Saturday, September 23, 2017

"Paper Towns" by John Green

BOOK TITLE: Paper Towns
AUTHOR: John Green
YEAR: 2008
GENRE: Fiction
SUBGENRE: Young Adult Mystery
GRADE: Extra Credit

Straight-laced high school senior Quentin Jacobsen has had a crush on the free-spirited and mysterious Margo Roth Spiegelman since he was a little boy. He loves her so much that he agrees to go with her on a late-night revenge prank spree against everybody in Orlando, Florida who has ever wronged her from backstabbing best friends to promiscuous ex-boyfriends. The very next day, Margo goes missing and leaves behind a trail of clues for Quentin and his friends, Ben and Radar, to track down. Everyone seems intent on giving up on Margo and getting on with their own lives, except for Quentin, who is determined to find her even if it means missing out on his most important life moments.

While I won’t divulge what the ending result of this story is, I will say that it hit me harder than a flying brick to the skull. It was painful to where it almost made me cry, but it was a necessary pain that conveyed the message of the story all too well. It shows how dangerous putting people high on a pedestal can be, especially when those “idols” fail to live up to your expectations. Lord knows I’ve had a lot of crushes in my lifetime and still have some today. I keep thinking these women are angels sent from the heavens to steal my heart away and make me eternally happy. And that’s why they say, “Never meet your idols, because they will disappoint you.” I spent the entire reading of this book thinking the best was going to happen and then I get a much-needed slap in the face. Thanks for that, John Green.

I also admire Mr. Green’s ability to incorporate preexisting pieces of literature into the clues of his mystery. The bulk of these clues rely heavily on a Walt Whitman poem called Song of Myself. The themes of death, rebirth, and burial create a deep sense of fear within Quentin that Margo might be dead. But then there’s another piece of literature that fits in perfectly as well: Moby Dick. Captain Ahab becomes so obsessed with finding this whale that it nearly kills him. It reminds me of The Shawshank Redemption where Andy Dufresne expands the prison library and one of the books is The Count of Monte Cristo, a novel about breaking out of prison and getting revenge on those who locked him up. It’s a fascinating literary technique that has stood the test of time. After all, the classics never go out of style, right?

And then we have the theme of paper towns, phantom settlements with fake names that have no business being on official maps. After Margo takes Quentin with her on the revenge spree, she talks about Orlando being a paper town due to the lack of real people with real emotional substance. In other words, the citizens are too concerned with shallow values such as getting laid, buying things, and being better than everyone else. I’d want to go missing from a place like that if I could. Come to think of it, I did live in a “paper town” as Margo describes it. It was called Chehalis, Washington and it’s the town where I considered suicide for the first time in my life. It too was filled with people who walked around like zombies and stabbed each other in the backs. I left that place in 2001 and only came back in short bursts. One can’t help but think Margo has a good point, which is why it’s easy to fall in love with her even from many miles away.


Paper Towns is a book that transcends the young adult genre and is accessible to any age group. Lord knows there are older adults that will feel a sense of jaded nostalgia when they read about the activities going on in this novel. To those people, I say be thankful that you can leave your past behind and look forward to a better day. Be grateful for your newfound maturity so that you don’t make the same mistakes that Quentin Jacobsen makes in this novel. An extra credit grade goes to John Green for giving me the slap in the face that woke me up from the matrix.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

STEAM

***STEAM***

A few weeks ago, I wrote a song for Lunatic Justice called “STEM Sell”, where I argue that having a STEM degree doesn’t necessarily equal happiness despite the job opportunities and abundance of money. In case you don’t know, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The kinds of jobs that come with a STEM degree include medical doctor, mechanic, computer expert, and architect to name a few. As much as liberal arts majors like me hate to admit it, STEM skills are in higher demand than creative ones.

But think of how boring this world would be without art. If everybody had STEM jobs, you can kiss Harry Potter, Pink Floyd, Wonder Woman, and everything else considered fun goodbye. Speaking of Pink Floyd, there’s a scene in The Wall movie where Pink’s math teacher beats him for writing poetry in class instead of doing homework. That scene is based on Roger Waters’s childhood. If he had caved in to the hate and got a “real job” instead of singing in a band…well, you know how this conversation is going to go.

Want another real world example? Jim Carrey gave a college speech about how his father could have been a professional comedian with the sense of humor he had, but instead took a financially safe job as an accountant (the M in STEM). Jim Carrey’s father was laid off from his job, which proves that failure isn’t something only artists experience. Imagine if Jim Carrey took the “safe route” and became an accountant like his dad. Actually, no, don’t imagine that, especially if you’re prone to crying your eyes out.

Ever see the bumper sticker that says “Earth without art is just eh”? Well, every time I hear a STEM student brag about how he’s better than liberal arts majors, I think of that bumper sticker. That same braggadocios student is probably wiping his tears away with those hundred dollar bills. That’s not to say STEM doesn’t have a place in modern society, but it shouldn’t be the only thing we have available jobs for. We need to find a balance between happiness and financial stability.

All you have to do is stick an A (Art) in between the E and the M and you’ve got STEAM. Think of all the creative fields out there and how they’re interconnected with STEM. The music industry is a prime example of this. Of course, the creative side comes from the songwriting and performances. But if you want to put together an album or put on an elaborate concert, you have to have a fairly extensive knowledge of the equipment involved. Rammstein concerts are fun as fuck, but without sound engineers, lightning designers, and pyrotechnicians, I don’t care how good they are as musicians, because their concert will sound like shit without those essential crew members.

The movie industry has STEAM applications as well. Sure, there’s the acting, screenwriting, directing, makeup art, and all of that. But you still need a STEM guy to know how to work the camera, create special effects, edit the film reels, and engineer the sound effects.

