Maelstrom Extra: Pants Problems

Friday, January 30, 2009 reviews (Comments): 13
“But Kalila,” Ricky tried to get her to look at the credit card statement. “Did you really need three pairs of the exact same boots?”

“They phase out old styles all the time,” she said. “This way when one pair wears out—”

Ricky rested his elbows on the table, willing himself to remain calm. “You’re a djinn. You can fix them, or conjure new ones, or—” he looked up as Bo emerged from the other room, clad only in a black leather jockstrap. “What the hell? Put some clothes on.”

“I’m trying, human.” Bo ambled over to the sofa and began rummaging among some magazines and damp towels. “It’s just that my favorite pants are missing.”

Kalila leaned back in her chair. “They probably became someone’s souvenir. How many girls did you have here last night?”

Bo was peering beneath a sofa cushion and didn’t look up. “Including or excluding the tranny?”

“Oh, never mind.” Kalila stood and gave Ricky a stern look. “I’m not discussing my shoes with you any more. Just pay the bill and wake me up when we need to leave for the show.”

Ricky watched her dissolve into blue smoke and pour herself into a bottle. By now Bo was standing in the middle of the room, hands on his hips, looking around in exasperation. “Any chance you could put something on?” Ricky asked him. “Even if it’s just a towel?”

“Why? Do I turn you on? I can look for my pants later if you’d like to—”

“No, and I wish you’d quit asking.” Ricky made as if to pick up the credit card bill again, but then reconsidered. “Don’t you ever have misgivings about your behavior? Any regrets?”

Bo quit rifling through a satchel that usually held sheet music and CDs, and couldn’t possibly contain his pants. “I’m sorry, Ricky. What?”

“You know, don’t you ever wish you’d done things different? You’ve gotten the band kicked out of several venues, you’ve been beaten up by jealous boyfriends, shot at by a pissed-off wife, kicked out of the band multiple times, and banned from the zoo. Don’t you think that’s a little excessive? And now you’ve lost an expensive pair of pants because some girl wanted them as a memento.”

“Actually, I think it was the tranny,” Bo said thoughtfully. “She was asking where I got them and what they cost.”

“And doesn’t this tell you something about the need to make a few changes?”

Bo considered. “We should make my pants an ongoing line item in the budget, shouldn’t we? This seems to be happening a lot lately.”

“Uh…right.” Ricky sighed and rubbed his forehead. “How about you bring that up at the next band meeting?”

“Nah.” Bo waved a hand in disgust. “Everyone's okay with it when it’s the djinn’s new boots on the bill, but no one wants to pay for an incubus’ pants.” He went into the bedroom, muttering that he would just have to wear his old pants for the night’s show, and nobody better steal them, no matter what their gender.

Ricky sat for a moment, pondering. Then he reached for his BlackBerry and made a memo to himself to mention both the boots and the pants at the next meeting. Either everyone’s clothes went onto the budget or no one’s did, and if Bo’s pants didn’t constitute a business expense, then neither did Kalila’s shoes. It wasn’t going to be a fun conversation, and if anyone had any regrets by the time it was all over, Ricky had a feeling it was going to be him.

Maelstrom Extra: Cold Autumn Day

Thursday, January 29, 2009 reviews (Comments): 3
Dry leaves crunched under Ricky’s feet and he pulled his coat tightly around himself. The park was an unfamiliar one, but it could’ve been any park, anywhere. It all ran together when one was on tour.

He stopped to look around and immediately wondered why he bothered, since there was little to see but bleak skies and jagged oaks whose dry leaves fluttered to the withered grass below. In the distance, an empty swing set sat forlorn, a reminder that summer was over.

It was just another depressing corner park in a dejected, soul-warping town. What was it like to live in a place like this? Were the people here content or did they long for the city, the way Ricky yearned for bigger things he couldn’t put a name to?

“I doubt the cattle of this place give much thought to anything at all.”

Ricky started. “Must you appear out of nowhere like that?”

Kalila turned up the collar of her cashmere coat. “I came from somewhere. Just because it isn’t somewhere you can see doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

“Please don’t get technical on me.” Ricky started walking again.

Kalila tagged after him, her hair splayed on the wind. “So what are you doing out here? You should be at the hotel nagging us about something.”

“I needed some fresh air.”

“I know how that is.” She took a deep breath and sighed in satisfaction. “I can’t feed properly on still days. Wind like this is a feast.” She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. “So why did you need air? You’re awfully pensive.”

“I just wanted to get outside for a little while, see the town.”

Kalila glanced around skeptically.

“And I got to thinking about the turning leaves, winter coming…”

“You’re getting metaphorical, aren’t you?”

Ricky shoved his hands in his coat pockets. “Time is ruthless. Why shouldn’t I think about it sometimes?”

Kalila shuddered. “It’s unpleasant. You can’t do anything about your mortality, so why worry?”

“That’s easy for you to say. You can take your life in a new direction anytime you want, but if I screw up…”

“You’re not screwing up.”

“Three of your gigs have fallen through.”

“But the others haven’t. The shows we played have gone well—”

“Except the one where Vic bit the girl who was supposed to take the cover charges and Bo spent half the first set playing bondage games with the bar manager.”

“A detail.”

“Yeah.” Ricky sighed. “My life is full of those kinds of details, and compared to yours, I’ve only got an eyeblink in which to achieve—”

“What, Ricky?” Kalila’s voice took on an edge. “What’s so damn important that you think you’re not accomplishing? Money? Fame? A wife, kids, and McMansion? What?”

Ricky stopped walking. “I’m not sure, okay? I just know there’s something better out there. Something bigger than what I’ve got now.”

“Oh.” Kalila nodded wisely. “You’re right about that. There’s a lot you don’t understand. But your human brain wasn’t made to understand it. You can feel it at what I guess you’d call a spiritual level, but…” she frowned as she searched for words to explain. “This world is like a puppet show. You see things move and they look real enough, but what matters are the things you can’t see beneath the surface.”

“Now who’s talking in metaphors?” Ricky started walking again.

Kalila hesitated, then caught up to him, matching his stride as they crunched through the dry autumn leaves.

