.

The formula for advertisements has had a toxic effect on how we see ourselves. The net is one of the last refuges from it. Sure, ads are prevalent, but there’s a counterbalance. In this marketplace of ideas we’ve found more positive ways to promote ourselves.

Authors might send me annoying auto-DMs on Twitter, but they’re never going to make me feel like shit to sell a book (unless they’re in the self-help business).

We’ve had a free press for some time, the trouble was none of us owned one. The internet gave us free expression we had never known. Now that we’ve tasted it, we’re never going to spit it out.

There’s a reason I called my fears “Irrational.” I’m not panicking about these proposed changes to net neutrality, because I know I’m not the only one with something at stake. I’m not the only blogger, video-logger, or podcaster whose livelihood is on the line.

Content creators won’t be written out of the code, lost in the tag clouds, or blacked out of the search terms. We’re the draw that gets users to come. We’re the stream of ideas the world gets its revenue from. We’re the sugar that lets people stomach your advertisements.

We won’t bite our tongues, hold our criticism, or muzzle our dissent. We’ve grown accustomed to the sound of our own voices. You can buy all the microphones, all the loudspeakers, and all the stages in the world, and you’ll still be a whisper in the crowd. In here, your lobbies are meek, spam our email accounts automatically sort into the junk bin. Your agenda is lost in the choir, your pundits are outnumbered, your interests bore us. Your slant has been flattened, your closed communications are open to interpretation, your opacity is an emperor with no clothes on.

Shut us out at your own risk. We won’t come to your party if you make it too exclusive. We won’t think it’s cool if you leave us to talk to ourselves. We won’t buy anything if you price us out of the bar.

The internet is the closest we’ve come to equal representation inside the system. We’re not giving up our seats at the table. We like life outside of the bottle, we’re not going back in. We know our place, it’s everywhere. Our vines stretch past your walled off gardens. You can cut us off at the knees, but it won’t limit our reach.

We ARE the internet.

The Esoteric Order of Internet Service Providers

1. The Look

Net neutrality is the principle that all internet data should be treated equally, that no service provider should sell preferential treatment to the highest bidder, and that no company can discriminate what sites their users see. It prevents wealthier sites like BuzzFeed from being the fastest things on the net. It prevents Comcast from charging WordPress more to reach their readers at a decent speed. It prevents streaming services, like NetFlix, from passing these new expenses to their customers. It evens the playing field for established corporate entities and promising young entrepreneurs.

Over the course of two elections, this administration ran on the platform of preserving net neutrality. So, how could the President’s appointment for the chairman of the FCC propose its end?

If you’re like me, you suspect secret societies and Satanic rituals are somehow involved. The following is a dramatic reenactment of how I think the whole thing went down.

The Esoteric Order of Internet Service Providers

From the stairs, the underground lair looked like a wolf’s den. The pack was positioned with their fur to the ceiling. They knelt in a circular formation around the podium. With pelts quivering in the midst, they looked like beasts digging, but it was fingers, not claws that held their sacred rings.

Stepping onto the floor, the Alpha broke the fog, dragging a fur robe behind him. The silver mange of his wolfskin hood blended into his hair. Its frozen ears were raised in a permanent state of alarm. Its furrowed brow framed the rubies in its eyes. With its snout jutting out, its canines cast shadows down the Alpha’s face.

The Alpha’s flesh glistened, a pallid mask of skincare products. A pair of black, sunken eyes, hid behind his spectacles. When he looked to his followers, they skittered back with their tales between their legs.

The plumage from a flock of cardinals lined his robe, clasped together with fragments of antlers. Peacock feathers shot out from his shoulders, casting shadows on his snakeskin sleeves. His was a technicolor coat of death and nightmares. Standing over his followers, he was an apex predator.

The Alpha approached the podium, to find a wolf’s paw. A remote stuck out from the amputated limb. Looking to a projector on the ceiling, his gaze followed the beam to a towering curtain. Pinching the paw until he felt a click, he watched a blood red moon flash onto the screen.

“Arise my brothers.” The Alpha’s voice boomed with seasoned authority, a refined tongue that had no qualms with giving orders.

The pack did as instructed.

