Human

Her name is Aiko Njemba, and her brains have fanned out behind her like a carmine halo, a saint of the flesh…

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Calliope Music

The temperature got up to the low 30s C (90F) Saturday, which was nice, although, I saw an older guy in blue camo UDT shorts diving into the river and my skin crawled. This is not about body image. It’s about Duck Fleas.

Duck fleas are wormlike creatures that infest the waters of the Lake, more prominently near patches of vegetation and… well… ducks. When the water is over 20C (68F), they mistake humans for ducks and burrow into their skin, then die because we are, in fact, not ducks. They die. In your skin.

After that, you’re in for 10 to 20 days of itchy dermatitis. One man’s refreshing dip is another man’s flesh boring monster.

Anyway, on to the news. The writing is going well, I’ve got about 30% of Red Spring done and 10% of Dead Summer written (I wrote the ending – don’t worry, I’ll revise it when I work my way to it).

I also made some structural changes. After getting feedback from a couple people, I added months to the books to split them up and give people a better view of the passage of time, and a glossary/list of characters to the beginning of White Winter, so that should help people who felt there was a lot going on.

I also released the print version of White Winter – a big thank you to my buddy Josh who took over the covers when the original artist flaked on me. You can get it here if you do the physical copy thing: https://www.createspace.com/6424077 and XAPUSP49 for $1.00 off. I think it’s turned out really well; the two books look like they belong together when you set them side by side.

And I did an interview! These guys asked me to talk about how I got into writing, the story behind Black Fall, and why a dude is writing about vampires. You can listen to the whole thing here if you’re interested: https://youtu.be/EXZqqtR6FqA?t=32s

Back to my walk. For those who have been following the blog for a little bit, they fixed the split window, but that door is still cracked.

As I reached Plainpalais, where the crepes live, faint strains of calliope music floated through the air. Then I saw the tent, massive, plasticized, and white. The circus was in town.

If you’re afraid of clowns, this might already be too much for you, but (as I read from posters and 10-foot tall letters on the tent itself) this is the KNIE Swiss Circus, and they’re a pretty big deal. I looked them up on YouTube, and they seem to be caught halfway between a Vegas show and the circuses I remember from when I was a kid. If you see the show, let me know how it was. I’m curious, just not curious enough to go.

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Favorite Books

The topic of favorite books came up. Whenever that happens, I think of the Old Man and the Sea.

My dad was a fisherman, charter boat captain, and SCUBA instructor, and, from what I’ve heard, he was a pretty straightforward guy. He got a gold stud in his ear to pay for his funeral if he drowned after a year on fishing boats, his favorite saying was “Every good party starts with a shower,” and the only book he owned was a dog-eared copy of the Old Man and the Sea. I think that someone like him loving that book probably says a lot about my father, and it’s a tribute to Hemingway’s skill.

It’s not my favorite book. I’m not ready for it yet. I could say something schmarmy like Proverbs or Ecclesiastes, and I do have a fondness for several books from the Bible, but it’s a workman’s love, a reference. I might as well tell you I loved my flight manuals when I was a pilot – I knew where things were, checked them when I needed to know how something worked, and they probably saved my life.

But when I see a copy of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, I smile like someone coming home. I’ve owned and given away more copies of that book than any other. I can tell the story of Narcissus from memory, I left my first flock of sheep behind when I was 17, I polished glass wherever I went, and I am still trying to see through the Soul of the World and become the wind. As I get older, I become less the Boy and more the Alchemist, but my love for the story hasn’t changed.

One day, when I’ve found my treasure, when I’ve helped enough people find theirs, when I’ve seen and been and touched, tasted, felt, heard, and smelled, learned and taught, written and sung, and laughed - so very much laughter - I’ll drag myself into a rowboat and find my fish; a child will see the bones of my life and wonder; I’ll slip into a fevered slumber, defeated but triumphant, and dream of lions.

But first, I’m going to become the wind.

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This Is Africa

Or "How to buy a used car in Uganda."

This is a guest post from my friend Thomas Crum, who recently moved to Uganda in East Africa. Drop a comment if you like it, I'll pass it on and maybe he'll write again.

