News and Notes: My Story in Ahoy! Comics, Sci-fi Anthology, We Suck at Comics Kickstarter, Into That Darkness Peering

It’s been a busy month, so here are some notes on all the projects I’ve been a part of recently.

My story, “The Big Cheese” was just released this week in Billionaire Island: Cult of the Dog #1 from Ahoy! Comics. It is backing up a mark Russell story, which is pretty cool. Get it at your local comics shop.

There are still two days left to support the We Suck at Comics kickstarter. The anthology from Wayward Raven includes three of my stories, “Freedom,” a 2000AD-style science fiction story (illustrated by Tyler Carpenter), and two episodes of Sir TweetCivil, a Monty Python-esque spoof of Twitter (illustrated by Alexander Sapountzis). The anthology also includes stories by Mark Frankel, Jeff Rider, Johnny C, Sebastian Bonet, Joel Jacob Barker, and cavalcade of indie comics all-stars.

The When All That’s Left is Stories dystopian science fiction anthology is now available for free download on Amazon. My story, “The Bartleby Initiative,” is included in the book, alongside stories by 11 other writers from the Twitter writing community.

My gothic horror collection, Into That Darkness Peering, illustrated by Marika Brousianou, is still available on Amazon. It is a beautiful book, and would make a perfect holiday gift for the goth in your life.

For those of you on the platform, I have joined Mastadon. Follow me there for new

Mr Rogers, Sir Thomas Malory, and my Lady Elaine Fairchilde Head-canon.

The Knights of the Round Table were considered the paragons of a certain kind of chivalric virtue throughout the Arthurian legends. While martial prowess was a key component in their reputation, and an important qualification to join the august company, the knights were also supposed to follow a moral code and to conduct themselves in a manner befitting their status as members of King Arthur’s court. Failure to abide by the knights code would bring shame, expulsion, or even death. The greatest of the knights, Sir Lancelot, Sir Tristam, etc are praised just as often for their gallantry, for the chivalry, and for their refusal to unfairly take advantage of others even when doing so would benefit themselves, as they are for their victories in battles or tournaments.

Fred Rogers is considered a paragon of modern virtue. Throughout his life, he championed kindness, understanding, and education in a way few other have. He is nearly universally revered among Americans of a certain generation, and even after his death, he is often quoted, memed, or cited by those who promote the values he has come to represent.

Beyond their status as role models, however, there seems little that connects Sir Lancelot with Mr Rogers beyond the quasi-medieval setting of the Neighborhood of Make-Beleive…or so I thought.

Recently, I’ve been re-reading Le Morte de Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory, which is considered by many to be the authoritative text about the Arthurian legends. Currently, I’m in the middle of the 11th book, which tells the tale of Sir Lancelot. The first 3 chapters of that book tell of how, through deceit and and magic, Dame Brisen fools Lancelot into sleeping with Lady Elaine, King Pelles’ daughter, in order to fulfill the prophecy that the child Lancelot would beget of Elaine would be Sir Galahad, the knight destined to find the Sangreal.

I was not thinking of Mr. Rogers when I read this, even when the phrase “Lady Elaine” appeared, until I came across this passage from chapter 3:

Le Morte de Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory, Book 11, Chapter 3, page 615, Modern Library edition.

The close mention of “lady Elaine” and the phrase “fair child” recalled the character Lady Elaine Fairchilde, the proprietor of the Museum Go Round, and general thorn in the side of King Friday the 13th from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Did Mr. Rogers have this passage in mind when he named the character? Apparently not. According to the official Mr. Rogers website, Lady Elaine was named after Rogers’ adopted sister, Laney. Still, from now on, in my mind then two will always be connected.

In my own head canon, Lady Elaine, dubbed Fairchilde on account of her famous role in the Arthur Story moves to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe to try and start a new life. Her ill-treatment at the hands of her father, King Pelles, has caused he to mistrust all kings, and her role as a pawn of a patriarchal prophecy has caused her to rebel and actively develop her strong, independent, contrarian personality. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse of how my weird mind works. For more silliness of this nature, follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Deleted All My Dating Apps

Deleted all of my dating apps so I could find someone the old-fashioned way—by hiring a woman as a governess for my ward, being a brooding jerk toward her, and not telling her that I’m actually already married and that I keep my crazy wife hidden in the attic.

Deleted all of my dating apps so I could find someone the old-fashioned way—by sneaking into a ball thrown by my family’s arch enemies, falling in love at first sight, and then sneaking into her garden under her balcony, like a peeping tom.

