Saturday, October 5, 2019

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer Omnibus Edition

JUST PUBLISHED! Perfect summer reading! The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer Omnibus Edition collects the entire trilogy: The 25th Hour, The Tomorrow Paradox, and All the Time in the World in this Young Adult Coming-of-Age science fiction series.

Mackenzie Mortimer is a typical junior high geek. He’s shy, awkward, a bit clumsy, late with his homework, and always late for class. There’s never enough time to do everything he needs to do; after all, there are only 24 hours in a day. But when Mac finds his grandfather’s pocket watch buried deep inside a trunk, he discovers his days have an extra hour. According to the eccentric inventor’s journal, the pocket watch can add up to 60 minutes to a single day by freezing time around whomever holds the watch and presses its button.

"Time is running out... fortunately, Mackenzie Mortimer has a few more minutes than anyone else!"

Available now on Amazon



Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Fangs & Fur Omnibus Edition

JUST PUBLISHED! The perfect jumping on point for new readers to the Halos & Horns fantasy saga, The Fangs & Fur Omnibus Edition is the second story arc in the series, focusing on the vampires and werewolves introduced in the first arc. Learn their origins, which span the continents and the ages; then follow the adventures of the supernatural private eyes of Nightstalkers and the vampires of the global corporation Nosferatu, Inc.

Pandora's a carefree party girl who just happens to be a vampire. With her best friend Sharon Mordecai, a hybrid vampire; her boyfriend Cody Fenris, a werewolf; and Cody's sister Lupe, who transforms into a wolf, they run Nightstalkers Inc., a private detective agency. Pandora and Sharon also belong to Nosferatu, Inc., a worldwide corporation set up to provide relocation services for vampires, who cannot remain in one place indefinitely, lest the "breathers" question why they never age. Other Nosferatu members include 10-year-old Artemus, the boy vampire; ex-KGB operative Valentina Petrovna; the maladroit, claustrophobic vampire Claude Gauthier; the vagrant "trampire" Seamus Callaghan; and the corporation's international board of directors: Lady Chiyoko in Japan, Callum in Australia, Isra in Dubai, Amadi in Africa, Magda in Hungary, and its CEO, the mysterious human known only as Remick. First introduced in the Halos & Horns fantasy saga, these vampires and lycanthropes have their own stories to tell.

All three novels in the Fangs & Fur story arc - Flashbacks; Nightstalkers; and Nosferatu, Inc. - have been collected in one huge omnibus edition. A perfect companion to the Halos & Horns Omnibus, this volume is 7x10 like its predecessor and features brand new cover artwork and an interview with the author. Clocking in at just over 600 pages, The Fangs & Fur Omnibus fills the gap between the previous Halos & Horns story arc and the forthcoming The Age of Magic story arc.

Available now on Amazon


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

May is National Short Story Month

Did you know that May is National Short Story Month? Amber Book Company plans to celebrate by releasing a new volume of my short stories entitled Shards: The Omnibus Edition. Many of you know me from my social commentary posts appearing on my blog, while others are familiar with my young adult science fiction series The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer. Still others think of me as a novelist or epic storyteller, pointing to my four-book fantasy series Halos & Horns and my current ongoing fantasy series, Fangs & Fur. There are even some readers who think of me primarily as a nonfiction author because of my internationally top-selling book Issues in Internet Law: Society, Technology, and the Law, my two Web design books, and my Collected Essays of a Reluctant Blogger and More Essays of a Reluctant Blogger books. But the truth is, above all else, I’m a short story writer.

Shards may sound familiar to you. My first short story collection was entitled Randoms. It was lovingly crafted, published in a hardcover edition with a dust jacket. Unfortunately, the printer had tremendous difficulty printing the dust jacket. Every copy rolled off the printing press with a slightly different hue, making each book and instant collectible and the source of much aggravation and vexation. Ultimately, and with great reluctance, we replaced the hardcover edition with a paperback. My second short story collection, Careywood, was a charitable effort published in a limited print run to raise money to restore a historic mansion. Then, in 2011, almost all of my short stories were collected in a giant 450-page paperback entitled Shards. This mammoth collection included the best of Randoms, the stories from the limited edition Careywood, and a host of new short stories, many of which had been shared in public readings but never collected in print. Shards was to stand as my oeuvre: the complete collection of my short story output.

