Monday, June 30, 2014

Exit by Stormlight

One rule I’ve been fairly assiduous about keeping is the one that mandates I throw ball with my son whenever he requests it. Given my spotty upbringing, I never learned to work on cars or build things, but I’m damn proud to say I’ve thrown footballs and baseballs with my son. I’m not half-bad at it, either. Not every guy can say that. Hooray for me.

Tonight, I suspect my 17-year-old son wanted an excuse to stand outside and look at the strange, orangey sky—he would have been self-conscious doing just that, so he enlisted me to throw a foam rubber football. Of course, I wasn’t going to say no, but not before snapping these pictures of June’s final exit, the first half of 2014 going out in a literal blaze of glory.
Looking east-southeast. Once these thunderstorms hit the Colorado high plains they really blow up.

Facing south, over the spine of my garage roof. Like nuclear hellfire.

It looked a lot more post-apocalyptic in the viewer. Oh, well.

I thought this had something of an interdimensional vortex look to it. As the sun set the tips of this clouds would turn an eerie pink.

At the same time, you have this to the north.

This is to the north and east, where the sun is going down.

This is the one photo in the bunch that captures the mood of the light. Note the clouds from two photos up.

The crescent moon falls behind the clouds on its way to set behind the Front Range.

Here’s a better look at that moon. Goodnight, moon. Farewell, June. I’ll eat my ice cream with a spoon
while I read Dune. See ya soon!

On top of all this, we had a great time throwing ball in the street. So far, so good, Summer 2014.


#MySummerJam: Cocteau Twins' “Frou-frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires”

WARNING: Like most supernatural creatures, sunlight does this song no favors. For best effect, listen only at night.

“Frou-frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires” is the showstopping finale to Cocteau Twins’ best album, Heaven or Las Vegas. Don’t bother trying to figure out the lyrics, as lyricist/singer Elizabeth Fraser is deliberately obscurantist, and her word choice always favors sound over meaning. Listen, though, and you will catch the “firedrakes and visions” that flash through this lushly arranged piece of minor-key tension and major-key release.

Listening to the evolution of Elizabeth Fraser’s voice, from a wan Siouxsie Sioux-wannabe to Master Class Vocal Goddess is one of the rewards of being a Cocteau Twins fan, and here in this 1990 piece we enjoy the full flowering of Fraser’s voice, a happy result of the hormones produced by childbirth. She and Cocteau Twins’ guitarist/musical director Robin Guthrie had welcomed a daughter into the world just before starting work on Heaven or Las Vegas. Sadly, they would release only two more albums after this, and in terms of songcraft, only their swan song, Milk and Kisses, came close. This was as good as Cocteau Twins would get. Still, when your best is goddamned indispensable—as Heaven or Las Vegas most certainly is—one can hardly complain. 

As with all Cocteau Twins’ tracks, all voices belong to Fraser. The frou-frou media would have us believe Mariah Carey is a Great Singer because she can squeal like a dolphin, but this, my friends, is range:

Just me, of course, but while listening to this I see those Midsummer Night bonfires burning bright. I feel the urgency of a distant, but approaching winter as the days now lose their light. Let us enjoy the warmth while it lasts, even as we bitch about how damn hot it is, because we’ll be housebound by the cold before we know it.


Half-Time 2014

While I’m calibrating my brain to handle one last read-through on Grace Among the Dead, the step-up sequel to Bleeding Kansas, I figured I should post something to the ol’ blog. I came so close to catching up with posts this month. But, as the dead man said, life is what happens when you make other plans.

It happens to the best of us. You just have to let
the misery run its course.
Which isn’t to say this is all bad. As much as I’d like to have my book out already, I’m not yet in a position to say no to temp jobs when they come up. As much as they cramp my style, I imagine bankruptcy, homelessness, etc., would do me far worse. 

A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do—and if that man doesn’t want to work temporary wage-slave gigs, he’d better make the books he’s writing extra-special good. Thing is, I can’t do shit when I come home from the fundraiser. My mind is wired and my body is tired. 

