Friday, September 4, 2015

Deleted Preface to new short story, A Father's Fears



My short story, A Father's Fears, will be out soon. But in the meantime, here is a chapter I have since eliminated from the book. I hope you dig it.

Prelude

Lord Imagination sauntered through the room of dreams with his hands clasped behind his back. The colors around him drifted like the liquid in a lava lamp. These colors were mankind’s dreams.

This was always his favorite room in the skyscraper. From the inception of human consciousness, mankind has always dreamed. Over the years, this room has changed in a multitude of ways. The dreams have become brighter and more elaborate with the passing of time, and now, the wavy lines snap about like bullet trains. In simpler times, the multicolored strips would trail across Lord Imagination’s vision slowly like currents in a lazy river. He didn’t even have to squint to see what individuals were dreaming about. Hell, if he wanted to, he could even dip his hands into the strips to provide his own images. This wasn’t, of course, the same thing as altering dreams to inspire a specific result. He would need Lord Instinct to do that. Lord Imagination still occasionally thought about that one time he had to surf the currents of dreams to locate Instinct’s soul after a mishap had occurred. It had been like wading through knee-high mud with the wind constantly pushing him back. He never wanted to endure that again.

But he did want to have some fun. And later today, a man in the outside world named Jeff Haunt was going to go on an adventure. What humored Imagination was that Jeff Haunt had no idea that his life would be changed forever in only a few hours time. Neither did his wife, Marigold, who slept right beside him in bed.

Lord Imagination searched the strips to find Jeff Haunt’s dreams. When he located them, he plunged his arms deep into the yellow tide. He swirled his hands around and moved events to suit his liking. It wouldn’t inspire Jeff Haunt to do anything when he woke up, but it would fill him with doubt and uncertainty. Like a great sculptor admiring her achievement, Lord Imagination grinned at his creations. The weaver of dreams could do no wrong.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Review: The Tenants

The TenantsThe Tenants by Bernard Malamud
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Basically, a book that makes you hate and distrust black people even more than you already do. It's hard to find a book written in the past (Hell, it's difficult to find now) where a black character is admirable unless he's a slave and telling Huck Honey to get back on the boat. Most black characters are seen as vicious, untrustworthy individuals (who don't talk in complete sentences), and Malamud continued with that tradition. The only book I can really think of that had a redeemable, respectable black character was The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and that character was a doctor juxtaposed with other black characters who loathed him for being so different. It was an interesting character study to say the least, and it was refreshing to read.

But I digress.

Why the four stars for this book that I clearly found offensive? Well, because it's good. The characters, though unlikable, are clear and three-dimensional, and the story is told in a meta fashion, which impresses the writer in me. The story concerns two tenants, a Jewish man and a black man (Though one only pays the rent. Guess which one), who are both writers. The black man feels he has to write about the black experience, sort of like Richard Wright. But the problem is, he isn't disciplined like the Jewish writer. The moment he receives even the slightest bit of criticism, he gets upset and does something stupid. It's infuriating to see such a bum of a character, even though he works hard at his craft. The situation is exacerbated when he does a heinous act after the Jewish character kind of oversteps his bounds with the black man's girlfriend (Though, an argument could be made that the black man was in the fault for not treating his girlfriend right in the first place).

Overall, it's a quick read and an interesting book told in a fascinating fashion. Do I like how blacks were portrayed in this book, which was published back in the 70s? No. There is not one redeemable thing about them. But as a black writer, I guess it's my job to write minority characters who are actually worthy of praise. I just won't go overboard with it. That's how you DON'T write three-dimensional characters.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review: Tim and Eric's Zone Theory: 7 Easy Steps to Achieve a Perfect Life

Tim and Eric's Zone Theory: 7 Easy Steps to Achieve a Perfect LifeTim and Eric's Zone Theory: 7 Easy Steps to Achieve a Perfect Life by Tim Heidecker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don't know how many times I've thought this, but I'll think it again. Why am I a fan of Tim and Eric? After watching Tom Goes to the Mayor, Awesome Show, Bedtime Stories, Check It Out With Dr. Steve Brule (http://www.cinemablend.com/television...), Billion Dollar Movie, and their live show, I think the only thing out of that list I truly enjoyed was Awesome Show (And mostly only season one). Oh, and their Chrimbus Special, which is how I got into them in the first place. So why do I keep watching and buying their stuff if they have such a hit-or-miss (Mostly miss) record with me? I don't know, but after reading Zone Theory in its entirety, I think I've found yet another strike out.

