Tag Archives: Joseph Devon

Patch Work

[This is a slightly modified version of a story I wrote for Joseph Devon’s Climactic Sewing Scene Challenge (sadly closed to new entrants). You will note that the scene is not particularly climactic, however there is sewing involved, and I figure two out of three ain’t bad.

Enjoy. Or, you know, be grossed out. Your choice really.]

The screaming makes it hard to concentrate, but I do my best, making sure the knife follows the lines Grandma’s drawn on Mr. Weaver’s back. Blood starts to well up in the knife’s wake, and I start to feel sick, but then I think of mother, saying “Not yet, she’s not ready,” and I grit my teeth together and force myself to focus on the cut.

When I finish the last cut and Grandma says, “Very good,” and pries the patch of skin off with her tweezers. Now Mr. Weaver screams even louder, but Grandma deftly drops the flap of skin into the flat tray of preserving oil and presses the poultice we’d prepared beforehand down against Mr. Weaver’s back. Grandma hasn’t taught me yet what goes into the poultice, but I know it works because Mr. Weaver’s screams fade into whimpers. “The worst is over,” Grandma tells him. “You did very well.”

Later when he’s gone, Grandma takes the square of skin out of the preserving fluid, and slides it into her special oven. While we’re waiting for it to dry, Grandma takes out the soul-quilt and tells me the stories of each of the patches. “This one was Mr. Valaries’,” she says, fingering a tan and freckled square. “He wanted his cattle to be the strongest in the land.” She points to a patch of almost pure white. “And this one came from Miss Elaina Hockman.”

“What did she want?” I ask.

“To be free.”

“Miss Hockman was a slave?”

“There’s more than one kind of slavery, child,” Grandma said gently.

“What about Mr. Weaver?” I ask.

“He wants a son. His wife is barren. At least she was.”

We take the skin out of the oven then, and it feels strange, dry, but supple, almost as if it was still living.

Grandma sets me down and says, “Are you sure you’re ready?”

I nod and take the needle from her hands. She spreads the soul-quilt out on my lap and I start to sew. At first I have to focus hard on the task, but then the needle starts to move faster in my hands, as if someone else was holding it instead of me. For a moment the world goes fuzzy, and I see a picture in my mind of Mr. Weaver on top of Mrs. Weaver, heaving up and down, and Mrs. Weaver making the kind of sounds Mother makes some nights when she and Father think I’m asleep.

When I’m finished, the feeling goes away, and I’m just me again. I run my fingers over the patch of skin, and look at the rest of the quilt. Some of the patches are hundreds of years old, from even before the time that Grandma was a little girl. But here close to the end there are a great many patches of the same color, squares of skin with a bronzed, nearly reddish tint that almost seems to glow.

“There’s something you want to ask,” Grandma says. “I can see it on your face.”

I nod. “Its just…there’s a man-”

“You call him the patchwork man,” she says.

I’m startled and then she laughs. “Don’t think I haven’t got my ears out too.”

“It’s just…he doesn’t have anything. But he’s got more scars than skin. What is it he’s paying for?”

“His daughter’s happiness.”

“Who is she?”

Grandma points to the castle on the hill, and suddenly I remember how that last year the king’s son happened through the town and fell madly in love with a simple farm girl, carrying her off to his castle to marry her.

“But she’s Mr. Tekles daughter.”

Grandma laughs. “Yes, that drunkard has been all over town bragging about how his daughter is the fairest in the land. But he’s not the one who can’t sleep at night for the pain of lying on his squares of raw flesh. That’s what love is, child. That’s what a true father would do for his daughter or a mother for her son. And don’t you forget it.”

I look into her eyes and there’s something dark and sad there. “There’s something else, isn’t there?” I say.

She looks at me, a little surprised, and then she lets out a sigh. “You’re a Seamstress sure enough, no matter what your mother says. The Patchwork Man, well, he could have been her father.”

“You mean it isn’t true? Why don’t you tell him?”

“Because he loves her. Because he’s better for her than her real father ever could be. Because it would kill him if he knew.”

“But it hurts him so much.”

I see a tears brimming in the edge of Grandma’s eyes, and he pulls me tight against her chest. “In the end child,” she says, her voice quavering, “love always does.”

In Defense of Hipsters

I’ve been thinking about hipsters a lot lately. For the record this isn’t exactly normal behavior for my brain. Most of the time I concentrate my neurons on solving world hunger (Solution: people should maybe be eating more food). But the other day writer and all around awesome guy Joseph Devon tweeted something that got my mental gears going.

“Has anyone actually met a real hipster? Sometimes I feel like we’re all mocking a made up group of people. Like with Canadians.”

I was going to reply to him, but I was too lazy, so instead I ended up thinking about hipsters a lot and writing this blog post instead. (Also, by the by, you should be following Joseph Devon. Because this kind of boundless hilarity is the rule with him rather than the exception).

