So I’ve been talking about how I want to experiment more with self-publishing – and so I have.
I’ve just released the first episode in a serial-style YA novel that most adult dark fantasy genre fans will happily dig.
There’s about 11,000 words – approximately one-fifth of the full novel – now available for reading.
Well – it basically is the end of the world – as told by a teenager.
The cover is the brilliant work of Keith Draws.
Check out his blog – http://keithdraws.wordpress.com/
Keith is great to work with. Very cooperative and professional. He asked what I wanted. He showed me a few ideas. He asked me what I thought. I told him. Then he gave me EXACTLY what I’d been looking for.
That – in a word – is professional.
Let me give you just a sneak peek at the first chapter.
Chapter One – How Does High School Suck, Let Me
Count the Ways
So as near as I could tell the end of the world began roughly about the time that Billy Carver’s butt rang – about halfway through the War of 1812.
All right – so his butt didn’t really ring – but the brand new cell phone that he was carrying in his butt pocket went off awfully sudden and unexpected.
It was absolutely the weirdest ring tone that I had ever heard – kind of like a crossbred mix tape of rap-music-gargling and stained-church-glass-yodeling but I recognized the tune right off.
There wasn’t a kid on the planet who didn’t know that tune.
The tune was Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.
You know – better not pout and checking his list twice, watching when we’re sleeping – which is really kind of creepy when you stop and think about some fat old bearded man peeping at kids in their Sponge Bob Square Pants pajamas – not to mention that whole bit about rooty-toot-toot and rummy-tum-tum.
Whatever the heck that meant.
In any case, that was the tune that Billy Carver’s butt was playing – which – when you think about it is a pretty weird tune to hear playing in the middle of the month of May – even if it was coming from a free butt-covered cell phone – which each of us had been given by a guy in a pair of fish bowl sunglasses.
Which I’ll tell you about in just a little bit.
Right now we are talking about Billy Carver’s butt.
Mind you – I was not looking at Billy Carver’s butt when his cell phone rang.
That’d be just weird.
Maybe not as weird as Santa Claus peeping – but weird just the same.
What I was actually looking at – the same way as I had looked at it for five days a week and nine months of the year for the last entire decade – was the classroom wall clock.
In fact, as far as I can calculate I have been sitting here for about a hundred years or so – give or take a glacial millennium – just waiting for that lunch bell to ring – even though I knew that we had thirty-two minutes and twenty-one and a half seconds before the lunch bell was actually supposed to ring.
It turns out that lunch bell wasn’t ever going to ring.
Not in the way that I expected it to.
Not unless you count the way that it rang when it hit the floor later that morning after being shot from off of the gymnasium wall by one of Captain Albino’s headphone-wearing stormtroopers.
But I’ll tell you about that a little bit later on too.
You don’t want to rush into the end of the world.
You want to take your time.
But first – I really ought to introduce myself before we get much further into this story.
My name is Briar Gamble – and if you want to know the complete honest truth – I have been waiting for a bell of some sort to go off for the last ten years or so – ever since that first horrible day when Dad had looked up from his Pac Man coffee mug in the middle of a Bugs Bunny cartoon that I had seen at least fifteen times before and had said those thirteen terrible words to me – “Well Briar, I guess you are old enough to go to school now.”
That was way back in grade primary – but even then I knew that there were about thirty million other places in the known and unknown galaxy that I would rather be living in than sitting here in some funky old classroom listening to one teacher or another spouting off about algebra, grammar and the War of 1812.
I just didn’t belong here.
I knew that – even back in grade primary.
I knew that before the first homework assignment got handed out – and forgotten.
I knew that before the first bully had ever wedgied my underwear up about three degrees beyond the pooping zone.
I knew that like I knew my very own name.
Which was Briar Gamble – in case you weren’t reading too closely, seven paragraphs back. My Dad said that he and Mom had named me after a weed – on account of the way I had sprouted up where I wasn’t supposed to be – whatever that was supposed to mean.
That guy sitting across from me? That little fellow, with his hair poked up like a hay stack that can’t spell “comb” if his life depended on it and that freckly bent up nose, slightly running? That’s my buddy Jemmy Daniels. His real name is Jeremiah but we all call him Jemmy on account of Jeremiah has about three too many syllables. Jemmy is my best friend – which is another way of saying that his head had been swirly-dunked nearly as often in the boy’s room toilet bowl as I had been – by Billy Carver and his so-called friends.
Jemmy had one short-coming.
Jemmy actually liked going to school.
Which was weird.
I don’t really know why I hated going to school so very much. I always have. It was like I was born hating it.
Nearly everyone else in the school seemed to be getting along all right – or else maybe they just took a while to catch on to the fact that school just plain sucked – but I knew that school sucked and high school sucked even worse than that.
I knew it just as soon as somebody first tried to teach me poetry.
Which was way worse than the War of 1812.
I mean – what is poetry? You say a bunch of words together, try and rhyme them, throw in the occasional thee and thou and you don’t really have to make sense if you don’t want to. You just say something like – “That bird flutter-pating upon yonder branch, don’t it make thou heart flutter too?”
I mean what is that supposed to mean?
Do you want to hear me read you some poetry?
How much does high school suck – let me count the ways.
High school long-weekend-homework sucked.
High school pop-math-quiz sucked.
Infinity squared – thee, thou and thine – divine apple rind.
Do you really need me to go on?
The truth to tell – going to high school sucked about as hard as all of the vacuum cleaners in the whole wide world being simultaneously flushed down a billion backed-up toilet bowls into the hugest black hole in the known entire universe.
So when that brand new free cell phone in Billy Carver’s back butt pocket went off in class like it was an alarm clock attached to some incredibly dangerous and life-threatening nuclear time bomb – halfway through Old Man Jenkins boring-as-peed-on-pencil-shavings lecture on the War of 1812 – I was absolutely ready for it.
I whole-heartedly welcomed the strange Christmas-sounding ring tone as a brief but happy diversion from the wall full of absolute and undeniable suckitude that I had been driving headlong at for the last ten years.
“Well are you going to answer that?” Old Man Jenkins asked Billy Carver. “It might be awfully important – like maybe the President of the United States of America calling you up to ask you what time it is.”
Billy Carver smiled at Old Man Jenkins – like he didn’t even realize that Jenkins was just being sarcastic. I don’t know why teachers always think that they have got to talk to us kids that way – like we were too dumb and stupid to get their jokes – but they’ve been talking to us that way ever since cavemen first figured out how to fart.
And all we could do was sit there and grin.
Billy Carver was awfully good at grinning. He had that sort of a way of grinning a half-crooked sharp little sneer like he knew that he was going to be the first one of us boys to lose his virginity and most likely with the prettiest girl in school – rather than the blind, deaf and chronically stupid and most-likely figment-of-imaginary girl who might possibly get close enough for me to even think about grinning at.
Unless I was maybe the last boy in the universe and happened to be sitting beside the last girl in the universe and she was so completely bored out of her mind that she couldn’t think of anything better to do than to let me have my way with her – I figured I was doomed to a state of perpetual virginity until somebody shot me with a bullet of you-poor-dumb-numb-nut.
Billy Carver didn’t have that problem.
Billy Carver wore that grin of his like a lucky rabbit’s foot. He wore it like he was laughing out loud behind his back at the whole wide universe. He wore it like everyone just had to like him – like he hadn’t swish-dunked my head in the boy’s room toilet bowl just last week for the thirteenth time this month. He wore it like all of the teacherly sarcasm in the whole entire world wouldn’t ever really change a thing.
“What-ever,” Billy Carver said – breaking the word up into two separate pieces so that it sounded even ruder than it was – which is the perfect thing to say to any high school teacher who thinks that he is twice as smart for being double-rude at a student’s expense.
What freaking ever.
Billy slid the brand new cell phone out from his right butt pocket, snapping it open like he didn’t even know that he was actually trying to look like a younger and cooler version of Captain James T. Kirk – who we all still watched in Star Trek reruns when we didn’t think anyone was really looking at us.
The cell phone was flashing red-blue-green.
The flashing wasn’t coming from any of the buttons that you would expect to flash. What was flashing was the body of the cell phone itself – as if someone had stuck a flock of red and blue and green fireflies inside of the black plastic casing.
I had never seen a cell phone flash like that before and probably neither had Billy Carver, but he was way too cool to let us know that the fact that his brand new free cell phone was actually playing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and flashing red-blue-green over and over was about as weird as a tree full of ballet dancing rhinoceros.
Those were the last two words on earth that Billy Carver got out of his mouth before the Santa cell phone took him.
His face glazed over.
I could see it turning – like every single atom of emotion and individuality was being sucked simultaneously from out of his eyeballs, grin and ear holes. His face even paled a little as he turned. I could see the tone of it kind of devolving from a zit-scarred skin-color to a sort of shade of grayed-out newspaper ink.
And then he grew a cheek-to-cheek Santa-Claus-is-Coming-to-Town sort of a smile – sort of the same kind of plastic cheesy smile that a Ken doll might smile after he’d slipped a hot hard one to Barbie’s kid sister while Barbie was out cruising the cougar bars in her Barbie-mobile.
Then Billy Carver walked over to the classroom window and stared through the dirty glass like the schoolyard had just turned into Disneyland and candy – before dropping his gaze down to the cell phone in his hand – and whispering.
And that’s where his gaze stayed – like he was thinking about sending an absolutely important text message to God – only he hadn’t quite managed to think the words up – and his lips were moving like he was praying to himself – only there were no real words coming out of his mouth as far as I could tell – just that wet whisper-whisper-whisper noise that you usually save for the back of the theatre or maybe in the library.
He just stood there, gray and whispering.
Which was right about when the second free cell phone rang.
This cell phone belonged to Susie Diamond – who was probably the prettiest girl in our whole high school and therefore the girl most likely to sleep with Billy Carver on prom night – or maybe even before that. I knew that she was the prettiest girl because I had looked at Susie way more times than not – from the front and back – but even then I knew that I didn’t stand a flying hope in hell of spending any sort of real quality time with Susie unless she was struck deaf dumb and stupid in one single stroke of blind wonderful lightning.
I just wasn’t even in her league – which didn’t stop me from looking at the way her butt curved out and grinned in her blue jeans whenever she stood up in front of me.
Only right now she was standing up and her cell phone was playing the exact same tune as Billy’s was.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
“Don’t answer that,” I told her.
She had that cell phone open and up to her ear without even stopping to think about it.
Susie was a cell phone girl.
She was always talking on her cell phone.
I wasn’t all that certain – but I was pretty sure – that the first thing Susie Diamond did every morning was to check her text messages and then maybe she might breathe.
“Hello?” was the only word that got out – and then she was standing at the window directly beside Billy – and somehow or other Tommy Puckers – who we all called Kissyface Tommy on account of his unfortunate last name – had picked up his own free cell phone and had answered it even though no one else had even noticed it ringing – most likely because we were all too busy staring at Billy Carver’s back and Susie Diamond’s butt.
The three of them stood together – cold and grey and whispering.
“This is some kind of a flash mob thing, isn’t it?” I asked aloud to no one in particular. “Any minute now somebody is going to jump out and yell surprise.”
Which was right about when all of the free cell phones in the entire class room began simultaneously playing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and flashing red-blue-green.
Which was really weird – no two ways about it.
“There is no freaking way that I am answering that phone,” Burt Hertle said, throwing his free cell phone down onto the tiled floor.
Then Bert also threw the cell phone that his parents had paid good cash money for onto the floor beside the free phone that he’d been given today. He hadn’t really needed a free cell phone – but hey, it was free – but now the two of them lay together on the floor and he was stomping on them both like he had just seen a bug – with one mighty work-booted stomp after another. His own cell phone smashed completely but the free cell phone just bounced and kept on flashing red-blue-green like you couldn’t kill it with a sledgehammer.
Santa wasn’t stopping.
Burt stomped again – harder than before.
Santa kept on coming.
Burt kept on stomping, over and over – hard enough that I half expected his work boot to begin glowing red-blue-green all by itself.
Either that or the floor would break through.
“Santa is coming,” Burt whispered, between every stomp.
Stomp – stomp!
Santa is coming.
Episode Two will be available sometime next week. Things get dark and the situation begins to heat up. Bullets are fired. Someone will die.
Pick up a copy today and let me know what you think.
yours in storytelling,