Thursday, September 29, 2016

LAST WORD an anthology edited by Liam Sweeny

Hi folks,

Gonna share a couple of stories I had last year in my friend Liam Sweeny's anthology titled LAST WORD. Liam asked for a suggestion of a charitable cause to donate the proceeds to and I recommended Nation Inside ( a great organization that unites national efforts to pass prison reform measures. Besides yours truly, there are stories from Jack Getze, Paul D. Brazill, David Jaggers, Steve Weddle, Court Merrigan, Todd Robinson, Angel Luis Colon, Tess Makovesky, Christopher Pimental and Gareth Spark, all fantastic noir and crime writers.

Consider picking up either a paperback or ebook copy and get both a fantastic read and an opportunity to help effect change in our prison systems.

My contribution...

Well, here it is—my annual Mother’s Day post. In reality, this won’t be an “annual” post unless I do one next year since this is the very first one. I plan to do one next year, though. If I remember...

And… I’m aware that it’s late, but I thought that appropriate, since I always forget it until about a week later, despite a loving wife (Mary) who considers it her mission in life to let me know about things like this. The only problem is, she always lets me know the day before. Like I’m expected to remember it that long!

To make up for not sending a card on time, I decided to send Mom more than just one of those syrupy Hallmark cards. This year, I sent her a cassette tape of the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring that irrepressible boyish Jimmy Stewart from my private collection. (This is the movie where he isn’t dressed up like a giant rabbit, in which he’s also irrepressible and boyish.)

Then, the second I got home from mailing it to her, I realized I’d made a grievous mistake. I hadn’t sent her the movie I thought I had. It dawned on me that I’d sent her an entirely different movie. To be exact, my copy of the classic film noir, College Girls Having Monkey Sex, Part XIV. If you haven’t seen it, it’s the one where the coed from Vassar has her boobs pointed in opposite directions and her co-star ends up with whiplash trying to treat them equally and stay on his mark. (“Mark” for you non-theater majors is the piece of tape the director places on the floor to show the actor where to stand.)


The reason I realized my faux pas, was that when I got home I thought I might want to watch a few minutes of it and couldn’t locate it and then remembered I’d labeled it… you guessed it… It’s a Wonderful Life… in the unlikely event Mary went through my collection looking for a something to watch.

I ran all the way back to the post office in hopes I could talk the mail guy into letting me have my package back, but it seems they have rules against that kind of thing. You can guess how that turned out, if you’ve ever had to deal with the United Nazi States of Mail Carriers. Guy treated me like I was the Unibomber. I called him “Cliff” and “Newman” but he didn’t get it.

I was in a sweat when I found it had already been shipped, but then I remembered Mom didn’t have a cassette player. Or a VCR. Or, even a TV. She’d sold her TV when The Ed Sullivan Show went off the air a few years ago.

The luck of the Irish!

Realizing I better do something more than send her a tape she couldn’t watch, I asked Mary if we could take her out to dinner.

“When?” she said. “On Father’s Day? That’s the next holiday.”

I laughed. (That’s it. I just laughed) Then, I said, “Of course not, silly. This weekend.”

“Only if you don’t use that name in the restaurant that you always do,” she said.

I agreed and called Mom to give her the good news. “We’d like to take you out to dinner for your big day,” I said. “Where would you like to go?”

 “Would this be an early Mother’s Day for 2011 or the late one for 2010?”

I laughed. (That’s it. I just laughed. I’ve been trained by Mary.) Then I said, “Of course not, silly. The second one. 2010. The battery in my calendar died.”

Golden Corral was her first choice, but I talked her out of that. “They’re closed,” I lied. “There was a big pileup of people on walkers and the health department closed them until they widen the ramp. Thirty-six people suffered aluminum whiplash. There are herds of lawyers everywhere and you couldn't get in even if it was open.”

She sounded skeptical, but then said her second choice was Red Lobster. This, to a guy who’s lived in New Orleans half his life and has actually eaten real seafood was like the chef at Ruth’s Chris Steak House grabbing a square hamburger down at Wendy’s on his day off, but hey, it was my mom and it was her day. I looked forward to gazing at their menu with pictures of the nine-pound lobsters on the menu and them seeing the actual three-ounce one they served. To be fair, the actual meal is the same size as the picture when you put them up next to each other.

She decided to drive down from where she lived in South Bend to our home in Ft. Wayne, a true adventure for the other drivers on the highway since she’s 88 and drives older than her actual age. You’ve heard that saying? “(Blank) drives like old people fuck? Slow and jerky.” That’s Mom. If you ever see those long lines on winding country roads where there are 117 cars trailing behind the John Deere tractor, it was Mom who taught that tractor driver how to navigate our rural byways. I suggested she might want to start out the night before to get to our place on time, but she didn’t think that was all that funny.

“You’re not too old to get a spanking, Mr. Smartmouth,” she said. Well, yes, I am, Mom. I have gray hair and arthritis and can remember when phones had dials. Besides, how are you going to catch me? I can crawl faster than you can walk. I didn’t say anything like that to her, of course. After all, she’s my mom and deserves respect. Besides, as long as I knew I could outrun her that was enough. I didn’t have to rub it in.

Before she hung up, she said, “You’re not going to use that name you always do in restaurants, are you? Because if you do, I’m not coming.”

“No, Mom, I’m not. I’m grown up, now.” Jesus! What do she and Mary do? Get together and compare notes?

She gets here, only two and a half hours past her ETA, and we all climb in the car and head for the gastronomical delights only available at national chains.

We get to the Red Lobster and I’m anticipating something on my plate that looks like a medium jumbo shrimp that they’re going to try to pawn off as a Maine lobster and we all go in. This takes awhile as we’re proceeding at Mom’s pace which is about as fast as the last day of school.

“We should hurry, Mom,” I said. “They close in only six hours.”

Mary gives me a dirty look. So does Mom, who says, “You’re not too big to get a spanking.” I consider showing her my driver’s license to show her my age as she’s obviously forgotten, but I don’t. It’s Mother’s Day. Well, not really—that was last week, but we’re operating on the theme of Mother’s Day and I want to remain true to the spirit.

I hustle ahead of them and give our name to the hostess.

When I come back, Mom says, “How long?” and Mary says, “You didn’t give them that name, did you?”

“Twenty minutes,” I say to Mom, and to Mary I just give a pained look, as if to say, “How could you even think I’d do that?”

We pass the time listening to Mom complain about the present government and ask to see a menu so she can make her choice, which is always the same. The lobster/shrimp combo. I think she just wants to check to make sure they haven’t taken either off the menu. Although, if they ran out of one, they could just serve the one that was left and tell the diner it was the missing one. Who would know?

Then, she lays a bomb on me. “I love that movie, you sent me,” she said. “I’m going over to your sister Ann’s house to watch it when I get back home.”

And then, our table is announced over the loudspeaker.

 “Donner, party of three.”

I get two dirty looks from the women I’m with.

“That’s us,” I say.

I love Mother’s Day!

I’m afraid I have some bad news. Let me take that back. I have some terrible news. Bad news is when your wife says she’s leaving you for the water softener man. This is far worse than that. This is on the level of news that she’s leaving you for the guy who lives down by the river in his refrigerator carton… and not taking the kids with her…

Okay. Ready? Sitting down? Here goes…

It’s official. Once again, I didn’t win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. How many times must I taste the bitter truth that time is running out? Once a year, I guess, until I run out…

And, what beat me out this year? The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson. You’re kidding, right? 

Here’s the description:

An exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart.

It’s a book set in North Korea? Who the hell nominated this? Dennis Rodman? Who even reads books set in North Korea? Even North Koreans don’t read books set in North Korea. Well, that’s not exactly their fault—they aren’t allowed to by that sweet little cherub, Dear Leader. Speaking of cherubs, I woke up this morning with a sweet little cherub in my skivvies… Or was that a chub? 

Whatever. They both look the same.

I suspect it won because of the author’s name. He’s named after two American presidents. Jingoism at its worst.

I should have known I wouldn’t win once again after last year when they couldn’t find a single book to give the award to. There were only five million books published last year (even taking out the four million self-published autobiographies that really suck swamp water, that still leaves a million books, give or take a few hundred thousand.).

How can you not give one single book the award? Even the year the Miss America contestants were all dogs, they still gave the award to someone. Bert Parks took it himself one year. That was the year there weren’t any brunettes from Mississippi and Georgia. But, hey—they still awarded it to somebody.

I’ve had it. I’m taking serious action. I’ve just composed a strongly-worded letter to all the judges of next year’s Pulitzer committee, notifying them that I’m officially withdrawing any and all of my books from consideration. I’m sending it via Overnight Delivery, Certified Mail. That means it won’t arrive in their mail boxes until August, 2015 but I have no control over that. They’ll at least be aware of my sentiments.

