Category Archives: Featured

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

Be Consumed: A Poem About Sharing Too Much of Yourself

There’s no time for hors d’oeuvres
No time for plating
You’re my last table
And I’ve kept you waiting
I arrive naked
With just a lid on me
I lift it and say,
“I hope somebody’s hungry”
 
I work a knife into the meat
All the way around I twist
Until I’ve carved a bacon strip
Right out of my wrist
Now lean back
Open wide, say, “Aaahh.”
As I unspool my forearm
Into your gapping maw
 
When I’ve stripped my hand
Right down to the gore
You bop up in your seat
A puppy yapping for more
So I move on to the other arm
And carve off bits of bicep
Strength I never put to use
A grip on things I never kept
 
I feed you the parts
That I can afford to lose
But you keep yapping
And I just can’t refuse
So it’s on to the vital organs
It’s on to things I’d rather not share
Still you’ve got an appetite
And I pride myself on being a good waiter
 
I open my skull
And give the best service I can
The best years of my life
All my best laid plans
By the time I’ve scooped my brain out
And fed it to you like bits of popcorn
I don’t know any better
Than to give my last beating organ
 
Take the napkin from your lap
Dab the corner of your lip
Don’t bother opening your wallet
Don’t bother factoring a tip
This meal is on me
(Or it was me I guess)
You live to consume
I lived to impress

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

How Pan Got His Flute

I coasted down the mountainside with dew beneath my feet and air kissing my cheeks. All the wolves howled, all the crickets chirped, and the all owls hooted as I passed. All the night creatures offered their greetings for I was their guardian.

I was Syrinx, the nymph charged with protecting the wilderness from the axes of man.

This was Arcadia a hidden place untouched by seasons, where flowers were always in bloom and rocks were evergreen.

My sisters’ laughter carried down the mountainside. They were frolicking on the highest peak, perfecting their dance routines. Most Nymphs used dance to sway the hearts of men from committing violence on the woodlands. I wanted to influence men’s hearts with my mind, with my writing.

I rode down the slope until I was certain I was alone. I reached into my tunic and produced the instruments of my craft: a sheet of papyrus, a quill, and a bottle of vegetable juice. Continue reading How Pan Got His Flute

Backseat Driver

My chauffeur has trouble concentrating on the road ahead. He checks the gas gauge more than anything beyond the hood. He’s more concerned with keeping his vehicle in working order than getting anywhere. He drives down an empty highway well below the speed limit.

His eyes wonder to the mirror, not to check for cars, but to examine his irises. They’re swimming in so much red they look like they’re glowing blue. He’s so entranced by the effect he doesn’t notice me, guzzling motor oil from a paper bag, in the back seat.

We’ve logged so many miles together he’s forgotten that I’m even here. He flicks the high beams on, thinking it’s fog he’s seeing, and not the secondhand puffs from a smoker who refuses to crack a window open. He adjusts his seat, blaming the sharp stabbing pain on his posture, and not the boot heel I’m pushing into his rear.

I slip a plug into the cigarette lighter and rest an exposed wire on my tongue. My saliva sizzles. Each static jolt is sugary sweet. I want to see how much energy I can syphon before he turns around. When my chauffeur notices the dimming of the headlights, he pulls over certain that it’s a problem with his eyesight. Continue reading Backseat Driver

We Are Living in a Dystopian Fantasy

What if the Trump administration was just the beginning of a Young Adult Fantasy story?

•••

Naomi felt like a baby in a blanket. She was swaddled, covered in drool, warm and safe. It took her a moment to realize she was wearing a straight jacket and that stiff surface beneath her wasn’t a crib, but the floor of a padded cell.

Naomi’s eyes took time adjusting to the light. The fluorescent fixtures had rainbow auras, they shined so bright they cast sunspots on the walls. The shadows swayed back and forth as her pupils shifted in and out of alignment. Finally the chamber revealed itself.

The cell was lined with a canvas with two tones: white on the top and stained at the bottom. Its cushions were lopsided from years of use. At this point the padding looked like it would do a better job protecting the walls than the patients.

Naomi’s head throbbed. It felt like a rat had burrowed beneath her brow, curled up, and started kicking the skin. It took all her strength to wrench herself up off the floor. Continue reading We Are Living in a Dystopian Fantasy

The Death of Neutrality in Trump’s America

When I started DrewChialAuthor.com my goal was to promote my horror fiction. Somewhere along the way I found writing advice pulled in more eyes than scary stories, so I adjusted the focus of the site and I saw a lot of new faces in my Twitter feed. Many of these profiles were in line with my midwestern liberal beliefs and many were hashtag-conservative. I thought it was neat that a shared passion for writing extended over ideological borders.

