Baked from scratch.
Open the hatch.
Grab another snatch.
Send another batch.
Win another match.
All you want.
Nevermind the catch.
|The Cerebral Writer||
Baked from scratch.
Open the hatch.
Grab another snatch.
Send another batch.
Win another match.
All you want.
Nevermind the catch.
“Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost….” –Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator
Some messages never lose relevance, their words timeless reminders of matters that go too easily cold within the pages of history books. We get so caught up in our lives we can forget the progress that has brought us into this era of convenience and complacency. I know there’s nothing I can write—right here, right now—that will change anything currently transpiring socially or politically, but I feel like I must say something lest I feel hopelessly helpless. So here it is…
I read an article in the news today that has left me shaken, not because of anything that has actually happened, but the principle underlying it: “Trump suggests his supporters hold a mass rally”. There is no movement behind this rally, no goals to set or great accomplishments to plan, just an assembly of people marching solely to feed the ego of one man—an assembly of people coming together solely to wave their flags and rattle their sabers and outdo the endless anti-Trump protests, or perhaps even the five-million-strong Women’s March of January 21, 2017.
Patriotism is a good thing, but not when obscured by blinders. People can wave their flags all they want and chant “Make America great again” until they’re blue in the face, but those actions do nothing. Holding a rally simply so Trump can reassure himself that the people love him does nothing. Holding needless, hyper-nationalistic rallies are what fascists do. They get the people riled up, get the limbic system involved so emotions and reason become blurred, and fortify emerging mob mentalities.
So I write this blog post maybe a few thousand people will read… simply because what I read in the news today has me terrified and I have no other way of processing it. Writing about it is all I can do, and I have to do something, fruitless as it may be. Feeling helpless about something this big makes me so sick to my stomach that I can barely eat.
I haven’t been eating well the past few months. No dystopian writer wants to see his or her predictions actually emerging in the distance (with others already having come to pass). My books are coming to life right in front of me, and so I make one last-ditch effort to scream out to the world: Please stop this madness. Take a critical and objective look at yourself—whether left, right, or in the, middle—and remember all those stories you read in the history books. That suffering was real. The people causing all that suffering thought they were being patriotic. They thought they were doing the right thing. But they were manipulated—slowly and carefully—into believing all the torture and genocide they were committing was a service to humanity and to their countries… many good people, smart people… but people who failed to see what might come next after the wall.
Please make sure you’re not taking that for granted.
I had a dream back as a teenager that has stayed with me through the decades. In this dream, I stood among an assembly of people in a clearing in the woods. It was dark out, and barrels filled with burning wood served as our only light. An elderly man in a white robe stood on a platform before us, and everyone was silent as he addressed the group.
He described a darkness falling across the land, and then a war to end all wars. I remember being terrified when he told us all about the masses of death… the masses of people, fueled and blinded by their hate, killing one another off by the millions.
But he offered us a ray of hope: I saw the whole world hold hands, people finding ways to span across the oceans, across all continents, in a show of unity, and we all sang together—everyone across the globe, people of all colors, religions, and cultures standing together as one.
I’ve been thinking about that dream a lot lately, about the old man’s words and their implications. While I don’t believe this dream was in any way prophetic, I do think it holds credence in our current political climate. I do fear the possibility of war. I fear that the darkness has descended upon us.
I grew up under the naïve notion that all people were inherently good. I wasn’t able to grasp the idea that not everybody in the world was deeply empathetic about… well, everyone. I didn’t know that diversity went much further than differences in culture and basic beliefs, and I didn’t understand that the world was made up wholly of flies and spiders, that without exception, all people were either born as (or grew to become) one or the other.
I understand now that not only do these two different groups exist, creating a clear delineation between us, but also that a fly will always see the world through the eyes of a fly, just as a spider will always view the world through the eyes of a spider. Both believe they are inherently right in the way they live their life, and that the other is inherently wrong. Is the fly right to fear the spider? Is the spider wrong to consume the fly?
The hardest part to grasp is that both will always see the other as the spider. A rare few actually embrace the spider’s role, but among the vast majority, the villains will always see themselves as the protagonists. And protagonists will always fight for what they believe to be right.
