Onto the Next One

I came across this article yesterday. A particular quote from Democratic congresswoman and former CIA analyst Elissa Slotkin jumped out at me more than anything else in the piece. Her words, “The post-9/11 era is over. The single greatest national security threat right now is our internal division,” gave me pause. I shook my head because what she either fails to realize or decided not to say for political reasons is that our internal division is directly related to a lot of the rhetoric that came out of the post-9/11 War on Terror. The terrorists won, guys. They won a long time ago.

I’m not an overtly political person. I do have beliefs and I do vote, but my skepticism for anyone who’s reached elected official status runs deep. Still, I observe and I listen and I remember.

2020 was a nightmare year, but we can’t pretend it grew out of nothing.

I believe in consequences. I believe in cause and effect. Every action causes a reaction.

This is not a political post. My goal is not to change the world. Revolutionaries always die, and often horribly. My goal is to evolve myself. Act with purpose. Assess potential consequences. Inspire those who care to listen.

I’ve been off booze for over two months. I’ve been 90% off social media for almost as long. These things have yielded a ton of time and mental space. How will I fill this time and space?

With purpose. Intent. Goals.

I’m ascending. Onto the next one, as Jay-Z says.

Let’s grow together.

Remains

I broke down an old chair and disposed of it in my fire pit last week. The remains look really cool up close, like a post-apocalyptic landscape. Of course, now I have something like a thousand loose staples in my fire pit, but that’s okay.

I slept on the couch to help my partner and kid have a good night’s sleep. We started watching THE OUTSIDER, which was adapted from a Stephen King book. It’s really good so far, and now I kind of want to revisit the novel. Over the last few years, I’ve been hesitant to read anything super long. I do love King though. I mean, come on. Who doesn’t?

The fish tank is looking good since I did that 90% water change. I’m dreading the algal bloom, but maybe it won’t be so bad this time. I only have 5 fish in a 30 gallon aquarium. Hopefully, I can be a little more deliberate with adding more livestock and maintaining a good look for the water.

I’ll be working today for five hours, then I’m off to visit my cat Jack. We had to rehome him a few years ago due to our son’s allergies. He was our first baby. Thankfully, he lives with my father-in-law. Unfortunately, he’s not doing so well, and I’d like to see him one more time, just in case we’re at the end. We’ve been isolating. My father-in-law has been isolating. I’m sure we’ll be fine in regards to the spread of COVID. Save your lockdown lectures for someone who gives a shit.

I’ve got a thousand words to do on the Wesley Southard collaboration before I kick it back to him. After that, it’s back onto ONE AND ONLY. Chapter 2 will be posted on Monday, and like last Monday, it will have an accompanying breakdown live on Twitch. You can check my schedule and subscribe here.

That’s all for today. Remember, there is beauty in destruction.

2021 – Real AF

I’m almost finished reading HITMAN, the autobiography of retired wrestler Bret Hart. It’s easy to forget that wrestlers are artists. Throughout the reading of the book, I’ve found myself nodding my head to parallels in the life of a wrestler and the life of an author. All the years of paying your dues. Mutual respect between the honorable ones. Backstabbing among the less honorable. Unhelpful coping mechanisms for loneliness. Pride when you manage to pull something off just right.

Writing is hard. I also love it. It’s important to take time to appreciate things unrelated to what drives you. Family is an obvious example. Also, hobbies outside your vocation. In my case, watching and reading about wrestling, my fish tank, music and comic books.

As soon as I finish HITMAN, I’m doing a buddy read of the 90s DC comics arc ZERO HOUR. I remember the ads for it vividly. I can’t remember why I didn’t read it at the time. Since I was ten or eleven, chances are I got interested in other things. My interests fluctuate a lot even now. Probably even more so back then. I’m excited for it though. My friend has been a DC fan forever. He swears that even outside of BATMAN, their output is better than Marvel, which is interestingly not the consensus. Then again, he and I have never cared about the consensus. I care even less as an adult.

Am I a lone wolf? I don’t think so. I have a wolfpack, real as fuck people I know I can rely on.

Anyway, it’s a New Year. Rot in hell to the trash fire that was 2020. Big things are coming in 2021 and beyond. Got all sorts of exciting things in the works. In the meantime, check out PANDEMONIUM if you haven’t already. Good reviews are rolling in!

Today will be spent with family, though I’ll probably sneak in some work on the Wesley Southard collaboration. Speaking of Wes, he’s got a new book up for preorder right now. Take advantage of that preorder price.

