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How Not To Starve And Die As A Writer

Cue sad Sarah McLachlan song such as “Full of Grace.”

Gaze over images of various writers trapped at their desk with their sad faces, quivering lips, and snot-bubble noses. One writer extends a gruel cup in an inky paw. Another is missing an eye, uhh, just because. A third writer wears nothing but a dirty pair of Hawaiian shorts — he feels his very-visible ribs with one hand as he shoves his keyboard into his mouth with the other, gnawing like some kind of squirrel.

“Did you know that fewer than 1% of writers are able to make a living wage, or even scrape together enough money to buy black market Ramen flavor packets from dubious Laotian street merchants? Every minute, three people give up their dreams of being a writer and become inept middle managers. Every hour, seven writers die on the streets of Los Angeles, New York, and for some really weird reason, Sedona, Arizona. But you can help stop the tears. By donating no less than $25,000 a year — less than the cost of 25,000 cups of coffee — you can contribute to and keep afloat our Instruct Writers How Not To Starve And Die In Sedona fund. Only you can keep stories in the world. Only you can stop writers from putting out their eyes with fountain pens.”

Here, then, is how you feed yourself, clothe yourself, and pay rent or a mortgage with naught but the power of your writing. Ready to roll? First, three caveats.

Caveat The First: Am I Really Talking To You?

Let me separate this out by talking first about fishermen.

Let’s assume, however falsely, that two types of fishermen exist in the world. The first identifies as a fisherman when he is asked, “What do you do in your spare time?” The second identifies as a fishermen when he is asked, “What do you do for a living?” Nothing fundamentally wrong with either answer. But each answer says something different about each type of fisherman.

Ask yourself the same question about being a writer. Is it a spare time thing? Or is this an, “I want to do this for a living” thing? Sounds obvious, but if you’re in the hobbyist camp, no harm, no foul to you, but this post probably isn’t for you.

Caveat The Second: Your Dream Of Creative Integrity Is Cute And All

I am a huge fan of creative integrity. I am also a huge fan of unicorns. My Trapper Keeper? Covered in unicorn stickers. And yet, despite my love of unicorns, I also realize that they are not real, or, even if they are, they’re not helping me pay the mortgage. At least not without taking them to the abattoir and selling their precious meats (or making weapons from their horns).

Creative integrity is a good thing to have and it will at times serve you well, but if you steadfastly hold to some kind of lofty notion of your work — say, you fall more on the “artiste” side of things than the “craft” side of things — then it will be more difficult for you to make a living wage. You may create more transcendent, beautiful work; I dunno. But with it you are unlikely to feed your baby (or your unicorn sticker addiction) with it. Once again, I may not be talking to you in this post.

Caveat The Third: This Will Not Happen Overnight

No “Magical Ink Fairy” exists.

You will not get an apprenticeship at the Wordsmithy.

Tomorrow, I am not going to quit being a writer and suddenly transform into a marine biologist. So too are you not going to eject from your job and become a full-time paid writer. Sure, it happens, but only if you take a writer position or writer job. Most writers I know do not have “in-house” writing work. (And those that do: I’m not talking to them because those lucky gits have it covered.)

Self-Evaluate Honestly And Find An Hourly Wage Or Salary That Keeps You Alive

Oh-ho-ho, you might be saying, “Hey, writers don’t make an hourly wage,” which is technically true. You also don’t make an annual salary. But you still need to determine those numbers. You enter into the fray with only a hazy cloud of possibility in your head, then only a hazy cloud will return to you by the end of the year. Which means — yup, back to the street to hit up the Laotian for more Ramen flavor packets. (“Ooh, this one’s called ‘Oriental.’ How exotic! It tastes like soy sauce and boot leather!”)

Let’s say the bare minimum of what you need to be making before taxes is $35k a year. If you’re where I am, that might do you okay — but if you’re in LA or NYC, you’re probably going to have to crank that number up because I think that’s how much the average homeless person makes in the city and they’re, y’know, homeless. So, you take that magic number — $35,000 — and figure out, okay, how much do I need to make per week to live?

Consulting my abacus and these pigeon bones, it looks like you’ll need $650-700 a week.

Second thing to figure out: how much work can you accomplish in an hour? I write about 1000 words an hour on average. Generally speaking, I get paid five cents to $0.25 per word, but let’s look at the bare bottom of five cents. A thousand words at five cents is fifty bucks an hour, which means I’d need to work a total of 14 hours a week to earn out. Kind of awesome, but betrays the reality: first, you have editing time to factor in there (the better you get, the more you’ll cut this down), and second, you may have a hard time constantly scaring up work. Be ready for inconsistent work schedules.

