Daniel and I have been friends for a little over a year. We met over at the Kindleboards, and he's one of the nicest guys in the world.
SS: Let's talk about your writing beginnings. How did you get your start as a writer and, ultimately, as an author?
DA: When I was fourteen, I wrote my first piece of fiction. It was a science fiction novella about a post-apocalyptic world. Robots had taken over the world, and hunted humans to near extinction. The last few humans living in hiding in a jungle, where they bought the 'bots. I think The Terminator inspired me.
SS: Firefly Island was your first novel. How has your writing evolved from FI through to Blood of Requiem?
DA: When it comes to monsters, swords, magic, and all that good fantasy stuff... I think my writing is more polished, but ultimately comes from the same place. However, I'm a lot better at writing drama and emotion. I wrote Firefly Island when I was nineteen, and had no idea how to write the romantic scenes. Today I'm in my thirties, and can do a better job writing about relationships, love, and melodrama. There are still lots of monsters, swords, and magic.
SS: Laila had me on my knees right away. How did you come up with the half angel/half devil hottie? (Laila, for those that don't know, is the protagonist in Flaming Dove)
DA: She also has an Uzi. And a pet wolf. Don't forget those two important elements. I don't know what inspired Laila. I wanted to write a dark fantasy about heaven and hell, and Laila seemed the perfect protagonist. I also think she looks smashing on the cover.
SS: You've been writing standalone titles for the past few years. Now you're dipping your toe into a series, starting with BoR. How is this experience going, and how is it different to writing standalones?
DA:I love writing a series. It allows me to create a much larger story arc, a good thing for an epic fantasy writer. "Blood of Requiem", the first "Song of Dragons" novel, is my most successful book yet. It seems readers love series too. The second book, "Tears of Requiem", will be released this fall.
SS: Floofie knows all, doesn't she?
DA: Floofie is a BOY. Romy is very angry at you.
SS: The Gods of Dream, in my eyes, is quite possibly the most deep thing that you've written (I have yet to get to BoR). What inspired you to delve deep into this world (literally)?
DA: "The Gods of Dream" is about escaping into a world of fantasy. I wrote it thinking about people who are ill, or disabled, or lonely, who couldn't enjoy the world we do. I wanted to write a comforting fantasy novel they can escape into... which is, in turn, about escaping hardships into fantasy worlds.
SS: Obviously, you're deep in the first draft of the later Requiem titles. What's next after that, and will you hold Mike Crane to writing a full-length novel?
After "Song of Dragons"? No idea. Maybe I can retire to a nice tropical island, if enough people buy the books. I'll let Crane visit after he finally writes a novel; i.e., never.
SS: Who inspired you while you were a youth in Israel, and later, the United States?
DA: I've moved between countries several times, and currently live in Canada. What inspired me hasn't changed. I loved reading books as a little one, as a teenager, and now as an adult. I want to create my own stories and share them with as many people as possible.
Thanks for stopping by, Daniel! Folks, you can check Daniel's website at DanielArenson.com. He's incredibly talented. Check him out!
So I went back to the drawing board. I presented idea after idea. Lady Estee took the shotgun off the wall and proceeded to blow those ideas into little bits and pieces. Dejected, I went back to the drawing board until I could come up with an idea that met her overwhelming approval. Besides, she almost shoved the barrel of the shotgun up my ass for wasting her time.
Weeks passed. I gave up shaving. Showering was out. Food? Yes, I ate, but only the crumbs she shoved through the doorflap (Think about how Harry Potter got his meals in Book Three... and if you think I mentioned Harry Potter just because of JK Rowling's announcement today and I'm trying to take advantage of Google, well, you know me way too well.).
And then, as I repeatedly checked sales and noticed I approached 2,000 lifetime self-pubbed sales -- as Daniel Arenson would say, "You can now tell people you've sold literally thousands of books!" -- I had an epiphany. It's summer time. People like pools.
No, I'm not going to give away a pool -- a plastic kiddie pool, maybe. No, I'm joking. I'm going to hold a book pool. Lady Estee liked that idea.
People love pools. Superbowl pools, baby pools (date, gender, length, weight). So how about a pool guessing what day I sell my 2,000th self-pubbed book? Sounds like a good idea, right?
As of this moment, I am 54 self-published books away from 2,000 books (that's 1,946 sold). For the next 72 hours, until 4 p.m. ET Sunday, registration is open for this book pool. To enter, send an email to me at email@example.com with "Book Pool" in the subject line. Put down the date you think I'll hit 2,000 books. If there are multiple people who pick the same date, those people will go into the hat and I'll pick the winner. The winner will receive a signed trade paperback edition of the book of their choice: either Model Agent, Rogue Agent, Turning Back The Clock, A Galaxy At War, The Obloeron Trilogy, or One Hero A Savior. I won't personalize it, just in case the winner wants to give it as a gift.
I'll take questions from the audience now.
1. What if nobody picks the correct date and 2,000 books passes without a winner? I.e. no one picks June 22 and you sell No. 2,000 on that day?
Well, I'm still going to pick a winner. The hat will be just a larger hat. Everyone who entered within the 72-hour time frame will be eligible for the signed book. I don't think I'll sell 54 books within 11 hours. If I did, it would be outstanding. I just don't think it'll happen.
2. Is this just a cheap way to drive your sales up?
Not really, no. This is a day that people are picking at random. Pull a date out of your ass if you want to win. Of course, if you pick a date next week and you buy a few of my books, I think that increases the chances of your date coming up, don't you think?
3. What if the winner already has, say, Model Agent in trade paperback? What book should they pick?
Any of the seven I mentioned above.
4. Why are you just including your self-pubbed books in this? Why can't Vuvuzombie get love?
There's a reason for this. a. I don't think Bruce Sarte, my publisher at Bucks County Publishing, would like it very much if I bugged him every thirty seconds for a sales update of Vuvuzombie. He and I are friends, but it's not like we share the same sleep schedule. Remember: the key word is self-pubbed here. And b., as much as I loved writing VVZ and as much as I love Bruce, he published VVZ. Not me.
