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Dec 23, 2012

What NOT to do when you're a Writing Newb

2012 is rapidly drawing to a close and what a wild ride it's been. Compared to last year, this one has been utterly amazing and I am truly thankful for it. That doesn't mean, though, that I'm putting on blinders or drinking my own kool-aid (it's a pretty nasty flavor anyway :). Instead, I've found myself wanting to give a little bit back. These past few weeks I've been posting the parts to Bill's Vampiric Christmas Carol. That's been my little bit of holiday cheer to those who have taken some enjoyment from my writing. That's just one side of the coin, though.

The other side is the business itself. I've met a ton of awesome writers this year and have also seen a lot of new faces in this industry. It's to that latter group that this post is intended. Typically, the first few things I see a lot of new writers ask are: "How do I market this?" "How do I sell this? "How do I do XXXXX?" Unfortunately, I'm not here to answer those.

There are plenty of awesome resources and forums out there for that. What I instead wanted to give was some advice on what NOT to do. Why? Because for all of those new faces I've seen, I've unfortunately witnessed far too many of them shoot themselves in their own feet. I believe that in a lot of cases this has nothing to do with their talent for writing. A goodly chunk is sheer inexperience coupled with perhaps not having developed the thick skin this business necessitates.

Now don't take this the wrong way. This post is not about me getting on some moral high horse. I've done and continue to do plenty of stupid things. What type of person you are behind closed doors is neither my concern nor really any of my beeswax. Pretend instead that I'm offering the following advice from a purely business perspective, because that's what you are now. The moment you decided to put something up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or elsewhere; you became a businessperson and you need to think about that in every aspect of what you do with regards to your product.

What follows is a small smattering of behaviors that, in my opinion anyway, it would be best to avoid.

What NOT to do regarding Quality: Very few of us can throw together 50,000 words without having it utterly riddled with typos, grammatical errors, and the like. Your work and mine all require editing, most likely a lot of it. Whether you decide to do it yourself or hire it out, it needs to be done. It doesn't matter what you price your book at. A $.99 price tag is not an excuse to release something you have given exactly zero editing thought toward. Do not expect people to pay you for the privilege of beta reading your product.

Possibly even worse than the above is whining about it in a public forum. I will tell you right now, you will receive exactly ZERO sympathy from people by giving them excuses like "I can't afford an editor, people should ignore the typos and concentrate on the story." Don't even think of it, unless you really want people to roll their eyes and judge you clueless.

That's not to say you should lock yourself in a cave, rereading your work until you're 100% certain it's perfect...trust me, it still won't be. Typos slip through, even with the best of efforts (or costs). That being said, there's a vast difference between a small handful of typos and releasing a book that you know is the equivalent of a kindergarten essay written in crayon. Similarly inexcusable is replying with anything other than politeness and thanks to anyone good enough to point out an error to you. Thank them and fix it (if you are able...not always an option if you're signed with a publisher). That is all.

What NOT to do regarding Reviews: Your book is exactly that, a book. It's not a child, it's not a baby, and it's not a physical extension of you. It is a product and like any products there are people who are going to despise it for any of a thousand reasons. My advice: be prepared for it and then get over it. It's going to happen. JK Rowling has sold far more books than you ever will and she's still gotten plenty of one-star reviews.

If at all possible, you shouldn't reply to reviews, at least those on sales forums such as Amazon. Reviews aren't for you, they're for other readers. Replying to every single one just makes you look like a creepy, obsessive stalker. Quadruple that for replying to negative reviews. It is not your job to defend your work, belittle those who have spent time and/or money on your book, or just throw a public temper tantrum. NONE of those will help do anything other than tell people you're a potential asshole. Yes I said it. Do you like purchasing goods from people who are assholes? I know I don't. I'd say it's in your best interest to not be one.

You might even be best served by not reading reviews at all. I know it's tough, but it can be done, especially if you know you're unlikely to be able to take criticism well. Keep things in perspective. Someone didn't purposely run over your dog, it's just a review. Just remember, as I said above, they're not for you anyway. Worry instead about improving your craft and writing that next book. It'll be time far better spent.

Along those same lines, do NOT try to game the system in your favor. That email from Amazon - the one asking you to review your own book - it's just an automated email, they don't mean it. Don't review your own stuff, either under your own name or under fake accounts. Just don't. I know you think you're clever enough to never get caught, but you're wrong. I've taught at the college level and if I've learned one thing doing so it's that most people who cheat aren't bright enough to get away with it. Avoid reviewing yourself, paying for reviews, and/or falling in with circles of other authors who will give you a five star in exchange for you doing the same. Even if you don't find this morally reprehensible (which you hopefully do), consider that there are plenty of people out there who will eventually read about your shenanigans and put you at the top of their "Never Ever Read" list without a second thought.

What NOT to do with regards to Social Media: This is a big one because almost any interaction online counts toward social media. So we'll try breaking it down by type. First things first, though, and this rule covers them all. Remember that thing above about being perceived as a potential asshole? Well don't answer that question to everyone by acting like one online. Sarcasm is fine. Humor is awesome. Being an outright dick? Not so much. There's a fine line there. Take care not to cross it.

-Forums: Forums can be great places to connect both with other writers as well as readers. Forums can also be a great place to bury yourself under an avalanche of your own stupidity. First things first: READ THE FUCKING RULES. Every forum has them. Most don't take kindly to you ignoring them, so you can barrel in screaming, "Buy my new book!" Most of their users don't either.

Remember that many forums are public. Even if you're amongst a circle of other authors, don't presume there aren't plenty of lurkers around. If you start badmouthing people, anyone who's there reading will be able to see it. That won't exactly help your burgeoning reputation. You'll also look like a moron for presuming things are private when they quite obviously are not.

Speaking of badmouthing...don't do it toward anyone who might be your potential audience. Step back a moment and consider that there are people actually paying for your product. You don't bite the hand that feeds you. You don't look down upon people for being "merely readers". You don't challenge them to write their own book. You don't bitch about them for not leaving you a review. You don't (add anything negative here). That doesn't mean you have to kiss anyone's ass. Lively open debate is fine. Acting like a spoiled child who didn't get a toy from Santa is not.

