That Took 5 Years, But It’s Done (For Now)

Over the past 5 years, I’ve been living with with my latest novel. Originally conceived as a social satire about two robots who accidentally bring about the downfall of mankind, it has grown and evolved in ways I couldn’t predict.

In the past 5 years, I started a new job, got married, took on more household chores as my wife completed both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work while working full time, purchased a house, and grappled with a lack of direction with my own existence. Through all of that, the book and these characters strapped themselves in for the ride. What started as a social satire evolved into a tale about a mid-level robot disillusioned with his lot in life. He feels useless, rudderless, and unimportant, grappling with the idea that the world would exist just fine with or without him.

Continue reading

We’ve Come a Long Way – New Short Story

Hey friends,

I’ve got a new scifi short story up as of yesterday. It’s one I’ve been sitting on for about a year or so. I’m proud of it, and I hope you enjoy it.

It’s called “We’ve Come a Long Way,” and you can find it here. The story was born out of disillusionment at what we call progress, at how we, as a species, seem to run away from our problems, and in turn, bring our problems, our diseases of the mind and body, with us.

Thank you, as always, for reading my work. I appreciate it. I appreciate every single one of you who takes time out of your busy day to catch up on what little old me is doing.

Also, let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks again!

The Dream

It’s been two months too long since my past post. This isn’t a unique statement, but the pandemic caused me to bunker down a bit more than usual. Work picked up, and I ended up spending more hours at the day job (working from home, of course) because ad rates were low and the revenue return was good. This led to a chain reaction of tiring myself out, which was fueled by how little sleep I allowed myself night after night. As a result, I fell into a funk (and not the good kind).

When overtired and without sleep, my mind goes to dark places. I bear the weight of my role within society. That is to say, when I’m tired, I’m suddenly aware of how inconsequential I am to the world at large. But I’ve been writing my way out of it. After a week or two of wallowing, I threw my feelings in my robot character that I’ve been working and retooling over the past three or four years. I’ve introduced him before. His name is Rocket, and he is a machine cog in a human world. You can read more about him here.

Continue reading

A Year With Cinema: Tracking My Favorite Time Vampire

A little over a year ago, I decided that the best way to wean myself off of buying movies was to list them. It was a perfect way to feed that need to habitually collect without doling out cash for things that would otherwise sit on a shelf and gather dust.

Physical media is archaic, I know, but when you grow up dreaming about a Rex Harrison-sized library, you can’t help it. 

Rex Harrison-Sized Library

It’s even more glorious than this picture lets on

I started a list on April 29, 2017. The rules were simple. I’d add every movie I actively watched 30 minutes or more of into the list, note the year it came out, and go on my way. Unlike my personal writing, I was actually regimented and consistent with updating this movie list, too.

Continue reading

New Book: Little Warrior Brother by Gabe Keith

One of the secret projects I’ve been involved with over the past year has been helping a good friend and a fellow writer complete his dream project. We’ve been through multiple drafts together, with me serving in an editorial capacity, providing what insight I can in order to help bring my friend’s military memoir to life. Today, I’m overjoyed to announce that Little Warrior Brother by Gabe Keith has finally been released to the public.

I still remember the first day Gabe told me about his project and about all of the ideas and things he wanted to talk about. It seemed like so long ago, and at the time, the project felt insurmountably huge! If you told me then that just over a year later, his book would be published and ready for readers, I wouldn’t have believed it. But Gabe’s dedication, determination, and enthusiasm energized him to work tirelessly, and before I knew it, drafts were already flooding my inbox.

Little Warrior Brother is nothing short of a passion project with high-minded ideals to convey the emotion, struggle, and drive of our armed servicemen and women all across the globe. It’s a book that strips itself of politics and lays the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq bare. Beautifully written, Little Warrior Brother will make you laugh, cry, and understand something outside of the civilian perspective.

You can find Little Warrior Brother in print and eBook at Amazon. Please consider liking and following Gabe Keith and his journey in bringing to life his military memoir from his time in Iraq on Facebook.


Little Warrior Brother by Gabe KeithSynopsis: Two young men fight two wars, decades apart – one in Iraq, his uncle in Vietnam. Following the nephew’s return, they visit their parallel stories, exploring the realities of war, the passing of childhood, and the soul of a soldier on the road to moving on.

