Four Fantastical Ways to Lose Your Fingers: The Blog Tour

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All week long we’ve been answering goofy questions from the authors of Four Fantastical Ways to Lose your Fingers. Here’s my question:

There are a lot of ways to use the word ‘finger’. I’m thinking specifically as a verb. Have you ever fingered someone…in a crime?

 

Michael G. Munz: Pinecone Jedi

Mike Munz

Nope. No, I haven’t.

…Okay, so that’s a pretty boring answer, isn’t it? Let’s spice this sucker up a bit with a story from my childhood when I was a wee lad cursed with what I like to call Ralph Macchio Syndrome.  RMS is in no way fatal, but it does make you look about 75% of your actual age. (This is a great thing when you’re an adult, but when you’re 16 and being offered the children’s menu in a restaurant, it can be less than ideal. But I digress.) I was in elementary school, probably 9 looking 7, and that, combined with my own terror at the idea of getting in trouble for anything gave me the reputation of being a complete innocent. In most cases, this reputation was accurate, except for one fateful school bus ride the morning after I’d had a pine cone fight with a friend. (This is what little kids do in rural areas when they want to have a snowball fight but there’s no snow. At least, it’s what I did.)

On the bus, I discovered a small pine cone in my pocket and, in a fit of youthful rebellion against my usual persona, I discreetly tossed it up toward the front of the bus. Struck with horror at what I’d done—I’d misbehaved! If I got caught the school would lock me in a dungeon with a thousand spiders and never let me out!—I hunched down in my seat and spent the rest of the ride to school staring out the window. My busmates, however, did not. The pine cone had hit a kid I’ll call, um, Joey-Joe-Joe (not his real name), who was also the kid who got in trouble the most. Joey-Joe-Joe’s immediate reaction was to tear out a sheet of paper from his notebook, crumble it up, stand up in front of the entire bus, and chuck the paper toward the back.

This sparked off the school bus paper fight equivalent of the Trojan War (well, sans giant wooden horse). It lasted the entire way to school, and then continued to rage on the way home. We had a substitute bus drive that day, and she didn’t want to have anything to do with this; she just wanted to get us brats safely to school and home. I can’t blame her. But the next day, when our tough-as-nails, discipline-through-fear regular drive returned…

I can still remember her staring down at me as I got on the bus. “Did you throw anything yesterday, Michael?” I froze, terrified, and managed to squeak out, “…just one thing.” Technically, it was true. I got to my seat then, quaking. When we arrived at school, she stood up before letting us off and said, “Okay, I want to know who started the paper fight yesterday!”

I sunk lower in my seat. Then, the rest of the bus, almost as one, yelled out, “Joey-Joe-Joe did it!!” Poor Joey-Joe-Joe protested, saying something had hit him in the back of the head, but no one believed him, and he took the fall. So I guess this story doesn’t entirely fit the bill, as I did no actual fingering, but I did finger poor Joey-Joe-Joe with my silence.

Plus I hit the poor kid in the back of the head with a pine cone.

 

 

Z.D. Gladstone: 
I don’t want to admit how many minutes (yes, minutes) it has taken for my brain to redirect to the actual question. You are a shameless instigator.
I’m sure I’ve turned on my brother when his sticky fingers got into the cookie jar, or other childhood thefts.  In my very first job I knew for a fact one of my co-workers was stealing from the till, but I had no way to prove it, & since I was a newly hired 16 year old I didn’t know what to do so I just kept mum.
Actually, I’ve probably kept quiet about more crimes than most people.  In my other life I’m a psychotherapist, & as such I am bound by strict laws of confidentiality that prevent me from repeating what my clients tell me, with very few exceptions.  I’ve heard about drug deals, car thefts, & burglaries for years & never made a peep.  Fortunately I’ve never been put into a position where I had to stay silent regarding a violent crime.  So no, I’ve never fingered someone else for a crime.
And so far, no one’s accused me, either.  So I must be doing something right.

Janine Southard: Don’t steal her stuff. Dammit.

Janine Southard

This guy had the chutzpah to come at me twice in ten minutes. In the same place. In the same manner. Like, dude, no. So of course I literally pointed him out and fingered him for the crime.

Okay, so here’s how it went down. I was in a café and bent over a book with my phone beside me on the table. Steaming milk machines roared their white noise into the rafters. This had been the state of things for about half an hour when a guy came out of the bathroom. He nonchalantly ambled over to my table, then put my phone in his pocket on his way to the door.

