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Sunday, April 29, 2012

My First Web Radio Live Interview Wednesday

Well, this may be cool. I'm to be interviewed live on a web-based radio show Wednesday (5/2) noon, KC time here. The session will focus on Crazy About You.

It's made me go back and look at Crazy and try to understand why I like it, really a lot. Personally, for me, there is the memory that when I wrote the ending scene and how, subconsciously, I must have named a character what I did, it blew me across the room.

But, looking at it technically now, I realized that although it's in first person, it's in a method I discovered (not new I'm sure, but new to me) I call the looking-back first person. The story starts in clear first person from Brad's point of view, the high school student living on the grounds of a mental hospital because his father is a dentist there and the state provides free housing. But at times in the story, Brad is presented in the future and reflecting back upon what he is relating.

Finding that technique for Crazy opened up a whole new range of possibilities for other stories I was struggling with. It made me realize I could tell The Saltness of Time from TWO first person points of view. The opening first-person POV is the narrator telling what the second first-person POV (Brad again) is saying. I think this sets up a wonderful dynamic. It gives the story both a sense of distance and immediacy. And, quite frankly, I haven't thought about that until just now.

But I digress. I'm really looking forward to discussing Crazy About You. I've always been scared of radio. Very nervous. I think it will help that I will be in my den on my phone. Tune in and see what a fool I can make of myself. I'm giving myself 50-50 odds on this one.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Couple of freebie announcements

Free download for Kindle users of A Match Made in Heaven ends midnight PDT April 28.

Starting that same time will be a free download for three days of By Pain Possessed.

A reminder that if you don't have a Kindle, you can go to Amazon and download, free of charge, software that will put an app on your desktop for either PC or Mac that will let you read these Kindle files.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Back Story on The 41st Sermon

Decided to get on a marketing push for The 41st Sermon after an avid reader I know really well and very much trust called it the best of my works he's read. And another reader I trust chimed in his approval, too.

It's one of my most undersold works and that puzzles me. More on that later, but first a little of the back story.

I was managing editor at The Olathe (KS) Daily News when I wrote this book. It was a good stretch in my life then. I had been able to assemble a great newsroom and we were doing really good news reporting. As a suburb to Kansas City, we beat the KC Star 2-1 in circulation and whipping them daily on local news coverage. It embarrassed them greatly when my court house reporter, Andy Hoffman, was able to find out and break the Royals cocaine story before the KC Star. (At that time, they had a morning and afternoon edition and their afternoon edition could only quote our morning story; that, folks, is called a sweet clean scoop in the newspaper world).

But what I really wanted to do was write novels. I would get up at 5 a.m., two hours before I headed to work. My son, who not yet in his teens would also wake himself up to practice the piano (Koji Attwood, google him, he went on to get a doctorate from Julliard and has a performing career). I was in the basement pecking at an early computer, an Atari 1040, if I remember correctly, and he was a floor above practicing.

On Saturdays, we drove from Olathe to Lawrence where he had an hour lesson with a KU piano professor. My wife shopped downtown Lawrence; I sat in the "Casbah" coffee shop and edited and rewrote.

I didn't keep any writing diaries, so I don't remember how long it took me to complete it. I never start with any sort of outline. The only thing I knew about The 41st Sermon was than a middle-aged Episcopal priest was headed on his yearly, weeklong work-vacation at a fishing resort to rest and write the outlines of his sermons for the coming year.

I didn't know what was going to happen to him when he got there. When his parishioner's wife showed up alone, things started to get interesting. You create characters and start to live with them in your head and they come to life for you and you hope you can bring them to life for the reader.

I've written another blog about the connection to that great Southern writer Walker Percy and won't repeat that here because this is the link.

I thought I might use the scan of that note to create some curiosity among Percy fans about The 41st Sermon. And, it's odd, the link above is one of my most visited blog posts. But it hasn't seem to have translated into downloads. It could be the Percy fan base, which has quite a few academics, look down their noses as self-published works and this whole ebook phenomenon and have refused to go digital. I've made it a free download a couple of times through Kindle Select program and usually free downloads will be followed with buys. But not this time.

It could be there are too many points of views, but I thought they were handled well and all those points of view provide the reader with information the individual characters don't have about each other. I think it makes the reader a sort of an omniscient viewer, but one who will encounter some surprises along the way.

I liked Father Talley and his struggles with his faith and his sexuality and himself. I liked Molly, the very sexy and independent siren. I liked Fr. Talley's wife, Kathryn, and her own road of self-discovery with the help of the psychiatrist, Richard, who is Molly's wife and has his own secrets to keep. I think the interactions of these people have an Updike sort of feel to it.

I think the novel deserves more readers and I hope this might encourage more people to get the book.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sci-fi short story, By Pain Possessed, now live on Kindle Direct

I once took a creative writing course at the University of Kansas from that master writer of classical science fiction, James Gunn. By Pain Possessed was one of my efforts for that class and he was favorable to it, and actually suggested the last paragraph. Gunn was really a very good teacher. He explained point of view in a way that suddenly made it come alive for me. He was stern with his criticism, but fair. I remember him criticizing one young man's story: "A drunk bemoaning his fate is really boring." According to the Wikipedia, he is still living and in Kansas City. I wonder what he thinks of this whole epublishing phenomena. He was very business-like when it came to writing: you wrote to get published and you got published to make some money. I remember when I took his class I was one of the older students. He was then working on, and would read to us, segments from a novel about the changing of the millennium. 2001 was not far off. After he read one segment, I raised my hand, and noted that it seemed he had forgotten that the new year does not come to the entire world at the same time, but according to time segments. His face blanched, I mean white. He was, I believe, aghast that such a simple scientific fact had escaped him. That novel, which I believe was called "The Millennium Blues" factors in that time-change reality.

James Gunn's Wikipedia reference is here:

He was a master of the craft and I was lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from him. If you are interested in classical science fiction, I encourage you to encounter him as well.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Excerpt from One More Victim

One More Victim is still my most downloaded work. I like this excerpt:

Her face at that moment is still the sweetest vision I have ever seen. It was full of yearning, yet already satisfied. Her complexion mirrored the innocence of her heart, untouched yet by the cruelty of the world and the far greater cruelty of our expectations for ourselves in that world. She opened her eyes and leaned her forehead to rest against my lips. I whispered her name as though it were magic. We were in another world.

One More Victim

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Excerpt from The Saltness of Time

I do one blog post and let it sit for too long and then I do too many over a short period of time.
I'm sure most writers fall in love with certain of their passages. This is one of my favorites:

Maybe it was the lack of sound that made me believe the acres of snow had become a vast sounding board stretching over the prairie and bringing to me the vibrations of its past. But there was no doubt to me then, nor is there now, that I heard Indian ponies passing in the night and I could feel the heart throbs of a terror-struck pioneer family, huddled, praying for God to protect their lives in a dismal soddie. I heard, then, too, the shouts of children in an ancient Pawnee settlement, ignorant of what would follow a Spaniard's search for gold. I heard a shovel scoop out earth to make room for a tiny coffin and sobs tore at my heart. My body was rocked by the thuds of buffalo bodies, one after another, hitting the prairie as a hunter decimated a herd. And then I actually felt the vibrations as the first plow ripped the sod and make the entire prairie sigh. It sighed the word 'land.' Land, it's a word as magic as the sea, isn't it. There even reached to me the sounds of monster fish from when Kansas was, for thousands of years, a great inland sea, only to dry up, like dreams, and leave beds of salt and shark's teeth for a Kansas boy to wonder at.

The Saltness of Time

For the grammarians out there: should that be sharks' teeth?

"Downswing:" a Story for Golfers

Golf once was an addiction for me. Good thing I wasn't better at it or I'd still be in rehab. I loved playing the game, (though play here seems really the wrong word). But I couldn't get any better at it. Became increasingly frustrated. And it cost too much money and took too much time. I gave it up. I still love it. It's the one sport I watch on television without caring who is playing or winning. I'm in KC and I watch the Royals on the rare stints when they are doing well. I watch the Chiefs. Of course I watch KU basketball. But the truth is. I don't watch much baseball, football or basketball unless my local team is involved. I think that means I'm not a true fan of those sports. Not so golf. The Masters is my Christmas. I'll watch any tournament. I love the game. To hit a golf ball well is an extraordinary feeling.

I have never been a person jealous of other people. I don't care if someone has a bigger, nicer home car etc. than I have. But one time I was invited to play at Kansas City Country Club (when it was the home course of Tom Watson). Being a public course player I was used to keeping up with the group before me and looking back to see that I wasn't holding up the group behind me. But at this country club we would actually stop our carts in the middle of a hole and just sit and chat. I was jealous.

Downswing is a short story I'm rather surprised I'm publishing. I can't imagine it will appeal to many people. Golfers, yes, who are also of a certain sensitivity. Downswing was written out of a desire to see if I could capture in words so many feelings I had on the golf course: The beauty of the setting, the frustrations, the glories, and the inner soul of a golfer.

It's a story of only 2,500 words, so I'm pricing it as low as I can on Kindle at 99 cents. Kindle edition

Other readers can find it at Smashwords. Other ereaders

It may be an attractive length for those who are now reading on smartphones.

Comments and reviews always welcome. Be interesting to know if Downswing resonates with anybody.

Never accept a book you can't burn

Upon reading an article in NYT today that Muslim group is giving away the Koran in Germany with the goal of putting into every household, I thought to myself: I don't want a book in my house that I can't burn. Reminded me, too, of a character in my political comedy SPILL who is running for office and has been accused of burning Bibles, to which he replies: "I have never burned a Bible, although I do think there are far too many of them in the world."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wanted to revisit my first epublished work: The Strange Case of James Kirkland Pilley

Last spring, The Strange Case of James Kirkland Pilley was the first book I epublished. I thought it time to re-promote it. I think Stephen King fans will like it. Here is what one reviewer had to say:

Synopsis: "Edward Hawthorne had no premonition of the first disturbing and later horrifying consequences that would result from his joining the Friends of Pilley Park Garden Society."

Thus begins "The Strange Case of James Kirkland Pilley"  a tale H.P. Lovecraft fans will dip into and not emerge until they have learned why neighbors around Pilley park start acting strange, murderous and suicidal when the park's garden pond is drained for repairs and a city codes enforcement officer finds a document from the past that tells of the extraordinary discovery made by Pilley during a Civil War battle on the park's site.

My Thoughts: Randy Attwood said that he used the Cthulu Mythos as an inspiration for this chilling story; I can definitely see the influence. As the story progresses, and people grow mad and/or kill themselves and others, we learn more about the reason, and the sense of dread grows, as does the sense of unreality. It all starts when a man who has a home at the edge of a park decides that the old, swampy pond needs to be cleaned out and a new, more pristine lily pond made in its place. But as the water is removed from the area, strange happens commence. What is the source of the strangeness, the sense of unease, and the odd behavior of those who live in the area?

While this is short – a novella at most – a lot of story is crammed into it. I highly recommend it for those who are fans of the eerie and strange. 

Tornadoes and "One More Victim"

Sometimes, the old newsman comes out in me. The excitement of a newsroom when a major story is breaking is a thrill indeed. Getting the photographers and the reporters to the scene, assembling all they bring back into a print package for the next morning's paper. Heady stuff.

Last night, as the tornadoes raked through the midwest, I turned to twitter and facebook. They have, indeed, become the new Associated Press, complete with eye witness accounts and photos from cell phones.

I realized that if I were a managing editor today I would not only have to send my photographers and reporters to the scene but I would have to have people monitoring all the facebook and twitter accounts and youtube reports and collating them for our own online presentation to readers who want the latest from one source.

What a challenge.

And the subject of tornadoes always brings me to the point that a critical element of "One More Victim" is a tornado:

" seemed wrong that I could remember the tornado that killed Mother, but I had no memory of her"

Saturday, April 14, 2012

On Point Review for "Crazy About You"

Thank you, Nancy, for this review of Crazy About You. "read again" hits a writer's bell right where it rings.

"Having grown up in the area where this book is based, Randy hit all the right "notes". Great development of all the characters, well developed story line. Will remain in library (i.e. is a read again)!!"

Friday, April 13, 2012

Find the Tone; Find the Voice; Find the Truth

I encountered Leonard Cohen long after I had written all that I had written. But when I heard him, he astounded me. He expressed in this one song all the pain and mystery I was after in so many of my stories. Amazing. How could he achieve in so few notes and stanzas what I had tried to do in thousands of words? That's music for you. It probably came before we had words, maybe more efficient. And Leonard's genius.

I listen now to that song and can hold entire in my mind Crazy About You, which has its own Suzanne. But when One More Victim occupies me, his Suzanne also resonates to Kathy's story.

I have discovered a new joy for this writer: I can distill the essence of each work into a feeling and remember that feeling in a way I imagine only I, and no reader, can experience. To find a song that also expresses that feeling is ecstasy, indeed. Thank you, Leonard.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Picking some favorite lines from my own works

Thought it would be interesting to quote favorite lines from some of my various works:

Dad had worked on his teeth and found him to be perfectly normal. “Now that he’s killed his family.”

"Christianity used the Jewish god, a god who is everything and by being everything ended up being a big fat nothing...."

I believe what I did was right, but why does it sit still so heavily upon my soul?

“We’ve got to fornicate again tonight, Bob.”
“So soon?”

I wanted to go to her, to touch her, touch her in that manner any of us will want to touch a person we are with who is near death. But that natural instinct, I have to tell you, was wiped away by a palpable fear, a fear that if I went near her at that moment, the blast from her open soul would sear my own.

...she twisted the bar towel in her hands as though wringing thoughts out of her brain.

"And when did you fall in love with me?"
"I woke up with it the morning after I met you,"

"One More Victim" picks up another nice review

"One More Victim" received a nice and interesting review. Really appreciate it when readers take the time to leave comments.

I'm an older gentleman living out in the boonies, so sometimes I forget that the world has seemingly sped up, even as I've slowed down. Having said that, this book felt like a duststorm packed in a tornado and wraped in a hurricane. And I say that in the most flattering way. Attwood (this is my first experience with this author, and I'm pleased to say a suprisingly delightful one) manages to include so much backstory in such a short space that I couldn't help but feel a bit rushed...and yet it didn't feel rushed. It was just the right backstory and it was well constructed. The story itself was such a delight to discover. It left me breathless.

Review on Amazon

Background for "One More Victim" on this blogpost:

Buy the Novella for $2.99

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Blown Away By This Review of Crazy About You

I've been remiss in not checking to see if new reviews arrive for my works. Just found this one for "Crazy About You." I cannot tell you how much this review meant to me and how many good wishes I send Pamela's way!

Very good and enlightening book! I have suffered from severe depression - therefore I have spent time in the mental health wing of the hospital and have also spent time at the Homewood Health Care Centre in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. (It was originally called the Homewood Asylum) Thankfully I AM doing much better now and am no longer depressed. This book caught my attention because it was about an Asylum and from my experience I know that not everyone inside is scary crazy or dangerous, and the author does a good job of explaining this as well. I was curious to see how the author would portray life inside the asylum and found it interesting. It's sad to read of abusive staff members but this book does take place in the 50's and I'm happy to say that I didn't see any sign of that in any of my experiences. The story is a good one and the main character Brad is someone the reader can root for (although he is way too focused on sex! But maybe all guys are like that at that age - what do I know - I'm not a guy). There is a lot going on in this story and I don't want to spoil it for you. I recommend you get this book and read it for yourself.

Please know that I donate $1 of each sale to my local folks who work the suicide hotline for the area in Kansas City.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The 41st Sermon free until midnight April 8

For Kindle users, "The 41st Sermon" is free until midnight PDT April 8. Walker Percy fans should be interested in this book and in a previous post you'll see the scan of a note that Southern Writer sent me after he read the opening chapters.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Have Story, Need Letterpress Printer, Typographer, Designer, Artist, Paper Maker, Book Binder

Blogs also seem a perfect place to dream in public and perhaps find like-minded dreamers. My dream is to hook up with a printer who has a letter press and a designer who loves typogaphy and an artist who likes to do etchings, a paper maker and a book binder. A collaborative project that would be ideal for Kickstart funding.

The Saltness of Time would be a perfect novella for a limited edition, hand-printed book on fine paper and wonderfully bound. It is a perfect story for an artist to illustrate with etchings.

Check this one scene:

It was a house made for another era, another place, a set of dreams beyond my understanding. In the failing light and in the shadows of the trees, the air around the white, three-story mansion had a bluish tinge, the color of my own cold lips. The house needed painting. And what a job that would be! Wide eaves above the attic windows that were above that third floor. Fancy cut posts, gables and columns. The entire front porch of the house was screened in. It had the look of a plantation mansion and I wondered if the porch might not contain a misplaced southern gentleman in a white suit and Panama hat, frozen in mid-stride while smoking his after-dinner cigar.

So if any of the above talents happen upon this page, do get in touch.