Reviewing Rockfest 2017 Entirely By Lineup and Nothing Else

I don’t LIKE being an angry-ass curmudgeon.  If I could change even the most trivial annoyance into something awesome, I’d do it.  I’m not one of those guys who complains because I like the sound of my own voice, or because it’ll get me more readers if I’m a negative fucking Nancy.

That being said, Kansas gives me a lot to complain about.  Whether it be something huge like the fact the governor is an idiot who has inflicted Reaganomics onto us all and left the state with a potential billion dollar debt to pay off by the end of the decade, or something trivial like the only rock station that played anything past 1991 suddenly establishing a cutoff date around 2005 or so and refusing to play anything from this fucking year, it seems like this state lives to infuriate me.

And speaking of local radio, it’s that time of the year here in KC.  That wonderful time where we spend the next three to four months hyping up a day-long concert.  A concert that…  Honestly, I’m surprised we’re having.

98.9 The Rock has not been itself lately.  The Annual Freaker’s Ball and Twisted Christmas events (the latter devolving into a cheap excuse to invite Steel Panther over to KC on a yearly basis, but I’m not complaining) didn’t happen this year.  Up until this month, every single concert they’ve been advertising has been some 70s throwback like The Led Zeppolin Experience, or The Pink Floyd experience, or The Red Hot Chili Peppers coming to town.  Shit, the only reason you ever hear about a modern band like Ghost coming to town is because they’re opening for Iron Maiden or something.  All of this only serves to perpetuate the timewarp this state is stuck in.  Forcefeed the audience the belief that rock died in the 1990s, and Kurt Cobane killed himself so he couldn’t be tried for murdering it.  Isn’t that right, KQRC?  You assholes who have officially programmed me to cringe in disgust and annoyance every fucking time AC/DC comes on the air anymore.

Okay, I’m calming down.  Seriously, it’s hilarious to think that about this time two years ago, I was complaining about Five Finger Death Punch getting played into the ground.  You know what I’d give for that playlist to make a comeback?

The point I was getting at is that considering this dramatic shift in format, and cancelation of what I’ve considered 98.9 traditions, I’m legitimately surprised we’re even HAVING Rockfest in the first place.  True, it’s at the KC Speedway instead of Liberty Memorial this year…  Which only furthers my belief not enough people came to last year’s Rockfest, and the station might be hemourhaging money, but that’s honestly just theory at this point.

Still, I had a feeling this year’s Rockfest was going to suck.  Considering the most recent band they’ve been promoting is either The Red Hot Chili Peppers, or Iron Maiden, I had a feeling there either wasn’t going to be a Rockfest, or Rockfest was going to become another nostalgia circuit show like Rocklahoma or something.  They released the lineup earlier in the month, and…  Honestly, my thoughts are mixed.

And so, for your enjoyment and my desire to purge the chattering voices in my head, here’s my thoughts of Rockfest based entirely on the lineup.  Because honestly, relocating to a smaller venue is easy to forgive if the bands can hold my attention.

Opening up this year’s Rockfest on the second stage is a band by the name of One Less Reason.  I’ve never heard of them, and I doubt most people have.  This has little to do with the previously mentioned cutoff date hampering the exposure of new music in KC, and more to do with the fact the opening act on the second stage is almost always a newbie that no one’s ever heard of.  Barring that, they’re an indie band that nobody who doesn’t go to that one bar has ever heard.  So yeah.

I listened to One Less Reason on Spotify, and honestly, they’re…  Okay.  They’re not horrible, but they didn’t necessarily light my world on fire either.  If anything, they sound a little overdramatic.  Seriously, check out the music video for “Break Me”.  I appreciate they decided to give us more than just a video of the band playing, but holy hell.  I seriously thought the first thirty seconds or so was a YouTube ad I couldn’t skip.

Up next is Sidewise.  They’ve been here before, and I liked them well enough.  So far, I’m thinking of showing up late enough to maybe skip One Less Reason, and catch these guys.

Up next, we have Candlebox.  AKA, those dudes who wrote “Far Behind”.  And literally nothing else.  I don’t know if they’re legitimately a two-hit-wonder, or if that’s just 98.9 humoring all three of Candlebox’s fans by occasionally playing this one song, and going right back into spanking my eardrums with “Back in Black” for the infinity-billionth time.  Kind of an odd choice.  Even if they’re a one or two-hit-wonder everywhere else in the world, it’s a good enough hit to hold my interest.  Doing good so far, 98.9

Next up is Crobat.  I…  Have no idea who these guys are.  I think they were at a Rockfest or two before this one, but I couldn’t tell you anything about them.  And I probably even watched them on stage the year they were there and everything.  Oh well, I could use the refresher.  Worst case scenario, the main stage is usually starting up by now, and if I end up hating them, I don’t have to stick around for them.

After them, we have Blackberry Smoke: that super obscure underground band that’s all over the place.  I’ve heard them, and I honestly can’t tell if this is rock or country.  If they’re country, we have ourselves some hardcore Trashville “city faggot in a cowboy hat” caliber country right here.  If it’s rock…  It kind of reminds me of American Bang: a one-hit-wonder (maybe) who’s ultimate claim to fame was that their one hit was the first theme song ever for WWE NXT.  I guarantee you the ONLY reason these guys are coming is because they’re buds with Johnny Dare.  Not that this is a bad thing, but honestly, they’re not my cup of tea.

Up next, we have Tom Keifer: the former frontman for Cinderella.  Oh boy.  I can hardly wait to skip this act entirely.  If you know me, or if you followed my old blog, you know how I feel about hair metal.  For the newbies…  Basically imagine Steel Panther without a punchline, and you literally have the entirety of hair metal.  It’s a joke, and it’s not a funny one either.  And yes, this is coming from someone who cut his teeth on grunge growing up.  I’d rather have a bunch of semi-intelligible homeless dudes from Seattle than a bunch of glittery transvestites who are TOTALLY super straight any day.

And really, what can I say about Cinderella.  Near as I can tell, they’re pretty much the status quo for that generation.  I have a pretty good feeling Tom Keifer’s set is going to be nothing but Cinderella covers.  So if you like Cinderella, then you have motivation.  If you’re like me, though, you’re already seeing what’s on the main stage, or hanging out at the concession stand/merchandise stand.

Rounding out the main stage is a band by the name of Zakk Sabbath.  I have no idea who these people are, but based on the fact they’re the ONLY second stage act that gets a soundbyte in the promos, and said soundbyte is a clip of “Iron Man” from BLACK Sabbath…  Yeah, I smell cover band.  Black Sabbath is more my speed, but again, keep that timewarp perpetuated, 98.9.  *sigh*

Then we get to the main stage.

Opening things up is…  P.O.D.?  Holy shit, those guys are still around?  Here I thought those guys broke up.  Or they disappeared into the ether, and retreated to the sanctimonious realm of Christian rock.  Don’t even get me started: this article by itself is taking for fucking ever to write.

