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Jan 16, 2017

The Bzzfrzzakitamot period

Future archaeologists from Titan and other parts of the galaxy will call our epoch the Bzzfrzzakitamot period ("bizarre blond comb-over period") for its excessive depictions of always the same blond comb-overed male embedded in electronic artifacts, mainly in satirical contexts.

Jan 9, 2017

Going back home

Brigg station, waiting for the shuttle to take us through
the Simplon tunnel (pass was closed)
Arriving in the Valle Antrona on the Italian side

(pictures by Chang)

Jan 8, 2017

Reincanation --- This is heaven --- Teaser (20)

The first draft of This Is Heaven is finished now. We have to accelerate a bit, otherwise we're not done posting teasers before the book comes out. So, here, teaser no. 20. Alex is going to change tack John-wise (Alex is amnesic, remember?). Hold your breath:

“I was a paramedic, right?” Alex says as I’m driving us up the ramp behind the condo to get on Route One.
“Paramedics earn money.”
“Enough to own a car.”
“You have an idea where it would be, my car?”
“It was at your place last time I saw it.”
“Which was…?”
“Yes,” I say.
“I mean, would be easier if you don’t have to chauffeur me around all the time.”
“The idea was that you shouldn’t go back to your place for a while. That’s what the psychologist said.”
“What her replacement read from a brochure.”
“Her replacement.”
“Okay. I’ll pick up the car, is all. Where do I live?”

We change directions. His place is two minutes up Landing Road from the Memorial. The neighborhood hasn’t changed much since Thursday night. It is still on the wrong side of the hospital (Georgia Beach lost its railway connection long ago)---semi-detached structures from the 80’s mostly, semi-run down, and a dog that never sleeps; not much greenery, patchy, sun-burnt lawns, few trees.
Alex’s place is a standalone Dutch revival, small. “This is where I live?” he asks.
“The attic.”
“Right. And the car?”
I point at the white Toyota Prius on the driveway. “Cool,” he says, “Saving energy. Good to know.” He taps on the dashboard of my truck, then pats his shorts and produces a key ring without car key. “I got this from Alice. The house keys, I guess. The car key will be inside, somewhere.”

So we climb the stairs. It’s sizzling outside already but inside under the roof it’s getting worse. Alex fumbles with the keys. He turns the key, the door gives way and we’re hit by a wall of dense, putrid air.
“Smell it?” he asks and steps into his apartment. “Q-E-D, this is heaven. My body still lying---where did you find me?”
“In the bathroom.”
“Where’s the bathroom?”

Yes, I really do this, I walk us the fifteen feet to the bathroom. There’s the body of a mouse decomposing in the spot where I found Alex on Thursday night.

Jan 2, 2017

Dec 28, 2016

The Algorithm, the algorithm --- whatever you make of this

The GREEN EYES are listed on Inkitt, an AI-agent and publisher---"AI" here in the sense of artificial intelligence, the computer science discipline we taught the last ten years of our previous life, and "agent" in the sense of literary agent. Yes.

And they've just sent us an email. You don't have to read this, but just in case:

"Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!

Congrats! Your novel  [the GREEN EYES in our case] is in the top 10% of novels in the Genre Preliminaries and has been awarded a spot in The Final Round. Your work will now join the best performing novels from the other genres in a face-off for the $1000 Grand Prize. The Final Round is an exclusive, invite only, closed contest.
Announce the big news to your fans, and keep sharing your knockout novel if you want to be top dog! The winner will be selected by the Inkitt algorithm based on level of reader engagement so you will need to win over as many members of the crowd as possible. Call in your hypemen and round up your groupies to help you spread the word about your latest win and find new support to secure your title as Champion. 
Best of luck!
Your Inkitt Team"

Think this through. They have an algorithm---if you scroll down, you'll find a fragment of ours, written weeks ago, involving algorithms, but don't scroll down yet---an algorithm that's supposed to pick winners on the basis of readers' reading behavior. And the next thing is, they ask their authors to work around the algorithm and mobilize their "fans," no matter what. Best of luck. (For more bickering, scroll down-down.)

And here's the fragment---hold on, let's start a little competition of our own: who's the biggest fool in This Is Heaven? The mayor, Bienpensant, John himself perhaps? No---it's Inspector Mario LaStrada of course, the detective (who's still missing from or Green Eyes zoo, inexcusably---it's difficult, if you walk down an Italian street, half of the males look like Strada, but on the internet, none of them does). Here goes, from Chapter 41, "The Game Is up"---John's fourth and last encounter with the inspector (the "creative writing class" is bonus, we didn't plan this): 

LaStrada must have found time taking a class in creative writing since he says: “Did you bring the handcuffs that you were wearing so convincingly on, on…”

(We are making eye contact.)

“…Tuesday,” I help out.
“Well-put,” he replies, “Tuesday night.”
“You didn’t ask me to bring them,” I say.
“You should keep them handy. It appears that the long arm of the law is not yet done with you.”

Dec 27, 2016

Menton, yesterday

Photography by Chang

We went to "celebrate" the first draft of This Is Heaven, on Dec. 25, and drove by Menton---the town between Monaco and the Italian border. This was on the way to Sospel, an ancient town nearby up in the mountains---stay tuned.

Dec 26, 2016

"Death penalty for John and me?" --- This is heaven --- teaser

We're done now with the first raft of This Is Heaven, and it ends with an Ampersant-style HEA, completely over the top, various plot lines all leading up to total bliss.

In the penultimate chapter, Alex---who's amnesic and can't remember his sexual preferences---proposes to John, and when Dr. Martin Luther Fletcher, Ben's father and the presumed MC of this, objects on religious grounds---well, you'll see (very short):

Well---he’s sorry, Dr. Fletcher tells us, but he can’t unite two men in holy matrimony. The Bible doesn’t allow it, and he’s a Christian and so on.

“The Bible says very little about homosexuality,” Alex replies. “There are very few direct references to it, and the strongest and least ambiguous ones, in Leviticus, where it’s qualified as an abomination”---he hones in on Ben’s father---“the same source, Leviticus, also forbids wearing mixed fabrics together, or trimming one’s beard, cutting your hair at the sides, planting different seeds in the same fields, and so on. Stuff we do on a daily basis and nobody complains.”

“But the penalty against homosexuality is particularly severe, namely death,” replies Dr. Fletcher.
“And you agree, Doctor? Death penalty for John and me?”
“Don’t be silly. No, of course not.”
“What should it be then, the penalty? We still penalize murder, and theft, and rape. And you agree, I guess?”

Dr. Fletcher's gasping for air.

“If you don’t want to penalize it, what’s wrong with it? It wouldn't be a sin, or would it?”

“But, Alex, you don’t even know whether you’re gay,” I say. “You want to enter a gay marriage and you don’t know whether you’re gay?”

“How would I know all this, John? I’m not a bible thumper. I’m not religious at all, I believe. So, if I do know this, why should I know this? The only plausible reason is, I researched this in my former life. And the only plausible reason for doing so, doing this research, is: I’m gay. Speak first, think later.”

He peers at Gracelyn who---who seems to have some iron in the fire---because---as much as she likes Alex, or John, she’d rather have her son (Ben) making a few more high-strung Valkyries very happy---even if they pay for it---than to have him end up in John’s or Alex’s arms.

“Martin Luther,” she says (that was/is Dr. Fletcher’s Christian name). She takes my hand, then Alex’s, and joins them. “I’ll be the witness.”

Are you still there? Then you'll possibly like the GREEN EYES the Lambda Literary Award novel. It's out now, available as Kindle book on Amazon, under this link:

Night Owl Reviews

Dec 21, 2016

The headless horseman --- This is heaven --- teaser (19)

Alex and John are meeting Godehart in the Blue Moon to commiserate about the German's ouster from the festival contest. One paragraph into this Inspector LaStrada will make his appearance, the homicide detective who is in charge of the investigation of Neill Palmer's death. And the talk about the goldfish bowl? Bit complicated to explain, have a look here.

Godehart is expecting us at a bar table where he had a few shots already. “How did it happen,” we ask. Well, he failed to get the earphone working again. And the confusion. Whether he talked to the mayor. No, the mayor had disappeared. He talked to Beeblebrox though.
“Beeblebrox was very upset, I did better than Roper, he said. I should register a protest.”
“With whom?” Alex asks.
“My guardian angel, I presume.”
And the paper work? Did they at least provide him with a copy of the paperwork? No, nothing. Hamblin is basically incommunicado. And so is the City Club. A bunch of thugs. He learned his lesson, and orders another round.

Sorry to interrupt this.

Sorry to interrupt this, real quick: (a) have you seen the movie Sleepy Hollow with Jonny Depp as inspector Crane and Christopher Walken as the headless horseman (Depp stays a bit too much in character, doesn’t he?)? The horseman is Irish folklore, there are also headless versions without horse; (b) talking hyperboles; (c) you recall inspector LaStrada. He’s entering the premises of the Blue Moon as we speak, and he looks tonight like a horseless, headless inspector who wears a fishbowl under his arm, I swear.

