The Kids Are All Right

I just had my short story, “Long Night at Jade’s Diner,” critiqued by my classmates, most of whom are 12-15 years younger than me. While I took this Creative Writing class with an open mind, I had no idea how these kids would react to my story. After all, it’s very violent. At nearly 7,000 words, it’s on the long side for a short story. It’s written like a faux screenplay (something I aped from Haruki Murakami’s After Dark). And it ends (and begins) rather ambiguously.

My classmates liked the story. My professor seemed to really like the story. However, this blog isn’t about that. Instead, I want to talk about some of the criticism leveled at the piece.

First, there were a few adverbs that didn’t need to be there. Some instances of “show-don’t-tell.” You know, basic early draft mistakes we all make.

Some were taken back by the ultra-violence. Now, let’s be clear: they weren’t #triggered. They, rightfully, pointed out that given the story’s more literary bent, the violence was very jarring to read. The professor disagreed, but I kind of agree with the kids on this one. The piece will likely benefit from reeling in the violence, making it less over-the-top. While gore has its place (and God knows I’ve written plenty of blood and guts stories), this particular tale doesn’t need it.

Two women called me out for the omniscient narrator describing the breasts of two female characters. If I’d been writing from the point-of-view of a character who has a fixation, the lingering might have been called-for. In this case, it wasn’t.

I’m glad they called me out for it.

When you’ve been writing as long as I have, I think it’s rather easy to get set in your ways. Weirdly enough, the professor told me early on that given my publication history, I wouldn’t likely learn anything from this class and the students who, he believes, are less far along in their writing journeys than me. But he was wrong, and I’m glad he was.

I believe you can, and should, always try to learn at every stage of your career. Like programmers who refuse to learn new software or engineers who steer clear of new equipment, the writer who stops honing his craft, regardless of their level of success, will become obsolete.

I don’t intend for that to happen until I die.

Keep on Keeping On

I’m not gonna lie, gang. 2019 has gotten off to a rocky start. It’s been tremendously hard to keep it together. There have been some family issues that I can’t share here. The death of my brother’s dog. And most recently the implosion of a writing community that I hold dear.

Too many people have weighed in on that last bit, so I don’t really feel the need to add anything (though I’m sure, like most things in my life, parts of it will bleed into my fiction). All I’ll say here is that it’s been a difficult few weeks, full of decisions I didn’t want to face. I watched people I love say absolutely loathsome things on Facebook (I’m not really on Facebook, but I do lurk every once in a while). I’ve seen friends treated unfairly. I’ve seen people who aren’t even involved in the scene speaking out to make themselves look good. I’ve witnessed people use the suffering of others to sell more books. I’ve seen outright lies held up as truth and attempts to reveal facts branded as “mansplaining.”

So, yeah. It’s really sucked this week. Now for something completely different.

We’ve added a new guppy to the fish tank. His name is Bruce.

The cover of Saint Sadist continues to generate buzz.

I got my author copies of We are the Accused. Reviewers have gotten their copies as well. The book even got its first review from Ian Muller (a bright up-and-comer in his own right). He calls We are the Accused “A bleak, ultra-violent take on small town horror that will appeal to both fans of Peter Straub and splatterpunk. “

The Crossroad Press edition of Engines of Ruin also seems to be doing well. In fact, it’s ranked higher in its category than pretty much anything else I’ve put out before. Dunno what that actually means, to be honest, but it sounds good.

I’ve also got 65% of Extinction Peak, my gory dinosaur novel, finished.

So, all in all, it has been rocky. But I’m moving forward.

Sometimes I think moving forward in the face of awful things is strength. Other times I think it’s foolish and cruel. I doubt I’ll ever really know either way. What do you think?

The Hustle Never Sleeps

First week of school is in the books. As expected, I’m already tightly wound with stress and constantly on edge, but hey, at least there haven’t been any nightmares. It’s important to me that I do well in school, especially given that it’s my last semester as an undergrad. On top of that, I want to be a good father and husband. And I want to keep writing. I’m managing, so far, but Christ, I’m tense.

In my American Romanticism class, we started covering Self-Reliance, which I think I’ve read before, but I think it’s important to revisit texts as one matures, especially pieces like Emerson’s, which are considered crucial. A cool thing I picked up on this time around that I didn’t remember learning before: Romantics (particularly the transcendentalists) believed that we shared one soul. While many ideas espoused by Emerson are prevalent in American society, such a concept as the Over-soul, seems a lot more Eastern or New Age.

Another highlight of my week back at college was my exposure to the different schools of literary criticism. It was cool defining all these different perspectives, and really reinforced for me the idea that so much, if not everything, is subjective. Maybe that’s just my confirmation bias, but I don’t know. Getting an overview of everything from New Criticism to Feminist Criticism to Biographical and Psychological Criticism, among others, got me thinking about how silly I find it whenever someone gets red-in-the-face when arguing their viewpoint, potentially alienating loved ones. To quote Patton Oswalt, “It’s all chaos; be kind.”

Lastly (on the school front, anyway) I have to share this video that I watched in my Lifespan class, only because it’s super cute and kind of funny.

Last night, my partner and I went to see Iliza the Paramount in downtown Austin. I’ve watched all of her specials, but that set last night was the best I’ve seen from her. She made a wrestling joke AND a Ray Bradbury reference all within the span of ten minutes. Only a mind like hers would think to do such a thing. It made me happy.

