Capitol Reef National Park

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Still Talking to Myself


This interview was conducted prior to Paracon at Pennhurst State School and Hospital, where I will be selling books on August 18th and 19th. 

In the 5 months since you released The Rules of the Game, where are you in your current writing on the follow up to it, Dead Mouths, and Eureka in Flames? Right now, I feel like I’m dividing my time into segments of reading, writing Intersections, blogging about Parkinson’s disease in 2 different places, and writing my Parkinson’s book Real Life Monsters. Fortunately for the writing, I’ve been stuck indoors all summer due to a combination of excessive heat and hyperhidrosis, which is a condition that comes with Parkinson’s. It's kind of like a free toaster. Take a day like today. I’m indoors in the high 70s, and I’m roasting like a pig. In the solid 80s and 90s, I’m a sweaty mess. The best thing to do on a day like today is something that involves air conditioning. Unfortunately, this means I can’t hike the way I did before, so that part of my writing topics has taken a backseat to stuff about current issues. Here’s to better weather and more travels in the autumn. That said, being active sure beats ballooning up to way too heavy a weight (he says as he contemplates getting out more to shrink down again).

Tell us about Real Life Monsters. Real Life Monsters is essentially the story of real life cognitive issues, hallucinations, lucid and weird, occasionally violent dreams, tremors, dystonia, medical side effects, bradykinesia, hyperhidrosis, loss of hearing, loss of smell, reactive depression, aspiration pneumonia, Lyme disease, swallow studies, weight gain, and a lot of other side effects from Parkinson’s, which I detail HERE. It’s about a lot of peripheral life changes, too, but most importantly, it’s a survival story about getting beyond Parkinson’s disease and the day-to-day and what’s to come life of it. It’s about friends, family, and a wife that loves me through and in spite of a lot of neurological poop. It’s about doctors and organizations that make a difference in my life. It’s about rewiring myself differently in a post-teaching world to still be who I am. Most importantly, it’s about sharing my influences and the thoughts of others to help you survive your Avalanche Day, too.

For those who are worried, how does Parkinson’s affect your writing? It slows down my typing from 80-60 words a minute on good days. Some days, my fingers feel more plodding, but when I’m on fire and my hands are loose, I’m flying. Sometimes, I go word fishing, but mostly, I’m good to go when I edit and MaryAnn, who is awesome, helps edit for me. Most likely, my walking will be affected before the rest of the writing game, so yeah… Blackrock keeps moving forward.

With bouncing back and forth, are you happy with the paranormal writing? As for the Intersections stuff, I’m happy with where it’s at in that Navy SEALs meets the X-Files kind of way. The story begins with Bart Doherty and a host of new characters. Most notably, he is back with his former trainer Jude, a nun named Esmeralda, and a trio of kick ass gals: Alexis, Chloe, and Nhung. The first 2 of these are named after my cousin’s daughter and my niece. Colin’s brother and my other nephew, Dylan, will also have a character as will by nana’s side of the family (Feinauer). Additionally, the Demon Hunters of Dodge County are back, as are many of the other characters from before, most notably Charles “Chuck” Jones. Following through on the Our Lady of Guadalupe issues is the tale of Benson Villaneuva.

Is there any kind of a deadline that you’ve imposed on yourself for finishing this? I think a lot of that depends on where things go with Bart’s story. Liam and the “Dylan” character are essentially a known quantity / ending that just has to be typed. Bart’s story is the long one in all of this. The question becomes is this book a shorter pre-Intersections book where S1 moves into place at Blackrock or is this a huge mega tome that answers everything from what becomes of all of the clairvoyant dreams, all of the backstories (most notably Mormon Creek), and resolves how every character intersected. To me, that’s about 800 pages… at least. I’m at 250. If I go the long direction, I’m hoping to be done by middle next year. If at all possible, another book by Christmas would be nice, but the first finished book has to be my Parkinson’s autobiography / philosophical work.

You’ve been diversifying your characters more in this new book, as well. I have. With the S1 mission in The Rules of the Game, it felt a lot like Boy’s Club; however, Allison and Maggie were really great characters in Eureka in Flames. Suzie Heilman is a fan favorite in Dead Mouths, and she comes back with a boom in The Rules of the Game. For Intersections, it was important to get Jude’s team going, if only to have Bart smack talk with Baphomet (really) and then have a crew to get him off the hook. It’s important to establish more of the story with Charlotte Robinson and Amanda Jones. It’s also important to create a starting point for Ouray. Vincent Littleman and Jackie Lucas need their stories told, and so do some new characters who are also associated with Jude’s crew. The point is to make the world of Blackrock more representative of the real world. Unfortunately, in the real world, some of the problems these people face are difficult to write about in a politically-correct sense.

