The other blog

Good evening. I hope you’re doing well. I’m battling a sinus infection this weekend. But that’s okay. I’ll get over it. I’ll be fine. (Or I’ll die on the sofa covered in Kleenexes and old TV Guide magazines.)

Anyway, I’ve started a second blog. It’s called The Publishing Parlor because that’s my nickname for my home office. If you’re a WordPress blogger, please don’t follow this new blog. It will be mostly samples of my books with links to them on Amazon. I’m going to post a handful of samples every single day. Each post will be tagged with words and phrases like “Amazon” and “fiction” and “summer reading.” Hopefully, people will be more likely to stumble across me in search engine results. It’s like an ongoing commercial for my books. On the internet.

If you follow The Publishing Parlor blog, it will clog up your reader. Or your inbox. And it will annoy you. Because you’ll see lots and lots of book clips. Over and over and over again. And many of them will be repeats. Trust me. It’s not a normal blog. It’s not something you want to follow. I’m just telling you to save you some time and frustration.

Peace, love, and cough syrup. Happy Memorial Day, people of the internet.

Advertisements

Barack Obama and the Interstellar Highway

Barack Obama rode his silver unicorn down the Interstellar Highway. He sat up straight in the saddle, smiling at all the stars and galaxies. The Interstellar Highway was made of green, translucent pavement. It looked like an emerald that stretched on forever and ever, shimmering in the dim starlight. A steady current of air blew along the highway all the time, allowing Barack to breathe easily. He didn’t have to worry about a space helmet or a cumbersome oxygen tank. He just wore a black business suit and a light blue tie. His tie flapped gently in the cool breeze.

A little shortwave radio was tucked inside one of the saddle bags. Cuban dance music poured out of the speaker. The drums, the maracas, the acoustic guitars, and the wild piano gave him a warm, happy feeling inside. His soul tingled. He tapped his feet in the stirrups.

Up ahead, he saw a restaurant attached to the edge of the emerald highway. A neon pumpkin flashed on top of it.

Barack leaned back and tugged on the reins.

“Let’s stop here, Jerry,” he said.

The unicorn slowed to a stop. Barack switched off the radio and dismounted. For a moment, he smoothed out the wrinkles in his business suit. He raised his chin and adjusted his neck tie with a quick tug.

Then he pushed open the door and stepped into the restaurant. He was the only customer in the building. He looked around at all the empty chairs. The orange walls were decorated with bats. The front counter was black and covered with fake spider webs. The cash registers looked like tombstones.

A young woman slouched behind the counter. She had short pink hair and green eyes. She looked bored and sleepy. She stared down at a plastic tray on the counter like she was in a trance.

“Welcome to Halloween,” she said in a dull monotone without looking up.

“Good evening,” Barack Obama said, approaching the counter. “I would like to place an order for a bowl of chili and a large Frankenstein milkshake.”

Behind the counter, there was a wall that was supposed to look like stone. In the middle of this wall, there was a doorway. Barack Obama peeked through the doorway into the kitchen area. He saw an old woman with a hairnet carrying a large bag. Barack thought it was a bag of flour.

“Would you like to try our fried scorpions?” said the girl with the pink hair. “They’re only ninety-nine cents. They come with your choice of honey mustard sauce or sweet and sour sauce.”

Barack held his head high and clasped his hands together in front of his body. “Today, I only want to concentrate on the chili and the Frankenstein milkshake. But please don’t feel discouraged. Don’t cast away your hope. I’m not rejecting the scorpions altogether. In the future, you and I will engage in an open, candid discussion about the other food items you offer. I look forward with great anticipation to all the wonderful meals that lie ahead.”

“Okay,” the girl said, tapping the buttons on the tombstone cash register.

Barack opened his wallet and handed her some cash.

“I’m so pleased to be back here in the Upper Universe,” Barack said, glancing out the window at the stars. “I spent a great many years down in the Lower Universe. It was dark and tedious. Time passes at a much slower rate in that dimension, you know. And they don’t have emerald highways that alter reality and shorten distances. Down there, you have to travel in cars, trains, and airplanes. It’s outrageously slow. But I accomplished many things I’m very proud of. I was the president of a large country. And I also did some surfing. I’m pleased with all those things. Very pleased.”

“Do you want crackers with your chili?” the girl asked.

“Yes, please,” said Barack. “Give me a pack of oyster crackers. No, make that two packs of oyster crackers. Do you know where I’m going now? I’m on a trip to Andromeda. The ruler of that galaxy is a huge, magnificent sloth with sixteen heads. I wrote a haiku poem about him on a grain of rice. I wrote it with a pair of tweezers and a molecule. It was a difficult task, but I feel like the poem was a good one. And he enjoyed it as well. He’s going to present me with an award for it. I’m humbled and honored to accept it.”

“Here’s your food,” the girl said.

She handed him a small plastic pumpkin with chili inside it. Then she gave him an orange paper cup dotted with bats. It was filled with cold, green slop.

“What an extraordinary meal,” Barack said. “I look forward to eating it. I look forward to it with great anticipation.”

“Don’t forget your oyster crackers,” the girl told him.

She gave him two packs of oyster crackers. Barack tore them open and sprinkled the crackers in the chili. Then the girl gave him a couple of plastic spoons. He picked up his chili and his milkshake and carefully made his way to one of the tables.

He sat down at the table, smiling. He admired his food for a long time before he began to eat it. When he did start to eat, he closed his eyes and savored each bite. He thought about how good it felt to be back in the Upper Universe. He loved traveling among the stars with his silver unicorn again. It was so much better than the White House.

While he finished his meal, he heard a loud smacking noise somewhere in the kitchen area. He looked toward the front counter. Now the old woman with the hairnet was talking to the girl with the pink hair. They were leaning close to each other and whispering frantically.

“The bag,” the old woman was saying. “You know, the big bag. The one with all the scorpions in it. I accidentally dropped it. It hit the floor and busted wide open. All the scorpions came out.”

“How are we going to catch them?” said the girl with the pink hair. “There’s way too many.”

The old woman moaned. “I reckon we’ll just have to stomp them all. Stomp them as fast as we can.”

Barack noticed something moving on the floor near the end of the counter. A herd of shiny red scorpions ran across the floor in a high-speed exodus.

Barack grinned. He took one last sip of his Frankenstein milkshake and stood up. He walked out of the restaurant. Outside, his unicorn still waited patiently by the front door. Barack reached inside the saddle bag and pulled out the shortwave radio. It was a gray rectangle no bigger than a deck of cards. He switched it on with a flick of his thumb. Cuban dance music burst out of the speaker. It was a tiny speaker, but the sound quality was superb. His spine tingled as he heard the fast-paced drums, the maracas, the acoustic guitars, and the wild piano. It was the most glorious sound he had ever known.

Barack walked back into the restaurant. By this time, the floor was covered with red scorpions, running in every direction, celebrating their new freedom. Barack placed his radio on the table. He raised his hands in the air and began to snap his fingers. He tapped his feet. Then he flung himself across the room in a flurry of wild movement, dancing so fast that his legs became a blur. The music flowed through his body like electricity through a power station. He crushed hundreds of scorpions under his heels in time with the music. He leapt over tables and soared through the air, smiling the whole time. His face glowed with joy.

The girl and the old woman stared at him with their mouths open.

Soon, only a few scorpions were left alive. Barack Obama crossed his arms over his chest and started hopping on one foot. He bounced across the room like a pogo stick, killing the last of the scorpions. He continued to smile and glow.

When all the scorpions were dead, Barack stood tall and proud in the center of the restaurant.

“Thank you,” said the girl with the pink hair. “Thank you so much.”

“Sometimes life calls us to take action in ways we never could have anticipated,” Barack Obama said, straightening his suit and adjusting his tie. “In these moments, we have to find the strength inside us to answer that call. When life gives you scorpions, don’t let fear grip your heart. Don’t collapse. Don’t falter. Instead, turn on your radio. Turn on the Cuban dance music and complete the task that lies in front of you. Good night, my friends.”

Then he picked up his shortwave radio and walked out the door, into outer space. He climbed onto his silver unicorn and continued on his journey down the Interstellar Highway.

 

 

Matthew David Curry 2017

Finding Drake Novak

Finding Drake Novak is a dark comedy about a renegade alien who draws his nourishment from the pain and suffering of other living things. On the run from the Galactic Police, Drake Novak comes to Earth and takes over a plastic factory in a small town in Georgia. He makes every job as difficult as possible so the workers live in endless frustration. He stands at the observation window in his office and stares down at all of them, absorbing their pain the way a plant absorbs sunlight.

A young man named Malpheus Mallock, a rookie officer from the Galactic Precinct, travels to Earth to arrest Drake Novak. But Malpheus has a problem. His tracking device doesn’t work correctly. Malpheus lands in the front yard of an elderly couple named Carl and Christine. They introduce Malpheus to fried chicken, sweet tea, and Atlanta Braves baseball — but he desperately wants to fix his tracking device so he can find and capture Drake Novak.

Finding Drake Novak is available in paperback and e-book on Amazon.

A trip to the vet

 

I had to take my cat Frances to the vet yesterday because of a stubborn skin allergy that makes her itch all the time. As always, the trip to the vet was a challenge. I had to change clothes when it was over. Frances is thirteen years old and full of issues. Even though she likes to snuggle up beside me and purr while I lie in bed, her heart normally burns with hatred for all living things. She often screams at me for no reason. When people come to visit, she sniffs them one time and then walks away, making them feel thoroughly unwelcome. I could tell you more bad things about her, but I won’t.

Frances is a solid black cat with intense yellow eyes. You probably don’t know it by looking at the picture up above, but her body is round and plump. She weighs fifteen pounds and waddles when she moves. Not long ago, my friend Angie looked at her and said, “You look like you’re pregnant with a whole bunch of kittens.”

When I first got Frances, she was tiny. I held her in one hand when I carried her home. She stared up at me the whole time, howling and bawling. I assumed she missed her mother. I assumed she would calm down eventually. She didn’t. Thirteen years later, Frances still stares up at me and makes loud, horrendous noises like she’s trying to tell me something urgent … and she’s upset because I don’t understand her. I live under a cloud of guilt, constantly wondering what she’s mad about, wondering why there’s so much frustration in her eyes, wondering what I’m doing wrong. I feed her quality cat food and tuna. I pet her and talk to her. I scratch her back. But she keeps on flooding me with guilt and shame.

Yesterday, when it was time to go to the vet, I scooped Frances up in my arms and carried her out the front door. Right away, her fur stood up. Her tail bristled like a toilet brush. She squirmed and thrashed with unusual strength. I locked my arms around her and held on as tightly as I could. I walked to the driveway and stood beside my car, struggling to open the driver’s side door and maintain my grip on Frances at the same time. It was a tough job. As if the situation wasn’t hard enough, she decided to empty her bladder on me too. She soaked my shirt. And the side of my car.

Putting her inside the car was almost as hard as pushing a rope up a hill. But somehow I managed to do it. Once she was inside, I threw myself into the driver’s seat and jerked the door shut. I pulled out of the driveway and started down the road, gnashing my teeth and grumbling. Frances waddled behind the driver’s seat and hunkered in the back floorboard, screaming like she’d been shot.

She kept screaming all the way to the vet’s office. And I did plenty of screaming too. Over and over, I yelled, “Frances, I’m taking you somewhere to help you. I’m going to pay somebody a bunch of money to make you stop itching, okay? You’re welcome, Frances! You’re welcome, you’re welcome, you’re welcome!”

When we got to the vet’s office, I stumbled into the waiting room, holding her in front of me like a hostage. I didn’t even try to be gentle. I was too irate for that. My shirt was covered in black fur and fresh urine.

I mumbled to the lady behind the counter. I told her my name. I told her I had an appointment. Then I sat down in a chair in the corner, scowling. Frances sat on my lap, huddled against my stomach with her head down. She still despised me, but she was too scared of the waiting room to pull away from me. We both sat there a long time, quietly hating each other.

I go through cycles with Frances. In spite of her wretched disposition, I always love her. I think of her as a mutant roommate, a furry companion who greets me every day when I come home from the mill. The love never goes away. But sometimes I forget that I love her. Then I just think of her as an angry bag of fluid.

Two ladies walked into the vet’s office together and sat down across from me in the waiting area. One lady held a gray tabby cat in her arms, wrapped in a blanket like a baby. The cat’s eyes were half-open. He looked groggy and feeble. The lady holding the cat never spoke at all. She just cried continuously and held the cat against her chest, petting his head the whole time. The other woman leaned forward and whispered to me for few minutes. She told me the cat’s name was Oscar.

It was time to put Oscar to sleep, she said gently.

My heart dropped into my stomach. I bit my lip. I felt sad for them. They weren’t just bringing the cat in for a routine visit. They were bringing him in for the last time. They were saying goodbye to a friend. It was a dark day for them.

I looked down at my own cat. She was lying on my lap like a sack of potatoes. I picked her up and held her close. I stroked her fur and looked into her strange, yellow, alien eyes. I kissed the top of her head. I told her I loved her.

Eventually, the vet called me back to one of the examination rooms. I carried Frances into the room and placed her on a cold, metal table. She looked up at me, meowing softly, sniffing the air. The vet trimmed her claws and gave her a quick shot in the butt.

I paid for the shot and left. Frances and I were both happy to get back in the car. The ride home was much different. We stayed calm and quiet. She didn’t scream at me. I didn’t scream at her. We just listened to classical music all the way home.

 

Matthew David Curry 2016

Titles

When I write a book, the title is usually the last thing I think of. The title sums up the book. The title describes the book. Since a manuscript evolves and changes as I write it, I don’t know what kind of title will describe it until it’s actually finished. For me, the title is like the last little dab of icing on top of the cake.

Any time I tell people that I’m writing a new book, they blurt out, “What’s the name of it?”

I shrug and say, “I haven’t thought of that part yet.”

At that point, they frown at me and look away, shaking their heads, almost in disgust. Like there’s something wrong with me. Like I apparently don’t know what I’m doing. If I don’t know the title, I must not know anything.

It annoys me when people do that. It’s like walking up to a college student and asking, “What kind of career are you pursuing?”

And the student says, “I want to be an accountant.”

“Oh really? That’s great! When you become an accountant, what color do you want the carpet in your office to be?”

And the student says, “Well, I haven’t really thought about that yet. I’m just trying to get my degree right now.”

And you say, “Obviously, you’ll never make it as an accountant. That office carpet is a big deal!”

I’m not saying the title doesn’t matter. The title of a book is profoundly important. It has to draw attention to itself. It has to make people want to pick up the book. But there’s no rule that says you have to think of a title before you begin writing.

Many people who don’t write (or even read, for that matter) seem to think they’re experts on the writing process. Bugs me.

(The typewriter image isn’t mine.)