Will You Work Freelance, Or Is It All Creator-Owned?

If you work freelance, you will always be trying to hunt down work and deadlines will be your best friend and worst enemy. But you will earn a steady rate and have contracts that bolster your efforts and you’ll be building up a resume in a professional arena.

Creator-owned is a little more personally satisfying, but also the harder road. (By “creator-owned,” I mean you’re going to rely on putting out and selling your own work, whether that work is short fiction, long fiction, screenplays, comic books, and whether or not that work is self-published or published through traditional channels.) If you were to choose to thrive on short stories alone, let’s say, and you publish short work that is paid the minimum pro-rate of five cents a word, you’d need to write and sell —

*spells BOOBS on a calculator*

— 140 short stories in a year. Which is not impossible, but it’s pretty fucking epic just the same.

Some work pays a helluva lot better than others. Film and TV pay very well, especially compared to novel-writing. The average novel advance these days is, according to Tobias Buckell, $5,000. Now, playing Herr Doktor Pessismist, I’ll assume you won’t ever surpass that advance, which means you’d need to write about seven novels a year (and sell each one of those crazy sumbitches) just to earn out.

What does this tell you?

Always Be Writing, And Diversify That Shit

This is when Alec Baldwin steps to the chalkboard and writes ABW, “Always Be Writing” across it. And then you go to pour some coffee and he tells you to put that coffee down, coffee is for writers only. Then something something, fuck you is my name, something something, set of steak knives.

You need to always be writing. I don’t necessarily mean that you need to fill every hour with word count (screw food, so what if my baby is crying, I can just pee in this Snapple bottle — best stuff on Earth, bitches, hahahaha *sob*), I just mean that you need to peg a daily word count and hit that word count every day you can manage. If you take weekends off, fine, fuck it, but fold that word count into your week.

Also: diversify. Do not rely on one revenue stream. When I asked the question above about freelance versus creator-owned, it’s something of a false dichotomy — I set a trap for you, and you fell right into it. And now I will eat your sweetbreads. Which are not breads at all, but rather, your delicious pancreas. Wait, whuh? I dunno. What I’m saying is, you can and perhaps should do both. Novels and short stories combine together to form part of your Wordmonkey Voltron. Throw in there some freelancing, some scripting, some under-the-table smut writing, whatever, and you start to see the whole package emerge.

And by “whole package,” I do not mean genitals. So calm down.

Have The Right Tools

Tiny point: have the right tools. Have a good computer. Have a good word processing program. You don’t need the best, but you do need what fits you and what works. Writing, like any other self-involved career, is an investment — it costs a lot less than a start-up restaurant, so spend a little bit of money to get the bare minimum of equipment you need. Once you start making money, hey, look, tax deductions!

Wait, Where Do I Find Freelance Work Again?

Ehhh. Uhh.

*knocks over a stack of plates, runs for the exit*

No, seriously? I don’t know. Here’s the thing, though: writers make the world go ’round. You wouldn’t think it looking at some writer pay rates, but it’s true. In nearly everything that exists, some kind of writing went into its making. Somebody has to write menus and placemats and planograms. Somebody has to write technical manuals. We are the word of God. We say “light,” and by Sweet Molly McGoggins, there is light.

Okay, that’s a little overwrought, but the idea is firm: writers are everywhere, and this is true of creative content. Turn on the TV. Pick up a magazine. Check out a website. Writers are there. If not like gods, then like roaches, we’re that ubiquitous. So, the work is out there. You just have to keep your eyes focused on finding it. Gaining work is some mystical combination of knowing the right people, seizing opportunities when they arise, and building up a small portfolio of work in that realm.

(It also involves saying “yes” a lot and nailing the shit out of deadlines.)

You might ask, “But what about sites like eLance?” To that I’d say, I dunno. I’ve never used it. From what I can see, it feels like a race to the bottom in terms of pay, and a lot of the jobs there look a little dubious. It doesn’t seem like a great way to work a living wage, but alternately, it might be a way to get started and get some paid credits under your belt. If anybody has used a site like that, sound off.

Also, those of you out there who are freelancers: share your sordid tales of how you got your work the first time. I tell people that working your way into a full-time freelance life is like digging a tunnel through a mountain and then detonating it behind you — every path in seems to be different.

So, Self-Publishing Is The Future?

Sure, maybe, I dunno. I don’t live in the future, though, I live in the present. (You know how I know it’s the present? No jet packs. No teleporters. No hoverboards.)

