This Just Out – The Girl in the Trees

Free from Smashwords and Feedbooks (and soon to be 99 cents also from Kindle, the first edition of The Girl in the Trees is now available – it’s simply some straightforward fiction. A short novel that’s simply a novel. No gimmicks. No tricks. No zombies out helping the homeless. No interstellar parrots. No disposable time machines. No vampires lurking in subways. No incompetent private detectives. None of that. Just the story of a girl who lives by herself and likes it like that.

Love it or Hate it

I first wrote The Part Time People in 1984, after having worked for a time in an odd independent bookstore on San Francisco’s Market Street called the Bonanza Inn Bookshop. There were many things I loved about that store (which has long since disappeared), especially some of the great people I worked with there. It certainly had its share of weirdness, though, both from within and without. We had one guy working in the basement who decided that another guy was visiting him in his nightmares and raping him there. Eventually the manager fired him, but he kept showing up to work, insisting that it was where God wanted him to be. We had any number of street people wandering in. One lady in particular insisted I was the Devil, and would come in to remind me to “get back to work! the devil don’t get no rest!” The store was famous for its selection of historical picture books about railroads, and train fanatics from around the world would come and hang around and chat about old trains. Best of all was the wonderful antique manual cash registers we got to use. I inherited one of them when the store went out of business, but ended up giving it away after lugging the several hundred pound thing from one apartment to the next in the city.

The Part Time People was somewhat inspired and based – in feeling and tone – on that store. In the story, a crazy young man writes on his job application that “there’s a man who follows me around and ruins everything I try to do”. I did actually see such a job application that year at the next bookstore I worked at. We also got one from a lady whose reason for leaving her previous job was “I bled”. The original thought behind the story was, who would hire anyone who put something like this on their job application? Some kind of dysfunctional manager, no doubt, and if he did that, who else would he have hired? What kind of store would it be? The underlying joke of The Part Time People was that the manager was crazier than any of the lunatics he ever hired.

A couple of years ago, with the help of a real editor – Ben Allen – I rewrote the story, eliminating one character entirely, and radically changing the ending. Whereas previously it had ended in a muddled tragedy, now it ends in a completely different and unexpected way. Ben also helped me revise Fixture, another oldie that needed a facelift.

The reaction to The Part Time People has surprised me. For some reason, it has remained on the top 100 of Kindle’s free Literary Fiction list for more than a year, yet more people hate it than love it, and most of the reactions have tended to be extreme in that way. Naturally, people with an urban retail background are far more likely to ‘get it’ than rural or suburban folks. A lot of readers have been “disappointed” or “bored” (common reaction). I went through and collected parts of some of the reviews below. The numbers in parentheses are the number of stars the reviewer gave. I can’t say I disagree with anything anyone had to say about it.

(2) I was completely disappointed not only with the length of the story, but the lack of depth it held. It was just one big mindless plot of strange people, with crazy issues, and no real basis as to why or resolution about what happens with them or too them. The writing itself was good, the author has talent and honestly if this was an intro to his work, it was a bit of a letdown. 

(3) I enjoyed this story. The characters were very human and believable.

(2) The entire short story seemed almost boring and pointless, besides a few strange characters.

(5) Well worth reading and examining.

(1) The characters were peculiar and often inconsistent. You never truly understand any of them. The plot just seemed a little too obscure to grasp. 

(5) I thoroughly enjoyed this read. The author has really picked up on the nuances of human behavior. I feel as though the characters are people I have worked with in the past!

(1) This was an utterly, poorly written piece of work; better yet…you can’t even call it a story: 0 It was merely the ramblings of a mad man!!! Nothing made sense in this piece!!!

(5) While this story is a fun, quick read, it’s also a good little sketch of human nature in all it’s myriad forms.

(3) I have to admit that at first I just didn’t get it, but if you browse through it a second time, honestly it’s fantastic. Satirically funny. Witty, weird situations that mark Lichtenberg’s work.

