Slogging the Mire: 6/24/17

Slogging the Mire: 6/24/17

Alright folks, here’s your update!

That guy in the picture? Those are my plans, smashing head-long into a wall. Nothing really went the way we’d hoped, but that’s not so bad. Turns out, we wound up not too far off the mark.

Instead of building a house, we bought an old, fixer-upper in a town called Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, and have been working on that for the past year. It was a total reno; new electrical, new plumbing, re-framing walls, re-insulating, new drywall, new floors, new windows, new kitchen, new bathroom, and so on… It was kinda like building an entire house, but with more old house to work around at odd angles and, the best part, unlike building from scratch we could actually live in it! Bonus points for not being homeless more than the 10 weeks we were last summer! Living in hotels and camping gets old real fast.

So, the place is far from done. I’ve still got plaster to do, two rooms to knock off and replace, a patio to replace, a deck to build, landscaping, new siding, and a kitchen and a bathroom need tile. But, the heart of the place is intact and a lot of it is cosmetic. So, we’re good. It’s live-able, has a beautiful stream out back, and Jill and I love it. It’ll likely be 3-4 years before the place starts to look close to finished, but that’s okay. Even like this, it’s way better than most of the crappy apartments I’ve lived in.

In April we shut down Forte’ Framing and Gallery. I was sad to see it go, but really, I wasn’t there anymore and Jess wasn’t digging running it for us. The end of a chapter. The goodbye party was fantastic.

Jill’s painting like a mad woman. Some awesome stuff. She’s starting to sell some and make money off it. I have no doubt she’ll be doing this full time soon. Meanwhile she’s teaching art classes and other odds and ends as well. I’m in immigration limbo. I can’t have a job here in Canada until a bunch of expensive paperwork is done and I’m further into the process. Likely a year.

I got back from shutting down Forte in May and hit a great big “what now”? The finances aren’t in place to go full force into more house reno, and there’s no rush anyway. I can’t work an official job. I haven’t consistently written for over a year while working on this move. I considered picking up some other art form. Maybe sculpture, or jewelry, or whatever. Perhaps I’d do more game design? I wrestled it for about two months before I came to a realization.

I’ve only ever been a part time author. I was always working, or full time raising kids, or dealing with crisis. Despite this, I’ve managed to work with several fantastic writers groups, get published in a few magazines, get into an anthology, write for a comic book company, become a finalist in a play competition (twice!), and produce over sixty stories.

What the fuck would happen if I did this full time with no distractions?

Well folks, we’re about to find out. I’m going full time author. Forty hours a week. Like a damn real job. My goal is about five pages a day. At least. Every day, from now on. I’m gonna get big, beefy, finger muscles from all the typing I’ll be doing. What will I be working on? Where will all these newborn words be going?

Stay tuned. Big stuff coming. But for now, I’ll just leave you with a bit of antici…

Slogging the Mire: 3/11/16 Update

Slogging the Mire: 3/11/16 Update

While I’ve had a pretty consistent year for creating content, I am the first to admit that I absolutely suck at updates. This one’s a biggie.

I make no promises, but I’m going to do my best to hit these about once a month from now on. That’s going to be rough, and once you hear what’s going on, you’ll see why. I’m gonna break this down into two parts. First part…

As is the norm, life is about to change. This is pretty common, but every once in a while you get a big shake up. Things like babies, marriages, moving, new jobs, etc… I’ve got a huge one rolling in on my pretty quick here; we’re moving to Nova Scotia in about three months. There’s a lot of factors at play, but as things stand, its looking like we’re going to spend half of April with family in Newfoundland, planning and prepping some things, and then, sometime early May, I’ll be meeting my father-in-law in Nova Scotia where we will commence building a house. I’ll do that for a month or so, then Jill and Gale will join me. We’ll effectively be living in Nova Scotia during another month of building and, when the house is good enough to live in, we’ll come back, get our stuff, and head out.

