Halloween Haunts: HWA & BookExpo America 2012 by Leland Pitts-Gonzalez
I arrived at the Javits Center in New York City for the BookExpo—an oversized, rolling suitcase in hand to tote back all of those advanced copies of my novel that I would surely fail to give away. Inside, the Javits Center was somewhat aesthetically pleasing in that express, faux-luxury-hotel kind of way. Yet, mainly it was a beehive of suited and badged industry folks, shuffling as quickly as possible through the aisles and offshoots lined with publishers and author’s associations—some of which by this time next year will have gone under.
But book-signings aren’t supposed to be a time for pessimism and jadedness. I was, in fact, heading toward the Horror Writers Association booth for perhaps my only chance to autograph books for a captive audience. I had written a bloody, despicable, hilarious, trashy and pseudo-philosophical horror novel. Or, that was what my pseudonym whispered into my ear every night when I fantasized about characters for some newfangled fiction. “Brilliant!” my pseudonym reassures me. “Maybe just a little pretentious and deplorable,” is what I tell him with my thoughts, but someone has to reassure you when your chosen obsession is to make things up.
I digress: the Expo. I arrived at the booth quite early and had the chance to chat with my fellow HWA members. They, too, seemed like well-mannered men—not the types who yearned to terrorize their audience. Secretly (or not so secretly) I am compelled to titillate and frighten you, but with oddly constructed sentences; a narrative voice you can’t get out of your head; and the surreal, starkly imagined settings where anything can happen. That person named “Leland” who, although not so brilliant, definitely has one foot inside a succubus’ netherworld where:
- The maps of a tormented cartographer erode physical reality
- A rambunctious thirteen-year-old girl dies simply from the terror of her mother’s disappearance, only to rise from the dead having contracted autism after suffering through the paralysis of nonexistence
- The conjoined-twin bloodsuckers who date back to the Civil War and—having forgone taking live victims—find redemption and God, form a Pentecostal church, and retrieve blood from their devoted congregants
- And, this newly devised character of mine: in love with her voyeuristic psychiatrist, this woman firmly believes she is Sharon Tate and that she’s been pregnant for more than forty years
I continued to chat with my horror writer compatriots. Nice men, humble. And then, droves of people hungry for free books strolled by our booth. “The Blood Poetry,” a woman commented. “I don’t really read poetry.” I responded, “It’s actually a novel.” I did, in fact, manage to autograph, give away, and pitch this small and murderous tale. I, too, didn’t look the part of the author of literary bloodletting: I normally go to hairstylists (no barber for this guy), wear those “skinny jeans,” blazers, a pleasant smile, and can chat up most girls’ mamas. “Don’t sign my name,” some of the would-be fans instructed. “Just sign your name.” I thought this was odd, but someone told me that in the off-chance I would become an actual known—and recognized—human being, they’d be able to sell my identity on Ebay. I signed and signed. Was I even autographing the books in the correct place? I met a blogger; a publicist; a publisher who swore she’d read my novel and review it in her fabulous online magazine; a cinematographer attempting to drum-up business for authors dying to make book trailers; and a woman who was trying to pitch a “Do It Yourself” MFA program.
Finally, I managed to give away all of my books. It was an odd feeling: there were now dozens out in the ether, but I wasn’t sure anybody would bother to read them. “But that’s OK,” my pseudonym continued to reassure me, “at least that suitcase is empty, right?” I’m not sure I yearn to be famous, per se. Well, that’s actually a complete lie. I’d like for you to be intrigued just enough to consider perusing the opening pages of The Blood Poetry—a novel for which I was hired to be a “ghost writer.” The actual author is my pseudonym, that other Leland, who’s always around the corner in the back alley of my other brain—his bloody mouth agape and begging for me to “speak” for him. I do indulge him every-now-and-then. Yes, for the most part, BookExpo America 2012 was a success, and the other Leland thought so as well. Of course, I couldn’t compete with the other literary rock-stars at The Expo who, too, had written brilliant books to promote: Jimmy Fallon, Kirstie Alley, and Michael Bolton. I wondered if they had pseudonyms and doppelgangers who fed their delirious, mildly dangerous obsessions. I wondered what Michael Bolton’s doppelganger looked like. It’s probably just a replica of his younger self—twirls of long hair that draped past his shoulders, despite the bald spot on top. Did Kirstie Alley’s double run amok with her mouth agape, constructing the dazzling and red-hot phraseology of mad women? The Javits Center and all of that expo mumbo-jumbo excited me for one afternoon. To the phenoms who traipsed through the catacombs of that edifice with great ambition on their sleeves: I was a literary compatriot with something big and bold to exclaim. They surely didn’t notice me—and may never discover The Blood Poetry—but for at least one stark moment while approaching sleep in the very near future, they’ll listen.
TODAY’S GIVEAWAY: Leland Pitts=Gonzalez is offering one singed paperback copy of The Blood Poetry. To enter post a comment in the section below or e-mail email@example.com and put HH CONTEST ENTRY in the header. Winners will be chosen at random and notified by e-mail.
Leland studied Creative Writing and Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University where he discovered the enormous possibilities of poetry, experimentation, and critical theory. He eventually earned an MFA in Writing from Columbia University on a merit fellowship. He has published fiction in Open City, Fence, Dark Sky Magazine, Drunken Boat, and Monkey Bicycle, among other literary journals. He is also the project director of literary event series, Phantasmagoria: Language and Technology of Suffering,for which he received fiscal sponsorship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. He lives in Brooklyn, NY. His website is http://www.thebloodpoetry.com.