Have you ever seen the acronym TIA? It's an expat catch-all for unexpected problems that arise because... This Is Africa

It was a simple plan. My driver takes me to an Ambassador from an obscure country's house. I meet the broker the Obscure Country Ambassador has hired to sell the car, and the two of us take it to Cooper Motors, the most reputable Land Rover mechanics in Kampala.  Then mechanics tell me if anything is wrong with this vehicle advertised as "mechanically perfect," we negotiate a little on the price, and I have a new 13-year-old car. I expect the whole process to take about three hours, and because I'm not a complete newbie, I confirmed twice with all the major players.

My driver and I arrive at 9 am. No broker. No car. Ambassador is strangely hostile to the idea of me taking his car anywhere and declares he will have a mechanic of his own brought to the house. Already sure of what that mechanic would tell me, I ignore the problem, and we spend an hour watching an Arabic history of France with the older Ambassador, speaking in very broken English until the broker arrives.

The broker is Ugandan, so he speaks better English, and has spent time in my home state of South Carolina, so we have an instant connection and everything is very friendly. Except he doesn't have the car. It's across town. He convinces the Ambassador to allow us to take the car to Ssesanga, a closer Land Rover mechanic. Maybe not as good, but I haven't yet read the writing on the wall.

Ever the optimist, I agree that my driver can take us across town, so my driver, the broker, the Ambassador's driver (because why not?), and I all get into my company Toyota Corolla and head out. On the way, Broker admits that he doesn't actually have the keys to the car. So we pull over and wait for a  minibus to bring the broker's associate. Associate arrives along with a friend, for whom I still have no explanation. So now my driver, Ambassador's driver, World's Most Organized Broker, broker's associate, associate's friend, and I all head out in the Corolla to find the Mechanically Perfect Car.

To be fair, the engine started just fine. My legs had a hard time reaching the pedals since the seat controls were broken on Mechanically Perfect Car, but that's alright, because I needed to be in that position to use the mirrors, which were also broken. On the road, I discovered the power steering was out, though the gas gauge was not, which is how I knew we were totally out of gas. Guess who gets to pay?

So after buying gas for someone else's car, I follow the Corolla back into Kampala traffic, as my driver leads me to the mechanic. During this automotive running of the bulls, I discovered the power brakes are also broken, which led to some moments of excitement. Fortunately, I found that if I stomped hard on the brake, even though the actual brakes wouldn't work, the engine would shut off. That stops an automatic car really quickly!

Naturally, Ssesanga the Mechanic found a few things wrong with Mechanically Perfect Car. He even wrote out a list for me, which I have attached for your viewing pleasure. 

And so, I packed everyone but my driver into Mechanically Perfect Swindle and send them on their way. The two of us stuck around to see some of the cars that Ssesanga the Mechanic had for sale. Then we discover that World's Most Organized Broker had escaped the death trap he was selling and was waiting for us to give him a ride across town.

Which we did. Because I'm a sucker.

And that's the story of my six-hour car inspection.

TIA. 

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Music for Vampires, Part 2

So there we were, combing through 5,000 rods to bloody our fingertips on a single needle.

And all the while there is fear. Horrible, oppressive, heart squeezing fear. Fear that there are no other vampires like you. Fear that you're beneath their notice. Fear that they're all vampires, and you're the only one who isn't in on the joke. But mostly, there's the fear of irrelevance, that your actions, no matter how magical and strange, have no meaning because you're the only one who thinks they do. That's where solipsism comes into the Black Year, because after going through the entire pile twice, you might decide you don't care if it's real, and that's a very dangerous place to be for someone flammable.

You bring your fingers to your lips in horror. They taste of blood.

Sheer, f-ing panic. Was that a glint in the crowd? Did the pile shift? And meanwhile, the other vampire watching you is thinking, "Stop flapping around, you idiot. You're going to give us away." You take a breath, remember you own the night, and start to dance. I think that might be a glorious moment, if you can shut out the thought you're dancing alone.

Sometimes, I think the Agency was founded to fill out vampires' dance cards, and the monster hunting just a happy coincidence.

 

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Intimacy

I keep a list of people's names, drawn in lipstick.

