The Shill: bookxy book preview #4

11 Apr

I’ve now read six of the recent novellas releases from Stark Raving Group and bookxy.com. Click here to see all the other previews, information about the publisher, and an explanation about why these are previews rather than reviews. Okay? Great.

 

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I really enjoyed The Shill by John Shepphird (get it here from bookxy or here from Amazon). I read it about a week ago all in one sitting but since my computer crashed recently and I just now got a new one, I’ve had to wait to do my preview.

The novella, like all the bookxy books I’ve read so far, wastes no time in getting to the point of the story and then sticks completely to telling that story as briskly, entertainingly, and consistently as possible. It is the tale of a con told from the perspective of a young aspiring actress in Los Angeles. She gets lured into a complicated ‘long con’ by a handsome older man. The plot of the book and the con is fascinating and intricate  and the entire time I was reading I kept thinking “How the hell did Shepphird think of all this? There is no way could write something like this.”

The book is full of violence and sex and surprises from all over. It is the very definition of a ‘fun read.’

Snow Falls: bookxy book preview #3

1 Apr

Okay, I’ve read my fifth  of the new releases from The Stark Raving Group at bookxy.com. Scroll down to see my previous reviews and my disclaimer about why this should be called a preview rather than a review.

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Snow Falls, by Bobby Nash (available from bookxy.com here, and from Amazon for Kindle here), is what I would call a high-tech thriller. The main character Abraham Snow is a spy who has worked undercover for the government for many years. After getting double-crossed and shot, he returns to his family to convalesce and ponder his next move. Turns out his family is deep in the high-tech security business and Abraham begins embroiled in international intrigue and adventure along with intense family drama and rivalry.

The book is full of action and is very well-plotted. Check it out.

 

 

Swimming Electric Blue Water (get it here from bookxy and here from Amazon) is not the kind of book I’d ever normally read. It is speculative and set in the future, in Russia, and it is all about political and corporate espionage, and high tech weapons and enhanced humans like in the guy in the Six Million Dollar Man (not exactly like that, way more cool than that, but that might help you get the idea). So, it’s just not the stuff I’m usually interested in. I don’t like Sci Fi or Fantasy, I don’t like James Bond or other spy movies (though I love the Bourne movies), and I don’t like the futuristic high tech stuff that is so popular today, especially in movies. I like gritty crime set somewhere in the US — rural, urban, or suburban, I don’t care. As long there are criminals and crime and maybe policeman and guns and a little or a lot of violence done in a recognizable setting and time. I’m not very imaginative, I guess.

But, still, wow, I’m glad I read this book. It’s all about Yuri, a young man who in the beginning is hoping to represent Russia in the next Olympics as a swimmer. He is a good person, a likable guy. Just before a big swim meet he is viciously attacked by a horrible gang of evil criminals. His barely alive body, rather than being brought to a hospital is taken to some lab where he is altered into some kind of super-human. They make him bigger. Way bigger. They make him strong. Very very strong. Plus, they make his skin really tough so that stuff like shotgun blasts barely effect him. Then, they train him to hurt and maim and kill. He becomes, basically, a weapon employed by an evil corporation.

I don’t really understand the setting of the novel. It is Russia, I know that, and it is in the future, that is clear. And, it is in a future in which it seems like corporations might actually run things. I think. But the coolest thing about the setting and what is so cleverly done by Holmes is how she creates all this new technology that is tightly interwoven into people’s lives. I mean, I think what she does is basically use her imagination to think up what could happen in some possible future and then she just went wild. It’s fascinating, really.

But, the main thing, and the main reason I bet why I enjoyed the book so much, is that it is just a really good story. Holmes is obviously a gifted plotter and she knows how to keep those pages turning.

A couple of notes. Swimming Electric Blue Water is part I of a two-part book. Part two, The Courtship of Spiders, will be out soon. And, as far as I can remember, there is nothing in the book that is related to the image on the cover.  I’m nearly positive there are no mechanical fishes in the story.

 

Following are very brief reviews of three of the novellas recently put out by bookxy.com

White Hot Pistol by Eric Beetner, Keeping the Record by Travis Richardson, and Logan’s Young Guns, by Nathan Walpow.

Bookxy.com is a publishing company with a new concept. They are part of the Starking Raving Group, a company self-described as “A Shameless Purveyor of Titillating Short Novels at Ridiculously Low Prices.”

From the Stark Raving Group website:

Each of our books is geared to be quick read novellas, 25,000 to 35,000 words or so (around 70 to 120 pages) and will retail for $2.99. Never higher. We intend to publish one book a month in our first year, two books a month in our second year and one book a week in our third year and thereafter. 

As has been written about in various venues, this e-book era has ushered in a new pulp renaissance, pulp 2.0 if you will, in taut, terse, plot-driven, witty, sensuous, sexy, action-packed character-centric writing harkening back to the days of the ‘30s pulps and the paperback adventure fiction of the ‘60s and ‘70s. 

Through our distribution arrangement with Consortium Book Sales and Distribution (Perseus Books), our books will be available for every eRreader as well as distributed through e-book wholesalers primarily serving the library market. You will also be able to purchase our books through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. 

But perhaps best of all, our books will be available by subscription through our own sales and distribution portal, Bookxy.

Now, before I go further, please understand that I have a contract as a bookxy author. I have one book out (What Happens in Reno) and two coming over the next couple of years. Clearly, I have a stake in the success of Bookxy, right? So, for that reason, maybe it would be best to think of these reviews more as previews, or as a buying guide. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I think these three books are exactly as advertised: short, action-packed stories that are fun to read.

WHP

In White Hot Pistol, by Eric Beetner, the action really never stops. I know that ‘non-stop action’ is a cliche that usually means nothing, but in this case it is correct. At the beginning of the book a young man, Nash, has a goal: to help his stepsister Jacy escape from her evil and abusive stepfather and their hometown of Noirville. The stepfather is also the a crooked sheriff who is involved with the local drug-dealing gang.  Beetner cleverly sets up a plot in which Nash’s goal is inevitably thwarted time and again by both the sheriff and the criminal gang. Each step of the way something awful and exciting happens that raises the stakes steadily higher. Nash and Jacy are always in danger and always moving, and Beetner gives neither of them or the reader a chance to catch their breath. Sound like fun? It is, definitely. Beetner says he plans on writing more books set in his fictional town of Noirville and I can’t wait for the next one.

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Travis Richardson’s book, Keeping the Record, for me, was a unique read. I’m not even sure how to describe it. It is definitely a comedy and is completely hilarious, but it is also graphically (and sometimes almost sickeningly) violent with killings and shootings and knifings and beatings on nearly every page. And, it is definitely a crime novel, because nearly every character is a criminal and crimes are committed constantly throughout. And, it is about major league baseball and the world of professional sports and performance-enhancing drugs, so it is kind of a sports novel. And, since most of the action takes place while the main character is charging across the country from Oakland, California to St. Louis, Missouri, using every mode of transportation imaginable, it is also a road story.

So what does that make it? A violent-criminal-road-trip-sports-comedy? Maybe.

As with Beetner’s book, the goal of the main character is clear from the beginning and the action starts right away and never stops till the last pages. Roy Banks was once a baseball hero who held the record for the most home runs in a season. Then, his steroid use was revealed, which tainted his record and made him a hated public figure. Years later, Roy is broke and in hiding. Due  to the side-effects of the drugs, he has large breasts and and a high voice and has taken to dressing as a woman (a very large, badly-dressed, homely woman) in order stay hidden from creditors and the public. He learns that another player is about to break his precious record, so he embarks on a quest to stop his rival in whatever way he can. I’ve never read anything like it.

LYG

Logan’s Young Guns, by Nathan Walpow, is the story of Logan, a sort of free-lance vigilante. His life’s work is to punish men who harm and abuse members of the opposite sex.  While looking for the perpetrator of a recent beating of a woman, he stumbles upon something much bigger. In his quest to right several wrongs, Logan hooks up with three young people who share his motivations. The four become a team.  Like Beetner and Richardson, Walpow is quite skilled at creating a plot in which the stakes constantly increase from the very beginning. Also striking is that Walpow manages to show significant character development in such a short novella–this is quite an accomplishment I think and helps to make the book particularly satisfying.

