Saturday, April 15, 2017

WORKING CLASS HERO, the audio book!

Just a reminder that the audio version of WORKING CLASS HERO is out from Beacon Audio. Available from Amazon. com,, Beacon Audio, and other sources.

Buy your copy HERE!

"WORKING CLASS HERO is James Robert Smith's best novel since the Hollywood-optioned THE FLOCK.

James expertly weaves blue collar superhero sensibilities into our modern world. The characterization is outstanding, and the world building is first rate as always.

The concept of regulated super heroes working for the government, and non-regulated super heroes as "outlaws" is a lot of fun. This juxtaposition allows for some fine entertainment and thrilling scenarios.

I was highly entertained by this novel, and the sensitive depiction of Bill B. Billy is an alpha 2.0, with a powerful level of self-awareness, a rare thing in a super hero tale. Mostly we get the brawn or snark in super hero books or films. We get much more in Working Class Hero.

James twists and turns the reader through heroes, villains, and various agencies, resulting in a gripping read and a very satisfying conclusion.

Highly recommended." -- Pine Marten

"I went in to Working Class Hero by James Robert Smith with an open mind, not sure what to expect from a writer who I mostly associated with horror novels. I was very surprised to have read a thoughtful, exciting real-world look at super-heroes (hypers) and how their newly acquitted powers changes and disrupts their ordinary lives. Billy B is our hero, a working class laborer, not unlike the writer, who finds himself gifted with new abilities and the responsibilities that they bring. The book was full of exciting, colorful characters who have their own agendas and own problems. Well written, an exciting trip inside the mind of a man who has now become a super man." -- Mark Masztal

"Working Class Hero sucked me in right from the beginning, and I couldn't put it down. The author leads us down a rabbit hole into a present day reality, populated by super-powered humans that is both a nostalgic nod to Golden Age comics, and also a tip of the hat to the darker realism of Alan Moore/Frank Miller comics. WCH also offers a unique world all it's own, in which some humans have accidentally developed an assortment of super abilities over the course of the last 20 years, and no one quite understands why or how. In response to this phenomenon, the government created a task force to regulate super powered humans, and people generally fall into two categories: those who register their powers and do service for the government, and those who illegally avoid the required service and become outlaws. The book implies there are others who try to lead normal lives and stay under the radar, and a lot of complex social controls have developed to monitor and try to locate and punish any 'illegal hypers'.

This book follows the superhero Billy B, who was once a blue collar loading dock worker before developing super strength, speed, and toughness (as well as an envy for Hypers who can fly, since he is only capable of high jumping)! He's a refined redneck, self-educated through his love for books, who possesses innate intelligence and sensitivity for people and their struggles. He's also a rough-around-the-edges tough guy.

It would be a disservice to give away a single spoiler for this book, but what struck me most is how I was taken by the hand and drawn immediately into the world of this character, as his own world began spinning out of control. The story world blended so realistically into present society that I was taken seamlessly from my mundane existence and transformed easily into the hero of an alternate reality chock full of depth, excitement, and complexity. The reader slips into Billy B's character like our own private superhero costume, living inside his head and feeling his thoughts, emotions and experiences as he's drawn deeper into the world gone mad around him. It's hard to know which entity is more sinister--the government agency he works for or the villains who've begun working together in an effort to sabotage certain elements of society. The dynamics between the various heroes and villains and agencies come to life and swirl together into a character driven narrative which makes it hard to put the book down. Mounting tension and rich characters carry us onward as the mysteries unfold and the excitement continues, and the author never fails to deliver on the promises of the book. An exciting, thought provoking read which paves the way for a really fun story world which I hope to see many more entries in." -- Matt Damon.

WORKING CLASS HERO: The Autobiography of Billy B. by James Robert Smith.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Hoyt Wilhelm, Baseball Hall of Fame.

My wife has a lot of Germans in her ancestry. One of her cousins was Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher, Hoyt Wilhelm. I'd always heard the story of how he pitched a no hitter against the mighty Yankees team of 1958 (Mickey Mantle, Bill Skowron, Yogi Berra, Norm Siebern, Hank Bauer, Elston Howard, etc.). But I hadn't read the details, so I did some online research to read how the knuckleballer tossed that no hitter.

I never did get to meet him. Carole's dad was going to take me to meet Hoyt when he was still a minor league pitching coach--I think in Asheville--but something came up and I didn't get to go.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Audible Version is Out!

The audio edition of WORKING CLASS HERO is out. I haven't heard it yet, but I hope to remedy that by the end of the day.

You can buy it here, on Amazon.

WORKING CLASS HERO, by James Robert Smith.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

A Vanishing American Art Form

This week I read articles about plummeting sales at Marvel Comics Group (part of Disney). Some people (including some Marvel editors) were blaming the recent attempt to "diversify" the characters by reinterpreting old standbys and new creations as racially, ethnically, gender, and sexually inclusive. Apparently this editorial move coincided with vanishing sales.

