Posts Tagged ‘Books’

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Before I get into this, I want to make my intentions clear. What follows will sound horribly arrogant for a guy like me. I only have two novels published so far, I have under ten reviews for each of them, and I’m lucky to sell two copies a month, if that. I write about vampire gangsters and punk rock Peter Pans. In no way am I saying that I write Great Literature and the rest is garbage, on the contrary. What this post is meant to be is a warning of a growing trend in the indie-publishing world that has me deeply concerned about its future.

     So, if you’re like me and have self-published a novel, or about to; you’ve probably done the same research as I have. You’ve listened to the same podcasts, watched the same YouTube videos, and read the same articles giving advice on how people can buy your work. The problem that I have with this is that aspect is dominating the majority of the conversation.

     I was listening to a podcast several months ago that was interviewing a self-published author about how to be successful at it. He went into detail about how he thinks of his books like MacDonald’s does of hamburgers. That is to say, they aren’t his “babies” but “products.” Just write it down, sell, repeat. To be quite honest, this sentiment made my skin crawl. Look, if writing easy to read stories in mass quantities earns you a lot of money and makes you happy, go for it. I am in no way going to tell you what you should and should not do with your creativity. But let me ask you this:

     If you’ve published twenty-five books in five years, are they really the best books that you can write?

     Everyone’s process is different. Stephen King writes a book or two a year, whereas George R.R. Martin writes one every few years. There are no “rules” to writing, each of us works at a different pace. But if you’re coming out with that much material that quickly, I can only think of three ways that could work. You’re either hiring someone to write it for you, the life you live is spent most of the time at the keyboard and your fingers have been reduced to bloody stumps, or you write very quickly and churn things out just to make a dollar.

    Again, not saying writing for money is an inherently bad thing, but that’s not how I work. My goal is to write one novel every year. Now, that would be considered a lot by some standards, but I think it pays off greatly in the long run. Is the first novel I published clunky? Sure. Do I have a tendency to rush things out too quickly when the editing isn’t done and I have to revise it once or twice? Absolutely. Part of being an adult is owning up to your mistakes, and I’m working on those flaws. But one thing that I will fight for is that I never phone it in. Every story I write, I ask myself, “how can this change the reader?”

     Now I mean that in both the micro and macro side of things. If my work makes you reevaluate something big about yourself or something as simple as reevaluate your opinion of Captain Hook, then I’ve done my job. Because stories aren’t just entertainment. Stories, like all art forms, is a way for us to use our creativity to talk about how we see the world around us. It takes me a year to write a book because it’s an endurance test. I put everything I have into it to make sure that, by the end of the book, the reader’s perception has changed. I don’t think I would get that result if I was writing five a year.

     There seems to be a reality distortion field of sorts when it comes to this industry. “Oh,” you might say, “I’ve made hundreds of dollars on my books! So, that has to mean that I’m now considered a real writer in the world!” It breaks my heart to say that it doesn’t. I’ve had one person outright refuse to look at one of my books because it was published online and, during a podcast that I listen to frequently about bad books, the hosts mentioned that they wouldn’t mock self-published work because it was “too easy.” In 2012, if you were to say that you published your novel by yourself, you’d either be laughed out of the room or greeted with a raised eyebrow. today, you’d probably get a pat on the head.

     There have been a few exceptions of course. Both Andy Weir’s The Martian and Hugh Howie’s Wool have gotten quite a bit of notoriety since their release. But, mostly, the market consists of multi-book series of romances, dystopias, and action-thrillers. I’m not saying that these novels don’t have compelling prose, exciting plots, or interesting characters. But, frankly, writing a “page turner” is the bare minimum of being a great writer. And great writing is what we need in order for the industry to survive.

    We’re living on the cusp of a huge technological shift. Netflix is making the Hollywood studio system panic, YouTube is rising in rapid viewership, and the music world has nearly been swallowed whole by Spotify and the ilk. But what does this have to do with books? Well, considering that Barnes & Noble is closing numerous locations and that I bought the recent Stephen King novella a whole two weeks before it hit the stores, I’d say that in about a decade or so, people will be buying books strictly from the internet like they do with all of their media. Sure, they’ll still be small indie and used book shops, but by and large, that’s where people will be getting their content.

     The big reason why some indie authors can make a living off of their writing is because they’re great at marketing and they’re catering to an audience that is looking specifically for them. Once the big name publishers roll over completely to digital spaces, that means their big name authors will be sharing the same cyber shelves with the indies.

     This radical shift will come with a slew of problems that will have to be addressed, not least of which is that the self-publishers will have to step up to the plate. Indie-publishing has to do what Quentin Tarantino did for indie-filmmaking in the 90’’s in order to survive. It needs to plant the flag in the sand and prove to the world that not only can it be monetarily successful, but artistically successful as well. Time is the greatest critic of art, and if we don’t start taking this seriously, than the people who laughed us out of the room before will be right in doing so in the future.
-A.B.

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Hello, readers! You can now get my dark, punk rock re-telling of Peter Pan, WENDY & PETER, in paperback and Kindle form on Amazon! To give you a little sample, below is the first chapter. Hope you like it and I’ll see you on that second star to the right!
-A.B.

1. SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT

The Boy who never grew up flew through the sky like a shooting star. The Light that followed beside him glowed with amber and made a sound like tiny bells. It was warm tonight, as was typical for spring, but the wind and the temperature of the altitude made it as cool as a fall morning. The clouds were sparse, just the way The Boy liked it.

He could see the city down below laid out under him, shining like the stars above. He could hear the engines of cars roaring down the road, footsteps clacking against the pavement. The smell of smoke and gas filled his nose. He drank it all in as he always did during his scouting missions. Home wasn’t like this.

He was used to smelling the dampness of the morning mist as it went through the trees. The call of birds of all variety waking him as the sun rose. The only thing here that was familiar to home was the smell of sea salt, and of course, the sound of laughing children. He thought to himself that maybe he should have a hot dog or a hamburger tonight. Flying great distances always did make him hungry. He could always get the same food, any food he desired in fact, back at home. But it wouldn’t be the same. He wouldn’t be able to walk into a restaurant, go up to the counter, and eat his dinner at a table.

He wouldn’t be able to blend in with the rest of them. Not just because of the way he dressed or the fact that he had a fairy at his side, but because he was never able to feel like them. He looked like any other teenage boy, but he was far from it. He would never be able to feel what it was like to wake up for school the next morning or get a job or any other things that they took for granted. He despised this world and its rules of course, but, somewhere deep inside him, he was curious about it. He had been curious about this world for hundreds of years.

Watch out!” He suddenly heard the fairy say by his ear. He snapped out of his trance and saw an airplane heading straight for him. He quickly dove to the left. The air of the engine was like a roar of  a lion and had the force of a tornado. The Boy shut his eyes as hard as he could and flew with all his might to get away from the great machine.

He prayed to himself that his precious fairy did not lose herself into the blades of the engine. The sound of the airplane died like distant thunder as it flew farther away. The Boy opened his eyes and laughed. He was just fine, oh the cleverness of him! He then noticed how quiet it was.

“Tink?” He looked around frantically. “Tink! Where are you?” His voice gave no echo up here.

“I’m okay!” The Fairy returned. Her light felt warm to him. “You should pay more attention next time.”

I should pay more attention?” The Boy crossed his arms. “How about they watch where they’re flying?” He hated those damn things.  Always so loud and bossy. “They ruin all the fun of being up here.”

     “You’re going to have to play by their rules if you still want to scout here,” Tink said with a smirk. “Or are you too chickenshit?”

“Chickenshit?” He was angry now, she always knew how to press his buttons. “Now, you listen here you little-”

“Oh, stop it,” Tink said, kissing him on the cheek. “If we stay here arguing, we’ll never find new Orphans.”

“I guess.” he gave a small smile back.

“What would you do without me, Pete?”

They continued their mission, downwards this time. The air was slightly warmer now, and the smell of the city grew. The buildings below them looked like elaborate dollhouses made of glass and concrete. Cars zoomed down the streets as if they were wound up by hand. In the windows of the skyscrapers, the boy named Peter saw men and women wandering about in them. They sat in their tiny cubicle offices, on their phones, or rubbing their faces in disbelief that they had to stay and work this late tonight.

Peter often imagined to himself what it must be like to have a job. The first qualification for having a job, he thought, was to have a mustache. Even if you didn’t, you were either a woman, or very poor at your job. The second: A tie, preferably red. Black ties were so ugly to him and the ones that had patters on them were even worse.

A briefcase was the third qualification. Peter assumed that since people didn’t have scabbards in this world, they must’ve carried their swords in their briefcases or purses. The fourth and final qualification was coffee. There was no coffee where he came from; only water, soda, and alcohol. All of which, were really the only drinks that the Orphans needed or cared about. No, coffee (as well as that oh-so-snooty elixir called wine) was an adult’s drink. A pirate’s drink to be more vulgar. He would see these job-workers always carrying a cup of coffee in one hand and a cell phone to their ear in the other.

They would always take sips from their Styrofoam containers in between yelling about numbers or figures or whatever grown-ups yelled about into their mechanical beetles. He saw them going in and out of the buildings, going up elevators and stairs. They always reminded him of ants, scurrying about, doing their duty without a care in the world. With no clue as to what might be up there in the sky watching them right now. With no clue what it was like to fly with the birds. With no clue what it was like to live in a world with no rules and to always have fun. With-

He sensed something. No, not sensed, smelled something. It was both sweet and sour at the same time. The smell of fresh flowers mixed in with rotting fruit. It was coming from below, as it always did. The origins of the scent came from houses, playgrounds, and schools. But tonight it came from the streets. It was the smell of youth.

“Hey, Tink,” Peter said. “Why don’t we go down over there?” He pointed to a small patch away from the tall buildings. The only light around it was coming from electric lamp posts lined in a row.

“Why? The Fairy asked. “Do you see any potential candidates?”  She smiled. Tink had hoped that tonight’s mission would be over soon. She was tired of coming to this world, taking its children, and then having to do it all over again. She loved The Boy, but he was getting reckless in his old age.

“Nah. I just want to have a little fun, that’s all,” his eyes blazed with an inner fire as they always did whenever he was excited or ran his dagger through someone.

    “I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Pete,” Tink’s body stiffened a little, afraid of what was going to come next. “We should really keep our heads down. Scouting is the mission, remember? Not playtime. We really should be focusing on scouting.”

     “What’s a matter?” Peter sneered. “Chickenshit?”

     Tinker Bell’s wings bristled and her amber light was now taking a shade of red. Fairies are so small that they can only fit one emotion inside them at a time. “No,” she said through sharp breaths, “I just think that we should-”

     “Last one there’s a rotten egg!” Peter shot down through the sky and his infectious giggle followed him.

     “I swear,” Tink’s color was brightening again, “that kid is going to be the death of me.” She went after him.

   

***

     The gang of kids found the homeless man during their nightly stroll. There were four of them,  their ages ranging from fourteen to seventeen. Little Man was the youngest, while the leader Ajax, was the oldest. Ajax was not only the oldest, but the largest of the group. Standing at six foot-eight and with the body of a linebacker, it was as if the Hulk himself was walking down the street.

The kids had skipped school today and hadn’t gone home that night. Instead, they had smoked some weed, got drunk, and shop-lifted at the local mall. They had even whistled and cat-called at a hot college student for good measure.

“Fuck you,” the girl had said as she continued to walk by.

     “You won’t be saying that when you have my dick in your mouth, bitch,” Ajax had said with a smile. The girl didn’t respond, but it didn’t matter to him when he had his boys laughing in agreement with him.

     “Bitches always want that dick,” the young lad to his right had said. His face was a crater landscape of acne, which gave him the nickname Pizza. He smiled wide, showing off the railroad tracks of braces across his teeth.

     Girls weren’t their preferred target when prowling about, however. Most of them even hadn’t had sex, despite their boasting of their carnal conquests. No, Ajax and his gang of dogs were not a gang of that sort. They were of the kind to enjoy chaos, destruction, and a little bit of the old ultra-violence. Each of them had been sent to juvie at some point during their teenage careers and had worn it like a badge of honor.

The sound of the iron doors locking behind them was akin to church bells. It added even more to their reputation than what had preceded them. The teachers scowled at them with disapproving looks and fellow students made sure to walk around them at school. That was the one thing that they craved most: The fear.

The fear of the geeks, the nerds, and the pussies at school that were too weak to fend for themselves. The locker filled halls were a hunting ground, a place where they could test out their love of pain on the youth so that it prepared them to inflict it on the old once they had graduated. Ajax was not one for the typical bully tactics either.

He wouldn’t hang “KICK ME” signs on the back of a kid’s shirt or hold them down and spit on their face. No, Ajax wanted to leave an impression. He wanted to make sure that no one would ever dare stand up to him. He and his gang would go into the gym showers when the majority of the class had gone and would wait for some scrawny puppy of a boy to finish showering. Ajax would lock the door and, once the kid was done, he would slam into him with every ounce of strength that he had against the wall.

     “AHHH!” The Puppy-Boy would scream in both terror and pain. His face pressed up against the tile as Ajax’s large stomach would lean into him like an airbag deploying from a car.

     “Gotcha, faggot!” Ajax would laugh and his companions would join in.

     I cnnt brrr” The twig of a teenage said in a muffled voice.

     “What’s that, faggot? I can’t hear you”.

     “I! Can’t! Breathe!”

     “Hear that, fellas? The faggot can’t breathe. Let me give ‘em some air.” Ajax stood back and the geek let out huge gasping breaths. He fell to the floor like a box of matches.

“He looks so pitiful,” Pizza said.

“Like a puppy,” Dillon, another member of the group said.

“Yeah,” Ajax sneered, “I hate that look. That fucking pitiful look. You wipe that look off your face, ya hear me, faggot?” He punched him in the nose.

     The Puppy let out a cry and put both of his hands to his face. Blood came oozing from his nostrils.

     “I said stop looking at me like that, faggot!” Ajax punched him again.

     “Why-?”the Puppy said through the tears and the wheeze of an asthma attack.

     “Why what, faggot?”

     Why-?” the Puppy’s voice was getting weaker.

     “Shut up, boys, the faggot is trying to say something.” Ajax bent down to the Puppy’s trembling, wheezing mouth.

     Why me?” The Puppy asked.

      “Why not?” Ajax punched him one final time, knocking him out.

     The kid was sent to the hospital. He would have died if  the janitor hadn’t come in after Ajax and his boys left. Once he had recovered, the kid was adamant that, no, his broken nose wasn’t caused by anyone. And that, yes, he had suffered an asthma attack and, while trying to reach for his inhaler, he had slipped on the wet tile. He would never tell the truth about what happened to anyone for the rest of his life. Ajax had installed the fear in him forever just as his father did when he was little.

Ajax’s Dad worked at an auto repair shop and went to the bar once he was off. He would come home from a long day’s work, his hands still stained with oil and his breath stinking of booze, and slap his Mother around. Once his Mother had been beaten and was sent cowering in the corner with that same fucking pitiful look that the kid in the shower had, it was Ajax’s turn.

He wouldn’t get as hard of a whooping as his Mother did, by that time Dad was already tuckered out, but it would leave a mark the next day. His father would take off his belt ( just like my papa did he would say in a slurred speech) and whip him across the back, ass, and stomach. It taught him never to say anything against his Dad, but it also taught him the power of fear.