They walked for a long time without the need of words, and after awhile, Ricky reached for her hand and was relieved when she didn’t pull away. It was comforting to have her here, even though she wasn’t human and couldn’t really understand. She had listened, and it helped. And when they came to a giant sycamore tree and looked up to see the clouds parting, Ricky felt her fumbling caress as she twined her fingers through his.

Maelstrom Extra: Sensible Shoes

Monday, January 26, 2009 reviews (Comments): 2
Kalila pushed open the shop door and stood for a moment, getting her bearings. Everywhere she looked, human females huddled over shiny new shoes, gawking and fondling them as if each one were a prize. She sniffed in irritation and made a beeline past spike-heeled pumps, strappy sandals, and metallic gold flats.

“Can I help you?”

Kalila spun around. The clerk was young, weak-chinned, and clearly eager to please, which was exactly as he should be. “I need new boots,” she informed him. “I’m a musician, and I want something that will look good on stage.”

The clerk quit staring at her breasts long enough to glance at her feet, then led her to a wall display. “Something like this, maybe?”

Kalila raised her eyebrows. “You think I’m crazy? I’d break an ankle in those heels.”

“Maybe this?”

“I hate wedges.”

He motioned to a low table cluttered with ankle boots in soft forest colors. “These have been popular this winter.”

“I’m not an elf, so why would I want boots like one?”

The clerk bit his lip and pondered a moment, then redoubled his efforts. He showed her fur and fleece cuffs, buckles, ties, and straps. Short boots, tall boots, black, brown, leather and suede, all were met with haughty djinn disdain. Kalila had finally consented to try on a pair of leather riding boots and was waiting while the clerk rummaged in the back room, when something caught her eye.

Four-inch heels, patent leather, platforms, cuffs and tassels…all the things she had spurned, but…she walked over to the boot as if in a trance. This was perfection. This was glory. This was—

“Uh, ma’am?” The clerk was by her side, waiting with a box.

Kalila shoved the fancy boot at him. “This is what I want. Three pair.” She fumbled in her purse for her credit card.

“Don’t you want to try them on first?”

“Just ring them up, will you?”

While the clerk fumbled in the storeroom, Kalila waited at the counter, nearly bursting with impatience. In her mind she could already see the photo shoots and videos with her feet in these wonderful, magical boots. She barely gave the clerk a chance to put them into shopping bags before she snatched them out of his hands and hurried out the door.

In the parking lot, Ricky was sitting in his Lexus, sending emails and text messages on his Blackberry. Kalila slid into the front seat and opened one of the boxes, ripping apart the tissue paper in her excitement. She held up a boot for his inspection. “What do you think?”

Ricky stared in unreadable silence. Finally he said, “I thought you were going to get something practical.”

Men! Kalila slid back the seat and squirmed as she took off her shoes and pulled on the glorious new boots. When she was shod to her satisfaction, she set her feet against the glove compartment, ignoring Ricky’s glare as her heels nicked the leather.

“There’s something you need to understand, Ricky Landon,” she said, as she rubbed an imaginary spot of dust off one of the toes. “Sometimes the last thing a djinn should have on her feet is a pair of sensible shoes.”

Maelstrom Extra: Tribute

Sunday, January 25, 2009 reviews (Comments): 7
Normally Ricky enjoyed hanging out with Nevin and Kalila while they were writing a new song, but today he found himself gazing into the distance, forgetting where he was, returning to the moment reluctantly, as if it was a chore.

Nevin’s hands paused over the keyboard. “Is something wrong?”

“You’re acting like you’d disappear if you knew how to do it,” Kalila added.

“No,” Ricky sighed. “I’m fine. This session is going really well, and…” he met their eyes and realized they knew he was lying. “It’s just that today is the anniversary of my father’s death. I’ve got a lot on my mind.”

Nevin came over and gave him a hug. “I’m sorry. You must miss him a lot.”

“I never really had a father,” Kalila said, her voice soft with sympathy, “But I know how special they are to humans.”

“It’s been ten years,” Ricky said. “And it’s a lot easier than it used to be. I think the hardest part is that he was the only person in the family who understood me. My mom and brother are all about status, but Dad didn’t care about things like that. He would’ve been proud of me no matter what I did with my life, even if I was a ditch-digger, as long as I was a happy one.”

Nevin frowned in confusion. “But you aren’t a ditch-digger. And you’re happy, so…?”

“What he means,” Kalila said, “Is that his mom and brother are embarrassed that he manages a rock band instead of working in a bank or something.” She glanced at Ricky. “I’m right, aren’t I?”

Ricky nodded. “Sometimes I think they’re jealous because Dad and I were so close. It’s depressing to think how one mistake on a dark road can change everything. My life could’ve been so different.”

“No offense,” Kalila said, “But we’re pretty happy things worked out like they did so we can have you here. But if it’ll make you feel better, I can blank out some of those memories for you.”

“That’s a nice offer, but I don’t think so.”

“How about your mood?” Nevin asked. “I can fix that up without altering any of your memories.”

Ricky shook his head. “Thanks, both of you, but I’ll get over it.”

Kalila looked at him in confusion. “But why would you want to keep memories that cause you pain?”

“I guess it’s one of those human things,” Ricky said. “The memories hurt sometimes, but they make me happy, too. It’s like having souvenirs of a place that isn’t there any more. The memories help keep my dad special and alive.”

Kalila and Nevin pondered this.

“Would you like us to write a song for him?” Nevin asked.

Kalila agreed. “It's not much, but it’s what we're good at.”

Ricky felt a sting in his nose and blinked back sudden tears. “Thanks, you two. That would be nice.”

Contest: Win a Date with Bo!

reviews (Comments): 10
Have you ever wanted to spend some time with an incubus? Now is your chance! Bass player Bo Valentino has agreed to take some lucky winner on the Valentine's Day date of their choice.

Rules of the contest are as follows:

1. Eligibility. Must be an adult human. Any gender, race, religion, fetish, etc, is acceptable. Couples and groups are okay too, as long as all participating members are adults.

2. How to enter. Leave a comment to this post or send email to Maelstrom's author. One entry per person, couple, or group. Contest will close to new entries at 10 pm US Central time, February 7, 2009 .

