Category Archives: Artists

Aiden Sinclair Photoshoot




Aiden-For-Web-4I met Aiden Sinclair in April of 2014 at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado during a Strange Escapes event. Aiden was not only the kind of guy that I instantly wanted to make friends with, but he was the kind of guy I immediately wanted to photograph as well.

Even while he took over the lobby of the hotel for a twenty minute demonstration of his paranormal illusions act, it was his manner and style that struck me as much as the quality of his act. He was dressed in a black vest with red tie, crucifix chain hanging from a button, with round glasses, and his act was a compelling mixture of illusion and allusion — drawing on the history of the hotel, spiritualism, and spirits themselves — in a way I’d never seen before. As someone intensely interested in the play between ghosts, entertainment, performance, and the suspension of an audience’s disbelief, I was quickly curious to get to know this stranger and see what he was all about.

He made many fans that day, as well as significant connections. He returned the following year to the Strange Escapes event as an official entertainer for those groups on their off-nights, and he’s established a recurring show at the Stanley each month called “Illusions of the Passed.” Turns out that, during his second stint at the Stanley, he was also in-between rounds on America’s Got Talent, where he wowed judges and the audience with his not only his act, but also his story.

After a few good conversations over beers that second year at the Stanley,  I began to pester him regularly for a photoshoot, knowing his style and mine would be a match I’d wanted to shoot for my whole career to that point. We finally managed to make time this October for him to visit my home studio in Loveland to make a few portraits.

This is the behind the scenes video:

The images were shot on a Canon 6D with both the 24mm 1.4L and the 50mm 1.8 (still working up to that Sigma Art!) with an Einstein E640, a 47″ Paul C. Buff Octobox, and a Canon 430EX II speedlite with a MagMod kit in front of a black fabric backdrop.

We were going for a variety of shots, from headshot portraits to images with a few of his more iconic props, and a handful of composites. The composite backgrounds are plates of various locations around Germany that I had the opportunity to shoot back in January while traveling with my brother.

October was a crazy month for me, running from photoshoot to photoshoot around both the state of Colorado and the country itself. Early November was crunch time to get these shoots edited, and Aiden’s name was high on the list! A few of my favorite images can be seen below.


Aiden-For-Web-21It was truly a blast to work with Aiden, and I’m happy to call him a friend. He’s a class act and has very big things in his future. I’m excited to watch them come together for him as smoothly as these images came together for me!


Karl Pfeiffer is a novelist, photographer, and ghost hunter. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide, the short story collection Into a Sky Below, Forever, and the forthcoming Amarricages. He won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy, went on to work with the GHI team, and now lectures across America and leads the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel. He’s also a portrait photographer and conceputal artist based in Northern Colorado. Follow him on Twitter: @KarlPfeiffer

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Philanthropy Continued

I was going to leave this as a comment response, but I liked the bend in the conversation and I liked challenging notions of entertainment. So I want to keep the conversation going and see what you guys think.

Robynn left this comment the other day:

I’d suggest that reading purely as escapism is a form of entertainment separate from art. Absolutely this can be one of the goals of writing, and is the approach for many, (for most who want successful and wide-spread consumption of their art, I think in many cases the art needs to be in some way entertaining and escape-worthy). But I wonder about the philanthropy of that artistic side: the one that changes people, changes the world, and challenges the norms, which is a process that isn’t necessarily enjoyable, or one people want to escape into. 

This can be political or dramatic or religious. In whatever it is that’s so sufferable about this world that we want to escape from, good art, I think, should address those exact same things.

Perhaps it’s just the desire to change the world, even if that change is violent, that makes something philanthropic.

But it’s interesting that you bring your metaphor to drugs, and I want to address that too. If my writing is essentially crack, and I’m also a philanthropist by supplying your escape, could not the same be said of drug dealers? Pornographers? Exotic dancers? Action movie directors? Athletes?

Perhaps there is no easy answer, but I like to challenge everything, and this was the direction my thoughts went. Thanks for the comment Robynn, and thanks for letting me use you as a part of the conversation. Floor is yours now, guys. Discuss?

Philanthropic Art

So in California two (three?) weeks ago, I was having a discussion with a wonderful gentleman about philanthropy and art. Chris McCune walks into the room and points out something about what a philanthropist I am. My knee jerk reaction is that I’m not. I think a lot of people in the world today are idiots and I’m only slightly ashamed to admit that charity work doesn’t make me feel wholesome. Chris shook his head and said, “naw man, you’re a writer–you’re a philanthropist.”

