Tag Archives: humor

Book Promotion Win! Savvy Teens Recreate Occult Ritual from their Favorite Novel

A man was found skinned alive in what police are calling a “Brutal ritualistic killing.”

In the Tanglewood neighborhood around midnight, a 9-1-1 caller reported hearing screams and seeing candles through the windows of the abandoned Chrome Works factory. When officers arrived they found a crime scene “straight out of a horror novel.”

The victim was chained up between the boilers in a prone position with their spine exposed and lungs stretched back into a pair of wings. “At first we took it to be a Viking Blood Eagle, but then we shined out lights on it and it lit up the room like a mirror ball.”

Both the victim’s skin and organs had been removed “with the pression of a skilled surgeon.” The victim’s musculature was coated in a silver lacquer. Both of the victim’s hands had been amputated and replaced with candelabras. A circle of spoons lined their hips, jewels hung from their ribcage, and mirror shards twinkled from their eye sockets. “It was as if the killers wanted us to burst in and shine our lights on it.”

Six high school-age suspects were found with masks, blood stained robes, daggers, and copies of Drew Chial’s controversial novel Reflective Surfaces. While the author could not be reached for comment the publisher released this statement:

Neither Elephant Publishing nor the author have ever claimed the ritualistic aspects of Reflective Surfaces were based in reality. None of the occult ceremonies were taken from known practices. None of the deities are rooted in a mythology and none of the supernatural elements can be linked to genuine belief systems. They were inventions of the author nothing more.

In promoting Reflective Surfaces, Elephant Publishing did not run an alternate reality campaign. We never built dummy websites for our characters, never toyed with readers on Reddit forums, and never doctored Wikipedia entries to reflect the universe of the story. While Reflective Surfaces had several book trailers none of them contained supposed “found” footage. We explicated marketed the title as a work of fiction.

 The suspects were not known to us, our street team, or the author. They acted alone and of their own volition. We were just as shocked as everyone by their painstaking recreation of the chapter titled: The Chrome Plated Angel. From the handmade comedy masks to the snakeskin robes, they got everything right. From the twinkling crime scene to the raven hilted daggers they were holding when the S.W.A.T. team stormed in. These kids thought of everything.

And yet they brought the text to life entirely on their own. It just goes to show the power of fandom.

We join together with the community in applauding this ritualistic reenactment from the sidelines. They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and everyone in the office here is positively blushing. Chial and everyone at Elephant Publishing tips their hats to these self-motivated suspects. In an era where book marketing proves more and more elusive this has been an absolute breakthrough.

Continue reading Book Promotion Win! Savvy Teens Recreate Occult Ritual from their Favorite Novel

Treehouse of Horror Episodes to Distract from Despair of Spending Halloween Alone

October is here and with it another entry in the Simpsons’ 30 year Treehouse of Horrorcollection, a Halloween tradition, and a highpoint in an otherwise uninterrupted downward spiral into the holiday season.

These are best episodes to make you sentimental for a time before you worried about which utility to let slide for the month, when you were certain true love came to everyone, and you didn’t depend on medication just to get out of bed in the morning.

Why spend Halloween alone. Join the first family of animation for a midfall marathon of the macabre.

  1. Treehouse of Horror XII

Hex and the City

Homer runs afoul of a Gypsy bringing death and destruction to everyone around him, and you thought your life was cursed.

House of Whacks

No need to stew in your own emotional juices. Let the Pierce Brosnan voiced Ultrahouse 3000 draw you a bath.

Wiz Kids

Remember when that first Harry Potter movie hit theaters? Oh what a sweet summer child you were, thinking you’d grow up to be a big rock star, plucking on that Squier Bullet Stratocaster, composing Rolling Stone interview answers in your head. Best not think about how J.K. Rowling is racking in the billions while you still can’t carry a tune.

9.Treehouse of Horror IX

Hell Toupee

You could spend your evening debating which friends would be brave enough to speak at your funeral or you could let Homer’s living toupee clear your mind of that self-destructive ideation.

The Terror of Tiny Toon

Bart and Lisa find themselves trapped in an episode of Itchy and Scratchy. A premise that shouldn’t seem too far-fetched considering how much of your life is spent living vicariously through your TV.

Starship Poopers

You and Maggie Simpson have something in common, when Maggie discovers something in her genetic inheritance has made her into a monster.

  1. Treehouse of Horror X

I know what you Diddly-Iddily-Did

Do you ever feel guilt stricken for something your haven’t done? Have you ever internalized a nauseating shame for a mistake you only thought of making? Well, before you crack under the weight of your self-imposed standards consider that you have yet to be involved with a hit and run.

Desperately Seeking Xena

Remember Xena Warrior Princess? Remember 90s primetime TV? Remember Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Remember The X-Files? Remember your idea for that couples’ costume you never got to wear, because you couldn’t find anyone willing to dress as Agent Scully? Well, maybe this cute little super hero spoof will take you mind off of your debilitating loneliness.

Life’s a Glitch and then You Die

Remember the dawn of the millennium when your gravest concern was the Y2K virus? When you thought moving to the city would broaden your romantic possibilities. Remember how you stayed in writing poems to coup with the days’ rejection while your friends wandered into romance like it was nothing? Whatever happened to them.

