24 April 2014

Three stories we are sick of...

As we touch the mid-point of the spring season, I am reminded of three things: 

1) Put away everything of value so the next tornado cannot blow it all far and wide.

2) It's too late to plant that garden so no reason to get out the tools, seeds, and fertilizer.

3) The book writing business is not suitable for man nor beast, so why bother? 

Right away I will likely get rebuttals. Some may ask why I stay in this gods-forsaken alley of wind and I bluntly repeat "The Day Job! The Day Job!" Others may decry my sniveling rant as an affront to the precious Gaea and her bouncing bosom, an excuse the lazy pull out whenever it suits then, green thumbs or not. And there are those who would chastise me for supposed Puritan vanity, as though only my books suffered the outrageous slingshots and arrows of cliches. Enough said then!

Throughout this new year, I have been able to ascertain there are three stories, types of stories, or story memes retold that nobody is willing to welcome any longer, and henceforth should be exiled to the dustpins of hosiery! Here they are in all of their unspoken glory--and beware the variations, too.

The love story. Emotional linkage. Moreover, two young romantics slathering over each other. Worse yet if one of them is of some special, protected category such as ghost, gremlin, zombie, homeboy, vampire, wolfboy, fairy, fairytale meme, or English teacher. It is enough that we recognize that people have this flaw, this need for completion, this urge to copulate with another person or "person"; must the rest of us read all about it? see it splayed open across the grand screen? discuss it through the night on social media, as though it were a traditional recipe for disaster? Sure, we have the so-called "anti-romance"--but isn't that just another sheep of another color than black? Let them do what they do in private and leave the rest of us alone, thank you very much. 

Variation: The love story set in a dystopian society where good is evil and black is white and everyone is out to get everyone else because that is the way of the world and nobody is better or worse than anyone else and the equal ones are slightly more equal than the others who are not. Often they must play a game to determine who is most equal.

Example. A Beautiful Chill, an oft-repeated cliche of campus unions and reunions where Art and Letters rejoice in depravity unyielding up to the final revelation of slaughter. Woe is me, sayeth the love-lorn Author. (Credit for keeping it real; that is, on Earth and in modern times.)

The discovery of a new world. In this avenue I would add all the usual doorway, portal, gateway, wardrobe, tunnel, and wormhole stories where one of "us" goes somewhere else and woo-hoo it's almost like where we came from or it's quite different and aren't we amazed! And what does our hero/heroine do there? Exploit the darn place to within an inch of its lifeline! Such stories have been foisted upon us as warnings of what we have become or what we shall or might become if we do not pay attention, pay through the nose, or pay the first-born child of every family in debt to our fanatical financials and lords of leisure! And yet we take no heed and continue to fall into our dubious inheritance. No more! "If it ain't here, it ain't real," quoth one long-lost quotation master. Who should care for a world of pure invention?

Variation: The parallel universe, the time travel story, the dystopian tale--all of them poor representations of the main theme, all relying on our knowledge of our existing set of circumstances in order to make pun of all that we hold close to us and dreary. They mean to trick you. Smoke and mirrors, just smoke and mirrors. Mind not the poor excuse that is what you have now, for life could be far, far worse over there.

Example: The Dream Land, a lengthy tome [read 'trilogy'] ostensibly of interdimensional [read 'doorway, portal, etc.'] intrigue [read 'political skulduggery'], alien romance [see above complaint], and world domination [yet not, thankfully, in a sexual bondage sort of depravity]. Too many giant war rabbits to my liking.

The medieval family clash. As a variation on new worlds is the old world meme. I speak here of our vainglorious return to the days of yore as they stick in our craw and decay forthwith. Either said stories are poor recreations of history mismanaged or they are faux pas histories which serve only the purpose of greasepaint stages of perversity. Need we more of that? There is good reason those days of yore are done, and none too soon: we who represent the greater good in our species are simply too embarrassed by what we are capable of bestowing upon our peers. While we may wish to relive the highlights and even selected lowlifes, the sum total of all our aspirations is a rousing return to that which never was and cannot be all in the name of trying it again for the better and falling, indeed, crashing from great dragon-borne heights to the fire-pit below! Then we know the mirror has finally broken and we lie splintered and bleeding.