That, if you had any anger in you, just let it out on the people that were weaker than you. No therapy required, fear was the best medicine. You decided whether or not if you were at the top of the food chain. And if you weren’t, then God help you.

     “Hey, Ajax,” Blaine, another member of the four, said. “See that hobo up ahead?”

     After filling their appetite for destruction, they had decided to walk it off with a stroll through the park. The quiet stillness of the night was soothing to the gang’s leader. Nobody was around to tell them what they could or could not do.

     “Yeah,” Ajax conjured up a huge wad of saliva and spat it on the grass. “What about him?”

     “He’s making quite a bit of noise. You think that counts as loitering?”

     Indeed, the old man was making quite a bit of racket. He was sitting on a park bench covered in newspaper and wearing a T-shirt and jeans that had clearly faded away. The long toe nails of his feet stood out through his shoes that had been cut off at the front. He had an half empty bottle of whisky at his side. His head was tilted back and his eyes were closed as he sang the slurred lyrics of an Irish shanty.

     “Oooooooh, Dannny Boyyyyyy! The pipes the pipes are caaalling!” The Hobo screeched like a drunk parrot.

     “I think it does, Blaine,” Ajax lifted an eyebrow. “What do you think, Dillon?”

     “Yeah,” Dillon said with wide eyes, “He’s being real noisy. Like a dog that just won’t stop barking.”

     “Pizza?”

     “Wild dog is what he is,” Pizza said, a whitehead freshly bloomed on his cheek, “and wild dogs need to be put down.”

     “Well, that settles it, then,” Ajax smiled. “Let’s teach this dog how to be a good boy.” He reached into his jacket to make sure that his Dad’s gun was still snug in the back of his pants and he and his gang walked towards the bench.

       Oohhhhhhh Dannnnnnnny Boooooo-” the Hobo stopped once he realized that he had gathered an audience.

     “What’s up, Old Timer?” Ajax had his arms crossed. “Nice night ain’t it?”

     The Hobo blinked, not sure what to say. “Yes. Yeah, it is,” he almost sounded hypnotized. “What can I do for ya, young fellas?”

     “Well, you see, me and my buddies were just taking a stroll down this lovely park and we came across you and your singing. If you call that singing. Sounds like a cat crawled up my Mom’s ass, to me.”

     The Hobo’s watery eyes squinted. “What are you trying to say?”

     “I’m trying to say that you should shut that filthy mouth of yours.”

     “It’s a free country, son. I can do whatever I want. What are you gonna do about it?”

     “I’m gonna do this,” Ajax pulled out the gun from his pants and pointed it at the man. His gang snickered.

     “Plea-please!” The Hobo placed both of his hands up. His mouth quivered, making his large unkempt beard shake. “Don’t shoot me! Please!”

     Maybe your body will stink less when your dead,” Ajax pulled back the hammer of the gun.

     Oh, Jesus, help me!” The Hobo cried out, tears ran down his cheeks.

     “Hey, guys!” A voice let out several feet away from them. Ajax, his gang, and the Hobo turned and saw the strangest looking kid that they had ever laid eyes on.

     The Boy was around the gang’s age, though Ajax assumed that he was from a different school, since he had never seen him before. Or perhaps he was homeless like the old drunk in front of him, considering that he wasn’t wearing any shoes or socks. He had on a pair of gray pinstriped pants with suspenders and, curiously enough, a belt. Hanging off of the belt, was a collection of strange items: a pocket watch, prayer beads, dog tags, and a small leather pouch dangled at his side. He stood with his hands on his hips, like Superman, wearing a black motorcycle jacket and a waistcoat under it.

He wore no shirt, T-shirt or otherwise, and his pale skin could be seen under the waistcoat. His hair was the deep color of roses that stood up in spikes. His ears were pointy, like an elf’s, and had one golden ring on his right ear. But the strangest thing about The Boy was his eyes. They had a weird glow to them that reminded Ajax of when he saw his grandMother’s cat out in her backyard once when he was a child. That mysterious fraction of light that was both magical and dangerous all at the same time.

     “That’s no way to treat an old smelly codfish!” The Boy continued, he had a British accent or something like that. “Why, he isn’t even a pirate!”

     “The fuck you talkin‘ about?” Ajax said, his eyebrows were furrowed, but he smiled anyways, as if this was some kind of practical joke.

     “I’m talking about playing games! And playing them fairly,” The Boy had a grin on his face like he had a secret.

     “You for real?” Pizza asked.

     “I’m as real as real can be!”

     Ajax looked at his friends and laughed. He turned back to the homeless man. “I’ll deal with you in a second, old man,” he pointed the gun at The Boy. “Ready to die, faggot?”

     “To die would be an awfully big adventure.”

     Ajax fired three shots at him. Every time there was a bang, The Boy made a bizarre gesture. His arms stuck out, then one of his legs, and his head tilted sideways. He made cartoon noises of pain as the bullets fired at him. It took a few seconds for Ajax to realize, to his amazement, that The Boy was dodging the bullets. He was fucking dodging them. Ajax and his crew stood with their mouths opened.

     “My turn,” The Boy said, his smile had changed. It went from resembling something mischievous to large and predatory, like the grin of a shark.

     Before he knew it, Ajax saw The Boy sprinting towards him. No, not sprinting, flying. Someone was actually flying in front of him. The Boy drew his right leg wide and kicked his bare foot right into Ajax’s head. The others moved backwards, as if a hole had just appeared in the ground beneath them, and Ajax fell with a thud. The Boy landed on their leader’s stomach, making him moan with pain and confusion.

     “Oh, the cleverness of me!” The Boy placed his hands on hips again.

     “What the fuck?” Dillon said. “What the fuck was that?” His mind raced, trying to find a logical explanation to all of this, but it was no use. He had accepted the reality that he just saw some hipster kid that looked like an elf, dodge bullets and then fucking flew at his best friend. It almost turned his brain into jelly.

     “I got him,” Blaine said and threw a punch at him. The Boy caught it without even looking and twisted his arm around, so that it was facing backwards. The sound of his wrist breaking was that of a twig snapping. “AHHHHHHHHH!” He screamed in pain.

     “No,” The Boy said, annoyed, “you’re suppose to say uncle.” The Boy let go of Blaine’s arm and he was sent sprawling to the ground, clutching his hand and weeping.

     The other members looked down at their fallen comrade and then back to The Boy. Suddenly, there was something glowing on his shoulder, like a firefly or a bug. And he was talking to it.

      “Go get, ‘em, Tink!” The Boy said.  The bug was saying something, but Pizza and Dillon were too shocked to hear it. The Boy grew impatient. “That’s an order.” He pointed towards them.

     The firefly flew off of The Boy’s shoulder and towards them with the sound of jiggling bells. The two of them were running backwards now, afraid of the insect. It got close to Dillon and he nearly screamed when he saw that it was a tiny woman with wings.

     “I’m really sorry about this,” the Fairy said. But before Dillon could ask what she meant, she suddenly burst into a blinding light like a camera flash. Dillon let out a girlish shriek and shut his eyes. He fell to the ground, his ass hitting the pavement hard, and then opened them. Hundreds of tiny balls of light of every color in the spectrum were swimming in front of him. Bells filled his ear drums and all he could do now was sit there at the wonder of it all, dazed and confused.

     Pizza pulled out a knife from his jacket pocket and flicked it open, the blade was long and shinny. “I’m gonna kill ya, you fucking bug.”

     “Well, fuck you too, kid,” the Fairy turned red and pulled out a sewing needle (what Tink called her Stinger) and thrashed it at him. It sliced open the front of his hand and Pizza dropped the knife with a cry. He snarled and groped wildly at the Fairy, but she dodged him with the speed of a humming bird. She slashed at his face, leaving small cuts across it. He let out a string of curses and waved his arms around wildly. She smacked him in the head with all her might and he landed on the ground, unconscious.

     Ajax slowly came to his senses. His eyes wandered and saw that his friends had either been knocked out, wounded, or (what appeared to be in Dillon’s case) stoned. He also saw The Boy picking up his gun several feet away from him. He got up as fast as he could, though still siting down, and peddled backwards.

     “What-what the fuck are you, man!” Ajax nearly shrieked in surprise when he hit the bench. The drunk homeless man just stared at him.

       “I’m Peter,” The Boy pointed the gun at him.

     Ajax quickly turned to the homeless man and started clawing at his clothes. “Please, mister! Help me! Don’t let him kill me! PLEASE!” His face was blubbering with tears, snot, and sweat. The homeless tugged himself away from the kid.

     Ajax looked up at the boy named Peter and nearly had a heart attack. This wasn’t just a psycho. This kid was laughing and smiling as if he was playing a video game or on a playground. This was the kid’s idea of fun. “Please, please, please, don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me.

     “You know,” Peter ignored him, “I’ve always hated these things. They’re so loud and ugly. I prefer a dagger, don’t you?” He studied the gun and then sighed. “Oh, well.” He pulled the trigger until it clicked. He threw the gun over his shoulder as if it were a broken toy.

     The air was still for a Moment, the echoes of the gunfire rang throughout the park. Then The Boy did something that made the homeless man nearly jump out of his skin. He lifted up his head to the sky, opened his mouth, and made the uncanny sound of a rooster crowing.  The homeless man collapsed to his knees and placed his hands together.

     “Oh, sweet Jesus, thank you!” He cried out with tears in his eyes. “You finally answered my prayers! After living without a home for ten long years now, you have finally sent-sent an angel to protect me! My belief in you has been rewarded at last! He lowered his hands and let out large sobs.

     “Whatever,” The Boy shrugged and flew away with his Fairy along with him.

***

     “Peter!” Tinker Bell called after him, flying as fast as she could. The wind was blowing hard, which caused the two of them to fly with great difficulty. “Peter!” She yelled at him again, furious at what this night had become. First, the annoying detour that he took, to him playing with the boys like that in such a horrible way, to him crowing. It was not the way she liked him and she had known Peter for a very long time now.

     “What?” Peter stopped in the air, turning towards her. He looked at her as if she was a spoiled child that kept asking for her ice cream.

     “Look,” she caught up with him, “I don’t know what the hell you were thinking down there, but-”

     “I was only having a little fun”. The wind had died down and he was glad of it. “Can’t I at least do that without having you crawl up my ass?”

     “You call that having fun?” She pointed downwards. “Peter, you killed that boy!”

     “He started it,” Peter crossed his arms. “He was going to kill that old man.”

     “And so you shot him to death? Out of all our times visiting this world, you still haven’t figured out that it’s not as simple as Orphans versus Pirates?”

     Peter turned his head in the way that was familiar to her.

     “Why are you crying?”

     “I’m not crying,” he sniffed. “I’m just. . . .”

     Tink flew around and faced him. Tears were streaming down his face. Her light went dim to a soft sunset gold. “Come on Peter, your Tink is here. You can tell me anything.”

     “I’m just- just so tired, Tink!” He threw his hands to his side. “I’ve been doing this for so long that it’s boring now. It’s not fun anymore! I feel so. . . so.. . “

     Old, Tinker Bell thought. A word that he despised so much that it haunted his nightmares. She knew what it meant. All fairies die some day. Her own light would extinguish when she herself was tired and old. It was something that filled her with fear every time she thought of it as it does with everyone. But not with him. He would never die of being old and tired. He would outlive her, he would outlive this world, he would outlive everything.

He would be the only one left on the island except for the children that they took. If they weren’t killed, that is. Sometimes she thought to herself that maybe, just maybe, Peter wished Hook would win for once. Just to see what it felt like to die.

     “I know, my dear,” she touched his cheek and he winced at the heat of it. “But you can’t act like that in this world. You have to keep yourself hidden from it all. They wouldn’t know what to do with things like us.”

     “I guess.”

     She kissed his cheek. I love you she thought. But she couldn’t say it. That would be taking things too far. She felt something prickle inside of her. It was the horrible sensation of longing and she hated it. Peter wiped the tears from his face.

     “All right, then,” he turned around, looking at the city and back to his joyful self again, “where shall we look?”

     “You’re the boss, Boss,” Tink smiled, happy to have her Peter back.

       “Let’s goooooo,” he closed his eyes and pointed his arm to the ground with one finger out. He paused for a Moment, as he always did when trying to find the right children. His arm went around in a circle. “There!” He pointed to a neighborhood and opened his eyes.

     “Race ya!” Tink said and flew straight at it like a buzzing bee.

     “That’s my girl!” Peter went after her.

     They went down into the neighborhood and to the main street. Tonight was quiet, almost serene. The sounds of crickets could be heard in the grass and the wind blew softly through the trees. Peter stopped at the house at the corner. He looked at Tink and motioned her to follow him. They stopped at a window at the top floor.

Through the window, Tink could see a boy sleeping. His glasses were on the nightstand next to his bed and his room was covered in comic book posters.

     “Him?” Tink asked. “Why would you want-”

     “No,” a voice said off to the side.

     Tink turned and saw that Peter was flying several feet away in front of the other window. His arms were crossed and he was smiling.

     “Her,” he said.

     Tink flew next to him and saw a girl sleeping in her bed. The girl had beautiful chestnut brown hair that draped over her face like a curtain. She rested her arm underneath her head.

     “She’s cute,” Tink said. “Should we invite ourselves in?”

     “No,” Peter said. His breathing caught, excited. “We need to wait. I can feel it in her, Tink. I can almost smell it.”

     “Smell what?”

     “Unhappy thoughts.”

wp-kindle

ATTENTION EBOOK READERS! You can now purchase my new novel, WENDY & PETER, for $2.99 on Kindle via Amazon! See you on that second star to the right!
Wendy Darling hates her life. School feels like a prison, her parents don’t understand her, and she is buried by all the pressures that come with being a seventeen year-old girl. That is until she is visited by a red-haired boy who can fly. The boy named Peter tells her of a secret place, a magical island where there are no parents, no rules, and where children stay young forever. A place called: Neverland. Wendy, along with her younger brother John, are both whisked away to paradise where they discover fairies, mermaids, and pirates. Neverland is seemingly everything she ever wanted, but Wendy soon discovers something else is waiting under the surface of her new home. Beyond the magic and joy, lies a truth more dangerous, primal, and ancient than she could ever imagine. Both Wendy and John learn that there is always a price to pay for never having to grow up.

 A tale of the magic of youth and the death of innocence, Wendy & Peter is a dark and punk-rock take on a classic story. Enter Neverland at your own risk.

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Hey, guys! I am now extremely proud to announce that I now have a Patreon! Be sure to donate for exclusive content and cool stuff that you can’t get anywhere else!
-A.B.

Pan

Not official artwork.

Ahoy, followers! My upcoming novel, WENDY AND PETER doesn’t come to Amazon until later this year, but I’d thought I’d give you all a sneak peak with the first chapter! Enjoy and be on the lookout for more updates on this punk rock re-telling of PETER PAN! You can also find the link to my previous novel, BLOOD TRADE, in Paperback and Kindle format right HERE!
See you on the second star to the right,
A.B.

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS GRAPHIC DEPICTIONS OF VIOLENCE AND STRONG LANGUAGE.

IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS IS A FIRST DRAFT AND MAY CONTAIN SOME GRAMMAR MISTAKES.

ONE: SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT

  The Boy who never grew up flew through the sky like a shooting star. The Light that followed beside him glowed with amber and made a sound like tiny bells. It was warm tonight, as was typical for spring, but the wind and the temperature of the altitude made it as cool as a fall morning. The clouds were sparse, just the way The Boy liked it. He could see the city down below laid out under him, shining like the stars above. He could hear the engines of cars roaring down the road, footsteps clacking against the pavement. The smell of smoke and gas filled his nose. He drank it all in as he always did during his scouting missions. Home wasn’t like this. He was used to smelling the dampness of the morning mist as it went through the trees. The call of birds of all variety waking him as the sun rose, the way the island looked huge and mighty from the sky. The only thing here that was familiar to home was the smell of sea salt, and of course, the sound of laughing children. He thought to himself that maybe he should have a hot dog or a hamburger tonight. Flying great distances always did make him hungry. He could always get the same food, any food he desired in fact, back at home. But it wouldn’t be the same. He wouldn’t be able to walk into a restaurant, go up to the counter, and eat his dinner at a table. He wouldn’t be able to blend in with the rest of them. Not just because of the way he looked or dressed or the fact that he had a fairy at his side, but because he was never able to feel like them. He looked like any other teenage boy, but he was far from it. He would never be able to feel what it was like to wake up for school the next morning or get a job or any other things that they took for granted. He despised this world and its rules of course. But, somewhere deep inside him, he was curious about it. He had been curious about it for hundreds of years.

Watch out!” He suddenly heard the fairy say by his ear. He snapped out of his trance and saw an airplane heading straight for him. He quickly dived to the left. The air of the engine was like a roar of  a lion and had the force of a tornado. The Boy shut his eyes as hard as he could and flew with all his might to get away from the great machine. He prayed to himself that his precious fairy did not lose herself into the blades of the engine. The sound of the airplane died like distant thunder as it flew farther away. The Boy opened his eyes and laughed. He was just fine, oh the cleverness of him! He then noticed how quiet it was.

“Tink?” He looked around frantically. “Tink! Where are you?” His voice gave no echo up here.

“I’m okay!” The Fairy returned. Her light felt warm to him. “You should pay more attention next time.”

I should pay more attention?” The Boy crossed his arms. “How about they watch where they’re flying?” He hated those damn things. Always so loud and bossy. “They ruin all the fun of being up here.”

     “You’re going to have to play by their rules if you still want to scout here,” Tink said with a smirk. “Or are you too chickenshit?”

“Chickenshit?” He was angry now She knew how to press his buttons. “Now, you listen here you little-”

“Oh, stop it,” Tink said, kissing him on the cheek. “If we stay here arguing, we’ll never find new Orphans.”

“ I guess.”

“What would you do without me, Pete?”

They continued their mission, downwards this time. The air was slightly warmer now, and the smell of the city grew. The buildings below them looked like elaborate dollhouses made of glass and concrete. Cars zoomed down the streets as if they were whined up by hand. In the windows of the skyscrapers, the boy named Peter saw men and women wandering about in them. They sat in their tiny cubicle offices, on the phone, or rubbing their faces in disbelief that they had to stay and work this late tonight. Peter often imagined to himself what it must be like to have a job. The first qualification for having a job, he thought, was to have a mustache. Even if you didn’t, you were either a woman, or very poor at your job. The second: a tie. Preferably red. Black ties were so ugly to him and the ones that had patters on them were even worse. A briefcase was the third qualification. Peter assumed that since people didn’t have scabbards in this world, they must’ve carried their swords in their briefcases or purses. The fourth and final qualification was coffee. There was no coffee where he came from; only water, soda, and alcohol. All of which, were really the only drinks that the Orphans needed or cared about. No, coffee (as well as that oh, so, snooty elixir called wine) was an adult’s drink. A pirates drink to be more vulgar. He would see these job-workers always carrying a cup of coffee in one hand and a cell phone to their ear in the other. They would always take sips from their styrofoam containers in between yelling about numbers or figures or whatever grown-ups yelled about into their mechanical beetles. He saw them going in and out of the buildings, going up elevators and stairs. They always reminded him of ants, scurrying about, doing their duty without a care in the world. With no clue to what might be up there in the sky watching them right now. With no clue what it was like to fly with the birds. With no clue what it was like to live in a world with no rules and to always have fun. With-

He sensed something. No, not sensed, smelled something. It was sweet and sour all at the same time. The smell of fresh flowers mixed in with rotting fruit. It was coming from below, as it always did. The origins of the scent came from houses, playgrounds, and schools. But tonight it came from the streets. It was the smell of youth.

“Hey, Tink,” Peter said. “Why don’t we go down over there?” He pointed to a small patch away from the tall buildings. The only light around it was coming from electric lamp posts lined in a row.

“Why? The Fairy asked. “Do you see any potential candidates?”  She smiled. Tink had hoped that tonight’s mission would be over soon. She was tired of coming to this world, taking its children, and then having to do it all over again. She loved The Boy, but he was getting reckless in his old age.

“Nah. I just want to have a little fun, that’s all,” his eyes blazed with an inner fire as it always did when he was excited or running his sword through someone.

    “I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Pete,” Tink’s body stiffened a little, afraid of what was going to come next. “We should really keep our heads down. Scouting is the mission, remember? Not playtime. We really should be focusing on scouting.”

     “What’s a matter?” Peter sneered. “Chickenshit?”

     Tinker Bell’s wings bristled and her amber light was now taking a shade of red. Fairies are so small that they can only fit one emotion inside them at a time. “No,” she said through sharp breaths, “I just think that we should-”

     “Last one there’s a rotten egg!” Peter shot down through the sky and his infectious giggle followed him.

     “I swear,” Tink’s color was brightening again, “that kid is going to be the death of me.” She went after him.

   

***

     The gang of kids found the homeless man during their nightly stroll. There were four of them,  their ages ranging from fourteen to seventeen. Little Man was the youngest, while the leader Ajax, was the oldest. Ajax was not only the oldest, but the largest of the group. Standing at six foot-eight and with the body of a linebacker, it was as if the Hulk himself was walking down the street. The kids had skipped school today and hadn’t gone home that night. Instead, they had smoked some weed, got drunk, and shop-lifted at the local mall. They had even whistled and cat-called at a hot college student for good measure.

“Fuck you,” the girl had said as she continued to walk by.

     “You won’t be saying that when you have my dick in your mouth, bitch,” Ajax had said with a smile. The girl didn’t respond, but it didn’t matter to him when he had his boys laughing in agreement with him.

     “Bitches always want that dick,” the boy to his right had said. His face was a crater landscape of acne, which gave him the nickname Pizza. He smiled wide, showing off the railroad tracks of braces across his teeth.

     Girls weren’t not their preferred target when sex was not involved. Most of them even hadn’t had sex, despite their boasting of their carnal conquests. No, Ajax and his gang of droogs were not a gang of that sort. They were of the kind to enjoy chaos, destruction, and a little bit of the old ultra-violence. Each of them had been sent to juvie at some point during their teenage careers and had worn it like a badge of honor. The sound of the iron doors locking behind them was akin to church bells. It added even more to their reputation than what had preceded them. The teachers scowled at them with disapproving looks and fellow students made sure to walk around them at school. That was the one thing that they craved most: the fear. The fear of the geeks, the nerds, and the pussies at school that were too weak to fend for themselves. The locker filled halls were a hunting ground for them. A place where they could test out their love of pain on the youth so that it prepared them to inflict it on the old once they had graduated. Ajax was not one for the typical bully tactics either. He wouldn’t hang “KICK ME” signs on the back of a kid’s shirt or hold them down and spit on their face. No, Ajax wanted to leave an impression. He wanted to make sure that no one would ever dare stand up to him. He and his gang would go into the gym showers when the majority of the class had gone and would wait for some scrawny puppy of a boy to finish showering. Ajax would lock the door and, once the kid was done, he would slam into him with every ounce of strength that he had against the wall.

     “AHHH!” The puppy-kid would scream in both terror and pain. His face pressed up against the tile as Ajax’s large stomach would lean into him like an airbag deploying in a car.

     “Gotcha, faggot!” Ajax would laugh and his companions would join in.

     I cnnt brrr” The twig of a teenage said in a muffled voice.

     “What’s that, faggot? I can’t hear you?”

     “I! Can’t! Breathe!”

     “Hear that, fellas? The faggot can’t breathe. Let me give ‘em some air.” Ajax stood back and the geek would let out huge gasping breaths. He fell to the floor like a box of matches.

“He looks so pitiful,” Pizza said.

“Like a puppy,” Dillon, another member of the group said.

“Yeah,” Ajax sneered, “I hate that look. That fucking pitiful look. You wipe that look of your face, ya hear me, faggot?” He punched him in the nose.

     The puppy let out a cry and put both of his hands to it. Blood came oozing from his nostrils.

     “I said stop looking at me like that, faggot!” Ajax punched him again.

     “Why-”the puppy said through the tears and the wheeze of an asthma attack.

     “Why what, faggot?”

     Why-” the puppy’s voice was getting weaker.

     “Shut up, boys, the faggot is trying to say something.” Ajax bent down to the puppy’s trembling, wheezing mouth.

     Why me?” The puppy asked.

      “Why not?” Ajax punched him one final time, knocking him out.

     The kid was sent to the hospital. He would have died if  the janitor hadn’t had come in after Ajax and his boys left. Once he had recovered, the kid was adamant that, no, his broken nose wasn’t caused by anyone. And that, yes, he had suffered an asthma attack and, while trying to reach for his inhaler, he had slipped on the wet tile. He would never tell the truth about what happened to anyone for the rest of his life. Ajax had installed the fear in him for life just as his father did when he was little. Ajax’s dad worked at an auto repair shop and went to the bar once he was off. He would come home from a long day’s work, his hands still stained with oil and his breath stinking of booze, and slap his mother around. Once his mother had been beaten and was sent cowering in the corner with that same fucking pitiful look that the kid in the shower had, it was Ajax’s turn. He wouldn’t get as hard of a whooping as his mother did, by that time dad was already tuckered out, but it would leave a mark the next day. His father would take off his belt( just like my papa did he would say in a slurred speech) and whip him across the back, ass, and stomach. It taught him never to say anything against his dad, but it also taught him the power of fear. That, if you had any anger in you, just let it out on the people that were weaker than you. No therapy required, fear was the best medicine. You decide whether or not if you were at the top of the food chain. And if you weren’t, then God help you.

     “Hey, Ajax,” Blane, another member of the four, said. “See that hobo up ahead?”

     After filling their apatite for destruction, they had decided to walk it off with a stroll through the park. The quiet stillness of the night was soothing to the gang’s leader. Nobody was around to tell them what they could or could not do.

     “Yeah,” Ajax conjured up a huge wad of saliva and spat it on the grass. “What about him?”

     “He’s making quite a bit of noise. You think that counts as loitering?”

     Indeed the old man was making quite a bit of racket. He was sitting on a park bench covered in newspaper and wearing a T-shirt and jeans that had clearly faded away. The long toe nails of his feet stood out through his shoes that had been cut off at the front. He had an half empty bottle of whisky at his side. His head was titled back and his eyes were closed as he sang the slurred lyrics of an Irish shanty.

     “Oooooooh, Dannny Boyyyyyy! The pipes the pipes are caaalling!” The hobo screeched like a drunk parrot.

     “I think it does, Blake,” Ajax lifted an eyebrow. “What do you think, Dillon?”

     “Yeah,” Dillon said with wide eyes, “He’s being real noisy. Like a dog that just won’t stop barking.”

     “Pizza?”

     “Wild dog is what he is,” Pizza said, a white head freshly bloomed on his cheek, “and wild dogs need to be put down.”

     “Well, that settles it, then,” Ajax smiled. “Let’s teach this dog how to be a good boy.” He reached into his jacket to make sure that his dad’s gun was still snug in the back of his pants and he and his gang walked towards the bench.

       Oohhhhhhh Dannnnnnnny Boooooo-” the homeless man stopped once he realized that he had an audience in front of him.

     “What’s up, Old Timer?” Ajax had his arms crossed. “Nice night ain’t it?”

     The homeless man blinked, not sure what to say. “Yes. Yeah, it is,” he almost sounded hypnotized. “What can I do for ya, young fellas?”

     “Well, you see, me and my buddies were just taking a stroll in this lovely park and we came across you and your singing. If you call that singing. Sounds like a cat crawled up my mom’s ass, to me.”

     The homeless man’s watery eyes squinted. “What are you trying to say?”

     “I’m trying to say that you should shut that filthy mouth of yours.”

     “It’s a free country, son. I can do whatever I want. What are you gonna do about it?”

     “I’m gonna do this,” Ajax pulled out the gun from his pants and pointed it at the man. His gang snickered.

     “Plea-please!” The homeless man placed both of his hands up. His mouth quivered, making his large unkempt beard shake. “Don’t shoot me! Please!”

     Maybe your body will stink less when your dead,” Ajax pulled back the hammer of the gun.

     Oh, Jesus, help me!” The homeless man cried out, tears ran down his cheeks.

     “Hey, guys!” A voice let out several feet away from them. Ajax, his gang, and the homeless man turned and saw the strangest looking kid that they ever laid eyes on.

     The Boy was around the gang’s age, though Ajax assumed that he was from a different school, since he had never seen him before. Or perhaps he was homeless like the old drunk in front of him, considering that he wasn’t wearing any shoes or socks. He had on a pair of gray pinstriped pants with suspenders and, curiously enough, a belt. Hanging off the belt, was a collection of strange items: a pocket watch, prayer beads, dog tags, and a small leather pouch dangled at his side. He stood with his hands on his hips, like Superman, wearing a black motorcycle jacket and waistcoat under it. He wore no shirt, T-shirt or otherwise, and his pale skin could be seen under the waistcoat. His hair was the deep color of roses that stood up in spikes. His ears were pointy, like an elf’s, and had one golden ring on his right ear. But the strangest thing about The Boy was his eyes. They had a weird glow to them that reminded Ajax of when he saw his grandmother’s cat out in her backyard once when he was a child. That mysterious fraction of light that was both magical and dangerous all at the same time.

     “That’s no way to treat an old smelly codfish!” The Boy continued, he had a British accent or something like that. “Why, he isn’t even a pirate!”

     “The fuck you talkin‘ about?” Ajax said, his eyebrows were furrowed, but he smiled anyways. As if this was some kind of practical joke.

     “I’m talking about playing games! And playing them fairly,” The Boy had a grin on his face like he had a secret.

     “You for real?” Pizza asked.

     “I’m as real as real can be!”

     Ajax looked at his friends and laughed. He turned back to the homeless man. “I’ll deal with you in a second, old man,” he pointed the gun at The Boy. “Ready to die, faggot?”

     “To die would be an awfully big adventure.”

     Ajax fired three shots at him. Every time there was a bang, The Boy made a bizarre gesture. His arms stuck out, then one of his legs, and his head titled sideways. He made cartoon noises of pain as the bullets fired at him. It took a few seconds for Ajax to realize, to his amazement, that The Boy was dodging the bullets. He was fucking dodging them. Ajax and his crew stood with their mouths opened.

     “My turn,” The Boy said, his smile had changed. It went from resembling something mischievous to large and shark like.

     Before he knew it, Ajax saw The Boy sprinting towards him. No, not sprinting, flying. Someone was actually flying in front of him. The Boy drew his right leg wide and kicked his bare foot right into Ajax’s head. The others moved backwards, as if a hole and just appeared in the ground before them, and Ajax fell with a thud. The Boy landed on their leader’s stomach, making him moan with pain and confusion.

     “Oh, the cleverness of me!” The Boy placed his hands on hips again.

     “What the fuck?” Dillon said. “What the fuck was that?” His mind raced, trying to find a logical explanation to all of this, but it was no use. He had excepted the reality that he just saw some hipster kid that looked like an elf, dodge bullets and then fucking flew at his best friend. It almost turned his brain to jelly.

     “I got him,” Blane said and threw a punch at him. The Boy caught it without even looking and twisted his arm around, so that he was facing backwards. The sound of his wrist breaking was that of a twig snapping. “AHHHHHHHHH!” He screamed in pain.

     “No,” The Boy said, annoyed, “you’re suppose to say uncle.” The Boy let go of Blake’s arm and he was sent sprawling to the ground, clutching his hand and weeping.

     The other members looked down at their fallen comrade and then back to The Boy. Suddenly, there was something glowing on his shoulder, like a firefly or a bug. And he was talking to it.

      “Go get, ‘em, Tink!” The Boy said, the bug was saying something, but Pizza and Dillon were too shocked to hear it. The Boy grew impatient. “That’s an order.” He pointed towards them.

     The firefly flew off of The Boy’s shoulder and towards them with the sound of jiggling bells. The two of them were running backwards now, afraid of the insect. It got close to Dillon and he nearly screamed when he saw that it was a tiny woman with wings.

     “I’m really sorry about this,” the Fairy said. But before Dillon could ask what she meant, she suddenly burst into a blinding light like a camera flash. Dillon let out a girlish shriek and shut his eyes. He fell to the ground, his ass hitting the pavement hard, and then opened them. Hundreds of tiny balls of light of every color in the spectrum were swimming in front of him. Bells filled his ear drums and all he could do now was sit there at the wonder of it all, dazed and confused.

     Pizza pulled out a knife from his jacket pocket and flicked it open, the blade was long and shinny. “I’m gonna kill ya, you fucking bug.”

     “Well, fuck you too, kid,” the Fairy turned red and pulled out a sewing needle(what Tink called her Stinger) and thrashed it at him. It sliced open the front of his hand and Pizza dropped the knife with a cry. He snarled and groped wildly at the Fairy, but she dodged him with the speed of a humming bird. She slashed at his face, leaving small cuts across it. He let out a string of curses and waved his arms around wildly. She smacked him in the head with all her might and he landed on the ground, unconscious.

     Ajax slowly came to his senses. His eyes wandered and saw that his friends had either been knocked out, wounded, or (what appeared to be in Dillon’s case) stoned. He also saw The Boy picking up his gun several feet away from him. He got up as fast as he could, though still siting down, and peddled backwards.

     “What-what the fuck are you, man!” Ajax nearly shrieked in surprise when he realized that he hit the bench. The drunk homeless man just stared at him.

       “I’m Peter,” The Boy pointed the gun at him.

     Ajax quickly turned to the homeless man and started clawing at his clothes. “Please, mister! Help me! Don’t let him kill me! PLEASE!” His face was blubbering with tears, snot, and sweat. The homeless tugged himself away from the kid.

     Ajax looked up at the boy named Peter and nearly had a heart attack. This wasn’t just a psycho, this kid was laughing and smiling as if he was playing a video game or on a playground. This was the kid’s idea of fun. “Please, please, please, don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me.

     “You know,” Peter ignored him, “I’ve always hated these things. They’re so loud and ugly. I prefer a sword, don’t you?” He studied the gun and then sighed. “Oh, well.” He pulled the trigger until it clicked. He threw the gun over his shoulder as if it was a broken toy.

     The air was still for a moment, the echoes of the gun fire rang throughout the park. Then The Boy did something that made the homeless man nearly jump out of his skin. He lifted up his head to the sky, opened his mouth, and made the uncanny sound of a rooster crowing.  The homeless man collapsed to his knees and placed his hands together.

     “Oh, sweet Jesus, thank you!” He cried out with tears in his eyes. “You finally answered my prayers! After living without a home for ten long years now, you have finally sent-sent an angel to protect me! My belief in you has been rewarded at least! He lowered his had and let out large sobs.

     “Whatever,” The Boy shrugged and flew away with his Fairy along with him.

***

     “Peter!” Tinker Bell called after him, flying as fast as she could. The wind was blowing hard, which caused the two of them to fly with great difficulty. “Peter!” She yelled at him again, furious at what this night had become. First the annoying detour that he took to him playing with the boys like that in such a horrible way to him crowing. It was not the way she liked him and she had known Peter for a very long time now.

     “What?” Peter stopped in the air, turning towards her. He looked at her as if she was a spoiled child that kept asking for her toy.

     “Look,” she caught up with him, “I don’t know what the hell you were thinking down there, but-”

     “I was only having a little fun,” the wind had died down and he was glad of it. “Can’t I at least do that without having you crawl up my ass?”

     “You call that having fun?” She pointed townwards. “Peter, you killed that boy!”

     “He started it,” Peter crossed his arms. “He was going to kill that old man.”

     “And so you shot him to death? Out of all our times visiting this world, you still haven’t figured out that it’s not as simple as Orphans and Pirates?”

     Peter turned his head in the way that was familiar to her.

     “Why are you crying?”

     “I’m not crying,” he sniffed. “I’m just. . . .”

     Tink flew around and faced him. Tears were streaming down his face. Her light went dim to a soft sunset gold. “Come on Peter, your Tink is here. You can tell me anything.”

     “I’m just- just so tired, Tink!” He threw his hands to his side. “I’ve been doing this for so long that it’s boring now. It’s not fun anymore! I feel so. . . so.. . “

     Old, Tinker Bell thought. A word that he despised so much that it haunted his nightmares. She knew of what it meant. All fairies die some day. Her light would extinguish one day when she herself was tired and old. It was something that filled her with fear every time she thought of it as it does with everyone. But not with him. He would never die of being old and tired. He would outlive her, he would outlive this world, he would outlive everything. He would be the only one left on the island except for the children that they took. If they weren’t killed, that is. Sometimes she thought to herself that maybe, just maybe, Peter wished Hook would win for once. Just to see what it felt like to die.

     “I know, my dear,” she touched his cheek and he winced at the heat of it. “But you can’t act like that in this world. You have to keep yourself hidden from it all. They wouldn’t know what to do with things like us.”

     “I guess.”

     She kissed his cheek. I love you she thought. But she couldn’t say it. That would be taking things too far. She felt something prickle inside of her. It was the horrible sensation of longing and she hated it. Peter wiped the tears from his face.

     “Alright, then,” he turned around, looking at the city and back to his joyful self again, “where shall we look?”

     “You’re the boss, Boss,” Tink smiled, happy to have her Peter back.

       “Let’s goooooo,” he closed his eyes and pointed his arm to the ground with one finger out. He paused for a moment, as he always did when trying to find the right children. His arm went around in a circle. “There!” He pointed to a neighborhood and opened his eyes.

     “Race ya!” Tink said and flew straight at it like a buzzing bee.

     “That’s my girl!” Peter went after her.

     They went down into the neighborhood and down the street. Tonight was quiet, almost serene. The sounds of crickets could be heard in the grass and the wind blew softly through the trees. Peter stopped at the house at the corner. He looked at Tink and motioned her to follow him. They stopped at a window at the top floor. Through the window, Tink could see a boy sleeping. His glasses were on the nightstand next to his bed and his room was covered in comic book posters.

     “Him?” Tink asked. “Why would you want-”

     “No,” a voice said off to the side.

     Tink turned and saw that Peter was flying several feet away in front of the other window. His arms were crossed and he was smiling.

     “Her,” he said.

     Tink flew next to him and saw a girl sleeping in her bed. She was a couple of years older than the her brother and her room was filled with posters of old rock stars. The girl had beautiful chestnut brown hair that draped over her face like a curtain. She rested her arm under her head.

     “She’s cute,” Tink said. “Should we invite ourselves in?”

     “No,” Peter said. His breathing caught, excited. “We need to wait. I can feel it in her, Tink. I can almost smell it.”

     “Smell what?”

     “Unhappy thoughts.”

Roland

“What’s that?” Twelve-year old me pointed. My dad and I were at Borders and a display had been set up in the middle of the store. It was advertising the first four books of a series called THE DARK TOWER by Stephen King to coincide with the release of the then fifth(out of seven) volume. Each book had a dark and mysterious cover on it, but I had singled out the first: THE GUNSLINGER.

“Oh, those,” my dad’s voice dropped. “That’s The Dark Tower. I starting reading the second one and didn’t finish it. Too weird.”

Too weird. That was the best sales pitch I could ever ask for. No blurb on the back by a prestigious  author or a glowing review from the New York Times could persuade me more to read something than that it was too weird. I was familiar with the name Stephen King (he was that horror guy. And I had been a horror junkie since birth), but I had never read anything from him. I suppose most King fans became a Constant Reader from his more famous works like THE SHINING, THE STAND, or IT. But something about this book shouted out to me. With the lean figure of a Clint Eastwood cowboy type standing in a vast desert, his face cast in shadow as he gazed upon a rib cage of some sort of animal in front of him. A bird perched on top of it stared back. And in the background, far off into the distance, loomed a silhouette of a great castle. Or was it a tower? I had to know its secrets. I had to know what it all meant. It felt grand, epic, and serious. “Serious” is something that most twelve-year olds crave out of their fiction. No more kid’s stuff, it’s time to put on my Big Boy pants. This book needed it to be read by me. And so I did. Again. And again. And again. I read the rest of the series over and over too. Each time starting with that wonderful, perfect sentence:

“The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.”

The plot of THE GUNSLINGER is quite simple. A man named Roland, the last of the gunslingers(think of Eastwood’s legendary Western figure mixed in with the peacekeeping philosophy of the Jedi) is chasing after the evil wizard known as the Man In Black. Their goal? To reach the legendary Dark Tower. This short description is what turns a lot of readers off from it and never continue with the series. After all, if you’re going to start a huge Tolkien-esque quest series, why do it with a novel that isn’t even three hundred pages long, has little to no plot, and a protagonist that is mostly unlikeable? But those reasons are precisely why I was attracted to it in the first place.

If you’ve read a Stephen King novel, you’re probably familiar with how he writes his prose. His words have a tendency to have a very accessible almost folksy feel to them. He’s not there to impress you with his way to craft a sentence, he’s there to tell you a story. With THE GUNSLINGER, that signature voice is gone and is replaced with an abstract, poetic kind of writing. Like Cormac McCarthy if he wrote LORD OF THE RINGS, the wold of The Dark Tower is described in beautiful fragments that conjure dream-like images in our minds. It is common in most epics of this kind to have a concrete history of its world. Maps, monetary systems, political and religious affiliations are usually laid bare to us as if the author has a PHD in the history of their own imaginary lands. King takes an archeologist’s approach to his world-building. Very little is known about Mid-World through the course of the book primarily because King himself didn’t know too much about it at the time of writing it as well as the fact that it has “moved on.” That is to say that civilizations have crumbled, machines have turned to rust, and vast green valleys have dissolved into sand. Our only real connection with the life of Mid-World is that it is similar to our own. Gas stations once existed as did the Bible and songs like “Hey Jude.” This gives it an fossil type texture to it. What is shown above the dirt is only a small piece to what lies below. And that gives readers, or this one anyway, a desire to dig deeper and deeper into the earth of King’s imagination.

But what good is a world if there is no one in it to care about? King’s greatest strength, I believe, is to create characters that feel like real people and not constructs on the page. Anyone that is an avid reader of his will tell you this. From the Losers Club of IT to the Torrance Family of THE SHINING to even the inmates of death row from THE GREEN MILE, King has an uncanny ability to make us believe that we have met his creations and want to be with them. Roland is an experiment in that field. Quiet, stoic, and cold, the last gunslinger is not your standard hero. In fact, he is downright cruel in most cases. From the horrific massacre of the small town of Tull(once its citizens have been mind controlled by the MIB) to allowing a child to fall to his death, Roland projects very little good in him. Or at least, what little we see on the surface.

On the verge of death in a desert, Roland is saved by Jake Chambers. A young boy who was transported to Mid-World after dying in ours. The first real act of kindness he has seen in years (maybe even decades) awakens a part of himself that Roland has kept buried ever since his hunt for the Tower began. Jake is not a surrogate son for him, but reminds him of the boy that he once was. The boy who lived in the great city of Gilead and stood holding his best friend’s hand as he witnessed the hanging of a traitor. The boy who defeated his teacher Cort as an act of overzealous revenge after discovering his mother having an affair with his father’s confidant Marten, thus earning his guns. A boy who is the direct descendent of the legendary king Arthur Eld. A boy who loved a girl named Susan Delgado. A boy who’s dream was to bring peace as a gunslinger across the land. Jake reminds Roland that even in that darkness, there is light. That, despite the MIB’S taunts, there is still some shred of humanity left within him. That, just because the world has moved on, doesn’t mean that he has to.

SPOILERS IN THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH FOR THE END OF THE SERIES.

Knowing the end, it struck me that perhaps in other cycles, Roland never met Jake. That, perhaps, not meeting the young boy would’ve served as a death sentence. After all, the MIB placed Jake in Mid-World to begin with as an obstacle that would throw Roland off. Or maybe in one cycle he didn’t let Jake die at all? If that was the case, could he have never met Eddie, Susannah, etc? Could he have reached the Tower sooner or later? Something to chew on.

END OF SPOILERS.

In the end, Roland’s addiction to finding the Tower overthrows him and he has to let go of Jake. Very little is known about the meaning of all this by the book’s final page. We know that the Man In Black has many identities, including that of Marten from Roland’s childhood. We know that the MIB serves a king of darkness of some kind. We know that the universe that Roland lives in is vast beyond comprehension. And finally, we know that the Dark Tower holds all of the universe within itself. These few scraps of information took me in like bait on a line and I’ve been chasing the Tower ever since.

Now at twenty-five, Stephen King has become my favorite author, inspiring me to become one myself. Next January, the film version of THE DARK TOWER hits theatres and I think it’s time to take that road once again. Join me, won’t you? Join me as we search across seven books leading up to the field of roses and the Tower itself. For ka is a wheel.

You can purchase my novel BLOOD TRADE in paperback and ebook format right here.

You can purchase a copy of THE GUNSLINGER right here.

BLOOD TRADE EDBOOK

The first couple of reviews for my new novel, BLOOD TRADE, are here!

Valeria Camnasio-Quevedo says:

I got this book in the mail and as soon I started to read it I could not put it down. The story is fantastic. not predictable at all and is a NEW story about vampires! I totally recommend this book for any person who is interested in reading a great, new and well written vampire story. It’s wroth it!”

Petra Reynolds says:

Wonderful addition to the Vampire genre. I could not put the book down. The story is engaging and very well written. I can’t wait for the next book! Thank you for this refreshing new spin.”

Grab your copy of it right here and be sure to leave a review of your own!