A Window Cleaner’s Curse

by Michael Keyton

mike's blog

I had a window cleaner once. A real window cleaner who carried his own ladder and bucket, and climbed said ladder at what ever the angle or height of the house. He also whistled so you could choose not to be in or draw the curtains hurriedly depending on circumstances. In every sense, this man was a paragon, and more – a bibliophile.

One summer’s day, as I was pruning roses, he accosted me like an ancient mariner in search of an albatross:

“Tell me your favourite book of all time.”

“I don’t have a favourite book of all time.”

“Well then, tell me one you’d recommend to me – one I would like to read.”

“It depends on what kind of books you enjoy.” I was floundering, and still holding the bucket of fresh water he’d initially requested. He ignored my outstretched arm, the water dripping strategically over his shoes.

“Complex fantasy with a Victorian feel,” he said.

This was no ordinary window cleaner – but my answer was swift. “Gormenghast,” I said, “by Mervyn Peake.” He made me spell it, but didn’t write

it down. He took the bucket from me and placed it on the floor.

“Now I’ll recommend a book to you.” His finger touched me on the chest with conviction and zeal. He could have been saving my soul.

I smiled, caught in a book-trap I hadn’t seen coming.

“You must read Barnaby Rudge.” His eyes burned into mine. “You must read Barnaby Rudge.”

“Dickens, eh,” I said, as one bibliophile to another. “So, what’s so good about Barnaby Rudge?”

“Ah, and there you have it, sir, there you have it.”

This alarmed me. The man spoke Dickensian and without a Newport accent.

“It’s a wonderfully baggy novel, cavernous and windblown with all manner of characters, all manner of characters.”

I raised an eyebrow, wondering when my windows were going to get done.

“Listen to this, sir, hark to what he says about the Secretary Gashford:

This gentleman had an overhanging brow, great hands and feet and ears, and a pair eyes that seemed to have made an unnatural retreat into his head and to have dug themselves a cave to hide in. Ain’t that good, sir. Tell me it’s good.”

“It’s very good, sir, capital in fact.” I was beginning to speak like him.

“Or this…”

“No. The windows. I get it. Barnaby Rudge.”

There were noises coming from the other side of the garden fence.  I thought I heard giggling.

I’ll end on this, sir – just so you know this is a book you must read. He’s talking about Mrs Miggs:

With an expression of face in which a great number of opposite ingredients such as mischief, cunning, malice, triumph and patient expectation, were all mixed up together in a kind of physiognomical punch…

“Physiognomical punch, isn’t that wonderful? Can you see it… Physiognomical punch.”

I told him I could, and that I would read the book, and that the water was cold; would he like more?

The strange thing is that I did read Barnaby Rudge and lost myself in its vast, sprawling, chaotic and evocative world. The bugger was right. But I’ll leave it there in case any of you fears the ancient mariner’s curse is infectious, and the window cleaner will one day knock on your door.

Sometimes I wonder whether he ever did read Gormenghast and what he thought of Prunesquallor and Nanny Slagg:

Do you like babies my dear Mrs Slagg?’ asked the doctor, shifting the poor woman on to his other acutely bended knee-joint and stretching out his former leg as though to ease it.  ‘Are you fond of the little creatures, taken by and large?’

‘Babies?’ said Mrs Slagg in the most animated tone that she had so far used.  ‘I could eat the little darlings, sir, I could eat them up!’

I never found out. I asked him on his next visit and he just tapped his nose and winked, like window cleaners do. And then soon after that we moved from Newport to Monmouth and never saw him again. I still live in hope that one day he might accost another householder with the same artfully designed trap, but this time proclaiming the merits of Gormenghast and Titus Groan.

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Filling Your Niches

 

by Renee Miller

Many of us here at Deviant Dolls write in what are called “niche” genres. A niche genre is one that appeals to a small, specialized reader base. So, unlike something like romance, which has thousands and thousands of loyal readers, our genres attract a fraction of that number. And traditional publishers don’t go gaga over such books. Yeah, they want you to write something original and new, but not too original or new. They need to have somewhere to put it. If they can’t find the shelf your book belongs on, it’s a marketing problem. Plus, a fraction of thousands is not as good as thousands. It’s risky. Publishers are businesses, so this is understandable. Frustrating, but sensible if you’re looking at things from their point of view.

