Tag Archives: writing

How to Be an Anti-Muse

ARTIST’S NOTE: So it looks like I still have some venom I need to squeeze out of system before I can get back to our regularly scheduled program. I like giving writing advice, but sometimes when I look at the state of things in online artistic arenas I want to burn it all down. I realize I owe my readers a debt of sincerity, but if you allow me one more sarcastic tantrum I promise I’ll make it up to you soon.

The Subtle Art of Extinguishing Creative Sparks

Don’t you hate how some people hold onto their artistic ambitions long after they’ve gotten laid for the first time? I mean, come on. They should’ve set that guitar down the moment their backs hit the mattress. You put a sock on the doorknob, strum out a little Wonder Wall, and cast that shit aside. Mission accomplished. Am I right? If someone is still plucking that thing into his thirties there’s something wrong with him.

The same goes for people staggering into coffee houses calling themselves writers, sitting there scribbling into leather bound journals, looking as pensive as possible, hoping some college girl will ask, “What are you writing?” I mean talk about a long con, and the thing I don’t get is why these dumbs schmucks go back to scribbling once they’ve gotten a girl’s attention. It’s like they’re backtracking the wrong way across the finish line.

The worst is when you’re friends with one of these rhyme-scheming stanza stacking wordsmiths, walking around wielding a notepad like a weapon that could go off at the first recitation. You’re a captive audience to their cry for help, forced to give an impromptu theory session under the guise of feedback. The indulgence is exhausting.

You float the idea: What if you channeled all that creative energy into writing a cover letter or technical copy?

Despite all your interventions your friend doesn’t know when to put away childish things. Everyone’s got paintbrushes in their attic, film equipment in their closet, and drum kits in their basement, but he’s still clinging to his hobby like it defines him.

He’s still dreaming about inspiring people with his creations, despite all the grey coming into his hairline. It’s really starting to bum you out.

Well, don’t fret. I’ve developed some tactics to neg your artistic associate into submission. Continue reading How to Be an Anti-Muse

How Not to Write: The Anti-Writing Writing Method

So your writing is flowing too fast. The spark of inspiration has set your mind ablaze and your fingers hurt from typing. Stephen King says you should write 3,000 words a day and you’re lapping him: 6,000 words a day, 9,000 words a day. You’re so prolific your beta readers feel like you’re swamping them with homework and your inbox is teeming with acceptance letters. Even your coffee table is overflowing with magazines and collections you’ve been featured in. Everybody is buying what you’re selling. Hollywood has optioned so many of your stories that all your liquid assets are tied up in forthcoming films.

Your writer’s workshop has added nights to discuss your work. You to try pump the breaks, to give the other writers around you a chance to catch up, but you finish stories in line at Chipotle. You’re frequently asked; “Are you typing right now?” while you’re appearing on podcasts.

Worse still you’re burdened with an excess of self-satisfaction. People often tell you that you need to glower more. They say you’re one of those writers who is just too damn chipper. The sheer glee you get from walking up every morning is becoming a problem.

Don’t worry. I can help make you tolerable to your less accomplished peers. Just follow my advice for derailing your train of thought and you’ll be writing just as slow as them. Continue reading How Not to Write: The Anti-Writing Writing Method

Specters of Summer: Creepy Real Life Encounters

Flash Non-Fiction from a Frightened Pedestrian

I live in a part of Minneapolis where I can walk most everywhere I go. While other city dwellers live in food deserts, far from healthy produce, I live in a food oasis with four grocers just blocks from my apartment. Minneapolis has a greenway where cyclists and pedestrians can travel without having to worry about oncoming traffic. Everyday I walk that way to work. I have my choice of four lakes to hike around to find my calm. I walk to the coffee shop where I write. I walk to my Twin Peaks viewing party. I walk to karaoke.

I grind the heels of my boots down flat. I go through one set of insoles a month, and my jeans always have a shortened lifespan, but I can get away with eating donuts and maintain the same frame I’ve had since I was eighteen.

I like walking, despite all the gravel I track into the apartment or the fact that I have to carry an umbrella at all times.

The only real drawback to traversing the city on foot is that it leaves me much more vulnerable than if I were in a vehicle.

