Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Exterminator - Flash, bizarro fiction

I’m the best. That’s why they call me.

I knock. Ed opens the lid and ushers me inside. This is the second time I’ve paid him a visit.

“Thank you so much for coming out on a Sunday.” Ed says it like I’m doing him a favor.

“Thank me by paying me when the job is done.” It’s meaningless, but I say it anyway.

“You are one rude octopus,” he says.

“I’m not an octopus, you hippo,” I reply. “I’m a squid. Now show me what you’ve got.”

He takes me to the refrigerator.

“I keep hearing them in there. Every morning I find empty bottles and open snack wrappers strewn all around. Yesterday, I found a tiny dirty magazine out there, still open to the centerfold.”

The fridge is empty, but I hear it, too—tiny voices slurring and swearing. I was afraid of that.

I grab his droopy hippopotamus ear and drag his head down. The sound is louder there.

“What are you doing?” he screams.

“My job.”

It takes a minute, but I find the seam. Then I unzip his head. Five tiny little green-clad men are in there, laughing and kicking his tiny hippopotamus brain around like the terrible guests they are.

I slowly zip the head back up. Better safe than slimed.

“What was that, Joe?” Ed looks worried now. He damn well should be.

“Do you have whisky?”

“Yes.”

“Pour a shot.”

He does, spilling some on the counter with his clumsy hippopotamus hands.

I take the glass and smell it. It doesn’t burn any less now than it did when I used to swim in the stuff. I don’t miss the restaurant. Not even a little.

“You know, you are the spitting image of your—”

“Don’t mention my lazy brother, Ed. Do that and the deal is off.”

He wisely shuts up.

I place the dripping whiskey shot in the fridge and close the door.

“Now, do not open this door.”

“For how long?” he asks, already afraid of the answer.

“Forever.”

It is exactly what he doesn’t want to hear, but that is not my problem.

“I’ll take my payment now.”

He pulls out his oversized hippopotamus wallet and flips through, finding an arm. Then he digs in his pockets and locates a leg.

It takes a little shoving, but I fit them in my coin purse with the others.

“What happens now, Joe?”

“If you’re lucky, nothing. Bury the fridge in your cellar with the others, but keep it closed.”

“And if I don’t?” He wants to open it more than he wants to tap dance, and that’s a lot.

“Then one day somebody else will call me to exterminate a big, dumb hippopotamus wearing an ill-fitted green leotard. Is that what you want?”

His eyes cut away from mine.

“Maybe.”

“Do yourself a favor, Ed. Find yourself a nice girl or a tree and settle down. Have some babies or maybe some soup.”

Ed smiles. He closes his eyes and purrs like hippopotami often do.

I hit him across the head with a mackerel. He falls, dead.

I step back out of the shoebox. My client is there with all fourteen pairs of hands clasped in anticipation.

“Is it over?”

I nod, handing her the arm and leg.

“Here.”

She hands me a shrimp.

“This is too much,” I say.

“You are the best. I definitely received my invertebrate’s worth.”

I toss the monstrous thing on the back of my bicycle. It’s nice to be appreciated. I try to leave before she kills the mood.

“You know,” she says, “you look just like your brother.”

Great. I look just like my lazy, good-for-nothing, sleeps for eons in other people’s basements, cult of followers having brother. She not only killed the mood, she ran it over, helped it up, then dropped a grand piano on its cold, moldy corpse. If she weren’t a customer, I’d squirt ink in her eye.

“I leave you with a piece of friendly advice, Countess: Don’t open that fridge.”

Friday, December 17, 2010

Author Interview: Martin Millar - On lonely werewolf girls, vampire slayers, and the peril of wrestling Elizabethan playwrights




Recently, I had the extreme good fortune to interview one of my favorite authors, Martin Millar. What follows is a rare treat. He was able answer my thirteen questions in a way that makes them seem as though they were actually intelligent, worthwhile queries. Though this is solely due to Martin's quick wit, I do not hesitate to take full credit for the quality of this interview.

Enjoy!

MT: First, an easy one. Which of these Internet created holidays do you prefer, "Talk Like A Pirate Day" or "Speak in Third Person Day"? And please demonstrate how one might ask for directions to the rest room on your chosen day.

Martin: Speaking in the third person would probably take less effort than talking like a pirate. All these 'Arrhh me hearties' would wear me out. Third person wouldn't wouldn't be that difficult to manage - 'Could you please show Martin to the rest room? He's in need of some freshening up.'

MT: The title of this blog is Werewolf Kibble, which is a reference to the things werewolves eat, such as tacos, ham sandwiches, small mammals, disagreeable vampires, and the occasional bowl of miso soup. I make no secret of the fact that Lonely Werewolf Girl is my favorite werewolf novel. While everyone else in the literary and film industries is neck deep in vampires, what is it about werewolves that captured your interest?

Martin: The first thing I thought of was the title, Lonely Werewolf Girl. The phrase was enough to get me interested. It started me wondering what a lonely werewolf girl might be like. It also struck me that, in obvious contrast to her loneliness, I could also write about a lot of other werewolves in a social setting, namely a clan, which was ideal for setting part of the book in Scotland, which I was also pleased to do. The book very quickly became a large saga, because of the amount of characters, and I liked that too.

I think werewolves have the capacity to be more human than vampires, which for me is more interesting. But really, the driving force was mainly that I thought I could write a good book about werewolves, whereas I'd have a difficult time coming up with anything original to say about vampires. I doubt I could come up with a better vampire than Spike.

I've never really seen why werewolves would necessarily be savage killers, unable to control their emotions when they change into werewolves. That doesn't really seem to follow along logically to me. I thought it quite likely that werewolves could manage to fit in with the rest of society, which most of my werewolves attempt to do.



MT: I have it on good authority that you are both a Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Spongebob Squarepants fan. Please rank these characters in order of who you would most want on your side in a barroom brawl:

Angelus, Patrick Starfish, Faith, Larry the Lobster, Squidward Tentacles, and Joyce Summers.

Martin: Faith - she's really tough and maybe we could go on a date afterwards. In fact, Faith was sexually aroused by fighting, and once practically dragged Xander into bed after she'd been involved in some violence, so she'd obviously be a good person to be in a fight with. Faith was so attractive. As, of course, is Eliza Dushku.

Angelus - Also tough, though I wouldn't want to be friends afterwards. I never really loved Angel as a TV show.

Patrick Starfish - he's practically invulnerable. I've seen terrible things happen to him in the cartoon and he just bounces back every time.

Larry the Lobster - He does weight training, but I don't think he's got the stomach for a fight.

Squidward - I sympathise with his intellectual leanings and artistic endeavours, though I can't see him being that much help in a fight.

Joyce Summers - Does have some hidden toughness - she did hit Spike with an axe on one occasion - but she was never that attractive a character.

(But really, we're missing the best option from SpongeBob - Sandy the underwater Squirrel. She's really tough)

MT: Through a twist of space and time, imagine you met William Shakespear in a pub one evening. After the inevitable wrestling match (It is a known fact that Shakespear had a brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu and liked to demonstrate his wrestling prowess in an attempt to impress the ladies whenever possible), which of your books would you suggest to the Bard for a rainy weekend read?

Martin: I'd be wary of wrestling an Elizabethan playwright, it could be dangerous. Christopher Marlowe ended up being stabbed through the eye. And in those days, in the shadowy theatrical and literary world, you never knew who might be a government spy.

I'd suggest to William Shakespeare that he never, ever looked at any of my books, so as he'd never know how inferior my writing was to his.

MT: What is the next book in your own "to read" pile?

Martin: Epictetus - Discourses and Selected Writings. Epictetus was a Greek stoic philosopher in the 1st century AD.

MT: The characters in Lonely Werewolf Girl and Curse of the Wolf Girl listen to an eclectic mix of music. If I were to sneak a peek at your current music playlist, what would I find?

Martin: T Rex, Slade, David Bowie - various English glam artists from the 70s. Also I listen to classical music on the radio.



MT: A friend told me that an open can of Guinness will draw leprechauns out if you have an infestation of the little buggers. Have you found this to be effective?

Martin: Well, this is more of an Irish question than a Scottish one, I have no real expertise in Leprechauns. Guinness may work in Ireland, but it would be an alien substance in Scotland, and might produce unforeseen consequences.

MT: If you could write a tale featuring any character at all, what character or characters would you write about? (Doctor Who episode, Batman comic, Sherlock Holmes story, Bleach story arc, Great Expectations sequel, etc.)

Martin: I'm having trouble answering this. Nothing comes very strongly to mind. I think I may have outgrown the enthusiasm I once had for many characters. Although I would still like to write a Buffy story.

To answer a slightly different question, if i was a writer at another time, I'd like to have been an Athenian playwright at the time of Aristophanes.

MT: In 200 years, a literature class is studying the collected works of Martin Millar / Martin Scott. What is the title of that course?

