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Sunday, December 15, 2013

First Pre-release Reviews for "Heart Chants," #2 in Mystery Series, Encouragingly Wonderful

This is an apprehensive time. The digital formats for Heart Chants arrived the other day and I sent them to readers who indicated they would be willing to read, and perhaps review, pre-release copies of this novel that is strongly dependent on the Navajo creation story.

Heart Chants is #2 in the Phillip McGuire mystery/suspense series. Tortured Truths, #1 in the series, came out in October.

Phillip is a burnt-out foreign correspondent who, after being kidnapped and tortured by the Hezbollah in Beirut and released, says enough is enough. He quits journalism and returns to his college town of Lawrence, KS to own and run a bar where adventures come his way.

Heart Chants has a major character who is half-Navajo and half-white who believes he is a witch and knows how to create the largest sandpainting every created and do a chant that will reopen the gates to the
Holy People, from whom he can acquire new gifts to deal with the White Man.

Two reviews have come in now, one of them from a direct reservation art dealer with the Navajo since 1985. Here's what Richard Sutton had to say:

Master storyteller Randy Attwood scores again. This time, he’s traced an unexpected, jarring intersection of cultures and bruised mental states that leads the reader into the deepest shadows. Beliefs can sustain a people when all else fails. Sometimes, belief must be tempered with understanding. When that is lacking, evil seeps in. Heart Chants illustrates how even evil done for reasons of restoring harmony is simply, evil. His evocative descriptions of Southwestern vistas and his detail rich research into the Navajo culture, pay back in an absorbing reading experience.

Seattle area author Sean Bennick in a longer review was also very positive. That review can be found on Goodreads here and if you are member of Goodreads or join up for free you can put Heart Chants on your to read list. You'll see a "want to read" button. Last I check 220 people had put Tortured Truths on their to-read list.

You can't pre-order the book, but if you are interested, just email me and I'll send you an alert when the book is available. It should be out early next year.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Paragraphs Reynolds Price Found "Lovely"

I came across those paragraphs that were the only things I had to show the Southern writer Reynolds Price when he came to visit our creative writing class at KU in the late 1960s. He called them "lovely." They actually got  published in that odd yearbook done by KU in 1971. I look at them now, 40-some years after they were written, and think: "Hey, this isn't bad stuff. Rhythms are good. Emotions are honest. What more do you want?"

Weather and Her 
By Randy Attwood
(c) 2013 by Randy Attwood

Soft Rains
When the rains were soft in the fall we would stay in bed, just looking at each other's eyes and listening to the sounds of the drops as they hit the roof and the collecting puddles. Then, there would be the battle of who could tickle the other person out of bed so that one of us would have to go and make the coffee and bring two cups back to bed where we would listen to the rain again.

March Snows
The snows came in March and it was unfair because that same morning there had been the smell of spring in the air. But during the night the snows came, and I awoke when I heard the wind. I got up and parted the curtains and looked out at the street lamp and saw the snow blowing as it collected in drifts around the trees and her car in the driveway. A happiness I did not understand filled me when I looked down at the bed where she slept. I slid down under the covers again and she stirred, her lips slightly parted and her yellow hair everywhere. I pulled her close to me and slowly inhaled our warmth—man warm and woman warm together—as the wind continued to howl.

During those nights, I would hold her as tightly as I could, my lips pressed into her arm as it tightened around my neck in the darkness. If there was anything else anywhere else, it was unnecessary to look for it. The smell of her hair and my nose against her throat and always through to more, always into never ending, stop at never ending and search for more and through and out and into never ending, stopped just before never ending, only close away from never ending, search again for never ending and quick-found oblivion stretching farther, reaching never ending. No thought. Only long and tight-filled ending.

Holding hands, we stood under the protection of the roof of the porch and watched the thunder and the lightning bring the night. It also brought the rains from the east: Enraged hard rains that whipped the ground like a savage madman, raging hell against the earth for being secure, not having to roam the restless skies like they, the rains. They beat and beat and pounded upon the ground–the ground that either soaked the rains or ran them off to the rivers; but the earth remained, infuriating the rain that screamed its hate with wind: A jealous shrieking wind that came down crushing into our faces as we braced against each other on the porch.

The wind blew all that day and it was impossible to be away from it because you could still feel it in your hair when you were inside. The only thing was to hope that it wouldn't last too long. But it stayed through the next two days bringing only heat and exasperation and a feeing of helplessness. It was impossible to concentrate on anything. Even the love-making took on an exasperated feeling, some helpless fight against the wind.
"Why does the wind bother you so?" she asked.
"It's constant sound and feel. It leaves me weak."
"Why weak?"
"I don't know. I'm sorry. Kiss me again and I'll ignore it."

I couldn't ignore it, but it helped to have her weight on top of me, pinning me, and I slept well that way, secure that the wind would not blow me away.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Thoughts on "Then and Now: The Harmony of the Instantaneous All" and That 1-star Review

I now have a significant number of works out there from novels to novellas to short stories and collections. When I get asked which one is my favorite, the standard response is that they are like your children. What I find interesting in the question is to ponder which among my works are least read. I like Then and Now: The Harmony of the Instantaneous All very much. Whenever I reread it, I really get drawn into it anew. It's set in Lawrence during that turbulent spring of 1970. It's a fictional retelling, but with enough true events to enhance the drama for the characters. It's the only work of mine that has received a one-star review, which I found really interesting because the writer was really upset with himself, not with me. He wanted to have written a similar novel about those times. Listen to parts of the review from "John Brown:"

Disclosure: I have only scanned this book. This book purports to be about Lawrence Kansas in 1969 and 1970. I was there. I ended up in federal prison as a result of an alleged bombing conspiracy. I was personally in the middle of all this author mentions. I was ten feet from Nick Rice when he was shot dead by police in the midst of an unarmed crowd. I was suspected by the Feds of many acts described here in. I was friends with all the main players. This author was not. What I have read is a sorry shadow of the reality of what happened and does an injustice to it.... So many books written about those times are, like this one, written by fringe players or are heavily romanticized, or are somehow apologetic.... someday maybe someone, somewhere will actually write a piece of fiction that catches the reality, but it has not happened yet. Actually, I once tried and the result ended up being over a thousand pages long (no one in their right mind would pick up a thousand page novel by an unheard of author). I was asked to revise it way downward. I couldn't do it and by then it was the year 2000 and I couldn't figure why I was even writing this anymore....

