Just checking in…

It’s quick update time!  Just to let you know that I haven’t fallen off a cliff or anything; we’re still alive and kicking.  The move from Austin to Allentown has taken it’s usual toll.  Give about three to four months of adjustment, and catch up time, before one is back up to steam with normal things.  But of course it’s not an actual big move until some thing really inconvenient happens just as things are settling in.  And inconvenience always comes with friends.  In this case the clutch went out on my car. As I live way too far from work to walk, or take a bus, it was all begging for rides and Lyft for me.  But rest assured the little beast is back up and running and life is resuming as normal.  Well, sorta.  We also have bugs, thanks to our upstairs neighbors.  The exterminator will be here on Thursday, and we have to figure out what to do with the animals for three to eight hours.  (insert sarcastic cheering here)

I really just want to write and edit.  Honestly, it’s about all I think of.  My work schedule is not helping make time for it either, but I can figure out a way around that.  It’s all this other crap that keeps getting in the way.  Who knew that just doing what it takes to survive eats up all your time and energy? Weird, right?

I need to win the lottery.  Or sell the rights of one of my stories to someone.
Anyone have the phone number for Hollywood?

Oh well.  The important thing is that Mel and I are doing well, and that I can get some writing done here and there.  And speaking of which: my next WIP novel is still in Beta reader/edit mode.  And as usual I’m still not sure what to title it.  I’m quite excited about it.  But because writers are delicate snowflakes, the more pumped I get about a project, the more I question my skills as an author of words and letters. So it’s the usual; excitement mixed with crippling doubt.

I have far too many side projects going on, so I’ve settled (for now) on an anthology of short stories, a serial if you will, involving a world where all the horror movie tropes are real and everyday.  A bit of a parody, but high on the horror factor.  My main character is in a slow process of MTF gender transition.  I’m having fun with it, and considering publishing one or two of the stories before hand.  Side note, if anyone is transgender and would like to beta read these stories to make sure I’m getting my character right, PLEASE hit me up.

I do have a story being published in Shadows and Light Anthology this fall, so that is exciting.  I guess I could have started with that.  I am very happy to be in this years edition, as there is always superb writing every year, and it’s nice to have a story along side all that goodness.

Last but not least, you can expect a book review in the next day or two.  To be honest, the whole point of this post was to say that I’m running way behind on everything (still) and expect a book review.  I’ve gotten away from the reviews and interviews, but I’m thinking of fixing that.  I like sharing new and different things with people and would like to do that again. Stay tuned.

Remember kids; stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and it’s all shits and giggles until someone giggles and shits.

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On The Road (not the Kerouac one)

So, in case you were wondering, we made it safe and sound in Allentown.  We’ve been here a week so far and right now the snow is flurrying outside my window.  After almost a decade in Austin Texas, it’s nice to see snow laden trees and white along the horizon again.  Of course the first time I have to drive on icy and snowy roads my opinion will change and I will rue the snow as the chilly hell it is.  I miss being north.

I’ve never been in the northeast, being the westerner that I am, but so far so good.  Row homes, walking to the market instead of driving, and weather that doesn’t change 20 degrees up or down in an hour is my jam, son.  Yes I’ve already gotten a parking ticket because I’m still trying to figure out the parking situation on my block, but that’s neither here nor there.  Once we get acclimated and the job situation settled in, I can see myself getting plenty of inspiration for upcoming writing projects.  I have some stuff on the burner, but I think Pennsylvania has some new things to show me that I can use.  Like old houses, abandon factories, wooded areas, and Bucks County.  ( I hear it’s creepy as hell and M Night Shamalamadingdong films all his movies there.  Should be something dark and inspirational there, right?)

And before you ask, yes we drove the entire way.  A Penske truck with a car hauler on the ass end, all the way from Austin to Allentown, and with two cats and a dog.  About 30 hours of road time, give or take.  Mel and I saw a lot of pretty country side and it didn’t drag on nearly as bad as I thought it would.  I did learn a few things though.  1) Getting out of Texas take about 3/4 the total time of driving anywhere.  The state never ends.  Ever.  I’m still not totally convinced we actually have left the Texas border yet.  2) Louisiana needs to do something with thier friggen roads. I actually stopped off the side of the road in Shreveport to make sure I didn’t have a flat tire.  That bad.  3) While Birmingham might be a nice place full of nice people, none of them were on the road that same time we were as we drove through.  The flyovers reminded me of that show ‘Life After People’ when they showed overpasses a couple decades after people had gone.  Not encouraging at 65mph and on the top level.

AND THEN THERE WAS CHATTANOOGA…. Nothing against the town itself, mind you.  A pretty drive leading up to and out of it.  The problem we had turned out to be the blinding driving monsoon-like deluge that happened once we hit city limits.  I literally LITERALLY could see nothing but the tail lights ahead of me.  So here we are 65mph, speeding over the top teir of flyovers, and completely blinded by the rain.  The tail lights of the idiot pulling the little U-Haul trailer in front of me and the white line of the road to my right were the only thing that kept us from dying a horrible wet death.  This is not hyperbole.  I could neither stop nor pull off the road.  These were not straight roads, nor flat.  The Penske corporation will have to replace the steering wheel to get the imprint of my death grip removed from the truck.

As we drove out of town, we crested one of the big hills as the rain finally died down to a trickle.  Quietly we stopped a gas station just off the highway.  In the spirit of levity, I said, “Well, that sucked.” I have third degree burns on the side of my face from the look I received from Melody.  Then we laughed like idiots, that ‘how the hell did we not just die’ shock induced laughter.  I’m pretty sure people in Tennessee thought we escaped from some sort of facility.  After that, the road wasn’t too bad.  Got a chilly two hour nap in Virginia before the home stretch.

But we are here now and I’m ready to get down to business. This is a new chapter and a new adventure and I’m ready to embrace it. By the throat if I have to.

Remember kids; stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and now for a real Philly Cheesesteak.

2nd edition – Pale Winter Sun – Ready for your Consumption

Huzzah!!

Insert fanfare and rejoicing here.

Pale Winter Sun is now the book is should have always been.  A 2nd edition is up and ready.  Many thanks to all those who helped in the process, including Apache and JD, and all those who beta read at the beginning.  I want to especially thank A.M. Leibowitz for the stellar professional proofread and suggestions she made to strengthen this story.

Nothing major was changed in terms of story, but I did tighten up the mechanics and a few points I really should have cross-referenced better before publishing.  That’s the nice thing about self-pub I guess, when someone points out something you screwed up, you can go back and fix it.  I am nothing if not receptive to suggestions and can pack my ego away enough to admit that I done f#^%ed up and fix it.

The plus side (one of many) is that there is already some chatter about this new edition and talk of it taking up residence on some library shelves.  This is something important to me, so I want to get this on as many library shelves as possible.  (I won’t go on about why I think this story is important, etc, etc; because I’m sure you’re sick of me bringing them up)

Let’s keep up the momentum and get this book EVERYWHERE!!

Shameless plugs and links:
For editing work I highly suggest A.M. Leibowitz – www.amleibowitz.com

PWS on kindle – www.amazon.com/Pale-Winter-Sun-Michael-Collins-ebook/dp/B06W551N7L

PWS paperback – www.createspace.com/6477222

 

Remember kids: stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and support your local word slinger.

Another year to try and get it right.

Well, we made it.  Another trip around the sun and we are still here.  Go us!  We tentatively step into 2017, cautious in our expectations.  And why shouldn’t we be; 2016 was a sphincter of a year.  Yes, we lost a lot of our heroes, but we also saw a huge rise in racism, violence, LGBT+phobia, and a sham of an election.  Every year has as much potential to be great as it does to suck, but so far the deck seems stacked against us.  All I can say about it is that we need to take action where action needs taken and we need to watch out for each other.  All of us.  Even the assholes.

I don’t do resolutions, but I don’t go into anything without some sort of game plan.  2017 will be a year of changes and I am ready to embrace whatever changes come my way.

I am ready to write more.
I am ready to market more.
I am ready to play more music.
I am ready to explore new locales (both external and internal)
I am ready to take better care of myself.
I am ready to do more to make the world a better place.

I learned a lot during the last year.  Not only about the world, but myself and my craft.  I am seeing more of what I need to concentrate on, especially on the post production part.  I need to work on my prose, round out my characters, etc etc.  I also need to play waaay more bass than I have been.  Maybe make some new music while I’m at it.

For the upcoming year, I can only wish for the best, prepare for the worst, and hope that we all get through it okay.

Happy New Year.

Remember kids: stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and Auld Lang Syne.

P.S.  – I still need help with Pale Winter Sun. It needs a new edition and that takes money.  Every donation over $5 gets you little something for your donation. 

https://www.gofundme.com/pale-winter-sun-2nd-edition

 

Updates and all hail the Headphone Bleed.

Fall is here and as most people start to get snuggled in for the winter, it’s just getting busier for me.  Pale Winter Sun hit with a splash and I just want to keep it going.  I have gotten a lot of feedback on it and most of it is not only good, but that this book could be a big help to people.  That’s all I wanted for it; to help people. So I ask, if you have read it, please write a review and recommend it to others.

One of the reason’s I’m not able to hunker down for the cold weather is that we are moving next spring.  Not just across town either.  We are getting up and out of Austin and heading north to the wilds of Pennsylvania.  Austin will always have a huge place in my heart, but its time to move on.  The city is changing and I’m not crazy about the direction it’s going, not to mentioned there are getting to me way too many people.  So come spring: Keystone State, here we come!  I’m very excited about the change of scene and interested to see how it will effect my writing.

Insert fanfare and rejoicing here.

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT TIME:

I’m sure some of you have noticed that I haven’t done a Headphone Bleed show in awhile.  Astute listeners will know that I had some sort of new development in the works.  Unfortunately, it looks like that isn’t going to happen like we thought.  It’s just as well, with my increased focus on writing and the impending move coming, I’m not sure I would have to time for it.

The show has always been a labor of love for me, these last few years, but it is time to give it a rest.  As of right now, there will be no new Headphone Bleed episodes in the foreseeable future.  It pains me to write that, but it is the truth.  It’s time put it to bed.  My love for music and bad jokes hasn’t subsided, but I have to refocus.  Now, that’s not to say that it’s gone forever.  I’d like to start it, or some version of it, back up at some point.  There are rumors that live365 might start back up, and if nothing else, I could bring the station back.  Either way, we will see.

The Facebook and Twitter accounts will still be active as promotional entities.  I still want new and interesting bands to expose to the world.  My website szheadphonebleed.com will be up until I have to pay for web hosting again.  Fanboytv.com still has old shows up for the time being also.  Please continue to visit and enjoy.

More updates as they happen.

Remember kids: stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and dance like no one is watching.

 

 

 

Pale Winter Sun Redeux (excerpt)

As of this month, I’ve been trying to get Pale Winter Sun published for a year.  A year goes fast and slow at the same time and 2015 made a good example of that.  I realize that lady luck slapped me up side the head with Night Shall Overtake; it was picked up by the first publisher I sent it to.  Much love to Nick and BBS for that.  I suppose this is the karmatic balance of it; needing to work harder to get PWS published after such an easy time with NSO.  That being said, after this round of publishers if it still doesn’t find a home, I will seriously consider self-publishing.  I’ve been kicking the idea around for side projects (that I still haven’t gotten off the ground yet, surprise surprise) and maybe it will be a good option for PWS.  The beauty of all this, despite the nice collection of rejection notices, is that I do have options and it’s only a matter of my choices the dictate the direction I go.  So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

I submit for your approval, the first chapter of Pale Winter Sun.  Enjoy!

I.

            On Tuesday Hannah Robinson was caught in a heavy make-out session with her best friend Lindsey Smith. Hannah’s brother, Mitchell, took credit with the discovery by walking into her room without knocking. His sibling disregard for her personal space yet again disrupted her plans. On Wednesday she was not allowed to leave her house. On Thursday, her best friend Lindsey had been taken out of school. On Saturday night Mark Jensen sat in an abandoned house, lit by a full September moon shining through a naked window. Across from him floated a pinprick of orange light in the dark.

            “I guess Lindsey is on suicide watch,” Mark said. “They won’t let her get near Hannah. She may be a cutter, but I doubt this is enough to kill herself over.”

            “Mitchell told me that Hannah finally admitted to her parents that she is a lesbian.” A voice said behind the lit cigarette. Trevor Buell leaned forward into the light. His face a mass of smoke and shadows.   “When she told them that Lindsey was her girlfriend they flipped out. Bishop Johns has spent the entire week going between Lindsey’s house and Hannah’s house.”

            “Why did they have to get caught?” Mark anguished. “Church tomorrow is going to suck.  It’s going to be all about ‘coming together’ and ‘call upon each other to help them in their time of need’.”

            “I’m sure coming together is something those two don’t need help with.” Trevor said then offered his cigarette.  Mark waved it away.

            “My mom will give me crap for smelling like smoke as it is, I don’t need it on my breath.”  He put his head back, the sound of it hitting the wall echoed in the empty house.  “You know what this means?”

            “Witch hunt.” Trevor answered.  “It’ll be like when they found Jeordie Ward’s older sister smoking weed behind the seminary.   They’ll shake us all down, ask us a million questions, but this time check our phones for pictures of dicks instead of our pockets for drugs.”  Mark heard the chains of Trevor’s biker jacket jingle.  No one was more amused at Trevor’s little jokes than Trevor.

            “Speaking of Jeordie,” Trevor continued, “you two better watch out.  They’ll be checking your breath for penis.”