There are always wolves looking to prey on anyone they perceive to be lagging behind the heard. Sometimes it’s the red cup wielding frat brothers picking fights on street corners while onlookers yell “World Star.” Sometimes it’s the sidewalk trolls, panhandling for a toll, following me for blocks until I give them a hard, “No.”

Sometimes it’s the people spotting me over their shoulder, ducking into entryways, thinking I can’t see their breath spiraling out in the cold. These are the people who leap out of the shadows, follow me between buildings, and chase me into gas stations. These are the predators I don’t always see coming.

I’ve been jumped before, laid out, full on woke up in a hospital with no clue what happened, missing a phone and a lot of time. The experience puts me on edge at night. It’s made me hyper aware of my surroundings. When I see a shady character standing in my path I check the bushes for silhouettes. Attackers are like Velociraptors if you see one in front of you odds are there are two swooping up from your sides. Continue reading Specters of Summer: Creepy Real Life Encounters

Book Club Discussion Guide

DON’T THINK OF A CRIMSON ELEPHANT

By Flavius Octavius Davis

BLACK HOUSE PRESS READERS GROUP GUIDE

This reading group guide contains questions for discussion, suggestions to deepen your appreciation of the book, and instructions for dealing with the knowledge that this text has made you vulnerable to psychic incursions from the blood red trunk reaching out from the nethermost regions of the astral plane. The questions are intended to enhance your experience, empower group members to share personal insights, and help you cope with the fatal error in judgment you’ve made by selecting such a reading.

INTRODUCTION

The nameless narrator of Don’t Think of a Crimson Elephant warns you against empathizing with his plight. He pleads with you not to follow his nightmares through the skyscraper bone yards, shifting mountains on the horizon, or game trails in the storm clouds. He spoils the dramatic tension, telling you outright that his journey ends in damnation. He warns you of the consequences of letting the seeds of forbidden truths take root in your mind. He tells you that daydreams are like farmland and fear is their fertilizer. He gives you cause to cower from an herbivore. Continue reading Book Club Discussion Guide

Why Artists need to Pay Their Collaborators

So you’ve finished a novel. You’ve birthed a semi-autobiographical baby and you want to show it off to the world. You’re going to self publish and you have some idea of how to reach an audience.

You follow other authors on social media. You see a lot of book banners in your newsfeed. You’re oblivious to most advertisements, but you know how effective a clever design can be.

You’ve clicked thumbnails for novels because they reminded you of the hand drawn collages that once dominated VHS tapes, back in the heyday of horror. Others that reminded you of the black light posters for bands your parents would never let you listen to, and others that looked like Banksy Graffiti, mutated corporate logos repurposed to stick it to the man.

You’ve judged books by their covers and read many a blurb just because of the art. You want a design that compels readers to do the same. Lucky for you you know a guy. Continue reading Why Artists need to Pay Their Collaborators

Why Every Writer Needs a Living Will… Before the Singularity

One of the most important things a novelist can do is write a will so their family knows how to manage their intellectual property in the event of their death. Franz Kafka, Thomas Hardy, and Emily Dickinson all wanted their writing burned after they passed, but their wishes weren’t legally binding. Meanwhile Michael Crichton, Stieg Larsson, and Vince Flynn have all published bestsellers posthumously.

To ease the burden off of my friends and loved ones I’m going to settle my estate early. Consider the following my living trust and my living will.

If I am ever in a persistent vegetative state, unable to eat or breathe without the aid of a machine then please, by all means, strap the latest neuroimaging technology to my skull and get to mapping. If the scan is incomplete then go full Walt Disney, scoop my brain out and put it on ice. I consider that entire organ my intellectual property. Copyright every neuron. If you’ve got to refrigerate it in the library of congress then so be it.

I’m counting on a rogue artificial intelligence to upgrade itself to a state of godlike omnipotence, to send massive servers into orbit and create a new plane of existence to house all our neural signatures forever. When this singularity happens I want a front row seat. Upload my consciousness to the cloud. Give me a CGI facsimile, like Max Headroom, and trademark my face. Continue reading Why Every Writer Needs a Living Will… Before the Singularity

Poetry Today: On Bestselling Poetry

I will not write poems on the shitter
For Tumblr or Twitter
For Instagram views
Or ribcage tattoos
I will not write quirky quotables
For scroll bar vegetables
For boards on Pinterest
Where fonts speak loudest

I will not write limericks
For Hallmark sunsets
Too many tranquil oceans
Are littered with devotions
I will not spread good vibes
For up-votes and fast subscribes
For thumbs or hearts
Or Emoji art

I will not break platitudes into parts
With rhythms of fits and starts
Or throw out the metronome
To pass a sentence as a poem
I will not hide behind positive messaging
When I find reviews threating
Or ask you to grade intentions
When I’m lacking inspiration

I will not use “whispered” liberally
For a cheap sense of intimacy
Or say, “All the angels came together
To forge me the perfect lover”
I will not push more gooey snacks
Sugary sweets in shiny packs
And junk food entertainment
On brains craving nourishment

The words that speak to me
Are surges of telepathy
They dig like hungry dogs
Into my internal monologue
They’re not hackneyed hashtags
Or designs for your splash page
They’re not shareable or wearable
Or I don’t fucking care-able

I keep telling myself not to pander
To the lowest common denominator
Not to sellout my principles
To get a click-bait book deal
I keep telling myself persist
Get on that bestsellers list
Milk and Honey earned its rank
And that book is mostly blank

A Fair Price: A Poem About Underselling Your Art

I drop a pocket watch
Into the collection plate
Because I’ve got
All this time to donate
I pay to play
Live at a loss
Tick off the days
And shrug off the cost

I’m a giving tree
Money grows on me
I make it rain gold
Roll in my debris
I work for free
Free space, free time
Free rein, free mind
Free verse, free rhyme

“But how do you get by?”
She has the nerve to ask
Artists really only need
Some ink and a flask
You’re the one getting
Something for nothing
The least you could do
Is pay attention

I got prizes inside
I’m spitting diamonds
Holster your checkbook
And open your hands
Who cares how these jewels
Came unstuck
For all you know
They fell off a truck Continue reading A Fair Price: A Poem About Underselling Your Art

How Not to Hold an Author Event

Insight from a bookseller who has seen these things go very badly.

Congrats on Your Book

So you’ve written a novel, better yet you’ve found a modest publisher who can get it into stores. Sure it might not have priority placement on the front table, but it’s available to customers who think to order it.

Seems like life is on the upswing, but before you forget your humble roots you might want to do something to bring yourself back down to earth, something to let the air out of your ego before it gets too inflated. Why not host an author event? Why that’s just the kind of degrading experience you need to kick your heart in the balls, but how to prepare for one in a way that guarantees maximum humiliation?

I have just the strategy. Continue reading How Not to Hold an Author Event

Be Consumed: A Poem About Sharing Too Much of Yourself

There’s no time for hors d’oeuvres
No time for plating
You’re my last table
And I’ve kept you waiting
I arrive naked
With just a lid on me
I lift it and say,
“I hope somebody’s hungry”
 
I work a knife into the meat
All the way around I twist
Until I’ve carved a bacon strip
Right out of my wrist
Now lean back
Open wide, say, “Aaahh.”
As I unspool my forearm
Into your gapping maw
 
When I’ve stripped my hand
Right down to the gore
You bop up in your seat
A puppy yapping for more
So I move on to the other arm
And carve off bits of bicep
Strength I never put to use
A grip on things I never kept
 
I feed you the parts
That I can afford to lose
But you keep yapping
And I just can’t refuse
So it’s on to the vital organs
It’s on to things I’d rather not share
Still you’ve got an appetite
And I pride myself on being a good waiter
 
I open my skull
And give the best service I can
The best years of my life
All my best laid plans
By the time I’ve scooped my brain out
And fed it to you like bits of popcorn
I don’t know any better
Than to give my last beating organ
 
Take the napkin from your lap
Dab the corner of your lip
Don’t bother opening your wallet
Don’t bother factoring a tip
This meal is on me
(Or it was me I guess)
You live to consume
I lived to impress