Sihpromatum

Savannah’s book is still carrying a five star average after forty-two reviews and I’m pretty sure that’s a record. Even if it isn’t, this is still a pretty impressive book. I know I’ve blogged about her work before, and to a lot of you, what comes next will seem familiar; I’m reposting my first blog about Savannah (or at least a portion of it) because her book is now only 99 cents. It’s seriously worth it. If you buy it now, one of these days you’ll be able to say you read it before she was famous. Get it here: http://www.amazon.com/Sihpromatum-Grew-Boobs-China-ebook/dp/B008YZ0184/

SW

I’ve typically been annoyed by the fact that people think that an incredible event automatically translates into an incredible book. Kanye West’s mother went through the incredible journey of raising a superstar so of course she should write a book about it, right? I picked up her book, tritely entitled “Raising Kanye”, while I was in Hastings a while back, thumbed through it, and then dropped it back on the shelf as quickly as possible lest it steal some of my intelligence. I’ve read that 90% of all Americans believe they have a story to tell that’s worthy of a book deal (I guess I lied when I said there’d be no more statistics). Here it is: it doesn’t mean that you’re fated to be an author just because you’ve been through something extraordinary.

However, sometimes the yen and yang fit together perfectly and someone with such a story really does create a noteworthy book, and that’s what happened in “Sihpromatum” by Savannah Grace. The sub-text for her title is “I Grew my Boobs in China” and the word “boobs” may or may not have been why I originally gave this title a chance but I’m glad I did. Everything about this book just feels professional. It’s a nonfiction story that I suppose should be classified as a memoir, but it reads like a novel which is absolutely awesome. Sevannah’s style is polished and well beyond her years and she has some serious talent. I kept hunting through website for a publisher’s accreditation because it was hard to believe that such a work was self published. Sihpromatum is the type of book you’d expect Oprah to be throwing at her guests in one of her “favorite things” episodes (which I’ve never seen because I’m a manly man); it’s seriously that good (I mean, you know… if you’re in to that sort of thing). All joking aside, I don’t want to do Savannah’s work a disservice by pigeon-holing into the “chick-lit” category because to get something meaningful out of this book, the only prerequisite is to be human.

Sihpromatum

“SIHPROMATUM (Sip-row-may-tum): A blessing that initially appears to be a curse.

Sihpromatum is a memoir series of one family’s four-year backpacking adventure around the world. The first installment, “I Grew My Boobs in China” is the beginning of an intensely fascinating, sobering, and emotional memoir of Savannah’s introspective and innovative family adventure.

In 2005, 14-year-old Savannah Grace’s world is shattered when her mother unexpectedly announces that she and her family (mother 45, brother 25 and sister 17) would soon embark on an incredible, open-ended journey. When everything from her pets to the house she lived in either sold, given away or put in storage, this naïve teenage girl runs headlong into the reality and hardships of a life on the road.

Built around a startling backdrop of over eighty countries (I Grew my Boobs in China relates the family’s adventures in China and Mongolia), this is a tale of feminine maturation – of Savannah’s metamorphosis from ingénue to woman-of-the-world. Nibbling roasted duck tongues in China and being stranded in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert are just two experiences that contribute to Savannah’s exploration of new cultures and to the process of adapting to the world around her.”

I have two young daughters and while I can see immense strength in both of them, I can also feel that innate fragility in their youth that I’m so desperately trying to protect. That’s why Savannah’s story is so captivating. Even as a grown man I’m not sure I could handle the hand that was dealt to Savannah. Her story is incredible, and when you pair that with a natural prose and a love for storytelling, you get an absolutely viable book that belongs in the company of anything pumped out by the large publishing houses. I’m sure this book would’ve made it to the proverbial shelves even if self publishing wasn’t possible, but maybe not. Maybe the suits I mentioned in my first segment would’ve passed Sihpromatum by and chosen instead to publish the memoirs of a combat Marine thanks to gender. Who knows; all that matters now is that this book exists and it deserves attention, as does Savannah Grace.

On a personal level, Savannah comes across as fearless and genuine. It’s as if all her doubts have been melted away thanks to her struggle; I’d compare it to the way an athlete looses fat during their training.

