This is a short story I wrote many, many years ago. A friend recently saw a horror movie about the suicide forest beneath Mount Fuji in Japan… that is the setting of this story. This is not a horror story. I have no idea what kind of story this is, but it is one of my favorite things of all I’ve ever written. I’m sharing it here now…
For Kay Reynolds, whose book of haiku written by Kamikaze pilots helped me to do this… and for Brian A. Hopkins, who was the editor I wrote it for.
YOU ARE JUST LIKE GODS…
Myoshi felt his foot slip on the slick, moss-covered rock, and he gripped the rocks above him more tightly. The sharp lava stone cut into his fingers, but he regained his balance and remained very still, letting his breath and heartbeat calm. The sun rose slowly, warming his back as he climbed. Birds cried from the rocks above, and from the depths of the trees. Myoshi brushed his fingers across his brow, wiping away the sweat.
Fuji rose above him, grim and imposing, but no more so than the formidable drop behind. Myoshi had begun his climb at first light, and he had made good time. On his back, his school book bag bulged with supplies. There was a souvenir shop at the edge of the forest, but he’d wanted to avoid prying eyes.
He carried some well-packed fish and rice, and two small packets. One was his school work, graded and banded carefully to be saved and shown to his parents. The other was a packet of letters. Letters from Myoshi’s grandfather. Letters Myoshi’s father had kept, wrapped carefully in rice paper and bound with a silken ribbon. Letters that one day would be missed.
The mountain leveled off for a time, and Myoshi was able to walk normally, sweeping his gaze along the trail that wound up and up until it was lost among trees and clouds. It was a wonderful day for a climb.
Far below, beyond the ocean of trees that was the ancient forest of Aokigahara, school was in session. Myoshi’s father had been at work for two hours, and his mother would be home, cleaning and organizing. Nothing in their small, neat apartment was ever out of place. Myoshi’s father would not have permitted it, and his mother would do nothing that shamed her in her husband’s eyes. Perfection. Myoshi yearned for that. In everything he did, he fell short.
In school, his mind wandered. His grades were not bad, but neither were they good. In Myoshi’s household, mediocrity was not an option. Other children excelled. Some were athletes, others could calculate in their heads faster than Myoshi could press the buttons on his calculator. Myoshi could write, some, but even in this he fell short in his father’s eyes. His marks in penmanship were less than satisfactory, and his grammar was erratic. His teachers said he lacked focus and discipline.
Myoshi’s grandfather had known about discipline. He had understood about being different, as well. It was all in the letters. Letters written by a man who died before his own young son could bring home grades, or books of letters. Letters that were Myoshi’s father’s one link to the past. A fragile link, built of memories half-forgotten and fantasies long rehearsed. Myoshi had heard those fantasies. He had met his grandfather through his father’s words. He had seen the glint in dark eyes, and the shining leather of the uniform. Myoshi had heard the roar of engines as great birds of war took flight.
“You are just like the Gods,” Myoshi breathed, “Free of earthly desires…”
He slipped under the umbrella of tree-limbs and continued up the mountain. His father’s voice echoed through his mind. The mountain slipped away, just for a moment, replaced by white, billowing clouds. The soft cries of birds and the chirping of insects gave way to crackling static. He sensed the others, tightly formed squadron of death, moving as a single unit with the sun blazing above. Myoshi could feel the sweat beneath the flight helmet. He could sense the symmetry of the squadron’s practiced motion. One great bird. One bolt of lightning aimed at those who opposed the Emperor.
“To fly as one bolt
From the crossbow of a
A tree root protruding from the mountain’s rough hide sent Myoshi tumbling, and his mind returned to the moment. He caught himself on both hands, scraping one palm, and fighting the urge to cry out. The weight of the pack pressed him more tightly to the earth. Turning, he seated himself on a rock and caught his breath. The sun was bright, and as he looked back the way he’d come, he saw that the trail had disappeared, the winding course cutting off his entrance to the tree-line completely. Nothing below but the green tops of the trees, obscuring the forest floor, and the rocky peak above rising on a gentle slope above a second line of trees. Myoshi could just make it out, and he smiled.
From his pack, he pulled free a rice cake, and the packet of his graded school papers. Carefully, he unwrapped the bundle, plucking out the sheets one by one. He laid them on the stone beside him, tracing the even lines of his script with a critical eye. He had been doing well on this one. Line after line of formulas strung together in the proper patterns. Then the error. One figure out of place, another line used to scratch the mistake from the paper and the continuation – flawed. Beside each figure, a corresponding red character in the elegant script of his teacher. Corrected. Berated. Imperfect.
