Your Damaged Heart

Never did you see in the dying of the light
The minutes or hours or seconds I spent
Cultivating something deep and warm and bright.
Distractions of life left pieces of reality
Strewn about like toys in a child’s minefield
Those that did offer yet unseen fractures of actuality.

But there it was, under the blackening sun
Where songs attempted to sing futures untold,
But what was unknown to me is that the battle could never be won
Because it’s your heart that’s cold and fucked
Because it’s not you it’s them or it’s them not you
Where you’ve taken yourself away, sealed and gently tucked.

You see, singular madness deprives of happiness and smiles
But were there ever smiles to begin with, even once?
Yes! They did exist, but your darkening heart defiles
That which you could have known yet you remained unknowing.
You didn’t see that I had always known that someone did exist there
A “cousin” in disguise feeding you, seeding you, ever sowing.

Now, is it I who should feel this pain or sadness or betrayal?
No! Only once had I endured such dissonance in my soul
Breaking down the barrier, fingers underneath my skin from a disloyal
Discordant and unloving one, and yes there was you in the light
With all the hope and positivity that I could have ever dreamed
But never did I dream that I’d have to step into a battle field and fight

For your love or your attention—

Is that how it should be? Forevermore wondering
If you’re breaking or you’re taking or you’re faking this shit
And is this how you want to live?

Under the all this blustering and seething darkness spewing from
Your damaged tar pit of a heart layered with grime lies something
no one can break because its already broken.

Should I hurt when all your strength’s controlled by that one weak part?



What It’s Like to Play Live Music

A red velveteen veil
Surrounds the black laminate world.
Outside, strong lights burn furious
Washing faces with a buttery sheen
As sinuous voices slither whispers
Of words I can never know.

Behind that immense fabric barrier
The Frosty air chills me to the soul.
Still, I sweat heavy beads of glass,
Heavier as the sea of eyes are exposed
Under hundreds of dying tangerine moons
Who reveal softly twinkling stars.

First, slick black silence entrances me
But soon, those penetrating eyes
Sink under an inundation of sound.
Before, I was strung strong and tight
Like the silvery tines of a spider’s edifice
Now, there is nothing but sweet resonance.

As calculated vibrations disappear with grace,
The dark seraphs of fear return once more.
Then a rhapsody of primordial music plays
A thousand cracks of thunder—and thousands more.
The fear dances with the scintillating smiles
And disappears into the darkness from which it came.

On Self-Publishing: What NOT To Do

I think self-publishing is a fantastic thing because it allows unknown authors the chance to get their work out there. It’s always existed, but with the emersion of Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing, it’s easier (and somewhat cheaper) than ever before.

No doubt, you’ve seen or heard this quote before:

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Often attributed to Spider-Man or, according to some, FDR. Whoever said it first, the statement is powerful for a number of reasons because it isn’t just about having great strength to accomplish something and needing to ensure you don’t blow up an entire city trying to do it. There are companies, like Amazon, that empower people to do something using the means they’ve provided. That’s the kind of power we’ll talk about here.

Amazon gives anyone with basic computer skills the ability to publish their own work. They’re making it easier and easier every day, and with that power comes the responsibility to use it… well… responsibly. Do people? God no. I once read an article detailing which Kindle conversion software did it best, and in the comment section, there was a woman who apparently uploaded 15 of her books in one week. 15. One. Five. Ten plus Five. Thirty divided by two. Seven plus eight. That’s a lot, and that might be a big problem.

Okay, let’s get one thing out of the way. There are a number of authors who shit books as if they take a daily dose of laxative before sitting on their printer… er, something like that. They aren’t extraordinary books, and they probably aren’t even great books, but mostly probably good books (since someone out there is still publishing them). The difference is that at least someone is looking at them before putting them up, and I think that’s what separates the traditional publishing platforms from self-publishing platforms.

First of all, NO author can edit their own book and catch all the mistakes. It’s just not going to happen. You can catch some of the mistakes some of the time, but never all of the mistakes all of the time. Even editors require a few passes before it’s even close to 100%. Don’t believe me? I just finished reading Stephen King’s Cell, and in one scene, Clay sits down next to Alice in one paragraph and then miraculously is standing again and sits next to her again two paragraphs down without first getting up. (MAGIC!) I’ll bet King’s books go through several passes before it even comes close to published.

Here’s an excerpt from a book on Amazon self-published by an English teacher:

“This book is a philosophical discourse that the author fathomed discussing and explaining the truth that it was entirely, impossible for his life to have turned out any different than it did, no matter how much he wanted it to or how hard, he tried to change it.”

  • HSBK, “What’s sooner to you is later for me”

That mess is just from the FORWARD, and the very first sentence. Can you imagine what the rest of the book smells like after just a whiff of that? Had an editor even glanced at that, he’d offer to fix it and the rest of the book for probably double his usual fee.