-Facebook: Spamming other people's timelines is an assholish thing to do. If you like my page, don't assume that gives you full reign to post unrelated shit on my timeline. I, and many others, will delete it and ban you.

If you happen to get lucky and attract a fan base: engage with them, appreciate them, and have fun with them. Do NOT use them as your personal attack dogs. If someone gives you a bad review, it is NOT okay to unleash your fans against them like they're the minions of your own personal little Mordor. Just remember: things ended badly for Sauron.

-Twitter: Twitter is one of the few places where continual advertising is tolerated. That being said, by all means do so if you want to be entirely buried in the sea of other people doing it. You won't stand out by doing what everyone else is doing. Engage and occasionally just tweet about yourself. Show people there's a real human being behind that tweet button.

Avoid automatic messages to new followers. It's tacky and it's obvious when you're doing it. Remember, it's very easy for someone to unfollow you or outright block you if you annoy them enough.

Speaking of unfollowing: don't follow someone then wait for them to follow you before unfollowing them just so you can bump up your stats. Did that make sense? Hopefully it did. Either way, it's not cool and people will eventually call you out on it.

This is getting long, so I'll end it now. Maybe in the New Year I'll release a part 2. Hopefully, though, it won't be necessary. The gist of the above is really about putting out the best product you can and acting like a professional about it...or - if you prefer the converse - just not being a dick. Some would claim that any publicity is good publicity. I tend to disagree. Me? I'd rather people concentrate on my stories than what a train wreck I am. Hopefully you will too.

Good luck with your writing and have a Happy Holidays!

Dec 16, 2012

A Vampiric Christmas Carol (part 3)

Welcome back!  I hope all of you have been able to find your own little slice of holiday magic.  I know it's not always easy.  For many of us it ends when we grow up, only fleetingly being rediscovered from time to time.  When it does happen, though, it can truly reinvigorate you...trust me on this.  My wish this season is for each and every one of you to experience a little of it...just enough to maybe make you look to the sky come Christmas Eve and wonder if you hear sleigh bells ringing, or a similar such event depending on your beliefs (I'm sure for many out there a fat man with flying reindeer would probably be far more horrifying than anything I can write here ;).

I'm blathering on again, aren't I?  Sorry, I tend to do that.  I'll shut up now so you can get to Part 3 of the Bill The Vampire Christmas special

Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven't already. That being said, let us conclude our little holiday tale...


A Christmas Carol Bill
Part 3

*THUD*

I awoke when my head connected with the wooden floor of my bedroom.  I sat up, wrapped in my sheets and covered in a thin sheen of sweat.  Holy shit, what a dream!  Or was it?

To make sure, I did the first thing that came to mind:  I reached down and checked on the boys.  Whew!  Thank goodness, they were still intact...although they were oddly tender, almost as if they had been....

Nah!  It couldn't have been.  I had obviously gotten a hold of some tainted blood.  Maybe it had been unwillingly donated by a crackhead or something.  That had to be it, and it definitely explained the weirdness of the night.

I was almost ready to believe that, when a shadow fell over me.  Vampires have excellent night vision - so it's not like I was at a disadvantage in the dark - but even so, when I looked up all I could see was a black void standing over me.  No, that wasn't quite right.  There was something in it.  Whatever it was, it was draped in an unnatural shadow.  As my eyes attempted to adjust to the supernatural darkness surrounding it, I saw that things weren't helped by the black clothing it wore...a hooded robe, the color of obsidian.

"Let me guess," I said, untangling myself from my bedclothes.  "Ghost of Christmas Future, right?" I stood up, then turned to face my latest spirit and found myself looking down upon it.  Hmm, awfully short for a ghost.  I felt like I was standing there staring down a Jawa.  Oh well, I guess the Grim Reaper doesn't need to be seven feet tall to be intimidating.

The figure raised one arm, entirely clad in the sleeves of the robe, and pointed.  Surprise surprise, I was supposed to follow it through my wall again.  Jeez, didn't ghosts believe in doors or anything? 

"Alright, let's get going.  Show me my staking, my funeral, or whatever the fuck dog and pony show you've got in store so I can get back to bed.  I'm tired and I figure it's only a matter of time before someone kills my ass anyway.  Hell, barely a day goes by where I'm not surprised I lived to the end of it."

The figure began to walk, and I found myself following it.  "It's Sally, isn't it?  She's the one who kills me, right?  It's okay, you can tell me.  I wouldn't be surprised."

The mists began to coalesce around us as we walked.  Despite knowing what I'd be shown, I found myself rambling nevertheless.  "The Draculas, it's gotta be them.  They're all assholes anyway.  I'm sure they'll sacrifice my ass whenever it suits their needs."

Still no response from the figure.  "It's not Colin, right?  Please tell me it's not him.  That guy is an absolute weaselly prick.  I'd sooner be staked by..." I trailed off as the world began to take focus around us.  Grey bleakness stretched toward the horizon.  I found myself wondering when someone would hit the colorization button to fill things in, but then everything snapped into focus, sharp and crisp, but still drab in tone.  This was how things looked.  Kinda depressing if you ask me.

My attention was caught by something off in the distance.  Squinting my eyes, I saw it was a great city...or at least the remains of it.  Broken buildings littered the landscape and random fires burned throughout.  Damn, I guess some serious shit went down here.

The figure stopped and I almost bumped into the creepy little Oompa Loompa.  It again pointed.  I had been so focused on the Mad Max scene playing out in the distance, that I had missed a fairly large gathering of people off some ways to the left of us.

We approached and I saw there was an order to the group.  Several dozen people stood at attention in multiple columns.  Though there seemed to be discipline in their actions, their method of dress varied. Some were in crisp suits, others in more street level attire.  The spirit entered their ranks, and I followed.  Passing the first few rows, I caught sight of several smiling faces, fangs protruding from them all...not people, vampires.