  1. Treehouse of Horror VIII

The HΩmega Man

You know how you walk that streets at four in the morning and imagine you’re the last person on earth? Homer finds himself in that exact situation, yet he approaches it with a smile on.

Fly vs. Fly

Have you ever felt so small, so insignificant that you felt like a nonentity in your own story? Well, in this episode Bart turns into a fly and he’s still the center of attention.

Easy-Bake Coven

Remember when you went on a shoplifting spree and stole a pentagram necklace from Spencer’s Gifts, a deck of tarot cards, and a book on Witchcraft from Walden Books? Remember when you told your friends you were Wiccan, then The Crafthit theaters and you threw all that in the broom closet? Well, now crystals and tea leaves are in fashion, but you no longer believe in anything.

  1. Treehouse of Horror VI

Attack of 50-Foot Eyesores

Remember that Halloween party where everyone hit on your girlfriend and she left without telling you where she was going. Lard Lad is here to drop a nostalgia bomb on that painful memory.

Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace

You’ve had so many dreams about dying that you know for certain if you die in a dream you’ll still have to go to work in the morning.

Homer³

When Patty and Selma visit without warning Homer answers the call of the void and phases out a existence. Do you ever wonder if there’s a parallel universe where your circumstances would be better? Do you find your eyes wandering to dark voids searching for a way home? That’s not normal.

  1. Treehouse of Horror III

Clown without Pity

With the success of It: Chapter 2 and Jokerbad clowns are really having a moment. Perhaps you can take comfort in the fact that no matter how bad it’s gotten you’ve never resorted to clowning.

King Homer

Do you ever feel like King Kong when you develop feelings for someone? A big lumbering fool imposing yourself on another person.

Dial ‘Z’ for Zombies

The Simpsons find themselves pursued by a horde of unrelenting zombies with no regard for their personal space. Kind of like the Halloween parties ragging throughout your apartment building. Here you are trying to enjoy a little Treehouse of Horrormarathon, but you can’t hear the TV with all the footsteps rushing up the common stairs, blaring subwoofers, and drunken banter on the lawn.

  1. Treehouse of Horror II

The Monkey’s Paw

If you had four wishes what would they be?

  1. A living wage?
  2. A rent controlled apartment?
  3. Cast more people in roles that are usually reserved for pets?
  4. Or to simply remain functional as long as possible without another outburst?

It’s a Good Life

Endowed with God-like powers Bart forces everyone in Springfield to think happy thoughts for fear they’ll be turned into hideous monstrosities. A fear you should already know a lot about.

Frankenstein

If you’re like a lot of people you hate the way you look, but do you ever wonder if you’d feel any better if your brain was transferred to another body?

  1. Treehouse of Horror VII

The Thing and I

Have you ever harbored deep suspicions that you were someone else’s evil twin?

The Genesis Tub

How could God be all powerful, all good, and leave your life in the state it’s in? Perhaps we’re all mold in a petri dish for a second grader’s science fair project.

Citizen Kang

Are you constantly refreshing CNN’s main page asking, “Is he impeached yet? Is he impeached yet? Is he impeached yet?”

Let Kang and Kronos beam you back to a simpler time when campaign seasons were far less emotionally exhausting.

  1. Treehouse of Horror IV

The Devil and Homer Simpson

When you see depictions of hell on screen do you ever get the nagging suspicion that you’re watching the coming attractions for your ultimate end? You should.

Terror at 5½ Feet

Have you ever felt like there was a gremlin on your shoulder cracking your skull open, crossing your wires, and ripping out all your good parts?

Bart Simpson’s Dracula

Do you ever think you’d have an easier time transitioning into life as a vampire than your neuro-typical peers? You don’t eat right, you only go out at night, and you already think of yourself as a parasite.

  1. Treehouse of Horror V

The Shinning

The ghosts in the Overlook hotel targeted Jack Torrance because his alcoholism and unchecked anger left him vulnerable to their influence. Do you ever get the feeling you’d be the target in a similar scenario?

Time and Punishment

You know a thing or two about time travel fantasies. You’re always wondering what might’ve happed had you met with a guidance counselor, hadn’t worked a fulltime job while taking a full course load, gotten on academic probation, and taken a break from college. If only you’d gone back to get a bachelor’s degree instead of trying to turn an unpaid internship into a career. If only you’d kept your LinkedIn notifications on and let your hypercritical friend have a peek at your resumé. Then maybe you’d have been financially attractive enough to someone who wanted children.

Then you’d have gotten the full Halloween experience. Your kids would look on with admiration as you carved pumpkins into their favorite cartoon characters. They’d roll their eyes at your attempt to recite catch-phrases in costume. They’d match your enthusiasm for trick or treating and come to appreciate your ability to carry two pillowcases stuffed with candy at once. But alas, here you are watching The Simpsons.

Nightmare Cafeteria

Budget cuts have forced Springfield Elementary to resort cannibalism. Kind of like how your long bouts of selfcare are eating away at the time you have left to turn this whole thing around. Maybe next year. Yeah, it will be warmer outside. You’ll have met some new people. They’ll have invited you to some Halloween parties. Pop culture will have provided you with better costume ideas. This year you’ll stay in with The Simpsons, but next year, next year you’ll be a whole new person.

Continue reading Treehouse of Horror Episodes to Distract from Despair of Spending Halloween Alone

Brevity Win! Frustrated Author Deletes Novel

In what many of his peers are calling “an inspired choice” author Drew Chial has deleted his current manuscript.

