Brain Squeezin’s

Random thoughts in 3… 2… 1…

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You can buy a whiskey called Writer’s Tears. I don’t know what it tastes like. But if it were in any way authentic it would taste of ink and flopsweat, of the brine of insecurity and the heady broth of ego. It would have a nose of shame and a finish of triumph. It would feel like book pages on your tongue. It would burn the doubt out of your belly.

It’s probably not that good.

* * *

One flavor in a writer’s liquor cabinet should not be sour grapes. It’s easy to look at those more successful than us and feel that acrid twinge of jealousy that says they’re better than us, that twist of the intestines that says they don’t deserve it. Thing is, you’ll always have someone who’s earned more, by dint of deserving it or by luck or by the sheer fortune of having plunged teats-deep into unknowably trendy waters.

You’ll always have someone with another zero on their advance. With more reviews. With a better cover. With a greater command of prose. Better shelf space. Better percentage on e-books. More awards. More Twitter followers. Cooler hair. Nicer beard. (DAMN YOU AUTHORS WITH NICER BEARDS THAN ME. I WILL FIND YOU AND SHAVE YOU AND SALT THE EARTH. Ahem.)

It’s easy to get caught up in it. To splash around in the warm, green waters of envy. It’ll do you no good. Sour grapes are a kind of slow-acting poison. Look upon other writers and be inspired. Inspired by their success. Inspired to try to do better yourself. High-five them, don’t kick them in the junk drawer. More to the point: don’t kick yourself in the junk drawer with all those stupid, worthless, poisonous feelings. Celebrate, don’t denigrate.

* * *

We’re all going to die, so what the hell. The flu’s going to kill us one day. Not this flu. The next one. Some bat is going to fuck some monkey and their little bat-monkey baby is going to kill and eat an exotic possum and in this nature red in bat-wing and monkey-tail mess some mosquitoes are going to have a fucking field day and grab the new zoonotic Super-Flu virus and carry it to the far-flung corners of the world where it will destroy 9/10ths of humanity.

* * *


I see some people getting a little cocky over their flu shots. Some folks get sick and it’s like, “OHH, IF ONLY THERE WAS A WAY TO STOP THE FLU OH WAIT THERE IS SHOULDA GOTTEN YOUR FLU SHOTS DUMMIES.” You probably shouldn’t think that way? First, because, you know, it’s not nice. “You have flu, and I am going to mock you for it,” is not particularly nice. It’s just chastising a gut-shot man for not wearing a bulletproof vest (“OHHH IF ONLY THERE WAS A WAY TO STOP BULLETS HAR HAR”).

Second because, umm, the flu vaccine doesn’t work like other vaccines, exactly. It is an imperfect creature — worth getting, but depending on which study you read they’re only 60-80% effective, and that’s only if they prevent a strain programmed into the vaccine (which does not include the Super Possum Flu that will obliterate us all). One study even suggests it’s not all that useful for kids under two or adults over 65. Article also notes:

“The perception that current [flu] vaccines are already highly effective in preventing influenza is a major barrier to pursuing game-changing alternatives.”

Plus, there’s a whole spate of flu-like sicknesses that aren’t flu.

Meaning, the vaccine does diddly-poop against them.

(Then there’s the norovirus, where you geyser your internals out the front and back for days!)

So, yeah, definitely get that shot — but don’t expect that it’s going to save you from the flu. And don’t relish in the fluey-ness of others. Because that’s what dicks do.

* * *

Then again, maybe it’s the unkillable gonorrhea that’ll get us all.

Slather your wangly bits in kevlar, folks.

* * *

“Slather” is a really good word.

Other good words: “Plethora.” “Hoarfrost.” “Scintillate.” “Frisson.”

* * *

Dan Brown has a new book out.

I mean, on the one hand: whoop-dee-doo, I guess. But it’s low-hanging fruit to go after him, or Meyers, or even the 50 Shades of Grey series. Let them be. Whatever. Snooki writes a cookbook and we all lose our shit but I figure that the Snooki-money and the Dan-Brown-geld bring in enough cash to keep publishers around, publishers that can then spend a little of that money on trying out new talent. That’s perfect-world-theorizing, of course, but sometimes I like to pretend we’re in that world. It makes me feel warm and cozy and like everything’s possible.

