New and Newish Things

As you know, my laptop crashed last month leaving me in quite the lurch and limbo, necessitating the purchase of a new laptop.

Without a steady day job and two months of no sales, let’s just say that the purchase was an incredibly painful one.

So, here are a few potential salves for that financial wound.

First of all, “Summer Rot”, which used to be over at Suburban Fool, is now available in the Freebies section. It’s quite different from most of the stuff I write and even though it’s a freebie, I think it’s still worthy of a read.

There are two new stories in the Storytime Jukebox, “There and Not” and “Erin Go Bragh”.

“There and Not” is a short little ditty about a man who has trouble trusting his senses. “Erin Go Bragh” is about a terrifying night swim. If you were around for the very beginning of my self-publishing exploits, then you’ll recognize “Erin Go Bragh”. But it’s been out of print for years, so it’s time for a revival.

For those new to this show, the Storytime Jukebox is a pay whatever endeavor. Pay whatever you want and get the story/stories you request.

I’ve also launched paperback editions of Gone Missing and The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys. Consider this testing the waters of Amazon’s new paperback option. The lack of Kindle sales recently and the fact that neither of these stories has sold well as ebooks makes me wonder if they might work better as paperbacks. It’s worth a shot, anyway.

Of course, if $5.99 is too pricey for you, both are still available as ebooks. Gone Missing is only $1.99; The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys is still only $0.99 AND you can also find it in Ghostly, which is also $1.99.

In old news: there’s always time to become a Murderville patron. There’s one more episode of The Last Joke left (plus a bonus episode later in the year) and I’m working on a fun reward for the next goal.

And, of course, if you don’t want to buy any of my work or become a patron, or if you already have, you can always buy me a coffee.

Any help would be very much appreciated, so spread the word!

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New in the Storytime Jukebox- Notorious

Notorious

They looked at her with fear and pity, the ones that knew.  But didn’t everyone know?  Everyone in the neighborhood certainly did, but she was sure the whole city recognized her.  It had been in the papers and on the news for what seemed like years, her picture plastered everywhere.

But she didn’t hide.  She didn’t move.  As soon as she healed, she went back to her life, picking up where she left off.

She went back to work.  She shopped for groceries.  She went to the bars, refusing to avoid the one with the bad memories attached to it.  She stopped at the coffee shop and wandered through the bookstore.  She ate popcorn at the movies and giggled with girlfriends over dinner at restaurants.

But it felt as though her life still wasn’t being lived.  It was hanging in a suspended animation of sorts even though it had been YEARS since it’d happened.  She had insisted on staying in town and it was like that stopped the whole process of moving on right in its tracks.  Because everywhere she went, people stared.  She’d managed to move on, she’d come to terms with it, she’d gotten used to it, but they hadn’t.

***

This is a super short story, but there’s still plenty left to read. Stop by the Storytime Jukebox and drop in some coin.

How to Support Your Local Writer

Rainbow paper**Though I’m speaking as a writer and talking specifically about writers and writing, these things can be applied to any artist, really.**

Writing can be a lonely gig. It’s a lot of time spent in your own head, trying to capture the things you see in your imagination and translate them into words that you then put on the page. There’s not a lot that other people can do to help you get your work done (aside from leaving you alone and letting you work, maybe picking up some of the chores or fetching dinner once in a while). But there are many ways that you can support your local writer.

Buy their work. This is the most obvious way, and yet, it still doesn’t happen as much as you think, for several reasons. Not having the cash is one. Or the work might not be to your taste. You have no idea how many times I get told that people would like to read my stuff, but they don’t dig horror (and that’s the majority of what I write). I don’t take it personally, but it still sort of bums me out. But even if the work isn’t to your specific taste, it might be to someone else’s. You can rec it to them (more on that later) or, if you’re feeling bold, buy it for them. Force it upon them. Maybe they’ll never read it, but you still gave your writer a little coin and tried to get their work out. That means a lot.

