Category Archives: Writing

Why the Ghost Hunters Need to Hire Me

Every reality show needs a villain: a Simon Cowell, a Gordon Ramsay, a Donald Trump, a personality that makes everyone on set nervous. Someone who flies into fits without notice, hurling insults, criticism, and sauce pans at everyone.

Every Bachelor needs a bad bitch that calls out the bumps on the other contestants’ lips. Every courtroom needs a judge who threatens to use her gavel as an enema. Every Jersey dinner table needs a host who’s willing to call a guest a “Prostitution whore!” Demented divas give delicious sound bytes. Give them a 15-second spot and they will make an impression. It’s these villains that get viewers tuning in.

Conflict is the heart of drama and good television thrives on it. So why do so many Ghost-hunting shows have so little of it? For all their dramatic tone they are light on actual drama. As Ghost Hunterswraps up on the SyFy network and looks for a new home for its 12th season might I make a suggestion? Hire me to be your villain.

My background as a horror author makes me uniquely qualified for investigating the paranormal, and my background as an asshole (ask anyone I’ve dated) makes me ideal for reality TV. I could be your Spencer Pratt, your Puck, your Omarose.

As a purveyor of paranormal potboilers I’ve researched my share of supernatural lore. I know the long told legends, the urban myths, and the natural explanations behind them. My research has left me with an entrenched sense of skepticism. Continue reading Why the Ghost Hunters Need to Hire Me

Dear Non-Creative People

Respect One Another’s Creative Energy

Everyone has their own way of recharging. Some join friends at the bar for karaoke. They stumble out of the bathroom with their pants at their ankles to sing along with off-key.

“Sweet Caroline. Bah-bah-bah!”

Some set out wine and cheese platters and go around in circles discussing highbrow literature. Some park themselves in an ass grove and multi-slack, gaming on one screen and crushing half a season of science fiction on the other.

Others sling yoga mats over their shoulders and stretch that tension out, others sprint around the neighborhood at 4AM, and others lift ingredients into pans.

Whatever it is that you do to revitalize your vitality may good vibes be upon you.

My Vice

I write. I love the activities listed above, but writing gives me a sense of agency I don’t get from other outlets. Blogging gives my passing observations a sense of permanence. Poetry gives my abstract emotions a tangible form, and narrative writing turns my daydreams into something worth sharing.

When the writing is flowing it’s a big jolt to my self-esteem. When it’s not it taxes the energy it’s supposed to be replenishing. After a day of dealing with draining customers and a night of staring at a blank page I find myself completely tapped. I don’t even have the energy to make a Netflix selection let alone migrate to the bed from my couch cushions.

Creative endeavors are both risky and rewarding. Measuring the costs and the benefits is an undertaking. A lot of patience goes into fine-tuning that work/life balance.

As artists age we can’t help but compare our status to our career minded friends. How are we supposed to afford children in this economy when our Amazon royalties are but pennies? As our lives fill with commitments our creative careers go on the back burner.

A lot of artists give up and way they reconcile with all that wasted energy is by distancing themselves from their creative identities. Continue reading Dear Non-Creative People

Thoughts on Turning 29 for the Umpteenth Time

When it comes to attaching expectations to annual events I go off like clock work. On News Years Eve I keep my head down at the count down. On Valentine’s Day I listen to a well-curated playlist of sad songs, and on my birthday I do everything I can to avoid introspection. I have a bad tendency to throw myself a pity party, to review the previous season’s events and try to figure out where it all went wrong. It’s my party and I’ll stare off into the middle distance if I want to, stare off into the middle distance if I want to, stare off into the middle distance if I want to. You would too if you were a maladaptive daydreamer like Drew.

I’ve taken another trip around the sun, but this one feels different than the last few. I’m not so worried about getting lost in the Twilight Zone of my subconscious tonight.

Rather than hold my head and wonder, “When the hell are things going to start happening?” I already know the answer.

The answer is NOW BITCHES. Things arehappening. No vows have been exchanged, no baby names have been chosen, but soon my name will soon be in print. That’s a hell of a lot of something.

