Archive for the 'Working Conditions' Category

07
Nov
18

Twitestinal Blockage

Twitter is an interesting place. Reminds me a lot of the digestive system, really; throw a bunch of stuff in, let it churn in heat and acid for a while, and hope something nutritious comes of it.

But it’s like that in another way; to be crude, a lot of what comes out is just shit. Now, that’s not all bad; gotta get rid of it to keep functional, after all. But some folks, like some eaters, have a problem. They’re all blocked up. So they keep jamming the same thing in, until they’re stuffed to the brim with it, but then due to blockage, they never actually get rid of it or try anything else. That can’t be healthy.

I’m talking about the folks – and there are likely hundreds, if not thousands of them at this point – who just slap blocks on people for no discernible reason. It may be that the blockee followed someone the blocker doesn’t like, or “liked” a YouTube video, Tweet or Facebook post that the blocker didn’t like (or one that was made by a person the blocker didn’t like), or maybe just because. But one thing I’ve noticed is that it is very rarely due to something the blockee directly said or did in relation to the blocker.

It’s fascinating, really. What’s more fascinating is how folks of this particular stripe enjoy playing the victim and claiming that nobody wants to listen to them or have rational discourse with them. Neglecting to mention, of course, that they slap that block on so many folks before those folks are even aware of the individual that it would be impossible for the people they seem to want to reach to actually hear the message or discuss it. Frequently, the only people allowed to follow such individuals are those who already subscribe to the same worldview and are typically already aware of the blocker’s ideology and personality and are in line with it to a greater or lesser degree.

Continuing with the poop analogy, one notes that someone suffering from intestinal blockage spends a great deal of time in the loo, attempting to pass said blockage. I also note that many modern bathrooms, being covered in tile, tend to provide excellent acoustics. Not unlike an echo chamber, eh?

I really think the “block” feature needs an overhaul. Sure, there’s reasons it’s there – abusive commentary, doxxing, criminal stalking, all things to be avoided – but the way it unilaterally says “you can’t see what I said, neener neener neener,” especially when one may be interested in learning about a public or semi-public figure’s opinions and attitudes on things seems rather foolish. Especially because such individuals wield it like some form of sterilizing club, ensuring that they don’t have to interact with anyone who just possibly might disagree with them while simultaneously ensuring that those potential fence sitters or genuinely curious individuals who like to hear both sides of something will never be able to. Further, it seems really counterintuitive; “I am on the interwebs to explain my philosophy, religion, political stance or social commentary to the masses! But I only let people who already agree with my stance on those things see it!”

Er, wot, mate?

Anyway. Only crawled out of the hole for long enough to vent my frustration in this department. What’re your opinions? Is a complete ability to both silence and blind your potential dissenters a proper way to deal with the internet, or should some changes be made? What should those changes be? Drop your thoughts down below! I’m back to my nebulizer and scouring Twitter to see who else might have decided I am unworthy of their knowledge…

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16
Oct
18

Breaking Dreams

Something I – and many other artists, I imagine – struggle with is the feeling of worthiness. That my ideas matter, or might be of interest or value to someone else. I can’t speak for everyone of an artistic bent, but that feeling is compounded for me by numerous mental issues.

I do tend to believe that artistic folks tend to have a greater incidence of mental illness, but that’s probably a topic for another day.

But those issues pile up, combine with self-esteem problems, and the constant wondering if the work is good enough and the desire for input so you don’t feel like you’re creating in an echo chamber.

That’s when I get the most discouraged. I’m sure I’m not alone, here. You have what sounds like a really cool idea. You need a little input, or an opinion, or maybe just a sounding board to talk it out with so you can clarify it in your own head. You go to a loved one, a friend, a message board or whatever, and before you’ve even finished articulating whatever it was, someone whips out a hammer and crushes it.

