Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I See Goat People

(I'm pleased to report my very strange, very bizarre, fairy novel is now complete. Since I've been teasing my Facebook friends with references to it -- you do follow me there don't you? --  I figured I'd share a taste. Enjoy! )

~

A wall of rain swept across the reservoir, roiling the normally placid waters. Overhead, lightning flared and thunder boomed. Dani stood at the rear window of the cottage taking it all in, marveling in awed fascination at the power of nature. She wondered if even storms were living things, before realizing that of course, they were. She knew now that everything was alive. She also understood that this particular living thing was in a very bad mood indeed.

When there was a pause in the celestial light show, Dani sat on the love seat and again buried her nose in the werewolf romance. But as in those long hours on the bus, she couldn’t read more than a word or two before her mind wandered. She smiled inside to think that no book could ever come close to the real romance that had recently entered her life. She even teared up to think how blessed she was. What had she ever done to deserve Ian? She had no idea. But she wasn’t going to ever let him get away.

After a while, she heard banging from the front of the house, but imagined it was simply the screen door become unlatched. When it went on, a rush passed through her to realize someone was knocking. It was Ian. It had to be. Tossing the book aside, she leaped from the couch and ran to the kitchen.

Opening the door, she saw it wasn’t Ian at all. Her heart sank, but she tried not to let it show. It was the nice old lady from the police station she met the other day. Trudy was her name. She had a bulging brown shopping bag clutched to her chest.

“Hey there, little girl!” the woman said with a smile. “How about letting a poor stranger in out of the rain?”

Dani returned the smile and opened wide to let Trudy in. Oddly, she didn’t seem wet. Not a hair of her bun was out of place. Before closing the door, Dani saw no car in the driveway either. Who knows? she thought. Maybe she was dropped off.

“I do hate to barge in like this,” Trudy said contritely, “but I thought it long past time for just us girls to have a nice conversation.” Setting the bag on the table, she turned and asked, “I hope you don’t mind?”

“Not at all,” Dani said politely, though she did think it a bit strange. After the woman went quiet and simply stared, Dani asked, “Umm . . . can I get you anything?”

“You know what might be nice,” Trudy said, clapping her hands together and taking a seat. “A tall glass of milk for us both. It’ll go nice with the surprise I brought!”

Pasting on a smile, Dani went to the fridge and poured Trudy a tall glass and a smaller one for herself. Setting them on the table, she sat down opposite Trudy and watched her drink half the glass in one big gulp.

When she set the glass down, Dani suppressed her smirk about the milk mustache now on the woman’s upper lip. In fact, she realized the milk mustache was augmented by the more than a wisp of real mustache already there.

When a flash of lightning lit the room that same moment, Dani saw the woman also had long hairs growing from the bottom of her chin. Between that and the mustache, the clear image of a goat came to her mind. Having been raised better, she set it aside.

“So,” Trudy said. “I want to hear all about you and the boy. I think Ian is his name? I must say you two made quite a couple the other night! I tell you, everyone in town is talking about it. But first . . .”

She paused and put a mischievous grin on her face before reaching into her bag. With a ta- da motion she pulled two plump apples from within. Bright red and juicy looking, she put one down in front of Dani and took the other for herself.

“I been meaning to drop these by for the chief,” she explained. “Fresh picked from Red Apple Farm. I tell you, they’re just about the best in all Massachusetts. Did you know their orchards are more than a thousand feet above sea level? I think that makes all the difference.”

With that, Trudy picked up her apple and took a big crunchy bite. Afterward, she closed her eyes to savor each chew. When she opened them again, she saw Dani hadn’t touched hers and motioned her head toward it.

“I’m telling you sweetheart, it’s the best apple you’ve ever had. Better than a man, you asked me.” She took another big bite.

Not wanting to be rude, Dani picked hers up and took a bite. Trudy was right. It was delicious. Whether it was better than a man, she would leave to Trudy. It certainly wasn’t better than Ian. Of that she had no doubt.

“You’re thinking about him right now, aren’t you, little girl?” Trudy asked with a naughty smile before taking another gulp of milk.

Dani could only blush. She didn’t want to talk about Ian with this woman. It was too personal. Too private. When she glanced again at Trudy, she saw the woman had closed her eyes to savor another bite. Her sheer manner of chewing summoned again in Dani’s mind the image of a goat. What made it stranger was she had no experience with goats. She wasn’t sure she’d even seen one in real life. But she knew one when she saw one.

“Did you know,” Trudy went on with a mouth full of apple, “there’s even a rumor going around that you believe yourself to be a queen? Is that the funniest thing you ever heard?”

Dani’s vision started fading in and out. She wasn’t certain she’d heard what she thought she did. Looking up, she saw Trudy now had bits of apple all over her goat face. She watched as the woman reached out an impossibly long tongue to snag a chunk that had somehow found its way to the end of her snout.