I do not think you should jump right in and hope to subsist on a self-publishing revenue stream. Again: diversify. But that does mean it behooves you to try it out. If you self-publish something and it’s good enough to get you $1000 over the course of the year, well, now you’ve only got $34,000 to go.

Slow Like Molasses

I got my first short story published (for $$$) when I was 18 or 19 or something. I started freelancing when I was 23 or 24. I was able to go full-time and earn a living wage when I was 30 or 31. Again: not an overnight sensation. And it’s still a struggle, every year, because it’s not something you can sit back and allow to happen. But that is also part of the joy. To go back to the fisherman, you get money for every fish you sell. It’s an elegant form of commerce: I did this thing, and this thing is worth money. At a desk job, for every spreadsheet you do you get… well, what? You get a check every week no matter how many spreadsheets you do. The commerce is muddy. The reward, uncertain.

Me, I like being a writer. It requires a bundle of sacrifices. And it makes you crazier than a shithouse owl.

But it feels good to go down in the ink mines with my pick-ax and chip away at the word count clustered on the wall like pretty, pretty crystals. *chip chip* *sob*

Final Notes

No, this doesn’t cover the breadth and depth of the topic. It in fact is merely a hangnail — if I start to pick it, a strip of skin will peel back all the way to my elbow and suddenly you’ll be tasked with reading a 5,000 word blog post, and nobody wants that. This is long enough already. I can’t say how useful this post actually is — it ultimately covers the generalities, but it’s a start, at least. Future posts down the line will deal with more specific tidbits (dealing with editors, managing money, and so forth).

Also —

Yes, I had to crawl inside a deer carcass to get that picture at the fore of the post.

I dunno. Shut up.

Drop comments, questions, add-ons, marriage proposals, or hateful screeds in the comments below!

March Is The Month Of “Penmonkey Boot Camp”

(I don’t really think you’re maggots. You’re all lovely people. Well. Most of you. There’s a few of you out there, with your squirrelly eyes and your sweat-slick palms. Fiddling with your pockets. I know you’re up to something. Be advised: you’re being monitored. Weirdos.)

Fellow penmonkeys: each of you, stick out your chin.

Open your mouth a little. Smile. No, really. Smile!

Because it’s time for me to punch out your baby teeth.


This is the month of no-holds barred writing advice. I will rant. I will rave. My spitflecks will land in your eyes and you will need to blink them away and as you’re blinking them away I will jam my wingtip up your pooper and cram a fountain pen in your neck and I’ll suck up a draught of your neck-blood and then together in your blood we shall write a list of our failings as writers so that we may overcome them.

Or something like that.

Fact of the matter is, we writers are our own worst enemies: so much of the time it feels like we’re in our own out-of-control minecart, speeding toward an uncertain resolution. Fuck that shit, George. No more of that. It’s time to get control of the minecart. It’s time to stop dicking around. It’s time to learn where our failings might be. It’s time to call out our worst excuses so that they may be trampled under foot. It’s time to gaze ahead and find purpose and plan. You will improve your craft. You will dispel illusions. You will discover the kind of writer you are and the kind of writer you want to be.

Okay, I don’t know that any of this is really true. You might not learn shit from me. But by god, that’s not going to stop me from gargling meth and screaming in your faces for 30 days, will it? Woo!

So, you’re on notice, compatriot penmonkeys and ink-badgers. It is time to shit or get off the pot.

Ah! But! I need something from you. I need you to tell me where you feel like you’re falling down. It’s time to evaluate your shit, hombres. I have some posts already percolating in the septic bubbler that is my brain, but I need some of you to step into the firelight and say, “You know what? This is where I’m sucking hind tit right now. I want sweet milk, but all I’m getting is a mouthful of rancid brine.” Feeling like you can’t muster the discipline? Got plot problems? Don’t grok structure? The rewrite burning your short-and-curlies? Plagued by self-doubt? Throw it out there. Whatever it is, I’ll paint it on the back of my hand and slap the problem out of your skull. Because that works, right? Violence and rancor solve everything!

I don’t promise to address everything. I am only human, after all. Well, okay, I’m 12% cannibalistic humanoid underground dweller and 7% insane spam robot. But I’m also 0.03% Cherokee, so that gets me all kinds of sweet-ass motherfucking tax breaks.

So. You. Go. Comments. Now.

