Story on Demand – Dinosaur Music Lesson

Harvey-Stein-2

“Most people entertain a pleasant superstition that Robert Johnson went down to the crossroads and sold his soul to the devil in return for unparalleled skill with the guitar,” the professor wiped a daub of chalk of his wrist, then turned his sharp eyes back to his Montana-like classroom, his words echoed with plenty of empty chair-space to reverberate.

The black student continued to thumb away at his phone, barely hidden under his desk. The two girl students managed vague eye movements of interest. The fat kid on the side tapped his pencil and seemed to be quietly humming to himself.

The professor continued, “But what would you say if I told you that the true explanation if far more strange and alarming?”

Black:thumb. Girls: eyes. Fat: tap.

“What if I told you that instead of any mythic manifestation of Evil, Robert Johnson was met by a SPECTRAL PTERODACTYL?!?” he bellowed.

The pencil, eyes, and phone all hit the floor.

“Like…a dinosaur?” one girl asked slowly.

“Exactly,” the professor crossed his arms with satisfaction.

“Uh…” the fat one vocalized in an acceptable D flat.

“Sir.” the black student raised his hand, the professor nodded. “I know that maybe we haven’t been paying as close of attention as you’d like in your class–”

“I’m not yanking your chain,” the professor interrupted. “I am telling you something important and true. Robert Johnson was taught to play the blues, better than perhaps any other human before or since, by a ghostly flying reptile.”

“But that’s crazy, sir. I don’t know why you’d say—”

“Let me ask you a question. How did he get the skill then? If NOT from a Pterodactyl?”

The second girl chimed in.” Natural talent.”

“Practice.”

“Good marketing.” the first girl supplied.

“No no, what we know about the situation is very clear. Before that night he was an okay player, after that night was a god. This fact is not in dispute. Hundreds of reliable, ear-witness accounts – even the recordings that survive. A clear-cut piece of musical history. Something happened that night, some event, something extraordinary. None of the things you’ve suggested could have caused such rapid improvement.”

“But the devil explanation is just as plausible as the…”the fat student winced. “…dinosaur explanation. What makes you so sure that it’s the correct one and not the other?”

The professor sighed with weariness. “Because the Devil is a hadrosaur and only plays country.”

Resurrected my long dormant feature ‘Story on Demand’ to help get my writing dynamos spinning again. Someone suggests an idea and I write some flash fiction about it. Today’s ‘winner’ is Brent Thomas – who is also a writer with a new book BOUT TO BE OUT.

storyondemand

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The Lines II

Puimun/DevianArt
Puimun/DevianArt

Lucas played the lines.

It was easy at first. So simple, bone simple, blood simple, like blinking or drinking or building a nest. He pressed the keys and the the light was there, the music to spare, he connected dots in the dark while the masked man gibbered softly in his ear.

The melody of connection -of this like that – of short, lean, and fat. He could see the Under of things, the Hidden Heart of springs, the Secret tick of the clock in his grandmother’s parlor. Fingertips on keys, black and white, a stone piano singing in the quiet.

And how fine the lines were.

At first he drew them carefully and all one color of light. Bright yellow, fat as a caterpillar daydream, he could still see them when he shut his eyes. The faces of his friends reflected their delight in his beams of wild gold. The dots, the nodes they glowed, like planets brought into alignment, the way that Star Prophet  promised. It was so easy, like squalling off a log, easy as nigh, sundown and moon-mad.

Bold as brass, he changed the lines. Still true, and still bright. But blue and green and red and octavian orange. Big lines, small lines, razor-wire net of thought and light that spread around him like a symphony. He became a wizard, singing the lines, playing the times forever and ever dancing in the dark of things.

And still the man in the mask laughed, right behind his left ear. He could feel the man’s breath on his shoulder, the cold hands hovering when he slept.

Sometimes he would stop. Let the lines fade and let his eyes adjust to the dark. And then the man would hit him until the blood flowed.

“Play the lines, Lucas!” the masked man would howl. “Play them and play them right.”

And so he would play. He would play when his fingers hated the keys and  his heart bled the piano. It was so easy, like dying, like staunching a wound.

It was so hard.

Lucas played the lines and the dark crept closer. No matter how bright, no matter how many new colors he found, it crept closer. The masked man pressed near as a lover and whispered in his ear. Lucas loved the masked man. Lucas hated the masked man. Lucas needed the masked man.

Lucas played the lines. Who was he if he did not? Lucas loved the lines. Lucas hated the lines. Lucas needed the lines.

The masked man giggled softly in the dark and his cold hands slid down his arms and tapped a quiet rhythm on Lucas’ knuckles.

“One day you won’t play the lines, Lucas,” the oil-slick tone came from the mask. “One day you won’t play them right. You won’t play them quick enough, you won’t be sure and you won’t be fast. You’ll stumble in the dark and then I’ll have you. I’ll have you my beautiful boy and drag you down into the river, oh the river, oh the river…”

Lucas played the lines and wept. He played the lines and slept. Amongst the dark he wove and shone, he kept playing riddle and bone. Song and sorrow, ring and stone, forgotten music he played alone.

And the masked man laughed.

And Lucas played the lines.

[Sort of a continuation of this.]

 

Disingenuous Promotion

pow-hi

CAN YOU CONVINCE ME TO DO SOMETHING I WAS GOING TO DO ANYWAY?

If I receive a sufficient number of internet, then I will do A Thing.

CAN YOU GIVE ME THE RIGHT KIND AND QUANTITY OF INTERNET?

The Thing is cool, and there is absolutely no way I am not going to Do It. I crave attention.

BUT PERHAPS IF I PRETEND I AM not GOING TO DO THE THING YOU WILL GIVE ME MORE INTERNET.

My demands are simple. Internet. Pile it up. On me. BURY ME IN INTERNET.

I wish to be the Caligula of Internet. Touch me with your web phallus and dance on this crazy ass boat I built. I will appoint my horse a senator. I will perform a play with my paramour as thousands starve in the street.

You need to give me Internet. Maybe then I’ll do the Thing I was Going to Do Anyway.

Please send Internet postmarked Me, attn: Me. Bring it to my house, knock on the door and run away.

 

The Riddle Box – Cover Reveal

At last – no further preamble – here is the cover illustration for The Riddle Box!

Cover Illustration - Mike Groves @poopbird
Cover Illustration – Mike Groves @poopbird

Yes! Bask in it’s glory. So many thanks to Mike Groves – poopbird.com – for his fabulous design.

Thank you for enduring the flood of activity from the blog, but I’m afraid there will be more to come as the release of the book in August gets closer.

Shares, presses, tumbles, and retweets very much appreciated – but please always credit Mike Groves/poopbird as the artist.

Stay tuned at this spot for more ramblings, poorly planned self-promotion, and pretty good recipe for peanut butter cookies.

Please follow this link to add The Riddle Box to your Goodreads queue!

Judge Me By My Cover – Day 5

Oh, we’re so very close. This is just a line drawing of the final design. I had gotten used to seeing the ‘straight on’ view of the Bride – so when Mike dropped this different perspective in my lap, I was immediately in love. Stay tuned for the final cover reveal tomorrow!

Design Sketch - Mike Groves @poopbird
Design Sketch – Mike Groves @poopbird

 

[Sketches for the cover illustration of The Riddle Box, my upcoming novel. I’m showing off the design process and sketches this week before the final reveal of the cover.]

Final Cover Reveal: 7/12

The Riddle Box – Click the link to add to your Goodreads!

Judge Me By My Cover – Day 4

And now we’re back to the ‘bride’ – I was a little bit nervous about not putting Jonas and Rime [Our Heroes] on the cover, but our earlier discussions about a truly ‘evocative’ cover gave me courage. Here are two different versions of the ‘bride’ that Mike developed.

Design Sketch - Mike Groves @poopbird
Design Sketch – Mike Groves @poopbird

More of the ‘floating numbers’ from the cover of Spell/Sword – and the appearance of the secret symbol! It’s massively important to the plot of The Riddle Box, and also to other stories beyond for those that have been following since the Lodestar days.

Design Sketch - Mike Groves @poopbird
Design Sketch – Mike Groves @poopbird

I don’t know what the flowers are all about – but they look great. I also really started to enjoy how the Bride’s ‘skull’ could read as her literal skeleton or as some sort of creepy mask. Also the decolletage and blood – so tasteful.

[Sketches for the cover illustration of The Riddle Box, my upcoming novel. I’m showing off the design process and sketches this week before the final reveal of the cover.]

Final Cover Reveal: 7/12

The Riddle Box – Click the link to add to your Goodreads!

Judge Me By My Cover – Day 3

And then things got a little weird. As often happens, Mike surprises me with a design that I love, but has very little connection to what we had originally been working on.

Design Sketch - Mike Groves @poopbird
Design Sketch – Mike Groves @poopbird

 

Now, I love this illustration. We had some discussions about going with a very evocative image on the cover, instead of something directly related to the plot. The mystery transpires in the Manor of the Heart-Broken Lion in the novel – and Mike really responded to that. We ultimately decided to go back to the original trajectory, but SPOILER ALERT: this sketch will find its way onto the back paperback cover of the book and potentially tattooed into my flesh at some point.

[Sketches for the cover illustration of The Riddle Box, my upcoming novel. I’m showing off the design process and sketches this week before the final reveal of the cover.]

Final Cover Reveal: 7/12

The Riddle Box – Click the link to add to your Goodreads!