Now, those people may not have known what they did. They may not have done it maliciously, or even meant to be harsh at all. But in my own depressed, fragile, constantly doubting mind that quick dismissal is like a knife shoved between my ribs. It kills discussion regarding that idea, and frequently reverberates through later ideas, shattering them before they even have a chance or form or subjecting them to “well, the last one didn’t fly so why bother with this one?”

For those like myself, those rejections and dismissals become grains of sand around which black pearls form, tended and brooded over for years after the fact, often receiving far more attention than the idea that led to them until they are so large there is no room for any actual creativity. It’s not healthy, but it’s true. Again, I’m pretty sure I can’t be alone in this line of thinking.

Two that I remember: While mulling over Ioudas and where it needed to go, having started with the premise that the concept of “sin” was a type of “energy.” Attempting to determine where that energy would need to go, and how one would ultimately get rid of it, I commented “So Jonas would have to fight literal, physical manifestations of the Seven Deadlies.” I got that far before I was cut off. I had more; images of what those sins would mean to Jonas, how those manifestations would be dealt with, almost a whole story complete and ready to go. Before I could do so, however, the person who I was speaking with said “Oh, the Seven Deadlies. Really fucking original.”

Ioudas has been sitting at 25% complete since then; about three years. Every time I open the manuscript and think about working on it, I hear that voice again and slam the iPad shut, snarling.

The other was in reference to “Little Miss No Name.” Now, she’s fared better than Ioudas, with actual progress occasionally being made, but she hasn’t had the exposure she deserves because of it, and the greater world hiding behind her remains a few scraps of paper at the bottom of the desk because of it. Someone asked what I was working on and I said “It’s a story about a doll who…” Instant cut off.

“Sounds like crap. Like Annabelle. Who gives a shit?”

That person then went on to explain how a real good story would involve JFK time-traveling and killing dinosaurs, which really puts in the wheelhouse of “Consider the source,” but that’s never been my specialty. It left a scar, one that I still pick at and worry at, and rub salt into, far more than any of my physical self-mutilation injuries.

One can always go back to “grow thicker skin” commentary. Certainly an option. But that’s not something that magically happens, or makes every previous wound just vanish.

So if any of you out there are close to an author, a painter, a designer, a creative of any stripe, and they start sharing an idea… please, for just a second, pause and consider your response. I’m not saying you can’t be negative… maybe even mean. There are times when we need those things. But there’s a difference between negativity to a bad or malformed idea and offhand dismissal without even knowing the nature of the idea, and the latter is what rankles me and leaves me awake at night, brooding over the grim treasures spawned from such dismissals.

If you have a creative in your life, let them finish their thought. Ask a question or two, if only to give the impression that you were actually listening. Don’t just break out a verbal hammer and crush it straightaway or – worse – throw up a wall and walk away without a thought.

Please.

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10
Oct
18

Flash Fiction: Cold

I hear my daughter, calling me to her room. She says she’s cold.

She died in the fire three years ago.

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09
Oct
18

Depression: Lock & Key

Depression is a fascinating feeling. It’s not any one thing, really; it’s a pile of conflicting emotions and responses, finely tuned to subtly twist everything you think or feel, seemingly with the sole intent of making you miserable.

When factored in with a physical malady, such as asthma, that seems intent on doing the same to your body that the depression does to your mind and heart, it leads to all kinds of fun metaphors.

I’ve decided that the duo together are rather like a combination lock. You know, those old Masters or Schlages that were on your locker or bedroom once upon a time. But this is no dinky lock that if you got irritated enough you could just snap off with a pair of pliers and a bit of determination. Nope. It’s one of those two pound monstrosities with an inch-thick hasp. Covered with rust and marred by the tool marks of those who’d tried – and failed – to force it open.

That lock is being used to hold together heavy-duty chain, the gaps threaded with barbed wire so old, gnarled and rusted that you probably could get tetanus just looking at it. It’s wrapped around my chest – extra tight, can’t have those lungs working, can we, buddy? – my throat, my mouth, my eyes, my balls, my brain.

The only thing that feels like it’s free are my hands… but they have a job to do.

