Splatterpunk Awards and More

After attending my first two KillerCon Austin events virtually, I’m looking forward to participating in my first in-person event in August. Unlike 2020 and 2021, this time I’ll be there as a Splatterpunk Award nominee for my single-author collection, May Cause Unexplained Ocular Bleeding. First and foremost, of course, I’ll be there as a fan of the splatterpunk and extreme horror genres, but just as in 2021, I’m also there to represent Madness Heart Press, Godless, and myself. I’m proud to be a part of the constantly growing community of transgressive horror writers, publishers, and distributors. There’s more warmth and acceptance in this community than in the maggot-filled and bloated stomach of a week-old corpse left in the sun.
The imposter syndrome kicked in almost immediately, forcing me to wonder how or why I’d even be on the same shortlist with authors like Chris Miller, Aron Beauregard, Jasper Bark, and others far more deserving. I’ve read and reviewed multiple titles in various categories for the upcoming Splatterpunk Awards, so I’m well aware of just how good these other writers are. While I don’t expect to win against such steep competition, I’m satisfied to be included.
It’s been an amazing year for me since this time in 2021. First, I signed with Madness Heart Press to publish my novella, You Will Be Consumed, while simultaneously becoming part of the small family John Baltisberger has assembled there. A few months later, I took the plunge and joined the Godless community with my short story, Horseplay, discovering another family of perverse, depraved, and intensely supportive individuals. In August of 2021, I released my new collection of short fiction, May Cause Unexplained Ocular Bleeding, for which I am now a Splatterpunk Award-nominated author. As the end of the year approached, I had the pleasure of seeing one of my stories published by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing for the 45th issue of Dark Moon Digest. And now, I’m a nominee for a Splatterpunk Award.
The coming year has some great things in store too, and I’m not even sure if there’s a way to top what I already have behind me, but I’m damn sure going to try.
I’m looking forward to being more intimately involved in the Godless community in the relatively near future, with new releases that I hope will shock and surprise, not only because of the content but for the range that I’m hoping to put on display. I’ve also got my next novel, Beneath the Unspoiled Wilderness, coming from Madness Heart Press later this year. The rest is more vague and nebulous, but there’s more coming, and I hope I manage to find new readers and make new friends along the way.
It’s strange, but I don’t know if any of this would have happened if I hadn’t opted to attend the virtual KillerCon Austin in 2020. The people I met during that virtual convention have been some of the kindest, most interesting, entertaining, supportive and encouraging folks I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, and they’ve been instrumental in helping me get to where I am today, whether they know it or not.

https://www.briankeene.com/home/2022-splatterpunk-award-nominees

A Contest For the Ages

Because my blog receives traffic that doesn’t necessarily overlap with my other social media accounts, I would be remiss if I didn’t share this here.
Because I’m an absurd human being, I’ve decided that I want to reward readers/reviewers of my December 2021 short story, When You’re Here, You’re Fatalities, available exclusively through http://www.godless.com
You’ll want to pay attention to this!

Sadly, this is only valid for individuals located in the United States. If I could extend this to other countries, I would gladly do so, but the logistics involved are just too much of an issue.

Initially, the plan was that if I could sell 250,000 copies of the story, I would randomly select five winners from those who have reviewed the title at Godless. Those five individuals would need to provide me with their contact information–including the physical address–as well as a time frame that would work best for them. I would then plan a road trip with my girlfriend (and possibly my teenage daughter) to travel to that reviewer’s location. We could spend the day hanging out, doing touristy things, or whatever. To conclude the evening, I would take the winner and their immediate family (or significant other and whatnot) to dinner at the nearest Olive Garden location.
I have modified the plan slightly since the original goal is altogether ludicrous. Of course, the adjusted step goals are also ridiculous, but you shouldn’t expect anything different from me.
Upon selling 100,000 copies of the story through Godless, I will select two winners who have posted reviews of the story, to Godless and/or Goodreads.
After another 100,000 sales, I will select another two winners from the remaining reviewers who had not won.
And, if I happen to sell another 50,000 copies of When You’re Here, You’re Fatalities after that, I will select one more lucky winner from those who have not already won.
Assuming every buyer leaves a review, that’s a 1 in 50,000 chance of winning a family dinner at Olive Garden with a horror author who wrote a short story that takes place in a fictionalized version of an Olive Garden restaurant. For only fifty cents to get your name in the drawing, it’s probably a better deal than many raffles and drawings in which one might participate. But there’s always the fact that many people still won’t leave reviews, and that improves the odds in your favor.

The title can be obtained by going to the following link at Godless:

You would also post your review there.

Additionally, I will accept reviews posted to Goodreads at the following location:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59777373-when-you-re-here-you-re-fatalities

You have nothing to lose beyond fifty cents and a little bit of time.

Spread the word far and wide!

The sooner we reach those sales numbers, the sooner you’ll have a chance to sit down for dinner with me.

When You’re Here, You’re Fatalities … or How I Learned To Kill While Loving the Sauce: The Breadstick Massacre

Donna just started her job as a waitress at Pimento Patch only to find out the restaurant would be shutting its doors for good.

Along with a skeleton crew of slackers, she accepted the offer of full pay to work overnight cleaning the place up in preparation for the looming vacancy. Unfortunately, this particular Pimento Patch restaurant has a dark history, and a sinister presence has something in store for the five crew members on staff that night.