Of course, if you want to buy VVZ, I won't stop you. It just doesn't count in the drive to 2,000.
5. Are books sold from entities such as the Sony Reader Store, iBooks, or Kobo Books included in this?
There are two answers to this. The first answer is any book that was purchased at these eBookstores and the sales have been reported to Smashwords and Smashwords has updated my dashboard, then yes, they are included in the drive to 2,000; I spent a good hour earlier this week determining how many new sales I had over the past couple of months. The second answer is that books bought there now will not be updated for quite some time and don't count in the drive to 2,000.
Sales have to be reported in a timely fashion in order to count, which is why I urge readers to buy their books through either Kindle, Nook, Amazon.com (for trade paperback), or Smashwords.
6. What's in it for me?
Well, you get to not only be a cheerleader (you look fantastic in a pleated skirt, have I told you that lately?) as you cheer my numbers to shrink and shrink toward 2,000 and your particular day, you also have a chance to win one of my fantastic books, signed by yours truly and mailed by yours truly. I'll go right to the post office when I order the book and send it out. If you are one of my fans, a signed trade paperback would be a nice compliment to the copy on your Kindle or Nook!
7. Do short stories like Sidetracked and Amber Twilight, or The Mastermind count?
Yep. They are only available as ebooks.
8. How about Refugees, which was in David Dalglish's A LAND OF ASH anthology?
I have not yet published that story myself, so no.
9. If we're interested, where can we get your books?
Glad you asked! Here's my bookstore link: Here you go. Have at it.
10. Will you put me in the third AGENT book if I win?
Hmmmm.... you know, that's a pretty good idea! I need someone to kill off in the book; that's fantastic! If you win, you'll be an antagonist character in the third AGENT novel.
OK, it's 4 p.m. Thursday. See you Sunday!
- Current Mood: bouncy
In my next installment of author interviews, I wanted to bring to you the man who has made drabbles incredibly popular recently. For those who don't know, a drabble is a 100-word short story. This author, Michael Crane, has now sold somewhere in the realm of 2,000 of these little nuggets in the form of two collections: LESSONS I and LESSONS II. He's currently hard at work in the third edition, which yours truly has a sample in.
Mike and I are part of a little lynch mob -- erm, writer's clique, called the Indie Author Mafia. I'll be bringing the Mafia around over the next few weeks. Mikey just happened to draw the short straw. And he brought along a little friend, how nice.
I'll now proceed to hide in the closet. I've sent Mike the questions via paper airplane. You'll see why in a second.
Sean Sweeney: Let's talk first about your writing. How did you get your start, and what drives/motivates you?
Michael Crane: Thanks for having me!
Mr. Giggles: *coughs* Ahem!
MC: Oh yeah… Mr. Giggles decided to tag along. Hope that’s okay. I tried to tell him that he couldn’t come, and that’s when he broke one of my fingers. *waves hand* So, I really had no choice, as you can see.
Mr. G: Crybaby…
MC: Anyway, I was a huge movie fan when I was little—still am. I had a crazy idea in my head that I’d make movies when became older. Then I began to read and that’s when I realized what it was that I loved about the movies I’d watch over and over again. The story. That’s what always captivated me, and the more I read, the more I wanted to be a writer. So, I’d write some short stories—a bunch of horror. I loved horror movies and books back then. I had all of those books by Alvin Schwartz, SCARY SHORT STORIES. When I grew up, my interest in horror, or at least writing horror books/stories kind of faded, until I started on the LESSONS books.
SS: Drabbles. They seem pretty popular for you -- how did you come across them, and how do you write them?
MC: I wrote a story for an online contest that was 55 words long. It didn’t have to include the title as long as it wasn’t over a certain number of words (4 or 5, if I’m not mistaken). I never wrote anything that short, and it was fun. Challenging, but fun.
An author friend asked me if I had ever tried my hand at a drabble before, which I learned was a story that was told in 100 words. Really the only 100-word shorts I’ve read were by David McAfee, from his excellent collection THE LAKE AND 17 OTHER STORIES. The more I thought about the idea, I decided to give it a shot. It was October, and I thought I’d try to go outside my normal comfort zone when it comes to writing, and give horror another shot.
Mr. G: Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. Stop boring everybody, otherwise I’ll break another finger. When are we going to talk about me!?
MC: I’m getting there, I’m getting there! Okay, so the first drabble I wrote was “Lessons.” Just kind of came to me. I was really pleased and surprised by how well it turned out. I showed it to some other people, and they really got a kick out of it. So, I just wondered how far I could take this. At first, I thought I’d make some sort of a mini collection, of maybe two or three drabbles, and just put them up on Smashwords.com for free. Once I started, I couldn’t help myself. I kept writing them and it came to a point where I felt I had enough where I could publish it for 99 cents. It was really just a mad experiment, and I had no idea if anything was going to come from it. Now, when it comes to how I write them—
Mr. G: Stop pontificating, asshole!
MC: I’m answering the question! I’m not pontificating!
Mr. G: Just give him a simple answer for once! Nobody is interested in your process. You don’t have a fucking process! You think of fucked up things and see if you can make a drabble out of it, and that’s that! See! That’s the pontification-free version, jackass!
MC: It’s a little more than that, and I really don’t think I’m pontificating—or I hope not. Anyway, yes, I do try to think of really twisted scenarios, but I also try to inject some dark, campy humor into them as well. I think that’s why people like them. They’re creepy and disgusting, but in a goofy and fun way.
SS: You seem to have a couple of creepy characters in your first two editions of Lessons. Clown and Giggles. Explain the method behind the madness.
MC: I wished I had a method… I just try to think of things that might’ve horrified me as a child and use that as my guide. *looks at Mr. Giggles* Is that better?
Mr. G: Much.
MC: No pontificating in that answer?
Mr. G: Keep mocking me, and I’m going to force-feed you a couple of razor blades.
SS: Will they make an appearance in Lessons III? Any other new devilish, wonderful characters we're going to see?
Mr. G: Oh that’s right… this is Clown’s loverboy, ain’t it?
MC: Stop it.
