Saturday, October 30, 2010

What to Read on the Web for Halloween

HLWN_2008__Jeepers_Creepers_by_irk Looking for a good Halloween read? Look no further than your browser. There’s a great deal of excellent weblit out there, tonight Irk and Char bring some of them to us with a blog post,

Let's get this out of the way - Halloween is my favorite holiday. It's sort of my Christmas. I share it with the goths.

Every year I like to get in the spirit of the season (pun not intended but impossible to avoid) by writing something creepy, like last year's Halloween story and... this year's Halloween story! You can read the 2010 story on the 30th and 31st, but I wanted something to keep you busy until then. So I asked everyone on Twitter to send me Halloween story links. As it is with Peacock King, all of these stories are available online to read for free! It's just like trick-or-treating, except I guess tricks don't happen unless someone's server goes down. Please enjoy these stories and support the authors if they show you a good time.

Stories include 100 Candles, DarkSight, Haunting Sins, Bradbury’s Ghost, and The Legend of Sleepy Phoenix (by moi). Irk and Char are the two authors of the Internet famous The Peacock King story weblit serial. If you want more to read after getting your scare on, theirs is a good place to look.

Link, via The Peacock King.

Friday, October 29, 2010

My All Hallow’s Read Offering: The Legend of Sleepy Phoenix


My favorite folklorist and author, Neil Gaiman, has created the first annual All Hallow’s Read. And this Hallowse’en when I hit the bricks of Mill Ave, I will be carrying physical books with me—but, for those of you so far away from me, you can still get in on my tweet campaign for the The Legend of Sleepy Phoenix e-book.

It’s free! Just tweet.

It’s also a ghost story. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow updated for modern times—a motorcycle instead of a horse, but no Ichabod Crane, just our daring Vex Harrow and her taxi cab.

Link, via Mill Avenue Vexations and All Hallow’s Read.



The Byzantium Outcast for sale at on Kindle

byzantium-outcast-kindle-edition I just published The Byzantium Outcast e-book Kindle edition in the marketplace. Right now it's going for $2.99. For the moment, I'm going to make the Arsenal stories about that much, while I'll keep the shorter volumes at $0.99.

"In her ongoing search for magickal artifacts in and around Phoenix, occult detective Vex Harrow makes a strange discovery during one of her favorite hunts--at a yard sale. She procures a strange, bronze statue that seems to have a lot more going on than at first it may appear."

Perhaps I should also get some longer, better back matter written. It looks short and weedy compared to others.
The Outcast--as seen on the cover in that oddly torturous and twisted pose--is a bronze-copper statue that I bought at a yard-sale somewhere in Chandler. It took a bit to clean off all of the scabrous green corrosion and centuries of grime, but there are some stains that even TarnX cannot remove. If you are interested in what this has to do with Vex Harrow then I suggest that you visit the story and read up.

The cover artwork is the lovely work of one of my artists, Nicole Cardiff. She's also the artist who did the cover for the 5th volume of Mill Avenue Vexations, "Drum Circle."

Link to buy The Byzantium Outcast at's Kindle store.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

SB 1070 really? Prison industry helped draft this debacle of a bill

Just saw this one and I’m not really happy about what I’ve read. The bill itself inflicts stupid holes in the ability of our police to do their jobs as well as provides dangerous leeway for arresting people who happen to be suspiciously not … white. There is a long held understanding that industries often assist with laws that would affect them, and the route to dangerous conflicts of interest is fraught there.

Over at NPR, there’s an article on exactly where this sort of conflict of interest can go.


I don’t think that the people who directly benefit from the arrest and seizure of persons should ever have any say in criminal law. Unless it directly indicates their behavior (in which case they should have a say) but if it’s about what constitutes a crime outside of their purview or how long a sentence should go, they aren’t welcome.

Connections to private prison interests are everywhere in lobbies for criminal bills, with politicians, and other elements of our government—it is an extremely powerful, deeply set, highly moneyed industry.

That’s not safe for anyone.

Link, via NPR.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mill Avenue Nights: Saturday, October 23rd 2010

This one is probably going to only be photographs and not that many. My camera’s batteries died during the night. Didn’t have that much of a showing on the Ave, for reasons unknown, but I did take a few pictures for everyone to see.

Mill Ave Resistance 003

FREE CLOTHES. The Resistance protests the presence of the street preachers on the corner with the Post Office with charitable operations.

