A Christmas Break Room Carol
Inside Kafka's department store, on the fifth floor, behind womens lingerie and above electronics, was an employee break room.
This room had no doors or windows, and was designed solely for four workers who did not work for any department in the store. They didn't work for the Athletic store on the first floor either. Or for any of the other chains that occupied the building.
Entrance to the break room would have been forbidden to anyone except the four employees that knew of it's existence, save for the fact that no one even knew it existed. It was a design flaw that had been fully furnished sometime in the early nineteenth century, and promptly sealed shut.
There was electric lighting with bulbs that had not burned out or needed replacing. Not because there was anything magical about them. The bulbs were simply from a time when craftsmanship and dedication to a superior product were what people endeavored for. The bulbs would eventually burn out, and the problem of changing them would be dealt with at that time.
There was also an electric heater, four overstuffed chairs, a small table, a hotplate with kettle, and a French press for coffee. A sink was also provided, to wash the French press, but none of the four employees had ever washed it. Communicable diseases weren't their problem.
An old man in chains was the first to arrive. He seemed to simply step into the room as though he belonged there. He doffed a top hat, shaking some inarticulate particulate off of it and threw it in the corner. He went over to the hotplate and set the kettle on it, then fell into one of the chairs.
The entire time he grumbled happily, as though putting on a great show that he hated what he was doing, when in actuality he enjoyed it. Like the husband forced from his warm bed by his wife, and into the much more comfortable couch in the living room.
After a time the kettle began to sputter instead of whistle and with a sense of great immediacy peppered liberally with urgency, he ignored it.
After a while a young looking being stepped into the room and glared at the old man in chains. It, for it seemed to have no gender "being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom wherein they melted away" grabbed the bubbling pot and dumped the contents into the press and let it sit.
“Honestly, Marley. It's like you want to wake the dead.” Past said. Marley allowed his jaw to slacken and lifted the chains that wrapped him, shaking them with open mockery. “Oooooh! Boooooo! Aaaaaah!” He moaned.
Past stared at Bob Marley with a smirk on its face. It was difficult to stay mad at the old codger. Somehow he had managed to turn purgation into some kind of working vacation. To a workaholic, endless jobs to be done would seem less of a punishment than an actual reward. It appeared that through the centuries of warning people of the dire situation their lack of holiday cheer had brought them, fidelity towards a worthy purpose had become Marleys gold.
“Come, sit by the fire, and know me better man!” Cried a boisterous voice that shook the break room. Past shook her head. She knew what was coming, after all, her memory of the past was historic.
Throughout the years it had become something of a running gag between them all, with ebbs and flows of hilarity. Present was, well, always present, and his signature phrase had become by turns heartwarming, tedious, annoying, downright irritating, until someone would get upset and the whole thing would start over. Right now it was heartwarming again but bordering on irritating.
“Present! We already know you, you bearded old fool.” Marley snapped with a bemused look on his face.
“Don't snap at him, you know he can't help it.” Past reminded him.
“I know he can't help it. He reminds us every hour.” Marley said affectionately. “He won't even remember that I snapped at him, will he?” Marley looked over at Present, a jolly giant with dark brown curls. He wore a fur-lined green robe and on his head a holly wreath set with shining icicles. He was in much better shape than Marley in the clothing department. Marley was still wearing gloves with no fingers and had been since his death. He got up and dragged his chains over to where Present sat, and thumped down beside him. Together they warmed their hands by the electric heater. Present offered Marley a goblet of sweet wine, procured from nowhere, and Marley drank it eagerly knowing that it would be sweet only for a moment before disappearing entirely.
“Past, remind me again what he did to get here?” Marley asked.
“Nothing. This is his first Christmas with us, like every year. You're here because you were a workaholic who didn't care if people were chewed up inside as long as you made a profit.” Past said gently. Past knew Marley was only asking out of habit. He often did, as though hearing it another time would somehow answer a deep question. What he could not seem to understand was that his being a workaholic was never the problem, not entirely. He was now learning that working with a purpose didn't mean you went into work everyday with a smile on your face. He would get it, the idea that he could never work off his cruelty in life. Maybe he would come to understand that this was going to be his job forever, no matter how many people he introduced the spirits to. Just as this would always be Pasts job, and Present would always pass away on this night, and future would always be goading them ever onward.
“What's the point of it all? Huh? If nothing is ever going to change, why keep doing this?” Marley tossed the goblet aside, where it vanished.
“The point is not for everything to always get better, Jacob. The point is to stop things from growing worse.” Past said. Present nodded vigorously. He tended to be very agreeable.
“Yeah, yeah. The Myth of Sisyphus and all that?” Marley picked up his top hat and looked deeply into it. Possibly he was expecting a rabbit.
“Right, it never actually happened. You know, you should try reading a book sometime. In it this guy messes up, and the gods sentence him to push a boulder up a hill, telling him that he'll be free when its at the top. The trick is, as soon as it gets to the top, it just rolls right down. So Sisyphus just keeps rolling the boulder, but the joke is on the gods, because he's laughing the whole time at how absurd it is for him to keep trying, but he does it anyway.”
Past nodded. It understood completely the lesson, but didn't think that Marley fully got it yet. As Marley was relating the story, The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. He laid a spectral and on Marely's shoulder.
“Hey guys! Great news! Old Sam Gregor had a change of heart, so to speak! We all have this Christmas off! How's that sound!” The Ghost of Christmas Future yelled.
“Sit by the fire, and know me better man!” Present called.
“Don't mind if I do!” Future answered, and the two of them sat by the electric heater. Marley just stood there, blinking.
“There's an awful lot out there that's changed. You could go out and see the sights.” Past suggested to Marley.
“What a great idea. Past, would you like to come with me?”
Past agreed. Arm in arm they left the break room and went off to explore how well people were valuing their existence, and if they still carried a jolly tune and that they, too, could achieve a similar salvation in a selfish world that had blunted their generosity and compassion.
Media portrays love as being almost exclusively a sexual idea; in almost every movie the “hero” falls in “love” and we inevitably get a sex scene. (This is also a line of contention with me, since I feel it does nothing for character development or plot. A friend of mine argues that every movie should have a sex scene because it shows real human emotion...)
People even have a difficult time differentiating between love and sex. I recall a girl in high-school who absolutely believed that you couldn't have any kind of love without sex. When I asked her “Do you love your father” she answered “yes”. Then I asked her if she had sex with him. She was shocked, as I hoped she was. Love and sex are very different things, and everyone should know this. If they aren't, then nun's are the vilest of evil creatures, and prostitutes are still wrong for selling something that babies die without.*
There are different forms of love, but most often when we say it (when talking about food or an inanimate object), we misuse it.
Psychology explains love as a form of phenomenon comprised of three different components: intimacy, commitment and passion.
Intimacy in this instance, is when two people share confidences, secrets and personal details about themselves. Usually in an arena of friendship, but also in more amorous or romantic relationships.
Conversely, commitment is the idea that the relationship is permanent. The last and most common interpretation is sexual attraction and passion. (Passionate love is shown in infatuation as well as romantic love).
All forms of love are viewed as having varying degrees of these components. Liking only has intimacy – infatuation only has passion – empty love only contains commitment, etcetera etcetera.
Love for me is twofold. It is not simply a feeling, but also an action.
Psychologist Erich Fromm maintained in his book The Art of Loving that “love is not merely a feeling but is also actions, and that in fact, the "feeling" of love is superficial in comparison to ones commitment to love via a series of loving actions over time”. In this sense, Fromm held that “love is ultimately not a feeling at all, but rather is a commitment to, and adherence to, loving actions towards another, ones self, or many others, over a sustained duration”. Fromm also described Love as a “conscious choice that in its early stages might originate as an involuntary feeling, but which then later no longer depends on those feelings, but rather depends only on conscious commitment.”
These ideas came as I was writing my latest book: I have two characters that are not really affected by the physical world, and I want them to fall in love. How would this love express itself? Would it be like those marriages where one is a paraplegic?
What do you think of romantic love without sex?
THE NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP
Welcome to the NEXT BIG THING Blog Hop.
What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way for readers to discover authors new to them. I hope you'll find new-to-you authors whose works you enjoy. On this stop on the blog hop, you'll find a bit of information on me and one of my books and links to five other authors you can explore!
My gratitude to fellow author, C.V. Madison, for inviting me to participate in this event. You can click the following links to learn more about C.V. and her books.
In this blog hop, my fellow authors and I, in our respective blogs, have answered ten questions about our current book or work-in-progress (giving you a sneak peek). We've also included some behind-the-scenes information about how and why we write what we write--the characters, inspirations, plotting and other choices we make. I hope you enjoy it!
Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions. Here is my Next Big Thing!
1: What is the working title of your book?
I titled it Sin Umbre, a play on Spanish, religion, and identity. “Sin nombre” is Spanish for nameless, as the protagonist of the book has lost their identity. Umbre is the grey area in a halo of light, something we have all seen in flashlights. At the edge of the beam there is always that soft dim area that separates the light and the darkness. That's where some of the characters fall into, which plays into the idea of sin. The setting is a Catholic Orphanage in 1970's New Mexico. So you can see the title is very loaded, as was my previous work “True Monsters” original title “The Shepherds Wolf”.
2: Where did the idea come from for the book?
When I was young I remember watching Desperado with Antonio Banderas. There is a scene where a small boy exchanges his guitar every day. It is explained that this boy is a type of drug mule. Being a teenager, rebellious, full of moral outrage I started reading up about it. There wasn't much information at the time. Then about a year or so ago I caught the movie on t.v. and it reminded me about that outrage. The idea of a sleazy sheriff trying to steal orphans to turn into drug mules to pay off his cartel debts just popped into place.
