Friday, December 31, 2010

Mulligan Day

Here we are on the last day of 2010. I can't complain about the past 12 months. After all, I have had far worse years, but looking back upon the last 365 days there were not a lot of highlights or spectacular moments.

Here are the ones that come to mind ...

My beloved New Orleans Saints finally shed off decades of futility and claimed the big prize proving pigs really can fly.

Then there was the Milk Maid that hit upon me at Wal-Mart.

My wake-up call via Harper Lee.

And I did discover the cure for writer's block

I avoided the 7 deadly sins by embracing religion.

I learned that I am an important voice of Texas

And that Rick Perry and his staff are VERY bad researchers.

The year ended with my wife's one night stand.

Okay so maybe some good stuff did happen this year, but I can't really say much for the goals I had leading into 2010.

I am still an unagented, un-book-length published writer. There were a few writing successes. Another advance deep into Amazon's yearly contest, a nice paying gig writing football profiles, the completion of The Feedstore Chronicles, but my decade long goal of seeing a novel or full book length project published or the acquisition f an agent continued to elude me.

Once again, I head into 2011 with those goal's in mind.

Like a lot of people I have also made a resolution to shed a few pounds. About a week ago I stepped on tot he scales here at work and was greeted by a startling number -- 293. Being within a T-Bone and a twelve pack of Shiner of THREE HUNDRED pounds has be cutting back. No, that doesn't not mean I will be partaking of the green leafy Devil anytime soon. Or EVER.

Losing weight is a goal for 2011.

My reading slacked off last year and I partially blame that fact for my lowered productivity with my own writing. Reading a great book always prompts the urge to write within me.

My goal is to read 75 books in 2011.

Once upon a  time I did a good job of responding to the comments left on my blog and often the conversation there overshadowed the original post.

Getting back in that groove is a goal for 2011. 

I'll stick with those four. Managing them and spending quality time with my family will be tough enough.

May all of you have a great 2011 and thanks for spending part of you valuable time in 2010 stopping by to read and comment of my blog. I really do appreciate all of y'all.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hold The Mustard

This is a catch up post. A Heinz 57 conglomeration of news regarding books and my own writing.

I have joined the cool kids and hopped on board the E-Reader train. That's right folks I am the proud new owner of a Nook. Nothing will ever replace the feel look and smell of a real book but I'm no dummy. I see where the future of publishing is headed. My first e-book purchase was a nearly 2000 page collection of Mark Twain works. I spent the princely sum of $2.99 for the purchase. The reader and cheapskate in me loves that fact.

In other book news, two of my weekly critique partners have novels out. Both Val and Caron are great critique partners. I look forward to our weekly sessions and my writing would not be nearly as good without them. I'm quite honored that both saw fit to thank me in their acknowledgments and at least now I can say my name appears in two novels. Caron is going to do a guest post for me at some point and I'm still trying to convince Val to do the same, but here is a little bit more about both of their books.


An Uncommon Crusade

coming January 2011 from Written World Communications

Only God can save them now . . .

Elisabeth, Simon, and Hugo join an ill-fated crusade to liberate Jerusalem from Muslim occupation. Blinded by their desire for power, glory, and vindication, they pay a terrible price for their ambitions, suffering shipwreck and enslavement in Egypt.
“Although this novel uses the Children’s Crusade of 1212 as its background, it is not a historical chronicle, but a very personal story, with few of the actual political players of the period appearing in a major role. Instead, the story traces the lives of several of the young followers of Nicholas of Cologne as they travel to Jerusalem, and over the years after the Crusade disperses. Each of the characters . . . comes across as bold, rich, and easy to relate to rather than overworked. The author does a good job weaving the divergent stories together, both in terms of the pacing and in the way they come together at the end of the tale . . . an enjoyable story with believable characters and an exciting plot.” Publishers Weekly


Val's new book is titled, Tears of Like Souls and it will be out very soon, but you can purchase the first book in the series, Blood Of Like Souls, now.

Here is a book trailer for book one.

Yes, the two books are vastly different in content and I suppose in target audiences, though I can say this reader enjoyed both. Funny thing is in crit group we all read a sample of our work usually 15-20 pages so it takes the better part of  a year to read and discuss a novel length work.  That slow pace is excruciating for a impatient reader like myself but the added bonus of hearing the author read aloud their work and getting to know things the average reader will never find out makes it  a lot of fun.


Just as Val and Caron's writing style and subject matter differs so does my own work. Val likes to kill people and make her readers chew on their nails. Caron likes to expose emotions and make the reader engage with the characters she creates on such a level that by the time you are through reading her stories the people inside feel like old friends. Me? I toss out a bunch of BS and hope it makes somebody laugh.

Longtime readers of this blog have heard me talk about a tale titled Plundered Booty. It started as a 7 thousand word short story. At the time I wrote it Plundered Booty was quite the departure from the emotion-driven Women's Fiction stuff I had been writing. Many of my writing friends read the story and declared I'd found my true voice. They told me humor was my bag and I needed to write a humor novel or better yet flesh out the characters from Plundered Booty and turn it into a novel. So I did just that. Plundered Booty the novel had some successes, most notably a Top 100 finish in Amazon's Breakthrough Novel contest. And while my little short story turned novel did not win I take pride that it beat out 3900 other stories to make it that far.

A few agent requested and read the full but sadly none offered representation. I shelved my Booty and began work on The Feedstore Chronicles. Then came news of an upcoming E-book collection. I first thought I'd write a new short story and submit it, but then it dawned on me that Plundered Booty the short story would be a perfect fit.

