Days

Dear Person Now Working From Home;

Welcome to the club of several millions of people informed (likely just yesterday) that they’re going to have to work remotely from home for the foreseeable future. A week, a month, maybe even longer. Things are about to get … interesting.

Buckle up, buckaroos …

Or, maybe you’re thinking “Hey, this is great! I don’t have to commute, I can work in my pajamas, I can roll out of bed five minutes to nine and hit the ground running. This is a paid stay-at-home vacation!” to which I say WRONG.

Take it from someone who’s worked from home for twenty years; it’s a lot harder than you think it is, and you are going to find that out shortly.

Fortunately, you have me, and my decades of experience working from home to help mitigate this transition for you. This is:

THINGS I LEARNED IN TWENTY YEARS OF WORK FROM HOME

Keep a schedule and stick to it

Is your job a 9-5 job, typically? Then those are the hours you want to keep. You want to be up and at your computer, ready to start the day, and you want to stick to the schedule you keep at work. Do you take a coffee break around 10:15? Do the same at home. When do you usually have lunch? Take that lunch, away from your desk. Take the whole lunch break. Don’t bring it to your desk and keep working. However your afternoons shake down at your office, mirror them at home. And when 5:00 rolls around, you turn the computer off, you close the door to the home office (if you’re using one), and

LEAVE WORK THERE UNTIL THE NEXT MORNING

Or else this happens …

In my first year of working from home I did little else but work from home. I worked from sunrise to beyond sunset. I worked every day of the week. I worked on holidays, I didn’t take any vacation. I worked without much in the way of pause and it caught up with me.

Speaking of “catching up with you”:


For the love of god, SHOWER

Look, I get it; you’re home, your commute is essentially however it takes to get from your bed to your desk. But if that commute takes you past your bathroom (and even if it doesn’t), veer left or right or wherever, and take that morning shower.

Shower, shave, wash your hair, whatever your normal routine is. And get changed into clothing. Not a suit or anything, but fresh, clean shirt and pants or whatever feels comfortable. Firstly, because you likely will have Skype calls and meetings involving video so you don’t want to look like you just rolled out of bed. Secondly, because you will just feel overall better than if you don’t. I’ll skip the unpleasant details but in my first year of work-from-home I went days between trips outdoors, so naturally I didn’t shower as often as I should have. The results … well, they weren’t pretty, and they smelled worse.

“But Brad,” you say; “This is all kind of redundant. It’s basic stuff everybody knows. I’ve worked from home before. In fact, my office allows us one floating work-from-home-day a week”. To which I say “Great, but this a lot different. This is going to be a long haul. You’re not driving to the grocery store; you’re driving from New York to Los Angeles and you’re only allowed 50 miles per hour.” Incorporating good work habits from the get-go will help manage your time and workload effectively. It will also help your loved ones – spouse, children, pets – that there’s time for work and time for play and they cannot overlap. On that related note:

Give yourself time to play

Remember the little things because they will save you …

Nothing will burn you out faster than working to the exclusion of all the rest. Your after-work volleyball games are probably cancelled, and your gym is closed too. But make sure you get yourself outside at least once a day, to take in some fresh air and sunshine. Consider it part of your commuting time.

In my first year of working from home I barely stepped outside, and hardly exercised. By the end of that year I was in terrible shape. I was overweight, my muscles had atrophied from lack of use, I was sick constantly. Fortunately I resolved to make sure I was getting in at least an hour of good cardio-vascular exercise a day, and that’s the one New Year’s Resolution I’ve managed to keep, year after year for the last twenty years. Plus, exercise, fresh air, and sunshine help fight off those nasty germs, and if you do get something, boost your immune system so it can fight any infections off.

[Also, don’t forget diet. Even allowing for that outside time, you won’t be outside as much. Load up on the fresh fruits and vegetables. Prepare meals, don’t just order delivery. Use that prep and cook time to decompress from the desk a little.]

Set boundaries

Boundaries are good until they’re not

This goes for family. Your kids in particular may think “hey, mom and dad are home, let’s play!” but you have to work, and they have to understand that. A way around that that I’ve found with my child, is to grant him or her some attention during the day, during coffee break or lunchtime. Have a break to read them a story or play with toys, or something that lets them know you’re there, and are attentive to their needs. If you have a backyard space and want to go throw the ball around, do it. Take them with you on your daily walk around the block. A little goes a long way. I frequently pause work to read a few storybooks to my child; usually that’s enough for him to get bored of dad and go off and entertain himself.

