Short Story-Drop by Drop

Here’s another little vignette starring rockabilly vampire hunter Alex Rains, star of the soon to be released novel  The Devil’s Mouth.

Terry leaned sideways across the armrest of the old couch, one hand behind his head and the other across the back of the couch, holding a lit cigarette between two fingers. His mohawk wasn’t done up, and the blonde stripe of hair fell down to one side. He was shirtless, and had a skull tattoo over his heart.

Amber leaned into Terry, her head against his bare chest. Her tank top rucked up over her lean belly, revealing a bangly navel piercing. She readjusted and scooted higher upon him, her knees tucked up close.

The little house was dark, only lit by the TV.

“Babe,” said Terry, “I’m hungry.”

“I know,” she replied, playing with his hair. “But I can’t do it again. Not this soon.”

“Oh come on, just a little bit.”

“No, Terry. I can’t. I’m still dizzy from last time.”

“But I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Terry picked up the TV remote from amongst the mess on the coffee table and changed the channel. “But baaaaabe, I’m hungry.

“You just ate yesterday.” She rubbed her hand against his bony chest. “You said you’d be good for three days.”

“But I’m hungry now.”

“You know I can’t do it again so soon.”

Terry took a drag off his cigarette. “I don’t see why you have to be such a bitch about it.”

“Come on, Terry. I love you.”

“I’m just kidding.” He blew out smoke. “Bitch.”

“Don’t say that.” She snuggled against him like a child. “Just love me.”

“I love you even though you’re a bitch.” He tapped ashes onto the floor and then snaked an arm around her shoulders. She sighed contentedly.

Terry leaned in, parting his lips as he neared her neck. “I’ll just take a little bit. Just a pint.”

“No, babe. Please.”

He pulled his lips back, razor sharp fangs slick with saliva. His breath was hot on her neck. “But you taste so good. You know you want it.”

“Please no, Terry, you know what’ll happen.”

“It’ll just hurt for a second.”

“Please don’t.”

“Bitch.” He leaned in, and suddenly his hand was an iron collar around her neck. “You couldn’t stop me. I could just take what I want.” He rested his lips against her neck, and the tips of his fangs just grazed the skin. Her breath hitched.

She squirmed, halfheartedly pushing against his chest. “You know I couldn’t. But you love me.”

Terry grinned. “If you won’t do it, maybe I’ll go find some girl who will. Maybe I won’t be so nice to her. What about your sister?” Still holding her fast, he leaned forward and dropped his cigarette butt into one of the empty beer bottles on the coffee table.

She grimaced, and her voice was a childlike whimper. “Please, babe. I can’t. I’m still sick from last time.”

“Don’t you love me?”

“You know I do.”

“Well I’m hungry.”

She let out a shuddering sigh. “Okay,” she said. “Just a little bit.”

He smiled gleefully. “I love you, babe!” He released her neck, and slapped her ass as she stood up. “Bitch.”

She walked into the  bedroom and returned with a shoebox, then sat down next to him and opened the lid. He watched hungrily as she took out a length of surgical tubing and tied it around her arm. Amber clenched and unclenched her fist, watching as the veins swelled in her forearm. “Just a little bit, babe.”

He nodded. “I know. Just a little.”

Amber took out a length of plastic tubing, terminating at one end with a needle. She made sure the plastic ratchet clamp was tightened on the tubing, sighed, swallowed, and slipped the needle into her vein.

She undid the tourniquet around her arm. Red flowed up the tube to the clamp and stopped. She took a length of tape and secured the needle in place, then put the other end of the hose into a simple drinking glass.

“Hurry up, babe.”

“Almost there, Terry.” She released the clamp. Red flowed and looped through the clear plastic hose, sputtering and pouring out into the glass. She watched the level carefully, her fingers hovering over the tube clamp.

At about two fingers, she reached for the clamp.

“Wait,” said Terry. He held her wrist. “Just a little more.”

“No, babe, it’s too much.”

His eyes narrowed. “Who fucking cares.”

“Babe…” She made to sit up, and he pinned her down with a hand around her throat. Careful not to disturb the hose, he straddled her, holding her down with his weight. She struggled and he held her fast. “Babe, please.”

