You may not want to accept it, but the truth is right in front of you… it’s been there all along.
This world, overrun with billions of souls, has become nothing but a game farm – and it’s always hunting season.
You’d see it if you’d only look past your own selfish desires. You’d hear their ragged, horrific breathing if you’d only shut out all the noise they’ve been flooding you with. You’d feel the pain you’re in if you stopped injecting artificial pleasure into your senses and form.
You live only to serve the dark, disgusting needs of ancient beings so far removed from you they only see humanity as food. And not the tasty kind. No, humanity is the haggis of The Dark’s menu, to be consumed only when nothing else is left in the pantry.
My friends… my family have been fighting for you… but the day is fast approaching when you’ll have to fight for yourselves.
So get ready… get ready to push past your fear, to swallow your selfishness and to live for, to fight for something bigger than yourselves.
Get ready to claw at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.
Into The Grey, the next excruciatingly cool installment of the Infinite Crossover Crisis… coming, well your guess is as good as mine, truthfully.
Incidentally, reading the above quote with some thrilling, Matrix-style soundtrack in the background heightens the experience. But it’s your choice. After all, it’s your world.
As many of you are no doubt aware by now, I am a huge nerd and so you may or may not have picked up on the significance of this post’s title.
The Defenders are Marvel Comics’ official “non-team”, a lose affiliation of heroes who gather to vanquish foes no single hero could stand against. Everyone from Doctor Strange to Daredevil to the Hulk and even Howard the Duck has been a Defender.
They’re not exactly The Avengers or even The Great Lakes Avengers, but they’re cool in their own way and they’ve even inspired my heroes, the Infinite Syndicate. (Into The Dark, Book One of the Infinite Crossover Crisis is on sale now, kids! Though truthfully, no one gives a toss anymore.)
At any rate, this isn’t really a post just as The Defenders aren’t really a traditional super team. I just realized this morning that I haven’t written a post in months. Then I realized why.
I just don’t care at the moment.
About much, truthfully.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a great life. I have a a cool haunted house to live in, a wonderful family, money in the bank (though not as much as I did two years ago) and my (very) rugged good looks. I’ve been blessed.
But work is still a pale, disgusting shadow of what it once was. I’m finally the Bell Captain, but it’s a monkey’s paw situation to say the least. This horrific virus has devastated my industry and brought out the worst in everyone I deal with, even internally in some cases.
My book jut isn’t selling. I can’t get an agent or a publisher to spit on me if I was on fire. And I’ve given up on writing the next installment for now. The enthusiasm just isn’t there.
I have some good friends who are killing it in their respective fields and it just serves to make me feel even worse about myself. Venting like this feels good, but it reinforces my belief that I’m just not ready to be creative again and won’t be for a good long while.
And of course. the world is still imploding.
On that happy, uplifting note, I wish you all a good day.
This is a fun story, playfully told by the author. With the right artist, think this would make for an excellent series of graphic novels. A very different way of viewing the world of Superheroes. – Amazon review of Into The Dark.
I love this review because it zeroes in on exactly what I want to achieve with the Infinite Crossover Crisis: a new take on a genre that’s been covered by a legion of writers, each one far more talented than yours truly. The first modern comic book, Famous Funnies, was released in the United States in 1933 and since then everything there is to say about the superhero genre has been said, apparently.
Except it hasn’t.
There’s always room for a different interpretation of any subject, at least in my humble opinion. In my case, I want to showcase people with extraordinary abilities who use them to do more than just punch Lex Luthor or the Joker in the face. You see, as far as I’m concerned, Superman has never realized his full potential.
In other words, what good is a Superman if he doesn’t actually do anything truly super?
He could divert the course of rivers and end drought in places like Ethiopia.
But he doesn’t.
He could fly into nations under the thumb of ruthless dictators and bend those thumbs back without even breaking a seat.
But he never does.
He could change the entire world in a week – or less.
But he… well, you get it by now.
Granted, I realize that changing the world and interfering with a nation’s political structure isn’t as simple as it sounds. The Man of Steel is, for all intents and purposes, a US citizen, and as such, would be responsible for any repercussions/blowback resulting from his world-changing actions. So, while a few writers have had Superman tackle real-world issues like the ones I’ve just mentioned, most prefer to keep him in the same old “punch Luthor in the face” lane. DC Comics is currently using Superman and Lois’ son Jon to tackle this topic, with the Super Son questioning his father’s lack of world-changing agendas.
