Tag Archives: Flash Virus

FLASH VIRUS: EPISODE FOUR – Now Available in Kindle and Kobo format!

Flash Virus Episode Four

Those folks who have been following my series/serial FLASH VIRUS – you will be MORE than happy to know that the fourth episode has just gone live in Kindle format on the Amazon website.

I am REALLY excited about this episode. Things really begin to heat up. In fact, I’d call this episode a barnburner.

In fact – you stack a whole barn full of barns into a a town filled with nothing but barns – and burn all that – and you still aren’t going to come within a billion degrees of the heat that is wrapped up in this episode. There are a couple of scenes that will knock your toes right out of your socks – so get used to the reek of toe-jam as you curl up to read this ripping great yarn.

Available from Kindle and Kobo for a mere 99 cents!!!

Setting your e-book free…

All right – so let’s open this blog post with a commercial.

As of November 20, FLASH VIRUS: EPISODE ONE has been absolutely free in Kindle format.

I’ve climbed to #306 on the FREE IN KINDLE list and have moved over 937 952 TWO THOUSAND free copies – as of December.

If anyone hasn’t downloaded a copy – do me a favor and grab one today.



So, how did I do that? Did I spam all over Facebook?

Well, some. I put up a posting at several of the groups that I follow as well as many FREE E-BOOK and FREE KINDLE Facebook sites that I could possibly find.

I likewise poked a bit through several free e-book lists that I will share with you.

Beyond that I cannot be any more specific.

I’d LOVE to be able to sit guru-like upon my lop-sided office chair which is killing the heck out of my 54 year old spinal column – and tell you all of the secrets of the independent publishing universe.

Only I can’t.

The truth is I am just figuring this out as I go – and, as I am NOT a particularly organized fellow I haven’t kept enough careful records to be able to tell you just WHICH free Kindle website brought on the deluge of free downloads – but I haven’t done that either.

Basically, I applied the shotgun pasta technique. I fired a whole lot of pasta at the wallboards and waited to see which one stayed stuck.

(which is one heck of a seriously mangled metaphor)

So, without further ado, let me offer up to you a list of some of the freebie sites that I hit.

I didn’t hit all of them. I don’t have that much time to apply to that sort of dedicated marketing. And, not all of them fit my needs.

Pick through and find the website that suits you. Submit your next freebie to it for publicity. Some of them will ask for a bit of money. Use your judgement. Don’t spend any more money than you can afford to squander – because there is NO telling which particular bit of advertising is going to work for you.

Try poking through these lists.

Try here

Or here.


And finally, try here!


Try all that and see what helps. There are a lot more free books out there than ever and a new indie writer is going to have a hard time rising through all that clutter and getting anywhere close to the top ten – where a LOT more people will notice your work and (hopefully) begin buying some of it.

Anybody come across other helpful pages let me know and I’ll post them on up here. These four were taken from a VERY helpful Kindle Boards thread.

(and if you are trying to peddle Kindle e-books and HAVEN’T joined up with Kindle Boards – kindly tell me what the heck you are thinking – and/or drinking???)


It those links help then download a copy of FLASH VIRUS: EPISODE ONE – http://www.amazon.com/Flash-Virus-Episode-One-ebook/dp/B009UD51DY/ref=pd_ybh_4

if they REALLY helped – or if you’re just feeling sorry for my fifty-four year old spinal column and the tilted office chair it must sit upon – then why not shell out ninety-nine cents on FLASH VIRUS: EPISODE TWO – http://www.amazon.com/Flash-Virus-Episode-Two-ebook/dp/B009YW6X7O/ref=pd_ybh_9

Episode Two is sitting at the 59,711 Paid Kindle List rank. I’ve actually moved a few copies during those five days but I’m hoping that some of these almost 1000 readers who picked up a free copy of Flash Virus: Episode One will feel interested enough in the storyline to go and pick up Episode Two.

Episode Three is also available – http://www.amazon.com/Flash-Virus-Episode-Three-ebook/dp/B00A8OB7IC/ref=pd_ybh_7 – and is currently ranked at 116,044 in the Paid Kindle List rank.

