Movies. Celebrities. Vendors. Costume Contests. Petrifying Pin Up Contest. Awesome!
Movies. Celebrities. Vendors. Costume Contests. Petrifying Pin Up Contest. Awesome!
The Age of Man is coming to an end.
After a long and steady decline into shadows the world has fallen into darkness and the last days of Mankind have come.
It is the Dead Age.
The Dead have returned to reclaim the world. Driven by an unseen master the dead rise from their graves to feast upon the living and to send the human race into extinction.
As the twilight begins though there rises a resistance and with it the dimmest glimmer of hope.
This is the Dead Age.
This is Cemetery Earth
I don’t think they eat us out of hunger, I think they eat us out of hatred. I have been watching them for weeks now, for weeks upon weeks, and I don’t think they eat us out of hunger. They are withering, these things, these monsters, withering like unfed flowers, no matter how much they eat. I think we sustain them, that eating us holds off the rot and decay but that they are dying just the same. I have watched them tear at us, rip at us, and consume us but there is no satisfaction in their faces, no ease in the pain that is death, no, there is only something I know well and that is the animal instinct to kill, to destroy, and to devour prey. But just as they are dying so are we. I have watched families slaughtered, watched children plucked up and torn apart, and have seen soldiers and officers collapse before the horde.
Those things may be dying but I don’t know that we can outlast them. I don’t know if we can stop fighting ourselves long enough to survive. I don’t even know if we want to survive any longer. We have become more monstrous than they in our actions, in our deeds, but I hope, I hope that somehow, somehow we can find a way to stop them and maybe, god it’s so stupid, maybe we can change.
I was in jail when everything happened. The police in a podunk town catching me pissing next to someone’s house at four in the morning. I was drunk. Blind drunk. I wouldn’t even know what I did if they hadn’t told me. Things in the town went bad before they could find out who I am, or what I have done. If they had they never would have let me out.
Not even in this new Hell.
But they let me go and here I am, locked in the basement of a church and waiting, waiting to see who wins, us or them. Them or us.
I sit here waiting, waiting and wondering and wondering how long it will be until I finally let my own monsters free once more.
The dead have risen.
There is no hope.
There is is only survival.
Available for Kindle and in Paperback.
There is a certain sort of madness that you need to suffer from (and give in to) to pursue art. You have to be willing to open yourself up, artistically and emotionally, to the world’s derision, judgment, and to the expertise of everyone who is a sudden expert on whatever it is you were trying to convey. There are definitely success stories in the arts but more often than not there are burned out remains and locked away books and pictures and songs that no one will ever see. And none of this is to say that the artist is some transcendent genius sent to lead the people to enlightenment.
Not at all.
Artists can be vain, selfish, delusional, and a half dozen other things that aren’t pretty to be but you do have to be a little mad to create something for the world (wide or small) and to hope that more people appreciate it than don’t. In that madness though, charming as it can be, is that pesky delusion, and that’s where we little artsy folk can get into trouble.
The notion of public art is awesome. Coming at it as layman, public art is a great thing. It brings beauty, a sense of place, and a sense of community to an area and gives people to admire and talk about. Now, you don’t often get controversial pieces as public art, as far as subject matter goes, and you really shouldn’t because by putting your art in the public you are taking on their trust that you won’t shove their nose into things that need a dialogue and not a lecture. No one likes to be told what to think or feel and by creating a public piece that is made for the purpose of controversy betrays the public trust and immediately closes off dialogue. Which isn’t to say that every piece of public art needs to be obvious and generic but that to make a piece for the public, to be displayed in a public place, is to be trusted that you won’t abuse your gift and the honor you’re being given. You have the opportunity to inspire thought, idea, discussion, and in some rare instances another artist. So don’t be a jerk!
As wonderful as public art is, there’s a notion that art can be more impactful and immediate if that public art is temporary. Now, again, I come at this as a layman and a very raw and questionably talented writer and artist, so I have no expertise on the socio-art ideas and such so hang in there with me for a moment. This sort of art can be very interesting. Look at some of the talented street art out there (a whole other dangerous topic for another person and another day), the art displays as simple as painted elephants and frogs and cars on street corners and as grand as a display in Central Park. In a weird way our holidays do the same thing – we decorate in lavish and exciting ways to celebrate an event over a generally short period of time. So temporary public art is a pretty fun thing and can definitely get people talking. There is something about that immediacy of knowing it isn’t there to stay that intensifies the experience and that can create a special experience. Heck, personally I think that if you could take a certain bunch of raw materials/’parts’ and artists and then make and re-make art from it so it’s an ever evolving piece that’d be fascinating as to the process of art and how art changes with the creator. But there is a definite beauty to temporary art. Simply looking at the Buddhist sand art you can see what amazing beauty can be created but too that all things are temporary in this life but that a feeling, an inspiration can live on.