Myoshi had done well enough to pass from this class to the next, but with no honors. No fine words from teacher to parent. No pride. It had taken him hours to complete that assignment, painstakingly forming each character. He had wanted so badly to please his father that the old man’s image had formed in Myoshi’s mind. The words, and the stories, and lectures slipped in to distract.
Myoshi traced the scratched out character’s with the nail of one finger. He whispered to himself.
“You are just like gods.”
The figures mocked him. The red letters, so bright in the sunlight, glittered like the eyes of serpents. His father had not seen them. Myoshi had kept the papers, folded and tied. Bound and under his control. He could not control the characters, or the formulas, but he could control their outcome, for a time. The birds did not threaten to expose his secret, and Fuji beckoned.
Myoshi glanced at the second packet of papers. He slid his hand into his pack, stroked the silk bindings, but he did not open the letters. Not yet. He quickly packed the wrapper from the rice cake, and the school work, and rose, turning to face the mountain once again.
“Free of earthly desires,” he said softly.
Free of his family. Free of school, though it tugged at his heart. He would be a disappointment to his father this final time. Myoshi had not missed a day of school in five years. The only desire he could recall in all those years was to please his father. The most wonderful moments of his life had been spent at that great man’s feet, listening to stories of emperors, and wars. Stories of his ancestors. Stories that filled his heart and mind with dreams of other places, and other times. Times and places where he was not a clumsy young boy, but a hero. There were ways for those unworthy of honor to regain it. There were answers to the loss of pride.
The good times with his father had grown fewer and further between as Myoshi had grown older. As the piles and piles of papers, just like those in his pack, had stacked themselves against his future, and his honor, his father’s eyes had grown distant. They still saw Myoshi, but not the same Myoshi they had seen before.
Myoshi rose once more, his gaze sweeping up the winding trail to where the peak of the mountain slipped through the clouds. Eagles soared through the highest branches of the trees, circling slowly. Myoshi screened the sunlight by cupping his palm over his eyes and watched them. The brilliant light glittered on a bit of mica imbedded in the mountain, diamond glimmer nearly blinding him. Myoshi squinted, cocking his head to one side to listen.
He could hear his father’s voice as the mountain faded. Could sense the shift, and welcomed it.
“We watched from the decks as the pilots swarmed to the sky, a black horde, synchronized and dangerous. It was not our time. We were too far from the enemy, and these would return, but they were majestic in flight.
“I remember standing very still on the flight deck, watching them shrink to fly-specks on the horizon, and knowing, when it was my time, that speck would be me. Shrinking to nothing. Here, and then, no more, a bright spark in the Emperor’s eyes – a memory in my family’s heart. Just like the Gods.”
With his eyes squinted so tightly, Myoshi saw the aircraft shimmering against a darkened sky, saw them bank and circle against the clouds. Saw them focus. Eagles. Eagles were like the Gods, as well, but a different sort of God.
Myoshi picked up his things and started up the mountain once more, suddenly eager for completion. He could feel the wind on the wings of the eagles, and that same wind shivering through his hair.
There were not many letters. Myoshi’s grandfather had not served for years in the military, or even for a year. Months, only, and he had never returned. He had not been a precision pilot, nor had he been blessed with the blood of the Samurai. Still, he had soared.
Myoshi had read those letters again and again. He had begged his father’s indulgence to allow him to watch over them. To guard them. He had seen in his father’s eyes the struggle this had been, but those words, those images, were ingrained in his father’s mind. That great man no longer required the letters, and so they had passed to Myoshi, who had cherished them as no other possession.
His grandfather’s penmanship had never faltered. There were no red characters or strike-outs. There were clear thoughts, worded in poetry stretched to prose without loss of continuity. It was his grandfather’s words that inspired Myoshi’s own writing, unworthy as it was. It was the images of his grandfather’s death that stole those words, and distracted him from his own honor. His teacher said his mind wandered. Myoshi knew it soared.
The trees had begun to thin. All that stood between Myoshi and his goal was a ragged backbone of rock. Far above him, farther than he could have climbed in such a short time, patches of snow were visible. The air was noticeably cooler, and Myoshi was glad, very suddenly, that his mother had insisted on the sweater he wore, though it had been too hot less than an hour before.
“The higher you go,” Myoshi’s father’s voice, “the colder it gets. The harder it is to breathe. It is always dark. We don’t fly by day, and those few of us who get to practice at all are very sparing with our fuel. We are not trained to fire at the enemy. We are barely trained to land. It is not expected of us.