Coming from the same example above, let’s look at the blurb. I’m not trying to pick on him specifically, but he has a lot of good examples of what not to do:

“TO BE standard curriculum for ALL high school and university classrooms; a true literary classic! written with irresistible, poetic prose-a true philosophic discourse

(unique and inspiring) a spiritual fictional/autobiography about the meaning of life, the existence of God, and our place in this modern-day predicament called ‘Life’ 104,000+ words written in the 3rd/1st person omniscient”

The author didn’t even bother to try to be a little bit reasonable with the blurb. He might as well have just told everyone that it was a best-seller and that it can make julienne fries if you buy three copies and hop on one leg while reading them simultaneously.

Anyway, now that you have a good idea of what to not to do, here’s an easy list of things you NEED to do before self-publishing your work:

  1. The story must be good! (Do we really need to say this?)
  2. Edit, reedit, have someone else edit, and edit again! This does not mean your friends and family. Unless they’re either beta readers or know what they’re doing.
  3. Don’t lie in your blurb.
  4. Did I mention editing? ‘Cause you should totally edit.
  5. Take your time to do it right. You do not need to get your book out today or even tomorrow. Eventually, yes, but do it right before you dish it out.

The overall problem is the saturation of crap books that are diluting all the good books available in the Kindle store. Do it well. Do it right. Self-pubbers need to put the trust back into the readers that they aren’t just a bunch of fools vomiting onto paper and then uploading it hoping someone will buy it. You need to love your craft and give the readers something they DESERVE.

Have an opinion on self-publishing? Comment below or find me on Facebook or Twitter to tell me about it!

On Writing Horror

A serious misconception about horror suggests that it needs to be disgusting. No, not just disgusting, that it needs to be “splatterporn”. Now, I won’t lie to you. I’ve written my fair share of disgusting shit since I started writing. In 9th grade, I wrote a story for my free write assignment about a deranged serial killer student who tortures, mutilates, and eats a cheerleader. In 2013, I wrote a horror that takes place in Hell, where torturous things and disgusting visuals (might be) is commonplace. I never really went over the line just to disgust people, though. I’m talking about authors who go straight for the nasty stuff without regard to their plot or story. In the first story of mine that I mentioned, I explored the inner workings of a serial killer from the first person perspective, and in the second, well, I can’t say because it would ruin the story.

Anyway, I’ll avoid naming names, but I’ll point out that self-published authors are the worst offenders because they can pretty much publish whatever they want regardless if it’s good or not. I love reading new books by fresh writers and giving them honest feedback, and it always blows my mind when an author writes a horror novel like they just stepped out of a Saw movie.

So, how exactly are you supposed to write horror if you don’t go all James Wan on your book? Well, you approach it as you approach any horror. To scare the shit out of your reader.

First, let’s look at the definition of horror as Merriam-Webster defines it:

\ˈhȯr-ər, ˈhär-\: the quality of something that causes feelings of fear, dread, and shock : the horrible or shocking quality or character of something.

I know, I know. Some of you are shaking your heads and saying that disgusting stuff is shocking and dreadful! I know it is, but that’s not all horror is, either. There are many elements to it.

The first element you need is fear. In my opinion, without fear, you don’t have horror. If your main character is feeling fear, you need your reader to feel that fear, too. Maybe not to the point that they, too, are afraid (though big bonus points if you can scare the bajeezus out of them for realsies), but at least make them uncomfortable. Get them to a point where what’s happening in the story is so emotionally intense that if the reader were sitting in a dark room (presumably on their kindle or with a book light), then they’d start to sweat a little wondering what’s skulking around near them in the darkness.

The next element listed is dread. Have you ever thought about what dread is? It’s a fear that something may or may not happen. Dread should be normal business for most authors since you’ll always dread something in a story. Will the main character’s husband find out if she’s been cheating on his with Mr. Hunk? Will that monster smell the MC hiding inside the closet? Will the world collapse if the World-Destructor-Inator goes off before the Perry can stop it? Your reader should always be dreading that something will happen; it just depends on the situation that makes it horror.

The final element is shock. The closest definition of shock isn’t to electrify someone with high voltages but rather to disturb someone. What? Okay, okay, I know… I hear some of those marbles rolling around your heads as you shake them at me again. Yes, gross disgusting things disturb people, but they don’t disturb people on an intellectual level. There’s a huge difference.

When you write about character ‘A’ doing (insert nasty shit here) to character ‘B’, then you’re only scratching the surface of disturbing the reader. Yeah, it might be incredible disgusting, but to really disturb your reader and get under their skin, you have to really mess with their mind. You have to stick your hand right into their skull and start beating their brains around until they’re whimpering in the corner screaming for you to stop.

How do you do this? By carefully writing your horror to

  • make the reader feel uneasy about how things should progress,
  • take what they think they know and twist the hell out of it,
  • take the world of things that they know and twist them so they question their own reality, and
  • use all of that as a catalyst to reveal something they’ll be thinking about long after they close your book.

Once you’ve done those things, you can write about all the nastiness you want, assuming you have a plot that really requires it, that is. Never throw nasty in just to shock people, because although some people might like it, the vast majority of readers will see right through it as weak writing.

Do you write horror? How do you handle it differently? Let me know in the comments below or find me on Twitter or Facebook to scream at me about it!