Prepare for the breadstick massacre, because When You’re Here, You’re Fatalities!

Inspired by my love of Italian Giallo films of the 70s and 80s, as a slasher-ish story taking place in a fictional version of an Olive Garden would almost have to, I think you’re in for a not-so-delicious treat when you check out this new story. Released as part of the Godless AntiChristmas event for December of 2021, you’ll be able to find the link below:

Have You Seen Me?

When his teenage daughter disappears, Offi–former Officer Standish learns he will do anything to find her. In his search he will plummet to lows he’d never dreamed possible, braving trials that test the limits of his imagination and his intestinal fortitude.
How far would you go to save the life of your only child?

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I’m bringing you a story that should make you hold your loved ones closer, treasuring family. I don’t want to spoil anything, because I delve into the backstory surrounding what motivated me to write this one in the Author’s Notes at the end of the story…but in the midst of this, you’ll encounter the snippet I’d set aside to share as part of the KillerCon 2021 virtual convention. Sadly, I opted not to dive right into the depravity and that decision did me no favors.

You can find this Godless exclusive short by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device of choice. The link is below:

The Unexpected Ways Life Can Change

Months ago, I posted about how I’d returned to a career in television after taking an eleven-year hiatus from the broadcasting industry. Some of you may have read that post. If not, you can find it here: https://meltdownmessiah.com/2021/04/06/embracing-change/

Since then, I have been promoted into a position I’d have never imagined finding myself. I am now the News Producer for Good Morning KOTA Territory, a morning newscast that runs from 5:30 AM until 7 AM, Monday through Friday. At no point, during the ten years I spent working in television, between 2000 and 2010, had I considered the possibility that I might someday be working in the newsroom. But, here I am.

After only a week of training alongside another producer, I began my solo journey this morning, producing the first hour and a half newscast without someone there to check my work or bail me out if I hit a wall. There were some minor hiccups, but nothing that wouldn’t have happened even if there’d been someone else working alongside me. That’s the nature of live television. The important thing is to learn from those errors and to do better moving forward. It’s also important to keep in mind that there will always be mistakes that slip through, no matter how attentive or careful we are. I’m actively proud of myself for what I’m accomplishing and how I’ve managed to excel in an industry I’d stepped away from in January of 2010.

On Friday, November 12th, I was credited with writing my first story. We received breaking news in the middle of the night, that a fire had ignited in Custer State Park. One of my fellow producers sent me some details and video provided by emergency responders on the scene, and I compiled it into a story for our newscasts. The other producer tweaked things a bit when he arrived at the station a few hours later, and he posted the story online. I never expected to be credited in a byline, but it seems like life is full of unexpected things for me these days. The story is linked below:

https://www.kotatv.com/2021/11/12/firefighters-battle-15-acre-blaze-east-legion-lake/?fbclid=IwAR38UZimsaoCCqUVKgzOISwZl9lIAtsQxRu5BpOKxKrnBkrxlPyX4rzqGAQ

I’m content remaining behind the scenes. I have no interest in becoming a reporter or an anchor. I’m not comfortable in front of the camera, as you can see from the interview I did during the final week of October.

Miranda O’Bryan, the producer and anchor for KOTA Territory News @ Noon was aware that I happened to be a horror author, and she wanted to do more Halloween-themed interviews and stories leading up to the holiday. It took a little bit of coercing, and she asked really nicely, but I agreed to sit down for an interview. I almost choked at the start, visibly unable to respond to the question. Also, I have a face for radio…so I don’t anticipate we’ll be seeing me in the field or sitting at a desk anywhere down the line.

This is where I find myself now. It’s not where I’d have expected myself to be, but I feel like it’s where I should be, at least for the time being. Looking ahead, I hope–and believe–this will open new doors for me. I feel strangely optimistic about where my life is headed at present, and I feel a similarly strange sense of pride at what I’ve managed to do. I enjoy what I’m doing, I like the people I’m working with, and I feel like I’m doing something that has at least some small amount of value to it.

And…yes…this new position did come with a raise. I’m not back to the $40k a year I’d been making prior to leaving my position with GE Appliances, but I’m certainly closer than I was in my previous role within Gray Television. I’d call that a win. Sometimes we have to take a few steps back before we can find our way forward.

This Is Where Dreams Come True

October 3rd, 2021 – Day Three of the 31 Days of Godless event at http://www.godless.com

Originally written in 2015 as a futile and frustrated attempt to write a piece of short erotica, the story took on a life of its own and became something altogether unpleasant and not suitable as erotica.

I’ve revised, rewritten, and returned some previously censored content to the story and released it on Godless for only $0.50.

Amy’s expectation of a relaxing summer of housekeeping at a theme park hotel is shattered as guests and staff alike are overcome with carnal desires that cross all lines of decency. Can she escape with her sanity intact? Can she even make it out of the hotel?

Check it out for yourself at http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app on your mobile device of choice. The link is below:

This Post May Cause Unexplained Ocular Bleeding…Or It May Cause You To Buy It, At Least

If you haven’t already heard about May Cause Unexplained Ocular Bleeding, this post is for you. If you’ve heard about my new book, but you don’t know whether it’s something you’re interested in, this post is also for you. Essentially, this post is for anyone and everyone.
Tomorrow morning, August 18th, my second collection of short fiction becomes available in digital formats at http://www.godless.com for the low price of $2.99, which is $1 cheaper than it’ll be in digital format when it goes live on Amazon on Friday, August 20th. It will also be available in paperback on August 20th for the low price of only $8.99.
Check out this cover, designed by the fantastic Drew Stepek.