Before I conclude this post, a quick word:

I reiterate this a lot but given the sometimes cranky attitude toward writing advice and the dubious dispensers of said advice, I feel like it bears repeating: none of my advice is sacrosanct. It is not Penmonkey Law. It is not the Word of God. The issues I address are issues that I have myself dealt with and what you read here are generally my own personal solutions. You are free to examine them and deny them at your leisure. You are free to disagree with me, and in fact, disagreement is good. When you receive a piece of writing advice and you hold it up and gaze into its unblinking eyes, you make a decision: “I totally will dig on this,” or, “You know what, this just isn’t for me.” And at that point you’ve done what you need to do as a writer: think about your craft. You’ve made an evaluation and have come to terms with what kind of writer you are and, more importantly, why you are that way. Self-examination leads to self-determination, which in turn leads to… well, I think it leads to pie. Or maybe cake. See, even there, you’ve made a critical distinction: do I prefer pie or do I prefer cake? Answer honestly, because it will determine if your name goes on the list for the next pogrom.

That being said, tomorrow I welcome you to the Penmonkey Reeducation Boot Camp.

Please sit still in the barber chair as we shear your head so that the tinfoil cap may sit as close to your brain as possible. Here, too, is your cyanide packet Kool-Aid drink mix.

See you in the comments, and catch you tomorrow.

A Bonus Round Of Search Term Bingo

Time again for SEARCH TERM BINGO, little babies. If you don’t know how this works, here it is: people discover this website via some of the strangest search terms one could imagine. I pluck these search terms out of obscurity and dissect them for gits and shiggles.

wisdom snake

File under, “Most awesome euphemism for penis ever.”

is it true if you pee on facial hair it grows?

True. It is, in fact, why men and women around the world often refer to me as “Old Man Peebeard,” or, “Captain Piss-Stache Of The ISS Wee Willy Whiskers.” Uhh. I mean, I assume that’s why they call me that. Anyway, the only problem is you kind of have to be like that monkey who pees in his own mouth. You’ve got to get just the right “angle of the dangle” to hit the beard properly. Wait, what’s that? I could just pee in a cup and dump that on my beard? Sure. Sure. I could do that. If I was a Communist.

do writers get paid sick days?

Hahahah! Hahaha. Hee. Ahem. Hahah. Hahahahaha! OHH HO HO HO HO woo yeah. Uhem. Ahem. Yeah. Ha. Hee. HA. HAHAHAHAHAHA. BWAAA HA HA HA HA. MWA HA HA HA GHA HA HAHA


*poops pants*

Man, that’s funny. That’s a good one. That’s a — a zinger.

wheres my goddam bologna sandwich?

Jesus, all right, settle down, crankypants. Did you check under the couch? Under the cushions? Is your neighborhood plagued by a known Bologna (pronounced “Ba-LO-Ney”) thief? Is it in your mouth? Your hands? Your pants? It’s got to be somewhere. Baloney sandwiches don’t just get up by themselves.


*dramatic organ music*

girls fellating monkeys

Name of band, album, autobiography, novel, documentary, artisanal spring water brand, first child, second child, pony, spoken word poetry show, or automobile? You decide, America.

dragon age alistairs jizz

Man, I have not been keeping up with the Dragon Age downloadable content. “Alistair’s Jizz” is supposed to be a great final chapter for the character. I hear his kingly jizz sprays out and forms a dragon. A jizz-breathing dragon. True story. Happened to a cousin of mine once. Anyway, I will say though, do you think that Bioware is taking this “adult content” thing a little too far? Sure, the game was bloody and had lots of crazy fantasy-world sex — the porny D&D mystique is pretty cool and all, but a jizz-breathing dragon? Feels like they’ve crossed a line. A line written in jizz.

sometimes writing is about crapping it out

I would mock this, but damn, I gotta say: this is at times very, very true. You can do as much prep as you want. You can think real hard about it. And some days writing is just about crapping out the word count as painfully and as swiftly as you can manage. The weird thing is, it’s amazing how sometimes those days feel like crap-days, but what you really get is something better than you really expected. Of course, other days, it looks like and smells like you crap you suspected it was, but hey, hell with it, that’s why writers get nigh-infinite do-overs and take-backs.

outline two unicorns having sex

Clarification: you want a drawn outline of the two fornicating unicorns? Or, since you’re coming to me with this, I wonder: are you looking for a bulleted outline detailing the carnal peccadilloes of those two aforementioned unicorns? I guess if you were to outline it, it might look like this:

• Music begins to play (Lionel Ritchie: “Hello”)

• Unicorns begin “mating dance”

• Horns clash

• Ingestion of Spanish Fly

• Application of dragon’s hide prophylactic

• Perimeter defenses active to keep the townspeople safe

• Unicorn sidles up behind the other unicorn, whispers reassuring haiku

Well, you get the idea.

i hope my wife believes in me

She doesn’t. She emailed me yesterday. In her email, she called you a “fetid bucket of fuck-chum.” She said your manhood was “like a thread of kelp in a squirrel’s mouth flapping and flopping about, getting everything wet with its briny stink.” She said, “If he says one more goddamn word to me, I am going to eat a fistful of razor blades, Advil, and apple seeds.”

