Get #PotAD for 99 cents.

ItPlaylist of the Ancient Dead‘s June, and it’s all about summer road trips. What’s better for road trips than music? In June, my most musical fiction will be on sale/free. My science fiction/horror/comedy called Playlist of the Ancient Dead is on sale for a limited time! The kindle edition is 99 cents June 3rd-8th on amazon. If you loved Time Burrito, I would say that PotAD should be your next stop. If you are trying hard to see how music fits into this book, I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but it plays a big part. Here’s the description:

Caroline, a post-graduate student, waits for her grand adventure in life. While she’s waiting, she walks the dog down the same path every day, avoids her dippy ex-boyfriend, and ponders her mundane march towards middle age. Her dream comes true when a magical doorway appears before her in a drab brick building. There is something on the other side of the door, and it beckons her inside.

BellicusAlso in June, I’m giving away two free short stories. On June 3rd-5th, the kindle edition of One Way Trip to Solasoma will be free! Then on June 6th-10th, Our Final Days on Bellicus Prime will be free! Both of these stories accompany a song by the same name from my band Spiral. You can hear the songs on just about any music service or by clicking the beautiful album artwork to the right.

Finally, I want to let you all know that I have three projects in the pipeline. One is a reincarnation story with a comic twist. The other is the sequel to Atmospheric Pressure. And the last is a YA multiverse trilogy (this one, I plan to wait until all three books are done). I really don’t know when any of these will be done because for the time being, I do this in my spare time.

If you like what I do, and want to help, consider leading a review, telling a friend, or better yet gifting a copy to them. Give a friend a book for a buck. You can’t beat it!

Enjoy the sun-baked highways and turn it up loud!

-Aaron

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#PotAD 4 – Werewolves of London by #WarrenZevon

You know when you’re a kid and you hear a song lyric incorrectly, but you swear that your version is the right one, and the fiction turns out to be more wonderful than the truth? Werewolves of London is that song for me. I had always thought that he was saying Werewolves of Thunder. How cool would that be? Werewolves of Thunder! Maybe they could even showdown with the Thunder Cats. Alas, my childhood fantasy of thunder werewolves was not meant to be. However, in a lot of ways, the character of Jasputin Trotsky is much cooler in the story of his head than in reality.

Jasputin was a character brewing long before I decided to get back into writing science fiction again. When we first started dating, my wife had a small 18 pound dog named Jasper. It took one weekend of watching him while she was out of town to earn his love. Now he sleeps on my shoulder as I type this post. When my wife and I first moved in together long before we were married. We got a nice slice of the ghetto near Burton Park. Since the neighborhood on the other side was nicer than ours, we’d muse on our walks about what was going on in the dog’s head.

We had created this inner monologue of this great hero who guards the house and called my wife, mommy, and me, “man”. Since our dog seemed to take every task with a grave sense of importance be it barking at the mailman, or walking through the park, we amused ourselves for hours with a “dog” voice about what Jasper thought about the world. We had visions of our dog sitting in a large stuffy chair in a gentleman’s sitting room, smoking a cigar and sipping cognac, talking about the rise and fall of bone prices. We created mysteries perpetrated by an “m-man” only to be discovered later that it was mailman all along. He was a dog PI named Licks Waggert. A Russian revolutionary named Jasputin Trotsky. A landed gentry named Sniff Barklington with our cat Mura Purmewsmith.

Though Jasper’s appearance in my novel almost never happened. In the first draft, the dog was flavor text for the first chapter. Later on (spoiler alert), I realized that actuators would probably need some helpers who could take the equivalent of the employee corridors of a haunted house. If a building was designed to test, then someone had to reset the test and clean up the bodies. The “friends” were born, and if there was going to be a character from the core group who was destined to join the friends, why not use this larger than life character my wife and I created together. My only regret is that I didn’t get to use more of our silly dog related creations. Maybe one day, I’ll write a dog fantasy novel with a hardened PI named Licks Waggert.

#PotAD 3 – Sharp Dressed Man by the #ZZTop

This song and band are the perfect introduction to Murphy. There is something over-the-top and larger than life about ZZ Top. Like their beards, they don’t do anything halfway. Murphy is not a partial commitment sort of guy. When he finds his focus, it’s all or nothing. Strangely enough, the man in this video is probably the same age as Murphy now:

 

On a completely unrelated note, ZZ Top was my only near death experience going to a concert, and I was at a Black Sabbath with Ozzy reunion tour where you could hear the roar of a massive adrenaline soaked mob echoing through the city streets towards you after their New Years show. Despite having been to metal shows that were banned by Satan, ZZ Top was the one that almost did me in. I was near the front row, and two mosh pits a had broken out on either side of me. In the chaos, I was knocked off my feet and tumbled to ground. The audience began to trample me.

A hand of a very large Native American man picked me up by the scruff of my jacket. He lifted me off my feet and set me back down again. “You better be more careful,” he said as he charged through the mosh pit cheering and screaming. In a daze, I wandered towards the back of the show, and watched the rest the concert from a safe distance. In case you’re reading this, thanks random guy large enough to burrow through a crowd to save a near trample victim. You’re the sharp dressed man.

#PotAD 2 – Santa Monica by #Everclear

Chapter 2 of Playlist of the Ancient Dead reveals my and Rashid’s disconnect from the rest of the world. Rashid is so hyper focused on the world of physics; pop culture has passed him by. Pop culture also passed me by. When Weird Al’s Mandatory Fun was released, I had not heard any of the original songs lampooned on the album. My wife created a playlist of all the original videos on YouTube, so I would know what Weird Al was parodying before we watched the comedic versions. I realized the original songs had a couple billion views. Somehow, most of the planet Earth had heard these songs that I was about to hear for the first time.

Why not turn that disconnect from the world of pop culture with an out of place opening credit song? Back in the eighties and nineties, I remember almost every movie having a pointless aerial camera view of urban landscape to a song that didn’t fit the movie. Even Groundhog’s Day, one of my favorite movies ever made had the cityscape credit sequence. I decided to choose a song from the last time I knew anything about popular music (the nineties) to not only have a disconnect with popular music, but also because in the back of my brain I’m hearing Santa Monica to pointless aerial footage of Albuquerque. That is why Rashid is from Santa Monica and not Brooklyn like I had originally wrote. But I think California makes sense. With overbearing parents, of course he’d go across the country for college.

In case pop culture has passed you by here is the song:

Did they break up with each other because they were so nineties?

#PotAD 1 – Caroline by the #Espers

I needed to pick the perfect song. If I was going to write a novel where music was the actual plot device, then I had no choice but to embed a playlist into Playlist of the Ancient Dead. The music had to represent parts of my life and fit into the novel. So each chapter heading became a song title. Each song fit it in its own peculiar way, and one song changed the name of the main character. That song was Caroline by the Espers:

 

It wasn’t easy picking Caroline. My main character was named Marissa in the early drafts, and I didn’t want to change it. I was going to change Murphy’s name before I changed Marissa’s. But like all prolific writers, I decided to deal with the problem by ignoring it. The first song in the playlist within the Playlist needed to set the tone of the book, and introduce the main character. But there wasn’t a song about a Marissa that fit the description, so I turned to music to mull the problem over. Often when I felt particularly introspective, I’d listen to Caroline and other songs like it on repeat. One such evening, I noticed a comment on youtube about the Espers:

There is something ominous hiding in plain sight.

And that’s when it hit me, I had to name my main character Caroline, and no other song could fit better than Caroline as the first song in the playlist within the Playlist. There was something truly ominous hiding within plain sight of Caroline. It was a building she walked by every day, yet failed to understand the significance. Not only did I find the song that fits the tone of the story, but I also found a song that would annoy Caroline’s parents. It also gave me a nice character moment. I could hear her parents now, “why’s it got to sound so depressing!”