Just wish they’d stop asking for all this newness if they don’t want it. *grumbles*

I’m joking. Mostly. So, why would we choose to write in genres with such limited sales potential? Well a number of reasons.

First, a niche genre doesn’t mean you won’t sell just as much as someone writing in a popular or “commercial” genre. I mean, consider how many authors are out there writing the popular stuff in the first place. Spread those many readers out across those many authors, and the numbers aren’t so staggering for individual authors.

Second, I’ve found that these niche genres have the most loyal readers ever. This means, if they like what you’ve got, they’ll keep coming back, because it’s hard to find what they like. And they don’t mind paying. There are a lot of readers out there who’ve grown accustomed to the freebie. They expect it. Nothing wrong with that. We writers have created that expectation, so it’s our own fault. However, fans of niche genres like bizarro, erotic horror, absurdist comedy, slipstream and the like, know that it’s tough to find well written books that appeal to them, so they see value in it. When a reader sees what you’re offering as valuable, the freebie thing becomes less important.

Third, it’s fun. The most exciting part of publishing today is that we can bend and break genre lines. There are a bazillion sub-genres out there, and authors are creating new ones every day. Are they going to be bestsellers? Probably not. I mean, selling is the really tough part of publishing. However, it doesn’t mean they won’t sell. You can experiment. Have fun with your settings, themes, characters, etc. This experimenting helps us learn and evolve, and eventually, find the genre (niche or otherwise) where we excel.

I love writing weird stuff. If it’s strange or uncomfortable, I’m your girl. I also love writing sex scenes. Is that weird? Probably. I love writing about themes that are uncomfortable and using bizarre characters or situations. The more “WTF” or “OMG, no!” a story is, the more fun I have writing it. I’m not much for the butterflies and rainbows or the happy ending. What I’ve written previously that includes such things was a chore to write. I struggled to make it be what I was told it should be to “fit.” Sometimes I love writing tried and true stuff, but my “muse” is only truly satisfied when I’m going to an extreme of some kind. I like being a little uncomfortable with what I’m writing. Makes me more productive.

At Deviant Dolls, we chose to embrace genre straddling (and genre breaking) authors, because we believe in fiction that challenges the reader to think in new ways. We believe entertainment is valuable and so is allowing the reader to escape into a world that asks only that they buckle in and enjoy the ride. We love readers who beg to be scandalized, horrified, and/or tickled until they wet themselves. Niche genres make it easy to do this. Maybe, one day, these niche genres will become part of the norm. (Exciting) It’s more likely they won’t. That’s cool too.

Because we’re always looking for new ways to keep our readers happy, we’re curious: What’s your favorite niche and is it being filled? (Pun intended, because puns area great.)

Shrink Wrapped: Hanna Elizabeth Edition

hannaHanna may look sweet, but she’s hiding the keys to the dungeon in her bra and a shank she whittled from a baby goat femur in her hair. Don’t get to close. Don’t stick your fingers in the cage. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Probably safer to admire her from afar, like between the pages of her newest release, THE MAN UPSTAIRS.

Who do you think would be better in bed, Jennifer Lawrence or Jennifer Love Hewitt?

Since I have a HUGE crush on Jennifer Lawrence, I have to pick her. Besides, Jennifer Love Hewitt is so small and fragile looking I’m afraid I’d break her.

*See what I meant? Back away slowly. And someone grab that cardboard cutout of JLaw’s head.*

If tomorrow we got rid of Arbor day and replaced it with another pointless holiday, what would that holiday be?

My birthday, of course. That’s December 18th. You should mark that on your calendar.

*Why does it say, ‘Kill them all; Eat their souls’ the day after?*

There’s a woman standing at your door. Do you:

a) Let her in for a cuppa and your mom’s famous whiskey-soaked coffee cake

b) Giggle maniacally while your resident lizard slowly eats the dead skin from her body

c) Stare through the peep hole, slowly dwindling to madness as you realize she’s not a woman at all, but a cyborg sent to recruit you into the Tupperware Action Clan.

Definitely B. I have hundreds of lizards – they might not stop at the dead skin. I’ve trained them better than that.

oh my

*Reminds me of that scene in Goldmember. You know, with the guy who eats dead skin? WHO WANTS LUNCH?*

Tequila or Sake? Explain.

Tequila – I’m a lot more fun with Tequila. Shooters!

*Put the guns away, Forbes. She didn’t mean those shooters. I don’t think.*

Are you a hugger? Why or why not?

Yes. I am a HUGE hugger. Mostly, it’s to feel people up, but I think it’s good for the soul too.

*YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO FATTEN MINE UP SO YOU CAN STEAL IT. Don’t fucking lie to me, dear, I saw it on the calendar!*

Quick, someone grab all the sharp things—Renee, you get the chloroform—while I distract her with this pretty picture. Here, Hanna, look at the picture. NO DON’T LOOK AWAY. What do you see?

hanna-blot

I see the Predator Alien and it’s kinda creeping me the fuck out.

*Good.*

Shrink Wrapped: Frank E. Bittinger Edition

Say hello to Frank. Don’t worry. He usually doesn’t bite hard.

frankFrank is our newest member, and he’s fitting in quite well, except for that thing he does with his—never mind. Check out his most recent publication Rhayven House to get an idea of the sort of shit that rolls around his head.

We were a little nervous about digging around in there, by the way, but here goes…

Have you ever peed in the woods? Pooped? Why would you poop in the woods?

I have peed in the woods on a number of occasions. It harkens back to the pioneering spirit in all of us; however, I have never pooped in the woods. I have no explanation for this. Perhaps because whipping out one’s wiener to unleash a stream of urine is far simpler than shoving one’s pants down and squatting to void one’s bowels. And then there is also the possibility of there not being any toilet paper available in the woods and should one run the risk of using various leaves to wipe, then one runs the risk of getting poison ivy or some such on one’s asshole. And I cannot imagine how that would be pleasant in any form or fashion.

*One time, on a road trip when I was young and stupid, I peed in the woods, fell over, because I may have been drunk, and got poison ivy all over my lady bits. It’s not pleasant at all. NOT. AT. ALL. *

 How would you explain spray cheese to an alien?

Why the hell would you ask me a question about an alien? Dude, it’s like you don’t know about my overwhelming fear of being abducted in the wee hours of the morning by the goddamned Grays! What the hell?! Try to be a little more sensitive to others.

*We knew about this fear, and we told you, it’s never going to be resolved until you face it. PS: You’re scheduled for a probe at noon. Use the enema we gave you. Trust me. *

Have you ever heard people talking to you or about you when no one was present? Are you medicated?

Not only have I heard people talking to me or about me when no one else was present, but I have held entire conversations with these voices and together we can perform “Hallelujah” better than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir!

tom-hiddleston

*Note to self: Start drugging Frank’s food and drinks. Heavily. *

You’re walking down the street and see a single shoe on the sidewalk. What happened to the other shoe?

You might not believe the serendipity of you asking me this question. This just happened to me. It was a size 7 shoe with a red sole, so you know it was one of those fancy brands. I was minding my own business, just out hoping someone would fondle me without my permission, and I happened upon this mysterious shoe.  As I stood there pondering the questions of why the shoe was there, what is my place in the universe, and did the new pants I had on showcase my package as nicely as I thought they did, wouldn’t you know it?! This hot cop came to retrieve the shoe. See, it was part of a suspicious death scene and it had been left behind. Along with the one leg. What happened to the other shoe, you ask? It was picked up and taken with the other evidence at the scene to be processed. At least that’s my understanding of the situation. I really wasn’t paying too much attention to the words coming out of his month. Instead, I was just standing there having a fantasy about him.

*I bet he had a British accent. Sigh. *

And now for the sex stuff:

Have you ever paid for sex? Been paid? Do you think it’s fair to charge someone for sex? Please, explain your answer in as much detail as necessary.

I have never paid for sex. And I have never been paid for sex. I’ve always utilized a barter system, and I find that works the best in these situations. I couldn’t imagine charging someone for sex when you can utilize and exchange of goods for services. Think of the tax consequences of paying for or getting paid for sex. I mean, I can understand the write-offs you could list on your long form, but if you do it the way our ancestors would have and trade, you will totally discover bartering is the way to go. I mean, that’s what this country was built on, and that’s also why we built all those forts–so people could barter. You’d know all about this if you had only paid attention in history class or watched the History Channel once in a while.

