Social Media Explored By A Social Media Luddite

© Udra11 | Dreamstime.com – Social media

By Chris Hutton

          I have been eager to write all week. The second half of my Martian short story Inflow is begging to be told. I’m also eager to cleanup my house, read some new books, and just spend a little time with my family. So of course I find myself engaged in an endless exploration of social media, and while I believe myself to have some modicum of talent in media, I award myself very few points for my social skills. I am blindly blundering into the world of Facebook, Twitter, and that biggest mystery: Instagram, all the while stumbling through the dark grasping and trying to feel my way back to safety, as if edging my way through some insane hall of mirrors. And yes I mixed metaphors there.

          Essentially, I know crap when it comes to social media. I can find my way around Photoshop and digital software, maybe do some basic web design, etc., but when it comes to posts, likes, tweets, and whatever other insane messages are sent into the social ether, I might as well be a Luddite.

          But building on a theme from partnerships to support networks to just plain networking, I inevitably find that if I want people to read my work, if I want a publisher to take me seriously, and, moreover, if I want to actually one day be a “professional” writer, then I have to not just wade into social media, but dive all the way in. In this age of self-publishing where one person’s serialized web novel, becomes a self-published book, and then a traditionally published novel, and a best-selling one at that (I’m looking at you Andy Weir and The Martian), or another person’s online fan fiction becomes a modern day pop culture phenomenon (Fifty Shades of Gray), I have to admit to myself that to get recognized now, you pretty much have to have a pre-built audience. How do you do that? Social media, of course.

          And apparently you can’t just set up an account and expect the readers to come to you. No, there’s real work to do.

          So, over the past three weeks, I’ve set to work building my brand. I’ve created a professional Facebook Page for myself as a writer, a Facebook page for my upcoming graphic novel, converted my unused Twitter account to my writing Twitter account, created an Instagram account, created a blog, and joined an online writing community. And even that is just the beginning.

          You can’t just have accounts. You have to learn the method of the medium. How do you engage on Facebook? On Twitter? On Instragram? What builds an audience? How do you even get an audience started? How do you keep them engaged once you have them?

          These are all important questions, and hell if they haven’t plagued me for most of September 2016. So I set down and thought about what type of writer I am. I’m a genre writer, focused on horror and science-fiction. I inserted that in my bios where I could, made sure my background imagery reflected it for each account, and have tried to include corresponding hashtags into my posts to draw in readers.

          Even then, content is king. Let’s say my readers know that I write character-focused horror and science-fiction with a love for exploring individual psychologies, especially atypical ones. Great, but the audience still has to have something to read.

          That leads me to editorial calendars. I can’t just generate content the day of a posting. No, I drafted out a map from September through December. I laid out general guidelines, and altered them as test engagements showed gaps in my programming. In the end I settled on the following:


Mondays – Promotion of a new story from me (which requires I write a story every week)


Tuesdays – I make recommendations on books or comics that I’ve enjoyed and hope that my audience will like, and post an image to Instagram that looks at the daily life of being a writer.


Wednesdays – I talk about events or comic book issues that are launching that might be similar to the topic matter I’m tackling in Arcas.


Thursdays – Generally these are news days. I scour the web for articles on Science, Technology, Science-Fiction, Horror – things my readers might like – and I post an image to Instagram that looks at the daily life of being a writer.


Fridays – I promote my latest blog about writing (one more thing I have to generate)


          And that’s the skeleton, because apparently one or two posts a day don’t cut it, since for some reason one’s entire audience is not online at the same time every day, and you have to hit numerous times in hopes that a fraction of your audience sees your posts. Thus I spread out those promotions at different times over every one of my professional channels. Beyond that, I plug in random article posts, I retweet things my audience might enjoy, and I look for random happenings that might fit my brand.

          Yet again, these posts have to vary. Some should include links, others just be insights. Some should have pictures, some not. The visual layout of the posts have to have variety, and flavor so as to not bore my audience and hit them over the head with the same thing again and again.

          So wonderful, I have a basic content plan that requires two original photos a week, one original story a week, one original blog a week, one recommendation a week, one event to promote a week, random news and support opportunities that I can promote, and anything else that I can think of, bearing in mind that all of it must be suitable to lovers of sci-fi or horror writing.

          Once again, however, you’re left with the issue of gaining that audience. So that brings me to my personal networks. I reached out through my personal Facebook to every contact that I have and invited them to my pages. I searched for friends on every channel that I’m using and followed them. I search repeatedly for fans of science-fiction, horror, comics, writing, reading, space, Mars, etc., looking for people I don’t know that might like my work, and I follow them. And on and on. And then I make sure that for my biggests posts, I also share them on my personal accounts directing people to my blog or my writing community, or my other professional pages, so people who missed the invite but might be interested can see my work.

          But following and reaching out to friends isn’t enough. You have to build an audience that is beyond your actual social sphere. So I respond to every message I receive over any channel. I call people out in posts, I look for opportunities to start social media conversations, and generally try to engage as directly as possible, wherever possible. I retweet, I like, I share, all of it, because I like the material, and because practically-speaking, that is the hard work necessary to engage and build an audience.