How is that? On one hand, it’s never easy to write the vicious murders, so I’d rather just imply what happened. To be honest, I don't like that gory stuff at all. That was really tough to do in Dead Mouths. I remember taking a month off from writing after a minor character died. With main characters in harm’s way, it’s going to be tough to kill them off, as well. In Dead Mouths, it was hard to say goodbye to some people who were supposed to be quick exits or passing mentions. That became Chuck Jones and Suzie Heilman, though she was never supposed to die. Now, Sean “Big Dig” Carruthers and Benson Villaneuva are major players. Eventually, Patricia Kingman’s “All the Angels in Heaven” and Earl Johnson’s “Lost in the Storm” will see them become characters, if only for a short time. The same is true for an as yet to be named “follower” of artist Hieronymus Bosch. 

So all of your passing mentions are… Fully realized, but unrealized characters, yes. Most of them anyway. Billy Padres and Kevin McGinn are back. For those who don’t remember, they were hiking friends of Suzie. Billy Boot is now a major character. Visions of Clouds, the Native American Shaman who killed the 3 babies ages ago, is back to explain his side of the story.

On why he was so horrible? The one thing here that’s important to remember with almost all of the characters is that they’re a mix bag of beautifully imperfect mistakes. Someone can be largely good, but do something horrible. For instance, Tony Lucas’s slip of feeding into the young African-American kid’s inciting him is going to come back to haunt him and put him through Hell. To fully develop and do what he needs to do, Lucas HAS TO go there. Little things that get explained away easily, Lucas’s feelings on God and people who defend Tony, aren’t going to solve the greater Tony. For this, he has to do penance and suffer while finding who he is.

With Lucas, he seems to be a favorite, as is Bart, and at times, they are uncouth, but generally, most of them is likable. Yes, this is true on both accounts, but in a world of beautifully imperfect, some otherwise great people harbor racism. Some people poke at that like it makes the whole person suck. To me, it's just not that easy. As Kurt Vonnegut felt, it's hard to write a complete hero or villain. It's hard to live angelic. Too many people talking crap, doxxing others, and excluding people think their poop doesn't stink. Methinks they should smell it some time. They might be surprised. As for expressing racist characters, it's hard to write around words I don't want to use. Something like "cracker," to me, is funny, but a lot of other words for other groups come with a sting or a slam. That said, with so many hateful, prejudiced, and misogynistic characters in the Blackrock world of diversity, it is a challenge. Adding current events in characters like Pyotor Osokin to the mix let the Russia thing work into the story. That said, the President won't be in this.

On another note, did you know that these stories would be the way they played out before you wrote them? Most times, no. I had created an end game, but I let the natural course of characters’ lives and my imagination change this as it needed to be. As I’ve said before, the original outline was broken into a million shards before Dead Mouths ever became more than a few passing chapters. Yes, there’s a lot of foreshadowing in the books now, and this leaves some things as is, but other things change to fit understandings. Visions of Clouds is a perfect example of this revelation working out in just the right way. This way affects 2 other characters in a huge way, as well.

This time around you are featuring a character with Parkinson’s. Tell us about that. Right now, Frankie Jenkins, who is a guy with young-onset Parkinson’s disease, is associated with Noël Legendre, who is a haunted tour guide in New Orleans. A collective of Creoles is attacked by some baddies. I won’t elaborate on that, but I will say it gives me a chance to bring some heavy, unconventional anti-paranormal fighters into the mix. Frankie will fit into that well in the way that he has a disability, but he isn't treated with kids' gloves.

You were really influenced by New Orleans. Granted, you were there before, but never took to it like this. I was, and I loved it. I loved the cemeteries and Bourbon Street, but I never really saw the city properly until December. This time I did. There are a few posts I recommend on the city. The first is my story of the highlights and the post vacation sickness (aspiration pneumonia). The second was the description in Rules of the Game, which is excerpted HERE. The final post is located HERE. I would love to go back for a few more days to see a few more things, but my wife said that we just went there. But did we see enough of Metairie Cemetery? The other half of Lafayette Cemetery? Did we sees enough gators? Did we drink Hand Grenades? See the Hurricane Katrina stuff? The War of 1812 stuff? The Voodoo Museum? Did we see a show in Preservation Hall or anywhere else? Play bongos in Congo Square? Go to a club named after Louis Armstrong, where he wasn’t allowed in? See a Mardis Gras parade? See the European side of the World War 2 Museum? Get thrown out of Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo for daring to take a picture of the huge statue of Baphomet (I kid, I kid, but seriously, that statue took a lot of time for someone to extol the virtues of a hermaphroditic expression of the sabbatic goat - if anything deserves mockery, it's Baphomet)? Do a tour in Ursuline Convent to check out the vampire myths? Spend enough time at the site where the Carter Brothers performed their vampiric dastardly deeds? Do a competing haunted tour of NOLA? Go to more historic plantations? Go back to Houmas House? Go to a New Orleans Saints game? Ride in a horse-drawn carriage? Since the answer is “no,” then my wife must accept that we need to go back there. Besides, after revisiting San Francisco this year, I no longer feel that city competes for coolest in America. Granted, I still need to see Seattle, Savannah, and Portland, but only D.C.’s monuments / historic side fits the bill right now. That said, like Baltimore, it’s more for tourism and entertainment. I realize both cities have problems with crime.

