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About Abusive Relationships In Fiction

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Valentine’s Day is coming up soon. So is the release of Fifty Shades of Grey. I once tried to read the book but couldn’t get past the first paragraph. I don’t think Jaime read it (and if she did, she wouldn’t admit to it).

We don’t judge anyone who read it or liked it. However, we would like to talk about it for a moment.

There have been chunks of the book floating around for dissection on the internet, addressing the dysfunctional relationship between Grey‘s main characters. You can find a thoughtful article about it here.

Jaime and I advocate thoughtful and organically developed relationships in stories. That said, not all relationships are equal. A well-developed character is not always well-balanced or has it together. Many people are messed up in real life, and the relationships they have with others can be just as deeply flawed.

I don’t agree about always including a conversation in stories about safe sex, nor do I advocate turning your story into an after-school special. Unless you’re writing for minors, it’s whatever you want to do. However, if your character has a clear opportunity to experience a consequence from their actions and it never happens, then your work will end up lacking depth.

Writing an all-ages story is fun, but most of our work is for mature audiences for this reason. We would like our readers to approach our books as they would an HBO program. You know it’s got certain themes for the sake of entertainment, but we don’t expect you to rob a bank after the show’s over, either. You’re an adult. We can’t raise you. Your parents took care of that already.

Bottom line – we’ve covered abusive and dysfunctional relationships in our writing. We hope readers find the narrative thoughtful, and in some parts, relatable (and a hell of a lot more developed than Fifty Shades, even though our work is not erotic). We don’t expect you to go find a Juste or Jack in real life. If you do, run in the opposite direction.

Also Here’s A Thing About Abusive People IRL: If someone is treating you like crap, heed the writing on the wall and get away from them. Call the police and have them escort you (or have them escort the other person) out of the premises. Don’t look back. There are some people in this world who don’t do anything but cause headaches for others. You can be awesome all by yourself.


Short Update On Panel Discussion Series

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We’re currently looking to book at room at WSU for our first panel. I’d also like to create a separate website for Detroit Healing Sessions, but for now it has its own Facebook page.

If you know of a venue that would allow us to use a space there to meet, please contact me at ashurcollective [ at ] gmail.

It’s not my intention to run Healing Sessions alone. Eventually I’d like to get a solid committee on to help orchestrate things. For now though, everything is pretty straightforward and doesn’t need too much nudging to happen.


Shirts! published on No Comments on Shirts!

Bought your “Detroit vs Everybody” and “Detroit Is The New Black” shirts already? WELL:


Based on the New Detroit and Old Detroit essays.

Each shirt has the title of the essay and an excerpt underneath. If you want more than apparel, there’s mugs, tote bags, and ipad/iphone covers, too (plus some other stuff).

I personally want a New Detroit mug. You know, for drinking “ten dollar lattes” in (which, according to the internet, that’s what I drink. Y’all don’t know about my sanka game).

You can check out the designs at our store here!


Five Nights At Freddy’s Might Have Houstonian Roots, Too

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(Warning: this post contains theories/spoilers.)

If there’s one thing Jaime and I have in common, it’s our interest in the “how” and “why” of crime. It’s a lot like someone interested in electronics–we take apart the facts and mechanics of a situation or story, and we like to see what elements are underneath it all. In turn, it pushes us to do proper research and interviews when writing about crime and mental illness.

Five Nights at Freddy’s has been holding my attention lately. As a child, I used to love Showbiz Pizza (before–ha!–It was renamed to Chuck E. Cheese). The animatronics from the creepy band obviously influenced Five Nights at Freddy’s. Who wasn’t afraid of the robotic band? The character designs were awful.

Jesus Christ,  no.
Jesus Christ, no.

For those who don’t know, Five Nights at Freddy’s is a video game inspired by Showbiz/Chuck E. Cheese. The player works as a night guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. Your job is to make sure all of the animatronics stay in place (and don’t find their way to your office to kill you). If you make it to 6am for five days, you win. If you don’t, something pops out of nowhere and stuffs you in an animatronic suit.

So far there’s two games, an engaging back-story, and a third installment that’s probably going to be released two weeks from now.

Here’s a trailer from the first game if you want to check it out:

According to The Game Theorists, the concept for Five Nights at Freddy’s was inspired by an unfortunate killing spree at a Chuck E. Cheese’s in Aurora, Colorado. The second game, however, brings to light something else–child killers, and the possibility that the head night guard from FnaF 1 (otherwise known as “Phone Guy”) was the real murderer the whole time.