He screwed his face up into a parody of hers, “Babe, please,” he whined.

The level of blood in the glass still rose.

Her eyes fluttered. Her skin grew pale and clammy. She tried to fight him, but could not. Tears flowed down her cheeks.

“You know what, I’m fucking sick of you.” The glass brimmed, and Terry took the hose and popped the bloody end into his mouth. “You know why I never bit you? It’s cause I wouldn’t want you to be a vampire. The thought of listening to you whine for eternity makes me want to fucking kill myself.”

“Babe…”

“Say goodnight, bitch. I think you’ll be a better lay after you’re dead.”

Her fingers trembled and twitched.

A shotgun blast shattered the stillness of the summer night. The doorknob of the tiny house spun across the room and put a divot in the drywall. The cheap hollow core door, mortally wounded, twisted on its hinges.

The man in the white cowboy hat racked another shell into the shotgun as he kicked the remains of the door away. He wore a gaudy Hawaiian print shirt, unbuttoned, with a white tee shirt underneath. A Japanese sword hung at his waist. His eyes were dark as the shadow of a tombstone. He levelled the shotgun at Terry.

Terry spun Amber around as a shield and cowered behind her. She hung limply in his grip, her head lolling over his fist. “Who the fuck are you, man?”

“Boy, I’m the fucking grim reaper.”

Terry’s eyes danced around the room, searching for escape. “I’ll fucking kill her, I swear to God.”

“Looks to me like you already did.”

“Are you sure of that, asshole?”

“Seems she’d be dead either way. And really, what’s one more? See, I been lookin’ for you, boy. Been followin’ you since Taos. I know about all of them. Jessica. Sarah. Bethany. Rachel. In the big scheme of things, one more don’t matter to me. What matters to me is putting your punk vampire ass in the ground for good, and that’s gonna happen one way or another.”

“Then why don’t you just shoot through her, asshole?” Terry laughed, “Yeah, that’s what I though. You fucking pussy.”

Amber’s eyes fluttered open. She reached her hand around and seized the tube protruding from her arm. In one smooth motion, she ripped it free and jammed the needle, still spurting blood, into her lover’s eye.

Terry screamed and let go of her throat as he brought his hands to his face. She fell to the ground.

In an eyeblink, The vampire hunter fired. Terry’s head, from the nose up, ceased to exist. A red mess decorated the far wall. His body fell headlong over the couch, coming to rest at an obscene angle, legs dangling crazily in the air. Amber sunk to her knees and sobbed once.

“Easy there, little darlin’.” Alex drew his sword as he approached Terry. “It’s all over now. You best look away.”

She didn’t look away.

The Blurbs-Blurbs For Books That Don’t (and Shouldn’t) Exist

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Writing a book description is nerve-wracking. You’ve only got three or four sentences to convince someone to read your book. First, it needs a hook. Then it needs to be an accurate description, but not give too much away. It has to go into detail, but still leave something to the imagination. It has to introduce the reader to the characters and the world and the story, but still not be too long. And the punctuation? You can get away with a missed quotation mark on page two hundred of your self-published work, but on the blurb? That’s gotta be perfect. Stressful.

So, like always, my brain responds to stressful situations with humor.

Me: Okay brain, we’ve got to get serious here and figure this out.

Brain: Haha what if the book was about like a zombie apocalypse but with ducks. A duckpocalypse.

Me: Shut up, brain. That’s a terrible idea.

Brain: No, but seriously. Duckpocalypse.

And so without further comment, a few blurbs I thought of while trying to think of a blurb.

***

One man. One canoe. One creek…of shit.

And no paddles.

1845. William Fudge was a warrior. A poet. A gentleman. A family man. Until the tragic accident that changed everything. Now, a broken loner, he accepts a job that only he is qualified for. To journey, alone, up the wild and dangerous Shit River, into Deep Shit territory, all the way to Shit Creek. His mission is to map the Deep Shit territory for the fledgling United States Government, to find the source of the Shit River, and the mythical city of Porcelaina.

It was all going great until he lost his paddles. Now William Fudge is up to his neck in shit, fighting against the current, and trying to figure all this shit out.