Take any creative endeavor and it will have connections to STEAM no matter how much someone argues otherwise. And since I’m an author, I might as well throw my personal experience into the mix. My job is to put words onto the screen and edit the final product so that it’s nice and polished for publication. If you plan on publishing, you have to have an extensive knowledge of economics (math), computer skills (technology), audience psychology (science), and…help me out here, I’m trying to think of an engineering example. Or perhaps your STEM experience can reveal itself in your actual manuscript. Maybe you’re writing a spy novel where someone has to use explosives (technology). Maybe you’re doing a combat scene and have to diagnose the traumas of each fighter (science).

STEM jobs and artistic jobs both require a great deal of dedication and hard work in order to succeed. Failure is a part of both sides of the spectrum and being able to dust yourself off and get back up is the true test of success, not money or college experience. I’ve experienced my fair share of failures in my career. I’ve had two-star reviews, angry criticisms, and plenty of doubters who simply thought I sucked.

I could go with the safe route and be a computer specialist, but would I experience the same amount of joy as I do when I create a story or poem out of thin air? Hell no. STEM jobs are important and highly abundant, but there’s more to life than changing oil in somebody’s car. If you’re a STEM employee and you’re happy with life, good for you. But that’s no excuse to put down liberal arts majors when you’re just as capable of failure as they are. We’ve got ears, say cheers!


***POISON TONGUE TALES 2: THE RIGHT TO REMAIN PSYCHOTIC***

It’s a new week at the WSS and it’s time for a new story. This time we’re dealing with Baby Steps as the major theme. What better way to conform to that prompt than by writing a story called “Where’s My Damn Money?” What else am I going to call it? Here’s how it goes:

CHARACTERS:

  1. Chetty Claymore, Elf Necromancer
  2. Pia Caine, Cat Wizard

PROMPT CONFORMITY: Pia’s small payments against her debt are considered baby steps toward the larger goal of being financially free.

SYNOPSIS: When wandering mage Pia is wounded in battle, Chetty saves her life in return for a whopping amount of money. A year has passed since these events and Pia is no closer to paying off her crushing debt. One night while concocting a potion in her lab, she is visited by the impatient Chetty, who threatens to kill her and the ones she loves if she doesn’t pay what he’s owed. Pia believes she can simply fight her way out of debt, but Chetty is part of a much larger organization of debt collectors and even if she wins, he won’t be her last opponent. Chetty also reveals that Pia’s personal information has been shared with her attacker from one year ago.


***DARK FANTASY WARRIORS***

Earlier tonight, I posted my non-WSS story called “Lionize” and Andrea Lovell, the CEO from that story, is next on the chopping block. Andrea was originally a character conceived by my old D&D friend Heather when the two of us would do private role-plays together on MSN Instant Messenger. She’s usually cool with me using her RPG characters in my stories, but if she isn’t this time around, then I’ll happy use someone else. I think she’ll be happy with what I come up for her as a drawing.


***FACE BOOK POST OF THE DAY***


WWU stands for World Wrestling University and WWE stands for Western Washington Entertainment. Both acronyms are said the Michael Cole way, which is by pronouncing them with extra emphasis on the W’s. Wait a minute, something’s not right here.

Lionize

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to Lionize Entertainment’s fiftieth anniversary of the Lion Cup Tournament! My name is Andrea Lovell and I am the CEO of Lionize Entertainment! We’re going to have a fucking fun night of blood and death tonight!”

Hearing his boss echo those words throughout a coliseum full of roaring fans made Dargoth Destroyer sick to his stomach and set his aching brain on fire. The barbarian warrior firmly believed Andrea only had her job because she looked like a million bucks in a short skirt and high heels. She was easy to fantasize about, but hard to love.

Dargoth was too busy loving his own wife and kids back home. He loved them so much that he would rip the limbs off of any opponent who dared stand in the way of a paycheck and beat them to death like little bitches. With his wrecking ball muscles and volcanic temper, he could do just that to pretty much anybody.

Then again, so could Dargoth’s opponent for the evening, Zeal Cottonwood. The rotten-smelling, blue skinned zombie towered over the barbarian with a skyscraper height and muscles that might as well be registered as deadly weapons (even the small and insignificant ones). Zeal stared down into Dargoth’s eyes with neon-colored madness and smiled with rusty-nail teeth.

The barbarian, having already had visions of blood and brutality locked forever in his brain, refused to give even an inch of trembling to this undead beast with greasy long hair. The two opponents were so laser-focused into each other’s menacing eyeballs that they tuned out the crowd and Andrea Lovell’s nails-on-a-chalkboard voice completely.

It wasn’t until Miss Lovell, who sat at her golden throne in a skybox above the coliseum, snapped into the microphone, “HEY!” that the two combatants gave her their undying attention with wicked glares. “Are you two ready to put on a hell of a show for these rowdy animals?! Give ‘em hell!” Rowdy animals became the understatement of the year when the beer-drinking, T-shirt and jeans wearing crowd’s cheers bored into the combatants’ eardrums like a power drill. Even Zeal Cottonwood couldn’t help but grunt lightly at the sudden explosion of volume.

“Ready to get your ass whipped, little buddy?” growled Zeal in a monstrous tone. He leaned his sour milk-fragranced face in closer and whispered, “Between you and me, I wouldn’t worry too much about that wife of yours. I hear she’s banging the shit out of a hotter version of you. That lucrative contract of yours is going up her nose and in her G-spots!”

Zeal’s demonic cackle prompted the angrily trembling Dargoth to head butt his opponent in the nose. Both men clutched their noggins in pain and groaned minimally, but Dargoth was the only one between the two who staggered after such a brutal move. Zeal chuckled, “Is that all you got, little man? No wonder your wife’s sleeping around. That spaghetti dick of yours couldn’t satisfy a bitch like her anyways!”

Dargoth’s fiery adrenaline was smothered in kerosene, causing the hefty barbarian to spear tackle Zeal’s gut so hard that the seven-foot zombie flipped in the air like a pancake and flattened to the ground like one too. The barbarian’s muscles tightened as tough as steel with every brick-like punch he threw at the zombie’s already decrepit face. Teeth flew everywhere, pimples popped like grenades, blood splattered across the dirt floor, but through it all, Zeal never lost his smile and Dargoth’s hands reddened with electrified pain.