*Personally, I’d rather be paid for sex. No trade. Cash. Up front. Thank you very much. *

Not that we need to dig any further, but we’re here now, so tell us what you see in this picture:

franks-blot

The ink blot gave me palpitations. Or, it would have if I wasn’t missing my hollow, muscular pump…and by that, I’m not referring to Christian.

nathan fillian.gif

No, it brought to mind my intense and overwhelming fear of alien abduction. Not by the Reptilians, because I’ve always been fond of reptiles and iguanas in particular, but rather by those goddamned sneaky-ass Grays. See, late at night I watch marathons of all these alien shows where victims of abduction and visitation explain how they get woken up from a sound sleep by some alien, no pun intended, noise. When they look at the clock, it’s almost always 3 AM, and then they look around their bedroom and come ultimately face to face with the Grays. So now just imagine how I feel when I get woken up by a noise I can’t explain. I sit up in the darkness and wonder what it was. Then I look over at the clock on my bedside table–on the left of the bed because only heathens keep their clock on the bedside table on the right–and see it reads 3 AM. And then I get totally terrified and close my eyes real tight and refuse to look around the room because I know all the key factors are in place and the goddamned Grays are lurking in my room to seize this opportunity to abduct me. That’s what the ink blot reminds me of.

Well then. *gets the jacket ready* Why don’t you go with Katrina to that nice, dark room over there. (Katrina, is the generator ready?) She’s going to put those nice stickers with the festive wires on your head. Yes, Christian finds those VERY hot. Go on.

Shrink Wrapped: Renee Miller Edition

(Interview conducted by Katrina Monroe)

When vodka becomes sentient and decides to drink all of US for a change, Renee Miller will be the only one left standing, provided she finds a suitable straw in time. She writes what she lives and that is Fucked Up Shit that ping-pongs between funny as hell and the kind of shit you tell your therapist about. MIND FUCK is of the former; HUNGER is of the latter.

bio-drinkingSTOP FIDGETING, Renee. I was only kidding about the vodka. OKAY. Okay. Fine. You can have some. But you have to share.

When was the last time you saw something that wasn’t there? How could you be sure it wasn’t there in the first place? What’s that pill bottle you keep shaking?

I saw something just the other day. It was a shadow, sort of. When I turned it was gone, so I assumed it wasn’t there. I guess I can’t be sure of that. Maybe my house is haunted.

What pill bottle?

*You can’t fit that entire bottle in your—okay, I guess you can. Still a shitty hiding spot.*

How would you explain ugly Christmas sweaters to an alien?

I have a hard time explaining those to myself. Should an alien ask during my pre-probe interrogation, I’d just bend over and wait.

*Standard operating procedure then, eh?*

You’re walking down the street and you see a human hand blocking a storm drain. Do you assume it’s real or fake? Why?

I assume it’s fake, so I can keep walking. Then, when I’m a safe distance away, I’ll consider that my assumption was wrong and try to figure out where it came from. I didn’t leave it there, that’s for sure and I resent the implication.

*Because you’re SO CAREFUL about your discards, right? Do we need to bring up the couch incident?*

You’re stranded on a desert island with the last five people you talked to. Cannibalism is inevitable, so let’s skip to the good stuff. Who gets eaten first?

So, I’d be stranded with you (Katrina), Christian, my daughter, a lovely woman named Laurie and Mike, who works in frozen foods at our grocery store. I won’t be eaten first, because I’m an aggressive personality and I only get worse when I’m hungry, so good luck trying to eat me, Katrina. Get that out of your head right now.

*I will not and you can’t make me.*

Christian talks fancy, so I’d like to keep him around for a while. He’d probably be second or third, depending on how he plays his cards. My daughter is obviously not on the menu, because I ruined my bikini body to give her life. Not taking it away just yet. Laurie would be chewy, so she’d have to marinate too long, and I was going to say I could never eat you, but then I laughed, because… never mind.

It’d have to be Mike. I’m sure he’ll understand.