Sure I’m one year further from being a rock star, but I’m one year closer to being an author (I’ve been a writer for a while, but now I’m finally getting my ass published).

This year, rather than stare off into the middle distance counting super heroes in my head to give myself a distraction I’m going to count my blessings.

I’m older, but despite a few gray hairs and handful of smile lines I haven’t aged too hard. I’m hoping I have Paul Rudd syndrome in that I have a few more decades of looking like this to look forward to (knock on wood, knock on all the wood).

I’ve also got Nemo, an adorable kitten that tears my flesh to ribbons.

And I have book called HE HAS MANY NAMES and another secret project that I’m editing (it’s called I AM FIRE slide into my DMs so I can spoil the ending).

Anyway. I have birthday reservations at my favorite establishment.

Word up to all my fellow Virgos (even though we notoriously don’t believe in astrology).

The Apple Watch Ritual

The following is inspired by the surge in instructional rituals circulating the net. Each ritual is a complex variation on the old Bloody Mary game. They take Creepy Pastas and urban legends and invite readers to participate in them. They’re good for a shiver, but they feel like they’re missing some modern flare. My ritual fixes that.

The Apple Watch Ritual

Is your Instagram feed filled with before and after photos of friends in loose fitting clothes? Are you tired of looking for reasons to stay in during swimsuit season? Or do you just want the kind of definition that attracts attention?

Well I know a way that’s guaranteed to give you results overnight. I’m talking washboard abs, bulging biceps, and a beefed up badonkadonk. It’s the ultimate workout ritual. All you’ll need is a pair Apple Watches, the drive to succeed, and a fresh corpse.

Warning:this ritual could exhaust, severely injure, and perhaps even kill you. It will most definitely void your warranty.

The Ritual

Park outside of a funeral home right before it opens. Have an Apple Watch on a charger mounted to the dashboard. You’ll also need a layer of Under Armor beneath your funeral attire, a pair of running shoes on the passenger seat, and a Teddy Bear.

Set up an Apple ID for the watch on the dashboard. Open the activity app on your phone, tap Sharingand make sure the watch on your wrist is following the one on the dashboard.

Wait for the funeral director to open the doors and for the grief stricken to start pilling in. Smear a scoop of Vapor Rub beneath your eyelids (not in your eyes, that will cause severe irritation). Check the whites of your eyes in the mirror as the menthol does its thing. Once your eyes are as red as the devil’s dick you’re ready to make your entrance.

Yes, you’re going to be crashing a wake.

Enter the funeral parlor cradling the Teddy Bear. Find the next of kin and insist the deceased made you promise they’d be buried with it. Now pay your respects. The bear is there to give you the opportunity to tie the Apple Watch around the body’s cold pulseless wrist.

Important! You’ll need to make sure the body is buried with a Series 3 (or higher) Apple Watch. The Series 3 introduced built in cellular allowing it to function without a phone.

You will also have to begin the ritual immediately after the body is buried, because the watch will only have an 18-hour charge.

Find a place to submerge your wrist: a sink, a toilet bowl, or a font of holy water. Dip your watch under and press the power button until you see the Apple symbol come on. When the watch face shows up say, “Hey Siri, message (say the Apple ID of the deceased).” Then recite the following incantation:

To the cadaver in the casket
Sinking into a grit
Of roots, worms, and maggots
Hear my unholy writ
I challenge thee to a Satanic circuit
Of upside down cross-fit
So that I may feel the burn
Of the bottomless pit

When you feel the watch’s haptic engine vibrate you’ll know that the ritual has begun.

The Rules of the Ritual

The Apple Watch has an activity monitor. Tap it and you’ll see three rings: one red, one green, and one blue. The red ring represents the percentage of your movement goals for the day. This is based on how many calories you intend to burn. Usually you set this by entering your height, weight, age, and gender, but not today. Today you’re making a necromancer’s wager. Your goals will be determined by the thing you’ve awakened.