          Yet with every day that goes by, I learn more about each and every channel, and I realize I really know nothing. Apparently there are whole websites devoted to helping you find audiences, like this one: https://manageflitter.com/. You can find potential persons to follow, you can see who has followed you back and who hasn’t, what accounts are spam, etc., so that you can clean up your feeds – and that’s just for Twitter. Also, there’s this other thing with creating lists so that can view different twitter feeds by topic areas… I haven’t even started exploring that one yet.

          It looks as though, I’ve just hit the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

          Hell, for a closer look at twitter engagement alone, see this article by Dmitry Selemir.

          What’s the point of this, you ask? It’s not about what I’ve done. It’s about the part of writing that we as writers often forget, one of the many things we overlook. If we want to be read, we have to get our content out there, and we can’t wait for that big deal or that big break – we have to make it for ourselves. The days of the hermit writer, if they ever existed, seem to be no more. Yes, I can still engage my audience from the comfort of my writing cave, but I do have to engage them. We all do. What’s more, that audience doesn’t exist until we reach out and find it, craft it, mold it, and let people know that we exist. Thus I’m writing free stories for the first time, forgetting about traditional publishing, forgetting about waiting to be signed, and just putting out my work, and hoping that the audience likes it as much as I do. That’s what we have to do as writers to get read.

          So if you’re still struggling for your big break, like I am, please don’t wait for it. Start engaging. Delve into whatever social media networks you can, and have a plan. Have a brand. And follow it. Be reliable. Be varied. Promote your peers. Find your audience. Engage your audience. And give your audience content, because that is what we are here for – that is we do: create. Yes, it’s a lot of work to build a brand, and mine is only now starting, but if we want to be read, and not just by our significant others, friends, and family, then we have to put in the hours to get our work in front of the right eyes.

          I hope that this doesn’t seem too cynical, self-serving, or unauthentic. It’s not. I am struggling to build a brand while maintaining authenticity, avoiding automated follow programs and automated messaging programs, crafting all my posts myself, and meaning every word that I type. I hope that any writer building their brand is striving for that authentic engagement. But the reality is that we have to build an audience, and engage them, in order to ever be read. And that’s what I want – to be read. Plus, I really am bad at this social thing, so tackling social media is something that I have to methodically plan – not something that comes natural for me (but my social foibles are a topic for another day).

          So anyway, I hope this isn’t too much of a rambling mess, and that if you made it this far, that you found something useful in my journey, some nugget of wisdom or moderately decent advice. It has to be hidden in this post somewhere, right?

          Anyway, Good Luck, Everyone, and Happy Writing!

          And while we are on the topic of social media, follows and likes are always appreciated.



Facebook Writer Page
Facebook Arcas Page
Twitter
Instagram
Scriggler
Blog

          Finally, if you have any tips, let me know, because this is all still very new for me, and I’m just beating my head against the wall trying to figure it out. Thanks, again!

Inflow: Part 1

© Konart | Dreamstime.com – Humans on mars

By Chris Hutton

          Wyatt Alexander reclined, propping his feet up on one of the tables in the tiny mess hall and switching on his reader. He was on a break, a nice, extended break, enjoying the silence and hoping to catch up on some reading now that he had finished gorging himself on his lunch.

          The plant seemed empty today, or rather emptier than usual, adding to the pleasant silence. Most of the systems operated automatically and the outpost required only three personnel on shift at any given time, though more was always better. Unfortunately better also cost more, meaning minimal staffs tended to be the norm. With some doubling up, the plant frequently managed with only seven employees living on site, even though it had been built to house up to thirty within the living quarters at the center of Cooper’s Crater, so-called for the first colonist to set foot there, Horace Cooper.

          Cooper had always considered himself a failure, as his partner Sundeep Kembhavi beat him to the big goal, the now appropriately named Kembhavi Crater. Kembhavi spanned a diameter of roughly 2.75 kilometers, whereas Cooper on its southwestern rim spanned closer to a mere .75 kilometers in diameter. Now the two craters were best known as the home to the Kembhavi-Cooper Water Extraction, Recovery, and Treatment Plant, or KWERT Plant for idiots that preferred acronyms. Wyatt did not belong in this group.

          He couldn’t say for certain, but at last count he believed that they were down to nine current inhabitants, and felt pretty damn sure that there were only two on shift this morning, including himself, despite the three personnel minimum. Albeit, the outpost spanned over a kilometer and a half from the extraction site in the center of Kembhavi Crater to the living quarters and main office of operations up in Cooper, so he could have miscounted. Add in the recovery and treatment facilities on the southern slopes of Kembhavi and the outpost totaled over four kilometers in passageways, walkways, and stairways. In the end, even on a crowded day, he rarely ran into his coworkers.