Martin: Minor Scottish Authors

MT: In Lonely Werewolf Girl, the title character is rude, brooding, self loathing, insecure, and neurotic, yet she still comes across as quite lovable. What was your inspiration for Kalix MacRinnalch, exiled daughter of the werewolf ruling family?

Martin: All of the rude, brooding, self loathing, insecure, and neurotic women I've had relationships with.

But seriously. She is just a figure from my own imagination. She has no real inspiration. However, most of her problems, neurosis and addictions are based on those of various people I've known.

MT: I love Anarchy in the U.K. by the Sex Pistols and I love the U.S. rock band Motley Crue. The Motley Crue cover of Anarchy in the U.K., however, makes me want to jam chopsticks in my ears. Why is that?

Martin: It just wasn't a suitable record for Motley Crue to cover. I think it was too far away in style and culture for them to understand it properly. Motley Crue singing about girls in LA is fine. There, they know what they're talking about. But Motley Crue trying to do justice to a record which really depended on it's 70s background of poor London council estates, strikes, inflation, and so on, filtered through the Sex Pistols' childhood in a country still affected by the post war poverty of the 50 and 60s, and then filtered again through the early 70s English music of The Faces, pub rock, and glam rock, was a big step too far for Motley Crue to manage.

Actually, Motley Crue make a spirited start in their version, but quickly run into trouble because they can't resist adding in flashy guitar solos. This is something you really can't have in 'Anarchy in the UK,' it destroys the whole concept of the record. After listening to Anarchy in the UK for the first time, you're meant to feel that you can immediately start your own band and make music, even if you don't know yet how to play an instrument. That feeling vanishes if the record is blighted with complicated guitar solos.

By extension of the above, listening to Anarchy in the UK can also make you feel that you can also go and write your own books, something it did for me.

MT: What is next for you on the writing front?

Martin: A Graphic novel set in ancient Greece, and probably a third werewolf book about Kalix.

MT: (In lieu of writing a response let the record show that I just did a backflip with a double twist at the mention of a third Kalix book. Hooray and ouch.) In closing, here is your chance to either reinforce or dispel a widespread stereotype about Scottish cuisine. Have you ever consumed a deep fried Mars candy bar and, if so, is it as wonderful as I imagine it would be?

Martin: No, I'd be scared to try it. I moved to London a long time ago, and while I remember Scotland as keen on it's deep fried fish and chips, I don't think the mania for frying such things as mars bars had arrived when I still lived there. I understand that anything can now be deep fried in Scotland, from chocolate to pizzas, but I've never tried any of this. It all sounds like a very bad idea to me, but I am ridiculously picky about the things I eat. My relationship with food is strained at the best of times, so I couldn't go around risking dangerous items like deep-fried mars bars.

MT: Thank you very much, Martin. On a scale from Angel Season 4 to Buffy Season 2, I rate this interview a Buffy Season 2 all the way.

Martin Millar is a critically acclaimed Scottish writer from Glasgow, now resident in London. He also writes the Thraxas series of fantasy novels under the pseudonym Martin Scott. He won the 2000 World Fantasy Award for the first book of the Thraxas series.

Connect with Martin on Twitter, his blog, and his website. Also, don't forget to pick up Lonely Werewolf Girl and Curse of the Wolf Girl.

If my endorsement isn't enough for you, see what a gentleman named Neil Gaiman has to say about Martin in the introduction he wrote for The Good Fairies of New York. Apparently, Mr. Gaiman dabbles in writing, too.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Afterlife: A bizarro tale of life, love and the hereafter or something.

I lived a good life. Never hurt anyone. Minded my business.

I ate. I swam. I spawned.

Then, I died.

I can’t remember the details. The old memory isn’t so good, even now. I know I have crossed over, but I’m not sure where I am.

The water is cool and clear. There are no men with poles and hooks lurking about, so that is a huge plus. The stream is flowing and I have plenty to eat.

There is only one explanation for this: I am in Heaven. Salmon Heaven!

I will swim and eat forever. I bet the spawning grounds are just over the hill, too. I am going to fertilize eggs until I go cross eyed. Then I’ll eat and do it some more. This is exactly how I want to spend eternity.

I don’t see the bear until he has me in his paws, snatching me from my paradise.

“Wait,” I scream.

The bear holds me inches from his drooling mouth, puzzled.

“What’s wrong?” he asks.

“There has been some mistake. You shouldn’t be here.”

The bear scratches his head.

“What do you mean?”

“This is the afterlife, yes?”

“Obviously,” they bear replies.

“I was swimming along, minding my business and heading to fertilize some eggs and you snatched me right out.”

“That I did. What’s the problem?”

The bear is obviously mentally deficient, so I spell it out for him.

“There are no bears in Salmon Heaven. I am not asking, I am demanding: Put me back in the water and leave at once.”

If I had a foot I would stamp it on the ground for emphasis. As it is, I slap his paw with my fin. The effect is the same.

“Mr. Salmon, there has obviously been some mistake.”

“Obviously,” I reply indignantly.

“I concur that, in Salmon Heaven, there should be no bears. You should be free to swim and fertilize eggs to your tiny salmon heart’s content.”

“I’m glad you see the issue. Now if you could just—”

“However,” the bear retorts, “you are not the injured party in this dispute.”

“Explain.”

“Though you are correct in your assumption that the likelihood of a bear being in Salmon Heaven is virtually nil, there is a fundamental flaw in your thinking.”

“And what might that be?” I ask. The bear fancies himself a thinker, this should be amusing.

“You, sir, are not in Salmon Heaven. I have been sitting in this spot for nearly twenty years eating your delicious brethren. In a few minutes I will make my way over the hill and spend the next twenty years mating and the following twenty years hibernating as I have done for as long as I can remember. Therefore, I can say with utmost confidence that this is, with no doubt whatsoever, Bear Heaven.”

“Oh my.”

“It’s pretty obvious.”

“Quite obvious, yes.”

“Yes.”

“Well, you can imagine my embarrassment.”

“I’m sure.”

“I am very sorry for my rudeness, Mr. Bear.”

“Think nothing of it,” he says. Bears are really quite civil once you get to know them.

“I suppose there is nothing left but to get on with it.”

“Quite right. I do apologize, but this might hurt quite a bit.”

“No apology needed. I am the injuring party here. Carry on.”

To his credit, the bear eats me as gently as such a thing can be done.

I can’t remember the details. The old memory isn’t so good, even now. I know I have crossed over, but I’m not sure where I am.

Now I am swimming once again.

Another stream, another chance. This surely the right place.

A human stands up ahead wearing those silly rubber pants they are so fond of, but he doesn’t worry me. I am far more interested in that delicious egg suspiciously drifting in the water in front of him. Any other time, I might be worried. Luckily, I am in Salmon Heaven.

I think I’ll take a bite.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nonfiction: December 9, 2008

Note: This is a departure from my usual satirical rambling, book and movie spotlights, and author interviews. My father passed away on December 9, 2008. This is what I remember about that day and his funeral.

***

“We did all we could. There is only so much the human body can take.”


The doctor kept talking but I zoned in and out after that. He was a nice guy. Friendly yet professional. At some point as he explained how kidney failure and the resulting toxin buildup in the blood—along with the half-dozen health problems Dad had—eventually caused his heart to just stop. That’s the real life definition of that fancy term “cardiac arrest.” After he said that, he laughed. I think I laughed and nodded, too. The doctor is the fast food chef of health care, and my Dad was a hamburger that couldn’t be salvaged.

I made the two hundred and sixty mile trip to Providence Hospital in a little over three hours when Mom called the night before. I cried the entire time because once I got there I would have to be the rock, and rocks don’t cry.

They let me in to see Pop after hours. His blood pressure was barely registering and he was already on a ventilator. It was the third time that I remembered him being on a ventilator. In the back of my mind I figured he’d wake up and snatch it out of his throat as he had done once before. Or, maybe that never happened. The mind goes to weird places when faced with something it doesn’t want to accept.

We were supposed to go into the intensive care unit and see him early that morning, but they asked us to wait outside for a few minutes. While we waited, a calm voice announced over the intercom that there was a “code blue” in intensive care. That’s more hospital talk for “somebody just died.”

By the time they let us back, the group of nurses and doctors who tried to save him were walking out, joking about what kind of crap they would be serving in the lunchroom. Dad was laying there, hands by his sides and eyes closed. His bed linens were neatly drawn up and tucked under his arms and sides. He would have looked like he was asleep, but nobody lies that still and straight.

Mom cried. I hugged her. She kissed Dad on the forehead and I did the same. I remember thinking he had only died a few minutes earlier but he was already so god damned cold.

We went to a little room by intensive care where they take people when a loved one has just died. A couple of nuns came to sit with us until the priest arrived. When he got there, he asked if he could say a prayer and we said we’d like that.

Some time in there, the rock broke and I cried a little. It didn’t last long. I couldn’t let it. I had to track down my brothers.

