Tag Archives: fiction

Advertising on E-Bay Ignorantly

skortch

You are probably not going to believe this, but there are certain things you simply cannot safely sell on E-Bay.  My first good novel, Catch a Falling Star, took years to write.  The research, interviews with survivors, fighting off remaining alien invaders left behind when the Telleron invasion failed, and clean-up of sites and inconvenient witnesses took at least from 1990 to 2012.  And then, as part of my marketing-by-blogging strategy for the book, I took a box of leftover skortch pistols and listed them for sale on E-Bay.  They turned out to be a very popular item.  It took the first skortch ray almost a year to sell for a measly five dollars.  It was bought by a woman with a very annoying husband.  She apparently bought the item as a joke, thinking it would not actually work as a molecular disintegration weapon.  But after she surprised her husband with it and then posted the surprising results on Facebook, I quickly sold out the rest of the 26 pistols in the box and made almost $800. I am told by concerned investigative reporters that crotchety old men, ugly wives, and particularly Dennis-the-Menace-like kids were disappearing all across the Midwest.  I also learned that one skortch ray pistol came into the hands of a Republican political operative before the election in 2016.  That fact may have accounted for the disappearances of large numbers of registered Democrats in both Michigan and Pennsylvania in the weeks before the election.

I wanted to inform you that I may have done something stupid on E-Bay.  Therefore I am re-posting the drawing I did of Studpopper the Telleron demonstrating the firing of an example skortch pistol created by Zillokahsitter Industries on Telleri Prime with Sylvani technology.  If you should see one of these in the hands of a spouse that thinks you are grumpy too much of the time, I would suggest an almost instantaneous program of self-improvement.  And if you see one in the hands of someone in a red MAGA baseball cap, immediately put on your own red hat and say something inordinately stupid so they will assume you are one of them, and hope they skortch themselves by accident before they get around to skortching you.

Sorry about that.  I should’ve thought this whole thing through more carefully beforehand.

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Stardusters… Canto 41

galtorr-primex-1

Canto Forty-One – Back Aboard the Mother Ship

Biznap hurried up the ramp and through the mist-filled corridors of the Command Center.  Xiar was going to do something about this.  He had to!  Biznap had always thought of Farbick as just another underling before, just another yellow-skinned Fmoogish boob…  But the truth he had come to embrace was that Farbick was the only other Telleron besides himself on this whole mission that could possibly make things work out in the Tellerons’ favor.  He felt slightly guilty about the fact that he was alive now only because of the sacrifice Farbick and Starbright had made.

“Commander Biznap!”  Docking bay officer Oogsblotter was surprised to see the second-ranking Telleron of the entire mission hustling up from the bay all by himself.  At least, he was definitely submissively bowing out of the way like a yellow-skinned Fmoogish boob.

“I need to see Xiar and Shalar, now!”

“The Captain is busy in the control center, and Science Officer Shalar is away on a recovery mission.”

“A recovery mission?  Looking for who?”

“Well, you sir… and apparently some of Xiar’s tadpoles stole a ship and went down to the planet too.”

“Merciful Crocodile Gawd!  Where’s Harmony then?  …My wife, I mean?”

“She is the leader of the recovery mission.”

Biznap was stunned at the news.  Nobody to rely on for help other than wishy-washy old Xiar and… himself.  Well, it had to be done.

“I need to see Xiar, and I need it to happen now!”  His voice was powerful enough to shake Oogsblotter down to his socks, as if Tellerons wore socks, and the docking bay officer fell all over himself scrambling to comply.

“I will get him immediately, sir!”  The officer crawled off on all fours to get to the Command Center and alert Xiar.  It felt kinda good to have that kind of power and respect.  Before the invasion of Earth no one had looked up to Biznap.  They secretly laughed at him for always striving to do his best and go by the regulations.  But then he survived the invasion, came back with the beautiful Harmony Castille as his prize, survived Commander Sleez’s insurrection, and ended up with Sleez’s job as First Officer.  They weren’t laughing any more.  Biznap was a rare thing… a Telleron who could accomplish things.

“Biznap?” said the hustling Xiar while making his way into the docking bay, “what has happened?  Where is Farbick and your crew?”

“Two are dead and two captured, but we located a key moon base from which Tellerons could operate as the dominant space force in this system.”

