Category Archives: Writing

Are You A Social Media Sociopath?

Writers are always told to boost our presence online, to engage fans on social media and stake a claim on our respective genres, but these boosting bombardments eat into our writing regiments. Our manuscripts sit on the back burner while we argue with Reddit moderators. Our word counts diminish with every tweet we finish.

Writers only have so much creative energy. If we are always trying to lure readers to our blogs our energy drains fast. Our labor of love starts to feel laborious.

We’d rather use that stamina we spend on social media telling stories. So we ration our online interactions. We compose compelling questions so we can smuggle our spam onto public forums. We target influencers to reach new readers. We hijack hashtags.

The problem with rationing our involvement is that we tend to come across as inauthentic, intrusive, and inorganic.

“You say you’re struggling with depression, that it feels like no one will listen, and the walls are closing in? Sounds similar to a character I’ve written. I prescribe a double dose of my fiction. One copy for yourself and another for a friend.”

Not every writer on social media is stealth marketing to the unsteady, but thinking algorithmically does do something to your personality. Once the phrase “cultivate relationships” enters your vocabulary you lose some of your emotional intimacy. Your ability to empathize is diminished when you start seeing people as clicks. Continue reading Are You A Social Media Sociopath?

Be Consumed: Video Reading

A twisted little poem about giving up everything for your art. Continue reading Be Consumed: Video Reading

An excerpt from The Pigeon King

The following is an excerpt from The Pigeon King, my new short story (at 7,500 words it’s more of a novelette) now available on Amazon.

Chapter 1: A Little Too Quiet

It was move in day and my new condo was far from furnished, save for a coffee table and a floor full of boxes. Still I couldn’t wait to test the acoustics. I had tried to record a podcast in my previous basement apartment, but every passing car, barking mutt, and hooting frat boy had me pressing PAUSE. Recordings that should’ve taken minutes took days.

That’s why I persuaded my parents to invest in a top floor unit, high above the street corner brawlers, bus stop freestylers, and dissonant dive bars.

My new building was made for peace and quiet. It had glass fiber insulation, triple pane windows, and concrete walls. It had two security officers, cameras in every corridor, and a lease specifically stating: no parties whatsoever.

No longer would I wake up to a gaggle of giggling gals, flooding out of the stairwell in stiletto heels. No longer would I be a captive audience to a domestic dispute and no longer would I have to hear the makeup sex that came after.

I could sleep comfortably knowing the only thing waking me up in the middle of the night would be my own bladder.

The condo was like something out of a dream. When I stood in the center of the living room all I heard was the ringing of my own eardrums. I couldn’t believe this was mine, Daniel J. Cameron’s Casa de Heaven.

I shut off all of my electronics, except for the computer, turned down the furnace, and flicked off the lights. I dumped my journalism texts out and taped the box over the window. I even draped a blanket across the balcony doors just to be safe.

With the exterior of the space taken care of I pinned a roll of duct tape to a desk lamp, stretched a sock around it, and positioned it in front of my microphone. Voilà: I had a homemade pop filter to catch those stray P and B sounds before they could taint my audio with artifacts.

It was finally time to open the decibel meter on my phone. A whisper quiet library sits at 35 decibels. A bedroom at night rests at 30. I’d managed to get this place down to 25.

I sat cross-legged at the coffee table, loaded the script for my podcast, slid my headphones on, and clicked RECORD on the computer.

“According to the Washington Post, it’s estimated that 25,000 American prisoners are spending time in solitary confinement, many in cells not much larger than pool tables. Their every movement is watched. Their toilets and showers are controlled by remote. They rely on food trays to keep track of time.”

I scrolled down the page.

“Psychiatric professionals say solitary confinement does permanent psychological damage, increasing an inmate’s likelihood to reoffend, and for those with mental illness, it increases the odds that they will commit suicide upon release.”

There was a faint shrieking sound in my headphones.

I hit PAUSE, unplugged the microphone, and checked for knots in the wires. All the soundproofing in the world wasn’t going to help a damaged cord. When I was satisfied I’d smoothed the problem out I plugged the cord back in and hit RECORD.

“A special investigator for the United Nations classified any stay in solitaire in excess of 15 days as torture. We are social animals. We’re not made to endure such conditions. This problem with our prison system is a worthy topic, but the one I’ll be addressing is the effect of isolation on human beings, and why so many Japanese men have chosen a solitary confinement of their own making.”

The shrieking flared up again. It sounded more like chatter, like a dozen shrill voices trying to cut each other off.

I hit PAUSE and unplugged the microphone cable. It was possible that the cord wasn’t grounded and that it was picking up a radio signal. I coiled it up, set it on the coffee table, and hit RECORD again.

“They’re called the Hikikomori, or the withdrawn, reclusive young adults who find a quiet dignity in detachment. They get their social interactions vicariously through entertainment. Every culture has its escapism, but the Japanese have a term for people who dive so deep into fantasy they get lost: the otaku. Many Japanese high school students drop out to live vicariously through characters in manga, anime, and video games.”

There was another shriek, another surge of what had to be radio chatter. I took a deep breath and soldiered on.

