Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Father's Child, Chapter 3a #samplesunday

Bang! Bang! Bang, bang, bang! Several rounds of automatic weapon gunfire pierced the din. The band stopped. Screams filled the void. A scream formed in my throat as well, but fear kept it from making its way to my mouth. I dove onto the landing a few steps above me and scrambled around the corner. Lying on my front, I peered around the edge of the wall and peeked through the rungs of the cherry banister. Smashing all three living room windows that ran from floor to ceiling, five masked men dressed completely in black made their entrance. Three more rounds of gunfire blasted overhead, and then silence. The leader of the men grabbed Susan, put a gun to her head, and began to speak to the rest of the group in perfect English with a strong European accent.

”Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention. We will only detain you for a moment. We are looking for George Karwell. If you will be so kind as to bring him to us, your pretty friend may survive the day.”

He had the look of a seasoned military officer – tall, erect posture, and solid build. His words had been carefully chosen, producing the desired effect. His deep-set, dark eyes expressed the non-negotiable nature of his mission. It seemed clear that he would take every necessary step to complete his task with dispatch. The stunned and bewildered partiers cowered against the walls as he held Susan tightly and kissed her on the cheek. She looked up at the ceiling, her lips moving in silent prayer.

I wanted to jump down there and rescue her. I forced myself to stand; my legs felt like rubber.

Looking back at the silent crowd, he yelled with a slight pause in between each word, “I want him now!”

George was still in the game room at the back of the house, furthest away from the living room windows. I knew he had to have heard the demand, and so I assumed he was weighing his options, maybe even the fleeting thought of sacrificing Susan and making his getaway. If George was anything, he was a survivor. Dammit George; get out there!

I had to do something. My heart beat so strong and fast that I was worried that the men downstairs would hear it…breathing too rapid, stomach queasy, knees starting to buckle. I reached out and grabbed the rail. Get a grip, John!

With knees shaking, I turned around and made my way back toward my room.


“Oh shit,” I muttered under my breath. I stood still, hoping that nobody had noticed. I waited about fifteen seconds and then continued on my way.

Entering my room I reached for the phone to call the police; it slipped out of my sweaty palms. Wiping them on my jeans, I picked up the phone and pressed 911; no dial tone. I fumbled through my desk and found my cell phone. I opened it up; signal strength registered nothing. I briefly reprimanded myself for not following through on my decision last month to install a satellite connection for my Internet work. Probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Kneeling down on the floor, I slowly crawled over to the windows and peered out: several men in dark clothing, roaming the yard with some type of weapons in their hands. They looked well-prepared and well-organized.

“Damn,” I whispered. I decided my best option was to make my way back to where I could track the events as they unfolded downstairs.

Less than a minute later, George made his way forward to the front of the crowd. He looked like he was trying to suppress the urge to throw up the two burritos he wolfed down an hour earlier.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Confessions of a Kindleholic

Last night, like every night for the past several months, I meandered into my bedroom, checked the closets for spies from the paperbook industry, and slipped under the covers. Peering out from my hiding place, I quietly reached over and snagged the 7.5x4.8”, 8.5 ounce techno-beauty from my nightstand (aka ugly red chair). As my heart skipped a beat, I flipped open the black leather cover. After surveying my surroundings one last time, I celebrated the “all clear” by sliding out the light extender, and signing in to my sexy little ereading device.

Hi, my name is Mark. I’m a Kindleholic.

I don’t remember the exact moment when I crossed over the line from oh-that’s-an-interesting-little-toy-for-non-literary-purists to food-optional-air-optional-kindle-required, but I do recall why I began the journey. Several months ago, a good friend challenged me to stop making excuses and get on with my writing career. After licking my wounds, I began exploring e-publishing and e-readers. My suspense/thriller, The Father’s Child, needed a place to spread its fledgling wings and soar out into the readersphere, and devices like the Kindle could help make that dream a reality.

Sporting my naiveté like a gold medal, I e-trotted over to Amazon and took a look around. I reminded myself that my over 25 years of technology expertise should make successfully uploading my file and becoming “e-published” a breeze. After many tears, some therapy, and a few choice 4-letter words repeated often and with great conviction, I’d completed my task. Now I wanted to see the results.

Thanks to Amazon, ebooks can be purchased once and then subsequently read on your smartphone, computer/tablet, and/or Kindle device. Within minutes, I’d purchased the first copy, downloaded it to my PC, and began reading. For those of you who’ve read long works of any sort on the computer, you know how tired your eyes can get trying to track the thousands and thousands of pixel refreshes. Knowing that the Kindle used e-ink technology that refreshes only on a page turn (unlike the iPad or Nook Color or computer), it took me mere minutes to rationalize my purchase…fine, it was seconds, but it seemed like minutes.

At this point in my process I wanted the device for only one reason: to check out the look and formatting of my new novel (see IRS deduction). When I pulled out the sleek pearl reader I thought I heard angels singing…turns out the neighbor dog had cornered a Siamese kitten. In any case, I love technology with a simple, intuitive interface and my new toy, I mean necessary business appliance, fit the bill perfectly. It’s pretty straightforward – a 6” diagonal grayscale screen covers the top 80% and a small keyboard with a few control buttons fills out the bottom. The right and left edges sport easy to access paging buttons (forward and back).

After I registered the device to the same email account I used for Amazon ebook purchases, it magically synced via WhisperSync, making any books previously purchased available on my Kindle (complete with bookmarks). Without further delay, I moved down to my new novel and selected it. I thought I heard the same dog terrorizing the poor little kitten but it turned out angels were actually singing…at least that’s the way I remember it.

After I scanned through my book, I noticed that my new little friend could directly access the Amazon bookstore. How convenient! Several purchases later…well…my name is Mark, and I’m a Kindleholic.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Father's Child, Chapter 2 #samplesunday

I wonder what the hell is keeping John…this time. Everybody had arrived and the first round of drinks had been served – many of them by me, personally. The followers of each clique had found their leader and settled in. I had even finished my initial female fishing expedition, catching the beautiful and talented Jones’ twins, and wearing one on each arm. And yet still no John Truman. Hell, some of these people traveled over a thousand miles, all the way from the West Coast. All Truman has to do is walk down the fucking stairs.

It seems like I’ve spent half my life waiting for him. When we first met, back in the ninth grade, I just finished up another session with my advisor, Mrs. Gardner. She was a nice lady and sort of sexy in a teacher kind of way. I liked her, but I think she expected more out of me than I could give. She would say stuff like, “Mr. Eastman, if you would just put your mind to it” or “Paul, there’s more to life than girls” or “Mr. Eastman, it’s okay to apply yourself” or “Paul, I believe in you.”

After a couple of years of this, one day she called me into her office. I didn’t think much of it until she went on and on about how she’d tried everything and how I didn’t care. She looked really tired. When she said the words “lack of academic productivity”, she began to cry.

The next thing I knew I blabbered something about wanting to do better and needing some help. Those must have been the magic words, because she acted like she just received an I.V. of Red Bull. Before I knew what hit me, she said she had someone she wanted me to meet, thought we might be good for each other.

A few minutes later she came back in her office, smiling from ear-to-ear, telling me it would be a couple of minutes before my tutor arrives. At that point, I didn’t care what or who or anything. I was just glad to see Mrs. Gardner happy with my situation, for once. I like it when people are happy.

So we waited…and we waited…and she went on and on about how “wonderful” this new arrangement would be. Another fifteen minutes, filled with subtle glances toward the door, passed by. Finally, she got up and told me that she’d be right back. I didn’t mind waiting, especially when the alternative was being in class. I called a few girls, and then I overheard Mrs. Gardner talking to somebody in the next room.

“Come on John,” she coaxed. “It’s okay. Just give it a try. All I’m asking is two weeks.”

He stuck his head just around the doorway and peeked in at me. He didn’t look familiar – intense brown eyes, straggly brown hair, slim, average height, hands sunk deep into his pockets. He looked pretty wound up, so I smiled, and he seemed to relax a bit.

Mrs. Gardner made the introductions: “John, this is Paul Eastman. Paul, this is John Truman.” I stood up and extended my hand. He looked at it, hesitated, and then shook mine. Sweaty - nice touch, Johnny.

“You gentlemen already have four classes together, so that should make this arrangement easier.” Hell, I can’t remember everybody.

And the rest is history: his brains combined with my personality and looks. Another unbeatable combo - Batman and Robin, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Hope and Crosby, the Green Hornet and Kato, Guinness and happy, John and Paul. I really don’t think I would have survived high school without him, and vice-versa. Someday I should thank Mrs. Gardner.

Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty used to John’s quirks, like showing up late to anything involving other people. I try to cut him some slack, because I know social stuff seriously freaks him out, especially parties like this one. He’s always had some good excuse, usually about working on something important or not feeling well. But there is such a thing as party momentum, and with or without John, the party must go on.

Maybe if we just start playing, he’ll show up.

I looked over at the band – bassist, drummer, keyboardist and saxophonist all in place. Just behind me stood three lovely ladies looking like a cross between the Supremes and the backup singers for Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” video. Man, they look fine.

Picking up my guitar, I sat down and tuned it for a couple of minutes. I looked back at the band.

“You guys ready?” Nods all around. I glanced over at the stairs, shook my head, and then stood up.

“Let’s do it.” Grabbing the mic, I tapped it a couple of times to get everyone’s attention.

“Welcome to…Carpe Noctis!” The crowd cheered in response.

“A one, two, a one, two, three, four.”

“Doot, du doot, doot, doot du doot, doot, du doot”

The girls sound great tonight. Our rendition of “Walk on the Wild Side” always went over big. We opened up every party with it. John liked it.

I loved this part: just a minute ago, everybody was doing their own thing, hanging with their friends, drinking, laughing, all in their own little worlds…and then the music started. The conversations stopped, everyone turned my way, and the dancing began. The next thing you know, we were all on the same page, doing the same thing, together. For some reason, it reminded of that scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” where Jimmy Stewart asks god to let him live and he suddenly realizes how special life is in boring old Bedford Falls.

We usually stretched this song out pretty long, and tonight it seemed like everybody wanted it to go on and on. So, we did. Six or seven minutes had gone by, and still no John. Come on dude, you can do it. Take a walk on the wild side.

Several minutes later and we’re still playing the same song. Dammit, John! Get down here!

Through the smoky haze, I scanned the audience. They seemed to still be enjoying our extended version - joining in with the backup singers and getting louder each time around…everyone, but Susan. Our eyes met and we exchanged a brief knowing smile. She pointed up. I nodded.

Maybe she could get him down here – Martian to Martian.

She headed out of the living room toward the stairs. Nice ass.

“Doot, du doot, doot, doot du doot, doot, du doot”

(Thanks so much for reading Chapter 2. The Father's Child is available for a special price of only 99c on the following platforms: Kindle-US, Kindle-UK, Nook, & Smashwords - Sony, Palm, Stanza, etc. Keep up to date by visiting my website, twitter, or facebook. Cheers!)