The City of the Drowned (Free Novella Download)

deeponetop

For Halloween this year, I wanted to offer my readers something special, The City of the Drowned, a free to read Lovecraftian/nautical-adventure, starring Xandr, Thelana and Emma!

What is this story, you ask? Originally, it was conceived of as a sequel to my first Aenya novel, The Dark Age of Enya, but in 2012 I turned it into a standalone story. Here’s a synopsis:

Xandr, Thelana and Emma are forced into a civil war between two seafaring city states. To legitimize the rule of their captor, Queen Frazetta, they must venture into the ruins of a drowned city, where tens of thousands once perished. Should they manage to find the relics they need, their 50-oared ship, Mare Nostrum, may never find port, as one-by-one the crew meets with death, from being stabbed in the neck by a quill to being engulfed by flames, to being disemboweled by undead demons of the deep. Our trio of conscripted heroes, all the while, must overcome both the curse of a doomed city and their mad zealot captain.

Download the complete PDF novella for FREE

[The City of the Drowned]

Definition: Retord

Retord:

1: (v) To feign interest in the subject of the person with whom you are speaking, in order to express your own, personal, unrelated subject.  

2: (v) To respond in such a way as to put forward your own thoughts, feelings or ideas without acknowledging the thoughts, feelings or ideas of the person with whom you are speaking.     

Example, “After spending ten minutes explaining what we should do, she retorded me with her own idea.”

It’s almost always writers contacting me through Facebook, DeviantArt or WordPress, with a message that goes something like this,

“Wow! I really loved your Aenya story! By the way, I’ve been working on my novel for ten years, and was hoping you could take a look at it and tell me what you think. Thanks!”

See the problem here? Most of what they have to say concerns themselves. All I see is, “Me! Me! Me!” When I press them for details, when I ask, “What did you like about my book?” it becomes terribly obvious they’ve only given it a cursory glance. “I liked the naked amazon girl (that I saw a picture of on your page).” Thanks, Mr. Anonymous Fan, that’s a real help!

Thing is, I know how lonely and frustrating writing can be. I sympathize. I’ve taken hours out of my busy schedule to help complete strangers, editing manuscripts into shape, only to have the person disappear when they’ve gotten what they wanted. Once, I helped a co-worker with a short story contest. She won first place! When I sent her a story of my own, something I thought she might enjoy, I never heard from her again. She’d been retording me from day one.

But retording doesn’t just pertain to writing and writers. I see it everyday, people fishing Twitter and Facebook for likes. Social media is like a cage full of monkeys, with a lot of strutting and chest pounding, and nobody paying attention to any of it. When it comes to my fellow artistes, I just want to scream, “How do you expect me to care about your thing, if you only pretend to care about mine?” Does it never occur to these people that the same is being done to them?

OK, so maybe you think you’re one of the special few whose opinion is worth more than two cents . . . Surely, everyone truly admires your brilliance, and is being sincere when they say so, despite the fact that you’re never sincere with them. But for me, at least, if your name isn’t Neil deGrasse Tyson, I probably don’t care what you think. In the rare instance that I do give someone the thumbs up, you can be certain I genuinely read/looked at/played whatever that thing is they’ve made, and that I genuinely liked it. People who go around retording, trading likes for praise, can only expect the same in return.

How much your opinion is worth.


If you liked this post, you might like some other words in my Definitions series, including:

  • Comignorant: (n) (adj.) A person or persons who make a statement in response to an issue they know very little about, or have not properly researched. May also be used as an adjective to describe said person.
  • Obliviate: (v) To act or behave towards a thing or person as though that thing or person does not exist.  
  • Riding the Donkey Carriage: An expression used to indicate a person who quits reading a book before the book concludes. Typically, the person intends to finish the book at some indefinite time in the future, but more often than not, never does.

The Face of Radia

Princess Radia Noora of Tyrnael

For the past two years, I have been working on my latest novel, The Princess of Aenya, inspired by such classics as The Last Unicorn and The Never Ending Story; with a touch of Miyazaki and Game of Thrones thrown in for good measure. The book revolves around a young woman named Radia “Noora.” Her beauty is a big part of her character, but far more importantly, she charms and inspires everyone she meets. When people look at her, they see the person they love the most. So I knew I needed a portrait, and that it would be a tremendous challenge making one. How could I possibly convey all this to an artist?

