Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Musical Muses for Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen, Part I

I couldn't explain the story of this book without telling the story of the lyrical muses singing in my head during the creative phase.

I've heard Stephen King say he listens to the loudest rock and roll and heavy metal he can get his hands on -- AC/DC is a fave of his -- while creating his scary novels. While I tended to write in silence, locked away in the upstairs office of my Audubon, Pa. home like some subdivisioned version of The Shining's Jack Torrance, I had 2-3 songs in particular in mind throughout the whole process.

Growing up in the Pottsville, Pa., region and, later, Reading, Pa. in the 1970s and 1980s, my friends and I had it rough. We grew up barely middle class - a lot of us - and saw our parents going to work at the crack of dawn to go to dead-end jobs where they'd be stuck behind a desk or, in my mom's case, tending to the every day health needs of the criminally insane as a nurse's aide at Wernersville State Hospital in Wernersville, Pa for up to 16 hours a day.

New Jersey favorite son Bruce Springsteen wrote the soundtrack to my childhood and teen years, and I wiled away many a day and night jamming to Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Born to Run was Springsteen's shot at the big time, and its nostalgic last look back at his teen years "echoed down them hallways in the night." But it was the decidedly less upbeat followup, Darkness, where Springsteen at last became an adult and worried out loud if his working class parents' fates might be his own, or those of his friends.

Springsteen lashed out angrily at the workaday fates of his parents in a little-remembered song called Adam Raised a Cain. The lyrics of this burner of a song, more than any other, rang through my head endlessly as I wrote Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen. In particular, the following stanza, formed the basis of the entire underpinnings of my book: "In the Bible Cain slew Abel. And East of Eden he was cast. You're born into this life paying, for the sins of somebody else's past."

In fact, the stanza actually appeared on the very first page, until my publisher, ahem, kindly advised me to remove it due to copyright infringement. (What they really were saying was they were too lazy to go through the legal hoops of getting the okay from Springsteen's people to use the lyric).

That's enough for now. More on this subject at a later date. Thanks for reading.


Kenneth James Kirsch

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Reviews Are In! (Well, one review anyway)

This from a reader on

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A tense, spooky, but loving tale of Prohibition-Era alcoholism and modern day recovery
Michelle B. from Austin, Texas, A reviewer, 08/22/2008

Kenneth James Kirsch has penned a winner with this debut novel. The characters are very skillfully drawn, and you feel an instant connection with and sympathy for the main character and victim, Leysa Henko.

Leysa Henko immigrates from Russia to America in 1917 with her older sister, Maryska, father Devak, and mother Ionna. Devak, an abusive alcohlic, opens a tavern in the hard-drinking town of Tallenook, Pennsylvania. Ionna is an angelic mother who teaches her daughters independence and how to be headstrong in a time of turmoil for women fighting for suffrage in the U.S. When Prohibition threatens the family tavern, and Ionna is weakened by tuberculosis, Devak presses his daughters into service delivering vodka door to door to Tallenook's horrific alcoholic shut-ins -- the Monstermen.

The book follows Leysa's descent from bubbly blond immigrant to embittered alcoholic adult. As a child, Leysa is visited by and supported by ancestors who've passed on. But as her view of the world turns dark, she can no longer tune into the help of her spirit friends and she is left to fend for herself. This is a true page-turner that will have you looking over your shoulder and around corners -- and leave you with a lump in your throat. Highly recommended."

I'm floored! -- and hoping for 100 more just like it!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Upcoming Appearances

I'll be appearing as follows in the next few weeks:

1. September 10, 2008.
A copy of the cover art for my novel, Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen, will appear on the Authors Promoting Authors blog site: Purchase info will be included as well.

2. October 2, 2008.
I will be appearing on the online radio program Today's Author at 8:30 p.m.
To ask me questions: 1-646-200-4071
To Listen and Chat: The show is aired LIVE at and an active chat session is online. After the show is aired, it is available for download at

3. October 9, 2008.
A copy of the cover art for Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen will appear on the Virtual Book Tour De Net blog site: Purchase info will be included as well.

