Tag Archives: humor

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

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

The Ghosts that Visit Me on Christmas Eve

This year my Christmas Eve itinerary is bursting with appointments.

The Ghost of Retail Past will walk me through the hollowed out beams of Blockbuster Video, Barnes and Noble, and Record Town. All places I’d worked that collapsed shortly after I’d given notice.

The Ghost will tuck his dust-strewn polo into his cobweb-riddled khakis, unknot his lanyard, and say, “If only you had pushed the credit card harder than these fine establishments might still be here.”

We’ll be joined by The Ghost of Non-politicized Holiday Farewells.

“Behold a young you behind the checkout counter.”

Pimple riddled me will wave goodbye to a customer. “Merry Kwanzaa-Hanu-Solistice.”

The customer will turn back. “And a happy Boxing Day to you too.”

Modern me will whisper, “I could never get away with that joke today.”

The spirits will lead me to a box office marque, filled with combinations of words I’d never seen before and The Ghost of Fresh Intellectual Properties will explain how movies used to be. We’ll sneak away when he gets into a debate with The Ghost of Problematic Christmas Films You Grew Up Loving.

We’ll regroup in the sunken crater of an abandon B.Dalton and get lectured by The Ghost of Long Form Literature. We’lltake comfort in knowing the works of Charles Dickens are in the public domain.

We’ll summon an uberXL and chart a course to my childhood home. On the way we’ll get a lecture from The Ghost of Licensed Cab Drivers and spend the trip looking out the windows at all the Christmas lights.

We’ll wait on my parents’ stoop, like a pack of carolers, until I think to knock on the door. It will creak open, as a flash of lightning reveals a thoroughly haunted home.

The Ghost of Tech Support-Free Visits to My Parents will accost me with appliances.

“The smart TV forgot the password for the Wi-Fi network, the cursor on the iMac turned into a beach ball, and this phone keeps saying iCloud storage is full. Whatever that means.”

The ghosts and I will hurry through the den past The Ghost of Wearing an Ugly Sweater Ironically, The Ghost of Real Christmas Trees,andThe Ghost of Mistletoe Meaning Consent.

We’ll sit around the kitchen table passing a cheese log between The Ghost of Apolitical Christmas Dinners, The Ghost of Harmless Headlines, and The Ghost of Literate Presidents.

The Ghost of Entertaining the Notion of Midnight Mass will make a sheepish attempt at conversation and we’ll pretend we don’t hear him.

Instead we’ll summon a DeLoreanXL and venture into the future.

The Ghost of Glaciers, Polar Ice Caps, and the Mere Concept of Snow will tell us what we have to look forward to from an abandoned oilrig.

“Hope you all like drinking your own pee because that’s how it’s going to be.”

“What if we go back and settle on a carbon tax?”

“If you can convince your cattle to pay for all the methane they’re pumping into the atmosphere you might have a chance.”

The ghosts and I will ride our DeLoreanXL into the sky even further into a future where towering logarithmic spirals have risen from the ocean. We’ll park on a dim lit platform, far from the throngs of bioluminescent aliens. TheGhost of Christmaswill explain how earth was terraformed by extra terrestrial colonists who superimposed their celebrations over our own. He’ll explain how they commemorate the new solar year by exchanging limbs. The Ghost of Christmas will kick the platform with his hands in his red fur trimmed pockets and shrug. “Now I know how my Pagan predecessors felt.”

The ghosts and I will pile back into the DeLoreanXL and go back to the present with our heads in our hands.

On Christmas morning I’ll put on my Sunday best and venture into town. I’ll let Tiny Tim know that I’d love to float him some paper for a lavish Christmas spread, but the economy is in a tailspin and all my assets are liquid.

“Maybe you could start a GoFundMe campaign for a Turkey dinner. Get those crutches in the picture and social media will eat that up for sure.”

God bless us everyone. Continue reading The Ghosts that Visit Me on Christmas Eve

How Not to Promote Your Novel to Strangers

This is one of those opposite day posts (with a little too much truth revealed in jest). There’s a note to myself: STOP DOING THESE THINGS and some good advice in between the lines. Writers ought to get a laugh out of it.

