Has Writing Become an Antiquated Art Form?

Without getting into questions about the different forms and functions of writing (expository, narrative, social, creative) I would ask whether writing itself as an aesthetic form is dying.

In terms of business, we see it happening right before our eyes. The biggest publishers are merging, trying to keep their stables working, the only chain bookstore with shelf texts that is still standing is Barnes and Noble, and attendance in creative writing classes has dramatically dropped since, say, the early 90’s.

There used to be a hierarchy, not as organized as baseball, with single, double, and triple-A, yet a clearer ladder nonetheless. It sort of went small market, mid-range, and big-boy. I don’t say anything particularly new in mentioning that self-publishing has decimated the small market and mid-range markets, making it so you can’t really tell the author mills from the legitimate traditional guys trying to make a statement and a living. Still, I am more talking about the writing itself, and not so much the mechanisms used to move it (though let’s be clear, many of those “mechanisms” front as traditional publishers yet they are actually self-pubbers in disguise, offering absolutely no outreach…hoping you get together all your girlfriends, go to the Starbucks, open up your laptops, and get everyone in your extended circle to buy. What’s the novel about? Who gives a flying fuck. If we sign thousands of “writers” knowing each will alert her sewing circle in order to get 300 quick sales, we make as much in the end as a small traditional press. Our outreach? Here. I will send you a weekly newsletter talking about the best ways to open up more social media accounts).

Blogging has become so powerful, that it is more popular and accessible to mid range publicists than traditional and / or legitimate journals. Pay 2,000 for a publicist and he gets you blog posts, not interviews, (nor sales). He asks you to join the white noise, as the white noise has become the new literature, not your old fashioned dusty book.

The first thing agents and editors look into with new writers concerns their Facebook and Twitter accounts. How many followers? How many likes when you post about your product versus pictures of your cat, or your opinions about pipelines or foreign policy? Posting is more alluring than story writing. News and fake news and all the interpretations thereof have all become the new art.

Plainly, learning and communication has changed. In school, it is becoming more important to access information quickly and through more channels than synthesizing the information itself and inventing ideas. In terms of writing and selling, it is more important that the given author has developed personal outreach that evolves in tandem with people clicking in as opposed to offering an artistic product. Good novels are subtle, difficult pleasures one has to dig into. It seems the fluff on the outside however, has become the new statement.

I am lucky that I chose the horror genre. Or more accurately, I am fortunate that it chose me. I am ultimately blessed that I got to know S.T. Joshi a decade ago (has it been that long?) and thankful that Hippocampus, Centipede, and Night Shade took a chance on me. While all the noise is going on…all this fluff…the horror guys have stayed right where they were, standing their ground. The small market has become THE market for many horror writers, especially those like me who are staying away from the cliches and creating novels with a literary focus. You could say that we are like cockroaches. With everything going on and the landscape going through this strange reconstruction, we never die. We’re very much like heavy metal. You can’t kill it, even if you blog about it!

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Strange Views

I’m getting a shitload of strange views from China, Australia, UK, and Canada. Who the hell are you weird-ass people? Send me a comment or something.


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Blogging (or not) About the Process

I have decided that blogging about the process of writing is silly. I got off social media specifically to avoid trolls thinking they have suddenly become political and social philosophers we should listen to simply because they are shouting. I think that guest posting on blogs is a rabbit hole, and most of the time the information isn’t useful. No one cares about my hobbies, my dog, my anniversary, or a hot new recipe I got off the food channel. I know I don’t.

When it comes to blogging about the writing process itself, I tried that and looking back, I don’t like it. Isn’t the purpose of writing to create a world, or in terms of goals more writer-specific, to put our very best out there, edited, poured over, sculpted, and polished to the point that it better demonstrates our questions about socio-political issues and relevant psychological paradox? Why then would I blog about all the behind the scenes stuff I had to do to get there?

