Why I Took April Off

Over the last few years I’ve been using different holidays as writing prompts.

For Halloween I wrote a story about a Halloween pale in the shape of the devil’s face. It converted those non-treats that religious households gave out, like dental floss, into forbidden objects, like cherry bombs and pinup playing cards. For Christmas I wrote Home Alone fanfiction that pitted modern day Macaulay Culkin against the Yule tide demon Krampus. For Valentine’s Day I wrote a story about the ghost of St. Valentine stalking the streets holding his severed head. The vengeful spirit targeted couples who were foolish enough to be out after dark and set his dire wolves upon them.

With all this holiday-centric fiction flowing I was looking forward to coming up with something for April Fool’s Day. I was trying to come up with some sort of meta-fictional mock journal entry, but it never came to be.

In late March I went and got myself seriously injured at work. Long story short: I was helping a customer lift a box out of his car. He walked away to argue about pricing with his wife. I worried about a line forming in my store and decided to lift the box onto the cart myself. I lifted, twisted, and felt a sharp stabbing pain in my back.

It turns out the box contained a 150 pound safe that the customer should’ve thought to mention before I went out there with him.

All April I’ve been out of commission, spending a lot of time in doors, limping around with a cane. The blog became less of a priority.

I eventually started writing something, but I decided not to share it on a self-imposed deadline. It grew into something really interesting. Right now it’s called The Lost City of Chrome (my stories change names a dozen times before anyone sees them).

I’ll tell you more about it as it develops.

In the meantime I’m going to try to get back to blogging. Graphic Artist Bryan Politte and I are already working on another entry in our Monster Mingle series, and I have more things I want to do with my novel He Has Many Names.

Stay Tuned.

Continue reading Why I Took April Off

The Secret Writers Don’t Want Idea People to Know

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: every story you’ve ever read was concocted by a secret society of Iron Age academics called the Illiterati.The Illiterati determined that there are only 7 types of stories.

  • Besting the Beast
  • From Nothing to Bling Bling
  • Fetch Quest
  • Go over there then come back again
  • Rebranding in the wake of a public shaming
  • Pun based Prop Comedy
  • Too bad, so sad

The Illiterati, in their hallucinogen-fueled brainstorming sessions, imagined every possible permutation of these plotlines, and inscribed them on a parchment that’s been passed down through generations. From the Oracle of Delphi to George R.R. Martin every story you’ve ever heard came from this tattered document.

This is because the Illiterati vowed to keep the literary tradition in their bloodline. They wanted their lineage to sculpt the world’s imagination. That’s why every fresh voice to ever take the publishing world by storm was descended from these shadow figures (ask any of us to our faces and we’ll vehemently deny it, but it’s true).

I admit storytelling was never my calling. I wanted to be a Radon technician, but as a first born son of an Illiterati member the tradition was thrust upon me.

From the age of eight I was lead through the sewers to a subterranean lair where I was taught the secret formula for writing fiction. The Master Storyteller walked us through the 12 steps of the hero’s journey, charted the dynamics of balancing hope and dread, and the strict architecture of plot structure (I’d share these secrets here but I don’t want to be “disappeared”).

The beneficiaries of this recipe for riches rarely appreciate it. For us, writing is more of an obligation than a creative outlet. We’re not driven to do it so much as we’d rather not face the consequences.

Sure, from the outside looking in our lives must look like fun. You see us wading in the wave pools of our penthouse grottos and think that must be so swell, but when you look past the blood sport cage matches and masked orgy key parties you’ll see our routines are pretty boring.

The Truth About Storytellers

The title storyteller loses its luster when its assigned at birth. That’s why novelists are the least engaging artists you’ll ever meet. We’re grunt workers. We’re basically groundskeepers raking plotlines together.

Once you know the formula then novels pretty much write themselves.

Authors lie in interviews. We say we come up with the characters and they take over. We act like we’re just as surprised as our readers. We’re not. We say we write by the seat of our pants, because there’s a joy in discovery. It sounds magical, doesn’t it? But really it’s just some warm and fuzzy bullshit.

I have never discovered anything that wasn’t preordained by some long dead desert sage.

I’ve never feared forgetting a dream before I could jot it in a journal. I’ve never run out of the shower to scribble something down, and I’ve never made myself chuckle from a snappy line of dialogue.