•••

In this age of hyper capitalism it’s important for salespeople to always be closing, influencers to always be networking, and authors to always be pitching.

If you’re a writer I can only assume you know all that already and that you’ve had a lot of success, naturally, of course you have. Print is more alive than ever and everybody reads all the time.

If you’ve taken the time to put words on paper then you’re probably racking money into your front door, but you know what they say, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” Sometimes don’t you wish you had a little less “problems?” Don’t you wish your novels were just a wee bit less successful? Don’t you wish the people you meet on the street were a little less interested in what you’re working on now?

Well, if you’re looking to turn your good fortune down a notch than you’ve come to the right place. Here is my strategy for making sure your writing connects with no one. Follow these steps and you’ll be riding a wave back to that sweet sweet obscurity you crave.

PITCH IN THE WRONG PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME

Pitch your cerebral introspective hero’s journey in places where people don’t go to be cerebral or introspective like karaoke bars, trivia nights, and dance halls. Watch young lovers give out their numbers while you hand out links to places readers can preorder.

Try out your material on every captive audience. It doesn’t matter if they’re a barback washing the counter or a police officer taking your prints. They’ve got ears, put them work.

If your Uber rider rating is too high make it a point of pitching to every driver.

Pitch your story to clerks as lines build up behind you.

THROW PITCHES AT THE WALL HOPING ONE STICKS

Rehearse your elevator pitch until you’re certain you can nail it in fewer than three floors. Give all the major story beats a room in your memory palace and charge down that hall at full speed. Use finely tuned phrases with evocative language to encompass your plot points. Relish in your success when you wow a strange so much that they call a friend over. Then find yourself muddling the retelling because you’re concentrating too hard on trying to make it sound organic. Take your time improvising your elevator pitch like you’re riding the lift up to a space shuttle. When you realize you’re loosing your audience jump ahead to an out of context spoiler that while indeed is fascinating, completely ruins the story you’re trying to tell.

When it’s clear that this whole encounter has been socially awkward and your new friends could use an exit undermine your pitch by saying, “Well horror nerds will get it. It’s really for them.” Openly acknowledging that you’ve wasted everyone’s time.

BECOME YOUR BRAND IN THE REAL WORLD TOO

Social media personalities struggle with portraying themselves as relatable, down to earth, authentic individuals and being their actual true down and dirty selves. They work at honing a realistic personality that’s consumable without coming across as calculated and political. Yet the person we’re seeing in those punchy quick-cut YouTube videos is really just for show. It’s a brand.

In the real world writers are more than the niche genre enthusiasts they portray themselves as online, but if your aim is to NOT PROMOTE your novel then you have to be your brand full time so as to alienate anyone for whom you might make a genuine connection.

A great way to do this is to shoehorn book blurbs into otherwise organic conversations. When friends are talking about a film with a similar subject interject how your story does things a little different. Turn their informal chats into pitch meetings. When they share paranormal encounters hijack their breezy banter and give a sales presentations. When it becomes abundantly clear that someone you have a crush on isn’t reciprocating switch from flirting to networking on a dime. If you can’t make a connection then make a conversion.

TURN EVERY CONVERSATION INTO A BAIT AND SWITCH

Pretend you’re fascinated by what someone does for a living. Get them going. Ask about their aspirations, their five-year plan, and how it fills their life with meaning. Keep asking questions about their career path only to veer off into a conversation about what it means for you to be an author, which is really what you wanted to talk about the all along.

A good conversation is like a game of catch, but you’re trying to have a bad one, so it ought to play more like a game of hot potato and then dodge ball, in that you let them speak for a moment before blitzing them with information they don’t want.

CHOOSE A SUBJECT THAT ISN’T APPROPIATE FOR ALL VENUES

Base your story on something you think of as a dated mythological figure, like say the devil, you know a character others still take deadly seriously. Go ahead and name your story after Satan and put his likeness on all your business cards. Hand them out with no concern over alienating anyone with religious convictions. Design your pentagram promotional materials next to a pair of recovering alcoholics while they discuss their higher power.

Pitch your nightmare-inducing story at your day job. Bring up the seedier aspects of the plot around customers and clients.

Replace your social media thumbnails with your cover art and make the creepy iconography your sole identity.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Anyone can become a bestselling author. Everyone has a dozen great novels in them and they’ll all more than likely be made into movies (and in most instances the characters will be played by actors chosen by the author). I know this. You know this, and yeah, sometimes all that success can be overwhelming, but if you follow the above tips then hopefully you’ll sell a little less and have more time for that sweet sweet self-loathing you crave. Continue reading How Not to Promote Your Novel to Strangers

How Horror Bloggers can Milk Halloween All October Long

Another October is upon us and you know what that means: morning show hosts treating pumpkin spice like it’s heroin, think pieces on seasonal depression, and outrage over tone deaf Halloween costumes (this year it’s a slinky short skirted version of the robes from the Handmaid’s Tale).

Oh, and horror writers doing everything they can to get you to look in our direction.

“Hey! You know you’ve been meaning to check out my scary stories out for a while? Well now’s the time!”

That’s right. Now’s the time of year horror writers get to be on brand and topically relevant to the normies in our social media feed. Rather than dig deep for a memoir on how the season shaped our young imaginations (something personally profound no one would read) we need quick clickable articles that write themselves.

Well if you’re looking for a template for sharable Halloween content to steal from you’ve come to the right guy.

Tis the Season to be Listing

Nothing says cheap mindless content like laying on the listicles. Sure everyone who’s into horror has seen trailers for every film that’s come out this year, but you’re a movie maven so inform everyone what they really ought to be watching.

Maybe you’ll be the 10thcritic to finally push them into seeing Mandy, it’s Nic Cage fighting cenobite bikers with a battle-axe (in a slow burning surrealist study with sparse dialogue). What’s not to like?

Maybe you can be the first of your film buff friends to pitch The Endless in a way that makes sense to casual audiences.

“It’s the story of two brothers visiting the cult they’ve escaped from to find the commune stuck in a sentient pocket dimension hell-bent on claiming them.”

“It’s a coming of age tale set in a UFO death cult.”

“It’s basically The Wicker Man meets Groundhogs Day.”

Clearly I haven’t cracked it yet. Why don’t you try?

Or maybe you can be the first amongst to laud praise on the deboot of Halloween, and champion other exhausted franchises to dump their excess canon in favor of a direct sequels to their original films.

Tap some lists out at the bus stop. Here are some suggestions:

  • Best on Screen Decapitations (The Exorcist 3 is obligatory)
  • Best Mirror Jump Scares
  • Best Demon Etching Title Sequences
  • Best Uses of Moonlight Sonata in a Horror Property
  • Best Horror Spins on Less Successful Sci Fi Premises
  • Best Recent Horrific Crimes for Writers to Base New Material on While the Families are Still Grieving
  • Most Violent Moments on Broadcast Television that Would’ve Gotten an R Rating Had They Been Shown on the Big Screen
  • Best Stephen King Tribute References in Stephen King’s Own Novels

These lists practically write themselves.

Review the Shit Out of Everything

There are too many horror shows for streamers to sift through. Isn’t it part of your vocation as a champion of revulsion to grade them with some sort of skull-centric rating system? Halloween is the Oscars for all things horror. It’s your duty as a corrupter of young minds to cast your vote on time.

Mine the Hell Out of the Past

Save your audience a Google search by listing all the Halloween themed episodes available on streaming. Rank The Simpson Tree House of Horror episodes. Add episodes from the revival seasons of The X-Files to your best of posts, and list the top 10 episodes of The Twilight Zone you want Jordan Peele to remake in the forthcoming series.

Repackage Old Articles with Seasonal Thumbnails

That old blog on Horror Clichés in Need of an Exorcism is just one jack-o-lantern PNG away from being relevant again. That entry on the art of Building Your Own Monsters is just a Halloween hashtag from being reblogged by readers. You got a few comments from that The War on Halloween editorial just add a devil emoji and share that shit again.

People who know me, should’ve suspected my demon nature for some time.

Streamline Your Short Fiction

Writing seasonal flash fiction is challenging. Those short stories get hits in the moment, but on October 31st they become irrelevant. Why waste your time and energy when you just want readers to click on the books for sale in the margins?