Where else would you like to go? The Faroes / Scottish Islands + Iceland, back to the Colorado Plateau for the World Petroglyph Tour, Oregon / Washington's border, and Italy / Vatican City. Oh, and who could forget Bora Bora.

Back to your story... the dreams that your characters feel are very important, too. Yes, this is something that comes out of my lucid dreams, which Parkinson’s makes possible. I just turn them up to 11 with the fictional details of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is actually modeled on a mix of clairvoyance, astral projection, and what I go through with my Parkinson’s, which is called REM sleep behavior disorder. Not to forget fluctuating dopamine levels, which also make dreaming like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or a full-fledged boxing match.

Any parting thoughts? People should live their lives fully, like Emile Zola said. Samuel Beckett, James Stockdale, Victor Frankl, and many others have powerful ideas, too. If we live life like we have nothing to lose, we show no fear and we skip to confidence. Things like this do wonders to put those stories, which we wonder if they're good enough, into the world. On that note, absorb stories of those in your genre if you want to write. For me, I would add Dead Files to my previous list of inspirations and talk about how much I want to see The Nun. As with A Haunting, there is so much out there to enjoy. Experience it!














Wednesday, March 7, 2018

THE RULES OF THE GAME - JUST RELEASED!


Author's page at AMAZON.

ADVICE for parents looking to buy the book for kids.

New book page to buy the book at AMAZON.

Kindle will be up soon.

Roaming his way through the cities, deserts, and archaeology sites of the Middle East, Nafis Salib worked hard to become a playboy smuggler in the relics business. Through his ruthless and conniving ways, he accumulated more money than he knew what to do with. However, when a mysterious archaeologist offers him the mission of a lifetime for even more money, he jumps straight into it by boarding a cargo vessel with a boatload of terrorists and thieves with concealed and secretive purposes to transfer items from an ancient pagan cult to wealthy buyers. Nevertheless, as the voyage sets sail, the cursed treasures of the past won’t prove to be nearly as dangerous as the men who are waiting for this mission’s completion.
Only one group has the power to stop them. The American Special Forces unit S1, which fights the worst villains in the world and the cryptids, ghosts, and aliens that accompany them, is ready at a moment’s notice to settle the score on all things beyond top secret.
Many great men and women make up this group, but for this mission, Colin Jameson is the wild card in GSGT Anthony Williams’ six-man crew that Colonel Bart Doherty sent to eliminate the cargo boat bound for New Orleans.
Growing up in suburban America, Jameson was an unassuming ten-year old kid until three things changed his life. The first of these was the game of football, which gave purpose and direction to his life. The second was his uncle Bart Doherty, who helped him begin his journey into the military by helping him with outdoor skills, work ethic, and leadership. The final influence was his friendship with Billy Jacobs, who has just been captured by terrorists prior to the mission to save the relics. Now, Billy is on the boat as well, a prisoner waiting to be rescued by Colin and his team.
Also involved in this mission is Liam Collingsworth. In England, he was spending his days monitoring drug enforcement operations from his desk when he received an out of the blue opportunity to travel to America, where he worked a field operation with Doherty and his fellow troops to confiscate a drug shipment and to arrest the perpetrators. After the mission, his whole life changes, and now, he, too, has been drawn into the gunfire in the Gulf of Mexico.
Along the way, all of these men’s lives are dramatically affected by the presence of the wendigo, a bloodthirsty creature from the northern-most woods of America. Its past appearances give way to present sensations and warnings of its future reappearance in their lives.
Will the S1 crew be able to save the day from these terrorists and their larger plans of devastation? Somewhere in a world of treachery and evil, there is hope. However, there is also a darkness emerging in the world and the dreams of many other men and women who are being called by a more mysterious fate and / or a drug called Our Lady of Guadalupe to go to a place outside of Blanding, Utah, called Blackrock Canyon. Soon, this mysterious ghost world will come to life unless some force for good can halt the engines of a journey into evil.
Read the book now to witness the events of the third book in the Blackrock Canyon series!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Rules of the Game Description