3. Selection of the winner. Winning entry will be selected at random after 10 pm on Saturday, February 7, 2009 and the winner will be notified immediately. Announcement of the winner on this site will take place no later than 10 am on Sunday, February 8, 2009.

4. Responsibility of the winner. Winner must agree to guest-blog about their date by sending Maelstrom's author a story of no more than 1,000 words to be posted on February 14, 2009. If the winner does not want to write their own "Date with Bo" story, they must collaborate with Maelstrom's author, who will write the story herself.

Please note that because this is an "all-ages" site, stories cannot be graphic in nature. Anything else is acceptable, though. Was it romantic? Sexy? Did he run off with your friend or spouse instead? Did he show up at all, or did he get the wrong house and spend the evening romping with your neighbor? You decide. The funnier, the better! If you need inspiration, check out Bo's stories under Maelstrom Extras or contact the author for ideas.

5. Responsibility of Maelstrom's management. Broken hearts, arrests, and other mayhem resulting from a date with Bo Valentino are not the responsibility of Maelstrom or its Management. Winner assumes all responsibility for the outcome of dating an incubus.

6. Note about additional prizes. Winner will be asked for their address so an additional prize can be mailed. Winner will advise Management if they have any food allergies, especially with regard to chocolate. If the winner is in the United States or Canada, the prize will probably arrive in time for Valentine's Day, but Management makes no promises about the efficiency of the US postal system.

Ready to play? Leave a comment! If you're shy, send an email to Maelstrom's author instead.

Good luck!

Maelstrom Extra: Just Another Demon Dispute

Thursday, January 22, 2009 reviews (Comments): 6
“You. Are a bitch.”

Ricky paused outside the rehearsal room. What were they arguing about this time?

“You’re jealous.”

“And you’re an arrogant, conniving brat, always stealing the credit.”

“At least I’m not a blood-sucking freak of nature who thinks everything is about him.”

Ricky shoved open the door and Vic and Kalila stopped shouting at each other. At the far end of the room, Bo and Nevin were pretending to ignore the argument while Lazaro tapped out a cadence on a practice pad. “What the hell is going on?”

“Nothing,” Kalila said, “Other than that this vicious spawn of Satan cops an attitude every time I give an interview.”

“It’s not the interview, although it wouldn’t kill her to be a little humble about it,” Vic said. “The problem is she’s a back-stabbing diva who took all the credit for Take a Beating, after we collaborated on it.”

“I wrote the music,” Kalila said. “You can’t have a song without music.”

“And I wrote the lyrics. How's anyone supposed to sing it without words?”

Kalila appealed to Ricky. “Tell our vampire poet that he can bite Emily Dickinson if he thinks words are so damn important. We’re a band. Music is what matters.”

“And you can tell Barbara Eden here that if she doesn’t want lyrics for her songs, she should’ve formed a jazz band.” Vic leaned in close to Ricky, baring his fangs. “I deserved credit for that song. Tell her.”

“Don’t listen to him,” Kalila said, her eyes flashing fire and her voice so sensual Ricky could almost hear her purr. “Tell him I’m right and put an end to this.”

Ricky darted a glance toward the other band members, but they were studiously looking anywhere but at him. “Uh…I think this is one you two will need to figure out on your own.”

Kalila and Vic stared in disbelief. Then Kalila sniffed and picked up her guitar. “What would be the fun in that?”

Vic agreed and went to check his mic. “I’ve got better things to do than argue with a djinn. I’m more of a ‘lie in wait’ type of guy.”

“Good luck with that,” Kalila said.

“I’ll remember you said that. So, Take a Beating from the top?”

“Sure.” Kalila glared at Bo and Nevin. “What’s the matter with you slackers? This is a rehearsal. Ricky, tell these hellspawn…."

But Ricky, having sensibly resolved not to be put in the middle of another demon argument, was gone.

Maelstrom Extra: No Magic in the Breakdown Lane

Monday, January 19, 2009 reviews (Comments): 3
Ricky sat at the kitchenette table, trying to catch up on his work. Going with the band in their tour bus wasn’t very professional, but it beat trusting them to get to gigs on their own. Luckily everyone was easy to deal with today. Vic and Lazaro were asleep, Kalila was in her custom travel bottle, Nevin was reading a book about endangered water birds, and Bo was in the lounge, watching porn on the plasma TV. As long as Ricky kept his earplugs in, there was nothing to distract him from—

The bus gave a lurch and a shudder.

“Everything all right up there?” Ricky called. When he didn’t get an answer, he went to the front, where he found Calvin cursing as he maneuvered the bus off the highway. “What’s going on?”

The werewolf waved a hand at the dashboard. “Says ‘check engine.’ Could be anything.”

Ricky peered out the windshield, then at the GPS. “Can’t we at least get to someplace with a gas station?”

“You want to push?” Calvin snarled. “Accelerator’s not doing anything.”

“Great.” Ricky went to the back of the bus, where Nevin had set his book aside and Bo was momentarily distracted from the heaving, silver-painted bodies of Space Orgy VII. “Something’s wrong with the bus.” Ricky looked at Nevin. “Go see what you can do to help.”

“I’m sorry, Ricky, but I know nothing about mechanics.”

“I mean, go do some magic or something.”

“It’s against the rules. We can’t use magic to get to or from a venue.”

“But you’d be using magic to fix the bus, not to transport us anywhere.” Seeing that Nevin was unconvinced, Ricky tapped on Kalila’s travel bottle. “Wake up. We’ve got a problem.” When she didn’t come out, he tapped again, harder.

This time, a thin stream of smoke drifted out of the bottle’s mouth. It took several minutes, but finally it coalesced into a shadow, then into Kalila, who stood blinking and scowling sleepily. “What do you want?”

“The bus is stopped,” Ricky said.

By now Calvin had joined them. “It won’t go at all. Engine’s dead.”

“Well, that’s not my problem.” Kalila started to waver as she prepared to go back into her bottle.

“Wait,” Ricky said. “You need to fix the bus. Nevin has some crazy interpretation of the ‘transportation by human means’ rule that says you can’t fix a breakdown with magic.”

“He’s right,” Kalila said, dissolving into a cloud of blue smoke. “Call Triple-A.”

Calvin gave Ricky a pointed look. “You heard the djinn. Get us some human help.”

Ricky called the service number, and was informed it would be at least an hour before someone could come to where they were. In exasperation, he went outside with Calvin, hoping he might see something under the hood that he could fix, but the big diesel engine was beyond his limited understanding. They would have to wait. Ricky walked away from the bus and called the venue manager in the next town to let him know they would be late.

Frustrated, Ricky walked the gravel shoulder of the highway. They were near a scenic overlook with a cleared area for admiring the valley below, so he wandered over, took a few pictures with his Blackberry, then leaned against the railing and gazed out over the lush landscape.

“Poor Ricky,” said a voice at his elbow. “You’re upset.”

Ricky turned to see Nevin eyeing him curiously.

“I’m sorry we can’t fix the bus,” Nevin said, “But you really don’t want us to forfeit the bet with Gotterdammerung, do you?”

“No, of course not.” Ricky leaned back over the railing. “Five hundred years in Hades would suck. But—” he turned to look at Nevin again. “Why the silly rule? ‘Human fame by human means’ is so much harder than just waving your magic wand.”

“That’s the whole point,” Nevin said patiently. “It’s supposed to be a challenge.”

“But why make it hard on yourselves? All of life is a challenge.”

“Not for us. This builds character.”

“Well, I could use a little less of that.”

“Oh, Ricky, you should look at the positives.” Nevin leaned out over the railing and pointed to the river below. “Isn’t it beautiful? It’s a sunny day, the sky is blue, we’re in a lovely part of the country, and just think—we almost missed this view.”

Ricky looked at his watch.

“Stop that. You need to learn to relax, let go, and just accept that some things are going to be how they are. You need to find a way to make the best of it.”

Ricky looked back out over the valley. Yes, it was nice, and if the tour bus hadn’t broken down, he would’ve missed it, but…. “Uh, Nevin? Does the ‘no magic’ rule apply to hurrying up the tow truck?”

Nevin met his eyes for a long moment, then shrugged. “I suppose not. But you know, if we were an ordinary human band, you’d be in this exact same situation. It’s only because we’re different that you expect more.”

Nevin walked away, leaving Ricky alone. What the keyboardist had said was true. He expected murder and mayhem after every show, but assumed that djinn and fairy magic could save the day when he was tired, in trouble, or simply wanted a waffle. His view of how the world worked was becoming so warped it was a wonder he could appreciate anything normal any more.

With that thought in mind, he looked once more over the valley, drew in a deep breath of the golden afternoon, and sighed. It really was a pretty day. It would’ve been a shame to have missed it.

Lazaro’s Thoughts: Pilgrimage of the Living Dead

reviews (Comments)
My visitt to Evans City Cementary Cemetery was a disapointmunt. No other zombies and no humans exsept Ricky, who Kalila says I can’t eat because he’s our manger manager, manager.

Peeple think life is hard, but being ded is no picnic eether.

Pilgrimage of the Living Dead

Saturday, January 17, 2009 reviews (Comments): 6
Ricky went to the band’s suite and shoved his way past the werewolf that opened the door. In the front room, he found Nevin picking out notes on a keyboard while Kalila flipped through a biography of Mozart. Vic lay on the sofa, wrapped in his favorite shroud, and from the back room, Ricky heard the sound of squeaking bed springs. Ricky looked at his watch in annoyance. “Why aren’t you guys ready? The venue manager is expecting you at three so you can set up.”

Kalila looked up from her book. “I’m afraid we’re going to have to cancel, Ricky.”

“Is someone sick?” He looked around the room. “Where’s Lazaro?”

“He had something urgent to take care of,” Nevin said. “A pilgrimage of some sort.”

Ricky stared in disbelief. “Zombies don’t go on pilgrimages.”

Kalila shrugged and set her book aside. “We’re near a sacred spot, and since we’re heading out tomorrow…”

“What are you talking about? We’re not near Lourdes, Mecca, Mount Fuji, or anything. There’s no sacred spots anywhere around here, so what—?”

By now Vic had woken up and shoved the shroud out of his face. “He went to the Evans City Cemetery, human. We’re only about thirty miles away, you know.”

“Evans City…” Ricky searched his memory. “Night of the Living Dead?”

“He wanted to visit his kin,” Kalila explained.

“But that was just a movie. Don’t tell me he thought it was a documentary.”

“It doesn’t matter what he thought,” Vic pointed out. “If we don’t have a drummer, we don’t have a show.”

“This is ridiculous,” Ricky said. “You guys are not canceling your show just so the drummer can spend the night wandering around an old cemetery.” He headed toward the door. “Go to the venue and get set up. I’m going to get Lazaro.”

It wasn’t hard to find the cemetery. Ricky went north on the highway, cut over to Evans City, then went south on Franklin Road. As he turned into the cemetery, he felt a shiver of déjà-vu. He parked near a boarded-up building he thought he remembered from the movie, then went to look around.

The place was rather ordinary, with neatly trimmed grass and plenty of open space between the headstones. Everything was so tidy and well cared-for that Ricky felt himself relax. This wasn’t the place of movie-inspired nightmares. It was just an ordinary graveyard where people with bigger problems than his own had found peace.

He looked around, suppressing a sigh. It was easy to get caught up in the worries of the day, but eventually this was his destination, just like everyone else’s. To the person who would one day stand over his grave, Ricky’s troubles were no more important than those of the people underneath his feet today. In fact, maybe—

With a howl, something slammed into him, knocking Ricky off his feet. He found himself struggling with a powerful creature, twisting and grabbing, trying to pull his attacker down. He narrowly escaped hitting his head on a marker, and screamed as a gaping maw of yellowish teeth closed in.

Then just as suddenly as he had been attacked, he was let go.

“Oh, it’s you,” Lazaro said, backing away. “I thought it was someone with brains.” He helped him to his feet. “Sorry about that.”

Ricky wasn’t sure whether to feel insulted or relieved, and decided to let the matter go. “Just a misunderstanding,” he assured him as he tried to catch his breath and straighten his clothes. “Uh…look. It’s kind of a problem that you skipped out like this.”

Lazaro shrugged and started walking across the manicured lawn with Ricky tagging after him. “Thought I should see this place. Thought I might…you know, make some friends.”

Ricky looked around doubtfully. “Any luck with that?”

“No.” He stopped and frowned at the serene landscape. “It’s not like the movie.”

“Most things aren’t.”

“Yeah.” Lazaro looked at his feet, almost as if he were embarrassed. “Just an ordinary cemetery.”

“I’m sorry.” Ricky waited to see if Lazaro would say anything else, and when he didn’t, he asked, “So you want a ride back? You’ve got a gig tonight.”

“I know. Drums.”

“So come on, then. This place is just some Hollywood director’s screwed up fantasy. But we’re better than that.” Ricky held out his hand. “Let’s go make our own reality.”

Bo's Thoughts: Forfeit

Friday, January 16, 2009 reviews (Comments): 1
Vic told me about this website. He said I ought to come take a look, and a good thing I did, because I found a story here called Forfeit and as usual, someone’s trying to make me out to be the bad guy just because humans have this weird obsession with monogamy.

Let’s face it, monogamy is damn inconvenient. If I respected every human commitment, I’d starve. No one ever goes with me by force and I make sure my dinner has a good time. Afterwards, if she or he wants to go back to their favorite human or whatever, that’s cool. I’m not looking for a “forever” meal ticket. I like variety in my diet.

So anyway, Meredith was a nice supper and once her boyfriend quit throwing things and yelling at me, I had him for dessert. Fun guy. I could see why Meredith liked him. The band got to play after all, and we even got our security deposit back.

That just goes to show that sex can fix almost any problem. And if you don’t believe me, get in touch and let me know where to meet you for a demonstration. I’m always hungry.

Maelstrom Extra: Forfeit

Thursday, January 15, 2009 reviews (Comments): 2
Ricky handed Connor the check and waited while he examined it. “This is irregular,” Ricky reminded him. “We shouldn’t have to pay in order to play here.”

“After what Maelstrom did at SineWave last year, you’re lucky anyone will book them.” Connor tucked the check into an envelope and dropped it in the safe. “Besides, a security deposit isn’t the same as paying to play. If they don’t do anything crazy, they’ll get it back at the end of the night. Now come on,” he stuck out his hand. “It’s nothing personal, so let’s shake on it and I’ll get you a drink.”

Ricky shook the manager’s hand and followed him out of the cramped office. The club wasn’t much of a place, just a gutted warehouse with a bit of drywall tacked up and covered with dark curtains to give the impression of rooms and substance. Connor's girlfriend Meredith was supposed to be doing bar setup, but since she wasn't around, Connor went behind the bar and poured them each a scotch.

Ricky accepted his drink and tried not to glance too often at the stage. Lazaro was setting up his drums, Nevin was letting Calvin help with his keyboards, and Vic and Kalila were taping down the electrical cords to their amps. They looked like any other band. Harmless.

Ricky took a sip of his drink.

Connor disappeared into the liquor room at the far end of the bar, then returned, frowning. “I wonder where Meredith went?” Muttering, he flipped open his cell phone.

While Ricky waited to see if he would get an answer, he looked again toward the stage. All busy and accounted for, acting like humans, except…where was Bo? Ricky scanned the stage again, hoping his eyes had deceived him. Vic and Kalila were tuning their guitars and Lazaro was adjusting a cymbal. But Bo?

“Dammit, she was just here a minute ago,” Connor said.

“Restroom?” Ricky offered.

“She would’ve answered.”

“Maybe she went out to her car for something,” Ricky said. He tossed back the rest of his drink. “Excuse me. I’m going to see if my guys need anything.”

While Connor tried again to call his missing girlfriend, Ricky climbed up on the stage. In low tones he said, “Where’s Bo? And don’t make excuses.”

Vic raised an eyebrow. “Do I look like an incubus babysitter?”

“We don’t keep tabs on each other,” Kalila reminded him. “He’ll be set up in time for the show. Don’t worry.”

“It’s not the show I’m worried about.” Grimly, Ricky went behind the stage and followed the narrow hall to the makeshift room that served as both dressing room and storage. The door was closed, but he could hear enough through the thin walls to guess what had happened to Bo. And Meredith.

He paused, hand in the air, unsure whether to knock or walk right in when Connor appeared by his shoulder. “Hey, glad I found you. I was wondering if—” A moan from the other side of the door stopped him in mid-sentence.

Ricky tried to stop him, to no avail. Connor slammed open the door, and there on the dirty sofa, naked limbs entwined, were the bass player and the manager’s girlfriend. Connor roared, Meredith scrambled for cover, and Bo, his incubus hunger satiated by his afternoon tryst, simply looked confused.

There was no need for Ricky to stick around, since an incubus could take care of himself. He backed out of the room and ran down the hall, with the sound of crashes and shouting echoing behind him. When he got to the stage, he shoved his way through a mass of cheap black curtains and stood trying to catch his breath. The band had been playing a simple melody but they stopped what they were doing and looked at him.

“Problem, human?” Vic asked.

Nevin frowned in concern. “You look angry. Did you find Bo?”

“I found him, all right,” Ricky said. “Pack up. There won't be a show tonight.”

“But we paid a deposit,” Kalila pointed out. “And we’ve done nothing wrong.”

“You haven’t,” Ricky said as the howls and sounds of destruction grew louder. “But I think what Bo just did counts as a forfeit.”

Vic's Thoughts: All Natural Ingredients

Tuesday, January 13, 2009 reviews (Comments): 1
So this is what Ricky and Kalila have been sneaking off to do. Here the rest of us thought they were having sex and instead they were doing this blog thing and not telling us about it. Since I was hired to be the front man for this group, I’m offended that I wasn’t included and you can bet I’m going to have a few things to say about it.

But first, I want to respond to my fans who wondered how my organic diet was coming along, as described in All Natural Ingredients. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as I had hoped it would be. It’s hard enough to find Americans who take care of their bodies by eating clean foods and not taking fifty different types of pills every day. It’s even harder to find a human who hasn’t been poisoned by air, pesticides, lead, mercury, and other environmental contaminants. A lot of these things end up in the blood and I can really taste the difference when I go organic.

It’s especially hard to find an organic meal on the road, where I have no regular suppliers. I do what I can, but I’m not going to starve just because dinner popped a Prozac earlier in the day. My preference, though, is a human female who eats organically and doesn’t take drugs. I find that very attractive, especially if she's blood type O.

I hope I’ve cleared things up. Now I need to find Ricky and Kalila and harass them about this blog thing. Never trust anyone outside your own species!

Maelstrom Extra: All Natural Ingredients

Sunday, January 11, 2009 reviews (Comments): 6
Vic shoved open the top of his travel coffin and sat up, blinking and trying to remember where he was. Ugly carpet, uglier bedspreads, and framed prints of ghastly Monet lilies on the walls. A human hotel. That meant he was still on tour.

He got up and wandered into the front room of the suite, where he found Nevin sitting on the sofa, eating something white and gelatinous from a bowl. Vic did a double-take. “Hey, fairy. You turning zombie on us or something?”

Nevin examined his bowl curiously. “This isn’t brains, it’s tofu. And it’s organic.”

“So it has something to do with brains, right? Or by ‘organic’ do you mean some other organ? It’s the wrong color for liver or kidneys.”

“Organic means it was made without pesticides, antibiotics, or other contaminants. It means it’s a clean and healthful product of nature.”

“Oh.” Vic went to the mini-fridge and opened the door.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

Vic took out a plastic bag of blood. “A guy’s got to eat.”

“But you have no idea where that blood came from.”

“Sure I do. It came from the blood bank I broke into in Lowry. Don’t you remember how Ricky threw a fit?”

With the exaggerated patience of one explaining something to a child, Nevin said, “But the donor could’ve been taking anti-psychotics or have been exposed to lead or dioxin. There might be artificial preservatives in there, and there are certainly anti-coagulants.”

“I like anti-coagulants. They help it go down smooth and they have an interesting aftertaste.”

“And then there’s the plastic bag itself,” Nevin went on. “It could be leaking phthalates into your food.” He shook his head and bent back over his tofu. “You’re taking a terrible risk with your health.”

Vic tossed the bag into the fridge. “Okay, Tinkerbell. Since you’re so smart, what’s your idea for where I should find a meal?”

“I have no idea,” Nevin said. “But it should be someone who only eats clean organic foods. Like my tofu.”

“And where did you buy the tofu?”

“Compleatly Organic. It’s like a Whole Foods store.”

Vic pondered this, then grabbed his hat and leather coat. He had to entice one of the roadies with an offer to buy him a steak, but he found someone to drive him to Compleatly Organic. After staring in dismay at the bright lights and rows of fruits and vegetables, he grabbed a basket and started walking the aisles.

It took him awhile to find what he was after. The long-haired beauty browsing herbal tinctures reeked of patchouli, and the blonde at the meat counter had the unmistakable scent of AB negative. The women with children in tow were out of the question because he didn’t want witnesses, and the soulful-eyed young man foisting cheese samples on everyone seemed a little too eager to become friends.

Vic was about to give up and to hell with if his blood bags contained trace amounts of mercury, when he saw her. Dark and curvy, she was frowning at something on a high shelf. When she saw Vic round the corner, she waved him over. “Can you reach that for me?”

“What? The lemon soda?” Vic tried not to shudder.

“Yeah. I wish they wouldn’t put the glass bottles up high like that. I can’t reach, and I won’t eat or drink anything that’s been stored in plastic.”

Vic handed her the bottle and nodded wisely. “Phthalates. They’ll mess you up.”

“Yes.” She set the bottle in her cart. “It’s hard to live clean, isn’t it?”

Vic agreed and fell in beside her as she kept up an amiable chatter about how she had cleansed her body of plastics, preservatives, pesticides, and even prescription drugs. “If I get sick, I take organic herbal supplements. But I’m almost never sick. In fact, I’ve never been healthier in my life.”

“And it’s all because of organics?” he asked, moving a little closer so he could take a sniff. “You’re type A.”

“What gave me away? My groceries? You must follow the blood type diet, too.”

“Couldn’t live any other way.” He got into the checkout line with her and waited while she paid for her groceries. “So do you mind if I walk you to your car?”

She hesitated, but then shrugged. “I guess not. But where’s your groceries?”

“I found what I was looking for,” he said, forcing her to look into his eyes so he work his spell upon her. “And it’s all natural.”

Ricky's Thoughts: Once to Buy a Mattress

Friday, January 9, 2009 reviews (Comments)
I see that someone has posted a story about the time Bo made me go mattress-shopping. I’m not sure who is writing these stories, but I’m very unhappy with them because they tend to leave out important information. Like the fact that a month after finding “gift” mattresses on my bed, I got my credit card statement and noticed that Mattress Madness had charged me nearly $4,000!

When I asked Bo about it, he told me the American dollar is an illusion and I shouldn’t worry about it. I threatened to tell Kalila how he was acting, and he said she was a figment of my imagination, too. Then he said he was hungry and did I want to go with him to a strip club. I reminded him how he stuck me with the bill the last time and told him to forget it.

Next time he tries to tell me something isn’t real, I think I’ll ask if that applies to my contract, since there are days I think I’d be better off managing a troupe of bi-polar Urdu-speaking trapeze artists.

But enough of that. I need a nap, and at least my bed is comfortable. Maybe the $4,000 was worth it. Just don’t tell Bo I said so.

Maelstrom Extra: Once to Buy a Mattress

Wednesday, January 7, 2009 reviews (Comments): 2
Ricky sat at the computer, nodding over the keyboard. Reviewing new contracts always made him sleepy and it didn’t help that the band had been insane after last night’s show, keeping him up until dawn doing damage control.

He reached for his cup of coffee but knew it would take more than caffeine to stop his eyes from crossing every time he read the insurance clause. The part about “claims arising from Artists’ willful misconduct or gross negligence” was worrisome with a vampire and a zombie in the group.

He heard a sound in the bedroom and nearly dropped his cup.

“Hey, Ricky. Come here.”

Ricky stood up. “Bo?”

“Yeah. Come here, would you?”

Cautiously, Ricky went to the bedroom, but paused in the doorway. No way was he going to get caught alone with an incubus, especially one stretched out on his bed. “I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t materialize here.”

“I know you were hoping for the djinn,” he said. “But you’re lucky it was me. This bed is no good and it’s no wonder you always look tired. We’re going to fix that.”

“If I look tired it’s because I have to chase after you guys all night. I don’t know what you have in mind, but—”

“Relax. Mattress Madness is having a sale and it made me think of you.”

“But I don’t need a new mattress and I sure as hell don’t want you thinking of me when mattress stores have discounts. Now go away. I have work to do.”

Bo stood up, smiling in his lazy, seductive way. “I feel like doing something nice for you today, human, since we were kind of rough on you last night. But if there’s some other way I can do you a favor…”

Ricky felt the pull of Bo’s sex appeal and shuddered. “Stop that. You know I don’t swing that way.” He took a step back. “If going to Mattress Madness will make you leave me in peace, fine.”

While Bo waited impatiently by the front door, Ricky shut down the computer, put some shoes on and found his keys and wallet. Then they drove to the mattress store, with Bo keeping up a steady chatter about the girls he had seduced the night before, the new sex toys he had ordered from a catalogue, and the strip club being built on the other side of town. Ricky knew it would be useless to try and change the subject, so he pretended to listen, adding appropriately vague comments during the pauses in conversation and hoping this errand wouldn’t take long.

At the store, they were greeted by a chubby, balding man who offered to show Ricky the sale mattresses. Bo tagged along at first, but sampling each bed took time and soon it was just Ricky and the salesman, with no incubus in sight. The salesman tried to explain the benefit of individually wrapped coils, but Ricky was in no mood for his spiel. He was tired, he had contracts to read, and he didn’t even want a goddamn mattress. He looked around the store. Where had Bo gone off to?

He thought he saw a glimpse of blond hair on the other side of the room, so he made his excuses to the salesman and hurried over just in time to see Bo pull a giggling brunette off a Posturepedic. He gave Ricky a mischievous smirk. “Delia here is going to show me the storeroom. You can join us if you like. Otherwise, I’ll catch you later.”

“You were supposed to help me shop.”

“I’m sure you can figure it out. It’s really not that complicated.” He took Delia by the elbow and led her away, making idle conversation. “So let's try out the California King with the dual-adjustable air chamber design. Do you have it in pillow-top?”

Ricky was about to go after them, and to hell with if he made a scene, when the salesman reappeared by his side. “So do you want the Tempur-Pedic? I can make you a great offer, with free same-day delivery.”

“No, thanks,” Ricky said, “But I appreciate your time.” Then while the salesman looked on in dismay, he stomped out of the store.

On the drive home, Ricky ran into gridlocked traffic on the freeway and was detoured twice when he tried to take the side streets. Since he was hungry, he stopped for takeout at his favorite sandwich shop, only to find it closed. He arrived home grumpy, out of sorts, and more exhausted than ever. He heated some leftover pizza, but the crust was chewy and the cheese tasted funny, so he threw it away. He booted up the computer, but was in no condition for reading contracts and spent half an hour on the sofa instead, flipping through the channels before deciding the day was a wash and he should just go to bed.

After checking the room for signs of an incubus, he got undressed and lay down. Then he sat up. He bounced on the bed. It was firmer, and very comfortable. He pulled up a corner of the bottom sheet and smiled for the first time all day.

He lay back down, more relaxed than he had ever thought possible. Bo had been right. A new mattress was exactly what he needed. He rolled over, pulled the blanket toward him, and drifted into pleasant dreams.

Review: Maelstrom at Ziggaurat

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 reviews (Comments): 2
Big Night at the Ziggaurat
by Jeff Truitt
Reprinted with permission of The Daily Post and Clarion

Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed the local metal scene getting stale. New bands repeat what’s been safely done before, their only innovation, if you can call it that, to turn up the volume.

Maelstrom is the real deal. Expertly straddling the line between old school rock and straight up heavy metal, they churn out their own material and cover the masters with a confidence that sets heads nodding and hands reaching for the air guitar.

Their show at Ziggurat last Friday night started with the explosive guitar riffs of Kalila Yusra, whose sultry sex appeal would be enough to blow minds even if she couldn’t play more than three chords. But she can play, and her fetishistic riffs on “Never Yours Truly” and screaming guitar solo on the moody juggernaut “No Exit” will convince you that she’s no Guitar Barbie and can hold her own against the very best the music scene has to offer.

Supporting her on bass, Bo Valentino combines great tone and killer riffage into a brooding, low-slung bass line that reminded me just how much a band loses when it settles for a bass player who only keeps the beat. Not only does he turn out complicated rhythms on classics like “Stone Cold Crazy,” but he follows up with a sexy performance with Kalila on “Hot Night, Cold Heart,” that will make you wonder if those two shouldn’t check into a hotel after the show.

Of course every good band needs a front man, and vocalist Vic Drake delivers in masterful fashion. His voice has a gritty, urban appeal, equally well suited for the rampaging “Carrion Road” and the darkly soulful “Blue Rumor.” He really proves his talent, though, with his angsty howl on the introspective “If, Then,” where he shows off his range and plays to the eerie harmonics put out by Nevin Prantz on keyboards.

Nevin is a bit of an anomaly. Metal bands usually don’t bother with synth, which if done wrong can make even the wildest steel-stringed tirade take on shades of Duran Duran. But although Nevin is a classically trained pianist, he fits right into the scene, his nuanced and cathartic sub-melodies weaving in and out of the aggressive guitar and vocal melodies and holding their own against moments of frantic drum abandon by Lazaro Thantos.

In sum, this group is solid. Driven by powerful drum beats and excellently crafted vocals and guitar work, Maelstrom is a hard-edged, dynamic act with old school roots and a driven, creative energy. Look for them to go far in this business and be sure to catch them after the show, if you can. They love their fans and someday you’ll be able to say you knew them when.

Highly Recommended: 4.5/5 Stars

Kalila's Thoughts: Variax

Monday, January 5, 2009 reviews (Comments)
Okay, let's clear something up here. People have been reading this silly Variax Variations story, and then asking me why I was so "mean" to Ricky. I wasn't mean to him at all! Yes, he put my new Variax on his credit card, but that was his choice and you can't blame his human behavior on me.

Furthermore, as soon as he got back to his computer, he logged into the band's bank account, transferred the cost of the Variax out of my guitar budget and sent it directly to his bank. He never paid even a single day of interest on my new toy. Not that he couldn't have afforded it. I pay him very well, with regular bonuses and gifts. Who do you think bought him the Lexus?

I want my fans to be assured that I treat my human very well, so let's have no more of these ridiculous accusations that I'm mean to him. Any problems and hangups he has are of his own making, and the accuracy any of stories you find posted here (who's doing that, anyway?) should not be trusted.

If you want to read something good about the band, keep coming back to this site. Ricky has gotten permission to post Jeff Truitt's review of one of our shows, and as soon as he gets some formatting issues figured out, you'll get to read it for yourselves.

Maelstrom Extra: Variax Variations

Friday, January 2, 2009 reviews (Comments): 1
Ricky drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. What was taking so long in there? He frowned at the Guitar Haven sign, gloss and neon against the whitewashed brick. New strings for her Stratocaster. She swore that was all she needed, although why she didn’t just conjure some escaped his understanding.

He glanced at the time on his Blackberry. Twenty minutes. Even if there had been others ahead of her at the counter, this was excessive. Ricky got out of the Lexus and went inside, pausing inside the door to take stock. Guitars of all kinds lined the walls: acoustic six and twelve-strings; electric six and seven-strings with rosewood necks and glossy lacquer finishes. Bass guitars, double-neck guitars, fretless, third bridges, and hybrid electric-acoustic guitars, all for sale.

Ricky sighed with pleasure, wishing he were talented instead of merely competent. It would be heaven to be worthy of these toys. Band management was the next best thing, though, which brought him back to the moment. Where the hell was Kalila?

As if in answer, he heard a familiar riff. He followed the sound and found Kalila in a practice cubby, alternating between playing a bright blue guitar and tinkering with electronic equipment. She smiled brightly, as if she had been expecting him. “Check this out.” She flipped a switch and played the opening bars to one of her new songs. “Sounds like my Stratocaster, doesn’t it?” She flipped the switch again. “Now what do you think?”

“Sounds like a Gibson with a humbucker pickup.”

“Cool, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but I thought you just needed some strings. We have a venue to go look at, remember?”

Kalila stopped fiddling with the control panel. “Oh, Ricky. Where’s your sense of fun?”

“Tied up in a contract. If you want this thing, buy it and let’s go.”

“Maybe I will.” She set the guitar in a stand and with a sniff of annoyance, stalked off in search of the manager.

Ricky stayed behind for a minute, examining the Variax 700 with its odd blank body devoid of pickups. It was connected to a panel with switches and knobs, which was connected to computers and other devices that seemed capable of producing almost any sound a guitar had ever made. He could see why Kalila had been intrigued.

“Come on, you can do better than that.”

Ricky spun around at the sound of Kalila’s voice. She had obviously found the store manager, but—Ricky glanced at the price tag on the Variax—for Christ’s sake, what was she doing haggling? She might look twenty-five but Kalila was a djinn. More than two thousand years old, she had cleaned up in long-term investments and could afford to buy this silly toy and all its accessories without blinking an eye.

Ricky found Kalila leaning on the counter arguing sweetly with the manager while making sure he got a good look down her shirt. “I can order it online for a hundred dollars less.”

“And once you pay for shipping, you’ll be close to what you’ll pay to take it home right now.”

Ricky grabbed Kalila's elbow. “If you want it, just pay for it.”

Kalila frowned and jerked her arm away. She turned back to the manager. “I’ll mention you at my shows, and I’ll have our webmaster put a link to your shop on our site.”

The manager licked his lips. “Well….”

“Throw in one of those computer things for free and I’ll pay full price for the guitar.”

“Are you out of your mind? Some of those ‘computer things’ cost more than the guitars.”

“Oh.” Kalila managed a pretty confusion. “Then I’ll pay for the computer thing and you can give me the guitar for free.”

“Lady, you’re crazy. If you want a freebie, we’ve got plenty of little extras I can show you, but—”

“Would you?” She leaned closer and reached for the manager’s hand. “That would be so wonderful….”

Ricky knew where this was going. Once she touched him, she would use her djinn powers to addle the man’s thinking beyond all reason. To her, it was just a game, but Ricky knew better. Inventory cost money and shops like this didn’t make anyone rich. He pulled Kalila away before she could touch him, then fumbled for his wallet and slapped a credit card on the counter. “Whatever she wants.”

While the manager got Kalila’s gear together, Ricky did a few mental calculations. He could certainly afford all this, but he wasn't happy about it. He watched in dismay as Kalila added a few more pricey accessories, smiling in maddening fashion as if she knew how much she was annoying him.

Once everything was loaded into the back of the Lexus and the shop assistant had gone inside, Ricky looked at her in frustration. “What the hell was that about? You can afford to kit out every garage band in this city with a setup like this.”

Kalila twitched her shoulders and looked away. “So?”

“So why did you try to talk him down like that? These guys have to make a living, you know.”

“I just wanted to have a little fun.”

“Well, you can have fun with all these new toys you now have.”

“I guess.” She opened the door of the Lexus and slipped inside. “I don’t know if I really want the Variax, though. It seems kind of like cheating.”

Ricky stared. “Then why the hell did you let me buy it?”

“It was something to do.” She glanced at an imaginary watch on her wrist. “Are we going to go now? We don’t want to be late.”

Ricky went to the driver’s side and slid into his seat. “We already are.” He cranked the engine and was about to put the car in gear when he had a sudden thought. “Wait a minute. I thought you needed new strings.”

“You’re right. Good memory for a human.” She waved a hand and a packet of steel strings appeared on the dashboard. “These will do.”

Deep breaths. There was no point trying to kill her because she was immortal. No point even getting mad. Djinns did what they did, but sometimes—


Ricky answered through gritted teeth. “What?”

“You’re the nicest human I’ve ever met.” She put a hand on his thigh and suddenly all her quirks and foibles didn’t matter quite so much. “Thanks for the guitar.”