And, as it happens, I’m outlining a new novel that fits all of their crappy requirements. It’s set in (some obscure country which I haven’t decided yet, but one with lots of consonants and only one vowel) and it’s about the Mayor of Cracktown. It’s about this guy who lives in a village with the Entering and Leaving signs on the same pole, and in this little shack with a bunch of farm animals of various religious persuasions living inside with him. He has no money (always a requirement of these kinds of books and which immediately makes him a genius). He has a major fight with the garda who have discovered he’s far exceeded the legal quota of farm animals allowed in a domicile, one of which he claims shouldn’t count as it’s a very pretty Merino ewe to whom he’s pledged his troth. He’s not sure what a “troth” is but it’s in a lot of Dickens’ books he read as a kid so he knows it’s important to pledge his.

In this book, I devote a lot of pages to his internalizing, which seems to be high on the list of stuff these Pulitzer folks look for. There’s one really dazzling scene where he ponders how clichés came about and fantasizes about their origins. Like that delightful phrase “blind alley” (which, I, for one can never hear too many times.). He ruminates and ponders and rumes some more and comes to the conclusion that it originally denoted a place where German shepherds congregated en masse, waiting to be hired by the seeing-challenged (PC term for blind people) and veterans with PTSD. This riveting scene takes up 26 pages, which is guaranteed to manipulate them even more than a teenaged boy’s chub during bathroom time. And, in much the same way.

One of the indoor farm animals will be a dog. His only function is to be in the book so I can use his picture on the cover and on the Intergnat. You and I know it’s just a frickin’ mutt, but people on the Intergnat have assigned a mystical aura to dogs and cats. You know, those critters that eat their own poop, cough up furballs and lick themselves all day long. We know that mostly they’re glorified door mats, but people get all weepy about them and giggly and attribute them with the same wisdom they do old Indian guys crying over some trash on Highway 10. THEY SELL BOOKS. And influence Pulitzer judges…

The protagonist will be a creepy loner who, in real life, people would take a wide berth around when they see him with his sign begging for work outside Target, but instantly make into a wise man simply because there’s a whole book centered around him and we see he thinks about pithy stuff like blind alleys. If he was so frickin’ wise why ain’t he a plumber’s assistant or a governor or something?

My protagonist is also an orphan. And a master. And the son of a dog. This makes it a sure winner.
Yes, I could easily win next year, which makes my protest even more meaningful. I know what it takes after studying these things for hours days weeks. It’s important to know who’s handing out the hardware. The judges are elderly folks who braid the hair in their noses (the women) and meet at Golden Corral to discuss the nominated books. The men on the committee treat the books nominated the same way they do the fine wines they own. They don’t open them. That would destroy their value and besides, who has to actually read the nominated book? They can learn all they want to from the glorious Intergnat. The men also have lush bushes in their noses, but they use them differently than the women (most of the women…). They weave them cleverly around their noggins kind of like the comb-overs aging sportscasters do. Along with a few well-placed strands from the ear hairs.

This is the real secret as to why my book never gets nominated. I labored for years thinking they actually read the books. Don’t laugh—I bet you know at least one person in your own circle who thought the same thing. So maybe you knew, but are you willing to say that all of your friends wear those helmets and rode the short bus to h.s. and took all A.P. classes? So—cut me a break here.

The trick to getting on these judges’ radar is to effectively utilize the Intergnat. Most of us writers have been sold a bill of goods about what the ‘Gnat does. Social media doesn’t sell books. It doesn’t sell squat. It doesn’t sell books—it sells social media. No one cares about your stupid book on social media. They pretend to… so you’ll buy their stupid book. Writers who can’t sell books have one problem—they write crappy books. Yakking about them all day long on social media sells three books total. That’s it. And that’s to trolls who are burning to write one-star reviews on it. When social media sells books, let me know. Otherwise, lay down by your dish with your butt-licking dog.

But, Pulitzer Prize judges do look at the Intergnat. All day long. It’s why they don’t have time to actually read the books themselves. Too busy Facebooking each other or Twittering about “that wonderful book about North Korea Dennis Rodman likes so well.” Think about this. 1. Dennis Rodman picture with Dear Leader was on the “Gnat” one million, three hundred thousand and sixty-nine times last year. 2. A book set in North Korea won the Pulitzer. Make the connection, dummy! This ain’t nuclear physics!

So, if I weren’t about to withdraw from consideration, here’s what I’d do. Get me a babe to do my networking for me. As my pretend girlfriend, Lo Hai Qu so eloquently pointed out—“Blogbitches rule, blogdicks drool.” Okay. I accept that. If I was going to remain involved in the competition, I’d be on my knees beseeching my pal, Anonymous 9 (Blogbitch Supreme) if she’d please help this lowly Blogdick (me) out.

But I won’t. You can relax, 9. I’m out of all this. I just hope you nice folks “twit” and “face” my new book all over the Intergnat. I have but one goal for next year. That all the UPS drivers who deliver my books are forced to buy trusses.

