Mind Fields: Interview With A Fish

Insight Into a Writer’s World

 A note from Arthur Rosch:

One day I was passing the fish tanks in a large pet store. I hadn’t intended to buy a fish. The idea was absurd, as we were then planning to move into an RV. Nothing stays put during the driving portion of RV adventures. An aquarium would be a disaster. Now that we’re hardened RV hipsters, we understand the uses of Gorilla tape, bungees and slip-loks. We can, to a degree, securely fasten doors, closets, cabinets, drawers, small children and  demented adults. In the early days any sudden turn would bring all the silverware out to bury itself in the faux wood paneling.  

A fish swam up to the glass and fastened its eyes upon me. It was a thumb-sized cichlid with iridescent stipples of blue and red. It was stunningly gorgeous.

“Hey,” said the fish. “I’m for you. Get me out of here.”

I tried to ignore the creature but it kept pace with me the length of the aquarium. Other fish got out of its way as if it were a predatory monster. 

“I’m serious,” said the fish. “They don’t obey my orders in here. They don’t know who I am. What am I supposed to do with an undisciplined rabble like this?” Its eyes almost crossed with contempt. “Angel fish? Mollies, guppies, goldfish? Star fish! I have only one good thing to say about star fish. They don ‘t drop their weapons and run when the fighting gets hot.”

 I had to stop. The fish and I squared off and looked deep into one another’s eyes. 

 “General?” I inquired. “General Stonewall Jackson?”

“I know,” he replied. “This is embarrassing. I was a Presbyterian.”

That was how I acquired The General. He liked people. He hated fish. He ate the female cichlid we introduced into his tank. 
         

We rigged a special travel bowl that hung from a hook on the motor coach’s ceiling. No matter how we bounced and yawed, the nylon sling that held the bowl kept the General’s water nice and placid. When we planned to stay somewhere for a while, we bought ten gallons of bottled water, heated it to the proper temperature and put The General in his aquarium. It was a major pain in the ass.

End of  note. Begin interview.

General Cichlid: Mr. Rosch, you’ve maintained a literary career of extraordinary purity. You sold a story to Playboy Magazine in the late 70’s. It won a prestigious award. The online magazine Exquisite Corpse published two of your satirical pieces. Aside from fleeting brushes with notoriety, you’ve barely sold or published anything at all. In fact, I believe no one besides your partner and your household pets has ever read your most important work. 

Arthur Rosch: First of all, please call me Arthur.This formality is silly. You are one of the household pets who has read my work. In fact, you’ve read more of my work than anyone besides my partner.

General: Yes, thanks for setting up that music stand and turning the pages. You’re a patient man.

Rosch: Fox did most of the page turning.  You know how she is.  Anything for a reader.

General: Let’s get back to the uncompromising nature of your written work.

Rosch: It’s easy to have integrity when you’re not getting paid.  The lack of pay is a great motivator.  There’s always the looming possibility of posthumous fame.  I don’t worry about it too much.  I’m fairly certain I’ll be forgotten long before the quality of my writing is recognized. I’m content to leave my work for my posterior.

General: You don’t find this obscurity frustrating?

Rosch: Not at all. If I became a successful writer, I would have to behave like one. I would have to increase my medications. I would have photos taken of me with my chin on my fist. I would have to travel on airplanes. Who wants to do that?

Further Author’s Note:

As you can discern, The General was a remarkable fish. The preceding fantasy is half true. One story about The General that is completely true involves an amazing leap of faith, an awesome feat of piscatory prowess.

One day I was cleaning my friend’s aquarium. I had prepared a large bowl with about three gallons of his water, and set him to swimming in it while I poured out the rest of the water and cleaned the gunk off the glass and out of the filters. The General wasn’t thrilled about this; he slapped the surface of the water with his tail and darted in angry circles. Before meeting The General I had never conceived that fish could have such elaborate personalities. Now I know better. Animals, all of the creatures on this planet, need to be taken seriously. Fish, fowl, mammal, invertebrate, they are all conscious, each with unique complexity. The General was a lesson.

Having cleaned the rocks, the castle, the toy soldiers, (Yankee and Confederate) and the pumps and filters, I put the aquarium back on the table. I went through the procedure of getting fresh water to the correct temperature and began filling the tank. The General was in the big bowl, about four feet away on a dining table. I was going to net him and transfer him back to the aquarium. Then I would gently pour the water in the bowl back into the tank until it was topped off. 

I approached the table with the net in my hand. I was about to chase The General around the bowl until I had him in the little rectangle of green mesh. He saved me the trouble. With an explosive leap, the fish flew through the air to make a perfect dive into the aquarium. Sploosh!!


Let me make this completely clear. A fish the size of my thumb flew a perfectly accurate arc that must have been at least twenty feet in total extent. If he had missed he probably would have died.
         

I will assume that the General was taking no more risks regarding demise by friendly fire.

This, I swear, is completely true.

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Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at www.artrosch.com

Photos at https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

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Bowlesian! – Detective Robot and the Murderous Spacetime Schism

Detective Robot and the Murderous Spacetime Schism

by Jeff Bowles

We found victim one face down in a giant vat of beer. Red beer, frothy, churning and roiling in blood. Not precisely the best brew of the batch, I knew, but I couldn’t help wonder what it might taste like on a mechanical tongue.

“Detective Robot,” said Officer Allen, a short, stocky, often uncharitable young fellow who always seemed to smell of cooked sausage. “I can’t believe they called you out for this.”

I formed my golden jointed lips into a pleasant smile. “Why wouldn’t they have called? Rain or shine, we always get our man.”

My partner and fellow investigation consultant, Gorilla Todd, beat his big furry chest and pulled his lips back over his teeth.

“Step back, beat cop,” he said in his deep, gruff voice. “Let the man work.”

Gorilla Todd was five hundred pounds of hyper-intelligent simian. He was a post-nuclear, neuro-enhanced military lab experiment, lots of those wandering Grim Land. Bit of a bruiser, to be sure, but an honest and a loyal one.

“Thank you, Gorilla,” I said. “Officer Allen, must we really?”

Allen snorted. “Boy oh boy, you fellas need to learn your place. Are we still short-staffed on actual detectives? What’d you do to get the call on this? Grease a few palms? Robots run on grease, don’t they?”

Point of fact, we run on million-core supra-processors the size of toenail trimmings. But I wouldn’t expect a technologic druid like Allen to know the difference. We got the call because the Chief appreciated our work and professionalism. She requested us by name; the place was ours for the next few hours.

“Why a fusion brewery?” I said, taking in our surroundings.

“People don’t die in fusion breweries?” asked Allen.

“Usually not fashion models, no,” said Gorilla. “Not in the middle of the night.”

“And certainly not old women dressed up like them,” I said.

Allen blanched at this.

“Old women,” he said, scratching his head as he turned to face the vat. “Holy cow! She’s gone all pruney in the lager.”

“Ale,” I said. “Shall you fetch the net or shall I?”

* * * * *

Fusion brewing, popularized at the dawn of the last nuclear holocaust, involves the high-speed collision of plutonium-rich barley nuclei with the nuclei of hops machine grown in the atomic soils found in the ancient ruins of Hackensack, New Jersey. The resulting photonic explosion produces a bubbly, effervescent ale, light on the tongue, but with just enough zing to potentially threaten male fertility (as all nuclear beverages should).

Zippy Beer, or rather, Zippy Beer’s northeast production plant, did seem a rather strange place for homicide. Zippy was known throughout Grim Land as the safest, most environmentally conscious nuclear beer on the market. Fifty years without a tainted batch, their ocu-tisements often declared. Fusion belchers spat florid ale, sluicing through sloshers, roaring down pipeways, collecting and aging in anti-grav refrigeration closets.

I studied Allen carefully. He looked tired and overworked.

“I swear to God, she was young when I found her,” he said.

“Sure she was,” Gorilla Todd chuckled. “Makes all the sense in the world. Hey, mac, you been smokin’ them funny cigarettes?”

I tapped my chin with platinum fingers and examined the poor old dead dear. We’d pulled her from the vat and sprawled her out on the tiled factory floor. I searched and picked at her with the robo-pincers I used for toes.