Zeal Cottonwood pushed Dargoth Destroyer in the air with his booted feet and nipped up in time to catch the smaller warrior in a military press. The audience “oooed” and “ahhed” like a herd of sheep while Zeal did strength training repetitions with Dargoth’s 300 lb. body. The barbarian tried to rake and punch at his opponent’s eyes, but the zombie wouldn’t relent. He tossed the smaller opponent across the dirt arena and caused him to bounce up and down along the way, forming bruises the size and disgustingness of rotten tomatoes.

Everything in Dargoth’s body felt as though he had been stepped on by Godzilla and rubbed across the asphalt. Yet the mental images of his beautiful wife and his two sweethearted daughters sent a rush of hot lava through his veins. This kind of money would keep them fed forever.

It would give the daughters an education they wouldn’t have dreamed of having in the ghetto neighborhood. It would give his wife a life of happiness and stability. If he didn’t get up and fight at this very moment, they would think of him as a failure and they’d most likely die from hunger in such a downtrodden economy. It was such a distasteful way to make money, but in Dargoth’s mind, there was no such thing as too much hard work.

By the time the barbarian heaved his clumsy ass off the ground, he peered up through bloodshot, dirt-covered eyes to find Zeal had a live chainsaw roaring to life in his hands. There were weapons scattered everywhere on the bloodstained ground from staves to swords to axes. Dargoth picked up an axe in his sore hands and then in a surprise move broke it over his knee to send a message: “Weapons are for pussies! If you want to fight like a pussy, I’ll treat you like one, Zeal! Come on, bitch!”

The gargantuan zombie rushed towards Dargoth swinging his power tool like a deranged samurai while Dargoth egged him on with a “come at me” hand gesture. The chainsaw blazed and buzzed all around the barbarian while the muscly warrior dodged and cartwheeled to safety despite losing a lock of his own sweaty hair.

Dargoth saw his opening when he ducked a decapitation attempt and went for a hard uppercut to the jaw. Zeal staggered backwards in dizziness and dropped his weapon. The barbarian continued to pummel his opponent with hard-hitting, rapid fire strikes that connected with thuds, cracks, and explosions. The primitive warrior tucked his head underneath Zeal’s crotch and hoisted the hefty warrior on his shoulders before slamming him down on his back with a shotgun blast thud. Even more cracks and bursts echoed throughout the arena as did the obnoxious cheers of both the audience and Andrea Lovell, who sat at her throne mockingly clapping for her independent contractor. “Finish him, Dargoth! Finish him now, you sick son of a bitch!”

The barbarian stared at the scantily clad, leggy CEO with cyanide in his eyes and iron in his gritted teeth. Winning the Lion Cup Tournament would guarantee him all the money he wanted for his family, but he would still be locked in a contract that put him in danger with every match. His body ached twenty-four-seven. He threw up his meals nightly. If he got the chance to go home at all, he would look like a monster to his family and scare them off. Maybe Zeal’s harsh rumors of infidelity would be completely justifiable at that point (if they were true). Surely, there had to be other ways of making lucrative money with his skills. Maybe there was…

Dargoth’s iron will wouldn’t be broken. One more death to go. Just one more. His target was in plain sight. The Lion Cup and everything that came with it would be his forever. He glanced at the live chainsaw and heaved the heavy machinery over his head with the intent to rip and shred. The audience roared and bellowed for Zeal’s bloody and disgusting death. He was just laying there ready to be dissected. Dargoth smiled a sadistic smile and approached Zeal with slow movements while the zombie rolled around and groaned in horrific pain. And then…the barbarian tossed the chainsaw like a boomerang.

But instead of grinding zombie meat, he chucked the whirring blade at Andrea Lovell so many feet in the air. The CEO gasped in horror before tucking and rolling out of the blade’s path. The audience gasped as well at the sight of the chainsaw embedded in the golden throne still buzzing.

After straightening her hair and fixing her skirt, Andrea stood back up with a queen’s posture and glared with hellish hatred at the menacing barbarian. She picked up the microphone and sneered, “So that’s how you plan on getting out of your contract, huh? By killing me?” Dargoth nodded and the audience booed him with plenty of bass in their voices.

The CEO scolded, “It’s a good thing your children are being well-educated with all of this money, because their daddy is the biggest dumb shit to step in my coliseum! Sure, you can kill me and rob me of the rest of your earnings, but you won’t be solving a damn thing, my friend. Ever heard the phrase power vacuum? Without me, all of your worst enemies will be gunning for my position. If you thought fighting to the death for my entertainment was bad, try fighting for the power I wield on a day-to-day basis. You already know what ISIS looks like. Try and picture the Lionize Entertainment version of ISIS! My corporation will last until the end of time, but your misery will be forever, just like your contract! You didn’t think this one through very well, did you?!”

Dargoth clenched his fists so tightly that his bloody fingernails dug into his palms and he didn’t give a shit about the pain. He didn’t want to admit it, but she was right: cutting off the head of the snake would create a hydra, not a corpse. A contractual slave like him couldn’t even dream of the power it took to run a whole corporation. What havoc had he brought upon himself? What danger did he put his beloved family in?

As he contemplated the consequences of his “easy way out”, Dargoth felt a tight presence squeeze around his torso until his body was pencil thin. His head turned purple, his veins grew to the size of tunnels, and his ribs were cracking like Rice Crispies. He peeked up and saw that Zeal Cottonwood was the one squeezing like a motherfucker, much to Andrea’s laughing delight. She even chimed in, “Squeeze harder! Pop him like a pimple! Make him suffer!”

Listening to that wasp-like voice sent Dargoth into rampage mode when he stomped on Zeal’s foot with the force of a jackhammer and head butted him in the jaw. The barbarian staggered around in dizziness and rasped for oxygen, but the zombie had released his grip and stumbled backwards himself.