Public art, done well, can be amazing. Alas, public art done poorly harms not only the artwork, the vision, and the artist but the community. Poorly planned and executed art and art that does not take the public trust into account serves nothing but to frustrate everyone involved. If you are going to undertake a public art project first and foremost you need, and I stress need, to take into account the public trust. You are putting art into a public place (even if it is on private property if it’s in a community and out in the open it’s still public art, ergo part of the public trust) then you have to take into account that people will see this all the time and have to live with it for the entirety of its stay. Depending on its placement this is something the public will have become a part of their lives, if even just temporarily, and that needs to be respected. So, the artist/s need to appreciate that when they create this art. You cannot push the public trust and take advantage of it and expect people to see the art through that frustration. Then you have to have an actionable plan to create, maintain, and then remove that art. You cannot place it and walk away unless it is made of such things that it can safely erode and not harm anything. You can’t just put the art up and leave though. The process isn’t that simple, nor is the public trust that forgiving. And here’s the rub, the more that’s spent on the art, reasonably, irrationally, or extravagantly, the more people will focus on the flaws of the art. Fair? Not always, but it’s reasonable because as soon as you put the word ‘public’ into the art it becomes something that a lot of people feel an entitlement towards and ownership of, and again, that doesn’t make it fair but it makes it so just the same.
I certainly don’t envy anyone who takes on a public art project because it’s an often thankless and hard task. To some you will appear (and with some groups fairly so) to be telling an area how they should see art, create art, and feel art so you need, need, NEED to take that into consideration. You cannot walk into an area which will have an established arts culture and scene and tell them they are wrong and that you can do what they do better. You need to go in with open arms and open mind and ask what the community needs, what the community wants, and see where you can all meet in your thinking. With funding comes responsibility and with public space comes trust and you cannot betray that trust. You can’t.
The arts have it bad enough. With funding cuts, and schools moving away from the arts, and as a culture we don’t appreciate the more classical forms of arts as we used to and so artists have a rough road to get positive notice and to create impactful pieces. It’s not enough to be controversial because controversy with no meaning, no reason, no dialogue is simply a sort of violence against the public and any who question it or don’t understand. But art doesn’t have to be safe, or gentle, or kind. It has to be passionate, and it has to be real in some way and if it’s public it has to stay true to the public and their trust or you’re just wasting time, money, and effort. And the arts have very little of all of those things.
I look at it this way – don’t create something you can’t stand behind, beside, upon and feel good about (even ‘ugly’ art about horrible things has beauty and truth if done well) and don’t create something you cannot take ownership of maintain, destroy, or let go of if that becomes necessary.
If you build a shiny castle, make sure the people are allowed inside or it’s just a tinfoil tenement with no purpose, use, or reason to exist.
It occurred to me a little bit ago that in the long time I have been writing I have put out or been in a LOT of publications. More than I consider a lot of the time. I made a list and it was pretty ridiculous. I thought I would share it, not out of some sense of bragging but as a chronicle of what I have worked on. I wrote movie reviews for a website and did movies, books, and music reviews for a local paper for a time but outside of those this is about as official of a chronicle as I can recall.
I will try to be chronological but we’ll see how that goes.
CineGore – fanzine from the very early ’90s I did with a friend that was all about our love of horror. Pretty silly and sorta charming.
Qua - Literary journal put out by the University of Michigan – Flint English Department. I have a story in it that ended up in Back from Nothing.
Punk As Fuck – Indie Flint ‘zine. I really wasn’t punk though but don’t tell anyone I said that.
Ghoulash- This was a ‘zine some friends and I did that was the spiritual successor and evolution of CineGore. A friend took an issue to comic writer Joe Monks and he picked us up for an issue that went national. We were sadly a little to weird and scattershot and were aimed towards comic stores and while we were told we broke even on the first issue we didn’t publish a second issue though there IS a second issue that still could see the light some day.