Like I’m wrapped in the warm skin of a bat-monkey hybrid.

* * *

Indie writers will point that out a lot. “Traditional publishers release garbage too.” Like that’s a reason to excuse it in your own world. “John took a shit in the water fountain, so why can’t I?” Besides, even a Snooki book or the eventual publishing arm created by some monster-blob lab-created monster born of the DNA of Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga (GAGABIEBER BIEBERGAGA IA! IA! FTHAGN!) still puts out books that are at least crafted with the bare minimum of quality in mind. I mean, it’s still a pile of shit, but it’s shit lacquered with gold leaf, by golly.

* * *

Are we still mad about them using that word, “indie?”

Language changes. Each word is not a single bullet.

Multiple meanings are okay. Words only mean what we need them to anyway.

Besides, a self-publisher is still a publisher, independent of all the others.

* * *

I like Lena Dunham. But a lot of you sure seem to hate her.

* * *

Teaching B-Dub certain words is an act of diminishing returns.

Me: “Say ‘ladder.'”

B-Dub: “Adder!”

Me: “Say ‘lllll-adder.'”

B-Dub: “Arble!”

Me: “Lad-der.”


Me: “LAD-DER.”


* * *

I think our 20-month old is better at the iPad than I am.

* * *

Last night I made roasted strawberry slash creme fraiche ice cream.

I’ve only had a taste (ice cream is a weekend treat), but my face exploded with joy.

I cannot recommend the Jeni’s ice cream cookbook enough.

* * *

I think I miss Mitt Romney.

Like, I don’t want him to be president, but he was such a hilariously tone-deaf goon.

He needs a reality TV show. I’d totally watch that show. Especially if it put him in awkward situations his LEGO hair-brain couldn’t handle. Like teaching an inner-city school or… having to have empathy somewhere for someone. He’d short-circuit! Cue the laugh track.

* * *

I don’t get the Big Bang Theory.

This is not to say you should not enjoy it.

I don’t really buy that it’s “blackface” for nerds, exactly — it does seem to celebrate laughing at them more than with them but to me the issue is, I just don’t know that I find it funny? (Further, I’m not a fan of laugh tracks. It’s a thing with me, not with you.)

Ever see the videos where they cut the laugh track from shows?

Here’s one for BBT.

I’ve seen some debate that suggests Community is better than BBT, blah blah blah, and while I don’t know that it’s better, I certainly prefer (read: adore) Community. But I think the difference is that maybe, just maybe — and this is only if these designations matter to you or carry any weight at all — BBT is more for “nerds” and Community is more for “geeks.” I haven’t really sussed that one out yet, but maybe there’s something there?

Maybe it’s just that I don’t think I’m smart enough to be a nerd.

But I’m comfortable being geeky?

* * *

I didn’t get Seinfeld, either.

* * *

I’m really enjoying The Mindy Project.

And Happy Endings is the funniest show you’re not watching.

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Mister Doyce Testerman takes aim at steampunk and all the other -punk subgenre categorizations. I’m not sold. I’m sure some things labeled “steampunk” are not as anti-establishment as we’d like, but for the most part — provided we’re not just talking steampunk as a fashion accessory — I see threads of anti-authority middle-finger punk attitude in there. Then again, maybe I’m just protecting myself since I continue to refer to my upcoming YA series as “cornpunk” (which came out of a joke, honestly but there it is).

* * *

It’s no secret that I am a fan of the artist Poe, who disappeared due to all kinds of awful record label bullshittery a while back. (Poe’s brother, by the way, is Mark Danielewski, author of House of Leaves, and her album, Haunted, has ties to that novel.) Lo and behold, I had no idea she popped up on the grid back in the fall with a tiny little new song:


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I also like this video. And the song, obviously.

* * *

And this is my jam.

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I should shut up now.

Have a nice day, everybody.


  • Yes, we need a Mitt Romney show on Comedy Central. It should include people getting hit on the head with a cocoanut (you’ll get that referance in time, Chuck, when B-dub starts watching Spongebob).

