coming soon: a limited edition hardcover novella

In 2017, I wrote and published a novella called Dead Trees Give No Shelter. It’s a supernatural horror story about a man who is haunted by the memory of his younger brother’s death when they were children. In my story, he returns to the town he grew up in, looking for some closure and resolution to his brother’s senseless death, and he finds much, much more than he was expecting.

It gets really wonderful reviews on Goodreads (3.99/5.0), which is pretty cool, and a nice surprise for me, because I never looked until just now.

If you’re intrigued (and I hope you are), you can get it on Kindle, as an audiobook that I narrated, from Overdrive, or from me directly in multiple formats with no DRM.

It hasn’t been available in print, because I didn’t think it was a big enough piece of work to justify the expense and time involved in putting together a print run, but that’s about to change.

Earlier this year, I read this novella from Stephen King called ELEVATION. It didn’t feel too small to be in print, and I didn’t feel like I’d spent too much money on it, so I decided to take a chance, and hired my pal Will Hindmarch to do a hardback book design for me. He put together something beautiful and special, that I just love.

It’s going to be a very short print run, of just 250 books. I just uploaded the files for the printer, so it should be available in a few weeks. Normally, I wouldn’t say anything until it was ready, but I’m super excited to share this, and I hope 250 of you will be as excited to have a copy of your own.

horsin’ around

Red Dead Redemption 2 is the most emotionally profound game I have ever played. When I finished it a couple months ago, I felt a kind of wonderful sadness that something I loved was over, secure in the knowledge that I’d be able to experience the story, spend time with the characters, and explore the world all over again whenever I did a replay.

So about a week ago, after I had finished replaying the story in Red Dead Redemption 1, I started my replay. I already have a deeper appreciation for the early character interactions, because I’ve spent a hundred hours more with them than I had the first time around, and I know now that I really want to spend as much time in chapter 2 as I possibly can.

But I know that you’re not here for my philosophical ruminations on the deeper story that is happening around Arthur and his gang, and I know you aren’t here to read a thousand words about why it feels so good to leave this awful world behind for a few hours every night.

You’re here for horse names. I see you.

So Hosea wants me to go hunting with him. I know there’s a legendary bear in our future, and I know that we aren’t going to take it down on our first try, because I’ve been here before. But what I don’t remember is that Hosea wants me to take this old draft horse to the stables in Valentine and sell it, so I can get a new horse of my own.

I already have a horse, and he’s fine, but there’s nothing special about him. He’s sort of a starter horse, and he’s a good boah, but he isn’t that fast, even after we’ve reached our maximum bonding level.

So I go to the stables, I sell this big draft horse, and I pick up a Palomino. She’s beautiful, with a gorgeous white mane and some dappling on her haunches. She’s fast, and she’s going to cost me $150 of my $155.

It’s a lot of money to spend on my horse, and it’s going to be challenging to rebuild my savings this early in the game, but the alternative is a $50 horse who I don’t feel anything for. Even in a video game, an emotional connection with my horse is important to me, so I spend nearly all of my money, and buy her.

Now the game lets me give her a name, and I have to make the most important decision I’m going to make in this game for the next 24 hours of gameplay.

I have already used Mane Weidlin and Neighlor Swift. I briefly consider Nagnes Moorehead, but it’s kind of a walk, and it’s too long for the number of characters I get, anyway.

So I start thinking about horse-related terms, and I end up with “Steed” in my head…

Which is why I am delighted to introduce you all to my new horse, Tara Steed. She’s a little bit of a mess, but she means well and is doing the best she can.

She’s no Neighlor Swift, but who is, really?

A flock of Seagals

So my friend Bonnie Burton and I were making puns with Anne, and somehow we came up with “A flock of Steven Seagals“.

I got the image you see below in my head, commissioned artist Joshua Ellingson to draw it for me, and submitted the design to Cotton Bureau, where it will be available for two weeks before it’s gone forever.

This is one of those visual pun jokes that not everyone will get, but the people who get it will *totally* get it, you know? If you’re one of those people, I hope you’ll pick one up because I’d love to see one of these on someone out in the world, someday.

They are available in heather grey, light pink, and light blue, for maximum 80s.

doubled up inside

It’s warm and windy in the valley today. The sun feels so good on my skin, as the breeze swirls little cyclones of leaves and trash against the buildings I’m walking past. A palm frond waves at me as I pass. It is barely clinging to the trunk of its tree, and will probably come down with the first real gust that hits it at dusk.

I have my headphones in my pocket, but I decide to leave them there and let my mind wander. It’s good to be bored. It’s good to rely on my own imagination to entertain me as I walk home from lunch with my friends, who I haven’t seen in months.

I have this story idea I’ve been working on. It’s kind of silly, but it’s entertaining to me, and it should be fun to write. I spend most of my walk working on its first line, which is currently sounding like, “Matthew woke up with the kind of hangover that can only be described apocryphally. ”

I try lots of variations, but that’s the one I keep coming back to. I don’t know if it’s as good as I think it is. Maybe it’s lazy and not as evocative as I think it is, but it’s what I can do right now.

The wind blows some dust into my face and I have to take off my glasses to wipe out my eyes. A kid, probably in 10th or 11th grade, walks past me, backpack slung over one shoulder, face buried in their phone. I can relate to this kid. They are dressed a little punk rock, with torn jeans and a T-shirt from a band I’ve never heard of. Many piercings, brightly colored hair that’s cut into a style I haven’t seen before.

I want to tell this kid that they’re awesome for being weird. I decide to keep my mouth shut because this kid doesn’t care what an old man thinks, and neither do I, it turns out.

Maybe it’s being adjacent to what I have labeled as youthful rebellion, but I cross the street against a red light. I’m not going to stand here on the corner when there’s no traffic, and wait for a light that is just slowing me down, man.

As I cross the center line, I see a motorcycle cop, who has pulled someone over and is writing them a ticket. Yeah. I’m jaywalking. Fuck the police. I’m a middle-aged rebel and what are you going to do about it?

Last night, we went to a screening for our friend’s new Netflix series, BLACK SUMMER. It’s set in a zombie apocalypse, but it’s really about what happens when society collapses and we have to rely on strangers to survive. It’s about the sacrifices we make for our children. It’s about authoritarianism and violence for violence’s sake.

As I walk down the quiet, suburban street, on the most beautiful day we’ve had in months, I think about what we watched. I think about what I would do if something catastrophic happens and I have to protect myself and the people I love. I think about how terrible the world is right now, how loud the voices of hate and anger are, and how grateful I am to be outside, in the warm sunshine, walking home to my dogs. I think about how powerless I feel. I think about how afraid I am of my country, my community, my entire world being slowly torn apart. I don’t know if a zombie apocalypse would bring out the best in us, or if it would just exacerbate our divisions.

I want to have faith in humanity. I want to expect the best of people. But fool me once and so forth.

I’m so tired.

The sun is at my back. My black T-shirt is a heat sink and a small bead of sweat runs down my spine.

It feels good to be outside. The world is a terrible place right now, but it feels good to be out in it, alone with my thoughts and aspirations. It is good to be outside, enjoying a beautiful day, being grateful for my life and the people in it.

It has been an indescribably painful seven months. Every day has been a struggle, but every day has been a gift.

I’m doing the best I can, and I have to remind myself that my best will have to be enough, and I’ll have to keep doing it, even when it feels like it isn’t enough, because it’s all I can do.

The wind is at my back now, and it blows my hair up into an approximation of my bedhead. That makes me smile. I leave it alone, resist the reflex to smooth it out and make myself more presentable. Nobody cares, and neither should I.

Could I survive the zombie apocalypse? Or would I welcome it? I’m not ready to honestly explore the question, because whatever the answer is, I don’t think I’m prepared for it.