So, we wait. And here we are, halfway through the year already. Summer feels like it just got started. As Pastor Bryce of the Abundant Life settlement in Grace Among the Dead points out, though, our survival this winter depends on how much get done these next eight weeks. For my part, much depends on what I do over the next 48 hours.

The first 24 of these are shot, so if a bunch of posts start turning up, that’s just me playing catch-up while my brain re-aligns, and my powers of concentration recharge. Just a heads up....


Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Random Rant About Something the Pope Recently Did

For one thing, about damn time. Contrary to popular mythology—and I say this as someone who loves the first two Godfather movies—those who make up the Mafia are not glorious Nietzschean supermen, bringing justice to those corners of society a decadent and corrupt “society of laws” won’t bother with. They’re brutal, bullying assholes who have made life miserable for generations of Italians, smearing their entire nationality in the bargain. 

For another, what took so long? So Pope John Paul complained once in 1993 and got his papal residence bombed for his trouble. Why didn’t he press on? Why did not one of his predecessors make any noise? Why did we have to wait until 20-fucking-14 for this?

I realize the Catholic Church is going through a major rebranding—we’ve got us a regular “People’s Pope” shaking his finger at the Evil Rich and possibly lightening up on the gay thing, if not weed—well, given that Pope Francis did shake his finger at the rich people, I suppose taking on the Mafia is just as daring. 

Any excuse to run a Matt Dixon piece. She’s rocking a nun’s
headgear, so she’s Catholic, right? Art Copyright 2014 © by Matt Dixon
But so what? The Mafia isn’t going anywhere. The rich are going to continue gutting the planet while working us poor slaves to death—if they don’t poison us with the toxic byproducts of their industries first. But, hey, the Pope stood up and told them they were bad, so it’s okay. Come on back to the Church, kids. We’ll tell you whatever we think you want to hear.

That’s all this ever was about. Rebranding. I like the changed tone, but as with Obama succeeding Bush II, the tone is all that has changed. The kids are still getting molested. Guantanamo is still open for business; the wars winding down on Rumsfeld’s original schedule. So the gay folk get thrown a few concessions. That’s nice. Really, it is. 

Meanwhile, everything else is going up but your pay. We also have a Let’s Hate On the Muslims Real Hard This Time (Boko Haram! ISIS!) campaign going on in the media which makes me wonder if the powers that be are testing the waters for a new military operation.

Still, that’s fucking hilarious about the Mafia. I’m sure they’re sweating. Not.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Stuck in the Chunky Peanut Butter Swamps of Time, Part 1

I find myself trapped in a time paradox. On one hand, oh shit, it’s Friday already! Where has the week gone? And yet, at the same time (!), it feels like time is dragging like a walking corpse’s broken foot on rough pavement. Does that make any sense?

Of course not. It’s a paradox. And I suspect my current existential crisis has much to do with how I’m dragging through this mess of Accept/Reject edits in my book. 

Ever done Accept/Reject edits in Word? Grace Among the Dead is my third novel and my second published book, but this is the first time I’ve played this game:

You have to be careful, because the blue-lettered parts are only the most obvious items. Smaller bits, like punctuation, you’re liable to miss. Look for the vertical line in either margin; those indicate an edit that needs to be addressed. Yes, those are easy to miss, too. It’s one page at a time, so buckle in and knuckle down. 

On some of these lines where an edit is noted you have to walk the cursor one space at a time to find the edit. Then, to accept or reject that edit, you have to either have the cursor immediately in front of the edit, or highlighted from one end of the longer edit to the other—and the margins of the highlight must be precise, or forget it. Then you have to right-click. 

Assuming you didn’t somehow lose your highlight while doing this, you look for the Accept/Reject line in the drop-down menu. Click on one or the other, for 264 pages and 95,000 words.

If you’re familiar with Death by Powerpoint, then Accept/Reject edits in Word is the hell you awaken into after you die.

May the Elder Gods forever bless Severed Press for stepping up their editorial game, but the proofreader assigned to me has a curious fetish for commas and exclamation points. According to her, I don’t use enough of the former and employ too many of the latter. Although many of her suggestions have proven most welcome — I marvel at the change of style and even mood of the scenes — I have to wonder what madness possesses her to fuck with my dialogue. 

