Saturday, December 27, 2014

My Phone Rarely Rings Anymore . . .

As much as I hate winter, I am glad to say goodbye to Autumn 2014. On October 11, 2014, in the small of the morning, those hours when the stars, the silence of the house, and your thoughts are your only companions, someone dear to me chose not to see the sunrise.

And I have to respect his decision. Not second-guess it. Not rage against it. Not blame him for my pain.

Also, as his lawyer, I have to deal with the detritus of his choice. The paperwork, the dealing with the agencies that provided his care, the dealing with the hoarded possessions that he had clung to during the five years after his disabling accident, and fulfilling my promise to take on the care of his two dogs and give them a stable forever home.

For me, it's the little things. My phone rarely rings anymore. Being reclusive by nature, that troubles me only because of the change. Even if I didn't see him for a week, there were always things to share, petty issues to be settled, bills to pay, the future to be concerned about, and the past to reconcile.

Our divorce in 2011 wasn't without basis, our marriage had been in trouble before his horrific accident. He was not an easy man. When I got the knock on the door on November 20, 2009, I chose to stay and shoulder the burden of his care. The fragments of our relationship finally sundered, but I stayed in town and took over our business to make sure he was able to live in what had been our home for as long as he was able. I took a lot of flak over the divorce agreement, but I structured it to take the maximum burden on myself and give him the maximum benefit. It was my duty and homage to what we had. I was strong and he wasn't.

However, I can say that we settled it. We put aside the anger and settled it. I get up in the morning knowing that there were no subjects left open. No grievances, petty or otherwise, left unaired. All accounts paid in full. No guilt. Nothing left unsaid.

Just sadness. And yawning quiet.

Early in 2014 he underwent serious surgery. He was hopeful and terrified. Before the big day he took my hand and asked if he had given me enough. Left me enough. He meant physical possessions. He meant enough stock for the business to make a living while I decided the next phase of my journey. He knew I would eventually be continuing on alone without him. I told him, "yes," and I didn't only mean boxes of collectibles.

My phone rarely rings anymore. It's been a time of stasis. A time of sleeping badly and eating poorly. A time of neglecting my writing and my home. There have been fun moments, of course. I'm happy by nature and take pleasure in small adventures. But the silence still shouts.

I know he is free of the physical pain that dogged him and the mental pain that magnified every problem he had 100-fold. Instead of subsisting in one darkened room, every horizon on every plane of existence is his now.


When I lost my brother two years ago I read this passage from my favorite novel, The Grapes of Wrath, at his service. Tom Joad asks the preacher to say a few words over the body of grandpa, buried on the side of the road as the family tries to get to California:

"This here ol' man jus' lived a life an' jus' died out of it. I don' know whether he was good or bad, but that don't matter much. He was alive, an' that what matters. An' now he's dead, an' that don't matter.

Heard a fella tell a poem one time, an' he says 'All that lives is holy.' Got to thinkin' an' purty soon it means more than the words says. An' I wouldn' pray for a ol' fella that's dead. He's alright. He got a job to do, but it's all laid out for 'im an' there's only one way to do it.

But us, we got a job to do, an' they's a thousan' way, an' we don't know which one to take. An' if I was to pray, it'd be for the folks that don't know which way to turn. Grandpa here, he got the easy straight. An' now cover 'im up and let 'im get to his work."


I know Noah has the easy straight and I know that I have a job to do and "they's a thousan' way" to do it. But I will do it, because, as the preacher said, "All that lives is holy."

I believe that suicide is the act of taking all the unbearable pain that exists in the world of the mind and body and cutting it into pieces that are small enough for those who are left behind to digest. Taking on your share of the pain is an honor to their memory. How well you can digest it is up to you.

All I can say is that if there is someone you are estranged from, don't think you have tomorrow to settle it. Don't wait for them to make the first move, even if, by rights, they should. Don't think you are going to "show them" with your silence. Because trust me, fate may deal you a bigger silence than you imagined possible.

Fair journeys . . .

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Writer Fuel Mailing List

Do you like infrequent emails telling you about new books, contests, newsletter-exclusive content, and random photos of teacups and Chihuahuas?


Also know that spammers will never never ever ever (ever never) get your email list from me.

The first contest is a drawing for a $20 Amazon gift cert to be held October 20, 2014. Sign up and be automatically entered. What could be more slacktivist than that?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Kitsch Salad: 1960s Flapper Girl Bookends

I just realized I hadn't posted a Kitsch Salad entry in forever. It's certainly not for lack of choices! I tend to get caught up in setting up a photography area instead of just taking the pics.

I rescued these lovely ladies out of a box on the lawn at a garage sale in Missouri. Dating from the 1960s, these flapper girl bookends are picture perfect mod-era pieces.

Vintage Earl Bernard Bookends
The label on the bottom reads "Created by Earl Bernard, New York, Made in Japan."

Each girl is a separate sculpt. They are made of a thick chalky china molded and spray painted with paint masks before being hand-detailed. An amazing amount of detail for a dime store frippery. This pair needs a gentle cleaning before finding a home on my shelves. They aren't devastating valuable, but they certainly aren't common. Kitsch rules.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The New Cover! I Almost Forgot!

After discussions with my awesome cover designer, Matt Norris of M.G. Norris Contemporary Photography, he whipped up cover V2.0 and stuck the landing.

Devil's Deal is currently available for pre-order on Amazon and goes live and jive on October 1, 2014. My thanks to everyone for their support in this crazy project.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Writer Fuel: All is Right in the World

Well, at least for tonight. Pre-orders are clicking along for Devil's Deal and my lawn is covered with 2014 election signs all saying "Hooray for my side."

Tonight's #writerfuel features a 1997 limited edition Bailey's figural mug in one of the rarer sculpts. Add in some fresh hot tea and, most importantly, a shot of Baileys Irish Cream in a vintage diner china creamer along with screen saver that was the inspiration for my book's hero Ethan Price and life is damn good.

Baileys and the Boss. Life is good.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Serial Novel: Burning Kansas - Chapter 9

Time for another chapter in my serial novel "Burning Kansas." Set along the Kansas-Missouri border during the tumult of Bleeding Kansas, Creighton Blaylock and Caroline Cassett have a mutual problem. Their children are missing . . .

Did you miss a chapter?  No problem, check out the label "Burning Kansas" or click here.

* * *

Burning Kansas: Chapter 9

The warm hand on Caroline’s back startled her and she turned around. She recognized the trail-worn hat, but everything else about the man standing beside her was unfamiliar.

“Act like I'm your beau. I'll explain later.”

“Excuse me, what are you talking about?”

“Caroline, it’s me, Creighton.”

King interrupted the awkward moment by jumping up and planting his big paws on Creighton’s chest with his tail wagging.

“Hey, boy, I guess you like the new me better as well. I had no idea I was so scary looking before. I probably smell better too,” he said, ruffling the dog’s fur.

Caroline met his twinkling blue eyes and had to laugh at the absurdity of the situation. It had been barely two hours since he’d ridden away from Uncle Donald’s house, but he was a changed man. Minus a bushel of hair and three layers of grime, his high-cheek-boned face was recklessly handsome and totally at ease. The crisp muslin shirt glowed against his flushed skin and his whole mood seemed lighter and younger as he kneeled and played with King.

“Creighton Blaylock, I do declare, I thought I was done being surprised by you.”

He stood. “Glad I could be of service. Now, I can feel the eyes of every busybody in this town burning into my back. Is there another general store? I don’t much feel like going back into this one.”

Caroline raised a fine brow in question, but caught the subtle shake of his head.

“Yes, there’s a small sutler on the edge of town. Not as nice, but not as curious either. Let’s go. I have a lot to tell you.”

This time she didn’t hesitate to place her booted foot in his inter-laced hands and let him help her mount her horse. In a few moments, he pulled next to her on Zeus.

You’ve known him less than a day.

I’m tired of being alone and afraid.


“I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“Where to? I asked you twice. Is everything all right? You seem a million miles away.”

Only in my dreams.

“North edge of town, follow me.”

The daubed log building was only half as big and not one-quarter as grand as the main store, but the few customers seemed more interested in their own business than the couple on horseback.

Caroline kept her gaze on him as he tethered the horses and offered her his hand to dismount. She didn’t pull away quite as fast this time.

“We need to talk,” she said in a tone that didn’t allow for any argument. Face impassive, Creighton gestured to a pair of tumbledown tables with log benches under a tree next to the store. She didn’t speak again until they were seated across from each other.

After fussing with the cuffs of her blouse for a moment, she blurted out, “Jacob and Emma are married. My Uncle Donald is a minister and he married them this morning.”

The easy mood and humor drained out of Creighton’s face. She put up her hand before he could speak.

“Wait. Let me finish. My brother lives in Lawrence and I’m positive that’s where they are headed. 
Unless you have kin on this side, I can’t think of anywhere else they could go. The situation isn’t good for long traveling.”

“Married? What the in hell was that damned preacher thinking? Jacob’s in no shape to be married. Is that how you do things in Kansas? Let children run off and play grown up? This was supposed to be some damn kids prank and you’re telling me they’re married? Damn it.”

Caroline jumped when he slapped the table, stood up, and walked away. He stood at the edge of the clearing and his frame jangled with tension.

This isn’t accomplishing anything and we’re losing time. I might as well tell him everything.

“Creighton, turn around and look at me.”

His angry, petulant expression angered her.

Damn it. We don’t have time for this.

“Listen up. There’s more and I need you to listen. I don’t need to be dealing with two arrogant boys right now.”

He bridled at her tone, but a small smile lifted one corner of his mouth.

“There’s more? Of course there is. Caroline, ever since I showed up in your yard this morning there’s been more. Ever since I met you, there’s been more.”

“Well, we both get to share in this one. Has Jacob been acting strange the last couple of months? Extra secretive or thoughtful?”

Creighton’s face fell. Caroline had an idea of what he was going to say, but stayed quiet.

“To be honest, I don’t rightly know. I haven’t been around much. But, from what little I’ve seen, yes, he’s been quieter than usual. I put it down to the death of his mother.”

“Well, Emma’s been touchier than a cat on a cook stove. I thought it was about me selling the farm and moving us back east. She even pinned a quilt over the door of her loft so I couldn’t see up there. I put a lot of thought into this since I left Uncle Donald’s. It’s why I was so preoccupied when you came up behind me. On the ride out here, Elspeth’s words fell into place.”


“She’s Donald’s maid . . .” Her voice trailed off. This wasn’t the time to explain the woman’s other duties.

If he noticed her hesitation, he didn’t show it. “What did she say?”

“She told me it was most likely right for the kids to be married. Because you can’t put the sap back in the roots once it rises.”

His face was a question. She was going to have to come out and say it.

“Creighton, unless I am sorely mistaken, you and I are fixin’ to become grandparents.”

To be continued . . .

Friday, September 5, 2014

Devil's Deal is Available for Pre-Order

Thanks to the newest Amazon upgrade, my novel "Devil's Deal" is available for pre-order.

Cover by Matt Norris

"Attorney Juliana Martin is on the run after a battalion of cops armed with warrants swarm the family firm. When the law catches up with her, they offer a devil’s deal. She can partner with the FBI to set up a client or she can watch her father go down for a capital murder he didn’t commit."

Winner of the 2013 Killer Nashville Claymore Award for best unpublished novel. 

My thanks to everyone who made this a reality. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Back to School Quiz: What Kind of Military Aircraft Parent Are You?

Listening to friends talk about back to school and the cadres of camera-wielding pajama-clad moms at bus stops everywhere reminded me of a blog post I wrote a while back for "An Army of Ermas," a slice-of-life humor blog.


Moms delivering kids to their first day of school.

What Kind of Military Aircraft Parent Are You?

As a public defender, I represent juvenile offenders and I deal with a lot of moms and dads.  Because of this, I was amused by a Newsweek article titled “Helicopter Parents.”  A university admissions officer coined the term to describe parents (usually moms) who hovered over every detail of their children’s lives, often to their detriment.  Also, no one will admit to being a helicopter.  They are just concerned and involved; it’s the other parents that are crazy.

Well, me (being me) got to thinking.  The label “helicopter” covers a lot of territory.  Military?  Civilian?  Transport? Attack?  Why just helicopters? What about surveillance craft and bombers?  When it comes to parents, I’ve seen it all, for better or worse.

So, I’ve developed this quiz.  If you are interested in finding out what military aircraft best describes your parenting style, stop wrapping the playground equipment in bubble wrap and give it a try. 

#1:    Your child is charged with a serious crime and must go to court to appear before the judge.  Do you:

A)    Immediately enroll in law school because no one knows your child like you do and no attorney can adequately represent your child.
B)    Immediately circulate a petition demanding the prosecutor be recalled.  Demand  an investigation of the police.  Obviously, your child is the target of a conspiracy.
C)    Go to every court appearance.  Make your child answer his attorney’s questions.  Tell your child that you love him, but he is responsible for his own behavior.
D)    Tell the judge to lock him up.  Jail will probably do the little punk some good.

#2:    You come home early and find your sixteen-year old son and his girlfriend on the basement sofa.  They are firmly on second base and heading for third.  Do you:

A)    Call the girl’s parents and tell them to come and get their trampy daughter.  Your son deserves better than that.  You know him.
B)    Storm in and loudly start lecturing.  Keep it up while the kids get dressed and continue it during the drive to the girl’s house.  Inform her parents what happened and suggest punishments they should impose. 
C)    Tell the kids to break it up and that your son has fifteen minutes to take her home.  Close the door so they can’t see you laughing.  Get out the ice cream and start figuring out what you’ll say to him when he gets home.
D)    Give your boy a thumbs-up and toss in a box of condoms.

#3:    Your child is running a fever, with an upset stomach, and headache.  Do you:

A)    Swing into action.  You have a completely stocked medicine cabinet.  You set up an oxygen tent and prepare an enema, just in case.  No need for doctors.  No one knows your child like you do.
B)    You immediately go to the Emergency Room where you demand the attending physician examine him.  You write a complaint letter to the AMA when the doctor prescribes rest, Tylenol, and chicken soup.
C)    You call school and tell them your child will be absent.  You fix Jell-O and watch cartoons until your child takes a nap. It is persists for more than two days, you make an appointment with the doctor.
D)    You tell your child to go out and play because the fresh air will make him feel better.

#4    Your child plays sports and makes a mistake that costs the team the game.  He is very disappointed.  Do you:

A)    Immediately take your child off the team.  Failure is bad for your child and may stunt his development.  No one knows your child like you do.
B)    Immediately jump in and argue with the coach and the referee.  Arrange coaching sessions and see that he practices every day, seven days a week.  Join the team as an assistant coach so you can monitor his progress.
C)    On the way to the ice cream parlor, tell your child about the time you gave a speech in front of the whole school with your pants unzipped.
D)    When you hear about it from one of the parents who was at the game, tell your child to suck it up and stop whining.  It’s only a game.

The results!  Let’s see what your answers say about your parenting style.

1.    If you answered mostly “A,” you are a CH-47 Chinook.  The largest cargo helicopter in the arsenal of freedom, your overwhelming presence blocks out the sun and your rotor wash flattens everything, including your troops.  You know what your troops need and that they are helpless without you.

2.    If you answered mostly “B,” you are an AH-64D Apache attack chopper.  Armed to the teeth and impervious to damage, you swoop in to rain fiery death on all that oppose you.  You love a hot LZ and live for the fight, abiding by the motto, “Kill them all and let God sort them out.”  Your troops respect of you is tinged with a healthy dose of fear.

3.    If you answered mostly “C,” you are a B-2 Spirit bomber.  The epitome of design and smart technology.  Stealthy, you are always just above the horizon and rarely seen or detected.  Your troops act in confidence, knowing they can take chances.  If things get tight, one squawk and you are there to clear the way for them, scorching the earth if necessary.

4.    If you answered mostly “D,” you are a KC-135 Stratotanker.  Old style, old school, virtually unchanged since the 1950s.  You see your job as launching your troops, fully fueled into the world.  After that, you have other plans.  Your troops know they need to be self-reliant because if they come in on bingo fuel, you may or may not be there to back them up.

So, how did you score?  I’ve seen all four types of parents.  Heck, I was raised by one of these types of parents.  Reading the articles I was struck by one thought.  Bubble wrap can cushion.  It can also suffocate.   Just like I tell the judge, give this kid a chance and he’ll surprise you with what he can do!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Writer Fuel: Happy Mug is Happy

A superb Labor Day of hitting the thrift shops with a good friend finishes out my trip to the Killer Nashville writers conference and visit to my bestie in Tennessee.

It is only fitting that happy mug is happy . . .

This isn't all that vintage, probably 1990s. Still, I have been hunting these for a while at an affordable price. I found the light blue and the darn green smiley mugs for 69 cents each and 30% off, so happy writer is also definitely happy. Now, to get these edits finished.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Serial Novel: Burning Kansas - Chapter 8

It's 1863 on the volatile border between Kansas and Missouri. Creighton Blaylock and Caroline Cassett  are facing two parents' greatest fear, their children are missing and it looks like they've run off to Lawrence, the heart of the turmoil of war torn Bleeding Kansas.

Miss a chapter? Click on the "Burning Kansas" link in the sidebar.

Burning Kansas – Chapter 8

Creighton Blaylock reined his horse at the red and white striped pole. Grabbing a bundle from his saddlebag, he said, "Zeus, This may take a while and you may not recognize me when I get out. Wish me luck."

He laughed at the horse's snuffle and headed inside. His smile faded when the conversation fell silent and hard eyes measured him.

"What can I do for you?"

Blaylock forced a light tone. "I've been on a hard trail up from Texas and thought I'd scrape off some road so my woman doesn't greet me with a shotgun. I'm looking for a shave, haircut, and a bath if you've got it." The lie came easy when he put the image of Caroline in his mind.

The men in the shop relaxed and the barber gestured him to an empty chair. "Welcome stranger, I'll be right with you."

"Thank you. Be nice to have a seat that's not moving." Blaylock hung his battered hat on a hook and sat down. The two men sitting in the sunny window went back to their newspapers. Headlines were split between the bombardment of Charleston and collapse of the Union prison building in Lawrence. Blaylock tensed at the second. He'd served with men who had womenfolk penned up in that hellhole. He wondered if any of them were among the injured or killed.

Damn it. Why did the kids have to head to Lawrence? I hope Caroline is wrong.

"So, what took you to Texas," the barber, his voice thick with the professional tone of a man who knew how to get a good tip, asked as he brushed off his current customer's neck.

"What? Oh, my brother has a spread down there. Thinking of taking my family down there to live, so I went to check it out," said Blaylock, coming back to the present.

The barber pulled off the dingy drape and shook it clean. A teen boy appeared out of the back room with a broom and quickly cleaned up the floor.

"I can't offer you a full bath, but we can rustle you up some soap and hot water for a small fee."

Blaylock settled in the chair and said, "I would like that just fine."


"I heard you Pa, I'll get it ready," came the reply from the back room.

Blaylock had to laugh. "That's a good boy you've got there."

"He's a little hellion, but he and his friends finally got caught. He knows if he doesn't work good and hard here, he'll be looking at a mule's ass behind a plow at his grandfather's place."

"I got me a boy who's a handful myself. Good for you," said Blaylock.

The barber brandished scissors and comb and said, "So, what can I do for you? A trim?"

Blaylock took a deep breath and stroked his beard. He'd always kept it neat, even when it spilled over his collar and down his shirt front. It had been part of his rank. His signature. He also heard Caroline's pleading voice asking him to look less like what he was. A quick glance at the war torn headlines and he was as sick of it as she. This situation with Jacob changed things.  

"Take it all off, right down to the hide."

The barber's expression belied his thoughts.

"I know it'll cost extra and there's a good tip in it if you don't slice me to ribbons."

"Yes sir!"

Blaylock closed his eyes and let the snipping sounds lull him. A steaming towel was followed by the warm lather and scraping of the razor. In a shorter time than he expected, the barber wiped his face and said, 

"Now that was a job."

Blaylock ran his hand over his cheeks, the smoothness felt strange.

"You got a mirror?"

The barber responded by handing him a surprisingly dainty silver-framed hand mirror. When Blaylock didn't say anything, the barber fidgeted and asked, "Is everything all right?"

Blaylock laughed and said, "Just a surprise. She still might pull that shotgun on me. Now, how about a quick trim on my hair and that hot water you promised me?"

The breeze felt odd on Blaylock's bare cheeks when he closed the barbershop door behind him. He stuffed his dirty shirt back in his saddlebag and looked up and down the street hoping to see Caroline and hear her news.

Just like a woman, hurry up and wait.

Blaylock jumped aside when a farmer carrying two large bundles pushed past him. "No use standing here like an idiot. Might as well go check out the general store. Zeus, you keep an eye out." He swatted his horse on the rump and crossed the busy street.

Blaylock breathed deep, taking in the smells of coffee, tobacco, and spices while he mentally ticked off the supplies they would need for the ride. Two women glanced at him sidelong under tip-tilted eyes and one blushed when he returned her smile.

"Hello, good day and can I help you?" The shopkeeper, in an apron so white and starched that he had to have a maid washing and ironing half the day, sprang forward.

"Maybe in a minute. I'm waiting for someone."

"As you wish. Please feel free to look around."

Would you would have been so polite an hour ago? Caroline's right, gussied-up is good camouflage.

The bright colors of the dry goods and ladies' finery caught his eye and Blaylock wandered over. His rough fingers caught on the satiny surface of a wide green ribbon. Lucinda had loved such fripperies, but he wasn't thinking of her when he took the reel to the counter and rang the bell.

"Excellent choice, sir. How much would you like?"

Blaylock hadn't considered that. The younger woman shopper edged closer.

"How about a nice length for a hair bow? A little present for," he turned toward the girl who was practically pressing against him, "my intended."

A snapped fan, laughter from the older woman shopper, and the tinkling of the store's doorbell announced that Blaylock had been correct in his assessment.

The shopkeeper's lip twitched, but he didn't say anything as he cut the ribbon and wrapped it in tissue.  "This is sure to please her. It's from Paris and fit for a lady as beautiful as," he glanced at the plate glass window, "as beautiful as she is."

Blaylock followed his gaze. Caroline stood on the other side of the glass looking up and down the street.

"Indeed it is," said Blaylock.

"That's Michael Cassett's widow. Sure you've heard of him. He's a hero in these parts. Shame to leave a woman like that alone."

Blaylock hesitated, wondering if the grocer would still be smiling and scraping if he told him exactly how he know Michael Cassett and his widow. Instead, all he said was, "Indeed it is," as he walked out the door.

Aware of the eyes on them, Blaylock put his hand on the small of Caroline's back and said, "Act like I'm your beau. I'll tell you later."

When she started, he said, "Caroline, it's me, Creighton."

To be continued . . . 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The People of the Package . . . The You Know You Want It Edition

Greetings from the archives of The People of the Package. Their job was to convince you to buy.

You know you want it . . . #packagepeople

Writer Fuel Sunday . . . The Comfort Edition

Felt pretty funky all week. No big surprise considering the air here in Kansas is 1/3 mold, 1/3 oatmeal, 1/6 some unidentified goop, and 1/6 the good stuff. So, I pretty much stayed inside with the A/C cranked, my Kindle charged, and a bottomless pot of #writerfuel on tap.

But I did pass a major milestone. My manuscript is off to the editor for him to do his worst in preparation for self-pubbing. I went through the manuscript that has been sitting on my computer since March (when it went on the query-go-round) like a talisman. I took a few hours and went through my book, cleaning out some tics (discussion on the use and misuse of "however" to come.) But when I was done, it felt like art again instead of a commodity.

So, in celebration of writing and the need for a really big mug when you don't feel well:

Always remember and never forget . . . #writerfuel

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Writer Fuel and the Divine and Delightful Jenny Milchman

On Saturday, August 2nd, I had a triple delight. I got to meet a Facebook friend and former blogmate for the first time. Janna Qualman and I shredded a 3-hour lunch geeking out about writing and life. I hope it was only the first of many such lunches.

The reason we were in Kansas City on Saturday was to attend the monthly Sisters-In-Crime chapter meeting at the Mysteryscape bookstore on 80th Street, just off of Metcalf. The speaker was Jenny Milchman in her 20,000-mile insane family book tour talking about her two books, Cover of Snow and Ruin Falls. 

If you ever have a chance to see Jenny speak, take it. Her warmth and enthusiasm as she tells tales of the ups and downs of her road to publication are the whipped cream and sprinkles on top of getting your sticky little hands on one of her books from the shelves of your friendly neighborhood bookstore. (Well, in my case, the neighborhood is 80 miles from home, but its Kansas, we're used to 100-mile commutes.)

After the talk and lunch, I also stopped into my fav thrift shop in Overland Park and threw elbows with the locals at a 50% off sale. That foray yielded today's #writerfuel teacup. Independence Ironstone by Interpace in the Millbrook pattern. Interpace, short for International Pipe and Ceramics, a company that is heir to Haviland, Shenango, and Franciscan. This pattern dates between 1962 and 1979.

So, some fresh tea and Cover of Snow to delve into the question of what makes a good man do bad things.

"Waking up one wintry morning in her old farmhouse nestled in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, Nora Hamilton instantly knows that something is wrong. When her fog of sleep clears, she finds her world is suddenly, irretrievably shattered: Her husband, Brendan, has committed suicide."


Sunday, August 3, 2014

And The Manuscript is Off to the Editor

I have the best family ever and belong to the best community of writers ever. Through a combination of amazing generosity, my Kickstarter project to help fund the final costs of bringing Devil's Deal to life was successful.

I believe in crowd-funding. I've contributed to at least a half-dozen (ranging from Chuck Wendig to Reading Rainbow) and liked watching the projects come to fruition. If you ever give it a try, the one thing I guarantee is that you will be surprised where your support does (and doesn't) come from.

Depending on my awesome editor's schedule and how badly he beats me over the head and shoulders on the rest of the edits, my first indie novel is on about a 6-week glide path to publication.

Thank you everyone. I hope you like it.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Writer Fuel - Bucolic Peace for a Monday

It's Monday. Nuff said. Even for the self-employed, Monday can suck and this one has a mission. So, to soothe my troubled soul, I selected something nicely bucolic for today's episode of #writerfuel.

These recreations of traditional English china and Flow Blue patterns were often supermarket premiums (I've found them in blue, green, and red.) You collected points or stamps when you shopped and redeemed them for place settings. This thrift shop pair is likely mis-matched, but it definitely gives me a happy.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

So, Who's Up For Some Bag-For-A-Buck Romance Book-Ku?

All the Facebook posts and photos about RWA in San Antonio made me all melancholy and wishing I had been there.

Well, next best thing (yeah right) is book-ku made of vintage trashy romance novels.

Want to play? The rules, such as they are, can be found here.

The People of the Package - Nuclear Blonde

Time to get this series back on track. The People of the Package are the nameless models whose visages were used on vintage packages, record albums, and book covers. Unnamed, unsung, and quite often totally bizarre.

Today's model wasn't afraid to leverage her assets to sell records. Can't you feel the party?

Hey Baby, want to check out my vinyl?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Kickstart My Art . . .

It's time to launch the manuscript that won last year's Claymore Award at Killer Nashville as an indie project. I am going to reel in the fulls I have kicking around out there and go for it.

I've been running a Kickstarter campaign as a pre-order mechanism and to act as seed funds to cover editing and final launch expenses. That has been an experience in its own right:

Cover art by Matt Norris 

The Kickstarter campaign has been humbling with its support, but still has a way to go. Please consider pre-ordering the book via the campaign or claiming one of the cool rewards (I already owe one short story and won't have to name another character for quite a while!)

Thanks again. The writer community rocks.

Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge - Three Sentence Stories

Everyone can write three sentences, what's the big deal?

The latest Terribleminds flash fiction contest is to write a story in three sentences (and, honestly, if it is going over 100 words, rein in the commas.)

Flash fiction is one of my favorite forms. Sleek and compact, not a word wasted . . . but still with the character/conflict/resolution triad.

You should really really really be reading Bo's Cafe Life

Here's my entry in The Chuck's latest Flash-O-Rama. Remember, I have three sentences.

* * *

My burglary of the deserted ramshackle Victorian ended when the gazebo roof collapsed and tumbled me into the agony of the hanging cradle of snowy roses.

Insects swarmed - mosquitoes, flies, maggots, ants - and at sundown on the second day, the crows arrived. 

'The sale is in the bag,' thought the realtor as she trailed her clients up the drive listening to their chatter and seeing the wife coo over the incredible red roses.

* * *

Monday, July 21, 2014


I've started a new diet this week. It is basic push-away-from-the-trough-eat-less-exercise-more plan. Portion control is what I need and it is what I am getting.

The plan allows me to trade some of my carbs each week for wine.

Okay . . . I can do that. Who am I to break my diet?

Serial Novel: Burning Kansas - Chapter 7

The saga of Burning Kansas continues. Are you behind? Just click on Burning Kansas in the list to see all the chapters to date.

Caroline learns more about her daughter's heart.

* * *

Burning Kansas – Chapter 7

Donald leaned back in his chair and stretched out his long legs. "Caroline, there's not a lot to it. Emma and Jacob showed up around ten this morning with a letter purporting to be from you giving them permission to get married. She told me you were moving the family to Lawrence and had gone on ahead. I knew you'd sold the farm, so it made sense."

Caroline rubbed her forehead. Donald Moore could orchestrate movements of runaway slaves up and down the Kansas border, but couldn't see through the lies of a sixteen-year old girl.

"Donald, didn't that seem a bit, um, strange to you?"

"I will admit that I was taken aback until Emma reminded me of my promise to her."

"What are you talking about?"

Donald's long face broke into a smile. "Do you remember her tenth birthday? The big party here at the house?"

Caroline refilled their tea. "I do. Those were good times. Long before the troubles started."

"Yes they were. Well, during the party I went upstairs and found Emma in the second floor dressing room. She had opened the trunk and wrapped herself in Lillian's bridal veil." He hesitated.

"I didn't know. I'm sorry she did that," said Caroline, patting his hand. Ever since Lillian had left her uncle standing at the altar almost twenty years ago, he'd kept her hope chest as a shrine.

"Oh no, it was a joy. Emma looked like a princess all wrapped up in Irish lace. It helped me. It truly did. I felt uplifted. I promised her that when she grew up and met her beloved she could wear that veil and I would marry them."

Another secret. Another thing I didn't know about my daughter.

Donald flipped through his ledger, turned it to her, and said, "She introduced me to her young man and asked me to keep both of my promises to her."

The last entry in the book read:

On this, the third day of August, the year of our Lord 1863, I, Donald Parker Moore, ordained by God and the laws of the State of Kansas joined in holy matrimony one Emma Lauren Cassett and one Jacob Martin Blaylock. Witnessed by Elspeth Johnson.
Caroline traced her fingertips over her daughter's perfect copperplate signature and the far less than perfect writing of Jacob Blaylock.

Her husband.

"They had all the paperwork in order and Emma had her permission letter signed by you. Caroline, are you telling me you didn't consent? I administered the marriage vows. By my hand they are married in the eyes of God which far supersedes any law of man. They left here carrying marriage lines signed by me in my position as an ordained minister of the church. If you didn't consent, there are problems."

The eyes of God.


She stood and used the excuse to shake out her skirts so she wouldn't have to meet his eyes.

My daughter is a married woman.

"Emma had my permission. I'm just disappointed that I missed them. I wanted to surprise her. Now I need to be going. She'll arrive at the house in Lawrence and I should be there. Be there for the party. Yes, the party."
Her words tumbled out, but Donald seemed not to notice. He closed the ledger.

"For that I am sorry. Had I known, I would have delayed the ceremony. I will tell you that she glowed like the sun with that veil over her hair. She had eyes for no one in the world except Jacob and I can say that same for him. I think the president could have dropped in and they wouldn't have known it. Elspeth insisted on making a wedding brunch before they left."

Caroline gathered her cloak and turned to the door.

"How long ago did they leave?"
"Maybe four hours."

About the time I was putting a shotgun in Creighton Blaylock's face.

"She was happy? Truly happy?"

"Yes, and so was her young man. So am I. I got to keep my promise to her."

Caroline studied his face, looking for any hint of pity or sarcasm. She saw none. For a moment she thought of telling him the true story and decided it would only hurt his feelings. He would find out the details eventually, but she didn't have the energy for it today.

"I need to go."

"I understand. I assume you are staying at your brother's house?"

Caroline hadn't thought of that.

"Yes. Until things settle out."

Until I finish tanning Emma's hide.

That thought made her smile and shake her head. She tried to remember being that deeply in love and couldn't. The years had worn her too far down. Donald draped her cloak over her shoulders and walked her to the front hall.

At the front door Elspeth came from the kitchen and said, "May I have a moment Miss Caroline?"


"If you ladies will excuse me, I need to work on my sermon." Donald kissed her cheek before he backed into his office and closed the door.

"More like he wants a little nip after dealing with all this woman-stuff. I do love that man, but what he doesn't know about females would fill every shelf in that library of his," said Elspeth.

Caroline couldn't help laughing. "Truer words were never spoken."

After a moment's awkward silence, Elspeth reached behind a door and pulled out a saddlebag.

"What's this?" said Caroline.

"I checked your horse and you hadn't packed. I figured you and that boy's father would want to head right on out, so I put together a few necessaries for you."

"You know the truth?"

Elspeth laughed. "Of course. Doing the special delivery business, I've seen every manner of forged document. That one wasn't very good. Only a man would be fooled."

"Then why did you sign as witness?" Caroline's anger started to rise.

"Calm down and let me explain. I did it because not only are those kids in love, but when they touched each other it was really easy to see it wasn't the first time, if you know what I mean. I figured they were better off married. You can't put sap back in the roots once it starts to rise. If Reverend Donald didn't marry them, I think they'd gone town to town until they found someone who would. I figured it was better if it was family."

The two women's eyes met and Caroline shook her head.

"Elspeth, were we ever that young?"

"I don't know about you Miss, but I still am. In here, where it counts," she said with a hand over her heart.

Caroline held out her hand for the saddlebag and welcomed the hug.

"Go find your daughter and make peace with her. Bad winds are blowing. We need to keep our loved ones close."

"Elspeth, can I ask you one thing? What is he like?"

"He's a good boy. Tall and strong, with smiles only for Emma. She looked so beautiful. I think this crazy scheme was her idea. He seems a much steadier sort, but I doubt he can deny her anything."

Caroline's eyes misted and she said, "Then Heaven help him, because he'll need it. Thank you."

To be continued . . .