First, yes, I’ve heard about that kickstarter and magazine that shares a name with this irregular column that I’ve been working on since 2003. I just took a printing term that sounded pretty cool and evocative. I have no intention of changing it, and if they come at me, then I’ll show them the Amazon collection (the originals are off of Broken Frontier and have been forever.) But thanks for your concern all the same.

And yes, I’ve been out of commission for a few weeks. Summer is sometimes like that between travel and the schedule being blown up and then settled back into. Mostly I was tied up getting stuff ready for the Rose City comic-con (sorta formerly the Stumptown Comics Fest, but not really) in Portland. I have a number of projects I’m resurrecting and getting pitch materials together for, and some new ones that I haven’t really talked about here. I think I’ll make some brief standalone posts to deal with these. Many of these are things that were started and then left when life required enough focus and nerve that there wasn’t anything much left over for pie-in-the-sky projects (which these basically are – nobody’s beating down my door to get these out there.) Some names will be familiar, but there’s a lot of rethinking going into them, mostly because I’ve had what we call a “moment” regarding comics scripting (which is my part of the job and not necessarily the most important job.) But more on that later.

I love going up to shows in Portland. It’s (mostly) a neat town, and I have a lot of friends up there, only a handful down here. And most if not all these folks know how comics work so I can talk about breaking things down or how great an artist Frank Robbins was and not get blank looks in reply.

I also like getting a break in the weather. ‘Cause it’s been hot and smoky down here. Yeah, I know, the joke’s on me. I landed on Thursday in haze and heat (though not as bad as at home.) It could’ve been worse, since it was real hellscape territory earlier in the week.

Spent Thursday bumming around otherwise, taking pictures of crackly textures for later use, eating Turkish food from one of the trucks close by Helioscope studio and generally making a nuisance of myself. Got to hang out with Jeff (Parker) and Sandy (Jarrell) while waiting to get set up. Marched ourselves down to the far end of the hall to play the arcade games and pinball tables that Ground Kontrol had set up (hats off to them). Even got to take some up-close photography without having to creep around folks playing the games. Always nice. No really, I’m not stalking you, I just want to capture the phosphor dots and sprites up close.

I’m only going to talk about the show in vague terms. I’ve done full convention reports and don’t really do them anymore. Mine were a slice of comics history and seem like chronicles of another world at this point. A lot in comics has changed, but a lot of the fundamentals are rock solid and not going anywhere (this is not all good news.) I’ll note that the show went from a two-day to three-day operation this year. I’ll also note that lots of folks were not super excited about this (indeed, lots of early departures from artist’s alley as Sunday wore on, more than usual, it seemed.) The fans, though, they didn’t seem to mind. At least those who could show up on Friday seemed pretty happy about things.

I spent a pretty good chunk of Friday in panels, most notably the “How to Break into Image” panel, which I’m pretty sure was not called that. See, I’m no damn good at pitching. Even when I have a blueprint in front of me. I could venture guesses as to why this is (and I’ll note that anything of mine that’s gotten published was not through a traditional pitch process, or I did it myself.) So yeah, I’m real good at this. Add in being, well, me, and this makes for a fun time trying to chat people up at shows. I did a lot better just talking with artists whose work I liked and them asking what I did, sold more than one copy of STRANGEWAYS like that. Hell, I sold more walking around in a weekend than I’ve done at some entire shows. So that part’s fun.

Oh, as for the panel. Good, informative, probably not going to end up moving the needle for me. That said, being able to boil the pitch down to 100 words is probably a good skill to have. I’ve been told a page in the past, at least in describing the story. Which is really just enough space to play out a bit of the plot thread and hopefully cover some of the atmosphere, which I’m more and more convinced is the most important part of a comics presentation. But, more on that in a little while.

Brief call-out to the “Fashion in Comics” panel which I had to break out of early (and I know I was spotted doing it, luckily I didn’t get any grief for it.) I know, I’m not an easy pick for that kind of panel, right? But I figure when you only have so much time to set out your characters, you better use every tool to describe them. Clothing is a big one (even if it isn’t really for me in real life, as anyone who’s met me will tell you.) I had to bail before the crew got to nuts and bolts, as it were, but got some useful ways to look at this subject and maybe even will prompt myself to put some real thought into it before I put descriptions down. Clothes are gonna describe the vibe of a character long before they open their mouth to the reader.

After that, panel attendance was light, other than a couple more Image-related panels, more due to interest in the subject matter than trying to read the tea leaves about the company. Saw the announcement for the new title BITTER ROOT from David Walker and Sanford Greene, which looks great. Wasn’t too familiar with Greene’s work, but liked what I saw on the preview, and Walker is a writer who I expect will be upfront and not compromising in the story and subject. Expecting big things from it.

Caught the Core Door panel with Joe Keatinge, Brandon Graham and Sarah Horrocks. Looks like they’re going to be serving up an antidote to the Usual in terms of comics and culture discussion, which is something that I’m definitely interested in. I hit the wall on reading just about any regular comic book content long ago, before the big change-over at CBR and Newsarama, so I have real trouble trying to read these sites now. They’re just interested in something completely different than what I am. Not that Core Door ( will 100% line up with my interests, but at least it’ll come from a place of passion rather than click-farming.

Last panel I caught was the Parker/Brothers storytelling in comics discussion on Sunday. These are a treat, and I urge you to go attend them if you’re given an opportunity. David Brothers and Jeff Parker are guys who know a hell of a lot about comics and how to work in ’em, and they always rope in interesting guests covering a range of genres/styles. And hey, I never knew that Parker was a practicing druid, so you never know what you’re going to learn at one of these.

The other thing I picked up from this panel came from my friend Steve Lieber. It’s an obvious thing when you think about it, but it hadn’t been made obvious to me in this way, in a way that really stuck. This was something he’d picked up after working on what are ostensibly humor books for the last several years, those being THE FIX and SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN.

This is a paraphrase, so I don’t want to see it quoted.

“Think of the panel as a single idea.”

See, I’d thought of the panel as depicting a single action. And that single is important. You can’t have a character do two things in a panel. This is like first-week comics writing stuff (though it sometimes gets ignored, and like any absolute rule, can be broken, but only with care). So, there’s a difference between an *action* and an *idea*. An action is that. An idea can have a wider range, and even take in a level of emotional content or mood or vibe that might be lost in the simple description of an action.

And that was something that totally escaped me before. I mean, I’d written with emotional content in mind, but hadn’t looked at it quite this way. And there was something transformative about this realization. I sat there, trying to keep my brain reeled in, but I made sure to write this one piece down.

Granted, this won’t help you if you don’t have a story to relay or don’t know your characters in the first place. But it will help you segment things appropriately for a comics page. Of course, there’s the whole matter of balancing a page, making sure things aren’t overwhelmed, that there’s room to breathe and there’s room to convey mood. Which might be the most important of a comics page/script. Story might actually be secondary. Don’t get me wrong. Still critical, but maybe the unfolding of the plot isn’t the most critical thing so long as the reader is moved along to the “right” place.

And the creative team brings the reader along through the expression of an idea, not simple action. Well, really a chain of them. But you get the picture.

Anyways, this little thought is reassembling how I want to write comics scripts at this point. Hopefully for the better.

As for the rest of the show, maybe nothing was as important as that. Though I did pick up a nice run of the Garcia-Lopez-drawn DEADMAN series from the eighties. Grabbed some random runs and collected mini-series. A couple things from Image (Wimberly’s PRINCE OF CATS which looks really great and the collected FADE OUT from Brubaker and Phillips.) The second volume of KAIJUMAX, which I hope lives up to the bar set by the first volume. The last PROPHET collection, which I’ve waited awhile on. Laura Graves’ 666 BISTRO which looks *bonkers*. MAYDAY and THIS DAMNED BAND, both featuring art by Tony Parker (written by Alex de Campi and Paul Cornell respectively.) There’s a bunch of other stuff and honestly, I’ve got a daunting couple of stacks of things to read now. I probably shouldn’t be allowed to buy more comics for some time. But will anyways.

Overall, I thought the show was pretty great, good variety of artists (even if there were more than a few who were just selling prints of subjects/characters they didn’t own – I’m fine with commissions of whatever, but mass prints of characters you didn’t create or aren’t drawing as your regular job? I’m burning out on that.) Plenty of beautiful art that I couldn’t afford, though I did pick up a piece for my daughter which will hopefully keep her inspired (hoping that she’ll read 666 BISTRO as well). Got to hang out with lots of great people who I don’t otherwise see.

Comics are pretty great




So, in case you hadn’t heard, my debut novella THE QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS from Broken Eye Books got an official launch notice yesterday. Here’s the link to that.

I know. I’ve talked about it a bunch here, to you my uncounted followers. It’s a surprise that it’s a surprise to anyone at this point, right? It’s one thing to talk about it over here and rather another to actually have it be real. Yeah, I’m aware that we’re living in the time of the lauded self-publisher. You can put anything you want on the internet and it’s everyone’s right not to care about it. That never feels very real, folks. I’ll be honest. It’s because I’m so negative, I know. I’m holding myself back. I’m not believing in the power of the long tail. Hell, I wrote a whole book about it. Check it out.

So, yeah, one thing to talk up your own work. Actually having it published by someone else is different. I know it shouldn’t be. I should be proud of my own work on its own merits. I should honor the struggle and the work that it took to make it. I should hold my head up and say “I am a wri-ter!”

Welcome to the Land of Is. Where the verb “be” and its various permutations hold sway forever and ever, radiating out into the past and future, cementing a state in permanence. Yes, I know. That’s a linguistic convenience that we all pretend to know isn’t real. But sometimes we forget that it’s just pretend. I can say “I am a writer” all I want to, y’know? Doesn’t necessarily make it real. Just like an unread manuscript has only a half-life. Until it’s reassembled in someone else’s head, it has an insubstantial sort of existence, tangible but not.