That design alone should be enough to whet your appetite. If you’re one of those style over substance sorts, that cover layout should be all it takes to convince you that you need this in your collection.
Of course, you’re in for more than a fancy-looking cover when you pick up a copy of this book.
Not only does this collection include the sleeper hit, Horseplay, from Godless, but it contains nine additional short stories that are sure to make my readers uncomfortable as often as it entertains them. Not only that, but I have made certain to include a brief note that details the inspiration behind each of these tales of terror and tribulation. Some of these notes are more worthwhile than others, but I wanted you–my readers–to know me a little better when you came out of the experience than you might have on your way in.
Here’s the description from the back cover of the paperback edition:

I didn’t know how to react when Carver Pike provided me with what I must admit is likely to be the best blurb I could ever hope to receive. Any comparison to a writer of Gaiman’s caliber is going to be flattering–and also impossible to live up to. I’m going to hope that I don’t let my readers down when I turn out to be nowhere near the author Neil Gaiman happens to be.
Adrian Ludens not only provided a fantastic blurb, but his keen eyes also caught little bits and pieces of editing that had slipped through the cracks along the way. After staring at the same stories for so long, one becomes inured to faults and flaws that might ruin the tone of a story. It’s a sort of editing blindness that creeps in and destroys otherwise fantastic manuscripts. Had it not been for Mr. Ludens taking the time to read the stories with a critical eye, I might have missed a handful of mismatched tenses and incorrect words.

You can, of course, purchase this title from http://www.godless.com or through the Godless app tomorrow. The link is below:

You can also hold out until Friday the 20th, to pick up a copy at the following link on http://www.amazon.com

Looking Back & Feeling Haunted

Years ago, I took it upon myself to compile a sort of memoir of the life I’d lived. It was, to me, a sort of therapeutic purge. When I initially typed up the almost daily segments of what ultimately became a novel-length exploration of both the good and the bad aspects of my childhood and early adulthood…naturally, I focused a great deal on the bad. The dozens of blog posts associated with that attempted expiation were the most high-traffic blog posts I’ve written. Because of that, I’ve always entertained the thought of trying to clean up those blog posts so that I can make it something people could read without being near their computers or electronic devices. I assumed–perhaps rightly so–that something about what I was writing resonated with readers and made them feel better, or less alone in their own lives. I could be wrong. Maybe it was nothing more than morbid curiosity that kept people coming back for more.

I’ve been thinking about one series of entries in particular, apropos of nothing, and I thought it might be worthwhile to share a more cleaned-up and easy-to-read iteration of what I’d originally written back in 2014. This is a long one, so you’ll want to settle in. Each individual segment was written on a different day. Beyond fixing some of the language, punctuation, and editing sentences for clarity…this is what people were reading seven years ago.