For instance, bikers named “Crunk” care zero shits for subject-verb agreement when they’re talking. Also, action heroes like Derek Grace tend to speak in sentence fragments. Like this. Especially when narrating some noirish action. Got it? Running those sentence fragments together as one big compound sentence tends to emasculate even the toughest corpse-desecrating mother.

Meanwhile, I have learned many tidbits of modern American English spelling.
To wit:

  • Despite there being no “frontyard,” a back yard is a backyard, and there’s no messing with the mass consensus on that one.

  • Merriam-Webster Online and both insist that “faceplant” is spelled with a hyphen between the “face” and the “plant” but a lot more sites along the lines of Wiktionary and multiple YouTube pages showing actual faceplants go with the portmanteau. Grace Among the Dead is written in first-person, and people tend to speak and sometimes (God help us) write colloquially, so I’m going with the colloquial spelling. Also, it just looks better, and seems (to me) to convey the meaning so much more effectively as one word. In short, it’s a judgment call on my part, for which I’ll either hang or walk.

  • Flat screen is two words. Sometimes there’s a hyphen. I think it makes more sense as flatscreen but I must defer to Best Buy. As must we all....

  • Kickboxer is one word. Hell, I knew that one before I looked it up, but this page of links backs me up. Note that Google corrected my spelling before it even performed its search. Ha-ha, gotcha there, Miss Smarty Pants Proofreader Lady!

On top of that, I have a squishy middle in the narrative I knew I’d have to handle post-production, along with a couple of character arcs to firm up. Making edits when the document is in this mode is not as easy as it is when you’re in normal Word document creation, so I’ve copied and pasted critical paragraphs in a separate document to work on them there until the read the way they’re supposed to. I’ve got much copying and pasting and editorial retrofitting to go before I sleep.

The hell of it is I wouldn’t have this long weekend ahead of me if I’d taken advantage of getting the galleys back early and ripped right into it. I was actually afraid to look at it—yes, I have problems taking criticism, fuck you very much— so I let it go last weekend. I finally asked my editor via e-mail how to do the Accept/Reject thing—I’d had no idea until Monday. And even on Monday, I didn’t get as far as page 9, the last page of Chapter 1. I did better on Tuesday, but I was butthurt and demoralized by the proofreader’s comments. Especially as I resembled her remarks.

Then it got worse. Come Thursday, as I went along popping the Accept/Reject virtual bubble-wrap, I began to wonder if my proofer was giving up on me. I knew where the narrative began to lose traction, and even as I dreaded finding pop-out comments like “This makes no sense” I was dismayed not to find them, as well.

This is all to say I’ve pissed away the week developing the emotional maturity to edit my third novel. I’m almost there. What drives me on is, if I quit now, my book would be just as good as all the other half-assed, sketched-in dreck out there. Aside from the obvious considerations for my ego, I don’t have the writers’ networks and connections to get away with that. 

I’ve always known I can make things shine if I can put five more minutes into my work than the other guy. Now that the game is leveled up, I have to make those five minutes count.

So that’s where I am right now, reporting in so my pageviews don’t go into the single-digit toilet as they did the first day I went without posting. If you’ve gotten this far, here’s a big “Bless your heart!” and what may or may not be a Photoshopped image of Kaley Cucoco in Supergirl body paint. Those look like they could be her breasts, but I dunno. 

Y’all figure it out. I’ve got stuff to do.

If you haven’t read the first book in my series yet, please check out Bleeding Kansas. I thought it turned out pretty damn good for far less misery. Grace Among the Dead is a more complex tale, though—but I swear by the buoyant young breasts of Ms. Cuoco, we’ll have it in your hands in time for your post Fourth of July hangover! And it will fucking rock.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Father’s Day 2014 After-Action Report

It was, by far, the best Father’s Day yet, for all the wrong reasons. At least I expect most people to find them “wrong.” After all, how good can it be if you’re not poked, prodded, pushed, pulled, and otherwise overstimulated on a day that’s supposed to be Your Day?

