Archives for posts with tag: Lisa Mason on Facebook

6.3.18.LADIESSMALL

Updated for 2019! Published in print in seven countries and as an ebook on eighteen markets worldwide.
As I mulled over my published short fiction, I found seven wildly different stories with one thing in common–a heroine totally unlike me. I’m the girl next door. I have no idea where these strange ladies came from.
In The Oniomancer (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine), a Chinese-American punk bicycle messenger finds an artifact on the street. In Guardian (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine), an African-American gallerist resorts to voodoo to confront a criminal. In Felicitas (Desire Burn: Women Writing from the Dark Side of Passion [Carroll and Graf]), an immigrant faces life as a cat shapeshifter. In Stripper (Unique Magazine), an exotic dancer battles the Mob. In Triad (Universe 2 [Bantam]), Dana Anad lives half the time as a woman, half the time as a man, and falls in love with a very strange lady. In Destination (Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction), a driver takes three strangers from a ride board on a cross-country trip as the radio reports that a serial killer is on the loose. In Transformation and the Postmodern Identity Crisis (Fantastic Alice [Ace]), Alice considers life after Wonderland.
Five stars on Facebook and Amazon! “Great work, Lisa Mason!”
“Hilarious, provocative, profound.”
From Jeanne-Mary Allen, Author on Facebook and the Book Brothers Blog: “Kyle Wylde and I are thrilled to have found such a talented, dedicated, and brilliant collection of shorts in Strange Ladies: 7 Stories…Your style/craft is highly impressive.”
From the San Francisco Book Review: “Strange Ladies: 7 Stories offers everything you could possibly want, from more traditional science fiction and fantasy tropes to thought-provoking explorations of gender issues and pleasing postmodern humor…This is a must-read collection.” http://anotheruniverse.com/strange-ladies-7-stories/
From the Book Brothers Review Blog: “Lisa Mason might just be the female Philip K. Dick. Like Dick, Mason’s stories are far more than just sci-fi tales, they are brimming with insight into human consciousness and the social condition….Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is a sci-fi collection of excellent quality. If you like deeply crafted worlds with strange, yet relatable characters, then you won’t want to miss it.” http://www.thebookbrothers.com/2013/09/the-book-brothers-review-strange.html#more
5.0 out of 5 stars This one falls in the must-read category, an appellation that I rarely use.
“I have been a fan of Lisa Mason from the beginning of her writing career, but I confess that I often overlook her short fiction. That turns out to have been a big mistake! I have just read Strange Ladies thinking I would revisit a few old friends and discover a few I had missed. Well, I had missed more than I had thought, and I regret that oversight. This collection was so much fun! I loved each and every story and enjoyed their unique twists, turns, and insights. I thank Ms Mason especially, though, for the high note ending with the big smiles in Transformation and the Postmodern Identity Crisis. Uh oh, I guess I still am a child of the summer of love. Well played. You made me laugh at the world and myself.”
“I’m quite impressed, not only by the writing, which gleams and sparkles, but also by [Lisa Mason’s] versatility . . . Mason is a wordsmith . . . her modern take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is a hilarious gem! [This collection] sparkles, whirls, and fizzes. Mason is clearly a writer to follow!”—Amazing Stories
5.0 out of 5 stars Great collection that will make you think
Format: Kindle Edition
“My definition of a good short story is one that you keep thinking about for days, and this book had several of them.”
Strange Ladies: 7 Stories (“A must-read collection—The San Francisco Review of Books). On Nook, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo.
On Kindle at US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.
Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is in Print in the U.S., in the U.K., in Germany, in France, in Spain, in Italy, and in Japan.
Join my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206 and support me while I recover from the Attack. I’ve got lots of goodies there for you with more on the way.
Donate from your PayPal account to lisasmason@aol.com.
Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, worldwide links, covers, reviews, interviews, blogs, round-tables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, and more!

Reviews of movies we viewed for Mom’s birthday party on this past Monday: “Stan and Ollie”. You DO have to be passingly familiar with Laurel and Hardy movies from the 1930s to fully appreciate the film, which I’m not and Tom is. There are moments of humor—they’re really like their slapstick movies in real life—but ultimately it’s a sad story. In their heyday, when they were the most popular comedians in the movies, they didn’t get paid well by their producer, didn’t get paid at all for reruns, and therefore were perpetually financially strapped. As we meet Stan and Ollie in the present story, it’s 1953 and they’re desperately doing a tour of England to raise interest in a prospective new movie, which a producer is attempting to finance. For viewers interested in the subject matter. Not a bad movie, but not particularly uplifting, either.
Downsizing” starts with a high-concept SFnal premise: technology has been perfected to shrink people to six inches tall. Why would they do this? Being six inches tall stretches your dollar a thousand times so that the $150,000 equity the protagonist (played by Matt Damon) has in his over-mortgaged house becomes worth $12 million in the community of “small people” where he plans to relocate. The story should have stayed focused on all the complications becoming irreversibly ”small” would entail. Instead the story veers off in odd directions and strays from the premise so much that this viewer had trouble remembering the benefits and limitations of becoming small and how the Big World interacted with them. Sadly, only for the curious. I was disappointed.
Yesterday”, on the other hand, is a delightful high fantasy concept that stays true to its premise until the very end. A talented but failing young musician is hit by a bus (literally) when the entire Earth goes dark for two seconds. (I don’t mind a good deus ex machina; I’ve even used a few DEMs in my books and stories.) He awakens in a world subtly changed. The first change he discovers is that no one knows who the Beatles are, knows their music, and only he can remember the melodies and the lyrics. When the realization dawns on him, he does what any sensible person would do. He runs home to his computer and googles “The Beatles,” only to keep getting pages listing insects.
The premise raises in this viewer the question of social context: how would Beatles’ songs fare in a world without Beatles? There a scene near the beginning in which our musician sits down at a piano (he also plays guitar) in his parents’ living room. The parents, deeply skeptical of his creative aspirations, listen as he expertly starts the opening chords and begins to sing “Let It Be.” Before he’s gotten through the first line, the doorbell rings, an equally skeptical neighbor comes in and sits down, the musician starts again, the neighbor’s cell phone chimes. And so on and on. He never does get past the first line. The scene is meant to be humorous, a send-up of how distracted we are these days and also that context thing—will anyone ever listen to the musician even though he’s singing “Let It Be”?—but I wanted to reach through the screen and smash everyone’s freaking phone.
In sum, “Yesterday” is a very enjoyable film and recommended for light entertainment. I wanted to see the copyright permissions on the Beatles’ songs (got it—who holds the rights now—I have my own reasons for finding out) and so kept the film on through the screen credits at the end. Huge bonus—over the end credits, they play Paul McCartney singing “Hey Jude.” Well worth the wait even if you’re uninterested in the copyright permissions.
Please join my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206 and support me while I recover from the Attack. I’ve got lots of goodies for you—five delightful stories, movie reviews, recipes, book excerpts, and more.
Donate a tip from your PayPal account to lisasmason@aol.com.
And visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, blogs, roundtables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, worldwide links, and more!

This morning I had a vivid, but simple dream.
I was petting and brushing with Athena’s cat brush, two rabbits. Each were white with black spots. I intuitively knew the larger one was male, the smaller, female.
That was it. But what did the dream mean?
Upon awakening, I got out my beloved A Dictionary of Symbols by J.E. Cirlot and my Outlines of Chinese Symbolism & Art Motives by C.A.S. Williams.
Neither source had “rabbit” but they both had “hare.”
Cirlot reports that (naturally) the hare is associated with fecundity and procreation, but that’s not the hare’s main symbolism. The hare is associated with fleetness of foot and diligent service, but most of all the hare is associated with the Hecate, Hekar, and the Moon.
Turning to Williams, the hare is one of the Chinese Twelve Terrestrial Animals, is associated with longevity (?!), and is strongly associated with the Moon.
Then I checked my calendar. Sure enough, today November 12 is the full moon!
I love it when my subconscious mind taps into an archetype.
Please join my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206 and support me while I recover from the Attack. I’ve got lots of goodies for you—five delightful stories, movie reviews, recipes, book excerpts, and more.
Donate a tip from your PayPal account to lisasmason@aol.com.
Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, blogs, roundtables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, worldwide links, and more!

9.8.19.CHROME.PRINT.BOOKS.1

CHROME
Lisa Mason
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2019 by Lisa Mason.
Cover, colophon, and art copyright 2019 by Tom Robinson.
All rights reserved.
PUBLISHING HISTORY
Bast Books Ebook Edition published July 9, 2019.
Bast Books Print Edition published August 13, 2019.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval, without permission in writing from the publisher.
For information address:
Bast Books
Bastbooks@aol.com
Thank you for your readership! Visit Lisa Mason at her Official Web Site for her books, ebooks, screenplays, stories, interviews, blogs, cute pet pictures, and more. Enjoy!
CHROME
Chapter 3
Terralina Rustabrin

She knows she’s in big trouble, maybe even in mortal danger, the moment she hears the coyotes stumbling toward her. Yipping and howling. The stomp of their hobnail boots.
Terralina Rustabrin waits on the cobblestone sidewalk outside Bunny Hedgeway’s mansion while the Jamboree party rocks on. “Oh, ugly ugly,” she whispers. Her usual mournful refrain.
“Whoo-hoo!” a coyote barks. “Bobby, get a load of this jabberwock.”
“It’s, like, a turtle. You ever see one of them mockeries before?”
“Never in my life, dog. I can’t abide slitherers. Give me the creepy-crawlies.”
“A turtle wearin’ a dress. And it’s got one of them li’l bicycles. A low-rider.”
“My uncle’ll want a piece of this. He buys and sells ‘em, how ever he comes by ‘em. Heh, heh. Big market for low-riders, what with the cold bloods.”
“And the squirrels?”
“Rats, too. Rodent Blends gross me out. You ever see a good-lookin’ rat girl?”
“With them short dumpy legs? Gag me with a bone.”
“Let’s get it.”
“What, the turtle or the bicycle?”
“Both, dog.”
“Bicycle’s got a lock. Turtle can’t be so lamebrained.”
“Turtles are totally lamebrained.”
“Since when did a lock ever stop us, my pack mates? Whoo-hoo! Let’s go!”
Howl of laughter. And bang! The first kick of a boot on her carapace.
Jabberwock. Mockery. Lamebrained. Slitherer. It.
Oh, really. Terralina Rustabrin has never slithered in her life. She most definitely is a she, not an it. And she’s a tortoise, not a turtle. Get that straight, morons. She never sets her wrinkled little foot in water except for the occasional lavender-scented bubble bath. And even that can be a chore she avoids as long as possible.
As if they’re not jabberwocks or mockeries. Insulting her, harassing her, endangering her while she is quietly minding her own business. Waiting for her bond-promised, Prince Tudine Ruchat Tartus. Waiting to get this dreadful Jamboree over and done with.
It’s bad enough that Tuddy is making her wait while he lives it up at the party. Even worse that she knows what will happen when he rejoins her. He’ll continue their painful conversation about what their bond-mate will amount to. She doesn’t want to continue that conversation. But continue it she must.
A painful conversation?
Try an argument threatening to end their bond-promise. A bond-promise Terralina cherishes. A bond-mate she dearly wants to consummate. To keep till death does them part.
But when they bond-mate, when they fulfill that promise, she, Terralina, will have an obligation. When they bond-mate, she and Tuddy are duty-bound to procreate another Chromian generation. Another generation of tortoise Blends like them. As heavily mutated as them. What else could happen unless the other half, their elusive human half, manages to recombine into something better? Something more human? Minus the carapace, even?
Bang! The second kick of a boot.
Terralina’s human ancestors were Myanmar refugees captured by poachers. And Tuddy’s? Dutch industrialists kidnapped by a rival industrialist. Two hundred and fifty years ago, Emirk Corporation had purchased political prisoners, deposed chancellors, convicted felons, abductees, refugees, sex slaves, medical experiment slaves, child slaves, and all manner of captives from Earth’s traders and traffickers in human flesh. Human beings of all races and all genders from every place on Earth. Every place where people were incarcerated, oppressed, abducted, or bought and sold.
They were shipped up to Chrome.
Something more human. It could happen, Tuddy had pleaded. And if that miracle doesn’t happen, what then? she’d countered. Then I’ll love our children as much as I love you, my darling Terralina, he’d vowed.
That wasn’t good enough. That wasn’t what Terralina wanted to hear. Tuddy had to face the bitter truth. When they bond-mate and assume the Chromian obligation to procreate, she will bear children as crippled by their genetic heritage as they are.
Is that what you want? she’d said. Over and over. Is that what you really want, Tuddy?
Tonight he wouldn’t answer. He wouldn’t plead. He turned away and fiddled with the lapel of his tuxedo. His silence troubled her more than his hopeful pleas.
Sitting on the sidewalk now, she’s thought it over. She can conclude only one thing. Tuddy wants tortoise children. He’s proud of his carapace. He’s an heir to a tortoise dynasty with splendid carapace colors. The co-owner of a castle in Chelonian Park. His human ancestors were endowed with comeliness and vigor. One day Tuddy will take the helm of his clan’s longtime enterprise that is vital to life on Chrome.
Terralina doesn’t enjoy such a pedigree. Such privilege. None of her siblings survived childhood. Both her parents perished young of salmonella. Her human ancestors were half-starved and frail when Emirk took them to Chrome. If it weren’t for Tuddy and the Tartus clan, Terralina would be all alone on Chrome.
Trouble. Trouble all night. The full Moon stirring everyone’s blood with a touch of madness.
A third kick of a boot, and the coyotes surround her, stinking of hard booze and the gamy scent of canid.
Oh, ugly ugly. She should have known trouble was coming the moment she’d stretched her neck out of her carapace and glanced up at the mansion’s rooftop. An odd sound had alerted her. A soft, metallic creak on the fire escape from the rooftop to the lawn. A slender, powerfully built womanimal in a mask and costume climbed down the wrought-iron stairs. Crouched in the shadows of the railing when the Security Eyes swiveled back and forth. Climbed down again.
What was she doing? And why?
And then.
Then a tall, thin manimal in a disheveled tuxedo strode out of the trade-service door at the back of the mansion. He moved with a peculiar gait, sinuous and powerful. She blinked, puzzled, as he scowled, dabbing at his mouth with a handkerchief. The white cloth darkening with stains.
An ink-black limousine pulled up and the tall, thin manimal climbed in the passenger seat. A uniformed chauffeur sat behind the dashboard, a nasty reptile with a scrofulous face and wide, glassy eyes staring from beneath the bill of his cap.
Well, fine. It was a big party. Chromians coming and going all night, mostly through the magnificent front door. Terralina had yawned, chilled and exhausted, wanting badly to go home, to climb into Tuddy’s warm featherbed, to go to sleep. She’s diurnal. The sort of Blend who functions best during the day. She had no business celebrating Jamboree so late in the nocturnal niche. Neither did Tuddy.
The limousine cruised past her, and she got a closer glimpse of the manimal. His long, narrow face heavily freckled. His right eye gleamed as if his cornea reflected the moonlight. A collar or scarf bunched up at the nape of his neck. He glanced through the car window, raised his hand to adjust the scarf, and she saw the Tatt on the back of his hand.
Black. Pure shiny black. Glittering with power.
What was that? She’d never seen such a Tatt. Not on any Chromian. Every color under the sun, certainly. But not black. Not glittering.
Those should have been her only troubles for the evening. Witnessing the unusual departure of two party-goers. Oh. And arguing with Tuddy. And refusing to go in to the party.