“You’re having us on, aren’t you Officer Allen?” I said. “You see that high, high ceiling all those many meters up above? See how there’s no skywalk, no roof access?”

“Yeah?” said Allen.

“Now do you see this is the last vat in the line? Eleven vats down that way, but here, just the one. No ladder, either. Do you see?”

Gorilla Todd jumped to his feet and waved an arm over his head. “I know this one, robot! I know it!”

I nodded at him agreeably and opened up my chest slot with a bleep, bleep, bleep, CLACK. A high-protean banana cube flopped out and jiggled on the factory floor like jelly. All five-hundred pounds of Todd landed on it and gobbled.

“She materialized in the beer,” he said, smacking his lips. “And she aged on the spot. Some kind of schismatic time disruption, I think.”

“Very good, Gorilla,” I said. “You see, Officer Allen, once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the—”

A hole tore open in the air above us. It went Riiiip, and then it stretched itself wide in a kaleidoscopic clash of colors and voices. Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States, fell through and landed on Officer Allen with a heavy thud.

Gorilla Todd shouted, “Holy cannoli! Who is that?”

“It’s Abraham Lincoln,” I said. “And he’s been shot!”

I checked my tertiary memory banks to be sure. The beard, the hat, it was Lincoln, all right. Bullet wound in the back of the head. He wasn’t dead yet. Eyes fluttering, gasping, but not dead yet. He’d arrived only moments after his famous assassination. Remarkable. His body aged on the spot, grew older by the second. Wrinkles, thinning skin, hair gone long, gray, brittle.

Allen wheezed like strangled bagpipes. He gave a final stifled groan, then he lay his head back, twitched, and went limp. I rushed over and checked him for a pulse.

“He’s dead, Gorilla,” I said. “The Great Emancipator snapped his neck.”

“Hmph. Don’t look too great to me.”

“Granted, though I’m certain he’s not at his best. Struck down by a cowardly actor. That’s democracy for you. What precisely are we dealing with, Gorilla?”

“Black magic?” said Todd.

“Doubtful.”

“Sinister Martian technology?”

“Highly unlikely, though you earn top marks for making me chuckle. No, Todd, our suspect resembles nothing so much as thin air.”

“What do you mean?”

I walked over to another vat and kicked at the release valve until golden nuclear beer gushed out and sprayed my feet. Bending low under the faucet, I proceeding to fill my robot super stomach with hoppy ale.

My jointed fingers tapped a supple syncopated rhythm on my forehead. Performed a million mental processes. A million plus fifty. The span of a single human heartbeat.

“Eureka!” I exclaimed. “The cause of the murderous spacetime schism is—”

Rather out of the blue, a naked caveman came screaming at us from the shadows. He shouted, “Gooba! Blabba!” and then proceeded to club me over the head with a tree branch.

“Ouch!” I shouted. “Help me, Todd, you great galoot!”

Gorilla Todd ripped the branch away and roared a mighty challenge. The caveman roared back. His skin rippled with flash wrinkles, hair going brittle and gray, just like Lincoln’s. Hearty fellow, he attacked Todd, ripped out a chunk of gorilla hair and fish-hooked my simian companion.

“You rotten mook!” Gorilla shouted, caveman fingers sliding in and out of his mouth. He wrapped his meaty hands round the caveman’s throat and began to throttle the poor fellow.

“Gorilla, no!” I said.

Five new holes ripped open in the air above us. One long, continuous Riiiip, and that same kaleidoscopic clash. Out of the holes fell a cute orange kitten, a young renaissance painter, a popular ancient professional football quarterback, a potted cactus, and lastly, Richard Milhous Nixon.

Nixon crumpled to the ground, got one look at Lincoln and shrieked, “Jesus Christ! What happened to that poor bastard?”

All of them aged. The kitten grew, got fat, got skinny, and died. The renaissance painter, fingers covered in vibrant red and green oils, said something in Italian about unfinished masterworks, choked on his tongue, and summarily expired.

“We gotta do something, Robot!” said Todd, still choking the dwindling, gasping caveman.

“Do what?” I said. “And stop choking that caveman!”

Nixon died screaming, gurgling, clawing at the air.

“Todd,” I said, “we have to dump the beer!”

“The beer?” said Todd.

“It’s a bad batch! It must be. There’s no murderer here. Tainted Zippy Beer has caused a schism in space and time!”

Seven more air holes ripped open. From them dropped a sea bass, the Marquis de Sade, two members of a light contemporary jazz quartet, an earth worm, Eddie Murphy, and a two hundred twenty-five foot tall California redwood tree.

The redwood thudded to the factory floor, split the concrete, rose and sprawled, broke through the high white ceiling. The factory lights flickered. Ceiling chunks rained down on us.

“The beer, Todd! Dump it!”

Todd let go the shriveled caveman. He leapt for the redwood, scaled its trunk hand-over-hand. He braced himself against the vat, pushed at it with all his might.

“It won’t budge!” he said.

Three more air holes ripped open. A snail, a circus elephant, a street vendor holding tacos.

Think. Think.

I tapped a rhythm on my forehead.

“Eureka!” I exclaimed.

I leapt for the tree, climbed for a branch, squared my shoulders, and then I dove into the beer.

In haste, I began to drink it, slurp it all up. My robot super stomach swelled. Five hundred gallons. Seven hundred, a thousand. The roiling, bloody fashion model beer, it washed down my throat at a hundred-thousand PSI. Rushing, roaring through my alloy sternum. My body rocked and strained. I groaned like industrial machinery.

“It’s working, Robot!” said Todd. “The holes are slowing down!”

A riip here, small rip there. And then it stopped.

Bodies grew old and died; the redwood rotted, split. Half fell and crushed the factory wall. In rushed the night air, our arid post-nuclear wind. Our city out there—Grim City One—twinkled like starlight. Bricks and heavy steel beams and girders fell all around us. Clouds of dust lifted and lingered until well after relative stillness had filled the factory.

Gorilla Todd gasped from exertion. He stumbled down from the remnants of the redwood and sat against its trunk, eyeing the bodies, all the destruction.

“You did it, Robot,” he said. “You’re a friggin’ genius, you know that?”

Of course I knew. I also knew I was big as a house. Big like a beer vat and just as full. Body engorged, I looked like a head swimming in sea of scrap metal, jammed into the vat like some kind of sardine.

“Tainted spacetime-schismatic beer,” I wheezed. “I might have known! Perhaps a super-accelerated atomic contaminant—a mutation in the solitary photosynthetic apparatus, for instance—exceeded localized time dilation barriers and generated contiguous Einstein-Rosen pathways. And to think, Albert Einstein believed time was non-real!”

“Erm, Ein-who?” said Todd.

“Call in a containment unit, Gorilla. Call in the best they’ve got. And get the Chief down here, too. I fear, Todd, our troubles are just beginning.”

Gorilla Todd huffed. He pondered a moment, and then his thick brow lifted as realization dawned.

“Oh no,” he said. “You don’t mean….”

“Precisely,” I replied. “In approximately thirty-nine minutes, I will have to void my robo-bladder like a racehorse. The game, as they say, my dear Gorilla Todd, is afoot.”

END


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Love/Madness/Demon, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. His latest novel, Resurrection Mixtape, is available on Amazon now.


Announcing the winners of the “Resurrection Mixtape” giveaway

Last week we ran the WordCrafter “Resurrection Mixtape” Book Blog Tour with reviews, guest posts about how this unique book came to be, and even an awesome interview with author Jeff Bowles. Since this book was inspired by music and a simple mixtape plays such a vital role in the story, Jeff ran a generous giveaway, offering chances for signed copies of the book and a $25 Amazon gift card, and all you had to do to enter was tell us what the top three songs on your mixtape would be. Only three people entered, so, I am pleased to announce that the winners of the three signed copies of Resurrection Mixtape are TansGental (Geoff LePard), Teagan Riordan Geneviene, and Annette Rochelle Aben.

And for the $25 Amazon gift card, the winner is… (drumroll please) Annette Rochelle Aben!

Congratulations to each of you. I will be contacting you to arrange for shipment of your books, so watch for my email. And thanks to all who participated in this rockin’ tour.

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Book your WordCrafter Book Blog Tour today!


Day 3 of the WordCrafter “Resurrection Mixtape” Book Blog Tour

Welcome to Day 3 of the WordCrafter Resurrection Mixtape Book Blog Tour. Today we have an audio excerpt from Resurrection Mixtape, read by the author, Jeff Bowles, and my review of this wonderfully original novel. It’s a fun read when you feel like getting outrageous.

On Day 1, I had a fun interview with author Jeff Bowles, and Day 2 featured an interesting guest post from him. For the next two days we have more guest posts and another review, so visit each stop to learn more about Jeff and his awesome novel. If you missed the first two days of the tour, be sure to stop by through the following links:

Day 1 – Interview with author Jeff Bowles – Writing to be Read

Day 2 – December 6 – Guest Post – Robbie’s Inspiration

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Giveaway!

For this tour we’re giving away 3 signed print copies of Resurrection mixtape and a $25 Amazon gift card.

To enter, just tell us the top three songs on your mixtape in the comments.

Come on now. We really want to know.

Winners will be chosen in a random drawing.

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Now let’s move forward with an audio excerpt from Chapter 1 of Resurrection Mixtape, read by author Jeff Bowles

Resurrection Mixtape Excerpt

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Emily has been dead a year, but that doesn’t stop her from crashing in on her former best friend’s life in a whirlwind of mayhem, dark magic, and music. She’s been resurrected by a supernatural mixtape full of excellent but probably evil pop tunes. Amazing powers of transformation flow through her, piece-by-piece endowing her with abilities beyond anyone’s understanding. Within and without, a dark presence dwells, ready to express itself in all sorts of colorful and destructive ways. It’s all in the music, man. Press “PLAY” at your own risk.

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Resurrection-Mixtape-Jeff-Bowles-ebook/dp/B0BKYG2JJQ/

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What they’re saying on Amazon

Take the time to get a feel for the voice of this book. It’s worth it. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets its dark cousin with an irreverent twist. I look forward to more from this writer and if anyone makes a playlist for the mixtape I want a link. – Amanda Harris

My Review

How to describe Ressurection Mixtape, by Jeff Bowles? This book is unlike any I’ve read before. A mixture of horror and humor, supervillian fiction and pop culture guide this story into never before explored realms of storytelling. Bowles is a talented creative fiction author, and creative emphasises this, his latest novel. His unique style of storytelling makes this book an entertaining ride that readers won’t soon forget.

There is no doubt the existence and sanity of the entire world is at stake, but good guys are swept away under evil control and it’s hard to know who to root for. But one thing is certain. It’s not Emily, although even she could be seen as a victim, who didn’t ask for any of this, even if she does want to conquer the world now. It’s a wild ride fueled by a demonic mixtape, but it’s all a part of a much grander scheme which will be revealed, if not fully understood. What do these alien powers really want? What’s the true story?

Fun and entertaining, with twists and turns you won’t see coming. I give Resurrection Mixtape five quills.

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Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

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That wraps up Day 3 of WordCrafter Resurrection Mixtape Book Blog Tour. Thanks helping us in sending off Resurrection Mixtape in grand style. We’ve got more guest posts from the author and another review in the week to come, so follow the tour to learn more about Jeff Bowles and his unique and entertaining story. And don’t forget to let us know what the top three songs on your mixtape would be to enter the giveaway for a chance at one of three signed print copies and a $25 Amazon gift card.

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Book your WordCrafter Book Blog Tour today!


Bowlesian! – Zombie Crave Human Exceptionalism

Note: This is a just a fun little flash piece to get you in the mood for October. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Zombie Crave Human Exceptionalism

by Jeff Bowles

Dr. Everett J. Edmunds raised his zombies from nothing but spare parts and voodoo. He believed his living dead should crave the best, most exceptional brains. Therefore, in procuring their daily meals, he kidnapped only lawyers and doctors, novelists and scientists, Nobel lauriates, Olympians and the like. Late nights he’d strap these unfortunates to the chair in his subterranean laboratory and read them poetry whilst playing an old Bach vinyl.

“Why, Dr. Browning, you look pale,” he might say. “Perhaps some electrolytes before my darlings feast? Malaise in the system is no good at dinner time.”

And of course, upon devouring each subject, his zombies gained further appreciation for human exceptionalism, thereby endowing themselves with heightened intelligence, communication faculties, charm and wit. This was the theory, at least. Everett had found hard clinical proof difficult to come by.

One evening, as the sun set on his small, weed-infested home, his door buzzer rang, interrupting an attempt to teach his horde Calculus. Everett swore and hushed the zombies, climbing the steps into the house proper. All his life he’d been an achiever, which was why his bookcases and mantle were lined with trophies, awards, and certificates of excellence. The medical community valued his intellect, but people wouldn’t understand his true calling. Perhaps his walk-in freezer was full of arms and hearts and torsos, but he was no cold-blooded killer; rather Edmund was a brilliant scientist, the most exceptional brain of his generation.

He opened the door with a prolonged, rusty squeek. There stood the love of his life, the one who got away, a half-zombie named Camilla. If regret had a voice, it’d be soft and sweet as hers.

She cooed a loving, “Braaaaains!”

To which Everett replied, “My darling, you’ve come back to me!”

“Brains!”

“Of course, my love. Come inside. Your horde misses you, as do I.”

She followed dutifully, through the house and back down into the laboratory. The rest of the horde would eat him as soon as look at him, but not his Camilla. She’d been so beautiful in life, his favorite nurse at the hospital. The car crash that claimed her life hadn’t been entirely accidental.

From the book of voodoo spells he’d purchased on Amazon, he’d selected a special hex he used just once: the half-zombie, or Death’s First Kiss. Though her skin had rotted and her jawbone flopped like the useless handle of a can opener, Camilla was still the most beautiful woman Dr. Edmunds had ever seen. He embraced her. She smelled wonderful … ish.

“Dearest, why don’t you climb back in the cage where you belong? Your brothers and sisters would love the chance to pick your–”

“Braaaaains!”

“What do you mean they won’t like you anymore? Have you really changed so much?”

Camilla indicated she had, and then proceeded to describe her adventures in the world of the living. Apparently, she’d tried to go back to school, and had even attended her nephew’s bar mitzvah, a ghastly affair which had seen her own family chase her into the night. The doctor opened the cage door cautiously, sensing a lull in his zombies’ aggression.

“Dear heart, please step inside,” he said. “When you ran away, I lost a piece of myself.”

“Brains!” she said, which translated loosely as, I’m wearing a wire, Everett.

“What do you mean you’re wearing a wire?” he asked.

“Brrrrrains!”—What do you mean, what do I mean? The police have already arrived, and you are going to jail for what you’ve done. It took me years to realize it, but you’re the monster, not me. Now don’t struggle.

The door to the laboratory burst open. Waves of gun-toting police filed in, barking for him to hit the floor and put his hands behind his back. Dr. Edmunds refused. Though he always suspected this day might come, he somehow thought he’d be the one to betray himself, not his dear Camilla.

Everett ran into the cage, slammed the door, pressed in tightly with his zombies, and bellowed, “Take me now, my beauties!”

But his zombies ignored him. In fact, they paid him no more attention than Camilla paid basic rules of variative syntax. This, of course, was the real tragedy. For if they didn’t want to eat his delicious, fertile, exceptional brain … well maybe he wasn’t so exceptional after all. The police urged Camilla to yank him from the cage. She did so and they placed him in handcuffs.

“That’s the way the cookie crumbles, doc,” said one of the officers, brutish man with coffee stains on his uniform.

“How dare you!” Everett spat. “If they ever ate an imbecile like you, I’d burn my diplomas!”

The cops led him from his home. After reading his miranda rights on the street, they gathered around their police cruisers and watched Night of the Living Dead on a smart phone. Camilla wept softly from afar. Movie looked so fake.

Braaaains.

END


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!