Mill Ave Resistance 005

In the very center of the photo is Crystal, she spent some time posing – but due to the battery on my camera dying, I was only able to get one photo of her and it’s not that great.

I really need to get myself a stabilizer/tripod or something similar to go with this camera for night shots. It doesn’t deal with motion so well because of the increased aperture and exposure for dealing with the dim light.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wannabe Vampires on Mill Ave

vampires5p101210.DPP_tmb0001_20101012183632_320_240 Cross-reported from Mill Avenue Vexations, wannabe sanguinarians Aaron Homer and Amanda Williamson trawl Mill Ave for potential victims among the itinerant culture. Not exactly the wisest choice for young-blood sangs but this pair doesn’t seem to have all their marbles.

The article writes about how they picked up some poor fellow off the street, offered him a place to stay, and then started inviting him to join in blood play (and drinking.) He tentatively accepted at one point, but quickly withdrew when the situation got beyond his tolerance. Unfortunately for him, the entire adventure ended badly when the boyfriend vampire, Aaron Homer, stabbed him a few times after he refused to give up blood the last time. Homer is now in jail pending bail.

According to Vex Harrow, anyone who wants to mess with the Millrats will have to go through her and “…if you bring harm to them, I will plant my boot so far up your ass you’ll taste the steel toe.”

Link, via Mill Avenue Vexations via FOX10.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Be aware of cold reading and cognitive bias at CVS

So, I found an intriguing blog that mentioned Mill Avenue, Miles Loves ASU, but it also had some somewhat creepy elements. I read it with an eye for the anthropology and it looks like a fairly straightforward experiential read with strong religious elements and mystical thinking. Most of the narrative takes place at the CVS on the corner of Mill & University and involves various people. A pretty basic read and insight into this culture’s thinking.

However, this is the part that I’d like to draw people’s attention to:

Amidst the awkwardness of the conversation, Kiah’s knees began to hurt and the Lord gave her a word of knowledge about one of the kid’s knees in the group. She interjected into the conversation and abruptly asked, “Who’s knees are hurting?”

One of the kids instantly responded with a mixture of shock and questioning concern. Looking quite taken aback, he tentatively told Kiah that his knees hurt. He told her that he had knee problems and that they had been hurting pretty bad while they were standing around talking.

To the kid who responded with a “mixture of shock and concern” be aware this trick isn’t exactly as amazing as it seems. What Kiah did—possibly without knowing it herself—is a form of a very old con called Cold Reading. Joint pain is not uncommon among humans, particularly the knees (especially noting how poorly our skeletons function for standing upright), so finding one person in three with hurting knees is not at all uncommon. And, failing to find someone with hurting knees, she probably would have shrugged it off.

To ascribe the discovery to a supernatural origin really pushes the whole thing beyond the pale.

The story then goes on to describe how the group uses an incantation over the boy’s knee and the pain goes away. (Did they incant over it after he took the weight off it?) “The kid walked around. And then jumped up and down on them. And then squatted and bent them and stomped his feet. To his dismay and the dismay of his friends, his knees were completely healed.” Dismayed… Really?

This sort of “prophetic evangelism” is actually somewhat problematic in that it appears to teach people to use cold reading on other people and then ignore failures (for those of you who know what I’m talking about, this is a type of confirmation bias.) It’s not actually mystical and to treat it in such a fashion can lead inevitably to poor judgment.

Link, via Miles Loves ASU.

Monday, October 11, 2010

“The Helvetica Venture” profiled at Joystiq magazine!


Does everyone like humor writing? I sure hope so. While you might not play World of Warcraft—or even know exactly what MMORPG means—at least most people can connect to humorous writing. That’s exactly what I went for when I started work on The Helvetica Venture.

Today, WoW Insider @ Joystiq magazine posted about my story, World of WarCrafts: The Helvetica Venture.

The reviewer appears to have really enjoyed it, and I’m glad of that. I put a lot of work into it. I don’t know if I’ll have time over the next few months but for a couple more chapters, but if there’s any reason to keep it up—this is a good one.

Link, via WoW Insider.

Grammar: Proper dialogue punctuation

When writing fiction we often find ourselves in strange situations while writing dialogue between characters.

Dialogue Tags

When tagging dialogue, the last comma within the dialogue sentence is always within the quotation, and, in the case that it should be a period in a normal sentence, we transform it into a comma:

Correct: “I see you came back from slaying the dragon,” he said.

