Season's Meatings

On behalf of the Purgatory Towers tenant’s association, Gary would like to wish you an Incendiary Solstice and Saturnalia.

We love a delicious Yuletide tale, so consider this our gift to you. Snuggle up with us on The Seventh Terrace and let this letter to Santa toast your wee hearts this winter’s eve.

Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals!

xoxo

Rob & Sarah

The First Wife

Dear Nicholas,

I promised never to write this letter.

If you still read the letters at all, you might be clutching mine in your hand, tempted to throw it in the fire. Are the flames hot on your bare toes? Or perhaps, like me, you wear socks now, and shoes, proper clothing all around. Perhaps there aren’t any more fires.

After so long, I’m sure you’ve changed. They say you got fat. A neutered animal has a way of going soft, I suppose. Still, I remember the way you were, the way we were. Do you ever think of that time? Before?

~

Arctic air tore at our throats like fangs. The bone runners of our sled shrieked over snow and ice as our laughter filled a black sky. Sealskin robes, clean and pliant when we departed, crimson-splashed and frozen stiff on our return.

On those nights, we owned the world. The Germanic cowered at our names. Others knew us only as death. They terrorized their children with our stories and left lavish offerings at their hearths. In the hopes that we might pass over.

Much as I loved the frost on my face and the burn in my veins, my favorite part came at the end of the hunt. At the top of the world, we’d descend into the ice. In that tiny burrow, deeply suspended, the surface ceased to exist. Blood-drunk, we’d stumble about building up a fire that would burn all year round. Then we tore away the sealskins with greedy hands and teeth. Our bodies, robed in firelight, were sculpted renderings of immortality. Your beauty left me speechless. Not that it mattered. In those moments, words were a waste of our mouths.

In our dark cocoon, time blurred into a fevered dream, sifting and drifting while we’d whisper and sing and fuck and sleep endlessly; eternally. Until the hunger quickened – calling us to the surface with the promise of a child’s whimper at our shadow filling his bedroom door.

~

The happiest time of my life. Before her.

How she came to you, I still do not know. I do know she taught you a word. A word in her language that had no equivalent in ours.

Sin.

She insisted that a life of savagery had corrupted your soul. She spoke of Jesus, the fisher of men. Give back, she said. Make amends. Repent. How could she poison you so completely against yourself? How could you let her? My love, you and I took only what was in our nature to take. Deviants, she called us. Base and depraved. I argued that denying one’s true self was the purest form of depravity, the very definition of deviance. You wouldn’t listen. She urged you to rise above your nature.

From the beginning, I knew she wanted you, that apple-cheeked cunt. Fool that I am, it never occurred to me that you might want her.

God will forgive, she said.

God?

What could we possibly have to fear from this God? What Hell could He create that we had not already wrought upon His earth? I wonder, has rising above your nature changed what you are, my love? Has this farce of an existence sanitized your soul?

Now your satchel is full when you enter, and empty when you leave. You are a giver. Yet, they still leave offerings. Their ancestral memory quivers, and subconsciously, they are afraid. Does it tempt you? A tender throat relaxed in sleep. Does it make your jaw ache? Just a taste, after all – you’ve brought them so much joy. You said you’d lost your appetite for the kill. Who were you trying to convince with your lying?

I remember a time when there were no falsehoods between us. A time when I laid my head in your lap and you twisted my hair into a thousand slender braids, one for each blood-drenched December. You swore to love me always. Now, your eternity yawns, filled with the adoration of legions. But none of them know you. She doesn’t know you. I felt your every thought and deed as if they were my own. I loved you brutally and without end.

Sin.

Before her, it didn’t exist.

Are you happier, now that it does?

I sound bitter, don’t I? A woman scorned. The first wife. A joke. This is the letter I promised I wouldn’t write: a letter to Santa. You bring gifts for good boys and girls, don’t you? I’m not entirely good – we can’t all be saints – but I believe I’d still make your ‘nice’ list, if only for old time’s sake. Now I want to ask for something.

Your Mrs. Claus.

Bring her to me.

Lay her under my tree like a sweet, ripe plum, and I will show her what you are. We’ll show her together. Then, if she can kiss your mouth, wet with her blood – if she will yet offer up her flesh to her defiler – if she can forgive, as her God would; then I will release you. I will keep my peace, knowing you are loved for who you are.

Burn my words if you must. In writing them, I’ve done what I must. You have my heart, Nicholas – the only heart that has ever known you – the only heart like your own.

Love eternal,Krampus

Detonation #6: Hustlers

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.

Recently I watched a YouTube video of Jennifer Lopez taking pole dancing lessons in preparation for her role in the movie Hustlers. I learned that the only thing I have in common with J.Lo is…well, nothing. She’s a goddess. I’m a goblin. Moving on.

Let’s talk about the money. Makin’ it rain as a writer. You’re good at this wordsmithing stuff, and you work really hard. Is poverty inevitable? Is there a way to use your skills and ambition to make a bit more cash than it takes to buy a second helping of gruel?

Some writers make bank off their writing, we’ll call them Darryl, and they can go directly to Hell. Others, like Noggy, are gainfully employed in a day job where they go to an office, do business, get regular paychecks that are more than three digits, and can afford to get their kids teeth unfucked. I both respect and resent that, but I’m not talking about them either. I’m talking about Lola, and those like her. The freelancers and part-timers, Frankensteining an income through several different writing adjacent streams. I’m talking about the writerly side-hustle.

Here’s the thing. A Lola is nothing if not an opportunist. She’s been fortunate, strategic, and manipulative enough to do work that dovetails with her writing career. Like Lola, I coordinate literary events at an indie bookstore, teach creative writing, and freelance edit. I’ve also written articles, done one-on-one mentoring, and ‘assisted’ young people with their college admission essays (all ethics are situational). It’s a juggling act I perform on top of my own writing projects, publishing, running in the woods, attending to family and friends, and other…interests (see the Six Lives Theory).

I’m grateful to be a professional creative, but it didn’t just fall into my tentacles. When Auntie Octoclot was just a baby mollusk, slinging ink and dreaming of one day maybe, maybe, seeing my work in print, someone gave me some very good advice. GET INVOLVED. The writing community is not just a group of people doing what you do, they are a resource, a pool of limitless opportunity. So, I took classes, went to events, volunteered, collaborated, and worked hard at building real relationships. Finding kindred monsters is its own reward, but beyond that, when paying work comes up, so does your name, and when it does, you gotta be ready to say yes.

Jennifer Lopez is the original Lola. A creative role model. An artist with an appetite for experience and an eye for opportunity. Dancing, singing, acting, and learning to kill on a pole at fifty freaking years old. I bet both her kids have Invisalign. Making a living off your writing is great, for Darryl, but if I did that, I probably wouldn’t have the drive to do and learn all this other cool stuff, like planning burlesque literary salons, singing, acting in plays, and posing as a corpse for someone’s book cover. My writing is better for the experimentation, and while I may not be J.Lo, I’m definitely a hustler, and my back porch ain’t half bad. Just sayin’.

Detonation #5 – Ending It, One Way or Another

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.

If you’re a rational human bean you undoubtably spend more than a trivial amount of time contemplating the end. It’s inevitable, right? Everything has a beginning and an ending. Everything. It’s a fundamental law. The universe began with a singularity programmed by an alien basement dwelling nerd and will succumb to painful, spasmodic, heat death, billions of years in the future.

Entropy is a bitch, and there is no appeasing her.