I called my older brother. He and Dad had their problems and he and I weren’t that close anymore either. I left a voicemail on his cell phone asking him to call me right away. Then, I called his office. The receptionist would give me no information whatsoever other than to say he was out of the office. In his rather public position there had to be some buffer, so I tried not to get offended, albeit unsuccessfully. I told her I was his brother and asked if she could convey a message. Her tone actually seemed to grow a little colder. Finally, she unenthusiastically decided she could give him a message. “Tell him his brother Mike called and our father just died,” I said. I can’t be sure, but I think I at least ruined her day. I really hope I did.

I called my eldest brother after that at the last cell number I had for him. Either it was out of service or I had the wrong number. We would later find out that he was getting ready to leave the country on a work assignment and coming to Pop’s funeral would have been a real inconvenience. I guess a phone call would have been just as inconvenient. He did send flowers though. Who sends flowers to their own father’s funeral? He does, I guess.

My older brother came as soon as he found out. It was good to see him and he was a big help. We talked like we did years before. We haven’t spoken since after the funeral.

The day before the funeral, we found out that one of the pastors we hoped could speak wouldn’t be able to attend. After a brief discussion, I decided to speak in his place.

I made a bunch of notes but never took them out of my pocket. I talked about how Dad was the most honest person I had ever met. He’d tell it like it was even if the truth wasn’t pretty, which was often the case. He served in the Navy during the Korean War and became a state trooper a few years after he returned home. To the day he died, more people knew him as Lieutenant Murphy than Tom.

I mentioned that he wasn’t fond of drawn out sermons or prayers, noting a funeral we attended when I was a kid. Halfway through a painfully long and sorrowful prayer by the presiding pastor, I heard someone start snoring. A split-second later, I realized it was Pop and elbowed him in the ribs. Those in attendance got a kick out of the story.

I thanked everyone for coming: all our friends and family, my friends and co-workers who shut our company down for the day just to make the trip, the Alabama State Troopers who had never met my dad but still felt compelled to make the trip to salute the fallen brother they had never met, the pastor who had come with my aunt to visit Dad in the hospital numerous times just because that’s what she did.

The Alabama State Honor Guard attended the graveside service. A trumpet player played Amazing Grace and seven troopers gave him a twenty-one gun salute. The local Freemason lodge performed a graveside service as well. Because we live in the digital age, the Honor Guard has a video crew that taped the service. Mom gave me a DVD a few weeks later. I still haven’t watched it.

The last time I spoke to Dad, we got in a fight over politics. We still said our I love you’s before we hung up, but we both were a little exasperated with each other. As was often the case, it eventually turned out that he was right and I was wrong. He wasn’t perfect, but he did the best he could and I loved him for it.

I’m not sure why I wrote this. I made peace with dad’s passing long ago. Maybe I just needed to see it in black and white, or maybe I still have a demon or two to exorcize.

Thanks for reading. 
 
Now, back to your regularly scheduled leprechaun bashing, booze, and werewolves.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Choose Your Doom: Zombie Apocalypse by DeAnna Knippling & Dante Savelli - A zombiefied choose your own adventure style spatterfest



Zombie Apocalypse is a throwback to the Choose Your Own Adventure books I grew up with. Instead of simply reading the story, you are given choices at certain intervals that allow you to direct the actions of tough guy slacker hero, Tobe, as he tries to protect his friends and fight off the zombie horde trashing his parents’ restaurant and, apparently, the rest of the city.

The story throws you directly into the action. Within the first few pages, zombies arrive and Tobe has to make multiple life or death decisions. Does he bash in the head of his former classmate turned zombie or does he run and hide? 

Of course I chose to bash away. For me, it was a … NO BRAINER!

HAR!

I crack me up.

Virtually every choice you make leads to either the wet, gooey destruction of zombies or the death of friends and innocent victims. Like it plainly states on the cover, “No happy endings!”

Blood, zombie parts, and evil black ichor fly off of 190 fun and disturbing illustrations that play out the various scenarios presented in the text.

You might lead Tobe to become the champion of a rag tag group of survivors or you might see him infected by the undead, himself. If you’re lucky, you just might survive long enough to find the source of the zombie virus and save the day, but I doubt it. The ending is all up to you.

I highly recommend this fun and creative, yet disturbing trek through the Zombie Apocalypse.

Choose Your Doom: Zombie Apocalypse receives a rating of 5 Bruce Campbells!!


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar - Seemingly, the test tube book baby of several of my favorite writers.



If Douglas Adams and Anne Rice had a little werewolf book baby that was later raised by Neil Gaiman, that baby would grow up to be Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar.

The sheer size of this book intimidated me more than a little. It weighs in at well over five hundred pages, yet I tore through it faster than most three hundred pagers. Why? Because the action and humor never lets up.

Kalix is easily the loneliest and most depressed little werewolf ever. She is also the exiled princess of the royal werewolf clan MacRinnalch of Scotland. Despite her wispy frame and emo exterior, Kalix is among the most powerful werewolves in existence. She wanders the streets of London, drowning her numerous sorrows and avoiding death at the hands of werewolf hunters or family members who seek to shore up their claim to the throne after their father's death.

She is befriended by a pair of human students, Daniel and Moonglow, who are sucked into the world of werewolf political assassinations, high fashion espionage, and rock and roll.

The cast of characters numbers in the dozens. There are treacherous werewolf aristocrats, noble outcasts, would-be rockers, powerful warlords, fashionista fairy queens, seedy supernatural relic dealers, and a cross-dressing werewolf warrior-prince. The vast majority of these players are morally ambiguous. They each experience flashes of good and moments of pure evil that keep the story moving. Their goals may be simple, but their motives, alliances, and actions are anything but.

Though the book is quite lengthy, the text is broken up into chapters of usually two to three pages. This structure is ideal for reading in five or ten minute stretches if you are like me and are forced to resort to guerrilla reading sessions as time permits.

Lonely Werewolf Girl is my new favorite werewolf novel. I’m trying to get away from stars, but if you need one for this review, I give it the Super Mario Brothers invincibility star as follows:



Monday, December 6, 2010

Inappropriately short bizarro story: The Defender

“How long do we wait?”

“As long as it takes.”

Steve doesn’t like my answer. I didn’t expect him to. He’s a rookie.

Hours go by. Maybe days.

Steve fidgets. He walks across the ceiling. He complains about things.

I don’t listen. I don’t move either. Too distracting.

Steve follows my advice and calms the fuck down after all of creation starts shaking. He wants to ask me what is happening, but the look on my face stops him. I am master of the eight-eyed stare.

Darkness envelops the vast basin. Horrible sounds echo. Wailing follows roaring which, in turn, follows the sounds of crashing and folding of materials we cannot comprehend. The darkened sky opens and evil rains down.

We watch, protected by the ivory shield above us.

Below, the dam breaks, sending an endless flood of water to wash away the impurity that fell from the sky. The endless flood stops, proving me wrong again.

The sky clears. Rather, the great behemoth that covered it moved on.

“What the hell was that?” Steve asks. He’s nearly crying. Damn rookies.

“That was Earl. He’s the reason we’re here.”

I leap down the edge of our perch and wait. Steve is tentative. He stares down at me for a very long time. Then, he follows. He’s learning.

“Okay, it’s about to happen. Just observe.”

Steve obeys.

We sit in the shadow of the white mountain and wait.

We can’t see the top of the sheer structure in front of us, but a seam appears right down its middle. Half of the wall moves silently out, creating a gateway into the darkness.

Five fingers reach through and push the opening wider. The thing isn’t as big as Earl, but it is easily ten thousand times my size.

The hideous beast steps out from the shadows on two legs. Its two circular eyes dart around, looking for something to steal or looking for me. We have played this game before more times than I can remember.

The thing grows bold, sneaking out of its hiding place to wreak havoc.

Steve quivers.

“What do we do?”

“Just watch,” I say. Damn rookie.

I move with all of my considerable speed right for the monster’s path. I stop and stare.

The thing freezes. It wants to kill me. It wants to lift its armored foot and crush me into paste.

“Blimey,” it roars. “You little fuckers piss me right off.”

I don’t reply. I am master of the eight-eyed stare.

“I could do it you know,” it bellows, “just one stomp is all it would take. I’d end you and have the place to meself.”

“We both know that won’t happen.” I sound like what I am: the defender who protects the behemoth.

The thing jumps up and down, moving dangerously close to me in the process. Despite the shaking ground, I do not move. It’s all just posturing.

When it tires of its fit, it slinks back into its cavern defeated, and closes the gate behind it.

Steve rushes to my side.

“What was that thing?”

“That is Earl’s adversary. We protect him from that.”

“Is it the only one?”

“No. There are many that we know of. That is why we need you. You must protect the land below. We hear another is encroaching and I cannot be in all places at once.”

He trembles. I know the look. He’s so damn scared he wants to curl up and play dead.

“Steve, relax. It’s not that bad.”

“Not that bad?” He’s frantic. It’s a lost cause. I’ve lost him already. “I can’t do this.”