“Golly, Matt. If only you had some self-confidence, you wouldn’t think like this.”


Continue reading FULL BLEED: THE LAND OF IS.


Spoilers for the current season of TWIN PEAKS follow. This is your first and last warning.

Where even to start? There’s no way that this could hope to be a comprehensive overview. There’s just too much to cover, to many angles being worked.

Suffice it to say that the current run of TWIN PEAKS is anti-matter to expectation. Whatever you thought was coming, put those aside. Just accept the program for what it is. If you get mad that it’s not Cooper jumping out of the Black Lodge to reclaim his body and chase down Bob once and for all, well, please write that up and do a podcast about it. Maybe film a reaction video to it. That’ll definitely change things and maybe even make the creators rethink their approach and I’m sure they’ll be awful sorry that they didn’t appease your expectation.

Haha. Just kidding.

The other thing this show takes a knife to is the entirety of recap culture, particularly as it applies to the Howling Pit and the content mills. I know. I’m upsetting friends of mine who actually work here in the recap mines. Please don’t take this personally. My irritation is with the whole works, not your views and thoughts in particular. It’s at the point where the program isn’t an entertainment in and of itself, but just the seed for an (online) experience of metatexts beyond the show. I got no time for that. Look, the show is the talking, right? At least with a show of any quality. Sure, something like THE WALKING DEAD primarily exists as a scaffold from which to build a fandom, but the storyline itself is nearly if not totally superfluous to things.



I saw a post recently talking about how authors need to be more like YouTubers if they want to sell books.

Honestly, folks, I wish it was that easy. I would love for it to be that easy. Firstly, getting to be a YT celebrity isn’t an easy thing in the first place. Takes a long time to be around long enough to build an audience and pull down those sweet product-placement gigs. Aww, just kidding. Nobody does that to build up an audience so that they can get those sponsorships and then not be upfront about it. That would be, well, not unethical, but certainly sleazy. And that’s not happening, anyways. All that’s happening is a sort of organic relationship where the YouTuber builds a rapport with the audience and brings them in, one of the family, or one of the in-group at the very least.

Besides, YT shows like this, the product is the host, right? It’s all about the personality, not the content. Everything from Chapo Trap House (I know, not video, but the same idea) to those reaction videos to every pop cult thing that comes along, those are all selling the hosts. Maybe the content comes through, but it’s not the primary gig. It’s all about making a clubhouse where friends hang out. There’s an intimacy there, at least hinted at or packaged in.

Folks, this isn’t what authors do. Authors write books. Sure, have a social media presence to keep the name out there, but it’s not selling books (though publishers, for right or wrong, will look at your numbers and maybe even factor that as to whether or not to bring you on board–thankfully not true in my case, but it’s out there.)

All that said, there is a very real strain running through the business of “author as best friend” which is a way to build the audience. And maybe I’m wrong here, but it strikes me as a terrifying thing to build a platform on. This is not to say that you can’t make friends online or that you can’t have meaningful social interactions there. You can. But author as product? That’s chilling.

I talked a bit about this in THE HOWLING PIT, but it’s sold like ten copies, so I don’t expect you to have read it. In short, authors online are expected to market their non-writing self, a persona, as a product to keep people interested between books or stories or gigs or whatever.

I’ll be honest. Talking about my books is about my least favorite thing in the world to do. Writing marketing materials for them is right behind that, separated by a distance that could be bridged by the width of a needle. Sure, I’ll tell folks about upcoming projects and give a little blurb, but that’s about all I’m comfortable with. Wanna know why

The book does all the talking. Maybe you’ve seen that meme around, where director David Lynch talks about being interviewed regarding his films, to explain them. And he smiles then shakes his head and says “the film is the talking.” And he’s right. I’ll also note that his films aren’t as hard to explain or follow as lots of critics and viewers pretend they are. Everything’s there. He gives you the pieces to assemble an experience. That’s what this films do. I’d like to hope that my books do the same (though I’m not as accomplished, or frankly, brave, as he is.) That, however, means that I largely abdicate the right to dictate experience or reaction. Scary, I know. It also makes me fun at parties, when I’m asked “What do you write about?” And I’m left to reply with a string of bits of plot or the setting or something. But those aren’t what the book is *about*, right? What it’s about is whatever it dredges up in you, the reader. And I don’t get to choose that. I can try to direct it, but if all I’ve done is dictate to you what I’m thinking when I write, well that’s pretty dull.

Needless to say, this makes me the perfect guest to have on podcasts or for long chats on social media. It’s very difficult for me to generate content around my books. Sure, I can post inspiration art or text (but more often than not, that inspiration has been buried in the writing and then folks just scratch their heads in reply) but is that the content that people crave. Look, when you go to a museum, do you look at the art or do you look at the artist’s statement? I do both, but I hope and pray that the statement is enigmatic, whimsical, or even confrontational, in direct opposition art presented. If the statement is a simple “here’s what I wanted to say” well that’s superfluous at best (and you don’t even trust your own art to say it). The art is the statement. Now perhaps, some context can be offered, but I’m dubious on that set of transactions as well. If the statement is “welcome to a special club and you’re special for attending” well that just makes me mad.

Which is probably at the heart of my distrust slash resentment of author as product. I’m not a fan of special clubs for folks who just happen to use media consumption as a defining personality trait. Come on. Also, I was picked on and belittled for that very thing, so, yeah, hard for me to get excited about gatekeeping/worth judgment based on consumption. Sorry, nope. And that’s ultimately all this is.

Now it’s one thing to interact with folks online, I do a fair bit of it. It’s another to offer that sort of access as a primary attraction. And that’s what it becomes. You can only write so many books, but you can hang online every day. You can hang out with your favorite author even. I can guarantee you that the best conversations I have out there are about things I enjoy or find interesting and not typical fandom conversations, even if my own work is the fandom being described.

Granted, I have no fans in that sense, but I’m using myself as example. Honestly, it’d be pretty strange to have fans and groups of people trying to guess what’s going to happen in the next chapter or what this particular thing MEANS, dammit. But get me going about THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK or MAX HEADROOM and there’s a conversation worth having. That, however, won’t necessarily make you my friend. Even if it costs me a Patreon donation.

Kidding. I don’t have a Patreon. And I know how many subscribers I’d get for quality content like this.

The flipside of this is, if you’ve got an audience that you’re playing to, then you better be satisfying them, right? They’re gonna start calling the shots. Or at least pretending that they do. And honestly who needs that? Seriously, if you’re going to second-guess creators, you’ll be better off writing your own stories (with your own characters, I’d add, but that’s a sticking point for lots of people.) I would hope that any fans I got would be fans of the novel experience, not just getting the same one over and over. I know. This sort of bull-headedness is what gets me in trouble a lot of the time. But I’d rather overestimate the audience than underestimate them. I figure folks are smarter than they’re thought of (even by themselves.

Frankly, I’d rather think about them as little as possible.

“Yeah, it shows,” comes the shout from the peanut gallery.

That said, I’ve seen expectation become a trap for creators. (And, in all honesty, for some critics and readers.) And thinking about audience and expectation, well that’s all ego. And ego is the least interesting part of art, right? This right here? It’s all ego. It’s not nearly as interesting as the writing when it comes out of a place that I can’t even name. When I can’t remember writing the piece but there it is (and it’s even good, particularly if it’s not what I expected, but still carries the weight? Wow.)

Now, obviously, this whole author as product/author as best friend works for some people. That’s great. I’m glad they’ve found a thing that works for them. I’m not one of these people, whether it’s by wiring or training, whichever, the whole marketing myself as a destination (much less marketing in general) is not a thing. I was asked to write up an author’s note for THE QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS and I stared at the screen for a good long time before I could work anything up. I mean, explain why I wrote a thing? Let’s be honest, half the stuff I’ve written is because there was an anthology opening that looked appealing and I had an idea that worked.

Wow, I’ve gone far afield from the original prompt here. Basically, applying YouTube magic friendship (largely conferred by the proximity allowed by video) to increasing readership is a recipe for heartbreak. They’re fundamentally different media, consumed completely differently and to diverse ends. I mean, sure, make yourself available on social media if folks want to reach you (but screw Facebook, whose awful interface and tracking make for one ugly panopticon). But the moment you become the product? Well, that’s as bad as it sounds.

Maybe next time I’ll talk about something that makes me happy, like the return of TWIN PEAKS, which I think is a beautiful chunk of antimatter versus critical and audience expectation.



A wise friend once passed along a saying. “We don’t forgive others because they deserve it, but but because we deserve peace.” Which is a cold way of looking at things, but perhaps it’s also self-preservation coming into play. I think about that sometimes, not a lot, but sometimes.

“All that hate’s gonna burn you up.”
“Keeps me warm.”

From John Milius’ script to RED DAWN, proabably the most honest moment in it, from a man who could pull a honest moment out of things when he let himself and wasn’t in it for the posture. Yeah, I can say a man is wise and also note that he’s a posturing buffoon. It happens. Multitudes, people.

I mean, look at me. I can’t carry my body weight around, but I can carry a grudge like nobody’s business. They don’t weigh so much at first. You get used to it. Don’t even break a sweat over it anymore.

But exhaustion is a subtle and patient opponent. I won’t say enemy, ’cause enemies are for fiction. Saying something is solely an enemy is a way to strip it of agency and meaning, pretending it’s only there to attack and harm you. That’s just sloppy writing. You can do better. We all can.