But when i reread the short story all I could think about was all the things I did better in the novel version. So I wen to work and soon my Booty grew fat. 30,000 words of obesity. So I began trimming tightening and  finally submitted a 12,000 word version that I am quite proud of. And sometime in 2011, you will be able to purchase the collection and finally get to see and read all of my Plundered Booty.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Y'all, know my personal motto ... Lettuce is the Devil. You know I shudder at the thought of salad of any kind.

That being said I don't rally the ACLU every time someone offers me a bowl of romaine. I haven't lobbied congress to ban restaurants from putting salad on the menu. And I don't  scream social injustice when I spot ranch dressing on the grocery aisle.

So forgive me for not understanding why it's a huge deal for store personnel to say Merry Christmas to their customers. Or for advertisements to include the words Merry Christmas in their ads.

I get not everyone is celebrates Christmas. Really I do. But that doesn't mean you can ignore the fact the vast majority of people believe in and celebrate the day. Just once I want to hear a story about one of these offended people who refused their day off from work. Who loudly proclaimed, "No, I refuse to allow you to pay me to stay home in the name of Christ! I shall work on December 25th or I will quit!"

I promise not to be offended if some sales clerk offers me a cheery Happy Hanukkah. Or I see an ad on TV for super low car prices in honor of Festivus. Heck, I don't mind a discount mattress in honor of Ramadan.

Celebrate or not. That's up to you. But don't let a well-intentioned Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah turn you into disciple of the Political Correctness paparazzi. That swarming mob of self-righteous policemen that have watered down, what was once a tasty punch of freedom and democracy to a tepid broth of bland soup.

So in closing let me say ... I hope you have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Festive Festivus, and a tubular Kwanzaa. Heck eat a big green salad if that's you thing. Me, I'm having steak and taters and enjoying the three day weekend bestowed upon my by Uncle Sam.

I'll leave you with a fine little ditty by the venerable Robert Earl Keen.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Wife Had A One Night Stand ...

... and on my birthday to boot. Here's how it went down.

There I was, Tuesday night toiling away in heated negations with a cars salesman on the  evening of my birthday. Not to purchase myself a new vehicle butt o trade off my wife's Dodge Caliber so she could have a new, larger ride.

It is at this point, I should point out that three years ago, when we acquired the Dodge Caliber I tried to persuade my wife to buy a minivan. But no, she didn't want to be a mini-van mom. She had no problem embracing the fact she was a soccer mom and yet she shunned the obligatory minivan than comes with said title.

Against my better judgment I let her talk me into buying a car too small for a family with two GROWING boys. I'm not a small fella by any means so I knew the boys would run out of leg room soon. And they did.

And my wife decided she wanted a minivan. She could have saved us some money and me a lot of heart ache and grief had she succumbed three years ago but I'm not the kind of husband that would ever say I told you so. No, I'm the kind of husband that BLOGS ... I told you so.

So for the last six weeks we have been on the hunt for a good used minivan with low mileage and all the bells and whistles my wife and kids craved.

And as luck would have it she found it on my birthday.

Dealing with car salesman on your birthday is about as much fun as as swimming in saltwater the day after getting circumcised. I'm speculating here folks but one can safely assume such a dip would be a painful experience.

So there I am, on my birthday, feeling like a Jewish kid in the Dead Sea. After hours of back and forth we strike a deal, but wait there is a snag. The Carfax shows a safety recall that has not been performed. We make arraignment with them to do something to make the automatic sliding doors safety compliant and all is well except they do not want us to put any more miles on our trade-in and our newly purchased mini-van will not be ready until the next day.

They offer my wife a Toyota Corolla as a loaner. She tells them no. She tells them, "I thought this was a Dodge dealership. You should give me a Dodge. And something cool she added. Like a Charger."

Ten minutes later she pulls away behind the wheel of this ...

Following behind her, in her Candy Apple Red Hemi-powered Charger this thought occurred to me.

My wife was a cheater. For one night she was ducking away from her mini van driving soccer mom status and stepping out on the town with a sports car. It was the equivalent of a guy scheduled to get married on Saturday morning hiring a high priced hook for Friday night.

But hell, I'd be stupid to turn by back on an opportunity at hand, so I had a little fun myself. Psst, don't tell the Dodge Dealership but those Chargers will do better 140mph with the slightest of effort.

Tomorrow while the kids are sitting in the back of the mini van watching Toy Story 3 on the DVD my wife will be behind the wheel remembering the thrill of her one night stand.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Second Rate Santa and the Saga of the ... Midnight Meat

Things got crazy around the mall during Christmas time, and they got even crazier when you could count the number of shopping days left without having to unzip your pants. (i.e. - less than ten days for those geniuses who don't have to count things out on your fingers, or for those of a gender that unzipping your pants doesn't help)

That's the time frame for this story. I believe it was the last Saturday before Christmas and the mall was staying open until midnight. Okay folks, let me say it. Their is nothing at The Gap or Banana Republic that you need at twelve o'clock at night. And if you have your kids out at that time dragging them from store to store you seriously need to ask Ol' Saint Nick for one of those Dr. Spock books, because you, my friend, are in dire need of parenting tips.

Notice I didn't say Jolly Ol' Saint Nick because nothing makes a guy more unjolly than to have been wearing an itchy fake beard all night while dealing with a sleigh full of rude and pushy procrastinators who want to take it out on you for them being behind in their shopping. Add in the fact fact they trot up a tired worn-out kid, who should've been in bed hours ago, and demand, I repeat DEMAND a picture where everyone is all smiles ... Well the whole scenario conjures up the the old saying, "Shit in one hand and want in the other, see which fills up first."

Got an idea what kind of night I was having?