But my point remains the same; Superman just refuses to ruffle any world leader’s collective feathers, and so he sticks to natural disasters and super villains.
That’s not what my superheroes are all about.
My characters are living in a world under the collective thumb of ancient beings who embody mankind’s most vile impulses. The Dark are just as evil as the name implies. Imagine the Joker on crack made from pure evil.
(In retrospect, maybe I should have called them something ironic, like “The Happy, Fluffy Bunny Squad?) After God disappears and they win a war with their siblings, The Light and The Grey, The Dark seize control of every significant aspect of humanity’s existence. Now the thirteen members of The Dark have one agenda…
Create as much chaos as possible; it’s the perfect chaser for all those delicious superpowered energies they extract from their victims. Superheroes in costumes were virtually wiped out in the aforementioned war, but human beings with extraordinary abilities still exist – though they often find themselves abducted by The Dark’s minions and taken to a facility where their power is harvested and fed to the world’s puppet masters.
As you can imagine, punching supervillains isn’t enough to win this fight. (Though it is a big part of what my heroes, the Infinite Syndicate, have to do to see their agenda through.) My heroes will have to change the world in order to free it from The Dark’s control.
But how does one change the world, exactly?
If you have superpowers, you… well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?
Trust me though, I have a plan. They may not wear spandex or go by fancy code-names, but the Infinite Syndicate is made up of members who can:
Stop time dead in its tracks.
Bring inanimate objects to a form of life.
Turn night into day.
Grant wishes by ingesting a single drop of genie blood. (It’s gross, but it gets the job done.)
Harness electrical energy.
Create energy shields.
Interface with any electronic form of communication.
And that’s just scratching the surface. Of course, superpowers can’t cure disease or purge people of their capacity for evil. I briefly considered writing a chapter where a character cures his mother of her bone cancer and flesh-eating disease, but suffering, no matter how horrific it is to witness, is a part of life. And besides, I indulge my wish fulfillment bucket list in many other ways, trust me. And free will is God’s greatest gift to humanity; we need our inner light and darkness in order to truly be human.
So, as you can see, my creations have their work cut out for them – but their mission isn’t impossible.
Or is it?
You’ll just have to read Into The Dark, Into The Grey, and Into The Light to see what sort of impact superheroes can have on the world when they shatter social convention and push the limits of their abilities.
See you in the lobby and the virtual bookshelves, my friends…
There are a million different elements (give or take) that can impact a book’s success.
Where a story takes place can be as important as what’s actually happening, in my opinion, at least. My Infinite Crossover Crisis series is going to stretch from the bowels of New Jersey to the glittering, morally-bankrupt streets of Vegas, to a patch of Limbo that resembles the setting of one of the most beloved rock songs of all time, to Heaven, Hell, and… well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?
The action in the first book in the series – and maybe the only one if I can’t overcome my current personal crises and writer’s block – Into The Dark, jumps around the globe like a frog on a hotplate. However, I think this fictional globetrotting, coupled with an overabundance of characters, just adds to the story’s appeal. And since I am the creator and Supreme Being of this universe, my opinion counts for everything. Plus, I’m trying to introduce my readers to a world under the thumb of ancient, literal dark gods who feed on chaos and whose reach stretches to the Multiverse itself – and a big story requires a big scope, right?
For the uninitiated, the Infinite Crossover Crisis takes place in a world where the three forces God put in place to maintain the Balance between order and chaos, The Light, The Grey and The Dark, went to war when the All-Mighty disappeared. The Dark emerged victorious and that’s why the world has slipped so far into madness; you see, The Dark literally feed on chaos now that God isn’t around to feed them a portion of her power.
Opposing The Dark’s machinations are a rag-tag group of superheroes earthbound angels and spirits, and even a vampire. All good now?
So, here are a few of the locales you can expect to visit if you dive… Into The Dark.
See what I did there?
THE DUSK INSTITUTE: THE INCOMPARABLE STATE OF NEW JERSEY.
