Friday, October 26, 2012

Ashcan Update

The Ashcans have all been mailed.

Since this is the USPS we're talking about, I can't say exactly when they will get to you. My guess would be mostly next week for US people, longer for foreign folks, and some will inexplicably get them today or six weeks from now.

But if you live in the US and haven't gotten yours by, say, November 9th, shoot me an email about it and we'll see if there's anything we can do.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Heinlein's Rules of Writing

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put the work on the market.
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

And if you don't know who Robert Heinlein is, may God have mercy on your soul.

I mention these because I think there's a lot of useful stuff in there, even for comic writers. One thing to note is that these say zero about story. They're not meant to; they're about being a productive professional writer.

My thoughts:

1. You must write.

I'm pretty sure you're making a no shit face, if not actually saying it. But, you know, there are a LOT of people who want to be writers who never get around to actually writing anything. Which is fine, generally, but not actually doing the thing you want to do is not generally a recipe for success.

I would note this also, unfortunately, applies to published professional writers. I am writing this to get myself warmed up for the paying work. Ass in chair time isn't always easy to make yourself do.

2. You must finish what you write.

And for those who actually do get down to the writing bit, this is the next stumbling point. This includes me. I have something like half a dozen started but far from completion novels in my computer. It may actually be more. I have never finished a novel.

So, you know, this is good advice. If you're trying to break into comics, I recommend writing the first issue of whatever you're going to pitch, and I recommend writing a lot of those. I have ten or so projects trying to be greenlit as I write this, for instance.

But you need to be finishing stuff, too. So always have at least one project that you are working on and finish it and go to the next one. I am currently, for instance, working on Legend (nearly finished) and Savant as my creator owned projects. When I finish those, another of my being pitched projects will slot in. WHich one depends on what gets greenlit or not.

3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.

This tends to be the one that gets the most resistance and, truth be told, I don't entirely agree with it myself. I don't think that the first draft of everything is automatically shit and do believe that there is a certain point when you are flat out not improving things anymore, just changing them.

What you need to do is somewhere in the middle ground, and it will vary from writer to writer as well as from project to project. I rarely rewrite in the sense of going back in and tinkering with things. Usually if I have a successful draft, it's 95% of where it needs to be.

The key phrase there is successful draft. I semifrequently get to the end of a draft, decide it's crap and start over again from the beginning. This is rewriting, yes. But I don't do much in the middle ground version. My general rule of thumb is that if I know how to fix something, I will, but if there's just an overall sense of suck I leave it be. The former is my critical mind working, but the latter is just me being insecure. Not that I don't sometimes suck outlloud - its just that when I can't pinpoint why, it's my brain playing tricks on me.

Having said all that, I'm pretty sure the point here is to avoid that third writerly tendency, which is to keep tinkering with things forever and ever and ever. You're better off, both from a getting published and improving as a writer standpoint, finishing things and moving on to the next thing. So if you've been polishing one thing for a long time, maybe you should apply this rule for a while.

4. You must put the work on the market.

Indeed. Like not writing if you want to write, not pitching (or self pubbing) if you want to be published is generally a poor strategy, unless you're planning on dying and having your mom discover your works of genius and publish them posthumously. Even then, I recommend pitching, because moldering corpses don't have as much fun at cons.

5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

My variation of this would be to not give up on a project (or more importantly, yourself) if you've had a rejection. As anyone who has known me for a while will tell you, I never give up on projects I think have legs. I've been working on bringing two projects to print for at least five years, and it might well be more. So, you know, if you believe in something, keep at it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

NYCC 2012

I'll be there. As will Tradd.

We have a table in Artist's Alley - BB15

I only vaguely know where that is myself, so you're on your own there.

But here's where I'll be, as best I know it, during the con when I'm not at the table. Which is most of the time, it seems.

Justin Jordan NYCC 2012 Schedule

Valiant 6:15 – 7:00 Justin Jordan

Valiant Signing 12:30 – 1:30

Image Signing 1:30-3:00

Valiant Panel 1A08 2:45 – 3:45

Jim Zub Panel 1A14 5:15 – 6:15


DC Panel 1E07  1:30-3:00

Valiant Signing 3:30 – 5:00

Valiant Signing 11:30 – 12:30

Thursday, September 27, 2012

How To Get The Ashcan

Right, the Ashcan.

The only big caveat is that you WILL NOT receive these until after NYCC – I won’t have gotten them and have had time to send them before then, and it’s supposed to debut there anyway.

So, again, these won’t get to you until after October 16 2012.

With that in mind, here’s how you get one:

Paypal 15.00 US for each copy you want to I’m going to cap those at two per person. It’d be one, but I know some people will be getting for multiple people.

In the note part, put your name and address. Seriously, I need that to send your sweet, sweet ashcans. If you don’t have the name and address in there, I am going to send your money back, rather than waste it on hookers and blow. Nobody wants that. Include your address.

And if you're wondering what it's IN yon ashcan:

22 Pages, Black and White, limited to no more than 500 copies. Might be less, for sure won't be more.

11 pages of Legend of Luther Strode

6 page recap of Strange Talent

5 pages of brand damn new material, which will never be reprinted.

Available from Tradd and Justin at NYCC (obviously enough) but it's also going to be available to online folks who've supported the book but can't make it to NYCC. We just need to figure out how we're going to do it. Most likely, we'll just have people paypal me the money and then ship it by hand, but we're still working it out.

So that's the skinny.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Losing Fifty Odd Pounds

Well, they weren’t that odd. They were fairly typical. Doughy, unpleasant, insulating – you know, pounds.

I’m not entirely sure what my peak weight was. I usually go with 314, which is the highest weight I had recorded at the Doctor’s office, but it’s entirely possible I weighed a few pounds more at some point. Hence the fifty odd bit.

My weight was been as low as 259 recently (and briefly) but has generally settled around 262 pounds for the last month or so. Prior to that, I had been pretty stable at 270 or so. You’ll note a lot of vague “or so” and “around” in there, which is because my body can fluctuate mightly during day. I normally go to bed weighing about five pounds more than I woke up and I can run that up to ten with some work.

Some other stuff about me, in brief. I’m 34 years old, and six feet tall or so (again, I’ve been measured at anywhere from a bit over six foot to a bit over six foot one), and I was diagnosed as a type two diabetic five or six years. Actually, might be closer to seven, now.

Obesity and diabetes run in the family. My father and I weighed 309 at the same time, briefly, but he’s a good five inches shorter than me. And like me, was/is diabetic. Likewise, my maternal grandfather was diabetic, as was his mom. And so on and so forth. I got a lot of good genes, but the ones for sugar metabolism weren’t among them.

On the plus side, I am naturally pretty strong. I could, without lifting, do 185 for a single in the bench, 135 in the press, and deadlift 315. Not incredible, by any means, especially for someone my size, but I mention it because it’s relevant to my weight story.

I never felt bad. I mean, I could plan whatever sport I wanted, never felt bogged down by my size, and never felt especially fat, even, although I clearly was. That’s not just in retrospect, either – I managed to both be aware and in denial at same time.

Having a decent amount of natural strength and fitness insulted me from the damage I was doing. I fairly recently hauled my then 275 pound carcass up one side of a mountain and down the other, thirteen miles of no trail bushwhacking in a day’s time, without having had a lick of exercise in the two or three years prior to that.

That hike is also illustrative of another point: my body was starting to fall apart. I got some good genes: strength, fitness, flexibility, stunning good looks and a sparkling personality. I also got some bad genes: fatness, diabetes, the inability to see more than a foot or so and a love of bad puns.  And a tendency towards joint problems.

This is probably related to an extreme natural flexibility, oddly enough. My mother, who is around 5’3 and usually weighs around 120 and works out religiously has the same bendiness that I do, and the same joint problems.

So while I was physically able to do the hike, I developed some sort of problem with my Achilles tendon (possibly tendonitis) that took more than a year to heel. Likewise, when I spent a day canoeing through not quite enough water, I developed some sort of something in y neck, trap area.

