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Friday, June 30, 2017

"Dark Side of the Museum" Found an Ending

I think Dark Side of the Museum is finished. I need to have the patience now to let it sit and then reread it. I started this novel over a year ago, although the idea had been percolating longer than that. I don't know how to categorize it other than a good read (I hope). It has a pinch of paranormal and a dash of time travel. The result seems to me deliciously outrageous. The set up is pretty simple and engaging. Engaging, well that's for you to judge. Here's the first chapter. I'm looking for beta readers if anyone is interested.

Edgar Makes a Discovery and Gets Fired.

I was on my way to report the extraordinary X-ray finding to the chief conservator when I encountered her in the hallway waddling like a penguin toward me in her daily dress of black pants, white blouse, black vest. Stella said, "Ah, Edgar, we need to talk."

I could have told her about the discovery as we walked back to the windowless bowels of the art museum where 93 percent of the collection was stored, a vast majority of which would never been seen by any visitor. I wondered what we NEEDED to talk about. I haven't done anything wrong. I'm polite to the curators. I get on well with them, even Beatrice. Just saying her name is like pulling a pin from a grenade and looking at the thing in your hand. And I get along well with my fellow conservators, except for Nina, that little bitch in the painting department. I glanced sideways at my boss, but her face showed only the slight smile she always wore that kept you guessing. Is she pleased or deeply upset? Her hair, probably dyed black, hung straight to the top of her shoulders and always looked as if grease needed to be shampooed vigorously from its sticky strands.

I kept quiet, sitting in front of her desk as she settled into her own chair adjusting the multiple knobs it offered to ergonomically match her short, dough-girl frame.

"We're going to have to let you go," Stella said, the slight smile showing no uneasiness with having to impart this piece of news. "The cutbacks, you know. Layoffs affecting all departments even, I hear, one of the curators. Full month's notice. Irma in HR will give you the details on your severance package, how to file for unemployment, COBRA insurance and all that. With your credentials, I'm sure you'll find something else soon. You're young. How's the Gould coming along?"

"Fine, fine. X-rays almost all done. Well, thanks."

And I left asking myself: Why me? I'm the only furniture conservator they have. And having just turned thirty-five I didn't feel young. Dejection started to slump my shoulders, but remembering what waited for me back in the lab made my step more brisk. I retrieved the one X-ray that had so excited me, putting it in my briefcase before anyone else could see it.

At 5 o'clock I walked to security where I opened the briefcase for the guard to peer inside. The X-ray elicited no interest. Work being taken home. At my apartment in the old brownstone near the museum, I stuck the film under the light table to examine the anomaly again.

A year ago, the Museum had acquired a Nathaniel Gould chest-on-chest. The massive, though elegant, wooden thing now sat in the lab for examination, cleaning, and, if needed, restoration. The 91-inch tall piece—when the top part was put on the bottom part—now sat in its two separate sections. I had started my work by X-raying the piece so I might see any hidden cracks, inspect joints, and espy the presence of nails.

Its top featured three finials—knob-like extension spires that began as rectangles of wood sitting on which was a round piece that became a kind of upside down toy top. The X-ray of the right finial seemed to show a box-like object within its rectangular base. Some kind of metal was blocking the view so I had headed to tell the news to Stella.

Now, I'll find out for myself—and alone—what's inside that cube of wood.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My Love/Hate Affair with Ernest Hemingway.

Well, hate is a bit strong. More like disappointment. I first read Hemingway as many young folks do in college. Not for assignment. And here was prose that was direct, fresh, sincere, and connected with me. So you want to write you start to imitate. Not a bad thing to do. You learn how sentence rhythms can be created. The Southern writer Reynolds Price (A Long and Happy Life; The Names and Faces of Heroes) was a visiting lecturer and as part of being in the creative writing course we were given a one-on-one with him. I didn't have much to show, just some prose poems, which he pronounced were "lovely."

One began: "The snows came in March and it was unfair because that same morning there had been the smell of spring in the air." Yep, that's pretty Hemingwayesque. But it's not a bad way to begin to find one's own writing voice. I digress.

Hemingway became a caricature of himself. And then his later prose became a caricature of his early prose. His late work Across the River and Into the Trees, deserved the ridicule it received through E.B. White's satire "Across the Street and Into the Grill" in The New Yorker.

You read Across the River today and groan: "I could learn it really well, he thought, and then I'd have that." Oh, Lord, please. And "Keep it clean, he said to himself. And love your girl." Jezz, really?

And yet. And yet. On one of the most emotional evenings of my life I turned to that book for a kind of solace. I had learned my father had died of a heart attack and the next day I would drive to Hutchinson. I reread Across the River and underlined passages. Today, almost 50 years later, I still have that book in my library.

Until the other day, the last Hemingway novel I had read was Islands in the Stream, published posthumously. I thought it pretty awful. Didn't connect at all. So when I read about another novel to be published posthumously I didn't bother, which was quite some time ago: 1986.

Wandering through an estate sale I came across The Garden of Eden, by Ernest Hemingway and it caught my eye because I was unfamiliar with that title. Looking through it, I realized it was the posthumous publication, so I bought it.

I'm just one chapter into it, but it was like meeting up again with an old friend. Here was early Hemingway prose: fresh, sincere, and it connected with me. I don't know how the rest of the book will go, but it's been a great joy so far to reconnect with my younger self and Ernest Hemingway in this odd way.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Hope These Insightful Companion Reviews Will Entice You to Read These Two Philip McQuire Suspense/Thrillers/Mystery Novels

Tortured Truths by Randy Attwood is a suspense thriller starring Phillip McGuire, a journalist who has recently escaped the claws of his middle eastern torturers. In bad shape both physically and mentally as he pursues a simpler life and leaves his journalism background behind, although not completely. He returns to his hometown in an effort to heal and live a simpler life, getting back in touch with old friends, and opening a bar. He soon finds a mystery that needs resolving as people begin turning up dead.

The plot thickens and excitement ascends to a shrieking climax with every word in this thriller. Gruesome and colorful text flows into a string of scenes that coalesce inside the reader's mind with each turn of the page. Characters are vividly displayed through dialogue and narrative giving the reader a sense of being in the thick of the action.

A well written and most definitely stinging suspense thriller that is a must read!

Heart Chants by Randy Attwood is an enticing novel rich in Native American lore and steeped in mystery. Packed with intrigue from the start Phil McGuire is back, and with cracked ribs as he threw himself into the hands of three Chinese men to save a beautiful Chinese damsel in distress, Hsu Chi. As he lays recovering in bed two Native American girls go missing and as a favor to a friend and assistance with his recovery another Native American girl Zonnie comes to stay with him. Hsu Chi finds him as well and a love affair sparks between them. While Phil is recovering with the aid of two beautiful women a young half-white half-Navajo man, self proclaimed Ko-yo-teh, is following the vision of his grandfather to rid the land of the white people. Increasing suspense builds as the reader is plunged into Ko-yo-teh’s world and Phil assists in solving the mystery of the missing girls. The elements within the novel merge together as the developing plot becomes progressively more compelling for a riveting, unforgettable, and unsuspected ending.

The amount of research and knowledge of the Navajo poured into this story is incredible. Randy Attwood lavishly and with great respect brings forth the mystical Navajo legends and thought. There is also an acceptance as in the first segment of the Phil McGuire series of peoples of varying cultures. In this novel Randy Attwood brilliantly entwines mystery and suspense with a twist of Native American history which is truly the humble beginnings of American history unknown to most.

The written words in Heart Chants flow with ease keeping the reader always turning one more page seeking the treasures and secrets each offers.  Randy Attwood has an unflawed ability to create characters that capture the reader’s attention; one may find themselves both loving and hating even the most despicable misguided personalities. From beginning to end Heart Chants is an exciting novel that is in my opinion arguably one of the best releases of the year.

Heart Chants is an impeccably written novel with a truly unique plot that is truly a must read.

Monday, February 6, 2017

My Stories Have Now Been Featured in Eight Anthologies

Recent publication of "A Match Made in Heaven" by small press Curiosity Quills in their anthology "Darkscapes" made me realized I hadn't kept track of stories accepted by anthologies. Turns out the count is seven stories in eight collections. "The Notebook" is featured in three; "Tell Us Everything" in two.

Here they are in order or publication:

Tell Us Everything
Oct. 2011

The Notebook

Tell Us Everything
The Notebook

The Notebook

The Saltness of Time

Innocent Passage

Blue Kansas Sky

A Match Made in Heaven

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Let Amazon Wrap and Mail These Books to the Readers on Your Holiday Gift List

If you've read one (or more) of my books that you liked, then there's a good chance you know a friend or family member who also would like them. Holiday gift item! Easy to send via Amazon as a gift. They'll even do the wrapping and mailing for you. Here are the eleven paperbacks I have out there through Amazon.

For the noir fiction lover: Five years ago Ellie ran away from her job as a TV reporter because two things happened. Now, running a gentleman's club, one of those things is happening again.

For the coming-of-age, thriller reader: High schooler Brad lives on the grounds of an insane asylum because his dad is the institution's dentist. One week in Brad's life will grow him up faster than he could have ever wished. 

For the Dystopia reader: The Religious Right has won and the Pastor President and pastor governors rule the country with a Bible in each fist and the computer in your hovel.

For the mystery/suspense reader: Burnt-out foreign correspondent quits journalism to return to his college town to buy and run a bar. Adventures come his way including a visitor from his own tortured past.

For the mystery/suspense reader: When two Navajo women go missing from Haskell Phillip agrees to shelter a third. And then a mysterious, beautiful Chinese woman stumbles into his life. Meanwhile, Coyote is trying to reopen the gates to the Holy People.

The reader of dark fiction: Why is so much murder, mystery and sexual brutality condensed among the few duplex homes on the Elm Street cul d' sac?

For the reader of political satire: atheist runs for state legislature on a campaign to nationalize big oil. He gets the girl, the money and a killer skateboard computer game.

For the literary reader: Episcopal priest at mid-life and mid-faith crisis.

For that old hippie: Stan Nelson is mired in nostalgia for the 1960s and the woman he lost then. His way out takes him back to that turbulent spring of 1970 in Lawrence, Kansas.

For the reader of shorter stories: five literary works.

For the reader of sci-fi and horror stories: six stories will remind you of Philip K. Dick, Rod Serling, H.P Lovecraft

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

STOPTIME, a post-apocalyptic tale, now published, set in an alternate Kansas City

StopTime had a really tortuous creation path. I don't keep logs on my writing. I think the idea of the novel was planted in my head when I read an item in The New Yorker that I used to open the novel:

We are not poor as a people, yet somehow we have become bankrupt as a society. We are—to use an old-fashioned word—ruined. And yet how this ruin is possible—how it has come about—no one can explain.....we have come to accept that...violence, impoverishment, squalor, and cruelty will rule, and that the most we can do is to keep them at bay...
Notes and Comment
The New Yorker
Aug. 5, 1991

It really felt in 1991 that things were falling apart. I envisioned a post-apocalyptic story, which are now rampant, but mine would have an odd twist. Inside a protected enclave―and of course I chose the Kansas City Plaza area―would be a student artist, a realist painter, who suddenly encountered a stop time experience. Everything around him had stopped in time. The only other example of using that device in fiction at that time that I knew of was John D. MacDonald's The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything.

If you have a stop time event, there must be some plausible reason and I chose a Wiccan healer outside the walls of the enclave that is called Scumtown. She casts a spell using one of the longest palindromes in Latin, a special candle, and a particular painting. It turns out the student artist in the enclave painted the canvas and thus is unaffected by the spell.

In fiction, when you create a world instead of describing the world we are in things get tricky. You want the new reality to be believable. That took time to figure out. The number of characters also grew and that gets complicated, too. Then I had to throw in a steam engine train expedition out of the KC Enclave into the wilds of Kansas where it goes through Herrington and encounters a different kind of Roman Catholic community and finally reaches Hutchinson where in the salt mine storage spaces it finds unbelievable treasure.

Creating the society of the KC Enclave, the warring factions outside, the odd events that can occur during and after a stop time event, well, it took a long time. I finally finished it (although the ending seems to beg for a sequel) last summer. And just let it sit. I had, have, many doubts about it. We'll see what the response is. If there is a response to StopTime.

Meanwhile I'm deep into another work that looks promising. A sort of comedy I've tentatively titled Dark Side of the Museum, set in an unnamed art museum somewhere west of New York City.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Time for this Funk to End; Kicking Myself in the ....

I've been in a funk most of this summer and reached a point in my work in progress, tentatively titled Dark Side of the Museum. It's set in an unnamed art museum somewhere west of New York City. Love the characters I've created. Some very funny stuff. A dash of paranormal, a pinch of time travel and I hope a ton of fun. But I just hit a wall. I think I'm breaking it down. Sat outside now that the weather is nice and started listing plot possibilities and there are a lot of them. And realized I had to make a major change and wonder how many readers will understand this: When the mummy gets unwrapped what gets discovered is not evidence of a link to the Dirlewanger group but to the Ahnenerbe group. Yes! That's the ticket. Stay tuned for more.

I'm very disappointed with sales of The Fat Cat, but local readers do say they like it a lot. So hard these days for a book to catch on via the internet. So much competition. Marketing is really difficult and it is easy to lose money on promotion schemes that are just that. It has always been true that the way to make money in self publishing is to prey on people who self publish.

But I persist. The Fat Cat is a fun, interesting and I hope engaging tale well told.

Waiting for cover art for StopTime, my next work that I hope will hit the streets this year. It's a sci-fi sort of alternate history starting about 1992 and leading to a much different Kansas City.