“We study the great maps daily. We listen to the inspirational words of our leaders. I have meditated more this span of two weeks, my son, than I have in the last two years of my life. Things I have never thought of become clear. Your mother. Your face, watching over me in my dreams.
“My face reflected
Bright smile, shining eyes, dark
Like the twilit sky.”
Myoshi’s eyes were dark, as were his father’s. He knew that he resembled both men, third generation to bear that visage, first to fail. There would be no medals hanging on the walls of Myoshi’s home. Not unless he inherited them. He would not write wondrous letters to a son yet unborn, telling tales of glory, and darkness, blood and fire.
He stopped again, shielding his eyes and glancing up toward the mountain’s peak. The eagles had roosted, leaving the sun to beat down on a desolate slope. Myoshi planned to be across the ridge and safely on the plateau on the far side before the afternoon sunlight waned. He considered stopping for another snack, but there wasn’t much shade until he crossed, and he wanted to reach the ledge with enough light for reading.
Not that he needed light. Not that every word in every letter wasn’t ingrained in his imagination, every image fully formed and captivating. He stepped out onto the bare stone. The wind whipped up and nearly toppled him from his precarious perch, no longer blocked by the trees. Myoshi fought for his balance, regained it, and took a quick step forward, then another. It was easier once he was moving, and he concentrated on the stone at his feet.
Myoshi did not want to think about the side of the mountain, or the lava fields, obscured by the forest below. He dislodged a tiny avalanche of dust and stone and stopped, waiting for his heart to grow still.
Myoshi thought of Cherry blossoms. His grandfather had often mentioned them, as had his father. One of the other pilots, younger even than Myoshi’s grandfather, had written a poem that Myoshi loved. The haiku, so simple, so profound and complete in that simplicity.
“If only we might fall
Like Cherry blossoms in the spring
So pure and radiant.”
Myoshi contemplated the mountain. The distance to the base. The remaining climb. There were no cherry trees on the mountain, and somehow, he was glad. He didn’t want to think about the ground littered with their petals. He didn’t want to walk over so many great souls.
As the sun warmed his back, and the wind chilled his face, Myoshi climbed.
* * *
The sun dropped fast beyond the horizon, and Myoshi leaned in close, trying to catch enough of the dying light to finish the letter. It was the last of them. Eight, carefully penned slices of life; all that remained of Myoshi’s grandfather. When he had read the last familiar word, he carefully folded the paper, painstakingly matching the folds and tying the ribbon as it had been reverently. Myoshi tucked the bundle under his shirt, close to his heart.
Next he pulled free a single sheet of blank paper, and his pen. It was getting more difficult to see, but it would not matter. There would be no red glaring characters to mar this piece. Nothing to correct. No figures, only a promise. A single promise.
Myoshi wrote slowly as his mind wandered, for once allowing the words to be absolutely his own. He didn’t watch the paper. It was getting too dark for that. He had to depend on his instincts and luck. He knew his teachers would not approve, but for once, he was beyond that as well. He was not writing a lesson. He was writing a history. He was encapsulating his life.
“Since I was very young,” he began, “sitting at your knee, my father, and listening to your stories of grandfather, I have loved the cherry blossom. I read the haiku, and in my dreams, the blossoms grew to men. In the words of those who died gloriously, taking the paths of falling stars to the hearts of their enemies, I found dreams. As I failed in my life, they gave me hope.”
The mountain faded around him as shadows lengthened. The moon had yet to rise, but only the last rose-tinted hints of the sun licked the skyline. Stars glittered like diamonds. Like petals. So many petals.
Myoshi continued to write, but his mind closed out the reality of mountain and paper, the pen slid silently, marking the trail of his thoughts, but not carefully. Not with the painstakingly rigid strokes of the school, now empty and silent, like the mountain. Not with the measured rhythm of his grandfather’s even script. With Myoshi’s heart. He penned each character as it felt, and he paid no more attention to it than he did to the breeze. He mouthed his grandfather’s words and shivered.
“The air was cold on deck. We were allowed only minimal equipment. Nothing, really, to prepare for the weather. If we grew ill, we would find our release. If we were cold, we had but to think fo the flame, and the glory to come. Each brow was covered with a single strip of cloth, white, with the rising son emblazoned.
“I remember last night. I went, alone, to the flight deck. The Oka – cherry blossom – stood before me, silent and empty. I tried to picture the skies, the enemy, the waves. I saw a coffin. I saw an end, and a beginning, etched in flame. My heartbeat quickened, fanned like a flame by the wind as it whipped across that dark, empty deck. I stood there a very long time, and when I returned to my bed, I could not sleep. Instead, I turned to the pen, and the paper, wanting you to share the moment.
“Waves lapped gently at the sides of the ship, rocking us like babes in the arms of our mothers. It is the last night we will spend in the arms of any mother, cradled by the earth. I want to sleep and let it slip away. I want to awaken to that last day as I had so many others. I know I will not. I cannot sleep.
“Now the sun is rising, and my hand shakes as I hold the pen; my heart races. The others have tossed and turned all around me. None found the peace of deep sleep, and those who did sleep are round-eyed with visions and final dreams.
“I will close this now, so that I may seal it and put it in the Commander’s hand. He will see that you get this letter, and the others. Tonight, I die, but part of me lives on. I have a sun, and I am blessed.
“I remember the words of Admiral Ohnishi, by whose grace I have this chance to die so well.
‘In blossom today, then scattered,
Life is so like a delicate flower.
How can one expect the fragrance
To last forever?’
“May I honor you. May I honor our Emperor. May the gods embrace me.
Myoshi’s pen did not stop scratching at the paper as his grandfather’s words ended. He could feel the deck swaying beneath his feet. He wrote on until the paper was filled, and turned, and filled on the opposite side as well before he set it aside, unsigned. Only the weight of the pen held the paper in place against the stone, and the edges flapped in the breeze, like the wings of a great moth, reaching into the moonlight.
The takeoff was rougher than usual. The waves had risen higher, and the deck slanted one way, then the other, great sweeping rolls that skewed the skyline and stole one’s balance. Myoshi blinked, the strobe effect easing his nausea. A thousand butterflies had risen to flight in his breast, and his hands shook like those of an old man.
All around him the roar of engines. Each coughing to life, sputtering drowsily then roaring with barely contained life. Life. That is what pulsed through Myoshi’s veins, pounding so loudly he thought of the surf, and the ocean. The air was cool, but he felt a fiery heat building, felt the glorious binding of man to machine to air as they launched.
The air whipped against his face, and he felt the exhileration, the pure joy of release as the deck/earth/world slipped away. His breath was stolen, and though he fought against that breathlessness, he could not quite force the words past his lips.
Myoshi’s body tumbled, falling freely from the ledge of stone, arcing out from the stone and whirling, head over feet over head again and crashing through the upper branches of the ocean of trees, swallowed whole by the ancient, silent forest.
Far above, the clouds opened for one second, and the silhouette of a single plane was outlined – then gone.
* * *
A group of teenage boys, on a hike, came across bones, picked clean and whitened by the sunlight, slipping through the trees. They turned in horror, ready to bolt, but one stopped.
A packet of papers, mildewed and rotting, lay to one side. It was bound by a single ribbon of silk. Forcing his eyes from the bones, the boy reached out and grabbed the packet.
They ran. It wasn’t until much later that the papers were carefully opened. Most were very old, but a single page of newer script was tied atop the pile. On it, this verse.
“White blossom, broken
stained petal, crimson, gliding
Lost in the moonlight”
FOR A LIMITED TIME – all four books for only .99 – time to fall in love with a new series!
Donovan DeChance is a collector of ancient manuscripts and books, a practicing mage, and a private investigator. This Omnibus Collection includes books I, II, III, and IV of the series. Included are Heart of a Dragon, Vintage Soul, My Soul to Keep (The Origin story of Donovan DeChance) and Kali’s Tale – book IV of the series. Also included are the bonus novellas “The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs & The Currently Accepted Habits of Nature,” and “The Preacher’s Marsh,” both of which provide background on settings and characters that appear in Kali’s Tale. If you enjoy this book, you should read Nevermore, A Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe, which follows on Kali’s Tale, has a cameo from Donovan DeChance, and leads into Book V – A Midnight Dreary, currently in progress.
Heart of a Dragon: When a local houngan begins meddling with powers she may not be able to control, a turf war breaks out between the Dragons motorcycle club and the Los Escorpiones street gang—a war that threatens to open portals between worlds and destroy the city in the process. With his lover, Amethyst, his familiar, Cleo – an Egyptian Mau the size of a small bobcat –the dubious aid of a Mexican sorcerer named Martinez and the budding gifts of a young artist named Salvatore, DeChance begins a race against time, magic, and almost certain death.
Vintage Soul: When, despite the finest in natural and supernatural security, a sexy and well-loved, three hundred year old lady vampire is kidnapped right out from under her lover’s nose, Donovan is called in to investigate. There will be no ransom for the kidnap victim, and if Donovan doesn’t prevent an ancient, forbidden ritual from reaching its culmination, far more than a single vampire’s undead existence will be at stake.
My Soul to Keep: Donovan DeChance is a very private man, and he is in love. When he invites his partner and lover, Amethyst, for a quiet dinner, she has no idea of his true intention. Donovan has planned a sharing – a vision that will give her the keys to his early life – the origins of his power – and a lot more than she bargained for. Join young Donovan as he fights to keep his soul, save a town, and learn the roots of his teacher and guardian – and meet his familiar, Cleo.
Kali’s Tale: When Donovan is asked to follow in secret as a hot-headed group of young vampires set out on a ‘blood quest’ to kill the ancient who created the young vampire Kali against her will, he learns that – as usual – there is a lot more to the story than meets the eye. Through the juke joints of Beale Street in Memphis, to the depths of The Great Dismal Swamp, Donovan and his lover and partner, Amethyst, find themselves drawn along on one of the strangest quests in their long, enigmatic lives as they delve into the world of the undead, the magic of The Blues, and the very heart of alchemy both to protect their young, vampiric charges – and to prevent an ancient evil from destroying the balance of power in the universe.
This novel directly crosses over to the original series O.C.L.T. – where Donovan is a sometimes consultant. It features appearances by Geoffrey Bullfinch and Rebecca York, O.C.L.T. agents, as well as Old Mill, North Carolina’s own Cletus J. Diggs.
I bought a lot of old photos in a basket at the auction, and I’ve scanned most of them. They are below in this post. A few have names /etc. on them and I’ll post those as well…some have things on the back hard to read… any help, appreciated. My hope is a: to find the families who might be working on family trees… the second is to figure out some of the places and people and things… of particular interest is the boardwalk scene (where?) the man with guitar and banjo … and the tennis player… the back of the tennis shot says Forest Hills – 1921 and then the names Tilden & Shmidgne (the second I’m not sure of). I love stuff like this. I’m nearly certain this must be a photo of William Tilden – a famous US Tennis player.
NOW THAT THE BIRD HAS YOUR ATTENTION… Listen up.
First off – I wish theoretically honest, up-front bloggers and journalists who don’t use Amazon as a publishing platform or – in most cases – even write books – would quit splashing alarmist headlines all over the net ‘explaining’ how Amazon is now going to give your work away for free and it’s the end of books. I’m going to use bullet points and make this as quick and clear as I can.
1) The new payment plan Amazon just unveiled does not affect your books that are available for “sale” on Amazon at all. It only affects books that have been published exclusively on Amazon as part of their Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited Plans, and of those books, only the Kindle Unlimited books. Any book that is just “bought” on Amazon is being paid exactly as it always was.
2) An upfront note. It is a bad idea for most books to publish them exclusively on Amazon, and the Kindle Select program is only a good idea if you have a title that has proven itself to sell very well on Amazon and not so well anywhere else. Out of the 1200 titles we currently have at Crossroad Press – we have maybe 8 in those programs. Even those that ARE part of the program still generate a lot of sales each month, and those sales are paid at the same royalty rate they have always been. Only when someone who has paid for a Kindle Unlimited Subscription “borrows” the book does the new plan come into affect.
3) The plan itself: If someone borrows your book, they have a particular amount of time to read it. Amazon will monitor whether they actually read all of it, or part of it, and pay you for the number of pages (determined by a pretty generous algorithm, I can add, because I know that a book we published that was 500 pages in print has figured to 815 pages in their formula) that are read. There is a pot of money – just like there has always been for Kindle Unlimited – but instead of paying you each time someone borrows your book, they are paying you for the number of pages read each time someone borrows your book.
4) The purpose is to stop scammers who have been gaming this system. Everyone is upset that they think their share will drop, but honestly, a huge number of the borrows up to now have been people cheating you out of your money. They upload a ten page pamphlet – or ten of them – and then have 100 friends borrow it – while they do the same for those 100 friends. Every time that ten page pamphlet is borrowed, it gets the same share as a 500 page book by a talented author. Also, there are tons of very short stories of questionable quality being uploaded just because numbers count in this game. If you – instead of an 80-100k word book – write ten 1500 word stories – you can get an equal share every time one of those stories is borrowed – or you could. Now, you can still write them, but your share will be proportionate to the words and effort invested.