The ultimate purveyor of bad medicine, this joint isn’t exactly the Mayo Clinic. Hell, it isn’t even Betty Ford. The Dusk is where you end up if you’re in possession of superpowers but vulnerable. The Big Bads of the Infinite Crossover Crisis, The Dark, have staffed this hospital from Hell with medical practitioners who haven’t exactly vowed to do no harm.
In fact, staff members like Doctor Death and The Controller go to extreme lengths to push their patients prisoners to the absolute limits of their powers and sanity, all in the name of harvesting a portion of their power/suffering to feed The Dark.
As for the building itself, The Dusk, much like Dana Barrett’s NYC apartment building in Ghostbusters, is meant to to function as an antenna to attract and concentrate extraordinary energy which is used to power the sort of equipment one would use to slowly drain gifted humans of their powers and will to live. In spite of its cutting-edge equipment and practices, The Dusk looks like a hospital straight out of the Fifties. From chrome and vinyl chairs paired with chrome-legged tables with Formica tops to linoleum floors in bright, trendy colors and patterns, this clinic of the damned is all about a bygone era of design, kids. Indeed, characteristics of 1950s design, namely, a Scandinavian influence paired with space and atomic age-inspired shapes, are all over The Dusk.
It’s a shame such a cool place is a den of evil.
THE RUSSELL HOUSE HOTEL: ST. CATHARINES, ONTARIO, CANADA.
What you are about to read is fact.
The Russell had a long, colourful, and sometimes contentious life before suffering three serious fires and finally, demolition in 1996. in. It began as the Stinson House, a hotel and tavern established at the corner of of James and St. Paul streets in downtown St. Catharines in 1843 by Samuel Stinson. Unfortunately, Stinson didn’t have long to grow the business – in 1846 he died, poisoned by his wife and a gentleman friend.
This is why it pays to cook your own meals when in an unhappy marriage, fellas.
The hotel was then taken over by Stinson’s son, who I hope, for his sake, remained a bachelor . A later owner renamed it the Russell House. The Russell suffered a slow decline for much of the 20th century. By the 1970s and 1980s it was largely patronized by bikers and punks, and by the 1990s had become the last resort for the down and out. During the 1990s the building suffered the three aforementioned serious blazes. After a February 1994 fire the building sat vacant and slowly fell into disrepair. Eventually the city obtained a court order that the building had to be taken down no later than Nov. 30, 1996 . . . and it was.
But that wasn’t the end of the Russell’s story – far from it. And now we delve into the fictional pool that is my imagination, my fellow dreamers.
After the final conflict between The Light, The Grey, and The Dark and the rupturing of the Balance, a group of displaced demons, their hellish home now inaccessible, decided to get crafty and make good use of the vacant corner the Russell once sat on. Pooling their swiftly-dwindling netherworld resources, they created their own version of the infamous building, one that transitions between a pocket dimension and this particular prime reality.
Now the ultimate dive bar, the Russell is now home to a band of demonic supervillains as well as the spirits of the hotel’s former residents, one of whom has a very personal connection to this saga’s MC, Paul Nemesis.
This concludes my online TED Talk on The Places Of Into The Dark.
See you in the lobby and in the virtual book aisles, friends…
There’s a reason you’ll never hear me say, “Now I’ve seen everything!”
Early this morning, as most of the hotel’s temporary denizens slept peacefully in their temporary beds, a young couple was, as they say, “pitching woo.” Of course, it’s a safe bet most of the hotel’s temporary residents engaged in the same activity the night before.
But this particular coupling was different.
For one thing, the young lovers in question were showing their age, engaging in carnal battle at six am.
For another, the young lady in question moaned “Wakanda forever!” as she climbed that mountain, as they say.
So that was my morning as I delivered almost nine hundred bills. How’s your day been so far?
See you in the lobby and the virtual bookshelves, friends…
As you may or may not be aware, my friends, I have recently been promoted to Bell Captain, the ultimate case of the inmate running the asylum.
Nevertheless, I’m doing my best to rise to the occasion and keep this ship (which has felt like it’s been sinking for 17 months) afloat while making some much-needed adjustments to my new role. I’m leading by example in a selfless manner and making sure my charges (all four of them) understand that the changes to our department’s operating systems may only be temporary.
