THE MIND-POWER AVENGER: First Three Chapters

THE MIND-POWER AVENGER cover

Chapter 1
On the Run

Early Saturday morning
Sometime between bedtime and dawn
A house in suburban West Burlington, Iowa

My shoulder was being shaken. “John, wake up,” Dad said.

It was an ordinary night, leading into an ordinary day. In my dark bedroom, the clock said the time was—

“Lemme sleep,” I mumbled, as I tried to turn over.

Dad slipped into his “controlled” voice—

“John. You’re eighteen. I need you to act eighteen. I need you awake and helping us.”

By us, Dad meant Mom and me. I was the only child of Josh and Jen Bradford.

Usually Dad slipped into his “controlled” voice when he was angry but would not let himself show it—when he was talking to a difficult customer at Bradford’s Furniture Paradise. But Dad had also spoken in “controlled voice” whenever weather in Iowa had acted especially crazy.

Dad is scared of something, I thought. I completely woke up in an instant.

Seconds later, I was on my feet and pulling on my clothes. Dad said, “As soon as you can, back your car up to the garage and pop the trunk.” Dad rushed from the room.

****

Minutes later

I walked down to the dark curb and started my car. Motion caught my eye: Two dark shapes moved across my rear-view mirror.

The garage door was open, and all the lights were on. Mom’s and Dad’s Ford Expedition SUV was turned around, facing the street, and was parked on the driveway almost to the grass. The back of the SUV was open, granting access from the garage.

I backed up my old Impala next to the SUV and popped the Impala’s trunk. Dad immediately yanked the trunk-lid as high as it would go.

Meanwhile, I had set my car’s parking brake. I was just about to turn off my headlights and shut off my engine, when I saw—

Mom standing on the front porch of the Olsens’ house, with Fatso on a leash.

(Fatso was our Greyhound dog. The name was Dad’s idea of a joke—no matter how much dog food any greyhound eats, the dog always looks like a starveling.)

I saw old Mr. Olsen take Fatso’s leash. He and Mom said a few more words, then Mom hurried off the Olsens’ porch, straight for our house.

As soon as I killed the Impala’s engine and climbed out of my car, Dad said, “John, there’s a bag of dog food in the laundry room, and another bag here in the garage.—”

WHUMP. What made that noise?

“—Carry both bags of dog food over to the Olsens’ porch.”

My brain was still trying to figure out the WHUMP. I looked in my trunk—now there was a big olive-drab canvas duffel bag in there. “Dad, what is that?”

Dad answered in “controlled voice”: “Something that never leaves your trunk, till I say it’s safe. Got me?

“Um, sure, Dad.”

He nodded. “I need you to haul dog food over to the Olsens’ now. Go.”

As I was carrying two big bags of dog food across the street, I thought, Now we won’t be unique anymore. Nobody else I knew—none of my relatives, none of my friends, none of my neighbors, none of my former classmates at West Burlington High School—owned a greyhound dog.

It was only later, as I was carrying armfuls of clothes and throwing the clothes onto the back seat of the Impala, that I realized, Not having a greyhound with us makes it harder for someone to trace us.

****

A half-hour later
In the garage

The SUV and my Impala were all loaded up, mostly with ugly piles of clothes. We had chosen speed of loading over grace—if we had not had a cardboard box in the house to put things inside of, we had not bothered with driving to an all-night Wal-Mart to beg boxes.

I did not ask Dad why we did not drive over to Bradford’s Furniture Paradise and pull cardboard boxes out of the Dumpster. I already knew that the cardboard boxes that came to the Receiving dock of a furniture store were usually way too big to fit in an SUV, much less my car.

Anyway, now we were ready to leave—for where, I still had no idea—when Dad held out a hand to me and a hand to Mom. “Give me your phones.”

Mom and Dad exchanged looks, then Mom opened her purse. But I hesitated. “What do you need my phone for? I have pictures on it. And apps.”

“John, I don’t have time to explain.”

Please, John,” Mom said, “give your father your phone.”

It was obvious: Mom was scared of whatever Dad was scared of. So I handed over my smartphone. Dad disappeared into the house. When he returned to the garage, his hands were empty.

I thought, If we used our phones, we’d be easy to track. Without our phones, we can be tracked only by credit cards.

Dad said to me, “Stay behind us on the road, but close enough that you can see what we’re doing. If we get separated, we’ll pull onto the shoulder so that you can catch up to us. If you need to talk to us, honk your horn three times and I’ll pull onto the shoulder. You got all that?”

I nodded.

“One other thing: Don’t speed, don’t run any lights. Do nothing so any cop notices you.”

Again I nodded.

“Great. Let’s go.”

Mom and Dad got into the SUV, I got into the Impala, then I followed the SUV down the driveway.

Under a black, nighttime sky.

Thus I left the house where I had lived since I had been three years old.

I was sure I would never see that house again.

****

Map of IA, NE, and SD

A little after nine that morning

In Fort Dodge, Iowa, my parents’ SUV and my Impala were parked at the edge of a grocery-store parking lot. Dad told me to pop the Impala’s trunk. Dad was holding packing tape in his hand; Mom was holding an empty cardboard box and a paper grocery sack.

Once the Impala’s trunk lid was up, Dad told Mom and me to stand close to the trunk, “so other people can’t see what I’m up to.”

I asked, “What are you up to?”

Dad did not answer with words. He unlocked the padlock on the olive-green duffel bag—which now I noticed, had his name and initials and his Social Security number stenciled on it. Dad reached into the bag and pulled out light-blue shirts with Bradford stenciled on the shirts, bell-bottom blue jeans, and a weirdly shaped brimless white cap—

Then Dad pulled out cash. Lots of cash. Handful after handful of cash.

I choked. “Dad, where did you get all this?”

It was Mom who answered: “John, it’s best you not know.”

It took forty-five minutes, but Dad pulled out at least 106 thousand dollars in bills; I know the amount because Mom and Dad counted it. Dad put $106,483 in the paper grocery sack, and taped the sack shut. Mom wrote on one side of the sack, “To pay off Bradford’s Furniture Paradise loan.”

After that, things were almost normal. The paper sack full of cash was placed in the cardboard box (message-side up), the box was taped shut, and the box was addressed to the loan officer at the Community Bank back home. Then we drove around till we found a post office, and Dad mailed the box.

In the parking lot of a post office in Fort Dodge, Iowa, Dad explained, “The West Burlington Community Bank loaned me money for the furniture store. I had to default. This has always bothered me, but now we’re square.”

Naturally, I had questions then. Neither Mom nor Dad answered my questions.

Before we parted to get back into our respective cars, Dad looked at me and repeated, “My seabag never leaves your trunk. And you don’t open your trunk for anybody but your mother or me. You understand?”

****

The next day, we arrived in Crawford, Nebraska. Crawford was where my cousin Danny owned a junkyard. Dad and I swapped out our Iowa license plates for Nebraska license plates (of which Cousin Danny had plenty).

By then, I did not feel an urge to comment on the swapping-out of license plates. I had figured out that we were fleeing from someone. The police? The FBI? Interpol? John Gotti? The Russian Mafia? It would have been nice to know what resources our mysterious opponent commanded, but Dad and Mom still were being closed-mouthed.

After we swapped out the license plates, I asked Mom and Dad, “Now where to?”

Mom said, “South Dakota.”

I asked, “What’s in South Dakota?”

“Good question,” Dad said. Mom and Dad had another looks-conversation, then Dad opened the SUV’s door and pulled out the road atlas.

Dad opened the road atlas to the page that showed South Dakota. “What’s in South Dakota?” he repeated.

Dad looked up at the sky, as his finger stabbed down. Then Dad looked down and lifted his finger. He announced, “The town of Fishy Lake is where we’re going.”

On the South Dakota map, Fishy Lake was a dot a little west of Sioux Falls.

We arrived at the real Fishy Lake, the town, the next day in late afternoon.

Chapter 2
Normal Life—for a Few Days

We arrived in Fishy Lake, South Dakota, 2-1/2 days after we fled West Burlington, Iowa. The first thing we did in Fishy Lake was to stop at Martin’s Family Restaurant.

Once we had been seated at a booth, Mom said, “I need to call Joan Olsen. About Fatso.”

Dad said, “No, Jen, you don’t. Otherwise we might as well buy an ad in the New York Times: ‘We’re in Fishy Lake.’ ”

I asked, “Why do you need to call Mrs. Olsen about Fatso?”

Mom said, “Because I didn’t tell Harold that Fatso is allergic to shellfish, so read the ingredients before you buy dog food. Fatso almost died when he was a puppy, and I don’t want his death on my conscience.”

Dad said, “If it keeps my family safe, I can let all sorts of things bother my conscience.” Dad shot Mom a look.

By now, Mom had pulled a five-dollar bill from her purse. As she stood up, she said, “It will be one phone call, Josh, and it won’t even be my phone.”

Mom walked away, asking other customers whether she could “rent” somebody’s phone. Meanwhile, Dad was muttering, “Jen, I left your phone on the kitchen counter just so I wouldn’t have to worry about this exact shit.” Dad huffed in annoyance.

When Mom returned to our booth, she was biting her lip. After she sat down, she leaned forward and said quietly, “Last night, our house was broken into.”

****

It turned out that Fishy Lake was nineteen miles from Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Sioux Falls was within rock-throwing distance of Iowa’s northwest corner. Sioux Falls was nowhere close to West Burlington, Iowa—but couldn’t Dad have picked a place in west South Dakota? If the geography also bothered Mom or Dad, neither one mentioned it.

It took less than a day to rent a house in Fishy Lake. Perhaps the rental process was quick because Dad paid for the first month’s rent, the last month’s rent, and the security deposit all with seabag cash.

As soon as we could, the three of us went to the local DMV office. We got South Dakota plates on our cars, and applied for South Dakota driver’s licenses. Admittedly, we did this not because we were law-abiding citizens but because these actions made our cars unnoticeable again.

A day after this, Dad landed a job as a salesman at Furniture USA in Sioux Falls. This annoyed Dad for two reasons. The bigger reason was that going from furniture-store owner to furniture salesman was a big comedown. The second reason that Dad was unhappy was that Furniture USA in West Burlington had been the main reason that Bradford’s Furniture Paradise had struggled to stay in business these last few years.

Meanwhile, Mom papered Sioux Falls with résumés for bookkeeper, but these things take time. For the moment, Mom was back to being a housewife.

I took a job at Chick-fil-A. The job turned out to be what I expected, except that their “You get Sundays off” rule did not have any wiggle-room or fine print in it.

In theory, guaranteed Sundays off meant that I could plan on spending Sundays with my mother, and either Sunday mornings or Sunday evenings with Dad.

In practice, I was not spending any more time with my parents than I had to, since we had arrived in Fishy Lake. By Sunday, it had been eight days since I had been roused from bed and we three had fled the only home I had ever known; and yet my parents had never offered any explanation for their panicky behavior.

So Sunday, I slept late, ate breakfast with Mom (Dad was already at work), then I climbed into the Impala. I spent the entire day (and some of the night) driving aimlessly around rural southeastern South Dakota.

The last time I saw Dad alive was Saturday night. The last time I saw Mom alive was Sunday morning.