So yeah, everything ends, and the literary landscape is no exception. Books have beginnings, middles (we’ll delve into those horrid soggy messes another day), and endings. When you spend your ill-gotten lucre on that piece of trash dead tree, recommended by someone you’ll never trust again, you’re invested. You dive in, praying you can figure out what the fuck those metaphors actually mean, and crawl along, double checking the back copy every fifteen minutes to make sure you’re actually reading the right book. Maybe you’ll put it down so you can re-enter your pointless existence for minutes, days, or in rare cases, years, but you will eventually finish it. You will! Unless it blows chunks, or the book is Alan Moore’s Jerusalem. At twelve hundred and sixty-six pages, you’re likely to kill yourself first.

And the end, after you’ve put in so much time and energy, has an excellent chance of not meeting your expectations, and in many cases, just plain disappointing. There’s a ton of reasons for that of course, the primary one being that writing awesome finales is hard. Like brutally hard. Authors are vicious, emotionally conflicted monsters when they write, and unless they’re pumping out four shitty, cookie cutter books a year, they want their books to be award winning masterpieces from start to finish. But, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they’re capable of doing just that.

Here are a few bits we dislike about endings, in no particular order except metaphysically.

It’s better to Burn Out than Fade Away: Chuck Wendig swears even more than Noggy, and that’s saying something, so when he talks about the third and major climax of the book needing to hit Holy Goatfucker Shitbomb! magnitude we tend to agree. Too many endings fall short by not exceeding what came before, ramping down instead of up. The last thing a reader wants to find when they’ve clawed their way to the top of Mount Doom is that the eagles got there first and those idiot hobbits could have retired to the Prancing Pony for ale and weed.

John doesn’t Die in the End: You’ve set the stakes high. The moment arrives where everything is on the line and you pull the punch right before it lands, striking a glancing blow or missing all together. On purpose. WHY? A poet-musician has to die, or at least be brutally maimed, or your reader is going to break the spine and use the pages to line their neurotic parrot cage. If your book says Poet John has to die, you better bloody well kill the bastard.

Too much of a Known Thing: Noggy and Lola step out for ice cream. One thing leads to another and they’re racing down the blacktop, police cars and angry spouses and various aggrieved parties hot on their trail, a famous yet poor life choice thriller writer bouncing around in their trunk. And then? Off the preverbal cliff, nose diving two thousand feet into the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The end of the road, both figuratively and literally. Everyone suspected it would end that way, hopefully with some inspired screaming.

Entertaining? You bet. Unexpected? Not at all. You, the reader, knew they were going to going to be eating fireball sandwich the moment they snatched the drooling lush from his opulent digs and roared away in their Pontiac Aztek. At least set the damn story in Gloucestershire with a subplot involving a cheese wheel race for god’s sake.

Overstaying your Welcome: While the climax and end of your story aren’t technically the same thing, we’re in the camp that feels they should be close together. If your heroine slays the dragon and gets the girl and then goes home and bakes cookies for a hundred pages, there better be something sinister about those cookies. Just because Tolkien got away with it at the end of Lord of the Rings doesn’t mean you can. After a world spanning adventure of epic proportions, he earned it (though the movie version destroyed a generation’s worth of bladders).

Best to leave the bar before they toss you out.

Ends that Aren’t Ends: While standalone books need hard, satisfying endings, the current genre writing trend is trilogies (which, contrary to the laws of mathematics, can comprise anywhere between two and fourteen books) where endings are often just transitions to the next episode. This is often extremely unsatisfying. Every book should stand on its own, with an ending that wraps up the story the book is telling, even if there is MORE ending at the absolute end. And don’t get us started on cliff hangers if there’s a better than average chance of abandoning your baby, or dying of old age before you write the next one (I’m talking to you George. And you, Lola…).

***

Call us negative Nellies if you must, but yeah, so many bad endings. Can we explain what makes a good one? Sure. Avoid writing a bad one. As we said, not easy, but honestly, not THAT difficult. There are eight million stories in the naked city, and every one of them has potential for a horrible, gruesome, unhappy ending. So get writing.

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