This is the end... my only friend... the end.

What would you do if the world ends?

What for us started as a hypothetical question turned into a six-year odyssey we called “Meet Me at the Falls.”

One night back in 2012, we sat around the table together and each wrote a very rough version of the same short story idea in our notebooks. What we didn't know at the time was that we had each just created the members of the Murphy family on the start of their final journey. Nor did we know it was just the first part of what would become a five-section novel. What we did know was that we had something special. A unique opportunity for three authors to write one story together.

But how exactly do three authors write the same story?!

We started with each of us taking on a character—following their respective journeys to whatever end. Before we set out on each section, we would meet to discuss rough ideas, but we always wrote in secret. Never telling each other what exactly we came up with until it was ready to read. Once we had a rough draft, we would share them with each other. 

And that's how we worked.

It was thrilling to see where our stories had similar threads and where they diverged wildly. It wasn't always easy making the story cohesive and more than once we had very different ideas of who these characters were and what they should go through.

We were also each other’s first editors, often bringing fierce debate to the table over what should happen, who these characters were. In the end, the best ideas always won out, and we felt no shame in rewriting each other’s work. It was the only way to truly work together.

Even this afterword went through the same process.

Something interesting we discovered along the way was how well we functioned as a writing team. Often times it's hard for ‘creatives’ to work together on a project. Our secret for success was that we each brought a unique strength to the team.

The best part of the process was being able to get inside each other's heads. We have spent countless hours talking writing and learning from each other as much as we could. 

By the time we finished each section, no one chapter could truthfully be claimed by any of us. It had become something we shared. A harmony of three different voices. It was truly a labor of love that we feel embodies the voice our friendship.

One of our earliest ideas was to actually meet at Snoqualmie Falls to write the final part of the story. When the Murphys arrived there, so should we. 

For those of you who have made it this far and followed the journey with us, you'll be pleased to hear that part five was conceived and written at the lodge in Snoqualmie Falls.

For years we had written about a place that, truth be told, we had never actually been. To actually set foot where our story was happening, where we knew the Murphy family would finally meet, was nothing short of surreal. It was like stepping into a dream, and we couldn't shake off that feeling. We stood  along the banks of the Snoqualmie River, envisioning the end of our journey in silent reverence.

That trip ended up becoming one of the greatest experiences of our lives, teaching us a very valuable lesson: Goddamn do we love traveling together. It’s quickly become a necessary part of our process, and we have no plans of slowing down any time soon. Our travels have become our own form of a writer’s retreat. Crucial opportunities to find inspiration and discuss the kernels of our next story together.

We loved telling this story. But more importantly we loved telling it together. We can't thank you enough for reading it. It has been a way for three friends who live in three different places to all stay in touch with one another. To collaborate. To travel. To make each other better. Though this story is done, it is only the beginning of our continued adventures.

Stay tuned for more, and thank you for reading our story.

Ben, Zack & John
“The Burgundy Scoundrels”

Click here to read the final part of Meet Me at the Falls.

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Book Sale Ends Today!

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.29.06 PM Until midnight tonight, you can pick up the first part of my post-apocalyptic series Meet Me At The Falls for FREE. Nearly 1,000 people have already downloaded it so why not join them right now? The sale ends soon so hurry over to Amazon!

I wanted to make this story free because you guys and gals, the fans, have been following all the crazy things that I do which I sincerely appreciate. I owe you big time. Being a self-published author means you need to do everything yourself, including marketing. The only real way for projects like this to survive is through word of mouth. With Dick Figures, an animated web-series I co-created, we spent $0 on marketing but recently hit 750 million views on YouTube...all thanks to the fans.

If you like something, say something. Tell your friends, your family, or just share the link online. Artists like me truly appreciate it. As a small token of my appreciation, you can download Meet Me At The Falls right now for free.

Interview with the Marvelous Reading Room

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UeQRUZ8ftw

Last week, the dynamic reading duo Sunny and Amanda were kind enough to interview us (John Dusenberry, Ben Tuller and myself) about Part 3 of our post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, other descriptor goes here, series "Meet Me At The Falls." If you're reading this blog, you're likely already aware of the short story series...but you might not be aware that Part 3 is out now!