Hustle, by Tom Pitts, coming April 1

29 Mar

Actually it is available on Amazon for Kindle right now, see here.

hustle

Maybe April 1, is the day it comes out in print? I don’t know. Whatever, Hustle is here, Hustle is coming, Hustle kicks fucking ass.

I’m a very busy pimp, so I’ll cheat a little bit. Here is how it is described on Amazon: Two young hustlers, caught in an endless cycle of addiction and prostitution, decide to blackmail an elderly client of theirs. Donny and Big Rich want to film Gabriel Thaxton with their cell phones during a sexual act and put the video up on YouTube. Little do they know, the man they’ve chosen, a high-profile San Francisco defense attorney, is already being blackmailed by someone more sinister: an ex-client of the lawyer’s. A murderous speed freak named Dustin has already permeated the attorney’s life and Dustin has plans for the old man.

So that sounds wonderfully seedy, of course. Two young men, Donny and Rich, drug addicts, living and working in the notorious Tenderloin section of downtown San Francisco. They aren’t gay, but being young and male and willing to do almost anything — hustling gay men is how they keep the cash coming so they can stay high and stave off the horrible sickness of withdrawal as long as possible.

At one point early in the book Donny asks Rich why he isn’t up in Oregon with his wife and two-year-old daughter. Rich answers: “What do you think? Fuckin’ drugs, man. I’ll be with them again. Just gotta get off of this shit.”

And yes, Hustle will get a lot of attention for the extreme creepiness of its characters, their activities, and various settings. That’s great, of course, because hopefully that’ll get people curious and cause them to read, buy, and talk about the book, and Mr. Pitts will make a lot of money and Hollywood will buy the rights and make a really cool movie.

But, none of that is why Hustle is, in my opinion, such a good book, such an absolutely fun read. The reason why Hustle is so good is this: Pitts is a wonderful storyteller. Hustle is a great story, told very well. It’s like Tom Pitts created and then perfectly painted about a dozen characters who, if thrown into just the right situations (the ones in this book), naturally and inevitably do dramatic, suspenseful things. Constantly. Like Piggyback, Pitts’ novella published last year, the book is never dull, something is always happening, the stakes are always high and getting higher, and it all comes together at the end — just right.

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See what I mean? Yes, maybe, the book might be considered groundbreaking due to the subject and setting, but if the story didn’t rock like it does it wouldn’t break shit, it would never get published and you would never get a chance to read it and have the time of your life.

 

Swimming Electric Blue Water: bookxy book preview #2

22 Mar

Okay, I’ve read my fourth of the new releases from The Stark Raving Group at bookxy.com. Scroll down to see my first review and my disclaimer about why this should be called a preview rather than a review.

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Swimming Electric Blue Water (get it here from bookxy and here from Amazon) is not the kind of book I’d ever normally read. It is speculative and set in the future, in Russia, and it is all about political and corporate espionage, and high tech weapons and enhanced humans like in the guy in the Six Million Dollar Man (not exactly like that, way more cool than that, but that might help you get the idea). So, it’s just not the stuff I’m usually interested in. I don’t like Sci Fi or Fantasy, I don’t like James Bond or other spy movies (though I love the Bourne movies), and I don’t like the futuristic high tech stuff that is so popular today, especially in movies. I like gritty crime set somewhere in the US — rural, urban, or suburban, I don’t care. As long there are criminals and crime and maybe policeman and guns and a little or a lot of violence done in a recognizable setting and time. I’m not very imaginative, I guess.

But, still, wow, I’m glad I read this book. It’s all about Yuri, a young man who in the beginning is hoping to represent Russia in the next Olympics as a swimmer. He is a good person, a likable guy. Just before a big swim meet he is viciously attacked by a horrible gang of evil criminals. His barely alive body, rather than being brought to a hospital is taken to some lab where he is altered into some kind of super-human. They make him bigger. Way bigger. They make him strong. Very very strong. Plus, they make his skin really tough so that stuff like shotgun blasts barely effect him. Then, they train him to hurt and maim and kill. He becomes, basically, a weapon employed by an evil corporation.

I don’t really understand the setting of the novel. It is Russia, I know that, and it is in the future, that is clear. And, it is in a future in which it seems like corporations might actually run things. I think. But the coolest thing about the setting and what is so cleverly done by Holmes is how she creates all this new technology that is tightly interwoven into people’s lives. I mean, I think what she does is basically use her imagination to think up what could happen in some possible future and then she just went wild. It’s fascinating, really.

But, the main thing, and the main reason I bet why I enjoyed the book so much, is that it is just a really good story. Holmes is obviously a gifted plotter and she knows how to keep those pages turning.

A couple of notes. Swimming Electric Blue Water is part I of a two-part book. Part two, The Courtship of Spiders, will be out soon. And, as far as I can remember, there is nothing in the book that is related to the image on the cover.  I’m nearly positive there are no mechanical fishes in the story.

Next up: Snow Falls by Bobby Nash.

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Following are very brief reviews of three of the novellas recently put out by bookxy.com

White Hot Pistol by Eric Beetner, Keeping the Record by Travis Richardson, and Logan’s Young Guns, by Nathan Walpow.

Bookxy.com is a publishing company with a new concept. They are part of the Starking Raving Group, a company self-described as “A Shameless Purveyor of Titillating Short Novels at Ridiculously Low Prices.”

From the Stark Raving Group website:

Each of our books is geared to be quick read novellas, 25,000 to 35,000 words or so (around 70 to 120 pages) and will retail for $2.99. Never higher. We intend to publish one book a month in our first year, two books a month in our second year and one book a week in our third year and thereafter. 

As has been written about in various venues, this e-book era has ushered in a new pulp renaissance, pulp 2.0 if you will, in taut, terse, plot-driven, witty, sensuous, sexy, action-packed character-centric writing harkening back to the days of the ‘30s pulps and the paperback adventure fiction of the ‘60s and ‘70s. 

Through our distribution arrangement with Consortium Book Sales and Distribution (Perseus Books), our books will be available for every eRreader as well as distributed through e-book wholesalers primarily serving the library market. You will also be able to purchase our books through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. 

But perhaps best of all, our books will be available by subscription through our own sales and distribution portal, Bookxy.

Now, before I go further, please understand that I have a contract as a bookxy author. I have one book out (What Happens in Reno) and two coming over the next couple of years. Clearly, I have a stake in the success of Bookxy, right? So, for that reason, maybe it would be best to think of these reviews more as previews, or as a buying guide. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I think these three books are exactly as advertised: short, action-packed stories that are fun to read.

WHP

In White Hot Pistol, by Eric Beetner, the action really never stops. I know that ‘non-stop action’ is a cliche that usually means nothing, but in this case it is correct. At the beginning of the book a young man, Nash, has a goal: to help his stepsister Jacy escape from her evil and abusive stepfather and their hometown of Noirville. The stepfather is also the a crooked sheriff who is involved with the local drug-dealing gang.  Beetner cleverly sets up a plot in which Nash’s goal is inevitably thwarted time and again by both the sheriff and the criminal gang. Each step of the way something awful and exciting happens that raises the stakes steadily higher. Nash and Jacy are always in danger and always moving, and Beetner gives neither of them or the reader a chance to catch their breath. Sound like fun? It is, definitely. Beetner says he plans on writing more books set in his fictional town of Noirville and I can’t wait for the next one.