Book one of the Up Shit Creek series, Up Shit Creek: Without a Paddle.

Available wherever shit is sold.

***

He’s a badass vampire hunter. A lover. A fighter. He’s also a talking golden retriever.

She’s just a cute, quirky girl, living life to the fullest, trying to learn how to love again while she tries to make her artisanal cupcake shop a success.

After a series of dog-gone implausible events brings them together, they team up to hunt for the vampires that took his puppies and gave her cupcake shop a terrible Yelp review. Together, they’re going to teach those vampires that their bite…is worse than their bark.

Woof at the Devil is available on the Kindle store, and soon to be a major motion picture starring Jennifer Anniston and Rob Scheider.

***

London, 1585.

Up-and-coming playwright William Shakespeare has just written a work that will live on in history. But when rival playwright Richard Greene steals the only copy of Richard III, Shakespeare pulls out all the stops to get his play back…and get his payback.

The race is on as Richard begins production with his stolen play, and Shakespeare fights his way through London’s literary scene with his rapier wit, and also an actual rapier. Even though it’s the renaissance, the Bard is about to get medieval.

Together with a ragtag gang of misfit actors, William Shakespeare is about to prove that the pen is mightier than the sword. Except he still has a sword, because a pen is only mightier in a figurative sense, and he’s going to murder all of his enemies in an extremely literal sense, in which case a sword is still far mightier than a pen.

Coming this summer: Bard Hard.

***

Melanie Strudel is just a normal girl, except for one extraordinary power: She can understand the language of birds.

She can’t talk to them, but she can understand them.

This superpower doesn’t change her life in any meaningful way, because birds don’t say anything worth listening to. As it turns out, they mostly just complain about the weather, talk shit about each other, and discuss the things they ate.

Melanie goes on living a perfectly normal life, except that birds annoy the crap out of her, because they’re a bunch of boring, loudmouthed, gossipy little shits.

Pick up The Language of Birds, wherever boring, uneventful books are sold.

***

#URDEAD

Until she found that hashtag, Rebecca Doodler was just another social media queen, instagramming duckface selfies and food pics to her hundreds of thousands of followers, spitting out pithy 140 character witticisms, basking in her odd quasi-fame.

But then the message showed up. “retweet this in thirty seconds or you will die in one week. #URDEAD”

She thought it was just a joke. Until her followers started dropping like MySpace users.

Now, Rebecca has to use every ounce of her social media prowess, racing from the fetid swamps of facebook to the ghettos of instagram, to the ghost city of MySpace, fighting against time as she tracks down the source of the mysterious hashtag. If she doesn’t figure this out soon, she won’t have any followers left. And then who’ll like her bikini selfies?

Coming when you least expect it: #DeathByTwitter.

 

The Perks of Being a Bookworm

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I was generally a pretty good kid. Generally. Mostly, because almost every time I’d try doing something bad, the universe would rain down massive, fiery karmic retaliation upon me. In other words, I’d get caught. But one time I got away with it, because I was a giant nerd.

For the most part, I just read a lot. Hard to get in much trouble when you’ve got your head buried in a book. Lunches, recesses, classtimes, on the bus, I’d be reading. I’d sit in the back of class, pretending to be paying attention or doing schoolwork, all the while with a book on my lap. Most of my teachers, bless their hearts, pretended like they didn’t notice. I thought I was pretty sneaky at the time, but in retrospect I think they were just glad somebody was reading. So, I had a well-deserved reputation as something of a bookworm.

But every once in a while, I’d get a crazy idea in my head. I’d sow my oats. I’d really cut loose and do something wild.

Like flipping the bird to a road construction worker.

Party animal, right? Of course, this was in the second grade, when living dangerously meant sneaking your vegetables off your plate and feeding them to the dog.

But anyway, I was riding the school bus home, one fine day, and we passed by a group of county workers in reflective vests and hard hats, doing some road maintenance. My friend (whose name I forget, but let’s call him John) and I thought, for second-grader reasons, that it would be the coolest thing in the world if we flipped off these grown-ass men who were out doing their jobs. But, criminal masterminds that we were, we would hide our faces by crouching down below the level of the bus window, and hold our hands above our heads, middle fingers raised, like some kind of obscene puppeteers.

And so we did. The bus approached the road construction. We scrunched down in our seats and raised our little hands aloft, flipping the unicorn at these poor unsuspecting schlubs who were just out doing their jobs, who hadn’t done anything to warrant being disrespected by two nerdy eight year olds at three fifteen on a Tuesday afternoon.

We waved our digitorum impudens around, giggling all the while, until the bus moved past. A clean getaway. The perfect crime. We were so cool.

I should have known, there’s no such thing as a perfect crime. There we were, sitting on those smelly green vinyl bus seats, when a white county truck pulled up behind the bus, flashing its yellow light bar. My friend and I exchanged panicked looks.

The bus screeched to a stop. The hydraulic bus door honked open. And then, clomp, clomp, clomp, a great big angry grownup in a hard hat climbed up the bus steps and stared coolly up and down the aisles of the school bus.

To the bus driver, he said, “I’m sorry to bother you, but we were just working by the side of the road, and when you drove by, some kids on this bus flipped us off.”

I took a deep breath and reminded myself: we’d taken precautions for just this sort of situations. We’d scrunched down. We were criminal masterminds. Nothing to worry about.

“Whoever did it was scrunched down in their seats,” said the road worker, “so I couldn’t see their faces. But I saw the top of one head, and it looked just…like…him.”

A great big meaty calloused old grownup finger pointed directly at me.

My sphincter clenched tighter than a submarine door. I broke out into a flop sweat. I trembled. I gazed back at that finger like I was staring down the barrel of a loaded shotgun.

I should point out that at this point in my life I had what could kindly be described as a flattop. I thought it made me look like Val Kilmer in Top Gun. In retrospect, I looked more like a bucktoothed hedgehog. In any case, it was a pretty distinctive haircut. Certainly nobody else on the bus had the same cut. It was just the sort of thing that would make the top three inches of someone’s head immediately identifiable.

The moment stretched out forever. I’m busted, I thought, boned, hosed. The jig is up. I’m going up the river. I hear if you just confess they’ll be lenient. I can cop a plea. Maybe I can turn in my accomplice for a reduced sentence. I wonder what prison food tastes like.

And then the bus driver let out an incredulous laugh. “Matt?” she said, “You’ve got to be mistaken. It couldn’t have been Matt. He just sits there and reads all day.”

“Not Matt,” said Heather, the girl across the aisle from me, “he’s a bookworm.”

“He just has his face buried in a book all day.” added David, sitting next to Heather.

“All that dork does is read,” called out Travis, from the back of the bus.

The entire bus rose to my defense, declaring that I was such a nerdy little bookworm that there’s no way I could have ever committed the crime of which I’d been accused.

I just sat there and tried to look angelic.

His confidence shaken, the road worker looked around at the other faces on the bus. “Well…” he said, “then I’m not sure.” He’d lost his momentum. He looked up and down the aisles one more time, mumbled something about respect, and then left the bus.

And I got away scott-free. What’s the moral of the story? I don’t know, maybe: Don’t flip off total strangers. Or maybe, the moral is that you don’t know what kind of black and twisted criminal heart beats within the chest of a nerdy goody two-shoes bookworm. Or maybe it’s that if you’re going to be guilty, it’s a good idea to look innocent.

 

 

 

“How I Got a Book Contract and Achieved Success in Traditional Publishing” By Bestselling Author D.B.B.M. LeConnard

Exclusively on Matt Kincade’s blog, D.B.B.M. LeConnard, bestselling author of the Dragon Elf Foundling Wizard Prince series, shares his harrowing story of persistence and overcoming adversity to become a successful traditionally published author in today’s challenging literary landscape.  

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Bestselling author D.B.B.M. LeConnard

Greetings, dear readers. Matt Kincade, the author of this little blog thing, has asked me to relate to you, his followers, the tale of my path to publishing success.

Let me begin by saying that saying that this is not an easy road. The path to literary greatness and adoration is not for everyone. You must be totally, completely committed to your goal. In addition, like me, you must be an utter genius and a literary savant. If ever you’ve struggled to find the right word, if ever you’ve written something and not immediately known that it was the best writing you’ve ever done, that anyone has ever done, you are not ready. This is not the path for you.

