Tuesday, December 27, 2011


2012 is almost here, and that has me thinking about what happened during 2011 to get me to this point. This year gave me more new readers than any previous year of my life, thanks almost entirely to the Kindle and the chance it gave me to offer freebies. Driven by that, and by the good feedback I got, I spent a good part of the year writing my serial The Mountain and The City. Between February and December I completed four parts, with the fourth hitting tomorrow and the final two coming in early 2012. From there, the plan is to throw myself into a larger project- a series of Noir books I've had on the back-burner for the past year.

Looking back at my rate of output, I've realized it's too slow. Fifteen-thousand words every two months has been standard for me lately, and I don't know, maybe to some people that's respectable, but personally I know I can do better, not in exchange for quality but in exchange for doubt. Too much time is spent second-guessing myself. It's time to shear off the side-views. At my current rate it would take a good chunk of 2012 to finish up The Mountain and The City, pushing the next project to who-knows-when, maybe even 2013. I don't want to think that far ahead, and if the Mayans have their way I won't have to, so something has to be done, and it's probably the only part of this I have any control over.

Ironically, given the longer form of a novel versus a serial, this increase in output won't be visible to anyone but me for some time. So I want to stay busy in other ways, too, ways that keep me on the radar. I'd like to do more blog posts, hopefully including guest posts on other blogs. Maybe even write some articles if the opportunity is there.

Production. This is the only thing I have in my control, and that's what I'll be focusing on. This month I sold more books than I've ever sold in a month (it's not much), but as good as that felt it was only a bi-product of my actions, not a direct result. This year I won't be looking at what happens. Instead, I'll be looking at what I do.

Sit down. Do more. Do better. That's 2012 for me. That or Earth's magnetic poles flipping due to a massive solar flare resulting in a cataclysmic event which spells the end of human civilization. Either way.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Darkening Days of Winter

I just found myself watching footage which was shot yesterday in a Walmart in Mesquite, Texas. It showed a crowd of Black Friday shoppers crammed together, shouting at each other while tearing apart a display of video-games. In the center of the chaos a woman is being pulled out, presumably by her daughter, who is trying to keep her from being trampled by the masses. As I watched this footage, I couldn't help but feel both angry and truly sad for them, because if this is the kind of behavior human beings allow themselves to degrade to over something as trivial as a game, what hope is there?

If these were a starving people, and this was the last crate of food which had been air-dropped into their village by the military, even then I would feel disappointed in those people for not trying to act in a brotherly, civilized manner, but I would understand that survival can do some dark things to people, and that they were only acting on self-preservation and the protection of their families. As it is, these people in Walmart were elbowing and smothering each other over toys, and seeing them do it can only make me feel discouraged. There is something fundamentally wrong here, and no amount of jokes or explanations can hide it.

It's either ironic or telling that Black Friday starts only a few hours after Thanksgiving has ended, a holiday which is meant to slow people down from their day-to-day lives long enough to remind them they should be thankful for the things they have in their lives. Thankful for their friends, their families, the food and shelter that keeps them alive. How flimsy, how meaningless does this message become when millions of people finish their meals, wipe their faces, excuse themselves from the dinner table and then drive to a store to act like some kind of goddamned animal.

This. This is how we as a people have come to start the holiday season. It's no wonder Christmas has become a twisted, depraved version of what it used to be. I wonder how many of the vein-headed, finger-choked consumers in that crowd praise Jesus, and have convinced themselves that this is how they show their love for him. I wonder if they know that December 25th is not his real birthday, but was chosen to overtake a Pagan holiday, and I wonder if they appreciate the sick humor of celebrating the life of a pacifist by clawing at the chests of their fellow man to save a few dollars on a toy.

Group psychology is an interesting and scary thing. Maybe on their own each of these people can act civilized, courteous, but bring them together in a tense situation and they turn on each other, devolve, act on their basest instincts. Deep in my heart there's a special fear reserved for crowds, because I know that you can put a man in a suit, teach him economics and proper grammar and appreciation for wine, but if you place twenty of these men in a small room and drop dollar bills on them, they will chew each other's fucking eyes out.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Friends 'til The End

I'm in love with the apocalypse. If you've been around me or read my stuff for longer than five minutes, you probably know that already. When I wrote my first book, A Chemical Fire, I set out to make my definitive apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic zombie/pseudo-zombie story. I put all those things into it that I'd never seen in a movie or comic or book but always wanted to, and when it was finished I expected it to be out of my system. I would still read it, sure, but it was a well I wouldn't dip into again.

When it came time to spread the word about A Chemical Fire, I began to look up blogs and sites that dealt with apocalyptic fiction, and what I found surprised me. There's an entire community out there that loves the concept of the end of the world just as much if not more than me, and the people who run those sites are the most passionate of all. For the most part they make no profit from their sites, and those who do only years after anyone trying to cash in would have long quit. Yet they continue to search for news, update their sites, respond to readers and field email.

I'm a fan of these sites now. I visit them religiously and follow them on Twitter, and it's because of this that I ended up going back into the genre to write The Mountain and The City, which started out as a short story and turned into a serial, part three of which came out a few days ago. I never intended to be here again, but here I am. The well turned out to be deeper than I knew.