Honestly, the fact P.O.D. was a Christian band always put a bit of a raincloud over my head.  I loved rap-metal, but I was a thirteen or fourteen year old boy who was in open rebellion against all things Jesus.  The one saving grace of P.O.D. in the longrun, though, was that they were never really in your face about it.  Yeah, they looked on the brighter side, which was a nu-metal no no, but at least they weren’t forcefeeding me heavy-handed Christian symbolism.  More than I can say for those jerks in Skillet.

I might actually check that show out.  Yeah, it’s a total nostalgia circuit show, but it’s MY nostalgia.  And yes, that does make me a hypocrite for railing against the nostalgia circuit, then immediately turning around and enjoying a nostalgia circuit esque show.  Big whoop, want to fight about it?  Well it’ll have to wait till I’m done with this.

After P.O.D., we have…  Oh dear god.  We have Buckcherry.

If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a trillion times: WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU PEOPLE SEE IN BUCKCHERRY!?  Buckcherry is, hands down, the worst band I have ever heard in my entire life.  Seriously, even at their absolute worst, Slipknot was still a trip to the fucking circus.  Even The Dillenger Escape Plan has some sort of pattern to its cacophony.  Hell, even AC/DC, burnt out on them as I am, at least sounds like music.  Buckcherry is fucking terrible.  “Crazy Bitch” is the equivalent of ear rape, and it’s embarrassing you people enjoy this shit song that any god damn thirteen-year-old could write in their sleep.  Josh Todd couldn’t carry a tune if you gave him a god damn forklift.  This band should’ve died in 2002 when everybody refused to buy “Time Bomb”.  But for some reason, they came back.  And we LET them come back.  And they’re never going to go away, no matter how much they suck , because you idiots decided after FIVE YEARS of absence, they needed to come back.

Ugh, fuck those guys.  Buckcherry suckvery.

Okay, I’m done.  What else do we have?

Well, after that exercise in misanthropy, we have…  Collective Soul?  Where are they getting these guys?  Here we have another band that 98.9 has perpetuated into one-hit-wonderdom.  Except I’m positive Collective Soul have written a lot more than just “Shine”.  Not that “Shine is a bad song or anything (far from it), but I’d certainly like to hear more.  Of course, such a request would cut into all that Pink Floyd time, so I’m not surprised I won’t be getting it, but still…

Up next is RATT.  Ugh.  Again, I’d point out the one-hit-wonder thing, but to be honest, that one hit isn’t even all that great.  Considering what era it came from, it could be a lot worse though.  “Round and Round” isn’t my favorite song, but it could be worse.  It could be something like “Talk Dirty”, or “Love Injection”, or literally anything by W.A.S.P.  Ugh, my god those guys suck!

I was kind of surprised to hear RATT is even still around.  I’m pretty sure that, at absolute best, RATT is a classic case of a band with none of its original members involved in it in any way, shape, or form anymore.  Like Cannibal Corpse, or GWAR, or Anthrax for a while.  The list goes on.

I’m also kind of surprised RATT are relegated to one-hit-wonder status.  Considering where I live, and the mindset being perpetuated, you’d think they’d play every single they ever came out with, regardless of whether it was a success or a flop.

After that, we got Halestorm.

Well at least they came from this decade.  Not to mention they’re LOADS better than Buckcherry.  Although saying that out loud is kind of like saying bologna tastes better than drywall.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: my one ultimate criticism of Halestorm is that they have no distinct sound.  They’re not quite as bad as Nickelback, or Papa Roach anymore, or any other play-what’s-popular band, but there’s no consistency from song to song.  One minute, Lzzy Hale is a badass who takes shit from no one (“Dirty Work”, “It’s Not You”, “You Call me Bitch Like it’s a Bad Thing”), and the next thing you know, she’s a fucking doormat (“I Miss the Misery”, “Mz. Hyde”, I almost want to say “The Familiar Taste of Poison”…).  Otep is consistent.  The Agonist was consistent until they replaced their vocalist.  Tristania was consistent.  Halestorm just isn’t consistent.

Also, as I’ve said before, “I Miss the Misery” hits too close to home for me.  Not getting into that story again.  At least, not here.

After them, we have Volbeat.  And Finally, we have a band I actually want to see.  A lot of the bands I’ve said I was interested in seeing up to this point, it was more of a “eh, why not?  Could be fun.” sort of deal.  Volbeat, on the other hand, kick ass, and I’ve wanted to see them for fucking ever.  Also, they and Halestorm are literally the ONLY bands from this decade, which I find fucking depressing.

Especially since right after Volbeat, we get Sammy Hagar side project 352.  Seriously, has ANY band Hagar’s put together lasted more than one album?  And don’t say Van Halen, because that wasn’t HIS band.  Aside from his Van Halen years, the only thing I know Hagar for is a solo career, and in more recent years, the band Chickenfoot.  Chickenfoot: they are so totally decent!

And finally, we get to the main event of the evening.  The band that everything, for better and for worse, has ultimately been leading up to.  And…  It’s Godsmack.  Again.

Okay, I’ll be honest with you guys.  I love Godsmack.  Yeah, they write the same two or three songs over and over again, which suddenly makes me sound like a hypocrite for loving Godsmack despite it, and giving AC/DC shit for it, but fuck you, Godsmack isn’t getting played into the fucking pavement.  I’m also aware Sully Erna is kind of a dick, but I’m at a point in my life where either all my childhood heroes turn out to be dicks, or I know better than to deify someone because they wrote a catchy tune I like to listen to while I punch things after a bad day.  All that being said…  Yeah, that solo album of his sucked.

There’s only one real reason I’m not all that excited for another Godsmack show, and that’s because I’m at a point where I’ve seen them to death.  They definitely have some new songs since…  What was it, 2010 when they last headlined?  And they’re probably coming out with a new album pretty soon.  I’ll never know for sure if the radio is all I have to go by, because FUCKING TIMEWARP!  But even if there is new stuff coming out, I’m really not motivated to see Godsmack AGAIN.

In fact, pretty much the ONLY reason I would waste money on a ticket or two is for Volbeat.  And literally nothing else.

And yes, I’m aware I hated “Seal the Deal and Let’s Boogie””  I still hold to my opinion that that album is a sign of coasting.  Still, literally everything BEFORE that album was awesome, and even if it means sitting through songs from that album, it’d be worth it to see a band I’ve been dying to see live.

Sadly, one out of fifteen isn’t enough to motivate me to go.  If I had to judge by the lineup, I have a feeling this year’s rockfest is going to be kind of a downer.  I’m probably better off saving that fifty bucks for rent anyway, the rate I’m going.

Book 3 Under Way!

Technically, I began work on book 3 of The Gael Saga yesterday, but I’m only just now getting around to announcing it here on the blog.  Never the less, here’s some details to keep in mind.

Book 3’s current working title is The Hood and The Heroine.  On one hand, don’t expect that title to stick.  On the other hand, don’t be surprised if, despite my recommendation, the title ends up sticking.

I have a bit of a habit of coming up with a working title, looking over my completed manuscript, and deciding that in the end, the working title is good enough to stay.  Lifers Wear Orange was originally a placeholder title till I came up with something better.  I was reluctant to keep the title at first, because it sounded too much like Orange is the New Black: a pretty good autobiographical book about what it was like to spend a year in a women’s prison that eventually got adapted into a Netflix show I gave up on the very moment I saw the “I miss the misery” angle coming down the hall.  After some time, though, it ended up sticking.