Now trouble, real trouble, has found her. A kick of a coyote’s boot spins her around in one direction. Another kick spins her the other way.
“Whoo-hoo, dogs!”
“Let’s have some fun, my pack mates.”
“Go, Bobby! Smash it up!”
With a jerk, Terralina pulls her head and her stubby arms and legs inside her carapace. The carapace, firmly rooted at the nape of her neck and extending to mid-thigh, is made of bony dermal plates. Inside, the carapace is surprisingly roomy with a high domed ceiling. She’s equipped it like a studio apartment with a tiny kitchenette and a cot on which to rest her head. The human parts of her—skeleton, internal organs—pulse and gurgle beneath the slick pink surface of the studio’s floor. Everything is entwined by nerve, blood vessel, and sinew to the carapace.
Another kick sends her sliding across Cedar Lane. Boots pound after her. Another kick sends her sliding back.
Terralina scowls, dizzy and nauseated. Why oh why didn’t she go inside with Tuddy and endure the Jamboree like she was supposed to?
Because she didn’t want to. Couldn’t bring herself to. Didn’t want to face all those glamorous predators, those handsome herbivores.
Couldn’t bring herself to in spite of Tuddy’s generosity. He’d spent a bundle of credits outfitting her for the occasion. The olive-drab dress starts with a lace collar wreathing her skinny neck and descends in a cascade of ruffles to her tiny feet. Tuddy even paid for a manicure, the flamingo beautician squawking sarcastically through the ordeal of applying pink polish to Terralina’s tiny, tiny fingernails. Tuddy picked out a mask for her, matching his own. A dragon mask, green sequins on the cheeks, green feathers sprouting from the eyebrows. Tuddy bought her fancy shoes, too, but they pinch her toes. She’s kicked them off. She’s thrown the ridiculous mask onto the sidewalk.
Nothing has helped Terralina cope with Jamboree.
“Whoo-hoo-hoo!”
“Bobby, over here, kick it over here.”
“I got it, I got it, I got it!”
A metallic clatter as her bicycle crashes on the sidewalk.
“Get the bicycle, Bobby.”
“What, carry it?”
“Do I have to tell you everything? Smash the lock, dog.”
Terralina winces. She adores her bicycle. The bicycle is her only means of free speedy transportation around Chrome. The bicycle is her treasured possession. Not so very long ago, the theft of her bicycle would have devastated her. Sent her into a tail-spin. Sent her into desperate schemes how she could raise the credits to buy another.
Now she doesn’t have that problem. Since Tuddy fell in love with her and opened the family coffers of the Tartus clan, she can easily replace it.
Just steal my bicycle and go away.
But the coyotes don’t go away. They do tire of spinning her around and kicking her back and forth. That no longer amuses them. Now a boot slams down on the top of her dome with a sickening crunch. Her carapace is grown of tough stuff, but the bony plates give out a deafening crack!
If they crush her carapace, she’s as good as dead. All those entwined nerves and blood vessels and sinews will rip and tear. She will bleed internally, suffer unspeakable pain. She will sicken and die.
Oh, oh, oh! If there’s anything Terralina can be proud of in her tortoise Blend life, it’s the beauty of her accursed carapace. A black-and-gold mosaic decorates the bony plates. Tiny black-and-gold diamonds in a checkerboard pattern line the rim.
Barricaded inside, Terralina taps the sage-green Tatt on the back of her left hand and winks the Chrome City Police Emergency hotline. The dispatcher’s icon pops up, a magpie in a beehive hairdo.
“Coyotes are trying to kill me,” Terralina whispers to the icon. “I’m a tortoise. A little one.”
“The wait time will be twenty minutes,” the dispatcher chirps. “Happy Jamboree.”
Nothing she can do. Nothing she can do.
She mutters a quick angry prayer to the Intelligent Designer that allowed the creation of her miserable Blend. She curses Emirk Corporation. Curses the Tweakers and the Twitchers. Waits to die.
Crushed. Humiliated. Alone.
She doesn’t die.
*   *   *
For the rest of Excerpt 3 of CHROME and to discover how Terralina is saved and by whom, please join my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206 and support me while I recover from the Attack. I’ve got lots of goodies for you—four delightful stories, movie reviews, recipes, book excerpts, and more.
Donate a tip from your PayPal account to lisasmason@aol.com.
Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, blogs, roundtables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, worldwide links, and more!

CHROME.MED.295.KB

The CHROME cover, by San Francisco artist Tom Robinson, is comprised of a dozen different elements which Tom carefully researched. We think the imagery looks kind of mid-century. I love the color scheme.
And yes! A Brand-new Reader Review of Chrome, the First One:
“So Walter Mosley reread Animal Farm and The Island of Dr Moreau and says to himself, “Oh, yes indeed, I’ve got a terrific idea for my next best seller.” But! Lisa says, “Hold on, hot stuff. You’re too late. Chrome is already on the streets. Haha!”
Wow! I just tore through Chrome. So much fun. Oh, I guess I should take a time-out to say that it was very well-written too, but I was enjoying the characters and the story so much that the superb writing simply did its job and I had to consciously reflect to notice the excellent and clever construction and reveals. Uh, isn’t that the definition of good writing?
I’m not usually a fan of sequels, but could we please have at least one more romp with Ms Lightfoot and her sidekick Terralina?”
Yes, I’m working next on CHROME COBRA and a third book to round out a trilogy, plus a prequel novella. LIBERATION DAY, which will explore the mysteries of the events leading up to freeing of the Blends from their cages.
CHROME is in U.S. print as a beautiful trade paperback. Also in U.K. print, in German print, in French print, in Spanish print, in Italian print, and in Japanese print.
The ebook is on US Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and on UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, India Kindle, Germany Kindle, France Kindle, Spain Kindle, Italy Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, Japan Kindle, Brazil Kindle, and Mexico Kindle.

Join my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206 and support me while I recover from the Attack. I’ve got lots of goodies for you—four delightful stories, movie reviews, recipes, book excerpts, and more.
Donate a tip from your PayPal account to lisasmason@aol.com.
Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, blogs, roundtables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, worldwide links, and more!

My 9,000-word story, “Arachne”, my FIRST story, got published in OMNI Magazine, then the premiere genre fiction venue. I’ll have much more to say about how that came about later.
This post, however, is about how to turn a shorter work into a longer one.
First off, I don’t recommend it.
You can easily take a little piece of a book and turn it into a coherent, self-contained story. I don’t make a practice of that, either, but have done so in “Crawl Space”, a Garden of Abracadabra spin-off story that’s very charming. And I have plans to write more spin-off stories in the Abracadabra universe, as well as a YA series featuring Becky Budd, a wonderful teenage character who is just finding her way in Real Magic, with the help of Abby Teller.
I also have plans for stories linked in the same universe that, when they’re all written, could be knit together and become a book. Or at least a story collection that feels like a book. I published a story, “Teardrop”, in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, that got good reviews. This takes place in the Bakdoor universe. I have plans to write more Bakdoor stories. A lot of writers do this, to make good use of a fully developed world and characters.
But what about taking a short story and turning it into a novel? Why do I not recommend the practice?
Because you’re immediately faced with the problem of “padding.” If your story feels self-contained, complete in and of itself, satisfying in and of itself, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, your attempt to expand it will slow the pace to a crawl with useless words, endless descriptions, and silly subplots.
But if you can identify issues in the story that seem “compressed”—as many readers and critics did of the story “Arachne”—then you’ve got a chance for expansion into a good, saleable novel.
For the rest of what I recommend for expanding your story into a novel and the service I’m offering, please join my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206 and support me while I recover from the Attack. I’ve got lots of goodies for you—four delightful stories, movie reviews, recipes, book excerpts, and more.
Donate a tip from your PayPal account to lisasmason@aol.com.
Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, blogs, roundtables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, worldwide links, and more!

10.29.15.GILDEDAGEBIG

In honor of the Day of the Dead, this is an excerpt of El Dia de Los Muertos, from The Gilded Age, published first by Bantam, a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book, now a print book and an ebook from Bast Books. The novel, a sequel to Summer of Love, is an exploration of San Francisco in 1895 and China of five hundred years in the future through the eyes of Zhu, a time traveler.
We’re catching up with Daniel J. Watkins, a twenty-something year old man who has serious problems in San Francisco, 1895.
El Dia de los Muertos
“To Death,” Daniel toasts Mr. Schultz, “in marvelous Californ’.”
Mira muerta, no seas inhumana, no vuelvas manana dejame vivir,” croons the singer through his grinning papier-mâchè skull mask. Ricardo, the one-eyed guitarist, dreamily strums along.
“To el Dia de los Muertos,” Schultz says, raising his shot glass. “Sehr gut, nicht wahr? Speaking of muertos, Danny, got myself in a bit of a fix.”
“A matter of life or death?”
“You might say.”
Daniel pours two more shots from a dust-furred bottle of mescal, smiling at the drowned worm at the bottom. Authentic, this splendid rotgut with the disconcerting effect of making everything appear as ominous and strange as a nightmare. A more decadent drink than the Green Fairy, if such a thing is possible. And, like absinthe, the taste is vile.
He and Schultz lounge at a table in Luna’s, finishing their fifty-cent Suppers Mexican. Frank Norris’ recommendation amply deserved. The restaurant is quaint. Bright peasant pottery, dried gourds, red-and-white checked tablecloths. The singer’s skull mask is quite a fright, though Daniel’s dyspepsia is mostly caused by the Supper Mexican. Remains of their scorching hot dinner lie scattered in the colorful crockery—spicy pork sausages, tortillas, chiles rellenos, frijoles fritas, tamales, salsa. Daniel could never have dined on such a feast in St. Louis. Or in Paris or London. Only in marvelous Californ’.
Schultz sighs and knocks the shot back, licking salt off the rim of his glass. “I’ve been given the boot.”
“Things crummy in Far East shipping?”
“Things are bang-up in Far East shipping. Not so bang-up for me.” Schultz pours another shot. Just a small one.
Daniel’s tongue has become quite numb. “Why so, old man? You seem to have been doing well. Plum position.”
“Can’t control the drink, and that’s the truth. God knows I’ve tried. You and I, we start in on the brandy at breakfast.”
“Don’t I know, sir,” Daniel says. “Not to mention Miss Malone and her accursed champagne.”
“She’s forever pouring me another and adding it to my bill.”
“Brushes her teeth with the bubbly.”
“At any rate,” Schultz says gloomily, “showed up corned at the office one time too many. Not that the old man doesn’t do it. He just manages to hold his liquor better.”
“Plus he’s the old man.”
“Guess we’ve all got an old man somewhere.”
“By blood or bad luck.”
They laugh unhappily.
“Lousy bit, Schultz.”
Schultz’s mustache stiffens. “Don’t suppose you’ve got any paying work for hire, do you, Danny? Help out a pal? I’m not asking for a handout. I’m no beggar.”
“Wish I did.”
“You just sold that property of your vater, didn’t you?”
“A patch of worthless weeds on Geary Street. Nothing going on in the Western Addition. I daresay that will be the fate of it for some time. The other lot has got no takers, and the rest of the deadbeats are giving me grief. That old fool Ekberg on Stockton Street has stalled me for weeks. As for Mr. Harvey in Sausalito, the good gentleman sent thugs as his answer to my request for payment. They followed me, Schultz, while I was taking my stroll along the Cocktail Route. Worried me up quite a bit.”
Daniel would rather not confess that his mistress, costumed in coolie’s clothes, gave Harvey’s thugs a run for their money while the thugs gave him a goose egg on the noggin, sore kidneys, and a bad scare. He’s spotted suspicious characters lurking around the boardinghouse. He’s taken to sneaking in and out of the tradesmen’s door rather than promenading out the front. It’s an unhappy way to live. He’s been screwing up his courage for weeks to go and confront that damnable Harvey.
“Perhaps you need a manager.”
“A bodyguard is more like it.”
“Can’t help you there. No good with a pistol or fisticuffs, I fear.” An ugly look of envy curdles Schultz’s large, puglike features. “You’ve got some scratch. Me, I haven’t got one thin dime. And I can’t quit the drink.” He knocks back the shot, toys with the bottle. “I’m weary to my bones. What I need is a cure.”
A cure.
They both contemplate that possibility as the singer launches into another melancholy ballad, “Esta alegre calavera hoy invita a los mortales para ir a visitar las regions infernales.
Daniel knows no Spanish, but the meaning leaps out—We invite you mortals to visit hell. Mescal, by God. Now he is comprehending Spanish. He doesn’t know Schultz well enough to confide his darkest secrets, but Daniel is no fool. He knows exactly what Schultz is talking about. A cure. He behaves like an ass when he’s stinking. Look at how he treats his mistress—his ugly words, his uglier actions. Shoving her about. Having his way with her whenever they’re alone without asking her if she wants it. He hasn’t struck her—not yet—but he cannot promise himself that will never happen. Not when he’s stinking.
He’s not sure where his cruelty comes from. Even less sure why she allows him to get away with it when she has amply demonstrated she’s no whore or dimwit. He would venture to say—only to himself, of course—that Zhu possesses more intelligence than ten gentlemen strolling along the Cocktail Route. Oh, she has her peculiarities. She claims she’s from the far future like a creature out of Mr. Wells’ novel, which only makes him angrier with her when he’s stinking. She goes temperance on him. Drinking’s going to kill you, she says, tears lingering on her lashes. Lunatic, he shouts at her. Off to the loony bin with you.
He awakens after every binge feeling soiled, stupid, and contrite.
He’s been binging every day. Brandy with breakfast, sir, to start.
Those are his scruples. What about his physical constitution? His health, which he’s always taken for granted, is no longer so vibrant. He suffers frequent nosebleeds, a sore throat. Paunch has started thickening his middle. His gut is frequently on the blink. His hands tremble. And the headaches. His head aches something fierce when he awakens. Relief only comes when he’s got his morning brandy under his belt.
And it isn’t only his scruples and his physical constitution. He is plagued by odd feelings. Melancholy and guilt. Memories of his father and mother intrude on his peace of mind. And so on and et cetera until he cannot abide this anymore. There must be something he can do.
“Know of a cure?” Daniel says cautiously.
“Heard a fellow talking about it at the Bank Exchange. Dr. Mortimer’s Miraculous Cure for dipsomania. Guaranteed, money back and all. There’s the trick for me—money. The cure costs an arm and a leg, but is well worth it. Or so the fellow said.”
Daniel tries to overlook the unfortunate fact that this hot tip was imparted in one of the busiest bars along the Cocktail Route. “This Dr. Mortimer, he’s in San Francisco?” He apportions the last finger in the bottle between himself and the worm. “To the handmaiden of Death,” he toasts the worm.
Ja, Dr. Mortimer’s got his clinic in the Monkey Block,” says Schultz, succumbing after a short struggle to the last drops of mescal. He seizes the bottle and empties the remnants, worm and all, into his mouth. Suddenly he looks green and dashes out of Luna’s to the gutter where he noisily airs his paunch. The scowling maitre d’ and a scullery maid dash outside with buckets of hot salt water and vigorously splash the pavement clean. Mr. Schultz’s antics are a terrible reflection on their establishment.
Daniel picks up the tab—a dollar for two splendid Suppers Mexican. A dollar fifty for the terrific rotgut. A penny each for the maitre d’, the waitress, the singer, the guitarist. He reluctantly counts out coins. He’s not exactly flush, himself. He strides out past Schultz on his hands and knees, heaving. What won’t a drunk do, Daniel wonders, to stiff his pal for the bill?
*   *   *
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