2. Bound Hands

The Alpha pinched the paw. Spinning, the moon shrunk into the dot of a question mark. Continue reading The Esoteric Order of Internet Service Providers

Take Back Your Imagination


Trying to write with pent up stress is like walking onto the set of your imagination to find someone else has taken over the production. While you stewed in your own juices the project was stolen by the producers. Succumbing to scrutiny, you left yourself open to a mutiny. Dwelling on the past, you lost half your cast. Undermining your authority, your self doubt took control of this movie.

Apprehension tilted the lights a few degrees in the wrong direction, just enough for your wit to get dim, just enough to cloud your vision, just enough to let the darkness in. It’s got you focusing on the wrong thing. You’re lost in the shadows while the daylight is burning.

Wardrobe’s carefully crafted costumes lay scattered on the floor. Throwing it’s weight around, Anger fills in for the star. Hamming it up, it gives a speech that never ends, it’s ranting and raving. Your lead watches from the sidelines with your Ambition, reduced to understudies by Anger’s show stealing.

Taking over casting, Rejection opens the doors to all its favorite players: employers, publishers, message-board commenters, ex-lovers, number forgetters, and head duckers from the bar. Anyone who can make you question the value of who you are.

Putting in an over the top performance, Doubt crushes the props, and tears down the backdrops. It leaves footprints on the set. Chewing the scenery, it picks cardboard from its teeth. Refusing to be ignored, Doubt leaves a lasting impression on everyone.

Filling in for the cinematographer, Fear staggers onto the scene drunk, keen to replace your choreographed long takes with a shaky cam. He’s seeing double. He wants to share the experience with world. Filling your mind’s eye with lens flare, he blots out the picture. Trying to pick apart the streaks, your brain gets scattered. Blinded by it, you loose the plot.

Pages blow across the ruins. Your script has undergone last minute revisions. Depression has ordered rewrites, it’s been picking you apart all night. It cut the subtext from your internal monologue. These new lines are very direct. They’re so on-the-nose they just might break it.

Reading it’s revision aloud, Depressions says, “It’s too late for your aspirations to come to fruition. Learn your place at the bottom, settle in.”

If morale was any lower it would be buried beneath the floorboards.

Stress doesn’t want to let you sit in the director’s chair. Pushing you out of your own picture, it wants to lock you in your trailer. It wants script approval. It wants creative control. Your bad habits are its passion project. It’s got a bullhorn for all of it’s defeatist rhetoric.

If storytelling is your career aspiration, you can’t wait for better weather conditions. You can’t wait for support or validation. You need to start shooting if you’re going to make your release date on time.

When you can’t use the first idea that comes to mind you need to give direction. Be a dictator. If you can’t call for quiet on the set, you’re going to have to record around the noise, you’re going to have to shoot around the clutter. You’re going to have to tell your story louder than any of your other stressors. It doesn’t matter if your head is clear, get something down on paper, you can fix it in post later.

This is your production. The show must go on. When Stress is out of good ideas, you need take back your imagination.


Jack of All Trades: Defier of Convention

As a blogger you’re warned not to be a Jack of All Trades. You’re told that writing about a diverse set of interests will confuse your audience. Social media gurus say, “Keep it simple stupid. Find a pigeonhole that suits you, find a basket to put all your eggs in. Repetition is the mother of a solid brand.”

I say, too much consistency can be a bad thing. If this is something you’re already feeling, dare I ask:

Is Your Blog Haunted by Your Brand?

Blogging your heart can be a tug of war with your brand.
Blogging can be a tug of war with your brand.

Bloggers, when you venture into uncharted waters, does a siren call steer you back to shore? When you go outside the lines, do you feel a push from an invisible hand? When you sit down to write, are you haunted by your brand?

The ghost of entries past tells you to stay on message, not to upstage your previous pages, but to maintain a constant image. Framing your sightline in its claws, it gives you tunnel vision. It’s on a mission to build recognition. It eats at your inspiration. It cuts down on confusion.

While you want the world to know you’re a complex person, your band is the red-eyed shadow that stands in your place. Perception is its passion. Consistency is its conviction. Recollection is its religion.

It hammers your multi-facets into the same round hole. It chops the branches off your skill tree, leaving you with just a pole. It values your parts greater than your whole.

Lost is the tug of war for control of your keyboard. Possessing your fingers, your brand has automated your writing. It toils on an spell to charm your target audience, a formula to fulfill their desires, to keep them coming back for more.

