Dr. Nekros: An Abhorrent Culmination (Volume I, Episode VI)

This is it! In this final episode of Dr. Nekros: Volume I, the good
doctor and his ex-wife, Zetta, finally come face to face with the
monster Xaphan in Zetta’s own home! For months, Zetta’s mission has
been to save Dr. Nekros from the red fiend, but now that her husband,
Jason, and her two boys are in danger as well, Zetta must make a
difficult choice. Be warned – this is an abhorrent culmination, no one
is safe, and blood will be spilled.

Follow the link to check it out:


Remember, this series is exclusive to the Amazon Kindle, but if you
don’t have a Kindle, you can still read it on a Kindle App.  Each
episode is only $00.99!

Dr. Nekros: Volume II begins in late March!



Stay Awake by Dan Chaon – A Book Review

I’m a Dan Chaon fan.  His unusual ideas and interwoven plots are typically a pleasure to read.  It’s true that his work characteristically tackles difficult subject matter, but I’ve never been outright disturbed by his stories … until now.

For me, Stay Awake proved a grueling read.  Not because it’s badly written – that’s not the case at all.  Chaon is an excellent writer.  No, it’s because this book is dark – extremely dark.  Chaon’s too classy to go for the gratuitous.  It’s the suggestiveness within the book, those horrific details stated matter-of-factly that put me on edge.  Babies die.  Mother’s die.  Children die.  People get hurt.  People suffer.  And it’s not just one of the stories where these things happen … it’s all of them.

Perhaps it’s testament to Chaon’s skill that he consistently ravaged my nerves.  I’ve read stories such as these before, but they never felt so real … so … personal.  Chaon’s characters, though we barely know them at all, are living, breathing people that easily could live next door to us.  Maybe it’s because his characters are so universal that his writing dug so deep.  For an entire book, he reminds us that tragedy can strike at anytime to anyone.

So did I like the book?  No, quite honestly, I did not.  However, I like Dan Chaon very much, and I like virtually everything else he’s written very much.  For me to say I didn’t like Stay Awake is not an attack on the book itself, for I admit I am not being objective.  I admit the subject matter disturbed me and agitated my own fears.  As a result, I truly didn’t want to finish it (though I obviously did).

Stay Awake is well written.  It does everything from a technical standpoint that you would expect from a writer of Chaon’s caliber.  Its characters are identifiable and interesting.  Its plots are unusual and provocative.  It will probably trouble you.

My New Addictions

I’m a comic book guy.  Have been all my life.  Yes, my tastes have changed as I’ve gotten (much) older, but I still love the medium, the craft, and the sheer artistry involved.  When words and pictures come together to sequentially deliver a story – it’s stunning.

The problem is, I’m a little picky about what I buy.  Yes, I’ll pick up just about anything from the library, but, as would be expected, I’m a bit at the library’s mercy in terms of what’s available and when.

I’m more than willing to pay for those titles I truly love, but they’ve got to be awfully good to make it to my shelves.  Before my daughter was born, when my wife and I were DINKS (double-income, no kids), I’d buy a title on a lark.  Those days are over, though.  I’ve gotten much tighter with our money.

Consequently, for several years, I was elated with the titles I bought on a regular basis.  They were Y: The Last Man, 100 Bullets, Ex Machina, Promethea, and Sandman.  Unfortunately, those titles have all come to an end.  Before long, I was left with only DMZ and Fables.  Both excellent titles, but for a comic book addict like me, their trades did not come out often enough to keep me satisfied.

I took a few chances here and there.  The Unwritten utterly disappointed me, Greek Street didn’t hold my interest, and The Losers just wasn’t my thing.  Even Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century turned me off.

Oh, yes, I ran across several amazing graphic novels like Daytripper, Asterios Polyp, Blankets, Pride of Baghdad, and Mother, Come Home, but they were all one shots – not something I could collect month after month.

And then, after much searching, I finally came across three new titles (to me) for which I’m ready to commit both my time and my wallet.

The first is called American Vampire.  It’s a Vertigo title that features Skinner Sweet and Pearl.  Skinner is America’s first vampire, a breed apart from any others.  Though he is turned into a vampire in the 1800s, it’s in the 1920s that he creates another vampire from his blood, a young woman named Pearl.  What I love about the series is that its vampires are truly frightening, and that because these characters are immortal, their stories tend to jump around in time quite a bit.  Pearl and Skinner sometimes cross paths, and at other times are living out their own adventures.  Skinner seems to be a truly evil character, whereas Pearl fights against the darkness within her.  I’m not really a vampire guy, but this series quickly won me over after the first volume.  Smartly written by Scott Snyder with plenty of plot (and gore), it’s definitely worth following.

The second title is called Locke & Key.  It follows the story of the Lockes, three siblings (high school aged and younger) and their mother.  They move to the Locke family mansion after their father is murdered.  This is the house their father grew up in, and it is full of mystery, horror, and paranormal keys that impart special abilities, as they soon discover.  The artwork is beautiful, and the author, Joe Hill, layers plot upon plot, thus making each volume a rewarding read.  These are likable characters with a fascinating premise, and so I can’t wait to see this one through to the end.  Be warned, though, even though the artwork has a cartoonish flair to it, it gets pretty violent at times.  Definitely not for the faint of heart.

Finally, I’m collecting a title called Chew.  By far the strangest of my three new titles, this one is also the most enjoyable.  It is the story of Tony Chew, a detective who is largely successful because of a special ability he has.  Tony receives a psychic impression of anything he eats (except for beets, which is why he mostly only eats beets).  He relives anything’s last moments that he eats, which can prove pretty useful—and disgusting—when investigating a murder.  But this is not a one-note story.  I was amazed by all the interesting storylines that John Layman, the author, introduces, and can’t wait to see where he’s going.  Though there’s plenty of action, Chew is actually very funny and unlike anything I’ve ever read.  I love the offbeat, “anything is possible” vibe that it carries.

So there you have it.  After months and months of (literally) checking out differing titles these are the three (along with Fables and DMZ) that I’ve settled on.  I hope you’ll give them a look and enjoy them, too!

Ring In the Past

Several months ago I realized I had no idea where to find my class ring.  (Now keep in mind I’m thirty-five.)  At first I didn’t understand why I felt so disappointed that I’d lost it.  Frankly, as an eighteen year old, I couldn’t wait to leave high school behind and everything that it entailed, including my class ring.  I honestly don’t remember once thinking about it between the ages of eighteen and thirty-three.

But then, after taking two years off from teaching to stay home with my newborn daughter, I returned to instructing high school English and noticed how excited the kids were when it came time to order class rings.  I’d always considered them kind of silly as a teacher and a way to fleece young people—a racket, in other words, and a worthless investment at that.

However, I soon found myself feeling nostalgic, and that’s when I realized I had no clue where to find my own class ring.  Of course, as we are wont to do, the minute we don’t have something we want it all the more.  But as I thought about it harder, I realized it wasn’t just my class ring I missed, but my whole sense of a past self.  I have a difficult time remembering things from my personal history, for some odd reason, and the older I become the more I forget about my youth.  I’ve actually had high school friends tell me stories I don’t recall at all.  It’s always bothered me that I don’t remember the old me very well, and when I realized I’d lost my class ring—the most potent physical manifestation of high school to exist—I sincerely felt that I’d let the “high school me” down yet again.

This story does have a happy ending, though.  This weekend (January 14, 2012), my wife, three year old, and I were digging through my closet looking for a toy I thought my little girl would enjoy.  I came across an old box on the top shelf and pulled it down.  Even as I saw all of my old high school track medals and ribbons, it never dawned on me to even hope I would find it, but there it was—my class ring.  I don’t think my wife and daughter had any idea why I was so excited, but for a guy who constantly feels disconnected to his own past, this was quite a victory.  The minute I picked it up I sensed an instant connection.

Looking back, I don’t know why I was in such a hurry to get out of high school.  Those memories I do have from my time as a Tiger are almost entirely happy ones.  I had great friends, a good education, and an ideal home life.  I think I was simply eager to get started on my future (I’ve always been a bit anxious).  Now that my future is here, now that I’m the man I want to be, now that I have an amazing life that I surely don’t deserve, I want to go back and tell my high school self to relax, to live in the moment, to pay closer attention to things, and to keep track of that class ring!

Harry Potter VS. Harry Potter

So as you may know, I’m a high school English teacher.  I’m currently teaching an amazing class called Modern Fiction in which (mostly) seniors get to read novels of their own choosing throughout the semester.  It is a beautiful course because I get to witness firsthand young adults falling in love with reading again.

Interestingly enough, when I finally decided to read the Harry Potter series last spring, I noticed that most of my high school seniors had not read them.  This shocked me, because even five years ago virtually every student I talked with had read part—if not all—of the series if not all.

When I asked my seniors both last year and this year why they hadn’t read the books, they told me they’d seen the movies, they didn’t need to read the books.

Honestly, I really couldn’t get upset by that statement because I’m guilty of it myself in regards to Lord of the Rings.  I saw the movies before I tried to read the books, and I consequently couldn’t get into them.  I think it’s because I already knew the “big beats” and felt impatient to read other books.

Ironically, I finally decided to read the Harry Potter series out of respect to JK Rowling, for she influenced a generation of young people and contributed to their love of literature and I’ll always be thankful to her for that.  Now, though, it seems as though that influence has drifted away due to the movies, and while it’s too bad, it’s understandable.

What do you think?  While we all agree that the books are generally better than the film adaptations, does seeing the movie before reading the book lessen your likelihood to check out the source material?

On Turning 35

So about five years ago I stupidly made a joke when I was about to turn 30 that my life was half over.  Not only was this extremely insensitive to anyone over 30, but it was also blatantly untrue.  Now here I am, less than a week away from 35, and I feel like life is just really getting started.  I’ve got a wonderful wife, a fantastic daughter, a job I love, and another beautiful little girl on the way.  I’ve never been happier or more fulfilled.  And to think, five years ago, I thought my best days were already behind me …

Writer’s Resolutions

Happy New Year!

Whew!  I’ve got to be honest: 2011 was a busy year.  Unfortunately, a side effect of all that hustle and bustle was the neglecting of my website.  Well, I’m here to tell you, I’m going to do better in 2012!

In fact, I’ve got a few resolutions (don’t we all?) for the coming year.  Yeah, sure, some of them are personal and not all that interesting to my readers, but I’ve also got a few related to my writing and, in particular, this website.

In no particular order, here they are:

1.  Post new material on this website at least twice a week.  Sure, it’s not much, but it’s way more than I did in 2011!

2.  Reach out to my audience more and try to gain a new audience in the process.  After all, without you guys, I’d be nowhere.

3.  Submit a work to traditional publishers at least twice a month.  I’ve gotten a pretty good jump on this already, but it’s important to keep up the pressure.  Of course, this involves constantly developing new short stories, but that’s probably good for me, don’t you think?

That’s basically it!  I’m old enough at this point to realize I’ve got to keep it practical and attainable, so this is, in my humble opinion, a pretty good list.  As a loyal husband, devoted father, and professional teacher, I’ve got other resolutions as well, but I think I’ll share them some other time.

Thanks for reading!