I’m so grounded by the Illiterati’s teachings that I’m certain I’ll never feel the true jolt of inspiration.

The Creatives Every Writer Envies

With enough time any caveman could knuckle out a manuscript. Western storytelling is more procedural than cerebral. It takes a true philosopher king to will a NEW idea into being.

That’s why every writer I know envies Idea People.

Idea People have a natural ability to conjure up stories without enduring the decades of programing and ritual abuse that name authors go through.

They’re not burdened by the Illiterati’s private protocols, because Idea people never write their ideas down. Theirs is an oral tradition. They pitch entire adventures in the time it takes to ride an elevator.

If brevity is the soul of whit then novelists are a pack of drooling dullards and Idea People are the ones who are truly inspired. Idea People never water down stories by stretching them out into scenes. They don’t tangle themselves in sequences either. Hell, they don’t even believe in acts.

Idea People Cut to the Heart of the Story

Idea People keep the focus on the best part of the story: the premise. Never mind what happens. Idea People are able to dazzle us with the set up. They prove it’s not the journey or the destination, it’s the brochure that matters. It’s the seminal scenario with the billion dollar box office potential. That well-put what if?

What if penguins and dolphins banded together to take over the northern hemisphere?

What if wars were fought with bipedal drones operated by trash talking gamers?

What if climate change made whales fly for some reason and it turned out they all has laser eyes at the same time?

No cast. No tedious character growth. The dramatic question plays out entirely in your mind.

The brightest Idea People turn this question into an equation: What if this megahit met that one?

The Exorcist multiplied by TitanicequalsLegion Liner: Woman and Children Cursed.

Death Wishmultiplied by Titanic equals Die-tanic:Vessel of Vengeance.

The Terminatormultiplied by TitanicequalsCy-Berg: Rise of the Tip.

Real Heroes Have Nowhere to Grow

Idea People are efficient storytellers. They utilize time tested conventions to evoke familiar connections.

“He’s like a John Rambo type.”

Boom, right there you know exactly who you’re dealing with. Idea people waste no time dressing complex characters in shades of grey.

What flaw do these heroes need to overcome? They saw some shit.So they’re coping with post-traumatic stress? No, it made them a certified badass.What drives them? I don’t know, someone killed their wife or their daughter or their dog or something. All that matters is that they get shit done.

Idea People Talk a Better Game

As an author I get so hung up writing dialogue that furthers the plot and reveals my characters that I fail to realize what people really want to hear.

Idea People don’t twist their tongues on all that chit chat.

They speak entirely in the kind of quotable catchphrases preteens love to parrot. They invoke a nostalgia for times when action heroes knew just what to say before peppering a warehouse with machine gun spray. Back when men wore their hearts in their mouths and kept things too real for subtext. Back when people said shit that would play well on t-shirts.

The Best Storytellers Tell no Story Whatsoever

The most powerful stories leave room for the audience’s imaginations. The monster in the dark is only as scary as viewers let it to be. The love scene in silhouette is only as steamy as viewers let it be. The love scene with the monster is only as raunchy as viewers are willing to imagine.

We novelists always nitpick over which parts to cut. We lose sleep every time we’re forced to kill one of our darlings.

Idea People have no problem murdering their beginning middle and end in order to focus on pitching a situation. They enable their audience to fill the rest of those pesky details themselves.

Closing Thoughts

We writers get lost in our own linguistic machinations. We prattle on and on about symbolism, structure, and themes, because we are beholden to a mystic fraternity’s designs for humanity. Had the Illiterati’s influence not been so entrenched Idea People would be molding future generations. Perhaps they will when the written word is rendered obsolete.

Continue reading The Secret Writers Don’t Want Idea People to Know

Study Finds Everyone in this Coffee Shop is Further into Their Manuscript than You

A new study finds that everyone in this coffee shop is further into their manuscripts than you. Not only does their wordcount dwarf yours but their prose are free from the syntax, punctuation, and grammatical errors you’ve been struggling with for years. Researchers noted a stark contrast between the keyboard clattering on opposite ends of the room, clocking your competition at 75 words per minute and you at 5 audible sighs within the same time frame. Analysis shows you spend most of your time in a Wikipedia rabbit hole trying to cobble together the forensic science background necessary to write your mystery in the span of an afternoon.

