For Those Who Stay

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For Those Who Stay

 Sometimes the wisest thing you can do is leave.

Just…go.

In the end sometimes you just have to look out for yourself.

In Flint that’s been an issue that’s plagued the city for decades now and it’s something I find it hard to argue with. But sadly, the landscape of America is starting to look a lot like Flint.

The jobs are all but non-existent and those that exist are given to friends, or family, or the jobs are outright eliminated.  When the recession hit the corporations took it as a cue to cut their staffing with claims of poverty and those cuts have extended out to raises and benefits. Corporate poverty is a phantom epidemic where the workers are punished for the mismanagement of the business interest. The street philosophy of ‘I gotta get mine’ was born in the penthouse and finally hit the streets only to be re-invented once more on high so that ‘getting mine’ meant you were willing to wade through a virtual river of blood to make sure you got it.

The government is broken, almost beyond repair. Everyone is in someone’s pocket. Everyone owes just one favor which becomes three, which becomes six, which becomes strange servitude. The Left and Right waste their tenure arguing and whining and complaining and do the predominance of their work in front of the TV camera where they lie out of hand as if it’s the most natural thing they do. It feels anymore as if there is no way to fix a system that can only be run by the wealthy and even the eager do-gooder will eventually be bought off or pushed out.

The school system has been decimated, the entirety of it a scorched earth of politics where robber barons took the funding to push towards needless wars and pointless plans. We have bankrupted the cities and broken the school system and all of those children who were once trapped by district boundaries are freed to go wherever they want. Suddenly the suburban schools are becoming overcrowded and the problems that plagued the city schools are starting to break the backs of the suburban schools. We are blind to the obviousness that without the next generation, and the generations that follow there IS no city, no state, and no country. We forget that we have to invest all we can into them if they have any chance of succeeding. It’s bad enough that college is mandatory to get a job as we price it so that these kids will spend decades paying off their loans and live in an infinite debt that we cannot fathom how they’ll ever get free.

The smartest thing we can do is run.

When the systems break, when the hope runs dry you run.

But here’s the thing – where are you going to go?

Therein lies the rub.

With Flint it is almost assumed you’ll leave and the city doesn’t do much to encourage you to want to stay. There is so much city corruption, so much politicking, and the system is so overburdened and broken I cannot tell you how it can be fixed.

Yet…

Where will you go?

There are always better places, better options, better ideas…but the troubles, the big troubles, are yours no matter what you do and the problems with the System are like weeds – they spread and they spread and they spread until they kill everything around them. The problem has become that so many people run instead of stand that the wrong people get elected and re-elected and the wrong people are making the decisions. Will staying fix things? Not on its own but when you stay you invest yourself in the area, the culture, and the people and that’s when you become willing to fight.

For those who stay you are the last line of defense, not of some grand notion of AMERICA or FLINT but the last line of defense for yourselves and your friends and family. It’s you that makes a town, a city, a state, a land what it is. You that feeds it and supports it. It is you that puts events together, and fundraisers, and awareness campaigns, and you that digs out your neighbors when the worst times hit. The System is broken, was born broken and we have spent hundreds of years fixing it but the truth, the truth of this land and every land is that it’s us, the people that make these vast areas of land a home.

Sometimes we need to run.

Run far, run fast, and find a new place to call home.

Sometimes we have no choice.
But a day comes when you have to stop and put down roots and make someplace home. There comes a time when you have no choice but to, well, stand and fight. And fighting can just mean giving a damn what happens in your kid’s school, in your neighborhood, and to the people around you. It can mean voting. It can mean doing things that help people forget the stress, or helping people dig out from under it. It means that you have stopped running and are willing to find ways to be a part of the world around you and to not keep looking for the escape hatch. Sometimes staying is simply caring for and inspiring those around you and showing them that that greed and jealousy and rage and hate in the world are just parts of a larger world and larger picture but are never the only thing there is.