            “We haven’t gone that far,” Mark said, glad the night hid the reddening of his cheeks.  “Besides, it’s not like we’re dating; we’re just…hanging out.” He stood up; he didn’t like talking to Trevor about his non-relationship with Jeordie. He always had something mean to say about it.  “Let’s go.  If my mom catches us in one of her empty houses again, she’ll kill me.  And don’t put that out in here.” Trevor grunted and followed him out. Mark often took advantage of his mother’s job in real estate, but rarely did anything more than sit and watch Trevor smoke.

As soon as they stepped outside he flicked the butt into the overgrown back yard. An unseasonable cold front settled on southern Idaho and northern Utah. The crisp fall leaves were crisper than usual as they crunched underneath the teenage boys’ feet. Their jackets were open though, despite the chill that nipped at their nose and face. The two fifteen year olds walked casually with one another, though they were an exercise in differences. Both of them had dark hair that danced in the breeze but the similarities ended there. The taller of the two wore a black and white Adidas track suit with an army-style jacket over it. His deep eyes occasionally darting around, as if searching for something to search for. The other boy wore a scuffed and worn leather biker jacket. His shaggy hair hung down hiding his piercingly blue eyes but not the permanent grin that always seem to inhabit the corners of his mouth.

            “I don’t know what you see in him.  He’s about as smart as a box of rocks and not that cute.” Trevor complained.

            “He’s nice.  And he’s good looking; in a…I don’t know…”

            “We’re stuck in Idaho sort of way.” Trevor finished for him.  Mark gave him a shove as they emerged onto the street.  As the teenagers walked towards their respective homes, the air chilled and they hugged their jackets around them tighter, unprepared for the coming winter.

             When Mark entered the warmth of his house he was immediately greeted by his father sitting in front of the news and his mother finishing up dinner. The house was a cozy three bedroom that his parents bought right after his older brother Isaac was born. Four years later Mark came along and they talked about getting something bigger for their growing family. They continued to talk about it until it became apparent that their family might not be growing anymore. For his parent’s deep Mormon beliefs, this caused years of prayers and consternation. Up until six months ago, that is, when his mom came home from the doctor’s office, completely beside herself with happiness. She was finally pregnant again. Since his brother Isaac left for college, the house felt empty. Tonight it felt stifling.

            “You just missed Isaac’s call.  He wanted to talk to you.” His mother wiped a crumb off of the counter and leaned against it, her pregnant belly weighing on her.

            “I’ll talk to him next time.” He said quietly and tried to slip past her.  Her sense of smell had become stronger in the last couple months and he wanted to get Trevor’s smoke smell off before she picked up on it.

            “You haven’t talked to him once since he left to Brigham Young University.  I know he has called your cell phone.” Mark just shrugged his shoulders in reply and continued inching down the hallway to his room.  Even with Isaac off to school, he felt under his shadow. “Where were you, by the way?”

            “Just out with Trevor,” he said then regretted it, knowing where the conversation heading.

            “I’m not sure I want you hanging out with him so much.  Sandy, his mother, says he comes home smelling like smoke and…well…with what happen to Lindsey…” she struggled for the words as he took another step backwards.

            “Sometimes when he talks, he sounds a little light in the loafers,” his father finished for her.

            “LaVell!” she chided him

            “It’s the truth.  I’m not saying he is, but I haven’t seen him with any girls either,” he continued, not even looking away from the television.  Mark could see the top of his head, thinning hair desperately doing its best to hang on.    

            “I don’t have a girlfriend, does that make me ‘light in the loafers’?  Would you rather I knock some girl up now, at fifteen?” Anger was rising in Mark and he was doing a poor job at containing it.  He had been unduly tense lately. Since Lindsey and Hannah had been caught, he felt smothered in his own skin. He hated having to hide who he was to his own family, but he couldn’t see any scenario where coming out could possibly go well for him.

            “Of course not,” she said quickly.  “I just worry, that’s all.  There are a lot of negative influences out there.  This life is full of trials and sometimes it can be hard to make the right decisions.”  Mark grit his teeth, sensing another one of his mother’s dining table sermons.

            “Mark clean up and then set the table for dinner,” LaVell said standing from his chair and shutting off the television.  Grateful for the respite, Mark quickly did as he was told.

            After dinner, Mark lounged in his room, reading. His room was a typical teenager’s room; some clothes that hadn’t made it to the hamper yet, books and video game covers scattered about, and posters on the wall.   He had adorned the walls with a number of pictures of gorgeous super novae and space shuttles. His prized possession was a vintage Star Trek poster from the original motion picture. He turned the page on the book he was reading: Dahlgren by Samuel Delany.

It wasn’t a difficult book to read, but it was slow going. The story of a post-apocalyptic city in a non-post-apocalyptic world wasn’t the problem. An immense world of freedom resided in the pages, a freedom he yearned for, with little accountability for its main character. But there was also a sense of madness, of danger that lurked in the chaos that Mark wasn’t so sure about. He wanted freedom, he wanted a little chaos but he was afraid of the danger, and of the price. Grason, Idaho seemed too small for him, but it wasn’t the town, it was the people. Some days it felt like the entire population of fifty thousand suffocated him as he hid. He wasn’t just hiding behind a bedroom door, or behind a book; he was hiding inside his own skin. Every day and in front of almost everybody he pretended not to be gay and pretended that he wasn’t going against the church’s teachings. His family wouldn’t understand, they were Latter Day Saint and Idaho bred. Grason wasn’t some tiny hick town, but it wasn’t far off and bigger ideas sometimes took awhile to settle in.

            Few people knew his secret. Trevor and Jeordie obviously knew, as well as a couple of his classmates. None of his family knew, but he often wondered if his brother Isaac suspected. He never said anything outright, but Mark always got the feeling he knew something. It didn’t matter much as far as Mark was concerned. Isaac held rank as the Golden Boy in Mark’s mind.   He was the football and basketball player, got fantastic grades, and everybody loved him. But he wasn’t here anymore, he had gone off to college. Despite it all, Mark carried a sense of abandonment since his brother left to college. This abandonment was slowly turning to resentment, but it wasn’t personal, it was feeding a bigger discontentment. It felt as if he was crawling around in his own skin, suffocating and struggling while he died incrementally every day.

            Attempting to read to escape this scatter-shot mix of uncertainty didn’t help as much as he hoped. The main character of the story lived between lapses of time and in those lapses he found himself between beds of both a man and a woman. Something deep within Mark shifted and tried to come to the surface. With more practice, it became easier to swallow it down, but it was getting harder each time. The ease in which the transitions between loving man and woman occurred left him uncomfortable as he read on. If gay is a one-way street, he wondered, why am I always wanting to look both ways?

Remember kids: stay school, don’t drink and drive, and Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care.

 

I suck at selling myself

Selling myself is some of the hardest work I’ve ever done.  I’ve farmed, held jobs in factories and warehouses, sold (attempted) various things for other employers, and this is by far the most challenging thing of all.  I’m not one to immediately put myself in the spotlight, which I’m sure is part of the problem.  I’m a bass player for chrissakes!  My whole philosophy revolves around ‘if you doing your job well enough no one really notices’.  And that is the exact opposite of what it takes to sell books.  To sell books I need more than the books themselves.  I need to sell myself.

I am an author that currently has one novel out and a few short stories published.  I have another novel that I am actively seeking a home for.  I also have a horror novel that I am really really excited about and a possible collaboration on a comic/graphic novel in the future on the burner.  So there is that.  But just writing doesn’t sell the stuff.  Gotta hit the streets with it.

I have a couple interviews coming up (more info as they happen), trying to set up a couple more after that.  Because Night Shall Overtake doesn’t fit in an east niche, it’s tough to get it noticed.  Pale Winter Sun is a little of the same and I think that’s why I’m having a tough time finding a publisher.  But anyone who knows me will concur the fact that I tend to reside just outside of convention.  It’s not always an easy life, but it’s the only one I got.

So with all that I’m trying to combine various projects that I had running under separate banners under the Michael R Collins Media Empire™ (that’s just a working title we’ve been throwing around the office).  Saint Zero’s Headphone Bleed will incorporate more of me as a name as will any future projects coming up.

And speaking of The Headphone Bleed, thanks to some good advice I got from fellow author and podcaster TJ Weeks, I have started a Headphone Bleed Channel on Youtube.  This will be another home for the show where I add some visuals to the audio.  I will be putting in some stupid shit you can be assured of that.  Please watch, like, and share.  Suggestions always welcome.  And as always, episodes will be up at http://www.Fanboytv.com The first episode is my interview with TJ Weeks

Liking, sharing, and word of mouth is the best way for authors to survive.  Buy their books and talk about them.  You have no idea how much it means to us when you do that.  We just want to give you big ol’ hugs when you do.  Reviews are another way to support us.  I want to thank the people who have gotten the word out there on Night Shall Overtake, I appreciate it more than you know.

The new Headphone Bleed Youtube Channel ==> Click Here

Remember kids: stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and it’s only prostitution if you sell your body; I’m whoring out my mind.