Incorrect: “I see you came back from slaying the dragon”, he said.

Do not capitalize the next word after the comma as if it begins a sentence as the quotation is really the beginning of the sentence and the tag is just an extension of it.

If the period at the end of the spoken sentence happens to be another form of end punctuation like a question mark or exclamation mark then you leave that inside the quotes, but still do not capitalize the tag:

Correct: “You made it mad!” he said.

Correct: “Why did you make it mad?” he said.

Incorrect: “You made it mad!” He said.

When a dialogue tag breaks a spoken sentence in two, the tag is set aside with commas:

Correct: “I was just minding my own business,” the dragon slayer said, “and from out of nowhere the dragon attacked me!”

If the tag instead breaks between two sentences within the dialogue a period is used:

Correct: “First it bit my shield. I fought it off,” the dragon slayer said. “Next it got my sword.”

Action Tags

Sometimes, instead of using “s/he said” we tag dialogue with action. If the speaker happens to be doing something while speaking. This route is called Action Tagging and works pretty much a lot like standard dialogue tags, except that the reader assumes that the actor is speaking. When doing this, it’s important to make it clear the actor is the speaker.

Correct: “I thrust for its loins with a deft stroke of my blade!” The dragon slayer lunged with his sword at the crowd and they gasped in delight.

In this case, the punctuation inside the quote remains intact and we capitalize the action tag.

Although, there are some cases where an action tag interrupts the flow of a sentence:

Correct: The dragon slayer moved close to one fresh face in the crowd. “The dragon loomed overhead, menace in his eyes and—” He abruptly put fingers to his mouth and coughed, blowing ash from his lips. “—spewed fire down upon my raised shield!”

In this case, the sentence and the action occur at the same time, but the speaker uses an action to punctuate his oratory. As a result, I’ve set it aside with em-dashes, punctuated within the double-quotes. It creates the effect of a significant pause in the speech, but a continuity of dialogue and action.

Multi-paragraph Dialogue

When dialogue passes over several paragraphs, it becomes necessary to split it up. To do so, we simply leave off the end quotes of the previous paragraph to show that the previous speaker has continued to speak (and a new speaker hasn’t taken up.)

“With her massive jaws she hemmed and she hawed at my armor,” the dragon slayer said as he stalked the room. “Try as she might, she could not extract me from my girded metal safety. Although her claws could catch, her jaws could not crush.

“So, knowing my time was short, I took my dagger from my boot and cut into the soft spot between foreclaw and thumb.”

Quotations within dialogue

Sometimes people quote others when they speak. The same rules apply for dialogue quotes as with quoting people in articles and research papers. Transform double-quotes within dialogue into single quotes:

Correct: “The dragon stood over my pinned form and said, ‘Wouldst thou good knight parlay a truce? I grow weary of our tumble and it’s about time for tea.’”


I hope that you found this instructive. I will write a few more articles on dialogue, but this the basics of how to punctuate dialogue. The next article will cover how to mix it up when writing dialogue—although it’s best to stick with what has been working for the reader, sometimes (like the action interrupt tag) it’s necessary to get a little strange in order to portray sequence to the reader.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mill Avenue Nights: Saturday, October 9th 2010

I spent much of the night discussing the finer points of Mill Ave ecology with my friend, Vice, who situated himself in front of Urban Outfitters. He’s started up a website for his spray paint artwork business along with Bruce Cormier (who has been spray painting scenes on Mill Ave for quite some years now.)

Spaced Out Studios

(Giant Flash applet and sound warning.)

He spoke of rumblings in the general population that the police might start cracking down on Mill Ave vendors. Especially those, he expects, who simply go to local 99¢ stores, set up blankets of those products, place a tin with the word “DONATION” on it and then attempt to sell them to passersby for an asking price of around $2-$3. Rumor has it, the local vendors have been complaining about them taking sales away from them. Vince believes that it will take a route similar to the gentrification and eventual regulation of the vendors at the Roosevelt Row First Friday Art Walk.

The Mill Avenue Resistance and Clothing Give Away

I’ve finally had a chance to witness the Mill Avenue Resistance free-clothing drive apparatus. With a rolled out blanket covered in folded shirts and a single rack of dresses and some pants, they served the entirety of the Ave from pretty much 9pm until 1am. Gadfly primarily manned the station with a beaming grin and friendly greeting for anyone who stopped to peer over the offering of free garb.