Some of the titles I have for book 3 are as follows:

 

A. The Hood and the Heroine.

B. The Diamond Club.

C. The Gael Army.

D. Diamond is Forever.

E. The War of Five Kings.

 

SPOILER: The Diamond Club is a new faction that’ll be making its debut in book 3 of The Gael Saga .  The Gael Army was introduced in book 2, but will ultimately play more of a role in book 3.  Apparently, here in the notepad in my head, Diamond is Forever is a sort of catchphrase the leader of The Diamond Club has for herself, but I’ve already dismissed this as a title.  Frankly, I’m thinking of not using that, period.

Naming the book after either The Diamond Club, or The Gael Army seems like the wrong way to go.  I like The Hood and the Heroine thus far, because a large portion of the book deals with the interactions/fights between Gael and The Blue Hood.  Also, while The War of Five Kings is based on a quote Dan Adelson makes in his first chapter, I have a feeling George R. R. Martin is probably going to sue me over it.  Though none of HIS books are called that, that’s ultimately what the war throughout A Song of Ice and Fire is called.  I don’t know, maybe I’m thinking too hard about all that.  I’ve only got about a chapter and a half down as of this blog post, so it’s possible I won’t use ANY of these titles.

I look forward to getting this book done with.  I was originally planning on ending this series on book 3…  Although at the time I’m writing this, I’m really liking the concepts going into The Diamond Club.  If I end up deciding on a book 4, try not to be too surprised.  Don’t count on it, but don’t be too surprised.

That’s all the news I really have for now.  Stay tuned for more TJB flavored goodness!

A Week of Bumble

If you’ve never heard of Bumble, imagine Tendr if it were yellow and themed after bees.  If you’re not familiar with Tendr…  Well, I’d say something about you being super out of it, but frankly, I’m a bit of a dinosaur myself, what with my OKcupid account and all.

I heard about Tendr through Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance.  Before I go too far off topic, I recommend getting the book.  Even if he decides to bitch out all the people who got the audio book.  Because apparently you’re fucking lazy or illiterate if you get an audio book.  Yeah, everybody knows blind people don’t listen to audio books.  They’re too busy learning sign language down at the circus!  Asshole!

Tendr, in short, is a dating app that many have jokingly referred to as a cell phone game.  Except after playing with one of its clones, I can’t guarantee it’s a joke anymore.  You swipe left when you aren’t interested, and you swipe right if you ARE interested.  If a person you right swiped swipes right on your profile, then you can talk.

Bumble works exactly the same way.  The one key thing that seperates it from Tendr, though, is that women make the first move.  The guy can right swipe, and the woman swipes right if she likes your profile.  However, the woman starts the conversation regardless of whether she swiped right first, or you did.  And there in lies the fatal flaw of Bumble.

Go ahead and call me a sexist pig if you have to.  Considering I voted Sanders in the 2016 primary, and refused to see the new Ghostbusters movie due to its gender swop premise, I’m already batting zero.  Really, it’s been my personal experience women don’t want to make the first move.  The guy always has to be the one who goes out of his way to get noticed.  If this weren’t true, I’d probably have a lot more people on the dating sites sending me winks, or likes, or thumbs up, or whatever the site uses to show they’re interested but don’t have time for a message, or can’t think of anything good to say.  It could also be that I need to get rid of the beard, and that I need to get over this delusional idea mirrored sunglasses make me look cool, but this has been the case even BEFORE going through this phase of my life.

Women don’t want to make the first move.  In my entire life, there’s been a grand total of one exception to this lesson I’ve learned, and frankly, she ended up being a fucking trainwreck.  For everything else, I’ve had to be the one to make the first move.  And this is why the app is destined to fail.

The fact its rating went from a 4.1 to a 3.7 in the span of a week probably doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence, either.  But hey, I figured I’d give it a try anyway.  It’s free, so I don’t feel like I’m wasting any money on this ultimately fruitless endeavor.

So I downloaded it.  And I right swiped, and I left swiped.  The app provides very basic information: age, college they graduated from, job, and maybe a little blurb about them.  That’s it.  The information is so minimal, it’s almost not even worth looking at, honestly.  In fact, it pretty quickly reached a point where I wasn’t even reading the profile information, and was swiping right or left based entirely on the photo.  Which I guess is the point, but still, it seems kind of dumb.

It reached a point where I found myself more interested in the act of swiping right or left than in actually getting results.  Of which I got none, as I expected, but I digress.  It became less of an opportunity to meet some new people, and it ended up becoming something to distract a side of my brain while the other listened intently to the latest in The Expanse novels.  I guess this is what they meant by a cell phone game disguised as a dating site.

I complain about the lack of interest the community had in me…  Though if I knew it was going to use Facebook photos, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time trying to perfect the art of the selfy again, and picked some better photos than the ones the app picked.  I wasn’t wasted, or naked, or doing anything embarrassing in any of the photos they picked…  Though based on that commercial for Tendr, having a picture of you holding a cat apparently isn’t as appealing to women as I was led to believe.  So yeah, I had to delete that photo of me hanging out with my cat.  As well as two or three others that reminded me that I take a lot of photos while wearing sunglasses.  You’d think I was a cool kid from the 90s or something.

All the same, I really didn’t enjoy this app.  Gaming wise, it kept me distracted for a while.  In terms of meeting people…  Yeah, stick to meeting people in real life.  Or even the on-line personals.  Not this.  Never this.

After months of writing, proofreading, waiting for cover art, getting distracted by Darkest` Dungeon, and still more proofreading, Book 2 of The Gael Saga (formerly known simply as Gael) is now available!

Roisin O’Malley: the masked vigilante known by many as Gael, has been arrested, and sentenced to life in prison without parole.  Dan Adelson, the criminal kingpin the media has since dubbed “The Teal Tyrant”, has SOMEHOW been cleared of all charges, and finds himself engaged in corporate warfare with the man who’d be his successor.  The police force, now reduced to a third of their original manpower thanks to Adelson’s previous efforts, find themselves barely capable of contending with an ever increasing crime rate, as well as a group of copycat vigilantes calling themselves The Gael Army.  And as if all of this weren’t bad enough, a masked killer has emerged, leaving a trail of dead bikers, gangsters, and even corporate assassins in his wake.  What will become of Sapphire City now that all out bedlam has broken out?  And what will happen to Roisin, now that she must spend the rest of her life in a cage with her arch enemy?

The Gael Saga has been one of my favorite things to write lately, and I’m really happy this one is FINALLY available for purchase.  Admittedly, this one didn’t come spilling out onto the page quite like book 1 did, but I’m still very proud of how this one turned out.

Fair warning: this book, like many in a series, operates under the assumption you’ve read book 1 first.  I’m not saying you’ll be lost, or confused, or anything if you decide to start here…  Although I do seem to be thinking it pretty loudly.  It seems idiotic that I have to say this out loud, but if my mom has proven anything, it’s that people have an uncanny habit of picking up a series right in the middle on the assumption you can start anywhere.  Believe me, the days of episodic tales are long over.  That’s just the way it is.

