It’s here

In case you missed it, The ABCs of Dinkology: Death has arrived. Go get you some of the third installment in my series about the trials and tribulations of young Max Dinkman. It’s a pretty crazy story. I think you might like it. It’s got amazing art by David Ravenberg and a fair good piece of storytelling by . . . me. Oh, and I’d be grateful if you’d write a review after you read . . . but only a good review. Bad reviews are for the birds.

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Soon

Happy Halloween, look what EAB Publishing has up it’s sleeve. dink-death-6x9

That’s right, The ABCs of Dinkology: Death (Book 3) is gonna be here soon. Read an excerpt here.

If you’re interested but unsure, check out The ABCs of Dinkology: Life and The ABCs of Dinkology: Time In-Between right now. Digital copies are free for a limited time only!

How’s that for a treat?

Midnight Circus is looking for your work . . . .

I sat through the portents of the end of our great nation last night. Now I’m depressed and I wonder if others like me are as well . . . . If so, I’ve got some good news. Writing makes me feel better and, I hope, when people read my work, they too feel better. Or at least they come to some understanding not provided them in their day-to-day lives.

I hope you writers and poets out there feel the same way about your work. I mean, we could all use something to be happy about these days, right? So, if you are a writer, what better way to feel better than to get published? EAB Publishing, the little publisher out of Omaha, NE I edit for is seeking submissions for the 14th issue of their lit mag, Midnight Circus, right now. Check out their submissions page and submit.

I think it will be good for everyone.

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The other side of the pen

I used to write reviews for a couple of pop culture websites. One of those websites paid me actual real folding money and the other paid me a short ton of free comic books and neat merch. Currently, I write reviews of books by authors somehow connected to the Omaha, NE area for EAB Publishing over at their Tumblr page. Because I have been, am, and will be on the other side of the reviewing table, having my work studied, reviewed, etc, I have a simple philosophy when writing reviews. If I cannot find something to like about what I read, I do not review it . . . . Hell, I don’t even finish it usually . . . . One of my good friends has told me on more than one occasion that I remind her of a golden retriever. I am happy a lot, try to find the goodness in everything, and ultimately . . . yes . . . I can be somewhat naive. I don’t begrudge her that opinion. In many instances she is 100% correct. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is especially true about me when I write reviews.

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When people–and with art it is almost always ‘people’ not ‘person’–put their time, energy, heart, and soul into the creation of a thing, the least a reviewer/critic can do is find something positive to say about that art.

Truth time though.

I’m sure I’ve written a handful of negative reviews. Though I stand by those reviews, it pained me to write them then and it pains me to think about them now. Sometimes all the time, energy, heart, and soul one possesses is not enough to make a work of art good. Sometimes there isn’t enough time, energy, heart, and soul in a work of art to make it good. Sometimes the bad is so egregious that, against his better judgement, the critic has to act as gatekeeper. But it’s all subjective, right?

Wrong.

Writing is an art but it is also a science. When one is critiquing a work of art, one must always take into consideration the simple fact that while tastes vary, a well done work of art is a well done work of art. For instance, I’m not Taylor Swift’s biggest fan but I recognize the fact that she is madly talented.

Oh, who am i kidding? I love T-Swizzy.

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Anyway.

As reviews of my newest novel, Former, role in, I’ve been pondering this reviewing philosophy. I think, overall, it’s a good one. What do you think?

Wait.

Don’t answer that.

I can’t handle the criticism . . . .

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I kid . . . I think . . . .

Ah.

I’ll direct you to my last post.

Good day.

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Writing is hard

I have lived the better part of my adult life with Max Dinkman in my head. He is a 17-year-old boy with problems upon problems who kind of, sort of, maybe a little bit resembles me when I was a 17-year-old boy with problems upon problems. Max was born in my head and is probably the result of sleep deprivation, too much self-medication, and a frightened imagination running wild through the back roads of Northeast Nebraska . . . . A strange copulation indeed.

Anyway.

I’ve written an almost 600 page epic about his life from October 31, 1999 through May 5, 2000. Two parts of this epic have already been released by EAB Publishing as The ABCs of Dinkology: Life and The ABCs of Dinkology: Time In-Between. Prior to that, WSC Press released The ABCs of Dinkology, which is like a test version of Life. Three more will be available soon: The ABCs of Dinkology: DeathThe ABCs of Dinkology: Life After Death, and The ABCs of Dinkology: Rebirth. Then Max’s story will–for the time being–be over.

Yesterday I shared a draft of the final book with another person. I had never done that before. It was a jarring experience. Though between writing about Max’s seven month odyssey, I also wrote a couple other novels, a handful of short stories, a smattering of poems, a few essays and journalistic pieces, and a token academic paper or two, something about Max’s story is different . . . .

When I finally decided it was time to share the fifth book with another human being I had to go in and make a few last-minute adjustments, additions, and cuts. I had been avoiding one addition in particular for years. A part of me felt that if I kept what I knew must happen in my mind and never released it onto paper, it couldn’t happen. It’s ridiculous, I know. After all, I’m the creator. If I know an event has to happen then it has to happen. So I put on my big boy pants and I did it. It was physically and mentally challenging. It left me a mess. As I knew it would. Yes. I was bawling at my computer while the words poured from my fingers. What I was doing was horrible. It was a necessity but it was about as far from enjoyable for me as writing has ever been. It was tragic. It was heartbreaking. And there was a lot of it.

Max’s story has never been a happy one. It has its comedic moments, to be sure, like all lives do. But the tragedy outweighs the comedy. Though I’m certain I will write more novels with the same theme, message, scope, etc. of Max’s . . . and I may even come back to Max someday . . . this first series will always be the hardest because this one taught me that my stories are true . . . even if they’re made up.

I had been avoiding writing this last tragedy in Max’s life because I knew it would hurt to see the words in print, more so even than hearing it described in my head over and over for years. It’s so solid now, so concrete. Max and the people who inhabit his story are real. True, they are not real like us, but they are real. When bad things happen to them it hurts them as well as the readers. But I think most of all it hurts the writer.

Writing is hard.

On the plus side, how about a little sneak-peek of The ABCs of Dinkology: Death courtesy of Dave Ravenberg?

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Braxton

EAB Publishing’s first novel was David Atkinson’s The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes. Though publishing this surrealistic answer to  Waiting for Godot was a joint decision between myself, EAB president Tim Benson, and the other editors, I pushed for it. I explain why here.

Since many people have told me it is nice to read my explanation about why I picked Atkinson’s book for publication, I thought I’d do it for Braxton to.

Like to read it? Here it goes . . . .

When Benson brought Braxton to my attention, I was not eager to read it. A vampire hunter book? I thought. Seriously? If it isn’t Buffy the Vampire Slayerwhat’s the point? But I gave it a try because Benson is my boss and Jeremy Morong, the talented man who wrote it, was, at the time, an acquaintance.  I’d like to think he has since become a friend. But that’s another story for another time.

Anyway.

As soon as I opened the manuscript I was pulled into a strange new world of monsters and monster hunters, a world that has a surreal, frightening, and fun feel to it. In a way, it is a world that reminds me of Sunnydale, CA, only in a different time. The characters are as realistic as the characters who inhabit that town after all, and the scenarios are just as otherworldly. A few hours after starting the manuscript, I looked up from my computer screen to see how long it had been. At this point, I was about halfway through the book and wanted to call Benson to say, “Yes,” but, being a true editor, I had to finish it first. So I returned to the story.

When I was done, I wished I had saved the last few chapters to finish some other time. So I told Benson EAB should publish this book. And I think that’s my litmus test. If I find myself reading for enjoyment instead of out of my editorial duty, I know I’ve hit on a story I love.

But what is it that makes The Adventures of Braxton Revere so lovable? Honestly, it’s a little bit of everything but most significantly, the characters. As has been noted by at least one reviewer, the characters aren’t really characters at all, but real people. This, dear reader, is worth about a million hit points in your literary arsenal. Our hero, Braxton, is a man unsure of himself, but determined to do right. Is he a great man? No. His hamartia is evident in all of his actions. This, of course, humanizes him more than most pulp heroes. His friend and only sympathizer, Taylor, brings comedy and complexity to the story. Finally Patch, an homage to everyone’s favorite science experiment gone wrong (Frankenstein’s monster), helps throw not only Braxton’s concept of monster out the window, but readers’ as well.

What I mean to say is that the beauty of this novel lies in its characters’ tricky complexities. Yes, it is a fun adventure that is readily readable for pretty much anyone old enough to handle some undead action. I mean, this should be evidenced by its release. Did you know it has an exclusive one-time-only O Comic Con variant cover that you can no longer purchase? It does. I have it. It’s totally awesome and looks like a classic video game cartridge. It’s whatever. No big deal.

Here it is:

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So it looks like a fun read, and to be sure it is. But there is more going on here . . . .

The story begins in medias res with this brilliant quote:

  • “When word was brought to me of the von Braun tragedy, I wasted no time springing to action. I saddled Midnight and together we stormed toward New London. The sleepy burg had once had big ideas of being something more. Don’t we all?”

This line’s greatness lives in its dual complexity/simplicity. On the surface, its meaning is obvious. Readers know something bad has happened and the narrator (Braxton) wants to help. But dig deeper and it’s clear this isn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill pulp adventure. In these few sentences, readers also learn Braxton has a  somewhat self-defeatist mindset and perhaps something of a grudge against New London. We wonder why. We want more.

Morong delivers. His voice is strong. His point is clear. Though this is an adventure/journey story on par with some of the best pulp I’ve read, with twists and turns, talking skulls, witches, vampires, and all sorts of things that go bump in the night, that isn’t all there is to this tale. There is something about friendship and camaraderie that can’t be denied. There is something about acceptance and family. There is something good. No, it isn’t a book that wears its messages on its sleeve, but that’s only because Morong is too good of a writer to do that. He manipulates us into becoming friends with Braxton and crew. He manipulates us into caring whether or not they defeat the great evil that is Ralugard the vampire. Morong manipulates us into believing it’s all real.

That’s why I like this book of a rough and rugged vampire hunter with a fool and a monster for best friends. Sure, it may seem like simply a fun pulp adventure (and there would be nothing wrong with that). But like I said, there is something more. It’s Morong’s heart and beliefs opened up for all to see; but done in such a way that we do not know we are looking at it. We are simply spending time with our friends as they try to save each other and mankind from the monster under our collective bed.

For the next week, EAB Publishing is letting the digital copy of this book go for only $1.00. I suggest you give it a gander.

I’m Not A Writer, I Make Christmas Cookies

I’m sitting in my office. There is a thin wall between it and my family room. My wife is in there. I can hear Law & Order: SVU playing and her stepper stepping. In my mind, that’s just awful . . . just awful. The last thing I want to do is watch that show or step on a stepper. Both activities freak me out. My daughter is upstairs in her bedroom playing with the twins from down the street. My son, whose room is in the attic, is there, on his computer, playing Minecraft with some of his friends across the city. I’m saying this to illustrate how everything is going on as it should be  at my house. Everything except for this blog. I’m trying to find something relevant to say. I like to post once a week. I got a few followers, you know? And I took last week off. I’m gonna go ahead and say it was because of the difficulties of finals week for a high school teacher/college professor. But the truth is, I just didn’t know what to write . . . .

I probably shouldn’t have said that if I want to keep up the facade that I am actually a writer.

It’s a strange thing to be a writer who has nothing to write. All the craft books tell you, “Pay attention to the down times but don’t worry about them,” or other such things about birds flying and fiction working and zen or something. I don’t know. I’m sure there are some that tell readers the exact opposite, but I haven’t read any. So you think I’d take the advice I’ve been given and not worry. But every time I sit down at this computer to write this blog and nothing I think is relevant comes to mind, I get the feeling I’m doing something wrong. I get the feeling I’m lying when I write. I get the feeling I’m not a writer. This, of course, is not true. You can see my name on a fair number of books. EAB Publishing just released a couple and the good folks at The Novel Fox are publishing a new one soon. So yeah, I’m a writer.

Then I think about the books I have out. I think about all the short stories I’ve had published and I know I am a writer. This career doesn’t make me a lot of money and it isn’t like I have some kind of addiction . . . . It’s more of an impulse really . . . . Maybe the impulse isn’t to blog though and that’s the problem. When my mind tries to wrap itself around current events and ruminate on them, I find myself stumbling over my words.

Anyway.

I guess it comes down to this: I write stories. When I write about the facts and my opinions on them they get all jumbled in my head and flipped around so by the time I’m done writing about them I don’t even know what I mean anymore.

I’m not sure why any of this is relevant.

After all, I’m not a writer.

I’m just a guy who wants to go make some Christmas cookies.

And then eat them. Oh Lord, how I will eat them.