Subscribe to email updates

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.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Great Photographs Lead to Good Covers

I've been fortunate in being able to find and use various images from photographers for covers of many of my works. The first photographer I came across, Jared Wingate, is from my old home town of Larned, Kansas. Jared now lives in Texas and has made an impressive name for himself as a photographer of popular rock groups. I was stumped for what image to use on the literary novella One More Victim when searching through Jared's online portfolio I saw the image of a woman floating over a bridge. It seemed to capture the mood of One More Victim. The model is Jared's wife. The image is now used on the paperback of a collection of literary short works in which Victim is the lead story.

Later, I ran across Karen Garlow Piper, a photographer in Hutchinson, KS, who has a special love of sunset and weather shots. A couple of lightning storms play critical roles in the novella, so for the single story digital offering of Victim I used Karen's image.

Another of her landscape sunset shots seemed perfect for the short story Innocent Passage, a most unusual coming of age tale.

The Notebook is a longer story in which a professor returns to his old campus for a seminar and Jeremy remembers he left a notebook in the attic of the house where he lived when a student. He wonders if it might still be there. He rings the doorbell and meets Sarah. This is a story the end of which no reader has foretold. Jared's photo manipulation, again using his wife as model, seemed perfect.

I'd known Ray Inman from his years as a photographer at The Kansas City Star. I was fortunate he was the photographer who came to take my picture for a short item about me in a local magazine. A portrait he took of me is the one I most frequently use. I've used two different covers for The Strange Case of James Kirkland Pilley, a Lovecraftian novella that many Lovecraft fans have praised. I've never been happy with either cover when Roy searched his portfolio and came up with a shot he manipulated that does a wonderful job of piquing the curiosity of potential readers.

And in the post before this one you'll see another use of a photograph for cover, this one for a non-fiction piece of prose, The Rita Chronicles, with photo by KC news video news reporter John Tygart.