As soon as Dargoth’s lungs no longer felt like he swallowed a battleaxe, Zeal went for an overhead strike. Dargoth ducked underneath and transitioned behind the zombie with an arm choke. The barbarian squeezed with enough force to pop more pimples and blood vessels on Zeal’s face. He even loosened a few rotten teeth. But the minute the zombie’s eyeballs popped out of his head, his brains leaked onto the floor and he was limp as Dargoth’s “spaghetti dick”.

As soon as Zeal plopped over dead, Dargoth Destroyer raised his fists to the sky to declare victory. The audience roared like jungle cats in approval and high fived each other while chanting Dargoth’s name. Even Andrea gave him a little golf clap while saying into the microphone, “I hope your wife is watching!”

Indeed she was watching. From the comfort of her soft, silky-sheeted bed, Mrs. Destroyer watched the violence with a satisfied, teary-eyed smile on her face. “Thank you so much, my dear! Thank you!” The other man who was grateful unwrapped the towel from his muscular waist and climbed into bed with her with a silver tray of cocaine in his hands. The wife smiled lovingly at her paramour before rolling up a dollar bill and snorting sweet candy right up her slender nose. The paramour snorted some too before the lovers got it on underneath the sheets.


Little did they know that from the crack of their bedroom door, two teary-eyed girls watched the whole thing. The daughters hugged each other tightly and smeared their salty eye fluids across their Winnie the Pooh pajama sleeves. “I miss daddy,” one of them whispered to the other while a night of hot cocaine-laced sex was unfolding before them.

Friday, September 15, 2017

My Feelings

***MY FEELINGS***

I got to see Jason Mewes (Jay from the View Askewniverse) perform a hilarious Q&A session the other night in Tacoma. Lots of sex jokes. Lots and lots of sex jokes. So many sex jokes that I laughed like a James Bond villain because of them (much to Jason’s delight). As much fun as I had that night and as awesome as it was to meet Jason Mewes and take pictures with him, that’s not what this journal is about (though yes, my brother and I had a great time that night).

During the car ride home, my brother James asked me a very profound question that I blew off as being asinine: “What goes through your head when you have a certain experience?” He elaborated by saying that I respond to even the most amazing things in life by saying, “It was fine” in a monotone voice. Part of his comedic rant was that I could be at the bottom of the Himalayas or having sex with a younger version of Cameron Diaz (or doing both at the same time), and all I would have to say is, “It was fine.” James then talked about the time he worked hard cooking a salmon steak with the right amount of herbs, spices, and sauces and all I said once I was done eating it was, “It was fine.”

There are many reasons why I don’t talk about my true feelings. One reason could be that it’s a male thing and since I have a penis and two testicles, I fall under that category. The other reason is that talking about my feelings leaves me exposed to whoever I’m talking to. Sure, I could just give James the proper critique for something as simple as a salmon steak, but even that moment of positivity could open the door for him or other people to ask about the darker parts of my emotions.

Talking about the darker side of my emotions isn’t easy for me because, as a schizophrenic, I have to relive those moments again and feel like shit afterwards. Living with my mom’s ex-boyfriend Art, getting bullied in high school, and being lonely at Western Washington University are all off-limits topics for me. The less I talk about dark emotions, the better I will feel mentally.

For the sake of this journal, I will talk about an emotional experience I had that was more than just “fine” or “whatever”. Consider this your one and only invite into my mind. If you see me in real life and you want to talk about it some more, forget it. Not happening. Even now, I have butterflies in my tummy, and this is just writing about it.

In 2016, I went to see Slipknot in concert for the second time in my life. One of my favorite songs that they played that evening was “Killpop”. If you Google the lyrics, you’ll see that they contain themes of psychotic love and sexual frustration (even though the song is about something completely different).

I loved this song so much that I sang along with it in my loudest, most passionate voice possible. In that moment, I could forget all about being a sexual has-been and a 30-something virgin. In my senior year of high school, I looked like a goddamn stud muffin with my leather jacket, sunglasses, thin body, and badass haircut. I had women flirting with me from all angles and even had cyber sex (yes, I know it’s just masturbating to a computer screen, but it was still enjoyable, so shut up). And then I had schizophrenia. The disease itself made me act crazy and the medication made me gain over a hundred pounds. Goodbye sexy Garrison, hello Uncle Creepy.

It seems shallow-minded to have that be a source of pain for me, especially since people are willing to give you the worldwide disaster argument over and over again (“people in Africa have it worse than you do, there are hurricanes everywhere, blah, blah, blah”). I’ve had a taste of love and I want it again, but I’m also aware that this 300 lb. body isn’t fit for such things. Therefore, when I sang “Killpop” in my most passionate voice, I could forget all of that and give a metaphorical middle finger to anybody who doubts my likeability. Ironically, when the song was over, a sexy lady in a dress and a cowgirl hat kissed the back of my hand in approval. I never got that girl’s phone number or email address, but it was probably for the best.

There you go, folks. That’s my emotional experience. Now I’m locking the doors in my mind and you’re never getting back in. If you want to know how I’m doing today, I’m doing just “fine”. Today was actually a good day for me. The past four days have been exhausting because I was angry about mopping up my dog Maggie’s shit and piss. Today I didn’t burst into a hodgepodge of swear words and I was able to use that energy to write a short story called “Witch Hunt”, read 30 pages of “Paper Towns”, and draw a picture of Fatima Ruiz (a gangster from another short story called “How Could You?”). Imagine that: fiery anger can be tiring as hell! We’ve got ears, say cheers!


***POISON TONGUE TALES 2: THE RIGHT TO REMAIN PSYCHOTIC***

As I just told you, Witch Hunt is in the books, so now it’s time for another short story. This is another old one called “Lionize” and it goes like this:

CHARACTERS:

1.      Dargoth Destroyer, Human Barbarian
2.      Zeal Cottonwood, Zombie Giant
3.      Andrea Lovell, CEO of Lionize Corporation

PROMPT CONFORMITY: To be announced.

SYNOPSIS: Andrea’s corporation specializes in deadly arena combat as public entertainment. Dargoth and Zeal are in her latest pay-per-view main event after both of them went undefeated for such a long time. All combatants who work for Andrea are locked in an ironclad contract with promises of a high payday and threats of a lawsuit if they’re in violation. Dargoth, who desperately wants to get out of his contract, attempts to assassinate Miss Lovell during his match with Zeal.


