Friday, January 6, 2017

2017: Looking Forward

As big as 2016 was for Old School Evil, I have a feeling 2017 will be even bigger.
Besides the finger-crossed hope that I get picked up by an agent and get some a big publisher, there are a lot more things I've got planned.  Let's take a look at what's coming down the pipeline:
  • Since I've already started on the second draft to Old School Evil 2, I'm hoping to have it complete and ready for publication by the end of the year.  Yes, the first Old School Evil took 2 years to complete from the very first word I put down on paper, but since then, I've learned a lot about the editing process, so I think I can streamline it a bit to get the book ready.  I've also got a critique group and more feedback networks now, so I can start making progress immediately, instead of in small patches like the first book.
  • I'm expanding my posting schedule on the blog.  Originally I was doing the Villains Retrospects on Mondays (or Tuesdays if it's a holiday) and randomly posting stuff on Thursdays if I had anything to say. I'm going to add scheduled posts on Wednesdays and Fridays.  Wrap-up Wednesdays will be posting any progress I'm making in any field of Old School Evil - writing, art, publishing, etc. Flashback Fridays will be posting info about the fictional cartoons that are set in the Old School Evil universe.  I've already posted a bit about the Hurricanines but I'll be posting more in-depth stuff about the cartoons and the villains in them.
  • I've hinted before about something big after the Villain Retrospects are completed, but I'm ready to share.  I'm planning to run all the villains I've gone over into a tournament - the Bad Guy Beatdown!  Thirty-two rounds of villain-on-villain violence, trying to determine the best and baddest bad guy ever!  I'll be going over detailed analyses of each of their abilities and exploits and using that to do the most realistic fights as possible.  Plus, it'll be a great chance to share more writing!
I call it the Sereni-Bee.
  • I'm not sure how far I'll get into it this year, but I'm hoping to at least get the first prototype toy produced.  I'm planning to model out a figure with Blender (the same program I modeled Lead Tentacle and the Force Bolter) and have it printed at Shapeways.  I've printed a few things through them, a few static figures and a couple of Transformers accessories, and I've got high hopes of making an articulated figure based on one of the Flashback Friday cartoons.
  • One final thing I'm planning to do for Old School Evil this year is building a full website instead of just the blog.  Though the blog is serving it's purpose now, I'd love to legitimatize Old School Evil with its own address and a more professional look.
I'm super excited for what's coming down the pipeline.  And it's fitting to share with you all the good news in my 50th post.  It's hard to believe I've made it this far without sharing more of my story, so to celebrate, I'm sharing the first chapter to Old School Evil.  If you've made it this far, thank you so much for taking the time to read this, and I hope you enjoy!