*Working in frozen foods does give you a certain viewpoint toward life. *

Now that you’re full, it’s sexin’ time. Same five people (though I guess we’re down one, aren’t we?), which one will end up under the banana-leaf shelter for a night of grunting with you? Why?

Ha! Well, again, the kid is out. Mike’s dead, and I’m not into that shit. Laurie would probably stab me for trying, so it’s between you and Christian. How about both? Is that greedy? Come on. I bet it’d be a learning experience for all of us.

painted whore

*Unless Christian somehow grew a vagina (wouldn’t THAT be a trick), no thanks. Although, if he were to be a distant participant, VERY distant, and he closed his eyes… No. Never mind. I’ll just wait over here roasting bits of Mike thigh.*

Drop the bottle, Miller. You’re not quite done yet. Take a look at this. With both eyes, please, you’re not a fucking pirate. What do you see?

ink-blot-1

I saw this picture once of a dog costume on Amazon, but I can’t find it now. Basically, it’s a baby costume. When you put it on your dog the poor thing looks like some kind of horrific alien doll thing, and it’s pissed at you. Probably going to shit in your boots or something. Maybe eat your face off while you sleep.

*If you so much as look at my cat that way again, you and I will have words. Also, I’m pretty sure Christian is squatting over your shoe. Going to need to take care of that. No, it’s not my fault. Just go.*

Shrink Wrapped: C.M. Saunders Edition

As we’ve already explained in previous interviews, this is not a meet the author and find out all the writerly things he does kind of thing. Instead, we took questions a doctor or cop searching for a serial killer might ask and tweaked them a little.

Christian bio picToday, we’re grilling C.M. Saunders (also known as Christian or ‘little bitch’ around here). He writes horror fiction and he talks funny. Everything is just a big, twisty, dark thing to him. Everything.

* Katrina, he’s doing it again. Where’s the restraints? No, he won’t get it on you. Christ… have to do everything myself…*

 Anyway, Mr. Saunders is releasing a collection of dark fiction in January, 2017, and we highly recommend you give it a read. For now, check out his most recent work in Deadman’s Tome. It’s gooey.

Now, let’s get to analyzing Christian.

When you get mad, do you:

  • Get even

  • Lash out

  • Pitch a tantrum, and then get over it

  • Do nothing.  

Please explain.

I always had a low tolerance level for assholery. People don’t always set out to be assholes, and sometimes they don’t even know they are doing it. I can accept a certain amount of that, people being the imperfect creatures that we are. It’s the deliberate, pre-meditated assholery that gets on my tits. Liars, cheats, users. As a younger, more hotheaded man, I would definitely lash out. Problem being, I’m not that tough so I usually got my ass kicked. These days, being older and wiser, if someone pisses me off I pay some guys to ‘take care of the problem,’ thereby saving myself the hassle and a lot of potentially damaging court cases. I do believe in karma. If you are a cunt, you’ll get fucked eventually.

How would you explain 2 Girls, 1 Cup to an alien? (Editor’s Note: Please don’t Google this kids)

I don’t know what that is. Kidding. Okay, I would tell the aliens it’s a film depicting some perfectly normal human behaviour. The kind most of us do on a daily basis, usually before breakfast. Then the aliens might fuck off and leave us alone.

Kevin Spacey or Kevin Bacon? Explain. (Note: The status of our relationship will be affected significantly by your answer.)

I’m guessing you want me to say Spacey. But I’m going to say Bacon just to piss you off. Nah, I really would choose the Bacon. Now I have to justify it? No problem. One word. Footloose. That was a seminal 80’s flick, right up there with the Breakfast Club and the Risky Business. There’s also the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon to consider. For those who don’t know, it’s a game based on the Six degrees of Separation theory. There’s a website called the Oracle of Kevin Bacon where you type in any name and it will link it to KB. Except mine, apparently. There isn’t an Oracle of Kevin Spacey. Know why? Because he isn’t cool enough. He might be the pretentious arty poser’s favourite, because of Usual Suspects and not much else, but he will never win the people’s vote. There are reasons for that. Ask anyone to name five Kevin Spacey films without Googling. They won’t be able to do it. Two more things that help my case is that Bacon was in the original Friday the 13th film. Not many people know that. And the killer is that he’s in a band with his brother. They are called the Bacon Brothers.