He runs as fast as all of his legs will carry him. Instead of staying in the shadows like I taught him, he runs right through the center of the field of squares.

“Steve, don’t.”

Neither of us feel Earl’s approach. He moves with a speed that frightens me, still. His own gargantuan foot crushes Steve before he even sees it coming.

Poor Steve. Maybe he was the lucky one.

Earl sighs with relief and removes Steve’s remains before retreating back to the vast plateau on which he sleeps. He feels better, which comforts me a little.

Sometimes I wish I could warn Earl about the leprechaun, but that’s not how it works. I’m a defender. I defend. I don’t tattle on my enemies.

Despite Earl’s great power, he is surprisingly fragile. I don’t think he could take it. He needs me. He needs my people.

Now, I need to find another rookie.

Bizarro soup for the fractured soul: Fungus of the Heart by Jeremy C. Shipp



Fungus of the Heart is a collection of stories by Bram Stoker Award nominee, Jeremy C. Shipp. The tales take place in worlds similar to our own, but offer a twisted reflection of the reality we live in.

Undead ambassadors lurk just outside the suburbs. A powerful protector will kill anyone he has to kill to see his lost love, or will he? A ghost works as a human whisperer. An anthropomorphic walrus and a dead bear mend the hearts of the world one poacher at a time.

Each of the thirteen tales is unified by the theme of heart.

Fire, water, wind, and earth are thankfully absent.

Maybe the author had a definite meaning for these stories. Maybe he didn’t. It doesn’t matter.

This is the world of Bizarro fiction.

When reading this book, you will see what you want to see: yourself, your neighbor, your dog. Reading the same story twice will produce two distinct experiences and emotions. No one will have the exact same journey as anyone else.

If fiction that follows the conventions of “normal” stories is the only thing you want to read, then stay away from this book. If you read it, you will be confused, challenged, and possibly even entertained.

The author has a website with a link to several of his short stories free online. Go there. Test the waters. If you don’t run away screaming or stamp away in disgust, then you probably want to read more. Fungus of the Heart is a great place to start.

I don’t give stars on my reviews anymore. If I did, I’d give this one a Vega, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Author Interview: S.D. Anderson - author of The Devil's Angel and computer faith healer

I have been friends with fellow author S.D. Anderson for several years. Because she has grown somewhat comfortable with me, she foolishly agreed to this interview in the wake of releasing her first full-length novel, The Devil's Angel.


What follows is not for the faint of heart. Be advised, the C-bomb is dropped more than once.



MTM: First, an easy one: If you had to pick one and only one X-mas party to go to, whose party would that be: Vampires, werewolves, zombies, demons, leprechauns, feral gerbils, or the Cthulhu cultists?

SDA: HAHA! Can you believe that I had to look up Cthulhu Cultists? Shows you how sheltered I am! Anyway… First choice would be Vampires of course. I find it hard to believe that zombies would be good hosts, and leprechauns and gerbils make me want to do bodily harm to small children and Robert Pattinson. And well… Demons and Werewolves would be a distant second.

MTM: Your new book, The Devil's Angel, is now available all over the internet and at the little shop where I purchase my sideburn wax. How long have you been writing in the dark world of vampires, werewolves, and demons?

SDA: Do you really buy sideburn wax? HAHAH!

I found my love for the dark stuff almost 6 years ago, which was also when the birth of the lead character came about. Wow, can’t believe it’s been that long already. ;)

MTM: I predict the next hot fiction genre to be zombie love stories. Can you pitch me a hot synopsis for a zombie tale about two star-crossed, shambling, angsty, flesh-eating teens that I can plagiarize and use to finance my unhealthy obsession with potted meat from around the world?

SDA: I know it doesn’t really fit with the genre I’ve chosen to tell my stories in but I am not a zombie fan. I would be the worst person to pitch an idea on it because for me I have to at least enjoy it or see it as something I would like to have happen… zombies irk me for some weird reason. I mean if I wanted a guy that was falling apart, smells bad, and mumbles incoherently I can think of a few exes I’d go back to first. HAHA!

MTM: As we all know, the devil rarely leaves his winter home in Newark to mingle with the rest of us. What is it about the prince of darkness (not Ozzie, the other one) that captured your interest?

SDA: Great question and one I love answering. I believe it mainly stems from me being the black sheep in a religious family and wanting to see how far I could push the envelope. I tell people this book is my rebellion. Saying Lucifer or talking about the Devil was akin to saying Voldemort in my house growing up (Yea, yea, shout out to the HP fans hehe). But for the same reason that people love vampires, I love the mythology about Lucifer. Now I am not saying I have dark altars in my house or anything but I love what society has created him to be. I find it sexy as hell and very intriguing because the truth is no one alive today really knows. I wanted to portray him in such a light that you love to hate him but you know without a doubt women would sell their souls to him without a second thought.

I get into debates with my father and one of the biggest debates is religion because I tend to take opposing sides for the hell of it. The biggest kicker to me and what I love throwing at the fanaticals is this: If God made everything, and we are in fact made in his image, then does it stand to reason that he created Evil? Think on that one. It’s like the chicken and the egg, there is no wrong or right answer.

MTM: A fan sent me a picture of a tattoo from a passage in my book. Actually, it was just the copyright symbol on a really old guy's elbow, but still, I was honored. Are you looking forward to being so popular that fans have excerpts from your book tattooed on their bodies?

SDA: I have said for awhile that I don’t really want the fame. I don’t want to not be able to walk down the street without someone stopping me etc. I know without a doubt that I would become a hermit because I don’t do well with crowds and people bugging me haha. But that being said, yea that would be cool. When I write dialogue or something like that, there are several lines that ring loud to me and would be something even I would get tattooed because in my head they are epic quotes.

MTM: I have started asking everyone this question. Sam Elliott’s wooly mustache or Hugh Jackman’s wolverine lambchops? (Don't worry. There is no wrong answer here, but two talented actors' facial hair may be at stake.)

SDA: Hugh Jackman hands down. You have to think about kissable factor. Well not you but from a female perspective. I don’t want to be kissing something that furry. Sideburns are better. And let’s face it. Hugh Jackman is a babe. I need to go watch Wolverine again. *bites fist*

MTM: What book or books are you reading right now?

SDA: Actually I am not reading anything at the moment. I have two that I am planning on starting here within the next few weeks once I get publishing out of the way. They are Grey Dogs by Ian Sandusky and My Partner’s Wife by Michael Glenn Yates

MTM: Finish this scene: "Edward Cullen bumps into Devrynne Kaine, main character from The Devil's Angel, and spills his tomato juice on her new evening gown."

SDA: She would of course grab him and glare at him in fine bitchy fashion and then whoop his ass. Finishing line would be something along the lines of… “Only fairies sparkle you moron.”

MTM: I sometimes read passages of my writing to my Schnauzer and ask him what he thinks of it. I always take his silence to mean that it is the best prose he has ever encountered with his Schnauzer ears. What are some of your guilty pleasures?

SDA: Oh lordy… Adam Lambert is probably the one I’d get teased for the most. My daughters got me hooked on him and I will admit to being very taken with the man. Aside from that it would have to be my TV shows… Vampire Diaries and Supernatural. I’m a total fangirl at heart. Oh and Billy The Exterminator. Hate bugs but love that man!

MTM: You may already know that I am something of a profanity enthusiast. I have discovered that when one woman intensely dislikes another, they often use the term, "cunt," which I find both fascinating and heart-warming. What is your favorite curse word and why?

SDA: Ooooh. You said the C word!!! Nickel in the swear jar! HAHAHA! I only use Cunt when I’m extremely pissed at someone, and it is still very rare. The one that I use the most is probably a tie between Cockwhore and Douchnozzle. I use those quite liberally. Love the way they roll off my tongue. Cockwhore came about by accident. I was pissed off at someone from back in the hayday of my Myspace roleplayer days and was on the phone venting to my sister about it. Meant to say cock sucking whore and that came out instead. We both giggled hysterically over it and I’ve used it ever since. Douchnozzle was said on an episode of Supernatural and I’ve used it not so lovingly to refer to an ex ever since.

MTM: I am quite fond of first person point of view in writing. Then, I also like to scream at mailboxes and dare them to cross me, which they almost never do. Could you tell me about why you chose to write The Devil's Angel in first person and what it is that draws you to that style?

SDA: Mailboxes huh? So you’re threatened by stationary objects… *makes mental note* Moving on hahaha…I remember reading books and they were ALL in third person. I found it hard to relate to it. Then I came across one of my first 1st person written books and loved it. I connected with it because I like getting lost in a story and it allowed me to do that. When you’re reading along it’s hard to keep all the He’s and She’s and They’s from becoming a jumbled mess of confusion. First person is easier because it’s allowing the reader to read it as if they’re in their shoes.

Now I can write in third person, most if not all of my stories have started as third person until I get a good grasp on the character and can connect with them. I’ll just be in the middle of a chapter and without realizing I will switch to 1st person. That’s when I know it’s time to go back and redo the beginning and that the connection has been made.