Her story is a startling one about a young girl that looses everything before regaining something better by experiencing the world first hand with a brother, a sister, and a mother. Savannah writes a tale that stresses the importance of following a dream and staying positive despite the mirage in front of us. It’s a tale of that “trial by fire” that we all look for in our literature and I hope you’ll give it a chance. In any case, I’ve just written close to four thousand words in three segments about female authors and I need to get back to my own work before I too grow boobs.

Sihpromatum can be purchased through Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Sihpromatum-Grew-Boobs-China-ebook/dp/B008YZ0184/

You can find further reviews, blogs, and information on how to purchase this book through Smashwords or Kobo via

Savannah’s site here: http://www.sihpromatum.com/

If you’d like to email the author directly you can do so here: sihpromatum@gmail.com

And everyone’s a fan of Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Sihpromatum-I-Grew-my-Boobs-in-China/367565703312088

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Steampunk

I once received a rejection letter from a small press publisher because my work wasn’t “sufficiently Steampunk.” The editor told me that they’d gladly publish my work if I’d just add a bit more of what they were looking for, and I declined saying that it wasn’t my style. It was all a lie though; I had no idea what “Steampunk” was. My inner nerd went into spasms thinking there could be some new and awesome genre out there to which I wasn’t privy, so I turned to the internet as we all do when looking for answers.

 

My image search spawned sepia pictures of oddly dressed men wearing brass rimmed goggles and layers of soot. There were lumbering airships tethered to the sky by patchwork balloons and smoking cities straight out of a mechanical fantasy. There were fan sites and societies and authors specializing in Steampunk that had been writing for decades and it all hit me like a bitch slap. Where had I been? I read, I watch TV, I use the internet; I’ve glued myself to pop culture and yet I couldn’t define “Steampunk” without Wikipedia’s help.

 

I dove in thinking that I needed to catch up, and at first, I was a bit disappointed. Most of the fiction I read seemed to be too centered on the premise; the story took a backseat to the genre. Authors would spend copious amounts of time describing the setting as if I’d become enthralled by the theme alone. The stories were all the same. They’d encompass a misbegotten land, usually a chain of islands, choked by pollution and the tyrannical rule of this or that emperor or king. There were always airships and brass pipes and steam powered contraptions with a complete disregard for practicality. And the characters all shared an odd commonness; they felt like cartoons. I’d start reading, doing my best to picture human characters, but eventually, their exaggerated mannerisms would destroy my mental constructs and replace them with painted two-dimensional beings.

 

I ended up thinking that Steampunk was the literary equivalent to anime. But as it turns out, that’s just because I hadn’t been reading the right stuff; I hadn’t found A.L. Davroe. In reading “The Krie Seekers”, I found that Steampunk can be just as captivating as any other genre as long as it’s centered on a strong story line with plausible character development. I’ve since disavowed my previous notion that Steampunk was nothing more than an odd esoteric fad that’d fade into the past like the age of antiquity that gave it birth, and I plan on reading more. As a side note, I’m definitely a fan of anime, it’s just that when I read a novel, I’m looking for something else.

 

I’ve decided to write a three part series on emerging styles as they apply to indie authors, and this is the first.

 

Part One: Steampunk, and A.L. Davroe

A.L. Davroe

It’s been said that the hardest part of writing a short story or a novella is keeping it short. Sure, it’s easy to spew out a few thousand words and dub it as a short story, but the artistry lies in the ability to do it well; to fit genuine characters and germane plot into those few thousand words. A.L. Davroe does it masterfully. She has managed to fit a book’s worth of plot into a novella, and most impressively of all, she even squeezed in a believable romance. At face value, I suppose that doesn’t seem like an impressive feat, but it is. The best romantic relationships are the ones that start off as anything but. I won’t go into how that relates specifically to Davroe’s story because doing so would be too much of a spoiler, but the way this particular relationship is handled by Davroe is worth mention.

 

The story, the plot it’s self, is paramount in Davroe’s writing; the Steampunk theme is secondary. There are still plenty of airships and brass pipes and black clouds of noxious pollution, but all those aspects are where they belong: in the setting. Her characters act like humans, even though a few of them aren’t, and it was easy for me to picture them as such. And Davroe’s style is fast paced and vivid. I read “The Krie Seekers” in one sitting as the day passed quietly around me; I kept clicking the page forward button on my Kindle in total satisfaction.

