Saturday, March 31, 2012

Tattoo Them

You'd think the generation, or maybe even two, before mine would be comfortable with seeing tattoos. I saw my first tattoo at eight years old when an uncle stopped by sporting a  topless woman named Tilda on his bicep. Since I was still a few years away from seeing boobs in the flesh, or at least in the pages of a magazine, I remember thinking tattoos were pretty neato. I was also the kind of wizened kid who knew tattoos were not for me, but I digress. My point being tattoos have been popular for at least forty years, maybe longer, to the point where they have become mainstream. Certainly the stigma once associated with body art has disappeared. Or has it?

Fast forward to a story I heard the other day from my niece. She's twenty and has it together -- she's in college and has worked as a waitress for three years at a fancy four-star restaurant. Recently, she was harassed while waiting a table of two couples who went out of their way to tell her she would never get a decent job with graffiti on her body. (Sidebar: Her tattoos are very tasteful and are easily covered by a blouse, but it was warm this particular day and the body art was noticeable.) So these dining buffoons take her to task and ask her if she thinks she'll ever get anywhere in the professional world with tattoos on her body. Now my niece has a lot of class and tried to be polite, answering their lame questions. As the couples continued to heckle her, she mentioned she knew several people who have tattoos and respectable jobs. They pressed for details as to what kind of professions and when she replied, they wrinkled their noses and scoffed. Nice, huh?

I asked my niece how old these jackanapes were. About sixty, she said which took me aback. I thought for sure they'd be 110. But sixty!? Seems odd for some of that generation to be so archaic in thought. Apparently these folks, who also complained about the food, had a bone to pick.

Either way, I told her if they stopped in again to give me a call and I'd verbally beat them to a pulp.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lying To Mom

I must have had the one-thousand yard stare that late November night. I was sitting in my dad's chair -- a blue recliner where he had spent the last years of his life whittling away the days after a massive stroke -- when my mother asked me, "What’s wrong, David?"

Cable news blared in the background as she sat on the couch across from me. I raised my voice so she’d hear me above the noise, not to mention her hearing loss.

"Nothing, Mom." I answered, monotone. That wasn't true. You see, my mom's in the middle-to-late stage of dementia, and the bad days had outweighed the good, and there seemed to be little to look forward to. But that night, I detected a moment of clarity about her, a moment of lucidity in a brain that had been experiencing too many clouds. My “mission,” for the family, was a tough one but I saw my opportunity.

"Is it work?" she asked.

“No. I'm not working, Mom. I’m outta work."

She pointed to the manuscript in my lap -- BEAT to a PULP: Round Two with my trusty red pen in hand. "Isn't that work?"

"This is a new book I’m working on. But I'm talking about the day job -- the one that pays the bills."

"Oh, the one where you travel."

"Yeah, that one."

"Then why are you here and not at work if you have bills to pay?"

"To take care of you, Mom. You can't live alone anymore. We've talked about this many times."

That last line opened up an explosive can of worms. She looked perplexed and I explained she has severe memory loss. She couldn't accept it and wanted examples which I gave to her in excruciating detail for the umpteenth time. We talked in circles for close to an hour. Normally she'd get defensive and rebel, but that night she seemed to understand something's wrong with her. I sensed the Good Lord was shining a light and I plunged head-first into the mire to carry out my mission. I had taken time off from work to keep her safe from herself, all the while trying to get her to go either into a nursing home or to live with her daughter who’s a retired nurse. I couldn't screw up this opportunity. I couldn’t be out of work forever. I had a 6-month-old baby girl to raise. Too much is on the table, old son.

"I don't want to go in a home," she said defiantly.

"I know, Mom. I know. Then I have to stay here with you."

After a time, she said with a tremble, "I never wanted to hurt you, David. I never wanted to cause you any pain."

I wanted to breakdown with that heartfelt comment -- it will be burned into my conscience forever.

But I held myself together, and I asked her if she'd be willing to go to my sister’s several states away for the winter. She said she'd do it for me, so I didn’t waste a second. I jumped up to grab the phone.

She stopped me. "David, I will be able to come back home after winter is over, right?"

I knew what I had to do to protect my mom. I had to get her out of her home by any means necessary. I lied to my mother -- the one who taught me to always tell the truth. I fucking hated it. But I couldn't be honest or she'd never leave. "Yes, Mom. You will be able to come back."

She nodded, and I placed the call.

