Sunday, December 29, 2013

Did My Mom Review My Book?

When people tell me that they enjoyed my book On the Backs of Dragons, I will usually ask them to leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads (once I get over the giddy feeling that such comments give me, which can take anywhere from minutes to hours).  These sites appear to be the best way to reach new readers, so I figure it's worth a shot. Unfortunately, this seldom happens, although I understand--who has time to leave a review? I rarely leave reviews myself for things that I enjoy (and by rarely, I mean almost never), so why would I expect differently from others? The truth is, I don't expect anything. But one can always hope.

However, a few people have been kind enough to grant my request. I am always gratified and humbled when they do so. At this time, I have four reviews on Amazon, one of which came from a request, two of which came from people I don't know, and one of which came from my mom.

Wait--did my mom really leave me a review on Amazon? My mom reviewed my book? The mom who will call me because things aren't working on her computer? We've all had those conversations:

Me: "Hello."
Mom: "Yeah, my computer won't turn on, and I don't know why!"
Me: "Did you press the power button?" (Note: This is a legitimate question and will often solve the problem, but we'll pretend it didn't this time.)
Mom: "Yes, that was the first thing I tried!"
Me: "Is it plugged in?"
Mom: "Oh, that's right, I unplugged it because the TV said there was a chance of lightning."

So anyway, THAT mom left me a review on Amazon. How is this even possible? The mind boggles.

Now, there are a few ways to take this. Number one is that sadly, a good review from my mom does me no good. It only makes it look like I desperately crave for people to leave me good reviews on Amazon. Now, this is 100% true, but I do not want it to LOOK like that. Right?

Number two, it is true that people do not know this is my mom. However, she left the review under her real name. It is true that it could be my mom, or my cousin, or my brother, or whatever--but with a name like Morong, the credibility of such a review is going to be low. We're not talking about the Smiths here.

Number three, I need to be grateful that it is a GOOD review. What if my mom had panned my book? I can't even comprehend the implications of that.

So the question is, what do I do with this? Do I ask her to delete it? Do I ask her to create an alias such as "ThisisnotJeremy'smom" or "Iamnotrelatedtotheauthor" so that it looks like the review came from an independent source? (I can only imagine how long it would take me to walk her through that process!) Or do I take it as how it was intended: my mom was proud of her son for actually seeing a goal through and publishing a book. She wanted a way to express that. Leaving a review on Amazon was her way of doing it.

I think we'll go with that one.

In short, the review can stay, and if it prevents me from selling any copies, so be it!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Weird Things I Saw Working at Target -- TPS Report

I have always taken a certain amount of pride in my work ethic. From the time I was 11 years old, I would mow every lawn possible and shovel every driveway, for as much or as little as they wanted to pay me so long as they did pay. I would rake leaves, dig gardens, pick up cans from the street. I even collected bags and bags of pine cones once, gathering them for a lady who promised my friend Harold and I $20 a bag (she said she needed them for crafts). We had visions of untold riches as we scavenged neighbor yards and Gallagher Park until we filled 8 grocery bags until they were nearly ready to burst.

She ended up paying us $10 for the whole lot. What a rip!

Sadly, we did not have TPS reports.
I began with this because I don’t want you to think any less of me when I describe my next Weird Adventure at Target. As previously described, my first job at Target was as a cart attendant. Good times. However, after a time of doing that another position opened, one that did not require me to mop up puke or clean women’s restrooms. I could become a Target Protection Specialist. A TPS. It paid a little more for a lot less work.

It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

A TPS is basically a glorified Wal-Mart greeter or a low-budget security guard. My job was to stand in front of the store and watch for anyone who looked suspicious. That was it. I could also walk around the store once an hour to make my “presence felt.” I can only imagine the fear I inspired in the hearts of any would-be shoplifters as I strolled down the aisles, my very footsteps turning thieves into jelly. As Denzel said in Training Day, King Kong didn’t have sh-t on me.
Turning shoplifters into jelly!

But as easy as the job was, it kind of sucked. Leaning against a cart all day might sound fun and glamorous, but I am afraid to say that it is not. I was bored stiff. I actually fell asleep one day while standing, well, leaning against a cart, only to be awoken when a customer asked me something followed by “Sir, are you asleep?”