 

I’m admittedly ignorant when it comes to Steampunk so I can’t say for sure whether or not Davroe brings something new to the genre, but I think she might. The city in which this story takes place, Dormorn, is cast almost like a character all of its own. She writes that the city has a heartbeat, which is punctuated throughout the story, and that type of personification came across as something truly fresh and novel. When I asked Davroe about this, she said “The CITY STEAM vignettes are meant to be little peeks into a world where the dominant world power has rejected the reigning god (Ehleis) and chooses instead to believe in their own power of creation. In this way, man himself is a god and the mechanisms that he creates are his children.” How awesome is that? In reading the story I felt it; almost as if Dormorn were sentient with long reaching pipes as a root system and billowing clouds of smoke as breath.

 

Anyway, I can’t recommend this book strongly enough. I’d usually include a synopsis of the book at this point, as I have in past segments, but I don’t want to give away too much. In short, the “Krie” and the “Seekers” are both supernatural beings that share a murderous, albeit symbiotic, relationship. The story of their fated struggle is juxtaposed against one of love and hate, of action and drama, and I loved this book. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should read it. Here’s the short synopsis off of Amazon: As the citizens in the Windward Empire’s capital city of Dormorn sleep, two lawmen recruit a pair of Seeker sisters to assist in a hunt for the blood-thirsty Krie that have been terrorizing the city.

 

Please take the time to follow these links:

Her blog/website: http://www.aldavroe.com/

Her Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/ALDavroeFanPage

Her Twitter account: https://twitter.com/aldavroe

Her Goodreads account: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5212441.A_L_Davroe

And most importantly, the Amazon page for THE KRIE SEEKERS: http://www.amazon.com/Krie-Seekers-City-Steam-ebook/dp/B00BUQK7OM/

KrieSeekers

Monsters in Vegas

I felt pretty good about the fact that I was in better shape than anybody else in the gym right up until the sixty year old transvestite walked in and put us all to shame. The dude was ripped. He had twice the muscle definition as I did and his boobs were bigger than my wife’s; I have a solid six-pack and my wife is a girl so it was pretty impressive on both fronts. And I knew he was a he as opposed to a masculine she thanks to the skintight grey leotard he was wearing. I suppose he could’ve been smuggling a water bottle or something but I doubt it. He walked in with his argyle socks and ballerina shoes and looked around the gym trying to figure out where to start. He had permanent make up and a grey topknot and no fear whatsoever. He stretched and then started throwing a fifty pound dumbbell around as if it were a paperweight. I shrugged my shoulders and thought “Well, this is Vegas. What did you expect?” I went back to my pull-ups and didn’t think about it anymore. There’s nothing wrong with being the second buffest guy in the gym even if number one is twice as old and wearing a sports bra.

 

I finished my workout and headed back up to the room to meet my wife and children to plan the day. As a side note, if you would’ve walked up to me five years ago and told me that I’d go to bed early in Las Vegas so I could fit in a six a.m. workout, I would’ve accused you of being retarded. Things change. My wife and monsters were awake so I told Terra about the tranny just to make early morning small talk but then I heard my oldest daughter laughing at the story, and that’s when it hit me; I voluntarily brought both of my daughters to Vegas. All of the women in my family were on spring break; one from Montessori, one from middle school, and one from college, so we’d decided to load up the car and drive the eight hours to sin city just for the hell of it. But now what? Questions would arise, and thanks to my anti sheltering policy, I’d have to answer them. I just wish it didn’t have to start with a conversation about what I meant by “smuggling a water bottle.”

The Strip

We headed out, and about ten minutes into our trek, one of those shady but silent men on the street tried to hand me a small brochure advertising the best “escorts” in Nevada. Seriously? I’m not sure exactly what we were looking for that morning but it definitely wasn’t prostitution. Maybe the dude missed his orientation at whore-business-card-handing-out-school but I’m pretty sure a thirty-something year old man walking with his wife and two daughters isn’t in the target demographic. I kept walking and for once, my oldest and most ridiculously observant daughter didn’t see anything so I got to avoid our first conversation about “really bad choices.” But it came about a mile later.

