Dear Humans…

As we understand it, you humans have now changed your Julian calendars to mark the tenth month in your year. Though it is apparent you eagerly anticipate the end of your annual cycle by buying gifts, flocking to mercantile centers, and hanging confusing decorations to acknowledge this passage (e.g. we have yet to understand the point of adorning plastic shrubbery with glass baubles), we do appreciate the fact that you still acknowledge October 31st as All Hallows’ Eve and attempt to celebrate the holiday to varying degrees.

However…

We would now like to take this opportunity to speak about our contemporary involvement in your society and address our concerns for this date. After which, we will be making a small request we hope you will consider fulfilling.

First, please understand that we do acknowledge that some of you are more superstitious than others–and for this we are grateful. Our initial intent when we emerged from our millennia-old hiding places in the natural world was not to eradicate your magical thinking completely, but we see now that we were a little too effective in our efforts to convince you that either we did not exist or we did and we were simply not as scary as you first thought. To us, the great pendulum of belief, as it were, has swung too far in the other direction. Instead of hunting us, the undersigned creatures of the supernatural kingdom, the vast majority of you are either no longer afraid of the dark or you accuse other humans of taking our guise and committing the acts we traditionally do. This is, in a word, disappointing.

In our defense, we felt we had no choice but to rethink our relationship with you humans and our role with respect to this holiday in the modern era. You see, as humans continued to rely on technology to advance your cityscapes we–the undersigned Creatures of the Supernatural–realized that our very lives, eggs, and broods were threatened on a global scale. No longer could we hide in the shadows or creep under the stairs; your inventions (namely the “street lamp”, “gunpowder”, and the “telephone”) allowed you to peek into the darkness and coordinate your efforts to hunt us more effectively than ever before. While torches and pitchforks were, in fact, understandable given that you obviously also wished to keep your children safe, we felt that modern inventions that harness the power of lightning (e.g. what you call “electricity”), earth-blood (“gasoline” and “oil”), and the atom (“nuclear energy”) have taken monster-hunting a bit too far. Do you not know that there is no end to this madness? The more terrible the weapons you make, the more frightening we, the undersigned, can and shall become.

Truthfully, however, it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that we creatures began to organize and form a strategy for the future. We became anxious, you see, for the atrocities you committed against one another concerned us, the undersigned. If you were so willing to murder your own kind–for power, land, yellow metal, and bits of paper, mostly–what would you do when you found out a litter of werewolves made their home nearby in a forest? Or that the mayor’s wife in your small town was a vampire? Thus, we opted to take the matters of survival into our own hands by hiding among you so we might act on our own behalf when the time was right.

We felt that violence was not the best option in an age where communication is more effective than ever before. Instead, we chose to slowly immerse ourselves in your human world both politically and legally by acting on your behalf so that we might sneak in a few (what you might recognize to be ambitious or problematic) laws that benefited our true aims. This tactic was engineered so that you might trust our representatives as they attempted to blend in. To date, not one of our agents has been identified and we did achieve some moderate levels of success in the twentieth century, namely through the protection of historic places and national parks. Sadly, our overall mission failed due to one key area: human rights.

The modern era has given us the opportunity to study you like never before with shocking results. Our attempts to procure legal protections for various members of your species were either laughed off or viciously thwarted. It seems, much to our collective surprise, that you humans cannot agree on anything–not even where the treatment of other humans are concerned. Mind you, we do have our differences within the supernatural community, but we are less concerned about the color of our scales or how long our fangs are than you are about certain innate biological traits you humans possess. Baffling though this dichotomy may be, you must understand that it never once occurred to us–not since the dawn of human civilization–that our food source would care about such pithy and insignificant attributes. And, while we always suspected you humans were illogical beings, we learned this hard lesson at great cost during your World Wars. Thus, we shifted the bulk of our efforts to a different field to exercise our pro-monster goals in a more direct way: through advertising.