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Mind Fields – “Missing: One Male Libido”

Mind Fields

LOST: ONE MALE LIBIDO This libido (center figure) was last seen on December 31, 2016.  It is approximately ten feet tall, six feet wide and four feet deep.  It has between twelve and twenty horns of various descriptions.  It’s covered in long brown fur and has eyes all the way around its cylindrical body.  The number of fingers, tentacles and hands it may possess are unknown as it can sprout extra limbs at moments of high stress.  It is not very intelligent but possesses a wild cunning that can catch pursuers off guard. If you see this libido DO NOT APPROACH IT. DO NOT ATTEMPT A DIALOGUE. IT IS NOT AMENABLE TO REASON. Call the local sheriff’s department, dial 911 or email me at artsdigiphoto@gmail.com.

There are commonly available and well known techniques that calm this libido but I discourage their use except in extremely dangerous situations. Under proper conditions this is a highly trained and valuable libido. I am reluctant to cause it damage or harm. You might call it by one of its names: Thor, Zeus or Johnny. This tactic may backfire, however, for if it is Johnny and is called Thor or Zeus it gets very upset. Likewise if it is Thor and is called Johnny, etc… The best approach is simply to say, “Hey big guy. How’s it hangin’.” It has been trained to recognize this as a non-threatening mnemonic. It may trigger my libido’s desire to return to its so-called master.

I repeat: DO NOT APPROACH THIS LIBIDO. CALL THE AUTHORITIES OR NOTIFY ME AS SOON AS POSSIBLE at artsdigiphoto@gmail.com.
REWARD OFFERED: I will give you, free of charge,  my guaranteed technique for healing all stress, depression and emotional trauma.

SPECIAL CAUTION: Do not mistake this libido for the so-called Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti or Skunk Ape. It is not a primate and is immune to veterinary drugs. Rather than seek out police or Forest Rangers it may be more useful to find an old shaman from the Chumash or Miwok tribes. A qualified shaman will likely be more useful in the safe return of this treasured libido.

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Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at www.artrosch.com

Photos at https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

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Bowlesian! – Itsies

Itsies

by Jeff Bowles

*This story and others like it can be found in my collection Brave New Multiverse, available on Amazon now.


I introduced Pamela to my itsy on our first date. Oh I know, most people wait until their second or third, but I really liked Pamela. Straight away I could tell we were going to hit it off.

“I’m glad we decided to do this,” I told her.

She narrowed her eyes, “Why is your itsy dressed like a teddy bear?”

My itsy was dressed like a teddy bear. Head to toe, fluffy ears, fluffy tail, round little tummy. It was his favorite outfit. I wasn’t going to tell him he couldn’t wear it.

Itsies aren’t really people. They look and act like people, and they definitely do have minds of their own, but they’re more like little mini extensions of ourselves, you know what I mean? Like my itsy, I call him Tug. He looks exactly like me. That’s pretty common. Itsies live on the tops of people’s heads and sleep in their hair. They spend most of the day under their hats.

My hat was off just then, sitting there on our table. I supposed Pamela wasn’t quite ready to take her own hat off.

I smiled at her, beamed at her, actually. I said to Tug, “Don’t be rude, Tug. Say hello to Pamela.”

Tug said, “Fuck yourself!”

I sighed. “Now Tug, you know I don’t like that language.”

“Fuck it! You introduce me!” His voice was high, squeaky, a shrill, keening falsetto. “You promised me cookies! Give me my cookies or I’ll eat Pamela alive!”

I sighed again, reached into my pocket to retrieve a miniature box of animal crackers. I set the crackers atop my head. Tug started noshing and gobbling. I felt a sense of calm wash over me as he did.

“Are you sure you want to keep him out like that?” said Pamela.

I glanced around the restaurant. My favorite Vietnamese place. Really good phở and bánh mì sandwiches. Rich, mouthwatering smell of seared beef and pork. Portraits on the walls of Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City. The only other customers, an old white man and an old white woman, struggled with chop sticks and rice noodles in a corner booth.

“Do you think anybody minds?” I said.

Pamela shrugged. “I don’t. Only, you know, if he eats too much his stomach is liable to explode. That sort of thing can happen, you know. He might get the wrong idea, surrounded by all this food.”

“More cookies!” said Tug.

I gave him another box of animal crackers.

“So um, Tom,” said Pamela, “how do you like working for my father?”

I met Pamela at her father’s office. High-powered advertising, ads for humans and itsies alike. I was low man on the totem pole. I’d stared at Pamela’s picture on his desk for months before I actually saw her in person. Those deep brown eyes, those full, pouty lips.

I sat there studying her face and caught myself imagining waterfalls, thunderstorms, exploding geysers. Things wet. Things loud and gushing.

“Tom wants to fuck you,” said Tug.

“Tug!”

“It’s true, Tom. You’re not fooling anyone. Hey lady, how many cookies you think I can fit in my mouth?”

“I … I don’t know,” said Pamela.

“A fistful. That’s how many. Watch.”

Then Tug made more noshing, gobbling sounds. I felt another wave of calm wash over me, even though I knew my face must’ve been five shades redder.

“Pamela, listen …”

“It’s okay, Tom,” she said. “If human beings were any good at saying what they really want, God never would have given us itsies to begin with.”

“I guess so.”

“And I’m flattered.”

“You are?”

Pamela sighed. “Well you know, my father being who he is. Most guys just pine for me and never bother to ask me out. Oh, I hope I didn’t sound full of myself just then. They pine. They just do, you know?”

“I do know,” I said.

She shook her head. “So either I don’t get dates at all, or I get to date the really crazy ones who think their tiny little men are God’s gift.”

“I don’t think my tiny little man is God’s gift. I’m nothing special. He isn’t anything special, either. My tiny little man’s only a few inches tall. He’s so tiny–“

“We are still talking about your itsy, right?” said Pamela.

“The point, Pam, is that even though I’ve got a few shortcomings, whatever the cost, whatever it takes, I made the decision to always be brave and to be the kind of man I am meant to be.”

“Hmm. I like that. When did you make that decision?”

“Honestly?”

“Yeah.”

“I decided it the moment I laid eyes on you.”

Pamela smiled. “That’s sweet.”

* * * * *

I didn’t know it at the time, but Pamela was a very unhappy woman. She hadn’t always been. She was sunny when she was younger, the most positive person in the room. Just lately, as the years had begun to mount up, and forty was suddenly closer than thirty, failed relationship after failed relationship had left her feeling damaged, marooned, poisonous and poisoned

She’d gotten into feeding her itsy late night snacks. Our little men and our little women don’t come with instruction manuals. God gave them to us. Or evolution or whatever. We come screaming from the womb. Our itsies come screaming after. If God did it, it was because he understood men and women are masters of self-deception. If it was evolution, then nature randomly selected humans to have a miniature rude version of themselves camped out on the tops of their heads.

Anyway, bad things happen when you feed itsies late night snacks. Pamela knew this. Even so, cold fried chicken, piece for her, piece for her itsy. Double pepperoni, double cheese pizza. Everything double. She was ordering for two, after all.

Thing about feeding an itsy is, it makes you feel better. Makes you calmer, tames the beast. They are the id. The inner child which dwells deep inside, that which is never at peace, always lusting, always wanting more and more and more.

* * * * *

We ate our meals. We talked and joked. At some point Tug said, “It’s half past a baboon’s bright red ass.” And we both knew it was time to go home.

On the sidewalk, we hugged.

“I had a nice time,” I said.

“Yeah, me too,” Pamela replied.

“You mean it?”

She laughed. “I do mean it.”

“Walk you to your car?”

“Sure.”

Brown and yellow leaves crunched beneath our feet as we huddled together and crossed to the sidewalk. A harvest moon shone high above the tops of buildings. It was autumn in the city. A cold breeze blew and Pamela scrunched herself down into her Barbour jacket.

“I’m glad you asked me out, Tom,” she said.

“Yeah, me too. Would you like to do it again?”

“I would.”

“I know this great Greek place over on–Oh my god, that woman is crushing that car!”

“What?”

“Over there! The parking lot! That woman is–“

“Oh, shit.”

“–crushing that car and she’s–“

“That’s no woman, Tom,” said Pamela

“It isn’t?!” I exclaimed.

Tug rustled around under my ball cap. “Let me see!”

“Petunia!” Pamela shrieked. “I told you to stay at home!”