The green ring represents your exercise time. Apple has prescribed 30 minutes for everyone, but just remember this is a competition, just because you’ve hit thirty doesn’t mean you’re anywhere near done.

The blue ring represents the time you spend standing. Apple recommends you get up and move around for a couple minutes at least twelve times a day. This should be the easiest goal to hit seeing as how you’ll have no time to sit.

Warning: If you fail to close your rings before your crypt bound competition bad things will happen.

Keep this in Mind

You will find that your watch’s sensors are a lot less forgiving than on days you’re not conjuring dead things. The watch will know when you’re standing and when you’re just lifting your wrist. It will know when you’re running and when you’re just swinging your arms. If you open the Workout app and scroll all the way down to Otheroption your watch will no longer give you credit for simply running the timer down.

Run Like Hell

You will have to run like the world is caving in behind you. Run until you’re raw and sore, until your toes are open blisters, and your shoes are pooling with puss. Once it feels like the soles of your sneakers have eroded, your skin has shed, and your exposed musculature is touching down on molten magma, then you’ll know it’s time to check your watch… And run some more.

Consider the fact that your competition is clawing at the lid of a coffin with 300 pounds of resistance. Consider the fact that the dead’s will to return to the surface is greater than your will to get fit. Consider the fact that if you stop moving something with a swollen tongue will quiet literally be licking at your heels.

Take a breather for a little too long and you’ll see what beast mode really looks like.

Commit to Infinite Reps

Once your lungs feel like they’re going to overdose on oxygen, your heart feels like it’s stuck on vibrate, and you stink like a skunk on meth, stagger into a gym and park your ass at the weight rack.

You will have to lift until you can see your veins, until you grind the lifelines from your palms, until your arms pull a mutiny and refuse commands from your body. Then you’ll have to find another muscle group and push it past the point of exhaustion.

If it feels like you’re struggling beneath the weight of the world then you’re doing it right.

Another thing to Keep in Mind

The Apple Watch doesn’t wait until you’re asleep to reset the activity monitor. It does it at midnight.

Remember when enchanted the Apple Watch will function better than it was programmed. You won’t be able to buy yourself a few extra hours by screwing with the Timesettings.

Don’t Lose

If you haven’t closed your rings and crushed your crypt bound competition you will face consequences, literally, face to milky-eyed face.

If you lose your muscles will atrophy instantly and your bones will turn to jelly. You’ll collapse into a heap. If you’re lucky your lungs will weaken and you’ll pass out from exhaustion. If you’re unlucky you’ll be awake when teeth begin gnawing on your skin, pealing the flesh from the muscle like fried chicken.

Sure, this is a worst-case scenario, but what are you willing to risk to get as jacked as a super hero? Continue reading The Apple Watch Ritual

Goodbye KillerCon 2018

It turns out there is such a thing as summer camp for adults, a place where friendships are founded on a mutual love of monsters, where ghost stories are on tap 24/7, and according to Jeff Burk Dinosaurs Attacks trading cards are still in fashion. Thanks to camp director Wrath James White KillerCon was the summer camp I’d always dreamt of attending. It was a place where kids weren’t shamed out of wearing Hellraiser t-shirts, where all the counselors swore (especially Matt Shaw), and telling dirty jokes meant you were developing healthy social skills (at least that’s what Edward Lee told me).

Instead of a dining hall we had a continental breakfast, followed by a blindfolded tasting of freaky foods and a hot wings challenge. Then Michael Allen Rose, a saintly gentleman in a Nine Inch Nails tribute band, passed around Jeppson’s Malört to help us wash it down (type #MalortFace into Instagram to see just how refreshing it is).

Instead of fireside hymns our camp gathered around a keg of beer. Instead of a talent show we had a gross out contest. And our prayer circles, well, they looked a little different.

The panels with Brian Keene, Matt Shaw, and Lucy Taylor gave me an invaluable peak into the bloody inner workings of the publishing industry. It was a hoot to sit in on readings by Joe Lansdale and his daughter Kasey Lansdale.