When I came across Selene Regener’s gallery, I knew nobody would be better suited for this project. Only problem? She had recently given up art for a career in music, and was no longer taking commissions! Another setback, I thought, until I came across a piece of hers called “Awakening.” The more I looked at it, the more I was convinced I’d found the face of Radia. But could I get the rights? Maybe the picture belonged to someone else, was a commission for someone else’s character? For months, I e-mailed the artist, without reply. Until finally, Selene got my letter, agreeing right away to my proposal. I was overjoyed to be giving life to her painting, a name and a story to the mystery woman in “Awakening.”

Pretty young blondes are a dime a dozen on Deviant Art, however, so why did this piece strike me as it did? For starters, there’s the name, “Radia,” derived from the word “radiant.” In the book, she glows with a divine light. And as you can plainly see, “Awakening” evokes this same quality. As for the star on her forehead, in one chapter, Radia dreams she is dancing through space and every star in the galaxy is her twin sister. While she isn’t quite literally a star, like Yvaine from Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, the dream sequence is a clue to her “true” nature. Finally, without giving away too much of the plot, the title of the piece perfectly coincides with the novel’s climax, in a chapter that could very well be called “Awakening.”

The Aenya System

Of course, I’d be remiss not to mention the mismatched eyes. I won’t pretend that the artist had this in mind. A coincidence like that will make you question reality. But alas, no. Originally, the girl in “Awakening” had two turquoise eyes; Radia has only one. Still, that’s pretty damn coincidental! How many people have turquoise eyes? Knowing how touchy some artists can be, I worried Selene might disapprove of my tweaking the piece, however minor, and I could not use a portrait of Radia without showcasing her most defining quality! Fortunately, Selene was happy to make the change, turning the second eye violet. And, in case you were wondering, Radia’s eyes reflect the moons of Aenya; the turquoise, Infinity, and the violet, Eon; making the star on her forehead, symbolically, the sun!

Oh, and did I mention Radia loves to sing? And that her voice can best be described as … well, just listen to Selene singing!

***

If you haven’t done so already, please visit Selene Regener’s remarkable gallery at Selenada. Also, be sure to check out the original “Awakening,” and, while you’re at it, consider donating something to her GoFundMe campaign, “Healing Through Sound.” People with so much talent deserve our support!

Lastly, if you’re out there reading this, Selene, thank you! A million times, thank you! You’ve given a face to a great character!

***

Are You a Troll?

There is no more wretched creature than a troll. When a troll looks in the mirror, he hates everything that he sees. This self-hatred extends to whomever they encounter, manifesting as spite and envy. “If I am not good at anything,” their reasoning goes, “I’ll discourage anyone who is.”

Born of self-loathing, trolls thrive on hate, and are particularly adept at inducing pain with but a few pointed barbs. They are found wherever people are being productive, in the hopes of sowing fear and doubt, their two greatest weapons. Responding in kind to their jeers is to feed them and make them stronger. Having no talents or skills to speak of, trolls fear only one thing: other trolls. To protect from criticism, they will never attempt an action that might be judged. Sometimes, trolls will enter into an uneasy alliance with their kin, at which point they will mimic one another with eerie conformity.

A troll will not rest until his own self-loathing spreads, turning productive members of society into worthless creatures like themselves. Fortunately, dealing with them is easy. The obliviate spell works best. Do not engage or acknowledge a troll in any way, and he will eventually devour himself.

Sometimes, trolls do not recognize the wretched creatures that they are. So think carefully. Do you spend more of your time hating on others than loving what you do? Are you a troll?

It’s SUPER-CALIFRAGILISTIC-EXPIALIDOCIOUS!!!

I have a love/hate relationship with Disney. Whenever I visit the Magic Kingdom, or see their castle logo pop up before a movie, I am torn about how to feel.

