Posts by jameslloyddavis

James Lloyd Davis, a Vietnam veteran and former electrician, shipfitter, pipefitter, boilermaker, ironworker and engineer, currently lives in Ohio. He has returned to writing after a long absence, is working on two novels, and experiments with short fiction in various forms.

The Magic Bullet: a novel by James Lloyd Davis coming in February

The context of your life has an enormous hand in how you live, the decisions you make. Sometimes, even an innocent choice takes you down a path so dark that, at the end thereof, you are stunned by what you’ve done.

Or not.

Even the cold-blooded protagonist of The Magic Bullet, a man who has given some serious thought to the things he’s done and why he did them will admit to a suspicion that he possesses criminal predilections that spring from what he calls “intermittent sociopathy” when pressed to find a name for it. As he says….

“Every time I made a choice to do something most people would never consider because it’s a crime or unusually brutal, even cruel… it made the next such choice all that much easier, if not and inevitably necessary. Sure, I had values, still do, and I have the full array of human emotions at my disposal, emotions such as love and compassion, but… like the man said, shit happens… and the choices you might truly regret are sometimes made for you, such that one willful mistake will inevitably lead to one you might regret, but were forced to make in a spiral downward… or up, depending on your willingness to adapt to your circumstances. You have a choice. You either choose to embrace your conscience or you open up offshore accounts… some in Switzerland for security, some in Germany for stability and investment, and some in the Cayman Islands for the stuff you absolutely need to not be seen. I chose the latter path always. A conscience is bad for your health, but an offshore account is a friend who will not desert you.”

His name is Joe and the book is his confession, both the unburdening of a secret with historic implications and the unburdening of a conscience long restrained. If you were together in a bar and he was not there to kill you, he might explain it like this….

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Say an animal runs across the highway right in front of you.  Split seconds elapse during which brief time you must decide… hit the brakes or kill?  There is that sickening thump, a slight tremor in the car’s suspension and the rear-view mirror is the place where regret begins.  You could say there wasn’t time, but you know that’s a lie.

There’s an old Sinatra song that goes like this… “Regrets… I’ve had a few… but then again, too few to mention…”  It’s called My Way.  A lot of singers tried to take off with it, but Sinatra kills it. Not everybody knows that Paul Anka wrote the song.  When I tell them, people are surprised, because Frank Sinatra owned the song just like I’ve owned the course of my life.  Maybe other people laid things out for me along the way, but whatever I did, I owned it… same way Sinatra owned that song… still owns it.

Unlike Frank, though, and even though I did it all my way, I’m not so sure there’s any regrets involved.  Which is to say, I don’t remember spending too much time thinking about all this and asking myself, “…was it right or wrong?”

Maybe I’m not altogether normal in terms of how I deal with things like guilt, but unlike your average sociopath, I have feelings.  Are they sincere?  Who can tell?  They’re feelings not facts.  Besides, life is really hard and some things play out in ways that are so damn tragic, they could pull tears from a stone.  Given that level of tragedy, how would you recognize sincerity, or even define it?

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The Magic Bullet is about an American epoch written in blood. Centered around one of the most profound events in Twentieth Century American history, it is also a study in the motivations of institutional violence and the hypocrisy that fuels the self-images of men who use the icons of patriotism to camouflage the brutality of their crimes.

Coming in February of 2021.

Watch this space.

Coming soon, a virtual reading by the author… for now? A sample.

Cover for Shrapnel: Short Stories designed by the author

Working on recording a reading of one of the short stories in my anthology, Shrapnel, as a nod to the kind of PR one usually does for a book, travelling here and there, doing readings in book stores and such. Because of he pandemic, that kind of marketing isn’t really viable, so one has to be creative.  I will choose one of several stories in the collection that lends itself to reading aloud and I’ll practice until I can do it properly, record it, and post it here with enough fanfar, I hope, to attract listeners who can listen when they have the time… which is probably a better way than scheduled stops in various bookstores, certainly a greater possible audience.

Today, however, I want to give you a little sample, a scene from one of the stories in the anthology, a story titled The Zen Society of Cleveland.  The premise for the scene? A young Vietnam Veteran living in Cleveland during the mid-1970s has reached a point of desperation. The war, a failed marriage, growing debt and alimony, coupled with a dead-end job represent a string of events that have left him flat broke at the end of every day and hungry. With a few dollars in his pocket, he is looking in the phone book for the number of a pizza parlor and instead stumbles upon a listing there for the Zen Society of Cleveland. He sees it as some kind of sign, a serendipitous possibility in the midst of his despair and wonders whether he should call them and ask them what the hell it’s all about… why is he even here?

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He wrote down the number and slipped it in his wallet. He’d forgotten all about the pizza, made some fried rice instead. He’d been living on that for weeks now. Cheap. Filling. Just rice, salt, some oil, and an egg.
It was never enough to satisfy, but it kept him alive.
Sometimes, he got so hungry, he thought about robbing a bank… or a liquor store. He had all the tools that were needed for the job. A gun, some bullets, and a fast car, the only things of value he’d managed to salvage from the marriage, the only things of value that he’d not yet pawned. The gun was his security blanket, the metaphorical switch behind the glass that reads, “For emergency only.”
In a pinch you could rob a bank, or…
In a pinch you could blow out your brains.
Sometimes at work, he would daydream about walking into a bank and walking out with enough money to live like a human being. And that’s what he thought of in terms of quantity. He wasn’t thinking about making himself suddenly rich. He just wanted… enough. Money enough to fill his belly. Money enough to pay his bills.
He made plans.
He’d get to the part in his mind where he would be forced to demand the money, and he thought, ‘What the hell do you say?’
He considered that he might write a note. He could hand it to the teller, along with a cloth bag he used to carry his laundry down to the basement. With a note, he wouldn’t have to speak and could concentrate on watching all the tellers. He reasoned that there would have to be clear instructions in the note… that he would have to include the order to put the note in the bag along with the money, so it wouldn’t be left behind… no fingerprints or handwriting analysis to use against him. But the more he thought about it, the more complex it became. A solution to a problem led to another problem and the solution to that to more questions. Bottom line? He knew he couldn’t do it.
Armed robbery was desperation and desperation seemed like a trap for even the cleverest of criminals and he was neither criminal nor criminally clever. Nonetheless, he continued to cash his paycheck in a different bank each week, checking out the building, mapping the whole thing out in his head, step by step. The practice was either a distraction or a prelude. He wasn’t sure which.
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Will he call the Zen Society of Cleveland? What will be the end of his desperation? You get the answers to these questions and perhaps greater questions in the conclusion of the short story, The Zen Society of Cleveland.
Shrapnel: Short Stories is available on Kindle and in print through Amazon. Click on the link below to purchase:

Shrapnel: Short Stories from Amazon.com

Designing the Virtual Book Signing…

Book signings are a wonderful way to reach the people for whom the author writes, an excellent promotional tool, but one that is essentially unavailable during a pandemic, so… it’s time to make exception work.  The question is… what is the viable alternative and how do you make it happen?

Improvise, adapt, and overcome…

If it’s good enough for the Marine Corps, how much better for the indie author (slowly getting used to the title, but it still feels strange).  Nobody’s going to do it for us… well, let me take that back.  There are people who can and will do it for you, but they want a piece of the pie…. “In advance, please.” For those of us with limited funds, the job inevitably falls on us, so what’s the answer?

How about a virtual book signing?

“What’s that?”           

And well you may ask, because I don’t know yet, but we’ll figure this out.

It’s the American way, but… while you are here, check this out:

 

Shrapnel: Short Stories goes global

With KDP Amazon, my anthology, Shrapnel: Short Stories, is getting world-wide distribution.  Today, it’s available to English speakers in every nation across the globe where people are able to order books through Amazon’s web site.

I was pleased to see that my first review (five stars) came today from Canada.  Hello, Canada, and thank you.

My book is available everywhere in the Kindle Version and a quality paperback book is also now available for delivery in the USA, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, and of course, in Canada. Amazon usually ships within three days. In the near future, and for those who are unable to order a paperback copy from Amazon in their country, but would prefer a book to the various e-reader devices, I will offer it for sale (autographed, if so desired) right here on my website and for the same price as Amazon, with the addition, of course, of a relevant charge for shipping and handling (cost will vary according to the destination).  Watch this space for announcements.

If you live in the USA, your link to order Shrapnel: Short Stories in Kindle or paperback is here:   Amazon.com

Links to purchase Shrapnel outside of the USA are listed as follows:

United Kingdom:  Amazon.co.uk
Germany:  Amazon.de
France:  Amazon.fr
Spain:  Amazon.es
Italy:  Amazon.it
Netherlands:  Amazon.nl
Japan:  Amazon.co.jp
Brazil:  Amazon.com.br
Canada:  Amazon.ca
Mexico:  Amazon.com.mx
Australia:  Amazon.com.au
India:  Amazon.in

 

If you purchase Shrapnel: Short Stories, I do hope you will take the time to leave a review on Amazon.  This is the first of what I hope will be many books to come in the near future. An honest appraisal of this book and its content will help me to learn what you think about my work and what, if anything, I can do to make it better for you.  There is a novel in the works right now that should be ready for publication before the end of 2020.

Watch this space

For more information about the anthology and what it contains, visit the book’s web page here at: Shrapnel: Short Stories

 

Quo vadis, America? To where are we headed?

Fascism is alive and well and it thrives in the absence of courage. The tactics are as old as recorded history and brutal. The fascist cares nothing for your outrage, even mocks it when it’s launched, as so often it is, from the relative safety of distance. It quietly abides in the presence of the law until the fascists themselves become the law, but by then, it’s too late.
From CSPAN’s transcript of last night’s debate…
CHRIS WALLACE: “Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups…?”
TRUMP: “Sure, I’m willing to do that…Proud Boys, stand back and stand by! But I’ll tell you what… somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left.”
Hitler had his Sturmabteilung (SA).
Trump has his Proud Boys.
Not a lot of difference between the two groups, one way or the other, except that the Proud Boys are much better armed and Trump is already in the primary seat of power at the center of our government.
The media pumps the handle at the well of outrage and everyone acts as though Trump’s actions were self destruction. Democrats are calling for a landslide election and Trump has already told the entire nation that, even if he loses, he’s won.
I don’t know what more I can say about the precarious edge on which we reside. Trump said the words himself last night when he declared, from a position of strength, “This will end badly.”  For once, I quite agree… and that should be the clue as to where this all will lead.
Praemonitus praemunitus.
Forewarned is forearmed.

Creative Commons License Quo vadis, America? To where are we headed? by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

“Please buy my book,” the walrus said, and then he had the nerve to try and sell me a time share on a beachfront home in Arizona.

Considering that the launch came sooner than I thought and on a weekend and quite caught me off guard, it went well enough, I think. I am new to KDP Amazon and to independent publishing, so there is quite a learning curve. I hope that when you order my book, if you experience any issues with shipping or quality of the product, you will let me know and I will do everything I can to resolve the issue,,. but Amazon is very good at permitting a refund.

As soon as I can align the logistics involved and for those who might be interested, I will be selling autographed paperback copies of Shrapnel online right here my website, so watch this space.  Heck, I understand that my autograph and $4.15 will get you a Venti Caffe Latte at any Starbucks in the US.

Who could possibly deny themselves such a profitable investment?

Seriously though, feel free to contact me if you have any issues with either the Kindle or paperback copies of the book. Of course, if you don’t like my writing, that’s quite another story. Taste in literature is diverse and some people may not like what I write, even though others might love it. An eclectic choice of styles and lengths like the short stories which comprise Shrapnel’s collection should offer something to everybody, but if you prefer bodice-ripping romance, dystopian science fiction, westerns, vampires, or shape shifting, shamanistic teenage mutants, or Christian-themed literature with pristine language, I’m probably not going to be your favorite author.

If you do have an issue or if you want to tell me what you think about my book, good or bad, please feel free to email me at:

jameslloyddavisalf@gmail.com

I would love to hear from you. And if you haven’t ordered my book… what in the world are you waiting for? Christ on a cupcake… what ever will you tell your friends when they ask you if you’ve read it?!?!
Here’s the link again for those who missed it:

Shrapnel: Short Stories – an anthology of short fiction by James Lloyd Davis is here…

Shrapnel is available now on Amazon.

I do hope you will check it out and try it on.  Amazon provides a preview. in their online catalog.  Go over and check it out.  Use the link at the bottom of this page.

Stories should always entertain and seduce us, else what’s the point? Whatever genre to which they are assigned, whatever the style in which they are written, a collection of short stories should always and primarily hold our interest. At surface, Shrapnel is an eclectic selection of literary short stories. More to the point, they are fragments of ongoing human narratives, boiled down to their essence…life-altering, snapshot moments in the lives of the people that live within them. Priests and prizefighters, soldiers and poets, con men and killers, wives, husbands, sons and daughters, people we pass on the street every day and never imagine for a moment the tragedy, the sorrow, the conflict, or the pain that lives within them… the drama that awaits them just around the corner… wars, rumors of wars, storms, a car wreck or the chance encounter with a violent crime… any manner of events that can change someone’s life in a sparrow’s heartbeat.

Truth is never elusive
     It sits pretty on the table
Like a hand grenade
     Pull the pin

To order, click on the link below:

Click here to order Shrapnel: Short Stories on Amazon today.

Getting closer to a release date – watch this space

Finished the full review of the proof copy for Shrapnel this evening and made the necessary alterations and corrections to the basic revised file for the printers. I will upload the changes tomorrow and, essentially, the print edition should be ready for release after a couple of days. I still have to make the final review of the file for the Kindle edition, which has a different format and that should be ready to upload sometime on Thursday. Shrapnel: Short Stories is an eclectic collection of my literary short fiction and the release for both print and Kindle versions will be on the same day next week. I’ll announce the firm release date when it’s known. This anthology was my first venture into publishing, but it will not be the last. Frankly? I love it.

This process has been an education and a grand preparation for publishing one of my novels in the near future.
The novel I plan to work on next was completed last year and it will now be reworked, edited, and refined. It’s a thriller with a twist and it represents an opportunity for me to appeal to a much wider audience than that which appreciates a literary anthology, so it will also be a grand experiment in marketing… now that I have learned the basic “mechanical” aspects of the process. With that first novel, I will likely consider expanded distribution and some of the more sophisticated methods for cover design and interior layout. At this point there is absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Watch this space.

More lessons learned on the way to publication…

On the path to publishing my book, I’ve had to stop, step back, and start over more than once, but with increased effort, I still managed to stay fairly close to my original schedule.  Very close now, in fact, to the announcement of a firm release date.

My anthology of short fiction was more or less complete about a month ago, but there is more to publishing a book than most writers generally imagine.  It’s been a series of discoveries for me, not unpleasant, but a lot more work than I imagined when first I thought of taking this route.  There is so much to learn when you are publishing your own work and it is one reason, I suppose, that many writers don’t even try.

There was, in times past, a particular and forbidding stigma attached to “self-publishing” which was generally then referred to as “vanity publishing.” Perhaps that attitude still exists, prevalent, I am sure, among those who are fortunate enough to have successfully bypassed the formidable corps of gatekeepers who surround the modern publishing industry like a moat defending the castle keep, which may sound like hyperbole in metaphor, but not when you’ve tried to approach the industry without a bankable name or a record of previous success.

The decision, finally, to self publish was difficult for me because I am of an age that I felt a strong and personal disinclination to do so, specifically because of that stigma, the belief among writers from my generation that, if a writer was worth reading, he or she could certainly get published… that and the prevailing notion that all self-published books tended to be amateurish and generally bad… that all “vanity publishers” were scammers and thieves.  (Not an unfounded notion back then)

However, many publishers in the industry today drastically limit the number of new writers on whom they are willing to take a chance because of strict business guidelines and the corporate need for consistently high investor return. While I have enjoyed success in publishing shorter fiction in literary journals, the task of getting a book considered by a publisher becomes more difficult every year. The competition is more than fierce… it’s forbidding.  I know from experience how long and hard that process can be…. and it can take a year or more for a completed manuscript to finally get to print.

Even if a new writer manages to find a publisher willing to take a chance on them, they are expected to put in a great deal of effort into the marketing of the book themselves and for less return on the sale of it than they would get if they published the work themselves. If you are going to have to market the book anyway, why bother giving a publisher the lion’s share of the profits.  It’s more work, I would say, than is warranted for the return.

In light of these facts, self-publishing makes more sense than ever before.  Whether the stigma exists today or not, the process of self publishing through an entity like Amazon is relatively easy to learn and many writers already possess the skills necessary to do it.  But make no mistake, there is a lot to learn and it is very hard work if you want to provide the reader with the quality they expect when they purchase a book. It’s not for the hobbyist, but requires a serious commitment.

After catching up with editing and formatting corrections, I am ready to finalize work on the cover design this week and to do some research into the necessary metadata required for marketing the book. Hopefully, I will be able to order and survey a proof copy of the printed book and be ready to set a date for release in September, 2 to 3 weeks from today.  It’s hard to keep from accelerating the process.  The temptation to get ahead of myself is great, but there is something to be said for putting out the very best quality in a book that you can muster.

I’ve already started working on formatting a novel I’d already written and finished last year. I would like very much to have that one ready for release before the holidays.  Taking the experience I’ve gained in publishing Shrapnel will make the process more fluid in future projects.  It will not be less work in the long run, but that work will be more efficient with every book I produce.

There will be many, I can promise you that.

Watch this space.

The Next Big Thing in America needs a Champion

Two things we need in America, three actually.
First on my agenda would be a national compulsory voting law. The second and third would involve compulsory course requirements in K-12 public education, being compulsory and neutral civics lessons beginning around the sixth grade and continuing annually. In grades 8 through 12, I would want to see classes that teach critical thinking. The details are always debatable and mutable according to need and to design, but the essence is there.
Governments that are structured as representative democracies rise and fall according to the quality of their electorate. While democracies may be more inclined to thrive in terms of equality, human rights, and liberty… they are also the most vulnerable… and, as we have seen in recent years, susceptible to a profane level of inequity through corruption and control by an organized oligarchic entity.
This is by no means a quick fix, but is a long term and necessary solution to much of what is wrong about our political structure in America today, something in which we need to invest as soon as practicable.
I don’t hear anyone talking about this in political leadership and the only way they ever will would be if the American people demand it. It would be cynical to suggest that the leadership in both parties would not be willing to champion the idea of this particular threefold approach to reform, but I think there’s an element of truth in that kind of cynicism today.
I’m not an academic, nor am I a political leader by any stretch of the imagination, but if someone with a validating resume were to put this forward, give it a name, and make of it a movement and an issue, they would likely be remembered kindly in the history books henceforth and in a gradually more progressive America.
If you are that person… this is your cause and maybe your destiny. Seize it.