Roaming his way through the cities, deserts, and archaeology sites of the Middle East, Nafis Salib worked hard to become a playboy smuggler in the relics business. Through his ruthless and conniving ways, he accumulated more money than he knew what to do with. However, when a mysterious archaeologist offers him the mission of a lifetime for even more money, he jumps straight into it by boarding a cargo vessel with a boatload of terrorists and thieves with concealed and secretive purposes to transfer items from an ancient pagan cult to wealthy buyers. Nevertheless, as the voyage sets sail, the cursed treasures of the past won’t prove to be nearly as dangerous as the men who are waiting for this mission’s completion.
Only one group has the power to stop them. The American Special Forces unit S1, which fights the worst villains in the world and the cryptids, ghosts, and aliens that accompany them, is ready at a moment’s notice to settle the score on all things beyond top secret.
Many great men and women make up this group, but for this mission, Colin Jameson is the wild card in GSGT Anthony Williams’ six-man crew that Colonel Bart Doherty sent to eliminate the cargo boat bound for New Orleans.
Growing up in suburban America, Jameson was an unassuming ten-year old kid until three things changed his life. The first of these was the game of football, which gave purpose and direction to his life. The second was his uncle Bart Doherty, who helped him begin his journey into the military by helping him with outdoor skills, work ethic, and leadership. The final influence was his friendship with Billy Jacobs, who has just been captured by terrorists prior to the mission to save the relics. Now, Billy is on the boat as well, a prisoner waiting to be rescued by Colin and his team.
Also involved in this mission is Liam Collingsworth. In England, he was spending his days monitoring drug enforcement operations from his desk when he received an out of the blue opportunity to travel to America, where he worked a field operation with Doherty and his fellow troops to confiscate a drug shipment and to arrest the perpetrators. After the mission, his whole life changes, and now, he, too, has been drawn into the gunfire in the Gulf of Mexico.
Along the way, all of these men’s lives are dramatically affected by the presence of the wendigo, a bloodthirsty creature from the northern-most woods of America. Its past appearances give way to present sensations and warnings of its future reappearance in their lives.
Will the S1 crew be able to save the day from these terrorists and their larger plans of devastation? Somewhere in a world of treachery and evil, there is hope. However, there is also a darkness emerging in the world and the dreams of many other men and women who are being called by a more mysterious fate and / or a drug called Our Lady of Guadalupe to go to a place outside of Blanding, Utah, called Blackrock Canyon. Soon, this mysterious ghost world will come to life unless some force for good can halt the engines of a journey into evil.
Read the book now to witness the events of the third book in the Blackrock Canyon series!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

New Orleans Description Passage from The Rules of the Game



Post-Katrina New Orleans had a mixed feeling of the flooded disaster of 2005 and the history of a world that existed unto itself from the way that much of America lived. The mix of French heritage, debauchery, pre-Civil War Southern influence, modern urban life, and voodoo all came together in an eerie, but unique way that made the city a distinctive expression unto itself. This combination either made the town one of the premier American travel destinations or a Sodom and Gomorrah to avoid.


In addition to the high-class shopping areas and jazz clubs, there was the impoverished devastation of the Ninth Ward as it waited behind levees to be flooded again. Down the streets from this, mansions stood proud and tall in the Garden District. Just outside the city, plantations drew crowds to marvel at a historical way of life that the guides now told with a small apology at the end for slavery. Of course, there was an opportunity for mint juleps along the way. However, no matter where the crowds went, there was a feeling of being haunted by the restless spirits of a past that still flourished amidst the street performers and paddle boats.


From the mix of Spanish and French architecture to the above ground cemeteries, the town was alive with a flavor all its own. What’s more than the average tourism appeal that they city offered, this “flavor” had very little to do with absinthe, gumbo, Hand Grenades, jambalaya, or blackened catfish. Perhaps, it had something to do with the counter-cultural call of the voodoo business of Marie Laveau. Then again, maybe it was the witching and vampire world built up by Anne Rice, memories of the Carter Brothers murders, or the mysterious coffin-shaped boxes in the Old Ursuline Convent. If that was case for these hordes descending on the city, then it was only a superficial and pretend understanding of what the truth in those stories truly represented.


Maybe New Orleans was more than that as the jazz of Congo Square and Louis Armstrong, which the white world segregated itself from, despite their habit of naming bars and music halls after it, still floated into the humid air of this swampland. Then again, there were the bored housewives and other privileged classes who snuck into the clubs to hear the lustful musical notes of the sexual world of jazz and the sweet release of the blues as told through gravelly voices and out of tune acoustic guitars. The big brass band blew hard into trumpets and trombones to express the primal feeling of joy from deep inside their souls. Everyone knew how these everyday people would get curious about the darkened nature of these mysterious Caribbean types or the jazz world and its personalities. While the women would buy medical dolls labeled voodoo dolls, the men would attend quadroon balls to enter into placage contracts. Naïve and prejudice-reared people and their fortunes are quickly parted, especially when they’re told what they want to hear.


To add humor and warning to these historical tales and present news articles, the men and women who ran the city and ghost tours would speak of how the Crescent City was founded by pirates, pickpockets, and prostitutes, as well as how the city’s open container laws only recently changed. When the history was explained, it made perfect sense, and the groups continued wandering along Conti Street, Bourbon Street, and Burgundy Street to find their way to Canal Street and the walled off tombs in the heart of the French Quarter.