You can get your copies right here.

 

 

 

YES!, My Thoughts

I like professional wrestling.  Pretty sure I established that a few months ago.  I may’ve implied I gave up on it some time ago…  And as much as I would like to, they just keep finding ways of pulling me back in.  Case in point, “The New Era”.  They really need to work on that name (I’d go with “The Second Brand Extention” myself), but despite the fact it feels like every episode of Raw is recycling the same god damn matches every week, it’s actually not half bad.

And no, I’m not saying that because John Cena’s on the B-show now.  Seriously!  Okay fine, it’s PARTLY that.  Still have to put up with Roman Reigns, but even Reigns has his moments.  Also, Reigns doesn’t dress like a fucking six-year-old.  Admittedly, he looks like a taller, muscular, more Samoan version of what I’d look like if my parents let me goth it up beyond the black hoody, but that’s a rant for another day.

Recently, in my quest to find some audio to cram into my earhole to distract me from my perpetual loneliness, ennui, and the fact February 11 can’t just get here already, I picked up Daniel Bryan’s autobiography off of Audible.com: a delightful little memoir known simply as “YES!”.  Keep it simple, stupid.

The book is a joint effort by Daniel Bryan himself, and Craig Tello.  I’ll bet you money Bryan just dictated, and Tello compiled it all into an easy to digest brick of paper.  Or in my case, dozens of hours of audio read by Daniel Bryan himself, and Peter Berkrot.

Peter Berkrot’s portions of the book talk all about the leadup to WrestleMania30: what is so far looking like the last great WrestleMania.  And I’m only partially saying that because D-Bry was involved in the main event.  Seriously, now that Shawn Michaels is retired, The Undertaker’s streak is over, and the fact WWE still isn’t convinced we’re fucking sick of Roman fucking Reigns in the main event, I don’t think we’re going to see another epic.  We’ll probably have some passable Wrestlemanias, but the words PASSABLE, and WRESTLEMANIA aren’t designed to be in the same sentence!

But I’m getting off topic.

Berkrot’s readings are very dramatic.  I can’t tell if he’s going out of his way to do it like that, or if that’s just his default reading style, but it suits the tone just fine.

Daniel Bryan’s portions of the book…  Well…  It’s not the WORST reading I’ve ever heard, but aside from a couple reenactments of conversations with various other people…  Well…  I’d say “don’t quit your day job”, except he had to retire from that last year.

Honestly, Bryan just sounds like he’s rushing through it.  I don’t want to say it feels like he could literally be anywhere else right now, but I do get this feeling like he was on a time table, and wanted to get this all down as quick as possible.  It’s not quite as bad as the now legendary one-take approach in that Elderscrolls game, but it does kind of feel like he’s just rambling it all out.

But I can honestly look past that.  Let’s be honest, guys like Luke Daniels, Steven Fry, and Wayne June among others,  have set the bar pretty high.  It’s the story I’m interested in.  If I can endure Steven Brand trying to put me to fucking sleep despite reading an epic fantasy novel like The Waking Fire, I can endure this.

When it comes to the actual story…  Well, I already knew about most of the WWE stuff he covered, but everything from his childhood, to training, to Ring of Honor, to Japan, and even some of the behind the scenes stuff while he was in WWE was actually pretty fascinating.

He even recommends other books to read within his own.  Largely because he seems to feel he can’t do guys like William Regal justice when he talks about them, but all the same, that’s pretty cool of him.  I just wish Audible.com HAD THEM!  So far, out of the books he’s recommended, the only one I’ve found was that guide to Dao.  And honestly, I’m not even sure it’s the one he was recommending.

While I did watch a lot of the stuff he was talking about in WWE, it was still interesting to hear his take on several of the rivalries, skits, and matches he’s had.  Particularly, the nine months he spent tag teaming with Kane.  A veagan and a libertarian in a demon mask walk into a bar…  And only in the WWE would that NOT sound like the set-up for a bad joke.  Or even a GOOD joke.

As much as I’d love to recommend this book, I realize not everybody’s all that in to pro-wrasslin’.  Shit, I’m genuinely amazed I stuck with it this long.  Still, I recommend it, minor narration problems aside.  Also, you probably have more eye sight than I do, so that’s easily remedied by simply getting the hardcover version.

A Series of Unfortunate Events: My Thoughts

Dearest reader,

I strongly urge you to ignore this post, for it is a commentary on a series of events most unfortunate. I strongly suggest abandoning whatever computer, tablet, cell phone, or napkin you are currently reading this on, and pursuing something far more pleasurable like cuddling with a favorite pet, or reading Donald Trump’s Twitter.  For what follows, second handed as it is, is truly unfortunate, tragic, miserable, and will overall ruin your entire week.

If you thought that paragraph was funny… Prepare for countless hours of the exact same thing in Netflix form.

I’ll be honest, I missed out on the A Series of Unfortunate Events books. They started in 1999, but frankly, if it wasn’t Douglas Addams, Animorphs, or an anthology of Dave Barry colums, I wasn’t interested. Not to mention the series apparently went on FOR FUCKING EVER! As much as I loved Wheel of Time at one point, even I couldn’t see my way past book 8 for that very reason.

I saw the A Series of Unfortunate Events movie when it came out in 2004. A lot of people gave it shit even then… And it’s not difficult to see why. Jim Carrey made a passible Count Olaf, but let’s face it, the dude’s career had been going down the toilet since that remake of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Add on the fact he was also in The Number 23: a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream made by Joel Schumacher: murderer of careers, and yeah, it’s not hard to see why people didn’t like him.

Also, the movie squashed the first three books into one movie. Never a good idea. Seriously, I think they did that with The Dark is Rising movie, and whew boy, you want to talk about a movie that had me running out of the theater screaming “BETRAYAL!!!”…

Although with all that being said, I actually didn’t hate the movie. Maybe it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad. Made me laugh. Which by Lemony Snicket’s standards probably makes me a horrible human being, but whatever. I embraced the backward dark a long-ass time ago, and there’s no looking back now.
At least a decade and a half later, though, we now have Netflix: the greatest thing to happen to television since they started allowing people to say the S-word after 8:00 PM. The only real downside is living on Netflix usually means being a season behind everybody watching in real time. Also, no Game of Thrones, but seeing as how GRRM is holding The Winds of Winter hostage and can’t be bothered to write a list of demands, it’s not so bad.

And now, in 2017, we have an A Series of Unfortunate Events series on Netflix. I’ll own up to have not yet finished the series as of this writing. Frankly, the show all but encourages me to stop fucking watching it every other scene, so can you really blame me for needing a break every now and then?  I love Lemony Snicket’s tactics of getting you to read the book. It’s kind of like Cartman Land’s “You can’t come” approach to advertising in reverse. The Cartman land approach is as follows: “This is the single greatest theme park in the history of the world! The food is great! The rides are awesome! It’s tons of fun! And you can’t come! Haha haha ha ha, nehneh nehneh neh neh!” The Lemony Snicket approach, meanwhile, is more like this: “You don’t want to read this book. It’s horrible. Oh the horrible things in this book are so bad, I can’t even describe them to you without coming off as a horrible person. Here, I’ll even tell you what happens later on in the book in the first chapter! That way, it’s not quite as bad. But it’s still pretty bad. Just sayin’.”