A friend once said we have only two choices in life: love and fear. I think she might have been onto something. Fear and hate have more in common with one another than you’d think at first glance. But even fear in the absence of hate can be enough to destroy people, regardless of motivations or intentions. What do you fear? Have your fears ever destroyed anything? How often have they led to self-fulfilled prophecies, fear itself causing temporary patches of darkness?
I’m afraid of a lot of things. I’d like to replace those fears with love, but sometimes we can’t help what we’re afraid of. I’m afraid of conflict, hateful people, suffering… and those fears have left me frozen at times.
Right now, I’m frozen by the state of the world, especially in the US. I’m afraid I’m powerless, voiceless… purposeless. It’s put me in a dark place, and that makes me want to find some sandy cave to bury my head in and hide. But I don’t want to be afraid. I want to love the enemy. I want to embrace our differences.
I don’t want to be afraid…
But can the fly truly love the spider, I wonder? I don’t know the answer to that, but perhaps someone older and wiser than I am might. If that person is out there, I’d love to have a chat.
Everyone I know agrees: 2016 was an exceptionally eventful year, even for those living outside the US and UK. The year was also exceptionally dark, especially toward the end. Like many others, I took a Facebook vacation to avoid the worst of the memes and bickering, but I found the days preceding my leave nothing short of traumatizing.
I think many of us are still trying to process all that has occurred over the past few months. The world has become divided in ways I never thought I’d see in my lifetime, and that has had a huge impact on online social dynamics. How we choose to proceed from here is going to determine the direction this new era will take us.
I choose to be hopeful about our future. While I am also admittedly fearful, I have faith that there is enough good out there to balance out the bad, and no matter what differences we have in opinion or belief, we’ll need to work together if we want the good to have a fighting chance. The bad has succeeded in its divide-and-conquer tactics long enough, don’t you think?
I believe both positivity and negativity are infectious. I also think too many have been programmed to spring to both the defensive and the offensive for too quickly, which fosters negative thoughts and actions. I think back to when I worked in collections, and how everyone I called hated me because they immediately viewed me as the antagonist. It didn’t matter that the call wasn’t personal—I was just doing my job—and it didn’t matter how polite and professional I was; most people turned into dicks when I disclosed the purpose behind my calls.
I think about that experience whenever the line is slow at the supermarket, I get pulled over by a police officer, or I end up spending half the day at the DMV. The people on the other end are only doing their jobs, and most of them are trying their best. And an interesting thing happens when you take what could be a negative situation and approach it respectfully and sympathetically: You’ve just spread positivity. Note the person’s posture, the way they talk to you; they might even go out of their way to be nice back.
Think of how much we could all build one another up if we took that kind of attitude to social media, what we could accomplish through discourse that remained respectful regardless of our disagreements? If our thought processes are so different, maybe we could find a way to use that to everyone’s advantage. As it stands, we’ve allowed it to remain a means of keeping us at war with each other. We’ve allowed it… but we don’t have to.
We already have enough weighing us all down: The majority of American adults have accrued ridiculous amounts of debt; Generation X and older are finding favorite musicians and actors dropping like flies of aging-related illnesses (David Bowie was my absolute favorite musician); we are fostering a culture of escapism and anti-intellectualism; gangs and drugs are everywhere; and the relations between several influential nations are growing shakier by the day.
Why create even more stress by arguing with strangers and mere acquaintances—or, even worse, close friends and family—over issues you are both very likely not going change your stances on? How much tension have you experienced because you feel you’ve crafted the perfect argument, only to be at nasty ad hominem attacks two posts later? You and the person you’re arguing with walk away with nothing but anger, frustration, and wasted energy. And then, of course, that gets compounded by the numerous additional contacts throwing in their two cents. I learned the hard way a couple of years ago: It doesn’t work.
I’ve made my political opinions clear, but I have engaged very little on the matter on social media. I have done what I can to avoid the crossfire between all those horrible words people have been slinging incessantly at one another. There’s a better way to communicate in these social arenas. We need to relearn how to use them for good. Remember the days when Facebook—hell, even MySpace—had an air of community to it? We need to ask ourselves two important questions: How did we get to this point, and Is it possible to reclaim the fellowship social media once offered?