And I had to chew on this for a while. Because I’m not sure he’s wrong. But I’m not sure he’s right either.

I write because I’m thinking, and I have stories that come together, and I’d like to put them down permanently and exercise those stories.

The next level is SHARING what I’m writing, and that is distinct from the writing itself. Why do I share what I write? I share what I write because I want to produce ART.

What then is ART? There’s a quote that I’ve been trying to find, but for the life of me cannot (if anyone can help, that’d be wonderful). But the quote goes something along the lines of the purpose of art being to “settle those unsettled and unsettle those settled.” And I quite take to this. There’s another quote by Georges Braque, “Art disturbs, science reassures.” I like this idea of art being challenging, moving, disturbing, unsettling. It’s part of the reason I’m so taken with the horror genre. There is real art that can be done within.

Now the question then is whether or not THAT is something that helps people: whether or not the purpose of ART, if that’s one way to define it, as disturbing, is helpful? Because that can have very negative results. You unsettle someone and they might jump off a bridge.

So the question remains whether or not the act of SHARING a piece of ART is inherently philanthropic.

What do you think?


Edit to add:


Keeping with the slew of Hallowtide release announcements and excerpts, I wanted to give you guys some insight as to the release process, what it’s going to look like, and why I’m choosing to do what I’m doing.

On October 1, when Hallowtide officially drops online, it won’t be released through a traditional publisher. Right now, this is generally looked upon by those in the publishing/writing world as cheating. That it’s for hacks who couldn’t cut it the traditional route (querying agents and editors until someone takes a chance on your novel, getting polished, then presented–likely with little fanfare for a new author, and eventually, after releasing enough books, you might have one that finally breaks into the popular market).

And for the most part, this is accurate. Most people who go the traditional route do so because their writing is terrible, or because they have enough followers that they think they can sell without the backing of the traditional approach. These days though, many solid, established authors are switching to indie publishing because it’s easy, cheap, and affords writers a greater cut of the profits.

See, in this digital age, eBooks are consuming a huge chunk of the market, and they cost very little to make (it’s an e-file, there are no printing or shipping costs). The only real cost for publishers is for editing and marketing (and these days, with the internet, most authors are able to reach out to followers and maintain their fan-base themselves). And so, with the right price and royalty balance, many authors are making a killing in the digital market.

Digital and print-on demand publishing is the future of publishing. Print-on demand publishing is when the printer, instead of printing bulk orders for a publisher (which is a bit of a crapshoot, demanding guesswork on how much will sell), takes an order for a book, prints it, then ships it out to the reader immediately. Because it’s not bulk, the print costs are higher, but at the same time, if it cuts out the traditional publisher, per-book royalties are still significantly higher for the author. Kindles and eReaders are cropping up everywhere. Any way to get books into reader’s hands faster and more efficiently will be the future. Writers don’t need the big publishing houses in order to get their work out there.

Traditionally, the goal as a writer has been to “get published.” But this has become a loaded term. My goal as a writer is to get my work, good work, to readers and be able to live off of it. And in today’s changing market, this doesn’t need to carry the implications of traditional publishing.

So, in order to make a living off of my writing, there comes with it the added pressure of doing good work; of writing books that people want to buy and read. This means I can’t half-ass it. This calls for serious editing before publication. If I’m going to ask those fans I’ve already gathered to pay me for my work, it’s important to me that it’s not filled with spelling errors, grammatical problems, and sentences that get lost as they get longer.

While publishing houses carry the best editors for both development and copy-editing, I’m lucky enough to have a number of savvy editors on my side that have been doing a fantastic job with my book since the start of the summer.

Will it be absolutely as good as if I went through a traditional publishing house? Probably not. Years of experience will always yield better results, and I don’t pretend that I’m dictating God’s own perfect novel (well, actually, I do pretend that sometimes, but it keeps the crippling insecurities at bay). But the novel that I’m giving you will be the absolute best I can make it.