Keeping_The_Record-final_1024x1024

Travis Richardson’s book, Keeping the Record, for me, was a unique read. I’m not even sure how to describe it. It is definitely a comedy and is completely hilarious, but it is also graphically (and sometimes almost sickeningly) violent with killings and shootings and knifings and beatings on nearly every page. And, it is definitely a crime novel, because nearly every character is a criminal and crimes are committed constantly throughout. And, it is about major league baseball and the world of professional sports and performance-enhancing drugs, so it is kind of a sports novel. And, since most of the action takes place while the main character is charging across the country from Oakland, California to St. Louis, Missouri, using every mode of transportation imaginable, it is also a road story.

So what does that make it? A violent-criminal-road-trip-sports-comedy? Maybe.

As with Beetner’s book, the goal of the main character is clear from the beginning and the action starts right away and never stops till the last pages. Roy Banks was once a baseball hero who held the record for the most home runs in a season. Then, his steroid use was revealed, which tainted his record and made him a hated public figure. Years later, Roy is broke and in hiding. Due  to the side-effects of the drugs, he has large breasts and and a high voice and has taken to dressing as a woman (a very large, badly-dressed, homely woman) in order stay hidden from creditors and the public. He learns that another player is about to break his precious record, so he embarks on a quest to stop his rival in whatever way he can. I’ve never read anything like it.

LYG

Logan’s Young Guns, by Nathan Walpow, is the story of Logan, a sort of free-lance vigilante. His life’s work is to punish men who harm and abuse members of the opposite sex.  While looking for the perpetrator of a recent beating of a woman, he stumbles upon something much bigger. In his quest to right several wrongs, Logan hooks up with three young people who share his motivations. The four become a team.  Like Beetner and Richardson, Walpow is quite skilled at creating a plot in which the stakes constantly increase from the very beginning. Also striking is that Walpow manages to show significant character development in such a short novella–this is quite an accomplishment I think and helps to make the book particularly satisfying.

What Happens in Reno: Now available on Amazon

17 Mar

What Happens in Reno, my recent noir novella recently published by Bookxy.com (Stark Raving Group publishing) is now available on amazon.com. Click here to get it

And, please, if you’ve already read it, please post a review on the amazon site, okay? And, it is now on Goodreads here. Again, if you’ve read it and have time, write a review there, too, okay?

Also, below, I’ve posted the first chapter. Which might make you more likely to buy it, or, to sever all ties with me on social media and in real life. It could go either way, I’m open.

reno book

Too drunk to drive home, Matt Hodges spent Monday night in the Denny’s parking lot, just north of downtown Modesto.

The old Denny’s. The one across from the pathetic American Graffiti Monument at George Lucas Plaza. Bronze statue of two 50’s-looking teenagers leaning on the left front fender of some old Chevy or something. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, Matt stared closely into the eyes of the boy and the girl, and the emptiness he saw frightened him. Other times, when he really needed a drink and the inevitable delirium tremens approached, the two looked like clothed reptiles.

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After a long night of lonely bar-hopping, Matt had washed down a Grand Slam Breakfast with eight cups of coffee, trying to get focused enough to drive home. He would’ve driven if he could, he wasn’t being all ‘don’t drink and drive.’ But, once he vomited the eggs, sausage links, and pancakes all over the driver’s side window and door of his 1971 silver Mercedes Benz 280 SE, he could only crawl onto the backseat and pass out.

He awoke at 7 a.m., the already bright August sun in his eyes, barf all over the front of his shirt, piss in his pants and an ache behind his left eye like the slash of a box cutter. Used to greeting the day this way, Matt couldn’t muster up the energy for the obligatory shame attack.

He drove home, stripped off his clothes at the foot of the bed where Lydia lay, and took a long shower. Made sure to stay in until he used all the hot water. His headache dissipated some as he let the stream hit his forehead, but he still felt nauseous.

“Did you hog all the hot water again, asshole?” Lydia said. She stood naked in the bathroom doorway, watching him dry off. Make-up smeared and curly red hair wild. After dieting and going to the gym obsessively for months, his wife had gotten way too skinny. Sure, she looked hot as hell in her new sexy clothes, but it didn’t do Matt any good, her pussy was off limits to him. Her naked body, with all the extra skin hanging, and the stretch marks, just looked … weird.

“Did you fuck that sonofabitch Hunter Manning again?”

“Maybe …”

“Cause you look like you’ve been screwing all night.”

Lydia squeezed by him to piss, both of them avoiding the touch of each other’s bare skin. Matt dropped his towel on the floor and went into the bedroom. Lydia hated it when he left his wet towels on the floor.

They’d barely spoken to each other the past several weeks. She was pissed at his drinking and intermittent employment. And, until recently, he’d been in a rage that she kept fucking other guys to get back at him for being a marginally employed drunk. Lately, though, he’d stopped caring so much about all of that. He just hated the worthless bitch. He couldn’t recall any feelings of love.

Plus, this new one, Hunter, scared the shit out of Matt. He looked exactly like what he was: a shaved-headed tatted-up baddass ex-con with Aryan Brotherhood associations. Matt didn’t understand why Lydia couldn’t have an affair with a CPA, or an engineer, or one of the lawyers she worked for, someone whose ass he could kick. If it ever came to that, which it wouldn’t. Matt wasn’t a very tough guy.

“Whatever, man,” Lydia said. She dabbed at her vagina with a piece of toilet paper, stood, and flushed the toilet. “The closing is today, right? I mean, fuck, please tell me that you’re finally going to bring home some money.”

“The closing’s at nine. Soon as the title company opens. You don’t need to be there.”

“Don’t worry. Wouldn’t think of intruding on your big emotional moment. Gag.”

In addition to the Mercedes, Matt’s dead mother left him the piece-of-shit house out on Rumble Road where he’d grown up. A 1700-square-foot lime green stucco ranch-style built in 1966 as part of a then high-status subdivision. Ankle-high brown weeds now dominated the yard. The back and side fences barely stood. Vandals broke most of the windows and Matt replaced them with sheets of plywood. It sat on a street surrounded by similar structures, most in various stages of foreclosure or short sale. Shocked to get an offer for a hundred and sixty thousand, he accepted immediately before the dumbasses changed their mind.

Delores Hodges died of liver cancer just before Matt and Lydia married. A large debt remained on the second mortgage she’d gotten during the peak of the real estate boom. After paying off the bank, and the closing fees, and the sales commissions, little profit remained. Still, Matt felt fortunate to actually be making some money.

Lydia studied herself in the mirror. With both hands she tugged at the skin above her waist.

“Did you find out how much you’re going to get?”

God, he knew that today would be the day he’d suddenly become fascinating again.

“Twelve thousand, six hundred and fourteen dollars. And ninety eight cents.”

“That’s it? I still can’t believe you didn’t hold out for more. That house is worth at least one ninety.”

“Yeah, right. Eight years ago. Maybe.”

“The market is improving. In six months you’ll look like an idiot. Fuck, in two weeks you’ll look like an idiot.”

He dressed quickly in shorts and a black t-shirt. All he wanted was to get away from Lydia. In her presence he hated himself even more than usual.

Lydia turned sideways and stared at her profile. She sucked in her belly.

“Don’t you dare forget our deal,” she said.

“I know, Jesus.”

“Five grand of that cash goes for my tummy tuck and the rest pays off your credit card debt. I’m sick of my salary going to finance your drinking and trips to every goddamn Indian casino between here and the Donner fucking Pass.”

Matt went into the bathroom and stood behind Lydia.

“Jesus. How could I ever forget?”

“And if there is anything left over, it’s mine. You owe me for supporting your ass for two years. Shit, this marriage might be the worst investment in history.”

“You’re just going to get fat again, and waste that five grand. Talk about a bad investment.”

Lydia turned around. She started to slap Matt. He was ready and caught her right wrist with his right hand.

“Fuck you,” she said.

“Fuck you,” he said.

She tried to free her hand, but Matt held tight.

“You’re such a fucking joke,” she said.

She reached out with her left hand and twisted Matt’s right nipple.

“Ouch, shit,” Matt said. He let go of her wrist. “Fucking slut whore.”

“Oh. And don’t think I’m going to let you off the hook and forget your promise of going to rehab ‘as soon as all the stuff with my mom’s estate is settled.’”

