Author, Tom Lichtenberg, has been on the lookout for great indie authors since self-publishing on the Internet became popular a few years ago. His efforts have been rewarded many times over, with many discoveries coming from writers who have made their work available free of charge via websites like Obooko.com. While motivations for taking this approach may vary, the common intention is to help their stories find an audience.
Tom has gathered together some of his favourites for this anthology, which contains a selection of great stories by some of the best independent writers in the world. And one by Tom himself of course.
Excerpt from Bubble Gum Bicycle Man:
The kids at the park--the little ones--seven and eight year olds--they would run up to him. The old guy riding the adult tricycle with the basket on it.
He looked wrong in our neighborhood. A dirty bearded guy. By dirty, I mean unshaven and rumpled. He had shaggy salt and pepper brows, in addition to the beard, it made him look as if he had just come from a hidden mountain cave. His wrinkled clothing appeared to hang from him, as if too large for his frame. He was thin too, skinny enough to make us all wonder if he was this side of starvation.
The kids didn't care though. Someone would see him riding by the park and the shout would go out.
"Hey, it's the Bubble Gum Man!" Then the call would be put out through the whole area. Kids would run over each other to get to the curb before he passed, so they could get a good look and a piece of Bazooka Gum with the Bazooka Joe comics inside.He had done this for years. When I was ten, I was one of the kids running as fast as my legs would carry me across the park, just to get a piece of gum before he ran out. It wasn't just the gum I wanted.
Like all kids at that age, we have the desire to be scared and safe at the same time. The Bubble Gum Man provided that kind of entertainment.We had all heard stories about him. Some said he really did live in some cave on Mount Baldy and came down once a week, just to lure some lone child back to that cave. There, like Odysseus's Polyphemus, he would eventually cook and eat the child. bones would be strewn across the cave floor.
Countless teenage expeditions hunted for the cave and never did find it, but that didn't stop the story. In fact, with each generation the tale grew longer and more complicated. At some point, the Bubble Gum Man's childhood was introduced and it was said he was so ugly when he was born that hisparents abandoned him on that mountain and he survived only because a mama bear happened to run across him and thought he was a baby bear.
But at fifteen, I no longer believed those old stories. I thought he was some old pervert that rode by the park on his bicycle hoping to find a lone child. That's why he never failed to have bubble gum on him. Though he had never done anything to any of us, that's what most of the kids my age thought. We believed that version of the story enough to keep an eye on the younger ones, from a distance.
"There's that old perv again," said Raley, my best friend Kyle's girlfriend. Though she wasn't my girlfriend, I went out of my way to impress her. Like other boys my age, I hung on nearly every word.
"Yeah," I said, watching the crowd that gathered across the park. "That's why I watch when my little brother runs over. Scared that old perv might do something."
If I was completely honest, I couldn't think of one child who went missing from our area. Though there were plenty of missing kids on milk cartons, they were always from somewhere else. If anyone had taken time to look at statistics, we would have seen our area was safe; not beset with missing children, you would think came from having a child predator who lived in a mountain cave nearby.
Toward the end of the summer of my fifteenth year, life was good. Thoughts of the Bubble Gum Man didn't cross my mind. My friends and I ran like packs through the park, on dark nights, playing spotlight, where we carried flashlights to tag our rivals.
We swam, took our turns at tentative and fragile romances, dreamed of a bright future and shared our hopes about escaping to the city one day. Though the small hamlet of Clearlake Highlands had a crime rate nearing one percent and offered nearly everything a person could need for a good life, we thought of having much larger lives than our parents. We hoped for more and wanted everything.