But the editors and comic reporters got it wrong. They are right in that the comic book--one of the true American art forms--is dying out. But they missed the reason for it. Comics are dying out because the industry abandoned the kind of diversity that matters--comics that cater to all kinds of tastes.

The HUGE problem with "mainstream" comics is that they aren't mainstream. They are dominated by silly superhero comics. Now, don't get me wrong. To paraphrase Paul McCartney, I love silly superhero comics. I love them so much that I even wrote a superhero novel. I would like to write more of them. Superhero comics have their place. They should probably be a part of the comics publishing business. But they shouldn't be 99% of it! Imagine, for instance, you went into a library or bookstore and 99 out of 100 of the books in it were about superheroes. 

Comics by their nature tend to tilt toward genre fiction, but there was a time when there was every kind of comic book you could imagine selling in huge numbers. Comic books about policemen, criminals, sports figures, animals, history, military, funny animals, humor, teenagers, romance, horror, science-fiction, fantasy, classic fiction, westerns, movie adaptation, trains, cars, etc. etc. etc.

Superheroes came along and began to overwhelm the industry when first DC, and then Jack Kirby (at Marvel, the company that Kirby built) brought them back. They kicked Donald Duck and Richie Rich and Classics Illustrated and everything else to the gutter and have run roughshod over the comic book publishing business ever since.


Either the industry finds a way to start selling all kinds of comics to the public, or they fade away and go extinct. A variety of types of comics that appeals to a huge and varied audience is what will save the industry. Not some whining liberal's version of "diversity".

Jack Kirby, the man who created Marvel Comics (and who could create and write and illustrate any kind of comic) was ironically responsible principally for the dominance of the superhero genre that has overwhelmed comic book publishing since 1961.
 And here is but a taste of the kinds of comic books that the superhero genre has overwhelmed and crushed. Gone, now, from the newsstands. Absent from the book shops. Vanished even from the comic book specialty stores. Unless the industry can somehow bring back this kind of variety, the business and art form will soon become extinct. (Scroll down.)

These barely scratch the surface of variety that people used to see when approaching a newsstand where comics were on display. No wonder the market is vanishing.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Forever and Ever.

Several of my friends are writers who are heavily involved in the self-publishing scene. That's cool. We discuss the option from time to time. Some of my pals do okay at it, but none of them make a living from self-publishing. (To be fair, I only know a few authors who make a living from writing.)

Last week, one of them explained to me that "ebooks are forever". I asked him what, specifically, he meant. And he told me that once the ebook was on the various Internet sales systems, then it was there for good and for all time and that it could be purchased from the date of its publication until...well...forever.

Later, he suggested a couple of books for me to look at. They were superhero novels that had been self-published and since I had just published WORKING CLASS HERO: The Autobiography of Billy B., then I might want to take a look.

Yeah, you don't have to guess. Both books (same author) were gone. Scrubbed from the Internet. I suppose by the author, but I couldn't say for sure.

So much for "forever".

"Forever and ever and ever."

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Black Mountains

I cobbled together this short video of a day I spent hiking in the Black Mountains of North Carolina. One trail that I had heard about for years for its relentlessly steep gradient was the infamous Woody Ridge Trail. That day in June of 2007 I decided to tackle it to see if it was as mean as its reputation.

It was.

However, coming down the trail was actually worse than going up. I had to constantly prepare myself for slipping, falling, tripping, or generally losing my balance. It is every bit as tough as I'd heard it was.

Here, then, is a brief video I took that day. Skipping, of course, the part where I missed a turn on the trail coming back and ended up about 1,000 vertical feet lower and two miles to the west of where I was supposed to have emerged from the forest.

That was all kinds of horrible, since I had run out of water. Alas, it is all part of the hobby of hiking.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


I have posted a few times about the title of my blog. No, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the poison known as "hemlock" and famous in history as the concoction Socrates was forced to ingest as his capital punishment.

The hemlock of my title refers to our native Eastern and Carolina hemlock species of evergreen tree. As I have explained before, they are in danger of extinction from an introduced Asian insect. Yet another example of the harm created by invasive species.

In a nutshell, here is a brief video that shows some good folk treating these two species in a protected property and how they go about it. I have done as they do on my own--both to protect trees in my yard, and to try to save trees that I have found in some of my stomping grounds.

Listen and be educated.

Hemlock tree that has been treated in Linville Gorge.

Hemlock tree that has been treated in my back yard.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


My publisher is running a promotional sale on WORKING CLASS HERO: The Autobiography of Billy B. right now. Sale price starts at 99 cents for the Kindle version and will go up periodically until it's back at full price. So grab a copy now!

And sales need to be good so that the fans can read the continuing adventures of Billy B and the other hyper heroes of Charlotte, NC! Grab a copy now! You'll get a kick out of it!

Kindle version! Buy it now!

