Monday, October 29, 2012

Pink Wiggly Things

As a Halloween treat here's a short and amusing story about a hungry Ghengi and those delicious pink wiggly things. As an added bonus, the first person to guess correctly (one guess per reader) which cast member of the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer burst out laughing at the end of this story during a book store event reading will win an autographed paperback copy of A KILLER'S ESSENCE.



Dave Zeltserman

A rumbling inside made Ghengi nibble halfheartedly on the cotton fiber. It didn't help much to ease his hunger, but it was all he had and he knew it could be days before he had anything else. Ghengi looked at what was left. Thin strands of cotton connected to that foul rubber padding. The cotton would be gone soon, probably before dark.
Ghengi prayed that an insect would haplessly crawl within striking distance. Insects were good. If Ghengi tried hard enough he could imagine they were really pink wiggly things. Of course, they weren't pink wiggly things. They were in fact only a poor imitation. But Ghengi knew they were as close as he could come – as close as he could let himself come –  to those wonderous epicurean delights.
With a start, Ghengi realized he was salivating; he had been imagining the taste of a pink wiggly thing. That was dangerous. If he dwelled too much on it, he would weaken. He wouldn't be able to resist them the next time they came to brazenly challenge him. And as ultimately satisfying as they were, the aftermath was so utterly damnable.
It was always the same, and Ghengi knew it would always be the same. There would be the noise and bright lights and sticks and heavy leather trying to crush poor Ghengi. And sometimes there would be that spray followed by a fetid, sour smell that would make his eyes start spinning and make him bump into things. The only escape from these terrors would be the outside.
He shuddered at the thought of the outside. Cold. Damp. All those creatures with sharp teeth and claws trying to tear him apart. Although, he smiled, none had teeth sharper than his own.
Ghengi stretched his mouth as far as it could be stretched. His body was only the size of a small plum, but his mouth opened to its capacity could encompass a large melon. Inside his mouth were rows and rows of teeth. No bigger than diamond flakes, but sharper than razors. With his mouth opened, they glistened and sparkled.
Ghengi strengthened his resolve about the pink wiggly things. He wasn't going to think about them. Let them taunt him! The price was just too dear. He would have to be satisfied with the occasional insect, the dustballs, and the other crud that came his way. He sniffed at the cotton and tore a strand from it, avoiding the rubber padding.

"Will you leave me alone and take the dog out!"
Miriam's back was turned to Donald and, as she spoke, he silently mouthed her words, violently contorting his lips to the point where the edges of his mouth ached. He had long ceased deriving any pleasure from mimicking Miriam, but he had to do it. Just, as he knew, his wife had to extend her middle finger at him when he wasn't facing her. Sometimes he'd catch her at it, and she'd quickly move her hand back toward her head as if she were straightening her hair. The times when she would unexpectedly turn around, he'd contort his face as if he were about to sneeze.
"I'm not trying to bother you," he whimpered. He knew he was whimpering. It bothered him, but he couldn't keep from doing it. Anyway, it annoyed Miriam. "I can't find my slipper. Where is it?"
"How am I supposed to know?"
Miriam turned around and Donald froze, framing his face into an expected sneeze.
"Gesundheit," she said, her upper lip stiffening.
Donald sniffed a couple of times. "I can't find my slipper. That damn dog of yours keeps taking my stuff and destroying it."
"If you put your things away he wouldn't do it!"
"Look, the past three months I've had six pairs of socks, a pair of shoes, a pair of pants, and two undershirts ruined by him.”  Donald could feel his face flushing. “If he destroys anything else, that's it!"
He turned and walked towards the staircase. He could sense Miriam's right arm stretching out, the middle finger extended to its fullest. "Take Einstein out!" she demanded coldly.
Donald spun around, catching his wife straightening her hair. "You take him out," he said. "I'm going upstairs."

The noises upset Ghengi. There were many of those noises here, Ghengi thought, but at least they weren't the intolerable kind. Since he arrived he had only had to suffer through the intolerable noise a few times, and it never lasted more than a minute. Of all the things Ghengi despised, the intolerable noise was the most awful. The squeaking and squealing, the pounding and shaking as if his world were about to collapse on him. Thinking of it made him dizzy. He was thankful that he found this place. This one had far less of the intolerable noise than any of the other places Ghengi had nested in.
He knew he couldn't give in to the pink wiggly things. If he did he would have to leave. He would be forced outside. And it could take months before he was able to find another nest.
Those wonderful pink wiggly things. He wished he hadn't thought of them before. They were haunting him now, torturing him. It had been so long since he had tasted one, and the desire was growing, dangerously mixing with his insatiable hunger.
He looked at what was left of the cotton. At best, it would dull his hunger, but it wouldn't stop it. It always seemed to be this way; where after a while nothing could truly satisfy the hunger but a pink wiggly thing.
Ghengi swallowed another strand of cotton. It was tasteless to him. He ran his mouth over what was left of the slipper, hoping to find one of those translucent slivers. He had found one before and it had driven him into ecstasy, reminding him of those wonderful pink wiggly things. No such luck this time.
He went over it again. In his desperation he even endured the foulness of the rubber padding. There was nothing to find.
A dull thumping noise approached Ghengi. He knew it came from one of those monstrous creatures; a Guardian, the ones who brought about the terrors. They were the protectors of the pink wiggly things.
Ghengi could sense it was close. He started to see its awful face, and in an instant compressed himself against the wall. Under the shadows of his home, Ghengi knew he'd be safe. The creature would think he was only an imperfection in the plaster.
Ghengi sniffed. The pink wiggly things were near. The Guardians always foreshadowed their arrival, and he could now smell them. He pulled himself from the wall and saw that he was right. They had come. Five of them. They always came in groups of five. Wiggling towards him. Tempting him. Oh, they were so bold! Ghengi noted that these ones were thicker and plumper than other pink wiggly things he had encountered. Or maybe it was the hunger playing cruel tricks on his eyes.
They weren't worth the terrors. Ghengi repeated that to himself. Or at least one pink wiggly thing wasn't… but five? If Ghengi moved fast enough he could possibly snatch all five of them. He had never thought of that before. Maybe, just maybe…
A harsh, scratching noise froze him. It was followed by a soft thud. From beyond the pink wiggly things, a small sphere rolled towards him. It smelled of dog saliva and leather. Well, it wasn't a pink wiggly thing, but it also wouldn't bring out the wrath of the Guardians. Ghengi snapped back to his senses. He blinded himself to the pink wiggly things that were tempting himself so and instead let the sphere roll into his mouth, and then he started gagging, the sphere dropping from him.
A trick! A despicable, vile trick! It wasn't leather, but nasty rubber made to smell like leather. Foul, most foul taste! Pain immobilized him, and at the same time the hunger within him grew into something unbearable. He had to get that vile taste out of his mouth, and just as importantly, he needed to satisfy his hunger. Desperately, he looked around and saw that the pink wiggly things were gone. And to add insult to injury they had stolen what was left of the slipper. If Ghengi had tearducts he would've cried.

Donald studied his shredded slipper, then nodded grimly at Einstein, who sat in the doorway, tongue hanging out, panting.
“Proud of yourself, are you? Another nineteen dollars and ninety-nine cents, plus tax, down the toilet."
Einstein barked.
Donald looked at the dog and then at the open window. The bedroom was on the second floor. "You want to play ball, is that it?" he asked. The dog barked again. "If I throw the ball out the window, you'd be stupid enough to chase after it, wouldn't you?"
Einstein wagged his tail.
"You would, wouldn't you." Donald nodded. He got up and walked over to the dog. He scratched it behind the ear. "You are that stupid. You'd be only too happy to jump out the window and break your neck." His hand moved from behind the ear to the dog's thin neck. He felt the bone.
"Okay, then." Donald half-smiled. "Let's play ball. Go get your ball, stupid."
The dog didn't move. A long strand of drool fell from his mouth. Donald studied him. "You want me to get it, huh? It's okay for you to drag my things under the bed and rip them apart, but you won't go under there for your ball, is that it?"
Einstein gave a thin whine.
Donald compressed his lips into a tight smile. He moved back to the bed and lowered himself onto his knees. "Okay, Stupid, I'll get your ball and then we'll play." He pressed his head against the bed and reached underneath it, feeling for the dog's rubber ball. Out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of Einstein studying him, and it startled him. The dog had a weird look on his face, a look that Donald had never seen on a dog before.
Of course, it was only a look of amusement. After all, look who was calling who stupid. If Einstein had any pink wiggly things, he certainly wouldn't put them anywhere near a hungry Ghengi.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Writing Crime Fiction

Are you a crime fiction writer? Are you a crime fiction reader?

If your answer to either question is yes, you've got to have Writing Crime Fiction, the latest book from the award winning authors of the Top Suspense Group!

From Joel Goldman's advice and tips on "going indie" to Vicki Hendricks secrets to sizzling sex scenes, Writing Crime Fiction is the must-have how-to for crime fiction writers and readers.

Wondering what it takes to start and finish that first novel? Stephen Gallagher and Ed Gorman tell you how to get it done.

Dreaming of turning your crime thriller into a TV series or movie? Let Hollywood veterans Lee Goldberg and Paul Levine show you the way.

Dying to ratchet up your book's suspense, whether set in today's world or in years gone by? Libby Hellmann and Max Allan Collins will tell you how to make it happen.

Ever wonder what the heck "noir" means? Dave Zeltserman has the answer.

Wish you could create the perfect amateur sleuth? Naomi Hirahara gives you all the clues you need.

Like your thrillers with a dose of zombies? Harry Shannon will show you how to bring them to life.

Want to know the secrets to writing more than a hundred thrillers? Bill Crider spills the answers.

Writing Crime Fiction has it all!

Get it now and get started on your next bestseller!

And don't forget the Top Suspense Group's red-hot anthologies, Top Suspense and Favorite Kills and their knockout short story, Die Lover Die!

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Publishing Revolution by Bill Crider

You know about the publishing revolution, don't you?  The one that was going to change the face of publishing as we know it?

It was great.

Writers hardly anyone had ever heard of suddenly started selling millions of copies.  They couldn't get their books published by conventional means, so they went the new route, and the public couldn't get enough of them.

The old-line publishers thought it was crazy.  They thought it would never work and that if it worked in the short term, it would never last.

They were wrong.

They were wrong in spite of the fact that the writers didn't get reviewed anywhere, not at first, anyway. Newspaper and magazine reviewers ignored them. It was as if they didn't exist, except that they were selling all those books.

The publishers got worried. They got even more worried when established writers started getting in on the deal. They didn't know how to respond, and some people thought they'd be run out of business. After all the new method of publishing was producing books in big numbers, and it was producing them for a lot less than the big-time publishers were charging.

Some people said the books were cheap in other ways, poorly written and full of sex and violence. Even after some reviewers started to mention them, the hoity-toity ones pretended they didn't exist. The books kept right on selling and selling and selling.

What I'm talking about here, by the way, isn't the digital revolution. It's a revolution that happened over 60 years ago when publishers like Fawcett got into the paperback original market. It might seem odd today, but some folks were sure that the sky was falling and that paperback originals would be the end of hardcovers.

It didn't work out like that. Hardcovers continued to sell, and paperback originals continued to grow in respectability.  Writers like John D. MacDonald, Charles Williams, Jim Thompson, and Harry Whittington, Vin Packer, and dozens of others produced work of lasting value for the paperback market.  We got some swell covers out of it, too.

Which writers of e-books will be remembered 50 years from now? I don't know, but I'd like to think that the members of the Top Suspense Group are among them. Maybe someone reading this can write about it in whatever form of communication that's around then. I hope someone will.