Calling all Bloggers!

imagesCACU84DE Happy Halloween hangover, everyone. Alas, the best non-holiday holiday of the year has come and gone.

Typically, Fridays are somewhat slim here at Tessera. That’s because, at least for the moment, we’ve got five days to fill, but only four artists. Much as we’d love to blog 24/7/365, we’re spread out over our many projects like cream cheese on a box of bagels.  We’re delicious, but there’s only so much of us to go around.  

That’s where you might come in.

We’re currently seeking talented guest bloggers to help us make our Fridays more exciting. We’re interested in anyone with something interesting to say. Got a unique perspective you’d like to share? Got a crazy story you’re dying to tell? Got a comic book, a novel, a painting, or a photo album of your latest cosplay event in Tijuana you’d like to show off? Maybe you’re the one we’re looking for.

BestWrite

The pen is mightier than the sword. The keyboard is stronger still.

So if you’re interested and willing to submit to our terrifying gantlet of questions (usually we’ll just ask for a small sample of your writing/storytelling skills) send us an email HERE. We’ll check you out. If you’re qualified, we’ll find room for you on one of many, many Fridays to come.

Much love,

J Edward Neill

I should have paid more attention to C. Thomas Howell

In honor of tomorrow being Halloween (and my brother’s birthday – Happy Birthday Mark!), I present the stupidest thing I have ever done.

dunce-cap

The year was either 1997 or 1998. Now a Junior in college, I had driven up to the Georgia Tech Student Center to pick up my mail and was on my way back to my car (and then my dorm room) when I heard a woman’s voice call out to me from the dark Atlanta summer night.

“Excuse me, sir? I was wondering if I could ask a favor of you?”

I turned around and saw an older woman, maybe late forties, but most likely in her early fifties. Regardless of her actual age, she was someone who had that look where life had never really cut her a true break. Through cigarettes and alcohol she might be able to numb the pain of existence, but she was destined to be one who, from cradle to grave, would work until her fingers became little more than nubs. Stick thin, her leathery flesh hung off her bones.

I felt sad for her immediately.

“Can I help you with something?”

She moved a little closer to me and nodded, fully emerging into the parking lot’s light. “I hope so. You see, I’m supposed to go and get my younger son from the baby sitter. And my older son was supposed to give me a ride, but he’s not in his dorm room. I can’t seem to get a hold of him.” She glanced down at the watch on her wrist. “And the sitter is done at nine and it’s already eight-thirty.”

I didn’t immediately respond, even though I could tell where this was going. When you live in downtown Atlanta, you get used to people coming up and asking you for spare change or various other favors. In my first year living downtown, I probably (read: definitely) ended up giving too much money to the random homeless who crossed my path. But that bit of humanity had been stamped out by the bank account of a college student living a few years on his own.

I braced myself for the question.

“She’s only a couple of miles down the road. If you could give me a lift,  I’d be forever grateful.”

Now my mind and mouth normally do things in agreement. Mostly the mouth waits until the brain has finished its various calculations or what-have-you and then when it gets the proper instructions it spits out the correct sequence of words.

Not this time.

“Uh, yea, I guess I could do that.”

Immediately my brain rebelled. Why had I said that? I don’t want to give her a ride. What the hell am I thinking?

Her face lit up, and I was suddenly glad that I had said yes. This would be my good deed for the year. Heck, for the century possibly.

“I’m right over here.”

As I moved over towards my 1990 red Pontiac Sunbird, I didn’t notice her wave to another person. Another beaten down by life person, but male. Same tanned leathery skin… in his late forties, early fifties as well. He wasn’t rail thin like his wife, but there was only the slightest beginning of a beer belly hiding under his shirt.

“This young man is  going to take us to the sitter’s.”

Now this is the point I should have said something like “no” or even “hey I’ve got something else I need to get to that I just remembered”, because now the numbers were not in my favor. With just her in the car she’d be in the passenger seat beside me. I’m 6’5″ 275 lbs and all of 21-22 years old. I could take on the world with the side benefit that being that size, no one typically bothered me in the first place.

Yet, with him along for the ride that meant someone would be in the back seat.

Behind me.

Where I couldn’t see what he was doing. Not a good idea.

I think my brain was on strike that night because it only barely fazed me. My southern hospitality was going to get me killed. And there is even a saying for a situation like this. Don’t pick up hitchhikers. I mean that is the number one thing right up there with “Don’t take candy from strangers.”