Be well, everyone.

Resolution # 2

Take days off from SERIOUS writing.

I say SERIOUS because on these days off I will still blog daily, as promised. I just won’t do the big 1-2,000 word writing sessions. While I do think it’s important for writers to write as much as they can, in the same way athletes should train as much as they can, I think it’s equally important to find time for other things. Relax. Recuperate. LIVE YOUR LIFE.

“Find the thing you love and let it kill you.” Fuck that, I love lots of things, and me getting killed helps no one. So, yeah, days off.

Because of the holiday, I took four days off from major writing projects last weekend and came back stronger than ever. I spent time with my loved ones. I finally took care of that awful cloudy water in my fish tank. I got my office in the garage looking nice and homey.

There’s more to life than writing. I know I’m not supposed to say that. I know we writers are supposed to live and die by the pen (or the keyboard), but I ain’t interested in what I’m supposed to do.

12/29/2020

I got off to a slow start this morning. By the time I got the little guy off to preschool, it was time to log into work. But I said I’d blog every day, so blog every day I shall. Today’s is late.


Sometimes, wrestling is really silly.

Sure, it’s usually always silly, but there are times where it crosses into some kind of bizarro outsider art. A good example of this is the April 10, 2000 episode of WCW Monday Nitro, an episode where co-heads of creative Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo attempted to “reboot” the promotion. It’s some truly odd stuff, full of inside baseball and alliances between former enemies. You can check out some highlights from it here.

Other times, it becomes silly in hindsight. Take, for instance, this rap performed by the entire WWF roster in the 1980s.

While I do think it can be detrimental to your art to try and be silly on purpose, it can also be beneficial to lean into the inherent silliness of what you’re doing. Believe in yourself, brother!


Speaking of fully diving off the deep-end, self-awareness be damned, I finished listening to the audiobook of CAT MAGIC by Whitley Strieber. It’s a great book written by someone who’s developed an unfortunate reputation for being a little kooky. The thing is, it doesn’t read like a crazy person wrote it. I’ve read plenty of stuff by crazy people. I’ve even written a book while wrestling with insanity myself.

No, CAT MAGIC doesn’t read like the work of an unraveled mind. It’s a fun horror story about a battle between a coven of witches and a fundamentalist Christian cult in a small New Jersey town. There’s plenty of theological debate and fascinating insight into paganism within the book’s pages. There’s so much that I wonder if Mr. Strieber wrote the book while he was having a spiritual crisis of his own.


Tonight, I’ll be doing a test stream with friends (and excellent authors) J. David Osborne and Kelby Losack. We’ve got a secret thing in the works that I think will be really fun. All I’ll say about it is it involves movies, occultism, and Twitch.

I found out yesterday that I wasn’t storing my videos on my Twitch channel. Total n0ob mistake. Thankfully, I’ve only done two streams so far, but I’m kind of sad to know those are lost forever. I had a lot of fun thinking in public about creative decisions I made while writing the first chapter of ONE AND ONLY.


PANDEMONIUM, the book I co-wrote with Ryan Harding, has been out for two weeks. It’s doing pretty well, but can definitely do better. If you got some money or gift cards this past holiday, then you could do worse than this grabbing this one. It’s a horror novel themed around the world of hardcore wrestling, and a tribute to the Dario Argento-produced DEMONS movies. It’s got a ridiculously high body count, and for what it’s worth, it was the most fun I’ve ever had writing anything. Hope you’ll grab a copy.

This week, I’ll be working on my collaboration with Splatterpunk Award Winner Wesley Southard.

Our nightmare year is almost over!

Inversions

I’ve been thinking about inversions. Maybe it’s because I’m listening to the FROZEN soundtrack this morning, but it’s been on my mind for a while now. Inverting well-worn tropes has been an obsession in pop culture over the last decade or so. So-called “woke” Disney. THE LAST JEDI. TERMINATOR: DARK FATE. YOU’RE NEXT. I can go on.

Inversion is a very effective tool. I’ve used it myself from time to time. And there are a lot of reasons to use it, even beyond its efficacy as a narrative device. More often than not, it’s used by creators to “correct” elements of a franchise deemed exclusionary or problematic. Other times, it’s used to inject new life into a well-worn character or story.

