Starlight Desperado

Good morning. My new book is on Amazon now. It’s a story about growing up in church, feeling extremely uneasy about God, leaving church, struggling with anxiety, using substances to cope with that anxiety, and then eventually realizing that God wasn’t the scary monster I thought He was.

I’ve been clean for eight years now. Even though I still struggle with anxiety sometimes, I’ve learned to lean on God and pray during those nervous moments — instead of grabbing pills. My life is much better now. I don’t miss my old habits at all.

The book is available in paperback and on Kindle. You can click here to order.

 

Copyright 2018 Matthew David Curry.

Advertisements

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.

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 Tale of Two Presidents

After the riots were finally over and the broken glass was all swept up, Barack Obama and Donald Trump put on their colorful Christmas sweaters, their best khaki pants, and their brand new penny loafers. They pranced down the street, arm in arm, proud to be the new Co Presidents of the United States. They went into Cici’s Pizza and “killed the buffet” together, scarfing down countless slices of spinach Alfredo pizza, pineapple and ham pizza, barbecue chicken pizza, and cheddar cheese scorpion pizza. Once their tummies were full, Trump and Obama returned to the White House. They sat up all night in the Lincoln Bedroom, watching Full House DVDs and writing love letters to John Stamos in purple ink with lots of little hearts.

 

Matthew David Curry 2016

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

Back to school

Last Sunday, I met up with my friend Misty at Johnson Elementary School. We both went to the school when we were kids. Sadly, it’s not a school anymore. It’s just a few empty buildings on the side of the road. No kids, no electricity, no life. All the playground equipment is gone except for a few random pieces of wood. In front of the principal’s office, there’s a flower bed full of weeds – and a dirty old mattress.

In 2001, the teachers and students moved to a brand new facility up the road. Afterward, the old campus became an “alternative school,” a dumping ground for all the unruly kids in the community, the ones who were too evil to attend a regular school. I remember feeling sad when I learned my old school had become a children’s prison. But eventually, the Board of Education stopped using it as an alternative school. They sent all the bad kids somewhere else, I guess. After that, a local charity organization rented the school for a while and stored old clothes and furniture in some of the classrooms – but then they moved on too.

Now the place is a ghost town. Eventually, bulldozers will come and wipe it all away. That’s why Misty and I wanted to take pictures.

The doors to some of the buildings were unlocked. Some of the doors were wide open. And some of the doors were completely gone. We walked freely into all the buildings, wandered down the dark hallways, opened the doors to the classrooms, and peeked inside. I was hesitant to look inside the rooms, but Misty wasn’t. She’s completely fearless. She drives a tanker truck for a living and cuts down trees in her spare time. Nothing scares her at all.

Not all the rooms were empty. We found office desks in some of them. We pulled open drawers and flipped through old books. In one classroom, a TV set was mounted on a wall. In the library, bookcases were still in place – but the books were long gone. In a supply closet, we found giant rolls of colored paper, the kind teachers use for decorating bulletin boards.

Even though there were old desks and supplies here and there, the whole place felt dead and dismal. It was like a tomb.

Except for the gym. As soon as we walked into the gym, we were amazed by the way it smelled. It smelled exactly the way it did in 1991. It had the same metal bleachers on one side and the same scoreboard mounted on the wall. It had the same carpet with those black lines and circles printed on it. Paper cups and pieces of trash were scattered on the floor, but the gym still seemed like a living thing. It seemed like little kids could still have a basketball tournament in there at any minute.

But the longer we stayed there, the more I felt like I needed to get out. This was partly because I was afraid the police might show up and drag us away – although we weren’t doing anything illegal. I had asked the principal of the new school if it was okay to come and take pictures. It was fine to be there. And we didn’t take anything at all. We left everything exactly the way we had found it.

As I thought about it later, I realized why I was itching to get out. I felt like I had trespassed into the wrong decade. At one point in my life, I belonged in those buildings. That was my everyday life. But not anymore. Life has moved on. I belong somewhere else now. I’ve learned that if I reminisce too much, I’ll get stuck in the past. And I won’t appreciate all the good things in my life right now. It’s important to live in the present, to enjoy today.

It felt good to visit my old school, but it also felt good to walk away from it.

Matthew David Curry 2016

Long time, no see

Image

Sorry I’ve been out of touch lately. Ever since I took the new job operating the pellet-shooter at work, I haven’t had time to do much else. The night shift is a harsh master. And during the time when I’m not working, I’m recovering from the time when I was working. But it’s only a temporary job. I should go back to my normal duties (and my normal life) in roughly a month. I’m looking forward to it. I don’t mean to complain. I’m thankful to have a job. It’s a blessing. But it demands all the energy I have. I stagger through the front door in the mornings feeling like I just had a lobotomy.

I hope you’ve been doing well. I hope you’re having a good summer … or winter … or whatever season it is in your corner of the world.

The picture up above is my friend Katrina. It’s one of the few drawings I’ve done since I started working on the pellet machine. Katrina just moved to Florida today, so this is my going-away present to her.

Oh, and Citizens of Purgatory is free for the next couple of days. If you have a Kindle, or a Kindle app on your phone, you can click here to download it.

 

My writing process

 

Image

Recently, my friend Liz Fountain tagged me in a “blog hop” series where various writers answer questions about the way they write. Here are my answers.

 

1.) What am I working on?