Okay, so was this the vampire apocalypse everyone kept telling me about?  It didn't look so bad.  I could deal with...

"The last human city has fallen!"  What the? I turned toward the front of the gathering, where the ghost was now heading.  The voice had come from there.  Once again, I knew it quite well.  I should have...it was mine.

"Even now, our brothers and sisters comb through the wreckage - picking off the last of their resistance," alternate me said from the head of the group.  I was dressed...well, damn.  I looked fairly badass.  I wore a long leather duster over a black outfit, a uniform of sorts.  Not to sound egomanical, but I clean up pretty well when I put my mind to it.  I'd have to remember that look...might score me some points with the ladies.

I raced to catch up to the spirit. It was now approaching at the head of the column, only a few feet from where I gave my victory rant.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not particularly fond of the thought of becoming a genocidal nutcase.  Still, I think there are few amongst us who haven't indulged in an evil overlord fantasy or three.  Mine just happened to be somewhat more vivid than most.

"I have fulfilled my destiny," emperor Bill continued on, giving a psychotic monologue that would have made Ernst Blofeld proud. "My enemies lie crushed beneath my feet.  We are now free to remake the world in our image.  The vampire nation reigns supreme!"

A huge roar of approval rose up from amongst the assembled vamps.  It was both disturbing and kind of flattering at the same time. I looked down at my tormenting spirit and remarked, "This isn't so bad.  I mean there are worse fates than winding up in charge.  I could have ended up..."

The figure silenced me by holding up its arm.  The sleeve of its robe slipped back revealing a small pale hand.  It then pointed back towards where I stood triumphant.  Oh well, might as well see what other kick-ass things my future self had to say.

"We shall stride into this new age with our heads held high.  Never again shall we hunt from the shadows.  Together I and my beautiful bride shall show you glory that our kind haven't known for far too many centuries."  Wait?  Beautiful bride?  Ooh, now this was getting interesting.  Not only was I a kick-ass motherfucker, but I was apparently getting some too.  I could dig this.

"Come here, my love, and share in my triumph."  badass Bill raised his hand and held it out in front of him, pointing it a little to the left of where I stood. 

"Of course, my beloved," came an eager reply from the crowd.  I knew that voice.  No fucking way!

Gansetseg, daughter of Ogedai Khan, strode forward.  She was over three-hundred years old in my time, so who knew what age she was now.  There was only one small problem...well okay, a lot of small problems.  For starters, Gan was batshit crazy.  Under other circumstances, I could deal with that.  The more pressing issue, though, was that she had been turned into a vampire shortly after her twelfth birthday.  Physically, she had stayed that age every since.  Yeah, Gan was a kid.

I blinked my eyes, not willing to believe it.  Gan walked up to my future self and put her arms around me.  He...err...I returned the affection.  Ewww! That proved it.  I was either in Hell or the vampire apocalypse was playing out in Arkansas.  Neither was a particularly appealing proposition.

"Okay, you've got my undivided attention," I said to the spirit beside me, a feeling akin to panic starting to settle in.  "I get it.  I'm a horrible, evil person.  Just tell me what I have to do to avoid this fate."

"Avoid it, my love?" the spirit replied, finding its voice at last.  Oh shit.  It reached up and removed the hood from its head.  Gan's face peered up at me, a large grin spread across her prepubescent face, her green eyes sparkling with excitement.  "This is your destiny.  There is no avoiding it, although I cannot imagine why you would even wish to.  Is it not marvelous?"

It's about here that a lesser person would probably crack.

Oh who am I kidding, I am a lesser person. 

"Holy motherfucking shit!" 

"I am pleased to see you too, beloved."

When confronted by the most horrific destiny that one can imagine, some people man up and charge headfirst into their fate.  Others beg for mercy like the whiny little bitches they are.  Me?  I prefer to think I'm my own person, an independent thinker, a free will if you please (yes,  I did make that pun).  Thus I did neither.  Instead, I took what seemed to be the most logical course of action: I turned tail and ran off screaming.

Gan's voice followed me as I entered the ether. "This is your future.  You cannot escape your fate!"  The last thing I heard as darkness closed around me was perhaps the most chilling of all. "By the way, our wedding was beautiful."

Well wasn't that just jim dandy?  The world was in shambles, I was joined at the hip with the most dangerous munchkin alive, but at least I knew how to throw a good reception.  Lucky me.

* * *

I'd like to tell you I woke up with some of my dignity intact, but let's not bullshit ourselves here.  I bolted out of bed; sweat pouring off my brow and a scream escaping my lips.

Bright light streamed through the windows.  It looked like it was...morning.  Had I slept through the entire day, then night again?  It certainly seemed that way.  Oh who cares?  I was back in my own bedroom and the nightmare was over.  I was so happy that I would have even kissed Gan had she been there...but just for the record, I was glad she wasn't.

A sense of elation filled me.  I had seen the very worst that life had to offer me, including a nightmarish vision of the future...one that I now would strive to avoid like the plague itself. Screw all that destroying mankind crap!  If anything, I would embrace my humanity more tightly than ever before.  There was no way I was going down that other road.

Oddly enough, that realization made me feel good...really good. I stood up, feeling light in my step.  A smile on my face, I strode to the window and opened it up, feeling the cold morning air wash over me.  I stuck my head out and surveyed the town...my town.

"MERRY CHRISTMAS, BROOKLYN!"  I shouted.  Wait, was it Christmas yet?  I couldn't quite remember.

Thinking quickly, I looked down and saw a teenager, gift in hand, ambling down the street.  When in doubt, ask.

"You there, boy," I hailed him. "What day is...OH FUCK!"  I immediately began to sizzle as the rays of the morning sun washed over me from my vantage point.  I yanked my body back inside as fast as I could and shut the drapes.  Note to self: embracing humanity is fine...just need to remember that there's still a few caveats attached to it. 

Remembering that I had just exposed my vampireness to the world at large, I peeked through the curtains to see what was happening below.  The kid I had yelled to was continuing on his way as if nothing odd had just happened.  Thank god for New Yorkers.  This is the only place in the world where the heights of weirdness get barely a shrug.