A screenwriter watching Chial from a nearby booth said, “Drew was hunched over his keyboard hammering at the home row, an artisan nearing the end of his creation, when the light bulb must’ve gone off. I couldn’t help but admire the elegant solution he found to his problem.”

A barista behind the espresso machine said, “I could tell when Drew felt that sudden surge of inspiration, because his whole body quivered. He gripped the counter, gritted his teeth, and shouted, ‘God damnit!’ Right at the eureka moment hit.”

William Falkner once told young writers to kill their darlings, to take the conventions they lean too heavily on and heave them into a coffin. Onlookers marveled as Chial murdered his darlings with reckless abandon, selecting his entire document, hitting delete, then tearing the pages out of his memo pad one by one.

“I was going to clap, but as an I.T. professional I knew that Drew had given himself plenty of room to backpedal. He could’ve easily gone back within his document and recovered the previous version. Then Drew raised his laptop up over his head and brought it down hard on the linoleum. The logic board tore through the chassis, like a broken bone, sending the keys everywhere. Still, I held back my applause, because I knew data recovery was still a possibility. That’s when Drew went behind the counter, grabbed an urn of scolding hot coffee, and poured it onto the debris.”

“When Drew tipped that crumpled aluminum enclosure to his lips I didn’t think he’d actually drink from it. But when he guzzled that sludge of circuits and transistors down I knew he was writing on another level than I was.”

Shakespeare once wrote that, “Brevity is the soul of wit and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes.”

By Shakespeare’s logic Chial has lopped off his gangrene appendages, cauterized the stumps, and left us with a novel that must be clever as fuck.

Continue reading Brevity Win! Frustrated Author Deletes Novel

Personal Space Win! Local Author Alienates Everyone Around Him

Every writer wishes they had their own soundproof room. A foam fitted chamber where the only distractions are the scuffling of their clothing, blood swishing in their eardrums, and heartbeats reverberating through their bones. Alas most writers find themselves in cramped into honeycomb habitats where audio pollution is a given. Megaphonic metropolises, with their medical motorcades and high decibel helipads, aren’t planned around clear headspaces.

That’s why so many authors abandon their apartments for the apparent sanctuary of coffeehouses, but there they find all manner of new auditory interference: stockbrokers who don’t know how to modulate their voices, coders beating rhythms into keyboards, and serial venters bending the baristas’ ear.

That’s why it’s so refreshing to hear about a writer who managed to distance himself from all of those distractors. Author Drew Chial has pioneered the perfect technique for establishing his own boundaries and it’s called: being a creep.

“I used to carry a pair of backpacks set one on the stool to my right and one the left, but the staff got wise to what I was doing. That’s when I decided to make myself the reason patrons decided to move on.”

Whether he is letting his gaze linger too long on a young woman, reading over his neighbor’s shoulder, or treating the bar like a standing desk Chial is a master at establishing boundaries.

“When a Tinder date sits down beside me I align my eardrum like an eavesdropping satellite. Then I draw out my expressions like I’m giving their date the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment in my mind. I start typing when they get quiet, but it’s always the same thing over and over again: All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.”

It’s this mastery of non-verbal communication that allows Chial to get his work done.

“I’ve got a secret weapon to manage all manner of personal space invaders.”

He has a sack full of airline liquor bottles to pour into his coffee for whenever an alcoholics anonymous one on one sets up beside him.

Chial keeps attractive women away by staring at the door like a lost deer, theatrically double then triple-taking as people walk in.

“I like to slide on a pair of sunglasses like I’m hiding my eyeline, leave them on the tip of my nose, and wait until the moment we make eye contact. Then I push them up and mouth breath heavily. Do this enough times and you’ll have the bar to yourself. Oh, and keep a DSLR camera on the counter.  I don’t know why, but that also works.”

Chial even has a tactic for dealing with other creeps.

“The hardest bubble-burster to deal with is another writer. They’re already in their own little world, only vaguely aware of the lunacy in their periphery. That’s why I bust out my restless legs and play my swivel seat like a percussion instrument. From the footrest to the the counter I am a blur. It took a while to hone this skill. The first few times it felt like I was running a marathon, but now I never skip a leg day. I practice with a double kickdrum peddle at home. Whenever a fellow writer makes the mistake of entering my domain I just cue up my headphones and tap out some Norwegian death metal.”

You may have noticed that Chial’s revolutionary boundary defining methods are catching on. A fleet of creeps have spread throughout the nation’s coffee houses, utilizing Chial’s self-care techniques. So the next to you see someone in shades, panting like a dog in heat as you make your order, give them their space. They’ve got writing to do.

Continue reading Personal Space Win! Local Author Alienates Everyone Around Him

Horror author changes monster from “He” to “They”

Too many horror writers insist on gendering their demons. Intrepid incubi gallop down gothic hallways, while sultry succubi scurry up satin sheets. Beasts have balls. Ghouls have gaps, but one progressive author is challenging all that.

Drew Chial sketched a bipedal figure in his notebook. Its hair, shoulders, and hips were obscured in shadow. Drew traced the rounded edges. “I don’t want readers to have a clue what the monster is. I want it to be a vague alien threat, something salivating at the end of the corridor. If I tell you what the monster’s sex organs are you’ll have that much more of an understanding and find it less frightening.”