Chapter 3
I Meet Ploryunv the Alien

I found the abandoned farm on Sunday afternoon, while aimlessly driving on some farm road. A big “FOR SALE” sign was visible from the road. The farmhouse was surrounded by a white picket fence; the half-acre of grass enclosed by that fence was knee high. I found nothing in the barn except some moldy hay and a rusty tractor-seat. The farmland that surrounded the farmhouse and barn was not tilled, and only weeds grew there.

I cannot say why I parked my car at that abandoned farm and walked around, instead of driving on. Maybe because of the novelty of the place—I was a city boy, and I had never seen a real farm before. But part of the reason I stayed at that farm was because how alone I was there—I knew only two people in all of South Dakota, I did not want to talk to either of them, I did not want to talk to anyone else, and here I was where not even a chicken could be seen.

So I sat on the hood of my car, which was parked by the empty barn, and I listened to birds and breezes as I watched the sun go low in the western sky.

I watched the sun set.

Ten minutes after sunset, I watched a spaceship come down from the sky and land in the weedy field.

****

I saw no falling fire like what a meteor makes, or an Earth-made spacecraft performing atmospheric re-entry. Instead, I heard a rumble and I felt a downward wind that made my ears pop. Also, a moving part of the sky shimmered.

I ran around the corner of the barn to watch the shimmer-thing hit the ground. But it did not—at least not forcibly. Twenty feet off the ground, I heard a loud hisss—like air brakes venting—and the shimmer-thing gently dropped onto the dirt of the neglected farm-field.

The shimmer-effect stopped; I was looking at a spaceship.

On the spaceship, a rectangular piece of the hull lifted up, revealing a door underneath. This door opened from top to bottom, becoming a ramp.

An alien walked from inside the spaceship to the top of the ramp.

The alien was about four feet tall. He had thick, wrinkled skin, like an elephant; but his skin was the light yellow-green of an avocado. His arms and legs had no joints; they curved as needed, like tentacles. Each leg-tentacle and arm-tentacle ended in a three-fingered (three-toed) appendage with suction-cups at the very tips.

The alien had a face like a human, with nose and mouth, and ears on the side of his head. But the alien’s eyes traveled on horizontal tracks on his face that started on just outward of the nose and went out and back to just above the alien’s ears.

When the alien first appeared at the top of the ramp, both of his eyes were on the side of his head, like a bird’s eyes. For a minute, maybe two minutes, the alien stood there, not moving except to turn his head back and forth. One “hand” was holding what looked like a computer tablet in a green case; the other “hand” was touching something inside the ship and beside the door.

By now I was forty feet in front of the ramp. I did not move closer, wanting to not frighten the alien. Eventually the alien’s eyes tracked forward to either side of his nose, and the alien tilted his head down to look straight at me. The alien walked down the ramp.

The alien spoke; his tablet spoke to me in Russian. I walked close to the ramp and replied, “This is not Russia. Do you speak English?”

The alien heard my words (translated), then spoke. The tablet said, “Duly noted. Is this Canada or Oosa?”

I replied, “You are in the United States of America. And the abbreviation is pronounced ‘Yu-Ess-Ay,’ not ‘Oosa.’ ”

“Duly noted. My name is Ploryunv.”

“My name is John.”

Ploryunv taught me how to greet someone by bumping our arm-tentacles together, and I taught him about greeting someone by shaking hands.

Then Ploryunv paused, and his eyes slid to the side of his skull. “Will you help me, John of Earth?”

“I’ll help you if I can,” I said. “What help do you need?”

“The uranium-235 oxide in my ship-engine is chemically contaminated. Can you bring me more engine-grade uranium-235 oxide?”

No way,” I said. “Only the USA government can give you this. The problem is, if my government learns about a space alien in South Dakota, I don’t know what exactly will happen next—but you repairing your ship and flying away won’t be what happens next.”

“This is unhappy-making. What about you bringing me pure Uranium-235, and I react it with oxygen myself?”

“Same answer. I cannot, and if you asked my government, my government would grab both you and your ship and never let you go.”

“Again this is unhappy-making. What about you bringing me natural uranium of mixed isotopes?”

“Same answer. I’m sorry.”

Ploryunv worked his tablet then, holding it horizontal as the “fingers” of his other “hand” tapped the tablet’s surface. I was surprised to see that three-dimensional images and diagrams appeared (and soon disappeared) a few inches above the tablet.

About ten minutes later, Ploryunv said to me, “Crystalline carbon, I can use it as a catalyst to remove the contamination. Or is crystalline carbon also blocked by your government?”

I did not know what he meant by crystalline carbon; the alien had to show me a three-dimensional diagram. It turned out that he meant diamond.

“Yes,” I replied, “I can manage that.” I was sure there was enough cash still in the seabag for me to go to a pawnshop and buy a ring set. But I did not have the key to the seabag; I would have to ask Dad for the key.

I told Ploryunv, “If worse comes to worse, I won’t be able to bring you the diamond till tomorrow, and I’ll need to bring another Earth man out here to meet you.” I added bitterly, “Don’t worry, he’s great at keeping secrets.”

It was almost full dark by then, but I was worried that at sunrise, anyone flying overhead (a U.S. Army helicopter, for instance) could see the spaceship. I said as much to Ploryunv. It turned out that while he could not fly his spaceship out into space, he could move it along the ground just fine. He blew air out the bottom of his spaceship, and I gave him guidance with the headlights on my Impala, and between us, we got his spaceship hidden away in the empty barn.

I drove home carefully in the darkness, writing down landmarks, road signs, and trip-odometer readings, so that I could find the abandoned farm again. By the time I was driving on the streets of Fishy Lake, I was in a good mood. I’ve met an actual, no-shit space alien! And better than that, I’m going to help him out!

Jeez, I was so naïve about my future.

My good mood vanished when I turned onto my street.

Three Fishy Lake police cars, two unmarked police cars, two ambulances, a Sioux Falls PD crime-scene van, and a TV-news van, all were parked in front of my house.

 

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MARVIN AND FATIMA THREE-IN-ONE: Cover Picture and News

MARVIN AND FATIMA Cover PictureCover art by Commotion22

As a reminder, this book will be a compilation of my three previous novels about wishes and genies—

Three More Wishes: Be Kind to Your Genie
One More Genie
More Genie Problems: Can the Hero Billionaire Hold off Judgment Day?

Along with those three novels, I also am writing a short story for the compilation, “Kristin Tells (Mostly) All.” Kristin Curry is a freshman at Smith College, the elite private women’s college in Massachusetts. After she is accidentally outed as a former haremée of Marvin Harper’s, she gives an interview to the school newspaper that becomes national news. (I haven’t figured out what happens after that, and right now I’m working on finishing up The Mind-Power Avenger.)

For more information about the individual novels in the compilation, including links to sample chapters, click on the “About Doctor MC, Mad Scientist” tab above.

Thank You Much, Vampire-Readers, for Buying RING OF THE WIZARD VAMPIRE

RING OF THE WIZARD VAMPIRE Cover, small

March’s Kindle sales numbers for Ring of the Wizard Vampire are out, and I’m amazed. Kindle readers bought 203 copies of the book in March, all over the English-speaking world (USA, UK, Canada, and Australia). This was a stunning surprise. What really surprised me was that RotWV sold another three English-language copies in Germany (home of the silent-movie classic Nosferatu and its villain, Graf Orlok). Vielen dank, Germany buyers!

If you haven’t read Ring of the Wizard Vampire yet, and now you’re curious, go here.

THE MIND-POWER AVENGER: New Cover Picture

THE MIND-POWER AVENGER cover

As I told you in an earlier post, I’m working on a new story about a mind-controller who chases down bad guys who are “above the law.”

Here is the unofficial sales blurb for the book—

Ploryunv, an alien, is stranded on Earth, and eighteen-year-old John Bradford helps Ploryunv fix his spaceship. In the process, Ploryunv uses an alien device on John that enables John to use all of his brain. That same day, John’s parents are murdered by mobsters. Yes, John has mind-control powers now; and yes, John uses those powers to get sex; but mainly what John wants is payback against scumbags who think themselves safe.

This is the first story in the THE MIND-POWER AVENGER series. Think what The Shadow would be like if he weren’t so prissy about using his “power to cloud men’s minds”; or imagine The Punisher with mind-control powers.

To repeat: In this the first book, John goes after the lowlifes who murdered his parents. (And yes, at one point in the story, a bat flies up against John’s window.)

Things You Didn’t Know about Vampires and Vampire Fiction

RING OF THE WIZARD VAMPIRE cover

My latest work, Ring of the Wizard Vampire, has a little different vampire “world” than you are accustomed to seeing in other contemporary vampire novels and movies. I’m going to tell you why I wrote my vampires the way I did.

Not quite twenty years ago, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was on TV, and I watched it faithfully. Sometime while the show was on, I bought a book, The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, 2nd ed. by J. Gordon Melton. It was a big sucker—two inches thick, 920 pages.

The book had all sorts of interesting things in it, that I have never seen in any movie.

For instance, how did the vampire folklore come about? In Eastern Europe of several centuries ago, it was the custom to exhume the body of a loved one, after he/she had been dead for a while, and to clean the skeleton (wipe away all the rotten flesh), then to rebury the body. Well, sometimes when they exhumed the body, the body was lying on its stomach, or the body wasn’t decomposed enough. So the Eastern Europeans figured, “This dead body hasn’t stayed really dead.”

Thus the folklore of the vampire was born.

But there was a shortcut to finding a vampire, if you didn’t want to dig down six feet. According to folklore, if a virgin was riding on a horse, that horse woul refuse to set foot on a vampire’s grave. What color of horse made the trick work? In some parts of Eastern Europe, the horse had to be white; in other parts of Eastern Europe, the horse had to be black.

(Please note that I don’t have any scenes in my story that feature a virgin and a horse at a cemetery. I just wrote the above paragraph because it is an interesting factoid to share.)

Eastern European folklore said nothing about vampires having hypnotic powers. However, Bram Stoker wrote Dracula as having hypnotic powers. In Stoker’s novel, Dracula did some kind of mind-whammy on Jonathan Harker, Mina, and Lucy. In most stories created in modern times, vampires likewise can do hypnosis.

For my novel, I went back to the original folklore that says that vampires are unhypnotic. I will explain why below.

The most interesting thing to me, reading Melton’s book, was about the evolution of vampires being killed by sunlight. The folklore is silent on the subject of vampires and sunlight. In Stoker’s novel, Dracula once went around by daylight; but he then had only the powers of a living man. But the movie Nosferatu changed everything.

At the time that Nosferatu came out (1922), Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula was still under copyright. The people behind Nosferatu, to avoid paying royalties to Bram Stoker, changed many details. They changed the name of the vampire to Count Orlok; they changed his nationality to German; They made him look like a rat-man, rather than someone who could pass for human; and they changed how he was killed: by sunlight.

In the movie, Count Orlok was sucking on a babe’s neck when he should have been checking the eastern sky. A cock crowed, Orlok realized too late that he had better leave, sunlight hit him, and he faded away to nothing. (Remember that in 1922, “special effects” were primitive.)

Nobody has cared that the idea of “sunlight kills vampires” was not in the original folklore, nor that it was not in Stoker’s novel. The idea makes sense—if vampires are creatures of darkness in the figurative sense, why not make them creatures of darkness in the literal sense, destroyed by sunlight?

So it has come to pass that in my lifetime, I have never read a novel where a vampire could walk around in sunlight, and only one movie (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) where this has been the case. Nowadays, if you have a vampire in a story, daylight is that vampire’s mortal enemy.

In Ring of the Wizard Vampire, I don’t have a vampire-killed-by-sunlight scene, but I do have a vampire character, Elizabeth, linking sunlight and coffins. Basically, a vampire who spends the hours of daylight anywhere else than a coffin, is never seen again; Vampire-Elizabeth theorizes that a vampire not in a coffin “cannot rest” and is “drawn to the light” of the sun, at which time the vampire burns up.

But if I write vampires in the modern sense when it comes to sunlight, I go way back to the folklore when it comes to vampires and hypnosis. In my story, if a vampire bites someone and takes blood—yes, the vampire can hypnotically command that person. But a vampire simply walking up to someone in a bar and working a mind-whammy on that person? Not happening. (At least in my story.)

What I do, as my faithful readers know, is to write soft-core mind-control porn. I’m always looking for a story setup in which a nice guy gets mind-control powers, or he benefits from someone else’s mind-controlling. Well, the only way for my hero to get hypnotic powers in any vampires-are-hypnotic universe is to make my hero a vampire. I didn’t want to write that story. The only other way to write my kind of story in a vampires-are-hypnotic universe is for a vampire to go around hypnotizing hot babes and telling them, “Go fuck that guy Charlie over there.” Well, I could not invent any kind of reason why a vampire would do such a thing. (Not to mention that, even if I came up with a reason, a guy getting sex only because of a vampire’s charity would not be interesting.)

So by elimination, the vampires in Ring of the Wizard Vampire can’t hypnotize strangers. So then how can my hero Charlie get hypnotic powers? In my story, I explain that the most badass of badass vampires was a sorcerer as well as a vampire, and he came up with a hypnotic magic ring. When the vampire dies, Charlie grabs the ring, and voila!

So, speaking of Ring of the Wizard Vampire

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RING OF THE WIZARD VAMPIRE: Now for Sale!

RING OF THE WIZARD VAMPIRE cover

Charlie Moore was an ordinary man—until he watched three vampires be killed in his front yard on a winter night. One of those three vampires to die was the notorious Mage Draco—both evil and powerful as an elder vampire, Mage Draco was also skilled in black magic.

Vampires normally cannot hypnotize the living, but Mage Draco could. Mage Draco had enchanted a man’s ring so that, when the ring was rubbed, it would hypnotize anyone, whether human or vampire.

After Mage Draco turned to ash, Charlie took Mage Draco’s ring—mainly to keep bad guys from getting it. (Vampiress Elizabeth fiercely wanted the ring, but Charlie moved faster.)

Soon after, Charlie discovered he could use the hypnotic ring to get sex.

Then Charlie learned that two vampires had come to town, and they were just as evil as Mage Draco. These two vampires did what Mage Draco could not: they killed the local head vampire-hunter. Now ordinary Charlie must fight these evil vampires, with only his brains and his magic ring as weapons.

Tags: action, damsel in distress, female submissive, female-female, harem, hypnosis, magic, male dominant, male-female, mind control, no sex by vampires, no sex with vampires, oral sex, sexy, straight female to bi, threesome, vampires, virtue rewarded

The novel is 30,200 words. This story is set in the same universe as Ye Olde Book of Magic.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: All ebooks by this publisher are free of DRM (Digital Rights Meddling).

 

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RING OF THE WIZARD VAMPIRE—First 1-1/2 Chapters

RING OF THE WIZARD VAMPIRE cover

Chapter 1
A Feared Vampire Dies

Monday, December 10, after dark

My name is Charlie. My last name is, trust me, just as ordinary. I have an ordinary age: thirty-one. I look ordinary, and I eat ordinary food.

I used to date ordinary girls. When I broke up with them, or they broke up with me, it was for ordinary reasons.

For example, Linda—my last ordinary girlfriend—told me I would “never break out of the pack,” and she was breaking up with me because “I need to consider my future.”

Which was funny, because if Linda thought she could just walk up to a rich guy and get him to marry her, she needed to stand a little closer to the mirror. She was as ordinary as I.

Still, I thought Linda and I had something going, and it made me sad when it ended.

She broke up with me on a Sunday. The next night, Monday, I was alone in my house. I spent my hours after work not playing a video game, or watching my TV—no, I sat in my silent house, drinking beer and watching the snow fall.

That’s when I heard shouting from outside.

****

Seconds later

I opened up my front door, to find out what the shouting was about. Damn, it was sure snowing hard!

Five people were shouting back and forth on my front lawn. Three more people watched from the street.

I lived in a cul-de-sac, and there was only forest behind me. The Smiths, whose house was in front of me and to the left, had loaded up the RV and had taken off. I wouldn’t see them till sometime next month. The Pattersons, on my right, were gone—or rather, Calvin Patterson’s and Sally Patterson’s cars were gone. The Patterson teenage boys were definitely at home, getting their ears blasted from three feet away, because I could hear loud video-game sound-effects from the Patterson house.

Which is a long way of explaining why I was the only person in the cul-de-sac to hear the shouting and to come outside to investigate.

****

One man, whose back was to me, was wearing a blue cape, I’m not kidding. The four other people on my lawn, who were all shouting at the caped man, looked how you would expect people to look on a winter night: red faces, along with heavy coats, scarves, gloves, and thick caps.

The three people silently standing in the cul-de-sac street surprised me: Those two men and one woman had white faces and hands. Also, while the pale onlookers wore winter clothing for indoors (long-sleeved shirts and wool slacks on the two men, a wool skirt and knee-length high-heeled boots on the woman), none of the three people was wearing winter outerwear. Yet they seemed unbothered by the cold; the pale woman’s top even showed a neckline.

****

One second later

“Your days of vampire evil are over, Mage Draco!” a blond boy yelled. He ran toward the man whose back was to me, and who was wearing the cape. He charged the man while holding in his right hand—this is honest truth—a wooden stake.

I thought, Hold on, did he say vampire?

The attacked man did something—the cape blocked me from seeing it—and the stake zoomed to my right, to bury itself in the snow. Mage Draco easily picked up the teen by lifting the top of his head with a big hand. He said, “No, do-gooder, your days of doing good are over.”

The caped man grabbed the young man’s shoulder to hold him in place, then the caped man’s other hand spun the teen’s head around, as easily as if he were opening a jar. I could hear the teen’s neck snap, even with the sound-deadening of the falling snow.

“What a waste of good blood,” said one of the men standing in the street.

Meanwhile, the other young man on my lawn screamed, “BUSTER! NOOO!” He was slightly off to my left, so I could see the reflection of the streetlamp’s light when he drew a gun. He fired it at the caped man—

Who screamed. Then the caped man yelled, “You shoot me with silver, bloodbag? You die!”

The caped man rushed forward and to his left with inhuman speed. He batted the gun out of the shooter’s hand—

—undoubtedly breaking hand-bones, because now it was the shooter-man who screamed.

Mage Draco picked up the shooter-man by the shoulders, and brought the shooter-man’s neck to his own face.

“He’s biting me! He’s got his fangs in me!” Shooter-Man yelled in terror.

“I’m looking for Buster’s stake!” a young brunette woman yelled, running off toward where the wooden stake had fallen.

“No, you won’t,” one of the two men in the street said. He ran onto my lawn—fast enough to make snow fly upward—and wrapped his arms around the brunette girl before she could find the lost stake.

“Do not hurt her,” Mage Draco commanded. “Only I shall take the life of Izaak Van der Veer’s sidekicks.”

“If we don’t take yours first,” the brunette girl said bravely. Then she said something that I was not sure I heard right—and a ball of fire formed between her hands. It flew up, then back, as the brunette girl ducked her head. The fireball hit her captor right in the face. Which set him on fire.

“Do you think you can fight me, little magess?” Mage Draco growled. He spoke words in a foreign language, and a fireball the size of a beach ball zoomed toward the brunette. She responded with both hands making strange gestures—

It did her no good. The brunette burned up, just like the man she had attacked.

Only one vampire-hunter was not dead and not injured: a tall, slim brunette beauty who was absolutely out of my league—if she lived through the next five minutes. The brunette had her hand inside her unbuttoned maxicoat; now she pulled out a crossbow.

“Let go of Xavier,” she said nervously.

“He is in the way, isn’t he?” Mage Draco said calmly. “As you wish.”

Mage Draco’s right hand and arm came out to the side, beyond his cape. He spoke strange words, and the wooden stake zoomed out of the snow and into Mage Draco’s hand.

Mage Draco did something quick with his right arm; captive Xavier gasped loudly, then gurgled.

Mage Draco said, “It’s funny, I think, a vampire killing a vampire-hunter with a wooden stake.” Mage Draco threw dead Xavier to the left as easily as if Xavier were a pillow.

Then Mage Draco turned his attention to the brunette beauty, whose arm and hand had not moved. “Did you know that soldiers in war are terrible shots when they are afraid? I have seen this often. If you shoot at me and miss, you die.”

“Maybe I won’t miss,” the brunette said. “You want me to give up without a fight.” But while the brunette’s words were brave, her voice trembled.

“What I want is for you to drop the crossbow and to taste my blood before I give you the Kiss of Night. You have great beauty, and your beauty should never fade.”

No!” she said, bringing the crossbow up. “I’ll die first!”

Mage Draco’s left hand came up, clenched into a fist, and Crossbow Brunette froze statue-still.

“Drop the crossbow,” Mage Draco ordered.

“Drop the crossbow, yes,” the brunette answered in a monotone. The crossbow slipped out of her limp hands and onto the snow.

“Tell me your name,” Mage Draco ordered.

“I am Penelope Pike,” the brunette replied, still with a monotone.

Mage Draco brought his right wrist up to his mouth. I could not see what he did next, but what he said was, “Drink from my wrist, Penelope Pike. Then I will give you the Kiss, and you will be beautiful forever as a vampiress of the House of Draco.”

The hypnotized brunette shuffled forward.

I had watched all this, knowing that the safest thing I could do would be what I was doing: Stay close to the front door, and be ready to run back inside at any second. But now I had a moral problem: Can I let this evil vampire turn this beauty into a vampire too?

That’s when I heard a noise to my right.

****

One second later

To the right of the front landing was a big evergreen tree. To the tree’s right was a dark shadow; the tree blocked the front-door light from lighting that part of the yard. The tree itself blocked from being seen, anyone who tried sneaking from the back yard into the front yard by walking close to the west-side wall of my house. Now I heard the footsteps of a woman walking around by the evergreen tree.

Except for her bow and her drawn arrow, the new woman looked like someone I would see in a biker bar: She had stop-sign-red hair; her black jeans were low on her hips, tight, and ripped; she wore a t-shirt that was knotted under her braless tits, revealing her midriff; and she had a tattoo on her left arm. Before I could read the text of the tattoo—

Thwit! An arrow appeared in the back of Mage Draco’s blue cape, where his heart would be. Fwuit! What I could see of his head and arms all burst into flames; they as quickly stopped burning. Then the cape fluttered to the ground.

Thwit! Now the one man-vampire who was still in the street suddenly had an arrow in his heart. Fwuit—his body (but not his clothes) burst into flame for one second; then his clothes dropped to the ground with no body to hold them up.

The woman-vampire ran away before Archery-Slut could shoot her. The vampiress’s high-heeled boots hit the pavement at inhuman speed, sounding like a jackhammer.

Penelope did not react to any of this; she stared ahead.

The archery-slut ran up to her. “Penny! Wake up!”

No response.

Archery-Slut said, “Oh shit, what’s the phrase?” She paused, then said, “Penny, return to wakefulness.”

Penelope did—and immediately freaked out. The archer-woman said, “Listen, I don’t want to sound like a bitch, but freak out later. We need to get us and them out of here before the police or more vampires show up.”

Penelope made a phone call. Five minutes later, a van pulled up. Archery-Slut and a middle-aged man who had glasses and a beard loaded the corpses of Buster and Xavier into the van. The inside of the van was covered with painter’s plastic—clearly these folks had hauled off blood-dripping bodies before.

By now, Penelope had found Buster’s blood-drenched wooden stake and was holding it in her hand. But instead of climbing into the van, she said, “Wait, we should grab Mage Draco’s Hypnosis Ring! He used that sucker on me!”

The middle-aged man said, in a European accent, “We will look for the ring by daylight. We need to go, Penelope.”

Penelope shrugged and climbed into the van. The van drove away.

I thought, Hypnosis Ring?

I ran back into the house, and rushed straight to the drawer in the kitchen where I kept the LED flashlight.

****

As snow continued to fall

I cleaned up the mess that the battle had left behind.

I folded up Mage Draco’s cape and put it on a step of the front-door landing, planning to put it on a shelf in my bedroom closet. The other clothes that I found on my lawn or in the street, I put in trash bags. The fireball-throwing vampire-hunter, I put her burned bones into an old Amazon shipping box; I figured the vampire-hunters would come back to ask for her remains sooner or later.

And Mage Draco’s ring? I found it in the snow. I slipped it on the middle finger of my left hand.

I was still wearing that ring many hours later, when I was awakened from a sound sleep by pounding on my front door.

Chapter 2
Vampiress at the Door

Hours later, after midnight (Tuesday, December 11)

BAM-BAM-BAM!

Muttering curses, I left my warm bed for my arctic-cold bedroom. I pulled on my cold bathrobe, slipped into cold sheep’s-wool slippers, and trudged through my cold, dark house toward the front door.

BAM-BAM-BAM!

I hoped, Maybe some drunk guy has the wrong house?

But that hope was feeble, because I knew what my after-midnight visit was really about.

My front door opened backward and to the right. Before I touched the door itself, I planted my left hand (wearing its new ring) against the inside wall of the doorway, placing my hand a few inches to the left of the doorjamb.

Now I flicked on the front-door light and, with my right hand, unlocked the deadbolt. Again with my right hand, I took the chain off the door, figuring that I was safe without it.

I regretted that decision as soon as I opened the door wide. Standing on my front landing was the vampiress from earlier tonight, as well as a big man. The man was tall and strong enough to be dangerous.

He wore coat, scarf, gloves, and cap; the vampiress again wore none of those. His exhalations puffed white; no exhalations came from her.

The vampiress had a truly magnificent rack. If I did not know she was a vampiress, I would have presumed that she had bought breast implants—several times. She wore a gold-chain necklace with a faceted purple gem at the bottom; that purple gem nestled in stare-worthy cleavage.

She said, “Good evening, sir. My name is Elizabeth Riverby.” She spoke with a BBC accent. “I believe you have something I want. May I come in and we discuss it?”

I smiled. “The guy’s cape? I’m not giving it back. I figure I’ll impress chicks at Halloween.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I think you know the item to which I refer. For shame, you have not invited me in, when I wear no coat and the temperature is horrid. You are no gentleman.”

“And you are no lady,” I retorted, “and have not been such for decades. Or is it centuries?”

Vampire-Elizabeth sighed theatrically. “As you Colonials love to say, I tried being nice.” Then her voice became harsh: “Bubba, seize him!”

Vampire-Elizabeth could not cross my doorsill, but minion-Bubba could—and did.

He rushed in and grabbed me, pushing me away from the doorsill, so that my left hand was yanked away from the wall.

Then Bubba spun me around, so that my back was to him. He wrapped his arms around me and grabbed his wrists in front of my ribcage.

Bubba then spun around a half-turn, so that both of us faced Vampire-Elizabeth.

Less than three seconds ago, the vampiress had given her command, and now I was helpless and looking into her eyes.

But she was not looking into my eyes. She was staring at Draco’s ring on my left hand, while she grinned evilly.

She said, “Bubba—”

I realized two things in an instant—

One, Elizabeth is looking at the ring and yet she’s not in a trance. Mage Draco must have done something more with the ring in order to put Penelope Pike into a trance.

Two, I’m sure to not like whatever Vampire-Elizabeth is about to say.

I did the only thing I could think of, in the split-second that I had left: I swiped my right hand across the ring on my left hand, hoping it would work.

It did.

For one second, the middle finger of my left hand tingled, as if it had fallen asleep. Then my finger went back to normal.

Meanwhile, Vampire-Elizabeth was staring vacantly at my ring. She had spoken no more words, and her face was slack.

I said, “Elizabeth, tell your minion to release me and to join you outside.”

Elizabeth obeyed me, then Bubba obeyed Elizabeth.

The danger was over.

And a world of possibilities had just begun.

 

Buy RING OF THE WIZARD VAMPIRE now! You know you want to.

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A Picture that Inspired a Chapter

two blond hotties holding handsSource: someone’s Tumblr blog

The strangest things can inspire a story, or inspire part of a story. An insurance agent named Tom Clancy read a news story about a mutiny on a Soviet minesweeper, asked himself, “What if the unhappy vessel was a state-of-the-art silent submarine instead of a minesweeper,” and this idea became Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October. I saw a picture on the internet, and it inspired Chapter 5 in Ring of the Wizard Vampire.

Why I like the picture—

• The two women are each young, toned, busty, blond hotties.

• The two blondes are holding hands, which tells me that they’re girlfriends of some kind.

• The blonde on the left is showing a big, beauty-queen smile, which to me doubles a beautiful woman’s hotness.

• The blonde on the right looks a little confused, which adds to her other bimbo qualities.

Now, I know nothing about the two women pictured—I don’t know either of their names, or what kind of friends they are, or what was going on when the picture was taken. I don’t know their personalities, or their histories.

Which means that I’m free to make everything up!

Charlie Moore (my hero) meets my fictional version of these two women in Chapter 5 of Ring of the Wizard Vampire, coming soon.

Coming Soon: MARVIN AND FATIMA: THREE-IN-ONE

I will be publishing an ebook compilation of the three stories in the MOREverse:

Three More Wishes: Be Kind to Your Genie
One More Genie
More Genie Problems: Can the Hero Billionaire Hold off Judgment Day?

The ebook will also contain a MOREverse-set short story. But right now, I haven’t figured out what the story will be about.

A new cover has been commissioned, from Commotion22 (who did all the previous MOREverse artwork). The art will be of Marvin and Fatima gazing at each other, while Fatima makes either a fireball or a green-lightning ball; Marvin’s private jet will be in the background.

The compilation will not be released in paperback, because you couldn’t afford it if it were.

Two New Stories Are in the Works

RING OF THE WIZARD VAMPIRE Cover

There are two stories that I’m working on right now.

(And alas, The Inseminator is not one of those stories; it’s still stalled.)

Ring of the Wizard Vampire

Mage Draco was not only a nasty vampire, he was also an evil sorcerer. But then Mage Draco was slain on Charlie’s front lawn. Now Charlie has claimed for himself Draco’s ring, which can hypnotize and reprogram vampires, vampire minions, and unbitten humans. But just because the nastiest vampire is now ash does not mean that the vampire problem in Suburba is over. When Charlie is not scoring hot babes, he’s fighting pale bloodsuckers.

The Mind-Power Avenger

Ploryunv, an alien, is stranded on Earth, and eighteen-year-old John Bradford helps Ploryunv fix his spaceship. In the process, Ploryunv uses an alien device on John that enables John to use all of his brain. That same day, John’s parents are murdered by mobsters. Yes, John has mind-control powers now; and yes, John uses those powers to get sex; but mainly what John wants is payback against scumbags who think themselves safe.

This is the first story in the THE MIND-POWER AVENGER series. Think what The Shadow would be like if he weren’t so prissy about using his “power to cloud men’s minds”; or imagine The Punisher with mind-control powers.

MORE GENIE PROBLEMS Is for Sale!

MORE GENIE PROBLEMS front cover

(Finally.)

Here’s what it’s about—

In this, the third novel about Marvin Harper and his genie Fatima, Marvin has more problems of every kind.

Shrill feminist Michelle Landrieu-LeClerc has been an occasional annoyance to Marvin in Three More Wishes and One More Genie; now Michelle steps up her game. She makes a demon-pact with pink-haired succubus Fanzelle, and Marvin Harper is targeted by the pact.

Succubus Fanzelle uses her authority under the pact to make the “hero billionaire” be no longer a billionaire, and she does her damnedest (pun intended) to make Marvin be no longer a hero. Fanzelle makes Marvin be five-foot-two and puny-muscled again, and there is nothing that Fatima can do to reverse this.

In the process of making Marvin be both un-billionaire and un-hero, Fanzelle kills and damns a character who has appeared in both of the first two books.

But the ambitions of Fanzelle the succubus run beyond ruining Marvin’s life and collecting Michelle’s soul. Fanzelle is using the demon-pact as a springboard to cause a second war between Heaven and Hell. If Hell wins, Earth will become a literal Hell for humans; if Heaven wins, Judgment Day will immediately follow. Either way, humans have a problem, and only Marvin and his genies know about the problem.

Marvin can command two other genies besides Fatima, but those other genies are not much help. Roshradzam, the Genie of the Ring, wants to help Marvin—but he is from Brown Tribe, so he is a magical weakling. Sumera is from Blue Tribe, so it is no surprise that she gives Marvin headaches; but beyond that, Sumera is a world-class diva.

Speaking of giving Marvin headaches, twin Elvira LeClerc learns something unflattering to Marvin at the beginning of More Genie Problems; Elvira goes back to acting self-centered and quarrelsome.

Can Marvin prevent a second war between Hell and Heaven?

Tags: action, alpha male, apocalypse, billionaire, damsel in distress, demon pact, demons and Hell, female submissive, genie, harem, Judgment Day, magic, male dominant, male-female, mind control, oral sex, sexy, threesome, virtue rewarded

The novel is 82,900 words. This novel follows both Three More Wishes: Be Kind to Your Genie and One More Genie.

Like I said, it’s now for sale—

MORE GENIE PROBLEMS—first six chapters are FREE!
Paperback
Amazon Kindle
Smashwords—your choice of formats
Kobo EPUB

MORE GENIE PROBLEMS: Front Cover and Sales Blurb

MORE GENIE PROBLEMS front coverCover image by Commotion22

In this, the third novel about Marvin Harper and his genie Fatima, Marvin has more problems of every kind.