Variation: The story that hides in a return to mythological creations and through them and their unfolding narrativity seek to impress us with the drudgery of life in those ancient days. Be glad of the life you have now and forget those of long ago. Yet such creatures and the winsome gods and goddesses themselves make for poor judges of our tastes today. Be not fooled or made a fool!

Example: After Ilium, where the narrative necessarily parallels the standard liturgy yet is viewed through the rose-colored lenses of a neophyte (often called 'the lucky loser') for the purpose of excising emotional dewing from unwary readers. Quite dubious in the depiction of an infamous battle. The major sex scene is a fruit basket of delights, however.

Solution. Seek not for such misguided diversions but instead search out only the fair and acceptable solutions to the diversions you crave, for they do exist. Break free and live a life beneath a tree, in the fields of the locust, all barefoot and squishy, with fluffy-bunny clouds overhead and the wind in your hair, like all good little munchkins who have survived remakes of wizard-themed films. And if that fails you, then there likely is little hope; you might as well embrace your day job (night, whatever) with hardy gusto, for you are not worthy of being entertained by the likes of we. Good day to you, Sir!

[The preceding was discovered by a couple of lovers whilst they sojourned on a newly discovered world after reading about ancient wars and played a game of trumps. Authorship has yet escaped confirmation. It is presented here solely for amusement, for it has no other discernable use.]

(C) Copyright 2010-2014 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

12 April 2014

Got any Dry Patches of Skin?

Introducing my latest novel...a work-in-progress...

A Dry Patch of Skin


As the meme goes... "I don't always write new novels, but when I do it's a weird experience."

Years after the Twilight phenomena has ended (well, for most people), I have decided to join the club. The vampire club, that is. However, me being me, I cannot simply latch onto some fan fiction kind of writing. No, I have to put my own unique spin on the subject.

Some experiences in my life recently convinced me that there was a worthwhile story in my agony. Nothing serious, don't worry. Just a spark--but not sparkly skin. Let me compose a suitable blurb...right now...

Returning from his parents' funeral, Hungarian-American medical technician Stefan Székely embarks on a love affair with Penny Park, the TV reporter he met after a dangerous tornado ripped through their city. Just when things are becoming serious, however, Stefan discovers a dry patch of skin on his cheek, a sign of something he fears and yet cannot decode. 

Going in search of medical answers, he struggles to maintain his relationship as he pieces together his parents' lives as dedicated physicians who tended the forlorn inmates of an insane asylum and shunned society. As his condition worsens, Stefan seeks far-flung treatments in the hope that he can find a cure and return to his beloved Penny, only to finally realize what his parents have been shielding him from all of his life: he is doomed to transform into a vampire like them. 

Can he stave off the symptoms, or reverse them? Can he salvage some kind of life with his Beloved? Or will he be doomed to walk the earth as yet another of the Undead?

How is that?

I see this as a work of literary fiction rather than a true paranormal tale. The difference is that the vampirism is treated as a medical condition, not as a supernatural phenomena. The main culprit is the disorder known as porphyria, and similar disorders. It is not a pleasant disease; it is terribly disfiguring. Not at all a sexy, sparkly vampire. I have wound up my pathos machine and intend to let it roar with full fury as Stefan's journey through hope and hopelessness intensifies. 

The opening chapters were fun to write, before the misery and anguish begin. I fictionalized parts of my own life, changed people's names, and made fun of several episodes from my real life...all to portray a fun, loving romantic relationship between two people. Then, as the blurb indicates, I shall destroy it chapter by chapter.

I know how the story ends. However, I am sworn to secrecy. All I can say is that it is not any kind of conclusion the typical reader of vampire books would expect. And yet it is as perfect as...a bloody kiss!

