a year

A fucking year.

Well. Close. I last posted on (checks notes) October 19th, 2021. 

Shit.

Well, what happened? Where did I go? Why was I not putting out that genuine content that very few read and even fewer care? 

I’m better with lists. So, let’s make one.

  • Got married
  • Honeymooned
  • Traveled a bunch for wedding stuff
  • Planned a lot of wedding stuff
  • Did bachelor things
  • Worked at my real job 40 hours a week (that was hard)
  • Got COVID twice
  • Read a bunch of books
  • Other stuff

There’s no one reason why I stepped away. It was a lot of things happening all at once. I liked blogging. I enjoy the act of writing without need for extensive drafting, editing, and seeking publication. It’s a good way to get out some of the cobwebs that come when you are constantly creating something that has purpose beyond your own entertainment. 

The blog is just for me. You can read it. But not many people do and that is okay. It’s nice to have this space to be whatever I want it to be. I can review, bitch, update, advise, or make lists about things that people don’t care about.

It’s a type of freedom we don’t often get when writing a story that needs to have a beginning, middle, and end.

And, if I were forced, I would tell you that last year I had spread myself thin. I was writing the blog, working on stories, writing for a website, and trying to cobble together an academic collection of essays that consistently demands more time than it is worth. My mind, my fingers, my keyboard were overworked. I had reached a point where things had to stop. I need to breathe, reassess, and really re-focus myself on what I should do, as opposed to what I could do.

Because the truth is that I could do it all. I could write for every outlet. I could lay down 500 words a night on stories and then find time on the weekends to submit all of it. I could write this blog every week and find new things to say. I could go and go and go.

And, in some ways, I did. I went too far. I started to feel the cracks from pushing myself to be doing too many things at too many times. Some people can do it. I can’t. I break. The seams form and then mentally and physically, I began to lose my stability. 

So, I stepped back. I stopped writing for the blog, the website, and I abdicated control of the edited collection to my co-editor. Space was needed, so I took that space for myself. Did I need the entire year from the blog? I don’t know. Maybe. Time for myself, for my new wife, for my life outside of producing words for the sake of producing words was in demand. 

And I think I found that. There’s a type of peace in knowing that you have reached your own breaking point. You find your limit and you can finally see where, why, when, and how you managed to go beyond what you could handle. It allowed me the opportunity to see a bigger picture and to think about what is most important to me. 

And, to no one’s surprise except my own, I don’t find joy in producing content for no reason. I hate the idea of content. I hate writing something that has no real purpose for me. I relish in the moments when I am connected to my writing. It’s an art form, after all. I may be more of a workhorse than I am an art-tist, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t get pleasure in creating something from nothing. But that’s not what I was doing. I was creating nothing out of nothing. Spreading myself thin in the hopes that doing everything would get eyes on me, bring me something that I didn’t have before.

And, to no one’s surprise except my own, it didn’t work that way. I didn’t get anything more than what I got when I went silent on this blog, stopped writing reviews for websites, and passed over control of the edited collection. Didn’t get anything less either. Things remained the same. 

So, I am back and relatively still the same. I’ve grown. I have new goals, new ideas about writing. I have different aspirations and definitions of success. I’ve thought critically about what is most important for me right now and how to maintain my self through the larger work that surrounds a life that has at least some artistic aspiration.

I’m back on the blog too. I miss the space where I could speak long form about things that matter to me. I’m not here out of obligation or need. I don’t operate under the assumption that anyone is out there reading this stuff. 

So, what does that mean for this space? What happens to the mixtape?

It starts with not worrying about a release schedule. I don’t care about frequency anymore. There’s no point to pushing out nonsense when there is no reason to do so. So, I’m giving up on that.

It also means that what comes here is going to be different. I don’t want to write something for the sole purpose of posting. I want to write something if it has a larger meaning. You’ll still get weird shit and the occasional liner notes for a story that I have published. But, for the time being, this space is dedicated to my writing when I decide to publish. I’m sorry, but this place is for me now. Not for anyone else. 

Finally, I have been thinking about doing some essays about writing. I’ve nearly finished a book and learned a lot. I’d like a place to write those types of things and I think here might be good for it. TBD, TBH. We’ll see. Everything is possible and nothing is off the table.

But as for what it will be, who knows. I’ll let you know when I do.

ER

the list – 2021

Every year, my partner and I make a list of horror movies to watch leading up to Halloween. In the past, I’ve given these list a theme. This year, though, I don’t know if there is much of a theme. For the most part, I think these films are fun.

And that’s really deliberate. Obviously, COVID brings a level of seriousness to every holiday. Last year’s Halloween was fine, but tough. This year feels like we actually have a taste of real life again. I didn’t want the list to feel serious. It should feel fun, especially for a year when it felt like we could finally have some fun again.

What follows are the films that we are watching. Some we have already finished. Others will be finished soon. And there have been some unexpected additions that have come into play. I didn’t expect Netflix to drop as many films as they have. But I should know better.

Anyway, the list is set and below:

  • Psycho Goreman (2020)
  • Willy’s Wonderland (2021)
  • Becky (2020)
  • The Strangers (2008)
  • Werewolves Within (2021)
  • Wrong Turn (2020)
  • The Hunt (2020)
  • The Conjuring 3 (2021)
  • A Quiet Place Part 2 (2021)
  • Get Out (2017)
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
  • Benny Loves You (2019)

In addition, I would add Midnight Mass (2021) if I allowed television series to come into play. So far, I think Becky has been the biggest surprise. It is brutal and unique in the best ways. I was thoroughly impressed.

The Strangers is a master class in tension. There’s a good ten minutes of that film where it’s hard to breathe. It’s masterful in suspense.

I remember The Hunt getting slammed when it was announced. The politics of the film were questionable to some people who enjoy trolling. But, overall, I think it is a good satire. Everyone gets their share of criticism and it’s a fun ride.

Like I said, we haven’t finished yet. I’ll write if there is anything else that really catches my eyes.

Otherwise, stay safe. Get vaxxed. And watch some scary movies!

ER

the first paragraph

So.

I am trying, once again, to write a novel.

It’s not an easy feat (understatement). I’ve tried on multiple occasions and failed on each of those attempts.

I think my failures have been twofold.

First, I have severe anxiety about the novel. I end up blitzed by the prolonged nature of the writing. It’s a long project and I have this feeling that I will fuck it up the longer I work on it. Continuity is a strange beast. There’s always a lurking feeling that I will forget the connecting points of plot and the entire novel will end up being a disconnected mess of thoughts.

Second, I find it hard to actually write the first paragraph. It’s strange. I can write a short story easily. The first page goes by quickly. The whole story comes out in a matter of days. I don’t have nearly any anxiety associated with writing short stories. When I sit down in front of the keys to write a novel, I freeze.

And I don’t know how to get beyond it. I’ve tried on a few occasions and any long form storytelling kills my creative energy. I end up locked in this interior fight between my own desire to challenge myself and my inability to actually meet the challenges that I have laid down.

I assume this struggle is something that all writers go through at some point. There was a time when I couldn’t start a short story. I got past that with practice and time. I would imagine that a novel needs the same amount of time and attention.

It’s just a matter of actually spending the time and energy to earn that practice.

If there is a message in any of this venting, it is that writing is a process built on practice and earned comfort with uncomfortable situations. It’s about continuing to pound against the wall until you break your way through.

So, maybe this post is more about admitting my own shortcoming so that someone else can benefit. Or maybe it is about venting frustration with my own process.

I’m not sure. The writing will continue as it always does. And I will continue to complain and train and try.

So should you.

ER

liner notes: lou’s version

I’ve always dug the liner notes. 

And I’ve always wanted to provide something in addition to the stories that I publish. I’ve seen some writers do it in their books. Well, I’ve got no short story collection. Just a few shorts out here and there. I figured Lou’s Version would be a good place to start writing some extras. It’s a favorite of of mine and it ended up on a podcast that I dearly love.

So, here we go.

The story itself is heavily inspired by a documentary titled, Rats (2016). I highly suggest it. If you dig the rats in the story, then I think you’ll get a kick out of the film. It’s terrifying. 

Lou comes from one of the people interviewed in the film. I think I may have even stolen his first name. That may have been an accident. My dad’s name is Lou and, regardless of any one in the film, I wanted to name my main character after my father. Some of the mannerisms are attributed to him (not the killing). If you’re wondering, he quite liked being the main character. In some strange way, he was honored.

Rats was the beginning of the idea. I’ve never found rats to be particularly terrifying. They pop up in Lovecraft (rats in the walls and all that) and there are some Stephen King stories that use rats effectively. For me, I never had the inclination to use them. They felt like an overused trope.

But then Rats and an idea. I can’t tell you much else about it. It’s just how it came out on the page. You’ll think I’m strange, but the story really wrote itself. Lou felt like a character I knew in my head. Even if I had avoided rats, I’ve always been fascinated by a killer’s confessions.

Which brings me to another major source of inspiration. The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer (1992). 

Whether it was good parenting or not, my parents must have watched The Iceman Tapes a dozen times when I was growing up. Richard Kuklinski. A true madman. As icy as his nickname. 

I don’t know why but I always remembered that old documentary. I don’t know that I ever meant to write a character like Kuklinski, but I can’t say that I didn’t either. He’s a giant piece of shit, but damn he’s compelling.

Lou Sheehan and his rats and his long kill-list is my Richard Kuklinski. A guy who murdered countless people and then had the gall to go on TV to brag about it. 

I wrote this story right before the pandemic. I kind of forgot about it. Now, I wonder if there are other stories for Lou. I don’t know. I never know.

The only other thing I can tell you is the trucking company where Lou takes his victims is based on a real trucking company. I grew up on a country road and a man named Schuck (Schuckie to the locals) ran a small trucking business out of a huge, decrepit old barn. In fact, I used to get the bus on the corner right on the edge of his lot. I figured something secluded and non-assuming would be perfect for the type of work Lou meant to do.

In the end, Lou’s Version is a big moment for me. I know it amounts to about 40 minutes of kick-ass narration. But it’s a story I love and one that really cemented for me that I could write. For better or worse, I could write.

I truly hope you enjoyed it.

ER