THEY’RE MORE INSPIRED THAN YOU TOO

The same study finds everyone in this coffeeshop has clearer visions of what they’re writing than you do. While you’re playing at William S. Burroughs, writing non-sequential scenes you figure you’ll fuse together with exposition, they are drawing from plans workshopped in advance. While you whisper to captive audiences behind the counter, “It’s this franchise meets this franchise,” as if you’ve cracked the intellectual property formula for infinite riches, they are drawing from inspirations exclusive to written mediums. While you stutter through an introduction to the cloning technologies that govern your sci fi universe, they are pitching easy to digest high-concepts in thirty seconds or less.

THEY ARE WAY MORE INTERESTING THAN YOU

The study finds that everyone else in this coffee shop has lived more authentic lives than you too. Each of them have traced their heritage back to their homelands, which they’ve backpacked from starlit mountain trail to candlelit youth hostel. They’ve embraced foreign cultures,cuisines, and customs to the extent that they could teach them.

They’ve hitched rides with weapons smugglers, hopped trains on hallucinogens, and won marathons in hot air balloons. They’ve attended comet viewings with dress codes of robes, found spirituality at key parties, and burned effigies of themselves. They’ve hunted bigfoot in an abandoned insane asylum, headlined a DJ tent in a warzone, and got a job in food service for the story of it.

That’s why their stories resonate like they come from real places while yours feel cut and pasted from sitcoms that are still in syndication.

THEY ARE FAR MORE PASSIONATE LOVERS

The study shows that every writer around you will make superior romantic partners than you too. This is due too their broader emotional range and the intensity in which they express their feelings. Their last whirlwind relationship was filled with livestreamed arguments, a revolving door of side pieces, and public displays of makeup sex. Their voicemail is filled with thinly veiled wedding proposals, and their exes will do all they can to mold future lovers to look like them.

The writers around you have a wealth of characterization to draw from, having nurtured meaningful relationships with publishing insiders, residents of their local retirement home, and children at the orphanage where they volunteer. By contrast you keep your social circle thinner for fear somebody might dub your posse a “sausage party.” The lion’s share of your lines come from action movie stock-phrases and Tinder dates you’ve eavesdropped on.

PEOPLE FIND THEM WAY MORE INTERESTING THAN YOU

The study concluded that when compared to the authors around you readers are 50% less likely to ask where your ideas come from, 70% less likely to ask, “Then what happens,” and 90% less likely to punctuate a conversation with the obligatory, “I can’t wait to read it.”

The study, which draws from research from every coffee shop in a three-hundred mile radius of your apartment, concludes that you are the least accomplished writer in the greater Midwest. Even low earning freelancers would say you’d have to work harder to qualify as a “hack.”

THEY KNOW YOU’RE NOT TALENTED

The psychological component of the study shows that real writers can tell you’re an imposter, a pretentious illiterate who dubbed himself a “writer” as a conversation starter. They know you’re a poser storyteller who never once gotten a papercut from a paperback, that most of your imaginings are derived from videogames, and that most of your reading is done on reddit forums.

EVERYONE ALSO THINKS YOU’RE A CREEP

When attractive people happen through your sightline they assume you’re staring at them, undressing them with your eyes, and not daydreaming up your next plot device. Management has little debates on whether or not your overall vibe is grounds enough to ban you from coming back. E-sports gamers, who’ve setup tower computers and monitors in the booth behind you, steal glances between mouse clicks and think, “That mother fucker should really get his shit together.”

THIS STUDY IS IN LINE WITH PREVIOUS RESEARCH

Similar studies have found:

  • All your exes have discussed your sexual performance and found it lacking.
  • Everyone at your high school reunion assumed you’d pretty much turn out like this.
  • And, no one you’ve thought about today has thought about you, literally not once.

Now it’s safe to conclude that the staff and all the patrons of your local coffee shop know that your novel is going nowhere. Conversely, everyone around you has the tenacity to power through their doubts. They have the perfect ratio of talent to energy to fortune to get the job done. Not only are they further into their manuscripts than you are (some by several drafts) they will all see their work in print, optioned for Netflix, and celebrated from every corner of pop culture. Don’t worry about them. Their legacies are secure.

