Book Acceptances: “A Celebration of Storytelling” – Dark Owl Publishing

Summer is almost over, Fall is on our doorstep. With that means cooler temperatures (excited about that), and possibly a second wave of Covid-19 (not too excited about that).  Regardless, it means more staying home, working remote, and more time to sit back and read. I’m pleased to announce I have sold two BRAND NEW short stories to the upcoming 650+ page anthology: A CELEBRATION OF STORYTELLING. The cover is gorgeous, and it should drop around Christmas 2020. It will be put out through new publisher, Dark Owl Publishing House. The book will feature two stories of mine: a mystery and scifi tale. And I will keep you updated with Amazon links and ordering info in the coming months.

Here’s a cover preview:

COMING SOON

From Dark Owl Publishing

Celebration_Storytelling

https://www.darkowlpublishing.com/

Coming to Amazon Christmas 2020/January 2021.

Major Retailers/Conventions Spring – Summer 2021

 

FREE EBOOKS: “A Child Weeps In Moscow” by Lawrence Dagstine – (Reading during Isolation)

As the writer of the occasional post-apocalyptic yarn and other dystopian fiction, I can say we are living in some very scary times. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is very scary stuff. I never thought I would live to see the day where the stuff of motion pictures (Contagion, Outbreak, and 28 Days Later) would become a daily reality! California is in shutdown mode, New York City is about to be shutdown! Europe has sealed the borders of twenty-six countries; Canada has also closed their borders and taken the necessary measures to contain this horrible virus which seems to prey mostly on the elderly (age 60+ crowd, mainly) and those with underlying health problems and compromised immune systems. I fall into this category myself because my immune system is compromised, so I must be cautious. Then, as an American, you have to worry about the economical impacts, the sociological impacts, and the political ramifications such a scenario has on a nation. This is only the beginning. This is not your average flu. In the coming months there will be food shortages, prescription shortages, medical supply shortages, people may have to stay indoors over a year. Please, self-isolate. Protect your loved ones. You’re going to have a LOT of free time on your hands. What better time to read? That’s why I am giving away one of my Ebooks for free during this health crisis, straight up until the end of this year. A CHILD WEEPS IN MOSCOWa dystopian yet rather alternative history telling of alien influence in Russia during the Post-Revolution years is FREE until December 31st 2020 on Smashwords. It’s available in ePub AND Mobi formats (Kindle). Read it on your Kindle, your Nook, a phone or iPad or other android device. Whatever works for you. Links, pictures, coupon code below. Remember, free. Most of all, stay safe. Be kind to your neighbor. Self-isolate.

Coupon Code: FG76H

A Child Weeps In Moscow: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/276157

FREE ALL YEAR: EXPIRES DEC. 31 2020.

FREE EBOOK ON SMASHWORDS

ChildWeepsMoscowKindle

Artwork by Bob Veon

Smashwords Link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/276157

COUPON CODE: FG76H

AbeReadingToMartyPrint

BoyBeingCapturedBySoldiersPrint

EnteringTheHomePrint

InvadersPrint

LeninsTombPrint

OlegsAbductionPrint

Other New Entries: “Free Fiction”

Serial Magazine: Issue #12… (appearances)

  • My vampire novelette The Paraplegic has finally found a proper home, and in both print and digital form, in the fairly new pulp fiction publication, SERIAL MAGAZINE. I appear in Issue No. #12, Late August 2019. I believe it is a biweekly. You don’t see too many biweekly publications anymore. Great artwork, great interior layout, has that real gritty 1950s feel to it, the kind of magazine you’d find legends Fritz Leiber and Ray Bradbury hanging out and about with their lurid genre classics. I even made the front cover! It is edited by the very talented Tanya Ferrell. I will leave pictures and links down below so you can order a copy, direct from Serial Publishing (the print version is even discounted for the month of August 2019, so hurry).

Serial Magazine #12

Featuring work by Lawrence Dagstine

Serial_Magazine_Paraplegic

ORDER NOW:

http://www.serialpulp.com

AVILABLE IN PRINT OR DIGITAL DOWNLOAD

 

Other New Entries: “Magazines”

New Anthologies: “Classics Remixed” – Left Hand Publishers

I have a science fiction story in Left Hand Publishers speculative fiction anthology, titled: CLASSICS REMIXED. Edited by Karen T. Newman. This is a big beefy book, chock full of imaginative stories of characters we know from past fairy tales, novels, and folklore. What happens when you take famous story characters and put them in different scenarios, speculative situations, or twist around a fairy tale? You get Classics Remixed. An anthology of classic characters REMIXED and REIMAGINED into something new and different. It has beautiful cover art, and as always when I update my website, I will leave pictures of book covers, a lineup of the author talent (Table of Contents), and links to the publisher’s website and places like Amazon, where you can order this book in trade paperback form.

CLASSICS REMIXED

An Anthology: Edited by Karen T. Newman

ClassicReMix_Cover-SMALL-FRONT

Left Hand Publisher’s Online Store (order book):

https://lefthandpublishers.com/shop/

Classics Remixed – Order from Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Classics-ReMixed-anthology-classic-tales/dp/1949241114/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=classics+remixed&qid=1560065576&s=gateway&sr=8-2

ClassicReMix_Cover-SMALL-WHOLE

Table of Contents for Classics Remixed:

Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother Tells All by Jill Hand
The inside story behind one of our favorite fables
Sailor’s Saga by Steve Rouse
Old Man and the Sea meets Moby Dick meet 20,000 Leagues
Not a Single Soul by Tom Howard
A good witch, a wicked witch, but which witch is which?
The Maze Under the Clouds by Blake Jessop
A sci-fi spin on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur
The Upper Hand by A.P. Sessler
In a spin on “The Monkey’s Paw,” be careful what you wish for…
Of House and Home by Eric Andrews-Katz
Were Hansel and Gretel the victims? Not so much.
Solomon’s Moon by Kevin M. Folliard
Not all invisible men are created equal. Some are just bad.
A Taste of Wonderland by Gregory L. Norris
Starvation twists Alice, Wonderland, and all its inhabitants
Gluttony by Henry Herz
What happens below decks, stays below decks in this biblical misadventure.
Moby n’ Queegs by William Ade
This ain’t your daddy’s Moby Dick
Follicles, Fables & Follies by Paul K. Metheney
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down … never mind
Jane, Designed to Love by Brandon L. Summers
Jane Eyre or A.I.? Do androids dream of electric love?
Ding Dong the Pitch is Deadly by Jonathan Shipley
There’s no place like home plate
Catcher in the Crawlspace by Jay Seate
Catcher in the Rye or Stalker in the Crawlspace?
Curse of Avalon by Anthony Regolino
That’s no Lady of the Lake…
Treasure Moon by Robert Allen Lupton
Treasure Island with a sci-fi twisted sense of humor
Noah from Mars by Lawrence Dagstine
Science fictions versus one family’s faith
Strike the Match by Robert Petyo
The Three Musketeers go bowling. Seriously.
Handsome and Greedy by Katherine Brown
Hansel and Gretel like you’ve never seen them before
Copper County Fair by Cheryl Stevens Clark
The story of the Minotaur comes to Copper County
Mermaid by Karen Janowsky
The Little Mermaid in modern day prose
A Novel Gathering by Neil Childs
A band of fictional rogues who attempt to rob the poor to feather their own nests

 

Other New Entries: “Books & Anthos”

New Anthologies: “Creatures” – Tell-Tale Press

I will appear with a werewolf story in the late May digital anthology, CREATURES, by Tell-Tale Press. Edited by Andrea Dawn. There will be two versions to this anthology. A short story edition and a novelette edition. I’m in the short story edition. It will be free to read on the Tell-Tale Press website, then available in ebook format from Amazon in the event you own a Kindle. The book, along with various other titles from Tell-Tale Press, will also be available on May 23-26th at Phoenix Fan Fusion Comic Book Convention. They will have a table there. So if you live in the Arizona area, be on the lookout for CREATURES ANTHO with my story in it, and many other talented authors. I will leave pictures, links, author lineup below. Just click on them (be redirected).