And so on and so forth. Those two things actually happened after I lost weight, incidentally, but they’re the tip of the iceberg. But what they show is that my body was slowly losing the battle against fat and diabetes.

My diabetes was, generally, poorly controlled and slowly progressing. Mostly, this was only apparent in my blood sugar numbers. I could get fairly good control  by restricting carbs, but I could never stick with it.

Worse, I developed a bad habit of binging on carbs in preparation for the low carb periods to come, including some times when they never did come. This was not a happy state of affairs.

So I started losing weight. By using the shocking method of eating less. It’s not that I think that Gary Taubes and co are wrong, exactly. I think there’s a lot of truth to the idea of chronically elevated insulin levels damaging your body. But I also don’t think it’s the whole story.

There’s a lovely idea that if you restrict your carbs, your hunger will be blunted and you will eat less. After all, they say, who can overeat on steak.

Uh, me. Because I am the black hole of Pennsylvania and no food can escape me.

I’m absolutely sure there are people for  whom the hunger blunting equals weight loss idea is true. They may even be the majority. But they aren’t me. Me, I can eat tremendous amounts of food, even if I restrict my carbs to as close to zero as possible. I mean, I just this past week ate more than a pound of meat in about ten minutes. I can absolutely eat an entire bag of grilled chicken breasts at a sitting.

The point is that if I don’t make a conscious decision to eat less, I will eat more. This has little to nothing to do with hunger and quite a lot to do with psychology and habits. I like being stuffed to the gills. I do. But I don’t feel deprived if I’m not. It’s a trait that needs to be managed.

So what I did was found places where I could remove food with out it bothering me. If I were eating hamburgers at home, I ate them without the bun and chips or whatever. I didn’t eat ice cream more than once every few weeks. I didn’t drink any liquid calories. Stuff like that. Which worked.

Sloooooowly. I actually lost four pounds between every Doctor’s appointment for a long stretch, something like two or three years. It was so predictably regular that I joked that if I scheduled an appointment every month I’d be down to flyweight in no time (demonstrating the same ignorance of causality as your typical diet and exercise journalist, too).

So over the course of a couple of years (three, I think) my weight went from 314 down to around 270. Where it promptly stopped. For several years. Which was actually sort of interesting, because my diet was all over the place back then.

I’m not sure where I stand on the set point theory. It clearly exists, for some people. My best friend, for instance, has weighed about 150 pounds his entire adult life. He had back surgery a few years ago and his weight dropped, naturally and without conscious action, by fifteen pounds because without activity, he wasn’t hungry. As soon as he started moving, he was back to normal fairly quickly. So yeah, he’s got some sort of internal equilibrium

What I’m less sure of is how it all works. Most people will max out on how fat they get, regardless. You hit a certain weight and don’t get much fatter. Otherwise, half the country would be getting the walls cut out of their house to get them out.

But regardless of how it worked, it seems like my set point changed to keep me at 270. I’d go a couple of weeks eating obscene, ridiculous amounts of food, and there’d be no notable weight gain – two pounds that would be gone in days. You might think that I was overestimating the time I was overeating or the amount, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.

On the flipside, I wasn’t losing any more weight. And I assure you, I did and do need to lose more weight. At 270 my around the navel measurement was 50 inches (49 if I snugged up the tape) which is, uh, big. Periodic forays into more restricted eating didn’t seem to make much difference, and in any cases I didn’t stick with them.

Still, forty pounds is no joke. It just wasn’t enough. My diabetes was somewhat improved, but nowhere near good. So earlier this year I tried eating a low carb diet again, to see what effect it had on my blood sugars: a big one, and quite notable.

Unfortunately, a few weeks into this, I suffered a pretty big personal loss and while I was able to keep going for a few weeks more, I eventually went off the rails again. What’s interesting is that I ate as much as I wanted, just low carb, and my weight was rock solid stable. No weight loss at all. So for me, it was pretty conclusive proof that I needed calorie restriction or I would eat everything, ever, even on low carbs.

But I started to feel as if the diabetes was catching up with me. Nothing I could be sure was diabetic complications, but enough to give me significant amounts of anxiety about the whole thing. Nightmares about losing your feet are not fun. At all.

So this past month, I committed to going all month eating as close to zero carbs as possible. I would eat most beef, with some cheese and some chicken, but a good ninety percent of my meals were cow.

I started eating within a somewhat narrow window, between noon and seven o’clock. Which in practice was more one to seven, but hey, close enough. I tried to keep my calories to less than 2,000 a day.

I also started experimenting with both my drugs and supplements that were allegedly by credible sources to maybe help. All this while stringently monitoring my blood sugar, generally more than a dozen times each day.

And it worked. I slipped up, if you want to call it that, twice during August. Once was when I was just flat out wrong about carbs in something, and once when my blood sugar kept dropping and I couldn’t get it to stay where I wanted it without eating some carbs. But still, I consider it a success.

My weight dropped down to as low as 259 (the lighest, by several pounds, I’ve weighed since I hit my adult height at age 13) before stabilizing at 262 or thereabouts. And actually, I’m fairly certain the couple of pounds bounced upwards was a result of my supplementing with taurine in doses that are said to have a cell volumizing effect, pretty much the same as creatine.

My calories would at points drop fairly low. I know I had a number of 1000 calorie days especially in the beginning. This was because while I am capable of eating a whole lot at any one meal, my urge to eat between meals was pretty much gone, so as long as I kept my meals to 500 calories or so, I didn’t eat much.

I did notice that I started getting cold all the time when my calories were that low. My gut feeling is that my metabolism was slowing down. I started eating more calories, and the cold went away but my weight remained stable. So make of that what you will.

But blood sugarwise, I’m almost there. I spend most of my day with my BS in the normal range for a healthy person, which is better than most doctors will try for. I’m not all the way there, because I still have a rise between noon and four that I can’t get locked down. It’s physiological – it happens regardless of whether I eat or not. I just haven’t been able to find a way to compensate for it.

I still have a good ways to go. I’d like to get lean enough that, if possible, I can control my diabetes through diet alone, which I’d consider cured. But that may not be possible. Still, going to try. I’d like to get my waist down to 36, which would be half my height which is apparently nice and healthy. Probably look okay, too.

This month, I’m staying at near zero carb, but I’ve opened up my options a bit: I’m eating some spinach salads, for instance. Still tracking against my BS readings for all of that. August was No Carb August, and September is going to be All Walkies September, where I will attempt to walk for at least 30 minutes every day of the month.

Some takeaways, which certainly apply to me and may or may not apply to you:

You Have To Find Out What Works

For you. I have no idea if intermittent fasting works for everyone. Almost certainly not. I’m definitely not sure if there is a physiologic benefit to it. But it works for me and my goals. Likewise, I make no assertion that a diet consisting mostly of beef was anywhere near ideal, but it worked for the goals I had set out.

I am terrible patient for a doctor, and I’d probably be a terrible trainee for a coach, because I’ll do my own thing and hodge podge stuff together without asking. What can I say, I am who I am. But I found something (things, really, because it’s a moving target) that worked for me. And did them, which brings me to point two…

(And as a side note, my bloodwork improved across the board. If the cow was bad for me, it was more than offset by my blood sugar improvement)

And Do It

I knew low carb would reduce my blood sugars. I’d seen that. I just didn’t do it (and may fall off the wagon again – I hope not, but I’m realisitic) and that applies to a lot of stuff. It’s not especially helpful to know what works for you if you don’t do it, and there’s a good argument that stuff that works but you don’t do doesn’t actually “work”.

So eating all beef for a month was something I could do. I have plenty of beef, it’s easy to prepare and I like it. Ideal for health? Probably not. Ideal for doing a month controlled experiment? Sure. For me.

