Enter the Vortex

I would just like to mention the new Vortex Books & Comics, bricks n’ mortar brainchild of authors Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni. Opening roughly in the springtime of 2024, the store could use a donation, large, small, or mammoth, to help apply ignition and thrust sufficient to reach LEO, and beyond. If you would like to help Vortex reach Escape Velocity, you can donate here.


That Bitter Pill


Saorise Ronan

Saorise Ronan

Saorise Ronan

The author, Donna Tartt, once wrote that sometimes, people fail, no matter how hard they work, no matter that they make all the right moves, and that this is a bitter pill to swallow.

I have been failing as a writer. During the last two months, I’ve been in and out of the hospital five times. I am 52 years on this Earth, and despite my very best efforts, I have been largely unable to sell my literary work.

During the past three or four years, I have decided to quit writing on four occasions, the very most recent one being yesterday. I’m far too thin-skinned, and I cannot find a reliable critique partner (except for Dave, of NC: you know who you are! And occasionally, Dean, of Canada). If I could let go of it, I could spare myself much heartbreak and focus solely on my illustration work…except I can’t.

To paraphrase William Burroughs, “[writing] is a virus from outer space.” For those of us unfortunate enough to be infected, quitting writing is on par with ceasing to breathe. So, I have basically been cursed to suffer, and KEEP suffering…except that, the act of writing, those times when I am so lost in the Realms of Story that I cannot hear the phone ring, are the limited hours that I get to spend time in heaven. Heaven is addictive, much like heroin, and falling in love, again and again….

I still draw (though during the interminable periods of my hospitalizations, I cannot touch the stuff), but I have failed, repeatedly, to exclude writing fiction, so that I must bounce back and forth like a ping pong ball, between visual and literary work. It only feels like a trap because I cannot manage to sell anything, which is an experience diametrically opposed to my writing experiences during the 90s. So I must fail, and keep failing, at something that I consider holy.

But life is tough all over, and I must stop whining about it.

New Story: The Martian Wave

My flash science fiction story, “The Last Goodbye,” is in the November 2022 issue of The Martian Wave. This is a story about how, in an era of interstellar space travel, two people can be separated, for all intents and purposes, forever. If you’ve read the story and come away with a heavy heart, this might perk you up: another story, featuring the same two characters, will find them reunited against impossible odds, in order to face a dire threat to the entire human presence in the Milky Way galaxy. I will post more about this once the story gets underway.

The Martian Wave (November 2022)

I Fly On Wings of Onyx Ink

You can toil and exert all your powers in the arts, whichever art you happen to practice, and still feel disappointment as your expectations remain unrealized, so it feels wonderful when something like this comes along:

“On behalf of Penumbric, I’d like to let you know ‘I Fly on Wings of Onyx Ink’ has been selected for the hard copy Best of Penumbric, vol v (June 2k21 to April 2k22)! Congratulations! And thank you again for submitting it to us in the first place!”

My thanks to Jeff Georgeson, editor-in-chief at Penumbric Magazine, for finding value in my drawings.

More of my drawings will be appearing in Penumbric over the next year. Here is the most recent example.

New Myths Live with My Cover Art

Vol. 16 / Issue 59 / Summer 2022

New Myths Summer 2022

This illustration, titled “Flight,” was a jumping-off point for the excellent prose poem “New Beginnings,” written by the inimitable, gifted writer Marge Simon. We collaborated on a few projects, including one challenge wherein one person’s art acted as inspiration for another’s literary work. Working with Marge, even with her being 1,500 miles away in Florida, rekindled what, at the time, felt like an artistic block.

I also wrote a rather short story based on Marge’s drawing, “Vision.” The result is named “The Last Goodbye,” set to appear in the November 2022 issue of Hiraeth Publishing’s magazine The Martian Wave, edited by Tyree Campbell.


The Artist is a Lonely Hunter

You sit in a room devoid of human company, your eyes glued to a screen. You don’t so much as twitch. What’s on the screen fills you with loathing. Self-loathing. You are, simultaneously, emotionally barren, angry beyond all reasonable limits, and yearning for the approval of your peers; hell, yearning for the presence of your peers, somebody, anybody!…who is crazy enough to put themselves through this grinder for so little reward.

You are not “sucking the glass teat,” though it may seem so to an outsider, to anyone reading this limited collection of facts. In fact, you hate television! What you’re doing is the loneliest work on planet Earth, because you have to. You are possessed by a demon with no name, who compels you to come back and come back and come back again! You are punishing yourself for very little reward.

Death isn’t the only lonely business: with apologies to Ray Bradbury. Writing can be lonely, too. Very lonely.

I’ve been fortunate. I have had William O’Donnell as a friend. In 1992, Will talked me into going to a monthly meeting of the Garden State Horror Writers (GSHW), an organization geared towards supporting writers of genre fiction, even people who didn’t write horror. Will also cajoled me into joining the Horror Book Discussion Group at the late, lamented Borders Books & Music in East Brunswick, where I met the girl who would one day become my wife.

The GSHW was the brainchild of horror author Pat Graversen, who published a string of novels for Kensington Publisher’s Corp. during the 80s and early-90s. Without the friends and support I found at GSHW, the critiques and lessons, and necessary instruction on how one should structure a manuscript meant for publication and how to formulate a good cover letter, and before the internet age, the importance of accompanying with your manuscripts, a SASE (Say-Z), or Self-Addressed Stamped
Envelope. Every month, we had a guest speaker, often an established author or editor, and occasionally, an agent.

In such an atmosphere, even if only once a month, I felt ensconced in a community or writers, and yes, also artists. Writing was not lonely in those days. But in the early aughts, I began to have health problems, so I stopped attending meetings, though I remained a member in good standing for several years to follow (I was also a professional member of the Horror Writer’s Association (HWA)).

Gradually, with my only contact with the writing world the editors to whom I submitted my fiction, who increasingly rejected my work, the joy leeched away into the infertile soil of a fearsome depression. Writer’s block followed, and it lasted for ten years. The consequences to an artist, in any medium, of failing to practice their art range from dissatisfaction, pessimism and anger to major depression, failure to self-care (and care for your dependents) and suicidal ideation. High creativity is not a choice. Failure to practice it can ruin your life.

Author and psychological counselor Beth Pickens states in her 2021 book Make Your Art No Matter What: Moving Beyond Creative Hurdles, that “Artists need a community of other active artists who want good things for themselves and one another.” However, living in a suburban sprawl like Central Jersey makes for a virtual graveyard of “Creative Hurdles.” Yes, there are online groups and social media groups. But the hunt for groups that are as advanced as you, and not in the stratosphere, is in itself a disheartening endeavor.

And yet…and yet, there is something about meeting face-to-face with your peers and mentors that fosters inspiration in ways not found on Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Skype, and other cloud-based meeting spaces: mainly the private tête-à-têtes that allow one to speak freely and build friendships and alliances with like-minded people. With a single exception, all of my artistic friendships began with people that I spent real time with, in the physical world—people whose hands I shook (or in the age of COVID, an elbow bump would make for just as meaningful a contact.)