Touring Model Homes Are a Voyage Into Limbo

Today, my wife and I took the country backroads back to the townhouse that we’ve been living in for barely a year. There was no need to stop, but as we drove past a winding road to a new subdivision not 10 minutes from our home, something supernatural lured our gaze to these partially constructed, monolithic buildings. 

It was a new subdivision that had been in development for barely a year, and homes were advertised as starting at a “modest” $350,000. There was a model at the front of the subdivision, with a packed parking lot. 

I felt my hands turn the wheel as we watched these new constructions blur by, and before I understood what was happening, my wife and I were voyaging down this winding road into another world beyond. The forest preserve that once stood upon this land had been bulldozed over, and in its place was a lush canvas of Kentucky bluegrass. In my mind’s eye, I could see an unwitting suburban dad crouching down to the lawn, clumping it in his coarse, working man’s hands, and dreaming of a better tomorrow while a shroud of darkness enveloped him. 

There’s an unearthly power in these new housing developments out in the middle of nowhere. There are no stores within walking distance, no social hubs for engagement or activities that regularly involve encountering people of different cultures or creeds. No libraries. No institutions of learning. And nary a church or a pub.

There’s nothing but forests and farmlands this far out — shade for an ancient evil well-practiced in luring humans from the safety of civilization into the devil’s hands. 

My wife and I found ourselves standing in a house just over 3,600 square feet. It had five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a living room, sun room, dining room, loft, basement, and two mud/utility rooms. An agent for the developer whisked around us, handing out pamphlets for all of the aspects of the home that could be customized, as well as a sliding scale for a price that went well into the $400,000-range. 

Suddenly, the home we had been occupying for barely a year felt inadequate. Just the other day, I had been expressing gratitude at our 1,500 square-foot townhouse. As a child, I grew up in a ranch home that barely squeezed out 1,000 square feet. We were the smallest house on the block in a sleepy neighborhood, and barely a day went by where I wasn’t ridiculed for not living in a home with two floors by my wealthier peers. 

Compared to my child self, I had made it. I was living the American dream, winding up in a house 50% bigger than my childhood home, and it had the two floors I often begged for as a kid. 

But here I was now, enveloped by a haze that was whispering nasty little comments into my ears. I was inadequate. I was a failure. I had settled for something lesser. Our townhouse didn’t have enough room to grow into when we would decide the time was right for a family of our own. 

A poison trickled into my soul and clouded my vision. I didn’t need a home — I needed a family compound, like the Corleones. I could see kids running around these halls. I could see Grandma and Grandpa coming over for a visit during the holidays and a massive turkey feast on a second, larger dining table located in a room that would be used maybe twice a year. 

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Sweet Rejections & So… What’s Next?

I woke up to a short story rejection today. Even after my ongoing 40+ rejection streak, it doesn’t get much easier to open those emails. I’ve learned that in the preview copy in my inbox, rejections often start with “Thank you for your submission…” The bad news is buried somewhere after the preview, which gives writers just enough hope to think that the future is not set, Fate isn’t real, and Destiny isn’t predetermined. That maybe this click to open will be different…

Today’s rejection came with a bit of a surprise though. Usually I’ll get the typical “Thank you for submitting. Unfortunately…” Today, however, the editor was kind enough to include a line indicating that they actually liked the piece! That’s always nice to hear, and it’s encouraging. That means there is hope yet!

This most recent piece that I’ve been shopping around is one I’ve been mulling over since last fall, but I didn’t want to devote time to it until I finished my novel manuscript. I’m trying to get better at ordering ideas into a to-do list these days, so I sat on it up until a month or two ago.

Speaking of the novel, the manuscript is out for consideration but no bites yet.

I’m not a fan of the waiting game, and I’ve often found that shortly after finishing any piece, when that sense of satisfaction and “new car smell” begins to fade, the need for the next hit starts gnawing at the back of the brain.

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2020 Special: My 24-Hour Holiday Movie Marathon

It’s the first year in a long time where I’m actually excited for the holidays. Weird, right? I’m actively seeking out that holiday cheer to counteract all the B-A-D bad this year. Hand to God, I played Christmas tunes on Spotify this year, cuing those jams up of my own free will. No pressure, and no forced smiles. I even went out of my way to bake bread and cookies.

In years past, I would just look forward to a break from the hum-drum of the day-to-day. I’d lazily skip putting up the decorations in lieu of finding a quiet spot at home to curl up with a book. But we, as proud Americans, have killed the magic this year. All of it. Seized hostage by a ceaseless pandemic, we further entrenched ourselves into two main camps and lobbed barrages of polarizing soundbites and threats at one another. It was exhausting, and in the fog and desiccation of a world starved of joy, I realized how hungry I was for flights of fantasy and magic.

And I can’t count on streaming platforms to entertain me these days…. My Netflix and HBO feeds are all serious dramas all the time. Which is why I’ve put together a holiday watchlist, one that can be viewed in the span of 24 hours (with about 10-15 minutes free for bathroom breaks).

It’s a recharge, a way to imbue my spirit with creative energy needed for 2021. Before you ask, no, Die Hard is not on this list. I love Die Hard. It’s terrific, but it’s not a film I feel like watching around Christmas. These picks are… different, mostly.

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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!

Final issue of Literary Orphans (And Where I’m Going From Here)

DominoIt’s been an insanely long time since I last wrote on the blog (over a year). Since then, I’ve been winding down from duties at Literary Orphans. My last issue as editor in chief came out at the end of January. You can read my farewell “Letter From the Editor” here.

In the last year, I reached critical mass. Life outside of writing and Literary Orphans had grown incredibly busy. Work in the digital marketing realm was picking up, demanding more of my creativity and time. I was offered more freelance writing/editing gigs (boring contracts… but still.. MONEY). My wife, Deanna, started her Master’s program, which meant that she would be spending much less time at home and more time at school,  while juggling her full-time job and an internship. Everyday errands we used to split down the middle became mine to maintain.

On top of these life changes, I spent about 10-15 hours per week working on Literary Orphans. I loved the journal, but there was increasingly less time to step away and relax or work on my own projects.

I’m sure every writer, poet, artist, or any other type of creator out there will echo the sentiment that part of the drive to create is a sense of fulfillment at having birthed something out into the world, at the journey of creating from nothing. This is a sentiment I also share, and with all of these extra tasks added to my plate, I found myself putting off my personal writing time and again.

The robot book? I’d edit part of a chapter once a month. That short story I wanted to write? I’d write a couple of paragraphs every few weeks. My many tasks gave me excuses to put off working on the things that, like glue, held me together.

I love Literary Orphans to my core. It’s introduced me to so many wonderful writers and artists, and reading submissions taught me so much about the world and what people are going through. At the same time, it was also the most sensible task on my regular to-do list to cut.

It was not easy, and I mulled over the decision to step down from Literary Orphans for a couple of months before I finally pulled the trigger. I will miss reading weekly batches of submissions and emailing back and forth with the writing community, but stepping down allowed me to reorganize and restructure my life.

Since stepping down, I’ve completed a handful of short stories I am currently shopping around for a (hopeful) publication. I’ve also dug back into that robot book and started editing it again. We often forget that when we step away from a project for a while, the project stays the same, but we, as humans, grow. When we come back, we aren’t who we are when we left, and we find so much more we want to say/change/edit.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next couple of months. Right now, I’m taking it slow and hoping for the best. I know I want to play exclusively within the realms of scifi and horror. I also know that my end goal, perhaps years from now, is to write Batman for DC Comics.

Saying that last line so plainly sounds silly, but I mean every word. I want to wear the mantle and do for the next generation what my heroes have done for me.

Until next time…

We’re all in this together,

Scott

Wild at Heart is Dishonest, so is my Writing

My wife and I watched Wild at Heart recently on a recommendation from my past self. I remembered liking this film so many years ago, when I had first discovered the world of David Lynch. It was weird, surreal, and sardonic. A ride that pleased me but for which I had little recollection of.

On rewatch, however, this was not my experience, and I was a little embarrassed at having talked up this film to my wife. Wild at Heart is all over the place tonally. It zigzags from scene to scene, scatter-brained and without purpose. Many of the ideas in Wild at Heart are perfected in later Lynchian works, but in this package, they’re lost and half-formed.

