Category Archives: creative writing

i wanna rock (rock)

I was playing Donkey Kong yesterday, listening to my 80s Arcade playlist, and I got this idea to write something that like ten people in the world would find amusing. Because I am one of those people, and my friend, Josh, who gave me a good note on the bit, is another, I’d like to say a special hello to the eight of you who also enjoy this the way we do.

*Extremely Patrick Bateman Voice*

Twisted Sister found international fame in 1984 with their album Stay Hungry, powered by the success of “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, which reached number 21 in the US. Some of the song’s popularity can be attributed to the ambiguity of what “it” was Dee Snyder would not take. Some critics claim it allowed a disaffected generation to claim the “it” for themselves, whatever “it” may be. Snyder spoke for them all, while simultaneously empowering their own voices.

But it is the album’s lesser-known single, “I Wanna Rock”, released in October of that year and only reaching number 68 on the Billboard Hot 100 that is the true anthem for the moment. “I Wanna Rock” asks nothing of the listener. It allows for even less. It declares, “I Wanna Rock, and I don’t care if you’re going to take it or not,” and in so doing, defines the entire decade.

*Ax Swinging Intensifies*

if you don’t read my facebook, here’s what you’ve missed recently

For posterity, and for my personal ownership of stuff I’ve written, this is a collection of posts I’ve recently shared on my Facebook thingy.

I’ve been at this long enough to feel like posting on Facebook is … kind of icky, from my EFF-loving, anti authoritarian, fuck-all-Fascists point of view, but the shitty reality is that Facebook is where people are these days. When I post on Facebook, I’ll interact with hundreds of people, just like I did in the early 2000s right here in this old blog. But when I post here, it’s crickets. So I’ll go where the people are, but I’ll also x-post some of that here, for anyone in the future who cares to read it.

Okay. Here they are. From my Facebook, over the last week or so:

Reminder that your self care is really important. If you live with anxiety or some other super fun mental illness like I do, you may be feeling extra stress and pressure right now. That’s totally normal and valid!

It’s okay to turn off the news, to walk away from the information fire hose for awhile, and simply … exist. Read a book, have a tea or a coffee, play a game, take a walk if you’re able to do that while maintaining appropriate physical distance from your fellow humans. Draw something! Listen to some music!

Whatever you do, the news will be there when you get back. And, honestly? Things are changing so quickly, it’s okay to miss a few hours of breaking news updates.

I wonder if I’m writing this mostly for myself? I feel like I have a responsibility to be productive, and to stay informed so I can be the best husband and father I can be right now, and it can feel a little (or a lot) overwhelming.


Is this only funny to me?

I want to check in with a friend. So I type “Just thinking about” and I intend to type “you and [her husband]” but I see that the word “your” is in the predictive text thing. And I just *know* what it is going to lead to, but I have to see for myself, you know? So I tap it, and sure enough, the next word it suggests is “sexy” followed by “body” followed by the little smiley emoji with heart eyes.

I audibly groan and delete the predicted text, sanitize my phone’s screen, just to be safe, and send my intended text message, without the suggested, and thoroughly inappropriate, predicted text.

I’m not shaming anyone who texts that way, but I don’t, and I CERTAINLY do not text that to my friends.

It was just amusing af to me that this series of words gets typed enough that my keyboard app’s predictive text thingy was like I WILL HELP YOU, HUMAN. YOU ARE ATTEMPTING TO SEND A CREEPY TEXT AND IT IS MY TIME TO SHINE.

Uh, no. Thanks. I’m good, predictive text.


Y’all who are on the front lines, going to work, ensuring that our society continues to function, even while everything is so disrupted, are major heroes.

I am so grateful for your dedication and your commitment to making sure your fellow humans have a place to go, and a person to talk to, when they need it.

Thank you!


A random person flipped out at Anne on Twitter, because she took a walk by herself, stayed far and safely away from anyone else, and had the nerve to post a picture of herself online while she was out.

She’s been getting all sorts of criticism for pretty much everything she does, from tons of random strangers online who seem to keep forgetting (or choosing to ignore) that she’s a grown-ass woman who isn’t doing anything wrong.

This one person in particular made me really, really, REALLY mad. I’m stressed af. I’m wound up as tightly as I’ve been wound up in maybe my whole life, and I feel like I could just EXPLODE if the wrong person says the wrong thing to me … or to the most important person in my entire world.