I can’t claim to be a saint. I’ve made my share of online faux pas, but I’ve learned from them. It’s easy to make a social blunder when you barely have a face to a name, and that screen dividing us can make even spats between family members ridiculously heated. Why don’t we spend that energy figuring out what we each can do to make this world a better place. Forget what Joe Schmo thinks, or what he thinks about your strongest beliefs. To quote the ever-Zen Dude: “That’s just, like, your opinion, man.”
So, for 2017, how about we focus on making the year great—together?
Just in time for Christmas, Matt Shaw has called upon some of the biggest names in horror to put together an anthology of Christmas horror! This anthology, the proceeds of which will go to a different charity each month, includes work from:
Terry M. West (poem)
Daniel Marc Chant
Wrath James White (poem)
David Owain Hughes
Kealan Patrick Burke
Billie Sue Mosiman
Duncan P. Bradshaw
Over 100,000 words, more than 400 pages, and only 99c/99p! Grab a bargain, support charity and get to know new and familiar authors! Available now at Amazon.
I’d like to wish all my American friends and family a happy Thanksgiving. I hope you have a wonderful day, filled with laughter and good company.
While Thanksgiving stems from the historic feast in November of 1621, when the Wampanoag Indians joined the Pilgrims at Plymouth for a goodwill feast*, our holiday traditions—the Holiday Season that spans from late Fall through the end of the year—stems from times when fall harvests were the last times of plenty and winter stores were finite. Holidays are also designed to bring cheer during the darkest days of the year, when the moods of many tend to reflect the reduced sunlight. Celebrations lift us up. Gathering with loved ones lifts us up. Comfort foods lift us up.
I have to wonder, however, if a piece of our traditions might be in need of a facelift. This piece would be the gluttony. I know everyone says, “But it’s the holidays,” but what does that even mean? That it’s okay to waste food just because it’s a depressing time of the year?
Yes, I’m saying it: wasting food.
We say Thanksgiving is about being thankful, and yet we show that thanks by overindulging. That doesn’t seem like very thankful behavior to me—especially when a good portion of our population is already obese. I say it’s time we celebrate Thanksgiving not by making feasts for ourselves, but as an opportunity to be to the poor what the Wampanoag Indians were to the Pilgrims: by giving to those in need.
Showing thanks by giving.
We can still gather with loved ones, celebrate our appreciation for one another, but with normal-sized meals. By giving instead of wasting food, we can spread good cheer beyond our small circles. Really, isn’t that what this holiday truly is about?
*A&E Networks. History.com. 2011. http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/first-thanksgiving-meal
(accessed November 24, 2016).
I want to thank those of you who participated in this year's Vampire Books for Blood fundraiser, the benefits of which have gone to the American Red Cross and Canadian Blood Services. Here's a short note from event organizer Scott Burtness:
Well, that’s it! The 3rd Annual Vampire Books for Blood is done and done....
As the tents go up and another side show prepares to open, images of the strange and exotic swirl through our minds. Posters give us a preview of a man swallowing sharp swords, throwing knives at a woman tied on a spinning wheel! A woman charming snakes to do as she commands! Watch the world’s fattest woman strut the stage, showing off her gorgeous 500-pound body with pride. Catch a glimpse of a hypnotist who wants to invade your brain and take over your life! And look over there! A tattooed man, whose tattoos fade away, and then randomly reappear somewhere else on his body! And last but not least, there’s a contortionist whose body twists and turns and ultimately fits inside a small box!
Keep walking forward, past all the posters and take your seat in the tents. You now have a front-row seat for the famous Steiner’s Freak Show, one of the finest in the land. Steiner moves his show from town to town and has proved to be a genius at finding true freaks, no fakes in his little freak family!
But lately, strange things have been happening at the Freak Show. Things no one understands. Dangerous things, things that will freak you out!
The six stories collected in Freakshow: The Complete Freaked Out Series relate the exciting experiences of the fascinating characters in Steiner’s Freak Show. So step right up, the show is ready to begin!
You can find the complete series box set on Amazon.
About the author:
Lori Safranek's Freaked Out series takes a creepy look at life in the circus sideshow. Marie, the tale of the Fat Lady in the sideshow, was the first book in the series, followed up with Mesmer, a hypnotist gone bad. Lily Dean explores the life of a snake charmer with special skills. Smudge is about a tattooed man whose tattoos have a mind of their own! More twisted tales of freaks on the sideshow coming soon.