Publishing houses also get your books into bookstores. They generally do this by putting your book in a catalog, and the bookstores order a number of copies of the books in this catalog. Front of the catalog books are the rockstars, Stephen Kings and whatnot. Middle are solid. And back of the catalog are the books that aren’t being pushed, and probably won’t be ordered to be held in stores. As far as I can tell right now, I should be in this catalog by self-publishing as well. But in not having a big publishing house backer, I won’t be picked up for stores. You can order in stores, but it won’t be on the shelf. But this is the risk I run as a new author anyway. Unless I write the new Fifty Shades of Twilight, or whatever’s hot these days, I’m not likely to be front catalog at all. And middle could even be a stretch if the publishing house is wary about the book.

Because literature is subjective. As is the publishing process. What works for some people doesn’t work for others. When an editor takes a risk on a book and calls it up for publication, that’s one person’s opinion. Usually it’s solid and carries years of experience behind it and collaboration with other smart people. But the market is fickle, and hundreds of thousands of authors want to break through, many with incredible books, who don’t.

So I’m making this push for a new marketplace. Much the same as music ten years before, thanks to iTunes and the advent of digital music downloading, the music industry has given rise to thousands of indie bands trying to get their shot at stardom. The good ones rise, the bad ones sink. And then, after putting out their best work, sometimes big labels will pick them up and turn out something often even more solid. (Or, in many cases, the band can gain a significant following and then crowd-source an album, getting the best artistic minds to collaborate, cutting out the industry middleman entirely). Though many in industry are fantastic artists, there’s a misunderstanding that they are the only good artists in the business.

So, could I go the traditional route, take the novel that I have here on my computer, edited, polished, the best I have to offer, and begin to market it to agents, hoping that someone will take a chance on me? Absolutely. I know that eventually, it would get picked up and sell. I believe in the work.

But I want to be a part of the new movement. It’s not because I’m impatient.

Look, see? Here’s a picture of me being all patient-like.

It’s because I want to take advantage of my fan-base and the changing market. I want to take advantage of the internet, and be a part of something scary, something new, something that could crumble below me and make these seven years for naught.

I think I’ve got a book that’s a quality product. Now does that make me different than any of the other authors that are self publishing right now, who aren’t any good at it? No. We all think our books have what it takes. But what I do have is seven years of work, an artistic eye, technical skills, and the editing resources to make this a product that I’m proud of, that I think will compete in the market. Whether or not that is the case is up to you guys in two weeks.

And by then, I’ll have done everything I could to make this novel shine.

I think it does. This book has been with me for the past seven years. It exploded this past winter on a rewrite and came alive in a way that I never expected. Within, it does deeply harrowing work. It’s the story of a young man who travels to Hell by night in his dreams. But it’s also a beautiful work. It’s a love story at it’s most pure, and that love is below every word on every page, even when it seems to be as far away as it could be. But in the way that we know the night by knowing the day, even as the story is at its most dark, we only know it because of the depths of love just beyond that inky veil. I wanted the novel to capture this pairing, to move you, to make you think, and challenge you. I think it does. But will you?

The experience will be in your hands to start October. It will be available on Amazon in hardcopy for 16 dollars. It will also be available on Kindle, Nook, and iTunes for 2.99. If there’s demand and support, I might try to get an audio copy out by Christmas.

If you like it, that’s where the buck is passed to you. To write a review on Amazon. To have your friends buy a copy. To pirate an eCopy and try it out. To tell anyone you can. Start the conversation. Spread. Be a part of the future.

And then, if it’s good enough, we’ll see what happens.

Movies and Books

Went and saw the documentary movie Abe Lincoln The Vampire Hunter last night (with all footage historically accurate I’m told).

People keep telling me I’m messing that one up. I tell them their elementary schools didn’t learn them very well then.

But one fellow twitterer pointed out that s/he wanted to punch Grahame-Smith for being a sellout and destroying a crappy book by letting it be made into such a shitty movie.

Defending the guy, I replied that as under-appreciated writer-artist-types, we have to make money, and sometimes we make that money by taking a risk on Hollywood.

Response went that being a bad movie was one thing, fundamentally altering plot points and changing the story was something else. That if changed so much, the title should change to reflect that, and that if a writer respects what they do, they won’t sell out and can pump gas for money.

And as a writer and dabbling-filmmaker-photographer-helped-a-friend-on-a-film-and-worked-in-television type, I’ve got to say this bothers me some. So, if you don’t mind, I can’t resist taking this apart a bit.

First off, there’s this difference between movies and books that people seem to be forgetting these days. They’re two different artistic mediums. When I was younger, I used to love the idea of seeing a movie made out of my favorite book because I wanted to see it come alive the way I imagined it. The inherent problem here is that no two people imagine books the exact same way. The adaptation to film involves taking the heart of the story and translating it to film. What this heart is may be interpreted vastly different from writer to writer. And also, which themes are presented and work in text versus film can widely vary.

It’s like translating a poem to a photo or a painting. It’s going to be totally different, even if the inspiration is noted. Sometimes this difference is enough to prompt a change in title, sometimes not. But the change in medium should be enough to suggest that the story is going to change.

Sometimes plot points and story have to be changed to fit a movie. Sometimes radically. The message and meaning and value can still remain.

So, the first conversation should be whether the movie was good on its own, and should focus on what the themes and heart of the story was, what it was saying and doing and how it made you feel and respond. Then, if it’s so blatant that it was based on a book, you should judge the success of the work compared to each other. Sometimes they’re too different to compare. That happens.

But the fact that they’re different shouldn’t stand to discredit one over the other.

Here, with Abe, maybe the movie sucked. I thought it was fun and entertaining. Pretty much exactly what it seemed to have been made out to be. Maybe it could have been better. Maybe the book could have fit into a great movie and this was poorly adapted. Maybe Grahame-Smith should stick to books instead of screenplays.

But should a writer work shitty jobs in order to sustain himself because he respects his work too much to sell it to someone else?

Maybe other writers will disagree with me on this one, but I think that the author should produce work he’s proud of and understand that other variations may come about, but that it’s okay to make money off them. They may link back to the book but the book will always stand on its own. Like I said earlier, it’s a new interpretation, a new art form.

I don’t like calling people sell-outs unless they change their beliefs for money. And I think letting Hollywood take a stab isn’t a wrong belief to hold. Even if it gives extra bucks. If a movie sucks, it sucks. Maybe even likely it will suck, since so much of what Hollywood produces anymore is shit. But I don’t think that’s the author’s responsibility.

Now if he penned the screenplay himself and it sucks, maybe he should be punched in the face. But hey, sometimes people mess up.

But I don’t think that we writers should be forced to take shitty jobs instead of make money off our work, especially when the integrity of the work remains so long as the book remains. To think that Hollywood can destroy a book is to idolize Hollywood if you ask me. The books will always live on.

My book, Hallowtide, I think will make a great movie if done right. It’s very visual and intense and fresh. I’d happily sell it to Hollywood. But if the movie sucks, that happens. That’s the risk you take, but it’s not the responsibility you take. My integrity will remain in tact.


I’ll repost this again because I’m a big fan of this video. Filmmaker and friend AJ Street takes this apart some more in a video he made a few weeks back, and does a far more elegant job taking this apart than I do:

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to let me know down below. And ParanormalNJ, thanks for letting me use your comments for a sounding board!


You begin with rejecting materialism, that fundamental staple of the West. Americana. You’ve survived if you could buy a home and support a family. You’ve thrived if you could buy nice things for them and for yourself. Wealth has become the yardstick of our society.

And you define the ridiculousness of such a yardstick. It’s only stuff. These books are only slices of trees and ink. Your clothes are woven threads. Your car only metal and gasoline. That we cling to these things, that we hold them above all else, is meaningless. Your house burns down. You’ve lost four walls, however shiny or complex. You’ve lost the stuff within. You remain. You are still alive and so you’ve thrived.

But reducto ad absurdum. Wander the outdoors and find stimulation in the running of wild animals. The world around us is just as arbitrary. Trees are only wooden sprouts. Grass is only a weed. These elements and objects, however fundamental, have only as much meaning as we supply. Are they so different from your flashy car and tailored clothes?

If meaning is only so where we attach it, we can only combat the absurd, the nihilism, the meaningless, with the challenge of putting good meaning to those things we hold close.

If we’re going to worship, choose. And then create. And in what you create, hold close, find a resonance. And know that the value of such creation is not within the object itself. So burn your words and wipe away the art in your sand and shed no tears when they’re gone.

the Magic Show

It’s become almost a cliché, to point out that when we go to magic shows we want to be fooled.

Which pop culture television show or movie can we quote to represent this? The Prestige?

“Now you’re looking for the secret, but you won’t find it because, of course, you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.”

From fourth season of House: “How’d you do the trick?”

“Aw, if I explain, you’ll lose the actual magic.”

Actual magic?”

“The fun is in not knowing.”

“It’s meaningless until I explain it… If the wonder is gone when the truth is known, there was never any wonder.”

The magic show. The performance. One of the strange forms of entertainment where we attend for the lie. We ask to be lied to and we revel in the fact that we cannot figure it out, much as we might think we want to. We don’t want it to be fake. We want to go to the show to believe that magic is real, if just for a moment, the way we watch an illusion, to have our minds bent, to wonder for a moment, at the world not operating the way it was meant to.

We go for the lie, and in order to wonder at the lie. To hope for a moment that it might be true.

How different from any fiction? A film perhaps. A novel. Where the hero saves the day and gets the girl, that it all works out happily ever after or, should it not, there is at least meaning or reason. We watch and wonder if that might not be true in the world we’ll return to.

We’re finding meaning, truth, but a lie. We attend these movies, we attend the magic shows, knowing, however deep inside, that it’s a lie. But we want to believe. We love that we can’t see the strings. We love that no matter how hard we try, we may never know. And there’s joy in not knowing. And meaning.

DAY ONE: Vlog One

BOOM! New Vlog Project for the summer. Think I’m gonna call it DAY ONE. Finished final exams yesterday. Graduating on Saturday. Every day after that is the first day. First vlog POSTED!

And, it’s not content, so much — describe his work by content, and you pretty much get ‘horror’ –it’s the shape of his stories, how they kind of wyrm their way into the back of your brain, and spell it like that while they’re doing it, which is somehow worse, and better, and more permanent…

For me, what horror hopes to do is scare the reader, to instill dread or terror, to plant a seed of fear in them that they can’t shake. Which is very honorable. Those few times you zing your arrow past all the baffles and obstacles and get it right in the reader’s head, such that they leave the lights on at night? That’s what it’s all about You’ve changed them, you’re a part of them now, and, and: horror, I wonder if it’s one of those genres that’s functionally incomplete without closing the circuit, without getting a reader? I mean, if I write something, it’s not scary until it scares somebody, right? Anyway, horror’s dynamic, its intent, it’s similar to weird fiction’s, I think, but … I think what weird fiction tries to do, it’s unsettle you to some degree. But it also wants to make the world bigger than you ever thought it was, or could be. And, sure, Lovecraft’s the standard-bearer for all this, but it’s still happening, too. Just in less tentacly ways. And sometimes with tentacles intact.

Stephen Graham Jones, from his interview with Weird Fiction Review

In Less Tentacly Ways

What’s Wrong With This Place (part 1 of 4)

Read this article today–3862406 over at the Aiken Standard.

Not sure how many of you are familiar with the young adult novel, Ender’s Game, but it’s, in a word, fucking brilliant. (Two words. Sue me). About a kid who was genetically engineered to be a genius, taken from his home to live in a space station and learn how to become one of the greater military commanders of all time.

It’s a book about finding a deep inner will and strength of character when the entire world is out to break you. It’s about cleverness and leadership– in fact, I often argue, it’s THE book on leadership. Hands down, your one stop shop.

Many would disagree with me, finding it difficult to read about children treated in such a way, and that it’s not leadership but barbarism. A debate not for my blog, but I find it wonderful, and at least intellectually enriching.

So I read this article, which has a teacher being investigated by the police and the school board in South Carolina for reading parts of this book to his middle school class.

I’m appalled. This is ridiculous, and speaks not only to the way the school system has been forced to tiptoe around every single word they teach our kids, but in the way that we’re raising our kids to begin with.

They called this book pornography, which are concerned adult-types most favorite buzz-word. Pornography is explicit description of sexual organs or activity DESIGNED TO TITILATE. There are no sex scenes in Ender’s Game. Children run around naked, SO WHAT?

(This post is going to spawn a series of blogs this week, blogs that have demanded to be written and might now see the light of day, and I’ll link them here as I go, if you’re reading this later. But this goes back to these bigger issues of American’s terror about nudity, the way we’re coddling our children and not letting them grow any toughness at all, and the problem with our public school system)

I give you John Green, famous children’s novelist, on a similar situation of his book a few years ago:

We’re conflating minuscule and overblown issues here to instead ban books, and not only regular paper and glue books, but BRILLIANT books too, that teach our children how to be strong in this painful place that is our world. And that’s so inappropriate, it’s deeply offensive to me.

More to come on Saturday.