Friday, February 2, 2018

A Sequel to Shadows of Tockland

Yes, I am slowly creating the sequel to Shadows of Tockland. I say slowly because I am super busy at my real job, but occasionally I find time to whittle away at the story. I've written roughly 127 pages of the first draft. I shouldn't give anything away at this point. Suffice it to say, the story finds our intrepid Klown Kroo getting up to some dangerous shenanigans, thanks in large part to the ridiculous behavior of two specific members of the troupe.

Is that vague enough? Perhaps the opening paragraph will wet your whistle. Here it is:

David Morr brushed aside the tiniest curtains in the world, gazed through a window covered in muddy handprints, and saw a naked, pink monster writhing on an orange wool rug. He watched as the nameless animal clawed at its own belly and chest, a glistening tongue poking out from between generous lips to lap at the air. David grunted in disgust and let the curtains fall back into place, but still he saw it in his mind’s eye, all that yardage of hairless skin, the great heaps and mounds of it, distorted into abstract shapes like melting mountains. 

There you go. I'll keep plugging away at the novel. In the meantime, if you haven't read the first book, make it happen. If you have read the first book, read something else, like THIS or THIS or THIS.



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Having Too Much Fun with Clowns

I've mentioned before that I enjoy creating chapter titles. I see them as opportunities to pique the interest of readers. My latest project is going to have some of the weirdest and most interesting chapter titles I've ever written. What is that new project?

A sequel to Shadows of Tockland, of course.

Now, if you've never read Shadows of Tockland, I highly recommend you give it a chance. It's hard to think of another book or movie that bears similarity to it. Let's summarize: in a post-apocalyptic version of Arkansas, a young man runs away from home to join a traveling clown troupe. Along the way, they encounter a city full of plague-ridden maniacs and a rampaging army from an empire called Tockland. It's brutal and strange, and the response has been mostly very positive.

Anyway, I've finally gotten around to writing the sequel, which is tentatively titled The Dust-Lords of Tockland. It takes place on the northern border of Nebraska and the future nation of Lakota. Lots of strange and terrible things happen, building to some interesting revelations. Is that vague enough? Well, let's just say Cakey the Jacked-Up Clown and Disturby Dave get up to some dangerous shenanigans while touring a new town.

On to the chapter titles. I've written the first four chapters, and here are the titles:

Chapter One: The One and Only Tiny Barrel-Shaped Lady
Chapter Two: Motel Memories
Chapter Three: Let’s Please Ruin Our Careers
Chapter Four: Everybody Loves a Clown with a Knife

See what I mean? I'm enjoying writing the novel very much, but I'm really looking forward to creating the chapter titles. This story is going in some weird, weird places, friends.

In the meantime, read the original right now, if you haven't already!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Terrorizing Real Places with Clowns and Mayhem

I have a tendency to take real-life locations, particularly places I've lived in or visited, and insert them into my works of fiction. I usually take substantial liberties with these locations, playing with the geography and timeline. I enjoy this perhaps more than I should. Let's take a look at a few real-life locations that I've inserted into my novels and discover the terrible things I've done to them.


This novel contains three real cities (all of them located in Northwest Arkansas) but moves them into a post-apocalyptic world and fills them with danger, violence, clowns, and plague. Isn't that nice?


This small town has inspired locations in two of my novels: Shadows of Tockland and Mary of the Aether. In Shadows, it becomes a steam-powered, gas-lighted town on the edge of civilization. When the novel opens, a small traveling circus has come to town, and that's where our protagonist first meets our clown heroes.

In reality, it's a small, quiet town with a strange dinosaur park. It's also home to the Dairy Dream, which inspired the Dinky Dairy in Mary of the Aether.

West Fork

In Shadows of Tockland, West Fork is a city of strange hat-wearing, plague-ridden hillbillies. In real life, it a town of about 2,000 people that is chiefly known for Riverside Park, where you can dive off bluffs and splash around in the White River.


In Shadows of Tockland, Fayetteville has been transformed by plague and war into a walled fortress city trying desperately to keep the sickness of the world at bay. The name has been reduced to Fayette, and the people have become hostile to everyone. In real life, Fayetteville is almost certainly the greatest city in Arkansas and is the fifth-best place to live in the U.S. Much of the action in the novel takes place in and around Dickson Street, so when the plague hits, watch out for Dickson Street, people. It's doomed!


Bartlesville, Oklahoma

This small Oklahoma town is where I grew up and went to high school. I have strong memories of this place in the years 1987-1991. It has changed a bit since then, with new roads being built and some old businesses disappearing from the face of the earth. The version of it in the novel has had its geography messed with. Tuxedo Trailer Park, the setting of the story, is a fiction. It doesn't really exist, though it is based on a much smaller trailer park where a friend of mine lived. I've also placed a strange alien power in its midst and set it loose to ruin lives, so that's fun.



Since this is a fantasy novel set in a completely different world, you might be surprised to discover that one of the primary locations in the story is based on a real place that I once visited. Siliven is a smallish town designed and built in a grid, where the north-to-south streets are numbered neatly from One to Ten. In the very center of the town, there's a large open plaza that serves as a meeting place. It's where a lot of significant events occur in the book series, and the dominant building there is the local church.

Believe it or not, Siliven is based on the city of La Plata, Argentina. Although La Plata is vastly larger than Siliven, it's layout is the same general idea. As you can see in the photo below, the streets of La Plata were designed and built in a grid. At the heart of the city, there's a large plaza which is dominated by the Cathedral of La Plata. If you took La Plata and shrunk it down significantly and moved it into a vague fantasy setting, you'd get Siliven.


West Fork is the scene is a brutal struggle with plague-ridden hillbillies. Fayetteville (Fayette) is the sight of a fierce gun battle involving a clown troupe, an army, another army, and a mob of maniacs. Bartlesville is invaded by weird ribbon-like creatures that stir up all kinds of evil, grief, and hatred. Siliven (La Plata) is haunted by ghosts and eventually terrorized by a weird cave-dwelling monster.

See how fun it is?

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Nineties Are Calling You

The summer of 1991 in Bartlesville, Oklahoma was a hot and humid one. Nothing unusual about that. Oklahoma gets its share of hot, humid summers, but this particular year was different.

It all started when a young man by the name of Navin Noe hopped over the fence at the back of Tuxedo Trailer Park and made his way into the overgrown wooded area beyond. He only intended to retrieve his prized baseball, the one he caught during a local high school baseball game.

Unfortunately, the woods were overrun with stray dogs and worse. Something was hidden deep in the hollow of a tree, something waiting to be roused. Once awakened, it's power threatened the whole city.

Who are the young people responsible for stirring up all of this trouble? Let's meet them.

Navin Noe

Navin lives in Tuxedo Trailer Park, in the third trailer from the end, in fact. His mother works the graveyard shift for a janitorial service at the local hospital, so Navin's aunt spends nights with him. During the day, Navin's mother spends most of her time sleeping on the couch in the living room, so he's left to roam with little supervision. Unfortunately, there's not much to do in his immediate vicinity.


Navin's best friend, Hao, actually lives across the street in a real house. His father owns a small restaurant on the east side of town, though it doesn't have the best reputation. Hao has a game room with multiple video game systems, including an old Atari 2600, an NES, a Sega Master System, and a brand-new Super Nintendo. In the eyes of most trailer park residents, Hao's family is rich.


The newest resident of Tuxedo Trailer Park, Jane arrives with a strong sense of disgruntlement. She had no desire to move into a trailer park and tried to convince her dad to rent an apartment instead. He didn't listen, and she's not at all pleased. Her old hometown, Plano, was far more exciting, and she's not afraid to make comparisons.

Now, meet our fine city. Bartlesville, the City of Lights! Actually, that's Paris, but for those unfamiliar with Bartlesville, here's a glimpse of downtown:

Cool places the kids like to hang out? Well, there's the Eastland Four. That's the "nice" movie theater in town.

There's also the Penn Twin. It's got an interesting retro vibe. Navin doesn't like it when the movies play off-center and out of focus, though.

There's Washington Park Mall, of course. The old folks prefer Luby's. Navin and Hao make the occasional trip to Aladdin's Castle to play video games. Hao is pretty good at Smash TV. There's also Time Warp Comics, but Navin doesn't really have extra money to spend on comics. He borrows X-Force or Wolverine from Hao sometimes.

So, as you can see, Bartlesville is one of the most exciting towns that 1991 has to offer. Unfortunately, it's all about to come crashing down.

Enjoy the catastrophic adventure!

The Ribbon Tree is available in paperback and on Kindle. Click the book cover and check it out.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Everyone Loves a Nice Mechanism

Of all my novels, this particular bleak little tale has been selling most consistently the last couple of weeks. I'm not sure why, but I figured I'd talk about it a little bit.

It's one of the bleakest things I've written, set in one of the more evocative settings--a sprawling, windowless factory filled with massive oily machines. Picture it. Smell the grease and the warm metal and the mysterious grimy filth. Within the factory, there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of rooms, most of them sealed behind locked doors. And within these rooms, you'll find the saddest child slaves you've ever imagined, rag-draped Dickensian wretches doing endless menial tasks day after day. 

Cruel robots called Watchers guard them, punish them when they fail to work, and feed them hideous gray food bricks once a day. Doesn't that sound uplifting? I actually think it is one of the more uplifting things I've written.

The book introduces us to four main characters.

Bik, a mostly hairless, tiny thing in the filthiest scrap of a robe you've ever seen. He spends his days polishing mysterious purple rocks using a harsh chemical polish.

Hen, an emotionally disconnected girl who does her best to avoid personal interaction, she spends her days climbing up and down a towering contraption called the Mechanism, like a little bug.

Ekir, a bent-backed boy, much abused by an older supervisor named Ous, he spends his days preparing and serving meals on a nice table in a lush dining room and then cleaning up afterward when nobody eats the food. Nobody ever eats the food.

Kuo, a damaged and possibly disturbed young man who spends his days climbing up and own the enormous fat folds of a headless monster called the Grong, feeding it meat paste from a bucket. He might be losing his mind.

These four eventually cross paths and descend into the bowels of the factory, uncovering secrets and horrors beyond description.

If you've never read the book, let me encourage you to do so. 

For a deeper look at the meaning behind the story, check out this luscious article!

To check out the book, click on the book cover above.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Embrace the Sadness

I am of the opinion that the best and most effective stories need a few truly sad moments. I don't mean the dainty kind of sadness with a sigh and a single tear. What I'm talking about is a soul-crushing moment of hopeless despair, where we peer into the void. Work a few of those into your story, and people won't soon forget the experience of reading it.

For example, there's the testimony of the ghost from The Vale of Ghosts:

“It happens to all of us. As time passes, everything we ever knew or saw or heard, every person we ever touched or loved, they all drop away, leaving us with nothing but the vague and choking need to escape.”

That's not nearly the saddest moment in the book. Of course, what affects the writer deepest might not affect readers in the same way. For me personally, as I wrote the thing, the saddest moment comes in the basement of a cathedral in Tilieth. Not to give too much away, but it involves our protagonist making an emotional confession.

The bleakest thing I ever wrote is Children of the Mechanism. It's got a few of those horrible, hopeless moments, along with some truly wretched, miserable little characters who suffer far more than they deserve to.

The sad moments start early on. I'd be curious to know which bleak moment of despair hits readers the hardest. For me as the writer, it involved the character of Hen and her tragic interactions with a girl named Tag. And this thought:

I told you to wait, one thought resounding over and over. I told you to wait.

Actually, there's possibly a sadder moment, and it involves a character saying this:

“You were so brave and so strong. I have to do something now, Bik, and don’t you follow me.”

So what is your opinion on sad scenes? Do you enjoy a story with some truly heart-rending bleak moments? What are some scenes from various novels that have deeply affected you?

By the way, the paperback giveaway is still going on! Check out the previous blog entry for details.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

One Million Beautiful Quotes (and Giveaway)

I love reading individual, isolated quotes from novels, especially when it's a good, strange, or thought-provoking quote that piques my interest. I like to try to imagine how it fits into the overall story. I guess that's why I keep doing these quote posts from my novels. Maybe nobody finds it as interesting at me.

Anyway, I've done enough of these that I thought it might be interesting to collate them all into one mega-post.  Also, click on the pictures for more info about the books.

GIVEAWAY: I've got a few paperback copies of my books to give away. Respond with your favorite quote from this list, and I'll put you in the drawing. You can respond on the blog, on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. If you'd prefer a Kindle copy instead of paperback, let me know. Books will be given away in a couple of weeks (4/15/17).

Mary of the Aether Series

"I don’t want a boring old world where all anyone ever does is grow up and work some awful job for no money and spend Friday evenings watching high school football games and recalling the so-called glory days until they die."

"Nobody really believes in anything. My parents don’t believe in anything. They just breathe and eat and work."

"I don’t want sympathy. Sympathy only makes me mad."

"Maybe if I practice a lot, if I order my thoughts, I can learn to imagine better things. Maybe in time I could imagine anything. What if nothing is impossible?"

"The world just got a whole lot more dangerous tonight. Maybe it always was dangerous, but I didn’t know it."

"I know who I want to be. I want to help and heal, and I won’t let you or anyone else try to change me. I saw what I can become, I saw it, right there by the side of the road."

"I don’t care if anyone likes me, as long as I’m not embarrassed ever again by my own feelings or my own behavior."

“I never want an explanation for any of this. Never. I don’t know what you did. I don’t care what you did. The whole world has gone crazy, and I don’t want to know anything."

"I’ve been selfish. I see that now. I wanted a happy little life, but I was entrusted with this power by people who loved me. I’ve wasted so much time whining when I should have been learning."

"The world will burn out like a torch, but the light will shine brightly, and I will rise like the brightest ember into the stars at the end."

"The world is sliding into oblivion, devoured by shadow, and you are its last light."

Shadows of Tockland

"Destiny, I want to lick your face for all your perfect ways.”

"Mark my words, the ever-night is coming, and when it does, you'll be glad you've got some wild nutters at your side."

"Destiny has a funny way of making things irrelevant. Superior numbers, for example.”

"Far away, far away, blessed one. The ever-night is coming. It is coming forever."

"Tonight is a night you’ll wish you had a gun.”

"Sometimes, rubes don’t think they got their money’s worth, and they try to take it out of us in blood."

"Look, we’re committed to destiny now. From this point on, whatever happens, happens. That’s how destiny works."

Children of the Mechanism

"Open doors are the best thing in the whole world. An open door means you can leave something bad and maybe find something good."

"If you hold on, we will live. If you let go, we will go down, down, down. Do you understand how important it is for you to hold on?"

"I was born climbing the Mechanism. Nobody ever told me why.”

"Where I come from, the higher you go on the Mechanism, the more dangerous it gets. The circles get smaller, and the fall is farther. The world is like that, isn’t it? The higher we go, the stranger, the smaller, the uglier, the more dangerous."

"I walked forever down a hundred different places and saw all kinds of different lights and Watchers with hands, and then I came to the end."

"The world got worse and worse the more she understood about it."

Garden of Dust and Thorns

"The very thing that you took for granted will be your salvation. Never forget it."

"You’ve lived in the shadow of this Garden all your life. And you had no idea what was here. None of you did, not even the caretakers. This will be to our everlasting shame. While we lived outside the wall in the dirt, we had everything we could ever need in here.”

"Persistence is not a virtue. It is a defect."

“Stand on your island, in the shadow of your sacred tree, and watch me defile this ground. And weep, if you will, knowing that your thief-lord’s reign is at an end.”

"It’s a very strange thing to be deceived. A very strange thing."

The Archaust Saga (The Vale of Ghosts)

"Why is it every decision I make seems right one second before I make it and then completely wrong and ridiculous one second after I’ve made it?"

"You crossed the relic wall. The ghosts can see you now, and they will—they will drag you down into the vale, sooner or later. They do not give up."

"As time passes, everything we ever knew or saw or heard, every person we ever touched or loved, they all drop away, leaving us with nothing but the vague and choking need to escape."

"Are we smarter than the generations that came before us? How can we expect to fix a problem that they could not?"

"Our worst mistakes can become the catalyst for our greatest accomplishments, if we are willing to make it so."

“There’s not a worse person in the world than someone who will abandon a friend or family member in their last days.”


Dreams in the Void

"Your comfortable life is paid for with the taxes of hard working villagers, so that one day, you might provide just leadership for them.”

"Until a few weeks ago, I thought the world was normal. Then it all came crashing down, and I learned everyone is sick—depraved and sick."

"It’s a miserable thing to be helpful—to be needed, to be essential—and someone can’t see it."

"There is a heaviness in me now, like something coiled around my intestines. I hope to make it go away. I don’t want to feel like this anymore. I don’t want to be the person I have become."

"Sit and ponder, boy. Dream of killing kings."

"And so it comes down to a simple question, young Dekembri. Are we the righteous, or are we the wicked?"

“A storm is coming to sweep away everything. Find a secret place, bury yourselves inside and wait it out. Wait it out.”

Fading Man

"You cannot bury sickness under the ground and expect it to stay there. It will make itself known eventually. It will climb up out of its hole and demand to be seen."

"Nature or fate or destiny has selected us for suffering, and we are to endure it, accept it, take and gorge ourselves on misery like the dutiful sub-creatures that we are."