‘Pulp Curios’ Will Be The Next President

The Pulp Curios Collection will be sold on Etsy and cost something like 15 bucks or less or as cheap as I can make it after I figure out how Etsy works.  It will be a limited release and will include the following:

  1. Buffalo Bill_FINAL_Facebook CoverBuffalo Bill in the Gallery of the Machines
    Description: Buffalo Bill drinks whisky as the star of his Wild West show, Boneshriek, threatens to leave to help out Edison with one of his diabolical experiments.  It’s written and designed in the style of the original dime novels.
    Numbers sold after four years: Not counting the free Kindle version, I’m at about 11.
    Retail Price: $5.99
  2. Alcatraz Cover_Draft 1-01Les Toilettes d’ Alcatraz
    Description: An amateur photographer named Mark Rapacz tours Alcatraz, takes a bunch of photos with his crappy smart phone, and then leaves an entirely changed man.  Through the lens of Instagram filters, he descends into what he calls the “Maniacal Oblivion” and documents his journey in photo, photo caption, poem, story, conjecture, and essay–primarily using toilets as his subject matter.
    Numbers sold after a year and half: 2, though I gave away about 20 as Christmas presents in 2014. My mom traded me a beer for a couple copies at a reading back in December.
    Retail Price: $9.99
  3. TongueCut Cover_Draft 5_FRONTCOVERTongue-Cut Ninja
    Description: Told in a series of vignettes and from a number of points-of-view, Tongue-Cut Ninja is the tale of two boys as they train to be ninja in imperialist Japan. There is deception, love, a talking rodent, a blade through a mouth, a killer sister, an evil mage, an honorable master, a fable, and a shit-ton of KA-POW.
    Numbers sold after three years: Technically zero for reasons not worth getting into.
    Retail Price: $7.99
  4. A teaser sheet of my choosing.  You will either get the stars or the stuffed space dog in a glass cube (see above).  I like them both for the exact same reason.
    Retail Price: $1.99 … I’m as surprised as you at the astronomical cost of a flyer.
  5. An original drawing from the author himself who has not only created the only three masterpieces of the pulp curio movement, but is an accomplished artist as evidenced below.
    Retail Price: Somewhere in the ballpark of a gajillion dollars.




50 Chapters That Will Make You Think Differently About Murder


L0040408 Leaflet selling the "Burdizzo", a castration machine
This is probably going to be the title.

Just finished up my fourth novel and she’s a big one, weighing in at 100K words.  It’s another absurdist crime work that was based on a post that originally appeared here at Blastgun called “24 Chapters A Publisher Should Make An Offer On Right Now.” That post was a cheeky little play on Buzzfeed articles. The idea was to write a novella about some kind of hitman who, through some turn of events, ends up in a Buzzfeed-like job writing snappy 800 word articles about his life of crime and ultra-violence.

The book ended up being a lot longer than those original 24 chapters and the Buzzfeed thing is gone, but some of the spirit remains.  The chapters are still short.  It involves a hitman.  There is violence and humor and political incorrectness.  I’ve never had more fun writing a book.  Hope that bodes well in the publisher/agent grind.

Below are the titles of these chapters.  They are the only thing you need to read.  You can forget about all the other words.  I only tried on these.  The chapter titles.  The rest is filler.

1: Three Or More People Who Want Me Dead
2: Guess Which Midwestern Hellhole I’m Stuck In So My Machete-Loving Friends Won’t Find Me
3: Here’s What It’s Like To No Longer Be The Only Hitman In Bumfuck, Nowhere
4: Five Recent Murders That Will Make You Want To Kill Your Best Friend
5: I Tried To Go Straight For A Few Minutes And Here’s What Happened
6: The Whore Who Doesn’t Charge Also Doesn’t Leave Or Clean
7: Someone Did A Shitty Job Hiding Four Bodies, And It Wouldn’t Be Such A Big Deal If Not For The Missing Fifth
8: Somebody Stuffed A Body In A Suitcase And It Was Beautiful
9: The Thing About The Man In The Suitcase Is That He Stirred Up Unfortunate Memories
10: It’s Surprisingly Easy To Find Yourself In The Middle Of A Gang War
11: I Was Pretty Okay With The Misogynist and Racist Nature of Modern Crime Culture Until We Tortured The Mexican Kid
12: I Would’ve Killed The Kid If He Wasn’t Already So Close To Dead
13: Minor Terrorism Isn’t What It Used To Be
14: Never Ignore The Gentle And Beautiful Balance Between Polyamory And True Love
15: Sometimes Unadorned Bravery Looks A Lot Like Terrible Cowardice, But A True Hero Accepts This And His Lifelong Bad Reputation With Dignity And Aplomb


