Death’s Door Revisited

It was around the time I was crawling across the floor, on my hands and knees, full of fever, chills, and delirium, with my heart trying its best to give up and stop, that I thought I might be seriously ill. I couldn’t walk anymore; I was too weak. And if I tried to stand, pain, the likes of which I’d never experienced before, surged through my left leg with an intensity that made me consider my amputation options.

What have a done to myself now? I wondered.

The next time I woke up from hours of fever dreams, I was surprised to find my sore leg was only slightly pink. It was radiating heat, but didn’t look anywhere near as bad as it felt. Another day fixed that. When next I rose from my sweat-stained sheets, the leg had turned into rare roast beef.

By day three I was able to get to my feet in one try and stumble around the apartment. I was still waking up from every nap in a sweat, but my head was clearing and I was able to sit at the computer to do some research—with my leg raised on a stool to keep the ballooning swelling from getting out of control.

I didn’t like what I found. Pictures and symptoms suggested a blood clot as a likely suspect. I called my GP to see if she’d like to offer a second opinion, but she was all booked up for the next couple of days. Knowing my history of walking into her office and giving an accurate assessment of what was wrong with me, she told me to get my ass to the ER ASAP.

Eight hours of ultrasounds and blood tests later, I was pumped full of antibiotics and told to come back to the disease clinic for more the next day. My call was wrong. I had a leg infection. The kind that will go septic, spread, and kill you if you’re not careful.

I just finished a third round of intravenous antibiotics as an out-patient. Now it’s another four days of horse pills, weeks of recovery, and months of preventative measures to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“You’ll live,” was the verdict.

Most people would consider this good news, but I do get tired of waiting around to see what will finally finish me off. The suspense is killing me.

Technically, the leg “looks better” now. It’s nicely marbled and makes its own gravy.

Come and S.E.E.

The first hefty chunk of my steampunk epistolary espionage novel is available for free on my Patreon page. Subsequent parts will roll out for subscribers at regular intervals until the entire preview edition is posted in PDF form. From there, I’m another few read-throughs and micro-edits away from the version that will be published on Amazon.

The original plan was to bank at least three books in the series before dumping them in bulk, all at once, in order to manufacture momentum. But if the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that everyone and everything around me tends to drop dead, so I’m not making plans that depend on personal longevity. Marketing strategies be damned, once a new book is done, I don’t want to sit on it indefinitely while I work on sequels.

A pulpy adventure yarn, The Iron Zephyr of Peril is the first story of the Winters/Moreaux account. The nefarious gentlemen spies, Professor Hollister Winters and Mister Kiarfax Moreaux, remain a controversial subject best not discussed above a whisper, and only ever between trusted associates.

I hope you can keep a secret.

Let us begin…

“It was a splendid day to lose a war.”

The Glitch on Ninety-Six

Crisis Actor has been out for over a month, but I haven’t done much of anything to announce or promote it until today. After grappling with a weird PDF glitch on page ninety-six of the paperback for too many rounds of proof copies, I just wanted to wash my hands of the whole project for a while before facing the prospect of running ads for it.

And then I had to put down Inheritance Dog because he’d evolved into one gigantic cancerous tumour that looked like the Husky monster from The Thing.

I was in the mood for a break. So much of a break, my entire creative-writing output for the month of April was twelve words. Twelve. I know, I counted. Twice.

Getting over a hurdle of grief and atrophy has become routine, but fuck me it’s been a lot of those hurdles in a row. I keep hoping I can get back up to speed for a good stretch, but I haven’t been able to get six months down the road before tripping over another disaster.

So…speaking of relentless personal tragedy, who wants to pick up a copy of a brand-new funny book full of wacky conspiracy theories and shenanigans?

Yeah, not my best segue to sell you something. So how about I just give it away for free?

Today and tomorrow only, Crisis Actor is a free ebook on Amazon. It’s currently at the top of the charts for satire fiction, political thrillers, and conspiracy thrillers. All you have to do to be a best seller in any given category is give away a thousand copies of your book in the first few hours of a promotion and voila! Admittedly, doing that eliminates the “seller” aspect of “best seller” but if that’s the term Amazon uses to describe my book, who am I to argue?

That only leaves one outstanding bit of unfinished business. What the hell is this Project S.E.E. I’ve been on about?

