Monday, August 12, 2013

The End Is Near, Folks

Well, it seems that the end of my live stories (for now) has come at the right time. I posted Midnight at the Bowling Alley a week or two back, and since then, I’ve struggled to get views for it. I was hoping to retire my live writing with more of a bang, but it is what it is. I’ll continue to market it as usual, but I suppose the target number of views before I take all the stories offline will have to be lowered, lest I wait forever.

Granted, this new story contains some disturbing elements, but the ones mentioned in the trigger warning (which I am obligated by human decency to include in the description, for those of us who find such descriptions to be triggering, hence the phrase) are brief. What’s more disturbing than those elements, though, are the actual elements of the story. This is my first story to deal directly with the idea of an afterlife, and some of the actual imagery in the story is completely surreal.

Oscar, having been dragged along to his partner’s mother’s bizarre late-night birthday party at a bowling alley, finds that he may never be able to leave. That’s the no-spoiler version of the summary. Anything beyond that would ruin it for you. You should read it.

In the meantime, let’s have a look back at my short gig as a live fiction author (live poetry is another thing altogether; whole other blog) and see what each piece represents. The titles will be presented with the view numbers, as of right this second from my end.

This will not be funny, so you can pull the funny stick right out of your ass X____x

A Tree In The Park: 48 views.

This story was the first short story that I wrote for the series. It’s the story of Josh, the narrator, spending the day in the park with his mother, who has just been diagnosed with cancer. The entire storyline revolves around their shared memories of a particular tree at this park and how it relates to Josh’s childhood, but the underlying themes are loneliness, disease, and the uncertainty of life itself. I wrote this story for English 111 originally, and my professor ran copies of it and distributed it to the class after this particular assignment was graded to “show them how it ought to have been done.” Quite embarrassing, but it was also a nice rush. The assignment was to select a picture from a set of pictures she gave us and write a story about it. I picked a lonely, dead tree next to a river.

Thus began my very long obsession with marketing and being an annoyance. I know you all love my frequent links to my stories, so shut up.

This story was the second story that I wrote for the series. It’s the story of Carol, who avoids bill collectors by never answering any of her phones. The story revolves around her musing that any one of the constant calls that keep coming in might be her mother. At the end, a message left on her answering machine suggests that something malicious might be at work. This story is not inherently a bad story, but it is, to this day, my biggest let-down. I was overconfident from the reaction that A Tree In The Park got from both readers and college faculty alike, and I wrote this as another assignment in English 111, completely confident that I had rewritten “The Lottery” for my generation this time. I shat odorless feces.

While it was still referred to by my professor as well done, she didn’t have the same kind of enthusiasm for it that she had had for the previous piece. Readers confirmed for me that this story was somehow inferior, and I attempted no less than 65 times to rewrite it into something better. Ultimately, the issue lies with the opening paragraph. It will need to be fixed before this goes into print.

Spin The Bottle: 111 views.

This was my third story for the series, posted quickly after It Might Be My Mother. The story concerns Drew, who has just graduated from high school. He learns a very difficult lesson about friendship, betrayal, and reality. This story was the first to wear a trigger warning, as it contained a rape scene and blatantly addressed the issues of homophobia and trust between gay and straight male friends.This story was, for lack of a less cheesy way of putting it, wildly successful. I received messages from people who related to the main character, and my readership numbers reached levels I was unaccustomed to. In fact, it was so successful that it caused me to go on hiatus from live writing for a few months because of the pressure to top it. Once in awhile, I’ll still see a view of it pop up here and there.

Everyone likes a good rape scene, as it turns out. Just pull some painful event out of your past, decorate it with some surreal elements, and put a trigger warning on it. People like to watch other people in pain, because they’re sick fucks.

The Dead Astronauts: 126 views.

This was my first story in months following Spin The Bottle. I almost didn’t post it, because I was afraid that the ending was overwrought and too dramatic. It was the first story in my catalogue to question the existence of a god. I wanted to leave the answer ambiguous, because fiction is hardly the place for personal beliefs to overwhelm character development. I am not Ayn Rand, after all. The story concerns Henry, who was born on a space station. He’s lived there all of his life, as has his partner, George. Henry wants to know what’s waiting in the starry void outside the flat they share and their minimum wage service jobs in the bowels of the space station, but Henry has no such curiosity.

This story’s success was such a pleasant surprise after being scared to post it. It continues to be a favorite among my readers, returning at least a few views every week, even now. After this story, though, there was even more pressure to perform. I nearly shit my pantaloons when I saw the views jump to 40 in the first 24 hours.