On the one hand, I simply adore the man, Walt himself, whom I consider a visionary genius. Never mind whether or not he could draw Mickey (he could and did, but not as well as Ub Iwerks), Walt’s drive and passion gave us the empire of dreams Disney is known for. I love Walt because of his optimism. “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires, will come to you …” This was at the core of his beliefs, what empowered him to do what everyone said was impossible. He shared this optimism with the world, the idea that life can be magical if we only believe. His was an infectious vision, and it’s what drives people to his parks to this day. Disney has always been more than an entertainment brand. It’s a philosophy. Before losing his bout with lung cancer in 1966, Walt dreamed of a futuristic city, where art and commerce and education merged, and where people could get around without cars. His plan was, perhaps, too ambitious, and his dream died with him. What we got, instead, was another park, EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow).

On the other hand, the Disney Corporation has become like a virus, subsuming all other pop culture. Their Marvel purchase was part of a crass marketing strategy, because for the past few decades, they have wanted to lure boys with their brand, as if the adoration of millions of girls worldwide wasn’t enough. But when they went on to buy Star Wars, I was downright heartbroken. As much as I adore the Disney “can-do” philosophy, we should all be concerned when each and every idea comes out of the same mouth, through the same boardroom filter. The hand of the mega-conglomerate can already be felt in the Star Wars universe. For instance, the Clone Wars animated series dealt with some pretty heady and unconventional issues. In one episode, the banking clan funding the war is found to be bribing politicians, allegorically reflecting a lot of what’s been happening in the real world. Disney, no doubt, feared that such heavy material might alienate more conservative viewers, so after buying Lucasfilm, Clone Wars was immediately canceled, and replaced by the much tamer and kid friendly/”good guy vs. bad guy” Rebels. I love Disney, and I love Star Wars, but I do not want “Star Wars brought to you by Disney.” The Jedi philosophy centers around Buddhism, and selflessness, not making your dreams come true, not “wishing upon a star…”

But what many people do not realize, the Disney Corporation has been acquiring franchises for a long time. So far, they have purchased Winnie the Poo, Jim Henson’s The Muppets, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, and even ESPN, among others. Walt himself was known to seek properties to adapt into films, the most famous of which is, perhaps, Mary Poppins, based on the book by P.L. Travers. Though the 1964 film was a smash success, the author hated it. In the 2013 film, Saving Mr. Banks, Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks (who else?) woos Travers into signing off the rights to the character, but she disliked the songs, the script, and was opposed to the animationAnd my question is, why? Did the movie stray too far from the source? Was it wrong in tone? I had to find out.

Like all British authors, Travers has a special way with words. But as I started into the book, it quickly dawned on me that Mary Poppins is no Harry Potter. There is very little for older readers to appreciate, and even as a book for kids, it has scarcely any plot or character development. Bert, the chimney sweep so memorably played by Dick VanDyke, shows up in just one chapter. And the children, Jane and Michael, don’t have personalities of their own, serving as proxies for the reader. Even the titular star, Mary Poppins, is a bit 2-dimensional, and far less likable than in the film. She seems, at times, strict to the point of being mean, never discussing any of the strange goings on (no singing in this one), and is also quite fixated on her looks, never passing a reflective surface without stopping to stare at herself. Fortunately, Disney makes clever use of her vanity in the movie.

In Saving Mr. Banks, the father of Jane and Michael, Mr. Banks, is said to be based on Travers own father (who also worked at a bank); and in both films, there is an effort to “save him” from his emotional detachment as a parent. The song, Let’s Go Fly a Kite, addresses the matter, after which Mr. Banks comes to the epiphany that there is more to life than punctuality and finance. Surprisingly, none of this is in the book. Mary Poppins reads less as a novel, and more as a series of connected short stories, where strange, surrealistic things happen, which reminded me a lot of Alice in Wonderland. What is perhaps most perplexing is the author’s aversion to animation. There are a great many films better suited to live action. TarzanPocahontas, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame are good examples. But when you have a story about talking bears dressed like ushers, dancing penguins, and stars that come down to Earth to go Christmas shopping, it forces me to wonder, what in the world did Travers expect?