Consistent to a fault, your brand does the same thing over and over, expecting better results. It chants its slogan until it loses all meaning. It paraphrases past works, playing off their success, diluting your statements with each iteration. It’s a one trick pony galloping down a one track mind, a broken record playing the same one note joke. It took a big a idea and rationed it out into several little ones. They’re getting smaller all the time.

There’s a difference between being dependably good and giving your readers a sense of déjà vu. If they have to look at the date your article was published to know if it’s new, you have a problem. Having a recognizable brand can be great for drawing people in, but if it comes at the expense of interesting writing, it’s time to consider an exorcism.

Repossessing your Inspiration

The Triforce of accomplishment
The Triforce of accomplishment

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

So is mediocrity. After all, there are bad habits too.

If an article is a burden to write, it’s going to read like one. If your brand is giving you writer’s block, give it some wiggle room. Expand it to encompass other things on your mind. Just because you’re an authority on one subject, doesn’t mean you should deny yourself the thrill of discovery.

Bloggers specializing in writing advice should share excerpts from their fiction. What better way to establish your authority, than to show the proof in your pudding? This opens the door to other ways you can bring your audience behind the scenes. Introduce them to types of writing they’re not used to seeing. What better way to teach us how to write a treatment, than to show us the pitch for what you’re working on? What better way to inspire others, than by revealing the bag of tricks you draw from?

Your topic need not be so specific that it’s dogmatic. You should have the freedom to dip your foot in the waters bordering it. If you’re an author who likes video games, why not write a piece that deconstructs the plot devices they use? Why not challenge game developers to improve characterization (especially of women)?

Who says artists should be limited to one medium?

If you’re a writer with a background in photography, give us something cool to see. Good text is served by good imagery. Frame your words with good design. If you can’t come up with a context for your pictures, call them “writing prompts” to inspire your readers. Be a Jack of all mediums, a master of creation.

Once you’ve established your brand, let it branch out into other directions. If you’re afraid an entry will cause confusion, add an explanation that ties it in.

3. Mediums Enlarged

Explore other Genres

Hot on the heels of adapting The Chronicles of Narnia for the big screen, screenwriter Stephen Mcfeely gave a talk for my class. He mentioned how he and his writing partner were offered every fantasy script under the suns (plural), and why they rejected every single one. They didn’t want to be known as the children’s fantasy guys. So they passed on a dozen projects until Captain America: The First Avenger landed in their laps. They wanted their brand to be about more than one thing (granted they went on to work on Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but you get where I was going).

My screenwriting professor said agents prefer writers with at least three screenplays under their belts: one that’s personal, one that’s funny, and one with broad appeal. The theory is everyone has a journal entry in screenplay format kicking around in them, agents need to know that you can write something more. They have to be able to sell your versatility, which is hard if you’re married to just one category.

Writers shouldn’t feel like they’re bound to one shelf in the book store. They need to explore. Their cover models need to be able to swap their trench coats for armor, their helmets for veils, their flowing gowns for mud slicked rags. Put them through the entire wardrobe.

Be a Jack of all genres, a master of fiction. Take two tones and make a warped combination. If your fear of the dark is less than inspiring, why not let your sense of romance in? If your detectives are just going through the motions, why not contaminate their crimes scene with buckets of ectoplasm? If your world is overrun with vampires, isn’t it about time they get a visit from aliens? (If this concept is already a novel someone please point me in its direction)

4. Genre Enlarged

Stretch Your Brand to Fit other Interests

If you’re an author blogging to raise awareness of your fiction, you have a lot more freedom than you might think. Your brand might whisper, “Stick to posts regarding writing,” but you’d be surprised how many of your interests can be made to fit that description. Your brand need not shut you out of these topics, you just need to invite it in.

Pursue a range of passions and write them off as research. Every first hand account is something to draw from.

I’ve written how urban exploration can improve your writing, how memory palaces can play into your pitch sessions, and how the right music can contribute to the tone of your text. These are interests I have outside of my medium, but I found a way to fit them in.

Authors can talk about how their Yoga routine directly impacts their writing. There are connections between exercise and higher brain activity, this isn’t such a stretch (so to speak). Teach your brand to be flexible. Be a Jack of all interests, a master of fun.

My interests could stand to be more diverse, but these were the first ones that came to mind.
My interests could stand to be more diverse, but these were the first ones that came to mind.