Yes, I was on the fringe, but I was there. I was in the center of my being and the whole purpose of writing Then and Now was to get back to that being and those times. I wasn't writing a history. Nick Rice didn't die in my story, another character, near and dear to the main character, Stan, did. I was writing something that I hoped young people could read today and relate to. So John Brown's anger is displaced. He's angry at himself. Then and Now has not been a sales success. But for me, it is an artistic success. I'm happy with it.

From a writing technique, Then and Now presents an interesting point of view approach. Stan Nelson tells why he is writing Then and Now and creates characters from those times and then traces them to the now, and shows them those parts to see how accurate they are. I think it sets up an interesting push and pull. Listen to Stan as he explains why he is doing what he is doing:

I don't want an essay. I want a re-creation. I want the ultimate in fiction -- to live again in those times. Not so I can understand them. I don't want to understand the 60s. I want to have them again. Live, breathe and feel them again. The ultimate fantasy. Some friends believe it will be therapeutic for me, a kind of acting out that I'll be able to realize as such and so analyze. Others say, Stan, man, it's just escapism, dangerous avoidance of the now. I guess I have to ask myself somewhere along in this thing if there is going to be any worth here for me. I just can't deal with the question now, man -- dude -- bud -- pal: whatever is the generic non-sarcastic appellation in your argot for "friend."

Actually, I'd like to meet this John Brown. I'd like to see his manuscript. I think we might become friends.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Short Story "Confidence" Published by New Digital Publication "Eleven to Seven"

Thanks to an alphabetical listing, my short story "Confidence" is the first story listed in a new digital publication "Eleven to Seven." I think we're going to see more and more of these sorts of creative outlets open up. I hadn't published "Confidence" myself, so I am glad it has now found a home. The author who gives away his fiction for these sorts of endeavors hopes exposure to the published piece prompts a reader to search for more of his or her work.

I wrote "Confidence" when I was in my twenties. I was exploring the short story environment. I thought the piece of fiction at less than 500 words worked well, but it was never accepted to the literary journals where I submitted it. And so it sat in the file cabinet for, well, decades now.

I think it shows what can be accomplished in the short format. A character is established and something life-changing occurs to him. The challenge is to make it occur for the reader in a convincing and connecting sort of way. Hope you'll check it out.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Small Press Curiosity Quills Accepts SPILL

Email arrived last week:

Dear Randy,
 I've just joined Curiosity Quills and it was my great pleasure to read SPILL. I found it to be a fascinating and entertaining read. I am pleased to inform you Curiosity Quills would like to offer you a contract for SPILL. To capitalize on the marketing potential, we'll be looking to publish closer to the end of next summer, when the primary season is in full swing for the elections.
 Erika Galpin

SPILL is a political comedy, only comedy I've attempted. I wrote it out of deep frustration. Over many decades of writing fiction, with little publishing success to show for it, I thought: "Look, if you can write something that makes people laugh, you can't deny the writing is successful." SPILL—about a fired English teacher who scams the political system and gets the girl, the money, and a killer skateboard computer game—poured out of me in three months. Never written any novel that quickly. I laughed as I wrote it; many readers have laughed as they read it.

It got me an agent. We came close with traditional publishers. Here's the final rejection from an editor at Ecco, a highly respected imprint with Harper Collins. You make sense of it for me. I can't.

Thanks so much for thinking of me and of Ecco for Randy Attwood’s political satire, SPILL, which I enjoyed digging my teeth into. Fred and Zoe share a kind of chemistry on the page that goads the imagination and leads the reader to be genuinely interested in the outcome of their electoral shenanigans, and Attwood very capably lampoons contemporary aspects of America’s current political situation, like the oil industry, gun regulation, and unemployment. Unfortunately, as compelling as I found this read, in the end it just didn't capture my heart and attention to the degree where I would feel confident taking it on. Attwood has a sure command over language—my overarching issue, though, is that that language seems to be employed towards the end of being current; my instinct tells me SPILL exists less in and of itself and more for the audience it is fashioned to attract, and so I am sadly going to have to pass on this one. Attwood clearly has an accomplishment on his hands, and I wish you and him the best of luck finding a home for this debut elsewhere.

I self-published it in 2011 because editors at other traditional publishers advised my agent to encourage me to do so. It got me into this whole new business of epublishing and saved my creative life. I was really ready to just give up writing. Now I'm back at it. I haven't had huge self-publishing success, but I've got some wonderful reviews from people I don't know for my short stories, novellas and novels that are all over the genre map.

The small press Curiosity Quills picked up the dark suspense work Blow up the Roses." Then they accepted two works I have not self-published: Tortured Truths, released just this week, and Heart Chants, scheduled for Dec. 20. Both are part of a Phillip McGuire mystery/suspense series. And I was proud to be the only author to have two stories published in their recent anthology, PrimeTime.

Now they've acquired SPILL.

I have the contract on my desk to sign. When I do so, it means I have to un-publish SPILL from my self-publishing platforms.

So, if you want an early copy, here's the Amazon Kindle and paperback site.

And a favor. Although we are at least eight months away from SPILL being published by Curiosity Quills, it not too early for me to network and find nationally known political type folks who would read this comedy and, if enjoying it, provide a blurb endorsement. If you have a connection (or if you are such a person!), do please let me know.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Coffin Hop, Just in Time for Halloween

I'm doing one of those blog hop things again. This one around Halloween theme and so, of course, called "Coffin Hop."

The scariest book I've written is Blow Up the Roses. It's labeled as a dark suspense thriller. It starts off mildly enough but at the end it should have you at the edge of your seat.

I hate to give too much away, but suffice it to say that if you think a serial killer who is also a pedophile might scare you, this is the book for you.

You'll be surprised who was taken with this work: 

It's also on all other platforms.

Paperback through Amazon.

Other Coffin Hop participants can be found at this web site.

Coffin Hop colleagues are welcome to go here and pick one of my shorter works for me to gift to you.

And don't forget to enter the drawing for a free copy of my just release mystery/suspense novel Tortured Truths. Just look to the right.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Tortured Truths" Now Available. First in a Series. "Heart Chants" is Next. Dec. Release

I'm pretty pumped that my publisher, Curiosity Quills, has released Tortured Truths! Here's the Kindle version. Here's the Nook version. Paperback should soon follow on Amazon.

I started the novel a long time ago, way before 9/11. I had become enthralled with John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series, from The Deep Blue Good-bye through The Lonely Silver Rain. I liked the books, not for the mysteries they contained, but because I wanted to spend more time with Travis. That's the kind of character I tried to create in Phillip McGuire and this mystery/suspense series. But Phil is no repeat of Travis. He's his own person with his own broken background, a burnt-out, foreign correspondent who leaves journalism to return to KU to own and run a bar. Intrigues come his way. Love comes his way.

I hope you'll like Phil enough to want to be around him again. The next book in the series, Heart Chants, will be released in late December. If you happen to be Navajo or Native American or interested in those cultures, I think you'll like Heart Chants. A lot of research about the Navajo went into it and that, alone, made it rewarding for me to write. What a people.

A shout out to Curiosity Quills and how great it has been to work with their people, from the main guy Eugene Teplitsky to the acquisition people, the editors, proofers, cover designers, and marketing folks.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I'm Offering to Gift You One of My Short Stories

Kindle readers. I want to send you a gift card for one of my $0.99 short works of fiction (one is actually 10,000 words).

Below find description of each of the four stories. Leave me a comment giving  your email address and which title you would like to have and I send a gift card to the first 50 takes. Click on the comments to be able to enter that field.

"Randy Attwood has a gift for putting the reader into the story. I felt as though I had hobbled across the frozen ground and stood in the shadows of the cavernous old house. "The Saltness of Time" unfolds seamlessly, without distraction, from the time he presents his characters to the disturbing conclusion. When I finished reading this one I needed a cup of hot tea to warm up and reflect."

A tale of innocence lost, as two adventurous boys discover tragic hidden secrets and their own true nature. No reviews on this one yet. Be the first!

"...the main gist of the story is about playing snooker. But, like all of Randy's works, that is not all there is to it. I'll say this much - I don't know squat about snooker, but he made the game - which is, I think, a metaphor for other things - very exciting. I won't tell you what I think it is a metaphor for; I'll let you draw your own conclusions."


"This is the latest short story from Randy Attwood and will bring me up-to-date again with his works. I like to stay abreast of Randy's writings, because he has such a terrific and interesting style, each book unique but containing a familiar voice. Now, I had to wonder exactly how he would make golf interesting, especially in just eight pages, but I shouldn't have worried.
 An absolutely gorgeous story, voluptuous descriptions that just beg for someone to paint the scenes in oils. Who thought that a short story about golf could be so intense, so vivid and so engaging - I literally walked out to the mailbox with my Kindle in my hand, reading."

*I do have to set some limit on this so the offer is open to the first 50 persons who request a story.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Two Stories Included in Curiosity Quills Anthology of "Quirky" Tales

October 7 my publisher of Blow Up the Roses, Curiosity Quills, will release two anthologies of short story. Prime Time contains 19 stories. I'm the only author to have two included. After years of rejections my stories are finding homes and readers. They are The Notebook and Tell Us Everything. The folks at the small DC publishing house have been great to work with. They publish in all genres and have a stable of editors who do a superb job and a good group of cover designers. My fellow CQ authors are a helpful group and I enjoy our Facebook encounters.

CQ describes the collection this way:

"The anthology is not limited to one specific genre, but all of our novels are guaranteed to be quirky and paranormal, in some way or another.  We also guarantee 10% of every purchase will go straight to animals in need. The CQ team has selected humane societies on both the East and West coast that spend well and do not stray from the “no-kill” policies of their strays."

Quirky is a good description. Both of my stories are in my own collection called Very Quirky Tales as an paperback and 3 Very Quirky Tales, as an ebook.

Good to see that some of the revenues are going to a good cause, "no-kill" animal shelters.

Here's what the front and back covers look like for Prime Time.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Release Dates Set for First Two Phillip McGuire Mystery/Suspense Books

The first two novels in my Phillip McGuire mystery/suspense series now have release dates by my publisher Curiosity Quills, which published Blow Up the Roses last November. Phillip is a cynical, burnt-out foreign correspondent with a dark history who leaves journalism to buy and run a bar in his old university town of Lawrence, KS. Mysteries and adventures come his way as he tries to move beyond what has happened to him in his past and embrace his future, whatever that's going to be.

The team at Curiosity Quills has been wonderful to work with. Eugene Teplitsky, the publisher, has assembled a great team of acquisition folk, editors, designers and promoters. Tortured Truths will be released Oct. 22. Heart Chants comes out Dec. 20. More about these books later.

If you'd like to be notified when these are available, just subscribe to the mailing list up on top. If you're a reviewer and would be interested in an advanced reader copy, just leave a comment here with information how I can contact you.

Here are the cover reveals for the Phillip McGuire books.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Great Shouts, Whole New Linguistic Category

Came across a column I did from my old newspaper days and really liked. Hope you do too. If you have some Great Shouts to add, put them in the comments field.

At a newspaper where I once worked, I had the occasion to run into the press room and yell “Stop the presses!” The effect was immediate. Ink-smudged men, who before barely had grunted an acknowledgment of my existence as night editor, scrambled. Buttons were pushed. The roaring noise of the press subsided. The run of papers through the Goss machinery had just begun, so we did not lose too much money by pulling one of the plates to correct a gross error (mine) in a headline that would have made us  the laughing stock of the town.
I ruminated on the event, remembering how the phrase “Stop the presses!” had, by itself, bellowed with magnificent authority from my own terrified lungs, galvanized pressmen into immediate action. I realized they reacted not because of any authority I possessed, though in editorial control I was, but rather from the authority of the shout itself. There was no doubt about it. “Stop the presses!” was a Great Shout. I had discovered a new linguistic category.
Regular shouts like “Ouch!” or “Stop it!” are mere visceral reactions. A Great Shout is a specific phrase voiced for a particular situation that demands it be shouted so that the moment is not only described but requisite reaction understood: “Stop the presses!”
“Fire in the hole!” is perhaps the greatest of the Great Shouts. It relates the essence of the situation and leaves it to you to decide within the next second or three, how you should react.
“Timberrr!” is likewise a Great Shout. If you are in the woods and hear it with enough volume to know it may affect your actions in the next few seconds, you will cast your glance rapidly around you. “Timberrr!” shows the economy with words Great Shouts possess. A kind of genius, really. It’s pretty easy to imagine how “Stop the presses!” originated. Two editors probably looked at each other and said, with shock showing in their eyes, “My God, Fred, we’ve got to stop the presses.” They probably marched back to the press room, found the foreman, and -- with presses roaring in the background -- each issue coming off adding to their sweat -- said to the foreman who bent his ear close so as to understand what they were saying, “Bob, we’ve got to stop the presses.” Bob probably said, “What?” At which point one or both of the editors yelled at the top of their lungs, “Stop the presses!”
How did “Timberrr!” arise? “Tree about to fall!” must have died an early death. “Falling tree!” is beneath the dignity of any lumberjack. Some spark of insight realized that the act of cutting the tree, its falling to earth, was making it into timber and so a new Great Shout rang forth in the forests.
“Timberrr!” is in the warning category of Great Shouts. I don’t think “Heads up!” is a Great Shout, although when yelled by a gym teacher will bring attention from his young charges. War, however, has given us some forceful warning Great Shouts. “Hit the deck!” for example. But since economy of words is the hallmark of a Great Shout, “Incoming!” from the Vietnam War is a beaut. It really says it all. You can’t beat “Dive! Dive!” when accompanied by klaxons for romance, although “Bogey at three o’clock!” isn’t bad. Perhaps the oldest Great Shout from war is simply “Charge!” And it will still give order and direction to a gang of boys in a snowball fight. “Hey Rube!” accomplished the same thing for circus workers.
I can’t think of any Great Shouts from the entire arena of sports, which is filled with yelling. Baseball has many Great Silences, for example when you wait to see if a ball will make it out of the park. “Going...(silence)...Going...(silence)...Gone!”
Great Shouts cut through to the essence of communication. If you were on board a ship and heard “Man overboard!” you would help pass the cry forward to the helm without correcting to “Person overboard!” “Thar she blows!” culminated days and weeks of searching for whales. After months on the water, “Land ho!” must have been a beautiful Great Shout to hear.

Yes, the publisher the next day at that newspaper had some of his shouts of his own for me for having to stop those presses, but none of which I judged to be great.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Why Write? Here Was My Answer

Came across this from 2005 when I was really, really down. Sort of a "buck up" message to myself that what I was doing with words was important to myself. And necessary.

Writing, oddly, fills me with confidence. Trying to get published floods me with self-doubt. I stopped trying to get published many years ago and just concentrated on writing--developing what was in me, making sure I had my voice, not a formula voice; making sure that each novel, each story, was unique to itself, was its own world; and knowing the book was finally finished when I found myself emotionally satisfied with its final sentence.

Then I started sharing my work with others: People who went to bars, people who played pool, people who worked in hospitals. The emotional connection was there for them. After reading one of my novels, a man in his 50's confessed to me he had been molested as a boy by his uncle. Two women told me they actually cried at the denouement of another work. High praise. None could compare my work to anything else they had ever read.

I have a 10,000 word short story that probably never will find a home simply because of its length, and yet those who read it find it remarkable. I am at work on a highly unusual piece that fits no genre and thus, is unmarketable. My novels sound silly when forced into a synopsis. My beginnings are not jarring enough to make them stand out from other beginnings. And yet I believe a good sentence contains a rhythm that connects to the heart more than to the brain. There is harshness in my work, but tenderness; brutality, but compassion. I have no idea how to market those qualities. I have come to loath the very word "market," and how can I do something I loath?

I write because only when I'm involved in a "project" am I fully myself, only then do the many aspects of myself come together in my word-created world.

I fear I may never be published because I simply will give up trying. It leads to despair. That, too, I turn into the soil of myself from which will come the next "project." I re-read Frost's "Build Soil" and await the budding of my next work.

Now I've published many of the works mentioned above.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dog Days of Summer, but Reasons to Howl

I haven't done a general update in some time.

July was my worst month in selling books via Amazon and other platforms. No one knows what is really happening with the self-publish, ebook phenomenon. Certainly, the ease of self-publishing has brought an enormous number of books to the market, so the challenge how to gain attention increases. Noise level is very high.

My current marketing strategy is to get-my-mug-and-books in front of people. I'm searching for events where I can set up my stand, show my books, and talk to potential readers.

I joined about 50 other authors at an event at The Town Crier, an Indie bookstore in Emporia, KS. Sold three books. Stopped at a bar on the way out of town, had fun with the bartender, and sold two more. So I made gas money. Left some books at the Indie store and later got a check for almost $80. They must have sold those books.

I went to Pomona, KS for a book signing–read that hope-to-sell-books event. Pomona (Pop 832) is southwest of Kansas City. Its library is in a corner of its community center/city hall. There were about 10 other authors also hoping to sell their wares. I sold three books: gas money. But it was also worth the trip to see Pomona Lake and meet the folks who came by my display. But that evening, when I got home, I felt an incredible tiredness. It baffled me. It wasn't that long of a drive. I think I understand now.

I had eight books on display. To see another human being pick up a book you have, in some cases, spent years writing and now selling for $10, examine it, put it back down, and walk away from ... it just drains something from your spirit. But near closing, one lady, Jane, bought a book and asked if she could write me a check. Sure, I told her. Check in hand, I then told her I had donated to the library a different book so it was available. Jane said she would go over and reserve it. I saw her do so. Sleep revives one's spirits. I hope to gain an audience one precious reader at a time. I think instead of cashing Jane's check, I may frame it to hang over my desk.

On the creative positive side, I have now finished going through the edits and making changes on two novels, Tortured Truths and Heart Chants that Curiosity Quills, the publisher of Blow Up the Roses, will publish this fall. And the anthology they are publishing this month will contain The Notebook.

This cool thing happened today: I've had so many story rejections over the decades it's quite remarkable–certainly a first for me–to submit a story and have it accepted the same day. Here's to the digital age! There is a caveat: no money for the story. It's going in an anthology and profits will go to support ‪Cystic Fibrosis Trust, which helps patients and families. It's rather nice to think that writing It Was Me (I) may help someone else.

And a new work, Stop Time, progresses.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Welcome to Summer Splash Blog Hop; Signed Copy of Blow Up the Roses is my Offering

Thanks for checking in during the Summer Splash Bog Hop that Cheryl Bradshaw at Indie Writers Unite! started July 26.

I'm offering a signed, paperback copy of Blow Up the Roses to two persons (random draw) who leave a comment with their email address so I can contact them later for snail mail delivery of this novel. Curiosity Quills, publisher of this novel, is running a special so you kindle readers can grab it as an ebook for 99 cents until Sunday.

But, wait. You may not want to be a winner or get the book.

Blow Up the Roses is a very dark suspense/thriller. More than one reader said they wanted to stop reading it, but couldn't. We've got some serious serial killing going on here. Mr. Brown, who rents his side of the duplex from Mrs. Keene, is a very nasty and troubled person.

Some of the back story: I was managing editor of the mid-sized Kansas daily, The Olathe Daily News. from 1978 to 1988. During that time, we lived in half of a duplex on a cul d'sac. An horrific murder occurred in Olathe. Home was entered through one of those unlocked sliding doors from a walk-out basement. A teenage girl was left dead, bludgeoned, her younger brother alive, but with head wound, and elder teenage sister missing. Her body was found a few days later.

The town was terrified and it took the cops way too long to solve this case. It was a tough reporting job for us because we learned that the autopsy of the elder teen showed she was pregnant. To report or not? We reasoned, and I stand by it, that at that time the killer was on the loose and the more people knew all the facts, the more they might come forward with information to find the killer.

The family was not pleased. For me, it became difficult because that family moved out of their death-ridden house and moved into another duplex on my cul d'sac. So I had to drive by where they now lived on my way to work.

Blow Up the Roses is not a fictional retelling of those events. It's a complete new creation, but those events certainly were in my psyche when Mr. Brown made his appearance through my keyboard.

Here's a video trailer I had more fun producing than I should have.

If you live in the Kansas City area, let me know and you'll go in another drawing, winner to be invited to the house for one of my cocktails or, shudder, a non-alcoholic beverage. 

Here's the link to the other authors participating in the Summer Splash Blog Hop.

And, finally, here's where you can find all of my fiction. Well, except for my Philip McGuire mystery Tortured Truths that Curiosity Quills will publish in the fall and its sequel, Heart Chants, in winterMore about those later. If interested, go back to the top of the page and enter your email address for further updates.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Promoting Shorter Works All Under $3.00

I have nine fiction works available for under $3: five at 99 cents and four at $2.99. Here's a promo for them.

I'm all over the genre map. Let's start with those $2.99 titles:

 In One More Victim, the Holocaust is a critical element, so it gets classified as World Literature>Jewish. When I offered this 22,000-word novella as a free download (which I won't do anymore) it reached #1 ranking in free downloads. As a paid download, it's broken through the top 100 several times. Some people say that means I can claim it as a "best seller." I have no idea what that means. I just hope more people will read this story that one reviewer called " amazing, heart-breaking, beautiful story."

The Saltness of Time is a 10,000-word literary work. Kansas Prairie, in its review of the novella said: "Travelers stranded in an old hotel by a snowstorm on the Kansas prairie hear a tale from a stranger about a night spent years before in a similar storm. Attwood tells a story within a story, both a compelling portrait of life on the prairie many years ago, and a mystery that keeps the reader guessing until the last page. Attwood skillfully paints Kansas landscapes and the lives shaped by those broad, windswept plains. The twists and turns in this tale are intriguing!"

The Strange Case of James Kirkland Pilley is easy to describe. If you are an H.P. Lovecraft, fan you will recognize the take off on the title of his great work The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. One reviewer said this 10,000 word story "...out-Lovecrafted Lovecraft... The essentials are all there: a narrator speaking directly to the reader and warning of horror and calamity, with an opening sentence announcing the main character's probable doom: 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."

Then there is A Match Made in Heaven, a science fiction novella. The Mormons have left Earth to populate the Planet Moroni where they discover their destiny in the stars and amongst themselves. One reviewer, who has become fond of my works wrote: "I have never met a Randy Attwood book that I haven't loved; he has a real talent for bringing his characters to life and creating an environment that is realistic and detailed without going overboard. This is the first science-fiction story he has published, so I was quite interested to see how he did in this story environment. And it was... brilliant! This is a short story, maybe it could be considered a novella - it took me about an hour to read it through. I am not sure where, exactly, Randy came up with some of the ideas he used in this story, but I found the ideas presented evocative and thought-provoking. There are questions of consciousness, how to truly access God (in whatever form that power takes for you), the humane treatment of others, etc."

Okay, now to those 99 cent reads. Some good stuff in these stories of less than 5,000 words. I hope.

Blue Kansas Sky Brad, who lives on the grounds on an insane asylum, where his father is its dentist, catches a ride on a bus for the patients who are allowed to go to town on Saturdays. Brad goes to play snooker, which has become a passion in his life. That game, and one of those patients, will teach him the most important lessons any of us can learn.

Innocent Passage A tale of innocence lost, as two adventurous boys discover tragic hidden secrets and their own true nature.

By Pain Possessed This is a science fiction story I wrote while taking a class at KU from that great classical science fiction writer, James Gunn. He actually provided me with the ending. One reviewer's comment: "There is an undercurrent of facing up to your fears and becoming a stronger person for it, but also a warning about becoming that which you hate and therefore losing sight of yourself."

Downswing "An absolutely gorgeous story, voluptuous descriptions that just beg for someone to paint the scenes in oils. Who thought that a short story about golf could be so intense, so vivid and so engaging."

The Richard Dary Weight Loss Institute The best diet program is the one you can't remember.

If you don't have an ereader, these works are available in two paperbacks, with shipping they cost about $15. One More Victim, contains that story as well as The Saltness of Time, Blue Kansas Sky, Innocent Passage, and Downswing. The paperback Very Quirky Tales contains The Strange Case of James Kirkland Pilley, A Match Made in Heaven, By Pain Possessed and three other stories that are not available separately as ebooks (Tell Us Everything, It was Me (I), and The Notebook.)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Presentation, Book Signing, and Everything Else

I had great fun doing a presentation "This Brave New ePublishing World" a couple of weeks at for the Community of Reason group that meets at the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus on Sunday afternoons. Very nice turnout. I go over how and why I got into ePublishing, what I've learned since doing so in the spring of 2011, and what still baffles me. It also gives me a chance to talk about each of my works and offer them for sale afterwards.

I'd be happy, and am searching for, other venues within a four-hour driving distance of Kansas City that would be interested in such a presentation. My bookshelf on Amazon is now 16 works deep. 

Last Saturday, I went to Emporia, KS and joined 56 other authors at the Town Crier, an wonderful Indie bookstore in downtown Emporia. A nice number of buyers and lookers came in and although I only made three sales, I'm happy I went because I think other on line sales resulted. Also, the fellow sitting beside me was Dave Burns from Ottawa, who started the Ottawa Writer's Guild and teaches creative writing. His website is here. Thank you Cheryl Unruh for the picture. He sold more books than did I (probably just because he's cuter than I am). However, on the way out of town I stopped at Mike's Tavern for a libation and the bartender asked about me. I explained who I was and why I was there. She started shouting about a local author being in the bar and her friend, Jennifer bought two books. Bottom line: new readers and enough profit to pay for the gasoline and slab of ribs from Williamsburg, still the best around. Whenever I break even, I'm happy.

I'm 30,000 words into a novel that is set in the future that has a couple of elements that are really working for me. It's called Stop Time because the stoppage of time is one of the elements. That's been done many times (I think John D. MacDonald's The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything was one of the first I read.), but one of the characters who is unaffected by this time stoppage is a student artist, a realist painter. Can you image what it would mean for a realist painter to be able to paint during a time stoppage when the model doesn't move and the natural light values of the sun don't change? It's also important to present the mechanism for the time stoppage and I use a spell from a Wiccan healer and a really cool trick for why the student painter isn't affected.

America has been destroyed by the barbarians from within, but the Kansas City Plaza Enclave has saved itself behind walls that protect its civilization, and, for all they know, perhaps the only spot of civilization left in the country. Beyond the walls is Scumtown. No need for prisons in the Plaza Enclave. Misbehave and just get booted into Scumtown.

The internet is so incredibly helpful. I've networked now with Wiccans to help me on those details. And I've also hooked into a couple of people very familiar with the APC (armored personnel carrier) that plays a role in the story. The APC has been combat locked so how do you open it with no power tools or welding torches at your disposal?

And wait until I tell you about the steam locomotive train expeditions into Western Kansas!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Author Returns to Larned for All-School Reunion and Setting for "Crazy About You"

Thursday, June 6, I left KC for Larned, KS to attend the three-day, first, all-school reunion. This means all classes were invited back. Larned now is a town of 4,000 people. This reunion returned it back to the population it had when I lived there: 5,000 people.

Glad I reserved my motel rooms eight months ago!

My father was the dentist at the mental hospital just west of Larned and we had housing on the grounds. One of my first jobs was working in its cafeteria. I got to know a lot of "crazy" people.

That background became the basis for Crazy About You, which I took to the reunion to sell and, wow, what fun it was. Capitalist bottom line: I sold enough books to pay for the trip. Emotional bottom line: I had so many people come to my signing to tell me they had already read the book and loved it. It doesn't get better than that.

Best buzz: my book signings were at a bar and grill recently opened by a fellow classmate (Max Galliart) who bought a building downtown (built in 1883) to live upstairs and run the business downstairs. Their 20-something bartender started to read the copy I gave Max and his wife, Donna, as a thank you. I'd never watched anybody read any of my books. It was obvious she was getting into it. The last day, when I had packed up, she gave me the price of the book and said she wanted her own, signed by me. Thank you, Reese!

I took pictures of all the houses I lived in while in Larned: three in town and two on the grounds of the mental hospital. They all looked so small! Then I realized that the psychological spaces in our memories are so much larger than the physical reality where they were created. What is happening in our psyche is always huge. The physical dimensions really don't matter. That the physical spaces, when we return to them, seem puny, make no less large the psychological events that made us as the person we are today.

Before taking pictures at Larned State Hospital, I stopped a security vehicle to tell them what I was doing. The grounds now house a prison and sexual predators unit, so security is tight. They said I needed permission from the Supt. Went to his office and his secretary told me he was out of town. She knew who I was and the book I had written and called the acting Supt. He said she needed to call Topeka. The wonderful woman did and quickly got me permission to take the photos. (I think I'll do a separate post of photos that relate to Crazy About You.)

I think one of the great things about having grown up in a small town is that when you return, not a lot has changed, so you can quickly connect the streets and buildings with your memories.

It was not easy to put this reunion together. There were a lot of naysayers. But the organizers prevailed. To see the joy of so many classmates and friends re-encountering and hugging was worth the price of admission, which was all of $35 and included a banquet.

I am so proud to call Larned my high school. I am so grateful for the experiences that allowed me to write Crazy About You.

Thank you, Dan Knupp, for this photo!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Re-examining Those All-Important First Sentences for Works of Fiction

I'm fiddling with a new fiction project, The Fat Cat, and I really liked its first sentence:
hadn't seen that good-lookin' motherfucker for almost a year when he walked in with his partner to ask me about the dead dancer found that morning in our dumpster.
It made me think how important first sentences are.
I've always hated the cute little human relation's phrase: "You only have one chance to make a first impression." But, with fiction, it is so true. It really has to feel right. It's like the opening line of a song, and I think writing is like music. If you get the words right and the rhythm right, you make a kind of music in the reader's brain that resonates.

Made me go back and look at my first sentences and comment on them.

I like the first line for The Fat Cat I think because the phrase: ...the dead dancer found that morning in our dumpster really hits those d sounds and creates great imagery.

Some other first lines, in no particular order:

I had two phone calls from Don before he killed himself.
I like the simplicity. It tells us something important happened and that someone should have know it was going to happen.

Cricket carefully backed her crummy car, which needed a motor mount bolt replaced, down her cousin’s driveway.
I like this simple introduction of this character. I think it sets the tone right away.

On my drive home from work Friday evening I stopped at a traffic light, glanced left over at the driver in the other lane and saw myself.
How better else to start off this Rod Serling "Twilight Zone" type of story?

Mr. Brown closed the door on the whimpers and walked up the stairs to take a shower.
How can you not want to know more about Mr. Brown?

There really is a Kansas sky, wide as the land is flat.
Lyrical intro for a story based around a snooker game.

It wasn't until the 15th green that I realized how alone I was.
Really? You play 15 holes of golf and then realize you are alone on the course? Must be something else going on.

The skies were cloudy all day.
Any Kansan knows our state song with the verse "And the skies are not cloudy all day." Yet there are some days that are cloudy all day and that sets up the anomaly for this loss of innocence short story.

The most important summer of my life began with a house-shaking thunder boomer that woke me up on a Thursday night in 1958 near the end of my fifth-grade school year.
Sometimes you just set the opening like you were laying a foundation stone.

Bob Crowley, drunk and very tired, almost tripped over the broken toy truck before kicking it out of his way then trudging around the side of the house to the back of a former duplex that now housed six families of 50-some Christian souls.
This is a first sentence as a simple, but engaging scene setter.

"I like these kinds of snows. They cancel things out."
I don't open many stories with dialogue, but this I thought would draw a reader in.

Fred Underwood was driving his 15-year-old, once-white, now rust-speckled Nissan pickup six miles over the speed limit on his way to deliver the head of a dog to the state’s vet school for rabies testing when several things happened to him.
Another scene-setter opening sentence, and if that head of a dog doesn't get you to read the next sentence, nothing will.

The Volvo in the closed garage purred quietly as it exhaled the gas that Jim Garrison inhaled.

I think this opening line imparts so much information and tone. I really like it. The use of exhale and inhale creates a great rhythm.

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.
This is my homage to the great horror writer H.P Lovecraft. I hope this is the kind of sentence that he would have written and would have loved the phrase "Friends of Pilley Park Garden Society."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Gas Prices Bumping $4 Got You Down?

As gas prices start to bump that $4 level you might need some comic relief that SPILL can provide. Here's the opening: 

Fred Underwood was driving his 15-year-old, once-white, now rust-speckled Nissan pickup six miles over the speed limit on his way to deliver the head of a dog to the state’s vet school for rabies testing when several things happened to him.

He saw a sign announcing—as though proud of the fact—that gasoline at the upcoming station was selling for $4.15 a gallon. He looked into the rear view mirror when he heard a siren and confirmed that, indeed, a police car was chasing him. He uttered, “Shit,” but then felt his body swept with euphoria: an idea smacked him that would make him rich.

And here's a review that just came in the other day, from England of all places!

This darkly satirical comedy, depicting a failed schoolmaster's attempt to take on the American political system evokes memories of Our Man in Havana. Mr Attwood has the true comedian's lightness of touch, and there is hardly a dull moment in it. Particularly fine were the descriptions of Our Hero's experiences as a schoolmaster. The action moves well throughout the book, and although I found the ending a little abrupt, on reflection I don't know that the more conventional, drawn-out epilogue chapter would have added anything worthwhile to it.
Comic fiction lives or dies by its characters, and this is a particular strength in Spill. Even minor characters are lovingly drawn; no cardboard cutouts here, they are all real and alive. A traditional third person narrative is used, with subtle shifts to its tone depending on the point of view. I have always felt that it is in his use of narrative that a writer shows his true quality, and Mr Attwood passes this acid test with flying colours.

SPILL: Big Oil + Hot Sex = Game On

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rabbletown Connects With Former Fundamentalist

Rabbletown: Life in These United Christian States of Holy America really connects with many people. It's a dystopia work set in 2084 when the Religious Right has been in the control for decades and the Pastor President and Pastor Governors rule with a Bible in each fist and the computer in your hovel. I worked on it for a long time, ever since Pat Robertson got involved in influencing elections. But I had written myself into a corner, and it just sat there until one day I revisited it and realized I had to let Bobby, the son of a stone mason, do his thing.

Katy Sozaeva is a top 500 Amazon reviewer, which means this woman reads A LOT OF BOOKS. She wrote her longest review for Rabbletown, and she has said it is the best book she HAS EVER READ. I think the caps are justified. I'll include the video she let me do about that review here, but just in is another review from a reader who really connected with the work. This kind of response is extraordinarily gratifying for a writer. And I really liked the last two sentences.

WOW! I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. This book touched my heart in such a way that I can't explain in words. Growing up in a fundamentalist church, understanding, later in life, the damage it did to me, makes this book terrifying in one way but so outrageously funny in another. This book takes place in the future. Everyone has nuked each other and there's not much left in the United States. The United States has turned into dictatorship run by the descendants of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. There are many parallels from the Bible, for example, a savior comes in the form of a boy named Bobby, a stone mason's son (instead of a carpenter's son, like Jesus). I don't want to give away too much of the plot without ruining it for you. But you have to read this. It's different from anything you've ever read. What a mind this author has. It makes me wonder about his background.

The review is here:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Raven Book Store in Lawrence, KS Takes Three Of My Titles

Raven Book Store in Lawrence, KS is one of the most successful, respected, independent bookstores in this region. I am so delight that after meeting with its owner, Heidi Raak, she has decided to carry three of my titles.

Book Number 1 Crazy About You is my most popular novel. It's a coming-of-age story and so much more. I really did grow up on the grounds of Larned State Hospital because my father was the dentist for that mental hospital and the state provided us free housing. Here is one Amazon five-star review:
By Mark Shoup

If the folks over at the New York Times Review of Books are looking for fresh novels by other than established writers or well-connected new ones, they should dust off their keyboards and surf over to Amazon, where they'll find an astonishing new novel by Randy Attwood.

Crazy About You is set in the most unlikely of places, in and around a state mental institution in west central Kansas. Attwood's protagonist, a high school student nearing the end of his junior year, is at once naïve and wise beyond his age. These qualities, combined with growing up on the "asylum" where is father works, have created within him a gut-wrenching combination of empathy and Everyman's selfishness that shape him forever and come to a head during one wildly dramatic week when his father and estranged mother are out of town.

Given the protagonist's years, one might dismiss this as a coming-of-age story. It is not. Less a psychological thriller than a psychiatric adventure, the novel fearlessly reveals ways in which human beings face their choices and emotions and those of others -- from loyalty and deceit to cruelty, despair, and joy -- things we all sometimes learn to deal with but never totally control. It is at once gripping, brutal, and tender.

Crazy About You defies categorization, but suffice to say that those looking for pure excitement and good story telling will not be disappointed. Nor will those who thrive on the deeper layers of psychological tension. Although the novel often deals with forces out of the protagonist's control, it also tackles tough moral choices that indelibly shape our lives, all within the context of a fantastical drama that will leave the reader musing for days. But ultimately, this is a story about absolution. If you have not laughed out loud often and shed a few tears by the end, you'd better see a shrink.

(I donate $1 of every sale of Crazy About You to Headquarters Counseling Center in Lawrence because those good folks work the suicide prevention hotline for this part of the country.)

Set in that turbulent spring of 1970 in Lawrence.

Another five star Amazon review:
 By Terry Needham

If you were alive during the late 1960s, then you will totally relate to this story. If you were not alive then, chances are pretty good you have heard about the 60s all your life, most likely from your own parents. Well, here is your chance to immerse yourself into the world of the late 1960s, on one of the most beautiful and respected college campuses in the nation--the Kansas University at Lawrence, Kansas. Yet this story is not unique to KU, but very typical of the social revolution that took the youth of this country, and around the world, to challenge and defy the "man" . . . government of all forms. As a heady blend of drugs, acid, jazz, rock & roll, sex, the draft, Vietnam, and many other issues compelled them into the ubiquitous search for "it" . . . whatever "it" was . . . as well as the search for the "self" too--whatever that is. Or, long-hair hippies "just doing their thing" --whatever that is, yet, as one character says, "I really think something new is going on. Maybe it's a return to good old American pragmatism, utilitarianism and individuality. That's what `do your own thing' really means." And another character, Dan, commented, "You know, from the coalescence of these kinds of diverse elements . . . revolutionary progress is made." This was a transformative time that left a lasting mark globally that is still being felt to this day. The author recreates this era faithfully, with the sensitivity and insights available only to someone who was there. Yet, even more, woven within the chaos and pandemonium brewing on the campus is a tender love affair that emerges at the very heart and core of this story . . . and it takes you places you do not expect, nor could even imagine. This is the third book by this author that I have read. Each was very unique and entertaining, as well as thought provoking in a way that stayed with you for days after reading. Plus, each book by Attwood has shared one common thread--his gift for creating a "cast" of diverse and interesting characters, and then weaves their lives together in a plausible, and realistic series of events, toward the most unpredictable and so often amazing outcomes. I look forward to my next read of this author's books and highly recommend you do too.

Book Number 3 The41st Sermon

 Walker Percy fans, pay attention. I sent the first few chapters of this novel about a Episcopal priest at midlife and mid-faith crisis to Walker Percy and he read and sent me a not telling me to send him the rest. Send him the rest I did and waited and waited. Six months later I read his obit in The Kansas City Star. Reprint of that note is in the opening pages of The 41st Sermon.

Here's a review from Katy Sozaeva, a top 500 Amazon reviewer:

Father Christopher Talley, an Episcopalian priest, spends a week each year at a resort in the Ozarks. This gives him a chance to escape the constraints of his life as a minister - to fish, to drink, and to spend some time with a woman other than his wife. He also writes his sermons for the coming year. This year, while at the resort, he runs across one of his parishioners, the lovely Molly, who says she is thinking of divorcing her husband and has come to the resort to think about things. That isn't why she is there, of course - but she's bored and decides to seduce her handsome pastor.

This was a strange story - Randy asked if I could assign a genre to it, but honestly, I can't think of any genre it fits into neatly. There is a bit of mild erotica, there are definitely lots of different themes - finding yourself, redemption, finding faith, learning what life is all about - but none that relates itself to a specific genre other than general fiction. I really liked the book, though - it had a lot of good things to say, and I thought the story was one in which many people could find enjoyment, once they get past feeling shocked about some of the issues that come up. I warn that you need to be open-minded about the story, but if you are willing to do so, you should find something in here to love.