The problem is the writing. It's not that it's bad, it's just that it's so repetitive, especially if you've seen their other stuff. How many times are these guys going to talk about spaghetti? I mean, jeez. This is the kind of book that is funnier when you just flip through the pages at the store and are assaulted by a picture of question mark shaped penises, or the weird, distorted faces of people throughout the book. I get what they were going for here with the cult-religion stuff, and it's funny for the first few pages. But after awhile, it grows tiresome, and you probably got all you needed out of it from the amazing promo (Oh, yeah. I always love their promos, too. They're usually pretty good. But again, bite-sized Tim and Eric is better than full-length Tim and Eric).

Would I recommend this book to anybody? No. Not even Tim and Eric fans. Leaf through it at the store, get a chuckle, and then put it back down. I guess I'm just not Zone Theory material, and will never find the elusive 8th Zone (Which is fully featured in this book).

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Why I am in love with Draft2Digital

(Image taken from: www.jadekerrion.com)

Okay, Draft2Digital is amazing. What is Draft2Digital (Or D2D as all the cool, sunglasses wearing kids call it)? Well, it's a way to get your indie books out there that's EZ. I've used KDP before, which is Amazon's Kindle service, and that's easy, too. But here's the difference. Actually, here are a couple differences.

One, D2D allows you to put your work on all of the other platforms, such as Kobo, Nook, iTunes, and a whole bunch of other outlets I've never heard of before. Why is this amazing? Well, it's amazing because in the past, I had to use outside services like Bookbaby since I was afraid of formatting my books. Formatting was not my friend. But D2D seriously makes it as easy as pie (Apple pie. None of that difficult to make Key Lime Pie). Everything is laid out for even the greatest technophobe. I actually found out about it because of Nick Stephenson, who is another indie author who found lots of success with it. So kudos to him!

Another reason it's different and amazing is because the technical support really stands in your corner. I'm not saying KDP doesn't, since they do. But only on Amazon. One of my short stories, "Q: Are We Not Human? A: We Are Corpses!" is for some reason having a difficult time getting on the Nook platform.



But instead of this being a problem, the customer service at D2D has kept me up to date on the status, even though I'd kind of forgotten about it. What I'm trying to say is that they care more about my work than I do, which might just say more about me than them, but who's to say? :) The fact is, they fight for your work, even when it's some cheapie free book that may or may not get a lot of clicks and downloads on Barnes and Noble's website, and for that, they're awesome.

I haven't used Smashwords, but I can tell from my experience with D2D that I don't have to. So, uh, yeah! If you're an indie author, use it!I'm certainly happy with it.

Review: The Howling

The HowlingThe Howling by Gary Brandner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one badass book, which is surprising since I thought it was going to be dull and lame like the movie. Amazingly, the writing is superb in this pulpy werewolf tale. In fact, the werewolf stuff is actually the least interesting aspect of this book. I really dug the characters and the ghost story town of Drago, but the actual werewolf stuff almost seems like an afterthought until that dramatic ending.