The only real complaint I had at first was Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket. I don’t know, I guess I was too used to Jude Law ? All I know is when I thought narrator for A Series of Unfortunate Events, Brock fucking Sampson wasn’t exactly MY first pick. As the series progresses, though, you get used to it. Neil Patrick Harris steals the show, though. In fact, he steals the show, the spotlight, the director’s chair, the producer’s coffee cup (regardless of whether or not it even has coffee in it), the catering, the golden globes in the closet they haven’t handed out yet, AND your wallet.   That’s right, bitch: Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf just stole your fucking wallet, and you won’t even care because it’s absolutely perfect!

I know it’s an endurance test, and you will feel horrible, but I’m actually going to recommend you check it out. Even if it means Snicket spends the rest of eternity giving me that dirty look.

2/11/17: Mark Your Calendar!

After talking with my cover artist, and seeing how much I have left of the final draft of Lifers Wear Orange, it’s been decided that, barring some unfortunate circumstance, book 2 of Gael will be released on February 11 of this year.

I’ll be honest, this is a little behind schedule for me.  I was hoping to have everything done sometime next week.  Unfortunately, when I recruited my usual cover artist…  I hadn’t counted on the possibility he’d be super swamped with other projects.  I suppose these things happen from time to time, so what can I do beyond push back my due date, and find other things to occupy the downtime.

I’m not the kind of guy to start another project when the one I’m working on is unfinished.  I used to do that a lot in high school, and as a result, I had a lot of incomplete stories on my various computers over the years.  Stories that I’d gladly feed to the recycle bin if I hadn’t already done that.  I’ve long since broken that habit.  So much so, that starting writing on book 3 when book 2 isn’t even finished, or even starting a whole other project for that matter,  seems a little irrational.

So the release date has been moved to February 11.  Unless something happens, and I have to push it back again, but I have a hard time seeing something like that happening on my end.

The book will get here.  Even if I have to fart out some bland autogenerated cover with KDP’s cover designer program, you’ll be getting book 2 of Gael.  Then book 3 right afterward.

Until then…  patience.

2016 In Review

2016 has more or less come and gone by this point.  A lot of guys were posting their end of the year retrospectives during the week, but I’d prefer to wait till the 31st.  That way, I can guarantee something like the death of Carrie Fisher won’t sneak up on me right in the middle, and completely throw my retrospective out of wack.

A lot of people are going to tell you that 2016 was the worst year ever.  I’ll get you money at least 50% of them are democrats who are still butthurt over Hilldawg losing to Trump, and drinking the party Koolaid about how Russia hacked an election instead of admitting to themselves Hillary Clinton was a shit candidate, a neoconservative warhawk in democratic clothes, and the worst thing that could happen to America since George W. Bush.  In fact, knowing what I know now on top of everything I knew going in, the only reason I’m convinced Hillary isn’t the antichrist made flesh is because Dick Cheney isn’t dead yet.  Somehow.

I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t looking forward to a Trump presidency any more than a Hillary presidency.  To paraphrase a famous quote: “I’m disappointed Trump won, but I’m glad Hillary lost.”

Still more people see 2016 as a sort of celebrity meat grinder.  More famous people died in 2016 than any year I can think of.  Yeah, I’m bummed about some of those celebrity deaths (Carrie Fisher, Balls Mahoney and Axl Rotten, Jonie Laurer, Lemmy from Motorhead), but for the most part, it didn’t really bum me out as much as it bummed other people out.  This is America: the place where you can become a god for starring in a halfway decent movie, TV show, or put out a listenable album.  These people aren’t immortals: they’re human beings, and their batteries run out just like they would for nonfamous people.  I won’t deny it’s sad to see them go, especially if you’re friends with them or related to them, but it’s not the end of the world because Prince is dead.  Then again, I was never an especially huge Prince fan, so that probably explains why I’m not as devastated.

2016 to me had its ups, and it had its downs.

in 2016, I began my career in self publishing.  After years of trying to appeal to literary agents, publishers, and the mainstream, I finally quit, and discovered Amazon Kindle Direct.  If I’d discovered this in 2012, I’d probably have probably never touched Outskirts Press, but hey, nothing ventured, nothing learned, right?  I’ll admit, my reader base is relatively small, but at this point, I’m almost happier with the fact I have a way to put stuff out there than whether or not it’s selling.  At worst, that’s a 2017 problem.

2016 was also the year I’d found my most recent girlfriend.  Only for her to break up with me a few months later.  It figures the moment I was thinking about amending my comment of “being impaired means getting used to the idea you’re going to be alone for the rest of your life” is the moment she decides out of the blue to prove me right all along.  She fed me the old “it’s not you, it’s me” jargon, but I’ve got a side bet going that she dumped my ass because I wouldn’t vote for her gal pal Hillary.  At the time, I was going to vote Johnson, which led to our first, and pretty much ONLY real fight that ended with us both joking about voting Vermon Supreme.  If she’d stuck around a month later, she’d watch me come to the revelation that she was right all along about Johnson being a “welfare hating mongoloid”…  Although writing in Bernie Sanders probably wouldn’t have sit well with her, either in hindsight.

2016 is also the year I ended up gaining about ten pounds.  All I can say in my defense is Sarpino’s clearly puts crack in their pizza sauce.  That, or getting dumped sent me into another “if I feel full and bloated, I won’t feel so fucking empty inside” fit that went a little overboard this go-around.  DON’T YOU JUDGE ME!

2016 was the year the only rock station in KC decided to establish a cutoff date at around 2004.  Lately, they’ve made some exceptions to that rule, but if you want to hear anything new that wasn’t put out by Metallica, then you have to call in and request it.  And if you liked Red Sun Rising, Ghost, Otherwise, any Drowning Pool song that isn’t “Bodies”, or several other bands they used to play that were brand spanking new, or had something brand spanking new to show off, you’re fucked.  Five years ago, if you told me I’d end up missing Five Finger Death Punch, I’d laugh at you.  But hey, at least they still play AC-FUCKING-DC into the fucking pavement still.  And they’re right back to doing it to Led Zeppolin and Jimmy Hendrix.  *sigh* Way to prove me right about the entire fucking state of Kansas being stuck in a timewarp, KQRC.

2016 was also the year I got the news my cat will probably be toothless by 2019.  Because that poor cat hasn’t had enough go wrong in her life.That’s a blog entry all by itself right there.

2016 was also the year Avenged Sevenfold redeemed themselves for “Hail to the King” with their kickass album “The Stage”.  It was also the year Ghost seemed to explode onto the scene here in the states, but maybe that happened a lot sooner than I realize.  Like I said, Kansas is in a bit of a heavy metal time loop.  Rock is dead, Kurt Cobane killed himself so he wouldn’t be charged with it’s murder, and AC/DC is god’s gift to music.  Or at least that’s what you’d believe if you lived out here.