 

The bums came out around ten a.m. and started plying their trade. Some were busking with harmonicas or guitars, others proclaimed to be veterans with camouflage coats as evidence, and some relied on creative signs: “Too ugly to prostitute; too stupid to steal.” I almost gave the last guy five bucks just for his proper usage of homonyms and semicolons but we just walked on by. My oldest, Catelynn, wanted to give a rather jovial bum with a guitar and a bandana something so I gave her a couple bucks. Why not? She ran over and put the money in his hat with a smile and he said “Thank you pretty lady! Stay in school or you’ll end up like me!” then he looked over at me and said “You’re welcome!” I thanked him and we continued on. I started chuckling because somehow, I had just thanked a bum for letting me give him money. The next day, we walked by the same guy a little after ten thirty a.m. and he had already drained most of the forty ounce beer in his hand. It was cheap and wrapped in a brown paper bag because I guess he’d felt the need to reinforce a stereotype. I turned to Catelynn and said “See? You bought that man a beer.” I could see the wheels turning behind her frown.

 

It wasn’t fifty feet later that we passed by a bum in a leather vest that had track marks and needle sores all over both of his arms. It looked as if he moonlighted as a cactus wrangler. My daughter stared at him and his bedraggled sign that simply said “please help” as we walked by and then asked why I didn’t give him anything. “Would he just buy beer too?” I asked her if she noticed the sores, and I knew she had because her observation skills are almost creepy. She said yes, and guessed that maybe he’d walked through a swarm of mosquitoes (she frickin’ hates mosquitoes). I told her exactly where they came from, and that every dollar that went into his coffee-can would end up in his veins. She didn’t ask to hand out any more money for the rest of the trip.

 

I was still thinking about heroin so I didn’t notice the bikini-clad flamingo girl that was running toward us. She bent over to look into my stroller and in a dulcet voice, she asked my youngest, Kinley, for a high five. She was spangled in sequins and almost falling out of her top so I’m sure it’s a mammary Kinley isn’t going to forget. Kinley gave her a tentative high five and the flamingo girl bounced along her way giggling “welcome to Las Vegas” over her shoulder. Great; now what? Should I sit my children down on the curb and explain the pitfalls behind daddy issues? Should I take Kinley to the clinic and get her disinfected just in case?

 

The entire trip was like that; good, but awkward. We took the kids swimming every day after our forages and if I didn’t watch out, I’d find myself swimming with both of my monsters in a manmade lake of twitterpated douche bags. We’d be wading and splashing and minding our own business, and then be inundated with a wave of pheromones smelling slightly of coconuts and Bud Light. There’d be a group of men to one side doing a line dance in the pool (I shit you not) and a group of women to the other giggling way too loud and doing their best to still pull off bellybutton rings. The DJ would shout “to the left to the left to the left” as the bass pumped and I’d do my best to get my daughters to the tiled shore before they’d be swept under by the riptide flowing out from the mating rituals.

 

Our children started suffering from sensory overload pretty early in the trip. We’d take them to see sharks and jumping dolphins and albino tigers; we went to carnivals, we ate and shopped constantly, we rode roller coasters and watched light shows. But as soon as we’d get back to the room, the kids would start pacing and staring at the confining walls like inmates on death row. “Dad I’m bored. I don’t think I can sit here anymore.” Jesus. But I guess that’s what Vegas is designed to do: continuously funnel the guests through a turnstile of constant consumption. And that’s what we did. Terra and I aren’t big gamblers, we only blew two hundred bucks (half of which wasn’t ours), but the three day trip still put me back about two grand. So be it. The lesson Catelynn learned via someone else’s track marks was worth every penny.

***

Anyway, I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

Monster

 

The Parasite

I remember looking down at the gelatinous little parasite and hating it instantly. It was putrid grey and about the size of a quarter; it had the consistency of cold snot. It was long dead, the saw that had quartered the cow I was butchering had taken care of that, but I was still repulsed by the thing’s existence. The little bastard was curled up cozy as can be in a slab of steak I was trimming and as soon as I realized what it was, I hacked it out with one of those white-handled butcher knives and threw it in the trash with the rest of the offal. But could it still infect me some how? Was it now, at this very moment, soughing off eggs or disease that couldn’t be contained by the trash can? Had I accidently touched it? Should I run to the bathroom and scrub my hands until they turned pink? Should I set fire to everything in sight to save the rest of humanity and scream like a girl while running for my life? There’s just something insidious about a parasite that irks me on a visceral level. I hate the little bastards.