Paperback version for you old Silver Age folk!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Waterfall Bag List

One of my favorite hiking and camping areas of North Carolina is the area around the Wilson Creek National Wild & Scenic River. Much of it is not wilderness in the classic sense because the Wilson Creek corridor has a lot of private inholdings with houses and cabins and trailers sitting beside the river. And there is the main access road: Brown Mountain Beach Road, which is a wide, very well maintained gravel avenue to allow the large crowds that descend on Wilson Creek on summer and holiday weekends.

However, there is actual wilderness beyond the main creek. Wander just a little way off and you find yourself in deep forests, very rugged terrain, and often real solitude.

I ventured into the North Harper Creek Wilderness Study Area on Saturday, March 18 to bag two waterfalls I have wanted to see for a while. Neither of them are particularly spectacular falls, but they are pleasing and interesting, being long, sloping cascades rather than single-drop falls.

There are currently two wilderness study areas in the vicinity. Both are roadless, the main requirement for wilderness designation. However, wilderness areas are not popular these days with legislators and the corporate bosses who pull their strings. So it's probably a safe bet to assume that neither of these will ever make it into the national Wilderness Area program.

However, I did find some actual peace and quiet on this hike. I only encountered two hikers who were heading out as I was going in, and two mountain bikers as I was leaving who were illegally biking the trail, as it was posted only for foot travel. (Such folk should be shot on sight.)

I was able to finally mark this pair of waterfalls off my list. The last time I went to hike there for that purpose, I was halted from reaching the trailhead by a large tree that had blocked the Forest Service Road when it fell in the night. That day I ended up hiking to see some waterfalls that I'd already seen, so it wasn't a total loss. But on this day I made it in to see Chestnut Cove Falls and North Harper Creek Falls. It was a very quiet and relaxing hike, and I did enjoy some actual solitude for a few hours.

Man, it was quiet in there!

Chestnut Cove Falls.

Potholes on Chestnut Cove Falls.

Obligatory selfie at North Harper Creek Falls. I was there for over an hour and saw no one.

North Harper Creek Wilderness Study Area.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Trend, or Happenstance?

I went on a hike Saturday in the Wilson Creek area. I'll post some more details and more photos of the hike in a day or two. For now I just want to put up a couple of videos I produced of parts of the trip (not the specific hike).

Mainly, I took the hike to see a couple of waterfalls that I had tried to see a couple of years ago. On that trip I arrived right after a front came through, bringing very powerful winds. Those winds took down a very large tree that blocked the Forest Service road leading to the trailhead that I wanted to use. This time the road was clear and I arrived at the trail with no problems.

I do want to mention something that has been bothering me for some months. And that is the absence of pretty much all wildlife on my hikes. Now, I know that I can't see a bear or a mink or a bobcat every time I go into the forest. But for over a year I have noted that I am seeing and hearing almost nothing. It has been a while since I've even seen a white-tailed deer or a turkey on a hike. And those are two animals that have been common for me to encounter in recent years. The trees have even been absent bird song.

As I said...maybe it's just the luck of the draw. But I have found it disturbing.

I stopped along the road to take some photos and shoot some video of Wilson Creek from a nice vantagepoint.

After my hike I stopped to see the remains of one of the textile mills--all that remains of the town of Mortimer.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


After I left the comic book industry (as a retailer, as a back-issue dealer, and as a writer), I didn't look at comics for a very long time. But I still had friends in the industry (mainly comic artists) and I would talk to them from time to time. During some of these conversations with several of these folk, a title kept coming up concerning the kinds of books that were appearing on the scene since my absence. That book was PREACHER.

PREACHER was published by DC Comics. Probably their Vertigo line, but I'm not sure and I don't feel like looking it up. At any rate, it was created and written by Garth Ennis, and illustrated by Steve Dillon. It has always been my impression that both of these fellows hailed from Europe, and when I looked into it, sure enough: Ennis from Ireland, and Dillon from UK.

The title was set in the USA, specifically the state of Texas. And it dealt mostly with Americans and USA situations and locale. Despite the fact that these two hailed from outside our nation, they pretty much seemed to have a grip on the seamy underbelly of life in this country. The book was well written with clever dialogue from Ennis, and illustrated cleanly but with a fine, twisted line by Dillon.

But I didn't care for the book.

It should have been at the top of my list of favorite reading material, but I had become so alienated from the comics medium that I just couldn't formulate any enthusiasm for the title. Yes, I picked up a couple of the multi-issue collections to get a feel for the work, but I couldn't stay with it. Part of the problem was that I was getting older and things that had once thrilled me now bored me. Also, I found the nihilism present in almost every page to be bothersome and almost sophomoric in the book's attempt to shock and outrage the reader.

PREACHER was ugly, it was disgusting, it was crude, and it was damned near nauseating. I read about seven issues and grew bored with it.

Then, AMC announced that they were producing it as a television series. My thought was that there was absolutely no freaking way they could do this. How could you show that much violence and that caliber of nihilism in a TV series? It couldn't be done and be allowed on a television show.

I was wrong.

There it was, in all of its horrific glory. Arseface. Jesse Custer. Tulip. Cassidy. And the rest of the whole, sorry, worthless lot. Blood. Broken bones. Murder. Torture. And lots and lots and lots of blasphemy. Tons of blasphemy. Blasphemy in almost every line of dialog and every frame of video.

And I like it. A lot. For some reason, what did not appeal to me in four color comics suddenly made all the sense in the world on my big flat-screen TV.

Why? Fuck if I know! I could not tell you why. The simple fact is that what I found boring and pedestrian in comics format was transformed into humor and attraction on the TV screen. Yeah...I know: it makes zero sense. The lines were similar from the comic to the teleplay. The images were almost spot-on when it came to recreating the characters from two dimensional renderings into human actors. But whatever it was, I found the show to be funny, and sarcastic, and entertaining.

Part of it could very well be the cast and how the writers chose to translate the story. It doesn't hurt that Ruth Negga (as Tulip) is achingly pretty. And both Jesse Custer and Cassidy are portrayed with a clever combination of humor and pathos. Whatever it is...I enjoy watching the show.

It works.

I like it.

PREACHER, the comic book.

PREACHER, the TV series.

Monday, March 13, 2017


I've been published in hardback format, various paperback types, in comic book and graphic novel, magazines, chapbooks, anthology, and in ebook. I've even had some of my work optioned for film, even if none of those options have so far resulted in reaching the screens.

Now, my latest book--WORKING CLASS HERO--is headed for audiobook. Beacon Publishing will be producing the audio version. So far, that's about all I know, other than that it will also be available through As near as I've been able to find, release will be "in a couple of months". April? Early May? I'll post any details as they come to me.

Until then, you can pick up the novel in two of those already mentioned formats: paperback or ebook. And you can also buy a cool 5400-word WORKING CLASS HERO short story in strictly ebook format for less than a buck!

WORKING CLASS HERO--When blue collar Joes become superheroes.


Thursday, March 09, 2017


Back in the day, promotions were easier. I had a much simpler job of promoting my work when--according to modern experts--the system was more disjointed and less well connected than it is now.

For instance, promoting my first novel, THE FLOCK, was a simple job for me. I sent out review copies, and I got in contact with various bookstores and libraries and magazines and got the word out. It worked well and I had a decent amount of success. It was more impersonal than things are now, but the results were good. (And, no, for those who ask, not even Tor Books did any advertising for the book. It's up to the writer to walk those miles.)

These days there is the Internet. And almost all publishing today is done electronically. Fewer and fewer people buy and read books. Bookstores are vanishing. Libraries seem to be simple hangouts and little more. The traditional publishers who remain don't advertise the books they buy--they expect the authors to spend their advance money publicizing their novels. (Admittedly, this was even the case when I sold my first traditionally published novel.)

Publishers have decided to let the writers do the leg work.

No publisher I have ever signed with has done any real advertising. Zero. Not one, thin dime.

So it's on the writer's head to get the word out and to try to push the sales figures in the right direction.

But it is a tedious job. For some, it's just overwhelming. Recently I was reading a blog from a moderately well-known author and he claims to spend up to sixty hours a week promoting his fiction. That's a week and a half of labor for a man with a normal job.

I hate to be blunt...but fuck that.

I suppose I will continue to write, and I will be forced to promote my own work since publishers have no budgets for that in these times of shrinking book sales. In their case, it's pretty much a self-fulfilling doom prophecy.

And even though I don't spend anywhere near sixty hours a week promoting my fiction (I have to have time to live and, yes, to write) I still feel that I expend far too much time in promotions. To paraphrase Bones McCoy, "I'm a writer, damn it! Not a salesman!"

And, now, having made that point--shameless promotion time. If you enjoyed my novel WORKING CLASS HERO, you will want to buy the short story "A Turn of Events" which is available in ebook format only. And if you haven't yet bought a copy of WORKING CLASS HERO, you can get an idea of what it's all about by reading this low-cost story of 5400 words.

"Turn of Events" a story of WORKING CLASS HERO, Billy B.

Sunday, March 05, 2017


If you ask just about any writer--but especially small press and self-published authors--they will tell you that positive reviews are important for generating sales.

Normally I don't pay much attention to reviews, but this one for my latest novel, WORKING CLASS HERO just appeared on and it's probably the most flattering and forthright review I've had on any of my books.

So I thought I'd point it out (because the author understood the book and what I wanted to do in writing it). Just follow THIS LINK to the review.

WORKING CLASS HERO: The Autobiography of Billy B., A Hyper Human.

In addition, Bill B has set up his own blog (posted irregularly) at Facebook. You can follow it here.

Friday, March 03, 2017

No, I Will Not Give You My Book

Over the years when I have announced that I have a new book coming out, people I know will ask me for a free copy. I generally spend months writing a novel. And when the book appears in print, people want me to give it to them. For free.

Try asking your doctor for free medical care. Go to your mechanic and ask him to fix your car for free. The next time a carpenter arrives to do repairs at your house, ask him if he'll do the work and not expect any money for it.

So, to answer all of the people who ask--no. I will not give you my book.

I write for many reasons, but one of them is to try to make a living from my prose work. Some years I have done quite well at it, and other years not so good. But the fact remains that I am selling my novels. If you want one, then buy it. If you don't want a copy, then please don't insult me by asking me for a free fucking copy.

Part of promotions is sending out some review copies. Some of my publishers generally do this, and most of them tend to send me a box of copies for me to send out to professionals who write review columns. So, yes, there are a tiny handful of people who get "free" copies of my work, but most of those people end up reviewing and promoting my fiction which results in sales.

Once again--unless you want to piss me off (and I understand that there are people out there who do want to do that), don't ask me for a free copy of my books. If you want one, buy one.

My latest novel. It's available in two formats: paperback and ebook. You can buy copies HERE!

Monday, February 27, 2017

In Dreams (Again).

(This was my dream last night. The opening sounds like a joke.)

Three huge Neanderthal men walked into a tipi-village of ancient humans.

The visitors were not pleased. In fact, they were upset about something. The humans had obviously encountered these three guys before and knew them. The three were loud, rude, and were pushing people around. They wanted to see the humans’ chief.

One human—a hunter/warrior—complained about their rudeness and challenged them to cool off. At that, one of the Neanderthals ripped his head off. Twisted it off, actually. There was lots of red blood. Some of it splashed onto their orange ruddy beards.

They insisted on seeing the chief, and they were going to go into his tipi if he didn’t appear. But the chief was very sick. When it looked like the Neanderthals were going to enter his tent, the chief’s personal bodyguards appeared. These guards were a trio of very tiny women about three feet tall dressed in black bear fur and carrying finely carved flint knives.

The leader of the guards looked up at the massive Neaderthal brutes and she said, “Ohshitohshitohshit”. But she was going to do her job and protect the chief. She pulled her big, finely worked flint knife from its sheath. The other two tiny women guards followed suit.

(And this is when it got REALLY weird, as dreams do.)

Just then, someone recalled that a wandering giant had entered the encampment in the night, drunk on his ass, and had passed out on the ground. Someone woke him up and pointed at the Neanderthals who were threatening them. The giant glared at the Neanderthals, sat up (that act alone made him taller than the Neanderthal men) and he grabbed the first one and used him as a bludgeon to beat the other two to the ground. After that, he proceeded to mash their bearded faces into the earth until all three were out cold. The ground shook with each impact.

And then he giant fell back and went returned to his drunken stupor.

(And that was my dream.)

"Bring your leader to us."

Sunday, February 26, 2017

When They're Gone.

About two weeks after my dad died I was hiking home from visiting a friend. I was passing an old wooded canal that had once been important to the Atlantic Richfield Company many, many decades before, but which is now just a lazy waterway shaded by enormous live oaks. As I was standing there, looking at the water I saw a movement. Something was really making waves in the murky water. I edged out onto one of those live oaks until I could get a good look and was amazed to see an otter. Either playing or hunting. I could not tell which. I watched that otter living life like mad until a tiny bit of bark came loose and fell into the canal. That otter instantly stopped, lifted his head out of the water and immediately spied me. Then he vanished soundlessly and did not come back.

As I walked away from that tree I was moving at double-speed because my dad loved that kind of thing and I could not WAIT to get back home to tell him.

And, of course, it hit me. I had no one to tell. No one who would appreciate the experience. And so I just became that much tougher.

I was on the creek behind this cemetery when I saw the otter.

Friday, February 24, 2017

No Snake!

I went over to see my pal, Budd Root today. First of all, I needed to drop off a copy of my novel WORKING CLASS HERO for him and his wife, Leslie. Budd wrote the intro which almost makes it sound like I'm some kind of superhero myself (or maybe a super-villain).

In addition, I was there to help him capture a large Rat snake that he spotted going into the storage building in his back yard. We weren't going to hurt the snake, just relocate it to a place where Budd's wife wouldn't encounter it.

As it turned out, the snake was gone. It had moved on to some other location where the hunting was better. But I did get to hand Budd his copy of my novel, and I got to see the cover art for his next CAVEWOMAN comic. All in all, a pretty cool day.

King Budd! Lord of his own brand of Skull Island!

The cover to the new reprint edition of CAVEWOMAN.

And WORKING CLASS HERO, my new novel introduction by Budd Root.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

On the Field of Play

Almost every day you are going to encounter a personality type referred to as “the alpha male”. You can’t avoid them if you go out in the world.

I encountered my first alpha-type when I was about six years old. Frankly, I’m not sure if it was just before, or just after I entered the first grade. What I recall is that he pulled that alpha male shit on me and what ensued was the first fight that I ever got into. What is most memorable to me is that a passing adult saw what was going on and pulled me off of the little shit. I had his throat against a board nailed between two trees and he could not breathe.

