Monday, July 27, 2015

The Do-It-Yourself Magazine For Idiots

Every writer dreams of having their work in a magazine. It's a great feeling; some editor that apparently knows what they're doing reads your work, says "Hey, this shit ain't half shitty," and puts it in print to see if other people think the same. At that moment, you're officially a legitimate, published writer.

There's a problem, though. Sometimes there's difficulty defining the word "magazine." Which complicates that whole "legitimate" thing.

See, pretty much any jackass can put out a piece of stapled-together word-vomit and call it a magazine. And ultimately, it's a lot like Internet dating: as long as it seems normal online, you won't find out if the person on the other end is an unemployed, mentally unstable catfish until it's too late.

We have some hilariously terrible horror stories in this regard. Including the birthplace of our homeless hero, Slim Dyson.

Sadly, it was not a high-paying skin rag like Hustler. But we'll get to that in a moment.

For you see, we'd been burned before. Or more specifically, Brandon had been burned before. When we both started getting serious about writing, he submitted some of his short horror stories to as many magazines as he could find, and got a good many acceptances. Some were decent Indie magazines. Others... well, others were clearly made in someone's mother's basement. One was so bad that it arrived in the mail as just a few folded pieces of printer paper with one of his stories on it. And no other stories.

It takes a special kind of asshole to just send you your own story printed out on copy paper.

At the bottom of the envelope was a business card with the name of the publisher and a scribbled note that said 'thanks for working with us'. It was either the most terribly executed scam in the world, or the most terribly executed legitimate business in the world. We can't decide which is sadder.

So as we said, we'd been burned before. That meant we were extra cautious pursuing a magazine, and so we were pleasantly surprised when we were put in contact with a so-called "literary magazine." It had a very professional looking website, and a moderately sized staff, and had specifically said it was in search of a humorous male perspective. We dazzled the editor-in-chief with Slim Dyson, our homeless hero's very first short story, and she wanted to pick us up as regular columnists. Our work would be featured in each issue. We'd be listed as staff. We'd even be paid! It sounded too good to be true... Probably because it was.

This is the first issue, which was delivered 3 months late.

Click to enlarge. Or don't. It doesn't get any better up close.
(We'd blur out the name of publication, but that would actually imply this is a real publication. So fuck them.)

Above, you can see Bryan pointing to a spelling error on the cover. The. Goddamn. Cover. But we're optimists. We thought, hey, maybe it was just the newbie intern's fault. You know, the one who accidentally designed the cover with sharpies and colored pencils like a bored middleschooler doodling in their mathbook. We thought, maybe the inside was better.

We were wrong. The inside was worse.

Everything was riddled with errors. There were typos in the stories. There were typos in the ads. Hell, even the typos had typos. And let's not forget the "artwork."

The goober you see above? The guy with the playdough face, no ears, no eyes, and a mullet? That's an autistic rendering of our protagonist, Slim Dyson...who apparently likes to walk around holding fistfuls of cash (as all homeless are prone to do). And yes, you're seeing that correctly; not only is the title written in sharpie, but it was cut off on the left side because...copy machines are hard?

Yup, we'd found ourselves (and poor Slim Dyson) imprisoned in a shit sandwich, like a lone piece of cheese, between a dozen other terrible stories written by our very vain "editor-in-chief." That was when we learned this wasn't a magazine. No, this was a vain attempt by said editor-in-chief to make herself famous. She printed these pieces of dog shit herself...until her plan to get famous backfired, she sold zero copies, and then dropped off the face of the earth. Oh, and no one was ever paid.

Seeing as how the glorious editor couldn't even afford an artist and illustrated everything herself (in that magical sharpie), I guess we aren't surprised she couldn't afford to pay us.

This is actual "artwork" from the magazine, and yes, you're reading that story title at the top correctly. 10 points if you guessed that the editor-in-chief wrote it...because she did.
So we moved on. No more bad print issues, we said! We've been burned before! So this time, when we found an online only magazine run by young, modern writers that had a ton of registered readers, we thought surely we'd struck e-gold.

For being online only, this magazine seemed pretty legit. They had 50,000 Likes on Facebook, and 50,000 followers on Twitter. Their site looked amazing, and already had a ton of content. We submitted some short stories to them, and they offered to post them all, with direct links to our blog and even to our books. Free shameless promotion from a popular magazine? Cha-ching!

Well...imagine our surprise when we didn't get but 5-10 clickthroughs to our blog from their front page posting of our stories, and needless to say, not a single book sale. That didn't seem very "popular" to us. Hell, we've had over 10 clickthroughs just from a random blog friend mentioning our name in passing.

But that wasn't the ridiculous part. No, this magazine gets a dishonorable mention because only weeks after posting our stories, they approached us and asked if we wanted to try a new marketing campaign they were running, where for the LOW, LOW PRICE OF $2,000 we could advertise our books through their magazine. Which, you know, already went so well with our front page posted short stories, so why not keep the ball rolling?

The conversation Bryan had with their "CEO"*, a bimbo named Candi, was laughable.

*She's the CEO of a magazine much the same way either of us is the CEO of a publishing company

We told Candi where to shove it, along with her website and its 50,000 purchased Facebook Likes. That's where its popularity came from, by the way, was through buying fake Likes. You can tell because they would post a status, link, or picture and get 2-3 Likes... or they could post one of our stories and get maybe 10 clicks... which is a little low for 50,000 "fans", don't you think? Even my racist uncle's long-winded Facebook status on "the homosexuals" gets more Likes than that.

Candi went on to promote her own book through this "service", mind you, and based on Amazon sales rankings we would estimate that she sold roughly 2-3 books. Totally worth it!

Her site has since been shut down and has read "under construction!" for almost a year now.

And so that's the story of why we don't submit stories to Indie magazines anymore. Because if we wanted to staple some printer paper together and crayon up a cover and distribute it to three people while spending an ungodly amount of money that we don't have, we could do that our fucking selves.

Cheers and stay classy, friends,

Music: Waylon Jennings
Beer: Big Choice Poblano Stout

Monday, July 20, 2015

We Are... The Shutter Uppers

Superpowers are a funny thing. One day you're just going along, living your life like normal, and then BAM!, out of nowhere, you discover that you have the ability to do something nobody else seems to be able to do. Like being able to fly through the sky like an eagle. Or climb walls like a human spider. Or not drive your car like a complete asshole. And as it just so happens, the both of us recently realized we had superpowers too. Twin superpowers. Bryan found out about his while at the grocery store, during a very common, everyday occurrence.

You know the scenario. You're in line at the grocery store, and someone's spawn starts wailing.

And Mom or Dad isn't doing a damn thing.

Meanwhile, everyone else is just pretending like it doesn't exist, even though they're all making "constipated face" because they're so damn annoyed. Yet they remain silent and do nothing.

They need someone to step in and save the day. They need a hero. So that's when Bryan transforms into his superhero alter ego.

The villain, outmatched and outwitted, usually flees.

And not soon after, the people of the city offer their praise and their thanks to our brave, selfless hero.

As long as rude children are making a scene in public and no one is doing anything about it, Bratman will be there to save the day by asking the parents to please control them. Bratman is not a violent superhero, but if push comes to shove, he will bring out the wooden spoon and the flip flop.

His fight is an uphill battle, but thankfully he's not alone.

You see, Brandon has the exact same superpowers, but they were not born of the grocery store; nay, they were born in the movie theater, during yet another common occurrence.

*Minions are a registered trademark of the Hostess Brands Bakery.

But you know what invariably happens. Some numbnuts in the 5 to 25-year-old age bracket pops up in front of you and not only are they talking obnoxiously, but they're using their cellphone during the whole movie, the light of which is so bright in the darkness that it can melt retinas.

The entire theater becomes terrorized by this visual and auditory assault, but everyone is powerless to stop him. Or... at least it seems like that, because no one will do or say anything. That's when Brandon transforms to save the day.

Brandon will verbally thwart this villain, sure, but his true strength is the lingering, scornful glance that comes after, in which he stares down his foe into silent submission, as if to say, "Come on, dude, seriously?"

Staredevil always gives his foes a literal browbeating.

Little known fact about the Staredevil: as a child he was blinded by the nuclear iPhone screen that killed his parents during a showing of Ghostbusters II in 1989. Ever since then he's been on an unstoppable path of vengeance.

Ultimately, the two of us may not be the superheroes that this city wants, but we're certainly the superheroes that it needs.

For some reason, the two of us have found that our superpowers really are...sadly...sort of unique. It seems like (where we live anyway) people are so damn afraid to speak up and ask their fellow man (or woman) to not be inconsiderate assholes. Why is it that people are so willing to put up with the idiotic shenanigans of the 'entitled twat' population? Is it like that where you live? Do you have any similar superpowers?

Cheers and stay classy, friends,

Music: R.E.M (Superman)
Beer: Myrcenary

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Sacrament of the Holy Hot Dog

Hey guys. Bryan here. It's no secret that my wife likes to volunteer. She has a huge heart and enjoys helping others in every way she can... which I think is just her way of canceling out the terrible things that I do on a regular basis.

But finding a good volunteer program is hard. Not because it's difficult to become a volunteer, but because many of the organizations here are run by churches. Which is fine, except many of them try to push their church and their beliefs onto their volunteers, going so far as to either reject or guilt trip their volunteers simply for not being diehard churchgoers.

Perhaps the worst of these so-called volunteer programs was an organization loosely called "Hot Dogs for the Homeless." The premise was simple: every weekend, the group met down at the Denver Rescue Mission* to feed the homeless.

*Fun fact: this is actually the location where our Slim Dyson novel was set, and Slim's rotating home away from home

Everyone's job was to hand out hot dogs and refreshments to the homeless people (there were hundreds), and to talk to them. Just make them feel cared about. Well... that's what the organizers said. What they really meant was "preach about Jesus until their ears fall off." Which my wife did not want to do.

So every weekend, each homeless person was given a hot dog and then preached to by morons that have no business spouting anything about life lessons, while the homeless relented and listened because hey, at least I get free food. Basically a captive audience in the most shitty, degrading way possible. "I'm feeding you, so now you HAVE to listen about Jesus." That might sound exaggerated, but that really was the way it was spun.

Everything about them was aggressive. The way they preached to the homeless: in not so many words insinuating that if they didn't turn to Jesus RIGHT NOW they'd be homeless forever and die. The way they preached on their Facebook pages: "Look at me, here's 106 pictures of last night's event! I'm being a good person! Do you see me being a good person? Aren't I good? VALIDATE ME!" And even the way they preached to my wife: "We're starting to get really concerned about you. You NEED to come to our church to get the 'full experience', otherwise you're just a half-assed heathen*".

*Incidentally, Half-assed Heathen is the name of my upcoming Indie electronica project

And it didn't help that they were every bit as stupid as they were stubborn. One night, while serving hot dogs, one of the homeless wobbled up to them, muttered weakly, "Please help," and then collapsed on the street and started seizing violently. This was how everyone responded.

My wife: Somebody call an ambulance!
The idiot woman running this thing: No, stand back! Nobody call anyone! I'm going to pray for him until he stops dying!
Some other moron: I know, let's ALL pray for him, loudly, like an obnoxious Indian war dance! Chanting nonsense certainly trumps calling trained medical professionals!

I wish I was kidding about that. That really happened, and if an ambulance hadn't arrived shortly afterwards, that poor guy probably would have been toast.

Needless to say, the wife stopped going. Ultimately, she chose staying home and doing nothing over going out to help people and spending 4 hours getting incessantly harped at by all of the organizers for not sharing their every exact opinion or going to their church. Which is not just sad but infuriating.

You can't just hold someone who's starving hostage with a cheap piece of food and scream at them about Jesus until they believe, anymore than I can point a gun to your head and force you to read one of our books until you tell me you love it. I wish I could. That'd be awesome for book sales. But I also know that's not how life works.

But, you know, if you want to eat The Sensationally Absurd Life and Times of Slim Dyson on your own free will, it's a pretty damn good novel that humanizes the homeless community, starring a positive, happy-go-lucky homeless writer whose only want is to write. Or you could read it. That's good too.

Regardless, if I'm ever sick or feeling down, please do pray for me. I appreciate it. But if I've just been shot in the abdomen by a double-barrel shotgun and my insides are oozing onto the outside, then for God's sake, don't pray for me. Call a fucking ambulance.

Cheers and stay classy, friends,
Bryan (and Brandon)

Music: Dustin Tebbutt
Beer: Big Choice Poblano Stout

(A big thanks to Riot Kitty for reminding me of these ridiculous people)