Tag: summer reading

Life After World War III

Tristan rolled his eyes. “Hey, dummy, guess what? We didn’t finish that quiz earlier.”

Tristan often used the word “dummy” when talking to Jake. Long ago, when Jake was only five, he and Tristan had sat in the living room floor in front of the mega screen one morning, watching an old cartoon. One of the characters had mumbled the word “dummy,” and Jake had gone into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Puzzled, Tristan stared at Jake for a few minutes as he rolled around on the carpet. Since then, whenever Tristan wanted to lighten the mood, he dropped the word “dummy” into the conversation.

“Okay,” said Jake. “What’s the next question?”

“Who’s the current president of Phoenix?”

“Um, I don’t remember,” Jake yawned. “I think his first name is Tiberius.”

“I’ll give you partial credit for that one. His name is Tiberius Vaughn. You see him on The Official Information Channel all the time when you’re walking around in the corridors. He’s the skinny guy with black hair and blue eyes.”

“Oh yeah!” Jake blurted, raising his eyebrows. “That spooky guy who never smiles.”

“That’s the one. You know why he never smiles? Because he doesn’t have a soul!”

Suddenly, Jake leaned toward him. “Really?”

Tristan waved his paws around. “No, I was being sarcastic.”

Jake smiled, slumping against the tree trunk. “Oh, I didn’t know. A lot of times, I don’t know when you’re joking. Sorry.”

“Um, it’s okay,” Tristan said.

“What’s the next question?”

“This is the last one,” said Tristan. “Where did the name ‘Phoenix’ come from?”

“Uh, they call it that because it sounds cool?”

“No, dummy. The phoenix was a mythical bird that burned to death and then came back to life again. It rose up from its own ashes. That was the idea they had in mind when they were building this city. If the whole world was wiped out, they wanted America to rise again.”

Jake nodded slowly as he reflected on this. “So what’s the next question?”

Tristan waved a paw in the air. “That was the end of the quiz, Jacob. We’re all done now.”

Jake yawned again and closed his eyes. As the muscles in his neck began to soften, his head dropped.

“Don’t ever tell anybody I said this,” Tristan added, lowering his voice to a whisper. “But President Vaughn doesn’t have any real power at all. He’s just a distraction. He’s just a bunch of noise. Phoenix is actually controlled by a group of people you hardly ever hear about.”

Jake mumbled something Tristan didn’t understand.

“Sometimes, you see these people on The Official Information Channel, having their little meetings,” Tristan continued. “And sometimes, if you stay up late enough, you see them on another channel too. That’s when they talk about the juicy stuff. But they like to turn off the camera when things get really interesting. Oh, that makes me so mad.”

Tristan was mainly talking to himself now, just venting, but he was surprised when Jake didn’t respond. Then he looked up and realized his friend had gone to sleep.

Tristan lay back in the grass and relaxed under the electric sun. Through the tree branches, he saw holographic clouds scrolling by. For a moment, he imagined what it would be like to live on the surface and see real clouds. He wondered if clouds even existed anymore. There was no telling what the atmosphere was like these days.

Under the Electric Sun is a young adult novel that takes place in a luxurious underground city beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. Jake is a dimwitted young man with a kind heart. Tristan is his electronic tutor designed to look like a raccoon, complete with synthetic fur and rubber paws. Under the Electric Sun is available on Amazon. The paperback version is $6 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $2.99. You can click here to order.

Copyright 2013, 2015, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Drake Novak

An excerpt from Finding Drake Novak

Drake didn’t know where his clan had originally come from. None of them had ever mentioned a home planet. They had always rambled through the galaxy in stolen ships, landing on remote planets, inflicting pain on the natives, feeding until those people were dead, and then searching for another planet. They crushed souls to stay alive the same way vehicles burned fuel in order to move.

One day, his clan settled on a jungle planet where all the people lived in grass huts. Right away, Drake’s family burned down all the huts and enslaved the locals, forcing them to build castles. Drake and his people lived in the castles, of course, while the natives suffered and shivered outside in the rain. Their sadness and anger provided nourishment for the entire clan.

