2017 in Retrospect: My Top 5 Theater Experiences

A theater, a good theater, has just an attractive enough marquee to draw us in, and its atmosphere is both rich in character and antiquated. Like any palace, there’s a regality that keeps us alert, so when the lights dim and the show overwhelms us, we’re awake for every second of the ride. The experience is intimate and overpowering, a rush of emotions drowning connecting us while a simultaneous veil of darkness isolates us from the rest of the audience.

It’s a distinct experience you can’t get at home (and not just because the screen is larger). Theaters have a carefully blended aroma of spilled soda, popcorn, and candy. The seats are slightly less comfortable, and you dare not lounge too freely in fear that you might catch the plague from whoever sat in that chair before you. And the sound!

For my 2017 yearly wrap-up, I decided to list my top 5 theater experiences. These are the ones that moved me.


Eric Joyner's Stellar Robot Art

What I’ve Been Spending So Much Time On: Rocket & H.I. 97 Destroy Everyone

For months now, I’ve been slowly writing another book. The working title is “Rocket & H.I. 97 Destroy Everyone”, and it’s meant to be as kitschy and weird as it sounds. My aim is to create something expansive and unique that people can have fun with. I love science fiction. I love its unique ideas, its bizarre flights of fantasy, and the pulpy, dime-store novel nature that’s been associated with the genre. Science fiction is freeing. You can go places without having to worry about being grounded, and if you’re lucky, other people will want to tag along.

With this latest project, I’ve been writing by hand once again, so the process has been long and meditative. I really like writing by hand. It forces the brain to slow down and adjust to the physical, mechanical nature of writing, making my brain hang on every idea, plot device, or character description. Frequently I’ll plan out part of the narrative weeks in advance, and when my hand finally reaches that point, it’s not what was originally envisioned weeks before. The structure’s changed. It’s embedded itself deeper in this world.

I’ve talked about my obsession with robots previously. Since that time, I’ve put together a completed draft of the book and have enclosed just a taste below. Fair warning, this “taste” is still a work-in-progress pulled from a second draft. It may not reflect the finished product at all.

Having said that, I hope you enjoy it, and I welcome any comments you may have.



Brazil Movie

Finding Time to Write

It’s become a regular habit of mine to write on my lunch break at the day job. Almost every weekday (aside from Wednesdays because that’s new comic book day), I take my hour in one of the empty conference rooms at the office and put pen to paper. I write until my fingers hurt.  I write until the big clock on the wall tells me it’s 1:59 pm.  I write until my brain’s burnt out from the adrenaline rush of cramming creativity into a one-hour block during the day when I’m not managing an email marketing campaign, polishing off some freelance project, making dinner, spending time with the wife, going through submissions for Literary Orphans, putting together the next issue of Literary Orphans, preparing lunch for tomorrow, or running an errand to keep the homestead in order.

Big exhale.

No one says being an adult is easy, and I’m not complaining that it isn’t. If anything, trying to build a career and a family, all while holding on to that dream of writing for an audience of more than one, has taught me some much-needed respect. When I go into one of those empty conference rooms each day for my lunch break, I don’t go in alone. There are a handful of others I occupy a creative space with. These others include aspiring authors and writers, all of whom are looking to breathe life into something creative and wholly their own during the humdrum of 9-to-5 living. They’re my support group, and together, we charge each other to find that creative spirit within ourselves.


Little Warrior Brother

New Book: Little Warrior Brother by Gabe Keith

One of the secret projects I’ve been involved with over the past year has been helping a good friend and a fellow writer complete his dream project. We’ve been through multiple drafts together, with me serving in an editorial capacity, providing what insight I can in order to help bring my friend’s military memoir to life. Today, I’m overjoyed to announce that Little Warrior Brother by Gabe Keith has finally been released to the public.

I still remember the first day Gabe told me about his project and about all of the ideas and things he wanted to talk about. It seemed like so long ago, and at the time, the project felt insurmountably huge! If you told me then that just over a year later, his book would be published and ready for readers, I wouldn’t have believed it. But Gabe’s dedication, determination, and enthusiasm energized him to work tirelessly, and before I knew it, drafts were already flooding my inbox.