The walking thing is based around this principle as well. It’s not that 30 minutes is probably going to tremendously improve anything. But it’s a positive thing for my health, and 30 minutes a day is something I will actually do. And 900 minutes of something I will do is a lot better than the 0 minutes of the ideal.

Set Conditions For Success

My aforementioned best friend gave me advice, which was good advice because he is smart and awesome, which I didn’t take for a long time. The advice was this: set conditions for success. By which he meant that need to make sure that you have your environment prepared for whatever it is you want to do.

Dan John once wrote that if your diet involves eating three apples a day and you only have twelve apples, you’re gonna have problems.

So, for the No Carb August, I planned ahead. I chose August, for one thing, because it’s a month where I had virtually nothing going on travelwise. No conventions or signings, no big birthday parties, nothing like that. No situations that would make it harder to succeed.

Likewise, I knew that having stuff ready that was palatable and required little preparation was a must. If you don’t have time to cook, it gets very easy to eat pre made carb heavy stuff. So I got beef cooked up and prepared and stashed in the freezer. I got the foods and supplements and everything else I thought I need.

For the September walk challenge, I bought an iPod and an Audible subscription, because I find walking to be incredibly tedious. I found a rail trail near my house that’s nice, and prevents me from being mistaken for a bear and shot or being run over, which are actual considerations for walking anywhere else. I even got tee shirts with a front pocket so I’d have some place to put said iPod while I walked. I basically did everything I could think to be prepared and to minimize complications, which actually flows nicely into the next thing…

Conserve Willpower

I believe, and there is a decent amount of evidence to back this, that willpower is a finite resource. That every time you do something you do something you don’t want to do (or vice versa) you use up your daily allotment of will. So if I go some place with bread, and then visit Mom and she’s making pie, it’s gonna be a lot harder to say no to the second thing.

So I reduced temptation as much as possible. Like I said, I picked August because of minimal willpower requiring situations. I made sure stuff I liked and was carby was out of the house or, at least, out of sight. Even the eating beef thing was this; the less choices I had, the less will I needed to use.

Set A Time Limit

And I did the No Carb thing for a month. And you know what was hardest about it by month’s end? Logging the stuff, which was part of my commitment. By month’s end, the eating was a breeze, but the typing up what I ate and such was a tremendous pain in the ass.

But setting a time limit helps that whole willpower thing. That’s one of the key things in a twelve step program, I think, the notion of one day at a time. You don’t look at forever, you look at today. Or in the case of me, you look at August. You can tell yourself that you can have that bread in September and that’s a whole easier than saying you can’t have it ever.

Add One Thing At A Time

Or subtract. Basically, one change at a time. As I mentioned, I’m doing the walk thing in September. Because I don’t really like doing it, and doing both that and not eating stuff I want to eat would use up too much willpower. But now that not eating carbs has become a habit thing and not a will thing, I can switch that over to other areas.

Calories Count

They do. But what trips people up, I think, is that they don’t matter in a way that is necessarily consistent or predictable. By way of a for instance, I have been meticulously weighing my food this month, so I can tell you that 1200 calories and 2500 calories are, for me, the same.

But I did and do have to make an effort to restrict what I eat somewhat. Intially I did this by cutting out certain stuff I wouldn’t really miss. Lately, I’ve added eating in a narrow window to that. Both help.

And this is all a bit of moving target. 2500 calories was definitely enough to lose weight when I was 314, but it holds me steady at 262. I’d bet that if I dropped them way down below 1200, I’d drop weight again. I just don’t want to. I don’t like being cold and hungry all of the time.

So Do Carbs

But carbs matter too. They matter quite a lot to me, since my body can’t deal with them. How much they matter to the non diabetic is up for grabs, but I reckon it depends on the individual.

But I can tell you this – 2500 calories with high carbs has a different effect on weight loss than 2500 calories of protein and fat. Mostly because with the high carbs, my blood sugar runs high, and that means that I have less energy and become generally more lethargic and THAT means I burn less calories.

Exercise Doesn’t Matter

For weight loss, for me, so far. About half the time when I lost weight, I was exercise pretty vigorously – I lifted weights for an hour and did the elliptical for forty five minutes four days a week. And I was busting my ass at both; on the elliptical I was always trying to beat my calories burned which while not accurate in absolute terms seemed a good enough way to judge the progression.

The other few years I was about as sedentary as could be without actually lapsing into a coma. I felt better when I was exercising, but my weight loss was exactly the same. And incase you were wondering, the exercise was the first half, not the second.

So for weight loss and just weight loss, exercise hasn’t made a huge or even noticeable difference. I like to exercise and it improves pretty much everything else, so I do it anyway.

So there, in apparently novel form, is how I dropped the weight and what I think I know.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Those Who Laugh - Part Four

Their buildings were….different. Because they weren’t bipeds, the Squids apparently had different ideas about directions and construction. He had Bob bring him down in what had been one of the largest cities on the planet. It still was, Tucker supposed, but it had been covered in a velvety red something. He thought of it as moss, although it clearly wasn’t.

They hadn’t been dead long, as these things went. Bob said that the last of them would have died around a century before arrival, although general civilizational collapse had taken place quite a lot before that. It takes time for an entire species to die.

If you could compare things like that, Tucker would have said they’d made it to about early twentieth century earth levels of technology. Like their buildings, their mastery of tools had gone in different ways than Earth’s had. They had never developed spaceflight. never set foot or, rather, pod on any of the three moons that orbited their home. There were no man made satellites, no debris in space. They had lived and died on this one small world, alone in space.

The Squidworld was a particularly rich find for the Fermi survey, Bob told him. The way that the Squids had utilized data storage technology meant that vast chunks of it were able to be scanned and interrupted by Bob. None of the machines themselves worked, but the data endured. This was rarely the case with these worlds. Mostly they had to interpret the civilization from what remained after, educated guess from the manner of their lives and, quite often, the means of their deaths.

Tucker felt strange, walking through that city. Part of that was strictly physical; the planet had a different gravity and a different atmosphere than Earth standard and while it was subtle, he could feel it even with the encounter suit on. But the bigger part of it was the same feeling he’d had every time he’d visited a world like this. The sense that he was walking across someone’s grave. A sense of trespass.

He made his way to and up the tallest building. Eventually. The Squids didn’t believe in stairs, so he needed some assistance from Bob in getting to the top of it. He looked out across the city, which stretched as fat as the eye could see. He looked out at it and if he squinted, ignored the red moss and the encroachment of nature, what he saw looked very human.

The Squids were far, far removed from homo sapiens, but as Tucker looked at their works, trying not to despair, he couldn’t help but feel a kinship. They were Squids, but they were people. They’d lived, they’d worked. They’d even loved, Tucker was willing to bet. They were like us. And now they were gone.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Those Who Laugh - Part Three

They were squids. Okay, they weren’t squids, but that’s about as close as he could get to describing them. This was the 47th dead civilization their ship had studied for the survey, and what Tucker had learned was that tool using life came in a lot more forms than simply the bipedal.

The common requirement was they have something to manipulate tools with, which is about as obvious a fact as it was possible to get. But what they manipulated those tool with could vary, quite a lot, and Tucker had seen civilizations built by beings that you’d have imagined could have never managed such a thing with their physical requirements.

The squid/octopus tentacle arrangement actually happened to be one of the more common ones, which inspired a lot of theories among the scientists back home and a lot of intense glances at cephalopod life, who they suspected might be either hiding something or seriously underachieving.

The Squids actually looked surprising close to Earth squids, albeit large and land dwelling. Bob informed him that they actually possessed a rigid internal skeleton and were not especially close, biologically speaking, to squids. This cemented Tucker’s mental decision to call them Squids.

They were dead. The planet wasn’t. They rarely were. Every now and again one of the survey ships came across a world where there wasn’t any actual life left, but it was incredibly rare. Species come and go. Life persists. This was a problem for the survey actually.

