Book Four of the Oz Chronicles and the Papalback Reader

The Pope and Oz - I may be going to hell for this one.

The Holy Father enjoying a good book (but not “The” Good Book).  As they said on MASH once, “You can fool some of the Papal all of the time, and all of the Papal some of the time, but you can not fool all of the Papal all of the time.”  I’m hoping my Photoshop skills will get me into heaven.

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Iron Baby

My absence from the blog lately means that I am working on final edits for The Land of the Dead; Book Four of the Oz Chronicles.  I have one section to rewrite, and I should be done.  I’ve been posting a lot of videos as of late because they are quick and keep you guys coming back.  I’ll add some original material soon.  In the meantime, enjoy this movie trailer spoof for Iron Baby.  This is actually a clever idea that mixes in some exceptional CG talent.

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Stephen Colbert – Lost Days Celebrity of the Day (and Book 4 Update)

Colbert Declares His Love for Lost Days

Fellow Charlestonian Stephen Colbert publicly proclaimed that he loves my book Lost Days.  He even tried to make out with it.  To which I say, “dude, that is gross,” and I would like to proclaim my love for Photoshop.

*BTW – I’m working on Book 4 of the Oz Chronicles for those of you who have been asking and searching.  It is so close to completion.  Hang in there.  I’ve gotten some positive feedback on what I have so far, so I’m hoping you won’t be disappointed.

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Book 4 of the Oz Chronicles Update – (Land of) the Dead

The title will most likely just be "The Dead."

UPDATE: IT’S HERE!!! It’s coming. Cross my heart.  Stick a needle in my eye.  This one is a mixture of total fiction, and fictionalized fact.  The Destroyer in this one is a creep’s creep.  I intensely don’t like him, and he’s based on a real guy, Albert Fish.  Fish was a real boogeyman who ate children from about 1910 to the mid 1930’s. He bragged that he got kids in every state.He’s nasty and vile and the scariest bad guy Oz has come up against.  The more I read about him the more I wish I could go back in time and throw the guy off the Empire State building. He’s an evil, evil man.   Hope Oz can take him out. 🙂

I thought we’d be ready to go with Book 4 by March, but that didn’t happen, so I pushed it to April/May.  I’ll hit May definitely.

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Update on Future Books

Little Known Fact - I played "Happy Zombie #3" in Romero's Land of the Dead!

I’ve seen a lot of searches for Land of the Dead, and I know I promised February/March.  I’m moving that to April/May.  I know. I know.  This is looking like Axl Rose and the whole China album situation, but this isn’t a temperamental artist thing.  This is “my day job got in the way” thing.  Got rid of the day job.  No more excuses.  This book contains a real life “monster” from our country’s history, so there is a lot more research on my end, and then fitting that history into Oz’s struggle to save the Storytellers!  BTW – I’m changing the title to “The Dead” because the great George Romero has a movie titled “The Land of the Dead” and I don’t want to tread on the master’s toes. Plus, my dead aren’t zombies, and I just feel like it confuses things a bit.  John Houston’s last film was titled “The Dead,” and it was based on a short story by James Joyce with the same title, but I was once assigned to read Ulysses by Joyce in college, and I’m still pissed about that, so “The Dead” it is.

On a similar note, I’ve decided to keep the title for the series.  The Oz Chronicles will remain.

I’m working on about 3 other books, too.  None of them are Oz Chronicles books.  One is another end of the world scenario.  One touches on metaphysical issues, and the other is a nonfiction book about personal branding.

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As long as I’m the least selling bestselling author unicorns will die.

I’ve decided I’m going to kick it up a notch this year and sell more books… a lot more books.  How?  First by picking a target.  Unbeknownst to Stephenie Meyer, I have decided that she and I are in competition.  We both published our first book in 2005; She with her first book in the Twilight series, and me with my first book in the Oz Chronicle series.  Her rise to the top has been meteoric, while I have clearly over-stayed my welcome at the bottom.  It’s time for me to move up.  

Currently, Stephenie has about an 85,000,000 copies head start on me, so I have my work cut out for me.  To illustrate just how far I have to go to catchup with her, I made this handy-dandy chart:

Move over Stephenie. I'm coming to take my spot at the top.

What’s that you say?  Insurmountable?   Not at all.  It is very mountable… er, doable.  Especially if you buy 85,000,000 copies of my books.  Yeah, didn’t think of that, did you? 

Seriously, I’m working on slogans for my “beat Stephenie Meyer” campaign that are sure to become part of the American lexicon in 2010.  So far, these are my favorites:

  •  “Every day R.W. Ridley sells fewer books than Stephenie Meyer an orphan cries.”
  • “If R.W. Ridley doesn’t sell more books than Stephenie Meyer in 2010, unicorns will go extinct.  I’m not kidding.”
  • “Have you bought one of R.W. Ridley’s books yet?  No? Jerk!  Didn’t you hear about the orphans and unicorns?”

Granted, they still need a little work, but I’ll iron out the details later.  The important thing to remember is that the fate of orphans and unicorns is in your hands.  Do the right thing.

BTW – I know the chart makes it look like I haven’t sold any books, but I have.  It’s just tough to register on a chart that tops out at 85,000,000.

Another Encounter with… Whatever You Want to Call It – Disembodied Voice

And the saga continues.  This is not an EVP.  I heard it!  It sounds faint, but it was right behind me…. in the room with me.  As you can see, it freaks me out.  BTW – I know I look like a whimp here, but what can I say, it really creeped me out. 

Land of the Dead: Book Four of the Oz Chronicles – Post 2

For those of you have read Books One, Two and Three of the Oz Chronicles, Book Four is coming.  I’ve decided to post

Coming Soon!

 excerpts until such time the print version is available.

You will also find the first three chapters of Land of the Dead in the paperback edition of Lost Days.

I am responsible for the end of the world.    Well, me and every other jerk like me who tortured the Storytellers.  Only they weren’t Storytellers then.  They were… different than us, slow, dumb, retarded.  We didn’t think they deserved to be treated like human beings so we treated them like something less than human.  But we were the ones being less than human.  We ridiculed them and shamed them until all they saw was a world with monsters.  They wrote stories about those monsters.  Drew pictures.  Created comic books. Eventually the monsters crawled out of the comic books and drawings and destroyed the world. 

It doesn’t seem real.  How could it be?  Monsters, Storytellers… It can’t be, can it?  Even though I live it every day, it’s hard for me to believe it.  Some Doctor… Psychiatrist I think, taught the Storytellers to think things to life.  He called it Hyper Mental Imaging.  That’s how all this happened.  Some shrink, Dr. Bashir caused all this.  He is responsible…

No. I am responsible for the end of the world.

***

I sat in a rusted metal folding chair under the shabby awning of an abandon BP convenient store.  My muscles ached.  My feet throbbed.  My hands cramped from my constant nervous habit of clenching and relaxing my fists.  All of this was background noise to me in my head.  I was only faintly aware of it.  My focus was on my parents. 

I missed them.  I had not seen them in… I had no recollection of how much time had passed since I last saw them.  It was in Atlanta… Délon City.  In the Georgia Dome… No, wait.  I couldn’t count that time.  They weren’t them.  Not exactly.  They were… in transition.  My father more so than my mother, but neither of them was human… more Délon than human.

The last time I really saw them. When they were human, and the sky was blue and there were no purple freaks or Takers or… pick your hellish monster.  The last time was in Tullahoma.  I was sick in bed with mono.  I was so hot I was cold.  I remember their worried faces.  My mother stroked my forehead and cried.  My dad rubbed his stubbly chin with his callused hand.  This meant he was scared.  My mother had told me this once when I was younger, six maybe.  He had just gotten the news that his mother had passed away.  He hung up the phone and stared at the wall, rubbing his chin just as he was the last time I saw him.

“He’s scared,” my mother said.  She sat me in her lap and allowed me to watch my father from afar.  For some reason it was important for me to see him at that moment.  It was new to me.  I had never seen him like that before. It concerned me, and yet fascinated me.  “It’s okay, Oz.  Scared is good.  Scared means we’re confused.   And we find confused right before we get to where we need to be.  Do you know where that is, Oz?  Where we need to be?”

I shook my head.

“Understanding,” she said.  “We all need to understand.  So you let your Pop be scared.  He’s just trying to understand.” 

It meant nothing to me at the time, but sitting in the unsteady chair, with black continents of clouds creeping overhead, and watching a Twix candy wrapper dance in a whirling stale wind across the cracked pavement of the BP station, I knew exactly what she meant.  Only I wasn’t sure there was ever a time I was going to understand what was happening to me, to my friends, my world.  I felt perpetually confused.  There couldn’t possibly be any good in that. 

I groaned as I repositioned myself in the chair.  I did not think it possible to feel so entirely soar.  I lifted my aching arm to rub my stiff neck and caught a glimpse of a girl I barely recognized staring at me from one of the defunct gas pumps.  It was Lou, but it wasn’t.  I was not used to seeing her like this… she wasn’t a little kid anymore.  She was a full-fledged teenager.  The wind blew her hair across her face.  And suddenly I was struck by the notion that she was… pretty.

She brushed the hair from her face.  “You can’t do that again, you know,” she said.

I didn’t answer right away.  I was in the middle of trying to decide if I liked her being pretty when she spoke.

“Hey,” she said.  “You hear me?”

“Yeah, I heard,” I said breaking eye contact with her.  “Don’t know what you’re talking about though.”

“Leave,” she said stepping off the pump Island and strolling closer.  “You were gone too long.  Things nearly went all to pot.  I didn’t like it much… that is to say, we didn’t like it much.”

“I wasn’t that thrilled about it myself.”

“Lost Valerie,” she said.  I heard her voice break on the last syllable. 

“I know.  Wasn’t your fault.”

She took a deep breath and squeaked out, “Kinda was.”  Her eyes welled up.

“We lost plenty on my watch,” I said.  “Soldiers die in wars.”

“She was just a kid.”  She dropped her chin to her chest and shook her head back and forth slowly.  “You can’t leave again,” she said almost begging now.

I stood and approached her.  “I promise, Lou.  I’m never leaving you… all again.”

She sniffed and nodded.  “We missed you.”

“Yeah,” I said.  I fought the urge to reach out and pat her shoulder. 

“Ain’t much in there,” Wes said exiting the building.  He cradled a load of mix and match snacks against his protruding belly.  “Pretzels, peanuts, cheese and crackers, pork rinds… couple of Twinkies.  One of them is mine,” he said.

Gordy appeared from behind him favoring his wounded shoulder.  Lou had dressed it, but it would need changing soon.  “That’s a surprise.  You like Twinkies.”

“Boy,” Wes said.  “You been gone all this time and this is how you’re going to start in on me?”

“I’m just saying that’s all.”  He took the cheese and crackers and held it up.  “Y’all mind if I have this?”

Lou and I shook our heads.

He tore the wrapper with his teeth and hurriedly started to devour the snack. 

Ajax lumbered over to us from the corner of the store followed by Kimball.  It was good to see my best gorilla and my best dog again. I had forgotten how much I missed them.  I took the remaining Twinkie and tossed it to Ajax.  He grinned and nodded his massive head in excitement.

Kimball whined.  I called him over and tore open the bag of pork rinds.  I gave him one of the fried fatty treats, and he crunched it tentatively at first and then quickly assessed that he loved the taste of it.  I dumped the rest of them on the pavement.  He pounced on the rinds with reckless abandon. 

I turned to Lou holding the peanuts in one hand and the pretzels in the other.  She snatched the pretzels from me.

“One thing’s for sure,” Wes said.  “This ain’t going to be nearly enough to keep up our strength.  I feel weak as a kitten.”

Gordy laughed.  “Lord, Wes if you don’t want me to make fun of you, you gotta stop saying things like that.”   

Wes looked at me.  “Can we send him back?”

I smiled and shook my head.  “Like it or not we need him.”

“Gee thanks,” Gordy said.

“Got any ideas where we’re headed?” Wes asked.

I popped some peanuts in my mouth.  “Playing it by ear.”

“What about Tyrone and April?” Lou asked staring a pretzel.

I searched for the perfect answer. The truth is I didn’t have much hope they were alive.  They got separated from the rest of us and were in the middle of a pack of Myrmidons.  I didn’t think it mattered much that I sent Ariabod and another gorilla to look for them.  They wouldn’t find them.  In fact, the gorillas were probably dead too.  “Can’t worry about them.” It wasn’t perfect, but it was honest.

