Monday, February 29, 2016

I am a Super Villain . . . and I Have a Book!

Greetings, WYMOP readers!

I write.
I write quite a bit, actually. Monthly movie reviews, blog posts in various places (this one, for example!), and fiction. Stories. I like writing stories the best, and sometimes people even pay me for them; they put them in books, magazines, stuff like that. I’ve been harping all month long about a book I put together with Books & Boos Press, out of Hartford Connecticut. Maybe you’ve heard of it: Echoes of Darkness?
Well, this post isn’t about the book. You’re sick of hearing about the book. Don’t deny it, I can tell. It’s the way you avoid eye contact with me whenever I talk about it now; it’s a dead give away. No, this week I’m going to talk about something else you may have seen me write about: my hate-hate relationship with technology.
See, my publisher thought I was kidding when I spoke of it. Thought it was just hyperbole for comedic effect. Thought I was pulling her leg. That I was chock-full of bull byproduct.
She thought I was exaggerating.
Oh, there were the usual little glitches one finds in this business. Stuff no one really pays attention to: emails delayed in transit, text services failing for no discernable reason, small files going walkabout and having to be recreated on the spot. Kid’s stuff. No worries. Or so we thought.
My evil curse was simply saving itself, and gathering its strength.
Echoes of Darkness released yesterday, and became available on Amazon. My publisher stayed up until midnight Saturday to push the publish button, so as to have the book come out on the day promised, as well as order my print copies for me right there in the middle of the night so they’d be the first thing on Amazon’s To-do list in the morning. She hit the button and had to wait for the book to show up as live in the Kindle store before she could place her order—usually a matter of 15-20 minutes, max.
Thirty-five minutes later, after much head-scratching and where-is-it-ing, Echoes of Darkness was available from Kindle. “I’m heading to bed,” texted my publisher. “The print copy usually comes on a delay—it should be up in three or four hours. Ten or twelve, max.”
I got up four hours later, rushed to the computer, and found . . . no print copy available on Amazon. No worries, I thought. She said twelve hours, max. I can wait. While I was waiting I turned to an interview my publisher and I recorded, loading it onto The Storyside website to release as a podcast. Now it’s a WordPress site, and I was using a podcasting plugin recommended for use by WordPress, called—you’ll love this—Seriously Simple Podcasting. That’s perfect for me, I thought. It says Seriously Simple right there in the title . . .
Five hours later, after some Seriously Stressed out texting with the publisher—who knew no more about the system than I did—I threw up my hands and counted it a bad business. There was a glitch in the system that I just couldn’t figure out, despite multiple help sites, all of them carrying that mocking Seriously Simple in the masthead. I cursed the lying Seriously Simple name. I cursed the lying Seriously Simple creators. I cursed their lying Seriously Simple mothers—and then calmed down, because cursing other people’s mothers is just bad karma, and I had enough going wrong.
I checked Amazon. Closing on eleven hours and still no print copy. I texted my publisher, who said “This is just incredible—I’ve never seen it take this long!”
I sighed. It was a sad little defeated sound. Seriously Simple had beat me senseless without breaking a sweat, and the Amazon machine was going to simply ignore me until I didn’t exist any more. Though my publisher had been the one to actually push the button, my techno-jinx had reached out across state lines, all the way from Boston to Hartford, to put the whammy on her ass too.
Handsome had come to visit that weekend, so I took advantage in this little break in my breakdown to take him home. I checked when we got there, and nope: still no print copy, though twelve hours had come and gone.
I sighed.
Then I saw an email that had rolled in while I was driving. There is a rather large small press out there that runs a pretty big blog. They allow smaller authors (like yours truly) to run guest posts when they have new books coming out, and I had sent one in. It was due to come out the same day as my book, but I’d forgotten all about it between my struggles with Seriously Simple and clicking into Amazon every five minutes to keep my disappointment level up. Maybe this would be the high point in my day!
Rob, my computer crashed this morning. If I can get it fixed tomorrow I'll upload your post immediately.
Working on a very slow laptop at the moment. Horrible!
Send me the links if the book's live.
I sighed, and sent a quick email to my publisher:
See? It’s not just you. That computer is in his home office in South Africa. My jinx just reached halfway around the world.
I am officially a super villain.
~ ~ * * ~ ~

I am, however, a super villain who writes. And I have a book out. It just came out yesterday, and I would be remiss not to suggest somebody out there go buy it.
Thirteen tales of darkness. All for you. For just $3.99 on Kindle. Because even as I write this, more than forty-one hours after pushing the button, there is no print version available. Because I am The Jinxter. Feel my power . . .

Talk to you later!

P.S. - The podcast interview I mentioned actually is up and running at the moment, and is available HERE. It’s pretty short.

**UPDATE!**—It's 6:15 the following morning, and sometime in the night the paperback popped up on Amazon.

We have book! Repeat: we have book! Hooray!

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Word About the Title

Hey, WYMOP readers!

"I’d like to say a word about the title of this book.
We all have darkness within us. Most of us try to keep it hidden, but it’s there, tucked up in the out-of-the-way corners of our minds, and secreted down in the shadowy recesses of our hearts. I don’t mean the darkest of darkness, the blackness you’d find within the heart of a monster: the serial killers, pedophiles, and politicians.
I mean the everyday darkness, the kind we all feel and maybe even recognize.
Ever shouted at another driver sharing your road, whether they could hear you or not?
Ever been out somewhere and had the urge to tell a mother that maybe if she spanked that child once in a while, they’d know how to behave—and considered offering your services, if she was feeling a little squeamish?
Ever been in line at the store, and the customer currently at the register is taking way too long? Maybe they’re rummaging through every coupon ever printed to find the one that’ll give them another ten cents off an already discounted sale item. Maybe they’re just being loud and pushy, trying to get a little something extra, to which they clearly have no right. And maybe—just maybe—you find yourself wishing, just for a moment, that something would happen to them. Nothing terminal—you’re not a terrible person, after all—but maybe something embarrassing. Sudden onset laryngeal paralysis, perhaps? Or a gushing nosebleed? How about a case of explosive diarrhea?
You see? Our darkness is harmless! Sometimes—imagining the customer ahead of you suddenly browning their trousers, for example—it can even be funny! It doesn’t have anything to do with what you would find in the heart of the Dhamers, Gaceys, and Mansons of the world, right? Right.
Or does it?"
~Rob Smales, from the introduction to Echoes of Darkness

And just so you know, when I received the following paragraph from Hal Bodner, I did do a little happy dance in my chair. It was manly, but it was happy.

Advance praise for Echoes of Darkness!

"Reading Rob Smales' collection Echoes of Darkness is a lot like munching on barbeque potato chips—once you've dived into the first story, it's almost impossible not to keep reading until the end. Smales has a refreshing, clean prose style that is accessible and engaging.  In particular, I recommend this book to readers who are new to the genre as Smales comes up with some nifty and clever riffs on some traditional horror tropes."
~Hal Bodner, Bram Stoker Award nominee and author

(Available Feb 28, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble)

So . . . is it possible that anyone out there can't tell how excited I am about this?

I didn't think so.

Talk to you later!

Monday, February 15, 2016

An Excerpt from "Death of the Boy"—And a Trailer!

Greetings, WYMOP readers!

Yes, it's more Echoes of Darkness stuff this week. I'm sorry, but I'm excited! I just can't help myself. I arrived home at about 10:00 this evening to find my proof copy waiting for me, so we're about to start the final proofread/edit, and I just stood in the kitchen with the giggles for a while.

So this week, to continue the celebration of my giggly happiness, I've decided to share with you all an excerpt from what I think is my favorite story in the collection, "Death of the Boy." It's the first story in the book, and I had a lot of fun writing it. I still have a lot of fun reading it, too, so I hope that translates into you enjoying the excerpt as well.
Now that's cool!

 . . . And after that, as a special treat, I've included the book trailer my publisher, Books & Boos Press, put together for me. Take a look at it, and if you like it then you have my blessing to spread it
around, on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever. In fact, please, spread it around! I happen to think it's cooler than Snow Miser's sphincter, and the more people see it the happier I'll be!

