Help Me Save Kids’ Lives at Extra Life 2016



On Saturday, November 5th my dojo, Spirit Made Steel Martial Arts, will be hosting its fourth annual Extra Life charity event. Extra Life 2016 will be our biggest Extra Life ever! We’ll be playing games for 24 hours – from 8AM Saturday to 8AM Sunday – and raising money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. For those of you who don’t know, Children’s Miracle Network pays for life saving treatment for terminally ill children who otherwise couldn’t afford to pay.

That’s right – your donations will literally help save the lives of children.

If you’re in the north Alabama area, please consider coming out to join us. You don’t even have to play all 24 hours – although you’re certainly welcome to! You can drop in for as much or as little gaming as you like. We’ll have board games, card games, tabletop role playing, the official Extra Life at Spirit Made Steel 10′ screen awesome projector of awesome, modern game consoles, PC gaming, classic game consoles, a home brew multi-game arcade system, and the Virtual Reality Corner! Don’t see a game you want to play? Please feel free to bring your own!

The 2015 Extra Life All-Nighter Crew!

The 2015 Extra Life All-Nighter Crew!

Last year we had 55 participants, and eight of us stayed for the entire 24-hour marathon. This year we expect even more people and even more fun. We also have representatives from Steve Jackson Games and Foresight Games on hand, among others. What’s more, I just might have a few free Steam keys for Oxide GamesAshes of the Singularity to give away.

You can help us with the fundraising in three ways.

  • Join our official Extra Life team and gather donations of your own! Most of us are playing for Children’s of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham, the nearest Children’s Miracle Network Hospital to us. But feel free to play for any other hospital! Not local to Alabama? That’s ok – join our team anyway and even play from home if you like!
  • Donate to myself or one of my teammates and help us meet our fundraising goals! Clearly this is the easiest solution for those of you who don’t live nearby!
  • Come join us at our Extra Life 2016 event and play and leave a donation at the door! Clearly the most fun option! We’re asking for a minimum donation of $15 – but looking at everything we have to offer this year, trust me, it’ll be worth it! But since 100% of the funds go straight to pay for treatment, why not donate more?

You can find more details on the Spirit Made Steel website or on our Extra Life Facebook group.

Blogger Steven Den Beste Has Died


denbesteOld school blogger Steven Den Beste has passed away. I realize that most of my readers will have absolutely no idea who he was – and that’s a tragedy. Steven’s old blog, “U.S.S. Clueless,” wasn’t just his original blog. It was one of the original blogs – and one of the very best. He stopped that blog nearly a decade ago due to health problems and switched to blogging about anime. Yet I still use examples he gave on that blog to explain concepts to others. I vividly remember others, such as the riotous story of how one of his smart-ass Dutch ancestors, when forced to choose a surname, literally chose the Dutch version of, “The Best.”

Steven’s blog was the single biggest inspiration that pushed me into blogging myself. You can either thank or blame him for this blog’s existence, both in this and its previous incarnations. I have seldom bothered to check his blog over the past few years, but every now and then who would turn out another one of his old masterpieces. The were always worth the time.

The world is diminished by his loss.

“Catholicism” series – Episode 1


catholicism“Either [Jesus] was who he says he was and purported to be, or he was a bad man.”

I first watched Father (now Bishop) Robert Barron’s epic television series Catholicism in 2011, right around the time of my conversion to the Catholic faith. Father Barron took viewers to locations around the world in a high budget masterpiece explaining both the history and the tenants of the Catholic faith. The series was not responsible at all for my conversion – but it did help cement it and nourish it. I have no doubt that this series did convert at least some viewers, however. It’s powerful. And unlike many religious films, the production quality is extremely high. I’ve begun rewatching the series lately, and decided to share my thoughts. Today my focus is on Episode 1, Amazed and Afraid.

Who do you say “I am?”

The quote I opened with at once displays the profundity of the series and nails the coffin shut on the most popular contemporary view of Jesus. This idea that he was a “good man” and a “great moral teacher” – but nothing beyond that – falls apart completely under examination. In Episode 1 Father Barron thoroughly eviscerates this idea. He reveals Jesus to be a deeply subversive figure – both in the first century and the twenty-first century.

One idea I had in my head in my youth is that Christ himself never claimed divinity. It’s a common modern idea. I didn’t invent it, although I can no longer recall how I acquired this ridiculous notion. It’s also patently false. Father Barron shows us in this episode that Christ claimed his divinity outright on more than one occasion. More than that, however, Christ used his very language to continue this claim. We miss much of this in the modern world because we are deeply ignorant of the Old Testament scriptures. But for the Jews of his day, to whom Jesus taught directly, scripture permeated every aspect of life.

Father Barron shows us how every aspect of the Gospels proclaims Christ as God himself. And then he points what should be obvious. Either Jesus is God himself, among us, as he claims or he’s not a very good man at all. If he’s not God, he’s a blasphemer. If he’s not God, then he’s subverting both temporal and spiritual law. If he’s not God, he’s up to some very serious shenanigans.

What Father Barron doesn’t say, but what also follows, is that if he’s not God, some of the Christian morality that runs through our culture doesn’t make any sense at all. If he’s not God, Jesus is not a good moral teacher. Turn the other cheek? Sure, it works well… in modern, civilized society where people will stop the beatings. It works terribly in first century Roman society where nobody cares about cruelty. It works terribly in parts of the world today that don’t share our morality at all. It works terribly… well, honestly in most of the world for most of history. If Jesus is not God, then his teachings aren’t actually all that good.

The Resurrection

The same modern thought that labels Jesus as merely a great teacher loves to sweep the resurrection under the rug. Clearly this was just a metaphor. No, wait – it’s just those pesky, superstitious first century rubes. They’ll believe anything!

But the resurrection is clearly more than a metaphor. As the series notes, nobody would have listened to Saint Peter if he’d run into the forum of Rome shouting, “I want to proclaim a dead man who’s very inspiring!” They listened to Peter because he ran into the forum shouting, “I want to proclaim the good news of Christ Resurrected!”

In one of the less theological parts of the series, yet one I found more interesting, Father Barron goes on to describe the use of Christian imagery to specifically subvert the Roman empire. The cross – the symbol, literally, of Roman terror and dominance – becomes the symbol of its own subversion. But it’s more than that, it’s also in the language. Iesus Kyrios, “Jesus the Lord,” directly co-opts Roman coinage, where the phrase Caesar Kyrios can be found. Evangelion, the Greek word for Gospel, is a direct rip-off of the term used to announce Imperial victories. These are but a few examples. The subversion runs deep.

Where is the successor of Caesar?

Finally, Father Barron discusses the longevity of the Church itself. Jesus wasn’t just some cult figurehead. There were plenty of great rabbis, plenty of great moral teachers, even plenty of faith healers wandering around the holy land in the first century. Yet nobody remembers them two thousand years later. Yet something about Christ still inspires people today. I found this part particularly compelling because had been a huge part of my own journey to the faith.

Father Barron gives us a great anecdote about the late Cardinal Francis George, and it seems a fitting place to end my thoughts on Episode 1.

Saint Peter, like ten of the other eleven apostles, was martyred for his faith. Specifically, he was crucified upside down in Rome. Cardinal George had the fortune to stand at the side of Benedict XVI as he was anointed pope in 2005. He is rumored to have thought at that moment, as he looked out over Rome at the ancient palaces of Caeser, “Where is the successor of Caeser?” He answered himself, “Who cares? But the successor of Saint Peter is right there.

Reader Praise for WHO’S AFRAID OF THE DARK?


Readers loved “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” when it was part of Make Death Proud to Take Us. Since we released it standalone, even more praise has come in. Here’s a sample of what the readers have to say.

  • I’m really not sure how to review this short story without revealing any of the surprises in it, so let me apologize in advance for this review being a little oblique, but since I’ve already given away that it’s not simply what it seems, let me emphasize that it’s *really* not what it seems at first: it’s quite a lot more.
  • I had forgotten how satisfying a good fantastical short story could be… It reminded me of a good Twilight Zone episode.
  • The story features subtle, evocative imagery about the monsters and hints about the boy’s family strife. Good on the author for not overdoing any of this and maintaining the child’s POV. Recommended.
  • I love the story of someone overcoming the things that challenge them.
  • I’m anxiously anticipating more adventures with Bishop, and can’t wait for Newquist to reveal his origin story.

The anxious anticipation is nearly over! Although Post Traumatic Stress is not, strictly speaking, a Peter Bishop novel, it does actually feature his origin story as the b-plot. The first draft of the novel is now 90% done, and it’s coming together rather quickly at this point. I expect to have the manuscript off to my editor sometime in November. God willing, we’ll have the novel published sometime around the first of the year.

In the meanwhile, the second Peter Bishop story, “Knight of the Changeling”, is already available as part of the anthology Between the Wall and the Fire. We’ll also be releasing it soon as a standalone story. Meanwhile, “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” is available DRM-free for the bargain price of $0.99 on, or free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

whosafraidofthedark-01Little Johnny isn’t afraid of the dark. Big boys aren’t afraid of the dark – and at five, Little Johnny is a big boy. No, he isn’t afraid of the dark. He’s afraid of the things that come out in the dark, and what they might do to his baby sister. But his parents don’t believe him – so it’s up to Johnny to keep her safe, armed only with his toy sword and shield.

About the Tales of Peter Bishop

Peter Bishop had a simple life. He had friends he liked, a church he loved, and a job that he actually kind of enjoyed. He didn’t want much more. Maybe just a nice girl to settle down with. OK, maybe just one specific girl. And then again, maybe she wasn’t as nice as he thought she was. And maybe she wasn’t all that into him, either.

Yes, Peter Bishop had a simple life. Until a demon attacked his town, his friend Michael joined an ancient band of knights, a dragon kidnapped the girl, and a seventy three year old monk gave Peter the sword of an archangel.

Peter’s life is not so simple anymore.

NEW RELEASE: A Midsummer’s Party by Morgon Newquist


amidsummerspartyThe Formless are roving the land, unleashing untold havoc. But today, Alis must deal with a bigger problem. It’s Cahan’s birthday, and she’s figured out the perfect gift for him. But it means breaking the rules. The things she does for her friends…

A MIDSUMMER’S PARTY is the second story of the The School of Spells & War series. following the adventures of the sorceress Alis and her companion Cahan the warrior.

The School of Spells & War Tale Two, A MIDSUMMER’S PARTY, is 24 pages, DRM free, and $0.99. If you enjoyed Mrs. Newquist‘s DOWN THE DRAGON HOLE, you will definitely enjoy the second story in The School of Spells & War.

As an added bonus, the first tale of The School of Spells & War, DOWN THE DRAGON HOLE is free on Amazon through Friday for those who have not yet begun this delightful series.

Finally, stay tuned – we have rather a lot of Silver Empire related announcements coming up over the next few weeks.

Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland – BOOK REVIEW

"Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland" by L. Jagi Lamplighter

“Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland” by L. Jagi Lamplighter

L. Jagi Lamplighter‘s Rachel Griffin series is a fantastic modern fantasy series for young adult readers. I’ve already reviewed the first two entries here and here. The newest entry, Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland, is available today. As with the second book, I was fortunate enough to receive a free review copy – only this time I was even luckier because I got it in advance!

Like the first two entries, this book is fantastic for the Harry Potter fans in the audience. Mrs. Lamplighter does a wonderful job of capturing the feel of Ms. Rowling’s world without making it feel like it’s just a copy. Roanoke School resembles Hogwarts in feel, but it’s definitely a unique place of its own, and the characters are fresh and interesting, not just retreads of Harry and Friends. Rachel Griffin herself continues to be an excellent and interesting character. Somehow I have now read three books about this thirteen year old girl without once wanting to strangle her. I suppose it is a fantasy book, after all!

For those who haven’t been paying attention, I had this to say about its immediate predecessor:

I do have two complaints about this book, however. First, there is a pretty fair amount of talking rather than doing. It’s engaging talking, and it’s fun. It never gets dull. But at the end of the day it feels like not much actually happens… until all of a sudden there’s a giant confrontation at the end. The first book suffered a bit from “talking rather than doing” syndrome as well, but not to this degree. And that feeds into the second problem, which is closely related. This book is a “middle” book, and it kind of felt like it. It wasn’t anywhere near enough to destroy the book – I still found myself so enthralled that I finished it very quickly. But it is enough that I noticed it.

This book completely fixed both of those issues. Indeed, it went much the opposite direction. The book opens with a bang and it hardly stops to catch its breath. This is definitely the action-packed entry in the series. It’s a wild ride that’s over all too soon and leaves you wanting more.

There is one issue that I will log not so much as a complaint as a note. This book is about a thirteen year old girl, and its target audience is the Young Adult market – specifically, young girls. Parts of the book delve into Rachel’s feelings about relationships in a way that is probably pure crack to that target audience… but it’s not particularly appealing those of us, say, in the “mid 30s and male” demographic. It’s not a bad thing. Teenage girls will eat it up. Me? Not so much. Still, that’s what this book is aimed at, and it fulfilled its goal well.

Even with that, this was easily the best entry in the series to date. Highly recommended for Young Adults, especially girls, who like fantasy books. Highly recommended as well for adults who like fantasy and can enjoy the occasional Young Adult novel. Five out of five stars.



MakeDeathProud-01My first collection of superversive science fiction and fantasy short stories is on sale this week. Pick up your copy of Make Death Proud to Take Us for only $0.99 – but hurry, this price is only good for 24 hours! It’s an awesome collection, but don’t take my word for it.

  • Each and every one of these stories is well written and the editing is also accomplished with perfection. Most highly recommended.
  • Take a chance on this collection of short stories; I’m inclined to believe that this book will have something to interest nearly any person interested in Science Fiction and Fantasy.
  • From the first story till the last I was hooked. If you love adventure, courage, space, dragons, giants, elves, witches and knights….. ect, you will love this book!!!!
  • A must read for the sci-fi fan.
  • From the first story, I knew this was going to be good.

Authorial Gladiatorial Challenge: Round 2 Judging


The round one entries are up (Brian’s, Declan’s), and they are both fantastic! Both authors lived up to the primary task of the challenge: making it awesome.

Mr. Niemeier gets points for zen. Astlin handled the Gelatinous Cube with poise and grace, and almost without noticing it.

Mr. Finn, as before, scores for lots of guns and explosions, as well as tying the scenario in to Amanda’s backstory.

As with round 1, round 2 was difficult to judge. In the end, however, this round must go to Mr. Finn – as Amanda was the only character to actually defeat the Gelatinous Cube, rather than ignore it.

Sadly, Mr. Niemeier has had to bow out of future rounds due to scheduling issues. Therefore, we leave this challenge the way we began: in a draw. Except that this draw is really a win for us, the readers, because both authors have provided us with excellent reading material.


How I Launched an EBook to #1 on Kindle


categorybestsellerWhen I launched “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” as a standalone eBook on Wednesday, I didn’t expect it to go all the way to #1 in its category. But I did plan out the launch ahead of time, applying all the lessons I’ve learned from previous book launches. I did expect a strong launch this time, and it didn’t disappoint!

Since many fellow authors follow this blog, today I will peel back the veil a bit. I’d like to show my friends exactly how I did it. A fellow business owner and I once mused that he and I could do the exact same marketing and it might work for one of us and not the other. Marketing is like that. Even so, hopefully you can put at least some of these tips to use.

The first thing to realize is that this successful book launch didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it’s been quite a long time in the making. I’ve spent the last year and a half or so helping other authors launch their own books. I’ve left reviews on quite a few books now. I made sure to put those reviews here on this blog, on Amazon, and on GoodReads. I have used social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, to help boost the signal of marketing attempts for several other authors. The upshot is, when it came time to ask for a favor in return, they were ready to do it.

More on that in a minute.

The second most important thing I did was pick the proper categories on Amazon. Some categories are really tough. Others are easy. “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” is a short story, so Amazon helped me automatically her by lumping it into the “Short Reads” parent category. Pro tip: this is one of the easiest categories to reach #1 in. People don’t buy as many short stories as they do novels, so you simply don’t have to move as many units to make it to number one. Take advantage of this. It’s not cheating – it’s just knowing the game. I also used Amazon’s recommended keyword selections to ensure proper subcategory placement. That allowed me to get the story placed in a very specific subcategory, which again made it easier to rise to the top.

Category selection is absolutely critical – don’t neglect it in your book launch.

The third major thing I did was enroll it in KDP Select and set it to have a few days free, beginning the day after launch.

Why the day after? Because you can’t schedule free days until the book is actually live. Also, I picked the launch date and the free days carefully. Today is Michaelmas, the feast of St. Michael and the other Archangels. Since my hero, Peter Bishop, wields the flaming sword of St. Michael the Archangel himself, this seemed like a great day to go free. But I wanted some time for buildup, so I didn’t want just one free day. I went for three – the day before, Michaelmas itself, and the day after.

Due to the way Amazon’s sales ranking works, your best bet for rising to the top of a category is to move a lot of books very close to launch day. Therefore, I scheduled the book launch to coincide with this for maximum effect. The algorithm takes sales history into account – so if you’ve got a long history of no sales and then a sudden burst, your sales rank gain is limited. But if you have no prior sales history, then the algorithm works only with the sudden burst. Boom, you get a great ranking.

Get your friends to help – but make it easy for them!

Remember earlier when I said that I had a lot of author friends who were happy to help? I made use of them – and many of my other friends, too. I also made it super easy for them to help.  All I asked for was two very small favors. First – and easiest – I asked them to drop by Amazon yesterday morning and pick up a copy of the book. Remember, though, that I’d already made it free. So I’d asked my friends to please pick up a FREE COPY of my book. Hard, right? I got a huge response from all of them, and it really helped.

Don’t think for a minute, though, that that accounts for all of the units moved. It doesn’t. It’s not even a quarter of yesterday’s units – and none of today’s. They helped boost it up the ranks and get seen. My other marketing work, took over from there. But I digress.

The second favor I asked for was reviews – and I made this one easy, too. I asked those who had already read the story to please take a moment to leave an Amazon review of it. This particular story had already been published before in the anthology Make Death Proud to Take Us, and many of my friends had read it. Now, getting reviews from people – even friends – is like pulling teeth. (Yes, this might be a not-so-subtle hint to my friends who have not yet left reviews on any of my works!) I knew I wouldn’t get many – but I did get a small handful. Thank you so much to those who did leave reviews – I love you for it!

Announce it everywhere!

I blasted the announcement all over social media. My Twitter feed, in particular, had a lot more “marketing tweets” in it than I usually like to go for. But I wanted the word out, and it worked.

But the catch here is that I’ve spent all summer carefully building my Twitter audience. I definitely could have done better with an even wider reach, but I have enough of a following now to make an impact – especially when I’m giving something away for free! Also, I’ve spent the summer building relationships on Twitter. So I had several friends retweeting me throughout the day. Some of those friends have much bigger audiences than I do. To each and every one of you who gave me a signal boost yesterday, thank you!

Last but not least, I made use of the Amazon Giveaway in a way I never had before. This time, I made a giveaway for Make Death Proud to Take Us, which also included the short story “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” But in the message for those who didn’t win, I left a note and a link to the free version of the story. I set the giveaway to make people follow me on Twitter… but my goal wasn’t Twitter followers at all. I wanted people to pick up the free story.

How well did that work? I’d estimate that about 1 in 15 to 1 in 20 giveaway entrants went on to pick up the free story. Frankly, a lot of giveaway entrants aren’t interested in your books at all. They just enter every giveaway they see. So the percentage wasn’t huge, but it was enough to help move a few more copies.


I’ll give a more detailed report on the aftermath after there’s been some. The best I can say today is that copies are still moving, albeit at a far lower rate than yesterday. I didn’t hold the number one slot for very long – the current occupant is tenacious. But I’ve sat at number 2 for almost 24 hours now (barring the brief stint at #1). The story has also held on well at #6 in its secondary category, and is still within the top 100 in at least two other categories. That’s going to continue to bring it a lot of visibility it wouldn’t otherwise have had.

If you don’t have a copy yet, stop by Amazon and pick one up. If you did pick it up, read it. I think it’s the best work I’ve yet published. And if you’ve read it, please do leave it an honest review on Amazon. Amazon reviews are the lifeblood of independent authors – help a friend out! Even something as simple as, “I liked it – 5 stars!” is a major boost.

If you liked it, you can find the second Peter Bishop story in the anthology Between the Wall and the Fire. That one gets much deeper into the actual world of Peter Bishop. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for my upcoming novel, Post Traumatic Stress. It’s not technically part of the Tales of Peter Bishop series, but he does guest star in it… and it also happens to contain his origin story. I’m also nearly finished with the next Peter Bishop short story, “Dinner Party.” Imagine Peter – a good Catholic boy – meeting his fiance’s very Baptist parents. Keep in mind that until now, Faith has been a very bad Baptist girl. Hilarity ensues. Plus, there’s a werewolf.

Announcing “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?”


whosafraidofthedark-01My newest release, a short story titled “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” is now available on Amazon. This is the first of the Tales of Peter Bishop. If you’ve read my anthology Make Death Proud to Take Us, then you’ve already read this story. If you haven’t, it’s now available as a standalone. The story has done very well on Amazon today, climbing (so far) all the way to #2 in “Kindle Store > Kindle Short Reads > 30 minutes (12-21 pages) > Science Fiction & Fantasy” and #5 in “Kindle Store > Kindle Short Reads > 30 minutes (12-21 pages) > Literature & Fiction.

The kicker? In the much, much tougher category of “Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Paranormal & Urban” earlier today it sat at #58. Number 55? Yeah, that was the International Lord of Hate himself, Mr. Larry Correia with Monster Hunter International. Not bad. Not bad at all!

I’d like to give a special thank you and shout out to all the people who have helped boost the signal today and get me to that point: L. Jagi Lamplighter, Susan McPhail, Declan Finn, Dean Esmay, Daddy Warpig, Christopher Lansdown, and especially Brian Niemeier.

Best of all, the story is available free through Friday! As the tale tells of the man who wields the flaming sword of the archangel St. Michael, it is only fitting that it should be available free over Michaelmas. Get your free copy today. And after you’ve read it and loved it, leave me an awesome review!

categorybestsellerUpdate: “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” is now Number 1 in “Kindle Store > Kindle Short Reads > 30 minutes (12-21 pages) > Science Fiction & Fantasy.” Thank you again to everyone named above, and to all of you! Please do remember to drop by and leave a review when you get a moment!

Just in case you’re not sold already, I’ll leave you with a sample.

Even though he couldn’t see them he could hear their skittering. Despite his impassioned pleas and his sister’s crying, his parents had turned out the lights. Again.

“Don’t be afraid of the dark, Johnny,” Bruce had told him.

“Be brave like Batman,” his mother told him. Batman wasn’t afraid of the dark.

Johnny wasn’t afraid of the dark, either. Only babies were afraid of the dark. Johnny was five now, and a big boy. Little Ginny wasn’t afraid of the dark, either. Even if she had been, she had an excuse. Still a mere two years old, his little sister was a baby. But Ginny was as brave as Johnny, and Johnny wasn’t afraid of the dark.

He was afraid of the things that came out in the dark.

They didn’t come out straight away. They were too smart for that. They waited until later, after Johnny and Ginny had gone to sleep – until after their mother and Bruce had gone to bed, even. Only once the grownups were sound asleep did they come out.

It started with the skittering. They came from the closet. At least, that was Johnny’s best guess based on the sound. Then they crawled across the walls and the ceilings to the beds. Ginny always slept through it. But not Johnny. He’d always been a lighter sleeper than his sister, and he’d woken at once every time.

The first night it hadn’t even scared him. He’d just listened with fascination, wondering what kind of critter it would be. Maybe it was mice, or rats, or squirrels. Maybe it was even a raccoon. How cool would that be? A raccoon in his bedroom!

Then he felt the cold, sharp agony of its touch. He felt the mouth over his shoulder and the teeth sinking into him. He felt the drain as the monster sucked his life away. He tried and tried to fight it but his body would not move, could not move. So he tried even harder to scream, to call to his mother for help. But no noise passed through his lips.

In the pale stream of dim moonlight that passed through their curtains he could just barely make out his sister. It was enough. He could see that she, too, was writhing in agony. He wanted desperately to help her, but he couldn’t even help himself.

And then, suddenly, the monster was gone. So he screamed. Ginny screamed. A moment later their mother was there, comforting both of them. But no sooner had they quieted than Bruce filled the silence. He really liked to yell at them. He scared Ginny, but not Johnny. Johnny thought he was a coward who wouldn’t do anything more than yell, even to a five year old.

“What are you screaming at? Go back to sleep!” he roared, and stormed off.

Johnny scowled after the man as his mother comforted Ginny. It made him so mad that that big, cowardly bully shared a name with his favorite superhero. He didn’t deserve to have an awesome name like that. When his mother finally left, too, he pulled the blanket high up over his head. He fought it for as long as he could, but eventually he fell back asleep and the rest of the night passed without incident.

His mother spent all day trying to convince him that he’d imagined it, that it was just a dream. It almost worked. After all, Ginny didn’t even remember it come the light of day. And the monsters hadn’t left any marks.

It almost worked, but it didn’t. Johnny could see how tired his sister was, the dark bags under her eyes. He could see his own matching pair when he looked in the mirror as he brushed his teeth that morning. Even his mother remarked on how tired he seemed that morning, but even so she couldn’t seem to put it all together.

Why wouldn’t she believe him? Her boyfriend was even worse. Bruce kept treating him like a stupid baby for crying in the dark. He never could figure out why his mother liked him. He was even more awful than her last three boyfriends, and they were pretty awful. But he’d never disliked Bruce quite as intensely as he did that morning.

On the second night they came, Johnny was scared right from the beginning. He knew what to expect this time. That definitely did not improve the experience.

“Be brave like Batman,” his mother told him. As if all he had to fear was the dark.

He went to sleep with his blanket pulled tight over his head. The thick blue blanket was far too warm for that evening, but he insisted and overruled his mother’s objections. He hoped the thicker blanket would keep the monsters away. His mother thought he just wanted Luke Skywalker. He was happy to let her have her delusions.