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.

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Under the Electric Sun

I recently drew a new cover design for Under the Electric Sun, the science fiction novel I wrote back in 2012. I was never happy with the earlier cover. Here is a photo of the new version. No, I didn’t put greasy Saran Wrap over the camera lens. I took this picture with my prepaid cellphone, a tedious little device that demands to be recharged twice a day. Sometimes, you just do the best you can.

Under the Electric Sun is available in paperback for $6. The Kindle version is 99 cents. You can click here to order.

I hope you’re enjoying the cool weather — if you happen to live in this part of the world. Have a lovely weekend.

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.

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

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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

 

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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.)

Citizens of Purgatory

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Citizens of Purgatory is a dark comedy about a young newspaper reporter who confronts a bad driver … who turns out to be a vicious murderer who only served a brief stint in prison. It’s now available in paperback on Amazon. You can click here to order a copy. (It’s also available on Kindle if you prefer e-books.)

Snowbound

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It snowed heavily today. Well, some people might not use the word “heavily,” but we rarely get snow in Georgia, so any amount of snow is a major event. Because the roads were icy and people had a hard time driving, there were traffic jams galore. A lot of people were stranded in their vehicles for hours. And many other people abandoned their vehicles and started walking.

I’m thankful I didn’t have to work today. I didn’t have to get out in it. I mostly stayed home and drew. At one point, I did walk over to the gas station on the corner to buy a phone card. On my way back, I saw people in trucks struggling to drive up the gentle slope in the road nearby. They weren’t able to make it. They kept sliding backwards. I was terrified for them. I helped one lady push her SUV into a ditch — since her tires kept spinning on the ice … and the ditch seemed to be the safest place.

***

The other day, my friend Dan (who was my history teacher in high school) came over and brought me a kerosene heater. For some reason, this image (above) popped into my head after he left. This evening, while I was hanging around in my apartment with nothing to do, I sat down and put it on paper. (While watching the Andy Williams Christmas Special from 1967 on YouTube.)

It’s a dog … with Dan’s head … warming himself in front of a heater. I’m hoping to do a better version later, maybe tomorrow if I’m still snowed in.

***

NOTE: My novel, Citizens of Purgatory, will be available in paperback soon. In the meantime, you can click here to download the electronic version to your Kindle. Citizens of Purgatory is a novel about the misadventures of Nick, a young sportswriter who doesn’t know anything about sports. Nick’s life turns into a nightmare when an ex-convict crashes into his car one morning.