***DARK FANTASY WARRIORS***

And now that we’re on the topic of Lionize, my next Dark Fantasy Warrior will actually be a fantasy-themed fighter! Imagine that! He’s Dargoth Destroyer and he’s, you guessed it, another beefy barbarian! He won’t be a Gary-Stu, though. Maybe. I’m not sure yet.


***DOMESTIC DIALOGUE OF THE DAY***

REINA: What did you do productively today?

ME: Stuff.

REINA: What kind of stuff?

ME: Just stuff.

REINA: Garrison! That’s not a real answer!


ME: (Whiny groan.)

Witch Hunt

Sonya Jade allowed the calming effect of stirring pie-filling to wash over her like warm beach water. There she was sitting cross-legged with her chin propped up on her fist and her eyes closed while she hummed a gentle tune. She couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was about baking pies that made her so relaxed. Maybe it was a hobby. Maybe it was a future career choice. Maybe it was an escape from the daily grind of religious school. Whatever it was, she licked her lips in anticipation of the resulting gooey strawberry pie. The tart flavor, the moist texture, the crunchy crust, they would all come together to create a symphony of heaven on her tongue. The thought of it made her mouth water so much that she wiped some spittle from the corner of her lips.

Her baking-induced hypnosis was rudely interrupted by a rapid-fire knock on her cottage door. Sonya gasped heavy and scrambled to move the pie filling away from the heat. She dumped a tiny portion of it on the straw floor and stifled a storm of curse words when a tiny droplet burned her toe. She ruffled her baker’s dress and straightened her long purple hair as the knocking grew intense. “I’m coming!” she yelled impatiently while power walking to the door.

She messed with her hair one last time before opening the door and nearly getting bowled over by her best friend Devon Cross. Her own black dress and messy black hair suggested she had been in a struggle of some kind, not to mention her erratic pacing and nervous shaking. Devon grabbed Sonya’s arms and begged her, “Please! You’ve got to help me! They’re after me! They think I’m a witch!”

Sonya cupped her hands over Devon’s face and said, “Settle down. Who’s after you?”

“The Order of Light! They’re going to burn me alive! Hide me somewhere!” Devon shouted frantically, to which Sonya shushed her and motioned her to hide under her straw bed.

There was another knock on Sonya’s door and this time it sounded like boxing punches. “Open the door, harlot!” a male voice shouted. “We know you’re in there! God has no place for you in this world! Come out here so we can send you straight to hell with the rest of the demons!” The knocking grew so violent that splinters breezed off the cottage door. Sonya once again scrambled to fix her dress and hair before frantically answering the door.

At her doorstep stood a small, white-robed militia carrying poleaxes and torches, their leader as hefty as a pumpkin and scraggly as a yeti. “Where is she?” asked the leader in a gruff and furious voice.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, good sir,” said Sonya with a modicum of innocence as she leaned against her doorway.

“Don’t lie to me, young lady. Lying is a sin. We know you’re harboring a witch in that cottage of yours and if you don’t surrender her to us, we’ll have you crucified as well!”

“There’s nobody here but me, sir,” said Sonya. “I’m just baking pies and getting ready for a wonderful meal.”

“Baking pies, huh?” asked the lead witch hunter, who sniffed the air with his piggish snout and gagged with his tongue hanging out. “Smells like ogre dung if you ask me! Your husband should be ashamed of such perverse cooking methods!” The chubby man peeked down at her fingers and noticed she wasn’t wearing a wedding band of any kind. “You don’t have a husband, do you?”

“Unfortunately, no, sir, I don’t. It’s just me here,” said Sonya with a sullen expression.

“Well then,” said the leader as he smacked his horse lips. “We’ll see if that pie of yours is any good after all.”

“I thought you said it smelled like ogre shi, I mean, ogre dung,” said Sonya while sheepishly covering her mouth after that accidental swear words.

“I wasn’t talking about that abomination you were baking,” said the witch hunter while gazing down at Sonya’s crotch with drooling lips and wild eyes. The single lady slowly backed away, but the witch hunters swarmed on her, grabbing her arms and legs while she struggled and yelled to be let go. “Come on, everyone! Who wants to get married to this fine young piece of ass?!”

The cheers of the witch hunters sent shivers down Sonya’s spine and numbness throughout her brain while she was being pinned to the floor by these heavy men. She had experienced sexism all the time at her religious school, but never once had this many men tried to gang up on her at once. The brushing of their skin against hers, the whips of their tongues, and their ale-stench breath made her want to vomit inside out.

Sonya’s dress was flipped over her head and her crotch was exposed to these piggish beasts who dared hide behind religion to justify their actions. Any minute now, she would feel a disgusting piece of meat driven into her repeatedly again and again. And then…the witch hunters backed off toward the doorway.

After catching her breath and flipping her dress back down, Sonya gazed with weary eyes at the floating pot of pie filling, which glided across the air and toward the jittery witch hunters. The still piping hot filling bubbled and shot in the air like a geyser before splashing down on each of the witch hunters’ faces. They screamed like little girls and scrambled around clutching their burned flesh.

Sonya took this opportunity to leap to her feet and kick the lead witch hunter in the balls, which made him scream at an even higher pitch. He plopped to the ground while crawling away on his hands and knees. One of the other witch hunters tried to “grab that bitch”, but the pot of pie filling slammed him square in the stomach and doubled him over. Taking a hint from each other’s misery, the witch hunters scrambled in retreat and disappeared behind the dense foliage of the forest, shouting like they were being gutted alive with an olive fork.

Sonya shivered in both anger and traumatic fear. Somehow kicking that man in the balls wasn’t enough for her. She wanted to rip him limb from limb and use his body parts to beat the holy hell out of his disgusting friends. She wanted to rip their skins off and wear them like a winter coat. She wanted to use their innards as filling for her strawberry pie and wolf it down like…well…a starving wolf.