(I hope you know this was all in fun, folks. Although, if I have to say this, it takes all the force away…) I do love the Intergnat and I truly do love the folks on here. True that. And they do sell books. Books on how to use the Intergnat to sell books…)

As John Goodman once said, “See ya in the funny papers.”

Blue skies,

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Book Signing

Hi folks,

If you're in or around Ft. Wayne, IN on Saturday, November 12, please stop in and say hi. I'll be signing and selling copies of several of my books at the Allen County Public Library. I'd love to see you there!

Blue skies,

Monday, September 12, 2016


Hi folks,

Here's a post I ran a long time ago and I thought I'd dust it off and run it again. Hope you enjoy it!

(This was sent to me a long time ago by someone and I can’t remember who it was to give them credit. Sorry! Out of the mouths of babes…)

HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHO TO MARRY? (written by kids)

(1) You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you
like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should
keep the chips and dip coming. - Alan, age 10

(2) No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to
marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later
who you're stuck with.  - Kristen, age 10


(1) Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then. - Camille, age 10
(2) No age is good to get married at. You got to be a fool to get married. – Freddie, age 6 (very wise for his age)


(1) You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids. - Derrick, age 8


(1) Both don't want any more kids.  - Lori, age 8


(1) Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to
know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long
enough. - Lynnette, age 8
 (isn't she a treasure)

(2) On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that
usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date.  - Martin, age 10
 (Who said boys do not have brains)


(1) I'd run home and play dead. The next day I would call all the
newspapers and make sure they wrote about me in all the dead columns.-Craig, age 9


(1) When they're rich.- Pam, age
7  (I could not have said it better myself)

( 2) The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with that. - Curt, age 7 (Good Point)

(3 ) The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should
marry them and have kids with them. It's the right thing to do. -  Howard, age 8  (Who made that rule)

It’s better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them. – Anita, age 9 (bless you, child)


(1 ) There sure would be  lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there?
- Kelvin, age 8

And the #1 Favorite  is........


(1 ) Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a 
truck. - Ricky, age 10  ( The boy already understands)

Blue skies,


Thursday, September 1, 2016


Hi folks,

A bit of an update—I won’t be able to attend Bouchercon this year because of a combination of too much ongoing back pain and too little dough. Really kind of bummed—this is my spiritual home town and the place I’ve lived the longest except for where I find myself now, in Fort Hooterville, IN. I was really looking forward to visiting old haunts and old friends—especially the Dungeon and the Oriental Triangle. Or Lakeside and Bucktown and the clubs out there, Fat City, Maple Street and other hangouts. Deannie’s out at the Lakefront. I understand Deannie’s now has a place in the Quarters—my guess is that they jacked up the prices and cut back on the spices. Not gonna miss the Quarters—hardly ever went there when I lived there unless I wanted to eat at overpriced, overrated restaurants (with a couple of exceptions), pay triple prices for watered-down drinks, or hang out with tourists from Iowa, so… hardly ever. Even when I worked in the CBD at the Fairmont and rode the streetcar to and from work every day, a half a block away from Bourbon. Much better coffee at any Morning Call over Café du Monde. Mostly, natives avoid the Quarters—there’s much, much better party and eating places that cost a lot less and don’t attract the tourists. Better music venues than the Quarters also… The Takee-Outees have hugely ruined it...

Hint to visitors—the real party animals come out at two o’clock after the out-of-towners have gone back to their hotels to sleep…

Might try to make Thrillerfest this year instead. Or even Killer Nashville.

I hope I get back to the Big Sleazy one of these days. My preference would be to go down for Jazz Fest. Like most natives, I stay away from town during Mardi Gras. That’s really a deal for the tourists. I do enjoy Mardi Gras down at Grand Isle—it’s much, much gooder.

The Quarters seem like a cool deal when all you’ve seen is cornfields… But, there are other parts of N’Awlins that are so, so much better.

For my friends who do go down—laizzez les bon temps rouler! Go for the lagniappe! And, be sure to walk in the center of the streets and don’t wander past the boundaries. There are projects that await, eagerly…

That sounds like I don’t like New Orleans, doesn’t it? Not the case—just hate the overly-commercial cartoon they’ve made the Quarters into. The rest of it absolutely rocks.

Blue skies,


P.S. Just made a deal with Eric Campbell, the publisher of Down&Out Books for a couple of new books which will be released next year. And, this fall my very first novel, The Death Of Tarpons, is coming out with a new title (don't know what it is yet) as an ebook from Endeavour Books in the U.K. and in paperback from Betimes Books (UK). Tarpons previously only existed in hardcover from the University of North Texas Press and we got the rights back because it had sold out.