book cover
Living in St. Jude, a 110-year-old dying city on the edge of the Mississippi, is tough. But when a letter informs fourteen-year-old Cinque Williams of the passing of the father he never met, he is faced with an incomplete past and an uncertain future. A curse meant for his father condemns Cinque to a slow death even as it opens his eyes to the strange otherworld around him. With help from the ghost Willy T, an enigmatic White Woman named Iku, an African Loa, and a devious shape-shifter, Cinque gathers the tools to confront the ghost of his dead father. But he will learn that sometimes too much knowledge can be dangerous—and the people he trusts most are those poised to betray him.

First four chapters are free, depending on how good you are at solving puzzles.

Reviews – What’s Being Said About Tone Milazzo & Picking Up the Ghost

African magic and folklore color this unusual coming-of-age story . . . . [T]his debut entertains with an original approach and mix of breezy humor and dark fantasy.
Publishers Weekly

If Salvador Dali were an author, his work might resemble Tone Milazzo’s Picking Up the Ghost. Okay, maybe Milazzo’s book has a little more structure than Dali’s melting pocket watches. But there is no doubt that Milazzo can paint a world with words, and the surreal setting he created for this coming-of-age adventure is both dazzling and terrifying. . . . [E]ven if you’re not an urban fantasy fan, I definitely recommend this book. Milazzo has unique style that is downright weird, but has a literary quality to it. I think we can expect more great stories from him.
SF Revu

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Mouse is a young lady from Boundary, a section of the land called the Park. It borders the Jungle on one side and Newer Orleans on the other. While Earth hangs in the sky up above. Keeping their community running takes long days of work. It’s not enough, not enough food, not enough goods. Mouse asks, “Why is everyone working so hard? There’s got to be a better way.” But innovation is against the laws of the Castle the capital of the Park.

So Mouse works on her technology projects in secret. Like figuring out how the robotic Elephanthead that hangs over the town’s bar works. It’s been there as long as anyone can remember, singing songs and reciting poetry at random. Alone one night, Mouse cracks a code in Elephantheads’ ramblings. It tells here where she can find the Park’s most contraband items, books. There’s a room full of them in the Cursed Manor.

She returns from that haunted place with an armload of precious books. Unfortunately, a representative from the Castle arrives in Boundary. It’s the Duck, as unreasonable as he is unintelligible. He knows someone from Boundary has stolen from the Cursed Manor. He’s here to findthe transgressor. While the Duck tears up Boundary searching, Mouse finds a slot in the back of Elephanthead. It’s big enough for a damaged copy of Don Quixote. When she slides it into the slot, Elephanthead becomes fully functional. Or at least as much as head can be, a head who’s a bit insane.

Mouse covers for the awakened Elephanthead. But all Hell breaks loose when the Duck discovers what she’s done, pirates from another community raid Boundary, and a giant headless robot body with four arms stumbles into town. Mouse dodges pirates and the Duck. Elephanthead’s body pulls his head from the wall of the bar and places it on his shoulders. For the first time, Elephanthead is complete.

Whole, Elephanthead makes short work of the raiding pirates while the Duck escapes. It seems that Duck arranged the pirate raid, but why? Elephanthead declares Duck a villain and sets off on a quest to bring him to justice. Mouse sees an opportunity to find out why the Park is the way it is. With Elephanthead she’ll be safe anywhere.

The Duck fled across the desert and Elephanthead and Mouse followed. Over Lighting Mountain. Through the aging city of Newer Orleans, rotting and decadent. Across the river, its single island home to an orphan boy of terrible disposition. Down Main Street, pristine and empty, at least by humans. And into the high tech Land of Tomorrow, with rockets built that have never launched.

That’s where Mouse meets a real engineer. Someone who maintains the robots of the Park. Robots like the Duck. For centuries, these robots have maintained the status quo at all costs. Mouse finally has the answers to her question, “Why is everyone working so hard when there’s a better way?” The robots have been keeping people too busy to improve their lives or change anything in any way.

