Oct
2012

A Few Words About Nice to Matter

Nice to Matter, the secret origin of a superhero cop’s prostitute sidekick, was originally written for inclusion in CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY? I’m not against editors including their own work in their anthologies, but I didn’t want to cut a great story from another author in order to make room, either. It was a giveaway for a month or so in advance of CORRUPTS’ publication and later, a standalone story for sale on Amazon. I could definitely see myself writing a comic about the Black Streak and her world in the future, a sentiment echoed by several of my readers.

You can get it for free today on Amazon, and for .99 anytime thereafter. Here’s a little taste:

James was more excited than I’d ever seen him. “This will put us on the map,” he said. “Get us national attention. Superheroes who’ve actually taken down a supervillain are a very exclusive group.” I was eager for the fight myself, to be completely honest. Putting Dom away had been the highlight of my career to date, and even that accomplishment was tempered by keeping my identity a secret. Dom didn’t know it was me, and Natasha Fox’s real victory belonged to the Black Streak. I threw myself into every task Top Cop assigned me. We studied the floor plan of the bank and the surrounding infrastructure for two straight nights. Another two were spent roaming the streets trying to uncover the Badger’s hiding place.

On the third night of the search, I found it. I’d seen a pattern in the locations of the Badger’s past crimes, and had been tracing and retracing particular beats each night, dressed in civilian clothes. Around midnight, I found him, smoking a cigar in a parking lot outside an abandoned warehouse. While I lurked in the shadows and watched from across the street, a large armored truck pulled up. A guy got out and talked to Farrell for a few minutes, then got back in and drove off. The Badger stubbed out his smoke and went back inside. I remember how cold I felt inside when it hit me what was going on. The heist was happening tonight! I crept into the parking lot, pulled my phone out of my purse and turned away from the building. James didn’t answer. I tried two more times without any response. He was handling something else. I was on my own. I’d no sooner realized that, than I felt movement behind me.

Who the hell are you?” the Badger asked.

Oct
2012

A Few Words About The Bad Place

I started writing The Bad Place in 2007 or 2008. I don’t remember what I initially intended the piece to be, but I set it aside right around the point where Joey disappeared. I picked it up again in 2009 and re-imagined it as a time-travel piece. It didn’t make the final cut for the anthology I submitted it to, but I don’t feel bad, because several years later, there’s still no anthology or word from the editor, either. This story, however, became a well-received standalone short on Amazon.

You can get it for free today on Amazon, and for .99 anytime thereafter. Here’s a little taste:

Daddy slammed into Joey, nearly driving him to the ground. The knife fell from his hand, but he managed to stay on his feet.

Judy—“ he choked as Daddy wrapped his large, thick fingers around his neck and squeezed. Joey managed the couple feet separating himself from Judy, pushed her into the Bad Place and slammed the door.

Joey!” It was dark inside and Judy couldn’t see anything. She couldn’t hear any noise from the kitchen, either. When she reached for the doorknob, it was stuck.

Joey!” She pounded on the door in frustration, kicked at it until her feet hurt and finally sank to the floor.

Suddenly, she felt something shift, like she was on a carousel. She felt dizzy and nauseous, and crawled to the far corner of the closet to vomit up her breakfast. The sensation passed as fast as it came. When it did, she opened her eyes to discover the back wall of the closet was gone.

She stared out across the side yard at her neighbor’s house. The intervening stretch of lawn was littered with scraps of metal, and a deep trench had been plowed into several feet of earth, terminating a few inches into the closet. It occurred to her to try the door again, and she did. This time it opened.

Joey? Daddy?” No one answered. There was no noise, no sign that the two men had even been there, or that there had been a fight. The kitchen was dim; the only light streamed through the window over the sink. The countertops were chipped, one corner even broken off, exposing worn-smooth particle board. There were rust stains in the dingy porcelain sink basin and a mishmash of pots and dishes littered the work areas.

Judy crept to the living room. The furniture was all there, pretty much just like she’d remembered it, but the carpet was faded and torn in places, as was the upholstery of the couches and Daddy’s big recliner. The television sat in the corner, coated in dust, and piles of books and papers littered one corner of the room. As she looked around, trying to figure out what was going on, she heard a loud hum. It sounded like it was coming from the back of the house. 

Oct
2012

A Few Words About Tradition

I wrote Tradition while deployed to Qatar in 2009, a fertile year for me as an author. I wrote my zombie-western novella, WILD, and a few other stories during that time, many of which have yet to see the light of day. I wanted to write a human story set against a post-apocalyptic background. I thought a “minor zombie apocalypse” rather than the typical end of days would serve the story admirably, as well as provide a novel perspective on the zombie subgenre.

You can get it for free today on Amazon, and for .99 anytime thereafter. Here’s a little taste:

You coming, man?”

No,” Dave said, scowling. “I’m going to go find me another spot.” He hitched his pack up higher on his back and stalked deeper into the woods.

I really hope he gets over whatever his issue is,” Jim said as he finished climbing the tree and threw his leg up onto the stand. Jerry had found the small broom they always left up there and was sweeping the snow from the thick, wooden boards.

Well, he kinda had a thing for Maggie, is what we’re thinking,” Steve said, helping Maggie with her pack.

Who wouldn’t?” Jim said, laughing. “Maggie’s gorgeous and apparently a good one to have around during a zombie apocalypse. But who of us would really be silly enough to think…” He trailed off as Steve looked down at his feet and kicked at a stray spot of snow. “No way?”

Yeah,” Maggie spoke up. “I have to move on sometime, right?”

Right,” Jim said, unslinging his rifle and pulling his and Jerry’s harnesses out of his pack. “And Hell, any of us would have given his right arm to be Bill when you guys started dating. That’s still no call for a fistfight. If anything, I want a good seat at the wedding!”

Let’s not jump the gun,” Steve said, helping Maggie with her harness and attaching his own. “But if anything comes of it, consider yourself the best man.”

Sweet.”

They settled into their positions in the tree stand in pairs. Jim and Jerry lay next to each other, Jim leaning over to whisper Jerry pointers on how to hold the gun and use the deer calls. Steve and Maggie were on the other side in a similar grouping, though Steve’s advice to Maggie involved more of a hands-on approach and more than a little kissing. After a half hour or so, Maggie pulled a thermos of coffee from her pack and passed around small, steaming Styrofoam cups. An hour after that, Jim had to piss.

I’ll be right back, he whispered as he rose from his position and undid his harness. Steve nodded and turned his attention back to his rifle and Maggie. They were discussing the finer points of trigger squeeze when a loud shriek pierced the air.

Jul
2012

Ed Erdelac on Lincoln Crisler’s QUEEN

A while back, Tim Marquitz, Ed Erdelac, Malon Edwards and myself decided to write about each other’s contributions to FOUR IN THE MORNING, and select our favorite non-spoiler excerpts. Here’s Tim on Malon’s piece. Today, Ed posted an insightful analysis of my story, QUEEN, along with an excerpt that happens to be one of my favorite parts of the story, too!

If you still haven’t picked up your copy of FOUR, you can do that here.

Lincoln Crisler is the last guy you’d expect to write a middle aged woman fretting over her age lines so well…And you know how I can tell? Because I hated Rita when I met her. But I couldn’t stop reading about her. That’s the mark of a good author and a good story, and Lincoln Crisler and Queen are both.

Jul
2012

A Personal Note RE: CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY?

Secret Origin is on hiatus this week, since today’s my thirtieth birthday. Instead, I’ll give you a bit of insight into what I think of today’s superhero genre–so it’s a little bit like a Secret Origin post, but not quite. This essay originally appeared on the Fantasy Book Critic website. If you want to do something for me today, pick up a copy of CORRUPTS? — I can’t put into words how proud I am of the book, and the work of the contributing authors deserves to be read as widely as possible. Next week, we’re gonna dig into some of my religious background–and there’s a lot of ground to cover, lemme tell ya.

CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY? is a very personal project for me. It met a couple of needs that I had as both a creator and a reader—a need for superhero fiction I can invest in emotionally, and for good superhero prose. I’ve always been a fan of superheroes, and comic books in general. All the mainstream stuff I read in my childhood through late teens, though…well, the most satisfying stuff for me was done in the 80s and 90s, and most of what’s being done nowadays in those titles seems stale or lackluster in comparison. I still read comic books, but not many of them have to do with heroes.

Superhero comics don’t take enough chances, or deviate far from expectations, and I think that’s mostly because of the commercial aspect—we need to keep the series going, if we kill off this character for good, the book will fall apart, etc. If Batman was real, and I’ve said this before in a recent interview, he would have killed the crap out of theJoker the first time he murdered an innocent. He’d have killed Two-Face, and theRiddler—you get the point. And I understand the impracticality of not killing off the bad guy all the time. You’d run out of bad guys, the writer wouldn’t have time (or feel like putting forth the effort) to invest in making the bad guy a real character you can feel for. I get all that. But at the same time, it’s not realistic, and after a while, there’s nothing at stake for the reader.

Superhero prose fixes those problems. A comic writer needs to produce an issue a month, some of which will be self-contained and others will comprise a multi-issue arc. That’s another reason why the villain gets away, or the hero cheats death in an unrealistic manner—you’re going to need that villain again in a year or so, if not sooner! A novel, though, leaves enough room to grow your characters in the reader’s heart and mind no matter what you’re going to do to the characters at the end of the book. Even a short story is as good as a three-issue arc of some comics, in terms of depth and plot, and unless the writer really wants to do more, there’s no pressure to make sure you can continue the series. You can have things happen the way they really would.

So I started with a concept –what would real people do if they had comic-book powers? The obvious answer is that most of them wouldn’t be black-and-white heroes and villains, because most real people aren’t. I then made a list of different comic book tropes that I wanted to see—the Armored Hero, the Sidekick, the Team, the Superpowered Family, etc. and solicited submissions and pulled from the slushpile those stories that best represented the full spectrum of superhero comic ideas.