3: What genre does your book come under?
I would have to say that it falls into magical realism and historical fiction, in a similar way that Professor Matthew Strecher defines magic realism as "what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe." I also tried working in the idea of García Márquez, that is, by suggesting the magical in our own world.
4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I am not always a fan of book-to-movie comparisons. I like to think that the book I read and the film I am watching take place in parallel universes. That way I can read my X-men comic and not laugh at Wolverines yellow spandex costume, and then watch the movie and not get angry at changes. Film and literature are different monsters with their own needs and teeth. But, with arm fully twisted, I would say that Joseph Julian Soria (Hamlet 2) could play the sheriff character. He is a very talented actor and I think he should have more work than he gets. And this one would be hard for some to swallow as they don't view her as much of an actress, but after seeing Jennifer's Body (better than I thought) and seeing Megan Fox play terrified and scared with as much emotion as she did made me rethink the flack even I have given her. She is more than a pretty face and I think she could play Sister Isabel.
5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
In a small New Mexico town a demon has come to lay claim to his own; Can evil be forgiven if it fights its own nature?
6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
It is self published. For years I buckled under rejection after rejection, knowing that my cover letter hadn't even been read, or an agent telling me they weren't looking for a new client (what?). I almost gave up writing. After reading about how major publishing companies require their authors to do most of their own publicity and marketing now, and to create a public image, then give the author 30% of their own work, I chose Indie routes. This way I know that my effort directly affects my results.
7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first draft took me six months. Then I took Christmas off and started reading it not as an author but as a potential customer, making notes about what I liked, or didn't like. In the next few weeks I will be Beta testing first on my original Beta, and then my “Cogs” and then publishing it or retooling it as necessary.
8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Every author wants to think that there is nothing like their book out there. I am the same. I would say my book shares science fiction elements of Dean Koontz's Watchers, moral absolutism elements of Salman Rushdies The Satanic Verses, with a touch of The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike. I like to use very strong female characters, questions of morality and moral choices juxtaposed against secular and religious beliefs, and contrasting now-verses-then concepts of how we view the world.
9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Many things contributed to this book: First and foremost my wife, Kay, who kept me from going off on bizarre tangents and is my first Beta, my own feelings about how wonderful this world can be even in the face of evil, and the new album by Muse. It seems that I write best after I find the right album. For True Monsters it was AWOLNation. Who knows what the next one will be.
10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I try to stretch myself in different ways every time I write a new novel. Whereas True Monsters is a gritty police procedural, The Judas Bastard is a dark vampire novel, and the forthcoming Stain Glass Memory is a surrealist look at what makes us a person, Sin Umbre has more of a sensual/emotional side and has (a first for me) a passionate sex scene. I discuss my feelings about sex and violence as it pertains to good story telling on my website.
Below you will find authors who will be joining me virtually, via blog, next Wednesday. Please be sure to bookmark their sites, and add them to your calendars for updates on their upcoming books! Happy Writing and Reading!
Chris Turner http://www.innersky.ca
Jeff Whelan http://jeffwhelan.wordpress.com/
Knesia Anske http://www.kseniaanske.com
D.H. Nevins http://www.dhnevins.com
A.D. Bloom amazon.com/A.D.-Bloom/e/B0054RE7TE
Although I have found social media sites somewhat gratifying, it's difficult to say if they are beneficial or not.
I can promote my book to a hundred other people promoting their own book, check my weebly site (it at least tells me how many people looked at this post), and wonder how my book sales will look at the end of the month.
That last one bothers me. Amazon updates sales at the end of the month. So I have no idea if all my marketing is falling flat. I could literally be wasting my time and not know for thirty days before I should try something new.
I contacted Amazon to ask them if there was a feature that at least told me how many people at least browsed my book. I thought it would be a great idea, that way I could market my book more effectively, come up with a strategy of why people were window shopping and not buying, make money which would ultimately make Amazon money.
Their response was:
"For account security reasons, we're unable to share specific information about our customers and their browsing history. Thank you for your understanding of this policy.
Thanks for using Amazon KDP."
I don't care if Janey Smith browsed for porn before and after she looked at my book, I don't even have to know her name. I just want to know if anyone looked.
Amazon can do this. They have programming designed especially for it, similar to Google's "What's trending now" feature, or their adsense.
I understand this is a great marketing tool. It's not like poker. By holding their cards close to their chest, they are taking away an effective money making tool from their submitters.
Well, that's my mini rant. Hopefully I made a million dollars on my book and can use that money to create a Nerf army to take over the wonderful Amazon and liberate the stats.
So I publish, try to market (including a radio ad), and find out that my book has the same title as some ex-American's 30 page ebook porno.
Yeah. That's cool.
She won't change it, and I need to make sales, so I have a new title and an old cover, lol.
True Monsters (the Shepherds Wolf) is on sale now!
Why "Failed Daily"?
Because I fail to update daily.