For those of you folks who are unfamiliar with that ranking system – try and think of it as a top million bestselling list. Basically, right now Episode Two is the 59,711th bestselling Kindle e-book in the Amazon system.

I’ll be interested in seeing if the rankings change much in the next few days – but I won’t waste too much time sitting and wondering. Right now I am getting back to work on Episode Four.

Interestingly enough I have moved 11 more copies of FLASH VIRUS: EPISODE ONE in the fifteen minutes or so that it took me to write this blog entry.

Just remember, we’re in all the same boat together.

Here’s to deeper water and fatter fish.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

My first Library Thing Giveaway

I joined Goodreads and Library Thing at about the same date and proceeded to get involved with Goodreads, because it seemed to be the most accessible.

Lately I have reconsidered a little and become more involved in Library Thing.


Good question. Glad you asked you it. What do you mean you didn’t ask it? It says so right there, now doesn’t it? Clearly you must be mistaken.

Library Thing is a lot more friendly to e-books. They allow you to freely set up giveaways and promotions for your e-book publications. For a writer such as myself who is eagerly attempting to raise his profile in the digital world this is a godsend.

A week ago, very quietly, I set up my first ever Library Thing Giveaway and gave out ten review copies of FLASH VIRUS: EPISODE ONE.

In turn, each recipient has promised to write an honest review of the e-book. That’s important – because reviews can help to stir the blood of prospective new readers and get them reaching for their e-wallets. Likewise, there is always the possibility that each of these ten reviewers will get so addicted to the story that they will rush out and purchase a digital copy of FLASH VIRUS: EPISODE TWO which is now available.


And, by the time they read Episode Two they might be ready for Episode Three – which is on the launch pad.

So – congratulations to Library Thing members

Lesa Neace

Kimberlee Thomae

Logan Gerber-Chavez

Jill Judson

Melissa De Leon

Ashley Cox

Sara Sykora

Jessica Hicken

Brandi Wollerton

Walt Kretzmann

I just want to thank you ten people for the confidence you have demonstrated in my words by signing up for a chance to win a free Kindle copy of FLASH VIRUS: EPISODE ONE. I truly appreciate your support.

If any of you blog readers out there are members of the Library Thing community feel free to friend me.


And, likewise, keep an eye out for my next upcoming Library Thing Giveaway – five copies of TATTERDEMON and five copies of SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME – to be given away on November 13th.

And – for those of you who have a Kobo e-reader don’t forget that FLASH VIRUS: EPISODE ONE is always free.



yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon




My further adventures in self-publishing…Kobo versus Kindle.

Over the last couple of days I priced FLASH VIRUS: EPISODE ONE as a perma-free release at the Kobo website.



I’m using “pusher logic”. Get the junkie hooked on your stuff with a freebie jolt and then position yourself on a strategic street corner and wait for their life savings to come trickling in.

I did it on the Kobo because Kobo makes it easy for a writer to place his work as a freebie.

As far as I can tell to be free on Kindle you need to be listed as part of their Amazon Select Program – which has lot of self-published writers – but in my opinion wasn’t for me. I did not want to only release my e-book in Kindle format. I wanted to get it out there where EVERYONE could find it.

So far that is a definite edge that Kobo has over the Kindle.

However, Kobo has a way to go yet. They need to improve their search mechanism. What they have got is clunky and highly inaccurate. It would also be nice if they had a better mechanism for displaying the number of free copies that a writer can give away. As far as I can tell, I’m going to be in the dark on this matter.

However, Kindle has a few edges over Kobo, as well.

Number one – Kindle sells. I’ve moved more books on Kindle than I have on Kobo.

Considerably more.

That’s a definite edge.

Reviews seem to be a little bit easier to find on the Kindle as well. Kobo is hooked up to Goodreads – which SHOULD theoretically work – but Goodreads is a little biased against e-books – which means it’s harder to get an e-book reviewed on Goodreads. Not impossible, just harder. Apparently, they are more inclined to review books that are released through Goodreads – but unfortunately I have heard that they aren’t currently accepting any new e-books. They’re glutted with submissions.

