Friday, July 30, 2010

Creatile Dysfunction

Inspiration sagging?

Muse failing to arouse your creative side?

Are your sentences and paragraphs limp and lifeless?

Luckily, I have the answer to your creatile dysfunction.  

Grab one of these fancy pens and the words will rise out of you.

New story ideas will penetrate you mind.

Your prose will be firmer.

Your sentences longer.
But a word of warning.

Do not use this pen in conjunction with alcohol or mood altering drugs, even if they are your normal muse seducing method, as doing so may cause a sudden, unsafe drop in blood pressure.

Discuss your writing career with your literary agent to ensure that you are healthy enough to engage in the use of this pen while writing. If you experience chest pain, nausea, or any other discomforts during writing, seek immediate help from a reputable critique group.

In the rare event of a writing session lasting more than 4 hours, keep your ass in your chair.

If you are older than age 65, or have serious liver or kidney problems, your literary agent may start you at the lowest dose (.5 mm) rollerball version of this pen or  may limit you to a maximum single dose of 50 ML of fountain ink in a 48-hour period.

In rare instances, men using this creatile dysfunction pen  reported a sudden decrease or loss of vision. It is not possible to determine whether these events are related directly to this writing instrument or to other factors such as rejection letters and over exposure to spam emails from a variety of vanity presses. If you experience sudden decrease or loss of vision, stop using this pen and call your literary agent right away.

Sudden decrease or loss of hearing has been rarely reported in people using this pen. It is not possible to determine whether these events are related directly to this pen or to other factors like the inability to land the above mentioned literary agent. If you experience sudden decrease or loss of hearing, stop using this pen contact an agent that is actively looking for new writers. 

This pen should not be used with other treatments that cause a swelling of your creativity.

This pen does not protect against literary diseases, including purple-prosorrhea, tellamydia, or info-dumpyffilis.

The most common side effects of this pen are hand cramping, unreal expectations, and stating the obvious such as ... Chicken shit is rank. See the writing example in the above picture for further proof.  Less commonly, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and the inability of friends and family to recognize you may briefly occur.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Zoning Out

Words were flying from my fingertips faster than racial slurs from Mel Gibson. I was in the zone. I was working on a scene from the Feedstore Chronicles. For once, the thoughts in my head were translating to the computer screen just as I'd imagined them.

I'm constantly writing scenes in my head but most of the time they do not hit the paper with the clarity or ease that I think upon them. Oh but this day was different. As I said I was in the zone, recreating a happening from my past. And it was all spilling forth in a magic like fashion. Adjective, nouns, witty phrases that I knew would hit their mark. I was in the zone.

The scene dealt with the first time I got fired from the feedstore. It happened on an unseasonable stormy, rain-filled afternoon in August of 1991. So complete in the zone was I that it might as well have happened the day before.

Have I mentioned I was in the zone?

I felt it. The cool air emitting from the storm clouds.
I heard the rumble of thunder.
I smelled the rain, felt the wet drops on my face.

So imagine my surprise when I wrapped up the chapter and went outside to discover it was 95 degrees and there wasn't a cloud in sight up in the blue sky. I'd gotten so involved in my own writing I actually felt both surprised and disappointed that it was a bright sun shiny day.

Days, feeling like that are when it is fun to be a writer. When the words, the story and the turn of phrases come easily. I long for days like that when I can actually believe Hemingway, King, McEwen, Sedaris, Evanovich (pick any other successful writer you want) ain't got nothing on me.

But guess what it's not those days that make you a writer. Being in the zone is nice, it's easy, and it's fun. But those days are rare and a writer must write everyday.

A writer keeps their ass in the chair, when the god lines arrive less frequently than a rational thought from Lindsay Lohan. A writer keeps fighting, battling to create every paragraph reads like shit. a writer keeps writing until they outlast, overcome, and persevere against a finicky muse. A writer says piss on the zone, I'm gonna make my word count anyway.

I wanted to post some of my so-called "zone writing" but I have decided the language in that piece is a might dicey for the blog , so instead here is a brief section from much earlier in the book.

In A Perfect World …
Some customers came in, purchased their items and left, but many lingered. Every bit as much hangout as place of business, Pearl's was the redneck equivalent of Starbucks.

However our coffee was the kind of dark, smelly fare that only men would drink, and I'm pretty sure they only drank it to prove the potency of their testosterone.

