The Artist Returneth With Announcements


Hello readers! Resident artist here to tell you that good things are on their way. As many of you know, The Object: Book II will begin it’s serialization in May. That’s right, in just a few short weeks you’ll have access to the continuing saga of our heroes and villains.

Secondly, I’d like to go ahead and state that I’d like to change the art style up a little bit, and this is where I’d the help of you, the reader.

https://i0.wp.com/comicrelated.com/graphics/chew_cov02.jpg

Artwork by Rob Guillory. A step away from realism, but caricatured characters can sometimes be much more expressive.

I’ve always been a fan of graphic novels. I’ve been reading The Walking Dead, trying to get caught up with the show (although it deviates so much from the book that it could hardly be called catching up, right?) and also Chew.  I love the art style of those two. The man who does the covers for The Walking Dead (Tony Moore) is flat out excellent, and I love the quasi-realism that his work has. I also enjoy the flexibility that a step away from realism offers in graphic novels like Chew. With illustration styles such as this, more work can be produced in a lesser amount of time.

So, that’s one style I’d like to work with.

https://i1.wp.com/www.imaginistix.com/images/centaur_image2.jpg

An example of the work of Boris Vallejo. Truly a new master.

However, I’ve always loved concept art and illustration from Wizards of the Coast and White Wolf Publishing. Collectively they produce all things related to Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and World of Darkness. Not to mention I always had a soft spot for the old-school RA Salvatore book covers, and old new-masters like Boris Vallejo. The clarity and reality of this style of illustration is unmatched in bringing a person into the world of the story, yet the downside is that it takes countless hours to produce just one work of art.

So that’s another route entirely.

But seeing as how any foray into uncharted territory is good for building character, I’d like to know what you think. Post below what kind of style you’d like to see more of. A more gritty, visceral graphic novel style, or an expanded polished illustration style.

Second on the announcement list is this:

I’ve finally gotten my Etsy shop open! After badgering for months. Months. M-o-n-t-h-s… I’ve finally taken Winston’s advice and created a Facebook like page, and my Etsy shop…

Neat, eh?

If you all would like to see more of my art, click the banner above, or just visit here every once in a while, I’ll be doing posts about new art as I make it.

And finally, I do want to mention one more thing, pertaining to those who live in Louisville specifically…

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

Me and Winston often venture out of our caves to set up and do some street promotion. Recently we’ve been spotted on Bardstown Road between Cafe 360 and Hey Tiger just down the block. We take up residence for the afternoon spreading the word of The Object, and I bring out any available art I have to sell as well and display it. The next time we’re out and about, come meet us in person! We love networking and meeting our fans, so if you happen to be a local of Louisville, don’t be surprised to see two strange men with a stack of books and a stack of art posted up on any given warm weekend.

I will return. Until then, stay classy, readers.

The Artist Speaks – Part 1


Hello readers. It is I, the artist for The Object.

A metal cast block showing a Cthulhu like squid figure.

In late June 2012, a relic was found in modern-day Iraq, dated to roughly 20,000 BC, depicting a strange, squid-like creature. Tests are being conducted at Boston University to ascertain the origin of this artifact.

I’ve remained voiceless for the entirety of the Object’s youth. Why?

Because I’m the art guy, not the writer.

But now that The Object has matured and blossomed from its humble beginnings, it may be time for my presence to be known.

And after all, haven’t we all got a story to tell?

What I’d like to share in this first part of my introduction is just a foray into my process and patterns of thought when making art.

On an average day, it goes a little something like this:

Text Message Received.

Winston: Hey I’d really like to see a picture of the small squid creature.

Justin: Ok, what’s it doing?

Winston: It’s outside the window of Lillia’s house, on the roof.

Justin: Neat. Ok, let me see what I can come up with.

And that’s basically it. Winston takes his thoughts, loads them into the double-barreled shotgun and fires them in my direction. I must then catch each of the mind-bullets and translate the world that Winston sees into a visual language.

Take the picture below for instance.

A small glowing squid Cthulhu type creature floats.

Cute little thing, right?

The difficulty with creating the above image was this: How can I portray that this creature is on a roof, outside a window, and still get a detailed close-up? The only way to show the window on the roof is to be far away; if I only made a close-up of the squiddy, the window might not be noticeable as that particular window.

So I split the middle, and drew both. The top panel gives the necessary sense of scale and luminosity for the little guy, and the bottom panel gets you up close and personal with our orange cutie.

We hope to one day see plushies of our glowing little guy in Barnes and Noble.

The giant object over Louisville hides the sun.

Half the time painting this, the piece was upside down.

Speaking of colors, that tends to be another theme in The Object; the deep oranges and reds, colors of rust and dirt and fire, colors of sand and lonely sunsets.

I envision Louisville under the Object as a land of perpetual dusk, where the sun’s light struggles to edge around the massive sphere and climb through alleyways and abandoned roads until the once radiant sunlight crawls as a mere cinderous glow.

The image to the left is one of my personal favorites. It is also the longest, top to bottom, of any image I’ve made so far. This encourages the viewer to “read” the image.

You start at the top, noticing details of some unusual landscape. You continue, slowly realizing that you are looking at the bottom of something, and that the bottom of the image is actually a skyline.

Beyond the flat facts of a picture, though, is something much more important. It’s my opinion that a piece of art should try to evoke some emotion or mood. The best kind of artworks tell a story, raise some questions, and most of all, make you feel something.

A blind homeless man holds a sign that reads The End is Nigh.

This originally began as a quick portrait to test a few new painting techniques, but I got carried away.

The above painting is one of my favorites, for two reasons.

1. It is one of my best works, in terms of technical ability, message and mood.

2. I really love the television trope of “the blind homeless man that somehow knows too much“.

With this piece, I really stressed the feeling of desolation. When looking at this image, I want the viewer to be uneasy. I want them to feel the stillness of mad certainty. I want them to be haunted.

What originally started as a way to play around with some new Photoshop brushes turned into a fully fledged painting, and Winston liked it enough to include it in the story.

When your art can inspire the writing, you know it’s damn good.

That, or you’re working with a truly great writer.

Stay tuned for more awesome posts, and the second part to my introduction, which will show you, step by step, how I create a piece of art for The Object.

If you’d like to see more of my work, click here.

Take care, my friends.

~ Justin ~

Copyright Justin Comley, 2012

Take My Book, Any Format. It’s Yours.


Now that the new year is upon us, we plan to start promoting a lot to draw in the biggest crowd possible for the premiere of The Object: Book Two, Episode One.

In the spirit of that, we’re now offering a free digital copy of Book One in any ereader format.

(Damn!  That dude did get hit in the head!)

Wait, there’s a small catch.  Since Book One is enrolled in Amazon’s KDP Select until February 1st, we can’t give away or sell digital copies of the book until February 2nd.

So if you would like to sign up for a free copy of Book One in any format, fill out the form below, and it will be emailed to you on February 2nd.

(NOTE: For Kindle readers, Book One will go free on Amazon a few days after these copies are delivered.)

When you’re done filling out the form, feel free to tap on them there share buttons.  Thank ye.

Winston Chadwick Van Emmerstein III

the object hovering over the louisville kentucky skyline

Get Your Copy of The Object: Book One


We begin the serialization of Book Two in May 2013.  Check back for some exciting announcements about a new dynamic we’ll be introducing to the reading experience.

In the meantime, download the book!

the object hovering over the louisville kentucky skyline

The Object: Book One, Kindle Edition

For Paperback

Please share this post and tell everyone you know about The Object!