Likewise, and this goes back to my first point, once 5:00 hits, call it a day. Turn off the computer, turn off your work phone. Anything sent after 5pm on Friday can wait until 9am Monday. The person who sent that email at the end of the day likely won’t get your response until the next day anyway.

Schedule social time

If you have a beach I’m envious and you’re an asshole

This is for your office co-workers; keep in touch with them in a non-work capacity. Schedule a call, be it by phone or Face-Time or Skype. This isn’t a work call; this is you just checking in, asking how they’re doing, how they’re coping (and sharing some coping methods of your own if they’re having difficulties). It’s like the virtual water cooler; work is largely social in nature as it involves you, working with other people, towards a mutual goal. If you lose that, it can make working from home feel a lot more isolating, and by equal measure, a lot more difficult if you aren’t used to working from home for an extended period.

As I mentioned off the top, I did everything wrong in my first year of writing full-time. I corrected that, in part, by scheduling that social time. Giving myself weekends and holidays off, taking vacations, were all good. But I also made sure I clocked out early on Fridays so I could meet people after their jobs for dinner, for drinks, to go to the movies to go to a bar. And related to that:

Take the weekend off

Who cares what Frankie says? You. You should care.

This is a big one because it’s one I’m still guilty of doing (I mean, I am writing this on a Saturday). Weekends are there for a reason, people; they’re for you to do the stuff you don’t have time to do during the week. Grocery shopping, cutting the lawn, doing family stuff. The weekend is the reward for all the work you’ve been doing through that week. You will be tempted to hop onto the work computer to “catch up” but you have Monday-Friday for that. It’s very easy to get sucked into working your weekends away. Even I, a person whose occupation is basically “make shit up for profit” takes his weekends off (and doing so made me a MUCH better writer).

Shameless plug, but you WILL need something to read.

Guive yourself some alone time

Breathe in. Breathe out.

If you, and your spouse are both working from home and your kids are off school, make sure you give yourself some quiet time to just clear your head. Read a book, watch some TV, play a video game, or just do nothing. If this is looking to be a lengthy stay-at-home for you, it can get very stressful and tiring to be constantly around people; even ones you love. Under normal circumstances, my wife comes home from work, we have dinner, then she and our child do something together, just the two of them, so they can have that time to themselves, and I can have time to myself. Usually I’ll read, or catch up on my watch-list. It doesn’t need to be long, but it needs to be there. It doesn’t take long to feel recharged, reinvigorated. because the next day, the process repeats itself.

One more thing  

Are you sitting at your desk reading this? Here’s what I want you to do right now.

  1. Sit up straight
  2. Drop your shoulders down from your ears
  3. Stop clenching your jaw
  4. Quit pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth

There. Don’t you feel better? Good. Because you’re going to get through this.

We all will.

Delete Facebook

Let’s talk about online life, shall we? When the clock rolled forth on January 1st, 2000, none of us knew what was coming. As an avid Sci-Fi fan, creator, and reader, I can say that nobody in the genre ever predicted what Social Media would become. It didn’t even predict social media, let alone the internet. Seriously; in the grand scale and scope of speculative fiction, NOBODY ever predicted the world-wide-web accurately. William Gibson likely came closest with Neuromancer. While the internet was a thing in the 80s we just didn’t hear about it.

The Internet. It could have been beautiful. And had kung-fu.

We do everything online these days. Much of it we do through mobile technology. Through phones that carry more processing power than your standard-issue desktop computer circa 1998 did. The internet has changed our way of life, but it’s also changed the way people think and relate to one another.

It hasn’t been pretty. Especially, it seems, in the last five or so years. Reducing people to names and profile pictures on Facebook or Twitter has done more to dehumanize each other than was probably intended. Or maybe that was the point

Pictured: Twitter. Where the cruelty IS the point.

I don’t really get involved online anymore. Not with debates, not with “being in a community”. It just holds no interest for me. Because I used to get involved. In debates. In “community”. I used to spend much more time online in the morass of social media than was probably healthy. I told myself it was for work; as a writer, you need to engage with your audience, you need to promote, you have to hustle. But doing all those things felt empty. Like it was just work. And it was just work, only the kine that largely gave me back little in return. So, in 2019 I said goodbye to Twitter (I said goodbye to Facebook in 2013, though I do maintain an author page though another administrator runs it). I’m still on Instagram but I’m only really there to follow art and travel and photography accounts. Comments are generally closed on my posts, I don’t allow strangers to drop in and spam me with promo. It’s “anti-social-networking”.

This all began in earnest last spring, as I was in the early stages of outlining my next book. It takes place in the 1980s; a pre-internet era. And I decided to be method in my writing in that I wasn’t going to use social media at all while drafting. I could use the internet but only for research. If I needed to know for example what the Top 10 songs in the US were the third week of April 1985, I could do that.

Pictured: a scene from my next book

But the minutia of checking Twitter or Facebook or whatever went away. And after finishing my draft four months later, it kind of stayed that way. I got used to not having social media around, and I have to say I like it not being around. I like not knowing what everybody’s up in arms about, or arguing over. I like being out of the loop. In fact, in the process I rediscovered what we’ve all been missing; the fine art of Not Knowing.

If you’re of a certain age, you remember Not Knowing. You didn’t know what was going on the next town over, or the next suburb. Heck, even venturing to the other side of your small town was a trek. Here you encountered people you’d never seen before and never would again, unless you went back. You had friends, you made friends, and when you moved away, you lost touch with them. I can look at my old school photos, from Kindergarten to pretty much Eighth Grade and only recognize a couple names, and only few faces beyond those. When I got older I thought things would change; that I’d remain closer to people I knew in high school, and college. And for a time – the early, generally non-evil Facebook years of 2007-2010 – I did remain close; re-establishing contact with people I’d lost along the way.

Even then, by 2012 I was getting tired of keeping up. I realized that these people I knew once upon a time weren’t the same people. And the thing is I wanted them to be those same people, and knew that wasn’t possible. they’d changed, and I’d changed, and shortly thereafter – as in seven years ago today – I logged into Facebook one final time, to delete my profile.

Was losing touch better? I hate to say it, but yeah; it kind of was. Because knowing those places, those moments, those friendships were impermanent is what made them special. It’s what made me cherish those moments and my memories of them.

One other positive aspect of walking away from social media is I can enjoy things on their own merits now. It seems that in the last five years or so the culture wars have migrated over into entertainment in a big way, to the point where who you are as a person is judged by the art you consume. If you like X you’re a bad person. If you didn’t see XX you’re the reason XX failed and that makes you a bad person. There’s no middle ground anymore; you’re either with the mob or against it. It’s almost like you can’t be indifferent to anything anymore.

Because we ALL have opinions …

Being outside that bubble has been liberating. Not that I ever cared what people though of me because of the things I enjoyed, but being sidelined by choice has been an eye opener as to how people related to one another now. It’s no longer enough to watch X, listen to Y, read Z. You have to declare allegiance to your tribe, you have to wear the colors, you have to gather on the field of battle and face off against Those People.

My motto is simple: enjoy the stuff you enjoy, ignore the rest. Don’t let anyone dictate what you should/should not entertain yourself with. As long as it isn’t something horribly offensive you aren’t hurting anybody by watching or reading or listening to it. And if you truly love something, love it. Don’t let the naysayers tell you “it was crap, it was terrible”. And likewise don’t tell them the same with something you didn’t like. You have the power. The world won’t stop turning because you did or didn’t express your opinion or share a thought.

My advice? Find your happiness, embrace it, and never let it go. Likewise, anything that makes you miserable, sets you on edge, get rid of it. I know that’s not always possible. Your boss could be an asshole but you need that job. But there’s always another job, another town, another place.

My life has improved in many ways because of this. Just in the case of time. Because don’t realize how much of your life you can waste in a day by hitting “refresh”.

20 Years

I’ve been writing professionally for 20 years. The official anniversary would have been February 2 or 3 of this year. That was the start. I haven’t held a regular “day job” since. I’ve been a writer longer than I’ve been anything else. My cumulative school years, from preschool and kindergarten through college were 18 years. In all that time I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing, which is writing.

I was going to do one of those “What I have Learned In 20 years Of Writing” posts, but instead, I want to bring you something called “Things I Wish I’d Done Differently”. So on that note:

  • I would have traveled more

When Robocop went to camera I was paid my production fee, aka the balance of money the production owed me my writing. This was in the form of a Very Large Check With A Lot Of Numbers on it. All in one big lump sum. I did the sensible thing and banked it all, knowing I’d have to manage that money wisely, because by that point my next paying gig hadn’t materialized. But if I could do it over, I would have earmarked some of that money, renewed my passport, and trekked to Europe for a few weeks. That was one golden opportunity I had that I passed up. Because then, as now I was always worried that my good fortune was one bad day from ending forever.

  • I might have taken that day job after all.

My then writing partner took a day job at a local comic book store a couple of years after Robo. Both because money was tight and he needed a little more but also because he’d always wanted to work in a comic book store, to get some experience on a ground level of the comics biz. I kind of wish I’d done something similar – comic book store, bookstore, video store. At that time I didn’t need the money, but could have easily managed my writing at the same time. While the freelance life has forced me to hustle like crazy for work, having a bit of a reliable source of income might have made it all a little less stressful.

  • Those Big Life Decisions would have been made sooner.

I’m a procrastinator and a time delayer. I hate making BIG DECISIONS when times are uncertain. But if I had that do-over I would have gotten married sooner, and started a family sooner. When I got married, it was only a couple of weeks after the honeymoon that the economy crashed and times were tight. We managed okay, but there was a significant drop-off in work on my end. The birth of our child was a happy moment, and even then in the lead up I worried we weren’t ready, that we didn’t have enough money. But believe me when I say there’s never enough money and you never really are ready.

  • I would have diversified earlier.

I had ideas for novels and comics well before I made by debuts with both. I spent my focus on film and TV writing because that was where my main interest lay, and where the money was. But I wish I’d knuckled down on the comics and novels earlier because I feel both of those made me a much better writer.

  • I would have mastered the art of surrender sooner.

I know the adage of not giving up on your dreams. It’s drilled into you. Rejections, passes, dropped by agents, fired by producers. It’s all happened to me. And I’m not saying if I had a do over I’d walk away from this profession at all. But what I would NOT do is make it the be all/end all of everything. Sometimes walking away just means taking a step back from the fire. It means taking that vacation. It means realizing that this project you’ve invested a lot of time and effort in really isn’t going anywhere. It would also mean not swallowing the many lies spun by the snake oil merchants out there. If it seems too good to be true that’s because it is.

  • I would have realized experience is greater than things.

I own a lot of books. And movies. And CDs. Because I didn’t travel much in those earlier years I spent my leisure money on those things. I couldn’t afford Hawaii or wherever, but I could afford that three disc special edition. And now I’m just trying to get rid of a lot of them. Take books. Of all the books I own that I’ve read I very rarely have given them a second read. So in the last move I culled maybe 20% of them. I know the bibliophiles out there just screamed in horror, but to them I ask: what’s more valuable; the book, or the story that book contains? Once you’ve read it, do you still need it? This year I’ve really embraced all my local library has to offer. eBooks. Borrowed books. As of this writing I’ve read 35 books, graphic novels, etc all thanks to my library. Varying degrees of difficulty, but the point is I’ve read them. While I still buy books movies music et al it’s to a lesser degree than before. I’d rather save my money for experiences, even if they’re the local variety.

  • I would have trusted my gut more, personally and professionally.

Holding onto relationships, be they personal or professional well past their expiry date helps nobody. It hinders you. When those relationships turn toxic as in “this person is working behind the scenes against me” its best to sever ties immediately and without preamble. I’ve ended more friendships than the ones I’ve maintained. I’ve severed business relationships just as fast, especially when I realize that there’s no more opportunity in it. Of course I’ve done these well after the point I was aware I should have but held onto because I’d convinced myself a toxic relationship was still a relationship and better to have that than to have nothing. I was wrong. You’ll lose months if not years trying to be something to someone you aren’t. All that does is make you miserable.

  • I would have tackled those passion projects sooner.

Mixtape was a passion project. Magicians Impossible was also a passion project. And to read both you can kind of tell that. Not that I feel my film or TV work have been sub par because people keep paying me to write for them on the basis of that previous work. But the projects that came from a place of personal memory and personal pain are the ones I feel are the best of my work. I wish I’d spent more time nurturing projects like those over the ones I was being paid to churn out (i.e. the ones that, if and when they finally saw life on screens big and small, bore such little resemblance to my work it was like I’d never done the work at all).

  • I would have worked less

You read that right. I used to be the write every day type, and I did. Seven days a week, 365 days a year, for years. And all it made me was miserable. It actually had a detrimental affect on my overall health, and was at the orders of my doctor as well as my family that I take time off. My first “vacation” in that regard was over 2 weeks in 2001 where I got out of town and just read, relaxed, hiked, swam. Didn’t think of work at all. And when I returned to my home and my desk I found the world had kept turning, that nobody I worked with had begrudged me the time off. It made my work on resuming so much stronger because I’d had distance from it.

  • I would have done most of it pretty much the same way.

In that first year of writing, I had an potential opportunity to move to LA, to join the staff of a then moderately successful genre show. And I seriously considered taking the offer. What held me back were a couple things. One, I didn’t think I was ready. I was still new, still green, and felt that I would have been one titanic screw up to being fired. Of course, who knows? I could have flourished down there. But to do so might have meant all that I have done in the last 20 years might not have ever come to pass. I might not have written that comic book or those novels. I definitely wouldn’t have met my wife. I wouldn’t have my son. I might have been astonishingly successful down there but I don’t know if I would have been happy.

So on reflection, my life and career have been okay for the most part. I’m both very lucky to have made it this far, but I’m not ashamed to admit it’s also because I do have talent with the written word. Luck and chance opportunity might get you in the door, but if you can’t step up, knuckle down, and do the work, they’ll show you that door again just as quickly. I’ve had up years, I’ve had down years. I’ve come close to quitting many times. But I’m still here, and fate willing, will still be here doing what I’m doing for the next twenty.

Which is why, after a nice little break I’m back at my desk, and back on the clock. I have one manuscript to red-pen, and another to finish outlining. I might even find time to take a vacation again too.

2018

Hard to believe but 2018 is nearing its end. It seems only yesterday that we were sweltering through a hot, sticky summer. Now it’s snowing.

I usually draft a year-end post on this website, but as I’m busily mired in what I hope will be my next novel, I’ve been finding it difficult to keep up. For a multitude of reasons 2018 was a much more difficult year than I ever expected it to be. There were some big changes in my life along the way, but nothing I hadn’t weathered before.

Yet, as I’m finding, there are only so many hours in the day, and while it’s fun to update blogs and interact with readers and fans, I don’t think it’s too big a stretch to say that those same readers and fans would rather I work on the next thing then to blog about it. Social media/website management/promotion are all a grind. I’m amazed at the writers who manage to churn out a near steady stream of stuff like that. But when you work from home as well as care for your child, you have to use those hours wisely.

With no major projects on the horizon ready to be announced, I’m going to shutter this website for the next little while. I’m making good progress on my next book and hope to have it completed (first draft, anyway) by spring of next year. I’ll still pop in periodically, and hope to be able to update everyone on some potentially BIG news early next year, hopefully sooner).

Thanks for reading my books. Thanks for reading this website. if you clicked on through to learn about me and my work you’ll find about 8 years worth of writing. If you want to get in touch, drop me a line. I always answer.

And thank-you, as always, for your support.

PS: Magicians Impossible is still in stores and still makes a great Christmas gift.  Get it here or at your favorite bookseller:

True Indie

It’s strange when your idols become your colleagues, and become your friends. Such is the case of legendary filmmaker Don Coscarelli, whose notable work includes Bubba Ho-Tep, the Beastmaster, and a film series of note called Phantasm.

I first met Don in 1998 at a screening of Phantasm Oblivion. We hit it off and the next year when out in LA he graciously invited me and some friends out for lunch. He even brought The Tall Man himself, the legendary and much beloved Angus Scrimm.

But it was in 2002 that Don had an immeasurable impact on my life when he made Bubba Ho-Tep as it was because of Bubba that I met my future wife. We’ve been together 16 years now, and have a now 3 year-old child.

Last time I saw Don was a year ago while on the west coast leg of the Magicians Impossible book tour. He met us for breakfast in Manhattan Beach and seemed absolutely delighted that a weird little movie about a geriatric Elvis fighting an Egyptian mummy could lead to a marriage, and a new life brought into this world.

But that’s not why I write this. I write this, because at that breakfast Don mentioned he’d been approached by St. Martins Press – my publisher, incidentally – about penning a memoir. A year and a bit later that memoir has now been published.

I just finished reading True Indie, and have to say it is easily one of the BEST books I’ve ever read about the trials and tribulations of being an indie filmmaker. As well as being an amazing filmmaker Don is one of the greatest raconteurs I’ve ever known, and this book is loaded with stories I’ve never heard before. It’s also one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read – a story about hard work, and dedication to your craft, and the strength you draw from your friends, colleagues, and family. Don is a true original, and I urge everyone with an interest in horror and film-making to grab yourself a copy … or face the wrath of The Tall Man!

You can purchase TRUE INDIE here: