Just in time for the holidays, here’s a heartwarming story of a Kentucky man who passed out in a Wal-mart bathroom, with a sack full of meth ingredients slung across his shoulder. Was it his intent to turn the bathroom into a meth lab? You decide. Sewerville.
First, I just wanted to take a moment and thank the 1,000+ folks (1,009, to be exact) who now have either the print or digital version of Sewerville in their hands. A truly overwhelming start to my little endeavor. We’re in the early stages, but I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that many of you have already taken the time to check out the story. So far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Second, there will be a couple more short stories out soon: one Sewerville-related, and one decidedly not related. The Sewerville-related one will actually be the lead-in for the next book, which will take the story further, into the corrupt halls of state government and out to the world of Walt Slone’s connections around the country. That story is still a bit down the road, though. There’s still plenbty of time to enjoy the first chapter of Sewerville.
For now, let me say this one more time: thank you! And please, keep posting your reviews and spreading the word to all your friends…
Here’s the first chance to win a free copy of Sewerville. Contest is open for a month, and I’ll give away 3 in December. Just click here and hit the “ENTER TO WIN” button — that’s all it takes to put your name in. It really is that simple, folks.
In other news, here’s a reminder that I’m donating all proceeds from my short story “The Sweet Smell of Pine Needles” to the Powell County (KY) Cops For Kids program. Get your copy here or by clicking the link on the right side of this page – it’s $0.99 well spent, I guarantee that. (This only runs for a couple more weeks.) I’ve got the story up for free today and tomorrow, but I’m donating the same $0.99 for anyone who takes a free copy.
BTW, as of this writing, the story is #44 on the Kindle Literary Fiction charts, just behind Charles Dickens. This may be the only time my name is ever listed in close proximity to that of Charles Dickens, so cherish the moment.
Although I promised to tell you why I wrote Sewerville, the truth, I’m sorry to say, is that I can’t – not precisely, anyway. There are a lot of bricks in the road that led me to this particular story and on any given day, you could ask me which was most important in the telling and I’d say, “THIS is THE reason.” But then the next day comes, and something else sticks out as THE reason. And the next day brings another something. And the next day brings another something. And the next day brings, yes, another something.
I’m not one of those guys who wants to sit back and let each audience member plant his or her own flag on the story. I want to at least point you in the same direction that I started; you might take off on your own from there, follow your own map — your experiences, your reference points — and end up someplace altogether different, and that’s perfect by me, but still we can at least agree to start in the same place. I don’t really think it’s fair to either of us if you pick up Sewerville without some basic idea of my intentions in telling the story. From there, feel free to interpret, and theorize, and and fill in literary blanks to your heart’s content. I want you to do that.
When I started out, I just thought I’d give folks a story. Fast pace, solid action — the Goods. I think I’ve done that, too, but as almost always happens, in the course of writing the story, the story began writing itself. And as the story wrote itself, it began showing me things I didn’t really expect. In the end, there were some major themes that took hold, and by the time the novel was finished, I realized that if I were being honest I would say these themes were really the reason I wrote the book:
1) Family. Specifically, I became interested in exploring the idea that family, in the end, is the only thing some of us (maybe all of us) have in this world. Family becomes like a metal stake in the ground, driven through a chain that leads to a collar around your neck. Sometimes it keeps you from going where you want. Sometimes it keeps you from wandering too far. Sometimes that chain saves your ass, sometimes you wonder if it’s gonna send you to the grave, and sometimes you just want to rip the damn thing out and throw it across the highway.
2) Memories, truth, and liminal spaces. I am forever haunted by the idea of how memories and lies dance in the air like so much smoke, looping around each other, moving together and coming apart, twisting through themselves until we’re not sure what is truth and what became truth because we weren’t really sure what happened anymore back in the shadows of our lives. Because we don’t really know. Because we don’t want to know.
I had a Literature class in college where we talked a lot about liminal spaces — the spaces between one thing and another that aren’t much a part of either. I find that fascinating, and I offer the notion that more than one character in Sewerville feels trapped in a liminal space.
3) Drugs. More specifically, meth and prescription pills, which I consider to be the twin scourges of modern rural America. How many of us know someone — or in all honesty are that someone — who’ve seen body and spirit torn asunder by one of these plagues or, fuck me, both of them?
4) Loss. The protagonist in Sewerville often envisions the whole town sinking into a steaming pit. He believes that the place has lost its moral center in a hellstorm of violence, drugs, and poverty. But in another sense, you could say that he believes that his own center is gone, too, and the sense of despair is really just misdirected. It’s really his own life that he sees falling into the pit. Does he end up there? You’ll have to read the story to find out.