At the time, it was the largest book I had ever written… Ironically composed of the shortest of stories. But with each new edition over the course of 10 years, Issues in Internet Law: Society, Technology, and the Law grew to 680 pages. After I completed the four-book Halos & Horns series, the saga was collected in a single omnibus edition, The Halos & Horns Omnibuswhich clocked in at a whopping 904 pages. Suddenly, the 450-page Shards didn’t seem so big any more. And in the five years since its publication, I had written a few more short stories. I wanted to gather these new short stories into a brand-new collection but the Halos & Horns Omnibus had gone over so well that it was decided to create a short story omnibus.

We began with the original 450-page Shards and reorganized the stories by theme. Then we added 300 pages of new material. That’s right, 750 pages of short stories between two covers. Or 191,523 words if you’re counting. We kept the original front and back cover to Shards and christened it Shards: The Omnibus Edition. The themes in Shards: The Omnibus Edition include man’s inhumanity to man; technology in society run amok; freedom; conformity; slice of life; fear; prejudice; revenge; the inevitability of death; sadness and depression; darkness and light; lust; love; regret; repentance; pity; debauchery and selfishness; hubris; obsession; fusion fiction; Christmas; the quest; the trickster; discovery and wonder; alienation (stranger in a strange land); and farewell.

Admittedly Shards: The Omnibus Edition is a mixed bag. Some of the tales are downright hilarious. Some are frightening. And a few are disturbing. There are stories within this volume you will treasure… and others you may wish you had never read. Good writing isn’t about repeating hackneyed memes; it’s about pushing the envelope and extending the boundaries until the reader finds himself well outside his comfort zone. In Shards: The Omnibus Edition you’ll find stories that make you laugh and make you cry; stories you’ll want to share with your children; and stories so horrifying you’ll banish them to the deepest recesses of your mind. So join me in celebrating national short story month with Shards: The Omnibus Edition.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Looking for love in All the Wrong Places

Now that everyone is connected to the Internet and it’s become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, people are shopping for everything online. Take me, for example. This week alone, I've bought shoes, toothpaste, a calendar, and a set of dining room chairs, all purchased online. But many people are taking it one step further and shopping for their significant other in cyberspace.



Dating – or at least the quest for Mr./Miss Right – (or Mr./ Miss Right Now) has moved online for the same reasons everything else has: it’s quicker, easier, and you can do it at 2 a.m. in your pajamas. Typically, dating sites feature a prospective match’s profile (Unless you’re on the prowl for Mr./ Miss Right Now, in which case, you can use the one-paragraph short form, known as Craigslist, and list the acronyms – NSA, SWF, D&DF, etc. – you’re looking for. Don’t put too much thought into this process, because it doesn't matter what you list; Craigslist readers will ignore your criteria and contact you anyway).



In addition to the profile, date seekers usually post a photo of themselves. Usually, but not always. Sometimes, they post pictures of their dogs. Depending on the breed, it may be hard to tell the date seeker from the dog. About a third of the time, the dog turns out to be the better choice. Beware of photos in which the date seeker is hiding his/her face: either not facing the camera, wearing dark glasses, or in costume, or where the thumbnail photo cuts off the head (Alfred E. Neuman lookalike) or body (Sea World reports a whale escaped) … Or where there is no photo at all. There’s a reason why he/she didn't want you to see the hidden feature.



Then there are the misleading photos. The Technically Honest One: it is a photo of the date seeker, however it was taken 10 years ago; The Best Friend: the date seeker with his/her much better looking friend, whom you’ll be disappointed to learn is already taken; The Guess Who: see if you can pick out the date seeker from a group photo shot. Finally, there’s The Glamour Shot: a stunningly beautiful photo that makes you think the date seeker should be a model – it turns out, she is a model and some scammer has used her photo on a fake profile. A word of caution: if it looks too good to be true, Google Image Search the photo.



Avoid profiles that are too short. If the date seeker is continually answering essay questions with “ask me anything you want to know” or “we can talk about that later” it shows he/she has put less thought and effort into meeting you than into writing the weekly grocery list. At the other extreme, if the date seeker has indeed written a long grocery list of specific qualities, characteristics, or other requirements a prospective match must meet, then this person is too picky and shallow to become involved with.



