Popshifter » Thomas Dolby, A Map Of The Floating City.

Our long national nightmare is over! Errr, well, maybe it’s just started… well, maybe just for this one dude.

My first non-genre novel, self-published, designed and laid out by yours truly, with an amazing front cover image from artist Ben Bittner, is at last available for sale in a couple of different places.

I like CreateSpace.

Check it out:

Mixtape for the Apocalypse – a novel by Jemiah Jefferson

Mixtape FC

front cover

a short fiction: “Poison”

September 25, 2011

To reward all my patient fans who have been begging for more stories set in the universe where my vampires preen and emo and thrill-kill, I present a story that was written shortly after Voice of the Blood. Comment away!
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“Poison”
After tonight never again… I swear to any god you like that I won’t do this shit any more. Look at this — my hand is shaking like an alcoholic granddad, spilling my hard-fought perfect coffee mixture onto the saucer. Five sugars, three miniature white plastic trash cans of half&half. (So what? I need my cheap energy; it’s served me well in my line of work so far. Ask any cop, G.I., or IRA terrorist.) Good Lord this night is bleak, seen through the shimmery cheap windows of the Carrow’s (like Denny’s only more pathetic with its intimations of quality and family dining atmosphere). Trucks keep on passing by, or worse, stopping here. Other poor degenerate fucks like me.

“What’s brought on this fugue, this funk, my dapper young gentleman?” you may ask. By all appearances all is well — there’s just a tall skinny chap in black jeans and artfully rumpled white shirt, over there alone in that greenish booth, having some coffee and pie. But you see I’ve come to a crisis; you might say a turning point in my career. Not mid-life; the life expectancy of guys in my line of work is about four years younger than I am. I’ve outlasted and outlived most of the excitable, upwardly-moral young turks who think they can do what I’ve done.

I’ve seen legions of them die horrible deaths ripped into pieces like a Tyson chicken, jerking headless upon the ground, or simply bleeding to death from poetic wounds in their tender, porous necks. I was lucky and they weren’t. That part of it makes me sick. It used to motivate me — I’d say, This one’s for Little Lester, this one’s for Jason, Ricky, Alistair. But no matter how much blood I shed, it doesn’t bring back those young faces, those delicate hands too new to be gnarled. It doesn’t make me feel any better.

Before ten o’clock this evening, I killed children of the night. I didn’t even do it for a living, like some action-filled Fox Television horror/drama. I didn’t get paid, except for reclaiming the red-sodden dollars from the pockets of my shrivelling victims. I just did it out of some skewed moral purpose, I think; now I don’t remember. It all seems so abstract. And my concretes are all so hideous like I’ve had toomany bad mushrooms. For example, this is absolutely some of the worst pie I’ve ever encountered in all my travels.

In my thirty years I’ve killed sixty-three vampires. I’ve also killed fourteen human beings, mostly because I couldn’t help it or they were ready to croak anyway. In Minnesota I shot a thirteen-year-old girl through the forehead; she was being held up as a body shield by a particularly wily old bloodsucker from South Africa and I knew from past experience with him that he’d break her neck rather than let me get through. I watched his startled expression as I shot him through the eye and then struck off his head with a single blow of my cleaver. Took three days for me to scrub the blood from under my fingernails — that shit’s like chocolate pudding, it stains.

I would do this to myself while I’m eating. This apple pie redefines “nauseating” especially with the remarkably bad decision to have it a la mode. I don’t find it the least bit fashionable to have excrable vanilla leatherette crawling all over my pie. And I’m not even particularly romantically attached to the pie. Why the hell did I get apple when I really wanted cherry?

After tonight never again.

I don’t know what got to me about tonight particularly. It was an average attack; a suburban duplex, early evening when the vamps are awake but still rather groggy from the day’s heat. Two young women and an older man, sprawled on the coolness of a waterbed. Strangely they weren’t expecting me; many’s the time I show up ready to kick butt to find the butt-kickees gone, leaving me a note saying There’s milk and cookies by the fireplace. Love, Satan. I was alone tonight. The first girl went without a whimper; she didn’t feel a thing as her spinal column split. The second girl fought half-heartedly, broken up over the other; the two looked as alike as sisters, dressed in sleazy baby tees and stained panties.

The guy was the one who got me though. He jumped on my back as I was taking care of the second sister and I felt his claws try to rake through my jacket. It tore, which is why I’m not wearing it now, but didn’t pierce me. I kicked him off me and began double-fisting him — stake, cleaver, stake, cleaver, stake, cleaver. I can’t describe what he looked like when I finally lost my breath and fell backward, hyperventilating; I don’t want to describe it, I don’t want to think about it. It’s a sight nobody sane should ever experience.

And what makes me think I’m sane? I spent twelve years chopping living breathing holy creatures into Alpo. I skewered fair-skinned children with the casual aplomb of a Mussolini hollowing out a cigar with a pencil. I used to tell myself, They had a choice. Nobody forced that sizzling admixture of virus and ectoplasm down their throat and forced them to swallow… But this is all no different from the fact that no one forced me to take up the stake and the butcher-knife and hunt them down. They were seduced by the same romance, the chance to become part of something bigger, something noble, something beautiful. They were going to become angels. I was going to become a crusader, a knight in shining leather bomber jacket. We shared the insatiable desire for blood.

There’s a theory that the illustrious Dr. Van Helsing was actually a vampire.

The waitress refills my squat china cup, going back on her way, fat ass undulating in her brown dress. I watch the ass as it goes upon its way; almost a separate entity from the automaton of a server. When I turn back you are sitting across from me in the booth, hands folded neatly, smiling at me.

You’re a cute little killer, I have to admit; cascades of dark-red curly hair, freckles, poky boobs greeting me from under an innocent white T-shirt. I pretend that nothing’s happened, and begin doctoring my coffee. Three trash cans, five packets of blow. Your eyes examine me while I do this, then glance at me again.

So you’re giving it up, you say.

“I’m tired,” I say out loud. It’s not very loud.

Can I have a bite of your pie?

I slide the plate across the table with my fingertips. You bite and chew the strange substance, the golden goo sticking to your teeth, cinnamon and nutmeg catching between your fangs and your human teeth. By your expression, you regret the pie as much as I.

Should’ve gone for the cherry.

That gets a smile out of me. “So what do you want?” I ask conversationally, watching your lead-colored claws tapping out a purling rhythm on the yellow formica.

I’m glad, you say.

I shake my head. I wish I could say I was glad, but I don’t. I don’t feel anything at all.

I’ve never sat with a vampire like I’m sitting here with you, just talking quietly. Vampires have spoken to me before; they drill their hate directly into my brain, calling me every kind of bastard, every kind of pig-fucking murderer. They hate me because they can talk to me, but they can’t manipulate me into doing anything. Ricky — that South African vampire made Ricky chop off his own hand with the meat cleaver. He tried to do the same to me and I just stared at him.

The vampire had smiled at me.

The waitress brings another cup and asks you if you want coffee. You look up at her and say in the softest, sweetest voice, “No, thanks.” Then you look at me again. “It’s not ‘them’ anymore, Raymond,” you say. “It’s no longer ‘us against them’. The fight’s over.”

“And I lose,” I say.

“No, nobody loses,” you say. “You only lose when you’re fighting.” You touch a small ragged hole in my shirt. “Hm?”

“Acid.”

“That’s mean.”

“It works,” I say. “Can’t come back if you’re reduced to a pile of your constituent elements.”

You quietly laugh.

I feel better somewhere in my soul. Both of us ignore the pie, and you watch me thirstily drinking the coffee mixture, syrupy at the bottom, swirly on top. You smile at me again. Why don’t you come over to my place, you say to me. And I close my eyes and can’t think of anything I want more. I’ve always been with you. You knew it all along; that’s why you laugh, you smile; you knew all along.

We get up out of the booth. I drop four bucks on the table — the waitress doesn’t deserve more, I’m afraid. You loop your arm in mine and we desert the Carrow’s, head off down the road together.

You show me the night-dark city, and all the reasons why.

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regarding Daniel Blum

June 20, 2011

This is the third in my series of blog posts about the characters of the Vampire Quartet novels. Much delayed, I’m afraid, because how do you approach a subject like one of the most popular (in fact, if reader feedback can be believed, THE most popular) characters in the whole series — and such a complex, fascinating fellow as Daniel Blum?

Well, I still don’t know. But (to quote George Harrison) I’ll have a bash.

Daniel Blum first appears in the first novel, Voice of the Blood, in conversation; his legend is built up long before he actually becomes a reality. The way Orfeo Ricari describes him, Daniel is almost like the Boogeyman — supernaturally terrifying, infinitely corrupt, vicious, cruel, nasty. He is a monster that scares other monsters. Of course, this intrigues our narrator, the polymorphously perverse and infinitely curious Ariane, and she has never been one to take someone else’s word for it. When she finally does meet Daniel in the flesh, it becomes clear that everything Ricari told her was true. It’s just not all that’s true.

Daniel’s got a little bit of everything. Absolutely, he’s a menace to society, he breaks hearts for fun, he’s a ruthless killer, he eats kittens (well, not really, but he would if he felt like it); at the same time, he is a hopeless romantic, a sensitive artist, a generous lover, a wellspring of jokes, and a thoughtful and caring father figure to the scores of lost and lonely people drawn to his scintillating façade. Born in 1900, son of a tailor and a schoolteacher, he rejected his stifling bourgeois upbringing, deciding to be a modern artist and provocateur rather than a nice Jewish cobbler. Gifted with extreme intelligence and unshakeable confidence in himself, he never tried to hide his predilections for wearing gorgeous and outlandish clothes, everything from womens’ silk blouses and evening gowns to military jackets and Cossack hats. He draws; he paints; he collages; he sings; he makes sculpture; he plays piano; he takes photographs; he puts on orgies and art happenings. When he discovers a vampire in his midst, he decides he wants to be that, too.

Daniel Blum loves who he wants to, and leaves when he’s ready. He’s far more interested in excitement and fireworks than he is in making the world a better place. He knows only one way to love — through obsession and cruelty, as well as support and tenderness. The 20th Century was his playground, and when that ended . . . well, a light went out of the world, did it not?

Daniel is an essential character in all four books, primarily Voice of the Blood, Fiend, and Wounds, which is his own individual character study; however, his presence colors everything in A Drop of Scarlet, and indeed, his actions make the story of what happens in that novel necessary.

The character was inspired by a variety of sources: the musician Daniel Ash (who seems to have dropped off the face of the earth after the final Bauhaus reunion; where you at, man???), my dear friend Alex (and his alter-ego Minerva Steel), Sally Bowles… many many charismatic, sociopathic bastards I’ve known through the years. All those blokes (and a couple of girls) who thrilled me because they just didn’t give a damn, but for a few brief moments, I could kid myself that they made an exception in my case.

Daniel does make an exception — in the book Wounds — but you have to read it to really understand why. 😉
≠ ≠ ≠ ≠
In other news, I wrote all weekend, and finished a chapter of my first draft of my current novel-in-progress. I also had few drinks with some friends of mine, and watched the movie Black Swan, which I loved. I also made enchiladas and then foolishly ate too much chocolate gelato. I slept a lot and made cold-brew coffee. Petted the cat. Listened to old mix CDs and the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. I did very little else. It was not restful; writing, especially when one has been away from it for a long time (which I have; over a month since I wrote any fiction, and almost six months since I worked on the WIP), is really difficult, complete with physical, mental, and emotional challenges. I fought and won, though. Yay me. Now I have to get used to fighting this fight every day, or as close to it as I can get. Time’s a-wasting.

Portland, Oregon, springtime. When it rains, it frequently hails, and it can get violent. Last year brought a hailstorm so insistent that, by the time it was done, the streets were piled so high with small hailstones that it looked like snow. That was an awesome day; the power went out at work, and we went home early. And then later I went and had coffee with the wonderfulZane Grant .

Today, I’m hard at work a personally-staggering amount of very cool projects. In addition to my editorial duties at Dark Horse, I am:
• working on organizing a loose coalition of friends and minions to help me self-publish a novel (which will be retitled, but the working title is My Little Golden Book of the Apocalypse… yeah, have to change that) that I wrote all the way back in 1998, but still believe in
• still working on finishing the first draft of the novel still known as Plums, as well as thinking over potential angles for using social media marketing and reader interaction
• preparing for the Vampire Quartet re-release, which looks like it’s going to happen in mid-May (a specific date is still unknown at this time)
• being a guest on a KBOO-FM radio show, the Eavesdrop, on Thursday, May 5th, at 7pm. If you’re a Portland local, you can hear KBOO at 90.7 FM. If not, you can listen to a live stream of the broadcast at kboo.fm. It’s during Pledge Drive, so… y’know. 🙂

Springtime brings pollen. It’s been a rough year for the Pacific Northwest – people who are usually free from allergy symptoms are feeling them, and people WITH allergies are in hell. For those happy shiny people like me, with autoimmune disorders, it’s been even rougher. I’m just lucky and grateful that my only problems have been blazed-out eyes and achy legs. Everyone’s cranky because they want summer to get here. I’m fine with a few more weeks of reprieve so that I can acquire some cute summer dresses.

In the meantime, the new season of Doctor Who is almost overwhelmingly good. Expect some gushing about it.

Happy spring, everyone.

Watching The Pied Piper, a fluffy 1973 lark with Donovan acting in it. I don’t have much hope that this movie will actually be much good (It’s a “Goodtimes Enterprises Film” – oy vey) though it does have John Hurt and Donald Pleasance in… wait, that’s no guarantee of anything. Diana Dors as “Frau Poppendick”? Good lord, what have I gotten myself into?

Well, I count Donovan as one of my muses (along with such notables as John Taylor, Peter Murphy, Montgomery Clift, Alex Colby, and that cute little skank Jeremy from high school) and have been inspired by him to write much material. I am now in the process of revising the novel-sized chunk of said material, originally written when I was 19 and a college sophomore and had a single room. I’ve been off the Donovan crack pipe for quite some time now – one bad LSD trip will do that to you – actually, no, it was because Nick Cave took over and blotted out the sun – and I lost all my original Donovan vinyl – but I want to recall that sweet mania that drove me to write that novel in the first place.

To that end I will re-educate myself about the sound of his voice, for that was the conduit that the holy madness was first transmitted to me. I had barely ever seen a photograph of him until years after I had obsessively collected all his records and spent my first summer home from college being soothed by the songs, nostalgic for soft Portland rain and not the violence of Denver sunshine. Donovan is one of those fellows whose voice is substantially more beautiful than his face – though, I could be mistaken. I’ve never seen Donovan in a movie before.

Hell, I watched The Magic Christian just because Ringo Starr was in it, and I don’t even fancy Ringo.

Wish me luck. Frau Poppendick. I swear.

new mind detritus

February 13, 2011

I will blog more often.

Recent distractions/lifesavers:
• Sherlock, and all things Benedict Cumberbatch.
• Small Craft on a Milk Sea, the new Brian Eno release. It’s excellent.
• The second half of the fourth season of Doctor Who.
• Frankenstein, the new production in the West End, directed by Danny Boyle, music by Underworld, and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller as Dr. Frankenstein and the Monster, trading roles every night. They will be broadcasting it to theaters in the US shortly; I will be at the Portland screenings at least twice – more details on this in the near future.
• A weekly cooking experiment. So far I’ve succeeded at coconut dal, coq au vin, and a brined pork loin roast. I’m pretty good at this.

Current projects:
Plums (massive sexy three-way gay male love story) – working towards a complete first draft
The Legend of a Lucy Willow (a tough/tender YA-ish romance set in the world of British pop music in 1967) – reading through the first draft, which was written in 1992
FirstWorld (cyberpunk/cyber-real story, as serialized at Underland Press website) – revised and improved, it’s being looked at by a professional at the moment
• a piece of Sherlock fan fiction, which shall not be named here; when it’s done, I may say so here, but you will have to find it yourself. It’s the kind of thing that could get me in trouble. 😉

Oh yeah, and Dark Horse, where I’ll be tomorrow. I am working on a lot of projects there right now, some of which I’m not allowed to talk about yet. More details to come as things get worked out and I have time.

Coming soon: Emerald City Comic Con.

I have been caffeine-free today. My headache tells me so.

nice weather for books

November 1, 2010

“November has come.” Not just a great Gorillaz song, but today’s reality in spades. It’s turtleneck weather, children, and I couldn’t be happier. Got my snow boots in the mail and now feel prepared for anything. Of course, I’m sure I’ll get some surprises any damn way, life being like that and all.

Interesting day for books. From library, current reading list consists of Teleny (which, in my opinion, is not written by Oscar Wilde at all, though maybe he thought up some of the set pieces), Cities of the Interior by Anais Nin (haven’t started yet), In Search of a Master by John Preston (a semi-legendary dirty book held in high enough esteem that it’s in the library – a position I hope to someday hold), and Collected Plays of Noel Coward, out of which I am reading Design for Living.

Meanwhile, I am in good health and good spirits. I may even write tonight, which would be divine. It’s once again been too long.

I wrote a review of the Prids’ new album.

http://popshifter.com/2010-08-17/the-prids-chronosynclastic/

A fun interview about science…
http://showblogs.syfy.com/eureka/idealab/2010/07/jemiah-jefferson-implants-vampires-and-funk.php