Xiar looked shocked.  “B-but you know we are not a large force.  We can’t stand up to overwhelming numbers of vicious, Telleron-eating lizard-guys.”

“We actually don’t have to.  This planet has decimated itself through greed and lust for war.  There are only two lizard-guys on the moon base, and only one of those is a soldier.  We could take them easily, and maybe rescue Farbick and Starbright at the same time.”

“You mean actually fight?  Not a secret invasion like on Earth?”

“We can do it, Captain.  I have learned a secret from Farbick and our experiences with the Earther primates.  If you care about one another and fight for your friends and family instead of yourself, you can actually win.  The fight means more, and you can do a better job!”

“Ooh, I don’t know if I could do that…”

“Your new wife, Shalar, and some of your children are already caught up in this.  Their lives are at stake.  You need to do this for them.  Just like I intend to do it for Harmony.”

Xiar bit his lower lip and seemed befuddled.

“You love them don’t you?  You have learned about love from everything Harmony and the Morrells have taught us… haven’t you?”

“Well,” said Xiar, apparently drawing the conclusion that Biznap intended, “maybe I do.”

*****

farbick

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Signs

Fools n Toys

Signs, by their very nature, are powerful.  They give you direction.  They tell you what to do… and what not to do.  They control you and control others.

Richard and Victor Martin were sitting at the table in front of the stage they had just finished constructing at the center of Martin’s Bar and Grille.  It had turned into something of a gift from heaven to have the young cousin from France living with them.  When he put the clown paint on his face and sang karaoke, people came from several counties away to hear it.  They also brought their money and their thirst with them.  The brothers had labored for two days to build the stage and make better use of the unexpected gift that came with taking in their uncle’s orphaned son.

“Have a beer, brother.  You have earned it,” said Richard to his older brother.

“Generous of you.  Especially since it is my bar and my beer to begin with.”

At that moment they both noticed the balding young man standing at the bar with his zebra hand puppet on his right arm.

“We’re not open for business yet,” Victor said.  “The bar is still closed.”

“You are going to have give the dummy here a Kewpie Cola,” said the zebra puppet.  “We can’t do anything but stand here and look at the sign until you give him one.  He does have enough money to pay for it.”

“What?  What are you talking about?” asked Victor.  He looked at the young man, Murray Dawes, standing and looking up at the antique Kewpie Cola sign that Victor had hung as a decoration over the bar.

“It says, Drink a Kewpie Cola Today!” the puppet said.  Victor did not see the young man’s mouth moving, but he had heard the boy had a gift for ventriloquism even though he was autistic and hardly ever spoke.  “Murray always does everything signs tell him to.  His mother told him signs tell us to do things for our own good.”

“So if he reads it on a sign he has to do it?” asked Richard.

“Yes,” said the zebra puppet.  “You wouldn’t believe how long we have to stand and wait in front of that stop sign on the west end of Main Street.  Every time we pass it he has to do what it says until he feels safe.”

Both men laughed.

Crooner “The fool’s mother constantly puts a sign on his bedroom door that says,  Clean your room!   So he has to do it every day before he can do anything else.  One day he decided he didn’t want to clean his room that day, and he made a sign himself.  It said, Don’t put any signs on this door!  He put it on his bedroom door.  But then he read what it said and had to take it down again.”

“That’s pretty funny,” said Richard.

“Yeah,” said Victor.  “Do you think you could do that ventriloquist thing on stage?  We’d pay you to do it for our customers.”

“You have to understand,” said the zebra puppet, “that Murray is very shy.  He won’t be very talkative on stage.  I would have to do all of the talking.”

“If you can do it and be that funny, I think it will work,” said Victor.

“You have a deal.  But every time we get on the stage, you will have to put a sign on the wall for Murray to read.”

“What would the sign have to say?  Break a leg or something?”

“Not unless you want him to fall down and hurt himself.  It should only say, Believe in yourself… and be funny!”

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The Bicycle-Wheel Genius

Image

I have started work on the next novel which I will call The Bicycle-Wheel Genius.  It takes two of the important supporting characters from my novel Catch a Falling Star, and weaves them into a story that can only be called a prequel-sequel to the previous book.  It begins when the characters first meet and become friends.  It incorporates some of the events from the alien invasion in Catch a Falling Star, and it concludes the incredible story of a friendship between a really nice mad scientist and the only son of a rural English teacher.