What is wrong with me? My parents taught me better than this!

Sure enough she moved into the front passenger seat, and he sat in the back, straddling the middle so that I could see him in the rear view. But not really see what he was doing back there. I turned out onto North Avenue going West. My eyes darted from her to my rear view mirror to see him and then back to her. I barely remember the road, driving on instinct.

urban-legend-killer-backseat

“So, where is it I’m taking you?”

The woman answered quickly. “It’s only a couple of miles up the road.”

“Actually, we don’t need to go to the sitter’s. She’s taking the baby back to the house.” The smoker voice from the back jarred  me to the core. What the hell? Now I’m taking them home?

“Oh, then just continue on North.”

Again, I should have found a way to get them out of the car. But I was stuck taking them home. Somewhere my screams wouldn’t be heard by anyone.

I’ve been in three fights in my entire life. Two of them were won pretty quickly. The other was a losing battle, one of the few times where the other kid had been a little older and a little stronger. Mostly I observed what my grandfather had always told me: I better not ever start a fight, but I damn well better finish one that someone else started.

Those thoughts drifted into my mind while I tried to determine my best course of action. If they had a knife or something similar I might be able to put a hurt on one or both of them… if she had the blade. If he had the weapon, then I was going to need something of my own. But what else was there? A passing car’s lights illuminated the interior of the car and my eyes flashed to the keys dangling from the ignition. Rough edges of a weapon. It wasn’t much, but it might be better than naked fists.

Still I tried to think things through. I figured as long as I don’t do anything to set them off, or show that I know I am in trouble, it has to be in their best interest to wait until I get them to wherever their true destination was. Otherwise they might risk the chance that I drive the car off the road and try something now.

They made idle chat with me. A decade later, I couldn’t tell you what we talked about. I’m pretty sure that the most that escaped my lips was Yes, No, or I don’t know. I was too busy putting that math side of my brain to work trying to analyze the angles of this situation I’d gotten myself into. Plus it was hard to hear what either of them were saying due to my heart echoing throughout my body.

We drove and drove and drove, more and more minutes piling up on the odometer. Now I’ve taken North Avenue east many times on my journeys to hang out with friends, but I had never gone this far west on the road. Everything had long since become unfamiliar and I kept waiting for them to say something, to have me turn off, but more time passed and nothing. I had no idea how far we needed to go before I got them “home”, but I kept on, sure that terrible things awaited me.

Finally at some point we turned off North and then worked our way onto some of the more back roads.

For those unfamiliar with the layout of Atlanta, if you are in downtown and you drive more than about 20 minutes in any direction you will run into an interstate. Worst case you’ll hit the perimeter I-285. This is a road that loops around the city, encircling it.

Base Map 285

Yet, we had driven far enough and still I didn’t see a sign for the highway, nothing. Somehow I was in the backwoods of Georgia while still being in the city. It was as if they had managed to take me to a part of town where street lights were only a suggestion and not required. Long stretches went by with only my Sunbird’s headlights to show that the world outside the car even still existed. And I was driving these two random people up these roads I didn’t know existed.  And these roads were the type where I don’t even know how there was nothing on them. Very few houses. No restaurants or gas stations. It was like I’d crossed over into the Twilight Zone. Nothing made sense in my head. My heart pounded in my chest, threatening to explode.

dark road

What was I supposed to do? Call their bluff? Point out, ever so nicely, that I had only agreed to take one of them “a couple of miles” to their younger son?

I spotted a small cluster of lights in the distance. As we got closer I could see it was a convenience store, and then the night took a turn.

“Do you think we could stop up here? I need to get some cigarettes.” The way the man said the words and the paranoia in my brain combined to make me wonder whether it was a question or an order. So I pulled over.

“Would you like anything? A drink or something?”

Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do, let you get me a drink and somehow put a drug into it and then I’m missing a kidney or I’m dead or something.

I locked eyes with him in the rear view mirror. “No, thank you.”

The man exited the car, and I held my breath that the woman would follow. I slid my hand very casually so that it was resting on the gear shift.

They both get out of the car and I’m gunning it.

She didn’t budge. “Hey honey, get me a pack of smokes too while you’re in there.”

They were just playing with me now. I know it.

