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Toilet Shocker – Prologue

toilet shocker demo

Prologue
January, 2018 – A few months after the events of Toilet Gator.
Bangkok was a city a man who wanted to escape his past could get lost in. It was a lawless land filled with sights and stimulation, distractions and debauchery, virtually any and all vices afflicting the human condition could be purchased for a price. Baht was the name of the game and at the moment, the name of the game was high stakes pick a number.
In the dimly back room of The Scorpion Nest, the worst dive bar in a city full of dive bars, a formerly attractive middle-aged man by the name of Ed Enwright sat at a table with a pile of brightly colored currency before him and a loaded revolver that he had willingly pressed up against his own table. His beard hadn’t been trimmed in months and a bandana kept his long hair from falling into his eyes.
Sitting across from Ed was Boon-Mee, a degenerate louse with a face full of scars. Like Ed, he too also reeked of cheap booze and bad decisions. He too pressed a loaded revolver up to his head. He too had a pile of money in front of him.
Anurak, an elderly barkeep with a glass eye, presided over the game. Behind him, a gaggle of drunks waved currency about, placing their bets and watching the game intently. As soon as Anurak raised a hand, all sounds in the room ceased.
Ed and Boon-Mee stared each other down as sweat dripped from their brows.
“I’m thinking of a number,” Anurak said. “Between 1 and 10.”
Ed gritted his teeth. Boon-Mee breathed heavily.
“Yes,” Anurak said. “A number between 1 and 10. I have it in my mind now. Boon-Mee, what is it?”
Boon-Mee hyperventilated. Spittle sprayed out of his mouth as he gave his reply. “Seven!”
“Are you sure?” Anurak asked.
Boon-Mee looked at Ed, then at the crowd, then to the barkeep. “Yes! Seven! I’m positive.”
Anurak shook his head. “No, I’m sorry. It’s not seven.”
Boon-Mee’s face turned ghostly white. He closed his eyes and winced. “Goodbye, cruel world,” were the man’s last words just before he pulled the trigger and sprayed the room full of blood and brains.
Hushed murmurs erupted from the crowd as Boon-Mee’s carcass slumped over the table.
“Ed!” Anurak said. “I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 10…and as we just established, it is not 7.”
Ed’s hand shook nervously as he pondered the barkeep’s question. “Five?”
The rummies in attendance all waited on Anurak’s answer, their eyes glued to the barkeep for fear they might miss it. “Mmm hmm. Yes. Five it is.”
“Hooray!” The crowd cheered and settled their bets as Ed broke out in a cold sweat. He breathed a sigh of relief, then reached across the table to pull the late Boon-Mee’s loot pile towards his.
After a few minutes of consolidating all that sticky, crinkly baht into a relatively solid currency brick, the winner moseyed on over to the bar, where Anurak was busy pouring obscure, exotic looking drinks into skull shaped glasses.
Ed looked to his left, then to his right. The coast was clear. He pulled roughly fifty-percent of his newly acquired winnings to the glass eyed man. Anurak seized the cash and tucked it into his pocket quickly.
“You look like shit, Ed,” Anurak said as he slid a skull across the bar. “On the house.”
“Mmm,” Ed said as he grabbed the glass and tipped it into his mouth. “That’s good. What is that? An old, secret potion? An elixir the recipe of which your family has guarded since ancient times?”
Anurak smirked. “It’s a banana daiquiri, asshole. I just put it in a skull glass so fat, lazy, stupid American tourists like you will think it’s special and pay me more beaucoup bucks.”
“Hmm,” Ed said as he smacked his lips together. “Whatever. It’s good. You’ve outdone yourself.”
“So, have you,” the barkeep replied. “Get out of my joint, Ed. I can’t do business with you anymore.”
“What?” Ed asked. “Why?”
This time, Anurak looked around to make sure no one was looking. “Look, there’s a shelf-life to the old, ‘high stakes pick a number’ con. Most of these gambling gawkers understand that the whole thing is rigged and they just want to see some nincompoop blow his brains out, but the key is that most fellas who are in on it blow town after a few nights so I can find a new accomplice to bilk the marks.”
“Have I been at it so long?” Ed asked.
“Six weeks,” Anurak said. “How long were you in Bangkok before you met me?”
“Honestly,” Ed said. “I don’t remember. It’s all a blur.”
A naked woman walked past the bar, pulling an endangered panda bear on a leash behind her.
“Although, twelve weeks ago, something like that would have surprised me,” Ed said.
“Where else have your travels taken you?” Anurak said.
“Oh,” Ed said. “So many places. Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, India, Pakistan, Tibet, Hong Kong, Morocco…”
“Wow,” Anurak said. “I bet you’ve boom-boomed every color of pussy known to man.”
Ed grinned. “You’d think so but no.”
“Ahh,” Anurak said. “You carry a torch for a woman in your past life?”
Ed took a swig of daiquiri. “You might said that.”
“Yeah,” Anurak said. “Well, my friend, Confucious say, ‘He who forgoes the new pussy of today out of love of pussy of the past is truly the greatest pussy of all in the present.’”
The drunk nodded. “That’s very profound.”
The barkeep ran a towel along the surface of the bar, then leaned over to stare at his friend in the eye. “You did your best, Ed. Go home. Clean yourself up. You’re doing no one any good here.”
Ed’s heart skipped a beat. “Huh? What are you talking about?”
“You’re a good man,” Anurak said. “You deserve better than this.”
Ed downed the rest of his drink, then rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. “Am I missing something? It sounds like you know some things about me that I don’t recall ever telling you.”
Anurak pointed to a TV monitor hanging over the bar. On it, footage of a tall skyscraper in Chicago played. The barkeep grabbed the remote and turned up the volume loud enough that an announcer’s voice could be heard.
“You’re watching the Documentary Direct,” the announcer said. “The only channel that brings you all of your favorite films featuring voice over announcers speaking ominously over archive footage. If you’re watching this tonight, your chances of getting laid are slim to none.”
“He’s got you there,” Anurak said.
Ed nodded in the affirmative.
“Tonight at 9, we’ll be featuring, ‘Milk, Milk, Lemonade,’ a retrospective on the world’s most infamous combination dairy farms, lemonade stands and fudge packing plants and not what you assumed we’d be talking about, you disgusting excuse for a human being, but first, where were you when the Equinox Tower fell?”
“OK,” Ed said. “I got it.”
“This shit has been on all week,” Anurak said. “Every channel.”
“Yeah,” Ed said. “It’s the ten-year anniversary. Can we watch something else?”
The announcer carried on. “One thousand, two-hundred and forty-eight lives were lost when a mad bomber’s reign of terror…”
Ed spoke loudly, drowning over the announcer. “Put on a game show. A sitcom. Anything else, please.”
A stock photo of a much younger, more handsome, physically fit Ed appeared on the screen. He was clean shaven and his eyes appeared more hopeful than they had ever been.
“And what ever happened to Ed Enwright, the head of the FBI’s top counter-terrorism unit and the lead investigator on this case? Sources say he was fired shortly after the tower was lost, though the circumstances of his termination were never made public. After that, his friends and colleagues say they never heard from him again. It’s almost as if he vanished into thin air.”
Ed reached over the bar, yanked the remote out of Anurak’s hand and flipped the channels until he landed on a game show. Three lucky contests stood behind podiums as the host shouted, “Who’s ready to play, ‘Dodge That Suppository?’”
“I’m sorry, my friend,” Anurak said. “It’s just not often I get a celebrity in my bar. You looked good back then. You really let yourself go.”
“Thanks,” Ed said.
“No, seriously,” Anurak said. “The dark spots under your eyes and the flecks of gray in your hair and beard and you’ve packed on at least, what, twenty or thirty pounds?”
“Set me up with another drink and I’ll start working on forty,” Ed said.
Anurak forked over another skull full of daquiri.
“I don’t care what anyone says,” Anurak said. “You’re a hero.”
“Yeah,” Ed said. “Tell that to my kid.”
Anurak ran his towel over the bar once more. “Confucius say, ‘The shorter the life, the lesser the strife, the longer one lives, the easier one forgives.’”
“I’ll drop that in a note and mail it to her,” Ed said. “Maybe she’ll take my calls.”
“Maybe you skip the call and visit in person,” Anurak said.
Ed swigged from the skull. “Maybe.”
The barkeep reached out and grabbed Ed’s hand. “You’re not welcome here anymore.”
“Why?” Ed asked. “Did I fart or something?”
“On occasion,” Anurak said. “But no. I can’t stand to see someone with so much left to offer the world sit here, night after night, letting his skills go to waste.”
“The world and I aren’t exactly simpatico,” Ed said.
“Confucius say…”
“Oh, here we go,” Ed said as he guzzled his booze. “More Confucius.”
“Shut your hole, Yankee imperialist swine,” Anurak said. “Confucius was a wise man and had more brains in his left nut than you’ll ever have in your entire life.”
Ed shrugged his shoulders. “Probably true.”
Anurak continued. “Confucius say, ‘He who has failed in one chapter, must find a new purpose in the next, or else he will just go on repeating the same old shit forever and ever.’”
“Confucius really said, ‘shit?’” Ed asked.
“Oh, he had a very foul tongue, that Confucius,” Anurak said.
The barkeep slid over a third skull. “The last drink I’ll ever serve you. You’re welcome to stay until closing, but then for your own good, I never want to see you here again. If you won’t find a new reason to live, then please, kill yourself in another bar.”
“I hear the Tong Sia Lounge has good chicken wings,” Ed said.
“Hmm,” Anurak said. “I don’t know about that. I hear they taste better going in, but feel worse when they come out. If you’ll excuse me, it’s been nice knowing you, friend.”
Anurak waltzed down the bar to serve more customers. Ed flipped through the channels on TV.
“A new purpose,” Ed said. “A new purpose. Where the hell can I find a new purpose?”
Ed channel surfed for a while until he settled on the Movie Now channel. He was hoping to catch a flick but instead there was another documentary playing.
“Jeeze,” Ed said. “What a buzzkill.”
“Welcome back to the Movie Now channel,” the announcer said. “We love to bring you the latest flicks featuring grown ass adults pretending to be caped, costumed, spandex wearing superheroes, the occasional reboot of a film that came out two years ago, and of course, romantic comedies where the so-called ugly friend is just a hot chick with a pair of glasses slapped on her attractive face. But we also want in on award season, so tonight, we’re bringing you the documentary version of Jaws of Death: The Inside Story of the News Duo That Tracked the Toilet Gator.
Archive footage of ex-Sitwell Police Chief Cole Walker played. In the middle of a street flooded by a hurricane, the forty-year-old man stood in a sinking canoe, pressing a whirring chainsaw blade up against the big green monster’s sharp, pointy teeth.
“It was the story that shocked a nation,” the announcer said in a voice over. “Three people, one of them none other than Countess Cucamonga, died on the toilet in a single night.”
Ed had been drinking at the very moment that last statement was made. Out of shock, he sprayed his daiquiri out of his lips and all over the bar. “Countess Cucamonga is dead?!”
An angry Anurak returned and furiously wiped up Ed’s spit. “Damn it, Ed! I know this place is a shithole but I try to keep up a few standards.”
“Dude,” Ed said as he pointed at the TV, which was showing archived footage of an alligator bursting out of a toilet, only to devour the Mayor of Sitwell, Florida. “When the hell did that happen?”
“What?” Anurak asked. “The toilet gator? You never heard about that?”
“No,” Ed said.
“Were you living under a rock last fall?” Anurak asked.
Ed searched the deep recesses of his mind. “Last fall…last fall…damn, that ayahuasca is some potent shit.”
“Seriously, Ed,” Anurak said. “Get in a program.”
“What happened?” Ed asked.
“You really don’t know?” Anurak asked.
“No,” Ed said. “Why would I ask if I didn’t know?”
“There was a fat ass alligator,” Anurak said. “Popping out of toilets in Florida and eating people. He had an accomplice. An over the hill cop with a prosthetic leg hunted it down and killed it.”
Anurak and Ed stared at each other in silence.
“Kinda makes you feel like a loser that you aren’t doing more with your life given the fact that you have two good legs, doesn’t it?” the barkeep asked.
“Yeah,” Ed said as he stood up. “A little bit.”
The announcer continued. “In the wake of the toilet gator carnage, Americans have one question on their minds, ‘Is it safe to shit?’”
A Southern woman with three babies in tow spoke into a microphone. “I don’t care what the lying government or the fake news media says, I will never shit in a toilet again for as long as I live.”
Ed pushed the skull drink away. “I think I just found my new purpose.”
“You’re going to help that lady take a shit?” Anurak said.
“Something like that,” Ed said. “Thanks for your hospitality.”
“Don’t mention it,” Anurak said. “Oh, and Ed…”
“Yeah?”
“Don’t forget,” Anurak said. “’Confucius say, ‘He who cries for many months will lubricate his soul, but he who cries for many years will drown himself.’”
“Did Confucious really say all those things?” Ed asked.
“Not at all,” Anurak said. “I just think of advice that would help my customers and then tell them Confucius said it because it sounds better coming from an ancient philosopher than it does from an old bum like me. Most fat, stupid, lazy Americans are easily fooled though honestly, I expected more from an educated man like you.”
“I’m sorry,” Ed said.
“You should be,” Anurak said. “Racist prick.”

