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