CREATURES ANTHOLOGY

Published by Tell-Tale Press

Edited by Andrea Dawn

Creatures - FRONT

Publisher Website (click here): https://www.telltalepress.net/

Download for Amazon Kindle (click here): https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Tomes-Creatures-Short-Stories-ebook/dp/B07RS1PKL9/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_5?keywords=creatures+andrea+dawn&qid=1558026542&s=gateway&sr=8-5-fkmrnull

Creatures - BACK

With Horror Stories By: Oreoluwa Arowobusoye, Kenneth Bykerk, Lawrence Dagstine, Danielle Davis, Dan Fields, Eric J. Guignard, A.M. Harte, Isabella Hunter, Jennifer Loring, Nicola Lombardi, Matthew Lyons, Jamie Mason, Jason McCuiston, Gregory L. Norris, P. R. O’Leary, D.C. Phillips, Mark Silcox, Melissa Watkins Starr, T.J. Tranchell, Joseph Walker.

INFO on PHOENIX FAN FUSION CONVENTION (click here): https://phoenixfanfusion.com/

 

New Entries: “Books & Anthos”

New Anthologies: “Suspense Unimagined” by Left Hand Publishers…

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I have a BRAND NEW short story for late 2018 in the Left Hand Publishers’ Anthology: ‘Suspense Unimagined.’ Anthology of Suspense, Thrillers, and Nightmares creeping past the boundaries of your imagination. Edited by the very talented Karen T. Newman, and featuring over two-dozen talented authors. The name of my story is “COMPETING FOR ROSES.” It is a dark tale set in World War One, and around roses (the flowers). It is available in paperback. I will add book cover pics and the two links I could find to order it (below), such as Amazon.

LEFT HAND PUBLISHERS Presents:

SUSPENSE UNIMAGINED

An Anthology: Edited Karen T. Newman

Suspense Unimagined

ORDER FROM LEFT HAND – In Paperback:

https://lefthandpublishers.com/shop/

ORDER FROM AMAZON – In Paperback:

https://www.amazon.com/Suspense-Unimagined-Anthology-Thrillers-Nightmares/dp/1949241092/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543760108&sr=8-1&keywords=suspense+unimagined

 

New Entries: “Books & Anthos”

 

 

 

 

Gaslandia: “A Dieselpunk Anthology”

You can find a story of mine, A Better Life, in the recently released dieselpunk anthology GASLANDIA. Published in eBook format, and put out by Radiant Crown Publishing. The eBook is available through Amazon Kindle, which I will leave a link to down below. In A Better Life I tackle the theme of domestic violence (a wife aiming to take her children and escape her abusive husband) for just that: a better life than the one she leads now. Story-wise, it is set against a steampunk backdrop with airships and gears and cogs, but with a working dieselpunk aesthetic. Pick up a copy off Amazon today, or from Radiant Crown’s website. I think you’ll enjoy it.

GASLANDIA:

A Dieselpunk Anthology

Sin título-2

AMAZON KINDLE: https://www.amazon.com/Gaslandia-Dieselpunk-Anthology-Subterranean-Book-ebook/dp/B07938PD13/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1528080945&sr=8-1&keywords=gaslandia

RADIANT CROWN PUBLISHING: http://radiantcrownpublishing.com/product/gaslandia-a-dieselpunk-anthology-epub-mobi/

51-GLJBv05L

Author Line-up: Kevin Holton, David Castlewitz, Lawrence Dagstine, Pedro Inguez, Dale Carothers, Jeremy Szal, Irene Punti, Gregory L. Norris, Chuck Regan, Matthew Maxwell.

Illustrated by Stefan Paris.

 

Other New Entries: “Books & Anthos”

 

 

Science Fiction Anthologies: “Visions VII Universe” – edited by Carroll Fix

You can find a science fiction story of mine in the new Visions Anthology (and last in the series, by editor Carroll Fix and Rogue Star Press). VISIONS VII: UNIVERSE. Available in a nice thick trade paperback for $19.95, or as an ebook on Kindle or venues like Smashwords for about $4.99. A plethora of great stories by familiar science fiction short story names, all compiled into one 260 page book. This anthology focuses on the theme of “faraway universes” and the “human race.” Our roles within it. I’ll put more details below, along with the author lineup, and any necessary book cover photos and where-to-buy links (which you can click on and be redirected). So just scroll down.

Visions VII

VISIONS VII: UNIVERSE

SCIENCE FICTION ANTHOLOGY

Edited by Carroll Fix

AMAZON (Kindle or Paperback): https://www.amazon.com/Visions-VII-Universe-Carrol-Fix/dp/1945646284/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1505934894&sr=1-1&keywords=visions+vii

ROGUE STAR PRESS

SMASHWORDS: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/741648

VISIONS VII AUTHOR LINE-UP:

Doug Souza

William Huggins

Jason Lairamore

W. A. Fix

Gustavo Bondoni

John A. Frochio

Leigh Kimmel

Margaret Karmazin

Lorraine Schein

Jonathan Shipley

Lisa Timpf

Mike Adamson

Mary Madigan

Darrel Duckworth

Neil Davies

Elana Gomel

Lawrence Dagstine

John M. Floyd

S.M. Kraftchak

Robert J. Mendenhall

Nick Manzolillo

Tom Olbert

Visions VII selfie

The following below is excerpted from the Visions website for promotional purposes.

The Visions Series tells the story of how humanity must ultimately venture outward from our tiny home and explore the Universe.

Visions VII: Universe, the final volume, opens the doors to incredible possibilities for the race called Human. We venture into realms where the impossible becomes fact.

Visions VII: Universe

Final anthology in the Visions Series.
The Visions series tells the story of how humanity must ultimately venture outward from our tiny home and explore the Universe. Visions: Leaving Earth, the first volume, describes our first faltering steps to rise from Earth’s surface and build homes in space. Visions II: Moons of Saturn confirms humankind’s success in leaving Earth and building homes in the other planetary systems circling our sun-father Sol. Visions III: Inside the Kuiper Belt proclaims domination of all that dwells within the solar system—from our Sun to the outermost reaches of the Kuiper Belt and into the Oort Cloud. Visions IV: Space Between Stars astounds us with the infinite possibilities of adventure and danger far from any suns or planets— in the cold, dark regions of deepest space, where dark matter and nebulas of celestial gases abide. Visions V: Milky Way leads us to explore our own galaxy. Although vast and unreachable with current technology, the Milky Way is but a tiny point in the Universe. We must first learn about our own home galaxy before we can explore further outward to other galaxies. Visions VI: Galaxies follows human progress into other galaxies. Humankind survives to spread across the Universe, making distant galaxies and planets into a home for a race destined to seek horizons ever more far away.

Visions VII: Universe
Series: Visions
Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: Rogue Star Press (August 2017)
Language: English
POD ISBN-10: 1-945646-28-4  ISBN-13: 978-1-945646-28-7
EPUB ISBN-10: 1-945646-29-2 ISBN -13: 978-1-945646-29-4
MOBI ISBN-10: 1-945646-30-6 ISBN-13: 978-1-945646-30-0

Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
Spine Width: 0.71640  in
Weight: 1.019  lbs

 

New Entries: “Appearances, Books & Anthos”

Crimson Streets: “Island in the Sky” by Lawrence Dagstine… (appearances)

My pulp adventure story ISLAND IN THE SKY is now uploaded, as of August 20th 2017, at the weekly pulp adventure-pulp noir fiction webzine CRIMSON STREETS. Edited by Janet Carden. Island in the Sky is a story of zeppelins and floating islands and a race of savages amongst the clouds. Inspiration for this one comes from such timeless movies as Indiana Jones, Rocketeer, and even the Tom Baker Doctor Who story, The Power of Kroll. Not to mention paying respect to such classic authors as Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, and Jules Verne.

Crimson Streets publishes a new short story every single week, fifty-two weeks per year.  Hard, gritty fiction, which packs a punch.  The story has an illustration by Toe Keen.  I’ll leave a direct link and banner down below.  Enjoy.

CRIMSON STREETS

Edited by Janet Carden

Crimson_Streets

“Island in the Sky”

by Lawrence Dagstine

CLICK HERE: http://www.crimsonstreets.com/2017/08/20/island-in-the-sky/

With Illustration by Toe Keen

 

More short stories coming soon…

New Entries: “Appearances”

 

 

UPCOMING STORIES: “Crimson Streets”

Pleased to announce I will have a short story coming to the “pulp adventure” and “pulp crime” market, Crimson Streets. The story will appear at some point in 2017. It is a pulp adventure story, written in the vein of classic authors such as Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, and Jules Verne. Stay tuned for more information.  Crimson Streets – Pulp: it’s More Than Noir is a weekly online publication.  Their goal is to bring pulp literature back to the masses, but, in this day and age, in a more web-friendly format.  Just click on any banners or links below, and see what Crimson Streets currently has to offer.