All will be revealed very soon. So soon, I might as well tell you what my ridiculous acronym stands for and what the absurd new genre I’ve come up with is.

Project S.E.E. stands for Streampunk Epistolary Espionage.

No, really. I’m serious.

You’ll understand better when you see it.


Nobody tells me anything.

Two years ago, there was a mini reunion for Radio Active, a show I wrote 14 episodes of back in the late ‘90s. I have a lot of fond memories of those hectic two years when I was brought on board for the second season. Writing the last episode of season two, and the first of season three, I was the only member of the cast or crew who had no downtime. And I was glad for the work. It allowed me to commit to buying a house and get the hell out of an apartment building that was determined to burn itself down.

Radio Active was a show so cheap, there wasn’t enough of a budget to have all the cast members on the same episode at once. Fittingly, this reunion only features three of the cast. But it was fun to hear their uncensored accounts of what went on behind the scenes, including some anecdotes I was blissfully unaware of. Like who was caught doing coke in the bathroom.

There are plenty of clips from my episodes sprinkled throughout. Oh, and I get name-checked once.

Claim to fame.

Maybe one day I’ll share some of my own scandalous anecdotes. Unless someone slips me hush money.

The Emancipation of Sherlock Holmes

Well well well, look who’s ALL-THE-WAY in the public domain now.

I’ve been waiting years for this moment. Forgive me for basking in it.

As an author of (so far) fourteen Sherlock Holmes stories appearing in a variety of publications, I’ve been watching this glacial development closely. The character of Sherlock Holmes, in case you were wondering, has been in the public domain for quite some time. But it was only as of January 1, 2023, that the very final stories, published in 1927 and collected in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, crossed the threshold in all remaining territories and jurisdictions.

So why is this important, considering Sherlock Holmes movies have been made and new stories published with impunity for years? Because it stands as the final vestige of a copyright still clung to by the litigious Conan Doyle estate. They’ve been guarding the last scraps of Sir Arthur’s work jealously, even though he’s been dead since 1930 and the remaining descendants are distant at best. Nevertheless, they took every opportunity to use their diminishing copyright as a cudgel against anyone who wanted to print new Holmes material. Their excuses for this behaviour were thin at best, but many publishing houses considered it easier to throw them a few grand as a token tribute, just to make them go away.

That is, until one stood up to them, took them to court, and had a judge tell them to knock that shit off.

Since then, they’ve become pretty quiet. But that didn’t stop them, a couple of years ago, from trying to shake down Netflix for some bucks for the first Enola Holmes movie. Their claim was that since Sherlock Holmes shows some emotion in that film, that content falls under the copyright for The Casebook. Because Holmes never showed emotion before that book.

Complete bullshit. And the judge saw right through it. Case dismissed.

Which brings me to my tenuous connection to the estate.

I started writing Sherlock Holmes material largely by accident in 2015. What began as a simple recommendation from one editor to another led to an enormous amount of material that will one day be collected into three different volumes.

Ridiculously ambitious, but that’s a debate for another time.

The second story I ever wrote for MX Publishing was called The Adventure of the Cat’s Claws and filled in the backstory for The Veiled Lodger. I’ve discussed it here before. Suffice to say, The Veiled Lodger is one of the dreaded (some would say dreadful) final stories from 1927. Conan Doyle was nearing the end of his life and was sick of Sherlock Holmes, so he was phoning it in at this point. And because my story heavily referenced it, it butted up against lingering copyright.

I got away with it though. Largely because the anthology was for charity, raising money to restore Undershaw, Conan Doyle’s old house. As such, it got the official seal of approval from the estate. Said seal even appears right on the cover of the book.

Here’s where rights issues get murky.

My position was that since the estate had already given my story a de facto rubber stamp, I should be clear to reprint it without issue. Nevertheless, I was cautious, and didn’t want to get into a legal entanglement that could cost me thousands. So I contacted the estate directly and asked, ever so politely, if it was okay if I reprinted Cat’s Claws in a collection sooner rather than later.

I heard from someone in legal, who assured me they’d get back to me about that.

Never did. Stonewalled.

And why not? There wasn’t a buck to be made.

So I waited. And waited. And waited. Until today.

Today is the day that all rights to The Adventure of the Cat’s Claws unambiguously revert to me. I can continue to explore some of those characters from The Veiled Lodger (and I will) and nobody can say shit.