A writer having trouble lifting 3 pounds

16: The Time We Saw A Space Colony, An Emerald City, And Maybe Chunks of Black Jim’s Gray Matter
17: I May Have Killed Hundreds In Cold-Blood, But I Would Never Commit The Evils of Children, Part I
18: It’s Not Quite A Suicide Pact If You’re The Only One Hoping It Ends In Death
19: Skull-Fucking, A Meditation
20: You’re More Likely To Die With Your Cock Out While Taking A Beer Piss Than From A Terrorist Attack
21: My White Hat Is Not Nearly As White As I Recall
22: The Most Comprehensible Thing I Saw At Patsy’s Birthday Party Was A Ferret Giving A Politician A Rough Handjob
23: It Should Be Far Easier To Use Voodoo Magic To Predict The Death Of A Man Who Is Basically Already Dead
24: No Sober-Minded Man Wants Aerosolized Fecal Matter In His Dick Hole
25: Leadership Requires A Nice Pair Of Loafers
26: A Shitbird Eats A Tree Rat
27: When You’re Down And Out, Always Bet On Men Leaking Brain To Provide You With Joy And Creature Comforts
28: Jackie Had Qualms About Butchering Four In A House Of Worship
29: The Ancient Arts of Voodoo, Juju, Mojo, And Lead Propulsed By Explosive Gas
30: Upon My Death, Twenty-Seven Virgins Awaited Me Beyond The Gate, Hooked Knives In Hand, Flayed Thoughts In Mind
31: Comrade, Foe, Water-Headed Buffoon: The Blitzkrieg Funeral Of Black Jim
32: What About The Powerful Lady In Black And Unrequited, Cross-Cultural Love Shooting Like Laser Rainbows From Her (Possibly) Impossibly Green Eyes?

33: Sometimes A Life Altering Journey Through Dark Wood And Shit-Colored Mud Could’ve Been An Easy Jaunt Down A Deserted Highway
34: Once Upon A Time, Trains Ended In Boxcars
35: When Did Diners Become Third-Rate Hoagie Chains At A Truck Stop?
36: He Goes By Many Names, Yet They All Have One Thing In Common: Pig-Fucking
37: The Life And Times Of A Dysplastic Nevus
38: The Flying Monkeys’ Redglare, Heads Bursting In Air, Gave Proof Through The Night That Our Flag Was Still There
39: Never Execute An Already Dead Man Even If It Will Alleviate Some Of Your More Compulsive Tendencies
40: Caught With Our Ding-Dongs Out Like A Couple Of Hostess Fruitcakes
41: The Not-So Unexpected Death Of Jackie, The Traitorous Fuck
42: You Did Not Miss The War, The War Missed You
43: Everybody Blames The Scorpion, Yet Nobody Asks Where The Frog Learned To Speak Scorpion In The First Place
44: The Mighty Beaks Of The Turkey-Cock Brigade
45: Genocidal Maniacs In Hiding Have The Warmest Of Welcomes
46: A Powwow Of Foreign Natives On the Myths Of Geometry
47: I May Have Killed Hundreds In Cold-Blood, But I Would Never Commit The Evils Of Children, Part II
48: It Would Have Been Better If The Terrorists Packed Their Vans Full Of Explosives And Blew Us All To Hell
49: Patsy’s Revenge
50: The Burdizzo Way

If you’re an agent, publisher, producer, or a regular schlub and interested in reading the filler, contact me directly at mrrapacz [at] hotmail [dot] com.


Dual Launch Extravaganza


Merlins Rest, August 2, 4:30 PM

Writers Todd Wardrope and Mark Rapacz are joining forces to bring you the latest in Minneapolis pulp fiction. Todd will be celebrating the release of his sci-fi epic ARCADIAN GATES, while Mark will be celebrating the release of his gritty international noir FOREIGNERS (WAEGUK).

Special guest readers include Bram Stoker-nominated writer David Oppegaard and pulp/zine mastermind Evan Kingston.

Beverages and food are available for purchase from the friendly Merlins Rest staff. The readings will start at 4:30 PM. Authors will remain after the reading to sign, chat, and be merry. Merlins Rest’s annual block party will follow the book launch event at 7:00 PM.

Get directions to Merlins Rest here.

David James Keaton’s PIG IRON burning through the Whiskylands now. Go’on git it!

Pig Iron Front Cover-01A town without water …

where men hate their horses …

and guns explode in their hands!!!

The manic genius that is David James Keaton brings you a risible struggle between love and subversion of the western genre, Pig Iron takes place in the town of Aqua Fria after the wells run dry, where townsfolk drink whiskey instead of water, priming their bodies, as well as their situation, for combustion. Myths are exploded, horses are treated with little respect, atheist preachers hurl Bible quotes without irony, and villains and heroes sweat booze as their time runs out. They have only three days before they die of dehydration. Three days to search for illusive treasure, right perceived wrongs, and battle murderous hallucinations. With a glossary of western terminology, real and imagined, this violent yarn is Deadwood meets A Clockwork Orange, with a shot of wry.

Available in all Amazon locales now.

David James Keaton’s Pig Iron Out Now

Pig Iron Front Cover-01

A town without water …

where men hate their horses …

and guns explode in their hands!!!

The manic genius that is David James Keaton brings you a risible struggle between love and subversion of the western genre, Pig Iron takes place in the town of Aqua Fria after the wells run dry, where townsfolk drink whiskey instead of water, priming their bodies, as well as their situation, for combustion. Myths are exploded, horses are treated with little respect, atheist preachers hurl Bible quotes without irony, and villains and heroes sweat booze as their time runs out. They have only three days before they die of dehydration. Three days to search for illusive treasure, right perceived wrongs, and battle murderous hallucinations. With a glossary of western terminology, real and imagined, this violent yarn is Deadwood meets A Clockwork Orange, with a shot of wry.

Available in all Amazon locales now.

A note from the man himself, David James Keaton:

Pig Iron is almost here! And, besides my dad, and the horses I’ve misjudged throughout my life (particularly at my undergraduate Western Horsemanship class at BGSU), I would like to thank my favorite westerns, or any movie that deep down inside wanted to be a western, but especially westerns with spaghetti sauce all over ’em, including Per Un Pugno Di Dollari (a.k.a. A Fistful of Dollars), Per Qualche Dollaro In Più (a.k.a. For a Few Dollars More), Il Buono, il Brutto, il Cattivo, (a.k.a. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Giù la Testa, (a.k.a. A Fistful of Dynamite, a.k.a. Duck, You Sucker, a.k.a. Once Upon A Time: The Revolution, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Yojimbo, Last Man Standing, The Quick and the Dead, Unforgiven, Dead Man, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Deadwood, Ride the High Country, The Wild Bunch, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Appaloosa, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, The Mission, Tombstone, Utu, Undead, (or anything else with a four-barreled shotgun),  The Outlaw Jose Wales, Duel in the Sun, Major Dundee, Ravenous (now that’s how you introduce a hero), Django, Django, Kill!  (If You Live, Shoot!) (a.k.a. Oro Hondo, a.k.a. Se Sei Vivo, Spara), Django Unchained, most of the Djangos really, The Way of the Gun, Westworld, Wild Bill, The Proposition, Lawless (and anything else Nick Cave writes in the future), Heaven’s Gate, half the Zulu movies, Extreme Prejudice, C’era uno Volta il West, (a.k.a. Once Upon A Time In The West), C’era uno Volta il Amerigo (a.k.a. Once Upon A Time In America, Once Upon a Time in Mexico (a.k.a. Everybody Hates That Movie, but fuck it, he shoots the cook, and you need a trilogy to restore balance), Le Dernier Combat (a.k.a. The Last Battle), The Searchers, Kung Fu Hustle (a.k.a. King Fusion, such a western), I Quattro dell’apocalisse (a.k.a. Four of the Apocalypse, Geronimo, Open Range (for the candy-bar scene alone), Six-String Samurai, Giant, High Noon, Outland, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Jonah Hex, Black Robe, The Long Riders, Mannaja (a.k.a. A Man Called Blade), El Mariachi, Desperado, The Rundown, One Eyed Jacks, Pale Rider, Run Man Run (a.k.a. Corri uomo corri, a.k.a. Big Gundown 2), Sukiyaki Western Django, 3:10 to Yuma (both versions), Junior Bonner, True Grit (both versions), Quigley Down Under (not both versions, just the one with Magnum P.I.), and all three Young Guns films (I’m being optimistic).


ToddCoverFile_FNL_R5_25bkgd_BG Draft 1_FrontCover

Kaboom! ARCADIAN GATES launches today. Drink the green beer, buy the book, read the book … Master world-builder T.A. Wardrope brings you this epic sci-fi tale. It’s big, complex, and moves like lightning. Enjoy it, good people.

Available for Kindle and in print here.

Enjoy it, good people!


ToddCoverFile_FNL_R5_25bkgd_BG Draft 1_FrontCoverDebut Blastgun author T.A. Wardrope is the kind of obsessive world-builder who creates from the ground up.  He’s sent me maps, schematics, and, yes, an entire glossary of how he created the world of Arcadian Gates.  This is all purely for reference, but I thought it was so amazing that I wanted to share it with you all.

It’s the kind of behind-the-scenes legwork that the best filmmakers go through to make their fictional worlds come alive.  I half expect Wardrope to send me a sketchbook filled with ideas that would make Guillermo del Toro flip his lid.

Before we launch Arcadian Gates, I want you all to get to know some of the characters, the crazy-awesome technologies, the more sinister mechanized population control vehicles, and, yes, future drugs that reveal a psychedelic world that interacts with and exists just below the reality of the average Ringsider.

Enjoy it as you await our early 2015 release of Arcadian Gates.

Glossary of the World of Arcadian Gates:

  • A-Core: The Administration Core, the area dedicated to the official business of the Administrated Republic.
  • AdComm: Interactive digital advertising. A single technology that fulfills the roles of billboards, posters and other messaging in First World.
  • Administrator Kerrick: A high-ranking official that is loyal to Malnorel and a key asset to his near-term strategy. He believes technology can replace humans for any role within the Administrated Republic.
  • AI Blood: Advanced technology which replace hard tech with a programmable, conductive fluid that powers and controls drones.
  • Akiry: Low-level smuggler and drug dealer, Platformer, one of the few who are able to remember events prior to Prepravinlol-12.
  • Arcadian Park: Those outside of MCity5 know the area as Arcadian Park, a giant forest preserve that stretches for miles of protected land. A digital illusion makes the city appear like this. Every major city has this cloak.
  • ARD: Administrated Republic Dollars. This is the currency managed by Administrated Republic. Hard ARD are viable global currency, soft ARD are for district use only.
  • Ares: A leading military technology company.
  • Argentine Research & Development: Argentine is the leading technological company in Administrated Republic. They produce and control Lethemol, in addition to many other systems. The line between this corporation and the Administration is very blurred.
  • ARMARKT: The largest consumer outlet in the Ring. This business is so dominant that many think it is an Administration enterprise.
  • Asp: A light attack/transport helicopter used by Security Administration.
  • Blue Sky: Malnorel’s purge plan and team.
  • Cian: A former PreCast agent. Now retired, he is a “fabricator”. A fabricator is someone who collects items from the world before Reconstruction. He is inadvertently drawn into Malnorel’s plan.
  • Copperhead: A UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle) drone with sufficient artificial intelligence to operate autonomously most of the time. These are scout and attack aircraft.
  • Council of Seven: The seven leaders of Administrated Republic, led by a strong Supreme Administrator.
  • Diamondhead: A UCAV for heavy combat. Tilt-rotor aircraft with several weapons platforms and targeting.
  • Dragon I: UGCV (Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle), three axle armored vehicle with quad flechette guns.
  • Dragon II: UGCV Artillery variant.
  • Dragon III: UGCV: Missile system variant for anti-aircraft or ballistic missile.
  • Edossiers: An update of First World technology that consists of a flexible membranes that contain all the information assigned it within an interactive interface.
  • Elysium Park: A city that is neighbor to Arcadian Park.
  • EN1: EnfoComm Channel One. The primary AR media outlet.
  • EnfoComm: A hybrid wireless entertainment and information technology. Often embedded in the owner’s body and powered by thermal energy.
  • Eryx: Lightly armored patrol cars used by Security Adminstration.
  • Expat13: A dissident political group. They seek to replace Administration with something closer to the European model.
  • Fabricator: The AR term for someone who collects illegal artifacts from First World. These items are considered not real, and are “fabricated”.
  • First World: The world before Reconstruction. A constantly shifting narrative that is controlled by AR Cultural Administration.
  • Flechette: Projectile weapon used by Security Administration. Rather than firing slugs, this weapon uses magnetic energy to propel hardened needles at very high rates of fire. These needles emit very low heat and noise.
  • Gaownt: A state of being and a being. After a user has been completely addicted to Lethemol and find themselves without a supply, their body will gradually mutate. Ingesting Lethemol becomes a priority over biological drives.
  • Inferno: A conflict between SA-S forces and various warlords who are trying to control/defend areas of Pan-Asia.
  • Intel/Clone: A general technology company that operates in a niche between Ares and Argentine. Most famous for manufacturing Puzzlers.
  • Internal Bright: A mythical and shadowy secret police group within Administration.
  • Jamis: A SA covert operative who works in the Hole.
  • Jerry: A PreCast agent who was the lone survivor of Malnorel’s attack.
  • Jeremiah: The Gaownt messiah.
  • Krait I: MGCV (Manned Ground Combat Vehicle) Tracked tank with crew.
  • Krait II: MGCV Four axle armored personnel carrier (APC).
  • Krait III: MGCV Four axle artillery w/Surface-to-Air and HEW (Heat Energy Weapon) variants.
  • L3: Lethemol, Version 3
  • L4a: A variant of the Lethemol, Version 4 formula.
  • L4b: A variant of the Lethemol, Version 4 formula.
  • Laboratory: The science, research and development district. Many corporations have satellite offices here to be close to the A-Core as their research gets closer to the final product or becomes highly classified.
  • Lethemol: An advanced technology that uses nanochem to manipulate human thought processes. A “smart drug”.
  • Lyserbarbithol: A hallucinogenic truth drug with chronic and painful side-effects.
  • Mamba: A heavy helicopter transport used by Security Administration.
  • Nanochem: Microscopic nanotechnology embedded in chemical compounds.
  • Necker Device: A mechanism that causes time/space distortion if used in conjunction with Lethemol. Named after “Necker Cube” which is a famous optical illusion.
  • NeoLeth: A replacement chemical for Lethemol.
  • Operational: A Security Administration enforcer. Boots on the ground.
  • OutRing: The area beyond the Ring. Areas of OutRing have not been Reconstructed and remain as they were in First World. Only certain Administrated Republic officials may travel through these areas.
  • Pan-Asia: A geographical area that contains what used to be Middle -East, but also reaches over what used to be Turkey, the “’stans” and western portions of India and China. Much of this area is known as “Inferno” due to the constant warfare throughout.
  • Patrons: A mysterious group known only by high-level Administrators that provides advanced technology as part of a trade agreement.
  • PD-120: Platform District 120
  • Personal ID (PID): An external technology that contains all the vitals of a citizen of the Adminstrated Republic in a single wafer of plastic material.
  • Plasmatic: A combination of plasma and plastic. Used as a flexible and intelligent data interface.
  • Platform: A broad elevated area that encircles the edges of the city. Trains run through the center of it and towards the center of the city. This is the home for the lowest social classes of the Administrated Republic.
  • Platformer: A resident of the Platform, lowest-class citizen.
  • Prepravinolol-12: The chemical weapon used throughout North America that destroyed long-term memory of anyone that came in contact.
  • Puzzler: A device that uses Artificial Intelligence to generate various puzzles and riddles. Each puzzler has a personality that actively seeks to defeat the user. Lethies use them to sharpen or occupy their minds during recreational Leth trips.
  • Python: A helicopter gunship used by Security Administration.
  • Raksha: Akiry’s older sister and only known family member, one of the lucky Platformers who have a job in the Ring.
  • Raoul: A Platformer friend and client of Akiry. He is a renegade engineer and the creator of The Necker Device.
  • ReCon: Areas that have been reconstructed.
  • Reconstruction: The world after the attack.
  • Ring: Vast suburban swaths of developed land which flow from one “Park” to another. These areas are highly organized and often extremely homogeneous. Much effort goes into keeping these areas happy and distracted.
  • Ringsider: A person who lives in the pastoral areas outside of the city walls.
  • RT: Classical time based on First World calendars.
  • SAI: Security Administration-Investigative, a secret police branch of SA that deals with internal and external counter-espionage investigations.
  • SAO: Abbreviation for Security Administration Operationals
  • SAPID: Security Administration Personal Identification, a special form of the PID for SA personnel.
  • SAS: Security Administration-Strategic, the branch of SA that deals with overseas matters through a variety of diplomatic and armed methods.
  • Senior Security Administrator Malnorel: The highest political figure in Arcadian Park, the man in charge of the city and its Ring. He is the son of Vice-Commerce Administrator Malnorel, who sits just below the Council of Seven in AR political organization.
  • Severance: A group within Administration that wants to end current arrangements with Patrons.
  • SPIDER: A shadow project that comprehensively interpolates data from EnfoComms, SAPID and PID’s across the entire AR.
  • Stiletto: A manned multirole fighter airplane.
  • Stimuel: A stimulant drug which combines many effects of Methamphetamine and Cocaine.
  • Stimuexol: Improved Stimuel
  • Stratstat: An interactive display that gathers all relevant information for command decision making.
  • Studio: The creative arts district of the city. Mostly a collection of designers and cultural types who work with Administrated Republic organizations and companies.
  • Suit: A rebellious employee of Argentine R&D. He sells Lethemol to Akiry as an act of subversion and income enhancement.
  • Supreme Administrator Jefferson: A member of the Council of Seven and leader of Severence.
  • The Hole: A portion of the city that remains as it was prior to Reconstruction. The reasons for this are subject to speculation.
  • University: Higher education district that is home to the intelligentsia who serve Administrated Republic. Often serve a role in propaganda.


