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Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Surprise!

1 Sep

Hello! If you’re reading this that means I’m no longer here. Sorry.

But what it does mean is that I’m now at a different location: www.caustccookies.com!

This is your surprise. You guys have inspired me to take this blog and bring it to the real world! It is now it’s own dedicated place, it’s own site! And the site has a whole bunch of goodies! Many of them will be coming to fruition within the next 48 hours, like the caustic cookie twitter account. Stuff like that.

There’s a forum, a webstore, and a bunch of other amazing things!

To WordPress: I love how awesome your platform is for starting out. It helped me get on my feet. It helped me get my start. I sincerely appreciate it.  And although I won’t be posting to wordpress anymore, I hope you know that this move could only be possible because of all the support of this community.

To the fans: this is yours just as much as it is mine. I hope you enjoy it!

Much love,



I am the Master of Electricity!

16 Aug

I write this confidently on my Macbook pro as my iPod plays my Pandora station bursting with auto-tuned and synthesized music. I am the Master of Electricity. I have…


Alright. Perhaps I should explain my power-trip of the power-strip.

See, today seemed to be going entirely my way when it came to electronics and electricity. I was packing my stuff away for college when I came across a hardly-used PSP my little brother owned. It was in great condition, buttons aren’t too jammed, battery works fine, but I’ve never seen him play it. I asked him why.

“I don’t know. I can’t get the internet to work. If you can than it’s yours.”

Cue a two-minute montage and wham! I am now the proud owner of a new PSP!

Sure enough that would be enough to classify it as a pretty awesome day. But no. No today, technology must have decided that it was time to temporarily halt being an inconsiderate douchebag and actually let me enjoy myself.

For weeks, this very computer was unable to accept disks and DVD’s. Normally, I really wouldn’t care; I could just look online for movies and entertainment. Except an issue arose when my criminology textbook was, unsurprisingly, entirely on a CD. So I was forced with having to put down about a hundred dollars or more to get that fixed. Until…

Until I managed to find a screwdriver, some tweezers, and a website full of helpful command prompts. Within 15 minutes, I had fixed the issue. Turns out, there was a tiny CD that was never full inserted. It was kind of just in a disk-drive limbo. So like technology Jesus, I rescued it from that netherworld and brought it back into the light of day. I was the salvation of my labored bank-account.

To top the day off, the sheer power of nature decided to just prove that electricity really was on my side. I was stepping out for my second run of the day and the skies were a little dark and gloomy. Oh well, no big deal, right? I’ve certainly run in worse. So I get started and there’s a little rumble. I mull it over and think about how much it would suck to come home with a messed up nervous system and half a head of smoldering hair. So I just kind of jogged it in. Ten seconds after I reached the safety of my garage, it started. The rain came down with the pummeling force of a hurricane and thunder was ringing off so frequently, Thor had to be on crack-cocaine. Lightning strikes were hurled down within 50 meters of where I decided to turn around. In case anyone cares to know, yes, 50 meters does qualify as “piss yourself proximity” in regards to lightning.

Hell, even the battery life for the Macbook has decided to cooperate with me. Normally it lasts all of about two hours by itself. It’s still holding strong after three. I’m flabbergasted. I’m amazed. I’ve run out of adjectives, I’m so speechless!

I half-expect tomorrow to be one of those days where my Spartan commits suicide during a forge creation session in Halo: Reach for the verifiable reason of “Fuck you Peter, that’s why.” So maybe t would be a great time to create an artificial intelligence program tonight, seeing my surely temporal success. Worse comes to worse: the robot apocalypse happens. And I’m positive I would be able to negotiate world peace with my “10 people exist in regards to understanding binary” joke.

(Ready for a bad joke to end the post?)

I mean, how could I possibly have a negative attitude with this electricity  involved? I’m just so positively energized about today!

Post: Honesty is the Best Policy

25 Jun

We writers are in a bit of a bind when it comes to expectations. We are expected to entertain, but society often demands us to inform. I personally think it’s funny that we have to be the mirror of the world and reflect the faults through an ultimately empty image, but that’s a post for another time. What I’m currently musing about, is the fact that we are told to entertain at all costs, but we are damned if we don’t properly inform.

I don’t think it’s a conscious stigma or burden placed upon us. I feel it’s just human nature. People want to lose themselves in a different reality- but not one so different that they feel truly alien. It’s exactly why 99% of extraterrestrials in books and movies have a spoken language and desires for expansion (in either knowledge or territory). Hell, it’s why they even look like us. Most of the time, they’re bipedal humanoids with only a few differences in proportion. Why can’t we just tell a science fiction story as it is in reality? The story would at least fill our quota for information. Well, because we all know that it’d be incredibly boring. What would we call it? “The Story of the Microbe that May (Perhaps) -Probably- Existed Beneath the Rust?” Even the title makes me want to fall asleep!

So what gives? Why is it that we’re demanded to tell the truth but society has such fickle demands when it comes to entertainment? I think this is something that a lot of writers overlook in the pursuit of good stories. See, if life were a rally, it would sound a lot like a grassroots political event. You’d have a bunch of people yelling “we want the truth!” and a heck of a lot more merely listening to the speeches and being entertained by their notions. Now imagine that this is a Tea-Party rally and just across the park is an Occupy demonstration. If they both manage to go for more than five minutes without starting a riot, I’d be questioning reality- but let’s pretend for this hypothetical scenario that they can co-exist. On opposite extremes, and on opposite sides of the park, they’re preaching two truths. Now, common sense says that only one of them can be right. But, at least in this case, common sense is wrong.

Many writers begin their careers under the false pretense that there is only one truth. Usually, it is the one that they happen to prescribe to, but that’s not egregious or wrong. That’s merely human nature. The fault comes when one is unable to accept the existence of other truths.

There is no such thing as the truth. There are merely perspective. Writers aren’t tasked with telling a facet to a single universal truth, we are tasked with telling a truth. We’re not particle physicists; imagine if you had to connect every single fictional work through some sort of unified literary theory. It’s not just improbable, it’s impossible. These books represent entire universes and realities endemically separate from each other. Sure, you can find patterns (I’m a huge proponent of “inter-textuality”) but aside from the occasional similarity, you can’t unify all works. So how else could you possibly tell the “truth” and simultaneously “entertain” unless they are both part of the same process?

The process, of course, being lying.

You have to, have to, need to lie. As a writer, there is no other way. Everything from fiction to articles, you have to put forward a reality that inherently fails to account for the totality of everything around you. Whether you realize it or not, by not creating a comprehensive encyclopedia filled with every possible paradigm, you are lying. You are omitting, you are being (in a sense) deceitful. Now, is this execrable? Of course not! This is the very foundation of writing! Stories, lies, and fantasies! These lies tell the story of a truth, just not THE truth- only when they disregard reality entirely do they become empty lies.

We as writers are tasked with seemingly conflicting mandates. Entertain the masses, yet tell them the truth. It is ironically through lies which we can fulfill this contract with the world. It just goes to show how seemingly paradoxical and wonderous writing can be. Honesty is the best policy, but deceit is the best means of implementation.

Post: Don’t be repetitive (or redundant for that matter).

4 Jun

A Humana advertisement appeared on my television screen today as I was watching a program about the history of American meats on the History Channel (I was almost surprised they didn’t do something on Alien Jerky) and I noticed something oddly peculiar about the commercial. Well, noticed isn’t exactly the correct word; it would have been incredible if I didn’t notice this interesting tidbit. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a link to the actual commercial to better show my point, but the spokesman said the word “veteran(s)”  roughly fifteen to twenty times in the sixty-second ad. To put things into perspective, a sixty-second ad will probably be about one or two-hundred words. Meaning that the density “Veteran” rivaled the number of people who believe that the world will be destroyed within their lifetime. The point is, the frequency of this word was way to high for the length of the commercial.

Which brings me to today’s post: repetition. Now, repeating something is one of the most prevalent ways of assertion. In fact, studies have shown that the more something is mentioned as fact, the more readily accepted it is. Even if said assertion makes no damn sense. But there comes a time where trying to convince turns into beating an audience over the head with a verbal stick. This is an issue which plagues many new authors, and the axiom of the practice are their collective insecurities. We’ve all been there. We had some great plan for a novel or a story with some incredible message hiding in the subtext. But we didn’t want just the educated to pick up on it, so we’d throw hint after hint until we were sure you’d get the picture.

Usually, this meant that the reader would end up drowning in hints. The finale was burdened with becoming a life boat for our poor readers. Unfortunately, it can be equated with searching for a man in the middle of the pacific… in a rowboat. The great truths of our work were overshadowed with all of the redundant build up.

Other times, it’s a word. I read an article about how Stephen King seemed to really favor a certain four letter word (which isn’t even in my top five explicits. Really Mr. King, you can do better than that word. There are so many better ones out there). The writer of the article expressed a certain disgust because the word  seemed to be tossed around haphazardly. However, the same word was tossed around quite a bit in The Things They Carried and no one really complained about the profanity. Perhaps because it was uniquely appropriate. But these specific cases will illustrate that repetition is really a case by case issue. Sometimes it accentuates a piece and makes it poignant. Others, you get so exhausted of seeing a word repeated you just want to write the author a list of synonyms.

I remember my mother once compiled a list of my “favorite words.” All of which I had successfully “both beaten and asphyxiated to death.” Amongst that list are the words “preponderance, duality, inherent, propagate” and many others. Notice how none of those are simple; words don’t need to be overtly simplistic to be redundant. I somehow managed to take advanced vocabulary and make it so droll that I even wanted to fall asleep reading the words.

That being said, don’t tip-toe around words either. There are times when I’m reading a truly excellent work and I notice that the author seemed to be dwelling on something minor. I swear, I once read a book with enough synonyms of “scary” to choke a night-mare (Hah! Get it?!). The word “scary” itself was used precisely twice. However, I was forced to endure the storm of “ghoulish, terrible, terrifying, frightening” adjectives. In this case, the author certainly wasn’t repetitive- but they sure as heck were redundant.

Redundancy is just as fatal to writing as unnecessary repetition. Imagine trying to immerse yourself in a good read about, say, a virtual reality, when the author can’t help but use a million different words for fake. Note: the link is guaranteed to not have a million different words for fake. It is similarly guaranteed to take you to an excellent science-fiction short story.

Could you imagine reading that story if it was just inundated with similar sentiments and words? The plot simply wouldn’t advance; it’d get caught upon little nuances that may or may not be important to the reader. It’d be a failure instead of being as successful as it is.

So how can we fix repetition and redundancy in our own writing? After all, we are trying to tell stories and many of us are just trying to be sure that the story is properly understood. Well, first, you need to have faith in the audience. Many beginners delude themselves into believing they can reach a universal audience. They point to people like Stephanie Meyer (shudder, shudder) and J.K. Rowling as proof that stories can have such an appeal. Unfortunately, this is simply not true. Although both franchises are obscenely lucrative, they both reach only a certain audience. How do I know this? Because I know several people who hate those series. They simply couldn’t get into the books. My girlfriend didn’t like Harry Potter. She’s an avid reader, she loves fantasy novels, but she just couldn’t get through the first book. (But of course, as luck would have it, she enjoyed Twilight. She will admit that the wording is poor, even if she enjoys the story. The story, obviously, isn’t my cup of tea- so we let our mutual dissension of the writing make our relationship stronger). Point being, is that neither of these writers intended their stories to be read by certain people. Do you think Meyer wanted the kind of people like the Oatmeal reading Twilight? Of course not. Do you think Rowling wanted intense biker dudes reading Harry Potter? No, it’s a kids book at heart. And they worded their stories to their audiences. By doing so, they didn’t have to worry as to whether or not their hints hit close to home; by writing to a specific group of people, they were able to pick certain words that they knew reverberated within that sub-culture. That way they didn’t have to drown their audiences in hints and words. They already knew what was going on from the get-go.

Second, it’s old advice but… murder your darlings. I once read in Stephen King’s On Writing that he shaves about 20% of the book after the primary edit. His basic formulae: if he likes it but his wife doesn’t understand it, it’s gone. I’m personally more stubborn than King, I only edited about 15% of my book out in the first edit, and another few hundred or so in the last few read-throughs. If you only choose what’s truly necessary, it’s essentially guaranteed that your point will be poignant. No need to tip-toe around clues or shove words down reader’s throats, your point will be known. You just need to have faith in your own diction.

As for the Humana commercial, I think that hiring an editor would have gone a long way.