He returned a few minutes later and I wondered if the old guy had gone in and robbed the store (sometimes I still wonder this). They might already be ready to kill and eat me, but there was no telling how far they might go.

Hmm.

We journeyed for a bit longer. Again, I would say the exact amount, but I lost track. I think I’d been gone from Georgia Tech about 40 minutes by this point.

They both pointed out a side road to turn down… it was dirt. “Ours is the one on the end.”

Of course it is. Where else would you live but off a dirt road within the Atlanta city limits.

I stared out into the darkness, but couldn’t really find the beginnings of a structure to know where I might be going or for how far. My car’s shocks protested the pot holes and each bump caused my two passengers to shift in their seats. We began to climb a fairly steep hill, and when we finally came over the crest I caught site of their double-wide home.

This thing might have been nice looking once upon a time, but now, through either the elements, or lack of caring about what the shit-hole looked like, it could only remind me of something that should be condemned. Various bits of junk littered the yard and every redneck stereotype crept into my thoughts.

“Home.” My voice may have cracked with the hope that this was the end of our voyage. My own fight or flight on high alert.

The old man shifted in the backseat. “I just feel awful about making you drive all this way. I have some money in the house. If you could wait a minute I’ll run in and grab it for you.”

I shook my head. “That’s OK. I’m just glad I could get the two of you home.”

Liar! Just get the hell out of the car and let me go!

“You sure?”

“Yeah. Have a good night.”

They seemed to pause at that. And to this day I’m not sure about what they were thinking. Maybe this whole thing was just them trying to get home without needing to take the bus. Maybe they really had a son at Tech who they’d come to see. Maybe they had a younger son who they needed to get to, but then the sitter decided to bring him home instead of waiting for them to arrive.

Or maybe they had been planning on killing me the whole damn time.

Until I told them to have a good night. And that was the point they had a change of heart.

The two of them got out of the car, but before the wife could shut the door the man held it open and stuck his head back into the car.

Just gun it!

“You know how to get back?”

I nodded in the darkness even if he couldn’t see my action. “I’ll figure it out.”

“Alright. Take care.”

And with that he shut the door and I turned my car around and headed back to the paved streets. It was only then that I saw a sign for I-285. I may have taken it to just get my bearings (I honestly don’t remember). My body began shaking, the adrenaline pumping through my system for the better portion of an hour finally began to wear off. In a daze, I somehow managed to guide my car back to more familiar streets and then back to the dorm.

Somehow still alive.

I may not have slept well that night… or the next few.

So there you have it, The Stupidest thing I have ever done. My last good deed, ever.

John McGuire

Dear _ _ _ ,

writing-letter

Dear _ _ _ ,

I hate writing you this letter. A decade ago, five years ago, it would have been unthinkable. I would have never thought I’d be writing these words. But the last few years have been hard for me, and I can no longer deny it:

I’m not in love with you anymore.

It happens. To everyone at some point. You fall in love. Hard. The object of your affection becomes the only thing you can think about. You can’t sleep. You can’t eat. You want to know absolutely everything about your love, inside and out. The time you spend together, well, it’s electrifying. Comforting. Glorious. You invest your emotions so wholly that if anything goes wrong, you feel it for a week.

Because for every cheer there is a rolling tear; for every pleasure, there is lingering pain.

But without the droughts, the showers wouldn’t be nearly as sweet.

You and I have been in this relationship for a very long time. To be honest, it’s been hard on me. You have not been kind. Sometimes you’ve been flat-out mean. There have of course been some amazing times, but more than anything you have been a cruel tease: every time I felt as if magic was going to happen, you yanked it away from me.

snoopy

But it’s not the pain that brings me to write this letter. As a wise and dashing dread pirate once told us: “Life is pain…anyone who says differently is selling something.”

No, the reason this long-overdue letter is being written now is simple.

We’ve changed.

It’s not you.

It’s not me.

It’s us.

I’m a guy that likes to arrange my thoughts in bullet points. I know that seems rather formal and cold given the delicate nature of this communication, but it’s the best way to explain how I feel. So the following is an itemized list of why we cannot be an…item…anymore.

1) You are both too violent and not violent enough.

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You are by your very nature a brute. A rampaging, violent freak that smells of blood and sweat. You thrive on carnage,  and whether it’s broken bones or crushing blows to the head, you know how to throw down. And every year you get stronger and you get faster and you get more intense and every time I watch you I’m afraid someone is going to get killed.

