StoryGraph’s First Ever Book Giveaway

StoryGraph is a great alternative to Amazon and Goodreads. I’ll be a part of their first ever giveaway that’s kicking off on September 19th. A total of 10 paperbacks and 5 hardcovers will be given away in mid-October. There will be bonus material included for the winners of my new release – Bedtime Stories for the Criminally Insane (and poetry).

My Very First Patreon Patron

So I finally got my first patron on Patreon. After finding out, I walked outside in the rain and looked up to see a ray of sunshine splitting apart the dark clouds. Then I sprouted angel’s wings and flew high into the new world order. I looked down upon all the future readers who would be blessed by the presence of my words and said, “Let there be odd and disconcerting poetry.” And so there was. Then I said, “Let there be swells of adverbs and unnecessary intensifiers.” And so there was. There really, really was.

Then I realized I have to produce content, write more than once every five months, and in general deliver the goods. My wings then disintegrated and I fell through a copse of pine trees, but not like that fall in Rambo: First Blood. There was more screaming and flailing and I didn’t have the constitution to sew myself up afterwards… you know what, nevermind. The point is I have things to do now. Can I, though?

That’s largely dependent on my mental state, which ebbs and flows like an ocean on a planet with three moons. Things are little rough right now, but I have initiated a project I call: Project Do Things. As you may have surmised from the title, the main workflow of this project is to do things. This is in direct opposition to my current status quo in which I am not doing things. The roadmap is very simple and looks like this: Doing little or no things => Doing things.

I will not only be writing more, I will be reading more as well. I’m hoping to give away a book a month for my Patreon members, which means I’ll have to read at least one, unless it sucks and then I’ll have to read another one, and so on… I don’t want to give away a book that sucks. More blogging, Instagraming, Tweeting, Patreoning, you get the picture. But if there’s a way to decide on the specific type of stress and anxiety you get to deal with, I choose this kind. The reading and writing kind. The connecting with readers kind. The carbonara kind. I like carbonara.

Bedtime Stories for the Criminally Insane (and poetry) is out there now, but I haven’t pushed as hard for sales as I can because the newly edited version won’t be out for a week or so. There’ll be future posts on the importance of hiring a good editor and also some announcements about giveaways on dueling platforms. I’m also in talks with a company about offering my book as an NFT. If you’re new to NFTs, don’t shit on them until you’ve researched a little. They’re going to be much more than digital Beanie Babies.

Finishing My Novel in a Novel Way

Indiegogo The Village #2

 

Finding time to write. Every literary magazine in existence would have you believe that there is always time to write. There is not.

Long work hours, followed by long drives, errands, kids in sports, helping with homework, cooking, eating, cleaning, and you name it. When they all come together, being mentally competent or physically able to stay awake enough to write is sometimes impossible. Now that I’m unemployed, I can either spend every waking moment trying to find another web development job, where we can keep our rental house and not be homeless, or I can sit down in front of my laptop to write, and think about how if I don’t spend every waking moment trying to find another web development job, we won’t be able to keep our rental house and will be homeless. It’s hard to work on character development when you might not have a home in a few weeks.

So, I’m trying to kill two birds with one stone. The stone is Indiegogo. It’s a crowdfunding site that operates much like Kickstarter, but is a lot more lax on what the projects can be and how you collect the money. It’s like Kickstarter, without the red tape. If I reach my goal, I’ll be able to concentrate on finishing The Village by the end of January, without having to worry the roof over my family’s head.

I’m still working on a video where I don’t look and sound like a douche-bag, blink 45 times a second, or say ‘um’ before every single sentence. So it may be a week or so. But I’ve given the gist of what’s needed and why. I’ll be more detailed and hopefully pull at the heart strings a little more in the video.

I’ve also included the Intro and Chapter 1. Tell me what you think. Any and all feedback is welcome. If the campaign is active, you’ll see the link in the left sidebar.

Happy reading.

Read This And Win $1,000

Sorry, Charlie cover

There’s a particular type of sinking feeling you get when your Kickstarter project is 2/3 complete and underfunded. You don’t want to give up. Can’t, really. But you can see the water spilling over the bow as the women and children fill the lifeboats. It’s looking like I’m going to be on the not so wonderful side of that fully-funded statistic. Here is a snapshot of my sadness.