The contact I've had with the faces behind these sites has been overwhelmingly positive, people who are way too friendly to be rooting for life-ending cataclysm, so I wanted to share those sites with you. Check them out, see what you like. And if you end up like me, sticking around for longer than you planned, tell them I sent you.

Online Post-Apocalyptic Fiction - A Squidoo lens by Shanna that points to all kinds of content, a lot of it free.
The Post Apoc - Run by Eric, a passionate guy who also seems to be obsessed with handmade weapons. Not updated often, but definitely entertaining. He wrote a review of ACF and even hosted a giveaway.
Megaton.us - An entire network of PA sites, including some fairly active forums. Bill, aka Megaton, still finds time to read my stuff and tell people about it.
Quiet Earth - A great site for movie news especially. It has started to branch out a bit and included more general sci-fi and generally dark material.
Survive The Apocalypse - This site offered to feature an original story of mine, and when I sat down to think of what that could be I ended up with The Mountain and The City. Sadly they've since changed formats and ditched the fiction section, but it can still be found on the old version.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Top 10 (9+3) Books of All Time (So Far)

It's not easy for me to make a definitive list of anything, especially things I love. It always seems that for every one addition I make to that list two crimes of omission are committed. Given that, I started compiling a list of my top ten (in no order) favorite books of all time, and I decided it should ignore format, genre, and social value, looking at it as I often do, with a combination of the "If-I-Was-On-A-Desert-Island" and the 'If-I-Had-To-Prove-To-Aliens-We-Shouldn't-Explode" scenarios.

I say "so far" because I'm always looking for that next book which will rewrite or rearrange everything for me, forcing me think about the written word in a new way. The "9+3" is because, as you'll see, there are three books which blend together as a concept for me, included for what they do for the art and mean to me as a writer more than they stand on their own. I've listed a good amount of these in other places, including my site, but I've never given a proper explanation of why they're favorites. So, here goes.

1) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson

If I had to choose one literary hero above all others, it would be Dr. Thompson. Unapologetic in his views, feared by his enemies and loved by his friends, he was a monster of a man, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was Hunter at his unbeatable, undeniable best. He took what began as a Rolling Stone assignment to cover a race in the middle of the desert and turned it into the best drug trip ever captured on paper. Then he had the balls to make it about something. His search for the American Dream became a time capsule holding the death of the sixties, told in a style so distinct it was practically trademarked. Hunter took politics and made them not only personable, but dangerous. Reading this book is so enjoyable I find myself having to slow down to taste every word.

2) Dermaphoria, by Craig Clevenger

I devour Clevenger's work. I'm greedy for it. Considering he's only put out two novels in the past ten years, I'm forced to join his newsletter and check his site far more often than necessary to catch wind of the slightest development. As great as his debut novel The Contortionist's Handbook is, and it is great, Dermaphoria is the one I had to put down after reading only three sentences to get in touch with my friends and make sure they were reading it. Clevenger is that good, constructing sentence after scenario after character so pitch-perfect it angers me to know they're not mine. In Dermaphoria it all comes together to tell the disjointed story of an amnesiac drug chemist, piecing his memory together after a near-fatal overdose.

3) Invisible Monsters, by Chuck Palahniuk

With all due respect to Mr. Palahniuk, I'm not sure whether I outgrew him or he outgrew him, but sadly I haven't enjoyed or bothered to pick up his last four books. If you look into it you'll find that those four books came out in the last four years, which is telling. He's the polar opposite of Clevenger in that he puts out too many books too fast and doesn't give them a chance to fully form, or, in plainer words, shed the shit. However there's no denying the lasting effect Palahniuk has had on fiction and the chances publishers take on darker material. Most of the spotlight fell on one of his other books, even though rule one of that book clearly states we shouldn't talk about it, but the book that stuck with me most was Invisible Monsters, the story of a model who has her face blown off, and the drag queen who bases his look on said model's former face. I love a properly done twist, and while that other unmentionable book has quite the example, Invisible Monsters has a dozen. Practically every chapter reveals some previously withheld detail that changes not only everything to come, but everything you've already read. This to me, both the reader me and the writer me, is one of fiction's greatest strengths- the trust that comes from letting someone else see for you, someone who may not be entirely trust-worthy.

4) Batman: The Killing Joke, by Alan Moore

In the third grade, when most boys wanted to be Superman or Spiderman, I wanted to be the Joker. I vividly remember standing under the hanging branches of a weeping willow tree during recess, telling a friend that when I was older I'd end up in an insane asylum. The reason? I'd seen it in Killing Joke, and the Joker just made it look too fucking cool. Alan Moore showed us comics could be dark and cruel and funny all at once. They could show nudity and madness. And they could be really, really good. Either by chance or by the simple evil of its cover it drew me in at the comic shop at the ripe age of nine. Thankfully I wasn't carded, because it changed the way I saw comics forever. I must have re-read it a hundred times before retiring it to it's dust-resistant grave. Unknown to me at the time, Killing Joke would be referenced as one of the turning points in comics toward more adult-oriented themes. It also laid down the popularly-accepted origin of the Joker and influenced both movie versions of the character. Supposedly Heath Ledger was handed a copy of Killing Joke by Christopher Nolan when he took on the role.

5) House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski

When people talk about the Bible, I bet their expressions are close to mine when I talk about House of Leaves. Like them I'd gladly spend my time going around, telling people why they should have a copy in their homes. The problem is, I could tell you what it's about (a narrative about a manuscript about a documentary about a house that defies logic), but like the Matrix you really have to see it for yourself to understand. Not many novels can be considered an object of art, but House of Leaves wears the label comfortably. It's a masterpiece of typography and ergodic literature, and it could only be achieved with such single-minded vision because Danielewski went to the printing house, hunched down and slaved over it on his own. The resulting tome is a testament to the dying paper book. As interesting as e-books are, and as thankful as I am  for what they mean to me as an independent writer, a work like House of Leaves is simply impossible to translate into any other format. All those lists and footnotes and recovered photos would be there, sure, but the effect would be wholly lost. Do yourself a favor. Go to a bookstore, find House of Leaves and look inside. If you don't find yourself helplessly taking it to the register and putting down money for it, you're a stronger person than I.

6) Nobody Move, by Denis Johnson

Denis Johnson seems to me one of the last, great classics. As far as I'm aware he has no internet presence; no Twitter account, no blog, not even a website, and so it's difficult to tune into what he has going on. But when he does write something, you can be sure he'll write the shit out of it. Jesus' Son was full of so much vivid honesty that reading it was like that moment you hear your favorite band for the first time. And just as you do with a favorite band, I flipped between what my favorite work of his was- Jesus' Son, about his alcoholism, or Seek, a collection of his brilliant non-fiction articles. I went back and forth this way right until Nobody Move was released, and then there was no contest. It's not as flashy a book as the others, but that's where its power comes from: the effortless way with which it owns you. All it is, really, is the story of a low-end criminal mixed up with medium-end criminals, with a girl thrown in for measure, but you never spend a second not caring about the stakes, not enjoying the ride. It's genre fiction by a literary king, and instead of feeling dumbed down it feels pared down, honed to a stabbing point. Sometimes your favorite is the one you want to go back to the most to relive it.

7) The Informers, by Bret Easton Ellis

In general I like the idea of Bret Easton Ellis more than I actually like him. Like someone out of one of his books, he comes on strong, and seems a bit in love with himself. However I need to know that writers like him are out there, scaring people with their books, saying things others are too timid to. But even if I'm not an adoring fan I have to tip my hat to Ellis for one book in particular: The Informers. With this inter-connected collection of short stories about (of course) Los Angeles, he manages to reveal a dozen, different sides of the same, vapid society, offering a handful of characters you either love to hate or feel your heart break as you watch their cruel surroundings consume them and turn them into one of its own. This alone is enough for a good book, but then one, final element comes into play from so far left field you don't see it coming, until it cracks you straight in the skull. It's one hell of a surprise, pulled off with flawless skill, and it elevates the entire book to an unexpected level of greatness. Well played, Ellis.

8) Book of Sketches, by Jack Kerouac

There's a pattern forming here. I tend to acknowledge an author's more known work yet celebrate their more obscure, less celebrated stuff. In other words, I might be a book snob. Kerouac's huge hit was The Road, easily the most widely-read book to come out of the Beat Generation. My only issue with that book is I think it's too long a form to maintain Kerouac's passion, so that by the end I felt numb to it. Book of Sketches solves that by not being a novel at all but rather compiled pieces from the notebook he kept in his back pocket and ritually, even obsessively detailed the things he witnessed inside. Not only does this set an example any writer would be smart to follow, it offers a thousand, tiny moments of genius for us to discover. It finds a happy medium between his poetry and his prose, and finally it acts as the most telling kind of autobiography- one told in brief moments, those the man felt were important enough to put down on paper. All Kerouac is worth a read, but this one slapped me the hardest.

9) Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

I'd always meant to read this classic, and when I finally did about a year or two ago I kicked myself for waiting so long. Then I went to the library and borrowed all the Bradbury they had. His voice is so modern and clean I had to stare at Fahrenheit's 1953 publishing date a few times to make sure I wasn't reading it wrong. It's no wonder it blew people away when it came out. This is one case where an author's most popular work, while being nowhere near the only thing he had to offer, is also his greatest. Warning of a future in which no one reads books, and in fact can't own them by law, brought out the best in Bradbury. It's science fiction yet it isn't, common for Bradbury, one of the most respected sci-fi authors (the Ray Bradbury Award is the highest honor in its field) yet he claims he isn't one. Don't be fooled into thinking Fahrenheit 451 should be lumped in with all those boring classics found on mandatory school reading lists. While some of those dead texts can feel like punishment, others become classics because they're actually that good.

+3) The Unfortunates, by B.S. Johnson, The Microscripts, by Robert Walser, The Atrocity Exhibition, by J.G. Ballard

Finally, there are three works which I group together because I love what they represent to me, which is the endless possibilities inherent in books. The various forms they can take when approached with a mind that's either innovative or, to be honest, mentally ill. And sometimes both. Books like these free me up in the way I think about books themselves, similar to the way House of Leaves does except that that book stands very much on its own.

The Unfortunates is an attempt to create a non-linear narrative in the most honest way possible- by taking it out of the author's hands and leaving it completely to chance. You see, The Unfortunates is made up of twenty-seven, individually-bound chapters which the reader removes from the box and is free to shuffle and read any way they choose. While the premise could be considered gimmicky, the idea works because the story- a true account of Johnson's friend dying of cancer- is told through random memories as they float to the surface during Johnson's return to a familiar city. Though I'd like to see something like this tried with a more fictional, event-based story, there were enough unplanned moments in my reading for the whole thing to be worthwhile. I compare it to a videogame. When something amazing happens through gameplay and physics versus scripted cinematics, it always seems more special, more real. Ironic that a "Book-in-a-Box" showed thinking outside one, and it ends up as a one-of-a-kind experience.

The Microscripts is a book of writings by the German author Robert Walser, a man who spent a great deal of his life in a sanitarium. Walser was unique because due to a combination of his illness and a lack of confidence he wrote in tiny marks a millimeter high on scraps of paper he found. For years after his death the scribbles were believed to be written in a code that died along with Walser, until someone realized it was actually German script so small it was barely legible. The scraps were painstakingly transcribed and sadly revealed not the ramblings of a madman but rather a real author with a real voice. These Microscripts come reproduced with color photos of the original scraps, written on the backs of receipts or in the margins of book covers, letting us look into the mind of the tortured artist.

Finally, The Atrocity Exhibition is what I'm talking about when I say both innovative and mentally ill, because I'm not sure anyone in their right mind could write something even close to Atrocity Exhibition. Nor anyone less than brilliant. If you need evidence of how disturbed the late Ballard was, you only need know that a) he wrote Crash about his repeated theme of sexual arousal by car crash, and that b) the movie Empire of The Sun (with young Christian Bale running through the wasteland of WWII internment camps) is based on Ballard's childhood. Atrocity Exhibition is about as bizarre and disjointed as they come, depicting a world post-JFK assassination. Eerily abandoned and sterile, it focuses primarily on a doctor attempting to somehow map out the architecture of sex. It treats dead celebrities and parking garages as equal sexual objects. In short, it's genius and it's insane. I could never write a book like this in a hundred years, and I probably sleep better for it, but all I have to do is crack the cover on this for ten seconds to read a sentence or even a chapter title so brilliant I have to put it back down. Which is for the best, because attempting an in-depth sitting with this one is both challenging and off-putting. It took me a few years to actually finish it even though in reality its not very long. Do I recommend it? Yes. And also not at all. That's the greatest compliment I believe I can offer a novel.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sign up for newsletter. Get free novella.

A few months ago, as I sat sweating in my car, a story occurred to me. You see for me there's the kind of story that I develop slowly, one piece at a time, often not knowing how they'll all fit together. But then there's the kind that slaps me in the face before I see it coming. De-Partment was that kind of story, the kind that, even though I had other plans, it seemed I had to put those aside and write this thing.

Which is what I did.

Once it was finished, I decided the right thing to do was to give it away, and given I'd been thinking about starting a newsletter the whole thing dove-tailed nicely. All you have to do in order to read De-Partment is sign up for my newsletter, but don't worry, I won't be using it to flood you with links to buy. I plan to be better than that, now and always. So if you're interested in a free book and a potentially entertaining newsletter, sign up below. The book comes in PDF if you don't have an e-reader, EPUB if you do.



“Welcome to the Parts Department of the great city of Smoke.”

These words greet Tuxxel on his first day at the warehouse, a building so massive the ceiling can't be seen. Yet what follows is anything but welcoming. An Exterminator in the city of Smoke, he finds himself leading a life of violence and subservience. Picked on and abused by his supervisor he has little choice but to do the dirty work Smoke demands of him. As the days pass, and he learns of his city's horrific treatment of its citizens, he finds it more and more difficult to listen to the orders given to him. He must do what feels right. But disobedience has its consequences.

De-Partment is a dystopian novella about the struggle to maintain one's sense of self, set in a world both recognizable and entirely foreign.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Here's Your Change

Until the time comes when I can support myself writing full-time, I have a Day Job. Capital letters. Forty hours. The Big Suck. In that Day Job I work as a bank teller, usually head teller, which means I'm responsible for this great, big pile of cash that I'm allowed to play with and look after but never take further than the bullet-resistant glass. My power is like that of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade- it's incredible to behold, but it can't cross the seal.

Or, as I like to say: I have the only job that gets worse the more money you throw at me.

In October I'll have completed three years at this job, a number that's scary considering how fast it came, and how bad the job has gotten at moments. There were stretches of time in which I can only explain why I showed up in the morning as a sick fascination. That thing where you say, "It can't possibly get worse," and then it does, and you laugh and say it again. And it happens again.

At times like that I like to imagine myself sitting up on a hill, watching a gruesome train derailment. Maybe I'm eating popcorn.

The main reason why The Job got so bad, and not all of the time, but a good amount of it, is simple: under-staffing. I worked at a branch which simply didn't have enough employees for the amount of work that needed to get done. That kind of thing tends to snowball- low morale, lack of energy, all the little things that get put off until some mystical future that never quite comes, stays just out of reach- it all congeals into this great, gaping wound that doesn't get a chance to heal.

About a month ago, on a Monday, at three-thirty, thirty minutes to closing time, I was called into the office. There I was told quite simply that, due to some shifting needs in the area, I'd be reporting to another branch the next morning.

I'd been transferred. Nearly three years in one place, and I had thirty minutes to say goodbye.

This was a shock to me, as you can imagine, as was walking into my new situation the next morning and finding I'd gone from an old, dirty building built in the fifties and frequented by the elderly and generally not-well-off, to a bright, clean block made of glass and daylight within eyesight of a golf course, visited by an endless line of lawyers and trust-fund babies. All these people had teeth and used the internet! They wore ties and had investment brokers on speed-dial!

I was lost.

Now, a month later, I'm finding myself as adapted to the change as I'll likely ever be. Not entirely, but enough. There's a strange resentment in dealing with people who have money when you have little, but mainly in dealing with the ones who don't deserve it, who push it around like a shield, with a sense of entitlement in every move. The ones who see waiting in line as spit in their faces. Whose immune systems violently over-react to the word No. Whose primary weapon is the threat of Taking Their Money Elsewhere. It's an insult to people not so fortunate to see ones who are, yet take no pleasure in it at all. Or maybe it's an important and affirming lesson. Who knows.

And then, just when your mind is made up about these Money People, you'll turn around and meet one who's the nicest guy you've ever met. Or you'll meet, as I did, the plastic surgeon who uses his own money to bring kids over from Iraq who have been disfigured in the war, who puts them up in comfortable surroundings and then rebuilds their faces, free of charge.

But it's not all doctors and lawyers, of course. There are the nurses and drivers, too, the secretaries and the retirees. Yesterday I helped a man with a check from the Narcotics Department who looked head-to-toe like an undercover drug cop, and when he walked away he was replaced by a sushi chef in full uniform, the shirt held closed by a safety pin.

Does anyone see these things and simply move on through their day? Am I the only one haunted by intangible connections?

The only constant is change, as they say, change is good, change is growth. But change always seems to have a running start on me, and I have to chase after it, lungs burning in my chest, to catch the trailing seams of its shirt.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Few Questions for The Reader

So this is what's going on, maybe you can help.

I'm starting a mailing list, and the plan is to send out some kind of newsletter once a month at most, but really it could be longer. Whenever I have something relevant to share, let's say, in a way that won't be just a bunch of spam. But I need some input on what people would want out of such a newsletter. What would make them excited to stay on the list.

Have any of you signed up for an author newsletter before, and if you have, what do you like about it? Just as important, what don't you like? I would also want to give people an incentive for signing up, some kind of automatic reward, and I'm more or less decided that it would be a free story. In fact, I think the novella I recently finished would make a very fine gift. After sign-up the person would receive a welcome e-mail which would include a link to PDF and EPUB versions of the book. I know that not everyone e/screen-reads, but it's the most realistic way I could give away something for free.

I'd really like some input on this. I'm not about to waste people's time on garbage, if I'm going to do it I'm doing it right. Comment below or email me at Brian at Bloodstreamcity dot com, whatever you need to do to be heard.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


It's cliche' to start a post by talking about how there hasn't been one in a while, yet one we've all been guilty of. Here's mine.

My excuse is at least is one I can be proud of, and that's that I've been off doing what I do. After Amazon suddenly made "The Mountain and The City" free on Kindle, I had even more reason to push forward on the project I had started, which was to turn that story into a serialized novel. A serial is something I've always wanted to write, having always been interested in stories like that of Great Expectations and the way people were so impatient for the next installment they literally lined up on the docks to wait for the shipment to come off the boat. Serials seemed to die down over the past number of years, but now with the internet and the development of ebooks and email, Twitter, Facebook and all the other methods of communication, as well as condensed time and attention, I feel times have strangely come back around to making sense for the serial.

It seemed to me that this story made perfect material for a serial, and having sudden exposure on Kindle (3,000 downloads so far, still mind-blowing) even furthered that, so I hunkered down and completed Part II, which I'm proud to say is out now on Kindle and Smashwords. Already I've been involved in some interesting conversations about the idea of the serial ebook on Twitter and Goodreads, most especially the always active "Apocalypse Whenever" group, where I'm getting some good feedback.

It's an interesting experiment regardless of what else, and I'm curious to see how it plays out. I'll share anything I learn and I invite everyone to leave suggestions/thoughts/doubts/opinions in the comments. I'm, as always, open to hearing what people think about what I put out there and how I go about it.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Something for Nothing

Big announcement: The Mountain and The City just became a free e-book in Amazon's Kindle Store. Either sometime late last night or early this morning, Amazon dropped the price to zero in order to match how it was being offered through Smashwords and the affiliates they distribute to. I'm not sure when it actually happened, but the book has already hit #403 in Amazon's overall rankings, as well as #19 in the Horror genre and #7 in Short Stories, and is being downloaded more as I watch.

This has really made my morning, and I thank everyone for the support you've given me as well as the new people who are just checking out my stuff. I'm actually writing Part II of The Mountain and The City as we speak (to be fair, I'm writing a blog post about it, but I believe we all accept the parameters of this phrase) and I'm even more excited to finish that and put it out there now that this happened.


Twenty-four hours later, the story has been downloaded over twelve-hundred times and is sitting at #130 in the rankings. I've wanted to crack Amazon's top 100 for a while and this is the closest I've come by a mile or so.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

An Epic Battle in Two Acts

I leave words like slugs leave slime.

On all my computers, on my cell phone, even on old, unlabeled cds, I have files of random text. Open some of my closets and you'll find manila folders bulging with stacks of papers, both hand-written and printed. In drawers you'll come across backs of receipts, corners of flyers, with only a sentence or two on them which by now have lost all context. They're ideas I need to get down before they disappear, or conversations I've had. Or people I've met who struck me as such fully-formed characters I knew I'd write them into something some day. Or dreams.

In one such place I had these: two notes which I left for my wife before leaving the house, which I usually do in a text file on our computer's desktop. Screw you, Post-its. The day before the first note, leading up to a trip to Mexico, I had spotted a spider in the corner of the bathroom when I was getting into the shower, but by the time I had gotten back out it was gone. Worse, it seemed to be colored a deep red.

This is what followed.

Dearest Natalia,

I hesitate to tell you the following, as it will certainly put you into a state of distress, however I believe in my heart that you deserve fair warning in these matters. In short, the bathroom spider exists. Yes, the large arachnid which I did briefly spy upon entering the bathroom those several nights ago, half asleep, torch in hand, is real, and continues to be real and to live. I spotted it just this morning, in the far corner to the left of the mirror, as I sat for my morning rituals. I can confirm only this: that it is large, that it is red (yes, I regret to say, red, as a hemophiliac's nightmare), and that it possesses telepathic abilities. This last detail is the only logical conclusion I can make based on what I witnessed of it, which was nothing less than fully developed psychic power. The incident in question concerned the matter of an immediate response in the bathroom spider to my silent retreival of the tissue which I had planned to form my weapon with. It responded by proceeding directly behind the mirror, out of harm's way, before I could so much as stand let alone deliver the deathblow. I feel I've failed you in no small way by falling short of protecting you from this hellish beast which has violated the security and sanctity of our homestead, but I take solace in the unexpected skill my enemy brandished. I was, after all, outnumbered, at least in the area of legs, by a ratio of eight to two. I've formulated several ideas as to how we can proceed from here to fell the intruder, not the least of which is burning this house to the ground and starting over somewhere the bathroom spider can never find us. Montenegro, perhaps. I regret to be the bearer of such grave news but as I stated previously, I believe you have the right to know the particular danger you find yourself in as you await my return. I wish you good luck and humbly recommend you take caution.

Dutifully yours,
Brian Martinez

Dearest Natalia,

I hope this letter finds you in good health and in high spirits. If they are not, I have news which very well may lift them. I say it with great joy: the bathroom spider is dead. I felled the beast.

The day started in a rather dismal and unassuming manner, as I rose feeling the effects of what is surely a touch of the consumption which has afflicted these parts. Do not worry for my well-being, I have already frequented the apothecary, and he supplied me with several tonics which he assured me would cure the illness. It was in this weakened state that I entered the bathroom this morning, forgetting myself for a moment and ignoring the danger inherent in the room. Quickly the thought struck out at me and I whipped around, scanning the corners, the nooks and crannies the beast is known to inhabit, and surely enough it was there, above the shower, with all of its red eyes trained upon me. I feel comfortable in admitting to you that at first I did not feel up to the task, what with my weakened state and lack of sleep. It was only my thoughts of you that steeled me for the task. I thought of you, sitting alone in the house all day, frightened to enter a room of your own home, and the image angered me so much I put my mind to it, right then and there: it was to be the beast, or me.

I withdrew my weapon of tissue paper and went to the beast where it crouched. I felt not only its eyes upon me but the effects of its mind control which at this point I am most sure it possessed. Its shrilly voice was inside my head, taunting me, confusing me. But I would not lay down so easily. I shall spare you the more gruesome details of our battle, but I will tell you this: I felt as if the Lord Himself guided my hand. My strike was fierce and my aim true, and in the end I stood before the fallen monster and, for just the briefest of seconds, I pitied it. Strange, isn't it, how we can pity the very thing which terrifies us. Such thoughts are useless, I am sure, but there they are regardless.

We are free, my dear. We can go about our lives here in the cottage and raise our family in the knowledge that we are safe. I believe a celebration is called for, even a voyage. I have always wanted to vacation in a more tropical region, perhaps the time has come.

Triumphantly yours,
Brian Martinez

Thursday, May 26, 2011


This is the cover for the novella I'm working on. In some down-time I decided to get it done, and I liked the way it came out so I thought I'd share it. It's part of a forthcoming anthology but I might put it out separately as well.

I've probably never mentioned that I make the covers to all my stuff, which owes to the fact that I've never wanted to be seen as an "artist", only a writer. I happen to have the skills necessary to make a decent cover and I know what I want and I don't cost anything, so the choice is easy. I've never once entertained a High-Art view of myself and I don't plan to. This is something I need to do and I do it the way I know how. I've personally never liked the snobbish side of art, and a while ago I decided if I ever start a movement or a group, I'll call it The Anti-Warhols.

An interesting fact about this image- I photographed this wall in the boiler room of the building I work in, sans handprint, of course. Given the story of De-Partment, which you'll know soon enough, I find it pretty appropriate.

Click the cover for full-size.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Reaching, Searching

I recently made a return to short stories after being away from it for a number of years. This was the form I started out in, when I was young and didn't have the attention span, or, put another way, enough words in me. I used to struggle to fill a page. I'd get to the bottom and say, "Well, that's enough, isn't it?" and the answer was yes and that was the end. After a while, though, the answer was no, and I moved on to a second page, which I'd have a hard time filling.

My breakthrough came with A Chemical Fire, my first novel which took a few years to finish and came in at just over 50,000 words, a length, I should add, which some publishers don't accept as long enough for a novel. It's short, to be sure, but as you can imagine someone who once had a hard time filling a page might say, I do believe in brevity.

From there I moved directly into writing a second book, The Scapegoatist. Though I had some issues with it and ultimately had to put it in the drawer until I'm ready to dissect and sew it back together, hence its invisible status, that book took about a year to finish and came in at 80,000 words. An improvement in production, if not success.

Then I started a science fiction book, which I'm not ready to reveal the name of, that wasn't ready to be written and told me so. A false-start, but not an end.

At this point I wasn't sure whether to attempt a restart of that book or move onto another project I'm planning, which I've referenced and which involves "A Good Clean, A Harsh Clean", a short story I wrote to pass the time while I shuffled my feet about what to do. Just then, NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, came along and offered me a challenge while I made my decision: write a novel in a month. I did, completing 50,000 words in a month, then adding another 11,000 the next to finish the thing.

Still being not sure where to move next, or being sure but reluctant to begin, was what brought me back to short stories. "An anthology," I thought. Write some new stories. Collect some old favorites and give them solid edits and rewrites. I went back and forth on this, even, wondering if I should alter older work or leave them as time capsules, until I compared it to a remastered re-release of an album, like Nine Inch Nails recently did with Pretty Hate Machine, and that seemed to warm me up to the idea.

I wrote "The Mountain and The City", an apocalyptic tale, pretty quickly and very much enjoyed it, even got good reactions to it. Then I moved onto another story, science fiction also, and to my surprise found it growing bigger and bigger until I realized I may have a novella on my hands. Who knew? Not me, and that's the beauty of this thing; the not knowing, the discovering, the sharing of unexpected turnouts. Now my anthology will include a novella, it seems. Who knew.

Before that happens, though, I've been thinking about sharing it in some unique way, something different. I like the idea of broadcasting works through Twitter, as some writers have done, but that wouldn't be fitting for this story. It would be too drawn out, as i think it would be better to write with that kind of sharing in mind. Maybe I'll do that some day. With social networks, blogs, websites, image sharing sites and so on I feel there's something I can do that would be interesting to watch and follow, but like so many other things it's just kicking around right now, shuffling feet, back and forth, through my head, my hands, my heart. If you have an idea, I'm here to hear it. Comment. Post. Speak. I'm here to hear it.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Sell Abrasion

As part of "Read an E-Book Week" I'm giving away Kissing You is Like Trying to Punch a Ghost. Just go to Smashwords between March 6th and 12th and enter coupon RE100. All I ask in return of readers is they eventually write a review on Smashwords, Goodreads or Amazon.

I've been thinking about how it's an interesting time to be both a reader and a writer. There used to be such a divide between the two- fans interacting with their heroes over autograph tables, at best- but now, with all the routes that exist, the table has collapsed. Some mystery may have been lost but in many ways both sides have gained a voice and a face. Publishers and writers can no longer treat the public the same way. They have to engage them head on, listen to them, respond to them. And yeah, maybe some people don't need to be heard. But at least everyone gets a chance to prove it.

Something happened over the past few days that capped off what I had been thinking about. On March 1st, The Information by James Gleick was published. It's a non-fiction title, a history and theory of information and communication, appropriately. On March 2nd nothing happened. On March 3rd I walked into a library, noticed it on the shelf and borrowed it. All normal, but the interesting part happened on March 4th. To join in on the #fridayreads tag, I mentioned on Twitter that I was reading that very book. A little while later Pantheon Books, the publisher of The Information, retweeted my statement and included James Gleick's Twitter name with it, meaning Gleick himself, being an active participant of Twitter, almost definitely saw it. That's it, that's the end of the story, but the fact that it's almost commonplace now shows how far we've come, because what it means is this: three days after a major publishing house released their latest title, I, a reader, had been directly heard by both the publisher and the author. Compared with how things were even five or ten years ago it's almost shocking to be that visible, that connected with a book. There used to be a steel plate between the two sides. Now the wall is paper.

I'm curious to see where we go from here. Technology isn't inherently good or evil, I believe, like any man-made device. A hammer can be used to build a house or bludgeon a skull. There's a responsibility on both sides not to abuse the new handshake.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


The book I wrote between November 1st and November 30th as a part of NaNoWriMo is complete. It was an experience that taught me a great deal about discipline, which comes down to simply sitting down, sitting down, sitting down and doing the work. It was a huge leap from how I used to do things, which was much more laborious and stressful and took about five years if at all. I think the ideal method is probably somewhere between the two, but I suppose in a way you have to experience both ends of the spectrum to know where the center is.

The book is a strange one, but not intentionally so, not for the sake of it, because that's something I never do, never even read books like that let alone write them. It's on Smashwords and Amazon, on Kindle and in paperback.

On another note, my list of "Top 5 Post-Apocalyptic Television Shows" was just put up on The Post Apoc, a good site for the apocalypse enthusiast. It was fun to do and I'm sure I'll do more like it in the future.

Saturday, February 05, 2011


Good amount going on right now, strong momentum, staying busy. In November I took part in National Novel Writing Month, hit 50,000 word mark on time and kept on going. Finished the book in December and now giving it a polish. Decided against any heavy edits to preserve what happened- a strange book came through, surprisingly clear, that I never intended to write. Plan to put it out there as soon as possible and keep moving.

Wrote a short story called "The Mountain and The City" for a post-apocalyptic site. http://www.survivetheapocalypse.net/fiction/ is the link, free to read, free to enjoy. Thought it came out well. More involving other sites to come soon, small things.

Posted a giveaway contest on Goodreads in January, signed copy of A Chemical Fire. Random winner chosen by site but I was happy with the choice, a girl in Minneapolis who reads horror/zombie fiction. Wrote to her and she seemed like a good person. Happy with the choice.

Sci-fi novel started a few months ago hit a snag; false-start, not quite ready yet. Rather than fight it, let it sleep. It will tell me when it's ready. Not giving up on it by any means. Decided to do some short stories for now, explore some ideas, put out possible anthology. Also series of novellas, more to come on that, but has to do with "A Good Clean, A Harsh Clean".

Good momentum. Staying busy. Only way this works.

**edit** "The Mountain and The City can now be found on Megaton.us or downloaded on Kindle or Smashwords.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Sympathetic Braking

A guy I used to work with had the strange habit of laughing at inappropriate moments. By that I don't mean he was bizarre for finding humor in awkward moments because, Jesus, I hope we all do, but rather that he would laugh at things that simply weren't funny. I would tell him about some new procedure we were supposed to follow or maybe a product we had gotten in and, absolutely guaranteed, what would follow was a laugh of some kind. Now me, I have a pretty decent sense of humor. In fact I do what I can to laugh everything off since it's the closest thing I've discovered to a perfect defense mechanism, so I can tell you with some certainty that if a joke was present, even the slightest inkling of a grain of an iota of a speck of a joke, I would see it for what it was. But this guy, he would find it where it simply didn't exist. I swear his default response to sound was laughter, immediately followed by processing it in the auditory cortex of his brain to determine volume and pitch. The result: it reduced me to shambles. I would lose focus entirely, stop talking long enough to return the laugh or ask what was funny or try to roll with it and find some non-existent thought-train. Just trying to keep up, my face became a roller-coaster. It went like this. Talk. Laugh? Scowl. Smile apologetically. Laugh. Talk? Continue. Repeat? By the end of the ride I could barely stop my own face from spasm-twisting through a tense supply of vibrating clown-smiles. This was one minute. One minute of an eight hour work day.

Absolute shambles.

The reason I bring him up is he taught me a phrase, which is sympathetic braking. Telling me one day about his pet peeve, he explained sympathetic braking as a driver applying the brakes because they see the brake lights of other cars, even those of oncoming traffic. He told me how it really pissed him off because it slowed down the flow of traffic for no good reason. I suppose it's another defense mechanism. A way of responding to danger, of saying, "What do they know that I don't?", of playing it safe. Maybe there are horrors just out of sight, ready to be driven into. I can see what he was getting at. But I can sympathize.

Lately I've noticed the power of smiling. This isn't where I try to convert you to Christianity or preach the power of sportsmanship by showing you a kid who refuses to cheat at basketball, this is an honest observation on surface-level instinct. Working with the public, I've noticed how little you can get away with talking to people if you just flash a smile. It's become almost a science experiment, to see human interaction reduced to its most simple form. Subject One approaches Subject Two. Subject Two smiles. Subject One returns the smile. One minute later, Subject Two smiles again. Subject One smiles and exits. I don't mean to brag, but it's been working.

People read into things. They infer and they fill in the gaps, which is another defense mechanism. Mystery breeds confusion. The less you give them the more gaps they're forced to fill, in order to enact the completeness required by their psyches. They seem to have only two filler materials at hand: if they don't like you, it's everyone they've ever hated. If they do like you, it's the one person they like the most: themselves. Neuro-linguistic Programming is based partly on this idea- reflect a person back to themselves and they will like you. Cross your arms when they cross their arms. Adopt similar speech patterns. Smile when they do.

It's so easy. People want to smile and feel comfortable. They want to fit in. They want to be among like people with like thoughts and like actions. Give them a chance to do that and they'll love you for it. And then you've got them.

If this all sounds very artificial of me, it is. In public, at work, I tend to be a bit awkward. Not crushingly so, but a bit alien at times. I don't know if I'd call it self-conscious as much as I'd say self-aware, like a computer which has come to realize it's a computer. So aware of the impact of my sounds. Constantly streaming footage of my own expression in the top-left corner of the screen. I understand the effect I have and so I second-guess it, see it vividly halfway through and become forced to analyze it in real-time. It's a bit like when you're watching a talk show and you see the guest notice the monitor with their own face on it. They stare off, entranced by their own image and how it appears and how it moves. There's just no disguising that look, so specific in its spiraling horror, and I've come to recognize it as my own, as my standard, funny as it may be to say it. If it were more pronounced I might not function at all. Less pronounced and I might be someone else entirely. I seem to have a handful of such malfunctions.

The reason I fell apart working with that guy is simple: I used up all my energy in a race against his smile. I distrusted my own, often stoic but not unhappy expression and darted back and forth trying to follow his map. But his map was wrong. I tried to fit in with an earthquake.

You have to trust your schematics, the way you were built. Me, I waste too much time on face upkeep. I should be my own madman.