Fiction Hats

December 14th, 2020

Let’s talk about The Flying Squirrel.

To start, I want to give my friend Natalie a super-special shout-out for weaving this wonderful knitted cap. I asked if she could make one with “squirrel ears like my comic book hero’s” and she didn’t trip a beat; it turned out better than I could ever imagine. Thanks, Nat!

The Flying Squirrel was the first hero I introduced as part of my Weirdos series, and he’s the closest to my heart; he is not, however, a copy-and-paste documentation of who I am. Ashley Maypole and I are different people with different lives, but we’re also quite similar in universal and intimate ways. Even if I didn’t write him, I would undoubtedly relate to him. He was the key I needed to explore alcoholism in my story.

He came into existence while I was still drinking, and it wasn’t a plan that he would stop. He was going to be an active alcoholic while I still refused to admit I was one. I eventually decided that a thing would happen, and when the thing happened, he was going to be confronted and shipped off to Lake Mary, a rehabilitation center.

The funny thing is, once Ashley got sober, so did I. It’s funny because Ashley, for me, was my “fiction suit” in the world of the Weirdos. Don’t know what a fiction suit is? Allow me to explain.

Paper is two-dimensional. You are not. That means fictional fantasy worlds, like those found in novels and comic books, can be absolutely real in your mind but you can’t physically go to them.

Or can you?

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby used to write themselves into issues of Fantastic Four. You could argue that’s not the same as physically traveling to a different world, but isn’t it? They were drawing two-dimensional versions of themselves which could fit and live inside the book; those fiction suits could now interact with the other characters. They could have conversations and go on adventures together. And the relationship exists beyond the page.

You don’t have to put a literal version of yourself in a story like Stan and Jack did; a fiction suit is a representation. And the fiction suit works both ways; you can pull things from inside those worlds back out into real life. You can write scenarios and situations for your character that you’ll find suddenly confronting you in this reality.

And that’s what happened. I wrote myself into sobriety. The words that start and end the issue — “Anything can be saved” and “Everything can be destroyed” — were mantras I was repeating in my soul at the end of my drinking life. I was reminding myself that I could ruin everything at any time if I kept living this way — and that I, too, could be saved, just like anybody else.

I wrote a post about layers and digging deep the other day, and the characters in The Weirdos are true examples of that. I’m proud of how deceptively complex and real each one is. You can read more about characters like Ashley on my blog — like the battle we share with Imposter Syndrome: — and in the first volume of The Weirdos: From Sand, To Glass.

Hey, Jealousy

December 11th, 2020

I’ve been thinking about the green-eyed monster lately. (I’m talking about jealousy, not the Hulk, but I also think about the Hulk often.)

I’ve been a jealous person for most of my life. A lot of what I created in my twenties came from the twin intertwining roots of jealousy and control. The first song I ever wrote in high school was on the topic, and it was written by a person who had never actually experienced it in an exterior reality, but permanently lived it inside his head.

It might not come as a revelation to anybody else, but it did to me when I realized on my own that jealousy is a direct descendent of insecurity, like anger or hate is born of fear. I think the deepest people tend to dig on that insecurity is skin-deep. It’s what you can or can’t do. It’s what you look or don’t look like. It’s the relationships you have or don’t have.

Imagine a camera on a tripod. Now imagine the tripod has a broken leg. No matter how many times you set up the shot, the photo turns out blurry or crooked. Treating the near-surface reasons for jealousy is like buying a new camera instead of fixing the leg. Your sense of image in both cases will still be distorted.

Instead, you have to keep digging. And you get to the cold, hard bud of it all, and understand that your insecurity isn’t based on your ability to throw a football or write a song or bake a cake. No, it’s based in the idea that you, at the very core of your being, are not worthy.

Not worthy of time or space or love. Not worthy of consideration or conversation, of acknowledgment or accomplishment.

And if that sounds ridiculous — I agree.

It’s ridiculous that you don’t know how exquisite, magnificent and unique you are. You’ve survived 2020. You’ve survived your entire life so far. A constellation of cells in the shape you make had never graced the sky before you did, and will never be seen again.

Not only are you worthy — you are absolutely divine, regardless of what you believe.

I’ve been thinking about the green-eyed monster lately, but on better and more hopeful terms.

I’ve been thinking about all the ways that we can slay it.

I Managed To Celebrate Three Years of Sobriety in 2020

December 9th, 2020

Over the past three years, I feel like I’ve done okay.

I wrote stuff. (Books, comics, songs, and over 60,000 words of blog material, to name some of it.) I did stuff (like go to conventions and concerts, on adventures and meetings). I thought stuff and I felt stuff. Like, really thought and felt it.

I was decent. I was reliable. I was empathetic. I was passionate. I was patient. I was kind (most of the time).

With help, I forged tools for the inside of me that I had never used before. I sewed myself a bag to carry them in.

I have dealt and am dealing with a lot. Some of the worst things I could imagine, brought to life in unimaginable ways. Darkness and hunger and heaviness and tragedy.

But, as of today, I’ve done okay for three whole years — without pouring myself a single drink.