So here’s the deal people. What exactly is our problem with hipsters? I know the first thing that probably pops into your mind when you think of hipsters is probably something like this image:

But frankly wearing ridiculous clothes “ironically” is only a tiny subset of this cultural virus we call hipsterdom. (Somebody calls it hipsterdom anyway; it’s not like that’s a word I made up just now. *Cough*.) The thing at the real root of the issue is the desire to experience things that others haven’t, to seek out cultural tropes that are uncommon enough to be considered nearly unique.

And the question I keep asking myself is, “Is this necessarily a bad thing?” Since we’re talking about Joseph Devon, I’ll use him as an example. Joseph Devon is an independently published author of a great series of books (I did a review of one of them a while back you should totally check out) with a small but devoted following. Now the books are great on their own, but for me there’s something special in the fact that I had to “discover” them. He hasn’t got his books facing the doors as you walk into Barnes and Noble. Probably the only way you’re going to find out about him is if somebody like me tells you about him, or by slogging through the twisted and uncertain underworld of self-published books on Amazon.

In other words, “I like Joseph Devon. You’ve probably never heard of him before.”

“But Albert,” you’re saying. “Liking something because its obscure doesn’t make any sense. The thing itself is still the same regardless of how many people like it right?”

To which I have two responses.

First, yes it totally does make sense. Lets imagine that you’re rich. No, strike that, lets imagine that I’m rich. Now being a rich dude I’m into sailing, so one day I take my yacht out on the water and by chance I happen upon this beautiful island with sugar white sand, emerald water and perfect palm trees blowing in the breeze. I dock my yacht and spend the day wandering the dunes, lazing under the palm trees and diving in the cool water. Things are about as perfect as they can be, and that night I go to sleep under the stars and let the sound of the crashing waves lull me to sleep.

But when morning comes I’m wakened from my slumber by the sound of splashing and yelling and hundreds of feet crunching on the sand. I look up bleary-eyed and see that a cruise ship has anchored itself right off the coast of my beautiful island, and it’s passengers are coming ashore in swarms. Now your argument says, “Well yes, but its basically the same island. Same sand, the same water, the same sun. What difference does it make if you’re alone on a beach you’ve found on your own or in the middle of a gaggle of tourists and their bratty kids?” And if you subscribe to that view then great, but I’m pulling up anchor and sailing for somewhere else, thank you very much.

The second problem with this line of reasoning is that it assumes people do things that make sense. For the record, they do not. Man is not what you would call a logical animal. Logically your taste shouldn’t change with the circumstances. If something tastes good in a green can with a picture of a surfer on the front it should taste just as good in a brown can with a picture of the dog on the front. But it doesn’t. Because we don’t process things that way.

Objectively speaking more people like the taste of Pepsi than Coke. Blind taste tests have confirmed this over and over. But. You don’t drink Coke out of a white paper cup. You drink it out of a can with that iconic red and white logo and because of the connections your mind makes with that logo suddenly taste alone isn’t the deciding factor. Change the label on a can of spaghetti sauce or the shade of color on a can of soda and people will insist that the taste has changed.

And maybe they’re right. Because taste, whether we’re talking about food, music or books is something in the mind. It isn’t fixed and objective. It depends on a whole subset of cultural connections our minds make without even knowing it. We like and dislike things for a whole host of reasons that sometimes have very little to do with the things themselves.

And as someone who occasionally like obscure things because of the sense of discovery it gives me, I gotta say, maybe we should be laying off on the hipsters yeah? After all we don’t always have to agree on what things are good or even why they’re good. If you’re fine with the mainstream, Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer, J. K. Rowling, etc. that’s fine. As for myself, sometimes I like to stray off the beaten path in the hopes that I might discover something obscure and amazing. And if that makes me a hipster, then so be it.

Bizzaro Book Review: Persistent Illusions by Joseph Devon

I remember when I was a kid, I would go to the library and max out their borrowing limit. I would come home with a big bundle of books and read and read and read. Back then books sucked me in and didn’t let me go. Books like Aliens Ate My Homework, the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Frank Baum’s Oz books, I devoured them all in big starving gulps, rushing from one page to the next.

I haven’t been there with a book in a while. But Joseph Devon’s book Persistent Illusions took me right back to that to that place where the story took over my mind and wouldn’t let go.

I should start by telling you that Persistent Illusions is a sequel to another book called Probability Angels that I reviewed several months back. Probability Angels and Persistent Illusions take place in the world of the Testers, a group of human souls who have been chosen to stay on the earth and “push” living humans to live beyond their potential.

That’s the setup in the nutshell. But truly there’s more…so much more. The world of the testers is utterly fascinating to me. It is a place where mathematical equations can be conceptualized into objects like cameras and cell phones, a world where top of Mount Everest is covered with the sleeping souls of Testers, and oh yeah…I almost forgot, there’s zombies too. Sort of.