Good, because this story really starts after I'd yanked the white beard off, stripped out of the red velvet suit. Don't get excited ladies, I quickly put on my regular clothes which probably consisted of a flannel button up shirt since it was cold and a pair of wranglers and maybe some lace-up hiking boots. You know your average lumberjack fashion.

So there I was at a quarter past midnight, looking a good bit like an agitated Paul Bunyon. Now normally I'd hike down the mall to the restroom to wash the white wax out of my eyebrows and the middle portion of my moustache, (My brows and mustache are black so I had to use a white wax pencil to color the portion that showed) but like I said I was fed up and ready to leave so I trudged straight outside where my wife was waiting in the nice warm car. At that time we only had one vehicle.

She took one look at said, "Rough night?"
"You can't imagine."

As we drove, I realized that my stomach was trying to gnarl through my spine so it could go out and find some food on its own. I'd eaten a dozen or so of those Little Debbie Oatmeal cookies that took star billing in last week's episode of the Santa Saga, but a man can't live on oatmeal and creme-filling alone -- he needs MEAT.

I am driving, since my wife hates to drive at night and her driving scares the bejeezus out of me even when the sun is shining bright, so I pull into WhataBurger, since unlike the mall, most of the fast food joints had closed at a decent hour. Now while I contend no one needs overpriced name brand clothing at midnight access to grease-laden food is an around the clock requirement.

So we pull up at the drive through window and I order a bacon cheeseburger with meat and cheese only.

Simple right?

Not for the fine folks working the graveyard shift at Whataburger. Let's just say I'm not sure the characters on duty that night could have counted passed ten whether they unzipped or not. But I didn't know that when I ordered, or even when they handed my sack of food through the window.

It wasn't until I took my first bite and gobs of mustard oozed down my throat. Okay many of you have heard me say, Lettuce is the Devil and it is, but mustard happens to be one of the devils disciples. I hate the stuff and anything that was turned into gas and used as a wartime weapon cannot be healthy to ingest. But back to the story.

I did a u-turn faster than you can say Blitzen and headed back to Whataburger. I stomped inside with the nasty taste of yellow satan at the back of my throat and headed straight for the counter. There wasn't another customer in the place, but that didn't keep the forty-something-year-old dude on duty from staring at me with the slack-jawed expression of a teenage pot head. Which no doubt he'd been at one point in his life. The pothead description probably still fit, but you can bet your Stretch Armstrong (that was a toy back in the day for any youngsters reading this) he hadn't been a teenager since sometime in the seventies.

Weird look aside, I told him my order was wrong and I wanted a bacon cheeseburger with meat and cheese only.

He opened up my burger and said that's what this is.
"No, it has mustard. I just want meat and cheese."
"Oh .." He nodded his head while continuing to stare at me as if I had an oatmeal turd for a nose. "No mustard. Got it."

I waited four or five minutes and he handed me a new sack. I pulled out he burger to check it and right away knew it was wrong again. I unwrapped it and there was the Devil itself in all its green evilness. Along with a slice of tomato and onion ... but at least there wasn't any mustard.

I should've just scraped the offending veggies off and lived with a bit of tomato juice and what not, but after my long night I was agitated and instead said, "This is still wrong. I only want meat and cheese. Nothing else."

By this time I noticed the cook peeking over the fryer at me. Along with the occasional weird glance from the drive-thru girl. They took my burger and again I waited. This time when I opened it there was not a drop mustard, nary a vegetable in sight, but you know what else was missing? The hamburger patty.

Right about then I lost it.

I freely admit when I raised my voice and said, "What the hell is a matter with you people!" I was not only taking out my frustration about the burger but every crying, bawling kid, every doubting-too-smart-for-their-own-good-Thomas of a kid, and every belligerent parent as well.

I ranted for a few minutes and then asked to see the manager. When the man in charge appeared he frowned and gave the same exact dumbfounded expression I'd been getting from his employees, but finally he said, "Can I help you sir?"

"I sure as hell hope so." I said. "I want a bacon cheeseburger with meat and cheese only. Nothing else. Is that too much to ask for?"

He opened up the wrapper and looked at his employees last effort. What's wrong with this one?"

"There is no hamburger patty in it."

Ne nodded still staring at me and I came to the conclusion he hadn't really heard a word I'd said because he was too busy eyeballing me.

Again I lost it and a little sarcastic elf began whispering in my ear, so I asked. "Is hamburger meat?"
The manager nodded.
"Is bacon meat?"
Another nod.
"Is lettuce meat?"
He frowned, but shook his head.
"Is it cheese?"
"Of course not?" A bit of irritation seeped into his speech.
"Is mustard meat?"
"Are they cheese?"
"Sir, we both know they are not."
"Then quit putting them on my damn burger and make it the way I ordered."

My tone finally wiped the dazed looked off the guys face as he crossed his arms and said, "Tell me how you want it and I'll personally guarantee it is made right."

I nodded and said. "I'll make this real easy since all of you seem a bit slow. "Put down the bottom of a bun, add a hamburger patty, a slice of cheese, three slices of bacon and then put the top on with out adding another damn thing." I delivered this fine little speech with a good bit of hand gestures to demonstrate how it should be done.

A minute later I finally had my burger just like I wanted, but possibly with a bit of spit added after the fit I'd thrown, but in my book the loogie of some middle aged pothead is still better than either lettuce or mustard.

Out in the car my wife asked, "What took so long?"

I gave her the complete replay and then said, "And the whole time those people kept staring at me as if I was crazy."

She gave me a look very reminiscent of the ones I'd gotten inside Whataburger and said, "Maybe it's because when you get mad those freaky little white eyebrows of yours dance all around."

That's when it dawned on me. I still had the colored eyebrows as well as the Hitler portion of my mustache colored white. Somewhere, a former Whataburger employee is probably blogging about the Christmas where some crazed guy with flocked eyebrows and mustache came in ranting and raving about meat and cheese and lettuce being the devil.

