Arby’s Garlic Butter Steak Sandwich

When it comes time for The Seventh Terrace Strategic Planning meeting, there’s only one place to go. Conveniently located directly across from Starbucks, midway between Purgatory Towers and the Factory. Yes, I’m talking about the much-maligned Arby’s. Willing our dreams into reality, one quarterly meatcraft gorging at a time.

Here’s the thing about Arby’s, kids. We’re not saying it’s the best. The menu is semi-monstrous. They have a weird selection of pseudo-Greek items for some reason, and their usual feature milkshake is orange. The ambience is total ass. Vinyl. Plastic. Wretchedly faded impressionist prints. But the primal satisfaction and sensual flavours? Curly fries? Half pound Beef n’ Cheddar sandwiches? They’re goddamn delicious, so stop lying to yourselves and the world. It’s okay to love Arby’s. We do, and we’re not sorry.

My point, and of course I have one, is that nothing that will make you want to throw up your hands and let it all burn like Arby’s new Garlic Butter Steak Sandwich.

WHAT. THE. HELL?

No one asked for fine dining, Arby’s. No one asked for anything with an identifiable organic origin or visible grain. No one asked for steak. We like our meat in grey-brown tatters crumpled under a blanket of hot cheese.

Arby’s has never disappointed me before, and when that happens, you really take stock of all the choices that led you to that moment. Staring down a ciabatta bun (I’ve had it with all the different buns, but that’s another review) piled with uniform strips of steak, lettuce, tomato, and a thin drool of garlic butter. If only it was vile. That would be easier to process emotionally. But it was fine. It was devastating. It was no Beef n’ Cheddar. My darlings, at this juncture I must remind you that Octoclot loves food and requires frequent feedings but I left this abomination not even half eaten on the tray. Not even Horsey Sauce could save it. Even the glorious curly fries couldn’t lift my spirits.

I can’t blame Arby’s. They’re taking risks, a quality I admire. This one is on me. There’s a time and a place to experiment with food, and Arby’s is not it. That steak sandwich broke my heart.

2/5

Detonation #4 – Networking on Social Media: Do We Really Need to Go Over This Shit Again?

Navigating Life in a Literary Minefield

Warning: Explicit language and mature themes. If you’re offended by such things, you might want to venture elsewhere.

Facebook defines people with whom you agree to communicate as ‘friends’ and I wish they wouldn’t. Friend is a loaded word. If a person has agreed to speak with me, it doesn’t make us friends. We don’t have a relationship. We don’t even know each other. At best we might know a few people in common, which is usually my criteria for accepting a friend request.

So what the fuck is up with dudes on the internet? And Jesus Christ of course #notalldudesontheinternet Look, if you aren’t a creep, then you aren’t being kicked here, so quit yelping. And for the sake of argument, let’s not even single out dudes on the internet. Let’s invoke Kant’s Categorical Imperative and design rules of conduct that are most effective when applied to every digital meatloaf currently hammering away at a keyboard, or staring slack-jawed at their phone while masturbating in their Pontiac Aztek.

The following are Octoclot’s ten commandments for networking with new Facebook ‘friends’. Listen up motherfuckers…

  1. Thou shalt not follow up an accepted friend request with an immediate pro forma DM to like your page/buy your book/subscribe to your podcast.
  2. Thou shalt keep DM inquiries related to your common interest. Remember, you don’t actually know this person, so don’t ask personal questions.
  3. Thou shalt not stalk your new friend’s page and like old posts and especially not their old photos.
  4. Thou shalt be honest. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying “Hey, thanks for accepting my friend request. I’m trying to get to know more people in the writing community.”
  5. Thou shalt not ask for favours. Ooh, remember? You aren’t actually friends and they don’t owe you a beta read or a blurb or a review so don’t make it weird by asking.
  6. Thou shalt keep DM exchanges brief. Demanding a lengthy conversation with a near stranger is a good way to get ghosted.
  7. Thou shalt like or comment on current posts if you find them interesting. This is actually the best way to get to know your new friend. In the common area. Chat ‘em up in the living room, don’t corner them in the toilet.
  8. Thou shalt not slide into their DMs and steer the conversation into sexual territory. Fuck, that this has to be said is fucking exhausting as fuck and I’ll just leave it fucking here.
  9. Thou shalt keep your personal problems to yourself. That door isn’t open yet, in either direction.
  10. Thou shalt be cool. Can’t we all just be cool? Social media is about connecting with people that share our interests without the barrier of geography. That shit is brilliant! So enjoy it, and be cool, ffs.

That is all. Octoclot out.

Detonation #3 – You’re a Grown-up Monster, so Meet Your Goddamn Deadlines

Navigating Life in a Literary Minefield

Warning: Explicit language and mature themes. If you’re offended by such things, you might want to venture elsewhere.

Everything is connected. Each critter throbbing on this planet is at least indirectly dependant on every other critter. For food, shelter, companionship, employment, transportation, entertainment, and bulletproof alibis etc.  It’s the great social supply chain and we are all but tiny links in the mail. We give in order to get, and we don’t like to wait. We want the Amazon Prime of existential deliverables, human and environmental costs be damned.

This is a way of saying deadlines are a fact of life. The key word being “dead”. As in, something unpleasant may happen should you fail to accomplish your task in the allotted time. This is the colloquialism we use to explicitly define when things need to be done. Work projects, school assignments, household chores, car maintenance, taxes etc.

