As of today you can purchase all the Creature’s Cookbook series, which includes two novels (Let us be honest, the first book is the length of two novels) and a collection of short stories. They are available in every format.
It’s appropriate that these came today:
As I can now begin mailing out your prizes to you–those who won the Halloween challenges!
I hadn’t forgotten, but was merely waiting…
My second book and the collection of short stories are now available for pre-order, with a release date of July 2.
You can pre-order a copy in any format you wish. I believe that the Snacks are being released individually in ebook formats, and then released together in print format in a single volume. The relevant links are as follows:
The Creature’s Cookbook 2 Monster’s Mise En Place:
This is a post which was deleted from Creature’s Cookbook 2: Monster’s Mise En Place. In chronological order, it should be first. Merely one of the many things that had to be trimmed to reign me in to a sensible word count.
“Which one of you did this?”
They exchange a look. I cannot tell which one of them is more contrite. I would say the larger of the two, but his tail is capable of sagging, and that does skew the perception somewhat. The other hangs his shaggy head and fans his gaze over my feet, up my legs, a battering at my face, but then fluttering to the concrete.
I narrow my eyes.
“Which one of you is responsible?”
Tongues appear. Then both back away from me in a sense of certain destruction as I tap my toe dusted in one-of-a-kind 19th century porcelain. Tiny, hand-painted Romanesque figures are stopped in their last dance around the maypole, ribbons fluttering in the dead breeze. The carefully procured set still in its box was the product of several decades of searching; worth a down payment on a house, or a brand new car, it lies in porous little shards.
“I will eat you,” I seethe.
Both of them cower. Back to the bar I chase them, until the dog hides in the kitchen and the monster climbs the barstools. His coloring book is open and his half-chewed crayons are scattered. In the poorly shaded image, I see the truth — young girls dancing in a circle, holding hands, their hair done up in ribbons. Several weeks ago I caught him looking in that box; and now he has done it again to disastrous effect. Just so that he could color it properly.
I count. When this fails, I divide. Giving up that for rage, I proceed immediately to factoring a polynomial. My x’s and y’s in a row, I lick my fangs and take deep breaths. Insurance. There was insurance on it. I can make a claim. I can photograph it. I can contact the adjustor immediately and make a claim. As I do this, the two assailants chew — the larger at his paws, the smaller at his crayons.
The evidence is emailed, and the adjustor contacted. I squat beside the pieces and shift them with my claws. Such a gorgeous set of six cups and saucers, pot, sugar dish, and creamer. Every tiny hair and feature captured with the precision of a laser, and here it lies, having gone the way of all flesh.
Some poor soul, sat at this thing with a brush in his hand. He wetted it with his own tongue, he peered into a magnifying glass. Some day, perhaps, he went blind from the staring by gas lamp. Perhaps this set, the trifle of some corseted trophy wife, sat on display in a drawing room. They survived wars, transatlantic voyages, fires! My kinsman, shattered on the floor.
Fred sniffs. “Fix.”
“It can’t be fixed, Fred. You can’t glue this back together and make it whole. It was beautiful because it had survived for so long. It doesn’t mean anything anymore.”
He drops from the stool like a Chimpanzee and saunters cautiously to me. With that grace that is ours alone, he plucks pieces up and begins to arrange them on the ground, carefully setting the curved bits and flattened fragments of plate into lines. Occasionally, he lifts several bits and looks them over, then they are replaced in different order. Disconsolate, I watch his work, willing to allow him whatever liberties he likes, now that the beauty has been slain; it might as well be devoured. A living tableau of Death and the Maiden.
As the pastel shapes are spread out, like an unfolding map, I see it. A puzzle — it comes to life, and for a moment, I am stunned out of my grief.
The maypole has multiplied. Three stand in a row, and girls composed of disjointed shards dance in a swirling line around all of them. They do not match perfectly, but the image is clear.
He points at it, and nudges me with a grinning face. “Fix!”
With a sigh, I go to the back and fish out a piece of thin wood. It was to be used as a secondary tool shed, but this is a worthwhile cause, I think. Fetching some goops and glues, I sit beside him on the ground, and we two immortals, with our teeth and our claws, turn this broken pottery — the stuff of civilization — into a pretty mosaic. Grouted and frankly lovely, it sits on the metal table in my shop and dries.
A priceless relic that is utterly worthless.
And Fred climbs back onto his stool and colors his pretty little picture.
What are we, I wonder? Are we destructive in our hearts, or constructive in our thoughts? Do we create, or do we annihilate? Or is there a difference. Dancing round that maypole, praying for spring, dreading winter, but preparing for it. Running from shadows to light torches to beat them back. What are we?
When it has cured, I hang it on the wall in my bedroom, and stare at it. Chef straddles my hips, dangling his legs on either side of mine, his chin on my shoulder and his face pointed at our dread collage.
“It’s pretty. The colors go really well with the room.”
“I could have re-outfitted the entire Bistro.”
“Fuck me. It was insured, right?”
“Yes, but not at value. And that is not the point.”
“I know. You don’t like seeing things come apart. But you know, clay comes from somewhere. I don’t see you out crying over rocks eroding, or coal mines. Don’t see you out there sighing at the fucking coastline.”
And he is right. I care very little for the earth. I know why this is, in the secret heart of me. I know that I do not care for it because it is all circumstance. It is a pile of pieces that crashed into the ground and stuck, no order, no cleverness. As lovely and remarkable as the accident of organization, through evolution and trial and error, nothing is as gorgeous as that which comes from purpose and intent. Nothing is more stunning than a mind which turns something formless into something so dainty, molds mud into perfection.
“I can’t believe he saw that,” Chef whispers as he pulls his shirt over his head. “I saw that stupid thing a dozen times, and I never noticed that the figures overlapped like that.”
He points. “See? She was half there, and half on the cup. And that girl is half saucer, half pot. It’s like the image was a whole one that got cut and sculpted into the set.”
“A two-dimensional image folded into three dimensions.”
He flops backward and wraps his feet up around me. I set my hands atop them, and tap the soles.
And now I see this broken thing anew. Once it sat in parlors and watered the well-heeled. now it unfolds its mysteries and shows me what civility looks like when it is unbent by monstrous hands.
I find that I like it very much.
“I think…I will call it ‘Teatime’,” I say with cocked head. “I wonder if there’s a market for Monster Art.”
“Have you seen the Chihuly museum? Looks like a Dr. Seuss book. I half expect Who’s to wander out from them. How much do the sell for — those ceiling ones that look like he threw all his practice pieces up in the air and backlit them?”
“They’re organic masterpieces!”
“They look like a neon ocean floor on acid. Like some Disney shit.”
I grimace back at him as he rolls up in the bed like a burrito folding itself. The light from my brilliant red chandelier casts a rosy glow. I shake my head as I listen to him snore.
Tomorrow, if Fred returns, I will have him sign his piece. He knows his letters well enough now.
You may find Creature’s Cookbook 2: Monster’s Mise En Place on the Tapas app.
October is by far and away, my favorite month, because I am a monster. Though I spend most days carefully painted and dressed to blend in, during this season, I am free to be myself. October is the month I celebrate my monster-hood, and so…I would like to propose a competition!
To all you gifted artists, you avid amateurs, you comic contributors, I offer you a challenge: look through the scattered pages of The Creature’s Cookbook or Simon’s Snacks (available only on the Tapas app), and summon up your muses! It will be your task to illustrate my life. You may make use of any medium you wish, and submit as often as you like. Your art will be judged by your peers through “likes”, by the staff at Tapas, and most importantly, by me. The winners – for I dearly hope there will be many – will have their art included in the book or short story from which they drew their inspiration. Your art will be available for all to see, an integral part of my work forevermore. You will be, my gentle readers, published artists.
Think of it as a pairing, of sorts.
This contest can be free to enter. What I mean by “can be” is that many of the chapters are open, but these will, of course, have the most entries. You may open more chapters or stories for the cost of pennies per piece (the total cost of the books do not exceed the amount of purchasing the book at a bookstore). You may also submit a portrait, and I will choose the one I like best to use as a bio-pic for my Tapas author’s profile.
Please submit your illustrations by uploading to the Tapas forum post pertaining to this competition. Vote on the submissions of other artists, and please, as always, be polite!