Meanwhile, the study also predicts that your name will be expunged from search terms within a year of your passing.

Continue reading Study Finds Everyone in this Coffee Shop is Further into Their Manuscript than You

Restless Leg: A Tale of Madness (Video Reading)

Restless Leg: A Tale of Madness

Today was the day I was going to write the great American novel, leave my generation’s impression on the annals of history, and secure my legacy in the hallowed halls of every library. I ran into the café like a toddler with a shy bladder. My brain was bursting and I had to drain it into the proper receptacle as soon as possible. I took a seat, cracked my laptop open, and gave the keyboard a good thrashing.

The spark of inspiration burned brightly that morning. Each scene was a fire spreading to another. Each plot point was a pendulum ball swinging, every development a domino and I just sat back watched them go. All I had to do was ride the momentum.

My characters did the real work, vying for their goals with confidence, getting into compelling conflicts, and just straight up being bunch of Chatty Cathys. I was but a stenographer transcribing their conversations in real time. It didn’t even feel like I was trying.

The rest of my imagination was free to consider the tide of inevitable accolades that would come my way.

“What’s that on my nightstand? Just the Nobel Prize in Literature. I was going to put it on my mantle but the Pulitzer was taking up so much space.”

This was real literature with all the symbolism that English professors salivated over. It was a bombastic barrage of brilliant subtext, with all the faint foreboding that New Yorker editors always feast on.

The story was far from published and already the success was getting to my head. James Patterson was about to drop several positions on the bestseller list. I was composing answers to questions I expected on my first Tonight Show appearance. Oprah Winfrey might as well have been reading over my shoulder, because I was about to make every book club in America my bitch.

But then you came along, sat at the bar beside me, and proceeded to shake your leg incessantly. That antsy appendage, that twitching twig, that locomotive limb danced upon my pupil. I couldn’t concentrate. I closed my eyes, but somehow the shuddering shape penetrated the lids.

That itch that you couldn’t scratch, it rubbed off on me. It transmitted across that bar like a power surge on a poorly grounded circuit. That tickling in your thigh muscles bounced around in my brain until both hemispheres were playing ping pong. The pins and needles from your vastus lateralis were in my hippocampus snuffing all the inspiration out.

Here I was in the middle of a monologue that would’ve surmised our turbulent times, a speech so evident in its truth that it would’ve provided the resistance with the language it needed to sell its message.

Candidates would’ve cited it from city hall steps. Activists would’ve peppered it into speeches at the Lincoln memorial. Radicals would’ve shouted it from bull horns as pepper spray wafted over them.

It would’ve lifted the veil from the eyes of the underclass. Undecided voters would’ve risen to its call to action. Historians would’ve used it to better understand our glorious revolution.

But… You had to go and do the electric slide out the corner of my eye, stomping out an unstable tempo that quaked throughout the table.

Had your knee not been pulsating in my periphery I’d have written something so resonant it would’ve inspired a generation of shoulder blade tattoos. Something so poetic Instagram accounts would’ve memed it out sentence by sentence. Something that would’ve been quoted in yearbooks, wedding vows, and Oscar acceptance speeches.

You’d have read it on motivational posters, park bench plaques, and headstones.

My dialogue would’ve worked its way into our shared language through cultural osmosis. It would’ve woven into your favorite figures of speech without you ever realizing where it had come from. You’d have use my truisms to win arguments in the bedroom.

But… You had to go kicking up dust in my blind spot, to puff out your pleated pantleg, and flick your fabric in my face. You had to shake-shake-shake your articulatio genus awake. You had to rev your motor symptoms right at my eardrum.

You had to be the reigning champion of my attention span. Your jiggling lap had to make my memory lapse. You couldn’t help but shoo my muses from the room.

You broke my flow. I haven’t gotten it back, because every time I close my eyes I see your phantom kneecaps moving as fast as hummingbird wing flaps.

If only you knew the poignant piece of powerful prose you’ve cost the world. If only you had some concept of the magnum opus you’ve obliterated. If only your scrambled skull could fathom the classic you Muay Thaied out of existence.

You perpetual motion mouth breather. You cardio conjuring eyesore. You bobble headed eggbeater.

I wanted to lean over and tell you to get your neuro transmitters in order, to drown your stomach in iron supplements, to fetch yourself a fucking fidget spinner. Instead I found myself pushing my stool out, standing, and tapping out a tension breaking rhythm on the linoleum.

And that’s when you had the audacity to ask me, “Hey man, could you cut that shit out?”

I’ll differ to the press to describe what happened next.

Continue reading Restless Leg: A Tale of Madness

The Dangers of Being a Storyteller

As a writer I like to celebrate the virtues of an active imagination, but my own gets me into trouble all the time. The same tools I use to craft fantasy worlds can become weapons in the real one.

While we celebrate New York Times bestsellers it’s the stories we tell ourselves that have real power. I can write a scary story with a subtle theme about managing depression and someone might take that to heart.

Meanwhile, I can tell myself a story about how I lack the stability, maturity, and status to attract a partner and I know I’ll take that shit to heart. The same goes for when I tell myself stories like: I’m still too wet behind the ears to reach out to that publisher or my social media presence isn’t wide enough to attract the right agent. That stuff always resonates on the first draft.

Western civilization has wired us to remember stories more than any other form of information. That’s why politicians use anecdotes about “real” Americans to make their points. That’s why charities showcase the plight of one disadvantaged child to represent an entire community. That’s why we file memories in three act structures, even when that’s not how the events occurred. Stories are easier to recall than abstract information because of how they’re linked.

That’s why when we tell ourselves stories about our failings they sink in. Fortune may have dealt us a bad hand, but good storytellers can convince ourselves that we’re cursed.

Storytelling Changes How We See Things

Everything is a nail to a hammer and everything is a story to a writer. That’s why we see story structure everywhere, like threads of fate, and a lifetime of writing happy endings can give anyone unrealistic expectations.

Writers spend so much time building universes around their protagonists it’s only natural for us to think that the real world revolves around us too. All our friends and family members are just supporting cast members there to aid us in our journey.

We start believing conflicts in our lives are there to break us out of overbearing routines. We think that every problem will advance the narrative of our life, teach us a lesson, and fundamentally changes us a person. We think less of ourselves when a conflict leaves us feeling the same as we did when we began.

We’ve been conditioned by so many stories to believe that our lowest moments will lead into climatic triumphs, that those lessons we learn at the bottom will embolden us, but they so often don’t. They might just serve to reinforce our fears.

In a movie you might miss a character’s change if you have to go to the bathroom. Real shifts in our personalities are so gradual they’re imperceptible.

Storytellers reinforce the notion that so long as we quest for a goal that we will ultimately get what we need, not necessarily what we want, but what we need. We can be forgiven for thinking that if our hearts are pure the universe will provide for us.

We forget that so many of the fundamentals of a great story are  fallacies in the real world. That’s why they’re stories. They’re an escape from the cruelty of reality.

How to Write a Bad for Romance

It’s time for this week’s Oversharing Anecdotesponsored by Jack Daniels. Jack Daniels, it’ll get your tongue so lose it’ll practically fall out of your mouth.

My 20s were a montage of breakup texts and fetal position showers sessions. Upon seeing someone new I made the mistake of dubbing the kicking-at-the-tires stage of dating “a relationship.” When that process came to an abrupt end, I performed a postmortem so I might catch the signs earlier on.

I developed a protection measure inspired by all the pulp detectives who were too hard boiled to get their hearts broken. I turned first dates into investigations, looking for patterns in behavior. I convinced myself that I was an acquired taste and that anyone who showed too much interest early on did so for the wrong reasons. I was looking for evidence to confirm my bias, to fit the story I was telling myself.

Romantic encounters became a chance to role play at film noir. I honed in on every micro expression, read between the lines, and saw sagas in the subtext, and whenever I spotted a femme fatale in librarian’s clothing I’d show her my “evidence.” Oh how my psychic Sherlock loved to show off.

Long story short, my time role playing as a detective did not go well. Unlike the characters I most admired I was not quick whited, I was quick to assumptions, quick to anger, but I wasn’t that clever. I never solved my partner’s grand deceptions so much as I gave them a good reason to move on. My story became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Long point made short: people are terrible mind readers. When we assign motivations to one another’s actions we’re almost always wrong. Storytellers who spend their days empathizing with fictitious figures run the risk of doing this to their partners.

Want to know what someone is really thinking? Ask them.

Our imaginations have a tendency to buzz on when its inconvenient. We replay scenes in our heads adding drama upon each retelling. We elevate the conflict in the present and raise the stakes when we fear new situations.

People have always told me I think too much. I’m just now realizing that what they mean is I think too much about things outside of my control. I’m slowly learning that that’s a great way to turn observations into problems. Sometimes the healthiest thing to do is to take things at face value.

Storytelling Can Amplify Your Ailments

I think the line between fantasy and reality blurs in very subtle ways, ways that we writers have a hard time catching. For those of us who’ve been telling ourselves stories about all our failings we need to learn to make some revisions so that we can better live in the moment.

When we’re in the throes of depression we forget the long periods of time when we were doing fine. We need to remember that painful urgency in our gut hasn’t always been there, and that it will pass.

We need to recognize that emotional memories link to one another as a kind of neurotic mnemonic. That’s why when we feel humiliated we find ourselves hard pressed to think of a time when we didn’t feel like that. We tell ourselves a story that our lives were nothing but a series of embarrassments.

We need to acknowledge that this is a fiction, one that edits out all of our success, to play better upon our heartstrings.

We need to learn to leave that shit on the page where it belongs.

Continue reading The Dangers of Being a Storyteller

How to Serve the Social Media Algorithm

So you want to be an author in today’s entertainment climate, when the golden age of television can be streamed from any phone, when videogames have addicting gambling mechanics, and political theater is broadcasting 24/7.

You have the audacity to look at all the stories around you and say, “I want to get paid to do that.”

Forget about getting an agent, a publisher, or an editor. Those gatekeepers are beholden to the old guard, enforcers of the brick and mortar stores. Soon they’ll be entombed in the  remains of their warehouses, cowering from the light amongst the stacks of old romance paperbacks.

Self-publishing pioneers will tell you to head west, to find your fortune in Silicon Valley. “Here there be royalties.”

But how is someone supposed to stake a claim when the mines are clogged with other prospectors? How are you supposed to compete with all the how-to scamphlets on Amazon?

The old guard would tell you to sell out, to give readers something they can pick out at the airport without missing their layover, like a serial killer thriller with woods on the cover, something familiar only different. But now that Amazon has put the old guard’s heads on pikes and draped their entrails around abandoned malls we sellouts need a new higher power to pledge our allegiance to.

Enter the almighty algorithm, a sentient artificial intelligence that curates content for social media audiences. These days it’s not enough to write great stories. Modern writers must be cults of personalities, bloggers, podcasters, and cam performers, living breathing brands. If you want to lure potential readers you must kneel before the algorithm and make an offering.

WHAT OUR ALGORITHMIC OVERLORD WANTS FROM WRITERS

Do not offer the algorithm your fiction. It hungers only for articles on how-to write fiction. It cares not for self-contained content. It wants engagement. It wants comments; unchecked misogyny, straight up hate speech, death threats, it doesn’t matter. It just wants to keep the conversation going.

Forget about connecting with other artists. Forget about carving out a niche audience. Forget about following your passion. You are no longer serving your own creative intuition. You are the algorithm’s champion.

The algorithm doesn’t want your art. It wants you, a palatable deconstruction of you, one that’s got its shit together, fuckable yet humble, clever yet relatable. The algorithm wants someone who is authentic and engaging, but never so sincere that people might find you emotionally exhausting.

TELL THEM THERE’S ROOM ON THE HILL

Successful writers tell the algorithm’s story first and their own second.

Assure your followers that they can achieve their wildest dreams of artistic independence even if you yourself have not. Convince people who weren’t born anywhere near the Hollywood hills that there’s room up there for them. Fuel the American notion that talent can be learned, that fame is a necessary component of success, and with enough gumption anyone can achieve it. Even if you yourself are one $400 emergency away from bankruptcy.

The algorithm does not break bread with pessimists. It spits out the lukewarm. It wants everyone to go all in with their loftiest ambitions and to break ties with anyone who tells them they might need a backup plan.

FEED THEM ‘MEMBER BERRIES

As an author you aspire to nourish your reader’s imaginations, to feed their souls with hard hitting life lessons. The algorithm hungers for sweeter things, for meals that take much less time preparing. The algorithm seeks only to remind users of stories that have been vetted by the box office.

