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Posted in Uncategorized on May 19, 2020 by dwbarbee

Alright, let’s keep this author presence… present. This week’s Barbwired might get hairy, so I’m going to start it off by telling you something genuinely positive and exciting. I’ve got an ARC by one of my favorite weird authors. It’s LEVELS by Karl Fischer, and I’m enjoying the hell out of it. Its weird science fiction told with humor and intelligence, and I’ll have some much more articulate praise for it when I’m done with it. It just feels good to read things that make me happy and excited. You don’t always get that.

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So, now that I’ve done a good deed, I guess I’ll vent a little.

The writing community. Whatever that is. Whatever you see when you look at it, which will be different than what I see when I look at it.

…exhausted sigh…

When I first got into this author business, I was self-publishing. I didn’t know shit, but I KNEW that I didn’t know shit. I had to learn, and to learn I stopped self-publishing and hooked up with others. Authors, publishers, artists. A vast array of creative geniuses, hacks, legends, wannabes, etcetera. And there I was, a naïve brute from the South, super nice and giving out bear hugs like they’re worth money. I tried to put positive energy into it at every turn, and over the course of about a decade I got the learnin’ I was after. I appreciate that. I really do.

But goddamn if it didn’t turn out to be like fucking high school all over again.

People can ruin anything. People ruin politics, religion, anything that was created to bring those people together or make things better for them. Every paradise is ruined by the people in it. That’s just how we are. Our primitive instincts usually can’t measure up to the ideals that our highly evolved minds aspire to. Paradoxical but true.

So, apply that human folly to the author game. Which is to say, SHOW BUSINESS, because that’s what this shit is: a carnie act full of nebulous rules and puffed-up personalities. And truth be told, that’s how it’s meant to be. It ain’t easy or fair, and frankly it shouldn’t be.

…another exhausted sigh…

I guess what has me irked is that there’s a lot of bitching. A lot of drama. A lot of wasted energy that amounts to little kids arguing over shit that doesn’t matter. Useless, endless, empty talking. In that sense it’s like college as well as high school. I got into this business through a big, diverse, lovey-dovey community, but the truth is that we’re all in this on our own. That’s why there’s a lot of deviousness, like presses that fuck over their authors by not paying them. That sort of thing is a real problem that really exists. Which is why it’s so weird to me that the community gets bogged down in these meaningless feuds between this guy and that guy over what amounts to hurt feelings. Fuck’s sake, we’re not even fighting over money here. It’s the kind of stuff I don’t want to be involved with, even if I had the time and energy to do so. I don’t wage social media wars. I don’t troll people, even if it’s for a noble cause. I’m allergic to all these things. Stresses me out, and sometimes it hurts my feelings.

Once upon a time, this community where all this stuff is happening was my only platform where I could be an author. I don’t think that’s true anymore. I think, paradoxically, that the only thing that generates true respect in the writing community is going your own way, doing things how you want to, ignoring the drama, and selling some motherfucking books.

And that’s why, at the end of this year, I’m going to start self-publishing again. That’s a long way off, and I still have to write a book for Excession Press in the meantime, and I’ll still have other avenues to get my writing out there. But it feels good to pull back from the community (save for a few very good friends who actually know me as a person and not a cog in this smalltime showbiz machine). It’ll feel good to (hopefully) engage with readers instead of other writers. And none of this will be easy. It’ll take more work than I’ve ever done before. But at least this way, I can have some of my sanity back and maybe actually enjoy this shit again.

Let me leave you with the words of a wise man, Dusty Rhodes, who said this to his own son in the Macon Coliseum (in my hometown): “To hell with you, Arn Anderson. Arn Anderson has never been nothin’ but a walk-behinder. And when you walk behind and you’re not a leader, then the view never changes, baby. The view never changes, baby. The view never changes.”

