Artwork for my story "A Nugget of Wisdom," which will be appearing in the forthcoming anthology Shadow Atlas, which releases on November 30th, 2021. I've been fortunate to appear in many great anthologies over the years, but Shadow Atlas will be the nicest and most exciting in terms of the imagination and skill put into the design of the book and it's interior layout.
Shadow Atlas is a compendium of lore from the Americas. Most are focused on Central and South America, but my story focuses on the Lost Dutchman's Mine legend from Arizona. Hopefully it proves to be an engaging read worthy of inclusion.
I'm happy to report I'll have a story called "Diminished Seventh" in this interesting forthcoming anthology based around some of the (public domain) monsters of classic cinema. This is another story co-written with my friend Josh Viola. One of my favorite aspects about writing for themed anthologies is trying to come up with something unique and extraordinary. We figured most of the stories would revolve around interpretations of Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein's creature, and so forth (and it seems we were right in that regards). So we scavenged through the old horror tales of the early 1920s and landed upon a German expressionist movie called The Hands of Orlac. There was so much rich potential there that we knew right away this is the character we were going to use.
The end result is, I think, one of the best stories I've ever been involved in creating. It'll be exciting to see the story in print around July of 2022. But I don't think I'm done with Orlac. I've written one libretto in my life. I think something pertaining to this poor pianist is going to be the basis of libretto #2.
I filmed an episode of Making It Up, hosted by my friend Carter Wilson. Carter is a very successful novelist, writing mainly in the thriller and suspense categories, though he's certainly not confined to any genre. Together we talk about the writing process, important moments in our writing lives, and then play a game at the end where we make up a short story on the spot. Check it out!
Tor has reprinted my story "The Devil's Reel," co-written with Josh Viola. You can read it here.
I can't pretend to have thought at any great length about racism in the United States. I accept it as a reality. I try to counter it by voting for the politicians who I think will have the least racist policies and by critiquing my own assumptions and knee-jerk reactions to situations. Pretty minimal efforts on my part.
My own experience with law enforcement has been a mixed bag. I don't believe most police officers are corrupt, but I do believe the profession attracts a segment of those who enjoy having control and authority over people's lives, and these are precisely the type who should not be allowed anywhere near law enforcement of any stripe.
There's also the problem of law enforcement as a boy's (and girl's) club where whistleblowing just doesn't happen and police look the other way when one of their own commits a crime. I remember the first time I discovered this. For awhile, I was quite the church-goer, and I belonged to my church youth group. Our pastor was also the local police chaplain. A nice man. In my senior year of high school, the youth group went to Florida for spring break. The pastor was driving the van, and he got pulled over for speeding twice. And both times he showed his badge, and it got him off the hook without even a warning. He didn't boast about it, but it was very evident that police tend to let things slide when it comes to one of their own.
I hadn't thought about that memory for a long time (it's been 30 years since that trip, and its been decades since I've graced a church for any reason other than a funeral). As relatively innocent as avoiding a couple of speeding tickets seems, the same attitude applies to much larger and more lethal issues of police brutality and corruption. "Internal investigations" cannot be trusted, and even other departmental agencies seem complicit in cover-ups. What else explains the autopsy discrepancies on George Floyd, with the county medical examiner effectively clearing the officer, while the independent examination places the cause of death squarely on the officer's actions?
I'm reminded of another traffic-related encounter with a police officer I was involved in. This took place about 10 years ago, as I was leaving work. I was pulled over and accused of ignoring a yield sign. I'd been making this drive for over a decade and knew no yield sign existed. The officer insisted it was there and wrote me a ticket--I believe he cited me for wreckless driving. I asked the officer if we could go back to the spot so I could prove to him the sign did not exist. This made him mad, and he wrote out the rest of the ticket with a terse explanation that if I paid the fine in advance, my charge would be reduced to operating an unsafe vehicle, resulting in fewer points off my license. Otherwise I could challenge the original ticket in court.
I'd vowed to make that challenge, but in the end I got talked out of it by someone who explained the process and said I'd almost certainly lose. There wouldn't be a jury, for example, and was it really worth taking a vacation day to sit at the city courthouse only to have my challenge dismissed in five minutes after spending four hours waiting? The city wanted its money, which is why the ticket was written in the first place, and my best bet was to just pay the fine and move on with my life. Which is what I did.
But in doing so, that police officer forced me into confessing to a crime I never committed--operating an unsafe vehicle. My car was only a few years old and in fine condition. There was nothing "unsafe" about it at all. I suspect many, many people have been in similar situations, and those of us who are white have tended to shrug it off as a nuisance and just move on with our lives. But again, that's the whole rotten mess in a microcosm. Law enforcement, for all the great things they do, simply cannot be challenged in any meaningful way when a challenge needs to be made, and we just accept it. I've been pulled over perhaps 8 times in my life. Compare that to many African American men my age who've been pulled over more than 40 times. I've described what I feel was a truly corrupt personal interaction with a police officer. A black counterpart to me may have had that experience 5 times over. Change the circumstances to a setting with much higher stakes, and you see the problem.
Or perhaps you don't. And perhaps I don't--not really. One of my favorite aphorisms comes from George Orwell--"To see what's in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle."
I don't feel like I've been struggling enough. I'm going to try to do better.
This anthology is coming out in September but is already available for purchase, and includes a ton of fantastic fiction, all based around the concept of the 1980s movie theater. I and my co-writer, Josh Viola, both grew up in a conservative Christian environment. For me, that meant Kentucky during the Satanic Panic of the late 70s and 80s, where we were constantly told the devil was trying to steal our souls through backward masking in songs and subliminal messages (or outright messages) in movies. That background very much fueled what happens in our contribution, "The Devil's Reel." Look for the anthology later this year!
I am trying to update my own website more frequently than once every 6 months or so. Not that I have a fanbase that cares about any of this, but here goes:
I managed to catch Covid-19 at some point in late March or early April, and started showing symptoms on April 6th. I won't go into the situation in detail, but I'll say that the whole thing lasted about 21 days and it was the sickest I've ever been in my life. It got to the point where I just left the front door unlocked at all times in case I had to call for an ambulance. Fortunately the breathing problems never quite reached the point where I had to call 911, but I went a few nights clutching my cell phone and thinking I was on the verge of needing to go to the hospital. I got lucky.
In Mid-March, I'd started writing a new novel tentatively called Confessions. I'd reached the halfway point when the disease struck. Halfway for me is almost always 40,000 words. I was at 45,000 words, so I was writing at a really good clip, about 2,000 words a day. I'm at about 55,000 words now, which shows you how slow my writing pace has become in the aftermath of the illness.
The novel is a reflection of where my personal interests are now focused, which is writing non-genre realistic fiction. It's about a gay funeral director in his late 40s who has returned to the small KY town he fled from as a youth after a terrible incident in high school. Why has he returned? What does the town think about his return? Maybe the novel will get published one day and we'll see these questions answered. Hopefully I can finish the first draft by the end of June.
(Hey, I still write a bit faster than George R.R. Martin, so there!)
If you check out my Bibliography page, you'll see some links to a series of stories my friend Josh Viola and I have done for Birdy Magazine. Josh hooked up this arrangement with Birdy, which is pop culture serial. You can find physical copies of it in Colorado, New Mexico, California and in the UK, but I believe all stories are published in full-text online.
I have a new short story called "The Jarheads" available in this great anthology. You can buy the book here!
Sean Eads is a writer living in Denver, CO. Originally from Kentucky, he works as a reference librarian.