Oh well.  I stopped, dropped, and rolled to put myself out, then threw on a fresh (and unburnt) set of clothes.  Slightly singed, but presentable, I opened my door and stepped out.  Despite my little distraction of bursting aflame (again), my new outlook on life was still intact.

"Merry Christmas!" I shouted, spotting Ed in our kitchen nook, coffee cup in hand.

He took a sip and nonchalantly replied, "Christmas is tomorrow, Bill.  I'm driving you to your parents, remember?"

"Of course I remember," I lied. "But just because it's tomorrow, doesn't mean we can't celebrate it today.  Hell, we can celebrate it every day!"  I turned and spied my other roommate, Tom.  He was sitting on the couch with his lovely girlfriend Christy.

"Merry Christmas, you two!" I said, striding over.  I gave Tom a hearty handshake, pulling him to his feet and embracing him like a brother. I even bent down and gave Christy a little peck on the cheek. 

"You're in a surprisingly good mood," Ed remarked, walking over.  He raised one eyebrow quizzically and said, "I thought you weren't excited about the holidays."

"Not anymore, my friend.  I've decided I need a whole new outlook on life.  From here on in things will be different.  No more moping and whining.  I've been given a gift and by God I'm going to use it to make a difference in this world.  Today is the first day of the rest of my life and it's going to be a long, fulfilling life.  It's..."

"I knew it would work!" Tom remarked, turning to Ed.  "You owe me, dude."

Christy immediately swatted his arm.  "Shhhh.  You're not supposed to say anything."

"Say anything?"  I asked, confused...albeit still elated.

"It's nothing," Ed said.

To which Tom replied, "Ed's right, but he still owes me ten bucks."

Despite feeling that more important matters awaited me today, I found my curiosity piqued. "Why do you owe Tom ten dollars?"

"Oh no reason," Ed replied, sipping his coffee.  I still had a grin on my face, but something about his tone bothered me.  When you live with people long enough, you can practically smell when they're bullshitting you from a mile away.  I knew what I was smelling right now and it was causing my veneer of good cheer to start clouding over. 

I knew Ed was a tough nut to crack, thus I turned to the weakest link in the room. "Tom, why does Ed owe you money?"  Christy opened her mouth to say something, but I held up a hand to silence her. "Care to enlighten me?"

"You're probably gonna be pissed" he replied.  Ed let out a sigh at this and walked back over to the kitchen.  We could both tell when Tom was about to spill his guts.  It wasn't particularly hard. The dude couldn't keep his mouth shut if it was crazy-glued.

"I promise, I will not be pissed." I help up a finger and crossed it over my non-beating heart. 

"Well, you've been a little glum lately, what with all the shit going on..."

"And," I prodded, keeping the friendly smile going.

"And I remembered Christy mentioning a couple of weeks back that she knew this spell, something to do with using a person's subconscious to help perk them up. Right, hon?"

"Heh. It's a little more complicated than that," she replied, quickly stepping behind him, a sheepish grin on her face.

"How so?" I asked conversationally.

"You know, dimensional doors, linking of minds through the astral plan, silly stuff like that."

"You don't say," I replied, feeling my smile turn into gritted teeth. "Truly fascinating."

"I thought it was an awesome idea," Tom continued, still oblivious to the hole he was digging himself, "but Ed told me it was all bullshit.  We argued a bit until he bet me that Christy couldn't change your outlook on life."

"Let me get this straight," I said, walking up and putting my arm around him. "Ed bet you that Christy couldn't make me happy by fucking with my brain - all for the princely sum of ten dollars - which you accepted?"  As I spoke, I slowly tightened my grip on him into a choke hold.

"Something like that," he sputtered.

"And you thought this was a good idea!?"  I asked Ed, feeling my fangs involuntarily extend.

"I take it, then," he replied calmly, "that your outlook has not improved."

"What the fuck do you think?"

"What do I think?" he asked before turning his attention back toward Tom. "I think that proves my point. Kindly fork over the cash."

I let go of Tom, feeling utterly exasperated.  My god, what a bunch of pricks I lived with.

I turned back toward my room, deciding that going back to sleep was my best course of action. Visions of Gan suddenly didn't sound so bad.

"No hard feelings, Bill?" Ed called after me.  "It was all in good fun...and a little easy money."

"Ask me that in about a hundred years," was my reply as I slammed the door shut behind me.

I took a step toward my bed, then had a thought.  Didn't Christy say something about actually linking minds? Was it possible?  Hmmm.  What the hell?  It was worth a shot.

I opened the door again and said, "Oh and just for your information, Sally hates rubies."

The last thing I saw before I shut the door again were Ed's eyes opening wide in genuine surprise.

It was only then that I allowed myself the ghost of a smile.  Perhaps it was worth the ten bucks after all.  Bah Humbug indeed.

The End



I hope you've enjoyed this little holiday tale and that it's given you your own ghost of a smile this season.  I sincerely wish each and every one of you a Happy Holidays.

Now what are you waiting for?  This was but a small bit of fantasy.  Real life is out there waiting for you.  Go out and enjoy it a little.  You deserve it.

Best,
Rick G.

Dec 9, 2012

A Vampiric Christmas Carol (part 2)

Hello everyone!  I hope your holiday season is progressing nicely.  Mine is going swimingly...well, save for the shopping.  Why is it that it seems like that part is never finished?  Even come Christmas morning, there will probably be that "Oh shit!  I forgot about Uncle Bob!" moment.

Oh well, tis the season for giving and all...and I guess that includes all of the associated headaches that come with it.  Still, it's all worth it to see a smile on the faces of our loved ones (or even semi-liked ones :).

But hey, you didn't come here to listen to me blather on did you?  No, you're probably here for Part 2 of our Bill The Vampire Christmas Story. 

Click here to read Part 1 if you haven't already. Aside from that, without further ado...


A Christmas Carol Bill
Part 2

*SMACK*

What the fuck!?