The story starts off with a brutal, infuriating scene, and I like that the concept of sexual tension and repression is an overall theme in this book. All horror stories are better when there's something underlying to be told. But again, the actual werewolf violence is kind of weak throughout, so that's the only aspect that brings this otherwise awesome book down. Other than that, I highly recommend it.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: City

CityCity by Clifford D. Simak
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don't know. Maybe I've just been spoiled by writers like Asimov, Dick, and Vonnegut, but I really could not stand this science-fiction book, which is actually a series of tales that tells of the fall of Man and the rise of Dog. In theory, the concept is really cool, and maybe I was expecting too much by thinking it would be similar to The Illustrated Man. But the final product bored me to tears. I never heard of Clifford D. Simak, and my science-fiction loving friends tell me that he was one of the best in the field, but I really can't see why after reading this award winning book. The main problem is that it's lackluster. I couldn't care less about any of the characters, and each story felt like a waste of time. The only thing I like about the book are the last ten pages and the concept. Other than that, I would have given this book one star. I despise it. What a waste of paper.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

A new father struggles with the 2 AM cries for…attention/a diaper change/a feeding/I have no idea, help me!

As a brand new parent, I can honestly say that I’ve never loved anybody as much in my entire life as my daughter. She’s perfect, beautiful, and undoubtedly bound for a future of being a rock-n-roll drummer, a black belt martial artist, and the President of the United States, all before the age of 40.

During the daytime, there’s no purer creature who was ever put on this planet. Even her diapers, which are full of yellow, seedy poop that sometimes crowds her diaper and rides up her backside since I’m not so good at changing diapers yet, is perfect. I can change that mess all day, and often do.

But at night time, it’s a different matter entirely. All throughout my wife’s pregnancy, parents joked, “You better get your sleep now because you’re going to miss it once you’re little one is finally here.” Heck, even non-parents who had probably been poked and prodded as to why they weren’t pregnant yet offered similar advice: “You’re not going to sleep ever again, you know. Or so I’m told, anyway.”

This didn’t really bother me since I never really slept any way. As a teacher who also writes, I wake up every morning at 5:00 A.M. without fail to write at least 1000 words a day. It’s a schedule I strictly stand behind. Even if those 1000 words stink and I have to throw it all out, at least I’m writing, at least I’m being productive. So no sleep when the baby comes? So what? I don’t need sleep. Sleep is for the weak. No sleep til…dun dun, dun dun, BROOKLYN, right?

Nope! Wrong. Incredibly, unbelievably wrong. The first few nights were disarming because I wasn’t aware that you had to wake up every few hours just to feed her. You mean you can’t just let her wake up on her own and cry you awake when she’s hungry? Nope. Turns out, you have to set your alarm clock just to give newborns the sustenance they need to thrive. Okay, well, that’s something I never knew. What else? Well, how about inconsistency in regards to what they want when they cry you awake? During the day time, I have an almost Spidey sense on how to read my little princess. If she pinches up her face and grunts, she probably plopped in her pants. If she whines sharply and then crunches up her impeccable lips, she probably wants me to hold her. If she screams at the top of her lungs and starts trying to suck my shoulder when I place her against my chest, she’s searching for a nipple, namely my wife’s (But I’m sure any will do for a few seconds before she realizes no food is coming out).

But at night, all those hints go out the window. It’s not just because we only have a tiny nightlight in our bedroom that only reveals so much in my daughter’s facial expressions. It’s also because at night, my baby is an entirely different person. She is not my future leader of America anymore. She is a Gremlin. A Gremlin who doesn’t even know what she wants herself. The wails that signify a feeding in the daytime mean nothing at night. It means she’s cold. Or that she wants me to carry her around the apartment. Or that she wants me to sing her Beatles songs again. Or not. What’s insane about babies at night is that they prey on your lack of sleep. At least, that’s what I tend to believe. As soon as I calm her down, which is sometimes instantly, or sometimes after several hours, she wakes up again as soon as my wife and I put her back down in her crib. Some experienced parents will tell me that I will get the hang of it in time. “It’s not so hard,” they’ll say. “In a few months time, you’ll become a baby Jedi master.” While others will say it never gets better. “You’ll still be waking up in the middle of the night by the time they’re teenagers, just because you’re worried about them.”

Either way, I keep telling myself every night that it’s worth it, since I definitely don’t have to say that when the sun’s back up. That’s when she’s the love of my life again, and she can do no wrong.