Actually, Twitter keeps it for me, and it's not really their names, it's their handles. Confuses the heck out of me when they change their display name and their picture, but I hope it makes them happy.

I keep a list because 95% of my followers have never talked to me. I don't know who they are, or what their dreams are. I don't know if they've read my book, or if they liked it. They're like the people sitting across from me on a city square, eating their lunch, maybe watching me spill ketchup in my lap but not offering me a napkin, and that's fine because social media is mostly watching interesting weirdos who can't keep their pants clean.

But every once in a while, a stranger will like a post, and I'll take a look at their feed and I'll like or retweet what I laugh at or think you would like. It's a nice little acknowledgement, but we'll probably never meet again.

If they do it a couple times, I add them to the list.

I have a pretty busy life - time is never abundant - so I pretty much never look at the main feed. Those 15 retweets of that thing you're selling? Didn't see it. I check on my friends. These are people I've been social more than once. I know stuff about them. They matter.

They're people like Somer, who always posts things I want to eat when I can't have them and tells great one-liners, or  J.L. who wanders America taking kicking pictures and being profoundly human. They're G.S. and Andy, who write great sci-fi books (Andy mostly breaks--repurposes--things) and are still madly in love with each other after years of marriage, or Tim, who's just a dude, I guess, but tells a great yarn and is also incredibly sharp when it comes to being an indie author. They're about 200 in all, those are just some of the more public personalities.

I'd say that 99% of my social media enjoyment comes from people on that list. Many of them have not read my book, and I'm cool with that, because they know me. They interact. They care. They may not be songbirds, wombles, cats, or bears as their profiles might suggest, but they take time out of their day to see how mine went.

It's why I don't auto-DM people. It's why I write a different email to every person who joins my mailing list, and if they answer, so do I. I think it's important. When the robot invasion comes, it's the only way we're going to be able to recognize the real people.

I guess the point I'm making is that if you're spectating, you're missing out. Can I talk to 200 people every day? No. Can I take a meaningful peek into their lives once in a while and cheer them on? And is it worth it? Absolutely.

So if you're passing through Twitter, give this guy a napkin and start a conversation. He's friendly, and they're just ketchup stains, honest. 

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Black Fall free this week

(If you missed the sale, scroll to the end)

The title really says it all. I'm offering my first book for free until Friday on the odds you're going to like it enough to get the second one, which comes out the 10th of March (EEEEE!)

Black Fall: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Fall-Year...
White Winter: http://www.amazon.com/White-Winter-Bl...

If you've already read it (thank you), remember Deus Ex Rand() is also part of the series and permanently free. You could do me an absolute solid and pass the sale on to a friend who might enjoy it as well.

Finally, if you missed the sale and HAVEN'T read Black Fall, you can always get it for free by signing up for my newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bjBgYr

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Friends with Benefits

Didn’t have time to post something in a while, so here goes.

I don’t just want readers. I know that sounds strange, but bear with me and it will make more sense.

When I started the whole social media thing, it was to sell books. I write a pretty good yarn, and sometimes I’m funny, and I’d rather do that than wear a suit every day which means I need to get paid for it. That and I like telling stories. I’ve been shot at, bitten by a police dog, buried friends, saved others, and manned a helm during 35 degree pitching, so I’ve got some pretty good ones to tell.

But I’ve also met some cool people in the past few months (that’d be you), and it’s improved my quality of life beyond my suitless expectations. I like reading about your day, making smartass comments about your posts, and fending off your own witticisms. I love geeking out about my book with you too, it makes the writing more fun, and I put more of what you enjoy in the next book.

The feed is going well, I’m only getting unfollowed by people I don’t follow back (p0rn, offers to buy followers, etc.), but that also means I can’t keep up with everyone’s feed anymore. I read your feed the first time you followed me (you might have noticed me favorite some of your posts, and retweet others), and if you’re happy with that level of interaction I’m glad, hope I make you laugh, give my book a try sometime.

But if I make you laugh regularly, stop by and say hi. Comment, favorite stuff, and retweet it of course, but better yet start a conversation. Do I want readers? Yes please, in the thousands if possible. But I’d be stoked to have more friends who like my books.

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