Then the Galactic Police arrived in their white, round spaceships and shot Drake’s parents and siblings with shrink rays. The police snatched them up with tweezers and dropped them into glass tubes. Drake was the only one who dodged the shrink rays and escaped. He jumped into his father’s star cruiser and fled into the sky, scrambling as fast as the engines would carry him. He grieved for his lost family, but he kept on moving.

Eventually, he stumbled across Earth. The planet was a wonderful food source, oozing with despair and misery. Drake glided over North America and landed in the state of Georgia. He found a plastic factory he liked. He sucked the life out of all the bosses and took control of the company. Once Drake was comfortable and happy, he dismantled the star cruiser and sold the pieces for scrap metal. If he had left the ship intact, the Galactic Police could have easily traced it and found him. Drake didn’t mind tearing the ship apart. He had no intention of ever leaving Earth. It was a smorgasbord of sorrows. He planned to drink the sadness of humanity forever.

Drake’s office had two windows in it, one on each side of the room. The left window gave him a view of the parking lot, the street, and the vacant lot nearby. The right window was his observation window, allowing him to look down at the workers and watch them struggle.

Today, Drake stood at the observation window with his hands tucked behind his back and his head tilted to one side. Down below, an elderly woman crouched next to her machine, sobbing and eating nerve pills.

“Look at all those people down there,” Drake said to Mr. Neighbors. “Look at all that delicious pain. Do you know who my favorite employee is? Do you know which one I enjoy the most?”

“No,” Mr. Neighbors said. “Which one?”

“That one,” Drake said, pointing a long white finger. “Brenda May. The little old woman who limps all the time. I love the elderly. They have so many aches and pains. Brenda May can barely walk, but she has to support two young grandchildren. She hates every minute of her life. Her agony tastes so sweet.”

Finding Drake Novak is a dark comedy about an alien who draws his nourishment from negative energy. Malpheus Mallock, a rookie officer from the Galactic Precinct, travels to Earth to arrest Novak. But Malpheus has a problem. His tracking device doesn’t work correctly. Malpheus lands in the front yard of an elderly couple named Carl and Christine. They introduce Malpheus to fried chicken, sweet tea, and Atlanta Braves baseball. The whole time, Malpheus desperately tries to fix his tracking device so he can capture Drake Novak.

Finding Drake Novak is available on Amazon. The paperback is $6 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $2.99. You can click on this text to order a copy.

Copyright 2016, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Lost

Munich, 1998

We found an auditorium where a heavy metal band was playing. Thick smoke floated above our heads. Red laser beams flashed in the air. People danced with their eyes closed, waving their arms in slow motion, grasping at imaginary objects with their fingers. I watched them with nervous curiosity.

After the show was over, I stumbled into the street with Greg and Jesse. It was time to return to the youth hostel. We walked down a staircase in the sidewalk, into the concrete labyrinth where the subway trains lived. We boarded a train and rode through the tunnel a few minutes. Then we stepped off and climbed another set of stairs.

When we reached the top of the stairs and looked around, we didn’t recognize the signs and buildings around us. We had gotten off at the wrong stop. We didn’t know where we were. It was almost eleven o’clock. And we couldn’t call our teacher on our cell phones because we didn’t have cell phones. It was 1998.

So we rambled through the streets, asking strangers for directions to the youth hostel where we were staying. Most of them were friendly and polite, but they had never heard of the Jump In Youth Hostel. We even found a black taxi cab parked indiscreetly on the sidewalk, a common practice in Germany. The driver sat behind the wheel, sipping coffee and listening to the radio. We eagerly asked him to take us to the Jump In Youth Hostel, but he shook his head and started pointing, giving us directions in German. None of us understood German well enough to know what he was saying. We mumbled “danke” and walked away, disappointed and discouraged.

We walked through the subway and found a group of policemen playing cards in a small, dirty room with pictures of naked women plastered on the walls. We explained our predicament to them.

They also gave us helpful directions. In German.

You’ve been reading an excerpt from How to Make an Artist Miserable, available on Amazon. It’s a book about my journey as an artist and the ways I’ve learned to deal with my frustrations. I share a lot of personal stories in it. The paperback is $5 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $2.99.

You can click here to order a copy.

Copyright 2015, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Books

I started writing when I was twelve and never stopped. Now I work in a factory, driving a rickety old forklift, but I still write books in my free time. Writing is more than a hobby for me. It’s a basic need like food and water. I mostly write science fiction stories filled with dark, twisted humor. Sometimes I write madcap comedies set in the South. I also write a little bit of nonfiction.

Finding Drake Novak combines science fiction and Southern Gothic. Drake Novak is a malevolent alien with bloodshot eyes and a black business suit. He draws his nourishment from the pain and sadness of other living things. He takes over a factory in rural Georgia and keeps all the workers as miserable as possible. He absorbs their frustration and despair the way a plant absorbs sunlight. Then a young policeman from the Galactic Precinct comes to Earth to arrest him.

Under the Electric Sun is a book about a robotic raccoon and a boy named Jake. They live in a luxurious underground city beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. One afternoon, as they relax in a room full of plastic trees, a giant praying mantis arrives and tells them it’s safe to live on the surface again. Their lives change forever.

I also love to draw. Sometimes, when people find out I’m an artist, they hound me to draw portraits of their kids. Or they describe tattoo ideas to me, asking me to draw all kinds of ridiculous, complicated things. Some people are downright rude and pushy about it. How to Make an Artist Miserable is a book about these annoying people and the ways I’ve learned to deal with them.

All my books are available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format.

You can click here to order.

Overthinking

I possess an uncanny ability to take simple, easy situations and make them much harder than they should be. I do a lot of my work in colored pencil, a tedious process that gobbles up hours and hours of my life, especially when I’m filling in a large background. I can easily spend a whole week coloring a blue sky or a brown desert landscape. Because colored pencil drawings demand so much time, I don’t want to get halfway into a picture, make a mistake, and ruin the whole thing. So I like to draw countless sketches and write notes to myself before I begin the final product. Sometimes, I spend a whole month working on one colored pencil drawing.

Many times, when I’m finished, people glance at those colored pencil drawings and show no interest whatsoever.

But if I sit down with a graphite pencil and knock out a little doodle in five minutes, people go bananas over it.

The less effort I put into a project, the better it seems to be.

Since I was a teenager, art teachers and other artists have told me I need to “loosen up” and stop drawing in such a “tight” style. They insist that my manner is too rigid, too forced. And they’re right. I know my work looks better when I relax and stop trying so hard, when I enjoy what I’m doing and have fun with it. I drew the Jack White picture in less than a week, much faster than my usual colored pencil drawings. And people seemed to like it more than the others.

You have to listen to your brain and your heart. If you never think ahead, your life will be brutally short. You will be struck and killed by a bus while you’re walking across the street. But if you think too much, you’ll never cross the street at all. You’ll spend your entire life standing on the sidewalk, biting your fingernails.

For years, I’ve wondered why I make my life so complicated. It’s still a mystery to me, but I’ve discovered two possible reasons.

First, I like to feel like I’ve accomplished something. In the same way an Olympic athlete trains vigorously for years and years in the gym, working tirelessly to claim a gold medal in a particular sport, I like to work vigorously to finish a piece of art. Sometimes, when my priorities get muddled and my common sense slips away, I become more focused on the sense of accomplishment rather than the piece of art itself. In the back of my mind, I want it to be hard. I want it to be challenging. This way, I can revel in the feelings of victory and accomplishment when a project is finally complete.

Secondly, a work of art is a living organism. It grows and develops on its own, often in ways I don’t expect. I tend to plan out every detail in advance to give myself the comforting illusion of control. I use the word “illusion” because I’m not really in control at all. The harder I pull on the reins, the more I strangle it to death.

You’ve been reading an excerpt from How to Make an Artist Miserable, available on Amazon. The paperback is $5 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $2.99. You can click here to order.

Copyright 2015, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Summer Reading

Gary is an eagle with a human head. He lives down in the bottom of a giant spaceship and watches old soap operas. One morning, his octopus friend looks out the window and sees an asteroid coming. He urges Gary to fly to the top floor and warn the people in charge. Gary has never left the basement in his life, but he reluctantly flies upstairs on a mission to save the ship.

During his journey to the top floor, Gary learns that the ship left Earth a long time ago because war and pollution had ruined the planet. The original crew flew into space searching for a new world. But a hooded figure known as the Law Master (who talks to his dead mother’s head) overthrew the captain and took over the ship. Since the Law Master doesn’t actually know how to fly the ship, he keeps everyone divided into two groups and encourages them to argue all the time. No one realizes the ship has flown in circles for many, many years. They’re too busy yelling and screaming at each other.

Gary struggles to reason with the yellow team and the orange team before they all die. The Quality of Life in Outer Space is a good book for kids to read in the car during a summer road trip.

I wrote the book in early 2016 when business was slow at the company where I work. I was laid off for a few weeks, so I sat at home and wrote this demented little book while eating Little Caesar’s pizza and drinking hot chocolate. The main character is loosely based on a collage I made when I was ten years old. I cut out a picture of Jim Morrison’s head and glued it to a picture of an eagle. My friends and I giggled about it for a long time. I’ve never forgotten that.

The Quality of Life in Outer Space is aimed at younger readers, but adults would get a laugh out of it too. It’s available on Amazon. The paperback is $5 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $1.99. You can click on this text to order.

Copyright 2016, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

The Space Cop

Carl and Christine watched an Atlanta Braves baseball game on their old TV. They were both in their eighties. They both wore thick glasses and hearing aids. Carl sat cross-legged in his armchair, staring at the TV with droopy eyes and a lopsided grin. He wore a button-down shirt, slacks, and brown suspenders. Christine sat on the couch not too far from him. She had a pen in her hand and a folded newspaper on her lap. She was more interested in the crossword puzzle than the baseball game. She wore a pink house dress and black tennis shoes.

Carl and Christine lived in a brick house in the country near the outskirts of Malmut. Their front porch overlooked a small lake. In the back yard, there was a garden, a few peach trees, a rusty tractor, a storage building, and a Chevrolet pickup truck.

As they watched the game, a big white ball came down from the afternoon sky and landed in their front yard beside an oak tree. The ship looked like a golf ball big enough for a man to stand in. Carl and Christine sat straight up, straining to see out the front window, staring at the big ball. They looked at each other, confused.

“Is it some kind of egg?” Christine asked.

“I don’t know,” Carl said in a deep, rumbling voice. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. But I don’t think it’s an egg. I can see a window on the side of it.”

A door opened on the side of the white ball. A young, tall, lanky man stepped out and looked around. He stared at the lake, the sun, the hills, and the house. He wore a shiny red helmet, yellow tights, and white boots. He held a device in his hand that looked like a TV remote control. He slapped the device a few times, shaking his head.

Carl and Christine sat frozen in their seats, staring out the window. As they watched, the stranger in the yellow tights walked through the yard and climbed the brick steps leading up to the porch. A minute later, he tapped on the front door.

Carl stood up and walked across the hardwood floor, frowning and tugging on his brown suspenders. Carl was a tall man with long arms and long legs. He pulled the door open but not all the way. He looked into the stranger’s eyes.

“Can I help you?” Carl asked, still not opening the door all the way. Christine stood beside him, leaning back and forth, trying to get a good look at the visitor.

“Yes, I’m sorry to bother you,” the young man said, taking off his helmet and tucking it under his arm. “My name is Malpheus Mallock. I work for the Galactic Precinct.”

Malpheus looked like any ordinary human being from Earth. He had a mop of wavy brown hair. His neck was long. His Adam’s apple bulged.

“I’ve come to Earth to arrest somebody,” Malpheus explained, brushing the hair out of his eyes. “I know he’s in the local area, but my tracking device has stopped working. The man I’m looking for is an energy parasite who likes to enslave people and feed on their pain. He’s a member of an ancient, evil race. Thankfully, most of them have died out.”

***

You’ve been reading an excerpt from Finding Drake Novak, a science fiction comedy about a malevolent alien who runs a factory in a small town and feeds on the misery of his employees. Finding Drake Novak is available on Amazon. The paperback version is $6 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $2.99. You can click here to order.

Copyright 2016, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.