Friday, April 29, 2011

Attack of the Sexy Teenage Vampires





Attack of the Sexy Teenage Vampires
By Tom Lichtenberg

"Grubby animals!" he said. "Just look at them, crawling all over the place like vermin. They disgust me."
"Good they don't feel the same about you," she gave him a look.
'They would if they knew," he countered, but he knew it would never occur. To them he was only a boy, or else a young man, a little thing to notice, admire and want. The same with her. Together they'd been around long enough to sense, even to smell the meagerest whiffs of attraction.
"The one in the suit," he said.
"Is mine," she quickly offered up. This game they played. How fast they could know. Any man or any woman might be a target for the boy or else for the girl. It was important to know which, because in that knowledge lay the whole of the tactic. Plus, there were different methodologies of approach. Most were resistant to the simple and direct. You had to play games with these creatures. You had to be shy or be bold, be quick or be slow, be discreet or be flamboyant. Some could never be coaxed from their shells. Others would leap at the slightest opportunity. For example, the one in the suit. This one was hiding his secrets. He'd been alone for many years now but worked hard at trying not to show it. Already balding a bit and putting on weight, he went through a rigorous exercise routine to keep his middle-age years a little at bay. Up on the streets he walked with a purpose, eyes fixed on a distant destination. This way the muggers would not draw near. Never let them see a moment's hesitation. Hadn't he been through the gauntlet in his time? Hadn't he felt the blade of knife on throat? Not to be caught off guard, and the same was true for love; burned once, burned twice and burned again but after that it was going to take a lot for him to even twitch at a hint of an interest. What he didn't know about himself was something the seemingly young girl could tell. He thought he was still twenty four. That meant bait. That meant it was in his mind that she - what was she? seventeen? - might actually be in his range.
"But worth it?" the girl suggested doubt.
"Thin blood," the boy agreed. All this while waiting for the train that never came, the N-Judah line at rush hour. The cluster of beasts thickened while the youths sat on the round stone slab selecting meat as if it was their personal Mongolian barbecue stand. The one in the suit had no idea and never would.
"Lady Perfume," the girl sniffed out.
"Nice flesh," the boy said, inspecting the flabby arms. He liked to see them wobble about. It meant for easy pickings.
"Keep your teeth in," the girl advised as she observed some tightening of his brow.
"Share and share alike," he reminded her. Teeth were out of date. Nowadays the talent used a needle, just a prick is all it took. They had high tech drainage power these days, could pull half a pint in seconds flat. It didn't take much. The old school operators worked alone but you could spot them easily. Rags. Bad hair. You've got to keep up with the times. You need to go above ground and get some fresh air and let the wind take the stench of the station off of yourself. A pro needs to travel, keep moving around. You can't keep haunting the same old locales. You'll be spotted, too easily. They have cameras and stuff these days, old man. No loitering, and stay on your toes.
These two made it their business to see the world, although they had a definite preference for certain coastal American cities. It was the menu, mainly, which provided variety, taste and substance. You can't have the same old filling cow-fed obesity all of the time, a trend so dominant they now rode the rails right across the heartland, never even stopping, and forget about the south. Don't even go there, child.
"Pick of the litter," Andy announced, winking off to his right.
"Diamond clad dinner," she clicked, and on her feet went straight for the prize. Tall young man, looked army, like a fighter, with a tattoo on his neck that practically declared himself food. She, a scrawny little thing, all pale and black, sporting that retro Goth thing those days, even with a sapphire stud pierced through her cheek, worked her way towards him. He, big man, heaving that duffel bag over his shoulder like he really was going off to war that very minute, was looking above the crowd. From his height it was like a sea of evening hairdos all coming undone. Lord of all he did survey.
The boy followed Anne as she made her approach. This was going to be fun. Was she going to step on the guy’s foot or bump against his knee? Had to make herself known to him somehow. He'd never notice that tiny thing down there. Ooh, she did one even better. A hand so careless brushing up against ass and holding, hold it right there for just a moment. The apparently awkward looking-up chagrin. The looking-down what's that? Oh, that!
"Sorry," she barely whispered. He had to lower his head to catch it.
"Come again?" he asked in his husky military man way.
"It's just so crowded," she shrugged but touching him again with the same hand, this time on the side of the leg just below the belt. He had to look down there at the fingernails painted the same as the stud, and didn't he notice some eyeliner sparkles that color as well? Yes, she had a grace, and the thing was, he could have snapped her in two and that was definitely a part of it. He was turning, and as he turned, the boy did his thing, a stick and move jab with the point that would have made any old heavyweight proud. Big boy never felt it. Big man was all attention to the girl and she was now gliding away, just vaguely, peeling off into the crowd that somehow became a herd to the man, crude stupid beasts that were blocking his way to this catch and then wouldn't you know it, the stupid N-Judah arrives, and army boy has to go catch his train. For two whole stops he thinks about her and what could have been, and then there is this redhead getting on at Van Ness.
"A-B positive," the boy says, licking the glass.
"Give me some of that," she grabs it from him and takes a long draw.
"Delicious," she says with a smile.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dragon Town is in the wild (aka Feedbooks)