They knew of a lot more planets where civilizations had come and gone and now there was nothing left to see or analyze but trace chemical and odd dispersal of elements. Time wiped away most things, and faster than people would like to believe. So what they knew of the dead civilizations was informed by a selection bias of sorts.

If they used materials that could stand up long enough to the tides of time, then the survey could find out quite a lot. Some of them, some of them they didn’t even know what they looked liked. That bothered Tucker. Someone should know. Even if they were dead and gone, someone should know that they were there and that they had been. Nobody deserved to be forgotten.

The Squids had based their technology around silicon, and the way they went about it was such that much of what they had built, much of what they were had endured. Bob had been in orbit for a while before he brought Tucker up, scanning. He could tell Tucker anything he wanted to know. He could tell him everything that was there to know.

“I want to see it.” Tucker said. He expected an argument from Bob, or some kind of obfuscating ignorance. But Bob simply prepared a shuttle for him without comment or question.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Those Who Laugh - Part Two

There were, of course, dozens if not hundreds of theories about why this was, and many of them were entirely probable. At least one of them was almost surely right. But it didn’t matter; the truth was, when humans found out that they were now alone in the universe, they need to see why. In person.

Well, some of them did. Somebody should be there, someone real, to look at what remained of their galactic neighbors. Someone should bear witness. Which is why Tucker Wells was so very far from his home.

He wasn’t alone. There were actually another eleven people that were under right now, and Tucker could instruct Bob to bring them up anytime. They wouldn’t mind. Twelve was determined by some sociology minded personality to be the optimum number for long term missions. Less, and the group could descend into group think in ways that would make the trip miserable for all involved. More, and they fractured into something resembling tribalism. Or so the idea went. Tucker, for his part, had his doubts.

But the protocol was that when they reached a new world in the survey, one person would be woken up first to observe first before everyone was awakened, and it was Tuckers turn in the rotation. He liked it. He enjoyed being able to think about what he saw and drawing his own conclusions.

And, frankly, it was just nice to spend sometime by himself. Tucker, like everyone else aboard, had the sort of personality that could be sent on a mission like this, where he wouldn’t get home for millennia, if ever, which meant he needed alone time.

The ship had started out much smaller than it was now. Since Bob could scavenge raw material as he went, there was no reason to wait for the ship to be full constructed before they started. When Tucker went under for the first time, the ship was basically a sleeper core with an engine attached. The first time he was brought up, it had expanded. Significantly.

Bob, being a personality created specifically for the purpose of spending centuries at a time looking at nothing but the void, was not supposed to be able to get board. Nevertheless, there was no good explanation for what Bob had done to the ship aside from boredom.

Last time, the ship looked like a chrysanthemum that has in the process of exploding. It included a gym, an artificial mountain, and an exact replica of the Oval office. Tucker wasn’t sure why, and Bob’s answers had been unfulfilling.

The ship still looked like it had more dimensions than were strictly necessary but Tucker noted that the entire ship’s corridors had been covered in rugs that appeared to depict, and Tucker was not a historian, the history of Argentina in visual form. He was pretty sure he could feel Bob waiting for him to ask about that. Tucker didn’t give him the satisfaction.

Eventually, pondering whether the personality that was responsible for their survival had gone insane or, worse, hadn’t, got old and Tucker figured it was time to actually do his job.

“Show me” he said.

And Bob did.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Those Who Laugh - Part One

(Posting this as I write it, so expect more in the future)

Those Who Laugh

A billion light years from Earth, Tucker Wells stumped his damn toe. Hard. He went down swearing, and the floor managed to warm up enough between his ass moving towards it and his ass making contact that it didn’t feel cold. It could do that, but it couldn’t warn him he was about to jam his little toe into the doorframe with way more force than was comfortable.

Tucker was about ninety percent sure that the personality on the ship did this sort of thing on purpose, possibly as a result of being a mind that could perform factors of magnitude better than the meat monkeys it was tending to. He wasn’t sure that Bob, the personality, had a sense of humor, but he had his suspicions.

“Are you alright, Tucker?” Bob said.

“I’m pretty sure that your scans work down to the picoatomic level, so I think you know. I also think that you move the doors just slightly every time you wake me up.”

“Tucker, you know that your safety and well being is my highest concern. And yes, you’re fine. Won’t even be a bruise.” Bob said, in a smooth voice that, like the door thing, Tucker strongly suspected was designed to annoy him while simultaneously allowing Bob plausible deniability.

Tucker grumbled but didn’t actually say anything, rocking on his naked ass while cradling his toe. That he was so far from home, surrounded by the pinnacle of human technology or, at least, what had been the pinnacle when he started on the survey, and was sit buck ass naked grunting like an ape was not lost on him. He laughed. What else could you do.

“Once again, are you alright Tucker? Should I wake up the others.” Bob said.

Which was personality passive aggressive for get your ass up off the floor and do the damn work. So he did. Well, first he went to the bathroom and pissed, which was where he was going when the toetitanic happened.

After that he got dressed and went to see what Bob had done to the ship while he was under. He could have had Bob tell him, or even make a neural connection while he was under and have Tucker just wake up knowing, but Tucker was old fashioned, and preferred to see things for himself. He wasn’t alone in that, which was why he was so far from home.

The truly cost effective way to explore the universe was to create self replicating Von Neumann probes and, indeed, they’d done just that. They had refined the art of creating personalities down to the point where they could launch baseball sized probes cores and let them grow from there.

But the probes were just the scouting party. Their job was to find worlds that looked like they were or at least had been habitable. Preferably with signs of civilization. There was no good reason that the probes wouldn’t have been enough. Logic said that the quality of the sensor arrays that built was many factors of magnitude better than anything humans could parse, and that seeing these places through probe transmission wasn’t just the same as the real thing, it was better.

Except it wasn’t.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Own Private San Diego

Well, SDCC has come and gone without me. I’ll give you a few minutes to stop the wailing and gnashing of teeth at my absence.

Since San Diego is the place for announcements, I thought I’d give a brief rundown of what’s coming up for me in the nearish future.

Projects happening:

Legend of Luther Strode – Starts on the first Wednesday of December. Like TSTOLS a six issue mini.

Team 7 for DC – Starts with the zero issue in September. Ongoing,

Secret Project for Secret Publisher – Should start in November. Hopefully will be announced this week. Also ongoing. Also awesome.

Secret Project 2 for Secret Publisher 2 – No set date, six issue mini.

Projects being pitched soon:

Tomorrow – Brent Peeples and I are working on this six issue miniseries about, sort of, the twilight of the superheroes.

Versus – John Amor and I follow a dueling pair of superhumans from their origins in the American Civil War to THE END OF TIME. Or, my excuse to do steampunk, golden age superheroes, modern superheroes, the not quite Legion of Superheroes and Jim Starlin COSMIC.

Other Stuff I’d like to do:

Digital comics – a couple of different things, actually. For one, I’d like to have a whirl at doing a direct to digital cheap as fuck to buy comic. Like a buck an issue, for a full size issue with extra trimmings.

I’d also like to do some medium length digital stuff that wouldn’t really work as print comic economically. So forty to fifty pages, done in one stuff, costing maybe a 1.99 or so. Ideas that I’d like to do that don’t quite have enough there for a miniseries.

And of course, all the other pitches I have that are in active development. Got lots going on.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Team 7, DC Comics, and How I Got There.

I am writing the Team 7 book for DC comics. Which is awesome on any number of levels. I mean, first of all, DC Comics! Second, Team 7! The original was my favorite Wildstorm back in the day, so it means a lot to me to get to write the new one.

Here's a bit about it:

Anyhow, since this went public, I was asked to talk about how I broke in. I'm not sure if what I have to say is all that useful, but I'll give it a shot.

Well, I did Luther Strode, obviously, which Image liked well enough to get me on the cover of Previews. That, obviously, got the book a lot of attention (as did Tradd's badass art) so people were aware of the book.

We got a lot of good reviews and our sales were good, and we got great word of mouth, so our sales actually increased from month to month. Which again, got noticed.