Feeling faint, Dani looked down to relieve her nausea and saw beneath Trudy’s skirt were a pair of goat legs with thick gray fur upon them.

“A queen,” Trudy said in a voice that could belong only to a goat. “Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous?”

Dani felt darkness approaching. Reaching out her arms, she tried grabbing hold of the table but it was too late. When the blackness came, she fell to the floor with a heavy thud, bringing her untouched glass of milk along to shatter into a thousand pieces.

Meanwhile, Trudy grabbed another apple from the bag. With her eyes closed in almost depraved pleasure, she took a big bite.

~

Thanks for reading! And keep your eye out for this yet-to-be-titled mystery horror romance fairy tale. Meanwhile, don't forget to visit my Amazon Author Page to check out my other offerings! Thanks again.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A funny thing happened on my way to . . .

Writing the promised new Londergan short. But more on that later.

As noted in this space a few weeks ago, I enrolled all my ebooks into Amazon’s KDP Select program, meaning they are currently only available in ebook format at Amazon for the Kindle (as always, most are available in paperback format and you should buy one.)

Funny thing is, I hardly ever sold books at Amazon, but did indeed sell them at other outlets, most notably the Apple iTunes store and Barnes and Noble. But it wasn’t a lot, and I figured if the government is going to allow Amazon hegemony in the ebook marketplace, who am I to argue?

And whaddya know, after a few frustrating weeks, there are signs of life. In fact, I’ve sold more books at Amazon this month (all currently at 99 cents, by the way, nudge nudge, wink wink) than I have in years. I even had my first Amazon borrow. I’ve long half-joked I was embedded in Amazon’s “pay this author no mind” algorithm, because no matter what I did, I couldn’t sell books there. Now that I’m exclusive to them, I am. Hmm . . .

Anyway, my contract runs out in early August, and if things continue, I may just remain there and try to grow sales. I’ve had a couple of wonderful reviews lately as well, most notably on my pirate adventure Swash! for which I’m very grateful. To be honest, I’m my own worst critic, and even I think that book’s pretty damn good.

Another thing I’ve done is removed pretty much all the Dick Londergan’s from my catalog, going so far as unpublishing the Londergan novel, Hell City. Much as I like and appreciate my befuddled hard-boiled P.I. (and lots of folks at Apple and Barnes and Noble seemed to like him too!) he has, for whatever reason, never gained traction at Amazon. Maybe because they’re so short, or so different from my other offerings. In hindsight, I should have used a pseudonym. Lesson learned.

However, after unpublishing them all, I did go back and republish The Ghost and Mr. Londergan because well, there IS a ghost in it, which is kind of in keeping with the rest of my stuff. Also, it’s a novelette of around 13,000 words, so at 99 cents for a few hours entertainment, it’s still a bargain. That too received a wonderful review recently, so maybe, just maybe, things are looking up.

In any event, I did get started on that new Londergan, got a ways in, when somehow, I began work on another novel. I don't even remember why or how or when I segued into it. But it's been going on a few weeks now, and I’d say I’m more than halfway into it and the writing is going well. It has some of the whimsy of Swash! as well as elements of horror from some of my other works.

And for the first time since maybe I wrote Swash!, I’m actually enjoying the writing process and discovering along the way what's going to happen next, because as always, I’m writing blind, having no idea where things are going till we get there.

In other news, I was delighted to do an Amazon search recently and find the fictional town of Grantham from my vampire novel Applewood merited a mention in the recently published Horror Guide to Massachusetts, a compendium of locations both fictional and non-fictional throughout Massachusetts where horror stories were set. Check it out!


Funny, things like this always seem to happen at just the right time, when I’m feeling down or about to throw in the towel. I’ll sell another book (even one copy) or find someone left a kind review or a nice comment on Facebook. So maybe there is hope, as the last line (or something like it) from my lone attempt at a thriller Hope Town (and even THAT had a kind Amazon review left recently, though she hated the editor. Me too, reviewer. Me too.) put it:

“Above all else, Parker still held out hope.”

Happy reading! And as always, thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Happy Fourth of July

While contemplating whether or not to post anything in honor of the holiday, I happened to be perusing my books when it occurred to me that the Fourth plays a prominent role in some of them, going back to my first effort, Sumner Gardens

In that one, twelve-year-old budding thespian Conner O'Neil gets involved in a town production of The Music Man performed over the Fourth of July weekend. The night of the Fourth, he engages in bottle rockets at forty paces in the middle of the street with his future brother-in-law.

In my vampire saga Applewood, fourteen-year-old hero Scott Dugan uses the Fourth to have his first date with a girl who has moved in across the street. The two ride their bikes to a New England downtown rich in history to enjoy the festivities. When the city girl finds it a little cornpone, Dugan sets her straight:
Puzzled by the question, Dugan had to think a moment about
his answer. “Well, first of all, you better start using ‘us guys’ when
you talk about this stuff now, remember?” Her smile took some of
the sting off. “But I guess you’re right, it is a big deal around here,
probably ‘cause there’s so much history. You can’t turn around in
this town without bumping into some of it.
“Coupla years ago, there was this high school teacher shot
himself out in the woods over by the school. They never did figure
out just why he done it, shot himself I mean, but to close the case,
the cops needed to find the bullet. They looked for weeks out in
those woods, and recovered seventy-eight bullets. Some of the bullets
they found went all the way back to Revolutionary War days.
But they never did find his bullet.”
She looked thoughtful as Dugan went on.
“The place you’re sittin’ right now is the same place that the
volunteers came when the Revolution broke out, and after that the
Civil War. I’ll bet if we went back far enough, we’d find out that
some kinda Indian thing happened right there too, long before the
white man set foot on these shores.”
He looked over at her and smiled. “Like I said, you can’t get
away from it.”
I suppose that's true of most everywhere, but it is absolutely true for those of us who grew up in New England. There is no getting away from it.

Finally, in my pirate adventure Swash!, in which eighteenth-century pirates find themselves trapped in our time, another Fourth finds young protagonist Chris Duggan at the town parade. For their sake (and his own sanity) Chris has tried to keep the pirates under wraps, however, at the parade, Chris finds the pirates are about to make a very public debut:
Another marching band followed, and Chris knew the short parade was almost over. He began to hear cheering and whistles from down the street. Everyone stood on tiptoes trying to get a glimpse of what it was. He couldn’t see anything except the cab of a truck slowly making its way up the street, but a moment later he recognized the white haired man waving from the passenger seat and smiled to see Barney Zimmerman. Whatever it was, his float was getting the most effusive cheers. Then, through gaps opened by crowds of people rushing toward it, he saw it.
Rising majestically from the back of the flatbed was a pirate ship made entirely of living things. Its palm tree masts were festooned with purple lilacs. The billowing sails were made of sheets of green sod. As it moved closer, like he knew he would, Chris saw the crew of the Lady Grace, all manning their stations while waving and throwing beads to the crowd. But their appearance had changed. They looked different somehow. It took more than a moment for him to realize it was their clothes. Gone were the silly hand-me-downs taken from the giveaway bin at the church. They were now dressed in proper pirate costumes, though costume wasn’t the right word, for Chris knew this was how they should be dressed. And the captain was the best dressed of all.
I don't know what it means (if it means anything at all) that I'd return to the Fourth at least three times in my books. I was a bit of a history nut growing up. It is that most American of holidays. For myself, I have mostly good memories of Fourths of July past, though some bad. As in most things, I prefer to remember the good.

At any rate, may your own Fourth of July find you safe and happy and among those you love. And as always, thanks for reading!




"Not only won't I play it, but if Robert Preston doesn't, I won't go see it." - Danny Kaye turning down the lead in the film version of The Music Man.

Monday, June 23, 2014

News from the Cover Department

I'm delighted to report I've freshened up the cover to Swash!, my tale of eighteenth-century pirates let loose in the modern world:


Isn't it wonderful? The image itself comes from the public domain and is titled "Who Shall Be Captain?" by a man named Howard Pyle, who did a series of pirate illustrations as well as many others. You can read all about him on Wikipedia.

I'm doubly pleased to report that Swash! has it's first Amazon review! It is extraordinarily kind. A snippet:
In all honesty, this book is one of the most enjoyable surprises I've come across in a long time, and I am an avid reader. From the moment I started this delightful tale, I felt like I was transported directly into what was happening. I was drawn right in and didn't want to leave. 
To read more of the review (and more importantly, to pick up your own copy in either paperback or Kindle edition) click this link to go to its Amazon page.

By way of refresher, the plot of Swash! goes something . . . like this:
When a late winter storm unearths an ancient shipwreck, the sleepy seaside town of Sully's Rump is turned upside-down, first by the media, then by the resurrected pirates who come back to reclaim their ship. 
Local historian Arthur Cobb wants the ship for himself, but so does his nemesis, gazillionaire businessman Barney Zimmerman. Caught between the two is young Chris Duggan, the boy who found the wreck, who just wants to help the pirates get home. 
He realizes the only way to do that is to rebuild the ship and fulfill the pirate curse, but soon learns dislodging the pirates from the Rump may prove more difficult than was deciphering the curse that brought them there. 
Give it a shot! You'll like it. I promise.

And as always, thanks for visiting.