Love Hertz

Introducing “Bittersweet Comics”, a New Series at The Object


Bittersweet Comics by Justin Comley

Bittersweet Comics coming soon to The Object

Introducing Bittersweet Comics by Justin Comley

In 2009, The Object’s illustrator, Justin Comley, began working on a hand-drawn comic series called Bittersweet Comics.  Dark, disturbing, often hilarious, Justin would appear now and again with a few new frames to show his friends.  We all loved them, but with no idea how to make them available to more people, he moved on to other projects.

Luckily, his good friend and second cousin–yours truly–has devised a way to bring Justin some much-deserved exposure, so I’m happy to announce that we’ve got something new for you guys while you await Book Two: Bittersweet Comics, which we plan to post every Monday, indefinitely.

Bittersweet Comics are short, hand-sketched comic strips similar to those in the Sunday paper, only the content is intended for an adult audience.  The stories or images depict heartbreak, anger, frustration, and injustice, but not without a sprinkle of humor and hope.

We must warn you in advance that the subject matter can be pretty grim.  If you keep your reading and viewing content to a PG-13 level or lower, you might want to skip these posts.  Otherwise, we hope you enjoy them.  Stay tuned for the first ever Bittersweet Comics posting, coming up today!

A little about Justin:

Justin and I met as students of Western Kentucky University, both living in Pearce Ford Tower, the tallest dorm in Kentucky at 27 floors.  Eventually we got an apartment together, along with our horticulturist friend Rick Heavrin, who is now the head gardener at a famous author’s house.  (I actually went to visit him over the weekend.  Didn’t get to meet the famous author, tough.)  After living together for several months, Justin and I found out we’re actually second cousins.

His artwork ranges from landscapes to monsters of his creation to commissioned illustrations to the human form.

Justin featured in the Bowling Green Daily News

Justin’s blog: Trevor Inkwell

self-portrait using cardboard by Justin Comley

Copyright Justin Comley, 2012.

ARTWORK BY JUSTIN COMLEY

All images Copyright Justin Comley, 2008-2012.

"Homo Devoro" skull art by Justin Comley

“Homo Devoro”

"Ballerina" art by Justin Comley

“Ballerina”

waterfall art by Justin Comley

“Apophenia”

Behemoth underwater creature art by Justin Comley

“Behemoth”

skull and crawdad, book photo for A Circle in the Woods, Justin Comley

“Grave and Refuge”

plague doctor art by Justin Comley

“Plague Doctor”

the object book one by louisville author winston emerson

Some Sleep This Month? No?


The past three weeks have been insane.  I set myself a tough deadline for finishing and publishing The Object: Book One along with scheduling guest posts and interviews to help promote it.  Now that I’m done with everything, it’s time to kick back and relax for a while before undertaking my next project, right?

Wrong.  I’ve decided to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  I tried last year and failed, but with the writing marathon I endured in October, I think it’ll be pretty easy to keep up the momentum.  (Though I am three days and 5000 words behind already.  Hoping to catch up today.)

A while back, I asked you guys which book you think I should write next.  You can see the results here.  If you haven’t voted on this poll yet, please do.  While I’ve already decided what I’m going to write this month, your vote will help me decide what to begin working on in December.  (In January, I’ll be committing myself to Book Two of The Object.  I plan to have the entire novel done before the first episode posts this time.)

I’ll be posting updates on my word count and maybe some sneak peeks at the story.  I won’t tell you which book I’m writing yet.  The voting I mentioned above is pretty close, and I’d like to see some more opinions weigh in first.

Check out my interviews at LouisvilleKY.com and Tales of the Wolf Queen and also my guest post at JadeKerrion.com.

Stepping It Up–Followers, Please Read


We’ve passed the halfway point in the campaign with less than seven days to go, and right now we’re exactly halfway to our goal with $500.

This sounds great, but $500 of $1000 is actually $0.  So to encourage you guys to throw us a bone, I’m making a modification to a few of the reward tiers.  I can’t make these changes on the campaign itself (you can’t edit a tier that has already been pledged), but I hope you’ll trust me to make good on these modifications, or else you probably shouldn’t be subscribed to my blog.  Haha.

Here they are the modifications:

For a $3 pledge I will send you a digital copy of all my books, including those published under the pseudonym Lily White.  These can be in any ereader format or in PDF.

For a $15 pledge, I will send you digital copies of all the books along with your paperback of The Object: Book One.

For a $40 pledge, you will receive the two paperbacks promised for the $35 pledge, digital copies of all books, and a print of any illustration from the current episodes.

Visit Kickstarter Page

If you can’t tell, we’re really counting on this Kickstarter campaign completing.  This is our chance to turn the city of Louisville on to the story and gain the local following we need in order for the story to grow.  The great thing is that you, as a reader, will benefit from this in a big way.  With popularity in Louisville, we’ll be able to attract some of the better artistic and musical talent in the area to collaborate with us and make your reading experience so much better.

We appreciate your participation in The Object, and we really do want to be able to offer this story to you for free.  That’s the whole idea of this thing, and it’s one of the reasons I run free promotions on Amazon so much (that and the guaranteed sales boosts thereafter, which provide the income to comfortably run this blog and serial).

But we hope you’ll understand that we’re just getting off the ground, and we need help.  We won’t ask you for money again.

Thanks everyone.

Winston

If you make a modified donation, submit your name and email here so I can contact you when the campaign ends.

Episode Eleven, The Object: Book One

Episode Eleven


The Object: a free serial novel

Episode Eleven: “Is That You, Sprinkles?”

Want to comment as you read?  Open this episode’s discussion thread.

~ ~ ~ ~

            This was pointless.  Why didn’t he just go back to the van and drive around to look for the cat?  He was easily a mile from where he’d parked with no clue how to get back.  He’d made so many turns, ducking through alleyways and the back yards of dilapidated houses and duplexes, chasing shadows and investigating sounds that might have been meows.

Where was he now?  Fifteen Street?  Sixteenth?  Even with two handguns stuffed into his pants and a shotgun resting on his shoulder, he didn’t feel safe.

The alien that had eaten those children was gone for now.  He’d watched it swim back up to the bowels of the mother ship.  But the thing Sprinkles had fought, that slow-roasted zombie with superpowers, he could be anywhere.  Crouched on a rooftop, peeking through a dark window, hiding up in the tree where Roger now stopped to take a leak, right in front of a tiny blue house.

At least some light was returning.  An upside-down dawn, the orange sun falling below the object’s horizon and sinking fast to the rim of the Earth.  Then real night would fall, and Roger didn’t want to be in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

He didn’t want to be in this city at all.  The military had blocked off all the roads, but there were still plenty of ways to escape.  He could swim across the Ohio River into Indiana.  Or maybe head west.  Follow Muhammad Ali Boulevard all the way out to Shawnee park and then follow the riverbank all the way down to where it bumped up against Dixie Highway.  He could bypass any military barricade, maybe stop off at one of the strip clubs in the area, then head down to Highway 44 and follow it back to Mount Washington.  It would only be about a fifty mile walk.  Why not?

He didn’t want to call out to Sprinkles, as much trouble as that had caused him earlier.  This time Sprinkles might not be around to blast the area with his supersonic meow.

Maybe with Sprinkles, he could just stroll right through the barricades.  Maybe Sprinkles could sweep tanks off the interstate like a leaf blower clearing a sidewalk.

Of course, he had to find the cat first.

Every instinct he possessed told him to turn around and bolt for the van, but he kept walking deeper into the bad part of town, farther and farther from safety, if safety were more than a fairytale told to keep children from wetting the bed at night.

Maybe that’s what kept him searching.  Under the object, no place proffered any greater comfort than another.  The only thing that kept his blood pressure down and his fear in check was that damned cat, who couldn’t sit still if all the mice in the world were his reward.