Sometimes you need to stay.
And for you that stay don’t you ever forget that when you stay, when you stand you will find that there are a lot of people around you to catch you should you lose your footing and begin to fall. If you run, the only place to go is away.

Sometimes you need to stay.

And sometimes, staying can make all the difference in the world. 

The Last Sheep – a novel

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When I started writing I didn’t think I would one day produce nine books. Not ever. Even when my first book came out. It just…it wouldn’t have computed. It still doesn’t. I have put my ninth book out just before I turn 40.

So strange.

For me The Last Sheep is the end of a journey. A journey that began in the mid-2000s and which ends now. A journey which began with Bumble Kitties and lead to Meep Sheep as I would muse over these weird creatures with a friend at our vitamin store job. Those silly animals soon became a story that was inspired by a friend and which allowed me to change gears and to write something that wasn’t overtly dark and horrific. The story became a chapbook that I took to comic conventions with other chapbooks and my first book in the hopes of making some sales and getting my work out to the world. Once I discovered Create Space and started putting books out again it became clear that there was more to the world of the Meep Sheep that I wanted to tell.

The Meep Sheep was an experiment and three have been. The first was to see if I could tell a fairy tale and not to let the darkness overtake the story. It was also an experiment in layout and design. I had never designed a book before I started with Create Space but suddenly I had to consider the book as a whole – the writing, the layout, the cover design, the back cover text, the book size, paper type, and what I do with it once it’s done. The thing is though that all of that is fun. It’s MORE fun if you are not under the gun due to some weird pressure you put on yourself but, you know, life ain’t all lemondrops and candy canes.

The experiment continued with The Kreep Sheep, the follow up book. This book began as a Tumblr blog where I wanted to occasionally tell stories about the world of the Kingdom of Man and to fill in some of the history. What I found though was that in telling random stories of this world it made me fall in love with it all over again. I had never really built a world before. Not one that I wanted to keep going back to. Sure, when I write there’s a world beneath it all that is oft-times connected but this is different. This is a place that is molded completely by me and it’s intoxicating. You can see why people write fantasy – you craft everything and can make and remake the world as you see fit. It’s not a god-trip as much as a creator trip where you get to see what you can come up with. After a few stories I realized that this project was a book that I just hadn’t been ready to write but which served as a bridge to a bigger story. It told histories, side stories, and built the first part of a bridge into the next and final story.

That’s where The Last Sheep comes into the picture. As I sat and stewed on Kreep Sheep I started to wonder what came next? What happens when the Queen’s reign is over? What happens if the past came back to haunt her and the whole world? It began with another side story, a short that leads off Last Sheep that introduces us to the Son, a thing driven towards revenge and conquest that is the first spark of a coming war. That story was meant to be a standalone and little else but it became something fare greater as it served as its own spark that started me thinking about this last Meep book. One last story to wrap up the loose ends and to open the door to a million more stories.

I wrote The Last War – the title changed so it would blend more easily with the other two books so Last Sheep it became –  between February and March 2013 and writing it was like a fever dream. I kept pushing myself and every obstacle I just pushed past until it was done. The book wasn’t what I had first thought it would be, which is usually the case, but I love what it became because it surprised me. Its trajectory surprised me.

I am proud of this book, a book about war, a last war that would decide the fate of the world. It was a tale of the end of an age and the beginning of a new one. I got a chance to say goodbye to a lot of characters I love and love writing about. And I got to put a cap on the series and my publishing.

Last War indeed.

I think if there was one thing I was most dodgy about it was the cover. I wasn’t sure what I wanted outside of wanting to do the art myself. What ego I have I try to direct towards my art and writing and not towards the other aspects of my life…which isn’t always easy or possible but I do TRY. I am not a great artist but I started toying with ideas and came up with one I liked and began working on it. The coloring of the tree was the happiest of accidents. As I was coloring it digitally something got screwed up and there were little spots here and there that were separate sections so that you had to individually color them in and as I did I started to play with the colors because the tree it represents in the book is sick and rotting but is also full of life so the color changes fit that idea and it came out pretty neat.

