Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Goodbye, Dark Souls

I have been a Dark Souls fanatic for a long time. I will never claim to be a “pro” gamer, nor will I suggest that the games are always easy for me. 

Each Souls game, in my opinion, is a 10/10. I love every game in the series. I am not any kind of video game critic, but I know I enjoy the games, and that’s all that matters to me. Here is my personal ranking for the series; keep in mind, I am ranking the games according to which one I LIKE better, not which game is better overall. I can’t decide that. It’s like comparing the most beautiful human being in the universe from 2008 the universe's most beautiful person in 2025. 

Dark Souls (This was the first game in the series I played, and I have very vivid memories of my first experience with the Souls games. This one has more sentimental value than anything, because it taught me how to play these games, lol). 

Demon’s Souls (the environments are still relatively interesting, and the light/dark system is very cool). 

Bloodborne (I think this is the true “successor” to the Dark Souls franchise).

Dark Souls III (I love the game, but at the end of the day, it felt like an expansion pack. The environments were probably my least favorite in all the series, with a couple exceptions. After playing Bloodborne, I felt like FROM could do more interesting things with DS III… and I expected a better ending without relying on DLC). 

Dark Souls II (I put a lot of hours into it. Like, a million). 

Dark Souls: Scholar of the First Sin (it wasn’t necessary, but I still played the hell out of it. I only rank it last because I had already experienced DS2… even though Scholar is a remix with better graphics, this is where it belongs, for me). 

The amount of philosophical depth that is incorporated into the Dark Souls lore is staggering. I think the most important aspect of the game is the ability to play it a second time with a better version of your character—with an increase in difficulty.

I approach the Dark Souls games as if I am taking care of business. There is a strong life-metaphor involved; I don’t know how much further I have to go until I find myself against some epic conclusion that allows for me to make the ultimate choice; at the end of each game, you have the power to choose whether or not the world lives in a state of eternal darkness, or the violent cycle of life—which ends in death—continues. Essentially, this is the choice between Chaos and Law, Yin and Yang; I feel like I am up against an apocalyptic nightmare from fantasy author Michael Moorcock.

Of course, I could be completely wrong, which is great! There is so much community support for these games,and there are a lot of folks who play Dark Souls for hours to uncover the game-world's mysteries.

I thrive on the mystery, and the seemingly purposeless linearity. Dark Souls is an idea that thrives on throwing you into a situation that has one inevitable outcome; its end.

As I explored Dark Souls III, I was too busy surviving to truly enjoy it. I made mistakes after doing several things correctly, and sometimes, I was victorious through dumb luck. But I truly don’t get enough out of the experience until I play the game a second time; you have to admire and appreciate the layers of art and complexity. 

Since the third game in the series offers environments, characters, and items that veteran players have seen before, we can suggest this third game does not contain many fresh ideas. The Dark Souls universe seems like a fantasy version of The Matrix, and a mirror of the repetition that we constantly complain about when we say that something has been replicated, rebooted, or remade. Our characters may have traveled to Anor Lond before (kind of like walking to your nearest 7-11), but every time we go, there is a chance that we may do something terribly bad and hurt ourselves. Sometimes, we go through the motions; swing the sword, roll, dodge (or check cell phone, chew fingernails), and sometimes we approach our challenge a little differently; sometimes change brings a shot of confidence, but more often than not, we are a bit anxious. 

Sometimes, we make a desperate grab for an item that we can see on a distant ledge, or maybe the item is guarded by a trap or a powerful enemy. Sometimes, we just accidentally roll off the damn cliff.

Dark Souls III is all-too familiar, and it seems to be a tribute to the entire concept. An artist should have the freedom to explore new ground, and I am glad this is the final game in the franchise (if the rumors are true. I am certainly not a video game journalist). I am sad to see it go, but hopefully, there will be plenty of imitators who will attempt to fill the void, as FROM Software create another dynamic, powerful vision for video gaming’s future.

If any series of games could be the proper descendant of the original NES games that kept our families up late at night (Super Mario Bros. 3 without warp whistles), Dark Souls has inherited the flame, and now that torch shall pass. Super Mario games evolved, and I think the creative minds behind the Dark Souls franchise can create something just as groundbreaking. 