“What do you mean?” Wes asked.

“I mean they’re in good hands with Ariabod,” I lied.  “He’s a great warrior.  They’ll find us no matter where we go.”  Ajax confirmed my statement with a nod and grin.

A strong wind whipped through the small parking area.  Dust and debris tumbled across the asphalt.  I looked down as an old brochure slammed into my leg.  I kicked trying to work it free so it could go on its merry way, but it wouldn’t come loose.  I bent down and grabbed it with the intention of tossing it aside without another thought.  Instead, four letters caught my attention – Bilt.  I looked closer at the trifold brochure.  Biltmore House.  I must have said it out loud because Lou asked me what I said.

I cleared my throat.  “Biltmore House, in Ashville.  My mom always wanted to go there.  Dad promised her we’d go.”

Wes grabbed the brochure from me.  “Biltmore, huh?  Yeah, I heard of the place.  Mansion.  Castle, really.  Built by the Vanderbilts I think.”

Lou approached, fixated on the photo of the Biltmore House.  “It’s beautiful.  How far is it from here?”

Wes thought about the question.  He surveyed the road in front of the convenience store.  “Two days walk, maybe less.”

“Let’s go,” Lou said.

“What?” I said sounding a little indigent.  “We don’t have time to sightsee.”

“Really?” she said.  “And why not?  You said yourself you don’t know where we’re going.”

“Well yeah, but…”

“We need some time to figure it out,” she said.  “We might as well figure it out in a pretty place.”

“We have to find the Land of the Dead,” I said.

She snickered.  “It’s going to find us.  You know that better than anyone.”

She was right.  I shrugged my shoulders, and she smiled.  It was all the happy she could muster.  Visiting a genuine American castle was small consolation when things like castles and America didn’t matter anymore. 

I thought about my parents again and realized that it wasn’t just them that were dead.  The entire world was dead.  Maybe we didn’t have to find the land of the dead.  Maybe we were all ready in it.

The sky began to rumble and roar.  Flashes of lightning burst over our heads.

“We should sit this out in the store,” Wes said.

No one argued. I was the last one to step inside the convenient store.  A torrent of rain fell as soon as I did and beat the metal building relentlessly. 

“Bad,” Gordy said.

“Ain’t much good about anything for awhile now,” Wes replied.

I turned to him.  There was something in his tone… he was done.  Defeated.  I didn’t like the sound of it… I hated it.  “You’re alive,” I said suppressing a visible display of my anger.

He huffed as if it were the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard.

“What?” I asked stepping toward him.

“Ain’t enough that’s all.”

“What is enough?”

He looked up at the ceiling and absorbed the unnaturally heavy sound of the rain.  “A sunny day.”  He looked at me.  “You know?  A real day.  A yellow sun.  A blue sky.  Puffy white clouds.”  Without warning he kicked at a rack of pine scented air fresheners.  “While you’re at it, I’d like to see my sister, and her good for nothing husband, and Pepper…” He looked at Lou.  “And Valerie.”

Lou bit her lip and looked away.

A crack of thunder shook the foundation of the convenient store. 

“You will…”

“Stop it, Oz!” Wes roared.  The power of his voice sent a heat wave through the tiny store.  “Just stop!”

No one spoke for several minutes.  We all were trying to understand Wes’ sudden outburst.  Even Wes.

Finally he spoke in much softer tones.  “I’m tired…”

“We all are,” I said.

“No,” he said, “let me finish.  I’m tired of hoping for things that ain’t never going to happen.  We gotta stop this foolishness.”

“Foolishness?” I said.

“That’s right, foolishness.  We can’t go back.”

I looked at the faces of the others.  They were stunned by his words.  “Yes, we can.”

“No, we can’t,” Wes said.  “We are being hunted down by… monsters.”

“Destroyers,” Gordy corrected him.

“Whatever.  They’re in charge.  This ain’t our world no more.  We need to face that and…”

“Do what?” I asked.  “What good will it do for us to just give up?”

“It will keep us off the warpath for one thing,” Wes said.

“No,” Lou said.  “It won’t.  They’ll keep coming after us.  We can’t quit this.”

“That might not be true,” Wes said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“The Délons are losing control.”

“So,” I said.