I truly love this book and if it is the last book I ever produce I am content with that and happy to be able to cap this series, which deserved one last story before I turned out the light.

You can find the book on Amazon, Kindle, and in the e-store.
It is 380 pages and retails for $15

https://www.createspace.com/4748543

Thanks

 

For any of my books you can find links here – http://www.meepsheep.com

The Last War…er…Sheep

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Book – The Last – is finished. 

Huzzah. 
Boo. 

Hiss. 

Whatevs. 

Still not sure what I feel about it. I am the worst  judge of my own work because I am very hard on myself and am not sure I think anything I write is more than OK. All of this is prolly why I am lousy at self-promotion. I hate it. But, that’s something I’ve said more than enough about. 

The Last Sheep, as the book is now called wrapped up this weekend. I was happy to see there weren’t as many fixes as I had anticipated and that I kept a pretty good through-line through the whole thing. It was a year since writing to editing and it held together well. It was good to be able to soften some of the hard edges of the book and to change some things, add some things, and to bring some of the emotional tones more to the fore. It’s a dark book, though it didn’t really get any darker than I had anticipated. How ‘all ages’ it is is a big question. There’s nothing overtly adult about the book – no cursing, gore, sex, language or the like – but the tone is dark and there are very dark aspects to it. 

Darker than Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings and so on? 

No. 

But then those are also considered classic works now and this is just a book about a kingdom with flying sheepies. 

It’s dark though. 

I do think this does a nice job of wrapping up the threads of stories that were begun in the first book – The Meep Sheep – and carried into The Kreep Sheep – and I think this caps things without betraying the reader or the integrity of the story. 

The last thing you wanna do is invest a lot of time into a series that hamstrings you at the end for drama’s sake or just because. You can’t sell out your reader, even for the sake of your own need for twists. If it fits then do it, but to do it just for drama’s sake is not playing fair with someone who has invested a lot of time in your work. 

I think I need to live with the book a little longer to get a better feel for it. I don’t hate it, so that’s a very good sign. I like the arc of it, I like where people begin and end up. So, there are things I like. Just wishy-washy about the entirety of the work. 

Now is the fun of figuring and doing a cover. I had it too easy with the first two books so this one will be a little more difficult. I will sort it out but man-alive it isn’t much fun. 

The problem I always have is doing a cover that represents the work but doesn’t alienate the public, something I haven’t necessarily mastered. I hate handing off the book cover to someone else because I know the book and what I want to convey and this is the one thing, the book, that I get to let my ego run wild on so for egos sake I like to do it all, or as much as I am able. 

GAH!
As for the title, I really liked The Last War as a title because that’s what the story is about – the last war that will destroy the world. The thing is though that the title fit the work but not the series. Another thing I had never thought about since I never wrote these to be a series. Well, a compromise was struck. The new title – The Last Sheep – fits the book (oddly it took the editing for that but darn it, it still counts) and it fits the series. 

Double bonus. 

So, expect to read more about the new book. The 360 page fluffy beast that it is. 

I will get a proper write up about what it is and all that to post next time I talk about it as well. 

- c

Saying Goodbye But GOD WHAT A RACKET!

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The things that stay with you are strange. Memories thought forgotten that are just lying dormant but there, waiting for a trigger. Such is the case with me today as I learned of the passing of DAVE BROCKIE, the singer of gore-rock band GWAR. For many GWAR was just a gross metal band that lived to offend, and there was definitely that aspect of them. You can’t argue that point. The thing is though that beneath that there was more going on. GWAR was a very political and opinionated band that just happened to use shock and awe to get their messages across.

And you know what?

They knew what they were doing.