I was blown away by Nate Southard’s shrewd then outspoken performance as he weaved through the audience throughout his reading.

It was treat to working the conference floor with Rose O’Keefe and Max Booth III (congrats on the Hulu pilot, btw).

Thanks to Leza Cantoral and Christoph Paul the ClashBooks reading was easily one of the best experiences of my life. I was happy to share it with such sketchy individuals as Brendan Vidito, Charles Austin Muir, Jeff Burk, and of course Wrath James White… and I’m pretty sure Sam Richard was the attendee of honor (seeing as how he got an exclusive lap reading from Brendan Vidito, I mean I’m not saying I’m like supes totes jelly or anything, but… lucky).

Killer con was all of my summer camp dreams come true. I shouldn’t have been surprised by how sweet, charming, and utterly disarming horror authors can be. I can’t wait to come back next year.

KillerCon Travel Journal: Strange Rites

I’ve read books with gaudy covers because I’ve loved their authors and I’ve watched as the cover art shifted in my mind as I went. Geometrically the illustrations were in the exact same positions, but I’d attached new meanings. After putting the book down I was hard pressed to imagine any other cover. The design had improved upon association.

The same phenomenon applies to people. Charm can make an average looking Joe handsome and a sense of humor looks great on a woman. A positive association of someone attaches to their form, like an aura of positivity, and makes you eager to see them.

I felt these positive associations form in my brief time here at the KillerCon, getting to know established writers, up and comers, and the fans roving the hotel floors.

In my home city of Minneapolis I function on a safe predictable loop (yes, like the second season of Mr. Robot). I go to work, for coffee, and my weekly club night. I’m less likely to feel socially anxious when I know what to expect.

My first day at KillerCon I was out of element, a stranger in a strange land of splatter punks and hardcore horror aficionados who’ve traveled on the same circuit. At first I felt less like a participant and more like a pop cultural anthropologist.

Then I realized everyone was wearing conversations starters on their sleeves, literally tattooed right on: portraits of the Bride of Frankenstein, Edgar Allan Poe, Lovecraft, Pinhead, and Cthulhu.

Eventually those of us with thousand yard stares at the bar started looking closer at one another, laughing over shared obsessions, pitching stories, telling morbid tales of our own hometowns.

Since opening ceremonies we’ve tortured ourselves with hot sauces, death peppers, strange foods, and gross out stories. Last night I took the Malort challenge, shots of a drink whose creator says is for drinkers who disdain the light flavors of neutral spirits. If you enter #MalortFace into Instagram you’ll see a series of portrait of people who’ve taken the same challenge.

View this post on Instagram

#malortface

A post shared by Drew Chial (@drewchial) on

That was last night, a whirlwind of hotel room parties, singing, and storytelling. This morning on the final day of KillerCon the event feels like summer camp. I wasn’t sure if anyone would like me on the day I arrived now I wish I had more time with everyone.

KillerCon Travel Journal Day 1-2: Meeting People is Easy

Windgate by Wyndham Conference Hall

Over the last few days at KillerCon I’ve met my share of purveyors of the perverse, like-minded lunatics, and kindred characters. This is an isle of misfits sporting Hellraiser t-shirts, Milhouse Van Houten tattoos, and black lots of black.

I came to KillerCon worrying I looked too straight laced, too clean cut. (Let’s face it mine is the sweatpants of haircuts.) I was afraid that my book HE HAS MANY NAMES was too light hearted. It’s a slow burning atmospheric surrealist work, with little tiny spurts of blood and gore. I was afraid I just wasn’t as hardcore as my peers, but my book has been selling. Turns out splatter punks, bizarro readers, and horror hounds have eclectic taste.

It also turns out most horror writers are surprisingly sweet and gentle people. Maybe it’s because we purge our anger on the page.

For me the last few days have filled with conversations about The X-Files, Clive Barker, Paul Tremblay,Silent Hill, and Marilyn Manson.