Book cover to follow.

Here are the opening pages:


It is without much amusement that I have come to accept the truth of my situation, although I am fully appreciative of the irony involved.
It is not that I mistrust the words of Mother and Father. It is not that I doubt what society has shown me. Indeed, I accept it all as easily as a starving puppy takes the meatless bone.
I stare into the mirror and want to deny everything, yet I know deep down inside me there is a bomb, a time bomb of sorts, ready to explode when just the right elements come together. And I do not know when that will occur.
For my parents, it began rather late, after age fifty—or so they confessed; I have not seen them face to face since I left for college and thus had no incontrovertible visual confirmation of it. They begged out of my graduation ceremony and I took a job far from them. Later, they died. Before that, there were plenty of letters and phone calls, of course, and with the advancement in technology, also emails and text messages. When finally they succumbed to their own bomb, my mother dared to leave me a note outlining what I should expect. She added that my father did not approve of such a warning, considering it a black mark or a red flag that would ruin my life, keep me from enjoying the good years I had, but she had deemed it a necessary kind gesture that any mother should make for her son.
Then they took their pills, far too many of them, and died in peace before the open windows, a full day’s sunshine raining upon them.
I attended their funeral—closed coffins, of course, as befit their physical condition—and gave the eulogy to a gathering of twenty empty chairs. The priest showed no emotion; it was a duty to be performed. He praised the irony in my speech, however, then remarked how much I resembled my parents.
The Dalmatian coast on the Adriatic was not what I would have expected as my parents’ retirement destination. The town of Makarska, just south of Split and a hundred miles north of the much more famous Dubrovnik, was a lovely choice, however. It was close enough—we are of Hungarian ancestry, after all, a land-locked nation. But they had their life and I had mine. I never thought to question them since they continued shuffling money to me on special occasions.
I took a few more days in that resort town, with the cedars and cozy beaches nestled between rocky hills, stretching far in each direction from my hotel balcony. So after a long nap and half a bottle of Merlot, I tried to enjoy myself the rest of the week. After all, I had gone to some trouble to be able to take off from work and make the long trip from the States to Croatia.

As I presume my parents eventually did, I have removed the mirrors from my home.
[and so on....]

For fans of literary fiction, I offer two books already available: AFTER ILIUM and A BEAUTIFUL CHILL. Click the links in the upper right corner of this blog for further information or read their individual pages on this blog.

(C) Copyright 2010-2014 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

04 April 2014

Where is Alex Parris?

April is the cruelest month, says T. S. Eliot who loved April more than life itself.

It's also a great month to catch up on reading that you may have put away for Spring Break and perhaps the books you received as holiday gifts. Perhaps you got a book as a Valentine gift. Perhaps you finished all of those books and are ready for something new. Perhaps...?

Back in 2012, I offered up this short novel to try the indie publishing system and it has remained a favorite ever since. Unfortunately, it slips below the radar every few weeks or so. It's still good for a weekend read: one long evening or split between a Saturday night and a Sunday afternoon. 


Alex Parris has been fascinated by the Trojan War all his life, but when he meets the seductive Eléna on a cruise to Turkey, he cannot help but see the two of them as a modern Helen and Paris. However, following seduction in Istanbul and their tour to the ruins of Ilium, Alex is forced to fight his way back to his lover—if he can even find her, and if the rugged Turkish coast doesn’t kill him first.

It's a twisted love story, a war memorial, an action adventure, a morality tale, a blast from the past, and a tragedy with dark humor--everything you want your weekend to be!

Here is a review of AFTER ILIUM at The Dark Side

Available in paperback, too, which features the wonderful artwork of Ceri Clark, legendary librarian, web guru, and cover artist, not to mention fellow Myrddin author with her own YA paranormal novel and internet how-to guides. 

Or try a book from one of our other great Myrddin authors

(C) Copyright 2010-2014 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.