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Toilet Shocker – First Chapter Draft Test

Just giving it a trial run.  Let me know what you think in the comments, 3.5.

toilet shocker demo

Chapter 1

February 27, 2019 – Moonbeam Coffee, Store #11,041 – Portland, Oregon
Heather Laramie’s wokeness wasn’t a hobby – it was a passion. Her frame was thin, the result of many a hunger strike in the name of whatever the latest social cause was trending on Lifebox. She owned multiple Che Guevara shirts, allowing her to wear the image of the Communist revolutionary daily. In her defense, her grasp on history was tenuous and she was unaware of Guevara’s bloodthirsty actions. She just viewed him as a man who wanted people to get free stuff, an economic system that in Heather’s eyes, was totally doable, seeing as how her parents gave her free stuff all the time, so surely the government had a money tree lurking about somewhere that could be shook until the leaves fell off into perpetuity.
Yes, Heather talked the talk. She regaled anyone who would listen of her love of Senator Murray Leibowitz, the upstart, self-proclaimed “Democratic Socialist” who gave former Homeland Security Secretary Emily Wannadingle a run for her money during the 2016 Democratic primaries.
More importantly to her, she walked the walk. She drove a Yarikazi Elf, which was literally the smallest car on the market, virtually one step above being a glorified golf cart. Sure, it was cramped, she was never able to invite a friend to come along for a ride, and motorists regularly slammed into it because they typically failed to see it and assumed the parking space it was in was available, but it got great gas mileage and was good for the environment, assuming that energy coming out of a wall socket was somehow produced in a cleaner manner than gas harvested from the bowels of the earth but…hey, you know what? That’s not the point. The point is, the car made her happy.
And many things made Heather happy. There was the “Resist” tattoo she got permanently etched on her right forearm the day Vinny Stugotz was sworn in as the forty-fifth president of the United States. There was her pink pussy hat, which she, in addition to Che’s grim visage, also wore daily. She even decorated it with a pin that read, “Keep your laws off my vagina.” Heather was, in fact, such a proponent of anti-vaginal legislation that she regularly posted on her blog about her support for a controversial law that would allow women to have an abortion up until the 24th trimester, known throughout the media as the “Whack ‘Em with a Baseball Bat Until Their Sixth Birthday Bill.” Murray Leibowitz was the bill’s chief sponsor, and once Emily Wannadingle’s people determined through a series of polls that the bill was popular, she vocalized her support for it to.
Yes, Heather was proud of her lifestyle and yearned for the day when the revolution would come, bathing the streets red with the blood of capitalist pigs, seizing any and all businesses and putting them under government control, and putting all labor at the new Communist government’s disposal. Like many young comrades, Heather always pictured herself as some kind of commissar, someone who would be paid handsomely to vocally support Communism and punish those who criticized it. Most millennial pinkos typically fantasized about becoming high-ranking officials in the apparatchik. None ever envisioned themselves as ditch digging peasants who would work for 12 hours a day, then spend the other 12 hours waiting in line for government issued toilet paper and moldy blocks of cheese.
Also, somehow in this fantasy vision of utopia, Schmuck Phones, Lifebox, superhero movies, boy wizard books, video games and continued access to Mom and Dad’s backyard pool and tricked out basement still existed, though no one ever offered an explanation as to how, in a world where a workforce would be whipped into submission and aspirations of wealth would be quashed under an iron boot, all these luxuries would continue to exist.
Back to the main point. Heather was woke – exceedingly, ridiculously, absurdly woke, and out of all her expressions of wokeness, there were none that the pink haired, bespectacled college student majoring in 17th century lesbian folklore was more proud of than her position as a barista at Moonbeam Coffee.
Yes, Moonbeam Coffee, the wokest provider of caffeine fixes on the planet! Come for the triple half caf, skinny foam, mocha whipped honeysuckle cold brew with trace hints of ginger and turmeric. Leave when you ask for a large coffee with sugar and cream and the staff looks at you funny. Come for the recycled cups featuring tips on how to save the environment like “Compost daily” and “Get rid of your lamps and sit in the dark.” Come for the giftshop, where you can buy a bumper sticker that reads, “Live Locally, Frolic Globally” or “My Other Car Doesn’t Exist Because I Don’t Hate Mother Nature So Much that I’d Own Two.”
Heather had loved her job for three years, ever since her un-woke, patriarchal father insisted that if she was going to waste his money on lesbian folklore classes, that she’d better at least get a job to pay for her personal expenses. At first, she despised the cis-male scum who raised her, decrying his name for failing to see the abundant job opportunities that were available to students of lesbian folklore that hailed from the 1600s, but she soon came to enjoy making octuple caf, tall foam marzipan swirls with rosemary shots. She loved it so much that she was sure she’d just keep working there after college, opting to forego the abundant job opportunities in her field of study, of which she remained unwaveringly sure that they did, in fact, exist.
Alas, on the day in question, Heather began to have grave concerns as to whether or not her job would remain enjoyable in the future. A line of smelly, unkempt, unhygienic homeless people of all ages, races, sexes and creeds waiting to use the one toilet in the store’s small bathroom extended out of the store and down the block. This had been happening daily for months, ever since a vagrant had sued Moonbeam Coffee and won three million dollars after being refused to use the bathroom at a San Francisco store. The court ruled that the company’s policy against allowing bathroom access to paying customers only was discriminatory against the poor, and Moonbeam Coffee could no longer make arbitrary rules that unfairly affected the economically challenged.
For Heather, the result was that she hadn’t been allowed to serve a brew since the Fall of 2018. She was now on bathroom clean-up detail, standing outside the perpetually stinky restroom with a plunger and a mop at the ready. As she looked up at a television monitor that was playing her favorite news channel, Heather began to question everything she had ever believed.
Lydia Estevez von Straffsbourg-Kightlinger-Tiparoo, the most popular reporter on the Woke News Network, had been recently named the host of The Lesbian Slam Poet News Hour, the only show in which militant feminists updated the public on the latest stories in rhyme.
On screen, Lydia wore her usual outfit, a black beret and matching turtleneck sweater, a look completed with a pair of thick glasses. She was surrounded by a diverse array of poets. In the background, one poet pounded a pair of bongos.
“Moonbeam Coffee,” Lydia said. “It’s been eight months since this vile, capitalist, profit motivated criminal organization perpetrated by the one percent dared to commit the unspeakable, unforgivable hate crime of telling a man that he could not use the bathroom unless he bought a locally sourced, farm to table, gluten free scone, half the proceeds of which would have gone to creating communes for transgender watercolor artists in impoverished nations. What do we think about this, ladies?”
Vocal pundit Maura Heffernan-Augustus-Peabody-Benjamin brushed a piece of lint off of her “Fuck Stugotz” t-shirt and looked directly at the camera. “I don’t care how long it’s been, Lydia. I admit that this is a tricky situation, given the fact that I do support locally sourced, farm to table, gluten free scones and the building of communes for transgendered watercolor artists in impoverished nations, but…”
Maura was interrupted by Jessica Melman-Walters-Duffy-Boombalay-Bensonhurst, a contributor with a shaved bald head and a t-shirt that depicted President Stugotz swinging from the end of a noose. “Can I just say that President Stugotz is not doing enough to help start communes for transgender watercolor artists in third world nations? This is the defining issue of our time and that pig, that pretender, that usurper of Emily Wannadingle’s birthright couldn’t be bothered to do a thing about this.”
“I agree,” Maura said. “And I can’t wait to hear the slam poem you wrote about that, sister, but first, I would like to read my poem about Moonbeam Coffee’s despicable reign of tyranny.”
“Go on, sister,” Lydia said. “Hit us with your truth.”
Maura sipped some water. She cleared her throat, then stood up and read from a piece of paper. “Beans of hate! Beans of hate! What is the fate of those who would stand by and sell the beans of hate? Unwoke baristas, chasing the mighty buck, but about those less fortunate, they could hardly give a…”
At that precise moment, poor Heather suffered a mental break. Her eyes welled with tears, and not just the ones that were inspired by the stench emanating from the bathroom. Heather had lived and breathed the teachings of the Woke News Network for as long as she could remember. She had long adored The Lesbian Slam Poet News Hour and had bought all of the books written by its contributors, from Free Stuff Works to Down with Penile Rule. She was even a fierce supporter of homeless rights, having spent many a weekend protesting against income inequality.