5) Quality of the offerings being borrowed is going to improve. Good writers aren’t worried about people borrowing their books and quitting on page five. People paying a subscription price are going to READ the books they borrow to get their money’s worth. This system is better in every way than the previous system. It is not Amazon trying to cheat authors, it’s Amazon protecting authors from people trying to cheat the system. Don’t get me wrong, I think Amazon is out for Amazon, but they aren’t – in this case anyway – doing it at your expense.
6) Most important thing. The Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited programs are not right for most books. As I stated above, only about 8 of our 1200 titles are in these programs. They are there because they have consistently sold above average numbers on Amazon, whlie selling next to nothing anywhere else. MOST books do not benefit from losing Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google, Kobo and all the other possible outlets. IF YOUR BOOK IS NOT REGISTERED IN THE PROGRAMS THIS CHANGE MEANS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO YOU. NOTHING. ZILCH. That is the most important thing. I’ve seen articles all over the net in theoretically trusted outlets and found that – without really checking their sources, they’ve cut a few lines from Amazons announcement and not applied them to the bigger picture – then splashed click-bait headlines all over about how Amazon is now only going to pay you a tiny amount per page – as if that was all of Amazon and not a single, exclusive program that you have to opt into to even be involved in.
I hope this helps clear some of the clouds from this issue… and I hope that – if you read this – you will think twice before sharing or retweeting one of the misleading and misinformed articles prophesizing the end of books because of this policy. No one has even been paid under the new policy and already everyone is depressed, giving up writing, etc… I suggest you spend less time on blogs and FB and more time writing – it’s easier on your heart and mind.
My novel Sins of the Flash is included in a very cool deal over at Storybundle.com starting today. I love these bundles…you pay what you want to pay and get six books, meet a bargain price for the lot and get five more. It’s also very cool to be included along with authors I love and respect, like Clive Barker – who’s novel Cabal is in the bundle, David Morrell, who is in with The Brotherhood of the Rose as well as friends and colleagues I’ve known and worked with most of the twenty-five plus years of my career, Ed Gorman, Tom Piccirilli, Bill Pronzini, Steven Savile (who is the curator and creator of this collection that he calls MEAN STREETS).
There are some authors in the bundle I’ll be checking out myself for the first time – Maynard Sims, Tony Black, Sean Black, and Stephen Gallagher. All of these books have a theme – something that ties them together. Dark Streets. Alienated characters – black-hearted villains and questionable heroes. This is a bundle of books where crime noir meets horror – where mystery meets deeper shadow.
The Titles included are: Serpents Kiss by Ed Gorman, Falling Apart at the Edges, by Maynard Sims, Carmody’s Run, by Bill Pronzini, Laughing Boy’s Shadow¸ by Steven Savile (one of my favorite novels ever), Truth Lies Bleeding, by Tony Black, Cabal, by Clive Barker, The Innocent, by Sean Black, Down River, by Stephen Gallagher, Nightjack, by Tom Piccirilli (complex and absolutely brilliant), and The Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell.
My own novel, one of my favorite, has several distinctions. It has one of my most amazing covers, courtesy of Mr. Harry O. Morris. It was scheduled for publication by no less than three companies, all of which imploded, or ended up not publishing it. Eventually, it found a home at my own Crossroad Press. Sins of the Flash is the first novel-length appearances of detective Tommy Doyle, who also appeared in the short story “Burning Bridges,” in the anthology All Hell Breaking Loose. Tommy comes from a family of police officers, most of whom either died badly, or spent their time chasing very strange crimes.
This novel features Christian Greve – a photographer who believes he has the talent to be world-famous, but who also believes his models have been sabotaging him by subtle shifts in their posture, or changes of expression. It drives him – slowly – crazy. Christian’s search for perfection leads him down some strange, dark streets, and it’s up to Tommy, and his partner “Big “Mac” Markum, to follow and stop him before the body count gets too high – and too personal.
This is a very dark novel. It was written out at sea, on board the USS Guadalcanal. Several of the characters are named for shipmates of mine – maybe they’ll see this deal and pick up a copy after all these years… This mystery is also set in my fictional town of San Valencez, Califonia, where so many of my novels have started, or ended… It’s one of my favorites, and I hope you’ll pick it up – along with all the others – and settle in to read. If you do – and you like what you read in my book or any of the others, please take the time to stop by Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads.com and leave a rating or a review. In this modern world of self-marketing and social media promotion – feedback from fans and readers is the only weapon an author possesses, unless he’s rich.