In less happy news, the kiddo is sick and gave us quite a scare driving home after the show. Everything is fine, but things looked bad for a bit.

Anyway, not much else to report. I’ve got to get back to work on Extinction Peak, my dinosaur apocalypse novel. I think blogs will be a bit more sporadic. Twice a week. Maybe three times. Parenting, school, and writing will keep me busy.

If you like these blogs and want to support me, the best way to do this is by buying a book. I also have a Patreon where you can have access to exclusive content. Every bit helps.

Dark Dreamer

More nightmares last night. Some of them were so horrific, I’m not comfortable sharing them here despite this blog evolving into a dream journal of sorts. Let’s just say I more or less lived out scenes from my latest novel We Are the Accused. And yes, I’m linking to the book, because I’m broke and need the money.

I reached the midpoint of my dinosaur apocalypse novel today. I punctuated the end of the book’s first half with the sort of scene that made me uncomfortable to write. Since I write horror, I guess that means I’m doing my job.

School starts tomorrow. I hope the nightmares subside, mainly because I’m really going to need the sleep. I see my therapist on Wednesday (for financial reasons, I can only see her once a month). Hopefully, she can offer some insights, and maybe even some technique for dealing with these awful dreams.

I was talking to my pal Shane McKenzie about them. We entered a discussion about life’s balance, and how pleasant (though sometimes sad) my dreams were when my head was falling apart. Now that my waking life feels somewhat ordered and aimed towards a purpose, my dreams are more frightening than ever. Is this balance necessary? I don’t know. Smarter people than us probably have that answer.

Do you know? Sound off in the comments if you do!

Saint Sadist Cover Reveal

I’m delighted to show you the cover for my next book, Saint Sadist, which will debut this March from Grindhouse Press. This image is perfect for the book, given its content and themes, which is crazy considering the image existed prior to me writing the book. The art is by the incredible George Cotronis, who is one of my favorite cover artists in the game today. Check this shit out.


I’ll provide more updates as they come. In the meantime, don’t forget my newest book We Are the Accused is out now via Sinister Grin Press, or you can grab my collection Engines of Ruin via Crossroad Press if you’re more in the mood for short fiction.

Weekend was nice. Got a lot of writing done, made a little money, bought some pet fish, and started putting a new bookcase together. School starts on Tuesday. Updates may be a bit more sporadic after that, but I will try to keep up as best I can. I enjoy writing these blogs quite a bit, and I hope you enjoy reading them.

Saint Sadist to be Published in March

Super-excited to announce that my super dark book, Saint Sadist, has been accepted for publication this March by the fine folks at Grindhouse Press.

Here’s a brief synopsis:

Pregnant with her father’s child, nineteen-year-old Courtney is a girl on the run, willing to do anything to make her way on the road. When a car accident leaves her wounded by the side of a desolate highway, she is taken in by an environmentalist doomsday cult led by the enigmatic Saint Ambrose. Ambrose is a charismatic preacher and ex-environmental scientist who gave up everything after claiming to see the face of God. When he meets the seemingly vulnerable Courtney, he is taken by her beauty and her wounded soul. Now, with the promise of salvation hanging in the balance, Courtney must undergo a series of trials, each more painful and humiliating than the last, her incestuously conceived baby growing in her womb and a strange presence visiting her at night telling her that Ambrose has lost his way and it is she who must overthrow him. Much blood will be shed. Saint Sadist is a dark erotic thriller for fans of Martyrs and Nymphomaniac.

So yeah, it’s a pretty gnarly story. Very nasty, but not without moments of transcendence and beauty.

Grab it in March on paperback and ebook!

Fever

Finally got a good night’s sleep last night. It required forcing myself to stay awake until after midnight. I’m sure I dreamed, but I don’t remember many details.

It’s been a weird week. If you’ve been following this blog, you know my novel We Are the Accused was released on Tuesday. Release weeks always stress me out. Maybe it’s because I’m still fairly green, but damn, I found myself engaging in unhealthy obsessive behaviors. I refreshed the Amazon page for the book every hour or so. I constantly checked Twitter. I re-read the book and noted everything I would now do differently. I ate lots of candy, chocolates, and a massive piece of cheesecake. Last night, I finally managed to talk myself down from the ledge, hopefully averting a potentially extended manic episode.

It’s scary putting yourself out there. Once a book is published, it really is the point of no return, and We Are the Accused was such a personal book in which I took many risks and plumbed some really dark places, it frightened me knowing that it now lives in the wild and has to fend for itself. I imagine it’s something like sending a child off to college.

I wonder if this anxiety will decrease with each subsequent book release. Let’s hope so. My sixth was accepted by a publisher last Sunday (still can’t give details), and I now have a seventh and eighth lined up. At least this time I managed to call myself out and remind myself of what I can control. This list included writing a blog today (check), writing 1500 words on book 7 (getting there), finish cleaning the upstairs (this afternoon), and acquiring books for classes next week (also this afternoon).

We can only control so much. Reminding myself of this works wonders on my mental health.

Now I just need to kick this cedar fever. What’s cedar fever, you ask? Move to Texas and you’ll find out real quick. Just prepare to hate having sinuses.

In closing, I just wanted to let y’all know that my friend Josh Blakesley interviewed me over on his blog. We talked about writing as a spiritual practice, books that made me cry, and my newest releases. You can check it out here.