It’s Alive! The 2nd edition of our charity antrollogy for grown-ups, For Whom the Bell Trolls, is now available at Amazon! With two new stories and an afterword by Aristotle, no less! Here’s a little something…
…about the Antrollogy
Submitted for your perusal: a smorgasbord of trolls. Literal trolls, literary trolls. Trolls in space, trolls in cyberspace. Trolls that are naughty, trolls that are nice. Troll detectives, trolls that have lice. That’s just the way it is, with trolls.
…about The Authors
Some of the authors are well-known. Some are just not well, not well at all. Some are hiding under their beds, or possibly bridges. Some should be. That’s just the way it is, with authors.
Our international authors have something in common: they have contributed their work for free, in hopes that readers will make donations to charities they support — charities listed in their bios, after their stories.
All but two of these stories were written for this antrollogy. All but one are making their debut. We hope you’ll enjoy the stories and follow their authors’ links to your doom. (Just testing whether you read this far. You did.)
… about The Editors
John L. Monk and I met online, and were immediately smitten… with each other’s books. So much so, in fact, that the moderator told us to get a room.
Instead, I got the idea for a charity antrollogy — after being “trolled” on a spoof news website. I penned the title story and invited a select group of authors to write their own, starting with John. Some were members of critiquecircle.com, my favorite online critique group; others were published authors John and I had met through reviewing books or stories, or through KBoards, the website devoted to all things Kindle. Some were spotted at The Writer’s Pub, an online authors’ hangout. A few we met along the way… and two were brave souls who had stuck up for me on that naughty news site. Much to my surprise, almost everyone said yes!
For more about us and all the authors, please read the bios after our stories. As for those books that got us into this troll story business…
I would like to thank The Academy…
Once upon a time, For Whom the Bell Trolls was mine, all mine. That is to say, the concept was mine: invite indie authors to build a book about trolls — a book that could showcase our talents and make cold, hard e-cash for worthy causes.
I’d love to take the credit for everything; I will take the credit (and the blame) for the puns and pictures, for the silly Easter Egg Hunt, and for each and every typo in this unique book. But For Whom the Bell Trolls is unique because of all the talented and generous people who came together to make it so. The authors have donated their stories for free, but they’ve also been troopers throughout the editing process, crying “Uncle” (more often “Auntie”) for the greater good — sometimes gladly, sometimes stoically. (Sometimes, I suspect, huddled in their closets, their anguished cries muffled by flimsy lingerie clutched to their quivering lips and heaving bosoms — and that’s just the men.) Some of the authors also helped with proofreading, and the charming and hilarious John L. Monk, “Droll Troll” and co-editor, really had my back.
Thanks always to my much better half, Boo, for putting up with all my crazy, all these years, and for all the awesome tech support.
This book is dedicated to Gretchen Sackett, my kick-ass sister, who made the publication of the first edition possible. Gretchen died suddenly only three months after the release of its first edition , and hearts were broken from sea to shining sea. If you’d like to know more about this amazing woman, please read my blog post about her:
Now that the second edition is out, I’d love to thank by name everyone who reviews it, who tweets and shares and blogs about it, but of course that is impossible. And for those who donate to the charities: Thank you. You’re good eggs. For Whom the Bell Trolls… trolls for thee. Stop by our facebook page anytime, to chat. But first…
… about our Book Launch
Please join me and as many of the authors as we can lasso on Saturday, December 17th at noon, US Central Time Zone, for our Book Launch Event, hosted by Scott Burtness, author of the Monsters In The Midwest series! Feel free to ask us impertinent questions, learn Too Much Information about our sordid lives and books, and otherwise spend up to two hours of your precious Holiday Shopping Time with us, huddled with the device of your choice wherever you generally huddle when doing embarrassing things on the Internet.
I expect there will be a giveaway or two, too! Hope to see you there.
Not only was she determined and brilliant and patient and desperately kind, she was sometimes quite funny. If I was stumped, she’d say, “Just give it some time.” If my letters sucked, she’d shake the bag. “Drowning in vowels? Jump in here and swim for some consonants!” Sometimes she’d say, “Let’s see what you’ve got; let’s do it together. I’ll help you. Then you can help me.”
Every game with her and my three sisters was a lesson in friendly competition, in loving cooperation. I learned from her — and My little sister — that the only real way to lose was to give up in frustration, was kicking the table and sending the letters flying, was ruining it for everyone. But this was no “everyone gets a trophy just for participating” sort of game. There was always a winner, and it was never me, not for years. Still, I kept playing, and when I finally won all on my own, she couldn’t have been more proud. And then we played again. And I lost.
I told someone just the other day how we used to play: how, although there was always a winner, we thought the real competition was getting the highest overall score — that the Total of All Our Efforts mattered the most. That Someone thought I was crazy; she truly believed that the only point of a game — every game — was to crush the competition and emerge victorious and alone.
How sad for her, and for all who live like her. For all who think like her. For all who vote like her. For people who never knew my mom.
A couple of days ago, America held an election. Less than half of the country voted. Then, thanks to the unfair nature of the Electoral College, less than half of the voters — let’s call them People Who Never Knew My Mom — kicked our national card table from below and chose a new president. It was a low blow, a hard kick; it sent the pieces of our lives flying. Some of these People Who Never Knew My Mom had recently been kicked out of the game for deplorable behavior. (Racism, Misogyny, Homophobia, Religious intolerance…) Others were hard-working folks who quite rightly felt left behind for years, felt like the Rest of us always won and they didn’t have a chance, because the game was rigged against them and no one seemed to care. And they weren’t wrong, but they were conned into voting for the very worst of the riggers. (Just sayin’.) They wanted to “drain the swamp”; they wanted change, and they voted for it. They voted anti-establishment in the primary, and anti-establishment in the general election. Except, not so much. The facts are that they voted Godzilla in to drain the swamp, but left the same old GOP gators guarding the plug. Still others — mostly white, financially secure, educated voters, let’s call them GOP Gators Who Never Met My Mom — voted for their interests and their interests alone; they clearly saw what Trump would do for them: maintain uncontrolled gun rights, lower their personal and business taxes (if they were rich enough), install Christian right-wingers in the court, gut social programs that THEY don’t need, and try to bleach our multi-hued nation just that much whiter by keeping the immigrants out.
We don’t yet know where all our letters will land, but it isn’t looking good. These people, my countrymen and women, think they have emerged victorious. But everybody lost.
They’ve had their tantrum, and Folks, it was a doozy. The world was watching, aghast and in disbelief, and we’re embarrassed for them and for ourselves. And we’re scared. And some of us are having tantrums of our own. Both sides are capable of bad things — deplorable things — for the sake of their idea of good. But we’ll pick up the pieces and play again. And this time let’s Remember it isn’t just a game, the world is watching, and millions — billions — of real lives hang in the balance. No one really stands alone and victorious, unless they stand on a pile of ruins.
As for the worst of us, we won’t let them ruin it for everyone.
If they think Deplorable Behavior will be fun for long, they’ve got some new words to learn. We all need to learn them. “Empathy” would be a good start: seven letters, you can spell it on your own. “Tolerance” and “Cooperation” would be good, too. Both are words that take more than one turn to accomplish, that take building on another’s word.
Seven years ago today, my mother died. I wish I could have played Words With Friends with her on Facebook. Fact is, I’ve had a few Words With Enemies on facebook lately and while I’m up to the challenge, I’d rather play Words With FRIENDS. There are millions of folks like me, and we’ll keep playing until all Americans, especially those hard-working folks who’ve been left out, are winning.
Well, almost all. All you Deplorables — you racists, misogynists, homophobes and religious extremists? Let me spell it out for you, metaphorically of course:
Go stand in what was once your nice, safe corner of the world with your blinders and your Deplorable Dunce Caps on, and think about what you’ve done. Because it isn’t Safe anymore. Beyond this place, there be dragons…
It’s too bad you never knew my Mom. Metaphorically.
Good luck to awesome author and journalist David Lawlor in his new life, making our families’ pasts come to, er, life! His is one of the few blogs I still read, and his story in our upcoming “antrollogy” reboot (yes, it really does exist!) is one of my favorites.
Jobs are funny things … you can invest your heart into them, or you can simply take the money and run. I’ve tended towards the former rather than the latter in the course of my journalistic career, but that’s about to change.
After 18 years with my current employer I’m about to head off into the great unknown – and not by choice, but by redundancy. It’s a little scary as prospects go but I’m hearted by the example of others who have made the same leap and found that everything has worked out just fine.
You only have to look to Pope Francis II for an example. Before he donned a collar of his own, he used to grab people by theirs. You see, Il Papa used to be a bouncer in a Buenos Aires nightclub before he answered the call (and I don’t mean the one for last…
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Give it up for John L. Monk! He’s done it again…
It’s been nearly a year since my sister Gretchen died, and I still don’t know quite what to do with myself and this blog. It may go the way of the dodo. In the meantime, I’m writing and illustrating again, and the antrollogy will soon be republished with two new stories and a couple of fine new Easter Eggs. But now, in honor of a year’s passing since her passing, here is a reprise of my post about Gretchen, A Letter to Neil Gaiman:
The odds that you are reading this are slim. Very slim. I probably won’t finish writing it, but if I do, I almost surely won’t be brave enough to send it to you. If I am uncharacteristically brave, what then? I send it, and it never reaches you; it slips between the cracks of your magically real life and goes to Neverwhere — or wherever unread emails go to die.
So why am I writing it at all? I’m writing it for me, because I have to. But please be patient with me. It’s hard to type through the tears.
Two days ago, my brave, compassionate, quietly kick-ass sister Gretchen died. One minute she was Alive… and then she was Dead. My beautiful inside-and-out sister was beautiful no longer.
Death is not beautiful.
I think — how can I know? — that she didn’t tell us there was no hope for her surviving the cancer because she didn’t believe in no-hope scenarios. Or maybe she didn’t tell us so she could spare us weeks of pretending we weren’t already writing her eulogy, while she was still sitting there. Maybe she agreed to start the chemo just to gain a few precious weeks to get her affairs in order.
No maybe about it that she didn’t get that chance.
Let me tell you a few things about Gretchen, Neil. She couldn’t stand pity, or being pitiable. (She also couldn’t stand spelling mistakes or grammar gaffes, so if her spirit exists anywhere, in any spacey-wacey way, it’s sitting on my shoulder, clucking its timey-wimey tongue.) Because she couldn’t stand pity, Gretchen kept secrets. Sad, sad secrets. She shared a few with me. I will not be sharing them with you.
But some things she couldn’t keep secret, like the time she leapt out of her car, wielding pepper spray, to confront a man stabbing a pregnant woman on a San Francisco sidewalk.
The man turned to her, dropped the knife… and pulled out a handgun.
“Thank you,” he said to Gretchen, “you saved me.” Then he blew his own brains out, all over her. But mother and child were saved.
Another time, again in her car: A man approached the vehicle stopped ahead of her, shot the driver multiple times and ran off, but not before Gretchen burned his face into her long-term memory. Sadly, the woman at the wheel passed away while Gretchen comforted her, drenched in blood, waiting for help to arrive. But her murderer is in prison now, thanks to Gretchen’s testimony.
Gretchen has been:
- bitten by a rattlesnake (“It was just a baby,” she said!)
- hit by cars (twice. No, wait, three times!)
- “shocked” (toxic shock twice, and then there was that supermarket sample shrimp, eaten just to be polite…)
- nearly done in by countless other, unbelievable things
In fact, over the years, so many things, circumstances, and people have failed to kill Gretchen that I’d started to think of her as an immortal among us. Like she was secretly Captain Jack Harkness, or the (finally!) female Doctor Who. Like we were just her Companions. She couldn’t really be my sister, this tall, brown-eyed beauty in a family of blue-eyed children, could she? Genetics said she could, since our mom had brown-hazel eyes, but I’ve always had my suspicions that she was not of this world.
Since timing is everything, or everything is time (or time doesn’t exist, at least not right now), the first thing I saw on TV after Gretchen died — when I could bear to turn it on — was my favorite episode of Doctor Who. It was my favorite for all sorts of reasons, long before I knew that you’d written it.
Though I didn’t know it, it was just what I needed to watch in this space and time.
Neil, you are starting to understand why I’m writing this letter to you. In case anyone else ever reads it, though, I should probably elaborate:
Gretchen, large in life — “and getting larger all the time”, as she would so wryly have put it — was like your version of the TARDIS brought to life: beautiful, mathematically inclined, and much, much bigger on the inside.
Thank you, thank you for that, Neil. I will now always think of Gretchen as a sort of immortal TARDIS, moving through time and space, saving people and taking them where they need to go more often than where they want to go. I will always think of the magically real time I spent with her as “the time that we talked”.
How right you were, Neil. “Alive” is the saddest word “…when it ends.”
I’d buy these, Alianne!
Call it a synopsis, a back copy, a blurb, or Satan’s revenge upon writers, the 200 or less words that describe a book always have the power to reduce a writer to tears. Over ten book into the game, I can honestly say I still hate blurbage with a passion. Why? Because being forced to distill a story down to one one-thousandth or less is cruel!
Ask me about my book, and you’ll probably get one of two types of responses:
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Here’s a basic recipe for baking a book cover from scratch. Please note that this recipe requires previous experience in baking using Gimp, Photoshop, or other kinds of illustration-friendly ovens. Enjoy!
1. Start with a scrumptious, satisfying book. A book you’d happily eat again.*
Dell Zero, a dystopian novel by C. L. Ervin, for example.
2. Study the book’s product description — its blurb.
Is it a great blurb, whetting the appetites of readers? Does it garner the interest this book deserves? If not, nag the author to write a new one. Oh, look, she did!:
Into a sexless, controlled society of drug-induced immortals comes Dell, a rare, untainted human with female characteristics.
I call myself Dell, but my name is unrecorded. I’ve always been hidden, sheltered by my guardians on the outlands of the Chapter. Now my guardians are gone, reassigned. They will not remember me.
I am young. I want to be loved, to be touched. Is there anyone in the Chapter like me?
I have no number. My identity band is false–it hangs loose, unconnected to my veins. It won’t get me into the Chapter. If I do get in, I’ll live forever, but I know what forever is like for my guardians. I will no longer be me.
I am Dell–Dell Zero–untransformed and mortal. I will make my own way.
3. Identify why the book is not just good eating (subjective opinion), but a unique dining experience (objective opinion**).
What’s the most important ingredient in the book? How can it be represented in an illustration?
- Is it the story? It’s a good story, well told — a new variation on a dystopian theme explored by some classic sci-fi authors. But the story itself doesn’t need to feature heavily in the cover, just the genre. A good tagline should be enough to represent the story. (Live Forever… or die Free?) After all, these days a potential reader may take less than a second to click or pass on a cover; how much story can be communicated in a second? A snapshot of a scene could make it look like a graphic novel, anyway. Graphic novels are great! But this isn’t one.
- Is it the writing? C. L. Ervin has unique writing skills; she takes a measured, chillingly literary look at an intriguing subject, and somehow still makes Dell Zero a hard-to-put-down book. But how do you illustrate literary writing? Layers of meaning and symbolism can be literally illustrated… as layers. Will readers understand? Maybe yes, maybe no, so make sure the layers pique a reader’s curiosity.
- Is it the characters? Yes! The main character, Dell Zero, will catch the eye on a cover. She is young and pretty and female, in a world where the meaning of that needs to be explored. Besides, a cover that gets one second of eye-time needs to appeal to the emotions of a potential reader. Faces do that, or so they say…
4. Use your best ingredients (colors, textures, contrast, images, text and symbolism) — ingredients you hope will engage the emotions, curiosity and intellect of the readers most likely to gobble up the cover — in one second or less!
This is an impossible task, so just do your best. Results will vary.
I am still learning to bake, and Dell Zero was a tough cookie.
I did my best… But wait, if I just…
5. Don’t overbeat; don’t overbake. Nothing is ever perfect. Stop when you need to stop or you’ll never publish it, never move on to the next baking project.
Wondering if Dell Zero‘s author likes the new cover? Read all about it over at her website!
*A book you’d give 5 stars to, if Amazon wouldn’t immediately delete your review just because you drew the book cover.
**Is there such a thing as objective opinion? Oh, shut up and eat your book! You know what I meant…