I told my children early on that the best gift for me on any given Father’s Day is for them to make plans, and leave me the hell out of them. No drama. No questions. No watch-this, wanna do that, whatever. I’ve got all the rest of the year to deal with you guys. Let me have the next best thing to a day off. 

This year, I got a full day off.

Of course, I’m pretty much at the finish line as far as the parenting thing goes. My daughter is going on 21; my son is a couple of months away from starting his senior year in high school. He turns 18 in November, and I doubt he’ll be hanging around long after May next year. Not his style. 

Satan Devouring His Son by Peter Paul Rubens,
the same guy who fetishized fat chicks, so take
it for what it’s worth.
My daughter is making it work living on her own. God knows how, but she does. She was no doubt working at the big box store she cashiers at today. I didn’t hear from her, except for Saturday, when she stopped by where I was working and slipped me a couple of cigarettes. I’ve yet to smoke them. My willpower has been pretty good for the past few months (hell, excellent, given the stresses of finishing a book), but I appreciate her gesture all the same.

My son has been working the local Civil Air Patrol encampment. I found a voicemail message from him on my phone yesterday. Technically, he’s not supposed to phone out, as one of the objectives of encampment is to teach young people how to deal with things without calling mom and dad for at least a week. My guess is some silly old thing with a bit of misplaced authority figured it Just Wasn’t Right that Daddy doesn’t get a call for Father’s Day—we’re such emotional little bitches, don’tcha know—so she handed their cell phones back to them and ordered those poor kids to call their fathers.

You can hear it in his voice. Still the message went on longer than it had to. It was garbled, as he was calling from inside an old building but I caught the necessary bits, namely, “everything’s okay” at encampment, Happy Father’s Day, and—I’m pretty sure he even said, “I love you,” which he’s never said to me before. 

I love my children enough that I don’t want them saying things that make them feel awkward, so I’m going to reciprocate by telling him I didn’t understand a goddamn thing but “Happy Father’s Day” and we’ll both smirk and laugh that he was made to do this.

That will be Saturday. He’ll be gone all week. I keep telling myself to get used to this—and to be glad I have to get used to this. The only basement-dwelling loser in this house is me. I’ve fucked up a lot of things in my life, but so far as I can tell I didn’t fuck up the kids. Not so much that they can’t function outside the house.

Some people need to be told.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been struck by my fantastic great fortune in regards to my children. I’ve known people who were really into that Being a Parent thing, who did everything right, and their kids turned out to be bad checks that keep coming back, with penalties, interest, and smelly laundry. Me, I entered into fatherhood grumbling and cursing all the way (my wife had the baby rabies; I was looking forward to going through my 30s and 40s footloose and offspring-free), and look what I got. They ain’t half-bad to look at, either.

I can’t think of a single thing I did to deserve this. Anything I did as a parent, it was the stuff that had to be done. The stuff you shouldn’t expect praise for. Again, I know people who did that stuff and so much more, and their return on investment was well into the negatives.

Then again, if I'd had a mother who looked like Carolyn Jones,
I'd have been one seriously conflicted adolescent.
So here’s this year’s miracle: sitting alone in my house, the windows open, my wife at her own job, I realized I’m no longer seething with rage for the varying flavors of worthlessness that were my biological father, my step-father, and the idiot woman who slept with them. Lord knows this took long enough, but it seems all the years of being a parent have finally cancelled out the pain of me not having any worth speaking of.

Not all of it, of course. But I feel myself coming to terms with things. Enough that maybe I can tell some stories at last, reach out to the numberless mass of people who, like myself, grew up essentially fatherless.

As the catchphrase goes, it gets better. It really does. Who knew?

It was a beautiful, quiet summer Sunday. My wife came home from work and we popped the all-meat pizza she’d picked up at Wally World in the oven. 

It was very good day.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Confessions of a Pop Culture Philistine

I have never seen a Game of Thrones episode. I don’t feel particularly compelled to check it out, either. 

No, no snobbery here. Honestly! Midgets, dragons, hot chicks with weird names, and guys hollerin’ “Hodor!” simply don’t do it for me. Does this make me a bad person?