Short Story Coming Soon to:

CRIMSON STREETS

Crimson_Streets

Pulp: It’s More Than Noir

http://www.crimsonstreets.com

 

New Entries: “Acceptances”

FREE ON SMASHWORDS: “Overcast” by Lawrence Dagstine – a novelette

For the next three months, up until January 30th 2017, you can get my novelette Overcast for free with the following coupon code: PP49L

If you’ve never used Smashwords before, it’s simple. You can download books and stories in ePub or Mobi format, and for almost any Android device, tablet, or reader on the market today. Yes, including Kindle.

OvercastKindle

Here’s the direct link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/277970

And, once again, the coupon code (capitalized): PP49L

Free for three months, with cover art by Bob Veon.

See just how a 1920s flying ace deals with a horrible disfigurement, the snowy mountains of Montana, and an injured little girl. And just what odds the two must overcome, in… OVERCAST.

Expires January 30th 2017.

Tales of the Talisman, Issue # 9.1… (appearances)

A little late at the presses, but I bring a new story to the Summer-Fall 2013 issue of David Lee Summer’s genre periodical, Tales of the Talisman.  This would be my 6th appearance between its pages, and this time I weave a historical fantasy tale involving witches.  Witches seem to be very popular as of late.  With The Witching Hour and American Horror Story Coven opening to record numbers, the dark practitioners are far from overused.  My yarn leans more toward Hogwarts though, so Harry Potter fans will surely relish in this slightly different approach.  Read my 5,000-worder: She Left Home Under a Cloud of Dragonflies, now.  Click pictures or links for direct order; line-up also below.

TALES OF THE TALISMAN #9.1

Summer-Fall 2013 Issue

TalesoftheTalisman9.1

ORDER NEW ISSUE AND OLD HERE:

http://www.talesofthetalisman.com

Issue 9.1 featuring fiction by: Christian Martin, Simon Bleakan, Glynn Barrass, Uncle River, Davyne DaSae, C.J. Henderson, Frances Silversmith, Derek Muk, David B. Riley, Jeff Stehman, Hunter Liguore, Melinda Moore, Mira Domsky, and Lawrence Dagstine.  Also, poetry and illos by G.O. Clark and Marge Simon.  And much, much more.

*

Last Issue (Steampunk Edition)

with Dagstine Stories:

TalesoftheTalisman8.4

Happy Halloween 2013

Other New Entries: “Magazines”

Tales of the Talisman, Issue #8.4… (appearances)

You can find a brand new Steampunk story of mine in the latest issue of Tales of the Talisman.  This would be my 5th appearance with David Lee Summer’s long-running genre periodical (formerly Hadrosaur Tales in the 90s).  This particular edition, Volume 8, No. 4, is a “themed” issue.  It’s all about Steampunk.  All about airships, cogs and wheels, receptor rays and bubble guns, star liners and Victorian garb, and more.  Table of contents below, along with a link for ordering.  It should also be available for Kindle.  Get your copy today.

TALES OF THE TALISMAN #8.4

SPECIAL ‘STEAMPUNK’ EDITION

TalesoftheTalisman_8.4_demo

ORDER YOUR COPY NOW:

http://www.talesofthetalisman.com

With steamy good fiction and poetry by: O.M. Grey, Christine Morgan, Tom Lynch, Denise Dumars, James Webster, Jason Andrew, Neil Weston, Douglas Empringham, N. E. Taylor, Simon Perchik, Mike Wilson, Livia Finucci, Clinton A. Harris, Patrick Thomas, David S. Pointer, W.C. Roberts, Gary Every, Lyn McConchie, Neil E. Leckman, David Lee Summers & Karissa Sluss (book reviews), and Lawrence Dagstine.

Previous Issues w. Lawrence Dagstine (click banner):

tales_banner

And so this marks my 4th magazine appearance in a month.  I won’t have any more till year’s end, so I hope everybody enjoys their summer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drop by.  There will be free fiction (see Free Stories), free ebooks (short stories or novelettes), a new section on retro items, and more on the current book projects I’m working on, which will eventually lead us into 2014.  You stick around; it’s going to be fun, you hear.

Other New Entries: “Magazines”

Proofreading and Writing Services – Satisfaction Guaranteed!

Hi, my name is Lawrence, and I’m a writer of fiction and non-fiction.  If you clicked on this page, then you are probably interested in my proofreading services, or at the very least, wondering what I can do in regards to the written word.  Let me first tell you a little bit about myself and this website.  Many people know me as an author of speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy and horror), and my name is pretty synonymous within the small press.  I’ve been writing for well over fifteen years, and I have an extensive publishing history.  Think of this site as a sort of virtual resume of some of my previous work, upcoming work, and publications.  Not just the services I provide, since I consider myself a working writer.  I’ve been called prolific when it comes to writing short stories and informative when it comes to magazine articles.  Wherever I go, any social media platform I visit, people tend to say, “Oh, Lawrence Dagstine, he’s that Scifi/Horror writer.  Sure, I’ve heard of him.”

This is me, hard at work for you.

Unfortunately, it’s a label I’m stuck with—because I chose to enter that field and write in that form.  You see, as a child I grew up to movies like Star Wars and Aliens, TV shows like Doctor Who and The Incredible Hulk, and I read Marvel comic books and digested good science fiction literature (no, great!).  Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, you name it.  I read voraciously! I lived around the corner from a Forbidden Planet and was practically there every day.  I did book reports on lengthy Stephen King novels in 2nd and 3rd grade, and was the head of the boys in reading and writing in my school district at the time (the 1980s).  Years back my IQ was tested and I got a score of 150 (teachers called me gifted).  I even delivered prescriptions to the late Kurt Vonnegut and, for a brief period, became friends with him and he a sort of mentor to me.  So reading and writing, especially genre, has always been in my blood.  But I prefer to be called a Freelance Writer because I work with words in general.  It’s what I studied.  Not just fiction.  Genre fiction is pretty much the “fandom” side.  And it is very hard to make a full-time income writing fiction, as most genre writers are paid a pittance.  I’ve known writers who got their BA or MA, thinking they were going to write the next literary masterpiece or appear in The Paris Review, only to become editors or teachers.  They weren’t delusional, they had the confidence, their hearts were in it, they just dreamed a little too high is all.  Even I dreamed high once, then my first client base involved writing and proofing pamphlets and instruction manuals.  So you really need to expand your writing skills to other areas, other venues.

Now if you’ve written something that you feel needs improvement, but don’t know how to go about fixing it, ask yourself a few questions… Have you ever had trouble with words like ‘further’ and ‘farther?’ Perhaps verb usage? Do you know the difference between their/there/they’re? Did you know that words like ‘never mind’, or ‘any more’, or ‘all together’ are not compound words? They’re all two words! Does your story have a beginning, a middle, and an end? Plenty of conflict? Because something has to happen in your story, and something has to be resolved.  The first sentence means more than you know, because it’s the first thing the reader sees after the title and byline.  It’s what immediately draws the reader in.  What about non-fiction, or product placement, or a cool advertisement? Maybe you have an idea and want somebody to word that idea a certain way, where it can potentially become a moneymaking vehicle.  Maybe you need help creating or formatting a resume or cover letter, want to stand out from the rest of the crowd when it comes time to apply for that killer job.  Need a catalog done, or a brochure, or a catchy slogan? Need some minor ghostwriting (query)? Textbook writing or editing? Essays or proposals? Striking web content for a business or organization? Help with a novelette or novella? What’s that? Want me to write you a Western Romance? Okay, I’ll write you a Western Romance.  You’re the boss.

No matter what it is, if it involves words, I can probably help you.  My publishing history consists of over 400 fiction credits in print magazines, webzines, anthologies, and miscellaneous periodicals.  My non-fiction consists of 150 credits, online and offline, for small and medium circulation newspapers, trade journals, regionals, and everyday magazines in need of good filler.  I’ve penned video game reviews in the past for Nintendo Power and written greeting card jingles for Hallmark’s competitors.  I’ve written articles on the paranormal, pharmaceuticals, beach erosion, Native American spirituality, theology, historical subjects, marriage, divorce, pets, vacation spots, real estate, wrestling and more.  I’ve shared tables of contents with two Hugo Award winners and two Bram Stoker winners.  I can do just about 75% of what’s out there.