Readers are conditioned to make assumptions about monsters’ gender identities, because grammar dictates it so. The millipede of meat that’s winding up the spiral staircase is either a ‘he’ or a ‘she,’ but our assumptions about this arthropod’s identity are problematic.

Chial is challenging the linguistic illuminati one pronoun at a time.

“I thought I could just find all mentions of the word “He” and replace them with “It,” but there were complications. At first I did everything to avoid the monster’s pronouns.  For instance: He wrapped his boneless appendage around his victim’s neck, punctured the skull with his talon-tipped tongue, and slurped the brain matter out at his leisure. Became: The creature wrapped a boneless appendage around the corpse’s neck, punctured the skull with a talon-tipped tongue, and slurped the brain matter in slow gulps.”

“The problem was the more I avoided possessive pronouns the clunkier my sentences became. That’s when I started using they, their,andthem.I just had to conjugate the verbs so it was clear I was using ‘they’ in the singular.”

They arethe serpentine silhouette whose secretions scorch the tiles beneath theirfeet.

Theyarethe mouth breathing mutant dragging a robe of cobwebs behind their back.

Theyare the humongous hunchback whose plates scrape the ceiling above them.

Edgar Allan Poe described his ghosts as phantasmagorical shadows, existing beyond the veil of perception. The narrators that spotted one of these phantoms, could never fully comprehend them. Chial has modernized Poe’s method by obscuring his creature’s genitals. Maybe the monster is gendered. Maybe it’s agender. Maybe it’s intersex or maybe it’s chimerical, something that shifts sexes right before its victim’s eyes. Whichever the case Chial has bypassed the audience’s prejudice by eliminating the patriarchal paradigm.

“I’ve been trying to refer to my monsters as ‘They’ for a while now, but Microsoft Word’s grammar function kept imposing ‘He’ or ‘She’ on me, but I’ve upgraded to the 2019 edition and those little green underlines are gone. Still, Word 2019 has a ways to go. It still autocorrects ‘themself’ to ‘themselves’ forcing me to type it twice.”

Hopefully the people at Microsoft will heed Chial’s words and stop trying to dictate which pronouns paranormal entities can use. Software publishers need to understand that language is fluid as are many swamp creatures. Language needs to evolve as a show of respect to underrepresented people AND to accommodate a horror writer’s desire to enshroud his monsters in mystery.

Continue reading Horror author changes monster from “He” to “They”

Author mistaken for Tinder date spends evening pretending his name is Kevin

Local author Ryan Nilsson was struggling to reach his wordcount goals when a stranger tapped him on the shoulder. She said, “Hi, I’m Riley,” and extended her hand. “You must be Kevin.”

“Riley was beautiful, outgoing, and most likely farsighted.”

Before Ryan knew what he was doing he was shaking Riley’s hand and she was parking in the seat beside him. Riley looked around the room, like a secret agent checking for a tail. Her face turned red as she turtled into her collar. “Sorry. This is the first one of these online things I’ve been on.”

“Me too.” Ryan concurred.

“Really? Oh, good, so it’s not just me. What are you working on?”

Ryan recalls he crisis of conscience. “I saw the conversation branch into two distinct paths. One where I fessed up that I wasn’t Kevin and another where I pitched my novel in vivid detail. I’d resolved to tell her the premise and the make my exit, then she leaned in with those big bright eyes and asked the three words every writer longs to hear, ‘Then what happens.’ So I kept going until I was in too deep.”

When it occurred to Ryan that the real Kevin must be right around the corner he packed up his laptop, ready to make a swift albeit awkward get away. That’s when Riley suggested a charming restaurant around the corner.

“I got swept up in her enthusiasm.”

When the hostess sat the couple in a booth by the bar Riley realized something and cupped her hands over her mouth. “Oh my God, I’m so sorry. I just remembered you don’t drink.”

“I was quick to surmise that the real Kevin was two years sober, a diabetic, and vegan.”

Ryan kept Riley talking while he struggled to cobble together an order.

“The menu was a mine field.”

Ryan read things aloud non-committedly and Riley shot them down.

“Spinach salad?”

“That has feta cheese.”

“Fried Brussel sprouts.”

“It looks like they fry them in fish sauce.”

“Diet Coke.”

“Don’t you know that diet soda is really bad for diabetes?”

Riley left her phone on the table when she went to consult with the hostess about the menu. A series of texts from Kevin streamed down the screen.

I’m here.

Is this the right place?

Where are you?

Ryan spat out his gum, pressed into a fingerprint Riley left on her glass and used the impression to unlock her phone. He discreetly blocked Kevin’s number and entered his own under Kevin’s name.

“When Riley came back I settled on the field greens salad and a water, but it was the steak frites and the Sazerac that were calling to me.”

Throughout the meal Ryan did his best to keep the conversation on Riley’s side of the table.

“I assumed Kevin had already cycled through the basics: favorite bands, places to travel, career goals, and all that, so I had to get a little more abstract.”

Ryan combed over his salad and asked. “What was the weirdest thing you saw this week?”

As it turned out Riley was studying abnormal psychology and she had seen quite a bit. “I was reading a study on the bystander effect. The subjects were sorted into large groups and small groups then one actor in each group pretended to have a seizure. People in the small groups tried to help, but people in the large groups pretty much let the actor drop dead.”