MTM: As you know, I have a lifelong feud with the leprechauns. To my great satisfaction, I found out that the company that produces the print version of my novel uses real leprechaun tears in their ink. Were any leprechauns harmed in the making of The Devil's Angel? (please say yes)

SDA: Well here’s the deal. They creep me out. They are wicked little beings that are usually up to no good. Stupid little pots of gold no one can find… rubbish I tell you. HAHA. No, unfortunately, no Leprechauns were harmed in the making of the Devil’s Angel. Perhaps I can plot their demise in the sequel? *insert maniacal laughter here*

MTM: With the release of The Devil's Angel, you are one step closer to the goal all writers share: world domination and all the free turkey jerky and Guinness we can consume. What is the next step of your plan? If that information is top secret, what other projects are you working on?

SDA: You can keep the Guinness. Hehehe. Um… world domination wouldn’t be cool… I’d be terrible because the power would go to my head and I’d inevitably start making people worship me and wear really bad mullets. *shudders*

I am actually working on multiple things. I stayed with the first book and that was all I worked on because I was afraid that I wouldn’t finish if I didn’t. Now that I have one under my belt it’s a lot easier to jump around to whatever I’m in the mood to write.

The first and foremost is the sequel to this book called The Devil’s Apprentice. It takes place about a year after The Devil’s Angel ended. It’s the middle of at least a three part series about Devrynne’s life and the people in it. The third one is called The Devil’s Downfall (detecting a pattern here?) and it takes place 18 years after the end of the second and is not so much tied with the main story of the first two so I’m writing it as well. Mainly in pieces that don’t tie into the focal points on the first two.

Also I have been playing around with something completely out of the paranormal/horror genre, something a little closer to personal for me called Address in the Stars. I find it hard to work on this piece because it is tied very closely to things in my life that are still a little too close for comfort, so it is slowly coming along.

There is another small one that is just taking shape that has no title yet and is not in the paranormal/horror realm either. This is another taboo/rebellion piece as well because of what it’s about that deals very closely with a woman who decides to have a child for her best friend who is a gay male. It focuses very closely on relationships within the woman’s life being severed because of her choices that goes against her family’s religious beliefs.

The other big piece I’m working on is called The Curse of Katia DuFresne. It is centered around a supporting character from The Devil’s Angel, Cash Montgomery. Whether this will turn into a full length novel is unknown. I’m aiming for novella but as you can tell I do so love to ramble so it could be the full length novel by the time it’s done.

MTM: I look forward to reading it. I also look forward to using cockwhore and douchenozzel as liberally as I can this holiday season.

Big thanks to S.D. Anderson for enduring thirteen questions worth of my disjointed thought process. Her new book, The Devil's Angel, is available now.

Don't be a douchenozzel. See it. Read it. Live it.

Connect with S.D. Anderson
Smashwords

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Looking for a few good beta readers / The traits of a good beta reader

Earlier this week, Michele Shaw posted an excellent article about beta readers on her blog. If you haven’t read it, please check it out.

Beta readers are given the task of examining an author’s work in process and offering constructive advice concerning plot, prose, structure, and virtually every aspect of a manuscript. They do this for no pay, few accolades, and often little more than the satisfaction that they kept an author from looking like a total moron.

Good beta readers are like the ground crew that checks out a commercial jet before it takes off. The passengers usually don’t even see them, but, the fact that the plane is able to take off and land without losing a wing or running out of gas means that they did their job.

In case you are wondering, readers equate to passengers in that analogy.

What?

No, you can’t be the pilot.

This is my blog, so I am the pilot, dammit. Get your own jet.

Sorry. I was rambling. I’m a rambler.

I have had the good fortune of interacting with several fantastic beta readers. Here is my list of traits they all share:

1. Brutal honesty.

This is why it is difficult for friends to beta read. If a passage makes you want to set fire to the manuscript and bury the remains in a haunted pet cemetery so the thing can rise as an evil doppelganger thus giving you the chance to kill it again, then the author needs to know that. It can be sugar coated or dipped in vinegar, but that is information they need. 
 
2. Fresh ideas.

Sometimes an interesting idea makes it into a manuscript but is never fully explored. A good beta reader can pick up on an orphan idea and give the author a nudge to feed and water it until it grows into big plot lizard that eats the weak story threads and poops out 24 karat gold rubix cubes! It’s a fact.
 
3. Ability to see both the big picture and the details.

Picking out an author’s tendency to overuse the phrase “he smirked” is an example of good detail observation. Pointing out that a character is always smiling and giddy despite the majority of a story involving them being in a state of utter despair is a great big picture observation. A beta reader who can point out both of those things is worth his or her height in Guinness.
Yes, height.
 
4. Understanding of the genre and writing style of a given work.

A reader who enjoys historical fiction probably shouldn’t beta read a futuristic sci-fi tale. A fan of gothic horror might like a romance book, but the odds of that are not great. A good beta reader knows what they like and can offer great advice for someone writing a book in a genre they enjoy. 
Think you have what it takes to be a beta reader, lil' buckaroo? Prove it.

I am looking for several beta readers to test drive a horror/urban fantasy short story I am working on for an upcoming anthology. If you are into vampires and werewolves who act like monsters instead of lovesick emo adolescents and you want the chance to help make a soon to be published story as good as it can be, send me a message.

authormikemurphy@gmail.com 

Keep in mind, I am my own biggest fan so I already know how awesome I am. If my head were any bigger, it would require a signal light for passing planes. I need someone who is not afraid to tell me what sucks about the story so I can make it better.

I also need some Cheezits, because Cheezits are fantastic, but you let me worry about those.

Now that my pitch is out of the way, are there any beta readers out there who want to share their thoughts and experiences in beta reading?

How about authors, have you had any shockingly good or horrifyingly bad beta readers?

Also, do Schnauzers make good beta readers? If so, I know a guy.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Author Interview: Jeremy C. Shipp, Bram Stoker nominee and giant gnome king


How many Bram Stoker Award nominated authors would be willing to subject themselves to thirteen asinine, moronic, borderline psychotic questions from yours truly? I can think of only one: Jeremy C. Shipp.


He is the dark Elvis/giant gnome king of Bizarro fiction and a nice guy to boot. My review of his latest work, Fungus of the Heart is forthcoming. I'll give you a spoiler: it is bizarre and fantastic.

MTM: Welcome, Jeremy. I have many earth-shaking questions, so I'll jump right in before you change your mind.

I have an uneasy truce with the spiders, but I hate leprechauns with every fiber of my appendix. Does this make me a hypocrite?

JCS: I don’t think so. For the most part, spiders are compassionate, trustworthy creatures who’d give you the shirts off their backs, if they weren’t nudists. Leprechauns, on the other hand, steal gold jewelry and fillings from tourists and sell their loot on the black market so that they can buy double rainbow shotguns, which they use to hunt baby manatee angels. Not cool.

MTM: For someone new to Bizarro fiction, such as the writer of this blog, what does one need to know before delving into your stories?

JCS: If you're a fan of Terry Gilliam, Takashi Miike, David Lynch, then you’d most likely enjoy Bizarro fiction. I write bizarre, dark tales with a heart. My tales are funhouse mirror reflections of our own world. And so, the realities I create are familiar and unfamiliar all at once.

MTM: Pick three favorite stories from your own writing. Which one would you eat first and why?

JCS: If we’re talking short stories, three of my favorites are Camp, Boy in the Cabinet, and The Sun Never Rises in the Big City. I’d definitely eat Boy in the Cabinet first, because the story includes mason jars full of fruit preserves and pickled delicacies. And I would refuse to eat Camp, because I’m vegan.

MTM: The title of your new work, Fungus of the Heart, is both sweet and vaguely repulsive. Oddly enough, my wife sometimes uses those same terms to describe me: sweet and vaguely repulsive. Why did you decide upon that as the title?

JCS: I chose Fungus of the Heart, because I find the image to be emotionally evocative and I find the idea to be thematically fitting. Characters throughout the collection have fungi growing in their hearts. My characters suffer from the fungus of loneliness, the fungus of heartbreak, etc.




MTM: You have mentioned in previous interviews concerning your work that Vacation is a map to your brain, Sheep and Wolves is a map to your fears, and Cursed is a map to your heart. Where does Fungus of the Heart fit in that respect and are you worried that someone will use those maps to break in and make a bunch of long distance phone calls while you are away?

JCS: Fungus of the Heart is a map to my relationships. Of course, the relationships in these stories don’t reflect my relationships in a literal sense. Instead, my relationships spawned questions in my mind, which ended up inspiring stories. Some of these questions: how far would I go to save the life of a loved one? What is love without respect? What is true friendship? As for the second part of your question, I’m not too worried about humans breaking in and making long distance phone calls. The attic clowns would probably devour their souls before they could talk for very long.

MTM: Sam Elliott’s wooly mustache or Hugh Jackman’s wolverine lamb chops?

JCS: In a battle to the death, Hugh Jackman’s lamb chops would definitely end up devouring the mustache, as the lamb chops are actually Tasmanian devils.

MTM: What book or books are you reading right now?

JCS: The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, and a few others.

MTM: Finish this scene: “Cthulhu, Michael Myers, and Bruce Campbell walk into a bar.”

JCS: Bruce Campbell says, “Why the long face?”
Michael Myers says, “Damn. Don’t tell me I accidentally put on my horse mask again.”
And Cthulhu laughs. Not because he finds this bar situation funny, but because he always laughs a little before destroying a world.

MTM: I like to put a pair of glasses on my Schnauzer and pretend he is James Lipton interviewing me. What are some of your guilty pleasures?

JCS: Too much peanut butter, Taylor Swift music, Project Runway, dressing up as an attic clown and laughing at myself for hours on end.

MTM: One of my favorite profane terms is “fecktwat.” I try to use it every chance I get in my writing. Not coincidentally, I am no longer allowed to contribute to my kids’ school paper. What is your favorite curse word and why?

JCS: My favorite swear words are “holy mackerel!” and “dagnabit!” I love fake swear words that make me feel like an old cartoon character.

MTM: The best way I can describe the stories collected in Fungus of the Heart is to say it feels like I am reading a Salvador Dali painting. Is there ever a time when you are not taking mental notes and giving slow birth to a bizarre or heart warming tale?

JCS: I have a feeling that my subconscious is always coming up with new stories, even when I’m busy canning pickled delicacies or trying to protect baby manatee angels from leprechauns wielding double rainbow shotguns.

MTM: Your novel, Cursed, was nominated for the Bram Stoker award. Congratulations! I picture the ceremony being held in an ancient Romanian castle with at least one hundred Bela Lugosi clones wearing the full Dracula costume in attendance. How accurate is this?

JCS: There were actually only ninety Bela Lugosi clones, and they all had wolverine-style lamb chops. The ceremony was held in an ancient Tasmanian castle. I still don’t understand why.

MTM: Barring some sort of apocalypse or Attic Clown takeover of literature, what is next for you after Fungus of the Heart?

JCS: Strangely enough, my next project is an Attic Clown takeover of literature. I’m also working on my first middle grade fantasy novel, as well as a few other projects. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to start production on my Charles in Charge musical starring Cthulhu as Charles and James Lipton as Buddy.

MTM: There is nothing about your answer that I do not love with all my pancreas.

Big thanks to Jeremy for being a great sport and taking time out of his crazy, honeybee-like schedule for this interview.

Click here for a collection of Jeremy's online short stories, then pick up his latest book, Fungus of the Heart

From the author's web page:
Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker nominated author of books such as Cursed, Vacation, and Fungus of the Heart. His shorter tales have appeared or are forthcoming in over 50 publications, the likes of Cemetery Dance, ChiZine, Apex Magazine, Pseudopod, and Withersin. Jeremy enjoys living in Southern California in a moderately haunted Victorian farmhouse called Rose Cottage. He lives there with his wife, a couple of mighty cats, and a legion of yard gnomes. The gnomes like him. The clowns living in his attic--not so much.
Feel free to contact Jeremy via email at: chrismatrix@yahoo.com
 
Jeremy as a poorly rendered werewolf.

Monday, November 22, 2010

November and December - More fun stuff than you can shake a leprechaun at



It goes against my chronic laziness to take on more projects than I can comfortably accomplish. This holiday season I'm making an exception. Here is what I have coming down the pipe:


November 26: Interview with Jeremy C. Shipp, Bram Stoker Award nominee and author of "Fungus of the Heart," "Vacation," "Sheep and Wolves," and "Cursed." His writing is so bizarre that it makes Bizarro Superman look like ...well ... regular Superman.

December 1 (tentative): Interview with S.D. Anderson, author of dark fiction/urban fantasy tale The Devil's Angel. See what she really thinks about the new zombie romance genre I just created from spare bits of irony and sarcasm I had lying around.

I am hoping to schedule a few more interviews as well. Here's hoping my intended targets don't read this blog or my tweets. They'd be scared off by such a high level of awesomeness. Or maybe the sideburns.

I have read, am reading, or will read several good books in the coming weeks and post reviews.

Reviews:
Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar (Finished - review to come)
Fungus of the Heart by Jeremy C. Shipp (getting there - like a brain massage with chopsticks)
The Devil's Angel by S.D. Anderson (Finished - review to come)
Becoming an Indie Author by Zoe Winters (About halfway - great guide)
Choose Your Doom: Zombie Apocalypse by DeAnna Knippling and Dante Savelli (about 2/3 through this choose your own adventure-style book and loving it)
Must Love Dragons by Monica Marier (looking forward to reading. MC's name is Linus Weedwhacker. She had me at the name)
Matilda Raleigh: Invictus by Chris Kelly (starting soon. Who can resist a 70 year old heroine with demonic pistols? not me)

Writing:
I am finishing up a short story for an anthology to be released in February with a few other authors. The story will focus on my main characters from Lucifera's Pet. I'll send more details as I have them.
My All Hallows novella is progressing nicely. It is about 50% done. Still on pace for a late Spring release.
The follow-up novel to Lucifera's Pet is about 25% done. I am holding off on finishing that until All Hallows is completed. Stay tuned.

It's almost Thanksgiving here and you know what that means. It's time for me to buy my annual bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey to enjoy after the Turkey Day festivities. I am significantly less hard than such a manly bottle of booze would indicate. In reality, it will last me until next Thanksgiving, if not a little longer.

Have a happy holiday season, all.

Remember, leprechauns make excellent Christmas gifts, particularly in jerky form.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lucifera's Pet: unpublished and unedited prologue

What follows is the unedited, unpublished, and nigh unreadable prologue for my novel, Lucifera's Pet. I am posting this for those of you who have already read the book and those of you who get a kick out of bad writing. I actually wrote this nearly a year before I decided to write the novel.

The events depicted in this prologue happen shortly before the novel, but I thought it best to just throw the reader into the story without providing this bit of background. More fun that way. 

Plus, this is just really, really bad. Like, eyes bleeding kind of bad. I don't mean Evil Dead 2 so bad it's good kind of bad. No. We are talking Ishtar bad.


That being said, please enjoy!

Prologue

Five blocks. That is how far my apartment is from the theatre. In broad daylight, I would think nothing of walking the sidewalk back there after a movie. At night, the idea doesn’t exactly thrill me. My friend Danielle just had to go to the late show tonight, though. Pushover that I am, I couldn’t just say “no.” I had already shot down her last two offers for girls’ night out, and I knew that one more rejection would mean I lost my spot in our little clique.

The plastic surgeon’s office where I work as the receptionist / bill collector, is another ten blocks in the opposite direction. On occasion, I have spent the night in the makeshift apartment that Dr. Denton has for when he finds the need to work extra late. It has been nice on those nights where the girls and I have found ourselves out on the town with a few too many martinis under our collars.

I would like to think that I am pretty. I mean, would a plastic surgeon hire someone to be the face that greets his clients if he didn’t think she was at least reasonably attractive? His offer to supplement my meager salary with “a nip here and tuck there … just routine beauty maintenance … no charge, of course,” sure didn’t do much for the old self esteem, though. I just have to remind myself that this is a forty-two year old father of four who drives a two-seat convertible sports car, and calls everyone “dude.”

The work apartment is way too far for any of us to walk to at 1:30 AM. Danielle has the brilliant idea to split a cab. I just paid $50 for dinner that wasn’t good, a movie I didn’t want to see, on a night I didn’t feel like going out, on a week where the good doctor told me I could either get some Botox in my cheeks or wait until next Monday for my paycheck because of a slow month at the office. Considering that I usually end up getting stuck for the entire cab fare, I decided that I would rather walk than get the short end of the stick, yet again.

“Fine … be that way, Joanie. At least be careful. I’ll call you tomorrow for martinis! Kiss kiss!”

I have to fight to keep my smile in place at Danielle’s words. When the cab full of my friends finally pulls away, I let out a breath and rolled my eyes. Great. Yet another evening on the town that I do not want.

I was only vaguely aware that the words “be careful” had been thrown into her statement as an afterthought. This is Los Angeles. I have lived here for five years. I have also made this walk at all hours of the night, at least two dozen times. As far as parts of town go, this is as safe as any.

Still, I figure it’s better to be safe than sorry. I took one of those self defense courses when I first moved here from Indiana. What I learned in that class has probably kept me from getting hurt a couple of times. One of the most important things they talked about was avoiding potentially dangerous situations, i.e. don’t walk around by yourself at 1:30 AM in the middle of L.A. Still, I figure that if I don’t act like a victim, I won’t be a victim. I hold my head up, pull my shoulders back, and walk with confidence and purpose towards my destination. If someone gets near me, I’ll scream my head off and run. If that doesn’t work, I’ll use the pepper spray, then, I’ll run.