I’ll keep my own opinions on the motivations behind inversion as a plot device to myself, mainly because I’m not sure I have a fully formed opinion. One of the benefits of being off social media a significant percentage of the day means the temptation to fire my half-baked ideas into the ether has been all but eliminated. I can only speak as another artist and a fan.

For my own work, I’ve found that the compulsion to invert isn’t always the right choice. At the end of the day, I’m in service of the story I aim to tell. If inversion serves that story, such as in my book EXTINCTION PEAK, then I will employ it as a storytelling device. If the urge to invert will impede what is already an effective narrative, it’s best left on the backburner. Now, if you do finish your first draft, and you find it’s all too familiar in the annals of your genre, then by all means, do a pass where you strictly look for opportunities to invert. It might turn your stale draft into something that pops.

I guess what I’m saying is contrived work will always feel like contrived work. Inversion, like steps on the hero’s journey, is a tool that can bring life to a work, but is not required in order for a work to have life.

What are some books/films/games that you think effectively employ inversion? What are some books/films/games that get by just fine without it?

Fan Service is Sometimes OK

My partner and I finished watching the second season of THE MANDALORIAN last night. I really enjoyed it, aside from some filler episodes, and it got me thinking about the idea of fan service.

Fan service is seen as a derogatory term among the more cynical among us. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it can be detrimental. WWE frequently relies on stars of years past in order to get a ratings bump, and it often comes at the expense of newer talent. So many horror titles released these days often read exactly like something written in the 80s (a time many consider to be the genre’s boom). Both cases leave new and interesting avenues unexplored.

What’s interesting about THE MANDALORIAN is that it treats fan service and nostalgia as rewards or Easter eggs. Creators Jon Favreau and Dave Piloni do a great job of forging new ground with an already compelling narrative, giving longtime fans rewards for sticking around, but without alienating newer audiences.

This is something all writers can consider if they hope to build a readership from the ground up. I reference my book MANIA in nearly everything else I’ve done. Since writing PANDEMONIUM, I’ve started finding ways to incorporate a wrestling angle into each story. That’s fun, but I can always find more ways to reward longtime readers without compromising new storylines or saddling myself with the burden of writing unnecessary sequels.

It’s been on my mind a lot lately. Part of what I (and a good portion of my readership) enjoy about my work is my unwillingness to be pigeonholed. Interesting, but how do I work within those parameters to broaden my audience and connect with readers old and new?

I have a few ideas, but I’d love to hear from you.

Resolution # 1

As promised yesterday, I’ll be dedicating these next few posts to some things I hope to accomplish in 2021. First and foremost pertains to how I hope to maintain and build an audience for my books. My time on Twitter is minimal. Facebook is even less so.

Blogging daily is something I’m more than comfortable with. It helps me collect and develop my thoughts, and people seem to enjoy it. You can expect to see these every day going forward.

The next part of this is a little more of a stretch, but I think it can be something new and fun. Plus, I think it’s important to step out of our comfort zone from time to time in order to find new habits and activities that we may actually enjoy. I promised earlier that I will do a stream on my Twitch channel every Monday, and I intend to keep that promise. I have a variety of ideas for these streams that I think you all will get a kick out of.

So, that’s it for resolution # 1. Right now, I’m reading War of Jokes and Riddles, a Batman arc from a few years ago. I started watching a movie called Zombi Child last night. It was interesting, but my meds knocked me out early, and I had to hit pause. Hopefully, I’ll finish it tonight. Or maybe, given the holiday, Black Christmas is more appropriate.

Recovery

My dinosaur book EXTINCTION PEAK made Horror Bookworm Reviews top five of the year, so that’s pretty cool. Someone on Facebook told Ryan Harding and I that PANDEMONIUM was their favorite book they read this year. I heard about both of these things yesterday, but see my previous post and learn all about why I hardly had the energy to write anything.

I’m recovering from whatever illness decided to hit me hard Monday night and through Tuesday. Again, I doubt it’s COVID because I’m already feeling better, but who knows.

Anyway, I’m a little over six weeks sober. I don’t deal with much in the way of temptation. I’m in a lot of pain, but alcohol doesn’t wash that away. It only exacerbates it.

Despite everything, I did manage to put down some words on the blob romance collaboration with Wile E. Young.

I’ve also been thinking about the New Year and resolutions. I generally shy away from them, but this year was such a trash fire, I think a clear strategy for how I plan to improve my life and the life of those around me is absolutely necessary. I suspect the next few blogs will be dedicated to exploring these resolutions and what they mean.