Free Ebook for the Spooky Season

Front cover of Don't Lose Your Head. A suit and tie without a head above it, and a background of black drips on a gray wall.

With Halloween around the corner, I thought this would be a good time to offer my ghost-story novella for free. The ebook of Don’t Lose Your Head won’t cost you a dime — or a trade of some candy that you’ve bought to hand out to trick-or-treaters. (Although I wouldn’t say no to a Kit Kat or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.)

The ebook is available at Amazon. It’ll be free through Tuesday, November 2.

Here’s a little about the book:

When you leave for a trip, who knows you’re gone from your house? Family and friends, sure. Neighbors, perhaps.

So does the chauffeur who drove you to the airport. Alan Burris takes advantage of working for a car service to know when clients will be away from their houses for several nights. Some houses are easier, since they don’t have a security system — and these houses are on his list for a night visit to steal valuables.

The Resnick house has been on Alan’s list for a while, and now it will be empty for a few nights, since Mr. and Mrs. Resnick are spending a long weekend in Chicago.

But is the house really empty? Alan’s about to find out what it’s like to not be alone in the house, his car, his apartment, and his head. And with another person hanging around, to what length will Alan go to get rid of them?


If you’d like to tip-toe into the metaphorical tulips of this story, an excerpt of the first chapter is here.

Excerpt: ‘Other Lives of the Boothbys’

Yesterday, I promised (warned?) that an excerpt would arrived today, from my novella Other Lives of the Boothbys.

And now here’s the section where Bradley Boothby calls the writer George Foulkes to chat about a character in one of George’s stories…


Excerpt

Dialing the phone number on the screen, Bradley hoped George Foulkes wouldn’t ignore the call. If George had caller ID (and didn’t most people?), he wouldn’t recognize this number and might assume it was a telemarketer. George could let the call go to voicemail.

“Hello?”

“Hi. Is this George Foulkes?”

“That’s me. Who’s this?”

Bradley didn’t have a flair for the dramatic. If he did, he could’ve deepened his voice, wishing to sound like a theatrical voice from beyond. Bradley said his own name in his normal voice.

Silence that could’ve lasted an hour but was merely a handful of seconds.

“Is this the editor again?” George asked. “No, I guess not. The number’s different. So’s the voice. Who is this, really?”

“I’m really Bradley Boothby. The editor called you because I went to his office this morning. I asked him to look up my name in his company’s books, and he discovered it in yours.”

“But my book isn’t published by his company,” George said. “I’m sending it around.”

“Okay, so that part’s wrong. But the book was at his company. And my name’s in your book.”

“Oh my God.” The writer’s caution dropped its luggage and jumped into excitement. “My own character is calling me. Do you have a quest for me? Or do you want me to chronicle more of your adventures?”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Is this like in The Dark Tower?”

“Dark what?”

“A book series by Stephen King,” George said. “The characters visit King, and they convince him to continue writing the series. Well, they hypnotize him to keep going. He was afraid of being killed by the Crimson King. And with good reason. It’s a fantastic series. King’s a master of his craft, and I like stories about parallel realities.”

Bradley pinched the bridge of his nose, and the pressure helped to center his thoughts. “I’m wondering if I’m in a parallel reality.”

“Is it like ours? Or is it a post-apocalyptic wasteland?”

“It’s not a wasteland. Not yet.”

“Too bad,” George said. “It would’ve had more opportunities for characters to act like savages. But you calling me is huge. Never in a million years did I think one of my characters would call me.”

“I’m not your character,” Bradley said.

“Oh yeah? Do you own a storage facility?”

“No, and I didn’t find a time machine.”

“Then how do you know about the time machine?” George asked.

“Jack Schneider told me. We just had drinks, and he told me about your novel, how you got the idea for the name of the characters.”

“I know you’re not the people from the booth. They’re not my characters.”

“And I’m not, either!” Bradley’s volume was louder than he had meant.

Danielle looked worried at her husband, leaning against the kitchen counter, growing more agitated, his arm held across his chest propping up his other arm holding the phone at his ear. The past couple weeks had put a strain on Bradley, and today’s revelations made it worse. They should’ve improved the situation, by providing answers. However, not all answers gave relief, instead causing troubles of their own.

“This is disappointing,” George said. “Especially since you don’t have a time machine. That’d be more incredible than incredible.”

“Believe me, if I owned a time machine, I’d be rich,” Bradley said. “I’d go back in time and buy the stocks that would make me rich. And I’d live in a much bigger place.”