Beyond the magic of the world itself, Persistent Illusions shines out as a sequel. Many series of books I’ve read adhere to the mantra that “status quo is god” meaning that characters are largely the same from one book to another aside from a few superficial changes. Not so with Persistent Illusions.

The near-godlike Epp from the first book has been reduced to a brooding waste of a man, obsessed with what he once was and can no longer be. Conversely Kyo, the totally awesome Japanese Samurai deals with similar changes in a much more positive way. In a smaller sense, Matthew, Mary, and even the villain Hector have all obviously been moved and changed to some degree by the events of the first book. This kind of change in character give the book a striking feeling of authenticity. In the face of adversity the perfect is revealed to be imperfect, and the imperfect is strengthened, just as it is in real life.

I couldn’t write an honest review if I didn’t tell you that this is not a perfect book. I had a few issues with the opening section where the author used a kind of sliding perspective to introduce the major characters all at once without breaking scene, a sort of literary equivalent to opening a movie with a long steadycam shot. Theoretically I quite like the idea, but in practice I found it to be somewhat confusing each time the focus shifted to another character without warning. There are also a number of places where I felt that fairly clear dialogue was overexplained.

But it’s worth noting that these hiccups didn’t slow me down at all. Somewhere in the back of my mind Ethelberth the inner editor was whining, but I was too busy enjoying myself to notice much.

Bottom line? You need to buy this book. First, because it’s awesome and fun, and it sucked me in like no other book has in a while. But second, and possibly more importantly to my mind, you should buy this book because it stands for everything I love about indie publishing. It’s a fantastic story that doesn’t fit into any of the tiny little holes the publishing industry has created and called “genres”. To me, Joseph Devon is the apotheosis of the indepented author, a man with nothing more than his wits and a website, trying to prove that there is nothing more important to a book’s success than a great story.

I hope that you’ll join me in helping to prove him right.

Persistent Illusions is available for Kindle and as a physical book from Amazon.com. Other formats can be purchased from Smashwords. And if you truly can’t afford to buy it from those places (believe me I’ve been there) both Probability Angels and Persistent Illusions are available for free download from Joseph Devon’s website at josephdevon.com.

Seriously people, you’ve got no excuse not to check this out.

Bizarro Book Review: Probability Angels by Joseph Devon

I consider myself to be something of an explorer in the ebook world. Ever since I got my eReader I’ve been scouring the internet for out of the way oddities and unsung gems, and every once in a while I’ll stumble across a fantastic book it seems like no one else has ever heard of. Whenever this happens I just want to shout the news from the housetops, but the last time I stood on my neighbor’s roof and started screaming about how great Joseph Devon’s Probability Angels was I almost got arrested, so I’m just going to write this blog post about it instead.

Probability Angels is a book about these supernatural beings called the Tempters, people who at the moment of a loved one’s death wished for themselves to die instead and got their wish. In return they must walk among the people of earth “pushing” them to achieve something beyond their normal potential. There’s more to the mythos, but that’s the basic gist of the thing.

This book is fun. It just is. It takes the threads of the world it inhabits and uses them to weave a strange and fantastic story. It’s got fantastic fight scenes, it’s got epic heroes, it’s got zombie angels, and… You know what? That’s all you need to know. This book has zombie angels in it. What more do you need?

I say the story is great, and it is to a point, but really the characters are really what make Probability Angels so engaging. First on the roster is a Tempter named Epictetus, and he is awesome. He’s basically the pinnacle of what all the other Tempters want to achieve. He’s been around for thousands of years; he’s learned every trick in the book and written a few books of tricks himself. When he shows up, look out. It’s about to get real. Then there’s Kyo, a unique Tempter with no powers, but he’s a samurai which is really the BEST POWER EVER.

This isn’t the kind of book that requires a lot of deep thought. You can enjoy it just for the coolness of the whole thing if you want. But there is more there. One speech in particular that Epictetus gives toward the end of the book had a big impact on the way I think about life in general and writing in particular.

You were nothing special. For god’s sake I am so sick of that mentality. That you have to be special to be special. The biggest anchor on the progress of all humanity is the notion that good comes with clear signs, that greatness can’t possibly exist within the confines of an ordinary existence. I saw nothing special in you, Bartleby. I only saw that you existed, and so you had a right to be better than you are. That is it, and that is why I did what I did. The only thing holding you back was you and I was sick of it!”

You are nothing special. So go out and do something unbelievable anyway. That’s a lesson that we all need to learn, and its as good a reason as any to read this book.

In the end, Probability Angels is not a perfect book. It has its flaws, particularly toward the end when the plot becomes less nuanced and more standardized, but in spite of not being perfect it’s still a great read.

Read Probability Angels. Read it for the action. Read it for the heroes. Read it to learn something about life. But read it.

You can download several formats for free here, or you can buy it for $2.99 from the Kindle store.