I'm talking about the kind of coffee that makes a person growl after every swallow. The kind of coffee that grows gills when left on overnight. Or sprouts legs over a long weekend. The kind of coffee that Darwin loves, and theologians fear.

Never mind putting hair on your chest, the feedstore java put hair on your tongue.

I wasn't tough enough to actually swallow the brew, but on occasion I would pour myself a mug and stand around trying to act manly.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cadillacs and Top Hats

I am cheating again by reposting one of my older My Town Monday posts about one of Amarillo's most colorful characters.

Monday, March 3, 2008
My Town Monday -- Eye of The Beholder

It's not a bird .. nor a plane. It's not Superman, or even a flying beagle. Nope, the above picture is your average, everyday floating mesa.

At least that is what it is supposed to look like. Actually it's just a mesa with a white fence built around the top. As you can see in this shot taken a bit closer.

Stanly Marsh the 3rd is the man behind this structure and several oddities near, and in, my hometown, of Amarillo, Texas. And yes, I used the numerical version of three on purpose. Stanly has been quoted as saying anyone with a roman numeral after their name is just being pretentious.

Stanly is a man of wealth. His grandfather was one of the early oil and natural gas man of the Texas Panhandle. I'm not exactly sure how old he is but I'd guess upper sixties or early seventies. Here is a picture I found at this site commemorating the 20th anniversary of Sir Stanley's best known project. He's the one in the top hat.

The copyright to this photo owned by ©1995-1996-1997-1998 Rik Gruwez, but luckily he doesn't mind sharing.

And here are some shots of that project.

This is the view from I-40 of Cadillac Ranch.

Created in a wheat field back in 1974 this roadside attraction has long been associated with Amarillo. It is one of the things I'm often asked about when traveling. The cars, all Cadillacs ranging in year models from 1949-1963 are buried intact nose down. They are located on private land (owned by Mr. Marsh but the public is encouraged to walk out and even spray graffiti on the vehicles.) Cadillac Ranch has been the subject of songs by Bruce Springsteen, Chris Ledoux, numerous Texas artists, and the Christian rock band Family Force 5.

It has also been featured in commercial and many movies. Most recently in the Disney Movie Cars. Notice the scenery in and around Radiator Springs and the description on the map which says Cadillac Range. This part of I-40 used to be Route 66 so if you've seen the movie you know why it was used.

Stanley has many other projects and I was going to include some of them in this post, but I think I'll wait and break this down into two parts since it is already getting on the long side. But here are a few teaser pics. I'll explain them and post more shots next Monday.

I will say not everyone in Amarillo has a high opinion of Stanley, his pranks, or art. But I tend to think every town should have a Stanley Marsh the 3rd if for no other reason than to keep things interesting. He's not one to care what others think as is clear by this quote.

"Art is a legalized form of insanity, and I do it very well." ~ Stanley Marsh 3

For other My Town Monday Posts from all over the globe please check out the official My Town Monday blog or the Women of Mystery site, where this week's host, Clare Toohey, will list links. We'd also love to have you join us so if you feel inclined drop Clare a note at either location.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Feedstore Chronicles

Longtime readers are fully aware that I have been writing a coming-of-age memoir based on my days working at a Texas Feedstore. My boss at the feedstore was the most morally bankrupt man I had ever met and still hold that title some twenty years later. That is not to say I didn't like him. I have mostly fond memories and owe him a debt for giving my first real taste of adventure in life. In the book I dub him Doyle and describe him as ...

In A Perfect World …
He was the kind of guy you dreaded seeing right up until you were with him. But then you found yourself having such a good time, you forgot your original trepidation. Or at least you did until all that fun caught up to you. 

The memoir begins with a story about bulldog masturbation and digresses from there. 