That shit used to turn me on.

But you’re starting to change your behavior. And I appreciate that. You’re doing things to curb this facet of your personality. You will never be a pacifist, but at least you are trying to be safe. More responsbile. You don’t want anyone to get seriously hurt.

It’s happened before. Remember Joe? You hurt him bad. Sterling, too. Poor Mike from Detroit was never the same. And what about Bo? Everybody knows about Bo. Especially Bo.

You are going to hurt people; that is unavoidable. But you are making great strides in stemming that tide. There’s only one problem…

It makes me less attracted to you.

I never thought I was into bad boys, but I guess I am. The less dangerous you get, the less interesting. Less fun. That edge was such a thrill and now you’re doing everything you can to blunt it.

And I hate myself for thinking that. You’re not doing anything wrong. You are being responsible. My brain knows that. But my heart…

My heart wants what it wants.

And, to my shame, it wants blood.

This one’s on me.

2) You’re kind of a thug.

michael-vick-piers-morgan-1-e1342634946901-520x436bigben062713-NFL-Patriots-Aaron-Hernandez-BR-G_20130627181852265_600_400

I’m no saint but I’ve never been arrested. A few traffic tickets but the only time I’ve ever been detained was in elementary school for talking in class.

But you, you’re trouble. Way badder of a boy even for the likes of me.

Theft. Drunk driving. Drugs. Domestic assault. Rape. Murder.

Remember that time you put a gun in your sweatpants and went to a club and accidently shot yourself? So, so, stupid. Who wears sweatpants to a club?

And the dogs? Really, man? Those poor dogs.

It’s hard to keep making excuses for you. To defend you to my friends. I have to accept it.

You’re a fucking thug. And I don’t think that’s going to change.

3) The Man upstairs.

Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders121202_wk13strickly_inside

This may not seem fair, but your religious views bother me. Not the fact that you have them, but that you display them so ostentatiously. How you thank the Lord for everything that goes right but never curse His name when things go wrong.

If there is a God, do you really think He’s your personal good luck charm, your magic genie you can rub for wishes? Do you think He gives a He-damn about these trivial things you pray about?

You probably do. Humility has never been one of your strong suits.

4) You’re kind of a racist.

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5) You’re such a cheat I can’t believe Miranda Lambert hasn’t killed you in a song yet.

Posted by Mike Florio on May 1, 2013, 7:02 AM EDT

The NFL bans HGH use.  The NFL still has no test in place to determine whether players are complying with this rule.  Not surprisingly, players still ignore the rule.

Dan Patrick mentions from time to time that a starting NFL quarterback privately told Patrick within the past two or three years that 60 percent of the league uses HGH.  Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that HGH use is “rampant.”

 

Everybody knows it but no one wants to talk about it. We all look the other way, myself included.

Sure, other guys cheat. Barry, Alex, that dude Lance. But while we’ve condemned them, no one ever accuses you, even though, by all accounts, you’re the worst of the bunch.

You’ll do anything to get what you want. The law, honor, and your health be damned.

It’s become obvious that you can’t even function without cheating. And no one seems to care. It’s disgusting and I can’t just sit idly by and perpetuate the illusion.

As someone who loves you, it has hurt so much to learn about how chronic your cheating has been. I feel betrayed. It’s almost enough for me to take a Louisville Slugger to both of your headlights.

 

 

 

6) You’re stuck in a fantasy world.

league-banner-102909

I played Dungeons & Dragons in high school. I have logged over a 100 hours on my copy of Skyrim and have started over so I can log another 100. I know what an owlbear is.

I know fantasy.

But your entire life has been taken over by fantasy, like a guy who just discovered Game of Thrones and now runs around draped in furs calling himself ‘King of the North’ (I do kind of wish I had named my Siberian Husky ‘Ghost’). You’ve built this alternate self that may resemble you, but it’s not you. It’s a twisted, Bizzaro version where it doesn’t matter what you do but how you do it. In this world, the means are king and the ends don’t mean a thing.

I used to visit this fantasy universe with you and I have to admit I enjoyed it for a while. But it really started affecting the actual time we spent together. I couldn’t tell which one of you I was with at any given time and you became a lot less enjoyable to be around. When I was playing in this fantasy, I did things, said things, thought things, cheered for things that I never would have in real life. It changed me. And I didn’t like it.