Be Your Target Audience

Bloggers are told to have a target audience in mind. This is a good idea when you’re promoting your work, not when you’re composing it. The last thing you need when you’re staring at the blank page is performance anxiety. Writing with an awareness of your audience is like trying to pee at a trough urinal, looking to the ceiling waiting for something to flow. Sure, it can be done, but it’s not going to be your best work.

Write what you want to read first. Be your target audience. If you have eclectic tastes don’t let them go to waste. Sometimes this means mixing mediums, sometimes it means crossing genres, and sometimes it means bringing other interests into the conversation. Variety is the spice of life, consistency is the oatmeal of the internet. Be a taste maker, broaden your audience’s palate.

My brand strikes again
My brand strikes again

Stairway to Something (Audio Short)

Stairway to Something

Ever have that dream where you’re climbing a staircase with no end? Ever feel like you’ll never be satisfied no matter how far you’ve come? This dream journal entry takes the physics of that metaphor a little too literally. Listen as our hero tries to setup up camp on the slope of an incline. It’s metaphor my life at the moment.

Headbleed: an information age horror story

Headbleed Messy

Are you afraid of someone accessing your passwords? What if they got access to your person? The Heartbleed bug isn’t the most vulnerable part of your online identity, you are. Forget about someone hijacking your accounts. What if someone used your online profiles to replace you in the real world?

There’s more than one way to steal your identity.

If someone vague-booked on your behalf, would your friends know it wasn’t you? If someone took control of your tweets, would your followers realize you’ve been compromised? If someone commandeered your Instagram feed, would your friends notice a change in your point of view?

This story takes those questions to a whole new level. This is a preview of my work in progress, a millennial mystery, a social media thriller, a cautionary tale for those with a high connectivity clout score.

Something about seeing this icons dripping with blood just feels right
Something about seeing this icons dripping with blood just feels right

Continue reading Headbleed: an information age horror story

The Metropolitan (Audio Short)

The Metropolitan

Ever have that dream where it’s your first day on the job and you have no idea what to do, where to go, or who to answer to? Ever have that dream where all your coworkers have an instinctual connection to the corporation, while your link has been severed? This dream journal entry takes place in one of these companies, where all titles are jargon, and everyone speaks Greek. Listen as the hero takes cover behind his cubicle.

Andrew: A Story About Cinema Therapy

Cinema therapy can help you escape reality, but reality is not always so easy to get back to.

Originally a guest post for rachelintheoc.com, this essay reveals my coping mechanism for dark times, side effects and all (follow Rachel on Twitter @RachelintheOC). This story explains why I can’t have a conversation about depression without pop culture references peppered in. It’s one of my best pieces, which is why I had to share it here.


Andrew: A Story About Cinema Therapy

From ages two to six, I spent my waking hours at a living room daycare center. My playmates were the caregiver’s three sons. Their principal forms of recreation were hurling rocks through windows, leaving milk jugs in the street, and beating the living snot out of me.

It was their home, their shield generator facility, and I was the rebel scum who’d broken into it. They had to make an example. Their mother turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to my side of the story. She had stories of her own to watch.

Her boys kept the den locked down, the only window of escape was through the TV. While they amputated action figures, I fled to a galaxy far far away. Watching Star Wars on an endless loop, something happened to me. Turning away from the screen, hyperdrive lines streaked through my vision. Out the window, I watched Tie Fighters chase robins. Looking at the night sky, I saw the moon was no moon.

I ceased to see Mark Hamill on screen. I saw myself. I had slipped into Luke Skywalker’s Velcro boots. I was mourning Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. I wanted to go back to save Obi Wan. When my caregiver switched the TV off, I saw the world differently.

These boys weren’t my peers, they were storm troopers marching across my finger paintings, clones programmed to sit on my face. Seduced by the dark side of the force, they dragged me through the backyard, and pushed me into the Sarlacc pit. When I limped inside, Nanny Vader yelled at me for tracking mud across her carpet. She dragged me to the detention block by my ear.

This wasn’t a day care, it was a Death Star. I wasn’t clogging a laundry shoot full of toys, I was launching proton torpedoes into a thermal exhaust port. I wasn’t waving a tampon at my captors, I was slicing bad guys with a light saber.

When Nanny Vader told me to eat my peas, the ghost of Obi Wan Kenobi appeared beside her.

He waved his robes, “Don’t touch them, they’re rife with the dark side. Fling them under the refrigerator for the swamp monster.” Continue reading Andrew: A Story About Cinema Therapy

In Art We Trust: Writing for more than money

Ever been asked why you write if there’s no money in it?