I met her at a party one night when I was 15-years-old, only a couple of months before I got expelled for the latter part of the first semester of school. It wasn’t necessarily much of a party, mostly just a dozen or so of us hanging out. There was a little bit of drinking involved, some of us were smoking weed, but it wasn’t the sort of get-together that would get the police called on us unless the neighbors felt like being particularly awful.
I wasn’t an outgoing kid, and I barely spoke a word to her. That isn’t to say that I didn’t notice her or that she didn’t catch my eye. From that point on, I found myself looking forward to spending time with certain of my friends more than others because she was more likely to be around those people.
As it turned out, she had dated a friend of mine for a short while. She was also in 8th grade at the time, while I was a Sophomore in high school, so it felt like she was off-limits to me. It wasn’t the couple of years difference in age that posed the problem, but rather that she was the ex-girlfriend of one of my close friends.
Of course, all of this was irrelevant, as I had a girlfriend of my own at the time. That didn’t stop me from admiring her from whatever distance I felt I had to maintain, though.
She was beautiful in that girl-next-door, growing into herself sense. Also, in fitting with the girl-next-door dynamic, she was exceptionally sweet and not at all jaded or angsty like most of my metalhead, punk rock, druggie, and skater friends happened to be. As I got to know her better, it became clear that she was certainly smarter than most of my friends–and more personable. It struck me that–quite unlike me–it would be damnably difficult to dislike her. I only talked with her on occasion, in large part because she made me nervous, but also because I sincerely felt like she would think less of me the better she got to know me.
If everyone does indeed have a first love, she was mine.
She was the first girl to touch me in just the right way, as adulthood loomed on the horizon, when emotional and psychological identity starts developing us into the person we will ultimately become.
I feel I may want to clarify that I don’t mean she touched me in anything approaching a sexual manner. I’ve already established that she was off-limits, since you may not have been paying any attention.
If life had turned out differently, I like to think I might be able to look back on her as more than a crush or a passing fancy, but I don’t have the conviction required to believe that. As it stands, with the tragic way that things ultimately turned out, she is etched into whatever passes for a soul in me as being the first–and perhaps the truest–benchmark of what I would look for in love. That girl is seared into my memory in a way that no other could be. A few years later, I was accused of being in love with a ghost by a significant other who complained that there was no way anyone could compete against that.
I didn’t know it until later, but I had apparently made an impression on her as well. This was a bit of knowledge that, while comforting and flattering, served to make her loss all the more painful…but we will get to that soon enough, you impatient shit. I am having a difficult enough time writing all of this without you pressuring me to speed it along. Let me get to it my own way.
During the week following my expulsion from school, I reacted with a characteristic lack of impulse control. One of my friends–the girl in question’s ex-boyfriend–had been expelled simultaneously. This stood to reason, seeing as how he was frequently right there with me during those exploits that transpired while I should have been wasting away in the tedium and mind-numbing monotony of the classroom. He and I took to the interstate with our respective thumbs out, knowing that returning to our homes after being removed from school was something that neither of us was willing to do right away.
He and I made our way to where a couple of my friends lived and we stayed with them for a couple of days after discovering our newfound freedom. During those first few days, we ended up wandering through a couple of residential neighborhoods, checking cars for unlocked doors. One of those vehicles, a Dodge Caravan, happened to be the jackpot. Not only was the door unlocked, but the keys were right there waiting for us. As you can likely predict, we took the keys with us and took note of the location of that vehicle.
We were only able to stay with my friends one more night before we were left to our own devices again. If we’d had any common sense, we would have stopped right there, called it good, and returned to our homes to face the music. But, if we had been blessed with that sort of common sense, we would not have been us, and I would not have anything to write here, and we both know that you would be horrendously bored without my words to keep you company.
That night, with nowhere to go that we were willing to be, it was damn cold–as November nights in South Dakota are known to be. We walked the streets of the town, the constant movement being all that was keeping us warm. Finally, we got too tired to keep at it, and we happened to find a boat beneath a tarp in the parking lot of an apartment complex. It wasn’t perfect, but it was somewhere we were able to obtain some shelter from the wind and fall asleep in what was still painfully cold temperature.
That night was a deciding factor in what would become the biggest mistake of both of our lives. We had two paths ahead of us, and we brazenly marched down the wrong one with the sort of idiotic lack of awareness only total dipshit could manage to exhibit.
The following evening we returned to where we had found the minivan a couple of nights before, and we put those pilfered keys to use (with him behind the wheel because he was more comfortable driving than I was). We drove toward Sturgis with no real plan in mind, entirely unaware that we were on our way to crossing a line that would irrevocably change multiple lives for the worse.
I don’t rightly recall how it came about that we ran into his ex-girlfriend (the girl I was secretly interested in) and her best friend. Similarly, I don’t know how it was suggested that he and I could take them across the state to where the girl’s mother lived, but that became the plan. My friend asked me to go along with a story he concocted about how we had borrowed our recently stolen vehicle from one of my friends. There isn’t so much as a week that passes, even now, more than 20 years later, when I don’t wish I could go back and never utter that lie or that I could have spoken up and stopped the momentum we were building by simply telling the truth at any point over the following couple of days.
If I had any courage, to be honest, all of our lives would have been quite different…and I am confident in saying that they would have been better. I was selfish, though, and stupid, and I saw this as an opportunity to spend more time with this girl I had adored in silence. It breaks my heart to know that, as her best friend informed me some months later, they only climbed into that minivan because I was there and because they trusted me.
It seemed like a good plan. He and I would drop the girls off and then he and I would continue wherever the road and our continuing poor judgment led us. It started quite nicely. That night we drove across the border into Wyoming, just to get out of the state since we suspected that the vehicle was reported stolen. We slept in the van as comfortably as we could and cut back into South Dakota briefly on our way South and into Nebraska the following morning. Without any money, we shoplifted food, beverages, and cigarettes to get us by in addition to filling the tank and racing away from the fuel pumps.
Beyond my chance to bring this ill-conceived road trip to a grinding halt by being honest with the girls there was one other event that may have set us straight had our timing been better. We stopped at the college in Chadron, NE where a friend of mine was attending school but he wasn’t in the dormitory when we arrived. He would surely have provided a voice of reason, and I wish we’d had the patience to wait for him to return. We did not.
We slept in the van again that night in an isolated little town near the eastern portion of the South Dakota/Nebraska border. That night is one that I remember with painful clarity because it was one of the best nights I could have hoped to share with that particular girl. She came back to the middle row seat where I was attempting to sleep and fell asleep with her head in my lap. I spent a couple of hours watching her sleep and running my fingers through her hair. That night was a good one, it was a beautiful way to spend those hours, and I was happy when I fell asleep, feeling the pressure of her against me. It was a good thing I was so happy and content that night because it was the last time I would be happy for a good, long while.
The next morning made a nightmare of what only that night seemed to be a dream come true. But I am not going to get to that yet. I want to pretend this ends on a high note for just a little bit. Maybe, if I don’t document what followed, we can pretend there was a happy ending.

The morning of the worst day of my life started beautifully, which only serves to show how things can change. She was still sleeping against me when we woke up shortly after sunrise. I don’t think I even recalled falling asleep a few hours before, the last thing I remembered was the quiet sound of her breathing as I ran my fingers through the hair of her sleeping head. That would have been the perfect moment to have opened my mouth and told the truth. I have no doubt that she would have been angry with me for the deception, but I similarly have no doubt that she would have forgiven me…she was that kind of person, the sort of girl who couldn’t even conceive of malice directed at another person.
Of course, I didn’t say a thing, no matter how much I wish that I could go back and change that fact…if I had, we wouldn’t be experiencing the conclusion of this chapter of my life together. If I had simply done the right thing, I would be a better man for it…but I did not, and we’ll have to decide together what that says of me as a man.
I was shortsighted and took the beginning of the day as a sign that life was going to turn out just fine. I learned real fucking quick that the beginning of a thing has little to no relevance to determining how that thing will end, and if that is the only lesson you learn from me it will make this whole ordeal worth something.
Our agenda that morning was so simple. We were near some of the other girl’s family on the Eastern side of the state, so we were going to stop there and let her visit them for a short while, and then we would continue on our way to dropping the girls off as intended. Everything seemed to be going smoothly for us that morning and we filled up the tank again before leaving town (without paying for it, as you could probably guess) after that brief interlude with her family.
We were on our way down the highway when a police officer came along. He’d been heading the opposite direction, most likely because the cops had been called after a handful of kids in a minivan drove off without paying for their fuel. I don’t adequately know how to describe the feeling I experienced as I saw the cruiser whip around in the rearview mirror with lights and siren going, but terror and stomach-churning nervousness fall monstrously short as far as descriptions go. In a perfect world my friend would have recognized that we had reached the conclusion of our strange little journey and it was time to call it quits…instead, he accelerated.
Nothing about this situation could have played out well for us from that moment on. The girls were terrified and screaming from the second-row seat, begging him to stop the vehicle…but there was no indication that he was hearing them at all. Until that time I had never really considered the possibility that a minivan could reach speeds above 100 MPH. I genuinely hope never to experience that again.
To my credit–the little bit that I might deserve–I tried to get my friend to pull over at least long enough to let the girls out. I pleaded with him and swore that I would stay with him to see it through to whatever end we met if he would just stop and let them out.
There was no getting through to him, though. Under the circumstances, I can understand how he would have driven on, oblivious to the pleading from the rest of us in the vehicle. He was as scared as we were; more so, I suspect, because he knew that he was behind the wheel of a stolen minivan. Chances are that he wasn’t even hearing us while we attempted to get him to slow down or stop the vehicle. During the few minutes that followed the officer beginning his pursuit, there was nothing else going through my friend’s mind but a desperate need to escape and a cascade of fight or flight hormones.
I was angry with him for quite some time after this, and I liked to pretend that I would have done something differently if I had been behind the wheel, but I don’t know that events would have played out any differently had that been the case. Under the same conditions, I may have had the same panic response that led him to run rather than stop and accept the consequences of our actions. The simple truth is that I don’t know anything of the sort, and it was unfair of me to be angry with him for reacting out of fear. I let go of that anger a good number of years ago, forgiving him for, but not forgetting the events of that morning.
The high-speed pursuit didn’t last long even though it felt like forever while it was happening. My friend pulled off from the highway onto another road as soon as the opportunity presented itself, presumably to try and lose the officer and extract us from the god-awful situation we were in. Sadly, diverting our attempted escape onto this alternate road directly led to the horrible outcome that was soon to arrive. No one would have anticipated the sudden transition from pavement to gravel, but the inevitable outcome of hitting the gravel surface at close to 120MPH was highly predictable.
We were out of control almost immediately and the minivan flipped into the air before rolling a few times and coming to a stop upside down a good distance from the road.
The specifics of the accident are difficult to recall, having happened so damn fast. I remember my seatbelt snapping and I have some flashes of recollection of being thrown around inside of the vehicle before being ejected from the rear hatch of the minivan. I remember bouncing and rolling along the dry, hard-packed dirt ground for a while before things finally became still.
I don’t recall losing consciousness at all, but I sure as hell wasn’t fully coherent at first. It was the sound of the other girl crying that shook me out of the daze I was experiencing. I picked myself up from the ground and stumbled over to where she was laying on the ground. I could see that she was hurt, and badly, but I tried to tell her that everything would be ok and that there had to be an ambulance on the way. She asked me if I saw her friend, and it took me a little while to locate her.
I frantically searched the ground for her, my eyes not focusing quite right, but I did finally see her a short distance away. She wasn’t crying at all and didn’t appear to be moving, so I began to walk over to where she was laying as quickly as I could.
I was almost to her when the officer yelled from the road for me to lie down and wait for the paramedics to arrive. My body wanted me to listen to him, but I had to get over to her so I just kept walking in that direction until I couldn’t stay on my feet any longer. It had been pure adrenaline that kept me going that far and I had just burned through it, I guess. I don’t really remember hitting the ground, but I was laying there again, my head tilted awkwardly to the side to keep my eyes on the girl who had only a short while before been sleeping peacefully pressed up against me. I swear that she was breathing and looking back at me, but the mind plays tricks on us during times of great stress and I can’t trust the things I believed myself to have seen.
I only later learned that the van had landed on her during one of its impacts and that her heart had burst from the pressure. It was something to that effect. My lies and cowardice, selfishness, and stupidity had broken her heart. That was the lesson I carried with me from that horrific day.
She didn’t make it through that morning, didn’t even survive to make it into the ambulance as far as I know. I didn’t know any of that until later. If she was still breathing while I lay there on the ground with my eyes locked on hers, I may have been the last thing she saw before she passed away…and she deserved something so much better than that, she deserved to see something beautiful and peaceful to carry with her into the end.
Her friend’s injuries were severe enough that she had to be flown from the nearby hospital to one where they could properly tackle the rebuilding process required to repair the damage from the accident. I saw her again just a few years ago and she still walked with a noticeable limp, and it made me wince to see it.
Beyond numerous contusions and psychological damage that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, I fractured five vertebrae in my middle and lower spine. My insistence on walking around immediately after the accident certainly couldn’t have helped that condition.
The driver was uninjured and taken into custody. He was ultimately convicted and sentenced to serve a year in a juvenile detention facility for the part he played in the accident. There was no attempt to convict me of anything, apparently determining that I was being punished enough thanks to the injuries I sustained in the wreck…but I would have gladly traded places with my friend if it had been an option. Some part of me wanted to be punished, needed it…but I was not. The owners of the minivan did not press charges out of some sense of compassion for the children who had been involved in the theft and subsequent tragedy, but I remember halfway wishing that they had…just so that I could have been held accountable.
I was only a month shy of my 16th birthday, and I was a killer. I may not have been behind the wheel, but I was just as complicit in killing the first girl I loved as the boy who had been driving. Growing up Catholic taught me about sins of commission and sins of omission…and that is a lesson I took to heart. I was actively involved in the theft that placed the fateful Dodge Caravan in our careless, stupid hands…that was a sin of commission. I spent a couple of days during our little road trip neglecting to tell the truth, which would have saved us all a great deal of pain and suffering…that was a sin of omission. I may not believe in God, the dogma of the Catholic faith I grew up in, or any of that silly spiritual nonsense, but the concept of sin is something that I can embrace. Sin, to me, is the way that we wrong those around us. It’s the choices we make that directly or indirectly hurt the people in our lives.
This is the point where I should tell you about the time spent in the hospital and the god-awful, painful nightmare that was her funeral, but I can’t do it, not right now. I’ve spent too long thinking about this tonight, picking at wounds that I’ve never quite allowed to heal, and I need to step away for a bit. I’ll tell you the rest, just not right now.

My first couple of hours in the hospital consisted of numerous x-rays and images being taken. I realized how badly injured I was when asked to stand for a series of x-rays and, upon reaching my feet to the ground, it felt as if my spine was collapsing like an accordion on raw nerves. I’ve never felt anything before or since that has compared to that pain. I sincerely hope that remains true. I was assisted in laying back down and advised not to move until they had a chance to examine the images they’d already taken.
The doctor who came to see me expressed a sort of admiration when the first words from my mouth were essentially my begging him to tell me about the two girls who were brought in with me. He indicated that he was pleasantly surprised because almost anyone else, in his experience, under the circumstances would have started by asking what was wrong with themselves before even thinking about anyone else. I didn’t deserve his respect or admiration; at that point, I couldn’t have given a shit less about my condition, even if I had been rapidly dying. I was there by the actions of my own stupid hands, but those two girls were there because of me as well, I felt responsible for whatever might have happened to them.
It was then I was informed that the other girl was being airlifted to Sioux City, IA due to the severity of her injuries. These consisted of a shattered ankle and pelvis along with numerous other fractures. It was devastating to hear that she had been hurt so badly, enough so that it took me a moment to collect myself and recognize that he hadn’t told me anything about the one person I was most concerned with. I had to ask him directly about her and his hesitation before answering was all it took to confirm my worst fear. I don’t recall what he was saying and was only able to focus a fraction of my attention on his words at the time, he was telling me that she hadn’t made it to the hospital…he was telling me about the extent of her injuries when I interrupted him, insisting that I needed to see her.
Her mother had been contacted and was on her way to the hospital to identify and claim her daughter’s body. The doctor informed me that I would have to wait until she arrived and approved of it before I would have permission to see the body myself.
I had never met her mother before this, and I was terrified. I knew that there was no way she would agree to let me see her daughter, not after I had helped to kill her. The wait those following couple of hours was horrible. I imagined numerous scenarios in which the woman tried to kill me after the trauma of losing her daughter hit home. In none of those would I have lifted a finger to stop her.
I couldn’t have been more wrong, though. Her daughter had learned from a wonderful example in the woman I met that afternoon. I had no way of knowing how difficult it must have been for her to look at me and talk to me with compassion, but she didn’t shy away from it. She was kind and understanding, and she didn’t decline my request to see her daughter.
I got wheeled into a room where there was one other occupant, still and silent. A nurse helped me onto my side, so I could face the girl who’d been sleeping so peacefully only half a day before. My mind played cruel tricks on me. I kept seeing her chest rise and fall with breaths that she wasn’t taking and subtle movements of her eyelids that she wasn’t capable of making.
I had to stretch awkwardly and painfully to take her hand, muttering unintelligible pleas for her to come back to me and squeeze my hand. I spent the whole time talking to her, and I have no idea what I was saying any longer. I remember trying to pray to any gods that might exist to simply let me take her place, crying that I would give anything to have me be the one who had died in her place…an exercise in futility.
The nurse was patiently waiting outside for me to tell her that I was ready to go, but that never happened. I probably never would have called out for her. I was finally removed from the room when they needed to prepare her body for being transferred across the state for funeral preparations.
I spent the next couple of days in that hospital, becoming acquainted with the god-awful uncomfortable back brace that I would be wearing for months to follow. I was miserable and depressed; if those words even come close to describing how I was feeling…my interactions with others could probably best be described as being despondent. Something about me made a positive impression on one of the nurses who was caring for me though, as she kept in regular contact with me for a few months after I was discharged.
The ride back home was a terrifying ordeal in its own right. South Dakota had gotten hit by a winter storm. My mother, along with my favorite uncle, still drove across the state to recover me from the hospital. I was more than a little bit uncomfortable being in any vehicle for a long time after the events of a few days before, and the steady snowfall did not help matters at all. It was even more uncomfortable being forced to face two people who expected better of me, two members of my family who believed in me and the “limitless potential” I had always been told I exhibited by family, teachers, and the like. I can’t imagine the disappointment they must have felt, and thanks to my children turning out far better than I had, I doubt I ever will be able to.
I didn’t know whether I should attend the funeral. I felt that my presence there would be disruptive, that it would be an insult to her memory, that it was sacrilege of sorts. I would likely have avoided the funeral altogether if I hadn’t been able to ask permission of her mother, to ask if my presence would even be welcome there.
It was at the funeral when I learned that she used to talk about me now and again to her mother and grandparents, that she had a fondness for me that I had been entirely oblivious to, that preceded that single night we had together while she drifted off to sleep peacefully as close to being in my arms as she ever was. It wasn’t until some time later that I learned from the other victim of the accident that they had only joined the driver and me in that vehicle because I was there and they had trusted me…which taught me that people were better off not trusting me.
Between the cocktail of pain medication and muscle relaxers and the emotional turmoil of the circumstances, most of the funeral is a blur to me. I do remember not wanting to leave the gravesite until well after most everyone else had gone. My mother was grateful (and I suppose I was too) for the two friends of mine who had also remained behind, because it was those two boys who finally got my attention away from the cold ground and helped me to my feet, encouraging me that it was time to go. Aside from the cemetery groundskeepers, we were the last four people still there.
I honestly hadn’t noticed that we had been left alone. My mother’s fear may have been right, I might have intended to crawl down into that hole myself…I don’t adequately recall.
After the funeral, her mother kept in touch with me, and when it was time for her to return home in December, she asked me to join her and her parents on the trip. They were good people, better and kinder than I could ever hope to be, so I know that there wasn’t a malicious desire to hurt or torture me for my part in the tragic accident…but they wouldn’t have been more successful at applying torture if their motives had been cruel. I traveled with them for hours, welcomed and treated with kindness that I did not deserve.
When we arrived I was shocked and appalled to discover that the bed I would be sleeping in for the next few days was a bed belonging to a ghost. I slept on sheets that she had slept upon countless times while staying with her mother. I lay awake at night staring at posters she had placed on the walls and listening to a stereo she had listened to while sleeping in that room as well. I went on walks with her mother through a town where they had walked together many times. I shared meals with a devastated family suffering from a terrible loss, and this was the one time in my life when I sincerely entertained the thought of suicide. It was at that point when I stopped taking my pain medication. It was only partially because I felt that I deserved the pain and was cheating somehow by deadening it.
It was only a short while later, after returning to school for the spring semester, that I swallowed those pills I had been saving. It didn’t work out as planned, I became disoriented and barely functional, and sick. But I kept breathing. Some friends, good friends I didn’t deserve to have escorted me from the school and kept watch over me to see if I needed to be taken to the hospital. I was high, but I was alive…and there have been times in my life when I wish that had turned out differently as well.
Well, there you go…that particular story is done. I’m sure there is more I could say, details I didn’t include…but you’ll have to live with it as is because I am tired of sharing this bit of my life with you. There is a limit to my endurance, and we have reached it.

