American Gods Novel Free Online

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After a vote by his fans in celebration of his blog’s seventh birthday, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods novel is now available on HarperCollins’ website using their Browse Inside technology.

I’ve already read American Gods, but I wanted to take this opportunity to recommend it to any of you who would like to check it out without having to spend any of your hard earned money. The novel is one of those rare books for me that grabbed a hold of me and kept me until the very end. I carried that book around the house with me, wanting to take advantage of any chance I could get to read this great story. Most of all, Mr. Gaiman made me care about the main protagonist Shadow, and what was happening to him.

The only downside to this is that it’s not available for download, so you won’t be able to read it on your computer offline or on your mobile reading device such as the Sony Reader.  Maybe you will be able to read it on the Kindle.  I don’t know. I see this more as a way for you to read the first chapter maybe, to see if you want to buy a physical copy of the book.

Anyhow, let me know if you haven’t read American Gods and if you take advantage of this offer.  I’m curious as to what you think of the “Browse Inside” technology.

Here again is a link to American Gods at HarperCollins.  It will be available there for a month.

Vampire Story Part 3

Well, I’ve completed my Part 3 for Christine Eldin’s writing exercise. You can see all of the entries here. If you remember, this is my “vampire story”. A few of you seemed to enjoy it, so here is Part 3. I’m not completely happy with it, but I needed to post it to get it “off my plate”. I hope you enjoy it and let me know what you think (is it still interesting?). If you forget parts 1 and 2, or haven’t read them yet, I’ve posted them at the bottom of this post.
Part 3:

Jim stood unmoving, his arms at his sides, both fists clenched. An aroma of freshness filled the air, as if ten thousand dryer sheets simultaneously fell from the ceiling and landed in his nostrils. It was with this thought that Jim opened his eyes, not sure if his hand had met its intended target, or if he missed, in which case his quickly fading buzz would be the least of his worries.

Fortune, for once, was in his favor. The man who had moments ago lunged at him lay unconscious on the floor, his mouth agape, his front most eight teeth lay scattered on the floor not far away from him, like tiny shards of steel to a magnet. Jim looked at his hand, which had hardly a scratch, but against logic seemed to be throbbing, the first feeling he experience in that hand since his “bright idea” all those years ago.Stinky popped his head over the bar, his knuckles white as he clutched a Louisville Slugger, and said, “Nice shot Jim, now get the hell outta here.”Startled, Jim flinched as he turned to face his friend, not sure if the baseball bat was meant for him or for the other patrons. “What was that thing, a vampire?” he said.“Does it really matter?” Stinky answered, as he poured himself a shot of Jaeger.“Not really,” said Jim. “I just prefer to know whose dinner I’m about to become before it happens.”“You got lucky with that one Jim. Don’t press your luck any further. Go home. “

“What about you?” said Jim, as he noticed the dark faces in the bar encroaching.

“Don’t worry about me, I can handle my own bar.” said Stinky, smiling. His complete lack of teeth startled Jim. First the old lady, now Stinky. Dental care in the city was even worse than Jim thought.

Without turning to face the darkness, which threatened to envelop him, Jim shuffled in the direction of the exit, moving as fast as he could while trying to avoid their notice. The cold followed.

Finally at the door, his right hand tightly grasping the handle, Jim took one last glance around the room. As the creatures inched closer to the bar, Jim considered his options. If he left now, Stinky would surely be doomed. If he stayed, Jim might become one of them. Jim thought of all the people who would miss him if he were gone: his boss, the guy at the 7-11 he gets his coffee from, and maybe even the cable guy. It was enough to make him stay behind, if only for one last drink. After all, he had a few more nickels left in his pocket.

While one of the creatures lunged at Stinky, Jim slowly began to turn the knob.

Part 1:

Jim was having a crummy day. It was only the Tenth, but his bank account was already empty, his gas tank was empty, and his refrigerator was empty. Lucky for him, the couch cushions weren’t quite empty. Equally lucky for him, it was Friday night and also Nickel Draught Night at Stinky’s, the local pub.

Leaving his apartment, Jim checked to make sure the lights were on (he never left without making sure the lights were on), locked the door, and walked down the dank, poorly lit staircase onto the cold, lonely streets of the city. He started on the block and a half journey to the bar, the change in his pocket playing the poor man’s chorus as he walked. He wasn’t sure what he would do when those spare coins were gone, he had only one couch after all, but he would think of something. He always did.

Jim passed a dark alley, not a block from his building, and noticed an old woman warming her hands at a small trash fire. Lacking a date for the night, Jim doubled back to the woman, hoping to offer the woman a few of his nickels and take her with him. At least that way she would be out of the cold for a few hours and be able to forget her problems for a spell.

“Hi there,” said Jim as he approached. “Care to join me for a nip?”

The woman looked up from the fire and smiled. She had the most beautiful blue eyes he had ever seen and not a tooth in her mouth. “I am unable to move from this spot, I’m afraid. I’m only here to observe.”

“Really?” said Jim. “I’m headed to Stinky’s, just down the street there. It’s not that far. Why don’t you get out of the cold for awhile? It’s supposed to get below zero tonight.”

The old woman cocked her head to the side and then leaned in close to Jim. She smelled nothing at all like someone who lived on the streets. “Keep your neck about you tonight Jim,” she said. “Things are gonna get ugly.”

Part 2:
Jim walked away from the old lady, saying nothing. He had seen enough movies to know he should take her words to heart (where old ladies who knew your name and gave out random prophesies always right?), but had lived long enough to know she was most likely off her Plush Pink Riding Pig. Jim glanced back as he was walking away, wanting to give her one more chance, but she was back to staring into the fire and he gave up.
 
Jim made the walk to Stinky’s in record time, as would be expected of someone in zero degree weather wearing neither a jacket, nor a hat, nor gloves. Jim never wore these things when he went out as the disturbing tendency of staying at the bar far after he had gone home for the night, probably having a much more interesting time than their owner.
 
His hands tucked inside his shirt sleeves, Jim nudged open the door to the pub and walked straight to the bar, saying, “Five Lagers Stinky,” as he slid a quarter across the bar. Jim wasn’t entirely sure the man’s name was Stinky, but he was the only bartender Jim had ever seen at the place and had always answered as if it were.
 
“Might’ve been a good night to stay home Jim,” said Stinky, placing the frosty glasses in front of Jim as fast as he filled them. There was something in his voice that Jim found unsettling, though it didn’t keep him from quickly downing his beer.
 
“It wouldn’t be Friday without seeing your pretty smile, Stinky,” said Jim, tapping his hand on the bar with a THUNK, THUNK, THUNK. Nerve damage suffered as a child (he had the brilliant idea to test “what would happen” if he put his hand up to the wrist in a blender) had kept his hand in a permanent fist. It had won him several bets in college, and won him a few fights in his friskier days as well. There wasn’t a surface around that he couldn’t crack with a good left jab.
 
“Well, keep your head up, alright?” said Stinky, placing five more beers in front of Jim. “The next round’s on me, but take it easy on the bar, will ya?” Stinky walked away, summoned by another patron.
Jim downed the next five drinks nearly as fast as the others, glancing about the room as the alcohol began to take effect, noticing that although the place was reasonable packed for a dive bar, none of the other regulars seemed to be there. As he was about to order another round, Jim felt a cold breath on the back of his neck, as if someone just ate a popsicle and was standing inches behind him. If he were wearing cologne, the person would’ve had a nose full.

“Excuse me,” said Jim as he turned around on his bar stool. He said this in the kindest voice possible, in the unlikely chance the cold breath belonged to a woman.Standing inches from him, seemingly sniffing his neck, was a man his in mid-thirties with pale white skin, jet-black hair, and piercing blue eyes. Jim cocked back his left hand, restraining himself from knocking the stranger out. Jim had seen what his fist could do, and did not want to go there unless it was absolutely necessary.

“It’s a big bar,” said Jim, gently pushing the man away. “Why don’t you go get lost in it?”

The man smiled, displaying a mouthful of long pointed teeth. Jim glanced quickly behind the bar, looking for Stinky, hoping his friend had seen all of this and was ready with the shotgun he kept hidden behind the bar. Stinky was nowhere to be found.

As he turned back around, the man lunged at Jim. Jim closed his eyes and swung his left hand as hard as he could, wishing he hadn’t drank those ten beers.

Star Wars According to a Three Year Old

What do you do if you are having trouble coming up with a topic to blog about? You post a YouTube video of course.

You all may have seen this already, but I figured I’d post this here just in case. It’s a cute little interview with a 3 year old girl about Star Wars. My favorite part is “but don’t talk back to Darth Vader, he’ll get ya!”. Too cute. Anyhow, enjoy.

Writing Prompt – Road of Death

I came across this today on Boing Boing and it really caught my attention. I also thought it would make an excellent writing prompt for any of you writers out there that need come inspiration. I’m quite busy at the moment, so it’s all you.

Apparently, there is a road in Bolivia commonly referred to as “Death Road”. The road, which is extremely treacherous, and the only route western route into La Paz, Bolivia,  averages 100 deaths per year (and at it’s worst it used to average 400 deaths per year). Here is a link to the article on a web site called Sawse. There are several very cool pictures in the article of vehicles on this dangerous roadway (after the article was posted, it was revealed that the pictures weren’t all of Death Road, check them out though because they are still really cool).

Tell me you don’t have some story ideas after seeing this picture:

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That’s all from me for now.  Sorry for the haphazard post today.  I really am busy. 🙂

The Genesis of an Idea

First of all, I’m a happy, happy, happy man. Most of that is due to the kind comments you all have left regarding my story Tastes Like Brains, as well as the 18 comments it has garnered on the contest site. In the comments, Diane asked me “Where do you get your ideas from?”. I thought that might be a fun topic to discuss, so here it is. Welcome to my madness.

I’m not entirely sure where the idea came from, though I can guess. A week or so ago, Jason mentioned he was having another contest and I immediately started to think what I would write about, just to think what type of story I wanted to write. I hadn’t seen the photograph yet, so I was just thinking in general terms. Then I thought of my most successful contest entry, the funny one about werewolves. People seemed to like that, I thought. What else could I write about?

The next thing I knew, the first line of the story popped into my head nearly as it appears in the final text:

What do you think brains taste like?” said Matthew, glancing over his shoulder. “I’d imagine they’re a bit salty.

That one cracked me up, though I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to fit it into a story. I’m not sure what I did at this point. I either wrote the line down on paper, or kept repeating it in my head until I could get to some paper. Eventually, I opened up notepad on the computer, typed up the line, and then saved it, just in case I could ever use it. Once I saw the photo Jason chose for the contest, I knew I could.

In the photograph, there is a tree. However, in the background you can a fence, similar to those you see on farms that are used to keep the cows from running off and doing naughty things. That gave me a bit more of my setting, and in my mind I could see our heroes (at this point named MaleCharacter1 and FemaleCharacter1) resting underneath the tree, overlooking the farmhouse.

At that point, I worked on a draft, which outlined the story without all the shiny details. I still wasn’t happy with it, and didn’t have my last couple lines. So, I went online and looked up baby names and found a few that were popular when the characters were born (late 1970’s). Shannon and Matthew. Good enough for me.

I didn’t finish this all in a day. I know I had some of the story written and took some time away from it to think. That’s when the ending of the story came to me, to have Matthew become a bit more serious about being caught and to have Shannon echo his line.

“Promise me if they get you first, you’ll be the one to eat my brain, not them.”

“Tastes like chicken, right?” said Shannon, forcing a smile as they ran once more.

Ah, this made me happy. I was soon on my way to completing the story, although now it was 270 or so words long. It took some effort to get it to 250 words, and I had to delete some details I would’ve liked to keep.

Anyhow, this is a look into how I wrote my little Zombie story. I’m glad you all enjoyed it. I hope this was interesting to you. Let me know if you have any other questions about my “process”.

Tastes Like Brains – My Contest Entry

OK, my entry for the Whispers Short Fiction Contest over at Clarity of Night is now up. Mine is entry #17. I’m going to post it here. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it. If you like it, feel free to leave me comments here and/or over there.

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Photo by Jason Evans

Tastes Like Brains

“What do you think brains taste like?” said Matthew, glancing over his shoulder. “I’d imagine they’re a bit salty.”

“Ugh,” said Shannon, wondering as she stumbled who had replaced her feet with cinder blocks. “Don’t wanna know.”

“You’d get used to it, eventually,” continued Matthew. “Eat enough of them and they probably start to taste like chicken.”

Shannon sat with a thud beneath the leafless White Ash overlooking an abandoned farmhouse. “I need a rest,” she said, ignoring him.

“Get up,” said Matthew, immediately regretting his tone.

“Just a few moments,” said Shannon, resting her forehead on the knees of her dirt stained jeans. They had been on the run for days, with little sleep, food, or water, unable to elude their slow moving tormentors. It was maddening.

Matthew looked down the hill toward the farmhouse. If only he had picked a restaurant in the city, rather than that rustic diner in the middle of nowhere, and if only he hadn’t dropped his car keys when the whole mess started, they would be home by now, safe and warm.

Soon, Matthew saw their approach. Hundreds, maybe thousands, stumbling up the gray, decaying grass, their dead, mournful eyes fixed in his direction. “Promise me something,” he said, taking hold of Shannon’s petite, strong hand, lifting her to her feet.

“What?”

“Promise me if they get you first, you’ll be the one to eat my brain, not them.”

“Tastes like chicken, right?” said Shannon, forcing a smile as they ran once more.

A Library in the Stairs

Before I get to the point of this message, just a quick little update. I have completed my Clarity of Night contest entry and sent it off to Jason. The second he posts it on his site, I’ll post it here. I’m happy with my entry and am excited to share it with all of you. I need feedback! I’m so pathetic. 🙂

**Edit** Jason has told me my entry will be posted with the next batch of entries. Soon I hope. 🙂

Now on to today’s post. I saw this on Boing Boing the other day and just had to share. There is an apartment in London with bookcases built into the staircases. Rather than trying to describe it, I figured I’d post a picture. There are more here.

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How sweet is that? I get happy just imagining something like that in my house. We have a walk up attic, and this would be so cool as a staircase to an attic reading room.

I guess the only problem with this would be your books might get a bit dirty or dusty. You’d have to have a no-shoes policy on those stairs, otherwise your books might get a bit messy. Still, it’s just so cool! Maybe not quite as cool as the bookcase/hidden door I’m having installed in my house when I get that big future publishing deal, but almost as cool.

Whispers Short Fiction Writing Contest At The Clarity of Night

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Yesterday began the eighth short fiction writing contest over at The Clarity of Night. This one is titled Whispers. As with the other contests over there, the goal is to write 250 words of fiction inspired by the provided picture (seen above). I have taken part in the other seven contests and they are great fun. They are also well respected in the writing community. According to Jason Evans, who is running the contest, “Clarity of Night contest wins have been reported in agent query letters, served as inspiration for a novel placed with a major publisher, and provided a springboard for bigger success.”

Here is a list of rules gleaned from the contest announcement post:

* 1st Place: $25 Amazon gift certificate, 8 x 10 print of the “Whispers” photograph (inscribed by Jason Evans)
* 2nd Place: $20 Amazon gift certificate
* 3rd Place: $15 Amazon gift certificate
* 4th Place: $10 Amazon gift certificate
* 5th Place: $5 Amazon gift certificate
* Readers’ Choice Award: $15 Amazon Gift certificate, 8 x 10 print of the “Whispers” photograph (inscribed by Jason Evans)

But this is about more than prizes. I hope you take advantage of the opportunity to meet and interact with your fellow writers. Our different perspectives, styles, and skills shine when we all start at the same place. It’s a great opportunity to learn from each other.

Rules:

1. 250 words maximum.
2. Titles are optional, but encouraged. Titles do not count toward your word count.
3. One entry per person.
4. Any genre or style is welcome. If you choose to submit poetry, you must have narrative movement within the poem if you wish to compete with the prose pieces for the prizes.
5. The copyright remains with you, the author; however, you grant me worldwide first electronic publishing rights to post your entry on this blog indefinitely.
6. Judging will be conducted by me, Jason Evans. For an explanation of judging and helpful hints, see A Note on Judging. You can also read the winning entries from past contests.
7. Please provide a name for your byline. If you have a website or a blog, I’d be happy to link your site to your byline. If you don’t have a website or blog, feel free to include a short bio. A bio does not count towards your word count.
8. At the close of the contest, I will give the date and time for the announcement of winners.
9. After the winners are announced, I will post what I liked most about each entry in the comments.
10. The Readers’ Choice Award is awarded by vote of the contest participants. The entry with the highest number of votes wins. The rules for this portion of the contest will be posted after the entry period closes.
11. Public critiques in comments are encouraged, but must remain respectful. I reserve the right to delete comments and ban participants who do not abide by the collegial spirit of Clarity of Night contests.

As for me, my entry is nearly complete. Once it is posted on the contest site I will post it here with a link to my entry there. As always, I doubt I’ll win, but I guarantee I will entertain.

I encourage anyone who has ever thought about writing to give this one a shot.  There is nothing to lose and it doesn’t take much to whip up 250 words.  Who knows, you might be the next published author.

A Story and a Rant

I’m pissed. No this is not another potty training post, and yes I’m sorry for swearing (I think this is a first on this blog). That’s how I feel, though. I’m mad, I’m disappointed, and I’m taking my ball and going home.

That’s better. Now let me explain. I worked out a submission for Part 2 of the reader submitted story my local newspaper is hosting, coming up with around 700 words and a pretty good idea that will move the story in a more interesting direction. I submitted my story early yesterday morning, well before the noon deadline (I thought). In the afternoon, I get an email from the paper telling me that I missed the deadline, a deadline that was impossible to find anywhere on their site. I couldn’t find it, so I just went with the previous deadline plus two weeks. I tried to make my case but was shot down. A couple hours of my life wasted. What makes me the most angry is that I could easily have finished the story before the deadline if I had KNOWN THE DEADLINE.
I figured I post my entry here anyhow, so at least someone will read it. Here is a link to Part 1, written by another author. My job was to continue the story. Here is my entry:

Part 2

Ann looked around the car garage. It smelled of oil and sweat, with just a dash of the tears of those poor sad souls unceremoniously parted with their hard earned money. Nearly every surface, from the door knobs, to the computer monitors, to the light switches, was stained black from countless grimy fingerprints, all signs of a successful garage. These sights were familiar. What Ann found odd, however, was the conversation in the place. What was so unique about a wreck in the middle of the winter on Interstate 80 that would cause it to be the topic of conversation between every customer and mechanic in the shop?

What Ann overheard was neither talk of the driver of the tractor-trailer, nor talk of fate of the minivan driver, nor the poor road conditions that night. Rather, everyone in the garage was discussing what was rumored to have been the real cause of the crash.

“They say it was like a flash of light,” said the shorter mechanic wearing the faded blue Penn State cap. “Like a falling star, only closer.”

“That’s not what it was at all,” said the taller of the two. “I hear the truck driver saw a man running next to his cab, the guy was barely working up a sweat, and the driver was going sixty miles an hour.”

“That’s from Superman, stupid, and it was a train, not a truck,” said his friend. “Whatever it was, they both saw something. I don’t know why the cops aren’t giving out any information, other than..”

“Well, we’ll give you a call when it’s ready. Should only be a couple days,” said the man behind the counter to Ann, blocking whatever the two men said next. For now, the crash would remain a mystery.

“That sounds good,” said Ann, proceeding to give the man her cell phone number.

Sally gave Ann a ride to her parent’s house, but they weren’t home and had never given Ann a key to the house. “Why don’t you stay with us until they’re home,” said Sally. “I bet David’s there.” Ann reluctantly agreed to join her. She had nowhere else to go.

Ann stared out the window on the short drive through town to Sally’s house. It had been a long time since she had been home, but Ann was shocked at how much things had stayed the same. Looking at the familiar houses and small businesses, Ann thoughts briefly turned to David, who had for much of their youth been a close friend and for a brief moment before she had screwed everything up had seemed to be more than a friend. What she thought about most, though, was what those drivers had seen on Interstate 80 that caused them to wreck.

The car pulled slowly into the driveway, and Ann and Sally exited the car. Sitting on the sun porch was David, whom Ann noticed as she tucked a strand of gray hair behind her ear looked somehow even better now than he did in his youth.

“Why don’t I make some supper while the two of you catch up,” said Sally, with a wink intended for David that Ann had noticed as well.

Ann and David talked for a while about the usual: who had gotten married, who was divorced, and who had died. Soon talk turned to the curious night on I-80.

“What really happened that night?” said Ann.

“It’s hard to explain,” said David.

“Try,” said Ann, trying her best to hide her annoyance with David’s attempted dodge of the question.

Following several moments of silence, David cleared his throat and continued. “Well, there was a brilliant flash of light just before the accident. Something fell from the sky, I’m sure of it. I would’ve crashed myself if I hadn’t already been driving so slowly. I think it was a UFO.”

“Just because you can’t explain it doesn’t mean it’s a UFO, you know,” said Ann, as if she were trying to convince herself. The David she knew was many things, but irrational wasn’t one of them. “Maybe a street light went out?”

“It’s more than that,” said David reaching underneath his chair.  “It left behind this.”

Potty Time

First of all, the writing group went well last night. I got some great feedback on my Chapter 1, and it was mostly positive. They all seemed to enjoy the story, but also offered some helpful advice. All the criticisms were given in a constructive manner, so it really didn’t hurt at all to hear them. Maybe I’m just maturing as a writer in this regard. Hmm. Anyhow, I’m looking forward to making the necessary changes and get on with Chapter 2.

One thing I need to do before my next meeting is to do some reading about giving a critique. I’m not that good at that part yet. Here are a few links I’ve found on the topic: writing world, crayne.com. If you have any more, let me know.

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In addition to my writing, my daughter is a huge part of my life as you all know. She is now 21 months old. Yesterday my wife went out a bought her a little training potty, similar to the one above. We took it out of the box, put it in the kitchen, talked about how cool it was, and then my wife asked my daughter, “Do you have to pee?” My daugher’s answer was a resounding “Yes!”, and wouldn’t you know she actually used the potty a little. We’re quite proud.

Anyhow, I know it will be a long process, and in a way I fear change (my little girl is growing up already!), but this is a good thing.  Imagine the money I’ll save on diapers. Still, this is one step closer to her not needing dear old Dadda anymore.  Sniff..