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?

_______________________________________________________________

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

 

“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:

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.

New Anthology of Short Fiction coming soon

Publication for my anthology of short fiction, Shrapnel: Short Stories, may be only 2 – 3 weeks away.

The anthology will feature both new fiction and previously published work, such as the award winning short story, Knitting the Unraveled Sleeves, which appeared previously in the Eric Hoffer Award Anthology, Best New Writing, 2013, where it was featured as one of two short stories to receive the Editor’s Choice Award.  Other stories include those published previously in literary magazines around the world, along with many new and unpublished pieces as well, all selected from a huge body of work that spans nearly fifty years of writing.

Yesterday, a simultaneous edit of both the Kindle and print versions of Shrapnel was completed and the design for the cover will be finalized next week.

We are getting very close to a publication date for Shrapnel.  In the meantime, I’m getting a completed novel ready for publication some time before the holidays. It will be the first of many.  More about that later.

Watch this space !!

New stuff is on the way

Presently working on an anthology of published and unpublished short fiction, a 2guysonballpersonal selection of my best work, going back as far as 1973… including a new short story that has never before seen the light of day.

My wife, MaryAnne Kolton and I have both been widely published in literary magazines, in the USA and abroad.  I know the market, follow the vicissitudes of the industry, so of course I know that short story anthologies these days are just about as hot as a minor iceberg… and as welcome in the slush piles of book publishers as Covid-19.  Agents?  Forget about it.

Accordingly, I’ve done some research on the available alternatives and will likely self-publish one anthology of my work and one of hers as well sometime this year.  KDP Amazon seems, for us anyway, the best venue, since there is no real investment involved, no cost to us other than our time, though a lot of time is required.  I have plenty of that and I want to get a collection out there for the least reason that everyone who knows my work is hounding me to do something.

This seemed like the answer to that small demand… plus, I am fascinated by the possibilities here.  Were I a young man, I would probably start a publishing company:

1:  Because I’m crazy.

2:  Because writing is my passion.

3:  The industry is fundamentally changing, quite ready for a tectonic shift… and now is the time to leap into it, when everybody is moaning about the demise thereof and one can define the way forward, for better or worse.

4:  The available technology is incredible and anyone who possesses the least technical capability can literally launch an empire with little or no capital or resources other than a decent desktop and a willingness to learn new ways of doing things.  Add some creativity and an artistic predilection and you too can be a media magnate.

Or something like that.

New short story from James Lloyd Davis

DSCN1802
My new short story, “Way Cross, Georgia, 1937” is now available in Thrice Fiction Magazine Issue Number 26.
It’s a different kind of story, hard to describe or categorize.  The style? “Faulkner, Ray Bradbury, and Steinbeck walk into this bar… get drunk… write a screenplay.”
Definitely mumblecore.
Two con men come to an unhappy end in Georgia.
Thanks to RW Spryszak and his friends at Thrice Fiction.