“Are you at all considering dropping out of religious school?” said Devon Cross, who stood in Sonya’s doorway with a green aura surrounding her hands and a wicked smile on her face.

Sonya wanted to thank her for the obvious witchcraft that saved her from a gang rape, but instead she slapped the smile right off of her friend’s face. “How dare you lead those men to my house?! If your witchcraft is so great, why didn’t you just take them down beforehand?! I actually believed that you were anything but a witch! You lied to me, Devon! You lied to me and almost got me killed!”

“Settle down, sweetheart,” mocked Devon. “I came over to your house because I didn’t know if my magic would work or not. I’d only been studying it for a couple of months now and, really, how much can you learn in a couple of months?”

“You shouldn’t be studying that crap at all, Devon!” belted Sonya. “You could have gotten the two of us killed! You know the Order of Light despises that kind of magic!”

“So you’re just going to do what the Order of Light tells you to do for the rest of your life?” asked Devon with arms folded. “You’re a fucking drone, Sonya Jade. You really are.”

“Watch your mouth, Devon! He could be watching us!” whispered Sonya angrily.

“Who could be watching us?!” roared Devon. “The man upstairs? The man downstairs? The man in the middle level? Who?! Who the fuck is listening to the conversation about witchcraft?! And while I’m at it…” Devon stepped out in the middle of Sonya’s hard and did a kick dance while singing “Goddamn it!” repeatedly in a joyful tone. Sonya tried to shush her, but the dancing and singing continued even louder.

“For fuck’s sake, Devon, knock that fucking shit off!” shouted Sonya, which prompted her to cover her dirty mouth and Devon to stop dancing like a fool.

“You hear that, babe?” asked the witch while cupping Sonya’s face in her hands. “That’s what I like to see. You don’t really give a shit about that stupid religion. You’re just scared. You’re scared of what those men will do to you when they recover. You’re scared of what the entire Order of Light will do. You’re scared of the afterlife that follows. Or maybe what really scares you…is that they’ll eventually find out your little secret.”

Sonya’s eyes widened and her lips quivered while she stuttered, “W..what secret?”

“The secret that involves one of these,” said Devon with lust dripping off of her words like the pie filling that never was. She planted a passionate kiss on her friend’s lips and Sonya did nothing to reject it or even show the slightest amount of disgust. The tongues swirling sent butterflies flapping in Sonya’s stomach and a sparkle of wetness in her nether regions.

Once their kiss was over, Devon fondled Sonya’s hair and wiped the resulting tears from her eyes. “How did you know?” asked Miss Jade.

“Never mind how I know, Sonya. You’re asking the wrong question. The real question is…why are you so afraid? You’ve crossed the point of no return with that kiss. The Order of Light has nothing over you anymore. If you learned witchcraft with me, the two of us can be unstoppable. Catch my drift, sweetie? Or am I about to get you killed again?”


This time, it was Sonya’s turn to plant a sexy kiss on Devon Cross’s mouth. Her lips tasted sweeter than any strawberry pie she could have baked. Wrestling with her tongue eased the demons in her mind of what almost happened with the witch hunters. Men were disgusting to her, but Devon was easy to fall in love with. Her silky black hair, her creamy dark skin, and her curvy figure made her feel alive with every kiss. Fuck the Order of Light and everything that they stood for.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Average Joes vs. Beefy Warriors

***AVERAGE JOES VS. BEEFY WARRIORS***

When I first started out in the amateur writing business in 2001 (back when I told people my favorite author was Jack McKinney and they’d scratch their fucking heads in confusion), I always made sure that my main characters were super buff war machines capable of slashing and pounding everything into shit. My first attempt at a novel was a Starcraft-esque sci-fi adventure where the main character, Deljack, had muscles the size of cannonballs and an assault rifle bigger than his body. And then I moved onto a videogame idea called Final Fantasy Hardcore, where my protagonist was the ever popular Deus Shadowheart, a dual-wielding barbarian with a suit of power armor and even thicker muscles underneath in case he had to stop a nuclear missile from penetrating his skin.

Back in my teenage years, I didn’t see the problem with having such overpowered warriors as main characters. Videogames at the time had plenty of them with all the Akumas and Mike Haggars of the world. And then it wasn’t until the 2010’s when I started learning about Mary-Sues and Gary-Stus. They are literary slurs for characters who are devoid of flaws and therefore don’t garner a lot of sympathy from the reader. After all, when you know in your heart of hearts that the Gary-Stu barbarian is going to win all the fucking time, it’s no fun to read about him. As a writer, you want your battles to be back and forth affairs where the protagonist loses every once and a while. For all of you rasslin’ buddies out there, more Daniel Bryans, less Hulk Hogans.

I didn’t start using average joe characters until I wrote my 2015 rough draft novel Watch You Burn. The lead character in that novel is Mario Bryan, a schizophrenic college student who spends more time watching cartoons than he does exercising. He’s socially awkward and sometimes dickish, but he’s well-meaning and has a good heart. Do you think a dork like Mario Bryan can overcome a nasty ogre who carries war hammers with the ease of pencils? Of course you don’t, which is why Mario has to work his ass off if he wants to achieve his end game.

Another first draft novel I’ve written, Demon Axe, also has a protagonist with an underdog story. Yes, Daniel Mercer a.k.a. the Lord of the Pit is a world famous rock star, but what does he really have as far as advantages go when he has to fight the ultra-powerful terrorist Roger Zee? Daniel’s only been in a handful of bar fights in his life, he’s easily traumatized, he’s also kind of dickish at times (like Mario Bryan before him), but Daniel has a heart of gold that will lead him through the dark times of politically-motivated violence.

Occupy Wrestling, I must confess, has a Gary-Stu as one of its main characters and his name is Mitch McLeod. He’s beefy, he’s badass, and he’s got a mean streak a mile wide. Rehabbing this character into something a little more sympathetic wasn’t easy, but hopefully the end result as you see it has paid off. Occupy Wrestling is currently on Amazon and other online retailers (not a shameless plug at all).