I stood up and ran after him, all the while yelling “thief” and “give me back my phone.”

He actually turned around, instead of fleeing, and returned the phone. “Sorry,” he said, “I thought it was mine.” Sure, buddy.

I glared at him, sat back down, and resumed my reading with my phone at my side. Briefly, I was glad he didn’t have an accomplice, because a second thief could’ve taken my bag and all my things while I chased the first guy down.

Anyway, not ten minutes later, the same guy comes out of the bathroom and reaches for my phone on my table. This time I got my hand over it before it disappeared into his pocket. Whew. Seriously, pal? We just did this routine.

He gave me a shrug, like “what can you do?” and sauntered away. I guess yelling “thief” wasn’t enough the first time. And I didn’t bother the second time, too struck by shock to react.

It still bothers me though. (1) Why did he go after the same person twice? (2) Why did no one kick him out (like the people who worked there)? (3) Why didn’t he have an accomplice to steal handbags and laptops while he returned phones?

We will never know.

 

Not this dog.

 And finally, my story:

I have not. But my old dog did.

I used to have a three-legged dog. He was a great dog. Not a perfect dog, but when it came to loyalty, he had everyone aced. His name was Chuck.

Chuck was a substantial dog. Even missing a front leg, he topped the scale at ninety-six pounds. Sitting down he was well over three feet tall. Standing on his back legs, he could easily put his front paw on my shoulder and look me in the eye. Granted, I’m only 5′ 4″ but that’s still pretty tall for a dog.

Like most labs, Chuck’s biggest downfall was food. And his definition of ‘edible’ encompassed many things. He loved bubble gum most of all. Thankfully this all happened before xylitol became a huge thing but his second favorite snack was chocolate so I still had to be hyper-vigilant with food. Whenever he could smell chocolate he turned into some sort of three-legged ninja dog. It was the worst.

I adopted the Labrador owner habit of keeping anything especially aromatic out of reach. Waaaay out of reach. Usually someplace I had to stand on a stool to get at. The top of the fridge was always a good choice. But, even then I had to put cookies towards the back so he couldn’t see them because Chuck loved cookies, especially Girl Scout cookies. Girl Scout Cookies are like Labrador-crack.

It was during one GSC season, that I came upon a very puzzling scene. Texting and smart phones were still a few years in the future so arriving home from work, I glanced at the answering machine as I always did. If I had a phone message, a little red light would blink.

It was rare for me to have any telephone messages. And on this particular day, I came home to find the light blinking. But unlike every other message I’d ever received, this light was not blinking red. It was blinking green. I had no idea that the answering machine even had another color of light. What kind of message did you have to leave in order to get it to blink green? I went investigate.

Written over the little green flashing light were the words: PERSONAL MEMO. Next to the light, a small button announced ‘push to record’.

Had that always been there? If so, who left me a message? I lived by myself and for half a moment, I was really scared that someone had broken into my house.

I reached down to play the message but in doing so, my eyes fell upon a piece of cardboard, semi-hidden behind the comforter of my bed. I picked it up. My Girl Scout Cookies! The ones I had specifically hidden on top of the refrigerator, all the way in the back, with a box of cereal in front of it just in case!

I turned to confront Chuck who was, by this point, holding his head in that way dogs do when they know they are about to get in trouble but aren’t sure why anymore. For those of you that have never seen this look its part side-eye, part adorable and mostly shame. It speaks volumes but mostly it says:

“I am not looking you in the eye because I know I am a bad dog even though I cannot really remember what it is I did that made me a bad dog in the first place. But that does not matter because I did not do it. I Swear.”

Standing in the middle of my living room, I tried to piece together what exactly happened. Somehow, he’d gotten the cookies off the top of the fridge, brought them into the living room and tore the box apart while standing next to my bed. My brain hopped from dog to couch to kitchen to bed and finally back to the scene of the crime and to the little green light blinking on my answering machine.

Finally, I reached down and pushed play.

scrape
snarffle, snarffle
rip
rip
shuffle
scrape
rip rip
snarf
Huff huff
rip
smack smack
rip
snarffle

For twenty minutes, I sat and listened to the soundtrack of my three-legged ninja dog eating an entire box of Girl Scout cookies. By the time the tape ran out tears were streaming down my face I was laughing so hard.

I never did figure how he got those cookies down.

 

These entertaining tidbits have been brought to you by the authors of Four Fantastical Ways to Lose Your Fingers: A Short Story Collection. Check it out on Amazon today!

Writer Wednesday: Michael G Munz

Check this guy out:

Michael G. Munz: Author Extraordinaire

Michael G. Munz: SciFi Author Extraordinaire

Mike is an award-winning author of speculative fiction. And he’s our kind of geeky for sure. I mean, he has his own light saber and everything:

Michael Munz and Tiffany Pitts duel with light sabers as Thor Michaelson, Pawcifer of Justice, tries to break up the fight.

Thor Michaelson does not like where this is going.

Even if it is red, Mike is a good guy. And what’s more, he writes really fun books. The kind of books where you spend your entire family vacation hiding in the closet so those people will just leave you alone to read.

The first book of his that I read was Zeus is Dead. I recommend it. It is truly hilarious. He’s also the author of the New Aeneid Cycle – a scifi series with all sorts of awesome technology and lots of intrigue and uh…coverty-ness. I read the first two books and have been eagerly awaiting the third one…

…UNTIL NOW.

I am happy to report that the third book is finally done! And it’s coming out soon! And even more exclamation points because I got a sneak preview of the cover!!11!!eleventy!!

Wanna see?

Cover art for Michale G Munz's A Dragon at the Gate

HOLY CRAP THAT’S A DRAGON.

 

Here’s the blurb:

A Dragon at the Gate
(coming August 17, 2016)

Michael Flynn has lost time. An operative in the worldwide conspiracy known as the Agents of Aeneas, the last thing he remembers is the struggle to retake Paragon—the derelict alien spacecraft found crashed on the Moon. Yet that was three months ago. Now, as he wakes in a hospital back in the high-tech, urban strife of Northgate, his struggle begins anew.
The Agents of Aeneas have vanished.
His friends are either missing, in danger, or altered. Hired killers shadow his every move. And Jade, the mysterious, cyber-enhanced woman watching over him, will give no answers. Thrust into a blind search for the truth, Michael needs allies. Yet whom can he trust when once loyal friends may have turned against him?
Meanwhile, an intelligence thought trapped within Paragon has escaped to Northgate. Driven to fulfill the goals of the mysterious “Planners,” it, too, seeks allies. When it finds them, it will transform the face of Northgate, the world, and the entire human race.
The year 2051 draws to a close, and nothing will be the same.

Following A Shadow in the Flames and A Memory the Black, A Dragon at the Gate is the third and final book in Michael G. Munz’s cyberpunk series The New Aeneid Cycle: In the high-tech urban violence of the mid-21st century, humanity seems destined to destroy itself. Now those who seek to save it may have just found the means.

For more news about A Dragon at the Gate, and all of Michael G. Munz’s writing, visit MichaelGMunz.com, follow him on Twitter, or subscribe to his newsletter.

 

Well, That Went Tits Up

Whenever something goes unexpectedly wrong, I can hear my grandmother whispering that in my head.

I used to have a professional flat iron. It was a great little tool, especially when trying to tame the mop I’ve got on my head. When it died, that’s exactly what I heard.

Well, looks like that went tits up.

Since I wasn’t in a position to replace it I got a cheap flat iron. But of course it didn’t work as well. I was so pissed, I grumbled around for a week.

What was I supposed to do, go back to my natural hair? I didn’t really have a choice so it was back to a floppy ball of fluff for me. I hate the fluff but on the bright side, it only takes me 38 seconds to get ready in the morning. Plus, no one can tell when my hair is messed up. This has come in handy on more occasions than you’d think.

One time, we had a stove go tits up on us. Ugh, that was the worst. It wouldn’t have been too bad if it had simply died but it didn’t. It went out in literal flames because my husband accidentally set it on fire.

ON FIRE. IN THE KITCHEN.

That was four years ago and my kids have NOT stopped reminding us about it.

Soon after the fire, the floor tiles started coming up. Then the heat register wouldn’t stay on the wall because the plaster had crumbled away. I began to find small piles of sawdust under the hinges of the cupboards from where they wore against the counter top. That traitorous kitchen was going tits up on us and we still needed to use it!

Damn kitchen.