Emilia Clark, who plays—fuck that, I don’t even want
to know how spell it. That’s right, I Googled “hottest
women on Game of Thrones” and downloaded
the first photo I saw. Thanks, GQ Magazine!
I’ve entertained some interest in watching Breaking Bad. It sounds like my kind of show. The hell of it is, I already know the entire damn storyline from start to finish. Why bother?

I’ve read in several places that The Wire is supposedly The Greatest Television Show Made, Ever. It’s about cops in Baltimore. Why I’m supposed to give a shit about Yet Another Goddamned Cop Show has yet to be explained. I’ve never seen The Wire, and I never will. You can chalk that one up to snobbery, and I won’t care. 

I’ve never seen The Princess Bride. Or Avatar. I had Avatar on the bookcase by my entertainment center for a week. after checking it out from the library. Just couldn’t bring myself to spend three hours watching blue cat people fly around a funky jungle.

Meanwhile, people look at me weird because I’ve actually read all the Harry Potter books and think very highly of the first Hunger Games book. I’ll go one further and say I think teen/young adult literature is the only sci-fi/fantasy out there worth reading, because it’s often less concerned with political correctness than it is with how the characters react to their environments. Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov wouldn’t be welcome in the writers’ guilds of the very genre they founded thanks to the thought-policing tyranny of politically correct assholes, but that’s another rant. What I miss about those old Grandmasters is their sense of wild imagination, and the only contemporary examples of that are in Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and maybe some more young adult stuff I’m missing.

To each their own, right?

Yeah, I thought so.


Sunday, June 15, 2014


This is the second book in The Saga of the Dead Silencer series, so why not two exploding heads? Let’s hope no one is confused by the stylistic similarity to the first book’s cover. Adding a third exploding head to the third book will save a step in the production of the third and last book.

Because, honestly, all I really want to do is write these things. Marketing is not a part-time job one does in between writing. It’s like being a politician in office; too much of your time is spent fundraising as opposed to enacting any particular political vision. It’s even more toxic when you’re a writer trying to construct a plausible artistic vision. (Yes, I take my zombie novels very seriously. They’ve all got my name on ‘em, dammit! In big red letters!)

Anyway, Grace Among the Dead should be out in a couple of weeks, at most. As soon as I finish playing Accept/Deny edits on the galleys, which turned out to be 274 pages as their margins made it. Alas, I got sidetracked by a beautifully quiet and salubrious Father’s Day. I’ll do what I can to catch up tomorrow....


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Saturday in the (Sunburned, Windblasted) Park

I’ve got to make this writing thing succeed. Today damn near killed me. 

I set out at 6:30 a.m. to drive 20 miles south of my house in north Colorado Springs, so far south it looked like I was about to run out of mountains on the Front Range. I didn’t know CO 21 had its southern terminus within the county, or that I’d ever see the place where Powers Road, the long north/south road marking Colorado Springs eastern boundary, ran out.

Lollipop Chainsaw Girl says get over
your goddamn self.
To think that so many people live in that high, almost treeless plain. And here’s the other kicker—I just realized that I’m back to the same attitude towards small children that I had in my 20s before I had children, i.e., I don’t like them. Dirty, yowly little things with no sense of boundaries. Believe me, I was even more disappointed than you to learn this. It’s a retrograde attitude, and I will have to work on this.

Being sleep-deprived, assaulted by the sun and that damned annoying mountain wind certainly didn’t help. It’s that way every time I go out. I come back hoping I didn’t insult someone or fuck something up because I’m so tired, and the wind here is the death of one thousand blows.

I love the guy I work for but I need to make this writing thing work so I don’t have to help out photographing T-ball teams in community parks. I’m so much happier here in my basement office. Which is another retrograde attitude....

Nothing to do but sleep it off. My time is my own tomorrow, and I’ve got editor’s proofs to accept or reject. Which, as Hemingway might say, is something.


Friday, June 13, 2014

#MySummerJam: Steely Dan, “Black Friday”

This song is as personal as it gets for me. I heard “Black Friday” in the car coming back from wandering Sesquicentennial State Park with Kevin Wolff. It was 13 June 1980, and, yes, Friday. Kevin and I laughed when the song came on because we both knew about the deteriorating situation where I was living with my parents. Was this song an omen? Was this the day they finally kicked me out? 

