Day Three of My Holy Quest for Ebook Reviews
The next morning, I took a handful of morning after pills – otherwise known as aspirin – for my Tickofferov-inspired hangover, and then took stock. In my quest for reviews, I was out one friend and over ten thousand dollars. With the real possibility of doing a tango with the fishes in my future.
And still no reviews.
I called Erkyl.
“It didn’t work out with Tickofferov. Any other suggestions?”
He was so quiet for a moment I thought he’d hung up. Then, “I have one more. But, really, it’s only for extreme emergencies.”
I thought of all that glaring white space on my book page, where reviews were supposed to be. “This is pretty extreme.”
“Okay. There’s this shop.” He gave me the address. “Go there. Ask for Lo Chung. He will sell you a book…”
“It’s called the Necronomicon.”
The interior of the shop was gloomy and smelled of herbs, spices and mold. Strange artifacts squatted on dusty shelves. Tentatively, I approached the counter, where a young Chinese girl was reading a tabloid. She glanced up at me and raised an eyebrow.
“Uh, Lo Chung?”
She looked over her shoulder and shouted at a closed curtain. “Grandpa! Customer!” Then, ignoring me as only a teenage girl can, she turned back to her paper.
The curtain parted and a tiny Chinese man entered. His smile was friendly and inviting. His eyebrows were as bushy as twin gray caterpillars. His eyes twinkled with mischief.
“Welcome to Lo Chung’s Emporium,” he said. His voice held a sing-song quality, and I was mesmerized. “How can I help you?”
“A friend sent me,” I mumbled. “Said I could get a copy of a book here.”
“Which tome of knowledge do you seek, my friend?”
The smile fled his face. “I would not recommend you purchase that book, my friend. Much less read it.”
A chill swept up my spine. “Why’s that?”
He looked down at the floor. “It is a book of the foulest evil, filled with dark magic. Only a fool would ask for such, only a fool would tempt fate by messing with such dark forces.”
“But Mr. Erkyl said…”
His head came up quickly. “Erkyl? Well, why didn’t you say so? So you’re another writer, eh? Let me guess? You’re seeking reviews?”
“You got it.”
“Then the Necronomicon is the perfect resource! Come, come!”
He led me back into the shop’s furthest recesses, where the darkest shadows ruled. Climbing up on a footstool, he reached to the highest shelf, and pulled down a thick, dusty treatise that looked as if it had been bound in dry leather.
He waved a dismissive hand. “Don’t let this cover of human skin deter you,” he said. “Most books of dark magic were bound thus. Something about the aesthetics…”
He blew dust from the cover, and the title Necronomicon appeared as if by, well, magic.
Lo Chung thumbed through the book. “Where is it, where…?” He glanced up, the twinkle back in his eyes. “I’ve looked this up for so many wanna-be authors, you’d think I’d know the page by heart by now! Ah, here it is – ‘How to Summon a Demon to Grant Book Reviews'”!
“Yes, yes, by far the most effective way to get the reviews you need. Of course, there is a slight danger involved…”
“Okay, how much for the book?”
“Ten thousand dollars.”
Why was I not surprised.
I finished chalking the outline of the pentagram on my dining room floor, glancing back at the book every once in awhile to make sure I had it right. I’d already mixed the potion, concocted from a liter of distilled water; a dust bunny taken from under a marriage bed; a chicken’s beak; a dash of alcohol (I used tequila, there were a few drops left); hair plucked from a Sasquatch’s ass (I couldn’t find a Sasquatch, so had to improvise using fur from my cat Henry. He wasn’t too pleased with that little development, and let his claws do the complaining. Which turned out to be a good thing, because the final ingredient was…); blood from a not-so-smart human.
Following the book’s instructions, I sprinkled the foul potion over the pentagram. If this worked the way the book said, when I summoned the demon, it would be trapped inside the pentagram. If I messed it up…well, let’s just say that I would then probably be messed up.
I lit the black candles. Then, steeling my nerves, I recited the spell.
The demon was green, with patches of foul yellow warts covering its body. Curly brown horns sprouted from its forehead. Kind of cute. Shark teeth lined its wide mouth, and the black pupils in its red eyes were slit, like those of a cat. Speaking of cats, I heard Henry yowling as he made tracks for the furthest reaches of the house.
Squatting on the floor, the demon didn’t seem like much. Then it sprang up, towering well over six feet. It glared at me and hissed, and I felt my bladder do a little dance. I avoided voiding by a sheer effort of will.
“You’re stuck in there,” I said, indicating the pentagram. “You can’t harm me.”
The demon looked around, then tried to extend its clawed hand over the pentagram. Electricity sparked, and it withdrew hastily with another hiss.
“So you got it right,” it said. Surprisingly, its voice was well modulated, sounding somewhat like Rush Limbaugh. “You get to live a while longer. You’d be surprised at how many writers flub it. You guys aren’t the brightest bulbs in the chandelier.”