and is now available for free, as always. Book Three of the newly rechristened Dragon City Trilogy. Smashwords and Amazon to follow in their own sweet time

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

thoughts on what goes into a story

(if you were directed here from a russian porn site, sorry. i have no idea why. you may click your back button now)

Writers who continually write find the events of their lives slipping into their stories like streams feed into a river. It's not so much that 'one thing leads to another' as that 'all things lead to each other.' The strands coming into every instant of anyone's life are far too complex to unweave, and every writer has to encounter that fact. Some go the way of the vast detailed saga, with boatloads of words and stabs at psychological insight. Others try different methods like stream of consciousness or radical variations. Still others sit back and just tell a story and leave all the myriad threads to themselves. There's no right way. (A constant critique of my own stories is that they're too short, wind up too quickly, and leave some things unexplained, but I have my own pace, I follow my mind. I don't try to do anything else).

That all things lead to each other even means that they sometimes circle back and meander. A series of recent events made me think about this. Back in 2009 I wrote two stories (Snapdragon Alley and Freak City) which were, by all accounts, too short, wound up too quickly, and left too many things unexplained. I had never planned on writing a further account of these two (which are related to each other by character, location and plot but the one is not a 'direct' sequel of the other), and had certainly never intended to "explain" the mysteries I'd left un-fleshed-out. You could think about them, if you wanted to, or not if you didn't. You could add your own explanation. I left it all fairly agnostic. Were certain people merely insane or disturbed or was there something there real and unknown?

Several strands in my life recently led me to change jobs (once again), as a result of which I've ended up spending some time in The City (where I once lived for a decade and haven't been to enough since). I found it strangely invigorating and led me to write a couple of stories, the deceptively entitled 'Sexy Teenage Vampire' tales (stories which would probably ruin my reputation if I had one, but as it is they're my fasted downloaded stories ever on Feedbooks). The second one (which is perhaps the better of the two, storywise) was inspired by two events - the sudden dramatic illness of a new co-worker at my new job (a sad tale in itself), and an evening spent roaming around Market Street. The co-worker had to be put into a medically induced coma, which led me to write the story about the guy put into a coma by his encounter with the STV's of the title (which were based on some runaway street kids I saw in the city). It was only after writing the second when I woke up in the middle of the night and realized a possible angle on a sequel to Snapdragon Alley and Freak City: the idea that the place in the story might not be a place, but a thing, a kind of creature, and that the creature might be in some kind of a coma, or perhaps it was dormant and only periodically came to. The sight of a building sign near my new office (at 1717 17th St) gave me the final piece of the puzzle - the cycle of the seventeen year locust.

The other significant thread in all this was my recent viewing of the Up series of movies, filmed with the same set of characters every seven years throughout their lives. The second book in my series had already taken place 17 years after the first one. Clearly the third would take place yet another 17 years later. This would give me the challenge of re-imagining some of the same characters as they neared middle aged - I had begun with them when they were children, and followed one of them into his early adulthood. What would have become of these people? What would ring true and make sense?

At the same time, each of the books focused more or less on one of three characters - arguably the first one focused most on Alex Kirkham, the second one on his brother Argus, so the third one should naturally center around the third character, Sapphire Karadjian. I'd always wanted to write a book about her anyway (originally based as she was on a young friend of my son's). Now all I needed was a bit of a plot, but this too fell into place.

I wrote the thing (all 18,000 words of it) in about a week's time. I finished the first draft this morning, and I can say without any doubt that it is a) too short, b) winds up too quickly and c) probably has left some things unexplained - yet, it also offers coherent explanations not only for itself but for the other books too. I don't think readers of those will be disappointed at all. I quite like the ending myself, though it took me entirely by surprise after I was awakened by a certain person's loud snoring too early this morning. I had intended to write just the next chapter, figuring it would lead to yet another cliff-hanger moment as the past few had done. Instead, it wrapped itself up and so far I think it is right.

Too short. Too fast. Three stars.

Thank you very much

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Capradero 2011 is coming to Pescadero May 7-15. Don't miss it!

Capradero is an annual art show out in the beautiful open spaces of downtown Pescadero, California, featuring the installation and performance works of some excellent artists (and others such as myself).

Find out more at artemotu.com

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book Three of the Snapdragon Trilogy is now underway

Book Three: Dragon Town, picks up another 17 years later, as Freak City followed Snapdragon Alley by 17 years. Argus Kirkham, now 39, is once again dragged unwillingly into an inexplicable situation. Sapphire Karadjian returns to the story as an investigate journalist assigned to the mystery of a volcanic sinkhole which has swallowed an entire football stadium, and from which a very strange and nameless young girl has emerged, hair and clothes aflame, with a message for Argus.


Considering Argus Kirkham at 39

To conclude the Snapdragon trilogy. With some inspiration from the Up series of movies

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The reviews are in: The critics were all thumbs down on Jimmyland


Flaming out at the Philadelphia Screenplay Festival 2011. At least they liked the concept, if not the execution! It could have been better, sure, but it was fun to write it.

I've come across a lot of this lately - writers complaining about how much hard work it is to write. Hey, if you love to do it, don't complain. If you don't love to do it, don't do it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Bicycle Story (or, too much Mexico City Noir)

A Bicycle Story
by Tom Lichtenberg

Remind me to tell you how much I hated everyone and everything, except my bike. I loved that bike. I hated my wife but I loved the bike, and what was I doing with a wife, anyway? What was I? Seventeen? Who has a wife when they're seventeen, especially when she's something like twenty-six, an old lady, practically? She could've been my babysitter. Wait, she was. Oh God, I didn't mean to tell you that. Anyway, forget about it, okay? Act like you never heard it. And I hated her, right? So it's like it doesn't even count. It's not like I was taking people's mail and dumping it in the trash. Well, that's another story.

I hated my neighbors, too, Tammy and Willy. With stupid names like that, what would you expect? If you thought that Willy'd be one of those fat balding slobs who always had a beer in his hand and talked of nothing but shooting things with his rusty old gun you'd be pretty close, and I'm sure you can picture Tammy in her tight pink flannel pants suit flipping her hair out of her eyes every twenty second like clockwork and driving me and everybody else fricking crazy, well you got it. I especially hated Tammy because she pretended to have this Southern twang when hell, she grew up right across the street from me right here in Northeast Nowhereville. She did it for him, for Willy. He liked to think of her as being from the South, like he never was neither. He just liked his confederate flags and pissing off people with his racist bullshit.

They had the other apartment in the duplex. We had front doors right beside each other in a house split right down the middle by some old codger who figured he could get twice the rent for half the space and sure enough he did. The wall heat was controlled from their side of the house, but the hot water heater was on ours. You wouldn't believe how Willy'd get up at four in the morning, take his shower, turn off the heat and hit the road. It'd be fricking freezing by six in the winter. Bastard was chuckling all the way to his foreman job at the printer distribution warehouse. I know because I'd get there to my job by seven and he'd still be yucking it up. He'd tell everyone how cold I had to be especially because my bitch of a wife wouldn't let me come anywhere near her , not since I'd knocked her up three times already and she just didn't want to “take care of it” anymore. Everybody knew that!

Unless it was someone else who'd gotten her in that way and I was just paying for it every time. I think that's probably how it was because the last time I hadn't been anywhere near her in weeks.

Why am I telling you all this? I started out to talk about my bike. It was my first and only ten speed, with fat rugged tires, the kind you take off road only there's nothing but road where I live, nothing but road as far as the legs can peddle, unless it's railroad tracks, or dirt. I only used two speeds, hardest and next to hard. I forget if you're supposed to count them up or down. I always used the hardest because that way you have to use your strength and you get yourself going faster too. Only then when there's a hill or you get a little tired, I gear down to the next hardest and go on with that. I won't go any lower – or is it higher? I don't know. All I know is it's all I ever needed and I rode that thing for years. Every single day, whether it was going to work and back or just going out on the road with it, spending a little quiet time, just me and the bike. I knew it liked going over bridges the best, the way its tires liked going bumpity-bumpity over all of the slats, so I used to take it to the waterfront and we'd just go over and back, over and back, from one bridge to the next, car bridge, pedestrian bridge, railroad bridge, just any old kind.

On one side of the river there's the city itself, proper. On the other side there's the city, addendum. They never stopped building this darn city, like it was a bag of potato chips or something. They could never get enough. You would think that they would run out sometime but no, they never did. They'd just come back around again, tearing down things they'd only just built in order to put something else in there instead. You got the feeling that if they ever stopped building new stuff, then everything would go to hell and everyone would starve.

The distribution warehouse was out there in some old neighborhood that used to be white, and then it was black, and then it got a little white again until finally it just became kind of Mexican. That's when Willy started trotting out his flags. He was scared to do it when the neighborhood was black but somehow the Mexicans didn't frighten him, which was how he ended up needing about a hundred stitches when that bottle of Dos Equis had its way with his face. Couldn't say he didn't have it coming. Then it was my turn to yuck it up for a while. I got up at three and turned the hot water off every day for a week after that.

He smashed my bike.

I mean he really smashed it. The thing was totaled. I never even found all the pieces. The thing is, I had been hiding it because I thought he might do something like that. Nobody knew where it was except my wife, and she only knew because someone incredibly stupid told her. Yeah, me. So she went and told Willy because she'd had enough of me spending most of my time trying to catch a glimpse of Tammy naked. She didn't buy my story about how much I liked to hang out on the back porch because of the fireflies, and it just happened to look in on their bathroom from out there.

Here's what I remember most.

One day I was riding my bike – I swear the thing loved me too – and we were pedaling down in that hardest gear, roaring through downtown along with five lanes of rush hour traffic. We made every light and just went faster and faster, past 18th street, 19th street, 20th street, on and on. We were blasting. I never even saw that pothole but I hit it must have been going nearly forty miles an hour. I went straight up in the air, about ten feet, while the bike bounced across every lane, causing quite a chain reaction. When I came down it was smack onto the pavement, face first, knocked me out cold. When I came too, must have been just a few minutes later, I was staring up into the faces of the people who did the nightly news – you would know who I'm talking about because they were world famous. She was the first woman to do something and he was a well-respected older dude. It was right outside their offices down there on 22nd street. So anyway, they were checking on me and I was okay but where was my bike? That was all I wanted to know. They were saying I ought to go to the hospital but all I was thinking was, how'm I gonna pay to fix my bike? I didn't have any money. Forget about a hospital. I couldn't even afford to look at one of those.

Man, the front wheel was pretty bent. I was so upset about that. I thought I was going to cry. I really loved that bike, and then Willy went and destroyed the thing. So you see, that's why I bashed his fricking head in and I'm not sorry I did. I told you I hated everyone and everything, didn't I? So what do you think I care? I'd do it again if I had to. If I ever get out of here, that is.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Partial Story Theme Song

Sexy Teenage Vampires Theme Song


what the heck

Simon Royle Interview - In the Lighthouse #2

This is the first of a series of interviews with "writers I like" ™ - calling it "In the Lighthouse" for no other reason than my love of Pigeon Point Lighthouse:


Simon Royle is the author of TAG, a futuristic science fiction thriller concerned with a conspiracy to eliminate billions of "lesser" humans through a high-tech implanted ID chip. His vision of this not-so-distant future includes a virtual elimination of personal privacy, given up in exchange for the peace and security of a unified world nation. The political underpinnings of this kind of thing are not the main focus of the novel, as might be expected from such loaded terms (these are libertarian nightmare scenarios). Rather, the attention is focused on a hero and his companions, in a classic sci-fi style.


TAG by Simon Royle

Simon has established a place for himself in the burgeoning phenomena of "indie publishing", with an excellent website, featuring a comprehensive "indie reviewer" list and posting many interviews with indie authors (one time including myself). In my little series here, I'm trying to avoid the more typical questions, so I came up with the following, which Simon graciously replied to. My thanks to him and best wishes for the future.

1) Env, Envplex and rules of pronunciation
I enjoyed the way you built up a viable, generally realistic future Earth in TAG, with, among other essential elements, the general purpose "Dev" and "DevStick" (devices are certainly taking over the world these days). One thing that kept pestering during my reading was "how are you supposed to pronounce this?", especially in regards to the words Env and Envplex. I had to split the "Env" into two syllables, as in En-vy. How about you? How do you pronounce them? Are there any other terms in TAG that you want to provide some pronunciation tips on?


I pronounce Env as one word as in Envy without the Y. Envplex, pronounced two syllables, split where you would expect it. Travway same thing - trav and way. Naturally Env is short for environment.

2) Telepaths and where did that come from?
There are a few key telepaths in the novel, but no explanation as far as I can recall. Usually someone mentions "mutants" or "freaks" or something along those lines, but Sharon, Jibril and others seem to be naturally telepathic as a matter of course. Did I miss something or did you just figure what the heck, that'll come in handy so I'll just go for it?


I think some (and maybe all) people are telepathic, but have "lost" the skill. Gabriel relearns this skill while with the Waarlpiri tribe who reside in the Arnhem Desert in Northern Australia. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence regarding stories of telepathy across the vast distances of Australia, by Aborigines. Jonah learns that he has this skill through his encounter with Gabriel (without spoiling the plot, I think there are obvious reasons why they both might have the ability). You have to make a judgment call on how much background explanation you want to put into these things, without slowing the pace and bogging the book down. I opted for "draw your own conclusion in many instances. My "back story" for Cochran is that she was trained from the time that she was recognized as a "special" child, by the Oliver Foundation for their nefarious purposes.

3) Sex scenes then and now
Reviewers other than myself have noted the several sex scenes (and some notable descriptions of female body parts in particular), and I had a couple of questions about that. I got a Heinlein feeling about those things and wondered if I was just way off the mark there. Also, I wonder if you have a different feeling about those scenes now that they're out there and people are reacting to them? I'm sort of squeamish myself - I have only one actual sex scene in all of my books, and it was absolutely essential, the "climax" of the story, as it were - but I know it's quite common and even expected more or less in movies and books these days, so I wonder if you felt a sort of obligation or if it was something you just like doing and wanted to do for its own sake?


So far, only one reviewer has touched upon the sex scenes as being "unnecessary"; again that is a judgment call. Before I get into the explanation - you are bang on with your Heinlein reference. Love most of what he wrote and followed his rules for writers too - so no more editing of the story for me. Writing sex is hard, but to me it is just another natural part of our world. I didn't feel as if I was obligated to put sex in the book, I was just telling a story and the characters have sex at that point in the story.

4) Global conspiracies and the role of heroes in fiction and reality
The central plot of TAG is not too far-fetched, it seems to me. Recent history has many examples of organized mass murder, whether for crazed ideological motives (Hitler, Mao) or brutal power politics (Stalin, Saddam Hussein). These are generally conspiratorial in the sense that a smallish group of people are behind it, while rallying the idiot masses through fear or frenzy. I don't doubt such things will continue to happen, in reality. One thing that seems to be different, in fiction, is the role of the hero. In the real world, there is never a hero who stops the madness. It usually requires a massive amount of bloodshed before all the kinetic energy is spent and general revulsion spits out the villains. I wondered if any particular massicide was a special inspiration to you - I was especially wondering if the Pol Pot massacres had any influence, with your Southeast Asian experiences?


There are to my knowledge two instances where mass killing of "intelligentsia" create a massive problem for the people that were left. One was Stalin's purging of his officers and the other the "Killing Fields" of Cambodia - and the country is a mess now because of what was done. It will take centuries to recover. In Tag, the central issue and premise is Eugenics. The motive for the Tag is to "improve" the gene pool in one quick strike; an experiment in eugenics on a massive scale. I agree that the idea of a single person, or a small group of people, being able to stop such crimes, is largely the work of fiction.

5) The general and the personal
This is sort of an open-ended question. I have to admit that I liked your 'Heavy Metal Harvest Dream' better than TAG, and this is largely because I prefer the personal story to the general. I began writing - back in my twenties - by taking on big social issues (I was heavily influenced at that time by the social sci-fi writers of the 70's - LeGuin, Brunner, Delaney among others). Of all those books I wrote then, only one survives to this day, and that one only because of certain peculiarities of style which still appeal to me. The rest are in boxes under the bed where they belong. You obviously felt you wanted to take on a huge general story and I think you pulled it off, but I wonder how you personally feel about these two strains of writing, and what your plans are for future writings in both of these directions.


I have many stories that I want to tell, and the range of genre is huge. I have to restrain myself not to start these, but rather to put the ideas in my scrapbook of thoughts for stories and be patient. My first priority is to finish the Zumar Chronicles trilogy and I am aiming to finish K:OS, the next book in the trilogy sometime this year. I write by the seat of my pants, very little outlining, usually just an idea (Heavy Metal was written in two hours and published in four :)) and then sit down and write. When I hit a hole I work the problem until I have a scenario that's plausible to me and then continue. Like you, Tom, I write because I love telling stories and those stories just come to me; so I cannot say that I am tied to or prefer general or personal, sweeping sagas or detailed vignettes, just what is in my head at the time that I am sitting down to write.

Friday, April 08, 2011

I Heart Sexy Teenage Vampires




more or less

And Thou Shalt Make Loops of Blue


A google alert informed me that my Ledman Pickup has joined the chorus of internet spam and/or piracy, that vortex into which all things online are inexorably pulled, but it was an additional pleasure to notice that it was accompanied by one of my favorite bits of the Bible, a little section where God, that eternal busybody, is fussily instructing people on the proper way to sew curtains.

7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42 up

The missus and I been watching this movie series the past week or so - haven't gotten to 49up yet but thanks to the miracle of netflix we will soon. It's a sort of periodic soap opera about some random Britishers interviewed every seven years of their life. The filmmakers set out to show how class in England is a fixed determinant from which everyone's future flows. The rich kids with all the advantages were to follow through with complete success, while the poor would carry on their limited traditions and the middle class would flounder hopelessly in mediocrity, and for the most part, they were correct. Yet the world changed dramatically during this period, which happens to coincide almost exactly with my own lifetime (I'm one year behind these people). I'm not British and so I cannot comment too intelligently on their culture, but it seems that the leveling of the availability of material possessions has reduced the gap, in some ways, reduced the sense of what "success" consists of. Nearly everyone has a house, a car, a flat screen TV, a computer, a cellphone, a decent wardrobe, food on the table, entertainment possibilities, from the barrister to the cab driver to the housewife to the guy on welfare. Where is the class difference? Levels of education are tied directly to careers which have more prestige and much better pay but what do you get for that? A bigger house, a better car, more vacations to further-away places. I don't want to diminish it, but compared to when the film series began, in the early 1960's, you get the feeling that the gap between rich and poor, while statistically might well be greater than ever (especially in the US), the general standard of living overall has risen all around.

Of more interest is simply the way people change - or don't change - as we grow older. Some of those characters remain so essentially the same as when they were children that it's truly amazing. I guess it should be more surprising that some people actually do change rather than that most don't. After several films you feel like you get to know them in some way, and you're happy for their joys and sad for their sorrows. I found it particularly interesting that the people I liked best as children were still the people I liked best at 42, but there were a couple who grew on me. None let me down. I hope that continues to be the case as the years go forward.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A Tale of Two Toms

one of these toms writes books that "slam the reader like a torpedo". the other does not.

and who's to say that giving books away for free is undermining anyone's livelihood? my free ebooks seem to be useful in some way to these scammers at dreamignition.com, who scrape my books and covers off of smashwords.com and put them on their own site as if they had permission

Monday, April 04, 2011

Free from Bibliotastic, Rays&Nights, my cross-genre shared character trilogy: http://bit.ly/iaQy9m

"Rays and Nights" features Zombie Nights, Death Ray Butterfly and Raisinheart, three books written at the same time and featuring the same characters, in wildly different settings.

In Zombie Nights, Jimmy Kruzel is first introduced as a gambling kingpin, owner of the riverboat casino Jimmy's, apparent dispatcher of hitwomen and controller of the local liquid euphoria market. The Rick Fripperone gang of former middle-school bullies, featuring Annie Barkowicki among others, makes an appearance as the arch-enemies of a bereft and beleagured zombie in this existential resurrection thriller.

In Death Ray Butterfly, Kruzel is revealed to be a mere puppet of the real criminal-in-charge, Dennis Hobbs, who prefers to remain in the background, using Kruzel as the public face of his operation. Kruzel is toyed with by the parallel-universe-skipping scientist/murderer Arab "Cricket" Jones in this comic sci-fi detective novel.

In Raisinheart, the book turns to the middle-school years of Kruzel, Hobbs, Fripperone and Barkowicki, telling the true story in this coming-or-age trilogy of adolescent bullying tales.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

This week in Cashier World

Bogeyman of Boredom: A Life Transparent (Reviewed)

** SPOILER ALERT **


"A Life Transparent", by Todd Keisling, is a cautionary tale in the guise of a supernatural thriller. Beware of living a dull, cautious life, or even just being a boring person, or the boredom bogeyman might come and literally suck you out of this world, body and soul. And then, in the immortal words of one of the main characters, "you're fucked".

Our protagonist is indeed a dullard, and this presents a problem for the reader. I have taken on this theme myself from time to time, and the result has always been a difficulty with readers identifying with the protagonist. In my books, the other result has been a boring book entirely, which is definitely not the case with "A Life Transparent". This book about boredom is itself never tedious. There are a number of interesting and creative features which kept me intrigued throughout.

The main hook is that an ordinary person leading a pointless existence can disappear, and become one of those missing persons whose fate is never discovered. In real life, they either change their identity and move on, or are deceased and discreetly entombed. Here they are ripped into a different world, a black and white layer beneath the colorful world we all know. In this half-life they belong to a devious dominator, who does stuff with them for his own amusement. It's never quite clear how this creature came to be or even why - there is no eschatology, as it were - and he remains untouched in his domain in the end. I truly was expecting him to be somehow destroyed by some unlikely effort on the part of our protagonist and was happily surprised when he was not. He, the demon, is a master of his own world and, like all masters, prefers the company of slaves. He is outraged when one of his slaves escapes him, and sets about - in a rather convoluted manner - to recover him. As a reward for the capture of this nemesis, the demon allows the protagonist a second chance to reinvent himself as a non-boring person, and thus releases him from bondage. It's a bit curious to me why the demon would reward one capture with one escape, when any escape has outraged him so, but still, I was happy for our hero, and it made for a pleasant ending.

The invention and details of this other reality are the striking achievement of "A Life Transparent", in my mind. I thought the author did a fine job of painting the picture of that monochromatic underworld. It reminded me of a conversation I recently had with my young child, about how boring hell must be - as well as heaven - because after all we get used to everything. It's one of our talents as humans. An infinity of anything is a yawner. The creatures in the monochrome are built for it - they are not human but are natural to the habitat. In this way, the other world is consistent and makes its own kind of sense.

There were a few elements to the story that bugged me throughout. One comes from my own prejudice against long-time childless housewives. The hero's wife in this book has no life of her own. She exists merely to attempt to procreate and be kidnapped, and in the meantime complains about her husband's dull life. Her own life seems to be far more pointless. She seems to have no interests, no family, only one friend she is seen to be talking on the phone with at one point. When she is kidnapped, no one reports her missing (otherwise the police would have gotten involved, outside the control of the narrator). Is she a cipher? She is more of a transparent meaningless person than her husband, who merely works in cold-call sales. Why has she no job, no interests, no world of her own? Especially in this day and age, I found that bothersome.

I found myself thinking that she was even more of a candidate for the bogeyman than her husband. The husband, in fact, was at least attempting to "write the Great American Novel", so he wasn't a total loss. Sure, his manuscript was as boring as he was, but hey, what was she doing? As far as I know, she wasn't even quilting or blogging about quilting.

There was also the matter of the demon's arch-nemesis, a callous bestselling author of a deliberately insulting self-help book. I really like this guy and was sad to see him swallowed up by the hell he'd escaped from, even if he was a vicious cold-blooded murderer. He had personality, at least. I really thought there was going to be some kind of Jekyll-and-Hyde situation, where this guy and the demon were two sides of the same person, whose madness was powerful enough to rip the seams of reality, like yet another Philip K. Dick imitation. I was very glad this was not the case. The evil was given its own truth and allowed to wallow in it, and there was some satisfaction in some self-help guru being consigned to the rubbish heap forever. As a bookseller, I used to enjoy it when I got to strip-cover some pretentious faith healer's crappy mass market paperback.

I will probably succumb to the temptation of assigning a "star rating" for this book on Amazon. I will give it 4 out of 5 stars. Well-written, interesting, creative, and intriguing. In short, I liked it.

"A Life Transparent" is also available from Smashwords, if you prefer

As a footnote, this was also my first purchase from the Amazon Kindle store, and my first read on the Amazon Kindle App for Android. All in all it was a perfectly fine ebook experience, although the Kindle app has the oddity of replacing the concept of page numbers with "locations", so that instead of being on page 62, for example, you find yourself at location 3647. Clearly this is some internal software marker which has no meaning outside of the developers' mindset. As a software QA professional, I take this as an obvious bug which was shunted aside with a blunt "works as designed", designed by engineers, that is, not book people. There's nothing wrong with page numbers, Amazon Kindle folk. They've served us well for centuries. Your locators, on the other hand, WTF? You can fix this, I know you can.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Return of the Sexy Teenage Vampires

I know it's been a long wait of nearly one entire week since the publication of the original 'Sexy Teenage Vampires', but they're back, in the startling sequel, Return of the Sexy Teenage Vampires, free as always from Smashwords and Feedbooks, though you can also pay 99 cents to Amazon if you want to.


There's a fair chance of a 'Escape from the Sexy Teenage Vampires' and 'Back to the Sexy Teenage Vampires', a la Planet of the Apes, though I doubt there will ever be a 'Beneath the Sexy Teenage Vampires'

My International Ebook Translation Strategy

I was very happy to hear from a professional translator - a Brazilian woman - who wanted to translated one of my books (Zombie Nights) into Portuguese. I agreed with two conditions. 1) she gets to keep any money from any sales of the translation and 2) all I want is periodic updates on sales numbers. We have signed a contract to that effect.

She is a member of an association of translators and I told her I'd be happy to make the same official and legal deal with any translators in any languages for any of my books.

Why?

For one thing, I've always wanted my books translated and this seems like a good way of encouraging that.

For another, I want it to be worth their while. They will effectively "own" the translated version of my books (I retain all rights to the originals of course, and my name is on the translations as the author, along with theirs as the translator)

As I told her, my object in writing is readers, not money. I have the luxury of a good career and don't have any need or desire to involve money with my writing.

I recently read this quote from an "indie author": if it's not putting food on the table, what's the point?

The point is to do something for the love of it. It's why I walk down to the pond every morning to listen to the blackbirds. It's why I drive along Skyline or the coast on my way to the city. It's why I paint. It's why I have a family. It's why I write.

If you're just writing to put food on the table, you might want to consider another career path.

LinkedIn April Fools. People "I may know" this morning included Sherlock Holmes and Ernest Hemingway