Read and REVIEW their work. If the work is to your liking, buying it is great. But reading and reviewing it is HUGE. Notice the emphasis on reviewing. Naturally, the writer’s fragile ego is boosted to hear directly from your mouth how much you love their stories, but leaving a review tells LOTS of people. And the more reviews, the better. Places like Amazon and Goodreads give priority to books that have more reviews and makes them easier for customers to find. By leaving a review, you give your writer a shot at getting noticed by someone else. And it doesn’t have to be a full-on book report either. A rating accompanied by a couple of sentences about what you liked (or didn’t like; I’m a writer that digs honesty) is adequate.

Give them money anyway. Okay, maybe this one is just me and just because I’m currently without a day job, but I actually started doing this earlier this year. It’s not easy for unknown writers and/or self-published writers like myself to make much money off of their work. It’s a competitive market out there and carving a niche takes time, effort, and low low prices. This year I decided to no longer make it difficult for people to give me money. In addition to my self-published body of work, I’ve got the Storytime Jukebox and Patreon. I’ve also set up a tip jar of sorts through Ko-Fi. If you like what you read here or just want to give me some monetary encouragement without the commitment of owning any of my words, you can buy me a coffee. Three bucks doesn’t sound like much, but just the act of being acknowledged in such a way is a real boost. If you’ve got the money to give, find a way to give it.

Spread the word. Whether you buy their work or not, whether it’s your genre or not, let other people know that it exists! That your writer exists! I’ll say it again in bold and all-caps: SPREAD THE WORD! This is the most valuable yet inexpensive way to show support to your writer. Share their Facebook posts, retweet their tweets, link to their blog/website/author page, recommend them to friends and family and co-workers and strangers, surreptitiously add their work to people’s wishlists. Don’t keep your writer or their work a secret. Word of mouth is how fanbases get built. The bigger your writer’s fanbase, the more support they have.

The more support your writer has, the happier your writer will be.

And when the writer is happy, the work is a little less lonely.

New in the Storytime Jukebox–Land of the Voting Dead

Land of the Voting Dead

Miriam Showalter opened the heavy wooden double doors to the unseasonably warm November morning.  Sunlight streamed in, golden so early in the morning and so late in the year.  Miriam lodged the doors open with heavy wooden doorsteps that her husband Gene had carved thirty years ago to replace the ones that the previous twenty years had worn out.  Back then they’d been horses’ heads, like pieces on a chess board, and Gene had spent his days in the fields planting corn and beans.  Now all of the features, the delicate detail that Gene spent hours squinting at and refining, were worn smooth and Gene spent his days as a pile of ash in a brightly polished urn.

Miriam finished pinning the doors open and dabbed the sweat away from her brow with the tissue she kept tucked under her watch.  She could have taken off her cardigan, but she was no fool.  Just because she worked up a sweat, just because the sun was shining, just because they were having a late warm up didn’t mean that it wasn’t November.  Miriam wasn’t catching her death today.

From the front doors, Miriam walked across the dark wood floor, the insolated soles of her shoes barely making a sound in the open room, past the long table and single folding chair (with a many-times patched, pink cushion that she’d made about the same time Gene made the horse head doorstops) that she’d set up when she first got there, and down the back hallway where the sunshine couldn’t reach.  There was a storage room on the left, a bathroom on the right, a door at the end, and not a window in sight.  The light was still on in the storage room.  Miriam walked in, wrinkling her nose at the heavy musty smell and the lingering scent of something that just couldn’t be placed, but Miriam knew what it was.  She’d leave the doors open all day long.  That’d chase most of the smell out.  The place just wasn’t used enough to get rid of it entirely.