Deleted all of my dating apps so I could find someone the old-fashioned way—by acting like a scruffy-looking nerf-herder until she realizes the guy she’s kissing is actually her brother.

Deleted all of my dating apps so I could find someone the old-fashioned way—by hoping she develops stockholm syndrome before the last petal of my enchanted rose falls.

Deleted all of my dating apps so I could find someone the old-fashioned way—by buying her a gift at the Araby bazaar.

Deleted all of my dating apps so I could find someone the old-fashioned way—by buying her ancestral home, marrying her husband’s sister, acting like an abusive, deranged, jerk, and brooding around the moors.

Deleted all of my dating apps so I could find someone the old-fashioned way—by coming unstuck in time, being kidnapped by aliens who don’t see time linearly, being kept in a zoo on their planet, and sharing my cage with a pornographic film star.

Deleted all of my dating apps so I could find someone the old-fashioned way—by removing the stone from the top of a well, working seven years for her hand, having her father dupe me into marrying her less-attractive sister, and then working seven more years for her hand.

Deleted all of my dating apps so I could find someone the old-fashioned way—by changing my name, becoming a bootlegger, throwing lavish parties to impress her–but not inviting her–and then staring longingly across the water at a green light fraught with symbolism.

Deleted all of my dating apps so I could find someone the old-fashioned way—by using a gorgon’s head to rescue her from a sea monster.

Deleted all of my dating apps so I could find someone the old-fashioned way—by sneaking into her room while she’s sleeping and biting her neck to make her undead.

Deleted all of my dating apps so I could find someone the old-fashioned way—by finding a sleeping princess and awakening her with a kiss.

Deleted all of my dating apps so I could find someone the old-fashioned way—by selling my soul to the devil in exchange for his help in seducing her.

Deleted all of my dating apps so I could find someone the old-fashioned way—by being poisoned by a nefarious knight, changing my name, and seeking out the only woman in the world with the knowledge to heal me.

Deleted all of my dating apps so I could find someone the old-fashioned way—by buying turtle food from my local pet store worker, and maintaining a relationship with her while training for a fight with the heavyweight champion of the world. Also, saying “yo” before her name a lot.

Deleted all of my dating apps so I could find someone the old-fashioned way—by answering the sphinx’s riddle, freeing the town from its tyranny, and marrying the widowed queen without asking any questions–eh, maybe not.

Be sure to check out the links page to read some of my published writing, and to follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Clickspell’s 11 True Confessions of Wizarding School Dropouts: #6 Will Blow Your Mind

Interest in magical schools have skyrocket thanks to the tales of the early life of the Chosen One after his defeat of the latest Dark Lord recently serialized and published. But what of his classmates—not the ones with whom he was friends in his youth, and whose exploits were recounted in the great tale, but the ones who didn’t go on to fame and fortune—where are they now? Clickspell—your source for all things wizarding related—has uncovered 12 confessions of students of magic who didn’t quite make the cut:

  1. There are all manner of jobs you can get in the magical world that don’t require an advanced degree. You just need to master a few basic, specialized spells. Me? I’m a sanitation sorcerer. Even wizards need someone to take out the trash—Garbage_Mage
  2. I shot a fireball at one of my professors. He was a total jerk. They expelled me. I still say he deserved it #sorrynotsorry—Hotheaded9
  3. You sit in all these classes with these famous wizards, but how did they become famous? By going on quests and fighting in great wars, not by sitting in a classroom reading from textbooks. I kept skipping class to research every lost magical artifact in the world, trying to find one that was worthy of a quest. My grades suffered, and eventually I dropped out after months on academic probation. Didn’t matter to me, I was going to make my name in the real world. It’s 10 years later, and I haven’t been able to find one damn relic. Now, I live in the subway and perform street magic for coins. I guess my teachers were right, but at least I took my shot—impossible_dreamer
  4. I was pretty good at potions, so I became a bartender at the pub in the university town. Some of my old professors come in for drinks from time to time. I laugh a little, inside, because I make more money than they do—darklordofdrinks7
  5. I remember one class where we had to hypnotize an elephant. Tell me when the hell I’m ever going to need to do that in real life?—Reallifeskillz14
  6. It was the night of the winter prom. My date and I found a secluded place in the gardens. We had just learned engorgement spells. Suffice it to say that neither of us can ever show our faces there again—Bootleg_Cassanova
  7. If you think drugs are a problem in a regular high school, you should check out what goes on in a magical one. You have all those potions and poisons lying around, you can only imagine what the dealers come up with. It took me years of rehab to get clean, and by that time, I was way too old to go back to school—emogrl12
  8. When you really think about it, magic is ancient and inefficient—all those incantations and spells in ancient languages no one understands. After I dropped out, I enrolled in a regular university, majored in engineering. I build things that work, using modern science. It’s far easier than magic, twice as reliable, and you don’t need any special skill to use it. I would challenge any of my former classmates to contest—my machines against their spells. I know whom I would bet on if I was you—Science_Sorceress
  9. Is it really any wonder I dropped out? I had some talent, sure, but I was the first person in my family’s history with magical talent. There, I was competing against students who come from long lineages of wizarding families. They can get help from their parents, practice magic all summer, and all sorts of other advantages. I had to hide my abilities, figure out everything for myself, and then deal with bullying and persecution from these children of wizarding royalty. Statistics show that first-generation sorcerers drop out at a higher rate. That’s what happened to me. I fell behind, believed I wasn’t as good as my peers. It was only a matter of time until I gave up and left the school—Doomed2Fail
  10. I was against the blatant, unrepentant, cruelty to animals. Every witch’s brew uses ingredients like frog’s legs and lizard skin. Who cares about the poor frogs? The helpless lizards? I did, and because of it, I failed Cauldron Potions. I tried explaining it to the administration, but no one would listen. It got to the point where I had to leave on principle—S8credLife
  11. I got pregnant during my sophomore year. It happens to us magical folk too—MagicMom16
  12. After I dropped out, I didn’t have a job, so I used my meager skills to sell myself as a magician who entertains children at birthday parties in the non-magical world. Every family that hires me says I’m the best magician they’ve ever seen. Little do they know how bad I am compared to all the kids I went to school with. It’s all relative, I guess—ChaztheMagnificient

This story first appeared on Rejected Manuscripts. It received the second-most votes in the 2018 competition, and was published in their Winners Anthology.

Be sure to check out the links page to read some of my published writing, and to follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Your Morning Commute, As Narrated By Charles Dickens

With many states, including the one in which I live, re-opening, I hear people talk about how eager they are to get back out of the house and back. I think they may have forgotten exactly what they are going back to So, here is a reminder: Your Morning Commute, as narrated by Charles Dickens.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, that is to say it must have been the best of times for someone, somewhere, in some blessed place which was far, far away from these subway stairs which descended from the street above to the platform below like Lucifer being cast out from heaven. So dark, so dismal, so foreboding were those stairs, that as the commuters descending them did not have to try very hard to imagine that the words printed on the sign did not advertise cut-rate insurance, but rather read, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

The train was on time, in as much as it arrived at the same time as it usually did: 20 minutes late, but so downtrodden were the commuters, so used to the incompetence of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, they hardly complained beyond a customary, but largely perfunctory oath, which was muttered under their collective breaths.

The passengers pushed themselves into the train cars with the exact opposite effect of clowns pouring out of a small automobile, each attempting to squeeze into the tiny aperture at the same time. They pushed and pushed but to no effect, until suddenly, they managed to squeeze through in a manner that only spineless creatures, spineless enough to do the dreary jobs to which they were headed, could.

The train doors closed and opened and closed again, crushing those who refused to head the warnings to “stand clear” like any Great Expectations those commuters might have had  for this day, as they traveled from their bleak houses to their bleaker offices.

The train entered the tunnel, and a heavy pall of shadow fell over the car, casting its shadow not only across the dirty benches lit by fluorescent bulbs which flickered on and off intermittently, but also threw its shade over the soul.

There was a creeping smell in all the subway. It meandered through the car like an evil spirit, seeking a spot to linger, a host to possess, a smell that would cling to clothing long past lunchtime, hiding deep within the fibers and seeping out, inevitably, during an important business meeting. It made its way slowly through the air, in near-visible ripples, overlaying one another, a contaminating contagion infesting nostrils, which wrinkled involuntarily, and causing the less experienced commuters to gasp audibly, and even the veteran passengers to recoil to some degree.

As that train rumbled through those dark tunnels, a spell seemed to be cast over all the passengers by some unseen witch, a spell of routine and indifference as the gray minions of conformity assumed the role automatons, gears to be ground until their teeth lost all bite within the vast and unforgiving capitalist machine. And as the light dimmed from their eyes, and as the hope seeped from their souls, a singular state settled over each-and-every individual there, a state that could only be described as Monday:

Monday, it killed all joy and whatever happiness was still hanging on from the weekend; Monday, in the stacks of paperwork that awaited them on their desks; Monday, in the thousands of notifications already on their phones (could it only be Monday?); Monday, in the eyes of the poor, wretched creature handling a pan; Monday in the two coins they dropped into his cup like tribute to Charon on this transport ferrying them across the river into an Erberus where they would perform tasks more futile than Sisyphus or Tantalus; Monday in his ungrateful reply: “Please sir, can I have some more?”; Monday, in that car like first stop on the local train that comprised the work week; Monday, where even at the beginning, the garbled voice of the conductor told them to expect delays; Monday, seemingly as far from the hope of Friday as Lucifer in the 9th circle of Hell is from paradise; In short, Monday, which despite it’s proximity to Sunday was father from the weekend than any other day of the week.  

Such was the rat race, and as the train pulled into the station, the rodents scurried from their hole-in-the-wall apartments to their hole-in-the wall-offices, vermin in search of a measly, likely moldy, piece of cheese.

Be sure to connect on facebooktwitter, and instagram, and check out the links page to read some of my published work.

Free Stories You Can Read While Socially Distancing

With everyone home on quarantine or practicing “social distancing,” now is a great time to get some reading done. As such, I decided to share some of my stories that are available for free at online. I’ve written a short description with the each link to help you pick which you’d like to read. Enjoy, and please stay safe out–or in–there:

Here is the story I shared in my last week’s blog. It is in the mode of Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams. If you haven’t read it yet, please check it out: Darkness My Old Friend.

I have a short flash piece in the current issue of Mythic Picnic Tweet Story. It features the unlikely combination of Lovecraftian monsters and humor: The Kale of Cthulhu.

You can read an older comedic fantasy style story of mine, featuring a sphinx complaining about dragons in Pif magazine: The Sphinx’s Lament.

If you are in the mood for something more traditionally literary, more touching and emotional, check out this piece I wrote for The Hopper Review: In Good Hands.

If poetry is more your speed, Local Gems Press has made eight Ebooks free to read during this period of quarantine. One of them, Rhyme and PUNishment, features my poem, “In Good Hands.” My poem is on page 50.

Last year, I had 6 micro-flash pieces in issue 4 of Drabblez magazine. “The Kale of Cthulhu” was first published there, but check out the other 5 pieces as well. My stories start on page 30.

If you are missing sports, here is a story I wrote about a playground basketball player in New York City. I originally wrote it in college for an assignment to write in the voice of a character who is very different from you (a great writing exercise, which I will cover in a future blog). The story was published in Scriveners Pen, which no longer exists, but I’ve posted it on my deviant art page. While your there, check out the comics samples I’ve posted there and some other short stories as well: Sweetness.

I hope you enjoy these stories. I hope you enjoy them. Depending on how long this situation lasts, I may post more in the coming weeks.

Stay safe.

Be sure to check out the links page to read some of my published writing, and to follow me on twitter and facebook.

42 Loosely Connected Thoughts About Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

Last week one of my favorite books, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy celebrated its 42nd birthday. For fans of the book, the significance of this anniversary needs no explanation. (If you are unaware of the reference, stop reading this blog post and pick up a copy of the novel—go ahead, I won’t be offended; Come back after you’ve read it). Douglas Adams birthday was a few days ago, and, either of those days would have been the perfect time to write about my love for the series, Adams work in general, and its influence on me as a writer. Since I do not have a time machine, and, therefore, cannot travel back a few days and willant ont have written the post then, I must rely on one of Adam’s most famous quotes about writing to justify my subject matter today.

“I love deadlines,” Adams said. “I like the wooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

As such, here is my tribute to Mr. Adams and his work, as well its far-reaching and multi variegated influence on my life and work. What follows are 42 random thoughts from the infinite improbability drive known as my brain.

  1. I first read The Hitchhiker’ Guide To The Galaxy as a freshman in college. More than anything else that happened to me that year, it would prove to be the most important thing that happened to me that school year.
  2. Many of the friends that I met that year were hoopy froods, though I will admit that only a few really knew were their towels were.
  3. I met my wife in the summer following that school year, so I will not get into trouble with her for the above statement. The following year was her freshman year of college.
  4. At the time, she had never read The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.
  5. I soon corrected that gap in her education. It is now one of her favorite books as well.
  6. In Columbia, where I went to college, a group called the philolexian society holds a bad poetry competition. The competition is officially a tribute to the poet Joyce Kilmer, a former Columbia philolexian who duped the literary world by writing what he believed was bad poetry. Kilmer created a pseudonym, as well as a whole backstory about his fictional persona who was supposed to be homeless man living in a water tower on the roof a New York City apartment building.
  7. The bad poetry contest, despite being named for Kilmer, was widely known to be inspired by the Vogon bad poetry in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.
  8. I had a friend—a big Douglas Adams fan—who was a philolexian. She asked me to enter the contest because she knew I was majoring in writing.
  9. That same friend once met Douglas Adams and asked him to sign a towel. This is the most brilliant author signing story I’ve ever heard.
  10. Adams thought it was brilliant as well, and my friend parlayed his admiration for the gesture into an internship at Adams company, where she worked on—and appeared as a character in—the text-based video game for Starship Titanic.
  11. My entries into the bad poetry contest were well-received, but they did not win. I was much better at writing funny parodies of famous poetry than writing really bad poetry.
  12. One of my ideas for the bad poetry contest, a parody of Macbeth, is something that I kept and continued to work on.
  13. A more-fully developed version, which focused more on the comedy and less on the poetry, ended up being chosen as a winner in last years Serious Flash Fiction contest.
  14. You can purchase a copy of the winners anthology here. I believe my Macbeth parody is the second funniest piece in the anthology.
  15. After the Hitchhiker’s Guide, I wanted more books in that vein. The recommendation which followed (from my friend the philolexian) was Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
  16. I would not have read either of them had I not first read Douglas Adams.
  17. I have read more words by Terry Pratchett than by any other author, and often cite him as a major influence on my work.
  18. I have heard Neil Gaiman, another major influence, read live six times.
  19. I met him during a signing after the first time. I told him how much I admired his writing, and the Stardust was the kind of book I wished I’d written. He responded by saying he wrote it because he wanted to read a book like that and that nobody had written it.
  20. This was highly encouraging to me as a young writer. It really boosted my confidence.
  21. Because of the last few thoughts,and because they kept publishing books after Adams had stopped,  I often listed Pratchett and Gaiman as two of my greatest influences when the subject came up. I would cite them before Adams, and often leave Adams off the list entirely. This was a mistake.
  22. A few years ago, I re-read the Dirk Gently books in anticipation of the show which was soon to air on BBC America. Upon reading that book, I realized that my writing—at least my comedic writing–was actually more heavily influenced by Adams than by virtually any other author, Pratchett and Gaiman included.
  23. Much like them, I was writing with Adams voice in the back of my head. Re-reading it, it was clear as day, even if I had forgotten whose voice I was actually listening to.
  24. My story “Darkness My Old Friend” which originally appeared on Hawk and Young’s blog was compared (by Young, of Hawk and Young) to both Pratchett and Adams. It is the nicest thing anyone has ever published about my writing. (Really! Click the link and scroll down to his thoughts about the story.
  25. He also compared it to Asimov, but that is the subject of another blog post.
  26. Reading Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency also reminded me of my love for Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who figures prominently in the novel.
  27. Since that time, I have had more poetry than prose published. My poetry tends to be formal, metered and rhyming, influenced by the Romantics, Coleridge chief among them.
  28. Recently, however, I have been writing a lot more satire in the Douglas Adams vein.
  29. Current events have made it such that most comfortable way I can respond to the world I see around me is through humor.
  30. Unless I, like Arthur Dent, could ask whatever god is running things to step outside for a fight, only to watch him plunge thousands of feet to his demise.
  31. I often wonder how Adams would respond to today’s world.
  32. He would have a field day with social media and so-called-smart phones, I’m sure.
  33. On second thought, we tried that whole incompetent celebrity president thing and it didn’t work out so well.
  34. On third thought, Zaphod Beeblebrox was kept isolated from the important aspects of government in The Hitchhiker’s Guide. He is not allowed to govern as he would only screw things up and get in the way.
  35. Besides, we shouldn’t be using satire as a model for how we run our society. Maybe that’s how our section of the galaxy became so unfashionable.
  36. I would, however, vote for a hooloovoo over anyone running right now.
  37. And I have spent an inordinate amount of time searching for the perfect sandwich knife.
  38. And I’ve used the babel-fish prove of the non-existence of god as part of a lesson on Kierkegaard for high school students
  39. I am experiencing a lot of fear and trembling right now over the state of the world–so much so, that I might make Marvin look like an optimist.
  40. But I suspect if Douglas Adams was still alive, he would look at the state of the world, and react much like the oft-overlooked bowl of petunias that accompanies the whale on its descent toward the planet Magrathea: “Oh no, not again.”
  41. He would probably tell us to keep calm, wash our hands, and above all, “Don’t Panic!”
  42. Thank you for reading. So long and thanks for all the fish.

Be sure to check out the links page to read some of my published writing, and to follow me on twitter and facebook.