Luckily, being the inherent literary genius that I am, It was the path for me. I, of course, knew how to write before I knew how to talk. The whole of the Dragon Elf Foundling Wizard Prince series sprang, fully formed, from my brilliant imagination when I was seven years old. By the time I was eight, I had Book One: Foundling Wizard Prince Awakens to His Fantastic Destiny, finished, and was working on book two.

Of course, nobody wants to publish the work of an eight year old, even one as amazingly gifted as myself. And so I had a long wait, biding my time and doing my best to interact with the slower children in school, while unsuccessfully sending my manuscripts off to agents and publishers. I began attending every writer’s and publisher’s convention I could find, discovering my peers and my competitors, and intricately plotting their deaths.

At the age of nineteen, following a year in the mountains of Tibet—learning the ancient Shavukinasa Walakali meditation technique known only to a few monks high in the Himalayas—I returned to the United States and moved to New York City, determined to at last break into the writing industry.

I submitted my manuscripts. I was rejected. And I submitted. And was rejected. It was a low point in my life. There I was, alone in a studio apartment with my genius and my typewriter. (Yes I know most normal people use computers, but I am not a normal person. I am an Author, and only that firm analogue input, the indescribably feeling of my finger depressing a mechanical lever, pushing an ink-slicked stamp to leave an indelible mark on high-quality bond typing paper, can truly capture my artistic inspiration.)

I took drifts and piles of rejection slips and built things with them. A couch. A desk. A friend. But I was never deterred. Never once did I question the purity of my purpose, of my destiny. As the Foundling Wizard Prince was destined to become the king of the Dragon Elves, so too was I destined to become a bestselling YA fantasy author.

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LeConnard never gave up on his Dragon Elf Wizard Prince dreams.

Still, I submitted. Still, I was rejected. In my free time, I stalked and murdered my competitors. I obtained work as a waiter at restaurants and cafes frequented by professionals in the publishing industry. (merely to further my literary goals, I assure you. I wouldn’t presume to debase myself by working such jobs merely for money, merely to pay the rent on my shoebox apartment.) I learned their names. I flattered and cajoled, making them the objects of my considerable charm. I casually mentioned my books. I “accidentally” left manuscripts at their tables. I offered sexual favors. All to no avail.

And so I devised a plan. Prior to a publisher’s conference, I infiltrated the hotel by pretending to be a bellhop. I was able to obtain a copy of the conference itinerary. Particularly of interest to me was a private luncheon, at which executives from all of the big five publishers would be in attendance.

On the day of the conference, clad all in black, with a ski mask over my face, I leaped from an adjacent rooftop to the roof of the Marriott Hotel, then rappelled down the side to a service entrance. I stripped off my black clothes, revealing a housekeeping uniform underneath.

I made my way, undetected, into the hotel. The conference was in full swing. My peers and competitors, those I hadn’t murdered or otherwise ruined, were milling around the conference floor, unaware that I was about to soar right over their heads to limitless literary success.

Because I couldn’t decide which of my brilliant plans I wanted to use, I then karate-chopped a UPS deliveryman in the neck and stole his uniform, dressing in his brown shirt and shorts, leaving him unconscious in a laundry cart.

I approached the conference room, casually nodding to the the security guards as I passed, a brown cardboard package in my arms.

I knocked on the door. They opened. “Delivery for Robert Dibbler,” I said.

They let me in.

At that point I slammed the door shut and jammed it with a chair. Either I’d get that contract or they’d all burn with me.

I stripped off the UPS uniform. underneath, I wore a handmade costume, depicting Ka’reth Muldgwanado, the Foundling Dragon Prince protagonist of my works. “Chalago Kal!” I screamed, which is the traditional greeting of the Dragon Elves. I set off a smoke bomb and shot roman candles from my sleeves, in imitation of Dragon Elf magick, and flung copies of my manuscript about the room, one of them striking the president of Simon and Schuster squarely in the face.