Kickstarter progress

See that plateau? That’s a horrible plateau. If it was a pool of water, you would not want to drink from its stagnant waters. If it was a ship headed to the New World, there would be a mutiny, the captain looking over the edge of his last diving board. If it was a rabbit, it would be a shaved rabbit, with the mange and a Scotty-Don’t haircut, no front teeth, spray-painted yellow and orange by vandals, curled up under a sopping wet newspaper inside a garbage can, slowly gnawing off one of its own front legs. You get the picture.

In one of my last posts, I laid out a few things I had done wrong concerning the project. But it’s too late to fix most of them. So I am going to go post crazy and stoop to the lowest form of selfish, spamtastic, advertising. A slutty form of SEO and guerilla-anti-reverse-subliminal-prodding. I’m not sure what else to do really. I’ve thought of publicity stunts. Like a bomb scare on The Bachelor. No good. I’ve thought of using phrases like California Earthquake gives rise to giant spiders. Don’t panic, I would never stoop that low. I want to shoot this to you straight, like Brandon Knight, and not irritate you like a sprained ankle. Nor would I capitalize on Prom fashion or Mother’s day this year. That would be petty. I just want to do something that cool like Justin Timberlake SNL Saturday Night Live. I want to be like Oz The Great and Powerful and do something beautiful like Danielle Fishel. Nor will I even mention North Korean nuclear threats imminent for fear of giving people a hangover 3 about the whole thing.

And I surely won’t filibuster you like Rand Paul or Google Trend you to death with statistics.

I’ll just say that you should go to Kickstarter immediately and pledge at least $20 to the Sorry, Charlie project. And that’s all I’ll say. Here is the link.

Sorry, Charlie on Kickstarter

 

 

The Pope. The Pope. The Pope. The Pope. The Pope. The Pope. The Pope.

My Kickstarter project: Day 14

Sorry Charlie Cover

 

Well, it’s day 14 for my Kickstarter project for Sorry, Charlie. Seven backers have pledged a total of $160, which is 17% of my goal. And while I am very happy that anyone’s even looked at it, much less donated to the cause, the project is about $300 short from the midpoint goal.

 

Disheartening, but not overwhelming. I have a split personality when it comes to the backers. Part of me is very happy that only one name on the backer list is a friend. Why? Because that means that total strangers have looked at the project and decided it was cool enough to donate to. One person has even hit the $100 mark and gets to be a character in my next horror short called The Trolley. It’s a certain kind of validation when people who aren’t emotionally attached to you in some way decide to back something you’re doing. Sometimes friends and family feel like they have to smile and say nice things about what you’re doing even if it really sucks. Strangers however, will tell you it sucks.

 

The other part of me is a little irked, and for basically the same reason. Only one person I know has backed the project. One person. I’m not sure what that says, really. The people who normally feel obligated to put my stuff on their refrigerator door have inexplicably gone stealth on me.

 

I’ve listed some of my obstacles related to the project.

 

People don’t know – A lot of the people I talked to about my project had never heard of Kickstarter. This was weirder to me than it should have been. I made the mistake of thinking that just because I have known about Kickstarter for over a year now, that everyone else should know about it too. After all, I’m the guy who is usually last in line to pick up on Internet memes or the latest vernacular trends. I was still saying ‘Oh, snap’ up until about 6 months ago. So how could everyone else not have heard about Kickstarter? I think people were still trying to wrap their heads around the whole Kickstarter thing while I was droning on and on about the project. I have since opened with, “Have you heard of Kickstarter?” and progressed from there.