 

I’m really only afraid of three things; parasites, sharks, and AIDS. The latter two are pretty easy to avoid so if I had to choose one of the three that bothers me the most, it’d be parasites for sure. As a side note, can you imagine how scary it’d be if there was such a thing as a shark with AIDS? Holy crap! I’d never swim in the ocean again. Actually, last Halloween, I wanted to dress up like one. I was going to get a shark costume and pin one of those AIDS awareness ribbons on my dorsal fin. Boom. I’d be the scariest thing ever. Anyway, back on track. I think my fear of parasites dates back to elementary school. Our teacher passed around a large capped beaker containing a huge tape worm and some cloudy formaldehyde. I froze up when it made it to my desk. The thing was long and flat and troglodyte-white with hooks for feet and an evil maw that it used to hang on inside your gut. The teacher told me that it couldn’t hurt me because it was dead and pickled, but I sure as hell didn’t trust him. How could anybody that kept monsters in jars be trusted?

 

Parasites personify every trait that we’re taught to hate; “parasitic” is an adjective always associated with villainy. They shun symbiotic relationships, they take but never give, they enter through deception, and they only leave through death. And if anything, my fear of them has been growing over the years just like a… well, like a parasite. So when I came across that evil little monster while cutting up a cow, I nearly stripped out of my white apron and left. But I couldn’t; I was doing it all for the edification of my young.

 

The wife and I had decided that we needed to show our oldest daughter where our food came from, so when we got a somewhat serendipitous invitation to help butcher a cow, we agreed. Our daughter knew that her burgers came from cows, her bacon from pigs, but it was a superficial type of knowledge. I imagine such knowledge could even be deemed inadmissible as hearsay. So we drove over to a friend’s house to help butcher a cow. Actually, all the unsavory tasks had already been accomplished. Someone else had shot the cow, skinned it and drained the blood; it had already been quartered and aged in a meet locker. My child would be getting the Cliff’s Notes version of death and butchery.

 

As soon as the work started, I could tell that our daughter wasn’t going to learn much. To her, she was just handling a bunch of steak that came from something roughly shaped like the back of a cow. In fact, she loved every bit of it. She got to use knifes like a grown up, and steak is probably her favorite thing to eat. She inherited the appetite for red meat from her mother, and standing next to the two of them as we cut steak after steak, I fully expected them to give in to the blood lust at any moment and start devouring the meat like a couple Velociraptors. It never happened.

 

The day was pretty uneventful until I came across the parasite, and even that didn’t really bother my daughter. “Uh yeah dad, just cut it out and cook the steak. Totes no problem.” Totes no problem my ass! Whatever. We took our share and left after a ranch style lunch of simple dishes that dated back to a more simple time. Cooked steak with salt. Red beats on a white plate. Cut lettuce with dressing and cheese. But as I was eating and as I was driving home, I couldn’t shake the chilling feeling that came from the dead parasite. In a way, it had infected me; part of it was living in my mind and I couldn’t dig it out. Its purpose had been fulfilled.

 

All of this was inspired by a friend’s blog. Her name is Savannah Grace and I’ve written about her work before because frankly, it kicks ass. She’s a globe trekking author with more talent than most, and she recently came across a cow that was tied up in the back of a taxi cab somewhere in Africa. How awesome is that? In a way, I’ve always been secretly jealous of Savannah’s life because she’s constantly surrounded by fodder for writing. And she uses it well; her style is relaxed and easy to read, almost like a conversation, and every bit of her life’s experience is interesting. The picture below is one of her next to the cow, but for the full experience, you’ll need to go read her blog here: http://www.watkinstravel.blogspot.com/2013/03/steak-for-breakfast.html. There’s also a video on her page, but I should warn you now, it’s a bit graphic. But the story is poignant, and if you’re a fan of travel blogs, Savannah’s is one of the best out there. So please check it out.

