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Recent Interesting Reads

Happy Monday, dear readers. I’ve got a lot of topics I’m contemplating for upcoming posts, but I’m thinking that Mondays might start easy with an accumulation of links that I have from the previous week – things that caught my attention or interest, and might be of interest to you too. So here we go:

How To Make Mtn Dew Cheesecake (YouTube)

The reactions from most people I know this was universal dismay. I may have referred to it as tasting like “giving up on life.” In reality, this, like most garbage food, intrigues me and I would try it at least once.

Bells ring out Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’ at 17th-century Amsterdam church

My favorite Bowie song sounds strangely sad and beautiful when played on church bells.

Billie Jean But Every Instrument Is A Spring Door Stopper (YouTube)

People are so inventive and creative!

“Shit-Life Syndrome,” Trump Voters, and Clueless Dems

“So in 2020, this leaves realistic Dems with one strategy. While the Dems cannot provide a candidate who can viscerally connect with shit-life syndrome sufferers, the Dems can show these victims that they have been used and betrayed by Trump.”

Not sure if I agree with the conclusion above, but I agree with the cluelessness of my own political side in recognizing the problems facing these people. It’s an interesting read, worth thinking about.

That Uplifting Tweet You Just Shared? A Russian Troll Sent It

The IRA generated more social media content in the year following the 2016 election than the year before it. They also moved their office into a bigger building with room to expand. Their work was never just about elections. Rather, the IRA encourages us to vilify our neighbor and amplify our differences because, if we grow incapable of compromising, there can be no meaningful democracy. Russia has dug in for a long campaign. So far, we’re helping them win.

Frightening stuff to consider.

My Semester With the Snowflakes

After that class a couple of the students approached me and explained that their dads were cabbies when they first came to the United States, and that their fathers had told them that the things they sometimes heard from people in their cabs were amazing.

Think about that for a second. These students are first generation Americans. Their fathers immigrated to this country and started out by being taxi drivers. Now, their children are attending Yale University. I’m a patriotic man and those are the stories that help me understand how, in spite of the seemingly endless stream of negativity surrounding it, the American Dream is still alive and kicking. It makes my heart sing every time I see those kids.

I can always get behind this kind of ideological bridge-building.

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An Update Regarding my War With the Squirrels

The squirrels of my little neighborhood are no joke. I hate them and I consider them my mortal enemies. In my defense, they initiated hostilities.

Shortly after moving in, a squirrel threw a walnut at me not once, but three times. Once or twice, I could forgive as an acidence. But three times? Malice. Each time they missed, because I am better than them at literally everything except climbing trees, and I always remain vigilant in my own yard.

The next summer, one climbed up directly outside my office window and sat on the porch railing. No big deal, right? Wrong. It ate a live cicada from the tail up to the head, insect screeching until the final bite, and all the while, the squirrel never broke eye contact with me. I am not exaggerating. Once it finished the cicada, it hopped down and ran away. Message received, you furry little bastards!

We try to grow fruits and veggies, but they strip our garden of anything that appears edible, especially the tomatoes and strawberries. Sometimes, they even try chewing on my 3D printed stuff that I have curing out there. In the fall, the sound of their teeth scraping against walnuts and pecans from neighboring trees is a symphony I can only escape by playing loud music at all hours. Their gnawing is a taunting that agonizes my very soul.

Recently, we put up a bird feeder to draw more songbirds to the yard. It’s one of the fancy kinds that slide shut if a squirrel climbs on it. I’m not about to feed these freeloading pests for free, or so I thought. First, they chewed a HOLE in the bottom corner and dumped it out that way. Sarah patched that, so the next thing they did was chew through the rope hanging it from a tree. They dropped it to the ground and cleaned up, literally and figuratively. They did this twice to two different ropes before we finally used a chain and thus far, they haven’t found a way to defeat that, but I won’t be surprised when I hear a squirrel sparking up a blowtorch outside my window.