Now, three months later, every time the phone rings, I cringe. Because when it's Mom, she wants to know when I'm coming to get her. Before all this, I used to call her every day, but now the calls are maybe once a week, and our conversations usually end in frustration for her and deep sadness on my part. I try to remind myself that I did the right thing. This disease doesn’t stop for anyone. Sometimes she can almost fool me on the phone that everything is alright, but then she forgets my dad ... "I never heard that name before," she’ll tell me. Then a few moments later, she’ll ask again when she's coming home. She hasn't forgotten that promise. A cruel twist of fate has her remembering my promise. The one time I lied to her. But if she remembers my promise, then she remembers me.

Maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Writing Hero Would Hate My Guts

When asked which dead writer's work I would take with me to that desolate island, I said it'd have to be Ernest Hemingway. But I wouldn't need his whole catalog. Just The Nick Adams Stories, A Moveable Feast, The Old Man and the Sea, and his dispatches. You see, I think Papa was a better short story writer and journalist than novelist. Plus I'm not a huge fan of stories about bull-fighting, though many of his short stories touch on it. Why is he a writing hero of mine? Well, I'm partial to his sparing use of words and understated style.

Then my thoughts turned to the man himself, and I realized my writing hero and I would have very little in common--except for a shared interest in Ava Gardner. In fact, if we were stranded together, he'd probably take a great disliking to me. Maybe not at first, but the above opinion about his novels and the fact that I find his forced machismo unnecessary might just ruffle his feathers. Nor would I make a good drinking buddy for him as I'm not inclined to be three-sheets-to-the-wind every morning and every night. Of course, he could counter with the fact he was a war hero and won the Pulitzer Prize, so who the hell am I to critique him? I'm just a pigeon pecking at a statue, right? So I guess it's best I was born well-after he pulled the trigger.

How about you? Do you think you and your (writing) hero would get along if you could meet her/him in person? Maybe you already have. I'd be curious to hear how that went.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

If You Could Look Into A Crystal Ball

We made a trek to my in-laws yesterday and had a wonderful visit. Ava loves (as we all do) to visit Grandma and Grandpa, and I appreciate their quiet little haven in New York. Not only relaxing but the food is good, and a hack writer like me can get some work done. On the way, I brought the nearly-finished BEAT to a PULP: ROUND TWO to continue polishing it into a fine gem. We've probably worked harder on this project than any other, and while going through the manuscript during the drive, it brought me back to a question a grizzled writer once asked me in the south of France* ...

Sonny, if you could look into a crystal ball and see that you would never become a financial success as a writer, would you still do it?"

The young David muttered, "Yes," to which he quickly replied, "Then you're already a success, kid."
And over the past few months as I have juggled the day job, a mother with dementia, fatherhood, and a number of other responsibilities, I've still reached for the ROUND TWO manuscript, working hard toward that ultimate goal even if for only a few stolen moments after work or while on a trip to visit relatives. It would be nice if ROUND TWO becomes a runaway smash and the darling of the critics, but, honest to Betsy, it doesn't matter how much it sells because the honor of publishing the legends among its pages has already made me a wealthy man in a way that other idealists will surely understand.

So for the struggling writers out there: If you could look into a crystal ball and see that you would never become a financial success as a writer, would you still do it? Feel free to say no as many folks have when I've asked them this question.

*The French writer was created for dramatic purposes. The one and only time I was in France, I got into a fight with some Hungarian acrobats. But that's a story for another day.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Waiting For The Birds

Ava first noticed birds in books. She'd point to them and her mom would flap her arms and say, "bird," which must have amused Ava thoroughly because she continued to point to birds everywhere else, from videos to patches on a homemade quilt. In the last few weeks when we leave the house, she looks to the sky and absolutely beams every time she sees a bird. Well, we decided a bird feeder is a must, so we got one today. This spot for the feeder is about six feet off the ground, hanging from the garden lattice.
It's a temporary location because I want to move it near the living room window where Ava can get a closer look from the comfort of the couch. Also, it's not in the most ideal place for keeping away squirrels and other like-minded bandits. Next, we need to get a bird book so we can identify who we're looking at. Any other amateur bird-watchers out there? Have some tips?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

This Made My Day

This evening, we had a wonderful visit with family. My nineteen-year-old niece prefaced a story she wanted to tell me with the line, "I don't want to blowup your ego or anything, but ..." She's taking a creative writing class in college and is working on an assignment, creating a short story. She mentioned to her professor that her uncle writes short stories, and he apparently asked my name. She told him and then said that I also write under the pen name Edward A. Grainger, to which he immediately replied, "He writes westerns." Well, I managed to keep my ego in check but I'm certainly flattered!