Which led to a prominent DC writer (not mentioning his name here, because I don't want him to get flooded by people thinking he's the gateway to DC) liking the book and my writing, and he told DC editorial that they should take a look. They read Luther and liked it, and asked me to pitch them on Team 7.

Annnnnd, here we are.

So, basically, write a book people like, and then get lucky.

Contrastingly, I have another big WFH that I got by flat out sending the editor an email, and then sending him my stuff, and going from there.

The Hack/Slash gig I got because I wrote a book that Tim liked, and then we met in a bar and got along.

So, I guess, if I have any advice (which is a dubious idea, but I'll run with it) it's this:

1. Don't Give Up. I've been trying to out together books for the last ten or so years. I was rejected maybe twenty times? Possibly more. I kept working and kept going.

2. Work Hard. I am lazy as a fuck, in general. But I do take my writing seriously and I work as hard as I can at it. I've got ten projects that I am trying to get off the ground (not the failure rate above - I don't expect more than one or two to pan out, if that). I try to write twenty or so page of comics a week. It adds up. And it continues after - I worked twenty or thirty hours a week for two months leading up to Luther, just trying to get the word out.

3. Don't be a dick. I am, fortunately, mostly not a dick naturally, but being someone who is fun to be around and easy to work with goes a long way. If you're super talented but you piss off everyone you work with, you're going to have a hard time of it.

4. Be lucky. There's a lot of shit you just can't control. I had no control over whether Tradd would like the book. I had no control over whether above mentioned writer would like the book. Whether DC would have something they like. Whether Tim Seely would be at that bar.

What I could control, and this is really what points one and two are about, is my opportunities to be lucky. If you do the work and keep doing the work, you vastly increase your chances of luck going your way. I can't and won't tell you that if you work hard and don't give up, you will succeed. You might still not make it. But what I can tell you is that if you don't work hard and you give up easily, your chances are essentially zero.

I don't know if that's useful, but it's what I got.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

True Crime

I didn’t know him. Or at least, I don’t think I did. My college was a small one, a few thousand students in a small town, so it’s near certainty that our paths crossed at some point. Especially considering that I worked at the library’s front desk. But if we did, I don’t remember it.

What I do remember is when he died. I came on campus for lunch, and the whole feeling of the place was wrong. I don’t know that I’ve ever really subscribed to the notion of a place having atmosphere, but you could feel it. I’m not sure how, exactly, something in the way people moved, the way they talked. Something was wrong.

What was wrong was that a popular student had been found in a nearby park, shot to death, his body burned. It hit people hard. I’m not sure that if it was the only murder the school had in its century plus history, although my recollection is that it was.

We had enough of the sort of crimes you get in a college town, but not murder. Especially not one as cold blooded as this turned out to be. The murder turned out to be drug related. He was sold marijuana, and one of his regulars and two other men abducted him to get his money.

They got a thousand bucks to split between them. And after they did, one of them placed a shotgun in the dead man’s mouth and pulled the trigger. They had brought a can of gas to burn the body.

It was the first and thank fuck so far only time I’ve been even vaguely near to that sort of crime. It’s not that I didn’t know of people getting killed, growing up. But they were all cases where people got caught up by their emotions and did something stupid. Evil, maybe, but not cold.

This, though, this was different. It was three guys who decided to plan out and kill another person. They might argue that the plan was simply to rob him, but the facts show another story.

And I’ve never really been able to get my head around that. There’s a gap, there, between thinking a terrible thing and doing it. I can certainly think of terrible things; indeed, it’s in my job description, but because I am a relatively normal person, the process of jumping that gap to the real is fascinating, horrible and inexplicable.

I could just about wrap my head around getting so pissed off you grab a gun and shoot someone. But these guys, these guys might as well be aliens. Whether they fit the textbook definition of a sociopath, I couldn’t say. But they’re a different sort of human than most of the rest of us.

I won’t say that the whole thing affected me in any dramatic way. It didn’t. I didn’t know the guy. But I think about it. I remember a girl that I was acquainted with that knew him breaking down in class. And I remember it’s the first time I really thought about the gap, the invisible but infinite distance, that separates us from monsters

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How Luther's Powers Work

Last issue of the first mini is out today, so if you haven't yet read that, you may or may not want to read this.

I've been asked, a few times, about the exact nature of Luther's (and the Librarian's, by extension) powers, so I'll take a second to explain it. I think you should be able to get this from the comic, but I don't go in for the 'splainin much so I'll do it here.

For the right people, what The Hercules Method does is allow complete knowledge and conscious control over your body. At the most basic level, you get greater strength, speed and stamina, and perfect coordination. At the more advanced levels, you get the ability to make your body knit itself back together, which you see in six.

This same knowledge also gives you a couple of less obvious abilities. Because you are so in tune with your own body, you begin to be able to see other's people's body's the same way. What you're seeing with Luther's meatvision is a visual representation of that.

That same thing also allows Luther and the Librarian to tear people apart, because they know exactly where the weak points are. That they are superhumanly strong is helpful there, too.

Related to that is the ability to read body language, presented here as the millity billion ghost images Luther sees. It's not quite seeing the future so much as it is being really observant and having a terrific reaction time. The reason he can't really do that to the Librarian is because the Hercules Method allows the Librarian to control his body to cloak it from Luther.

Less obviously, it also allows you to hone your senses to greater than human levels. You see a wee bit of it in issue six.

None of this makes them invincible, as the Librarian found out. Destroy the brain or the heart or the spine, and they die.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Create A Character Day

It is, apparently. Since I a writer and not a drawer, this is a written thing. But I give you Casey Atwell, a ghost who is haunting herself.


For 107 minutes, Casey Atwell was dead.

Her revival and subsequent full recovery were hailed as a miracle. And it was, but not the kind that most people think, because Casey never came back at all. Casey is trapped as a ghost, outside her own body, watching something that is not her take over her life while Casey can do nothing but watch.

And the other Casey is evil. She is slowly destroying everyone and everything that Casey cares about, and she is the only one that can see Casey. Now Casey needs to find a way to fight her before everything she loves is gone.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Because I'm Dumb, That's Why

I've been working on a project called Red Winter (just Winter, now), off and on, for the last five years or so. While the plot has always worked, something about the mechanics of the story never quite gelled for me. I could never get it where I wanted it.

Now, this story began life as a pitch to Marvel about, of all things, The Red Guardian and was, at that point, called The Last Guardian. The editor I was in contact with liked it, but since it was an unknown property by an unknown writer, it wasn't going to go anywhere. He did suggest that I rework the story and do it myself, since it was a pretty good story.

The basic underlying idea is what happens to a person who is meant to be a living symbol of a country when that country no longer exists? Where would Captain America be without America? This is where the Red Guardian was, and I thought there was meat there.

I've always really liked the basic concept here, so I did indeed rework into something else. But the one thing that carried through was the contemporary Russian* setting. I was interested in exploring the aftermath of a collapsed country, and what it did to the people.

And this was, I've come to realize, The Problem. Despite my research, I couldn't get the story to feel right and true. It was interesting, and the plot moved, but ultimately the feel of it was just wrong. I couldn't get myself to move forward with it as it was, so it ended up being moved to the tinker with pile.

Today I realized, when discussing it with a new artist, that it didn't have to be set in a Russian setting. Change the setting to a post collapse America, and all the lingering problems that I'd been having just go away. And changing the setting opens up a whole new set of things that I can work into the overall theme. Things about disillusionment, hope, the end result of where drown it in the bathtub politics are taking us and the death of the American dream.

Which, naturally, makes me feel like a big fucking idiot. Because it's a simple elegant solution that doesn't just solve a problem but makes the story better. Only took me five years.

*Not actually Russian, but former Soviet Union. As a child of the eighties and the end of the Cold War, that is all "Russia" to me.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Behold, Luther Strode tee shirts are now available. Feel free to spread the link far and wide:

Monday, January 16, 2012

What The Hell Is A Protodraft?