This was a neighborhood kid and I do not recall that I ever saw him again. Mission accomplished.

Alpha males are just part of life. You see them everywhere as you move through your routine of breathing and eating and walking the fuck around. They cause the most disruption in two locations—school, and the workplace environment. Because of my own particular personality type, I found myself beating the shit out of a lot of alpha male types in grammar and high school. Most of these victims of my rage largely ceased to suffer from their social missteps after encountering the violence I handed out to them.

All of this led me to understand that most alpha males are in need of a solid beating. I learned this early.

You will also certainly bump into that human type when you enter a workplace environment. Yes, they live there, too, because not all of them found themselves being danced upon by my feet when they were younger. By the time I began to encounter them in the jobs I’ve held I had learned that beating the shit out of someone was a move that ended up with me in the slammer in the city jail. Yes, yes, yes. It took me a few times of cooling my heels in the confines of a holding cell to realize that I couldn’t just beat the shit out of every alpha male who was bullying me, or my milder co-workers.

Over the years I have found that the best way to deal with these loud-mouths and bullies is to ignore them. This makes them think that either they have you on the run; or it makes them realize that they are dealing with someone they have not previously encountered, and this frightens them. A good, solid stare of rage can also freeze their hearts and make their balls shrink. I have employed this tactic, also.

One place that the more devious-minded alpha males end up is in the world of business. I have encountered such men in my life. You see them online a lot, which is a place that never existed until a relatively recent few years past. One such slug I would see constantly in my days moving around the social media giant we know of as “Facebook”. This website is as good a gathering place for that type of person as it is for everyone else, I reckon. Oh, well, they can’t do much in the way of harm on Facebook other than brag and strut.

But, what I soon found was the sad sight of people who need this guy’s business (or think that they do). I would watch these people—many of them, sadly, friends of mine—suck up to this jackass. They would kiss his anus and lick his imaginary balls. It’s a sad sight in general, but worse when the guys doing the kissing and licking are friends of mine. I couldn’t take it, and so I found that if I blocked the alpha, I then no longer had to watch my pals kissing his ass online.

You have options on the field of play. In this new world, I am always looking for paths that do not involve me ending up in a holding cell in the downtown jail intake center.

Don't handle it like this unless all other options are unavailable and you don't mind sitting in the jailhouse until someone can come bail your ass out. (Yes, I have been there several times, and for just that reason.)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Quiet Time.

As often as I can, I take off to the mountains and go hiking. Generally I am seeking solitude to go along with my exploration of forests. There's not much better than sitting quietly in a silent forest and not hearing the sounds of other humans. No machines. No voice. Just the wind. Some bird song. Perhaps the exclamation of minor destruction as gravity pulls down a dead limb somewhere in the trees.

So that's what I did on Saturday. I drove to the Curtis Creek area near Old Fort NC and climbed a mountain, viewing a couple of waterfalls along the way. Once at the summit, I just sat down and enjoyed the silence.

After relaxing and meditating there for a long time I packed up and headed down to see a couple of the waterfalls I had passed to reach the summit. And there, again, I just sat to contemplate the scenery and to daydream.

Taking it easy on the summit of Buckeye Knob. Just me and the trees and the breeze.

Green Knob, way off in the distance, across the Blue Ridge Parkway.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

THE TROUBLE BOYS, an excerpt.

I am, of course, at work on the sequel to WORKING CLASS HERO. Here, then, is an excerpt from my next novel. Enjoy.

It was another day in my role as a working class superman. I had to show up five days a week at my fake job in order to be nearby when I would have to suit up to do the real job. And as I was in charge of the hyper-humans who were assigned to the fine metropolis of Charlotte, North Carolina, it was my task to be front and center and on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. That’s why they paid me the big bucks. And, yeah, they really do pay me the big money, when you consider that I was making about ten bucks an hour on a loading dock in the days before I came down with Adult Onset Hyper-Development Disorder (AOHD) and became the Mid-Atlantic’s answer to…well…to Superman, I suppose. While I can’t fly and I don’t have heat vision, I’m a lot like the old comic book Clark Kent and his alter-ego in many respects.

I’ll go over the basics again. I stand in at about six-foot seven inches when I’m in my crimson monkey suit. And I can run about one hundred miles an hour for long stretches if I’m so inclined. My leg muscles can take me more than twenty feet vertical and about a city block horizontal. There aren’t but a few hyper-humans as strong as I am, and while I can’t take a tank shell and laugh it off (at least I don’t think so) I have been hit with a 30.06 bullet from a sniper rifle and felt only a mild sting. My senses of hearing and sight and smell are akin to the best wildlife you read about. Bats and hawks and bloodhounds have got nothing on me in that respect. When it comes to control, I can spin and tumble and land on a pinpoint.