 

Find out more about the author and his adventures in bringing this book to light at his personal website — GabeWKeith.com.

Laying Down a Rubber Road Right to Freedom

Over the past month, I’ve been consumed by this game called Pac-Man 256. Essentially, it’s one never-ending Pac-Man level with enhanced, upgradeable power-ups for battling ghosts and making your way further and further along this level. Patterns repeat, enemies multiply, and the further you go, the more time you lose wading through arcade limbo. There’s no ending. There’s no way out (except for death). All you can really do in Pac-Man 256 is accumulate a higher and higher score.

It helps to have friends for this game, friends you can compete with on the leaderboards. In my case, I’ve spent over 18 hours battling one friend for the top spot.

That's me right at the top there. Doc Nonsensical. Feel free to add me on Xbox Live.

That’s me right at the top. Doc Nonsensical. Feel free to add me on Xbox Live.

It’s a hollow victory, especially when you realize you’ve spent 18+ hours playing the same Pac-Man level over and over again, but it reminds me of my day job. I’ve spent four years writing and editing for an entertainment company that confuses “family entertainment” with schlock.

I used to justify my job by telling myself that it was making kids happy. But the company made it abundantly clear I wasn’t.

They decided to move the office to Florida and give me an end date. What contributions I made were filed away in a folder for anybody else to pull from when writing about company property, often copied and pasted by people who didn’t craft sentences for a living but tried anyway. Seeing their hackneyed blurbs sometimes left me ill. It must have been how the mother of Frankenstein’s monster felt when she heard her son was a piece-meal monolith terrorizing the countryside.

The office culture was great, though. I’ve never been in an environment as united as the ragtag group of marketeers I was apart of. Caught in an unending battle between the sales and brand departments, we were an assembly of artists, coordinators, and editors that remained productive in a corporate structure that bred only chaos. Upper-level executives exerted control by making bizarre changes to company protocol, and in a classic chess counter-maneuver, other upper-level executives exerted control by undoing as many of those changes as they could.

And there we were, in the thick of it, filtering all these demands from competing departments into one harmonious composition. We got good at it, too, learning from our victories and our losses.

And then life intervened.

I thought I was hot shit. I thought I was the best editor the company had ever had, playing my part and slowly building a copy empire by assimilating as many editorial tasks as possible. I thought this because somewhere along the line, I convinced myself that this was my destiny.

I was like that guy at the beginning of the first Mad Max. The Night Rider. Barreling down the highway screaming about destiny and my place of dominance in the world. And like the Night Rider, Max was waiting just down the road, revving his engine. Sooner or later he’d catch up and remind me of my place.

When I signed my end-date paperwork, the crash hit. I felt betrayed. Four years of music, four years of rhythm was at an end, and I had no idea what I was going to do next. All I knew was the anger bubbling within, the hatred, the rage. I wanted to make this about them, the upper-level executives, when it was really about me.

Keeping a live entertainment company afloat wasn’t my destiny. The writing I accomplished wasn’t my own ideas or my own words. They were fluff pieces, marketing materials, PR spin. They were junk.

As that rage surfaced in my everyday interactions with people, so did my realization that all of this was out of my control. It always had been, but as I tricked myself into believing I had control, I grew soft, focused solely on work, and let my own personal writing slide. My homegrown ideas festered and rotted. Flash pieces went unfinished. Novels remained half-started.

I was being a fool.

Work was bread and butter. Entertaining people with my own, original work is my destiny. Like the Night Rider, I wanted to lay down a rubber road right to freedom, but in my comfort zone, I fell asleep at the wheel and hadn’t realized I was heading the wrong way. I became angry when life tried to turn me around, struggling against a direction that had always been inevitable.

I breathed easier today than I have in a month or so now. A new Literary Orphans issue is out, celebrating a woman whose work I’ve used as motivation for years. A new job opportunity is on the horizon. Two new flash pieces of mine are awaiting judgment, and I’m hard at work writing a novel about robots.

Life is meant to be pulse-pounding, and it’s exciting to just… go with it.

nightrider


Read my latest 100-word movie review for A Man Called Ove at Drunk Monkeys!