“According to one epidemiological study a quarter of a million individuals are living as hikikomori right now. Many have been in self-imposed solitaire for twenty years or more. Japanese social services are so concerned with what happens when the parents of the hikikomori die they’ve dubbed the situation ‘The 2030 Problem.’ The real question is: what would compel so many members of a generation to wall themselves in?”

The shrieking came back. This time it didn’t dissipate. I dug my nails into the coffee table and scratched four furious lines into the finish. I hit PAUSE and strangled the microphone until I was certain the sound wasn’t interference but something it was picking up from the environment.

The cord dangled between my legs as I waved the microphone around the living room. The levels stayed flat as I passed over the refrigerator, the toilet, and the vents. The levels spiked when I got to the balcony doors. That’s when I peeled the blanket back and saw the source of my torment.

There were pigeons, a flock of twenty, bobbing their crooked little beaks, grunting and cooing. A pair of them teetered on their claws, circled one another, and rustled their feathers. They lunged forward, entwined their necks, and pecked at each other’s eyes. Their plumage was pocked and matted. Brawling was clearly part of their daily routine.

The other pigeons seemed oblivious to the fight. They dragged their fat bellies along the planks, walked in circles, and pecked at the cracks.

They didn’t see me until I threw the sliding doors open, but when I did all of those demon doves twisted their necks around.

I clapped. “Shoo, shoo, vamanos!”

The pigeons cocked their heads. They recognized the tone, but not the tongue. I shook a broom at them. It took several swipes before they got the good sense to heave their chubby little bodies over the railing and fly on.

Satisfied, I went back to the coffee table, tapped my phone, and checked the decibel level: 40, 35, 30, and 25. When the flapping of pigeon wings faded I put my headphones back on, brought the script back up, and hit RECORD.

“Depression will affect one in every four people on earth, but few regions will find so many resorting to total isolation as Japan. The hikikomori are a byproduct of a culture that values the prosperity of the group over the happiness of the individual.”

I paused, just in case there were any stragglers out there.

“Conformity is so ingrained in Japanese society that many students wear the same uniforms their parents did. They walk the same well-trodden paths, because they know that if they step out of line everyone will notice.”

A breeze flowed through the blanket. I turned toward the balcony, and listened. When I heard nothing I scrolled down and kept reading.

“In Japan, there’s so much pressure to go with the status quo that failure can prove traumatizing. Young men convert their bedrooms into fallout shelters. So many pressures reinforce their fear of the outside world: the pressure to prove themselves to their parents, the pressure to live up to the expectations of the opposite sex, and the pressure to mold themselves into model employees.”

I took a deep breath just as the cooing sounds returned.

That’s when I lost my shit and started strangling the microphone. “Other pressures include the pressure to pay back my student loans, to break into broadcasting, and to record a fucking podcast without being interrupted!” I’d gone off script.

The cooing seeped through the cracks in the sliding door, the blanket, and settled in my eardrums.

I hadn’t heard any birds while I was unpacking, but there with the microphone on, my headphones sounded like a pair of pigeon coops. I flung them off, tore the blanket down, and found the first flock had made some new friends. Now there were forty of those avian vermin, lining the railing, pecking the wood, and shitting on everything.

I reached for something on the mantel. This was one of my few prized possessions: a replica of the wand wielded by the infamous boy who lived himself.

I opened the door. The flock twisted their necks and fixed their orange eyes on me.

I waved the wand. “Relinquo.”

The pigeons merely pecked at the space where I’d pointed. When they realized I hadn’t thrown any breadcrumbs, they resumed their discordant song.

I waved the wand again. “Repulso.”

A few pigeons cocked their heads, but the charm was lost on them.

I slid the door open further, stepped out onto the deck, and poked the wand right into the flock.


I rarely uttered the explosive curse, even in jest. Nevertheless, it didn’t work. The pigeons hopped out of the way, but they were oblivious to the magic of the stick.

“Fine. I’m going to go put a kettle on and when I come back I’ll make it rain.”

I’m guessing that some retiree, with too much time and too much bread, had conditioned these birds not to fear the hand of man.

I’d have to reeducate them.


CLICK HERE to find out what happens next.

Why Self-Publishers Shouldn’t Get Opening Night Jitters

Whenever I post a short story, a video, or even a blog entry I feel a like a director at a red carpet premier. Not a celebrated director like Christopher Nolan or J.J. Abrams. More like a bottom tear auteur like Tommy Wiseau or Ed Wood, the kind of director who’s footing the bill for every exuberant extravagance out of his own pocket.

I couldn’t imagine feeling like a studio darling with a promotional juggernaut behind me. I always feel like the sad dad with a dream of being the next Steven Segal and enough free time to write, direct, and star in my own vanity project.

In this opening night allegory I spend almost all I have getting my movie made. I’m hoping to entice distributors, but I failed to ration for a long run. Instead I sunk my entire promotional budget into one weekend.

Now the only poster I could afford has the light on my forehead glaring in the opposite direction as the sun in the background. The only billboard I could afford was a fire-damaged frame leaning sideways atop the theater. The only news outlets I could get to cover the event are videographers working off college credit.

A few of the cast members got off work to be in attendance. They play on their phones in their tuxedo t-shirts, sweat pants, and skorts. I’m chain-smoking in the entryway to the theater waiting to cheer the first attendees on. Continue reading Why Self-Publishers Shouldn’t Get Opening Night Jitters

The Pigeon King Book Trailer

The Pigeon King is now available on Amazon!

Submitted for your approval, a mind-bending short story that’s one part Alfred Hitchcock and another part Wile E. Coyote.

We invite you to enter the home of one Daniel J. Cameron, an aspiring podcaster with a penchant for judging other cultures. Daniel lives a privileged lifestyle in a condo purchased by his parents, but something is about to break his comfortable silence: Pigeons. Avian vermin.

Birds of a feather flock toward Daniel’s balcony, clogging his home with cooing sounds. He’ll seek peace by going to war with them. Little does he know something supernatural summons these squawking squatters to sully his solitude.

In just a moment Daniel will learn that madness doesn’t migrate, that some sounds cannot be suppressed, and that isolation can serve as an invocation of a entity known only as “The Pigeon King.”

We invite you to partake in a truly bizarre experience, from the Twilight Zone to Amazon and ultimately your e-reader. Follow the link to find out what happens.

You’ll never let your guard down around pigeons again.

The Pigeon King: Cover Art Reveal

From conception to inception here is the cover art for my latest work of deranged fiction The Pigeon King, soon to be available on Amazon.

The Pigeon King is the story of a podcaster who goes to war with the ultimate noise polluters: pigeons.

Daniel J. Cameron is trying to record an audio essay on the Hikikomori (Japanese shut-ins who substitute their social needs with fantasy and entertainment). The problem is an avian infestation won’t let Daniel get a word in before ruining his recordings. It turns out there’s something supernatural about their presence and it has everything to do with the subject of the Daniel’s recording.

In a Twilight Zone-style trailer (I’ll show you later) I say the story is, “One part Alfred Hitchcock and another part Wile E. Coyote.”

With this cover I wanted to capture the cartoonish nature of the Daniel’s predicament. Charles Burns’s covers for Carl Hiaasen’s fantastic mysteries inspired this layout.

I thought it would be fun to give you a peek behind the curtain of my artistic process, from the first pigeon photos I took to the first illustrations and finally the cover itself.

Expect a lot more Pigeon King content on the blog in the not too distant future.

The Pigeon King is now available on Amazon!

A Fair Price Vlog

A discussion on giving your art away in the information age.

Continue reading A Fair Price Vlog

Dangerous Inspiration: On the Suicide Forest and the Boundaries of Fiction

Real talk. I’m a bad person. I’m desensitized. I find dangerous subjects inspiring. When I hear about a fringe cognitive condition, that leaves lives in ruins, my creative juices start flowing.

“Wait what? There’s a guy who suffers from a permanent sense of déjà vu?” Drew rubs his chin. “That gives me an idea.”

Your private peculiarity is my writing prompt. Your brain disease is my brainstorm. Your phobia is my fiction.

I write supernatural horror and I’m naturally drawn to anything that makes the world seem weirder and more fantastic, even if it’s terribly tragic.

Tell me there are people who hunger for objects with no nutritional value, and I’ll write a story about an ad agency tasked with marketing bricks as food. Tell me there are people who get off on bee stings and I’ll write a story about a masochist who makes a cabin out of honeycomb. Tell me someone seriously suffers from a fear of long words and I’ll write a story called Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, just because I can.

My natural instinct is to pry your obsessive compulsion from your hands and give it to a character of mine, because I think it’s spooky, because I think it’s neat. Not because I want the world to understand what you’re going through.




Ought to? Continue reading Dangerous Inspiration: On the Suicide Forest and the Boundaries of Fiction

Backseat Driver: A Short Story Video Reading

A horror story about a dark passenger too many of us are forced to chauffeur: depression. Continue reading Backseat Driver: A Short Story Video Reading

Submitted for Your Approval

Watch me do my best Rod Serling impression to discuss myself and my writing.

Here’s the script:

Submitted for your approval, a blog on writing fantasy, horror, and the myriad of genres in between. Brought to you by a Mister Drew T. Chial, an author voted most likely to be sucked into cyber space, where he now resides.

From this void Drew has amassed a multitude of motivating maxims to share with his following.

He’ll help you cross that colossal cosmic cube that keeps creatives from commuting through the astral plane. In other words, he’ll get you past writer’s block.

Together you’ll beat back the tropes and clichés that plague modern writing, learn what to do if someone has already used your idea, and find out how to summarize an entire story in a single page.

Follow him if you’re looking for a different flavor of inspiration. Follow him if you want articles on writing that go into more depth than mere definitions. Follow him if you like cynically sarcastic satire on the whole sordid scene.

In just one moment you’ll be able to visit Drew Chial dot com. The price of admission: your attention.

Also, be sure to like, subscribe, comment, share, tweet, up vote, reblog, swipe right, ring the bell, follow on social, join the newsletter, back my project, become a patron, and say a little prayer.

For if you do our paths just might cross in the Twilight Zone. Continue reading Submitted for Your Approval