Posts Tagged ‘Reading’

o5SelfPublished-Authors-Who-MadeItBig_FINAL
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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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.

BLOOD TRADE EDBOOK

It’s now just under a month (February 22, to be exact) until my new novel, BLOOD TRADE, is available in paperback and Ebook form on Amazon! A few days ago, I gave you guys a sneak peek at chapter one(which you can read right here) now, here’s chapter two! If you like it, feel free to share it with othersand stay tuned for more updates!
-A.B.

CHAPTER TWO: THE SALESMAN

“How does my suit look?David asked in the storage space of the grocery store.

     Fine, man,Marco said. Fine. Jesus, didnt you just press that thing?

     Yeah,David said. Its just a big one today and I dont want to look unprofessional, you know?He straightened his tie nervously. He did, in fact, press the gray suit that he had always worn on deals, but tonight, the clothes felt alien on his skin.

Shit, its cold back here.He buttoned his jacket and rubbed his shoulders.  The AC was on full blast tonight at the back of the Grocery Palace. He was hoping his nerves would heat him up.

     Marco stopped hooking up the lap top for a moment to glance at his watch. Fuck, where is that truck?

     Marco, you always know the cops get first dibs.

     Dont joke like that, man! This is a big one. If you fuck this up, Thorne will-

     Thorne wont do shit,David interrupted. Im the best dealer hes got. He knows it, I know it.

     David always combated stress with humor. It had been a defense mechanism of his since he was a child. Now at the ripe old age of twenty-five, he still felt like one. Selling always felt like being in a school production. Waiting in the wings knowing that there were people out in the audience waiting to see you perform. Like jumping off of a diving board with no splash. The only difference is that his parents and sister wouldnt be in this crowd.

No, this crowd was filled with bone-thin junkies waiting to get their fix. Sure, they couldve gone to any other dealer in the city of King Beach, California, but they wanted the Salesman.  Everyone wants the Salesman. Going to any of those amateurs was like choosing a fast-food hamburger over a prime steak. The Salesman always sold the best and nothing but the best.

     There was a knock on the large grill door behind them. Santas here!David said. He and Marco lifted the grill up, making a noise like a thousand rattle snakes slithering upwards. Bright light blasted into their eyes like two orange suns.  Just your typical Grocery Palace eighteen wheeler. Or, at least, what looked like your typical Grocery Palace eighteen wheeler. Thornes boys were experts at dressing their vehicles. Two men stood in front of each side of the truck wearing Kevlar vests. They said nothing.

    After a moment, one of them finally asked,You Frye?

     I thought you guys would be taller,David replied.

     The two men in Kevlar vests opened up the doors to the truck. Marco gave his partner a look. David shrugged and smiled.

     The truck was filled with bags of all types of drugs. Coke, heroin, meth, weed, pills, you name it. Unlike most dealers, David didnt specialize in one type of product. If you were a salesman at an electronics store, you wouldnt push your favorite TV, youd push all of them. Thats what made the Salesman so special. He took no prejudices regarding his product. He didnt even want to know where it came from. Columbia? Brazil? Who the fuck cared? Junkies sure didnt. They could inject horse shit into their veins and not even blink if it got them high. Never underestimate the power of the high.

     Alright, gentlemen,David said. If you could be so kind as to stack as many bags as you can in these designated areas on the table here.David gestured to the tables that they had set up a few feet in front of the grill door. Across the long wood were yellow sticky notes indicating which drugs went into which spots, like a buffet of narcotics.

     Where do you want us to put the rest?One of the men asked after placing the drugs in the right locations.

     Oh, well just add more as we go along,David said.

     You expecting a large crowd?The other man smiled.

     When Elvis was playing Vegas, did anyone ask him if he was playing a large crowd? No. Next time Thorne gives you a big delivery, do some research before you start fucking mouthing off, okay?

Why you little-the bodyguard snarled, moving forward.

  Hey, sorry guys,Marco interjected. My partner gets nervous during these types of things. And when he gets nervous, he turns into a dick.He pulled David off to the side. What the fuck are you doing?

     Marco, you know Thorne isnt going to hurt us. He needs us. All of these gangsters do.

     Dave, youre getting too cocky for this, man,Marco said. Were going to end up at the bottom of a river.

     Better pack a swimsuit then. Have you got the board done?