At the moment, nothing. (Unfortunately.) Since my writing is a “glorified hobby” and not a major source of income, I have to do work that I’m not so passionate about during the day. Recently, I started a new job at a mill. In an effort to learn how to operate my pellet-spitting machine, I’ve decided to put my writing on hiatus and free up some space in my mind. Later, after I’ve conquered the machine and grown accustomed to my new job, I’ll start another book. (Or maybe just a short story. I haven’t decided yet.)

 

2.) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

So far, I’ve published two novels, Under the Electric Sun and Citizens of Purgatory, on Amazon. 

Under the Electric Sun is a dystopian, post-apocalyptic, science fiction story set in a massive underground city beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. While the “after-the-end-of-America-as-we-know-it” scenario is vaguely similar to Hunger Games and other dystopian novels, my book contains a lot of offbeat humor inspired by Douglas Adams. The main character in Under the Electric Sun is a cybernetic raccoon named Tristan, a government-issued tutor. Tristan and his dim-witted student, Jake Sheldon, throw sarcastic barbs at each other throughout the book. When Tristan and Jake climb a secret staircase and see the surface of the earth for the first time, they enter the ruins of an affluent gated community where the locals have turned swimming pools into gardens and golf courses into wheat fields.

Meanwhile, Citizens of Purgatory takes place in Alabama in 2003. I don’t really know which category to put this one in. I suppose you would call it a slapstick Southern gothic comedy. When I was writing it, my biggest inspirations were Garrison Keillor’s radio stories and Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

 

3.) Why do I write what I do?

I grew up with Doctor Who and Douglas Adams. I’m fascinated with science fiction, especially humorous science fiction. But I’m also madly in love with small town Americana, so I enjoy writing Southern gothic fiction too.

 

4.) How does my writing process work?

I start off with a vague idea of who the characters are and how the story will unfold. I write one chapter at a time, writing a rough draft of the chapter and fine-tuning it before I move on to the next chapter. Then I go back and overhaul all of them, moving through the manuscript one chapter at a time again. Sometimes I take brief vacations between chapters to avoid a nervous breakdown.

You can click here to order my books.

 

(The photo above is a paper typewriter made by Jennifer Collier. She’s a genius.)

The lies I used to believe

Image

I remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom as a teenager late one night, fiddling with the radio dial. It was July 4, 1995. I skipped from one station to another, listening to bits and pieces of grunge alternative music, until I was startled by an angry voice. A man was ranting about America, screaming into the microphone so loudly that many of his words were distorted. He sounded like he had just escaped from a mental institution. I gasped and leaned toward the speakers. The man said Independence Day was a joke. If he were sailing on the high seas, he said, and he saw two ships floating toward him — one ship flying a jolly-roger flag and the other ship displaying an American flag — he would steer toward the ship with the jolly-roger. He said pirates were more trustworthy than America.

Right away, I pulled my hand from the radio dial and laughed out loud at the screaming man. He sounded so ridiculous, growling and snarling. I heard him pounding his fists on the desk in front of him. I had never heard anything like it before.

Not only did the show grab my attention, the whole radio station seized me. I spent the rest of my teenage years listening to conservative talk radio – mostly because it was so outrageous and entertaining, but also because some of the philosophical arguments made sense to me. Amid the low-brow jokes about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, I also heard a lot of inspiring messages. The hosts often talked about the importance of setting goals and working hard to achieve them. They said people should have the freedom to pursue their dreams. I remember Rush Limbaugh saying that if you do what you love for a living, people will have to beg you to take a vacation.

I still believe those things – but there are a few things I don’t believe anymore.

The talk show hosts insisted that rich people are hard workers and poor people are lazy sluggards. If you’re rich, you deserve to be rich. If you’re poor, you deserve to be poor.

When I was younger, sitting in front of my radio, I gobbled up this message. I believed that all wealthy people were honest, diligent, goal-oriented citizens … and poor people just needed to get off the couch and find a job.

Now that I’m 34 years old, I know this idea is nonsense. The world is filled with poor people who work hard every day. They work long hours, sometimes juggling multiple jobs, and they still live from paycheck to paycheck, biting their nails and wondering how they will pay their bills each month.

For five years, I worked at a textile mill, barely scraping by. During those five years, the mill never gave me a pay raise. (It wasn’t just me. The mill is known throughout the community for being tightfisted and stingy with the regular employees while the people in upper management swim in cash.) The most insulting thing about the mill is this: even though they refuse to give raises, they happily donate heaps of money to the local high school sports teams.

Why does the mill sling money all over the community? Is it because the company big shots are generous people? Obviously not. It’s because the government gives them tax breaks for their “charitable” donations. They gain money by giving money away.

I think the government should give tax breaks to companies that pay workers well. It might cause greedy old men to become more generous … and it might help some of the hardworking poor people in our country.

(I don’t usually talk about politics on this blog, but I’ve felt really annoyed about this situation lately. I’m not an expert on any of these things at all. My opinion isn’t worth much. But I would rather offer a solution to the problem than simply gripe about it. Griping is therapeutic, but it doesn’t really fix anything.)

***

You can click here if you would like to order my novels, Citizens of Purgatory and Under the Electric Sun. My new novel, Citizens of Purgatory, is a dark comedy set in Alabama. It’s roughly based on a few of my experiences in the mill.