I recommend stocking up on Mad Libs and filling them with monster references:

(Man’s name) Flavius Octavius Davis walked in and opened the (noun) lead lined casket where he found a (adjective) bioluminescent (verb) mangled (noun) alien corpse with rope-like heaps of coiled tentacles. He exclaimed (exclamation) “Sweet Jesus, no!”

Make Your Readers Do the Work

Invite the audience to vote on your Halloween costume options, plans for the night in question, and ultimately your excuses for staying in.

But Whatever You Do Don’t…

Don’t give up them game by telling readers about the cynical click-bait schemes you’ve been concocting behind the scenes. That would be the kind noxious over sharing that would be harmful to your brand. You want to seem like your authentic self to readers without letting it all hang out and actually being authentic.

Only a well-trained transdimensional traveler secure in his meta-musings would poses the strength of mind to even attempt such a thing. (Drew wipes the sweat from his brow while tugging at his collar like a nervous cartoon character.)

Oh… and… uh… Happy Halloween!

•••

Meet Noelle, a Hollywood transplant that’s been subsisting on instant ramen and false hope. She’s on the verge of moving back into her mother’s trailer when her agent convinces her to take a meeting at the Oralia Hotel. Enchanted by the art deco atmosphere Noelle signs a contract without reading the fine print.

Now she has one month to pen a novel sequestered in a fantasy suite where a hack writer claims he had an unholy encounter. With whom you ask? Well, he has many names: Louis Cypher, Bill Z. Bub, Kel Diablo. The Devil.

Noelle is skeptical, until she’s awoken by a shadow figure with a taste for souls.

Desperate to make it Noelle stays on, shifting the focus of her story to these encounters. Her investigations take her through the forth wall and back again until she’s blurred the line between reality and what’s written. Is there a Satanic conspiracy, is it a desperate author’s insanity, or something else entirely?

Pre-order my novel HE HAS MANY NAMES today!

How Being A Writer Makes the Ads I See Weird

When I was researching He Has Many Names, a story about the devil and a sleazy hotel, I Googled my share of strange things. Most of the story takes place in a forest-themed fantasy suite. As the suite’s interior decorator I had to fill the space with the right furniture. Now I can’t scroll through my Instagram feed without seeing ads for live edge redwood coffee tables, cherry blossom desk lamps, Styrofoam stalactites, moon shaped lanterns, and vine-themed sex swings.

My research queries ended up in my cookies and swapped information between all my logins. My inquiries into the etymology of the devil, his many forms, and the Satanic panic of the 1980s follow me like toilet paper on the bottom of my boot.

Thanks AdChoices but no I’m not interested in BlueDevil Head Gasket Sealer, Dirt Devil vacuum cleaners, or New Jersey Devils apparel. Try harder.

When Searches Go Public

In 2006 a large number of AOL’s users search history leaked online. The 2013 documentaryTerms and Conditions May Apply shows what happened when several anonymous users were identified by their search terms.

One AOL user in particular had a most intriguing search history. He’d looked up “How to kill your wife” multiple times along with “decapitated photos” and pictures of “murder victims.” Alarmist headlines dubbed him the scariest user on AOL and several armchair sleuths set out to unmask him.

Eventually the documentary filmmakers caught up with Jerome Schwartz and pressed him to see if these search terms were his. He admitted to looking up all of them and a slew of other macabre things. Turns out he was writer for the TV show Cold Caseand these search queries were research for his work.

In the documentary Jerome speculates what would happen if a government algorithm had flagged his searches and the FBI came knocking. I’ve joked about what would happen if the feds confronted me with my search history going so far as to turn the scenario into a short story. If these invasions of privacy become the norm a lot of authors are going to need alibis (this is why I write in public). #WriterProblems.

The New Abnormal

I have a feeling AdChoices will damn me to awkward public encounters for years to come.

I’ll be scrolling through FaceBook when someone will catch some strange shit in my border columns.

“A rhinestone codpiece, shackles, and a gimp mask? I had no clue you went in for all that.”

“I’m writing a scene set in a bondage club so those keep showing up.”

“And the adult sized Winnie the Pooh costume with the open butt flap?”

“Oh well, I am into.”