I get about a half a block into my trek when a police car slowly cruises by, going the opposite direction from my apartment on the deserted four-lane street. I wave as the officer in the passenger seat shines the spotlight in my eyes. Surely I look neither threatening enough to be a mugger, nor slutty enough to be a prostitute in my black, pin-striped pant suit and heels. The car passes by and the shadow on the wall indicates that the spotlight has moved down from the back of my head to my butt.

“Gee, thanks, guys. I feel so much safer with you patrolling the streets.”

The LAPD continue their nightly rounds and go elsewhere to look for the bad guys, completely oblivious of my less-than-enthusiastic praise.

I had just rounded a corner by one of the few dark, deserted alleys on my path home when I heard the voice.

“You’re a terrible liar, you know.”

I turn in the direction of the deep, male voice, but see only darkness in the alley. Impossibly-strong hands push me from behind. It felt like a truck hit me squarely between the shoulder blades. I must have flown fifteen feet before slamming into the brick wall inside the darkness of the alley. The first thing I do is find my key chain with the pepper spray canister. I haven’t tried the stuff since I bought it two months ago. Dear God, please let it work.

I scramble to my feet, opening my mouth to scream. I never see him coming. The icy cold hand closes over my mouth before I can make a sound. He is already in my face, pinning me against his body with his other arm. His grip is like a vise. I can barely breathe, let alone scream.

The oxygen had been forced out of my lungs when he grabbed me. I have to take short gasping breaths, just to get what little air I can. The pepper spray is in my hand, but both of my arms were pinned by my sides in his freakishly-strong hold. As he holds me, I finally am able to get a good look at him.

He looks normal enough. He is a little taller than me, with a shaved head and earrings. He is wearing a stylish t-shirt and jeans, with rings and bracelets galore. He looks like a thousand guys you might find in any night club in L.A. That is the problem, though. He isn’t a “guy.” As I look into his face, I know he isn’t even human.

His eyes are glowing yellow as they bore a hole into my own. I have seen the ravers and their freaky contacts, but I have never seen anything like that. His skin is like ice. It is as if he were a dead body. The most terrible thing about his appearance is his teeth. They are long and jagged, and already coated with red. Is that blood???

“Why, yes it is.”

He just answered a question that I never spoke aloud. Dear God, he is in my head. What is he? What is he going to do to me? Am I going to be raped and killed by this … thing?

“The ‘what’ is a vampire. That is what I am. No offense, toots, you’re cute and all, but what I want is not in your pants. Instead, I think I can find it right … about …. Here.”

His icy tongue runs up and down my neck, directly over a major artery. I don’t know if this guy is for real, but I can only assume that he is. Even if he is not, I realize that he didn’t specifically say he wasn’t going to kill me.

I feel those horrible, jagged fangs brush against my throat. Dear God, please help me.

As I am readying myself for this … this thing to bite into the side of my neck, a blurry black form slams into both of us, then disappears. For the second time in less than a minute, I find myself on the ground. I stare at the asphalt and struggle to regain my breath. The man’s grip had been so strong that he might have cracked a couple of my ribs. The pain that shoots down my torso with each breath does not ease my fear.

When I look back to the man, he has already gotten back to his feet. He is no longer looking at me. Instead he is looking away from the dead-end brick wall of the back of the alley and back towards the street with what I can only describe as an animalistic snarl. I swear to God, it almost sounds like he is hissing like those cobras at the zoo, right before they attack the mice at feeding time. I don’t know if he is what he says he is, but I am finding it easier to believe that he is not human.

I realize that my chances of survival are far better if I am standing. Despite the pain in my ribs and my inability to take a decent breath, I drag myself back to my feet. I manage to make it to the wall and brace myself against it. I know if I end up on the ground again, I may never leave this place alive.

I chance a quick look to the mouth of the alley. It is in that moment that I see her.

She could not have been more than 5’4”. I can’t decide whether the word “terrible” or “beautiful” is better suited for her. Her long, ebon hair is the kind of shade that you just can’t get from a bottle … and the curves of her figure are something that the plastic surgeon I work for would never be able to reproduce, no matter how much money his clients throw at him. She is definitely attractive, but the one feature I cannot get over is her eyes. She looks no older than I do, but her eyes are so very old. Even stranger than that, they appear to be glowing with green fire. The black, sleeveless dress she is wearing looks very much like the dark shape that separated me from the vampire only a moment earlier. Dear God … she’s not human either.

This “woman” stands there, staring down my attacker. For one full of such bravado, the strange man has made no move to attack her. He seems … fearful.

“Do you know who I am?”

Her voice had the faintest hint of an accent, but I can’t quite place it. Spanish? Romanian? Though very feminine, there was a confident and commanding tone to it. The man makes no effort to answer her, so I take a shallow breath and open my mouth to do so.

She turns and locks eyes with me. She holds a finger in front of her lips. “Shh.” It is like her fiery green eyes grabbed a hold of my very soul. Not only am I unable to talk, but I also cannot move. My whole body simply stopped at her command.

The man replies to her question. “No. I don’t know who you are. Should I?”

I can only watch with morbid fascination as the scene unfolds. If his lack of knowledge bothers her, she doesn’t let it show. She just stands there with her arms crossed over her ample chest, looking very much like she owns everything and every one around her. I have never been in the presence of a queen, but I would imagine she would carry herself like this woman.

“I am Lucifera. This is my city, now. You are most unwelcome here.”

There is no humor in her tone, but the man laughs. At least, I think he was going to laugh. The sound never had a chance to fully form. One second, this Lucifera was standing in the mouth of the alley. Then she was gone. I see the same blur of black as it circles the man, then comes to a stop by my side. The man is still standing there, but something is wrong. It takes me nearly a full second to realize that his head is gone. It must have taken his body that long as well. Once we all figure it out, a spray of blood from his headless neck showers the alley in crimson. It is like some terrible geyser of blood that paints the wall and ground red. Finally, the body falls over and the stream ceases to flow.

I feel something heavy hit the ground next to my foot. I do not need to look down to know it is the man’s head. As quickly as my paralysis hits me, it is gone. I take a wobbly step towards the woman.

A movement in the mouth of the alley stops me. I can barely make out the dark shape that is getting closer to my odd savior. At first, I thought it was a large dog, but it was as big as a bear. No dog could be that big … nor would a dog have glowing red eyes.

Just when I thought the night could not get any stranger, the thing stands up on two legs and begins to speak.

“I took care of the other two across the street. You sure you don’t want me to stick around till this is done?”

The horror of that voice is nauseating. It is deeper than a fog horn. I feel like a thousand spiders are crawling down my spine with each word from that … thing. This cannot be real.

The woman is unfazed. She simply laughs and looks towards me as she inexplicably replies to the monster.

“No, Wolf. You have business to attend to, and so do I. The month will pass quickly and I shall be in my rightful place by the time you return.”

The monster grunts in affirmation, then turns its glowing red orbs on me. A spine-chilling smile forms on its canine face as it stares down at me from its towering height.

“Should I take care of this one, then?”

Involuntarily, tears form in my eyes from the mere sound of its words. Please, make it stop.

The woman holds up a hand. “No. That will not be necessary.”

The beast nods and turns is gigantic shape back towards the mouth of the alley.

I don’t know what is going on, but I am going to at least have my say. I take an unsteady step away from the monster and towards the woman.

“Thank you … Lucifera, is it?  I … I don’t know how I can repay you for saving my life … Is there anything I can do?”  The trauma must be making me delirious, as I start to giggle softly at the absurdity of the night’s events.

My laughter is cut short by a tiny hand that is suddenly wrapped around my throat. Dear God … her grip is even more terrible than the man’s was. I am finally beginning to black out from the lack of oxygen. I find myself pulled close to the woman’s face by that same hand with strength she should not possibly possess.

“Yes, there is. I find myself quite thirsty.”

In the space of a single syllable, I finally see them behind her ruby-red lips, hanging like two tiny ivory daggers. I see her fangs.

My world goes black as I feel the sharp pain of those same teeth tear the vein my first attacker had so coveted. The last thing I hear before darkness takes me completely is the sound of someone sobbing. I am oddly detached when I realize that the sound is coming …

from me.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Author Interview: Chris Kelly Pt 2 - the blog tour ending edition

Chris Kelly of Scathach Publishing seemed to be getting bored as his blog tour was winding down, so I hit him up for another interview. Why? Because I am an asshole like that.   

Anyone who has ever been involved in the mass chaos of a blog tour will realize that there is more than a little sarcasm in there, except for the asshole bit. Big thanks to Chris for being such a great sport.

MM: Welcome back, Chris. You are rolling into the end of your tour. What have you learned and would you do anything differently?

CK: This is the first time I've ever done anything like this; I've never even wrote to deadlines before so it was... interesting. Actually, it was Hell - it was tiring, confusing and seemingly never-ending but I really enjoyed it. I was constantly busy throughout October, always had too much to do and no time to do it, but on the whole it still went really well.

I don't know if I would do another book tour; in October I worked my ass off and sold six books so it wasn't worthwhile in that respect. In other respects it has worked well - I have a lot more people following my blog now than there were in previous months.

My two biggest problems this month were viruses - me and the laptop both had one. I've lost nearly a stone (about 14lbs? Is that right?) in just under a week because I have not been eating anything except Maltesers.

And my laptop packed on. It got fixed today, and they fixed it so well I can't get on the internet because the new firewall is super good.

MM: Ouch. That's dieting the hard way. What do you have coming up for the rest of the tour?

CK: This is the final day of my tour, but I have two guest posts coming to my blog in November - S L Armstrong is blogging about collaborating on projects, which is something I've always wanted to try. And Zoe Winters is doing her post on how to write characters in love. It's the counterpart to a post by Selena Kitt currently on my blog, which is how to write about sex.
( http://dun-scaith.blogspot.com/2010/10/guest-post-writing-real-sex-selena-kitt.html )

MM: You have written some excellent articles and hosted a number of outstanding posts (mine included - Damn, it was good. I'm going to read it again as soon as I finish this interview) on your blog. Are you looking forward to a quiet November or will you keep up the torrid blogging pace?

CK: In November I will be doing Nano. My nano novel is called Ugly Mean-spirited Nasty Stinking Goblinses (okay, it's not actually called that, but I keep forgetting the bloody title!)
The cover art is done, and the novel is mostly planned. It's a YA story about a homeless girl in Glasgow. Her name is Holly, and she can see what's really there - things like fairies and so on.

She teams up with a goblin who might be ugly and stinky and nasty and all the other things in the title, but who has a good heart, and a sex-mad (and now very frustrated) foul-mouthed princess trapped in the body of a 3ft high Princess Doll, and together they try to stop the evil villain... Santa Claus. He's stealing innocence from the world and abducting naughty children and forcing them to work in his toy factories.

The whole thing will be posted on a dedicated blog as it is written, and will also (hopefully) be released for sale before xmas. I also have a novel 90% done (well, 100% done but currently only existing in print) that I'd like to bring out before Christmas.

http://chriskellygoblins.blogspot.com/

So I won't be having a quiet November, but I won't be blogging a lot either.

Unless I get told to: I recently started a social networking challenge. I'm being deliberately sketchy on details at this stage, but I recently started a challenge and I've pretty much to do what I'm told from now til Christmas.






MM: Interesting. I knew a guy in college who had a sexually frustrated doll. His name was Fred and her name was Francine. Their story was far less interesting than your upcoming novel sounds like it will be.

Now that Matilda Raleigh: Invictus is published and finding its way to the eyeballs of readers everywhere, what's next?

CK: I've been working on an enhanced Ebook for Invictus, but it won't be ready til nearer Christmas at the soonest. It will have around 35000 words of new material including the first story of Matilda going up against the crystal skulls, and an add-on to the ending. It will also have lots of other interesting things in there, too. I'd hoped to bring it out sooner, but that was not to be.

I also have my secret non-fiction Matilda Raleigh project. I'm giving away very little about this at this stage except that it probably won't be ready before March at the very earliest. Could be looking at next August as a reasonable date. I'm seriously considering not bringing out another Matilda Raleigh book until this is ready.

Oh, and it will probably be free.

MM: You heard it here first, folks. The enhanced edition of Matilda Raleigh Invictus is coming! Good luck with NaNo, Chris. And thanks again for the interview.

Visit Chris's blog and keep up with his upcoming projects here.
Chris's debut novel, Matilda Raleigh Invictus is now available on Amazon in the UK and US.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Twelve mildly interesting things you didn't know about me

1. I have a master’s degree in Accounting, which in no way prepared me for the world of fiction writing.

2. I have been to Japan on four separate occasions, yet my language skills are still barely at a preschool level.

3. I once lounged in a natural hot spring pool atop a mountain with thirty naked Japanese guys while it was 25 degrees and snowing.

4. I was a pall bearer in five funerals and attended over a dozen before I was sixteen years old; none of which were a result of foul play on my part.

5. My dad was struck in the face with a chainsaw when I was six. It ripped off most of his upper lip and knocked out the majority of his teeth, but he still managed to smoke a cigarette on the way to the hospital. When I write about bad ass characters there is at least a little bit of my pop in each one.

6. Despite what I have claimed in the past, the “T” in M.T. Murphy does not stand for “Tiberius.”

7. I did not actually grow sideburns when I was eleven. I was twelve.

8. I used to manage the largest men’s college dorm in the state of Alabama.

9. I have dug ditches and shoveled shit, and took pride in doing both.

10. When I let my dog in at night, I close the door behind him quickly so the zombies don’t slip inside. You can never be too careful.

11. My family has owned a cemetery since the mid-1800s and my cousins and I used to play among the tombstones when we were kids.

12. A distant cousin of mine used to play keyboard for Travis Tritt and Joe Diffie. That kind of makes me an honorary roadie for country singers with mustaches and mullets.

New Poem: The Hunger

The Hunger


Man

Pale moonlight falls

Animal

On a virgin field

Beast

Two-legged sheep should be in bed

Monster

Their screams like music

Demon

Blood like wine

Abomination

I am not evil

Werewolf

I merely sate the hunger

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Guest Blog: On the Nature of Evil by Chris Kelly



Having decided to blog about evil, I had a few options. I could look at what I believe evil is, or I could look at how/why people become evil. Finally, I could look at evil as an externalised being; ie, Satan as one example.

Being indecisive, I decided to do all three.

What is evil?

Evil is a very solid word. You can almost feel the weight behind it when you say it aloud. Evil. Like the closing of a door, it’s a word that cuts things off, that rings with finality. Evil. There’s no going back, once you are evil.

But despite the fact that it is a solid word, it is far from a solid concept. In fact, it is nearly impossible to define evil except in the most abstract of terms. Murder is evil. But if you murder someone who was just about to murder an innocent, does the fact that you were preventing evil stop your act from being evil?

Stealing is evil. But if your family is starving, and its steal or die, where does the good come from with dying?

Paedophilia is evil. In some parts of America I would be considered a paedophile, because I had sex with someone under the age of 21. In my country the age of consent is 16, and she was over the age. Surely you can’t be evil based on geographical location?

It is a difficult concept to judge. There are so many “what if...” scenarios that can crop up. For example, let us say that killing an innocent is evil. I doubt anyone would argue with that point, because of the word innocent. A convicted murderer is executed. Afterwards, it is discovered he was an innocent man. The executioner killed an innocent, but he was just carrying out his orders. It was the jury who decided the innocent man was guilty. The jury murdered an innocent man, and thus are evil.

Why people become evil

The only way to define evil that seems to hold up to these scenarios is the consideration of intent. To decide, after looking carefully at the evidence, to end the life of a man who has apparently killed does not have an evil intent. To murder an innocent because you want to steal his phone would therefore be evil.

A thug who goes around beating people up because it makes him feel good about himself is evil. A thug who goes around beating other people up because it makes strangers feel safe on the streets (ie Batman) is not evil.

With both the jury, and Batman, the intent was to protect society. With the thug and the murderer, the intent was some kind of personal gain. So it would seem from this that selfishness leads to evil whilst altruism is bound in with good.

Looked at this way, it is clear that two people could do the same thing, for different reasons, and only one would be considered to be being evil. Which suggests that when a person becomes evil, it is a personal choice.

Of course, no one chooses to be evil, and from here it becomes clear that evil is a path. When one decision is made, it becomes easier to make a second decision. When you are mugging someone, and it doesn’t go as planned, it is a lot easier to stretch to killing than it would be if you weren’t already so far down the path towards evil.

Evil as an externalised Force

If evil rises from intent, and is a path then it is, ultimately, an internal thing. Evil, in my view, is simply the consequences of choices that every body makes. If this is the case, then it becomes obvious that externalised evil cannot exist.

Evil in Matilda Raleigh: Invictus

Evil is a huge part of Invictus. Matilda constantly questions herself, wondering if she is evil. As a youth, she made a deal with a demon, but she did it to save her father’s life. By intent, this was not an evil act. However, it led to her being possessed by another demon, which led to the young Matilda committing several acts of evil. Cured of possession, she has spent her life trying to redeem herself. And at the end of her life, she faces a choice, with either option being considered evil. How do you decide, when no matter what decision you make will lead to an act of evil?

Dr Tick Tock, the mad steampunk and clockpunk inventor, has spent his life being evil, but wants to redeem himself before he dies.

And then there’s the non-human characters; vampires and demons. Self-centred and arrogant, they can be evil or good depending on the decisions they make.

That is my view of the nature of evil. I’d love to discuss yours...

Chris Kelly is the author of Matilda Raleigh: Invictus, a story about evil and redemption, betrayal and duty, steampunk and sword and sorcery. Find him on TwitterFacebook, and his blog.