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Mind Over Matter

men's magazines

No, not those kind. The good kind, from the late fifties and early sixties.

I remember True magazine; my dad subscibed to both it and Argosy. Both were interchangeable, full of “I had to gnaw off my own foot to escape the Hottentots”-type stories, and both were great fodder for twelve-year-old boys.

My mom didn’t quite approve me reading them, but there were no girlie pics, which left her position a little untenable. Read More 
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new interview up

Hi all. Just wanted to say wordsmith extraordinaire, Tamera Lynn Kraft, has posted an interview she did with me (and she did a terrific job).

Here's the link: http://www.wordsharpeners.wordpress.com

I'd love to hear from you!
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For those of you who read the teaser on 6 January, the first chapter of Relentless is now up. As I said yesterday, it'll be out next spring, 2011, from Narrow Road Publishing. Just go to "works," and then click "Relentless." I'd love to hear what you think!
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first taste of relentless coming up

The teaser of my newest novel Relentless will be up tomorrow. Just click "works" and the first chapter will pop up.

Featuring soldier-of-fortune (and former Army Ranger) Mac Ryan, Relentless is the story of a man of honor trying to locate a missing teenaged girl, and in doing so finds himself facing a horrifying killer known only by the macabre appellation "Boneless Chuck." Relentless will thrill readers who are fans of white-knuckle excitement. It'll be out next spring (2011) from Narrow Road Publishing. Read More 
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Dr. Suess's birthday

I was going through some old stuff at my office, and came across a calendar I'd saved from last year (the picture on it's nice). Anyway, for some reason I'd marked off Dr. Suess's birthday (it's March 12th, by the way).

When our boys were small we had nearly all the books Theodore Suess Geisel had written ... and there were a lot. They loved them, and begged us to read them to them again and again. We did, until the covers were hanging in tatters.

The reason for this ramble is from here on out I'm going to try (try being the operative word) to inject more writing-related content into this blog from time to time. And how better to kick that off with a salute to man who, more than any other I know, first introduced my children to the wonderful world of the written word.

So in a belated tip o' the hat to the good doctor, here's a little poem I wrote to celebrate his natal day:

I'm glad they honor him with words.
Something less would be absurd.

His pictures too, are very nice,
Of hatted cats and long-tailed mice.

His books we find in many nooks,
Always worth a loving look.

Yeah, I know, pretty bad, but the sentiment is there. Happy birthday, Ted; may all your sneetches be star-bellied. Read More 
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The times, they are a- … well, you know

Over this past Labor Day weekend my wife and I went shopping for a new DVD/VCR. While talking with one of the salesmen in the store, I jokingly asked him where the regular VCRs were kept. It was like I’d asked him to point me to the buggy whip aisle (it didn’t help that he looked to be about fourteen). That’s when he told me there aren’t any new VCR machines to be found. Anywhere. The technology has passed us by.

I nearly blinked back a tear. VHS … we hardly knew ye. I'll never forget those big, rectangular hunks o' plastic. That whirring sound they made when they loaded, the surrealistic effects when you'd put them on pause, all the little white gears and pulleys and mystery parts that would reveal themselves when the case was accidentally stepped-on while trying to snag a 2 AM ham sandwich … snif. The space those cassettes took up in my entertainment center is only matched by the place they held in my heart … I'm sorry … this is devastating news …

Anyway: getting older. I’ve tried to stay on top of things, I really have. I’m fifty-seven, but don’t feel it. Coolness factor, who knows? To me rap/hiphop/gangsta music sounds like someone dropped Tabby and a few spoons into a Mixmaster and hit "whip." I'm sure, like my own tunes from the 60s and 70s, such offerings are chockablock with teen angst, pain, and the-futility-of-it-all ("but only if I don't get laid tonight; then all bets are off"). I don't care. To me such "music" still sucks, and sucks large.

At any rate my grandsons think I'm a hoot (I've already shown them the "pull my finger" trick, thus initiating me fully into Grandpa-dom), my wife says I'm sexy (and vice-versa), and I'm still dancing on this side of the sod. Life's good.

For what it's worth, she and I are the same age. Not surprisingly, over the years both time and gravity have had their way with us (as they will with us all, sooner or later). Our hair is graying, our eyes aren't what they used to be, and our faces show some mileage. But that all comes with the territory (or it's supposed to). All I know is when I cup her lovely face in my hands, I see my wife, my boon companion, the mother of my children, a textbook grandma, the love of my life, and the completer of my soul. Together we've weathered times too hard to mention, and come out the other side scarred but alive. During this we've also seen both our sons grow into fine young men who love and honor their mom, as well as the birth of my fledgling writing career. My wife Barb has been there for me through it all. Oh yeah, on top of that she makes the best homemade vegetable soup in the known universe. Fine eatin' on cold winter nights. And anybody that don't like that, momma, don't like chicken on Sundays.

So you can take all the Pamela Andersons, the Paris Hiltons, the Britney Spears, or whoever is this week's sex kitten de jour (which I understand is quite tasty when covered with a nice Hollandaise sauce), and stack 'em up to Mars. They don't hold a patch to my sweetie.

See, here's the deal, as that old dealmaker Ross Perot used to say. Someday we'll all draw our last breath, and every man-jack (or woman-jill) of us will ask for just one more. And the Great Scorekeeper in the Sky will say, "Nope. You're done. C'mon home."

Until then, live life. That's all. Read More 
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Been thinking about movies, good movies, and Alien crossed my mind (on scrabbling little insectile feet, too). I’ll admit I tricked my wife into seeing it. The date was May 26, 1979, our sixth wedding anniversary, and she wanted to see The Champ (a Jon Voight/Ricky Schroeder boxing weeper wherein the hero croaks at the end). Yes, I spoiled it for you. No, I’m not sorry.

“No, hon,” says I. “It’ll just depress you. Let’s go see Alien. It’s supposed to be a really neat sci-fi picture.” Of course I knew it was a horror movie, but I was a selfish cad, and didn’t feel like spending good money on tickets and Raisenettes only to view a weeping li’l Ricky hanging on his dad’s dying neck at the film’s end. I’ll take "blow your brains out" for a hundred, Alex. Uh, no.

So instead we watched John Hurt get his chest blasted open from within and Tom Skerrit and the rest of the crew come to grisly ends in the ship’s air ducts and Sigourney Weaver and Jonesy the cat barely make out of the doomed Nostromo with their skins intact.

Helluva good flick.

Helluva bad evening when we got home. Read More 
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We've just moved into a nice older neighborhood, replete with yard work and Aunt Bea types bringing over hand-canned goodies and us jawing with the neighbors over the fence about ... well, neighborly stuff really. In sum, it's a throwback to the 50's sans hula hoops and poodle skirts, and I for one am fine with it.

But every Andrew Wyeth painting has its detractors, and we have 'em here as salesmen. The door-to-door type. You've seen them, I know: toothy denizens with wide flappy clothes and dodgy products and a "tell-ya-what-I'm-gonna-do" line of blather dripping from their livery lips in volume enough to fill the stakebed of a '72 Chevy pickup.

Having been trained in the frontal attack, these guys are usually as hard to get rid of as the last of the summer zucchini, but I think I've found the way. Whenever one of those cornfed yahoos shows up at my door, unannounced and with cheapjack gizmo in sweaty hand, I grin hugely and tell them "I'd love to hear what you have to say, but first let me tell you something!"

Then I grab the nearest hardcover book I have handy, flip it open to any page, and begin regaling the hawkshaw big stories about Elder Kragon, a large-domed, gray-skinned creature who hails from the planet Abraxas, and who also has a wonderful plan for we Earthlings soon-to-be-vacated corporeal bodies.

I give it to him loud, long, and with plenty of outlandish facial expressions. At the end of each sentence I bug my eyes really big and bellow the words "in accordance with the prophecy!!" Within ninety seconds--sometimes less--the fellow is a streak of fading dust.

Failing that, of course, I just shoot him where he stands. Read More 
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darn fine eatin'

Nothing much heavy today. Admittedly the purpose of this post is a fun test to see if anyone out there is reading this silly thing. So here it is: food. And not just any food either. We all know the (supposed) benefits of a healthy diet, a diet high in fiber and low in cholesterol. I'm told such fare will make one virile and handsome and able to lift the front end of a Ford Explorer one-handed. Yippee. Let us leave such people to their grazing. No, what I'm talking about is a bit more ... elemental. Earthy. Sensual. Specifically, junk food.

What constitutes junk food? Is it comestibles that are, by definition, bad for your health? Sure, that helps, but not necessarily. For instance, I grew up in the South. For years I daily ate such yummy stuff as country ham (containing salt content on par with the Dead Sea), green beans with fatback, cathead biscuits, fried corn, spoonbread, chocolate pie, iced tea so strong and sweet a feller could chop a cord of wood after just a glass ... all manner of things that I'm sure would cause Richard Simmons to roll over in his grave (he is dead, isn't he?). And then in my college days my standard favorite dish, owing to extreme poverty (not to mention congenital bad taste) consisted of cheap Winn-Dixie chili mounded on top of cooked Minute Rice, the whole mess heated in a Mirro popcorn popper and washed down by a big glass of grape Tang. Even now my mouth waters.

But I've grown, I think; I know my waistline has. Today my favorites include varied fare such as chili dogs, Vienna sausage out of a can (don't wipe the jelly off; it's good), bags of beef jerky (or if I'm flush, kippered beef strips), salted peanuts in the shell, boiled eggs, and Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream with Magic Shell on top. Yowza. As the thread title says, darn fine eatin'.

So what say you all? Anybody like to tell what your secret bad foods are? Come on, spill. We're all friends here. Far be it from me to tell your wife... Read More 
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killing me softly

Recently something has come up on a couple of Christian websites that needs to be addressed. Namely, violence in fiction. More specifically, gruesome violence. Not surprisingly the subject quickly found adherents in both camps.

In the first are the … well, call them the "traditionalists", for lack of a better term. Without painting those folks with too broad a brush, they are mainly women, mostly older, who prefer romance fiction, with a likeminded readership. Those ladies like writing, and reading, books with a female lead who is either going through a life crisis or having survived the same, a situation which causes them to meet Mister Right. Or something. If that sounds like I don't understand chick lit, you're probably right. But God bless those that do, and God really bless the houses that seem to produce them in freight car lots.

Next are the Others (sounds like a Lost episode, huh?). I find myself in this group. We're the ones trying to push our books a bit further out. Oddly, this group seems (the operative word being "seems") to be growing more rapidly than the first. Is it because our stuff is better-written? Doubtful; I've recently read some CBA stuff going for "edgy" that was simply poorly-penned dreck with Jesus tacked on. No, I think perhaps it has more to do with this group trying to fill a perceived need: to wit, a dearth of hard-edged fiction that delivers a solid story without "crossing the line" … wherever that is. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Which brings us to violence. What's been going hot and heavy on those other boards is the discussion of "how much is too much." In other words, if a story features a showdown between the hero and the villain, what is its logical conclusion? Does the villain suddenly drop his gun, repent his ill deeds, and vow to Walk the Straight and Narrow Evermore? Or does the said bad guy go for his gun (a fraction of a second too slow) and get drilled through the pump for his trouble? Anyone who's ever seen a John Wayne movie can answer that.

I'll confess, my own stuff tends to the latter resolution. Why? Because the story demands it. Simply put, some villains are no damn good, and will never be (Adolph Hitler, anyone?).

I'll admit the whole thing is as sticky as new paint, and I'll also be the first to admit that having a Christian hero who not only packs a gun, but is willing to use it to defend the powerless, is less than an ideal situation. But we live in a less than ideal world, and sometimes all that's left is to kill a rabid dog rather than trying to reason with it.

At any rate, it's an ongoing conundrum, a debate which has now gotten so heated over so even the secular press is taking note. Where will it end? God knows. He really does, though, and about the best I as a writer can do is write the most honest story I can. Read More 
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