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They/he. Writer of fiction, screenplays, plays, reviews, essays, and poetry. Chicago. https://linktr.ee/jshetina

The secret to success on Medium? Self-aggrandizement.

“It’s no trick to make a lot of money… if all you want to do is make a lot of money.” (Citizen Kane, 1941)

“I’m here to help you.”

“How?”

“By telling you what I do.”

“Okay. How do you do it?”

“I did it.”

“But I’m asking how—”

“You can do it, too.”

“Okay but how?”

“Money, please.”

“I’m going to help you” is my favorite lie on this site. I see at least ten of these articles a day, and in spite of myself, I click on at least three.

“How to make $20,000 a week with these 16 side hustles,” “How you can double your money with these four writing tricks,” “The 10 Writing Hacks I Use to Make $50,000 a…


It only sets you up for failure and resentment.

Unsplash photo by Luca Bravo, edited by the author.

“If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you. You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot.”

I’ve seen various takes on this particular adage all over the Internet. On a base level, I agree with it. If someone shows you time and again,

But I do have a problem with people who use this kind of thinking to cut off every friendship that isn’t exactly how they want it to be 100% of the time.

I have a friend who, for better or for worse, I needed time away from. …


The three stars of the Hollywood classic suffered tragic and bizarre early deaths.

Portrait of Troubled Youths

Two stolen cars sit idling a few hundred feet from a cliff. In one car, narcissistic teenage punk Buzz Gunderson (Corey Allen) runs a comb through his greasy hair. In the other, Jim Stark (James Dean) wears a blood-red jacket and a smug smirk. A cigarette dangles from his mouth.

A teenage girl, Judy (Natalie Wood), stands in the headlight beams of the two cars. She will signal the start of the race. Her eyes are wide with excitement. Two lines of cars are parked facing each other. …


The horror themes we can expect to see over the next few years.

Hospitals tents in Chicago: March, 2020

It has to be said that Chaney was a perfect match for his era, a kind of genius who came out of and thrived in a society likely to appreciate what he could do. It was a time when physical aberrations were more present, before advances in medical technology and changes in public attitudes altered the natural and psychological landscape. …


Some say reality television rots our brains. I say Shakespeare would have LOVED Big Brother.

Da’Vonne Rogers and Bayleigh Dayton, Big Brother 22 (CBS)

I think every fiction writer could learn a thing or two from reality TV. When I’m needing to get my imagination going, or when I just need to feel something, I queue up YouTube videos of U.S. Big Brother fights, and let my imagination run wild.

If you want to see some complex human dynamics, look no further. My favorite shows are generally the ones like Survivor or Big Brother, where the game components — like secret voting and progressive eliminations — compel the players to foster different sets of relationships with different sets of people. This also means that…


A once-in-a-gigayear opportunity.

Aldebaran S

It was early June and scientists predicted a close call with an asteroid — a close enough call to alarm practically everyone. Just a few million miles to the right, and the space junk could cause the next mass extinction event.

The world looked to the stars that night. Parents dusted off the old telescopes from their youth or had newer models overnighted. People threw watch parties. Pizza restaurants ran out of cheese. Liquor stores ran out of booze. For some reason still unexplained, lottery ticket sales went through the roof. Armageddon-horny evangelists preached fire and brimstone. Conspiracy theorists took…


A plug and a preview

Grief, guilt, paranoia, and shame fuel the terrors of SHADES OF RED: a collection of stories that range from the eerie to the horrific, the private to the global, the mundane to the apocalyptic. Here, horror comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and shades.

I recently published a collection of short horror stories entitled Shades of Red. The collection includes eight stories of varying lengths, a couple of which have appeared here on Medium. It is available in both Kindle and paperback formats.

Writing horror is what comes most naturally to me. It’s the mode that most lends itself to…


A story of family, guilt, and passive-aggression.

I used to think my sister had no imagination. I resented her for this mostly because it made the passive-aggressive war we’ve waged since childhood less fun than it could be.

Then our mother died. She was devastated. I was very sad, too, of course, but my sister was always closer to her. She was wrecked.

Per our mother’s wishes, I pulled life support. I stand by the decision. My sister was angry that she did not get to say goodbye, that I didn’t wait for her.

After the funeral, I didn’t hear from her until Christmas, when the first…


My reservations about Amazon’s new serial writing platform

Amazon’s Kindle Vella launched this month. The new platform is Amazon’s attempt to capitalize on an old publishing model. Serialized stories, episode-by-episode.

Authors on the existing Kindle platform were given about three months’ notice to have their stories ready for serialization. We w

Why I Was Excited

Back in April, I was genuinely pumped when I opened the Amazon email announcement about Kindle Vella.

I was already writing serial horror content for my Patreon (yes, it’s a shameless plug), and just beginning to realize serialization could be a good option for me.

To have another opportunity to make money and gain a broader readership…


A story about grief

Photo by Jez Timms (Unsplash)

Conchata died on Sunday and the pig was born the next Tuesday. In his grief, Jotham barely registered the latter event. Instead, he filled his days with plowing the far fields, away from the farmhands, away from questions about how he was “holding up” in the wake of his wife’s death.

Two months passed. Jotham kept up with his duties in the fields, but left the work of the barn and the animals to others. It was not until the pig refused to drink its mother’s milk that Titus, his most trusted hand, decided to bother him with it.

Jotham…

Joe Shetina

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