 

And please support Savannah buy downloading her book “Sihpromatum” here: http://www.amazon.com/Sihpromatum-Grew-Boobs-China-ebook/dp/B008YZ0184/

Cow in a Taxi

Thai-Rannosaurus Rex

Remember that somewhat hypnotic game they used to play on Sesame Street wherein they’d put a smattering of images on the screen and ask you to figure out which one didn’t belong? They’d play that “one of these things is not like the others” song to give you time to figure it out. I was really good at that game, but then again, I suppose it’s pretty easy to figure out that a Martian has no place amongst a bunch of bouncy balls or whatever. Side note: those Martians with the floppy mouths who only said “yup” over and over were my favorites. Anyway, whenever I see something that doesn’t quite belong in a group of inanimate objects, that song starts playing in my head. Who knows; maybe there was nothing “somewhat hypnotic” about that game. Maybe PBS used it to brainwash/mentally program me and one of these days, secret agent Big Bird will show up with a picture of a Martian amongst bouncy balls and I’ll snap. You simply never know. We’ll get back to this in a second.

 

I love fresh spring rolls from Thai restaurants unequivocally; they represent culinary perfection. I love that translucent rice paper and the crisp lettuce and the boiled shrimp and that fresh bite of basil. I love that cloyingly sweet sauce that comes with them and the crushed peanuts that float on the top like some sort of nutty flotsam. So whenever I get a chance, I get a to-go order of fresh spring rolls from this little Thai joint in downtown Farmington. Boon’s is the only Thai restaurant in this little town and I know I’ve said a few disparaging things about the joint (if you’re interested, click here: https://thevelveteenmaraca.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/ramen-illusions/), but Boon’s definitely has the best ethnic food in town. True, having the “best ethnic food” in this shitty redneck haunt is like having the best high-five in a room full of double amputees, but that’s irrelevant.

 

I called in such a to-go order this past Tuesday but I showed up early and had to wait. They were nice enough to give me a free iced tea in one of those enormous white Styrofoam cups that hold something like fifty-seven gallons of fluid so I had no problem with the wait. Boon’s has its problems, but the place is authentic. There’s even a cool little shrine up front, right by the cash register, which the cooks surround with small bowls of brown rice or day old soup to pay homage to a golden deity with a plump smile and praying hands. There’s a display case right below the shrine and as soon as I looked at it, that damn “one of these things is not like the others” song started playing in my head. Stupid Big Bird and his stupid mental programming.

 

The case was filled with all sorts of things you’d expect; there were challises covered in cloisonné and little turtles and geisha girl figurines and oriental wood carvings… and a plastic dinosaur. Like I said, I’m really good at this game. I wanted to stand up and point at the dinosaur and shout something like “Hey! It’s the green T-Rex! It doesn’t belong!” but I didn’t because I’m a grown-up. But then again, some other grown-up had put that dinosaur in where it obviously didn’t belong. Why? It made absolutely no sense until I was licking sauce from my fingers and halfway home. And then… boom! I had a go-go-gadget epiphany. That was no regular plastic dinosaur. It was a Thai-Rannosaurus Rex.

 

***

 

Anyway, I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q  If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

T Rex

Adam’s Apple Off Center

I originally set this blog up in an attempt to construct a verbal lightning rod that’d lead people to my books, and I suppose that’s happened to a degree, but as of right now, most of my readers come looking for a medical diagnosis. A few months ago, I wrote about a time in my life wherein a weird trip through the desert and a bit of alt-rock was the impetus behind a medical checkup that ultimately taught me more than I ever wanted to know about thyroid nodules. Long story short, I have one, it’s not cancer, and I get to live for a very long time with a lump in my throat that’s annoying at worst. You can read the original post here: https://thevelveteenmaraca.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/eoio-its-off-to-my-biopsy-i-go/

Anyway, WordPress is an ergonomic website and they have this nifty thingy that tells you how people come to read your crap; more specifically, I can read through all the search terms people typed into Google that led them to me. Most are interesting, some are banal, others are explicit, but the king of them all is “my Adam’s apple is off center”. If you count all the weird little variations, close to one hundred people from around the globe have gone to the computer instead of a doctor and ultimately ended up reading my experience from biopsy to diagnosis. As a side note, I can always tell when they’re from overseas because they spell “center” all bass-ackwards like “centre”.