Ryan had come across the same study doing research for his writing. The conversation became game of ping pong with Riley serving up the unethical experiment and Ryan hitting back with how he’d already fictionalized it.

“I had no idea Yoga instructors were so well versed in clinical psychology.”

Ryan nodded, swished the water around his mouth, and took his time formulating a response. “Oh yeah, with all the mindfulness there’s a ton of overlap.”

“It’s refreshing to see you’re not adverse to the scientific side of things. I was afraid you were going to be much more metaphysical.”

Ryan and Riley had a lot in common, but scrolling through Kevin’s Facebook profile in the bathroom Ryan found he and Kevin did not. “We have similar hairstyles until you look at Kevin from the side profile and you see the manbun.”

The real Kevin was also not as science friendly as Riley had hoped. Ryan reported. “I was less than one page down before I stumbled upon an anti-vaxxer meme, two pages when I found a video questioning the moon landing, and I’m pretty sure the Dalai Lama never said, ‘Depression is a choice.’”

After a few slices of gluten free carrot cake the couple set out for Riley’s apartment for a non-alcoholic nightcap. When they passed the coffee house where Riley’s date was supposed to take place Ryan positioned himself to obscure the real Kevin’s view. When Riley knelt to tie her shoe Ryan knelt with his back to the window, lengthening his coat like privacy curtains.

The couple capped off their evening with two cups of chamomile tea and a sleepy eyed conversation about how worried they’d been about the evening with Ryan drawing from previous blind dates for inspiration.

At a certain point Riley propped her cheek up in her hand. “Here I was fretting I’d have buyer’s remorse, but you’re like the opposite of that. You’re like pride in ownership.” Riley yawned. “That came out wrong.”

Ryan didn’t pressure Riley for a farewell kiss. He didn’t insist they plan out their next date, nor did he linger beyond his welcome. He hugged Riley goodnight and showed himself out. He was a perfect gentlemen apart from that whole grand deception thing.

At the time of this writing Ryan is rigorously preparing for his second date, learning vegan recipes, studying yoga, and surveying the best colognes for covering the smell of alcohol. Behind the scenes he’s been forging a Facebook profile for his interpretation of Kevin, populating it with fake friends, and scientifically positive memes. He’s also been tracking the real Kevin, getting a sense of Kevin’s favorite places so he and Riley can avoid those parts of town.

Continue reading Author mistaken for Tinder date spends evening pretending his name is Kevin

The Story of My Birth

On this day several decades ago my parents attended a ceremony in the woods between the graveyard and their newfound home. They knew the moon was waxing despite the overcast and they wore but wolfskins despite the chill of autumn. They were drawn off the trail by an chorus of windchimes and a network of twine. They came upon a clearing marked by stacks of stones. There they found the local homeowners association pacing in a circle muttering in tongues. Each member wore an identical wolf skin and each one held an old oil lantern high above them.

At the center of the circle was a long stone slab jutting from the earth like a comet. It was lined with objects of power: ruin covered relics, gemstones, and pendants. My parents took their places at the base and the head of the slab. There they were blindfolded and told to listen for the object that called to them. My father says he heard a flute. My mother says she heard a bell.

My father reached for something cold and cylindrical. When he lifted his blindfold he saw a jar full of grass stems. When he raised it a dozen green lights flickered awake. One of the homeowners had captured and cultivated fireflies over the long humid summer.

My mother reached for an object and recoiled. She felt her fingertip and found it wet with blood. It turned out the object that was calling to her was a long curved dagger.

The homeowners association instructed my parents to use these objects to procure a sacrifice before the new day’s sun came creeping over the horizon. My father twisted the lid off of the jar and set the fireflies free. Together he and my mother followed the lights into the thicket.

One deer carcass later and the night was won. I’ll spare you the gory details. Suffice to say the stone slab was red before dawn. The blood trickled and pooled onto the earth below where two tiny hands emerged from the dirt and viscera. My manger was a circle of rock salt at the foot of the slab. I wasn’t born so much as I was summoned and I didn’t cry so much as exhaled smoke rings.

Oh, and the hit single on my birthday was Endless Loveby Dianna Ross and Lionel Richie.

Continue reading The Story of My Birth

Self-Promotion Win! Someone took author’s novel from little free library

Every day author Drew Chial hikes 25 miles to ensure his novel HE HAS MANY NAMES has a place of prominence in every little free library across the city of Minneapolis Minnesota.

“I started carrying these microfiber gloves to make sure my magnum opus doesn’t look like it’s been gathering dust.”

While most of the Dan Brown and James Patterson titles stand spine to spine Chial positions HE HAS MANY NAMES with the cover facing outward.

“I want the occult iconography and Andy Warhol color scheme to bedevil readers into exploring further. HE HAS MANY NAMES? Ooh. Who might that be?”

This Monday Chial’s efforts finally paid off.

“My blistered bunions bore fruit! I couldn’t help myself. I took a selfie next to the gap where my novel used to be. My mother said she could barely recognize me. I’ve never looked so happy.”

While many think pieces are lamenting the death of the novelist Chial is an entrepreneur in a changing literary landscape.