Not that the first volume of stories is ready to go just yet. I still have a couple more I want to complete, concerning Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft Holmes, and Wiggins of the Baker Street Irregulars, before I focus my full Sherlockian attention on volume two, and what everyone got up to during World War I.

But I feel a hurdle has been jumped, and I’m always relieved when the rights to any of my work come home to roost at last. There they shall remain, under my protection, until the moment I flatline.

At that point, the rights to all my work I still own immediately enter the public domain. No protracted wait periods lasting decades. No greedy corporations camping on an associated trademark. No ne’er-do-well second cousins twice removed trying to profit on the work of a distant relation they never even met.

Public domain. All of it. As soon as I assume room temperature and it’s medically confirmed I’m not coming back.

Because H. P. Lovecraft got it right.

Die alone and unloved, with no one who gives two shits about anything you ever wrote, and no heirs trying to lay claim to royalties. Go to your grave a failure, never live to see your influence and success in subsequent centuries. Everything goes copyright free, for anyone to reprint and exploit. Immortality assured.

And then be glad you’re too dead to give a damn about everyone losing their minds over the racist crap you wrote in cherry-picked passages when you were alive.

It’s the formula for success.

The Long Road Back

It was another one of those years. I’ve come to expect nothing less.

More deaths, more heartbreak. My months-long absence from blogging says much about how I just wasn’t feeling it this year.

On the bright side, my cancer scare turned out to be a non-event. Apparently Inheritance Dog is my Picture of Dorian Gray when it comes to malignant tumours. At this point, he’s more tumour than dog, but he just keeps persisting. And so I continue to walk him, day and night, in a Sisyphian effort to empty his bladder and bowels. Two years of this now. Sleeping in shifts, going out regardless of the weather, regardless if I’m sick or injured.

I’m tired, and my lacking word count for the year shows it.

Even so, I can now announce that I’ve finished two new novels that will be coming out in 2023. One is a stand-along thriller, the other is a pulpy bit of fiction that invents a whole new genre. I’ve referred to that one as Project S.E.E. for some time. Explanations will be forthcoming, but it launches a series that I plan to roll out in instalments on my Patreon page.

I was originally hoping to serialize it on Amazon’s Kindle Vella program, but two years later they still haven’t opened it to non-U.S. authors. So Patreon it is. Editing continues, but I should be able to post the first chunks soon.

As for the thriller, it’s of the political-paranoia variety, and I’m excited to finally get it out after dabbling with it for years. I’ll have a cover and title reveal shortly.

I’m slowly getting back up to speed, and there are plenty of projects pending. I tend to work on a variety of different books at once. It’s made for a long stretch of no new publications, but the dam must eventually break. And that’s when the flood arrives.

Here’s a recent screenshot of my computer screen to further tease something I mentioned here before. No promises any of this side gig sees the light of day in 2023, but tens of thousands of words are already on the page.

Walking Wounded

Injured again.

It was the kind of fall that makes you go back to bed with the front door unlocked in case the paramedics need to get in. I kept the phone handy so that if I woke up immobilized, I could call for an ambulance.

I’m no stranger to freezing rain. I live in Montreal after all, and have seen the city destroyed by freezing rain in the past. But this round of rain had only just begun to freeze. I thought I could safely get a walk in with Inheritance Dog before the streets became treacherous.

I didn’t even make it off the front porch before I went flying and took the last concrete step in the back. Two inches to the right and I would have been paralyzed from the waist down for life. Luckily I angled myself away from a spinal injury by catching myself with my hand. But that meant my hand got horrifically mangled in the process because I hadn’t even put my gloves on yet.

My body wanted to lie there for ten or twenty minutes while I recovered, but I had to get to my feet immediately and hobble after Inheritance Dog to step on his dragging leash before he wandered into traffic. Dogs are dumb.

I covered the worst wounds of my shredded hand with a wadded tissue so I wouldn’t fill my glove with blood. Then we went for our walkies. Because dogs gotta shit regardless. I don’t actually know if he dropped a load or not while I limped around the block. I was too fucked up to notice, and decided I was going to be lax about poop-bag duties this one time.

Once we were back, I threw some food into the dog bowl and crawled into bed. The moment of truth came after a three-hour nap when I got to find out if I was pissing blood or not. I wasn’t, but the suspense was palpable. I figured that one was a coin flip.

This was a few weeks ago. I’m mostly recovered, but I’m back to wearing a brace on my wrist at night. After stopping me from killing myself in two bad falls, those wrist bones are begging for mercy and promising a lifetime of annoying pain to counterbalance the finger I snapped in the bike crash.

It’s hard to pick up the pieces when I keep breaking things.

That doesn’t mean I’m not trying. Work is slow, but I’ve been running more promos lately. In fact, if you want to get a free e-copy of Sex Tape, that’s currently happening on Amazon. Act fast though, because I left it until the last day to mention it here. Likewise there are 99-cent sales on the e-book versions of the Longshot trilogy right now. I’ll try to give more of a heads-up in the future as I feel less and less like I’ve been hit by a truck…and stuffed in the back of an ambulance that flipped on the highway, got written off by the insurance company, and was then towed to the junkyard crusher with me still in the back.

He Who Laughs Last

From the pages of Epitaph:

“May I degrade and humiliate the simpering cretins in the audience? Shatter their illusions, and sap their wills to continue the struggle to sustain their worthless existences?” the fish asked hopefully.

Tom considered the request.

“Just the hecklers,” he said. “Wait until one of them starts calling out stupid shit and then have at it.”

“I look forward to robbing another such heckler’s life of all hope and meaning. I can already taste his sad, lonely suicide in the parking lot of Guffaw’s Chuckle-Shack!”

“Another?” I asked.

“There’s no evidence the last one had anything to do with us,” Tom claimed.

Finally, the sordid tale can be told!

This is my first release of the new year and it’s now up on Patreon.

Want to read it for free instead of paying for a Patreon subscription? Join my newsletter on the sidebar to the right before the next issue goes out. That should be sometime tomorrow, so click fast!

That’s the Spirit

I’m not going to try to pretend this is topical, or that there’s any sort of reason for me to bring it up at all. Sure, it’s the 26.5-year anniversary of the event, but that’s not exactly a round number. Suffice to say, it came up on social media recently when my old underground-comic compatriot, Chris Howard, dug up these artifacts from The Spirits of Independence tour that hit Manchester, Vermont back in 1995.

This was the high-water mark of a revolt in the comic-book industry that saw creators, new and old, shrugging off the shackles of the traditional publishers (especially The Big Two) to strike out on their own, handling all the business logistics themselves. Spurred on by Dave Sim of Cerebus fame, who had been doing it for years, comic creators took on the additional tasks of printing, soliciting, shipping and distribution. The premise of the movement was that there was no point in selling off the rights to our original creations to predatory corporations just so they could take care of basic bookkeeping. If we were clever enough to write and draw our books, we could handle a few more petty jobs and keep all the profits and rights for ourselves.

It was a good plan, ahead of its time, and petered out over subsequent years because it was a little too early. The publishing business was still in its analog phase, not so far removed from the days of the Gutenberg press. The digital age was several years away from exploding and making the whole process a lot easier on a number of fronts, thereby rendering traditional publishers largely redundant.

What was once the outlying Spirit of Independence has since become standard fare. Although I’m not working on any new comics, I’ve been able to take my old Longshot Comics graphic novels and redesign them for Amazon distribution. Now, instead of dealing with orders myself, it’s all print-on-demand, with Amazon fulfilling for me. All I need to do is advertise, and only as much as I care to. Same deal with all of my novels, which I write and design myself. There are no more print runs, no more crippling overhead bills, no more unsold copies rotting in a warehouse. It’s all been streamlined and made more efficient.

On the comic-book front, the old pillars of the business are crumbling. The Big Two, even with their billion-dollar Hollywood blockbusters, have been unable to hold down the fort on the newsstand. More and more creators have gone indie, with crowdfunding becoming the standard for their new books, all of which are creator-owned passion projects that look slicker than anything that’s come out of Marvel or DC in years.

I got out of the comic-book biz decades ago, when I felt cash-grab variant covers were killing the industry, and television writing opportunities opened up for me. I miss the shitshow sometimes, even when I hear just how shitty things have become of late. The close camaraderie of nerd culture doesn’t exist in film and television the way it does in comics.