Everyone who braved the spirits and hurricanes to come here knew how special the city was. Sure, Mardis Gras and the Saints brought the tourists in so that they could find their way to Preservation Hall and the bars of the city that served mixed drinks in plastic goldfish bowls. This combination brought the horny men who threw beads to the balconies in hopes of receiving a glimpse of boobs. And as they did, tourist couples and families would find their way into shops for cheap T-shirts and souvenirs of women fornicating with alligators.


Nevertheless, the real feeling came from somewhere else, as along the way, young African American children would beat on gigantic plastic paint cans that were almost as big as they were with a feverish determination to achieve musical ecstasy. Slapping their makeshift sticks in the same way that their musical elders would play their own beats on “real” instruments, the crowds stood in awe to watch them, too. Still, at every other corner, bigger bands with brass accompaniment wailed out the harmonies of the town to speak of the truth of NOLA in front of the shadow of Jesus on St. Louis Cathedral, as painters offered up their art for pennies on the dollar.


Tightly confined streets featured colorful buildings and decorative palm trees that punctuated the passageways. Along the uneven pavements, giant bubbles would float through the drunken crowds, who were no longer consciously able to avoid the septic puddles in the potholes of the streets. Standing in the shadow between cars or mixed with crowds, local business people and waiters warned of thieves, who lurked at every turn. Additionally, beggars seemed magnetically drawn to everyone who appeared to have a fat wallet.


The mixed bag of New Orleans was alive and well throughout the restaurants, drag shows, bars, curio shops, art studios, and strip clubs that made up a world that tourists demanded from this mecca to the hedonistic world of the lewd and lascivious.


In the midst of it all, traffic jams and jaywalkers hustled from side to side as construction crews hurried to repair the city for the next endless Fat Tuesday celebration and six weeks of parades that led up to it. Through the honking of horns and drifting street music sounds, endless lines of people stood waiting for beignets. Still other tourists hustled by the shops, too busy to notice the hanging flower baskets and the police Smart Cars, statues to leaders of the past, horse drawn carts, and the smell of garbage slowly decaying. Instead, it was all bars and lingerie mannequins in the windows as the bars beckoned them for huge ass beers or enormous mixers.

Sometimes, it was the call of the voodoo and witchcraft shops, but for the curiosity that they offered, the evil-eye owners and enormous bouncer-esque guards that stood watch inside made sure that nobody did anything stupid like belittling the merchandise. Heaven and Hell forbid that someone try to take a picture or video inside! Satan and Baphomet would rise up from their netherworld kingdoms to destroy the offending iPhone on the spot!


For that reason, it was no surprise that here was where the intersection of all of those antagonists who S1 fought on The Whale were getting ready to convene to establish the next phase of their mission.



Monday, November 20, 2017

PARENTAL WARNING FOR PEOPLE LOOKING TO BUY MY BOOKS FOR KIDS!


Perhaps, you are wondering if this book or my others are for your child. I don’t know. My books aren’t porn (though Dead Mouths does reference sexual situations), they don’t promote drug use (though they feature drug use as a bad thing, which happens prominently throughout), they are violent (though not gory – much just happens and isn’t described in detail), they do include profanity (only Dead Mouths uses the F bomb; otherwise, I seek to avoid the big bad ones), they feature characters from all backgrounds (good, bad, indifferent, helpful, hurtful, ethical, and hateful), they are concerned with eradicating evil (Satanic demons and the like) while using Special Forces, paranormal, and supernatural means, there are references to societal taboos through historical and anthropological accounts (cannibalism, though it was something that happened – not something described - and it is based artistically on actual scientific accounts) and these books reference cryptids, ghosts, aliens, and demons like they’re dogs, squirrels, cardinals, and flies.


For those people reading this, note that I don’t like the gore porn (the really extreme bloody stuff that all but encourages people to root for the evil knife-wielding killer). Nevertheless, as with Dead Mouths, there is one very vicious murder in The Rules of the Game. It’s not how it’s described, since it’s more about the fact that it happens than describing intricate details of what happens (I don't do that). I won’t spoil the suspense for those people who aren't put off, but this kind of thing takes place in real life, too, though it doesn’t make the news very much. The link to a Reuters article that mentions a UN Committee on the Rights of the Child report is at the end.

Also, in my works, I create fictional conspiracies alongside real events (i.e. Fallujah 2004 and Benghazi), which some might take offense to. I do these not to traffic in conspiracy (many conspiracies traffic in extreme paranoia and hate, which really bothers me), but to give a historical place for FICTIONAL events to transpire (much as I do with the already existing conspiracy of things like Truman, Eisenhower, and Majestic 12. 

I do this solely as fiction and artistic expression. 

If truth be told, I do like the alien theories as science fiction, but I would really like it more if they direct people to the real events to create unbiased historical accounts.

However, I would say the biggest issue for a younger child (under 14) is the reading commitment. My books are thick and feature tons of characters. If your kid watches Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead or reads a book like It (or most any King horror), there’s no issue here with me going further to harm their sensibilities. For all of the paranormal worlds, I wouldn’t describe this as science fiction or horror. For many young guys, there is plenty of action, which would entice many teens to read this, but there are also lengthy backstories that require commitment. 

Additionally, there are also many links to historical realities in my books. I see that as a good thing, but I do see the sheer weight of the series as something for a serious reader who can comprehend connections that don’t always come back until many chapters later (King does that, too, in his best work The Stand, by the way). Having never read Harry Potter, I can't say what J.K. does or doesn't do, but I would like to hope that people of all ages would be enticed to read through it excitedly. That said, isn't that every author's dream?

So is this book for your kid? Read the sample chapters at this site and see. I’d rather you take in the real before feeling I just made a quick $1-2 on you after you bought and got stuck with something that isn't you or them (by the way, that’s what I’m making per book with the lower prices I choose to charge).


Thanks all the same for considering this purchase!

Intro to The Rules of the Game


INTRODUCTION
This book has been in the works for about a year and a half.
Originally, I saw it being 300 pages. It’s twice that now. Congratulations, you got so much more than I ever expected (for roughly the same price – though print costs more due to paper). What’s more, you received a much better story (my best?). Not to break my arm when I try to pat myself on the back, but I do feel more in the flow with this than my other works, and yes, I do love them, too. This means something for me, and I hope it does for you.
Thank you for buying this!
For many reasons, this book feels more special for the flow and the growth of characters that I am exhibiting. This is a mix of experiencing positive psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and having read Luigi Pirandello’s play Six Characters in Search of an Author. This is not to forget my love of the first season of the TV show Heroes, The Walking Dead, pretty much everything on Destination America, Ancient Aliens, the first Die Hard, many of M. Night Shyamalan’s films, Joseph Campbell’s Hero with 1,000 Faces, Marvel origin films, and even some This is Us mixed with James Wan’s Insidious, Annabelle, and Conjuring side – not Saw.

I’m a big fan of character growth. Static characters mean nothing. I’m also a big fan of the “beautifully imperfect” nature of all people (we’re still lovable and human despite our failures). People can only find pure good and evil in the godly and the demonic. Humans are problematic at many points in time. They have back-stories. They make decisions for a reason, and we need to know it, even if the reason doesn’t come up right away. I like this characterization and connection. I would say this is why I’m moving from this book to Intersections (the next mega collection of Blackrock, which will outsize this one and the last one).

Perhaps another reason I really like this book is that it started out as a tribute to my sister’s son CJ, who is the inspiration for Colin Jameson. From the first idea of what I originally called “The Wendigo Story (what is now chapter 1)” to an image of a Punisher type character, who was locked and loaded with bullets melted down from the Nails of Christ, CJ figured prominently in the book as someone who I wanted to give the opportunity to destroy evil.
As time went on, I added other personas to the book because I wanted to pay tribute to other young people that needed to be heroes. These include my friends Will and Heidi’s sons (Liam and Zac) and a teenager I tutor (Tyler). Additionally, I included my dad’s cousin Bart (he was a rancher in real life (RIP) – who is mixed with the look of my one school’s president Dr. Griscom), my niece Amanda, my nephew Quinton, remembrances of several former friends who were lost to different directions and bad decisions along the way, my mother’s maiden name (Gittleman), my brother in law (Bruce), my English teacher (Borkert), my neurologist (Vargas), a former student (Nguyen) and my Air Force training instructors in the military (Honig and Rouse – they seem like the right people for the job of training). Once again, these were all people who needed to be heroes. I like how they worked out here.
In creating personas, I believe that everyone deserves a chance to be a hero. Many of these younger people are not only good people, but they are great young people who were never received a spotlight to stand out, so I figured, “Why not make them a sort of superhero who could stand out?” Thus, they all appear positively to make them members of S1, the world’s foremost paranormal organization dedicated to fighting paranormal, supernatural, and evil beings in a Navy SEALs meet the X-Files way.
And yes, there is a persona of me in Dead Mouths. Many people saw how that character resembles me (as Charlotte was originally modeled after my wife Heather), and yes, it’s true, I started out writing fiction this way. It happens. While I’m stuck with that in some ways, I’ve deviated from that connection significantly, and I will continue to do so in Intersections, as I’ve moved beyond that to the cosmic world that creates characters for me.
In the original version of the story (outline only), long since annihilated well before book 1’s release, Dave was the main character. However, in this book you are about to read, it’s clear that the main good characters are Tony Lucas (the id), Suzie Heilman (the ego), Ouray (the superego), Bart Doherty (the leader lost down the rabbit hole), Marcus Powell (the leader on the side of the rational), Colin Jameson (the knight in training), Ivan Parker (the strength of experience), Charles “Chuck” Jones (the warrior lost down the rabbit hole), Sean “Big Dig” Carruthers (the mysterious adventurer), Abraham Owens + Vincent Littleman (the heroes from another world coming to save the day), and Benson Villaneuva (clairvoyance).
In a future book, I will be able to express the evil more clearly, though it’s obvious that Eli Jordan + his father, Abdul Halim, Paolo Crespo, Theodore Swanson, the Fressineaus, Parvez Kharimi, Jason Harper, and Pyotor Osokin will fall majorly into this with all of the demons who are coming to congregate at Blackrock.
That said, it’s best not to get too far ahead in these things.