“I went to Barnes and Noble with a trench coat lined with copies of HE HAS MANY NAMES. I’d slit holes in the coat so I could leave stacks in the endcaps. I didn’t even have to take my hands out of the pockets.  I’d snatch a handful of copies of The Secretand leave my little devil book in its place. A week later I’d check on my contribution to the store’s visual merchandising. At first I was overjoyed to see that every copy of my book was gone, until I found a stack beside the dumpster with torn covers. That’s when I realized publishers paid to have their books featured on those endcaps. HE HAS MANY NAMES didn’t have a chance next to John Grisham or Khloe Kardashian so I went back to the white board and got to brain storming.”

Lightning must have struck because if Monday’s news is any indication all 300 hundred copies of HE HAS MANY NAMES Chial in little libraries throughout the city are about to be snatched up.

Chial hosted a celebration at the Minneapolis Marriott banquette hall to commemorate his victory. He toasted all 150 authors in attendance. “Neil Gaiman once said, “The model for tomorrow is… to try everything. Make mistakes. Surprise ourselves. Try anything else.’ And that my friends and colleges is exactly what I have done today.” Chial raised a glass of Dom Perignon. “To me!”

Continue reading Self-Promotion Win! Someone took author’s novel from little free library

How to Guilt Your Parents into Reading Your Novel

Success is a subjective thing, especially when it comes to artistic accomplishments. For a lot of writers finishing a novel is cause for celebration, as is getting it published, let alone it becoming a bestselling author. Most of us have realistic expectations. We know it’s unlikely a stranger will recognize us from the photo on the back flap of our books. We know our asses will never grace the guest chair of The Late Show, and we’ve got a hunch that we’ll never get blisters from signing autographs.

The pragmatists among us aspire to cover our expenses with our work. We hope for fandom amongst friends, and for our parents to acknowledge the legitimacy of our work. That’s the biggest benchmark we strive for as artists. Sure your fiction isn’t your primary source of income, but your mother can introduce you as “my son the writer” at family functions.

Okay, that last one might be a bit of a lofty ambition. It turns out a lot of parents don’t want to spend their retirement reading metafictional horror satire even if it was written by their son. They need a little persuading, some subtle guidance to steer our work to the top of their reading list.

Here are some ideas to help you with that.

Leverage Peer Pressure

If your novel is geared toward a younger audience give your siblings, cousins, and family friends free copies. Then when you’re together, at like a baptism or a funeral, shoehorn one of your novel’s themes into casual conversation, not your book itself, but one of the subjects a reader might recognize. Leave it to your extended family to actually bring your book up. If you’re lucky one of them will ask your parents what they thought about that part.

Quiz your parents like a middle school teacher honing in on a student who didn’t do the reading. What did you think of the setting? Did you find the heroes voice too grating? What did you think of the twist?

If your mother says, “It was nice. It was all nice.”

Pause for a moment to let all the awkward looks sink in. Give that peer pressure a moment to really boil over.

Then turn to your father. “What did you think of military father? Did you think his portrayal was one dimensional or did you think it was fair?”

If he says, “I thought it was fair.” Then call him out.

“There was no military father, but there was a rather explicit sex scene. What did you think of that?”

Let that ellipses waft around everyone in the room like a bad fart.

Push Notifications on Them

The next time your father needs tech support for his phone take it, change your photo in his contacts to your cover art and your personalized ringtone to “I’m writing a novel” by Father John Misty. Then set a reminder for the day it comes out and change the alert sound to “Cats in the Cradles” by Harry Chapin to play on his heart strings.

If your father asks how these changes occurred tell him that you’ll take a look at it. Then ring the bell on your YouTube account so he gets a notification when your book trailer drops. Set his phone to follow every Podcast you’re due to appear on. Open his photo gallery and link to your book tour photo stream so he sees you with fans.

When an author blurbs your book text the quote to your parents followed by. “Whoops! Sorry, I meant to send that to my publisher.” Then send your folks a link from Goodreads and caption it with “Hey look, another five star review!” Then follow that up a few minutes later with. “Sorry, that was meant for my publisher too.” Then forge an email from a fan who was so moved by your prose that they decided not to take their own life, but rather to forge on, and become a veterinarian. Then forward it to your parents. Followed by, “Whoops. Wrong email address.”

Pwn Their Computers

Sure you could buy targeted advertisements to play between the World War 2 videos your father watches or the Carpenters songs your mother listens to, or you could just take over your parents’ computer and make them see what you want to.

Use a browser based caller ID spoofer to appear as though you’re calling from regional tech support. Utilize the spoofer’s voice changer FX, stick to a tight script, and lay the urgency on thick. Leverage the data breach headlines the media is always frightening your parents with.

“I’m sure you’ve heard about the vulnerabilities to our OS in the news. Well, I’m sorry to report your machine is one of the ones affected. Hackers are already using your IP to host a dark web marketplace, mainly drugs and some photos I’d rather not discuss, but don’t worry. I’m going to walk you through a simple fix and we’ll have you safe and secure in no time.”

Then direct them to a website you’ve cobbled together with flipped assets: a stock photo of a smiling technician with their headset on, a pair of senior citizens looking ecstatic at their computer desk, and some copy and pasted cybersecurity jargon (something about catfish caught in a botnet, it doesn’t matter, so long as it goes over their heads).

Call your link URGENT UPDATE DOWNLOAD IMMEDIATELY and advise your parents to do as it says. Your trojan should contain a rootkit to give you remote administrator access to you parents’ system.