Well, hell, it most certainly was! Black Friday 1980 was the day my 18-year-old self left home for the first time, on an adventure that would take me through various living situations and two years alternating between the banding pit and the cold shears in the Pony Mill at Owen Electric Steel in Cayce, SC. One of these days, I swear I’m going to write that fucking novel.

Meanwhile, let’s groove to the timeless and timely track that opens Steely Dan’s 1975 Katy Lied album. Remove your hats and raise your glasses/cigarette lighters for this nameless guitarist—have you heard of Hugh McCracken (gods rest his soul) before now?—who musically articulates a building anxiety attack and nervous breakdown in a way no other name-brand guitar “god” would ever imagine to do. If you’ve ever felt on the edge of your last nerve, if you’ve ever wondered if you shouldn’t take advantage of your Darkest Hour and light out for the territories...

     When Black Friday falls, I’ll be on that plain—
     I guess I’ll change my name

...this song is for you. Happy Friday the 13th.

Oh, and before we sign off here—this meme, aside from showing up in several places on my Facebook timeline today, is a message pertinent to superstitious souls. The tl;dr: Be like that cat. Have someplace you’re going to. Try not to get hit by a car.

I’d love to celebrate tonight but I have a 7 a.m. show-up time for work. I have the corrected galleys of a novel to turn in by Sunday, too. 

It’s just another Day in the Life, and I’m glad for it.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Another Kind of Throwback Thursday

I grumped about Colorado’s throwback temperatures on my Facebook page—it’s noon and it’s finally cracked 62 degrees thanks to a brief break in the clouds—but upon dosing myself with the requisite amounts of black Arabica coffee and a chunk of 85% cacao, I’ve come to appreciate that at least my surroundings aren’t hot, dry, and in flames like they were last year, and the year before that. I was concerned this year would be the “threepeat” and that wildfires in Colorado Springs would become another thing we put up with, like snow in May.

Right now I’m concerned that I need the nootropic assistance of coffee and cacao beans to appreciate the obvious. Well, hell. Whatever it takes. I’m grateful for today. And that, so far, nothing seems to be on fire.

In other news, Severed Press threw their corrected galleys of Grace Among the Dead back to me last night. I sent this by way of reply...

...because, Holy shit! This is over two weeks earlier than I expected! And I did drink too much beer last night. Boy, did I time that particular bender wrong!

So, with all the nootropic assistance I can summon, it’s down to business. If I do this right, I’ll have this monsterpiece of a second installment of The Dead Silencer series in your hands by the end of next week. Maybe sooner, if I just get going....


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Minor Midweek Miseries, Week 24

The moon setting behind Pikes Peak woke me up. We’d left the windows open to cool off the bedroom (we have no air conditioning) and the angle was just right for the nearly full moon to hit my face like a flashlight beam at 3:30 a.m.

Fortunately, I’d turned in early. My blocked sinuses have been interrupting my dream-filled sleep since half-past midnight anyway. I’ve got bills to pay online, and a 60-slot beat sheet to fill up. The plumber is coming over between 9 a.m. and 11 to replace the stripped shower diverter valve. 

Might as well get to it. As long as I don’t have to drive anywhere, I’m happy.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

#MySummerJam: Foster the People, “Pumped-Up Kicks”

Given that there’s a rage shooting at least once a week in the good ol’ USA, it’s always going to be “too soon” for this song, which was all over the radio in Summer 2011. Composer Mark Foster has pointed out that the lyrics to “Pumped-Up Kicks” leave open the possibility that this is merely dark fantasy, and that’s mostly what I get from it. It’s a dark rumination by a lonely, angsty teenager. The wacky-catchy bass line gives it away. He’s bored, alone, and goofin’. 

So everybody calm the fuck down, and whistle along. Good Lord, when was the last time we’ve heard anything so damned melodic on the radio?

DRIVE-BY REVIEW BONUS: The album from which this song comes, Torches, is one of the select few albums since 2000 I’ve fallen in love with. It’s not merely chock-full of hummable melodies and driving beats, there’s a life to this production that’s been missing from pop music altogether since, oh, 9-11.

That said, I have to wonder what happened to Mark Foster and company with the second album, Supermodel. Like the best of the worst pop out there, the songs are just sorta-kinda there. They’re not so bad as to offend, but you don’t remember the songs when they’re over, either. There’s nothing here that makes you jump out of your chair to boogie like “Helena Beat” or “On the Nickel” on Torches. I can’t believe Mark Foster used up all his his best songs on one album. 

Torches is still so good I’m willing to give any third album they come up with a listen. But even if that doesn’t pan out, Torches will forever be a disc to play on your drive and remind you why it’s (sometimes) good to be alive. Even the song that’s supposed to be about a rage-shooting (or fantasy of the same) does that for you.


Monday, June 09, 2014

Some Mondays Are Better Than Others

I forget where I came across this photo of a baked young beauty with a bong in the grow area. It’s very calming, though, so I thought you might want to look at it, too:

“If a body catch a body comin’ through the rye....”

I like to imagine she’s wondering if she remembered to put on the second half of her bikini—and that the thought she might not have amuses her.


Sunday, June 08, 2014

Can’t Catch a Break in the Sunflower State

Although this cover hardly screams “Kansas” even with the bright yellow title copy (the image shouts it down), it’s too epic for inclusion in my Great Moments in Failed Cover Art series.

Hell, I’m beyond sold; I need this book!

In this case Pulp Covers failed its stated mission as “The Best of the Worst” because this cover art kicks Holy Roman ass on so many levels. One certainly can’t hold it against them.

Mine’s not a “Startling Story of Science At War With Alien Life-Forms” but a Most Compelling Tale of Action and Adventure Among the Living Dead. My cover also has an exploding head. I think we can all agree that nothing livens a party like an exploding head:

Available in Kindle and paperback. (The virtual Kindle reader for PCs and phones is free in case you need it.) The sequel, Grace Among the Dead, is due out in, oh, maybe three more weeks. It’s with the publisher, so eventually you’ll have even more post-apocalyptic mayhem to get you through your summer.

I won’t say my books are anything you need. However, they will enhance your Summer 2014 reading experience. Just a hunch, but I stand by it.

Hell Comes to the Heartland in BLEEDING KANSAS!

And soon...

In the Heart of Darkest Horror You Will Find GRACE AMONG THE DEAD!


Great Moments in Failed Cover Art, Part 3

This one’s entirely on me. The first cover for my first book. 

Dear God, what was I thinking?

Oh, I was thinking I was a genius for finding a photo of central Kansas landscape taken close to the actual setting of most of my novel. (I thought the wind turbine really sold the setting. Central Kansas is lousy with them.)  I cropped the photo, and maxed out the color saturation in Photoshop so that it looked like a painting. 

It would have helped the painterly effect if I’d blurred out the digital artifacts, but what the hell. The lurid colors had a nice pulpy feel. The three zombies shipped in and blended into the picture by my son provided the Uncanny Valley touch. 

I even wrote in a scene in  the last chapter describing this exact tableau. The reader would come across this scene and realize he’s seen it before. He’d look at the cover of the book, and understand beyond a shadow of doubt he’s been reading something Really Fucking Special by someone who gives a real shit for the quality of his product.

These days, it’s not enough to write a book. You’ve got to build your brand.

The title and the name of the author were rendered in the tall, spiky Mesquite font for maximum visibility, and a reminder of the locale. I used Adelaide for the secondary copy as another small flourish of Uncanny Valley, to remind readers this really is a novel of the zombie apocalypse, with the promise of some bang-pow! comic-book action inside.

What was I thinking? Maybe that was the problem. I’d thought everything through, and thought myself a wonderful Hard Workin’ Inspired Motherfuckin’ Genius for my trouble. Check this out, all large and in-charge!

Check it out looking lame compared to what’s really selling out there.


As it turned out, this was the first of three covers. The German cover made my son and I feel ashamed for our lameness. Severed Press, realizing that the German publisher Luzifer Verlag had it going on with their covers, upped their game. Severed gave a few of their writers, myself included, a chance to run a rewrite for a second edition—a “re-branding,” if you will, addressing the complaints of the books critics in the reviews. So I omitted a controversial death in Chapter 9, and smoothed over some of Derek Grace’s rough edges by removing his arch commentary on the social situation around him.

So get this: our Bad Cover here is to the edition of my book with a controversial death and some rude observations by the main character. And it’s still available in paperback!

Bleeding Kansas not only has three different covers, but those covers represent three different editions of text: Original Rude Text, German, and Semi-Sanitized for Sensitive Types. I’m all about the options here. And certainly not above making a bad cover.


Saturday, June 07, 2014

For Those Working in the Yard This Saturday

It’s the seventh day of June and 63 degrees Fahrenheit at 11 a.m. here on the north side of Colorado Springs. Overcast and damp, too. At least the chill will prevent the clouds from boiling up into the severe thunderstorms that have been tormenting the eastern Colorado high plains for the last couple of days. Still, this is most unnatural for this time of year. If my windows are closed at this time of day, this time of year, it’s to keep the heat out.

Assuming apocalyptic  Wrath o’ God™ thunderstorms aren’t keeping you indoors where you are, here’s a handy guide for when you’re out pushing the mower:

I’m pleased to report I have seen actual bees in my yard. This is no small thing, given that pesticides have been killing great numbers of the one creature we depend upon to keep crops growing. (Thanks, Monsanto!)

I realize most people freak out at the mere mention of spiders but I watched a wasp fly into a web, sting the fuck out of the spider, and haul its paralyzed body away to eat it while it still lived. Wasps are nasty pieces of work.

Today would be ideal to go on dandelion search-and-destroy and hack away at those pernicious Chinese elms popping up around the west side of the house. Maybe later. I’ve got a second book to comb through for errors and a third book yet to fully block out.

I’ve never been much of an outdoors person. Y’all have fun, though.


Friday, June 06, 2014

First Friday in June: A Devotional

I took off just before 9 p.m. for a grocery run. I didn’t really need to do it right then but it’s the one time I’ve been out all day, and too much time in the house makes me (more) weird and anti-social. Even if I don’t want to talk to anyone—thank the dark gods for self-checkout!—I need to rub shoulders with my fellow primates. Metaphorically, and at a distance. 

Anyway, I had to get out, and I’m glad I did. The drive got a little scary when those three teenagers in dark clothes and white shoes (which saved their asses) cut out into the four-lane  just around the corner on Briargate Boulevard. The teenage boys in groups of threes and fives were out in force, stalking the sidewalks, looking to meet up, score weed, shoot the shit. As it was in the 1970s when I stalked the neighborhood at night, so it is in the twenty-teens, or whatever the fuck they’ll call this decade.

The ladies were out, too.

Not the teenage ones. The women. At the Woodmen and Lexington King Sooper’s I saw a vision rocking denim shorts, and a layered tank top from which her tanned femininity arose like twin suns above a most lovely and blessed realm. I felt honored by the gods themselves to have beheld such a sight.

Then I went to the liquor store for a sixer of pale ale and as I passed one after another in the aisles I thought, Where the hell have these creatures been the last seven-plus years I’ve lived here? So much young blood—you really don’t see much of it in Colorado Springs, come to think of it. For the most part, this is a town of middle-aged to elderly old farts whose kids take off to somewhere else as soon as they’re out of high school.  

So I got some goodies and came home, the summertime air blowing beneath my ragtop.

The weather’s nice. I can afford beer. Doesn’t cost a thing to look (but learn a little discretion, you fucking lech). I drive a long-since paid-for Jeep. I ain’t got much, but I loves my little yellow Jeep. We go way back....

Goddamn, but it feels good to be alive for a change!

Thank you, Evening of 6 June 2014, north Colorado Springs.

Serendipity is the name of my Muse.


“I Ate You, You Ate Me…”

“...we’re flesh-eating undead zombieeeees.”

With apologies for the D-Day commemorative post. That was as depressing as it was unnecessary. Let’s get a little cheer going on this first Friday in June!