Saturday, February 27, 2016

Something for the Masses

I thought I’d give you a little taste of something from my collection, Pretzel Logic: Tales of Love and Horror. Below is one of my stories, Prader-Willie. The story was inspired by a couple of events in my life. First… something that might not have happened. I believe it did, but the other person involved doesn’t remember. It has to do with a box turtle and his untimely death. The second… while married to wife #2 who worked with mentally challenged adults I was introduced to a young woman with prader-willie syndrome. In layman terms, they will attempt to consume anything. Most don’t make it to their adult years. The two just went together. For those who read enjoy.



Superior intelligence does no disjoin us from what we are – a lesser species.

-       Herman Goring, Berlin, 1941

Students of Jean Petre DeMonte suggest a divergence between homo sapiens and other life forms, but in his writings not once is superiority granted to mankind. “Of all creatures, humans are truly the most savage,” he states in his Precept of Being, “for man is the god of cruelty. His lack of understanding nature’s need for balance will lead to his destruction.”

-       Beverly Cooper, Dissertation to the Department of Education, University of Tennessee – Understanding Origins of Thought, 1998

September 1989

     On the morning of Nikki’s birth, Molly Cauflin did not stop believing in God. She stopped believing in a loving god.

June 2005

     “She’s a fuckin’ retard,” Christian said, twisting the cap off his Coke. “Why the hell did you promise your aunt you’d watch her?”

     “Brownie points,” Mike Pratt answered while looking out the back window into the yard. “All she does is wobble around and drool. I don’t have to clean her up or anything. Anyway, she’s really kind of entertaining.”

“Gross,” Christian said, “you fuckin’ pervert.”

     “Naw, don’t go there,” Mike said. “I mean she’s got this thing. It’s one of those syndromes or something. It’s the reason she wears the helmet.”

     “What are you talking about?” Richie looked through the screen as Nikki walked toward the back of the yard to the wooden fence governing freedom.

     “It’s called Prayin’ Willie or something. My aunt can tell you,” Mike said. “She’ll eat anything she can put in her mouth. She’s got to wear the head gear even when she sleeps, because she’ll eat her sheets.”

     “She’d eat my shorts?” Christian smiled.

     “Hell, no one could be that bad off,” Richie, the younger of the Wyandotte brothers said. “You should see his racing stripes. Mom calls him Dale Earnhardt.”

     “Yeah, well everyone calls you Noah ‘cause you flood your bed,” Christian said. “So what time’s your aunt getting home?”

     “We’ve got a couple hours. She does her grocery shopping on Tuesdays and said something about getting her hair done. I can’t go anywhere until she gets back.”

     Topic of interest – Nikki Cauflin, whose birth proved the cruelty of her creator. Mentally challenged and diagnosed with Prader-Willi, a condition allowing her no chance at a purposeful life. Symptoms of the syndrome, dwarfism and extremely deficient mental capacity, were made complete with the inability to control consumption. Most cases concluded with early death unless monitored excessively.

     They were quiet as Christian chewed bits of ice and studied the cover of a Texas Highway magazine. Richie watched Nikki move along the fence, pressing her protected head against the boards. Mike shared the view from the window above the sink. It was hard to believe that his cousin was older than him by two years. Her growth had halted at nine years, and at fifteen she was the size of an average third grader. This was his first summer away from home and though excited about visiting his aunt, he knew the invitation had been made so his parents could spend the same period working out details of a divorce. They never used the word, but he watched the change between them. They did their best to keep problems from him, but the closeness dissipated over the past few months, and he witnessed the same scenario between parents of friends.

     Tom and Laurie Pratt rarely showed affection, and though they never argued in front of Mike the air was different. He believed before August they would make the hour’s drive from Conroe, sit with him, and explain his new living arrangements – based at Mom’s two weekends a month and every other holiday with Dad. They kept their secret, because he allowed it. He knew it would be hard for them to break the news, so when his mother suggested the trip he agreed and hoped their time alone might conjure a miracle. Two days later they drove him the distance, ate lunch with Aunt Molly and departed quickly. The following afternoon he met the Wyandotte brothers and the three became inseparable.

     Molly Cauflin returned to the workforce after her boyfriend, fondly known as “the Asshole” rejoined his wife and kids prior to Nikki’s birth. Due to complications an amniocentesis was performed and when he became aware that the child might be born deficient, he suggested she terminate it. She hoped he’d accept the fate given to their daughter, but knew he desired perfection. A child with less than acceptable qualities suggested flaws in his own nature and this he could never face.