I have included here the first two cantos of this humoresque hodgepodge novel so you can get a sense of how truly awful the whole thing is going to be.  (If you choose to skip this first-draft nonsense, I will completely understand.  Not forgive you, mind you, but understand.)

Canto One – In the dark corners of the house in 1984

The stupid boy was easily followed home.  When he patted the little Pomeranian dog on her fuzzy head, he entered through the back door, unlocking it with his key.  He went in to make his afternoon peanut butter sandwich, stupidly leaving the door unlocked.  The man in black couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.

The strip of bacon the man in black offered to the canine moron was soaked in a fast-acting, taste-free poison.  The barker was silenced.  The man in black quietly slipped into the house.  Standing in the back entryway, he could peer in and see the stupid boy bending over the peanut butter with the knife in hand.  The boy was handsome in a way.  He had his father’s stupid blond hair and myopic eyes.  The glasses on his little face were thick enough to magnify his blue-gray eyes.  He had that same owlish look that the genius father always wore.  But he had his mother’s lovely mouth and the same child-like oval face that always made his mother seem so appealing, so girlishly lovely.

As the man stepped into the kitchen, the boy looked up startled.

“Why are you dressed like that?” he asked.  “You look like some kind of burglar.”

The man in black grinned.  He whipped out the chloroformed cloth and pressed it over the mouth and nose of the boy.  The stupid boy melted into his grasp.  Swiftly bound and gagged, the boy was left tied up in a chair at the kitchen table.  Now, the real work could begin.

The basement door was the first obstacle.  It had a keypad lock.  The man in black dusted the key pad with fingerprint dust.  He could easily see the four keys that the genius always pressed.  He remembered  the pattern of code entry he had seen the genius using a hundred times from afar.  Two in the upper corner, the one and the four, the key in the middle, the five, and the one at the bottom, the eight.

It worked!  With a snap-hiss the electronically sealed door opened.  Down he went into the lab.

The small safe was still open.  Leave it to a genius to be sloppy about replacing paperwork and locking it up again.  He never re-locked the safe upstairs with his wife’s jewels in it.  Why would this safe be any different?  The safe-cracking tools could be left in the old black pocket!

Inside the safe, just where he’d been told it would be, was the manila envelope marked Tesla Project.  He took it out.  It was worth a fortune apparently.  Soon he would have the whole pile of money the ambassador had offered him.  The man in black licked his lips.  He stuck the envelope in his pocket.

Next would come the cover story.  Yes, the experimental prototype sat on the table where the ambassador’s advisor had said it would be.  How did the advisor know so much about the crazy genius?  He had never been at any of the family reunions.  The man in black smiled to himself.  Easy enough to do.  He used his lighter to start some of the papers on the table burning.  He added some more flames to the nearby desk.  Then he turned the prototype on.

Electricity began to shimmer and shine, crawling over the surface of the silver metal ball.  Tiny electrical bursts that looked like lightning arced out over the table and connected with some of the water pipes overhead.  The fire began to blossom faster than the man in black had anticipated.  Time to get out, or be immolated too.

At the top of the stairs he was horrified to see that she was there too.  She was bent over the boy, trying to untie him from the chair.

“Leo!” she said.  “What have you done?”   Her beautiful brown eyes were filled with horror.

It was a real shame.  He hadn’t expected her to get there so quickly.  He had intended for the boy to be the only one caught in the “accident”.  Ah, well.   He wasn’t actually Leo anyway.  Leo was dead.  He only looked like Leo and had taken Leo’s place in the family for a time.  He hit her with a violent blow to the temple and she crumpled.

The flames were roaring up into the kitchen from the lab.  The place would go up quickly.  In his haste to leave the conflagration, he failed to notice how her hand, as she crumpled, had managed to clutch at his pocket on the way to the floor.  He hadn’t noticed how the envelope had been dislodged by her fingers and also knocked to the floor.  As he strode swiftly out of the house, he did not realize that his prize had remained behind to burn with his innocent victims.  The perfect crime.  He would never be suspected.  But he would never be rewarded either.  He was congratulating himself as he slipped away from the blazing inferno, his handiwork.  And everything that mattered to the genius was on fire.  A whole world was passing away.