Roger zipped his pants and stepped down to the sidewalk.  Whatever road he was one stretched as far as he could see in either direction, lined with houses on both sides.  Not much tree coverage.  There were quite a few cars parked on the curbs, which meant a lot of people hadn’t fled the city in this area.

He heard a cough across the street and noticed someone was sitting in a small porch enclosure in the house opposite where he’d just peed.  A red ember from a cigarette flitted in the dark like a lightning bug.

“You lookin’ for somethin’, buddy?”  The voice of an old black man.

“My cat,” Roger said.

“What you got in your hand there?”

“A shotgun.”

“Prob’ly need one ’round here,” the old man said.  “You don’t need nothin’?  I got anything you’re lookin’ for.”

“No thanks,” Roger said.  In truth, the offer was enticing.  Roger had quite a history with cocaine.  That’s why he didn’t have a wife to go home to.  He could even go for a joint right now, but alien invasions and paranoia don’t mix well.  He came across the street, closer to the old man.  “You haven’t seen a white cat around here, have you?”

“No suh,” the old man said.  “Seen a raccoon little bit ago.  Knocked over that trashcan there behind you.  I seen somethin’ else, too.”

“What was it?”

The old man laughed.  “Ain’t confident I can describe it.  It was pink, I think.  Looked kinda like a jellyfish, floatin’ through the air, ‘cept it changed shapes.  You know like a jelly fish does, fans its body out to push itself along.  Looked like a jellyfish one minute, then it looked like a blanket, then it rolled itself up and looked like a bolt of lightning, just sittin’ there.  It come as close as where you’re standin’.”

Roger looked about himself, up at the sky, all around the neighborhood.  Then he turned back to the old man.  “What did it do?”

“Oh not a thang, son” he said.  “I’d venture it was friendly enough a spirit.  I said hello.  Then it went on about its way.”

“A spirit?”

“Yes suh, couldn’t be nothin’ else.  You could see right through it.  Looked like it wasn’t made of nothin’ but light.  Now you tell me if somethin’ like that ain’t a spirit.”

Roger wanted to leave, not because of the old man but because he could hear people shouting in the distance.  Maybe they’d encountered the pink jellyfish spirit, and maybe it turned out not to be so friendly.

“Can you tell me what street this is?”

“Hale Avenue.  I’ve lived here 47 years.”

“How would I go about getting to Muhammad Ali Boulevard?”

“Well now,” the old man said, standing up slowly.  He came down off the porch putting his hand in his pocket and producing a soft pack of cigarettes.  He lit one and pointed to the right.  “You wanna go all the way down to the end.  That’s 15th Street.  You wanna go left and go–oh, I don’t know how far.  It’ll take you to Muhammad.  You ain’t from around here?”

“Mount Washington.”

“Country boy,” the old man said.  “I hear you Bullitt County folk don’t like black people.”

Roger smiled nervously, embarrassed.  “Hey, we’re not all the same,” he said.

The old man chuckled.

Then the gunshots started.

~ ~ ~ ~

Sprinkles watched the shootout from under a hedge bush.  Ten humans shooting at two other humans.  Police.  Staci had watched police on the television every night, though they had just been moving shapes to Sprinkles then.  Now Sprinkles understood things better.  He understood humans when they spoke.

He understood that he was dying, and there wasn’t much time.

One of the police fell down and was bleeding.  He wanted to help them like he’d helped the man Roger.  His intention had only been to hiss, but something else had happened.  A great wind had come out of his mouth to knock the humans over.  Then he’d found the other man.  Ted, whom he needed to kill.  He didn’t know why.  He only knew Ted was bad, and his need to kill Ted allowed him to move big things with his thoughts.

But doing so had made him sick.  His body wasn’t strong enough for what now lived inside him.  He had to find her.  The girl.  He could see her in the back of his mind.  He could feel her.  She would know what to do.

Sprinkles crawled out from under the bush and ran up the street.  As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t help the police.  It might kill him.

And he had to find her.

~ ~ ~ ~

The phone rang while Barry was in the shower.  It rang again when he came out in nothing but a towel.  He knew it was his brother before he even answered.  Barry had invited him over for drinks, and Derek was the type of person to call ten times before arriving.  For the sake of preparedness, for the sake of pissing Barry off.

He picked it up and said, “Damn it, Derek, what?”

“Just thought I’d let you know there’s a warrant out for Hayden,” Derek said.

“For what?”

“Assault.  He beat the shit out of Louis.”

“Louis who?”

“Wesley.  The doctor.  Remember?  You played golf with him last month.”

Barry sighed and pulled the towel off his waist to dry his bald head.  “Tell me something, Derek, do I give a shit about anything you’re saying?”

“Just thought I’d let you know,” Derek said.  “I’m on my–”

Barry hung up and went to the bedroom to get dressed.  He had his pants on when the doorbell rang.  The girls he’d ordered from the escort service, unless Derek had called from the parking lot.  He came out and answered the door.  A tall blonde and a shorter brunette, both in tight white mini dresses.

“You’re Barry?” the brunette asked.

Barry smiled and nodded.  He put his hand on the door frame and leaned forward, studying both their bodies.  “Either of you girls know how to cook?”

The brunette curled her brow, but the blonde kept smiling and nodded emphatically.

“Good,” Barry said.  “I’ll be right back.”

He closed the door on them, relishing the confused and angry expression on the brunette’s face as he jogged to the kitchen.

He reached down, hooked his hands under his dead wife’s arms, and dragged her stiffening body into the bedroom, where he deposited her in the walk-in closet and closed the door.  Then he returned to the living room, opened the door, and invited the girls in.

“That was rude,” the brunette said.

“Apologies, ladies, I’m a little scattered today,” Barry said.  “What are your names?”

“Sheila,” the blonde quickly responded.  “This is Hailey.”

“You look lovely, both of you,” Barry said.  He clapped his hands together.  “Okay, first order of business.  I’ve got four t-bone steaks in the fridge.  I like mine rare and so does my brother.”

“Your brother’s coming?” Sheila asked.

“Yes, and I’ll warn you right now, he’s an asshole.”

“Must run in the family,” Hailey said.  She stepped past him to the kitchen.  Barry watched her walk, her dress clinging tight to her thighs, so high up a shorter person could probably see her ass.

He turned back to Sheila and said, “Gotta grab my shirt.”

When he went to the bedroom, she followed him.

“Sorry about that,” she whispered.  “Hailey’s been in a bad mood all day.  I think she’s having boyfriend troubles.”

“In your line of work, I imagine so.”

“Huh?”

“Nothing.”  He put his shirt on and when he started buttoning it Sheila stepped up and took over.

“You can report her if you want,” Sheila said.  “They’ll send another girl.”

“Not necessary,” Barry said.  “I like a girl with an attitude.”

Sheila frowned deliberately.  “I can be mean, too.”

He smiled.  “I’m sure you can.”

“No, really.  I can be way more mean than Hailey.”

With the shirt buttoned, Barry headed out of the room and Sheila trailed him so close he could feel her behind him.

“I can be whatever you want,” she said.

He was getting annoyed.  “I like you just the way you are,” he said, half distracted.  “There’s nothing wrong with being nice.”

“You should try it sometime, then,” Hailey said.  She had emerged from the kitchen carrying a glass of bourbon on the rocks.

When she put it to her lips, Barry said, “Is that for me?”

She stopped, lowered the glass, and then thrust it out at him.  He stepped up to her, smiling.

“You’re feisty, aren’t you?”

“Only when I’m around rude assholes who think I’m a cook,” she said.

“Is a cook a step down from a hooker?”

“I’m not a damn hooker.”

“What?” Sheila said.  “Yes you are!”