     No,Marco grabbed the small white board and the marker that was on the table.

     Okay, lets make coke fifty,David said. Smack eighty, weed ten, and uppers. . .He scratched his chin. Sixty.

     Marco wrote all of it down on the board and propped it up on the table.

     The grocery store manager walked into the garage, sweating in his nice polo shirt. You guys ready, yet? Its a mad house out there.

     Indeed we are, good sir,David said reaching into his wallet. He pulled out a hundred. Thank you so much for your services, yet again.

     The manager snatched the money from Davids hand. This is the last time Im doing this for you.

     You said that the last time,David said with a smile showing his teeth. The kind of smile that would bite his face off if he took one step closer. The manager walked back and put his palm on the handle of the door.

        Does my tie look good?

     As good as itll look, asshole,Marco said, setting up his register. He gave David a nod.

     David gave the manager a thumbs up and the door opened.

     Hundreds of bodies came spewing out of the doorway and into the room like sick cattle. Some were corpses dressed in rags, others were young healthy kids that had just gotten their first fix and wanted more. Drugs had such a range of lovers. David yelled at the top his lungs for everyone to get into a single file. He raised his arms up and down like he was conducting an orchestra, screaming out prices and deals to whomever wanted them. He looked back periodically and saw Thornes men rushing back and forth to the truck, grabbing more bags. He couldnt help but laugh. Sweat was pouring from his face, his heart raced at top speed. Selling was its own type of drug. He felt the room getting hotter and hotter as more people crammed in, shoveling their money at him. It was beautiful. Every single one of them came to see the great David Frye work his magic. Look at me, ma. Top of the world.

     Three hours later, the grocery store owner glared at David as he washed the puke off of the floor with a hose. It resembled a Jackson Pollack painting.  David shrugged and the owner gave him the finger. David wiped the sweat from his face with a towel and took a sip from a beer bottle courtesy of the back rooms supply.

     

Well, old sport,he said to Marco, we did it again.

     May the Goddess of Junkies be with us always,Marcos usual prayer. He clinked his bottle with Davids.

     Shall we be off darling?David raised one eye brow and cocked his arm.

     With pleasure, mi belleza,Marco linked his arm with Davids and grabbed the lap top/ register with his right. They walked together out of the garage and started to pass the truck.

     Nice job, fellas!David said as the men were finishing putting the bags of cash into the truck. Now after you and your boss divide up the money, send our shares to the addresses I gave you.  T.T.F.N! Ta-ta, for n-

     Wait,one of the men said closing up the truck.

     David and Marco stopped in their tracks and unhooked their arms. Yeeeees?David asked, turning towards them.

     Mr. Thorne would like to speak with you,the man said.

     Ah, shit, David,Marco whispered. Were fucked. I told you we were fucked. Were-

     I got this,David whispered and turned back to the two men. And, uh, why would Mr. Thorne like to speak with us?

     Thats what Rick and me are wondering too,the man and his partner Rick smiled at each other.

     Rick and I.

     What?The man stopped smiling.

     Rick and I,David said. Grammar.

     Rick pulled out a knife and walked up to David. How about you apologize to Steve for being a smart ass or Ill rip that fuckintongue out of your fuckinmouth?

     My mistake,David said. Steve, I apologize. How about Marco and I get in our car and we follow you and well gladly see what Mr. Thorne wants to speak with us about, eh?

     Rick looked at Steve and nodded. Steve nodded back. Okay, but if you dont follow us-

     If we dont follow you,David said. I will personally mail you my dick and balls in a package with a bow on top.He smiled at Rick, wanting to murder him.

     Rick sheathed his knife. Get in your car,returning to his partner.

     Thank you, boys, well meet again shortly,David gave them both a salute, clicking his heels, and he and Marco walked down the alleyway.

     Dont freak out,David said to Marco when they were out of ear shot.

     Fuck you, Im freaking out! David, this is Rupert Thorne were talking about here. Were playing with the big leagues now. I heard this one time, he fed a guy to the lions at the zoo just for coughing near him.

     Were too important Marco. Ive already told you, Thorne loses us, he loses a lot of money.

     No, David,Marco stopped him, Thorne loses you, he loses a lot of money. Im expendable.

     David looked at him and knew that he was right. Marco was a part of the team, but he knew deep down in the worst part of himself, he didnt need him. He could find any old guy on the street desperate enough to handle drug money. Friendship makes fools of us all he smirked as the thought entered his head.

     Well, here we are,David said gesturing theatrically to the car. Your chariot awaits.

     Their chariot was a 2006 P.T. Cruiser. The years of dust and age had turned the bright rose color body into a dark maroon. Its hubcaps had been replaced multiple times and the ghosts of obscenities still haunted the back windshield from when vandals wrote on it. The front of the car was dented, the headlights resembling a boxers eyes that had been beaten to a pulp. David had called it the Poor Mans Batmobile.

     Old man car,Marco grumbled as he got into the passenger seat.

     Its not old, Marco,David closed his door. It’s retro.

     Well, whatever it is, we need to find a new one,Marco put the register in the glove compartment.

     Several seconds later, the eighteen wheeler slowly rolled out of the alleyway. The cruiser lurched forward with a high pitched squeal and followed it. The side of King Beach that they were on was not the good side of town. Houses stood behind chain link fences and barred windows. Ronan dogs walked the streets aimlessly, their eyes glowing whenever the light of the cars would shine on them. Garbage cans were open half-empty and drunk hobos yelled baby-talk slurs at them. This was not the place you took tourists, but to David, it was Wall Street. The place where he made the most green. It wasnt pretty, but it sure was home. They went down Matheson Street, a red minnow following an iron shark.

     Rupert Thornes apartment, however, was located on the nice side of town. Rice Avenue was where all of the wealthy lived in King Beach. Huge towers of glass lined the concrete sidewalks. Stores selling furs skinned from foxes and diamonds cut by the hard working sick children of Africa sat with their amber lights on, waiting for the bees to take their price tagged honey. Marcos mouth started to water as they passed a restaurant window where a couple was eating a gorgeously prepared full sized lobster. In this Eden, the fruit of the Tree of Life was money.

     Davids cell phone rang. Thank you for calling 1-800- Sexy Time, how may I blow you?He asked in a soft tone.

     Park at the front of Thorne Tower,Rick said on the other end. Well meet you in the lobby.

     Aye, aye, captain,David hung up.

        Thorne Tower was the tallest building on the street. Its lights seemed to touch the clouds. David parked the Cruiser and they both got out.

     Were going to meet them in the lobby,David pushed a button and the door locked with a goose-honk. There they go!The eighteen wheeler turned the corner and down the alley to a private garage somewhere so that the money could be dispensed.

     A bellhop opened the doors of the building, Davids bow to him left the poor boy confused. The lobby was decorated from floor to ceiling with white marble. The bright florescent light bulbs from above made them shimmer. Beautiful red carpet lined the floor and a giant flower arrangement stood as the centerpiece. With their hands politely in front of them, they turned and smiled to an old man behind the desk. He looked back at them as if two giant rats had just walked into the building. David looked behind him and saw a golden Ton the back wall.

     You think were in the right place?He whispered to Marco. But before his partner could answer, Rick and Steve walked in.

     Come,Rick said.

     With us,Steve said.

      Nice trick,David said and followed them.

     They entered a chrome-plated elevator and patiently stood in silence. Listening to Kenny G as they reached the sixty-sixth floor. Ding! The doors slid opened.

     The hallways were no longer made of marble, but were covered with equally white wall paper. As they past the doors, they heard televisions going on in each room. David couldnt tell if one person was either crying or laughing. At the end of the hallway was a pair of double-doors marked: ROOM 217.Rick knocked and the doors opened. 

     Rupert Thornes apartment was two stories high. The back wall was a huge glass window overlooking Rice Avenue. Pictures of Thorne shaking hands with celebrities and politicians decorated the room. Original Van Goughs, OKeeffes, and Basquiats were also peppered all over the room. A grand piano stood near the dining table. Crystal chandeliers hung from above.

     Remove your shoes,Rick said as he and his partner did the same.

     David and Marco followed their lead. David awkwardly hopped on one foot as he tried to get his right shoe off. With one final pull, he almost lost it and would have sent it hitting the wall if he hadnt grasped it. All four of them left their shoes out in a designated box placed next to the doors.

     Good evening, gentlemen,Thorne said descending the winding staircase. He was in his sixties. His face was made lizard-like by the years of the Botox. He wore a white suit with a gold chain necklace over the tiny bush of gray hair that peaked from his shirt. He looked to David like an eighties porn director. So glad you could come at such a late hour.

     The pleasures all ours, sir,David stuck out his hand. No time for jokes. He put on his professional face.

     Absolutely, sir,Marco said, sticking out his hand as well. A real pleasure.

     Thorne kept his hands close to his body. He eyed them up and down. Yes. Yes, it is. Can I get you boys a drink?

     No, sir,David and Marco said together.

     Cute,Thorne chuckled, pouring himself a glass of whisky from the bar. Real cute.He put the top of the class container back in with a pop and gestured the pair to follow him. Like the place?

     Yes, sir,David said looking out the giant window. Beautiful view. We dont get this type of sight from where we live.Fake humility got him a long way in his career.

     Ha!Thorne barked. I bet you dont, I bet you dont!He led them into his office. A huge room completely covered in baseball memorabilia. The space surrounding the desk were sections of glass cases lined with autographed baseballs. Miniature lights were placed in the cases for optimum viewing. The back wall was a vertical display of signed wooden bats. He motioned for them to sit down as he did from the other side. David noticed that the chairs gave the illusion that they were shorter than Thorne. He felt like a little kid in the principals office. The desk had numerous awards placed around it. A framed picture of Thorne with a little boy about seven years old holding a fishing rod was the only sign of a personal life the two had seen of the millionaire so far. Seeing him smiling gave him an even more reptilian appearance.

     Is that your son?Marco asked pointing at the picture.

     Huh? Oh, that! No, no. Thats my grandson. He should be about twelve now.

     Do you spend a lot of time with him?

     No.

     Wheres Mrs. ThorneDavid asked. Is she out?

     Thorne sat down, setting his drink, and placing his hands together. Boys, youre probably wondering why Ive asked you here.

     Yes sir,they both said in unison again. Thorne didnt laugh this time.

     See, I know how you young guys start. Bottom of the ladder and you work yourselves up. First just doing street deals, then for the local gang lords, then you arrive at people such as myself. Ive seen a lot of dealers in my time, a lot. But you two, you two are something special. The two of you are like the Lennon and McCartney of your world. Or, at least, you could be. Right now, youre just playing gigs in abandoned wine sellers. What you need is your very own Brian Epstein. Someone that knows that you have extraordinary talent and can sell it to the masses. This is obviously where I come in. The two of you and I have only worked once. But, after getting to know each other a little bit more, I really think that we can form a team. I can be your Fifth Beatle, so to speak.

     Im sorry,David said. I dont follow you, sir.

     I didnt expect you to,Thorne smiled. Yes, I think we could make a good team. The problem is that Ive heard from others that you and Marco here have a little bit more Mick and Keith than Paul and John in you. The two of you like to play things a little fast and loose. My colleagues in your world have told me that you dont really respect the people above you. That you can be. . . unpredictable.

     Oh, Im sorry sir, but I disagree,David said. Its not that we disagree with our employers, its just that, you know, we like to do things our way sometimes.He was being coy, but David knew exactly what Thorne was talking about. Their previous bosses: Salvatore Valestra, Chuckie Sol, Buzz Bronski, all of them he must have called. They must have warned him about how they (mostly David) didnt give a shit about the rules. How they back talked, double-crossed, and stole from them. David was starting to sweat.

     Thorne got up from his desk with a loud sigh. He went to the baseball bat collection behind him and stood there with his back facing them. Do you know why I love baseball, boys?

     No-Marco cleared his throat, no, sir, we dont. Why do you love baseball?

    “Because I can do this,” Thorne picked up a bat, ran over, and slammed it right into Davids face. There was a loud cracking sound as wood connected with bone. David let out a scream as he was sent flying back in his chair and on to the floor.

     Dont you fucking dare get blood on to my carpet, boy,Thorne said. Dont you fucking dare.

     David clutched his nose with both hands, tears streaming from his eyes.Fuck you!

     Thorne punched him, his gold ring, leaving an imprint on Davids forehead. Dont you fucking tell me what to do, you little shit.

     Rick and Steve entered the room. Marco was standing, frozen in place.

     I know what you young punks are like,Thorne continued. Always thinking that the world is yours and fuck the previous generation. Well, Ill tell you what buddy, until Im in the ground I control you. I make the rules. I run this streets. I own this building. If you ever think about playing with me, I will cut off your own dick and shove it down your own throat. Do you understand me?

     Ssssss,David screamed through his hands.

     What the fuck did you say?Thorne said. He grabbed David by the scruff of his shirt and pressed his face against his. I cant fucking hear you! WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU SAY?

     

YES!

     Thorne let go and stood up. Good. Now get the fuck out of my house.

     Marco regained his senses and rushed to David. He waved him off and slowly got back up. As they walked down the hall, Marco put his arm around him. David was holding his hands over his mouth, making loud gasping noises as he did so. Trying with every fiber of his being not to get his mucus and blood on to Mr. Thornes nice carpet. Rick and Steve followed.

     As they were reaching the door, David heard Thorne mumbling to himself. Got blood on my Babe Ruth. Jesus fucking Christ.

     Thats when something clicked in him. It was the little voice in the back of his brain. The Little Devil that he had since he was a kid. The one that told him not to do his homework. The one that told him to carve a hole into the girls locker room.  The one that told him to spray a water hose at the hornets nest. The Little Devil said: Fuck. This. Guy.

     Hey, Rupert,David said as best as he could.

     Yeah, dickhead?Thorne looked up.

     Use the metal one next time,working through the pain, David held his left nostril in one hand and blew bloody snot on to the carpet as hard as he could. He and Marco grabbed their shoes and ran out the door.

     The elevator ride down was completely silent with the exception of Davids wet, clogged breathing through his broken nose. Both he and Marco walked through the lobby in unison. The man at the desk looked at them with wide eyes and raised eye brows. The bellhop kept his head down as they walked by.

     Do you know where the nearest hospital is?David asked Marco as he walked to his side of the car.

     Im walking home,Marco said.

     What?

       Fucking deaf? I said Im walking home, David. You can find yourself a new partner.He made his way down the sidewalk.

     Marco?David said. Marco? Shit.He got into the car and drove down the road.

     

Dont follow me, David,Marco said, eyes on the concrete.

     Your house is miles away from here, man,David said through the open window. Let me take you.

     Ill get a bus or a cab. Anything but you.

     Look, I made a mistake, okay? You know me, I get a little cocky and-

     Cocky?Marco stopped and looked him. No, David. What you did up there wasnt cocky. What you did up there wasnt stupid. What you did up there was insane. I mean, Grade A insanity. Im sick of your bullshit. You just think you can do whatever you want without any blow back, huh? You’ve been this way since we were kids, man. Are you ever going to grow up or are you just going to have to learn by getting buried six feet under?

     Marco, would you calm down,David said. Hes not going to do anything. Those dickless rich dudes use that baseball bat routine all the time. Replace a carpet? He shits that kind of money every morning.

     Jesus, no wonder your parents disowned you.

     What?David slammed on the breaks and yanked the gear into park. He got out and was inches away from Marcos face. What the fuck did you say to me?

     Have you ever thought about what your life wouldve been like if you had just listened to them?

     Dont make this about me. This isnt about me. You decided to get into this with me, remember?

     No, David, its all about you,Marco said. See, you need to learn that you have a gift. A bad, dangerous gift. You have a gift for making the lives of others around you miserable. Me, Christi, whoever. People arent people to you. Theyre just debris that gets thrown around from your hurricane. Your mom and dad and Sam knew that too. They were smart. They kicked you out of house and now youre standing on a sidewalk with a broken nose, selling drugs to junk-David clocked him right in the jaw, sending him down on to the pavement.

     Dont you ever talk about my family again!David said.

     Marco got up and wiped tears from his eyes. So thats how you treat your best friend, huh?

     Come on, hit me,David said. Or are you too much of a pussy?

     Marco smiled, rubbing his chin. Nah, man. Im done with you.He walked past him.

     Where are you going?David turned. Fucking pussy!

     Marco continued to walk down the street.

     Hey, fuck you too, man!David called after him. One of these days, youre going to wake up and realize that David Frye was right! That you need me. You need the Salesman! You hear that? You fucking need me!Marco was now just a tiny spot on the horizon. Then, a sudden chill came over David. He looked around and saw nothing but the lights of expensive buildings. It was a strange sensation, like he was being watched. He got into the Cruiser and drove, sending a scream of rubber and metal down Rice Avenue.

***

     Two hours later, David was back at his apartment. He had finally found a hospital on the way home. He told them that he fell down a flight of stairs. They had bandaged him up, gave him some meds, and told him that it would heal in about three weeks.

     Honey!He called as he opened the door. Im home!

     Daaaaaaaaaviiiiiiiid!She was high. That was the voice that she used whenever she was high. Where have you been?

     The person known as Christi walked briskly over to him, her bare feet made a soft sucking sound as skin made contact with the smooth wooden floor. Personwas a generous term. Christi had resembled a person when she and David first met. Tall, blonde, and beautiful. Now, she resembled a corpse. Her eyes were huge and sunken, her skin was gray, and her teeth were now the color of her hair. Her flesh clung to her bones for dear life. It was hard to imagine that she was once at the top of their senior class.

     Oh my God!She gasped at the sight of him. Baby, what happened?

     Nothing, it was-David thought about explaining the situation to her, but that quickly went away. Shed forget about it by morning. Just nothing.

     Davids face looked almost as bad as his girlfriends. There were purple circles over his eyes and a huge white bandage covered his nose. A thin white strip of gauze was under that, making him look like the Phantom of the Opera.

     Come here, honey, sit down,Christi wrapped a stick-arm around him and gestured over to the couch. Let me get you some water.

     He sat down on the couch with a thump. He slowly felt himself sink into the cushions like quicksand. The apartment was one of the nicer ones in the projects. That is to say, terrible. The paint on the walls was faded and chipped. A few bulbs were on to save electricity and the rest were broken. A few lit candles were placed here and there. The sound of the boat horn on the way to the landfill was about as common as birds chirping. Through the amber glow, David saw a manila envelope along with Christis used needle and belt on the table.

     Is this the payment from the last job?He said holding up the envelope.

     Yyyyyyep!She sang from the kitchen. She stumbled over with the glass of water and sat it down.

     David opened the envelope and counted the money. Five-thousand. He took a hundred and placed it in his pocket. The rest he put on the table.

     Is that the money were going to use to save for our trip?

     Sure,David drank a little bit of water. Taking long gasps of breath between sips. He was lying; he had promised her that they would go to Hawaii on vacation one of these days. He said it just to shut her up.

     I cant wait to go Hawaii,Christi said with a yellow smile. I love the beach.

     Weve already got a beach here.

     Yeah, but this ones different,she paused. Her eyes got narrow like a cats. Someones grumpy.She straddled him. I know how to make it alllllll better.She started kissing him on the neck.

     About a year ago, this would have gotten him at his full and upright position immediately. A woman like Christi would have done that to any man. But not now. Seeing track marks on her arms and legs made her look alien. Making love to a skeleton was not a good way to end the night.

     Listen, hey, baby,David touched her shoulders and looked at her. Ive had a really bad day, okay? Can we not do this tonight?

     Oh,she looked sad. Okay,She got off of him.

     He walked over to the closet and flipped on the switch. He reached up and took out a cardboard box with FAMILYscrawled on it. He took the hundred out of his pocket and put it in the box amongst the others. Before putting it back, he looked down at the black marker handwriting. The thing that he held in his hand felt heavier than usual. The box felt like a relic from a past life He felt it start to come up, very slowly, from his memory. Mom, Dad, Sam. That family turned into Marco and then Christi. The girl in the other room was one of the few things he had in his life that even resembled it. She had gotten him a glass of water when he was hurt. She tried to comfort him, knowing that something was wrong and he had loved her for that.

     Hey,Christi,he said as he put away the box and flipped off the switch. Have I ever told you that I-

     He walked into the room to see her passed out on the couch. The feeling slowly went away, as it often did.

***

Twenty-five year old David Frye is known as the best drug dealer in King Beach, California. But when a local gangster calls for his head on a plate, he is made an offer that he can’t refuse by an unlikely source. A mafia clan of vampires has chosen him to test run their new business venture: use the drug trading system as a way to distribute human blood amongst themselves. David accepts and is quickly swept away by the seductive world of the undead. That is until he begins to suspect that there might be something far more insidious at work than what he had originally bargained for. Encountering vampire history, a secret government agency of monster hunters, and more; David is confronted with the darkness within himself and is forced to come to terms with the horrors that he has unleashed. Both terrifying and thought provoking, BLOOD TRADE gives vampires their bite back.