Petunia? Dear Lord. She was eight feet tall and had more muscles than human beings are supposed to have. Only she wasn’t a human being. Thigh muscles, neck muscles, rippling biceps, triceps, sheening and glossy, bare breasts of muscle, even her head seemed like it was one big, veiny, throbbing muscle.

“Oh Tom, what you must think of me.” Pamela said.

“She’s crushing that car.”

“That’s my car.”

“And she is way too big for that pair of underwear.”

“That’s my underwear, too. Oh Tom, I am so embarrassed.”

Petunia looked like Pamela coated in liquid Schwarzenegger. She was lying on her side on top of the car, eating a chicken. Not a piece of chicken. Not a cooked chicken, either. Petunia was stuffing a whole live chicken into her face. It clucked and screamed and fought like a little chicken champ.

Petunia bellowed, “Down the hatch!” And then, the chicken disappeared.

Pamela ran to her.

“Bad girl, Petunia!” she said. “That’s a bad, bad girl!”

Petunia belched and grew a whole foot taller. Pamela’s car crunched and all four tires popped.

Pop! Pop, pop, pop!

Big Petunia made a queasy face. “Was that me? I think that was me.”

“No it wasn’t you!” said Pamela. “If it was you, the shockwave would’ve killed us all!”

My mouth hung open. My eyes were wide like Vietnamese noodle bowls.

I heard Tug say, “Damnit, man, let me see her!”

The ball cap popped off my head. Tug gasped.

“That’s a whole lotta woman!” His tiny hands and feet dug into my scalp.

I stooped, grabbed my hat, and made my way to Pamela and nudged her with an arm.

“I don’t get it,” I said. “Why are you wearing your hat if you left your itsy at home?”

Pamela shook her head. Her eyes glistened in the harsh orange neon light. “Oh Tom, I am just so ashamed. I fed her and fed her, and she just ate and ate, and she hasn’t stopped eating, not in weeks. I just wanted to feel good for a damn change.”

“Weeks?” I said. “You’ve been feeding her for weeks?”

Pamela wiped her eyes. “I know you think I’m this awesome person. I know everybody thinks that. I’m just not.”

“Pamela …” I said. I wrapped her in a hug.

Petunia rose onto her knees, car metal creaking and glass shattering to sparkling pellets. She grimaced at me, pointed one long veiny finger. “Hey you! Lover boy! Hands off the merchandise!”

“Me?” I said.

“Did I fucking stutter? You! You wormy little bedsheet stain! You and your miniscule, worthless, man-doll of an itsy!”

Tug shrieked. “She means me! She knows I exist! How do I look? Is my teddy bear costume on straight?”

“Petunia, stop,” said Pamela. “I’m sorry, Tom. She’s a bit roided-out at the moment.”

“Roided-out!” said Petunia. “You ain’t seen me roided-out. Not yet, sister.”

She hopped to her feet and stepped off Pamela’s car. Thud. She dwarfed us. My eyes were level with her enormous, erect, inch-long nipples. Big Petunia took her head in her hands. She cracked her neck left, cracked it right. She slammed her fist into her palm. Again. Again. It made a loud, solid thocking sound. Thock. Thock. Thock.

I stared at that fist. I was dumbstruck. Couldn’t think of a word to say. Pamela pulled away from me. Her eyes darted from me to Petunia. Nobody said a thing. Just that heavy thock, thock, thock.

“Gah!” said Tug. “I can’t take it anymore! Do it! I need to see you in action!”

“Tug,” I said, “you’re not helping.”

“Not trying to help, you human gutter ball! God, I need to see you in action. Oh, it’s killing me!”

“Killing you?” said Petunia. “Little man, down the hatch you go.”

She plucked Tug off my head, clutched his body between a massive finger and a mighty thumb.

“No, don’t!” screamed Pamela.

But it was too late. Petunia ate Tug. Swallowed him whole. Gulp and then, he was gone.

“Now it’s your turn, lover boy!” she said.

She took hold of my arm and lifted me up by it until we were mouth to mouth and eyelash to eyelash.

I’m not going to lie. Fear took hold and I thought I might cry or scream or piss my pants. But instead, I took a moment and told myself a few choice words. You decided to always be brave. The moment you laid eyes on Pamela, you decided to be the man you were meant to be.

I hocked a wad of phlegm and spat in Petunia’s eye. She wiped it away, glared at me, then grinned.

“Mistake number two, lover boy,” she said.

Pamela beat against her, slamming impotent fists at her itsy’s taut, flexing abdominal muscles. She kept screaming, “You monster! You monster!” But Petunia paid her no attention. Her eyes cooked me like sliced beef in scalding-hot Vietnamese broth. Breath stinking like rotten chicken corpses and little itsy men.

“You listen here,” she said. “No man is good enough for my Pam. No man, not nowhere, not no-how. You don’t think I know what you are, lover boy? You don’t think I know you’ll hurt her like all the rest?”

Pamela was shrieking now. “Stop! I said stop it!”

“She feeds me so she’ll be happy,” said Petunia, cheeks red and quivering with barely suppressed rage. “She feeds me so pukes like you can’t touch her no more. I am going to eat you now. And you are going to let me do it. I like my meat raw. I like it tenderized.”

“Stop making threats,” I said. “If you’re going to eat me, go on and–“

She wrapped her arm around my waist. She wound me up, and then she threw me clear across the parking lot.

I was airborne. A million thoughts occurred at once.

No more id.

No more inner child.

God, he was a rotten little itsy.

God, he was just awful, wasn’t he?

Yeah, but he was my rotten little–

I crashed through the plate glass window of the ticket booth at the end of the parking lot.

I went through up to my waist. My legs caught on the glass. I felt a knifing kind of pain. Lacerations. The feeling of being cut to pieces. I screamed.

Petunia stomped over to the booth. She stuck her head through the window. “Oh, you big baby! It’s just a scratch.”

But I could see blood, and I could feel that knifing, that gouging, those lacerations.

“Big baby! Big baby!” she said. “You want to cry? I’ll give you something to cry about.”

She reached through and clamped a hand down over my head. Bam! She slammed my head against the concrete floor. Blam! She did it again. Boom! One more time.

I saw stars and moons and clucking chickens taking flight, flying like real birds, all around my head. And I saw my itsy, poor little Tug. I saw chicken beaks biting into him. Saw chicken teeth chomping on his little brains.

I mumbled, “Chicken teeth.”

Petunia leaned further into the booth. “Huh?”

“Do … chickens … have teeth?”

“Don’t think so, champ.” And then Petunia broke my arm.

Snap!

I howled and spat and spoke in tongues.

Pamela crept up behind Petunia. She jabbed at her with a tire iron.

“You leave my man alone!” she said.

She used the prying crowbar end like a mafia hitman might use an icepick, sliding it into Petunia’s ear. Seemed like Pamela was trying to scramble her itsy’s brains. Then again, it also seemed like the world was falling away from me and growing browner and browner and more and more like nap time yes into the sticky syrup, captain I soiled myself I apologize most sincerely must be dying, please sew my coffin from clean undies.

The brain scrambling thing didn’t work. Petunia wrenched the tire iron from her ear. It was coated in blood, but the big girl was still on her feet.

“Pamela!” she said. “Oh, so we’re calling him your man now?”

Petunia backhanded her. Pamela flew from view.

“I have had it with you, Pam,” Petunia bellowed. “I have absolutely had it! Shit! Fuck it! Let’s eat!”

She tore off my shoe, my sock, and then she stuck my whole foot in her mouth. She bit down. Took a few toes.

It didn’t hurt like I expected. In fact, I felt kind of good. Yes, suddenly, inexplicably, very comfortable and very calm. The face she made was indecipherable. Maybe it was all the glistening muscles. It was the kind of expression a person wears when they’re concentrating really hard. Or maybe the kind of expression a person wears when they drink too much soda and have surgery, bubbly-pain like diving ocean deep and emerging with the bends. She made that face, then she spat the rest of my foot out.

“Oh,” she said, and then again, “Oh.”

Blood dripped from the corner of her mouth.

She said, “Oh.”

And then her stomach exploded. Blood, guts, muscles, chickens, it all burst out like a cheap New Year’s popper loaded with Halloween gore.

Pop!

And it splattered me like sopping red confetti.

A tiny voice said, “See? You see that? Ate too much. You gotta watch that, sister.”

Petunia slumped against the ticket booth. A little man, my little man, emerged from the carnage-crater that was her stomach.

“Tug?” I said.

Petunia’s dead, twitching eyes stared right at me.

“Yeah, boss?” Tug ate a chunk of something small and pink. He was covered in blood, a few inches taller than when Petunia had swallowed him. His teddy bear suit had ripped and popped its seams.

“Stop eating,” I mumbled.

“Yeesh, boss, you look rough.”

“Stop eating. For God’s sake, stop eating.”

“Huh? Why the hell should I stop? It’s delicious. That girl was well fed, man.”

Every time he took a bite, I felt it, that calmness and warmth. It was nice. Felt better than the pain. Even so, I mumbled, “Tug, you have got to stop eating.”

I was powerless to stop him. Couldn’t move. I was bleeding to death and I knew it.

“Well maybe I don’t want to stop,” said Tug. “Maybe I’m sick to death of taking orders from you. Yeah, you know what? I think we need a regime change. I think I ought to be the one calling the–“

Pamela snatched the chunk of Petunia from his hands and smacked him upside the head.

“Don’t be stupid,” she said.

“Hey, I was eating that!”

She smacked him again.

“And don’t talk back. I’ve had enough of disobedient itsies to last a lifetime.”

Tug shouted, “Who the hell do you think you–“

She smacked him.

“Goddamnit, quit smacking me!”

She raised her hand for another.

“All right! All right!” he said. “Nasty woman! Nasty!”

“Go get in my car. The crushed one. Bring me my cell phone. We need to call an ambulance. Treat you like I should’ve treated her.”

Tug grumbled and swore, but he obeyed nonetheless. Once he was gone, Pamela carefully picked her way over the broken glass, past the ruined, bloody form of her former itsy, and through the window until she was crouching beside me.

“Oh Tom,” she said. “I am so sorry.”

“S’okay,” I said.

“No, it’s not okay. I created a monster. Oh what a mess. Tom, I am so, so sorry.”

“Yer’kay?” I said.

“What? I didn’t hear you.”

“Asked r’you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“Itser’s dead.”

Pamela sighed. “I know. I feel kind of empty now. No, that’s not right. I feel full. Way, way too full. Like I’ve got all this emotion now and I don’t know where to put it, how to choke it down. You know what I mean?”

“No,” I said.

“Tom? Stay with me, now. Keep your eyes open. Tom, you’ve earned your second date.”

Eyelids were heavy. I tried to smile at her, but it was so hard, so hard.

“S’cond date?”

“That’s right, Tom. Second date. Just survive for me, okay?”

“‘Kay.”

“Okay?”

“‘Kay.”

I survived. Of course I did. How else would I be telling you this story? I underwent months of hospitalization and rehab and all that stuff. Learning to cope with fewer toes and all. All that horrible hospital food really made me slim down. Tug slimmed down, too. He got regular-sized again. We had a nice long talk about why it’s okay to eat animal crackers but not okay to, for instance, eat whole live chickens or people’s internal organs.

I had my second date with Pamela. And my third and fourth. She’s not the same since her itsy died. She’s tense, a bundle of nerves. She goes to this support group now for people whose itsies have died prematurely. Sometimes it seems like it helps. Sometimes not. There’s a whole population of people in this world who no longer have the means to quell and suppress the pain in their lives. You know what she said while we were snuggling on the couch the other night?

“I feel so horrible all the time now. How do I cope without her?”

“How any of us copes,” I said. “You’ve got me now. I’ll be your itsy if you need me to be.”

She smiled at me. “My Dad was right about you. He said that Tom guy, he’s a good one, Pam. You should hang on to that guy.”

“Smart man. Brilliant, actually.”

We leaned in for a deep kiss.

Tug hopped off my head and started kicking at Pamela’s scalp.

“No kissing! Last time you kissed him, you didn’t put out! I will eat you. Do you hear me? I will eat you alive!”

Pamela flicked him across the room. I didn’t do anything about it. Kissing Pam was so much better than feeding the id.

END


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


Book Reviews: Double Booked & Bump in the Night

I recently supported a Kickstarter for Kevin J. Anderson and his latest Dan Shamble Zombie P.I. novel, Double Booked. (You can find out more about the Kickstarter campaign here.) As a bonus, I also received a new short story from same series, Bump in the Night. How cool is that?

I’ll be honest. I knew I was going to love Double Booked before I ever started reading it. That’s why I supported the Kickstarter to get it. I’ve read several, if not all of the Dan Shamble Zombie P.I. series, and I have reviewed them here on Writing to be Read. (You can find my previous review of the Dan Shamble Zomnibus: Death Warmed Over & Working Stiff here.)

I was not disappointed. Double Booked is filled with Dan Shamble’s ghoulish zombie humor and all the loveable characters we’ve grown to love from this series. Once again, Dan, his ghostly girlfriend, Sheyenne, his human lawyer partner, Robin, and his vampire half-daughter, Alvina, are trying to save the unnatural quarter of the world after The Big Uneasy brought all manner of monsters to life. Dan Shamble is charged with the protection of the retired eccentric librarian who some say is responsible for bringing about The Big Uneasy, but when whole neighborhoods begin disappearing and the book behind it all is stolen, Dan Shamble has more than enough to keep him shambling through the Unnatural Quarter trying to solve this double mystery.

Likewise, with the short story bonus book, “Bump in the Night”, was equally entertaining as Dan Shamble and company try to save the Boogeyman from his overbearing aunties. Even though it is a brief tale, it’s an entertaining read.

Honestly, you know any of the books in the Dan Shamble Zombie P.I. series, by Kevin J. Anderson, are going to be an entertaining read, so Double Booked was no surprise, as it kept things rolling so readers won’t want to put it down. The bonus short story, “Bump in the Night”, was a pleasant surprise-not because it was an enjoyable read, but because it was an unexpected bonus. I can’t find it on Amazon or on the WordFire Press site, to offer my review there, but I give both books five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


At the Movies: Lost City

After watching Lost City, starring Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum, and featuring a cameo appearance by Brad Pitt, all I can say is that it was okay once you get over the fact that the plot was very familiar, imitating the plot from the 1984 movie with Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglass and Dany DeVito, Romancing the Stone. A romance adventure writer gets caught up in a real search for lost treasures and goes on an adventure, which could be the plot for one of her stories.

Sandra needs to come down off the Botox wagon before she is unrecognizable, like so many Hollywood has-beens. This actress whom I used to love to watch, now looks like a puffed up chipmunk, who refuses to age gracefully. Bullock is about to join the ranks of Botox-faces like Joan Rivers, Reba McIntyre, and Sally Fields, and as far as I’m concerned, that is not a good thing.

This movie isn’t bad, but Bullock is no Kathleen Turner; Channing Tatum is no Michael Douglass; and while Brad Pitt is easier on the eyes than Danny DeVito, he’s not in the movie long enough to even be called a comic sidekick. The same, but different is what this movie is, but with maybe too much the same and different that isn’t that great. The humorous scenes weren’t that funny, the exciting scenes just weren’t that exciting and I had a hard time buying in. Face it. A drive through the jungle with feet sticking out of the car, tied to the chair leg, in true life would have resulted in a possible broken ankle or other injury. Couldn’t they have come up with something just a bit more original, and humorous than traipsing through the jungle in an evening gown? It’s been done a thousand times. Really.

Lost City was fun to watch, if slightly unbelievable, and once I set aside the fact that I seen another, better version of this story years ago, it was quite entertaining.

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Kaye Lynne Booth lives, works, and plays in the mountains of Colorado. With a dual emphasis M.F.A. in Creative Writing and a M.A. in Publishing, writing is more than a passion. It’s a way of life. She’s a multi-genre author, who finds inspiration from the nature around her, and her love of the old west, and other odd and quirky things which might surprise you.

She has short stories featured in the following anthologies: The Collapsar Directive (“If You’re Happy and You Know It”); Relationship Add Vice (“The Devil Made Her Do It”); Nightmareland (“The Haunting in Carol’s Woods”); Whispers of the Past (“The Woman in the Water”); Spirits of the West (“Don’t Eat the Pickled Eggs”); and Where Spirits Linger (“The People Upstairs”). Her paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets, and her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, are both available in both digital and print editions at most of your favorite book distributors.

When not writing, she keeps up her author’s blog, Writing to be Read, where she posts reflections on her own writing, author interviews and book reviews, along with writing tips and inspirational posts from fellow writers. In addition to creating her own very small publishing house in WordCrafter Press, she offers quality author services, such as editing, social media & book promotion, and online writing courses through WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services. As well as serving as judge for the Western Writers of America and sitting on the editorial team for Western State Colorado University and WordFire Press for the Gilded Glass anthology and editing Weird Tales: The Best of the Early Years 1926-27, under Kevin J. Anderson & Jonathan Maberry.

In her spare time, she is bird watching, or gardening, or just soaking up some of that Colorado sunshine.

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Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


WordCrafter “Will Write For Wine” & “Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard” Book Blog Tour Day 4

Will Write for Wine & Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard Book Blog Tour

Stories I Stole from Lord Byron’s Bastard is a collection inspired by Venetian history. The fictional character, Alexis Lynn, wrote these stories in the novel Will Write for Wine by Sara W. McBride, but they are fun stand-alone adventures to be enjoyed with an excellent glass of Italian wine.

https://www.puckpublishing.com

Today’s tour stop comes with a fun interview with author Sara W. McBride in addition to her guest post. So kick back a while and enjoy the tidbits offered here as you learn more about Sara and her wonderful books.

Introduction

Sara W. McBride, like many modern-day biological researchers, invents new swear words to sling at million-dollar machines while locked in a dark hole of a decaying academic hall. This has caused her to witness ghosts and create a romantic fantasy life within her head, which she now puts down on very non-technological paper with her favorite Jane Austen style quill pen. 

Her first novel in the Alexis Lynn series, Will Write for Wine, and the companion short story collection, Stories I Stole from Lord Byron’s Bastard, both set in Venice, Italy, were recently released by Puck Publishing. She’s hard at work on the second Alexis Lynn novel, a Regency mystery series, and a haunted play. She strongly feels the world needs more haunted plays.   

https://www.puckpublishing.com

Give-Away!

Don’t forget the awesome giveaway Sara is running on this tour, with a digital copy of each book up for grabs. You can enter the give-away for a chance to win at the link below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d9280cae1/?

Image of Lazzaretto Vecchio
Credit: Wikipedia, Lazzaretto Vecchio Island, Plague Hospital

Interview with author Sara W. McBride

Why do you write?

Sara: To be immortal! Just kidding. It’s my fabulous mental escape into worlds and lives that I wish I could live.

Please tell us a bit about your publishing journey?

Sara: In 2014, I organized, edited, and published the first two NaNoWriMo Los Angeles anthologies. Then I helped with the next three. The group is still producing an annual anthology. It was a great way to learn the logistics of self-publishing and how to shape short stories. This year, my husband and I launched Puck Publishing, and we’re hoping to publish something every month. 

Over the past twenty years, I’ve written fourteen bad novels that I’m glad I never published. LOL!

What made you decide to self-publish?

Sara: In the late 1990s, I was an assistant to a Hollywood book agent and I learned the ins and outs of traditional publishing and movie book deals. The agents and publishers were so parasitic on the author, it gave me the willies. In those days, traditional publishing paid high advances, but the treatment of the authors still put a bad taste in my mouth.

Today, they rarely pay above a $10,000 advance to a new author, they expect the author to do all the marketing, and then the publisher keeps the copyright and sells it off whenever they like, to whomever they like, and the book goes out of print. 

I’ve seen too many friends get screwed by traditional publishing.

Will Write for Wine takes place in the artistic and romantic setting of Venice. Have you explored the physical locations for your books in the flesh, in order to get the details right when writing about these locations? Have you been there? Have you lived there? Why did you choose this setting?

Sara: I’ve had five research trips to Venice, totaling about five weeks. I’ve been in almost every church and museum of Venice, and a few places I probably wasn’t supposed to enter. I apparently don’t understand the meaning of yellow caution tape or closed doors.

Most of the Venice locations in the book are real places, but Manu’s osteria is fictional. However, I stole menu items from many of my favorite osterias in Venice.

I think Venice is one of the most magical and haunted cities in the world. Many people describe it as a floating museum; the entire city is trapped in the Renaissance. But if you simply sit still, sip a glass of wine in a campo or piazza, listen to the opera singers, and watch the people and pigeons, there’s a vibe that sinks into you. Every part of the city is simultaneously dead and alive. It is that barrier, that thin line between life and death that pervades every stone, stench, and serenade of Venice. Delicious!  

Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard involves Venetian history. What is the fasciation of this area for you?

Sara: I’m a history nerd! Venice is one of those cities that drips with history, but not just through architecture and museums, through the people, the food, the many generations that still live in the same house, the ghosts that are accepted as common place, and the street signs. Ponte del Diavolo, the Devil’s Bridge is bound to inspire a story in anyone. Gheto Novo, or the New Ghetto, caused me to question the history of the Jewish community within Venice.

It’s difficult for me to walk from one piazza to another in Venice without my mind percolating a story based purely on the sights, sounds, and smells. And I love the smells of Venice. Both the good and the bad. Only Venice can induce an entire story purely through its smells. I’ve learned to navigate the labyrinth of Venice by sniffing the air. How is that not a story!

Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

Sara: I don’t know the end until I get there. I just write into a dark void and somehow it all works out. It keeps the process magical and fun. I used to outline, but I always got bored with the book before I finished it. Outlining turned writing into work. Ick! Writing needs to be fun for both the writer and the reader. 

Is your writing process plot driven or character driven?

Sara: Character driven! Definitely.

Do you write with music, or do you prefer quiet?

Sara: Quiet! Or the hubbub of a coffee house crowd, hotel lobby, airplane terminal.

Atmosphere is important. What do you do to get into the writing zone?

Sara: There’s a zone? How do I find that? I want a writing zone. I just go about my day and jot down paragraphs, dialogue, and then type them in when I’m next at my computer.

How much of the story do you know before the actual writing begins?

Sara: NONE! Okay, maybe the opening scene. But usually not even that. Just a character in a place, who is feeling something.

Wine plays a big role in your character, Alexis Lynn’s life. What is the attraction?

Sara: I love wine! I also love beer, whisky (Scottish spelling), Compari cocktails, and most dishes cooked with truffles. However, to preserve my liver, I typically only drink once-a-week, so it’s a big event for me. I cherish my weekly glass of wine and how it complements my meal. Alexis drinks way more than I do. Fictional wine can’t damage a fictional liver.

Are you a wine connoisseur? What is your favorite wine?

Sara: I love wine! I once dreamed of becoming a wine sommelier. Isn’t my favorite wine obvious? Soave! Like Alexis Lynn, I also discovered Soave on my first trip to Venice. It’s been a favorite ever since, but difficult to find in America. Hence, more motivation to travel!

What’s something most readers would never guess about you?

Sara: My husband and I got engaged four days after we met. Unlike Alexis Lynn and her marital troubles, my husband and I have had a relatively easy, adventurous, crazy, happy and supportive marriage. This summer, we’re celebrating out twenty-five year anniversary. But I don’t know how we’re celebrating. Any suggestions?

You’ve got a scientific background, like your character. How much of Alexis Lynn is you?

Sara: Um … She’s totally me! Are authors allowed to confess that?

What time of day do you prefer to do your writing? Why?

Sara: Morning, if given a choice. But it happens all day.

What’s the hardest part of the story for you to write: beginning, middle or end?

Sara: I write chapters as if they are short stories, and then I arrange them into a book when I think I’ve developed something that has a beginning, middle or end. Is that weird? I don’t write chronologically. And I have chapters/stories that didn’t make it into this book that will be in the next one.

Alexis Lynn has a conversation and wine tasting with Casanova. Would you like to talk a bit about the inspiration for that scene?

Sara: I was enjoying my weekly glass of wine while reading the memoirs of Casanova and thought, “Man, this guy would give horrible marriage advice!” Then I grabbed my computer.

Besides Casanova, which author, poet or artist, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with?

Sara: Lord Byron, or course! He’s bloomin’ brilliant, but people only remember him as a seducer. Sure, he seduced a few women, usually married ones, and has some famous bastards; the famous mathematician, Lady Lovelace, is one of his illegitimate children. But he also wrote the first English-Armenian dictionary, and was a very, charming, intelligent debater. His letters are filled with wisdom and humor. In an incredibly elegant manner, almost complimentary, he was able to inform someone of their idiocy. I would love to have lunch with Lord Byron, even if he spent an hour politely insulting me.

Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?

Sara: Travel! I also love hiking, playing board games, reading every genre, watching cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies in the middle of summer, and learning Italian so I can one day move to Venice.

What is the biggest challenge of being a writer?

Sara: Pulling together a bunch of short stories into a cohesive novel and then figuring out what scenes are missing.

It was funny with Will Write for Wine, my husband included a little gondola and gondolier on the cover, and I suddenly realized that I didn’t have any gondola scenes in the book. Both the gondola scenes were the last scenes I wrote.

If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

Sara: Move to Venice and write more!

What’s the most fun part of writing a novel or short story/screenplay? What’s the least fun part?

Sara: Most fun? Dialogue! I’m originally a playwright, so I love dialogue. 

Least fun? Killing a character I like. Killing a nasty character is delightful, but killing a kind character, or a character I’ve spent years with, is heart-wrenching.

How much non-writing work, (research, marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), do you do yourself for your books?

Sara: I do everything myself, but my husband does the cover art and most of the website maintenance. We have fun working together.

If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play Alexis Lynn?

Sara: Oh! Juicy question. Reese Witherspoon. Yep, definitely Reese Witherspoon. Mid-40s, cute, and like Alexis, she exudes positivity even when her world is falling apart.

What goals do you set for yourself in your writing?

Sara: Don’t plan ahead. If I don’t know what’s going to happen, neither does the reader. This is really funny because I’m writing a murder-mystery right now and halfway through the book, my murderer, who I didn’t know was the murderer, just totally confessed to the murder. So, um, geez, I guess that book is going to be a different style of murder mystery. LOL! So, I guess my goal in writing is to always be surprised.

Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Stories-Stole-Lord-Byrons-Bastard-ebook/dp/B0B27TS5GL

As you can see, Sara is an author who loves what she does ad is pretty comfortable in her own skin. Now, let’s hear about her inspiration for the fourth story in Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard, “Lazzaretto Vecchio: A Dowry for Saffron”.

Guest Post by Author Sara W. McBride

Inspiration for “A Dowry for Saffron”

What inspired the story, “Lazzaretto Veccchio: A Dowry for Saffron?”

“Sia laudato il signor Iddio non ci sono stati morti.”

Bless the Lord, there have been no deaths [today].

December 24, 1630, in Sant’Eufemia, Venice.

* * *

This quote is from the opening of a Nature paper, “A digital reconstruction of the 1630-1631 large plague outbreak in Venice,” by Gianrocco Lazzari, et al. Published Oct. 20, 2020.

* * *

I’ve always been fascinated by the European plagues, but when I read the above Nature paper, the effects of the 1630-31 plague on Venice consumed my mornings for several weeks. This especially seemed relevant while living through a new global pandemic, thankfully with much lower mortality rates.

In 1348-49, bubonic plague killed one-third of the European population, up to 25 million people, and Venice, as a crossroads for international trade, lost half its residents. Imagine living in a bustling city of 100,000 people, and half of them die within 18 months. It would be horrifying and haunting.

In response to the devastating plague of 1348-49, Lazzaretto Vecchio was established in 1423 as the first quarantine island in the Mediterranean region, and was used to separate the healthy from the sick during Venetian plagues. Lazzaretto Nuovo was established shortly afterward as a place where ships suspected to carry sickness among their passengers or crew were anchored for 40 days. English acquired the word “quarantine” from the Italian term for 40 days, quaranta giorni. The lagoon island of Poveglia also became a quarantine outpost sometime in the 15th century. It’s rumored that half the soil of Poveglia is human ash from burned plague corpses. Then it became a mental hospital from 1922-1968. No wonder the place is one of the most haunted locations in Europe.

Considering the 15th century world had no idea how disease was spread, the idea of quarantining the sick or foreigners arriving from plague stricken areas was very innovative.

The story, “Lazzeretto Vecchio: A Dowry for Saffron,” takes place during Venice’s plague of 1630-31, which killed a third of the city’s population. Both plague islands were used to isolate and treat the sick, however, caregivers were needed to work at the island hospitals, mostly because, I assume, workers kept dying of plague. 

The Italian city of Ferrara had a long history of successfully avoiding plagues that ravaged other parts of Italy. They closed their city gates and screened all arrivals for any signs of disease. They insisted that Fedi, proofs, identification papers from a plague-free zone must be presented. Ferrara, starting as early as medieval times, engaged in public sanitation campaigns, sweeping away garbage and liberally spreading lime powder on any surface that had come into contact with an infected person.

When an Italian physician, Girolamo Fracastoro, published a text in 1546 describing the “seeds of disease” as something that could stick to clothes and objects, Ferrara increased their sanitation practices during plagues and burned the clothes of any infected people. Removing garbage, spreading lime powder and burning infected clothing probably reduced the flea pestilence that actually carried Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes plague.

Many natural remedies were prescribed for protection against the plague, but a medicinal oil designed by a Spanish physician, Pedro Castagno, was written into Ferrara’s, “Reggimento contra la peste,” regimen against the plague. The oil, called Composito, was recommended to be applied to the body.

“Before getting up in the morning, after lighting a fire of scented woods (juniper, laurel and vine shoots), warm the clothes and above all the shirt, rub first the heart region, near the fire to ease balm absorption, then the throat. [Afterwards], wash hands and face with acqua chiara (clean water) mixed with wine or vinegar of roses, with which sometimes all the body should be cleaned, using a sponge.”

Ferrara city’s regimen against the plague

The contents of Composito was never fully disclosed, but researchers examined the records of materials ordered by Castagno and determined that the oil contained venom from scorpions and vipers, and myrrh and Crocus sativus, which is a saffron flower from which the filaments produce the golden spice saffron. Both myrrh and saffron are known to have antibacterial properties, as does scorpion venom with the bonus that it’s also a pain reliever. So basically, Composito was an early antibiotic and pain reliever combo. Pretty nifty!

According to census records, Venice’s population was around 140,000 in 1624. By 1633, that number had fallen to 102,000. More than 43,000 deaths were recorded over just three years, with nearly half of them taking place between September and December 1630. The city of Venice began several public works projects, like the grand Baroque church, Santa Maria della Salute, greeting guests at the entrance to the Grand Canal. The church’s construction began in November 1630 with the goal of keeping citizens employed and maintaining art and labor skills.

The city of Venice also purchased food for the quarantined, both in the city and on the plague islands. It is logical to speculate that in the early months of 1631, Venice might have asked Ferrara, a city with success at conquering the plague, if their convents could be paid in order to encourage volunteers to work at the plague islands. My story is fictitious, but the stage was set for the events I describe in the story. I also talked about pirates in the story. Yes, there were pirates at this time: mercenary pirates and government deployed pirates (particularly from England).

My story focuses on a group of nuns who have been “volunteered” by their convents, and how they sacrifice one nun into a marriage in order to secure their much needed ingredient of saffron for Composito, their only hope for survival on the plague islands. The politics and finances of Venice in 1631 created a world where this story could have happened. There’s a lot of history not recorded in text books, and this is a story that no one would want recorded. 

Something fun for readers:

In my research of the plague islands, I was surprised by the lack of ghost ship stories haunting the Venetian lagoon. If you know of any, please write me at sara@puckpublishing.com. If you’ve ever visited the eerie lagoon island, Poveglia, the plague island, turned insane asylum, turned old-folks home, which now stands empty—less the chilling screams on foggy nights—I want to hear about it.

Will Write for Wine

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Will-Write-Wine-Alexis-Novel-ebook/dp/B09XVM6Y38

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