          Wyatt preferred it that way. The solitude of the water plant had been a major draw for him when he had left Hoover and the other colonial cities of the Aeolis Mensae behind. As the seat of Curiosity Colony (a name that was just one in a long line of mistakes that dotted the history of Martian settlement), Hoover had been far too crowded for Wyatt’s temperament. Now he enjoyed the quiet of the plant, the only sounds being the gentle hum of the machinery and the distant echoes of water rippling through intakes in the treatment facilities.

          “Wyatt, come in.”

          His walkie talkie blared out at him from his utility belt. So much for silence.

          “Wyatt, here,” he said, holding up the walkie-talkie.

          “Give me a location?” Kelly Roth, the voice now interrupting Wyatt’s peace, helmed the main terminal this shift, the current eye in the sky. Wyatt liked Kelly well enough, but he hated working under her. She tended to micromanage.

          “I’m in the Mess,” Wyatt said. “What do you want?”

          “Break ended at eleven hundred.” Wyatt worked the early shift, starting at six hundred local time, meaning he got one break between ten hundred and eleven hundred. He glanced to the clock on the back wall of the Mess: 11:45.

          “Sure, on a good day.” God, he hated being questioned. “But we had a pressure malfunction on Line Eight for the Aeolis Planum return flow. I had a PRV stuck good and solid and had to wrench her loose. Dropped my bar and it fell off the walk. Took me a good fifteen minutes to haul my ass to tool storage and back to give her another go. Then I had to give the outflow pipe a good once over visual QA to make sure we hadn’t screwed up the return. Didn’t wrap up ‘til about ten after.”

          “Jesus, Wyatt. You’re supposed to report these things.”

          “True,” Wyatt paused. And he would have, had it actually happened. “But by the time I had it under control,” he continued, “all I could think about was grabbing some lunch. Completely slipped my mind. My bad, Kelly.”

          “I didn’t see anything pop up on the terminal.” Wyatt was afraid she would catch that. Much as he hated working under her, Kelly knew what she was doing.

          “Yeah, well, I don’t know, Kells. That’s why we keep a man on the floor I guess. Damn system’s already nearly a hundred. It’s breaking down like everything else in the colonies. We can’t rely on terminals alone.

          “True, but –”

          “– but what did you call me for, Kells.” He had to stop her before he slipped up in the lie.

          “Well, you’re not going to like this, seeing the morning you’re already having, but I’m afraid we’ve got a pressure warning on Hoover Inflow Two. We’re also reading a decreased water intake at the primary treatment tank out of the same pipe.”

          “Hell’s Bells.” Gone with the silence, gone with the extended break. Wyatt’s peaceful morning had just veered on a collision course to Shitville. He hated it, but it had actually come time to earn his keep. “Where at?” he asked, although he was afraid he already knew the answer.

          “Inflow Two out of Hoover. I just told you.”

          “Not that Kells. Specifically. Where’s the pressure build-up?”

          “Of course. One moment.”

          The line went silent, but Wyatt knew it wouldn’t last. He discarded the remnants of his lunch into the compost chute, and set his dishes in the sink, while he waited for Kelly to verify the pressure site. If she came back with the answer he expected he had a long journey ahead of him.

          Luckily Wyatt stayed in pretty good shape, despite a few extra pounds in the gut. Doing the rounds in the plant and checking on the physical operations kept him on his feet most of the day. He worked the floor. He always did. Maintenance. QA checks on gauges and the digital readings. Visual inspections of the intakes on the primary and secondary treatment tanks, checking screens, grit, sedimentation, the aeration tank, chlorination and dechlorination chambers, and the output stream. Basically he made sure shit got filtered out and pure H2O discharged into the return pipes, flowing back to the colonies to be used and abused.

          Since they were down to two personnel this shift, he was also slated to fit in some quality time with the water extraction units as well, checking the drill bits and the boreholes, performing status checks on the microwave beam performance, and other visual inspections on the condensation plate, and the collection tanks. Baker needed to get his ass back from the caverns of Hebrus Valles, honeymoon or no.

          A moment later, Kelly Roth returned, her voice blaring over the channel.

          “It’s reading pressure on the rise in the stretch between kilometer marker thirty-seven and thirty eight.”

          “Had to be thirty-seven.” Yep. He had been right. Damn, thirty-seven.

          “What? What’s so significant about kilometer thirty-seven?”

          Kelly had started at the plant three years ago and as such everyone still considered her new blood. She hadn’t been around long enough to know the recurring problem areas. Wyatt had twelve years on Kelly, and he’d seen his share of bad lines.

          “It’s the Red Horizon’s Stretch. Pipe should have been replaced proper sixty years ago.”

          Kelly didn’t speak for a moment, then finally chimed back in.

          “Red Horizon’s?”

          “It was a startup back when we still had newcomers butting in line for colonial transport. They were supposed to come down at the Gunjur spaceport but there was a cargo malfunction on atmospheric entry. They wobbled way off course and by the time they could straighten out the only flat grounds were in the Aeolis Mensae northeast of Hoover. There were no landing pads on that stretch, and they couldn’t come down too close to habitats, so they tried for an old-fashioned HDV landing with full retro-rockets. Thing came down too hard. Snapped the lander and fell, exploding on impact. Tore a new crater into the plain and ripped Hoover Inflow Two to shreds for a 500 meter stretch starting at kilometer marker thirty-seven.”

          “And the colonists?”

          “Say again.”

          “It was a colonist transport ship, right?”

          “Well, the damn thing exploded, Kells. They died. I mean, hell, this bastard is the modern Martian equivalent of the Hindenburg. What do they teach you in those schools down in Hebrus Valles?”

          “Well they sure as hell don’t teach us the ins and outs of Aeolis Mensae history. Cut me some slack.”

          “Yeah, sure.” To hell with slack. Kelly Roth had just jumped down considerably in Wyatt’s estimation. That came as a real shame, too, since he rarely found anyone to be of actual value. Oh well, onward with society’s descent into idiocy.

          “Look, we’re going to have to reduce the flow on Two and divert as much as possible to One and Three. Pressure build up means we’ve got a clog. It might still push through, but let’s reduce the pressure as much as we can in case it can’t. We don’t want to burst that line.”

          “Way to state the obvious. But what’s so different about this stretch?”

          “I don’t have time for a full-on history lesson here, but to sum it up, the colonies were growing fast and there was a material shortage that year. Someone got the bright idea to build the new pipe at a smaller diameter and attach it with an adaptor on either end to save raw material. Now we got ourselves a sixty-year-old bottleneck with a history of rupturing.”

          “And we’re just going to hope rerouting the water fixes the problem?”

          “No.” Wyatt shook his head. “No, apparently I’m heading out to get some sun today.”

          “Wait, you’re taking a rover?”

          “And hauling an overnight Hab. I’m going to test the soil for moisture. Determine if we already have a rupture or just a clog. I’ll know next steps once I’m there.”

          “I don’t know.”

          “Well, I do. Sign off for the rover and meet me at the Vehicle bay with the keys. And while you’re at it, sign off on an EVA suit and a ten-person inflatable as well.”

          “We don’t even have that many persons at Cooper right now.”

          “Nope. And hopefully we won’t need them. But if we do, we’ll call them in from Hoover Operations.”

          “You do know I’m in charge right now, right?”

          “Of course.” He didn’t bother to hide his distaste for the arrangement. Wyatt knew what he needed to do and couldn’t care less what anyone else had to say about it, in charge or not. He had always been a great people person – a real charmer.

          In this instance, however, he was right, even if an ass. If the line ruptured the whole colony might have to undergo water rations, and it wouldn’t stop there. The plant would have to divert a greater percentage of the extracted water back to Curiosity Colony, shorting the colonies on Aeolis Planum. There’d be international and interplanetary uproar. Curiosity came under American rule, but Aeolis Planum colonies fell under a mixture of Indian, Chinese, and Canadian governance. Hell, they even had the first independent state, The People’s Republic of Northern Aeolis.

Water rationing to the region would affect them all. Outflow Two was the mainline out of Curiosity Colony, one of the largest colonies on Mars, and a rupture there could cost forty-one megalitres of water per day. The vast quantity of water running through that line was the very reason it had never been shut down for a proper repair. No one wanted to be responsible for stopping that line from running. It was political suicide.

          “Okay, Wyatt. I’ll take your lead on this, but this better not be the same BS you were feeding me on the Aeolis Planum Outflow.”

          “You caught that did you?” Wyatt smiled. Historical gaps of knowledge aside, maybe Kells still deserved a little of his respect.

          “Yeah I caught that you lazy bastard. So go out there and fix this one up for me, and maybe I won’t write you up.”

          “Right-e-oh, boss.”

          Wyatt clipped the walkie back to his belt and grabbed his reader off the table. Before shutting it down he tapped over to a weather report. Summer had come to Equatorial Mars and it looked like he could expect temperatures to peak at 17 degrees Celsius today, though it would drop down to minus 70 overnight. He wasn’t concerned about the temperatures though. Not in a traditional Earth sense. His rover and his EVA suit could handle the fluctuation. No, there were bigger issues to worry about on Mars.

          With summer came the ever present threat of dust storms. Luckily today had a clear forecast. Tomorrow, however, did not look so promising. Warm surface temperatures meant trouble, and chances were high for a dust storm within the next 36 hours and rising every hour thereafter.

          Wyatt had his timetable. He’d have to move fast and hope that the damage at kilometer 37 was minimal. If not, he could be looking at repairing the pipeline in the thick of a major dust storm, which would be disastrous for the solar generators that powered the portable Hab, not to mention just a plain pain in his ass.

          He tapped off his reader, pocketed it, and began the trek back up to Cooper Crater. He hadn’t mentioned everything to Kelly yet. She would also have to sign out a portable excavator, and various testing equipment. And if he had to make the big call, if he had to shut down the water flow on Inflow Two, they were both about to be in a world of trouble. Ah, bureaucracy, he thought.

          He picked up pace, dreading what lay ahead, but determined to yank off that bandage as quickly as possible. Delay would do no one any good. And if the worst was to come, he might as well have at it already. Fifteen years was a good run at an outpost like the Kembhavi-Cooper Craters. It had to end sometime.

On to Part 2

Support Networks

Marielle Woods on set – one of the many creatives I admire and encourage you to support

          Last week I wrote about the value of partnerships in writing, from the partnership between a writer and a reader, to partnerships with editors, collaborators, and co-writers. This week I want to look at a similar topic: supporting the arts, which in itself is another type of partnership – a network of supporters partnering with a creative to help spread awareness for, and enable, their creative endeavors.

          While I address this network from the perspective of a writer I would argue that is equally applicable to any type of artist be he or she a musician, a painter, an illustrator, a writer, a director, a photographer… the list goes on. That being said, for ease I will primarily reference this type of network in so much as it supports writing since that is the perspective from which I have derived my experience with it. No offense to other creatives is intended.

          Often as a writer I find that I want to buckle down and write that next manuscript and push everything else to the periphery. That next work of fiction, that next story, dominates all else. The thought of investing my limited time to supporting others, diverting it from that primary focus of creation, can be easily cast aside as a luxury for another day. It is not that I do not want to support my peers so much as it is that I want to write and it is easy to forget all else while in that drive, especially when I also hold another full time job, am raising a young daughter, and, like everyone else, am simply juggling the typical responsibilities of everyday life.

          Currently, even with that drive to create, and multiple original stories battling for my attention, the majority of my writing time pours into blogs, tweets, Facebook posts, and other brand strategy documentation (a necessity to be discussed later). In other words, at the moment my writing is dominated by the business side of writing – building an audience, planning, proofing contracts, and prepping pitches and cover letters in attempts to be read. It is disheartening when so much valuable and often meager writing time is invested in the these necessities of what it is to be a modern writer instead of working on that latest work of fiction that is pounding at my skull demanding to burst forth and be heard. I imagine that many, if not all creatives, struggle with this balance.

          To cut to the chase (since I’ve already spent way too long in the build up), writers and other artists can easily get lost in the struggle for time and neglect supporting their peers.

          To my fellow artists and creatives, I urge you, don’t do this.

          Just as you might be struggling to get your work read, your music heard, or your film financed, so are your peers. We are all in this battle together and without our mutual support of each other the world will be robbed of many deserving voices fighting to be heard. We must support each other.

          This is easy advice to give, and likely to hear. It is much harder to live by it. Admittedly I have neglected this responsibility for many years, providing some support, but rarely with the fervor it deserves. Yet there is good reason to try to curb that tendency, to reach out, to network, and to prop each other up.

          Maybe that is simple to see, but I’ll sketch out a few of my quick, if verbose, thoughts on why we should make this effort.

1) Firstly, it comes back to last week’s discussion on the value of partnerships. As John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself.” We do not operate, nor benefit from the delusion that we operate, in isolation. We are better for the whole of our networks, our peers, our partners. These relationships challenge us, improve us, and make our work better. Our writing has little, if any, meaning, devoid of partnerships, of readers with whom we share our ideas. If we don’t support our peers, if we don’t build and encourage those connections, then we deprive ourselves of the benefit of those partnerships.

2) Secondly, pure and simple, we all need support and need to provide that support. Partnerships improve our work and that network brings in the value of being part of a larger whole, but even aside from being a part of that network, we can’t just act parasitically upon that relationship. For one, that type of behavior will be quickly noticed and the network will fall apart, but two, if we want our own creative work to reach an audience, we need to support the work of our peers, become a part of the larger network, and in so doing not only will we help our peers, but we open ourselves up to them, encouraging that support back. We become a part of the larger, we expand our audience, our reach, and we strengthen our relationships. With that strength support will come.

3) Again, along the lines of avoiding using your network parasitically, supporting that network also must come from a place beyond our own desire to feed off of it and benefit from it. I live by the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I don’t come to this from a religious place, it just is the heart of how I believe people and society should act. It is a moral commitment. If you appreciate the support of others to your own work, if you desire that support, how can you ask for it, or even deserve it, if you’re not being that positive change in the world and providing that support yourself without the expectation of it in return. Find people whose work you value and support it just as you would wish others would do for you.

4) My personal odd morality aside, it just feels good to help. Sometimes we can forget that. Perhaps you get bogged down in your work, you isolate yourself, and you forget to help your fellow creatives. It happens to all of us, but even just sharing a friend’s work, buying something they’ve written, or supporting their crowd-funding campaign, at least for me, invariably brings about a good feeling, a joy in the knowledge that you tried to help in whatever small way that you can.

5) As an added bonus, as you help more, as you give more without expecting, ironically enough you might just find yourself building future collaborations. That is the byproduct of a strong network, and those collaborations can lead to many exciting journeys. But if you don’t try, if you don’t immerse yourself amongst your peers, if you try to hide in your writer’s cave, you’ll miss out on all of those opportunities.

          So, anyway, hopefully I’ve made some sense amidst this rambling. Now get out there and support your peers. Maybe some karmic return will come your way, maybe it won’t, but at least you can feel good for trying.

          And on that note, it would be silly to discuss support networks without offering out some support of my own. So, here are some of my friends and colleagues whose work I admire greatly, that I encourage you to check out (legally (no torrents) – a matter that deserves its own blog at a later date), and hope that you enjoy.

Let’s go show some support for others trying to bring the world quality entertainment.

Collin Kelly:
          An amazing writer whom I had the pleasure of meeting many years ago in college, Collin Kelly writes with Jackson Lanzing, and together they created and contributed to numerous quality comic properties over the past few years. Please check out their work including:

Hactivist Vol. 1 & Vol 2.
Joyride
And work on various DC properties including Batman & Robin Eternal and Grayson.

          Like their work? Please follow Collin, Jackson, and their frequent collaborator, the excellent artist, Marcus To on Twitter: @cpkelly, @jacksonlanzing, @marcusto

JC Thomas
          JC is a comic artist with whom I have the pleasure of collaborating. I am ecstatic to have his support as an artist, and am constantly thrilled with his work.

Ninja Mouse
The Gates of Dawn
Twitter

Kiran Deol:
          Writer, Actress, Comedian, Documentarian, she is powerhouse talent, whose sharp wit and candor is always appreciated. If you can catch her stand-up, please do. Otherwise, follow her at the links below.

Twitter
Facebook

Marielle Woods
          Marielle is a talented producer and director, with whom I worked many jobs ago back in my reality television days. She is currently working on fund-raising for a short film, Do No Harm, examining the dilemmas of a combat medic attempting to hold onto his humanity while facing the dilemmas of war.

Indiegogo campaign
Vimeo channel
Twitter

Michael Shaw Fisher
          Michael Shaw Fisher and I attended the same writing program at USC, sharing many classes together. His writing has always proven to be brilliant, and he has since gone on to prove himself an amazing playwright and actor, whose productions have won awards year after year in the Hollywood Fringe Festival. If you ever have the chance to witness his work on stage, take it! His current production is SKULLDUGGERY: The Musical Prequel to Hamlet, which will run in Los Angeles September 30 – November 5, with previews September 23rd and 24th.

SKULLDUGGERY
Orgasmico Theatre Company

Michael Meinhart
          Michael and I became nemeses, and close friends, working on numerous marketing projects together between 2010 and 2013. He has a passion for his music and visual art that cannot be rivaled, and is the lead singer, songwriter, and frontman for Socionic. They are currenty finishing their Orenda Rises tour and will be playing again in Los Angeles at The Whiskey A Go Go on Saturday, October 15th.

http://socionicband.com
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Twitter
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http://socionic.bandcamp.com

Nadjib Assani
          Nadjib and I attended the same undergraduate program at North Carolina State University where I was lucky enough to witness some of his early work on his passion project, Legends of Onile. Working in both comics and sculpture he is crafting a beautiful tale worth your support.

Legends of Onile

Nate Ruegger
          Nate and I attended college together at the University of Southern California. He is a talented writer and director and I am always thankful to have him as a reader. He is currently in pre-production to direct a short horror film, Trust Me: A Witness Account of the Goatman. Learn more at:

https://nateruegger.com
Trust Me: A Witness Account of the Goatman
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Happy Writing, All!

Seeing is Believing

ID 68836553 © Wannipa Nuangwongsa | Dreamstime.com

By:
Christopher Opyr

          The closet door yawned open, a portal to the viscous dark of childhood nightmares. That gulf of monster-laden shadows thrust against the threshold clambering for an escape into Izzy’s room beyond, but try as it might that shadow took no viable form and remained bound in the casement of the unlit closet.

          Izzy – born Elizabeth, but self-proclaimed Izzy – did not fear the open door. She never had really, not like her stupid brother Jake. He cowered beneath his covers if his closet door was left even slightly ajar, and when that proved too little protection for him, he would run whining to mom and dad for help. Izzy knew better. The closet posed no danger. Not in and of itself. “No Fear,” had been her motto for as long as she could remember.

          She had realized years ago that closet monsters were not real, only some mass hysteria spread from child to child like the flu or the chicken pox, only lacking in reality similar to Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and God.

          Izzy had a strong, independent mind for a girl of a mere nine years of age. Her belief relied on the proof of sight, and with that burden unmet, myths both of childhood and adulthood fell away into her personal trash bin of her perceived falsehoods.

          She could remember the moment that she had lost her faith. She had been seven when her father had set her down after her grandfather’s “passing.” She hated that phrase even then. It did nothing to soften the blow – merely tried to mask the pain of the ugly reality, one that she needed to face. Still, her father had set her down and had explained to her how when a good person dies, they ascend to heaven and there their soul finds eternal peace. Izzy had asked how he knew that they were at peace, and he had quoted from the family Bible as his evidence, like he had many times before that night. That not holding with her way of thinking, Izzy pushed, asking if her father had ever heard back from someone after they died to hear their version of events. He had explained that wasn’t how belief worked, and that it didn’t require confirmation via ghostly visitations, but Izzy didn’t buy it. Without a direct visitation the whole affair came up no dice for her.

          Yet tonight, something new pulsed in the dark of the room. No, that wasn’t quite right. It pulsed in the dim light of her room. Like closet monsters, Izzy had never felt a fear of the dark either. She slept quite peacefully within that abyss. Jake’s late night visits to his parents’ room in efforts to escape his closet monster, however, had led to the recent purchase of brand new nightlights that were now spread throughout the house, shining like dim emergency beacons through the foyer and halls. They illuminated Jake’s room and cast aside his delusions of boogeymen, which perhaps was for the best, but her parents had taken it a step too far. They had installed a nightlight in the far corner of Izzy’s room as well, vanquishing the dark that she had once found so comforting. Now her room writhed with tangled webs of shadows, alive in a way that they had never been in the completeness of the previous dark.

          Cra-snap!

          Izzy jumped beneath her covers. That sound was new and dreadful, as if the very walls of her room were cracking open, spilling forth fresh shadows cast not by the pale illumination of the nightlight, but by some inner force of their own. They burst forth from some violent darkness existing in a place beyond her known truths – something creeping forth from her trash bin of falsehoods.

          She opened her mouth to speak, to call out for her father, but no words came. For once she needed help, and yet now she could not ask for it.

          That unfamiliar death grip took hold, squeezing tight and wrenching her insides. She tried again, but still could not find her voice. Only a small squeak escaped her lips.

          How could she let herself be so paralyzed? “No fear,” she reminded herself. She had to take action. She lowered her blankets ever so slowly and peered out into the shadow-filled room.

          Cra-Snap! The wall snapping sounded again. From the closet? Could it actually be coming from the closet?

          Izzy focused, squinting her eyes for a better view. Did the door just move? It seemed to waver as if just slowing to a stop. She held her gaze into the dark within, beyond the open door. Despite the dim glow of the nightlight, the shadows beyond that threshold could not be pierced, but remained a solid impenetrable black, with no hint of grays.

          “Boogeymen don’t exist,” she reminded herself. “No boogeymen, no closet monsters. It’s just in your imagination.”

          Still she locked eyes with that darkness unable to turn away. And that was almost her undoing.

          CRA-SNAP! Louder this time, and off to her right, in the furthest corner from the light.

          She turned in a panic, saw for the first time her own version of the boogeymen, and froze. Shadows danced and undulated along the walls of that darkest corner – fan blades, pillows, and silhouetted animals stretching in hideous contortions in a monstrous shadow puppet show.

          And at the center of that grotesque dancing menagerie, a crack spread along the wall, unlit, a living shadow, seeping out mist-like and crawling into existence like smoke billowing in from under a door, but where that door led Izzy could not fathom. Now in the light at last monsters had been born, called forth from fears that she had long suppressed and had pretended did not exist.

          At last she found her voice and she screamed.

          “Daddy?”

          “Mommy?”

          “Help?”

          She didn’t know what words spilled forth. An amalgamation of every cry of terror, a slurring of words and screams and guttural fear all sloshed together. She screamed and it had no form beyond terror, true terror birthed from a place beyond her beliefs.

          Moments passed, fast and yet impossibly slow, and the shadow thing crept further in from the crack in the wall, its dark mist solidifying into form, gaining an impossible dimensionality. Teddy bear shadows snapped shark-like jaws, and fan-blades dropped like guillotines, and the horror show played out, burning itself into her psyche.

          Izzy screamed again, only to realize with a croak and a painful wrenching at her throat that the she had never stopped screaming.

          The shadow form took shape – monstrous and massive and beyond comprehension. It reached out towards her, not with an arm, but some macabre deformity, a hideous imitation of form.

          Izzy shrank back into her covers, the mist-shadow catching on her hair, which sizzled and burnt at its touch. She patted out the embers of the burnt ends and fell back against her headboard.

          At last her door slammed open, and her father rushed in, silhouetted against the light of the hall.

          “Izzy…” he started, then stopped, frozen in place as he too saw the shadow thing, a childhood boogeyman, a thing beyond reality.

          Izzy could see the disbelief play out among the mixed emotions struggling for dominance within him. His face contorted with confusion, but then before he could settle into some understanding of what he now saw, he rushed forth.

          The shadow thing ignored him and grasped once more for Izzy. Its dark digits brushed her skin searing her cheek, and she felt true pain for the first time. It pressed upon her, and she knew that the shadow would soon consume her and take her to that place beyond the wall, that other outside, in the realm of falsehoods. As all sense of hope fled, as her bladder released and Izzy accepted that she would never know what it was to grow old, to be a teenager, or to fall in love – that she we would miss out on all the wonders of the years ahead – soft comforting arms lifted her from the bed and rushed her out from the shadow-filled room into the brightly lit-hall. She glanced up and found comfort as she locked eyes with her mother.