Lydia recited the last part in a pathetic sing-song whine.

Matt looked away.

“Remember? Re. Hab?”

He walked out of the bathroom and out of the bedroom.

“Right! That’s what I thought. You get that money into the bank right away. Today. In case there’s a hold. My procedure is Friday and since it’s not covered by insurance I have to pay upfront.”

In the hallway he bumped into Tanner, Lydia’s son from her marriage before last. The tall, slender, and handsome 18-year-old’s morning erection had emerged through the slit in his boxer shorts. Matt felt himself blush as he noticed the impressive length and thickness of his stepson’s uncircumcised cock.

“Hey dumb shit,” Tanner said.

“What’s up, douchebag?” Matt said.

“Eat me.” Tanner stumbled into the bathroom.

“Okay,” Matt said to the shut and locked door. “Have a nice day.”

Tanner seemed even more aggressive and belligerent than his usual frightening self ever since Lydia had been seeing Hunter. Coincidence?

He heard Lydia shouting something at him as he went out the front door. His nipple stung like freaking hell. It felt like she’d pulled the thing off. Thinking back, he realized she’d stopped wearing her engagement and wedding rings. No surprise. Who cared, anyway?

He started the car and turned on the AC full blast, but the sweat still poured down his face. Already 80 degrees, the temperature would hit 108 by noon.

God, he loved the Mercedes. For years it sat in the garage. His mother never let him drive it, so, as soon as she got too sick to notice he made it his own.

Matt had been around a lot of divorces and separations. His own and those of his various exes. So, he knew a thing or two about California community property law. He knew that, technically, Lydia had no legal claim to whatever money Matt got from his mother’s estate. But, it was true that since a couple of weeks into their marriage, Lydia almost completely carried the financial load. He couldn’t blame her for being so pissed. He wanted to even things up somehow. It was the right thing to do. Still, why did she have to be such a cheating bitch?

Matt drove to the White Elephant Lounge for some hair of the dog. Still an hour before the closing. He hated the place because the morning regulars always laughed and joked and shouted as if no one ever had a freaking hangover. Plus, they ignored him like he was diseased or something. Even the total-slut flirty bar maid treated him like shit. He didn’t get it. But, the bar opened early and was on the way to the title company offices. And, it was cheap.

The Elephant sat between a liquor store and a nail salon on Standiford Avenue. In the middle of the oldest strip mall in Modesto. At one time the little island of buildings had been a mile out of town.

The 24-hour store also sold gas and milk and candy and lottery tickets. Taped to the clear glass doors were video stills of recent armed robberies and shopliftings. Getting in and out of the nameless place required passing through a soiled and smelly gauntlet of panhandlers, talkative tweakers, and inert splayed-out bodies.

As far as Matt could tell, the always-packed nail salon also never closed. Owned and operated by a Vietnamese immigrant along with her daughter and granddaughter, just inside the door was a Buddhist shrine covered with offerings: oranges, cantaloupe slices, cigarettes, chewing gum, antacid pills.

On the outside, the bar looked like the worse kind of dive. Old sign with chipped paint, a white cement wall, and a black bullet-hole-ridden wooden door. Inside, though, it looked like all Modesto neighborhood bars: fake wood-paneled walls, pool tables, posters and pennants of the Giants, the A’s, the 49ers, and the Raiders, an electronic dart board, and six large-screen TVs set to ESPN channels. The owner recently spent some money on renovations, and the White Elephant actually looked pretty good.

white

Thank god the place was at least a little cool when Matt walked inside. He ignored the usual crowd at the left side of the joint, and took a seat at the far end of the bar to the right.

A bartender he did not recognize walked up and met him across from his stool. She actually smiled. Matt figured her for early 40s, like him. She wore black high-heel boots, tight black pants, and an unbuttoned lacy black blouse over a pink bikini top. Her hair a 70s-style shag, dyed jet black. She turned Matt on, especially because of the way a bit of her gut spilled over the tight jeans, and the way one of her top left teeth over-lapped the tooth behind it. The best part: she didn’t know he was an asshole yet.

“What can I get you, sweetie?”

“Can you make me a bloody Mary? Except with tequila?”

“Sure, darlin.’”

“Double tequila, please.”

“You got it, double bloody Maria, coming right up.”

Matt watched her big ass jiggle as she made the drink. He put the last twenty from his wallet on the bar. Watched her make change as he swallowed the drink in one gulp.

“One more please.”

“Are we celebrating or trying to cure a hangover?”

“A little of both, I guess.”

He drank the next a little slower. Two swallows instead of one.

The bartender went to the other end of the bar to serve the shouting regulars.

When she came back she poured them both a shot of Jose Cuervo.

“This is on me.”

Wow, he could get to like this new addition to his least favorite dive. Maybe he’d become a regular, after all.

“I’m Beth,” she said, extending her right hand.

“Matt.”

They shook. She smiled.

“What are we celebrating?”

“I’m about to leave town with a bundle of money. Maybe do a little gambling.”

So what if it was a lie? Who the fuck cared?

He drank his shot. She drank hers. She looked him straight in the eye. Big sexy smile.

“Oh, that’s always nice. Getting out of dodge with a big fat wallet.”

Matt felt great, drunk as hell. The White Elephant glowed. Bright, shiny, and beautiful. The liquor bottles behind his new friend sparkled and hummed. He saw his reflection in the mirror. He looked good, handsome even. Full head of blond hair, blue eyes, hardly a wrinkle. His eyes only looked a little puffy.

He pictured himself in a casino, playing poker, wearing a black silk bowling shirt, crisp khaki shorts and brown leather slip-on Italian shoes. Big pile of chips. Beth stood beside him, running her nails up and down his arms. Two aces in his hand and the dealer dealt two more—one in the flop and one on the river. He went all in.

Back in his reality, he put his right hand on Beth’s left.

“Why don’t you come with me?”

Beth laughed.

“I’m serious. I promise we’ll have a great time.”

“I don’t think my husband would like that.” She pulled her hand back. Moved back down the bar to the right and started washing beer mugs. Matt stared. She didn’t look back. Eventually, Beth went to serve and flirt with the regulars on the other side of the bar.

Whatever. Her loss. He remembered Lydia and the tummy tuck and everything else.

Shit.

Checked his watch: 8:50. The room spun as he got off his stool. He looked at the back of Beth’s head on his way out. Noticed Hunter Manning standing against the wall. Never seen him in the Elephant before this morning. Dude stared at him with vicious cold eyes. He wasn’t drinking.

Book (p)reviews: new bookxy novellas by Beetner, Richardson and Walpow

3 Mar

Following are very brief reviews of three of the novellas recently put out by bookxy.com

White Hot Pistol by Eric Beetner, Keeping the Record by Travis Richardson, and Logan’s Young Guns, by Nathan Walpow.

Bookxy.com is a publishing company with a new concept. They are part of the Starking Raving Group, a company self-described as “A Shameless Purveyor of Titillating Short Novels at Ridiculously Low Prices.”

From the Stark Raving Group website:

Each of our books is geared to be quick read novellas, 25,000 to 35,000 words or so (around 70 to 120 pages) and will retail for $2.99. Never higher. We intend to publish one book a month in our first year, two books a month in our second year and one book a week in our third year and thereafter. 

As has been written about in various venues, this e-book era has ushered in a new pulp renaissance, pulp 2.0 if you will, in taut, terse, plot-driven, witty, sensuous, sexy, action-packed character-centric writing harkening back to the days of the ‘30s pulps and the paperback adventure fiction of the ‘60s and ‘70s. 

Through our distribution arrangement with Consortium Book Sales and Distribution (Perseus Books), our books will be available for every eRreader as well as distributed through e-book wholesalers primarily serving the library market. You will also be able to purchase our books through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. 

But perhaps best of all, our books will be available by subscription through our own sales and distribution portal, Bookxy.