It pisses me off a bit because I know for a fact that they’re not at all interested in my writing, but hey, at least they’re reading it, right? I’ve even considered using other terms that people might search for like “persistent cough” or “chest pain” or “really big boobs” but I decided against it because artifice is a novice’s tool (by the way, I’d like to take a moment to welcome the chain smoking boob fans that just found my blog). But I can’t really be pissed; it’d be a lie to say that I didn’t do a WebMD search just before going to the doctor so I’d be a hypocrite if I got all high and mighty.

And what if I actually did some good? Statistically speaking, at least one of the people that read my blog actually did have thyroid cancer, so maybe something I wrote led them to go get their own fine needle biopsy. Maybe somebody lived that would’ve died. Maybe I’m a hero. On the news or in the movies, whenever someone is accused of being a hero, they always shrug it off with a cliché and a servile grin and say something like “oh heck, I’m no hero. I was just doing what anybody would”. I’m not sure I could be that magnanimous if push ever came to shove. If some blonde bombshell of a reporter ever dubbed me a hero with a microphone instead of a sword, I’d say “why hell yes I’m a hero” as I stood arms akimbo silhouetted by the sun. Can you picture my cape billowing behind me?

Anyway, if you have a pain in your chest and cough up things that look like they come from a cat, stop smoking and get a chest x-ray. If your Adam’s apple is off center it’s probably a nodule that needs to be checked out. Hell, if you spell it “centre” you’ve probably got government funded health care and one less excuse than the rest of us that turn to the computer every time something weird hurts. And if you like really big boobs, you’re in the wrong place.

Lastly, I write and sell books, and they never cost more than a buck. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

According to WordPress, people in the colored countries may or may not have read about my Adam’s apple being off-center.
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Candy and Cigarettes

I finished Candy and Cigarettes in three sittings, but not by choice. I would’ve rather read it all at once because it’s the type of work that deserves the attention, but Saturday got in the way with roaming children and shopping trips and trivialities. The first interruption came when my four-year-old daughter, clad only in water-color stained underwear, snuck up quiet as an air-raid siren and screamed for strawberries. I was lost in a dark world of death and honesty so the sight of her, a beaming little monster caring only for fruit and love, came as a shock and that’s when I first realized how much I loved this novella. Her beauty was perfect; the grimy wonder coming at me from my Kindle was dark. The contrast was like licking a lollypop after eating a grapefruit. DeWildt has created a story that’s so blindingly real in its depravity that the sight of something pure shocked me like a bitch-slap.

Of course we all gravitate towards the positive in life; we prefer bright and shiny trinkets and saccharine entertainment. Most of us do anyway. On a higher level, or at least one not so human, I don’t think that one side of the spectrum deserves any more attention than the other, and that’s why this novella is so damn valid. Happy endings and clichés and wholesome aphoristic sentiments have their places, and so does Candy and Cigarettes by CS DeWildt.

His hypnotic writing leaves you with a dirty feeling that’s fun to cradle in the safety of real life. I guess that’s why horror movies do so well, right? We flock to pay bloated admission fees and gorge on salt and sugar in front of an enormous screen with lambent atrocities coming at us through our new-tech 3D glasses while a ridiculous sound system spews profanity. We cringe and laugh at a hellish universe before driving back to the suburbs feeling as if the forty bucks were well spent. It’s fun. Remember Reservoir Dogs by Tarantino? That movie is to cinema what Candy and Cigarettes is to literature. Both stories leave you confused because the carnage was enjoyable, warm almost, but it shouldn’t have been.

And the guy’s style is ridiculously good. He turns phrases like “an amalgam of brain vomit” which left me stunned. Little parts of the whole stand out in striking beauty and at times, I wanted to set my kindle aside and start a slow clap for DeWildt’s prose (but I didn’t because people were watching me). The plot was novel, his characters were relatable on a visceral level, and I fucking loved this book. Finding DeWildt now is like finding Jackson Pollock before he started randomly splattering paint. CS is an artist on the precipice of discovery and someday I plan on pointing to this blog and shouting like an idiot that I found him first.

Death is omnipresent to small-town loner Lloyd Bizbang. Today proves no exception. After being attacked yet again by a pair of sociopaths who have targeted him since childhood, Lloyd stumbles upon a sight he wishes he could unsee in the town junkyard. Now as he just tries to live through another day, the bodies are stacking up in the town of Horton, and Lloyd finds himself connected to each of them via the drug-and-drink-addled, unhinging police chief, yet another person who has an old score to settle with Lloyd. A game of revenge and survival is underway, but will there be a winner at the day’s end?