Along with all the wonderful books, these bundles support some very worthy charities. A percentage of all income goes to Mighty Writers, Girls Write Now and Special Effect – what these people do:
SpecialEffect are putting fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with disabilities by helping them to play video games. By using technology ranging from modified games controllers to eye-control, they’re finding a way for people to play to the very best of their abilities. But they’re not just doing it for fun. By levelling the playing field, they’re bringing families and friends together and having a profoundly positive impact on therapy, confidence and rehabilitation.
Girls Write Now helps mentor girls so they can develop writing skills, leading to a more successful future no matter what path they decide to choose.
Distinguished as one of the top 15 after-school arts and culture programs in the nation by The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Girls Write Now is New York’s first and only organization with a writing and mentoring model exclusively for girls. From young women exploring writing to seasoned professionals practicing their craft every day, GWN is a community of women writers dedicated to providing guidance, support, and opportunities for high school girls to develop their creative, independent voices and write their way to a better future.
Over the past 15 years, more than 4,500 underserved teen girls have benefitted from the GWN community and 100% of seniors in our flagship mentoring program go on to college—bringing with them portfolios, awards, scholarships, new skills, and a sense of confidence. Girls Write Now has built a record of achievement and innovation recognized twice by the White House, by The New York Times, and the MacArthur Foundation, and evidenced by the hundreds of Scholastic Art & Writing awards our girls have earned.
Over on Twitter, author Chuck Wendig laid down a challenge (through his blog) to use a random cocktail generator, take the drink that was offered, and write a story (no more than 1000 words) post it in your own space and then link to it in his comments. I got… The Walk Me Down. The recipe for this drink is at the bottom of the story…seems sort of appropriate, I think, on a St. Patrick’s Day… Enjoy.
Walk Me Down
By David Niall Wilson
The bar on the corner used to be run by Sean Macklemore. He was a ruddy, red-faced Irish guy with a big silver tooth front-top-center of his smile. He and Pop had known one another longer than I’d been alive-that bar was my Pop’s second home.
Every morning I walked the two miles to school. Pop worked in the match factory halfway there. Every morning we’d get up and have our breakfast. Pop would read his paper, and I’d shuffle through homework, or scan a comic book while scooping oatmeal and eggs into my mouth. When the paper was read, and his cup was empty, it was time to go, and it didn’t matter if I’d finished eating, or forgotten to put on a shirt. “Come on boy,” he’d say. “Let me walk you down…”
We walked together every day for all the years I was in school, and the first ten that I worked with him at the factory. That’s where I ended up. That’s where we all ended up, those in the neighborhood who didn’t escape straight out of high school into the army, or, for the privileged few, to college. There wasn’t much happening in Random, Illinois in those days.
Then, one day on the line, Pop turned to the man next to him and said something incomprehensible, and keeled over flat on the floor. Turns out he had a bum ticker, sticking and clicking off beat like a confused phonograph needle.
He was never the same, and he never went back to the factory. He still loved that bar, though, and Sean – who had retired and passed the business on to his son, Seamus. He and Pop were like local royalty in that corner booth, but without any subjects.
Every day I walked to the factory, and on the way, after my coffee and the paper. I’d call to Pop, it was our joke – one of the only things that could make him smile, no matter what. I’d say, “Come on, Pop, I’ll walk you down…” Just like he said to me all those years.
The factory got a little seedy. Half the workers were let go. Pop and Sean went on about it – talked about the glory days, the safety regulations that were supposed to be in place, and weren’t. I sipped my whiskey and took it in, but I counted myself lucky I hadn’t been cut with so many others. I still had a job. It paid the bills, and one of those was the bar tab at Macklemore’s…
One night, three whiskeys in, I heard a story I hadn’t heard before. Sean started talking about the factory. I’d sort of wondered why he cared. Pop worked there, but Sean just served drinks. That’s what I thought.
The Macklemore’s had lived in Random for generations, and what I hadn’t known was that Sean’s brother, Liam, was part owner of the factory. The two had gone down different roads after high school. Now Liam had died, and Sean found himself part owner of a sinking ship.
Pop had plenty to say too. No one listened to either of them. Except me. The whole thing got me thinking. Safety regulations were being ignored. The building was declining, and the workers were being let go, one after another as business dwindled. The city – Pop – Macklemore’s – my life. All headed down the crapper like they were stuffed there with some sort of cosmic plunger.
Except, I had this idea. As ideas go, it probably wasn’t too original, but hey. You go with what life gives you. Life gave me Pop, a dead end job, and a friend named Seamus with a dad named Sean. He gave us whiskey. It all gave me that idea I mentioned.
