The Evolution of Custom Art #4

Yay! Trevor sent me a final ‘rough’ sketch of the scene as we’ve agreed on. It’s making me extremely excited. I can only hope the book itself is even 5% as awesome as the cover.

Final 'rough' scene sketch before painting!

Final ‘rough’ scene sketch before painting!


















Can’t wait to see this fully painted! There’s still the whole back cover to show you at some point.

The Evolution of Custom Art #3

Right. So. As you might have seen a while back, I was having some custom artwork done for two books: “Extraction” and “Diabolus”

To make a long, rage-filled story short and to the point, I found a new artist:
Trevor Smith
Trevor Smith Art

Here’s the initial concept sketch(es) he sent me:

"Diabolus" initial rough sketches

“Diabolus” initial rough sketches










I picked out a lot of the things I liked from all four panels, let Trevor know, and this is what he’s sent back:

"Diaboulus" secondary rough sketches

“Diaboulus” secondary rough sketches










Stay tuned to see what the next stage of evolution is for the cover, as well as the eventual finish product (which will also have a ‘back cover’ for the print paperback version).

The Big Bhang #4: Make Joints, Not War

The Big Bhang #1: The Master & The Streak
The Big Bhang #2: Global Legalization & The Human War Machine
The Big Bhang #3: The Lill & The Backstory of the Backstory

             4. Make Joints, Not War

Forjay sat in the lobby of the GlrgHlkd Hotel and Convention Center on Rialta-9, spreading his attention between watching the numerous strange aliens wander past him, and watching GANJA on his wrist comm. Galactic Al-Jazeera News and Journalism Association anchor Zarg Graxon, a Ji, which is a race of lizard-like bipeds, vaguely humanoid, except for the upper classes, who all have a third eye on a stalk protruding from the top of their heads, was relaying the latest galactic day’s news. The top story, for the four hundredth day in a row, was about how little time the upstart humans had left before being ground into raw elements by the combined might of the Galactic Union.

Humans, other than Forjay, of course, raged at their holo sets and flat screens and wrist comms at the news, with a number of them using the Federation internet to lodge complaints detailing how GANJA was nothing but an alien tool to spout propaganda to the masses about how awful humans were, and how they should be exterminated. Of course, like most humans, the majority of them refused to pay for premium cable or satellite, and watched the clips on the net. The clips, when not pure propaganda from xenophobic types that lived in trailer parks and on bubbles attached to asteroids, were generally badly subtitled from half-assed translations.

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The Big Bhang #3: The Lill & The Backstory of the Backstory

The Big Bhang #1: The Master & The Streak
The Big Bhang #2: Global Legalization & The Human War Machine

3. The Lill and the Backstory of the Backstory

Within two hours of the Hipronians coming across humans wandering about within the Hipronian Outer Colonies, the Galactic Union had been informed that the one hundred and eighty-eighth race of star-faring aliens had been encountered. Within forty-eight hours after humanity’s first contact with an alien race, a massive GU warship entered Earth’s orbit and demanded a meeting with the leaders of the FAP.

Even then, some of the FAP generals wanted to lob a few nuclear warheads at the GU ship, just to see if they had shields, and to see if they were tough. Luckily for humans, the generals weren’t able to actually make military decisions on their own. Once holovid footage of the warship in orbit reached the government, everyone visibly trembled. Some even fainted. According to the satellite laser scans, most of the gun barrels on the alien ship were large enough to fire shells the same size as the rockets humans were using to put those satellites into space with.

The humans agreed, and the GU warship sent down a dropship. Humans across the entire Federation held their breaths as the landing gear settled on the ground outside of the U.N. building in New York City. They were hoping that these aliens were cute and fuzzy like the Hipronians. When a frightening monster with four arms and what seemed like hundreds of claws, fangs, and gun barrels stepped from the dropship, panic riots broke out all over the Federation.

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The Big Bhang #2: Global Legalization & The Human War Machine

The Big Bhang #1: The Master & The Streak

             2. Global Legalization and the Human War Machine

Planet Earth barely survived the 21st century. By 2020, there were forty-three major wars going on across the world. By 2045, water was becoming something worth threatening nuclear war over, oil was more expensive than diamonds, and the feeling on the majority of human minds was that there might only be five more years left before everything went up like a powder keg and madmen made good on their threats of annihilation.

