Unboxing a box of bugs

The lead in my newest book, Buying Illegal Bugs with Bitcoin, keeps a variety of insects in his bedroom. While I was writing it, I really started wanting some of my own. I kept checking pet stores to see what was available. The local places were lacking in selection, but I couldn’t even begin to count the hours I’ve spent perusing online bug shops. I picked up a lot of good info for my book along the way.

I’d kept bugs before. Years ago, I had tarantulas and scorpions. I impulse-bought three Madagascar hissing cockroaches that turned into a colony overnight. Literally. The very next morning after I got them, there was a pile of nymphs on the floor of the habitat. I ended up giving away the massive colony years later when I moved. That was probably an unnecessary move. They would have been right at home in the dirty hippy house I moved into. I heard the guy I gave them to “threw them away” after his mom freaked out when he brought them home. That really pissed me off.

It’s been more than a decade since then. It felt like time to get more bugs. I settled on hissers because they can eat cat food, fruits and veggies, which are on the shopping list anyway. They don’t necessitate regular trips to the pet store for feeder crickets. We don’t even have a close place that has them. Also, my thoroughly squicked-out girlfriend was more amenable to roaches than a big ‘ole spider.

I was going to order some wide-horn hissers, Gromphadorhina oblongonota, since they’re the biggest type of hissing cockroaches. I ended up getting the standard Madagascar hissers, Gromphadorhina portentosa, because they had them on Amazon and I had a bunch of Amazon credit from a ghostwriting gig I picked up. Thanks to honeybees100, who sent 7 instead of the 6 I ordered.

Here’s a video of me unboxing the specimens. (You’ll have to click through to YouTube if you’re reading this on Goodreads, since they don’t allow embedded videos.) You can see my hands shaking a little because I was so excited. I thought they’d be in a smaller container inside the box, otherwise I would have been more careful with that knife. They seem to have escaped unscathed.

I love these things. They’re cool as hell. They were cold and sluggish in the video, but they’ve perked up since I got them up to their preferred tropical temperature. I can hear them hiss at each other from across the room.

If you like bugs, they’re an amazing, very low-maintenance pet.

In other news, my article this week at BookCrate is about unreliable narrators. I also stumbled across this interview with John Spaduala, who I’ve mentioned before. Oh, and here’s a list of my favorite books of 2017.

Books and the Bugs who Love Them

I wrote an article about a couple of my favorite things, books and bugs. You can read the whole thing here.

Running through the pages of half the book was a small tunnel. It began along the edge opposite the spine and wound itself deeper into the book. The width was so uniform it almost could have been made by a drill, but it curved around in different directions.

“What happened to this book?” I asked my grandpa.

“It must have been a worm.”

Buying Illegal Bugs with Bitcoin

My new book is out now. This one is a crime noir / weird horror novel about a small-time drug dealer who buys a mysterious insect off a darknet market. Things get ugly.

You can get it here. It’s currently available in Kindle and paperback formats, and I’m recording the Audible version right now. If you write reviews of this kind of thing, on Amazon/Goodreads or a blog, hit me up for a review copy.

As per usual, you can sample the first couple chapters on Amazon. Here’s a video of me reading a passage from the middle of the book:

You can buy anything on the Internet these days. Books, electronics, and Chinese takeout are just a few clicks away. If you’re after something more illicit, all you need is a special browser and some bitcoin to spend. Every drug you might want is readily available on the darknet markets. You can also hire a hitman, get a fake ID made, or have an illegal bug delivered to your door.

Ben Samsa is a small-time weed dealer and amateur entomologist. He can’t resist buying a mysterious bug he finds on one of the black market sites where he gets his inventory. The splurge leaves him with only enough bitcoin to purchase lower quality marijuana than he normally sells. Unfortunately, Ben doesn’t realize one of his customers has been flipping his product to a murderous, one-eyed Nazi. He’s soon sucked into a hellish nightmare of dread, drugs and death.

Meanwhile, the bug is growing. Nothing will ever be the same when Ben learns the true, hideous name of the insect. 

This machine says I write like Anne Rice

I ran a few passages from my current piece through iwl.me, a site that purports to tell you who you write like. I got Cory Doctorow and Agatha Christie once each. Anne Rice came up for most of the chapters I pasted. I don’t know how accurate it is, but it’s a fun little toy. I’ve never read any books by those authors.

My new one, which may or may not read like Anne Rice, should be out in a couple weeks. It’s about a small-time drug dealer and amateur entomologist who buys a mysterious bug off an Internet black market known mainly for its wide selection of intoxicants. Things go wrong.

Here’s an interview I did with a book blog. It touches on fidget spinners, books, writing, and MTV’s Teen Mom.

A few words about John Spaduala, who invented the spatula

If you ask Google who invented the spatula, you get an article I wrote a few years ago about a guy named John Spaduala. There’s even a snippet at the top of the screen with a photo of the guy and a little blurb from the article. (Some search strings now put my link at the top but give a snippet about a guy named Horace Spatula. It’s an ugly piece of revisionist history.) The facts of the article have been repeated all over the Internet, sometimes with attribution but usually without. A Turkish site even stole the whole article, translated it, and removed my Amazon affiliate link at the bottom. All of this is proof that the article is definitely true, and not something I just made up to see what would happen.

Click here to read the whole thing, which is full of very true facts like the ones in this excerpt:

The chef he worked under, Hans Krugar, was said to have been a savage man of cruel disposition and quick to anger. On one occasion, when Spaduala had failed to add a sufficient amount of beets to a stew, Krugar slammed his right hand under a heavy pot lid. Spaduala lost entirely the use of his pinky finger, and his middle and ring fingers were broken, healing in a palsied and deformed claw that for the remainder of his life he would attempt to hide in shame. When not in use, he would have his hand in his pocket.

Some credit the injury to his hand with giving John the inspiration for inventing the spatula, since it had been his dominant hand and now its use was severely limited, forcing him to find other methods of cooking things. The quote “Necessity is the mother of invention” is often attributed to Spaduala.