Outraged, Mouse vows to bring the whole system down. So people can control of their own destinies. With loyal and strong Elephanthead by her side, she follows the Duck’s trail into the Land of the Fantastic. A journey to the Castle itself, to take down whoever sits on the throne. Instead of a who, they find a what. The personality of the Park’s inventor, projected as a hologram. It explains that the Park is a space station that used to be an amusement park. When the Earth’s environment collapsed, people fled to the Park for safety. To keep them safe is to keep them from leaving, which means keeping them too busy surviving to do anything else.

Mouse isn’t having it. With the knowledge she’s learned in the Land of Tomorrow, she wipes the computer version of the Park’s founder. The orbital amusement park’s systems begin to fail. Leaving people in chaos, but free. And Mouse heads back to the Land of Tomorrow to get those rockets working.

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Beverly Bambury joins me for the second, and probably last, Learned it the Hard Way Podcast. Before she was a publicity agent, Bev worked in a call center. Listen to find out what she learned about herself, and how she built her career around her limitations.
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Bad Dog – outline

All his life, Mark did everything right, everything he was supposed to. He studied hard and got good grades. When he graduated he worked hard and was loyal to his company. It didn’t matter. Nobody cared. After all that effort, he was just another disposable cog in the machine of business. Thrown away every time an accountant somewhere figured they could save a few bucks without him. And every time he got laid off, he’d have to start his career over again. He ended up at an Internet sweatshop cranking out websites for little pay and no respect.

It was the same with women. He was polite, patient. Picked up every check without batting an eye. He’d sometimes get a second date, but never a third. He tried to keep his hopes down, but they’d rise every time, only to get crushed and crushed again.

Still he soldiered on. Looking for the one thing missing that’ll help him get his life on track, turn it around. Maybe he needed a pet. So he adopted a dog from the shelter, a tiny little mutt, named Butch. A sympathetic act toward a helpless animal, sure to ingratiate him with his coworkers. And a cute little dog could to get him attention from the ladies. A month later, the dog tore up his apartment, defecated everywhere, and was driving Mark insane. Enraged, the threatened to kill the animal. Unimpressed, Butch told Mark, “You haven’t got the balls.”

Like Marley & Me meets The Exorcist, the little dog drives Mark further from reality and deeper into depravity. Mark thought his life was worthless before, but when Butch is done with him there’s nothing left, just a man sleeping in his car. That’s when Butch makes Mark a deal. He’ll give Mark everything he ever wanted, in exchange for his soul.

Desperate, Mark agrees to this Faustian bargain.

Butch sends Mark on a series of infernal missions, each more depraved than the last. And each time, Mark’s life gets better; a new job with coworkers that respect him, a new home with neighbors that like him, and a loving girlfriend. But some of them are starting to suspect that there’s something not quite right about his little dog.

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My agent asked that I start writing another novel. One that’s unrelated to The Faith Machine. I’m writing up three, one-page outlines for her. Here’s the first. What do you think?

1930s New Mexico, when the headstrong young Beth isn’t helping run the family inn she’s butting heads with her mother, or pining for her beloved father. The man left almost two years ago, seeking his fortune. The inn’s done a good if grim business taking care of farmers escaping the Dust Bowl to California. Until a preacher shows up one day looking for her father. The preacher took a room to wait, but something about the man of God drove away the other customers. Beth hears a vile rumor her father’s in a jail two counties over. She takes the shotgun down off the wall and goes to clear his name. A week on foot, she reaches the jail and finds his no-good twin bother and con man in the cell instead. Her uncle knows where her father has gone and makes Beth an offer. He can’t get there, but if she springs him from jail he’ll take her to someone who can, the wild woman of the plains, Dorothy Gale.

Dorothy’s been wandering Western Kansas through the black blizzards of dust. She’s been trying to catch the wind. She returned to Kansas looking for love, but never found it. And she’s been searching for a way back to the land she left ever since. The land where she’s a princess. With a book from Beth’s father’s library, the three figure out how to cross through the winds and into the magical land called Oz.

But it’s a land torn apart by war, having fought off an invasion from below by the Gnome King’s forces and above by the Wicked Witch of the Night. A magical child again, Dorothy abandons Beth and her uncle to reclaim her place in the Emerald City. The remaining Americans travel alone across this strange and worn torn land. Past the Patchwork Girl and her nation of constructs. Through a shootout with a group of deserters of the Gnome King’s army. Across a narcotic poppy field and its gardeners. Trapped by the giants of Tartary, and more.

Beth and her uncle follow her father’s trail across the ruined land of Oz. Following her uncle’s lead reluctantly, they con help from locals. People who’ve crossed her father’s path, for good or for ill. They discovers her father in the adulterous company of the Wicked Witch of the Night. And he’s happy right where he is. Beth realizes her father’s as sinful as her mother told her, even more than her uncle. But family comes first. Beth makes a hard choice, tricks her uncle into taking her father’s place, and dragging her father back across Oz.

But the shortcuts and betrayals she and her uncle committed traveling here become new obstacles on her way back. And Dorothy’s return to the Emerald throne ignite her enemies who blame Beth for Dorothy’s return. Meanwhile, the Witch of the Night discovers her consorts betrayal and reignites her war on Oz.

Only when she stops taking the advice of her father and uncle and starts living by her own standards of honor and honesty can Beth stop the Witch of the Night’s war on Oz. Which allows them to journey home. When they return through the Dust Bowl to their inn in New Mexico there’s still the preacher. Dealing with him will force Beth to work with her two worst enemies, her parents.

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Circle of book life

Tim Powers was signing his new book months ago at Mysterious Galaxy. I have most of his short stories in one form or another. But he’s one of my favorite authors and always a pleasure to hear him speak. During Q&A, he told a story from when his first book was published.
At a Los Angeles book fair, he spotted Kurt Vonnegut waiting alone between engagements. Tim rallied his courage, walked up to him, and said, “Excuse me, Mr Vonnegut? I just wanted to say your work has been a huge inspiration to me. I’m an author too. My first novel’s just been published, and it would be a great honor if I could give you this signed copy.” Vonnegut accepted the copy with a grunt and a nod.

Later that afternoon, Tim found that copy of his book stuffed in a planter. Tim made himself a promise: If he ever did throw out a fan’s book, he’d use a trash can with a lid.

Years ago, Tim Powers and I were on a Comic Fest panel. Afterward I told him, “Mr Powers. I just wanted to say your work has been a huge inspiration to me-”

If he did throw it out, at least I now know he used a trash can with a lid.

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6 Rough Pages of Dead Women

I sent Freaky Vicky six pages of stick figures, and she sent back six pages of magic. And these are just the roughs. I can’t wait to see the finished product.

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Dead Women Page 1

Here’s the roughs of the first page of the comic Dead Women, “Seven Samurai but instead of swordsmen it’s undead women, a vampire, a ghost, a skeleton, a zombie, etc.”
(My layouts are on the left, Freaky Vicky‘s are on the right)

Dead Women Page 1 roughs

I have the series outlined and the first issue scripted. Once the first 6 pages are drawn, colored, and lettered we’ll have a finished package for submissions.

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Learned it the Hard Way was my first crack at podcasting. It won’t be my last, but next time I’ll build momentum with a series of interviews. Releasing the first show in the afternoon didn’t help either. I recorded one other interview. I’ll engineer that one myself and get it posted here later this month.

Miguel RodriquezMiguel Rodriquez came to California with nothing but his wits and a love of films, both highbrow and low. Listen to his story as he poured sweat into his festival year after year, and appreciate what it takes to build a grassroots art scene.

Check out his festival and podcast at Horrible Imaginings
Follow him on Twitter or Facebook
Back him on Patreon

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Striking Out on My Own

I’ve been freelancing for three months now. I like the lifestyle (because I hate commuting), but making it pay has proven challenging. I’m pursuing three enterprises: creative writing (as always), WordPress development, and doggy daycare. So far doggy daycare pays the best, in that it pays at all.

It’s nice to imagine I’m living the life of a professional writer. On paper I’m closer to that goal than ever before, but that paper isn’t green. I have to be realistic. Even if The Faith Machine sells tomorrow I still need to pay my bills. Hence the side hustles.

The WordPress development is cranked and ready to go. All I need is leads. I’ve put ads on Craigslist. I’ve tried networking at small business events. The magic hasn’t happened. Not yet. But I’m not giving up either, still pounding the pavement.

Maybe it’s time to update my skills. I’ve thought about a website that expands on the Magic Spreadsheet. Maybe it’s time to learn Angular, Python, and Django and make it a reality.

At least the house is clean.

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