Assure your folks that they’ve nipped the problem in the bud without compromising their social security numbers and that they can rest easy. Now wait until they’ve gone to sleep and get to work.

Install a plugin that reroutes local news sites to a profile on you: Local Author Makes Headlines with Latest Magnum Opus.Install a plugin that switches their Amazon recommendations to your bibliography, and another that makes it so that every other Facebook post they see links to your blog directly.

Use the Postal System

If your technological tactics prove too subtle try going old school.

Send your parents complimentary Kindle download codes, in small envelopes with elegant rose gold seals. Order cards with an illustrated border of laurels, cherubs, and hearts. The cursive script within should read:

Together with his publisher

Your son

Invites you to join him

In the celebration of his book launch

(enter release date,

Followed by the download code)

You should ask them to RSVP just so you know they got it.

Drop Shop

Forge Orpah’s Book Club stickers, slap them on a boxful of your novels, and plant copies at a supermarket you know your mother frequents. Write up a Staff Picks card and slide a copy into the window at Axe Man. It will subconsciously register with your father when he passes it.

Don’t fret if either of your parents bring your book to the front counter. As long as your book has an ISBN number that shit should scan. Sure, it might not be in the store’s inventory, but a nervous cashier will push that transaction through when they realize the customer’s son wrote it.

Take Over Your Mother’s Book Club

So this long con is going to take a bit of commitment. Have you ever seen Mrs. Doubtfire? Robin Williams plays a recently divorced father who wants to see his children so he does what most people do, he gets fitted for an elaborate latex prosthetic and takes on the persona of an elderly British woman. You’re going to be doing pretty much exactly that.

The best way to sell your senior citizen persona is to rent a house in your parent’s neighborhood, build relationships around their block, and gather intelligence. Invest in a small yappy puppy. Trust me the puppy will do the introductions for you. Hang out around those Little Free Libraries people leave in their lawns. Inquire about a book club, bring home baked cookies, bide your time, and drop you metafictional horror satire on everyone.

The best part about this scenario is get to hear your parents sing your praises when they think you’re not in the room.

Click Bait and Switch

Post an ultrasound on Facebook. Caption it with WE’RE EXPECTING in all caps. Doctor the photo so that the fetus’s fingers are holding your novel. This shouldn’t be a thumbnail image. It should be large enough for the fetus to feasibly read the book from within the womb. After WE’RE EXPECTING write this novel to crack the bestsellers list. Then tag your parents in the photo. Tag the whole extended family too.

If this doesn’t get your parents’ attention then nothing else will.

Continue reading How to Guilt Your Parents into Reading Your Novel

How the Miracle of Insomnia Can Unlock Your Imagination

Too many writers quit after their first book. They spend so much time cultivating a great idea that when they finally put it on paper they feel like there’s nothing left in their head. They sit with their notebooks held to their hearts waiting for inspiration, but it never comes.

Here’s a secret people with sleep apnea have known for years: inspiration often strikes in the middle of the night. Sometimes bright ideas don’t spark. Sometimes they’re more of a gentle fizzle. Sometimes a glitch in your neurotransmitters can manifest as a happy accident.

If you’re desperate for new ideas then allow me to introduce you to the miracle of insomnia. Follow me on a vision quest through your subconscious. Together we’ll pry the black diamonds from the darkest recesses of your mind.

The Power of Illusion

Have you ever been driving late at night and mistaken a mailbox for a hitchhiker or a windswept recycling bin for a person lying face down the street? These roadside illusions are glitches in your mind’s ability to recognize things. Sleep deprivation impairs your ability to recognize patterns. The more your cognitive performance diminishes the more objects around you will switch it up.

Say “Goodbye,” to the intersecting evergreen branches and “Hello” to block long spiderwebs. Say “Goodbye,” to the trash bags at the edge of the driveway and “Hello” to a troop of gorillas. Say, “Goodbye” to windmills on the horizon and “Hello” to the giants.

It doesn’t take much sleep debt for you to see things, at least for a moment, but eventually your mind’s eye catches up to your retinas.

These are just recognition illusions, your brain struggling to process objects in a space. Your subconscious has yet to make a creative contribution. If you really want your mind to play tricks on you then you have to be scared too.

Be Afraid

Fright pairs well with these illusions. The sleepier you are the easier it is to trigger your fear center. Stimulate your anterior insula with a paranormal podcast, some scary viral videos, or a good old fashion game of Bloody Marry. Then go for a walk with some Halloween sound FX in your headphones. Now scan the forest for silhouettes.

Haven’t you wanted to see those shadow people that are all the rage on Reddit right now? There’s one massaging that tree trunk with its long twisted talons. There’s another stroking the branch above you, plucking at leaves, and sending them spiraling. There’s one kneeling behind the stump. Can’t you see it slurping that poor turtle right out of its shell? The shadow people are all around you, playing red-light greenlight whenever your back is turned.

The problem with shadow people is that they fade under scrutiny, unless you wake to find one standing at the foot of your bed. Then they’ll last a little longer. Shadow people make guest appearances as waking hallucinations when you’re in the throes of sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis is like sleep walking in reverse: your brain switches on, but your body is still off. Your fear center goes haywire and manifests a supernatural assailant.

As freaky as bedside service shadows are your brain isn’t really flexing here.