Shrill feminist Michelle Landrieu-LeClerc has been an occasional annoyance to Marvin in Three More Wishes and One More Genie; now Michelle steps up her game. She makes a demon-pact with pink-haired succubus Fanzelle, and Marvin Harper is targeted by the pact.

Succubus Fanzelle uses her authority under the pact to make the “hero billionaire” be no longer a billionaire, and she does her damnedest (pun intended) to make Marvin be no longer a hero. Fanzelle makes Marvin be five-foot-two and puny-muscled again, and there is nothing that Fatima can do to reverse this.

In the process of making Marvin be both un-billionaire and un-hero, Fanzelle kills and damns a character who has appeared in both of the first two books.

But the ambitions of Fanzelle the succubus run beyond ruining Marvin’s life and collecting Michelle’s soul. Fanzelle is using the demon-pact as a springboard to cause a second war between Heaven and Hell. If Hell wins, Earth will become a literal Hell for humans; if Heaven wins, Judgment Day will immediately follow. Either way, humans have a problem, and only Marvin and his genies know about the problem.

Marvin can command two other genies besides Fatima, but those other genies are not much help. Roshradzam, the Genie of the Ring, wants to help Marvin—but he is from Brown Tribe, so he is a magical weakling. Sumera is from Blue Tribe, so it is no surprise that she gives Marvin headaches; but beyond that, Sumera is a world-class diva.

Speaking of giving Marvin headaches, twin Elvira LeClerc learns something unflattering to Marvin at the beginning of More Genie Problems; Elvira goes back to acting self-centered and quarrelsome.

Can Marvin prevent a second war between Hell and Heaven?

Tags: action, alpha male, apocalypse, billionaire, damsel in distress, demon pact, demons and Hell, female submissive, genie, harem, Judgment Day, magic, male dominant, male-female, mind control, oral sex, sexy, threesome, virtue rewarded

The novel is 82,900 words. This novel follows both Three More Wishes: Be Kind To Your Genie and One More Genie.

First six chapters of MORE GENIE PROBLEMS—FREE!
Paperback
Amazon Kindle
Smashwords—your choice of formats
Kobo EPUB

MORE GENIE PROBLEMS: December 15 Update

First, for my fans: the sample-chapters blog post of More Genie Problems is up.

I’m going to do two things with this blog post: I’ll discuss my writing process, which will be of interest to any writers reading this: and I’ll be telling the world how things stand with More Genie Problems, which will be of interest to my fans.

FOR THE WRITERS: Why do I write soft-core porn? Because I figured out that I got bored writing hard-core porn, a.k.a. “stroke stories.” I need some story along with my porn! Even when I’m writing porn, I want for my story to be as well written as any G-rated book you’d find in a Barnes & Noble.

BUT I’m interested in male-dominant sex scenes (“Me Tarzan, you Jane”) and erotic mind control. Either of these are poison to women-deferential Manhattan publishers. Which means that regardless of the merits of one of my novels, no Manhattan publisher would ever publish the book. Frankly, I’m shocked that John Norman’s Gor books ever got published—talk about “politically incorrect”! I can only assume that John Norman got published because he submitted his books in the Sexy Seventies, before political correctness was invented. That, or perhaps the gender gap between the number of female readers and the number of male readers was not so lopsided in the Seventies?

(Off-topic: Robert Lubrican is a prolific writer who writes male-dominant, romantic, soft-core porn. I recommend him.)

So how do I write a soft-corn porn novel? The same way I write a G-rated novel: I start by outlining.

Novel-writers are divided into two camps: “pantsers” (writers who write “by the seat of their pants”) and outliners. I used to be a pantser, back when I wrote books on speculation. But now that I’m making money with my writing, I work up an outline first. I simply can’t afford to spend several months writing a novel without a plan, only to realize that I don’t have any idea how to get from where I’m at to the nifty ending that I want to get to. So before I type “Chapter 1,” I’ve got all the plot points figured out.

NOTE: I don’t consider the outline to be a binding contract with myself that I can never swerve away from. In fact, there is a scene in Chapter 22 that did not occur to me until I was drafting Ch. 22; that scene wasn’t in my outline. But that scene-idea was an improvement on my outline, so I wrote it into Ch. 22, and I tweaked the remainder of my outline.

FOR MY FANS: Since The outline is the first thing I do when writing a book, and now I’m near the end of the writing process, obviously I’ve finished my outline.

FOR THE WRITERS: I am so glad that I don’t have to write novels the way they did in olden day. In the 1960s, Jacqueline Susann went through five drafts to write Valley of the Dolls—which meant that she typed the manuscript five times from beginning to end. (She invented a system: yellow paper, then pink paper, then blue, then green, then white for the final draft.) As a mass-market paperback, VotD was exactly 500 pages long, so Jacqueline Susann did a lot of typing!

But now, thanks to my computer and Microsoft Word 2010, I type my novel only once; and I retype only the words and sentences that I want to change.

Rather than write a “first draft” as Jacqueline Susann did—in which I draft Chapter 1, I draft Chapter 2, and I don’t edit Chapter 1 or Chapter 2 until I’ve typed out the last chapter of the novel—I use a different approach.

When I draft a chapter, I’m thinking about higher-level stuff: What plot-work this scene must do, and what characterization-work this scene must do. When I’m writing dialogue, I put myself into each character’s head as he’s about to speak: “Okay, the other character just said X or did Y. How do I feel about this? What do I want to say now? What do I want to do now?” If the character has choices how to respond, I have him make the choice that conforms with the outline. BUT my point is, when I’m writing the first draft of a chapter, I don’t think about the wording at all. I write down whatever words come into my head.

As soon as I finish drafting a chapter, I start three Hot Readthroughs of that chapter. I say Hot because at this point, only a few days have passed, and I still remember what I was thinking when I drafted the chapter. In each Hot Readthrough, I cut words, replace flabby words with stronger words, reword clichés, clarify confusing sentences—I try to make the chapter best say what I was trying to say when I drafted the chapter.

After I finish three Hot Readthroughs of a drafted chapter, when I think the chapter is “perfect,” I send the chapter to my alpha readers. They always find mistakes in my “perfect” chapter, and so I tweak the chapter to incorporate their feedback.

I continue like this until I have drafted every chapter of the novel, have done three Hot Readthroughs of every chapter in the novel, and have incorporated alpha-reader comments on every chapter.

FOR MY FANS: Every chapter of More Genie Problems has been drafted, subjected to three Hot Readthroughs, and tweaked after receiving feedback from my two alpha-readers.

FOR THE WRITERS: After I finish my first draft (as I redefine the term), I do two Beginning-to-End Cold Readthroughs. I say Cold because I haven’t looked at these chapters in months, and I’ve largely forgotten what I was thinking when I wrote them. So when I do my first Cold Readthrough of the first chapter that I wrote, I read it almost like you would read it. The difference is that if I find something confusing, boring, or long-winded, I can fix it, whereas you can’t.

What do I do in a Beginning-to-End Cold Readthrough? Besides doing line-edits to my “perfect” chapters, I also look for continuity problems—where I wrote one thing in Chapter 1 and something different in Chapter 20, which I didn’t catch before now because I wrote Chapter 1 and Chapter 20 months apart.

In theory, all of the book’s remaining errors should be caught in the first Cold Readthrough; a second Cold Readthrough should be a complete waste of time. In practice, I always find errors on the second Cold Readthrough.

FOR MY FANS: I’ve finished the first Beginning-to-End Cold Readthrough. I’m about a third of the way through the second Beginning-to-End Cold Readthrough. I expect to finish this up in a day or two.

With this, the writing process will be finished, and then the process shifts to formatting the Word document for Kindle, Smashwords, general EPUB, and trade paperback. This process normally takes four or five days, and then the different forms of the book are uploaded to reseller sites.

But Christmas is coming up, nd that’s going to play havoc with scheduling. Stay tuned for further updates.

MORE GENIE PROBLEMS: First Six Chapters

MORE GENIE PROBLEMS front cover

Prologue
Solomon Sets the Rules

(MARVIN HARPER’S NOTE: Things that happened to me are told in first person—“I did this,” “I said this.” Things that happened to people other than me are written in third person—“He did this,” “She said this”—told with the knowledge of a mind-reading angel. Reader, I hope you don’t find this confusing.)

Early morning
June 19, 632 B.C.
Inside Fatima’s lamp

Seventeen hours and 22 minute had passed since Fatima of the Green Tribe of Djinn had been commanded to enter a brass lamp. No matter how hard she tried, she could not leave the lamp.

When Fatima made herself be solid but tiny, she could see light coming in through the spout of the lamp. So this meant that she could fly out, if she made herself small enough, right?

No. Every time she tried to fly out of the spout, she slammed into an invisible wall at the end. Maybe Kharmesh of the Blue Tribe could punch throughhis wall by muscle force, but Fatima had to use magic.

The problem was, magic was not working. Not one bit.

Fatima was pissed. She was now as magic-helpless as a wormfood (human); and Fatima was trapped in this stupid lamp, even though she had done nothing—

“BOUND DJINN, COME FORTH,” Fatima heard the angel command.

That was when Fatima’s problem turned into its opposite. Fatima did not want to talk to the wormfood king who had imprisoned her, nor did Fatima want to talk to the angel who, for whatever reason, was doing the wormfood king’s bidding. But Fatima was unable to stop herself from green-smoking, and could not stop her green-smoke self from leaving her lamp and then de-smoking.

****

Seconds later
Royal bedchamber
In the palace of Solomon, King Of Israel

Five brass lamps, one unstoppered brass bottle, and Solomon’s ruby ring were set on the floor. At the angel’s command, Solomon watched smoke billow out of those seven Vessels—blue smoke, green smoke, pink, and brown.

The smoke reshaped itself into seven colored smoke-columns, which pulled in and reshaped themselves to become two djinn of the Blue Tribe, twodjinn of the Green Tribe, two djinn of the Pink Tribe, and one djinni of the Brown Tribe.

The Pink Tribe female (Jerngert) looked nervous; the Brown Tribe male looked calm; and the other two female djinn and the other three maledjinn were giving Solomon death-glares.

The five angry djinn were not quiet, either. Solomon heard many insults, and sometimes it was hard to keep a calm face. But the king smiled, amused, whenever he was called wormfood. Yes, he would die someday—so what?

The angel had been standing behind Solomon as he sat on his portable throne; the angel had said nothing as Solomon had been berated. Now the angel spoke: “SOLOMON, WISEST OF HUMANS, SHALL DECREE THE RULES OF YOUR SERVICE, AND HEAVEN WILL GIVE FORCE TO THOSE RULES. SHOW RESPECT TO THIS HUMAN, FOR HE IS GRANTED AUTHORITY TO MAKE YOUR SERVICE BE EASY OR HARSH.”

That quickly shut up the insulters!

The Green Tribe female, Fatima, said timidly, “Pardon me, human king, but I was the last djinni to be put into a brass lamp or brass bottle. So what is the Turd Tribe person doing here?” She flicked a finger to momentarily point toward the Brown Tribe male.

Before Solomon could answer, the Brown Tribe male did. He stood straight and said, “I am Roshradzam of the Brown Tribe, and we are as worthy as any other Tribe of djinn, though our powers be less.”

This assertion was greeted with snorts and rolled eyes from the other bound djinn.