* Actually, I was hoping you’d say Bacon, because of Footloose. Our relationship remains strong and weird. For the record, Kevin Spacey is amazing and cool, and doesn’t get the respect and admiration he deserves. By admiration, I mean lustful fantasies. I love him. *

giphy.gif

Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?

Yes and no. I firmly believe there is much more to this world than a lot of us realize. But sticking a label on it would be a mistake. Things happen that we can’t explain. People see or experience weird shit all the time, and it’s usually easier to ignore the problem rather than try to address it. Charles Fort talked about having a ‘procession of the damned.’ By ‘damned’ he meant data mainstream science has deliberately excluded because it doesn’t fit the accepted theory. His mission was to collect this data and bring it to light, and he did a pretty good job. Don’t get me wrong, the world of the so-called paranormal is filled with bullshit. A lot of what you hear or see, especially in shows like Ghosthunters, isn’t what it appears to be. But I always say even if 99% is fabrication, disinformation, or plain old lies, the remaining 1% proves the existence of ‘something else’ and that’s all you need. Do I believe ghosts are the returning spirits of dead people? No. But there’s definitely something fucking going on.

* Oh, there’s something going on all right… *

Have you ever had sex with someone you weren’t actually attracted to? Since I know your answer is yes, I’m just going to go ahead and ask you why you did it?

Alcohol.

* Enough said.*

Time for the Ink Blot. Tell us, Christian, what do you see in this?

christians-blot

I really wanted to see a panda. I like pandas a lot. It was close. But to be honest, I saw an alien’s skull.

Really? Hmm. *puts the straitjacket away* Thanks for playing along. You can pick up your prescription from the dwarf on the way out. Don’t look him in the eye.

Shrink Wrapped: Tony Bertauski Edition

Welcome to our series of Meet the Dolls interviews we’re calling Shrink Wrapped. Before you run away, let me say these are not a meet the author and find out all the writerly things he does yawn-fest kind of thing. Instead, Katrina and myself (Renee) took questions a doctor or cop searching for a serial killer might ask and tweaked them a little. It’s been enlightening… and disturbing.

tonyLet’s begin with our first patient, Tony Bertauski. Tony is the author of amazing books like the Foreverland Series and The Socket Greeny Saga. He’s also seen a horse’s vagina. More on that later.

Tony’s most recent book, HUMBUG (The Unwinding of Ebenezer Scrooge): A Science Fiction Adventure, is just what you need to read during this festive season. (Even if you hate Christmas, you’ll like this book. If you don’t, you’re a monster.)

Let’s get to digging in Tony’s head, shall we?

Love or Money? Explain.

Love. Unless I’m super hungry.

* I totally understand that answer. *

How would you explain Facebook to an alien?

You know the arguments family have across the table at holidays? That on a global scale.

* Maybe that’s why everyone loves it so much? *

Describe yourself in three words. Now, describe the last person who stood ahead of you in line at the last store you went to in three words.

Hard to understand.

From another planet

*Is anyone else wondering where this man shops?*

The person you love and trust most in this world has called for your help. Keeping in mind you’d catch a grenade for this person, they’ve asked you to help hide a body. First, do you ask any questions and if yes, what questions. Second, do you do it?

We talking a baby, or an old man on his deathbed? Big dif. (Renee: We’re talking adult who probably would’ve lived for many years)

Depends on how much digging is involved.

Which animal do you find sexy and why? According to experts, human beings find at least one animal a little arousing, (that may or may not be true) so spill it.

I saw a close up pic of a horse vagina the other day from a friend who boards horses. Looked just like a vagina. Imagine that.

* Does that mean you find horses sexy? I’m going to go with yes. (makes a note) And now I can’t get that out of my head. *

Finally, tell us, Tony, what do you see in this inkblot:

tonys-blot

Two seahorses smoking genital pipes.

shock


I did not see that… until now. Thanks, Tony. Genital pipes… wow. Anyway, thanks for playing along. We always love when you come to our play dates. Your parting gift is this lovely genital pipe. Sorry, Forbes ate the seahorses. He’s a dick like that.