     Molly acquired a nice monthly check and supplemented her substitute teacher income freelancing for travel magazines, which amazed Mike since she rarely went anywhere. Most of the locations she wrote about she had never visited and when questioned by those who knew she’d respond, “That’s the beauty of the net. I can go anywhere I want.” She rarely dated, or at least didn’t talk about men when her nephew was around and Mike often heard his mother say she wished her sister would meet someone. He was glad that she hadn’t, though he’d never admit it. As long as he could remember, his aunt seemed to enjoy spending time with him and he thought that might change if she found a man. This summer he’d have no competition for her attention.

     “So what will she eat?” Christian asked, walking to the door and stopping next to Richie.

     “You name it,” Mike answered.

     “Nails?” Christian said.

     “Anything,” Mike said.

     “Bugs?” Richie asked.

     “Anything,” Mike said, showing slight irritation.

     “My shit?” Christian grinned.

     “This I’ve got to see,” Richie said, opening the screen door as he headed into the backyard.

     “Wait.” Mike moved behind Richie, followed by Christian. “Where are you going?”

     They stopped before reaching Nikki, who was seated on the grass next to the fence. Richie and Christian looked at each other and then at Mike. “You said she was entertaining,” he said. “I wanna see.”

     “Hell no, my aunt might come home,” Mike said.

     “Mmmmm… mmmmmm… mmmmmmmmmm.” A low monotone hum came from beneath the helmet.

     “Jeez, what the hell is she doing?” Richie asked.

     “She hums,” Mike answered. “It doesn’t mean anything, but it gets louder if she’s frightened.”

     “So we won’t scare her, but you said we have a couple hours. I just want to see her eat something,” Richie said.

     “Yeah, you were the one who mentioned it in the first place,” Christian said.

     “Okay, but not here,” Mike said, scanning the surrounding yards. “We gotta take her inside.”

     Christian and Richie looked around as well, waiting for Mike’s next move.

     Reaching for Nikki’s hand, he continued. “We can’t give her anything that’s going to make her sick.”

     “Okay, we don’t feed her nails,” Christian said.

     “Come on, Nikki, we’re going inside the house,” Mike said, guiding her off the grass. “That’s it, let’s go.”

     Nikki responded to Mike’s touch and began moving slowly through the center of the yard toward the back porch. He knew to be gentle with her and though she couldn’t communicate with words, he knew she was nervous by the volume of her humming.     

     Every two or three steps Mike stopped and readjust his grip. As he did he felt the fear that encompassed a being whose purpose seemed less understandable than the most worthless creature. Even the grubs found beneath the rocks bordering Aunt Molly’s water garden were connected to the ecosystem. They had more of a reason for life than this thing. If she was a dog she’d be injected and given back to God with a sense that humanity had been served. Instead, Nikki would be allowed to continue to be Aunt Molly’s albatross.

     As they reached the porch, Mike led Nikki up the steps and into the house, followed by Christian. Looking back, he saw Richie shut the door and turn the lock.

     “No, unlock it,” Mike said. “If my aunt comes home she’ll wonder why I locked it.” He waited and watched to make sure the door remained open before continuing. “Now let’s go to my room.”

     “What if she comes back early?” Richie asked. “We won’t hear.”

     “That’s okay,” Mike said. “We can tell her we were looking at comics and I wanted to keep an eye on Nikki. If we hear her coming up the stairs we can get her helmet on before she opens the door. Now let’s get it off.”

     Richie remained with his back against the door listening as he watched Christian lower to the floor next to Mike, who fumbled with the straps of Nikki’s head gear. The girl’s back was against the wall, lodged between the bed and a small dresser. The helmet was secured with three straps, two beneath her chin and one running along the back of her neck that connected to a snap her mother placed on all clothing she wore.

     “Uh mmmm,” Nikki uttered.

     “What she say?” Christian asked. “Why’d her voice change?”

     “She didn’t say anything,” Mike said. “She’s just a little nervous, that’s all. Come on, Nikki, you like it when we play.” Unsnapping the straps, he carefully pulled the helmet up away from her head, exposing her to the other two for the first time.

     “Eeew, talk about a skag,” Christian said. “Doesn’t she ever wash her hair? She’s all sweaty.”

     “You’d look like that too if you had to wear a helmet all the time,” Richie said, moving closer. “She’s kind of cute for a retard.”

     “Cute,” Mike said, “what the hell are you talking about? Oh and watch it with the retard stuff. My aunt will blow a gasket if she hears you talking like that. Nikki’s mentally challenged.”

     “Sorry,” Richie said, “but she is cute. Too bad she’s like this.”

     “Oh my god, Richie’s got a hard on for a retard… sorry, for a mentally challenged freak,” Christian said.

     “Fuck you,” Richie said. “She can’t help it if she’s…”

     “Cork it,” Mike said. “Let’s just do this, okay?”

     Mike reached beneath the dresser and pulled out two cloth strips, each about six feet long. Dropping one next to him on the floor he wrapped the other end around Nikki’s right arm, pressing together two straps of Velcro. He repeated the process with her left arm and secured the free ends of the strips to the nearest leg of the bed and the bottom of the dresser.

     “You gotta tie her up?” Christian asked.

     “They aren’t that tight. You don’t want her grabbing for your hair or anything,” Mike said. He stood, moved to the closet and returned with a cigar box. Sitting again he opened it and presented a collection of pens, pencils and crayons. On top was a plastic ruler broken just past the ten-inch line. “I found this last week… utensils.”

     “You’re gonna feed her with that?” Richie asked, looking at the ruler. “It’s all jagged at the end.”

     “She bit it off the last time,” Mike said. “Chewed it up like bubblegum. She’s a freakin’ eating machine. Now watch what she’ll do with this.” He took a broken red crayon out of the box. Placing it on the end of the ruler he moved it closer to Nikki’s mouth. The girl’s humming ceased as the tip of her tongue flicked over her bottom row of teeth. They watched it slide beneath the ruler and curl before she brought her mouth completely around the upper area and snapped her mouth shut.

     “Jeez, did you hear that? She bit right through it,” Christian said. They watched as Nikki chewed briefly and swallowed.

     “See, I told you she’d eat anything,” Mike smiled, sticking the remaining eight inches of the ruler back into the box.

     “Big deal, Richie used to eat crayons,” Christian said. “Let’s give her something else.”

     “We can’t give her anything that’ll hurt her. I’d be in a world of shit if she gets sick.”

     “What about these?” Richie asked, staring at the window sill. They stood and looked at a collection of dead flies gathered on the ledge.

     “No way,” Mike said. “We can’t…”

     “Yeah, come on. Just a couple,” Christian said. “Give me that stick.” He reached for the box and took the piece of plastic.

     “Just one,” Mike said, watching Christian scoop three flies onto the ruler. “Okay, but that’s it. Give it to me. I have to do it.”

     “Come on,” Christian said, holding the ruler away from Mike, “like it takes brains to feed an idiot.” He slowly knelt in front of Nikki and moved toward her mouth. “Here Nikki, have some nice chewy flies. Be a good… Jesus fuckin’ Christ.”

     As Christian’s hand moved closer to Nikki’s mouth the boys watched her eyes widen and her head shoot forward. He lost his grip of the ruler as the girl’s teeth clamped down on the opposite end.

     “Oh my god, that was freakin’ cool,” Richie said, watching Christian jump back. “She pulled the damn thing out of your hand.”

     Mike snatched the remaining six inches of the ruler from the floor between Nikki’s legs and tossed it into the box. “Yeah, she’s not the only one who gets hurt doing this. Let’s untie her.”

     “Wait, I want a turn,” Richie said. “Let me find something.”

     “No, we gotta stop,” Mike said. “Let’s get her out of here.”

     “Come on, just one more thing and then we’re done,” Richie said. He looked around the room and toward the door. “Be right back.”

     Richie ran out of the room and down the stairs. As they waited, Nikki’s lips puckered together. Her tongue moved across each allowing them to maintain a sticky wetness. The pitch of her humming shifted from low to high as the constant glaze of her eyes evaporated. Mike believed she was looking at him, drawing his mind toward hers. He shook his head when he heard heavy bouncing onto the back steps and the screen door opened. Hearing footsteps ascend the stairs, Mike opened the bedroom door.

     “I got it,” Richie said holding his cupped hands out. “This will be so cool.” He revealed his treasure, quickly latched the thumb and index finger of his right hand onto the back leg of a small turtle.

     “You got that from my aunt’s water garden,” Mike said. “Put it back.”

     “She won’t miss it,” Richie said. “She’s got a shitload of them down there.”

     “No, we’re not doing it,” Mike said, reaching toward Richie.

     Before he could take the turtle, Christian grabbed his arm and held him back. “Hey, it’s just a turtle. You saw what she did to that ruler,” he said. “She’ll half it in one bite.”

     “Give me the stick,” Richie said, lowering to the floor.

     Christian grabbed the last bit of ruler from the box and handed it to Richie, who balanced the turtle on it. He knelt and moved his hand closer to Nikki’s mouth when her eyes opened.

     “No,” Mike shouted as Nikki moved forward. He knocked the ruler from Richie’s grip as the girl’s teeth found his wrist. Mike screamed, trying to pull free.

     Mike felt Nikki biting into his flesh, grinding deep and drawing him toward her tethered body. As the burn accelerated he twisted, attempting to break free, only to feel the jagged teeth ripping through his tendons. As a trout learns that fighting a hook will deepen the grip, he realized pulling would be answered the same. The crescendo of his scream fell to silence as the pain climaxed and then as it subsided her stare captured him. Mmmmmmmm… mmmmmmm… Mmmmmikemmmm… we are one, he heard her saying to him.

     “Fuck,” Christian said, wrapping his hand around Mike’s free arm and pulling him away from Nikki. The girl would not release. “She won’t let go. Give me that pillow.” He grabbed it off Mike’s bed before Richie could move and shoved it against the girl’s face. “Let go, damn it.” He pushed hard against her face, hoping she’d release for air. “Let go… let go.” He felt her jaw unlock and he jumped away, pulling Mike out of her reach.

     “Christ, she bit it half off,” Richie said, looking at Mike’s wrist.

     Mike collapsed to the floor, unable to unlock his eyes from Nikki’s. Christian took off his tee shirt and wrapped it around the mangled arm. They watched as she chewed and swallowed, taking nourishment from him.

     “We got to get her out of here,” Christian said. “Untie her and get that helmet back on.”

     “I’m not touching her,” Richie said.

     “Asshole, we’re in a world of shit if they find us here with her and Mike bleeding,” Christian said. “We got to get her outside, call 911 and come up with a story. We can’t say she did this or everyone will figure out we were fucking with her.”

     Christian looked at Mike and told him to hold on to the tee shirt as he stood and moved toward Nikki. He strapped the helmet back on to her head and untied both bindings holding her arms. “You stay with Mike,” he said to Richie as he took the girl’s hands and pulled her to her feet.

     “That’s it freak. Just keep walking,” Christian said. He led her down the stairs, through the kitchen and out into the yard where he placed her on the grass just off the porch. He rushed back into the house where he found Mike standing with Richie’s help. Once outside he told them to sit on the porch and he ran back into the kitchen, grabbing the phone off the cradle. Minutes later he returned outside to go over the alibi. “We’re gonna be all right. I got it figured out. It was a dog.”

     “She’s not a fuckin’ dog,” Mike said, looking briefly at his wrist and back toward Nikki. Pity… no, that’s not it, he thought, shame… maybe, but there’s more. Then he noticed it, through the plastic bars used to prevent feeding, the corners of her mouth were turned up into a smile. You wouldn’t have done this to them. You wanted me to understand, didn’t you?

     “We can’t tell them the truth, ‘cause we’ll be in more shit than we are now,” Christian said. “You’ll never be able to explain this to your aunt. We say we opened the gate to bring our bikes back here while we were watching Nikki. A big fuckin’ dog came in and started running toward her. When you blocked its way it grabbed you and did this. Hell, you’ll be a fuckin’ hero.”

     Mike agreed to go along with the story, though it shamed him to draw Nikki into their lie. Christian and Richie saw little difference between a canine and the girl. In time they would confess to friends, naming her as the attacker. They would say it took place in the backyard after they’d removed her helmet, an act of kindness paid back as only a beast might do. He tried to shake away the guilt as dizziness falling upon him. If I faint, at least I won’t have to be the first to lie, he thought as he kept his eyes locked on her until blackness took him.

September 2005

     Laurie Pratt was pleased when Mike suggested they invite Molly and Nikki to visit at Easter. “You’re such a sweetheart for suggesting it,” she told him after making the call. “You know most of your relatives would never do that. They feel uneasy around your cousin.”

     “I was the same way before what happened,” Mike said. “I couldn’t do much the rest of the summer so I got to spend more time around Nikki. You know she really does have a great personality, if you look for it.”

     “Well, I still think it’s nice of you, and so does your Aunt Molly,” she said. “You’ve grown up a lot since the attack and I can see what a wonderful big brother you’re going to be to your sister.”

     Sister… yes, my sister, Mike thought, smiling as he watched his mother leave the kitchen. The previous summer had changed him. After leaving the hospital he spent time with the Wyandotte brothers and more with Nikki, at first because he knew if he avoided her someone might think it odd. Eventually he discovered he enjoyed being with her and when she roamed the far end of the yard he’d join her as she moved against the fence, rubbing her helmet along the slats. He’d take her hands in his and gently guide her onto the grass where they would sit together.

     When summer ended Mike was a little unhappy about returning to Conroe, but glad to learn his prediction about his parents had been wrong. There was a problem, but not the kind that led to divorce. They’d needed time alone to rekindle things and that they did. The outcome arrived the following March in the form of Carol Ann and the moment she entered the world he understood more.

     One evening, after Laurie Pratt put the baby to bed and before joining her husband in the living room, she watched Mike go into the nursery where he sat on the floor by Carol Ann’s crib.

     “He’s so sweet,” Laurie said, snuggling against Tom as she placed her feet across his on the coffee table.

     “Yeah, kind of like me,” he said. “Hope he appreciates having a little sister who’ll idolize him.”

     “I’m sure he will,” Laurie said. “You know what he was doing when I walked by her room?”

     “Haven’t a clue.”

     “He was singing to her,” she said.

     “Singing?” Tom repeated.

     “Well, it was more of a hum,” Laurie said. “He was holding Carol Ann’s hand, nibbling on her fingers and humming.”

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Anatomy of a Novel: 1

Something different… at least it is for me. I’m going to attempt a serious of blog posts about my novel, Gifted Trust – originally released in 2002 as a self-published novel and was picked up by Biting Dog Publications in 2003. The purpose – to share some of the inside info… all the little secrets behind how it came to be. Hopefully you’ll find this interesting.

In the beginning… the last thing on my mind was to write a novel. Hell, I wasn’t even a writer. It was in the mid-eighties and I was a journalist student at Central Michigan University. I was also a single dad, living with my three-year-old son in family housing on campus. While there I took an elective course: Creative Writing: Poetry, because it seemed like an easy A – very little studying needed.

OK – I wrote poems (one a week) and made the instructor happy enough to give me several A’s. Do I remember any of them? No… except one. Then night before our final assignment, while my son slept on the couch in our apartment I watched a made-for-tv movie called Adam. It was the true story about the son of Adam Walsh (America’s Most Wanted fame), who was kidnapped and murdered. When the movie finished I sat at my typewriter and typed:

Gifted Trust

The best time for me

is just before he screaming stopped

and their voices hit that pitch.

Twisted little limbs bending

back and forth

back and forth

and all the blood

and the blue lips

and the begging

for me to stop.

I love little children

so very very much.

Creepy? Yes, but he loved it and after getting the grade I forgot about it for years.

Humble, TX 2001… different school and class – this time it was Creative Writing: Fiction and I still wasn’t a writer. It was the third assignment for a Monday night course and I drove to the school about two hours before the story was due. I sat at a blank computer screen for almost an hour and decided to take a break, hoping a walk down to the student lounge would lead to inspiration. Right place and time – on the television was America’s Most Wanted and I recalled the poem. I hurried back to the computer room, sat and in less than an hour wrote a short story about a guy who picked up children at elementary schools – again creepy… again called it, Gifted Trust. I printed it out, ran to class, read it to the class and they loved it.

The title… Gifted Trust referred to the character in the poem and story. He has a gift to get kids to trust him.

After class… I went home and woke up my wife so I could read my story to her. She said, “If I didn’t know you, I’d suggest therapy” and went back to sleep. Next I got on the net and sent it to several writers (didn’t ask – just sent it) thinking they were writers and had plenty of time to read it. One actually wrote back and convinced me to expand it into a longer piece.

For the record… I’ve shared the above before with people in the old version of this blog. Sorry for the rerun, but I thought it was needed. As I continue sharing the Gifted Trust posts I’ll be adding new exciting (no really) material.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Pssst... I Quit.

Woo hoo, I was hired for a new job today. Mind you, this is a job and not a career. Still, it pays a lot more and comes with benefits vice my current part time position at the local Goodwill working only 25 hours a week for less than I can live on. When I got home and told my girlfriend I added that the job begins on Tuesday and I needed to decide when I would break the news at the Goodwill store. Her response, “After the way they treated you, why say anything?”

Hmmm… let me reflect.

I began at Goodwill in early August, 2015. I started off in Donations. Vehicles pulled up and I took what they offered. The position was advertised as full time online and I was told the same when I went into the store to apply for the position. I was told that it would be part time until after I finished the probation period ended. When it did, I was invited into a room (along with another new person) and told that the position would be part time. When I mentioned that it was advertised as full time the manager responded, “We might make you full time if the store starts meeting its quota.” I told her I’d be looking for another job and she never spoke to me again. – That’s 1.

I hurt my back at work and was placed on light duty for a week. The day I went back to work I put my back out again. Obviously it wasn’t healed. I reported the new injury before noon and wasn’t sent back to the hospital until after 2pm. While waiting for permission to go for help my supervisor told me I needed to work faster. Note that I could barely move at the time. – That’s 2.

I missed a couple days of work, because I couldn’t stand. The hospital took x-rays and put me on light duty with no standing. Upon informing the store they changed my duty to door greeter (a sitting job) and my hours were cut from 25 a week to 15 and eventually I was working 9 hours a week. Also during this period I was called into the office where A. I was told to sign papers taking blame for my accident and it was pointed out on the store video that I remained in my work area approx three hours before leaving for the hospital. I explained that I was waiting for instructions and didn’t really work during this time, but I was told to sign another paper taking blame. Also one of the supervisors claimed to seeing me in a Walmart on a night I didn’t come to work. My denial meant nothing. I sat in a room with people who were calling me a liar. – That’s 3.

Getting off light duty Goodwill moved me to a new position – cashier. Yes… a better/safer position. Yes… I was grateful for the move. The downside was a three day (12 hour) training session before being placed alone at a register. OK, that wasn’t so bad either except when I was called back into the office and written up for A. not counting money back to customers the proper way. B. not placing money on the register before opening it. I was also told that I would receive points for the days I missed when I was hurt. Note: Points are not good. Once an employee gets 12 he/she is terminated. – That’s 4.

I think I became sorta kinda good at being a cashier, because the same managers who gave me such a hard time after I was hurt started being nice to me. It did make things easier and truth is I didn’t hate the job and I really liked most of my coworkers. Of course that doesn’t make up for lying to me about my original position being full time, cutting my hours for an entire month, making me take blame for the accident, and writing me up for bullshit.

I’ve decided Lisa is right. Goodwill doesn’t deserve a notice. I want to believe I’m on to something better. Hey the pay is almost double and that means I can put up with a lot more crap. Goodbye Goodwill. It’s been an experience.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Secret to Social Media for Writers

I’ve received an email and a private message from my friend and former publisher, Dave Dinsmore (Biting Dog Pubs) in the past month – both suggesting I contact another press that might be interested in taking on my work in their digital collection. I sent an email to them a few minutes ago. I’m keeping details to a minimum of course, because there is a chance they won’t want what I’m offering. Of course if they do I’ll be blasting the news all over the place. Until then I am trying to figure out how to promote without paying someone to do it for me. Hey, I’m broke.

Social media is the ticket, right? Here’s a tip to all you other unknowns out there. Most of your fb, twitter, Google+ and other “friends” don’t really give a rat’s ass about your book(s). Look at it this way, do you care about their bowling scores. Of course not. When you post over and over again that you’ve got a book available (usually for an ungodly low price) they click the like button and move on without checking out the link. In most cases they don’t even do that, because their time is as valuable as yours.

Does this mean you shouldn’t use these sights to pimp your work? No. It means you should do it without bugging the shit out of people. Some suggestions:

Start a blog: In the beginning almost no one is going to read it, but if you’re dedicated and post at least on a weekly basis you’ll probably get a few followers. It’s the people who bother to come to your blog who just might be interested enough to read your work – that’s only a guess of course. They might just be bored and that means you can’t use your blog as only a means to promote books. Visitors will stop coming to it and you’ll be back on square one. Use it to educate them about who you are and throw in stuff about writing. Be interesting. It isn’t that hard. You are a writer.

Facebook: Create an author’s page to promote your work. Here you can promote, but again I also suggest trying to be interesting. Keep the pimping limited on your regular page. You can tell them you’ve got a new post on your blog or something new on your other fb page, but don’t go beyond there. Share your non-writing life on your everyday page… the weather, what you had for dinner, whateverthehell. Anything except writing. Also read their pages. They matter and if you only collect people in order to sell books you are screwed.

Twitter: I hate Twitter, probably because most of my connections there have one thing in mind – selling books. Pimp Pimp Pimp… remember what I said – most simply skip this stuff, because there’s so much of it. If you have to promote use a ratio – one pimp for every ten tweets. It’ll make you less boring. My ratio is one for every twenty. Also make an attempt to get followers who aren’t writers or people who want to make money because you are a writer. There are a lot of interesting people out there worth following (and who can become followers) that aren’t in the business.

As for other social media websites, you’ve got the idea. Be more human. Care about other people. Mention your books as little as possible. People might actually start caring.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Final Solution

My mother passed away in 2015. She was 91 years old and I believe she was ready. Most of those who mattered to her were gone and she spent her final days alone with assistance from one of my brothers. Those final five or six years (perhaps more – I’m not sure) were stressful to my older brothers. There was/is a lot of verbal fighting, name calling and hurt feelings that may never be mended. I stayed out of most of this, because I’m away from them. I do carry guilt, but that’s a small price.
Why mention the above? Because of a conversation I had with my son and his wife early last year when I visited them in Florida. From the distance, I watched the already strained bond between my brothers’ break because of the care that our mother needed. In her final days they hated each other (no better word) and sadly they seemed to hate her. Because of this I told my son and daughter-in-law that I made the decision to never let this happen to them when the time comes that I might need help surviving. If the time comes that I can no longer make my own decisions, I believe I’ve been here to long and I will need to take care of the situation. I will not allow what took place around my mother to happen with those I love.
OK – I usually don’t discuss the topic of suicide with those who matter, because… well for most it’s a bit frightening. I mentioned the above with Lisa and she got upset – said it would be a selfish act. I understand that and between you (the less than a handful who actually read this blog) and me, I’m not talking about doing anything in the near future – hopefully. As long as I have my health, I will probably still be around. The first condition for remaining among the living is that I stay relatively healthy (physically and mentally). The second condition is that I believe I’m doing more than taking up space. LOL – yeah I know that’s a tough one for some to grasp. It means I have to have hope that by remaining here I still have the ability to do more than breathe, eat and sleep.
Done – I’m not going to justify my feelings more so than I have. Don’t freak out – my current situation does make me think about this subject more, but there are still a lot of pluses in my life… a lot.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Free is a Four Letter Word

I just quit the following Facebook groups:

FREE Kindle Books

Free Books on Kindle, Nook, and More!

Free Amazon Kindle books

Free Ebooks for Ipad, Tablets, Nook, Kindle and Kobo


Free Book Giveaway

Free Books

Free Books (same name)

Addicted to Free Books


Free E Books

Free Horror eBooks

free kindle and nook ebooks for readers

Free Today on Amazon


Kindle FREE Books (some NOOK too)

Free soft copies and E books here

Sharing Free E-boks

Authors Giving it Away: Freebies, Give-Aways & Free Books

Free Book Downloads!

Free BOOKs Download

Free Books Download

Free Today on Kindle & Beyond


Free Ebooks for all

Free Ebooks for Kindle, Nook, and More

Free Ebooks

Awesome Free Kindle Books Here!

Book Giveaways

Free Read and Review

Free Kindle Books

FREE Books 4 U

Free E-Books

Free eBook Palace

Free Kindle Book Club

eBooks (Free Download)

Free Kindle Books

Download Free E Books

100% Free ELECTRICAL eBooks

KPromo-Kindle Free eBooks

Free books on Amazon

Free Kindle Books

Always "FREE" e-books

Free English Books

Free Kindle Books

Free E-book downloads


Free Kindle Books

Free Kindle Books (Reading Group)

Note that all share a common purpose – the downloading of FREE books. FYI: I belonged to them while with Biting Dog Pubs, because I had to promote my own free books to members of these groups. It’s a marketing ploy that obviously doesn’t work. The belief is that people will read a free book and if they like the writer they will 1. pay for the next book and 2. hopefully tell their friends. I’m sure it happens, but not enough. Now that I am an indie I have no need for these groups.

Am I saying it’s wrong to give books away? Of course not. There are reasons I’ll continue to do so. I have people – friends who get them, because they’re special. I don’t expect them to promote for me. I also will send them to other writers. Hell, I’ll send them to just about anyone who asks. I’m just not going to pimp a freebie to the world. If anyone wants something, they have to come to me.

Note: I feel safe being honest here. No one reads these damn things.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Should I Remain an Indie Writer?

I received a suggestive email from a friend the other day with info on a publishing company looking for indie writers for their pool. I went to their website and was impressed by some of the names. Also I know who is running the show – also impressive. I have files I could send them and I’m sure they would attach much better covers to my stories than I am using now. Note: Of all my available stories, only one cover is professionally done – Pretzel Logic: Tales of Love & Horror was designed by K.H. Koehler. Other than that I basically slapped on a generic cover simply to get the story out there. Still I could send my work over to this publisher and if they agreed I could turn over much of the work to them.
Should I? Let’s look at is what I’ve made in royalties since releasing my books as Kindle Select Publications: $18.69. That’s it. I’ve sold 17 books since January 9th. God that sucks, especially when I know how much time I spend promoting (pimping) my work. My first thought is that a publisher could raise the number. My sales were much better when I was with Biting Dog Pubs. My second thought – after a decade with one small publisher I am sitting here still a semi-complete unknown. Time and time again I’ve posted/said that it wasn’t about the money. It was about the readership and if I had one worth bragging about none of this would be an issue.
Should I? No – at least not at the moment. The low numbers are my fault – poor promotion and a lack of branding out there. The hard part is to get the word out without becoming they type of writer I don’t want to be – a salesman. Social media is full of them and if they irritate me they irritate others. I’ve got to figure out how to play the game and I remain independent.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Decade Ago

A Decade and Six Months Ago…

I was sitting on the patio of our home with my wife in Humble, Texas (near Houston). It was an evening ritual. We had our chairs and usually a glass of wine while we talked about whatever came to mind… politics… baseball… my writing…. whatever. That evening she brought up the topic when she said, “What would you do, if I was no longer here?”

My response took no thought. “I’d fall apart,” I said.

 She took a breath and countered with, “Grieving is acceptable. Falling apart is not. I’d want you to write and I’d expect you to continue to live.”

I gave it little thought and we moved on to another topic.

Eleven Years Ago…

I had written a novel (Gifted Trust) and two short stories (only one published at the time) and I had just finished another short. She was my first reader. She saw everything before the rest of the world and would comment. I handed her the pages for Marquee and on the above mentioned patio she sat and read it while I paced inside waiting for her review. She finished it and said, “Love the story, but hated the ending.”

I said ok and closed the file on the story forgetting about it and moving on.

A Decade Ago (one week from today)…

Our marriage ended. It was a Sunday afternoon. She wasn’t feeling well on Saturday so she spent most of the day in bed. I brought her food/whatever she requested both days as she rested. About five in the afternoon she called me into the bedroom telling me something was wrong. She told me to call for an ambulance. I did and returned to the bedroom and told her I loved her. She said it back to me and her eyes rolled back. It was the last time we talked. The EMTs arrived and we were at the hospital quickly. She passed away in minutes.

The following week I handled the funeral details and I gave the eulogy at the service. When it was over everyone went home and I fell apart… for the next ten months I was pretty worthless and usually drunk. Halfway through this period Dave Dinsmore of Biting Dog Publications contacted me about a project that resulted in my writing both Monkey Love and House Guest.

Same Patio (Mid Grief)…

As I mentioned, I drank a lot after my wife died. I could afford it. I spent most of my time either drinking or crying. Usually both at the same time. One evening I was back on the patio doing both while I sat where we used to sit so many times before all the bad stuff happened when my mind drifted to that conversation we had about a year early and I heard her words. “Grieving is acceptable. Falling apart is not. I’d want you to write and I’d expect you to continue to live.”

A feeling of embarrassment ran through me. I thought how she would have reacted if she’d known how I turned out. The next day I drank less (I didn’t stop, but cut down a lot) and began plans for my move from Houston. In two months my rights to our home to her children and moved with my dogs and sun conure to a rental in northeastern Texas. While living there for the next year I finished and Monkey Love and House Guest and reentered the world. I attended the World Horror Convention in 2007 and met Lisa.

A Year After the Move…

I made another move – this time to Tennessee in order to be closer to Lisa. I got an apartment near where we live today and did the dating thing. During that time Dave Dinsmore (Biting Dog) suggested I get another story out. As he put it, “something different than Monkey Love and House Guest”.

While trying to come up with a story I found a file on my laptop with a story I had written a few years earlier – the one my wife said she liked, but hated the ending. I opened it, read it and made the change into something new. As she had once requested, I had “continued to live” and Marquee became my goodbye to her. I typed it up and sold it to the first publisher to read it, Insidious Publications for a limited edition release.

Nine Years Later…

I have released Marquee again both in my Pretzel Logic collection and also as a solo Kindle book. FTR: I did continue to live. I fell in love – with Lisa and we’re still together. If you have time, I hope you check out Marquee - something a little different from the norm.