I have a blog here. I don’t know what I will blog about in the future, but if you want to know about my writing, buy the ever loving, mother-fucking books.

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La La Land, Thumbs Up?

I went and saw La La Land the other day, and I wanted to celebrate this Golden Globe winner (7 of them) as well as pose questions concerning some of the directorial choices. My son tells me that even my casual writing comes out like a “bogus scholarly article,’ so I will not brainstorm, organize, outline, or edit this. One sitting. Just freestyling!

I had mixed feelings all through the experience, though I will say that overall I felt uplifted and moved. The dialogue and story line worked in a general way, and I especially liked the two lead characters, Ryan Gosling playing the frustrated jazz pianist and Emma Stone, the young actress trying to make it in Hollywood. There were performance moments that actually bordered on brilliance, mostly through Stone, when trying out for different shows in different voices, only to be interrupted by directors and sound stage gophers who couldn’t have given a damn about her endeavor. First level, the “acting” was delivered as delicately proficient, and you couldn’t help but think someone within the story had to notice how good she was. Second level, when “interrupted,” Stone ever so achingly came out of “character” to show the dawning and repeated disappointment experienced by her base character, her eyes and her expression evolving with perfect timing and agony. Our hearts ached.

Gosling was interesting as well, and one could feel his muted anguish as he was forced to sell out again and again. The chemistry between Stone and Gosling worked for the most part, believable enough, some mild sparks, but the only time your heart really broke for them (or raced) was the break-up dinner scene, where Stone’s facial expressions, subtle yet intensive, stole the scene (similar to the auditions).

I also liked the ending. Not to play spoiler, there was some time displacement – fantasy threading that was shot incredibly well by writer/director Damien Chazelle, and I don’t think the “real” conclusion could have gone any other way.

On the flip side of the coin, besides the jazz performance scenes, the music was disappointing. There was a major lacking of build-up and climax, and most of the numbers were forgettable. I suppose subtlety was a theme here, and it seems the “low key” feeling throughout the piece was at least consistent, starting with said songs and affecting the mood and general movement of the action.

The problem was balance. I like Emma Stone, and I will probably hear a lot of shit about this, but I would argue that here she was miscast. First, in terms of superficial appeal, she presented as too thin, almost juvenile. While this particular actress has one of the most beautiful faces on the planet, her clothes literally hung off her, and when the background players, like her roommates, came off more appealing, something certainly felt wrong.

Moreover, Emma Stone can’t dance. While the musical numbers (again, aside from the jazz performance scenes) were rather luke-warm, we can almost chalk that up to the aforementioned theme of “cool” and more critically, the possibility that Chazelle was making a purposeful move away from the old style Broadway numbers that came off hyperbolic and melodramatic. Still, there was an attempt to celebrate “throwback,” the “old days,” not only in the dance styles favoring the likes of Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, and Debbie Reynolds, but the breath-taking sets and lighting. The importance of dexterity and complex composition “back in the day” is even delivered to us in straight exposition, as Gosling’s character voices over and again his desire to keep Jazz the way it was in its technical daring and improvisational brilliance.

Why then does Emma Stone fail to absolutely knock it out of the park during her routines with Gosling? The dance steps literally look like something out of a middle school ensemble, and I was amazed at how very unprofessional and simplistic it played…especially when Gosling’s piano chops are so agile and skillful people are still talking about it on Google, questioning whether the film makers somehow used a body double (they didn’t; it was Gosling).

My vote would have been to cast Julianne Hough in the lead role instead of Emma Stone. The former showed us that she could sing (way better than Stone) in the parody Rock of Ages, and has provided us unconditional proof of her dancing ability, not only in Ages, but on Dancing With the Stars. And though she looked a tad matronly with her hair back as a judge this season, I’ll bet at age 28, she would have been absolutely dazzling in La La Land.

Altogether, I enjoyed this movie. I wanted both characters to win, and I especially related to the tragic beauty of chasing dreams, as so depicted. Unfortunately, with some of the aspects played on the “down low,” it came off “so-so” in keys places.

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Links for Awesome Books!

I thought I might provide the links for some of my books that either might not be readily visible, or available for basement bargain pricing!


Above is the link for the paperback version of my first novel titled Alice Walks. This stalker-ghost story came out first through Centipede Press as a collector’s hardcover. There are still some left at outrageous prices on Amazon, and there remains only 1 or so in paperback there. The link above goes straight to the Dark Regions site where there are currently 12 paperbacks left for $17.00.

Also available on Amazon, is my first collection, Seven Deadly Pleasures. You can find good used copies at this link:




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Intro to New Novel in Progress

The Glorious Secrets of Ghosts

By the late adjunct college professor of English

Jerry Feldman

These stories are true.

Though many will try to discount the validity of this manuscript, I want to assure you first and foremost that I am most certainly me, and that these writings come from beyond the grave despite traditional skepticism and antiquated belief systems based on “scientific” or “religious” norms. Though the mechanics of creating this communication would be hard to explain, I would ask that you accept the fact that I recently journeyed to the “other side,” found a seam, and returned.

Hear me, there is little time.

There is no God.

I think you all knew that deep down, and trust me, the ghosts all thank you for the wonderful shadow-cover. I do not think it wise nor prudent to burden you with the many logical fallacies, shaky foundations, and unanswered questions left by even the most exhaustive theological studies, because you well know those paths only lead to more questions, blurred metaphor, and paradox.

To put it simply, when we are faced with circumstances that are universally unjust, we typically surrender to them with the claim that “God works in mysterious ways.” But there is no God and therefore, no fate.

And choice? Well. You be the judge.

Ghosts do not live in basements and attics, woodland and sewer systems. Like it or not, they exist in a world superimposed directly upon our own, and they infiltrate our reality like invisible mist. And they are not moaning, rattling chains. They create symmetry.

Ghost symmetry.

The first tale I am to tell you might seem to be uplifting. That is the bait, their bait, dangling before us to grease the skids, making us passive and vulnerable. The following narratives, however, will strike you as subtly disturbing, more obviously so when I enter the story-line myself as a character. The balance will be nothing short of…illuminating. As a horror writer, I realized a long time ago that one of the staples of the genre is to cleverly expose the “other” in winks and flashes at the bottom of a dark well, at the edge of a playground, down a long dark corridor, at the far edge of a dark, placid lake. But I realize now that these trigger-points are no more than dramatic euphemism and diversion, imposed fairytale catharsis wearing a clown mask.

The “others” are among you.

They just don’t telegraph themselves within the confines of the five senses as you know them.

In life I was a meticulous writer, so detail oriented that many of my contemporaries felt I would have been better received in a different century. Here, all that matters little. I suppose the main issue critics will have with this current piece, aside from an inability to suspend deep seated beliefs, is the structure I utilize, or at least one of the core vessels in the heart of that part of the lexicon.

It is a given in human storytelling that one establishes a “base of the house,” in terms of plot, theme, and the motivations of the main players. In other words, the protagonists you start with are the ones in the latter part of the dramatic line who must become intertwined in those critical climaxes and wonderful epiphanies that act as satisfying stopping points in our vision of what makes for potent and thought-provoking narrative.

Still, I would remind you to consider who the main characters are here.

Not only do ghosts have their own form of justice, their own interpretations of philosophical symmetry, and an alternate view of the universe. They are closers. In other words, the stories I am about to reveal will seem to begin with what you might deem “familiar,” but will often end with a shift of perspective. True, I am breaking a stylistic “rule,” but remember where I am coming from.

I am the “other” now.
Let me show you.

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Last Chance

Last chance to get a hold of my first collection Seven Deadly Pleasures. This came out in 2009 through Hippocampus Press, and is going out of print. There are still used copies on Amazon for cheap, and some new ones there for the taking.

I always look at this particular work with fondness, because the stories chronicled so much of my life, at least in terms of where I was in my own timeline when I wrote them.

“The Clever Mask” and “Quest For Sadness”  came straight from my first adult creative writing workshop back in 1992 and 1993, at Temple University. “Mask” was the first piece I gave to the class for scrutiny, and I was forever known as the guy that wrote the gruesome “thumb scene,” that which I called a doctor I knew to take me through the splatter so I could depict it with medical accuracy. “Quest” was written in March, 1993, in one sitting, while I was alone at home, snowed in from work. It was my first “Devil” piece, and it hit such a nerve with some lightweights that to this day I have relatives that refuse to have it in their house!!

“The Legend of the Slither Shifter” and “Passive Passenger” also came from said class, but were initially written in far shorter form. “Shifter” was a short monster story ten pages long. I eventually expanded it to short novella size. “Passive P” had elements of two or three shorter tales that I had turned in to the class originally, all falling short on their own for one reason or another. One of them was too “hillbilly” and the other too “ethereal.” The mixture of “tastes” like hot sauce and holy water, made for a nifty pint sized novella with a ton of surprises.

In 1993, I broke from the workshop to write my first novel. I had an idea of a couple of middle school kids back in the 70’s, playing a prank and accidentally killing a woman in a car on an abandoned construction site. The writing project that expanded this concept took three years to complete, most of it written long hand, then transferred to one of those old 90’s computers that froze every time you back spaced. In the end, I got an agent but failed to sell the work to a big house. I always felt it had potential, but I knew that past the first hundred pages or so…when we got off the job site…the tale got a bit forced and contrived. It sat as it was for years.

After writing “The Clever Mask,” then completing the unsuccessful campaign for the job site disaster novel (originally titled Mischief), I went back to school and got a masters in education. I got out of power tool sales and became a teacher. My wife and I had a kid. We moved out of the city to a small twin in the burbs. Then I got another masters, this time in literature. I became a college professor, and one day I found myself looking at the original four stories (not the novel). I thought they were pretty good. I sat with them (Mask, Quest, Shifter, and Passenger), and with a teacher’s eye, did some editing, shaping, revamping, and polishing. There. I had four stories that I thought were okay, better than I had remembered at least. But where to send them?

It just so happened that I had a book I had recently bought with a Borders gift card (remember them?). Of course I had gone to the horror section, and I found a book with a cool cover, written about 17th century ghosts. The editor was “S.T. Joshi.” I thought, “He must know people,” so I sent him eight stories…the four horror tales mentioned, and four more “sensitive” realistic fiction stories I had written in my free time in graduate school.

He actually got back to me! He basically said the sensitive stories were crap, but the horror stuff was rather interesting. He said my issue was that I tended to overwrite, and he wished me the best of luck. I thought that he was very kind (and by the way…the over writing is something I still have to make myself correct in final edits).

He emailed me a few days later, claiming he couldn’t get “Passive Passenger” out of his head! He gave some story-specific advice, and said he would publish my first collection through Hippocampus!!!

Thing is…I only had four stories and 40,000 words. I needed 80,000! I had no idea how to create all that in a timely manner. Or did I?

Mischief, the novel came to mind. I had always thought the first hundred pages or so were “the novel,” so why couldn’t I expand them just a bit…to maybe 150 pages (or 40,000 words) for a hard hitting, compact novella that never left the jobsite??

Problem was…I had tried rewriting the thing a few times, and always gave up…feeling like I was picking at the dead so to speak. In a “cleansing process,” I had thrown out the computer it was on!! I called everyone I remembered sending a hard copy to, but no one had it. Except my cousin Jonah, from New York City (a cool guy…forgive him for the Yankees and Giants). He had it in its mailing box in a closet.

When I got it, I was sort of surprised. It wasn’t a hundred “good pages” with the characters “on the job site” but a mere fifty pages! And while that was the portion with potential, it didn’t just need polishing. It was actually horribly written and needed total revamping.

It was mid summer 2007, and I promised S.T. I would have his novella and the total for all five stories equaling 80,000 words by the end of August. I used Mischief as a template, and created what is now the anchor piece in said collection, titled Toll Booth. While the tale I will tell you about in a second actually received the most attention in this collection, I will say here that Toll Booth was recognized by Publishers Weekly and other periodicals as the gem of the collection. Personally, I will always consider it one of my favorite works, as it has everything…action, gore, tension, suspense, extremely personal characterization, and what I would think of as striking imagery.

S.T. read it and approved. We had our 80,000 words.

“What do you want to call it, Michael?” he said. I wrote back, “Well, I have five stories. Why not call it Five Deadly Pleasures?” He wrote back (paraphrased of course) “Hmm. Michael…it won’t go to print for a year. Why not make the analogy more accurate and have seven stories? Write me two more.”

Hmm. Of course, we were now in new territory. I had had the ultimate advantage in that all the stories I submitted to S.T. had been prior written. I had literally done all the messy work, even having them sit for years so I could not only think about how to make them better over time, but also grow as a writer. Now he wanted fresh stuff I had to make equal somehow…and relatively quickly! Sure, I had “a year,” but I had found out, of course, that S.T. Joshi was not just “some editor.” He was (and is) the world biographer and number one scholar for H.P. Lovecraft, also a major player as a competitive, respected anthologist for current weird fiction. I didn’t want to keep the man waiting!

I had always wanted to write a scary clown story, and I was waiting for a traffic light at an intersection with a Walgreens across the street, its upper floor darkened because they had recently taken over the building when the book store had closed. For some reason I wondered what a guy would do if he was parked there like me, and he saw a clown up there holding a boy by the scruff of the neck with one hand and holding up a meat hammer with the other. I wrote “The Exterminator” that next week. Though this piece doesn’t command a lot of commentary when compared to the other six, it has always remained one of my personal faves, if only that I never quite wrote one like it. How is it different? The feel. The odd vibe it gives off. Can’t explain it any other way.

Now I had one story to go. What to do? I hadn’t anything “new,” and I was never one that could just sit down and “write.” Though I have blogged before about the philosophy that everything has to be outlined (which I think is bullshit) I have to have a clue before sitting down at the computer.

I did have one thing. As a teacher at a Philadelphia charter school, I had been telling my tenth graders a ghost story about a girl who died mysteriously on campus. It started as a joke, but year after year I had added to the tale, making it personal, claiming I had witnessed Bria Patternson, with her pig tails and jump rope, haunting this very room! Etc. I never had an end to the story however, and had always concluded it at the sighting moment, coming out of story voice, and saying, “Hey, I was just playing.” Sitting at my computer, I thought that maybe I could make a frame story…about a teacher telling a ghost story. I came up with an ending and sent it over to S.T. Joshi.

He told me I “Rung the bell!” He sent it (titled “How Bria Died”) over to Ann Vandermeer at Weird Tales, and she published it in the Uncanny Beauty issue, Summer 2010. Horror author Stephen Graham Jones read it there, contacted me, and asked to use it in a fiction writing class he taught at the University of Colorado. Then Paula Guran picked it up and featured it in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, 2011, Prime Books. The story also got an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Best of, same year, Nightshade Books (they who published my latest novel Phantom Effect, 2016, just saying…)

Interestingly, if you click the book cover on Amazon, they show S.T.’s amazing Foreword that makes me look like the next Bram Stoker, and “How Bria Died” in its entirety. Have a free look!

Anyway…I will always have a personal place of warmth inside for this particular collection. It is a culmination of many things, many years, many experiments, many beginnings. I might offer this to my students in a lit class I am going to teach this spring, as the text to use for the final response paper. But hey…go on Amazon. The Kindle is six bucks, but you might be able to find the paperback used for less.


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Latest News

  • My first collection titled Seven Deadly Pleasures, Hippocampus Press, will be out of print soon. Copies are still currently available on Amazon or the Hippocampus site. This book contains the story “How Bria Died,” which appeared also in Paula Guran’s The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, 2011. The same tale was also given an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s “Best-Of” that year.
  • I recently discovered that Ellen Datlow mentioned my short story “The Girl Between the Slats” in her “Best Of” (#7).
  • Still waiting to see the artwork for the ebook version of my first novel Alice Walks, coming from Cemetery Dance. Publication date TBA.
  • I recently gained back the rights to my second collection The Voices in Our Heads. I am planning to re-release this in a different form, with a different title. First, I will polish up and re-write the stories in it that I am going to keep…probably ten of the original twelve. I am then adding a re-written (and cropped down) “Soul Text,” my Sci-Fi short story originally published in the Ghostlight anthology, as well as the aforementioned “The Girl Between the Slats,” originally published in S.T. Joshi’s 2014 anthology, Searchers After Horror. The exciting news here, is that I am combining these tales with twelve stories written by horror and science fiction writer Erin Thorne, an exceptionally talented artist known for her breath-taking imagery and haunting depictions of various areas in New England. We are in the process of reviewing each other’s work, coming up with an order, and possibly adding a lot of art work from multiple artists.
  • I am currently at the 30,000 word mark of my latest work in progress titled The Glorious Secrets of Ghosts. 
  • I am a huge fan of the Black Mirror series on Netflix, especially “White Bear,” season 2 episode 2. The new season 3 was ok. I liked the bookends actually. The first episode, while predictable, was absolutely horrifying in terms of its premise, in that social media ratings between people have gotten so important they become a new sort of vicious self-governing law. The last episode in the season (#6) is the best, filled with wonderful misdirection and mind-bending concepts. I also liked the clear allusions to my two favorite horror movies: Seven, and The Silence of the Lambs.
  • I am looking forward to teaching my classes this Spring semester at Delaware County Community College. I have two rhetoric classes (ENG 100 – Research paper) yet got a 112, Introduction to Literature, that which I always enjoy! We have a new book this semester, and I am looking forward to teaching short fiction by Joyce Carol Oates and others I hadn’t been exposed to before.
  • I am also looking forward to teaching another continuing education class at The University of the Arts, February 1st through March 1st. These creative writing workshops are always closest to my heart in terms of writing and what it can do.
  • Rumor has it that I might teach writing at Drexel University, yet this would not occur until 2018 potentially. That would be a high honor!
  • I am reading simultaneously It and The Red Dragon. Amazingly, I never read It and I find it to be over-written. I could have sworn the original version looked to be around 600 pages. This is over 1100, and I wonder if this is one of King’s unabridged works. Even so, the wonderful thing about King is his rare ability to get to the heart of familial relationships on such individualistic and believable grounds. As far as The Red Dragon, I especially enjoy the way Harris cleverly inserts important exposition in what appears to be such a fast moving piece. Some lines are a bit odd at times, almost nonsensical, but these instances are rare.
  • The Philadelphia Eagles will make the playoffs next year, but these things must happen first. They must add a corner, a wide-out, a running back, and three offensive lineman. Done.
  • I have not seen a good movie since The Departed. I found The Revenant to be horribly boring, and Girl on the Train to be horrendously disappointing. If you know a good movie, email me!
  • Happy New Year everyone!!
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Free Story

I didn’t even realize that Amazon has provided a free look at the first short story in its entirety in my first collection, Seven Deadly Pleasures. For anyone interested, this story titled “How Bria Died” first showed up in Weird Tales Magazine and also appeared in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, Prime Books, 2011.


Once you click this link, click the book cover art. (There is also an awesome Foreword written by S.T. Joshi)

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Movies and Novels

Finally, I don’t think my books translate to film. That’s not a bad thing necessarily. That’s why I would implore you to read the fucking book!

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