Back From Nothing – My first collection of short stories. Very raw, very dark, and a lot angsty. I love it but it is very early work. I went through a subsidy publisher for this first book after a couple years of rejections. Bless my parents’ hearts for footing most of the bill, though I like to think that my continued writing and publishing paid it back to some degree.
The Eyes of Bennie Bromstein - The spiritual successor to Ghoulash. Much funnier, and more directed and completely local but darn it was fun. There are still issues very infrequently.
Children of Nothing – Small story collection I made up for Motorcity Comic Con.
Born Broken – Another small sampler to sell at small shows and the MCC.
Hope In The Inferno - Another sampler in a smaller format.
The Meep Sheep – The original short story sold on its own at shows.
Cemetery Earth- The first stories of the original vision I had of what became the novel. Things really changed when I picked the book back up this year to get back to work on it.
In These Woods – I have a story cycle focused around a creepy ring of trees called The Sisters Six that stand in the center of a forest and grant wishes to those that will give an offering but you’ll really want to watch out for their children. They tend to be nasty. And hungry.
Voices – This is a publication put out by The Greater Flint Creative Alliance. I was a member of the group for a couple years and have a piece in one or two of these annual publications. I forget now.
Bare Bone 7 + 9 – In the early 2000s I got the most random of emails from a writer looking to get people to read his book. I read the email, which I thought at first was SPAM and contacted him. His name was/is Kevin Donihe and he and I struck up a friendship that lead me to NYC and the 2005 World Horror Con. I was published twice in Bare Bone, a horror anthology series edited by Kevin. I even received a couple Honorable Mentions in The Year’s Best Horror and Fantasy for the work.
CThulhu Sex - Some more great folks in NYC were the guys behind this swell erotic horror magazine. I submitted a weird little tale to them and got it published. My one connection to Lovecraft. There you go. Ta-Dah!
This Beautiful Darkness - The second breath in my little literary career. I was at a comic con and was next to a guy who had put his own book out via Lightning Source, a self publishing house. It was that weekend that I decided I needed to look into that and found Create Space and here I am, a self pub madman!
The Meep Sheep - The full story in all its glory.
Red Dreams - After the cuteness of flying sheep I needed a return to darkness, which this was in spades.
The Kreep Sheep - The second book in the Meep saga. A little darker and more disjointed as its about the many stories about the Lands of Man but it sets the stage for the final book.
Noches De Corazones Negros -Nights of Black Hearts. I set to do something very small in page count but very nasty so I got together a bunch of mean spirited stories and here they are. Though it’s not as dark as I first intended. Which may be for the best.
A Shadow Over Ever – My LONG in the works novel. The story of a lonely, angry man and his fight against the world that leads him in a battle to save it. I love this weird book and am pretty stoked we managed to get it to 666 pages in layout.
Disaster Anthology – A friend was putting together an anthology of stories where the proceeds would benefit disaster relief and I was game. We were given an historic disaster and asked to write a corresponding tale. I wrote about the Dust Bowl. I really love that story.
Cemetery Earth - The most recent book. My long in the works zombie epic about the ending of the world and the dawn of the Dead Age.
It is crazy to think I have been so blessed as to have been able to put out this much work let alone have this much work get put out there for people. Things have changed so much since the early days of fiction. I just hope that in some very small way I honor that long and storied legacy.
I recently did a pretty neat interview with the folks from the Creative Alliance here in Flint. The audio is a bit echoey due to some limitations in where they had to film but it turned out a lot better than I had thought. AND there’s a nice interview with a local performer as well.
So, if you wanted to hear me ramble about my writing and the newer books and such give it a look. I am the first interview, about ten minutes in.
Despite what bloggers may think blogs change very little. At best they make you think, or make you laugh, or show you something you didn’t know was out there. But it’s in those moments that the spark of an inferno lays.
Flint is a city notorious for its issues and it gets frustrating to see people focus on them and not the world being done by the people here to better the city. For someone like me, that lives here and has lived here for some time it gets upsetting to see that the work people do and want to do gets pushed aside by some glory hounds and wanna-bes that have the connections and gloss to get the press, the funding, and the attention that these others don’t. I am tired of seeing people granted money to do art shows for people who are not held out of traditional art shows and events. I am tired of seeing money funneled into groups that want to bring in and compensate outside artists before and above the local arts community we have here. I am tired of the same people doing the same shows over and over and over. For too long the arts establishment has stayed safe and not fostered the arts scene as they should and then you hear people decry the ‘brain drain’ when all of our young people leave the area. With little work being done to create jobs in the area and less being done to support the young and struggling artists it’s no wonder these people feel the need to leave.