I'll Cry If I Want To

Thirty-eight years ago, under a moonless night of the winter sky, a baby was born. He was the 7th son of the 7th son and he was destined for greatness.

Okay that's total BS. Thirty-eight years ago today a baby was born in the bright sunshine of early morn. He was his mother's second son, hid father's first. The baby's dad had two sisters not six brothers. And as far as destiny ... the boy was destined to be fat, hairy and deathly afraid of lettuce.

Thirty-eight. Not a milestone year I suppose but one I am looking forward to none-the-less. I choose to believe the next 365 days will be filled with love laughter and friendship. And of course a book deal. Given that the Means claim the world is gonna end 2 years from today, on my 40th B-day I plan to live it up.

Actually, I don't put much stock in the Means prediction. It appears to me their world ended longtime ago.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Do writers think differently than others? Do we simply look at the world from a skewed angle others cannot see? Do we possess some rare talent that others are not blessed with? Or are we simply crazy people with an affinity for language and the written word?

Given that we writers have heads filled with fanciful ideas, endless what-ifs, and analytical ponderings I sometimes believe my brain is simply wired differently than the average person. And no doubt today's post will only reinforce the notion we writers are one step from the straitjacket.

I never read the book or saw the movie The Perfect Storm, but I now enough about the flick starring George Clooney to know it chronicles a crew of deep sea fisherman that lost their lives when a number of factors converged on them at once creating impossible conditions.

This morning, while taking a shower I experienced my own tragic Perfect Storm.

Okay, no one lost their life so perhaps it is in bad taste for me to compare my pain with those who perished on the Andrea Gail. But as the pain receptors in my body shouted SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS I thought not, what can I do to remedy this pain and make it go away but rather, How the hell did this happen.

Long before the tear producing agony slid away like the suds around the drain, I'd already recreated the series of event that led to my embarrassing infliction.

It all started with an innocent trip to Wal-mart. Where along with groceries and other sundries, I purchased this ...
Axe Shower Gel.
Then I went to a local barbecue joint and despite the fact it tasted a little funny I went ahead and ate my entire smoked turkey sandwich.

For those of you with class, and or delicate sensibilities, let me say that tainted turkey sandwich hit my intestinal track and redefined the term Turkey Trot.

Now under normal condition I might have called in sick to work and stayed really close to my home based porcelain throne, but this is December. The season of glittery gold and red Christmas cards. The month of parcels and packages mailed home to good boys and girls. The time of ultra-anal and ever-fretful Postal Supervisors. So like a good trooper I headed on to work.

But as any one who reads the newspaper knows the United States Postal Service has been struggling a wee bit in recent years. Between asinine congressional rulings, email, and internet bill paying the USPS has faced a few financial hardships. Management has cut corners. and while the toilet paper Uncle Sam used to buy was certainly  long way from Charmin the crap paper they buy these days isn't worth the very thing it is designated to remove.

Given my intestinal "situation" it didn't take long before the aforementioned skid paper rubbed my delicate sensibilities raw.

Which brings me back to that shower and that AXE Shower Gel.

See that little word to the right of AXE. It reads shock. And let me tell you this was no case of false advertisement.

You see this AXE gel contained Mentholatum. I don't have a clue what Mentholatum is, or where it comes from, but I know it is good for clearing plugged sinuses or relieving sore muscles. It is not however soothing to a severally chapped butt. Quite the opposite actually. Mentholatum on raw skin will make you screech like a red-assed baboon. 

And yes, I have just created an entire rambling post to tell y'all about my Perfect Storm of a inflamed butt pain. And yes, I suppose that makes me crazy. Then again you wasted a valuable portion of your day reading about it, so at least I'm not alone. So go scrawl some graffiti on the padded walls while you're hear. I love to read y'all comments.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Still feverishly editing and tweaking my as-of-yet-still-too-long, short story so once again a second help of my Second Rate Santa Sagas.

Another Second Rate Santa Saga - Ye Olde Yuletide Log

The shopping days are dwindling, Jack Frost is nipping right along, and credit card CEOs are grinning. Yep, we're smack in the middle of Christmas season so here is a new edition of my Santa tales.

If you missed out on the picture of me in the red suit go here and read how I happened to become a mall Santa.

Installment two, can be found here.

And numero three, here.

Or you can skip those and join in the fun with this new edition.

I'm the kind of guy who tries to have fun regardless of the situation. Call it what you will - finding the silver lining, making lemonade out of lemons, believing there might be a diamond inside that lump of coal in my stocking. So even though playing Santa wasn't all Ho, Ho, Hos and gold tinsel, I tried to have fun. Though my idea of fun and other's isn't always the same, as this story illustrates.

Santa's domain sat smack dab in the middle of the mall. The set consisted of a small house open on three sides, a white picket fence which contained white cotton spread out on the ground to look like snow and a bunch of mechanical elves and reindeer. Some of the elves waved, others bent to pick up a package, or slowly turned their heads. But they all moved in some way. As did the reindeer.

Kids often asked about these mechanical critters and I would tell them that elf is named Squirtamirt or that one is Higgligiggle. And the reindeer I'd call Comet or Blitzen or whatever struck my fancy at the time. None of them had a red nose so I'd tell the kids that Rudolph was up on the roof.

Also from time to time I'd stand up, because my butt got sick of sitting for hours on end in that dang red velvet chair. Santa tried not to dig out the wedgies while anyone was watching but a guys gotta do what a guys gotta do. When I stood to "stretch" I'd always waved at the kids along the fence and shouted out, "Merry Christmas!" I'd also have a little fun with Galen, my boss.

