Meet moneyguzzler, eBook pirate extraordinaire

From the “I’m sure it happens to everyone at some point” files…

I always wondered how I’d feel when I found the first pirated copy of one of my books.  For over a year it was a completely hypothetical situation and I could look at it in the abstract.  I mean, on the one hand it would mean someone actually cared enough to pirate a copy of it.  On the other hand, someone actually pirated it.  Today I got to experience that feeling without the abstract part of it.  A little site that calls itself mobilism (that’s run on blogikates.com) had a copy today.  The Nazi swine that posted it couldn’t even get the newest cover.

Psst. It’s this one:

May cause unexpected awesomeness in readers

May cause unexpected awesomeness in readers

Aside from the obvious “Hey!  That’s mine!” feeling I have to wonder who would be interested enough to read it but can’t spare the $2.99 to buy a copy.  Or get a free one when I run those regular giveaways.  Seriously, if you’re that interested and short of cash drop me a line and I’ll probably send you a copy.

I guess I should look on the bright side: there’s no such thing as bad publicity and if this helps sales of other books, then so be it.  Not that I’m condoning piracy.  I’d prefer it if moneyguzzler and the 400 some odd folks who’ve downloaded it had actually paid for Henchmen, but I try to find the good in the situation.

So, all things aside, this part boggled my mind.  Here’s a link to where moneyguzzler got his much deserved props.  I’ve attached a screenshot in case it gets lost somewhere.  I particularly love the part where the admin thanks him for his hard work and good character.

GoodJobMoneyguzzler

He’s such a good boy!

 

Hard work?  How hard is it to download a book, run it through a DRM stripper, convert it in Calibre and rar it up?  Not exactly rocket science, if you know what I mean.

So, there you have it.  My first pirated book.  I sent off the requisite “stop this” letter to the admins at blogikates (who DO NOT condone piracy, even though their site has a special level for people who pirate a lot of books).  Something tells me I doubt I’ll ever hear from them.

If you’d like to buy a legit copy (and make an Indie Author happy), you can get one on Amazon.

Book Review – Darkly Wood by Max Power

darklywood

Darkly Wood is, as far as I know, the first novel by Max Power, the Irish author with the coolest name on the planet.

Darkly Wood seems, from the outset, to be a simple horror story but is actually far more.  It details the misadventures of Daisy May Coppertop and her ill-advised entry into the titular woods near her house.  Things go bad and the wood becomes much more than they prototypical scary woods you tend to find in average horror stories.  In an average horror story our heroine would have barely escaped and then we’d have the literary equivalent of a fading scene of someone else standing at the edge of the wood, thinking about going in.  We would have been given all the answers and at least a couple teenagers would have been killed.

This is not an average horror story.  This is a richly textured story that defies conventions and breaks boundaries.  The heroine fights back against unspeakable odds.  The antagonist is more than a relentless killing machine.  We don’t get all the answers.  Even at the end of the story there’s still some mystery and that mystery allows the story to keep its magic intact.  Darkly Wood will mess with your head, you’ll find yourself on the edge – hoping everything works out but dreading that it won’t, and in the end you’ll find you’ve read a great story.  It will take you places, even if they’re places you don’t want to go, and drop you in the thick of it.  This is where horror stories should go; less about the monsters and more about the characters.  And when the characters fight the monsters – oh, yeah, that’s good stuff right there.

So, about that richly textured stuff…

Most stories have exposition.  It’s one of those things you just have to do unless the story focuses on an extremely narrow slice of time and uses well-known characters or settings.  The going phrase these days is “show me, don’t tell me,” which is kind of silly if you think about it.  A book is telling you a story.  If you want something to show you a story go to the movies.  Darkly Wood (the wood, not the book) has a long history of turning people into corpses and one of the best ways Darkly Wood (the book, not the story) handles the exposition about that history is a book within the book that tells you stories about what has happened in the past.  It was a stroke of genius, and a brilliant way to handle the horrid history of the past.

I’ve written in the past about my disdain for traditional horror stories, but this was one of the rare gems that makes use of a horror backdrop to explore characters and how they react to extreme situations.  Well worth the read.

Buy it on Amazon

Follow Max Power on Twitter

Max’s Blog of Awesome

Max Power on Facebook

Monsters of the Southwest: The Greys

“He awoke with alarm bells ringing in his head and cold dread oozing down his spine.  The room felt dark and quiet but the reptile part of his mind was terrified beyond belief.  The paralysis of sleep took a Herculean effort to overcome, something adrenaline and terror should have overridden.  Finally, after an eternity of struggle, he managed to roll over in bed and collapsed against his pillow from the effort.  His tired eyes locked on three small figures next to his bed.  In the dark he couldn’t make out their color but they looked like stick figures with big heads and huge, black eyes.

