Thursday, February 12, 2015

Intangible Beverages - by Allie Burke

I’m not supposed to drink coffee.

That is a thing the universe would have me believe.

Schizophrenia, specifically paranoid schizophrenia—an illness I was diagnosed with when I was twenty-five—is attached to every anxiety disorder there ever was, most commonly by the mentally ill themselves.

They just love to label me with their definition of crazy.

I used to have these panic attacks in the middle of the night, but once my mother found out about them from the babysitter, she was all like oh, that’s weird, here’s your money, and I’ll see you next week. I was twelve years old. I used to wake up in the middle of the night crying, swearing I couldn’t breathe, but I was twelve years old. What the fuck do I know about panic attacks? I was a stupid child and we didn’t have Google. I used to think Wisconsin was its own country.

It could have been, but that issue went away when I started telling my brain that anxiety is not a real thing, so, no panic attacks for this twelve plus fourteen-year-old.

Uppers, in most cases, have an undesirable effect on the souls suffering (I hate that word) from anxiety, and caffeine is the most brutal offender of them all. If you have anxiety don’t fucking drink caffeine. It’s very simple.

If I had a dollar for every person with anxiety who refused to comply with that recommendation when they asked me to fucking help them, I would have a lot of money, but not as much as I would have for every empathy statement shoved down my throat for my “anxiety”.

I know your anxiety is really bad and I’m so sorry you have to go through that.  

Hey, thanks, but I don’t have anxiety. I have schizophrenia. There is a difference, you ignorant dick.

I guess if I perceived coffee to be tangible like a thing you have to put in this cup in the morning in order to not be an asshole, this sentiment of labeling me with the wrong things would not bother me so much. But if it was that tangible thing, I probably wouldn’t drink it because coffee makes me really sleepy and I usually have a cup of it that a friend bought me at two o’clock in the morning on a Saturday just before I’m asked what world peace would look like or whether I think the parallels of the universe are ruled by fate or the choices of the humans taking up residence in it.

(Answer is fate, by the way.)

A friend once told me that masturbation was a need and sex was an experience. Mental fulfillment versus physical euphoria.

Coffee is kind of like that. I mean, yeah, I could make a cup of it in the Keurig every morning (I do do that, but I only drink it about ten percent of the time) (I waste a lot of coffee) or drive through Starbucks, but Starbucks has really shitty coffee. Why go for the vibrator in the drawer when there is a half-naked man on the couch?

The Los Angeles coffee experience is a fantastical exploitation of that article you read claiming people with higher IQs stay up later (I don’t know if that’s true, but the odds are pretty damn telling). It demonstrates that, for all the shit the dumbass hipsters put us through, they actually have the brains to back their shit up.  They will go into the dynamics of explosives and explain the negative connotations associated with diacetyl as a flavor additive in propylene glycol. They will play a song from their iPhones that you have never heard before and they will quote Vonnegut. If you can’t keep up with them, you will never hear from them again. If you don’t drive a Prius, you will never hear from them again. And if the word Starbucks even comes out of your mouth, you will probably never hear from them again after they beat the shit out of you.

Coffee, as I know it, is a world that tastes better than it smells, with dim lights in an old dilapidated building across the street sparkling in your gaze. It’s a girl with a face made of plastic and a shirt advertising feminism over her huge tits, as the words “Ohmygosh I love Bukowski!” break from her lips and you just laugh because she is so stupid she doesn’t even know how stupid she is. It’s good sex. A film that can actually be called a film in this country or a weight lifted off your shoulders that you didn’t even know was there.

There is such a thing called decaf, you idiot.