Black Hills Con 2021

This weekend has been a busy one for me.

In 2017, my friend and fellow author, Adrian Ludens, had asked if I might be interested in sharing a table with him at the local anime, science fiction, and pop culture convention. At that point, the local convention was SoDak Con–previously SoDak Anime Convention. Unfortunately, due to a planned and scheduled vacation in the Pacific Northwest, I was unable to partner up with him.

I’m sad to say that I might not have done so even without those prior obligations. At that point in my writing career I had only the novel, Unspoken, and my collection of short fiction and poetry, Errata, available. Both titles had been self-published and neither had been particularly successful or generated much by way of buzz or interest beyond people who knew me to some extent. I would have felt like a fraud, sitting there next to him. Adrian had sold probably dozens of stories to various publications and anthologies at that point…and who the fuck was I?

Since then, I’ve come a long way in feeling more comfortable and secure in calling myself an author. My next self-published novel, Innocence Ends, was more successful than both of the previous titles combined–and then some. Thanks to the sales associated with Innocence Ends, I was able to join the HWA (Horror Writers Association) as an Affiliate Member. My new novella, You Will Be Consumed, was published by a small press I respect and appreciate–in addition to since being adapted into an audiobook with a fantastic narrator doing the heavy lifting.

When the new convention–now Black Hills Con–was announced for June of this year, I reached out to Adrian and asked whether he might be interested in sharing a table with me. I was pleased to discover he was interested.

This would be my first time attending a convention of any kind as a guest and a vendor. I was never particularly big on attending conventions in the first place, being as anti-social and riddled with anxiety as I find myself to be when surrounded by crowds of any kind.