At first I thought writing about average joes instead of badass warriors was going to suck badly because I couldn’t think of any solutions to the average joes’ problems. But that’s what writing is all about: you’ve got to constantly think about how your story is going to play out. Sure, there are advice columns out there that will tell you to pour word vomit all over your page and let your beta readers and editors do the hard work. But even then, after all the word vomit is spilled, the job is far from over. It won’t be over until everything is polished and sparkling, part of which is owed to coming up with believable solutions to your characters’ problems. If you’ve read Occupy Wrestling and think I’m a hypocrite when I make these arguments, that’s a debate victory you can have all to yourself.

I’d like to think that beefy warrior stories are capable of being written without making the characters into Gary-Stus and Mary-Sues. I haven’t figured it out myself yet, but I know it can be done. The Wonder Woman movie that recently came out is a huge example of that. Yes, she’s a superheroine with badass powers, but she’s also a feminist icon with a female following worldwide, so she’s not much of a Mary-Sue. This is why we study characters at depth: because we want our audience to sympathize with our protagonists and therefore stay emotionally invested in our works. If your readers aren’t invested, why are they reading? We’ve got ears, say cheers!


***POISON TONGUE TALES 2: THE RIGHT TO REMAIN PSYCHOTIC***

My story for the WSS has been submitted, so now it’s time to work independently (or when the next contest starts up, whichever happens first). This next PTT2 story is called “Witch Hunt” and it goes like this:

CHARACTERS:

1.      Sonya Jade, Devon’s Best Friend
2.      Devon Cross, Accused Witch
3.      Random Group of Witch Hunters

PROMPT CONFORMITY: To be announced.

SYNOPSIS: In the middle ages, Sonya is at home cooking a delicious meal when her best friend Devon rushes in her house looking for a place to hide from witch hunters. Sonya believes Devon when the latter says her witch accusations are false and agrees to hide her underneath the master bed. Witch hunters show up at Sonya’s door with pitch forks and torches wondering where Devon is. Before the hunters have the chance to set fire to the house, Devon uses magic powers to fight them off, thus revealing she really is a witch and that she lied to Sonya about it.


***DARK FANTASY WARRIORS***

With this new crop of American Darkness 2 characters parading around in my drawing collection, I’ve been contemplating changing the name of this series from Dark Fantasy Warriors to something else. Not everybody who gets a drawing is part of the dark fantasy genre, much like Fatima Ruiz, who’s next on the chopping block. Fatima comes from the AD2 short story “How Could You?” and plays the role of a cartel boss’s daughter. She has no magical powers, just a bad attitude and a sexy mystique. I’ve certainly got my work cut out for me on this one. Wish me luck!


***CROSSOVER MOVIE DIALOGUE OF THE DAY***

CHILDLIKE EMPRESS: Why won’t you do what you dream?

CRAZY K: ‘Cause I don’t give a fuck! I said I don’t give a fuck! I don’t give a fuck!

CHILDLIKE EMPRESS: Please! Save us!

CRAZY K: I don’t give a fuck! I don’t give a fuck! I don’t give a fuck! I don’t give a FUCK!


-Tales from the Hood X The Never Ending Story-

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Shooting Star

Rachel Phoenix finally figured out why the structure she was climbing was called the Tower of Venom and it had little to do with the owner’s namesake. Even with a black veil over her nose and mouth, she still gagged and coughed at the fowl odor emanating from the barred windows. Feces, urine, vomit, and god knows what else assaulted her slender nose like a war hammer to the face. The heat waves from the oncoming shooting star in the sky baked this biological sludge like the ophidian tower was a gigantic oven. The elf rogue had no time to waste vomiting herself inside out. This mission had to be completed no matter how badly she wanted out.

Just a few more dry heaves in her ninja veil and a hell of a lot more tugs on her grappling hook and the winded elf in black rags rested on the top of the tower for a while. She could just drift off into dreamland no matter how horribly it reeked. In fact, this murderous odor would have been the perfect anesthesia if it hadn’t been for the raucous sound of a tornado fart echoing throughout the land. Rachel snapped out of her trance long enough to hold onto her rope with a death grip to avoid being blown off.

Once the literal shit storm subsided, Rachel couldn’t hold her lunch down any longer. She removed her veil spilled her guts off the side of the tower. The tidal wave of sickness left her light green skin pale and her muscles so weak that she could barely stand up. She was barely on her knees when she turned around and saw the source of the odor in its entirety. There he was: the ironclad dragon giant sitting on…a toilet. The Tower of Venom…was a giant fucking toilet…for a giant fucking man dragon.

Atlas Venom, as the giant was known, laughed so hard that he sent another gust of wind Rachel’s way. The tiny elf held onto her rope with the strength of someone ten times her size. Sickness or not, flying away in the barf-worthy breeze was an undignified way to die, especially when so many lives were at stake.

Once the giant’s obnoxious cackle ended, he leaned his rotten skull down to level with his intruder and asked, “Can I help you?” The elf rogue took the time she needed to catch her breath and settle her rumbling stomach. “Well?!” Atlas belted.

A few more heavy breaths later, the elf said, “My name is Rachel Phoenix. I’ve been sent here by the Order of the Forest to keep you from doing something incredibly stupid and potentially dangerous. Well, you do stupid shit all the time from what I’ve heard, but this is really going to get your attention.”

She pointed at the flaming star in the sky, which seemed to have grown tremendously since she last gazed upon it. “You see that? We all know you have the power to smash that thing to pieces. You’ve smashed everything else to pieces, why not a shooting star? But if you do that, neighboring villages will be affected by the blast radius.”

Atlas scratched his ass and belched a cloud of toxic sludge before standing to his full height and pulling his iron pants up. Rachel didn’t know what was more disgusting: the tower slash toilet or the fact that Atlas’s lesion-covered ding-a-ling had been hanging there this whole time. She tried to keep herself together by gently massaging her stomach.