And in a year that feels like a net full of losses, I need to remember to take photos of the keepers.

All my love today to those who still struggle, and to those who have found the people, places, words, and things that have helped you find better days.

Subconscious Wormhole

December 3rd, 2020

May 1st, 1985. I’m born. I am my parents’ first child, as far as I know.

September 16th, 2020. I get a phone call from my sister. My mom is in the hospital due to extreme stomach pain. Within a few days, we learn she has cancer. We are optimistic and ready to fight.

October 16th, 2020. My mom passes away.

January 14th, 1995. My third and youngest sister is born. She is my parents’ last child, of that I am certain. I cut her umbilical cord and am sick for the rest of the day.

October 31st, 1991. My mom has spent a lot of time making me a Halloween costume, and Mother Nature cares not one bit. Being six, I don’t have a clear memory of this snowstorm, but I do know I wore a winter coat over my homemade fiction suit.

November 30th, 2019. I have Thanksgiving at home. This will be the last time I have a Thanksgiving meal that my mom makes and the second-to-last time I beat her in the dime game.

July 13th, 2003. I have my high school graduation party. I play a concert on my porch. My mom is rightfully proud of me for completing school, and is proud that I have learned to create music, which is easier for her because she is deaf.

February 29th, 2020. I do my first convention of the year. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this one. I do not know it will be the last, both of 2020 and that my mom will ever attend.

January 25th, 2007. Jack is born. He is my first child, as far as I know.

December 25th, 1995. It’s Christmas and we get a Sega Genesis with the Toy Story game. I remember the graphics blowing my mind. I don’t remember what we ate that year.

Fall 1990. My mom and I get in an argument. I threaten her by saying I’m going to tell everybody she’s mean. She tells me that they’ll take me away and I’ll get a new mom and asks if I would like that. It takes me one time of feeling this fear to know that I will never want to lose my mom.

Today. I think about time travel, as I do. I realize that the closest I can currently get is displaying words on a flat surface, turning linear experience into simultaneous. All at the same time, I can sing and eat a Thanksgiving dinner and be at a convention and see my sister’s birth. I am born and my mom dies and then she sews me a Halloween costume that I will have to hide under a jacket.

I am having difficulties in believing in anything other than this, the idea that my subconscious is a source of eternity where everything and everyone lives forever as long it exists. This belief started on May 1st, 1985, which is also the beginning of time.


December 2nd, 2020

I like to dig deep.

When I’m dead and gone, you may force yourself to read or listen to something I did to try to understand why people are calling me “a unique talent who was taken too soon.” (I don’t really know what that is or how that doesn’t describe every human being on this planet, but it sounds good and saintly and I’ll give you permission from the afterlife to say it.)

And maybe, when you read or listen to that thing, you’ll remember this post about what I said about digging deep. When I create things, I make them like an everlasting gobstopper. I make the outside blue. The outside is the part of the candy that everyone understands. But then, below, there’s yellow and pink and, if you keep at it, colors that nobody else will ever discover.

For example: I have a song called Rerun. It describes a break-up, a bender, and the day after, nursing a hangover with television reruns. The lyrics are jam-packed with sweet references, but my favorite one is probably:

“Two of a kind’s ironically a full house.”

Blue layer — Generally, when two people become a couple, any more people can be too many. This is a concept most jealous humans inherently understand.

Yellow layer — It’s a poker reference. It describes two hands that only a person familiar with the card game would get. This is the layer that makes the lyric “ironic.”

Pink layer — My favorite: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were on a mega-popular television program called “Full House.” When it ended, the twins tried to recreate that same magic on a show called — wait for it — “Two of a Kind.”

I guess all I’m trying to say is that when I’m gone, I hope I’ve given enough of who I am to what I’ve done that people are finding layers forever, layers that I hadn’t even consciously built, and that it gives them joy and sadness and a sense of being.

This is an absolutely awful photo of my beard phase that my sister found and I just know that there’s damn layers here.

Let’s Talk

December 1st, 2020

Do you write a blog? Do you articulate articles for a website? Are you a constant content generator? Do you have your own podcast? Because, if so, I have an idea: PLEASE INTERVIEW ME.

As we navigate this second lockdown, I find myself with time on my hands and still looking for unique ways to share my work. Maybe that’s where you come in.

What would we talk about? We could discuss what it’s like to release two books in one year during a pandemic. We could talk about how one of those books took a WEEK to write. If your platform has a topic, I could learn a thing or two about it. (I love learning.) If you’re a fellow creative type, we could interview each other! The possibilities are literally endless!

So, if you’re looking for a subject, hit me up and we can chat about some subjects. Coffee is on me.

Grateful For Moments

November 26th, 2020

Today I’m grateful for my sneak-a-peeks.

Those moments when you’re asleep and someone who loves you takes the opportunity to look at you for a longer-than-normal period of time. Those moments when you get to do the same when someone you love is napping across from you on the couch.

My mom was always sneaking peeks.

I can remember nights when she’d walk to the bathroom, and on her way back she’d sneak a peek into each of our bedrooms. At the time I didn’t get it, but now I understand that she was just filling up her mental camera roll, getting some good shots, for the days when we weren’t under the same roof, for in case we would ever be gone.