Though, to be clear, she didn’t actually say she did not believe in you.

Hm. You might be all clear, then. Carry on.

who is the poop eater?

Marketing campaigns have become so very sophisticated. First it was, “,” now it’s “” Man, I can’t wait for this movie, whatever this movie is going to be. The Wachowski Brothers know how to put on a good show!

all the people say sisterfucker

I can confirm this. And it’s getting weird. Everywhere I turn, everyone is saying only one thing, repeatedly and loudly: “Sisterfucker.” All the people are saying it. It’s like they can’t say anything else. It’s like Being John Malkovich up in here. Well. Okay, I guess it’s like Being John Sisterfucker.

chuck wendig why you

Why I what? What’d I do now? C’mon. Don’t leave me hanging. Chuck Wendig, why you gotta be so fly? Chuck Wendig, why you so dumb? Chuck Wendig, why you keep putting hot sauce on your testicles? Chuck Wendig, why you gotta keep wearing that badger on your head? Complete the question! No, seriously. Complete it. Comments. You. Go. Do it. Don’t make me punch a kitten.

hot sauce testicles

What? Nuh-uh!

Seriously, though, don’t put hot sauce on your junk. Once, I was cutting up a Jalapeno, and I forgot to wash my hands afterward, and from that point forward, everything I touched was tainted by the angry spice of a hot pepper. I’m not saying I didn’t accidentally masturbate… okay, all right, I didn’t actually do that. But I did rub my eyes. Jesus God on a fucking jet boat, do not do that. For reals.

can dogs go to the movie theater?

You’re asking the wrong question. The correct question is, Should dogs go to the movie theater? and to that, I say, absoflogginglutely. I mean, if you people can bring your screaming infants to an R-Rated movie, then I can bring my dogs. It’s only reasonable. The movie theater these days is basically a lawless safari anyway, so why can’t I bring a gassy terrier and an old Belgian Shepherd with hip dysplasia?


Is this a new number? Like, “One million millions is a dicktillion?”

Or is a coquettish dance for ruined Southern women?

Some women dance the cotillion. But those not-so-fresh Southern ladies go to the dicktillion.

neti the monkey’s paw for sinus infection

I’m going to chalk this up to Google trying to figure out what you wanted and getting it really wrong. I’m hoping that what you were searching for was actually “Neti pot for sinus infection,” because seriously, you did read the story about The Monkey’s Paw right? That story ends badly enough without shoving anything like that up your damn nostrils. Eesh.

i can write a load of shit and you will eat it up

Well, given that writing is sometimes about crapping stuff out, I guess this is accurate.

e.e. cummings shit you don’t have to eat

All jokes aside, this is from a real poem. No, seriously:

i sing of Olaf glad and big.”

how to entertain a crippled dog

Okay, this only works if you have two dogs: one crippled, the other not-so-crippled. Take the not-so-crippled one, duct tape two of his legs together — experiment with different combinations for maximum fun! — and then have the duct-taped doggy flail around the room. The crippled dog will gaze on in ironic amusement. Okay, probably not. And seriously, don’t do that thing with the duct tape, because that’s cruel. And don’t put it on YouTube so that all of us can see it. I’m sure it won’t get a million hits.

man shot friend over cornbread in alabama

Must’ve been delicious cornbread. I’d murder a friend over certain foods. Wouldn’t you? Then again, I’d murder a friend over all kinds of things. A drink of water. A sideways glance. Standing near me. Because that’s the kind of guy I am. A murderer. A serial murderer. Good times.

how can you tell if an eggplant has gone bad

Here’s an easy test.

Hold the eggplant in your hands. Raise it up in front of your eyes and gaze at it.

Is it still an eggplant?

Then it’s gone bad.

Throw Your Links In The Ol’ Link Dump

Hello, Internet, my old friend.

Man, since doing away with a regular edition of Painting With Shotguns (originally mistyped as “Painting With Shoguns,” which is my cable access show wherein I learn how to paint from an ancient Japanese shogun who has been displaced in the timestream), I no longer get to just barf up a bunch of Internet links into your lap. Like, say, the way my dog just barfed on the kitchen floor a half-hour ago because the dummy drinks too much water, too fast. As if we’re going to suddenly make water illegal in this house. Seriously? He’s a very dumb smart dog, that dog.

Anyway. Links. Right.

First and foremost, your task, should you choose to accept it, is to drop a link of your own into the comments. (“Drop a link?” Shut up, you.) Anything will do. Something you find intriguing? Amusing? Controversial? Doesn’t matter if it’s LOLCats or related to the Large Hadron Collider. Bonus points for combining both LOL Cats and the LHC. But please, please, no “Large Hard-On Collider” references, because for fuck’s sake, this is a family site.

Second and secondmost, now I retch links into your open palms and eager eyeholes.


Ich Bin Ein Word Slut

First, because I am nothing if not a whore, did you see that a project I co-wrote with Lance Weiler — COLLAPSUS — is up for an International Digital Emmy? Even though I am not directly nominated, that does not mean I will not exploit the opportunity, placing “Emmy-Nominated” in front of every identifier I can think of. “Emmy-Nominated Pet Owner.” “Emmy-Nominated Liquor Pig.” “Emmy-Nominated Moron.” “Emmy-Nominated Narcissistic Sociopath.” I’ll be at Target:

“A 15-lb bag of dog food, one crate of oranges, and a mysterious vibrating sexual device that looks like a latex possum. That will be $147.82 cents, sir.”

“Don’t you mean, ‘That will be an Emmy-Nominated $147.82 cents, Emmy-Nominated sir?'”


“Never mind, just hand me the goddamn Sex Possum.”

Second, because as noted I am nothing if not a whore, Robin Laws released the short story list for the new Stoneskin Press anthology, The New Hero. My short, “Charcuterie,” is in the mix, which is exciting because I actually don’t think it sucks. It’s even more exciting, however, given the fact that my story is clearly the lettuce in a Meaty Talent Sandwich.

Uhh, hello, Jeff Tidball? Maurice Broaddus? Rich Dansky? Monica Valentinelli? Ken Hite? That’s just a smattering of the goodness. All people I admire, so it’s nice to be in the mix with them.

Linkmonkey For The Inkmonkey

The Hack Manifesto.” Priceless material from Lilith Saintcrow. “My advice on writing is geared pretty specifically toward people who want to make a living at it. It’s also geared to people who love language and want to tell a ripping good story. It is not for Artistes or for fragile speshul flowers who want only squeeful strokes for their delicate, heart-shattering, mindstopping genius.”

JD Rhodes: “Diversify.” JD talks about Amanda Hocking, Snooki, Borders, rejection, and other fiddly bits about publishing and writing in that post. Check it out.

Also: “The days of the “take-care-of-me” writer are gone, folks.  Those writers will not survive in the new environment.  We will lose a lot of talented writers.” Great big essay from Kristine Kathryn Rusch about the changing times in writing and publishing.

Stephen Blackmoore talks about writing his novels and about the soundtracks he gives them. His musical tastes are completely in line with mine: Poe? Massive Attack? Butthole Surfers? Poe’s Haunted is the best album you may have never listened to, by the way.

Miscellaneous Debris

Huzzah, data visualization: visual proof that movies are getting worse.

I’ve recently come to dig reading Ryan Macklin’s blog — here’s a good one about critiquing, and contained within are interesting lessons for any game designer. Follow the Macklin. Follow him into the jaws of Hell.

GQ UK: Top Ten Whiskies. Discuss.

The Army Did Psy-Ops on United States Senators?!

Julie Summerell blogs and inadvertently gives me a glimpse of my child-rearing future and the insidious interrogations I will undergo at the hands of said progeny — “Where Is The Microchip?”

And finally, and I guess this falls a little under self-promo whoring since I helped write and develop Danse Macabre, but here is a White Wolf video where Russell Bailey, Eddy Webb, and Kelley Barnes unbox the book and give a look into its blood-soaked pages:



It Goes Down Smooth: The Shackleton’s Scotch Flash Fiction Results

Crystalline Field

The other day, I said: “Hey, you. That’s right. You. With the clown shoes. And the iguana. And the faint aroma of spoiled milk. It’s time to write a flash fiction challenge based on Shackleton’s Scotch.”

And somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 of you crazy motherfookers stepped out of the shadows and tossed your flash fiction down on the stage and were like, “BOOM goes the dynamite.”

Or something.

Anyway, below I present to you the mighty Shackleton’s Scotch challengers — it’s some good stuff, so do yourself and them a favor, click on over and read away.

Before I present those links, I’ll ask: did you dig the challenge? Do you want more excuses to write flash fiction? Let me know. I could be convinced to do this again.

These Playas Be Ice Cold

(If the fiction had no title listed, instead of going with “untitled” I’m instead listing them with, most frequently, the first sentence of the piece. Also, I’m listing them in the order they were received.)

Josin McQuein: “First You Run Out Of Food, Then Fuel

Dan O’Shea: “Shackleton’s Hootch

Albert Berg: “The Stone Saucer

McDroll: “Whisky Island

David Blakeley: “Inner Child On Forgotten Scotch

Levy Montgomery: “That Single Fly’s Foot

Adam Maxwell: “Bullet Time And The Beer Taxi

Me Myself And I: “I Don’t Drink Anymore

John Kenyon: “Endure

Sparky: “Booze Run

Billy Prophet: “Shackleton’s Scotch

CY Reid: “The Best Laid Plans

Marc Nash: “Drying Out

Ben Kirby: “Last Case Run

KD James: “Scotch On The Rocks

Sean Preston: “Distillation

Gary E. Weller: “Mackinlay’s Samba

Paul Vogt: “Gun Nut

C.M. Stewart: “Snotrunningly

Aiwevanya: “Jeannie In A Bottle

Shullamuth: “A Paean To Spring

Frank McBride: “That Box My Brother And I Buried

DeAnna Knippling: “A Fly In Amber” (use purchase code QN26W)

Rob Hart: “Stealing Shackleton’s Scotch

Madison: “Three Men On A Snow Day

Anthony: “Shackleton’s Magical Whiskey

Orange Tango: “He’s Not Sure Why He Went To The Bar

T.N. Tobias: “A Drink At The Edge

Marian Allen: “For A Few Bottles More

The Plutarchy Cometh

Cash and Bullets

(A brief caveat: this post has the potential to generate discussion, and that discussion runs the risk of being heated. I’m all for being emotionally invested, but the standard rules of “don’t be a dick” apply. Further, a disclaimer: I am not mad if you don’t agree with what I say. Obviously, I think I’m right because, well, duh, I’m me and I am pro-me as much as possible. But I do not demand that you agree with me as long as you don’t demand I agree with you. Civil discourse, pretty please.)

If the middle class is a big balloon, it’s like someone untied the balloon knot and know the thing is slowly but surely leaking air, sputtering around the room like a cartoon dirigible.

This is a pretty cool link right here, featuring eight graphs that detail… well, let’s just say that the title of the page is, “It’s The Inequality, Stupid.”

I just feel like we’re living in truly absurd times. Times that, were you to read about them in a book of fiction, you would say, “Oh! This is satire,” or, “I’m sorry, I don’t really believe this is possible. Pbbbt.”

We live in times when Republicans (and, true, non-Republicans) exalt Ronald Reagan and then, in the same breath, bemoan the many tax hikes they have suffered. Except, what tax hikes? And, hello, Reagan had his own share of tax hikes, people.

Here’s the thing about tax hikes: nobody likes them. Nobody likes having to pay more money for things. But let’s reframe the discussion a little. Let’s say you want your children to go to a great school, so you shell out the money and put them into a great program at a great school and they’re on track to become smart little motherfuckers. Tuition, however, isn’t cheap. So, the school board — which comprises parents who send kids to this very school — approve a cut in tuition to make it more affordable. Sure. Okay. And year after year, they continue to uphold that tuition cut because — duh — they like paying lower tuition. Except, problem: the school can no longer continue to afford the high-end teachers, or the trips, or the classroom computers, so everything drifts downward in terms of quality, which means the education there also drifts downward. (You might call this a “trickle down” effect, if you’re a fan of irony.) The kids that come out of the school are no longer smart little motherfuckers because the school is now on par — or below — with public schools. The desire for cheap tuition outweighed the desire for smart little motherfuckers. Even though those who sent the kids there could afford the original tuition.

If the metaphor seems muddy, let me clear the waters so it is crisp as consomme: the oooh-la-la private school is America, a country once lauded for being a champion on the world stage. We won every motherfucking spelling bee, what up. But now, the “school board” is voting with their own selfish interests, choosing to keep tax cuts which means, in short, we aren’t able to pay for stuff. Roads. Teachers. Arts programs. Cops. Workers. Everything costs money. And we don’t want to pay for it. More importantly, the wealthy don’t want to pay for it because, duh, they’re wealthy. They don’t give a fuck about roads because, I dunno, they have secret hovercrafts or some shit. They can afford top-shelf schooling. They don’t care about what the country has now or can do, they only care about what’s in their Zurich accounts.

