Fallout 4

fallout-4Despite the mountain of work sitting on my desk (the work resides in my laptop, of course), I’ve lost 40+ hours of my life to a video game. These are precious hours of my mortal coil burned off in the pursuit of experience points and legendary weapons.

Damn you, Fallout 4!

Reactions to Fallout 4 have varied from “Meh” to “Eh, pretty good.” I’m in the “pretty good” camp.

There are plenty of reasons to knock the game. The graphics can be glitchy. The user interface appears to have been created by someone who has never played a game before. Dialogue pathways have gone from nifty and interesting to incomprehensible.

And these are just the three biggest sins.

But if you’re a casual gamer who likes the occasional triple A game (like me), then you’ll find Fallout 4 has a lot going for it.

The plot, while nothing original, is interesting and propels forward at a pace that is comfortable to the player. You can dive right in, or you can muck around with side quests and exploring the large sandbox world. You’re seeking your child stolen from your spouse’s arms from an incubation chamber. Familiar factions like the Brotherhood of Steel are around.

The game lets you choose your sex and craft your character’s appearance. That was cool. Naturally, I created a sexy red-haired bad ass.

The big reveal of the Commonwealth (Massachusetts) when your character first exits the vault is brilliant and stunning.

You can attain powerful weapons, but so far, nothing I’ve found is broken. The game does a decent job of escalating the difficulty levels as you experience up. Contrast this to my experience with Fallout: New Vegas where I got my hands on a sniper rifle that allowed me to rip through the last quarter of the game with little difficulty.

Finally, I must compliment the voice actors. The acting is understated and appropriate. So often in video games the performances are hammy and over-the-top.

Oh, and you can the mod the hell out of the game. My favorite mod? Where you turn all the Deathclaws into the Macho Man Randy Savage. OOOOOOOO YEAHH!

Got to go, the Commonwealth beckons!

I Want to Believe

Mulder & Scully talking shop.

Mulder & Scully talking shop.

Being a child of the 90s, I harbor a soft spot in my heart and memories for all things The X-Files. The rebirth of the series has been a mixed bag: some good, some bad, all of it colored through the warm lens of nostalgia.

In the recent episode “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” Mulder has an existential crisis where he realizes all of the paranormal and extraterrestrial activities he investigated and wanted to believe in can be explained away by a few minutes of Google and Reddit research.

As Scully astutely assesses: “Mulder, the internet is not good for you.”

In the dawn of the Al Gore information superhighway, the internet was not an exhaustive source of international inter-connectivity. These days, if you know where to look, you can find the answer to most unusual occurrences. If you can’t, then a clever teenager with time on his/her hands will.

As Mulder lamented, it has taken the sparkle off some of the urban legends, ghost sightings, and alien fun. For better or for worse, the net is full of know-it-alls who enjoy raining on your parade with facts.

Despite this travesty of truths, there are still a handful of interesting oddities to be found in the Google rabbit holes. I would like to see Fox and Dana take a whack at them, whether these occurrences have been proven to be hoaxes or not.

This flying Russian girl makes David Blaine look like a rookie:

All the non-paranormal/alien explanations make logical sense. But the details of the Dyatlov Pass Incident leaves enough room for an X-File. It is a fascinating incident.

The weird details of the murder of the Somerton man would make an interesting case. Heck, this one might be beyond Scully and Mulder. We need the the big man, Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes to figure out what happened.

Future of the Future of Books

By Mark Tennis

When the first PA devices and smartphones began to emerge onto the market developers sought a way to transfer books onto these pieces of tech. Although the first attempts weren’t very successful for many reasons, we now live in an age in which eReaders are ubiquitous and many think they will put books out of print.

These eReaders are so prevalent that they aren’t just used for reading any longer. Now it’s possible to watch movies, play games and even get online in PayPal casinos, like those listed on, all from your Kindle or Nook.

It’s great for publishers, and self-published authors, as it’s now possible to get books out there at a fraction of a cost. This makes the profit margins larger and those who purchase eBooks can even get better deals on them because of this.


Although this market is now heaving with those selling and buying, it’s not the future of books – as some would have you believe. Technology is always getting bigger and better, so the end is not yet nigh for the printed word. 30% of books sold now are eBooks but only 6% of readers only buy eBooks, the rest purchase a mixture or only physical books. This means that the market is still very much there for those who wish to by traditional books.

