RIP Keiko Fiend

The Keiko Kitty, also known as the Keiko Fiend, came into my life several months after I’d buried my first cat. Our surviving cat, Johnny, seemed rather lost without his older sister. Like any childless couple that anthropomorphizes our pets, we made the decision that he needed a sibling. I didn’t know that meant my wife would begin that search in earnest. Immediately.
I came home from work to find a smiling wife telling me we needed to go meet someone after dinner.
Turns out, a family had found a kitten, jet black with yellow eyes, and had tried to keep her, but their daughter was deathly allergic. The kitty needed a new home.
After knocking on the door, meeting and greeting the denizens including the cute little girl who looked crestfallen, something black began moving toward me.
Keiko was a pretty little lump of fur with curiosity in her eyes and a look that could melt any heart. I reached down for her, scooped her up in my arms, and she immediately crawled up to snuggle against my neck with a roaring purr. That was that.
Keiko, playful, curious, and sometimes persecuted by her elder sibling, became this independent but snuggly cat that had patience the likes of which humanity has never encountered.
The three animals we’ve had since all bonded with her immediately. She became more like a mother to the other pets, someone they’d lay next to or cuddle with. She loved our dog Indie and we often found her snuggled up against him, the pair of them sleeping away the day.
The Shadow Fiend treated Keiko like she was his mother and will no doubt be devastated by the loss of his sister. I know I am.
For all the things Keiko was, every one of them wonderful and joyful, she was most importantly my friend and companion. She was here at the beginning of my writing career and often listened to me wail about plot points, commenting with the occasional chirp or random snuggle attack. When I was stuck for ideas, she jumped up in my lap and crawled up onto my shoulders until she felt my fingers struggling to get to the keys. Then it was back to the lap. And ultimately, when I started rolling on the keys, she’d leave for her favorite spot in the sun.
These last many months, she’s been losing weight. At her heaviest, Keiko was 16 lbs. BMan used to joke that Keiko, and her fur, was the actual inspiration for the M2 creature of The Black. Today, as we said goodbye, she was 6.9. It was past time, but like the patient saint she was, she didn’t complain or tell the vet or anyone she was even sick. Not that it would have mattered.
Keiko succumbed to metastatic cancer on April 13th, 2021.
My heart is broken.

Essay–Memories and Lessons

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PrintI was born in 1970. Some of my earliest memories are of Cronkite presiding over the death-knell of the Vietnam Conflict. Strange how those images, both black and white and of a sepia-toned “color” nightmare, mix with the bright, welcoming colors of Sesame Street and The Electric Company. At some point, it all melds together without rhyme or reason. When I think about Canada, those images always flash in the back of my mind.

In 1976, my family moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada for my father’s job. And that is when for the first time, I knew “hate.”

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The Street–Farewell

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Street-WallpaperDoes anyone understand the difference between fan-fiction, parody, satire, and outright theft? I thought I did, but it’s obvious to me now that I had no clue.

When I wrote “Stuffing” for an online con organized by the late great PG Holyfield (RIP, we miss you), it was supposed to be a ridiculously unapologetic parody driven by my anger over certain comments from Mitt Romney regarding PBS and Sesame Street. The asshole didn’t even have his facts straight about funding. But I digress.

While writing it, I realized I was touching on something regarding economics and the state of America’s ghettos. I know, I shouldn’t get all political, but it’s the truth. What happens when a business that employs nearly everyone in the community goes out of business? No one has a job. And after their funds run out because there are no new jobs to have in the community, crime runs rampant. People do what they have to do to survive. And I guess Oscar’s world was a mirror of that.

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Essay–The Black: A Memoir of Sorts

Two years ago, The Black found its way into the marketplace. Those of you that listen to The Dead Robots’ Society have probably heard some of this already, but for the rest of you, let me tell you about The Black.

Blacks_ebook_coverThe Introduction…

I didn’t think I’d ever sell a book on a pitch. For a so-called “unestablished author” whose indie published work hadn’t managed to gain a wide audience, selling a book with just a synopsis was unbelievable. So how the hell did it happen? You can blame my nemesis for that. Continue reading “Essay–The Black: A Memoir of Sorts”

Essay: Balticon 50–All That Was and Could Have Been

This year was my sixth at Balticon, and boy was it a crazy time. If you’re not familiar with Balticon, that’s okay. It’s held every year in Baltimore, Maryland during Memorial Day weekend. While it’s technically a “sci-fi/fantasy” convention, the podcasting community made serious inroads nearly a decade ago. Since then, it’s been very friendly to the so-called “new-media” endeavors like podcasting, YouTube, and the like.

When I first attended Balticon, the first presentation of Closet Treats was wrapping up. I had made a number of connections via social media to both patrons and other creators. Therefore, the con, for me, wasn’t about being on panels. It was more about meeting all the folks I’d fanboyed over as well as the listeners that helped me find my footing in the podcast/writing community.

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A Little “News” From The Darkness

As I approach that special moment of sending The Black: Outbreak to my publisher, it’s time I owned up to something. I have in the past few weeks mentioned that I was hard at work on a secret audio project. Well, it’s time to reveal that secret, especially since it won’t be finished in time anyway.

Last year, I mentioned that The Black: Arrival was probably the last audiobook I would ever narrate. It was supposed to be the last, the very last, except for anything having to do with The Street. However, circumstances have forced my hand.

When I released The Black on audible, it quickly made a lot of money. “A lot” being commensurate with “more than a few bucks.” It didn’t seem to matter that the audiobook was released long after the actual book came out. Listeners flocked to it and I was both surprised and elated by its sales. I considered hiring someone to narrate The Black: Arrival for me, but I was trying to make a deadline and it would have been impossible. Turned out I needn’t have bothered. Arrival took a long time to finish and put on the Audible store. I swore to myself I’d hire a pro for the third book. And then I looked at the sales.

Arrival hasn’t sold nearly as well as The Black. In fact, its sales are downright dismal by comparison. Based on that data, I decided that instead of spending $1500-2000 to have Outbreak narrated, and lose money on it in the process, it would be better if I sat my fat ass in the chair again and babbled into the microphone. Thus, here we are. Continue reading “A Little “News” From The Darkness”

Essay–The Problem With Horror

Genres. If you go to any book store, online or brick and mortar, or, Garaaga forbid, even a library, you’ll find shelves (virtual or real) marked with “Science Fiction,” “Fantasy,” “Thriller,” “Romance,” “Literature,” “Drama,” “Classics” and tons of others. And I’m just talking about the fiction sections. Notice what’s missing? That’s right. “Horror.”

Well, it’s not really missing so much as it is hidden amongst the stacks of more “popular” genres. Last time I darkened the doors of a Barnes and Noble, the so-called “horror” section was a single fucking bookcase filled with only the best known authors. None others need apply. Is this all there is when it comes to horror? Hell, no. So where are the horror stories written by the not so famous?

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Essay–Nostalgia is a Dangerous Thing

I’ll share a little secret with you–I’m a geek.

I was one of the awkward kids who never really seemed to find his place until very late in high school. While the cool kids in junior high and early high school listened to Van Halen, I was jamming out to Rush, Pink Floyd, and Metallica. I wrote. I played video games. I played the trumpet in band. I had friends who were in some ways very much like me and in others, very different.

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Essay–Winning The Parsec Award

PrintIt’s been a pretty long road. I’ve been podcasting since 2007, although really didn’t come into its own until 2008. What have I podcasted? Besides interviews, rants, essays, and reviews, the following stories have appeared in the feed:

  • Momma
  • Canvas
  • Ghosts of 1900
  • The Things I Do For Love (no longer available)
  • Breakers
  • Tattoo
  • Closet Treats
  • The Hunt
  • Afterimage
  • Legends of Garaaga (as 4 separate stories and then as a cohesive unit)
  • Lovers (A Garaaga novella included in Daemons of Garaaga as “Drimesh”)
  • The Street (1 short story, 2 novelettes)
  • Marker (both episodes recorded live at Balticon)
  • Mimes
  • Lamashtu
  • The Black
  • The Black: Arrival (currently running)

While that isn’t exactly a large number of stories for 7 years of work, nearly every story was nominated for a Parsec Award.

Tattoo was the first tale in serious contention and it was up against some amazing competition. If I had understood the Parsecs were not only about story quality, but audio quality, I would have known I didn’t have a chance. The version of Tattoo I submitted, and still available, was poorly edited. Very poorly edited. I’ll be damned pleased when the new version is available (hopefully in November). Alas, I digress.

My short stories probably never stood a chance either. After all, they were always up against the best tales that Pseudopod, EscapePod, and Starship Sofa had to offer. And believe me, there are some truly amazing writers featured in those podcasts every single week. Also, damned talented narrators and producers. The fact I ever made finalist in that category still amazes me.