I neglected to request time off from work on Friday. Thus, I had to get up at 3:45 AM and begin my shift at the television station at 4:30 AM. I directed the hour and a half of Good Morning KOTA Territory from 5:30 to 7 AM and then KOTA Territory News at Noon from 12 to 12:30 PM. It had already been a long day, as you can probably imagine, before I pulled out of the parking lot and made my way to the hotel where the convention was being held.

I arrived at the hotel and was directed to the vendor room where Adrian and I would be sharing our table. I was pleased to see that my old friend, Tom Rasch, was at the table right next to us. Tom is a comic book artist/creator who has been active in that industry for quite some time, in addition to having done a good deal of video game character design back in the day. He was there to promote his various independent comic properties, Black Alpha and Salem Tusk in particular, as well as a documentary film that is detailing his efforts to bring these properties to life in the way they deserve to be realized. At some point in the relatively near future, he’s likely to have a Kickstarter campaign going live, and I’ll be sure to share those details here.

Needless to say, I felt a wash of relief, knowing that I had familiar faces right there next to me.

The next five hours turned out to be a great deal more fun than I suspected they might be…additionally, I managed to deplete a fair amount of the books I’d brought with me for the convention.

Using a trick I’d developed for coping with social anxiety, I carried my camera with me and captured photos of the events, separating myself from them by placing the lens in between myself and the rest of the world.

I was exhausted when I arrived home shortly before 7 PM on Friday. I ate dinner and took a nap before waking up and going to the gym around 10:30 PM. I have a difficult time breaking from routine, and I try to always go to the gym on Friday evenings, regardless of what my day consisted of.

On Saturday morning, I woke up at 6:30 AM and took a shower before taking the puppies outside and making sure my daughter was ready to go. We stopped for coffee and arrived at the convention location right at 8 AM as everything was getting started. I made my way to the vendor room–it was closed to all but the vendors until 10 AM–while my daughter went to watch Saturday morning cartoons that were being projected on the screen of the large conference room by the convention staff.

Most of the vendors weren’t there yet, so it was nice to just relax and chat with Tom while I put everything out on the table, including some creepy photo prints I’d brought with me to see if they might also sell. Adrian arrived not too long after.

Tom was hosting a panel on Saturday morning, sharing his experiences in the comic book and video game design industries and talking about his current projects. I attended some of that panel because I wanted to see at least some of it instead of spending all of my time sitting at the table.

Throughout the day, my daughter sporadically returned to the vendor space with different friends in tow and it was fun to see the teenagers enjoying themselves so much. My daughter also took advantage of the fact that Adrian had brought the rolling, steel table from a morgue with him.

The second day of the convention was a marathon, though slightly less of a marathon than the first day had been for me. We held our post in the vendor room until just after 6 PM when it was time to pack it in and head home. I returned home with only four of the copies of You Will Be Consumed that I’d brought with me, and none of my other books. All in all, I’d say it wasn’t a bad day.

It was great being able to spend time with friends I don’t often see in real life and to meet new people.

Before leaving the hotel, I gifted two of my photo prints to the two special guests of the convention–voice actors in various anime films–because someone had mentioned it was their first time visiting South Dakota, and I thought they might like something a little less tourist-oriented as a memento. One of the two brought over a signed art print that made my daughter’s day, because she had considered getting one until she saw the prices they were charging.

The other remaining photo print, I gifted to another of the vendors who had been awesome to talk with here and there.

As tired as I was, I must admit I was sort of sad to see the convention ending.

All things considered, I have to say I think my first experience as a guest of a convention was a success. I look forward to doing it again.

I have to thank the folks who organized Black Hills Con 2021, because they did an excellent job of making sure everything ran smoothly and that everyone was comfortable and taken care of. The atmosphere was a positive one and free of some of the toxicity and gatekeeping that I’ve heard about regarding similar conventions around the country.

You Will Be Consumed…by This Riveting Tale

Ignore, if you can, the “For Rectal Use Only” sticker I’ve affixed to the cover of this proof copy of my novella, You Will Be Consumed.

I know it’s difficult.

Some of you might find yourselves asking whether that’s a reference to the contents being best suited for use as toilet paper. I can assure you the paper utilized in printing this book is definitely inferior to most toilet paper on the market. You may find yourself wondering if I’m implying that you should attempt to roll the book into a tube of sorts for rectal insertion. I don’t recommend that. You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife. You may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?” If those things are true, you’re probably somehow existing within the amazing song Once In a Lifetime by Talking Heads.

At this point, I’m sure you’re wondering what the hell this post is all about. You’re not alone. I think I might have forgotten that salient detail as well.

Of course, I’m joking.

I just wanted to remind you that it’s time to pick up your own copies of You Will Be Consumed…and the amazing publisher I worked with on this title, Madness Heart Press, has guaranteed that there are outlets available for anyone.

Amazon, of course, is available as an option:

You can also purchase the book in either physical or digital copy directly from the Madness Heart Press website at the link below:

However, if you’re interested in a digital copy of the novella, and you really don’t want to support Amazon…but you do want to show support for indie authors and small press publishers of horror titles…there’s another place you can go.

Drew Stepek, a fantastic author and an avid supporter of the indie horror literature scene, has assembled something amazing.

Check out Godless at the following link:

While you’re there…please spend some time perusing the available titles. This is a great distribution option for small presses, self-published horror authors, and fans to come together without Amazon lining their already bulging pockets in the process.

That’s all.

I wanted to peddle my new novella some more, and I really wanted to encourage everyone to visit Godless.