Mr. G: No, this is the guy that was boo-hooing because his beloved Clown wasn’t in LESSONS II, ain’t that right? What’s so scary about Clown? Huh? He writes love letters! That’s not scary, that’s just plain lazy!
MC: Please, he was asking me a question. To answer the question, yes, Mr. Giggles and Clown do make appearances in LESSONS III.
Mr. G: Effin’ Clown…
MC: *rolls eyes* Anyway, there are some new characters you’ll run into. You’ll run into Lil’ Gabby.
Mr. G: Oh, that’s a terrifying name, now ain’t it? Whoa-ho! Watch out! Lil’ Gabby is coming for you! How can you not shit your pants senseless when you hear a name like that!
MC: *mutters* People can say the same about your name—
Mr. G: What was that?! Care to repeat that little comment?
MC: Nothing! Nothing… *whistles*
SS: Okay boys, settle down. You've also got a pretty good niche going in short stories, mainly the slice of life tales. What goes into those stories?
Mr. G: Hee-hee-hee-hee-hee…
MC: It’s not that kind of slice! Behave yourself.
Mr. G: Up yours.
MC: Raymond Carver was a huge influence on me. When I started reading his short stories in college, that’s when I realized what kind of writing I should focus on. I love throwing characters in real everyday situations and see how they react to them. It’s fun to find some experiences in life and see if you can make an entertaining story out of any of them.
SS: The big question everyone's been waiting for: When is the Drabble Man going to sit down and slog it out with a 90,000-word behemoth, better known as a novel?
MC: You’re never going to let me go on that one, are you? I wished I knew, but the truth is I don’t. It really depends on the idea and material I come up with. At the moment, all of the ideas I have are for short stories. I know I should attempt something longer.
SS: Has Nermal tried to get out of the cage recently?
MC: Happy to say that she hasn’t. Nermal is my chinchilla, and about a month ago or so she managed to escape from her cage. She was just in my room, so no big deal, but my room isn’t quite chinchilla-proof, so I was afraid of her chewing on wires or getting lost under my bed. It’s quite a thing to wake up to, seeing that opened cage door. I was so afraid she was stuck somewhere, but she was just by the corner of my bed. I think she even barked, which is probably what woke me up. Her way of saying, “Ha, ha! Look at me! I’m out, I’m out!” I’ve found a better way to close the door, so I don’t think she can get out. Not to say that she hasn’t tried.
SS: Who is the man behind Mike Crane? What loosens him up? What does he do when he's not typing away?
MC: Um… uh… uh… hmm… *looks at Mr. Giggles*
Mr. G: *shrugs*
MC: I think I may have to get back to you on that one.
SS: What's next on the writing agenda that we should prepare ourselves for?
MC: Not really sure at the moment. Like I said, it’s whatever hits me at the mom—
Mr. G: A Giggles novella! A Giggles novella!
MC: I told you that I haven’t decided for sure if I want to do that! Don’t want people to burn out on you. You’re annoying me by the day and—
Mr. G: *snap!* Ooops, there goes another finger!
MC: FOR GAWD’S SAKE!!! YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO BREAK ANOTHER FINGER, YOU STUPID LITTLE MONKEY!
Mr. G: *snap!* And I didn’t have to break another one, either.
MC: STOP IT!! STOP!! Did it ever occur to you that I can’t write a Giggles novella if I don’t have any fingers?
Mr. G: Computers have that voice thing, or whatever. You can talk into it, and it’ll type for you.
MC: I don’t know how to do that.
Mr. G: Well, now would be a good time to learn! *snap!*
SS: Thanks for coming by, Mike!
MC: Th-th-thank you… oh god… I think I need to go to the hospital. I’m feeling numb… losing my sight… so cold… so, so cold… the pain… the pain…
You can find out more about Mike's work at his website. You can follow his on Twitter at @M_Crane, and find him on Facebook. LESSONS III will be coming to an eBookstore near you within the next few months.
- Current Location:The Closet, because Mr. Giggles is a fruitcake.
- Current Mood: scared
Halftime approached. The atmosphere around the Yanks’ dugout was of enthusiastic disbelief, the murmurs growing into cheers of celebration. It was like 1950 all over again.
“We are beating the Brits! We’re going to advance in the Olympics! Clear a path!”
Then the chanting began:
“The Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming, the drums rum-tumming everywhere! So prepare, say a prayer, send the word, send the word to be there! We’ll be over, we’re coming over, and we won’t be back till it’s over, over there!”
The son cheered along with the rest of the American supporters, Sam’s Army, as the team walked off the pitch. The fans felt like they had Great Britain on the ropes and that young Membrino would score again in the second half to give the United States a healthy two-goal cushion. Some of them may have not been knowledgeable in the ways of European football and there wasn’t a Tim McCarver-like presence to follow along with on television, but they did know that a two-goal lead in this sport was better than a one-goal lead.
The father, though, was cautious. He had seen dramatic implosions surrounding Team USA before. He recalled the Americans going ahead of Brazil in the Confederations Cup final in 2009 before the Brazilians came back and humbled their opponents with three second-half goals. He saw the same against the Italians in the group stages of the same competition. And being a Red Sox fan, he was used to September Swoons — until 2004, that is.
He took the safe road in thinking the British would have something to say about the scoreline in the second half, and he made sure that he told his son — and everyone else around him — that there were still 45 minutes left, and that anything could happen. That left the American fans, who noticed the father’s Liverpool jersey and the son’s England jersey as if for the first time, grumbling about Benedict Arnolds.
The son said, “Come on, daddy. You know we’re going to beat the British. We beat them in 1776, we can beat them today.” Tommy smiled so wide that the father couldn’t deny his son.
“We’ll see, buddy. We’ll see. I’m going to use the bathroom. Do you want anything from the concession stand while I’m away?”
The boy’s eyes lit up.
“Can you get me another soda and another hot dog? And one of those long horns that some people are blowing?”
The father laughed.
“A soda yes, a hot dog yes, a vuvuzela no. I don’t think customs would let us bring one into the country when we get back home, Tommy. How about a foam finger instead?”
The boy’s face fell.
