The Mysterious El Demonio

lg7_03_largeThe crime-lord known as El Demonio  rose to infamy south of the border, amassing a fortune through prostitution, drugs and protection rackets. His true name has yet to be revealed, nor do we know by what means he first came to power. He has teasingly claimed that the face under the mask was a famous one but he later played this off as a joke.

El Demonio infiltrated Sovereign City after becoming an agent of the so-called King in Yellow. He had a fear-inducing machine that he hoped to use to expand his operations throughout North and South America. This scheme brought him into conflict with Assistance Unlimited – particularly with Eun Jiwon, whose physical prowess caught Demonio’s attention. In the end, Demonio found himself allied with the immortal Princess Femi in an attempt to unleash the King in Yellow onto an unsuspecting world… but the entire affair was foiled when Femi was vanquished, Lazarus Gray defeated the King in Yellow in Dread Carcosa, and Demonio was beaten in hand-to-hand combat by Eun Jiwon.

El Demonio is currently incarcerated in Lazarus Gray’s super-prison, Tartarus.

This villain’s sole appearance thus far was in The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume Seven, set in 1939.

Digging in the Dirt: The Secret Origin of Gravedigger

gravediggerCharity Grace – aka Gravedigger –  has appeared in three novels and she played a big role in the  “crossover” novel that paired her with Lazarus Gray and The Peregrine. She’s become one of my most popular creations, thanks in no small part to the stunning costume design that George Sellas came up with. But where did she come from? What inspirations led her to spring forth from my crowded little mind?

What follows is an essay that ran in the first volume of The Adventures of Gravedigger. If you’ve read it before, hopefully you’ll enjoy seeing it again — if it’s your first time, expect a few insights into my creative process. I’ve tweaked it from the original in a few places, removing a link to the blog and altering the name of Max Davies’ costumed identity.

And now on to the main event:

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Living with BPD

unwellAwhile back a medical professional told me that they believed I suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder. To say that I was not pleased with that diagnosis would be a lie – “Borderline what?” I wondered. “Borderline crazy? I know I have problems but I’m not crazy!”

I thought that BPD sounded too close to being psychotic… but the truth is, I didn’t know anything about Borderline Personality Disorder. It’s a scary name but 1.6% of the population has some form of BPD, with women being diagnosed three times more often than men. Nobody knows if that’s because women are more susceptible or if it’s because women are far more likely to seek help.

So what is BPD? I’m going to quote from the Mayo Clinic website: “Borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder that impacts the way you think and feel about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life. It includes self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions and behavior, and a pattern of unstable relationships.”

Okay. That seems pretty broad. Let’s look at the symptoms instead. Again, this comes from the Mayo Clinic:

  • An intense fear of abandonment, even going to extreme measures to avoid real or imagined separation or rejection
  • A pattern of unstable intense relationships, such as idealizing someone one moment and then suddenly believing the person doesn’t care enough or is cruel
  • Rapid changes in self-identity and self-image that include shifting goals and values, and seeing yourself as bad or as if you don’t exist at all
  • Periods of stress-related paranoia and loss of contact with reality, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours
  • Impulsive and risky behavior, such as gambling, reckless driving, unsafe sex, spending sprees, binge eating or drug abuse, or sabotaging success by suddenly quitting a good job or ending a positive relationship
  • Suicidal threats or behavior or self-injury, often in response to fear of separation or rejection
  • Wide mood swings lasting from a few hours to a few days, which can include intense happiness, irritability, shame or anxiety
  • Ongoing feelings of emptiness
  • Inappropriate, intense anger, such as frequently losing your temper, being sarcastic or bitter, or having physical fights

When I first saw this list, I was like, “Whoa. I’ve suffered from a lot of these over the years.” Self-destructive tendencies have always been an ongoing problem of mine with severe impulse-control issues that worsened after the death of my dad back in 2010 and those problems fell off a cliff when I left what I believed was my dream job to take a position that I really hated.

Back in high school I read a book called The Way of Zen by Alan Watts and I immediately felt a light bulb go off in my head. “Yes! This is what I’ve always believed!” Suddenly I saw my feelings about reality and about spirituality there on the page and I felt a sense of belonging.

I felt the same kind of thing when I read those symptoms above. Suddenly a lot of my actions over the years, that confused even me (let alone my poor friends and partner), made sense to me. My “insanity” had a name and as all horror fans know, once you know the names of your demons, you have power over them.

So where am I now? What difference does it make to have a phrase attached to my “illness”? Well, I’m taking medication and it has helped reduce some of the darker thoughts that used to plague me. I accept that I’ve made so many awful mistakes and that I can never repair some of the relationships that I’ve damaged. For that, and so much more, I am sorry. I know what my issues are now and I track them with a daily app… and I’ve tried to distance myself from those who enabled many of my worst tendencies. I’ve reconnected with friends that accept me for who I am, flaws and all. I’m focusing on being a good dad. I have a job now that I truly love and that I want to stay in for the rest of my working career. I will never have back all the things that I have lost but that’s okay – may those people move on without me and find the peace and happiness they deserve.

I am not, and never will be, ‘cured.’ I still spend money sometimes that I don’t have. I’ve gained thirty pounds since I got divorced, mostly because of binge eating. I sometimes sabotage my own success. I often view myself and those around me through the lens of self-loathing. But now I know the names of my demons… I see them. I own them.

And I will not let them have dominion over me.

I am Barry Reese. I have lied, cheated and stolen from those that cared about me… but I am more than the bad things that I have done. I have also lifted up others, supported those that needed help, and loved those that maybe didn’t ‘deserve’ it at the time.

I am not a ‘good’ man.

I am not a ‘bad’ man.

I am who I am.

And that’s okay.

The Perils of Being Prolific

lg4_frontispiece_smallSo I’m approaching the ten thousand word mark on the 12th volume of Lazarus Gray… and you guys have only seen the first seven books! I’ve heard some griping from a segment of my readers and I sympathize but Pro Se is a big publishing outfit and they have a lot more than just my books to schedule. I do think that you’ll see something new from Reese Unlimited soon, maybe this very month, but it won’t be Laz Gray Volume 8 — it should be Assistance Unlimited: The Silver Age, which takes some of our characters and updates them to 1964 for a spy-flavored adventure. Lazarus is a part of that book but he’s not the star.

For me as a writer, the weird thing is knowing all the things that happen in volumes 8-12 that nobody knows yet! In the timeline, for instance, you guys are back in 1939 while the book I’m currently writing is set in 1943! A lot happens in those four years.

Anyway, I ask you to be patient – not only will you see the Silver Age book very soon but hopefully you’ll see both Volume 8 *and* the Lazarus/Nightveil/Gravedigger book in the next few months. Fingers crossed!

Our art today is courtesy of George Sellas and features Lazarus Gray and Samantha Grace.

Updates – writing, television and more

veronicaI’ve been alternating between projects lately, not really feeling any of them 100%… but last night something fell into place for me that explains a lot of the stuff I’ve set up in Lazarus Gray over the past few books. I often let the stories write themselves, knowing that the “answers” will eventually become clear to me and I can then go back and revise things to ensure it all lines up. Well, the shocking answer to volume 11’s cliffhanger popped into my fevered brain last night and it makes total sense. I can’t give away too much other than to say it features an old foe of Assistance Unlimited that hasn’t appeared in quite awhile but who was more than due for a return appearance.

I’ve been watching Veronica Mars, a show that somehow escaped me until recently. I’m in season two and have already bought the two novels… so after season 3 I’ll read the novels, then watch the movie, then watch the fourth season revival. It took me awhile but I have fallen in love with the show. So good. The characters are a lot of fun and several of them have a surprising amount of depth.

American Horror Story: 1984 has only just begun but I love it already! Really reminds me of being a kid in the Eighties and loving slasher films.

Nobody is listening to the Rom podcast but that’s okay – I’m enjoying it. Gives me an excuse to read the series.