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Posted in Uncategorized on May 14, 2020 by dwbarbee

It’s been a while since my last post, and I’m preparing to head back to my day job next week (while simultaneously worrying about upcoming budget cuts. So instead of rambling about what’s going on with me or commenting on whatever’s happening in the writing community, I figured I would share a few paragraphs from my work in progress. Here is the opening for my next book, Coffin Heart (formerly Coffin Pants):

We’ve all seen him. Maybe you don’t know you saw him, but you did. People have been seeing him since the building of the pyramids. They saw him in their castles and temples. They saw him deep in the jungles and down winding alleyways. They even see him far into the future. All the living see him, because all the living die.

And how do we deal with seeing Death? As quick as we can, we forget we saw him. Evolution has conditioned our conscious minds to ignore what Death means for us. Deep down, we know he is inescapable and eternal and true, yet we must not think about him. We cannot dwell upon the briefness of our own existence. Our sanity depends on it. All the living exists in Death’s shadow, from the lowliest insect to the mightiest god, and we are all rightfully terrified of him.

But some who see Death do not look away. These people, these outliers who defy their own instincts and the very laws of nature itself dare to rest their gaze upon Death. They gawk at him. Glare at him. They scrutinize him out of innocent curiosity or malignant hatred. And when they do this, when they look upon him…

Death looks back. Death holds their gaze, listens to their useless questions and petulant demands. He does not speak. He does not move. He does not disappear like he does when the rest of us catch the tiniest glimpse of him and then immediately forget him. For those who look upon Death, who speak to him and inevitably approach him, Death merely waits. He waits for them to come closer.

What happens next no one can explain.

Hope that’s a good cliffhanger.

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Posted in Uncategorized on April 30, 2020 by dwbarbee

I don’t usually get to read a book early. Oftentimes I’m not even asked, but when I am these days I have to turn it down. Like this guy below. I turned down reading this back in December because I couldn’t fit it into the shit I was shoveling during the holidays.

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Look at that. Look. At. It. It’s beautiful. It’s everything I want and need, and I feel simultaneously honored that the author (Adam Howe, one of my favorites) asked for my opinion on it and deeply ashamed that I couldn’t help him out at the time. I can only rectify that feeling by buying a copy as soon as its available.

Afterward a local friend asked me to read and review his next horror collection, and because the release date wasn’t until the fall. All my reading has to get in line somewhere, and I was lucky enough to be able to fit in Scott Hughes’ HORRORS AND WONDERS. And it’s… it’s good stuff. I ain’t great at cataloguing the various strains of horror, but Hughes’ stories are smart and savage, full of sharp wit and always scary. It was a pleasure to read. Scott’s the most twisted English teacher I’ve ever known.

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Horrors and Wonders comes out on September 1st, and you can find out more about it at www.writescott.com

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Posted in Uncategorized on April 21, 2020 by dwbarbee

The strangest thing about these days is the whiplash. Things are decent and manageable, then they’re straight in the toilet. Then, on a day like today, you somehow feel like everything’s going to be okay. What’s gotten me so optimistic? I saw my cousin the other day, and she’s recovering magnificently, but otherwise I don’t know. I’m as weirded out by it as you are.

Here’s my reasoning via metaphor, the clearest of all modes of communication. People like to ask whether the glass is half full or half empty, which is their way of gauging your optimism. There’s a logical argument in both cases, but I say when you’re dying of thirst in the middle of the desert, all that matters to you is the damn water. The water’s in the glass. You drink it. It saves your life. Period. At that point, thinking about the nature of emptiness, truth, or fairness is at best a waste of time, not to mention very ungrateful for a free glass of water. At least that’s how I see it. When people advocate for the empty half of the glass, it just feels like they’ve forgotten what its like to be thirsty.

Now, before some smartass chimes in with “Maybe the glass is full of sand!”, let’s talk about some good things…

One of my favorite things on Earth, FORBIDDEN FUTURES, has a new website full of new insanity to catch your eye. You can even read my story “The Insuperable Brute Gibson.” It feels good to see these guys expand. Go check them out and be on the watch for the FF Omnibus coming soon.

While working from home, I finally put up all these vintage Marvel prints I’ve been collecting for years. This is what I write in front of now. Its the writing space I’ve always wanted.

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And speaking of my actual work, I made this for my library. We’re going to hide it in the stacks and I bet you’ll never guess where. Stop by sometime and come find it.

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Posted in Uncategorized on April 8, 2020 by dwbarbee

Still locked down. Still fighting back the same mental issues. Alone. But that’s not abnormal. We’re all coping as best we can. I read somewhere that some people with anxiety are experiencing a relief in their symptoms right now. They tend to feel like something catastrophic is always on the horizon, and now that a plague is sweeping the land, they don’t feel that way anymore (at least for now). That’s fascinating to me, but there are far more people whose mental issues are the same or getting worse, so that piece of info isn’t meant to give you hope. It’s just to be interesting.

Holy shit, when did I start talking about my personal feelings instead of trying to hawk my books? I think I’m doing it out of necessity. I don’t have many outlets in my personal life, much less my professional literary… I hesitate to call it life, but whatever. At least I’m not oversharing in a cynical ploy to increase book sales. Please don’t buy one of my books because I’m baring my soul over here. Or do. I guess I don’t care.

I’ve still got plans. Big plans, actually. I sent in an outline for Coffin Pants the other day and I’m awaiting some feedback to make it better. These days I want to take my time developing my books. I used to believe (because I was told) that you had to get as many books out as fast as possible, and while I can see the benefit of that, I know it doesn’t work for me personally. So, I’m taking my time, which means I’ll pretty much have to run my own publishing business in the future if I want it done my own way.

And we’ll get there. It’ll take time, but that’s because there are other things to deal with. Things that have to come first. I need to make sure I’m being a good dad. My marriage needs a lot of maintenance, which means we’re in a holding pattern where nothing good (or bad, hopefully) happens. We just keep things civil and ice cold. Not ideal, but it’s better than what Johnny Depp’s been going through, I’ll tell ya that.

And finally, to top off the drama… I’m not fully sure how much to reveal, so I’ll reveal as little as possible. I don’t care if that makes me coy, I just need to express some of the things stressing me out. Someone very close to me shot themselves last week and very nearly died. He/she is now okay and will make a physical recovery, but I’m very worried about the mental scars. I want to be as supportive as I can be, but I don’t want to intrude on the family’s healing process. At least I hope they’re healing. My tribe of people have never been terribly stable (just look at me) or very good at processing things (just look at this blog).

There’s a lot of uncertainty, and the stakes are pretty high. But at least its real. Its not authors bitching over things I’ve never heard of on Facebook.

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Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2020 by dwbarbee

Before I get too far into the weeds, I’ll tell you that my contributor copies of DOG DOORS FROM OUTER SPACE arrived yesterday, along with some spiffy stickers from Filthy Loot. The books are laid out really well and I’m proud of my contributions. I hope you check it out over at www.Filthyloot.com

The whole shelter in place situation is going to last through April now. Perhaps further. So, I’m hardcore house-husbanding and doing the vast majority of the child-rearing. Cooking meals, giving baths, mowing the lawn, working from home, tending to author business, and trying not to go stir crazy. But there are bright spots. My good friend John Wayne Comunale sent me a copy of his book SCUMMER. I’ve seen a lot of fake friends in the author world, and while JW ain’t perfect, he’s friendly as hell. Like it’s easy to be his friend, and in a jam, he will help you out. Much appreciated. He’s way more popular than me, too, so he actually doesn’t need me talking him up. Still did it, though.

I’m getting more reading done, cutting through my TBR pile and even rereading some things in preparation for future projects. I hardly ever get to do that. Also, and this is important to talk about, I’ve stopped reading several books halfway through. Its just plain hard to finish a book on principle. I even stopped reading Brian Evenson’s Collapse of Horses, not because it wasn’t good (IT IS), but because its too depressing for me to read right now. I switched over to the Devil’s Detective, which is about Hell itself, and somehow that’s less soul-crushing than Evenson’s stories about deeply dysfunctional relationships. That’s a good endorsement for either book.