The door to the bathroom swung open, causing the air to become borderline unbreathable. Out from the squalid conditions emerged a hobo known around the community as “Dumpster Dave,” for his penchant for sleeping in large trash receptacles. He’d come close to being crushed in the trash compactors of three separate trucks, but he was still ticking. His tattered clothing reeked of bourbon and feces and as he looked at Heather, he wiped the snots that had formed in his mustache onto his coat sleeve.
“Damnation!” Dave said. “You got your work cut out for you today, Heather!”
Heather sighed. “Did you at least put your needle in the sharp container this time, Dave?”
Dave appeared aghast. “Un-woke bitch! Ain’t you been watchin’ the television-o-mo-bobber? I gots a to shit where I pleases and it’s a hate crime to ask me that!”
In her heart, Heather knew what she was about to say violated ever belief she’d ever held dear. Alas, her brain and heart had been in a running battle ever since Moonbeam Coffee had been forced to let any and all comers to use the bathroom, no questions asked, no purchase required. “So, you’re telling me I should have to risk contracting a deadly, incurable disease because you’re too lazy to put your needle in a safe container that my company provided to you for free!”
The hobo got flustered. “Buh..fah…gah…hate criminal! Damnation, you one of them Stugotz voters, ain’t you? Where’s your MAFFA hat, bitch?”
“Oh come on,” Heather said. “Like I would be caught dead in a ‘Make America Funky Fresh Again,’ hat.”
“Where’s your manager?” Dave asked. “I want to speak to your manager.”
Heather sighed. At the counter, Heather’s manager, Janice Schaeffer, was busily preparing a septuple caf frappucino with extra goat leche and a sprig of oak root. Heather’s stomach turned at the idea that she was about to disappoint her boss. Although Janice was twenty years old, Heather felt a special kinship to her employer. Between the faded hammer and sickle tattoo on the upper half of her left bosom and the green hair, Heather had a hunch that she was going to be a lot like Janice when she reached middle age.
The boss noticed the commotion and came over. “What seems to be the problem here?”
As the fracas ensued, a skinny woman with a protruding baby bump entered the bathroom and closed the door.
“This no-good, dirty rotten, conservative bitch just implied that I should exercise personality responsibility for myself!” Dave shouted.
Janice gasped. “Heather! How could you?”
A low moan emanated from inside the bathroom.
“All I did was suggest that if Dave is going to use our bathroom to shoot heroin…”
“I gots to shoot heroin, bitch!” Dave said. “It’s not my fault that I got an addiction due to the fact that I ain’t been able to find a job in seventeen years.”
Heather cocked her head to the side. “You haven’t found one single job in seventeen years?”
Dave threw his hands in the hair. “Bitch! I been holdin’ out for a CEO position!”
Janice shuddered. “I…I can’t even right now. First, Dave, I know the unjust capitalist system has been cruel to you, but you can’t just call women the b word…”
“Thank you,” Heather said.
The boss finished her thought. “…unless she’s using unjustifiable hate speech and then it’s ok.”
Dave stuck his tongue out at Heather. “How do ya like me now, bitch?!”
Heather’s lower lip quivered. “But…buh buh…but…Janice!”
“We all attended the sensitivity training, Heather,” Janice said. “Remember when the stockholders were livid when every Moonbeam Coffee store in the nation shut down for three weeks so employees could be flogged while being taught how to become sufficiently woke. You’re displaying a very insufficient level of wokeness right now.”
Bloodcurdling screams poured out of the bathroom. “Gah..ahhh…oh God….ohh….argh….ARGH!”
The baristas ignored it. They had grown accustomed to such noises.
“Janice,” Heather said. “You know I think the world of you. You taught me everything I know and even invited me to my first protest but I’ll have you know that I’m very woke. I’m so woke I write anti-Stugotz screed on my Lifebox daily. I’m so woke I donated to Murray Leibowitz. I’m so woke I own one and only one cloth tampon that I wash in the sink daily. I am woke.”
“You’re not acting like it,” Janice said. “Apologize to this man.”
“Yeah,” the toothless loser said. “Apologize to me right now, bitch.”
Heather looked at Janice’s disapproving face, then at Dave’s grinning, scabby face. “I will not.”
All activities in the store ceased. The plucky young baristas, the hipsters on laptops writing their screenplays, even the homeless folk in line waiting to use the crapper, all grew silent as they took in the spectacle.
Soon, the silence was cut by the screams of the woman inside the bathroom. “Ugh…get out of me you little fucker! Goddamn you, Johnny! Why did I let you do this to me?! Goddamn you to hell!”
Heather pointed at the long line of poor folk. “Janice, this is ridiculous.”
“I beg your pardon?” Janice asked.
Heather gulped and mustered up her inner strength. “Only paying customers should be allowed to use a business’ bathroom. There, I said it, and I’m glad I said.”
Everyone gasped. “Take that back!” Janice said.
Heather raised her voice. “I won’t! Look, it’s simple. Businesses need to make money in order to provide goods and services and whenever an employee is taken away from providing those goods and services, that translates into the company making less money, which means there’s less money for employees to get raises, and less tax dollars going into the system to promote much needed social welfare programs!”
The woman in the bathroom cried out in pain. “Barrrrrgh! I want this to be over so bad!”
Janice pointed to a glass box attached to the wall. It contained a medieval cat-o-nine-tails behind a glass plate. Underneath it was a brass plaque with the words, “Break in Case of Insufficient Wokeness” printed on it.
“Don’t make me break that glass, Heather,” Janice said.
“Janice,” Heather said. “I love you, but listen to reason. Things were so much better when only paying customers were allowed to use the bathroom. People who actually like our store and want to see it succeed because they enjoy our products would treat the bathroom with special care, being sure to not make too much of a mess because they knew if they did so regularly, they’d be too embarrassed to come to their favorite hangout anymore. And if they did make a mess, then at least they contributed to the store’s bottom line, so that the company could afford to hire a designated janitor and baristas like me wouldn’t have to be taken off the counter, away from all the delicious designer coffees and forced to clean up shit and piss and hypodermic needles and…”
The door to the bathroom swung open. The young woman, looking like a pale zombie, walked out. Her body was drenched in blood and she carried a baby wrapped in toilet baby. The infant cried loudly.
“Excuse me,” the woman said as she pushed her way past the baristas. “I have to go find a dumpster.”
“Don’t you put dare put that thing in my house,” Dave said.
“Hey,” Heather said as the woman walked away. “You know, there’s a police station that’s just down the street. There’s a law that you can drop off a baby, no questions asked.”
“Get your laws off my body,” the woman said as she pushed the front door of the store open, leaving a bloody palm print on the glass.
Janice pointed at Heather’s “Keep Your Laws Off My Vagina” pin. “You don’t deserve to wear that. What happened to your support of the ‘Whack ‘Em in the Head Until Their Sixth Birthday’ law?”
“I’ve been rethinking that,” Heather said.
Janice gasped. “I think you need to leave, Heather.”
Heather ignored her boss. She stepped onto an empty, chair, then stepped onto a table, breaking up a hipster writing session. “I’ve been rethinking a lot of things lately.”
“Whatever you’re thinking, young lady, your thoughts aren’t welcome here,” Janice said.
“I used to love this job,” Heather said. “Back when it was fun. Back when I could make coffee and talk about all the free stuff that people should be given for free but now…now I realize, nothing good in life is free.”
A dirt bearded, man-bun sporting drifter wearing a sleeveless shirt to show off his prolific arm tattoos entered the bathroom. “Holy shit!” he cried. “It looks like somebody had a baby in here! Oh well, fuck it, beats shitting at the shelter.”
Heather became lost in her tirade. “When I started working here, it was a happier time, a simpler time, an easier time, a better time. I could make coffee all day and sell it at an absurdly marked up price but posers didn’t care as long as they could post selfies of themselves holding a trendy cup. I was able to watch WNN on the monitor for free and at most, on any given day, I rarely had to spend more than five minutes cleaning the bathroom and I just want to return to that simpler time…”
“Hey,” came the voice of the drifter from inside the bathroom. “Someone should really scrub all the blood off the walls. It’s unsanitary.”
Heather continued. “…now all I want to do is return to that better time, that wonderful time, that…”
Janice punched the glass and, without a care for the blood dripping from her knuckles, seized the cat-o-nine-tails. “Don’t you say it.”
“…a funkier time…a fresher time…”
Janice’s nostrils flared. “If you say it, you’re….”
Heather ripped off her pink pussy hat and tossed it to the ground. She pulled off her Che Guevara shirt to reveal a star-spangled, red-white-and blue Vinny Stugotz campaign shirt, emblazoned with the forty-fifth president’s catchphrase, “Make America Funky Fresh Again!”
“MAFFA!” Heather shouted at the top of her lungs. “MAFFA, motherfuckers! MAFFA forever!”
All the hipsters, baristas, and homeless folk averted their eyes, as if Heather’s new shirt contained the retina burning light rumored to pour out of the ark of the covenant itself.