 

Green Lanterns and the Disease of Rage

RedLanternAtrocitus

“Shall sins go unpunished? Crimes justified into toleration? Victims, forgotten? This mad universe would say… yes. I disrespectfully disagree. Rage brings balance to the cosmos. Without the Red Lanterns, creation would crumble under our feet. The universe needs us.” — Atrocitus, Lord of the Red Lanterns

1,076 humans infected with rage. 2,338 humans infected with rage. 4,143 humans infected with rage. A contagion spreads across Earth in the newest incarnation of Green Lanterns, emanating from a tower designed to disperse a beacon of anger. It’s all part of an elaborate plot to transform Earth into a new homeworld for the Red Lanterns, and there’s seemingly no way to stop it. Rage begets rage, and the only people standing in this contagion’s way are two inexperienced Green Lanterns. Overwhelmed, all they can seem to do is watch in horror as their friends, family and loved ones succumb to the malevolent disease of hatred.

The arc, “Rage Planet,” is an exciting introduction to these new Lanterns, but what’s more interesting is the timing of this story. It’s 2016. An election year. We’re in a period of great unrest, as members of both the Republican and Democratic parties find themselves in a bind. Two less-than-desirable candidates have a presidential nomination, and more so than in years past, many voters are weighing the prospect of third-party candidates. This has led to a rift in the parties, with whole groups of people willing to sacrifice their traditional allegiances to make a stand. Understandably, social media has been fiery, with idealists and traditionalists writing sharp-tongued posts defending their positions or attacking those who won’t follow in step.

Certain candidates, to that end, have tapped into different nerve centers among voters. Donald Trump has amassed an army of faithful who feel disenfranchised by the system and alienated by a world different from the one they grew up with. At the other end of the spectrum, Bernie Sanders  has inspired a devoted following fed up with what they perceive as “business as usual” tactics by weak-willed representatives in Washington. The two are an interesting parallel, and in their own ways, have effectively empowered themselves through rage.

As we’ve seen amongst the “Bernie or Bust” crowd at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), the rage isn’t so easily silenced. The same can be said of Donald Trump’s ilk. Though the two have diametrically opposed goals, it’s the emotion they inspire that’s important here. As the election looms, it’s only grown stronger.

My Facebook feed is ever a breeding ground for rage. Those in step with the party line rage against the disenfranchised. The disenfranchised rage against those in step with the party line. News blogs and media outlets fuel the anger with polarizing headlines, soundbites and live feeds. After a while, it all blends together, and all one can do is balk at the scope of it all.

Credit where credit is due, there are those who engage in calm, respectful discussions, and they deserve praise. They’re playing the role of the healer, looking at their peers infected with rage and realizing that these, too, are still human. Whatever side of the fence they lie on politically, they’re still our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers.

Continue reading

Literary Orphans Issue 25: Chicago is OUT! (And so is my article in ‘The Weeklings’)

timthumb

Dear Orphans & Orphanettes,

On May 27, 2012, the first issue of Literary Orphans was published. Under the dedicated leadership of Mike Joyce, a digital magazine that valued art just as much as literature made its debut in the indie lit scene. There wasn’t much expectation for recognition or fanfare, but there was hope. Hope that Literary Orphans would grab someone, albeit for a few minutes, to read this fledgling, brand-new magazine slapped together by a few Chicagoland bums with high-minded ideals and a powerhouse team of some great writers.

The original Literary Orphans tribe consisted of fantastic works by Gary Anderson, Jeffrey S. Callico, Mikhial Carter, James Claffey, Joe Clifford, Joanna Delooze, Ryan Everett Felton, Cheryl Anne Gardner, Faith Gardner, Kyle Hemmings, Gill Hoffs, Jayme Joyce, Joel Kopplin, Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw, John Maloof, Peter Marra, Neila Mezynski, Luca Penne, Claire Podulka and Emily Smith-Miller. With each issue, this tribe would grow, to an unincorporated patch of indie lit space, to a village, a town. These days, it’s akin to a bustling city, welcoming a new group of writers, poets and artists from all over the world every two months.