“Listen, you dumb bitch,” burped Atlas. “I don’t hear you coming up with any great ideas on how to get rid of that thing. Last time I checked, I’ve got pubic lice bigger than you, so there’s no fucking chance you’re going to smash that thing away. If you’ve got any better ideas, then you’d better start flapping those gums or else you’re one dead little whore!”

Rachel folded her arms and said sternly, “Alright, if it’s ideas you want, it’s ideas you’ll get. If you have the power to smash a shooting star to pieces, you certainly have the power to catch one and drop it in the neighboring ocean behind you. You could break it up little by little and flush the pieces down that lovely toilet of yours. You could even have it as a snack if you wanted to. I’m sure whatever’s rotting in that gut of yours isn’t going to be too badly affected if you ate a giant flaming star.” She paced back and forth with her hand propped on her chin. “Let’s see, you can throw it in the sky and then break it up. You can…you know what? Literally anything else would be better than you scattering the pieces across the land with your reckless ways. Anything!”

Atlas gazed up at the shooting star and noticed that it grew once more. The scorching flames caused a few beads of sweat to trickle down his hairline. Rachel tapped her foot impatiently and said, “Well? We don’t have much time. What’s it going to be, big boy?” The remark caused the dragon giant to scoop her up in one hand and squeeze her already thin body into the width of a toothpick. No matter how pathetically she screamed or how many crunching sounds her body made, Atlas refused to take pity on her.

“Unlike all the filth swirling at the bottom of my tower,” he shouted. “I don’t give two shits about the other villages! They’re the ones who couldn’t accept me to begin with! They’re the bastards who laugh and throw stones at me whenever I show my face! You think my life is just one big fucking joke?! You think I choose to sit here on a giant fucking toilet?! That was the king’s idea! That’s what he calls comedy! I don’t feel one bit sorry for those pieces of dog shit! They’ll get what’s coming to them in short order!”

A tropical storm of sweat trickled down Rachel’s face as she felt the shooting star hurling closer to the tower. “Wait!” she squeaked, prompting Atlas to loosen his grip around her body. “If you put an end to this disaster, you just might be a hero to those people! Nobody would even think to treat a hero that way!”

“Hero?! You think these fucking people deserve a hero?!” roared Atlas while shaking Rachel in his fist. “Their idea of a hero is some rich snob who flaunts his money around without giving a drop of it to the poor! Apparently, those kind of fools work harder than the poor, or so I’m told! You, Rachel…you represent all of those people! All of those monsters! They don’t deserve shit!”

“I don’t represent anybody who casts judgment on others! I represent the innocent ones who will bear the brunt of your reckless ways!” squealed Rachel, who squirmed and struggled until at least her arms were free from Atlas’s grasp. “You’re painting my society with a broad brush, my friend! There are good and evil people from all walks of life! People should be evaluated as individuals, not as groups! If you’re too blind to see that, then you’re no different from the evil ones you claim are bullying you!”

Atlas peered up at the shooting star and then back at Rachel several times while contemplating everything the elf told him. The diminutive rogue took this time to catch her breath and collect her cracked bones. Even with sore ribs, she managed to burst out, “Hurry up and make your decision! That star’s getting closer!”

“You don’t have to rush me, you stupid bitch,” snarled Atlas. “I’ve already made up my mind.” His own eyes resembled shooting stars as they blinded Rachel with a hateful gaze. He could feel the elf quiver and vibrate in his massive lizard hand. He then grinned evilly at her and dropped her in the toilet. “Down you go with the rest of the shit!” he snapped before pulling the handle and watching her swirl.

Except the rogue didn’t swirl. She clung onto the side of the bowl with another grappling hook rope, the blades igniting little sparks as they struggled to keep her still. The swirling brown water dragged Rachel across the bowl while she kicked her legs and held on with a death grip around the rope. Adrenaline flowed even hotter through her veins when she heard Atlas laughing about this whole incident. She kicked harder and held on tighter. And then, the rope snapped like a twig and she was destined to spend eternity in a shit-covered hell.

As she swam through the toilet water whilst ignoring her injuries, she could hear Atlas’s monster laugh morph into a prolonged, “No!” followed by an explosion, a burst of fiery light, and crunching bones of his own. The Tower of Venom bottomed out from underneath Rachel and she went on a tidal wave ride throughout the land. She struggled to keep her head above the shitty current, but eventually sank beneath and swallowed the most vile substance ever to exist. Between heaving for oxygen and vomiting at the same time, Rachel’s lungs felt like she had swallowed the shooting star herself. The current jostled her around like a rag doll, giving her more bumps and bruises along the way. When she was ready to pass out, she landed with a thud.

Except that thud was cushioned by several bales of hay and the tidal wave of shit and piss had crashed upon the land below. Rachel coughed, gagged, and breathed heavily all in the span of a few seconds. Her ribcage ached as though someone fired a cannonball into her gut. Her legs couldn’t carry the weight of sickness and crumbled underneath her when she tried to stand. When she caught most of her breath back, she wiped the sludge away from her eyes and ears long enough to see what just happened.

Atlas’s gargantuan body laid strewn across a wheat field with the shooting star crumbled on top of his broken bones, shredded skin, and bloody organs. Instead of celebrating a staved off apocalypse, nearby farmers in overalls and straw hats laughed their asses off because of the literal shit storm that followed.

Rachel’s brows furrowed together and her teeth clamped down hard in anger despite the taste in her mouth. The villagers’ attitudes left a worst taste in her mouth than anything from the Tower of Venom ever could. Atlas had been right this whole time. The whole world did think he was a freak. While his mannerisms could have used some work, his spirit was in the right place. All of that mind-numbing, soul-crushing torment broke his heart like it would have someone a fraction of his size. Even the biggest and the baddest had feelings too, unlike the pigs who mocked his death.


Rachel slowly drew a knife from her sheath and jumped to her feet, her raging adrenaline allowing her to ignore the pain delving into her body. “Hey!” she shouted at the farmers, who now began trembling in fear and backing up carefully. Trembling herself (but for a different reason), Rachel angrily whispered, “If Atlas Venom was alive right now, he’d say…you’re welcome!”