“Well so are you,” Hailey said.

“I know!”

Barry laughed for a moment but when the girls started raising their voices he said, “Hey, hey, shut up, both of you.  Are those steaks done yet?  What the hell am I paying you for?”

“Not to cook,” Hailey said.

“Well then make yourself a drink, sit down, and shut up.  Sheila, get to cooking.”

“No problem, I’m on it,” Sheila said, giving Hailey a mean face as she passed by.

Hailey’s mood had improved drastically by the time Derek arrived.  She downed five glasses of bourbon, becoming less and less testy with each gulp.  Barry sat with her for a time, listening to her whine about her loser boyfriend, some kid who worked in the office of the escort service.  She had him convinced she didn’t sleep with her clients, but apparently someone had spilled the beans.

“I’m pretty sure it was her,” Hailey whispered, pointing in the direction of the kitchen, from which came the sounds of sizzling meat and Sheila’s rather impressive singing.  She must have wanted to become a vocalist but let the wrong guy lead her down the wrong path.  Barry had seen it before.  A singer is told she should be a model.  A model is told she should pose nude, that it will help her career.  Next up is stripping.  Then this, if you’re lucky enough to land an escort gig in lieu of standing on a corner.

A pity for Sheila in particular, as she had real, raw talent.  Barry had planned to kill both these girls tonight, but he decided he would keep Sheila around for a while.

He looked at Hailey, who was still rambling about Sheila’s betrayal, and began to snicker.  Hailey didn’t know it, but Sheila just saved her life.

“What’s so funny?” Hailey asked.

“Nothing,” Barry said.  The doorbell rang and he stood.  “Sorry.  I was just remembering something funny that happened yesterday.”

“So you weren’t listening to me?”

“I was, I promise.”

He opened the door.  Derek pushed his way in quickly, a disgruntled expression on his face, but stopped when he saw Hailey.  He looked at Barry, smiled, and slapped him on the arm.  “Didn’t know we had company,” he said.  “Is that steak cooking?”

“T-bones,” Hailey said.  She stood, wobbling, and came up to Derek to introduce herself.

Barry left them and went to the kitchen.  Now he definitely wasn’t going to kill them.  Sheila had set the table and was preparing a full dinner.  Salad, asparagus, twice-baked potatoes with bacon and sour cream, stuffed Portobello mushrooms, and a cheese cake.

“How the hell did you manage all this so quickly?”

“I went to culinary school for a year and a half,” she said.  “I dropped out when my mom died.”

“Sullivan?”

“Yep.”

“You have an amazing voice,” he said.  “You could have had a career in music.”

Sheila smiled, but she had sadness in her eyes.  “Thank you.”

“Why didn’t you pursue it?”

She shrugged and returned to cooking.  Barry refilled his glass with bourbon and made a drink for Derek.  Then he called him out to the balcony so they could speak in private.

“Where’s Whitney?” Derek asked when he stepped out into the cool evening air.

“She went to her sister’s,” Barry said.

They sat in the patio chairs.

“Probably a good thing.  You hear what’s been happening today?”

“Aside from that?” Barry said, pointing up at the object.

“The shootings,” Derek said.  “Bunch of west end gangs are crawling through the city like cockroaches killing every cop they can find.  Now they’re hitting fire departments, too.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Engines 16, 17, and 18 so far.”

Barry was surprised.  It’s not often you get more than you pay for.  “Who’s behind it?”

“Hell if I know,” Derek said.  “We sent out a 10-19 to all units, brought them in, gave out every unmarked we have available.  But we’ve still got dozens of cruisers on patrol, and the state boys think they can handle themselves.  They’re all sitting ducks.”

“Maybe you should go on vacation.”

“Wish I could.  That’s how I came to find out about Hayden.  Went to the hospital to see a couple of our boys and saw Louis beat all to hell.  He was mad, too.”  Derek began to laugh.  “Hayden must have jarred his brain loose ’cause he was talking about this girl who came in earlier.  Teenage girl, real cute he said.  Claims she was floating in midair.”  Now he was laughing to the point of hysterics.  “So serious, too.  I mean, Louis is a prankster from way back, but I swear he actually believed what he was saying.”

Barry sat forward.  “He said a girl was floating?  In the hospital?”

“In the ER waiting room.  You should see his face, Barry.  Looks like a damn eggplant!  He probably has a skull fracture, loopy bastard.  Thinks the girl has an alien inside her.”

“Who was this girl?  What was her name?”

“I don’t know.”

“Was she admitted?”

“Don’t know that either.  Why don’t you ask Hayden?  Louis said they left together.  Maybe she’s his girlfriend.  He’s got a girlfriend, don’t he?”

“I don’t keep up with my son’s love life.”

“I thought Whitney told me he did.  Or maybe that was Johnny’s kid.”  Derek sighed.  “Johnny’s dead, by the way.  Him and half my other guys.  This thing’s big enough to call in the national guard, but you can’t get in touch with anybody right now.  Federal government’s shutting us down, Barry, sealing us off.  Doesn’t look good.”

“What do you think they’re planning?”

Derek stood and approached the rail.  He craned his neck upward and studied the object.  “To be honest, I think they’re scared shitless.  I think they’re scrambling to figure out a way to communicate with that thing, and if it doesn’t happen in the next day or two, they’re going to launch a nuke at us.”

“Bullshit,” Barry said, standing.  “That won’t happen.  They’ve seen enough movies to know that thing’s technology has to be light years ahead of ours–or else it wouldn’t be here.  They detonate a nuke, we’ll all be fried and that thing will still be sitting there.”

“They’re gonna do it, Barry.  Mark my word.”

“Not in this day and age.”

“Day and age?  What the hell are you talking about, man?  It’s a new day, a new age.  We’re not dealing with domestic terrorists here.  Have you even put any thought into what that thing is?”

Sheila appeared at the door and said, “Dinner’s ready.”

“Okay, babe,” Barry said.  He stepped up next to Derek and Derek looked at him.

“Well?  Have you?”

“It’s a spaceship,” Barry said.  “So what?  It’s not the freakin’ Death Star.  If it was here to blow shit up, it wouldn’t have picked Louisville.  It would have picked New York or LA or Tokyo.  And there’d be more of them.  Unless it has a one-punch super-weapon that’ll blow up the entire planet, in which case there’s nowhere to go, so why plan for it?  Why not live today like you’re going to see tomorrow?  Whatever that thing is, it’s given us the opportunity of a lifetime.  We can rob this city until it’s naked wearing a whiskey barrel.  No one’s here to stop us, and no one’s here to see it go down.  Open your eyes, Derek.”

“My eyes are open,” Derek said, “and you know what I see?  ICBMs.  They’ve already got them pointed at us.  Right now there’s some young military tech. kid sitting in a little room waiting for the go code.  And that little shit’s eager to push the button.  It’s the American way, Barry.  You don’t understand something so you drop a bomb on it.  Lady Liberty’s got crosshairs in her eyeballs and today she’s looking at us.  You bet your ass.  We need to get out of this city pronto.”

Barry laughed deliberately, though in truth he believed Derek might be right.  The sky could light up at any moment and reduce him to vapor.  But if he could get his hands on whatever was attached to that man’s head he saw today, the military blockades wouldn’t be able to hold him.  That man had flung cars around like Hot Wheels, and from the looks of him he was half dead.

But Barry was strong, in mind and in body.  If he had that kind of power, maybe he could leap from Main Street to Evansville in a single leap.  Maybe he could stop a nuke in midair and send it straight to D.C.

He just had to find the guy and figure out a way to kill him.

Or he could find the girl.

Derek had gone silent.  Still staring up at the object.

It was everything Barry could do not to push him over the balcony right now.  Derek always had been a scared, paranoid freak.  In college he’d spent most of his time developing conspiracy theories and losing girlfriends because he couldn’t shut up about the ruling class and their plots of mass genocide.

When they were kids, Barry used to sneak over to the high school gym and shut himself in one of the unused lockers in the girls’ locker room.  Not only did he get to see all the girls naked, but he also learned all kinds of scandalous information from their gossiping.  One girl, Lindsey Strange, was cheating on her boyfriend with her math teacher, Mr. Parker.  She read a note he’d written her to all the other girls, and when they all left the locker room for gym class, he stole the note and used it to blackmail Mr. Parker repeatedly.  He got a new bike out of the deal, then money.  Next he approached Lindsey and made her strip naked in front of him.  He made her get a really short haircut, which earned her so much ridicule at school that she quit the cheerleading team.  Mr. Parker found another job and moved away, and Barry spent two years wearing Lindsey down to the point that she fell in love with him.  She sat with him on the school bus.  She started coming to his house under the pretense of tutoring him in advanced mathematics.  She went from being his own personal slave to being his girlfriend.

It was all culminating to Barry’s ultimate plan, losing his virginity to her, but Derek ruined everything.  He’d always suspected something was wrong with Barry’s and Lindsey’s relationship.  The first of his conspiracy theories, as it were.  Sure enough, one day when Derek stayed home sick from school he went snooping in Barry’s room and found the note.  Then he slowly began to piece everything together.  He found out where Mr. Parker had moved to and called him.  Mr. Parker explained everything, and then Derek ratted Barry out to their parents, Lindsey’s parents, and the school principal.  Barry was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for thirty days and when he returned Lindsey was gone, having been yanked out of school by her parents and sent to an all-girls catholic school for her junior and senior year.

Barry had hated his brother ever since, and on top of aspiring to one day kill him, he’d also set the goal to sleep with every one of Derek’s girlfriends and as of now had an eighty percent success rate, including Derek’s wife.

“Let’s eat,” Barry said, turning toward the balcony door.

Derek didn’t respond.  He was still staring at the object.

Barry snapped his fingers.  “Hey, Dr. Strangelove, we eating or what?”

“Yeah,” Derek said, distantly.  “Whatever you say, boss.”

~ ~ ~ ~

Roger spotted Sprinkles coming out from under a bush and as the cat scampered up 15th Street, he was left with two choices: stay and help the woman cop whose partner lay on the ground bleeding profusely and screaming, or slip away unnoticed and chase after Sprinkles.

Neither option sounded appealing.  If he ran away, he would carry more guilt than he thought he could live with.  If he stayed, he might never see the cat again.

It’s just a stupid cat, his ex-wife would say right now.  Nina hated cats.  She hated all animals.  That was her term of endearment for Roger on his worse days–the days of fighting, late nights, her discovery of drug paraphernalia above the bathroom medicine cabinet, the time he brought home a girl from a bar when Nina was supposed to be pulling a double at the hospital, the day he punched his supervisor at the warehouse and got fired.  You’re an animal, Roger!  You behave like an animal!

He didn’t argue.  She was right.  That’s why he didn’t fight her when she hired that big bald-headed attorney and took everything except the ’93 Taurus that hadn’t been driven in two years.  He could have had his half, or more, after discovering she’d been sleeping with the guy throughout the divorce proceedings, but he blamed himself for that.  It was over.  There was nothing he could do.

Kind of like this situation.  Sprinkles was already out of sight and he didn’t see which way he went.  He only had one option left: save the lady cop.

The gang members stood like a firing squad in the street from one curb to the other, unloading clip after clip into the squad car, shooting wildly.  They looked like they had plenty of experience holding their guns in cool and intimidating ways but little experience actually target shooting.

Behind the car, the lady cop crouched next to the back wheel, covering her head and crying out, “Please!  Pleeease!

The other officer, a young light-skinned black man with corn-rolled hair, lay flat on his back, his chest spurting blood.  His right hand reached upward and swatted repeatedly, as though a fly were pestering him.

Roger surveyed the scene, the houses and buildings in the area.  The squad car sat diagonally in the intersection of 15th and Hale Avenue.  Roger was hiding behind the house at the corner, on the right side of Hale, facing 15th.  Far down the street behind him, the old man stood out in his yard, probably smoking another cigarette, watching the events unfold.  The gang members stood on 15th Street up ahead and to the left.  On the other side of the street where they stood were two houses not ten feet apart.  That was the spot.  That’s where he needed to be.  He had a plan.

In order to get there unnoticed, he ran across Hale Avenue, jumped the short, rusty cyclone fence, crossed the back yard of the house opposite the ones where he was headed, between which ten men with guns continued to pierce the squad car with .9mm rounds, and came around the side, staying low, until he reached the front.

He peeked around the corner.  Luckily no one had spotted him.  He was very close to the men now and realized some of them were just boys, the youngest of them not even in high school yet.  Most of them held their guns sideways with one hand.  Several stabbed their guns at the air as they fired.  Terrible shooting.  At least Roger had one advantage.

Now came the scary part.  He had to get across the street, and short of circumventing a block’s worth of houses and running the risk of them deciding to advance on the car, his only choice was to stay low and cross the street directly behind them.  This was nothing like the shooter games he spent so much time playing.  The gunfire was deafening, the clank of bullets on metal so impactful the fear of being shot consumed him.  If just one of those boys so much as detected movement in his periphery . . . game over.

Roger rose from his crouched position, readied his gun, and stepped out into the open.

To be continued . . .

Read Episode Twelve

Tired of reading on a computer screen?  This book is available in paperback and for Kindle.

Free Book Alert–What Thing Had Escaped (Part One)


This is Part One of a new serial I’m releasing directly to Kindle.  I hope you’ll take advantage of the free download, read it, and leave an honest review on Amazon.  Thanks everyone!

And in case you missed it, check out our Kickstarter Campaign for The Object: Book One.

What Thing Had Escaped (Part One)

Free 10/17/2012, 10/18/2012

A dystopian novel set in a future Louisville, Kentucky

What Thing Had Escaped, Free Today on Amazon

Book Description:

Survival is a daily struggle for Eugene and Darryl, who walk the filthy, crowded streets of Louisville searching for a day’s work or an abandoned house to loot for salable goods. Though Darryl has a job catering to an elderly rich man who lives in a private suburb lined with stone walls and razor wire, his wage barely feeds him, much less Eugene.

Then one evening there’s a knock on the door and a mysterious man in a suit tells Darryl he’s just inherited the entire fortune of his employer.

The two are quickly whisked away into a life of luxury, peace, and pleasures they never imagined, and as Darryl gets more and more involved with the company in which he now owns a large share, Eugene stumbles upon a shocking discovery: a teenage girl, locked away in a secret room in his and Darryl’s new mansion.

And the story of how she got there uncovers a horrible truth about what the world has become.

What Thing Had Escaped is a dystopian serial novel in five parts.

Authors, I Want to Buy Your Book


Yeah, I thought that would get your attention.  The good news is I’m not joking.  Okay, so here’s the deal:

I’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for my upcoming book release and tour.  If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s a fundraiser platform designed for people to pledge money in exchange for a reward.  The greater the pledge, the greater the reward.

This is where you come in.  For certain pledge levels, I’m giving away paperbacks of other indie authors, and I’m also going to surprise some of the lower-level backers with an extra reward.

If you would like to be on the list of books I select from to send to these backers, fill out the form below.  There’s no guarantee I will buy your book.  When I send out my survey to backers after the campaign is over, I’m going to ask them their preferred genre, and depending on the success level of the campaign, I may be ordering lots of books or just a few.

You can help to ensure a successful campaign and lots of book purchases by helping promote it.  I’d like to compile a good, diverse list to choose from and help bring some exposure to my fellow writers.

Winston

P.S.–I of course invite you to make a modest pledge yourself, but to be fair I won’t be the subject of bribery.  Haha.

Visit the Kickstarter Campaign Page

The Object Kickstarter Campaign Now Live!


We just got approved for our campaign and have made it live.  Take a look, watch our terrible video, and consider pre-ordering your digital or paperback copy of The Object: Book One.  Also, check out the rewards for bigger donations.  We need all the help we can get to make this book launch successful.

Thanks for all your support, everyone.  You guys are awesome.  We appreciate your participation in this book release, and we hope you’ll continue to share posts and spread the word about The Object.

The Object Kickstarter Campaign

Winston

P.S.–If you can’t make a contribution, we love you equally for sharing this post!

A New Forum for The Object–Using Facebook!


That’s right.  I’m sure some of you clicked on the forum I had created for The Object discussions, and I’m sure you left immediately.  It looked like it came straight out of 1996.  Difficult and complicated to use, plain, boring.

Well, now I’ve created a new site just for discussing the story, and the best part is it uses a Facebook social plugin, so you don’t have to register or fill out a bunch of fields just to make a post.  All you have to do is comment, and if you choose to post it to your newsfeed, others will see it.

I’m hoping this new feature will help generate buzz for our little story and more people will get involved.  So start commenting!

Click here to see the new forum.

Episode Ten, The Object: Book One

Episode Ten


The Object: a free serial novel

Episode Ten: “A Change of Clothes”

Want to comment as you read?  Open Episode Ten’s Discussion Thread

Hayden watched a local news channel at low volume.  He wanted the girl to wake up so he could find out what that doctor had meant when he said, Son, she was floating.  An absurd notion, and despite the compelling footage on the news of glowing, translucent sea creatures adrift along the Louisville skyline, sparking with bright blue forks of lightening, his mind kept drifting back to that word: floating.  Might he have said something else?  Gloating?  Bloating?   No, he’d said floating.  Absurd, yes, but absurdities weren’t so unbelievable these days.  It was a little after two in the afternoon and pitch dark, the sun blotted out for most of the day by that gigantic rock.  And those creatures they kept cutting to on the news–if they could float, why not this girl?

Several times since she’d fallen unconscious, Hayden had grown concerned by her strange breathing and had approached the bed.  He touched her small shoulder and said, “Hey, are you okay?”  No response, of course.  Whatever the doctor had injected in her thigh had knocked her out instantly.

She was a beautiful girl, probably just entering high school.  In all this madness–his mother murdered by his father, the arrival of an alien species, the entire city of Louisville regressed to a Wild West state–he found himself wondering if the girl was old enough for him, if she had a boyfriend.  Simple things, normal things.  Would things ever go back to normal?

A light knock came from the door.  Hayden jumped to his feet and raised the gun to meet the doctor’s bruised and blood-encrusted face.  Once Hayden had caught the girl and returned her to the bed, he’d given the doctor the beating of his lifetime, and the cop, so stunned by the events, had fled the room.

Now the doctor entered with his head down.

“Just wanted to check up on the girl,” he said, standing in the shaft of light from the hallway, waiting for permission.

Hayden moved between the bed and the doctor.

“You got any needles?”

“No,” the doctor said.  “May I?”  He took a step forward.  Hayden leveled the gun.  “Look, kid, I wasn’t trying to hurt her.  When you administer Ketamine, you have to monitor the patient’s breathing.  Unlike most anesthetics, it stimulates rather than sedates the circulatory and respiratory systems.  Increases blood pressure, makes breathing shallow and rapid.”

Okay, maybe he wasn’t lying.  “I think she’s breathing funny,” Hayden said.  He stepped back and allowed the doctor to approach, but when the doctor reached into his pocket, Hayden yelled at him.  “Hands where I can see them, Doc.”

The doctor looked irritated.  “It’s just a stethoscope.”  He pulled his hand out slowly and showed it to Hayden.

“Okay,” Hayden said.

He watched the doctor with caution as he pulled on the girl’s collar and stuck his hairy hand down her shirt.  One inappropriate feel and he was going out the window.

It must have been the iciness of the stethoscope’s diaphragm that woke her.  One moment she lay motionless, chest rising and falling quickly but steadily, still in the awkward, ragdoll position she’d been in for the past hour.  Then suddenly she sprang to her feet in a way that defied gravity and sent a roundhouse kick to the doctor’s face that impressed even Hayden.

The doctor went flying back into an IV stand, pulling it down on top of him as he crashed to the floor cursing and screaming.

Now she was looking at Hayden, her eyes wild, her hair a tousled, frizzy mess.  Her body jerked as if she started to run but paused.  He saw familiarity in her eyes, her cute rounded face, until the doctor started shouting.

“She’s crazy!  See?  I told you!”

Say something, stupid.

“I’m Hayden,” Hayden said, drawing her attention away from the doctor for only a moment.  “He was just checking your pulse.  I had the gun on him the whole time.”

“Who are you?” the girl said.

“Hayden Schafer,” he said.  Pain shot suddenly through his chest and he felt a hitch in his throat.  An image of his mother flashed through his mind.  “Hayden,” he repeated.  “What’s your name?”

The girl was quiet for a moment.  Then she said, “Lillia.”

“Nice to meet you.”

The doctor was on his feet now and backing toward the door.  “I want you two to get the hell out of my hospital.”

“Where’s the baby?” Lillia asked.

“You have a baby?” Hayden said.

“No.  It’s not mine.  I found it.  Where is it?”

The doctor threw up his hands.  “I don’t know.  Frankly, I don’t care.  If you two don’t get the hell out of here, I’m calling the cops–the national guard, the FBI, whoever wants to come and deal with your ass.”  He was pointing at Lillia.  Then he rushed out the door and slammed it shut behind him.

Hayden turned back to the girl and realized, from this angle, he could see far enough up her skirt to note the color of her underwear.  He averted his eyes and said, “I guess we should get out of here.”

She followed him reluctantly into the hallway, and when he turned toward the Emergency Room doors, she said, “We shouldn’t go that way.  It’s packed out there and I think I scared everyone.”

“So you were floating.”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“I don’t know,” she said.  “Let’s go this way.”

He met her back at the door to her room and asked her to wait a moment while he knelt and tied his shoes–he still hadn’t done so.  Then they walked together through a set of doors and into a dark, empty hallway that led to the surgical center and the main lobby.  It was quiet here, chilly.  When they spoke, their voices trailed down the hall and echoed back to them.

“Thanks for helping me.”

“No problem.”

“Where’d you learn to fight like that?”

“I’m a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.”  He smiled.  “You’re not so bad yourself, you know.  I thought you took that doctor’s head off.”

“That’s the first time I’ve ever kicked anyone,” she said.

Hayden pulled open another door and motioned for her to step through.  “Might as well embrace what you’re good at,” he said.

Lillia stopped.  “What happened to your shoulder?”

“I got shot.”

“By who?”

“My dad.”

He gave her an overview of the morning’s events, chopping his father’s behavior up to temporary insanity caused by the threat of the end of the world.  He didn’t want to tell her the truth about Barry yet.  He’d always feared people would equate him with his father, and he already knew he didn’t want to be separated from this girl.  This was the first time since long before the object appeared that he didn’t feel quite so alone–quite so directionless.

They stepped out into the false night and he led Lillia around the corner and two blocks down, where he’d parked his car.

“Anywhere specific you need to go?” he asked.

She nodded.  “The library on 4th.  My brother and sister are waiting for me.”

Hayden drove and Lillia recounted everything that had happened since the sky went dark.  She told him about her foster mother abandoning her and the two children, taking her biological children with her, about the two men breaking into the house, the homeless man and the shootout, the house burning, waking up in midair, hovering like a hummingbird, and finally finding the baby locked away in the office.

“Is he trustworthy?”

“Who?”

“Sherman.”

“Yes . . . I think so.  He’s been nothing but nice so far.  He refused to sleep in the bedroom with us.  Afraid he’d scare the kids.”

“Well, let’s round everyone up and find somewhere comfortable to stay.  Somewhere secure.  The streets aren’t safe.  Have you seen those alien things on the news?”

She ducked her head and touched her temple.  “No,” she said.

“They’re freaky.  Really freaky.”

“I’m more worried about people than I am aliens.”

Hayden nodded.  “You got that right.”

He drove on and for several blocks neither of them spoke.  Lillia looked nervous, hands in her lap, one gripping the other, knees locked together, head ducked.  A couple times she stole a quick glance at him.  She was studying him, he knew it.  Trying to decide if she should trust him and relax or go tumbling out the passenger door.

Hayden’s thoughts kept going back to what the doctor said–that and how Lillia had sprung up from the bed.  Difficult to put together.  Like if you were to record someone falling backwards and landing on a bed, and then you played the footage in reverse.  That was how she’d come out of her sleep.

“I need a change of clothes,” Lillia said.  “And a shower.”

Hayden nodded.  It occurred to him that he and Lillia shared a newfound dilemma of no longer having a home.  Lillia because hers burned to the ground; Hayden because he couldn’t go back there and see his mother’s body cooling and stiffening on the kitchen floor.  And even if he could, Barry might be there.  These thoughts sent a cold chill through his body.  “I could stand a new shirt,” he said.  “How about we stop somewhere and I’ll buy us some clothes?”

“I have to get back to Drake and Kate.”

“That’s what I meant,” Hayden said.  “They’ll need clothes, too.  I’ve got money.”

“Oh.  Okay.”  He couldn’t tell if she was just modest or worn down by fear and sleep deprivation.  “Thank you,” she said in almost a whisper.

“No problem.  That is, if we can even find a store that’s open.”

“Right.”

Hayden leaned forward.  Up ahead black plumes of smoke billowed up between buildings, only visible against the narrow rim of orange sky not blacked out by the object.

“This whole city’s gonna burn down,” he said.  “See that?”

He pointed it out to her.

“I hope no one got hurt,” Lillia said.

“Maybe we should avoid that area right now.  Looks like Muhammad.  In fact. . .”

Hayden pressed the brake and cut left onto 1st Street instead of continuing on to 3rd.  Three blocks down, he turned right onto East Breckenridge and then had to backtrack a block up 2nd to reach York Street, where he parked on the curb in front of the Louisville Free Public Library.

Lillia was out of the car before he put it in park.  He had to hustle to catch up with her, and as he jogged up the steps he realized why she was in such a hurry.  The glass on one of the doors had been shattered.

“Drake!  Kate!”

She grabbed the handle, stopped.  Her head lolled to her chest.  She was crying.

Hayden started to put a hand on her, but he stopped himself.  His face turned red.  Then he stupidly punched her on the arm and said, “Hey.”  No follow-up in mind.  She looked at him, her eyes bloodshot, her cheeks glistening.  “I’ll go in, okay?” he said.  “Just in case.”

Lillia began to take deep breaths and she backed away, nodding.  Her foot slipped down the top step.  She stumbled and Hayden came forward but she quickly grabbed the rail and steadied herself.

“You okay?”

“I shouldn’t have left them,” she said.  “Sherman told me not to.”

“They could still be okay,” Hayden said.  “Just hang tight.  I’ll be right back.”

When he opened the door, Lillia let out a strange gasping cry and spun around to face the awkward and constipated-looking statue of George Prentice on the other side of York Street.  Founder of the two publications that merged in 1868 to form The Courier-Journal.  A Know Nothing supporter and a bigot.  Hayden had learned all about him in school.  His legacy was a bittersweet one.  Just as Hayden regarded his father, this city owed part of its identity–part of its existence–to Prentice but at the same time detested him for his cruel nature and the malicious things he’d done.

Quit stalling, stupid.

Lillia was sitting on the steps now, arms wrapped around her legs, face buried between her locked knees.  He didn’t like leaving her out in the open by herself, but this had to be done.  If her siblings had been murdered by a psychopath or eaten by an alien, it was best if she didn’t see the remains.  Or leftovers.

Hayden pulled the door open and stepped inside.  He saw the trail of blood immediately.

The library was dark.  A few lamps illuminated the aisles between book shelves way in the back, and soft blue light from a street lamp crept across the carpet near the side entrance.  Hayden followed the blood trail to the staircase and up into total darkness.  At the landing he continued to track the blood to a lounge area with padded chairs and two sofas.

Here he stepped in a puddle, so thick he heard the splash.  He went on to the end table and turned on the lamp, spilling dim light across the blood-soaked floor.  So much blood there should have been a body.  So much blood it could easily have come from both children.

He stood staring at the red pool, dreading the impending moment when he would have to tell Lillia what he’d seen.  She was going to lose it, and being the bearer of such heartbreak and agony, she might balk from him and run away.  Then he’d likely never see her again.  The floating girl whom he knew nothing of and wanted to know everything.  What the hell was he going to say to her?  So much blood, you wouldn’t believe it.  I mean pints and pints of blood.  Those kids are waaay dead.

He heard a noise and it drew him out of his thoughts.  A cough?  A wheeze?  It had come from the other end of the room, near the balcony, where his long shadow dissolved into blackness.

Hayden stepped out of the way of the light and studied that corner of the room closely.  Sure enough, someone was crouched there, hiding in the dark.

“Sherman?”

Immediately, the man said, “Who are you?”  He was crying.

“I’m Hayden.  I met Lillia at the hospital.  What happened to the kids?”

No response.  Hayden took a few steps forward and as he drew closer he could hear stifled sobbing and the word “sorry” being mumbled over and over.  He came even closer, just six feet from the man, and saw he was holding a gun.

“Did you shoot them?”

The man’s head shot up and began to shake.  “No, no, no, son, I would never,” he said.  “Some folks came in, had guns, ragin’ mad.  They shot the boy.  I took ’em outta here, was gonna get him to the hospital.  But we come across Ted.  Ted’s supposed to be dead, but he ain’t.  Far from it.  You wouldn’t believe what we saw.”

“Wait a second,” Hayden said.  “Ted?  The Ted that Lillia told me about?  She said he burned alive in the house.”

“I thought so too, son.  But he’s alive.  Burnt to a crisp and walkin’ around like he ain’t a corpse.  Him and the cat, they were movin’ things with their minds.  Slingin’ cars around like toys.  He’s a monster.  And the cat.  What the hell is happening?”

“I don’t know,” Hayden said.  “But you haven’t told me what happened to those kids.  Where are they?”

“A thing–an alien, I don’t know what it was.  It come down off a building and sucked them both up inside itself.  It ate ’em with its tentacles.  Burst ’em like water balloons and sucked ’em up.”

Hayden’s instinct was to confirm this man as psychotic and leave him slobbering in the corner, but the image he just portrayed gave Hayden chills.  His thoughts returned to Lillia, how she would take all this.  And then what the doctor had said about her.  Then the aliens.  The object.  Where was the line between insane and, well, likely?  Lillia trusted this man, and apart from the gun, he didn’t look like he’d be too hard to handle if he did do something stupid.  No matter what happened to the children, Sherman wasn’t responsible.

“We should get out of here,” Hayden said.  “I’m going to take Lillia somewhere safe.  This town’s getting crazier by the minute.”

Sherman was shaking his head.  He looked Hayden straight in the eyes.  “I can’t face that little girl.  I told her I’d protect them kids.  I can’t do it.  Just tell her I wasn’t here.”

“I can’t tell her what happened without telling her you’re here.  You should go with us.  She told me she trusts you.  She’s not going to blame you for this.”

“No,” Sherman said, suddenly with a deep authority in his voice.  He stood.  “I’m a fool and I ain’t no good to anybody.  Ain’t my place to be with you young people.  I’m gone.”

He stepped around Hayden and started down the stairs.  Hayden followed him to the bottom, where he stopped and stared at the front door.

He was staring at Lillia, small and scared and hugging her legs in the frame of the broken window.  “I’m sorry, honey,” he said.

Hayden stepped around to face him.  “Sherman.”

“Yeah.”

“If you don’t come with us, and I don’t tell her you were here, I have to lie to her about the kids.  I have to say I don’t know what happened to them.”

Sherman nodded, sniffled.  “Ain’t no hurt in delayin’ pain.  Let her think they’re still out there somewhere, lost in the city.  Maybe I’m still with them.  Maybe everything’s gonna be okay.  Don’t you wish that was true?”

He began to walk away, toward the side entrance, and suddenly developed a bounce to his step, a sway in his hips.  When he spoke, he sounded like he hadn’t been crying, as though today were just a normal day and his only problem was waiting for a police car to round the corner so he could take another swig of his whiskey.  “You take care of that girl now, son, you hear?” he said, nearing the side door.  “Ain’t many people that friendly to a stankin’ ol’ bum like me.  Hell, she even talked me into givin’ up cigarettes.  My momma couldn’t even do that, God bless her.”

Sherman laughed a strange laugh, one filled with nostalgia and anguish but so perfectly executed as to seem genuine.  Then he pushed his way out the door and was gone.

To be continued . . .

Read Episode Eleven

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A dystopian novel set in a future Louisville, Kentucky

A New Serial, Dystopian


Actually, I’m going to be releasing two new serials in the coming weeks, Prettiest When It’s Dying and What Thing Had Escaped.  Part One of What Thing Had Escaped is available now.  It’s a gritty tale, much darker in tone than The Object, though they do both take place in the same city (just different time periods).  If you liked A Circle in the Woods, I’d say you’ll enjoy this, too.  Similar writing styles, same violence and depravity and all that good stuff.

A dystopian novel set in a future Louisville, Kentucky

What Thing Had Escaped, Available Now on Amazon

I wrote Part One of What Thing two years ago but put it on the back burner when the idea for Circle started creeping into my brain.  Last night a friend of mine brought up where the idea for Phil Stapleton came from.  I’d completely forgotten, but somehow he remembered me going on and on about a short story I planned to write (and never did) about a creepy guy who starts practicing throwing a boomerang around a house across the street where two college girls live.  The girls take notice of the man standing in the street every day, staring at their house, encircling them with that boomerang.

In developing the story, I became more and more interested in the character and less interested in the storyline.  So I just plucked him out of that scenario and put him in another.  Thus, A Circle in the Woods.

Meanwhile, What Thing Had Escaped has sat forgotten in a file folder on my external hard drive.  Well, now it’s here for all to read and react as you will.  Hope you like it!
Winston

P.S.–Here’s the book description:

Survival is a daily struggle for Eugene and Darryl, who walk the filthy, crowded streets of Louisville searching for a day’s work or an abandoned house to loot for salable goods. Though Darryl has a job catering to an elderly rich man who lives in a private suburb lined with stone walls and razor wire, his wage barely feeds him, much less Eugene.

Then one evening there’s a knock on the door and a mysterious man in a suit tells Darryl he’s just inherited the entire fortune of his employer.

The two are quickly whisked away into a life of luxury, peace, and pleasures they never imagined, and as Darryl gets more and more involved with the company in which he now owns a large share, Eugene stumbles upon a shocking discovery: a teenage girl, locked away in a secret room in his and Darryl’s new mansion.

And the story of how she got there uncovers a horrible truth about what the world has become.

What Thing Had Escaped is a dystopian serial novel in five parts.

The Object: Book One Official Release Date


We Have an Official Release Date!  Officially!

This has been a great week.  So many good things are going on right now I don’t know where to start.  I suppose the first thing is to announce the official release date for The Object: Book One.  It will be available for Kindle and in paperback on November 1st, 2012 and the Kindle version will be available for free sometime that week.  (I’ll let you know ahead of time.)

Together with the Facebook Release Event, I am currently in the process of scheduling a blog tour, all centered around one very exciting author interview and guest post I’ve already landed.  More on that when it gets closer to time.

the object book one release facebook event in louisville, kentucky, author winston emerson

Click Photo to Join!

I have a great feeling about the coming weeks.  Opportunities are piling up.  My boss even sent me home from work today with pay and the instruction to “get that book finished.”  It feels like all our hard work and effort might be about to pay off.  I’ve been waiting for this kind of exposure for a long time.  Just the idea of being able to write full-time, with even a very meager income, is something I’ve been dreaming about since I first started writing short stories in high school.  I haven’t shared much about my life on here because I’ve always worried it would come off that I’m trying to throw myself a pity party, but let’s just say it’s been tough, for an American white boy, at least.  Plenty of people in the world have had much harder lives than I have, which is part of what makes me so hesitant to mention it.

But enough about the past.  The future is looking strong, and now is the time for me to start reaching out to all of you for help.  This is my dream.  The only one I’ve ever had.  I know this is what I’m supposed to do.  Authors, you know the feeling very well, and in the spirit of the dream, I hope you’ll throw me a bone and trust that, for your help, my door will always be open to you.

Bloggers, I’m looking for author interview and guest post spots.  I don’t care if you have 10 followers or 10,000.  If you can find room for me on your blog between November 1st and November 14th, I will do my best to drive as much traffic your way as possible, and I extend the same open-door policy to you, subsequently.

Readers, I need your help the most.  You are the ones who decide if a writer succeeds or fails.  Word of mouth recommendation is the strongest promotional tool in this entire industry.  No amount of marketing gimmicks and advertising dollars can stand up to a reader’s love of a book.  If you believe The Object deserves to knock on the door of the mainstream, no one else can make it happen the way you can.

On behalf of Matthew, Justin, and myself, I just want to say how thrilled we are to see Book One so close to release.  We had a rocky start (mostly my fault), but you guys stuck with us.  We want to begin the serialization of Book Two in January and plan to have the entire book finalized and set to auto-post to ensure that you no longer have to put up with delays.

And we hope by then that thousands of people have subscribed to read, discuss, and participate.  We have so many ideas on how to make this story more interactive and engaging.  All we need is the capital.

Thanks, everyone, for being part of this exciting time in our lives.

Winston

____________________

If you want to help, you can do any of the following:

Join the Facebook Event and invite your friends.

Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the post.

Reblog this post.

Recommend The Object: Book One to your Goodreads friends.

Invite me to do an author interview or guest post on your blog.  You can contact me at winstonemersonATgmailDOTcom.

Subscribe to The Object and be ready to download Book One for free upon release.  The free promotion will run for several days.

Tell anyone and everyone about The Object.

Print off the image below as a flyer and drop it from an airplane over the city of Louisville, take a handful and spread them around at work, or ask your local bookstore to hand them out to customers.

Flyer to distribute in Louisville, Kentucky for The Object: Book One's release

Download this, print it, and spread it around Louisville, Bowling Green–anywhere!

AND MORE THAN ANYTHING:

READ THE OBJECT  EPISODES

AND TELL US WHAT YOU THINK!