Here is a sample of that opening chapter. The last 6 pages to be exact. Yeah, it's long for a blog post, but I hope it holds your attention just the same. I'd love to hear what you think of ... The Feedstore Chronicles 
In A Perfect World …
Doyle had three women in his life. His first wife and the mother of his three boys, Pamela. His second wife, Laura, whom he was in the process of divorcing when I hired on. And last, but not least, Snuggles.
Snuggles was an English Bulldog. Her fur was brown and white, and she was one of the laziest, not to mention nastiest, canines to ever down a bowl of Kibble. Snuggles possessed runny, pus-filled eyes. A loud, raspy breathing pattern, somewhat like an asthmatic Darth Vader. And stubby, bowed legs that barely kept her flabby gut from dragging the ground. She also happened to be Doyle's most prized possession.
Ninety percent of the time, Snuggles curled up on her doggy bed behind the counter and refused to move. Too bad for me if I needed something from the cabinet her fat body was pressed against. Once or twice per day she would hoist her smelly carcass from the fleece pad, only to use my pant leg as a depository for her snot-crusted eyes. Nasty as that practice was, it beat her other habit all to hell.
Doyle lived for the times when Snuggles went into heat. Having read an ad in the Thrifty Nickel for English Bulldog pups fetching thirteen-hundred bucks a pop, mining Snuggles' ovaries became his life's mission.
I, however, dreaded the arrival of her cycle.
For this glorious week, Snuggles wasn't merely content to wipe her eye boogers on my jeans. No -- she also felt the animalistic calling to drag her butt across the store's concrete floor.
Guess who cleaned up the crimson snail trails.  
That's right. Me.
The only good thing about these visits from Mother Nature was the entertainment they provided at each failed attempt by Doyle to produce a litter of wrinkled dollar signs.
Doyle whored Snuggles out to every male bulldog within a three county area. Too greedy to share in the potential booty of a litter worth several grand, Doyle always opted to pay upfront stud fees rather than give up a higher share should she actually conceive. Without fail, the rendezvous led to the same result.
Snuggles would shack up with the chosen doggy Don Juan for three or four days. After each tryst she'd come back looking as happy and satisfied as a fat man leaving Golden Corral. Given the price of bulldog pups, Doyle projected Snuggles and her uterus to be good for an easy five grand a year. And by his calculations, she only needed to have two litters of two pups to accomplish that goal. But in the end, none of the arranged liaisons turned Doyle into the grandpa he so desperately wanted to be.
Along with the dog, Doyle was also raising three boys. Three mean little hoodlums that I wagered would make him a grandpa long before Snuggles ever did. Never mind the fact that Austin, the oldest, was only twelve. Their father's genes were too strong for them not to find trouble of some sort. And given Doyle's track record, at least some of that trouble was bound to be of the female variety.
To this day I still can't fathom exactly how Doyle sweet-talked so many women. Women you would never expect a man who lived in a double-wide on the outskirts of town to coerce into a sleepover.
Women like Dr. Croft.
When pimping out Snuggles failed to work, Doyle turned to artificial insemination. The procedure was pricey, but each time Snuggles came into heat, he'd reach for his credit card, load the pooch into his pickup, and head off to the vet's office.
This went on for better than a year, and I never suspected Snuggles wasn't the only one getting her jollies at the appointments.
Then came the day I was in the back, sacking up some hen scratch for Mrs. Esparza. Doyle had taught me how to up-sell so I was in the middle of trying to convince the woman that a bit of oyster shell and a bag of laying pellets would raise her egg production.
“As hens get older they really need the extra calcium they get from oyster shells.”
“No, no, no. No hay falta con mis gallinas.” Mrs. Esparza wagged a finger in my face.
She was a regular customer, so I knew once she began responding in Spanish, my chances to sell her anything extra were gone. Next she would pretend not to understand anything I said.
“Yo, Travis!” Doyle's voice came over the intercom, saving me from having to try.
“Yeah,” I yelled back.
“Hurry up and get Mrs. Esparza loaded. I have an important mission for you.”
I carried the hen scratch out, loaded it in Mrs. Esparza's Buick, and headed back inside to see what Doyle had in mind.
“John's bringing some papers by for me to sign, so I need you to take Snuggles in for her AI appointment.”
John was Doyle's lawyer. Between the divorces, the subpoena when Doyle's bookie got popped, and other brushes with the justice system, they had a close working relationship, so I didn't think anything of his explanation.
“Okay,” I said, “But I'm taking your truck. I don't want Snuggles wiping eye snot on my seats.” The pickup had been a recent gift from my grandfather, and despite the '76 Ford's battered appearance and age, I was still quite proud of the vehicle.
Grabbing the keys for the store's flatbed Ford off the pegboard, I snapped a leash on Snuggles and drug her fat butt out the door.
On the way to the vet's, Snuggles tried to lay her head on my lap. I managed to fend her off, though I very nearly rear ended a VW bus in the process. 
Then, right as I turned into the lot at the vet's office, Snuggles sneezed and blew snot all over the right side of my face as well as the driver’s window.
Cursing, I reached for a stained Taco Bell napkin on the dash. The lone napkin did little more than smear the mucus, so I searched for something else to clean my cheek while Snuggles looked on with smug satisfaction. When I leaned across to open the glove box, the foul beast mistook the gesture to mean I wanted a kiss. Planting her wide tongue to my cheek, she left a string of dog slobber dripping off my ear.
Cussing once again, I wiped the slime off with the back of my hand and headed inside.  
Behind the receptionist desk sat a stunning young woman in her early twenties.  
“Snuggles!” She beamed when we walked in. The girl walked out from behind the counter and bent down to pat the dog's head.
Sucking in my stomach, I swelled my chest and proudly said, “She's a good dog.”
“She sure is,” the girl cooed. Then she looked up at me and frowned. Pointing with a cute, manicured fingernail the receptionist said, “You got something on your eyebrow.”
Reaching up, I grabbed a gooey wad of green bulldog snot.
So much for making a favorable impression.
The girl led me and Snuggles back to a waiting room where she left us alone.
Up until then, I'd assumed bulldog semen came in little vials. I assumed they kept it frozen and had a machine that heated it up to the right temperature when needed. I assumed the procedure involved something resembling a turkey baster.
Two out of three of my assumptions proved to be flat-ass wrong.
Dr. Croft came in after only a few minutes and the truth didn't dawn on me even as she bent to lift the bulldog that had followed her into the room.
I watched as the doctor, an attractive woman in her forties, reached beneath the male bulldog, snapped what looked like a sandwich bag around his privates, and began the collection process. 
Like a fan at Wimbledon, my head went back and forth as Dr. Croft established a steady rhythm. 
Blood rushed to my cheeks when she looked me in the eye and said, “So you work for Doyle? That must be interesting.”
I might have managed a nod as she continued to stroke Brutus. Beside me, Snuggles ignored the poochie porn show.
There I was, a teenage boy, trapped in a tiny room, and forced to bear witness as an attractive and secure middle-aged woman jacked off a very well-endowed beast. Most would describe that as interesting. 
Not me.
I found it mortifying.
Puberty had hit me like a two-ton rock so I had both an active, fantasy-filled imagination and a strong libido, but none of my daydreams had ever starred the canine equivalent of Ron Jeremy. Though I was pretty sure that a few of my nightmares were about to. And yet, I couldn't look away. 
Grimacing, I watched the piston like movement with held breath and tensed jaws. When the big moment arrived, I actually flinched. Brutus shuddered once, before casually looking over his shoulder as if challenging me to do better. Right about then, I felt about as confident as a major league batter swinging a toothpick.
The only part of the act I'd envisioned correctly was the turkey baster. When the whole sordid event was finished I'm not sure who felt more violated, me or Snuggles.
On the way out I didn't even slow down. No way did I want to even chance making eye-contact with that pretty receptionist.
Back at the feedstore, Doyle had a huge, shit-eating grin plastered on his face when I slinked in.
“You could have warned me,” I said.
“I could've,” he nodded, “but that wouldn't have been nearly as much fun.” Doyle laughed, before adding, “Heard you turned redder than Brutus's dipstick.”
“What did you want me to do? Cheer the vet on? Offer to lend a hand?”
He shrugged. “You could have volunteered to go next.”
“That would have gone over well.”
Doyle served up a lop-sided grin and shrugged. “Worked for me.”
Gape-mouthed, I stared.
“Sometimes all you've got to do is ask,” Doyle said with a wink and an evil chuckle.
Who knows whether Doyle was telling the truth or just jerking my chain, so to speak, but he did teach me a valuable lesson; Until you're brave enough to ask the question, you'll never hear a yes.
I could tell you that the whole bulldog experience gave me the confidence to march right up to Samantha Blake and ask her out. Yeah, I could tell you that, but it'd be a lie. Truth is it took many more lessons. Some painful, some criminal, and some downright immoral before I emerged from the feedstore a wizened member of the male species.
Perhaps I would have found love and a good woman to share my life with even without Doyle’s depraved guidance. Perhaps, I would have sailed through my teen years and into adulthood unscathed and equally as prepared to face the world. Perhaps, but it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Thud, thud.

Patience truly is a virtue, and save for the times when I have a fishing pole clutched in my hand or a rifle at my side, it is not one I possess. I wish I could extend the the calm peaceful ability to patiently wait things out beyond the river bank or deer blind. But alas I cannot.

This ugly truth is perfectly illustrated by a recent road trip.

In mid June, my oldest son attended a Catholic youth camp down in East Texas. A place called The Pine just outside of Big Sandy, Texas. Big Sandy is nearly 500 hundred miles from my home here in Amarillo so the trip was a long one. Jennifer and another boy's mom drove several kids down, but when it was time to fetch my son I loaded up in the car along with Jennifer and our 7 year old.

We headed out and I had just pulled out of the small town of Chillicothe, Texas when I spotted every speeders worst nightmare. The black white cruiser of a Texas DPS officer crested the hell in front of me as I glanced down to see the speedometer needle dead center between 80 and 90.  As we passed him heading north, me south we made eye-contact. He threw a u-turn through the median. I pulled over to the side of the road not far from a sign reading SPEED LIMIT 70 MPH.

I was doing at least 15 miles and hour over. I wondered what the fine was gonna cost me as the trooper approached. "Where ya headed," he asked.

"Big Sandy," I said.

"That's a serious drive. What's in Big Sandy?" He asked as I handed over my drivers license and insurance card.

"Picking up my son. He's been down there all week at a Catholic youth camp." The officer was Spanish so I hoped he had recited a few Our Father's in his day.

"Oh yeah," he said. "How many kids from your parish went?"

He said parish, not congregation or church. But parish. I tried not to smile as he asked a few more questions.
"You have a clean record?"
"Far as I know," I said.
"Okay," I'm gonna run your ID if it comes back clean I'm gonna let you off with a warning."
Ten minutes later, I was scooting down the road free as a bird. And try as I might I couldn't keep my foot off the gas, but for the remainder of the drive Lady Luck smiled upon me and nary was another trooper sighted.

The three of us checked into a Best Western in Mineola, Texas for the night and all was well as I drifted off to sleep.

Then it started. Bang, bang. Not the loud echoing bang of a gunshot or even a car backfiring, but more of a thud. Thud, thud as a matter of fact. I recognized the sound. Someone in an adjacent room had flipped out the security lock to keep the door to their room from shutting all the way.

Thud. thud.

Thud, thud.

Thud, thud.

The sound surrounded me. I heard it from the room to the south, the room to the north.

Thud, thud. Thud, thud. Thud, thud.

For the love of God were these people moving in for good? how much shit did they have to carry inside?

Thud, thud. Then voices. Lots of voices. and laughter, and thud, thud.

Finally I had enough. I threw back the covers and stood. "Where you going?" Jennifer asked.
"To tell them damned people to quit slamming their doors!"
"In your boxers?" she said.
"Damn right, I ain't afraid to let them see my big hairy gut."

I stood there in the brightly lit hall of the Best Western in a classic gunfighters stance clad in only my plaid boxers. Unlike a pistolero I didn't reach for my gun when my enemy stepped into the hall. Instead I glared at the young teenage boy as the door he'd just exited flopped shut behind him.

Thud, thud.

"Is that you keeps banging your door?"

The boy eyed me suspiciously. I ... uh. I'm not sure. My buddies .. we ...

"Whoever the hell it is you need to stop. I'm trying to get some sleep."

I climbed back into my warm bed and for a time it was quiet. Then I hear it again.

Thud, thud.


Thud, thud.

I dialed the front desk. Registered my complaint and was told several baseball teams were staying on my floor, but they would take care of the problem.

The thud, thuds, slowed but did not end for several more hours.

In the morning I staggered downstairs with bloodshot eyes and revenge in my heart. I loaded the car and dialed the hotel. "Room 219 please," I said when the clerk answered.

Jennifer shot me an incredulous look. We had stayed next door in room 217.

A sleepy voice answered, "Hello," on the 3rd ring.

Doing my best drill instructor imitation I screamed. "Wake up! Wake up! Wake Up! It's time for you boys to rise and shine1 Roll out of bed! Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!"

And then I hung up.

Jennifer shook her head. "Now YOU are the one  being childish."

I stuck my chin out proudly I said," Yep, and it damn sure felt good."

I drove down the road smiling and happy to be alive as my heart went  ... thud, thud  ... inside my chest.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Spankin' It

 Y'all seen these ads. Now they have one for men as well. That commercial is even worse than this one.

Well guess what. I ain't buying that this is an effective weight training system. Unless perhaps you are training to masturbate an elephant.

But let's say the thing does work. I've actually heard from several people that it does.Why ignore the 1000 pound smiling elephant in the room? Why act like this apparatus does not illicit more giggles to every TV viewer than the planet Uranus does to a classroom of 12-year-old boys?

Why not just come out and say ...

Look nothing in life is easy. You wanna lose that flab hanging beneath your arm? Are you willing to do anything to tone your body? Then go ahead purchase our gyrating penis thingamajig. 

Sure, it's gonna make you look like a fool.

Sure. you're husband/boyfriend is gonna say rude things like, "Hell I got something you can workout with right here. And it won't cost you three easy payments either."

Sure, you're gonna receive applications for employment from the animal husbandry division of Barnum and Bailey Circus, but at least you Jello won't be the first thing on everyone's mind every time you wave goodbye."

That kind of commercial I could respect.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


That will make a great blog post.

Used to be that was my first thought upon anything weird, strange or funny happening to me. I'm sure y'all have noticed that has not been the case in a while. And I'm not sure why that sensation faded.

I know for a while after the fire I was strangely reluctant to blog. Here I had experienced this traumatic loss, and my blog friends had rushed to my support in ways that I cannot even describe. Actually not only my blogging pals but their friends and their friends and pretty soon I had cards and letters and packages and financial donations ... and I felt stunned, gratified, and oh so not worthy. Besides that my blog had been about humor and what would people think if I pointed out the absurdity of something while dealing with the fact everything I owned was now ash? And how could I ever thank all the people that helped. I tried. I spent hours online tracking down people that I only had a name. My wife and I wrote tons of thank you notes and mailed what we could, but we never seemed to catch up as we were house hunting, dealing with banks insurances and a myriad of other thing and some of the pages with address got lost in the many moves and then I simply felt embarrassed that I had not been able to properly thank everyone.

As life started to settle down I dove back into writing The Feedstore Chronicles and I'm proud to say it is nearly complete. And then there were the Facebook and Twitter factors. Sometimes it was easier to post a quick thought to those social networks rather than blog. Blogging from my phone is cumbersome at best.

And all the while the number of visitors dropped. I know some were still out there reading on Google Reader or a phone app, but I let the declining number affect my confidence. I started to think everyone is sick of hearing how much I hate lettuce, love meat, and want a book deal. I wondered if I had said everything I have to say.

But lately I've missed the blog. I've been going back and reading some of my favorite posts and I while sometimes I think "Wow, what the hell was I drinking that day," but then others I think. "Hey, that was a pretty damned good post."

So what I'm trying to say is a feel a new wave of energy coming on. A blogging frenzy perhaps. No doubt some of the blogs will miss, but I hope that y'all will find some of them entertaining. And if you get a chance drop me a comment if only to say hi. That way I'll now how many of y'all are still out there reading. For those that already comment on  regular basis I doubly appreciate the time y'all spend first reading and then adding your take. Often, the comments are better than the actual post.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Popping the Question

"You are a writer?" Heavy on the question mark.

This is the first reaction I get, when either I personally reveal my passion or it comes out via a comment someone else makes. It happened again this weekend when in my RCIA class. Of course my long standing friends that are in the class already knew this about me, but 90% of the sponsors and fellow converts had no idea. Attempting to articulate a particular  point I said, "Help me out, I can't think of the right word."

At once those in the class who really know me said, "You're a writer. If you can't think of the right word how are we supposed to."

At that point half the class turned and looked at me. I've been attending weekly meeting with these people since November of last year but suddenly they felt the need to squint and study me. I could see it there in there eyes. Him, that big hairy dude? He's a writer.

I was not surprised when afterwords in the hall several approached me. I even knew the question they would ask.

"So what do you write?"

I could have told them I was working on a memoir, or that my last endeavor was a comedic novel. Or that I've been been getting paid to write freelance football articles. I could have but those answers would not have shocked them. Unless they were avid readers or closet writers themselves it is possible that answering with any of those would have made their eyes glaze over. But I knew from experience how to make their eyes widen.

"Romance mostly," I said, "But a bit of humor writing as well."

Again the studied scrutiny. I see them take in my 6'5 frame. My thick bushy goatee. My ample beer gut. The cowboy boots on my feet. Yeah they are surprised. Sometimes they laugh as if I've made a joke. I can tell they are skeptical at best and this is the part where I love it when a friend that has actually read my work is nearby because they will say, "And it's really good too."

That third part affirmation is all it takes truly grab their attention. To make them ask more questions and dive deeper into my thought process for shunning normalcy.

But if like Sunday there is no one around to offer that credibility nearly always the person will scoot away as if they nearly got caught up in a conversation with a crazy person.

I now realize readers do the same thing. We as writers must hook them, possible even shock our readers to make them turn the page, but we must do so in a manner that is believable. And no, not all hooks rely on the shock factor, but a character must have motivation for his or her actions whether they are shocking or not. And no you don't have to reveal the truth of that motivation but you have to hint at the possibilities. Tease the reader. Of course in the end you have to justify what you're selling. My friends that offer their support do so because they have read and have been sucked into the stories I've created. Friends are however much easier to please than agents and editors, but I am a writer so keep plugging away.

 I am a writer.

Others will continue to punctuate the statement how they see fit, but I refuse to add a question mark. I do however lust for the day when I can write ...  I am a writer!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tasty Novels, Fatty Livers, and A Sweet Patch of Freckles ... Oh My

Today, I am pumped (you'll see why later) to turn the blog over to the talented and witty Sarah Hina.

Sarah's first novel Plum Blossoms In Paris is now available.

Before I was an author, I was a medical school dropout. And before I was a dropout, I had to survive that first-year crucible known as Gross Anatomy.

The same could not be said, of course, for the cadaver before me.

But the worst part about the class was not, in fact, the dead body I dissected, examined, and whose vast and interlacing brachial plexus fired and exhausted the muscles of my short-term memory. It was not the panic twitching my own nerves on exam days. It wasn’t even the “slop bucket” at the end of each table, whose purpose wants no elaboration.

No, the worst part was the formaldehyde.

The stuff permeated everything. I licked it from the roof of my mouth. It clung to my scrubs and infected my hamper. With every inhalation, it scoured my lungs. In my mind, the fixative quickly became Eau de Death. Glancing at the clock at the front of the classroom, I wondered how many hours I’d have to stand there before my tissue similarly petrified. Wondering such things distracted me, you see, from the 90-year-old man with the bag covering his face, whose life and dreams I knew nothing about, but whose body I knew more intimately than anyone he’d ever known, held, kissed or loved.

Still, I did wonder. Outside of the classroom, too. Formaldehyde did nothing to stiffen my resolve to become a physician or to staunch the flow of my imagination. The man’s swollen knuckles knotted large hands (a laborer, maybe?). There was a scar on his arm (a careless moment with a machine?). He had a sweet patch of freckles on his neck (summers spent outside). A fatty liver (beers wit

h the summers spent outside).

Inflatable tubes in his penis.

This was in the days before Viagra. But men still needed sex; they still deserved to feel vital and passionate. Only now, his erectile dysfunction—this tender secret he harbored (along with his wife)—was dissected and laid bare for the giggles and stares of a swarm of twentysomethings whose own arousal came as cheap and plentiful as oxygen.

Don’t get me wrong—I laughed, too, at first. It was unexpected. Slightly shocking, even. But after the jolt of that first, nervous guffaw, and as seconds melted off the clock, my mood shifted. I was bothered. Irritated. Angry at some of my classmates for only seeing a couple of punch lines at the end of some spongiform tissue, where I knew there nested a touching vulnerability.

His cause of death? A Sharpie on the body bag had scrawled, “Alzheimer’s.” It wasn’t enough. Not then, not now.

I never went so far as to name him. That was not my right. But looking back, he was the most important part of my medical school education. Not his anatomy, which I was entirely too incurious about to become a good doctor, but him. Whatever it was that cleaved body to soul, and which had flown into the ether upon his passing. Above my scalpel, beyond any fixative.

He was the first character to jumpstart my writer’s heart.

He beats there still.

And a blurb from Sarah's recently released novel ... Plum Blossoms In Paris

Post-grad neuroscience student Daisy Lockhart has never been short on brains, but after her longtime boyfriend dumps her through e-mail, she is short on dreams. Alone for the first time in six years, Daisy allows herself to finally be an individual instead of half of a couple. On a mission towards self-discovery, new adventures, and healing her wounded soul, Daisy travels to Paris. Upon her arrival, she meets Mathieu, a mysterious intellectual with a carefree spirit, and Daisy begins to experience the passion and the fulfillment she craves. Daisy's tense battle between possible love and her newly found freedom forces her to decide what she really wants.