I figured if I stayed on topic I could make myself accessible to everyone. It didn’t matter whether readers were from a red state or a blue state, whether they were centrists or out on the fringe, all were welcome. My brand was Switzerland.

I was an advocate for storytellers: whether they were the next Marquis de Sade writing orgiastic odysseys to offend the oligarchy or the next Tom Clancy writing patriotic page turners for puritans, I didn’t care.

I was a good little brand builder. I gave advice on structure, beating writer’s block, and building an online platform. I was safe for work. I didn’t use profanity (outside of fiction) and I didn’t take politically polarizing positions. This felt suffocating when I had a strong opinion on major news events. Continue reading The Death of Neutrality in Trump’s America

How to Speed Write for National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short).

shield-nano-side-blue-brown-rgb-hires

Nearly 500,000 people participate in NaNoWriMo every year. Many are first time novelists who have decided to take the plunge, which means a lot of people are about to realize just how many hours there are in a day.

Here are some ideas to help you churn out a story as fast as possible.

Fortify Your Writing Space

The first thing you’ll to want to do is make sure that your bunker is stocked with nonperishable food items, water purification pellets, and enough Neosporin to cover a month’s worth of paper cuts. This way you can avoid the marauders that will be plundering your home in the wake of the election. Oh and once you’re several stories underground make sure your short wave radio is nowhere near the room where you’ll be writing. All those panic wrought police officers will break your concentration.

Now if you’re one of the poor souls stuck aboveground you’ll need a playlist to drown out all the screams.

I work to dark atmospheric soundtracks. This year I’ve been writing to the scores for Stranger Things, Mr. Robot, and Before the Flood (pretty much anything by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross will get you in the right mood to write horror).

Scores for TV shows are perfect for writing because the composer has left space for dialogue, there’s room to hear yourself think, they’re usually slower than film scores, and there’s no lyrics to steal your attention. Continue reading How to Speed Write for National Novel Writing Month

Happiness Anxiety: How the Pursuit of Happiness Can Bring Us Down

Anxiety comes in many shades:

  • General Anxiety Disorder
  • Social Phobia
  • Agoraphobia
  • Specific Phobias
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Panic Disorder.

Between these hues are even more subtle tones.

I’d like to explore two of the tones between General Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia. One is called “status anxiety,” a form of anxiety experts are starting to recognize, and the other is a term I call “happiness anxiety.”

What is Status Anxiety?

Status anxiety is the fear of how our social status is perceived by our community. Author Alain de Botton coined the term “status anxiety” in a book and a documentary film of the same name.

Our anxiety over our status is why we project success, confidence, and happiness when we don’t feel it. We believe people will treat us with more respect if we exude these traits. We may not feel successful, but we know the best way to get there is to fake it until we make it. It’s why we collect status symbols to show off our value.

In and of itself the Apple Watch is a glorified fitness tracker, but as a material merit badge that slick LCD watch face tells the world we’ve got money to spare.

De Botton claims status symbols, like the Apple Watch, extend beyond our fashion sense into the items that adorn our homes, the degrees we’ve earned, our career titles, our social network notoriety, the relationships we’re in, and the meaningful milestones we’ve gathered through the years.

De Botton believes our endless quest for treasures and trophies is actually a hunt for love and approval and our anxiety over status will persist long after our animal needs are met.  Continue reading Happiness Anxiety: How the Pursuit of Happiness Can Bring Us Down

Barkley Carver, World’s Most Prolific Hack Writer, Teaches the Craft

Become the Supervisor of Your Own Fiction Factory

Anyone can be an author. It doesn’t matter your age, academic background, or nationality, you have what it takes to write the great American novel.

Forget what you’ve heard. You don’t need to be born to successful writers with roots in New York or Los Angeles, you don’t need a knack for grammar, talent, or luck. You just need to learn the tricks of trade from a master of the craft.

Barkley Carver, pilot, and credited author of 15 books to debut on the New York Times bestsellers list, reveals his winning formula for franchise fiction (for the first time under his current pen name). In this online class, he guides you through every aspect of writing a serviceable novel, from finding cold cases to base your mysteries on to getting New York’s Department of Health to grant you access to the divorce records so you can see which publishers are on the rebound. Continue reading Barkley Carver, World’s Most Prolific Hack Writer, Teaches the Craft