~ ~ * * ~ ~

An Excerpt from "Death of the Boy"

From the upcoming collection Echoes of Darkness,
 by Rob Smales 

Wake up.”
The words accompanied a sharp blow to his thigh. The boy opened his eyes to find the old man standing over him, dusty boot drawn back for another kick. Noting the boy’s open eyes, the old man returned the boot the ground and squatted, bringing his harsh, leathery face so close the boy choked on his breath: coffee, and at least one tooth going slowly bad.
Them things can’t smell nothing over their own stink, and they can see pretty good, but they can hear better’n you and me, so far as I can tell. You gonna be making noise, you want to be awake for it, so’s you can choose to run or fight if one of ’em comes along. Y’unnerstand?”
The boy nodded. The old man stood in one fluid motion.
Then quit’cher sleep-squallin’. Time to be up and moving, anyway.”
The boy glanced about, confused.
Where’s Mom? Dad?”
The word was hard and flat, hitting the boy like a punch. The flashes that made up his dream filled his head, the world wavering as tears filled his eyes. His chest had just begun to hitch when a callused palm struck him across the face, shocking him into silence. The old man was crouching over him again.
No time for that. Time for you to listen and do as I say, but not for that. How old are you?”
The boy stifled a sob. Touched his stinging cheek. “Huh?”
He flinched as the hand flew again, but rather than striking him, one bony finger extended to touch the tip of his nose.
I’ve got more slap than you have sand, boy, believe me. Or time. Lost my horse getting you out of there yesterday. Lost some of my gear. We shook ’em, but that don’t mean they can’t stumble on us again. Now you best show me how it was worth losing my horse to get you out of there by listening up, because I can just up and walk out of here and make it fine on my own, zombies or no. You, on t’other hand, may have a little more trouble. I talk. You listen. You answer. You do. Comprend√©?”
Yes,” the boy managed, imagining for a moment being out there on his own, surrounded by the zombies that had taken his mom and dad. Eaten his mom and dad. It didn’t seem real, though he knew it was. He looked up at the old man, fear strengthening his voice: “Yes, sir.”
The finger disappeared. “Good. How old are you?”
Last month.”
You’re a tall one. I woulda taken you for sixteen, seventeen easy. Okay, now strip.”
The boy blinked. “Huh?”
Strip.” The old man straightened again. “Get on your feet and out of them clothes. Hurry up.”
The boy’s mind flashed back to what his father had called “warnings”: stories about bad things happening to children caught out by bandits and survivalists. It wasn’t just young girls that had to worry about men with needs. He’d been explicit enough that Mom had left the room, and the boy’d had nightmares for a couple of days.
Fear-sweat broke out across his upper lip, and down under his balls. He got his hands under him and began slowly crab-walking backward on his palms and soles, his butt barely clearing the ground.
Look, I, uh—”
He was suddenly looking into the business end of a revolver, bullet tips peeking at him around the great staring eye of the barrel. He froze, his two eyes as unblinking as the revolver’s one.
I said we don’t have time for this shit. God damn it, boy! I checked what I could last night, but I was too damn tired to fiddle with your clothes. I’m getting you out of here, but I ain’t takin’ a chance on you hiding sickness, then dying and turning on me in the night. You shitcan your modesty and peel off right now, and prove to me you ain’t been neither bit nor scratched, or—”
The gun never wavered, rock-steady as the old man thumbed the hammer back. The boy watched as a fresh cartridge rotated into place beneath that hammer, aimed along the barrel pointing directly at his left eye.
“—I’ll put a bullet through your head right now, to make sure you won’t be getting up afterward, then set about finding me another horse.”
Dark eyes gazed steadily at him over the chunk of metal death between them. One bushy eyebrow quirked.
Are we clear?”

Silent tears ran down the boy’s face as he stripped.

~ ~ * * ~ ~

Now, as promised, the book trailer for Echoes of Darkness.
Tell me you don't think it makes this guy's most private of areas look a little warm by comparison!

Talk to you later!

Monday, February 8, 2016

An Excerpt from "Mutes"

Greetings, WYMOP readers!
Last week, if you remember, I was bragging a little on the new story collection I have coming out at the end of the month, Echoes of Darkness, and I posted an excerpt from one of the stories in the book, "Ma Liang’s Crayons". I also promised to show you the cover this week, and I’m going to make good on that promise in just a minute.
First, though, I’d like to say something about this week’s post. It’s another excerpt from Echoes, this one from a story titled "Mutes." "Mutes" is a story some of you have seen before, and is a favorite of some of my readers out there. It is not, however, the kind of thing you may be used to seeing on While You’re Making Other Plans. I usually come here to share things that happen at work, or with my son, and I try to have a humorous angle. This post is some of my fiction, though, and quite a bit of my fiction doesn’t have that fuzzy bunny, cute puppy feel some of my posts here do. For the most part I am a horror writer, with all that implies. There may be terrible language. There may be bad things happening to good people. You have been warned.
But, on the plus side, my mom liked the story. Hi, Mom!
So, without further ado, here is the cover and a little bit of story.
I do hope you enjoy it.
~ ~ * * ~ ~


An Excerpt from "Mutes"

From the upcoming collection Echoes of Darkness, by Rob Smales

Tape begins:
Test, test, is this thing on? Okay. Right. Okay  .  .  .  where to start? I found this old tape deck, and I have one tape. I need to get this told, just in case, but I have to hurry. I don’t know how much time I have. Granny McCalloum was right. She always said—wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
My name is Scott St. Armond. I’m making this recording in my apartment, and I swear I’m of sound mind. I swear to God.
I’m from Slaughter, Louisiana, population about 1,000. My Granny McCalloum is the local hoodoo woman there. She used to claim I have the sight, too. But I wasn’t like her. Not then.
Anyway, I came to the big city when I turned eighteen, trained up and got work as an EMT. That’s when shit got weird. I’m not sure exactly when it started, but the first time I noticed anything was at this car wreck my partner and I responded to out on Route 18.
Oh, hang on—
I just checked the window, and there’s too many to count. Jesus, this is bad.
Okay, Route 18. Some kid out speeding around lost control of his car and went off the road, into a tree. The driver was banged up, but walked away. His girlfriend, though, wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the vehicle into another tree. We found her at the base of an old pine, in rough shape. She’d been impaled by more than a dozen branches, some of them as thick as my two thumbs together. She’d rolled to the ground with snapped-off pine stakes sticking out of her torso, legs, and one eye.
She was still conscious. We found her by following the screams.
Another crew showed up for the driver while we went for the girl. We strapped her to the stretcher, branches sticking out of her this way and that, and started carrying her up to the road. I’m a pretty big guy, lots bigger than Jerry, and I had a hard time carrying her over the uneven ground in the dark. I don’t know how he managed.
We jostled her a little, and that got her screaming again. Now, I was still green, and this was easily the worst thing I’d ever seen. You can watch videos and movies, even real stuff like the surgery network, but it’s nothing compared to up close and personal. Especially the screaming. I was freaked out.
So when I looked up from watching for rocks and holes and saw five dark silhouettes backlit by our ambulance strobes standing not ten feet away, I reacted badly. I caught a whiff of a sweet licorice smell. I thought Sambuca and figured they were drunk.
I yelled, “What the hell are you doing? This isn’t your fucking entertainment! Back away; get back to your cars! Go on now!” But they just stood there.
Behind me, Jerry yelled “Scott! What the hell are you doing, man?”
I glanced back at Jerry and shouted over the girl’s crying.
“What the hell’s it look like?” I said, “I’m telling these looky-loos to—”
I stopped dead and the stretcher gouged my lower back. The night was clear with a good moon, but when I turned back to them, they were gone. The field between us and the road was empty, not a soul in sight.
Jerry struggled not to drop the stretcher, and yelled at me to move my ass.
We got the girl into our bus and Jerry started us rolling while I tried to stabilize her. Jerry waited until we’d left the ER to ask what the hell I was doing out there.
“Didn’t you see the people?” I said. “The people in the field?”
He just squinted at me and said, “I didn’t see anybody but you. Yelling at a field.”
Jerry had worked there a couple of years already, so it was practically part of his job to rib me as the newbie. He walked around for a while saying I’d already cracked from the strain, but that wasn’t it.
That was the first time I saw the Mutes.

~ ~ * * ~ ~

There you go, some story and a cover—and isn't the cover purty?

 . . . And this is the part where I should try to come up with something clever to say, giving you a smooth outro so you'll want to come back next week for more, but I'll be honest: I delivered the mail all day today in a snowstorm, and then after work I shoveled a couple of driveways and managed not to get home until almost 11:00 pm. I'm tired, and I'm getting up in about five hours so I can write before work.

Long story short? I'm going to bed. I hope you all enjoy the little bit of "Mutes" above, and I hope to see you back again next week. 

I'll be here waiting.

Talk to you later!

Monday, February 1, 2016

An Excerpt from "Ma Liang's Crayons"

Greetings, WYMOP readers!
Today is February 1, 2016, and in just twenty-seven days there will be a new book available from Amazon: Echoes of Darkness, a short story collection from Rob Smales, published through Books & Boos Press.
Yup. It’s mine all mine.
To share my excitement a bit, rather than some spontaneous bitching, like usual, I thought I’d give you all a little sample of the work in the book, and share an excerpt from one of the thirteen stories making up Echoes of Darkness. Below you’ll find the opening scene from the story “Ma Liang’s Crayons.”
I do hope you enjoy it.

~ ~ * * ~ ~

An Excerpt from "Ma Liang's Crayons"

 From the upcoming collection Echoes of Darkness, by Rob Smales

The house was filled with people. Black suits, dark skirts, and solemn voices. People sipping from clear plastic cups, or carefully holding undersized paper plates to their chests, trying not to make a mess with the pasta salad, or let little deli meatballs roll off onto their shirts and ties. She didn’t even know half the people currently occupying her living room, and most of those she did know, she hadn’t seen in years. Especially not the past year, when she could most have used some help, or even just a shoulder to—
“When’s Daddy coming home?”
Julie looked down, surprised. Pearl stood in the kitchen doorway, looking strangely adult in her formal dress, a string of faux pearls around her tiny neck. Pearls for the Pearl, Connor had said, making the little girl laugh when he’d given them to her. He’d always been a hit with Pearl, always been the fun uncle. And that had helped: someone else to distract Pearl when Danny had gotten sick. Someone else to shore her up when Danny had taken a turn for the worse, and Julie had needed to focus on caring for her hus—
“Mommy?” The voice was small, but insistent. “When’s Daddy coming home?” Julie heard things in her daughter’s voice, things that shouldn’t be in the voice of a six-year-old. There was fear in that voice, and sadness, and confusion, and an impending sense of loss, but on top of it all was the tone—the over-careful enunciation—of a young woman trying to ignore all that, and act as if everything was fine, just spiffy, tip-top, business as usual.
As if a little girl burying her father could ever be usual.
Julie heard these things in her daughter’s voice, and knew that her heart should have broken to hear them—shattered like a wine glass assaulted by a high C. And it would have, had it not already been broken. She looked over Pearl’s head once again, to the people out in the living room, the strangers, and friends so recently in absentia, who had come to eat her food and celebrate the life of her husband, though not one of them had been willing to help him though its ending, the cancer consuming friendships as readily as it had consumed Danny himself, only faster.
She glanced back down at the little girl standing in the doorway, the woeful child demanding an answer. Pearl deserved an answer, Julie knew, but what was she to say? This was her daughter—their daughter—and she’d been through a lot, even more than she understood yet. Julie should be helping Pearl to understand what was happening, what had been happening for the past year—and more—and console the little girl in her grief. She knew she should do this. She knew.
But the words wouldn’t come from her dishrag heart, wrung out with saying goodbye to Danny after so long, and her head was filled with confusion about Connor, missing for the past ten months, and not even making it to his own brother’s funeral. And so her answer, poorly chosen for nothing but its honesty, came out flat, and matter-of-fact.
“Never, Pearl. Your daddy’s never coming home again.”
The words took a moment to register on the small face, but when they did, the oddly adult expression, the rigid mask Pearl wore to help hide her fear and uncertainty, crumbled like a house of cards tumbling down. Disbelief flashed across her daughter’s countenance, almost too fast to see, before her soft little features settled into an expression of sorrow so deep it almost frightened Julie. Sorrow, tinged with something Julie couldn’t quite recognize—at least until Pearl spun away, wailing as she pelted across the packed living room.
“I hate you!”
Shrill words degenerated into sobs as she ran, colliding blindly with some people, clumsily avoiding others, until she disappeared into the hallway. The slamming bedroom door cut off the sounds of her sorrow, leaving the crowded room filled with awkward looks and silence.
“You all should go now.” Julie’s voice was quiet, but none of her guests had difficulty hearing her, and her tone brooked no hesitation or rebuttal. A muted murmur rose as plates and cups found perches about the room, and coats were collected, but the voices never rose up into intrusiveness as the people, those she didn’t know and those she did, filed out without offering their goodbyes.
~ ~ * * ~ ~
There you have it: a little taste of Echoes of Darkness. A sad, sad, little taste . . .
Next week I'll be throwing a beautiful cover up here for you to see, but in the meantime I have to look into getting a final proof copy—have I mentioned I'm excited?
Talk to you later!