I sat hunched over my plate of high-fiber, low-sodium, no taste food at the Hidden Brook Retirement and Assisted Living Community, imagining all the ways I could murder my fellow residents. At the table to my left, Delores Twill whined about her grandchildren to no one in particular; I conjured the schematics to my tornado generator and pictured her whipping in a whirlwind. Across the table from her, Chris Coppersmith complained about his medication to a disinterested orderly; I fantasized teleporting him into the sun with my portal device. Behind me, Princess Connie, that blind simpleton, threatened to sue the facility if she didn’t get the batteries in her hearing aids changed. My mind glimmered with the thought of crushing her in the robotic claws of my power-suit. My smile grew with each envisioned death; my heart beat harder as more of these geriatrics fell before my genius.
And just like every other day I’d been stuck in this hellhole, I remembered each and every one of those devices destroyed back in my prime. All of them reduced to wadded up blueprints on my workbench, adorned with the radioactive wolf head insignia of my design that had through constant defeat grown into a badge of shame. I sighed, pushing those tattered designs out of my head and focused again on Connie, the steel claws squeezing around her throat, until –
“Gladys again,” Silas said. “God, I hate that fucking bitch.”
I jerked out of my daydream and found myself sitting at a table with two people I couldn’t believe I called my friends. Which -- when I thought about it -- was less a vote for them and more a vote against everyone else. When did they show up and how long have they seen my murder-fueled grin?
Phil set down his spoon and wiped the milk from his patchy mustache. He looked prepared for another argument. “What’s your problem with her? She makes the best pancakes.”
“I don’t give a shit about your flapjacks.” Silas pointed at Phil’s drink. “It’s that milk right there. And Max’s OJ. Why can’t she fill the cup up all the way?”
“What does it matter?” Phil picked up his own glass and twirled it around in his hand. Indeed, after just one drink, the glass looked almost empty. “If you want more milk, you can always go get another glass.”
“That’s not the point!” Silas shouted, attracting attention from a few of the other residents sitting around us.
Phil hung his head low and covered his face with his hand.
“I shouldn’t have to ask for more milk. I should be trusted to not spill my drink. Do they think I’m a hundred years old?”
I dropped my head back and sighed. “Will you two ever shut up? Every day it’s like this. You’re giving me a migraine!” I rubbed my temples. I could feel the muscles over my ears tightening like a vise.
“What’s up with you, Max?” Silas asked. “Forget to take your shithead pills this morning?”
I groaned. I had already gone over this with the doctor. I didn’t feel like trying to explain it to these idiots as well. “They don’t work.”
“Have you tried doubling your dosage?” Phil pushed again. “It worked for me and my tension headaches.” He tapped a finger to his balding dome.
Tension headaches. Seriously? “I’ve tried getting the doc to change them, but you know they never listen.” I stretched my neck clockwise then counter-clockwise, the muscles and vertebrae cracking and grinding. It never helped, but it had become habit by now. I just imagined cutting my head off and burrs spilling out from my veins. I glared at the others. “Just shut up or find another table.”
I picked at the runny eggs on my plate, the yolk spilling out and coating my soggy bacon in bright yellow slush. You’d think they hired these cooks right out of elementary school. What I wouldn’t give for an Eggs Benedict. I watched Phil shovel his oatmeal into his mouth, pour some more imitation syrup into it, and keep shoveling. He might as well eat it with a trowel.
Silas dropped his fork onto his plate, drawing another couple of glances from everyone else around us. He wiped a hand over his shiny head. Unlike Phil, and most of the other men around here, Silas shaved his head bald instead of waiting for old age to do it for him. At least he didn’t have that ridiculous mohawk he used to wear. “I gotta get out of here,” he said with the urgency of someone about to vomit.
“Then go outside,” Phil said between gulps. A bit of slobbery oats popped out of his mouth and clung to his bottom lip.
I almost gagged.
“That’s not what I mean. We’ve been here for years now and I can’t handle it any longer. This place is an absolute hole.” He shoved his plate out from in front of him.
“You say that every other week,” I growled at him, feeling that vise on my brow tighten enough that I thought my eyes would pop out of their sockets.
He pointed a crooked finger at me. “Fuck that, Max. You feel the same way, I can see it in your eyes. You’re just as sick of this place as I am, being told when to eat, when to sleep, when to take a fucking shit. We can’t keep living like this. We used to rule this world, now we’re stuck here at the mercy of a bunch of candy-stripers.”
We used to rule this world. It jammed itself into my brain and I felt the vice loosen just a bit. Enough for the wheels to start turning again.
Phil leaned forward and grimaced. “Silas, you gotta keep it down. Angela’s right over there.” He jerked his head to his left at a portly Hispanic nurse staring at us.
“Dude, I don’t care if you got a wrinkled boner for her. She can lick my asshole.”
I sneered. Silas always had a way with words that made me want to wire his jaw shut.
Phil grimaced. “If you don’t shut up, she’ll tell Doc Michaels and he’ll slip a sedative into your pudding. He did it to Kelly Tremmel for a week last time he bitched about the crew. And it’ll be even worse for you if Dr. Silvan hears.” He hooked his thumb at the drooling mess Billy Batsweat. Every time I saw him sitting there, I shuddered. Though, I wouldn’t mind if it happened to these two sometimes.
Silas groaned. “Fine. But I mean it. I gotta get out of here.” He shook his head and hung it low. “I miss my old life.”
We all sat quiet for another moment. Who here didn’t miss that? This is where old lives came to die. And then the new lives died here too. I hated to admit it, but Silas started winning me over with his weekly gripe. Of course, I was already formulating a plan, having watched the maintenance staff repairing a window on the far side of the room before I slipped into my usual murderous thoughts. I always had a plan brewing in the rare case someone screws up and leaves me an opening, however small. But I could always use a helping hand getting out. “So are you just bitching or are you actually proposing something?”
He sat for a few seconds looking at me then dropped his chin into his hands. “Just bitching, I guess.”
“Typical.” I eyed the window again.
Silas scoffed, “Hey, I may hate this place, but at least I ain’t on the streets.”

I stood in line at the shelter with my tray, just waiting to see what slop they tried passing off as food. I knew this stuff was all donations and they had to feed hundreds of us off it, but fuck, this stuff grossed me out. I couldn’t even force myself to eat that ‘hot dog’ they served yesterday. “Looks like soup today,” the stinky guy next to me muttered. He had to be talking to himself or that tiny guy he thinks lives in his beard. He stunk so bad I thought my nose hairs were burning. Sometimes I hated having a nose this strong. Who am I kidding? I always hated having this nose.
I got to the front of the line and held out my tray on which the living mummy behind the counter placed a bowl. She filled it with some murky water and a couple chunks of chicken. Soup, sure, let’s call it that. She smiled at me and I nodded back. Her eyes lit up for an instant. Probably the most gratitude she’d seen here all day. I proceeded down the line and amassed a flimsy slice of bread, an apple with a chunk sliced off it, and a half pint of skim milk two days past the expiration date. Why did I even bother coming here?
I found an empty table outside on the edge of the patio and sat down. The table see-sawed on the concrete. A stiff wind blew through the air and I felt every hair on my arms jump to life. I slurped down my luke-warm soup in two gulps, chugged my milk just as fast, and wadded up the slice of bread and stuffed it into my mouth. Upon examination, the apple was seventy-five percent brown splotches. Apparently they didn’t cut off as much mold as they should have. I tossed it behind me on the gravel and watched someone sneak back there to pick it up. He took a bite and dropped it back on the ground, munching on as much of the brown spots as his rotting teeth allowed.
I got up from my table and walked across the gravel lot then slipped through the open gate. I may have been willing to come here to get a free dinner but I wasn’t about to sleep here. I tried it once and woke up in the middle of the night with some crazy dude peeing on the bedpost a few inches from my face. He just kept going once I woke up. I took off before they were able to kick him out. Of course, I saw him get in the next night. He can pee on someone else’s head; I’d rather sleep on train tracks than risk that again. I walked across town, feeling the blisters on my feet rub against the worn holes in my shoes.
A gust of wind nearly threw me on my face. I stumbled to the left, just in time to see a wild fir branch whip by me. I ducked behind a wall at the rear entrance of a small hardware store and waited out the gale. I hated the hurricane-strength wind that blew through here in the winter. “I really need to find a better travel agent,” I said, patting my jacket’s breast pocket. I felt every contour of the action figure through the thin padding. I needed to find a better coat, too.
“It ain’t too bad, Manny,” it answered in a deep voice that happened to come from my mouth, “You just need to find a better…” I trailed off for a few moments, searching for the right word. “Cranny!” Roadblock would have been proud of that one. I waited until the wind died down a little and scrambled towards the east side of town.
After an hour and a half in the frigid wind, I made it to my hidden camp just before another bout of wind tried taking off my head. Have I told you how much I hated the wind yet? The stakes holding down the tarp on the bank of the river were in the same place I left this this morning. Thank God no one took my makeshift bed as free real estate again. I chased off an elderly homeless couple last week who felt like my camp made the perfect make-out spot. So many liver spots.
I sat down on the tarp and unslung my backpack. It felt heavier every day, even though I found less stuff every time I opened it. I ruffled through it and pulled out a beat up Pringles can. Oh, how I wished there were actually chips inside. I took off the lid and spilled out its contents: a travel toothbrush, a squeezed-empty tube of toothpaste, and a comb with a broken handle. I struggled to get some more toothpaste out but barely got any on the bristles. I dipped the toothbrush into the river and scrubbed my teeth. I put the stuff back in my can and replaced it into my bag. I looked in and sighed. I pulled out the coarse wool blanket and a second woven one. I wrapped myself up in both of them and tried going to sleep.
Another day down. Couldn’t wait for tomorrow.

It turned out I didn’t get to.
I woke up to a growling so loud I thought I was being mauled to death. It took a few moments before I realized I wasn’t under some rabid animal attack, but at the mercy of a wild beast stalking through my digestive track. Apparently, old chicken in water just didn’t cut it as a meal. I squirmed out of my makeshift sleeping bag and stumbled down to the river bed. I dipped my hands in the freezing water and splashed some into my face. Instant wake-up, better than coffee. I swiped my stubbly beard dry and rung the water from the long hair that always hung in my face. It may have made me look like a metal-head (I prefer classical music) but it kept the cold off my neck. It didn’t much work when wet however, so I balled it up and stuffed it under my stocking cap.
I sniffed around, so glad not to be surrounded by foul, crazy people. I picked out the brisk scent of running water and the usual burning stink that wafted off the Purina plant during the early morning hours. I sorted through the dry bark of bare trees and the dusty odor of old poops turning to earth. All the normal smells I wake up to every morning.
There had to be something more for it to wake me up. I closed my eyes and inhaled long and slow. I caught a scent of something gamey to the east and followed the river bed a few dozen yards. I heard splashing ahead of me. My stomach growled again as I spied a young raccoon washing its hands in the water.
I kept telling myself the growling came from my stomach, but I knew that was only a half-truth. I hadn’t felt that other part of me in a long while, a surprise considering how hungry I’ve been for so long. I guess it finally snapped.
But it’s not happening tonight. I kicked and scratched and yanked it back under control, panting in the freezing night air. It succumbed, but I couldn’t keep it at bay for long if I kept watching a potential meal play in the river. I tossed a rock at the little guy, who scurried away.
I refused to spend the rest of the night picking raccoon out of my teeth.

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