I mention that I sometimes do what I call protodrafts and, since I made the word up, is something I should probably explain a wee bit. Basically, it's a draft where I layout the rough form of the action, usually just a line or so for each panel. I don't necessarily do this for every page of every script - I tend to use it most during action scenes.

After the protodraft, I go back and fill in more panel description, if needed, and then dialogue. It looks like this:

Page Thirty

Panel One – He lifts Tower by his neck.

Panel Two – Draws back his fist.

Panel Three – Grace grabs.

Panel Four – Quest looks at him.

Panel Five – Grace speaks

Panel Six – Quest speaks

Page Thirty One

Panel One – Grace speaks.

Panel Two – Quest draws Tower close in.

Panel Three – Tosses him at Grace’s feet.

Panel Four – Grace orders the men to take him away. Tower yells at Quest.

Panel Five – Quest turns.

Panel Six – Tower dragged away

Page Thirty Two

Panel One – Est Shot, Leavenworth Military prison. 1944

Panel Two – Inside hall, two men.

Panel Three – Come to the door.

Panel Four – Opening door.

Panel Five – Men looking in.

Panel Six – Very old Tower.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Bean King

I occasionally do prose.

The Bean King

It nearly broke his tooth, is what it did. Tilman swore and spit it into his hand. He probed his tooth with his tongue. It seemed to be intact, but still.

“Why is there a fucking rock in my food?”

Which brought the dinner to a sudden pause. Forks and spoons in mid air, everyone at the long table stared at him. He felt his cheeks flush and he froze. Tilman wasn’t one for getting embarrassed, but even he had his limits. Mr. Drew was the first to break the silence with a small chuckle.

Tilman grinned, and the whole table started to laugh, fifty people seated along an immense table nearly choking on their food. There had been something there between them, the walls of politeness and shyness among a group of mostly strangers. Tilman’s outburst was a release, and the laughter that followed was as much tension being released as humor.

Drew was a balding, bearded man with a smooth pink face. He could have been anywhere from forty to sixty and despite his finely tailored suit, he looked like he could do double duty as Santa Claus, his body all teddy bear plumpness. Indeed, there at the table, laughing, his belly looked like it might resemble a bowlful of jelly beneath the bespoke suit.

Which was at odds with what Tilman expected from a lawyer, who he usually pictured as slim vipers in dark suits and serious looks. As Tilman understood it, Drew took care of pretty much all the town business in Holly Falls, serving as the defacto town government. Amongst those duties was sponsoring, arrange and, for all Tilman knew, cooking, this dinner.

Holly Falls was a tiny town, barely a town at all with just over a thousand people, but prosperous for all that. The little town had one of the highest per capita incomes in the country, a town full of unassuming millionaires. Their prosperity did not fall on the ungrateful, and in addition to the town’s many charities, they also sponsored this dinner.

They didn’t advertise, but if you showed up in Holly Falls on New Year’s Day, Mr. Drew would invite you to this dinner, where all who showed were treated to the finest that the town could muster. No one was turned away, and all were welcome. Tilman was heading North anyway, chasing the work, and he figured that at the very worst, he could spend a night at a bed and breakfast, maybe drum up a few investors, even if the dinner proved to be bullshit.

It wasn’t. Tilman had wined and dined with the best of them, back in better days, and this meal was better. Different than the haute cuisine he wasted so much money, oh god SO much money on, but incredible still. The best of all was the stew, believe it or not. Or at least it had been right up until he had damn near busted his expensive dental work on what appeared to be a small black rock.

“May I?” asked Drew with a smile. He held out his thick hand, covered with a napkin for propriety and hygiene’s sake. Tilman dropped the tooth breaker into Drew’s palm. Mr. Drew looked at the thing, squinted and nodded.



“Your rock is a bean, albeit one cooked to the point of petrifaction.”


Tilman pushed the stew away. He needed all his teeth.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Tilman, you can finish your stew. There’s only one.”

“Now how exactly would you know that?”

“Because I put it there.”

“Are you trying to get sued?”

That last bit was louder than Tilman intended, and once again, all eyes were on him. Mr. Drew stood then, looking up and down the length of the table.

“Could you come with me, Mr. Tilman?”

“Look, I’m sorry, I didn’t…”

“Please,” Drew interrupted, his jolly face gone serious.

Tilman wiped his face and followed the man into the kitchen. Drew gave a glance at the anonymous cooks, and they found another place to be.

“Look, I didn’t mean any-“

“Mr. Tilman, I have to apologize. This dinner is important to the people here. We’ve been very, very lucky, and we realize that part of maintaining that luck is to give back. The dinner is just a symbol of that.”

Drew held up the bean, pinched between his fingers.

“And so is this. Tradition is important, Mr. Tilman. Even when it’s silly, and I realize this is. But tradition keeps us together, gives us unity. The reason things have gone so well for us here is because we have never lost sight of the principles that lead to our success. Because of these traditions, we’ve never forgotten how lucky we are. The bean, silly as it maybe is an important part of that tradition.”

Drew had the decency to look away, look embarrassed about the next part.

“And so is the Bean King.”


George Tilman was a lucky man, although not necessarily in the way that people thought he was. As far as the world was concerned, he’d managed to revive his failing company despite his disastrous turn as CEO of his old company, going from has been and laughing stock to the comeback kid, although at age forty two and staring down the barrel of heart disease, he was no one’s kid.

Tilman was a smart man, and the last year, the year since he caught the bean, he’d developed a talent for introspection that had eluded him in a previous life. Part of that was knowing what the public didn’t. He was lucky. There was no doubt about that. But luck had nothing to do with his rebound success, to the repair of his reputation. That was all down to him being the Bean King.

He took his hand off the wheel for a second and rubbed the bean, still indistinguishable from a stone to him, secure in it’s leather ouch on a thing around his neck. Like Tilman’s status as this year’s Bean King, it was something he almost forgot about but played at the edges of his mind nearly all the time, like a song stuck in his head.

Before the Bean King, Tilman blamed his failure on everyone but himself. In the year since, he’d come to see that the only person that could be blamed for the tens of millions that had gone down the tube was Tilman. He had panicked too late and not soon enough, and he’d lost everything.

Tilman ended up with a company that vivisected by investors and creditors while he watched, a wife who took half of everything which, in what Tilman now looked at as bit of small luck, ended up being half of nothing. His house was on the auction block and the car he’d had was his until the repo man caught up.

He hadn’t really minded losing all that. They were trophies, not prize possessions. He’d made his bones in the early days in sales, and he was just as happy on a hard mattress in small room as he was in a California king at his entirely too palatial home. Tilman was happy when he was winning. Where he was winning was purely a secondary consideration.

He had time to consider what he was responsible for in the last year because he really wasn’t responsible for much in the past year. While those that were in a position to know who Tilman was and be aware of climb back to the top considered it a combination of luck and savvy, with the emphasis on luck for those who were still stung from the fall, Tilman knew that it had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with Holly Falls and Edward Drew.

The idea was simple, if you accepted the position as Bean King, then the people of Holly Falls did everything they could to make your life as ideal as possible. Considering the sheer accumulation of wealth and power in the town, the possible was considerable.

Exactly what ideal was varied from Bean King to Bean King. Tilman gathered from what Drew said and, more importantly, didn’t say, that the last King had been a homeless man who’d ended up staying in the town when winter fell. His needs had been simple, a roof over his head and some company. Tilman’s impression was maybe that the man was a bit off in the head, as well, and that the people of Holly Falls had helped take care of that, too.

The catch they told you about was that the position was only for one year, from New Year’s Day to New Year’s Eve. After that, you were on your own. This was, in Tilman’s estimation, a pretty big catch. As Drew explained it, the town considered it important to do this as thanks for their good fortune, but extending it for more than one year would be go against the values of hard work and self sufficiency, so the one year ‘term’ was the compromise.