So why do we have such a hard time meeting our creative deadlines? Because we’re busy, we don’t have family support, society doesn’t value art, we’re uninspired/day drunk/on the run from law enforcement… Yeah, yeah, yeah…

Time for real talk. On the most primitive level, human beans, and almost every other sentient piece of ooze, are far more motivated by aversion than affinity. Want to avoid starving? Store up nuts for the winter. Want to avoid freezing or being eaten by a mastodon? Build that fire and keep it burning all night. Want to avoid being friendless and lonely? Don’t be a cunt and return a text once in a while.

The problem is that nothing objectively terrible happens if we don’t finish writing that novel, essay, or poem*. World keeps on turning, you know? Maybe we’re frustrated and sad, but there’s no shortage of well-meaning friends to tell you it’s okay, you’re a brilliant artist, and you’ll get around to it eventually.

Well guess what? It’s not fucking okay, you’re not that brilliant, and why on earth would you get around to it eventually when you haven’t managed to get around to it already?  I mean, is this important to you or not?

But Octoclot, you may ask, doesn’t this make you a big slimy hypocrite? Heck, yes**. But it doesn’t make it any less true. The first step is realizing that your excuses are worthless. With few exceptions, getting shit done is within your control.

Okay, hear me out… maybe we’re more motivated by punitive measures, but if no one is going to flog us if we don’t write (unless we pay for it) and rewards don’t work, what’s a writer to choose? Neither. This is about habits, children. Forming good habits, so you don’t have to rely on external validation or condemnation to be productive.

But where’s the roadmap? Don’t worry, I gotcha. I call it the 3Ps and I’ve applied them to a case study for your amusement and edification.

The subjects: Noggy Splitfoot and Lola Silkysocks are writers. They are both quite good writers. They are also unmotivated bags of hot diaper pail trash. How can the 3Ps help them meet their creative deadlines?

P1 – Prioritization

Schedule writing time. Plug it in the damn calendar if you have to, and find a buddy if you can. It’s a lot harder not to show the fuck up when someone else is waiting on you. Lola and Noggy agree to check in over FB messenger on Friday night. Like they had anything better to do?

Noggy: Hey Silkysocks, ready for our writing sprint?

Lola: Yes, indeed. Having a friend to write with creates a compelling illusion of accountability.

Noggy: Plus, depravity loves company, so there’s that (sends gif of hippos mating in a mud wallow).

P2 – Planning

Mission statements are horse shit, until they aren’t. You need a plan, man. What are you going to use your writing time to work on, specifically? Share this with your buddy.

Lola: Imma edit that Detonation about meeting your deadlines.

Noggy: I’m going to write the sex-cannibal scene in my middle grade novel.

Lola: Right on. Check in again in an hour?

Noggy: See you then!

Lola: (sends gif of lascivious typing tentacles)

P3 – Permission

You’ve got your tush in the chair, set your intention, and perhaps like our subjects you’ve poured yourself eight fingers of bourbon. Now it’s time to actually write. But here’s the thing, don’t hobble yourself by demanding greatness. You’ll never commit anything to paper with such high standards. Get over yourself. It’s okay to churn out rubbish. It’s more than okay. It’s encouraged, necessary even. So, stop whining, drink your bourbon, and embrace mediocrity.

Lola: How’d you make out, Nog?

Noggy: I wrote ten thousand words

Lola: You…in an hour?

Noggy: It’s mostly shit, but I got one salvageable paragraph, wanna read?

Lola: Hit me.

Break up the writing sprints in any way that works for you, refill your glass, tuck your crotch goblins into bed, swap more disturbing gifs (sometimes sending them to unsuspecting friends because you’ve got too many conversation windows open).

And so it goes. Lather, rinse, and repeat. Do it enough and it becomes routine. Kind of boring, right? Maybe, but this is how a body of work is generated. One sprint at a time, using the 3Ps or however you want to organize your process. Not through a system of punishment and reward, not through will power, or hauling up buckets of inspiration from a magic well, but though habitual practice.

Take it from your Auntie Octoclot: you can finish what you start. All you have to do is show up, decide where you want to go, and get there. One shitty word at a time.

*If you must

**Take all advice with a pillar of salt, and hypocrisy is the least of our sins, trust me

Hollow Kingdom, by Kira Jane Buxton

Stories told from the point of view of animals are a hard sell. Usually it feels like a gimmick, or a lazy way to gain reader sympathy because, y’know, animals. I’m a bit of a monster, it’s true, but not an animal-hating monster. Except for birds. Don’t like ’em. Especially owls, those feathered ghouls are terrifying.

Anyway, this story is told largely from the POV of a crow.

And I freaking loved it!

Described as Walking Dead meets The Incredible Journey, this novel is a crow’s eye view of the zombie apocalypse. There’s a message about tech addiction, environmental conservation, and even an animal analogue of the current human discussion around gender identity, but it plays out organically.

Through S.T. (short for Shit Turd), we get a foul-mouthed corvid’s meditations on humanity, survival, and the interconnectedness of everything. Hollow Kingdom is horribly funny, tense as hell, and bursting with heart and hope.

4/5

Coming soon from Tiny Sledgehammer…

The Black City Beneath

By R. Overwater

In the final days of steam and airships, a mysterious woman is eliminating the world’s great scientific minds using unrecognizable technology. A salvage diver from a notorious family is nearly killed when he discovers a scuttled Russian submarine fabricated from an unidentified black material. And a whiskey-soaked engineer narrowly survives an attack on Britain’s most luxurious civilian airship. Flying under the radar of military authority, the diver and engineer must follow the woman’s electric trail of espionage into the wasteland of a parallel world, to prevent the destruction of their own.