“I never wanted this!” Heather shouted. “You all made me this way! This is been brewing in my gut for months and finally, I have to let it out! If you want stuff, you should buy it! If you can’t afford to buy it, you should get a job! If you can’t find a job, you should seek the skills needed for one! If your physically or mentally impaired, then you should seek out government services instead of just lying around on the street all day but at any rate, if you want a better life, then that better life comes from you, not from the government.”

Janice broke out into tears. “I’m going to need to rent all the therapy puppies to get over this. How could you, Heather?! How could you?!”
Heather looked at her mentor and felt internal anguish. She hopped off the table and attempted to hug the older woman, only to be pushed away. “Get away from me, monster! You support that criminal! That animal! That beast who wants to lock all minorities in concentration camps!”
The young lady sighed. “Janice, he’s been president for two years and he hasn’t locked up any minorities in concentration camps.”
The boss wiped a tear from her cheek. “He will. They’re coming. Any day now. Camps for gay people. Camps for women. Camps for brown people. The blog-o-sphere told me so.”
The drifter inside the bathroom broke the tension. “You’d you people would stock up on more toilet paper. Is free toilet paper too much to ask?”
Heather walked over to the counter, grabbed the remote control, then returned to Janice. She put her arm around her boss, then pointed the remote at the TV.
“No,” Janice said. “Please don’t.”
“They’re not that bad,” Heather said. “You’ll see.”
Heather turned off WNN and turned on Network News One, the only network dedicated to bring the latest in conservative news and also, titties. Big titties attached to jaw droppingly beautiful female reporters. At the moment, those lovely ladies were taking a powder so that conservative blowhard Jim Clayton, a white-haired old fogie with a buzz cut, could bark at the camera.
“Welcome back to Jim Clayton’s America. Today on the show, are feminazi activists trying to chop the pee-pees off your three-year-old sons and turn them into little girls? The answer is a most resounding yes, but first, taxes. Fuck taxes. Fuck ‘em right in the butt. I hate taxes and I don’t care who knows it. If you want my money, eat a dick. Come at me and take my money out of my cold, dead hand if you want it so bad but until then, get a job. What the fake news media won’t tell you is that thanks to the booming Stugotz economy, companies are flush with cash and they’re churning out jobs out the wazoo, so get a job hippies and stop trying to raise taxes so you can give all my hard-earned money to shiftless flat-backers, no good, degenerate lay-abouts, and dirty rotten deadbeats.”
Heather took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “Preach, my brother, preach!”
All hope fell out of Janice’s eyes. “You’re fired, Heather.”
“I know,” Heather said with a smile. “And that’s ok. I’ll find another job because I’m switching my major to venture capitalism.”
“Please go away,” Janice said.
“And I’m going to get married,” Heather said. “To a man.”
“Stop,” Janice said.
“I don’t know what he’ll be,” Heather said. “Maybe a police officer or a fracking rig operator…”
“No more,” Janice said. “Please, no more.”
“We’ll have three children,” Heather said. “And I’ll take a few years off of work to raise them because seeing their adorable little faces will be the greatest pleasure of my life.”
Janice pointed at the door. “Get out! Your words cut through the depths of my soul like a flaming hot knife through butter!”
“I’ll take care of myself,” Heather said. “And I’ll urge my friends and family to take personal responsibility. And if I ever do fall on hard times, the support system I’ve created by starting a family will be there for me, so I won’t have to depend on the incompetent, bureaucratic machinations of big government…”
The baristas stared at the TV. Jim Clayton was working himself into a foamy lather.

“Look, I’m not saying that women’s reproductive rights should be regulated by the government, I’m just saying that their vaginas should be packed full of cement, only to be chipped away when they enter the bonds of holy matrimony. That’s right. We’re going to build walls inside women’s vaginas and we’re going to make them pay for it.”
Janice dabbed her moist eyes with a handkerchief. “That’s disgusting.”
“Actually,” Heather said. “It makes sense when you think about…”
A scream came out of the bathroom. It was louder than usual.
“What the?! Argh! What’s…what’s happening to me?!”
Janice knocked on the door. “Hello! Sir, assuming that’s your preferred pronoun, and forgive me if it isn’t, are you OK in there?”
“GAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”
“Damn it,” Heather said. “Another crackhead overdosing because the liberal-political-media industrial complex convinced this guy that he should live on the dole, avoiding any and all personal responsibility, never finding any direction that would make him a better person and…”
The drifter’s cries grew deafening. “SOMEBODY HELP ME! HELP ME, PLEASE….ARRGGHHH!”
“You’ve been helped enough, sir,” Heather said. “Lazy sponges like you are the reason why Stugotz won!”
Janice grabbed the knob. “I think he actually needs help.”
“Oh,” Heather said. “Right.”
The boss opened the door. She and Heather looked inside to find that the drifter had been burnt to a crisp. His body had the texture of a charred, blackened marshmallow, gooey yet crusty. His mouth was agape, his teeth the only part left that hadn’t been fried.
Heather’s immediate response? “Why the hell is there a black guy in here?”
All the screenwriting hipsters snapped their heads toward Heather in disgust. “No, wait,” Heather said. “That came around wrong. I love black people. All my best friends are black. I marched for black rights all the time. I’m just saying, this guy was white but now he was somehow turned black and…”
“Stop digging the hole, fascist,” Janice said as she surveyed the room. The walls were already covered with the blood and feces of over a hundred non-paying bathroom users, but the smoking husk of a man was a sight that no barista had ever seen before.
“Clean this up, Heather,” Janice said.
“Uh…hello?” Heather asked. “You just fired me.”
“Oh, right,” Janice said. “Damn it.”

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Toilet Gator Off to Editor Soon

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

20 months.  A year and a half.  That’s how long I’ve been writing this book:

toilet-gator-book-1

You might think this book is cheap, throwaway drivel and that I’ve wasted a year and a half on tomfoolery.  Technically, you’d be right, except you aren’t, because this is by far the best book ever written.

It’s a tale of passion…romance, love, betrayal, horror and people being eaten by a giant lizard while they are pooping.

It’s a tale of redemption, of how a broken down, defeated officer of the law makes amends with his ex-wife and learns to forgive himself for his past mistakes while hunting down…a giant lizard who eats people while they are pooping.

It’s a parody that mocks our news media entertainment complex, our political system, restores comedy to its natural, off the chain, no holds barred, everyone gets offended because that’s what good comedy does state…and it’s also about a giant lizard who eats people while they are pooping.

Thank you for joining me on this adventure.

I am but one man.  I like to think I am superhuman, that I am capable of anything, but from time to time, my health reminds me that I am only capable of so much.

Unfortunately,  I can’t write about people getting eaten while they are pooping 24/7.  I just can’t.  I wish I could.  I really do.  No, I really do.  That would be an awesome job.

But that day isn’t here yet, so in the meantime, I must work, and take care of myself, and take time to exercise, eat well, relax, and destress.  Novels about people being eaten while they are pooping will have to be written during the random, sweet moments of time I get to steal from the various forces of the world that keep me down.

I have so many ideas, but for now I must put them on my magic bookshelf.  Don’t worry. They’ll be there when the time is right.

For now, I’ll focus on Toilet Gator Sequels, and on continuing the story of “The Last Driver.”

Perhaps one glorious day, novels about human eating alligators will make me rich, and I can write about alligators eating unsuspecting bathroom users all day.  Why, that’s been the dream of many a writer ever since Gutenberg invented the printing press, so I would be very blessed by such a life.

But I’m not there yet, and if it’s ever to happen, it will take time and patience.

Some rest tonight, then I’ll be sending “Toilet Gator” to my editor soon, and then I’ll…well I think I might actually take a crack at “Toilet Shocker” next and see how that goes.

There are times in my life where I get very sad…when I think about all I hoped for in my youth and compare it with how I barely got 1 percent of a percent of a percent of what I wanted.

But then I remember I live in a world where the dream of self-publishing a book about a giant lizard who eats people while they are pooping is not only real, but you can also pay women in medical lab coats to talk about it:

Thank you for being my 3.5 readers.

 

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4 More Followers Until 2500

I almost have 2500 followers so I don’t understand how that only translates into 3.5 readers.  At any rate, given the amount of followers, not many are actually reading or giving any hits to this fine blog.

So, all you followers, I hope you will start translating into readers and clickers.  You don’t know what you are missing.  Just ask my 3.5 readers.

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Last Chance to Get a FREE Copy of My Book

Hey 3.5 readers.

Your old pal, BQB here.