Fatigue does set in. Years maybe. Decades. Breathe it in enough and it settles down in the bones, settles in the lungs in ways that you can’t see so much as feel. That hesitation, that half step lost. You wonder what’s slowing you up when it’s yourself.

So let’s do a little magic here, folks. You and me and whoever else is reading this.

We all know that the world is upset and upsetting. We all know that we’ve been lied to, both lies of convenience and outright toxic fabrications that have formed up bars that we can’t see but surely lock us up as well as a cold steel door. Those things make up a weight. Enough of that and even gravity itself becomes curved and tumbles down upon you like a collapsed star, like even light itself itsn’t getting out. A finality.

When that weight is manufactured. Oh sure, it has a grain of truth at its center around which this dense and massive crystal has formed over time. And it’s a beautiful weight, scattering the light across a thousand facets that suggest a hand’s guidance down to the slightest angle and differential. Only if there is a hand, it’s an unconscious one. That’s part of the magic of this and time, right?

But that beautiful crystal that we, and by we I mean I, have been hauling around, it’s not a shell but a trap.

So let’s do a little magic here. Repeat after me, and it’s not anything you have to say aloud, but maybe that’ll help.

“I forgive you.”

And maybe we can shrug that weight some. Maybe it’s only a start. ‘Cause I’m not a believer in the bootstrap miracle, and some of us have been hammered down long enough that it’s simply not an option.

But it’s a step.

And not because we or you or I deserve this gift necessarily, but we all sure as hell are breathing now deserve that kind of peace. And when faced with an opponent of subtlety and patience, the out-loud declaration might be the best solution.

And now we meaning I can move on and do better.


I’ve written this post and trashed it a couple of times. Bear with me. Starting over. Going to boil it down.

Kinda tired of having my appreciation of my work hinge on others. I mean, strictly on a personal level. That’s on me. Nobody else to blame for it. It also needs to end. But this is all tied up in several pulsing veins of self-worth, work, money, and being in the world. They’re all messy and if you tug at one, the others are likely to come undone. But maybe they need to come undone and be disentangled from one another in order to continue.

It’s a hell of a thing to go to war with your own past. But that’s the only way to describe what I’ve been tangling with, probably for as long as there’s been such a thing. Particularly when it comes to writing as a career. ‘Cause let’s be honest, what passes for that in my life right now is pretty weak. Yeah, finished my first novel at 24 (a point in my life that I’m farther away from now than I was from my birth when I wrote it.) It’s un-sold. Does it matter? Is it real? Yeah, sure, I know it’s there. The handful of folks who’ve read it by and large have nice things to say about it (which I appreciate, but at the same time, that doesn’t put food on the table.) Good thing I have a superhuman wife who’s been able to keep working in the face of debilitating illness and surgery and recovery. I just play Mr. Mom and hold the house together when I can.

Feels like I should have done more, you know? That’s what I mean by going to war with the past. I know it’s stupid. It’s like picking a fight with a legend and not another human. Can’t fight a legend. You’re always going to lose, even against a self-manufactured legend. But when the sound in your ears is ringing from the guns that you’ve emptied into phantoms, so much so that the ghosts and the smoke become the same thing, you get used to it.

I know. Let it go. Pick up and step forward. You’ll get there. Stay positive. Be polite. Write, submit, get rejected, repeat. Even in the face of the worst possible reply, that being the “thanks for your submission, but we feel it doesn’t reinforce our brand quite strongly enough, but feel free to submit again” you’re supposed to be polite. That’s the game. Everyone plays it. Unfortunately there’s a not-small and feral part of me that begs for a reaction of either extreme love or hate. Just for once I’d love to get a response that read “I hated this. Don’t write another word.” That’s at least honest. That’s at least a real reaction.

Not that I’m supposed to care about those. I know. Be positive. Be polite. That’s how you build a brand.

I’d love to tell you about all the progress on things. Unfortunately, there’s not much to tell. THE FUTURE AMERICA is still being worked on. I’m liking the results but I’m dreading the outcomes of pitching it to various publishers. THE QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS is happening. Maybe. I have no date to give you on that. There’s a new thing under the umbrella title of SOLARCHY, but that’s in a similar limbo. I’ll know more on the former in about thirty days, perhaps less. But certainly by then. I suspect I’ll know about SOLARCHY by then as well.

The thought, however, of doing all the work on these only to consign them to the Howling Pit, is one that gives me pause. But they’re presented in such a form that isn’t really conforming to the way fiction is consumed these days, at least not when published by other people.

Otherwise, life continues. The kids return to school shortly. We’re to take a vacation sometime before that happens. Probably to Southern California, which I have the misfortune of being in love with and having fallen long ago.

I’m taking my daughter to the fair today. Let’s us all pray for the power of small distractions.



Yes, I took last week off from this. Of course, it’s hard to call it a job if you’re not getting paid, right? So maybe I just typed fewer words or something. Things are late this week due to a variety of family things coming together and happening all around the same time. The hard parts of these are settled and with as good a result as one can hope for in the short term, so that’s a good thing.

YouTube links of wonder will return next week. Unless I decide I’m done with that. Like I said, I’m doing these primarily for my own amusement and some perhaps misguided sense of obligation to my audience out there, all three of you.

I’ve allowed work on NIGHT EAGLES to get bogged down in world-building (don’t worry, I won’t explain a bit of it on the page). But I needed to know a bit more about things so that I could make them transparent. This might sound counter-intuitive and even paradoxical, but I assure you it is not. There’s nothing worse for me than getting to a section of a book/story/whatever and thinking to myself “Wow, you must have done a lot of research.” Believe me, this is not a good thing to have your readers think. Ever. Sure, build a compelling world and know its ins and outs, but do your reader a favor and never explain them except in action or a side line of dialogue as your character gets ground up by the world they find themselves in. Do not explain a damn thing. Trust your reader.

And I was dangerously close to having to explain stuff, because I didn’t know it myself. Which is a sign to me to get back to work on the stuff behind the façade, make sure that it can stand up in at least a breeze, much less a stiff wind. The whole point is to make the reader move along briskly and feel something, not to explain how long you spent lovingly crafting the world and oh yes, that it’s very important that these barber poles are white with red stripes and not red with white stripes. What’s important is that the barber is really running a front for a Turkish crime organization, right? (Yes, I just re-watched EASTERN PROMISES again recently, why?)

The point is to make the world alive on the page (or in the script so that your collaborating artists can make it alive.) The point is not to sit down and talk about the history of this city block for the last fifty years (not unless the story is about the city block in question, I guess.) And I just wasn’t there. Good news is I’m almost there. Though I think I’m going to try a different approach on writing this script, mostly because the last attempts were feeling very stiff and lifeless, enough so that I threw out all but the framing sequence. Going to try and let it run under its own power, as it were.

So, sure, go crazy on world building and research. And then make it invisible. You know, like special effects done right? Seriously, your work will be better for it.

On a side note, having been watching THE VOICE on and off with my wife, I’ve got a few observations about goings-on in that show and the world of art for hire in general. I’ll be brief, don’t worry.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, THE VOICE is a talent competition. You have four celebrity judges (all singers themselves) picking unknown/semi-pro singers for a team, take them through multiple rounds of elimination and weeks of training/image makeovers/sanding off rough edges and after a few months, you’ve got a winner, crowned The Voice Winner, Season Whatever, and then they go off and sing in Reno and Vegas, maybe tour and are often never heard from again.

The singers who come onto THE VOICE are all undeniably talented, some of them have even worked like hell to get where they are (there is a huge difference between talent and work). The fun thing is that they all are generally more interesting at the start of the competition than they are by the end. Also, the show really seems to reward the vocal gymnastics/technical events side of things rather than emotional power, but that’s another story. See, when these folks come in, they sometimes don’t even know who the hell they are. Oftentimes when they find out, they’re just like any other number of interchangeable pop singers. Oh, sure, they all have individual flourishes and the like. But in terms of quality, they’re all more or less indistinguishable. And, frankly, they’re often indistinguishable from their judges/mentors on those terms. Those rough edges get ground down. Dress a little like this. Get outside yourself. Be more relatable.

However, one of the things that happens, and pardon the technical aside here, happens in what they call the head-to-head rounds. This is where two singers on the same team sing either in a duet (in the first rounds) or their own solo track (later rounds) in direct competition with a teammate. One wins, one goes home. And it’s always a heartbreaking and tough decision. And usually there’s talk about how Xiang had a lot of emotional power or some uniqueness (more often than not, being more idiosyncratic) and Javier was just plain louder and more accessable, connected directly with the audience (more often than not was just more commercial.)

Lemme tell you how many times the singer named Xiang gets picked in that one to one. Uniqueness gets run over by accessibility. Every time. I know, big surprise. This is a competition where they’re trying to pick the winner that the most call-in-voters will love. And that audience is more and more fragmented, so they have to go for the sorta least challenging option. I get that.

Just it’s funny that it’s always a hard choice, but it never really is, right?

Go ahead, read into this all you want. But I’ll be the first to note that I don’t write very challenging material.

In terms of stuff I’m consuming in my off time, just finished Charles Bowden’s DESIERTO, which I’d started reading on a trip and had more or less misplaced until earlier this week. It’s a stunning book, though feels more and more out of time in 2017 even though it’s perhaps even more true than ever. Read the Morrison and Frazer ANNIHILATION, which wasn’t bad, but didn’t feel like it would be anything lasting, really. Re-Read Darwyn Cooke (and friends’) THE NEW FRONTIER which feels even more classic than ever. I really wish DC had picked up the ball and made other creator showcase books like this. But maybe that would draw attention to the fact that the creator is actually more important than the franchise, which is something that is being hard downplayed in Big Two comics these days.

Caught THE VOID on VOD and it was really only okay. As much as I appreciated the commitment to practical effects (IE rubber monsters and fake blood versus CG models and the like) the story was too scattered, as well as the debts being paid to multiple inspirations in the field. Picking one main line  would have suited them better. Still, I want to see what they go on to. There were some genuinely freaky moments and a real sense of place due to the nature of the effects. That same night I watched THE BABADOOK (on the recommendation of my son) and wow did that one hit it out of the park. Highest recommendation on this, if you like psychological horror that is heavy on the psychology and inference and very low on the fountains of gore. Nice to see that good horror is still being made. Believe me, there’s a lot on Netflix that gets labeled as horror, but just comes out as trying too hard, never delivering.

Back to work. I’ll check in next week.


No secret to the title this week, just the track I was listening to when I got to work, by Yellow Magic Orchestra (in 1979!)

Last week was a bit more wheel-spinning than I’d like. Trying to get back on track, but I did turn over a few interesting things in the process. All of this research is pointing towards THE FUTURE AMERICA and the three story introductory one-shots I’m writing for it, so if you see a common theme, good for you!

First off, we have a look at the Abel Archer exercise that almost caused global thermonuclear war in 1983:

The music cues for this are outstanding, even if they’re anachronistic at times (“Two Tribes” wasn’t until 85 or 86, if memory serves.) Some nice dovetailing into 1983’s THE DAY AFTER, which is a movie that really deserves its own book, not as a film itself (it’s mostly just okay) but for cultural impact, it was a real turning point, moreso in retrospect.

Here’s electronic musician Suzanne Ciani filmed for OMNI’s video magazine show (I want to say 81-83 or so), designing the sound for Bally’s infamous XENON pinball table. Interesting to see her playing with expectations of female sensuality for an adolescent audience with this.

TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING (1977), directed by Robert Aldritch, starring Burt Lancaster. A lot of this looks like a US TV movie of the week that you’d expect in the late seventies, but about halfway through, things go, well, bonkers. Lancaster plays an ex-Army officer who uses nuclear blackmail to force the US to own up to its strategy behind the war in Vietnam and it doesn’t go well. Is it an accurate historical document? Heavens no. Is it something that’s been cemented into popular myth? You bet.

I designed a vector scan arcade game based on BATTLEZONE that is a story point in THE FUTURE AMERICA. Looks like this:

In the world of THE FUTURE AMERICA, the US is invaded in a Soviet misadventure, most notably Alaska and the Aleutian island chain. Of course, this is a repeat of old history. Go look up the US and Japanese battles over the same territory during World War II. Also, the Aleutians are a lousy place to fight over, but nobody ever said war was a smart idea to begin with. Anyways, this was an interesting design exercise and helped me stretch out some muscles for writing NIGHT EAGLES, which is the story of Toné Akron (then Anthony Wilson) and the men of his squad in the final days of what would be later renamed World War Short.

A little more of the write up can be found at this link.

As for what’s coming up? Actually writing NIGHT EAGLES starts out this week. Need to get a full print quote too, so I can look over paper stocks. This assuming that I print it myself. Considering running a Kickstarter to cover printing and production, but I realize that I’m likely not popular enough to get one of those off the ground. (That’s the secret sauce in a successful Kickstarter, don’t you know? Ssh. Don’t tell anyone. Nobody likes to hear this.) I know plenty of people who do just fine with KS. They also already have a following, and in some cases, their following was built in the early days of KS so their careers are tied to it. Much like when people said “Hey, Radiohead took IN RAINBOWS directly to the internet and it was a huge success, so you can do it too!”) Only, well, they were Radiohead and not just a garage band starting up from nothing. After all this time, I’m basically still a garage band starting from nothing. Sure, I’ve got a handful of friends, and that’s appreciated every damn day. But it’s not enough to throw an $8000 KS over the top. “Why so much?” you ask? Well, taxes, Amazon’s cut and shipping for one.

Back next week.



A few things I’ve been into lately:

1. ROBOCOP arcade game (1987) playthrough:

2. Making of ROBOCOP documentary

3. Siouxie and the Banshees on the BBC

4. Evel Knievel getting roasted by Dean Martin and friends in 1975: (yes, that’s Barry Goldwater)

5. A typical episode of THE GONG SHOW (RIP Chuck Barris)

6. An intimate look at the BATTLEZONE arcade cabinet:

I also have a link about the BATTLEZONE to Bradley Trainer urban legend (which has a grain of truth.)

Bradley Trainer: Atari’s Top Secret Military Project


7. RUSH ‘N ATTACK playthrough

8. Abandoned Soviet-era military bases:

Click here.


9. Soviet Space Shuttles in Kazhakstan.

Click here.


This is all valuable research and not just goofing around, I promise. Most notably for THE FUTURE AMERICA’s new plan, that being three 48-page one-shot issues. These three stories (NIGHT EAGLES, CRIMEBOT 3000 and THE SHOE) all will act as a lead-in to the main series. Writing these now, at least the first one in full, so that work can start on it.

That’s been most of what’s going on in the last week or so, honestly. I thought about spending this time to rail against whatever, or speak in favor of whatever, but I thought about it for awhile and decided not to. As a cultural critic, well, it’s occurred to me that the best thing I could do is write what I want to write and let other people worry about it. They can argue whatever they want by stripping away context and using a singular to prove a universal. I’m done with that game. Though there are lots of people who can work out a living, or a supplemental living, doing just that. Another voice doing the same thing is precisely not what is needed right now. Different and new work is needed, however. And while I’m working from obvious (and in many cases, plainly stated) influences and antecedents, always try to do something new with it.

Yes, I realize this makes me part of the problem. Have been for a long time.

Back to the future that didn’t happen. See you in a week or so.



Let’s catch up.

1. I’m working on STRANGEWAYS again, and to that end, I’m reposting at least the first chapters of MURDER MOON and THE THIRSTY. I may repost the whole thing because I can hardly see it making sales any worse at this point. Updates Tuesday-Friday with some kind of bonus post Friday. Why not Mondays? Because Mondays are actual blog post days, like today. Here’s the magic URL: Reminder that both volumes are available in their entirety at: You say you like independent creators, right? Well okay then.

2. Got a story placed last week. Since there isn’t a contract yet, I won’t say where. This is always good news. I will say that it’s in a genre/setting I’ve never worked before, and one that might even be a surprise. The secret content of the story, however, is really not.

3. If you think that writing a science fiction and horror crossover story is a good idea, you’re well wrong (unless you’re trying to sell it as Lovecraftian/cosmic horror.) One of the best things I’ve written is a horror story with a science fiction conceit at its core. Or maybe it’s a science fiction story with a horror conceit. Either way, it adds up to a “this isn’t what we’re looking for” so far. So I find this all terribly amusing. Genre purity is the hill that lots of people choose to die on, and instead of pushing things a little further one way or another, it’s all very much circle the wagons. This, unfortunately, is the kind of conservatism that gets bred in austerity. Gotta hold onto what we have. Can’t expand, so we fight that rearguard action.

4. Came to the realization last week that I’d been functioning at diminished capacity for a very long time due to outside forces, with which you are probably familiar if you’ve read along for any length of time. Now this isn’t to say that this magical reckoning has cured me and I’m up to 100% on everything, look out world. It’s to say that I’ve allowed myself a realization which I hadn’t before. This isn’t magic. This isn’t a lovely little redemption story where a switch is thrown and boom, everything is right again. It’s a brick upon which a foundation gets built is all.

5. Looking at retooling my proposal for THE FUTURE AMERICA to do a series of three one-shot issues (likely double-size but for a not-double price.) Loose plots in place for all of these now, working out page beats/story turns and then to script out the first one. Comics writing is funny because of that rhythm of the page thing (the big trick being to not overload the page.) But, once you have the basic beats down, it’s just a matter of illuminating them in the script, so it’s both slower and faster than prose writing. Anyways, hope to have preliminaries out of the way shortly and then work up a sample based on this new track. And if you’ve been following along, these stories would take place before “Benign Neglect” that being the first storyline as planned. Tentative titles in place are NIGHT EAGLES, CRIMEBOT 3000 and THE SHOE. Toné Akron is central in all three, but the cast orbiting him will be familiar as well.


Ran across a few things online that prompted the following. Bear with me.

I firmly believe that people should write the stories that they want written, that they themselves want to see out in the world. If these stories are that important to you, I believe that you can and will do this. Expecting someone else to pick up that torch, or worse, *demanding* that they do on your behalf isn’t a constructive path. This is not to say that critique is to be abandoned. But to think that another writer will articulate your vision is just a path to heartbreak. Go write what you want. The only person stopping you is yourself. You’ll be happier, assuming that happiness can be created by filling what you see as an artistic/aesthetic void in the world. If you think something isn’t being addressed, then by all means, address it (but also, by all means, make it into a story and not a diatribe or a screed.)

Now if your source of upset is that stories like this aren’t more popular? Well, get in line. If your source of upset is that you can’t make a living writing this sort of thing? Well, I’ll repeat myself (and note that I am not making a living at this either.) If you note that it’s hard work, I’ll nod my head and say “Yeah, now keep going.”

But I believe, unshakably so, that you’ll feel better if you do. A lot better than hammering on someone else’s work because it’s not what you wanted. If it isn’t, then physician, heal thyself.

And you’re right. This isn’t success advice. I would not be so presumptuous as to offer anything like that. I’m in no position to. But I can tell you with stone certainty that the only way you’ll get the stories you want in the world is to do them yourself. Don’t accept any perceived notions of the privilege of talent being a requirement. Talent is largely bunk. Effort counts for far, far more than talent ever will (and if you’d seen my writing when I started out, you’d know this to be true.)