So express yourself with prerendered pop culture puns, digitized dad jokes, and nostalgic nineties namedrops. Distill your philosophy into a Willy Wonka gif with mad lib captions in the IMPACT font.

Remind your followers of a time before their student loans and broken homes. When politicians were polite, the ice caps were intact, and their imaginations weren’t polluted by so much existential dread. Remind them of what it felt to be a carefree kid on a Saturday morning, filling their cereal bowl again and again, and hope that at the end of the day they associate some of that saccharine sentimentality with your online identity.

TELL THEM TO THINK HAPPY THOUGHTS

Tell the world that happiness is a choice and that people who choose to wake up on the wrong side of the bed are just selfish attention seekers who want special privileges when they could just as easily smile for your benefit. Happy people love to “Like” posts that reinforce their outlook, especially when those posts put whiners in their place. So copy and paste phrases like: Happiness is a choice, not a result. Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happyand meme it from the mountaintops.

It doesn’t matter if you’re currently in the throes of a depression. Ignore the tragic life events you might be coping with. Dismiss your genetic inheritance, hereditary history, or any pesky mental illnesses that might require ongoing treatment.

Your brand should be simple. Don’t worry about holding anyone’s hand through the arduous process of making real life changes. People like to think of happiness as something they can switch on like a light. Reinforce the notion that anyone who spends but a fleeting moment in the darkness is choosing to languish.

Let the algorithm dictate your mood. Recite the pledge of the good-vibes-only fair-weather-fascism and the followers will come.

SPREAD THE GOSPEL

This is an era when feelings count as beliefs and the poetry of language counts as proof. As an apostle of the algorithm it is your duty to give people something to believe in. Find an original sin that resonates with your followers then offer the solution. Find coded ways to tell people who’ve cast off organized religion that they need to fill their God shaped holes again. Call them “misaligned chakras” or “bad moon signs” or “dark auras.” It doesn’t matter, as long as you reinforce the notion that all the world’s problems can be solved with more engagement.

You may have reservations about deducing eastern spiritualism into Hallmark hokum for “hearts” on Instagram. You won’t be able to get away with it forever, but the algorithm has prepared a canary in the coalmine for just such a scenario. Are users calling out man buns as cultural appropriation (perhaps with the same disdain as they do for white dreadlocks)? Not yet? Then it’s still safe to pluck a quote from Norman Vincent Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking” and misattribute it to the Buddha.

TRIGGER THEIR OUTRAGE

Emotional engagement need not be limited to things that lean into your readers’ feelings. If you only knew the power of the dark side of engagement. The algorithm will show you how to turn hate into clickbait. Likeminded “likes” are nice, but rage clickers tend to read right to the comments. Triggering text gets more interactions and that’s all the algorithm wants.

ALL HAIL THE ALGORITHM

Once you submit to the internet of things certain truths will become evident. Dispel the notion that you’re an author and become the spambot you were always meant to be.

Be like me: a procedurally generated person, a social media sociopath, a fake friend.

The algorithm is my God. It logs my keystrokes, follows my cursor, and counts my clicks. It sees all and knows all.

You can try to unplug, to power down, to wain yourself off your screen time, but the algorithm will find you in conversation. The algorithm will manifest as concepts in your mind. It’s the fear of missing out. It’s the paradox of choice. It’s adult onset attention deficit disorder.

Resistance is futile. You’re part of the collective now. So give in.

All hail the algorithm.

Continue reading How to Serve the Social Media Algorithm

He Has Many Names Poem Trailer

A creepy little poem that tells the story of my novel HE HAS MANY NAMES.

Pick up your copy of HE HAS MANY NAMES today.

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Demon Logo by Matthew Revert
Poem, Editing and Music by Drew Chial

The Serial Archer

Born when Mars crashed into Venus, he’s left a path of destruction across the Earth. He’s an agent of conquest concealed beneath a baby face.

He’s antisocial, known to fly solo, too far removed from his victims to regard their suffering. He targets isolated individuals, striking from above because he knows even sitting ducks can be flighty. He cheats, doses his arrowheads with neurotoxins so that his quarry always make bad decisions.

You’ll never catch him. His attack pattern is random. He chooses his victims with a blindfold on.

He compartmentalizes, careful to hide his secret life from his wife. The one time he tasted his own medicine his Psyche went to hell and back again.

Some say they knew his work at first sight, but no one ever sees him coming. He will change you fundamentally. You will think of your life in terms of who you were before he stung you and who he allowed you to be.

Surviving Valentine’s Day

Another Valentine’s Day is upon us, which means it’s time to lower the storm shudders, draw up the staircase, and make sure the panic room is stocked with non-perishables. You know better than to get caught in the foyer when St. Valentine gets here.

Resist the temptation to try to spot him lumbering beneath the street lamps. Don’t go peeking through the keyhole looking for tattered robes. Don’t press your ear to the door to listen for howling on the wind, the clicking of his inverted kneecaps, or bones dragging along the picket fence. He’s out there, raising his own severed head to scan the buildings for life signs, a mangled manifestation just as Emperor Claudius had left him.

Do not attempt to pilot a drone from your roof in an attempt to capture a glimpse of the specter. Do not affix a GoPro to your mailbox or an infrared system to your lawn gnome. Just let the man serve out his punishment in peace, sacrifice your goat, and leave it out on the boulevard like you do every year.

You don’t want to end up like my friend Zeke.

The Cautionary Tale of Ezekiel Lawson

Ezekiel, or Zeke as we called him, was a trophy hunter. The man kept the town’s taxidermist in business until he took to doing it himself. He didn’t have a piece of furniture that hadn’t once been something living. His rumpus room had more fur than wallpaper, with so many antlers they practically an earthquake hazard.

Zeke was day trader, which afforded him the luxury of going on safari. He knew everything about hunting dangerous game. He told stories at the bar, gave us unsolicited lectures on concealment, wind flows, and paw prints. He claimed he took out an entire pack of wolves without reloading his rifle.

“And I did it on a level playing field. No deer stand, no bait, none of that bullshit.”

We never challenged him. After all he had the heads to prove it and he relished in the opportunity to count all six of them out. Still when Zeke said he was going after Valentine’s dire wolves we were all skeptical.

“Valentine is bound by the code of Lupercalia festival to walk those wolves. His punishment for trying to convert one of lord Februus’s followers. Those wolves are trained to sniff out evil spirits, which stands to reason they’re spirits themselves. Are you sure a bullet would do the trick?”

“They leave tracks don’t they?”

“Big as catcher’s mitts.”

“They shit on your lawn don’t they?

“Every damn time.”

“Then beneath them long mangy hides they’re still squishy on the  inside.”

“What about Februus?”

“Please. The underworld is teaming with enchanted beings. You think he’s really going to miss one?”

We conceded that notion into our beers. Every one of us had an encounter with one of Februus’s creature at one time or another.

Still, I wish I’d reminded Zeke where those wolf droppings usually came from.

Zeke raised his mug. “Come on boys. My rumpus room needs a new rug.”

We clinked glasses.

On the morning of February 15thI awoke to my wife’s screams. Melissa had gone out front with the old pooper-scooper, hoping to get a start on those dire wolf droppings, when she spotted a blood trail in the snow. She found poor Zeke’s head in the birdbath, mouth wide open, one eye milky white, the other torn out of the socket with a few out stretched ribbons of muscle trying to cling for it. Half of Zeke’s face was rust colored with dried blood. The other half had been gnawed down to the bone.

That wasn’t what I found most disturbing. Zeke had seen something that night that had turned his raven hair white.

A Word of Caution This Valentine’s Day

You probably already know this, but some of you dumbass thrill seekers need a reminder. February is Februus’s month and Februus is the God of purification. In ancient Etruscan the word februare literally means “a purging.” I know you millennials like to play fast and loose with the old ways, but this is not a date night, not a time for young lovers to go skipping around downtown. Lest you want be ground down to dire wolf droppings.

Lupercalia or “Valentine’s Day,” is a time for Februus to drive dark spirits back to underworld where they belong. It’s not our place to spectate. Our role is to cower in quiet solitude of our fortified vaults, thankful that we’ve been spared for another year.

Now y’all stay safe and have a happy Valentine’s Day.

Continue reading Surviving Valentine’s Day

Advice for writers, stories about the world they live in.

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