With any luck, that is.
The truth is, no one really knows exactly what the hospitality industry is going to look like when the scourge of Covid-19 is finally under control someday. Let’s be brutally honest, Covid is never going away, but I’m confident we can find a way to return to some sense of normalcy once these ant-vaxxing sons of bitches finally realize they’re putting themselves and the whole world at risk with their madness.
For now though, I’ve been considering writing a manual for any new bellman I may hire someday. To that end, here is the section that deals with Frequently Asked Questions rookie bellmen have posed to me over the years.
ARE WE ALLOWED TO HAVE SEX WITH THE GUESTS?
While we firmly (pun intended) believe in providing the best customer service possible, the only way to truly answer this question is with another one.
“Were you allowed to have sex with customers at your previous place of employment?”
Of course, it must be acknowledged that this response once backfired on me when we hired a male stripper to be a part-time bellman…
But getting back to the sexual matter at hand, no, you may not engage in any sort of carnal encounter with a guest at any time. And yes, this even applies to any adult film stars that occasionally visit our establishment. Although, to be honest, simply because someone is a porn actor does not necessarily mean they are a sex addict. They just want you to believe they are.
WHY CAN’T BELLMAN CARRY FIREARMS?
You’re most likely chuckling right now, but every single new hire has asked this question out loud within one week or less of being in the hospitality trenches. Serving people in any industry can be challenging. Serving people in the hotel industry can be soul-crushing.
You’ll find yourself reevaluating your personal moral code on a daily basis, especially the section pertaining to maiming and terminating the life functions of your fellow human beings. And yes, even douchebags are human beings.
But carrying weapons of any kind while on duty – with the exception of a razor-sharp wit – has not been approved by Management, despite frequent requests by staff for over two decades now. So please keep your firearms, bear spray, brass knuckles and other device intended to inflict harm and even death, at home please.
WHY DOES [INSERT DEPARTMENT NAME HERE] SUCK SO HARD?
As with any place of business that employs more than few employees, hotels have an operating hierarchy that inevitably leads to clashes between departments. As a bellman you will find yourself wondering why the Front Desk has booked a guest in the wrong room type or why multiple guests are often issued keys for the same room. Or why Housekeeping ignored the inescapable buzz of a sex toy in a drawer. Or why Maintenance left their used plunger in a guest bathroom.
The answers range from simple human error to gross incompetence, but one thing is immutable: Other departments will always make messes the bellmen have to clean up.
So do your best to do just that – and as quickly and as quietly as possible. Then you can move on and get back to the business of making money.
WHY ARE GUESTS SO CHEAP?
As a bellman you’ll be asking yourself this question every time you move eighteen bags from the lobby to the fiftieth floor and receive a few schillings (if you’re lucky) for your trouble. Because we are in a gratuitous position, our wage is the bare minimum mandated by law – but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the x-factor when dealing with guests. Anything can and will happen when your labors are complete.
Some guests will spend thousands on electronics, booze, drugs, hookers and anything else they consider essential, but when it comes to tipping, they’re suddenly poor. This is an immutable fact.
What can you do about this immutable fact? I’m afraid there’s no advice I can impart, except this: You can “get” anyone… if you’re clever enough to cover your tracks. That is all.
That concludes our preview, kids. Perhaps we’ll revisit my Bellman’s manual someday. After two decades in the hospitality trenches, I have a great deal of “wisdom” to impart to the younger generation. One can only pray the hotel biz reverts to something recognizable to a pre-Covid existence. Otherwise, bellmen will become extinct and the younger generation will be forced to take jobs that don’t allow them to observe humanity at their very best – but mostly at their worst.
To suggest the last sixteen months have been challenging and in some cases, life-altering, is to suggest Donald Trump has a few eccentricities.
Let’s face it, we’ve all had to face some unsettling truths and make some hard choices in the last year- and-a-half – and it looks like this wildly-dark ride isn’t quite over yet.
However, while civilization has been irrevocably altered by the damnable nightmare that is Covid-19, some things, like Mother Nature’s impact on this globe, never change. Sure, it feels like Momma N has an entire swarm of bees in her organic bonnet these days, with all the wildfires, mudslides and a host of other natural disasters humanity is facing these days, but at least she’s left the seasons untouched.
To that point, I was walking home from the hotel the other night just before midnight and I took the opportunity to take stock of the events of the day.
The hotel was “sold out” for the first time in months. (An unprecedented North American labor shortage has led to the hotel being unable to clean more than sixty percent of the rooms, thus giving the term “sold out” less weight than ever before.)
We’ve switched from a full service property offering bell service to one that allows guests to take their own cart if they don’t wish to avail themselves of the services of someone who actually knows what they’re doing. So now guests are placing fully loaded coolers on top of smooth suitcases and gym bags. What could possibly go wrong?
Guests are hostile.
Guests are raging over minor issues.
Guests have, quite frankly, lost their fucking minds over the past year-and-a-half and have thrown reason and good manners out the window.
The air is crisp and humid.
Horny skunks are roaming the streets once the sun goes down.
There’s an electricity in the Niagara air.
A few guests allowed nostalgia to overtake them and actually engaged my services. It was glorious. The feeling of walking home with pockets that weren’t empty was deeply unfamiliar.
What did all this pondering, done over the course of a mere ten-minute walk lead to, you ask? An inescapable revelation, friends…
The closest thing to an actual Niagara Falls summer is finally here.
It will be agonizingly brief, but summer is actually here. It certainly doesn’t feel the same, but then again, what does anymore? And there’s one more significant change that cannot be ignored…
My immediate supervisor of twenty-two years, who didn’t work a single shift in the last sixteen months while the rest of us toiled in Hell, has resigned and his assistant has stepped down. That left a vacancy waiting to be filled. Granted, the job and the department no longer resemble the pre-2020 version, but the role of Bell Captain still needed to be filled.
And now it has.
So yes, you may now proceed to unleash as many Captain Hook jokes as your fevered, social media attuned brains can manifest, my children. I can take it, I’m a captain.
What does this mean for my life as an indie author, you may be wondering?
Well, I’ve never been a manager before, so making schedules and filing payroll is all new to me and will no doubt be taking up a lot of my time. But promoting Into The Dark and writing Into The Grey and Into The Light is going to be put on the backburner for the time being, at least.
But I’ll get back to mining my creative depths eventually. In the meantime, I have a lot of studying to do, so wish me luck.
See you in the lobby, and the virtual book aisles, friends…
There is a difference between heroes and superheroes. The hero is an ordinary person who is faced with a serious fact and acts to modify it. A hero is a person who, walking down the street, see[s] a car on fire and runs [to] help the person who is in the driver’s seat, attached to the seat belt to loosen it. [A] superhero is a person who, on the same scene, would fly to the car and try to turn it upside down and shake it using his super strength, until the driver is released.
Steven Spielberg, at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
My personal feelings about Hollywood’s greatest momma’s boy aside, this assessment of superheroes is narrow-minded, hateful and just plain stupid. And lest we forget, back in 2015, Spielberg was certain the runaway popularity of superhero films was part of the cyclical nature of the industry. He said superheroes would go “the way of the Western” and enjoy a “finite time in popular culture.”
It’s 2021, Steve, would you like some wine with that crow?
But seriously, (kind of), it amazes me that accomplished individuals like Stevie, Martin Scorsese and even Tom Hanks can be so cruel and elitist when it comes to my chosen genre.
“News of the World might be the last adult movie about people saying interesting things that’s going to play on a big screen somewhere, because after this, in order to guarantee that people show up again, we’re going to have the Marvel Cinematic Universe and all sorts of franchises.”
Tommy Hanks in 2020.
You might be wondering why I’m raging against the haters of superhero cinema, especially when none of them are going after my chosen genre of superhero fiction – with a ton of other genres thrown in for good measure – and you’d be justified in asking.
Oh wait, you probably want an answer, right?
The truth is, I take attacks against the heroes of my youth, and even my so-called adulthood, pretty personally, especially now that I’m building my own superhero universe. I constantly refer to the superheroes of Into The Dark as “unconventional”, but that doesn’t mean they don’t share the same capacity for doing good and standing against the forces of evil as the Alien, the Bat, and the Amazon Princess.
They just do it in a vastly different and distinct manner.