Dec 20, 2016

Dec 18, 2016

German for beginners

The Süddeutsche Zeitung has an article about Donald Trump vs. Nero Claudius Ceasar Augustus Germanicus, Roman Emperor from 54 to 68 AD. It figures.

Anyhow, here are a few quotes, just in case you haven't yet gotten enough of this.
Soll man den Trump Tower in New York nun geschmacklos (tasteless) nennen? Staunend (stunned) betrachtet die Welt die Kulisse, in denen der erwählte Präsident der USA seine Regierung vorbereitet: polierter Marmor, vergoldete (gilded) Flügeltüren, Kassettendecken, kanellierte Säulen, goldene Polstermöbel, schwere Teppiche, Glastische, riesige (humongous) Vasen (vases), Luxus (luxury) als Befehl zur Überwältigung.

Der Kontrast (contrast) zum Weissen (white) Haus (house) ist schlagend. Der offizielle Sitz des amerikanischen Präsidenten (president) zeigt den absichtvoll zurückhaltenden Stil eines englischen Herrenhauses nach dem Muster einer Palladio-Villa. Die amerikanische Republik (republic) hat sich an klassizistischen Mustern orientiert. Das Design (design) der Republik ist aristokratisch (aristocratic), nicht monarchisch oder höfisch. Es ist ein Stil der Tyrannis (tyranny) auch (also) ästhetisch (aesthetically) missbilligt (disapproves). 

Weisse Häuser gab es um 1800 viele in Amerika, ihre Besitzer waren wohlhabende, nüchterne und of gebildete Landwirtschaftsunternehmer (gentleman farmer) mit Tausenden Sklaven (slaves). In ihren Bibliotheken (libraries) fanden sich neben Bibeln und Gesangsbüchern auch die antiken Historiker (historians), die grelle Bilder von tyrannischen Imperatoren (emperors) und ihrer Sittenlosigkeit (debauchery) zeichneten.

Schaudend konnte man nachlesen, wie es im alten Rom (Rome) zuging. "Nirgends war der Kaiser (emperor) so verschwendisch (wasteful) wie beim Bauen. Er errichtete ein Haus das er 'Goldenes Haus' nannte. Seine Eingangshalle war so gross, das in ihr eine 120 Fuss hohe Kolossalstatue (colossal statue) von ihm selbst (himself) stehen konnte. In den übrigen Teilen was alles mit Gold (gold) überzogen und mit Edelsteinen und Muscheperlen bunt verziert. Die Speisezimmer besassen getäfelte Decken [...]. 

Der Erbauer dieser Domus Aurea war Nero (Urenkel von Kaiser Augustus), der 54 AD als Siebzehnjähriger and die Macht kam und sich nach vierzehn turbulenten Regierungsjahren umbrachte. In den Stunden seines Todes soll er geklagt haben: "Welch ein Künstler (artist)  geht in mir verloren (lost) ."Nicht das Ende seiner Regierung (government) bewegte ihn, sondern der Abbruch seiner Karriere (career) als Showstar (showstar)...

Dec 16, 2016

Another review of the GREEN EYES

"Reminiscent of Douglas Coupland, GREEN EYES is humorous, thrilling and erotic. It is the blending of genres. I like the style that this is written in. It’s quite absurd and our narrator, John, seems to be either poking fun at himself or the author Michael Ampersant (or the author poking fun at John) The tenses seem to be all over the shop and I are not sure if something is happening in John’s mind, that of the writer or in the reality of the book. I like how this flows. It is like drops of water falling on one another, joining and bursting. It’s languid. This is also a book about blogging. There are some witty and intelligent observations on this subject. It’s almost a resource for how to start a popular blog. It is brilliant how this is used in the book for criminal baiting..."

You find this on InbetweenBooks, a review blog run by Katie. Yes, Katie. Its not a new review, it's a "reprise," so it was published before, but there you have it again. We're extremely pleased, you can imagine. 

And the blog, folks, the blog Katie is talking about, that's the blog you are looking at.

Now a Lambda Literary Awards finalist:


Yesterday night

This is the moon, in case you were wondering

Dec 13, 2016

The rising tide lifts all boats (4)

Post-coital checkup --- This Is Heaven --- Teaser (18)

We have this brilliant new picture by Chang, but we can't post two pictures in a row, so here's a teaser of This Is Heaven in between. Plus, Michael's just finished the first draft of the manuscript today. 