And so. I don’t want to give away too much of the story right here, right now. I think it’s a journey you will enjoy, and I’d just as soon see you get on with it. I would hope it’s a book that you consider heartfelt, honest, and thought-provoking. Those of you who know me best — and who grew up in the same place I did — will no doubt find plenty of reference to familiar places, little Easter eggs to make you smile, that will give the story just that little extra nudge. Those of you that don’t know me as well can still take heart: there’s a whole story in there for you. You won’t miss anything. I promise.
So later this week, have at it. And tell all your friends…
Family. Truth. Vengeance. Crime. Poverty. Violence. Family. Hope. Meth. Pills. Life. Death. Family.
Sewerville explores a lot of different topics, but now that I’m ready to share this story with you, I want to say that for me, it is about family above all else — the families into which we’re born, and the families into which we grow during the course of our lives.
The story itself unfolds in fictional Sewardville, Kentucky, a place not unlike those small, rural towns we all know so well, with convenience stores and fast-food restaurants lining Main Street and not much else going on besides that. The mayor of Sewardville — Walt Slone — also happens to be the head of one of the largest criminal operations in the Southeast USA; his son John is the sheriff. The Slone family manages a lucrative gambling and prostitution operation, while also running guns and pain pills on trucks from Florida to New York.
About the only thing thing they haven’t gotten into yet is meth. In the mayor’s words, “Meth was seedy, evil, an abomination cooked up by miscreants… Meth was ruin. The Slone family wanted no part of ruin.” The competition sees it differently: for them, meth is the present, and the future. Meth is easy, and the market is bottomless. It may leave behind a horrific wasteland of zombies with oozing skin and black teeth, but so what?
Against this backdrop, the story descends into one of the darkest and seldom-seen corners of America. The true protagnist of the story is Boone Sumner, the son-in-law who married into the Slone family business and has regretted it ever since. When Boone finds himself tasked with the clean-up after his older brother Jimmy runs afoul of the Slone empire, Boone finally decides it’s time to get out of Sewardville and take his young daughter with him.
Torn between murder and in-laws, seeking escape from both, Boone launches a serpentine plot that sets the Slone family against Walt’s ambitious young rival, with Boone in the middle and his own demons never too far away. As his mother tells him, “It’s all just wickedness… Right there. In your heart. In your dark heart, the heart of the devil.” Sewerville is Boone’s story — his fight to prove her wrong.
[Coming next in Part II of What is Sewerville: why did I write this, and more importantly, what’s in it for you?]
So, first of all, Sewerville will be available for all the world next week, in both e-book and print format. (For those wondering, in a couple of days I’ll write more re: what the book is actually about but here’s one spoiler alert: it ain’t all warm and fuzzy. I know, it’s hard to believe, coming from me. But that’s just the way it is, my friends.)
In advance of that release, I thought I’d share this article from NBCnews.com, which is an interesting discussion about the legal reality of e-books, and, more importantly, consumers’ “ownership” of e-books, or they’re supposed ownership, anyway. It’s a good read that discusses the biggest fear we all have about buying e-books: that downloaded materials are subject to disappear at a moment’s notice.
While I’m not afraid of technology (and admit that perhaps makes me naive (uh, Terminators)) I also strongly prefer holding an honest-to goodness book in my hands as opposed to reading it off a screen. I also know that despite the growth in e-book sales over the past couple of years, there are plenty of people who share my opinion, which is why next week all those people can buy their own copy of the book without ever having to rely on someone else’s software to read it.
One of the ongoing threads of Sewerville is how certain people nowadays will smoke, inject, or inhale any chemical they can get their hands on if they think it will get them high. You know, we all have fifty different doorways to Hell sitting right under the bathroom sink; some folks just got the balls to put a hot lil’ Drano cocktail into a hypdermic and stick that where the proverbial sun don’t shine. To them, I say, good luck with that.
Of course, tripping the meth fantastic has its downside, meaning, IT WILL FUCK YOU UP. Putting massive amount of synthetic chemicals into your body is not a recipe for a long and healthy life. It is, however, a wide and clear path to black teeth, oozing skin sores, utter uselessnes and in general, Death.
I don’t pretend to understand what people find appealing about meth, but I also don’t pretend that meth and synthetics in general aren’t a prevalent part of our culture. While Sewerville may focus on some of the crime and drug problems faced by rural America in general (and Appalachia in particular),there is no doubt that the rest of the country gets its fair share, too.
Here’s an article from today about one of the stars of the TV show Sons of Anarchy, a guy named Johnny Lewis who went wacky on something called “Smiles,” beat his elderly landlady to death, and then threw himself off a building. All of what I just said is pending further investigation, toxicology, etc., but come on. The fact that this is even a theory just tells you where this guy was in his life.
meth = bathsalts = Smiles = zombie face eaters = landlady murderers = ARE YOU MOTHER EFFING KIDDING ME?