Combine all of that with this Kevlar suit and high tech shoes and communication unit installed in my helmet and I’m quite the badass for which I have been so aptly named. That’s me, Billy B.

I was on patrol, as we like to say, and as The Agency who control me likesto put it. That particular day I had talked my supervisor--one Amazonian beauty named Jacqueline Welch--that I wanted to hit the streets on foot. The suit is bad enough, but driving around in one of those damned government-issued sedans makes it even worse. It’s a pain that I have to deal with hyper-powered villains from time to time, but I also have to put up with annoying creatures like Jack Boy and Ronnie who helm the area’s favorite drive-time radio show. And of course high on their list of targets are the hyper folk who run around the town protecting it from criminals and annoying super-villains. And with the whole Amber Ember pregnancy thing going on, they were not about to let that gift fade from the public’s short attention span.
It was roughly ten in the morning. The sun was out. The air was cold and a wind was blowing. That wind was especially rough where I was standing on the roof of the Drake Building in midtown, thirty stories above the street. I had managed to scramble to the top without entering the building at all, having made my way from a seventh-floor parking deck to a section of wall that was uniquely suited for a man with super-strength to make his way up, floor by floor, leaping like a giant red ape along the rough concrete exterior.

I’m sure some people must have seen me, but if they had I was such a boring sight these days that no one had appeared on the roof to bother me or to ask for an autograph or to take my photo.

And so, of course, idling away the minutes and just standing up there watching the flow of traffic below, I was actually surprised enough to flinch when my best hyper-friend Shylock Holmes spoke up behind me.

Have I mentioned that he has perhaps the most gratingly annoying voice known to humankind? Well, he does. It’s like a staccato assault of gravel fired from a machine gun directly into the ear canal. Keep in mind that I hear about fifty times better than the most gifted of people.
“Figured I’d find you on a mountaintop,” he said, voice like a teenaged girl’s fingernails across dry slate.

“Goddamn it, Shylock,” I said, turning to face him. I stuck a gloved finger roughly where my ear would be if I had been wearing that helmet with its space-age amazing perforated fabric allowing egress to all sounds, especially his monstrous voice.

Whenever he did that I always expected him to apologize, but he never did. I think he likes doing it; scaring arguably the toughest hyper between Atlanta and the Big Apple. He didn’t decide to gift me or surprise me with the apology then, either.

He was baiting me, so I waited before asking him why he’d appeared once more in such a way as to get the maximum rise out of my hyped-up sneakers. A few seconds passed. The wind blew. I wondered if I’d grab a sandwich later. I blinked.

“Okay. You must have some nugget of wisdom to impart, or else you wouldn’t have come up here to startle me.”

He drew in an audible gasp of pure sarcasm. “Oh! Did I startle you? Heavens! It was not my intention.”

For a guy with borderline Asperger’s Syndrome, he had a pretty good grasp of cynicism and humor. I waved him off.

I knew he was smiling beneath that ridiculous mask of his. “I just figured you’d like to know that they’re bringing in some new talent,” he said.

We had all wondered about that. We figured that they would. Gila had been killed. Amber Ember was in Denver gestating a baby courtesy of me and an episode of bad judgment by way of a god’s asshole assistant. Flitter had pretty much filled the absent peg left by Amber, but the folk who paid us would also want us to have someone to serve in place of poor, departed Gila.
“So…what are you hearing?” I asked him. The thing about having Shylock for a pal was that there wasn’t much that got past him. Because of the nature of his hyper abilities, he was a pure conduit for the answers to mysteries that hadn’t crossed our minds yet. And if someone was hiding something, they’d better hide it pretty damned good or he would show up with the solution in his pocket.

“What I’m hearing is Fido and Timmy,” he said.

“Fuck me,” I replied.

“Well, when you figure…we had a guy like Gila…they’re going to give us something similar.” He began to sing that old Sesame Street tune. “One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t…”

“Enough!” I held my left hand palm out. He thankfully shut the fuck up.

“Look at this way, Billy. Gila was a nine-foot tall beaded reptile in roughly human form who had to be kept inside most of the time because he was just too damned scary-looking for the hoi-polloi. The Agency has a number of hyper-folk around who are similar to our old pal, and they need a place to store them.

“We had one that we were taking care of for them. And now we don’t have one. So…” He left it hanging.

“We get two for the price of one.”  I sighed in resignation. Because I was the one who would have to deal with them whenever there was some action. Also, I had always been the man to talk with Gila, to do my best to make him feel better about his situation. Because they need a man with Level Seven strength, speed, and durability to serve as a sounding board for a half-ton lizard with armored skin who can lift an Abrams tank and toss it across a parking lot. I was their lion tamer.

“Fido and Timmy are…different,” Holmes said.

I looked down at him. He was now sitting on the edge of the cover to an air vent. It was pretty much the right height to be a chair for him. “I met them once. About two and a half years back. Right before you came to head the team here,” he reminded me. “They work so closely together that it’s hard to figure out where one of them stops and the other starts.”