A Conversation with Ray Bradbury

Hat tip: Maria Popova.

Friday, March 9, 2012


My friend Patti has a sharp little gem called "Pox" at Fires On The Plain. Please check it out when you get a chance.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Give It Away, Give It Away

I've read many thoughts about giving away books for free and there are a whole host of opinions. It seems it comes down to whether it was successful or not for that particular author. Here are a few quick thoughts on my experiences.

Both volumes of my Cash & Miles Adventures have been offered for free at different times. I began with Vol. II because Vol. I was doing well and I wanted to boost sales of the second collection. During the freebie offer, there was an unexpected increase in sales of the first volume, but that makes sense, right? If you have the second installment of a series, you probably want to know how it started. After the offer closed, Vol. II entered the Top 100 sales charts. I had several readers on Twitter thank me for the free book and mention they bought my other title.

Kinda, sorta the same for MANHUNTER'S MOUNTAIN written by Wayne D. Dundee--a Cash Laramie story with a new author taking the reins. To introduce this first novel (in what I hope will be an ongoing series), I gave it away free for a few days. A couple thousand folks downloaded the book, which helped to expand its horizons through the Amazon charts and recommendations panel "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought." Both these things brought my eBook to the attention of folks who might not otherwise see it. MOUNTAIN has re-entered the best sellers charts several times, and I feel the success goes back to that free giveaway in January.

So I'm going to try again with our latest release, BULLETS FOR A BALLOT written by Nik Morton. We'll see how it works out this time but, so far, giving away books for free has been a good move for me. What has been your experience?

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Visit to the Bookstore

We made our first trip with Ava to the bookstore today, and it was a lot of fun. We had taken her before when she was much younger and books didn't pack the power they now have in her world. We headed directly for the kids section and her eyes lit up at the thousands of titles. Ava even made a friend when she offered her headband to another little girl of about the same age. The girl readily accepted and was none-too-happy after her mom took it away and gave it back Ava. Our little coconut wasn't bothered in the slightest by any of it.

I slipped away for a few minutes to check out the mystery section. The high prices shocked me a bit, but I found Robert B. Parker's THE PROFESSIONAL on sale, so I grabbed a copy. I've been putting off reading the last of the Spenser novels because, well, it will bring to an end one of my favorite series.

I returned to the kids section to find Ava had settled on three books from the Sesame Street gang with the help of her mom. Ava said bye to her new friend and to the store. I hope this first visit is the beginning of an everlasting love for books.

More Talk, Less Hock: Wild West Bunch Special Edition

"Why write about the Old West?" Steve Hockensmith asked me and a few other western writers. My pithy answer can be found at More Talk, Less Hock: Wild West Bunch Special Edition. Please stop by when you get a chance.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

BEAT to a PULP #158: Dyer by Richard Thomas

"Dyer" by Richard Thomas at BEAT to a PULP.

About the author: Richard was the winner of the 2009 "Enter the World of Filaria" contest at ChiZine. He has published over fifty stories online and in print, including the Shivers VI anthology (Cemetery Dance) with Stephen King and Peter Straub, Murky Depths, PANK, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Pear Noir!, Word Riot, 3:AM Magazine, Dogmatika, Vain and Opium.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cash Laramie Returns

Gun Smoke Rises And Blood Spills...

In the town of Bear Pines, Mrs. Tolliver has announced she is running for the mayoral office. She’s the first woman to run as a candidate which divides the residents and sets the town into a tailspin. U.S. Marshal Cash Laramie is sent in to maintain peace and order and to protect Tolliver and her family from powerful allies of the incumbent, Mayor Nolan. In a bid to force her to quit the race, things turn ugly ... and deadly. Surrounded by killers who will stop at nothing to make sure Mrs. Tolliver is not elected, Cash wires Cheyenne for assistance, but will help arrive in time?

The new Cash Laramie novel, Bullets for a Ballot, is available at Amazon.

You may notice that we tweaked the cover after considering all the great suggestions that came in. Hopefully what we came up with works better than the first pass.

Photo-Finish Friday -- Reflection in a Jeep Window

I took the pic through the Jeep window and if you look closely you can see my baby girl being strapped into her car seat for a ride to get some groceries. I still haven't found Denise in the shot, but she was in there.

 Leah J. Utas is the force behind Photo-Finish Friday.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cathi Stoler

A big congratulations to Cathi Stoler and her Derringer nomination for"Fatal Flaw" that appeared in BEAT to a PULP. Thank you for making us look so darn good and congrats to all the nominees.

Sandra Seamans has the complete list here.