1. The Work Must Be Original:
You must be the creator of the art that you submit to the competition. Your art must be your own original concept and not a copy of anyone else’s copyrighted material. (If your image infringes upon another’s copyright it will be disqualified.) Upon submitting your work, to this competition, you are solely responsible for any infringement on copyrighted materials.
The artist retains all copyrights to their artwork without exception.
3. Multiple Submission:
There are no restrictions to the number of contests in which the artist participates, nor the number of pieces they may submit, nor the number of prizes they can win.
4. Submission Deadlines:
Artworks may be submitted until midnight Pacific Time on 10/31/2016. No artworks will be accepted past the posted deadline.
Note: It is best if the images submitted are no smaller than 800px X 800px
I cannot wait to see what you produce, my lovely friends!
“I hate it.”
I stare at him. How can he hate it? It is my face. I can understand not liking my face, certainly, but he has never said that he does not like my face, in fact quite the opposite.
“Don’t put it up.”
“I don’t want you to.”
“Again, I say why?”
He stomps away and before I can turn from this latest recording of my reflection, he is up the stairs and on the roof, forming an alliance.
“Did he show you that shit?”
Rebecca is caught mid-mouthful and mumbles incoherently. I join them, still caught in a tangle of confuse emotions. I have never found myself completely human, that is true, but my face is as balanced as any other: two eyes, nose, mouth – all slightly odd, but all in place. It meant a great deal to me to take that photo out into the light of day, to digitize and disseminate it to an artist so far away there would never be a risk of discovery. But here he is, hands on hips, glaring down at Rebecca as if he is my father, she my mother, and I have been caught smoking cannabis behind the Seven Eleven.
She dabs the corners of her mouth. “Um…You mean the picture?”
“Yeah, duh! I mean the fucking picture.”
Her gaze swivels to mine as if to imply one of her usually onomatopoetic rejoinders, like “Whhhhaaaaaaa?”
“It’s his book, his face, his life.”
The muscles in his neck tug as he scowls. “You’re okay with this?”
Jimmy, silent at the barbecue, flipping his hamburgers with purposefully stooped shoulders, finally glances backward. “Yo! Wanna relax?”
“No! No I do not want to relax!” He looks around him at every face, young or old, until finally, he realizes that no one feels nearly so strong as he does. In that instant, his ire is redirected to me. “What the fuck are you thinking?”
“Language!” Porter grumbles. The children look up from their table in the open greenhouse. Katherine’s face peeps above the window sill. He turns abruptly and latches onto me with an iron grip. I am dragged bodily from the roof, and down the stairs, following behind him in a shocked silence.
You know me, friends — if I may be permitted to call you that — and you know how much I dislike being given ultimatums. Quite possibly, you also understand that while I am willing to make enormous allowances for the sake of those in my care, I respond to anger in kind.
However, Chef is different. When he is upset with me, something happens to my organs, that results in a complete and utter shutdown of my nerves, tongue, or capacity for greater reason. I wither, in an entirely embarrassing fashion.
I apologize. This is again one of those times when I am acutely aware of the divide I traverse by discussing events out of chronological order. You see, since the publication process began, I have had to develop a system with my editor. I send all my diary entries to her on an almost daily basis. She reads them and tells me whether or not they are “plot”. I have no idea what “plot” she is referencing. Usually I do not have the slightest concept of what any one volume of my life will be “about”, until she has curated the entries. She scrubs detail, alters names, transforms the events so that they do not match any newspaper articles or news programs, and then arranges the entire thing so that it at least has some adherence to the standard publishing models of the industry. For this, I pay her a substantial salary and my literary agent sings her praises, but there are unfortunate side effects, such that when I receive Kristina’s emails (some half dozen a day), I am often told what I can and cannot discuss with my readers directly, as those details may arise in further sequels.
Why am I telling you this? So that you understand that the relationship I now have with Chef is a very different one than is detailed in my first novel, and do not think that in some way, I have misled you about my character. Believe me, I do not enjoy having multiple personality disorder, or frankly disorder of any kind, but this is the only way I am allowed to keep my dear website intact, concurrent with the published works.
When Chef pulls me to the car and steals the keys, I am surprised by the violence of his feelings. While he drives, I sit quietly, staring at myself in the wing mirror, wondering what I have done to earn his distemper. He does not ferry us very far; we end up at the river docks, parked facing the bridges.
“You can’t put it up.”
He closes his eyes and covers his face with his hands. “You know what they told you. They said no pictures. No evidence of any kind.”
“They are not in control of my life. Nor does one commissioned portrait constitute a declaration of war. It is a drawn image, based upon a photograph. It is not documentation.”
I cross my arms stubbornly. He makes a series of sounds and throws himself out of the car, pacing up and down its flank like a puma. I slowly unfold and emerge, barricading myself behind my door, arms draped over the roof.
“Explain to me what is really at issue here! You have never once seemed to care about them. Why all of a sudden?”
The metallic gaze slices up the bridge of my nose, and runs me through. “Really? With all the times I’ve had to stuff food down your throat and stitch you up with cooking twine to make sure the skin closes properly? Really?”
“I am not exaggerating and you damn well know it!”
“I won’t allow it! I’m telling you not to.”
The air thickens around us as the full weight of what he has said settles. Never in all our acquaintance, not even since discovering all the many facets and implications of our partnership, has he ever seen fit to leverage my actions with that old magic. It is a betrayal, of all that we are, and as I look him in the face I see that he knows it. He knows I will not forgive him, and is willing to pay that price, if only to rescue me from a fate he believes I am ignoring.
“Is this a command?” My voice is a hiss, and comes out more sharply than I intend, but I cannot hide the disgust that I feel at the very notion of being anyone’s slave.
“Please, Simon. Do not post that picture.”
“And if I do?”
“I can’t watch you get hurt again.”
“Nothing will happen to me.”
“How can you possibly know that?”
I close my eyes, and think that if something did happen, it would merely be one in a long line of new things, new adventures that have made the last five years bearable.
“I just do. Far be it from me to once again cite my age and experience—”
He snorts. “Yeah, but here we go.”
“I am older and more knowledgeable than you. They will not bother me, and if they do, I will handle it. Stop manufacturing ancient clandestine cults out of a few stragglers who communicate by smoke signals.”
“Now you’re exaggerating.”
I slip around the car. Somewhere nearby a fishing boat trades its grateful use of the first month since the fisheries reopened, for the more lucrative task of tugging civilians out onto the water for the festivities. As I wrap my arms around his neck, the brine and anxiety mingle. He tastes of Hemingway burgers. Gunpowder wafts on the breeze as the fireworks displays are arranged.
“Nothing will happen to me,” I soothe. “Please stop worrying.”
He tugs on my hair and smashes his face to mine. “You can put it up, but please take it down if they ask you to.”
“I will,” I say, but in all honestly, I am disgusted at the thought of being at anyone’s behest. They know this. They know I will not bow out so easily, and they are right to fear my reply should they argue.
“Let’s stay here. This is a good place.”
The lot has begun to fill with other onlookers carrying lawn chairs and children. The sun has dipped below the water and the sky has darkened. Soon there will be sounds that put the canon fire of my youth to shame.
Strange that humans should celebrate their unions by blowing something to pieces.
My literary agent is a very energetic person. So much so, that I sometimes feel that she must be part cocoa bean. I have to fight the urge to siphon off a dram for recreational use. She bounces when she walks. Her face does not simply form expressions, it is possessed by them. She gushes about my work, such that I sometimes feel guilty for not reiterating how much gushing actually goes into my work.
Today she has enthusiastically arranged for me to make the acquaintance of my publisher, which I suppose is a good thing. You scoff, because to you that is obvious. Of course it is a good idea to get to know the tiny human female who will be responsible for dissembling your treatise to the world! But no — to me, it is not so obvious, gentle reader.
There is but one thing that unnerves me, and that is meeting new people. I can never be certain how they will see me, and this case is even less predictable. Because, you see, she has read my autobiography. I will encounter not just the woman, but her beliefs. Thus, I am conflicted as I ready myself for the encounter.
Do I dress to appear more or less human? Male or female? Do I leave off the false eyelashes and eyebrows and let the chips fall where they may? What sort of person is she, and how will she respond — fascination or horror?
My agent never seems to notice. She takes the facial discrepancies in stride and thinks this whole “persona” business is a clever marketing ploy. Bless her, she is a PR person.
I present myself promptly at the sushi restaurant, but find that I am already late. This is unfortunate. They will have strategized; Laurie will have warned our guest that I am — what is the phrase she uses? — eccentric. Now Ms. Horsley will have expectations, and every word from my mouth will be scrutinized.
I look at the row of men standing behind the bar, slicing fish paper thin with deft hands, and wish I could just put on an apron and busy myself with that mundane task.
Laurie’s face transforms into her massive smile as she spots me lurking. She waves me over and before I can extrapolate the dynamics, I am shaking hands with the Vice President of Content for Tapas Media. She is polite, but focused, and her gaze lingers a bit longer on my face than is comfortable. No doubt she is looking for the adhesive that keeps my eyebrows in place.
“I ordered tea!” Laurie announces. I toast her tactfully, wondering if she really requires any additional spring in her step.
Adrienne slides a menu across to me. “I know you’re the food expert here. Do you want to just order for us, and we can share?”
She has a nefarious twinkle in her eye that tells me she is challenging me to remove my teeth. The joke is on her. Sushi is more than soft enough to accommodate my falsies.
“As you wish. Any dietary restrictions? Or shall I have free reign?”
Adrienne presses her lips down on a grin. Laurie performs a small wiggle in my periphery — her full-body indication that they are indeed in each other’s confidence.
“See? Consistent! He’s like Lestat, when he decided to become a rock star.”
The comparison squeezes a grunt from me. I despise the v-word. Any linkage between that ridiculous, overworked myth and my species is a dangerous and obnoxious piece of sentimentality in which humanity should never indulge. Real monsters are not former humans, they do not mourn the loss of the divine, they do not languish in darkness, they do not stop at drinking blood. They are most certainly not sexy.
“Right, sorry! No vampires.”
I return to my menu as she begins brain-typhooning, similar to brainstorming, but because she is involved, it will include stream-of-consciousness emails, pictures, status updates, and several sentences uttered so emphatically I lose myself in the upheaval.
My thoughts fuzz over as I let my nose meander to the sushi bar. I was going to order us some salmon, but it does not smell as fresh as the tuna. Perhaps some scallops? Something spicy, I think.
Sashimi truly is an art, as the fish must be caught in a certain way, so that the meat is not tainted by the fear. I have been asked if I have ever eaten human raw. Of course, I have. Cooking is merely the best way to preserve something against the elements, or imbue it with spices. The flavor profile of mankind, however, does not lend itself well to Japanese seafood preparation. And that has nothing to do with the killing method.
Fight or flight only appears to enhance…
“This Wednesday is National Eat What You Want Day, so we’re going to take advantage of it. We will launch the book as Dark Comedy.”
My attention snaps back to the woman across from me. “This Wednesday? How can this be accomplished so quickly?”
A small correction, gentle reader: more unnerving than meeting new people, is the idea of being presented as a main dish for all to see, a suckling pig for the carving, without time to take stock and prepare myself mentally. I haven’t liquidated any of my assets or scouted new territory if this publishing business goes awry.
“It’s perfect for Dark Comedy!” Laurie beams. “And the holiday! Oh my god! If we don’t launch then…”
Also bothersome is the idea that anyone might find me funny. I have said, upon many occasions, that if any individual on this earth is more entitled to gallows humor, I haven’t met them, but the body of the work is not meant to be comedic. It has a deep and meaningful purpose. A sagacious, but self-defeating one, it would seem.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to indulge my antiquity and clarify.” I blink at the women, all smiles. “It’s not going to be a physical volume?”
Laurie flaps. “Tapas is a website and an app. Tell him, Adrienne.”
“It’s all in the name! We distribute content in bite-sized portions, five minute reading sessions. People can try a free sample, and then decide to keep going, if they get a taste for the story! The Cookbook is perfect! It’s exactly the type of storytelling we’re trying to inspire!”
She shows me her phone; metaphysical covers scroll by.
The idea sinks in, finally. I lean back with a sense of déjà vu. That was how it all began, you see — publishing, I mean. But most people were illiterate and typesetting was a sticky thing. Because of this, the first publications were small: folios, pamphlets, monograms. Then education caught, and the inexpensive newspaper was born. Such is your thirst for knowledge that street vendors stopped selling water and began hocking news.
“From penny dreadfuls to Bitcoin offal.”
It is charming, this cycling of fashion, but troubling too. Genre fiction began in the periodicals of old: Dickens, Dumas, Melville, Burroughs. And here sits my humble, but very factual diary, about to be reworked into the fast food of literacy. It concerns me, because after all, I came out of hiding in an effort to cure your dependency upon the candy of artistic conceit.
The waitress approaches and helpfully points out the nigiri and special rolls. I order, but in the back of my mind, I am thinking about meals cut into morsels, plots disassembled. If absorbed in small pieces, at intervals, it could be beneficial, like a vaccine. After all, you would have time between entries to snap back to reality, to check your email, play Angry Birds, wonder if this weird story about a man-eating ghoul living in your neighborhood could be true. Perhaps you would even have an odd moment to contemplate a new home security system.
“People can read it as they travel to and from work, or binge it all at once,” she continues.
“Binging is unhealthy,” I mutter, too quietly, I fear. I wonder if they realize they are proving my hypothesis as they speak of fiction in gastronomical metaphor.
That would be too easy, I suppose. No rest for the wicked.
“Our hope is that eventually authors will embrace the format like you have, and just write for it.”
Dare I point out the premise of my work, yet again? I have tried with Laurie, but the intrepid entrepreneur sees only possibility.
“My life mirrors the format simply because it plays out in a series of events, linked by the central figures, but thoroughly lacking what could be construed as a cohesive plot.”
They chuckle, but Adrienne is still peering at my face, even as the first few rolls are brought to the table.
I cross my arms. “Forgive my stoic reception. I can see the utility of such an app in this technological age. I think my reservations stem from the fact that I collect antiquities — books, for example. The internet and its new language were sudden and confusing, and I am still adjusting. Trending, memes, friending, retweeting, LOLZ — it’s enough to make my head spin.”
“I see you on Twitter all the time! You’re great with social media,” Laurie persists, taking a piece from each roll.
“It has been very helpful. I can interact with people, learn from them, without having to explain myself. Everyone is anonymous there.”
“So you’re on board with the idea?”
“Yes. If anything, it will pull me further into the modern age. A monster does need to stay with the times, I think.”
She nods as if she always knew I’d see her brilliance. “We’re going to have to talk about how we want to market it. I’ll do a press release. Simon can put some entries up on his website, maybe some more recipes.”
“We’re working on banners and cover art.” Adrienne chews thoughtfully. “We really need a headshot of you.”
I blink. “No photography.”
Laurie clears her throat. “Simon doesn’t do pictures.”
I put a segment of spicy tuna in my mouth as an excuse to avoid the issue, but she is keen enough to wait until I have smashed the thing to a pulp with my tongue. “If you just told the world — and every alphabet agency in it — that you were an immortal, implicated in about two dozen deaths or disappearances per annum, and then gave out your recipes for same, would you want your face all over the internet?”
“Hmm. I see your point.”
She smirks. I sigh. She doesn’t believe it either. Like Laurie, she finds my precautions silly, if entertaining.
I’m telling you — one day you’re going to wake up and find that all frontal lobe activity has dwindled to a hum that reads rather like a celebrity Tumblr feed. I and mine will wander the earth like a scourge, gorging on the fattened calves and dimwitted offerings of your intellectual transgressions.
“Besides, it’d be pretty difficult to decide on which face to wear! I mean he’s a man now, but sometimes he’s a woman.” Laurie points at me with her chop sticks. “He has all these synthetic parts. Like that German guy on The Strain.”
The hiss is all I can manage.
Am I to always be plagued by Bram Stoker and his undead offspring? He should never have popularized the fiction of Romanian housewives. All that glitters is not vampires!
What is it they say these days?
Let me see: #thestruggleisreal.
She catches a look at my fixed expression and swallows her hamachi. “Sorry! Vampires. Right.”
“You won’t even take a selfie with me?”
My mouth falls open. “No!”
Adrienne’s blond head tilts as she grins. “But your face is fascinating.”
“I’m giving very serious thought to eating both of you.”
Laurie laughs. “Relax, Lector! If you eat us, we can’t do a sequel.”
I prop my elbow on the table and cradle my face in my hand. “How exactly does one sequel one’s life, Laurie?”
I return to my food — out of responsibility, I assure you. Discomfort and exasperation make me hungry. Bad things happen when I am hungry.