“If you must. Spike will just eat it.”
“Don’t leave it lying around your room and he won’t. Your mother and I have been telling you to keep an eye on your stuff so the dog doesn’t get at it. Besides,” the father said, “what do you think Spike would do if he got his jaws around a vuvuzela and tried to eat it?” He winked.
The son brought his finger to his jaw, as if thoughtful.
“His barks would sound better than they do now.”
“And the idiot neighbors would call the cops again.”
The son mocked shock. The father simply laughed again.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes, okay? Don’t go walking around the stadium.” He kissed his son on the forehead.
The boy wiped it off.
The father squirted himself out of the row and jogged up the stairs that led all the way up to the Royal Box. He came upon a tall steward, standing at the ramp entrance. The man had his hands wrapped behind him, coming to a rest at the small of his back. He eyed the father warily.
“Excuse me, sir. I have to go use the bathroom. Would you mind keeping an eye on my son? He’s right there in the England shirt.” He pointed toward his son, a few rows away.
“Stewards aren’t babysitters, sir,” the steward replied pompously, giving the father a look of impatience. “We get paid to babysit this lot,” he added, waving his arm about, indicating the crowd, “not your son.”
The father dug money out of his pocket and peeled off a twenty-pound note. He grabbed the steward’s arm, tore it away from his backside and thrust the bill into his hand.
“How about now?”
The steward looked down at the note with wide eyes. He usually received five-pound tips from helping people find their seats.
“Which one is your lad, sir? I’ll make sure he doesn’t get into no trouble at all,” the steward replied, this time less haughtily and more with a Cockney accent.
The father smiled and patted him on the shoulder, then directed his gaze to his son.
“I’ll only be a few minutes. Just a quick bathroom visit, a trip to a concession stand and I’ll be back before the second half starts.”
“No problem, sir. He won’t move a muscle.”
The father took one more look at his son before he turned and started to walk down the ramp, a smile on his face. His hands were in his pockets holding onto the notes.
The force of the blast changed that. Instead of staying on his feet, the father found himself thrown forward, as if the hand of God lifted him up from where he walked and tossed him twenty feet. The notes flew out of his hand and burned in the ensuing fireball. The father hit the cement hard, dislocating his shoulder and sending him rolling. His momentum finally stopped as soon as his body collided with a concession stand, causing his body to shudder even more; he didn’t even feel his ribs snap. He didn’t even register the severe amount of pain that he was in. Someone close by screamed, and his ears did not even register it as a scream of terror; his eardrums were concussed. It was only then that he smelled burning flesh.
It took him several more seconds to realize the burning flesh was his.
Someone smothered him with a woolen blanket, and soon the fire that had encompassed his backside was out. The screams continued, but he didn’t hear a thing.
The father tried to get up from the concourse floor, but someone’s weight kept him down. He could detect people rushing past him, toward the explosion. Thick black smoke began to fill the concourse as well as pour out from the stadium’s wound.
Once more he tried to get up, and this time felt no resistance. His body screamed at him to stay down and not move, for movement caused his nerves extreme discomfort. He stood up and looked toward where he came from, expecting to see a wall with concessionaires near the ramp that led into the stadium proper.
All he saw was smoke, fire, and through it, the south side of the stadium.
It was at that moment that the father began to panic.
Disregarding the pain as he stumbled forward, the father said “No!” repeatedly, shouting it louder and louder until he thought he could hear himself. He began to run toward the ramp, but he tripped as soon as he got there. He fell on top of a burning woman lying face down on the cement.
She was dead.
He looked up toward the stadium and saw the ramp littered with bodies. Smoke poured off them. He even saw the broken body of his babysitting steward laying at a right angle — but not a right angle that would be natural for human beings.
The father vomited violently, his insides coming out of him with the speed of an unstoppable train. The stuff spilled atop the dead woman, splattering on her back and off it onto the concrete. The stench of vomit and burning flesh reeked, and soon the smell of acrid, black smoke would counter it.
He tried his best to avoid stepping on the bodies, but at that point, he did not care: His only thought was making sure his son was okay.
Yet as he walked up the ramp, tiptoeing through the bodies, he had an incredibly bad feeling he would not like what he saw when he emerged.
His breath caught in his throat as he surveyed the damage.
The scene was incredible.
The scene was horrific.
He could not believe his eyes.
As a Liverpool supporter, what he saw at that very moment reminded him of what happened at Hillsborough, the deadly crush that occurred during an FA Cup semifinal over 23 years ago. He had seen YouTube footage from the BBC of the event, and the scene had sickened him senseless. He recalled people rushing onto the pitch, using the advertising boards that ran around the playing surface as makeshift stretchers to carry the wounded and the dead away.
This was Hillsborough on a much greater scale, he thought. This was September 11, Hillsborough and any terror attack rolled into one.
The thought made him want to puke again.
The blast vaporized three entire sections of seats near the United States’ dugout. Bodies were burning. He saw stewards from the southern side of the stadium running across the pitch to help, even though it would have been prudent to stay put and prevent the crowd from panicking. Fans, both British and American, also came across. Perhaps there were nurses, doctors, constables and firefighters on that side, but right now, they looked like Olympic sprinters.
He began to shout Tommy’s name repeatedly, hoping his son would recognize his voice, pleading for the boy to come find his father.
The father couldn’t see him. No one shorter than five feet came running toward him. His bottom lip began to tremble as his eyes searched the crowd on the pitch.
God, he prayed, if you’re listening, please bring Tommy back to me. It’s his birthday soon. I need him to come home with me.
The father did not hear silence in return, nor did he hear anything at all.
He began panicking, and it was almost like he wanted the dead steward to hand him his money back and to restrain him as he walked forward toward where he and his son sat during the first half. He couldn’t find those seats, though.
He stumbled forward, his feet kicking up shards of concrete, metal and plastic, the debris left over from the blast. He was surprised it wasn’t incinerated like the rest. He turned and looked up at the Royal Box and found it gone. Even up higher, the upper decks did not appear to exist.
He turned his head back toward the pitch and walked gingerly. People tried to stop him, but he shoved them aside, the pain still not registering. He got to what had been the Americans’ dugout and he shouted his son’s name again.
Once again, he received no answer.
He tried to climb the wall, but a wave of pain finally brought him to a halt. He finally noticed his hanging right arm and felt his back blistering from the flames. He leaned against the short wall.
He caught a glimpse of a white shirt upon a small child several yards away. The shirt had scorch marks, but the child’s arms were askew in such a way that the father had no reason to doubt that the child’s arms were broken.
The father dug deep and pushed himself up and over the wall, dropping down on his injured shoulder. He felt the pop knock his shoulder back into place. If he had anything left in his stomach, he would have thrown it back up. He pushed himself up to his knees and felt another wave of pain go through him. It would have knocked a lesser man to the ground, but he was a man possessed with finding his son. His son’s safety was the only thing that mattered to him at that moment. He ignored the pain.
He got to his feet and walked toward the broken child. It was only a few feet away. He kept his eyes on the child’s back the entire time and had a horrible feeling begin to sink into the pit of his stomach as he got closer. The child’s hair was the same color of his son’s. The shorts looked identical, though burned. The shirt, where blackened, had melted into the child’s skin.
“Oh, Tommy,” he said. “No, please don’t be dead.”
He hit his knees again and turned the child over.
It was Tommy. He looked like he was sleeping, but his mouth was slack. The father’s eyes became wet, and heavy sobs rattled his frame. His heart broke, and he didn’t care about a dislocated shoulder or broken ribs or that he had nearly been incinerated by the fireball. His son was dead because of that explosion, and he did not care about his own body. At that very moment, his world had ended.
He had no idea how he would tell his wife that her youngest child was dead.
The father grabbed his son in his own damaged arms and looked toward Heaven, crying, “Why, God? Why my son?” His eyes closed as tears cut rivulets into his face.
Jafar did not know if the explosion took place as planned. With the BBC on a commercial break, there was no way to know what happened. He looked to the CCTV monitor that showed the north side of Wembley Stadium as well as the area of Wembley Park surrounding the building.
At first, Jafar could not see anything different. Wembley’s floodlights were on, but after about a minute or two, the lights at the top of the stadium began to cut out as smoke rose into the sky, blocking the light from the CCTV cameras. A minute later, the BBC came back to the studio:
“We’re supposed to go back to Wembley for comment, but we have to shift gears as an explosion rocked the stadium just after the players left the pitch for halftime. These pictures tell the story,” the studio host said.
Jafar held his breath.
The cameras inside Wembley told the tale. Black smoke rose into the air, dissipating slightly. Bodies littered the pitch, and people from the south side flooded it. The scenes were chaotic, and Jafar tuned out the pundits who tried describing what occurred.
Then they showed the explosion, taped and taken from the wide angle camera that followed the action during the first half. The loge level went first. A fireball lifted fans into the air, the rolling inferno swallowing bodies whole. A second explosion took the next deck. A third followed. The BBC, in a fit of stupidity, then added the audio.
The screams sent goose bumps running up Jafar’s forearms and caused a smile to drift across his face. He heard the shock in the broadcasters’ voices. He wanted to see that replay, the replay of Wembley’s north side exploding, over and over and over again; he had heard that an American broadcaster, after seeing one of their space shuttles explode on replay so many times, demanded his producers stop showing it.
The terrorist could tell that many died from the blast he created, and with so many rushing to help, he knew those people would have nightmares until the day they died. He wanted to lord over that knowledge, the knowledge that he gave them those nightmares – payment for the nightmares that echoed in the ears of Afghani children, his young brothers and sisters in Allah, after the Americans struck his country in 2001. It was a vengeful slap, one that Jafar wished he could have seen live.
He prayed to Allah and asked for an announcement on the death toll soon, for he craved to know how many people perished.He wanted to know before he took credit for what the world saw.
Author web site
- Current Mood: excited
For Sample Sunday today, I give you ROGUE AGENT. I'm breaking the post up into two parts.
Wembley, London, England
30 July, 2012 — 19.30 GMT/2:30 p.m. ET
Hand in hand, father and son rode the escalator from the platform all the way up to the gate of the Wembley Park Tube station. The sun licked their faces, much as it had before they melded with the crowd and surged underground at Bond Street. Sweat covered their brows before they stepped back outside.
The father was in his mid 30s, with black hair on the road to receding. His rather long, hawkish nose was prominent on his face, one that would have made the late Robert Helpmann jealous: It was so much like the one Helpmann’s most famous character, the Childcatcher, used to sniff out children in the old Disney movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He wore a faded red Liverpool F.C. jersey with Fowler 9 printed on the back. He had pulled it on so much on the weekends and for midweek matches that he feared he would tear it on accident if the Reds came close to winning their 19th First Division title or their sixth European Cup.
Of course, like a true Liverpool supporter, he did not like to walk alone and never did when it came to football: His 8-year-old son, who loved Liverpool just as much as he did, was with him, the little boy’s left hand firmly clenching his father’s right. The son had looked forward to this Olympic football tournament match between their home country, the United States, and the Great Britain team, which, while it carried the moniker of the Home Nations, primarily consisted of Under-21s from England. His father told him that his hero, Steven Gerrard, would not play in the match. There was some disappointment to be sure, but the boy, holding onto his father’s hand for dear life, shed his anger as soon as the glass northern side of Wembley Stadium came into view.
The boy was not old enough to realize that the stadium he looked at was not the original Wembley; that stadium came down some four years before he was born. But to him, this was a fabulous place to watch a match; it was so much better than Gillette Stadium back home in Massachusetts. Even though it was his first time in England, he had watched several matches online, and he was excited at the prospect of reaching out and touching the famous pitch. As it so happened, he wore a small, youth-sized England jersey his father bought him. It was unadorned with name or number, even though the father knew the son would not be happy unless Gerrard 4 was on the back.
“But daddy,” the boy said when he opened the dirty parcel, “I wanted a Captain Fantastic shirt. That way, when he sees me, he can smile.”
