Doc Wilde Update: Running Late, Still Working On It…

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Advance cover mock-up by Gary Chaloner

Okay, the bad news first: Doc Wilde and The Mad Skull, which was targeted for release right about now, ain’t ready yet.

There have been delays at both ends, writer and artist. I’m not satisfied with the manuscript as it stands and have been trying to wrestle it into its proper form while also dealing with matters related to importing my lovely lass Nydia and her son from Brazil and installing them in my cave, getting married, and preparing all the paperwork for immigration in order to make Nyd legal so that Donald Trump doesn’t spaz out about it on Twitter and sic the DHS on us. Meanwhile, Gary Chaloner has had a lot on his plate that has slowed his progress on the art and book design.

But, we’re still at it, and other Wilde adventures are in the works. For one, I have a chunk of the third book, Doc Wilde and The Dance of the Werewolf, already written and Gary will be getting a jump on the cover design for that. For another, he is about to begin publishing a quarterly comic magazine, Adventure Illus., which will focus on his comic book work and characters but which will also feature serialized original Doc Wilde stories. More news on that as it happens.

Now, I’m gonna relax and enjoy my family the rest of the year, then really get cranking again in January to get all this Wilde goodness out to the folks raring to see it.

Happy Holidays to you all. Stay Wilde!

Trump People (And The Terrible Moment I Was One Of Them)

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Cliff Caldwell was a splintered twig of a kid, short and gangly, a twitchy scarecrow without enough stuffing. His hair was blond and dirty, but always combed down with a troubling precision. He stared at the world through glasses with big thick frames, and his clothes were ratty and didn’t fit right.

Cliff wasn’t very smart, and he moved from grade to grade largely out of an embarrassing agreement by teachers to pass him rather than actually help him in any meaningful way. Teachers even allowed him to grade his own tests because his handwriting was incomprehensible.

Outside of school, you’d sometimes see Cliff walking along the roadside, stomping swiftly along, his gaze fixed straight ahead as if he were racing obsessively toward some definite goal. He was going where he was going, and he seemed oblivious to everything around him.

I don’t know how old we were when I met Cliff, I just remember him always being around when I was a teenager. He was one of those unfortunate kids who was born broken, who can’t function properly, and who thereby becomes the target of derision and abuse from most of his peers.

The last I heard about Cliff was in 2009, when this happened:

“The holidays can cause stress for all of us. This must particularly apply to those slaving in Santa’s workshop. One case in point: 45 year old William C. Caldwell, III, surely the frontrunner for 2009 Angry Elf of the Year.

“It may come as no surprise to anyone that your local mall Santa receives excellent security training these days. And a good thing, too. On Wednesday evening, the mall Santa on duty at Southlake Mall in Morrow, Georgia came face to face with a potentially explosive situation. The 45 year old Mr. Caldwell, in full elfin attire, wanted his picture taken with Santa. When his turn came, he informed Santa that he had in fact brought some of his own tools from the workshop… specifically, a bag of dynamite.

“It probably should have raised a few eyebrows that a 45 year-old man, dressed as an elf, was standing in line with a bunch of kids waiting to speak with Santa… particularly when he’s got this look in his eyes:

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“…The quick thinking Santa immediately informed the Southlake Mall security team of the potentially dangerous elf. Authorities contacted local police who evacuated the mall, blocked off streets and cordoned off the area. Georgia Bureau of Investigation officers arrived along with the Morrow Police. They completed an exhaustive search of the mall. Three suspicious bags were discovered near Santa, but no explosives. Fear that Caldwell would actually drop an elf bomb subsided after the ‘all clear’ was given at 10 p.m., local time…”

Fortunately, this was at worst a crazy whim of Cliff’s tormented mind, at best an actual cry for help. No one was hurt. I have no idea what happened with Cliff after he was arrested, but I hope he found some badly needed help and some happiness and peace.

The reason I’m telling you about Cliff is that he was instrumental in my learning a lesson about myself that has stuck with me for years, a lesson that makes me all too able to understand some of the dark impulses that drive many of the people who support Donald Trump (and, frankly, the Republicans in general).