Canto Two… Norwall, Iowa, population 278, 1988

Norwall, like many small towns in Iowa, had not changed more than a particle or two a year from about 1919 to around 1982.  It had a main street.  The houses were done mostly in the Victorian style, with its various porches and bay windows and corner tower-like structures.  It was a sleepy-quiet   little farm town where practically nothing ever happened.  It was mostly set up for farm business.  There was a grain elevator at the west end of Main Street, and a lumber yard at the southern end of Whitten Avenue.  It was not unusual  to see tractors parked in town along with the family cars and farmers’ pickup trucks.

Tim Kellogg had been born in the Belle City Hospital in 1978, and had lived in the town of Norwall all his life.  He would’ve been bored to tears early on if it had not been for the Norwall Pirates.  They were the local 4-H softball team, but they were also the greatest secret club and eternal fraternity of liars that was ever put together on a boring Saturday afternoon in Iowa.  They had an interesting oral history.  It was rumored and asserted by former club members that once they had chased a werewolf and defeated him even though he had killed an old church lady and a local minister.  They also supposedly fought and defeated an undead Chinese wizard once, though details about that one were far more likely to change from tale-teller to tale-teller.

Not only was Tim a member of the club, but he was second in line to be grand and glorious leader.  His older cousin Valerie Clarke was the current leader, but she was in high school now and so beautiful that she couldn’t help but always be busy with boys.  Soon the club would be handed over to him, and no more girls would be members, possibly for eternity.  This was an idea of no small attraction to Norwall boys who were less than enthusiastic about having a girl for a leader.  You really couldn’t walk around the clubhouse naked or fart as much as you wanted to if your leader was a girl.

And Tim was very definitely looking forward to getting to know the mysterious new neighbor on Pesch Street.    In the very house next door a man with thick glasses and eyes like an owl kept bringing in the most fascinating stuff.  Computers, the big mainframe sorts of computers, fish tanks, hoses, machines both sleek and junky whose purposes were totally mysterious.  And there were so many bicycle wheels!  Bicycle wheels, gears, flywheels, chains, and driver cords.  What did this man intend to  do with all the wonderful  junk?  It was fuel for the wildest of speculations from the Norwall Pirates.

Tim rode up to the grocery store on Main Street and sat there on his bike in the middle of the sidewalk waiting.  His best friend and fellow Pirate, Tommy Bircher, rode up also and grinned a silent greeting.  Tommy was only a month younger than Tim, but was also different in that he had not lived his whole life in the little Iowa town.  Although his grandparents, uncles, and various other relatives were rooted here, Tommy’s father and mother both traveled to distant places in pursuit of their business interests.  Albert Bircher was an executive officer in a large Chicago-based business.  Tommy and his family had moved back to Norwall only temporarily two years ago.  Tommy had spent three years of his ten living in France.

“So, Tim, you got it all figured out yet?”  Tommy grinned puckishly.

“Oh, you know… yes.  The gossips in this town know everything about everybody, and all the gossips talk in the Post Office.  We just hafta go there and listen.”

“That could take some time.”

“Yeah, but it will be worth it.  We gotta find out somehow.”

“Okay, you’re the boss.”

Together, the two infamous Pirates stealthily walked over to the Norwall Post Office between what had once been the grocery store and what was now and always had been the fire station.  They parked their bicycles in the fire station bike rack.  They went in nonchalantly, trying to be nonchalant like they really belonged there, and hoping they really knew what nonchalant meant.

“Hello, boys,” said George “the Salesman” Murdoch, Post Master and gossip aficionado of the highest order.

“Uh, hello,” said Tim, trying to cover for both of them.  He quickly looked at the wanted posters and missing children flyers on the medium-sized bulletin board near the East end of the counter.

Marjorie Dettbarn and Wilma Bates, two of Norwall’s middle-aged church ladies were there trading juicy stories and other tidbits with “the Salesman”.

“You know, George,” Wilma was saying, “the police really should be looking more carefully at the backgrounds of people like that.”

“Why do you say that, Mrs. Bates?” asked the Post Master with a sly grin.