 

People don’t care – Some people have been very helpful. They let me post my bookmarks on their boards or set them on the counters next to the checkout. And there are some people like the lady at the library closest to our home. I go in and the lady at the front hands me over to another very professional-sounding, smiling face. I think, ‘awesome.’ I explain my project. She smiles and says to follow her. We move to the back of the library. I follow her into a small office in the back. There is no light in this office and I find myself looking around at my dark surroundings with slight apprehension as I move through the office. She opens another door at the back of the office and there is a corridor. There is no light here either, so she takes out her cell phone and uses the flashlight thingy on it. I start to speak, but before I can she reassures me, “Right this way.” She is still smiling. I follow. The hallway has no windows and as we turn a corner, I notice the ceiling is getting lower and lower as we move along. I am becoming uncomfortable. We turn another corner and there is a set of stairs leading down into darkness. I stop. I say, “I’m really in a hurry. I have to get my lunch’s haircut appointment,” which doesn’t make any sense, but I was nervous. She replies, still smiling, “Don’t be silly. Right this way,” and continues down the stairs. I turn around to leave, but then realize that the only light is headed down the stairs with her and the hallway behind me is getting darker. I move forward down the stairs. We descend two flights in silence. I am afraid to say anything. When we arrive at the bottom, we both have to push through some heavy, hanging plastic. Maybe they are renovating or something. We walk for a distance that seems like to me should take us directly underneath the grocery store that is across the street outside. As I am about to speak up again, we stop. “Right here, sweetie,” she says and hands me a sledgehammer, her light shining bright against a concrete wall. I am hesitant, but have no other alternative. I pick it up and begin swinging; closing my eyes each time the iron connects with the concrete, little specks of shrapnel filling the dark corridor. In a few minutes, there is a small hole in the blocks. She motions for me to stick my head inside the hole, which I finally do. She leans the phone in and points it down. At the very bottom of the hole, next to the overturned, exoskeleton of a roach, is a small tin container that holds a few pens with business names on them and a couple of library sanctioned bookmarks. She smiles and says, “You can place your bookmarks here.” I slide my arm down into the hole and drop a couple of my bookmarks in the tin. I am sweaty from the manual labor. My face covered in a white dust. I resemble the ghost of a miner. I am ready to go now, but she points at the hole in the wall and says, “Well, cover it up.” Okay, this isn’t exactly how it happened. But this lady and a few others directed me to put my bookmarks in places that no one would ever, ever see. So really, what’s the difference? Some people just don’t care, and there’s really nothing you can do about that.

 

People are afraid – One guy handed me two bucks while I was out proselytizing the Gospel of Sorry, Charlie. He didn’t like online transactions. Don’t get me wrong. I’m very thankful for those two dollars. But he represents another layer of possible donations that are buried under a fear of financial transactions over the Internet. My mom said the same thing when I told her. “So, I have to do it online? I have to put all my card and financial information online?” Well, yes. I’m sure the people at Kickstarter don’t want thousands of checks mailed to them each day. And the more I think about it, the more I wonder, even in this day and age of tech savvy consumers, if the whole process of having to set up a Kickstarter account and link it to your Amazon account has put a lot of people off. Older people who might give, but who aren’t really sure how all that Internet stuff works. And then there’s a lot of younger people who would drop you a dime, but don’t have an online account. But what would be a feasible alternative? I’m not sure there is one.

 

I don’t have a website for my book . . . yet – I know. Very stupid. Should have done that before I even launched my book. Agreed. But I didn’t have a lot of time, and honestly, if I would have waited until my site was up to launch my book, or this Kickstarter campaign, I would have never done either. Sometimes you wait yourself out of ever doing anything. I felt like I had to do something, or the moment would slip away and never happen. So I did. But having a website is very important for a number of reasons. I’m still working on it.

 

I don’t have a social base built up – From everything I’ve read, this was the number one thing that propelled a lot of projects far beyond their original goal. They already had a relationship with readers, fans, or clients. Some had thousands on mailing lists or following their blogs. When I started the Sorry, Charlie Kickstarter project, I had around 30 followers for my blog. And I’ve never been one of those people with 500 friends on Facebook. More like 30. And Twitter? An embarrassing 5. I know how to grow these numbers on Facebook and WordPress, and I’m doing that daily, although it may be way too late to help this project. But I still have no idea how to get followers on Twitter. None. And I’m long-winded. How would I condense this short story of an article into 140 characters? I guess I could link to it. For my 5 followers.

 

Blogging more – I have been visiting other blogs and trying to increase my followers. It is very time consuming. And I don’t want to do what I call spam-following or spam-liking. You visit 1000 pages a day and like everything or follow everything, all in hopes that people will do the same for you. You might get 5,000 followers that way, but none of them will be interested in what you are saying. It’s a meaningless swap of ‘I’ll pretend to like you if you pretend to like me.’ Each blogger never again reading what the other puts out. I’m very particular about who I follow and why. If I follow you, I am generally interested in what you are doing. And finding blogs out there that are generally interesting takes surfing time. I’m doing better, but I have to allocate more time to connecting with other relevant blogs and people.

 

Niche blogging – My blog is a mix of rants, poetry, updates on my writing, projects, short fiction, and more rants. What it is not is a single resource for all things writing. I’m going to start doing more how to’s and exercises gleaned from books on writing. Exercises and resources. Things that can hopefully inspire action in other writers. And I may change the theme of my WordPress blog. Something with a menu that will clearly separate poetry from book promotion.

 

Bookmarks – I did design some bookmarks. My book cover is at the top, followed by where you can buy the book, and ending with a note to check out my Kickstarter project and the QR code that can take them to the Kickstarter project page. It looks decent. I’ve given away 250. I don’t know if it’s helped at all. Maybe. Maybe not. I probably need to give away more like 2,000. But color copies cost money. And the heavy-weight, gloss paper cost money too. With the slight margin I’ve given myself on the project, I’m liable to go in the hole as it is the next time I spend $30 on guerilla marketing. I could have also listed some of the rewards for different pledge levels on the back of the bookmarks. People like rewards.

 

Social – I did the initial spamming of friends, family, and acquaintances. And promised not to bother them again. I will though. I put a link at the end of my email signature that links to my project page. And I have started contacting online bloggers who review books and have thousands of hits on their blogs.

 

In summary, I am doing things post-launch to get the project rolling, but I was not as nearly prepared as I thought I was going into it. Even for the small projects category. Wish me luck and check out the project if you have a second.

 

Sorry, Charlie on Kickstarter

 

 

The Salty Pale

Demon_hand_from_Tales_of_the_Enchanted_Islands_of_the_Atlantic_1899

 

Demon Hand

 

His cracked skin glows orange,

a pulsing ember,

eyes white and sunken in the black corner.

 

toenails that shard Indian Yellow

bone, brittle chitin exposed on toasted concrete,

bitter hair, wet from the dew and mud and clover

and wounds,

open and glistening and freshly pouting their

concerns via glossy, crimson madness.

 

The sulphurous ascent

rubs the scratchy bricks as the cottage exhales

to the clear night a

spoiled sooty breath of exhumed earth

and ghastly flesh.

 

The figure hunches,

blind in one swollen eye

and wets the floor with amnesiac piss and chatters

incoherently to a room full of people

who are not there.

 

He imagines choking whispers

and glitter in the lung.

 

He invents a tale

where a madman was drown by a village

and withered to a stick

and gutted sick

burned

disemboweled

chucked over the Starboard

and forgotten in the salty night.

 

A tale where a siren sings his gullet shut

and a mermaid smooths his skin

and a witch tallies her threads

and a swell of froth and jetsam,

malevolent and cursed

washes away all humanity

save a mythical yarn.

 

And his cracked skin grows pale,

a dying whale,

eyes white and sunken in the black corner.

 

 

Sorry, Charlie: My first Kickstarter project

Sorry, Charlie cover

 

Sorry, Charlie on Kickstarter

 

A year ago, I almost pulled the trigger on a T-shirt project for Kickstarter. Almost. I got the first 15 or so shirts printed, wrote the text for my project down, and had everything going except the video. Then life happened.

 

I did, during that time, find out that it’s not impossible to self-publish your own book. I self-published Sorry, Charlie on Amazon, made it available for paperback through Createspace, and then placed it on bn.com for the Nook. So I dropped the ball on one thing, but picked it up on the other. I am also looking into getting an accountant to handle all the money I made last year from Sorry, Charlie. $41. That’s my age, by the way, which if there is any correlation there, by the time I’m 80, I’ll be doubling my take. Sweet. But the point is, it made me happy and I proved to myself that I could do something.

 

Of course, after I published it I realized that about 1000 people a day can do the same thing. I didn’t have a marketing campaign, and so the book got buried under a mountain of digital siblings. After writing the first 100 or so pages of my next novel, The Village, I have launched my first Kickstarter campaign. It’s still not the T-shirts. It’s a follow up to my novella Sorry, Charlie.

 

I had originally self-edited (never do this). And was creating my own book cover (never do this). Then I had two friends chip in who knew what they were doing. Jerson Campos created an awesome book cover and Bonnie Roberts edited the book. Huge, huge difference in the final product. Get people who do this for a living to perform these two services. Even if you are good at editing, you’re too close to your literary neonate. People don’t look at their newborns and say, “Wow, now that is an ugly baby!” Find people who will tell you that you have an ugly baby.

 

My very first Kickstarter project is to help these guys. One of them did their thing for free, and the other one did theirs for close to free. You know how it is when friends ask you for crap. You feel guilty charging them what you need to. This will hopefully put a little change in their pockets.

 

When this project is over, I’m going to launch the T-shirt project. Then a simpler one to spread a little love. Then one for my next novel The Village, so I can pay these guys up front next time.

 

I did my prep work. I watched other people come and go on Kickstarter. I watched what the successful ones did and I watched what the unsuccessful ones did. I read Don Steinberg’s The Kickstarter Handbook: Real-Life Crowdfunding Success Stories. I read the guidelines and helpful hints from the Kickstarter site itself. I took special care with my rewards. I wrote my story down. I shot my video. About 70 or so takes, I think. I upgraded to Amazon payments for business and verified all my information. I put in pictures of Bonnie and Jerson so backers could see the people they’re helping. Then I did what I believe to be the most important thing so far.

 

I got feedback. I used the preview link and let other people scour the project. I ended up taking out something that might not have come off as humorous as I had intended if you didn’t know me to begin with. I replaced it with something a little more gracious sounding. I changed a couple of rewards so they clearly stated that they included the rewards from smaller donation levels. I removed a comment referring to something that no longer existed in the video. Again, I stepped back and let people look at my wretched little newborn.

 

Then I clicked the Submit button and stared at the screen for a day and a half until Kickstarter approved it. Then I published it. Put my fragile ego, I mean infant project, out there with its eggshell crust for everyone to see. I’m hoping that they love him and hug him and call him George.

 

I published it on February 20, 2013 at 4:52 p.m. and got my first backer that night at exactly 1:20 a.m. Not that I was staring at the screen for 8 hours and 28 minutes straight. That would be creepy.

 

I’m going to go blink now.

 

 

 

Preternatural Freelancer

Trip to the dentist

Pic by emersonquinn and BloodMagazine

 

Josh Pilsner awoke to the unsettling drone of a drill. What type of drill, he could not discern through the fog that enveloped his consciousness. His eyes slowly opened and quickly snapped shut again. A blinding light from above penetrated his eyelids. He was in a seated position. That much he knew, but little else. His head was throbbing. Everything was thick and cloudy. That horrible drill whizzing again somewhere to his left. He tried to open his eyes once more, and finally managed to do so, very slowly.

 

There was a woman to his left. Was he in a hospital? There was that hospital smell; a gagging mix of sterilization and death. The nurse had her back to him, preparing something. Had he been in a wreck? What was the last thing – Ah! He remembered now. He was at a restaurant. Did he drink too much? Get behind the wheel? Oh my God! What if I hurt someone else? His neck muscles protested with dull shards of pain as he turned his head to survey the hospital room. He emitted an involuntary groan as he did so. Bright lights, a hospital bed, shelves of medical supplies, tubing running from the wall, maybe oxygen or something, a stainless steel tray next to him with surgical instruments, a very bright light stabbing him in the eyes from above, and – wait a sec – . Surgical instruments? What the –

 

The nurse was standing in front of him now, looking down at him like a curious bystander who is checking on a bicyclist who’s been hit by a car.

 

“Hey there, sweet lips,” she said with a cheery expression that didn’t match the tone of her voice.  “Looks like I didn’t give you enough anesthesia.”

 

Anesthesia? Surgery?

 

“What happened,” he mumbled. “Did I get in a wreck?”

 

The nurse was turning around to grab something, and that was when he noticed two things. One, there was a peculiar feel to his mouth, a swelling numbness and a strange vacancy of texture he felt when speaking. Two, the nurse in front of him, clad in black, had wings. He moved his tongue around some more and realized what was missing. A tooth. A front tooth at that. He pushed his tongue through the space over and over, unable to yield to the fact that one of his front teeth was no more. The nurse with dragonfly wings turned back around. She was holding a very large wrench. Not the kind of large wrench you would use for turning a nut on a 4×4 truck, but the kind of very large wrench you might use to turn a propeller on a cruise ship. The comically-oversized kind. A strange juxtaposition between the small framed nurse with wings and the shiny wrench that must have weighed 50 lbs.

 

“Sorry about that sport. I’ll use a little more anesthesia this time. K?” She made an apologetic face that offered no real sympathy and then raised the huge wrench like it was a small umbrella.

 

Josh noticed something on her wrists and hands as she did so. It was blood. He peered down at his white tank-top. Blood was everywhere. He looked back up at her (and he hated to admit this, considering the circumstances) rather angelic face and saw an expression that could be considered bored amusement.

 

Josh whimpered, “Is that my anesthesia?”

 

The nurse’s answer was matter-of-fact. “Cheapest there is. I need you to count backward from a hundred.”

 

Josh made an attempt to block the blow. That’s when he realized his hands were tied behind him.

 

“Ninety – . . . “

 

Josh Pilsner awoke to screaming. At first, he thought it was himself, but then realized he was too groggy to move, much less gather the power to scream. His head was moving back and forth and not of his own volition. The pain was now unbearable. His mouth was wet with something, and he felt like he was drowning. He began to gag and fight for breath, but it wasn’t much of a fight. His head stopped moving. There was a slurping sound as something foreign was inserted into his mouth. He managed to open his eyes in time to see the winged nurse remove what looked like a handheld vacuum cleaner. He blinked through tears to catch the nurse as a smeared, tangled image.

 

“Don’t worry. It’s a Dyson.”

 

She sat it back down on the table and Josh could already feel his mouth filling back up with blood. The nurse grabbed something from his right and placed her tiny hands on his head. Her fingers clamped like a vice grip. Something metal, scraping his teeth. A sickening sound. A probing, alien object in his mouth, searching, then finding purchase and a tug. A shooting pain that forced his eyes shut. Now he found the strength to scream. He stopped screaming and for a moment was completely disoriented as the sound continued. But after a few anxious seconds, he realized the screams were emanating from another room.  Another room? My God. What kind of place am I in?

 

“Rere ayum eeyeh?” he garbled. How many teeth am I missing?

 

The cute (how could he continue along that line of thought?) nurse with wings put her hands on her hips in mock exasperation. Then she picked up the wrench again.

 

“Your body doesn’t react very well to the anesthesia.”

 

Crimson spittle flew from his mouth as he screamed, “Ahht’s behawse ihs hotah fuyeeng anehethya. Ihs a gohamn weench!”

 

She stared at him without saying anything for a moment. Josh had the nagging impression that accosting a 95 lb girl who picked up 50 lb wrenches was not the best protocol in a situation like this. He wasn’t sure what the word ‘protocol’ meant, but it sounded right.  While still holding the huge wrench out to her side with one hand, she uttered a question in threatening monotone.

 

“Do you want me to get the really big wrench?”

 

She stared at him, waiting. He stared back wide-eyed, unable to answer. He thought of what a bigger wrench might do if she used it as anesthesia. “No, ayam,” he replied as courteously as possible.

 

“A tough guy, huh. No an uh steesi ah, huh.”

 

She played with the words, mocking his inability to enunciate properly under said conditions. No bedside manner at all, he thought, and kept it to himself.

 

“Ruut appened?” he asked, red drool cascading from the corner of his mouth. He felt weak. Sluggish.

 

“Speed dating,” she answered. “Anesthesia hasn’t worn off yet, I guess. Friend introduced me to it. Definitely a quick way to get the most numbers. Best ROI.”

 

“Awr Oh Eyah,” he mumbled, silently cheering as she put down Anesthesia.

 

“Return on investment, duh.” She gazed at him searchingly for a moment. “You’re not really an investment broker are you? I knew you were lying!” she blurted out.

 

“Oh arah oooh,” he countered and immediately wished he could take it back.

 

“Fair enough,” she said, grabbing a large set of bloody pliers to his right. His head lolled away from the sight as he grew faint. “But a girl’s got to make a living, ya know?” The nurse with wings leaned in, pressing her knee into his groin to hold him in place.

 

“AAAAIIIIIITTTTTEE!” Josh screamed. She stepped back, perturbed.

 

“What, Bleedy Gonzales?” She shrugged with one dainty hand on her hip and one holding the pliers above her shoulder. She was hot in a Gothic kind of way.

 

“Ooh ayah ooh?” he garbled.

 

“Who am I? Well . . . you know what? You’re not going to remember any of this anyway, so who cares? My name is Flora Ide. I used to work for the Preternatural Calcium Recycling Corporation. Very high volume. Very competitive with a commission-only based salary. Do you have any idea how many people just throw away their teeth when they fall out? Do you have any idea how many people don’t even believe in us?” She stared at Josh, searching for some semblance of understanding.

 

Josh wanted to be on her side at this point. He really, really did. He shook his head in the affirmative. Satisfied, she continued.

 

The only real money is in the pre-pubescent, middle-class division. But I kept getting assigned to the elderly division in Russia. Graveyard shift. Ever tried to dig up a coffin that’s under six feet of frozen tundra? Didn’t think so. And then when you’re down there, freezing your wings off (so she does have wings), boom! You’re liable to find that grandma has an empty grill. Is ‘grill’ the right word nowadays?” she asked.

 

Josh shook his head emphatically. He did know what that word meant. And as long as she was talking, she wasn’t pulling. His eyes were still watering. Whatever was clamping his hands together behind his back was slicing into the wrist. He was trying to remember how many quarts of blood was in the human body, and then attempting to compare it with the total amount on his clothes and the floor, all the while making very sure to give this nurse his full attention.

 

“Urah ooph aree?” he asked.

 

“A non-believer?” she said with disbelief. “Even after all this?” She bowed up, her shoulders swelling, and inhaling deeply, was suddenly airborne, flitting around the room with awe-inspiring speed and agility. Her wings but a blur. Then she landed in front of him hard enough to crack the concrete beneath the linoleum. She grinned ear to ear, the buzzing of her wings subsiding. There was a piercing shrill from the next room.

 

“Anyway, there was a huge layoff a few years ago,” and as she spoke, she flitted suddenly forward with no warning and he felt a slight jerk, then more blood filled his mouth. She had plucked out a tooth, by hand, in under a second. “Did you catch that? That’s skill. That’s professional workmanship. But they laid me off anyway. So now, “she explained, turning back to the pliers, “I’m with a group of freelancers in a little, out-of-the-way building. We’re a little more proactive, but we pull in a lot more money. Say, would you like some pulp fiction to read while I continue?”

 

She looked serious. How could he pretend to read right now . . . to make her happy somehow, so that maybe she would . . . and then she busted out laughing.

 

“Get it? Pulp fiction?” she looked him directly in the eyes, askance.

 

Josh tried to smile, his puffy lips spreading wide over his bruised and battered face, a gaping, bloody maw dotted with a few lingering vestiges of teeth. Insecurity and fear spreading equally over his countenance like a tidal wave of terror.

 

In a dark corner of the room, where the overhead light wasn’t working, Josh finally made out the blob where it looked like part of the ceiling had collapsed. What looked like crumbling bits of drywall was actually a humongous pile of teeth. She said, “Out of the way place,” he thought. Somewhere you could torture screaming people with complete disregard for the noise, or the fact that you had wings growing out of your back. He tried to push the thought from his mind, but could not. As her knee pressed deep into his chest, he ventured one more question.

 

“Ere ayar ee?”

 

She stared at him for a moment in awkward silence. A dripping set of pliers hovering over his puppy-dog eyes, begging for mercy that he knew would not come. She was deciding whether or not to tell him. As they were poised there, the wolf and the lamb, frozen in time, the door to the room flashed open and a man stood in the doorway. A man on the top half of his body anyway. He was holding a really big wrench.

 

“Do you need this?” his guttural voice boomed, echoing like a tsunami of despair in the tiny space.

 

Josh answered for her.

 

“Yahs, peez.”