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Interview: Twinja Book Reviews

I’m interviewed over on Twinja Book Reviews for their Diversity Month. I loved this interview; lots of smart questions that I haven’t been asked before.

Including this one, which I’ve never gotten before:

a few of us fan girls gotta know, are you a Sista on the low [or a] black guy with a Full Blown vitiligo?

If you want to see my answer to that one — and much more, including discussion of Connie, Howie, and Dear Old Dad — check out the interview!

The Secret to My Success

Often times, I will be walking down the street when random passers-by will approach me and inquire, “Barry, how is it that you are so successful? What is the secret that makes women weep and men tremble at your approach?”1

I usually modestly brush them off, but I’ve thought recently that perhaps I should share the secret of my success with you, my closest friends on the Internet.

How did I become such a towering figure of renown and fame? How did I come to bestride the world like unto a Colossus? I shall tell you, and the telling you shall be now.

Oatmeal.

That’s right: Oatmeal.

Since the very earliest days of my career, I have eaten oatmeal for breakfast pretty much every single day. Exceptions are made when I’m at a breakfast meeting or when my wife gives me that look that says, I cannot abide watching you eat oatmeal again, so we are going out for brunch.

But easily 300+ days a year, I eat oatmeal for breakfast. I’m a creature of habit and routine.2

And you’re thinking Oatmeal, and I say, Have you been listening? Yes. Oatmeal.

Perhaps you are skeptical. Perhaps you scoff. Perhaps you think there can be no connection between oatmeal and success. But I can tell you this: I’ve breakfasted3 with M.T. Anderson and do you want to know what he ordered?

That’s right, punk: Oatmeal.

If it’s good enough for YA’s own personal Jesus, why isn’t it good enough for you?

Now, realize that when I say I eat oatmeal, I speak not of a simple grayish bowl of mush, as you might see in a production of Oliver! or on a small child’s high-chair tray. Oh, no. I have an elite, special recipe that I will now bequeath unto you, so that you, too, may achieve your dreams. Here we go:

Uncle Barry’s Success! Oatmeal Recipe

  • 1/2 cup Quaker Quick Oats
  • 1/2 cup H2O (“water”)
  • 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 palmful blueberries, rinsed
  • 1/2 banana, sliced evenly
  • 1 handful chopped walnuts
  1. Combine the oats, “water,” and milk in a microwave-safe bowl. Nuke the combination for one minute and forty-five seconds. No longer, no shorter. Tamper not with the timing.
  2. Add the honey and stir until evenly distributed.
  3. In the following order and only in the following order, add the remaining ingredients: First blueberries, then banana, and finally walnuts.
  4. Stir.
  5. Enjoy your oatmeal and your success. They are both delicious.

You may be tempted to substitute blueberries with, say, blackberries, or a similar fruit. You may be tempted to use the whole banana, or even to replace the walnuts with almonds. DO NOT DO THIS! STRAY NOT FROM THE RECIPE, OR ONLY DOOM AWAITS YOU!

Ahem.

There you go: Now just do that every day for several years in a row and you, too, will walk on water.



  1. Sometimes the women tremble and the men weep instead. I’m not sure why.
  2. Someday, I will tell you about the lunch I eat every single day. But you aren’t ready for that yet. Patience. The time will come.
  3. “Brokefast?” “Brokefasted?”

On Fanfic

In a weird sort of coincidence, I’ve been asked about fan fiction three or four times in the past month. I figure that’s the universe’s way of telling me to blog about it.

So, what are my feelings on fanfic? I’m sure it will surprise absolutely no one at all to learn that they are complicated.

I actually wrote quite a bit of fanfic in my younger years. When I say “younger years,” I mean from the age of fifteen to roughly college. I was a comic book geek and I wanted to be a comic book writer, but I had no idea how to pursue that career. A chance encounter introduced me to the idea of “fanzines,” and the next thing I knew, I was regularly writing fanfic about the New Teen Titans. Not my favorite super-team, but fun and with a more manageable roster."War is Never Civil," my alt-history Teen Titans tale.

Now, with no offense intended to anyone who loves fanfic, I want to explain that I never once thought that writing these stories, well, counted. I was having fun, yes, but I wanted more than just fun. I wanted to be “official.” And a paycheck would be nice, too. I realize that there are great numbers of people for whom fanfic is an end in and of itself. For me, it began as an attempt to get noticed by the pros and write comics for real. (The fanzine I belonged to was known to be passed around the offices at DC Comics.)

But soon enough, it morphed into something else: An opportunity to hone my craft.

I won’t lie to you: So much of that early writing was just plain bad.1 Hell, I was a teenager. Most teenagers — even those with native talent and a facility with words — aren’t going to produce anything wonderful in those early days. My work at that time was typically an attempt to be edgy and dark. Transgressive. Often time, insensitive and offensive. I was a teenage boy — I had angst and pent-up frustration and a disdain for propriety and boundaries, and I bled all of that onto the page as aggressively as possible.

But as the years wore on, I began to see my fanfic as an experience that could improve my overall writing. I came to realize that the idea of someone at DC stumbling upon a copy of the ‘zine, opening it to my story, and thinking, “Good God! I must hire this astounding writer!” was little more than an inane and risible pipe-dream. My fellow ‘ziners, though, seemed to be enjoying what I was writing, and I was beginning to see the advantages of writing in someone else’s universe, with someone else’s characters: The world was built, the players were on the stage, and the relationships were established. I could focus, then, on plot, on language, on dialogue, and on consistent characterization.

My days in fanfic ended when I began writing a massive, sprawling epic tale that would have numbered a couple hundred pages — novel-length, for sure. I realized about halfway through that I had introduced several of my own characters, and that I was enjoying writing them more than the Titans.

This isn’t a Titans story, I realized. It’s my story.

And I haven’t written fanfic since then. Again, not because there’s anything wrong with it or because I look down on it. It’s just that I realized I wanted to tell my stories…and to me, that means my characters, my world(s).

Given my history, it would be hypocritical of me to refuse anyone who wanted it the opportunity to write fanfic of my work. It’s not like I called up Marv Wolfman and George Pérez and said, “Mind if I take a stab at Nightwing and Cyborg?”"The Angel and the Devil" - obscure character Asrael gets an origin.

But…I am conflicted about Lyga fanfic.

First of all… Dude, really? I mean, I consider myself a very minor sort of literary figure, so the idea that someone out there wants to fanfic-ify my wordage sort of boggles. It’s like visiting a movie set and asking the key grip for a selfie and an autograph.

But hey, different stroke for different folks. Whatever works for ya.

Second of all… It’s just plain weird to me, OK? Again, I’m not trying to offend anyone, but these are my characters. I bled and wept and vomited them into existence. Having someone else put words in their mouths and give them actions to perform feels like watching someone else raise your child (a simile that strikes home to me more than ever, having recently become a dad). It’s not that fanficcers are doing something untoward or wrong. It’s just…not right.

But I’m no hypocrite. And if writing fanfic of my humble little creations makes someone happy, well, I say the world needs more happy.

I have only two rules:

1) Don’t sell it. Trying to make money with your spin on something I created is a no-no. It’s doucherocket behavior, and you don’t want to be a doucherocket, do you?

2) Don’t show it to me. Seriously. Like I said above, it’s just weird for me. And, worse yet, if I ever ended up writing and publishing something even remotely similar to what you’ve conjured, I could get in trouble. I don’t like being in trouble. I have a kid; she’s enough trouble for me. So, don’t send it to me or ask me to read it or tag me or pester me for my thoughts.

Simple enough, right? Have fun!



  1. And yet, I have sprinkled first pages from three of those stories throughout this piece!

Tales of Incompetence: UPS (Part 2)

So, I never wrapped up the story of UPS’s incompetence last time because, well, baby. I will now rectify that.

When last we left this sordid tale, Barry’s iPad was headed back to Apple after UPS idiotically failed to deliver it. A supervisor had promised to have the package intercepted at a UPS facility en route and then overnighted to me. Sadly, that same supervisor had never called back as promised, so screw him.

Anyway, the following day, I noted that — according to the tracking page on UPS.com — the package was just sitting in a facility in Illinois. Having exhausted my patience with the phone, I emailed UPS to say, in essence, “Hey, guys — send this thing to me!”

I got back a response saying, basically, “Gee, we’re sorry you’re having problems! According to our system, your package is being returned to the sender. Please respond to this message if you have any questions or if we can help at all.”

I began tearing out what little hair I have left. I had already told them the problem in my email! I responded, this time quite snarkily, informing them that they could “help at all” by doing as I’d originally asked and overnighting the package from Illinois.

A few hours later, I got an email informing me that, sadly, the package had left Illinois.

Now, I checked online and according to the in-scan and out-scan, the package was at the Illinois facility for several hours. Plenty of time for someone to grab it up and send it back to me, as was promised by the original supervisor.

A few days later, it was back at Apple. I’m sure UPS feels like it’s a job well done.

Here’s a screenshot of the UPS.com tracking page. Notice that there are four separate facilities where the package resides before it gets back to Apple: One in Illinois, three in California. At any of these, the package was supposed to be (and should/could have been) intercepted and sent back to me. But it wasn’t. (Note, too, that it says the package is being returned to Apple “as requested.” I never requested that.)

IMG_0422

I made sure Apple refunded my money and then I just went to the damn Apple Store and bought it myself. So much for the convenience of ordering online.

A brief coda: When I called Apple to explain the situation and make sure I got my money back, the guy on the other end of the line groaned audibly when I said “UPS.” He spared no venom in blasting them and their hideously awful practices. So I’m not an outlier.

UPS failed on every possible level and at every conceivable opportunity. This wasn’t merely human error or a computer glitch. It was everything failing, every time. Total systemic breakdown.

It began when the website wouldn’t let me reschedule the delivery, then continued when the phone system similarly failed. Then a human being at the warehouse screwed up and didn’t deliver the package…and someone else at the warehouse did nothing to fix it. Then they accidentally put the package into the return queue…and the customer service people not only didn’t realize this, but dismissed my concerns when I called to have the problem fixed.

And then we get into the supervisor who promised to have the package overnighted…and didn’t. He also promised to call back…and didn’t. And then the fact that the package should have been flagged for immediate return to me was scanned at three UPS facilities, but never pulled aside. And the folks on the other end of my email who delayed long enough that the package left the Illinois facility before it could be sent back to me.

UPS had multiple opportunities to fix this problem. Instead, they failed on every level. I’m not sure how UPS can claim to “love logistics.” They clearly don’t know even know what the word means.

(Since I’ve been bluntly and brutally honest about UPS, I want to make sure I say this much: My actual delivery guy, the dude who drops off packages when UPS bothers to let him, is freakin’ awesome. Love him. Good guy. Lousy company.)

Interview: Hemos Unite! Podcast

I spoke to Matti Vann on the Hemos Unite! podcast. Yes, we talked a lot about Howie, but we also talked about the origins of I Hunt Killers, my writing career in general, and why I don’t think of my work as being for young adults.

Check it out. There’s some introductory housekeeping, but the interview starts at around four minutes in. (Warning: This was recorded before this happened.)