Lori spent several years as a newspaper reporter in Nebraska before deciding to try her hand at fiction writing. In addition to her Freaked Out series, she contributed to the Fifty Shades of Decay: Zombie Erotica anthology; Dead Harvest anthology; Cellar Door II; Slaughter House: Serial Killer Edition; and had a story published in Tim Baker's novel Unfinished Business.
Lori lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband and two dogs. She can be found on Facebook at Author Lori Safranek.
Today, I have the pleasure of hosting author Brendon Zenner, who is promoting his dystopian novel, The After War. He'll be giving away a $20 Amazon or B&N gift card to one random reader, so be sure to enter using the Rafflecopter box below.
Zenner: In the back matter of all of my books, I like to share with my readers a bit of the background information on the novel they had just read, and I like to include small things, like any alternate titles I might have been working on. I would like to share with you now a section from my Acknowledgments, where I explain some of the inspiration behind The After War.
Back when I was sixteen, and some of my older friends were getting their driver’s licenses, we used to drive out to a nearby park to spend our afternoons walking miles of trails and gazing at the large, calm reservoir smack in the center of the woods. Perhaps my teenage mind still clung to a portion of childhood creativity, but I soon began to envision the creations of a story that would take over a decade to develop into this novel. The distant hills were swarming with soldiers and the open fields were places of war. I knew back then that I wanted to be a writer, with much thanks to authors like Kurt Vonnegut, who showed me at a young age that fiction could truly be anything that the writer wanted it to be.
A year later, when I was seventeen and had a driver’s license of my own, I went to the park by myself day after day, walking the same trails and plotting out the story and characters. Originally, this novel was titled Chaos, but that name didn’t seem to fit as the years went by. I did try to sit and write the novel in my early twenties, but two things happened: 1) I wasn’t a good enough writer at twenty years of age. 2) The story wasn’t there yet. Years passed, and when I was twenty-eight, I forced myself to hammer out the words. I didn’t care how they came out; I just couldn’t put it off any longer. So I finished the manuscript, and low and behold … it stunk. It was hard for me to swallow that it would have to be rewritten from scratch. To ease my mind, I started writing longhand, an idea that had only come to me a few days previous.
That idea would develop into my first novel, The Experiment of Dreams. Months passed, and when I had sent The Experiment of Dreams out to be edited, I decided to sit and give The After War another shot. I had dreaded the thought of having to start the novel all over again, thinking the task would be impossible. But once I began to type, and the words started flowing, I realized how much I missed the characters, and wanted to live in their shoes once more. I wanted to get Simon out of the cabin safely, and I wanted to witness again the struggle between Brian and Steven as it developed. I also included a new main character, and it seemed impossible that he wasn’t there from the beginning: Winston. This time, the manuscript came out the way I had intended, and my writing was much more polished. It still took years to finish, and in the interim, as the manuscript was being edited and proofread, I finished another shorter novel, Whiskey Devils. It is strange to still be working on my first novel, despite having published two others. It brings me immense happiness to be done with The After War, but I’m also terribly sad to see these characters go. They came to be when I was sixteen, and now, twenty years later, it is like losing my best friends. I grew up and aged with them, and their characters developed much as my adolescent mind matured into adulthood. Goodbye Simon and Brian, you will always be with me. Winston, you’re such a good boy.
About the novel:
Two years have passed since mankind faced extinction. Brian Rhodes and his cousin, Steven, are leaving the protection of their underground bunker for the first time, after a cataclysmic war and unrelenting disease ravaged the earth.
On the other side of the North American continent, young Simon Kalispell is leaving the safety and seclusion of his cabin deep in the woods, traveling with his aging canine companion, Winston.
For individual reasons, these men are traveling east, where the fragmented lives of a small number of survivors will soon be decided by the choices of a corrupt few.
Simon Kalispell and Brian Rhodes are not yet aware, but the strength that resides inside them will soon be tested, and destiny will call for their fates to be forever intertwined.