You can buy Candy and Cigarettes here: http://www.amazon.com/Candy-and-Cigarettes-ebook/dp/B005D1T6QA/

You can find more on CS DeWildt here: http://csdewildt.com/

This is the fourth segment I’ve done on indie writers but it’s not really one I planned on writing; I’m a bit OCD and things feel more natural in threes. The other three featured women authors and I juxtaposed their works against some specific boon created by this burgeoning self-publishing industry; I suppose I should do the same here.

As it turns out, CS DeWildt is quite prolific and I found his writing by accident as I was trying to further promote my own writing. You see, I’m in need of validation (we all are, but I have the balls to say it). I’ve only been published once by a semi-professional market, and I still cling to the feeling I got when that ten dollar check came in the mail like a widow clings to love.  It’s been a year since I self-published Trailer Park Juggernauts and my second book, Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction, won’t be available for at least three more months so I’ve been looking for an outlet to carry me through the meantime.

I was skimming the insipid little posts generated by my Twitter feed when I saw something from “Martian Lit”. I Googled the name, and landed here: http://martianlit.com/. I’m a huge fan of independent presses and their writer oriented paradigms. Hell, Tales of the Talisman is an indie press and without that single morsel of vindication they gave me a few years back, I might’ve abandoned all of this. These wonderful little outlets of fiction and poetry are sprouting up all over and they often cater to specific and sometimes esoteric tastes. They’re like trendy little coffee shops, and when you find one that fits, you keep coming back for your fiction like an addled crack addict.

I’ve come across a few indie presses that look great but publish drivel so I wanted to peruse Martian Lit before submitting a story for consideration. I clicked on a random short story on the home page and ended up reading “One or the Other” by CS DeWildt here: http://martianlit.com/magazine/914/one-or-the-other/.  Martian Lit had just given me that first free hit on the street corner, that benevolent and tainted sample, and I’ve been back many times since. There’s just something organic about the stories they publish and I’ve found that their taste is almost identical to my own. I submitted a story a few weeks ago and I’m still waiting for a response. Of course, there’s a chance that if I’m rejected, I’ll redact the last portion of this blog while screaming at my computer monitor in a spittle flinging rage; you just never know.

My point in all of this is that the indie press is just as integral to this self publishing tableau as the indie author is. We go together like tattoos and pain. There are thousands of little presses all over the web that publish this or that without censorship or concern for the mainstream and without them, we’d be stuck in the bland little literary landscape that’s currently ruled by sparkly vampires. Please, stop by Martian Lit or search for your own little press because there are better things out there.

I’m big in Russia

Well, not really, but I have a healthy imagination. I constantly log into my WordPress account to see who is reading my nonsense and I love it when I get a new international hit. I’m sure most of them are accidental (the one from India came via a Google search for “screaming Shiva tattoo”) but I ignore logic and tell myself that I’m an internationally recognized author.

It doesn’t have a damn thing to do with anything, but I’m listening to “It’s On” by Easy-E right now. I need noise when I write and absolute silence when I read. Weird.

Lately, I’ve been getting a pretty steady amount of traffic from the Russian Federation. I guess I should qualify that; seven hits for me equals “steady”. I’ve only had 1000 people visit this site and I’m sure some of the better advertised blogs get that on a daily basis, but I plan on wearing this indie and obscure thing like a comfortable corduroy coat.

Who is this Russian? Is it more than one Russian? I picture a well-to-do aristocratic type that still wears one of those old-school beaver hats for the ironic value. You know, an intellectual that sips coffee as he trudges through the snow; a Kremlin hipster. That’d be rad. Hell, maybe its Aliya Mustafina or Vladimir Putin. I’m obsessed with the Olympics and intrigued by powerful foreign politicians so that’s naturally where my mind wanders (and I’d be hard pressed to name another Russian). Did you know Putin has a black belt in Judo? It really adds to that whole “scary dictator” thing don’t ‘cha think?

Anyway, I want to know, and that’s why I wrote this. If you’re reading this, and you’re a Russian, please send me an email: jjwrites@live.com I promise that I won’t be disappointed if you’re not a badass gymnast with a permanent pout or a despot ninja.

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