I learned how to do the same.

I’m grateful for the opportunity I afford myself to appreciate a moment, and let myself be a weirdo and really take it all in. The quiet ones, the stressful ones, the subtle ones, the life-changing ones.

The time you take to memorize crease lines and eyebrows and beauty marks and fur, sometimes.

It being a weird Thanksgiving helps it feel not like a First. A First, everybody reminds you, will always be the hardest. But I’ve only cried twice today, and as I sneak a peek at the puppy on my lap under the blanket right now, I know that as long as I keep peeking, a part of her is alive in me.

Happy Whatever You Celebrate Sale!!

November 25th, 2020

Hello, friends. I want to start this post by acknowledging how hard this year has been for so many people, myself included. Material things feel stupid right now, but they can also be essential, so I’m doing something that’s difficult for independent writers and artists to do just because I want to do it: I’m having a small Black Friday sale, starting now, on a Wednesday, because what are days of the week in 2020 anyway?

First things first: most people want to support local people, and a lot of people are broke right now. So let’s talk about the free ways you can show your fandom for your favorite creators.

Reviews are essential. Online reviews — for example, if you have a blog, or on sites like Amazon — are amazing because of the reach they can have. But word-of-mouth can be even more powerful, and I know, because some of my biggest supporters have come from someone who told them, “You have to check this out.”

Even without a full review, you can put those fingers, toes, and other appendages to use with a few simple clicks: Likes, Shares, Comments, Saves, Tags, and Photos can go a long way in giving your love.

Now, for my sale: I’m offering discounted prices and a never-before-available bundle for the first few weeks of the holiday season! Need to catch up or complete your collection? Now’s the time. Want to get your friend into something but don’t want to potentially lose your own copy? Grab a gift!

Feel free to message me with any questions or requests.

I put a lot of love into my work, and I know some people could use a little love and hope right now. Discounting my own work is stupid, but if it means even one more person can dig in, then it is more than worth it.

Happy Holidays to you all. All my love.

Bee The Difference

November 24th, 2020

Do you know the difference between a wasp and a bee?

It started as something simple but substantial.

Basically, wasps are carnivores. A long, long time ago, a wasp woke up and decided to try out a vegetarian diet. It found that plants could not only supply all the nutrients it needed, but without all the unnecessary drama and danger.

So, thus, bees were born.

Once they made the switch from fauna to flora, their bodies started to adapt, too; it’s the reason those little teddies have all that fur, for example.

Even more incredible than that: plant-life is dramatically different now than it was millions of years ago, and that’s largely because bees decided to be better. They developed what’s called coevolution (the vortices of which can be seen all over the natural world, including the special relationship between humans and dogs). It’s what happens when nature stops competing and understands the benefit of cooperation.

So why do I bring this up today? Well, for one, I will talk about bees anytime. Bees are dope.

But I really wanted to write about this because I love the reminder that sometimes the change in the world you want to see begins with you, and that’s true on a deep biological and spiritual level.

It’s proof that anyone can be better. Whether that means you’re sick or struggling or completely lost, one day you might wake up and make a simple choice that will change the rest of your life. And that personal change will influence generations after you, and it will fundamentally shift the world around you by planting seeds to flowers that have never existed before.

That’s something to think about.

Damn it, I should have said “buzz about.” How did I miss that pun?

Introduction Version.2021

November 20th, 2020

This may be your first (or might be your one thousandth) time here, but it’s been a minute since I introduced myself, and I want this greeting to be updated for 2021.

So, hi. I’m happy to see you today.

My name is Dennis. I’m a lot of things — I’m the guy sitting at the table in this photo, for example — but the simplest word I would use to describe me is storyteller.

I was born in the 80’s and am a lifelong comics & pop culture obsessive. Both have saved my life countless times, and I mean that literally. I’ve expressed myself artistically in a lot of different ways over the years — I released a trio of full-length albums as The Next Step when I was a puppy, I began publishing my own books soon after with the help of Kickstarter, I started a character business called Awesome For Hire — and I always wanted my strange journey to lead to comics.

In August of 2018, I released my first comic book: The Flying Squirrel, which is part of a flawed superhero series called The Weirdos. Over the next two years, I released a total of five issues of the series, eventually collecting & coloring them for a graphic novel volume that was published in May of 2020. The heroes in The Weirdos find each other through their struggles; they deal with things like alcoholism, depression, cancer & anger issues.

I write, draw and produce all of my own work. I did go to art school for a minute, said, “Nah, I’m good,” and am mostly self-taught. I write books for adults — that look like they were drawn by a child.

My latest novella, Theia, is about a silver Boston Terrier who just wants to go outside. My next graphic novel, Brushfire, will be my first for all ages.

The back of my business card has my motto: “Always Love.” It means to try to make your decisions based on love, as opposed to fear or hate. To have compassion over strength, empathy over power. I really believe in that.

I love my dog, I love words, I love art — and I ❤ you. And that’s it.

Visit my website and tell me I sent you.