Go buy Sarah's book. Now. You won't be sorry. Also swing by Sarah's blog. Stay awhile. Read her thoughts. Again, you won't be sorry.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Crime Doesn't Pay - A My Town Monday Post

I'm trying something a bit different for this My town Monday post. I'm going to rely on my skills as a storyteller to share a rather macabre tale.

He hailed from Childress, Texas. A town a hundred and ten miles southeast of Amarillo. He worked for a cement company, but he was damn sick of both the job and the town. Miller was his name. G.R. Miller. No one needed to know what the letters stood for.

Maybe it was spring fever. Maybe it was the wanderlust of a crazed man. Hell, maybe it was the desperate need of adventure, but when the opportunity presented itself Miller walked away from his job. But not before making off with some of the companies explosives.

Knowing he would get caught if he stuck around town, miller headed for a relatives house where he stole a .38 caliber pistol. The pistol was a hell of a lot more practical weapon on a crime spree so Miller placed the stolen explosives underneath the house where he had stolen the gun.

He caught a train out of town as a cloud of black smoke filled the air.

But he wasn't alone on the westbound freight train. Discovering two youths he shot the first in the back and then took aim on the second. the boy leapt from the train as Miller plugged him in the leg. Miller shoved the first boy's lifeless body from the train as it rumbled over the sandy bed of the Red River.

Unaware he was dealing with a murders a brakemen discovered Miller when the train stopped in the small town of Memphis Texas. The brakeman ordered Miller off the train but the criminal hopped right back aboard a different freight car when the train began to pull out of town.

Again, he wasn't the only stowaway. This time Miller shot a man in the head while he played his harmonica. But the music lover's friend managed to escape through the open door. Crawling along the tops of the cars he reached the engineer and relayed what had happened.

Miller jumped off the train between the towns of Hedley and Giles but was soon caught by Donley Counties finest.

G.R. Miller was tried for the first murder and found guilty. He was given life and sent to Huntsville. He served several months before being returned to Clarendon, Texas, 60 miles southeast of Amarillo to be tried for the second murder. Again Miller was found guilt but this time the judge sentenced him to death.

With the exception of finding so many people hopping trains this could be a story from yesterdays newspaper. However my tale is a bit older. it is from '09. Not 2009 but 1909.

G.R. Miller stole that dynamite, and gun blew up that house, and murders those folks more than a hundred years ago. In doing so he earned the infamous title of being the last man hanged in the Texas Panhandle.

Known far and wide as Saints' Roost in Old West times, Clarendon, Texas was not a town for even the mildest of outlaws. There was no saloon, no drinking at all. Per the rules of it's founder, a Methodist Clergyman.

Come execution day the town swelled ten times in population. Matter of fact the crowd around the scaffold became so large and mob-like a construction crew building a new road was forced to abandon their work for the day. (actually I'm wondering if road crews then were like those today and readily took the first excuse not to work that came along)

People flooded into town via train, buggies, on foot, on horseback and in wagons. it was said that every man and boy for miles was in town that day. Women were not allowed to attend the hanging and to make certain they did not witness the event all females were sequestered to the wagon yard until the lever was pulled.

Newspaper reports described Miller as tall, dark and handsome. They said he was led onto the platform by a Catholic priest and a protestant minister.

Allowed a few final words Miller said, "All you children be good."

At 11 Am on June 3rd 1910, G.R. Miller breathed his last breath.

The crowd then rushed forward straining to get a better look at the body. The masses pushed and shoved destroying the makeshift platform. eventually the deceased was carried away in a hearse. But the wagon was too short, so his feet stuck out for all to see.

Below I will include a list of this week's fellow My Town Mondayers once they get their posts up. Please visit their towns and feel free to leave a link and join us if you you have something interesting to say about your chunk of the world.
The official My Town Monday Blog can be found here.

Terri Moran parks it in Queens, New York.
Gabriele Goldstone has a festive time in Winnipeg, Canada.
J Winter scales castle walls in Loveland, Ohio.
Theresa Milstein takes us to Northport, New York.
Richard Levangie gives us Canada's Cape Breton Highlands.
Debra Bures celebrates Village of Peninsula, Ohio's python days.
Barbara Martin chugs through Canada's Kicking Horse Pass.
Barrie Summy talks about the glass half full vs the glass half empty in San Diego, California.