Dark Corners FrontDark Corners is a new pulp magazine that most in the Circle of Trust probably know about by now.  Its debut issue includes pieces by Will Viharo, Alec Cizak, Tom Pitts, Chris Leek, Warren Moore and many more.  I got a piece in there as well, and I’m eternally grateful to mastermind and PhD of modern pulp Craig T. McNeely who runs the show over there.  It’s more of an anthology of the latest goin-ons in the pulp world, much in the same spirit as The Booked. Anthology and Warmed and Bound–a veritable who’s-it-what’s-it of the past year of fellas and fellettes putting works out to expand the pulp/noir empire.

Dark Corners Vol. 1, Issue 1 is available in both print and digital here.

Craig was open to a re-printing of an interview he did with me for the issue, so that can be found below.  I really liked this interview because Craig forced me to look hard at the past few years of writing, years in which I went both a little insane and broke new ground.  But descending into the underbelly will do that to a guy.


1a) Talk about your writer life. Bring us up to the writing of Tongue-Cut Ninja. What were your influences?

TongueCut Cover_Draft 5_FRONTCOVER

Tongue-Cut Ninja came shortly after I moved home from my third stint in Korea, where my wife and I had to go now and again to maintain profitable employment.  We were living in an apartment just off the river in Minneapolis.  Real cool area, and I was not yet employed and I was at the tail-end of a pretty defining creative shift.  Writing was going terribly.  I didn’t really feel comfortable moving back to Minnesota where I’ve consistently had trouble getting full-time employment.  I was between jobs with no real prospects.  Artistically, I was just in the blahs.  It was hot as hell that summer and after a little over a year of searching, I accepted that the direction I was going with my writing wasn’t the best.  It just didn’t feel right.

Up until that summer, I had spent the prior eight years primarily submitting stories to literary journals I didn’t read.  I felt very shackled, less free to write what I really wanted.  And these were all self-contrived rules.  I was writing in a way I thought came off as “literary,” a way that was approved only by the ghosts in my head.  Success in the writing world was starting to look a lot like killing myself for months on a short story, sending it out, collecting 30+ rejections, and then scratching my head when it was eventually accepted somewhere.  Or scratching my head if it was never accepted.  Very little joy in any of it.

 My memory is a little fuzzy because my wife and I were transitioning so much during this time. I know I was still operating a character-driven literary criticism blog that was meant to be a spoof on popular indie-lit blogs at the time, but it was more like me yelling at myself about writing.  That blog really propelled my creative shift.  It was what pushed me over the edge.  Don’t know if it was a mental snap or what.  But after that, I knew I was going to be a different kind of writer.