When I saw the competition for this year’s award, I knew I was going to lose. I mean, shit, I was up against Mur Lafferty. MUR! If you don’t know her work, you need to fix that. NOW. Regardless, I knew I couldn’t win. I didn’t even bother sending in an acceptance speech since I wasn’t going to Dragon*Con.

I was sitting at my desk and editing the audio for The Black: Arrival and listening with half an ear to the live Parsec Award audio stream. It kept dropping out so I wasn’t paying much attention. And then it flipped back on and I heard my name mentioned along with Mur’s. So I expected them to say her name again. They didn’t. They said mine.

About 30 seconds later, my phone exploded. I had more Twitter DMs, IMs, and Facebook instant messages than I knew what to do with. It was very surreal. I guess it still kind of is.

I spent that night watching horror movies and working on plotlines. I didn’t drink. I didn’t celebrate. It was just another normal-ish evening other than attempting to keep up with all the crazy on social media. And it was pretty crazy. The Fiendlings came out in droves to congratulate me. And it was…strange. And wonderful.

I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’m not one of the original fiction podcasters. Far from it. I just got in at the right/wrong time and refused to give up doing it. For some damned reason, I just kept doing it. I started out with an audience of 9 folks and now it’s well over a thousand. I’m still small potatoes when compared to Mur, Sigler, Brand Gamblin, or Nathan Lowell. And maybe I always will be. And that’s okay with me.

Even my “commercial” stories are chock-full of Cooleyness (whatever that is). They’re not for everyone. And I don’t write them for everyone either. If that were the case, my writing would be an unremarkably bland affair. My stories might be unremarkable, but at least they’re not bland. See, I do have some self-confidence.

It’s been a few days since the awards were announced and nothing has really changed. I’m still fighting through a draft of FlamesThe Black: Outbreak, and desperately wanting to get those two done so I can move on to a special project just for me. Let me say that again–a project JUST FOR ME. It probably won’t sell, but shit, that’s been the case with most of my work. I’m used to it. But it’ll be another effort out of my comfort zone. And I’m ready for it.

So here’s the deal, Fiendlings. I’ll keep podcasting these suckers. After Arrival finishes its run, it’s doubtful you’ll hear me narrate again (unless it’s a Street tale), but I’ll keep hitting the feed with new content. So that’s not going away. With any luck, it never will.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll write something I feel is worthy of a Parsec Award. The Black was a fine effort, but hardly my best. As far as I’m concerned, the stories in the Garaaga series contain my best words and the better part of my soul. They don’t sell, but I’ll keep writing them anyway because some of you out there are reading them. And love them. So do I.

Next year, the Parsec Awards will doubtless have another round of extreme competition from fantastic authors, narrators, and audio producers. Any story that makes the finalist category is something you should listen to. If you’re a writer, every tale the committee takes notice of should be one you study. Regardless of “genre,” these are great writers doing what they do. And occasionally, a shmuck like me sneaks through.

The Black series sells well, it has a lot of devoted readers, and I’m happy as hell it’s been well received. Those of you who send me emails, comment on the blog, and converse with me via social media, have kept me going all these years. Hopefully The Black series is the beginning of my real career. It’s definitely assisting in my quest to become a full time writer. But I’m still a long way away from my ultimate goal–becoming the best writer and storyteller I can. No award can help me reach that. Only hard work and toiling at these keys can make that happen. That said, I better get back to it.

Again, thank you to the Parsec Awards Committee and all that they do for the podiofiction art-form and doling out the recognition so many rarely receive. And thank you, Fiendlings, for listening, for being passionate, and for making me feel successful even on my darkest days. Without you, I wouldn’t have continued in this sisyphean endeavor. So, thank you.

Essay–Donating The Hair

It’s 2015. I hadn’t had my hair cut since 2012. It was time.

See, one of the few things I do well is grow hair. Lots and lots of hair. As a kid, I always wanted long hair. I’m sure it has something to do with all those 70s rock icons I worshipped. Or maybe it has to do with standing out from the rest of the men around me. Or maybe, it’s just because I like long hair. Period.

Psychological reasons aside, I wasn’t allowed to grow my hair very long in high school. When I got to college, I fixed that post-haste. I grew it long. Well, long for me anyway. It was way past my shoulders when I got a part in a play I really really wanted to be in. But there was no way I could play the part with long hair. So what did I do? Cut it. Damned short.

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