This story was doomed from the start. It was posted only 13 days after The Dead Astronauts, and was not nearly as successful. This was my second story to wear a trigger warning due to the portrayal of emotional abuse. It was the first story in which the narrator not only spoke in first person present tense, which is common in my work, but spoke as though having a conversation with the abusive partner, who is omnipresent. The story concerns Todd, who has just gotten out of an emotionally abusive relationship. His ex is still using him for sex, and he avoids thinking of the damage the situation is doing to him by planning a fictional life revolving around an abandoned house with his straight friend Mark. By all accounts, this story should have been written better, and will likely undergo a rewrite or two before being put into print, but it was not as disappointing for me as It Might Be My Mother. The biggest issue, I thought at the time, was the sub-par cover art, which was then revised twice, to no avail. The views simply did not come as easily as they did for The Dead Astronauts and Spin The Bottle.

I remember actually saying to myself after posting this story: “Damn it, that’s the end of the whole thing. It’s all downhill now.” I subsisted on Little Caesars and broken dreams for the next month.

Our Lives In Ruin: 82 views.

About a month after We All Come Home Eventually, I posted Our Lives In Ruin. This was my first attempt at horror, and it was surprisingly successful in that aspect. The story is about Joey, who lives with his alcoholic mother (who has a strange habit of packing up the entire living room into boxes after a night of drinking) in a truck stop town. He meets a dark, charming stranger one night, and suddenly life is bearable, maybe even pleasant. But is this new friend just another way for Joey to hurt himself?

I posted this story all over the place, like feces. I smashed it into communities until I was banned and read it aloud to unwilling victims. I’m sure everyone loved me by the end of it.

This story got most of its views, I’m sure, from my constant advertising of it as a vampire story. And that’s not exactly a lie. The character of Franklin (the stranger) is indeed a creature of the night, but he’s a little more complex than the average fictional vampire. He represents the sum of all human hope and fear in a single, understated (and regrettably unexplored) character. I had planned for this story to be longer, but at 16 pages, it still stands as my longest short story to date. I plan to expand it into what it was meant to be before it goes into print, as it’s been suggested that the ending is sudden and unexpected, and not in a pleasant way. Still, the views continue to come in for this one as well.

One thing I can say with some confidence is that Franklin is not Edward Cullen. Stephanie Meyer fans beware. Actual vampires are contained within this story, and they are not sad emo heaps of perfection.

This was my second attempt at horror, and was written originally for English 112 as a metafiction piece, which is a reworking of another story. I chose to work from Little Red Riding Hood, inspired by Angela Carter’s Company Of Wolves. The story is about David Hood, who goes to visit his grandma in a retirement community in Indiana. He meets Peter Wolfe, a staff member, at a diner down the road from the complex. When he arrives at the condo, he realizes that his grandma has been eaten by a wild animal, and when Peter shows up to help, David notices that his fingernails are stained red. The final scenes are some of the most surreal that I personally have ever committed to writing, and I attribute the success of this story to those scenes, among other things.

I marketed this story relentlessly, too. Whatever channels had not yet slammed on my forehead were utilized, effectively piping the words of this story into the ears of everyone who would listen, much like polka music to the residents of downtown Berne, Indiana. MAKE IT STOP @_@

This is my third attempt at horror. I’ve already described the storyline (go back to the top, poopmouth), and it has all the makings of a grand story. Granted, I just posted this a couple weeks ago, but I’m already slotting it with It Might Be My Mother and We All Come Home Eventually. I can’t quite determine just yet what needs to be fixed with it, but I have really struggled to get views for this story. I think part of it was that it has taken me months to actually post it, and when I did it, I’m sure it was old news. The Dirty Red Fingernails had 34 views the first day. Maybe I’m just bitching. But that leads me to my next item...

A New Story: 0 views because it’s not confirmed or posted yet.

Yes, I may write one last live story if Midnight At The Bowling Alley continues to disappoint me. I am determined to retire from live writing on a positive note. I have several ideas I’m working on, but the most prominent is based on the ever-popular ghost hitchhiker tale that people have passed down for centuries. I may throw in an element of love surviving after death, maybe another story dealing with the idea of the afterlife. I haven’t quite put it all together yet. I’m sure the cover art and title will be done long before the story, as is my tradition.

And now, the biggest item in my catalogue...

Antioch: 1752 views.

Holy shit, people. This novel was what started it all. I have had so many people reach out to me after reading this poorly written, grammatically incorrect pile of nonsense to tell me that it made them cry, or made them realize they weren’t alone. I had no idea anyone was actually reading it at first, and even throughout posting it chapter by chapter, I still didn’t fully get just how many people were reading it. I am very proud of this novel, though it definitely needs a few rewrites before it goes into print.

So there you have it. A blog that is singularly the most boring piece of shit I have ever written, about other pieces of shit I’ve written. I bet you’re glad you stayed to the end. Congratulations. There is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, only a sandpaper butt plug. I warned you.