Peruse other date seekers’ profiles to learn what they do right, and more importantly, what they do wrong. I found three examples on one site in the first five minutes, this morning. In response to the question “What are you doing with your life?” she wrote: “Studying hard to become a charter accountant.” Obviously, she wasn't studying hard enough, because if she had been, she would've known her chosen occupation was a chartered accountant. If you’re too stupid to know what you are studying to become (or worse, so careless that you don’t check what you've written before you post it … not a good idea, by the way, for detail-oriented professions like accounting), then you’re not dating material (and I certainly don’t want you doing my taxes, either).



The second profile I saw today featured a chubby girl in a string bikini. Now, health concerns aside, there’s nothing wrong with a potential match being a bit overweight. We can’t all look like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. But when marketing yourself, you should always lead with your strongest features, not highlight your weakest attributes.



The third profile began – and ended –  by stating the woman was “Not interested in casual sex”. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being upfront about what you are, or are not, looking for in a relationship. But don’t send mixed messages by labeling the same profile with the username “Cutie2PlayWith”.



Remember, online dating is all about marketing yourself. You are the promoter, as well as the product. Prospective daters will assume whatever image your profile conveys is the image of yourself that you've carefully chosen to present. While the zombie costume may have won raves at a Halloween party, it’s not a good choice for your dating profile photo. Your rant about your ex might be justified, but is your dating profile the right place for it… is that the first thing you want a potential date to read?



Successful marketing begins with truth in advertising. Don’t lie or mislead. Be upfront about your weaknesses, but lead with your strengths. Put the time and effort into writing a profile that shows that you think finding the right relationship is important. And if all else fails, at least you can still buy shoes and toothpaste on the Internet.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Love Potion No. 9

Love spells on eBay? Going once, going twice, sold. Apparently there is nothing that can’t be purchased on the Internet. Although the auction site banned the sale of spells and hexes in September 2012 –  at which time, CNN reported eBay’s Spells and Potions category had “more than 6,000 active listings and happy feedback from quite a few satisfied buyers”  – a quick check of auction listings reveals there are still plenty of spells to bid on.

There’s the “Full E-mail Love Spell” for only $9.99 (free shipping!). You may want to hurry though; with Valentine’s Day approaching, there are only three spells left from this seller.

If you haven’t found your true love yet, you can always purchase a Soulmate Spell for a mere $10. The Soulmate Spell comes with the following warranties: “Will not interfere with any existing spells or work done by other spellcasters. My spells are completely safe and will not backfire or cause any harm. This spell is permanent and will not fade over time.”

Of course, if your intended is proving resistant to your natural charms, you may have to resort to “The Most Powerful Black Magick Love Spell”  At $36.99, it might seem a bit pricey, but it does come with this guarantee: “If you do not see results in 60 days from when your spell was cast and are not completely satisfied please email me and I will perform a new spell service free of charge.” Even more reassuring, in the fine print of the eBay auction details, the seller assures us that the love spell does not involve the sacrifice of animals.

If things go really well for you on this Valentine’s Day, you may wish to purchase the “Fertility Conception Pregnancy Spell” for only $1.75. Presumably, this spell would require some physical effort on your part, which you may enjoy repeating as necessary.

Of course, the flip side of love is hate. Need a voodoo doll? Where else, but eBay? (Pins not included; batteries extra). The seller states: “This order is for the voodoo ritual service only. We do NOT send out any physical item. We have hired a traditional Haitian Voodoo priest named Houngan Louidor, who is in charge of magic rituals and is a link between humans and the Voodoo spirits, also known as Loas.” The scary thing is, that of the three available, two have already been sold.

But when simple incantations are not enough, eBay will still help you find the right hex to put the whammy on someone. What could be more appropriate than the “Total Vengeance Black Magic Spell Book”?  Granted, at a mere 48 pages, it’s hardly an arcane tome, but it features some sure-fire winners, such as the General Turmoil Spell, the Enemy Affliction Spell, and instructions on how to create an “Enemy Doll”. I can tell it’s user-friendly because it comes with an  Easy Hexing Spell, and I’m already composing a list of victims for the 6-Day “Shut Up” Spell.

Of course, returns could be problematic.

     Dear eBay:
     I am writing to request a return authorization for a spell I purchased on eBay last week. The incantation was supposed to turn my ex into a horny toad. Instead, it just made him horny and now he is humping every girl in town except me!
     Sincerely yours,
            Witch Hazel
             666 Devil's Lane
             Salem, MA



Perhaps for this Valentine’s Day, you’d be better off doing your bewitching with flowers and candy.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

One Vertebrae at a Time

To quote the late author Harlan Ellison: “If you put your hand in my pocket, you’ll drag back six inches of bloody stump.” Harlan was referring to individuals stealing his copyrighted work product for their own financial gain and literally taking grocery money out of his mouth. Harlan, an acquaintance I greatly admired both as a man and as a writer, was a far nicer person than I am. Steal from me and I'll thrust my arm up your ass, rip out your spinal cord, and feed it to you one vertebrae at a time. Gleefully.

Let me clarify: I'm not directing this at my fans who enjoy and support my work. Unlike many authors, I've been supportive of fans of my work, often inviting them to participate in fan fiction projects, wikis, charity projects (like Careywood), performances of my stories as plays, and other fan projects with my characters so long as they are not produced for sale or presenting my work in a harmful or defamatory light. This post is directed at scammers and crooks, intellectual property thieves who steal an author's copyrighted work and sell it without permission and keep the money that should have gone to the creator. That's probably not you; but it happens a lot!

So-called respectable sites like Daily Motion, Linked-In, and YouTube are havens for book pirates who post videos and associated links offering free copies of my books for download. Almost all of them do not have copies of any of my books. When you click the link you are taken to a succession of websites -- sometimes as many as eight consecutive links -- until you come to a signup page asking for your name, address, email, and credit card information. Yes, you need to sign up to get your free downloaded stolen book. When you click the form, two things happen: (1) the site (usually owned by a disguised overseas entity which is why it took you eight clicks to get to the landing page) gets your credit card information (your credit card will now end up on a list for sale on the Dark Web); and (2) a trojan will secretly be downloaded onto your computer. That's right: spyware, like a keystroke logger recording you type in your bank and brokerage accounts and passwords. Sometimes, it will even place ransomware on your computer and lock you out of your files. What do you get in return? A two-page PDF ad for the book you could have download for free from the Amber Book Company website.

For example, in September 2018, LinkedIn was sent a DMCA Takedown notice citing no fewer than 1,008 specific instances of copyright infringement on its site in merely one week (the letter was 98 pages long)! Daily Motion, based in France, had so many violations I had to learn enough French just to keep up with all the correspondence. Google responds quickly but is inundated by offenders.

Then there are the sites that are pure thieves. They pirate (steal) authors' books and sell them on their own websites ... without paying the author. This past week I found several of my novels listed for sale on Kisslibrary.com -- except neither my publisher nor my distributors have any sales agreements with them, and I've received no royalties. I contacted one of my distributors who told me: "KissLibrary is not a vendor we are affiliated with. If you see your title on their service, we would recommend issuing a DMCA takedown, as that platform has been known to host illegally hosted titles." KissLibrary lists its offices (right down to a Google map on its website) as being in Calgary, Canada, but a bit of research shows it's really located in Belarus (formerly White Russia, part of the Soviet Union) and now a haven of cyber fraud. A Google search confirmed numerous complaints of KissLibrary hosting pirated books. Fortunately, I have friends in Belarus (and many other parts of the world, having led a long and at times unsavory life). The KissLibrary site is now offline and there is no information on the fate of the thieves behind it. I have no idea what may have happened to them... that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

One vertebrae at a time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

AN OPEN LETTER TO A COPYRIGHT INFRINGER

The author and publisher will sue any and all copyright infringers. We have done so successfully in the past and will continue to do so. BE WARNED.  Compliance with a DMCA Takedown Notice may or may not be sufficient to protect your assets from a lawsuit.

----


Wednesday, February 06, 2019

To: Internet Archive  info-reply@archive.org

Subject: DMCA Takedown Notice
________________________________________


To Whom It May Concern:

Please be advised of the following information that may inform you of the severe legal jeopardy in which you are apparently unaware you are in. Many laymen, and even some attorneys who do not specialize in Internet law, believe the DMCA safe harbor provisions insulate them from legal liability for copyright violation in all instances. They are wrong— and that mistaken belief has cost their clients hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in penalties and subsequent legal fees and costs. There are exceptions to the conventional wisdom that paying lip service to certain aspects of the DMCA safe harbor provisions will immunize them from prosecution for copyright violation. I speak from expertise in this field as an attorney who has never lost a case since 1987 and as an acknowledged expert in internet law who literally wrote the book on the subject that is now used as a textbook in colleges, universities, and law schools on four continents.

The DMCA safe harbor provisions offer a defense to a charge of copyright infringement when third parties post infringing material on a website, and such infringing material is removed in a timely manner by the website owner upon notification of the infringement. Note, the DMCA provides no protection for infringing material posted on a website by the website owner or one in control of said website rather than by third-party users, as is the case in this situation. Your own description, to wit:

“Under this program, The Internet Archive and physical library partners make available e-copies of books scanned from the physical books that we own. The e-copies may be borrowed for two weeks, after which access to the user is disabled and the copy frees up for another patron to borrow.”

is a textbook example of copyright infringement in violation of the US Copyright Act of 1976 and is totally unprotected by the aforementioned safe harbor provisions of the DMCA for several reasons, including the one mentioned above. Specifically, you admit (1) the infringing material is posted by the Internet archive itself and physical library partners, and not by third-party users. (2) Under the laws of partnership, The Internet Archive is legally liable for the illegal acts, i.e., copyright infringement, of any of its proclaimed and named partners, just as these partners are equally liable for any infringement perpetrated by The Internet Archive. (3) You admit that you “make available e- copies of books scanned from physical books that we own.” The active scanning copyrighted print books is a violation of the exclusive right of copying granted the copyright holder under the 1976 US Copyright Act. Furthermore, the active “making available”, i.e., distribution of the infringing material is an additional violation of the exclusive right of distribution granted the copyright holder under the 1976 US Copyright Act. Your admission that “The e-copies may be borrowed for two weeks, after which access to the user is disabled and the copy frees up for another patron to borrow.” is further evidence of the violation of the exclusive right of distribution granted the copyright holder under the 1976 US Copyright Act and also serves to illegally deprive said copyright holder of sales of said lawfully copyrighted work which you are either selling for your own pecuniary gain or distributing free of charge to individuals who would otherwise be required to compensate the copyright holder pecuniarily as foreseen and required by the federal copyright laws which you are in violation of.

You admit that you are producing “e-copies of books scanned from the physical books that we own.” First, our statutory copyright encompass a bundle of rights that include the rights to produce both print books and electronic books of the copyrighted material. By illegally reproducing our copyrighted material from a print format to an electronic format, you are infringing on both of these protected exclusive rights contained within our copyright. Furthermore, you state these are books you own. Let us be perfectly clear: while you may own an individual copy of a physical book under the First Sale doctrine, you do not in any way shape or form have any claim or ownership in the copyrighted content of said book. You do not own the copyrighted material and it is illegal infringement on your part to copy, distribute, or sell said protected material.

Your protestations that you are a registered charity and nonprofit library, or that you make such violations available to the public on a “limited basis” have no legal bearing other than to establish your guilt in copyright infringement. Furthermore, your statement that “we have made a good faith effort to disable lending access to any e-book instances of the identified works or items on our sites, archive.org and openlibrary.org.” Is nothing more than a disingenuous lie: as of the writing of this letter, the infringing material remains available on your site for download in violation of our copyright. Your further statement  “As mentioned above, we have disabled lending access in this instance as a courtesy.” Is equally disingenuous and equally untrue, as lending access as of this writing has not been disabled and the infringing material is still available for download in the copyright violation continues.

You further write “We seek to be respectful to creators and operate within the traditional norms and functions of libraries.” This too, is disingenuous and yet another lie. The traditional norms and functions of libraries are to order copies of our publications through distributors such as Baker and Taylor, Ingram, Coutts, and many other fine wholesalers. When necessary, we have also worked directly with libraries, as well as schools internationally, and even providing specially adapted versions for disabled students. Your actions, which are in total violation of copyright law including the DMCA are in no way operating within the traditional norms and functions of libraries. Note under  17 U.S. Code §1201 (d) the library exemption is not applicable in this case and under subsection  (3) A nonprofit library, archives, or educational institution that willfully for the purpose of commercial advantage or financial gain violates paragraph (1)— (A) shall, for the first offense, be subject to the civil remedies under section 1203; and (B) shall, for repeated or subsequent offenses, in addition to the civil remedies under section 1203, forfeit the exemption provided under paragraph (1).

Nor does the DMCA safe harbor provide protection for  persons circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under the DMCA, such as by electronic conversion of a print book to an ebook through digital means. 17 U.S. Code §1201.

You close by stating “We understand that some may view this program differently than we do and appreciate your contacting us.” As you undoubtedly surmise, we certainly do view this program differently. It is nothing more than a blatant attempt at copyright infringement and we intend to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law; rest assured, we are experienced in these matters and have the time and financial resources required to pursue this matter to a satisfactory conclusion. We reserve the option to conduct further investigation to determine if this is a wide-ranging abuse of copyright laws that may lend itself to later certification as a class action lawsuit. While removing the infringing content may mitigate further damages it will not absolve you of liability for your ongoing infringement to this point. You may have your legal representative contact me directly or you may wait until you receive service of process once the complaint has been filed in Federal Court.

KINDLY GOVERN YOURSELVES ACCORDINGLY,

Keith B. Darrell, Attorney-at-Law
Amber Book Company LLC

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Even Werewolves Need Lawyers

I was eating dinner with my family, who had flown into town for a brief visit, when I received the news. First a phone call, which I ignored and sent to voicemail; then, a Facebook message that caught my eye. Here we go again. The Grim Reaper had returned once more brandishing his scythe. My friend Batton Lash had died hours earlier and I lost my appetite on hearing the news.

Bat was a congenial, talented, and witty man. He was both an illustrator and a writer who combined those talents to created his Wolff and Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre comic strip about two lawyers that represented an array of supernatural clients. The strip first appeared in The Brooklyn Paper (1979-96) and The National Law Journal (1983-97) and later was self-published as an eponymous comic book (later re-titled Supernatural Law). As a lawyer, comic book reader, and aficionado of all things supernatural, I soon became a fan of Bat’s strip. I invited him and his equally talented wife Jackie Estrada – one of the San Diego Comic-Con organizers and the con’s Eisner Awards organizer – to fly across the country to be guests at a store signing at my comic book store back in the 1990s. They eagerly accepted the invitation and Bat sent me this drawing:

Bat was a dapper man with a pleasant, engaging personality. He signed autographs and drew sketches for fans all day.


Bat even drew this special print for that appearance, which he autographed for his fans: 


That evening, I took Batton and Jackie out to dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant and Bat shared anecdotes about growing up in Brooklyn and studying drawing in Manhattan until the wait staff begged to be allowed to go home. As the years passed, we would chat on the phone, exchange messages online, and occasionally meet at the San Diego Con, held in Bat’s backyard but quite a cross-country schlep for me. On one such occasion, a friend had talked me into taking a blank sketchbook to the convention to have the various artists in attendance fill with sketches. That afternoon, I left it with Bat so he could add a simple penciled sketch. He was so busy with his fans visiting his exhibition booth that he never had a chance to do the sketch. He asked if he could take the book home and mail it to me. I hesitated; it already had a few dozen sketches including some from some major artists, but I knew Bat felt I might be disappointed and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so I said sure. I left California not knowing if I’d ever see the book again, imagining it might be lost in transit. A few weeks later, I received it back in the mail but it lieu of a penciled sketch was an apologetic note and this full color water painting of Wolff and Byrd and an array of their co-stars. I think it was the finest piece Batton ever did.


I believe Bat gave me a shout out in an issue of Wolff and Byrd; when MSNBC commentator Lawrence O’Donnell brutally and unjustly attacked both Bat and Jackie on his The Last Word commentary TV show over his collaboration with writer James D. Hudnall on an online comic strip critical of President Barack Obama, Obama Nation, I was among the first to speak out, publicly and privately, in their defense. Although our politics differed widely, I would always stand ready to defend my friends from unfair attacks.

In addition to his own comic book, Batton Lash also wrote issues of The Simpsons Super Spectacular and Radioactive Man, as well as the Archie Meets the Punisher comic books. I did my best to support Bat’s work in independent comic publishing, as I did with many small press creators when I was in the retail trade, and I know he was appreciative. I even once asked if he would let me write a Wolff and Byrd story: he wasn’t that appreciative, LOL.

Bat was always well-spoken, impeccably well-mannered, witty, articulate, congenial, down-to-earth, and simply put, a kind man. He was always so full of life and enthusiasm, making it all the more difficult to grasp he is no longer among us. I was, and remain, shocked and devastated by the news. The fact he was also immensely talented as a writer and an illustrator is merely icing on the cake. When I started publishing my own supernatural fantasy series (albeit prose, sans artwork), in the back of my mind I viewed Bat as a sort of mentor figure -- one who had blazed the way in self-publishing and in whose over-sized footsteps I was following. He was truly an inspiration and he shall be missed by me, and I'm certain by many, many others. Unfortunately, Bat never received the full recognition he deserved. Batton Lash died on January 12, 2019 from brain cancer. He was 65.





Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Janus Effect

One of the factors that makes writing difficult is the uncanny ability of the English language to be filled with words that mean completely contradictory things. If I DRAW the curtains, am I opening or closing them? I can CLEAVE two pieces together or separate them with a meat cleaver. When you DUST, you could be adding particles, as in dusting crops; or removing them, as in dusting furniture. One might be an UNQUALIFIED success, which is very good; or UNQUALIFIED, meaning lacking any qualifications, which is not good at all.

You can SECURE something from someone, which means taking it; or SECURE something to prevent anyone from taking it. A FIX can be a predicament or the solution to one. OFF can mean deactivated, as in turning OFF the light; or activated, as in the alarm went OFF. When you SEED a lawn you’re adding to it, but when you SEED fruit, you’re taking something out of it.

Any chef will tell you to GARNISH means to add something, but a lawyer will say GARNISH means the court will be taking away your wages. If the court ENJOINS you, it may be directing you to do something or forbidding you from doing it. It could also SANCTION you, which means allow you to do something, or punish you for having done it. STAY can mean to continue or to postpone.

OVERSIGHT can refer to a watchful eye; or an inadvertent error. ROCK can be used to show firmness (“solid as a rock”), or conversely, swaying motion (“the waves rocked the ship”). SCREEN can mean conceal or display. SPARE can mean meager or extra. OVERLOOK can mean to inspect, or to miss something during an inspection.

If you TRIM a cake, you’re adding decorations; but TRIM a tree and you’re removing part of it. If you WEATHERED a storm, you came through safely and are looking good; but a building that was WEATHERED is worn away. One who is LEFT might be remaining or departed. RESIGN can mean to quit or sign up again. CLIP can mean to attach or separate. CULL may mean to select or reject. If something holds FAST, then it’s not going anywhere; but if one is FAST, he is moving quickly. If a project is a GO, then things move forward; but when your old car starts to GO, it will come to a halt.

And you thought being a writer was easy. These types of words are called contronyms because they’re so darn contrary. They’re also called auto-antonyms since one word means the opposite of itself, and more colloquially, Janus words – Janus, you may recall, was the two-faced Roman God of beginnings and transitions, simultaneously looking in opposite directions. The beginning of the year, January, is named for Janus, which makes today’s New Year’s day blog post all the more fitting. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Hair - the Age of Aquarius


I was at the barber shop the other day and I ran into a guy who...  what's that? OK, you're right. I admit it: I haven't been to a barber shop since I turned 14 and had my last 50-cent haircut. The Vitalis, greased back wet look was on the way out and the blown-dry "dry look" was in vogue, so with the start of junior high, I convinced my mother to do what all the cool kids at school were doing and have my hair not cut by Sam the barber but instead coiffed by a men's hair stylist.

The storefront bay was dimly lit and filled with the scent of burning incense. Jimi Hendrix's guitar reverberated through the eight-track system's carefully arranged speakers. Blacklights eerily illuminated posters on the walls and lava lamps adorned the reception desk and several coffee tables. Copies of Rolling Stone magazineZap Comix, and the Daily Planet (an underground newspaper the local hippies hawked on street corners for a quarter) were scattered across the tables, along with a few roach clips. I didn't think my mother knew what a roach clip was, but I nonchalantly covered them with the newspaper anyway. Why take a chance of getting barred from such a cool place?

My hairstylist introduced himself as Mister Lucky, or Lucky for short. I never knew his real name. Not that it mattered. He was a persona, not a person. That's how he wanted it: a virtuoso coiffeur, larger than life. He had ego, he had flair, and he had panache.  More importantly, he had talent when it came to cutting hair, so I traded in the Opie Taylor look for the David Cassidy style. It cost $10 and even Mister Lucky’s tip was twice the cost of a barber shop haircut, but when I look back on those days and recall my tie-dyed shirtbell-bottom slacks, and Peter Max sneakers, I can thank Mister Lucky that at least he made my hair look cool.

I found another gray hair today. I keep pulling them out, but they’re like hydras: for every one I yank, two more sprout elsewhere. Mister Lucky would know what to do. I guess I’ll just have to accept aging gracefully. The years go by so quickly as you get older. And now, another has passed. Happy New Year.