I absolutely subscribe to the idea that Phone Guy is the real killer. Know what else? I think Scott Cawthon was also inspired by the Texas Killing Fields. It’s publicly known he lives in Texas and attended the Art Institute of Houston, so let’s imagine this for a second:

When I was in middle school, I was sent to Houston to attend a better school system until I could graduate from the 12th grade. My mother was pretty afraid for my safety in Detroit, and thought Houston might be a bit better for me. She was ultimately right, but what she wasn’t aware of was Houston’s problem with child abduction and murder.

I remember being told over and over to never get in any stranger’s car when I was walking to school. When I got older and began to date, I remember my father rushing out to write down the license plate of my date’s car. I always thought that was a bit weird and wrote it off as parental protocol.

But as I got older, I started noticing things. Men pulling over to the side of the road in their cars to talk to me. More specifically, men in vans. I also noticed more and more stories about abductions in the news. Sure, it is a nationwide crime and abduction happens everywhere, but it happened so much in Houston.

And this is where the Texas Killing Fields comes in. The lore about women who went missing in the field just outside of Harris County. The story got so big, a movie was inspired by it.

And then this, a story about a mass murderer who was sitting on top of a grave of 27 young boys–which went undiscovered until after his death. According to Texas Monthly, the New York times called it “the largest multiple murder case in United States history”.

Houston has a child killer problem. And that problem, and the lore of it, has most likely worked its way into Five Nights at Freddy’s. In the same Game Theorist video, it’s pointed out that after the first set of murders in the game, the owners implement a sex offender database in the new animatronics.

Was Scott commenting about how we can often live in close proximity of ex-cons and not be aware of it? If Phone Guy is the real killer in the FNaF series, that means he lived in the same town and was even hired back at the same restaurant chain across a span of years. For years, people trusted him. His voice over the phone is friendly and unassuming. For him to wreak that kind of havoc under people’s noses is pretty terrifying.

It’s every parents’ nightmare for the worst to happen to their own children. That fear can drive a parent to, say, send their kid across the country to attend a better school system. It can make people move out of the city. It can do all kinds of things.

It might even make them create a video game that comments on how an obsession with children and the constant urge to harm others might cause someone to hang around child-friendly places, and how parents shouldn’t be so trusting of others.

Scott Cawthon has two children of his own. He might have been inspired by his own fears.

The Detroit Open-Source List Is Now A Google Doc

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Hello-hello! Fast update:

The previous entry’s list is now a Google Document. Please feel free to edit, add questions, download, etc. Save the file if you want to save your edits and questions. You can also copy the entire file to create your own list.

We have a copy of the original list of questions in case anything happens.

We are scheduling the first meeting/panel to be in about two weeks. I will update again when we get an exact date. The first meeting will be held at Wayne State University.


The Detroit Open-Source Discussion List

The Detroit Open-Source Discussion List published on No Comments on The Detroit Open-Source Discussion List


I said I would publish this list for those to work on, add, edit, or create their own outline from in order to host community panels–so here it is!

This list is open-source. Do NOT contribute if you expect promotion and credit in return. This is a community effort, not about one person taking the spotlight. Multiple people have brainstormed on this list for the sake of the city’s betterment; no one stands out in its development.

It’s also not about companies and magazines taking photos of anyone and saying “These are the people saving Detroit”. If this is the outlook you’re taking up, please do not participate in contributing. Also, please try to rebuff journalists who attempt to write about you with this angle. It does the city more harm than good.

Opening: Detroit’s past–brief history. (Ideally, you want to open with this so that it leads into the questions you’ll ask.)