What could we do? There was no one to complain to but each other. There was nothing to do but sit and be angry. Only, I don’t enjoy being angry. Neither does my husband. So instead, we poured all of our frustration and anger into planning, designing and contracting. Eventually, we were able to remodel.

Now we have a fabulous new kitchen. It’s so rad that I don’t even feel old when I use the word ‘rad’ to describe it because if you sat in this kitchen you would say the same thing.

CAM10268

Can you see the dirty dishes in the sink? No you can’t. Because that sink is SUPER FRICKEN’ RAD.

That brings me to the latest news.

Last Friday my publisher, Booktrope, went tits up. Due to insufficient income, they are closing down. Their business model was not sustainable. That sucks but a business only works if it makes money and nothing in this world is going to stop that from being true.

When I started out trying to find a publisher, I didn’t know Booktrope existed. Back then, I was still working as a bench scientist, I knew very little about the creative writing world. Of course I had zero luck pitching to agents because I was terrible at it. I had no idea what was important and what was stupid. Most agents kindly gave me the boot. Some were not so nice. One agent rolled her eyes at me and said, “Well, that was cute.”

It was not cute.

After that painful lesson, I figured I needed to know more about what I was doing. I decided to walk myself through self-publishing and learn more of what this business is about. Editing, proofing, layout, cover – all of these things took me months of research but I did it. And when I finally hit ‘publish’ I thought I was done. (That part was cute.)

The next day, a friend of mine put me in contact with Katherine Sears, one of the Booktrope founders. Apparently, they were friends and he suggested she read my book, which she did. Then she asked if we could meet.

“I’m really glad your book was good. I hate telling friends that their book suggestions suck.”

At that point, those were the nicest words I’d heard from any publisher ever and the day after I self-published, I agreed to republish through Booktrope. They would set me up with a graphic designer, an editor, and a book manager-services for which I would have gladly paid if I’d had the funds earlier, but I didn’t. I weighed my options. It made financial sense to sign with Booktrope.

I quickly learned that my original manuscript, while good, still needed a lot of work. I got to experience firsthand what it takes to make a quality book. Long story short: it takes a lot.

By the second book, I was learning what to expect. My editor, would tear it apart and it would be good. Then I would put it back together and it would still be good. The graphic designers would pull out their layering runes and work their magic. Then layout would wield its mystical formatting spells and conjure up something that looked like it belonged in a book store. All the while Stephanie, my book manager, would run around taking care of everything else – from scheduling book readings to making sure we had ISBNs or ASINs or ASSASSINs, I don’t know. She did things I would never have been able to do on my own and write a book.

With the demise of Booktrope, I no longer have that support structure. I don’t actually know what I have because the ashes are still smoldering and everyone is trying to figure out who owns what. There are a lot of scared, heartbroken, confused people feeling lots of angry feels. I guess these are all normal reactions.

But I don’t seem to have any angry feels left. I think I used them all up on the flat iron. And the damn stove. And the kitchen remodel. And all the hours I’ve racked up trying to keep going when everything looked about as crappy as it could be.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that although Booktrope is going away, I am still here. I may not know exactly where here is but I know I’m not a newbie anymore. I have friends in the publishing business. I’ve got a few solid years of experience and confidence in what I’m producing now. I am a different person than when I started with Booktrope. An older person, for sure. Better? maybe. But definitely wiser in many ways.

To be honest, I feel like I’ve graduated. From what? I don’t know, but it was substantial. And apparently this is my graduation speech so I would like to thank some people for being here and teaching me how to do stuff.

So thank you, Stephanie Konat, for being such a tireless advocate.

And thank you, Magdalen Powers, for every sentence struck out in red.

Renee Garcia and Melody Paris, thank you both for the wonderful book covers.

Katherine Sears, Jessie James Freeman and Ken Shear, thank you for the opportunity.

To Karen Alcaide, Jennifer Gilbert, Ken Shear, Mike Munz, Camela Thompson, Ina Zajak, AC Fuller, Shari Ryan, Rachel Thompson, Arleen Williams, Emily Clanton, Shay West, Terry Persun, Larry Weiner, Bill Kenower, Greg Michaels, Kit Bakke, Nicole Persun, Adam Bodendieck, and Will North, thank you all.

Some of you may not even realize you had an impact on my writing career but you have, and I thank you kindly for it. I would not be where I am today without you.

Cheers.

 

You thought I was lying about the dishes, didn't you?

I wasn’t lying about the dishes. STILL RAD.