It's a busy time of the year for me between working on books and enjoying the holidays.
My next novel, "Souls of the Desert" is currently in the hands of my focus group who will render their opinions and suggestions within the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, I will get a thumbs up on the book and that will mean few changes. Their input is invaluable, and I, as the author, must determine the if the points of critique merit changes in the story. In the meantime, my talented wife, Susan, is working tirelessly on the book cover and promotional book trailer. If everything goes as planned, it should be published in January 2012. I'm very excited to get this one out to all my readers, and as a matter of fact, I can hardly wait!
As far as the holidays are concerned, Thanksgiving is a no brainer. We just cook enough food so we can have leftovers for a solid week. My wife and I are planning an escape to the Big Easy for Christmas. My pal, Bob, and his wife, Cindy, own a second home in New Orleans, so we'll impose and sponge off of them for a few days. After all, isn't that what good friends are for? But seriously, we did get an official invite from them and I need to do some research around New Orleans for a future thriller that keeps rattling around in my head.
I'd love to hear about your holiday plans. I invite you to share your comments below!
Halloween came and went this year, and so did the five dollar bags of treats. The little spooks came in clusters and to my surprise, most of them said thank you or gracias as they left my doorstep.
I'm not sure that Halloween is considered a real holiday since people don't get off work or out of school, but Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away. Ahhh. Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends, and we'll eat until we pop like a tick.
They say that the melatonin in turkey is what makes us so sleepy after eating the holiday feast. I'm sure the beer or glasses of wine has nothing to do with it. My favorite part about the holiday is the next three days of eating leftovers. Dry turkey, rock-hard stuffing, and molded pumpkin pie are...priceless!
After Thanksgiving is over, we look forward to Christmas. We'll get to indulge in the same type of meal we ate at Thanksgiving, plus we get to re-gift the presents we got last year. I can hardly wait!
This is my cat Lily sitting next to her beloved Jack-O-Lantern.
Halloween was my favorite holiday when I was growing up. It was dress-up day at elementary school and everyone paraded around the block in their costumes. How cool is that?
Back then, we trick or treated the day before, the day of, and the day after Halloween. The day before was a little lack luster and most residents grumbled "Come back on Halloween" and then slammed the door in our faces. The day after was pretty good because most people wanted to get rid of their leftover crap so their own kid's teeth wouldn't rot out.
Anyway, on Halloween night, there was always the special houses that gave out cool cupcakes or over-sized candy bars. After we visited these houses, we had to run home and change costumes and make a second trip or maybe even a third, undetected, to collect more goodies. The most disgusting treats that I remember were the unwrapped popcorn balls. When you pulled them out of your sack later, other treats and pennies were stuck to them like super glue.
The most terrifying thing on Halloween was the urban legend of the "one light gang". Rumor had it that the "one light gang" was a car full of teenagers that would drive up beside you and steal your bag of treats. When you spotted a car with only one headlight, you immediately jumped into a ditch to hide from them only to find the ditch was full of water that came up to your knees, and then you realized the car was simply a motorist with a headlight out. Things just got worse from there. When you got home you realized the bottom of the sack had gotten wet, the paper bag had finally given way, and you had lost most of your treats.
I don't know if you have traveled outside of the U.S., but I'm here to tell you that there is a big difference between traveling for pleasure and traveling for business purposes.
My idea of traveling for pleasure is reaching your destination and checking into a fine hotel or resort and laying on the beach and bumming around for days.
The business side of traveling as I've experienced would usually entail a cheap hotel where no one speaks your language, and you're stuck in cramped offices all day trying to make a sale. There was usually no time for sightseeing or going out on the town. It was strictly business.
However, there were times I've never forgotten. For instance, one time in Kuwait I was walking down the street at night with a client name Abdullah. He had never been out of his native country.
He looked up at the night sky. "Bob, does the moon in the U.S. look like ours?" he asked.
I smiled and replied. "Our moon looks exactly like yours."
I'll never forget that moment, and the experience of that particular trip is what inspired my upcoming novel, Souls of the Desert.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, the Joplin High School Class of 1966 had its 45th year reunion this past weekend. This was my first time to attend and I was pleasantly surprised to see the parking lot full of cars instead of a fleet of OATS buses as I had imagined. OATS used to stand for Old Adults Transportation Services, but I think it has recently been opened up to anyone in need of the service.
Upon arrival, we were each given a name tag that included a picture of ourselves from the yearbook so everyone wouldn't keep asking "who the hell are you?" all night.
After a quick trip to the portable bar and a few handshakes, we were ushered out front for a group picture. As the camera snapped away, we were all looking pretty good, in a geriatric sort of way.
It was nice to see old friends again. I immediately recognized some of them, but others I wouldn't have guessed who they were in a million years.
Most people seemed shocked that I had become a novelist, instead of just getting out on parole. I refrained from touting my latest book too much, and after several trips to the bar, Anheuser's disease (not Alzheimer's) started to set in, so I probably forgot the name of it anyway.
A buffet dinner was served followed by a tribute to our classmates who has passed on. Then a vote was taken in favor of having a 50th class reunion, as each one of us optimistically assumed we would still inhabit the planet in 2016.
The DJ finally kicked off the celebration with some music and the party-goers flooded the dance floor. Through the sea of shuffling feet and gyrating hips, I looked down to see if I could spot any fallen dentures or hairpieces, but everything was cool.
It ended up being a fun-filled evening. No one got too inebriated although my pal Bob and I were pushing the envelope. My hat goes off to the reunion committee for all their time and effort that resulted in a successful evening.
After we had all the fun we could stand, we departed around 10:15 p.m. Bob and his wife loaded up in the car with us, and my wife was the designated driver for the evening.
It was nice to meet old classmates again and see how we had turned into mellowed senior citizens, and had departed from the rowdy teenagers that we once were. However, as I left the party I did find a bra on the parking lot. It was pink and size 36 long, if anyone cares to claim it.
* Disclaimer - This blog post has been embellished for the sole purpose of entertainment. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This coming weekend, I will be attending my 45th high school class reunion. It will be the first one I've attended, since every year there was a reunion scheduled, I was always outside of the country in some God forsaken place, or I just forgot about it.
The newsletter stated the attire for the reunion would be casual, but I still haven't zeroed in on specifics yet. I searched my closet, high and low, for my Beatle boots, pipe stem blue jeans with zippers sewn in at the ankles, and madras shirt, to no avail. Rats. Mom must have sold them in a yard sale, forty years ago. She never was one to hang on to nostalgia.
I'm excited to see my old classmates, but apprehensive of what to expect.
Will the girls I dated remember me? Not a chance. I think I was only four feet tall when I was a senior, so I had to date the sophomores.
We might observe a moment of silence with respect to the former "Green Parrot" Bar, where most of us hung out. Back then, we could drink at 18 years old, with the aid of fake ID's.
Is there a chance that someone might mistake me for the star quarterback instead of the student manager?
Regardless, I'm looking forward to seeing each and every person from the Joplin High School graduating class of 1966.
As I mentioned in my last post, my freshman year in college started off by having to take fundamental courses that I was not overly enthused about.
The dreaded English 101 was at the top of my "uninterested" list.
To my surprise, Professor Mitchell was a different kind of English teacher that I had not encountered in the past. She wasn't focused on grammar, sentence structure, and the other building blocks of English, but was geared more toward creativity. She was all about writing stories, and testing our ability to tell a good story through writing, whether it be fiction or nonfiction.
I received high marks for my off-color humor and graphic detail in the stories I wrote. She never mentioned all of the misspelled words or incomplete sentences. It was all about good storytelling.
She wrote a note on my final exam (for which I got an "A"), that said, Continue writing. You're good at it.
Emeritus Grace Clayton Mitchell passed away in 2006. Although, I never saw her again after that Spring in 1972, her encouraging words remained in the back of my mind until I started my first novel, almost thirty years later.
I managed to survive the Navy and the Vietnam War. Although, I didn't encounter any Viet Cong, thank God, there were some tense times sitting on top of 8 million gallons of jet fuel in a war zone.
Before I left Vung Tao in 1971 to be discharged from the Navy, I received a letter from my mother. Enclosed was a letter that had been sent to me from Uncle Sam. It stated that I had been drafted into the Army. The letter was a little late, so I had managed to dodge the bullet, literally.
Back home in Joplin, Missouri and in civilian status, I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life. My friend, Bob, who had been discharged out of the service earlier, turned me on to college. Since Uncle Sam was graciously paying for it via the G.I. Bill, it sounded like a hell of a better idea than getting a job, so I enrolled right away.
Unfortunately, I found out you couldn't just take any courses you wanted to, because there are such things as prerequisites. English 101 was one of them, and I was definitely bummed out about that!
I had no idea this would be the class that would pave the way to a writing career many years later.
I graduated from high school in 1966. With a much-needed loan from my dear mother, and behind my old man's back, I enrolled in junior college and retained my 1-A status, to avoid being drafted into the Army. Unfortunately, this plan was short-lived. Due to my love for the girls and drinking beer, I very seldom showed up for class. Therefore, I flunked out of college in the first semester. Bummer. I was back on the draft list, and expected to receive my notice in the mail within a very short time.
Many of my friends were getting married to avoid Vietnam. It was a fate worse than death in my mind, so I chose to take my chances with the Viet Cong, rather than a wife. My mother, with her ultimate wisdom, talked me into joining the Navy, to avoid being drafted as a ground soldier in the Army. I thought that was a pretty good idea because my older brother had served in the Navy some years before, and he had survived. Since I was a big believer that "misery loves company," I talked my pal, Bob, into enlisting in the Navy with me. The recruiter assured us that we were on the "buddy system," and would be stationed on the same ship together. What a liar he was! We soon found out that there was no such thing as the "buddy system." However, we were both home-ported in Long Beach, so we did get to see each other on occasion. Bob ended up marrying the hometown girl he had dated for about a year, and your's truly was his best man. Married and in the service? Double jeopardy, I concluded!
When I post next week, I'll continue with some more info on where I came from, and how I got to where I am today.
This has been an exciting week! My novel, "The Monkey Toy," is now out on Kindle in the United States. It also debuted in the United Kingdom and Germany. The e-book is very affordable at $2.99 in the U.S., and is comparable in price in the other countries. I hope it brings enjoyment to all the "thriller" lovers out there. I look forward to generating more readers around the world. After reading it, I hope they will post an honest book review. The book has received several 4 and 5-star reviews that you might want to check out on the Amazon US website.
When I last posted, I wrote about being in the third grade. Nine years later, it was time to graduate from high school. Things had not improved much as far as academics, and my name was not posted on the list to graduate that year. I was making all "D's" as I had done for years, so what was the problem?
Well, some pesky math teacher had the audacity to give me an "F". His reasoning was that I had lost my math book at the beginning of the school year, so I flunked most of the tests. When I begged for mercy the day before graduation, he agreed to raise the "F" to a "D", if I found the book and turned it in.
There was a problem. I had no clue in hell where the book might be. And another problem surfaced. I was given a note from the hall monitor that said the Dean wanted to see me immediately. It just so happened that I still had half of a year of detention hall left because I had been caught cutting classes. I informed the Dean that I would not be graduating and had no intention of returning to school in the fall. Before I exited his office he told me he had something that belonged to me. He handed me the math book that had been turned into lost and found some months earlier. I immediately took it to the math instructor and he kept his end of the bargain by changing my grade to a "D". I proudly graduated with my class in 1966.
I wish now that I would have paid more attention in school. If I had, writing, editing, and proofing my novels today would sure be a lot easier for me.
To say I did poorly in elementary school would be a gross understatement. I was too immature, and should have been held back a year after the first grade. Anyway, I wasn't held back, but was pushed forward. I struggled to keep up with the other students. My mind constantly wandered, and I focused on everything except learning.
A boy named Edward Paul sat next to me in third grade and was an academic clone of myself. We were a deadly combination, and spent most of our time making "fart" jokes. In that day we called them "windies", which sounds much more sophisticated, don't you think? The teacher called both of our mothers. Edward was held back that year, but Bobby (they called me back then), was ushered on.