“What…what happened to the ones who screwed up?”
The demon grinned. “Let’s just say they have their library cards…revoked.”
It looked at me, cocked its head. “So what do you want?”
I gathered my dwindling courage. “Reviews,” I whispered. “I need reviews for my new book.”
The demon shook its head. “Amazing. You’re the fifty-seventh writer in a row to use that review spell. I mean, why not ask to write the perfect book? Or, hell, to just sell some? But no, all you guys want is reviews.”
“From what I’ve learned, they’re the one necessity to establishing credentials as a legit author. They’re the Holy…”
“Grail. I’ve heard that line ad nauseum. Oh, well, if it’s reviews you seek, it’s reviews you’ll get. They’ll all come from dead people, souls doing time in Hell, but who will know? I don’t believe even Amazon’s algorithms have become that sophisticated.”
“Dead folks? That kind of seems like cheating.”
“Hey, dead people vote in elections every year. If it works for politicians…”
“Oh, yeah. I see your point.”
“And, anyway, beggars can’t be choosers.” It scowled at me again. “I seem to sense I’m your last hope.”
“Can you really do it? Get me reviews, I mean?”
“Sure. I’m a demon. I can do just about anything.” Its gaze was hot and eager. “Of course, there’s the small matter of my fee.”
“Not ten thousand dollars, I hope.”
“I’m not that greedy. All it will take for a shitload of reviews to appear on your book page is the soul of your first born.” It looked at a document that had suddenly appeared in its hand. “That would be first name, Josh, middle name, Daniel, would it not?”
“Now wait a minute. You think I’m going to grant you my son’s soul just to get reviews for my book…”
The demon rocked back, clearly surprised. “Well. Never thought I’d hear an author turn down that deal. They usually jump right on it.”
“…without some kind of guarantee? And what did you say, I didn’t get that last part.”
It sighed. “Never mind.”
The demon produced a contract, flipped it across the pentagram barrier. “Just sign by the X, and throw it back. You’ll see a mix of four and five star reviews appearing on your book page, starting right after I get your John Henry.”
“And what will happen to Josh?”
“Hey, no worries. You won’t be seeing him again, but I’m sure you have pictures.”
I hesitated for a minute, then sighed. “I’ll have to think about it.” I wadded the unsigned contract and tossed it back to the demon.
He smiled a knowing smile. “Sure you do. When you’re ready, just summon me again. I’ll be around.”
With a pop, the demon vanished.
It’s now been a week since I summoned the demon, and I’m still undecided. Right now, I’m sitting at my writing desk, contemplating what to do. I still have no reviews, and time, as they say, is a-wasting. Should I sell Josh’s soul to the demon for a wealth of book reviews?
It’s tempting, I must say.
I’ll have to ponder on it some more.
The phone rang, and I answered it. Heavy breathing. Then “You that sorry writer feller? We’re gonna fix you. Gonna egg yer car. Toilet paper yer house…”
“Uh, ain’t no Booger here. We’re gonna, ah, pull up yer flowers…”
“Booger, I know that’s you.”
“No it ain’t. It ain’t me!” Click. The line went dead.
That Booger. Boy can hold a grudge.
The phone rang again. Sighing, I answered.
“Hello, Rickard my friend. Just call to ask why you miss first payment on loan? I think maybe I send two associates to give you attitude adjustment.”
Sweating, I hung up fast.
Yet again, the phone rang.
“Dad.” It was Josh, sounding a bit irritated. “Everywhere I go, there’s this pesky demon following me around. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”
“Nooooo, not a thing, son.”
“Dad. It’s salivating.”
“Sorry, son. Gotta go.” Click.
I think my Holy Quest for reviews was a bust. All I’ve accomplished so far is to piss off a friend, become indebted to the Russian mob, and irk my son.
But, more importantly, I still have no reviews for my book. And the clock is ticking.
Maybe this review business is the wrong way to go. Maybe the Holy Grail is a crock of shit.
I’m pondering switching strategies. There’s this fine writer named Dean Wesley Smith. Dean advises that writers just write the next book. Then the next. And quickly. Churn out the best work you can, and let the chips fall where they may.
Unfortunately, ol’ Dean is a true phenom. He’s writes fast. Lightning fast. Like Tesla crossed with Ben Franklin’s kite spliced to Dr. Frankenstein’s electric monster-animating thingy. Like Isaac Asimov on steroids, he produces great writing at warp speed.
Me? My writing’s more like spilling a vat of molasses in winter.
But the more I think about it, the more my introverted soul just wants to write the next book. And the next. Even if the writing comes at a snail’s pace. If the books are good, reviews should follow organically. And so will the fans.
If not…well, I have a connection with this certain demon…