In Art We Trust

A Writer’s Intervention

There is such a thing as a stupid question. I get asked the same one all the time.

“Why waste your time writing fiction? Don’t you know there’s no money in it anymore?”

There’s no mockery in this well-wisher’s tone, only concern. They ask with all the sincerity of, “Can’t you see, you’re drinking is killing you?”

The well-wisher holds an impromptu intervention challenging my life decisions. They put me through the Socratic method, pulling apart my reasons like Russian dolls, dismissing every one that could be open to interpretation. They keep looking for a motivation they can understand.

“Why not take all the skills you learned building your author’s platform and go into marketing?”

The well-wisher thinks the move from writing narratives to writing copy is a vertical transition, that coming up with a story and a content strategy are the exact same thing, that dialogue written for dramas and advertisements are equally engaging.

They see writing across genres as a diversity of brand voice. They see putting in your 2k a day as a clear workflow. They see editing as back end development.

They think that intensely personal memoirs and top ten lists are created equally, that the words are interchangeable, that all writing should have the same goal: get the reader to open their hearts by way of their billfold.

If your thought cloud doesn’t have a dollar sign on it, the well-wisher brushes it away. Having pursued financial incentives long enough, they forgot why people do things for any other reason. They only understand you if you’re trying to get paid, laid, or famous.

Conjuring up a smile, I rub my hands together. “Yeah but, there’s this story I have to tell…” I give them my pitch like my dignity depends on it. When their eyes roll, I warp my story to fit their sightline.

The well-wisher gives my life’s work a wishy-washy hand gesture. “Tell it in your free time. Trust me, I know people who’ve been published. They’re dirt poor. The printed word has no future.”

Their anecdote about a small publisher releasing a book with no promotion has become the best case scenario they tell everyone. They warn me about going down the same road, for they have found the dead end.

I try to tell them that they found a dead end, that their are brand new avenues for authors to pursue.

Shaking their head, they give that look that’s both a smile and a frown. Signing their tab, they calculate for tip. “If you ever want to eat again, you need to apply this talent of yours to digital content creation.”

I see flashes of headlines on a thumbnail grid, over pictures of movie stars, kittens, and kids. They’re all some variation of “AND YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.” Feeling ill, my inner punk persona wants to bubble to the service. I want to Hulk out, flip the table, and quote Bill Hicks. Instead, I just sit there and take it. In the absence of a rebuttal, the well-wisher believes my argument has been defeated.


Childish Things

When it comes to finger painting, parents nurture their children’s creativity. When the time comes to purchase an easel, they suggest an alternate activity.

I imagine this reaction transcends artistic mediums. The well-wishers of the world see your sketchpads and think you’re hoarding. They hear your demo tape and think it’s a cry for help. They watch your monologue and wonder why you’re talking to yourself.

The well-wishers want to help with your recovery, and the first step is to figure how to fit your artistic pursuits into a job with a suit. Do you like to draw? Get a job in design. Do you make music? Get a job writing jingles for commercials. Do you like to act? Get in front of a white backdrop and shill.

It’s not about living your dream, it’s about defining your brand. It’s not about getting your message out there, it’s about establishing a presence. It’s not about inspiring people, it’s about making sales.

To them, the highest form of human communication is a dollar exchanging hands.

When I was young, it was easier to get away with doing things just to do them. While I thought I was bringing something to life, the well-wishers thought I was killing time. It didn’t matter if I was writing pros or playing Super Mario, I was being quiet and I wasn’t breaking anything. When the well-wishers saw a division of labor between my art and homework, they saw cause for concern. When I was filling notebooks with poems while my peers filled out college applications, the well-wishers confronted me about my addictions. The time had come to put away childish things.

When I went off on my own, my actions suddenly required an explanation.

Roommates would ask, “Why are you smashing frozen vegetables in the bath tub?”

Prying my hammer out of the bunch of celery, I hit the pause button on my cassette recorder. “Because I needed something that sounds like bones snapping.”

Bystanders would ask, “Why do you keep stopping every few steps to set up your tripod in the middle of the sidewalk?”

Taking a snapshot, I glanced up from the viewfinder. “I’m making a stop-motion music video by walking the length of Hennepin Avenue.”

Park patrons would ask, “Why does your football have a power screwdriver sticking out the back?”