And let’s follow that chain — campaign finance and lobbying confirms that money talks in our political system. Which means that those with money can make things happen. Which means that the wealthy can take greater advantage of the political system through various loopholes and exploits. Which means that they’re constantly going to vote in their own favor, whiiiiich meaaaaans we are moving swiftly toward an oligarchy, or, more specifically, a plutarchy, where the rich rule. Do I have that right? So, all those blah blah patriotic blah blah “Democracy!” blah blah trumpeter assholes are saying one thing but voting for another thing entirely which is a crass dismantling of democratic ideals. The Tea Party, which continues to advocate that it’s for the common man (in many cases not just the common man but actually the lowest common denominator man — the modern American Neanderthal), is actually funded by big money dick-cankers like the Koch Brothers who actually want to reduce the common man’s bargaining power which in turn gives more power to the government. That’s not small government, you shitheads.

(Er, not you shitheads, my fine feathered readers.)

I see the question bandied about: why do Americans continuously vote against their own well-being? We vote against healthcare for everybody which seems like a total no-brainer (yay healthy people, healthy country!). We vote against teachers. We vote against improving our infrastructure. We vote “for” smaller government by stupidly voting for big government. We vote against our own income bracket and for the income brackets way above our meager heads. Why?

Because we believe a lie.

We believe that “get rich quick” should be cross-stitched on every flag flying at every American home. We believe that we are one day going to be rich, and so this illusion keeps us from voting against the rich — in fact, it convinces us to vote for them in big ways. “What’s that? A bill that says that rich people should be allowed to murder poor people in the streets with sabers? Well, sure! I mean, no, no, I know, I’m not rich right now, but soon as my Wacky Plumbing Widget hits the big-time, I too will be able to slay the poor with my saber! Ha ha ha! Stupid poor people! Okay, I’m going to go buy more Ramen now.”

You see a lot of blustery hoodoo about raising taxes on the rich and not those below them. There is this sense that such a move would be unfair — as if “fairness” figures into this game at all — and further as if this would be a socialist move. Let’s talk about that a little.

First, socialism exists across many echelons of our government. Social security smells of socialism. It’s right there in the name. Socialism is also a much nicer program than “let’s give all the power to the super-rich and hope they decide to support all us bottom-feeders and pray that trickle-down doesn’t mean the trickle of urine spattering upon our heads.” (AKA, “Golden Shower Economics.”)

Second, let’s get shut of the idea that a single tax rate across the board creates an equal economic condition for all. Let’s say that I have ten dollars, and you have a million dollars. Let’s say that the tax rate is 10% (because yay for easy math!). The gubmint take a dollar from me, leaving me with nine. Uncle Sam takes $100,000 from you, leaving you with $900,000. Equal tax rate, fair across the board. Ah, but. Now that I don’t have a dollar, an unholy host of things now fall outside the “Shit I Can Actually Afford” purview. My ten dollar co-pay? Can’t afford it. A ten dollar McDonald’s meal for my family? Can’t afford it. New pair of super-discounted sneakers? Bzzt, nope. On the other hand, you’ve still got nine hundred thousand dollars. Sure, some things might have slipped from your economic grasp like, say, a jetboat made of other jetboats, or a floating island where you force hobos to compete in your own version of The Hunger Games, but you can still afford all the essentials. You can afford most luxuries, actually. Plus, money at that level suffers a Gremlins-like phenomenon: it multiplies a lot faster because you have more of it to multiply. Your money makes money. My money goes towards not dying.

Do you see, then, how the system is already unfair?

Power is consolidating in the hands of the rich. It doesn’t trickle-down because companies have left this country so it “trickles” in rivulets and runnulets away from American citizens. And yet we continue to reward this behavior, like giving a treat to a pit bull who keeps biting our hand time and time again.

And meanwhile, we continue to watch as the Republicans — who, by the way, at their core have compelling notions of personal moral and fiscal responsibility — devolve into a party of mustache-twirling villains. You can tell they’re villains because anytime Michelle Obama comes out with a smiling, friendly initiative the GOP swiftly moves to cut it down just on principle. “Kids shouldn’t have diabetes? Yes they should! Screw you, First Lady! Diabetes is a choice. I won’t let your big government take that away from my kids!”

It’s almost comical how swiftly the Republicans act like the American people are the enemy, constantly trashing initiatives that serve the best interest of the common man. I feel like a crazy person yelling about Soylent Green. “We’re eating each other!” America gets fatter and stupider and meaner and weirder and we just watch the shadow puppets dance on the wall, convinced that one day someone will hand the marionette strings to us and so we continue to vote in favor of the puppet-makers and puppet-masters.

Meanwhile the Democrats continue their “not-in-the-face” policy while the Republicans continue their “oh-hell-yes-in-the-face” policy. Are we losing our minds over here?

How the hell do we get this train back on the tracks?