“I don’t dig you,” I admitted. I shifted and little rocks crunched under my feet. A 737 roared overhead on its way out of Douglas International toward some point west.

“Well, there’s a mental connection going on with them. I mean…one of them is like a bull mastiff that stands ten feet at the shoulder, and the other one is a little kid who looks like a real-life version of Dennis the Menace.” He paused. “He even has a slingshot in his back pocket. Did you know that?”

I shook my head from side to side.

“I saw him use it once. Knocked that chick…” he snapped his fingers a few times, reaching for a name. “Bella Bella, that was her. He cocked back with that crazy slingshot and bounced a rock off her skull at fifty meters. Knocked her out. Cold. Game over.” He was grinning under that plastic mask.

“Okay. What was your original train of thought?”

“The kid. Timmy. Overalls. Sneakers. Slingshot. Blonde hair. Freckles. Ten years old, maybe.”
I motioned with my hands, drawing for more information and a little faster, please.

“Those two are bound, Billy. I mean, they are so tight that I can’t really read either of them. I probe at their minds and they’re almost merged completely. Not exactly. One of them is thinking and making plans and formulating tactics. And the other one is mainly just some basic emotions and wants and desires without much in the way of complications.” He seemed to be finished.

“Okay. One’s a giant dog and one’s a kid. So?”

“So I can’t read either of them the way that I should because they’re telepathically communicating with one another so well that I can’t really get inside. I’m stuck talking to the kid the way I would if I were anyone else.” Meaning, of course, if he couldn’t read minds and influence enemies.

“I’ve never met them,” I said. “But I’ve watched video. Fido is just fucking scary. Looks like he could bite through concrete.”

“He can.”

I nodded, believing. “And the kid…Timmy. It’s like you said. He looks like Hank Ketcham drew him or something.”

“He never ages, you know.”

“Yeah, I know. He’s been around now…what? Twelve years? He was a ten-year-old kid when they found him, and he’s still ten years old.” I shivered.

“They’re not sure Fido ages, either,” Shylock said. “He carries a few scars, but pretty much seems the same elephant-sized canine who walked up being led by a rope leash in Timmy’s hand over a decade back. “He gets testy when they get too close to him with probes and needles,” Shylock added. “So they’ve been willing to let him ride.”

There had been other animals that had been victim to AOHD. Of course with animals they called it Adult Onset Mammalian Hyper-Development Disorder. They settled on AOMD for the sake of simplicity, having chosen not to want to add too many letters to the anagram. But there had been only a few examples of it and most of those creatures had either been captured and penned, or had died quickly because they burned themselves out, or had been killed by The Agency or the military.

“The AOMD…do you think it effects anything besides mammals?” I was curious what my all-seeing friend thought. “You ever see anything that made you wonder?”

“Billy…since the first of us appeared some time back, the whole world wonders. I know you think I’m an extra smart guy, but I’m here to let you know that I’m not as sharp as all that in matters animal, vegetable, and mineral. Yeah, I know some basic chemistry and can crunch numbers better than some, and you know I love history. But genetics….who the hell knows? We have seen some strange shit.”

“Yeah…look at poor old Gila. He was about one quarter human and three fourths reptile.”
“And Gorilla Jack,” Shylock reminded me. “You went toe to toe with that guy. Looks more ape than human. And yet…human he is.” He slapped his hands on his knees and stood, his deerstalker cape rolling with the motion. “You never know. It gave us some false human/animal hybrids, and a mutated dog. Maybe there are hyper-birds up there.” He pointed into the clear, cold, February sky. I looked up. “And the ocean is a mighty deep place, too. It may be that there’s stuff swimming around in it that has been affected. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
“So. Tell me,” I said. “When are our two new playmates supposed to arrive?”

Down on the streets far below, something was going on. I could hear horns blaring and even from almost thirty stories the voices were coming to us loud and clear as men yelled and women screamed.

“Right about now, I’d say,” Shylock told me. By then my back was to him and I was standing on the edge of the roof looking down.

The street was now home to a monstrous dog roughly the size of an Indian elephant who was strolling down the right hand sidewalk and clearing a path through sheer mass and intimidation. In front of the beast, holding a length of what I knew was a flimsy hemp rope was a kid, maybe ten years old, maybe seventy pounds, leading that monster canine. Some people were cowering aside, cars were honking their horns, other people were running from the scene, and, I knew, a lot of Charlotte folk were soiling themselves.

“Time for me to do my thing and maintain order,” I told Shylock as I turned to address him.
But of course the asshole was gone.

WORKING CLASS HERO, from Severed Press. The first in a series.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Paperback Release!

The paperback version of WORKING CLASS HERO is now out. Buy a paperback version or the Kindle ebook, depending on your tastes in formats.

WORKING CLASS HERO, By James Robert Smith.

And here is the book trailer for the novel. Enjoy!