“The Black”–RIP

Many years ago, The Black podcast resulted in my first Parsec Award and the novel itself was my first bestseller. It brought a lot of people to my work and still does. Today, I nuked the podcasts and the YT vids in prep for the new editions. It hurt. It really hurt.

I hadn’t expected that, to be honest. Ever since I immersed myself into The Derelict Saga, my favorite mistake of all time, The Black became this series I was associated with, loved for, and didn’t want to write anymore.

Wait. I didn’t want to write it anymore?

No. I didn’t.

The challenge of a series like The Black is finding ways to constantly raise the stakes, do something new with the creature the audience hasn’t witnessed in previous volumes, and make it all advance both the mythos of the creature and the characters caught in its maelstrom.

At some point, you feel like your plumbing the ridiculous just to put out another book. I didn’t want to be that person. Still don’t.

Fear of failure is a special neuroses that all folks have at some point or another. You’d think after so many years of writing books that didn’t sell, but were well received, I’d be completely immune to that kind of self-doubt. I’m not. Probably never will be.

It wasn’t until after I struggled my way through Evolution that I saw a new book that could successfully wrap up the entire series. I started work on it, but Derelict: Trident demanded to be written, and therefore, I abandoned Extinction yet again.

However, Oceania popped into my head. A chance to do something new, something cool, and drag one of my favorite characters from the series into a new and hazardous situation that spawns new horrors, new possibilities, and more importantly, would add significant portions to the mythos that will help Extinction become an absolutely incredible finale for the series.

I think the series is well served by my extended absence from it. Perhaps it will do even better with someone else’s voice reading my words and adding their non-mush-mouth performance to the tales.

For better or worse, the deal is done, and it’s time to move forward into an uncertain future.

RIP, old me.

The Starving Buffet

All you can eat? Where do I sign up!

Every content junky

I’m an audiophile. I collect bands that I like, I collect their music, throw them in playlists, and use them as background noise and inspiration while I write, while I code, hell, while I walk. Music is something I’ve always loved and always stokes my spirit. Unless it’s Country and Western or Polka. In those cases, I’ll stick with the tinnitus constantly ringing in my ears.

At one time, I probably had over a thousand CDs, hundreds of audio cassettes, had nearly 500GB of music back when the best mp3s you could get and efficiently store were 128kb. Friends and I traded cds, we burned them, we exchanged music, introduced one another to new bands, and, in turn, we’d go purchase the CD of the band if we enjoyed the music enough.

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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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