– What is gentrification, what is revitalization?
– Is gentrification good or bad? Why?
– Is revitalization good or bad? Why?
– What makes you want to live in a neighborhood within city limits?
– Where are you comfortable going in Detroit? Where are you uncomfortable going?
– People who have lived here, what are you tired of seeing in your neighborhood? What makes you feel unsafe?
– What do you need within Detroit so that you don’t have to leave the city so often?
– What aspects of Detroit do you never want to have change?
– What sort of opportunities do you want for you/your family in the city?
– What would make you comfortable with sending your child to a DPS school?
– How do you communicate with neighbors? How do you connect with the city? How would you prefer to do this?
– How does the new neighborhood council district play into all this, and in answering the needs you present in this discussion?
– Do believe rent control is a solution to rental opportunities in the city? Why or why not?
– Do you believe there should be a cap on property resale value? Why or why not?
– The price of auto insurance in Detroit is high, and are often a concern for people purchasing cars or moving here. How can we lower the cost of car insurance in Detroit?
– People who don’t live in the city: what is stopping you from moving back here?
– Those who are not parents: would you leave Detroit if you became a parent? If so, why?
– If you are a parent in Detroit: what worries you about raising your family here? How have you overcome some of those fears? If you have not, please also state this.
– Gang activity is ultimately a disrespect of space in neighborhoods. Do you have adequate police coverage or neighborhood patrols where you live? If not, what would you need to begin one?
– How often do the police visit your neighborhood? How quickly do they respond to calls there?

Announce: “The new few questions are about race and crime specifically. Please be honest in your answers. This discussion is to alleviate fears and see where we are in terms of promoting actual harmony in the city. The only way to do this is to get air grievances now, instead of later. We will address the awkwardness of discussing race in a separate question.”

– How do you feel race has impacted Detroit’s resurgence?
– How do you feel when someone who is not the same race as you moves into your neighborhood?
– You are walking down the street at night in Detroit. It’s almost 3am so most businesses are closed, no matter what neighborhood you live in. Please close your eyes and tell us who you imagine is the person most likely to cause you harm.
– Why did you imagine this person?
– Think about the demographic, race, and age of the person you imagined. Do you talk to people of this demographic often? Under what circumstances does it happen?
– What are the signs that someone will rob you on the street?
– Those who have been robbed, what wisdom can you impart to others about being robbed?

– How can these sessions be improved or become more honest in nature?
– What areas or neighborhoods should we travel to for this session?
– What questions are good to ask that we’ve missed?

Announce: “Thank you for attending and giving honest answers. We hope you’ll return for a larger meeting sometime in the future.” (or something similar)

Comments, questions, and observations can be posted in the comment section. I’m pretty sure this list is incomplete or could use more polishing. Thank you everyone for contributing and adding items for inclusion.


Red Bull Is Giving Us Wings

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Guys, I’ve been holding on to this secret since the holidays. I originally asked Matt (Eaton) about something else, showed him a pic of a painting for advice, and he asked me to join House of Art. I was absolutely thrilled but was told not to say anything! Now I can finally do so. If you saw me recently and it looked like I was bursting at the seams with a secret, that’s why!

So along with all of our other adventures with the company, I’ve got this cool fellowship with Red Bull House of Art, too!


Taking Vulture To Task, Anthologies, The Second Fundraiser, And A New Year

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Happy New Year, Fam! Some announcements, misadventures, and more exciting stuff to kick off the new year. It’s like we didn’t even wait to spring into action, right? Of course not!

Another New York Writing Establishment Tries To Whitewash Detroit And Fails

This isn’t a personal blog, but this incident does involve Ashur Collective on a professional front. As such, it gets documented. I should say that at the end of the day, I’m rather drained from it all. It’s a little trying having to tell off the New York Times about whitewashing Detroit in their articles, and then turning around to do the same to Vulture.

When are reporters going to learn not to cherry-pick people for what race they are for an article feature? Is it possible to not do that, for once? Local journalist/outspoken awesomeperson Aaron Foley wrote a great piece about expressing anger and frustration about equality when you’re black, and how often black people instinctively check themselves when speaking to others. It’s tiring, honestly. After forcing half-baked apologies out of reporters again and again for their complete omissions of people of color in articles about Detroit, it starts to feel like fighting the tide.

But you know what? I love a good battle. Bring it on. We won’t let anyone get away with it.

Speaking Of Media…

We’re supposedly getting a visit/interview soon with another tv station! This one is much larger. More on that when details are clear.

Anthologies! Yes, More Than One.

We are participating in two anthologies (so far) this year: Terminal Books Poetry And Prose (September-December 2014), and Love In All Forms: The Big Book Of Growing Up Queer (not taking preorders yet). I have provided a riveting story of a room mate turned stalker for the Terminal anthology, and illustrated a touching story for Love In All Forms. If you’d like to order the anthology from Terminal Books, use the code “guillory01” to get a 20% discount.

Metro Times Gave Us Some Cheeky Love

Not just once, but twice. I laughed. Good times. Thanks for the shoutout, MT.

