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 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 a recent childbirth, she and Cocteau Twins’ guitarist/musical director Robin Guthrie having 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 indispensable, 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, 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.

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 anything 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.

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, it’s Friday already. Where has the week gone? And yet 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.

I’m happy to see Severed Press stepping up their editorial game, but the proofreader they assigned to me has a 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 tweak my dialogue. 

For instance, bikers named “Crunk” are generally unconcerned about 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. 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.

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—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 spent my 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 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 haven’t read the first book in my series yet, please check out Bleeding Kansas. I thought it turned out pretty good for far less misery. Grace Among the Dead is a more complex tale, though. Regardless, we should have it in your hands in time for your post Fourth of July hangover.

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 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 (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 things, 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 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 messed up a lot of things in my life, but so far as I can tell I didn’t mess 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.

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.

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 as a writer is 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 got my name on ‘em in big red letters, after all.)

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 nearly 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
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 relentless mountain wind didn’t help. It’s that way every time I go out. I come back hoping I didn’t insult someone or screw 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? 

Right after dinner when I got back home, as it turned out. 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 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 Walter Becker, 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, 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 this is over two weeks earlier than I expected. And I drank 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 everyone calm down, and whistle along. When was the last time we’ve heard anything so 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. 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 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.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Can’t Catch a Break in the Sunflower State

Even with the bright yellow title copy, the cover hardly screams “Kansas.” The image tends to shout it down.

In this case Pulp Covers failed its stated mission as “The Best of the Worst” because this cover art is frankly, simply, the Best. 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.

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

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 I hadn’t thought to do that. The lurid colors had a nice pulpy feel, though. 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 Special by someone who cares for the quality of his product.

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 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.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

#MySummerJam: The Brothers Johnson, “I’ll Be Good To You”

The brothers who described themselves on their jacket copy as “Thunderin’ Thumbs and Lightnin’ Licks” are best known for their 1977 cover of Shuggie Otis’ “Strawberry Letter 23.” Which was a fine thing indeed, but the opening track from The Brothers Johnson’s debut album, Look Out for #1,  takes me back to the best of the Bicentennial summer the year before, when I went to North Myrtle Beach and met that girl from New Jersey. That summer of mononucleosis. The last summer I built models. (The Space:1999 Eagle transport ship and the U.S.S. Enterprise Bridge.)

It was a short childhood, Charlie Brown. But, as Mr. Lennon pointed out in his last interview, we’ll always have the records to play.

Producer Quincy Jones knows how to lay down a groove. Note how the background singers become a driving rhythm instrument all their own during the chorus. As Jones would later do for Michael Jackson, he did for the Brothers Johnson in 1976. 

Monday, June 02, 2014

Summertime Hygiene

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. George Orwell

I’ve written before about how well Orwell called it, how finishing a book really is like an ordeal of illness. That was posted after I’d finished Bleeding Kansas this time last year.

It was especially bad this year with Grace Among the Dead. It’s so bad, I finished the book a week ago, turned it in Friday night—and I’m still shell-shocked. It’s like that first day when you’re starting to get better, but your hands are unsteady and, after weeks laid up in bed, you’re teaching yourself to walk again. 

I’ve gained ten pounds. I look and feel like hammered crap. And I’m still not shut of my responsibilities to Grace. I’ve got dialogue to clean up on page 106, and a middle chapter than needs tightening, as in, “throw out an entire pages-long scene that serves as a weak and ultimately unnecessary infodump and does nothing to advance the action.” 
Then I have to iron out the references to the scene in the pages following.

Unretouched photo of the author as of this weekend.
While moving slower than I’d like, I am getting more done than I’d expected by this time. Yesterday I went through the folders in my Dead Silencer omnibus on my computer and ended up throwing out four megabytes worth of crap, streamlining the directories—and assigning a working title to the third book, namely, The Wrong Kind of Dead. It works on several levels which will make themselves apparent to readers. I may keep it.

I also made a major decision in regards to tone. A lot of people were put off by the misanthropy in Bleeding Kansas. I did much to lighten that up with Grace Among the Dead, showing that cooperation among the human survivors is not only doable, but desirable.

Haters gonna hate.
I’ve had the basic plot to The Wrong Kind of Dead in my head for a couple of years now, and its storyline depends on that Nietzschean conceit that people are generally tolerable as individuals and sometimes productive in small groups—but are an utter nightmare as a mass. I’ve spent no small amount of time pacing the floor thinking of how I could do this differently.

No. This is the way Derek Grace’s story is supposed to end. People are just going to have to deal with it. One reviewer noted that while she hated the toxic attitude in Bleeding Kansas, she would be willing to check out something else I’ve written. Bless you, gentle reader, I say. Let me get this bit of realpolitik unpleasantness out of the way so I can write those other books. I’ve got four more planned once The Saga of the Dead Silencer series is done, with the immediate next one being a quartet of my best supernatural tales.

I could very well get this done early but I’m going to pull some reverse psychology on myself and forbid myself from beginning writing until the 15th. When I start, there will be no narrative gaps for me to figure out how to bridge. There will be nothing left to chance.

I’m not going to make a fool out of myself by giving myself a deadline I might sabotage myself for down the road. I am, however, going to write this thing as fast as my fingers can carry me. People waited too long for the last sequel. That’s bad for the customer, and bad for business. One year is also too long to spend writing a novel. That’s bad for my health. No, really literally.