Now, before I go further, please understand that I have a contract as a bookxy author. I have one book out (What Happens in Reno) and two coming over the next couple of years. Clearly, I have a stake in the success of Bookxy, right? So, for that reason, maybe it would be best to think of these reviews more as previews, or as a buying guide. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I think these three books are exactly as advertised: short, action-packed stories that are fun to read.

WHP

In White Hot Pistol, by Eric Beetner, the action really never stops. I know that ‘non-stop action’ is a cliche that usually means nothing, but in this case it is correct. At the beginning of the book a young man, Nash, has a goal: to help his stepsister Jacy escape from her evil and abusive stepfather and their hometown of Noirville. The stepfather is also the a crooked sheriff who is involved with the local drug-dealing gang.  Beetner cleverly sets up a plot in which Nash’s goal is inevitably thwarted time and again by both the sheriff and the criminal gang. Each step of the way something awful and exciting happens that raises the stakes steadily higher. Nash and Jacy are always in danger and always moving, and Beetner gives neither of them or the reader a chance to catch their breath. Sound like fun? It is, definitely. Beetner says he plans on writing more books set in his fictional town of Noirville and I can’t wait for the next one.

Keeping_The_Record-final_1024x1024

Travis Richardson’s book, Keeping the Record, for me, was a unique read. I’m not even sure how to describe it. It is definitely a comedy and is completely hilarious, but it is also graphically (and sometimes almost sickeningly) violent with killings and shootings and knifings and beatings on nearly every page. And, it is definitely a crime novel, because nearly every character is a criminal and crimes are committed constantly throughout. And, it is about major league baseball and the world of professional sports and performance-enhancing drugs, so it is kind of a sports novel. And, since most of the action takes place while the main character is charging across the country from Oakland, California to St. Louis, Missouri, using every mode of transportation imaginable, it is also a road story.

So what does that make it? A violent-criminal-road-trip-sports-comedy? Maybe.

As with Beetner’s book, the goal of the main character is clear from the beginning and the action starts right away and never stops till the last pages. Roy Banks was once a baseball hero who held the record for the most home runs in a season. Then, his steroid use was revealed, which tainted his record and made him a hated public figure. Years later, Roy is broke and in hiding. Due  to the side-effects of the drugs, he has large breasts and and a high voice and has taken to dressing as a woman (a very large, badly-dressed, homely woman) in order stay hidden from creditors and the public. He learns that another player is about to break his precious record, so he embarks on a quest to stop his rival in whatever way he can. I’ve never read anything like it.

LYG

Logan’s Young Guns, by Nathan Walpow, is the story of Logan, a sort of free-lance vigilante. His life’s work is to punish men who harm and abuse members of the opposite sex.  While looking for the perpetrator of a recent beating of a woman, he stumbles upon something much bigger. In his quest to right several wrongs, Logan hooks up with three young people who share his motivations. The four become a team.  Like Beetner and Richardson, Walpow is quite skilled at creating a plot in which the stakes constantly increase from the very beginning. Also striking is that Walpow manages to show significant character development in such a short novella–this is quite an accomplishment I think and helps to make the book particularly satisfying.

First chapter of my new novella What Happens in Reno

22 Feb

The book came out yesterday on the bookxy.com site. Find it here.

reno book

dennys

Too drunk to drive home, Matt Hodges spent Monday night in the Denny’s parking lot, just north of downtown Modesto.

The old Denny’s. The one across from the pathetic American Graffiti Monument at George Lucas Plaza. Bronze statue of two 50’s-looking teenagers leaning on the left front fender of some old Chevy or something. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, Matt stared closely into the eyes of the boy and the girl, and the emptiness he saw frightened him. Other times, when he really needed a drink and the inevitable delirium tremens approached, the two looked like clothed reptiles.

graf1

After a long night of lonely bar-hopping, Matt had washed down a Grand Slam Breakfast with eight cups of coffee, trying to get focused enough to drive home. He would’ve driven if he could, he wasn’t being all ‘don’t drink and drive.’ But, once he vomited the eggs, sausage links, and pancakes all over the driver’s side window and door of his 1971 silver Mercedes Benz 280 SE, he could only crawl onto the backseat and pass out.

He awoke at 7 a.m., the already bright August sun in his eyes, barf all over the front of his shirt, piss in his pants and an ache behind his left eye like the slash of a box cutter. Used to greeting the day this way, Matt couldn’t muster up the energy for the obligatory shame attack.

He drove home, stripped off his clothes at the foot of the bed where Lydia lay, and took a long shower. Made sure to stay in until he used all the hot water. His headache dissipated some as he let the stream hit his forehead, but he still felt nauseous.

“Did you hog all the hot water again, asshole?” Lydia said. She stood naked in the bathroom doorway, watching him dry off. Make-up smeared and curly red hair wild. After dieting and going to the gym obsessively for months, his wife had gotten way too skinny. Sure, she looked hot as hell in her new sexy clothes, but it didn’t do Matt any good, her pussy was off limits to him. Her naked body, with all the extra skin hanging, and the stretch marks, just looked … weird.

“Did you fuck that sonofabitch Hunter Manning again?”

“Maybe …”

“Cause you look like you’ve been screwing all night.”

Lydia squeezed by him to piss, both of them avoiding the touch of each other’s bare skin. Matt dropped his towel on the floor and went into the bedroom. Lydia hated it when he left his wet towels on the floor.

They’d barely spoken to each other the past several weeks. She was pissed at his drinking and intermittent employment. And, until recently, he’d been in a rage that she kept fucking other guys to get back at him for being a marginally employed drunk. Lately, though, he’d stopped caring so much about all of that. He just hated the worthless bitch. He couldn’t recall any feelings of love.

Plus, this new one, Hunter, scared the shit out of Matt. He looked exactly like what he was: a shaved-headed tatted-up baddass ex-con with Aryan Brotherhood associations. Matt didn’t understand why Lydia couldn’t have an affair with a CPA, or an engineer, or one of the lawyers she worked for, someone whose ass he could kick. If it ever came to that, which it wouldn’t. Matt wasn’t a very tough guy.

“Whatever, man,” Lydia said. She dabbed at her vagina with a piece of toilet paper, stood, and flushed the toilet. “The closing is today, right? I mean, fuck, please tell me that you’re finally going to bring home some money.”

“The closing’s at nine. Soon as the title company opens. You don’t need to be there.”

“Don’t worry. Wouldn’t think of intruding on your big emotional moment. Gag.”

In addition to the Mercedes, Matt’s dead mother left him the piece-of-shit house out on Rumble Road where he’d grown up. A 1700-square-foot lime green stucco ranch-style built in 1966 as part of a then high-status subdivision. Ankle-high brown weeds now dominated the yard. The back and side fences barely stood. Vandals broke most of the windows and Matt replaced them with sheets of plywood. It sat on a street surrounded by similar structures, most in various stages of foreclosure or short sale. Shocked to get an offer for a hundred and sixty thousand, he accepted immediately before the dumbasses changed their mind.

Delores Hodges died of liver cancer just before Matt and Lydia married. A large debt remained on the second mortgage she’d gotten during the peak of the real estate boom. After paying off the bank, and the closing fees, and the sales commissions, little profit remained. Still, Matt felt fortunate to actually be making some money.

Lydia studied herself in the mirror. With both hands she tugged at the skin above her waist.

“Did you find out how much you’re going to get?”

God, he knew that today would be the day he’d suddenly become fascinating again.

“Twelve thousand, six hundred and fourteen dollars. And ninety eight cents.”

“That’s it? I still can’t believe you didn’t hold out for more. That house is worth at least one ninety.”

“Yeah, right. Eight years ago. Maybe.”

“The market is improving. In six months you’ll look like an idiot. Fuck, in two weeks you’ll look like an idiot.”

He dressed quickly in shorts and a black t-shirt. All he wanted was to get away from Lydia. In her presence he hated himself even more than usual.

Lydia turned sideways and stared at her profile. She sucked in her belly.

“Don’t you dare forget our deal,” she said.