Some people only like the fantasy you. Don’t you get that? They don’t care who you really are, not in your heart. They only care about your measurements, reducing you to a set of sexy numbers. Do you really like being objectified like that?

I guess you do, because you have so embraced it as part of your personality that every year the line between fantasy and reality blurs a little more. Who cares why they love you? You’ll take any attention you can get. It doesn’t matter to you how you get it, does it?

Whore.

7) You drive people crazy.

 Junior-Seau-2012-Cover-of-Sports-IllustratedDave Duerson

And I don’t mean in a Fine Young Cannibals sort of way.

I mean in a life-destroying, brain-swelling, personality-changing, driving people to suicide sort of way.

I don’t have any jokes about this.

You know what you’ve done.

8) THIS.

21st Century Fox, Inc And FOX Sports 1 Rings The NASDAQ Stock Market Opening Bell

I mean, what the fuck?

9) There’s someone else.

 votto-reds-swing-2012-horiz-apjpg-f6fa32e27d58bc67phillips-barehand-grab-tribe-2012-apjpg-6720abb402b918c5

I have a confession. This whole time I’ve been with you, I’ve also been in love with someone else. A friend of yours, actually. Well, more of a rival. And while my love for you has waned over the years, my passion for the other has grown and grown to the point of eclipsing you entirely.

Look, me and this other guy, we’re just a better fit. He’s more laid back. Takes his time. He brings me the same ups and downs as you, but, while every bad day with you seems like a catastrophe, with him you just brush it off and try to be better the next day. He is a marathon and not a sprint and you know, deep down, I’m not a sprinter.

I just love him more than you. When he’s around, I don’t pay one lick of attention to you.

I know that must hurt to hear, but it’s the truth.

I’m sorry. It’s not me. It’s not you.

It’s us.

————

reggie-bush-sad

Don’t be so sad. Look, we can still be friends. We can still hang out on Sundays, but I can’t promise you the whole day. Our Monday night date will stand, but I probably won’t wake up looking forward to it. I don’t want you out of my life. I’ll still come to your party in February, but I won’t be on your arm. I just don’t feel that way about you anymore.

And don’t worry. There are literally tens of millions of people out there who will love you more than I ever could or did. You will never be alone.

This is not good-bye, but I am sorry.

I just don’t love you anymore.

Best wishes,

Chad

P.S. If you’re worried I’m going to hook up with your little brother, don’t worry. He’s more screwed up than you. At least all of your bullshit is above-board. Who knows what’s going on with him behind closed doors? Well, we all know. We just don’t talk about it.

Clearwater Chronicle

Clearwater 2013 View from WindowI recently made the long drive to Clearwater, Fl.  And no, it doesn’t mean I love George Zimmerman.

I made this little journey with two goals in mind. The first: to see an old friend who’d arrived in the States from Denmark. The second: to carve a few days out of my routine life and recapture some mojo for writing. Both, I think, proved successful.

Beach at twilight

I wish the water looked just like this for far longer than three minutes each night…

While walking the beach each morning, day, and night, I tried to pay better attention than during previous vacations. I picked my gaze up out of the water (which was too cold for swimming anyhow) and observed my surroundings. And wow, the things I saw:

  • On the first day, after a grueling round of sand 2v2 volleyball, I watched as a British family near the water argued. Ah, the Brits. Their colorful language attracted the attention of everyone within a half-mile. But the real action started when the mother walked right up to her foul-mouthed daughter and punched (not slapped) her right in the chops! No one could believe what had happened. The daughter howled. The dad…laughed. The mom unleashed a stream of profanities I haven’t heard since the last time I watched Snatch. It…was…awesome… More importantly, I can’t get enough of the way the Brits drop the F bomb
  • That night, I saw The Counselor. Now, without getting too deep in spoilers, I’ll just say I love it when the bad guys win. It’s rare in movies, but utterly realistic. The monologues delivered by several characters were deeply philosophical. No one would ever talk like that in real life, but it didn’t matter. Truth is truth, especially grim, hard truth. Movie Review – A
  • On the first night in my hotel, I arrived in my room on the top floor. I had an ocean view, just as requested. The dark water was spread out beneath my window, roiling beneath the stars. I thought to myself, “This is perfect. I’ll get tons of writing done tonight.” But…just as I sat down by the window, the hotel’s elephantine AC system kicked on atop the roof, making my room shake as though a helicopter were landing three feet above my head. I’m all for white noise, but this was absurd. “My night’s ruined,” I feared. “And besides, the concierge is a dead man.” And yet, as it turned out, I was able to tune out the sound of my room shaking and write an entire chapter for Hollow Empire, my joint venture with John McGuire. Strange indeed
Dark Water

The ocean. At night. What else do you need?