One night I left the bar late. Pop was three sheets in – so was Sean. I left a note for Seamus telling him I’d be back for Pop. Had some things to take care of.
There wasn’t much security at the factory by night. No one broke in – everyone there was looking for a way out. I made it to the storeroom undetected. I’d thought it through. Faulty wiring. A factory full of wooden matches. Sean and Seamus would collect on the insurance, and Pop and I would hang on like leeches for the ride. Maybe I’d learn to tend bar.
Except… Pop and Seamus followed me. They’d had a lot to drink. Too much. They slipped by me in the dark, and if one of them hadn’t tripped and banged into a door, I wouldn’t have known they were there at all. Maybe they didn’t see me either.
I was already on my way out, and those two crazy old bastards were heading into the storeroom. I never found out why. I started back after them, but it was way too late. Smoke came billowing so fast and thick I could barely breath.
I got out alive, and I got back home. I washed and changed clothes, and I headed back to the bar – like I was coming after Pop. All I could think was that the whiskey they’d polished off must have gone up like gasoline – cooked them quick from the inside. Never even heard a scream.
Me and Seamus, we take turns tending the bar now. We don’t talk about the factory, or our Pops. Don’t talk much at all, truth be told. I listen to people tell me their problems, how the town is dying – how the world is going to hell…
That’s another place I think about. I’m getting older…my time will come soon enough. I expect, when it does, I’ll see Pop standin’ there in front of me… He’ll say, “Come on boy,” and I’ll follow. It will be hot, like the factory- like all the matches in creation. He’ll say… “Let me walk you down…”
WALK ME DOWN
1/2 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Triple sec
1/2 oz Rum
1/2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Tequila
1 oz Sour mix
1/2 oz Blue Curacao
Add the shots, 1/2 shots for the ladies. Over ice is best.Mix well.
I’ve been watching something pretty closely, and I just wanted to clarify it here so people are aware. Amazon.com has their top 100 paid books list – their version of bestsellers – but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s any kind of a level playing field.
A while back, Amazon changed things so that free books no longer compete with paid books on the bestseller list. Two separate lists. This is why I tell people, making your book free probably won’t help it’s sales. First, it makes it no more likely to be noticed than it was before, and second, even if you become the #1 bestselling free book on Amazon, the minute you put a price on your book, that ranking disappears and you are starting over with paid sales.
Now there are new things. In the top ten of Amazon’s paid bestseller list you will find four titles currently filling slots that are #1 in multiple categories. These books are not even published yet, officially. However, there is the Kindle First Program, and there is Amazon Prime. Combining those two, you can buy these pre-release books for a price of… nothing … if you are a prime member. Free brand new books. All four titles are also published by Amazon imprints where (as we all know) they will be promoted in ways and to quantities of Kindle readers almost nothing else can match… In other words, your book is competing against brand new pre-release free books being published by the people compiling the list. You can see that this is a problem… four of the top ten slots are being gamed by the publisher and retailer, using free sales they semantically report as paid sales – and I’m not telling you this because we should rise up and stop them – it’s their store. I just want you to be aware. You are probably NOT going to make that top ten list. In the image above, two of the three top books today are Amazon books that are pre-orders and Kindle First.
Crossroad Press recently had a book sell over 3500 copies in a day and it made it to #12. That was with a price drop and a great third party promotion (that was not cheap). Consider that to GET that promotion, the book already had to have a great cover, good reviews, etc… and you can see another “gaming” piece fall into place. If you can sell thousands of free pre-orders and they count as paid sales…those buyers can also leave reviews. That means, those books will be eligible for bigger promotions from other sites right out of the gate, and not because they are better books, but because Amazon has promoted them through the roof.
So next time you wonder how in the heck some of those books got there and stay there, remember this article. Currently four books by authors I’ve never heard of are kicking butt on Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, and James Patterson (who doesn’t actually write books, but has his name on a lot of best-selling ones) … and if those folks aren’t in the top ten, the rest of us can start figuring our odds using negative numbers.
Katie and I have been slowly ammassing quite the little fossil / geode museum. Thought I’d collect the pictures in one place… her Megadolon tooth is over 5.5″ – huge. We have a Masotdon tusk and two Auryx horns…a turkey platter sized trilobite, a set of masodon teeth..a mosasaur tooth…lots more.
Meet my series character Donovan Dechance in the first of his adventures. Motorcycles, leather jackets, a young artist with an amazing ability – voodoo – and of course… DRAGONS. Pass this link on. Spend some time reading… This is a chance to try this new series at no cost…