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I’ve noticed that I say “I’d kill for…” a lot lately. I’d kill for this or I’d kill for that. I’d take a sling blade and plum near cut a man’s head in two for… whatever.

But that’s all self-pitying nonsense. Here’s what I’d really kill for:

FOR YOU TO JOIN THIS HERE NEWSLETTER, Y’ALL!

It’s so fresh it doesn’t even have a clever name yet. Just go to the top of this here blog and click on JOIN THIS HERE NEWSLETTER to get occasional and not-at-all-irritating updates on all my publishing activities. Social media is a wasteland of disconnected noise. This here blog, while much more intimate, still requires you to visit. Sign up for the newsletter and my news will come directly to you. I only plan to send out emails for special offers like new releases, contests, or promotions. It won’t be a semi-weekly thing like Barbwired is. This will be more a more discreet collection of concrete news and calls to action. No gushing about my favorite TV shows or bouts of existential sorrow, no sir. No, so come on down, and I’ll do anything–ANYTHING–for your business.

Beetlejuice | Beetlejuice cartoon, Juice movie, Tim burton movie

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I’m currently taking a short break from upgrading this here blog, or, at least, upgrading it right up to the point where I’d have to pay money. Sorry guys, but I’ve got enough expenses already.

So let’s just talk about TV and then get back to work. I’m still catching up on Perry Mason whenever the interest strikes me. It’s a dull show but the acting is undeniable. I’m trying to give Lovecraft Country a chance, but I keep getting a corny True Blood feeling from it. Plus, it’s become the thing that a lot of writers seem to be bitching about online, regarding race or Lovecraft or whatever. That doesn’t help my lack of enthusiasm for it.

Next is The Boys, which I just caught up on. It’s REALLY good, and a lot better than the comic book. I love Garth Ennis, but back when the series started it was obvious that Dynamite Entertainment was using Ennis as their superstar writer. The issues were usually boring as hell with something outrageously violent/perverse thrown into each one for shock value. The vast majority of it was filler with tons of conversation. Plus, they were overpriced as hell. Plus, I don’t much like Darick Robertson’s art. The show, on the other hand, has the benefit of taking the big ideas Ennis had for the book and rearranging them into a tighter plot. The supporting characters are fleshed out much better and brought to life by very good actors. Especially Antony Starr, who is making Homelander into the iconic villain America needs right now.

Raised by Wolves: The Different Types of Androids, Explained

And finally, RAISED BY WOLVES. This is the best thing on TV right now. Go watch it. It’s Ridley Scott’s hyper future movies and ancient warrior movies perfectly melded into one. I’m not even going to get into what I like about it, but it deals with robots, humanity, parenting, childhood, relationships, religion, belief, and fate. All great mythical themes played out on a far off planet by the last pieces of humanity.

Or maybe they’re the first.

Maybe next time we’ll talk about books instead of TV.

Alright, back to work.

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Holy crap, gotta go. Way behind on my to do list for today. Just finished a bunch of professional development regarding email scams and next I have to do a business transaction for some editing.

But first, sharing some love towards good friends. First is my local pals at Saturday Comics. They’re running a Kickstarter to produce a new magazine focused on horror and comics. Two of my favorite things! It’s called “Blood-Drenched Creature Double Feature.” I’d like to contribute to this one day, but no time for that now! Only time for you to help this beautiful little idea exist by heading to the BDCDF Kickstarter page and throwing down some cash.

And next: you’ve heard of it, you’ve anticipated it, and now Karl Fischer’s Levels is LIVE AND AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE. Head to Amazon to get one of my favorite weird sci-fi books of the year.

And now…. I owe somebody a few hundred bucks. Big news next week. Try to stay safe this Labor Day!

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I watched the trailer for The Batman the other day and said on Twitter that there was no perfect Batman movie to me because I have my own perfect Batman movie in my head. So, I figured I’d share those thoughts with you. We’ve seen Batman as Edward Scissorhands, as James Bond, and now it looks like we’re getting a 90’s David Fincher-type Batman. That’s mostly cool, but here’s what I’d like to see:

The first thing to do is take away the stuff about Batman I don’t personally like: The cops, the bat-vehicles, and his mask. Batman’s mask is a great way to get shot in the mouth, and bat-vehicles are a great way to get trapped by traffic or shot down from the sky. Batman should be completely armored in smooth black steel covering his face and chest, accented by discreet pouches and piping crawling around his body not unlike H.R. Giger’s xenomorph design.