  • I don’t like Big Bang Theory, either, and supposedly it’s a show about “my people” (whattheeverlovingfuck…), but I agree that sitcoms that are about laughing *at* someone instead of with them are frustrating. That describes most sit-coms generally, though, and I just think that’s the model. I much prefer Community because it’s not about the obvious jokes. It can go over the top or it can go subtle, but it feels like so much more thought actually goes into the writing on that show. I didn’t like Seinfeld, but I used to think I was just too young for the humor. But seeing it in syndication, I think it was…boring. A show about people with dull, mundane and self-involved lives, and the jokes fall flat even now that I’m older and I should “get” it. Friends – that one bored me, too. I get side-eye all the time over that.

  • I laugh at BBT, but sometimes the blatant trope-o-rama just gets under my skin. The most recent episode is a shining example, and the whole half devoted to the women’s plot of picking up comic books could have easily been entered in its entirety as #1reasonwhy the sundry geek industries remain sexist.

    Also, babies and technology is scary. Amber knows how to turn the tablet on, and can navigate through apps like a boss. If she asks for Dora, we hand her the tablet, and she turns on Netflix, finds her show and chooses an episode. NO ONE SHOWED HER HOW.

  • “It makes me feel warm and cozy and like everything’s possible.Like I’m wrapped in the warm skin of a bat-monkey hybrid.”

    Through all of this (and my jealousy of your ice cream mastery), the quote above really made my day.

  • “Hoarfrost” is a fabulous word.

    Whenever anybody starts ragging on Twilight or 50 Shades or Snooki-whatever as an example of what’s wrong with mainstream publishing, I increasingly fight down the urge to grab them by the throat and yell “Are you KIDDING?” Some editor saw those, said “I bet people will want to read this and it will make a ZILLION DOLLARS!” and lo, they were so very very right! Thousands of people bought it, loved it, raved about it. The publishing house made zillions, the authors made 10% of zillions, the agent made 15% of 10% of zillions, and everybody went home and had gold-plated fish sticks for dinner.

    That is not the system being broken, that’s the system working blindingly well. If they’re awful books (and I’ve read none of them, so they may well be) it changes nothing–publishing is not your mom and isn’t there to make you eat your vegetables.

    Ahem. Sorry, that’s started to bug me a little.

    Incidentally, on the next-big-virus thing, if you haven’t listened to the show “Radiolab” (they do a podcast) they did a fabulous show on “Patient Zero” that includes documentation of a couple of exciting new retroviruses that have turned up in Africa via the by-now-standard method of hunters butchering monkeys with an open wound. It’s absolutely riveting, in a “Oh god we are so screwed” kind of way.

    • I think you’re dead on if people (i.e. jealous writers) are complaining about these books having been published over something else (i.e. their own writing), but if the attacks are about the content and how that content is being presented I think it’s fair game. In the case of Twilight and 50 Shades it does seem that some of the anger or disdain is coming from people upset that relationships which should probably be seen as abusive, or at least unhealthy, are being presented and adored as romantic. I can’t judge myself (haven’t read them) but those kinds of attacks seem fine to me. The “how could such bad writing get a publishing deal but my opus can’t” stuff is ridiculously annoying though, yeah.

  • I don’t even know who Lena Dunham is; mostly I don’t get on that whole Team X Celebrity or Team Y Celebrity Gang-Bang Wagon.

    My husband won’t watch BBT because of the whole “it’s too close to home” feeling he gets. I enjoyed it initially, but its novelity has worn out. I have been told that the difference between nerds and geeks is that geeks get paid. Seems like the characters in both BBT and Community are getting paid. /shrug. Again, seems like the whole Team Nerd vs. Team Geek thing. Why can’t we all just get along and be happy there are multiple options out there for everyone’s tastes?

    Small favor, please? When you link stuff, can you let it open in a new window? I like to read through all your stuff and then go back and read the links and watch the videos. Or is that weird?

    • Not sure I know how to do that (make a link open in a new window). I’ll look into it. In the interim, you can just double-click and open in new tab or window, I suspect. — c.

      • I just automatically hold “Ctrl” when I click anything on the site.

        But! The standard HTML code is usually text

        The target=”_blank” is what makes a new window pop up.

        To do this in WP, when viewing the menu administration page, click on Screen Options (top right), and check the box labelled Link Target under the Show advanced menu properties heading. Now select the appropriate target for your custom link.