There is a crap ton of things to do between now and then. We’d always planned on leaving in June/July, but this plan has gone and chomped about six weeks of that time earlier for me. This means I have a lot less time in the States than I’d anticipated. From here, things start to happen at a pretty breakneck speed. If you wanna see me before I go, message me soon. My schedule is gonna fill up quick.

I’m super excited about the whole process. The plan after the move is for me to be back in town quarterly to help run the business and keep some of our Chicago roots. I will not be vanishing entirely and will, for the foreseeable future, be a tad bit international.

Obviously, the above news is going to throw a major wrench into my writing/production schedule. My three primary projects are going to take a hit. I’m currently working on finishing the Horsemen novel, a photo-narrative project, and a horror collection. I had planned on having all three done by the time I leave. Now, given the earlier departure, it’s not feasible to tackle them all. Fortunately, I’m a good number of chapters ahead of the art production for the Horsemen. I can put that aside until that starts to catch up to me. I’ve finished the hard part on the photo-narrative project and should be able to complete my part easily before leaving. After that, there’s a period of time where, again, art is created before I’m required to write more. So, this brings me to my collection. I’ve decided to convert the horror play I wrote several years ago, Nest of Scars, into a novella and make it the collection centerpiece. So, there is that, and the completion of two short stories; ‘RipLips’ and ‘What Worship Under Heel’. Then it’s good to go. Doing this in the next 6-8 weeks is going to be a stretch, but I think it’s possible. I’m most certainly going to take as big a bite out of it as possible.

Also, while all of this is going on, I’m very reluctant to stop writing my weekly Image Flashes. They’re good practice and I enjoy the variety. So, expect to see those continue as much as I can manage, although I’ve decided to change their release day to Tuesday, since nobody reads anything on the internet on Friday.

So, there you have it. Leaving Chicago, headed to Canada, building a house, and writing like a madman. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll keep you posted! Probably, like I said, I’m bad at writing updates.

Image Flash #36

Image Flash #36

5 minI’ve had a niggling daydream in my head for a novel for couple of decades now. It’s one of these things that I’ve let ferment, never really acted on, and pops into my brain every now and again. I have other projects I want to do first, but eventually, the concept will finally accumulate enough substance for me to turn into a story.

It’s about dreams, and shared dream experience, and memory, and loss, and how we cope with guilt and fear and it’s still only half baked after all these years. But this picture pulled it strongly out of my head and I decided to write a scene that could exist (but probably doesn’t).

There was something hiding beneath the leaves. There was no outward indication of this fact. The crimson plants remained still and did not move. No sounds came from their quiet fronds. But still, I knew. I knew it almost from the moment I entered this place.

But, with the same certainty that I knew there was something out there, moving around beneath the shrubbery, hiding in the gloom, I was certain that it was not harmful. I felt strongly that I was in no danger.

It was a great flat forest. The ground was as level as if it had been engineered and covered in waist high red-leafed foliage. Tall, branch-less, black trees reached up into the mist. Everything was painted on a blue, sourcelessly illuminated, fog.

I was pretty sure that I was a silhouette.

“What is this place to you?” I asked.

From a half dozen yards away her outline responded. “A secret mostly. Something lost. Maybe wants to be found.”

“Potential then?”


I looked out into the rows of trees, vanishing into the haze. I felt I could walk miles in any direction and find the same view. A treadmill maze without walls.

“Not exactly the most romantic place to meet up.” I said.

Her figure shrugged, leaned against a tree. “I’m not feeling particularly romantic.”

Whatever it was, beneath the bushes, was listening. I used my foot to push away one of the plants to get a look at it. Nothing was there. I was sure it had been though. It was quick and quiet and absolutely not real.

“This is an old one, isn’t it? It’s very simple. Very clean.”

She chuckled. “Are you saying my newer expansions are dirty?”

I walked over to a tree and touched it. The bark was smooth, unfinished, and felt more like drywall than a tree. “Of course I am. We all clutter with age. Have you ever been in an old person’s Sphere? Their final realms?”


“They’re amazing. Terrifying too. Nothing is so pure. Everything is touched by something. Usually more than one thing. Every object, every component, is ladled full of memories. This tree, right here…” He knocked on the trunk. “It has none. It feels like you might think it feels if you’d only looked at it, tall and straight, and never touched a tree. Like someone who didn’t know that smooth pine was flaky and moist with sap. That oak is craggier and deeper than ash, but both are rough. Or birch had horizontal bumps of tough interspersed with paper thin curls. No, when you made this, you weren’t even tall enough to pull yourself up onto a branch.”

“And someone very old?” She asked.

I was unsure how to articulate it. I gave it my best shot. “So, imagine this tree is there. The bark could look the same, even feel the same, but it wouldn’t be the same. It would hold the weight of what it isn’t more heavily than what it is. It would know it didn’t feel right. You would feel the reasons. The old person couldn’t have created it without their own experiences, and they graft into it.”

I continued. “You would feel the differences. Every other tree, every other texture, that had ever passed through their fingertips would stand along-side it. Their choice, to use that texture, cannot hide the fact that it’s a choice. Like, picking a number between one and ten. The number five cannot be picked without also knowing that the other nine were there, along side it, as possibilities. Nothing an elder creates stands outside the context of everything they’ve experienced. Knowledge crushes it. One fingertip on such a tree and you recognize the scale of everything they’d ever touched.”

She stepped away from the tree she’d been leaning on. I noted that her hand slid away from it last, feeling. “That doesn’t sound so bad.”

I nodded. “Oh sure. If that were all there was to it. But it’s not. You see, every one of those textures has memories associated with it. They come along, playing into the sensation; childhood climbing, shop class, yard work, camping trips. All of it, communicated indirectly through only the feelings associated with them. A flood of contradicting emotions rushes in along with the scale of the thing. It’s overwhelming. And, keep in mind. I’m only using a single tree as an example. When the elderly build, everything they create is this dense. Impossibly assaulting to your system. Near utter confusion.”

“It sounds like a lot.”

“It is. But, in the end, that barrage of sensation and imagery, isn’t the worst of it. The brain can’t handle it. So, it simplifies. Tries to bundle it all up into one giant feeling. It sees all this information, pouring from someone nearing the end of their journey, and recognizes it for what it is.”

Finally, she walked over to me. “And what is it?”

“A desperate revealing of self before they die. It’s the spiritual equivalent of a ninety five year old in a wheelchair, trying to hand out their biography for free in Times Square, and everyone ignoring them. And they know it. They know none of them care. They knows when they die that those books will rot, unread. And it terrifies them, so they start throwing them at anyone within reach. But they’re too frail to throw and the effort won’t matter. They know this too.”

It was as close a description as I could muster. It was wildly insufficient.

“That’s so sad.”

I looked her trees up and down. “Yeah, it is. I like this more. Romantic or not, we can come here any time you like.”

She took my hand. “Let’s walk.”

We did. I knew that whatever it was hiding beneath the leaves was following us but it didn’t bother me. And despite the fact that we went nowhere, and the fog reminded us of the futility of progress, I quite enjoyed myself.

Image Flash #35

Image Flash #35

5 minSince last week was a slightly more traditional fantasy style story, I decided that this week would be fun to make a traditional science fiction story. Of course, I didn’t want to go so far back into the tradition as spaceships and aliens and decided to go to my roots with some barely retro, early nineties, cyberpunk style.

9a Sim1 (pronounced Nine-uh Sim-wun) looked at the key-man they’d brought with them and frowned.

“This fucker’s glowing. Is he supposed to be glowing?”

Bunt rolled his left eye up into his head, did a quick internal data search, and looked for the answer. He chewed on his mustache as he did. His eye clicked back into place.

“Nope. Not as far as I can tell. They’re only supposed to light up when they’re accessing a network, manipulating codestreams, or some shit.” Bunt shook his head, vigorously no, and clenched his fists. A series of metal prongs that protruded from his knuckles flickered with electricity. “You better not be burning us!”

9a pulled her pistol and thumped it into the key-man’s forehead. “What the hell, man? You trying to burn us?”

The key-man was vacant, somewhere else, his eyes focused on some digital spectacle and he was unaware of the cerametallic gun barrel pressing against his brain box. All across his face and hands, the delicate tracings of blue light glowed through his skin like some computer with varicose veins.

“Bitch, wake up!” 9a jabbed him, hard.

The color beneath his skin vanished and he snapped back to reality.

“Oh shit is greater than x.” He muttered.

“Oh shit, is right!” Said 9a. “What did you just link to?”

The key-man looked at her, considering his response. “High percentage of calm is appropriate to trad-sec response. We equal good. System was closed. Alternative variable. Another problem.”

9a took the gun from his forehead but didn’t put it away. “We’re not paying you for problems.”

“Solution is pretty imperative.”

Bunt snarled at him through clenched teeth. “Explain yourself, now.”

“Closed loop message, from, input assumption here, the last key-man to try an equivalent endeavor at this location. A warning. If we go any further, we die.”

The biometrics in her visual implants didn’t indicate any obvious deception in his statement. But he was a damn key-man and was near impossible to understand half the time, let alone read them for normal human auto-responses. They spent the majority of their time digitally, had limited ‘real’ personal contact during childhood, and their sociopathy only got worse as they got older. They burned out early and most didn’t live past forty. Their key-man looked to be in his thirties, and usually that was a good thing because it meant experience. They hardly ever spoke, and were content to exe on command. This one though, he’d just said more than any key-man she’d ever heard. That told her more than the scan.


He glanced down at her gun, then back in the direction they’d come from. His answer was reluctant.

“Insufficient memory.”

Bunt sucked his mustache back into his mouth and chewed. 9a sighed heavy and weighed her options. The key-man spoke.

“Permission request. Network probe. Quickie in and out. Trad-sec is greater than zero. It equals maybe.”

She’d been thinking the same. There was no way she was going ahead with a warning like that without, at the very least, a virtual scout. She knew any such recon came with the chance of discovery and all the hell and light and metal that came with it.

“Do it.” She said.

“Yeah, do it.” Repeated Bunt.

The key-man went stiff, his eyes went glassy, and the glowing circuitry covered his body again, illuminating his skin.

On edge, 9a Sim1 waited.


Image Flash #34

Image Flash #34

5 minIt’s been a fair while since I’ve written a good, old-fashioned, fantasy story. While this image was a bit industrial, I still felt like it was a good candidate for it.

Super windy and warm today so I tossed in some opposite weather; cold and still. Seems to have worked well with the image!

The sea was a gray, still slab as Jarn sailed across it. The breeze carried an icy chill despite being too weak to raise a wave. He pulled his cloak tight and nuzzled his chin into the fabric. His opalescent sails were fine, almost lighter than air, and they managed to catch just enough of the feeble zephyr to move him along, albeit slowly.

The speed didn’t bother him. Neither did the cold. Odds were, considering where he was going, he’d long for the cold soon enough.

The cloudy half light of approaching twilight filled the sky as his destination finally came into view; a tall, crooked, pinnacle of an island stabbing up from the horizon. Even from here, he could see the orange glow on the shoreline and the black smoke rising. The fires were well lit. Eliara had been right to summon him. He hoped that he was right in coming alone.

As the bank drew closer the source of the light, and plumes, became clear. Three enormous metal funnels rose up from the rocky earth, each as tall as a castle tower. Flames licked from their mouths as they belched noxious fumes from their throats. The landscape, aside from the fiery monoliths, was rocky and barren stone, wrapped in winters shroud.

Eliara was standing in the snow, waiting for him, swaddled in her own white cloak.

As soon as he was close enough, he threw anchor out onto the land and pulled the boat in as near as he could. The tied off the rope and jumped out onto the rocks. Eliara didn’t move to join him, so he went out to meet her.

When he got within earshot she spoke and her tone was not welcoming. “What are you playing at, Jarl?”

“I was thinking we’d try something different this time.” He called back.

She scowled as he stopped before her. “It would seem we’re obligated to since you’ve already made the decision by not bringing a sacrifice.”

He met her anger with a smile. “It would seem.”

He passed her and headed for the closest of the vents. She followed.

“I’ve half a mind to force you back onto the boat.” She said.

“You could try.”

“I could do it.”

He considered. “Yes, you probably could. What does the other half of your mind think?”

“That whatever comes next is on you and I should let the consequences land where deserved. My conscience is clear.”

He stopped by the pillar and extended his hands toward the metal, warming them and enjoying the heat that radiated from it.

“You mean it’s almost clear.”

“It’s clear.” She affirmed.

He turned to face her. “Really? You’re okay with giving this beast an innocent woman every decade or so? For what? Centuries now? That’s what makes for a clear conscience these days?”

Her irritation at his suggestion was evident. “Do not twist my meaning. You know the alternative is far worse.”

“Well, that assumes certain alternatives now, doesn’t it? I’ve come to think there might be other options.”

At this she outright laughed. “Please don’t tell me you’ve gotten it into your fool head to try and kill it.”

Jarl shook his head. “Oh, nothing so simple.”

“Then what? Tell me of your brilliant ideas.”

Jarl sighed. This was the part he knew wouldn’t go over so well. There was no way to make his plan sound better. To do so, he’d have to have an actual plan and not just an idea. He didn’t.

“Do you remember, all those years ago, when the beast was loose upon the world? When we tried every way to kill it and failed. When all of our kin died but us in the endeavor? When we finally set upon seeking terms with the dragon and it agreed. We built it this place, set this signal, and then became the keepers of the contract?”

“Of course.”

“It has been bothering me, for a very long time now, but I think there is something we forgot to do.”

Eliara narrowed her eyes. “Humanity has thrived since the containment of the dragon. For a pittance of life we’ve ensured the safety of generations. What is it you think we did not accomplish?”

“We never took the time to ask it why it wanted what it asked for. Hell, we never even negotiated. We saw the price was so low and did as it asked.”

She nodded. “Yes, exactly! Of course. Only a fool would not have snatched peace at such a bargain.”

“Then I guess I’m a fool.” He craned his neck and looked up at the metal towers, simmering fire, above him. “Call me what you may, but over so many years, even such a small price has begun to wear on me. The older I get, the more I see value in each of them, of their capacity to set things in motion generations after they’re gone. I wonder, sometimes, about the very first woman we gave it. About the children she would have had, and their children, and so on. It’s not just one girl every decade. It’s all the potential within them, and beyond. It is tens of thousands. And I think it knows this.”

Jarl stepped away from the column and stared directly at Eliara. “I can’t do it anymore. It ends. Now.” He said.

She considered his words. “I still don’t understand what you’re planning on doing.”

“I’m going down there to talk to it. I’m going to try and understand it. To renegotiate a new deal that doesn’t involve sacrifice. If I have to, I’ll fight it.”

She cringed at his last words. “You can’t kill it.”

“I know. But we’ve lived a long time. We’re not without magic of our own now. I don’t think it can kill us either.”

She turned from him, looking out at the flat expanse of sea. Night had fallen far enough that the sky and the water blurred into single dark gray palate. Gulls cawed as they headed in for their nests for the evening.

“I’ve felt the burden too, but see no other course. What you suggest, the consequences could be terrible. You’re sure about this?”

Jarl walked up and put his hands on her shoulders, looking out at the waters with her.

“I am. The only thing I’m not sure about is if I’ll be doing it alone or if I’ll have my sister at my side.”

She shook her head in disbelief. “It would seem I’m obligated, wouldn’t it?”

He smiled. “It would seem.”

She took his hand. He was glad for it.

They left the beach and descended into the earth.