Where to buy The Blood Poetry: Amazon: amazon.com/author/lelandpittsgonzalez; Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-blood-poetry-leland-pitts-gonzalez/1112113242; Powell’s: http://www.powells.com/biblio/61-9781935738244-1;
Praise for The Blood Poetry
“If one new horror book out there embodies the intelligence of great literary fiction with the best elements of psychological horror, The Blood Poetry has to be it.”– Horror Talk
“A brilliant, brutal assault of a novel–raw, twisted, and compulsively readable.”– Shelf Unbound Magazine
The Blood Poetry: An Excerpt
It’s home and the desolate landscape: couch, remote control, the mother vampirism hair particles in the dryer, the intangibles (e.g., dead spermicidal ideas, living-or-not, the soul of the refrigerator with the imagined heads of my undead mother’s defiled, the lists, the watches that stopped working in my childhood, the britches, a humming that never goes away because I’m deaf to love, my wife’s ankles that I desire, my nightmares, memories of the pillow cases I came on, the other things and, oh yeah , that). Sylvia bobbles over to the kitchen table and lights a cigarette. She smokes? Since when? Do I enable this behavior?
“Please don’t smoke in my house, daughter.”
She ashes into a flower pot with a dead plant in it. Where, forever, there are dead things waiting to be revived. I mean, the damned buds had souls too, you know!
“Did you guys stop having sex or something?” she asks. “Did you cheat on her?”
Bang, bang, the upstairs vampire lurks like a debauched bed sheet, floating into the walls, into the door, listlessly armoring herself against the living. Ah, the living.
I avoid her question and look at her.
“Just don’t smoke in my bedroom, OK?”
“I’d never go in there. The place freaks me out.” She nods her head like she’s falling asleep, but I see she’s got the phone next to her, waiting to call whomever will fetch the wished-for wife. My Sylvia, the antidote for all things undead.
“Mom wouldn’t leave me, Papa. I mean, she had her books and things, her fantasies. You know what she used to tell me when I was little?”
“That I was a bad father.”
“No. That she was royalty or something, but there’s no aristocracy in America, you know.”
I picture Abby in Sylvia’s bed, floating over the sleepy child, tumbling out fairy tales of her unknown life. Abby had listless, brown hair and a puckery grin. She mumbled when she spoke and everything sounded like cotton, but she made you laugh nonetheless.
I pace and pace. I could go on like this for hours staring at the daughter, Sylvia, stammering for the right thing to say, what to wear to her funeral, to breathe the right air, to blemish her with a kiss. It’s a stifling, hot beast in this house. Maybe I should crash the car through the front window for some god damned ventilation. My life needs a good airing. The pieces of the puzzle are before you, my dears, you just need to connect the dots. The dots!
“I swear she’ll come back, Sylvia,” I say, not meaning it at all. “She loves you more than she loves the rest of us humanoids. We are just place holders in her life, while you, well, you’re a whole friggin book.”
She picks up the phone, puts it down, looks around, sniffles, picks up the phone, dials, hangs up, sniffles, takes a drag on the cig, ashes it in the dead flower pot, looks up toward the vampire banging somewhere upstairs in flight, puts the phone down, dials, then dials.
“Shit,” I mutter. “She’s done it.”
“Hello, yes, I’d like to report a missing person.” She takes a stifling drag on the cig, etc., and penetrates the receiver with her womanly voice. “It’s my mother. She hasn’t come home since last night and it’s not like her . . . I haven’t seen her today . . . I don’t know how old she is, uh, maybe thirty-six or whatever . . . can’t you just send someone over here quick and get helicopters and horses and rile the troops to find my mother? . . . my dad thinks it’s drugs, but I think that’s a lie, but what does that have to do with anything? . . . it explains nothing, just come over, I’ll give you the address, my father is here, but he’s in some kind of trance . . . he’s always like that, like my whole life.”
She hangs up after giving the cops our address. “They’re coming,” she says.
“For real? Like real friggin cops?”
I pace, I stammer, my voice trembles on the femurs of the world, I punctuate a thought I want to deliver to the daughter, but I can’t remember what I’m about to tell her—my entire life story, it is.
We stare at each other. I look at the floor. I pick up a dirty pot on the stove, put it back down, pick it up again, I walk to the sink and turn on the faucet, off, then on, then check if the water is warm, then take a sip, then think, think! “You’re mother was very sick, you see.”
“What are you saying?” She hunkers as if this would get her closer to me.
“She had secretions.”
“Why are you speaking about her in the past tense?”
“Well, if she were here, I’d say is, but I choose to say was, for no purpose whatsoever but to . . . to, to just say some friggin thing!”
“Don’t get mad.” She sucks on the last of her cig. She stands up, walks over to me, to me, and hugs my torso. She smells like female deodorant and smoke and I get squeamish, but I let her do it. “What do you mean by secretions?”
“Well, you know, a female thing,” I say.
“You mean, a period?”
“Is that what you call it?”
“Are you ten or something?”
“No, but,” and she doesn’t understand the lure of it all, the sampling of ooze that can drive a vampire insane, the blistering of the mind, “it was just secretions, OK?”
“I don’t get it,” she says.
“I just wish I could see her right now.”
She unhugs me and lights another cigarette. “You don’t make any sense.”
She reaches in my back pocket, her palm up against my butt, and pulls out an apple core. “Why do you have an apple core in your back pocket?”
“Your mother used to eat those apples.”
Sylvia puts the core in the garbage, then sits.
And then I remember the cops are coming. “Friggin fucking mother humpers! The cops’ll be here! You get your poor dad all riled up with the cops coming to our house! Do you realize what we’re hiding upstairs?” Then I know I have said too much.