Roshradzam continued, “Why am I here? Because Hakeezib, Chief of the Blue Tribe of Djinn, threatened to water-swap the favorite concubine of Chief Thointorgos unless Brown Tribe sent a djinni to kill the human king. I was sent; I was unsuccessful.”

“Because Brown Tribe beings are puny weaklings!” said Kharmesh of the Blue Tribe with a laugh. Kharmesh was the tallest and the most muscular djinni in the room.

Solomon smiled at the seven bound djinn. “I have a friend in high places”—Solomon gestured toward the angel—“who tipped me off that an assassin was coming. But since I didn’t have any more brass Vessels and time was short, I had to put Roshradzam into my hollowed-out ruby ring. Sorry, Roshradzam, no disrespect intended.”

Fatima looked shocked that Solomon had apologized to Roshradzam, when the human king had nothing to fear from the captured Brown Tribe djinni.

Solomon thought, What, djinn have never heard of kindness, grace, and mercy toward a defeated opponent?

****

The main reason that Roshradzam had not succeeded at his assassination was because Solomon had not been in bed at the time. Solomon had stayed awake till late the previous night, again and again rewriting the rules that the bound djinn would be compelled to obey.

Now there was no more reason to delay the bad news. Solomon reached inside his sash, pulled out the small scroll, and unrolled it.

Solomon read the rules to the seven bound djinn. The angel had nothing to say afterward; the bound djinn had much to say afterward. Yet Solomon did not waver.

Still, the bound djinn accepted the rules better than Solomon had expected. Jerngert, the Pink Tribe female, pointed out to the others that, while the master’s nonmagical commands must be obeyed, each genie was free to ignore the master’s orders and requests that the genie perform magic. Jerngert said, “This is a mercy that I wasn’t expecting from the human king.”

To which Fatima, Jerngert’s friend in Green Tribe, added, “In addition, if a human tries to harm my master, I’m allowed to punish that human as I choose. I intend to choose some creative ways.” Fatima’s smile was scary.

****

Then Solomon had a thought. He looked at Roshradzam and asked (in Arabic), “Can you speak any other language besides Arabic?”

Roshradzam shook his head.

“Can you learn new languages quickly, like they can?” Solomon gestured to mean the other six genies.

Roshradzam’s head-shake was emphatic.

Kharmesh and Sumera insulted Roshradzam; Solomon stopped listening.

Solomon looked at the angel. “Roshradzam has a problem with becoming a genie, and we need to fix it.”

****

Solomon looked at the bound djinn and asked, “So now that I’ve spoken the rules and Roshradzam’s language problem is fixed, does anyone have questions?”

“I do,” spit blue-skinned Sumera. “What do we do when all seven of us are owned by the same djinni? I want to puke, thinking about taking orders from Ashnadim or Sigvard.” (Chiefs of, respectively, the Green Tribe and the Pink Tribe.)

Solomon smiled at her. “It is impossible for a djinni to grasp your Vessel or to rub it, so a free djinni cannot be your master. Only a human can.”

Liar! You’re saying what I want to hear, but I’ll be the one fetching Ashnadim’s slippers.”

Fatima said, “You’re as stupid as a camel. A djinni’s forearms and hands turn to smoke if he touches your Vessel. Kharmesh, Jerngert, and I all saw it happen—go ahead, ask Kharmesh.”

Sumera looked at big blue Kharmesh. Kharmesh shrugged.

Fine,” Sumera replied. “So now I need only worry about a wormfood owning all seven of us bound djinn. My life is improved.”

The angel replied, “AFTER THIS HOUR, YOUR VESSELS WILL BE SCATTERED. EVERY HUMAN ALIVE TODAY WILL BE CRUMBLED BONES WHEN NEXT YOU ARE GATHERED TOGETHER.”

Sumera crossed her arms. “You think so, White Wings? Before this year is out, some human wizard or sorcerer will have tracked down our Vessels. You scattering the Vessels means only that the human must work harder, and cast more spells. Either sooner or not quite so soon, we seven will have one master.”

“NOT SO,” replied the angel. “YOUR VESSELS SHALL BE AS NOTHING TO HUMAN MAGIC, DJINN MAGIC, AND DEMON MAGIC. ONLY HEAVEN WILL KNOW WHERE A BOUND DJINNI’S VESSEL IS. FEAR NOT.”

Sumera had no more loud words of reply. But Solomon heard her mutter, “I wouldn’t count out demon magic so quickly, angel. Those demons know a thing or two.”

****

Of the seven bound djinn, Fatima became Solomon’s favorite (though he would never tell her this). Fatima was outspoken, like Kharmesh; but like Jerngert, Fatima would think. (Or rather, sometimes Fatima would think. She had a lot of anti-human prejudice that she refused to question.)

Fatima asked Solomon, “How do we become free djinn again? Or are we stuck like this till Judgment Day?”

Solomon turned around to look at the angel. The angel announced, “AS SOLOMON DOTH SPEAK IT, SO SHALL IT BE.”

Solomon’s father, King David, had warned him that there would be days like this.

Now Solomon thought hard. The others waited silently.

Then Solomon spoke: “You djinn will be freed before Judgment Day, I promise you. You all will be freed on the day that all your Tribes prove worthy of your freedom.”

The seven bound djinn looked puzzled by this prophecy.

 

Chapter 1
The Lost Election

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Characters Susie (Susan) Cooper and Tim Hanson have appeared in my novels Names Have Power and Three More Wishes.

****

October 6, 2016 (Thursday night)
Local chapter, Abzug Society

Michelle Landrieu-LeClerc sat on a brown folding chair and hated Marvin Harper for the 7,846th time in six years.

Jane Yancy-Miller was running unopposed for the Treasurer position, so she was chosen to moderate the election for chapter Chairperson.

There had been a time when Michelle had likewise been unopposed when she’d run for Chairperson of the local chapter—but that was before Marvin Harper had become famous as the “hero billionaire.”

Now in 2016, when it came to Michelle being re-elected Chairperson, that man Marvin Harper had messed things up for her, again

Michelle now had a challenger for the Chairperson seat: Gertrude Price-Weatherby. And Gertrude was running on a platform of “Marvin Harper is not our enemy.”

Now Jane walked to the lectern and banged the gavel. “Women, each candidate for Chairperson will speak for two minutes, then we will vote. Ms. Price-Weatherby won the coin-toss and chose to speak last. So Ms. Landrieu-LeClerc, please come forward now.”

After taking the lectern, Michelle looked into every face. “I am Mitchell Landrieu-LeClerc, and you know me. I have been active of this chapter of the Abzug Society for fifteen years, since my daughters entered middle school.”

As Michelle took a breath, she noticed: A lot more women here are wearing a lot more makeup than they did in 2010. Six years ago, no woman in this chapter would have dared wear anything more than muted-color lipstick, like Michelle herself wore.

What does this mean? she wondered.

A worried part of her brain replied, It means that they’re not your minions anymore. You can’t count on their votes.

Michelle shoved down that worry, and went back to speaking:

“I have been tireless in the struggle to give my daughters a world of equality for women. I will not allow any man, no matter how admirable he seems, to take our rights from us. I do not trust Marvin Harper, and you should flee any woman who says we can peacefully coexist with him. Many find him charming, and he is generous with his money, but the fact remains: Marvin Harper is a dedicated, resource-rich, and seductive agent of Patriarchy. Good grief, he has a harem! He is dangerous to our cause, for as long as he breathes.”

Thus Michelle ended her speech; she did not ask for the women of the chapter to vote for her. With head held high, she walked from the lectern to her chair and sat down.

Seconds later, it was Gertrude at the microphone: “Michelle here has many times listed Marvin Harper’s faults and sins. Let me point out one of his virtues. When one of his harem girls, Kristin Curry, was told that Marvin would pay for all her college expenses, she told him where she wanted to attend: Smith College. That’s right, the one in Northampton, Massachusetts. And once she got there, you can bet that not one student there, or professor, told Ms. Curry that she had to bake cookies for the rest of her life and stand by her man.”

Gertrude looked into every pair of eyes, though she only glanced into Michelle’s. “Ms. Curry now has a degree from Smith, without borrowing one dollar of student loans or flipping one burger. According to The Sophian, Harper did not try to talk Ms. Curry into a different school when she asked for very expensive, very feminist Smith College.”

Gertrude made eye contact again, then resumed her speech. “Michelle is abrasive. How many women of this chapter has Michelle expelled for failing to uphold feminist purity? Virgilia O’Keefe, Bellina Mott, Rivka Goldheim, and I’m sure I’m forgetting others. Remember when Michelle called Susan Cooper a bimbo and a disgrace, and Susan denounced Michelle as a ‘man-hater with anger issues’ just before she loudly quit? These women whom Michelle kicked out or drove away, where have they gone? Except for Susan Cooper, they all joined Marvin Harper’s harem. The LeClerc twins are shacking up with him right now! Though oddly, they haven’t been drummed out of our chapter.”

“Thirty seconds,” Ms. Yancy-Miller said.

Gertrude looked into everyone’s eyes for the last time. “Marvin Harper has not yet chosen to become our enemy. But as our enemy, he would be formidable, perhaps unbeatable. Elect me, and he will never become our enemy. But re-elect Michelle, and war with him is only a matter of time. Why is this bad? A public-relations war with the ‘hero billionaire’ is something the Abzug Society cannot win, and feminism cannot afford to lose more support.”

Seconds later, it was Jane, not Gertrude, at the lectern. Jane banged the gavel and announced, “It’s time to vote.”

****

Across the city, the next morning (Friday)
At Tim Hanson Ford, off Smith Freeway

Almost every Friday morning, I climbed into my car and drove from my mansion to Tim Hanson Ford.

By no coincidence, Friday mornings were when Tim Hanson Ford had the fewest customers.

At the car dealership, there was a separate small building where the dealer had his office. That building was tiny, since it held only Tim Hanson’s office, his receptionist’s desk outside his office, a postage-stamp-sized breakroom, and a conference room.

I parked my gold Mustang near the door to this tiny building; seconds later, I was walking in the door.

Even before my eyes adjusted, I heard a mega-cheerful female voice: “Good morning, Mr. Harper! I hope you’re having a wonderful,wonderful day!”

The speaker was Susie (née Susan) Cooper, Tim’s receptionist. Her blond hair was fake, her large tits were real, the blue ribbon in her hair was satin, and her big, friendly smile was ever-present.

There was a time, before I met her, when Susie did not smile at all. Furthermore, I am told Susie was very unpleasant to any human male.

The reason that Susie now looked and acted like the ultimate bimbo receptionist was the same reason why I, Marvin Harper the “hero billionaire,” spent my Friday mornings hanging out with a car dealer in his office.

Tim Hanson and I were friends because we shared a unique situation: We both had magical mind-control powers, and we tried to do right by the people we mind-controlled. I had been given my powers by a genie wish; Tim had been given mind-control powers as a reward by the Golden God.

In Tim’s case, whatever mind-rewriting he did was irreversible. Tim had accidentally reprogrammed Susan, his ultrafeminist receptionist, and bimbo Susie was the result.

Bimbo Susie now was looking at me and smiling. I replied, “I am indeed having a wonderful day, and you’re looking great. Will you please let Tim know I’m here?”

“Sure. He’s at the Service Garage now, though I don’t expect him to be gone long.” Susie picked up her desk phone, and spoke briefly with Tim via his smartphone.

After Susie hung up, she theatrically looked left and right, as though checking for eavesdroppers, and said, “The Abzug Society’s local chapter had an election last night. You were the main campaign issue. And Mitchell—”

“You mean Michelle—”

“—Michelle lost the election. She’s out, she’s only a peon now, too-bad-so-sad.”

I laughed. “Feeling a little vindictive, are we?”

Susie smiled, but the smile was cruel. “Six years ago, in front of the entire group, she called me a ‘bimbo man-pleaser’ and ‘a disgrace to the cause.’ She was seconds away from kicking me out when I quit. But now she’s no longer the big cheese here. Do you want to know what really delights me?”

“What?”

“Gertrude—she’s who won—reminded the members that Michelle’s twin daughters aren’t living with her, they’re living with you!

I made a rocking-hand gesture. “Not at the moment. I’ve sent the twins on an all-expenses-paid trip to France.”

 

Chapter 2
Elvira Finds a Lamp

Late afternoon Friday, local time
In the French countryside

Almira LeClerc was driving a rental car, with her sister Elvira in the passenger seat. The American twins were headed to a family reunion—with French “family” whom they had never met. Fortunately, both sisters were fluent in schoolbook French.

With only the twins in the rental car, they spoke American English—

Almira asked, “Why do you think she did it, Marvin’s old aunt Claire? Why she pushed Marvin to give us this trip to France?”

Elvira replied, “Maybe she likes France? After all, Claire is a French name. What’s really weird is how, once old Claire convinced Marvin to help us take this trip, Marvin needed only one short phone call for our parole officer to go along.”

Almira shrugged. “Why is it weird? Marvin Harper deserves to be served, and everyone realizes this.” Then she laughed. “Everyone except you, Elvie. Though you’ve gotten along much better with him and everybody else in the past two years.”

Elvira said, “Everybody except Mother.” The twins laughed.

Elvira added, “I’ve been trying hard to be a good person these last two years. But I never imagined that I would be rewarded with a trip to, ohmigod, France! And we get to use Marvin Harper’s credit card while we’re doing it.”

Almira grinned. “Yeah, we tour France, we meet arrière grand-père Armand’s relatives, and the ‘hero billionaire’ pays for everything. Life is good.” Then Almira eyed the dark clouds ahead. “Except that we’re headed into nasty rain. And these roads are not good.”

****

As Almira had predicted, soon rain fell on the French countryside. Minutes later, the rain was pouring down.

Just as the rain started to blast down, the car passed a construction site. (Which was an odd thing to see, as Mlle. Fontaine had explained in high-school French class.)

The blasting rain slowed the car’s speed to a crawl. Looking through the car’s windows, even with the wipers going their fastest, was for Elvira like looking through shower-door glass.

Still, she could make out a man at the construction site, who was wearing a white hard hat. Elvira saw him make a throat-slash gesture. Then all the men at the site (including Monsieur Hard-Hat) dashed for their cars.

From the driver’s seat, Almira said, “I can’t drive in this. We’re two kilometers from a village. I’ll head there and hope they have an inn for travelers.”

Elvira said, “That will make us late to the reunion.”

Almira shrugged. “Not if we get rolling tomorrow at dawn.”

The village was too small to have an inn. The good news was, the village had a villager who would rent the twins a room for the night. The bad news was, the rain was still blasting; Elvira was soaked to the skin before she’d moved ten feet from the rental car.

****

Once the twins had a room to themselves, Elvira yearned to frolic with her twin sister. But Almira was tired, or so she claimed. Elvira sighed.

****

Early the next morning (Saturday), local time

It was not yet dawn, but the eastern sky was bright when the twins climbed back in their car. To get back to the road on which Almira had been driving when the rain had hit, the rental car now drove past the construction site.

Elvira saw a bright-yellow reflection where she was not expecting it. She yelled, “Almie, stop the car! Stop, stop!

The car screeched to a halt. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” Almie asked, sounding frightened.

“The construction site, there’s a big pile of dirt there. I see a teapot sticking out of the dirt.”

“You’re making us late for a teapot?” Almira rolled her eyes. “Besides, teapots mean England, not France. Which is wherewe are.”

“It’s yellow metal, and it has a handle. It’s an antique teapot.”

“How do you know it’s antique?”

“Remember what Mlle. Fontaine told us in class? In France, they don’t tear down a building until they have to. See that burned lumber? See that pile of scorched bricks? Who knows how long that house stood before they had to tear it down. That teapot could be centuries old!”

“So what? Neither of us drinks tea.”

“Jeez, twin, use your brain. It’ll be a unique souvenir of our trip to France, not some mass-produced trinket.”

Almira’s voice got stern. “You want to quote Mlle. Fontaine? She also said that the French have crazy laws that we don’t have, about old stuff. And we’re parolees. Marvin wouldn’t like me if you and I got arrested for stealing a teapot.”

Elvira replied, “Twin, this burned-down house used to belong to someone. He or she could have grabbed the teapot at any time. They didn’t.”

“But that doesn’t mean that we—”

It’s not stealing! But if we sit here, gabbing about it, the construction crew will come back and I’ll lose my chance. Construction guys work sunrise to sunset, remember?”

“Which means that if you get out of the car, somebody could come along in the next few minutes, and then we both might get arrested.”

Elvira rolled her eyes. “I know you, Almie. You don’t give a shit about the laws of France, only about the laws of Marvin Harper.”

“The last time you wanted to do something on your own and I let you, the result was Anna Kay and us getting kidnapped by gangsters.”

“No gangsters are near here, just French construction guys. Who are headed this way even as we speak.”

Almira said, “Fine. Go. But if the car gets dirty and we get charged extra, you’re paying Marvin back.”

As Elvira was slip-sliding on the muddy ground in the pre-dawn light, she muttered, “Jeez, Almie, you were gutsy six years ago. Now you’re a total scaredy-cat.”

****

When Elvira pulled the handled brass thing out of the pile of dirt (which was now a pile of mud), she knew instantly that she was not holding a teapot.

She also knew instantly what the brass lamp might be.

But Elvira did not rub it with her hand. She was not even slightly tempted. Not because she wasn’t curious, but because the brass lamp was soyucchy with all that mud.

Instead of rubbing the mud off the brass lamp with her hand, Elvira walked over to some still-wet grass, and dragged the brass lamp around by its handle till the lamp was clean.

When Elvira returned to the rental car with her prize in hand, she saw Almira staring at her through the glass.

When Elvira opened the car door, Almira blurted, “Holy shit, you found a motherfucking genie lamp! Rub it, rub it!”

“No way. The construction crew will be here any minute, remember? I’ll rub the lamp later.”

“Arrggh!” Almira replied.

****

The twins reached the city of Clermont-Ferrand a little after ten o’clock, and found the family reunion soon after.

But the twins didn’t join the reunion, not yet. Elvira suggested that they find a local hotel first. “So while we’re talking to all our new aunts and uncles, we don’t have to worry about our suitcases being stolen out of the car.”

Almira smirked. “Ri-i-ight, you’re worried about suitcases getting stolen out of the car.”

“I don’t think it’s a genie lamp. It got rubbed clean, and no genie came out.”

Yet when the twins brought their suitcases (and the brass lamp) into their hotel room, Elvira made sure to lock the brass lamp inside the emptiest of her suitcases. Elvira told herself that her reason was that the brass lamp was a unique souvenir, and she didn’t want to lose it.

“You know,” Almira said casually, “you don’t need to deprive yourself; it’s okay to unlock that suitcase now and to satisfy your curiosity.”

Elvira said, “Our relatives know we’re here. They expect us to reappear soon at the reunion. I’ll rub the lamp later.”

“Arrggh!” Almira replied.

****

Much later, hours after dark Saturday, local time

When the twins returned to their hotel room after spending hours at the reunion, they were tipsy.

Almira said, “Here’s your chance. Grab the lamp, rub it, and let’s find out if there’s a genie in there.”

“No way,” Elvira said. “I’m tired and I’m drunk. That genie would eat me for breakfast. Speaking of breakfast, morning seems like a good time to see what I’ve got.”

“Dammit, twin, I’ve been wondering all day whether that brass lamp is the real deal. Now I’m gonna have to wonder all night, too?”

“Yep,” Elvira replied, grinning drunkenly. “Remember, I’m the person who dipped your Barbie in black paint. I can be a bitch sometimes.”

“Arrggh!”

****

The next morning (Sunday), local time

After both twins had taken showers, Almira asked, “Now are you going to rub the lamp?”

Elvira grinned. “Certainly not. I’m dressed only in a towel. If there is a genie in there, he deserves for me to be dressed more respectfully, don’t you think?”

“Arrggh!”

But an hour and a half later, Elvira was dressed, her hair and makeup were done, and the twins had eaten breakfast. Elvira had all her suitcases unlocked by then.

With her left hand, Elvira reached into the suitcase that had the lamp in it, and grabbed the brass lamp by its handle. Elvira stood and faced Almira.

Elvira said, “I don’t think anything will happen. But here goes.”

Elvira rubbed the brass lamp with her right hand.

The brass lamp shook in Elvira’s hand like a frantic rat were trapped inside of it. Then

A plug of mud shot out of the spout of the lamp, hitting Almira full in the face.

SPLAT!

Almira ran off to the bathroom then, to wash her face (as Elvira called out laughing apologies).

So Almira did not see lots and lots of blue smoke billow out of the lamp, and Almira was not there with Elvira when the blue smoke turned into a blue woman.

 

Chapter 3
Sumera Drops a Bomb

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Events referred to in these next two chapters took place in Chapter 28 of Three More Wishes: Be Kind to Your Genie.

****

Still Sunday

Elvira saw that the genie’s skin was light blue. Her hair, which was pulled up into a bun, was dark blue, as were her eyebrows. Her eyes were not merely blue, but glowing blue. She wore Middle Eastern clothing, including harem pants and silk slippers—all of which were blue.

The genie-woman looked at Elvira, sighed deeply, and said, “Bonjour, Maîtresse. Je suis Sumera, ligoté djinni de la lampe, ici d’accorder trois vœux à vous.

“Holy shit, you’re real!” Elvira said.

The genie frowned. Elvira figured out that Sumera might not know English.

Elvira might have shot her mouth off in French then, and spoken her wishes bam-bam-bam, if the genie had not sighed. That sigh said to Elvira, Granting this human’s wishes is an unpleasant task, so let’s get it over with. A genie with such an attitude would not help Elvira if Elvira worded her wishes poorly.

So instead of wishing, Elvira said, “Plus tard, mes vœux.” Later, my wishes. “Parlez-vous anglais?

“No, Mistress,” Sumera replied in French.

“Holy shit, a real genie!” Almira exclaimed in English.

Sumera turned around. Wet-faced Almira was standing by the bathroom door, staring back at Sumera.

When Sumera turned to face Elvira again, Elvira said in French, “She is Almira, my twin. Almira LeClerc. I am Elvira LeClerc. Can you tell us apart?”

It was a simple question; Elvira expected a simple answer.

****

To Elvira’s question, Sumera replied, “It’s easy to tell you two apart. You each have a spellmark, and your spellmarks are different.”

Elvira said, “What do you mean? What is a ‘spellmark’?”

“Someone has cast a spell on each of you—”

WHAT?” Almira and Elvira said together.

“—and all I know is that the spells have different sources. Your sister’s spell came from a djinni; while your spell, Mistress, came from a being who is not a djinni.”

“What are the spells on us?” Almira demanded.

Elvira said, “Who cast spells on us? Find out, find out!”

No,” said Sumera. “That is a magical request, and I may refuse to obey a magical request. Now if you were to wish for answers to your questions—”

Almira glared at the blue genie. “You’re just trying to get Elvie to use up a wish.”

Elvira said to Sumera, “You can refuse a magical request? What can’t you refuse?”

Sumera clenched her fists and gritted her teeth, and her body shook, rather than answer the question.

But soon Sumera said, “I cannot refuse nonmagical requests. And unless you ask a question that can be answered only by me using magic, I must answer any question you ask with the truth.”

“Except the questions we really want answered,” Elvira said. “Quite a loophole you’ve got, Sumera.”

“Yes, you’re a big help, blue genie,” Almira said, disgusted. “You tell me a genie cast a spell on me, and won’t tell me more. Trouble is, I’ve never met a genie before.”

That’s when Elvira thought of something. “Almie, I know who the genie is.”

“Who? Who? Tell me!”

“Actually, I don’t know. But I have a really strong gut feeling.”

Twin! Say his name. Now.”

“It’s—”

FOOM. Green light flashed, and now there was a fourth female in the hotel room.

Fatima?” Almira blurted.

Fatima,” Sumera sneered.

Fatima, who was casually dressed all in green, gave blue genie Sumera only a glance. Then Fatima’s eyes locked on Elvira’s brass lamp.

Fatima looked up from Elvira’s hand to Elvira’s face. “Oh, shit,” Fatima said.

 

Chapter 4
The Hotel Room Gets Crowded

Still Sunday

Sumera said something to Fatima in a foreign language. To Elvira, Sumera’s words sounded insulting.

Fatima said to Sumera, “I do not have the time for your stupidity”—speaking in sixteenth-century French.

“You really are a genie?” Almira asked Fatima in English.

Shit,” Fatima said.

Elvira asked in English, “What are you doing here?”

Fatima replied, “Entertainment—I came here to watch Sumera be forced to grant wishes. But now I have to work.”

Fatima reached into a pocket of her green-denim jeans and pulled out her smartphone.

Elvira saw that Sumera was frowning. Fatima noticed this too. Instead of Fatima making her phone call, she asked Elvira, “Does Sumera understand English?”

It was Almira who answered: “No, because Sumera is too lazy to learn, I’m sure. She’s already informed Elvie she doesn’t have to obey magical requests.”

Fatima rolled her eyes. In sixteenth-century French, she advised Elvira, “Order Sumera to memory-read you. She may not refuse to do that.”

Elvira commanded Sumera thus, not sure what she was ordering. Sumera glared at Fatima, then reached out a blue hand to touch Elvira’s forehead.

Then life for Elvira turned weird.

****

When Elvira finished reliving her entire life at high speed, she discovered that Marvin Harper was standing next to Fatima in the hotel room.

Marvin was yawning, his hair was mussed, and the buttonholes of his shirt were mismatched with the buttons.

The sunlight through the windows seemed to Elvira to be the same as before. “How long was I out?” she asked.

“Five minutes, maybe more,” Almira said. “I was scared shitless, till Marvin told me he’s gone through the same process lots of times.”

“So you are the famous Marvin Harper, master of Fatima,” Sumera said in sarcastic English. She dropped a curtsy. “I am so pleased to meet you at last.”

Elvira put her fists on her hips then. “Now that we’re all here and we’re all acquainted and we all speak English, would someone—Sumera, Fatima, Marvin, I don’t give a rat’s ass who—tell me, WHEN AND WHERE AND HOW AND WHY MY TWIN SISTER AND I GOT SPELLMARKS ON US, AND WHAT THE SPELLS DO.”

“Jeez,” said Marvin, rubbing his face with one hand, “and I have to answer this on four hours’ sleep.”

Then Marvin looked each twin in the eye. “Why is simple: Because you two were out of control. When and where is even simpler: the party.”

There was no need for Marvin to specify which party. May 15, 2010, the LeClerc twins had been arrested for drug possession, at the costume party to which Marvin had been invited and which the twins had party-crashed.

Now Marvin said, “But the how and the what of you two getting spells put on you, those take some explaining.”

 

Chapter 5
Fanzelle

Meanwhile, back in the USA (Sunday)

The local time was several hours past midnight, and Michelle Landrieu-LeClerc was deeply asleep. But though she was sleeping, no way was she resting as she dreamed—

Michelle is standing on a featureless plain—no buildings, no hills, no lakes, no grass or trees. In front of Michelle are thousands of men.

She sees a man with gray hair and trimmed gray moustache, a pressed black-pinstripe suit, and gold cufflinks. She sees a man in his twenties with three days’ growth of beard, a dirty wife-beater t-shirt, and a can of beer. Michelle sees young men, middle-aged men and old men; men rich and poor; men who are black and white and yellow and brown.

This is the Patriarchy, and every man in the Patriarchy is grinning triumphantly at Michelle.

At the front of the penis-horde are two men who are not content to grin at her; they are pointing at Michelle and laughing.

One of the two men is tall, muscular Marvin Harper. He says, “I’m not the enemy of the Abzug Society, but I am your enemy, Michelle. I’ve corrupted your daughters, and I’ve bamboozled your local chapter into voting you out. Sucks to be you, ‘Mitchell.’ ”

The other man mocking Michelle is her ex-husband Dennis. Dennis LeClerc looks the same as the day Michelle Landrieu met him, right down to his chocolate-brown mullet and mustache, and his tight blue Hawaiian shirt. Dennis now says, “Karma is a bitch, bitch. You shut me out of my daughters’ lives, and yesterday you lost the thing most important to you: head harpy of the local chapter of man-haters.”

Michelle answers, “You lost your rights as a father when you cheated on me and I caught you.”

“That isn’t your call to make, Michelle. I’m the twins’ father; they need me in their lives. Who knows what trouble they’ve gotten into, with me not there?”

Michelle says nothing. She has never told Dennis that his daughters were arrested, tried, convicted, and thrown into prison. Why tell him now? Michelle has done the right thing by not telling Dennis, but he would not understand.

Enough!” a woman’s voice says. Dennis, Marvin, and the rest of the Patriarchy become statue-still. The woman’s voice continues, “I’m tired of hearing these men prattle on—aren’t you, Michelle?”

All the men vanish except for frozen Dennis and frozen Marvin. Where the horde of men was standing, now stands a sexy young woman who is facing Michelle.

The woman has the figure of a porn star, the red skin of a sunburn victim, bright-red shaped eyebrows, and waist-length pink hair. Her clothes are a gray-leather, halter-top bra; a chain-mail loincloth; and black-leather, porn-actress high-heeled pumps with spikes. Her heavy makeup saysI’m easier than a two-piece jigsaw puzzle.

Michelle thinks, This woman looks completely slutty. Dennis would love her.

The woman walks up next to Michelle’s frozen ex-husband, looks at him, and says, “Michelle, you first realized that all men are beasts when you caught Dennis and that bimbo. You are absolutely right: No man deserves any kindness from you.”

The woman taps Dennis on his shoulder; he vanishes. Then the red woman walks up to unmoving Marvin Harper.

“Marvin Harper, you man you,” the woman sighs. “You have humiliated Michelle here, after all she’s done for women’s equality. You should be taken down a peg. Or three. Or thirty.”

Michelle replies, “Good luck, honey. Marvin Harper is the ‘hero billionaire,’ remember? When you trash-talk him in public, nobody believes you. When you sue him, his turncoat lawyer Victoria Allblue gets the lawsuit dropped.”

The woman turns to face Michelle, putting hands on shapely hips. “Do you want vengeance on Marvin Harper? I can get you vengeance. I am Fanzelle, and I promise what nobody else can.”

“Oh, yeah? How?” Michelle says skeptically.

Fanzelle shakes her head. “I can’t answer well enough in a dream. Wake up, summon me, and I’ll explain everything.”

“ ‘Summon me’? What does that mean?”

“I’m a succubus. I seduce men, then claim their souls during sex. But this job was forced on me by lower-downs, and to heaven with all those male demons I work for!”

“Hold on, they make you fuck men? Even when you don’t want to? That’s sex slavery!

“Exactly. So summon me, Michelle, and I’ll explain how you can get vengeance on Marvin Harper, and how I can get promoted out of being ordered to gratify men’s base desires.”

“Not so fast,” Michelle says reluctantly. “I’m going to lose my soul if I do this, won’t I? I’ll get eternal punishment in hellfire?”

Fanzelle looks left and right, checking for eavesdroppers, then she murmurs, “Not if we word the pact right.”

In a normal-volume voice, Fanzelle says, “I’ve said all I can say in this dream. Wake up and summon me if you want vengeance on Marvin Harper.”

“How do I summon you?” Michelle asks.

****

As soon as Michelle woke up, she rushed into Elvira’s old bedroom and headed straight for her closet. On a shelf, Michelle found a box of playground chalk.

There were only two pieces of chalk in the box. Two pieces were more than enough.

Next, Michelle threw on her clothes and drove to a (fortunately nearby) 24-hours Wal-Mart. Michelle bought a box of red birthday candles and a disposable lighter.

When Michelle returned from her shopping trip, she left her car parked in the driveway, instead of again parking her car in the garage.

****

Barely twenty minutes after Michelle had awakened from her dream, she stood in her garage next to a chalk pentagram. At the five corners of the pentagram, five little red candles burned. Happy birthday, Marvin Harper, Michelle thought. She smiled eagerly.

Michelle took a knife in her right hand and sliced into her left forearm. She let blood run down her arm to drip off her elbow, then—making sure she did not step on the chalk lines—she leaned forward so that the dripping blood splattered on the concrete floor inside the pentagram.

Michelle promptly stepped away from the pentagram, again making sure she did not step on the chalk lines.

Michelle spoke solemnly: “Harken, Demon Fanzelle, I summon thee. Appear thou afore me, here and now, bound in place and deed by the pentagram.”

Above the middle of the pentagram, the air got darker, becoming black smoke. The black smoke began to swirl, faster and faster. When the black smoke was an enclosed tornado, the black became red. The red tornado stopped  its spinning. The red smoke diffused to the boundaries of the pentagram, then the red smoke pulled itself in.

Within the pentagram stood Fanzelle. Just as in the dream, Fanzelle had huge breasts, red skin, bright-red eyebrows, and pink hair; Fanzelle was dressed exactly the same as in Michelle’s dream.

But within the pentagram, Fanzelle had more to her appearance. Namely, a red, barbed tail; pointed ears; glowing-red-iris eyes; horns coming out of her forehead; and huge bat-wings coming out of her shoulder blades.

Fanzelle looked at Michelle and said formally, “O mortal named Michelle Joan Landrieu-LeClerc, I the demon Fanzelle do come to you as summoned.”

Then Fanzelle grinned at Michelle and added, “You ready to mess with Marvin Harper?”

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