Tilman had many failings, but being stupid wasn’t generally one of them. The problem wasn’t getting what you wanted; it was keeping it once you had it. If you weren’t smart enough to get it in the first place, you’d be damn lucky to be able to hold onto it. A long line of lottery winning loser had more than proved that.

So Tilman was happy to take the offer, and smart enough to understand what it meant. The Holly Falls residents had poured money into his new business, and propped up his decisions. They manipulated things behind the scenes, and to all the world it looked like Tilman was a magnificent lucky genius. He knew he wasn’t a genius, and the only luck involved was biting down on a petrified bean and nearly breaking his teeth. If you could even call that luck.

Because Tilman wasn’t stupid, he also made sure that he had plenty of other investors. He was good, maybe great, at the hustle and jive. He could sell a dream like nobody else, and with the good people of Holly Falls behind, he’d sold a lot of dreams. He’d made sure to pack some of that money away on a few nice little island with favorable laws, far away from the eyes of the IRS and the SEC. If he failed again, he wouldn’t be left with nothing again. Tilman didn’t really care about money or the trappings of, but you’d needed cash to stay in the game.

Drew didn’t say it, not outright, but he knew that as soon as his tenure as Bean King was over, the town would sell of their stocks and pull away from Tilman and all his works. His stock price would plummet, and he figured he had maybe a fifty/fifty chance of surviving it.

He’d done the best he could to shore up the company with other investors, but if they jumped ship, too, the company wasn’t stable enough to survive that. Maybe Tilman could convince them to stay on, maybe not. He grinned with anticipation, the buzz in his blood again. There wasn’t a businessman who’d ever done a damn that wasn’t a gambler in his bones.

There was another catch on becoming the Bean king, not just unspoken but hidden. Like Holly Falls was hidden. Oh, the town was easy to find, at the north end of the state in winter country. Anyone could drive through the town, and many did, in the fall, when the leaves changed and the land was rendered in Technicolor glory. But all you’d see was a town that barely qualified as town, beautiful with old style buildings and possessing the benign charm of a Norman Rockwell painting.

That was not Holly Falls. No book cited it as the wealthiest town per capita in the country, but that was what it was. Its residents didn’t appear in Forbes or Business Week, but billions or more poured through their subtle fingers. They didn’t advertise, and they had the wealth and the power to make sure that they stayed private in a world where nothing was.

But no one was invisible, not in this life, and Tilman had used the resources they gave him to push and probe. There was nothing to find, but Tilman was smart, and years of experience had shown him to look for what wasn’t there. That was how he figured the secret cost to being the Bean King, and that was why he was driving through the snow, back towards Holly Falls and Edward Drew.

George Tilman was a lucky man, and he meant to push it all the way.


Edward Drew was working late. He usually did, managing the inner works of a town like Holly Falls was two full time jobs, maybe more. He’d be here, on this night, regardless, and he wasn’t tired. He was working, he was always working, but what he was really doing was waiting. He glanced at his watch. Almost midnight, almost the beginning of a New Year. He had expected George Tilman to be earlier, but the man had proved to be a surprise in many respects.

Drew scratched his beard. He wasn’t nervous exactly, and he wasn’t exactly excited either. It had been years since he’d had a Bean King that didn’t follow the script, and the idea that the completion of the tradition might be in question was both horrifying and exhilarating.

He didn’t really doubt that everything would go fine, he had too many years of experience and too many redundancies to believe that, but even the idea of fear had its novelty. He checked his watch again when he saw the headlights, reflected through the snow. Just before midnight. Right on time.

Drew wasn’t sure what Tilman had planned, although he had a suspicion. He closed the ledger on his desk, but it away. Leaned back in his chair and intertwined his fingers and waited for the door to open.

And so it did, without prelude and without a knock; George Tilman stepped into the room and Edward Drew smiled. Tilman was silhouetted in snow and moonlight. He closed the door quietly behind him. He looked at Drew.

“Hello, Mr. Drew.”

“I think, Mr. Tilman, that after all this time, you can call me Edward.”

Tilman smiled at that as he pulled his gloves off.

“You don’t seem surprised to seem me, Edward.”

“Well, I’m not an easy man to surprise.”


Tilman smiled, pulled a pistol from the heavy coat, and shot Edward Drew twice in the chest.

“How about now?”

Tilman kept the gun trained on Drew who, ironically, did indeed look quite surprised. He didn’t gasp, or flop, or any of the other things that Tilman might have expected. He simply touched the wounds gently, eyes wide and staring. He looked up at Tilman, who smiled slightly and hadn’t moved.


He coughed then, nothing coming up but blood and pain, and now Drew did look hurt and afraid. Tilman stepped closer.

“Look at me. Edward, look at me.”

Drew looked up, his blue eyes fading. Tilman sat down in the chair to watch him dying, Drew’s fingers squeezing tight against the edge of his desk. He was staring hard at Tilman. Life was pouring out of him and hate was pouring into his eyes.

“Look, Edward, I know that the men you usually get for your Bean King are usually random assholes. Did any of them see it coming?”

Drew just stared at him. Tilman chuckled a little, to himself, for himself.

“Yes, I know. I know that you planned to have me come here, and that you were going to feed me a nice dinner and then you and the sick fucks you work for were going to run me across the snow. I know you were going to kill me.”

Drew didn’t say anything. Tilman thought he might be dead, but he wasn’t sure. He kept the gun pointed at him, regardless.

“I am not even going to pretend to understand. I don’t care. But I want you to understand, Edward, that I am not anybody’s fool. You want to fuck with me? Fine. But I’m going to fuck you back. Your asshole bosses will probably come after me for this. But you know what?”

Tilman stood, fairly sure that Drew was dead, but what the fuck, he was on a roll.

“Fuck them. I’m betting that fucking up your little game will throw them off. They want a sacrifice? They’re going to have to earn it.”

George Tilman stared at Edward Drew, dead probably, dying definitely, and then he stepped from the office into the snow.


The snow was worse when he left the office. That was actually a good thing, as far as Tilman was concerned. Lost in the whiteness, he felt like he was invisible. The night was silent, all the sounds muffled by falling snow. He shrugged up his coat and went to the SUV.

As he opened the door, he felt, very certainly, that he was being watched. He put his hand in his pocket, gripped his gun. He turned around and looked. He didn’t see anything in the snow except grey shadows. He shivered and slid inside the car. He’d left it running.

He took the pistol out of his pocket and dropped it on the seat. Tilman pulled out and tried to leave Holly Falls.

He drove slowly. He didn’t have a choice. No plows had gone through, and he could barely see where the road was. He was glad he’d picked the SUV, the four wheel drive was probably going to come in handy. He drove through the town and didn’t see another soul. No one was on the roads, no one was out shoveling snow or doing any of the other things that he would expect. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

There were no lights either in any of the houses, either, and Tilman felt like he was driving through a host town. The only lights were the streetlamps, and they looked like they came from another century. Tilman suspected that they might actually be gaslamps.

Tilman felt tension that he hadn’t even realized was there when he put the town behind him. He wasn’t sure what he expected, not really, but he was sure that this wasn’t it. He resisted the urge to keep looking in the rearview mirror and kept his eyes on the road, headlights barely cutting through the falling snow.

Something moved across the road and Tilman braked hard. He felt the tail end of the SUV whip around, and he pushed down on the gas, steered into the skid. Fucking deer. He got back on the road and slowed down. He looked over his shoulder and tried to see where it went. He didn’t see a damn thing.

He drove on, and he saw something in the rear view mirror. He stared, too long and too hard, and nearly drove into a ditch. He took a deep breath and held it, Exhaled. He needed to pull it together and concentrate on his driving.

Tilman flexed his fingers and tried to relax. He stretched his neck and got his shit together. He could do this. He could win. All that mattered was winning, and he figured the odds were in his favor. All he needed was a little luck and George Tilman could come out on top.

His tire exploded.

The SUV went into the ditch this time, and Tilman fought against the wheel. He got the SUV stopped. His heart pounded in his chest. He felt like his head might exploded and he was breathing hard. He sat there for a while, he wasn’t sure how long, before he pried his fingers off of the steering wheel.

He grabbed the gun off the floor and stuck it in his pocket, He checked the mirrors and look around him. He didn’t see anyone or anything around. He opened the door and stepped out into the snow.

The driver’s side tire was the one that had gone. Tilman squatted and looked at it. The problem was that there was a six inch long shard of black glass in it. Tilman pulled on it, and it sliced right through his leather gloves. He swore and shook his hand, and flicked red blood across white snow. It was obsidian, he thought. It was not an accident.

He pulled the gun out and pushed his back against the SUV. He didn’t see anything in the snow. No, that was wrong. He saw too much in the woods. Through the snow, there a thousand shadows and Tilman saw something in every one. He was motionless, blood dripping into the snow. He listened and heard nothing but the wind. It sounded like whispers.


Tilman moved around to the other side, where the SUV was tilting into the ditch. He didn’t like what he saw there. The wheel was pressing against the wheel well. The axle was bent. He stared at it for a second and then he kick the wheel. Again. Again. It was stupid but it felt good. He heard something move behind him.

He spun and nearly slipped, caught his balance against the SUV. He saw snow sliding down the bank. He aimed the gun into the shadows. He thought he saw something moved and he squeezed the trigger.

There was more movement off to his right, and he jerked the gun over. Fired again. In the snow, there was no echo, the sound lost in white. He kept the gun trained and listened. Nothing.

“I know you’re there, motherfucker!”

He backed around the SUV, keeping his back protected. He slid back inside and locked the doors. Shit. Shit. Shit. He turned on his cellphone and hoped. No signal. Naturally.

He peeled the glove off of his hand and looked at the cut. It was deep and red and as soon as he started looking at it, the wound throbbed. He frowned and wrapped it up with a handkerchief. He looked out the window at the night.

Tilman wasn’t used to indecision. One of the reasons that he’d been successful was that he was able to decide instantly. He was ahead of the pack. When he hesitated, he lost. He had two options; he could stay here in the truck and wait, or he could try to walk to the next town.

The decision was made for him when it crashed into the window. The window shattered out of the way, and all Tilman saw was teeth and fur. He kept pulling the trigger until the slide kicked back. No more bullets. He squeezed the trigger anyway.

He dropped the clip out and fumbled putting another in. Tilman had practiced with the gun all year. It should have been easy, but his hands were shaking. He tried to steady himself and slid the clip. He released the slide. Snow blew in from the outside.

Tilman got out of the SUV, sweeping the area with his gun. He walked around to the other side of the SUV and looked for whatever it was that had come through the window.

There was nothing there. There were some pieces of broken glass, there was snow and there was blood. Tilman tried to remember what he’d seen. A dog? No. No, it had been a wolf, or something like a wolf. Something huge and dark.

Tilman stood over the place where a dead animal should have been, and looked into the woods. He could feel eyes watching him, but there was nothing to see but shadows.

Something howled, something that sounded too close to human but not human at all. Something close. A chorus of howls joined it, and every one of them sounded close, Cold sweat ran down his back.

George Tilman ran.

hey chased him. Tilman was in decent shape, especially for a middle aged businessman, but he was already exhausted. They were silent, except for the near silent shuffle of the snow, and he couldn’t really hear them over the beating of his own heart in ears, but he knew they were there, behind him. Always behind him.

He was out of the woods and running through a clearing. He could see them on either side, just barely in his vision. He was so focused on them that he barely realized where they were pushing them.

Tilman nearly stepped over the edge, and barely caught himself. In the dark, the snow made everything a smooth white plane. The top of the mountain was just a drop into the black. His feet slipped from under him and he came down hard on his ass and for a second he thought he was going to fall. He didn’t.

Fuck it. He turned and faced them. They were moving slowly now, wary. He aimed and fired. Again. Again. He was still firing when they surged at him. He felt teeth sink into flesh and he kept pulling the trigger even as they went over the edge.

It hurt. He thought he was dead, but he didn’t imagine being dead would hurt that much. He didn’t figure that he would still have a gun in hell either, so he was apparently alive. He was flat on his back in the snow and he looked at the ledge above him. He couldn’t tell how far it was. Fifty feet? More.

He’d half fallen and half tumbled and he figured these things had probably saved his life. The rest of them were looking down at him from the edge of the drop off, glowing eyes in the dark, shadows on the horizon.

He laughed, and that hurt too. He felt one of them that had fallen with him start to move and he shot it. That, at least felt good. They could die. He could kill them. He could still win. He stood up. He was squeezing the gun so hard that he could only half feel his fingers. He was bleeding from a dozen small wounds and he coughed up blood, but he was still mostly intact. He looked up at the eyes in the dark.


He fired a shot at one, had no idea if he shot.

“You want me? Come and fucking get me!”

They did, they came sliding down over the ledge, tumbling as they did, small avalanches coming towards him. He gritted his teeth and moved away from them, up the other side of the tiny niche they were in. It was climbable, but just barely. He put the gun in his pocket. He could barely pry his fingers off of it.

He was mostly up the other side before the things were there behind him. The hill was steep and would have probably been hard to climb in the best of times, especially without hands. One leap and he could feel its jaws snap at his pant leg before it fell back down. They couldn’t follow him. He smiled as he climbed over the top of the ledge on the other side.

They were waiting for him. Grey shadows against white snow. He didn’t even bothered to look back down below. They waited.

“Fuck you.”

He put the gun against his temple and tried to pulled the trigger. Something stabbed him in the wrist and he lost the gun in the snow. A chunk of black rock, smooth and polished as glass, protruded from his wrist.

“No, no, you can’t spoil the hunt like that.”

He dropped to his knees. He looked up as the speaker stepped out from the dark of the woods.

“Would you like to keep going, Mr. Tilman?”

He recognized the voice. Edward drew pulled back the hood on deep red robes fringed with white fur. He smiled at Tilman, not unkindly. Tilman stared.

“I killed you,” he said.

Drew coughed. Once, twice. A deep, wracking cough. He coughed into his hands, and Tilman saw his saliva was tinged with blood. Drew held out his hand for Tilman to see. Two bullets rested in palm. Drew dropped them and wiped his hand on his robe.

“That’s not possible”

“You’d be surprised, Mr. Tilman, “ Drew said, “Just how many things are possible.”

The gray shapes, the wolves not wolves, stood up, becoming gray robed people. Maybe they always had been. Tilman saw claws made of obsidian. Their faces were lost in the hoods they wore. They didn’t move. They simply stood and watched.

Drew pulled something that was like a knife from his robes, more black and polished rock, its handle raw wood, bound together with what Tilman thought, for no reason in particular, was almost certainly human flesh.

Drew looked at Tilman, waiting, knife in hand.

“Well?” Drew said.

Tilman looked at the good people of Holly Falls, saw the glint of their eyes and the moonlight reflecting off the black claws. He reached over and delicately, careful not to cut himself, pulled the black glass from his wrist,

He stood up, slowly. He looked at the glass in his hand, at an edge sharper than sharp. He smiled. He hadn’t lost. Not yet. He looked at them. He gestured with the blade,

“Come on then.”

And they did. They swarmed him, and he slashed with the knife until the weight of them pushed him back down into the valley. More slid down the slope after him, and they tore and tore.

When everyone had gotten their share, when there wasn’t much left but a red stain on the white snow, Edward Drew slid down the slope himself. His employers watched him. What was left was not for him. He managed the hunt, he did not participate. That was the bargain he’d made.

He cut away the last bits of flesh holding Tilman’s heart in place. He put the knife away and squeezed the heart. Near black blood poured from it, and he kept putting pressure on, as hard as he could.

Finally he opened his hand and smiled. All that was left of George Tilman’s heart was a small black bean.