Tongue-Cut was written summer of 2011. It had to’ve started through a conversation with Christopher Coffey, a good pal of mine and a fantastic illustrator.  We’ve collaborated on a few things, and I was always trying to figure out a way where he and I could work together.  My guess is that I asked him what the deal was with the different origin tales for Splinter (90s movies vs. cartoon) because he has an encyclopedic knowledge of a lot of things, especially comics.  He said something like, “Well, you gotta read the comics because that’s way different.”  He gave me this hefty stack of TMNT works (his library is extensive), and I learned that there was no cohesion between any of these origin stories, so I figured I had room to write my own.

That piece was strange because every day it was like a different voice trying to tell this story, so I just rolled with it.  Wrote these quick, snappy passages with little thought to what, where, or how it should go.  After I would write a passage, I’d talk to Coffey to give him an idea as to where the story was going.  He’d suggest some things, saying more or less, “Wouldn’t it be sweet if …”  And we were off.  I’d write a scene, he’d imagine an illustration.  Eventually we had enough to start a website on which we published one section per week with an illustration.

We got no hits, but Coffey and I were having fun with it.  Then, like a lot of my projects, it just went away for about two years.  In early 2013, I returned to it, having gained some design chops, and realized we had enough content to put together a little novella, so I did that.

We even contacted Eastman and Laird at one point to see if they’d just be interested in reading it.  One of them got back, said he wished us well with the project but they didn’t even have rights to the TMNT property, Viacom does, so there was really nothing we could do with it if we wanted to sell it.  But he did say we could call it fan fiction or change all the names and call it a ninja tale.  It was important to us that this was a TMNT story because of our boyhood love of the franchise.  So, two adults invested tons of time, money, and effort to create a piece of fan fiction that fourteen people have read.  Maybe a couple of others online.

However, it was totally worth it.   And it’s still free.  I’m out of print editions as the company I used to print it went out of business and I can’t do the POD off Amazon without selling it.  So, I’m not sure what to do with it now. PDFs for everybody!

1b) What were your primary successes and failures?

Buffalo Bill_FINAL_Facebook CoverThis is a touchy one, but I’ll be as honest as I can with it.  A lot of my work for the past few years, since the creative break, has felt failure-ish if you look at success as gaining readership and sales.  I do feel better about what I’m creating.  It’s more honest to the type of writer I am, but very few people are really into it.  I nab some interest here and there, but for the most part people look at my projects currently out there (Buffalo, Tongue-Cut, and City Kaiju) and either ignore them completely, or only mention this work as a departure from my “real work”, the short stories that some folks have enjoyed.  Basically, the past few years of work for me have been put in a bin relegated for side projects–not part of my serious work.  Either way, it feels a little dismissive, but I think it’s hard to really understand these projects on a reader’s end.  Lord knows I’ve had trouble explaining them.

Buffalo is a dime novel.  Nobody knows what dime novels are because they came out of fashion nearly a hundred years ago.  They’ve fallen so far out of relevance, they were actually deemed extinct by a critic in 1904.  But it’s the original pulp.  Tongue-Cut is Ninja Turtle fan fiction and no matter how many times you say, “But you just gotta read it to see that it’s not the turtles tag-teaming April O’Neil in the news van, but a fairly experimental meditation on how two dutiful warriors come to a tragic crossroads at a time when their way of life is no longer viable,” you just won’t convince anybody that it’s something other than the gutter swill of the fiction community.  And City Kaiju was such a mess when I was creating it that when I did mention it, all I found myself talking about was its intrinsic disaster-hood.  Not the best way to garner interest.  Also, the moment you say superhero and monster in the same sentence you’re immediately written off as “One of those writers.”  Which I guess is genre, which can be like a curse word among certain circles.

But that’s judging success on gaining readership–which is important because writing hardly exists without communion–but that’s not the only kind of success there is in the long life of a writer.  Despite losing money on these projects and connecting with an audience so select I know them all by first name, I think these works are still successes.  I was most artistically free while writing them.  The few folks who do dig these works are, like, really into them.  True fans.  I think these works honor and represent the crazy and unintelligible desires that define who I am as a person, the part of my artistic self that somehow gets in touch with that child-like reverie of this strange, strange world we find ourselves in—a world filled with contradictions our dumb lump of gray matter will never understand.  We exist here.  I don’t know why.  But the fantasies I create are something I can sort of understand and other people sometimes understand them, too.  Create, commune, be eternally confused.

Then again, if I didn’t define success in this way, I’m not sure what I’d have as a writer.  You always have to be doing it for the work first.  When you create in service of the creation, it’s a perpetual machine deriving energy from nowhere, and I think that’s what makes it magical and why some people think it can be a holy experience.  I don’t believe in that kind of holy magic, but I get why people elevate their language around truth-seeking art.

2a) One of the things that is always amazing about your books is the attention to design and layout. What are your influences here?

paul-cezanne-harlequinThere were only two times in college that a professor pulled me aside and was like, “You’re really doing something here.”  One time was for an essay class, but the other time was for an art class.  I took intro to 2D art just to fulfill a requirement, and I could not leave the art room for however long a semester is—4 months?  I felt guilty being in there because I was letting my other studies slide (not that I was a great or committed student), but I was so captivated by Cezanne’s work, I just kept repainting his clown piece—the abstract one because he has a series of these and I didn’t really dig his work when he leaned toward realism.  It was one of the few times I ever worked with a sense of purpose for any course work.  I didn’t have this kind of endless energy for my writing courses.  I didn’t do it for anything else.  Only this 2D art course.  When the professor pulled me aside, I don’t think he saw talent, but he probably saw a kid who was willing to put the time in to make sure the piece was as good as he could make it.  He said I should consider majoring in art.  I didn’t.  I majored in English.

I tell my wife now that I wish I listened to him.  But I didn’t even know design or art schools existed until well after I graduated.  They were never on my radar.  Even if they were, I don’t think I could’ve afforded it or had anything to put in my portfolio.  I thought college was this one particular thing, and by one particular thing, I thought college was one particular school, St. John’s University.  I loved it there, but I didn’t do any kind of searching.  I never really considered what sort of activities made time disappear or gave me a sense of purpose.  Working on those paintings was one of those things.  And writing is one of those things, too, but I have to work much harder at that.  I was raised Catholic, so if something feels good, it’s in me to immediately label it as wrong.  Writing is a perfectly difficult activity that feels like work, so it must be right, right?

Design didn’t really hit me until I had to learn it for a job I fell into.  I picked up some rudimentary InDesign bits here and there to get through the job, but then Jason Stuart and I were at the stage of putting out Buffalo Bill in the Gallery of the Machines.  Jason made a cool cover for it and we put it out as an e-book.  Then I went to Denver to visit some friends who surprised me by bringing me up to Buffalo Bill’s grave out on Lookout Peak.  There’s a museum up there and they have all these Buffalo Bill dime novels.  I had seen them on the Internet when researching Buffalo, but I had never seen them up close.  Once I saw them, I knew I had to have something that looked like that for the cover.  I didn’t know how to use Illustrator, but the job I had at the time gave me a laptop with Illustrator on it, so I taught myself.  Spent hours and hours and hours trying to do the simplest things.  Eventually, I made it work.  I started doing design work for friends after that and got pretty obsessed with it.

Still, I don’t know a thing compared to real designers.  I’m more of a desktop publisher.  I can get stuff that’s workable and looks good enough.  My current position is pretty design heavy so I’ve gotten better over the past couple years.  Good enough to finally feel comfortable putting together full novels and finally redesigning Buffalo to be a true dime novel with proper dimensions and a great historically accurate cover design.

I even got to see an extensive collection of Buffalo Bill dime novels up close at the Stanford libraries.  It was so great paging through one and getting to see how they designed the works back in the day.  However, it was a little tragic because every time I turned a page, the spine crumbled to dust.  They were the cheapest form of publishing 100 years ago so they don’t stand the test of time too well.  I got about halfway through one, closed it, put it back in the plastic sleeve and told the librarian that they needed to digitize them otherwise there’ll be nothing left for the next pulp aficionado who visits the collection.

2b) Do you think that other authors should be paying more attention to these things?

The greatest thing about knowing how to design your own publication is the creative control you have.  I can put my books out and I know they’re going to look decent.  It’s one of the skills that is just good for a writer to have.  Writing programs would do well to add it to their curriculum because putting works out on your own is one of the many ways to get published, and I think one mistake writers make is that they narrowly define paths to publication, the way I did before my creative shift.  Also, you learn basic things when you have to push your work.  It’s a great lesson in humility.  You see your reach.  You see who’s down with what you do.  You see first-hand that there is no money in it.  But you meet other writers.  It forces you to engage.  Writers should do it just to see the process and have an understanding of it, learn the realities of the publishing landscape, and be empowered by it.

If you’re writing a lot, you’re going to have works that you know aren’t going to be for the masses.  Having the skills to bring these works to your niche audience is very important.  It helps keep that long conversation of literature going … better yet, it’s these works that you create for your small audience that may someday change the conversation.  The more you’re creating the works that aren’t generally accepted the more you’re necessitating diversity within the form.

Of course, having total creative control can also be an echo-chamber for your own psychosis.  And that’s not good.

3) What is the history of City Kaiju? Take us from concept to completion.

City Kaiju_Front Cover_Draft 9-01Oh, Jesus.  I actually wrote an extensive piece on this over at Blastgun called “10 Career-Ending Mistakes I Made While Publishing My First Novel.”  It covers everything I did wrong.  The misteps, sidesteps, and backsteps.

I’m amazed it’s complete.  It’s not perfect, but it has two covers, a little over 230 pages between them, and 60,000 words fill those pages.  The conception was awesome, though.  Me and Coffey drinking beer in his Uptown apartment in 2008.  It was early December in Minnesota, which is a beautiful time.  Neither of us was working much.  We probably were just killing time until we could head to some bars down the street, maybe with plans to see a band we loved, Ouija Radio, at the Uptown Bar.  So we spent that afternoon writing comic book proposals.

City Kaiju was one of those proposals.  I knocked out a few scripts in the ensuing weeks.  Coffey quickly realized multi-paneled pages take way longer than scripts.  Then I started writing it as a novel.  It failed on many occasions (2009, 2011, 2012, 2013) only to be resurrected each time.  It was like this yearly thing.

I had to write out a Superman character central to the narrative at one point.  I had to completely throw out all the comic book scripts, which were at one time supposed to be symbolic of its roots and maybe even be deemed “experimental.”  Its most dire moment was when the front half didn’t make sense with the back half, so I had to sluice the first 40,000 words into the gutter and start again.

I had to rewrite for style reasons.  Some chapters had years of growth and change between them, even though only minutes pass for the characters.  Like, the opening chapter is from 2013, while the second chapter is from 2009.  I had to adjust for my personal change as a writer as best I could in the revisions.  It was crazy.  This book was written pre- and post- the creative snap, which is why I remain so uncertain about it.  Maybe why it comes off as a little manic.  Maybe it doesn’t come off that way.  I dunno.  No work has ever baffled me so thoroughly.  Not only its creation, but most baffling of all has been my hegemonic desire to put it out against an organic process that has repeatedly failed, suggesting that I should throw it out.  And I did throw it out on many occasions.  But I’d come back to it, and then it became this thing where I felt like I was too far along and there was no turning back.

Usually when I write anything, no matter its length, I’m in that story from start until end.  This one didn’t work that way.  Each time it failed and I returned to it, it was like being startled out of a dream and then going back to sleep and trying to enter that same dream.  That never works.  The moment you fall asleep—or in this case hypnotize yourself enough to reenter the narrative—it’s something else.  The interruption destroys it all and you have to start over.  So it ended up being this piece cobbled together from pretty disparate elements.

And I don’t know why I never really pushed to ask anybody to read a draft before I published it.  I had this sick desire to just be like, “I want to see what I can do in a vacuum.”  So that’s what I did.  I never thought anybody would be interested in it enough to finish it.  It was spiteful, brave, and stupid all at once.  I don’t get it.  Seriously.  This is why writers need agents and editors.  You get to a point where you’re allowing your own creative energy to eat itself.  It’s rabid, dumb, and mean, but sometimes interesting work comes from this.

City Kaiju was a mess.  Still might be a mess.  But it’s a beautiful mess, and maybe a nonsensical mess.

4) The character of Bram is very well drawn and, as a reader, you really start to care what happens to him. Is there any of you in any of your characters?

Oh, yes.  Bram and Spanker, and to a lesser degree Steve and Ji-Hoon, are really what kept the novel somewhat tethered together.  Though I routinely lost the dream due to struggles with the creative process, I never lost touch with who the characters were.  Bram and Spanker, especially.

It’s great to hear that you cared for Bram.  That is always the goal as a writer: find a way to get your reader to care for your characters.  That’s how the door is opened to the world.  It’s the wardrobe to Narnia.  I was unsure about that.  I thought he might be a little too underdeveloped because the time between his creation, or more accurately, the time I spent away from his creation seemed like it could really dismantle any believability I might’ve established in an earlier draft.

It’s difficult to say where the influence for a character comes from because often there are so many sources—personal experience, people you know, pop culture, long-established tropes—but in that work Bram was the closest to me because he is this straight man in a fantastical world that touches on the absurd.  He navigates this world perpetually shell-shocked.  He doesn’t worship it like Spanker, he doesn’t hate it like Ji-hoon, and he doesn’t try to destroy it like Steve.  He’s resigned to it, the way most of us have to resign ourselves to our day-to-day.

There’s a moment near the end of the book where, I think, Ji-hoon just loses her shit on Bram.  She’s pissed that he seems so accepting of it all and a little distant, distracted from this world that’s gone to shit.  Almost OK with that.  That felt real close because on occasion I’ve been accused of not being as engaged as I should be in a particular moment.  It’s like shutting down.  It’s a sensory overload kind of feeling and I think to outsiders, they see an individual ignoring the world, or turning away from it, when really it’s the opposite.  So much is being taken in, your brain just scrambles and in order to preserve yourself, or your sanity at that given moment, you just sort of stop—or blank out.  You haven’t disappeared at all, you’re there, but it takes a little extra time to process, and then you can re-engage.  Of course, you completely lose track of what anybody has said or done during that time, but you piece it back together.

That has caused some problems for me.  It’s a little more severe than just zoning out.  You literally lose a connection.  But also, this tendency to slip away to somewhere safe is the same place I go when I’m really in the meat of a writing session.  The volume on the world is turned down.  All colors disappear.  And you’re just somewhere else entirely.  It’s Spanker’s moon cave.  This strange sense of safety, but not the warm kind with a blanket and a hug and a kiss.  It’s a cold feeling.  Desensitized and dark and quiet.  Alone, but very OK with being alone because not only has the world disappeared, but the incessant chatter in your head is gone.  The negative thoughts.  The fears and regrets.  Ego has no place there.  It wouldn’t even make sense.  It doesn’t have the right language.

So, I guess, not only in the characters, but in the narrative itself, I was working with these ideas of how to process a world that’s destroying itself—maybe destroying itself is not quite what I mean—but a world that is becoming a place that is incredibly resistant to human understanding.  It’s not really about survival—because most of the characters aren’t overly concerned about living—but it’s more about preserving their desire to continue to interact with a world that can be such an awful place, where stepping out your front door, waking up in the morning, or walking down the street is the bravest thing an individual can do with his or her life.  It’s about the decision to be with the world at all costs.  Not to save it.  Not to fix it.  Just to be there when it’s happening.


Stories from the Multiverse

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