I do art from time to time but I am no artist. I don’t focus on it enough and am terribly sketchy in my talent but that I was invited to do shows out of the city and was able to show my work in Detroit to any degree meant the world to me. Heck, selling art to strangers was amazing for my confidence and is the sort of reinforcement artists need. They don’t need people criticizing them for their style and for their lack of experience they need support and opportunity. It says something that there is a grant funded super arts group that focuses on press friendly art shows that tackle such great issues as POVERTY, HUNGER, um…STUFF with an emphasis on out of town artists when so many locals have felt the need to create their own collectives to encourage, support, and create together. My first foray into Flint’s arts scene was in such a group and that group has definitely influenced the arts in the city but they never were able to make real in-roads to changing the culture.
And the arts culture in Flint HAS to change.
Flint is a city struggling for a new identity and we have the things to create one – multiple colleges, lots of college students, a brilliantly conceived cultural center, a successful monthly Art Walk and young and established artists that are desperate to show their work. This is your identity. This is your key to retain young people and draw older folks into town for shows, for the city to capitalize on the assets that are here. There is a criminally under utilized waterfront performance space. There is an openness in the local businesses to work with artists. And by building off of the Art Walk there is an established and regular event that can used as a base to draw more people here for arts events. But there needs to be a change.
There needs to be more support for the smaller art shows, for the more unique events, and more work needs to be done to spread the funding around. Let organizations that have established themselves stand on their own and find their own funds and stop granting them the same money over and over because it’s safe and looks good. Stop rewarding mediocrity and hold grantees responsible for the money they take as well as the trust they lean so heavily on.
There is a divide in Flint that is growing by the day. A divide that is more than just money – though that is clearly a mammoth in the room – and it is between the people on the inside and those on the outside. Those on the inside keep getting the funding, the press, and the lights and those struggling to just survive and find their voices must beg, borrow, and all but steal show space and then have to decide if it’s worth remaining here if they have to fight so hard just to keep doing something that for them feels like the most natural thing in the world.
The arts cannot save a city but it can revitalize, reinvigorate, and renew a city’s people and can serve as part of a foundation that a future can be built upon. Look to Grand Rapids, Michigan if you doubt me. Art will not save Flint but it can give the city an opportunity to retain the very young people that it will rely on to repair the damage that has been done to the city over the past decades.
Living in Flint, Michigan isn’t easy.
Yeah, I know, run through your Open Mic Thursday stand-up routine for me about how crummy the city I love is and I’ll move on when you’re done.
The thing about this area is that yeah, there’s a lot of things that are going on here that are bad, not ‘not good’ but bad. I am not going to belabor that point because the local and national media has a pretty good grasp on things here, at least the crime and all the bad things going on. It’s a drag. The thing is though that in pointing out all the bad things here the good is overlooked. Hope and all that stuff doesn’t make for engaging news, I get it, and I am not going to act as if the story of someone murdered or robbed is less important than the story of a festival or a new business. The math doesn’t work out, nor should it.
Tragedy, bummer though it is, is universal. Joy isn’t. I wish that wasn’t the case but it is. We all feel pain, we all know tragedy. Not everyone knows joy. And in a city that has a lot of struggle to overcome it doesn’t really seem reasonable to expect everyone to jump for joy at the small successes and the little victories.
It’s so easy, so very easy to burn the world down.
All it takes is a match and something flammable.
It’s building things, things like hope that create a foundation for people and for the future, that are hard to do. Hard to make.
There is no glory or honor or true joy to be found in tearing things down yet we are a city that thrives on negativity. And again, some negativity is natural and reasonable but there’s a point where you start hurting yourself for attention and a point past that where you hurt yourself because it’s the only thing you know and that’s where we are. We just don’t know HOW to be hopeful anymore. So many have been waiting so long for the clouds to part that you begin to wonder if there was ever a sun at all. Ah, but the thing is that sometimes you have to make your own light. And you know what else fire is good for – creating light.