“I know, I know, but I have to tell you something: You’re supposed to root for the badge,” the father said with a smile of his own, pointing to the Three Lions crest that would cover his son’s heart, “not the player wearing the badge. I think I’ve told you that before, especially after your uncle’s obsession with Brett Favre.”
The boy sighed in their living room and begrudgingly put the shirt on. Now, some five months later, with the greenery of Wembley Park sprawling to either side of him and the Home of Football approaching dead center, that conversation was dead within his past, the memory forgotten.
The son was wide-eyed, and to the father, who looked down every so often at his offspring, his son’s happiness was truly all that mattered. He would give his life in exchange for his son’s, and he sacrificed countless times to make sure that his son, while not spoiled, had anything his heart desired. Seeing his son’s expression caused his heart to leap taller than the arch that soared high above Wembley. He had to admit it to himself, albeit quietly: He was looking forward to this match just as much as his son.
Even though it was warm, northwest London was somewhat free of the smog that usually covered the city. Father and son could take a deep breath without choking on bad air, even though they slowly walked with the sweat-stained crowd toward the pedestrian walkway. The father had made this walk before, when his New England Patriots demolished the Tampa Bay Buccaneers here in 2009. That was nearly three years ago, and he had flown to England on business; that same day, Liverpool played Manchester United at Anfield, and the Reds beat the Red Devils, 2-0, in a match that he had to watch at a nearby pub instead of on The Kop. The photos and the souvenirs he brought home to his son, coupled with his son’s excitement, confirmed to him that he wanted to bring him over for the Summer Olympics.
They continued walking along the brick-lined Wembley Way.
“Daddy, I see the arch!” the boy exclaimed, pointing at the 133-meter tall structure the way all boys do when excited. His eyes were brighter than his father had ever seen them. “Can we climb it, daddy? Can we, can we, can we?”
The father chuckled, and so did the two small boys walking nearby with their own father. Their father shushed them and apologized.
“No, Tommy, we won’t be able to climb it. It’s not like the Arch in St. Louis. This arch is like one big Erector set, and I don’t think the security team would like it if they found us hanging onto it.”
The boy gave an “aww, shucks” in return, which reminded the father of the jersey incident. The father simply shook his head, smiling all the same.
“Let’s get into the stadium and find our seats, okay?”
Mere seconds after passing Currys, father and son walked up the walkway and came to the statue of Sir Bobby Moore, the defender who led England to its only World Cup win in 1966. The father made sure he got a picture of his son next to the statue, the souvenir of all souvenirs.
At the gate, both of them went through security, each given a cursory pat down and waved over with one of those electro-magnetic wands they had at Logan Airport before they hopped on the Emirates Airlines jet to Heathrow a few days before. The father wasn’t concerned for himself, since he wasn’t carrying a gun and had no reason to be detained. He was more concerned for his son, who had never gone through a pat down before.
He looked to his right and saw the security guard give his son a grape flavored lollipop after the wand passed over him.
“Daddy, why were they doing that with the stick?”
“It’s security, Tommy. This is a big event. They don’t want people coming in with stuff to hurt people, so they make sure that anyone who tries can’t get inside. They had guns, and there are police officers nearby. Remember that the police are here to help people.”
“Except when they give you a speeding ticket.”
“You still haven’t told your mother, right?”
“No daddy, I want a PlayStation 4. I’m keeping my mouth shut.”
The father grinned, for some reason proud of the boy’s deception.
I trained him well, he thought.
They bought two sodas and hot dogs at a concession stand — the son poured mustard all over the hot dog and nearly on his jersey, but the father caught him before he stained the lilywhite shirt — and then entered the stadium proper. The green pitch of Wembley, re-laid for what seemed like the one hundredth time after the FA Cup Final two months ago, met their eyes. Red seats unfurled like the Red Sox’ 2004 World Championship banner and spread into every nook and cranny of the stadium’s lower bowl. Aisles of golden tipped concrete broke the monotony. Other supporters were sitting, while over in the corner, a chorus of God Save The Queen broke out among those who stood.
While the father grinned, the son was just as wide-eyed as he had been a few minutes ago.
“Wow! It’s so green!” he said.
“Yes it is. Just wait until I take you to Fenway in a few weeks. That will be a lot of green; green all over the place.”
“That is a lot of green. Wait,” the son replied after a moment. “We’re going to Fenway?”
“Oh, I didn’t tell you?” the father said with a touch of fatherly sarcasm. “It’s Part 2 of your ninth birthday present. This is Part 1.”
The grin on the son’s face was brighter than the day. He launched himself into his father’s waist.
“I love you, daddy!”
The father simply wrapped his arms around his son, who would turn 9 in two weeks’ time. He took a deep breath. He knew these moments would grow few and far between as he got older.
“I love you too, Tommy. Let’s go over here; we’ll get to see the players come out for warm-ups soon.”
Eager to watch the players come out onto the pitch, Tommy and his father walked over to the area behind the dugouts and waited. Security did not step in and intercede, which surprised the father — all he had heard about coming into this Olympics was how they would be safer and more security-conscious. It had been sixteen years since Atlanta and the bombing of the Centennial Olympic Park, and there were no incidents in Sydney, Athens or Beijing, nor in Nagano, Salt Lake City, Turin or Vancouver. It may have been a fool’s hope that terrorists would spare London 2012, especially in this post-9/11 world, but organizers and the International Olympic Committee were taking no chances. Security was to be top-notch.
The father noticed that truly was not the case.
Once the game began, they took their seats behind the United States dugout, despite wearing jerseys of England and rooting for the young Great Britain stars they watched every Saturday and Sunday on Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Soccer Plus and ESPN2. The United States Under-23 team, many said, were lucky to qualify for these Olympics, despite the rather easy qualifying schedule of CONCACAF. Great Britain, however, were not the favorites of the tournament despite being the host nation: That fell to Italy, which was currently playing its final group stage match against Argentina at Old Trafford in Manchester.
Even though the players on the pitch were different, many were calling this match a rematch of the USA-England World Cup match from 2010, where the Three Lions drew the Yanks, 1-1, during their opening match in South Africa. Now, without the big stars of the English Premier League in the match, there was a level of anticipation on the other side of the Atlantic that the Americans could quite possibly upset the Britons. It led ESPN to break out and dust off the “Over There” commercials it had played during World Cup qualifying in 2009. Speculation on who would score first was heavy in Las Vegas. NBC, the American television rights holder of the Summer Olympics since 1988, showed the match live.
As it turned out, Great Britain scored first as young Donnie Rhodes, an Everton F.C. first teamer, scored on a blistering shot from distance in the right channel, easily beating the American keeper after 25 minutes.
A cacophony of verse rose from the English supporters’ section:
He wears a Lion on his chest, Donnie, Donnie
We know he is the fucking best, Donnie, Donnie
He punched his bird, he burned his house
But we don’t care, he fucking scouse
Donnie Rho-odes, Great Britain’s Number 9
The father grinned as the faithful began jumping up and down, reminiscent of the Kop when the Liverpool supporters once serenaded Fernando Torres. The entire southern side of the stadium swayed while chants of “Nah nah, nah nah, nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah” echoed off Wembley’s roof.
The Americans’ resolve was great, though, and without prompting, they brought the match to level terms as Steve Membrino, a virtual unknown from Wake Forest, used his pace off the center kick and blazed and spun through the Brits’ defense like Diego Maradona had in Mexico City 26 years earlier.
Tommy leaped to his feet, jumped on the seat cushion and applauded Membrino as his right-footed strike beat the English keeper on the right-hand side. He wanted to tear his shirt off and swing it over his head like Membrino did at the near corner flag along with a little two-step dance to match. The American supporters chanted the intro to Chelsea Dagger while the referee brandished a yellow card Membrino’s way.
The noise inside Wembley was deafening, and although Tommy and his father were rooting for Great Britain at the beginning, the intensity shown by the American youngsters caused them and many of the others in attendance to rise to their feet and applaud the underdogs.
That’s what the Olympics was about to them. The possibility of a huge upset was in the making — a tie would have sent the Americans through to the knockout stages and left the Great Britain team watching at home, scratching their heads — and they all felt an excitement not seen at Wembley since Blackpool were promoted to the Premier League following the 2009-10 season.
“Wow daddy, this is fantastic!” he said. “I really hope we win.”
“A draw is as good as a win right now. Do you see what happens when you play attacking football? The hockey team did that in 1980, and look what happened? They beat the Soviets and they ended up winning the gold medal. That could happen if we end up beating or drawing with the Brits today.”
The wonder in the son’s eyes showed as the father explained the Miracle on Ice. This match, a Miracle on Grass, still had a long way to go, though.
And as they said on television, anything could happen in football.
Something would happen.
It just wouldn’t be what anyone expected.
The West End, London, England
30 July 2012 — 20.10 GMT/3:10 p.m. ET
In the middle of his evening prayers — with the television on — the shouting BBC announcer distracted Jafar Abdullah Mohammed.
“And the Yanks have brought this Olympic group stage match to level terms! What a beautiful strike by Steve Membrino!”
Jafar’s eyes flew open. He turned his head toward the television.
This is the sign, he thought.
Jafar felt the anticipation running through his skin as he lurched from his prayer cushion, his prayers incomplete. He stumbled slightly, but that was because his knees did not bend properly. He grimaced hard and bit back a Muslim curse.
“I am sorry, Allah. Forgive me for not finishing,” he said, looking toward the ceiling. “I will offer you my blood in penance. But I must cleanse the world of infidel filth.”
He sat down on his couch with his laptop in front of him. He intently watched the match and waited for just the right time. The minutes ticked off, and every second was unbearable as the last. Fear began to creep into Jafar’s conscience.
What if the Brits reclaim the lead? The operation would be for naught, he thought.
He shook his head.
The operation can continue. The West is the West is the West. Just because the Americans are unsuccessful and the British win does not mean the months of planning go up in smoke. This is why we’ve had all those meetings and spent Allah’s money on weapons and explosives. This one event is what it’s all about! Great Britain is just as much an enemy to us as the United States! We can deal a crippling blow to their morale with this act today. Allah has blessed our endeavor. I cannot waste this opportunity!
A smile crept along Jafar’s lips as he thought about this, just as the Americans’ defense dispossessed the Brits’ striker as he surged into the penalty area. The cheer from the American fans was sickening, and it mirrored the groan coming from the British supporters.
Jafar wanted to vomit. The West places so much importance on sport, especially football and American football and — the thought made him gag — baseball.
Baseball is a children’s game, like rounders, compared to our cricket, the game of men, he thought.
Jafar spat his disgust.
The West should care about things that are more important. Staying out of Middle Eastern affairs would be a good start. Allah will punish these non-believers for plundering our land and not letting our leaders command our people. If the criminal Bush hadn’t stuck up for his daddy, mighty Saddam would still be in command of Iraq.
He looked at the television again and saw the Americans sprinting up the pitch, casually moving the ball between players, playing an incessant game of keep away from the Brits. Two touches later, the Americans were into the attacking third, looking for an opening in the home side’s defense. Surely, the Americans wouldn’t go with a shot from distance again.
The Americans pounded the ball right into the heart of the penalty area, a thumping volley by the right side midfielder. Jafar watched as the players closed in on Membrino, who stood near the penalty spot, staying onside. The tall American striker bent his knees, leaped and beat the Brits to the ball. Membrino nodded the ball low. The keeper dove.
The keeper pounded the grass with his gloved hand as the ball tickled the back of the onion bag.
Jafar looked to the upper left-hand corner of the screen and smiled maliciously as the score line now read GBR 1-2 USA.
There was still less than an hour to play, still time for the Brits to come up with an equalizer. Was time on their side? Jafar could not tell. They looked disjointed.
Jafar wiped the sweat away. Even though the sun was down, his flat continued baking. It was after 20.30 now, which meant he could eat; Jafar maintained the strict rules of Ramadan and fasted from sunrise to sunset, and would do so for the next 20 days.