            ] = MORE THAN SIGN ON YOUR KEYBOARD / aka standard HTML tags that WP does not like to appear in posts in any shape or form. AGRRR, I NEED TO EAT A PIRATE GRANOLA!!!

    • Hey Casz, I read the same way you do. In most browsers I’ve used, if you command-click (Mac) or control-click (Windows) on a link, it will open a new tab in the background, leaving you free to collect post-reading reading without losing focus on the reading you’re reading.

      • Thanks to Chris and Jules! You learn something every day and Herr Wendig can keep doing what he’s doing and I can keep doing how I do and no one has to change a thing (except me pressing one lovely button!). I will turn in my computer user geek card now (how in the world did I never know this?).

        <3 to my fellow Penmonkeys.

    • If you right-click a link, your first two options are “Open in new tab” and “Open in new window.” It’s what I do so I don’t lose my place in the scintillating mire of Chuck 🙂

  • I enjoy Big Bang Theory. It’s our go-to filler when nothing else is on. I’m sure we’d like Community too, but it isn’t as easily accessed for us as BBT is. BBT is on ALL THE TIME. However, in our little circle, it seems like the ‘dumber’ people are the fans with the smarty-pants not liking the show. The physics major says he understands the physics part of the show and he doesn’t find it amusing. The paleontologist doesn’t like that Jim Parsons isn’t actually a geek (she also hated that nearly everyone told her “THIS IS YOUR SHOW!” We told her “Here, try this and see if you like it. If not, that’s okay”). The engineering major (who starts on his Masters in the fall) doesn’t like how everyone always ribs on Howard for not having a doctorate, since “You only get a doctorate in engineering to teach!!”

    I’m a firm believer in “It’s okay to not like things but don’t be a dick about it.”

    • Never seen Big Bang Theory. Shows I think that everybody (who shares my taste) should see:

      Rome, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Spartacus.

      See? You don’t even have to ask. 🙂

  • Wowzers! Intense post. I think that all of us writers are having trouble defining how we want to interact with the world, especially in a digital age. It’s tough to get up our work, put it up somewhere, and hope that someone, anyone reads it.

    As for the intense ego that most of us writers have, I do believe it’s important for us to step away from that and really see ourselves more as artists than writers. A lot of books out there never get read. As a librarian, I can personally tell you that a lot of people out there don’t even read books.

    I’ve finally come to accept that my experience, as a human, is made through my writing. My experience becomes fuller when I write. That’s why I keep so many of my old journals, put my work out there, and try to stay true to mysslef. I like to write. And I guess that’s why I do it everyday?

  • Focus. 🙂 Liked your post until after the bit about the Super Possum Flu, because everything else simply pales in comparison. Made me want to note that I enjoy your writing (of which I’ve only read a few rather helpful how-to articles and about 75% of 500 Ways to Be a Better Writer), at times makes me think of Warren Ellis. Look forward to picking up Double Dead one day… But, actually, since this is brain sneezing and all, were you to recommend a book of yours for someone who hasn’t read any of your fiction, which book would you recommend? Cheers!

    • Yeah, so you aren’t asking everyone everyone, but I’m SWOOPING IN ANYWAY. And I say, +1 to Chuck’s recommendation, but but BUT, don’t let the fact that “this is his website” and “he’s the author of these books” get in the way of this: Double Dead is a lot of fun, and you should read it. Not ‘one day,’ but ‘now’. Because, c’mon, vampires and zombies.

      • Thanks for the recommendation, Chuck (and Chris)!

        Chris, I definitely will if I like them BLACKBIRDS. The annoying thing about living in a country where native language’s not English means I have to mail order the stuff I want to read, which in turn means I pay almost the price of a full book for shipping alone… Considering there’s so many books on my magic to-read list (as I’m sure is the case for most posters here), I have to be pretty careful with what I order.

        Now, time to go stalk that post office for my copy of LOVE AIN’T NOTHING BUT SEX MISSPELLED that I ordered a week before Christmas… *sigh*

  • Personally I don’t much care for Big Bang Theory either, mostly because of the laugh at rather than laugh with. I mean come on, there are tons of webcomics and essays and books and bits of cultural lore that are funny to geeks/nerds not because we are told “These dateless lunatics are you” but rather “remember that time when you tried attacking the darkness?” My mother argues I’m to close to the issue to see the humor but this does little to dissuade me.

    On the other hand my father has made an interesting note: acceptance of a social group in the media always seems to start with mockery. Early GLBT characters were over the top queens and dykes, early examples of different racial groups began as extensions of old race jokes and comedy routines. So, perhaps the same applies here. For now most people laugh at a rehash of the old pocket protector wearing busted glasses dorks but it’s the embryonic stage of actual characters who are geeks rather than geek as a shortcut to a joke.

    Now if only we could get a representation of BDSM into the media that wasn’t Christian fucking Grey.

  • With your Dan Brown-Meyers-Big Time Writers theory, are you saying Publishers follow the Trickle Down Effect that Republicans so profess is good for the economy?

    • It’s not an economy, it’s an industry. The publishers don’t pay advances out of a magical fund — that money’s got to come from somewhere. Big tentpole books allow them to publish niche books.

      — c.

  • Indie writers will point that out a lot. “Traditional publishers release garbage too.” Like that’s a reason to excuse it in your own world.

    Sure. But on our side we don’t pretend to have gatekeepers. It’s the wilderness out here. There are packs of roving writers who prey on other writers in order to collect and hoard basic necessities (paper, ink, correction tape, whiskey, cigarettes, you know how it goes). There was this one enclave of writers who were trying to build their own utopian society but they were torn to pieces by a particularly nasty marauding band of urban fantasy thugs who didn’t even leave any bones behind. We don’t even know who the leader of the biggest indie group is because he or she keeps using a sock puppet account when making demands.

    On the other hand, the people who seem to think gatekeepers are vitally important to the preservation of civilization should be able to point to their gatekeeping as proof that they’re preserving civilization. I mean, the reason we poop in our own water supply is that, quite frankly, we’re uncivilized boors who have no self restraint or social refinement, and only a limited grasp of medicine (“this thing makes you drunk. This other thing also makes you drunk. Mixing them is bad, mostly.”) What’s the gatekeeper’s excuse for Dan Brown again?

    Oh, that’s right. He makes money. That’s actually a great excuse. I know a lot of indie writers who would probably be fine with that reason.


  • Plethora is one of my favorite words.

    Jefe: I have put many beautiful pinatas in the storeroom, each of them filled with little suprises.
    El Guapo: Many pinatas?
    Jefe: Oh yes, many!
    El Guapo: Would you say I have a plethora of pinatas?
    Jefe: A what?
    El Guapo: A *plethora*.
    Jefe: Oh yes, you have a plethora.
    El Guapo: Jefe, what is a plethora?
    Jefe: Why, El Guapo?
    El Guapo: Well, you told me I have a plethora. And I just would like to know if you know what a plethora is. I would not like to think that a person would tell someone he has a plethora, and then find out that that person has *no idea* what it means to have a plethora.
    Jefe: Forgive me, El Guapo. I know that I, Jefe, do not have your superior intellect and education. But could it be that once again, you are angry at something else, and are looking to take it out on me?

  • It’s funny – I grew up with laugh tracks, and they never bothered me before, but now I CANNOT DEAL WITH THEM. A show might be HILARIOUS but I can’t get past the laugh track.

  • Kudos to you on leading with “kicketh not thy more successful brethren in the junk, nor bludgeoneth thine own junk in misguided writer angst.”

    Those who do better are beset by the same ghouls as the rest of us. Also: the last page of your story isn’t written yet. They’re merely at what appears – from the outside – to be a happier place on the curve. No telling what’s actually going on, except that every writer out there loves the high five of a peer.

    That, and whacking your own junk doesn’t really put helpful words on the page.

  • I so relieved to find another person who didn’t find Seinfield funny. With you, me and Brandy (in the comments), that makes three. We ought to start a movement or something. With T-shirts.

  • Happy Endings is a fabulous show! I’m glad someone else is watching. I noticed recently though that it was moved to Sunday night, the oubliette for half-hour comedy shows.

    Little kid speak is fun. Our cat’s name has become Mao-mao, thanks to my 20 month old. I think we might have it changed.

  • This was fantastic. Glad to find another Happy Endings fan…and someone who also didn’t “get” Seinfeld and doesn’t think Big Bang Theory is that funny!

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