My Killer App Idea

What if there was a browser extension that recognized the online behaviors of writers and adjusted searches, ads, and results accordingly? And no I don’t mean constantly showing us ads for Grammarly or Scrivener. I’m talking about ads that are fine tuned to enhance the research process be it the intricate procedures that make up your characters’ careers, deep dives into the mythology you’re drawing from, or visual inspiration for the buildings that fill up your plot of the astral plane.

If our cookies spread our data from one site to another wouldn’t it be nice if the cookies contextualized the data as it went? The app could let sites know when we’re looking for home décor and when we’re looking for props for our settings, when we’re shopping for apparel and when we’re putting costumes on characters.

If advertisers have to mine my data they could at least draw the right conclusions from it.

Until they do I’ll just keep an ad blocker running. Continue reading How Being A Writer Makes the Ads I See Weird

Is there Such a Thing as Toxic Positivity?

To the untrained eye I could easily be mistaken as a high-energy person. I tend to be the Tigger to other peoples’ Eeyore, getting them to do things they otherwise wouldn’t.

Just this weekend a friend (in his thirties) invited me to a corn maze for his birthday. When we got there it became apparent that the site had been set up for children. There was an old fashioned fire engine swarming with toddlers like war boys in a post apocalyptic wasteland.

Most folks from my generation would park on the picnic benches, pound a few brews back, and go home. Rather than roll my eyes at the kid friendly festivities I took to them with gusto. Yes. I got my face painted like Spider-Man. Yes. I rolled around in corn. Yes. I met a camel. We raced down slides, bounced on trampolines, and fired miniature pumpkins out of cannons.

I like to have fun when I can. Odds are you wouldn’t know I have clinical depression unless I told you (and many don’t believe me when I tell them). I try not to wave my depression around like it ought to grant me special privileges. I don’t wear it on my sleeve like some kind of HANDLE WITH CARE label, and I don’t like to brag about it like its some hard-earned merit badge.

My depression is there. It is what it is. I function with it on stage and deal with it behind the scenes. A good actor will tell you that you really can’t fake a smile. If the zygomatic major in your cheek and the orbicularis oculi in your eye socket are out of alignment your smile won’t seem genuine. So when I’m smiling it’s not a false front. I’m happy with you in that moment, but moments later off stage I might find myself sulking. Sometimes my energy gets depleted. Sometimes my daydreams take a hard left into nightmare country, and sometimes I’m down for no reason. It happens.

My high-energy public persona is no lie. It’s just a concentrated burst of energy. It’s who I wish I could be all the time, but I’m so often socially sprinting.

The world wants people to be at their sunniest when they’re in public. Just look at how many job postings make sure to specify they’re looking for “High energy, positive, people persons.”

Sometimes that’s an easy request to satisfying and sometimes it’s exhausting. In either event I do my best to keep my darkness in check while I’m in public.

That having been said STOP TELLING ME HOW TO FEEL IN PRIVATE.

Motivational Memes Are Anything But

Stop filling my Facebook feed with the type of positive affirmations that blame the victim for not seizing every goddamn moment. Can’t I have a minute to breathe without the Carpe diem consortium telling me how I ought to be living?

According to a meme I keep seeing Lao Tzu once said, “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

Well Lao Tzu’s tense-centric over simplification doesn’t factor basic neurobiology into the equation.

Then there’s this chestnut, “Drama does not just walk into your life. You either create it, invite it, or associate with people who bring it into your life.”

Did you catch all that? That serotonin imbalance you inherited from your parents: that’s your fault, as were the circumstances you were born into, obviously. Oh and that traumatizing event you’re still struggling to cope with: also totally your fault. Didn’t you know you could live drama free if only it occurred to you to flip your outlook switch?

(BTW if you have the above quote tattooed to your ribcage I assure you everyone you know thinks you’re the dramatic one.)

This last example beautifully sums up my problem with these motivational memes. “Happiness is a choice. You’re the only person who can make you happy. You’re as happy as you choose to be. – Rick Warren.”

Tell an amputee they that they should choose to have their limbs back. Tell a blind person that they ought to choose to see. Tell a person with severe clinical depression that they should choose to be happy always all the time.

Toxic Positivity (or When Positive Statements Make You Feel Bad)

As someone with depression I choose to be functioning and sometimes that decision alone takes all of my engines. If I end up feeling happy well that’s just gravy, but it takes a lot more effort than a mere attitude adjustment to keep me going.