          As they fled, she looked back into her room. She saw her father with the shadow, having caught it in a bear hug, a hug that had wrestled it back just enough to allow her mother to carry her from the room and away from its grasp. She could hear Jake crying and knew he was there in the hall with her and her mother, but she did not see him. She could not look away from her father.

          As he held to the shadow beast, his arms slid into that darkness, his hug piercing its ephemeral form. Only her father did not so much pierce the shadow as it consumed him. Its misty tendrils wrapped about him, slid into his nostrils, his ears, his mouth, and its smoky form gave way as he slid inside of it. He burned, and he sizzled, and he screamed, and Izzy closed her eyes tight against that image. She had not gained a fear for the dark, but she had now learned a fear of light and its constant companion, its opposite, its shadow.

          Seeing was believing, and after what she had seen, her world of belief expanded and would haunt her in all the years that lay ahead. Every shadow would plague her, every snap in the night rip at her sanity. She would live, but she would always have that final image almost within reach, that vision of her father burning and merging and disappearing hauled into the shadow and seeping back into the crack beyond the reach of her nightlight.

          Her mother held her tight and she wept as she and her brother were hauled out into to the night, out from the horrors of that house, and into what… the safety of the street?

          She lifted her head from her mother’s shoulder and turned her tear-streaked face upwards. A bright moon shone down and bathed the street in its pale light. From every street lamp, every mailbox, every car, and even from herself the shadows stretched into the night, and Izzy screamed once more.

Why Go It Alone?

          For about six years I strove to make it as a writer virtually on my own. One could make an argument that it was a much longer stint than that if you count my college years (which is a different discussion entirely), but then one would be a real ass. Plenty of people spend nearly a decade in college and aren’t doctors. Seriously let’s not pick at this one.

          The point is I spent the majority of the past decade writing and sending my work out into the ether with no real luck, and that is if I found an avenue down which I could submit my writing at all. The hardest part of writing for me is, and likely always will be, getting my writing into someone else’s hands.

          You see that is the real crux of it. Many writers like myself like to believe that writing is a solitary thing, some dark art conjured forth in our hermit caves where the light of day is never seen, and the outside world plays no role. Unfortunately (or otherwise… I’m still debating on this one), writing is far less solitary than one might want to believe. At the very least one core partnership must exist: the writer and the reader.

          At the start that reader is likely a close friend, a significant other, colleagues in a writer’s group, or some combination thereof. But beyond the reader, a good editor is a critical partner for any writer – a partnership we often overlook to our own detriment. Add in the numerous partnerships necessary to realize one’s writing as a comic, a film, or television series, and the truth is that very few of us write completely alone even if much of the core work is done in isolation.

          With that being the case, why is it so many writers resist partnerships? I wish I had an answer. Maybe if I did I would have realized the value in partnerships a long time ago.

          Suffice to say, after years of working on solo projects, a few years back I finally opened up to the idea of partnerships. My colleague and friend, Marielle Woods, came to me with an idea for a near-future, science-fiction short. The amazing director that she is I knew that working together we could create something wonderful.

          I worked on outlines and drafts, collaborating with Marielle until we had a polished script ready for the festival circuit. We entered the script in a small sample of competitions for testing and while the script did not advance to finals it did catch the interest of a reader who later approached me regarding adapting the script into a graphic novel. Now, our script, Arcas, is being illustrated and published by the talented JC Thomas. This is not only a fortuitous outcome in that it helps us realize our story and distribute it to an audience, but also in that it is the start of another great partnership, one in which plans for subsequent adaptations are already being discussed.

          Flashing back to just a month after Marielle and I began working together, I started a direct writing partnership with my friend Jonathan Fischer, working on a separate science-fiction piece. We built a massive world full of beautifully rich characters and alternate histories, and he, with a talent for networking that has ever eluded me, began pitching the idea.

          And we were shot down.

          But, that pitch peaked interest and led us to developing five separate one-hour drama pitches, formalizing a legal writing partnership, and has paved the way towards pitching our multiple series’ ideas. Where it goes from there I cannot yet say, but I look forward to finding the answer.

          None of this is to say, ‘Look at me, and look at what I’m doing – isn’t it amazing?’ – at least not on a conscious level. The goal of this rant is simply this: years of going it alone may have honed my writing some, but it did little to progress my career. No one is a master of all trades. In particular, I am a shambles when it comes to networking and getting read. But partnerships, good partnerships, compensate for your weaknesses with the strengths of your partner and create a force greater than the sum of its parts.

          So if you’ve been trying to go it alone for a little too long, maybe it’s time you look to your friends and your colleagues and see if there just might be a future collaboration in the making. So far, I have no regrets.

          Happy writing!