No one can accurately track the path that technology is going to take, although many have tried. As far as eBooks are concerned it’s an unclear path as there are many aspects of the industry that offer areas for improvement. These could come in the form of improvements to cloud services, new ways to store books or even eReaders that have flexible screens. This technology could really take readers anywhere but which ones will be popular will be decided by the reader.


Those who do believe that the printed book is going out of style often hark back to the fate of the CD. As MP3 files came along these outdated modes of listening to music were left out of the loop and are now rarely seen. There are a few key differences that this comparison doesn’t take into account however, and one of these is that the digital version was often an improvement on the physical copy. The target markets of the products are vastly different too, while MP3 players were embraced by younger aficionados, eReaders are more popular among older readers.


Whatever is next for the eReader the improvements will be fascinating to watch. Although they may come on a par with the printed word they won’t be able to replace books until they offer something better. The time may come where they do but what improvement will be responsible for that remains to be seen.

Sapiens Plurum $1000 Fiction Prize

Last year I helped judge the inaugural Sapiens Plurum fiction contest. It was a blast reading stories from writers of all ages coming up with solutions to our ocean trash heap problem. It really caused me to work harder to reduce/reuse/recycle. Every time I have to throw away a piece of plastic, my stomach flips.

That will happen after reading 100+ stories about ocean pollution.

We at Sapiens Plurum listened to your feedback and made a few changes to this year’s contest. The theme is not so narrow this time. Instead of first place being a trip, it is simply a cash prize (the logistics of a trip are quite a headache, as it turns out). Also, we have abandoned giving smaller prizes to more people to create larger prizes for the top three.

You have until Earth Day to submit (April 22nd).

Submission and contest information can be found at the Sapiens Plurum website here:

As mentioned before, I was part of the blind judging of the first contest. If I may, I would like to give some tips and common problems I encountered with many of the entries from the first go-around.

  1. Too many stories forgot the Sapiens Plurum mission.
  2. Several stories failed to present original “science fiction” solutions to the environmental problems at hand. Copy/pasting proposed solutions from research and pro-environment websites won’t get you anywhere.
  3. Awkwardly juxtaposing the requirements of the contest into your plot will lead to a disjointed and disappointing store.
  4. Please proofread your story. At least one judge is a stickler for grammar. I am (somewhat) more forgiving, but I do have my…quirks. If you mess up they’re/their/there, you’re not going to win! Sorry. The line must be drawn here!
  5. We want stories that are positive in tone. Certainly, darker subjects can be explored, but we want stories that provide solutions, not an apocalypse.

I hope these tips help! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. Good luck!

2016 Travels

Here is my tentative convention and conference schedule. I’ll be a guest at some, vending at others. One or two I’ll be incognito. At all of them I’ll be looking to chat and meet people!

Feb 19-21
Chattanooga, TN

Lexington Comic and Toy Convention
Mar 11-13
Lexington, KY

Mar 18-20
Cincinnati, OH

April 8-11
Louisville, KY

June 17-19
Nashville, TN

August 17-21
Kansas City, MO

Oct 7-9
Louisville, KY

World Fantasy Con
October 27-20
Columbus, OH

Genre Writers Group Starts Monday!

The Winter session of my genre writers group at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning starts this coming Monday at 5:30. This is a six week program and we meet for 90 minutes each Monday.

My last group had 12 attendees (the max). If you’re interested in participating, you’ll want to sign up sooner than later!$72

Happy book release day to me!

BOAsmallToday marks the release of Best of Apex Magazine, an anthology of short fiction I edited with Lesley Conner.

If you like dark SF, fantasy, and horror, then you’ll like this book. We edited together for YOU.

Available at Apex, Amazon, and soon everywhere else.

What Say You: Mark Allan Gunnells

A few years ago, I bought a fantastic zombie novella for Apex titled Asylum from Mark Allan Gunnells. It’s a classic Romero zombie fan’s dream: trapped survivors, vicious zombie kills, and hordes of zombies having dinner. Mark has written a sequel, of sorts, titled Fort that I cannot wait to read. Enjoy Mark’s What Say You about Fort!


fortZombies are incredibly popular in entertainment and incredibly unpopular at the same time.

What I mean by this is that for every person who loves and celebrates zombie literature and film, you have someone who says they are sick of zombies and that they are polluting the market. Each new zombie story that is released seems to draw as much ire as it does praise.

Which makes it interesting for the writer with a zombie tale to tell.

Years ago when I was writing my zombie novella Asylum, I was quite new to publishing and wasn’t really aware of public perception of these sorts of things. I just had an idea I was passionate about, and I wrote it. I was lucky enough to find a home for the story with Apex Publishing, who aggressively promoted the book, and for a writer at my level, the book sold fairly well.

And yet as I got more involved in the horror community through message boards and other online avenues, I discovered the backlash that existed against all things zombie. I encountered people who were quite aggressive in their distaste for the zombie subgenre and made a point of telling me they’d never read my novella. Some even went so far as to say they believed the horror genre was being killed by the glut of zombie fiction and thought writers should stop writing it.

This was a bit baffling to me. I have my personal preferences, but I never feel anything should be off limits to writers because I believe writers should always pursue the ideas that inspire them. Plus when I love a writer’s work, I’ll follow him or her regardless of genre. Still, everyone is different and people have a right to feel how they do.

That said, it caused a brief dilemma for me because shortly after publishing Asylum, I realized I had a new zombie idea, a novella that would act as a semi-sequel to Asylum. Now that I was aware of the contingent of readers who despised zombie fiction, it gave me pause.

But only for a moment. I’ve always been a writer who believed the best writing comes not from trying to fit a certain market or deliver what is expected but from simply falling in love with an idea and exploring it, regardless of all else. Fact of the matter is the idea of this new zombie novella, Fort, excited me and I wanted to write it. True, there were a certain number of readers out there who wouldn’t be interested in it, but you can say that about almost any subject matter. The question becomes not is it a story that others want me to tell but is it a story I want to tell. And the answer was definitely yes.

The writing was quite enjoyable for me, but in this case the rewriting of it was even more enjoyable. Sinister Grin Press bought the novella, but in their initial editorial notes they asked if I could bulk up the story, increasing the word count, and they also said they wished I could find some way to explore more of the college campus on which this story is set. Those two requests gave me the idea to interject flashbacks throughout the piece, revealing the characters’ lives before the zombie outbreak. This gave Sinister Grin what they wanted, while allowing me to deepen the characters without detracting from the forward momentum of the main plot.

And it afforded me another exciting opportunity. The connection between Fort and Asylum was there but not overt, mostly just a reference in the opening of the story. By creating these flashbacks, I realized I could make that connection a little more direct by incorporating two of my characters from Asylum, Curtis and Jimmy, into them. It was actually thrilling fun to resurrect those characters, so to speak, and hear their voices again. Like revisiting old friends you thought you’d never get to see again. I hope readers feel the same.

I realize that with this novella there will be those that avoid it just because it deals with zombies, and that is out of my control. My hope is that those who give it a shot enjoy the writing, that they find it to be an exciting and engaging story. I would also hope that people who enjoyed Asylum will give Fort a try, and that readers of Fort who never read the earlier novella may find their way to it.

I think it’s important as a writer to follow your instincts. We all want to please our readers, but I believe the best way to do that is by being true to our passions. The simple fact of the matter is that we’ll never be able to please absolutely everyone, but we run the risk of pleasing no one if we aren’t writing stories we believe in.

I believe in Fort, just as I did Asylum, and I look forward to hearing what readers think about it.

Buy Fort from Amazon today!

For Exposure available to HWA members

The 2015 Horror Writers Association recommended reading list has been published. For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher is listed in the category of Nonfiction.

If you are a member of the Horror Writers Association and would like a gratis copy of For Exposure to read for Stoker consideration, shoot me an email to and I’ll hook you up.

Black Friday deals on my books and anthos

Quick note about some Black Friday deals that are running…


Apex is discounting all their books 40% today. Use checkout code BLKFR15. That means you can get For Exposure and Appalachian Undead for under 10 bucks.

For Exposure –


Amazon is having an unprecedented book sale. They’re offering 30% off any physical book. Use promo code HOLIDAY30.

Irredeemable –