“So I figure they will be fightin’ among themselves soon enough.  They won’t have time to fool with us.  I say we head up North.  Find a nice cold spot to lay low.  Let the Destroyer’s wipe each other out.”

“Won’t work,” Lou said.  “Oz is the key to finding their source.”

“No, I’m not.”

“They think you are,” Lou said.  “That means you are.”

Wes looked at me.  He wanted to say something, but he didn’t.  He shrugged his shoulders.  “I’m just having a bad day.  Y’all don’t pay no attention to me.”  He walked to the window behind the counter and watched the rain.

I stepped to the opposite end of the store bothered more by what Wes didn’t say than what he said.  They were all better off without me.

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Ghost Knocking?

I attempt to explain why I got so freaked out by the EVP in the first video.  I’m not willing to accept that it was an EVP, BTW.   In this video you’ll hear a strange knocking at the end.  I’m pretty sure the knocking was just my dog jumping up against the door. Still a little freaky because of the timing. The “black cloud?” A very rational friend pointed out that it looked like a bug crawling on the camera lens. I’m willing to accept that because if it’s… the alternative, I won’t be able to go back in the office.

THERE IS A LOGICAL EXPLANATION FOR ALL THIS!!!!

BTW – The logical explanation is that this was a lame marketing video I was doing at the time. It’s not real. Hope I didn’t mislead you anyway. I was just having some fun.

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Land of the Dead: Book Four of the Oz Chronicles – Post 1

Coming Soon!

For those of you have read Books One, Two and Three of the Oz Chronicles, Book Four is coming.  I’ve decided to post excerpts until such time the print version is available.

   You will also find the first three chapters of Land of the Dead in the paperback edition of Lost Days.

I died when I was eleven.  It was a family vacation on Oak Island, North Carolina, extended family; cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, even some foreign exchange student from France.  My cousin Anthony and I swam out past a sandbar scaring the crap out of each other by yelling shark every five minutes.  We screamed and laughed and drifted along the shoreline.  That’s when it hit us.  A current, riptide I think they call it, sucked us off our feet and started carrying us farther out from shore.  We both panicked.  I kicked and sputtered across the surface of the water, swimming against the current.  My breathing was quick and shallow.  I grunted and pounded my arms on the choppy surface of the ocean.  I looked to my left where Anthony had been and all I saw was the top of his head as he submerged.  I opened my mouthed to call out his name and sucked in a mouthful of salt water, causing me to hack and cough as if my lungs were trying leap out of my body.  Anthony resurfaced.  In between gasps, he managed to yell for help.  I tried to do the same but only swallowed more water.  My arms felt like lead weights.  I felt myself sinking.  I fought harder… attempted to fight harder, but I didn’t have the strength.  I tilted my head back, keeping my nose out of the water, and tried to breathe through my mouth out of reflex.  The water flooded my lungs.  I couldn’t even gasp.  A searing pain, as if my breast bone was about to crack and split open, was the last thing I remember before everything went dark. 

I was dead.

I don’t know how long it was before they revived me.  I was lying on my side on the beach. The foreign exchange student had her finger in my mouth shouting, “Ee is breading!  Ee is alive!”

It felt like I was spewing a couple of gallons of water.  My chest still felt like it was going to crack open. 

I heard mom’s voice.  “Oz! Oh my God, Oz!”  Her knees popped as she knelt down beside me.  She gently placed her hand on top of my head.  “Sweet baby.”

“Where’s Anthony?”  I heard someone ask.  I think it was my Aunt Sade, Anthony’s mother.

I didn’t hear anyone answer her. 

“Where’s Anthony?” she repeated, a little more shrill than before.

“They’re looking.”  The voice belonged to my cousin Johnny.  His too deep voice gave him away.  He was the oldest and vastly most bored of the Griffin kids, and he usually talked with a dull cadence, but now he sounded defensive and scared.

“Who’s looking… for what?” Aunt Sade asked breathlessly.

An answer came after a long pause. 

“Anthony,” Johnny said.  “He’s in the water.”

He said it without saying it.  Anthony had gone under. He’d drowned.  He was dead like me, but unlike me they wouldn’t be able revive him.  It would be hours before they even found him. 

Until the world ended that was pretty much my worst day.

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