The mall provided us with Oatmeal Creme Pies to hand out to every kid, whether they paid for a picture or not.

I like Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies myself, so in order to maintain the proper Santa physique I indulged in one, or two, or ten a night. Thus, I always had a few of the little round brown patties of goodness stashed  in my pocket.

If you have an aversion to bathroom humor and the immature actions of adult males -- stop reading now. If not proceed.

Did you know an oatmeal creme pie, removed from it's cellophane package and rolled up looks a lot like a human turd? Alarmingly similar if a person rolls said cookie so that each end tapers.

I left one of these "presents" under an elf for Galen to find and when he did, I got quit a reaction. He squinted, stepped closer, squinted some more. Then he called me over and pointed. "What is that?"

Waving to the kids, I said, "I don't know."

Galen scratched his head and bent down for a closer look. "Looks like a turd," He finally said.

Trying hard to maintain a straight face I chimed in with, "Guess Elves gotta go to."
"Well pick it up," Galen said.
"I'm not picking it up." I answered. There are kids watching. It wouldn't look very Santa-like to go around picking up Elf crap. Now would it?"

Galen stared some more. "What do you think it is, Really?"
I continued to wave, "Beats me."

Finally, he bent down to pick it up and found it to be softer and stickier than he ever imagined. The look on his face combined with the fact he nearly gagged had me laughing so hard tears filled my eyes.

There for a few seconds he really believed that Elf had laid a yuletide log and my only regret is that he threw the thing in the trash before I had a chance to grab it and take a bite, ala Bill Murray in Caddyshack.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dee Burks - A My Town Monday Post

It is once again my turn to host My Town Monday. I have bragged several times about the amount of talented authors that reside in or around Amarillo. And from time to time I have introduced them to y'all as part of My Town Monday.  Today I'm featuring a lady that is not only a talented writer but a savvy business woman and co-founder of TAG Publishing. Her name is Dee Burks. She is a frequent commenter on this blog and she also has a new novel out just in time for your last minute holiday shopping.

Dee Burks has been in the publishing business for more than ten years. She has written articles for Magazines such as Credit Union Business, Saddle Baron and Route 66 as well as working as a business book reviewer for Kiplinger’s. In 2006 she started a ghostwriting firm with her business partner Liz Ragland and has personally ghostwritten over 40 books including six #1 bestsellers. Dee also has taught writing classes on the collegiate level including Ghostwriting and Freelancing, Writing the Great American Novel, and Writing Your Memoirs. Her first book, Picks & Shovel: How to Cash in on the Gold Rush in Ghostwriting was publishing in 2007 and a new revised and expanded version is due for release in January of 2011. Liar’s Fire is her first contemporary romance.

Hi Dee, thanks for taking time out of you busy schedule to chat with me and my blog readers. You’ve lived in Amarillo for the past 16 years. Can you share with us how you came to be a fellow Amarilloan?
Thanks for having me Travis. Actually my family moved from east Texas to the Panhandle when I was in third grade. My dad had been a ranch foreman and he was looking for a change of pace. I loved living on the ranch. We had lots of animals and I got to bottle feed the orphan calves. In fact we had one that slept on the front porch and thought it was a dog – it chased cars and everything.  My dad knew some friends that lived in a little town about 100 miles north of Amarillo called Gruver. He was born and raised near Plainview and he liked the Panhandle. My mom was raised in Dallas and was definitely a city girl. My parents came to Gruver for a visit and liked it so they moved. The only thing I really remember about the move was my mother boo hooing the whole way while our 40 gallon fish tank sloshed in the back seat. I don’t think she was thrilled at the prospect of living in the Panhandle and she had this intense fear of tornadoes. Of course I couldn’t wait to see one! I was very much a tomboy.

So you got a big taste of small town living?
Definitely! Gruver has, and had, about 2000 people. It’s the one stop light kind of place where everyone knows everyone. It was a great place to grow up. I lived there until 1993 and then moved to Amarillo after my first marriage ended to get my degree.
Does growing up here in the Texas Panhandle figure into your writing?
Its interesting that when ‘foreigners’ (defined as anyone who lives off the Caprock) ask why I live here the answer is always the same – the people. People here are an intriguing mix of tough exteriors, soft hearts, and cowboy ways. They would defend their family and land to the death, but give the shirt off their back to a complete stranger if they needed it. I use those qualities a great deal when I create my characters. In fact, in this new book I’ve got some characters who strongly resemble people I know and used to work with. They are funny and quirky yet the kind of people you really want to know.

Kind of like the character in Liar's Fire who owns a BBQ restaurant?
Yes. My husband managed several restaurants in the Amarillo area for over 17 years. He used to tell me stories about bailing his cook out of jail so they could open for breakfast and running deer out of the parking lot.  In fact some of the scenes – such as when the ice machine goes out and my character uses a heat gun to clear the hoses - came from real events that happened to him. I guess that’s proof that you should never tell a writer anything you don’t want to appear in print at some point.
Will this book be part of an ongoing series? 
Yes. This is the first book in a series focused on the Cooper bothers clan. This one introduces Tyler Cooper, who of course owns the restaurant. There are plans right now for a book on the older brother, Jeff (an attorney) and Sam (a jeep tour operator) and maybe even Justin all of whom the readers meet in this first book. And yes, they will be set mostly in the Texas Panhandle.