One of the figures pointed something at him, a rod or some sort of tube.  There was a flash of light and then … nothing.

He awoke to the sound of birds chirping and sunlight streaming through the windows of his room.  A splitting headache and blood on his pillow were all that remained of the mysterious visitors.”

UFO sightings have happened all over the world.  From Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, at some point or another every place on the planet has had a UFO sighting of some sort or another, so how come I feel like I can refer to the Greys as a Southwestern monsters?  Well, it’s simple, really.  The Southwestern United States can lay claim to a couple of the largest mysteries in the UFO realm.  We’ve got Roswell and Area 51 in our court.  Of lesser renown but still important in these circles is the infamous Archuleta Mesa in Dulce, NM.  England has the crop circles but we’ve got the crashed UFOs and at least a handful of the little dudes safely behind bars in the desert.

cropcircle

I’m not saying it was aliens, but it was aliens.

By the way, here’s a fun fact about both Henchmen and Arise: the cover designs were inspired by crop circles.  See, you learn something every day.

Now, for this installment of the fabulously popular Monsters of the Southwest, we’ll be focusing on the occupants of the UFOs, those little guys with huge black eyes and a penchant for playing hide the pellet.  Growing up in New Mexico I spent a lot of my life hearing about aliens and, if you read my author bio on Amazon you’ll find that I talk about roaming around the hills looking for buried treasure and UFOs.  I wasn’t joking.  That was called weekends when I was growing up.  As far as finding things, well, let’s just say I’m not 100% convinced it’s all bull.

Which makes this kind of an interesting installment in this series.  Coco and La Llorona are both pretty much considered to be just stories; a way of keeping kids in line and warning people about their egos.  The Greys are a different story altogether and while you’re unlikely to come across someone who says, “Yes!  I have met Coco!” or “La Llorona?  She’s right over there, might wanna leave your kids here, though,” there are plenty of people of sound mind and body who will swear on a stack of Bibles (or in my case a stack of Mad Magazines) that the aliens are very real.  Folks from all walks of life, from the rum soaked burnout living in the hills to retired military generals have claimed – publicly, no less – that the Greys are the real deal.

Mr. Grey will see you now.

Mr. Grey will see you now.

I’m not here to debate that.  I don’t have any evidence one way or the other to present about the veracity of extraterrestrial life.  It’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility.  Of course, I guess if you want to get technical; if you assume the Greys are a possibility then it stands to reason that other strange things could be a possibility, too.  Then you’re stuck, painted into a corner by your own logic and having to swallow the fact that maybe, just maybe, Coco and La Llorona are either real or based on real events.

Since it’s estimated that a full 25% of the Internet(1) is devoted to stories of the Greys, I won’t belabor the point and try to discuss every single theory out there.  You can read up on the history of the alien stories anywhere.  Rather I’d like to discuss how they relate to the events of Henchmen and Arise.  While these guys don’t actively show up in either story they’re very much in the background of both books and serve, to a certain extent, to generate some plot elements and show an interesting side to Eve.

The Greys are referenced a few times throughout the story arc of Henchmen and Arise.  In Henchmen, as Eve and Steven are searching for the correct door to open they come across a kind of map describing what projects are being carried out behind each door.  The basic breakdown – in government project speak – is like this:

  1. The Hole
  2. Angels Above
  3. The Sleeper

(Spoiler alert: they find out what’s behind door number 3)

During the process of figuring it out, our hero Steven (who already has knowledge of the creatures) tries to explain to Eve (who is fascinated with the idea of aliens) how the Greys are of limited use.

“What do you think “Angels Above” is?”  Eve asks.  “Think it could be aliens?”

“Possible,” I tell her.  “They’re not that exciting, though.  Their weapons aren’t all that spectacular and we can’t recreate their power supply, so they’re basically useless to us.”

“Wait a minute.  There are actually aliens on Earth, and you know about them? And you never said anything?” she asks.

I look at her for a moment.  This is the one of a very few times I’ve ever seen Eve excited, and she’s giddy as a schoolgirl.  I never pegged her as the type to get excited over aliens.

“I’m sorry,” I say.  “It honestly never came up, and I don’t think too much about it anymore.”