We’re Applying For The Kresge Fellowship

Please wish us luck. It’s like the artists’ lottery, and it would be great if we could win. $25k goes to you if you get an award. We could publish a lot of books with that. It would change the course of our company. God, I can’t even talk about all the dreams I have without getting stars in my eyes, but–yes. Dreams. I still wish we could throw a carnival every year, but one day.

Fundraising The Rest

We didn’t raise all of the money we wanted for Transhuman Resources, so we’re going to establish a second fundraiser. C’mon, you think a little money’s going to stop me from drawing that book? I’ll do it anyway. Punk rock forever. All kinds of craziness has been happening this week, though, so we’ll get the second fundraiser up as soon as we have a chance to breathe.

Another Surprise

Expect another blog maybe by this weekend? To update you on something VERY awesome. Really. My lips are legally sealed til then. But we can’t wait to announce it!

That’s all the news we have for now! What a great first week this is turning out to be.

UPDATE: We wrote an article for the Detroit News, too!


How I Met Jaime

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You know the Barrens, right? That place in World of Warcraft where people are forced to grind to reach a higher level and then finally get the hell out of there? I hated it. It’s desert-y with those random giants you never hear bounding across the landscape to step on you. I had a tank drag me across there once to help me level, but I still found it boring. And when I played WoW during successive times of being enticed back into the game, I unfortunately had to visit again.

It was there I met Jaime. Or as she was called in the MMO, LordofDarkness95. She was a high-level Tauren who enjoyed slumming and going to that pit where those dwarves beat the crap out of you. Jaime was very good at playing WoW while finishing her Art Institute homework. She found her coursework boring, so she logged online to play while slogging through it.

Jaime is not very nice when she’s bored. She’s cruel with a jokers’ smile. She can give you a coquettish greeting and then pk you while typing “lol” and lessthanthree. One day I was attempting to kill those dwarves in the pit again, when she came bounding down the incline and into the pit. Into the fight I had started, and straight towards me. I thought she was trying to help me, so I typed “thanks!” and moved over. Nope! She did a one-hit-kill and ran back up the incline to get out of the pit again.

I thought that was rude as hell.

“This is all a lie,” Jaime will tell me later. We never met this way. It was in another game we met, she will insist. I don’t know what she’s talking about, so don’t listen to her. Here’s more of what happened.

Jaime had complete control of the Azeroth server. She had several dark knight alts in which she singlehandedly ran the auction market. She yanked prices for common items up and down to watch people im her and beg to set them back to normal, just so they could continue crafting. For those times, she replied with polite insistence that she be paid for the trouble. For someone so small and amiable in real life, her online persona was that of a tyrant.

After finally getting through the hell of the Barrens, I made my way back to a city hub in order to access the market. Jaime had messaged me earlier with a supercilious apology for killing me, followed by a smiley face. I told her to fuck off. And then, lo and behold–I open the auction hub to buy something, and she’s the only seller!

I messaged her and told her that her prices were way beyond what was the average for other servers. She just typed “lol” and continued to ignore me. In order to avoid her, I traveled to other cities to access their auction hubs instead. Turned out she controlled those too.

There was no way I was going to get around doing anything without her interference, so I decided to confront her about her behavior.

Jaime and I run a small press together now. I don’t know how I got here. I think we started writing together after she sent me multiple threats over Facebook. Everything I’m writing currently is absolutely true, including the part where I managed to round up a bunch of players on Azeroth and start a protest to get Jaime banned from the server.

They called it the Million Avatar March. Have you ever seen a bunch of angry online people dancing around in a line that’s designed to block people from getting in and out of the city? That happened one day. Look it up in a wiki. I staged it. Everyone Jaime ever picked on was there, the group of angry nerds tired of the school bully for beating us up for our lunch money.

Jaime showed up to our gathering about half an hour into the protest. At first she didn’t seem to know what was going on, because she approached us and started dancing. Then she stopped when we began to type insults at her, backed up a little, and watched us from a distance. She didn’t move for an hour. I was afraid she was planning something. She told me years later that she just got bored and decided to go play Pokemon instead.

The admins never answered us, but silently banned me the next day for “instigating a market crash”. As if I were the one causing problems! Jaime then sent a message on the WoW forums, with “…” as the subject title. Finally, I thought! An apology! You know, a real one. Like what normal people give.

But when I opened the message, all it said was “lol bye”.

Wow. What an asshole.

Jaime has been smiling a lot at me lately. I can tell when she wants something more than normal, because she adds extra hearts to her sentences. I think she plans on getting a present for her birthday this year. I keep side-eying her and avoiding the subject.

I mean, I guess she’s okay. We talk about the future sometimes and say we want to go to Paris together, or at least a Latrice Royale performance. And when I get hurt and retreat to a private space to cry, she immediately gets in touch with me to ask if I’m okay. And then she shows me pictures of cute rabbits to make me feel better, because she knows that always works.

She says she went overboard with presents this year and mentioned sending me something. Yes I know you want presents this year you brat. But things are tight lately. But then I think again and surmise she might just be missing when we used to exchange letters and candy long-distance.

She’s come a long way from being an online bully, admittedly. Her family and I sat her down and got her some help. Her boyfriend bought her this book called “23 Ways Not To Be An Asshole”. She does a 12-step program thing. She’s on step five. She had a relapse once, but we don’t bring that up with her, it’s a sore subject.

Most of all, we keep her away from WoW. Hiding her activation key is the best thing we’ve done for everyone’s well-being.

Some people don’t need to play online games.

Happy birthday, Jaime.

What Is Of Overall Benefit

What Is Of Overall Benefit published on 6 Comments on What Is Of Overall Benefit

I was watching an episode of King of Dramas a few months back. In the show, the protagonist, Anthony Kim, is driven to produce a historical drama in order to revitalize his career. Of course, he has a rival who does everything he can to make sure Anthony fails. Fortunately for Anthony, he has a few friends on his side who save the day when he needs it.

In one such scene, Anthony’s supervisor (in a way), Nam Woo-Hyung, intervenes just as the broadcasting station’s committee wants to cancel Anthony’s show. Woo-Hyung says that although the project might not make a lot of money, its message is important to the people who will see the program. He says profit is not always important; sometimes, it’s about the morale you can raise or a few peoples’ lives you can affect.

I was talking to someone recently about Transhuman Resources and told them very bluntly: if you’re a self-published author, your book is not about making money. If you fundraise enough, you can consider a specific cut of it to be like an advance. The rest needs to go into printing and promotion. You will not live comfortably on what you make, and need to sustain yourself by other means.

If you do later on? Jackpot, congratulations. But don’t expect to make it the way authors did in the past. That ship has sailed for the writing field, and we’ll be lucky if the days of healthy advances ever return.

With 29 days left to fund Transhuman, we probably won’t reach our goal.

When I allocate new projects to schedule, I don’t set a large budget because I always expect to make my money later on down the line. We can try to get at least half of our goal fulfilled, but that’s still barely enough for printing costs.

Wood, Transhuman‘s author, and I were also worried because of some fuss over the EU’s new VAT laws, which threatened to restrict business owners from the United Kingdom in how they sell digital products to people from other countries. Long story short–it’s Amazon’s fault it happened and it’s screwed over everyone else. In order to sell the book digitally, it’s now a safer bet to either partner with Amazon or a third party who is already registered with a VAT of their own.

This is starting to sound like a cancellation notice, isn’t it? It’s not.

Have you seen the news lately? Black people don’t exactly feel welcome in this country right now. And to be perfectly honest, it’s not like the red carpet was ever rolled out for us in the first place. I have tried time and again to explain what Transhuman, Odyssey, and other books featuring minorities does to black people who see them, but sometimes this doesn’t come across if the person I’m explaining this to isn’t a minority. I see that black reader’s eyes light up when they see how beautiful the book is and who the main character is. They’re happy and relieved. Can you blame them? It’s like America has taken our collective self-esteem and tossed it into a trash can.

This doesn’t even begin to cover the effect Transhuman‘s very planning has done for transgender and female users on social media. Although we’ve been met with hesitation, we have a lot of support and people happy Wood and I are bringing UNIS (Transhuman‘s heroine) into existence. Because of how many people love her already, and are ready to open their arms to her, this book must be created no matter what.

So. If the fundraiser fails, if we have to scrape together funds for printing, that’s what we’ll do. If I have to be paid later for my work, that’s fine. It might take a little longer to finish the graphic novel if it comes to that, but I believe Transhuman is absolutely necessary and needed.

UNIS does what she wants, when she wants, how she wants. She’s already a hero. We just have to provide the physical paper for her to exist on. I’m more than happy to do my part to make this a reality.

You can preorder your copy of Transhuman Resources here.


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