Sure, the messages the band was conveying would be controversial to say the least but if you want to get the disaffected and angry kids to listen you go to their level, ergo punk music and bands like GWAR, which brought theatricality to their performances and personas and truly WERE, for all intents and purposes, a band of outer space miscreants.

There’s a sort of defense mechanism the disaffected have where you hate everything and fight everything because many times you care about everything. It’s easier though to put up the front, the wall, so you are better defended. GWAR’s music was like that. To listen to the lyrics they hated everyone and everything.  Nothing was sacred. Literally. The thing is though that when someone does that it forces you to start looking at what YOU care about and gets you more invested in those things. They were truly a throwback to the classic Punch and Judy form of theater mixed with the grand guignol – the band perverted reality, mocked it to prove a point. One of those big points was we really need to get over ourselves. We need to stop treating everything and everyone as if they are untouchable. We need to hold leaders accountable. We need to question things.

And we need to have a darn sense of humor.

That was the thing, they were SO funny.

So funny. So ridiculous.

I discovered GWAR as a teenager when my friend bought their second release SCUMDOGS OF THE UNIVERSE. They were so weird, so over the top, so GORY that you couldn’t ignore them. The record was fantastic and I remember singing along with it in the car as I finally began to drive at 18 . It was a perfect summer record. They had taken this schlocky sci-fi horror and mixed it with Lovecraftian lore and did it all with a punk DIY attitude. So much was missed about what they were doing. Such as – THEY MADE THEIR COSTUMES and everything they did. These were artists and art punks who had taken their creativity and used it to make this larger than life rock band. A band that GOT BIG, even just for a second. They were so outrageous that the popular culture couldn’t resist them. They were at once a firebrand for the religious conservatives to rally against and a lightning rod for young people to rally around because they were everything that adults hated about rock music but turned up to eleven.

And the music was fun. It was loud, silly, offensive, but it was solid and they used it to create this mythology about the band and the world, a mythology that the fans ate up. Again, these were terrible, freaky, horrible people…who were terribly creative, talented, and were doing what they loved. OH, and they loved their devoted fans right back.  Be honest, how many famous people give a damn about their fans? How many rock musicians honestly care? These folks did. I recall running into Brockie after a show and he was the most laid back, down to earth guy you could meet. Heck, he was pretty funny as he hit on a friend of mine. And that was the thing, as brash as he and the band was they cared about the people that invested their time and money into them. They may hate the establishment but they loved the people that made up the machinery.

So many memories flood back about this band. I remember countless shows and standing far enough back as to not get gory but kind of regretting that I was built that way, built to stay in the background. I recall their doing a number of shows in Flint at the Capitol Theater and how beloved they were in this area. Even if you didn’t dig the music you LOVED the band because they put on an incredible show. And it was always about the show. It was always about the outrage. But you know what…love the modern pop stars as much you want but this was a band that made their stuff, wore huge outfits, played an aggressive show, and put ON a show all as they played live. To think that more and more performers can’t or won’t sing live is shameful when you see what some smaller performers did. And why? Because they loved their fans and they loved performing.

They were a phenomenon in the ‘90s. The music, the videos, and so many appearances on anything that would have them. And here’s the thing. Even if you hated everything about them you had to respect how they stood up to the establishment. How they kept doing what they did as they were denounced and derided and decried. They would appear on talk shows as themselves and talk about censorship as they also were utterly ridiculous and silly. They mocked the system that hated them as they took it on. They never once backed down and even ramped up their attack using their music, shows, and their home videos to show how ridiculous the people behind the censorship issues were.

Nothing was sacred.

And we needed to hear that.

I am still in shock over hearing about the passing of Brockie. In shock that such a firebrand is gone, his last Tweet as outrageous as any that came before them. I hope this isn’t the end of the legacy of GWAR. The band will probably disappear but I truly hope that their music, their act, their influence and legacy live on. They deserve it. They were such a weird, fun band that the industry never quite figured out and which the mainstream grew bored with but they never stopped doing what they had always done – entertaining the hell out of their fans. There is a sort of legend that is befitting people who work hard on projects and ideas even knowing that though their work won’t reach everyone, won’t affect everyone, do it just the same because it matters to SOMEONE.