“They’re real?” She asks.

“Yeah.  Great big eyes and everything.  They have a deep and abiding love of black licorice.”

“Why are they here?”

“They sent out ships in every direction, one of them stumbled across us.  Pure accident,” I say.

“Do they know anything?”

“They know they’re tired of deep space and they like black licorice.  Other than that, they’re basically long-haul truckers who’ve found a truck stop and though we’d be an easy conquest.”

I look her in the eyes and she looks crushed.

“I’m sorry.  It’s just how it is.  They just kind of do what they do.  They’re not all that different than us – same motivations, similar weaknesses.  Their technology is more advanced, but that doesn’t mean the average individual is more advanced.  Humans can make some pretty amazing things, but that doesn’t mean your average sofa slob knows a damn thing about making circuit boards.”

After all the build-up most people have about aliens, it’s disappointing to find out they’re not magical or wise or uplifting.  I was just disappointed I wouldn’t be able to fly their ship.

I have to admit I love this little interchange between them.  It shows that Eve, who is the supervillain of the story, isn’t all-knowing and still has a sense of wonder even after her 1000+ years of life.  I also find it amusing that throughout most of the book she knows far more about what’s going on than Steven and doesn’t bat an eye at having to fight a monster to get where they need to go, but she gets first excited then disappointed when she learns the sad truth about the aliens.

They’re used a bit more in Arise, but are still background characters. (spoiler alert!)  It was a hybridization process performed at Archuleta Mesa that granted Wilford Saxton his strange ability to come back after being shot and blown up.  He was the first successful prototype of an alien/human hybrid.

Hipster alien: was into cattle mutilation and probing before it was cool.

Hipster alien hybrid: was into cattle mutilation and probing before it was cool.

The other thing we learn in Arise is Eve’s interest in the aliens (again, spoiler alert).  Bear in mind, she’s pretty old and the centuries have stacked up on her.  She’s looking for a way out of life but is stuck with that whole immortal thing that makes it difficult to die.  By her reckoning, if she can’t die normally she has two options: either find a way off this rock or find a way to kick off Ragnarök.  Eve’s story still hasn’t ended so we’ll just have to see what happens to her in the future.  A dream sequence seems to indicate she finds a way to end the world, but dreams without energy are just dreams.

In the world of Henchmen and Arise the Greys are considered something of a pathetic, dying race.  Their technology is so advanced it can’t effectively be copied.  The aliens themselves, while doubtless intelligent, are the specialists of their species and can’t really explain how their technology works and so, therefore, are of limited value outside of the biology.  They’re hardly the central part of the story as either protagonist or antagonist.  The mythology surround the Greys already pretty well established and I simply had trouble finding a way to expand on that other than looking at a quiet takeover and that would have changed the tone of the story significantly.

the_greys_by_painteddemons-d5egucd

The reason for this is simple: the story of the aliens has been told by better authors than myself and told better than I could possibly do so anything I came up with would simply be derivative of other works.  The same can be said of UFOs and abductions.  I wanted to include the Greys in some way or another.  I am from New Mexico, after all.  In fact when I was first thinking about the end-game of Henchmen the first idea I came up with was the protagonist (Steven didn’t have a name at that point) breaking into a base and breaking an alien out.  The joke was on him, though.  They weren’t friendly or easy to deal with.  He runs into a small collective of the beings and their psychic presence nearly wipes him out.  It was only the leader’s (Eve didn’t have a name at that point, either) constant reminder over the radio to keep his mind about him.  He winds up shooting one of them and the rest scatter.

That scene never made it from my head onto – well, not paper, but you know what I mean.  I never wrote it even though I could see it in my head.  In the long run, the idea of a captured god was much more interesting, even if it’s not really all that different in the final analysis.

So, are the Greys real?  I can’t say for certain, but I’m not willing to dismiss their story entirely as the ramblings of drunken lunatics or broken minds.  Why anyone would cover the vast distances of empty space to mutilate cattle and probe humans is beyond me, but they are called aliens for a reason.  Humans have trouble understanding people from the other side of the planet, there’s no reason to expect we should be able to grok people from another world.  All I know is this:  Be happy the Greys are these guys

MoonGray

See, the moon landing wasn’t faked.

and not these guys

Alien_by_arvalis

This is his happy face.

As usual, some stats and basic facts.

Stats:

Size: Mostly described as between a couple to four feet or so.  Not terribly physically strong.

Speed: They’re not reported to be very physically strong or fast, but they’re not slow, either.  Some reports describe them as moving like kids in short, sharp bursts of speed.

Attack: Technologically advanced but you don’t hear much about their weaponry.  Many reports describe the ability to basically “shut down” and take over victims.  Whether this is because of fear, psychic power, or something else is unknown.

Special Abilities: Interstellar flight, tractor beams, ships seem to be able to show up on radar but human weapons appear to be ineffective.

Armor: Nothing specifically described, but missiles never hit them.

Environment: Most stories involving encounters take place far from large populations although they don’t seem to be averse to buzzing large population centers.  See the Phoenix UFOs and the vast amount of stories involving cars breaking down in the middle of nowhere.  It’s safe to assume they can be anywhere and everywhere.

Alignment: Unknown.

Genres

Strangely, I’ve never been a huge fan of horror stories.  Some are good, some are bad, but it’s never been a genre that I went out of my way to read.  Of course, I’ve read a lot of Stephen King’s works and found his stories to be entertaining and well read.  It is a great book and I loved The Stand.  Thing is, though, while they were all good books I didn’t find any of them particularly scary.  I mean scary in the way that tingles run up and down your spine for hours after you’ve read them.

I’d like to say I’m immune to being scared but Poltergeist still freaks me out lo these many years later.  When I first saw it I was nervous for weeks and I still have a thing about clowns.  But, let’s be frank here, clowns are kind of freaky as Too Much Joy taught us back in the 90s.

Sleep well tonight.

Sleep well tonight.

Aside from Poltergeist and a handful of other movies, I just don’t find a lot of horror movies to be all that horrifying.  Maybe it’s because my mom let me watch Alien when I was 9 and it burned out any fear receptors I might have had.

Why the discussion of horror movies in a post titled Genres?  Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.  I’ve had Henchmen and Arise set up freebies on Amazon over the past couple of days and both of them crawled into the top 10 in Horror:Occult.  I swear, I didn’t set out to write a horror story.  I honestly thought I was writing action/adventure.  So, I stopped and pondered it while I was grilling burgers tonight and wondered how either of those books would be considered horror.  Sure, the government captured a god who could control people with his shadows, there’s a monster guarding a secret installation, one of the protagonists is a Valkyrie, you’ve got guys who can flick in and out of reality, and a guy that just won’t die.

So, okay, there are some elements that you could consider horror-related, and those are just in Henchmen.  Arise ramps it up a bit further.  Still, it never dawned on me that I was writing a horror story.  I started out writing a story about a supervillain (Eve) and her henchmen (the rest of the folks).  I wanted to ground them a bit more in reality rather than having people running around in tights.  Once I placed a Valkyrie on the page, the rest just kind of flowed into place.

I’m going to digress for a moment, but I’ll do my best to wrap it all back together again shortly.

One of the earlier horror stories I read was Lovecraft’s The Statement of Randolph Carter.  It’s one of the few Lovecraft stories that has stuck with me over the years.  The story is pretty short and straightforward and recounts the death of Harley Warren.  In the story, Warren and Carter find a temple in the middle of a swamp and crack it open.  Inside they find a set of stairs descending into darkness.  For some reason Warren – armed only with a lantern and a length of telephone wire – decides to see where the stair go.

Climbing down the stair of a mysterious temple armed with a flashlight is the literary equivalent of this cartoon:

FarSideBears

In case you hadn’t guessed Warren finds a mysterious underworld filled with horrible marvels and meets his untimely demise at the hands of something really bad.

I always thought that it would be interesting to see what would happen if someone faced down the nameless horrors that twist reality and was actually somewhat prepared for it.  It covered this to a certain degree; but what if the horrors met a horror of their own.  That seemed to me to a pretty good idea.  Thus was born the action and the horror of Henchmen and Arise.  Start out with the idea that there are monsters out there and put together some characters that can face them down, mix in a bit of gun play, and shake gently.

So, there you go.  Accidental genre-bending fiction.  Or is it genre-defying fiction?

And a quick “Thank you” to everyone who has downloaded Henchmen and Arise.  I hope you enjoy(ed) them.

May cause unexpected awesomeness in readers

May cause unexpected awesomeness in readers

Has been known to grant readers nearly godlike powers (6)

Has been known to grant readers nearly godlike powers (6)

Monsters of the Southwest: La Llorona, the Weeping Woman

“The pecan groves of Las Cruces, NM are plenty worrisome during the day.  For most of us used to living in the desert any large cluster of trees is freaky and unnatural; the proverbial mote in God’s eye.  At night the pecan groves take on a life of their own and you have to be careful to avoid the irrigation ditches that pop out of the landscape with no warning.

We had just stumbled across one of those tiny irrigation rivers, nearly falling in and laughing at ourselves in the moon light when her hand tightened on mine.  Four hundred feet away, was a woman leaning into the water and wailing.  Even considering she was wailing in the dark pecan grove, something was just … off … about her.

I tugged Alyssa’s hand, that mischievous bit of chivalry still left in me demanding I go help the woman.  Alyssa stood fast, ‘Don’t go,’ she whispered.  ‘Don’t move.  Don’t breathe.’

‘She might need our help,’ I whispered.

‘No one can help her,’ Alyssa said with a scared glint in her eye.  ‘She died years ago and now she wanders the Earth looking for her lost kids.  The kids she drowned.'”

Like all good stories, the story of La Llarona starts in Mexico City.

Wait, that’s not entirely right.

muh, muh, muh, my Llorona.

muh, muh, muh, my Llorona.

It starts with a young woman named Maria who falls in love with a man in Mexico City.  It’s not the Mexico City part that makes it a good story, it’s the falling in love part that makes it a good story.  She is, of course, beautiful.  The most beautiful woman in the world according to some sources.  It’s that same tired meme that pops up in all these stories; the woman is drop-dead gorgeous and the man is the most handsome man who ever graced the planet.  Just once I’d like to see a morality tale like this where the guy was a goober and the woman was just a generally nice person.  Maria is usually not referred to as a nice person; she’s often described as  stuck up and snooty.

Back to Maria, though.  The problem is Maria has children and, in her eyes, they’re an obstacle to her being with the man she loves.  Deciding that logic will drive her actions she drowns her children in a river and heads out to meet her new life with her exciting new man.  So she’s crazy hot and generally crazy.

Here’s the problem though, the proverbial monkey wrench that gets casually chucked into her plans: he’s not interested in her.  Continuing her logical reasoning she drowns herself in the river.  And there the sad and alarming tale of Maria ends and the tale of La Llorona begins.

Upon reaching the pearly gates a destitute, depressed, and probably drenched Maria faces Saint Peter.  The old saint asks her where her children are.  At this point Maria shows her first bit of rational thought and, rather than just looking around and mumbling “they’re here somewhere,” she admits the truth.  The pitiable thing about this young woman is it took her death before she finally confronted her wrong-doing.  Saint Peter, being the affable chap that he is, doesn’t immediately condemn her to Hell for her misdeeds.  He tells her she can’t enter Heaven without her children and sends her ghost back to find her lost children.  At this point the girl who was Maria becomes the ghost La Llorona, the Weeping Woman, condemned to haunt the rivers forever looking for her drowned kids.  The kids are probably smart enough to hide from her; she did kill them after all.

La Llorona is said to haunt rivers, searching endlessly her children and generally scaring the bejeezus out of people.

For the most part the sad tale of La Llorona is a morality tale and it can be difficult to see her as a monster.  Someone whose circumstances moved beyond her control, sure, but the monster part can be a difficult pill to swallow.  Bear in mind, though, La Llorona proved herself capable of drowning her own children for love in life and plenty of tales tell of her abducting children and trying to pass them off as her own.  Wise old Saint Pete hasn’t fallen for the trick yet, but she keeps trying.  That right there makes her enough of a monster for all intents and purposes.

There are plenty of variations on the story that have been passed down through the ages but they all follow the same basic story: beautiful young woman kills her kids and has to spend eternity looking for them.

As far as story telling goes, the legend of La Llorona has been passed down for generations.  She’s been in movies, books, oral stories, pictures, and nightmares.  I’ve never used her in a story, but I find her tale fascinating.

lallorona

I’ve come for your daughter, Chuck.

la_llorona_480x600_crop0_1024x1024

I don’t really have a witty caption for this.

 

Stats:

Size: Her ghost is the size of a normal woman

Speed: Generally reported as slow

Attack: Fear and the capability to kill kids

Special Abilities: She’s a ghost with a crippled moral compass

Armor: None, but regular weapons can’t touch her

Environment: Haunts rivers

Alignment: Arguably leaning toward the evil side of the spectrum but she can’t be too bad since St. Pete didn’t send her straight to Hell

La Llorona on Wikipedia

A Different Ll Llorona story