(5) The ending sentence made me laugh out loud

(4) I generally like this author’s work, and found the premise of this short story interesting. Based on prior experience with the author, I had a feeling that everything wasn’t going to be quite what it seemed. The story got out to a fairly slow start, and I agree with other reviewers in that there wasn’t a lot of character development or background given. I didn’t particularly notice inconsistencies, though. I was waiting for a twist, and I was not disappointed. I had to chuckle a bit at the end at how the author made his point, and how it had been in the background all through the story, oh-so-subtly. If you like short stories, I’d recommend this (especially as a freebie), but the reader should be warned that there’s not a lot of action, and there’s nothing particularly mysterious or supernatural or anything like that about the part time people. I’d consider this more of a psychological or character-study type of story.

(1) I expected this story to have some suspense and mystery, especially with the synopsis that we are given. However, I was greatly disappointing.

(4) Think: Twilight Zone meets John le Carre or O Henry (their people-seeing abilities). Perhaps not intended for the perpetually cool. 

(5) Do you like character driven stories whose authors are obviously inventive people watchers? Do you like unique, imaginative short pieces which let you peek behind the masks of ordinary people? Do you like watching The Twilight Zone? If you answered “yes” to these questions, there is a good chance you will be happy you tried “The Part Time People”. If you don’t mind being a little off balanced by a tale, in fact, a little quirky is interesting to you, you might actually find this story to be a gem in the rough.

(1) I have no issue with unreliable narrators, but it is difficult to tell what is happening in this story because the writing is too poor for readers to be able to draw any conclusions…The experience of reading this story is kind of like if another species was writing about humans and their interactions. We know we don’t act that way, but to a elephant, these interactions might make sense.

(1) The only good I can say about “The Part Time People” is that it was a free download and it was short.

(1) what a waste of time! an insult to my kindle. pointless read. wasn’t worth being free. don’t waste your money. only got a star because i couldn’t select none.

(4) It is a very quirky tale about some very socially awkward people. Most of the characters show a degree of self monitoring, anxiety and self consciousness with which few people, thankfully, are burdened. This story is less plot driven and more of a character study of the shifting perceptions of a bunch of social misfits who are thrown together in a newsagency. As other reviewers have noted it has a twilight zone feel to it but all of the strangeness is coming from the character’s confused and paranoid responses to their world rather than being inherent to the environment itself. If you feel like you don’t quite fit in and don’t know why then you will probably empathise with some of the characters here. 

(3) Good characters, plot, I was pulled into what I thought would be a murder mystery and found the ending a real surprise.

(2) Strange & rather depressing.

(3) I would characterize the book as a type of Alfred Hitchcock story. It has an interesting ending. I liked the book.

(3) I liked this book very much. You really do meet all kinds when you work retail. I was a little worried about David, but the ending was great. 🙂

Goodreads Giveaway: Dragon City

Unfortunately, the Goodreads Giveaway Widget doesn’t work on WordPress, but anyway …

I am doing a Goodreads Giveaway of the paperback version of Dragon City, five copies to be shipped to winners picked at random by Goodreads, but the epub ebook version is also available for free from Goodreads consisting of all four books in the series: Snapdragon Alley, Freak City, Dragon Town and Happy Slumbers (which are all also available for free from Smashwords and Feedbooks in any case)

I was a bit lazy about getting my cover to work with CreateSpace’s cover designer, so I went with a simpler design using one of their built-in formats. Still pretty nice, I think

Happy Slumbers – Dragon City – Book Four of Four

Happy Slumbers is now available from Smashwords, for free.

“Everything costs, even if you only pay with your time. Who is it once told him, he wondered, that time is really the only true currency we possess? […] It occurred to Alex that so many people confuse value with money. They absorb the common myth that all things are measured in coin, and the more the thing costs the more worthy it is, and yet you never pay cash for what matters the most.”