GWAR is a part of me and my past, a part of time that was happier than I thought back then and part of that happiness came from this ridiculous band from outer space. I never knew Mr. Brockie personally but I admire his being true to himself and to his band and doing what he did for almost thirty years. That’s a heck of an accomplishment. That’s a heck of a legacy, and one which is blissfully covered in fake blood.

Thanks for so many good times and so many good memories.   

Rest In Peace

 

CEMETERY EARTH – a novel of the living dead

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There are a glut of zombie books out there. Zombies are the new vampires – everyone is doing them and everyone’s version is the best most original thing ever.

So why zombies?

I began this book in the early 2000s with the idea of writing a book about zombies. I have talked about what lead to this book before and don’t like boring people with repetition but it’s worth mentioning in passing. I began the book with a story that didn’t make the book and decided I wanted to explore the world of the dead but via short stories. In the course of this Hunter was born, my young hero. I didn’t get but a few stories in though and realized that by the time I would ever finish the book the world would be dead and sick of zombies and the last thing you want to be is the person putting work out about a subject people are sick of seeing. As soon as I found a way to get my books out I started thinking about my zombie book. My Cemetery Earth. I wasn’t sure I was ready to tackle it but I wanted to get back to it. When I decided it was time to finish up some projects I had begun and to wind down my publishing I realized it was time to finish the book.

This is a book about the end. An end that Man set in forth. An end that brings about a new age on the earth, the Dead Age. A world where two young people cling to one another and the hope that there is something left of the world they once new, the world of the living, and willing to kill to find that world once more.

https://www.createspace.com/4336448

Nights Of Black Hearts – a journey into the void

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After I had put a few books out I started to get a little mischievous. I loved putting books together with no notice, no fanfare, and no hints and to just release it and even if no one else cared it meant something to me because I loved the playfulness of it. the mystery. This is such a book. NOCHES DE CORAZONES NEGROS was meant to be my darkest book. A Valentine to the abyss which would showcase the darkest stories I had. Well, it is, and it isn’t. I found in putting it together that there were some stories I was still not willing to release to the world but there is much darkness here. Darkness because only by looking into the darkness can we start learn about what we are, who we are, and what we are capable of doing and becoming. These are stories cut from that darkness and put upon a human forge. Peer deeper if you dare.

https://www.createspace.com/3686595

My First Novel – A SHADOW OVER EVER

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Once upon a time I was a young guy making ‘zines with my friends. We didn’t know what we wanted to do with our lives we just knew we loved movies and weird stuff and hanging out together. It was during this time that I wrote a weird little short story called Night’s Dancer about an angry man bent on having his mad revenge on the town that had mocked and judged him for so many years. What had begun as a strange little story became an infection in me that refused to go away and inch by inch the world of Pete Anders, pumpkin headed madman, grew into something much bigger than I ever could have imagined. The book took me ten years to finally get out to the world and I couldn’t be happier. I put it all out there, let the story go where it needed to go, and let Pete Anders, notorious bastard, grow into something far different than what he began as.

A SHADOW OVER EVER is the book I am proudest of because it was the one I never thought would make it out. It took so long, and was so weird that I wasn’t sure it would make it. I am glad it did. It’s the story of the beginning of everything and the beginning of the end of all things. It’s a book that begins in a small town with small town people and ends in a great war with the first children of Eden, angels, devils, and things far greater and far more dangerous. It’s a dark book but one with a sly grin that lives within that pumpkined head of Pete.

If you have wanted to read something weird, epic, freaky, funny, and starring an angry old killbilly well friend, look no further.

https://www.createspace.com/3942067