Before I can do anything else, before I can try to be a productive member of society, before I can pretend that everything’s okay and today isn’t the day I drive off a cliff or get creative with my dosages, those hands have to twiddle the dial on that bastardly lock and find the combination.

That lock doesn’t want the combination found, though. So it finds all kinds of fun ways to stop you. The dial doesn’t want to turn, and the notches on the face are eroded so you can’t tell if you just turned 35 clockwise or 41 counterclock, assuming you even came close to where you wanted to be. Fine motor control goes out the window when you’re having to exert near-Herculean force to move it an inch in the first place, and the lock is tricksy. It’s stuck… except when it doesn’t want to be.

Maybe it takes an hour. Maybe two. Maybe all damn day. But you can’t do anything else until you find the combination. And the lock is, as I said, tricksy. “You beat me today,” it clicks and clacks out the hole the hasp was plugging a moment ago. “But I’ll still be here tomorrow.”

So I get on with the day, best I can, whatever’s left of it. But come the next, the chains have crept up on me again, wrapping tighter than the day before, the barbs now sharper with everything that didn’t get done the day before. The lock has changed the combination, and maybe even the rules; perhaps it will only have two numbers today, but will have to be spun backwards, or it might be ten digits today and they change every time you miss one.

So when I’m quiet, and haven’t been able to work or write or make snide commentary on trophy lists or do much of anything beyond staring at the television and trying to make sense of the pictures, it’s not laziness, stubbornness or stupidity – though I am sure I am guilty of all three in various measures.

It’s me being busy. Trying to pick locks.

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23
Sep
18

Keeping Boats Afloat

“Whatever floats your boat.” It’s a phrase I’m fond of, for no particular reason. It’s frequently spoken slightly dismissively, usually in relation to a habit or endeavor that evokes little or no emotional response in myself but that seems of interest or import to another. Doubly so if it’s an interest or important subject that I don’t understand why it’s important.

Everybody’s out there just doing their thing, living their lives. Frequently the things going on in one person’s life are of no relevance to another. That’s how we get along; doing our best to keep our own boats floating without crashing into someone else’s or letting them ship water onto ours to save their own.

Maybe I’m going too far with the analogy. Oh well.

There’s going to be some whining and begging here, so you are free to skip with no hard feelings. I’m doing my best to get more content up, which isn’t always easy for reasons we’ll delve into in a moment, but hopefully there’ll be some more stuff for fiction, gaming or general horror fans soon.

I’ve had a lot of health problems this year. Severe jaw infection, pneumonia twice, strep, mold infection in the lungs, severe asthmatic beatdown from multiple forest fires, poisoned by algae in the water supply, constant fights with depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and now the potential of autism rearing its head. I’m a bloody mess.

None of those things help with writing, obviously; worse, they make it hard if not occasionally impossible to work, which means no money, which means no meds, which exacerbates the problem, compounding it exponentially.

To continue the above metaphor, the boat is springing leaks faster than I can find corks and bail water; drowning becomes an ever-more-realistic prospect… in a more literal way than one would like, given the penchant for lung problems I possess.

So, anyway. That’s why you haven’t seen much of me lately; I’m either lying on the couch staring at a visual novel while hooked up to a nebulizer or scrambling in brief periods of wellness to try to catch up or sleeping off the latest cocktail of medications that will supposedly fix me “any day now.”

I need help. (“So what?” I hear you say, “So does everyone!” I hear you shout.) So I turn here, where there are supposedly roughly 400 people who pay at least some attention to the things I say and do.

First, to each of you that reads this blog, pays attention to my Tweets, watches my videos or has bought or read my books, thank you. Intellectual and moral support by way of the idea that someone, somewhere is paying attention and may even like my stuff matters. Keep at it.

To those of you who’ve been in bad places and crawled out, or take pity on those who are sitting in their mental and physical caves somewhere despite not having been there themselves, or those who’ve drawn some entertainment or inspiration from the things I’ve done, thank you.