In a last, desperate attempt to keep the clock from counting down the final two minutes to midnight, the world’s leaders sent their best diplomats and statesmen to Geneva and tried to figure out how to turn things around. One brash, young diplomat from Australia showed up with a half-kilo of a strain of marijuana called “Fuck You.” He spent the night before the first day’s meetings rolling over two hundred joints. Not the giant bombers that he regularly enjoyed, but not little pinners either that were mostly paper and might have a quarter of a microgram of actual weed in them. He calculated that most of the other diplomats were noobs, or at least nowhere near as experienced as he was, and rolled the doobies just large enough to blow their minds, but not make them run screaming from the meeting as if they’d been doused in kerosene and set on fire.

The first day’s meetings ran almost fourteen hours over what they’d been scheduled for, and the diplomats had ordered so much pizza that a portable Pizza Heaven restaurant had to be flown in from an American air base in Germany just to meet demand. The owners of the local shops publicly grumbled, but privately laughed and rubbed their mistresses’ legs as they drove their brand new Mercedes down the Eurobahn at more than two hundred kilometers per hour or more.

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The Big Bhang #1: The Master & The Streak

The Big Bhang #1: The Master & The Streak
The Big Bhang #2: Global Legalization & The Human War Machine
The Big Bhang #3: The Lill & The Backstory of the Backstory
The Big Bhang #4: Make Joints, Not War


             1. The Master and The Streak

Jeremy Jefferson Jacobs Jackson, Forjay to everyone but his mother, grew the most potent marijuana on planet Earth. Plenty of partakers would spark up a bowl or eat a plate of brownies and speculate that he grew the best weed in the entire universe. In 2093, when Forjay was only twenty years old, he took the world by storm, winning the 43rd Annual Chronic Cup with a strain of sativa that he called “Phased Reality.”

The judges, no strangers to the power of some pretty scary breeds over their careers, had been so high that Security found them playing jacks in a closet on the 39th floor of the Seattle Towers Hotel. Journalists from all over the world that had been covering the event had to dedicate an entire online column, complete with pictures and video links, to explain what the hell jacks was. When the public found out that it wasn’t gambling, but a child’s game with a ball and some weird looking pieces of metal, they all agreed that the weed Forjay had entered into the competition was truly deserving of the win.

Forjay’s win swept him up into the tornado of fame, and soon he was being asked for interviews, autographs, and of course, growing tips from fans all across the globe. He was the youngest person to ever win the Chronic Cup, and you can imagine that it stuck in the craw of the older hippies who’d been perfecting their grass for almost half a century since it had become legal everywhere on Earth in 2050.

Forjay was above all of the jealousy, for all he cared about was the weed. His goal had always been the next great high, one spacier, more relaxing, more imaginative than the last. This also made the older hippie growers upset, as they felt he was a bit of a snob. What drove the other contestants the most crazy was that he truly enjoyed the competition. He didn’t care about the prizes, the fame, the glory, not even the brand new 2093 Cadillac Neutron EUV with real fake-leather seats and a ninety-eight speaker stereo entertainment system.

Forjay was no stranger to competition. He’d engaged in it with his father, Jonathon James Jared Jackson, a lifelong marijuana breeder and grower, on their modest pot farm just outside of Tillamook, Oregon, for the first twenty years of his life. The senior Jackson educated his son on every aspect of Cannabis Sativa, instilling young Forjay with love for the magical plant, all while pushing him to push the already straining boundaries with newer and more potent strains.

When Forjay was ten, his father held an impromptu Chronic Cup and invited ten other local growers to participate. Jonathon Jackson had never been more proud in his life than when all of the growers judged Forjay’s marijuana to be superior to anything they’d entered. He was even more proud that Seth Lincoln, a long-time friend and fellow grower, got so stoned from Forjay’s entry that he never stepped foot off his property ever again.

Forjay knew from that moment, holding his homemade cardboard Chronic Cup, a smile beaming so bright that it could be seen from outer space, that he’d found his calling in life. It didn’t matter that he wouldn’t even be able to sample his magnificent breeds for another six years, a rule his father had strictly enforced, and Forjay gladly obeyed. Forjay’s sense of smell, and his knowledge when it came to breeding and growing, was more than enough to help him continually surpass his previous attempts without fail. Plus, it was a huge help having his father and his Uncle Jim around to cheer him on as they crawled around on the floor, fried out of their minds after testing each new variety he’d bred.


By Forjay’s fifth win in a row in 2098, he was a superstar, his name on every news reporter’s lips. No one had ever won the Chronic Cup five years in a row. Karen Li, a middle-aged housewife from Kansas City, Missouri, had won it four years in a row back in the 2060’s, but back then it was a lot easier to repeat as a champion. The pool of entries was much smaller, and the world’s growers were still new, still finding their legs.

Ms. Li had lucked out, according to some, when one of her prized Uzi-12 female clones had somehow been pollinated with a light dusting of some unknown strain that had blown in on the wind. But by 2070, repeat champions were rare. Between 2072 to 2093, there had been only a single back-to-back winner. Forjay’s winning streak was quickly becoming the stuff of legends as the attendees who were able to sample the winning strains told tales that simply couldn’t be true. Most weren’t, and a lot of the tales and stories the lucky partakers told made absolutely zero sense at all. Some sounded like little more than babbling in strange, fake languages.

After Forjay’s tenth win in a row, more of the world began to take notice of him. Not everyone on Earth was a pothead, but at least half of the planet’s population were no strangers to the plant’s more psychotropic properties. After worldwide legalization in 2050, it became even more common than beer. The brewing companies were pissed until some of their employees, major stoners to be sure, piped up and told executives over company picnic lunches and Christmas party drunken speeches that with the distribution networks in place for alcohol, they’d make a killing if they got into the business of commercial weed.

When Forjay won his twentieth Chronic Cup in a row in 2113, more than half of the annual contestants dropped out permanently. Some were pissed off that they could never do better than second place, but most conceded that the “kid,” now a forty year old man in the prime of his life, was simply unbeatable. Quite a few of them sold their operations to 4J Enterprises, Forjay’s global empire of all things green.

Forjay was sad that the competition seemed to be crumbling, and whenever his company swallowed up one of his former opponent’s operations, Forjay himself would be present for the contract signing. Almost every deal ended with Forjay taking his former rivals out for a lavish dinner, and then slipping them a personal check that was sometimes more generous than the amount the company had paid.

By this time, the “kid” was one of the richest humans on the planet. Not everyone loved him, or even thought highly of him (no pun intended), but those that didn’t usually got a punch to the stomach and then their pants pulled down around their ankles in public. Since stoners weren’t really belligerent and violent like drunks, the punch was usually kind of lazy, but hard enough to make the victim pee himself (sometimes a herself as well, girls can be just as cruel) a little. The aggressors usually fell down laughing while trying to run away after de-pantsing the hater as well.

Forjay had earned the highest respect from his former competitors for his kindness, his compassion, and his willingness to spend any amount of money necessary (and sometimes unnecessary) to right a wrong or to help someone or some cause in need that was important to him. He earned the respect of the world when he began to spend large chunks of his fortune to make his home planet, the cradle of humanity, a better place.


By his thirtieth Cup win in a row in 2123, Jeremy Jefferson Jacobs Jackson had become quite jaded. He’d burned up more than half of his nearly trillion dollar fortune trying to help humanity, but he’d begun to realize that it was a lost cause. On the day he won his thirty-first Chronic Cup in a row, he cried in front of the cameras. He’d never been more sad in his life than when he looked at the entry sign-up sheets at the Cup judging and saw only two other names.

In 2125, on the day he received his thirty-second Chronic Cup title in a row, a graying but still dashing Forjay told the cameras and his sole competitor that he was officially dropping out of the Chronic Cup. While the entire world mourned Forjay’s exit from the Cup, most took his morose words to heart. Forjay had practically begged the world to get excited and begin working on their Chronic Cup entries for 2126, since he’d no longer be there to oppose them.

Less than a month later, those words were lost when the Federal Network went haywire with news that the Galactic Union had deemed humanity unfit to exist, and had begun planning to exterminate every single human being in the Milky Way.