Nemesis: Our MC (main character for those of you who, like me, had no idea what those initials meant in this context), walks the walk. With a Green Hornet domino mask, a green leather jacket and a t-shirt with a red lightning bolt insignia, he’s put his own spin on superhero wear. And he’s determined to stamp out any and all evildoers in his path to The Dark at all costs – and that means he’ll cross lines most heroes won’t.
Fun Fact: I made the decision to have my heroes kill after I remembered a question my daughter asked me when she was a mere eleven years of age.
“Why does Batman keep capturing the Joker, so he can escape again and again and kill more people? Isn’t Batman as responsible as the Joker for all those deaths? Those people, including one of the Robins, would still be alive if Batman had just killed him the first time they fought, right?”
Yes, the kid was a genius even then. So not only does Nemesis have a unique power set (limited invulnerability, a sonic scream, the power to turn night into day, teleportation and telekinesis, and a few yet-to-be-revealed surprises) he’s willing to sacrifice his own soul to put his enemies down. His motivations are deeply-personal, but he started this journey simply to do the right thing for its own sake.
Knight Shield: He may not wear a costume, but this hero (who was named by my non-nerd bride) also has a unique power set. He’s discovered a million uses for his ability to generate energy shields around himself and others. KS is a little bit Damon Salvatore of The Vampire Diaries mixed with every cool uncle you ever had.
Worm Man: Yes, Worm Man. My daughter’s contribution to the Infinite Crossover Crisis universe, this happy-go-lucky wrangler of red wigglers is the hero the bad guys won’t see coming – until it’s too late…
Blue Atom: Dan Garret became a costumed hero in 1939, after his father was killed by a gangster’s bullet and he discovered he could accomplish more as a superhero rather than a NYPD cop. His original moniker, the Blue Beetle, is owned by DC Comics, as is the name “Dan Garrett”, so I’m utilizing the original Dan with one “t” and rebranding him as the Blue Atom and bringing him from his native time to a world he never made for the next two installments of the Infinite Crossover Crisis. And that’s how you make good use of the public domain, kids.
As for the the Blue Atom’s bag of tricks, he can… well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it? Buy Into The Grey and Into The Light and find out for yourselves, friends.
And the rest…
The remainder of the heroes you’ll meet in Into The Dark aren’t clad in costumes as such (though there are two earthbound angels who wear battle armor when things get hot and heavy), so they may not qualify for Spielberg’s hit list – but they each have their own powers and are more than ready to take on the bad guys.
Scorpio the master strategist, Taurus the vampire, Cancer the manipulator of time and bio-chemistry, and so many others, are ordinary people who happen to possess extraordinary abilities and who are acting to modify a serious fact. And by “serious fact”, I mean the corruption of the Balance, a set of natural laws put in place by God Herself to keep mankind’s capacity for good and evil in check.
My heroes are of the super variety in my mind, but they certainly don’t resort to the sort of collateral damage Stevie is convinced all superheroes wantonly indulge in.
My superheroes represent the best – and sometimes the worst -humanity is capable of.
My superheroes stand, not just in the place where they live, but anywhere the little guy is being oppressed – and they… will… not… move… until the day is won.
I hope we meet in person someday, Mr. Spielberg, so I can congratulate you on all your success – and hold you to task for your shortcomings.
See you in the lobby and the virtual bookstores, kids…
The hardest part of being an indie author – besides scrolling Thesaurus.com for alternates versions of “dark” – is getting press. Spreading the word about Into The Dark has been more difficult than locating Jimmy Hoffa while blindfolded.
Okay, so that analogy fell apart pretty quick. Shut up.
At any rate, I had the great honor of being featured on Boomer On Books today. Boomer Vince Stevenson and his team have featured hundreds of authors on their YouTube channel and in doing so, have become an invaluable resource to self-published scribes like myself. Vince and I chatted about Into The Dark,The Bellman Chronicles, and various topics related to this topsy-turvy world we all find ourselves living in these days.
Check out our chat below and if you feel the literary spirit move you, you can leave a comment on the Boomer YouTube page and help raise their fortunes.
That’s it for today, folks. (I can’t always drone on in a highly-entertaining fashion.)
See you in the lobby, the virtual book aisles and the halls of YouTube, friends…