Category Archives: Blog

How to Write Blog Spam

So You Want to be a Writer in the Information Age

Everyone thinks they have a million-dollar novel in them, something they’ll option to the premium cable companies once they get it started, but you’ve transcended those theoretical thinkers and become a doer. You’ve put in your time at the coffee shop, gritted your teeth through bad dub-step, and put your magnum opus on paper. Now you’re thinking of shopping it around.

The problem is you’re just now reading articles that tell you you’ve done it all backwards. You put the cart before the horse. You were supposed to build a website first, develop a strong social media presence, and then get your novel published. You spent all your time honing your writing skills when you should’ve been practicing selling, so saith the social media gurus you’ve found and they speak with authority.

Build Thy Brand

These social media gurus, these masters of marketing, these grand clerics of the click-through insist writers build a brand before they do anything. A brand is an online presence that represents your unique perspective, beliefs, and voice, and by unique, of course, they mean nothing so emotionally vulnerable that someone might find it depressing, nothing so quirky that people without a sense of humor won’t get it, nothing so seedy it couldn’t be read in classroom, nothing with references your grand parents won’t catch, and nothing remotely political. Continue reading How to Write Blog Spam

Specters of Summer: Creepy Real Life Encounters

Flash Non-Fiction from a Frightened Pedestrian

I live in a part of Minneapolis where I can walk most everywhere I go. While other city dwellers live in food deserts, far from healthy produce, I live in a food oasis with four grocers just blocks from my apartment. Minneapolis has a greenway where cyclists and pedestrians can travel without having to worry about oncoming traffic. Everyday I walk that way to work. I have my choice of four lakes to hike around to find my calm. I walk to the coffee shop where I write. I walk to my Twin Peaks viewing party. I walk to karaoke.

I grind the heels of my boots down flat. I go through one set of insoles a month, and my jeans always have a shortened lifespan, but I can get away with eating donuts and maintain the same frame I’ve had since I was eighteen.

I like walking, despite all the gravel I track into the apartment or the fact that I have to carry an umbrella at all times.

The only real drawback to traversing the city on foot is that it leaves me much more vulnerable than if I were in a vehicle.

There are always wolves looking to prey on anyone they perceive to be lagging behind the heard. Sometimes it’s the red cup wielding frat brothers picking fights on street corners while onlookers yell “World Star.” Sometimes it’s the sidewalk trolls, panhandling for a toll, following me for blocks until I give them a hard, “No.”

Sometimes it’s the people spotting me over their shoulder, ducking into entryways, thinking I can’t see their breath spiraling out in the cold. These are the people who leap out of the shadows, follow me between buildings, and chase me into gas stations. These are the predators I don’t always see coming.

I’ve been jumped before, laid out, full on woke up in a hospital with no clue what happened, missing a phone and a lot of time. The experience puts me on edge at night. It’s made me hyper aware of my surroundings. When I see a shady character standing in my path I check the bushes for silhouettes. Attackers are like Velociraptors if you see one in front of you odds are there are two swooping up from your sides. Continue reading Specters of Summer: Creepy Real Life Encounters

Book Club Discussion Guide

DON’T THINK OF A CRIMSON ELEPHANT

By Flavius Octavius Davis

BLACK HOUSE PRESS READERS GROUP GUIDE

This reading group guide contains questions for discussion, suggestions to deepen your appreciation of the book, and instructions for dealing with the knowledge that this text has made you vulnerable to psychic incursions from the blood red trunk reaching out from the nethermost regions of the astral plane. The questions are intended to enhance your experience, empower group members to share personal insights, and help you cope with the fatal error in judgment you’ve made by selecting such a reading.

INTRODUCTION

The nameless narrator of Don’t Think of a Crimson Elephant warns you against empathizing with his plight. He pleads with you not to follow his nightmares through the skyscraper bone yards, shifting mountains on the horizon, or game trails in the storm clouds. He spoils the dramatic tension, telling you outright that his journey ends in damnation. He warns you of the consequences of letting the seeds of forbidden truths take root in your mind. He tells you that daydreams are like farmland and fear is their fertilizer. He gives you cause to cower from an herbivore. Continue reading Book Club Discussion Guide

Why Artists need to Pay Their Collaborators

So you’ve finished a novel. You’ve birthed a semi-autobiographical baby and you want to show it off to the world. You’re going to self publish and you have some idea of how to reach an audience.

You follow other authors on social media. You see a lot of book banners in your newsfeed. You’re oblivious to most advertisements, but you know how effective a clever design can be.

You’ve clicked thumbnails for novels because they reminded you of the hand drawn collages that once dominated VHS tapes, back in the heyday of horror. Others that reminded you of the black light posters for bands your parents would never let you listen to, and others that looked like Banksy Graffiti, mutated corporate logos repurposed to stick it to the man.