Self-published stories exist solely because of the readers. We are not big publishers with marketing dollars behind us. We are three individuals (collectively known as Pen, Pint & Pyre Publishing). We sincerely appreciate every single purchase of our stories, and double-appreciate readers who tweet, tumble, blog and review our stories online (Amazon or Good Reads). It is thanks to you that we can afford enough coffee to keep writing.

Speaking of which, buy us a cup of coffee right now by downloading Meet Me At The Falls (Part 3 - Submersion)!

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Pen, Pint & Pyre Publishing

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One of the great joys in my life is writing with my two best friends.

We often spend late nights in pubs spinning tales or rising early to drink strong coffee and write before anyone else is awake. Being friends, and writing together, evolved naturally.

Ben Tuller and I grew up together. We used to go fishing and discuss our own mythology, a place known as Svinland, for hours on end. We never caught any fish but we always enjoyed the company. Now, in addition to being an awarded commercial director and the voice of an immensely popular animated character, Ben will soon be publishing his first novel—a charming adventure tale called Safari! Trust me, you can't wait to read it.

I met John Dusenberry while working at Six Point Harness (the studio that brought you Dick Figures) where we swiftly bonded over Tolkien and hiking in the hills above Los Angeles. John has an encyclopedic knowledge of books, film, animation and history which lead to unending conversations on a wild range of topics. Like any true creative partner, he challenges me to be better at everything I do. Somehow, with a full-time animation director gig and growing family, he chalks up over 2,000 written words an hour. He's writing two books at the same time, one with each hand, and both are turning out beautifully.

Naturally, these friendships turned to writing in one form or another. When one of us would write a poem, a short story, or a novel, the other two would act as de facto editors, critics and first fans of the work. We developed our own unique strengths which became invaluable to push and pull each other's stories into the best shape possible.

With the imminent release of several novels, we decided to band together as friends, as authors, and now as independent publishers under the moniker Pen, Pint & Pyre Publishing.

As we are all of celtic descent, mythology aficionados and there be three of us, it was an unconsciously unanimous decision to make our logo a holy trinity: the clover. Pen stands for, well, a pen as we are all writers. Pint for beer, not only a proper drink to imbibe while discussing literary heroes, but also because we all home-brew our own beer. And finally, Pyre for the flame that burns within in all creative people. Stamped in burgundy wax, the Pen, Pint & Pyre seals all that we stand and write for.

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We live in a world where nearly every creative industry is changing. Movies. TV. Games. Comics. Books. In the last few years, all of these industries have seen revolutionary upheavals in the way creators distribute their work. Gone are the days of massive distributors as they are steadily replaced by independent networks and individuals.

Thanks to the proliferation of self-publishing options, writers can now focus on what they do best: write. And they can write without fear that no one will ever see their work as it can now be published to millions of readers on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Smashwords, Wattpad and other marketplaces for absolutely free in a matter of minutes. We (Ben, John and I) fully embrace this ideology and decided to self-publish some of our work to completely control the content, reader interaction, and revenue stream.

Our successes, and failures, are entirely our own. That is a challenge we three scoundrels relish.

The success of self-publishing relies entirely on the readers so please do yourself, and us, a favor and check out our sci-fi writing collaboration, Meet Me At The Falls, about a family trying to find each other after the apocalypse. Three of the five parts have been released so you can binge read the series this weekend. What're you waiting for? Do it now! All we promise is that you'll love it.

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"The Owl's Hare" is ready for your Kindle

Just in time for the holidays, I've released my epic fantasy story  "The Owl's Hare" on Amazon for only $0.99! I'm thrilled to start publishing this story—much like my post-apocalyptic series "Meet Me At The Falls"—every few months. My fiancée, Lindsey, created the book cover and I love every hauntingly beautiful pixel of it. What's the story, you ask? Why, here's what Amazon has to say:

Endless battles have exhausted the Realm for a thousand years...and the Dark Things have taken notice. Deep in the woods, rumors swirl of an evil wizard rising to conquer the war-weakened land. The only hope for survival is to unite the dueling kingdoms in marriage and combine forces against him. The plan appears promising until Owl, a bard with a deadly secret, sets off on a quest that will ruin everything: kidnapping the princess on her wedding day.

Awesome, right? If you're a fantasy fan who loves epic battles, ancient magic, and more monsters than you can shake a wand at, then you'll enjoy:

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Click here to read "The Owl's Hare: 1st Movement - A Head Start."

Excerpt: The Son (Meet Me At The Falls 3)

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And please, click these links to read Part 1 and Part 2 first!

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MEET ME AT THE FALLS - PART 3 - SUBMERSION

Excerpt from "THE SON"

Clouds thinned above the Falls, allowing in the night sky. Stars. Millions of stars. Like diamonds pressed into black velvet. Wiley didn’t need to look up to see them. They burned in the glass of the Native American girl’s eyes. The one who shot the elk. And stopped her mother from putting an arrow in his heart. And left signs for him to follow. His savior. And now, his accuser.

"You…" Wiley started, but the girl jabbed a finger hard into his chest.

"No, you.” Her voice thickened angrily. "You killed Great Warrior."

“It wasn't my fault…" Run, Wiley’s mind told him. Now!

The boy backed through wet ferns into the redwoods. But the girl caught his sleeve. She tugged. The fabric mashed against his bee-stings, hitting a dozen pain buttons. Hot spots flared across his arm. His head felt bloodless, like he’d stood up too fast.

“You shouldn’t harm a living creature unless you’re going to eat it. All of it. Even the heart.” She advanced, he retreated. Tripping, stumbling. She held fast. Her unflinching gaze drilled into Wiley. “That’s what dad says. Animals have spirits. They walk the same ground we do. No one deserves to live more than another.”

Wiley sweltered with embarrassment. Sweat soaking through his clothes. His steps uneven in the rotting earth.

"But…I know it was an accident,” she said. “Not even our strongest warrior could kill a full-grown bear.”

When she let go, Wiley dropped onto his butt. Mist clung to the forest floor like inverted clouds.

“If I hadn’t shot that elk, he would’ve tried to kill you too.” She smirked. “Let me guess…Seattle?”

“What?”

“No? Bellevue?”

“What’re you talking about?”

“I bet you’re from a big city. Never slept outdoors until all this happened.”

“Detroit. Michigan.” Wiley got up, dusted off his knees. Pointless since dirt covered him head to shoes.

“Whoa…” Her brows raised, surprised. “That’s far. What’re you doing way out here in Washington?”

“Supposed to meet my family. Down there.”

Wiley pointed through the criss-cross of trees. Down to a distant gray smudge of campsite by the Falls. River fog crawled along the shore, fell with the water 270-feet to the pools below.

“Guess I got here before they did…I hope.” Hot sweat slid down his nape. His pulse felt off. Unable to keep the beat. Shaking, he turned to the young girl. She stood stubbornly as an old tree. “Can I come back home with you? I…don’t want to be alone anymore.”

A veil of rain hissed over the two children, droplets peppering the leaves and their heads. Cold wind blew. Still, Wiley burned red-hot. A furnace overheating.

"First you kill Great Warrior, now want us to give you a place to stay?"

“Just ’til my family gets here. They’ll come soon. They’re coming. I promise. Please.” Tears welled on Wiley's lids. Cuts, bruises and stings riddled his body. Leaves poked from his hair. The sight would have been comical, if Wiley didn’t look so miserable.

Pity, something the girl’s dad taught her never to show, slowed seeped into her heart.

“I’m Aiyana,” she said. “What’s your name?”

“Wiley."

A smile bloomed on Aiyana’s face. Her wooden exterior softened before his eyes.

"Like Wile E. Coyote?!”

“Who?”

Her smile vanished.

“You’re kidding, right? Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote?”

Wiley looked away, embarrassed.

“No…”

“They’re these two cartoon animals who’re always trying to kill each other. With, like, dynamite and cannons and stuff. So funny.”

“But you said it’s not good to kill a living creature.”

“Unless you’re going to eat it. And that coyote was planning to for sure. I’ll show you.”

Aiyana loped off into the forest, creating a wake of waving branches. A second later, her head parted back through, brows knitted. “Aren’t you coming?"

Without waiting for his reply, Aiyana ducked off toward home. She moved like a ghost through the redwoods. Her steps fell softer than leaves.

Wiley followed her with mounting difficulty. The world began wobbling beneath his feet. His vision split double—two fleet-footed girls lead him through the expanse of moss-dripping trees. Wiley felt his bee-stings heating up. Itching. Spreading across his flesh in swollen mounds. Each footfall sent pain bouncing through his body.

"We're almost there," Aiyana's otherworldly voice floated through the fog. Ahead, the village's bonfire glow silhouetted trees into tall, black columns that held up the night sky. Entranced by the warm glow, Wiley tripped on a row of felled tree trunks. But the girl caught Wiley, held him back.

"Wait, not yet," she whispered, an arm around Wiley’s chest. They crouched behind a twisted hand of roots digging into damp soil. "Let's wait 'til my dad's alone."

Wiley glanced down at the chopped tree trunks. They had been woven together with leather and ringed the entire village. A fence laying on its side.

"Won't he be mad I accidentally…you know…the bear?"

“Oh, he’s always mad,” Aiyana said. “Mostly with me. He'll get over it."

The children waited until the funeral procession returned and slowly trickled back to their teepees. The bonfire smoldered to ash, sizzling in the light rain.

"Okay," said Aiyana. "This way."

Quietly, Aiyana lead Wiley through her village under the wide-open, watchful eye of the moon. They passed teepees, longhouses, smoking cook-fires, tools for tanning leather, a practice archery range, a vegetable garden. Not a single piece of modern equipment or electronic in sight. Wiley felt transported back to a time before the modern world ever existed. He grew delirious, lost in thought of when or where he was, and walked straight into a solid wooden pole.

"Ow!" Only half a cry got out before Aiyana clapped a hand over his mouth.

"Shh! You're gonna wake everyone!"

Wiley stepped back and saw what he had run into. A totem pole. It stood dead-center in the village, as if everything had been built around this sacred symbol. It was colorfully painted and carved to resemble humans, animals and otherworldly spirits. Next to the totem pole, piles of curlicued shavings surrounded a freshly carved wooden trunk. Wiley stifled a gasp when he realized what the new totem was.

A bear's head.

“It’s a calendar,” Aiyana said.

“How?" Wiley quickly looked away from the bear to the other totems. "Where’re the days and months?”

“Doesn’t work like that. Our people mark important events in history from bottom to top.” Circling around, Aiyana admired the enormous totem pole. “My dad started this one after everything went bad. It's for the New World, he said.”

Wiley's gaze dropped to the bottom. There, he saw a winged bird, painted in white and blue.

“So that bird's the beginning?”

“The beginning of The End." She nodded slowly. "It's the Thunderbird. The beast of chaos. Marks the day the sky exploded.”

Aiyana pointed to the next totem up the pole. A rabbit.

“Then we were like the rabbit, timid, fleeing at the first sign of danger. Running from our cities, our homes, our Old World…”

Wiley’s eyes continued upward to a pink fish’s head.

“My dad and I used to catch those. It's a salmon, right?”

“For when we decided to return to the waters of our birth. To live off the land and Falls as our ancestors did."

Aiyana twisted toward the rumble of Snoqualmie Falls beyond the darkened woods.

"This waterfall has always been home to the Snoqualmie Tribe, the people of the moon," Aiyana began. "Legend says that we were born here and when we die mist from the Falls will carry our spirit up to the afterlife.”

“My dad always said there was nothing after death," Wiley said. "That when we die…we die.”

“He’s wrong." Aiyana returned her gaze to Wiley. He appeared woozy. Waving back and forth like a stalk of corn in the wind. "There’s an afterlife for us all. How can there be nothing after we die?”

Wiley gently rubbed his bee-stings. Something was wrong. They were on fire. So was his skin.

“Do you remember anything from before you were born?”

Aiyana thought about it. Curiosity turning to frustration when she couldn't. She folded her arms.

No.

“It’s like that." Wiley peered up, hoping to see the stars and moon again. But the clouds had closed. A low, dark blanket. "I wish I believed what you do. Then I wouldn’t be afraid of what happens when people die.”

“Or animals.”

Wiley slowly surveyed the bear totem, wider than a redwood tree, taller than him. Its hollow, wooden eyes like caves that had no end. The boy stared at the bear…and she stared straight back.

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MEET ME AT THE FALLS (PART 3) COMING SOON!

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A Mischievous Audio-adventure

Big thanks to my long time friend and creative collaborator Nicolas D. Frantela for doing a GREAT audiobook version of my story "What Mischief At The Governor's Ball?". Complete with gin-soaked Louisiana accent. And likely a po boy on his plate. Nic assures me he was drinking during recording—a true professional. I would expect nothing less. Why not have a drink yourself, dear listener? Just recline and enjoy this whimsical tale of New Orleans, Fabergé eggs, and that damn Southern heat. It's less than 10 minutes so you've got time for a drink, err, listen.

The Wedge (Short Story)

I went writing with a friend last weekend and he gave me a quick short story prompt: "A woman returns home to her family reunion to make amends." This is what I came up with.

THE WEDGE

Even if it’s where you need to be, to me, returning home always feels like defeat. That you were never able to find your own way. Starting in college, going home—back to the nest—was a sign of weakness. Several times, several timezones away from my parents, homesickness spilled from my eyes. I couldn’t stop it. Everyone else seemed to though. What was wrong with me? I never figured that out. But I do remember the day my tears stopped—it was the same day I killed my brother.

I hadn’t been invited to the family reunion in a decade...and for my family, that’s a big deal. We’re Greek. Family is more important than breathing. Family. Food. God. Always in that order. Then, one morning when I couldn’t disentangle from my bed, the mailman slipped a rain-puckered letter beneath my door.

“A la porte,” the postman called, knocking, before moving to the next door.

Now, I never get letters. I hardly even get emails. Who would send them? My family was afraid of me. My friends, well, I was afraid of them. That’s why I left. To Agen, France.

My great-grandparents had started their new lives in the new world, so why couldn’t I grow old in the old world? And like them, I got a job as an au pair. Sounds much better than a “nanny,” doesn’t it? Most expressions in French usually do. Anyways, that’s what I was for a somewhat-wealthy-almost-upper-middle-class family in the land of Amelie. I was cheap and they didn’t ask too many questions. It was a match made in cash. So, for years, I dropped off/picked up the kids, cooked/cleaned, and a quarter million other job-slash-jobs in my romantic bid to escape what I had done.

After ten years and probably a pastry truck-load of croissants log-jammed into my arteries, this little letter arrives. The water-logged words read:

“THALMASTROS FAMILY REUNION. APRIL 24TH. YOU KNOW THE PLACE.”

I did. You never forget the place that you grow up, try though you might. Mine was the most basic definition of a town. Nothing ever happened there, it was just a place where people lived.

But why the hell did my family send me this letter now?

After a hasty lie to my French employers—”My visa finally expired!”—I found myself in a rental car rolling through my hometown where I knew every street and all the people who lived there. And they all knew me. Especially after what happened.

Sure, I had gotten a bit puff-pastry from all the croissants, but beneath those buttery layers, I really did look the same. Guess that’s just what happens when you get older. You’re young, you’re skinny, all of your dreams float feather-light above you. Then you get old, and all those un-came-true dreams sink and solidify around your belly button. Yeah, that sounds more scientifically accurate.

So picture me, a bit post-dream chubby, a French decade older, and creeping up to my family reunion in the park. Even from a distance, through the rental’s dirty windows, I could identify everyone in my family by their silhouette. Mom. Dad. Sister. Uncle. Gay-Aunt. Other Gay-Aunt. Dozens more cousins.

The only one missing was my brother.

But you know what? It wasn’t at all like I feared. The moment I got out of the car, my parents, sister and family swept me up in a multi-generational embrace. I said I was sorry. So did they. Tears and acceptance. A Hollywood ending.

I wish.

What actually happened when I emerged into the familiar scent of home was much different. This time, there was no hug. No tears. No acceptance. Just zombie-blank stares back at me. Bewilderment.

“What the hell is she doing here?” my sister asked my parents. Before anyone could answer, I raised the envelope.

“Got a letter. But now I get the message,” I said.

I turned to leave when my father said, “I sent it.”

“You did?” my mother replied, her face stuck with shock. Dad nodded. “Why didn’t you—”

“Because I knew this is how you would react,” he said. “She’s our daughter—”

“She’s a murderer,” snapped my sister, dumping her plate of spanakopeta into the trash. “I’m not hungry anymore. I’m going home.”

I felt like a wedge. No matter how far I fled, or how many times I apologized, I just drove my family further apart. Split them into smaller and smaller pieces until we were only crumbs. And crumbs aren’t enough to feed a family.

They all expected me to say something. Anything. To repent. To break down. But I didn’t say a single word. My dad was the only one who came up to me. He hugged me tight. Seemed to hug all the way through me.

That was the last day I saw him or any of my family ever again. I kept running. Kept driving a wedge through my own life.

Returning home felt like defeat, but some battles you just can’t win.