"Wake up, you little pussy!"

Again I was smacked in the face.  I opened my eyes, but - judging by the voice - I already knew who would be there looking down at me.

"You again?"

"Yes, me again," Jeff spat before backhanding me across the face a third time.

"I'm awake!"

"I know. I just enjoy smacking the shit out of you."

I sat up and scuttled across the bed away from him.  "What the fuck are you doing back here?"

"I am the ghost of Christmas past, Freewill."

"Whoa there just a fucking second, dude," I said standing up.  I walked up to him and poked a finger into his muscular chest.  Hmmm, for an incorporeal spirit he sure as shit felt solid enough. That was potentially worrisome.  Still, I couldn't let him know that.  "I thought you were supposed to be Jacob Marley here.  You ain't no Patrick Stewart, so how the hell can you also be the ghost of Christmas..."

I didn't get a chance to finish the question as Jeff's fist collided with my face.  I felt blood explode out of my nose as I staggered back.  Yep, he was definitely solid enough.

"I'm whoever the fuck I say I am!" he snapped at me.  "Want to argue the point?"

"No, not particularly," I mumbled, still holding my smashed face.

"Good, then let's go," he said. "The less time I have to spend babysitting your nerdy ass, the better." 

He grabbed a hold of my arm and dragged me forward.  I knew the size of my bedroom and I should have impacted with the wall, but I didn't.  We just kept walking. Somehow I wasn't overly surprised. 

"Let me guess, you're gonna show me the day I killed your ass and convince me it somehow made me a bad person," I said, still trying to stem the flow of blood from my crushed nose.  Goddamn, for a ghost, the douchebag hit really hard.

"Sorry, but that didn't happen at Christmas time.  Rules are rules.  Oh, but thanks for reminding me about that." A moment later I felt his fist impact with my stomach, driving the wind out of me.

I went down to my knees gasping.  This was getting old.  I balled my fist, ready to spring up and cock punch the bastard, but that's when I heard a voice.

"I want a bike!"

It was a whiney, childish voice.  It was also familiar...very familiar, namely because it was mine.  I opened my eyes and found myself in my parents' living room, back in Scotch Plains, NJ.  It was just as I remembered...from fifteen years ago at least.

"Santa didn't bring you a bicycle, William," my father patiently explained to my younger self.  Thinking back on things, it was obvious why.  At that age, I had sucked at riding a bike.  My first few forays on one, borrowing my friend Tom's, had resulted in my crashing into a tree, then a bush, and finally the side of my father's car - scraping the shit out of it in the process.  "Why don't you open the nice board games he brought you?"

One of the 'board games' I had gotten that year had been a boxed Dungeons and Dragons set.  In the end, I had gotten a whole lot more use out of that, but that wouldn't start for at least a few weeks yet.  For now I was firmly fixated on the bike that Santa had gypped me out of.

"But I was a good boy!" the nine year old version of me whined.

"I know, William, but..."

"SANTA SUCKS! I WANT A BIKE!"  the younger me screamed, then burst into tears.

"Why are you showing me this?" I asked Jeff, making sure to take a step back so as to be out of punching range.  "I know how it played out.  I cried for half the day until I got sent to my room.  A month later my parents finally had enough and got me the damn bike, which I promptly fell off of and broke my arm.  Lesson learned."

"A shame it wasn't your neck."

"Yeah pity that. Then I couldn't have grown up, been turned into a vampire, and  - oh yeah - taken over your coven."

Jeff turned to me, burning hatred in his eyes.  He looked as if he was about to pounce upon me, but somehow he managed to restrain himself. I figured that probably meant we were done here and would be off to another stroll down memory lane.  That's the way the story went.  Instead, though, he asked,  "Have you fucked any of them?

"Huh?" I asked, caught by surprise. "My parents!?"

"No, dickless. The coven...the women."

"Oh. Um...no."

"I did...all of them.  Hell, sometimes two or three at a time.  I used to make Sally scream like the traitorous little whore she is."

Okay, that kind of stung.  I'll admit, when I took over from Jeff, I had a few fantasies along the line of all the orgies I'd be having with the insanely hot females of the coven.  Sadly for me, that hadn't happened.  One day they were all slutting it up with Jeff, the next you'd have sworn I had taken over a convent instead of a group of vampires. Don't get me wrong, I'm not like Jeff.  I believe in treating women with at least a modicum of respect.  Regardless, that little detail continued to miff me.

"And your point is?" I asked, trying not to sound annoyed.

"My point is that nothing has changed.  You were a little pussy back then and you're an even bigger pussy today."

"Thanks for the insight, Dr. Freud.  So, again, what exactly is this supposed to teach me?"

In the blink of an eye, Jeff was right in front of me.  Vampires can move damn fast when they want to. Guess the same goes for ghost vampires.  I'd have to make a note of that.

"Not a goddamn thing," he said, a predatory smile on his face. "I just wanted to remind you how pathetic you are.  That's lesson enough for me."  Once again, his fist flashed out and caught me square on the chin.  This time when I fell back, darkness enveloped me.  Oh well, at least I didn’t have to listen to him anymore.

* * *

Hangovers suck.  They suck ten times as bad, though, when you haven’t even been drinking.  At least I didn’t remember drinking.  No, all I remembered was Jeff’s fist impacting with my face like a meteor.

Wait...Jeff!?  Wasn’t he dead, as in permanently?  Then how come...okay, that must have been a dream; a really bad dream...a painful one to be honest, but a dream nevertheless.  Vampires didn’t come back from being dusted.

Well, okay, I don’t know that for sure.  I mean I guess it’s possible.  Still, it seems a little petty to come back just long enough to kick the shit out of me before disappearing back into the ether for all of eternity.  Of course, petty is a pretty good word to describe Jeff, although douchebag is a much better word.  Hell, I could spend the next several hours thinking up new and interesting...

“Are you just gonna lie there playing with yourself all night? Because if so, I’m gonna get the fuck out of here.”

I bolted straight up at the sound of the voice.