But on to the nostalgia artifacts, presented here for posterity…

A spot check of the video reveals a familiar face at 35:40 shuffling through another stack of the original minicomic edition of The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers.
An after-hours jam piece features the handiwork of the famous and infamous. My own Jane Doe of The Squalids is seated lower left.

It Wasn’t a Complete Loss

2021 was the new-new newest worsty-worst year ever.

The suck that’s been running roughshod over my life since 2018 didn’t slow down, and continued to trample me throughout this last year of relentless personal tragedy. Rest assured, I’m waaaaaay past suicidal thoughts at this point. Now I stick around purely out of morbid curiosity to see what could possibly go wrong next. Fingers crossed for a rare and brutal form of cancer in 2022. Bring it on, bitches!

It was sometime last winter I was sitting alone in a hospital, wearing a pandemic diaper on my face, watching my mother die a miserable death only four months after my father died an equally miserable death, that I got to thinking: most people don’t have to deal with this much shit all at once. I mean, seriously, how many broken homes and deaths and illnesses normally strike one person all at the same time? Okay, sure, The Black Death. But I mean, since the middle ages? Probably not nearly this much statistically. If I’m going to beat those sorts of odds, I would prefer to win the lottery. Or get struck by lightning.

Meanwhile, I’m supposed to be running this vast publishing empire known as Eyestrain Productions, and I haven’t released a new book since November 2019.

Clearly I suck.

And yet, somehow, I’ve managed to place another bunch of stories in various anthologies throughout 2021. I guess it helps to have an editor or two badgering me for new Sherlock Holmes stories. At least somebody still loves me.

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Part XXIII: Some More Untold Cases (1888 – 1894) focuses on Holmes mysteries that are mentioned in the original canon, but not elaborated on. My story, “The Adventure of the Forgotten Brolly” fleshes out the disappearance of James Phillimore, which has been the subject of much speculation for over a century now. I’m not the first to have taken a stab at what was so bloody important about that umbrella he left behind, and I won’t be the last.

Sherlock Holmes: Stranger Than Fiction is a Belanger Books collection of stories featuring Holmes interacting with various other era-appropriate fictional characters including, in my case, the Frankenstein Monster. “The Adventure of the Stitchwork Man” is one of several stories I’ve completed this year that will not be a part of any of my future Sherlock Holmes collections. It will, however, one day appear in a whole other collection built around a certain human construct who also exists in the copyright-free public domain.

After the East Wind Blows: WWI and Roaring Twenties Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Part One (1914-1918) is one of a three-volume set from Belanger Books that deals with the post-retirement mysteries of the first world war and beyond. Apparently Sherlock Holmes got up to a lot more than beekeeping in his later years. My story, “The Intrigue of the Kaiser Helmet” reunites Mycroft, Wiggins, and Sherlock to solve a case that threatens British morale during the height of the clash of empires.

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Part XXX: More Christmas Adventures (1897 – 1928) features my second dip into The Great War. “The Intrigue of the Red Christmas” is set in the devastation of no-man’s-land immediately following Armistice and asks the question: does the death of one man still matter after millions were killed in the most terrible conflict mankind has ever known? I suppose it does if he died under mysterious circumstances wearing a Father Christmas costume.

That brings us to The Nefarious Villains of Sherlock Holmes, a two-volume set delving into the histories of various evildoers within the Holmes universe, including Tonga, the blow-dart assassin of The Sign of Four. It turns out his killing spree had an even worse legacy in “The Adventure of the Dozen Deadly Darts” which rounds out volume one. These two books have currently met their goal on Kickstarter, which is a good place to get your advance copies. Better back it now, as I’ve negligently left mentioning it until the tail end of the campaign.

I have one other non-Sherlock story that will be release exclusively for newsletter subscribers and Patreon backers. Hit that subscribe button in the right-hand bar or pledge me a buck at Patreon and you’ll get access to the first Necropolis-rated story in a while. Since I didn’t come out with the third book in the series this year as originally planned, I’ve tried to make up for it in some small way with the story “Last Laugh at the Chuckle-Shack.” It elaborates on an incident mentioned in the pages of Epitaph and features a couple of the supporting characters killing it at a comedy club.

Last year, Google street view captured me staring down Inheritance Dog in Lachine during the narrow slot of time between parental deaths. Little did I know at the time that dog ownership was just around the corner, much to the delight of my cats.