Bradley didn’t have to look around the kitchen to remember its dimensions and middle-of-the-line appliances. He and Danielle fantasized about owning a rowhouse, rather than renting this apartment. They were saving money for that dream.

“Okay, okay,” George said, enthusiasm drained from his voice. “So you’re not my character. It would be cool if you were, though.”

“Gosh, thanks for acknowledging me as a real person.”

“I deserve the sarcasm,” the writer said. “Why’d you ask the editor to look up your name?”

As Bradley gave the background of the persistent déjà vu outside of Randolph-Turley, it was easier to talk about. Growing accustomed to it with practice. George asked if the feeling was one that Bradley often had, and Bradley said he rarely felt it before the recent happening with the publishing company. Before, the feeling was minor, going to a place and having the sense he had been there but was unable remember the specific memory.

Bradley pictured George sitting cross-legged on a rug, peering through eyeglasses, a notepad resting on his lap, pen jotting down nuggets of information. The writer turned into therapist. Wanting to delve into the inner workings of this situation, discover what made it tick.

“We find ourselves in a fascinating place, don’t we?” George asked. “Here’s how I see it. You could hang up, and this whole thing is over. You found your answer about my character. You can chalk it up to random shit in a random world.”

“Sounds about right,” Bradley said.

“But this doesn’t have to end here. We can keep going.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning the universe aligned to put us together,” George said. “I don’t know why, but it did. We should get together in person.”

“You want to come to New York and meet up?”

“Or you could come here. I’ve got it.” Excitement returned to the writer’s voice. “How about we meet the people in the booth? My wife and I are regulars at the diner. We’ve seen those people there before. Wouldn’t that blow your mind? Boothby could meet the Boothbys.”

Bradley pondered such a meeting. “I think it would blow your mind more than it would blow mine. They’re just regular people to me.”

“You’re sort of connected to them. Think it over. It would be a shame to end things with this phone call.”

Bradley said he would consider the idea, then he hung up and told Danielle about George’s invitation. She didn’t share the writer’s thrill about meeting strangers who happened to be eating in the booth behind George Foulkes and his wife on a particular night. Kansas City, Missouri wasn’t a subway ride from Brooklyn.

***

Breaking the Fourth Wall

Photo of a hole in drywall within a house.
by Lujia Zhang/Unsplash

Yesterday, I posted a review of Horrorshow, and I wanted to follow that with a post about another aspect of the novel.

This post has a spoiler for Horrorshow, so if you plan on reading it, you might want to stop reading here.

(Well, the post’s title is big clue, but try to forget that.)

Moving on…

In that book, just beyond halfway through it, the main character (Riley) starts coming to grips with the notion that he could be a character in a novel. I’ve learned that the phrase to describe the situation is “breaking the fourth wall.” The Free Dictionary gives a background how that got started:

“Taken originally from theater, in which the fourth wall describes the invisible ‘wall’ that stands between the audience and the stage.”

I can’t remember when I first heard about the concept, but it’s a fascinating one. The idea that a writer can develop self-awareness in their characters, so they realize (or are told) that they’re within a story.

A helpful video on “metafiction” is on YouTube: Understanding Metafiction (Literature, Films and Video Games).

The movie Stranger Than Fiction (2006) explores the idea when Harold begins to hear, inside his head, a narrator describing his life. I enjoyed that movie, and it planted a seed in my mind to eventually write a metafictiony story.

Years later, I heard the Radiolab episode, “The Real Don Quixote” (2015). The show’s guest Bruce Burningham (professor at Illinois State University) talks about how Miguel Cervantes broke the fourth wall in the sequel of Quixote’s adventures. In Part Two, the character Sampson Carrasco tells Don Quixote and Sancho Panza about the Part One book and drops the news that they’re characters.

The episode set the brain gears turning, then I wrote a flash-fiction piece “Characters in a Story,” in which two characters chat about the suspicion that they are, yes, characters in a story. Maybe funny in an absurd way, but too much like a writing exercise.

I came up with a broader story, and that flash-fiction piece is within it: Other Lives of the Boothbys

Cover for Other Lives of the Boothbys, with the title included within other text that's not important and grayed out.

Bradley Boothby has also seen Stranger Than Fiction, and he feels déjà vu when he walks by the building for Randolph-Turley Publishing Company. Bradley doesn’t think he’s a fictional character, but he feels he is somehow connected to a story published by that company. So Bradley takes the step of entering the building and talking with an editor to see if, somehow, his name is included in one of their books.

That meeting sets off a series of events. Included in those, the editor Jack Schneider and the writer George Foulkes write passages of books inspired by Bradley’s quest. Jack Schneider takes a crack at writing scenes of two characters forming a deeper relationship. George Foulkes starts a new story in which another writer is visited by his characters from a post-apocalyptic world.

I had fun writing Other Lives of the Boothbys, trying to come up with how different people could be inspired, then act on that inspiration. All of the writing process wasn’t fun, as self-doubt continued to pop up. I wondered if people would find the book boring. But in the end, I was pleased with the story, and I’m proud of it.

Tomorrow, I’ll post an excerpt from the book. Ah, the suspense…

But if you can’t wait for 24 hours, you can read an excerpt from the novella’s beginning here (I posted it last year).

Audio of 4 ‘Dancing Fish’ Poems

I dipped my toe into the audiobook world by narrating four poems from my book The Dancing Fish.

This is something I’ve wanted to try and see how it goes. A different way of experiencing the poems. At first recording (using my cell phone), I sounded dorky and stilted. Then practice, practice, practice. Until I sounded more natural. And narrating became more fun as I relaxed more.

The four poems that I read on the video are:

  • “The Dancing Fish”
  • “Popcorn Tree”
  • “Quirky Miss Q”
  • “Xob of Chocolates”

If you’d rather see the video on YouTube, click here. If you watch it, please remember that I’m not a professional audiobook narrator 🙂

Free Ebook: ‘The Dancing Fish’

Front cover of book: A fish dances on the surface of the ocean. It wears a top hat and carries a cane. A lighthouse flashes its beam in the background.

Do you like playful poetry and drawings? You do? Well, my friend, you’ve come to the right place!

Today through Wednesday, the ebook version my book, The Dancing Fish, will be …. (wait for it) … FREE!

That’s Aug. 16 through 18, 2021 if you’re seeing this post in the future. (Has Dippin’ Dots stopped using the slogan “Ice cream of the future” and is using “Ice cream of the here and now” yet?)

You can grab your free copy here on Amazon.

Not ready to take the plunge and get the book?

Here’s a little background about the book: I was inspired by Shel Silverstein’s books to write silly poems in the hopes of causing my two daughters to giggle. They’re now in their late teens, and I’ve put together a book of many of those poems, along with drawings.

And here’s a bit from the book’s blurb:

Buds on a tree grow into popcorn… a cheese danish escapes… Pomegranate Janet visits a city… a pirate captain changes his life… a ghost tries to scare Maya.

These happenings happen in this collection of poems and drawings. If you count the haiku as a group, there are 100 poems in the book. But if you count the haiku individually, there are 106 poems. Most are accompanied by a black-and-white drawing, some in lovely tones of gray.

You could say these poems are for children, but they’re also for adults with youthful sides that come out for recess.

Still not ready to take the plunge and get the book?

Not only are you a snappy dresser, you’re also a discerning shopper when it comes to free merchandise!

Check out samples of some of the poems in the book:

Free Ebook: ‘Red Tree’

Cover of The Red Tree. The background is white. An image of a leaf-less tree is in black, with red tips of the branches.

The next ebook that can be scooped up for free is much shorter than the previous novellas. The Red Tree is free today through Friday (July 23). If you’d like to scoop up the book, click here.

A description of this story…

While rain falls for weeks, the Engler family invites friends over for an evening of dealing with cabin fever together. And when the spring sun arrives, the Englers celebrate by walking in a wooded park, where they encounter a red tree away from the trail. Guesses abound as to why the tree is red when none of the other trees are.

Life returns to normal for most of the Englers. The father, Calvin, decides the red tree was a sign for him to make changes in his life and property. Changes the family and neighbors don’t quite understand. But some family members can be eccentric, and others learn to roll with it. 

A short story about family, experiencing the mysterious, and letting your imagination loose.

Even shorter than the story is its excerpt, which can be found here.

Free Ebook: ‘Don’t Lose Your Head’

Cover of Don't Lose Your Head. The background is dark gray, with black drips. In the foreground is a photo showing a business suit and tie -- but there is no head above the suit.

A ghost story is my next ebook to be free — starting today and lasting through Tuesday (July 20). This novella, Don’t Lose Your Head, can be found on Amazon.

A little more about this spooky book…

When you leave for a trip, who knows you’re gone from your house? Family and friends, sure. Neighbors, perhaps.

So does the chauffeur who drove you to the airport. Alan Burris takes advantage of working for a car service to know when clients will be away from their houses for several nights. Some houses are easier, since they don’t have a security system — and these houses are on his list for a night visit to steal valuables.

The Resnick house has been on Alan’s list for a while, and now it will be empty for a few nights, since Mr. and Mrs. Resnick are spending a long weekend in Chicago.

But is the house really empty? Alan’s about to find out what it’s like to not be alone in the house, his  car, his apartment, and his head. And with another person hanging around, to what length will Alan go to get rid of them?

You can discover how this story starts by reading an excerpt of the first chapter here.

Free Ebook: ‘Minotaur at the Door’

Cover of The Minotaur at the Door. The background is medium blue, and before it is a silhouette of the minotaur.

Next in my staggered schedule of free ebooks during July involves myth and the fantastical, since it includes a minotaur in the modern day. You can snag an ebook of The Minotaur at the Door at Amazon.

This ebook will be free through Saturday (July 17).

Okay, so the book has a minotaur — no duh, the word’s in the title — but can you tell us more?

Sure!

Is that an actual minotaur knocking at the front door, or is it somebody pranking Pablo, Miles, and Harry?

The three men renting rooms in the house have their doubts about the reality of the creature, but only Pablo seeks to learn more. He wants to meet the minotaur. And find out why he is visiting their neighborhood.

Pablo’s journey alternates chapters with the events of Daedalus and his son Icarus, centuries before Pablo. These chapters breathe life and detail into the myth of Asterion, the first minotaur, and Daedalus and Icarus’s imprisonment in the labyrinth. How father and son deal with being stuck in the maze and how they craft a plan to escape.

To dip your toes in the story with an excerpt, click here.

Free Ebook: ‘Other Lives of the Boothbys’

Cover of Other Lives of the Boothbys. The background is light blue. The title is embedded in other lines of text that are softened by being gray, while the title is in black

Another of my ebooks is available for free: Other Lives of the Boothbys. The promotion starts today and will last through Wednesday (July 14). Download the ebook from here on Amazon.

What is this book about?

Bradley Boothby has no idea why he feels déjà vu when walking by the office building for Rayburn-Turley Publishing. 

Is he included in one of the publishing company’s books? If so, why? Did an author spy on Bradley to steal his life story, which isn’t all that dramatic? The thoughts are far-fetched, so he dismisses them.

But the strange sensation persists, and Bradley finally acts, needing to find if the déjà vu has a foundation. His search touches off consequences for an editor and writer, as they have an impact on each other’s lives. 

Still undecided whether to get a free ebook? Read an excerpt here.

Free Ebook: ‘Jumble’

Front cover of Jumble book. The background is orange, and little drawings are in the JUMBLE title. Drawings such as an elephant, pipe, sock, and bagpipes

Starting today and lasting through Sunday (July 11), you can get the ebook version FREE of Jumble: Stories and Drawings! If you’re interested, head over to Amazon to pick it up.

More of my ebooks will be given away during July, on a staggered schedule.

I hope to get more readers checking out my stories. And if you’d like to add to your summer reading, here’s a way to do it without spending a dime. (Of course, you can also borrow books from the library, but these books are indie grown.) So keep watching this space for upcoming posts of more ebooks enjoying free days.

What is Jumble about?

In this quirky collection, you’ll find 18 short stories and 68 drawings, which are independent of the stories, although a few drawings echo something in the stories, a fine example being an elephant.

Examples of the stories include a man finding joy in a pancake house, a girl interrogated because she picked up the king’s rolling crown, elderly Claude Monet visiting his long-time friend Renoir, a science fiction writer donning a cap of electrodes hooked up to a computer so his dreams could be transcribed, and a group of private detectives hired to research the possibility of reincarnation.

The drawings lean toward the cartoonish and simply illustrated, which could be criticized if you’re of the mindset that drawings need to be highly detailed for them to even begin to be considered of decent quality. Actually, one “drawing” is a kind of flowchart and another is a kind of list, so their categorization as drawings is debatable. Yet the nonexistent marketing team for this book argued that saying it contains 66 drawings, 1 flowchart, and 1 list is too clunky to include in the book’s description.

Want a sample before you make the leap to grab the book? An excerpt from the story “Pancake House” is here.

The 18 short stories are:

  • Pancake House
  • Elephant Curve Road
  • Sock and Glove
  • Bagpipes on the Wind
  • Claude
  • Hidden Spaceship
  • What Dreams May Be Written
  • Uneasy Lies the Head
  • Arrivals, Departures
  • You to the Nth Power
  • Up and Down Stairs
  • Away from the Orchard
  • Auto-reply
  • Farthingstone Manor
  • Streets of the New City
  • That Time You Were a Princess
  • Time Stood Still
  • The Loving Type