A procession was heading down the main street of town. Two columns of savages marched in near unison. But these men were no soldiers. They were ragged and filthy, and carried with them a wide array of weaponry—rifles, machine guns, pistols. Many held sledgehammers, machetes, various swords, and large and small pry-bars, some the size of walking sticks. These improvised weapons were scoured at the ends to reveal the steel of which they were made, gleaming like silver, and were muddied with earth and gore. The men looked as if they had marched out of some dismal pit of hell that had vomited them forth, seeming to defile the very earth of which they trod. They wore a vast array of military clothing of no particular origin and had adorned themselves and their weapons with torn pieces of red cloth, like flags, along with garnished trophies of war—what looked like dried, brown human ears and tanned hides. They cast about them a red and brown hue, as if they wore these shades as part of a collective uniform.
About the author:
Brandon Zenner is an American fiction writer and an Amazon bestselling author. His short fiction has been published in both print and online publications, the first being submitted when he was 19 years old. The Experiment of Dreams, his debut eBook thriller, has reached Amazon's best seller list many times. His second novel, Whiskey Devils, was released in early 2016. The After War, a dystopian thriller, is available now as a pre-order, at 80% off the final sale price. You can follow the author on his Amazon page, or through his email list on his website. All email subscribers will receive his futuristic short story, "Helix Illuminated," for free as a thank you. His genres of choice are thrillers, crime, dystopian, and science fiction.
You can find Brandon on Facebook and Twitter. The After War will remain $0.99 throughout the blog tour. You can pre-order your copy now on Amazon.
RAFFLECOPTER CODE: a Rafflecopter giveaway
Greetings! I hope you're having a fantastic weekend. Today, I'd like to share a little about a weird western anthology I recently contributed to, edited by Clayton Bye and Kenneth Weene. The Nettle Tree has an exciting and eclectic lineup, opening with bizarro great Jeremy C. Shipp. Here's what Readers' Favorite recently had to say about The Nettle Tree:
The authors of The Nettle Tree had a challenging assignment indeed, to breathe new and strange life into a genre that all but the enthusiast may consider a bit overrated, trivialized or overdone, and they did so brilliantly. While my taste in Western fiction runs more in the lines of prospectors trudging through deserts looking for mythical gold caches and scouts surveying new lands, I found a number of stories in this collection that had me re-evaluating the Western and its possibilities. Phil Richardson's The Sheriff of Hog Waller is clever and convincing as outlaws, the townspeople, and the law conspire to make a killing off the bounty system. Christopher Wolf's zombie story, Tears on the Prairie, is poignant and intense. But I would have to say the title story, The Nettle Tree, with its transporting energy fields, captured my imagination and kept it close at hand throughout the story, and Leigh M. Lane's trickster in Valley of the Shadow deftly ramped up the suspense and atmosphere. There's bound to be something for just about any reader in this collection of original short stories. The Nettle Tree is most highly recommended. (5 stars)
Jeremy C. Shipp, Phil Richardson, Casey June Wolf, John Rosenman, Christopher Wolf, Leigh M. Lane, Richard Godwin, Salvatore Buttaci, Tonya R. Moore, Kenny Wilson, Jim Secor, and contributing authors Clayton Bye and Kenneth Weene.
About the editors:
Clayton Clifford Bye is an eclectic writer whose body of work spans a period of more than 20 years and includes such classics as How To Get What You Want From Life, The Sorcerer’s Key and The Contrary Canadian. His more recent work involves too many ghostwrites to count and some great anthologies from his publishing house Chase Enterprises Publishing. The Speed of Dark, a strangely different collection of horror short stories, won four awards and solid 5 star reviews. To check out Clayton’s work, visit http://shop.claytonbye.com.
Ken Weene: “The best part of being a writer is the endless opportunity to do life over. The worst part is knowing that I still won’t get it right.” With that motto in mind, Kenneth Weene offers an ongoing stream of books, short stories, poems, and essays. Visit http://www.kennethweene.com to find more of his work.
Title: The Nettle Tree
Publisher: Chase Enterprises Publishing
Editors: Kenneth Weene and Clayton Bye
ISBN (print): 978-1-927915-10-3
ISBN (eBook): 978-1-927915-11-0
Format: Trade Paperback and eBook
Genre: Speculative western
Price: $17.95 (print) $3.95 (eBook)
The book and PDF eBook can be purchased at: http://shop.claytonbye. Also available at Amazon and Smashwords.
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