Fiction: Two Earthquakes

TE cover 02

By C.E. Alexander

Florence knew we would marry long before I knew. Until the day came she nodded at my homework, prompted others to laugh when I joked and, in time, touched at my stomach through a shirt. Her fingertips did something to my breath. She always breathed like that and only then did I understand why.

We left Carlsbad. I had learned to fear spiders in that part of California, behind my father’s chalet-styled home. I had learned how he argued by shouting without words, by pounding the walls with what sounded like masonry blocks. I suffered my worst nightmares there and was happy to leave. Continue reading

Book of Constants second edition: excerpt

Tomorrow through Sunday, Book of Constants will be free to download. In expectation of the second edition we have reworked the excerpt, which we originally published in July 2013.

ZD-002: Book of Constants
A short story by C.E. Alexander
List price: $0.99
Promotional giveaway: September 10-14, 2014
Book trailer
Literary, General Detective, Short Story
Purchasing link

We settle in a new town by misstep. I bring only my camera and some frames of captured sky. My son Kobe has a book he will not read out loud, and a stuffed frog his mother found while buying antiques. He seems to understand it, that she could rarely leave the house and that this toy was out of the ordinary. We had to name it for him, so I call it Cucumbers. Continue reading

Review guidelines

As of May 6 I’m reviewing again. Being listed as Kindle Book Review’s first contact–and as their only nonfiction contact–certainly has its advantages. But after declining several New Age books and two consecutive success/wealth building books, I realize it’s time to be a little more specific with what authors should expect.

I have previously reviewed fiction: Love by Lucille Redmond was unbelievable, as was Woody Guthrie’s novel House of Earth. That said, I do not believe a relatively obscure fiction writer should offer reviews to another. There is too much temptation for review swapping: cooperatively, in the form of positive reviews, or punitively, in the form of negative ones. Ultimately neither of those would do us any favors, so please, do not submit fiction of any type.

Given the opening paragraph, hopefully you are already discouraged from offering texts on New Age, success, self-help or investing. I have very specific, long-established views on the subjects of economics and cosmology, and they are not likely to change. It would be unfair to subject you to my biases. Please do not contact me for reviews on these subjects.

Politics or current events?  Maybe.  Is it well-researched and well-considered?  Or does it offer the reader little more than a glass of Kool-Aid?

Ultimately you should know a reviewer’s tastes before submitting anything, so by all means feel free to follow and interact with me on Twitter.  That’s more than some authors are willing, so here are the links to all of my nonfiction reviews, per category: music (1, 2, 3, 4 and 5), history (1, 2 and 3), science, philosophy and biography (1, 2). Aside from Lucille Redmond’s anthology of short stories, my favorite of these books was Lina and Serge: The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev: “If anything the pages turn too quickly, the story is too familiar.” Morrison forms a deep emotional attachment between reader and subject within the first few pages of the book.

A caveat: typographical errors and its/it’s mistakes are significant turn offs.  The well-written argument does not require huge font, red font, SHOUTING, slammer arrays!!!, or other visual delights to get its point across.  Clever interior page design is great, but if want a fourth or fifth star, the narrative needs to be content edited, copyedited, proofread and compelling.

One last request: patience.  As you can see I average about one review a month.  It will take me a week to consider your pitch, therefore a full PDF or ePub copy of your book will speed things along nicely.  Depending on length, I’ll need another two weeks to read and, finally, a week to write the review.

If you’re still reading, that’s wonderful.  We’re half-way there.  Reach out to at ASongForMagsa [at] gmail dotcom and we can discuss further.

Promotional trailer: Book of Constants

After months of delays large and small, we present the Book of Constants promotional trailer:

The purchasing link is here. Read the short story excerpt here.

About the process

We dusted off our copies of Sony Movie Studio Platinum 12 (video editing) and Audacity (free sound editing and recording). We wanted to maintain an ethic similar to that of our trailer for The Music and the Spires, respecting that TMATS is an anthology of short stories and Book of Constants is a novella. To this end, we perused again for video footage, limiting the material to one primary clip (the street scene in turn-of-century Palestine) and two secondary clips (the first a railroad documentary from Thomas Edison’s stock, and the second, a scene from The Golem, which, at an initial glimpse, resembles two men disposing of a corpse; remember that BOC is at its core a murder mystery).

For sheer beauty and impact, we opted for the grizzly bear shots and a delectable composition by Francesca Mountfort. The name of the track is Nana, which she recorded under her Nervous Doll Dancing alias. She adapted it from Manuel De Falla’s suite for piano and cello; find a more literal interpretation of the piece here. As an editorial aside, the original is pretty enough, but Mountfort’s version is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard.

But in practical terms the trailer was becoming a little too luxurious. The novella follows an unwitting rookie detective on his first murder investigation, which from the beginning is sloppy, chaotic and conflicted in interest. The police scanner footage helped dial the gorgeousness back a little, and personal tragedy on behalf of the film editor/sound engineer suspended the project for months. I feared that the project’s momentum was lost but indeed the opposite was true. We resumed in early 2014 and–after a few mock-ups–finished the editing in a single take.

I always cringe at title cards in the first trailer, but the team insisted on some kind of literal connection back to the book. After some fairly lively negotiation, we agreed that I would narrate the story’s opening sentences. I am not an actor by any means, nor do any of us own the proper equipment. This way my wife would give me voice-acting prompts and I would hurry to the bedroom to record on my iPhone (I would have choked if I had tried to narrate while anyone else listened). Outtakes of these DIY sessions pick up the sound of me scratching at my clothes, bouncing my knee, cursing like a thug and falling prey to all manner of facial tics. At last, we settled on a take that didn’t sound like a vocoder.

In an unexpected 4-1 defeat, I lost the sound engineering vote. “Nana” truly became a background score, with the static, clamor, confusion and emergency protocol of police scanner recordings mixed in loudly and prominently. Moreover, the new audio track was 2:06 in length, while the video feed was 1:54. We had twelve extra seconds of sound, and were forced to add two more, wholly unnecessary title cards. I kept any subsequent remarks to myself.

Here it is: B-list acting, tragic animal husbandry and all. In spite of the setbacks I love this film. We hope you enjoy.

–C.E. Alexander
March 8, 2014


Our favorite reader of all time (Dave K.) writes us about Book of Constants and My Wounded Specular:

The stories are, of course, great. Very deep, but subtly so. They’re the kinds of stories that teachers refer to in Philosopy classes. Like for instance, the way that past and present are like specular reflections of each other. (I admit I had to look up what specular meant.) And they both worked together really well, both being about how the past and future interact. I loved the idea that fortune telling would be the big taboo for C8s–and the bit about [SPOILER REMOVED!] was striking, and creepy. And it resounded with Vincent’s mute son as well–that he was the one that revealed the secret–or at least brought it to light–the actual revelation having to be done by Vincent himself (shades of Oedipus there!). And that his only word was Yes. There’s really a lot for a reader to dig into in these. And they’re touching too. Very cool.

The Shallow Cittern excerpt

ZD-004: The Shallow Cittern
A short story by C.E. Alexander
Price: $0.99
Horror, Literary, Short Story
Purchasing link

The travel embargo lifted the year of Susan’s degree. She watched footage of American travelers getting sunburns, eating street food, buying cigars in Havana. Always cigars, and always the same headline no matter the network: “Cuba opens her doors.” Had she considered it she would have thought His door, not hers, and more, that the Cubans were not the ones who kept it shut for so long.

There was talk of robberies and assault. Didactic rumors of leprosy, cannibalism. The unfiltered statistics of sexual assault, kidnappings, and fraud. She heard reports of a new, debilitating virus, not always fatal. Journalists called the illness el sagrado. Continue reading

My Wounded Specular excerpt

ZD-003: My Wounded Specular
A short story by C.E. Alexander
Price: $0.99
Literary, Short Story
Purchasing link

She looks younger today, even if her limp is worse. She has kept that stride and scar since I have known her. You hear of old men who know it will rain by the way forgotten injuries flare up again. Yet the sky is clear, so blue you can almost see through the watch face, right down to the teeth and cogs. But now I am speaking like she does.

Her name is Viola, but we call her the witch. She remembers the future and forgets all else. She makes sure her hair is always black and I dream about trying to keep secrets from her. When one of her shale-gray eyes swells up we joke about crops going bad. She will touch at it and say, “Don’t make me touch it.” Continue reading