Shadow people are an elementary archetype. They’re featureless because your subconscious doesn’t feel like fleshing them out. It’s still grabbing at patterns, hoping the sudden surge of fear will elevate the material, but as far as visions go shadow people are but stick figures. They’re basic.

Go ahead and shoehorn some shadow people into your fiction if you still find medicine cabinet jump scares, TV static, and black cats frightening, but if you really want to mine your subconscious for A-material you’ll have to go further down the rabbit hole.

Insomnia is an all-natural Hallucinogen

If you want to give readers a boundary pushing experience you’ll have navigate through your own neuromagnetic stormfronts, sail through the fog of delirium, and ram through the glaciers between conscious states. You’ll have to gaze upon the great cosmic maelstrom with your third eye wide open. You’ll have to hallucinate with a capital H.

I’m talking about all natural hallucinations. The kind Tibetan monks spend lifetimes stimulating without chemical agents. The kind you’d usually have to have a severe neurological conditions to experience.

Just like a marathon runner you’ll have to work up to this level before you go pro. Know your sleep needs and gradually deprive yourself an hour each night until you’re not sleeping at all.

Reimagine the Bedroom

Break the psychological association you have between your mattress and rest. The best way to do this is to use your bed for everything but sleeping: spread your yoga mat across the covers, followed by your free weights, and your meals.

Stack lumber on the headboard and whittle yourself some bed knobs. Line the frame with yarn samples and crochet yourself a canopy. Line oil paints on the windowsill and mix colors on the pillow. This is the perfect opportunity to paint that deep sea mural you’ve always wanted.

Use Bright Light Therapy

Order a 10,000 lux LED bright light therapy lamp. Therapy lamps are powerful tools designed to help:

  • people in northern regions get through long stretches of polar night
  • people with circadian rhythm sleep disorders stay awake
  • people with seasonal affective disorder survive the overcast
  • and people with jetlag to resituate themselves

We’re going to use our therapy lamp to experience what Alaskan’s call “midnight sunlight” and trick our minds into perceiving daylight all night.

PRO TIP: A surround sound system looping birdsong will add extra oomph to your therapy lamp.

Use Technology to Pinch Yourself Awake

Smartwatches and fitness trackers can be programed to wake you with a subtle vibration whenever you’re coming out of a nice light sleep. By measuring your pulse throughout your sleep cycle they can ease you up before your alarm clock goes off.

We’re going to use that same technology to keep us from nodding off. Apps like Restlessfor the Apple Watch track dips in your heart rate and jolt you awake before you go under. By programming your watch to give you hyper-frequent haptic feedback you’ll be inviting your dreams to join you in real life.

Drink Up Johnny

Your author identity may require you to consume one alcoholic beverage an hour, but try to avoid the nightcap family: the warm cocktails, the fortified wines, brandies, bourbons, and liqueurs. Those sleepy time beverages aren’t going to serve us here, neither are any uppers.

Avoid the light roasts, triple lattes, and depth charges. Caffeine is your friend, until it isn’t. When you’re tired your brain produces a chemical called adenosine. While caffeine blocks adenosine, your brain doesn’t stop making it, so when the caffeine cycles through you all that adenosine hits at once. You crash.

Coffee dehydrates you too, making your heart work double time, which will ultimately wear you out faster.

That’s why the magical elixir we’ll be using to keep ourselves alert is: water, and lots of it. Water will keep our brain cells firing and our bladder bursting. Native Americans used to drink a lot of water to wake up early for their attacks (or so The Simpsonstells me). We’re going to drink so much water that our urinary tracks will feel like water slides.

Mind Explosion

A study by A.M. Williamson and Anne-Marie Feyer found a period of sleep deprivation greater than 28 hours is the motor performance equivalent of a 0.1% blood alcohol level. While 28 hours of sleep dep would make you legally intoxicated our goal is to get shitfaced.

One study found that 2 percent of people who go without sleep for 112 hours experience the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. Since we’re trying to peak beyond the veil we’re going to have to go a few hours past that, until warp speed signatures trail through our vision and the only thing we hear is the THX test tone. When our physical form is but a bobble-headed husk and our astral body is free to fly away.

We will blast through the hyperspace super highway, where our molecules will dissolve, and our atoms will scatter throughout the cosmos. Our electrons will resonate at the same frequency as the background radiation left by the big bang, and swirl back together through the golden mean spiral.

We will find ourselves reborn, in an interstellar womb floating toward the debris field of the garden of Eden.

Our Chakras will align as we touch down upon the grass. Plasma particles will flow through the divine vegetation. Leaves will sway like guiding hands pointing to the tree of knowledge. There we will find a fresh ripe apple waiting for us. Take a bite and taste that sweet sweet thunderbolt of enlightenment, that uncut truth, that objective reality that mortal minds cannot comprehend.

Now return to your drooling physical form transcribe that wisdom for future generations before sleep deprivation psychosis sets in and they find you naked on the front lawn crawling like a mealworm.

Closing Thoughts

Let your biological clock flash 12:00 and you’ll hit your wordcount goals in no time flat. Let your circadian rhythm pop and lock and your fingers will dance across the keyboard. Let your sleep hygiene go and you’ll be rolling in pungent premises. Let your sleep debt ride and the rewards will pay off in spades.

Continue reading How the Miracle of Insomnia Can Unlock Your Imagination