But I took a deep breath, listened while Anne expressed how frustrated she is feeling with people being shitty to her online, and I tried to maintain some perspective, tried to understand where this person was maybe coming from. I concluded that they feel afraid, and out of control, so they are lashing out, to give that emotional energy a place to go. It’s not okay that this person and so many people like them are telling a fully-grown woman how to live her life. It’s not cool to act as a gatekeeper, diminishing someone’s experience because *you* have decided that someone *else* has a worse experience.

I have the luxury of not being the stressed out mom and wife who is doing her best to get through a *really* scary and terrifyingly uncertain time. I have the luxury of not being the woman who was, once again, lectured by a man about how she is allowed to exist. Check that. I have the *privilege* of being a man, so that gives me an opportunity to depersonalize what happened to Anne, and use it as a teaching moment.

I’m doing my best to be the person I need in the world, and this is what I need today:

*gestures wildly at everything* all this is really hard for everyone, and I have to believe that everyone is dealing with it as best as they can. Yes, even the people who freak out at you online because you walked your dog (while safely staying 6 feet away from everyone). Yes, even the people who show up in every thread to act like this is a contest, gatekeeping who is and isn’t allowed to express frustration, boredom, or fear.

We are all scared, for a whole huge list of reasons that may all be wildly different, and humans don’t make the best choices when we are acting from a place of fear.

I’m scared, and I’m not going to pretend that I’m not. I would be a h*cking sociopath if I *wasn’t* scared. Basic math says someone I care about is eventually going to get sick, and may even die. The jackass president of my country makes things worse every time he opens his lie hole. The work I expected to be doing right now has all been pushed back by months, and I suddenly find myself staying at home, instead of having this amazing adventure, doing work I’m so excited to do.

But I’m not panicking. There is plenty of food, even if some things are scarce right now. I’m safe in my home and in my community.

I am remembering to focus on the things I *can* control, so I don’t obsess (and feel disempowered by) the things I can’t control. I’m listening to public health officials, trusting the scientists, and social distancing. I’m planning my meals with my family, and we’re going to the store as infrequently as we can. (And I wish I could go to the store more often, because a little bit of normal in all of this is SUPER IMPORTANT for mental health. I’m choosing to be grateful when I *do* go to the store.)

And I am doing my best, in my way, to be a helper, because I *need* to see helpers in the world, I need to know they are there. I need to believe that, for every person who is a jerkass online, there are a dozen out there right now, working in grocery stores and delivery services and hospitals and research labs.

Making the choice to be a helper has been really good for my mental health, in countless ways.

Can you be a helper, too?

Let’s do our best to choose kindness, patience, and empathy.
Let’s do our best to be gentle with ourselves, and with others.
Let’s be compassionate.

We are all in this together. This is, literally, our entire planet going through something scary, together, at the same time. And the thing is, it doesn’t care if you’re rich or what country you were born in or who you love. In the eyes of COVID-19, we are all equal, and we need to start acting like it. We need to take care of each other. The only way we are going to get through this, is by working together.

And let us remember that everyone is dealing with this as best as they can, and let us not be a dick to our fellow humans.

Thanks for listening.


Another X-post from my Tumblr Ask Me thingy:

QUESTION: Would you be willing to donate your voice talents to an indie podcast for an episode or two? Should we contact your agents or would you be willing to handle it on your own? (The voice actors don’t get paid as most of us are doing for the love of it and what money we do make has thus far gone into promotion and production costs.) At the very least, would you be willing to listen to the show and mention it on social media if you like it?

ANSWER: I love that you asked me, and I’m going to give you an answer in public that I hope doesn’t turn too many people off: I *love* that you are being creative and making amazing new art. That is wonderful, and I wish you all the success in the world. When I was younger, I did projects like yours all the time and I loved it.

But I can’t be part of this for you, and I want to explain why.

I get asked all the time to donate my work, my time, my experience, etc., to projects, and I always have to decline. It’s not because I don’t believe in you, or want to support you. It’s because I’m working full-time as it is, and any spare time, energy, or creative inspiration I have really needs to go into my own projects, as I continue to build my career as a voice performer, narrator, and (hopefully) novelist.

I don’t feel your ask is unreasonable, at all, and I’m *thrilled* you had the courage to reach out. I’m also honored to be thought of as someone you want to work with. I hope you understand the practical realities of my life, and I hope you aren’t put off by my need to decline your kind invitation.

As to your final question, I rarely listen to podcasts these days, and I struggle to make time to listen to audiobooks. You can send me a link when it’s done, and I’ll make an effort to give you feedback, but I can’t promise anything.

I wish you the best of luck! I hope you’re the next Welcome To Nightvale.


Another question from my Tumblr ask thingy: So, I’m sorry if this is something that you’ve answered/been asked before. But I’m trying to start a DnD campaign. I’ve been playing since I was 4 (so about 23 years now), but I’ve never tried to run a campaign. I’m having a hard time trying to figure out where to start and staying on track with it. But I want to introduce my roommates to the game and I want it to be as fun and magical for them as it was for me when I first played. Do you have any advice? Thanks so much! I hope you’re doing well.

My answer, which I’ve edited a little bit to add some more thoughts:

When I was younger, I always put a ton of pressure on myself to write my own modules, build my own world, and do all that work that I wasn’t really able to do (and didn’t want to do). I have no idea why I felt that way, but it wasn’t until I was teaching RPGs to my own children about 15 years ago that I realized it was time wasted.

So with that in mind…

Don’t start out with the core books and one of the epic adventure books. You’ll all get there, eventually, but that’s a LOT to handle when you’re running a campaign for the first time, or playing the game for the first time. Players and DMs can *absolutely* start there, but I don’t recommend it.

I recommend starting out with the 5e Starter Set, or the 5e Essentials set. Both give you everything you need, for the players and for the DM, to play and experience everything that makes D&D awesome. They both take the players through several levels, and the writers take time throughout the whole thing to tell the DM not just what you’re supposed to do, but *why*you need to do it, to make the game work. You can sort of lean how to run a campaign this way, from some of the best DMs in the business.

But they do not overwhelm you with information, which is what sets them apart from the core books, for a new player. The important, foundational rules are all there, but they are streamlined just enough to prevent overwhelming new players with information they don’t really need. Nobody who ever plays them (and I’ve played them both) will ever feel like they are playing a slimmed-down version of the game. It’s just cleaner and easier to follow.

and finally:

I *need* to be creative, and until I have the creative energy to write my own stories, I’m going to do a thing I’m pretty good at, and narrate some public domain short stories.

As long as people are listening, I’ll keep recording. Your feedback is important to me.

Okay, that just about catches me up, here.

The captain dreams of flying but he’s oh so scared of heights

I’m having a bad mental health day.

Well, I’ve been having a string of bad mental health days.

Ten weeks or so, it seems, and every day is a battle just to get up and face it.

I’m paralyzed by a fear of failure, and that fear is stopping me from creating anything that matters.

Hell, it’s preventing me from creating anything at all.

So I gave myself an exercise today, to see if I can help move this ship that’s been trapped in ice.

I had a simple idea, and I gave myself permission to just spit it out without thinking too much. I decided to write in a style that I don’t normally use, just to crack the ice a little bit.

And because I’m so afraid of failure, I gave myself permission to share this unvarnished, unpolished, trapped-in-ice bunch of words that spilled out of my head.

The monster lives under the bed. It sleeps among the dust bunnies, wraps itself around the box of sweaters, stretches its legs between toys.

It keeps the lost socks. Lost things are desired to be found and that need sustains the monster when the children are not in their beds.

The children know the monster is there, as all children do, having felt its presence in the dark of night. Their parents don’t believe in monsters, as no parents do, having forgotten the truths they knew when they were children.

What the children and the parents don’t know is that the monster under the bed does not threaten on the children.

It protects them. From the other monsters.

The monster in the closet.

The monster who taps at the window when the wind blows.

The monster who lurks in the hallway, just outside the bedroom door.

The monster who stands in the room when the children hide beneath the covers.

The monster who lives under the bed waits for them to come calling. The monster who lives under the bed waits for them to tap on the window or scratch on the walls or creak the closet door open. The monster who lives under the bed waits and when the children are in danger, it reaches out with an impossibly long arm, covered with fur and scales and blisters and oozing pustules. It reaches out and opens a claw, snaps it closed on the neck of the monster who lives in the closet, crushes the life out of the monster who taps on the window, flays the skin off the monster who lurks in the hallway. When the children hide beneath the covers, it breaks the neck of the monster who stands in the dark bedroom.

It protects the children, as it protected their parents, as it will protect the children’s children long after they have grown into parents and forgotten it or any of the other monsters existed.

It protects them

and it waits.

It waits for all the other monsters to be driven out, so that it may uncoil itself, stretch itself out, creep into the bedroom

and feed.

Fifteen or so minutes, 352 words, a few images, an unexpected ending. Something where there wasn’t something before. Something unpolished and raw and imperfect. Something published for the sake a making a thing that isn’t perfect. Okay.

Maybe this will crack the ice, or at least sweep away a few snowdrifts.

2458 words cut (77348 remain) on the revisions of All We Ever Wanted Was Everything

I usually put these updates on my Tumblr thingy, but this one is of particular significance, so I’m putting it front and center on my blog.

I’m pretty sure I just finished the final draft, including revisions, of the novel I’ve been working on for a little over a year. As a matter of fact, I’m going to send this final draft to my editor right now. I’ll be right back.

Continue reading… →

captured here in my quotation marks

Almost two years ago, I was inspired by all the kids riding bikes in Stranger Things to write a post about a thing that happened when I was the same age as those kids (12 in 1983), and I was riding my bike with my friends.

While I worked on that blog post, other memories from the same time began to percolate up through the thick dried crust that the decades had built up over them, and I started to get this idea … what if I took all these things that happened from like 1982 through 1984, and I used them and the kids who were there as inspiration for a short story? It seemed like a decent idea, so I got to work on it. As I approached ten thousand words, I discovered that there was a lot more story left to tell, so I decided to let it keep on going until it became a novella. When it got there, I still wasn’t done, so I kept going until it was an actual novel.

I ended up calling it All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, because I’m terrible at making up my own titles, and if you look at all of my books, you’ll notice that they are almost always titled after lyrics. It’s a semi-autobiographical work of fiction, about coming of age in the summer of 1983, told by the writer who is revisiting his childhood. Writing it has been one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences of my entire creative life, even though I got so depressed after the election in 2016, I took almost nine months off from writing it (and doing much of anything creative).

I picked it back up earlier this year, and I began working on it, intensely, every day. It gave me a sense of purpose, creative satisfaction, and the hope that, maybe before too long, I could honestly call myself a novelist. Some days were easier than others, but even on the most challenging day, I never felt like giving up. I never even felt the absolute conviction, which I always feel at some point in a manuscript, that it was the worst thing ever and I was a damn fool for thinking I could write the story. The day I typed THE END for the first time was pretty special, even though I knew it was really just the beginning of the real work, which was the rewrite.

As a lot of you know, we had to vacate our house because of black mold this summer. While we were away, I worked on the rewrites, and as a result I spent much of my summer in my narrator’s version of the summer of 1983, which was pretty awesome. In no small way, working on this story got me through what could have been a not super awesome time.


About three weeks ago, I finished a revision and realized that it was as good as I could make it on my own, and it was time to turn it in to my editor. He took his Red Pen of Doom to it, and sent it back about two weeks ago. It’s been sitting on my computer desktop, looking at me every day while I carefully avoided it, because I was afraid that his notes were going to say some version of, “I know you worked hard on this for a long time, but it’s all crap and here’s why.” Well, I opened it today and got to work on it. I am relieved to report that his notes do not say that. They mostly say some version of, “you don’t need this, and you are getting in the adult narrator’s way, while he tries to stay out of his own way and tell his story. Here’s how you can make this stronger…”

I don’t know how other writers and editors work, but we do this thing where I give him the manuscript, he opens itin LibreOffice, suggests changes and puts in notes that explain why he suggested them, and then he sends it back to me. I go through it, change by change, and accept the changes, respond to the notes, add new stuff as needed, and then send it back. Typically, we’ll do this three or four times before we’re finished.

This time, because he warned me he’d made some deep cuts, I just accepted all the changes at once, then started reading the changed manuscript, to find out if I really missed anything, or felt like something I wanted to fight for had been cut out. Well, it turns out that I didn’t miss anything, and his cuts made the narrative much stronger. I figured we’d end up cutting ten percent, and we only ended up cutting about six percent. That tells me that I did a better job with the draft I turned in than I thought. That note about getting out of the way is a really good one; I see lots of places where I was self-conscious and unsure, so I made the narrator explain himself in places where I should have just let him tell his story. There is literally a single paragraph that I want to fight for, but even as I have thought about fighting for it, I secretly (well, secretly until now) believe that it doesn’t have to be there and nobody will miss it once it’s gone, if we end up cutting it.

While I worked today, I was surprised to notice that I had been missing the characters I created and lived with for so long. I got to again experience that sense of meaningful satisfaction that I had been enjoying every day while I worked on the first draft and its revisions (even on the days when I felt like the words just didn’t want to flow together). I got to get excited and terrified about this novel being really close to finished, and that much closer to being read by real people in the real world.

There’s still some tough work to do. I still need to rewrite the ending (the very fair note on the current ending is “it just … sort of … ends, and you’ve earned a better ending than this one. Go find it.”) and I’m genuinely unsure how to pull that off, but it’s one of those things that I know will be super obvious, right after I metaphorically drag myself over broken glass to find it. But this is the work I want to do. This is what I want and need to be doing with my life, and it feels reasonably good to both know that, and be able to do it.

Have a good weekend, everyone. I hope you get to spend it with awesome people who make you happy.