We’ve had intense readings of subtle emotional tragedies and casual readings of brutal slaughterhouse situations. We’ve had panels on religious mythology in horror, the virtues of good villain, and the tropes we just can’t stand.

I just watched a hot wing contest where the participants read their one star reviews, flash fiction about hot sauce, and a mad lib, all while brutalizing their tongues. The Scoville units escalated quickly. Soon the table was lined with sliced bread and tall bottles of milk, which of course were only available to those who bowed out.

This was all capped off with a tasting of slices of Carolina Reaper the hottest pepper in the world. I don’t know what it is about the sight of someone doubling over in pain and then going back for seconds that’s so entertaining, but it was damn good fun.

Here’s to another day at KillerCon.

KillerCon Travel Journal Day 1: Check-in and My Room

Windgate by Wyndham Round Rock

Turns out I’m not afraid of being alone in a creepy hotel room. (The ghouls, phantasms, and phantoms have all been accommodating.) This king-sized bed is my element. It’s the lounge filled with strangers that scares me: laughter growing to a cackle, individual speakers cutting through the crowd walla, referencing authors I really ought to know by now. I’m at the front desk checking in. I can’t see them, but I’m casting them in my mind. I just know they’re covered in conversations starters: Clever horror t-shirts, sleeve tattoos that tell stories, and then there’s me still rocking a wallet chain I bought in the 90s. Now I’m looking at the mirror thinking I really should’ve learned to accessorize before I came down here.

After a long flight and a long drive all I want to do is amble across the highway and get me some Taco Bell. Daddy needs his guilty pleasure comfort food and he’s willing to hike through the 102 degree Texas sun to get it… But that wouldn’t be making the best use of my time here. I should be networking, talking fiction, and inserting business cards into hands.

I’m going to assume that fleeting moment of social anxiety is a natural part of con and that the only remedy is fear aversion therapy. So. Here. Goes.

KillerCon Travel Journal Day 1

Minneapolis International Airport

It’s been a while since I’ve found myself biding my time in an airport lounge hours before a flight. The last time was in the early aughts, back before there were complimentary charging stations, free Wi-Fi, and touch screens drilled into every flat surface. Back when a book, a Discman, and a beer were your only distractions. Now everyone is plugged in, multitasking on multiple screens: dual wielding tablets and laptops, smartphones and smartwatches.

I’m one of them, typing in my awkward little chair, cutting out the boarding announcements with my giant head cans, and scrolling through Paul Tremblay’s t-shirt collection on Instagram. I went to my gate without setting foot on the moving walkway just so I could check how many calories I burned on my Apple Watch.

I’m not saying that if it weren’t for all these screens the frequent fliers would lean over their dividers and start getting to know one another. There’s just something to be said about being trapped with your own thoughts for several hours. There’s a mandatory meditative quality. Boredom has a way of forcing the imagination to surface.

Maybe we’re all maladaptive daydreamers, scared that too much time to ourselves will have us looking back on our lives wondering what could’ve been. So we lean into our connections. We keep things real, stay in the present.

There’s something to be said for indulging in fantasy, cartoonish, spooky, outlandish fantasy (even if you’re not a writer). The imagination is a muscle far too many people let atrophied.

That said: my flight boards in a half an hour and I’m going to get myself a drink.

See you in Austin.

Why Stories About Satan Are Still in Fashion

I’ve always loved deal with the devil stories. From The Devil and Daniel Websterto Needful Things. There’s something about the whole situation I find appealing: the downtrodden hero, the devil incognito, the reality-bending bargain, the buyer’s remorse, and the last ditch effort by to find an escape clause. I’ve always found the situation compelling.

Despite the theology these stories draw from they’re essentially fables about grifters trying to outwit one another. But speaking of theology, I like how these stories play off our need to find cosmic conformation for our values, toy with our sense of mysticism, and challenge our beliefs.

I want to unpack why these stories work so well for me.

We’re Wired for Mysticism

Humanity has a tendency to see patterns in the chaos of nature. Scanning the forest we see faces in the bark. When the breeze shifts we feel the trees are reaching out for us.

We see things in the shadows, because darkness is not the absence of light, it’s the presence of mystery, of phantasmagorical figures and imperceivable whispers.

When our minds fail to grasp something we mystify it. Storytellers know how to exploit this glitch.

When you woke up paralyzed and saw a dark figure at the foot of your bed it might have just been a waking hallucination… but deep down you suspect a demonic visitation. Storytellers know how take your suspicions and turn them in myths.

How Satan Came From Mysticism

Stage magicians used to tell wild stories about the origins of their tricks. They’d say traveled to a misty mountain monastery in the east, in the Far East, where monks worshiped not the one true God, but many deities. It was safe for the magician to presume no one in his audience had been to the region so he filled it with giant sea monsters, strange customs, and cannibalism. The audience would believe him because they were already primed to fear what they don’t understand.

We’re wired to fear everyone outside of our tribe and the devil is the ultimate outsider.

Early Christians mystified foreign Gods by recasting them as devils. The biggest victim of this transition was the horned God Pan. At the time Greek sculptures had made more idols to Pan than any other figure. Perhaps they found his horns and hooves intriguing. Perhaps they identified with his naturalistic philosophy. Perhaps they enjoyed depicting his giant dong.

Early crucifix salesmen couldn’t handle the competition so they launched a campaign to smear Pan’s brand. The only problem was there was already an adversary in Christianity: Lucifer.

Lucifer was a fallen cherubim, a race of angels with four wings, four heads, and skin covered in eyeballs. The bible never says Lucifer changed forms when he fell from heaven, but theologians (beginning with Eusebius) decided that Satan should look like Pan. They gave the Shepard God the old Mephistopheles makeover. No longer would Pan guide weary travelers out of the woods. Now he’d try to swindle them out of their souls.

Many a Pagan deity got the same Satanic mani pedi, and in their demonization their titles got added to those of the devil. He has many names, because not all of them were his. They were stolen and handed down.

The Mystique of the Devil in the Details

The dated mysticism of the foreign other doesn’t work in a woke wired world. These days we need new unknowns to mystify. Judging by the popularity of shows like Black Mirrorwe are now mystifying technology. Even the most conditioned coders can’t help but fear the future. Most of us have a nagging suspicion that social media algorithms are unraveling our souls. There’s room for a new devil in all those ones and zeros.

Perhaps Satan is lurking in all those terms and conditions no one ever feels like reading. I mean do you have 76 days to scan through the privacy policies you agree to annually? For all we know there are incantations between the lines and that subconsciously we’ve found ourselves at the mercy of a form of bleeding edge bibliomancy. Which brings me to…

The Satanic Contract

Part of the appeal of the deal with the devil story is how it upsets the established order. The established order of things is unfair. The playing field isn’t level and many of us will spend our entire lives just scrapping by. It’s easy to be righteous when you’re rich, but when you’re sinking in the quicksand of car payments and student loans morality is a luxury.

So in walks a goat legged eccentric with a pocket full of cheat codes. He says with a little up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a select starthe can grant you whatever is in your heart. All it will cost you is that 21 grams of something that goes missing when you stop breathing. “I mean, what is a soul really?”

You take the Faustian bargain, make a pact with Satan, and get exactly what you want… only to realize it wasn’t what you wanted after all and that the game isn’t satisfying you play it in easy mode. You want to buy your soul back, but you can’t afford the interest. Turns out the devil is a predatory lender, a shifty genie who never grants the extra wish that lets you get your ass out of debt.

Now you’re staring down the barrel of hell, your back is against the ultimate wall, and the stakes have never been higher. You’re going to have to get creative if you’re going to claw your way out of this.

I fucking love these stories.

Not because of Satan. He’s just the catalyst. He forces the hero to evolve, to better themself, and muster up all of their cunning. I love scary stories with well placed mysticism and epic villains, but secretly I long for a hard won happy ending, with a good life lesson. Deal with the devil stories are great vehicles for this. Continue reading Why Stories About Satan Are Still in Fashion