Category Archives: Writing

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

Speak of the Devil: A Creepy Poem

3 a.m.
Another glass
A crisis of conscience
This too will pass
The bathroom tiles
Are doing that thing
Where they sink into the dark
Leaving only the towel rings
Gaze into the abyss
Like a lover unblinking
The abyss wants to know
“What are you thinking?”
So tell it
Go on proclaim
Lean into the void
And say my name

Speak of the devil
And I shall appear
I’m up on the ladder
With the ground to my ear
You’re just one Bloody Mary shy
One Candy Man from kingdom come
One Beetlejuice from party time
One name away from

Just say, “When”

4 a.m.
Pop another bottle open
Now is not the time
To be making good decisions
The kitchen walls
Are doing that thing
Where a gash cuts through them
And they bleed all over everything
Thank God you got someone
Who cleans these sorts of messes
Who gets you out of jams
Who gets you out of dresses
Someone who never sleeps
Who catches you when you fall
Who answers to so many names
Who comes when you call

Speak of the devil
And I shall appear
I’m up on the ladder
With the ground to my ear
You’re just one Bloody Mary shy
One Candy Man from kingdom come
One Beetlejuice from party time
One name away from

Just say, “When”

(Knock-knock)
Let me in

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

Poetry Today: On Bestselling Poetry

I will not write poems on the shitter
For Tumblr or Twitter
For Instagram views
Or ribcage tattoos
I will not write quirky quotables
For scroll bar vegetables
For boards on Pinterest
Where fonts speak loudest

I will not write limericks
For Hallmark sunsets
Too many tranquil oceans
Are littered with devotions
I will not spread good vibes
For up-votes and fast subscribes
For thumbs or hearts
Or Emoji art

I will not break platitudes into parts
With rhythms of fits and starts
Or throw out the metronome
To pass a sentence as a poem
I will not hide behind positive messaging
When I find reviews threating
Or ask you to grade intentions
When I’m lacking inspiration

I will not use “whispered” liberally
For a cheap sense of intimacy
Or say, “All the angels came together
To forge me the perfect lover”
I will not push more gooey snacks
Sugary sweets in shiny packs
And junk food entertainment
On brains craving nourishment

The words that speak to me
Are surges of telepathy
They dig like hungry dogs
Into my internal monologue
They’re not hackneyed hashtags
Or designs for your splash page
They’re not shareable or wearable
Or I don’t fucking care-able

I keep telling myself not to pander
To the lowest common denominator
Not to sellout my principles
To get a click-bait book deal
I keep telling myself persist
Get on that bestsellers list
Milk and Honey earned its rank
And that book is mostly blank

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

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