At the same time, I read aloud the prologue to my first book, Foundling Wizard Prince Awakens to His Fantastic Destiny, knowing that the might of my prose would win them over. Of course they said, “Please don’t hurt us, oh God it’s happening again,” but what they meant was, “I am transported to a faraway land by this Author’s sheer brilliance. Thank all the Gods he had enough gumption and moxie to find his way to us, and may those same Gods forgive us for leaving his manuscripts unread on the slush pile.”

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Purchase the DEFWP Chronicles, anywhere anything is sold.

Then, just as hotel security broke down the door, Margaret Robineaux, Vice President of Hachette Books, said, “Wait a second, LeConnard? Are you Ralph LeConnard’s kid?”

Turns out my dad went to college with Margaret Robineaux. So we had lunch the next day, and she signed me on for a seven-book contract, with a nice six-figure advance. Six months later, Foundling Wizard Prince Awakens to His Fantastic Destiny was on the front table of every Barnes and Noble in the country.

In conclusion, though the path to traditional publishing success is not an easy one, you too can do it, provided you are brilliant, naturally gifted, psychotically obsessed, willing to pave a road to victory with the broken bodies of your enemies, and have connections.

Happy writing, and Kipple Pagillo! (which is Dragon Elvish for “Good luck.”)

 

THE DEVIL’S MOUTH Release Date: May 17

Save the date! I am very pleased to announce that The Devil’s Mouth, my much-anticipated action-horror thriller, will be available on Amazon’s Kindle store on May 17.

Yeah I know I said it would be out in April. I lied. This time I’m serious though. It’s been a long road, and I’m really excited to finally be kicking this little baby bird out of the nest.

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Here’s the blurb:

The only things Alex Rains cares about are rock ’n’ roll, classic cars, and killing vampires—that is, until he meets Carmen, a tough-as-nails cop who’s hot on the trail of her missing little sister.

When the two join forces, they leave a trail of corpses across the desert as they race against the clock, hunting an ancient evil that’s preyed on the migrants of the American Southwest since the time of the Spanish conquest.

While Alex leads Carmen deeper into the deadly, secret world of vampire hunters and their quarry, a romance blooms that neither of them expected. But when it all goes wrong, Alex is forced to make a grueling choice.

An action-horror thriller from author Matt Kincade, The Devil’s Mouth is an adrenaline-fueled ride through the dark underbelly of America: a warped landscape of old motels, seedy roadhouse bars, and monsters lurking in the night.

Sounds cool, right? Stay tuned, more updates to follow.

 

A Rant-Why Even Try?

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I’ve probably mentioned that I like to write. I’d like to make a living at it. Hopefully by telling crazy stories about vampires and zombies and space aliens. But every once in a while, I get really discouraged and I ask myself: Why even try?

Seriously though. I ask myself that every day. The odds are crazy. The amount of competition is insane. Readers are fickle. Publishers go out of business every week. The roadsides are littered with the flaming wrecks of would-be writers. You’d have to be delusional to believe that you’ll ever be anything more than one of a million hacks on the Kindle store, selling four copies a month while your co-workers at Pizza Hut chuckle about your sad ambition. You’d be better off buying lottery tickets.

But it seems to me that in this day and age, if you have any kind of goals greater than working as a fry cook at McDonalds, you’re still facing insane odds. There are no longer any magic bullets. There’s no career path or degree or certificate or qualification that guarantees that things are going to be easy for you. For every real grownup job there are hundreds of applicants. I’ve got friends who graduated with sensible degrees, solid blue-chip career degrees like accounting, and it literally took them years to find a job. Years of sending out hundreds of resumes, living at their parents houses and servicing their massive American student loan debts. I know someone who graduated with a good professional degree, found an awesome suit-and-tie job, and got laid off three different times in a year. I know teachers who get blamed for everything that’s wrong with our broken school system, who buy their kids school supplies out of their own pockets, who sweat bullets every year when the layoffs come around.

If there’s a good, safe job out there, I haven’t seen it.

I’ve seen people with bachelor’s in biology making twelve dollars an hour working as lab assistants. I’ve had teachers, PhDs, working as adjunct professors, making less money than the guy outside the window mowing the lawn. Your barista at Starbucks or your cashier at Barnes and Noble probably have English degrees. And take a look at the statistics for law school graduates sometime. Wasn’t that what our parents told us? “Get a good job, be a lawyer and get rich.” Good luck with that.

And in addition to that, some of the most miserable people I’ve ever met got where they are by chasing the money. Dentists and pharmacists and lawyers who spent years and years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to get where they are, and they hate it and they hate their lives. It makes you ask yourself: How much money is happiness really worth?

And anyway, you might get hit by a bus tomorrow.

So, given all that, given that for my generation it seems like a good, secure career might as well be in the same category as unicorns and Bigfoot, why the hell not try to pursue your passion? Why not try and do what you really want to do?

Because hell, there just aren’t any safe bets.

Microfiction-Cold Comfort

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The president faced the cameras. “My fellow Americans. We’ve all heard the rumors. Let me assure you, they are completely false. We are in no danger whatsoever. NASA has assured me that the asteroid will miss the earth by a wide margin. Everything is fine. I repeat, there’s nothing to worry about.”

The cameras shut off. The president loosened his necktie and poured himself a glass of scotch. He raised his drink to the room. “Not long now. It’s been a pleasure knowing you all. God help us.”

He emptied the glass in one swig, grimaced, and poured another.

Short Story-Mixmaw’s Intergalactic Travelling Bazaar

The spaceship dropped out of the clear blue sky above Marigold street.

John Sutter, kneeling to adjust the carburetor on his gas-powered lawn mower, noticed the flicker of shadow that crossed his half-trimmed lawn. He looked up, and the screwdriver fell unnoticed from his fingers.

Across the street, Margaret Wilson dropped her laundry basket and screamed. Soon, the entire neighborhood was watching, people pouring like ants out of their tidy suburban homes and gaping up at the sky. Dogs barked. Babies cried.

The ship looked insect-like, all strange angles and bulges, descending at a stately pace with no wings or rotors or jets.

The people gathered around in a wide, ragged circle as the craft hovered lower. It extruded a set of landing legs and settled down in the middle of Marigold street, hissing and venting gasses and steam.

A pregnant pause followed. The residents of Marigold Street began to talk in hushed tones, “Is it dangerous? Shouldn’t we call someone? How in the world…”

The alien craft shuddered, and the crowd once again fell silent. Then, as they all watched, it began to…unfold. Hatches hinged open, panels slid away, irises irised. Out came racks, shelves, tables, display cases, stuffed full of strange and wondrous objects.

From somewhere, jolly organ music began playing.

A door opened, and out stepped the alien: a six legged, bug-eyed, chitinous horror. Wearing a top-hat.

“Gentlebeings all, welcome to Mixmaw’s intergalactic travelling bazaar! I bring you unique and remarkable merchandise from around the universe, from the nomadic tribes of Kafazz, to the factories of Kranth. Wonders such as your eyes have never seen!

The alien stepped in front of the racks of clothing. He pointed at Margaret Wilson with two of his segmented arms. “You there, transporting your soiled garments. Never do laundry again!” With a segmented arm it held out a sky-blue blouse. “With your clothes made of hand woven Chiksa silk, the dirt slides right off! And it’s smooth as the underside of a Ganwellian cloud plant.”

Margaret ran her fingers along the cloth, sighed dreamily, and passed out with a smile on her face.

“And you sir, using that primitive machine to trim your photosynthetic ground cover! Try one of these, instead!” A boxy wheeled robot crawled out of a hatch in the spaceship and trundled towards the half-mowed lawn. “A tirelesss yard sentry, the Karvallian trim-bot never needs batteries, never stops working, and…it uses advanced Karvallian technology to convert your grass clippings into gold coins.” The little robot tore into the grassy yard with fervor, leaving a trail of shiny golden droppings behind.

“And that’s not all,” said the alien, pulling open a cabinet. “I have spices from the far mountains of Flandoor, the likes of which your terrestrial taste buds have never dreamed! Try this, sir, it’s a Taltanian garlic from the lowlands of Skrife.” He shook out a sample into John Sutter’s hand.

John cautiously tasted the powder. He gasped and fell to his knees, weeping uncontrollably. “It is the single most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced!” he cried. “My greatest regret is that I’ve gone my entire life without tasting this, the perfect ambrosia, the nectar of the very gods themselves! I’ll never again enjoy lesser foods. My life is ruined.”

“Quite right, sir.” Said Mixmaw. “And this is only a small sampling of my wares. Find true love! Defeat your enemies! Cure diseases and live forever! That’s right, the finest and most unique wares in the wide universe are available to you, right now, at low, low prices.”

“Well good God, man, how much!” screamed John Sutter. “I’ll pay anything. Anything!”

“I’m not a greedy being. I provide these wonders practically at cost, for the simple joy of bringing fine products to the far corners of the universe. The spices begin at a price of only twelve Chaburi.”

“What’s a Chaburi?” asked Martha.

“You don’t have Chaburi? Oh, my mistake. I also take payment in Megars, Tandillos, or Kawillian trade certificates.”

“But we don’t have any of those things!” said John. “We only have dollars.”

“What’s a dollar?” said Mixmaw.

“Or, or pounds! Euros! Pesos! Loonies! Yen, baht, rupees, gold, whatever you want!”

“I’m…I’m afraid I don’t take those. And why would I want gold? I have a lawnmower that shits gold. Are you sure this planet doesn’t even deal in Klavix? The exchange rate is terrible, but I suppose it’s better than nothing.”

“No,” answered Margaret,  “we don’t even know what those are.”

“Does anyone even have a credit account with the trans-galactic trust bank?” Met with blank stares, Mixmaw held his hat in his hands, sheepishly. “I’m afraid I’ve made a terrible mistake. Really must update these travel atlases. How embarassing. My mistake, of course. All my fault. Terribly sorry.”

The alien climbed into his spaceship. The stalls and shelves and racks and displays neatly folded themselves back into the ship. Irises irised. Panels slid shut. Hatches hinged closed. The ship lifted off the ground, up, up and away, and disappeared into the baby blue sky.

My secret teenage shame

I hung out with the gothic kids in high school. Black tee-shirts. Doc Martens. Heavy metal. Righteous alienation. We were angry, depressed, rebellious. We hated everyone. We scowled.

Music was loud and angry. Nirvana. Smashing Pumpkins. Type O Negative. Marilyn Manson. White Zombie. Deftones. Rammstein. Metallica. We wore our teenage disaffection on our sleeves.

You know how it is. You fall in with a group of kids. The consensus determines what’s cool and what isn’t. You quietly conform. You listen to what your friends listen to. You like what they like. You wear what they wear. If you have disagreements, you keep them to yourself.

Which is why I never told my friends that after a long day of scowling at the mall, loitering at hot topic, demonstrating our nonconformity by making a giant fucking mess at our table at Carl’s Jr, I’d go home, slip on my headphones…and rock out to Bruce Springsteen.

Yeah, that Bruce Springsteen. Like many artists, something weird happened to him in the eighties, but if you’ve never listened to his earlier albums like “Born To Run” or “Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey” do yourself a favor.

It was the cover to “Born to Run” that sold me. I found it, originally, in a stack of LPs that my older brother got for free someplace, hidden between the Sabbaths and the Zeppelins. I don’t know why by brother even had them, since this was well past the record player era. I suppose the men in my family never could pass up free. Anyway, something about that pose, that guitar, that leather jacket. It called to me. I pulled out that warped old record and put it on my parents dusty record player.

And then I heard it. The piano, the harmonica. And Bruce’s inimitable voice.

The screen door slams
Mary’s dress sways
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that’s me and I want you only
Don’t turn me home again
I just can’t face myself alone again

Poetry.

How could I explain to them, my tragically cool friends, how Springsteen spoke to my teenage angst, to this unformed yearning in my heart, better than Nirvana or Manson ever could?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a place in my heart for the Deftones and Tool and Nine inch Nails. But at some point I got tired of being so angry and depressed all the time. Nine inch Nails was just wrist-slitting music, but in Springsteen there was hope. There was this pull, this desire to go and find something better, to just get up and go.

When I got my first car, I loaded up and went on my first solo road trip, blasting Springsteen and singing along to every word…and then I crashed and had to call my parents to come rescue me. Thunder Road, indeed. But that secret teenage shame is a whole other story.

Bonus Springsteen: