Dark and, at times, amusing fiction from award-winning author Dave Zeltserman

Friday, December 31, 2010

Thanks Naomi!

The Drowning Machine has announced their annual Lowhead Dam Awards, and I'd like to thank Naomi Johnson for the shout-out to my View from the Mirador from 21 Tales and for putting The Caretaker of Lorne Field in such excellent company.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

25 reasons ....

You just got a new Kindle or Nook? Here are 25 reasons why you should make The Caretaker of Lorne Field, which is available in either hardcover, Kindle e-book, or Nook e-book, your next read.

1) Finalist for the 2010 Black Quill Award for best dark genre book of the year.

2) Reader's Advisor list of Best Horror Books of 2010

3) BookReporter.com's Best Books of 2010

"Possibly the most haunting tale I’ve encountered this year. I had forgotten how much I missed August Derleth until I read this. It establishes Zeltserman as one of our most diversified and talented writers."

4) Book critic Chauncey Mabe's favorite books of 2010

"If H.P. Lovecraft collaborated with Jim Thompson, the result would be something like this foray into horror from a writer best known for noir crime fiction. Dread, suspicion, paranoia and a completely new variety of monster combine in a highly original effort."

5) Bookgasm book critic Bruce Grossman's top read of 2010.

6) Author Roger Smith's top 5 books of 2010.

7) Author Paul Tremblay's best books of 2010.

"Small New England town has hired a dude to weed this one field for generations. If he doesn’t weed the field, the weeds grow into monsters and we’re all dead in a week. Or the dude is nuts. Dave takes this twilight-zone set up, sprinkles noir, and plays the reader like a fiddle until the very last page. You can’t help but love this book."

8) Author Joe McKinney's favorite reads of 2010

"An extremely funny book. Zeltserman has made a name for himself as a writer of intense psychologically-driven crime fiction, making this rural horror story a bit of a departure…but I’m so glad he made it. I hadn’t gone twenty pages into this book before I knew it was going to make this list. Good old fashioned hardcover for this one, and worth every penny."

9) Author Nate Southland's top book of 2010

"Once in a great while, you find a book that makes you read it, that just forces you to keep turning pages until you’re finished. This is one of them. Jack Durkin is the caretaker of Lorne Field. The town thinks he’s a crazy man who spends every day weeding the same field, but he insists the things he pulls out of the ground and burns are monsters that will destroy the world within weeks if he doesn’t take care of them first. Zeltserman keeps you guessing right up to the last page, wondering if Durkin is telling the truth or is stark raving mad. This is the one, folks. An amazing novel that will leave you breathless."

10) Patricia Abbott's Best of Whatever

"The tenth generation caretaker of Lorne Field pushes on despite the town’s disbelief in his mission to save them from a terrible fate. Not a misplaced word or emotion in this terrific horror story."

11) Naomi Johnson's Best of Whatever

"A classic, and that's all there is to it."

12) Kieran Shea's Best of Whatever

13) "Superb mix of humor and horror" Publishers Weekly, starred review

14) "superbly crafted horror story" Booklist

15) "Harrowing. Zeltserman colors it black with the best of them." Kirkus Reviews

16) "The black comedy of errors that ensues invites comparison to storiesby Kafka, David Prill, James Hynes, William Browning Spencer, and other authors who have mused on the dark side of daily breadwinning... Though Zeltserman's approach is clearly tongue-in- cheek, he deftly balances the competing interests of the characters to keep the truth of the narrative events ambiguous. A few deaths at conveniently inopportune moments and several coincidental fades to black only add to the dramatic tension of the narrative. Stories of this kind are hard to pull off and often collapse under the weight of their outrageous premises long before they end. It's to Zeltserman's credit that his novel holds together up to and through the final paragraph, and that it compels the reader to stay with it for that long." -- LOCUS Magazine

17) "Crime writer Zeltserman has produced a nail-biter...The narrative is straightforward and gritty, reminiscent of works of Dashiell Hammett...gripping and actually 'horrifying,' this title is recommended for horror fans and readers who may relish unpleasant surprises." -- Library Journal

18) "Compared to how artfully Dave Zeltserman handles the similar question of reality or psychosis in his 2010 novel The Caretaker of Lorne Field, [Stephen] King never rises above pulp fiction."-- Boston Globe

19) "Delicious horror-ish novel...Zeltserman is fully in control." -- Newsday (Long Island)

20) "If Stephen King had a true Noir calling and Peter Straub added contemporary horror... and Dean Koontz threw in his fine depiction of ordinary life on the edge of the unknown... then bring the specter of James M. Cain to write the narrative, you'd come close to describing the whole effect of this stunning slice for the zeitgeist wondrous novel and the writing is... pure dark bliss." -- Ken Bruen, author of London Boulevard

21) The Caretaker of Lorne Field has a wonderful mix of the tragic obsolescence of “Death of a Salesman’s” Willie Loman, the fantastical vision of Serling’s Twilight Zone, and the rural, gothic vibe of a Manly Wade Wellman tale. But along with this unique mishmash of themes and subtle undercurrents of humor and religiosity, it has a pulsing emotional core that immediately draws the reader in. Spinetingler Magazine (Ron Clinton)

22) "It’s a bold move for the author to make, but one that pays off big in the end. With his easy-reading narrative and skill at constantly forcing the reader to grow more and more involved in Jack Durkins’s plight, The Caretaker of Lorne Field starts off as a speedy story and soon becomes gut-clencher that might give you whiplash from turning the pages so fast." Spinetingler Magazine (Tom Piccirilli)

23) "The eerie and frightening aspects of the novel are woven tightly into the human drama never taking center stage over the trials and tribulations of Jack Durkin. Landing somewhere at the intersection of social commentary, horror, and family drama The Caretaker of Lorne Field is a wholly enjoyable novel that is difficult to put down. If you’re looking for new and interesting fiction to read that is a bit off the beaten path I highly recommend the uniformly excellent The Caretaker of Lorne Field." King of the Nerd's

24) "If you put Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and any Stephen King novel in a blender, the result would be something like The Caretaker of Lorne Field." George Kelley

25) "In a word--superb." Steven Riddle, A Momentary Taste of Being

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

More best lists for Caretaker and Killer

Bookgasm book critic, Bruce Grossman, announced on Facebook his two top reads of 2010.

#1 The Caretaker of Lorne Field by Dave Zeltserman
#2 Killer by Dave Zeltserman

Book critic Chauncey Mabe also picked The Caretaker of Lorne Field as one of his favorite books of 2010, saying:

If H.P. Lovecraft collaborated with Jim Thompson, the result would be something like this foray into horror from a writer best known for noir crime fiction. Dread, suspicion, paranoia and a completely new variety of monster combine in a highly original effort.

Trend Continues & Outsourced review

The trend continues with readers digging The Caretaker of Lorne Field. Here author Joe McKinney's picks Caretaker for one of his favorite reads of 2010.

And here's another early review for Outsourced.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An amazing book cover

I posted this before, but the CBS Sunday Morning piece on book covers got me thinking again about the German-edition cover for Outsourced that Suhrkamp is putting out. I think this cover is a work of art, and is really remarkable.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My turn over at "Dancing With Myself"

It's my turn to toss myself some softballs over at Nigel Bird's "Dancing With Myself" feature.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Killer shown on CBS Sunday Morning

CBS Sunday Morning's story 'Judging Books by Their Covers' gave Killer some very nice exposure. Check out at 1 minute and 40 second into the video.

Judging Books by Their Covers

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Chase--Complete + Rules + Mini contest

The Chase -- round robin crime story written by Max Allan Collins, Vicki Hendricks, Ed Gorman, Bill Crider, Harry Shannon and myself, can be read in its entirety, plus content rules here.

I'm also running a mini-contest. Not quite the same bragging rights as the main contest, but still free books! Here's the deal. You think you know my writing? The first three people who can pick out the 2 story segments I wrote will win an autographed book. Like the main contest, I need entries emailed to me at dave.zeltserman@gmail.com by Dec. 30th, with one entry per person, and I'll be announcing the winners on Jan. 3rd.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The trend continues: Caretaker making more best of year lists

Over at BookReporter.com, they have their staff picks for best books of 2010, and Joe Hartlaub says of Caretaker: "Possibly the most haunting tale I’ve encountered this year. I had forgotten how much I missed August Derleth until I read this. It establishes Zeltserman as one of our most diversified and talented writers."

Author Nate Southard also make his picks, saying of Caretaker: "Once in a great while, you find a book that makes you read it, that just forces you to keep turning pages until you’re finished. This is one of them. Jack Durkin is the caretaker of Lorne Field. The town thinks he’s a crazy man who spends every day weeding the same field, but he insists the things he pulls out of the ground and burns are monsters that will destroy the world within weeks if he doesn’t take care of them first. Zeltserman keeps you guessing right up to the last page, wondering if Durkin is telling the truth or is stark raving mad. This is the one, folks. An amazing novel that will leave you breathless." Nate also picks Paul Tremblay's In the Mean Time, and anyone picking this wonderfully haunting collection of dread and unease is someone you need to listen to!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Chase!

The Chase--the round robin story + contest being written by Top Suspense Authors Max Allan Collins, Ed Gorman, Bill Crider, Vicki Hendricks, Harry Shannon and myself, is quickly coming to an end, with the second to last episode up now.

If you haven't been following The Chase, it's not too late--all episodes are up on the Top Suspense blog. Come on, admit it, you want to know whether we're able to pull it off and bring the story to a satisfying conclusion, or whether The Chase crashes and burns! And what better way to goof off at work now than to get caught up in The Chase!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Over 2200 Nook e-book copies sold since September

Smashwords has updated their Barnes & Noble sales numbers, and since September over 2200 copies of Bad Thoughts have sold for the Nook, with far less selling over on Amazon as Kindle downloads. Why the significantly greater sales numbers over at B&N? Because on September 18th B&N recommended Bad Thoughts as a Nook purchase. It shows how powerful a bookstore recommendation can be.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Black Quill Award for Best Dark Genre Novel of the Year and other stuff

Dark Scribe Magazine has announced their nominees for their Black Quill awards, and they're put The Caretaker of Lorne Field up against some very stiff competition in their Best Dark Genre Novel of the Year category. Nominees are:

A DARK MATTER by Peter Straub (Doubleday)
KRAKEN by China MiƩville (Del Rey)
SPARROW ROCK by Nate Kenyon (Leisure / Bad Moon Books)
THE CARETAKER OF LORNE FIELD by David Zeltserman (Overlook Hardcover)
THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin (Ballantine)
UNDER THE DOME by Stephen King (Scribner)

You can vote for your favorite here (and while you're at it, I hope you vote for Paul Tremblay's terrific In the Mean Time, which is nominated for the Best Dark Genre Fiction Collection category).

The trend also continues with readers digging Caretaker. Author Tom Piccirilli (The Cold Spot, Shadow Season) says:

It’s a bold move for the author to make, but one that pays off big in the end. With his easy-reading narrative and skill at constantly forcing the reader to grow more and more involved in Jack Durkins’s plight, The Caretaker of Lorne Field starts off as a speedy story and soon becomes gut-clencher that might give you whiplash from turning the pages so fast.

You can read Tom's entire review here.

IPA-Ray also has his say about Caretaker over here.

Over at the Top Suspense Group we've started our round robin short story and contest. Rules are simple--over the next 12 days we'll be posting a story segment, and the first five people who can match each story segment to the author who wrote it will win a free book. Check out the first part of the story here!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Vampire Crimes now available for Nook & Kindle!

Vampire Crimes, one of the highest octane noir and horror rides you're going to find, is now available as both Kindle and Nook downloads. Feedback I've been getting from early readers is that they're digging this.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More Caretaker & More Vampire Crimes

The trend continues with folks digging The Caretaker of Lorne Field, first with a thoughtful review from Kevin Tipple, and then with an embarrassingly flattering mention in the Boston Globe's review of Stephen King's 'Full Dark, No Stars':

In “1922,’’ the issue is also whether we are in supernatural territory or whether Wilfred, the narrator, is imagining being haunted by his wife’s corpse and her pack of rats. But compared to how artfully Dave Zeltserman handles the similar question of reality or psychosis in his 2010 novel “The Caretaker of Lorne Field,’’ King never rises above pulp fiction.

Vampire Crimes is now available for Nook download for $2.99, and should be available soon for Kindle for the same price. This is probably my most noir and grittiest novel, and anyone who liked Small Crimes, Pariah, Killer or Outsourced are really going to dig this one. Below I continue with Chapter where I left off yesterday. Next week, Chapter 2.


(Chapter 1, CONT'D)

God he hurt.

God he was hungry.

To focus his thoughts away from the pain, he tried to hold Carol’s image in his mind. She was so damn beautiful. Long black hair that fell past her shoulders, her small heart-shaped face dominated by the most expressive dark brown eyes he’d ever seen. Those eyes could fill up so intensely with emotion, and when she’d look at him a certain way he’d get weak enough in the knees that they would start to buckle.

God she was beautiful…

She was only nineteen when they met. Three years later she looked so much older than she should’ve. World weary. That was the thought that came to mind. There was a tragic quality to her beauty now; her face more gaunt than it should be, thin strands of white occasionally showing up in her dark black hair. She’d pull them out when she’d see them—not out of vanity, but simply trying to keep him from noticing; afraid that if he knew how much he was aging her he might leave her. He couldn’t leave her, though. As much as he needed human blood to survive, he needed her presence even more. She was more addictive than any drug. He needed his daily fix of her—he needed to feel her small warm body against his at night, the side of her face resting against his shoulder and her thin legs draped over his body. The virus had left him with a highly acute sense of hearing and he needed to hear the soft pattering of her heart. He didn’t think he could stay sane without it. For her sake, he would risk it except he knew that she held the same addiction to him; that it would be just as soul crushing for her if they separated. For better or worse, they were each other’s soul mates, and as much as he wanted a better life for her he couldn’t inflict that kind of pain on her by leaving, not unless he thought she could survive and be okay some day. Somehow he knew she wouldn’t. That turned out to be the most damning curse of his infection.

His thoughts drifted to when they met. It was right after all that bizarre shit with Serena. He had somehow gotten out of New York in one piece and was trolling the mean streets of Newark half-crazed from hunger when he heard Carol screaming for help. She was two blocks away and had been dragged beneath an underpass bridge by a leather and chain jacketed, tattoo-encrusted street thug. The thug was more than twice Carol’s size and held a dirty rag against her face which mostly muffled her screams. Still, she fought like hell while he tried to bend her over and rip off her panties, her skirt already having been thrown to the ground. In a few heartbeats Jim was there, pulling the thug away from Carol, and at the same time yelling at her to get away from them. She collected her torn skirt but she didn’t run away, and Jim understood why she stayed there and watched. Even in the crazed, wild state he was in, he felt the connection with her when their eyes met. He had the same immediate longing for her as she did for him.

But he needed to feed.

The thug looked confused that someone as thin as Jim could lift him with one hand so effortlessly off the ground, especially since he outweighed Jim by a good sixty pounds. Up close the thug was ugly as sin; pockmarked, bald—and for a short moment before he had edged his switchblade out of his pants pocket—as scared-looking as any little kid had ever been.

Once the blade was open and the moonlight reflected off of it that changed and the thug transformed back to the brutish animal he was. Jim was grateful for that. It made it easier for him to do what he had to. He didn’t give him a chance to use the knife; instead he crushed every bone in the thug’s hand and sent the blade falling harmlessly to the ground—not that the thug would’ve been able to do much with it anyway. After that the skull was next.

While the thug lay as a lump of dead meat on the ground, Jim ripped open his throat and drank until the buzzing in his mind died down. He was ashamed doing this in front of this beautiful dark-haired girl but he couldn’t help it. He desperately needed to feed. So while she stood and watched, he submerged himself in gore. When he was done feeding he remained squatting over the dead body, frozen, wanting to run away but unable to move. He felt Carol standing behind him, could feel a moist heat coming off her body. They were like that for minutes until she touched him on the shoulder. When he turned and looked into her eyes he knew he was lost—he knew they both were…

A dog’s high-pitched whining knocked him out of his thoughts. A pickup truck had pulled up next to him and a Rottweiler inside the cab was going nuts, its paws scraping against the passenger-side window in a frantic attempt to break itself free. The owner, a big beefy guy with a buzz cut and goatee, looked like he had his hands full trying to subdue his dog. He yelled out orders for the animal to heel, all of which the Rottweiler ignored. After some struggling he got the dog on a leash. When he opened the passenger door, the dog shot out as if from a cannon and nearly dragged the owner onto the pavement. Cursing, he righted himself and, as his eyes met Jim’s, he shot Jim a pissed-off look as if he were blaming Jim for his dog’s bad behavior. Sonofabitch, the guy was perceptive, because it wasn’t as irrational as one would think. Jim knew that the dog’s reaction had nothing to do with fear but an odor that fell within the spectrum a dog could pick up but humans couldn’t. As best he could figure out, the virus caused a change in his body chemistry that resulted in the emission of an odor that affected dogs, along with a host of other animals and insects, the same way that mustard gas affected humans. They couldn’t help themselves with the way they reacted to it—they’d do anything to try and escape it.

Jim watched as the Rottweiler strained on its leash and pulled the owner away. The man looked like he wanted to tie his dog up outside the diner, but after some more struggling he gave up and let the dog go inside with him. Before the door closed behind him, the man turned and shot Jim one last enraged look.

The incident made him think of his old dog, Buster, a beautiful almost pure white Bull Terrier with only a few black smudges on his ears and some pink on the tip of his nose. That breed is so damn loyal, and as long as they have physical contact with you they’re content. Before joining the army he gave the dog to his sister, April. He often thought about Buster, wondering if he could still be alive, and if he were, whether he’d recognize him. In his mind’s eye he could imagine Buster whining in agony but still crawling over to him so that he could lay against his feet. Thinking about Buster reminded him of his previous life. It seemed so long ago now. A different lifetime ago. To think at one time he had been a human being…

The noise of a door slamming shut distracted him. Carol had left the diner, her face a hard white, a bag clutched tightly in her fist. She tried to smile when she saw Jim, but it didn’t stick. She stormed her way to their car and banged the door open, then slid into the driver’s seat.

“Those assholes. It’s okay for them to let some flea-bitten mutt walk in there without any argument, but you they treat worse than a dog. I want to find a payphone. I’m going to call the Department of Health and see those assholes shut down!”

“Babe, it’s not worth it.”

“You should’ve seen the way that dog was wheezing and drooling at the mouth. That’s okay with them. But with you, a little sweat… Goddamn it! I really want to report them! You know what that bitch cashier had the fucking nerve to tell me? That it’s customary to leave a tip for takeout food. I wanted to shove the change down her throat!”


“I’m so angry right now.”

Massive understatement…

Her lips curled up and nearly disappeared as she smiled a bare-fanged smile. Straight but slightly yellowed teeth showed through it. Shaking her head, she pulled a cheeseburger from the paper bag, unwrapped it and took an angry bite out of the burger.

“You’re not going to enjoy your food if you eat angry like this.”

“I’m not going to enjoy this greasy shit no matter how I eat it.” She took a hesitant look at Jim and apologized. “I’m sorry. God, I know with the way you’re feeling you don’t need me to act this way. I just can’t help it. I hate that they think they can treat you like this.”

“I know.”

She turned to give the diner one last angry stare. “Fuck them. Let’s just get away from this dump. The quicker we find a motel, the quicker you can lie down.”

She handed Jim the rest of her food to hold, then with the cheeseburger in one hand and gripping the steering wheel in the other, she put the car in reverse, hit the gas, and nearly spun out backing out. Sending up a cloud of dust, she shoved the car in drive, spun the wheels some more and, with her foot heavy on the gas, sped out of the parking lot and back onto 90 East nearly sideswiping a minivan. Fortunately the driver was too startled to honk or give her the finger.

“Are you okay?” Jim asked.

“Yeah, I just need a minute.” She hesitated for a moment, then asked how he was feeling.


She accepted the lie, but gave him a long uneasy glance as she took a bite of her burger.

“We’ll find a motel soon,” she said.

Jim nodded. He dug out of the paper bag a container of French Fries so she could eat them while wolfing down the burger. He knew she liked ketchup on her fries. He took a couple of packets, struggled for a bit, but got them open, and spread the ketchup on the fries. When she was done with the food, he handed her a chocolate shake. At least she’d have to take her time drinking that. Maybe she’d even end up tasting it. Jim turned the radio back on and found a hip hop station. She started to argue that he should find a classic rock and roll station for himself, but he told her this was what he wanted to listen to. She didn’t put up too much of a fight. She needed something to take the edge off her anger and listening to her music usually did the trick. He closed his eyes and tried to keep her from seeing how much he was hurting.

It was an hour later that she drove past the airport and then a row of strip clubs before pulling into the parking lot of a cheap motor lodge inside the Brook Park area of Cleveland. A sign out front advertised king-sized waterbeds, but other than that the motor lodge seemed typical for where they’d been staying since going on the run. Two stories, and mostly a grim dirty-looking concrete eyesore. The type of place that usually had shag carpeting from the seventies and a few mass-produced uninspired water colors hung on the walls. It was also the type of place where the furniture was bolted down, and more likely than not, had a bedspread growing more germ cultures on it than a lab full of Petri dishes—and if you were smart you didn’t lie down on it; if you were even smarter you’d cover your hand with something when you removed it from the bed. Also you’d keep your shoes on at night so you wouldn’t step on any needles left behind by one of the previous occupants. Carol sighed as she looked at the building. She gave Jim’s hand a quick squeeze, then left the car so she could rent them a room. When she got to the front office door, she turned to give him a wistful smile before disappearing inside. Five minutes later she came out of the office with key in hand.

“Forty-nine dollars a night for this rattrap,” she told Jim when she got back to the car.

“Sounds like a bargain.”

“Yeah, I just hope it’s not infested with bedbugs.”

Jim couldn’t help smiling. While there was a resurgence of bedbugs going on nationwide, and while this motor lodge seemed like a prime candidate to find an infestation, this was something they didn’t have to worry about. The only positive he could see about his infection was that blood-seeking insects like mosquitoes, bedbugs and lice reacted to his scent the same as dogs. If this dump did have bedbugs, they’d scatter as soon as he entered the room. Fuck, if he could only advertise he’d make a fortune clearing pests from motels and residences.

Carol brought him back to reality by mentioning how they were running low on cash.

“We’ll get some more soon.”

“We’d better. Three nights here and we’re broke.”

Jim nodded, then moved slowly as he pulled himself out of the car. Carol looked on, her hard smile turning fragile. She grabbed a suitcase—they’d been traveling light with only a couple of changes of clothing each—and walked slowly to keep pace with him so she’d be able to reach out to him in case he stumbled. She had gotten them a room on the first floor knowing he’d have trouble now with the stairs. The room did have a king-sized waterbed, but other than that it was as Jim expected; dirty, dingy, the walls concrete cinderblock, the ceiling water-stained and the furniture looking like it had been picked out of the city dump. It also had the unmistakable musty smell of a gym locker-room. Jim made it to a cheap padded wooden chair, dragged it away from the window and collapsed in it. Carol moved quickly to close the blinds. The room darkened enough to where Jim no longer felt like a fire was raging under his skin. He breathed a little easier, but now more than anything it was his hunger overwhelming him.

Carol pulled the bedspread off and kicked it away into a corner, then opened the suitcase and removed a small medical kit from her nursing school days. From inside of it she took out a rubber hose and a syringe. She wrapped the hose tightly around her upper arm, then walked over to Jim and sat in his lap while he pulled the hose even tighter and tied it. She walked back to her medical kit, sat down on the bed and flicked on her arm until she could spot a vein. She had such thin arms, and it was hard for her to locate a good vein. Once she had one, she pushed in the syringe and took a blood sample, her face a complete blank as she did this. Jim kept his eyes squeezed shut. He couldn’t risk seeing blood now, not in the state he was in. He heard her remove the plastic vial from within the syringe, then the rush of blood filling up a second vial as she took another blood sample. After a minute or so, he could hear the hose being untied, and then the door opening and closing. He was ashamed of the fact that he was salivating.

When Carol returned, she brought an ice bucket with her. On the bottom of the bucket covered with ice were her two blood samples. He’d have to wait until later to drink them—while there was far less than a pint of blood in those two samples, it would still revitalize him enough to give him the strength for what he needed to do. If he drank it now, though, it would make him want to keep feeding until he was satiated. It would be too dangerous. Carol knew this also. She placed the ice bucket in a drawer so it would be out of sight. Then she helped him out of the chair and onto the bed. While he lay flat on his back, she sidled up next to him and rested her cheek on his stomach and took hold of his arm so she could wrap it around her shoulders.

They lay together like that for several minutes before she spoke.

“Try and get some sleep, Darling,” she whispered. “In a few hours it will be dark. You’ll be able to feed then.”

He nodded, his chin moving up and down a fraction of an inch.

“It’s too bad you can’t feed on infected blood,” she said, sighing softly. “Otherwise you could just infect me and we could feed off of each other forever. How would that be?”

Again, he nodded because there was no harm in doing so. The virus changed a person’s blood chemistry, making drinking it intolerable to an infected vampire. Early on in his infection while in a half-dream-like state and without any real conscious awareness—only his hunger driving him—he had tried feeding on Serena. Only a bare taste of her blood left him as sick as a dog. Serena got a kick out of it, then explained the ropes to him while his body was wracked with dry heaves. It didn’t matter, though. Even if he could consume infected blood, he’d rather cut out his own heart than infect Carol.

Carol moved her hand lightly over Jim’s chest, trying to soothe him. “Sleep, my darling,” she whispered. “Just a few more hours…”

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More Vampire Crimes

I've added Vampire Crimes to both the Kindle and Nook stores, but it's going to take at least a day before they show up there. In the meantime over the next couple of weeks I'm going to put the first 3 chapters up on my blog, but they're long chapter chapters so I'm going to be breaking them up into pieces. I have no doubt that anyone who has read and liked Small Crimes, Pariah, Killer or Outsourced is going to love this book. Originally I wrote this to be part of a 5-book series, and I'm going to need your help. If you read Vampire Crimes and like it, make some noise about it. Add a review to Amazon, B&N, www.kindleboards.com, and anywhere else you can talk it up. If enough readers find this book, I'll be able to write more Vampire Crime novels, but I'm DEFINITELY going to need your help in spreading the word.


Here's the first part of Chapter 1:

The Door’s Riders on the Storm was playing on the car radio and for a few blessed seconds Jim closed his eyes and let the music roll over him.

How long had it been since he heard that song, or even The Doors, for that matter? Years. Probably the last time was before he got infected. Since hooking up with Carol the two of them would usually have on a 90s alternative rock station—that was the kind of music she liked; her favorite groups Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, and if she couldn’t find one of those stations, she’d either tune in a hip hop station or plug in one of her Kurt Cobain CDs, sometimes Green Day. It didn’t much matter to him. He put her through enough as it was, and if she could find some comfort and peace of mind from her music he was all for it.

With his eyes still closed, the line about a killer on the road brought a sick smile to his lips. Was his own brain squirming like a toad? It sure as hell felt like it. It had been a rough day so far. He had stretched things out and had gone too long between feedings, and now it hurt so bad he could barely sit still. The bright sunlight didn’t help; it made him feel like he was on fire, even with his dark shades and baseball cap pulled down to his eyes. He tugged at the cap, trying to pull it down still further, and sunk lower in his seat, drenched in sweat. It surprised him that he still had any fluids left in his body. He sensed Carol looking at him. He knew she was worried about him and had put on a classic rock ’n roll oldies station to try to keep his mind off of his illness—even though she claimed it was because all they had in Cleveland were classic rock stations, blaming it on their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But they weren’t even in Cleveland yet, still traveling east on Interstate 90, about forty miles outside the city.

Groaning inwardly, he opened his eyes a crack and shifted his gaze towards Carol and noticed her knuckles squeezed white as she gripped the wheel. He was always amazed at how small and delicate her hands were. His gaze moved upwards. She looked so deep in thought, her concern about his condition wrecking her face. He tried smiling at her. She moved one of her hands to grip his and gave him a squeeze.

“I never should’ve let you wait this long,” she said.

“I’ll be okay.”

It hurt just talking, his voice soft and hollow and rattling emptily in his throat; the sound of a saw pulled loosely over metal.

She shook her head, the skin tight around her mouth, her jaw pushed forward.

“I shouldn’t have let you do this,” she said. “Look at you. You’re so sick you can barely sit up.”

He cleared his throat, and again told her that he’d be fine.

“You’re going to feed tonight,” she said. “I’m not letting you push this out another day.”

There was nothing but strength and determination in her voice. He didn’t argue with her. He knew it wasn’t safe to wait any longer. Already he could feel himself slipping into this crazed state of consciousness, part hallucinations and part animal fury. It would only last for a few seconds, but he had a sense it was going to get worse if he didn’t feed soon, and God knows who he might feed on if he lost control altogether.

Carol let go of his hand to get a better grip on the wheel. It constantly amazed him that she loved him as much as she did. How could someone as wonderful as her love a monster like him? There was no mistaking that that’s what he was, at least what he had become since his infection. Before the infection he was a good-looking guy; six-foot, 190 pounds, dark complexion, muscular, a hardness about him from his time in the Army, along with a constant five-o’clock shadow. The infection dramatically changed his physical appearance. Zero body fat and his muscles lengthening and becoming tough and sinewy. It also lightened his complexion, his hair now white, and his skin becoming smooth with no beard or mustache to worry about. His weight had dropped significantly also, now at 140, and his body becoming lean, cat-like; even his head had changed shape, becoming angular, kind of like the elves in the Lord of the Rings movie. His teeth didn’t change, though, he didn’t develop fangs, but he was still a monster—what else would you call a creature that looked mostly human but needed to subsist on human blood?

The Doors Riders on the Storm ended, and the next song up was The Stones Sympathy For The Devil. The timing of that made him laugh weakly, his insides hurting like hell as his body shook. Sympathy for the devil, huh? How about any sympathy for him, not that he deserved any, at least not with what he has had to do to survive. If he hadn’t met Carol, he probably would’ve found a way to end his life—not that it would’ve been easy with what the virus had done to him, leaving his muscles and tendons as hard as steel and his skin close to bulletproof, and causing this weird kind of super immunity where his vital organs would regenerate on injury.

Before meeting Carol he had thought long and hard about what he would have to do to kill himself if it ended up that way. Explosives, maybe, but then again they could just blow off his limbs and leave him still alive. A guillotine with a sharp enough blade might do the trick; or if he cut himself open and pulled out his heart and made sure no tissue was left behind to regenerate into a new one. Those had seemed like his best bets. Later, days before meeting Carol, he learned first-hand that shoving a hand grenade down a vampire’s throat did the job just fine, but that was something discovered on the spur of the moment. Since Carol, he had put those thoughts out of his head and accepted that he would spend his life traveling aimlessly from city to city feeding when he had to. Nothing else was possible anymore. He cared too deeply for Carol to leave her, especially knowing what it would do to her.

A few final wheezes of laughter shook him, then with his teeth clattering he hugged himself tightly trying to shrink his body from any exposure to the sun. Thin lines showed along the edges of Carol’s mouth as her concern for him deepened. She reached over and caressed his neck.

“I hate seeing you like this,” she said.

“I know. But I’ll be okay.”

“I don’t think you’re going to be able to wait until tonight.”

“I’ll be able to.”

She paused for a moment, her eyes growing dim as she stared off into the distance.

“You can feed off of me,” she said, her voice barely above the engine whine of their ’88 Chevy Nova.

“Please, don’t bring this up again.”

She bit her lip, tried to smile.

“I want you to,” she said. “We should go through this together.”

“It’s not going to happen. So stop it, please.”

Jim’s hand shook as he reached over to turn the volume higher on the car radio and at the same time end the discussion. Carol’s cheeks puffed up, obviously frustrated, but she took the hint and dropped the subject. The station played a set of Leonard Cohen songs, and after Hallelujah ended, Carol turned off the radio. They rode in silence for a few minutes before she mentioned that she liked those songs and asked who the artist was. Jim told her the name of the musician.

“We’ll have to find some of his CDs,” she said. “Very cool voice. Even though it sounds like he’s got something stuck in his throat. And those lyrics, wow. It sent a chill down my spine.”

“Yeah, I’ve been a fan for a long time. Him and Dylan are the two best songwriters of the last forty years. It’s good to see the old dude get rediscovered.”

Carol made a face. She wasn’t a fan of Bob Dylan, which always mystified him. He couldn’t imagine anyone not being a fan. They drove in silence for another few minutes, the lines along Carol’s mouth deepening as her eyes shifted sideways and she caught a glimpse of him. Jim could only imagine what he looked like sitting there pale and shivering, his clothing soaked through with perspiration.

“Will you be okay if I stop someplace to eat?”


“I wouldn’t be asking except I think I might pass out if I don’t get some food.” She gave him a sad smile. “Unlike you I can’t put off eating for twelve days.”

“Well, it’s not as if I ever really eat anyways…”

“You know what I mean.”

“I know what you mean,” Jim said. They’d been on the road six hours since having left Springfield, Illinois at the crack of dawn. Carol didn’t understand why they had to drive to Cleveland, why he couldn’t feed there, but Jim wasn’t having any luck finding what he was looking for in Springfield. Chicago, while closer, was out. He had already fed there too many times as it was, and had to be careful about drawing suspicion to what he was doing. Cleveland would have what he needed. “First place we see we stop at. You need a break, lady,” Jim added.

She nodded, smiling thinly. A few miles down the road they spotted a roadside diner and she pulled into the parking lot. Jim was shaking badly as he hobbled from the car to the diner’s entrance, his vision blurred, his feet unsteady. Carol moved quickly to his side so he could lean against her. Outside of a blonde heavyset cashier chewing gum and a middle-aged waitress with a Led Zeppelin logo tattooed on her neck, there were maybe ten other people scattered along the counter and in booths. All eyes turned to Carol and Jim as they walked in. The cashier stared at them and popped her gum.

“Miss, is your boyfriend sick?” she asked.

“It’s nothing contagious,” Carol muttered, annoyed.

“I don’t know about that, Honey.” The cashier hesitated as she looked Jim over more carefully. “To me he looks like he’s got something pretty bad. Maybe it would be best if he don’t come in here. It wouldn’t be fair bringing him into a public restaurant, not with all the other folks we’ve got eating here now. Honey, they shouldn’t have to worry about catching what he’s got.”

“I’m standing right here,” Jim said in a soft whisper. “It’s not as if I can’t hear everything you’re saying.”

The cashier continued to ignore him while offering Carol a false sympathetic smile.

“Why don’t you have him wait in your car while you order some takeout. How would that be, Honey?”

Carol’s face darkened. “I think instead we’ll just sit at that booth over there away from everyone. How would that be, Honey?”

She led Jim as she took a step forward. The cashier moved quickly to block them. The waitress moved also and looked like she was ready for a brawl, her hands planted firmly on her hips to show off large forearms. A couple of truck drivers at the counter stood up and also took an uneasy step towards them.

“Miss, why don’t you just make this easy for everyone. You don’t want the police being called, do you?”

Jim could sense the violence growing in Carol. Her hands were clenched at her side, thin veins revealing themselves along her neck. In another few seconds she’d be flying at this woman who outweighed her by a good eighty pounds. That was the thing with Carol, she was as fiercely protective and loyal as they came. Even though she was five foot one and maybe ninety-five pounds when soaking wet, she’d go at them like a hellcat. Using what little strength he had left, he pulled her away and forced her through the entrance door and outside.

“Don’t,” he pleaded.

“Fuck them. Who the fuck are they to tell you you can’t go in there?”

“Babe, it’s not worth it. I’m going back to the car. You go in there and get something to eat, okay?”

She was too furious to talk at first. Sputtering, she forced out, “How about I just throw a brick through their front window!”


“Or better yet, how about you slaughtering all those fucking assholes in there! While you’re doing that I could cook myself something on their grill, and we could both be eating together.”


“Why not?”

“Come on. Be serious. I’m not going to do that.”

She was steaming, her dark eyes hot and angry. “That fat cow bitch. She’d deserve to have you rip her throat out. She probably thinks you have AIDS. The bitch.”

Jim smiled thinly. “Maybe she thinks I have the bubonic plague. It doesn’t matter. You go back in there and get yourself something to eat. I’ll wait.”

“Fuck them. We’ll find another place.”

She stumbled, dizzy, her eyes losing focus. This time Jim helped her steady herself. Hesitantly, she brought a hand up to her temple.

Jim gave her a patient smile. “Any place we go is going to be the same. You need to eat. I’ll be fine.”

Carol looked like she wanted to argue, but she also looked hungry and very pale. She suffered from hypoglycemia and her stumbling and dizziness were a clear sign she needed food badly. Jim thought he could hear her heart palpitating. She didn’t have time to start searching for another place to eat—there was no arguing that, so she relented, first walking him back to the car to make sure he made it okay, then heading back to the diner. Jim closed his eyes. Lowering his forehead into his hands, he felt the cold clamminess of his skin. Even though it seemed to him like he was burning up, his skin was so damn cold to the touch—like he was a month-old corpse. His skin always felt that way. He wondered how Carol stood it.

(Chapter 1 of Vampire Crimes to be continued)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Vampire Crimes: History & Help!

Vampire Crimes has a long history dating back to 1997. Back then I had written Fast Lane and Bad Thoughts and was working with my first agent in the hopes of selling both of these books. This guy gave me a biker vampire screenplay to novelize which I didn't care for, but it got me thinking of some ideas for a very gritty & noirish vampire series, kind of a Mickey Spillane merged with David Goodis with very strong horror elements, and I set about writing my own screenplay for something that I thought would be good and would be something I'd want to novelize. What I came up with was a bit like Sin City with vampires, although I hadn't heard of Sin City back then. This agent didn't like that I did this, and we parted ways, and I put this script aside with the thought of doing something with it someday.

Flash forward to 2006. I'd just finished writing Pariah & the Caretaker of Lorne Field, and my Vampire Crimes script had been on my mind for years and I was itching to do something with it, so this became my next project. The book came out better than I had anticipated, easily the most noir, grittiest (and most violent) book that I'd written, and maybe one of my better written books also. My agent at that time had her hands full trying to sell Pariah, Outsourced & Caretaker, so she didn't want to take this one on also, so I put it aside. I did have my core readers look at it and got a strong reaction from them, although a couple of them found the horror elements very upsetting and disturbing. I also had a fellow Rara Avian (a yahoo group of noir & hardboiled aficionados) who was also a big Charlie Huston 'Almost Dead' fan read it, and he was very excited by this book. I had avoided Huston's vampire series since I had this book in mind for a long time and I didn't want to subconsciously steal from him. The way this Rara Avian described the difference between the two books is that Huston's book is a horror novel with a hardboiled PI while mine is a gritty crime noir novel with vampires.

Flash forward to 2009. I have a new agent now, I send him Vampire Crimes after he sells Essence, and he's excited by it. He thinks it's great and should be an easy sale. He sends it out, and a bunch of young editors are also excited by it, but none of them are able to get approval--either there's a competing vampire novel by a more senior editor, or there's fear that book is too noir and too much of a horror novel. Plus things are starting to go south with the publishing industry and it's getting tougher to sell anything. So Vampire Crimes doesn't sell.

So here we are now. I have no doubt that fans of my other crime novels are going to love Vampire Crimes, as well as fans of Sin City, and and really anyone who likes tough & gritty & violent crime and horror novels, and so I'm going to put it out myself as a Kindle and Nook download, and it should be available later this week.

Here's where I need some help. Like a lot of writers, I love writing fiction, but I'm not comfortable writing a synopsis or marketing copy. Below is my attempt at marketing copy for Vampire Crimes. I need help/suggestions with this. Would this copy get you to want to read the book? Any suggestions on what should be changed? Any and all help with this will be greatly appreciated!

Proposed copy:

Ultra violent & ultra noir. These are not your Mother's or daughter’s vampires!

Jim is infected. Carol, is not. Together they travel the country hunting down only the worst degenerate predators. After all, Jim has to feed.

Meanwhile Jim's ex Serena and her posse of Eurotrash vampires spend their days snorting heroin and their nights at Manahattan’s trendiest nightclubs. Serena is still seething. Hell hath no furry like a woman scorned? Try a scorned bloodsucker!

Metcalf, author Dave Zeltserman’s scariest psychopathic creation to date, runs a vampire compound in the LA desert and rules it with an iron fist. Metcalf seeks a cure for the vampire virus. Not because he cares about humanity. Metcalf is sick of drinking blood. He wants to eat a cooked steak and down a case of cold beer.

Of course these three groups are fated to meet. When they do, a vengeful biker gang is thrown into the mix. The climax that follows is pure rock ‘n roll violence, Sin City-style mayhem.

I've just read the manuscript of Dave Zeltserman's new novel, Vampire Crimes. This is one of the few fresh takes on vampirism I've read in years. It's as if Charles Bukowski sat down and said, OK, Bram Stoker, how about this? -- Ed Gorman

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My turn over at Top Suspense Blog + Pic's Picks

Today it's my turn to submit to the same questioning as all our other Top Suspense Group authors have already done.

Author Tom Piccirilli (The Cold Spot, Shadow Season) gives his thoughts on a few recent and upcoming releases, including my Outsourced, and Paul Tremblay's short story collection, In The Mean Time, which I absolutely love. Few writers do unease and disquiet as well in the short form as Paul does in this wonderful collection.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Coming soon: Vampire Crimes

Coming soon as an e-book original for the Kindle & Nook: Vampire Crimes

Ultra violent & ultra noir, think Sin City with Vampires to give you an idea what this one's about.

Not your daughter's or sister's vampire novel!

In the next week or so I'll be publishing the first 3 chapters here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Top Suspense introduces Vicki Hendricks

I've been a fan of Vicki's since reading her amazing Miami Purity (#15 on my list of 20 essential noirs)

Check out Vicki's interview on the Top Suspense Group blog.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More Outsourced, Caretaker & Top Suspense Group

Booklist will be reviewing Outsourced Dec. 15th, and it's a good one, calling Outsourced 'A small gem of crime fiction'.

The trend continues of folks really digging The Caretaker of Lorne Field. Ron Clinton reviews Caretaker over at Spinetingler Magazine, saying among other things:

The Caretaker of Lorne Field has a wonderful mix of the tragic obsolescence of “Death of a Salesman’s” Willie Loman, the fantastical vision of Serling’s Twilight Zone, and the rural, gothic vibe of a Manly Wade Wellman tale. But along with this unique mishmash of themes and subtle undercurrents of humor and religiosity, it has a pulsing emotional core that immediately draws the reader in.

You can read Ron's review here.

Over at the Top Suspense Group Blog we introduce and interview the intrepid Bill Crider. More introductions and interviews will be running this week. Check it out here!.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Top Suspense, Outsourced, Caretaker & 21 Tales

We now have a Top Suspense Group blog at topsuspense.blogspot.com. The way the group is going to use the blog will evolve over time. Over the next week we'll be posting short interviews with each author, and after that we're going to experiment with writing a crime story in a round robin fashion with no planning, no coordination & no safety nets! And maybe prizes!

Outsourced won't be out in the US until Feb 1st. So far it's been reviewed nicely in the UK in the London Times, Financial Times & Morning Star, and in Australia's largest paper, The Australian, and it just received it's first US review on the website x2theL:

Outsourced is not only a good read, but also a sobering one that makes you wonder about the nature of the human being: if driven to the edge, would an average law-abiding citizen commit a crime in order to survive? And once having done that, can that same person face the consequences with a clear head? The answers are not easy, and Zeltserman repeatedly turns to the reader, who in the end has to answer them on his own.

You can read the whole review here.

The trend continues with librarians digging and reviewing The Caretaker of Lorne Field. Here's a new review. I think it's great that a group of folks who love books seem to really be digging Caretaker.

Jedidiah Ayres, a guy who really knows and loves his dark crime fiction, is talking up 21 Tales here. Thanks Jed!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Top Suspense, eBooks + news

METODIKA in Lithuania will be publishing Outsourced. Foreign rights for Outsourced so far: UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, and now Lithuania.

Top Suspense Group & eBooks

Early this summer Ed Gorman, Harry Shannon and I were talking about how authors can survive this fastly arriving & changing eBook world. With print books, authors have a chance of building a readership over time by being reviewed in newspapers and magazines, winning awards, booksellers handselling your books, and eventually word of mouth. Once Amazon opened up their Kindle store to self-published books these dynamics changed. The reality is that this move is adding 10s of thousands of poorly written eBooks to the Kindle store, and in effect making the Kindle store similar to the slush piles that publishers used to have. There are going to be some very good self-published books in the mix, probably more than ever given how publishers are increasingly moving towards a celebrity/bestseller only mentality, but these are going to be buried under 1000s of poorly written ones. And the sad fact is that the self-published authors writing these good books aren't necessarily going to have the skills or temperament to social network effectively. The way I see this heading is that readers are going to get burned by a lot of bad self-published books, and going to move towards the safety of only the most recognizable names--and that the Amazon kindle store will very soon (if not already) look a lot like the book section at Walmart--the most commercial books will be pushed hard while all other books will be buried. Ed & Harry saw things the same way, and the solution we came up with was to form a collaborative with a mix of talented authors where we'd help promote each others eBooks, and more than that, brand our Top Suspense Group as a trusted place for readers to find high quality genre (mystery, crime, thriller, horror, westerns) ebooks. Outside of the website, we'll be doing other things as part of this collaborative + branding. We'll be introducing a blog soon, and one of the first things we'll be posting on it will be a crime story where we'll each be taking turns writing sections (and with no planning or coordination). Advertising will also be an important part to help create this brand. And over the next few months we'll be expanding the group--we kept the group at a more manageable size of six to start because getting any group of authors to agree on anything is a bit like herding cats. I think over the next year many more collaborative author groups like Top Suspense Group will be formed since this is what's going to be needed in this new eBook world, and these collaborative groups will be made up of both pro writers and talented new self-published writers who find each other.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Australian on Outsourced plus more

The Australian reviews a bunch of crime novels today, including Lehane's Moonlight Mile and my own Outsourced. Here's what they have to say about Outsourced:

DAVE Zeltserman is one of the new, highly original voices in crime fiction, his writing spare, disciplined and concrete. His plots are as original as anyone writing hard-boiled fiction with an attractive noir edge, and always grimly entertaining. Like his characters. Outsourced, already being turned into a movie, follows an all-too-human bunch of outsourced software engineers who have no job prospects and no long-term insurance but do possess a plan. They are going to use their computing skills to rob a bank, and Zeltserman delivers a finely paced, witty and stylish take on the heist caper novel. More than most authors churning out mysteries, Zeltserman is fully steeped in the conventions of crime fiction. He remains absolutely his own hard man.

A couple of more reviews of Caretaker have shown up on the blogosphere continuing the trend of folks really digging this book.

from Yvonne the Librarian:

This book is a great character study. You work alongside the Caretaker as he slaves through the pain of his aging body, the ridicule of all those he knows, and the burden of believing, knowing, that the fate of the entire world is on your shoulders. It’s a great story of tradition clashing with the modern world. Sometimes traditions exist for a reason…sometimes they are just traditions without a real reason at all…

Read Yvonne's review here

And Andre Harden also has his say.

Monday, November 1, 2010

3 Books, 4 new reviews

Four new reviews have popped up for The Caretaker of Lorne Field, 21 Tales and Small Crimes.

The eerie and frightening aspects of the novel are woven tightly into the human drama never taking center stage over the trials and tribulations of Jack Durkin. Landing somewhere at the intersection of social commentary, horror, and family drama The Caretaker of Lorne Field is a wholly enjoyable novel that is difficult to put down. If you’re looking for new and interesting fiction to read that is a bit off the beaten path I highly recommend the uniformly excellent The Caretaker of Lorne Field.

Read Mike Ferrante's thoughtful review of The Caretaker of Lorne Field on his King of the Nerd's website.

From George Kelley's review: If you put Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and any Stephen King novel in a blender, the result would be something like The Caretaker of Lorne Field.

Read the entire review here.

Beth Kanell at Kingdom Books sums up her review of 21 Tales: So if you dare to dip into the creepy, the horrible, the bizarre, and the all too recognizable detritus of urban life, grab a copy of 21 TALES. But don't say I didn't warn you.

Author Rob Kitchin examines Small Crimes on his The View from the Blue House blog:

Small Crimes is a cracker of a story. Zeltserman writes with a honed intensity that fully immerses the reader in the claustrophobic world of small town America. He vividly portrays the complex social relations of a former cop being released back into his local community – the resentments, the shame, the cold shouldering and petty confrontations, the web of lies and deceits.

You can read Rob's entire review here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Another early Halloween treat

As another early Halloween treat, here's Closing Time, a fun mix of horror, crime and noir. It's a short one, only about 3000 words, and features a special guest appearance. Closing Time is being reprinted in 21 Tales.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ghengi Photographed!!

Ghengi, the hungry little monster from Pink Wiggly Things has been photographed hiding in this pile of plums. Damn clever little monster!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pink Wiggly Things

As an early Halloween treat, I offer this short amusing tale featuring a very hungry little monster.

Pink Wiggly Things


Dave Zeltserman

A rumbling inside made Ghengi nibble halfheartedly on the cotton fiber. It didn't help much to ease his hunger, but it was all he had and he knew it could be days before he had anything else. Ghengi looked at what was left. Thin strands of cotton connected to that foul rubber padding. The cotton would be gone soon, probably before dark.

Ghengi prayed that an insect would haplessly crawl within striking distance. Insects were good. If Ghengi tried hard enough he could imagine they were really pink wiggly things. Of course, they weren't pink wiggly things. They were in fact only a poor imitation. But Ghengi knew they were as close as he could come – as close as he could let himself come – to those wonderous epicurean delights.

With a start, Ghengi realized he was salivating; he had been imagining the taste of a pink wiggly thing. That was dangerous. If he dwelled too much on it, he would weaken. He wouldn't be able to resist them the next time they came to brazenly challenge him. And as ultimately satisfying as they were, the aftermath was so utterly damnable.

It was always the same, and Ghengi knew it would always be the same. There would be the noise and bright lights and sticks and heavy leather trying to crush poor Ghengi. And sometimes there would be that spray followed by a fetid, sour smell that would make his eyes start spinning and make him bump into things. The only escape from these terrors would be the outside.

The thought of the outside made him shudder. Cold. Damp. All those creatures with sharp teeth and claws trying to tear him apart. Although, he smiled, none had teeth sharper than his own.

Ghengi stretched his mouth as far as it could be stretched. His body was only the size of a small plum, but his mouth opened to its capacity could encompass a large melon. Inside his mouth were rows and rows of teeth. No bigger than diamond flakes, but sharper than razors. With his mouth opened, they glistened and sparkled.

Ghengi strengthened his resolve about the pink wiggly things. He wasn't going to think about them. Let them taunt him! The price was just too dear. He would have to be satisfied with the occasional insect, the dustballs, and the other crud that came his way. He sniffed at the cotton and tore a strand from it, avoiding the rubber padding.


"Will you leave me alone and take the dog out!"

Miriam's back was turned to Donald and, as she spoke, he silently mouthed her words, violently contorting his lips to the point where the edges of his mouth ached. He had long ceased deriving any pleasure from mimicking Miriam, but he had to do it. Just, as he knew, his wife had to extend her middle finger at him when he wasn't facing her. Sometimes he'd catch her at it, and she'd quickly move her hand back towards her head as if she were straightening her hair. The times when she would unexpectedly turn around, he'd contort his face as if he were about to sneeze.

"I'm not trying to bother you," he whimpered. He knew he was whimpering. It bothered him, but he couldn't keep from doing it. Anyway, it annoyed Miriam. "I can't find my slipper. Where is it?"

"How am I supposed to know?"

Miriam turned around and Donald froze, framing his face into an expected sneeze.

"Gesundheit," she said, her upper lip stiffening.

Donald sniffed a couple of times. "I can't find my slipper. That damn dog of yours keeps taking my stuff and destroying it."

"If you put your things away he wouldn't do it!"

"Look," Donald could feel his face flushing, "the past three months I've had six pairs of socks, a pair of shoes, a pair of pants, and two undershirts ruined by him. If he destroys anything else, that's it!"

He turned and walked towards the staircase. He could sense Miriam's right arm stretching out, the middle finger extended to its fullest. "Take Einstein out!" she demanded coldly.

Donald spun around, catching his wife straightening her hair. "You take him out," he said. "I'm going upstairs."


The noises upset Ghengi. There were many of those noises here, Ghengi thought, but at least they weren't the intolerable kind. Since he arrived he had only had to suffer through the intolerable noise a few times, and it never lasted more than a minute. Of all the things Ghengi despised, the intolerable noise was the most awful. The squeaking and squealing, the pounding and shaking as if his world were about to collapse on him. Thinking of it made him dizzy. He was thankful that he found this place. This one had far less of the intolerable noise than any of the other places Ghengi had nested in.

He knew he couldn't give in to the pink wiggly things. If he did he would have to leave. He would be forced outside. And it could take months before he was able to find another nest.

Those wonderful pink wiggly things. He wished he hadn't thought of them before. They were haunting him now, torturing him. It had been so long since he had tasted one, and the desire was growing, dangerously mixing with his insatiable hunger.

He looked at what was left of the cotton. At best, it would dull his hunger, but it wouldn't stop it. It always seemed to be this way; where after a while nothing could truly satisfy the hunger but a pink wiggly thing.

Ghengi swallowed another strand of cotton. It was tasteless to him. He ran his mouth over what was left of the slipper, hoping to find one of those translucent slivers. He had found one before and it had driven him into ecstasy, reminding him of those wonderful pink wiggly things. No such luck this time.

He went over it again. In his desperation he even endured the foulness of the rubber padding. There was nothing to find.

A dull thumping noise approached Ghengi. He knew it came from one of those monstrous creatures; a Guardian, the ones who brought about the terrors. They were the protectors of the pink wiggly things.

Ghengi could sense it was close. He started to see its awful face, and in an instant compressed himself against the wall. Under the shadows of his home, Ghengi knew he'd be safe. The creature would think he was only an imperfection in the plaster.

Ghengi sniffed. The pink wiggly things were near. The Guardians always foreshadowed their arrival, and he could now smell them. He pulled himself from the wall and saw that he was right. They had come. Five of them. They always came in groups of five. Wiggling towards him. Tempting him. Oh, they were so bold! Ghengi noted that these ones were thicker and plumper than other pink wiggly things he had encountered. Or maybe it was the hunger playing cruel tricks on his eyes.

They weren't worth the terrors. Ghengi repeated that to himself. Or at least one pink wiggly thing wasn't… but five? If Ghengi moved fast enough he could possibly snatch all five of them. He had never thought of that before. Maybe, just maybe…

A harsh, scratching noise froze him. It was followed by a soft thud. From beyond the pink wiggly things, a small sphere rolled towards him. It smelled of dog saliva and leather. Well, it wasn't a pink wiggly thing, but it also wouldn't bring out the wrath of the Guardians. Ghengi snapped back to his senses. He blinded himself to the pink wiggly things that were tempting himself so and instead let the sphere roll into his mouth, and then he started gagging, the sphere dropping from him.

A trick! A despicable, vile trick! It wasn't leather, but nasty rubber made to smell like leather. Foul, most foul taste! Pain immobilized him, and at the same time the hunger within him grew into something unbearable. He had to get that vile taste out of his mouth, and just as importantly, he needed to satisfy his hunger. Desperately, he looked around and saw that the pink wiggly things were gone. And to add insult to injury they had stolen what was left of the slipper. If Ghengi had tearducts he would've cried.


Donald studied his shredded slipper, then nodded grimly at Einstein, who sat in the doorway, tongue hanging out, panting.

“Proud of yourself, are you? Another nineteen dollars and ninety-nine cents, plus tax, down the toilet."

Einstein barked.

Donald looked at the dog and then at the open window. The bedroom was on the second floor. "You want to play ball, is that it?" he asked. The dog barked again. "If I throw the ball out the window, you'd be stupid enough to chase after it, wouldn't you?"

Einstein wagged his tail.

"You would, wouldn't you." Donald nodded. He got up and walked over to the dog. He scratched it behind the ear. "You are that stupid. You'd be only too happy to jump out the window and break your neck." His hand moved from behind the ear to the dog's thin neck. He felt the bone.

"Okay, then." Donald half-smiled. "Let's play ball. Go get your ball, stupid."

The dog didn't move. A long strand of drool fell from his mouth. Donald studied him.

"You want me to get it, huh? It's okay for you to drag my things under the bed and rip them apart, but you won't go under there for your ball, is that it?"

Einstein gave a thin whine.

Donald compressed his lips into a tight smile. He moved back to the bed and lowered himself onto his knees. "Okay, Stupid, I'll get your ball and then we'll play." He pressed his head against the bed and reached underneath it, feeling for the dog's rubber ball. Out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of Einstein studying him, and it startled him. The dog had a weird look on his face, a look that Donald had never seen on a dog before.

Of course, it was only a look of amusement. After all, look who was calling who stupid. If Einstein had any pink wiggly things, he certainly wouldn't put them anywhere near a hungry Ghengi.