The Big Bhang #2: Global Legalization & The Human War Machine

(nonsense explanation of this story… for more of the story, click the link above)

I’ve decided to try something different. I typically work on 3-5 stories at once, rarely writing a story from beginning to end without working on anything else in between. With what is going on in Colorado and Washington, and with the sudden push from what seems to be just over half of Americans, I started to wonder if there was such a thing as a “Stoner Fiction” genre. I know there’s the “stoner movies” like the many Cheech & Chong movies, and “Half Baked” and “Pineapple Express” and such, plenty of “stoner music” and even “stoner comics,” but what about books?

Turns out, there’s not really such a thing in written fiction. Sure, there’s the classics like “The Forver War” by Joe Haldeman, where marijuana is an integrated part of the story, but the story isn’t about marijuana at all. There’s a lot of Philip K. Dick stories to choose from, but most of those tend to revolve around hallucinogenic drugs, or some sort of other drug that isn’t marijuana. Heck, even Stephen King writes pot into his stories often enough, but like all other fiction (I’m sure there’s a ‘weed story’ out there that I simply haven’t come across yet), it’s not really about weed.

After talking to a couple of buddies who live and work in Colorado and Washington, and some of the medical marijuana crowd in Oregon and Washington, I decided… what the hell. If I can write about organized crime, alien invasions, axe-murdering Santa Clauses, and time travel, I can damn well write about ganja. But I wanted this story to center around it.

I also wanted to make sure it is a “real” story, with characters, a plot, interesting elements and dialog, etc. I did NOT want it to read like two stoners sat around writing gibberish with crayons after bombing out on twenty or so bong hits.

I guess the irony of such a thing is that while I’m an advocate of legalizing marijuana and putting a stop to potheads or pot growers being arrested and sent to prison (instead of, you know, murderers, cocaine/heroin/meth dealers, rapists, those types), wasting valuable law enforcement resources instead of putting them to use fighting or deterring real crime, I live in a state that is still pretty rigid in its marijuana laws. Which means I’m unable to participate in any illegal or even medical partaking, as I’d rather not deal with the fallout of drug dogs biting me in the crotch when they don’t find any weed that I am too scared to buy.

However, I spent a good deal of my 20’s doing enough partaking for any five hundred of you (unless you came back from Vietnam jaded and angry and decided to start an illegal grow operation in the back country of California’s northern mountain ranges. Or you’re a total burnout who started smoking grass at ten years old and now you’re sixty-three and can’t remember where you put your glasses even though they’re on your face right now).

So, while this story is amusing to me, keep in mind, I’m having to live a sober, pot-free life until enough of you buy my books that I can move to Colorado or Washington. Hopefully it’s even more humorous to those of you who are legally allowed to partake of the magical hemp plant.

(PS, last thing before the story… if anyone reading this is an illustrative artist, and wants to go 50-50 on a graphic novel / comic of this story, leave me a comment)

It’s Harder This Way – update

Right. So… apparently over the last few days, “It’s Better This Way” shot up from its normal rank of around #3000 in the Amazon free store and peaked at #96 (last I checked, anyway). I suppose a lot of you reading this might be here to find out what the hell I’ve been up to, and why, after an entire year, is there still no more to this story?

Imagine my surprise when someone alerted me to the fact this story started climbing up the rankings. Also imagine my dismay that this story, which has always done very well for almost the entire year it had been out, is suddenly shooting up the charts and I still don’t have a single word typed for a sequel or a prequel.

Yeah, I know, it says at the back of the book that I’ve been working on it. Imagine more of my dismay when I had to fix the Amazon version because I changed covers and forgot to credit the new cover artist, and read the end notes again.

I asked myself why I had yet to write another word in this universe, knowing that I could have written something, ANYTHING, and made a few bucks. Enough to finish painting the interior of our house (long story, don’t ask, fills me with rage to even think about it), or at least buy a new toilet (a scary story, and one that fills The Wife with rage, so let’s not talk about it either).

I realized the answer was that I haven’t written a single word yet because I just didn’t feel it in my heart. I DO love this story, and it will always be special to me because it was the first real story I ever published. And I do love the universe I set up. However, the few times I’ve actually tried to come up with more of this story, it has always felt forced, fake, as if my heart just wasn’t in it.

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