Kindle, on the other hand has netted me TWELVE reviews for Episode One and TWO reviews for Episode Two. It has also netted me a couple of dedicated followers who are eagerly awaiting the release of Episode Three.

I’m currently working through Smashwords to get FLASH VIRUS out on the Nook and what ever other formats are currently available. I’ve hit a glitch that just requires a bit of time for me to clean it up and I’ll keep you all posted as developments ensue.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Why I Hate Cell Phones…

I’m fifty-four years old and I have NEVER owned a cell phone.

Don’t want one.

Don’t need one.

They freaking scare me.

Did you ever see that Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where the entire crew of the star ship Enterprise is addicted to a game that you play by spinning bulls-eye Frisbees into coral reef tubas?


It was one of the creepier episodes – and if you can’t remember it just click that image and read all about it at Wikipedia.

Every time that I see some person walking down the sidewalk with their gaze firmly fixed on their palms – in which they are gently cradling some sort of cell phone – with a focus akin to the world’s last priest blessing the world’s last crucifix before going into toe-to-toe battle with a a star ship full of vampires – I feel a little shiver of apprehension.

I wonder to myself how long it has been since that person – who seems so all mightily hypnotized by that rinky-tink gadget in his hand – has heard a bird singing in the trees above his head. How long since they have actually smiled and/or conversed with a living human being – rather than a weird tinny voice coming out of some Tic-Tac shaped mechanism in the palm of his hand.

How long since they actually looked up to watch where the traffic is coming from?

I sit next to those cell phone people on the bus and I can almost hear the whispering commands of Uncle Big Brother whispering into their pixel-soaked cerebellums – do what I tell you, do what I tell you.

They scare me.

I guess they scared Stephen King, too – which is why he wrote CELL. But I’m sorry, I feel he humped the bad bone on that particular novel. It started out wonderfully and then it just got stranger and stranger until I began to wonder just what sort of a cell phone old Mr. King was listening to while he wrote that bit of toilet paper.

I know some of you liked it. Don’t worry, I don’t take it personally. Reading is still one of the greatest exercises of personal taste that can be imagined – although even that is being undermined by such uber-selling phenomena-books such as FIFTY SHADES OF OH MY GOD!!!

And there – I’ve gone and insulted some other readers.

Nobody ever tried to tell you that my IQ ranked above the double-digits.

But, like I said, cell phones scare me.

I blame Gene Roddenberry.

Let’s face it – ever since the first Trekkie saw Captain Kirk flip open his communicator and say “Beam me up, Scotty.” – mankind has been all lathered up over the thought of being able to do that. It was only a matter of time before we were all flipping our cellphones and trying hard not to let on that we really all were thinking about Captain Kirk.

All right, so some of you might have been thinking about Uhura – but you get my point.

Now I don’t want anyone out there to get the idea that I am some sort of a Luddite. Hell, I am keeping a blog, aren’t I? I’ve got e-books and I want an e-reader and I really truly love my DVR service.

But there is something that is inherently eerie about the notion of my butt pocket ringing at me in the middle of the day.

Which is why I started my latest e-book with the line – “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.”

And if you were reading this blog on a DVR this would be the time that you’d want to fast-forward through the commercials – because that is exactly what I am about to hit you with.

A freaking commercial.



Episode Two is now available on Kindle and Kobo.

It costs a mere ninety-nine cents – the exact same as Episode One. I’m not trying to get rich here. I’m just trying to get this story out there to as many people as I can.

Still, I get rich, you won’t hear me crying about it. I’ll bear up to it as manfully as I can. You’ll whisper to yourself – my God, how does that man put up with all those millions of dollars he has earned? You’ll be astounded at how I stand tall amongst my heap of plunder. You’ll be so astounded that you’ll want to tell all your friends and so – most likely you will do just that!

On your cell phone.

Beam up a copy of FLASH VIRUS EPISODE ONE  from Amazon.com – http://www.amazon.com/Flash-Virus-Episode-One-ebook/dp/B009UD51DY

Or, if you’re in the UK hit your phaser button and set it to – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flash-Virus-Episode-One-ebook/dp/B009UD51DY

Or if you’re into Kobo put the Vulcan Death Lock on – http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Flash-Virus-Episode-One/book-YDeVCTJbIk2NEp4ccXfybg/page1.html?s=-1n-7FK_b0exbHdBFaD4yQ&r=3

Got that?

