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 (, 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

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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.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A deleted chapter of Clean Hands

I've decided to take this chapter out of "Clean Hands" just to get right to the meat of the story. Here it is in its entirety.

The air was creamy, like goat’s milk, and a warm, but demanding wind rubbed Galahad’s face and rustled through his clothes and hair. Each gust pushed him toward the rectangular entrance of the pyramid.

“Hello,” he called into the entryway. His voice echoed, even though he couldn’t imagine the interior to be so cavernous. How had he gotten here? One moment, he was sinking into a deep sleep, and the next, he was stepping through a shadowy fog and into the desert. The sand crunched beneath his sandals.

When he looked back, the horizon rushed forward, as if the land itself was being swallowed up by some giant, invisible serpent. Galahad whimpered and darted into the pyramid.

Fetid air instantly grappled his face. He reared back, but it had already infiltrated his nose and mouth. The taste of something spoiled and squishy, like a rotten tomato, clung to his tongue. The rancid, pulpy taste pushed its way down his gullet. His chest rose and fell with sharp, unfulfilled breaths as warm, foul-smelling piss snaked down his leg. He retreated into the doorway, but his back felt only hard stone, a wall where his only means of escape had been. A blanket of darkness engulfed him.

“Wait!” Galahad scratched frantically at the rough surface. “I wasn’t ready!”

The inner world of the pyramid shifted behind him. Nearby, two shrill voices called out, each gasping and screaming for air, as if drowning. He pictured two children, their small hands reaching up for him, just out of reach. This vision of their wavy, frightened faces shook Galahad so violently that it forced him to turn and face whatever horrors awaited him.

A dry, sterile light fell upon the space. Its dull luminescence pushed back the darkness ever so slightly to reveal a series of five narrow pillars. Behind each pillar was the faintest hint of a passageway. Claustrophobia gripped him.

A wall-mounted torch ignited nearby. Its bright, flickering light startled him. His fingers trembled as he reached for the torch. He pulled it close to his face, praying its warmth could quell the cold, paralyzing fear that clung to his brain, but he felt no heat from the dancing flames. He blew into the base of the fire and was rewarded with a momentary intensity of light. But the flames provided no heat, and no comfort.

Another shrill wail echoed inside the pyramid. The children’s sobbing strengthened. He could hear the gurgling as the two children sank beneath the surface. For a moment there was silence, and then the screaming began again, louder. Galahad had to get away from their panicked cries and the sound of them dying. But which pillar to choose? Which pathway?

Why not try the second one from the left? An unmistakable voice advised above the awful din.

“Is that you, Asim?” Galahad asked. A reassuring presence caressed and calmed his pounding heart.

Galahad followed his instincts and rushed around the second pillar to the left. The cold torchlight cast a circle of light around him on the ground as he moved deeper into the pyramid. Along the walls at regular intervals, the words “Neglectful” and “Abandonment” were etched in red.

Don’t mind those, Asim told him. Focus. You are coming to a fork in the road.

“Which way?” Galahad called out into the darkness.

Right, and then two lefts. Hurry, my friend. I’ll meet you there.

Joy flooded Galahad’s heart. He made the right and two lefts, and at the end of the corridor, surrounded by a strange, green aura, stood his friend, Asim. As always, he donned his tasseled red fez and friendly smile.

Galahad rushed forward and embraced his old companion. “I’ve never been so happy to see your face, my friend. Where are we?”

“We are in the space between.” Asim motioned for Galahad to follow. “Now, come. It’s not much further. I’ll get you through this loathsome maze.”

They turned left, right, and then left again. The markings on the wall changed to “Accident” and “Mistake”.

“I told you not to worry about the markings,” Asim said as he pulled Galahad forward.

“But what does it mean? And what’s outside this maze?” Galahad asked.

“Your next adventure,” Asim turned and smiled. But suddenly, as if a wall had dropped right in front of them, Asim stopped in his place and reached for Galahad’s hand. His grip tightened and the green aura thickened.

“What?” Galahad asked, wincing. “You’re hurting me.”

Asim stared up into the darkness as if he heard something that Galahad couldn’t. The green aura pulsated like a heartbeat. “What’s happening?” Galahad asked.

Asim pointed to the wall.

“Your fault” was scrawled in red against the grainy, gray surface.

Asim’s firm hand lost its grip.

“Asim, what’s wrong? What’s happening?” Galahad looked to his friend. Asim shook his head and a frozen screamed locked into his fine features. His face began to droop and melt from his skull.

“Asim!” Galahad screamed. The eyes that had always offered him friendship and comfort imploded and dripped down a set of bony cheeks. Asim’s flesh sizzled like pig fat, his bones charring and turning to ash. Within moments, he was only a bubbling puddle on the floor.

Galahad dropped to his knees and tried salvaging what was left of his friend. He leaned the torch against the wall and frantically churned his hands through spuming meat.

“No,” he blubbered. “I need you, Asim. I need you!”

“I’m sorry,” Asim’s voice whispered in a stale wind that skirted through the corridor. The torch light flickered.

He pounded the ground and cried for his friend. His cries echoed into the darkness and were soon joined by the same shrill screaming that had driven him from the columns. He could hear the water choking the life out of the two children. The sound grew louder and louder, filling the corridor around him.

Galahad grabbed the torch and ran from the noise. He turned right, then left, oblivious to direction. He ran until his heart felt it would burst from his chest, until his lungs burned from exertion. He paused and pressed his forehead against the wall to catch his breath. The smell of rotting fish overwhelmed him. Just outside the torchlight a hunched outline eyed him.

“No!” Galahad shouted. “Please!”

All around him, accusatory voices shouted out in disgust. The walls were soon covered with new words like, “Filth!” and “Liar!” and “Murderer!”

Though his body screamed for relief, he forced his feet to move, but he could not escape the smell. The sickening stench of rotted fish gagged him, stealing precious air from his lungs. The creature followed behind and then it was ahead of him, too. It was all around him. He was trapped.

In the spindly light, Galahad turned to face his fate. The monstrosity had three heads, one where a head ought to be, and two, like muscles, jutting out where the clavicle bones should be.

He recognized the distorted faces in the torch light. The head on top was that of his brother. His face was twisted in a still image of agony. The other two heads were his nephews. Their eyes shone with glassy blankness, and their small, gaping mouths leaked saltwater. They inched toward him.

A gust of greedy wind extinguished the torch.

The sound of gasping and gagging from both sides crept closer. Galahad heard the sound of his own scream before his consciousness succumbed to the malevolent darkness of his mind.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My book will be featurerd on The Books Machine

Hey, y'all. I’m sharing a link to the community The Books Machine, a website where you can find good books to read from the comfort of your electronic devices. Membership for readers is free and will give you access to free Kindle books and quality deals, specially selected for you. This link will take you to the page: Give it a gander!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Clean Hands is now Free...Forever

My short story, Clean Hands, which is a prequel to The Darkness of the Womb, is now free forever. Currently, it's sitting pretty at number one in Catholicism (?), as well as number one in Science Fiction and Fantasy (Now that's more like it). If you would like a copy for review, please just click on one of the links above and transfer it right to your kindle. Thanks a bunch!

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Do’s and Don’ts of Self-Publishing From a Mostly Loser, Sometimes Winner

Being an indie author ain’t easy. With new indie books being released every day, it’s pretty hard to get noticed. So hard, in fact, that one might think, what’s the point at all? Well, the point is that you love writing and you want to continue doing it. But how are you going to get the attention you so rightly deserve? Well, I haven’t totally figured that out yet, but I’ve found a few strategies that have and haven’t worked. So, let’s get right to them!

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DON’T: Go to Pitching Events

Writer’s Conferences are a great place to meet fellow authors and learn what other stories are out there. But attached to many of these conferences are pitch slams, where agents sit behind tables and listen to your pitch. Some people like to think these are the most important parts about the conference, but they’re mistaken, since they’re more likely to be struck by lightning than to have their book picked up at these events. Sure, the agent might request to see some of your pages, and sure, they’re very nice about listening to your jumbled words. But in the end, they’re more than likely not going to do anything with your book, and you just wasted your time memorizing your synopsis. You’ll have better a chance in the slush pile.

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DO: Have a Goodreads giveaway

Are you on Goodreads? If not, then that’s a problem, since readers LOVE goodreads. If you are on it (Good for you), there’s a feature called Goodreads giveaways where you can put copies of your books up for people to try and win. When I put one of my books up, I always make sure to thank the participants and give them another chance to win the book on my blog. You wouldn’t believe how many people come to try and win. I’ll tell you what, It’s a hell of a lot more people than who normally visit my blog, that’s for sure.

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DON’T: Even bother releasing books on Nook, Kobo, or iTunes

I know it might feel like a missed opportunity, but you will likely not sell a single book on Nook, Kobo, or iTunes unless you’re Brad Thor, Stephen King, or Harper Lee. That’s mainly because people have to actually search for your book to find you, and why would they do that if they don’t even know who you are? Instead, just put your book on Amazon and enroll in the KDP program. Amazon is a search engine at its heart, and people might stumble upon your book by accident by searching for random things. You have a much better shot on Amazon, so just use that. It’s the best decision.

DO: Put a call-to-action in your books

Remember what I just said about Amazon? Well, unless you have a lot of good reviews, you’re going to get buried on their site. So why not put a call-to-action in your book at the end that asks people to review your book if they enjoyed it? You have no idea how many more reviews you’ll get just by asking nicely for people to put them.

DON’T: Use Facebook Advertising

Facebook might seem like a great place to find new readers, but it’s not. This is mostly because not all of your posts go to your friends and followers. You might think, well, why not try advertising on it then, but there are better ways to attract new readers that are actually free, namely what I’m going to mention next.

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DO: Start a mailing list

Mailing lists are free if you use a service like Mailchimp. Remember what I said about using a call-to-action? Well, set up a website like this that gives readers something free for signing up, and then place the link in your book at the beginning and at the end. Shout out to fellow author, Nick Stephenson,for coming up with this brilliant idea.

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DON’T: Do giveaway sales on Kindle without pairing them up with other promotions

When you use the KDP program on Amazon, you can have certain days where you put your book up for sale to entice people to download it. But here’s the thing. If you just release your book for free or 99 cents, some people will find it, but you are limiting your potential. When you do these sales, find a site like Bookgorilla, Read, or the crème de la crème, Bookbub (Good luck getting picked) when you do your sales to maximize your profits. Try to do multiple promotions at once to get mega clicks.

DO: Get your name in the local paper Local papers love writing about local authors. They’re the kind of fluff pieces that fill space. Well, given that all you pretty much have to do is email the editor and tell them that you write books in the area, why not do so? It’s easy. Here’s mine. Bingo, bango. Your name now has more prominence on Google. How about that?

DON’T: Try to shove your book down people’s throats

It may seem like a good idea to constantly mention that your book is on sale, or that people will love your story, but it’s not. People don’t want to hear “buy my book, buy my book” over and over again from a megaphone. Instead, do some of the steps above. They’re a lot less annoying.

DO: Focus on doing book signings Once you get your name in the paper, you can take it to all the local shops and show that you have a presence in the community. Once you get in the habit of doing book signings, you meet more people and sell more books, even if it’s just a few here or there.

So there you have it. I’m still not rolling in the dough, but I’m getting there. Try these out and see how they work for you!