I can understand why Walt Disney saw Marry Poppins as an ideal match for his studio, and given the kinds of crazy, surrealist happenings Travers writes about, it is hard to understand why she would not have been delighted to make a deal with him. While the movie deviates considerably from the book, mostly due to time restraints, it is very true in spirit, and in many ways improves upon a story that was barely there to begin with. Perhaps, more importantly, is the contribution made by Julie Andrews, one of the most charismatic women to ever grace the silver screen. Andrews’ expressions, and the way she speaks her lines, transforms Travers’ fussy, hard-nosed nanny into someone lovable, so that, by the end of the film, when Poppins flies away on her umbrella, it’s easy to relate to Jane’s and Michael’s tearful goodbyes.

Also, you just can’t beat this song,

One Dead Child is One Too Many

the Writer's Disease

What matters most to you? What matters most to you?

People who worry more about their toys than a child’s life, quite frankly scare me, and I sure as hell don’t want a wave of fanatics protesting my blog. At the same time, my conscious is not letting me sleep at night. Since the Newtown massacre, I feel it is my moral obligation to do something, to contribute my voice to the growing chorus that is saying enough if enough!

The problem with guns in America is a problem with the gun debate itself. Solving gun violence is not a liberal or conservative issue, nor is it a freedom vs. tyranny issue, but an issue of common sense. Nobody wants more children to die, right or left. I think we can all agree on this. Our focus should be on reducing these crimes. But I find it simply appalling, that so many who side with the NRA, shrug their shoulders and accept these massacres as inevitable, as if more children…

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I Travel Through Time to Interview Future Nick Alimonos

I don’t even need this!

Most people say it’s impossible, that the laws of physics don’t allow for it, but I’m here to tell you they’re wrong. You really can travel through time! In fact, you’re traveling through time right now! We are all traveling forward into the future at a rate of 1 second per second.

Oh . . . you thought I meant something else? Like going back to kill Hitler and save Abraham Lincoln? Unless we can escape from a black hole, or find a way to exceed the speed of light, that’s never going to happen.

Nevertheless, I have found a way to use this slow, forward time traveling perk of our universe to interview my future self, and I won’t be needing the Large Hadron Collider or even a flux capacitor to do it.

How, you ask? Simple … I have written a number of questions for Nick Alimonos of 2020. He should be 45 years old. Then, all I have to do is wait five years, when I become future Nick Alimonos, to answer them.

Ridiculous, you say? No so fast.

As we move forward through time, we forget the people we used to be; we forget our mindsets, our thoughts, and our precise feelings about the world. All that remains is hazy. Just try to remember a specific day in your life five years ago. Can’t do it, can you? Our memories are flawed. We only retain bits and pieces of our lives, and even then those parts are skewed. The further back in time we go, the less of ourselves we recognize. The child you used to be, would be a total stranger to you today.

So without further ado, I give you my interview with me, from 2020.


Nick (2015): Hey, Nick, thanks for taking the time to talk to me today!

Nick (2020): ________________________________

Nick (2015): There is so much I want to ask you, so let’s get right to it. First and foremost, how is the family? Jasmine must be, what, almost 16 now? Has she turned into an obnoxious teenager yet? Is she dating? Ready that shotgun! Sophia must be ten. Is she still doing tae kwon do? Yesterday (my yesterday) she was all excited to get her gi. Of course, we can’t forget the wife! If I had done this when I was 15, I’d have loved to tell my teenage self about Hynda<3 Have to say, we are one lucky bastard!

Nick (2020): ________________________________

Nick (2015): If I know myself (and I think I do) you’ll probably hate this question, but I have to ask, how goes the restaurant? The economy was really starting to improve in my time, so are we still making money? Or did another Republican get into the White House? And how much are you working there now? I know that I was planning, next year, to work a lot less, to devote myself full time to writing.

Nick (2020): ________________________________

Nick (2015): OK, enough beating around the bush, how goes the writing career? Have you been published yet? Found an agent? Gimme all the details!

Nick (2020): ________________________________

Nick (2015): What about Ages of Aenya? Remember how devastated we were when our Kickstarter failed? Did that get picked up by a publisher, or did you go the independent route?  

Nick (2020): ________________________________

Nick (2015): At about this time, we were finishing up on The Princess of Aenya. Were you satisfied with the end result? How do you feel it compares to Ages of Aenya?