Most embroidered quotes are just fluff, but the above examples aren’t harmless. They have a cumulative effect. They remind you that you’re malfunctioning. They make it seem like other people can feel better by simply looking in another direction.

These motivational memes represent a kind of toxic positivity. When you share them I question your capacity for empathy. They make me wonder if you’ve lived a sheltered life. I interpret them as your way of announcing your status as a fair weather friend.

Positive sentiment doesn’t bother me in and of itself. Of course I want to adjust my outlook, but these quotes are never the epiphany they present themselves to be. They’re ill equip to carry anyone through the decades of emotional heavy lifting needed to affect real change. At best they’re junk food for thought, at worst they’re perky people’s way of telling the rest of us we’d be prettier if we smiled more.

These quotes appeal to our optimistic selves. They’re sugary and sweet but they lack any of the intellectual nourishment we need to improve our situations. They trick us into thinking that a positive outlook is all we need to better our lives. Our outlook does matter, just not as much as the steps we regularly take to function.

Just as I think it’s bullshit to body shame someone who isn’t runway thin, I think it’s bullshit to outlook shame someone because they’re not smiling like Tony Robbins all the time.

Long Rant Made Short

Just because positive messaging gets the blessing of social media algorithms doesn’t mean you should share that shit all the damn time. Congratulations on having a naturally positive attitude. You’re one of the lucky ones. Just recognize that you can’t prescribe your genetics and your circumstances to everyone. Realize that your good outlook didn’t happen in a vacuum. Sure, you made choices that got you there, but you had your share of blessings too.

Wear a grin if that’s how you feel, but know that you sound like a catcalling construction worker if you tell someone else to smile for your benefit.

•••

Meet Noelle, a Hollywood transplant that’s been subsisting on instant ramen and false hope. She’s on the verge of moving back into her mother’s trailer when her agent convinces her to take a meeting at the Oralia Hotel. Enchanted by the art deco atmosphere Noelle signs a contract without reading the fine print.

Now she has one month to pen a novel sequestered in a fantasy suite where a hack writer claims he had an unholy encounter. With whom you ask? Well, he has many names: Louis Cypher, Bill Z. Bub, Kel Diablo. The Devil.

Noelle is skeptical, until she’s awoken by a shadow figure with a taste for souls.

Desperate to make it Noelle stays on, shifting the focus of her story to these encounters. Her investigations take her through the forth wall and back again until she’s blurred the line between reality and what’s written. Is there a Satanic conspiracy, is it a desperate author’s insanity, or something else entirely?

Pre-order my novel HE HAS MANY NAMES today!

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

Buried Beneath a Dollar Sign

I can be
So off the cuff, so genuine
Just watch me
As I moonwalk over landmines
You will find
My loose lips so engaging
You won’t mind
My constant calls for action

I will give
Too much information
I will live
Like there’s no filters on my emotions
My realist real
Will give you all the feels
My authentic appeal
Will seal a lot of deals

There are ads in the classroom
Influencers on the dance floor
Moneylenders in the temple
Because nothing’s sacred anymore
There’s sponsored content
In casual conversation
And the last shred of humanity
Is buried beneath a dollar sign

My big secret
Is a whisper campaign
I started it
Because I have no shame
I have no need
For an advertising agent
Now that eavesdropping
Is a form of engagement

It’s a calculated risk
Yeah, I’ve done the math
I’m a prophet with a motive
I’m a social media sociopath
So talk your shit
Spread it across the city
Call me a skeptic
Because I don’t believe in bad publicity

There are ads in the classroom
Influencers on the dance floor
Moneylenders in the temple
Because nothing’s sacred anymore
There’s sponsored content
In casual conversation
And the last shred of humanity
Is buried beneath a dollar sign

We ripped up Main Street
Gutted all the malls
Circled the supercenters
And tore down the walls
We pushed all the sales reps
Out the sliding doors
Now the retail sector
Knows no borders

There are ads in the classroom
Influencers on the dance floor
Moneylenders in the temple
Because nothing’s sacred anymore
There’s sponsored content
In casual conversation
And the last shred of humanity
Is buried beneath a dollar sign