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.

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Finding Drake Novak

I hope you’re all doing well. Sorry I haven’t blogged in a long time. I’ve been busy writing a new book. Here it is. It’s a dark science fiction comedy set in the South.

Drake Novak is a pale man with bloodshot eyes and a black suit. He owns a plastic factory in a small town in Georgia. The workers don’t know it, but Drake is an alien who feeds on the misery and suffering of other life forms. The factory is his buffet. But Drake’s feeding frenzy is about to end. Malpheus Mallock, a young policeman from the Galactic Precinct, comes to Earth to arrest Drake. Sadly, his tracking device doesn’t work correctly. He lands in the yard of an elderly couple named Carl and Christine who provide him with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and iced tea. Malpheus struggles to fix his tracking device and find Drake Novak before he destroys the whole town.

If you’re interested, the paperback version is six dollars. The e-book is $2.99. You can click here to order it on Amazon.

Martha Berry’s backyard

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In 1998, I almost became a foreign exchange student. I use the word “almost” because real exchange students generally spend an entire year in a foreign country, attending school and speaking the language of the locals. But when I traveled to Germany fifteen years ago with some other students from Model High School, my experience was somewhat different. The trip only lasted three weeks. And I wasn’t officially a “student,” you see. I just sat around in various classrooms, doodling on pieces of paper and wondering what the people around me were saying. (I can speak German, but I’m not exactly fluent.)

For two weeks, I lived with a wonderful family in Heidelberg. (Or was it Weinheim? I can’t remember now.) The family spoke excellent English and took very good care of me. When I wasn’t using up the oxygen at school, they took me to museums, carnivals, restaurants, and castles. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Since then, we’ve kept in touch.

Wolfgang and Regine, my “German parents,” came to Georgia last week to visit my parents and me. It was their first stop in a long, meandering vacation all over Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. (Their sons, Jochen and Matthias, stayed behind in Germany. They’ve visited before, though. Jochen came here in October, actually. I introduced him to Steak n Shake and all its glorious American cholesterol.)

I’m not a morning person, but I got up early this past Saturday so I could spend the whole day with my German friends. I drove to my parents’ house, half-asleep and barely functioning, and drank coffee with Wolfgang, Regine, and my parents. Then all five of us squeezed into my dad’s car.

If you’re entertaining visitors from another country, you don’t want to bore them to death with Wal-Mart or a neighborhood yard sale. You want to show them a landmark you’re proud of, something grand and noteworthy. So we went to Martha Berry’s house and took a guided tour. It was an incredible place, especially the library, and the gardens outside were mind-bogglingly beautiful. I felt like I had stepped into a Pinterest photo. And the tour guide was witty and charming.

Afterward, we rambled all over the Berry College campus, admiring the elegant stone buildings and almost running over the teenage girls who had flocked there to be photographed in their prom dresses.

From there, we went to my apartment in the backwoods of Chattooga County, so Wolfgang and Regine could see where I live now. Then we headed back to Rome and ate at the Homestead Restaurant (one of the best restaurants on earth) just as a thunderstorm rolled in. After we left the Homestead and went back home, the five of us sat in my parents’ living room for a long time, laughing and telling stories, while the lightning flashed outside and the electricity threatened to sputter out. Around midnight, Wolfgang and Regine told us goodbye and went back to their hotel. I was thrilled to spend the day with them, but I was sad to watch them drive away in the rain.

The next morning, they caught a plane to Florida. They’re in Miami now, I believe.

I apologize if I’ve bored you senseless with all these tedious little details. I’m mainly doing it for my own benefit, so I can remember everything later. I want to preserve this past Saturday, to hold onto it forever, the same way you might press a four-leaf clover between the pages of a book so that you can pull it out and look at it again later.

(I wish I could say I took these photos, but I didn’t. My mother did.)

My novel, Under the Electric Sun, is available on Kindle. It’s a dystopian science fiction story about a boy, a cybernetic raccoon, and a large insect from another planet. You can click here to download it.

Stacey Texting in the Rain

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In my previous post, I told you that I like to check into hotel rooms from time to time and draw all night while sipping coffee and listening to the “muzak” on The Weather Channel. In that post, I mentioned a pencil drawing called “Stacey Texting in the Rain.” I decided I would share it with you here.

In 2011, the day after Christmas, I took a photo of my friend Stacey standing in front of the gas station where she worked at the time. It was late at night and there were no customers, except me. She was standing under the awning, out of the rain, smoking a cigarette and texting.

A few days later, I went “camping” at the Motel 6 and spent the whole night drawing, working from the photo. I tried to capture the wet parking lot in the background, with the streetlights reflected in it, but it turned out looking like an ocean instead. Oh well. I’m still proud of it. It was featured in the Georgia Highlands College literary magazine, The Old Red Kimono, in 2012.

The Crushed Tomato

When I first washed up in Chattooga County back in the summer of 2001, I wasn’t very fond of this place at all. I thought it was boring, old-fashioned, and too small. I was eager to relocate as quickly as possible and wipe this town from my memory. That was my plan for a few years … and then a few years became a few MORE years. Now I’ve been living here for over a decade — driving past the courthouse with the gold dome every day, mingling with the entire population of the town every time I walk through Walmart, and admiring the wooden Sequoyah figure in Dowdy Park when I pass by it. (I’m assuming it’s Sequoyah, but I could be wrong.)

I’ve grown to love this community and appreciate its little quirks. And I’ve become so accustomed to it that I feel overwhelmed when I travel anywhere else. When I drive to Rome, my hometown, I feel like I’m in New York City.

Over the past twelve years, I’ve learned to be very cautious of the small, locally-owned restaurants that spring up in Chattooga County. As soon as I get used to eating at them, they fold up and go out of business a week later … and I’m left feeling disappointed and betrayed. I don’t even bother patronizing those places anymore. Call me bitter if you want.

For a while now, there’s been a buzz about a pizza place called The Crushed Tomato. I heard a lot of great things about it when it opened, so I made up my mind I would never eat there. I didn’t want to set myself up for another heartbreak.

But the restaurant is still around and it seems to be thriving. So I reluctantly decided to check it out a couple of weeks ago.

I’m glad I did. The pizza, first of all, is delicious. (And reasonably priced.) But the thing I like most is the atmosphere. It’s an old building. The walls are made of brick — with no paint — and there are vintage Coca-Cola signs hanging everywhere, along with some other interesting antiques. There’s something magical about it. The people who work there are very friendly too.

I hope it stays in business for a long, long time.

British Invasion

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I was looking for Jack White’s CD Blunderbuss at Wal-Mart the other day. Unfortunately, I didn’t see it — but I had already made up my mind to buy some new music. I can only fit a limited number of CDs inside the armrest console in my car and I’m tired of listening to most of them. And good radio stations are becoming more and more scarce.

After pacing back and forth in front of the shelf, digging through all the CDs that weren’t in alphabetical order, I discovered Mod Hits: 60s British Invasion.

I grew up listening to “oldies” music (mostly British Invasion and Motown, I recall) on a station called Q 102 in Rome, Georgia. The station still exists, but it specializes in Top 40 songs now. It recently occurred to me that there are no oldies stations anymore. (Not in the area where I live, anyway.) Somewhere along the way, the “oldies” stations evolved into “classic rock” stations, playing a lot of Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, along with 80s hair bands and a light sprinkling of 90s grunge. I love and respect all of that music. Please don’t think I’m trashing any of it. But I’ve found myself missing the “older oldies” lately, if I can coin such a silly phrase. There’s something more innocent about that music.

When I popped the Mod Hits CD into my dashboard in the Wal-Mart parking lot, it was like sitting down and chatting with an old friend. A warm feeling came over me. My heart fluttered. My eyes twinkled. I nearly crashed into a stray buggy.

There’s a version of Always Something There to Remind Me on the CD, recorded by Sandie Shaw. That one surprised me. All my life, I’ve heard the version Naked Eyes recorded in the early 80s. I had no idea it was a cover. I looked it up on Wikipedia and learned that Sandie Shaw’s version isn’t even the first one — but it’s my favorite.

You can click here to order my novels, Citizens of Purgatory and Under the Electric Sun, from Amazon.

Perspective

I spent most of the weekend in a nearby town called Rome (that’s Rome, Georgia … not Rome, Italy) because my grandmother passed away in a hospital on Saturday afternoon. I’m sad that she’s gone, but I don’t feel comfortable about grieving right here on my computer screen. I do want to mention one strange thing I noticed this weekend, though.

Over the past couple of days, I whiled away many hours in my cousin’s basement, sitting with him and his wife on a worn-out sofa in front of an old gas heater. We told stories and remembered our grandmother while we watched the orange and blue flames dance. My cousin lives in a house that his father built 28 years ago. I remember playing in the house when all the paint was still fresh and leftover pieces of lumber and sheetrock were scattered on the porch. That was a long, long time ago — back when Ronald Reagan was president and “Alf” came on NBC every Monday night.

When I was young (and the HOUSE was young) that basement seemed so much bigger. It was the size of a stadium, I thought. It was so vast. Today, the basement still has the same old concrete walls and the same old wooden staircase in the middle, leading into a passageway lined with pink insulation up above. But it seems so SMALL compared to the way I remember it.

I’ve noticed this same phenomenon in other places too. The cafeteria at Johnson Elementary School, for example, was enormous when I was 10. When I went back to that same cafeteria as a teenager (when my little sister’s class was having a fall festival there) I realized how tiny it really was.

Reality is not what you think it is. Your persception of the world is skewed in ways you don’t even realize. This is something I think about a lot.

I will write more about this tomorrow. I have to go to the store now and find some clothes to wear to the funeral.