About the Author

An American novelist, book critic, and magazine editor from Burbank, California, Allie Burke writes books she can’t find in the bookstore. Having been recognized as writing a “kickass book that defies the genre it’s in”, Allie writes with a prose that has been labeled poetic and ethereal.
Her life is a beautiful disaster, flowered with the harrowing existence of inherited eccentricity, a murderous family history, a faithful literature addiction, and the intricate darkness of true love. These are the enchanting experiences that inspire Allie’s fairytales.
From some coffee shop in Los Angeles, she is working on her next novel.
Visit Allie at  

–J.L. Gentry, Author of Syn: Fin 

About the Book

  From the author of the bestselling genre-defining Enchanters series, comes a new literary tour de force about Emily, a young woman balancing two worlds between her fingertips: the one that is real to her and the one that is real to everyone else…
The question is: which one will she choose?
    Never romanticizing what it means to be a twenty-something schizophrenic in a world broken by normalcy and half-baked fairytales, Allie Burke’s latest novel unites Emily and her world at large spanning from the streets of Russia, to the sheets of her bed, to the idiosyncratic comfort she gets from worlds that don’t exist at all.
          Woven with angst and darkness, bursting with heartache, Paper Souls tells of the irreparably damaged and broken, and how they survive.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"Yeah, But... Why Do You Write?"

Why do I write?

The question was the final line of an email exchange between myself and a ten-year-old. The plainness of it really struck me and I debated what sort of answer I should give - how much honesty was really called for...

Why do I write?

Is it for sales? Maybe for attention, reviews, or accolades? Respect of my peers or the reading public at large? Is it because I want to be on bookshelves all over the world and feel that I have, in some small way, contributed to the social whole?

I’ll have to be honest and admit that some of those actually sound kind of nice. Being able to support my family with my writing, making an impact on the world I live in, and having others take note of or enjoy my work would all be really fulfilling to me as a person. These are facts.

However, none of those are the reasons why I write. None of those are the core impetus that drives me to put words together, tell stories, or share my words and worlds with other people.

I have a problem. I have a difficulty connecting with people. I love communicating, and I often attempt a lot of it through social media, email, the phone, and – from time to time – I even do it in person. I also often feel as though I have failed miserably at it. I have an odd social anxiety. I panic inside. I get the sweaty palms and the nervous laughs that make any confidence I truly have seem to vanish to the perceptions of those I want to communicate with.

The only thing I've found that alleviates all those negatives is passion. If I feel passionately about something, I can really talk. I can be articulate and I can connect. I am greater in that than the actuality of who I am. That connection can be made with the things that I write. But, guess what? I fooled you again. While this is important, it’s not why I write.  It’s just the main reward that I appreciate and enjoy because of my writing.

Why, you may ask now, are you telling me all this? Why do I even care now, why you write, or why it matters to you that you do?

Fair questions. I’ll get to the point for you.

I am not a writer because I write. No. I write because I am a writer.

At the core of who I am there are emotions and thoughts. Those fill my brain with words. Sometimes those words are in my own voice; sometimes they come with other voices. I have to get them out of me. I have to write them down. It’s an imperative. I write because to not do so is to let my mind fill with words and voices and stories that garble and babble and scream. I write because it is how I stave off the madness of my own mind and its relentless attacks on itself.

I write. I share those words and voices and stories with other people out of a sincere desire to connect, and I’d like to be able to support my family with the earnings. I love reading reviews that tell me I've connected with a reader, and moreover I adore talking to people who have read something I've written and feel passionately about it; for good or bad. All of these are things that matter to me, and I do care about them… but why do I write? I write because I am a writer.

I am a writer… because of that, I write.

- Dennis Sharpe

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Who can love the unlovable?

Who can love the unlovable?

My dad left when I was five 
I didn’t understand it. 
What five-year-old does, right
I remember the fights
My mother and father screaming
As often as not it was about me 
Or something I had done 
I remember the ‘licks’ 
That’s what they were called in my home growing up
I would earn them for every misstep
Every mistake
Every misbehavior
All day long
They added up 
And then they were applied
En masse
At night before I could go to bed
Every night
My first memories were of going to bed
In pain and crying
That’s how it was
Just a fact of existence

When my dad was gone 
Discipline fell to my mom
To say that she was ill prepared 
Would be a gross understatement
Her father had beaten her as a child
She didn’t know any way to react
To a child that felt he was to blame
For a litany of instability in his home
Except to emotionally
And very physically
To lash out
Striking anything and everything close to her
Pushing an angry child
To hate
Life and himself
Even more than before