“I know, Jesus.”

“Five grand of that cash goes for my tummy tuck and the rest pays off your credit card debt. I’m sick of my salary going to finance your drinking and trips to every goddamn Indian casino between here and the Donner fucking Pass.”

Matt went into the bathroom and stood behind Lydia.

“Jesus. How could I ever forget?”

“And if there is anything left over, it’s mine. You owe me for supporting your ass for two years. Shit, this marriage might be the worst investment in history.”

“You’re just going to get fat again, and waste that five grand. Talk about a bad investment.”

Lydia turned around. She started to slap Matt. He was ready and caught her right wrist with his right hand.

“Fuck you,” she said.

“Fuck you,” he said.

She tried to free her hand, but Matt held tight.

“You’re such a fucking joke,” she said.

She reached out with her left hand and twisted Matt’s right nipple.

“Ouch, shit,” Matt said. He let go of her wrist. “Fucking slut whore.”

“Oh. And don’t think I’m going to let you off the hook and forget your promise of going to rehab ‘as soon as all the stuff with my mom’s estate is settled.’”

Lydia recited the last part in a pathetic sing-song whine.

Matt looked away.

“Remember? Re. Hab?”

He walked out of the bathroom and out of the bedroom.

“Right! That’s what I thought. You get that money into the bank right away. Today. In case there’s a hold. My procedure is Friday and since it’s not covered by insurance I have to pay upfront.”

In the hallway he bumped into Tanner, Lydia’s son from her marriage before last. The tall, slender, and handsome 18-year-old’s morning erection had emerged through the slit in his boxer shorts. Matt felt himself blush as he noticed the impressive length and thickness of his stepson’s uncircumcised cock.

“Hey dumb shit,” Tanner said.

“What’s up, douchebag?” Matt said.

“Eat me.” Tanner stumbled into the bathroom.

“Okay,” Matt said to the shut and locked door. “Have a nice day.”

Tanner seemed even more aggressive and belligerent than his usual frightening self ever since Lydia had been seeing Hunter. Coincidence?

He heard Lydia shouting something at him as he went out the front door. His nipple stung like freaking hell. It felt like she’d pulled the thing off. Thinking back, he realized she’d stopped wearing her engagement and wedding rings. No surprise. Who cared, anyway?

He started the car and turned on the AC full blast, but the sweat still poured down his face. Already 80 degrees, the temperature would hit 108 by noon.

God, he loved the Mercedes. For years it sat in the garage. His mother never let him drive it, so, as soon as she got too sick to notice he made it his own.

Matt had been around a lot of divorces and separations. His own and those of his various exes. So, he knew a thing or two about California community property law. He knew that, technically, Lydia had no legal claim to whatever money Matt got from his mother’s estate. But, it was true that since a couple of weeks into their marriage, Lydia almost completely carried the financial load. He couldn’t blame her for being so pissed. He wanted to even things up somehow. It was the right thing to do. Still, why did she have to be such a cheating bitch?

Matt drove to the White Elephant Lounge for some hair of the dog. Still an hour before the closing. He hated the place because the morning regulars always laughed and joked and shouted as if no one ever had a freaking hangover. Plus, they ignored him like he was diseased or something. Even the total-slut flirty bar maid treated him like shit. He didn’t get it. But, the bar opened early and was on the way to the title company offices. And, it was cheap.

The Elephant sat between a liquor store and a nail salon on Standiford Avenue. In the middle of the oldest strip mall in Modesto. At one time the little island of buildings had been a mile out of town.

The 24-hour store also sold gas and milk and candy and lottery tickets. Taped to the clear glass doors were video stills of recent armed robberies and shopliftings. Getting in and out of the nameless place required passing through a soiled and smelly gauntlet of panhandlers, talkative tweakers, and inert splayed-out bodies.

As far as Matt could tell, the always-packed nail salon also never closed. Owned and operated by a Vietnamese immigrant along with her daughter and granddaughter, just inside the door was a Buddhist shrine covered with offerings: oranges, cantaloupe slices, cigarettes, chewing gum, antacid pills.

On the outside, the bar looked like the worse kind of dive. Old sign with chipped paint, a white cement wall, and a black bullet-hole-ridden wooden door. Inside, though, it looked like all Modesto neighborhood bars: fake wood-paneled walls, pool tables, posters and pennants of the Giants, the A’s, the 49ers, and the Raiders, an electronic dart board, and six large-screen TVs set to ESPN channels. The owner recently spent some money on renovations, and the White Elephant actually looked pretty good.

white

Thank god the place was at least a little cool when Matt walked inside. He ignored the usual crowd at the left side of the joint, and took a seat at the far end of the bar to the right.

A bartender he did not recognize walked up and met him across from his stool. She actually smiled. Matt figured her for early 40s, like him. She wore black high-heel boots, tight black pants, and an unbuttoned lacy black blouse over a pink bikini top. Her hair a 70s-style shag, dyed jet black. She turned Matt on, especially because of the way a bit of her gut spilled over the tight jeans, and the way one of her top left teeth over-lapped the tooth behind it. The best part: she didn’t know he was an asshole yet.

“What can I get you, sweetie?”

“Can you make me a bloody Mary? Except with tequila?”

“Sure, darlin.’”

“Double tequila, please.”

“You got it, double bloody Maria, coming right up.”

Matt watched her big ass jiggle as she made the drink. He put the last twenty from his wallet on the bar. Watched her make change as he swallowed the drink in one gulp.

“One more please.”

“Are we celebrating or trying to cure a hangover?”

“A little of both, I guess.”

He drank the next a little slower. Two swallows instead of one.

The bartender went to the other end of the bar to serve the shouting regulars.

When she came back she poured them both a shot of Jose Cuervo.

“This is on me.”

Wow, he could get to like this new addition to his least favorite dive. Maybe he’d become a regular, after all.

“I’m Beth,” she said, extending her right hand.

“Matt.”

They shook. She smiled.

“What are we celebrating?”

“I’m about to leave town with a bundle of money. Maybe do a little gambling.”

So what if it was a lie? Who the fuck cared?

He drank his shot. She drank hers. She looked him straight in the eye. Big sexy smile.

“Oh, that’s always nice. Getting out of dodge with a big fat wallet.”

Matt felt great, drunk as hell. The White Elephant glowed. Bright, shiny, and beautiful. The liquor bottles behind his new friend sparkled and hummed. He saw his reflection in the mirror. He looked good, handsome even. Full head of blond hair, blue eyes, hardly a wrinkle. His eyes only looked a little puffy.

He pictured himself in a casino, playing poker, wearing a black silk bowling shirt, crisp khaki shorts and brown leather slip-on Italian shoes. Big pile of chips. Beth stood beside him, running her nails up and down his arms. Two aces in his hand and the dealer dealt two more—one in the flop and one on the river. He went all in.

Back in his reality, he put his right hand on Beth’s left.

“Why don’t you come with me?”

Beth laughed.

“I’m serious. I promise we’ll have a great time.”

“I don’t think my husband would like that.” She pulled her hand back. Moved back down the bar to the right and started washing beer mugs. Matt stared. She didn’t look back. Eventually, Beth went to serve and flirt with the regulars on the other side of the bar.

Whatever. Her loss. He remembered Lydia and the tummy tuck and everything else.

Shit.

Checked his watch: 8:50. The room spun as he got off his stool. He looked at the back of Beth’s head on his way out. Noticed Hunter Manning standing against the wall. Never seen him in the Elephant before this morning. Dude stared at him with vicious cold eyes. He wasn’t drinking.

Random thoughts while serving breakfast for a dermatologists’ convention at a big fancy Hawaiian hotel

17 Feb

1. Oh, apparently two and a half hours of sleep is enough rest to prepare for a five a.m. shift.

2. The posters in all the vendor booths (right next to the breakfast buffet and the tables) at the dermatologists’ convention are kind of icky (but probably not to the conventioneers).

3. When conventioneers (not just these people today) first arrive to the fancy breakfast buffet of sausage, bacon, potato pancakes, scrambled eggs, endless melons, juices, and bread and pastries — their body language says this: “OMG I’M AT A PROFESSIONAL CONFERENCE IN FUCKING HAWAII AND LOOK AT THAT AWESOME BUFFET. MAN AM I STARVING!! THIS IS THE BEST MORNING EVER!!!!”

4. When conventioneers walk back to their table with their plates loaded with wonderful shiny food their body language says: “LOOK AT MY FOOD! LOOK AT MY FOOD! I GOT A SHITLOAD OF FOOD AND I AM FUCKING HAPPY!!!!”

5. Dermatologists are clearly nice and pleasant people.

6. Phrases heard most often while taking dirty dishes away from tables:

“When this is over we are going over to Maui for a week.”

“It’ll clear up.”

7. I’m slowly coming out of denial about the fact that I am a 57-year-old busboy. Slowly.

8. People who criticize me do it incorrectly.

9. I really want a new guitar.

10. I want a guitar, period.

11. I never should’ve gotten rid of all my guitars before moving to Hawaii, especially that sweet Gibson acoustic.

12. I can’t get a new guitar until I pay my dad back the money he lent us to help get into this apartment and until we get Bec a new laptop and ourselves some actual furniture.

13. Every dirty plate I clear I’m that much closer to a new guitar and that other stuff.

14. I am not a dermatologist at this convention, I am the busboy.

15. Some of these dermatologists are the first conventioneers I’ve encountered so far who often actually attempt to bus their own tables. I find this sweet and charming.

16. If a portion of my work today was filmed with one camera in one continuous six and a half minute shot of me taking dirty dishes, knifes, forks, spoons, glasses and coffee cups and linen napkins off of tables, and then stacking same on a big brown oval tray and then lifting up the tray and balancing it with one hand next to my head and then weaving through tables and chairs and rapidly and unpredictably moving dermatologists and vendors and other servers and handing the tray off to the porters in the back kitchen and then grabbing a new tray and bringing it back to a tray jack on the floor before resuming clearing dishes and people saw it they’d be all like “wow, dude, that was totally cool.”

17. Maybe working the Luau last night and then coming home and sleeping from 12:30 to 3 a.m. in order to be at work on time for this breakfast wasn’t enough rest.

18. Why do people who know I’m a fiction writer think that just because they believe something in my life would make a good story that I’d automatically think so as well?

19. I hope they don’t ask me to work a banquet tonight because I’m afraid I’d say yes. I seem to be incapable of saying no to my bosses here.

20. How will I get people who don’t know me to read my books that are about to come out?

21. If I really screwed up and managed to trip and cause plates and silverware to fly off of an oval tray and onto a table of guests, it’s unlikely anyone would be seriously injured. Right?

22. How will I get people who do know me to read my books that are about to come out?

23. Just because most dermatologists this morning ate a shit-load of potato pancakes, it doesn’t follow that all dermatologists love potato pancakes.

24. Did duct-taped Ginger ever get out of Rust’s truck and why was Rust basically torturing him and how did Rust and Marty explain all THAT to the rest of the police?

25. I hope they ask me to work on my day off tomorrow because I really want a new guitar and that other stuff too.

26. It’s weird, but just lingering at these dermatologists’ tables long enough to keep clearing their dirty dishes is enough time to sense how they, their spouses, and their children are mostly extremely well-educated, well-behaved, and very polite human beings.

27. I love dermatologists.

28. I want a new guitar.

My Story “Not Lost” to be included in Literary Orphans first year print anthology — and don’t forget my novellas!!!

22 Jan

This is pretty great, I think.

Check out this link to the announcement by Literary Orphans of the stories and poems they’ve selected for their first year anthology. Thanks to any readers who voted for my story to be included. Read the story here, it is very short. You can also see the story and two of the other stories of mine published by Literary Orphans in my short story collection Criminal Love.

Anyway, the collection looks great. Buy it when it comes out. I’ve read most of the stories and poems selected and they are wonderful. I’ll read the rest over the next several days. So glad to see that Tom Pitts, Joe Clifford, CS DeWilt, and Jen Conley are also included, as well as Claire Podulka, Vallie Lynn Watson, Len Kuntz, Abigail Amabisca, Gessy Alvarez, Joel Kopplin, Peter Marra, Kurt Kamin, Scott Waldyn. Wow.

Literary Orphans is the only ‘literary’ journal that has published my work. In the summer of 2012 when I first started writing short stories, I sent them off constantly to literary mags and was rejected again and again. One thing about Literary Orphans that makes them unique is that the submissions are read ‘blind,’ the readers do not know the name of the author of the piece they are judging. I think this is why I was able to get into LO. Otherwise, my stories have all been in crime and noir online and print journals and anthologies, which is great, and where, for the most part, I want to be [Okay, I feel like a dick. Slit Your Wrists, now Revolt Daily, actually published two of my stories, Altar Call and Work Ethic. This publication is not really a noir or crime journal, though of course they publish a wide array of genres. I'm not sure if they'd call themselves literary or not.]

Okay, don’t forget that I have two, count ‘em two, novellas coming out very soon: The Scent of New Death from Gutter Books and What Happens in Reno from bookxy.com. Both books are finished and edited and the covers are now being designed.

The Scent of New Death will be out in both print and electronic formats. It is a raw, bare-bones, violent and kinky tale with a tinge of zen. It is the story of Modesto-based Phil Gaines, a lonely and quiet zen-meditating middle-aged master bank robber. Phil makes the mistake of marrying young and sexy bar maid Paige, who quickly leaves him for his driver/partner Jeff Sweet. After this betrayal, the two steal all of Phil’s money before embarking on a psycho-sexual killing spree as Phil plots his revenge. It is not a nice or pleasant book, but quite fun if you like that sort of thing.

What Happens in Reno is a straight-ahead noir. It is the story of Matt Hodges (also a resident of the wonderful city of Modesto), an always unemployed chronic drunk and compulsive low-level gambler. After cashing in a small inheritance after the death of his mother (money he’d promised to his pissed-off wife), Matt flees to Reno to fulfill his dream of making big bucks playing poker. Things do not go well for Matt. Again, not a pleasant story, but exactly the kind I’d like to read.

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First-person treatment for a pay-cable TV show set in Modesto:

20 Jan

I got up that morning with an incredible desire to pee. While standing at the toilet I looked in the mirror and I shouted out to Bec, who was still in bed, “Life is just like the human body’s elimination system: solid food and liquid comes in through the mouth and then what isn’t usable is forced out one’s urethra morning after morning, day after day.”

In my head I could hear “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” sung by Johnny Cash. Which was weird, because it was Tuesday, and I wasn’t at all hungover.

Bec stretched and said, “It’s just like a man to reduce all of life to just a reflection of the body’s elimination system. Why don’t you just shut up and let me sleep late for once? It’s my day off. Besides, as usual, what you just said makes no sense.”

She was right, I sounded like an idiot. Oh well.

After dressing and eating breakfast I realized I was late for work. Hurrying down the stairs I accidentally bumped into our building’s handyman, Dick, and nearly knocked him over.

“Oh, excuse me,”I said. “I really should look where I am going. I am so sorry.”

Dick, a heavily tattooed man with haunted eyes, a mysterious past, and a bad meth habit, grabbed me by my shoulders, stopping me in my path. He brought his face to within an inch of mine and said, softly, so softly I could barely hear, “It is not I who needs an apology, sir.”

“Oh really?” I said. I tried to slip away, but he held me firm and moved even closer, so our noses were actually touching.

“Yes, man from apartment C311,” he said, softer still. “You must first apologize to yourself, for all your running around is causing you to lose your way.”

“I know the way,” I said, slipping out of his grasp before picking him up  in a fireman’s carry, spinning him around, and throwing him down the stairs. I had no idea where I’d learned that move since I had no training in wresting, jiu jitsu, or the martial arts.

“It’s just up the 99 to the Broadway exit,” I shouted as I leaped over his inert body. “Then it’s two quick lefts and a right. You can’t miss it.”

As I drove up the freeway, I passed over the Stanislaus river. I gazed at the brown water and at the brightening sky above. Suddenly, I noticed a lone heron flying higher, ever higher, towards the sun.

“Stupid heron,” I thought to myself.

Even though I was late, I stopped off to pick up my dry cleaning. This didn’t make sense, I know, I could always go after work, or, leave early the next morning and do it. Or, even, I could pick up the clothes on my lunch hour. There really was no hurry. Still, I was compelled to do it right then.

As I walked from my car to the door of the cleaners, I could hear, faintly, somewhere in the distance, a John Lee Hooker one chord boogie riff play. I looked and looked but could not find the source of the haunting, yet funky, music.

“Why didn’t that guy ever learn any more chords?” I thought to myself.

I took my shirts from the cashier and saw that they were not able to get out the gravy stain from the front of my favorite navy blue button-down 100% cotton shirt.

“Couldn’t get out the stain, huh?” I said.

The cashier, a middle-aged woman with neck tattoos, one haunted eye and one eye that was just slightly anxious, a mysterious past,  and a bad meth habit, gave me a look of pure hatred. She slapped me hard. Twice.

“You people,” she said, sneering. “You think eliminating the stains from your fancy dress shirts will take away the stains on your soul? Ha! You are a fool and I feel sorry for you.”

I slipped a twenty down her blouse.

“Do you think you could try one more time?” I said. “I really love that shirt. And please don’t slap me anymore, okay? It really stings.”

She pulled out the bill and examined it very carefully.

“Do you think money is the solution to the problem of your stained shirt? Do you think life is really that easy?”

“Yes,” I said. “I was sure hoping so.”

“You’re probably right,” she said, slipping the twenty back into her bra next to her surprisingly large, firm, and pointy breasts, the kind of breasts you only see on rich Beverly Hills housewives and Hollywood movie stars. “We have this new solution I’ll try. I’ll run it through again. Come back tomorrow morning.”

Then, somehow, I found myself in the employee restroom of the dry cleaners, making passionate love to the cashier as loud, evil, heavy-metal music played in the background. I found this odd because I wasn’t even attracted to her. And, I was doing it in her butt, something I’ve never wanted to do because I find it unsanitary and kind of disgusting, but I understand some people think it makes for an exciting variation. Still, there I was, really going at it while standing up behind her as she leaned forward and clutched the sink,  a wire hanger between her teeth. What was really odd was when I looked down at my thrusting pelvis I couldn’t see my penis anywhere. I knew this was going to really haunt me at least until lunchtime.

I walked back to my car. The parking lot was full of late 60s muscle cars, all of them idling with a haunting, mysterious roar. I tried to see who was in the cars, but the sun glared brightly off of the shiny paint jobs, and I couldn’t get a good enough look. I found this haunting.

When I turned on my own car to leave, Loretta Lynn’s “Fist City” was playing loudly though my radio speakers. Which was weird, because I had my radio tuned to FM 105.5 THE RIVER, an easy-listening new age cool jazz station.

When I finally got to work, I went straight to my boss’s office. His name was Jack. He had mysterious eyes, and a haunted, black soul (at least that is what it said on his t-shirt), and a bad meth habit.

“Jack,” I said. “Could I have this Saturday off? My friend Dave is getting married.”

Jack laughed in my face. He laughed and laughed. He laughed so hard he cried. When he finally stopped crying, he said, “Oh, you are such a fool.”

“Why?” I said. “Is there something going on here on Saturday I’d forgotten about? What am I missing?”

“You say your ‘friend’ is getting ‘married?’”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“On Saturday?”

“Yes, that’s what he told me. What? Do you know Dave too? Where you invited? Do I have the date wrong?”

Jack slowly shook his head. He looked at me with great sorrow.

“Mike, what is a ‘friend,’ really? And, for that matter, what is a ‘marriage?’ Is it just a ceremony with two people, a priest, and witnesses? Or is it more than that? Also, what is … ‘Saturday,’ ultimately, other than a concept in your mind? You sit there so confident, as if you know exactly what you are talking about, but do you? Really?”

“Jeez, Jack,” I said. “Can I just have the day off, yes or no?”

“Sure, just go into the company intranet on your computer, fill out the proper form, print it up, and give it to my secretary. You know the drill. Don’t forget to sign and date it.”

After work I stopped off at my favorite bar for a quick one. The bartender’s name was Flo. She had a haunted face and heavily made-up, mysterious eyes, and she snorted meth sometimes but it hadn’t turned into a habit yet, and probably never would because Flo didn’t really have an addictive personality. Some people are like that. Strange, I know. Haunting. Behind her where she stood at the bar sat row after row of liquor bottles: scotch, bourbon, tequila, vodka, which isn’t strange at all. To my right, two men, both wearing blue-collar shirts with their names stitched above their hearts (“Sonny” and “Jett”) played pool. Sonny had mysterious eyes and Jett was haunted by the sins of his past. They were both addicted to reruns of Malcolm in the Middle. They sang an ancient sad Irish song as they played. Their harmonies were amazingly beautiful.

“I’ll have the usual,” I said to Flo.

“Your arrogance astounds me,” Flo said. It looked like she had antlers on her head and then I realized it was just because she was standing right underneath some deer antlers from a big buck mounted on the wall. I was glad she didn’t really have antlers on her head because that would’ve haunted me.

“Really, please,” I said. “Could I just have a cold Bud draft? It’s been a long day and I’m hot and thirsty.”

“Your thirst,” she said, and then spat contemptuously on the floor. “Yours is a thirst that will never be quenched by Budweiser. What is wrong with you? What is wrong with people?”

“Okay,” I said. “How about an Anchor Steam?”

“Sure, that should work” she said with a bright smile, “I’ve always found Anchor to be much more refreshing than Bud. Coming right up.”

As I left the bar  Sonny and Jett began to fight over a girl named Nell. I watched as Jett grabbed a beer bottle by the open end and tried to break it in half on the side of the pool table. But, no matter how hard he tried, the bottle would not shatter.

“Shit,” he said, as Sonny beat him in he face with the cue ball. What was odd was that they did this every day when I stopped off for a beer on my way home from work, yet neither one of them ever had a cut or a bruise. This made no sense, I know. But I really didn’t care, it was fun to watch them fight.

I drove home back down the 99. As I looked at the sun setting over the Stanislaus river to my left I wondered out loud, “That’s weird, since I’m going south and it is six at night, the sun should be setting in the west, which is to my right.”

I decided not to worry about it since it was such a pretty sight.

At home, Bec served me a wonderful dinner of steak, baked potatoes, and green beans. As we ate, we stared into each others eyes for inexplicably long periods of time. Neither one of us knew why we were doing it, but it seemed like the thing to do at the time. In the background, we could hear Gillian Welch and David Rawlings singing Long Black Veil. This wasn’t strange because Gillian and David lived next door and were always practicing. This was nice, but sometimes I got a little sick of hearing the same songs over and over.

Afterwards, I took Bec into my arms. “That was a wonderfully satisfying meal,” I said.

My wife, who has beautiful brown eyes, a past that is no mystery to me, and who is addicted to snickerdoodles, said “Yet, you must admit that none of us will ever be ultimately satisfied by sensual pleasures, such a good food.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I really don’t think I could eat another bite.”

“But, in the morning, when you wake, you will feel hunger once again, will you not? Should I make pancakes?”

“Sure,” I said. “I probably will be hungry. But, sometimes, I don’t get hungry until around mid-morning, especially after having a big meal the night before. So, pancakes might be too heavy. It all depends.”

“Why don’t we see how you feel when you get up?”

“Sure, sounds great.”

We went to bed soon after. I can’t remember if I dreamed or not, but I do remember that in the morning I was ravenously hungry once again, and, I really needed to pee.

Booked.

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Angel Luis Colón

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