The same passion people put into their negativity can be put into doing things. And sure, an art show, a craft show, a concert, a bicycle tour, a car show, none of those things alone makes the city a better place but together they start to change perceptions. They start to change minds. Every little act, builds to bigger acts. Every small event opens the door for more events and bigger events. Events and ‘happenings’ lead to more people coming into Flint, spending money in the city and spending time here. The more good and fun things going on the better chance that all the young people that go to school here will spend time here doing more than just GOING TO SCHOOL. And the more people coming here, being here, spending time and money here the more attractive it is for businesses to come here to take advantage of all those people.
Sure it is, but it’s HOPEFUL reasoning and there is reason TO it.
I’d rather be hopeful about Flint than to spout nonsense like it should be bulldozed and burned and ignored. It is just so easy though to give up because then you can’t get hurt, you can’t get disappointed, and you look like a genius when things go or stay bad.
Only, you shouldn’t root for the fall of a city and its people.
You shouldn’t root for destruction.
It’s petty. And small. And mindless. And childish. And it’s so black hearted that it makes you wonder what it is that gives those people any joy at all, because if watching people flounder and watching a city die is your kick then you’ve got way more trouble than Flint.
We’re at a point in Flint where we can burn the city down or light it up and I choose to light it up. I choose to believe that the small things, the small events, the small businesses, and the little bits of kindness and civility we offer one another can make a different and can change the tide. There are a million reasons why things got bad in Flint – jobs left, poverty grew, education fell, people moved away, drugs and violence grew, and apathy and frustration skyrocketed. Those are just SOME of the reasons things got bad but you know how they can get better – Hope. And yeah, it takes more than wishing on a four leaf clover to change the fate of a struggling city but it’s like kicking an addiction – if you don’t take that first step, no matter how small, you can never learn to kick. You can never learn to run.
And who knows what will happen in the end? I know where I stand though and isn’t with a can of gasoline in one hand and a match in the other. No, I stand here blowing on the embers of the spark that makes Flint so special, hoping that eventually those of us who believe and work to make this a city to be proud of will be here to see the Phoenix rise from the smoldering ashes.
As I sit here and edit the first of two books I will have out this Spring I ponder that there are scads of people that are not really sure who I am or what I do.
Now is a perfect time to catch up before the zombie novel and the last of the Meep Sheep books hit the scene. And daggumit you can catch up or only a dollar an e-book. Or you can chip away with the physical copies, none of which are terribly taxing on that old pocketbook of yours.
Don’t you want to be in on what all them hep cats at the soad-shop have been talking about? Don’t you want in on the ground floor before I sell out and write my magic-vampire-teen version of 50 Shades of Stuff? Sure ya do. Everyone wants to be first, and if not first then best, and if not best then loudest.
Now’s your chance.
So get on it, chump, I mean, pal of mine.
Links to the RIGHT or you can hit up www.meepsheep.com.
KAPOW! Get some of that awesome right in the KISSER!
(proper blogs will re-appear once I get these darn books edited)
Just after midnight last night I finished work on the third Meep Sheep book. It took a little longer than the month I had planned on but I hadn’t anticipated the walls I would hit at the end. I can say that I wrote a novella now. One single story that is 83 single spaced pages. Something I never intended to do or thought I could do. As I had gotten to the end I realized I needed to make some big decisions on things that I hadn’t thought about when the fancy notion of a last book popped into my head.
Well, it’s done. And…it’s not what I thought it’d be. Not that this is a bad thing at all but when I first was sketching the book out in my mind it definitely was different. Even ended in a different place geographically in that world but the logic of the story forced me to change how I was putting it together and writing it.
And am I happy?
Yes. Though I am much too close to really have a feel for how well the book works. I need to give it a month and go back and edit it and look at it then. Then I will know. But I like a lot of moments in the book and am happy how it comes together.
And I am sad because this is the end of a journey. These three books were different than anything I wrote and even as the series got darker it was still a fantasy series with characters I am very fond of but I am glad it’s done. I wanted to get the projects off of my plate that had been started but never finished and I have done that. There’s editing to be done but in the end I got done what I need to do.
The book/s are done.
I have been talking about this book for a while now and it’s crazy to believe it’s over. But it is. As is a piece of who I was for the past several years. There’s still edits to do, still promotion to do, but really, the course of the ship began to change last night and where it leads, well, even I don’t know that.