School was bullies and good grades
That weren’t ever quite good enough
Social awkwardness and anxiety
Were at a premium
Then came the relocations
Moving was just something that was done
Every year or so
New schools
New teachers
New bullies
New fights
Repeating pains
Growing disappointments
Same depressions and anxiety
Same withdrawal and building rage 

Accepting assault became the standard
When it was sexual
That just piled on
I deserved it
I was awkward
I was different
If my family didn’t even like me
Why should anyone else
Why should I
I hated the world
I hated me more

My own relocations
I was running
From anything that was difficult
From people who didn’t like me
From myself
And guess what
Big shock
It didn’t work
I tried new places with new people
I tried new clothes and new music
I tried reinventing the me everyone saw
The me inside was still damaged
Still broken
Still raging
Still in pain

Learning to love me
Loving the unlovable 
The worthless
The loser
Was hard
But it had to happen
A friend found me
The barrel of a gun in my mouth
So drunk I couldn’t stand
Blubbering and crying
That five year old acting his age
I showed who I was
Quite by accident
To someone outside myself
And they didn’t run
If she could see me
Address me
Then maybe
Just maybe, mind you
I could

It was a ten year journey 
From there to point
Where I could say I accepted me
And a few more years before
I could say like
Or love
But it happened
It’s real
I’m there
I still struggle
I have bad days
We all do
But if the unlovable
The disappointment
The throwaway
The worthless
If I can do it
If I can make it
If I can accept me
And care about me
Then nothing is hopeless
No one is hopeless

I told a part of my story
I cannot express
There aren’t words
That can be put together
In any combination
That can explain
How humbled and blown away I was
By the response I got
The words
That other people
Mostly strangers
Had thought out
To send to me
In reply to what I had shared
They were  kind
They were supportive
They were loving
Loving words
From a normally cold world
Loving words
To an downtrodden child
Loving words
To the unlovable
To me

I’m learning
And in some ways I’m slow at that
To accept
The kindness of others
Without second-guessing
Without suspicion of motive
It’s not easy
Overcoming my depression
My self-loathing
My anxiety
My social awkwardness
None are easy
They are a struggle
But if I can accept me
And be accepted
You can be accepted
No argument
If I can love me
And be loved
You can be loved
End of discussion
Who can love the unlovable

-Dennis Sharpe

Monday, January 26, 2015

I'll Never Tell...

*Trigger Warning* this post contains mature situations that may trigger some people/survivors of assault or abuse.

I don’t make a regular habit of addressing issues, but lately the news and social media keep hammering me with things that hit me hard emotionally, and I really have something to say. I’ve never written about these things, so this is all a bit raw.

When I was a kid, set your way back machine for 1989, I was a little bit more than a handful. My Dad left my life when I was five, and my mom worked full time and went to school, and me? Well, I went a little wild – left to my own devices. I was an avid maker of mix-tapes and reader of comic books. I was a 7th grader with a bus pass, and we lived in Tucson at the time, and the city was my playground. It was an over-all miserable time in my life, but I can look back on the bright spots of it fondly. Candy and Baseball cards from the Circle-K and used comics from Bookman’s – where I spent way too many afternoons reading books and magazines that I’d never pay for – it was before the days of the internet, and I read whatever I could, wherever I could.

The meat of this little tale though, has to do with my education. I lived in a low rent apartment complex and attended a school that both served to teach me more than the lessons that generally come wrapped in school books. I had lived in Southern Illinois, and Western Kentucky, before moving to Arizona, and I had dealt with a different sort of public school education before relocating to the South West. I was thoroughly unprepared, sheltered a bit maybe, for the Spanish language barrier. I was also completely unprepared for being hated for the color of my skin.

I was chased from the bus stop at my school, and in my neighborhood, more than a few times by angry children my age or older in groups, sometimes being pelted with rocks, other times being hit with worse things.

White was not a thing to be. Evidently neither was Asian-American or African-American. I had some Latino friends, but by and large, I found that most of the native Spanish speaking children had their own groups, cliques, and clubs, and the other races – the minorities – were seen as un-people.