When someone reads your book, what do you want them to take away?
It would be perfect if they laughed so hard they peed and cried so hard snot slid down their lip. Those are the kind of books that I remember and that’s what I want to create for the readers.
One last question, what is with the bulldog on your website?
LOL That would be Rocko the current love of my life. He goes by Barky and is so funny that I’m going to have to figure out a way to put him in a future book. You will notice that this book has a dog too – Shadow who is a boxer. Shadow is a real dog (and that is her real name) and she belongs to one of my poker buddies. She’s the only dog I ever met who’s afraid of bunnies….go figure. I like putting animals in books because I really think it makes the characters more human and less sterile. It can also allow you to show a completely different facet of a character that you might not be able to show any other way.

Any of y'all that have read the first chapter of my book, The Feedstore Chronicles certainly know that I do not share Dee's love for English Bulldogs. But I have been to Dee's office and I will attest that Rocko is a lovable beast.

To learn more about Dee, Rocko, or her new novel, Liar's Fire stop by Dee's website. She also blogs at Writer's Path so stop by and say hello.

Hopefully Dee won't mind, but I have also shamelessly stolen from her website and included more info about her novel.

I'm proud to announce my latest book, Liar's Fire is now available from all major retailers and is also available on Kindle! The first in the Cooper Brothers series, its funny, hot and filled with lots of great romantic tension! Here's a quick tease:
Three Dates. Three Hours.
No Commitment. No Kidding.
It seemed like a really good idea at the time to Serena Finley, editor of the Cranfield Reporter-Star. Faking a romance couldn't be that hard could it? No one said it had to be read and if everyone thought she was in love, they'd stop hounding her to find a man. Serena knew could do this and no one would ever be the wiser - best case scenario.

Then Tyler Cooper walked into her life and best case scenario became iffy. He fit her idea of Mr. Wrong in every way. From a failing business, to limited social skills, Tyler would never have made her list of datable men.  He was a cowboy for heaven's sake, who probably wouldn't know cashmere if it bit him in the butt. But she needed his help and he needed hers, which made him perfect. Until tonight.

Somewhere in the midst of the pretend and the lies, her heart had been drawn to his. His kisses stirred her soul while his friendship gave her the strength to deal with old hurts and past heartaches. Serena knew this had no future. She was bound for Manhattan; Tyler was determined to stay in Texas. Would she risk everything for a chance at real love? Or walk away from this flame with her heart in ashes? 
As, always  we'd love to add your link to the My Town Monday parade so drop me a comment here or over at the official My Town Monday blog and I'll get you added ASAP. and check back throughout the day Monday to visit the other MTM participants this week.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Assorted Devilry

Christmas Party season is not a good time for me. Sure I enjoy the socializing, but I hate the fancy, veggie filled hor'derve trays. And many a host insists you eat. They take "No thank you," as a personal affront. So I invariably have to say, "My personal motto happens to be Lettuce is the Devil, so kindly remove your flambayed quiche ball of satanic devilry from my presence." And yet I'm invited back year after year.

I have not been out and about on the blogosphere or Facebook as much as normal. Instead I've had tunnel vision in regards to editing a short story. As I mentioned last week I am going to be included in an ebook collection with some wildly talented and respected writer with far better publishing credentials than I have. I fear being the weak link in a strong chain so I've been working extra hard on this particular tale. 
In other news I have been elected coach for a team of 2nd graders competing in a PSIA event. PSIA stands for Private School Interscholastic Association. The event I'm coaching is storytelling. Basically the kids listen to a  story read orally to them. Wait ten minutes or so and then orally retell the tale to a panel of judge which have not read or heard the story. The main objective is not to get every last fact of the original story correct but to retell the story in an entertaining and understandable fashion. I wish they had such for adults. Not to toot my own horn but I think I would rock at this cause I'm a bullshitter from way back.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Do You Believe?

I'll Tell You What To Believe, another Saga of the Second Rate Santa

I don't want this blog to become All Christmas ... All the Time, but I did say I would get another Second-Rate Santa Saga up this week. But this will be the last one until late next week or even the weekend, because I'd hate for my readers to require insulin after too many tales of sugar plum fairies. In another couple of weeks we'll all be so sick of hearing Jingle Bells and All I Want for Christmas is a Hippopotamus that the only way to make our spirits bright is to mount a giant hippo head above our fireplaces. But I digress.

I've had a hard time deciding which Santa tale to go with next. There is my personal favorite,which I think will be titled Midnight Meat, - but I have special plans for that one later on in the month and besides, I need to set up a few things through other stories first. There is one highlighting the immaturity of grown men, myself included, that I'll call, Ye Olde Yuletide Log, but since I described the three kinds of adults that visited Santa in the last post, I think I'll do the same with kids in this one. Again most of the kids fit in one of three categories.

The Awed - These were the kids that approached wide-eyed with mouths agape. To them I was a mystical hero capable of fulfilling all of their dreams and wishes. The would climb up on my lap and speak their hearts desires in whispered tones. They listened with rapt attention as I instructed them to listen to their parents and not fight with their brother's and sisters. I'll tell you there wasn't near enough of these kiddos, but they were the ones that made it fun.

The Scared - Again these kids were wide-eyed and their mouths were open - screaming at the top of their lungs. "No! I don't Want to! Please Mommy, please!" Nothing makes you feel better than to instill raw terror into small children. I know what Quasimodo felt like. But it could have been worse. The parents could have gathered up torches and pitchforks. Instead, they handed me their squalling and bawling offspring and then stepped back and said, "Smile, pretty for you picture honey." 
Ever try to get a terrified kid to stop crying and smile? It ain't easy. Especially when the very thing they are afraid is desperately holding onto them.

The Skeptical - These are the kids who walked up with narrowed eyes and smug grins. The IRS should hang around Santa's throne at malls and recruits these little doubters cause once they get on your case they can't be dissuaded. 
And is there really much difference in these two questions? "If you're really Santa then where is you Reindeer?" "Mr. Erwin, do you really expect me to buy into your claim that you traveled to Las Vegas solely for book research?"
They have the same ring to them huh? Yep, and it is about as joyous as the racket those Salvation Army Santas make out in front of Wal-mart. And here is a little tale to prove my point.