Orange Clouds Blue Sky, a novel by J. Hale Turner

I wanted to take a second to recommend a great writer of children's books, J. Hale Turner.

J. Hale Turner's new book is called Orange Clouds Blue Sky. Check out the cover art and synopsis below, and visit J. Hale Turner at to learn more.
Almost sweet sixteen Skye Patterson is in a total panic, searching frantically for her younger sister, Starr, who disappears in the mall of all places.Autism combined with curiosity and mischief can label Starr more than just a handful.To face their uptight parents is another unbearable consequence, causing Skye's teenage declaration of independence to appear more and more dismal.
Time may heal old wounds, but patience is not Skye's best quality. She is bound and determined to find a solution to save her family's oncoming disaster for which she feels responsible.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen Excerpt

Here's a brief excerpt from Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen:
Chapter 6: Baptism by Fire(water).

There is a special place and time (an event one might call it) that alcoholics go to – those who drink alone, and most of them do at one point or another, sometimes for years at a time, despite their insistence to the contrary – called, for lack of a better term, “The Drunk’s Dark.”

The Drunk’s Dark is where the solo drinking – the real damage drunks inflict on themselves – happens. It’s usually done in either the living room or bedroom of one’s apartment or house; sometimes the kitchen for the hardcore drunks who like to deny themselves even the comfort of a padded sofa during these periods of queerly pious self-abuse and loathing. The time is usually around 1 to 3 a.m.

The Alone Hours, you might call them, occur after the lighted, pretty, social part of the drinking is done at the neighborhood tavern, or Elks Lodge, or dinner party – the kind you see in all those wonderful beer and liquor commercials with the beautiful people in their perfect clothes and their perfect teeth feeling perfectly content with their perfect drinks. Yes, friends and neighbors, after the back-slapping comes the back-stabbing. Nothing celebratory, or beautiful, or perfect, about it. This is where the drunk comes to do their penance, pay their fines, and rot away in their mental jail cells.

It’s also where the drunk goes to ponder their condition, their lot in life, and recount who is responsible and why, and, goddammit, how they would exact their revenge if only they could. If only this bastard wasn’t holding them back, or if that job had turned out differently and the stupid bosses would have made them supervisor instead of that other suck-up. The drunk rarely cries during these episodes because, after all, it’s all someone else’s fault, isn’t it? And that’s not something to cry about. It’s something to get pissed off about – to drink over.

The hour is quiet and the house is quiet. No TV, no phone, no radio. Just a drunk and their booze. There is no sound whatsoever, save for the dull landing of the hand on the metallic bottle lid, the tearing and simultaneous unscrewing sound as the metal lid scrapes against the threaded top of the bottle. Unscrewing that lid slowly, the initial resistance, then giving way, and spinning it on the tabletop is the triumph of control that every alcoholic craves. To a drunk, it’s that goood. The feeling of unfettered and guilt-free victory, the full-body tingle of discovery. The anticipation of release, of liberty, letting go of the questions without answers, letting go of the caring.

The light clank of the bottle as it brushes against, and then settles, on top of the glass for balance before the tip. The drunker they get, the louder that clang as the bottle struggles to find pay dirt on the top of the glass. It’s not uncommon for the drunk to find chips of glass on the kitchen table, or on the floor, where it’s discovered the next morning and accompanied by a hung-over pronouncement of “Oh, shit-damn-fuck. Goddamn glass on the goddamn floor! What the fuck?!”
Some drunks, when they’re really wasted, will use the threads on the top of the bottle as balance on the side of the glass. Call it an insurance policy, a failsafe, just in case the damn thing slips.

Then, another slight clink as the top of the bottle penetrates the glass for the pour. Followed by a muted glug-glug sound as the booze finds its way into the glass at last. At this point, the drunk feels their only joy in the process; they might smile even as they think: “Yes, that’s it baby, there ya go. This is victory, a victory for me. Look what I’ve created, world. I’m in control. I’m pouring my own drink in my own house, that I bought/rent with my own money, and it’s me doing it, you fuckers, it’s me. I’m in control here. I’m the boss of this one-person-booze-show. Me. No one else but me.”

The power is in the penetration as well; don’t let anyone tell you differently. Even drunks themselves are at a loss to understand, or even recognize, the sexual overtones of The Drunk’s Dark. Men are always the bottle, women are always the glass.

Then, the drinking. Followed by the loathing, the sorrow, and the utter aloneness of it all, the wretched rejection of life.

This is where Leysa Henko, a tired, skinny woman 57 years old with eyelids so puffy they seemed to be holding the woes of the world inside two leathered, worn and world-weary bags, found herself the evening after Joshua, Claire and Hope visited for that dreaded lunch. A manhattan sat in front of her in a glass, a triple-strength, non-judgmental friend accompanying her into the wee hours of the night, like it had so faithfully done so many times before. A Pearl filtered cigarette sat in the between the crystal sharks’ teeth of a thick glass ashtray; smoke trailed from it in a solitary chimney – rising in three straight chimneys at first, then swirling into a kind of weak nicotine funnel as it neared the ceiling.

Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen: No Fun and Games

Downer alert. Downer alert. Downer alert.

To answer a lot of questions about the reason for writing an intense, spooky "message novel" like Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen in these heady days of frothy Chick Lit, frothier Memoirs, froth-free Goth Horror, and Celebrity Cookbooks, read on.

Easy. I had a message I wanted to get out. Strike that. Had to get out.

Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen is about alcoholism, child abuse, endangerment and indifference. The backdrop is Prohibition. The victim is a little 5-year-old blond girl from Russia.

"But Ken, we've heard it all before. Remember the guy from Oprah who was caught with his proverbial pants down when he lied about his addictions in his own 'fictional' memoirs. And haven't we all been Dave Pelzer'd to death about this topic already?"

The answer: No, and No. It hasn't all been done. It hasn't all been said.

You haven't heard the issue of alcoholism and parental neglect worked over like this.

I'm not saying I'll have the last word on this subject, but I will have a word.

Read the next post for an excerpt. And let me know what you think.


Kenneth James Kirsch

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Great Free Blogs Promoting Authors

I'm going to start a catalog of sorts of cost-free online ways to promote what you write. Since joining Facebook, I've come across two really great ones:

Authors Promoting Authors (APA) is the brainchild of writer Tina-Sue Decross, a published author and another who is sympathetic to those of us seeking to promote online.

This site requires a quid-pro-quo on the writer's part. The day after your book appears, you have to post the next author's book and a blurb about it on your blog. You have an active blog as well, so if you don't have one yet, get cracking!

This one provides book art and a blurb about the novel as well.

The folks who run these blogs, Tina-Sue Decross and Karina Fabian, respectively, are great people doing a great service to all of us. Be sure to visit their blogs and spread the word.

Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen will appear on authorspromotingauthors on Sept. 10 and on virtualbooktourdenet on Oct. 9 .

I will be promoting an author myself as part of the agreement with APA and just to pass on the names of writers I admire and read.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What's That Smell? (An Interactive Exercise)

Writers strive for vividness. Vivid descriptions, vivid colors, vivid sights, memorable items in a room or setting -- something, anything, that will catch the reader's attention and put them there. In the book, in the room, in the story...

More often than not, the writer will go right for the eyes and neglect the other senses. "See what I see," the writer seems to say. But what that rationale is missing is the most powerful image-evoking sense of them all: The Sense of Smell.

We see more with our noses than our eyes when we read. Hit the subject right on the nose, so to speak, and you will paint 100 pictures with a single scent. Consider this passage:

"See here... this writer's den has a cherry wood desk with a hint of red skin underneath the surface brown. The desk is freshly dusted so it gleams and the red is no longer hiding, it is prominent. On top. An heavy glass ashtray sits in the upper right corner, cluttered with clumps of discarded pipe tobacco. "

What is this writer missing in conveying the scene of the writer's den to the reader? There are at least three olfactory clues in this passage that would convey the scene of the den much better if the writer was perceptive enough to pick up on them.

1. First of all, we know the desk is freshly dusted. Was it dusted with a lemon wax product, or straight ammonia, or a damp (perhaps musty) cloth? And how powerful is the smell from each -- what does it contribute to the overall smell of the den?

2. Also, we know the dusting brings out the red in the desk. But does the cherry base of the wood have any hint of the fruit scent left in it, and would it come out at all if the dusting product used was really powerful? Would the smells mingle at all, and what might that smell like?

3. Lastly, and most obviously, we know the writer was a pipe smoker. This is one of the most distinctive and distinguishable smells around, and it gives the reader an unmistakeable image of the den's owner: bearded, mid-40s or 50s; jacket with patches on the sleeves; professorial type who may or may not have a British accent. In this case, the writer has only to describe the smell left in the den by the pipe tobacco and the reader already "sees" the character.

Lastly, put yourself in the scene and decide which smell predominates, and which are secondary. Close your eyes, remember the scents and the character who owns the den, and breathe deeply. It should all come clear to you.

If you're interested, rewrite the above passage about the den scene and put in the smells to go with the sights and see how much better you can make it. Post your response to this posting. Let's see how many different takes we can get.

Bye for now.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Where else to find me

I'm on Facebook, search for Kenneth James Kirsch or Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen.

I'm also on MySpace,

Upcoming Appearances

I'll be appearing as follows in the next few weeks:

1. September 10, 2008.
A copy of the cover art for my novel, Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen, will appear on the Authors Promoting Authors blog site: Purchase info will be included as well.

2. October 2, 2008.
I will be appearing on the online radio program Today's Author at 8:30 p.m.
To ask me questions: 1-646-200-4071
To Listen and Chat: The show is aired LIVE at and an active chat session is online. After the show is aired, it is available for download at

Three reasons why Sarah Palin is bad news for the US

1. Sarah Palin supports teaching creationism in schools.
Didn't we just get finished killing this whole Intelligent Design nonsense a few years ago? After we figure out the mess in Iraq and redirect the right resources to Afghanistan, the next thing a new president must do is to Stop The War On Science! Evolution is proven my neocon friends; you lost the argument, get over it. And teaching both would be just as bad. Can you imagine the confusion?

2. The Whole Abortion Mess.
Dear Gov. Palin's own daughter is pregnant now, but I'm sure it won't change her stance a bit. Extremists like Sarah Palin see issues as black and white, not in shades of gray. People who disguise their unilateral focus, and resulting bullying, as leadership are simply incapable of thinking across the spectrum of solutions. We don't need any more so-called leaders with tunnel-vision. Can you imagine her talking to Putin? "Sorry Vlad old pal, it's my way or the Siberian Highway..."

3. Plain Old Idiocy
Sarah Palin wants Hillary supporters to vote for her simply because she has the same genitalia as the former first lady. Sarah Palin can't hold a candle to Hillary intellectually and she sure as hell can't give liberal or moderate women who study the issues a single decent reason to vote for her. The blatant pandering makes me want to throw up.

Welcome to the Kenneth James Kirsch Author Blog!

Welcome to my blog. I'll try to keep it short. I don't have time to waste my time or yours!

I'll cover a lot here and welcome comments:

1. BOOKS: First off, I'll tell you about my book. I just published my first novel, Demon Alcohol and the Monstermen. It's the tale of a Russian little girl, Leysa Henko, who immigrates to America in 1917 with her family and is terrorized by the town's alcoholic miscreants, the Monstermen. I may even post the random excerpt from time to time.

It's available on,, and, among other book selling sites.

2. POLITICS: I'm a very free thinker. Liberal on some causes, conservative on others. Somewhere in between on most.

3. OTHER AUTHORS: I'll tell you what I'm reading, why I like it, who I've heard about, and how I heard about them.

4. PROMOTIONAL APPEARANCES: I do radio shows from time to time and discuss the issue of alcoholism and child endangerment dealt with in my book. I hope you'll tune in.

Also, I'm participating in a new service called Authors Promoting Authors, a new blog-specific promotional avenue for authors. I hope you'll follow me over there.

5. FOOTBALL: Love it. Take it very seriously. Big Cowboys fan.

6. WHATEVER YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT: Post comments and they could very well become a topic.