Little Warrior Brother is nothing short of a passion project with high-minded ideals to convey the emotion, struggle, and drive of our armed servicemen and women all across the globe. It’s a book that strips itself of politics and lays the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq bare. Beautifully written, Little Warrior Brother will make you laugh, cry, and understand something outside of the civilian perspective.

You can find Little Warrior Brother in print and eBook at Amazon. Please consider liking and following Gabe Keith and his journey in bringing to life his military memoir from his time in Iraq on Facebook.

Little Warrior Brother by Gabe KeithSynopsis: Two young men fight two wars, decades apart – one in Iraq, his uncle in Vietnam. Following the nephew’s return, they visit their parallel stories, exploring the realities of war, the passing of childhood, and the soul of a soldier on the road to moving on.


Find out more about the author and his adventures in bringing this book to light at his personal website —

How To Start Collecting Movies

How to Start Collecting Movies: The Clutter-Free Method

If you’ve ever stepped into my living room, there’s one thing that you’ll notice right off the bat. I own a lot of movies. DVDs, Blurays, a few rare VHS films that have yet to get a proper transfer — I’ve got them in all styles and formats. These videos are mostly alphabetized, save for the television shows (which are strewn about a private media tower in the corner of the living room), and my collection has everything from terrible guilty pleasures to Criterion Collection masterpieces. It’s a buffet of personal tastes and historically important works, and the collection rarely decreases in size, which becomes a problem after a quarter century of collecting. It’s also an expensive habit, especially when you’re constantly upgrading your personal library to reflect the most recent digital transfers and restorations. Yet, it wasn’t until about a month ago, that I decided that there had to be a cheaper, better way to collect films. For those looking for a clutter-free method on how to start collecting movies, I found an answer that works for myself, and it costs almost nothing. 

How To Start Collecting Movies

My wife and I were having a discussion a while back about how many times we had seen some of our favorite movies. Though I’m prone to estimating in the hundreds and even thousands (I talk big), I had to confess that even with my absolute favorite movies, I probably only watched them maybe once or twice a year. It wasn’t enough viewings to get tired of these films, but it wasn’t too infrequent to where favorite scenes would start to fade from memory. In reality, at a rate of once or twice a year, I couldn’t have seen my favorite films hundreds or thousands of times. If I was lucky, I had seen them dozens of times, just enough to keep ’em fresh, and it was a convenience to have them lying around on a shelf somewhere, waiting for that once or twice a year visit.


The Nature of Adaptation: Form v Content

The Nature of Adaptation: Form v. Content

Hulu added the second season of Fargo to instant streaming recently, and my wife and I devoured it this past weekend. One episode in, and we were hooked. Fargo is an even blend of style, mystery, action, and dark Midwestern humor. It’s a show that uses style, editing, and composition to fully submerge its audience into the emotions of the sequence, rather than hanging its hat on a melodramatic narrative structure.

When we finished, I felt the need to immediately blurt out, “This is one of the best comic book adaptations I’ve ever seen.” This sounded silly and confusing in that Fargo isn’t adapted from a comic book. It carries the name of a popular Coen Brothers movie and crafts crime stories in the style and tone of the film. There were no comic books to be found on the set of the film, and none of the iconic characters from the world of comics even graced the background.

But that’s what makes this adaptation interesting. While Marvel and DC continue to make films using their popular licensed characters, the second season of Fargo is more of a comic book adaptation than either of the “cinematic universes” that the aforementioned companies are dumping into movie theaters.


The parasite lurking under the skin.

The Parasite Lurking Under the Skin


Facebook hasn’t been fun for me for about a year or more now. Though I try to bring some humor and carry a smile to my interactions with wonderful groups of friends, writers, and family members, what I see gets to me. The anger. The hatred. The rage. It’s all consuming, and I can feel it writhing around inside of me, worming its way through my organs like some sort of parasite battling for control of who I am.