Although I don’t know that many people took any piece of clothing, many did avail themselves of toothbrushes and other sundries.

Mill Avenue Resistance and the Street Preachers

The usual Tom and Al show appeared along with a cadre of various others. They took turns on the microphone through the night with Kazz and Rocco intermittently manning their own megaphone to respond—according to the Resistance, the large mounted speaker failed to operate due to possible battery burnout. Another street preacher named Walter, dressed in jeans and a cowboy hat, also stood up to speak his piece.

As usual they handed out money for trivia questions and engaged people with The Good Person Test (a grossly immoral propaganda tool).

Some people stopped to cheer on the preachers, others passed by, plucked tracts of various design from the Resistance, or dallied to check out the free clothing.

Willow, a well known member of the immune response to this on ASU campus, also came out. She waved a sign for the passing crowds, “FREE HUGS FROM A TATTOOED LESBIAN” and got quite a few takers and come-ons in the process.

Mill Ave Blog Mentions

Looking around the Internet today, I found a mention of Mill Ave and the Resistance—and he also appears to have noticed our hug-bearing tattooed lesbian as well. He mentions Willow, her sign, the Resistance, and the street preachers over in a blog at Homebrewed Theology, “Street Preachers and Tattooed Lesbians”.

It probably took me a good 15 minutes to comprehend what I was seeing…. it truly was that surreal.

Prior to engaging the dueling bullhorns, I got my free hug, told her I was a straight ally, and then went over to talk with the atheists handing out clothes and stuff. I told them that of all the people on that corner, they had it right. They were there simply serving their fellow man expecting nothing in return. They were very gracious and said, “even though we’re atheists, I know where you’re coming from and we really appreciate it”.

Next up were Rocco, the atheist shouting back through his own bullhorn, and Walter, the street preacher. It was readily apparent that they were talking past each other, both standing firm on their own literalist interpretation of scripture, resulting in a conversation that was going absolutely nowhere. Honestly, it made me a little angry.

So, in a move I honestly never thought I’d pull off myself, I raised both my hands and shouted “Enough!”

I missed this exchange myself, but no doubt Rocco had a great time with someone else to actually engage in conversation. A common complaint that I receive from the Resistance about the preachers that they protest is about their enculted and recalcitrant behavior—they rarely change, they have little to say beyond their own inexpert myopic misunderstanding of their topics, and use a deck of disingenuous scripts.

Someone with some actual sense, or even something thoughtful to say, would probably give them great cheer.

The article I cite from continues on for quite a bit of culture centered discussion between Christians, so I’m not going to go into that. However, I will have to interview Rocco about his encounter with Mr. Homebrew.

Bringing something lively and interesting to the Ave.



A photograph of the Mill Avenue Resistance clothing rack, the tiny pieces of paper visible on the sides read: “FREE CLOTHING.”



Group shot: Center has some members of the Resistance, Willow and her sign, Barbara, Gadfly, a few others semi-visible; on the right happens to be Al, with Kevin peeking out.


Center: Rocco; Right: Kevin. Not exactly the best candid shot, but I was running my camera in burst mode in order to get some pictures of crowds. In front of the Post Office hanging out and chatting.


This is Marcus standing in front of Al’s crucifix—I really need to interview them at some point about this new phenomena. Marcrus’s crucifix is visible on the left, flashlight strapped to the top. He had it set to “emergency signal” mode so it generated a sort of blinking-rave-light effect.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Mill Avenue Nights: Friday, October 8th 2010

I hit the red bricks with A and took a trip down to the slowly-filling Tempe Town Mudslick. It’s been taking some extra water from the Salt River via the Hoover Dam and a few other dams that have been opened up, but it doesn’t look to be over a foot of water down there yet.

The Ash Ave bridge looked fairly beautiful anyway. It’s a strangely lit bridge over which the light rail crosses the Salt River (aka the Fake Lake). Lights inside the bridge form a spectrum rainbow when it’s idle, and it switches between a crimson-cyan light pattern when a train passes over it.

Street preachers weren’t much in abundance due to the Second Friday festival out in Mesa—which I heard had some zombies and steampunk cosplayers.

Rainbow Lighting Light Rail Bridge

This is an image of the Light Rail bridge with the rainbow colors in effect, and one more to show off.

Ash Bridge and Etc 079

And this is what it does when there’s a light rail train crossing it. The crimson-cyan colors flow slowly from one side to the other, usually in the direction of travel along with the light rail.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Tornados in Flagstaff

tornado1 Not that far from me—well, if you see 150 miles being “not that far away”—some tornados decided to come and play havoc with a town that one of my friends constantly tries to get me to move to. Flagstaff, a city well known for its railroads and snow (and the fact that they’re not far from Sedona and the UFOs) got a licking recently.

The first tornado hit Bellemont — west of Flagstaff — around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday and the second touched down east of the small community a short time later. The third was reported along Interstate 17 just south of Flagstaff around noon.

Fifteen homes in Bellemont were so badly damaged that they were uninhabitable and the estimated 30 people who lived in them were evacuated. Authorities were setting up a shelter at midmorning Wednesday, said Coconino County Sheriff's Office spokesman Gerry Blair.

About 30 RVs were damaged at a business in Bellemont that sells the vehicles and runs a campground for RVs.

Of course RVs! I would be more socked if it hadn’t been a trailer park that drew the maw of doom down upon them.

Point in fact, I was just in Flagstaff not too long ago: Monday. Went there to check things out, kick a few tires, and get rained on—as Gaea herself decided to open the floodgates when I visited. The truth of the matter is that I really enjoy rain, however, I wasn’t driving at the time so I cannot say much for people attempting to navigate the roads.

The thunder and lightning really were something.

I believe that the tornado warning for much of Arizona has come to a close already (5pm today, Wednesday, last I heard.) So stay safe out there.

Link, via the Associated Press.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

“I like it” Facebook status meme goes viral

breast-cancer-awareness-ribbon_297b Looks like people have struck upon a particularly hilarious viral meme that has a very risqué connotation. Facebook statuses have been popping up all day displaying interesting variations of “I like it…”

I like it on the table.

I like it on the floor.

I like it on the closet.

What does it mean? It’s a reference to where women like to keep their purses. It is part of a breast cancer awareness promotion. According to The Washington Post the “I like it” status has some sort of stupid gender-mystique attached to it in that it’s supposed to be mysterious to menfolk—and this is why its stupid. Really? As if (1) men cannot get breast cancer and (2) as if they shouldn’t also be part of breast cancer awareness and research.

It’s curious, fun, and inventive—just get rid of the vapid nonsense about the boys. Breast cancer affects the entire human race.

Link, via TIME Magazine.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Mill Avenue Nights: Saturday, October 2nd 2010

I didn’t feel well for most of the night due to an illness brought on my travel, but things got better with a bit of better living through chemistry. At least enough to gather up some of my friends from Mill Ave and parade them around my domain. I got to see Rocco, Steve, Kazz, and Gadfly from the Mill Avenue Resistance. I also got a chance to see some of the street preachers in the form of Al and Tom, and also Marcus (and his new two-planks wooden crucifix—an addition I should interview him about sometime.)

The Mill Avenue Resistance

A no show for most counts.

They appear to have started doing some sort of clothing giveaway involving used clothing and a rack. I haven’t seen the clothing rack yet as it didn’t arrive tonight. They’ve been doing this for a few months now. Mostly attempting to alleviate the needs of the itinerant folk on Mill Ave—an act that I appreciate greatly as the itinerant community of Mill does need a bit of help.

Drum Circle


Not a single person appeared during my entire time on Mill. I floated in and out of the area where we usually find that gathering, yet it remained deserted. Perhaps we’ll have to wait a while for the seeds of community to sprout and flourish again. I am still investigating its disappearance.

Interesting events

While Marcus preached from the site in front of the Post Office, I listened to passersby and I noticed that we have a small, but noticeable, contingent of Muslims now—or at least one outspoken Muslim.

“Allāhu Akbar! Allāhu Akbar!” he shouted as he walked past. Cupping his hands to his lips but never turning his head towards Marcus. The well-known exclamation from Muslim culture is known as the Takbīr and translates literally to “God is the greatest!” It is a common Islamic Arabic expression and considered a formal declaration of faith. Extremely similar to the Christian English expression, “Jesus is lord.”

Marcus didn’t appear to notice as he continued on with his usual preaching through his loudspeaker.

The device seemed to have some issues through the night. When I questioned him about that he explained that it had been stepped on drunkenly in a previous outing and now had become temperamental.