I’m already quite familiar with the basic unenlightened and racist mindset we see flying its Confederate flag at Trump rallies. I’m from Georgia and was raised by those people. But the lesson I learned through Cliff Caldwell is about something deeper and more intimate than that, about the very nature of self and how it can turn rotten.

As I said, Cliff was often a target of abuse from our peers, from cruel insults and mockery to outright violence. I remember sitting nearby in one class as a group of popular kids (the oft stereotyped jocks and cheerleaders, acting according to stereotype) clustered around Cliff’s desk alternately teasing him and acting like they were his friends. Everyone would laugh. Why not? It was just Cliff Caldwell.

One day, in tenth or eleventh grade, a group of bullies started pushing Cliff around in the locker room, shouting in his face, yanking at his clothes, shoving him into the wall. Laughing at him. To my lifelong shame, I joined them.

Why did I do that? I was a kindhearted kid, a gentle kid, a smart kid who had somehow never absorbed the racism or bigotry I’d been raised in. I had not only always treated Cliff with kindness, I’d stood up for him at times. And here I was,  clawing at his arm, laughing in his face.

It was because, as strong as my sense of self was, as deep my compassion, I was broken too. I was horribly abused at home, so depressed I came close to suicide several times, and of uncertain social value among my peers. I felt small. I felt threatened. And on another day, it might have been me under attack instead of Cliff, though I was at least able to fight. Cliff wasn’t.

I joined that hateful little mob because I desperately wanted to belong. I desperately wanted to be one of the popular kids. And I wanted them to know I was one of them, not a pitiful wimpy target like Cliff, so they would leave me alone.

I thought I was showing strength. But I was really showing the depths of my own despair and weakness.

Then, I really lost it and did something that degraded me far more than it degraded Cliff.

I spat on him.

I actually fucking spat on him.

And this other kid, I can’t remember his name, looked me right in the face with such a look of disgust that it burned me to the quick. “You spit on him?” he shouted, and pulled me back.

And that, my friends, was the moment of epiphany. Through that guy’s eyes, I saw what a craven piece of shit I had allowed myself to become in my desire to belong and to be on top.

I lashed out because I was weak and afraid, and I went too far. I’m pretty sure I’d have walked away ashamed of myself anyway because, as I said, I was a good kid. This was an aberration. But good kid or not, it was me attacking and spitting on a kid whose only sin was that he couldn’t function in the world, a kid fighting his own battles who didn’t need me adding to them.

That other kid, that hero, didn’t become a part of the mob, didn’t give in to those dark petty drives. And he jerked me back into the right, painfully and swiftly, and I am forever in his debt. His disgust with me taught me this necessary lesson much more powerfully than I’d have learned it on my own. I had allowed myself to be drawn into terrible dark waters, and he helped me back to shore.

Trump people swim in those dark waters. They ignore the shore. They thrive out there, making themselves feel strong by tearing others down. The poor, the lost, the weak, the Others…all targets of chthonic rage that can’t find a healthy outlet because the members of the mob don’t bother looking for one. They scream at the light because, like that hero kid’s eyes on me, it makes them see themselves. But they never learn the lesson I learned in that horrible moment.

They are more comfortable in the dark, with their own kind.

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See The Cover Art For DOC WILDE AND THE MAD SKULL!

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I am thrilled, at long last, to reveal to you oh so patient readers the cover design for Doc Wilde and The Mad Skull, the long-delayed second Wilde adventure novel. The art is, naturally, by the great Gary Chaloner. This is in grayscale, of course. The final version will be in glorious color.

In this book, my long-awaited follow-up to Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom (KIRKUS REVIEWS: “Written in fast-paced, intelligent prose laced with humor and literary allusions ranging from Dante to Dr. Seuss, the story has all of the fun of old-fashioned pulp adventures…”) the Wildes face a sinister mystery and a truly bizarre villain in a battle that rages from New York City to a scorching wasteland and maybe into the realms of death itself…

The book is suitable for all ages. Publication planned for the Christmas season.

Also, those snakes? Fire snakes. As in snakes made of fire.

Get ready to Go Wilde again!

Lifestyles of the Witch and Not Famous

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Since my Carioca witch Nydia and her son Lucas joined me here in the Byrdcave, we’ve been making the place nicer in multifarious ways ranging from adopting an insane new kitten, Castiel, to buying new sheets that actually fit my king-sized bed (and thereby don’t constantly come undone every damn night) to actually vacuuming sometimes. Life with a functional non-depressive is revelatory, let me tell you.

The latest addition are a couple of limited edition art prints I’d been drooling to buy for months. I missed my chance while they were for sale because they sold out quickly, but I did manage to ultimately find them for a reasonable price on eBay. The two are my favorite pieces in a gorgeous set of seven Universal monster pieces by artist Nicolas Delort,  Frankenstein and The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

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We framed them and hung them together in the living room, but they demanded special treatment so we added the decals around the edges you can see in the image up top. The effect is beautiful.

Cue the Addams Family theme.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Nyd has taken over…

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TESS FOWLER: Her Rampage Against Rat Queens, aka “Here She Goes Again”

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If you read my blog regularly, you’re probably aware of how I hired comic book artist Tess Fowler to illustrate and paint a cover for my next Doc Wilde novel, of how that turned out to be a very expensive mistake when Tess utterly flaked on the job and kept my money, and of how she publicly (and privately) libeled me after the fact.

This was what she told one editor who asked her about the matter:

“You’re referencing a disturbed man who fired me from a job and then went out of his way to tell a string of lies about me on the internet. He stalked me by phone and internet even as he was about to be committed. I am afraid of him.

“This is a person I have called the police about on more than one occasion. And I am deeply fearful of his lack of stability.

“Thank you for completely wrecking my day by bringing up a person who I look over my shoulder for when I leave the house. If you choose to pursue anything involving him don’t come to me.

“This is a person who had every opportunity to rectify a situation he created. And chose to torture me. Please do not ever write me again.”

This is such complete bullshit that it’s comical. I have chronic depression, and have fought a terrible battle with it for years. She tries to use that to gaslight me, to cast me as unhinged and dangerous. I did not stalk her, I barely even tried to convince her to return to work once it became plain she wasn’t willing to do so. I have never been “committed.” And she never called the police on me, or, if she did, she’s clearly the crazy person here. (To see more of her nonsense about me, check out this post.)

I offered a full account of working with Tess here, built from our actual correspondence, in order to show exactly how the project fell apart and just how difficult she was to work with. My primary motive was to try to help others avoid being victimized as I was. And, indeed, over time, I’ve been approached by others who have also been ripped off by Tess Fowler, some professional, some just fans who commissioned her to do some art for them that they never received.

The latest victims I’ve heard from are Kurtis Wiebe, the creator of the esteemed comic book Rat Queens, and his wife, Shannon. Kurtis hired Tess Fowler to replace the original artist on the book and apparently had an experience that was agonizingly similar to my own. Eventually, they had a very public falling out, and Tess went on the warpath to slander and libel and gaslight both Kurtis and Shannon, threatening to ruin Kurtis’s career by  showing him to be “the worst man in comic books.”

Kurtis hasn’t chosen to share his full account publicly yet (I hope he does at some point), but Shannon shared her side of the sordid tale in a lengthy comment on one of my previous postsHere’s that comment in full because I felt it needed more sunlight than it was getting lost as it was in a comment section under an old post. Much of it is all too familiar… Continue reading

In Matters of Principle, Stand Like a Rock: A Plea To Your Better Angels

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Beautiful.

This is why I support Bernie Sanders. He’s a Hail Mary pass against all the entropy and corruption and business-as-usual. His roots are in New Deal America, and his roots are strong. He is running because he wants better for us, for ALL of us, and for our children, and he is willing, has always been willing, to fight like hell to get it for us. He represents a nearly impossibly rare opportunity to do great things, to reach for goals that elevate us as a people, to work for an America that truly belongs to us all.

A vote for Bernie is a vote for our people, our land, our country.

Please vote.

In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
Thomas Jefferson

The Once & Future Wilde: GREAT News About The Doc Wilde Series!

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Today, I get to share some huge news with you about the future of Doc Wilde.

As you may know, the first book in the series, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, was published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in 2009. It was very well reviewed and sold well enough that Putnam contracted me for two more books toward building a regular series. The safe (and possibly sane) course of action would have been to stick with Putnam and all the benefits of publishing with a big house. My experience with Putnam was largely positive, and I’d beaten the odds by landing with them in the first place. But…

But I wasn’t satisfied with the book Putnam put out or their support of it. There were some editorial dictates I allowed myself to be persuaded to follow that I felt weakened the story, the book was pigeonholed by the publisher as a middle-grade work rather than a tale for all ages as I intended, and the publisher put very little effort or money into promotion (this is, alas, mostly par for the course these days).

Additionally, I was simply more ambitious about the Wildes than Putnam was, and had wanted the books to be fully illustrated. With this in mind, before I’d even finished writing the book I’d sought and found the perfect artist for it, a hellaciously talented Aussie named Gary Chaloner. Gary read what I’d written to that point and fell in love with the characters and agreed to join the Wilde team. While I finished the book, he put a lot of time and work into getting the characters just right, and I loved his take on my heros. A fellow pulp-fan, Gary understood the Wildes in his bones, and his images were dynamic and clever and made my story look good. The picture atop this post is one of his.

When they bought Frogs of Doom, Putnam disregarded all the work Gary had already done and my aspiration for nicely illustrated volumes. The book they put out replaced illustrations with goofy typographical effects in the text which made it look expressly aimed only at younger readers, and while the painted cover was nice, it did not capture my characters as I saw them and I never got so much as an email consultation with the artist.

Doc Wilde, 1st edition

Now, that’s not unusual, not many authors actually have much say in the covers that get stuck on their books. But since I’d been through months of collaborative effort with my artist of choice, who had labored meticulously to honor my vision, I was naturally even more dissatisfied by the outcome.

So, inspired by the independent publishing revolution, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I managed to work some loophole sorcery and not only wriggled out of the contract for the next two books but regained full rights to Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom. I brought Gary back on board and we set out to create the books I’d wanted all along. After lots of work and some delays, in 2013 we rereleased the first book in a gorgeous new edition that was not only packed with great Chaloner artwork but also featured my preferred, extended “Author’s Cut” of the story.

DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOM

Working with Gary on this book was the most enjoyable creative collaboration I’ve ever had, and the resulting volume is a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, just after its publication, Gary was forced to resign from the series due to scheduling concerns. This was a crushing blow, but I rallied and hired a new artist, Tess Fowler, which was a terrible mistake. She took my money and dragged ass for months without producing anything but a few rough sketches then, as we approached the originally agreed upon release window, threw a neurotic fit and ceased all communications. She kept the cash. I later found out that I’m not the only victim of this sort of behavior on her part.

Being ripped off by Tess Fowler didn’t just cost me money, it cost me all the months she was allegedly working on the next book. And it triggered my depression, which I’ve battled for years, making further progress impossible for many months more. All the creative and logistical issues of creating these books were further exacerbated by the anxiety of my trust betrayed and depression’s leaden shroud. I entered a period of convalescence, realizing I needed to get a handle on my daily life again before I could even begin to think about getting back to work on the Wilde books.

Well, the time has come to get back on that buckin’ bronco. The Doc Wilde series is finally continuing. And the really big news is: Gary Chaloner is back as the official Wilde artist!

HURRAY!

Gary is still very busy, so we’re taking it at a slower pace than originally intended, but it’s worth it to do these books right. The new release schedule will be a new Doc Wilde book every year. This will allow him to fit Wilde work into his schedule without overwhelming him, and it will allow me to alternate Doc Wilde books with other writing projects.

We plan to release the second book, Doc Wilde and The Mad Skull, by Christmas 2016, with a yearly release around the same time each year thereafter. And we hope you’ll join us on all our adventures for years to come…

ADVENTURE!