Caroline only rebelled against the song of her namesake because of all the embarrassment she suffered at baseball games:

 

If you are curious to find out the artists of the rest of the playlist within the Playlist, please follow this blog or one of my social media outlets. You may be surprised by some of the artists on the list.

Our Final Days on Bellicus Prime

Author’s note: This is a short story that pairs with a song by the same name:

Lana screamed as loud as she could possibly scream. Lights flickered on through out the house. Her older brother was the first in the room with a sword at the draw. Her older sister, Maia, was right behind him. Maia was more sensible and possessed a firearm.

“What is it?” Brother snapped, ready for action.

“There’s an alien outside my window.” Lana pointed to the window near her bed. Her brother, Tarn, peered out the window with the sword useless at his side.

“That’s why you bring a gun,” Maia quipped snidely.

“A sword is an honorable weapon,” Tarn said, unfazed by her remark. There was an empty field with a single tree visible outside her window. The bark of the tree was cracked and old. The branches were twisted.

“There is nothing out there,” Tarn pronounced.

“You are useless Lana. I stopped having bad dreams when I was five,” Maia teased.

“A warrior respects fear with dignity,” Tarn interjected.

“Fear is a part of life… I’ve heard it before,” Maia said.

“I saw it! It’s not a dream!” Lana screamed.

Father’s bodyguards entered the room first. Father pushed past them.

“Patriarch of Bellicus,” The bodyguards objected. “We must protest-”

Father was icy and quick, “I will face any threat to my family with the dignity of a warrior.”

“Forgive us.”

The Patriarch turned to his children, “Explain.”

“There is nothing to report. Lana had a nightmare,” Tarn offered his insight.

Lana interjected, “I wasn’t asleep.”

Maia scorned, “You saw the tree.”

“Enough,” The Patriarch commanded the room. The children tensed while the bodyguards relaxed. Their earlier indiscretion would at least be forgotten. “What did you see?”

“I saw it father. Its eyes were… big… empty… like it could see the whole world. I swear father. It was standing in the field, a little ahead of the tree. It was looking at me… like it knew me.”

“Warriors of the ancient saw the same creatures. They would appear on the eve of a great battle to bless the warriors with strength and prowess. I think you bring us a good omen for we are about to embark on the greatest battle of our species.”

“You fill her head with myth and legends. I was learning to wield the dagger at eight!” Tarn scoffed.

“If you were a lesser man, I’d have your head, but as you are my only heir, you will not sleep anymore and proceed directly to physical training.”

Tarn stormed from the room. Maia smirked. Her brother was about to have a shitty morning.

“You too, Maia.”

Maia knew better than to argue with her father. He dismissed the bodyguards. Relived that his wrath didn’t extend to them, they scrambled into the hallway and closed the doors.

“I’m afraid, father,” she hugged him. He felt cold, but she knew that was the body armor.

He patted her, “Fear is natural. Only a fool would deny it. A true warrior learns to control their fear.”

But Lana didn’t want to control it. In fact, she wasn’t sure she even wanted to be a warrior, but she didn’t dare tell father that or anyone for that matter.

_______

 

142 fucked up. The fuck up wasn’t a small fuck up. It was big. The kind that could get him shipped to another star system, but he couldn’t help himself. He had to see the denizens of Bellicus in the flesh. Usually, they watched from the smaller of the two moons. But 142 knew an important decision was being made for Bellicus. He wouldn’t have another chance.

He would have gotten away with his trips if his personal cloaking device didn’t malfunction. The device had a glitch. The light bending matrix got out of sync. As an inexperienced researcher, he didn’t know how to fix it. So he just froze. That’s when the girl saw him.

She was just a little girl. In the scheme of the entire planet, that shouldn’t matter. She would just be a girl telling stories, but she was the leader’s daughter. So she was a little girl connected to a lot of power. Still, he knew what 141 would say, “The most insignificant person can change history.”