Still in doubt? Well, ask yourself these 12 sample questions.

Do you know how to assemble a story arc? Do you know what character development is? Do you know what a three-act and five-act narrative is? Are you familiar with the Chicago Manual of Style? Have you ever referenced the work of John Gardner (On Becoming a Novelist, The Forms of Fiction, The Art of Fiction)? Do you know the difference between literary and mainstream? Do you know what structural analysis is? Have you ever studied English Literature—authors like Graham Greene, Truman Capote, EM Forster, D.H. Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and the like? Do you know what proper manuscript format is? Do you know the difference between filler and feature article? Do you know how to write a pitch? Do you know the difference between a plot formula and a plot device? Heck, do you even know what I’m talking about?

If you answered no to five or more of the above, then it wouldn’t hurt to have me or some other qualified individual as your proofreader/editor.  Because I will only improve your fiction or non-fiction project, and only to your liking.  That is what I do.  I work with words.  Think of me as a sort of literary engineer.  I check for errors, make corrections, do any necessary research, and make your prose more persuasive.  I assist you in getting it the attention it deserves.  I develop fresh, innovative, and compelling work.  I drive constant voice, grammar, format, and diction across all text.  I know that your project is your baby.  It was birthed from your imagination.  But you must be able to take criticism and suggestions.  It will only help your project stand out from the rest, and help you get better.  What I am not is a copy editor.  A copy editor is an entirely different animal.  Copy editors usually work, or have worked, for publishing houses.  And good ones (not the kind you see for these run-of-the-mill small presses, who also publish their own books with the same company).  They do what’s called line edits.  They review your manuscript and send it to you with revisions in a program like Microsoft Word.  I do NOT do line edits.  Yes, I am certified in editing, but there is a great difference between a workshop certificate and a staff editor with more than 10 years experience at one of the big houses.  Yes, I have a background and education in journalism, creative writing, technical writing, and the business side of writing that could very well meet your needs.  Yes, as a proofreader I will go over your manuscript a minimum of three times, acquiring your voice and style.  Yes, I will print out your story or article, take a red pen to it, highlight certain areas I feel should be highlighted, and tell you what I think.  Yes, as your proofreader I will pay attention to the usual stuff like grammar, punctuation, spelling, consistency and sentence structure.  But I am not a copy editor.  I’m being honest here.  Even I use an outside editor for lengthy projects.  Because everybody needs a qualified editorial eye.  After all, how can you successfully edit a work that came from your own subconscious mind?

Difference between copyediting and proofreading:

http://www.dailywritingtips.com/the-difference-between-copyediting-and-proofreading/

Difference between copyediting and line editing:

http://publicizeyourbook.blogspot.com/2007/04/difference-between-copy-and-line.html

A copy editor will usually charge you by the word or line (I charge a flat fee).  They often do book manuscripts, and make up what’s called a style sheet.  If you’re looking for one, personally, I suggest looking for someone with at least three years experience.  Also, be careful of line editors posing as copy editors, as they can really screw up the flow of your manuscript if they don’t know what they’re doing.  This has happened to me.

Once again, I charge a very affordable flat fee.  Satisfaction guaranteed.  On a budget? I understand we’re still in a recession, the economy may very well not be good for years to come, and because of that, I am willing to work with you.  I expect at least half the cost of the project at the beginning of our agreement.  You are to pay me the other half after the project is finished.  Our email acts as a sort of electronic contract, if you will.  Research or additional time spent on projects (like staying up all night and losing sleep to meet a deadline on your behalf), costs extra.  And no, not an arm and a leg.  You are responsible for the cost of things like encyclopedias, visual aids, books purchased on Amazon, transportation places, or other reference materials.  I fact-check well, and I give citations where instructed or needed.  I do great copy—print copy! I’m not the kind of lazy individual who just looks something up on Google or Wikipedia.  Google is one of the worst reference tools you can turn to.  That’s because you usually find more than one answer to a particular question.  A long time ago I was commissioned to do a short article on Planned Parenthood in the new millennium.  I needed abortion statistics.  I found eleven well-rounded, informative sites by using Google.  The only problem is I found eleven different statistics.  So which was the right answer? For your project, if I have to go to a library, then so be it.  To the library it is.

I put in the time and effort to make your project as professional as possible.  I am proficient in Microsoft Word and Open Office (sorry, no crappy programs like WordPerfect).  I can give your project the treatment it deserves, and if you feel it needs work or you are not fully satisfied, I will tailor it to suit your needs at no additional cost.  I want you to be happy with my work.  I want you to succeed.  You retain all rights.  My name does not go on your written material.  I merely spruce it up.  So do you have something that involves the written word? Send me an email today for a free evaluation or price quote.  Give me an outline of your project and what you’re looking for.  Tell me about yourself and the work you do in three to six paragraphs; small businesses and companies most welcome.  If you want, I’ll even give you a freebie.  Three double-spaced pages for fiction (or 1,000 words); a half-a-page for non-fiction (150 words)—absolutely free! Have a fax machine? Want more proof emailed to you? Press clips always available upon request.  And I do simple typing too!

So contact me today, tell a friend, because no project is too large.  All material should be sent as an attachment.  I look forward to our partnership and any questions you may have.  Contact: ldagstine @ hotmail.com

Sincerely Yours,

Lawrence Dagstine

Speculative Fiction Author/Freelance Writer & Editor

Proofreading and Writing Services

Also be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin

Other New Entries: “Proofreading Services”

Free SF Serial: “Orphan’s Prey pt. 3” – Lawrence Dagstine

Science Fiction Serial Part 3

First Draft – Follow it from the beginning…

Orphan’s Prey 1: https://lawrencedagstine.com/2010/04/20/free-sf-serial-orphans-prey-pt-1-by-lawrence-dagstine/

Orphan’s Prey 2: https://lawrencedagstine.com/2010/06/10/free-sf-serials-orphans-prey-pt-2-by-lawrence-dagstine/

Who are the Vendragon?

So self-assured, she was, only hours earlier. So brave and self-confident. So virtuous and independent at the right moments, yet obviously weak during others. 

She suddenly found herself pressing her hands to the sides of her head—she’d never done something like this in front of her brother—almost sick with discomfort.  She saw the expression on the boy’s face, then her own, only in her mind’s eye, weak, scared, unprotected, and she realized once more that they were just small children, incapable of much, and just how alone they really were.

 

ORPHAN’S PREY

 by

Lawrence Dagstine

A rather large, muscular, adobe-colored lizard was awakened that same night by what sounded like distant explosions.  From behind the controls of his land scout, the startled iguana with the reddish-brown leather armor and twaddle-speaking tongue realized it was thunder reverberating among the low cumulus that was some hundreds of miles wide.  There was the pitter-patter of rain pellets on the vehicle’s front looking glass and hood.  A break in the drought? No, couldn’t be; Ragnarok should only be so lucky this time of year.  All the water in the universe couldn’t fix that recurrent problem, only toss it a band-aid.  Hence the greenhouses, pipelines, and special sprinkler system back at the city.  Fog clouds approaching? Maybe.  It was a more logical bet.  In sandy, mountainous regions like this, a heavy thunderstorm or methane-mixed hail shower could be an isolated occurrence or a signal that a new front was moving in—or yet another unwanted season.  Whichever it was, the lizard was glad he was snug inside his tracker rather than camped out in a dry marsh or deep desert valley where the storm was picking up speed and strength.  As for how bad conditions would get, he’d just have to wait and see.

“Fog billows?” asked a similar life form from a standard operating panel in the rear.  Unlike the front of the vehicle, there were no visual systems or radar maps or even a looking glass to peer out of.   Compared to his much taller partner, this reptile’s armor was grayish steel, the portions of scaly flesh that was visible a mustard tone.

The tongue-tied lizard at the wheel of the land scout looked at his weather gauge. “With precipitation like this”—when he talked his mouth didn’t always move but, rather, an electronic chest unit with a flashing orb flickered—“what else could it be?”

“The way you study natural features,” his friend remarked, “I would have thought something more exciting.  Whatever your definition of exciting is.  You know, Koral, I’m quite surprised you never applied for an Earth visa.  You show a certain kind of enthusiasm for your work.”

Their vernacular wasn’t perfect, the interpretive English and back and forth chitchat a bit skidded; but the chest units helped immensely with vocabulary and pronunciation.

“You mean neurotic?” Koral’s tongue lashed out in slight irritation.

“Mmm, that’s the word.  A human term, too.  I’d bet my green farm that Earth scientists would have adored you.”

“Funny, Bakkra,” he laughed. “I don’t know whether to pat you on the gills for your clever perceptions of me—because I am mostly used to your cynicism—or just go ahead and collect my winnings now.  Heh! And here I thought only the man-droid was able to understand me.” There was a brief pause. “Speaking of which, the synthetic one has not returned or communicated back with our lovely package.”

“He’s a robot.  Robots are late, too, you know.”

“Not this robot.  I was the one the manufacturers hunted down and finally sold to.  I was the one guiding him through the wastes.”

“You seem concerned, and tired.  Should we call off the search?”

“No.  Not yet.”

“They’re that important to you, huh?”

“Yes.  That important.” Koral leaned back in his metal chair and let the ravaging elements unfold before him, while keeping a close eye on the overhead gauges and monitor for something else.

Lightning flashed some more.  The alignment of the bolts, shooting outward from the cumulus in all directions, reminded the lizard of the storm chasing he undertook in his youth; after three hundred and sixty years, one begins to feel old but still take pleasure in the eccentricities of the past.

Thunderstorms in the wastelands of Ragnarok were forever awesome displays of limitless power, he thought, sometimes releasing energy many times greater than the atomic explosion range.  Hailstorms derived of methane were a whole other story.  Still, he knew if you were close to either one, or became trapped in the very center of a fog cloud, there was about them a personal quality.  It was dramatic and inescapable.  It was terrifying but vivid, as if every sudden flash, every strong gust of wind, and every simultaneous explosion that crackled and boomed were seeking you out; after all, it really sought no one else.  The lightning came in multitudes and blinded you.  The thunder wreaked havoc on your ears and deafened you.  The ice-cold rains came down heavily and drowned you.  And on the open plains, the sand-filled wastes, and in hanging valleys of crystal and rock, there was no place to take refuge.

The snow, which frequently becomes spot blizzards with reckless currents of air beyond gale force, could also be merciless and astonishing in its ferocity.  Large, lazy flakes drifting down at first, touching the ground and melting instantly.  But in minutes the fall becomes thicker, more rigid, and the wind-whipped mess pummels the landscape.  The temperature drops rapidly.  Marshes and gullies turn in the twinkling of an eye to great streams of half-frozen mud, which then later break apart from those very same winds and become torrents, rushing steeply downhill unintended, catching up loose rocks, Yurga bush, even boulders.  Other times, the mud is uplifted and snatched from their channels, as if by some godly hand.  Then it is flung into the air with impending force, thus turning it into hail during its whirl around the cloud formations and falling with a shrapnel effect down upon lower elevations of land.  In the midst of the mud particles, an unscented methane composite, laid bare to Ragnarok’s wrath and planetary nature to do whatever mixing and mashing it likes.  Once it falls back down again, hardened and in hail form, it wreaks of the most terrible odor, which can be inhaled up to hundreds of miles away.

Koral always remembered the cloud masses beginning somewhere in the high mountains, never the desert regions or marshlands, and in an almost tentative fashion.  Always the highest escarpments, always the greatest plateaus.  Perhaps that was what made the seasonal irregularities so peculiar, so unrelenting in their expansive devastation.  And you never expected a season to change so fast or, unintentionally, drive through one.  Not unless it was closely monitored or regarded from a distance.

From within the land scout, and up along a high altitude, the now-dozing lizard found such an effect magical.  A swirling, shifting pattern of light, eventually graying, then dulling and, finally, obscuring.  Precipitation from some disturbance in the planet’s magnetic field eventually conjured up the surrounding fog—yes, that had to be it—but he couldn’t be certain.  Neither could his people.  It was just another mystery of the planet, passed down from generation to generation, and his hypothesis was open to much conjecture.  Sometimes there was a break; usually there wasn’t.  Sometimes it revealed uncharted peaks, gorges and canyons, and the Vendragon Township far below, often untouched by the gathering clouds and coming storm.

At times he found such atmospheric wonder indescribable.  He often used worlds populated by humans as a comparison: where Earth’s seasons changed over the course of months, the cycles on Ragnarok could change within minutes if not mere seconds.  He used these comparisons in his teachings.  The Vendragon, whose society already flourished in ways early human colonies had, achieved much knowledge and experience from it.  They took it with them wherever they went; though formally a tribal race, that and available technology became a handed down tradition.

Finally the lizard’s thoughts were interrupted by a voice on the overhead speaker. “Hey, storm chaser! Come in, chaser! What are you chasing after now? Over.”

“Apparently little boys and girls,” Bakkra hollered from the back. “Ain’t that right, Koral?”

The man-sized iguana turned and shot his mustard-colored friend a filthy glance. “Do you mind?” His chest unit flared bright red.

The speaker chimed again: “Check.  Fog clouds reach you yet? Over.”

“Affirmative,” he answered. “Unpredictable weather surrounding just about everything.  All within close proximity of the vehicle, at least, otherwise cloud-to-ground.  Too soon to tell.  Just beginning.  Over.”

“I’m sure the young ones are all right,” the speaker crooned; the voice on the other side tried to be reassuring.

“What makes you think I was worried about that? Over.”

“Have any of our friends made an appearance?” An intense silence followed.

Bakkra was about to say something smart when Koral turned and shushed him. “The man-droid has still not reported back, and no,” he said. “No activity or other signs of life in the region.  Over.”

“Oh, well, still armor yourself.  This storm system reading is immense from our side.  We’re going to catch it for good and for sure, and there’s an airstream behind it.  First snow and ice, then rain and wind, heavy at times.  Even at your elevation.”

“Trust me.  We’ve already felt the thunder.”

“Thunder is nothing.” The communicator cut off for what seemed like two, maybe three seconds, followed by unusual static. “We may lose… you if… you go any… higher,” the voice continued brokenly. “You been feeling tremors? Over.”

“Negative.” Koral flipped a few switches on the overhead panel and fixed the glitch. “Unless there’s something I don’t already know or you’re not telling me.  Over.”

“Hmm, well, we’re still sending two extra rovers your way.  Over.”

“Helpful, Ooglad, but Bakkra and I are all right.  Over.”

“Listen, Koral, I know it’s just a random search, and this cloud build-up is like all the other occasions, but let’s be honest here, you can use all the help you can get.” A brief pause, and then: “Small stuff, under four on the quake register, with sand-shocks set well outside your perimeter.  But why turn down a free assist? Over.”

“Thanks, Ooglad, but no thanks.  Out.” Koral switched off the communicator.

Bakkra was the one with the smug look now. “What did you do that for? You’d have to be mad to turn down a rescue and assist in conditions like this.”

“We don’t need it.  We’ll just stay the night.  The storm will pass, like those before it.”

“For all you know those children might already be dead! Your droid’s bleeper would have picked them up kilometers ago.  This, my friend, is just suicide!”

“Really, Bakkra? How so?” Koral leaned back in his seat once more. “Does this also mean I’m forcing you to commit suicide with me? Because I do occasionally entertain the thought.”

“I guarantee you these children are already worm food or some other kind of beast droppings!”

“I say you’re wrong.” The lizard was terribly amused. “For once in your pathetic existence, don’t be such a coward.  Part of our race’s survival depends on these two kids.  We’ve weathered fog clouds before, and knowing how Ooglad thinks, he’ll most likely still send out that extra patrol regardless of what I say.  He’s crazy and neurotic, too.”

“You’re right,” Bakkra said. “For once you are very right.  That young reptile is paranoid and foolish like you.  But I am not.” Gathering his things, he went on, “I don’t plan on staying here with you.  So, if you will not wait for the assist and accept it, then I will.  They’ll give me a ride back to the city, while you stay out in the hail to wither and die.”

He was prepared to slide open the door and exit the vehicle when Koral jumped up and stopped him. “Oh no, my friend.  You are not leaving this tracker.” The lizard made his presence felt; the air suddenly became hostile and serious. “Not while I am in charge.  I say we weather the storm, investigate these hills and cliffs, and that is final!”

“Let go of the door, Koral.  Things could get messy in a very confined space.”

Lightning flashed just outside; the crackling sound was ear-piercing.  Koral shook it off.  Then he released his massive-sized hand from the door’s grip. “Go ahead,” he said. “I’d ask you to be reasonable but I think you and I both know we are beyond that now.”

The mustard-toned reptile reconsidered. “The only reason you are being this way is because of what happened to Arim.  You’re scared you’ll have to live through a repeat.” There was a brief silence, significant, and followed by what seemed like an even more emotional reawakening. “Your puny brain might not realize it, because it’s crammed deep inside your subconscious—yes, one of your human terms—waiting for the chance to be exposed, waiting for the opportunity to be expressed, and aired in permanent relief.” Then Bakkra put his things down and took two steps back. “There is a cause to your neuroses, Koral.  I see this.  Ooglad sees this.  The whole tribe sees this! They worry about you.  They can see right through your armor, the pain you are suffering, the empty feelings you sometimes emit.  You leave the camps and city grounds to study the conditions out here, bury yourself in your research.  This is your means of escape.  But because Arim perished and you suffer does not mean others need suffer as well.”

Koral did not reply.  Instead, he returned to the front of the vehicle, strapped himself back into his metal chair, and peered silently out of the looking glass.

Bakkra went on, “I will not go.  I will return to my station.  This is a very strong storm formation we are dealing with here.  Hopefully, your instincts are right this time.  I also pray you will not be blinded by pride again.  This stubbornness needs to subside.”

Koral blocked the rest of what he had to say out and stared up at the overhead panels in dismay.  Eventually he closed his eyes and, with the ease of long practice in strange places, went immediately off to dozing again.  In a few hours he would see what effects of the storm he could find, and if the children or the man-droid had left a trail for him.  This time he was prepared.  He had a carry-along machine, lightweight with a strap, which detected alien life forms.

He continued to ignore Bakkra’s petty banter through the night.  He continued to be aware of feeling kinship with the environment and, oddly enough, with the fog clouds.  It was a feeling he found impossible to shake.  Pensively he looked back at the fateful actions that led up to the Arim tragedy.  It was so long ago, uneventful to say the least.  How could the thoughts still persist? Were they really bottled up inside of him? It was his first interspecies “coop”, as most out-colony settlers called it in those days.  The boy was too young.  Sixteen in Earth years.  For every hour the lizard was out there searching for the two orphans he probably thought of Arim and the accident that befell him twice as much, only unconsciously.

For a reptile such emotions were not like him; then again, perhaps he did not try hard enough to show emotion.  Along with his predictions in the weather, and for as long as he could remember, he had experienced premonitions instead.  If the premonition seemed genuine, his chest unit would emit a strange glow, and he would utter a warning of disaster to the rest of the tribe.  Very rarely did the Vendragon take him seriously, and very rarely did they act on it.  His forebodings were never specific, the calamity either absurd or nameless, so it was unusual that he did not speak of any premonition in the days or hours before Arim—a most treasured farmhand assisting their nascent culture in advancing agriculturally—was attacked and fell from that high cliff.  And never in his wildest dreams, he thought, could he predict that, even now, the two orphans he searched endlessly for might bring with them a terrible but ancient disaster.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Einstein’s Pocket Watch, September 2010 (2nd Acceptance!)

I’ll be coming for a second time to what, over the last year or so, has become a very popular and free webzine for writers of poetry, inspirational stories, Christian Fiction, Experimental Fiction, Some Science Fiction and Fantasy, Christian Science Fiction, and more or less stories that are uplifting.  NO horror.  Rob Crandall’s: Einstein’s Pocket Watch.  This would be my 2nd upcoming appearance to the webzine, but with a mainstream/literary piece this time.  I was in the first issue, and I’ll be back again September 2010.  It’s a wonderful blog webzine.  Check it out.

Einstein’s Pocket Watch – Coming September 2010

2nd Appearances – Mainstream – Edited by Rob Crandall

Fiction & Poetry in link below:

http://peafant.wordpress.com/

 

I’ve also gotten 2nd acceptances to “Shelter of Daylight” and 3rd acceptances to OG’s Speculative Fiction.  I’ll try and post those over the next two, three weeks.

Other New Entries: “Magazines” – Webzines

Shelter of Daylight #3, April 2010… (Now Available!)

You can now find me in the thick and fairly new Anthology-Magazine, SHELTER OF DAYLIGHT.  Issue #3.  Published on a bi-annual basis by Sam’s Dot Publishing, and I must confess, with this new year, their cover art and printer/print quality has improved greatly! For this issue I have a science fiction story, and there is a slew of other great authors.  Edited by Tyree Campbell and available in a super-glossy, perfect-bound format.  Just click on the links or the cover art below.  Cheers, Lawrence.

SHELTER OF DAYLIGHT Science Fiction & Fantasy – April 2010

Published semi-annually by Sam’s Dot Publishing:

Sam’s Dot Publishing – Main Homepage:

www.samsdotpublishing.com

ORDER THIS ISSUE (or subscribe):

http://www.genremall.com/zinesr.htm#shelter

Other Great Magazines – The Genre Mall

www.genremall.com

Author Line-up: Tom Humphrey, Greer Woodward, Tyree Campbell, Lawrence Barker, Ursula Warnecke, Kisa Rupp, Keith Graham, Maria Alberto, David Tallerman, Molly Schwanz, Jared Millet, Robin Mayhall, Lawrence R. Dagstine, Michael D. Sonnier, Shane Nelson, John Marfink, Jaime Lee Moyer, Anne Brennan, Marge Simon, K.S. Hardy, WC Roberts, J.L. Opskar, and Amelia B. Winkler.

Other New Entries: “Magazines”

The Martian Wave, Collector’s Issue… (Now Available!)

Welcome to 2010.  For a decade it started off as a small webzine within the confines of cyberspace, publishing many of today’s familiar SF poets and short story authors… Well, it’s finally here.  The premiere print issue of the highly anticipated Sam’s Dot Pub: THE MARTIAN WAVE.  I am honored to have a story in the premiere issue among such names.  Get it now.  This first issue has a superb cover by Laura Givens and is bound to sell out either online or at Sam’s Dot Publishing attended conventions.  Now a semi-annual magazine! Rejoice!

PREMIERE ISSUE! PREMIERE ISSUE!

THE MARTIAN WAVE Issue #1 – Collector’s Edition!

The Martian Wave - Premiere PRINT issue

ORDER YOUR COLLECTOR’S ISSUE HERE:

http://www.genremall.com/zinesr.htm#tmw

THE MARTIAN WAVE INFORMATION PAGE:

http://www.samsdotpublishing.com/tmw/main.htm

SAM’S DOT PUBLISHING HOMEPAGE:

www.samsdotpublishing.com

FEATURING: Steve De Beer, Tyree Campbell, Dan Thompson, Keith P. Graham, Patty Jansen, Bret Tallman, Rick Novy, Shelly Bryant, Justin Bohardt, s.c. Virtes, Marge Simon, and Lawrence Dagstine.  Edited by J. Alan Erwine.

Other New Entries: “Magazines”

FREE FICTION: “The Overrated Pro” by Lawrence Dagstine

Welcome to my first installment of what will be a continuous monthly to bimonthly project.  Free Fiction Stories.  Approaching all genres, and sometimes even serialized (the serials will most likely be novelette or novella lengthed works).  For February and March we have a brand new Extreme Horror piece — put the kiddies to bed — about a writer.  A good chilling tale about a writer quickly brings to mind the work of Mr. King and Mr. Ketchum.  One such tale that comes to mind right away is Secret Window (the movie version starred Johnny Depp).  Sometimes a good story is too good to pass up, such as is the case with Secret Window.  The picture below, which I got off the Web and am a die-hard fan of (I’m a die-hard fan of all pictures on my site, from Doctor Who to Action Figures to Whatever), I think compliments this piece well.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  But it does beg to ask the question: How far would you go to become a writer?

How far would you go to become a writer?

Free Fiction Series Take 1

 

THE OVERRATED PRO

by

Lawrence Dagstine

The package fluttered as if it might fall, but it didn’t.  Carnesto preferred to take a cigarette out of the pack himself.  Despite the tremors, his fingers had facility, and he reached into the pack for a smoke.  The paper fluttered and sounded, but out came the cigarette, and it orbited to his lips.  He lit up by himself, too.  He even had this way of making cool artsy smoke rings.  The single and simple act assumed the proportion of a wannabe performance, which all watched as he sat in the back of the truck stop diner working heavily on his laptop. “Thanks, Colbert,” he said. “I promise I’ll leave you a tip next time.” He got a refill on his coffee.

“When are you writing this next bestseller?”

“As soon as one of these organizations actually recognize me,” he said.

Colbert nodded. “I guess that means never.”

“How’s your cat?”

“Dead.”

Another one.”

“It’s okay.  I’ll just go down to the Humane Society and pick me up a healthier critter.  Anyway, good luck with your manuscript.”

There was something about people on computers in diners or Starbucks or sidewalk cafes.  All were the next big thing, the next blockbuster screenwriter, the next professional anthologist, and, for the deluded, sometimes even Pulitzer Prize winner.  They always looked cool sitting there with their Compaqs and Toshibas and Hewlett-Packards.  At the end of their days they went home and popped an extra Zoloft or two, stared at themselves in their medicine cabinets, and often died of something like pancreatic cancer and very much penniless.  As a balding, middle-aged man living between Middletown USA and the UK, however, he still didn’t get it yet.  It was sort of like the meaning of life, only staring you cold right in the face.  Being a writing celebrity was the most transient fame in the world, but it was magnificent while it lasted.  Who could resist wanting to know what it was like to become as inflated as a zeppelin, even if rather hollow? Still, ego or no ego, magnificent while it lasted.

A man on the keyboard, if he had inspiration, could have more immediate impact in a couple of hours than a genre historian with a lifetime of books and no national or international exposure.  For, at the end of the day, genre is what he wrote and absolutely creamed on himself just at the thought of it.

Clicking sounds from the keys, then long emailed queries.

A curious kind of aberrant, macroscopic reputation attainable because of the nature of the exposure, and the redundancy of the work routine combined.  Much of his life revolved around two credits, and much to his pub mate editors’ likings.  An amateur might write down a few interesting metaphors or pen just as decent a story—a beginning, a middle, and an end—publish a few in some low circulation or obscure quarterlies; it might a few years later change a portion of the face of the globe, and such a figure might or might not get to be known even inside the publishing community.  Impact and creativity was fantastic.  But the genre writer was straight on your eyes, because it was a form of fantasy, page by page, as while he repeated the lines written by another; if you watched television or went to the movies, plots came free and life was a contrived and clichéd vessel.  He and the non-reading public became well acquainted, because, quite frankly, Carnesto never really wrote anything of worth.  He was beat as a child if he got less than a B, sometimes his father would hit the bottle and then creep into his room in the middle of the night and display his inebriation.  Carnesto even had a lax imagination at times to show for it.  A character like himself writing fiction was like a dead fourth brain inside the human skull.  Internet crazies with drug addictions thought he was super-important, and he might think so too.  That spelled out Web Idol.  But there was a difference between the web idol and the literary idol.  For real writers the grandeur of self-satisfaction spelled New Heroes, New Days, New Minds, New Attitudes, New Influences.  For Carnesto it often meant just another day glaring at that screen in the back of that smoky truck stop diner, full of resentment and false pride.

He’d even met an amateur one day, typing crazily and happily a few booths away.  He went over to him and said, “Are you a writer by any chance?” and he saw next to the computer a stack of black and white magazines. “You know if you are, you really shouldn’t prostitute yourself to such small publications like this.”

They talked a bit and it just so happened that this other typist was also into genre.  When he’d heard that, Carnesto felt embarrassed asking the amateur for advice; he even glanced over his shoulder to make sure Colbert and the diner regulars weren’t watching. “But these periodicals you’re in are mere fanzines,” he said. “Why do it for so little money?”

“Oh, you must be from the Old School,” the amateur writer said. “Because you only live once, and there are many other rewards and remunerations from this kind of writing.”

“No! I—I don’t understand it!” He actually clenched his hands into fists and grinded his teeth. “I—I don’t compute!”

“Well, of course you don’t.  I noticed you over there, just spacing out at your screen.  I didn’t want to say anything but it was just an observation.”

“What observation? What are you talking about?” Carnesto looked slightly heated.

“You know, progress.”

“Dear sir, I’ll have you know that I AM A PRO.” It almost sounded like he was doing a Colin Baker schtick. “I’ve appeared in these two publications and I was paid such and such a sum!”

“But look at the dungeon you’ve put yourself in.  There’s no key to the door, no crawlspace, no way to get out.  You get no satisfaction from it.  It’s sad.”

“How can I get no satisfaction when the credits exist?”

“But you obsess over something you’ll still never be.”

“Are you trying to say I’m pathetic?”

“When I look from afar, yeah, I guess.” Then the amateur went on to say how many professional writers hate their lifestyles, their jobs, their families and their miserable existences.  How it’s not as easy as it looks. “You see, I exist outside the bubble.  You are trapped inside the bubble, where there are all sorts of stigmas and silly rules.  Outside the bubble, there’s relaxation, lack of worry, so much space and area to explore.  I live life to the fullest, you obviously don’t.  Inside the bubble, you’re confined and injected with this malcontent.  Even now, instead of focusing, you probably watch other writers making it one step ahead of you and feel like a prisoner in your own skin.”

“But I have two pro credits! I have two pro credits! Two pro credits!”

“That still does not make you a professional.”

“Yes it does! Two pro credits make me a somebody!”

The amateur looked back at Carnesto’s laptop and said, “Then if you’re a somebody, why are you dilly-dallying with me at my table when you should be over there writing your third professional credit?”

Then he explained to Carnesto that: Nothing x Nothing = Nothing.

But Carnesto wouldn’t have it, no matter how much the amateur tried to break things down to him.  He stormed off insisting that he was right and the amateur was wrong.  He stormed off insisting that he was this famous thing, trained by long forgotten grandmasters and alcoholic slush pile editors.  The more Carnesto saw the cobwebs under his arms and suspected his own imposture, the exaggeration of his value, that his sublime vogue was just a façade for the crazies, the more he began to drink, cheat on the missus, and dissipated.  He almost felt like lashing out his own failures in life on somebody who wouldn’t suspect, somebody he wished to be. 

A few weeks later, in decline, reading from time to time of his own professional wane or passing, experiencing the oh-he’s-washed-up coldness of the public and the literary critics, and now, having lost his mind, having lost prestige or real value, he decided to choose his victim carefully and make that individual feel the same way.  He wanted to make somebody feel just as inwardly collapsed.  Emotionally, physically, professionally, deflated beyond recovery.

This would be his release.  He would call himself “The Winner” at times.

But there was nothing to be won.

During these days, when he went on the Internet actively seeking people he hated or wished to be, or just couldn’t stand being happy because his own life lacked joy, his wife walked about with a deep inner upset.  Carnesto, still not recuperated from his own lack of success, didn’t have the energy or desire to make love to her.  They were often quiet at the dinner table, too.

“When are you going to get off that fucking Internet! I didn’t marry a robot.  You’ve become this—this computer junkie.  I needed you yesterday!”

There Carnesto sat at his computer, in a slumped position, head straight forward and practically paying her no mind.

“Did you hear what I said? I needed you!”

“Why? Because your friend Janet’s brother is in the hospital on a respirator?”

“That poor devil was in a terrible accident.  He might not make it through another night.”

“So let them pull the plug.  It’s not as if she cared about him anyway.  They had their differences.  If I’m a computer junkie, so’s she.  Tell me, how many hours does she spend on the Web? If you ask me, she’ll probably be relieved once her parents fly back and they take the fellow off life support.  Oh, and don’t ask me to come to the funeral.”

“Carnesto, what’s wrong with you?” his wife pleaded. “You were never like this!”

“I’m busy! Working!”

“On a fucking messageboard? Who are you talking to anyway?”

“This is strictly business.  Now please get the fuck out of here.”

His wife came over and threw down some drug paraphernalia.  His eyes glanced it briefly as he typed away. “And where did you get this?”

“I don’t know where you got that, but it’s definitely not mine.”

“Smoking drugs with that crack whore.  I spotted you with her the other day, chatting about.  She’s the big druggie and floozy of the neighborhood.”

“You know her?” Carnesto asked.

“Who doesn’t! What are you doing with that meth head?”

“We… We get along together.  We understand each other.” There was a brief silence. “Oh, you wouldn’t understand.  You’re not a writer, you’re not a professional.  How could you understand?”

“Carnesto, I know full well what you do.  You’re slacking off.  You’re not the man I once knew.  You talk of writing yet you haven’t written or edited a single draft in three months.”

He quickly changed the subject, talking about her inconsistencies: her manners, her mind, her language. 

“Shit,” she screamed at him, “you’re always trying to make an idiot out of me!”

“I fear it’s a lost cause,” he said to her, then swiveled around in his chair back to his computer. “Just like this poor chap…”

“I’m not a lost cause! I’m your wife!”

“Says you.  I’m giving you a difficult assignment.  Change yourself a little,”—but this had only been an excuse to get rid of her and focus on his new computer mate—“make yourself into something fine.  Learn how to cook or something.”

“I like the time I’m having with you now! If I didn’t care about you, if I didn’t care about our marriage, I wouldn’t be here begging with you, would I?”

The logic made him laugh.

Christ, she said to herself, he hasn’t fucked me in a month.  I ought to go down to the pub or get a piece somewhere else.

He sensed her thought, but he was still heavily focused on something else.

“Look, darling, I’ll be with you in a few days.  Now don’t get impatient.  This Web business will all be over soon.”

“If that crackhead came along here, you’d be able to put out,” she complained.  As she headed for the office door, she added, “And make sure you don’t do anything with her here!”

A little celibacy will be good for her, he thought to himself, grinning wickedly.  It’ll drive her wild, and besides, I’ll get what I started online finished.  They said I wasn’t a pro, I gave them helpful advice, but they just tossed me away.  Well no more!

As time went on, his dilapidation showed.  He didn’t shave, didn’t shower.  He didn’t even brush his teeth.  Lack of hygiene.  But he couldn’t and wouldn’t let it be a singular ruin, as he was bent on taking someone else down with him.  This was his therapy, because they all said and felt he wasn’t good enough.  He was bent on destroying this other person who was almost a perfect identical image to him…

…only happy with life.

He went to messageboards, review sites, emailed friends of his—if one didn’t know any better, they’d think he was a full-time stalker—wherever this individual had been last, he would be there to spy and bait.  Sometimes he even forced sleep deprivation upon himself and Googled the individual’s name as much as one hundred times in a single day.  All the while muttering to himself, “I’m a professional! I’m a professional! I’m a professional!” At other times, he would say, “Fucking amateur! Fucking amateur! Fucking amateur!” He had become so obsessed with this other person’s writing career, that not only had he almost permanently forgotten his own, but he started checking his victim’s work for logistical and grammatical errors that either did not exist or just wasn’t to his liking.

Sometimes he thought of his ex-wife—by now, she had dumped him and not only was his computer on constantly, but he always carried a whiskey bottle and a loaded revolver by his side—and his marriage to her had been his foundation to begin with, and she was the only woman he had ever loved. “I will not pose any longer as a married woman nor tell myself any longer that this is a marriage,” she had said.

The words stayed on with him, fatally, robbing him of much.  So along with the victim on his computer console, his life had spiraled downward and proceeded from one self-robbery to another, depriving him of the people and dreams he once had, though without doubt, by the nature of his current self, he had earned his defeats.  And his only friends? Well, they were crazies. 

The court awarded his ex custody of their little girl, and he must pay alimony until she remarried.  But she hadn’t done that, and the cost of maintaining her lifestyle, and the costs of his daughter, had been a drain. 

About three, four times a year he saw them.  He was entitled visitation rights with his child, but his computer life always cut in, and there were times where he didn’t pursue the privileges.  Besides, it was always unpleasant to see his wife for a few minutes or hours, only to realize he could never have her around permanently.

There came a point where his daughter had reached the age of twelve, and here he was, still latched on to his computer and his writer victim, who had started moving on to other things.  The girl had lost her childhood charm and matured into a shapely, thinned-down girl.  She had her father’s haunting features and the same bone structure as he.  Carnesto was pleased with her beauty, and he complimented his wife. “You’ve done a fine job with the girl.” He held his daughter’s hands and stared at her.

His daughter said, “I think you’re so wonderful, Daddy.  Everybody does.”

“It’s your mom who’s wonderful.  Surely you must know what everybody else knows, that I’m a big international bum.”

“It’s not true, Daddy; you’re simply fabulous.  I see all your literary works in a pile over there.”

He laughed. “I may let you head up the Carnesto Johanna Fan Society.”

“You’re so outrageous, Daddy, so simply outrageous.”

His now-ex came along. “Honey, be careful.  You might fall afoul of someone like your father and get your life garbled before it begins.”

“Is your life so garbled?” Carnesto asked.

“I’m trying to spare her some of the things we’ve been through ourselves.  Like computer privileges?”

“Don’t spare her any of that, and don’t do me any favors.”

When his ex left the room he looked over his daughter.  She had leaping, anxious eyes, and she was crowding her father, wanting his attentions, even his arms around her. “Glad to see your mother letting you sleep over finally.” He looked around at the small flat. “It’s not much.  At least, not like on my old teacher pay.  Not like we used to have.” He grabbed hold of her and gave her an earthy kiss.  He held her tightly and his hands, from a lifetime of typing and not touching, found its way over her developing breasts.  His face flushed.  What the hell was going on?

He felt rocked.  He pulled himself away from her.  He had a frenetic look on his face, which his daughter studied but couldn’t understand.  With my own daughter, he told himself, staring at her loving face, her body full of trust and affection. What am I thinking? He wondered whether other fathers had incestuous surges toward their beautiful daughters.  He paced up and down cursing his passions. 

After his ex left and said she’d return on Sunday, he couldn’t get his daughter out of his mind, or quite out of his blood.  He started looking for the revolver.  You bastard, he said to himself, wanting to jazz his own child.  He looked at the messageboard on the computer and thought he saw a familiar name sign in. “It’s your fault, you fucking amateur!”

“Daddy, are you okay?”

The gun was nowhere to be found.  It had to be there.  Maybe in a drawer, maybe underneath the bathroom sink.  The incident preyed on him; it was a new experience, unlike writing fiction, and the thought shocked him.  He had a second moment’s agony.  How many crazies had such thoughts about their daughters, he wondered.  He knew a lot of crazies, but why did the notion persist with him? There she was, in his imagining, all fresh and full of young blood, a handsome smile on her face all the while, a touch of cherry blossom softness in her cheeks, eyes wide and curious.  He looked down and saw a bulge in his pants; he was rock-hard.  Maybe, he said to himself, it’s a case of me wanting to screw myself.  She looks like me.  Goddamit, I better stay far away.

Then, as his daughter was changing in the bathroom, getting ready to go to sleep, he found the gun sticking out from one of the higher shelves of his bookcase.  That one particular shelf had been lined with all the anthologies ever created, all the books ever produced, all the periodicals of the writer he had been victimizing all these years, and he realized, “Holy shit! I’m your number one fan.”

Glancing quickly over his shoulder, he saw flashing.  When he turned around to face the computer he saw action on the screen.  The numbers on the board lit up, and the writer, who he had lashed out his own misgivings and failings on for all those years had scored a book deal. “Oh no.  Oh no, you don’t! You fucking amateur! I’ll prove you don’t deserve this!” He started tearing his hair out and walking in circles.  Then he grabbed the computer and tried to log in and type right away, but he’d forgotten the password amongst the confusion with his daughter. “No you don’t! Stay at the bottom of the ladder, you fucking slime ball!” The gun was looped around a finger as he wrote.

“Daddy?”

“Not now.”

“Daddy, what’s wrong?”

“I said not now!”

“Daddy, please!”

“What don’t you under—”

He swiveled around in his chair and let go of the trigger.  A bullet entered the center of his daughter’s chest, ricocheted off her shoulder and lung, and exited through her back.  Carnesto fell to his knees.  The twelve-year-old girl’s mouth dropped in awe.  She was wearing one of those long pink and white Hello Kitty sleep shirts.  It began to soak red.  The floor soon matched in color. 

A few seconds later she collapsed at the side of the bed.

Carnesto rushed to her side, but she wasn’t breathing.  Sitting at the edge of the bed, he cradled her in her arms, weeping like a baby. “I’m sorry, child… I didn’t mean to, I swear…” Teary-eyed, he faced the computer and it said that the new book being released by the same author he had victimized from all those years, was a story that, deep down, most hardworking authors working the trenches for many years would be able to associate with.  But that was if Carnesto had the desire to live and add it to his collection.   

The title, according to the online publicist, was “The Winner”.

Carnesto Johanna had three simple words for that publicist and the author as he put the revolver up to his own head. “I’m a pro…”

The End