Falling Star over ClearwaterOther random events I observed while walking the city:

  • A homeless guy pretending to be a broke tourist. I’d seen him try his little game the previous day, so when he walked up to a young woman and said, “My wife and I are in town for the weekend, but we lost our credit cards. Do you think you could spare me some cash? She really needs her coffee,” I laughed a little bit inside. Sorry, homeless guy, you need to work on your approach. Begging for coffee money isn’t going to cut it
  • A woman with a giant (I mean enormous) tramp stamp of a volleyball. I’ve seen bad tattoos, and then I saw this. It was huge, as in actual-size huge. Just…no…
  • A dude at a Halloween (Best non-holiday holiday ever, btw) party dressed as Christian Grey. His costume: 50 grey-shaded sample paint cards from Home Depot duct-taped to an otherwise unremarkable shirt. While he didn’t win the best costume prize, he won the admiration of every woman at the party
  • Jesus playing Sweet Home Alabama on guitar…with an actual crown of thorns worn over a head full of dreadlocks…drinking Fruit Loop flavored vodka. Yes, really

What does any of this have to do with regaining  mojo for writing? In a nutshell: people-watching. Observe the interesting things people do, listen to the crazy things they say, and add the experience to the card catalogue in your brain. Or, if people-watching doesn’t inspire you, try walking along the ocean at night. If that doesn’t bring you peace, you may want to try vicodin.

Next week I get serious, delivering an excerpt from Dark Moon Daughter, Book II in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy.

Much love,

J Edward Neill

 

Makepeace Really is my Name

Hi there. Welcome to Tessera! I’m the artist of this creative guild, the one with the really cool last name. Makepeace isn’t my birth name, but it is by far the best surname I’ve ever had and let’s face it, I should have been born with this name. A week doesn’t go by when I haven’t received a comment about it’s validity or origin. I’ve almost got the spiel down: “Yes, that really is my name. It’s great isn’t it? I can’t take credit though, it was my ex’s name. It’s an old Quaker name. No, I’d never change it!” In all seriousness, it does suit me. I’ve had a passion for art and nature for as long as I can remember. Many of my fondest memories involve the outdoors–one of them is the photo to the right. You can still find me wandering the woods today, collecting feathers, stones and other odd bits of nature. My studio is full of a my collection.

Quite often, bits of my collection end up in my art, but once my imagination has a say you never know what you’re going to get. I am an avid reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy, with some horror on the side. Movies? Same genres. Television? Same genres. I do read (and watch) outside of those realms, but anything from the Avengers to Middle Earth will take precedent over a thriller. Don’t get me started on music. You probably wouldn’t believe how far my tastes swing (Classical to Linkin Park).

I’m also, as was pointed out earlier in the week, a Web-Warrior Princess. Technology doesn’t scare me. If you were to look at the testing they do in schools, my highest ranked subjects were the Humanities and Science. My favorite courses at university were Comparative Literature and Human Osteology. I love both, just another example of my broad interests and skills. I can create with a paint brush (both digital and physical) and I can create with HTML, CSS, and PHP.

I guess all of this combined makes me a tree-hugging geek with a wild imagination. I’m cool with that.

What does this mean for you readers of Tessera? Well. I’ll be sharing a lot of art, some of my process as it applies to creating art for a story, things that inspire me, photos from conventions (I’m going to one this weekend!), books on my nightstand (and comics too), and so much more. I’ll even share a story or two of my own. I don’t think of myself as a writer–I think about art and painting far more–but I do write the occasional piece of flash fiction. I might also occasionally share a flashback from the movies, stories, images and events of my childhood that shaped who I am today. The possibilities are endless.

 

Five Random Facts

1. My favorite things to draw as a young teen? Horses and Xenomorphs. Not together, but that would have been cool too!

2. My favorite things to paint nowadays? Birds and Faces.

Xenomorph by Amanda MakepeaceFirst Light Detail by Amanda Makepeace

3. Artists I listen to the most on my iPod? Bon Iver, Florence + The Machine, The Glitch Mob, Cry Monster Cry, Imagine Dragons, Of Monsters and Men and Lindsey Stirling.

4. What did I want to be when I grew up? It changed quite a few times. High on the list: Geologist, Marine Biologist, Forensic Anthropologist, and of course an artist and writer.

5. First and last comic I bought? First was Aliens: Earth War (Dark Horse) and the last I bought was Infinity: Part Three (Marvel).

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Because I Had To

Ernest-Hemmingway-quote1

For our first posts, we’re supposed to introduce ourselves. So here goes nothing.

My name is Chad and I write stuff. As of this very moment in time, I have written one (produced) feature film and one (self-) published novel. That would qualify me as a writer, for sure, but, at my age, not an especially successful or prolific one. (Although, to be fair, I only decided to try writing novels last year.)

Do I wish I had more movies under my belt? I believe that I will, even if it takes a while longer. And I know there will be more novels coming, because that’s 100% up to me, not producers and executives and financiers.

So has everything gone the way I’ve wanted in my writing career? Not even close. So many rejections, disappointments. So much time wasted on my part, waiting for something to happen as opposed to making it happen, hoping my talent could take care of things while ignoring the hard work it really takes. A ton of close calls. Films that almost had the money, then didn’t. Pitch meetings at major cable networks that went well, but not well enough. A movie that went to several film festivals, but not the right film festivals to get any kind of traction.

I’ve beat my head against the wall. I’ve cried. I’ve distracted myself with things like video games and politics and alcohol. I’ve fallen into several all-encompassing, crippling depressions, each of which threatened to cost me everything.

I’ve also quit. Flat-out quit. “Fuck this. I’m done. Kaput. Blowing this popsicle stand. This is a fool’s errand and I am not a fool.”

And then I would get up the next morning and continue on my errand.

Writing_Quote_20Like a fool.

Why?

Because I had to.

Third grade. (MUMBLE) years ago.

I missed a day of school. Sick. The first time I remember that happening. Don’t know what it was. Sore throat. 24 hour bug. Whatever. I missed a day of school.

I remember the odd feeling of coming back the next day and realizing the harsh truth that my teacher and classmates had had the nerve, the nerve, to go about the school day while I was gone. I know, right? They had gone to recess, done math problems, eaten sloppy joes, ALL WITHOUT ME!!!

Everyone has this feeling, right? This bizarre moment where you realize that life goes on without you? Just like before you were born. Just like after you die. Doesn’t matter who you are or what you do or how much money you make or how many children you sire, wars you wage, diseases you cure, or eternally beloved works of art you create, people will still play kickball when you’re gone.

Everyone, right? Or was this just an early warning sign of my adult onset egomania?

Anyway.

One thing that I should have been glad to miss while home sick was homework. But not that day. Because one of the assignments, I found out, was this:

Write a story about a monster coming to the classroom.

“But don’t worry about it, Chad,” my teacher, Mrs. Harrison, said. “It was just for fun. No one’s being graded on it. You can just sit and listen as I read all of the other kids’ stories.”

Mrs. Harrison then proceeded to read through my fellow students’ tales. I cannot testify as to the quality of their prose (although I’m sure it was lacking) because it was (MUMBLE) years ago, yes, but also because I wasn’t listening.

I was too busy furiously scribbling my own story, trying to get it done before the teacher finished reading the others.

Why?

Because I had to.

faulknerWhen Mrs. Harrison put down the last (I’m assuming) terrible attempt at fiction, I raised my hand, nearly pulling it out of the socket, two pieces of wide-ruled paper in my hand.

Instead of being angry at me for not listening to the other stories, she took mine and read it.

I won’t claim to recall the details of it. But I do know it involved some sort of bipedal beast that breathed fire and that he burned a hole in the ceiling of our classroom, through which fell the desk and body of the fifth grade teacher right above us, a woman who would, in two years, become my mortal enemy. That’s all I remember. Hole in ceiling. Teacher crashing down. I’m sure there was other stuff in there, too.

All I know is that it killed.

It got laughs. Genuine laughs. I had used names of other kids in the class. Killed my teacher, the teacher above, and the principal, I think, who came in to save us. It went over so well that my teacher had the fifth grade class above us, the one I had partially destroyed in my story, come down to our room so she could read the story to them.

And, that day, at an age far too young to decide on a career path, I did just that. I had never written for fun before but now I knew I would be doing it for the rest of my life.

Because I had to.

Throughout school, I kept writing. Proxy isn’t actually my first book. In elementary school, on another ‘writing for fun’ assignment, I got out my mom’s typewriter and wrote ten chapters (one page per chapter…barely), drew a cover (poorly), stapled it all together, and handed it to my teacher to read. It was about an alien invasion, I think.

But it is lost to the ages, like Sulla’s memoirs, Love’s Labour’s Won, Hemmingway’s suitcase, and Orson Welles’s cut of The Magnificent Ambersons.

I think it was called “Zap!”.

Through high school I wrote fantasy short stories, bad poetry (including a Gilgamesh by way of Poe epic), and even some Star Wars fan fiction before I knew there was such a thing as fan fiction. Some of that I still have and no one will ever read it.

In college I decided I wanted to write movies. So my attention shifted away from prose to screenwriting, although I did take some creative writing classes. But mostly I was trying to master (like anyone actually does that) the art of writing for the movies.

Then I moved to L.A.

I did all of this, never looking back, never getting a ‘fall-back’ degree, never considering failure to be an option, because, well…

Because I had to.

And why do I ‘have to’?

tumblr_mi884kaOEf1s07stbo1_400Because my mind is a chaotic slurry of words and ideas and philosophies and characters and voices and chemical imbalances and insecurities and useful knowledge and even more useless knowledge and writing is the only way to keep it at all under control. The only way to keep me sane. I can’t sleep at night if I don’t feel like I expelled enough words that day. The depressions I mentioned before? Guess what I wasn’t doing when those happened. Sometimes I’m not super-pleasant to be around when I’m writing, like most writers, but you should see me when I’m not. When I’m not writing I don’t feel whole and my brain, the loud, non-stop, schizophrenic motherfucker that he is, takes over. And that’s never pretty.

I write because I want to tell stories. To communicate with others. To say things. To make people laugh. To make them cry. And think. To reach for some sort of renown and success. To try to live forever.

Mostly, though, I have to write so that I can sleep at night.

So here I am, introducing myself to you on this new website, this new project I have embarked upon with some friends I have known for over 20 years, some of the only people who have read those high school stories that shall remain locked in the vault that is my hard drive. And every week I’ll be writing a blog post. Some will be short, some long. Some will be interesting, some maybe not so much. Some will be about writing. Some will be about sports, cinema, or television. I have many Hollywood stories, some of which I may share. I’ll be recommending double-bills of films that you may not have heard of, or at least have never seen the connection between. And a whole bunch of other stuff, I’m sure.

I will not be writing about politics or religion. I may do that on my own blog, at some point, or on Twitter, but we’ve decided to avoid that here at Téssera. Which is a good call.

Next week I’ll talk about something, although I’m not sure what. Quite possibly an old man’s rant about the state of Hollywood. I’ll also hopefully be putting up some short stories, screenplays, and other goodies in the weeks and months and years to come.

Writing_Quote_298My relationship with writing has evolved over the years. Vince Gilligan, genius creator of the dearly departed “Breaking Bad”, has often said, when asked if he enjoys writing, “No, but I enjoy having written.” I get that. I really do. Most of the time writing feels like work, because it is. But there are moments in it, when magic strikes, when you hit a zone and hours have passed and thousands of words have been belched out and you don’t even remember typing half of them, when it is still a lot of fun.

I still love it. I just love it in a different way these days. And I’m okay with that.

So in between raising my daughter, taking care of my dogs, maintaining my relationships with my friends and family, tearing my hair out over the Cincinnati Reds, trying to stay healthy, buying records, watching movies, reading history, and everything else that makes up my life, I will also be writing. Novels. Screenplays. Stories. Comics. Blog posts.

Writing. One way or another. For the rest of my life.

Because I–

Well, you know.

Chad J. Shonk
October 2013

PS – I’m also a stubborn, opinionated, and sometimes pretentious prick when it comes to film and writing and art in general. That will be apparent with next week’s blog post. I would apologize in advance, but I stand by every word, so… No apologies.