There I was sitting on my throne, well not my throne, the mall's throne they built for Santa. My throne is made of porcelain and doesn't have a stitch of red velour in sight, but at least there is always a good book near my throne. But back to Santa and the mall. The line was fairly long as it was a weekend afternoon. In times like that I fell into a routine. Welcome the next group in line, ask them what they want for Christmas, smile for the picture, and then tell them to be good little boys and girls because my elves were watching. In between I'd try to wave to the kids that gathered around the little white picket fence.

For a long time I noticed this one little girl about eight or nine standing there. I'd wave but she wouldn't respond. Finally, a small boy of about five joined her at the fence and finally the two of them along with a man and woman got in line. A good fifteen or twenty minutes went by before they made their way to the front. Here is the scene that followed.

"Merry Christmas," I shouted.
The boy smiled. She did not.
"And what would you like for Christmas?"
The boy said, "A new bike and a hamster."
I turned to the girl. "And how about you."
"I know you're not the real Santa Claus, and my mom won't let him have a live animal cause he squeezed our parkeet until it died."

At this point my boss Galen, said smile and the flash went off, but the girl wasn't done.

"The real Santa does't have time to sit around all day taking pictures."
"So what does the real Santa do all day?" I asked.
"He builds toys."
"I have elves to do that." Yeah I now. I was arguing with an eight-year old over something she was right about and I was wrong, but I had to have fun somehow.
"And he has to feed the reindeer."
"They fly around and find their own food," I countered.
She rolled her eyes, "Right."
I appealed to her little brother who I decided was an easier sell. "You be a good little boy and Santa will leave you a surprise Christmas morning."
"Will you bring me a hamster?"
"I'll have to ask your mommy first. Santa can't bring you something unless your parents say it's okay."

At this the girl gave a hearty, "Huuumph," and hopped off my lap. She grabbed her brother's hand and drug him off with her. As she left I heard her say, "See, I told you he wasn't the real one. The Santa can do anything he wants, long as Mrs. Clause says it's okay."

I couldn't help but laugh, but deep down I already felt sorry for the poor guy who would end up married to her cause it was painfully clear Mrs. Claus wouldn't be the only one granting permission.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Second Rate Santa and the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly ... but mostly the Ugly.

When you mention mall Santas, most people think of kids, and probably 90% of the people who stood in line and came to sit on my lap were under the age of twelve. Then you had the older kids who hated to be there, but their parents still wanted that yearly picture so they forced them to shuffle up and plop down beside Santa in the over-sized chair. Those 'tweens and teenagers wouldn't be caught dead sitting on my, or any other Santa's lap.

Then there were the older people -- women mostly, but a few men as well. They were a mixed bag. Some were all TOO eager to sit on Ol' Saint Nick's lap and reveal their heart's desire. They, the adults ran the gamut from ...

The Good - An entire shift of Hooter's girls, a couple of shapely twins, and pretty young woman who only wanted to ask Santa for her fiance to be sent back stateside from Croatia in time for their planned Valentine's day wedding.

The Bad - An obviously gay man in a trench coat, no I can't say for certain that he had on anything else, the women who obviously had some kind of Santa fetish and delighted in making my cheeks rosy, and the plethora of hacking, wheezing flu-ravaged people who thought I, as a mall Santa, had the magical ability to ward off disease.

The Ugly - The ugly took many, many forms and will be fodder for this series throughout. When I say ugly I don't just mean physically though Frosty knows there were plenty that filled that sleigh. Along with the aesthetically challenged I had to deal with the hygiene deficient, the personality perplexed, and the downright delusional that actually thought I could fulfill their wishes. Then, there were those who fell into all of those categories. Plus some. The couple from today's installment certainly fits that bill.

It was early on, in that first week after Thanksgiving, before I'd become completely jaded against the entire legend of Santa Claus. I'd already encountered a few weird things, but I chalked those up as anomalies. 
The night had been steady, but far from the hectic madhouse it would become in a few short weeks, and with less than an hour to go until the mall closed I was feeling rather jolly. (A couple of weeks alter the mall started staying open til midnight and then with an hour to go I was just trying to sane.) Most of the elves had gone come so it was just Galen and me. He took the pictures, I smiled and listened to the kids lists.

But our next customers were far from being kids. And as they walked up Galen whispered out the the side of his mouth, "Get a load of these two."
They were in their early twenties. She wore a pair of ratty red sweat pants that were two sizes two small and with her rotund build the overall package looked sort of like Santa's gift bag. If it were overstuffed with two dozen Christmas hams. The woman's hair hadn't seen a brush since Prancer was nothing but a twinkle in his mother's eye, but she's lathered on enough make-up to make Rudolph's nose seem dull.

In stereotypical fashion her boyfriend was as skinny as she was large. His body was all angles and bones, like a broken up candy cane. A smudge above his upper lip that could have been a moustache or a stain of chimney soot. A chain hung from his grease-stained jeans and the cap on his head said something like, Truckers Do It For The Long Haul.
I made room for them to sit one on each side but of course she plopped down right on my left knee. With a pat on my right, she said, "Bobby you sit here."

He shook his head. "I don't think so." His filthy hair hung stiff like icicles. Though I'd never seen icicles made of oil. But just because I'd never seen it, didn't mean 10w-40 didn't freeze.

Like I said, I still had a bit of holiday cheer in me so I gave Jack Sprat and his girlfriend a hearty, "Merry Christmas!"
He mumbled something that might have been " Fuck off and die," but I can't say for certain.