Who would have ever thought that I would publish a book one day? Well, that day has come.
A cool fog set in from the harbor and the air was chilly. A taxi pulled up to the curb. Randy and Joe piled into the back and directed the cab driver to take them to Pier E, where the Royal was docked. The taxi driver looked confused, probably because he didn’t understand much English, but nodded, set the meter, and drove off in the direction of Pier E. As the driver turned his head, Randy was somewhat taken aback by the huge scar that ran down the side of his face, from his eyebrow to the corner of his mouth. Randy wondered to himself if he had received the wound in the war, or if he had been in some sort of accident. Randy and Joe sat in the back seat and discussed the night’s events. “Do you have any money left?” Randy asked Joe.
Joe felt around in his pockets. “No, I thought you had some money left.”
“I don’t. I left what change I had on the table for the tip,” Randy replied in disbelief.
With a slight giggle, Joe asked, “How are we going to pay for the taxi?”
The cab driver became suspicious and leaned over and looked in the rearview mirror at the two in the back seat.
Randy whispered, “We’re going to have to do the old switcheroo!”
The old switcheroo was a simple plan that they had put into action on numerous occasions before, when they had found themselves short of cash and needed to get back to the ship. They simply waited until they arrived at the ship, swung open the doors of the taxi, and ran like hell! They usually ran toward another ship and hid behind a trash dumpster to confuse the driver what ship they were from. After driving up and down the pier a few times, the frustrated and pissed off cabby would finally drive off and the sailors would go aboard their ship.
Unfortunately, this was not the usual cabby, and although rather silent, he understood English very well, and knew exactly what they had planned.
At that moment, the cab driver demanded payment for the ride in perfect English. Randy assured him he would be paid when they arrived at the pier. The cab driver immediately turned the taxi around in the opposite direction and began to pick up speed.
“Jump out!” Randy yelled. But the taxi was going too fast and the driver locked the back doors automatically from the front.
Randy and Joe were yelling obscenities at the driver when he turned off at a high rate of speed down a dark, secluded road. As the taxi skidded to a halt, the driver spun around and put a knife to Randy’s throat, barely piercing the skin. Joe began screaming.
It has been an exciting week! After I posted the first part of The Beginnings of a Writer, my book, The Monkey Toy, has become available on Amazon.com. I did make time this week to write on my next book, too, and now it is time to continue telling you about my friend, Bob.
Yes, as teenagers, we wrote stories and put them in comic book format. Our stories and drawings were quite amusing. Mine looked like stick figures, and Bob's resembled da Vinci. As the summer ended and the drudgery of another school year began, I guess the stories must have ended up in the trash.
As I look back on that summer, I wish we would have had the foresight to have kept the stories and drawings. Both of us are now in our sixties and are still friends. It would've been such a hoot!
During the Korean War, a Navy pilot collides with an unknown aircraft. A deadly component from the crash lands on a remote island beach, and remains there until it is discovered decades later. The story rapidly progresses to present day, when U.S. sailor Randy Farren finds the round, rose-colored object on an uninhabited Korean island, and begins experiencing headaches, hallucinations, and nightmares.
This story follows the journey of the mysterious object, and explores the effects it has on everyone who tries to possess it. Insanity, murder, government conspiracies, and hints of humor and romance are included in the race against time, as the fate of civilization hangs in the balance. The Monkey Toy takes the reader around the globe, and will challenge their imagination, keeping them guessing to the end.
I must have been about thirteen years old and I had this friend, Bob. Yes, another Bob. It was a very popular name for boys born in the 1940's. Anyway, that particular summer, we started writing stories about ourselves. In the stories, we were always in dire situations. We inevitably made ourselves out to be the heroes by saving mankind in the end.
Bob was also a very good artist, and is a well-known artist and illustrator to this day. On the other hand, I "could not draw flies." We made our stories into comic book format. Each square, or cell, I believe they call it, had the little cloud with an arrow positioned over each figure in the story as they spoke. Those were certainly good times and I remember those days with fondness. Please visit my blog next time for more of the story.