2016 was the year Metallica FINALLY released the album they’ve been working on since…  I want to say 2011?  It’s a two-disk love affair with the E-chord, and I’m mystified they went that route.  Surely, you could’ve fit those twelve tracks on one disk.  SURELY!  If you wanted to include a live album in the packaging with the new album, that’s fine.  But really?

2016 was also the year of the most ambitious season of South Park I can remember.  Yeah, I don’t watch a lot of TV anymore.  I usually put Adult Swim on at night out of habit.  Also because King of the Hill and Bob’s Burgers are on there, and maybe Squidbillies if I stay up late enough…  I’m getting sidetracked.

This season of South park was the most ambitious thing Stone and Parker have done since Imagination Land.  And in the end…  I found it to be a bit tedious.  Maybe I’m just not used to my season of South Park taking on overarching storylines that take for fucking ever to get through.  My friends and I refer to this as “the Netflix formula”, because a lot of Netflix originals we’ve watched over the last year or two do this all the time, and it’s part of why we see the series to the end.  Even when it sucks.  I’m looking at you, Orange is the New Black.  The Netflix formula works when everything is up and ready to view.  When you have to wait for it once a week, though, it gets boring.  Also, what the hell happened to the memberberries?  They hinted at big things possibly happening with those little guys, and then, in the home stretch, we seem to have forgotten all about them.  Are we seriously going to have to wait till season 21 to see where the memberberries plot goes?

Overall, I give them an A for effort…  And a B- at best for execution.

2016 was also the year the Curse of the Goat was lifted at long last, and The Chicago Cubs won the world series.  Tell you the truth, I’m not a huge baseball guy.  Sure, I paid really close attention to The Kansas City Royals when they made it to the world series last year, and the year before as well…  But it was lip service at absolute best.  I went to those parties for the chance to hang out with friends who aren’t always in town to hang out, and for the food more than for the actual ball game.  The Cubs, on the other hand, are a different story.  It’s not every year you get to watch a team legendary for sucking for over a century suddenly winning the big game.  And whew boy, if they made that any closer,  I know at least one guy in my circle who’d probably have a heart attack.  The Cubs became the world series champions this year.  Too bad The Chicago Bears couldn’t keep that hype train going, said the Chiefs fan.

2016 was the year of the Olympics.  It was also the first time in a long time I actually paid attention to gymnastics.  As much as I’d like to insist I was mostly watching for the purpose of making Gael as accurate as possible, but really, I ended up liking what I saw a lot more this year.  Maybe I growing to appreciate gymnastics as a sport the older I get, maybe I’ve always liked it and I just didn’t want to admit it out loud in public.  Or maybe I just have a super creepy infatuation with Simone Biles.  There’s part of me that’s about 90% convinced that girl is, like, sixteen or something.  Another part of me is more convinced it’s because she’s about four-foot-eleven or something, and if my last girlfriend is any indication, I might actually like little people a little more than I realized.  Maybe more than I SHOULD.

Great, now I have THAT moral quandary kicking around in my head.  Thanks a lot, 2016.  You jerk.

There’s a lot of other bits and pieces to 2016, but I’m not entirely sure they’re worth noting here.  Also, I can’t think of them at the moment.  So here’s to the end of an era.  And here’s to the encroaching darkness known as The Religious Right taking this country over for the next 4 to 8 years.

Darkest Dungeon: Lovecraftian Dungeon Crawler, or Charater Meat Grinder?

It’s not often I get addicted to a video game that doesn’t have the words Mortal Kombat anywhere in the title these days, but this Christmas weekend, I think I found it.  It’s a little roguelike dungeon crawler known simply as Darkest Dungeon.

I first heard of it from Noah Antwiler himself, The Spoony One, when he decided to livestream it on his Livewire series.  Honestly, I’m at a bit of an impasse when it comes to Livewire.  I love Spoony, and while others complain the man is nearly dead silent during the stream most of the time, I almost appreciate it.  I do like guys like Markiplier and Jacksepticeye, but the constant chatter that goes nowhere and might be a sign of A.D.D. and high-pitched screams of [EMOTION] get a little old in a hurry.  It’s just too bad that there hasn’t been an actual review since May of last year.

I understand nothing lasts forever, and you can only do the same thing over and over before even YOU get tired of it and want to try something new.  I appreciate the effort, and I understand nobody starts out good at new things.  That being said, I miss the reviews.  Even when I don’t agree with everything being said, Spoony always made it entertaining.  Hell, even Livewire is fascinating in it’s own way.  My only real complaint about the series is that I rarely have the time and/or patience for a two or three hour long stream.

Also, in the case of the Darkest Dungeon stream, the audio went out of sink with the video around the 1/3 mark or so, and kind of ruined the overall experience, but that aside, I enjoyed the playthrough, and it inspired me to pick up the game and try it for myself.

All I got to say is this: it’s a well designed game, but it will piss you off beyond belief.  If absolutely nothing else, this game has reconnected me with my long dorment gamer rage.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve had this much fun while getting pissed off at something.  The main gimmick of Darkest Dungeon is the fact that, on top of exploring dungeons and fighting monsters, you also have to keep your “heroes” as mentally balanced as possible.  Once you’ve completed an adventure, you send your heroes to town to drink, gamble, pray, buy a prostitute, get whipped (which oddly enough has nothing to do with the prostitute)…  Or you can just stuff them in the sanitarium for a while, and remove certain afflictions.

If you’re good at the game, you’ll come back with broken heroes, but a lot of treasure, and the ability to afford all their stress relief as well as upgrade all your shit.  If you suck, or if you hit a roadblock  like I have, though, you’ll send four heroes in, and maybe one or two will survive long enough for you to abandone the quest halfway in, and need to relieve their stress.  Unfortunately, you don’t have enough money for ANYTHING, because you need to save what little you got from the dungeon on provisions for the next dungeon.  And before long, you find yourself in an endless loop, and realize five or six attempts in that your graveyard has about forty different dudes in it.

It’s at this point I stopped naming the characters.  I’m even going out of my way to avoid using one or two until I’m one-hundred percent certain I can beat the mission with them.  I got too attached to Dismal Dan the highway man and Hamburgers the jester.  In fact, there might be a story in that.

Relax, I’m going to finish the Gael trilogy LONG before I start on that one.

Anyway, the point I was getting at is that once you hit a roadblock like I have, the game becomes less of a fun little romp into Lovecraft esque story telling and surprisingly fun turn-based combat (two concepts I rarely associate with each other), and it becomes more of what I’ve heard D&D players call a “meat grinder campaign.”

Clearly this term came out before MMORPGs became popular, and the term GRINDING was associated with repetitive tasks designed specifically to boost your stats.  Meat grinder, in the context it was shared with me, tends to describe a campaign, tabletop or otherwise, that just shreds through your characters.  By the time it’s all said and done, everybody playing has gone through a bare minimum of five character sheets, and the characters who managed to survive the adventure and claim glory are barely alive enough to enjoy it.  D&D was never my game (my friends were more of a Shadow Run group), but believe me, I know what those are like.  In the case of D&D, I’ve heard stories.  I might even go as far as to say that, in a weird way, George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is a bit of a meat grinder.