Another table and a stack of folding chairs sat against one wall.  There were several miscellaneous cardboard boxes along the wall opposite the door.  It seemed that there were more every year, but Miriam had no idea who brought the boxes or what was in any of them.  Shoved off to the side were two voting pedestals that stood like misshapen patio umbrellas, their dingy little screens separating six little cubicles, their little desks hitting Miriam just under her bust as she wheeled them out one by one into the main room, positioning them on opposite sides of the less than great hall and locking their wheels into place.

Miriam dabbed away the sweat from her face and replaced the tissue under her watchband.  She checked the time.  Russell Sims would be along any minute with the vote box.  That’s what Miriam called it.  It’s where the votes went after people were done filling in the circles with a special black pen.  That wasn’t the proper name for the thing, but Miriam didn’t care.  People gave stupid names to things anyway.  “Vote box” was accurate enough.  It wasn’t like anyone was ever going to quiz her on it.  They probably didn’t know the correct name for it either.

Russell showed up in his old truck that had the most ineffective muffler still attached to a vehicle and left it running as he wheeled in the black vote box and a cardboard box full of ballots on a dolly.

“You gonna be alright on your own, Miriam?” Russell asked as he positioned the box next to the table according to Miriam’s hand gestures.

“Yes, of course.  I’ve been dong this longer than you’ve been alive,” Miriam said.  “Just put the ballots on the table.”

“They’re supposed to be in a secure location.”

“They’ll be fine.”

Russell set the box on the end of the table.

“You got your voter book?” he asked.

“Picked it up this morning.”  Miriam opened the ballot box.

Russell looked around, unable to decide if he should put his hands in his pockets or not.  “Anything else you need while I’m on the get, Miriam?”

“No, no, Russell, I’m fine,” she said without looking up, dismissing him with a flutter of her hand.

“Good.  ‘Cause they’re on the move,” Russell said, hurrying toward the door.

“Of course they are,” Miriam said.  “They don’t like to be late.”

Russell said a hasty goodbye at the door and Miriam gave him another wave.  She listened to his truck roar off into the morning.

Miriam busied herself by testing all of the magic black pens as she placed them at the voting pedestals.  She opened up the voting book, took out a stack of ballots and a roll of “I Voted” stickers from the cardboard box, and retrieved her “voting stick” from the storage room.  Miriam sat down with a sigh, the cushion deflating beneath her, a delicate ache creeping up her legs and along her spine.  She waited.

The first voter of the day shambled in right at eight.  A trail of dirt followed him, falling from the cuffs of his pants and the pockets of his jacket.  Miriam grimaced at the sight.  She forgot to bring the broom out from the storage room.  Sighing, she got to her feet.  Miriam flipped the book to the correct page as he staggered to the table in a less than straight line, his eyes half-open, a faint scent of rot preceding him.  Miriam knew Douglas Kless when she saw him even if he had been dead six years, in part because embalming had improved over the years (Douglas had hardly moldered at all), but mostly because Miriam was always good with names and faces, even decomposed ones.

“Morning, Douglas,” she said, even though she knew he wouldn’t respond and honestly wasn’t sure if he heard her, but that was no different than when he was alive.  She liked to be polite.

With one hand, Miriam held out a pen for dead Douglas Kless, killed by a brain aneurysm on his way home from a movie, and with the other she pointed to the place in the book Douglas was supposed to sign.  Douglas took the pen with clumsy fingers and his hand dropped down to the book.  Somehow he formed something that looked like a “D” on his space.  He dropped the pen.

“Both sides, Douglas.”  Miriam flipped the ballot over and back before handing it to him.  She put a sticker on his lapel.

Douglas Kless stood there for a minute, blank and swaying.  Miriam picked up the “voting stick”, a stubby, faded blue broomstick, and prodded him with it.  Douglas started walking, feet dragging along the hardwood, to the voting pedestal.

The doorway darkened with the arrival of several more voters.

In Chicago, the dead voted in spirit.  Downstate, they voted in body.  At least in this town they did.  They voted until they were so rotted, so decayed that they couldn’t claw themselves out of their graves and shamble to the polling place.  It’s why Miriam’s husband Gene had himself cremated.  He had enough trouble deciding whom to vote for while his brains worked; God only knew the trouble he’d have once they stopped.

Miriam felt the same way.

***

Wanna read the rest? Head on over to the Storytime Jukebox and drop in some change.

It originally appeared in the anthology Zombidays: Festivities of the Flesheaters, which is currently out of print.

The Generosity of the Universe

coinsI’ve not gotten much in the way of creative work done this month. I’ve got several different ideas for projects. I’m working on several different projects. I’ve written or started writing a couple of blog posts that I never got around to posting. But I haven’t had much energy to really put into it. Most of my brain has been wrapped up in trying to come up with the money to pay some bills.

When it comes to the generosity of the universe, I believe in it, but with an asterisk. As in, I believe in it for everyone else, but not for myself.

As a rule, I don’t think I should ever ask for help. Period. End of. Never. I believe that if I want something, then I should work harder and if I need something and I’m not getting it, well, it’s my fault because I’m not working hard enough. I don’t think these things about other people. They ask for help, they get help, sometimes I’m the helper if I can, and it’s all groovy. But me? No.

And on the rare occasions that I do ask for help, I’m usually turned down. I’m either ignored or given an excuse or worse, told that they’ll help, but then they don’t. It’s hard for people to help someone that never asks for it because they don’t know how to respond to it. It’s foreign territory.

Anyway, with the bills looming, I knew that I was going to have to come up with something to at least cover part of them. I’d had the idea for the Storytime Jukebox, but I knew that if I did it, it would probably be ignored. But it got to the point that I had no other option. So, I said “fuck it” and got it going. I decided that whatever I got from it, I would be grateful for it. Any little bit helps.

I did my best to maintain that attitude towards it. Gratitude. Be grateful for every retweet, every like, every link share, and every penny I got. And I did think I would get a few pennies. I knew some people would be game and give me a couple of dollars for my stories and I would be happy with that. I chose to approach this with gratitude.

Maybe the Universe appreciated this. Maybe I just underestimated the current people occupying my bit of world. Maybe my gratitude brought out the generosity. Whatever it was, the response to my request for help was overwhelming. It was more than I had expected by a long shot. At one point I thought if I raised enough money to just cover the cost of renewing the blog, that would be a huge achievement. In the end, in only a matter of a few weeks, the entire amount I needed was covered.

In addition to getting the money I needed from some pretty spectacular folks, I also learned a valuable lesson that I was long overdue for learning.

The generosity of the universe is a real thing and since I am part of the Universe, that generosity applies to me, too. I’m not exempt from it.

And my gratitude is endless.

August Writing Projects

sunIt’s August and I’m thinking I’ve hit the dog days of summer. Or maybe it’s just a bit of floundering on my own part because I’m not sure what I want to do this month.

I finished the revisions on Open Christmas Eve so, while not spectacular, the script is long enough to not be considered bullshit and I’m good with that. I no longer feel like a fraud, just a hack, and that’s my default, so it’s fine.

I also got the Storytime Jukebox up and running, which was a thing that I wasn’t sure I could or should do, but in the end I felt like I didn’t have a choice. The response I’ve had in the few days it’s been up is more than I actually hoped for and I hope it continues. I so appreciate the help.

It’s times like these, when the malaise and scatterbrainedness hits me, that I’m glad I have an epic To Do List of Doom. I may not know exactly what I want to work on, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have plenty of options.

So at some point during this month I will probably-

-Revise a couple of more stories for the jukebox and/or

-Write the first drafts of some short stories for the next anthology and/or

-Finish the first draft of one of my other test scripts for practice and/or

-Something else I can’t remember even though I just looked at the To Do List of Doom like four minutes ago.

Yeah. The scatterbrained malaise is that bad.

But August won’t be. I will be productive.

I will get at least one thing done.

I wonder what it will be.