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Batman’s one of the few (maybe only) superheroes who still absolutely needs a secret identity, and in having a secret identity, the desire for his enemies to unmask him would be one of his biggest threats. For as much ass as Batman kicks, there are literally thousands of crooks and killers looking to make a name off of him or get revenge on him. Batman stalks the shadows like a ninja, but as soon as he engages the enemy, they fight back. Some are paralyzed by their fear of him, but many are looking to kill him, injure him, or just encumber him enough to rip off that mask and see who it is.

Know what else would be cool? Batman’s smooth, shining black mask suddenly lit up with a big yellow bat-signal, to be used to light the dark or to blind those he’s fighting. Getting that mask/helmet off would be near-impossible, but these crooks will gladly give it a try. Speaking of fighting, Batman’s weaponry is important. Technology should play a bigger role in being Batman than anything else, and I think a balance can be struck between Batman being a man who uses a few gadgets here and there (like Bond) and a man with a gadget for every situation (Iron Man). He should have an assortment of martial arts weapons, tranquilizers, smoke bombs, and flash grenades, all of it nonlethal so he can subdue his enemies quickly and brutally. Any grappling hook he’d use is dependent on having a good anchor somewhere and not getting his arm ripped off. I never liked Batman swinging around like Spider-Man, but he shouldn’t fly, either. I’d compromise by giving him a low-powered jet pack beneath the cape. Something that could blast him a few hundred feet into the air if he got pinned down in a dead end somewhere or had to travel across the city rooftops. Remember, he has to evade capture at all times, and everybody wants a piece of him.

Which brings us to the perfect Batman movie’s villain, which is always a big deal. Now, my movie would have all the weirdo gangsters you like, but they’d exist in the background. Each boss and his organization wants Batman’s head, which leads to a criminal stalemate. Everyone’s so worried about the Batman that they don’t bother fighting each other too much. Gotham’s underworld isn’t the real problem.

The problem is the cops.

Jim Gordan and the GCPD are Batman’s truest adversaries. They’re the ones standing in his way the most. This is maybe my biggest gripe with Batman. He works with the cops. They have a signal they send whenever they want his help. An entire city’s police department defers its duty to a vigilante. This wouldn’t happen in real life, and as characters I don’t think either side really wants it either. Batman HATES the cops. At best they’re incompetent, and at worst they’re as corrupt as any criminal. And if Jim Gordon is as good a cop as we’re meant to believe, then he’s not going to ask some mystery man to do his job for him.

Batman wants the cops out of his way, and he’d communicate this to them regularly. Would they listen? Hell no. They can’t. They can’t allow some guy, no matter who he is, to run around taking the law into his own hands. From their perspective, Batman is just as bad as the criminals. So, while Batman is out doing his thing, he will inevitably come into contact with the cops, who have all been given orders to arrest him at almost any cost. Batman gets active resistance from them, they fight, and in turn, half of the cops grow to hate him because he either kicked their or their coworkers’ ass. The other half of the cops appreciate Batman as a crime fighter, though many of them would use him as an excuse not to do their job. Why bother doing dangerous policework when some maniac is out there doing it for you?

Threading this needle is Jim Gordon himself. Gordon doesn’t want the police to depend on Batman in any way, but he also knows that Batman’s prime targets are criminals, not cops. Still, over time he’s broken a lot of noses, arms, and legs. Many cops walk with a limp thanks to Batman, which is an assault on the institution that Gordon’s responsible for. Batman keeps picking apart the city’s crooked politicians and exploitative con men and psycho gangsters, and Gordon wishes he’d just stop doing the cops’ job. He might be getting results, but he’s doing it as a vigilante, which is completely opposite to the concept of law and order. Batman won’t go away, and the cops can’t go away, either.

And so, as our perfect Batman movie begins, Jim Gordon is assembling a secret team to find out who the hell Batman is. Unmasking him is the only way to stop him and return the city to normal. From the cops’ interactions with Batman, Gordon has reverse-engineered some of his weaponry and tactics. He’s gathered a mountain of evidence that may make him look like a conspiracy nut, but he is certain that this is the key to learning Batman’s identity. He knows this guy must have money, time, and a deep hatred for crime. Gordon begins making connections and eventually thinks he has it figured out. The movie reaches its climactic end not with a fight scene (though there’d be a ton of them throughout), but with Jim Gordon arriving at a mansion one day to speak with Bruce Wayne.

Though Alfred tries to make excuses for Gordon to leave, Wayne appears and agrees to talk with him. Gordon reveals everything he knows about Batman and Bruce Wayne and deduces that they are one and the same. It’s a huge revelation, and we think that Gordon finally has Batman pinned down. But, of course, Batman has planned for this contingency. He has alibis, which Gordon knows can be easily faked. But he also reveals that Gordon’s office itself has been infiltrated by Batman. The mountain of evidence Gordon has gathered has already been destroyed by a dirty cop in Gordon’s department, someone who’d gladly take an anonymous envelope of cash to destroy Gordon’s precious files. Now all Gordon has is a theory. He’s been undone by the corruption living in his own police force. Bruce Wayne politely asks Gordon to leave his home, and while Gordon is still sure that Wayne is Batman, he can no longer prove it and thus has to exit.

We see the lengths one must go to in order to successfully keep a secret identity while fighting the criminal justice system itself instead of one maniac’s evil plan. That’s my perfect Batman movie.

So, to review: I want a Batman movie where the actor barely matters, the costume looks like a creature feature, there are no vehicles for toy sales, and the villains are reflections of our own society’s systemic problems instead of charismatic Oscar winners in fancy makeup.

Where’s my check, Hollywood?

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It’s Wednesday, which means its time to NOT put off making a post for this here blog. It’s just that there’s a CRAZY amount of stuff that is not going on with me.

Something cool got announced by my friends Ze Burns and Amy Vaughn. It’s BABOU 691, an upcoming magazine dedicated to the bizarre, surreal, and classically weird. More info in Ze’s own words can be found HERE, but I wanted to mention this because Ze and Amy have been great supporters of mine and I appreciate them that freaking much.

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For me, I’m in a preparatory phase right now, and I can’t necessarily talk about what I’m preparing for, either. There’s just a lot to learn, a lot to plan, and it’s all just floating in the air around me, not nailed down or anything. Sure, I know it will all get done, but others don’t give much of a damn about what you’re planning to do. They just want to see you do it. Fair enough.

It’s funny because back when I first started publishing I had no idea what to do to prepare for a book’s release. I was running entirely on piss and vinegar and sheer moxie. I’ve gotten better over the years, but the secret is that this is an individual sport, and everyone has to figure out how best to do things for themselves.

Along with all my research into self-publishing, I’ve been trying to shop for self-published books that I’d find interesting as a reader. Low and behold I found something called “Og Grim Dog,” a fantasy trilogy about a three-headed ogre. I’m not normally into fantasy books, and this looks very constrained by that genre, but there’s something charming about a three-headed ogre as a protagonist. It excites me. It’s my kinda weird.

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And on that note, I go to meet my kid’s new kindergarten teacher. During a viral pandemic. Awesome.

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Looks like I took a break from this here blog. Well, I’m back. You could say I’ve been busy. Lately with research, but with other stuff, too. A lot of soul-searching, demon-wrestling, and planning for the future. But I don’t want to delve too deeply into my personal crap today.

About three weeks ago I headed out to Colorado to visit Excession Press headquarters. We laughed, we played, and most importantly I got some chapters done for my next book Coffin Heart. Now, I freely admit that those chapters are currently being rewritten, but such is the process. Perhaps more importantly, I got to hang out some two really good friends, wish them well on their future plans (which are HUGE: they’re having a baby), and just enjoy being away from life’s everyday bullshit.

Speaking of, writing this is getting harder and harder the more my coworker keeps talking to me.

Anyway, this week in particular I’ve been consumed with research on self-publishing. I finally found some sources that seem to click, or at least they make sense to me. It’s not that I’ve never gotten advice before, but advice is rare and its even rarer for it to apply to you personally. Maybe I’m just ready for the information right now. I feel really stupid lately. Maybe you have to feel a little stupid before you can learn something important.

Not that I’m stupid.

But I do hate me some smart motherfuckers.

Alright, back to work for me. Thanks for listening to my little update here. Take care of yourself, because not only will nobody else will do it for you, but most people would be happy to watch your destruction.

Insert shrug emoji.

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Welcome back. This weekend I’m flying out to meet with my pals at Excession Press. We’re going to hang out, talk business, write as much as possible, and try not to catch Coronavirus. I’m always a little nervous before traveling, but I know it’ll be nice to see my friends again. I’ll miss my family, but I also need friends and a nice, productive writing retreat.

Speaking of friends, one of them is Karl Fischer, author of the upcoming sci-fi psychodrama LEVELS. I finished it about a month ago and forgot to post this review:

Levels is a shot glass of science fantasy right in your eye. Wild and vivid genre-blending adventure can actually become tedious, but in Levels it is turned inside out to become a journey of self-discovery. There’s grand scene-setting, but no empire-defeating. There’s luxuriously described action, but no princess-saving. There’s even some skewering of modern systems of bureaucracy, but also the multiverse-shaking power therein. The hero we should all be dressing as for Halloween isn’t a ninja or a wizard. He’s an Expert Support Miscellaneous who is oh so perfectly adequate.

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Levels will be released by Bizarro Pulp Press this August, but I’m going to remind you on release day anyway.

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I’m going to do something for the community. I don’t see my thoughts adding too much to the conversation, but everyone else is chiming in, so why not me? Maybe someone unrelated to the horror community will see this and at least know where I stand on this stuff.

These stories usually start the same way. I woke up this morning, checked twitter, and tried to catch up on the drama. This time it had been an interesting weekend. Matt Hayward, an Irish horror writer who I’ve seen at a convention or two, had said some dumb things to different women in the horror community and was called out on it. As he should be. I understand saying ONE dumb thing to a woman. We all do it. But not consistently. You only get to say something stupid once before you have to admit you’re an idiot and kindly walk away.

After this news went public, there were excuses for why he was being so drunk/horny. He was having a hard time. His personal life was getting rough. I don’t buy that. My personal life’s been rough for years now and I don’t flirt with chicks online. Being married has something to do with that (Hayward’s also married, by the way). In my opinion, we’re all drunk and horny and mad and sad. And that’s okay, but being human means controlling these things. Don’t even get me started on what being a man means.

Anyway, at some point I asked my wife if she’d ever heard of Matt Hayward. It was a hard no from her. So instead of recounting the saga for her I just played with our daughter and went about my morning. When I checked back on it this afternoon, it turns out Hayward had done some photoshopping and created a fake twitter account to try and fight against the public relations nightmare he’d brought on himself. Lying to others, and accusing his accusers of lying about him. That’s low. It’s not surprising that an egotistical person would do that, but it’s still low as hell.

Here’s how it relates to me (not that that actually matters, but this here is my blog with my thoughts). I get overlooked a lot. Some people in the writing world look right past me, like I’m invisible. Like I’m a nonentity. Sure, I’m kind of boring and not very plugged in, I don’t always have a lot to offer and maybe I even smell a little funny. So, a lot of people—especially people who are much more plugged in to that great big literary network that sustains us all—don’t see me.

Hayward was one of those people. There’s a hundred other writers/publishers I’ve met who are in the same category. I see them here and there, but we never talk and there’s not much interest in me, even if I am interested in them. In these sorts of cases, it turns out that makes me lucky. I try to imagine what it’d be like if I DID have something special that people wanted. I imagine what sort of predators and bottom feeders and opportunists might come upon me. Like if I was a reviewer.

Then I imagine what that’d be like if I were a woman.

I start seeing red after that.

Holy shit, ladies, how do you deal with it? I can wrap my brain around men being brutes and acting like horny idiots. There’s a level of that which is just tolerated (if the man has any wisdom, he can at least realize that he just said something stupid to a woman, thank her for her time, and then leave her alone forever). But so often it goes beyond what is tolerable. It becomes bullying behavior. Egotistical maneuvering. Toxic assholery disguised as masculine charisma. And it intensifies upon rejection. And it’s all coming from someone calling himself your “friend.”

I understand that what I’ve written here isn’t so much a professional statement as much as a diary entry of how I’m feeling. And this situation is definitely not about my little old feelings. It just feels weird to me because, from my perspective, here was a guy who seemed to have a lot going for him. An army of friends and professional representation, for starters. Tons of books spread all across the horror landscape. And maybe he will have that again. Maybe he’ll climb out of this hole and get back on top and be a real mover and shaker.

And maybe I’ll run into him one day and he’ll belittle me as one of the nobodies who piled on during that rough patch in his life.

And I’ll say, “Holy shit, you can see me?”

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World’s still going apeshit, and it feels weird to jump into the argument and even weirder to ignore the argument and talk about anything else. Everybody’s talking, which is normally useless. But something about this time feels different, like something might actually get done. Things always have to get worse before they get better.

I always considered Donald Trump to be America’s wake up call. Slowly but surely, person by person, everybody is getting embarrassed or enraged or at least asking some questions. It’s like a primitive man whose been living the barbaric lifestyle that was handed down to him from generations past, and he walks by a puddle one day. He sees his reflection, how dirty and ugly he looks, and maybe he’s seen his reflection before, but this time he’s struck by it. “This isn’t me,” he says. “I can do better.” Trump’s like that for America. Hell, for the whole world. He’s the ugliness that ran so wild that we finally had to get our shit together and grow up.

So, in a way we owe him some thanks, but I didn’t think that up on my own. This is a good article expressing the sentiment much better (which is to say, without cavemen. I reference cavemen a lot).

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Speaking of cavemen, I got this sucker the other day and it is GORGEOUS. Might be one of the nicest books I own now. During the pandemic I tried catching up on my reading but had to quit a lot of the books I read. Mostly indie horror novels. In the future I’m going to schedule more Conan in my reading, and some other pulp classics that’ll help inform the sort of things I want to write in the future. I’m not a horror guy, actually. It just doesn’t make me excited.

I feel comfortable talking about that here, mostly because it’s not Facebook or Twitter where people feel the need to comment on your commentary. Then you have to argue or elaborate or discuss and that feels like chasing your own tail. On this here blog, I can say what I feel and it will be beautifully, blissfully ignored by the writing community.

Feels nice.

Back to work for me. I’m almost done reading LEVELS, I’m planning a trip to visit my publisher, and Coffin Heart (not Pants anymore) is coming along nicely.

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We’re in another one of those “riots in the streets” phases in this country, but before I get into that, check out this robot I framed on the wall in my laundry room, made by fellow author, publisher, and artist Nicholas Day.

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Ah, that’s nice. Jovial, even.

So, America’s burning again. Ongoing pandemic, economic collapse, riots in the streets, killer cops, right wing terrorists, and a living, breathing metaphor for evil presiding. I don’t usually get into these things, especially on social media where everyone is melting down. There’s a lot of shit-talking going around and the best way to get myself some breathing room is to speak my own common sense.

Ahem.

We need reform in this country. Massive reform. Of education, energy, environment, infrastructure, healthcare, finance, and yes, criminal justice. That means the police, the prisons, and the courts. Not to mention our policy on domestic terrorism, the vast majority of it based on right-wing ideology that’s not just regressive, its obsolete. All of these systems are inefficient, out-of-date, or shamelessly corrupted. And it’s too simple to be one of those people who gets over-emotional and says “burn it all down!” That’s cynical, which has always been cool. But it’s also childish, because it wouldn’t be hard to fix these things. For most of them, we already know what needs to be done, and we know the special interests organized against them. We know who to fight, we know how to fight them, we just need the courage to throw the first punch.

We have to beat that symbolic opponent. Not kill them, because that’d be a civil war. No, subdue them. Then we have to carry them into the future, a place that horrifies them beyond reason. We have to drag them along, and they’ll be kicking and screaming the whole way. Are we tough enough to do that? To pull our belligerent, Neanderthal twin brother across the finish line while he does everything in his power to get us both killed? That’s what it amounts to. That’s what winning the election this year will be like. That’s what the next decade will be like if we can pull it off. Vote the bad guys out, then KEEP ‘EM OUT. Fix everything while they scream and sabotage. Prove them wrong over and over again until one day it dawns on them that they’re not in charge anymore. Until the counter-culture is just the plain old culture, and what they always believed was “normal America” is a retrograde fantasy. You could say it already is a fantasy…they just don’t know it yet.

Anyway, what makes this current shitstorm personal for me is that it involves the police. I’ve got police in my family, so when I see fellow writers talking about cops and pigs and burning down police stations, what I can’t help but hear is: Fuck your dad. Fuck him, and fuck you too if you don’t verbally jump on this here bandwagon and scream “fuck my dad” along with us.

Yeah. I can’t choose a bunch of people I don’t really know (and who probably don’t care about me anyway) over people who’ve done more for me than they ever will. And saying that doesn’t make me complicit in the crimes of bad cops. Because there are some very bad cops out there and that’s so plain to see that I don’t deserve credit for admitting it. There are cops who are either stupid, corrupt, or downright evil. Entire departments across the country are run like mafias. Evil people sign up with the police because they see it as a great opportunity to do evil work. All of this has to be rooted out, and perhaps more importantly, those evil cops have to be replaced by good cops. So many of the people protesting in the streets care more about their communities than any of the cops who commit crimes. I’d take any of them over a cop who would choke a man to death just because he can.

There’s just a lot of nuance missing from the online dialogue right now, at least down in the social media trenches. I think most people probably agree with me. I’ve seen reports of cops working with protesters, which is great because they should both want the same things. I also know that the bad cops are still out there, along with right wing activists who are trying to incite violence so nothing substantial gets done. Those are the real enemies, so maybe blanket statements about every member of a certain profession aren’t helpful. You wouldn’t say the same thing about prostitutes, would you?

Ah, rant over. One of these days I’ll stop bitching about all the bitching and give you some news about my writing. Until then.