With each issue, Literary Orphans is doing its hardest to be that cultural melting pot, to be that brightly lit metropolis teeming with fresh faces and fresh ideas all working to build something truly greater than themselves. Though the journal is still a volunteer organization, it’s evolved a lot over these past 24 issues. We went from reviewing submissions via e-mail chains to a more user-friendly program called Submittable. We went from our original design to something sleeker, more modern and with mobile functionality. We went from one bi-monthly journal to a journal, a nonfiction blog and an archive for other digital magazines.

From one seed of an idea, a whole community has sprouted, connecting writers and artists all over the world with a unifying badge of honor. I, too, am an orphan.

Read the REST of the “Letter From The Editor” HERE, and check out the latest Literary Orphans issue HERE.


I have a debut piece over at The Weeklings, which you can read HERE. This one was months in the making, and I’m glad it’s finally out. I’ve received some pretty positive feedback, too, so there’s a bonus!Spider-Ham

Here’s a taste…

As much as I hate to admit it, the nightly parade of television pundits who hit us with damning statistics, straw-man arguments, and emotional human-interest stories, all in order to convince us America is in trouble, are right. This is a time of crisis. We do have to make America great again. But it’s gone well beyond Donald J. Trump and some stupid hat. We’re becoming a nation of adult children, of insipid man- and woman-babies struggling to do as little as we can to get by.

The signs are all around us. Ever overhear a coworker at the water cooler lament the choice between paying bills and buying the latest set of officially licensed Star WarsLegos? How about that old high school friend who brags about skipping work to eat canned pasta in his PJ’s while watching reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation? Or that dopey sales associate who shows up to meetings wearing Poké Ball earrings and complains that no one takes her seriously?

My friend actually said this to me the other day: “Ugh. Don’t make me adult today! I just want to stay home and finish coloring this wicked sweet dragon!”

Adulting. It’s a word now, a contentious verb spit in the face of the hurricane of the day-to-day living. And we need to do our best to bring down the beast. Because if we don’t, if we let it slide, if we acknowledge adult coloring books as a form of “meditation,”…well, at least in a small way, we’re letting evil win.

 

Summer Updates

download

I’ve had “I Love It” by Icona Pop stuck in my head for most of this week, which is a clear indicator that it’s summer. Why? Because it just sounds like summer. It sounds like the perfect party song, that recognizable tune you hear blasting at graduation parties when the smell of the backyard barbecue permeates the air. It breathes life, and summer events are the very essence of life. Coincidentally, “I Love It” is also a song that has been deeply embedded into the far reaches of my psyche because I dared to see that Kevin Costner 3 Days to Kill movie once.  In the film, the tune is used as a cell phone ringtone, so it plays often.

Editor’s Note: The above comments are in no way intended as an endorsement of 3 Days to Kill. The opinion of this writer is that said movie is “fun/bad,” the kind of movie you watch with a few buddies after a couple of beers. It won’t knock your socks off, but it might unintentionally make you laugh. 

Now that I’ve related my penchant for Icona Pop, it’s time for the latest updates.

  • I was interview in The Review Review.
  • I reviewed Keanu a moon or two ago on Drunk Monkeys.
  • A fiction piece of mine, “Following Orders,” was also featured on Drunk Monkeys.
  • Issue 24 of Literary Orphans, Audrey, also hit the interwebz. It’s in reference to the man-eating plant from Little Shop of Horrors, and you can read why this was chosen as our orphan in the Letter From The Editor.
  • A NONFICTION piece of mine will be featured on The Weeklings come July 7th! Woohoo!

Spring Updates!

DMAWith the impending nuptials coming up (in just over a week) and everything else I’m doing at the Literary Orphans fun factory, I haven’t had time to sit down and write for the personal site. That said, I do have a few fantastic updates to share, the biggest one being the Drunk Monkeys Anthology! My essay on Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is included in the anthology, which is available on Amazon in PRINT and EBOOK.

It’s truly a phenomenal honor to appear alongside such a wonderful line-up. Much respect and appreciation is owed to Matthew Guerruckey and the entire Drunk Monkeys staff. They’re wonderful, warm and friendly people, and I’m happy to call them both colleagues and friends. Whether we’re talking shop or racking our brains over comic books, it’s always a great time.

 

OTHER UPDATES