“You know his wife is dead.  They say it isn’t out of the question that he might’ve murdered her.”

“You’re so right, Wilma,” said Mrs. Dettbarn.  “He’s such a suspicious-looking character.  He never seems to hear you when you say hello.”

“Yes, “said Bates, “always has his nose in some book or other.”

“Do you ladies say hello to him a lot?” asked Murdoch the Post Master.

“Oh my, no,” said Mrs. Dettbarn.  “I said it once.  That’s all the chance a spooky young man like that really needs, don’t you know.”

“Yes, yes,” said Bates, “I never spoke to him at all.  You can’t be too careful around a person like that!”

“Oh, you are right there,” said the Post Master.  “He gets a check from the government twice a month, and numerous ones from different corporations.  I think he may be quite wealthy in many ways.  Who knows how a person like that earns so much money.  Probably something suspicious, I say.”

Tommy and Tim were both wide eyed as Tim nudged Tommy towards the door.

As soon as they were outside, Tim nearly exploded.  “A murderer!  And lots of money coming in all the time!”

“Yeah, he could be a professional killer who works for the government!” gushed Tommy.  “Oh, but who were they talking about?”

“You poophead!  They were discussing my new neighbor, Orbit Wallace!”

“Orbit Wallace?”

“Well, something like that!  The new guy that moved in next door.”

“Hey,” said Tommy, “maybe we should go stare at his house for a while!”

“Yeah!  Great idea!” said Tim.

So the two Pirates were now on a mission to catch the hired killer red handed.  Tim had visions of apprehending him literally red handed, with blood dripping from his fingertips.  Red handed in the worst possible way.

*****

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First Novels and Hard Lessons Learned

My first published book was a Science Fiction novel called Aeroquest.  It was a story that came about because as a young teacher I liked to play pencil and paper role-playing games with kids.  It started with Dungeons and Dragons in 1981, but because I was in South Texas at the time, Baptist and fundamentalist Texas, I had to change away from any game associated with dragons and demons.  I turned instead to the RPG called Traveller, a space game inspired by Star Wars and other Sci-Fi of the time.  Most of the characters in the book, especially the Mutant Ninja Space Babies, were actually the kids I played the games with.  They are characters that were created by them and given life by me.

51ABNW+RWlL._SL500_AA300_ Aeroq1 Aeroq2 Aeroq3 Aeroq4 Aeroq5 Aeroq6 Aeroq7

So, I sent this book to a new publishing company in 2007 called Publish America.  They seemed excited to publish my work.  They paid me an advance of one dollar.  They whipped me through a publishing process whereby I had to do all my own editing, proofreading, and supervising.  They provided no aid with anything.  They only tried to sell the book (for a grossly inflated price) to my friends and relatives.  Through this whole process, I made a total of twelve dollars.  Well, that didn’t seem like such a bad deal, except for the way mistakes were created in my story that were not there before.  They copyrighted my work and told me that they owned the rights for the next seven years.  I was originally supposed to include illustrations like I posted here, but decided to hang on to those when it became clear that I might lose ownership of them.  So, all in all, I got two free copies of the book, a chance to annoy all my friends and relatives, and twelve dollars cash.  That in exchange for two years’ work.

Aeroquest is the story of the Aero brothers, Ged and Ham.  They start out as hunters, travelling space in a safari ship that belongs to Ham Aero.  The third member of their crew is the super-goofy engineer, pirate, and fool named Trav Dalgoda.  They elude pirates, conquer a couple of planets, make enemies of the entire Imperium, and Ged becomes the teacher of a ninja school on one of the planets they conquer, the planet Gaijin.  I like this story.  It’s full of ridiculous and off-the-wall humor, adventure, and some of the weirdest characters I could possibly put together.  But, truth be told, it is not very good.  I did a much better job on my second novel.

It was a learning experience.  I learned that you do need to work with an editor to help you craft and polish the work.  You do need to work with publicists and social media experts to promote the book and sell it.  None of what I really needed to be an author rather than just a writer came through the PA experience.  I didn’t get soaked for a lot of bucks, but they cheated me never-the-less.  In another year I can have the novel rights back and I can try again with that story and related tales.  I got cheated, but I learned valuable lessons that I hope will serve me well as I continue to destroy my own life with the desire to be a story-teller.

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