I had never had a very racially diverse group of friends before in my life and suddenly my social circle was a melting pot. From African-America and Asian-American to Indian and Native American, we all shared a similar disdain from a majority populace that spoke a language we didn’t and that a majority of wanted to marginalize us at best or, in the worst cases, wanted to harm us for who we were.

I was hated in those situations, for nothing more than being present and being white.

That didn’t last, for me. It was an isolated incident in my life. It was a time and place that is filed away in my mind, that I can look back on and remember, but it isn’t my day to day experience anymore. Why? Because I learned different behaviors, to avoid those situations? Yes. Because I eventually moved away from there? Yes. Because kids grow up? Yes, that too.

But, I feel that living it was a positive experience for me. I had a time in my life when being white wasn’t a positive thing. Other people with other skin colors don’t get to have a limited exposure to this kind of treatment, and then get to “get away from it”. It’s their lives. It’s real. It’s every day. And it’s total bullsh*t.

I’ve seen far too many people talking about “white privilege” as a creation of minority groups. They talk about it like it’s some kind of fiction that people of other skin colors made up to somehow victimize white people. Guess what? That’s bullsh*t, too.

Fast forward a year, and there was another lesson for me. Something I never wanted to learn, but something life was going to teach me. I was a more rebellious and more difficult to deal with child. I was depressed in school, acting out at home, loud and obnoxious to those who cared about me, and lost in a world of books to hide from all others my age that I was too afraid to talk to. I was coming apart at the seams.

My mother, God love her, headed the advice of a pastor and had me sent to a Baptist boarding school. All of the students were going home for Christmas break. The only two left in the dorms were 8th grade me, and a popular, awesome, senior football player who told me of the wonders of the video game system in his room. He told me I should join him and play some games. We were going to be friends. My social stock was going to be on the rise, after break, and I got to play video games, too. Life was really looking up.

Once in his room he suggested, as I was playing, that we sit, and then lay on his bed. Then he said I should take off my shirt and he’d give me a back rub. I thought that was odd, but he was a big popular athlete guy, and I was a pudgy little 8th grader who was always alone with my books. Who was I to argue? Right?

Some crying and screaming and attempts to kick him off later, all the while with him telling me “Just let it happen. You’ll enjoy it.” He finally got sick of my fighting and just punched me again and again until I was spent and simply laid still and took what he wanted to do to me. I was numb. It hurt, and I was crying, but my mind just turned off. I stared at the word Nintendo until that was all I knew in the world – all I could wrap my mind around.

I was black and blue and bloody when it was over and he shoved me out of the room, telling me I needed to get a shower, and that if I told anyone my “ass was grass”. He had nothing to worry about. I wasn’t going to tell anyone. I was too embarrassed, and hated myself too much for letting that happen – for not being strong enough or smart enough to stop it or prevent it. I wasn’t telling anyone. What he gave me in that room that day was a lifetime of anger, and self—loathing, and misery. I did eventually ‘let it happen’. I didn’t ever ‘enjoy it’.  

(I’ve never written about this before and it never even occurred to me, until writing this down, that after this I completely stopped playing video games, and to this day still don’t have an interest in playing them.)

Where I live now, where I’m at in my life, as a thirty—something adult and father of three, is a completely different reality. I’m not afraid. I’m not a victim. I don’t have to deal with suspicion of my actions, or my motives, or my very presence, based solely on the fact that my skin in pale. I am a man, so I don’t have deal with the fear that women have to deal with every day, of becoming a victim of male-on-female violence simply for being born a gender that society has allowed (for far too long) to be mistreated. I am heterosexual, so I don’t have to worry about being the victim of a hate crime simply for expressing myself or my love for another person. These are privileges I enjoy, even if I didn’t ask for them, simply by being a straight white man. The thing is, these aren’t privileges. They are basic human rights – to live, and to love, and to exist without fear. That’s common sense, or at least I believe it should be. The hour has grown far too late, for us not to understand this, and not to eradicate the prejudices that promote racism, sexism, homophobia, and a scads of social injustices that people try to shelter, hide, obscure, and yet still promote through their daily life.

I’m not a fan of labels, personally. I never have been. I don’t see any other way to deal with this kind of bigotry though, other than to call it what it is, and by not being afraid to call it out when we see it – to not accept it. Call it what you will – racism, rape culture, gender inequality, homophobia, hate, lack of human compassion. It has to be called out, it has to shamed, and it has to be clearly and plainly shown that it is not acceptable. Not here. Not now. Not ever.

-Dennis Sharpe

Friday, January 16, 2015

State of the Witless

The big question… 
“So, Dennis,” you ask, “what are you up to?”

I’ll do my best to fill you in…

Well, besides trying to keep my children from going to all-out war with each other over who gets to pick more – from meals, to games, to entertainment. Peacekeeper is a full time job lately. Add that to the standard homework, and hygiene routines… and well… I wouldn't have it any other way. My little people are the best.

Personally, I've finally started watching Agent Carter, and while it doesn't quite live up to the quality of Captain America: the First Avenger, it is certainly better than a lot of modern television. 

Currently, I also need to catch up on How to get away with Murder. Have you seen it? It took me a little while to really get into, but once I did... totally hooked. It's scripted well, and the acting is well above what I've come to expect from modern television. You should check it out... if for no other reason than because Viola Davis... 'cause seriously, wow!

I’ve finished reading Rachel Thompson’s latest, Broken Places, and I’ll be writing up a review shortly. You should pick it up if you have the time. It’s not initially as stunning as her Broken Pieces, but it has a slow build power that is moving, and undeniable… most definitely worth the read! Trust me. The writing is simply amazing… you can read my review here.

Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that in my lackluster foray into the wonderful world of eBay, has begun to convince me that Paypal is the devil; and if not the devil, then certainly a high level minion. For the amount of information they need and all they require, they are certainly not in a hurry to help you out… or to actually be all that easy to use in any capacity that doesn't include taking you money out of your bank account. Then there are the issues with the ‘day job’ and the search for a newer better one… also, why does a company bother to have a human resources department if no one in it ever answers the phone? Enquiring minds want to know!

Sorry, I’m rambling… back to what I’m working on…

The Booktrope re-release of Blood & Spirits has been fun so far. The sales and reviews that have been generated have been positive. There’s even a giveaway that Krystal set up over at Goodreads for two paperback copies with the gorgeous new Shari Ryan designed cover.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Blood & Spirits by Dennis Sharpe

Blood & Spirits

by Dennis Sharpe

Giveaway ends February 08, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
I've been doing a ton of writing for the release, but I’m pleased with the effort… all my guest blog posts and interviews for my blog tour to promote Blood & Spirits are finished... save one. Isn't that always the way? The last thing on the list is the killer... (sigh)

I also just got in the big box of author copies of Blood & Spirits... I'm about to start signing a few of those and getting them out to my readers... I think I'm going to do a giveaway on my blog or my new website

What do you think? 3 signed copies in a giveaway? Sound good? I'm open to suggestions. 

I’m still happily, and regularly, promoting Wednesday. She’s gone far… and looks to go a lot further. She’s got an awesome listing on IFList, you can go see it here:

It's an awesome site that sets up books and games for film adaptations, and allows people to vote and show their support. Head over there and check it out!

I’m currently doing what I've decided is my ‘last pass’ edit on Distant Thunder. It is due with the editor soon, and I can’t wait to see what Shari Ryan comes up with for the cover for this one. Did I mention that this one will have a new editor? Her name is Katrina, and I can't wait to get to work with her. 

I really am chomping at the bit to get at it, with this book… there are so many more piling up behind it. 

Saturday Night To Infinity, Mitch Will vs. The Queen of Evil and Her Space Zombies!, Driving Rain, and Her Boy Friday... for starters...

A lot of late nights and coffee have added quite a bit to the sheer volume, but all of it will be out and available soon enough. I just dropped twelve more titles into the queue with Booktrope, and the team I've got there - Krystal, Shari, Samantha, Katrina, and Jesse – are awesome… and efficient. Look for a lot of good stuff in the very near future - starting with the re-release of Destroyer of Worlds, on January 14th, with yet another beautiful Shari Ryan cover. 