As for the mad props… 


First and foremost is the love and support of family and friends. Whether they be the family I’ve found along the way (my wonderful wife, Heather) or my parents + sister and the rest of my extended family (especially my Gram, who let me build forts in her apartment as well as to play with my Star Wars figures at her place every weekend of my youth – rest in peace), I’ve always been able to be lost in other worlds of daydreams and fantasy.
Quite simply, from an early age, I was encouraged and allowed to be imaginative. This led me to Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, V, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Independence Day, Altered States, Contact, The Mummy (the Brendan Fraser one), The Walking Dead, Stranger Things, Creature Double Feature, Ancient Aliens, The Conjuring, A Haunting, Signs, Monsters and Mysteries in America, Jaws, and a lot of other science fiction / aliens / ghost stuff  (Frank Edwards’ Stranger than Science and the Warrens’ experience) as well as great action movies like Die Hard and the Asian cinema of John Woo and Chow Yun Fat. This is not to forget the myriad of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Norris action movies in my formative years (not to mention one too many viewings of the original Red Dawn).
In addition, music is a big part of who I am as a writer and person. From my earliest days with Billy Joel to Iron Maiden to Neutral Milk Hotel to the Polyphonic Spree to the Misfits to Phish to Jack Johnson to Okkervil River to Jay Z to the Hold Steady to the National to Slayer, songs have always inspired me to sing along and to move on through. My mp3 player ranges from cheesy pop songs by Echosmith to eerie metal music by King Diamond to experimental stuff by Sonic Youth. There’s a time and place for everything, and frankly, I wouldn’t want to live in a world without music of every genre. Simply stated, I could have never written this book with bad music or silence. For this, I do name check songs, bands, and literary things to get other people interested in them as well. Support your favorite artists as I support mine.


First and foremost is the love and support of family and friends. Whether they be the family I’ve found along the way (my wonderful wife, Heather) or my parents + sister and the rest of my extended family (especially my Gram, who let me build forts in her apartment as well as to play with my Star Wars figures at her place every weekend of my youth – rest in peace), I’ve always been able to be lost in other worlds of daydreams and fantasy.
Quite simply, from an early age, I was encouraged and allowed to be imaginative. This led me to Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, V, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Independence Day, Altered States, Contact, The Mummy (the Brendan Fraser one), The Walking Dead, Stranger Things, Creature Double Feature, Ancient Aliens, The Conjuring, A Haunting, Signs, Monsters and Mysteries in America, Jaws, and a lot of other science fiction / aliens / ghost stuff  (Frank Edwards’ Stranger than Science and the Warrens’ experience) as well as great action movies like Die Hard and the Asian cinema of John Woo and Chow Yun Fat. This is not to forget the myriad of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Norris action movies in my formative years (not to mention one too many viewings of the original Red Dawn).

In addition, music is a big part of who I am as a writer and person. From my earliest days with Billy Joel to Iron Maiden to Neutral Milk Hotel to the Polyphonic Spree to the Misfits to Phish to Cat Stevens to Jason Isbell to Modern Baseball to Allo Darlin’ to the Front Bottoms to Okkervil River to Jay Z to the Hold Steady to the National to Slayer, songs have always inspired me to sing along and to move on through. My mp3 player ranges from pop songs by Echosmith to spacey stuff by the Orb to eerie metal music by King Diamond to happy stuff by Bob Marley to experimental stuff by Sonic Youth. There’s a time and place for everything, and frankly, I wouldn’t want to live in a world without music of every genre. Simply stated, I could have never written this book with bad music or silence. For this, I do name check songs, bands, and literary things to get other people interested in them as well. Support your favorite artists as I support mine.


Along the way, I have also had many great teachers who allowed me to grow as a writer, teacher, and person with their style and willingness to take on my honors contracts and engage in personal discussions (Ron Borkert, Bill Harst, Dave Leight, Susan Hartman, and Eric Wolf come to mind). With them, I was able to do many great projects and learn so much more than I would have if I didn’t participate in class actively. Because of them and my parents, I learned the value of education. While I didn’t always understand or appreciate education or the “do this / do that” approach to things, I eventually did embrace it, and I was able to teach myself by learning to observe what others did and by absorbing information and educational experience because of it. In addition, many colleagues and peers in the educational world supported my dream, which was to educate other people about the value of writing (of these Karen, Joann, and Helen stand out). I can’t begin to state what that means to me. Teaching and learning are great things. Embrace knowledge in all that you do.
In an ideal world, I would list many names, and they would be definitive with regard to who has helped me along the way. However, I know that I’ll forget people, so rather than try to be all-inclusive here, I’ll thank all of my friends from those who were there with me during the awkward and lonely high school years. In addition, there were the friends during the wild ride of the Loft days, my time in the Air Force, the England experience, the post-England college time,  and the last seventeen years of my life. All of these people have been involved in me being an educator, and my experiences hiking, traveling, and living life while listening to great music, experiencing movies, reading books, and embracing an America that I almost left, while spending time with the people who matter.
For all of the mistakes I’ve made, the dumb things I’ve done, and the bad choices I’ve made along the way, my family and friends have stuck with me to get to this place as a writer / teacher / person. I appreciate that. I must also say that I still can’t believe that I have a wife who would embrace my eccentricity and rough around the edges nature to still be here for me, nearly nine years after our first memorable date. Like Lou Gehrig, I’m the luckiest man on the face of the earth to have someone who’ll let a major time, effort, and cost undertaking like this book series happen.
As for me, in many ways, like Eddie Vedder said when he refused to be people’s messiah after Kurt Cobain’s death or when King Ezekiel on The Walking Dead negated himself to the role of just being “some guy” after causing his group’s problems, that’s who I am, too. However, I have a gift (writing) and experience (good and bad) to share. For this, I hope I inspire you with my life and dreams.

In this, it’s important to note that my whole family and all of my friends support me through my Parkinson’s diagnosis (September 27, 2016). I may have PD, but PD doesn’t have me. I will write through the tremors I am currently experiencing and whatever symptoms occur to me in the future. Simply put, my role in this situation is to educate and advocate (not whine about what I can’t do). I do that by choosing to live life and be happy. If my role in life is to share my knowledge of the world and entertain people while answering their questions about my condition, so be it. People mean well. If they’re asking, it’s not to troll; it’s to learn. Really. Disability is only an inability if we let it own us. We can avoid this by living, living vicariously, and supporting the causes of finding a cure and treating people. Boo yeah!


Also, in whatever came my way, I always found great people to influence and inspire me. One of those people was MaryAnn Schaefer, who edited this book and provided tons of writing advice to me. I am very very grateful to her for that (she changes my Barks to Barts when my mind is getting bumpy on the I’ve been writing too long / lack of connectivity on the PD dirt roads, too). I’m also very thankful that she allowed me to have a couple of Air Force / England Thanksgivings with her, her husband Bill, and her daughters Sky and Nicki all those years ago. I can’t begin to explain what they meant to a young guy 3,000 miles from home on the holidays.


I am also mega-grateful to Ken Guard for his NRA-fueled action writing advice, which made many things with the attack on The Whale possible. He’s been my friend longer than many of my readers have been alive. That’s a good thing. The same is true with my friend, Pete Apostolakos, who has made various input suggestions throughout. Muchos gracias!



I am thankful to Thaddeus Stevens Library for hosting Halloween readings two years in a row. It’s so cool to be able to do things like this with and for students.
I am super thankful to Brad Adams, Tyler Richard, and Caleb Haddon for all of the graphic arts work they did for me to include complete design and creation of this cover. When in doubt, hire a student intern that comes recommended by his / her teacher. You’re giving them experience to be even greater (these guys rock). Also, support the industrial arts. I may be a college writing teacher, but higher education isn’t all college. We need great tradespeople, too.


In this writing endeavor, many of you will choose to help me by either advertising or buying this book. You will read my works and provide constructive criticism. You’ll tell your friends about my books. You will inspire me while I keep working on the Blackrock Canyon series, which is between 1,500 and 2,000 pages at this point in four different books. I think it has (at least) a couple thousand to go, but that’s just me. THANK YOU for what you will do and what you have done!!!!
In the meantime, I look forward to entertaining you along the course of my writer’s journey. Hopefully, I’ll even inspire some of you to embrace your own creativity, which would be awesome to see all of the young people, the Dylans and Lydias of the world (as well as Little Zen Monkeys), move to take to a keyboard to bang out their stories and / or just keep living their life in greatness. The world is your oyster. Do what you have to do. It’s go time. Where would we be without writing or the oral tradition or petroglyphs or other great art to inspire us to communicate what we see and do to the world?
Thanks for reading and supporting my art.
You guys and gals are awesome. Really.
Enjoy my book. I know I enjoyed writing it.
Dan

November 20, 2017