I feel the urge to lash out, to get physical, to beat down these people posting the poorly written or heavily editorialized articles that are making me angry.

But I know this is wrong. My heart tells me that these people aren’t my enemies. They’re friends. Family. Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and so on. And if I give in, I’m allowing myself to contract the same parasite that’s enslaving them, the same techno-terror that has them spewing bile on social media.



Photos and the Gift of Memories

After every holiday meal, my grandmother used to round up everyone for the annual family photo. She’d open a new disposal camera that she had picked up from Walgreens the week before, stand everybody together, and use that grandmother voice to delegate orders until we all gave satisfactory smiles. Since we only finished eating only a few moments before, this always proved to be an arduous task. Our bellies were stuffed, and our bodies were sending signals that we needed to beach ourselves on a couch and fall asleep to the melodic malaise of a Lawrence Welk rerun.

I never understood this ritual, and the only meaning I ever took from it was how much I loathed taking photos. I’d see those holiday photos on display every time we visited my grandparents, and I’d think about how many spoonfuls of mashed potatoes were packed into that belly of mine. The gluttonous guilt was enough to make an absolute decree to never capture a memory on celluloid ever again.


Failure is a Good Thing

Failure is a Good Thing

In 2009, I graduated Western Illinois University with a Bachelor’s in English and a minor in Film and Print & Broadcast Media. I was a media junkie and a media jack-of-all-trades. That summer, I knew it was only a matter of time before I wrote a novel that blew everyone away.

Fast forward to 2011, and I self-published my first book. It was supposed to be an edgy, gritty, and existential coming-of-age story about some backwoods kid who spent most of his time consuming advertising. Some people told me that they genuinely enjoyed it, and others changed the topic when I asked them about it at social gatherings.

I was 23 at the time. After it released, I sat back and waited. For what? Ultimately, nothing. With my university degree in my belt, I spent a few years in a plateau. I was carrying around a piece of paper that said I had learned something, and in hindsight, I used it as an excuse to stop learning.


Derek Zoolander Magnum

Face It: You Look Good

One of the things no one ever tells you about being the editor of a literary magazine is that before every issue, you’ll spend a great deal of time staring at the faces of strangers. More often than not, the only interaction you’ve had with these people is a few emails regarding the acceptance of their stories. It’s very much a business transaction in that sense. They’ve wowed you with a stellar piece of writing, and in return, you’re eager to host and share this piece with the world.

Yet, the act of sending a photo to someone, even a bio photo, feels more personal, doesn’t it? It’s being asked to share something intimate of ours with a complete stranger, something that we judge and pick at and cover with makeup and cream because we’re constantly worried about how we look.

Many of us balk when we stare at ourselves in the mirror. We notice the little imperfections. The encroaching zit underneath the chin. The single nose hair peeking out of our left nostril. The barely visible unibrow connecting left eyebrow to right. It’s maddening, but it’s our daily burden to carry. We know we’ll never look as amazing as those people in the magazines, but we face the public regardless, weighed down by a sense of humility at our own physical imperfections.

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes cringe at that face in the mirror. Not every day, but it happens. I don’t like the skin underneath my jaw that threatens to dip below my chin. My face isn’t chiseled enough. It makes me feel ugly sometimes, as my body doesn’t feel like an accurate representation of my mental persona.

We’re harsh judges, and I would argue that we’re too harsh on ourselves.

Derek Zoolander Magnum

In every single one of those photos of strangers that comes into my inbox every other month, I can honestly say that we’re all looking good. We’re shining human specimens from all over the world, and I don’t see the imperfections some of us may be worried about.

I many not know you. I may not know when, where, or how you took that photo. I don’t even know if you doctored it a little bit (it’s okay if you did), but I do know that you look good. Seriously. You’re fine. Before every issue of Literary Orphans comes out, I upload some 30-odd pictures of strangers, and there’s not a bad looking person in the mix, including you.

Including me.