Nick (2020): ________________________________

Nick (2015): So, are we a success yet, or still struggling? Also, how goes the blog? I just switched to WordPress, but you probably remember that. It was after being with Blogger for 5 years. Wait, are we still on WordPress, or is this being hosted by some other server?

Nick (2020): ________________________________

Nick (2015): What are you working on now? The Children of Aenya? The One Sea? Some other book I haven’t thought of yet?

Nick (2020): ________________________________

Nick (2015): OK, I know not much time has passed, but how is the nudist movement looking in 2020? Is public nudity legal yet? On TV? On Facebook at least?

Nick (2020): ________________________________

Nick (2015): OK, our daughter just got an iPhone 6s for her birthday. It’s hard to imagine technology getting any more advanced. I know if I could show an iPhone to my 15 years old self, he’d freak out and call me a wizard. So, what comes next? Holographic computers like in Iron Man? VR video games?

Nick (2020): ________________________________

Nick (2015): Speaking of Iron Man, lets talk movies! How was Avengers 3 and 4? And what about Star Wars VII, VIII and IX? I hope they weren’t too disappointing …

Nick (2020):

Nick (2015): Lastly, what is the one piece of advice you could give me, if you could answer me now?

Nick (2020): ________________________________


Well, that’s it for my interview with future Nick Alimonos. Check back on October 2020, for all of the answers!

Goodbye Blogger, Hello WordPress!

Since 2010, Google has been good to me. HTML was not designed with writers in mind, so after struggling with AOL and FTP space and wandering margins, Blogger was a dream come true. Using Blogger, I could write directly on to the page, publish it, and make edits with ease! And without resorting to click-bait sensationalism, I reached 200,000 views. In Philosophy, I talked about religion, science and history; in Reviews, I critiqued popular and classic literature, and in Fiction I offered up my own work. Lastly, in Naturism, I challenged attitudes regarding body shame and censorship, and I think it was that last one that got me into hot water.

It seems a time traveling/Bible thumping/1950’s-parent found my blog “objectionable,” and reported it to Google. The offense, no doubt, had something to do with “nudity,” possibly a photo from the World Naked Bike Ride, or a painting of one of my heroes. Though most schoolchildren will be exposed to Michelangelo’s David or The Birth of Venus, somehow without suffering PTSD, Google felt it necessary to protect the uber-conservative minority from stumbling upon my blog and losing their monocles, which forces me to wonder, if you’re mores date back to the 16th century, what in the world are you doing on a computer? It’s witchcraft I tell you! Witchcraft! Get back to Amish country posthaste!

The guy who reported my blog.

 

But Google isn’t 100% to blame. As they’re too busy preparing for the next real world Terminator franchise, they don’t have the manpower to go all Big Brother on everybody, so they can’t know whether my blog is a My Little Pony fan site or just an ISIS Terrorist Blog (I can hear the NSA pinging me now!). And since Google justice is blind, they treat it all the same. I share a post on Facebook, and a warning gets plastered all over it, in big bold dramatic font. Type “Writer’s Disease” into a search engine, and it’s way down on page 3, accompanied by a warning that my blog will give you AIDS. When I complained about this to them, they simply said they’d investigate. Their FAQ gives no ETA, so it could be days, weeks or centuries!

Hello WordPress!

If you are new to the Writer’s Disease, let me give you the rundown: My name is Nick Alimonos and I like to write. No, scratch that, I don’t have a choice. Since I was six years of age, I’ve known that if I don’t get words on paper, my brain will swell and go pop. So I am forced to do this, just to stay alive. But when I am long dead and forgotten, I’d like to think that it somehow mattered, because story matters, because life is nothing more than the stories we tell ourselves. I like to believe that, buried beneath the everyday memes of our information-pollution age, we may yet find something of nuance and meaning. And, if that sounds too preachy for you, I also like naked chicks riding unicorns.

Welcome.

 

Oh, and if you are reading this on Blogger and can’t put 1 and 1 together (it’s 11): I’VE MOVED! So please visit me at writersdisease.net!

The Double Edged Sword of Controversy

Are you reading this post? Of course you are! What a silly question. Chances are, then, you’ve had to click past this pesky Warning Page, declaring that some people found material on my blog to be objectionable. I guess I had it coming. After all, I am a nudist, and a lot of people find my chosen beliefs offensive.

Google recognizes that this Frankensteinean monster they’ve created is far too big for any company to control. So, unlike Facebook, whose censorship committee is run by the Taliban, Google leaves policing their content to the public. And this is a problem, because without oversight, it doesn’t matter what the offending content is. A fundamentalist can complain about an atheist blog, and an atheist about a religious blog. A KKK clan member can warn other racists about an Obama blog, and the Westboro Church can censor a gay blog. None of these things are likely to happen, however, since the only thing that truly seems to offend people en messe isn’t hate speech or violence, but the human body. Nevertheless, allowing anyone to place Warning Pages wherever they wish only serves to limit free speech. While it is easy to click “I Understand and I Wish to Continue,” a lot of people may not want to, mistaking the blog for a porn or hate site.

The Writer’s Disease explores literature and the power of the written word. Of my 240+ articles, only 15 pertain directly to nudism/naturism. But Google’s warning page lumps my site with the worst the Internet has to offer. If it were more specific, if it were to say, “Warning: Nudist Content,” that would be an improvement, but even then, there would be confusion. Too many pornographers use the nudisttag for sexually explicit material that has nothing to do with nudism. On Twitter, I am inundated with dick pics, simply because I label myself a nudist, and on rare occasions, forward pro-naturist memes. The sad part is, it doesn’t matter how innocent the pictures are. It could be a mother breastfeeding, and some pervert will add it to his orgy gallery. For close to a century, nudists have been fighting the idea that the human body is obscene, but we seem to be losing the battle. When powerful corporations like Google paint all nudity with the same brush, it only reinforces this misconception. And the consequences can be damaging. If we train our brains to see any and all bodies as sexual, we are doing two things:  1) We are objectifying women. 2) We are perpetuating pedophilia.

This might sound extreme, but I say this with confidence, and it makes perfect sense once you think about it. Nudity is only offensive as it pertains to sex, so it isn’t the nudity itself that offends, but the unwanted feelings of arousal it elicits. What then, do we make of someone who finds the sight of a young child objectionable? If you cannot see that this image is innocent, then you must regard it as something sexual.

If, however, you are worried about other people, who may consider the image pornographic, you are only feeding into the pedophile-psyche, the idea that any nude person, even an infant being Baptized, is there to arouse. Just as a woman’s ankles are no longer considered obscene, we must desensitize the sight of the human body, and especially the sight of children’s bodies. A child should NEVER be associated with sex, but by censoring all innocent images, we are doing just that.

I realize this is a controversial topic, one that I wished to address in my writing, and in my book, Ages of Aenya. As someone who has suffered from sexual abuse in my youth, this is an important issue for me. Historically, writers have used the power of their pens to fight social injustices, and too often, like Dostoyevsky, have been jailed for their views. Far be it for me to compare myself to such titans of literature, history teaches me, nonetheless, that controversy can be a double-edged sword. On the plus side, it gives attention to my work, driving traffic to my blog. I am proud of the The Writer’s Disease for helping raise awareness of Aliaa Magda ElMahdi, the Egyptian born activist who posted a nude selfie on her blog in protest of Sharia Law. On the other hand, the continuing controversy surrounding nudity marks me with a label, and it is a label that comes with shame, because the blind-judgment of Google places the Writer’s Disease on the same mantle as PornHub.

Ironically enough, after my Kickstarter fail, I had decided to focus much less on nudism. After talking it over with my fans, I realized what I had long known but failed to accept, that it is the “-ism” that scares people, more than the “nudity.” Nobody wants to be labeled. And in truth, nudism is a non-thing. In an ideal world, there would be no need for such a term, just as there should be no need for terms like feminism and racism. This Warning Notice, and my failure to raise money for my novel, are setbacks, but the ideals of nudism cannot be quenched, because the movement has nothing to do with gawking at flesh; that is the domain of the pornographer. My interest remains, as always, in environmentalism, freedom, and in innocence. One can be a nudist and never go naked.