Ouch!  Okay, my head didn’t like that one bit.  I put my hands on my temples to keep my frontal lobe from trying to escape.  While I did so, I processed what I had just heard.  I knew that voice, in fact I knew it very well.  It was a voice that had nagged, complained, and been non-stop bitchy to me ever since that fateful night when I woke up to find myself dead.

“Sally?” I asked, cracking my eyes open.  They didn’t stay that way for long, though.  One glimpse was enough to open them wide enough that I thought they’d surely come flying out of my head.

“Hey, Bill.”

“Holy shit!”

“Take a picture, asshole.  It lasts longer.  On second thought, don’t.  Try it and I’ll tear your fucking arms off.”

I had no answer for that, hell I barely even heard her.  One-hundred and ten percent of my attention was centered on how she was dressed...or undressed.  Sally stood there in front of my bed, bathed in an eerie glow; however, that part barely even registered.  What did, was that she was wrapped in nothing but festive ribbon, big red bows of them covering all of her good parts.  If Jeff has been a nightmare, surely this was the wettest of wet dreams.

“I am the ghost of Christmas Present...” she started to say, sounding bored.

“Why are you dressed like that?”

“Don’t ask me.  Apparently your subconscious is filling in some of the blanks here.” She glanced down at herself and rolled her eyes.  “Offhand, I’d say this is one-half bad pun with the rest being some really sick fucking fantasy on your part.”

“So this is all a dream?” I asked, getting out of bed and approaching her.

“Not quite...”

This was a hell of a lot better than that shitty old bicycle. “Mind if I unwrap my Christmas present?” I reached out a tentative hand, grinning...

...and was immediately met by another fist to the face.  Sally can’t hit as hard as Jeff, but never ever discount her. She packs one hell of a mean right.  If someone had told me when this day began that I'd be signing up for some makeshift rhinoplasty, I'd have stayed in bed.

“Try that again and the only Christmas present you’ll be looking forward to is the doctors being able to reattach your dick.”

“Point taken,” I replied, checking to see if any teeth had been knocked loose.

“Good, then follow me.” She turned and began to walk, but I didn’t move. My feet were rooted in place as my eyes traveled down, noticing the Christmas ribbon thong that was, so far as I could tell, the only thing covering her ass.

No doubt sensing where my gaze was roaming, she turned and gave me a glare. “Eyes up here, mister, before I rip them out of your skull.  Let’s get this over with before you totally creep me the fuck out.”

“I’m in no rush.”

“I doubt that.  Probably already shot a load in your pants.”

That wasn’t true...well okay, it almost was.  Sometimes having a vivid imagination is an awesome thing.  Still...

"So what's the deal?" I asked, trying to focus. "Last time I checked, you weren't dead."

"That's okay, the last time I checked, you weren't a man.  How the fuck should I know?  All I know is that I'm here, I'm supposed to show you some bullshit that's probably going to fail to teach you a lesson, and, oh yeah, I'm dressed like I'm about to star in a porno about Santa's candy cane."

"Well at least that last part is pretty normal."

She turned and shot daggers at me with her eyes.  "You can either walk or be dragged."

"Okay, I'm coming, I'm coming."

* * *

For the second time that night, I followed a spirit into the unknown.  As before, I was led up to and then through my own bedroom wall, finding myself floating in the ether.  Oh well, at least this time my company was far more pleasant to look at.

"Behold," she said, her tone that of someone reading off of a cue card, "the misery that abounds this Christmas season because of your misdeeds."

I tore my eyes off of Sally's figure long enough to take a quick look and comment, "Um, I know Tom's kind of special, but I'm pretty sure Tiny Tim never had it this good."

Sally turned to survey the scene.  We were in Christy's apartment.  I could tell because it was far more tastefully decorated than Tom's room at our place.  She and my roommate were in the middle of a pretty heavy make-out session.

"I did not need to see this," Sally commented with a sigh.

"Not doing wonders for me either."

The couple started tearing at each other's clothes as we watched.  Finally, Christy started unzipping Tom's pants. At this point Sally waved her hands, causing everything in our view to thankfully get all hazy.  "We're out of here," she said. "If I have to see that fucktard's bony ass, I'm gonna be one cranky camper."

I didn't bother to point out that Sally wasn't too far from that even when she was in what passed as a good mood for her.  Nope, I just kept my mouth shut and continued to feast on the eye candy.

"Next stop," she said, turning to fix me with another stoney stare. I quickly brought my eyes up, not wanting to get decked again.  "Let us visit your coven and see what horrors have befallen them as a result of your...oh Jesus Christ!"

I looked past her, my jaw dropping open. "Whoa!  Why the fuck wasn't I invited to this?"  The scene before me was like some kind of Roman orgy...only bloodier.  We were in the SoHo loft, scene of most of my coven's social action. A pair of dead bodies lay on the floor...a not too surprising thing when dealing with vampires. As for the members of the coven, well they were in various states of doing...stuff.  Loud techno music played as the surreal scene played out before us.

"This is what goes on when I'm not there?"

"Well...yeah," Sally commented.

"Fuck me!"

"Quite the opposite, I'd say."

As we watched, two of the women, Vanessa and Firebird, pulled each other's bloody tops off and began wildly making out with one another.

"Now we move on to see what other..."

"Hold on,"  I said. "I'd kinda like to stick around here a bit...you know, learn some more about my misdeeds."

"You'd die alone in a women's prison," she quipped with an eye roll.  Another wave of her hands and we were once again surrounded by mist and darkness.  Dammit...just when the movie was getting good.

"Ah here we are." she said. "Behold your friend Ed.  Let us watch as he wallows in the suffering that has been brought upon him.  Ooh!  Victoria's Secret is having a sale!"

We were in a mall, the Manhattan Mall from the look of things.  Okay, I could dig this.  If Ed was here during the holiday season, then he sure as shit was suffering.  I wouldn't wish this fate on my worst enemy.  I'd sooner sunbath naked on my roof than be here at this time of year.

We spied him as he came out of a jewelry store on the second floor.  What the hell?  If he was miserable, he sure didn't show it.  Hell, he almost looked happy,  That might not sound like much, but it was about as close to jubilation as Ed got.

"What's he doing?"

"How the fuck am I supposed to know?" Sally replied. "Watch and learn."

Ed stepped over to the railing, away from the crowd of mall minions cascading in both directions.  He pulled a small jewelry box out of his pocket and opened it to inspect the contents.  Inside was a bracelet, a pricey one by the look of things.  Why the hell was Ed buying jewelry, unless...

"Are those rubies?" Sally asked, suddenly interested. "They're my favorite."

I turned to face her, staring her in the eye - her body momentarily forgotten (but only momentarily). "Are we here, just so we can watch Ed buy you a Christmas present?"

Sally adopted her best innocent face. It came across about as sincere as an apology from Charles Manson. "Don't look at me.  I'm just the tour guide here."

"Why am I suddenly smelling bullshit?  Either way, though, I'm failing to see the point here.  I thought you said we were going to be viewing scenes of the misery I caused."

"Well..."

"As far as I can tell, the only miserable person I've seen so far tonight is myself.  Double that after all the fun shit I've seen everyone else doing."

She got a thoughtful look for a split second, then just shrugged. "Oh well, good enough for the accounting I guess."

"No it's..."

"Will you look at the time?" she said, miming looking at a wristwatch that wasn't there. "I gotta get out of here.  Places to be, bracelets to unwrap."

"You can't just..."

"Sorry, I don't make the rules.  I just follow them."  She began to turn away, but then stopped. "By the way," she said, stepping up to me. "If I suspect for even a second that you've been jerking off to...well, this..." she gestured down at her state of undress. "I will make a matching pair of earrings out of these."

Before I could react, her hand - claws extended - came up and locked onto my crotch.  It would have been marvelous, had it not been so excruciating.

"Wouldn't dream of it," I squeaked.

"Didn't think so," she blithely replied. To help drive home the point, she gave one final squeeze, hard enough so that the world greyed out around me and I fell to my knees - unaware of anything else save the screaming jingle bells between my legs.



To be concluded...

Click here to read Part 3.

Dec 2, 2012

A Vampiric Christmas Carol (part 1)

An early Happy Holidays to everyone!

As some of you have probably noticed, whenever I'm in the middle of writing a book this blog becomes the equivalent of a red-headed stepchild. This time has been no different, as you can no doubt tell by the rather sparse update schedule I've been keeping.  I figure at the end of the day, it's better to get something new out of the door than wrack my brain for an inane post that nobody is going to give much of a crap about anyway.

That being said, I find myself in quite the fine mood as we enter this holiday season.  A good chunk of that is because of you, the awesome people who have been so supportive of me. Every time I get a tweet, post, or email about one of my books, it's such an incredible feeling I can barely express it.  I really owe you all my deepest gratitude for it.

Because of this, I wanted to give everyone a small token of my thanks. Unfortunately, sending each of you a fruit cake seemed a little daunting.  Thus I decided to dust off my Santa-shaped writing cap and put together a little Christmas story as both thanks and a little holiday cheer to all the people patiently waiting for me to finish book 4 of my Tome of Bill Series, Holier Than Thou.

Here's my twisted take on a holiday classic.  I hope you enjoy it.


A Christmas Carol Bill
Part 1.

Finally, I was almost home!  I hate racing the sunrise to get back to my apartment.  Sometimes the goddamn trains seem like they’re purposely timed to make you miss your connection.  If that N train hadn’t been an express, I’d probably wind up having to spend all day down in the station - a prospect that’s only marginally more pleasant than getting turned into a pile of ash by the rays of the sun.  I swear, Sally must get some perverse amusement in keeping me stuck in Manhattan with her until the wee hours of the morning...

Wait...with her for what?  I skidded to a stop just as I reached the stairs leading up to my building.  What the hell was I even out for?  That’s odd.  For some reason I couldn't remember what I had been doing last night or why it had made me late.  Sure, it was probably some coven related bullshit.  I mean it’s usually coven related crap: forms to fill out, petty fights between the members to settle, determining what's cool and what isn’t when it comes to killing people.  My god, sometimes you’d think I was the babysitter for a bunch of preteen girls instead of the leader of a coven of vampires.  Oh well, what did it matter anyway?  Same shit, different day and all that.  I was probably tired that’s all.  I figured that maybe a good night’s...err day’s...sleep would jog my memory. 

It couldn’t have been too important anyway, I thought, walking up the stairs to the front door. I dug out my key so I could let myself in and then head to the top floor apartment I shared with my human roommates, Tom and Ed.  Whatever it was, it could wait.  Yeah, a pint of blood and then maybe a couple of hours of sleep would do me well. 

I was just about to put my key in the lock when suddenly...HOLY SHIT!  I found myself backing up and then falling ass over teakettle down the stairs.  I landed hard, but thanks to my vampire physiology I pretty much wounded my pride more than anything else.

Either way, I barely felt it.  My mind was suddenly a million miles away.  For a split second there, I saw a face where the doorknob should have been.  Not just any face, mind you, but Jeff’s face.  But that was impossible.  Jeff, AKA Night Razor (double AKA douchebag), was the vampire who had originally turned me - quite against my will I might add - about a year or so back.  He was a big muscle-headed dickhead of a vamp, which was bad enough.  What made it worse, though, was that he had hated my guts from the get go - to the point of wanting to yank them out of my body.

He had come damn close too.  I had gotten luckier on that one than I had any reason to.  Not only had I and my friends managed to kill him, but I had wound up taking over his position as head vampire of a small coven of vampires located in SoHo.

As I said, he was dead...very dead - as in dust in the wind dead.  Even if he hadn’t been, why the fuck would he be doing an impersonation of my doorknob?  Whatever mission had gotten me out of my apartment earlier that night was suddenly the furthest thing from my mind.  I got a hold of myself, best as I could, then raced back up the stairs to find...well, nothing.  The door was there just like it always was. The doorknob was not Jeff's face, much like it typically wasn't.  I must’ve been more tired than I thought.  I seriously considered adding a couple of shots of Jim Beam to that pint of blood once I got inside.