Another thing for the infidels to pay for, Jafar thought. The Olympics fall during our holy month, and they knew it would cause our Muslim athletes, those who follow the tenets of our religion to a tee, to fast during the day and put them at an extreme disadvantage against everyone else, their American and Canadian and British heroes. They must pay for this breach of etiquette!
They do not care about Muslims. They do not care that our athletes will be shunned and crucified for this. Why can’t the IOC be mindful of Muslims’ needs?
No, they can’t do that. The West wouldn’t want to compete fairly — that would be too much of a stretch, even for them — much like they want to completely eradicate us from the face of the Earth. It is why we must fight back with vengeance at every opportunity! We must not let the West win!
Jafar seethed now, his anger palpable. His heart rate rose as the fist-sized muscle pounded against the inside of his breastbone. He did not care what the scoreline in the match was now. It was not an issue any longer. The Brits could win. The Yanks could win. It could have ended a draw. Jafar did not care.
It was time for him to carry out his plans, his turn to do his part in Allah’s Grand Scheme.
He opened a browser window on his laptop. He punched in his commands, his fingers flying across the keyboard so quickly, they appeared to be a blur.
He pressed enter.
He turned his attention to the television screen, and kept another eye on the CCTV link on his laptop. It showed Wembley Stadium from the outside. There were some people in Wembley Park watching the match on large monitors, much like the ones that were in Trafalgar Square for the announcement of London’s winning Olympics bid.
The CCTV view had no audio, so Jafar could not tell who was boisterously happy and who was glum. The wide-angle shot was perfectly serene.
To continue reading Chapter 1, click here.
Ready to buy the book? The links are below.
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- Current Mood: excited
And then there's my mind.
Inside my mind at this very moment are a tale of terror in a big U.S. city; a tale of a private investigator in Colonial Boston; of a young couple from different backgrounds in 1962 Boston as a wrecking ball looms; of a high school football coach who has gone overboard on the high life in Los Angeles; of a New York City rapidly changed... and so much more.
Would you like to see how my mind processes these things, these ideas, onto the computer screen? Join me... I promise you a fun ride.
- Current Mood: contemplative
When the 2012 Summer Olympics opened in London, security was at a fever pitch. They said it was going to be the safest Olympic Games yet.
They were wrong.
Heightened security did not stop a terrorist attack on the final group stage match of the Olympic soccer tournament between the United States and the host Great Britain, played at the fabled Wembley Stadium, the home of British football. And when an agent of al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack, it sent both the United States and the United Kingdom into a heightened state of alert.
There is only one problem for the terrorist: Outbound Eurostar service to Paris and flights out of Heathrow have been shut down – but flights into London continue to come in.
The president calls upon the one CIA agent he can trust – Jaclyn Johnson, a.k.a. Snapshot – to seek the killers of countless American citizens and bring them to justice.
But the events that occur during Snapshot’s mission in London leads to political maneuvering – and Jaclyn going against everything she knows.
ROGUE AGENT. It's coming soon to Amazon Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.
- Current Mood: excited
First off, this takes a load of concern off my mind. I trust Bruce Sarte, the man behind Bucks County, to produce a quality book. He and I believe in the same things, especially about how readers like quality, original storytelling, as well as low prices for ebooks. I've seen a lot of BCP's covers, and I'm impressed with how they look. Bruce and I have worked with each other before: I wrote VUVUZOMBIE, a World Cup-based short story, for his Halloween anthology last year, so there is a professional rapport between us. We met on the Amazon Kindle Facebook page, and we immediately hit it off. It just proves that networking works.
How everything came about with ZS was a case of being in the right place at the right time. I had originally planned on self-pubbing it, and I had sent it out to a few authors for blurbs. I had received two of them already, and I sent it to Bruce; he's written a few solid horror stories. He IMed me and told me he thought it was a great story. I asked him, tongue-in-cheek, "Do you want it?"
He said yes.
A few conversations later, mainly regarding rights, royalties, etc., we had a deal. We've sorted out a deal that is mutually beneficial to each other, based on personal and professional respect. It was, in all honesty, one of the easiest negotiations on record. Congress could take a lesson from Bruce and I. But I digress...
Now, the big question: Will I still self-publish?
Of course I will. I thoroughly enjoy this aspect of publishing, and this deal actually sets into motion events that I did not anticipate. More on that soon. I looked over my projects in the backlog the other day, and I intend on getting these projects out, most within the next 12-18 months.
As for this deal, I couldn't be happier.
- Current Mood:accomplished
So, quick aside: Why can I keep up with guest blogging and not my own? An interesting question...
That's what I'm asking you all to do today, except I'm not going to ask for 300 ebooks. No, I'm going to go smaller.
I only want 19.
Why 19, you ask? Simple. As I write this post, it's 1 a.m. on March 29, which means I have nearly three full days until the end of the month. I'm currently in my best book sales month (for the second consecutive month), and I want to reach, at the very least, 350 book sales for March. I'm at 331 right now.
Why not shoot for a higher number? you ask. Simple: I don't know if I would get that amount. I'm setting a simple, easy-to-reach goal, a number I can hit; a number I know I can hit.
Nineteen books in three days. It can be done. If I go over it, sweet. If I don't hit 350... at least I gave it the old college try, right? I can't get there if I don't try.
It can be any of my books. Baseball season is on our doorstep: Try TURNING BACK THE CLOCK. Like a pulse-pounding thriller that keeps you riveted on the edge of your seat? MODEL AGENT is for you. Both of those books are $2.99. Need a quick, inexpensive read? AMBER TWILIGHT or THE MASTERMIND would be perfect for you, and both are 99 cents. And don't forget about my brand new young adult fantasy novel THE RIDE OF THE DARK FALCON, which is also 99 cents. Many choices for little money.
So here's what I'm asking: Please reTweet. Please post on Facebook. Having lunch with a friend who has a wifi/3G capable eReader? Please tell them about my books. Have an iPhone/iPod Touch/BlackBerry/Android and you have a reading app? Please download a book through the Kindle Store or the NOOKBooks store.
Word of mouth is huge in this business. Hitting 350, to me, would be huge.
Please.... spread the word. And thank you.
- Current Mood: anxious