Click here to get it on Kindle

Any other questions? Just ask. I’ll have more news to post soon enough… trust me. 

Thanks for reading, as always,


Monday, January 12, 2015

Balancing Act: Not At All Balanced

Right now I have two novels very near completion. I have five blog posts and three interviews I'm working on for – among other things – a blog tour to promote the release of Blood & Spirits by Booktrope. I'm also trying to put together three cooperative projects that require my management and attention. This is not an uncommon workload, and often there is much more to be done. All of these things, these projects, are things that I handle on my lap top, and – internet connection willing – I manage to stay on top of it all… most days. Today, however, I lost my computer for twelve hours and some change, to streaming video of Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and the ever popular Phineas and Ferb.

No. I'm not an ADHD Cartoon junkie. Well, I might be, but today's loss of my laptop – and thus my productivity – was my obligation (and joy) as a parent. I have a seven year old daughter and a nine year old son whose time is just as precious as mine. Between family plans, activities, and the desire to play outside with friends… I accept all the time they have to give me. If that means that I write a little less, so be it. If that means I'm pushed a little closer to a deadline that I might or might not make, so be it.

Why would I put myself under such unnecessary stress? Because, to me, it is necessary.

I am a writer, an author and screenwriter, an on again/off again indie film maker, a creator. I spend my time split between gritty urban tales of vampires, ghosts, and zombies and science fiction realities set in modern day and off in distant futures.  I am that person, that creator, that writer… but I'm also 'Daddy'. That last title is the one I'm the most proud of, and the one that trumps all the others.

There are days, of course, when I'm "in the zone" and the words are flowing out of me a mile a minute. I get distant, lost to the worlds that I'm exploring with my characters and the emotional and often physical pains and triumphs they experience. On those days, it's – I'm not going to lie – a little painful to drop a scene in the middle to go make pasta, or settle an argument. My characters scream in my head, demanding that I tell their story – that I get their tale down in words immediately. But all that just has to wait and, no matter what, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I've been asked how I can balance being a (single?) parent and being a writer, and I never know quite what to say. I know how I live my life, but I don't know that I can conceive of any other way of doing business. That's not true, not entirely I suppose, but I couldn't handle it any other way. Not me, personally, I mean. I'm not one of those people who feels they should sit in judgment over others, and how they parent or don't. I just know that when I consider doing things differently for myself, it seems like torture, or worse… being a villain from a children's book (…or, yes, a cartoon).

So what if my coffee gets spilled a bit more than it would otherwise? What's the big deal if there are peanut butter finger prints on my mouse pad? Who cares if I know the names of most of the characters currently appearing on the Disney channel? Does it really matter if I need an extra couple of days to really lock down a scene? I find the answers in the faces of my kids… who I know are growing up fast, and who will – all too soon – be out on their own… kids, I'll miss every second. It's simple. One day my kids will have kids, and it will have been my responsibility to show them how to ensure that their kids know that they are vital, important, and loved. I don't intend to fail in that job. That job is the only career that matters to me… everything else is secondary.

Pink eye, head lice, 'he hit me… ON PURPOSE', and bad dreams that need snuggling are all plot points of greater magnitude than any I could create in fiction.  So, when it comes to balancing being a writer and being a dad, there really is no balance. If one were to put my writing on one side of a set of scales – knowing full well that from before my earliest memory, it was the only thing I ever really, deeply, passionately wanted to do – and set my kids on the other side of those scales… my kids would win out every single time, no contest.

Maybe one day I'll even be able to share some of my books with my younger children. My eldest is twenty-one now… almost twenty-two… and he has a kindle, and paperbacks, and I really love hearing his thoughts on my work, especially when he really likes something. I think that, however, is fodder for another conversation, on another day, though… no?

Ultimately, my point here is this: Of all the characters that I've created, or had a hand in creating, my kids (all three  even my oldest, who's out on his own and just got engaged) are the ones I'm the most invested in, the ones I care most about, and the ones whose stories really matter to me.