Then chart a course back to Amazon.com and charge a plasma torpedo with – http://www.amazon.com/Flash-Virus-Episode-Two-ebook/dp/B009YW6X7O/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_t_1

Or in the UK take a good stiff swallow of bootleg Romulan Ale and sink into this – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flash-Virus-Episode-Two-ebook/dp/B009YW6X7O/ref=pd_rhf_ee_p_t_3

Lastly – for you Kobo-holics – take your shuttle craft out for a spin and Kling-on to this – http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Flash-Virus-Episode-Two/book-B6fZtUgL0kWjTciKY_CkIg/page1.html?s=LxxKJLC91U6hMrAfyHroTg&r=2

If you’ve got second thoughts on this matter – well just pull up the sneak-peek sample and try it on for size.

Tell them your cell phone sent you.


Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon


Welcome Coffin Hoppers.

Every year a group of dedicated horror writers band together in a cross-blog event entitled COFFIN HOP.


Today, I would like to do my bit by posting my short-short tale “Beat Well”. It’s definitely my favorite Halloween yarn.

Read it once, chew on it – and then read it again. At 175 words it won’t take long.


This story came to my on a factory table saw. I wrote it down on a scrap of particle board. I had just watched the movie HALLOWEEN, and had the vision of those opening credits burning in my brain. I sent the story to twenty four magazines. Twenty four rejections quickly followed. The twenty fifth magazine TERROR TIME AGAIN, bought and paid for the story. It went on to be republished in SPWAO’s “best of” anthology ALPHA GALLERY; and David Kubicek’s original anthology OCTOBER DREAMS. I use the story all the time in my high school writing workshops to demonstrate the use of multiple voices in a story. Enjoy.

Beat Well

Let’s play a trick…
on old punkinhead.
nyah nyah punkinhead
nyah nyah pun…

* * *

(I remember poppy, he showed me how, he showed me first. First you slice opent the top. Dig out the pulp, thank god no seeds. Gouge out eyes, nose, and mouth. There. Oh. One more thing. There. Jack o’ lanterns.)

* * *

Old John lived way up on Carpenter’s Hill, so it wasn’t until morning when they found them. Propped against old John’s freshly whitewashed fence, staring sightlessly down upon the town below. The town where they had lived. The three boys still wore the costumes their folks bought at the five and dime. Shattered upon the ground was the remains of a broken jackolantern. The boys were dead. Hidden within the skull of each boy was a tiny candle, flickering quietly, where once only childish dreams burned. They found old John in the kitchen, making pumpkin pie.




If you liked this particular yarn why not check out my latest e-book release, FLASH VIRUS – EPISODE ONE.



The end of the world – as told by a teenager.

You can read more about FLASH VIRUS – EPISODE ONE right here!


Episode two is due out later this week.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon


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.

So what is it about?

Well – it basically is the end of the world – as told by a teenager.

“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.”

Sixteen year old Briar Gamble is having a bad day.

It started with the cell phones singing for Santa Claus.

Then came the tanks and the storm troopers.

The Black Masks, in their black fish bowl sunglasses.

And then along came Captain Albino.

The shooting started shortly after that.

Like I said – Briar Gamble is having a REALLY bad day.

And it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

It is available on Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009UD51DY/ref=cm_cr_rev_prod_img

also on Amazon.com.uk – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flash-Virus-Episode-One-ebook/dp/B009UD51DY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1351280520&sr=1-1

And it is available through Kobo – http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Flash-Virus-Episode-One/book-YDeVCTJbIk2NEp4ccXfybg/page1.html?s=tPQ2bjVgzkCXlQ0lre27EA&r=3

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?

Here goes.

How much does high school suck – let me count the ways.

Infinity one.

High school long-weekend-homework sucked.

Infinity two.

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.

Namely, school.

“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.

Face facts.

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.

“Yeah? Hello?”

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.

Too slow.

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.

Several someones.

Pick up a copy today and let me know what you think.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon