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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Seven-Day Holiday Sale on 4 of My Novels

For seven days, starting Sunday Dec. 17, my publisher Curiosity Quills will have a 99-cent sale on the ebook versions of the four titles I have published with them.

Blow Up the Roses: How much pain, horror, and anguish can one cul d'sac endure? Why is so much murder, mystery, and sexual brutality condensed among the few duplex homes built so close together on the Elm Street cul d'sac? 

SPILL, in which a fired English teacher scams the political system, gets the girl, the money and a killer skate boarder video game. 

Phillip McGuire Series I, Tortured Truths: "Once a journalist, always a journalist." Until the Hezbollah get a hold of you and show you just what a coward you are. Phillip McGuire was already a burnt-out foreign correspondent before the Hezbollah kidnapped him in Beirut and, under torture, got him to give the layout of the Marine compound he had visited. They blow it up, killing those 237 Marines. His psyche blown to smithereens with guilt, he returns to his college to buy a bar and try to hide. 

Phillip McGuire Series II, Heart Chants: A second Navajo girl comes up missing from the Indian College and ex-journalist now bar-owner Phillip McGuire finds himself in the middle of the search for answers, which are easy if you are Ko-yo-teh and have found a way to open the gate to the Holy People. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

"Bless Me, Father, For I Am Sinning"

Bless Me, Father, For I Am Sinning is my 15th shorter work of fiction published via Amazon. It’s a short story just in time for Christmas reading, with, I think, an appropriate theme and ending. I’ve categorized this one as literary and Christian. It will be added to the list of my works you can read on whatever device you use for a mere 99 cents.

I was enamored with the Roman Catholic Church at a young time in my life. I fell out of love, and this is my nostalgic memory.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"Dark Side of the Museum" is now live

When asked where I get my story and novel ideas and I have to admit I have no clear idea. Not so with Dark Side of the Museum. I remember when I told my father that I was majoring in art history he replied, “What are you going to do with that?” Towards the end of my adult career I was hired as the media relations officer by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art here in Kansas City. Unfortunately, my father had died decades before so I couldn’t call him and tell my art history major paid off.

The Nelson-Atkins was a fantastic place to work with amazing people for colleagues. I really enjoyed it. One day I was looking at a large piece of furniture from the workshop of a Salem furniture maker National Gould. I stared at one of the finials on top of the piece and wondered if it was possible that something could be hidden there.

I had come to the museum from the University of Kansas Medical Center where I had been Director of University Relations. This mean that what was going on around me really was often a matter of life or death.

The professionals I found myself with at the museum worked with the same intensity in what they were doing as I had encountered at the medical center. I came very much to admire the curators with whom I got to work. Their knowledge, articulation and judgment really impressed. But I have quite a bit of fun with the curators in Dark Side, none of whom are based on any real person.

When I wrote my one comedy SPILL I found a writing voice that I quite liked and I wanted to visit that voice again. I don’t know if Dark Side is a comedy or not, there certainly are some laughs in it, at least there were for me. Dark Side is an outrageous exaggerated work in which I get to have fun with a bit of paranormal and time travel.

I am grateful for the many great experiences working at the museum provided for me and the extraordinary environment in which I found myself. Here’s a sampling:

 You get to meet some of the nicest people and work in the most interesting and beautiful of environments. One shot down there is from the roof of the museum when Jacques de Melo came from New York for a photo shoot.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Dark Side of the Museum for Preorder

I'm set to publish my 11th novel November 15, but it's available for preorder now. Dark Side of the Museum is a deliciously outrageous look at the inner workings of an unnamed art museum located somewhere west of New York City. I had a lot of fun writing this one and it's full of fun characters and interesting happenings. At least that's the writer's hope. I titled each chapter and those give a peak inside the book:

Edgar Makes a Discovery and Gets Fired.
Agenda: A More Interactive Museum
Edgar Performs a Desecration.
The Symbol That Could Not Be.
Agnes Hebenstreit Makes a Momentous Decision.
The Chinese Consult Makes an Astounding Proposal.
Local Art Critic Is In the Building.
Decision Time for Ambrose
Edgar Makes Another Discover, Two Actually.
Several Plots Thicken.
Go. See. Know.
Decisions, Decision.
Emily Needs to Pee.
The Day of the Cheesecake Competition Arrives.
Theodore Washington Gets Discovered; Ambrose is Told the Scroll is Ready; Edgar Gets Schooled on Nicolai Tesla and Kurt Goden. Whew!
The Director Catches Edith as She Faints.
Ambrose Waits; the Director Gets to Work.
Canities Subita, RFG, Xenoglossia
A Room for Beatrice
The Director's First Night in His New Digs
Getting Rid of Robbie
Moving Things Along
Re-entombing Meryre
Tying Up Loose Ends, Sort Of

(A thank you to Kansas City photographer Roy Inman for letting me use his image as cover art.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

"The Deep Blue Good-By" Group Read

I joined The Busted Flush - A Group For Fansof John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee administered and I think started by Chris Lueloff on Facebook‎. Recently, the idea was floated that the group read a McGee novel a month starting with The Deep Blue Good-By. As a writer, I know I’ve learned a lot from JDM and my novels Tortured Truths and Heart Chants resulted from trying to create my Travis McGee character and pay homage to MacDonald’s achievement. I’ve read through the series more times than I can remember. This time, I thought I’d pay attention and look for specific lessons for a writer. I posted those on the group page and thought I’d assemble all of them here. Warning, these comments are intended for the reader who has finished the book. So there are spoilers below.

Chapter Uno

By the end of Chapter Uno, McGee's task is set. What I found unusual in rereading it was the amount of space that was given as basically a monologue from Cathy, Catherine Kerr, explaining her situation. This is an extremely long piece of dialogue with only one interruption from McGee the listener. Go look at your James Patterson or Lee Child and just about any suspense action writer and I don't think you'll find such a long monologue from one character. It works for me. You find out the situation quickly and jump right in. It will be interesting to me to see if in this book or any future book there is such a long monologue by one character.

Lesson for this writer: when a character wants to talk, let them talk.

Chapter Dos

Ah, the promise of sex. Not hard to imagine Chook in that big tub. But look at this gorgeous sentence: "...female, deep and glossy, rounded--under the tide little fatty layer of girl pneumatics--with useful muscle." Delicious writing.

But McGee doesn't have sex, though certainly invited, with Chook because he smells something wrong and he turns out to be right. He walks her to her car. Much of fiction is getting a character from point A to point B. With JDM it's never boring. He uses every opportunity to fill in the scene or teach us about the character. "I heard the lisping flap of water against the hull..."

Then we get one of what I call a McGee editorial, this on the Playmate age.

In some forums I've seen female readers don't like McGee and think him a simple chauvinist. I hope female readers here chime in with their opinions.

At the end of chapter Dos, McGee has struck out in the sex departmesrent and decided to take on  the Cathy project.

Lesson this writer takes away from this chapter: When moving a character from point A to point B don't miss the opportunity to do much more.

Chapters Tres, Cuatro, Cinco, Seis

Hmm... my plan was to make a comment after every chapter, but then JDM does what he does so well. Pulls you in and you can't stop reading.

We get introduced to the much modified Royals Royce Miss Agnes who "...retains the family knack of going eighty miles an hour all day long in a kind of ghastly silence." How gorgeous is that! And we learn how he acquired the Busted Flush. Then we get into standard McGee procedure. Go see people and learn what you can from them about the situation and ruminate upon it.

Writer lesson here when we are introduced to Cathy's sister, Christy. This is really a throw away character. Fills a slot. Probably won't hear from her again. Who knows. But JDM doesn't treat her as such. He gives her description full attention with this wonderful summation: " the sultry dignity of she-lions." Love it.

Lesson for writer: There are no minor characters. Just as with people, each character has a soul. Try to find and express it.

Then we get to the creation of an amazing creature, Mrs. Atkinson. McGee first introduces us through the house she occupies which ends with "...they have the look of places where the blood has recently been washed away." And such is Mrs. Atkinson.

I don't know. At this point things seems too contrived. I've never know a woman like Mrs. Atkinson who could be turned into a kind of zombie through sex and submission. I have known some women in abusive situations who get out of them and then seem to seek out the same kind of man. Do hope women readers step in here and comment.

But what JDM creates he carries out to the full and in the end it works.  Her character takes us through 20 pages to chapter siete (I forget when we learn why the Spanish chapter numbers, we'll find out). The lesson for this writer: Don't worry when a character seems bizarre, just go with the flow. The reader will follow right along.

Chapters Siete, Ocho

Travis is still in his fact-gathering stage and travels to NY and then Texas. In Texas we learn that in the search for facts, Travis isn't above a bit of torture. But in creating these fact-gathering trips he gives us a slice-of-life look at his environment and times. In Texas, he becomes a focal point of a family drama.

The lesson for this writer is to remember that when you do scenes so your protagonist and reader can learn something they need to learn you also have the important opportunity to show the world in which that protagonist lives and make it richer for the reader.

Also in these chapters I see what I call McGee Editorials. He has a credit card and hates it. In his diatribe he writes: "In the stainless nurseries of the future, the feds will work their way through all the squalling pinkness tatooing a combination tax number and credit number on one wrist..." Sort of assumed JDM was expressing his own views in these little editorials and he may have tried to limit himself early on. Not later. Those editorial comments are part of what create the Travis McGee mood. We'll see more of them in upcoming novels.

OK, we're getting to the stage where we all know this is headed: that showdown with Junior Allen.

Chapter Nueve

The trio of the three girls we've been introduced to, Chook, Cathy and Lois come together when Cathy gets the shit beaten out of her by, guess who. This Junior Allen, he's somethin' else.

In this chapter some firsts happen in the McGee series. JDM uses a ploy he often will by having Travis remember he has a friend or acquaintance who has just the particular knowledge base into which he needs to tap. This one is a "sly elderly angle-player" in New York who is able to research the local gem market.

And the other first thing that happens. Travis has sex! He's turned it down in the book up to this point and turns it down again when Lois creeps into his bed. Then we get at first blush what seems pretty phony to me. Travis feels all gallant and his amateur psychologist kicks in and determines that, well, Lois does need sex and with someone as caring, gentle as himself. It happens. All works out fine. And it's some pretty great heated prose. JDM creates these scenes really well "...a creature in endless movement, using all of herself the way a friendly cat will bump and twine and nudge and purr." That's pretty good stuff. Anyway, after, Lois seems cured. Seems phony. Then he has a self revelation and realizes that indeed he has several international records in just that description.

Writer's lesson here is all about sex scenes. Try to find analogies. That cat stuff is gold.

Chapters Diez, Once, Doce, Trece, Catorce

Okay, I'm clueless why JDM numbered the chapters in Spanish.

Be that as it may, Travis does his sleuthing and with the help of Lois's memory gets a great lead on where Junior Allen's boat will be. We know the encounter is coming and JDM draws out the tension of waiting like a tightly strung violin string over which he plays the anticipation bow until it sets up a scream of "get to it!"

And that acquaintance? That gem guy in New York. He comes through with a critical piece of deception Travis needs to fool Jr. Allen. And a nifty trick it is, indeed.

But first we get introduced to the new set of lost young souls Jr. Allen will prey upon: forlorn little rabbits. There is a clueless male among them. Travis shakes his hand and we get this beauty: "He had a dead handshake, like a canvas glove full of hot sand."

Travis has a beautiful plan to discover where Jr. Allen has hidden the gem stones on his boat and it works to a T. Another plan to use a sap to knock the guy out works out great, too. Then Trav does a stupid thing and it almost gets him killed and it does get Lois killed. I think I cried foul at this point. That was just a bit too slick of a way to get rid of this new burden in his life.

I wanted to pay particular attention to the fight scenes. JDM does them with direct, straightforward description. "He hooked his left around my neck and began hammering me with his free hand." But pay attention to the verbs: planted, stuffed, heaved, ripped, bounded up, snorting, gouging, kneeing, clambered, straddled. It this succession of different descriptive verbs that makes the description of the fight flow.

So in the end, Travis is successful in recovering some of the treasure. Had he not done the stupid thing he would have had it all and Lois would be alive.

Things felt thin and empty to me at the end. But then I realized Travis had just been birthed into the fictional world and we were watching him grow up and JDM start to know him better for all his many good points and also the questionable ones.

I know the books are just going to get better and Travis even more interesting.

Comments welcome.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Reworked a Science Fiction Novel I Wrote about Thirty-Five Years Ago, The Sands of Andros

As a youngster, teen, and young adult I devoured science fiction. It seemed natural that I try to write the stuff. I actually finished The Sands of Yama, a classic approach to the genre that was rather short in length at 40,000 words. Too short to submit to any agent when the minimum for a novel as 60,000 words. And I was very unsure about it. I put it down to a learning experience. Has a plot, pretty good characters, not bad dialogue, good action scenes and ends up being a first contact story. It was also an exercise in world creation, or in the case galaxy creation. Galacton is a federation of planets. When a planet is discovered by one of the companies in the federation that company lays claim to the planet. It can be exploited or sold to any group that would like to colonize it. A lot of radical groups do just that so a group of Muslims or Christians or any group that wants its own planet with its own rules can have a planet and do what they want there. Galacton has a strict hands off approach. The groups are free to discover their own destinies.

The company Krackcom has discovered the planet Rhome and its one island continent, which I named Yama. The island is loaded with goodies. There is electrogold, there are caterlund furs, a special honey is both an hallucinogen and an aphrodisiac. There are the mysterious compucells that are found the the appendix to the brain of the huge mammothet. There is a clam whose meat expands the human lifespan by 100 years. These materials are so rare that Galacton realizes they must not be exploited to the point of extinction and so they control the collection of the materials by a simple process. They can only be collected or hunted by hand. No mechanical devices.

And there are plenty of dangerous creatures on Yama that provide natural protection for these resources. So Krackcom is allowed to offer a gamble to those who choose to play. Collect 50 pounds of electrogold and take it to Rest and Reward Station One and you will be rewarded with enough Galacton credits to live freely for five fun-filled years. The rewards for reaching the other stations with the required amount of collected material grows exponentially

The reward for entering the last R&R station is known--one-eighth ownership and board membership of Krackcom itself--but it is not known what must be collected.

That's the set up. Our main character, Thaddeus Bean III will enter the contest. Those entrants are known as gramblers. Only one grambler in the 268-year history of this game has made it to the last R&R Station: Thaddeus Bean I.

So I was sort of between book projects and always examine the old slush pile and I came across the manuscript, typed on a manual typewriter (imagine that!) I started reading and thought. Hey, this isn't too bad. So I started re-keyboarding it. Making alterations. Read ahead in the whole things and saw how actually it hung together quite well. And now it's done and soon I'll submit it or publish it myself. Those old word counts have gone the way of the manual typewriter.

I had used the structure of Galacton to create another science fiction work, a novella called "A Match Made in Heaven," in which the Mormons have left earth to populate the planet they call Moroni and discover their destiny in the stars. Those two works are the only products of a scheme I had to write a series of books based the concept of planets under complete control of the worlds they inhabit, with Galacton forces stepping in only when any other those planets became warlike with designs on other planets.

I decided Yama didn't work as a name for the island and so I changed it to Andros. Now The Sands of Andros is ready for the general public. Do need a book cover, though, if any reader of this blog is interested in contacting me.

And maybe I just might explore writing about other worlds in the Galacton federation.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

This is Really What It's All About!

I don't make much money from my fiction, but sometimes indications come along that Karma points are being amassed. A while back, I announced an upcoming book signing via Facebook. This REMARKABLE post resulted.

"My mother is (name deleted). She is an avid reader of your books. In fact, she had surgery to remove two tumors in her brain and her request before surgery was to have Rabbletown for when she woke up. Sure enough, she started reading as soon as she could. The reason I'm messaging is because my mom would love to meet you, to have the books she owns signed. We're unable to make it to your set up in Brookside today. Do you have any future plans for meet and greets or book signings?"

I hope she's doing well.

Friday, June 30, 2017

"Dark Side of the Museum" Found an Ending

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

Edgar Makes a Discovery and Gets Fired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My Love/Hate Affair with Ernest Hemingway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 6, 2017

My Stories Have Now Been Featured in Eight Anthologies

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

Here they are in order or publication:

Tell Us Everything
Oct. 2011

The Notebook

Tell Us Everything
The Notebook

The Notebook

The Saltness of Time

Innocent Passage

Blue Kansas Sky

A Match Made in Heaven