We're in Chapter 19. John & Alex have been urged to check on Juliette, who's supposedly in her hotel room. And then there's Barbette Bienpensant (the professor and Juliette's half-sister), and Romeo---you'll see.

Hold on, the illustrations are a bit dada.

The professor bangs on the door and attacks the door knob. No reaction. “Hold the line,” Alex says to her, “briefly.”

“Juliette,” he says to the door. “Wonder girl, we need your help.” He knocks twice.
“It’s too late,” Bienpensant says, “we need somebody to force the door. The concierge. The ambulance.”
“Wonder girl,” Alex enunciates, “Alex.”

This is a noisy building from the 70’s, we should hear something inside—-if. And yes, there’s a sound, the bounce of a closet door maybe. The door unlocks and Juliette’s head appears in the crack. She looks drowsy at first, then defiant, then resigned. She lets go and retreats. We enter. Romeo is on the bed, half-hiding under the sheets (Juliette wears a bathrobe).


“What is this,” Bienpensant says, “who is this boy?”
“False alarm,” I say (idiotically).
“This is Romeo,” Juliette says, “who else?” She walks up to the bed and sits down.

Dec 9, 2016


No hands, no Photoshop, James Bond

This is the house of a neighbor, which featured extensively on this blog a few years ago. 

Fragment, fragment. No prob, we have at least five. Here's one from Part II of the GREEN EYES, Ch. 11 (Albert Camus):

Let me interrupt myself and mention James Bond again. It doesn’t matter which movie, so let’s talk about the last one, Skyfall. Daniel Craig introduces himself to Dr. No or one of No’s co-workers, like Bérénice Marlohe, say, and says “The name is Bond, James Bond.” And while any other person on the planet would now go, like, ‘Great,’ or ‘Can you give me an autograph,’ Bérénice has never heard of the super-hero of popular culture, grimaces distantly, and shakes the stranger’s hand.

Dec 7, 2016

The ad that ends the culture wars --- This is heaven --- Teaser (17)

John is back home where he's confronted with Ben --- Ben, last week's conquest and this week's backbone of the newfangled A-level Escort Service. For more context, read here how Ben got tricked into this by Alex, and here how he discharged his duties during his first A-level assignment.

Ben has a very long shower at the moment and my feeling is that he’s going to depart from my life pretty soon, the way he shot cursory glances at the bedstead and then at me---which was still okay, especially under the circumstances---but then he asked whether he could use the shower, and his next step will be to ask whether he can use the bathroom, and then he’s gone.

We shouldn’t belabor the obvious here, but if you’re in the pay of one of these outfits that use “family” as code against gays, and you’re tasked to produce the definitive ad, the ad that ends the culture wars, you could do much worse than to tell the story of a young, handsome Afro-American who has options, obviously, when it comes to sexual preferences, and who falls into the hands of this homosexual assistant professor of French who’s only option is a tangled ménage with a rape victim and a suicide victim and pimping handsome Afro-Americans to high-strung Valkyries---not to mention Ray, the murder suspect whom he hasn’t met yet.

Now Ben’s back from the shower, and this is my last chance. He’s wearing these graffiti briefs that look so great on him even when not quite fresh, and he's just standing there, the precise model of ebony perfection, unconscious of his own skin, one more second before he’ll ask whether he can use the bathroom. So you say: “Ben.”

Dec 2, 2016

Dec 1, 2016

Occam's razor

Timeo Trumpos et dona ferentes

(Fragment, fragment, GREEN EYES, Part II, very short, Alex (saying:))

"Look it up."

(Okay, a bit more. We're in the climactic chapter, "This Is Heaven," and in the company of John, the narrator, Alex, Raphael Beeblebrox (an editor with The Urban Dictionary), and Ben. Professor Bienpensant, the quantitative metaphysicist is going to preside over her own doomsday prediction looming for midnight:)

“Why is it, Alex,” Beeblebrox asks, waving today’s program printout at him, “why is it that cataclysmic events are always scheduled at mundane, convenient times?”
“Because twenty percent of the population believe Armageddon will happen during their life time.”
“Twenty-five percent,” Ben corrects him.
“Too easy, too easy.” Beeblebrox shakes his head.
“If you want more metaphysical, Raphael,”---Alex---“you should ask Professor Bienpensant. Occam’s razor, look it up.” Out of nowhere, he has conjured four tallboys and hands one to each of us.

Nov 30, 2016

You may have to read this twice

(Our friend Glenn sends this:)

Anything the GREEN EYES have to say about this? Usually we do. Here, from Part II, This Is Heaven, Nick (Nick's Restaurant) talking to John and Alex:

Nick’s hands have moved to our shoulders: “People have a right to forget,” he says, his head between our ears. “Think of slavery. That wasn’t ‘slavery’ all—-that was ‘our peculiar institution.’ ‘Suffragette’—-that was our term of derision for a bunch of uppity bitches. ‘Miscegenation’—that was miss, you understand, and illegal to boot. ‘Separate but equal’—-my God, we swore by it until fucking Truman put them all in the same bunkbeds. And Brown versus Schoolboard—-have you seen the clips, Brown emanating from a court hearing, and the entire American press stalking him with sneers and laughter ‘cuz he’s black and wannabe white? And now you guys, with your rainbow marriage. There’s only one solution for real Americans, who have never, ever been racist, or misogynists, or segregationist, or anti-Semitic, or homophobic, or whatever was wrong with us the past—-or will be wrong with us in the future—-and that’s forgetfulness.”

Are you still there? Then you may like the GREEN EYES. The first part is out, available as Kindle book on Amazon, under this link:

Night Owl Reviews

Nov 29, 2016

Yesterday, and today, and Perry Brass, and Donald Trump


Today (Chang is still working on the picture)

And in the meantime, our friend Perry Brass published an informative review of the latest Trump biography, Donald Trump, the man who would be kinghere.

Nov 24, 2016

Just a thought (Trump)

We're on Facebook, and if you've followed the news about the great divide on the social networks, you know that liberal Facebook users share a common bubble per algorithm. So we only see what other liberals think and say (same for conservatives). And even if you're not on Facebook but on the mailing lists of The New York Times, The New Yorker, The London Book Review, etc., you know by now that the commentary---the commentary that you see---is adamant that we shouldn't be fooled by Trump's recent, concessionary posture. He'll be his true self again in the White House, he'll live up to his election promises, and bring the world down.

He floats in the worldly Manhattan society.

What if he doesn't? He's run some sort of business empire for 40 years---not as successful as he pretends to, but he didn't go under, he recovered from four or six bankruptcies, he owns a Boeing 757, he enjoyed fabulous tax deductions and a good sex life (at least on his own terms). He must have some sense of the Art of the Deal (the title of his ghostwritten book). Plus, he's lazy, we're informed, although I don't believe that's true (I'm lazy myself, I know how it is). Why-o-why should Trump bring the world down? At his age? He doesn't hold deep convictions, except for some protectionist instincts and a pliable xenophobia tempered by two foreign spouses. During all that time he floated buoyantly in the worldly Manhattan society, unlike, say, Adolf Hitler. Why should he bring the world down? Much easier to sit in the Oval office, do a Ronald Reagan, sow discord among his advisers, practice the Art of the Deal, and enjoy himself.

Just a thought.

Nov 23, 2016

"Not so difficult to play Sherlock Holmes when you are Dr. Watson" --- This is heaven --- Teaser (16)

(We're still not yet done with this "Heaven," two more chapters to write---two difficult ones, including the climactic scene---and then there's the happy ending, a drawn-out affair because we're completely over the top with five or six separate blissful closures all happening at the same time. As to the teasers, we're back to schedule briefly, so this post follows up on Teaser 14, which ended with a Censured Section---Taylor is one day shy of his 18th birthday as he and John enter the restroom facilities of the festival's Green Room. The censured part ends with the habitual flagrante, this time enacted by Professor Barbette Bienpensant. For more context, have a look at Teaser 14.

There’s a knock on the door.

She has issues, but she’s not an fool, especially when it comes to two males with vacant expressions on their faces, oiled in sweat, one of them still buckling his belt, them apparently having spent quality time in 120 degrees Fahrenheit and the stench from an underserviced john. The Bienpensant looks us up and down. Bulge check. Are we drunken again?

(This is so subtle.)

Taylor is utterly embarrassed. This will heal him of all homoerotic tendencies. I’m even more embarrassed. But I have my moments. So I say to the professor: “You need to use the bathroom?”

She has to think about this. “You’re asking the wrong question,” she says.

Some real macho-man would now say something like “See you later, Professor,” or “See ya later, Barbette.” But us, we just hurtle away, heads half-dropped, we could be holding hands on the way to the gallows. 

Whatever happens down there, up here, in our heads---most women would possibly deny much is going on there---up here us males get back to normal immediately, it’s an important reason for starting a hand job, and for finishing it, and it’s an important reason for divorces as well. We can’t just trot back together to the stand, ten minutes late. “I need to see a man about a horse,” I utter somewhat incoherently and point into the direction of the trailers along the canal. “See you later.”