The fascinating world of advertising has allowed our agents to create, share, and distribute pro-monster propaganda. Some of our attempts to focus solely on human-centric products have proven to be misguided, like Exhibit A. In our defense, however, the minotaur assigned to create this advertisement did not understand the cycle of hair growth for your young males.

Baby With a Razor

Thankfully, Halloween proved not only to be a way of sharing our pro-monster propaganda, we were also able to encourage some of your humans to join our ranks as well. Exhibit B is a shining example of what our community members have accomplished while working alongside you. Not only did we attract more of your females to our ranks, primarily around the area of Brooklyn, this advertisement is also the origin of the phrase “truth in advertising.”

Drink Blood and Be a Vampire

Admittedly, not all of our campaigns were deemed a success. We did get some pushback from your authority figures, which we have come to understand are primarily middle-aged, moderately-wealthy, white males who answer to later-aged, extremely-wealthy, white males. (It should be noted that we do perform monster-to-human outreach by educating some of these males on the subject of empathy for others through a rehabilitation program designed by the fae.) Exhibit C is the result of a failed attempt to recruit more demon-worshippers. Instead of cultist robes, our minions were forced to re-draw the headpieces and alter them to resemble scholarly caps instead. The addition of a jack-o-lantern is also a last minute change, for originally the women were holding the blood-filled skulls necessary to summon the appropriate demon at the proper moment—which, in short, was the entire point of the ad in the first place.

Lady Graduates with Pumpkins

We are confident that history will show Halloween became a more popular holiday in the United States due to advertising. Everything that can be produced has been promoted for the holiday, even your mind-altering substances like Budweiser beer. (Many of us still imbibe this delightful fizzy beverage and would like to note we are thrilled with the addition of lime.) See Exhibit D.

Budweiser Halloween Ad

Eventually, we entrusted the holiday to you and assumed you’d take it over with gusto—which you did do for a time—for a pro-monster stance helps us all. For you humans, fear is an ancient mechanism that not only keeps you safe but also reminds you of your mortality. (Which is often where we come in.) The truth of the matter is that when you forget how precious life is, that is when you take it for granted and commit atrocious acts against yourselves and others. Halloween not only allows you to feel fear in a much safer way than centuries past, but it is also a holiday about this truth: it is perfectly natural that everyone (that is, every mortal) dies. (We shall spare you the specifics regarding this day’s history, but we do encourage you to learn more about it in a factual, non-superstitious manner.)

As we stated in the above paragraph, we did experience a slight reprieve from our own fears about our future. The marketing onslaught of everyday household items to be consumed or used for Halloween, combined with several of your moving pictures from the 1970s and 80s (namely “Gremlins”, “The Exorcist”, and “Puff the Magic Dragon”) allowed us to breathe a sigh of relief and not worry about your ever-expanding foothold into our homes. For a short time, we were able to withdraw back into the shadows and feel safer than we ever had before. But, as they say, all savory morsels must eventually be swallowed.

Fast forward to today. What happened, humans? Have our pro-monster campaigns worked a little too well? Now, you are obscuring the meaning of Halloween by turning a specific portion of your females into… Well, not even our mummies can figure that one out. But, more to the point: since when did Halloween become a holiday to promote mating rituals as opposed to recognizing that this night is the only time during the year when the veil between worlds is the thinnest? Why are you no longer honoring the dead or fearing–to be perfectly blunt–us? See Exhibit E.

Bert Ernie and WTF

Worse, it seems your obsession with a specific female body type has now begun to impact us on a grander scale, too. You have subverted the one, last holiday where we, the undersigned Creatures of the Supernatural, have traditionally had the license to chase, frighten, warn, prophesy, and prey upon you. It fascinates us that the costumes you once wore were meant to scare others, but now? They seem to be less about fear and more about the right to get drunk and take the costume off. (Several of us would like to know the point of buying a garment if you plan to remove it quickly.) Worse, we’ve even heard that some of you humans have taken our pro-monster propaganda into the bedroom, for you now wish to “fall in love” and “get married” to our various species, thus producing cross-bred offspring in unprecedented and shameful numbers. This is not only ludicrous it is also dangerous—for our species are not compatible and these relationships typically end in the human’s untimely demise.

At this point in our letter we must now pause, ask you to reflect upon all that we have said, and whisper our request in your ear. For all the aforementioned reasons, put an end to your insatiable lust and debauchery for this one October night. Honor us by acknowledging the symbiotic relationship we’ve had for thousands of years. Bring back the spirit of Halloween, undo this extreme and unnatural form of pro-monsterism, and help us restore the natural cycle of death, life, and rebirth.

Or else.

Signed,

The Creatures of the Supernatural
Planet Earth

(Please see attached list of signatures. Each signature, scrawl, claw/bite mark, blood stain, and paw print reflects a representative of one of our 20,000+ species. Of the 67,566 who did not sign, approximately 999 are unaccounted for.)

For the Love of Story

The Tick Weapons Lab Avatar

I’ve decided to keep Raymond Day in my novel. I feel the story is going to suffer greatly without it; he needs to be there. Day, who first appeared in The Queen of Crows, is a problematic character for a few reasons. First, his origin story dates back to the Westward expansion in the 1830s era. He is a vampire (not spoiling anything by telling you that) and how he became an undead being that can only survive on human blood is the stuff of nightmares. But that particular detail, mind, is tied to what happened historically. Yes, it’s alternate history. However, to make his Native American character believable, certain details reflect what happened at the time. I haven’t settled on a specific tribe yet, as he played a minor role in the short story, but thinking Cherokee might be the best fit.

I have a stack of books on the subject, and the one I started reading last night is by Peter Nabokov. It’s called Indian Running, Native American Testimony: From Prophecy to the Present 1442 – 1992. I’ve decided to take the academic approach, by reading first-hand accounts, to make Day’s character believable — but also handle one of the trickier bits about him. That is, often when Native American characters are presented in fiction (if at all), there’s a tendency to put them in a historical context as if they are invisible in the modern world. (This is a PolicyMic article that gives a brief overview of some of those issues.)

On the flip side, there is also a tendency to lump every tribe together, so a character becomes representative of all Native Americans; much like when whites are all lumped together and the distinction between the French and the English, for example, is completely erased. Saying that all tribes got along just fine is like saying all of Europe is one big happy family. Really, the lumping occurs from a lack of knowledge. It’s easy to categorize when you don’t know the details, and as a writer it’s my job NOT to do that.

Am I obsessing about research? Oh hell, yes. I’m going to get parts wrong, but at the same time? I would rather be smart about characterization, which is often embedded in the style of language and descriptions I use, than be like: “Oh hey, here’s this pulp-y character that comes along and is there to move the plot forward.” There are very few Native Americans in modern-day fiction. Few. I can’t remember the last time I saw one in a film; The Prophecy, maybe? Native Americans are not fantasy elves with mystical powers that have their own form of magic because of their deep connection to the land. Beliefs? Yes. Aliens from outer space? No.

And what of those beliefs? Well, you see this is the other reason why research is a requirement for me. No two tribes are alike, and beliefs vary widely. The vast majority of Native American beliefs don’t match European goals and thought processes, either. That’s where these accounts are helping me, because I am reading and seeing exactly what people from the era believed, what they experienced, and how they viewed the expansion. Hey, big hint folks: it’s not what Hollywood has depicted. Ever.

I’m lucky, I suppose, in that there’s no shortage of materials out there. I think the only reason I’m not (lucky), is because it’s going to take me longer to finish writing the book, but once I have his character down it’ll go much faster. I mean, sure it sounds like an excuse. Research can be a way to procrastinate, but the thing is: I’m not reading any of these books or diving in because I don’t trust myself as a writer, or because I’m freezing up, or any of those other “lets-beat-ourselves-up” reasons… I’m reading all this to internalize the information, so that I do the best job I possibly can. With so few Native American characters out there, that’s immensely important to me, and I’d never forgive myself if I was sloppy about it even though I’m writing fiction knowing what I know. Call it pride or whatever you like, but that’s just how it’s gotta be. I LOVE BEING A WRITER. And this? This research? It’s part of my job.

    Mood: Strangely strange.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Quite a bit.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: I moved. Well, kind of.
    In My Ears: White noise. ZZZzzzzzz
    Game Last Played: Ninjas versus Zombies
    Book Last Read: Indian Running, Native American Testimony: From Prophecy to the Present 1442 – 1992
    Movie Last Viewed: Kill Bill II
    Latest Artistic Project: Art classes. SON OF A BISCUIT! That reminds me…
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Mortal Remains
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work, original comics, short stories, and novels.

Yes, I’m working on a COMIC!

Hellboy Avatar

I’ve mentioned my desire to write more comics before; right now I have two floating around in my head. One is definitely a webcomic/comic; the other is a dark science fiction story that I’m adapting into a novella. (Partly, because the latter doesn’t have a home in a script format, and it’s the kind of tale that’s better as a screenplay/comic. I have a better chance of selling it in prose, actually.) I’ve also said, however, that writing comics requires something else — an artist, letterer, inker, etc. The creating good art part of my brain has long since fallen into disrepair; art direction is no problem for me, mind, but all those skills associated with drawing and graphic design are now rudimentary at best. I make stick figures cry.

Enter my friend Mark Stegbauer. Mark volunteered to partner with me, and I’m giving him a co-creator share. I may be bubbly about this comic and whatnot, but as I’ve explained to Mark, I’d prefer not to make any announcements until we’ve got content down. The business side of the equation is sorted, but with comics? If the creative aspect isn’t done and we’re not ahead of the game? No point in getting folks excited — even if it’s ONE fan — and have nothing to show for it. Not cool.

Yes, that is a more conservative tack. Especially since everybody’s aggressive about announcements and whatnot. Thinking long-term, as a newbie coming into the field, however, I’d prefer to take the freelancer’s approach and do-as-I-say rather than say-and-maybe-do. After all, this is my original work and my paying projects do take precedence. Right now, this is a hobby that I hope will turn into something way cool. Either way — EXCITING!

Be sure to check out Mark’s website: steg-art.com. Wooo-hoooo!

    Mood: I [F-bomb’ing] hate moving.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: *coughs*
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: I went for a walk.
    In My Ears: Ummm…
    Game Last Played: Tetris
    Book Last Read: Love is the Law by Nick Mamatas
    Movie Last Viewed: Captain America: the Winter Soldier.
    Latest Artistic Project: National Craft Month
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Firefly RPG corebook
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work and novels.

Shameless Comic Plug

Monster Edition

Over at Red Stylo Media, you can get the Monster Edition of UNFASHIONED CREATURES along with two other literary-based graphic novels POE TWISTED and SHAKESPEARE SHAKEN for $50. Here’s a link to the monster bundle. Enjoy!

My first comic Last Man Zombie Standing is included in both the monster edition and standard edition. You can get your hands on a digital copy now and see a preview through DriveThruComics.com and Red Stylo Media. The print editions of both will be available early 2014.

Announcing “We Are Dust” a New Apocalyptic Anthology Release

We Are Dust apocalyptic anthologyWhether or not you believe the world ends on Friday, I have good news for you! “We Are Dust” (an apocalyptic-themed anthology) was released yesterday! This end of the world collection of stories features my story titled “The Button,” which is a Lovecraftian-themed tale featuring a female nuclear physicist.

Download a copy of We Are Dust here.

“The Button” is loosely related to the Mythos and is written in first person. I also built out the world some to serve the character, the plot, and the theme. Creating new gods and writing about Romans was a lot of fun!

I sincerely hope you’ll enjoy this collection of fantastic stories. Forgive me if I got a little over-salesy… I’ve always wanted to tell people to read a story before the world ends — and now I have! The anthology is available in multiple formats for your Nook, Kindle, laptop and other devices.

Enjoy!!!

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