Um, no. . .

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Weird Things I Saw Working at Target -- The Purse

Oh how I miss you, Tar-ghetto.
The first ever job I ever had was working at Target—for two and a half years, I did the retail thing, and let me tell you, there’s not a day goes by that I don’t miss it. Well, maybe not, but I do look back on those innocent days fondly--in part because it was just so weird. Here is the first installment of what could be others in Weird Things I Saw Working at Target. Believe me, I saw some weird freaking things.

Today's story is one I will call The Purse Incident. When I began my illustrious career at Target, I was a “cart attendant.” This was a fancy way of saying I was the general “b-tch” at the store. My main duties consisted of collecting carts from the parking lot, cashiering if needed, and picking up hangers and those little plastic CD holders (remember those?) from the checkout lanes. Easy enough.

Off to the women's restroom!
Unfortunately, that wasn’t my entire job. There were other situations that could arise on a given day. If there was puke in an aisle, guess who came to clean it up? Me, of course. Spill in aisle three? I was on the way. Someone spray sh-t all over the bathroom stall? Yeah, me to the rescue. (Ladies, I am looking at you, the women’s restroom was ALWAYS worse than the men’s!)

However, out of all the nasty duties I had dumped on me (perhaps a poor choice of words), my least favorite duty was emptying the trash cans in the front of the store. Why, you may ask? It doesn't seem too hard, does it? The reason is simple: nearly every time I did this, someone I knew came into the store. It is impossible to look good while trying in vain to stop a leaking trash bag--leaking because someone chucked an entire Big Gulp soda in the bag. You are the lowest employee on the Target employee totem pole and everyone knows it. Good stuff.

This might be a better candle idea than Trash in the Summer.
So that brings me to the purse story. It was a hot summer day, though still early in the morning which means someone forgot to empty the trash the night before and I hope they burn in hell. The trash had fermented rather nicely by the time I got to it, emitting that beautiful summer trash smell. Coming soon from Yankee Candle. . .

When I went to switch out the trash, I happened to notice that there was a purse sitting on top. Since purse snatchers were not uncommon, I opened it up to make certain the purset didn’t belong to anyone—it was ratty and beat up, but you never know. The purse was empty, so I threw it back in and went over to the other trash can, paying it no mind.

I was going about my work, moving as fast as I could, when I noticed an out of “costume” transvestite walk up to the can I had just emptied. Yes, I knew he was a transvestite despite being out of costume--there was a group of them that shopped there regularly. I paid him little mind because they would often fish through the ashtray on top for any cigarettes not fully smoked, which always disgusted me. Then again, waste not, want not, right? (For the record, this was not only a transvestite thing by any means. It happened quite often, but it was commonplace to see many of them doing it. And I apologize if I am using the word transvestite wrong—he was a male cross-dresser and I think it is the right word? Maybe?)

After I bagged up the rest of the trash, the cross-dresser transvestite walked over and asked if I had seen a purse. Well, as you know, I had. Weird, but OK, I live to serve. I opened up the bag and since the purse was conveniently on top, I let him take a look. I didn’t know how it got there, and I didn’t really care, but if he wanted it, he could have it.

So he stood there examining the purse while I pushed my flatbed loaded with putrid garbage into the store. Just as I entered, he approached me again, handing me back the purse. He seemed upset as he did, and waved his arms around while he talked to me.

“No no no, this isn’t the one. There was ANOTHER purse that I was looking for! Did you see another one in there?”

Can’t say that I did.

He asked to look through the bag o' trash, and who was I to deny him? I was nobody, that’s who—the low man on the totem pole, the guy that took out trash and cleaned up the puke. I let him have at it.

But while he was digging through the trash, all I could do was stand there and wonder how in the hell this guy could be looking for a purse in a trash can where I just happened to find one, and yet somehow it was not the right purse. How is this even possible?

As for the other purse, he never did find it in that trash can, and he left dejected. Sorry dude.

Monday, November 11, 2013

What I've Been Working On

For those who don't know, November is National Novel Writing Month. I've never participated before, but since I happened to have the week off to start November and was getting ready to bang out something anyway, I decided to jump in feet first and give it a shot.

The basic idea behind it is to get 50,000 words by the end of the month. Doesn't matter how you do it, just do it. I think this is a great exercise even when it's not National Novel Writing Month. No matter how hard you try, I'm fairly certain that for the bulk of us wanna-be writers, the first draft is going to be terrible. So there's no sense in lingering on each and every word, because either way, it will probably stink. Sorry, but it will. Bang it out, then go back to it later.

I'm far from a veteran, but what I've noticed is that there is only so much you can outline and plan before writing. I think it's good to have some major concepts, clever ideas, characters, etc. queued up and ready--certainly do what you can beforehand, but it seems to have its limits. At least, my imagination is only capable of doing so much. But when you actually get into writing, ideas will appear, characters can materialize, and plot points can tie together. Or they can fail spectacularly. Either way, the work has to be done, and banging out whether it be November or February seems to work best.

So here is what I have been up to, writing-wise. I finished a couple of drafts on a little vampire hunting novel titled Adventures of Braxton Revere and recently received back some edits from a very fine young editor. I'm looking forward to digging into those, though it will be hard work to bring this idea up to snuff.

I also received word that a short story I wrote, titled Jim, will be published in the winter edition of a new literary journal titled Midnight Circus. I'm excited about this for many reasons, obviously. Foremost of which, I'm excited because it is my attempt to pay tribute to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, my favorite novel. The story is a second person narrative following Jim on his escape from slavery. I recently reread the book, as I am wont to do, and I was really struck by the idea that Jim's daughter, who is deaf and can't read because it is forbidden by slaves, has to somehow be told that her father is gone. Heartbreaking. I'm excited to share it with the world.

Lastly, the project I'm tackling for November is a sequel to On the Backs of Dragons. I had a lot of ideas for a sequel, but was having trouble weaving them together. But the combination finally spun in place and I've been having a blast revisiting that world. It's been fun visiting a world I've already created rather than building from scratch this time around. And I hope people who enjoyed the first one will be excited to see what Caroline, Mouse, Jonas, Akari, Chupwah, Eston, Maldazor, Cyril, Jomey, Matthias, Fritz, Tod, Drake, Grayson, and many others have been up to. A lot of it has been quite a surprise to me! So far, the part I have enjoyed the most was revisiting a couple of very minor characters that appeared only briefly--if you've ever wondered what happens to the nameless Storm Troopers or SPECTRE henchman after their failure, you might enjoy it, too.

One other thing: make sure you check out my short story Ellen and Helen below. I didn't get much feedback on it, so it's either terrible or people didn't read it--or both! Regardless, I had fun doing it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ellen and Helen

Happy Halloween! A trick? No. A treat? Up to you. Here's a little short story I wrote in the vein of one of my favorite shows, "Tales from the Crypt." Just something I thought up while watching the party scene in "The Addams Family" movie. Also my first "stab" - heh - at a horror story. Turned out a bit more gruesome than planned and outlined, so reader be warned...

Ellen and Helen 
by Jeremy Morong
(Free PDF available here for easier reading)

Ellen kissed her boyfriend good-bye for the umpteenth time, sending shivers down her sister Helen’s spine. Worse, when their lips smacked together, they created little kissy noises that further repulsed Helen.

Helen was forced to listen, having no choice in the matter. But she didn’t have to watch them kiss, too. So she turned her head and closed her eyes.

The lovebirds finally finished their bit of unpleasantness. Helen resisted the urge to upchuck along with the stronger, more primal urge to strangle her sister. Helen shuddered: how much more of this could she take?

“Good night, dear,” the boyfriend said. A stupid grin spread across his face, which masked his evil intentions as far as Helen was concerned. “And Helen, please think about what we have asked—it would mean so much to us.” He grasped Ellen’s hand as he said this, very much playing his ridiculous part of one-half of a happy young couple in love. Disgusting.

Helen merely nodded in reply, indicating she would think it over. Which was a lie. The only thing Helen would be thinking over would be the finishing touches on how to murder her sister.

It had been a long time coming.

Friday, October 18, 2013


My claim to fame today:

I don't even really know how to navigate Twitter, but this is pretty cool: Arnold Schwarzenegger re-tweeted my tweet! (Did I get that right?) Not gonna lie, been a huge fan for years, and since Arnold actually runs his own Twitter unlike a lot of celebs, this made my day.