That’s why the researchers were under a strict non-interference policy. They possessed technology eons ahead of the planets they studied. Even using the technology to heal a sick puppy could create a world religion. Researchers were strictly forbidden to interact, could only go to the surface when necessary, and must always be accompanied by another researcher.

“Researcher 142. Stay right there.141 out.” Researcher 141’s voice bellowed over the intercom. Here it comes.

“Yes.” 142 tried sound as neutral as possible. He loved early civilization cultural studies, but he’d probably be shipped off to some far off station to study white dwarves. His new name would be Researcher Ten Million on the white dwarf project which had not changed in a billion years. Every thousand years, researchers switched jobs, even names.

141 would be slowly coming down the hallway by now. He was named 141 because he was the 141st researcher at the Bellicus Prime station, research that started more than 141,000 years ago. 142 began 300 or so years ago when 140 left. It was a peculiar pairing. 141 was a humorless old being. 142 learned to enjoy his job.

141 entered and inched his way into the room. 141 was a different species. He was more of a spider than a bipedal species. Each leg cracked with age as he moved. 142 used to make jokes about how 141 was as old as the amount of cracks in his bones. Those jokes stopped 10 years in as 141 was never amused. 141 needed to train 142 to be the senior researcher of the two person post, so for 500 years 142 could lead 143, just as 141 would lead 142 for 500 years. But there would be no 143, the research project was about to come to an abrupt end.

All the council species had exceptionally long lives. Natural age limits seemed to not be as important when species shared life extending technology. There was more than just a mere 500 year age gap between 141 and 142. 141 was set to retire after countless postings like this one whereas this was 142’s first post out of his education. 141 often treated 142 like a child. Today would be no different.

“You made an unauthorized trip,” 141 folded his several arms.

“Yes. I will admit to that.”

“And a resident saw you.”

“I cannot deny that.”

141 paused. It’s over. White dwarves in boring lifeless solar systems. 142’s work was too important to give up now. He needed this posting at this planet.

“I guess sooner than later, the Bellicus residents will know about us,” 141 said dryly and began to type on a terminal.

“So can I get back to study?” 142 said sheepishly.

“I don’t see why not.”

In a state of disbelief and relief, 142 slinked over to his terminal and began to type. 142 was barely coming to terms with what happened when 141 spoke again.

“It happened before.”

“Oh?” 142 tried to act nonchalant.

“On Bellicus. It happened before.”

“What happened before?”

“A researcher revealed himself to the population. You know the myth of the war spirits that appear before battle. That really happened. A researcher revealed himself to an army of the warrior king Bellicus. The army that saw the researcher won the battle the next day.”

“Crazy.”

“Unwise if you ask me. Now is Bellicus a warlike culture because of that incident? Or were they always warlike and just integrated our existence into their culture. Why is the smaller moon the war god?”

“The researcher told them about our observation station?”

“We don’t know what he said to them. He cut all the recording feeds. He claims he was trying to convince them about the value of peace. Now did he give the army an unfair advantage? Nope. They fought with indigenous weapons. But he did give them hope. The gods visited them that day. Who knows, maybe that army should have lost.”

“So we become gods. What’s the problem? The cultures will make their own decisions. And by the time they are ready to meet us as equals, they’ll know we aren’t gods.”

“Only if we don’t interfere. Our culture fought wars. We had a massive part of the population work for the luxury of the lucky few, but we figured it out. If someone were to try and steer us there too early, what would happen if we misinterpreted the knowledge?”

“We send teachers with the researchers.”

“What happens if the cultures never learn? How long do we teach?”

“We are willing to observe until they reach out to the stars.”

“You have much to learn 142. The system protects us as much as them.”

“Until the final decision.”

“Not all cultures will end up like Bellicus.”

They fell into silence as they worked.

“What happened to the researcher who interfered with their culture?” 142 mused after a moment.

“He spent the rest of his days in a lifeless white dwarf system.”

“Huh.” Figures.

To continue reading get the kindle version here.