Mounting the contraption beneath my telephoto lens, I flicked the switch, letting the ball spin. “So I can show the world what a groin hit looks like from the football’s point of view.”

I got accustomed to their look of confusion.


My Relationship with Money

At family gatherings, I let the well-wishers define my blogging as some form of training. On Thanksgiving, they went around the table giving suggestions.

“You like movies, right? You could write reviews for a living.”

“You like giving advice, have you looked into life coaching?”

“You like technology, I just saw an ad looking for someone to write code for smartphone apps.”

I rub my forehead, “‘Write’ is a verb with many meanings, literature and programming languages are not the same thing.”

Any time I mention I’ve had a successful article they point out the black hole at the end of my rainbow.

“Now if there was only a way you could turn that into a paycheck.”

Money and I are spending some time apart. We were never madly in love. I was never rolling in it. It played hard to get and I got tired of pursuing it. It didn’t leave me broke, we’re just on a break. Of course my parents don’t understand. They thought we were good for each other, but really I’m just no good with it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for things to work out between us. I’d love to write a novel that woos the riches out of the world. I’d love for my debut to dispense with all my debts, for release date riches to release me from rent, for premiere profits to payback my parents.

I just can’t have money be the focus in my writing room. It makes a terrible muse. It never has an original idea. The unfamiliar scares it. Its notes suggest I change my story to resemble a young adult film franchise. Money talks, it prattles on and on.

Money can be sweet when it wants to. It’s always so much more attractive in someone else’s embrace. It’s hard to call its suitors “sellouts” with a straight face. Every writer wants love. Every writer wants to get paid.


Why Write, if not for the Money?

Because my mind is a frontier worth exploring, a genome worth mapping, a record of all my findings. I need to show my evidence, to externalize my emotions, to share my experience with someone, with everyone. It would be such a shame for this vision to go to waste, for this spark to fade before anyone can see it, for this brainstorm to run down the gutter into a puddle of pipe dreams.

Inspiration is my incentive. Creativity is my currency. Revelations are my restitution.

I do this because I have a hypothesis to test, a hunch to lay to rest, an experiment in artistic inventiveness. Every canvas comes with its own discovery, every study piques my curiosity, and every brush stroke an epiphany.

Brainchildren are my benefactors. Daydreams are my directors. Ideas are my investors.

I do this because I enjoy experiencing the fruits of my labor as I’m tending to them. In this result driven world, sometimes the process is the payment. Sometimes mastering a new medium feels like an accomplishment, even if I don’t show it to anyone.

The world needs disruptive innovators if it’s ever going to change. Franchises have turned into dynasties with simultaneous sequels, reboots, and spinoffs veering into their own realities. Hollywood keeps trying to sell our old action figures back to us. Actors who’ve played the same role are stepping on each others toes. I want to put my disgust to use.

I do this because I’m not satisfied with the offerings on the billboard, bestseller, or box office list. I don’t hear myself in their lyrics. I don’t find myself on their pages. I don’t see myself on their screens. I imagine I’m not the only one looking for something worth relating to. Something that took the words right out of our mouths, said what we all were thinking, and told it like it was.

I will pursue my foolish endeavor, until I’m wise for my efforts. I will write until I’ve written the book I’ve been waiting to read. Life is short. Art is long. Writing is telepathy, and my thoughts will be my legacy.

Why do I do what I do, if not for money? If you still have to ask, then you’ll never know.

Art is long

The Ritual (Audio Short)

The Ritual

Ever have that dream where you stumble into the middle of a black mass with nothing to sacrifice? Ever crash a red ritual with nothing but casserole? Ever realize you’ve entered a black robe and hood affair when it’s too late to go home and change? That’s dream logic for you, never sure whether it’s more important if you feel afraid or embarrassed.

In the dream, cultists chant incantations with midwestern accents. Beneath their masquerade masks, they might just be your friends and neighbors. Perhaps that’s the little league coach drawing a propane pentagram, and the leader of the Boy Scout troop setting it aflame. Perhaps that’s the head of the PTA, drawing a dagger from her sleeve.

Your subconscious got tired of high school settings, of locker rooms and hallways, it wanted try it’s hand at a new landscape.

This is a story about what happens when your subconscious forgets its plotting a nightmare only to resort to the oldest dream cliché in the book. Come for a scare. Stay for a punchline.