Darkest Dungeon is definitely a meat grinder, but honestly, it’s a FUN meat grinder.  That sounds weird when I read it back, but I’m keeping in mind that I’m a guy who enjoys feeding documents to his paper shredder.  So yeah, consider the source.

Seriously, though, this is one of those games where you will bitch, you will swear, and you will make the neighbors think a domestic disturbance might be taking place next door.  However, you might actually find it to be an entertaining experience despite all that.  A wise man once said: “There is no glory in a quest without peril.”

Darkest Dungeon is the kind of game that drives you insane with its gimmick, it’s randomly generated maps, its steap difficulty, and its unforgiving approach to dungeon crawlers.  It’s the kind of game that pisses you off, makes it personal in the process…  But somehow has me coming back for more.  Am I a masochist?  Nah.  If my experience in the dating game is anything to go by, I’m at that point where logically, I should give up and get used to marking that particular aspect of my life as a failure, but somehow, I’m stubborn enough to say “fuck that” and go back into the melee anyway, knowing full well it’s never going to work out, and will only drive me fucking crazy with every failure in the process.

Do I recommend Darkest Dungeon?  Sure, why not?  Give it a look over for yourself.

 

Christmas Present: Lifers Wear Orange Sample Chapter!

As the old song goes: “If I ain’t drunk, it ain’t Christmas.”  I guess it’s Christmas, because despite how much Baha’i god hates it, I got liquored up on Pie Hole (pecan pie flavored whiskey), and had me a merry-ass Christober.  Or whatever.  Yeah, I’m still wobbly, and my back aches just like it did in July.  Strangely, not as badly as it did in July.

After hanging out with my family, and playing a drunken game of Exploding Kittens with everybody (BTW, I highly recommend that game), I’m back, I’m at a bit of a roadblock in Darkest Dungeon (more to come on that), and The Chiefs don’t play for another hour or so, so I figured now would be the perfect time to give you little imps your Christmas present.

The wrapping paper comes off, and to your amazement/disappointment/perplexity, it’s the official sample chapter for Lifers Wear Orange!  ENJOY!

NOTE: Lifers Wear Orange’s speculated release date is some time in late January, or early February.  More on that as it gets to me.  I might also note that this version of the chapter is the second draft.  If there are any noticeable spelling errors or what not, try to keep in mind this is still being proofread.

 

 

 

LIFERS WEAR ORANGE: BOOK 2 OF GAEL

 

COPYRIGHT 2016 THOMAS J. BLACK

 

4: ROISIN

 

I arrived at Camelbrook penatentury the day after my trial. It was a step up from the county jail. At least, up until I got past the front offices. Once I was escorted into the prison proper… Well… It’s honestly very amazing how one side of the building can look so nice, and the rest of the building look like hell on Earth. And Earthcrafters don’t even believe in hell.

The floors were filthy, say for a fresh white line of paint that separated various bits of the facility from other parts. The guard, a large man with a bleach blonde mullet, handlebar moustache, and biceps the size of bowling balls, immediately assured me I wouldn’t have to worry about that line.

“That line only applies to inmates assigned to tempblock,” he told me. “You’re going into liferblock.”

He took me to an empty room, and handed me over to another guard. This one wasn’t nearly as tall, but she was just as bored with her job as Muscle Man over there was. She looked over her clipboard, then looked directly at me.

“Ro-ee-sin O’Malley?” she said, not sure how to pronounce my name.

“ROW-SHEEN,” I corrected, trying really hard to hide my annoyance at that point.

“Whatever,” she replied, apathetically. “Take it off.”

As I stripped, I could hear the sound of a rubber glove being pulled on. Her gloved hand searched my body from neck to arse, she asking me to “squat and cough” somewhere toward the end of it. When she was finally convinced I wasn’t smuggling anything in, she pulled off the glove, and threw it in the trash.

“You’re clean,” she said, apathetic as before. She walked over to a table, and pulled out a bundle of orange clothes. “Put these on.”

I did as I was told. Included in the bundle of clothing was a white sports bra, an orange sweater, orange sweatpants, and a white pair of panties so bulky that they could’ve easily been Y-fronts. The orange clothes smelled like they’d just come from the laundry, but somehow managed to look dirty despite it. She then handed me a pair of gray socks, then a pair of black crocks.

Campbell will escort you next door for your prison ID,” she explained, as bored as anything else. “Make any stupid faces, and it’ll count as a strike.”

Campbell, the man I’d called “muscle man” in my head, came into the room, and escorted me into the next place I needed to be. I stood in front of a blue wall, and a black man who had to be in his seventies at absolute youngest snapped my picture with some contraption attached to his computer. A few minutes later, I was handed a warm laminated card with my picture, my name (the accent mark over the second I in ROISIN missing), and the number 70259 printed underneath it.

“Orientation is down the hall,” the elderly man told me. “Campbell will escort you there.”

Campbell took me out of the room, and escorted me down the hall. As we walked, I couldn’t help but notice a chubby little brunette mopping the floor up ahead. I guessed she was one of the inmates at first, considering she was wearing a jumpsuit with a number on the front and back. Strangely, though, her jumpsuit was powder blue.

“Stay in bounce, inmate,” Campbell warned.

“I’m on janitorial,” she replied.

“All the same,” said Campbell.

He must’ve noticed the look I was giving the inmate then, because I didn’t even have time to ask the question. “She’s a temp,” he explained. “Temps wear blue.   Lifers wear orange.”

“Ooph, a lifer,” said the inmate. “I do not envy you. No sir, I do not…”

“That’s enough, inmate,” said Campbell, a hint of warning in his tone.

He walked me past her, and eventually, after a couple turns this way and that, we arrived in what appeared to be an office. There was definitely a desk, a couple filing cabinets, a phone, a walky-talky, and a couple chairs. Behind the desk sat a man who looked like he was expecting me.

This new man was a black fella with a bald head, and a tan suit with a black tie. He was about the same height I was, but a lot pudgier. His face was clean shaven, but his suit looked like it could use a wash.

“Ah, Ms. O’Malley, I presume,” he greeted. His voice had a very thick Jamaican accent. Not what I was expecting, in all honesty. “Welcome to your new home. My name is Jeremy Young, and I will be the one looking after you from now on.”

“Uh… Okay,” was all I could say.

“Normally,” he continued, “we hold orientation in the movie room, but since you’re the only new inmate we’ve had in three months, I might as well just tell you everything you need to know here. Saves me a trip.”

He picked up a couple papers from his desk, and began to read their contents out loud.

“You are here because you’ve broken the law,” he said, mechanically and hurredly. “You are now, and until the end of your sentence, state property. You will do everything the guards tell you to do. Failure to comply will result in a strike. Three strikes will result in you spending any amount of time we see fit in solitary. Depending on the severity of your offense, you might not even receive strikes prior to confinement in solitary. Consecutive solitary confinements, or the severity of the offense that results in said solitary confinements will result in you being transferred to a medium, maximum, or even a supermaximum security facility if necessary. Good behavior, meanwhile, will result in privileges ranging from longer phone calls, specialty items, and any other privileges we deem worthy of your behavior. You will be sharing living space with many other women. Yes, some of them are lesbians. No, you will not be forced into having lesbian sex with any of…”

He paused then, looking over his paperwork. It was then that I realized he actually wasn’t reading from a paper, but reciting this whole routine from memory! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little impressed, although I immediately figured it was because he’d done this so many times before I came here. I wasn’t sure what was on his paperwork until he spoke up again.