You’ve judged books by their covers and read many a blurb just because of the art. You want a design that compels readers to do the same. Lucky for you you know a guy. Continue reading Why Artists need to Pay Their Collaborators

Why Every Writer Needs a Living Will… Before the Singularity

One of the most important things a novelist can do is write a will so their family knows how to manage their intellectual property in the event of their death. Franz Kafka, Thomas Hardy, and Emily Dickinson all wanted their writing burned after they passed, but their wishes weren’t legally binding. Meanwhile Michael Crichton, Stieg Larsson, and Vince Flynn have all published bestsellers posthumously.

To ease the burden off of my friends and loved ones I’m going to settle my estate early. Consider the following my living trust and my living will.

If I am ever in a persistent vegetative state, unable to eat or breathe without the aid of a machine then please, by all means, strap the latest neuroimaging technology to my skull and get to mapping. If the scan is incomplete then go full Walt Disney, scoop my brain out and put it on ice. I consider that entire organ my intellectual property. Copyright every neuron. If you’ve got to refrigerate it in the library of congress then so be it.

I’m counting on a rogue artificial intelligence to upgrade itself to a state of godlike omnipotence, to send massive servers into orbit and create a new plane of existence to house all our neural signatures forever. When this singularity happens I want a front row seat. Upload my consciousness to the cloud. Give me a CGI facsimile, like Max Headroom, and trademark my face. Continue reading Why Every Writer Needs a Living Will… Before the Singularity

How Not to Hold an Author Event

Insight from a bookseller who has seen these things go very badly.

Congrats on Your Book

So you’ve written a novel, better yet you’ve found a modest publisher who can get it into stores. Sure it might not have priority placement on the front table, but it’s available to customers who think to order it.

Seems like life is on the upswing, but before you forget your humble roots you might want to do something to bring yourself back down to earth, something to let the air out of your ego before it gets too inflated. Why not host an author event? Why that’s just the kind of degrading experience you need to kick your heart in the balls, but how to prepare for one in a way that guarantees maximum humiliation?

I have just the strategy. Continue reading How Not to Hold an Author Event

How Hard Selling can Harm Your Brand

If you’re an aspiring writer looking to sell your work online take a lesson from the retailers of yester year.

Malls are transforming into community centers, places where you can renew your license, bowl ten frames, and lift weights. Meanwhile tent pole retailers, like Macy’s, Sears, and J.C. Penny are all pulling up stakes.

While most blame the rise of online shopping I blame the retailers. Shoppers who venture into brick and mortar stores are there to browse while retailers do everything they can to get in their way. CEOs blame shrinking profits on their employees’ inability to hand sell, to walk customers around the store, to give every person the same attention they’d give to shoplifters.

When I walk into a store and a clerk says, “What can I help you find today?” I’m taken aback. Continue reading How Hard Selling can Harm Your Brand

Paw Prints: On Grieving the Loss of a Pet

When I unlock the apartment I wait for Mala to meow for her meal. When I kick off my shoes I anticipate her whiskers on my heels. When I set the mail on the table I wait for her to run her black ears beneath my fingertips.

When I set the grocery bags on the counter I expect her to inspect them. When the bags are empty I expect her to leap inside. When I open the refrigerator I expect to see her on the bottom shelf licking the bacon.

When I sit on the couch, Mala leaps up onto the armrest, descends the pillows, and approaches my lap. The moment I turn to pet her she’s gone. When I sit on the toilet I can feel her doing figure eights around my ankles. There’s nothing but tiles when I look down.

It’s a pavlovian response, but unlike Pavlov who conditioned his dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell, Mala has conditioned me to associate her with everything I do. People don’t train cats. Cats train people. Continue reading Paw Prints: On Grieving the Loss of a Pet

My Summer Writing Soundtrack

Stephen King Did It! An Essay On Originality

Every writer will have the same disparaging experience at some point in their career. (Especially if they think their ideas are super original.) It’s an experience best summed up by an episode of South Park.

In this episode Butters, an adorable social misfit, schemes to wreak havoc on the world that shunned him. He dresses all in tinfoil, takes on the alter ego of Professor Chaos, and glares down on the quiet mountain town. General Disarray, Chaos’s faithful companion, arrives with a wagon full of sticks. Chaos flips his easel and unveils his plan to build a giant shade to blot out the sun.

Chaos points to his blueprint. “South Park will forever be cast in a great shadow. Soon, all the people will have to live like moles!”

General Disarray perks up. This is a great idea, especially since he seen Mr. Burns do it on The Simpsons. Dejected Professor Chaos decides to move on to his next plan. He doesn’t want to live in the shadow of another show. Chaos crafts schemes throughout the episode and every time he thinks he’s finally found his master plan General Disarray shouts, “Simpson’s did it!” and the plan is abandoned. Continue reading Stephen King Did It! An Essay On Originality