The end of the film is supposed to tie an idea together, but it feels tacked on and cheap. This wasn’t the whimsical, Lynchian romp with Wizard of Oz themes I vaguely remembered. It was dishonest trash.

When I opened the draft of my robot novel the next day, I was taken aback at how unenthusiastic I was for my project. This wasn’t the whimsical science fiction romp with real-world themes I remembered. It read like drivel. The plot meandered. Certain scenes felt hokey and old-timey in a silent film slapstick sort of way. Sure, there were moments of brilliance, but these moments were rare.

Like Wild at Heart, my work-in-progress felt like cutting room floor tidbids I Frankensteined together. It was dishonest, and I couldn’t find myself staring back at me from the computer screen. I was a little embarrassed. This is what I had been spending so much time on?

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What I’ve Been Spending So Much Time On: Rocket & H.I. 97 Destroy Everyone

For months now, I’ve been slowly writing another book. The working title is “Rocket & H.I. 97 Destroy Everyone”, and it’s meant to be as kitschy and weird as it sounds. My aim is to create something expansive and unique that people can have fun with. I love science fiction. I love its unique ideas, its bizarre flights of fantasy, and the pulpy, dime-store novel nature that’s been associated with the genre. Science fiction is freeing. You can go places without having to worry about being grounded, and if you’re lucky, other people will want to tag along.

With this latest project, I’ve been writing by hand once again, so the process has been long and meditative. I really like writing by hand. It forces the brain to slow down and adjust to the physical, mechanical nature of writing, making my brain hang on every idea, plot device, or character description. Frequently I’ll plan out part of the narrative weeks in advance, and when my hand finally reaches that point, it’s not what was originally envisioned weeks before. The structure’s changed. It’s embedded itself deeper in this world.

I’ve talked about my obsession with robots previously. Since that time, I’ve put together a completed draft of the book and have enclosed just a taste below. Fair warning, this “taste” is still a work-in-progress pulled from a second draft. It may not reflect the finished product at all.

Having said that, I hope you enjoy it, and I welcome any comments you may have.

 


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Finding Time to Write

It’s become a regular habit of mine to write on my lunch break at the day job. Almost every weekday (aside from Wednesdays because that’s new comic book day), I take my hour in one of the empty conference rooms at the office and put pen to paper. I write until my fingers hurt.  I write until the big clock on the wall tells me it’s 1:59 pm.  I write until my brain’s burnt out from the adrenaline rush of cramming creativity into a one-hour block during the day when I’m not managing an email marketing campaign, polishing off some freelance project, making dinner, spending time with the wife, going through submissions for Literary Orphans, putting together the next issue of Literary Orphans, preparing lunch for tomorrow, or running an errand to keep the homestead in order.

Big exhale.

No one says being an adult is easy, and I’m not complaining that it isn’t. If anything, trying to build a career and a family, all while holding on to that dream of writing for an audience of more than one, has taught me some much-needed respect. When I go into one of those empty conference rooms each day for my lunch break, I don’t go in alone. There are a handful of others I occupy a creative space with. These others include aspiring authors and writers, all of whom are looking to breathe life into something creative and wholly their own during the humdrum of 9-to-5 living. They’re my support group, and together, we charge each other to find that creative spirit within ourselves.

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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.

Failure is a Good Thing

In 2009, I graduated Western Illinois University with a Bachelor’s in English and a minor in Film and Print & Broadcast Media. I was a media junkie and a media jack-of-all-trades. That summer, I knew it was only a matter of time before I wrote a novel that blew everyone away.

Fast forward to 2011, and I self-published my first book. It was supposed to be an edgy, gritty, and existential coming-of-age story about some backwoods kid who spent most of his time consuming advertising. Some people told me that they genuinely enjoyed it, and others changed the topic when I asked them about it at social gatherings.

I was 23 at the time. After it released, I sat back and waited. For what? Ultimately, nothing. With my university degree in my belt, I spent a few years in a plateau. I was carrying around a piece of paper that said I had learned something, and in hindsight, I used it as an excuse to stop learning.

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