Thank you, FROM, for giving me a chance to fight The Nameless King in my nightmares, over and over again. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Emerging Voices in Genre Fiction

Today is a day I give back to the writing community for all the good things that have been done for me. I have chosen to write about three authors from three completely different social circles from the social media world; neither of these authors have been published with Bizarro Pulp Press, and they do not have books under contract with my press. There is no bias here except for the fact that I love their work. Would I publish them? Bizarro Pulp Press isn’t always the right venue for the type of work an artist wishes to produce, and many authors have specific goals in mind for their art; therefore, this blog post is not an attempt to recruit them. I have reviewed their work, and I don’t think they have reviewed mine, although I know Phil has looked at my stuff before and did not hate it, which is a grand compliment from him. This huge disclaimer is meant to explain that I genuinely want to introduce good fiction to a wider audience. 

I provided Amazon links to their stuff. It's the United States Amazon link. I didn't want to turn this into a bazaar or an advertisement, so I kept it simple. These authors have no idea what I wanted to write about them, but they agreed that it might be cool. In my grand crusade to spread awesome reading material to peoples of the universe, I give you...

Autumn Christian


I heard some buzz about Autumn in social media land about two years ago, and I saw one of her personal posts; it was poetic, so I was intrigued. Yeah, I’m one of those people who read a lot of the writing samples that are posted to Facebook, because you never know what you might discover. I’m glad I did. I haven’t only read two of Autumn Christian’s books so far: Crooked God Machine, and Wormwood. I feel like she is a heady mix of Poppy Z. Brite and David Lynch. I loved Crooked God Machine; some of the sentences “felt” like they were punching me in the stomach with their depth. It was truly beautiful. Autumn’s work seems very personal and authentic, despite the surreality of the worlds she produces on the page; the power of her emotion keeps the stories grounded and allow for readers to connect. I think a younger audience would love Autumn’s work, and I don’t say that often about a lot of authors I have discovered on Facebook; the teenagers I work with don’t have a Poppy Z. Brite or Anne Rice to connect to. If I recall correctly, Poppy Z. Brite didn't exactly write PG-13 stuff, and I don't think Autumn needs to change anything about her approach at all; I think the books she already has are perfect for a hyper-imaginative audience, and she could really inspire some people to write. Autumn Christian is charged with raw talent and potential, and I think she is going to find a mass audience, especially if she targets a younger demographic in the future (that’s my unprofessional opinion, and as a married man, I know that I am usually wrong about everything).  Autumn is going to be a hit, soon, no matter what she does. 

Philip LoPresti 


Phil represents the direction I think modernized horror should explore more often. I met Phil when his first book of poems, Haunted F***ing, was published, and there was a lot of buzz around it amongst the community that supports Dynatox Ministries. Caught up in the hype, I was able to get my hands on a copy and discovered a poet who wasn’t afraid to get away from candles, ravens, shadows, etc. I can relate to Philip, because his work is not for a mass audience and it is written for people who would love to be exposed to horror “art.” One of the biggest problems with the type of work Phil produces is that it can be frustrating to work with a medium that can never be mainstream; and that is part of the allure to the art that Phil creates. His photography is stunning, and he is quite opinionated on social media. Publishers who want to truly produce art that is different and challenging are looking for Philip; but therein lies the rub. I would love to create an imprint specifically for work like Phil’s. His work is going to be off-putting to many; I can admit that I struggle with some of the imagery and language, but that’s because Phil is willing to unsettle the audience with his work. Phil works with the element of horror that is supposed to actually be horrific; it’s like someone saying they want to find a horror movie that is “actually scary” but they don’t realize that true horror is personal. Good horror should make you feel uncomfortable, and I consider Philip Lopresti a true horrorist because he can make you squirm. I know he is an Edward Lee fan, so I think if you are a fan of Edward Lee and you want the poetic version, Lopresti is the man. 

John McNee

I was introduced to John McNee’s work through a more traditional avenue;  when I had discovered a press called Strangehouse Books, I saw the cover of a book called Grudge Punk. Instantly, I was reminded of an old cartoon I enjoyed called Aeon Flux. Even though the book was nothing close to Flux, I really enjoyed it. I was under the impression that McNee was a new writer, so I did not expect to read a book that was so professionally delivered. A full-realized world with great characters, I wanted a
second book right away, and have been begging him for it since. I respect that McNee transitioned from a science-fiction novel to classical horror; The Prince of Nightmares, his latest offering, is a haunted house story that is very enjoyable. I am currently attempting to get through it, but I have so little time and it’s very difficult to find the energy to read with three kids running around the house. Horror does not need buckets of gore to be interesting, and McNee’s approach is very old-school, reminding me of a book William Peter Blatty would have written after The Exorcist. The story relies more on psychological horror and character development, which is a welcome break from all the extremely graphic stuff I typically find. 

Thank you for stopping by! I hope that you found an author or three you might consider exploring. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Deconstructing the Writer: Advance Praise for The Violators

Art by Dyer Wilk Copyright 2015
(Stuff appearing in this blog post: Biographical diatribe, advertising, more advertising, and book reviews). 

I like to think I have read a lot of books, but my reading experiences have dwindled considerably over the years. Editing fiction, grading papers, coloring princesses with my children; I have too much to do. I am jealous of people who have the time to escape to rich, unique worlds. I keep seeing so many awesome books come out and I feel like I am excluding myself from one of the best and most powerful mediums of expression. 

Sometimes (I am guilty of the following) we become so passionately involved in an idea or artistic medium that we develop a sort of intellectual snobbery. Here’s what I mean: I am a public educator, and nothing upsets me more than children who are mean or rude to others. I love my job and turn a blind eye to attacks against public education because there is a part of me that suggests… THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT. As you can see, I am sort of a snob when it comes to something I love, although I have learned to walk away from several battles because I know that arguments will not change minds or hearts. Discussion can lead to learning, but we often confuse discussions with arguments.

Once upon a time, when I was a college student, I had a haughty perspective on literature. I studied literary theories and purchased so many “classics” and filled my head with words from those texts. I wanted to become an educator, and at the same time, I began to view the world from the lens of someone who has an exclusive, special “gift” for reading and understanding literature, and I had the notion that I could interpret words at a much higher level than anyone else and should waste a lot of my professors’ time with literary discussions. 

I never wanted to “demonstrate” any kind of intellectual superiority over anyone; I wanted a place to talk about literature, and my college classes were the best place for it. I was satisfied, but I also felt “alone” in my perception of literature and ideas. I never actually believed I was more “intelligent” than anyone else I encountered, but rather, I feared I did not have anything interesting to say unless I put on a sort of guise and became a character. I became different versions of myself. The guy who went on a date or played billiards (we just call it “pool” and I feel so damn weird writing “billiards”) was not a person who could discuss literary theory. When I played video games or went to work at my day job in retail I erased everything I thought I knew about so many literary geniuses whose words never truly left me.


Here I am, ten years later, attempting to connect all the above crap with a book I’ve written—an extremely graphic book that is a sort of spiritual expulsion. I feel very dumb and silly now when it comes to literary theory and intellectualism, and it makes me happy. I can’t believe that I have published books, and that I have a beautiful family and the greatest job in the world. But what I have written is a nihilistic portrayal of intellectual snobbery and the desperation of artists who are nothing more than degenerates. I did not write The Violators with the idea that I wanted to be as gory and as offensive as possible; rather, the book became a rather vile experience in which the entire context became a sort of 4th-wall metaphor that discusses there is a certain amount of danger when things we are passionate about are taken to extreme levels.

That was a really, really, long-winded explanation behind The Violators. I am not going to apologize for its content, though I think readers need to separate the idea that authors are not ALWAYS their characters, nor are authors necessarily creating art that consciously represents how they feel about specific things. The characters in The Violators are terrible, nasty people, and I don’t empathize with their actions. Not one bit. I wrote an article about the idea of separating ART from the ARTIST in a newsletter for Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. If you subscribe to their newsletter, you get other free content (the whole newsletter is free, so it’s a cool deal). You can subscribe to their newsletter by clicking HERE. Their anthologies feature some of the best writers working today, and their novels are pretty damn awesome. 

February 23rd is release day, and here are some of the reviews for The Violators. 

I deeply appreciate anyone who took the time to read this, and anyone who has read or will read anything my fingers can tap into a keyboard. 

Friday, January 15, 2016


Whenever I drop a new book, I look forward to writing this post. As a writer, I enjoying SHOWING readers the world that I have created, and as a person who learns from visual models, I love discussing potential actors in the roles of favorite characters. Before the glutton of superhero movies were released at the turn of the century (the first Spider Man movie, X-Men, etc.), fanboys like myself turned to WIZARD Magazine’s articles that featured imaginary casts for films that would include our favorite characters. 

I enjoy creating a fantasy lineup of actors who would potentially fit the roles of the characters in my novels. I don’t create characters who are influenced by real people, though subconsciously, all the traits about people that I have discovered throughout my time in this world certainly influence the creative process. The one exception to this is a character featured below.

Readers who are familiar with my work know that I write in a variety of genres because I enjoy exploring what I can create in a contextual sense; could I write an awesome book that included dinosaurs? I thought about dinosaurs as monsters, and I wanted a protagonist who represented many of the superhero concepts; I wanted a character who might represent the culture that created her. Superheroes are a reflection of the time period in which they are created, and as our society changes, so do our characters. Without turning this blog post into an extensive essay about the values that superheroes represent, I will introduce our heroine and briefly discuss why I specifically chose her. 

Escape from Dinosauria marks my first attempt to co-write a novel. I assume Max Booth III and I will have a chance to talk about our process and all of the arguments that we had, which included using some creative methods to storyboard action sequences and a penchant for sending each other messages over Facebook before sunrise. 

Jamie Rock

This is probably obvious. But what came first: the character, or the book? I enjoy writing about complicated, haunted characters, and most of my protagonists are females. I thought it would be a different direction for me to encapsulate sort of an “Americana” attitude in a protagonist who is up against a whole bunch of dinosaurs. From the start, Escape From Dinosauria was going to be a fun action novel. When there were pictures circulating the internet featuring Ronda dressed up as Miss Marvel, I thought: here is Wonder Woman without the black hair. When I saw those images, I instantly believed that I had found my girl. Ronda is sort of a female Brett Favre mixed with Stone Cold Steve Austin; she would wear Wrangler jeans while hunting wild game and drinking cheap beer. 

Jordan Vance

To me, James Franco has a charming personality, and I love seeing him on camera. There is something “lovable” about most of his characters that make him seem like a dependable, boy-next-door do-gooder, and he would be able to capture the attitude that is a stark contrast to Jamie Rock. As her boyfriend, Jordan Vance is a very accomplished journalist who has to somehow convince her that he wants to be involved with her for the long haul. 

A lot of American audiences won’t know who this actor is, and I didn’t know his name until I tracked down the character from the film Hara-Kirri: Death of a Samurai. This actor absolutely nailed his performance. Ebizo Ichikawa captured a deep, resounding sadness that is the hallmark of the disenfranchised samurai wannabe, Kenshin. Kenshin’s loyalty to a dying dream and corrupt friend have doomed him, and cause a lot of grief for Jamie and Doctor Israel.

Doctor Israel
“Izzy” is a young genius with a penchant for quick jokes and fast women. With money and power thrown at his feet, Izzy had no idea what he was in for until all his projects suddenly become aggressive and the island became a tropical graveyard. Donald Glover, known for his quick wit and one-liners from the show Community, would be able to portray the hidden brilliance in a young man whose big smile hides deep pain. 

Dmitri Kresevich

Right… I know Jean Reno isn’t exactly Russian. Attach a beard to his face and his calm, calculating demeanor matches that of the dangerous Kresevich. Besides, we love it when Jean Reno is kicking ass, and it would be great to see him in the role of an idealistic villain. From Kresevich’s side of the fence, he has been empowered to help usher in a new age for the human race… and give the Earth the population it deserves.


Even if we threw ten gajillion dollars at her feet, named her the Queen of All Pop Culture and made her Acting President of the Universe Until Noomi Rapace Takes Her Rightful Place on the Throne, there is no way Nikki Minaj would appear in a role like this. Sure, she’s not exactly Japanese to begin with, but Hollywood takes liberties with characters, anyway. Not to mention the fact that she is going to transform into a nasty, ugly dinosaur. Would she provide the voice over? Probably not. Nikki could appear as Izanami until the transformation, but even then… Nikki would want top billing. But since this is all fantasy… Nikki could easily pull off the role of a woman who is bitter because she deserves a far better destiny than acting as a billionaire’s trophy wife. 

We hope you enjoyed hanging out with our dream cast! We appreciate all reviews for the first episode in our Dinopocalypse series!


When cage fighting champion, Jamie Rock, visits the infamous Dinosauria Resorts with her boyfriend, she's expecting an annoying weekend filled with autographs and raptor rides. What she doesn't expect, however, is for a group of terrorists to attack as soon as she lands on the island. Apparently not everybody is too happy with the way Dinosauria is being managed, and some will do whatever it takes to destroy it from the inside out. And Jamie's reluctantly stuck in the middle of it all, kicking as much dino-ass as she can. She doesn't want to be a hero. She just wants a cold beer. Unfortunately, she'll have to go through an entire army of genetically mutated dinosaurs to get one.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


“We already have Brautigan, Vonnegut, and Russ Meyer, but who can claim to be Vincenzo Bilof?”
                —The Novel Pursuit

HELLO OUT THERE! It has been a little while since I've said anything at all, which seems to be more evident the older I become. 

I wanted to share a bit of good news and some more random STUFF. I think it's a great time to enjoy genre fiction; with so many great television shows and independent publishers dropping some of the most exciting books to come out in years, I think there is a lot to love. I keep changing my mind about my current "favorite" authors who still walk among us, mostly because I am still able to fall in love with new stuff when I "discover" it (and realize that I am late to the party, in most cases). 

One of my favorite blurbs is the one I have posted at the top of this page; I think every artist wants to forge their own identity, and I think I have managed to do that, for good or ill. I feel comfortable in my own little niche right now, and I am surrounded by an amazing community of artists... My youngest daughter has ruined a dining room table or two in her time, and my eldest daughter is pretty damn good at drawing a mermaid. 

Two of my forthcoming titles are actually "compositions" wrapped in stories; I still have fun writing books that I think would be amazing to watch in a movie theater, but most of my stuff would be considered "surreal." Several of my works are what I consider NIGHTMARESCAPES, or maybe, if I am allowed to do the "in" thing and create my own genre for a moment, nightmare-fiction. Maybe that doesn't make sense. Inventing your own genre is exhausting..................

The Horror Show, Confessions of the Impaler, Mother, I'm Not an Android (I Promise), Vampire Strippers from Saturn, and Vincenzo Bilof Must Die all kind of fit into this puzzle. Before I show off the new books, I want to take a moment to mention that I am wrapping up a collaboration with Max Booth III called Escape from Dinosauria. If you think the book is an homage to Escape from New York with dinosaurs, then you are an absolute genius. Now, before you decide to call me unoriginal and sue me and/or Quentin Tarantino, Sergio Leone, and almost every director who has ever made a motion picture, I should point out that our book is wholly original! Mostly because the book features Rhonda Rousey vs. dinosaurs, which has never been done before. At least, I don't think Rhonda has made a raptor tap out, yet. Another project that will see the light of day in the near future is what I refer to as a "reverse exorcism" in The Church at the Edge of Town, which is currently in its last round of rewrites. 

This first book I am going to show you is coming out in January, 2016 from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. Cover by Dyer Wilk

(Note: if the cover seems semi-phallic, then it is)

Alan Chambers, an anxiety-ridden loner whose goal is to become a prominent English professor, has just been accepted into the elusive class on The Artistry of Contemporary Literature; his excitement is dampened when he learns that his new classmates are dedicated to human violation in the name of art. They have given Alan one responsibility—destroy them.

These literary violators have discovered a primal link between literature, art, sexuality, and murder. But rape and kidnapping as a means to analyze the works of James Joyce and Homer have lost their allure, and only Alan can save them from themselves.

A novel that transcends genre tropes while serving as a satirical commentary on contemporary fiction, David Lynch meets William S. Burroughs in this lucid postmodern nightmare. 

This next one is a poetry novel, much in the same vein that The Horror Show is. Weirdo Magnet Press is dropping this one before Christmas. 

Walter has found salvation in God, but he returns home from prison to a familiar damnation he cannot escape; his wife, Margaret, and her brother, Mr. Vegas, molded Walter into a relentless sexual predator to help fulfill their fantasies of debauchery and terror. Now, a tantalizing young girl walks by Walter’s house every day, and he struggles with a parole officer who is obsessed with the crimes Walter was never charged with. Together, these tragic figures must confront the secrets of a bloodsoaked history to save their souls from the corruption that has tainted Walter’s family—and all those who are drawn into the darkness. 

Here's a sneak preview of the art that Jim Agpalza has provided for the book! Below it is a "poem" from the book, although it lacks a lot of context when I just have it dropped onto the page....

Our honeymoon involved ruins
in these spaces falling good soldiers
museum-history rotate
children ran through this
place, laughing
water balloon war
genesis of the faces
she didn’t hold my hand
I see it, earth-sucked blood
murder is sacrifice to God

look how happy

            Her vengeance
silence over dinner
reign now, chins, lips
upon  her chest ripped
watch the feed

those children, heirs to genesis
one cried
water slap violence

victory is murder
in a honeymoon glow