“Oh dear,” he said. “You appear to be rooming with her.”

“Who’s her?” I asked.

“You’ll meet her soon enough,” he told me. “We’ll be checking her for forks or knives, but you may want to be on your best behavior around her just in case we missed something. She’s been a bit of a problem case.”

That really didn’t fill me with a lot of confidence. He was in no hurry to tell me everything would be fine, either. Probably because he wasn’t obligated. Or maybe because it really wasn’t. Either way, he finished his speech, and before I knew it, we were on the move once again.

I was taken down a flight of stairs. There, I saw cell after cell along both walls. Most cells had two women in them, but occasionally, I’d see a cell with only one woman in it. I kept thinking for sure I was going to get crammed in there with the enormous black woman. Or maybe I’d end up with the Indian woman with the weird tattoo on her forehead (it wasn’t your usual red dot mark you usually see on Hindu women’s foreheads). Or maybe even the woman with the shoulder sling. It turned out neither of them were going to be my cellmate.

He took me down to the very end of the hall. Another guard, an equally large man with a black buzzcut, took one look at me, and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a massive ring of keys, and after a moment or two of looking through them all, he found the one he was looking for, used it to unlock the barred door, and pulled the cell door aside.

Campbell moved me forward… And that’s when I saw who I’d be rooming with for the rest of my life. My eyes locked on to hers as she just sat there on the bottom bunk. She didn’t seem to recognize me right away, but I recognized her immediately. A horrified gasp escaped me as I backed up a step.

“Meet your new roomy,” said Campbell, oblivious… Or more likely, uninterested in my state of shock.

“Try not to stab this one, Mahoney,” said the other guard.

Campbell nudged me forward. Left with no options, I did as he instructed, and went into the cell. The other guard slammed the door, locked the lock, and went on his way. Campbell, meanwhile, peaked in through the bars.

“Dinner’s at eighteen-hundred hours,” he told me. “In the meantime, I suggest you two get to know each other a little better.”

I didn’t have to get acquainted with her a little better: we’d already met a couple weeks ago back at Ron Swanson National Park. I wasn’t sure what her real name was, although I remembered that other guard called her Mahoney. But I knew what she went by. And now, I was locked in a cell with her. Badb: the woman who tried to kill me in my Gael persona. Badb: the woman who tried to hit on me while I was in my Gael persona. Badb: the woman who stabbed me in the arse in my Gael persona. Oh yeah, we were acquainted.

Or that’s what I thought, anyway. She was still looking me over when the guard left, but after a couple moments of incredibly uncomfortable silence, she went back to staring at her shoes.

“Hi,” I greeted anxiously.

“Hey,” she replied, apathetically.

I slowly, cautiously took a seat next to her on the bottom bunk. Seeing how she was way more interested in her feet than me, I took in the scenery. Or lack there of. The floor of the cell was the same greenish-gray as the rest of the prison, and the walls were the same dull grayish color. The only things in our cell were the bunk bed we were sitting on, and a toilet off in the corner. A week ago, that probably would’ve revolted me, but now, having been left with no alternative to watching four other women take turns on the bog, it wasn’t so shocking. At least this one had paper.

“So,” said Badb. Or I guess she was Mahoney now. “What’s your name?”

I cleared my throat. “Roisin,” I said.

There was a moment of silence between us as I feared that’d be what she needed to put two and two together. Once again, she didn’t seem to figure anything out.

“Roisin what?” she asked.

“Roison O’Malley,” I answered.

Again I feared, and again, she didn’t figure it out.

“Barbara Mahoney,” she said. “Call me Mahoney. Girls who don’t have nicknames around here generally go by last names. From what I’ve observed, they only go by first names if they both have the same last name, and nothing about them deserves a nickname.”

“Oh. Okay. So… I should go by O’Malley then?”

“Pff, with an accent like that, you’re probably going to end up with something Irish as a nickname. Or maybe just Irish.”

There was more silence between us. Then…

“Okay, let’s get this much straight,” said Mahoney, immediately shifting from bored to authoritative. “I get the top bunk, you get the bottom. You keep your back to me when I’m on the shitter. When we’re out in the cafeteria, or in the showers, or the recreation room, you stay near me at all times.”

“Do I need to put my finger in your belt loop?” I asked.

“Nah, nothing like that. Unless you really want to.” She shot me a sly grin that disappeared as quickly as it arrived. “Good news is you don’t have to worry about dropping the soap around here. First off, because they give us body wash. Second, because women usually aren’t like that. You aren’t interested, they’ll take the hint. Eventually.”

“Um, okay. What’s the bad news, then?”

“Other than a few of these women are really persuasive on top of being lonely, horny, and decided to be gay for the stay? Not much. Either way, if one of them decides not to take the hint, you tell me, and I’ll make sure they get the hint. Trust me, they’ll take the hint then. The two or three who won’t got stuffed in the box yesterday, and word has it they aren’t coming back, so…”

“The box?”

“Solitary. You get three strikes, and…”

“Oh, okay, I know what that is. The Jamaican guy explained that part.”

“Oh. Right. Well anyway, the point of all this is if you don’t want to get into a fight, or you don’t want someone trying to flirt with you, you stick with me, got it?”

“Got it.”

She didn’t say anything for a while. This seemed to be the pattern we’d established: long silences, and short question and answer sessions in between.

“So,” I asked, carefully, “What are you in for?”

Babs snorted. “Where do I start?” she replied. “Well, I guess trying to stab someone to death a couple weeks ago was what got me here. Really, though, this isn’t even my first time in prison. But it’ll definitely be the last.”

“What got you here the first time?”

“I wasn’t here the first time I went to prison. Technically, I’d gone to juvi the first time. Spent most of my high school years in juvi.”

“Oh. Uh, for what?”

She shot me a dirty look then. “Never you mind.”

“Well… Uh… I mean, we’re going to be here for life, and…”

“And how is knowing what I went to juvi for going to benefit you?”

I didn’t answer.

“Exactly. Never mind how we got here, because you’re here, and you’re never getting out.” She stood up then, and jumped up to the top bunk. “I’m taking a nap. A little hint: nap frequently. It helps pass the time when you’re in the cell.”

I didn’t say anything. What would be the point? Mahoney was pretty sure that was the end of the conversation, and there was no changing her mind.

I flopped down on my own bed underneath hers, and tried to take her advice. I don’t know if it was nerves, or just not being all that shattered, but I just couldn’t go to sleep. I was very thankful she didn’t realize Roisin O’Malley and Gael were the same person, but I had a feeling there was a lot more to worry about in here than that. I was not looking forward to my time here, but it could’ve been worse. It could’ve been all in vein.