The writing is coming along too, but only because I had to snuff out one of the novellas I was working on. For a while I’ve been mentioning the two projects I’m working on simultaneously. One of them was called “Carnivorous Tux” and it was taking up too much time for very little progress. Once I cut it out and focused solely on the other one, everything moved much faster. Tux was an idea I had forever ago, and I’ve been nursing it for years, telling myself I’d send it to Grindhouse Press or Death’s Head Press or Bizarro Pulp Press (all of whom I love and you should to). Years ago I pitched it at BizarroCon and Eric Hendrixson rightfully saw it as a Venom-knockoff. Which it was/is/would’ve been. Eric’s a smart bastard.

Carnivorous Tux evolved into a story about a poor kid in the 1940s South who encounters a demonic tuxedo. When he wears it, it gives him supernatural powers but also seems to trick people into thinking he’s better than the white trash he was born as (he belongs to a family of well-known dipshits). And of course, since it’s a demon, it demands that he kill and destroy. I think of it this way: the world demands that men be MEN, so we strive for strength and power and manhood, and in that journey we begin to change. Of course we do, that’s what they told us to do, right? But then one day we turn around and the world (or our family, our friends, or whomever) tells us that they no longer love us. That we’ve changed in a way they don’t like and we no longer deserve love. Get the fuck out of here, you monster. The guy in the Tux would’ve wound up killing everyone around him in the end, and they would have deserved it, too (they were well-known dipshits, after all). So it was kinda nihilistic.

Ever see Blue Valentine? I haven’t, but I caught the ending last night. It goes like this: Hey, you’re Ryan Gosling, literally the most valued human male of 2010. Well, I just decided that even YOU aren’t good enough, so get out of here and make sure you walk away from the child you love while you do. That’s it now. That’s your existence. The End.

Yeah, I can’t hack that kinda shit right now. Best to stick to the other story, Coffin Pants. Oh by the way, here’s some concept art for that. It makes me quite happy.

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Posted in Uncategorized on March 17, 2020 by dwbarbee

Insert an “I’m so anti-social” joke here. Haha.

I’m not under quarantine. I’m still allowed to work (for now). My kid’s out of school for two weeks, but I’m already at home all the time with the younger of the two, so having them both around isn’t so strange. We’re having as much fun as we can. We’re staying calm and keeping busy. We’re not losing our shit, which, at least for me, is the hardest part.

I’m surprised at how stressful this virus process has turned out to be. No one really knows anything from moment to moment. We’re all waiting to be told what the next big shake-up will be. Kids out of school, businesses closing down. It’s not as bad as it could be for me. There are those who are more exposed to the dangers, whether from the virus itself or to losing their livelihoods via the economy slowing down. My only real problem is that I need a predictive structure. I like to plan just about everything I can, and not knowing how to plan the next few weeks (MONTHS???) is mentally wearing on me.

April Ghoul’s Day got cancelled, along with a ton of other local conventions and shows. Big ones, small ones, the gigs we depend on are dropping like flies. As of now I’m a week and a half away from flying across the country to visit Excession Press HQ, and planning that trip is getting more and more complicated. The homework I’m doing for them is getting lost in the shuffle, too. Hopefully the whole thing won’t have to be cancelled. If all goes well, after I come home I plan to stay inside for a few days on end to unwind a lot of this stress. No more birthday parties or cross-country flights or email updates or whatever.

But fuck all that, there’s good news, too. One of my literary heroes, Jeremy Robert Johnson, has a new book coming out later this year. It’s called The Loop, and you should pre-order the hell out of it. JRJ has always been an interesting guy to me. He’s an excellent writer, very intelligent, but also humble and relatable. This is rarer than you’d think. I don’t even know a ton of writers but I’ve met a wide variety. There are guys whose work I love but I can’t relate to them as people. Guys whose work I admire but, in person, am very intimidated by. Guys whose fiction I hate but I like them as people. Guys whose fiction I hate and I hate them as people. Assholes whose talent is undeniable. Wonderful friends who don’t have a lick of talent. Also, there are women.

I pretty much like everything about JRJ. Even his beady little eyes. Hell, he once said I had a walnut-sized stegosaurus brain and somehow I didn’t feel like beating his ass right then and there. That’s special. Read all his books, especially The Loop. In these times of existential terror, I promise that you’ll be comforted by his scary weirdness.

Until next week, whatever that’s gonna look like.