Speaking of which, I was reflecting on a good stiff drink when I suddenly smelled something.  Hmm, it had a bit of a bacony aroma to it.  I was just thinking that someone must be up and cooking breakfast when suddenly the bacon started to burn, and that’s when I realized I was the bacon.  My hallucination had caused me to hesitate just long enough for the first rays of sunshine to start peeking over the rooftops.  Let me just say for the record, having the back of your head spontaneously ignite is not a particularly fun way to start the day.

* * *

The apartment was dark when I got in, smoke still rising off me.  I was amazed I hadn’t set off the building’s fire alarms on the way up.  Maybe the fact that our landlord is such a cheap fuck isn’t always a bad thing.  Anyway, a quick check of things - right after sticking my head in the shower - showed that I was alone.  I had assumed my roomies might still been sleeping, but a walk through the place confirmed that they were out.  I smiled a bit at that.  I don’t have anything against my roommates.  They’re my best buds in this world.  However, Tom’s girlfriend had been sleeping over as of late and that had been starting to tick me off.

It was bad enough that Tom was getting some, while I slept alone just a few yards away in my own bedroom.  Still, I could live with that.  What really bothered the shit out of me was that he was getting some from a witch, one who was also a member of a coven that wanted me dead.  Tom had been dating Christy for a few months now.  She had originally been sent to spy on me by this asshole wizard who happened to be a VP at the company I worked for.  It’s a bit of a long story.  It’s amazing how just a year ago I thought that the closest thing to real vampires were a bunch of dipshits wearing glitter to tween movie premiers. Nowadays, though, it seemed I couldn’t take a shit without running into the supernatural.  Suffice it to say, despite her mission, Christy wound up developing real feelings for Tom and the two had been a couple ever since.  Unfortunately, her coven hadn’t forgotten their original mission of killing me, which meant that things could be a little tense when she was around.

But that was neither here nor there right now.  I had the apartment all to myself.  I opened the fridge to help myself to a pint of chilled blood and allowed myself a moment to enjoy the silence. *Clink* Or relative silence anyway.  *Clink* *Clink* Ok what the fuck?  Were the pipes now rattling in this rundown hovel of an apartment building?

*Clink* It came again and this time sounded like it was in the room with me.

I turned around, not really sure what to expect. I had been thinking maybe something had come loose and fallen off the ceiling. Instead, my eyes popped wide open - the forgotten blood pack dropping to the floor along with my jaw.

“Hello, meat,” said Jeff.

* * *

I tried to form words but the English language suddenly seemed beyond my grasp.  What I was seeing was impossible - and trust me, over the past year I’ve had to raise the bar considerably on what I considered to be impossible.  Apparently I hadn’t raised it far enough.

“Happy to see me again, asshole?” he asked with that same dickhead attitude I remembered from before, a grin spreading across his pale face - and pale he was, even by vampire standards.  It was like he had just been doused with talcum powder.  He was also covered in chains... that was a new look for him. What the fuck was up with that?

"If we're being honest here, not particularly," I replied, still in shock but able to spit out the insult regardless.

"I can assure you, the feeling is mutual."

"You're dead."

"So are you, Dr. Death," he replied mockingly, using my old coven nickname.  I guess he did have a point there, though.

"I meant really dead. I killed you."

"You killed me?"

"Well OK, Sally helped...a little."

"I'm well aware," he spat. "And believe me, as much as I'd like to rip both your fucking faces off for it, that's not why I'm here."

He could have fooled me.  Back when Jeff had been in charge of our coven, I hadn't known him to give me the time of day if it didn't include some attempt at fucking me up. 

"So this is just a social visit?"

"Not quite.  I'm here to tell you that tonight you will be visited by three spirits.  They are here to show you..."

I raised an eyebrow.  Really?  We were going with that old cliche?  "What? You’re going to show me the error of my ways?"

"More like what a fucking little lifeless prick you are."

OK, that was new.

"Listen, Jeff,” I replied, realizing that I was standing here talking to a vampire ghost.  Yep, I must be losing my fucking mind. “I'm tired and..."

"NIGHT RAZOR!"

"Fine, Night Razor.  Whatever the fuck.  I don’t care. You're obviously just a figment of my imagination anyway.  Maybe I sucked down some expired blood..."

"Think whatever you want, you cockless dweeb.  It doesn't change what's coming.”  He suddenly raised his arms, rattling the chains he wore for effect.  “Beware, Freewill!" he shouted.  "The error of your ways will be laid bare!"

Huh? "Wait, didn't you just say it had nothing to do with the error of my..."

Before I could finish, Jeff became translucent.  A mere moment later he completely faded away, just like...well, a ghost.  Pretty fucking freaky if you ask me.  Then again, I'm a vampire.  Freaky kind of comes with the territory.

I turned toward my bedroom, briefly considering popping a handful of Xanax and chasing it down with a fifth of tequila.  That would be a lethal combo for a human, but all it would probably do to me is knock my ass out for a few hours.  If indeed Jeff was right and I was in for a series of visitations (just like in that Bill Murray movie) how fucking hilarious would it be if they couldn't wake me up?

On the flip side, there was an equal chance that in death Jeff had been as full of shit as he had been in life. That was all assuming he wasn't just a hallucination to begin with, something I wasn’t quite ready to rule out.

Ah fuck it.  What's the worst that could happen?  I had read that book in school and I knew how it went.  Even better, I knew I wasn't some sort of Scrooge.  Sure I might not be the most festive person on the planet come the holiday season, but it's not like I had my own personal Bob Cratchit to kick around.  Hell, if anything, Sally was the one more likely to be the Bah Humbug bitch.

Oh screw it! I decided it wasn’t worth worrying about either way. At the end of the day, I really was too tired to give a shit.  Bed was beckoning and I decided to heed its call...



To be continued...

Click here to read Part 2.