Coming November 13! This is a slice of life short story in Jacob's voice. It's the type of pacing and detail I wouldn't be able to include in the mainComing November 13! This is a slice of life short story in Jacob's voice. It's the type of pacing and detail I wouldn't be able to include in the main PsyCop series without killing the flow of the story, so it's perfect for tender interludes like this. I also can't wait to hear it on audio!...more
Locks of Love appeared in the re-told fairy tale anthology Torqued Tales several years ago. I wrote this story early on in my career and was eager toLocks of Love appeared in the re-told fairy tale anthology Torqued Tales several years ago. I wrote this story early on in my career and was eager to get my hands back on it and give it a good sprucing up. It ended up getting a significant rewrite, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was fun to plunge back into the grubby, industrial storyverse and take it to the next level....more
**spoiler alert** About this Story Michael’s vampire-hunting plans usually suck. At least they have up until this point. If it weren’t for Trey being w**spoiler alert** About this Story Michael’s vampire-hunting plans usually suck. At least they have up until this point. If it weren’t for Trey being who (or what) he was, I think Michael would have finally ended up having a satisfactory vamp experience.
It’s while we’re in Wild Bill’s point-of-view that we can really experience Michael, and in this story I feel very proud of him. He has allowed his mission statement to shift based on his experiences, rather than clinging zealously to the idea that all vampires must be eradicated. Trey is a good example of what Michael might have ended up like, if he’d never tracked down Wild Bill after the first ditching and ended up doing a hell of a lot of soul-searching.
In terms of their balance, the Michael/Bill relationship feels more evolved now. While Wild Bill might be (nominally) in charge, or at least he might think so, in the water-rescue scene we get to see how their relationship is so much more complicated and dynamic than that. Each of them take turns being the protected and the protector. And both of them try to steer things the way they want through coaxing and manipulation.
In this series, my favorite vampire handicap is the “water-willies.” It’s traditional lore that vampires can’t cross running water, but that weakness is never exploited to the point that sunlight aversion is. Having Bill wax philosophical about his watery grave was definitely a highlight for me here, exploring that kind of reverse-birth he’s hoping for as some sort of absolution. Personally, I adore the water, so it’s a stretch for me to explore Wild Bill’s abhorrence of it. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert swimmer like Michael, but there is something liberating about having an effective body weight one-tenth what it would be on dry land. It’s especially fun to contrast Bill’s water willies with Michael’s masterful swimming.
I also enjoyed the hotel room scenes with all the shabby props that came with the room. The ugly print on the wall. The green TV. The uneasy easy chair. The bleakness of the setting parallels the bleakness of the characters’ internal lives. Michael’s depression feels more real to me here. I started establishing the problem earlier on, but Wild Bill hadn’t quite labeled it for what it was yet, since wallowing in Michael’s darkness makes him feel so guilty. ...more
**spoiler alert** About this Story Hopefully the Bat Boy reference isn’t too obscure. I trusted that his name was descriptive enough that most people w**spoiler alert** About this Story Hopefully the Bat Boy reference isn’t too obscure. I trusted that his name was descriptive enough that most people would get the gist even if they weren’t familiar with him. If you’re curious, he does have his own Wikipedia page.
Snare marks the second appearance of Julie, as well as the second appearance of Dr. Jim. When Michael hears that the two of them have been talking about him behind his back, he realizes what a liability his family members could be, and how painfully easy they are for any vampire to simply look up in the phone book. If any “bad guys” come after our main duo, Michael trusts that Wild Bill will be able to take care of himself. But Little Sister? Who doesn’t even believe vampires exist? Or mom? Or dad? Bad news.
Speaking of trust, it occurs to me that trust is the underlying theme of this story. Wild Bill and Michael don’t know Dr. Jim particularly well, and as they see him interact with Bat Boy, Michael realizes he doesn’t trust that Jim won’t vivisect the pathetic vampire. Later, when Michael’s arm needs to be reset, he needs to decide if he can trust Bill to disentangle them from the hairy situation. In fiction, I’m usually not a fan of the protagonist letting someone else handle the heavy lifting, however in this case, Michael made the critical choice of taking down Dr. Jim. The rest is all cleanup work.
Dr. Jim’s Caddy is the third red vampire car. I’m not sure why vamps gravitate toward red cars in Channeling Morpheus. Maybe they look good in the moonlight.
**spoiler alert** About this Story I suppose it’s hard to say whether to take what Michael says to Wild Bill as him being manipulative or honest when h**spoiler alert** About this Story I suppose it’s hard to say whether to take what Michael says to Wild Bill as him being manipulative or honest when he suggests the threesome, and then quickly tells Bill to just forget about it. I think he’s probably being sincere, though. (Can we try this? No? Okay, never mind, not a big deal.) Bill is the one who can’t let go of it. It must be confusing to both of them to need to continually involve other people in their day-to-day sustenance in such an intimate way. I have no doubt their boundaries are always shifting and blurring.
In terms of the function their little romp with Damien fills for the storyline, first, it echoes the main characters’ initial encounter while providing lots of contrast with that first threesome. This one is from Wild Bill’s point of view, as opposed to the menage they had with Grey from Michael’s point of view. It’s an opportunity to see that Wild Bill is totally anxious about the whole thing, though he’s projecting a cool and confident “I’m totally in charge” vibe. Thinking back to Payback, we can then infer that he was probably freaking out ten times as much during that encounter, since Gray was so dangerous and Wild Bill utterly loathed him.
There’s also a wonderful shift Michael has afterward, when he’s thinking about the fact that both he and Damien promised, “Yes sir, no biting,” and then they forged ahead and did it anyway…and he wonders if maybe Scary Mary wasn’t savagely murdered after all, but in fact just the victim of a kinky tussle that went too far. The vamps involved were not necessary leering, slavering creatures of the night (like Gray) laughing wickedly as they made their escape. They could’ve been freshly-turned pacifists (like Damien) who came back to themselves after they shot their wads, blinking and stunned, thinking, “Oh my God, what just happened?”
Michael isn’t the only one who gets some good emotional mileage from the story. With Wild Bill, it’s actually more of a reveal than a development, though. He enjoys a full pint of blood during the fireworks and mentions that it hasn’t always been the case, that he usually stopped himself much sooner for fear of taking too much. Later, Damien questions him about how often he eats, and we get to see that he’s been a bastion of restraint this whole time. The chain-smoking and the dabbling with whiskey are as much about keeping his blood urges under control as they are a clinging to his past. And in a deeper reveal, when he does his half-assed Confession, we can see how much of his inner landscape revolves around guilt and regret.
**spoiler alert** About this Story Yowsa, Michael is so kick-ass in this story. I seem to remember that as I was writing this installment, it was reall**spoiler alert** About this Story Yowsa, Michael is so kick-ass in this story. I seem to remember that as I was writing this installment, it was really hard to switch out of his headspace and work on the other story I was writing at the time, which was Zero Hour, with innocent and thoughtful Ernest as its protagonist. Here’s the thing with Michael: he doesn’t think he’s a murderer, let alone a serial killer. He thinks he’s a perfectly rational person who has dug down deep and come up with the fortitude it takes to do what needs to be done.
And then there is all the beautiful contrast around him. Michael, the crack-shot who can shoot someone without hesitation. (He’s from Indiana…of course he knows how to shoot!) Michael, the pre-med wannabe who’s done all the gross lab tech jobs, and can sever a spinal cord without thinking, “This is a person!”
Michael, the 21-year-old who’s mortified by his younger sister’s question about who is “the girl” in his relationship.
It’s probably sick of me, but I love it when Cindy’s begging him for mercy and he shoots her in the throat, because there’s something chilling and dark in him there, something calculating and ruthless, that’s so fun to explore.
I also love Wild Bill’s role in this story, and about how his relationship with his family compares and contrasts to Michael’s relationship with his family. Bill’s age and perspective are brought into play here. He gets to witness the melodramatic family meltdown, knowing that his own family, who he never made peace with, is long gone. Even so, he doesn’t get overly-mature or maudlin about the whole thing. He still camouflages his wisdom among innumerable wisecracks and sarcastic stories.
There are also delicious shades of things to come farther along in the series…and I won’t be too specific, since some of you are reading this for the first time. But Michael’s depression and Wild Bill’s reaction to it, which began in Payback, begin to really develop here. And you’ll see later that Wild Bill isn’t being nice to Michael ’cos he’s a caring partner and a good guy. (Because, really, he isn’t. He’s getting off on the melodrama.) Wild Bill and Michael form a sort of feedback loop, where Michael’s depression feeds Bill’s lust, and then Bill’s remorse lets the flames burn down a bit, until their need for connection draws them into a new conflagration, and everything begins again....more
**spoiler alert** I love the dark places this story goes, because they’re very subtle dark places. While the other stories have decapitations and huma**spoiler alert** I love the dark places this story goes, because they’re very subtle dark places. While the other stories have decapitations and human manikins and even grosser stuff later on in the series, this one is about a creeping sort of contagion. Is it ridiculous that Wild Bill thinks using a condom is all he needs to do to stop the spread of vampirism? Well, that’s what other vampires have told him, vampires who seem to know a heck of a lot more about the condition than he does. So he goes with the flow. If he really gave it enough thought, he would have seen through the holes in that argument himself. But clearly he just didn’t want to think it through.
The “water willies” (as I’ve begun calling them) also got their start in this story, though we get to enjoy them in much greater detail in novelette #8, Fluid. Not that I think my vampire science is particularly scientific—and not that I’d want it to be, because usually books that are busy trying to convince you that their plot point is scientifically viable get really boring, really fast—but it was fun to seize on the traditional vampire lore of moving water being anathema to vampires. With Wild Bill being as alienated he is, when he gets too close to water and starts going into panic mode, it’s almost as if the universe has judged him and deemed him unworthy, and world itself has rejected him. What can I say? Thirteen years of Catholic school gave me some good fodder for writing from a twisted and guilt-ridden worldview.
And let’s not forget about the debut of Dr. Jim—I just love that guy! Such a snot! Written three years ago and the PDA is already out of date, ha ha! I’m sure he has a nice smartphone now, maybe an Android, because he’d think an iPhone was too frivolous. And Michael would have an iPad with a G3 connection so he didn’t have to wander around looking for an unencrypted wireless network to join.
And Bill would just smoke his Marlboros and read the newspaper, as usual. You could also smoke inside a restaurant in Iowa back when this was written, but not anymore. I went to Iowa to do some research and was like, OMG, there are people smoking in here. Total culture shock....more
**spoiler alert** About this Story My goodness, the first appearance of Big Red! I loved that van. For me it was just as much a character in the series**spoiler alert** About this Story My goodness, the first appearance of Big Red! I loved that van. For me it was just as much a character in the series as Damian or Julie or Dr. Jim.
Though it seems pretty obvious Michael and Bill can’t resist each other, I think what I really like about Manikin is that they’re both still scoping each other out. Wild Bill’s probably feeling pretty dismal about the prospect of getting sucked into Michael’s gravitational pull. I’ve always felt like he was a “live and let live” kind of character who didn’t want to do anything rash if he could help it. Not lazy, exactly. Just wanting to be left alone to his self-pity party. Also someone who doesn’t want to take responsibility for anything—so in this instance, I think he’s just thrown up his hands and decided that fighting his impulses in this matter would be like struggling against quicksand, so he might as well just go along with the program.
I have fun imagining Bill sauntering into a used car lot and talking someone into selling him Big Red for a hundred bucks, and then signing Michael’s name to all the paperwork. All the while, I’m sure he’s thinking he’ll live to regret it. But he’s decided he’s powerless to stop the inexorable draw, and since he’s powerless, the blame can’t be pinned on him. For whatever ensues.
Michael is more of a protagonist (the character who moves the story forward). He acts. Bill reacts. I know that in the notes for Vertigo I mentioned that I thought Bill was the leading man, and I still do—Bill is the main character through which the reader can experience the story. His mind is less alien than Michael’s. He’s easier to inhabit. I see these first five novellas as Michael’s arc. My favorite part in this story is that he admits to himself that vampires turn him on. I think he’d considered himself too smart to fall for that kind of appeal, and that his need for Wild Bill was an aberration of some kind. I suspect he sees it as a weakness, being turned on by vampires just as much as your typical emo-girl in striped tights. But the appeal of Wild Bill in all its facets is too strong to keep denying. ...more
**spoiler alert** About this Story Wild Bill—what a character. I never had any plans to write from his point of view. It just happened that way.
Initial**spoiler alert** About this Story Wild Bill—what a character. I never had any plans to write from his point of view. It just happened that way.
Initially, Channeling Morpheus was supposed to be a one-off that began and ended with Payback, but the original publisher thought it would make a great series, and so I began trying to figure out how the heck I’d proceed. My tendency would normally be to pick a single protagonist and write the whole series from their point of view. It’s harder that way, because you need to work in a lot of backstory and subtext around the very strict point of view, but it’s also very rewarding.
I’m not sure if I sensed that Michael wasn’t really a leading man, or if I just wanted to see if being in Wild Bill’s head was as do-able as having Michael hear him talk. I knew that if I did write from a place of Bill, it couldn’t sound like it was coming from the head of any old person. The voice needed to be perfect. And I was scared. What if I couldn’t pull it off? What if the eloquently trashy turns of phrase sounded great in my mind, but fell flat on the page? Plus, wasn’t I cheating, in a sense, if I dipped into Bill’s mind and actually showed his perspective? It seemed like cheating, like I should be able to convey what he’s thinking and feeling through the filter of Michael and, if I were doing my job as a writer correctly, showing just that part of him would be enough.
In the end, though, I decided that whether it was cheating or not to dip into Bill’s perspective, I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could write like he thought. I don’t remember having a lot of false starts trying to get into a Wild Bill state of mind. Once I decided to do it, I just buckled down and wrote it like it sounded in my head, and hoped for the best.
One thing that surprised me was that the Wild Bill fans preferred to read from his point of view. That doesn’t make sense to me, because if you’re reading from Wild Bill’s head, Michael becomes the focus of the attention. I’d think Bill would seem sexier through Michael’s eyes, in Michael’s point of view, when Bill is the object of attraction. But no. The Bill-fans want to be Bill. Just goes to show how much more alchemy is at play here than logic.
As I polish and typeset this second edition, I’m struck by the pull of their lust for each other. I think they both get that nothing good can come of hooking up…but when the urge is too strong to resist, there’s no stopping it. I think that dynamic carried through the rest of the series beautifully, that they’re both so needy for each other, and both so full of broken places inside that no one can really heal, that there’s no way it’s going to end up with them picking out curtains. And I’m glad. Wild Bill would be sorely tempted to steal Michael’s piece and put it to his temple if he ever seriously considered picking out curtains with anybody. Even Michael. ...more
Although the term "Bermuda Triangle" was coined in the sixties, the phrase is a total seventies throwback for me. In a good way. It's one of those mysAlthough the term "Bermuda Triangle" was coined in the sixties, the phrase is a total seventies throwback for me. In a good way. It's one of those mysterious, ominous things that sends a little shiver down my spine.
First Officer Paul Cronin, my protagonist, would have a hard time keeping a straight face if he heard me say that. Paul's a skeptic, and there's nothing unusual at all about that particular stretch of the Atlantic.
This new series is set in an alternate reality Madison, WI. It focuses on families and work and normal day-to-day stuff...with a dreamy twist. DanielThis new series is set in an alternate reality Madison, WI. It focuses on families and work and normal day-to-day stuff...with a dreamy twist. Daniel Schroeder is in the business of implanting recreational memories, and between guiding his clients and testing out his own equipment, his reality isn't always what it seems.
I'm stunned this massive novel has come to fruition so quickly, but here it is: Magic Mansion, the reality show where the serial readers actually gotI'm stunned this massive novel has come to fruition so quickly, but here it is: Magic Mansion, the reality show where the serial readers actually got to vote magicians out of the Mansion!
Not only is the novel action-packed and fun, but the emotional notes hit some surprising depths. I feel like it's the most romantic story I've ever written....more
I really enjoyed re-visiting this novella for the re-release. The artist Anton Kopec is one of those characters that really stuck with me even thoughI really enjoyed re-visiting this novella for the re-release. The artist Anton Kopec is one of those characters that really stuck with me even though he only appears in this one novella. Whenever I lose myself in a project, I feel like I'm in a similar "zone" to the ones he regularly visits. Or maybe more like I wish I could be...it would be glorious to never care what anyone else thought about one's creative process to the extent that he does! Ray's apartment fascinates me, too. I've always had a thing for apartments over garages....more
This story appeared in a charity anthology a few years ago and I'd always liked it, but also always felt it needed something more. I enjoyed expandingThis story appeared in a charity anthology a few years ago and I'd always liked it, but also always felt it needed something more. I enjoyed expanding and deepening the story for this re-release, and I was especially pleased with the new direction in which I was able to take the plot....more
**spoiler alert** This is the Second Electronic Edition of Payback: Channeling Morpheus 1.
If you own the first edition ebooks, there's no need to purc**spoiler alert** This is the Second Electronic Edition of Payback: Channeling Morpheus 1.
If you own the first edition ebooks, there's no need to purchase the second edition. The main differences are new cover art, new typesetting, and small editorial changes (which are also contained in the paperbacks).
About this story: How strange to think this story is going into its second edition already! I had originally intended Payback to be a standalone piece, but Changeling Press encouraged me to make it a series. I’m glad I did, because over the course of ten novelettes, I dug a lot deeper into both Michael and Wild Bill than I ever imagined I would.
My favorite things about Michael are the contradictions in him. He’s both tough and vulnerable...and throughout the series I think he gets even tougher, and even more vulnerable. He’s very smart, but he follows through on some delightfully stupid ideas that only a twenty-one-year-old would ever entertain.
Wild Bill is mainly about language. He’d based on a guy I dated who used words in the most interesting way. It was actually daunting slipping into his head for every other book in the series—not because he’s scary, ’cos he’s really a pussycat. But just wondering if I’d be up to the challenge of having him think the same way he talked, and whether it would make sense to anyone but me. That’s coming up in the next novelette, Vertigo: Channeling Morpheus 2....more