Today’s the last day of my free book promo.  That’s right.  All through the end of today, Sunday, you can still make up for your procrastination and get a copy of my free book of badass writing prompts.

Stop putting it off.  If you wait tomorrow, you’ll have to pay 99 cents and you need to save that money because the world is a crazy place and you should be saving as much as possible.

Seriously, you never know, buying my book for 99 cents tomorrow might be the transaction that throws your finances into a cataclysmic state, leaving you broke, penniless, homeless on the street, selling your body for candy and bubblegum.

So, don’t delay.  Download my book for FREE today.

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Take BQB’s Writing Challenge!

Hey 3.5 readers.

Your old pal, BQB, here.

In case you didn’t hear, my book, “Bookshelf Q. Battler’s Big Book of Badass Writing Prompts” is free this week.  Totally free.  That means you can go on over to Amazon right now and download it for free, no strings attached, the worst that happens is you end up with a book on your kindle that you won’t read, though if you don’t read it, you’d be missing out because the critics in my head are saying it’s the best book since the New Testament.

Please Lord, don’t strike me down.  I know you have a sense of humor.  Look at my life, after all.

This book features many of my most humorous writing ideas.  Why, with this book, you’ll be able to write about:

  • A reality TV star who punches sharks in the face!
  • A fart that defies the boundaries of time, space and science!
  • A pumpernickel that scares a couple on a date out of their minds!
  • Ninja bunnies!
  • Zombie bed and breakfast owners!
  • An outer space world where no one has a butt!
  • And so much more!

So, tell you what, 3.5 readers.  Get this book for free, browse through it, pick a scenario and write a blog post based on one of the prompts.  Tweet a link to me @bookshelfbattle and if I like it, I’ll share it with the 7 eyes of my 3.5 readers.  What a marketing breakthrough for you, to have a blog post you wrote shared with the likes of my 3.5 readers.

So, don’t delay, get my book of writing prompts today!

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Want to Help Me Promote the Last Driver?

THE LAST DRIVER_finalebook

Hey 3.5 readers.

Your old pal, BQB here.

The first episode of my ongoing serial, “The Last Driver,” will, if all goes to plan, come out on Amazon in June.

This story is set in a future where human driven cars are obsolete.  Everyone relies on self-driven cars to get where they need to go and naturally, there’s a dystopian government that’s happy to use this technology to keep tabs on its subjects, i.e. where they are going, what time, who they are with, etc.

Enter 63 year-old Frank Wylder.  In 2050, he may look like a doddering old man, but in his youth, he was a getaway driver for a bank heist ring.  As the last man alive who can still drive a regular car, rebels kidnap his granddaughter, forcing him to get behind the wheel again and take on global government dubbed, “The One World Order.”

I like to call it “Fast and Furious” meets “Orwell’s 1984.”  Since self-driving cars are pre-programmed to obey traffic laws, Frank will be able to put the pedal to the metal and outfox the Order every step of the way.

Meanwhile, there’s some relevance to today’s politics.  The Order is an extension of “globalism” or the idea that power should be held by the world brought to fruition, i.e. in the form of a world government.  The rebels, the “Nationalists” don’t like this at all and want to go back to dividing power up among individual countries.

That’s basically the short skinny.  And hey, look, I’m not about to say I’m a fantastic guest, that I’ll bring you all kinds of accolades if you help me out (I’m pretty honest my site only gets 3.5 readers).

But anyway, if you’re interested, I’d love to a) get interviewed by you, maybe send me some questions I can write the answers to or b) write a guest post about my book for your blog or what have you.

If you can help me out, I’d appreciate it.  I’d love to just be featured on a bunch of blogs this summer to get the word out on this, my first piece of fiction.

No biggie.  Just a cool idea for a post if you have writer’s block.

We can get into the nitty gritty – the future, self-driving cars, tech, nationalism vs. globalism politics…or we can skip all that and talk about self publishing and the process of getting a book finished and up for sale.

Thanks,

BQB

P.S. Isn’t that cover awesome?

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My Book is Only 99 Cents!!!

Hey 3.5 readers. BQB here.  I haven’t done this in awhile, but if you haven’t yet, please pick up a copy of my illustrious book, “Bookshelf Q. Battler’s Big Book of Badass Writing Prompts.”  As you can imagine, it’s by yours truly, Bookshelf Q. Battler.

It’s available for 99 cents, which means out of a dollar, you get to keep a penny.  That beats a strip club.  You put a dollar in a stripper’s G-string and she’s keeping it.  She’s not going to spit out a penny out of God knows where.

You shouldn’t be going to such houses of ill repute anyway, perverts.

Look, it really is the most fun you can have for a dollar (and still get to keep a penny).  If you can think of a better time for 99 cents then tell me about it in the comments and I’ll stand corrected.

 

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#FridaysWithBQB – Interview #7 – Sean P. Carlin – A Couple of Gen Xers Talk About Movies, Screenwriting and Zombie Prison Breaks

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Author Website

I first virtually met Sean P. Carlin in 2015. Wow, has it been that long? I was surrounded by hideous undead brain biters during the infamous East Randomtown zombie apocalypse which, if you’re one of the 3.5 readers of my blog, then you know that was a thing that actually happened. Check out #31ZombieAuthors on Twitter for more information.  I was interviewing authors of zombie fiction, getting their advice on how to keep my brains safe and low and behold, Sean reached out on Twitter to offer what assistance he could.

By the way, the rest of you people reading this offered me no assistance against the zombie hordes whatsoever, so you’ll all have to live with that guilt and shame for the rest of your lives. Sean, on the other hand, can go on with a clear conscience.

My God, 3.5 readers. Look at that smile Sean is flashing. What reason could anyone possibly have to be that happy? Did he just win the lottery? Did someone give him a cookie? Has he concocted a maniacal, supervillain plot to hold the world for ransom?
Perhaps all those reasons and more are in play, or maybe he’s just pleased that his novel, “Escape From Rikers Island” will be out soon. Maybe he’s happy he’s a screenwriter during a new golden age of television and cinema, where streaming technology is making it possible for more projects to be greenlit than ever.

Maybe it’s just gas? I don’t know. Let’s ask him.

BOLD = BQB; ITALICS=Sean

QUESTION #1 – Sean, I’m utterly miserable 24/7. I’ve tried yoga. I’ve tried meditation. I’ve tried tai chi and chai tea (at the same time.) Nothing ever works. I’m stuck being a mopey prick. So I must ask, why do you look so happy in the picture above? Is it due to any of the reasons I listed above?

And while we’re at it, are we really in a new golden age of TV and movies thanks to streaming or is that just something I made up in a fever dream? I did eat some bad taco salad earlier so hallucinations on my part are entirely possible.

RESPONSE #1: Well, that particular photo was taken in Badlands National Park in South Dakota in 2016, during a three-week road trip my wife and I took through the western United States, so I was in a pretty good mood! (I think I’m also somewhat smiling in goofy disbelief at the sheer force of the wind blowing against my face, as evidenced by the Ace Ventura–style sweep of my hair!)

But, regardless, I consider myself a pretty happy guy! I’ve got a wonderful wife, the best friends a man could ask for, and I get to “traffic in my own daydreams” for a living, to borrow the phraseology of UCLA screenwriting chair Richard Walter. Not too shabby.

When I get gloomy, and God knows we’re living in some strange days, I try to remember something my late father once said: Each of scored an invite to the Big Party — life itself. When you stop to consider the astronomical odds against simply being alive, and the finiteness of that life (however long it may last), it’s hard to justify wasting such a miraculous opportunity on perpetual cynicism and negativity.

On the subject of wasting time (just kidding — sort of): Are we in a Golden Age of Television? In terms of both an abundance of quality material and creative opportunities for writers of all different stripes and backgrounds, yes, I would say so. Television has certainly eclipsed cinema with respect to the narrative and thematic complexity of its storytelling. Movies simply don’t matter the way they once did; they don’t drive the cultural conversation like they did in the twentieth century. Television — if one can even identify the medium by that antiquated designation anymore — has assumed the mantle of cultural conversation-starter.

That said, though, there’s too much of it. There are something like five hundred scripted shows in production at present across the various platforms, and most of them are structured in this ongoing, serialized format, which requires you to watch every episode, in sequential order, for years on end. You know what I’m saying? If you’re going to commit to a show like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, you are required to start from the beginning, follow every episode, and stick with it for however many seasons its open-ended, ever-expanding narrative can continue to run. Sometimes that’s fun, but more often than not, I’m starting to find it exhausting. It’s such a breath of fresh air, in a way, when a show like Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville comes along, a series in which each episode tells a closed-ended, perfectly self-contained story with a resolution and — anyone remember these? — a point. You can watch any episode of The Orville, in any order, and follow the story of that particular installment without confusion. Unlike virtually every other drama on TV right now, it doesn’t demand to be watched week in and week out. Good for MacFarlane for daring to be square. Who would’ve imagined, back when we were growing up, that old-fashioned, standalone storytelling would one day be subversive?

QUESTION #2 – I’ve got to be honest. I interview a lot of authors on this fine blog, but I’ve never read any of their works. I’d like to, but I don’t have the time. (FYI if you’re reading this and you’re an author I interviewed, please know I’m not talking about you. I read all of your stuff and it was great. I’m talking about all those other chumps who aren’t you.)

All that being said, “Escape from Rikers Island” sounds like something I’d actually be interested in plunking my hard earned money down for. In fact, in January, I made 12 cents off of a book I self-published on Amazon, so I’ll probably put that towards a copy of your book.

The description you give on your blog intrigues me. A detective has to work with gangbangers he put behind bars to escape a zombie infestation that has broken out on Rikers Island, the infamous New York prison. I can see it now. Backstabbing, intrigue, revenge, and brain biters. Surely, if one of the zombies doesn’t eat the detective’s brains, one of the criminals with a grudge against him will try to bash them in.

Not gonna lie. I can see this as a movie. I’d go see that and eat lots of popcorn to it. Tell my 3.5 readers more about this. What inspired you to write what will surely turn out to be a masterpiece? More importantly, when this book becomes a bestseller, will you remember the little people, like me and my 3.5 readers, or will you go all Hollywood and forget us all?

RESPONSE #2: Far from my ensuring my seat at the table in the halls of Hollywood power, I’m actually hoping Escape from Rikers Island will signify my long-desired escape from L.A.! The concept was originally devised as a spec screenplay in 2011; we even had Ice Cube attached to star and produce for a Los Angeles minute. But as is so often the case in the movie biz, the project didn’t move forward, and I moved on to other things (that also didn’t move forward!) with other producers.

Eventually I grew frustrated with the inability to get new materials sold and/or produced in Hollywood, and I’d been privately entertaining the notion of writing a novel, anyway. This was in 2014, when the riots in Ferguson were making headlines, and that, along with the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner (among, unfortunately, many others), were catalyzing this uncomfortable (but overdue) national conversation about the militarization of the police, and their strained relationship with underprivileged communities. At the same time, the stop-and-frisk program of racial profiling was coming under intense critical scrutiny in my hometown of New York, and I thought, “Well, maybe I’ll revisit Escape from Rikers Island, but this time do it as a novel where I’ll really have the canvas to explore some of those sociopolitical issues with depth and nuance.” Because the real-estate limitations of a screenplay just don’t allow for that kind of philosophical digression or thematic complexity.

So, yes, EFRI is about a white NYPD detective and a black gangbanger — men on different sides of the law who also happen to share a complicated, contentious history with one another — who are forced to set aside their considerable differences and work together to escape New York’s sprawling, 415-acre detention center during a sudden zombie-like outbreak among the 15,000 inmates there! It’s a mashup of two popular subgenres I’ve never really seen combined: the “prison break” and “zombie outbreak” narratives. That was an exciting place to start, because I could immediately see all these very familiar tropes and conventions “remixed” and presented in a new way.

And I could’ve set the story in any old prison — one of my own invention, even — but Rikers Island is such a fascinating, labyrinthine place with a bizarrely sordid history, and what makes it all the more compelling is how little most people really know of it. And I’m talking about New Yorkers, mind you: Most lifelong residents couldn’t even find Rikers on a map! And I thought, “Yep — that’s my setting.” And when you put two men who really don’t like each other in a place that’s dark and dangerous under normal circumstances, and then throw the undead into the mix, all the tensions simmering between them are exacerbated, and you don’t know if these guys are going to survive each other, let alone the zombie outbreak in this inescapable fortress.

So, I took the premise, plot, and set pieces from the screenplay I’d developed a few years earlier, and then I used the breadth the prose format afforded to really dig deep into the psychologies and characterizations of these two native New Yorkers: to learn their backstories, to portray the complexity of their lawman-and-outlaw dynamic, and to use their perspectives as guys who grew up as lower-class kids in the outer boroughs to say something about the world as it is right now. I think good horror has always done that; certainly Night of the Living Dead, the first contemporary zombie tale, operates on two levels beautifully: It’s a chilling monster story with a profound sociocultural conscience.

Question #3 – Is the zombie genre dying? Is it dead…er, or undead? Personally, I love “The Walking Dead” but I do think the “survivors banding together to traverse the zombie infested landscape” bit is jumping the shark. Perhaps that’s why authors are turning to new ways to put humans amidst zombies, i.e. in your case, a prison full of brain chompers. It’s not that people are tired of zombies but just that authors need to find new ways to put brains into peril. Thoughts?

RESPONSE #3: I don’t think any genre is ever dead. Sometimes they become creatively depleted for a time, until someone comes along with a new spin. I remember a few years ago, when Twilight was all the rage, and people were saying, “Vampires are in vogue again!” When weren’t they, exactly? I mean, at what point during the twentieth century alone did vampires fall out of fashion? During the silent-film era, we had Vampyr and Nosferatu. Then Bela Lugosi reinterpreted the archetype in formalwear. Hammer came along and brought vampires out of the shadows of expressionism and into living Technicolor. Then Anne Rice took the genre and reimagined it as a domestic drama — Ordinary People with vampires. The Hunger gave us lesbian vampires, which was kind of a big deal in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. The Lost Boys was, incredibly, the first to do teenage vampires, which became its own subgenre with Buffy and Twilight and The Vampire Diaries. Every time the genre starts to slip into self-parody — and we’re certainly there now with the whole emo-vampire thing — somebody comes along again with a fresh take on it, and everything old becomes relevant anew.

Zombies are no different, really. Max Brooks repurposed them for the post-9/11 era, as an allegory for bioterrorism and so forth. What Kirkman did so brilliantly was that he took this zombie-apocalypse narrative we love — notably Dawn of the Dead, but pretty much any of them adhered to the same basic template — and said, “But now what happens?” In the closed-ended structure of the Dead movies, Romero used the metaphor of the zombie apocalypse to comment on some sociological concern, be it civil rights or conspicuous consumption or what have you. With The Walking Dead, it’s the structure itself — the open-ended, nonlinear, What now…? format — that is the social commentary, such as it is, of the show: In a Digital Age that has completely upended our traditional understanding of beginnings, middles, and ends — of linear narrative arcs — The Walking Dead becomes a reflection of a worldview in which there is no resolution, no helicopter that’s going to show up in the final reel to airlift us away from the existential intractability of our problems. And that’s exciting… for a while. But it can become tedious, too. And I think the viewer fatigue with the show you point out indicates a longing for a conclusion — Where’s the damn helicopter already? — or some kind of point to it all, like we get each week from The Orville. But to those waiting for that, I would refer you to Lost: It ain’t gonna happen because the entire point of the show is that it’s simply meant to keep expanding until, like the well walker from season two, it finally collapses under its own bloated weight.

And then perhaps the genre will go into remission for a while, until someone figures out a way to reinvent it. Certainly with Escape from Rikers Island, I made a very conscious choice to subvert popular convention and tell the story of a contained outbreak, not an apocalyptic one. In that sense, structurally, EFRI is much closer to Jurassic Park than it is to The Walking Dead. One way isn’t better than the other; you just have to make a creative decision that best serves the story you’re trying to tell.

Question #4 – On your blog, you discuss how every villain has a backstory. Villains aren’t born. They’re made. They all have some reason why they turned bad. As you point out, Jason Voorhees was left to die by incompetent camp counselors, while the ghosts in “Poltergeist” weren’t happy that suburban homes sprouted up on their burial grounds.

I find myself in agreement. Let’s face it. Darth Vader carries “Star Wars.” In any given story, is the villain more interesting than the hero? Should any aspiring writers who happen to be reading this put extra effort into crafting their baddies?

RESPONSE #4: I think every character in a story should be as interesting as possible! The theme of a good story is reflected in the protagonist’s arc: If you look at Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane is a man who rejects faith in favor of science; he lives exclusively in the quirky intellect of his own head (hence his surname). And then the Headless Horseman comes along, whose very existence challenges Crane’s worldview, because this is a supernatural creature, unexplainable by science, without a head! Protagonist and antagonist are perfect physical and spiritual opposites, and through that opposition, the story’s thematics are fully and richly explored. That’s an extreme, almost on-the-nose example, but I think it illustrates why a hero and villain should be designed to work like counterparts in a Swiss watch, each one indispensably integral to the story’s conflict and, ultimately, its meaning.

Some story models, like the superhero genre (of which The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are a part), require a more defined or overt villain than others. (There’s no villain, after all, in When Harry Met Sally…, or Forgetting Sarah Marshall, or even Star Trek IV.) But a good villain should definitely have a logical point of view and corresponding agenda, and should always be designed with an eye toward how he affects the protagonist externally (the story’s major plot conflict) as well as internally (the hero’s transformational arc). Darth Vader is certainly one of the all-time greats, because in addition to being visually striking and psychologically layered (we learn a bit more about him in each movie), he serves as a stark example for the idealistic, sometimes overeager Luke of what can happen when great power isn’t tempered with moral discipline. Being the Chosen One comes with a terrible burden of responsibility, and true heroism is often far from a Romantic ideal; the Luke of Return of the Jedi understands that in a way he simply didn’t before his harrowing confrontation with Vader at the climax of Empire.

Right now, the high-water mark in cinematic villainy has probably yet to be surpassed by Heath Ledger’s Joker. And it’s an amazing performance, for sure, but absent Ledger’s captivating interpretation, you still have a very dynamic characterization right there on the page: The way he challenges Batman ideologically gives The Dark Knight a depth it wouldn’t otherwise have — that the original Burton movie certainly doesn’t have — if he was merely a physical threat. Batman, like Luke Skywalker, is made wiser for his contest with the nemesis; there’s no story without either one of them, so both are equally important.

Question #5 – Can we talk about “The Last Jedi?” You wrote an extensive post about it, focusing on Gen-Xers’ feelings towards it. I’ll get to Gen X in the next question, but I’d like your overall thoughts on the film. Or rather, I’ll tell you what I thought and then you can tell me if I’m right or wrong.

I thought this movie sucked with the gale force wind of a thousand hoover vacuum cleaners. That’s not a charge I toss out easily, as my 3.5 readers will attest, I’m fairly kind to most movies I review.  I mean, hell, any movie that has been made is better than mine, because I haven’t made one, so who am I to judge?  But I stand by my claim here.  It really sucked.

Ironically, I enjoyed “The Force Awakens.” However, (SPOILER ALERT), the ending of that movie gives us this broad, sweeping scene where Rey meets the long-lost Luke Skywalker. The two lock eyes and you’re like, “Oh my God! Rey has found the master who can teach her the ways of the Force!”

So, I went into “The Last Jedi” expecting a lot of awesome training montages where Luke would become the Mr. Miyagi to Rey’s Daniel-san, but instead, all I got was an old man whining about his misspent life. At no time ever does he offer Rey anything in the way of practical advice and I just felt like if I wanted to see an older person bitch and moan about lost youth, I’d just record myself, but no one wants to listen to that, so I’m not sure why anyone thought people would want to hear such ennui from Luke Skywalker.

In short, I came in the hopes of Luke teaching Rey awesome light saber tricks and instead, I got to watch an old man turn a young girl into his discount psychiatrist, telling her all his problems, that frankly, she probably didn’t want to here.

Am I right? Wrong? What say you?

RESPONSE #5: Boy, it’s so hard to know where to start with The Last Jedi. I thought — and there are many who disagree — it was a very sloppy, indulgent, tonally uneven piece of filmmaking. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blockbuster movie that displayed such open contempt for its own fan base. It’s hard to guess what Rian Johnson was thinking when he made it, and I certainly can’t find logic in the decision to hire a nostalgic director for the first one, then pass the baton to an iconoclastic director for the second one. I think Disney needed from the outset to pick a creative direction, one way or the other but not both, and see that vision through. Trying to have it both ways has been, it would seem, a mistake.

But that actually goes to a much bigger challenge Disney is now facing with this franchise. They paid through the nose for one of the very few branded IPs that everyone adores: Star Wars is the holy grail of four-quadrant appeal. But what I don’t think they took into account was how the very history of the series complicates its relationship with the different generations of fans, right? On the one hand, you’ve got the first-generation audience who grew up with this series in real time, and thusly feels very proprietary about it; they’ve also spent the last thirty-five years both waiting to see Luke Skywalker back in action, and wondering if that would in fact ever even happen. So, for them, The Last Jedi is the culmination of literally a lifetime of hopes and dreams, a reunion with a childhood hero they didn’t know for certain they’d ever see again.

On the other hand, you’ve got the third-generation fans, for whom forty years of history is binge-experienced — compressed and consumed in short order, like a season of television that streams on Netflix — so what a ten-year-old expects from Star Wars isn’t what a forty-year-old does. The “return of Luke Skywalker” doesn’t carry the same emotional weight or sense of expectation for them, therefore they aren’t disappointed with his controversial depiction in The Last Jedi, or Anakin’s in The Phantom Menace, for that matter; to their eyes, it’s all just one more episode in the never-ending continuum of the saga. And they’re not wrong to feel that way — it’s simply the perspective they have on the narrative, having made no temporal investment in it. It’s the difference between showing up for the harvest versus having sown the seeds and tended the crops.

Consequently, Disney finds itself trying to service two incompatible and irreconcilable demographics. And I suspect what you’re going to start to see moving forward is a Star Wars that exclusively caters to younger and newer viewers. Even the nostalgic-to-a-fault J. J. Abrams is limited now in how much fan service he can indulge in Episode IX, what with the onscreen deaths of Luke and Han, and the off-screen death of Carrie Fisher. For better or worse, Star Wars is going to be a new thing now, for a new audience, and my generation is going to have to learn to accept that and, if they don’t like it, move on from it, because, if we don’t, Star Wars will only continue to disappoint us — that much is undeniable now.

We all wanted these new movies to put us back in touch with the child within. I’m honestly not sure that would’ve been possible even if this sequel trilogy hadn’t been so ill-conceived from Day One. Some very questionable choices got made — from signing the original troika to the project and then not giving them any storylines together, to teeing up a big backstory for Rey only to tell us, “No, there isn’t one, actually, and you were idiots for expecting otherwise” — and there’s no reversing that now. But the good news, such as it is, is this: We are finally free to let go of Star Wars. We don’t have to keep retuning to this franchise with Pavlovian fealty, because the thing we wanted so desperately from it is never coming to us. But there can be solace in acceptance, though acceptance by nature is bittersweet, because we only have to learn to accept things we wish weren’t so.

QUESTION #6 – You mention in your post you saw “Return of the Jedi” in the movie theater. I did too. Ergo, I’m going to venture a guess we are roughly within the same age range. (How do you stay well preserved? Are you a vampire or something? I wake up everyday looking like someone clocked my face with a brick, but I digress.)

In your post about fan reactions to “The Last Jedi,” you discuss how Gen-Xers love their 1980s pop culture and how they often are let down by modern day reboots. As you paraphrased Roy Batty, the villain from “Blade Runner,” all those feelings that Gen-Xers had about the pop culture from their youth are gone, “like tears in the rain.”

I agree. Whenever I watch a reboot of a franchise I enjoyed in the 1980s, I try to remember a) it’s about today’s kids. I had my time to be a kid. Now today’s movies must appeal to today’s kids and b) a reboot doesn’t take away the old movie. The new “Ghostbusters” didn’t remove the Bill Murray classic. I can still watch Murray and Akroyd clown around with proton packs on their backs any time.

Ultimately, if a franchise has to be changed in order to make today’s kids happy, I’m for it. Where I get critical is when the source material is tinkered with just for the sake of change, i.e. some Hollywood suit just wanted to do something different just to make it his/her own.

It’s a double-edged sword. In some respects, 1980s source material may not hold up for today’s youth. Then again, there’s a reason why the source material was so popular, so radical deviations from a tried and true formula may leave the filmmaker with egg on his/her face.

OK. I’ll stop rambling on and on and ask what you think about all that.

RESPONSE #6: In order to fully appreciate how we came to be stuck in this Era of the Endless Reboot, you have to look at Gen X’s place in history from a sociological standpoint. (I am an Xer myself.) Barring an actual zombie apocalypse, which I think many of us would welcome at this point, we are the last generation in the history of humanity — really consider this for a moment — that will retain any memory of the bygone analog world in which every moment we experienced as we experienced it wasn’t being recorded and posted online, and one could actually run down to the grocery store and be out of reach for twenty minutes without setting off a family-wide panic. In the span of a single generation, human civilization went from a linear sense of reality (as we’ve understood it for the past several millennia, and as reflected in our closed-looped fictions like Star Wars: A New Hope and Night of the Living Dead and TOS and TNG) to a hyperlinked one (as exemplified by Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead and Mr. Robot). Make no mistake: We are deeply traumatized by the passing of the analog world into the new, ever-on, always-interconnected Digital Era. Millennials don’t have this problem, because they were born into a digital world. (They have other issues as a result of that, but that’s a different matter.)

And that’s where all the incessant recapitulation of 1980s ephemera — Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Transformers, Lethal Weapon, Cobra Kai — comes in: It’s a coping mechanism. We’ve escaped into the bedtime stories of a less-complicated era — Star Wars serves as a reminder of the straight-line, analog pleasures of the lost world in which we came of age — and we’ve kind of gotten ourselves addicted to that nostalgia. Which would be bad enough in itself, but as the current custodians of pop culture, we’re force-feeding today’s kids the stories and heroes of a previous century, and I think that’s a pretty irresponsible abdication of our cultural obligation (and I’m calling out filmmakers like J. J. Abrams for it). They deserve their own heroes, their own legends, not our warmed-over second helpings. But, then, we’re not really making Star Wars or Transformers for them; we’re making it for ourselves. Which makes us a generation that’s submitted to willing infantilization, doesn’t it? So when we start finding ourselves prematurely put out to pasture by the Millennials — which is, to be clear, already happening — we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves. We’re a generation about looking behind, not ahead. And our pop culture is a pitiable testament to that.

So all the reboots, therefore, act as a sort of Groundhog Day-like time warp in which we get to perennially relive the eighties — that fragile, fleeting, blissful moment right before our collective worldview was irreparably shattered. I mean, that’s the essence of Ready Player One, isn’t it? While the world is going to hell around us, we’ve retreated into this immersive, orgiastic virtual-reality simulation of an eighties pop-cultural time capsule. It’s The Goldbergs meets The Matrix. Ready Player One is just an exaggerated fable of what we’re actually doing, and we should be troubled by what it says about us.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE:  Yikes, you’ve convinced me.  I think I’m going to go lie down in the grass and let the moss grow over me, but first, let’s carry on with this interview.

QUESTION #7 – I think your use of the “tears in the rain” quote sums up Gen-X’s attempts to relive youth via reboots to no avail succinctly. My parents were baby boomers and all they had to offer me from their time was literally 90,343 cowboy movies. I can’t even imagine what watching TV from 1950-1970 was like. “Do you want to watch a cowboy movie? No thanks, I’m already watching another cowboy movie.”

All the cowboy movies were the same too. Stoic hero wants to save the town. Villain wants to destroy the town. Townsfolk turn on the hero, tell him to let the villain win or else things will get worse for the town. Hero displays great courage and has a shoot out with the villain in the end.

Somewhere around the 1970s, Hollywood retired all the six-shooters. We got “Star Wars.” We got “Aliens.” The 1980s gave us “Terminator,” “Goonies,” and a slew of Schwarzenegger and Stallone action flicks.

Ultimately, movies, at least when it comes to special effects, were just starting to become great when we were kids. I suppose there’s an argument that many old black and white films were good too, but I didn’t really appreciate those until I became an adult.

What I’m saying is children of the 1980s got to see things that were never seen on film before. It all even got better in the 1990s. “Jurassic Park” ushered in a whole new era of CGI.

It was fun, but now that the special effects have been around for so long, we’ll never be able to relive that simpler time when all of the stuff we were seeing on screen seemed like real life magic, will we?

RESPONSE #7: We’ve mythologized the 1980s the way Boomers did the fifties. But even at that, our parents didn’t fetishize their childhood heroes and fantasies the way we do. That’s an idiopathic characteristic of Generation X. I will certainly agree, as someone who experienced it firsthand, that Lucas and Spielberg and their contemporaries, in the ’70s and ’80s, conjured a level of cinematic wonder and wizardry the likes of which had no precedent, and stories like Ready Player One are nothing if not a sincere and loving paean to that. (And now we’ve come full circle, with Spielberg directing the RP1 feature adaptation.) As you observe, those were magical movies. They were more than movies; they were visions. And when you couple that with the fact that they were the first movies we ever saw, it made for some very profound childhood impressions, but perhaps it also got us hooked on that special brand of astonishment to the point where we’ve spent our adult lives chasing that initial high. That’s what I mean when I say we have an addiction to nostalgia. We want those analog pleasures back — we would happily trade every convenience of the Digital Age for them — but they’re tears in rain, like you say. The analog world isn’t coming back. Our innocence isn’t coming back. Ever. It’s all gone. But it doesn’t mean we can’t find new pleasures and meaningful experiences yet, we just need to learn to live in the here and now. We’re still at the Big Party, after all! Let’s make the most of it. Let’s agree, collectively, that the Skywalkers had their day — those stories were indelible and cherished parts of our formative experiences — but this is a new day now. I’m reminded of that old Guns N’ Roses lyric: “Yesterday’s got nothin’ for me/ Old pictures that I’ll always see/ I ain’t got time to reminisce old novelties.”

QUESTION #8 – I thought the 2014 reboot of “Robocop” was actually pretty tight. It captured the spirit of the movie, the ennui of a man who sort of remembers his past but doesn’t really, how he’s this badass machine yet there’s not much of the human part of him left so he doesn’t feel very whole. There were updates for modern times yet I walked away thinking it was a reboot that did the original justice.

Have you seen any reboots out there that Gen X and Millennials can agree on?

RESPONSE #8: The one that springs to mind would be the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy, though I confess I haven’t yet seen the third movie. That’s no easy feat they pulled off, operating as a faithful prologue to the Charlton Heston classic — and giving it a contextual backstory that’s enlightening rather than redundant (à la the Star Wars prequels) — but also existing as its own thing that doesn’t require franchise familiarity to enjoy. They also, like the original, have something directly relevant to say about the folkways of the era in which they were produced, which good sci-fi, like good horror, ought to do.

It also took tremendous courage on the part of the storytellers to make Caesar the protagonist, and not sideline him in favor of a human surrogate. Michael Bay’s Transformers movies made that mistake: Rather than letting the robots be the main, front-and-center heroes, as they were in the old cartoon series, they got skittish and told the story through the eyes of a human character — first Shia and later Mark Wahlberg. I bet they worried that audiences wouldn’t relate to a nonhuman protagonist (which is pretty ironic considering how emotionally vacuous Bay’s movies have always been). Planet of the Apes proved that audiences can empathize with an anthropomorphic hero even in a live-action movie. I mean, yes, they had the benefit of photorealistic CGI and Andy Serkis’ motion-capture mastery, but it was the artful characterization of Caesar that made us empathize with him. Those movies are very emotional, in complete contrast with Transformers.

QUESTION #9 – Suppose my 3.5 readers are aspiring screenwriters. What’s the first thing they should do to get started?

RESPONSE #9: I hold bachelor’s degrees in both cinema and English, and it was only when I became a working screenwriter that I realized how little I knew about storytelling craft. Why doesn’t college — or even high school — offer a basic Storytelling 101 course? Instead, they talk a lot of theory. And theory is interesting, and not without value, but someone who wants to learn the nuts and bolts of storytelling — for any medium — needs to learn, practice, and master three fundamentals: structure, genre, and characterization. And to do that, you need to study a codified methodology — a program of unified principles that can show you how you build a story from the ground up and create an emotionally engaging narrative experience. You can write a great script intuitively once, perhaps, but in order to know how to do it on command, you have to develop your toolbox. So, for that, I would recommend studying Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey for mythic structure, Blake Snyder’s three Save the Cat! books for an overview of the ten types of genres (or story models), and David Freeman’s Beyond Structure workshop to learn the techniques of effective characterization. That’s all you need to know to master the discipline, and it’ll only cost you about $300 total, versus what you’d spend on a degree to learn nothing especially useful. But you’ll need to reread and practice those materials often, for several years, before they become second nature.

Those three pillars of storytelling are what aspirants need to be worried about learning. Then, if you want to be a screenwriter, you can read Syd Field’s Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, which will teach you the formatting requirements of that particular medium; if you want to be an author, which has its own syntactic demands, read David Morrell’s The Successful Novelist; Dennis O’Neil’s The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics can give you an overview of that specific form. But that all comes later; first and foremost you have to commit to learning the fundamentals of narratology.

The last point I would add is that, as my mentor David Freeman is so fond of saying, there are no rules, only tools. Aspiring screenwriters often cling to absolutes, and they look to industry-standard instructionals like Save the Cat! to provide those: If I do X and Y, I’ll get Z. If my inciting incident hits on page 12, and my first act break on 25, I’ll have a story that works. If only. Storytelling is about applied craft, for sure, but there’s no magic formula. A hammer is only as effective as the carpenter is skilled at using it.

QUESTION #10 – My condolences. You’ve been convicted of cutting that little tag off your mattress in the first degree and have been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Sorry, but mattress tag laws are very strict.

You’re just beginning to adjust to prisoner life when a zombie outbreak, similar to the one in your novel, occurs. You look inside a random cell, hoping to find items you can use to save your brains from the undead.

Alas, the only three items you find are a) a ukulele b) an origami unicorn and c) a 50-foot long licorice whip.

How will you use these items to defend yourself against the incoming zombie horde?

RESPONSE #10: Do you have any idea just how resourceful and inventive prison inmates are? There’s no telling what they could devise from those three items! I’m not nearly as imaginative as someone who’s been confined indefinitely to a six-by-eight concrete box, but I’d wager they could use the origami unicorn as a “kite” — a coded message passed under cell doors — to coordinate an escape. The ukulele? Hell, that’s an armory unto itself: the neck and headstock could be fashioned into a stake; the strings used as garrotes; the body could be splintered into shivs. As for a fifty-foot licorice whip… well, how else you gonna climb down the outer wall? But you’re gonna want to use a tough, rubbery brand, and not the soft, chewy kind. Stale Twizzlers, maybe; steer clear of Red Vines. You’d think the chances of encountering any one of those articles in jail is pretty slim, but you’d be surprised the kind of contraband that turns up. Licorice is the least of it.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: My BQB HQ supercomputer indicates this response has roughly a 93.49% chance of successfully warding off a zombie attack, so good show.  Thank you for stopping by, Sean, and let my 3.5 readers know when we can get our hands on a copy of “Escape from Rikers Island.”

 

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Daily Discussion with BQB – What’s the Best Way to Make a Living as a Writer?

Hey 3.5 readers.

I’m asking the above question, not as it applies to most people, but to me, your old pal, BQB.

I’ve been working on a novel about an alligator who eats people on the toilet for over a year now.  The first draft is done.  The second draft, I think, could be done within a month, two at the latest.  It will need a third draft, I can already tell.  Earliest I can get it to the editor will be May – June.

Then it’s a whole process to get it edited and ready for publication.  Basically, if it gets up by Christmas that will be a win.

In short, it’s taking a long time.  I’m not sure at this rate I’ll be able to make a living as a writer.  Perhaps if Toilet Gator rakes in a modest amount of dough, that will give me the incentive I need to work harder, crank out another book faster.  There are a lot of people in my life who impose on me to drop whatever I’m doing to help them with their mundane bullshit.  If I can point to a piece of paper that proves I’m not just screwing around on the computer but am engaging in a money making side business, they’ll figure out how to live their lives on their own and get off my ass.

Anyway, long story short, I am wondering if perhaps I need to move away from novel writing and into just general blogging and opinion writing.  Sometimes I feel I’m at my best when I rant on a subject.  Blogging is conducive to the limited free time I get.  It takes nearly 2 years to get a novel out there, but I can get a post daily.

The issue would be is that I’d probably have to stop talking about pop culture and, sigh, news and politics.  Rant and rave about things going on in the world.  Actually pick a side and sigh, lose 50% of you because that’s what happens when someone expresses a political opinion.  I’m not saying that politics were ever peaceful, but I do feel up until like 2005, people were able to agree to disagree.  Now social media allows people to retreat into their bubbles and point fingers at, “the other.”

Eh.  I don’t really want a bunch of people to hate me.  I’m too adorable for that.  I might split the difference and try to rant about general life topics that you’d think everyone could get behind.  One of my heroes has long been Dave Barry, the humor columnist who is basically the Godfather of humor opinion piece writing.

He wrote humorous thoughts about everything from home improvement, to love, to just generally crappy little things that drive us all crazy.  I could probably do that, though the only thing I worry about is Dave found success during a more innocent time, whereas I could write something like, “Men, don’t you hate it when your wife yells at you when you forget to put the toilet seat down?” and end up getting a twitter campaign to label me a vile male chauvinist pig or something.

To express any kind of opinion these days, even a seemingly safe one like, “My word, what lovely weather to day,” is to risk offending someone so…I don’t know.

I think I’ll keep plugging away.  The first part (roughly 40,000 words) of the Last Driver is in the editing process now, and I’ve come too far on Toilet Gator to quit now.  So, I’ll see if Toilet Gator gets me anywhere and see where I am next year.

Just saying, at some point, I’ll need to turn a profit or quit, realize this is a young man’s game and it’s not my fault the world didn’t invent the gatekeeper bypass technology until I was an old bastard (people seem to be declared old bastards earlier and earlier now) and just go smell the roses and lie down in the grass and wait for the moss to grow over me.

Thanks for listening to my rant 3.5 readers.  If you wanted the short version its, do I a) keep novel writing b) change gears to write opinions and try to monetize the blog or c) just give up and smell roses.  Why does everyone smell roses?

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