Leaving the Nest…

Gary lived in a nest of shredded magazine pages. Every morning and every night, he sat in his nest and stared at a miniature television set with a black and white screen, one he had found in a junk pile. Most of Gary’s knowledge about the world above him came from the television.

His nest was located on a windowsill in the basement of an old, old spaceship. All the ship’s garbage fell into the basement through trap doors in the ceiling. Gary spent his days flying over the garbage piles, searching for scraps of food and interesting pieces of junk. He was always careful to avoid the vulture beetles that ate everything (including metal) in order to make room for more garbage.

Gary didn’t live alone on the windowsill. An octopus human hybrid lived in a cardboard box right beside him. The octopus looked just like any other octopus except he had a human face (with baggy, bloodshot eyes) and breathed oxygen and complained about all of Gary’s soap operas.

One morning, Gary sat in his nest, watching a commercial for a steakhouse located on the top floor of the ship. He wondered what it would be like to eat in a steakhouse, to eat firsthand food rather than dirty old scraps someone else had tossed out.

The octopus slouched in his cardboard box and looked out the window at the stars.

“Hey, Gary, do you see that thing out there?” the octopus asked.

“You mean that giant asteroid?” said Gary. “Yes, I see that. What about it?”

“It’s coming straight toward us,” said the octopus.

“Oh, I’m sure it’s not a problem.”

“Maybe you should go upstairs and mention it to somebody,” the octopus told him, shifting his bloodshot eyes back and forth.

Gary shrugged. “I’m sure they already know.”

“Maybe not. They might not be paying any attention. Everybody’s in a big frenzy. They’re all excited about the debate or something, aren’t they?”

“They’ll see it soon enough,” said Gary, shaking his head and wishing he could enjoy his soap opera in peace. “How could anyone overlook something that size?”

“I don’t know,” the octopus went on. “When you watch the evening news, you get the impression that most of those folks upstairs aren’t too bright. You know what I mean? You may want to just run up there real quick and, you know, mention it to somebody.”

“Not now,” said Gary.

“I think you should.”

Gary cleared his throat. “I may do it later.”

“It might be too late,” said the octopus, peeking out the window.

“Why can’t I sit here in my nest and watch my program?” Gary shouted, flapping his wings and grinding his teeth. “Can you at least let me have that one luxury? Please? Every day of my life is a bland, worthless echo of the one before it. I crawl out of my nest, I fly around this dark room, I find scraps of food for us to eat, I avoid the vicious vulture beetles, and then I return to the windowsill. Television is the only oasis I have. My only other form of recreation is gazing out the window at the black, infinite void and thinking about my futile existence.”

The octopus rolled his eyes. “You’re not going to miss anything, Gary, That show is a re-run, remember? All these people die at the end.”

Gary flapped his wings and screamed, “I’ve never seen this episode before! Why do you have to ruin it for me? Why?”

“Well, now you don’t have to watch it. You know how the thing’s going to end. Now run upstairs and tell somebody about that big space rock.”

“No!” Gary yelled. “Stop harassing me!”

“It’s getting closer. And it has little red patches. Looks like lava on that thing. What about that? A big ball covered in lava is coming at us. And you want to watch soap operas.”

Gary turned away from the miniature television and looked out the window again. He realized the octopus was right. The asteroid was getting closer. And there were red patches on it.

“But how would I get upstairs?” Gary asked, trembling. “The garbage associates hardly ever come down here. The doors are locked most of the time. I couldn’t go upstairs if I wanted to.”

***

You’ve been reading an excerpt from The Quality of Life in Outer Space, available on Amazon. Gary is an eagle with a human head. He takes off on a journey to the top floor of the spaceship and struggles to warn the crew about the oncoming asteroid. He learns some shocking secrets along the way. The book is aimed at younger readers, but adults would get a laugh out of it too. The paperback is $5 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $1.99. You can click here to order.

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My Books

I started writing when I was twelve and never stopped. Now I work in a factory, driving a rickety old forklift, but I still write books in my free time. I self-publish them on Amazon too. Writing is more than a hobby for me. It’s a basic need like food and water. I mostly write science fiction stories filled with dark, twisted humor. Sometimes I write madcap comedies set in the South. I also write a little bit of nonfiction.

Finding Drake Novak combines science fiction and Southern Gothic. Drake Novak is a malevolent alien with bloodshot eyes and a black business suit. He draws his nourishment from the pain and sadness of other living things. He takes over a factory in rural Georgia and keeps all the workers as miserable as possible. He absorbs their frustration and despair the way a plant absorbs sunlight. Then a young policeman from the Galactic Precinct comes to Earth to arrest him.

Under the Electric Sun is a book about a robotic raccoon and a boy named Jake. They live in a luxurious underground city beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. One afternoon, as they relax in a room full of plastic trees, a giant praying mantis arrives and tells them it’s safe to live on the surface again. Their lives change forever.

I also love to draw. Sometimes, when people find out I’m an artist, they hound me to draw portraits of their kids. Or they describe tattoo ideas to me, asking me to draw all kinds of ridiculous, complicated things. Some people are downright rude and pushy about it. How to Make an Artist Miserable is a book about these annoying people and the ways I’ve learned to deal with them.

All my books are available on Amazon. You can order paperback copies or download them to your Kindle.

* You can also visit The Publishing Parlor, my other blog, to learn more about my books. It’s mostly a collection of book samples and a few personal essays. Feel free to visit, but please don’t follow it. If you follow that blog, your inbox will be flooded with posts. I update it compulsively. It will drive you absolutely nuts, I promise.

Thanks for reading.

Weekend sketching

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Here are some drawings I’ve done recently. The first is Suzanne Somers. I drew her last weekend … or was it the weekend before? I can’t remember. Recent events are running together in my mind like oil in a parking lot. Anyway, I know for sure that I drew the second and third pictures this past Saturday. One is a caricature of Emily, a little girl who attends my church. I drew her in her taekwondo uniform. And the picture on the bottom is my new Facebook friend, Lorian Hemingway.

I drew the picture of Lorian Hemingway while spending Saturday night at the Econo Lodge in Rome, Georgia. I can’t explain it … I know it doesn’t make any sense at all … but I enjoy checking into a hotel room (once or twice a year) and drawing all night long, with nothing but the TV and the hum of the air conditioner to keep me company. It’s absolute bliss. In the middle of the night, I walked over to the diner next door (The Huddle House) and ate some greasy food. Then I returned to my room and kept on drawing. And this caricature of Lorian Hemingway is the result.

I’m not sure when I’ll post again. I haven’t been drawing as much lately since I’m still learning my new job. But I hope you’re all doing well and enjoying spring. (That is, if it’s spring in your part of the world … for some of you, I think it’s winter right now. Is it? Sorry. Never mind.)

***

If you’re interested, you can click here to order my novels from Amazon. The new one is called Citizens of Purgatory. It’s about the misadventures of a struggling young sportswriter in Alabama. The other is Under the Electric Sun, a dark dystopian story aimed at young adults. The star is an electronic raccoon with a bitter outlook on life.

Miller, Spock, and the Colonel



Here are a few pictures I’ve drawn lately in my Moleskine sketchbook. One is a caricature of Donald Miller, an author I like. The second is Spock from Star Trek and the third is Colonel Sanders. (I drew the Colonel from a black and white photo I found on Google. In all the photos I’ve seen, his face looks different from the illustration you see on the KFC signs.)

I just reformatted and re-uploaded Under the Electric Sun and gave it a new cover. I also finished another book recently, a dark comedy set in Alabama. My friend Hannah is proofreading it right now. I’m planning to upload it to Kindle as soon as she’s finished. I designed a cover for it yesterday afternoon.

Anyway, I’m exhausted. My brain needs to rest now. I feel like a hamster running inside a plastic wheel. For the next several days, I’m not going to write or draw anything. I plan to spend my evenings lying on the couch with the window open, letting a nice breeze blow in on me while I read. I keep buying these cheap paperback novels at the Dollar General, but I haven’t gotten around to reading any of them. It’s time to do that now. I’m also going to do some praying. I haven’t done enough of that lately, but I need to. My relationship with Jesus is the only thing that really keeps me sane.

Hope you have a good week. Thanks for reading. Cheers.

(Oh, I almost forgot. You can click here to download a copy of the book.)

Under the Electric Sun (revamped)

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I decided to give Under the Electric Sun a brand new cover and discard the illustrations. The previous cover, and all the brightly colored pictures, gave the impression that it was a book for young children. It’s actually a dark, gritty novel aimed at young adults. So I thought it was a good idea to “repackage” it. (I’m not trashing children’s books at all, by the way. I love them. I just felt like people were looking at the old cover and saying, “Oh, that must be a kiddie book.”)

I also wrote a new summary:

Tristan is a government-issued tutor. Even though he is an android, he was designed to look like a raccoon. With synthetic fur and rubber paws, he could easily be mistaken for a real raccoon — but, unlike an ordinary animal, Tristan is able to talk and give history lessons. His last student frequently insulted him, abused him, and swung him around by his tail. Thus, the electronic raccoon has developed a cynical attitude about life. Fortunately, Tristan’s current student is a kind, gentle young man named Jake Sheldon. Tristan and Jake live in a high-tech city beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. People have lived in the underground city ever since a nuclear war poisoned the surface nearly a hundred years ago.

One afternoon, Tristan and Jake visit Bailey Park, a large room filled with plastic trees and tiny speakers that play birdsongs. As they sprawl out in the synthetic grass, an alien visitor approaches them and says he has studied Earth for a long time. After informing Tristan and Jake that it’s safe to live on the surface, the alien leads them on a journey up a long staircase. While the electronic raccoon and his student are delighted to see real trees and sunlight, their lives quickly become more complicated than they ever could have imagined. As they taste freedom for the first time, they also suffer immense pain and tragedy.

You can click here to download a copy.

Flowers

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I don’t think I’ve posted either of these pictures on my blog, so I thought I would share them with you quickly. The first is a drawing of Kelly Clarkson with flowers over her eyes. I drew it from a real photo of her. I think it was taken at a birthday party. The second picture is a colored pencil drawing of a water lily behind the house I stayed in when I visited Germany a long, long time ago.

This week, I’ve been reading over the first draft of my new book and making changes to it. I’m about to step away and do some more editing/re-writing now.

I hope you had a nice weekend.