Next, as was customary, I asked what they wanted Santa to bring them this year.

She giggled and said, "An engagement ring would be nice."
"Dream on," he answered.
"Maybe a puppy then."
He cast her a dirty look. "What are you stupid? You know my mom is allergic."
She returned his nasty expression with one of her own. "Then maybe we could move to a place of our own."

At this point Galen said smile and the flash went off just as the boyfriend said, "This is bullshit. I ain't made of money."
He grabbed the girls hand and yanked her down from my lap. My knee thanked him.

Galen said to them," Want to have a look at your picture?"

"Hell no. We ain't buying no fuckin' picture."
The girl stopped walking. She crossed her arms across her chest and stuck out her bottom lip like a two-year-old. "I want a picture."
"What for?"
"I just do."
He hauled out his wallet by tugging on the chain." Okay, but this counts as part of your present."

As he paid Galen, the girl said, "Gawd, Bobby you can be such an asshole."
He shrugged. "And you can be a bitch."
Smiling, she draped an arm across his skinny waist and slid her hand into his back pocket. "I know, but that's why you love me."

Galen handed the happy couple their photo and they walked away, arm in arm. Just before they rounded the corner he grabbed a handful of her ample sweatpant covered ham. 
Sometime next week I'll post another of these stories about my year as a mall Santa.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ho Train

Every day I mean to get something posted here on the blog and yet I haven't managed to get it done for the last week. Today's edition is gonna be a little all over the place so bear with me.


In good news, it looks as if one of my short stories is gonna appear in an e-book collection in the near future. I'll have more details later but I'm really excited because of the talented company my tale will be keeping. Readers of this blog will recognize most, if not all of the other authors. Trust me when I say talent abounds. But I am curious how many of y'all own an e-reader or have downloaded an e-book to read on some other device such as a smart phone or computer? Please chime in with a comment to let me know if you have or would seriously consider doing so.


November was a poor writing month for me. While many of my friends were busy cranking out 50K plus words for NaNo I was brooding, editing, and researching various markets. I might have written 100 words of new story. I hope December is more productive but then again free time is a rarity during the Holidays. Especially if you work for the Post Office.


Speaking of December. Here we are smack in the middle of "Ho" season so I feel it might civic duty to remind y'all to be mindful that the word Ho must always be used repetitively.

Ho!, Ho!, Ho! = Perfectly acceptable
Yo Ho Ho, and a bottle of Rum = Fine and dandy
You Ho, bring me a bottle of rum = Detrimental to your health.


And keeping with the Ho Ho Ho theme let's talk Santa.

Longtime readers will recall that once upon a time I worked as a mall Santa. Back in December of 2007 I blogged about a few of those experiences.  I'm gonna shine a few of those tales up and trot them back for y'all amusement this holiday season. Here is a picture and the original introduction to those tales which I dubbed ... The Sagas of a Second Rate Santa.

That's right folks, that's me lurking beneath those snow-white whiskers and red hat. And here is the real story of how I became a mall Santa and happened to have a six foot plus, two-hundred and something pound red-headed man sitting on my lap.

The years was 2001. I was just shy of my 29th birthday, far too young to make a good Santa, but then again I never claimed I was a good Santa. The previous spring I'd agreed to play the Easter Bunny at the mall so the Santa gig was my second stint for the company.

Who ran the company? The red headed man on my lap, who also happened to be my boss at the Post Office. He knew I had a new baby and could use a bit of extra money so he hired me for nights and weekends.

The Easter Bunny was easy. Ten bucks an hours plus commission if we met our goals of getting so many pictures. Later, I will share some Bunny stories, which are actually funnier than the Santa ones, but y'all will have to wait for spring for those. The good thing about the Easter Bunny was I just had to sit there in my suit.

No talking. No Ho, Ho, Ho'ing. Just wave and sweat in a gimongous fur covered suit while the sun beat in through the mall's atrium windows. Easy money.

There was nothing easy about being Santa.

First, because I was young and my eyebrows are black, I had to get this wax pencil and color my brows white each time I donned the suit. Also the middle part of my moustache bled through the fake beard so I'd have to use the pencil to color what I'll call the Hitler portion of my 'stache white as well. Then, despite having a fairly ample gut of my own, I'd have to tie this big poofy pillowed girdle around my torso. Then I'd slip into the red velour trousers and shirt, hoist up the black suspenders, and then slip into the leather boots. Did you know Santa's footwear isn't much different from a Hell's Angel's?

Last, I'd slide the beard into place. It itched like hell and those little fine grey hairs constantly found their way inside my mouth and nostrils. They tickled like hell and over the course of a night spitting out the hairs and keeping them out of my nose proved to be nerve racking. For all I know they gather that crap from the backside of Polar Bears so who the hell knows what kind of germs I was ingesting. Of course every sick and snotty nosed kid in town ended up on my lap, so it didn't make much difference that I was snorting a tainted white face wig.

So after a half hour of getting dressed I'd wait for the Santa on duty before me to come back so I could take his place on the throne. Then the fun would really start.

At Easter you might get three or four people in line at the busiest time. The parents are calm and relaxed for the most part since they haven't spent all day running around from store to store maxing out their credit cards in the name of good cheer.

Christmas was an entirely different story. After a ten minute break the line would be twenty screaming kids long. Parents would be eyeballing their watches and scowling like constipated elves forced to eat prune-laced fruitcake.

Tomorrow I'll give you a little taste of the flavors of humanity that took a squat upon my lap that year. Let me tell you it wasn't all peppermint and sugar cookies.

And don't forget, I too am making a list and checking it twice. I wanna know your status on both e-readers and e-books. I need your answers 'cause the last thing you want is to be put on my naughty list.