To all of them (and anyone not already covered who happens to read this) give me a moment of your time; I have a GoFundMe and a Patreon, both of which are there to help me keep paying for my meds and keep the lights on in those periods where I can’t work. If you feel like it, you can drop by and drop something in the bucket. Doesn’t matter if it’s a dime or a thousand, it’s appreciated and helps. But don’t think this is just a begging drive; sure, cash is great, but there’s less physical ways to show that what I do matters to someone.

A like. A share. A “keep at it, bro” e-mail or Tweet. Something to show that I’m not beating my head against a wall in the hopes that the concrete cracks before my skull and shouldn’t just throw my hands up in the air and walk away or let myself go down with the ship.

Okay, I’m done whinging for now. For those more interested in “real” content, I should have the second chunk of “Three Blue Hearts” up during the coming week, and I’m trying to put something together for Halloween – might be a stream of Death Mark or Call of Cthulhu, might be a livechat, might be something else, suggestions are welcome.

That’s all for now. And don’t forget, go hug your favorite artist or mentally ill person (or both) today. They probably need it.

29
Aug
18

Three Blue Hearts – Part 1

You know those little roadside shrines, the ones they put up when some kid gets hit by a drunk driver or drug into the woods and murdered or decides to take a leap off some mountainous hard curve? Everybody’s seen at least a few; battered homemade crosses, always planted too shallow and cocked to one side. Half the time any writing has been so weatherbeaten that you can’t read it anyway, and there’s usually the tattered remains of streamers dangling off it like stringy hair and a faded Polaroid of someone who could be anyone stapled to the middle.

Sometimes there’s other decorations; usually old toys or maybe votive candles if the area isn’t too dry. But there’s on decoration that, if you see it, you should walk away from.

Three blue hearts.

They look like gemstones, at first. If you make the mistake of touching them – like a lot of people do, more than would probably admit – you’ll find out they’re just glass. They’re strung in a line from a piece of twine, always looking clean and shiny and new regardless of how old the shrine is and how poorly kept up it is. They’re heavy, too; they’re solid glass, the size of a fist, and if you prod the bottom of the heart you’ll notice they’re plenty sharp. Sharp enough to draw blood.

You’ll find out. I did.

27
Aug
18

Sometimes they just die on you…

Sometimes, no matter how much you like a story or a character or a situation, there comes a point where you have to throw your hands up and say “Call it. Time of death.”

“Riptide” appears to have suffered such a death. With all the health problems and other upheavals, attempting to write hasn’t been easy… attempting to work on that story in particular has been all but impossible. When I open the document and stare at it, trying to remember what I was doing and attempting to reconnect with our protagonist in an attempt to see what she’ll do next, I get the flat hum of dead air, the long, low beep of a flatlined monitor.

So, despite being in the middle, I have to state that the patient has died. It is an unfortunate truth of writing that sometimes that happens. It is sad, it is frustrating, and frequently leads into a blame game, pointing fingers at everything and everyone that might have led to the death. But sometimes it just happens. They slip away. At least, to me.

The bright side, of course, is that because writing is an inherently magical act, sometimes that death isn’t permanent. Sometimes those stories will get dragged back to the temple where some brave soul donates for a resurrection. They may return, Gandalf the White style, more powerful and radiant than they were before their deaths; they may return relatively unchanged, popping their feet up on the table, cracking a beer and asking “What’s up?” Sometimes they come crawling back as shambling monstrosities, abominations that are mockeries of their former selves… but at least for a horror writer, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Thankfully, while work has slowed significantly on Believe Me, it hasn’t died completely. So that’s one good thing, I suppose. There’s also a different bit of serialized fiction, “Three Blue Hearts” that seems to actually want to crawl onto the page, and that should start cropping up come Wednesday. Keep an eye out for that.

What about my fellow creatives out there? Has there been a project that you were working happily on but that just died in its tracks and refused to allow life-giving efforts? What caused it, and how did you deal with it? Let us know down below!




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