They are voracious tree rats, good for nothing, barely hunted at all by local predators. It was one of the happiest days of my life when I witnessed a local hawk eating a nice fat squirrel in a neighbor’s yard. You see, squirrels are good at avoiding avian predators –it’s tough to fly and hunt between the tree branches they infest. We have a pair of owls that regularly roost in our yard, but they never seem to eat the squirrels. No matter how many times I beseech them for an alliance.

I spend a not insignificant part of my day in the summer banging on windows to scare them away from plants and vegetables. I’ve thrown my fair share of walnuts back at them, too, I must admit, never hitting once. The squirrels know to keep their distance from me. None of them had murdered anything or thrown anything at me for a year or two.

I thought we’d come to an understanding. I was wrong.

Imagine my surprise when twice in the past few days, I have stepped out in my yard to be straight up charged by squirrels. Twice, I’ve now had a squirrel dash up to me, skid to a stop about a foot away and wait a moment, staring, before finally retreating. I have been so stunned each time that I’ve been frozen, speechless.

At first I thought maybe they were expecting me to feed them, and I wondered if a neighbor has been doing that. But now, after recounting the above stories here on this blog, I’m not so sure. I am starting to wonder if they’re testing boundaries and defenses; if they’re trying to bluff me with charges, like some bull elephant did in Kenya 20 years ago. I’m going to have to start carrying a broom with me every time I go out into the yard now, just in case.

If I am found dead in my yard with no obvious wounds, do not suspect suicide. Do not accuse humans of murder. Know with certainty that the squirrels have finally become victorious. Until then, the war continues. And you can be sure, if they manage to take me out, I’m taking as many of them as I can with me.

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Is This the New Normal?

My friend Stacey asked on Facebook, with little context, “Is this the new normal?” By which I assume she means, gestures vaguely at everything.

Dear Stacey–the good news is, no. This is not the new normal.

The bad news is, there is no such thing as normal anymore, at least not for a while. Normalcy is predicated on some generally accepted norms and the truth is, our entire lives have been a series of norm-destroying moments (for good and bad). Accelerated social change has been the hallmark of our generation. This acceleration, or at least my perception of it, feels like it has been building since the 1960s, but we’re really reaping the effects now, thanks to accelerated information exchange brought about by the internet.

This is good and bad, I think. For a geeky kid like me, norms regarding what it’s okay to like were oppressive and resulted in a lot of bullying. But norms also contribute to a sense of societal cohesion.

Do you feel like things are holding together very well lately? I sure as hell do not. In fact, everything feels likes like it is constantly tumbling to pieces now. And this feeling didn’t really start with our current president, although his actions are another accelerant in the mix.

The new normal is– no wait, sorry, it changed again. The new normal is–oh shit, really? He said what? I guess that’s just what our country– oh, he walked it back already? Fuck it, I give up.

Science fiction writers talk about something called the singularity, where technological change happens faster and faster, and it’s impossible to predict what comes next. I feel like the internet has brought about a kind of societal singularity, where norms are breaking down faster than we can build new ones, contributing overall to a sense of unease and declining feelings of cohesion.

Again — this is not all bad. It’s not all good. Nuance is the key word on my blog. Blogs are better to discuss this sort of thing than social media. Norms are both a sense of security and also oppressive.

Right now I think we could all use a sense of things calming down, or slowing down, though.

There’s some thinking that this isn’t the new non-normal, which is to say, this period of accelerated change may not last forever. Our society is undergoing a change not unlike the one from agrarian to industrial, and these periods to tend to be accompanied by major upheaval. Not even to mention the upheaval that we’re starting to experience from global warming!

So maybe not having a new normal is a temporary thing. If we wait long enough, turbulence will settle down and we’ll have a new, new normal. Assuming we all live long enough to see that day come, anyway.

Another possibility for Stacey and I is that we could simply be getting older; change is happening faster; it’s that our abilities to keep up are declining. We know this will happen at some point, but I’d like to think the early 40s are a bit too soon for society to leave me in its dust.

I keep circling back to this global information network that allows the spread of ideas (good or bad) at unprecedented speeds. We blundered into this society without a plan. Maybe our kids, who have lived in it their entire lives, will find a better way forward. They do seem quite a bit more empathic. The survival traits that seem to dominate in a world with such interconnectedness and collapsing societal norms are either heightened empathy or zero empathy. Let’s hope the former trait wins out in the ever-shifting societal norms, or we’ll be ground up into dog food in our retirement, eh?

So the new normal is that there is a new normal every ninety seconds, and we better adjust to that and ride it out, or, alternatively, die. Much like Midwestern weather, if you don’t like the new normal, wait a little bit and it’ll change. And if you want an old normal back? Tough shit. Happy Monday!

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Role-playing Games and Me in 2019

One major aspect of my life that I neglected to mention in my round-up for the last year/decade was how much time I now spend playing role-playing games with my friends.

Since my neighbor taught me to play basic Dungeons & Dragons in first grade, I’ve been hooked on RPGs. Here and there in my life, I’ve gone long stretches without playing, and truthfully, I never felt completely myself in those periods. I got a lot of writing done, but writing fiction never quite satisfied me like Dungeon Mastering a great game with great people. It’s like writing, but with immediate feedback! It’s impossible to beat telling thrilling stories with great friends, and recently, I found my way back into the hobby in a big way.

(Quick aside – I’m not mentioning the names of my fifteen players to protect their privacy, but they should all know that I love them very much and enjoy torturing them monthly).

Two years ago, I launched my first online D&D game via the Roll20 service and video conferencing software (we currently use Whereby.com for that and it works mostly well). I recruited fellow fathers who I thought would understand the trials and tribulations of having kids muck up your schedule. I figured scheduling would be difficult, as it’s always been the biggest challenge with in-person tabletop games. As it turns out, if you start your games in the evenings and nobody has to leave their home, scheduling is much easier! Our “Tomb of Dads” group (so called because we started with the Tomb of Annihilation adventure) is well into our second campaign now. This new campaign is based on ideas I developed from our trip to France in 2018, and involves a fallen, forgotten empire in ruins and a new, strong Catholic-like church/empire.

With that group going so well, I thought hey, I want to get another group going, and it’d be a good idea if it wasn’t a total sausage fest. For that one, I pulled together a group of friends from college, including my wife and another female classmate. We recently wrapped up that first campaign about stopping a planes-eating giant machine and have been playing some one-shots in Tales From the Loop while we think about what campaign we want to play next. We’re absolutely adoring Tales as a great 80s-themed “kids on bikes” style game with weird high tech mysteries, all based on and inspired by the fantastic artwork of Simon Stålenhag. Simon is one of my favorite artists working today.

In 2019, I started a third group, with this one made up mostly of friends from the writing community. We decided to play the Dragon Heist module, and it has provided the ongoing framework for an campaign now that we’ve completed it. That crew takes owning the Trollskull Tavern very seriously and so far, all of their adventures seem to revolve around the tavern and tavern-related activities.

Each group is very different from the others in terms of personalities and play styles, so I really get to stretch my planning and plotting skills for them. Some take the “game” part more seriously, and some take the “role-play” part more seriously. I’m always looking forward to each session, and having so many means I can experiment with various ideas about how I can improve my GMing skills.

In between games, I experiment with new characters voices, new narrative techniques, and I’ve started tinkering with the rules to try to get the game more the way I want it to play. One change for me is that I’ve learned to let go of worrying about “game balance” and to feel comfortable in my own ability to work around whatever weird thing the players want to play. If the PCs want powerful characters, they have powerful enemies. No big deal, really. I used to worry about throwing off game balance all the time, but I’ve grown a lot more confident with so many opportunities to play. I used to be a “No” DM, but now I see myself more of a “Yes, and” DM.

Finally, late in the year, this Forever-DM got the opportunity to play in a regular game of Invisible Sun with a bunch of the Monte Cook Games folks in Kansas City. It’s refreshing to get to play again, and I love observing other GMs so I can steal their ideas for how to run a great game. I should probably look for more opportunities to play so I can continue to get more ideas for growth!

As far as feelings of contentment go, I think all this game time has contributed to my feelings of a full, rich life. I look forward to a lot more of it in 2020, and I’ll probably be blogging regularly as I work out my thoughts about how to keep improving my skills in this area. It’s a hobby, but one that I really enjoy being somewhat good at. Later, I will also blog about all my 3D printing efforts aimed at building a really lush tabletop experience.

So what about you? Are you getting to roll those bones regularly? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

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Ending a Decade with Gratitude

I end the 2010s in my early 40s with a newfound gratitude and contentment for my life. Sometimes that gratitude slips, yes. I learned recently that gratitude and contentment isn’t something you feel passively as a result of doing other things; it’s something that you must actively pursue. That was an important lesson for me. I wasn’t going to be satisfied with my life and what I had unless I wanted to be satisfied, and my twenties and thirties, I did not want to be satisfied. I was hungry for recognition, to be seen. By who? For what? Who the hell knows. It was an emptiness that only grew as I achieved some of what I thought I wanted, and found that it wasn’t fulfilling in the way that I had hoped.

Getting what I wanted didn’t bring contentment! What the hell? At first I thought maybe that meant I just didn’t know what I really wanted, so I spent some time trying to figure out what it was that I wanted, changed things up. Still I didn’t feel satisfied.

Feeling truly satisfied only came when I learned to feel a deeper appreciation for that which I already had. Acquiring new possessions and accomplishments weren’t the things that gave me that feeling I was craving; it was just actively practicing appreciation for my friends, family, and place in life. Looking at things with clear eyes, and realizing how wonderfully I had it–that did the trick. I wish I could have come to this realization earlier in my life, because feeling contentment like this would have saved me a lot of anxiety and stress earlier. But I just wasn’t ready.

The other thing that happened in the past decade is that I became a father. For most of my life, it wasn’t ever something I seriously considered. I think that overpopulation is a big threat to the ecosystems of the planet, and so since I was a teenager, I believed I would not have kids so as not to contribute to the problem. It was only through considering how great of a mother Sarah would be that I started to see how much I would miss out on if we didn’t have a child. We talked and talked about it and finally decided that we were likely ready for it, and our whole worlds changed. I honestly can hardly remember what my day-to-day life was like without the kid. And having Matty in my life has brought no small amount of contentment, love, and joy. So much joy, I never even expected!

I think my favorite thing about being a Dad is experiencing his joy through him. Watching him encounter and fall in love with things makes my heart ache with love for him and the world.

All that said, I know I’m not the best Dad. I have too much of a disciplinarian streak that comes from my own upbringing (I hear my own father’s words coming out of my mouth more than I would like), but I try to have patience and provide him everything he needs. I don’t work hard enough to be a role model for him, and I want to do better. I’m confident that I will learn to do better with time. He’s our first kid, and we’re his first parents. Nobody has a road map in this situation, really.

Next, I turn to the appreciation I have in my professional life. I’ve spent a decade building Clockpunk Studios out of thin air, but I didn’t do it alone–not even close. So many friends lended me their work and their recommendations even when I probably didn’t deserve it. My early clients are like extended family to me. When J.A. Pitts passed away unexpectedly this year, it was like losing a sibling. He and Jay Lake were two of the first writers to hire me to build them sites. Over the decade, I’ve welcomed nearly a hundred different clients into the fold at Clockpunk, and I hope to welcome a few hundred more. A decade in, and I feel like I’m just getting started, and finally comfortable in what I do.

I should mention that I don’t think I would have survived the decade at Clockpunk without the assistance of several people who have worked for me or with me in some capacity. Molly Tanzer stuck it out with me even after her writing career started to take off, and put up with my constant fears and anxieties in the early days. Orrin Grey came on board next and did a fantastic job writing some of the best blog content we’ve posted and I hope to get him back soon for that. Now I have Jenn Reese working as a regular designer, and she is saving my life, you guys. Her work is so beautiful and warm and I never get tired of seeing what she’s going to do next for our clients.

These people all mean the world to me, and I’m so grateful that they are my friends. Also, heading into 2020, Sarah will be doing more and more work for Clockpunk as an admin assistant. We are concocting all sorts of interesting ideas on what she can do to help our clients.

In its first decade, Clockpunk has grown so much. I am starting 2020 with projects booked all the way until May, which is the farthest I believe I’ve ever been booked out in a January. Again? Nothing but gratitude for this. I can’t even express how much.

As a writer, well, not to end on a sour note, but the break continues. That said, I started the decade only just beginning to make sales and end it having sold stories to nearly every major market I had set my eyes upon. I will admit that I put a single little writing goal on my goals for 2020. Maybe to write just one little story, just to grease the wheels and see what happens. Who knows! I’m excited to discover what happens in 2020 for me in that regard.

I still have a lot of personal growth to do, but it is very satisfying to look back on a decade’s worth of growth, and yes even a few accomplishments. I don’t feel like I’m done; in fact, I feel like I’ve just about finished stretching and am now ready for the real jogging to begin. The only thing I can be certain of right now is that no matter what happens, I will continue doing my best to practice gratitude for what I have. I am not a religious person, but I stand here, looking out at 2020 stretching ahead, and I feel so very blessed.

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Things I Learned in 2019

Ordinarily, this time of year, I’d be focused primarily on evaluating my goals and how I did on them. I’ll still probably do that, but I thought I’d start my end of year thinking with a positive list of a few of the things I felt I have learned this year.

  1. 50% of what I thought was my “personality” was actually anxiety. Now that I take proper medication for it, I realize that I am not the person I thought I was. I’m still learning how to be without anxiety, but on the whole, it’s a net positive.
  2. The holidays are far more fun when viewed through the eyes of children. We have a tendency as adults to get wrapped up on all the obligations and stress of the holiday. Watching my five year old navigate the holidays of the year and seeing how much joy they bring him has given me tremendous joy as well.
  3. I can be handy with tools or crafty, despite my inherent clumsiness. I just need to be patient with myself when I drop the thing for the twentieth time. In 2019, I took up 3D printing and painting game terrain and figures with gusto, and I’ve slowly improved through the year. The trick with it, as it is in so many things, is patience. I don’t think I could have learned more patience if it hadn’t been for item #1 on this list, though.
  4. I can still be a creative person even if I’m not writing. For years, my creative output has been tied up almost entirely in my writing, and when the writing spigot shut off a few years ago, I was worried about what it meant. I am still not writing but the difference is, I’m not worried about it. I’m making physical objects and running three different Dungeons & Dragons groups. I’m plenty creative. If the urge to write returns, I will write. But I am the same person whether I am writing or not.
  5. How to be confident in what I know. I’ve been a freelance web designer/developer for over ten years now, and I am finally becoming confident in myself and my skills. Maybe it’s the 10,000 hours thing, maybe it’s just old age. Either way, I trust myself to figure things out given enough time and focus.
  6. By default, our concepts of beauty are linked with our concepts of youth, and that’s something we learn to change with time. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself examining my reactions to so-called beauty and often find myself wondering “is that person beautiful, or are they just young?” Physical beauty is such a fleeting thing, and I’m starting to find my eyes opening to deeper beauties than that.
  7. People as a whole aren’t terribly bright, or even well-meaning. This is probably the one thing on the list you might take as a negative, but I think I’ve spent a good part of my life being naive about the intelligence of most people. Also, I assumed most people, given the circumstances, would do the right thing. The last three years politically have demonstrated for me that they will not. I feel a little more realistic about how I expect people as a whole to behave. This is not to say that I think I’m especially smart. I think I’ve learned that we’re all prone to a lot more manipulation than we ever thought.
  8. The new Gutenberg editor in WordPress is pretty great. I resisted the change because of backwards-compatibility issues, but ultimately, I think it’s been a big step forward for the ecosystem, and I’m glad my fears have been proven wrong. I love working with it now.
  9. I may be technically middle class, but I come from working class culture, and this has broad implications for how I relate to people and my comfort levels around others. But I’m also more educated now, and it sometimes leaves me feeling like I don’t have a cultural comfort zone anymore. Not working class. Not middle class. But thanks to a discussion on Facebook, I’ve learned that I am not alone in this feeling at all.
  10. What I do for a living is not fundamentally any different from any contractor who works with plumbing or electricity. The specifics of the technology may be different, but the generalities are shared.
  11. Sometimes it feels better to give things away than it does to keep them. I wasn’t really raised with a spirit of charity – I think it’s a solidly middle class behavior/idea, to donate and volunteer – when you’re poor, you help the other poor folks around you directly as best you can, but the idea of making donations of money isn’t something you really do, at least not to my memory. But in 2019, I spent a lot of time paring down my belongings, often giving away a lot of things to others, and it felt good. When it came time for the holidays and people asked me what I wanted, I told them that I wanted donations made in my name to Heifer International. Instead of me getting some junk I could have bought for myself, a family is getting two new goats. It’s maybe my favorite gift I’ve ever received, to be honest.

How about you? What did you learn in 2019? I focused mostly on personal discovery in this list, mostly because I didn’t have the time today to properly source all the external things I learned. But feel free in the comments to share all sorts of things you learned. Share the learning as we close out the year.

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Now Available To Boss Around on Patreon

Because Patreon’s deal is about to get much less friendly for creators, I decided to go ahead and pull the trigger on activating my own Patreon page, which I have been toying with for about two years now. I probably don’t have the fanbase necessary to earn pro-rates for writing fiction and releasing it there, but I consider it mostly another tool in the toolbox to building a career, rather than a replacement for that kinds of on-spec writing we SF/F short fiction writers do generally. I’m never going to get rich writing fiction, and that’s great! I can finally focus on writing exactly the off-kilter stuff that I really want.

The tiers are really just a first pass effort, so if you have suggestions, feel free to share them.

I guess this means I’m going to start writing again! If that sounds like a good thing, maybe consider joining up?

You can find my Patreon page here.

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My First Gutenberg Post, and general thoughts about WordPress 5.0

This is going to be a very geeky post, not really about writing, but more about web design and WordPress more specifically. Feel free to skip it entirely.

So here we are: WordPress 5.0. I’ve made many testing Gutenberg posts, but this will be my first post in the new WordPress Editor out in live code. The experience is pleasant enough, I suppose. I wish I could say the same about the run up to the release.

The Gutenberg release has been incredibly frustrating to watch, especially because of my reliance on custom fields in the work I develop for clients.  Over the past few years, I’ve come to rely on Advanced Custom Fields for that work as a framework underlying my code, and the Gutenberg team appears to have gone ahead and shipped 5.0 with a bug that causes the name of every single registered ACF panel to appear on the Gutenberg screen, despite this being a known issue. They may fix it in a couple of weeks.  WordPress 5.0 never should have launched with such a glaring error.

There’s a lot to like about this new editor, but the editor is the heart and soul of WordPress, the piece that nearly every WordPress user touches when they interact with the software. What’s the sense in launching something that breaks in such a fundamental way on possibly millions of websites?  And let’s not forget the massive usability concerns for those with accessibility needs. From my standpoint, Gutenberg wasn’t ready. It was rushed, to meet some secret timeline that the rest of us were never given the logic behind.  The damage it has done could have been avoided.

It’s shaken my faith in a platform that I have come to rely upon for my very livelihood. Moving forward, I think I will be asking myself more often: “can this be done without WordPress?” Instead of asking: “can it be done with WordPress?”  And that’s a shame.  Because what the 5.0 release debacle has demonstrated to me is that if my needs and the needs of my clients don’t align with what Automattic and Matt Mullenweg have decided is good for them, then our needs will lose in the contest every single time. WordPress doesn’t seem to be the open source project that I thought it was.

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Recent Arts & Entertainment I Have Enjoyed

I don’t call what follows here reviews exactly – because I make a point of not talking about things unless I have good things to say about them. Consider them loose recommendations at best, but things I mention on this blog are things I think are worth checking out.

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

I don’t read a lot of second world fantasy novels lately–I mostly get my fix for this sort of thing by playing video games and tabletop RPGs. That said, the reviews of Bennett’s Divine Cities trilogy caught my attention and I’ll be damned if I didn’t fall in love with his characters and his prose. It’s not often that a nerdy diplomat spy gets to be the hero of a book!  Also, I love that the series plays out over many years, and the changes that occur to the society are gradual.  So many books seems to remake the world in a matter of hours.  There’s a nice kinda Russian vibe to the culture, too, with names that reminded me of my time in the Crime and Punishment gulag in high school, but in a much more interesting way.

Foundryside launches a new series, and it has a very interesting magical system that in many ways resembles computer programming (but isn’t nearly as dry as the real thing). What’s more, and again, it has a cast of colorful, interesting characters that I am eager to follow through the next few books.  I really recommend Bennett’s fantasy work.

Get Shorty – Season One

I’m a low-key casual fan of Chris O’Dowd, and when I listened to his recent interview on Marc Maron’s WTF, I learned that he’s been starring in a television remake of the Elmore Leonard novel/film.  I got my hands on it (you can buy all the episodes on Amazon, as the show itself airs on something called Epix which I’m not sure I’ve ever even heard of before) and I was pleasantly surprised at how different the story was from the original film (I must confess my knowledge of Elmore Leonard books is very limited).

O’Dowd making the leap from It Crowd and Moonboy to this seems like a stretch, but he manages to deliver a cold menace at times that really impressed me.  There’s more depth to him than I necessarily expected, which is always a pleasure to discover. He’s still funny, too, however, and I think his fans would not be disappointed with this show, which is current airing its second season.

Also equally surprising is Ray Romano playing a down-on-his-luck, slightly sleazy film producer with hair that reminds me a lot of James Gunn. I do not consider myself a fan of Ray Romano’s previous work, so I was shocked by how great of an actor he is in this. His facial expressions often carry a scene. Don’t let previous impressions of him scare you away from this. He’s great.

The story revolves around Nevada-based gansters with ties to drug cartels getting involved in making films, and as a long time lover of all things Hollywood, it was the inside look at the production of a film that initially drew my interest. That said, the story delights in turning the screws on O’Dowd’s character, Miles Daly, as he tries to make a better life for himself, one worthy of his estranged wife and daughter.  This is very much modern episodic television that reads more as a 13-hour long movie than old school television. It’s perfect for your next binge, and I can’t wait to get my hands on season two (but I’m not getting Epix, sorry!).

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New story “We Mete Justice With Beak and Talon” is available now in F&SF!

Happy Labor Day to all you hard-working stiffs out there.  This will be a quick blog post to let you know that I have a new story available in the latest issue of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

“We Mete Justice with Beak and Talon” arose out a challenge to myself to find a way to write a successful story in the second person plural perspective. I find that stories that experiment with point of view tend to sell well to traditional print magazines–the last attempt of an experiment, that time in single second person, was “Wet Fur” and that appeared in Asimov’s and later Escape Pod.  Both deal with animal perspectives, come to think.  How non-human intelligence works is something I apparently like to return to from time to time.

The story went through significant edits working with editor Charlie Finlay.  He was crucial in getting it into shape, and I really appreciate the time he took with it.  Special thanks to my good pal Gord Sellar for taking the time to read not only the original draft, but the revised one.

If you follow the link above, you can order copies of it in paper or find a means of purchasing it electronically. I hope if you like it, you’ll consider subscribing to F&SF.  For the last eighteen years, I have been sporadically submitting stories to F&SF.  It was the first place to start sending me personalized rejections, and for the longest time, their encouragement kept me writing at a time when I had little else to go off other than an over-inflated sense of self-importance.   John Joseph Adams was the assistant editor at the time, and any of you that are fans of my work know that he went on to publish the bulk of my work in his assorted anthologies and magazines.  Making this sale was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my entire life, and it came with no small sense of satisfaction.

What’s next? Well… probably a novel loosely related to this world.  I need to finish up a couple more Dungeonspace stories too. I’m about 5,000 words into the next attempt.  Writing has been especially hard for me these last couple of years, but I’m find myself feeling the desire to build something with my mind and words again.  A novel about teens who shoot down Amazon drones for their material needs, to survive in a kind of post-collapse rural Kansas, has begun to take shape.  We’ll see if it’s something I can actually harvest or another dead-end, but there’s something there that I can’t stop thinking about lately.

Anyway, if you read this latest story and enjoy it, please drop me a note in the comments or online!

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