Wednesday, November 13, 2013


As part of a small monthly writing contest on LinkedIn I decided to sit down and go over a lighthearted romp I wrote a long- ok very long, time ago. I entitled it Strange Things and used the Jimmy Hendrix song for a basic concept. Here's the excerpt I made for the contest. Tell me what you think:

     Bored. Tired. Feeling cheated. All of these things went through my mind as I slipped into my leather jacket and headed out the front door. This was the worst party I had ever been to and I was done. It was time to go home. Fortunately I only lived a couple of miles away, across the mountaintop. Fall was here but it was still nice enough to walk. So I did.

     The night air felt good after the stagnant party air. The road was rough under my boots but I’d made the walk a hundred times before. Only a hint of moon hid behind wispy clouds. I’d either drank more than I thought or just wasn’t paying attention.

     Soon enough I was across the street from the old Civil War cemetery that hadn’t seen a new soul in more than a hundred years. Mist clung to most of the old tombstones. There was nothing special about it but tonight it felt…different. I paused, staring into the graveyard. I couldn’t place where the odd feeling came from.
    “Hey boy.”
     I froze, furtively looking around for the sound of the voice. There wasn’t anyone nearby. My heart quickened. A puzzled look crossed my tired face. Someone was playing a joke on me. Hiding in the darkness. “Who’s there?”
     Again, “Hey boy, come over here.”
     The harder I looked the less I saw, until the alabaster form of an ancient skeleton came into view. The mist parted just long enough for me to catch a glimpse of him. I’d never seen the like. My stomach churned, threatening revolt. The old skeleton was sitting in a rickety old rocking chair, gently rocking back and forth.

     My first thought was someone was playing a joke on me. Halloween was only a few nights away so it made sense. Then I saw the skeleton’s jawbone open as it called me over. I don’t exactly recall what made me do it, but I soon found myself ambling over.

     “Are you talking to me?” I asked, dumbfounded. Then I realized just how dumb that question was.

     The skeleton grunted. “Don’t see no one else around here do you? Folks must’ve gotten dumber since I died. Course my eyes ain’t been too good for some years now.” He broke out in quiet laughter. “Sit down boy. It’s been a spell since I had company.”

     I had trouble accepting the fact that I was standing in a graveyard talking to a skeleton. Maybe my brain had finally tipped over the fine line between sanity and straight up crazy. Who knows? I wondered what size straight jacket I wore. Internal deliberations aside, I had nothing better to do so I sat down in an empty chair that hadn’t been there a moment ago and patiently waited for the skeleton to get on with what he meant to do. I didn’t think I was drunk, but the possibility of the beer being bad certainly entered my mind.

     Just as I was about to explore all of the logical and illogical possibilities the old skeleton reached under his rocking chair and produced a deck of beaten up playing cards. Seriously? They looked three times as old as he was.

     “You and me are going to play a little game. You win, you get to go home,” he stated matter-of-factly.

     I swallowed hard. “If you win?”

     “I take your body and you stay here.”

     How did he know I wasn’t any good at cards? His deal was all but a nail in my coffin. I knew there was no way I could win, even against a dead man. Unspeakable malice radiated off the bones, forcing me to realize I had no choice. Reluctantly, I agreed.

     He laughed again as daftly began shuffling the deck with his bony fingers moving so fast I was pressed just to pay attention. This wasn’t going to end well but I didn’t see any way out. When he finished he slapped the deck against his knee and handed it to me with what I interpreted to be a broad smile. Nervous, I reshuffled just to be on the safe side.

     The five cards slid from my hand faster than I wanted but Fate seemed to guide my hand. He picked up his. I picked up mine. I’d watched poker on television and heard all about tells and what not. What sort of tell did a skeleton have? He didn’t have a face! I began to wallow in misery. Then I looked at my cards. All I had was a miserable pair of sevens. Crap. I was going to die.

     He laid three cards down, as did I, and I gave us each three more. Without any money, the hand went fast. He slapped his knee again and laid down two pairs. Fives and jacks.

     Leaning forward, he said menacingly, “Beat me.”

     I stole a peek at my cards before laying them down. A king, a three…and three sevens. My eyes popped wide. The skeleton growled and knocked the small table over. I did it. I won! I jumped up and raised my hands to the star filled sky. I won!

     The skeleton rose. His bones grinding in an unholy sound. I thought for sure he was coming for me, but instead he tipped his head and turned away. Was this a trick? Did my eyes deceive me? No. He walked back to an old cross shaped tombstone and disappeared. The mist evaporated and I was alone in the cemetery again.

     It’s been years since that incident and I still have trouble believing any of it really happened. But then again, it’s not up to me to believe. It’s up to you.  

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I can't lie. All of this political banter is highly depressing. Maybe we'd be better of with a king. Then again we're on our way to having a dictator so oh well. Anyway, the real post begins now:

     Yesterday was a momentous event for me. I spent 6 hours at a book festival meeting and greeting and selling a few books. I've always said that I don't care about the money when it comes to writing. It is my calling. I've been doing it since I was a little child. Even won an award for writing a novel in high school. A very poor novel I tried to throw away a few years ago but my mom took it and hid it so I couldn't. I'm 40 now, can't we let that rest in peace?

     My validation came in the form of two middle teenage girls who couldn't stop smiling when they came up to my table. Now let me set that by saying I'm certainly not famous, not a big time player- yet. I have a small following that I steadily growing and hope to get bigger in the coming days. These two girls were absolutely giddy as I signed their book and made light talk with them. They walked away with pure bliss on their face, even thanking me for signing their book, saying it was the coolest thing ever. Can you say humbled??

     Shortly after that another older teen came back to my table with her bank (the mother) and couldn't wait for me to sign and hand a copy over. She said it was the best book ever and her mother said it would be a chore to keep her from reading the whole thing before they got home. Wow!

     I've been compared to Tolkien (what fantasy author hasn't?) and CS Lewis but heard a lot of Game of Thrones comments for the first time. To have random people get excited over what I wrote is simply amazing. It is the very reason I've worked so hard to get published and produce quality works. The money is nice too but there is nothing comparable to seeing the look of excitement in a stranger's eyes when they walk away with one of my books.

     Am I crazy, take a look and you tell me.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Let's get a little twisted....

Can anyone explain this unhealthy obsession this nation has for blaming people? I get it. Things go wrong and it's obviously somebody's fault, but how does spending tons of money on Congressional hearings to produce minimum results help anything? We are so focused on blaming people that we lose sight of trying to solve the problem. Personally I think the Obama-Biden combination is one of the worst in our history and they are stark raving idiots, but instead of griping and blaming them for things that go wrong we need to focus on fixing the problems. Who cares about blame?

It's no secret that I view the current Presidency as a joke worse than Jimmy Carter. In fact, we really haven't had a strong leader for about 7-8 years now. Bush just quit about a year into his second term. That being said, I fully realize and expect Obama to take overall responsibility for the Obamacare fiasco, BUT how can anyone in their right minds blame the President for a website that cost too much and doesn't work? In all fairness, he's just the dude who put his name at the bottom of it. The company responsible for designing and trying to build it should be held accountable more than a man who had nothing to do with it. Just my two cents.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Keep your two-faced politics, I have my country

Few moments in life are powerful enough to bring emotional change at a core level. May 19th offered me one of those special moments. A Special Forces NCO got killed around Kabul and his body was being flown home that night. HQ encouraged anyone not doing anything to line the road at midnight in tribute to the fallen. Joe Burke and I grabbed our rifles and took our places in the lines of soldiers along Disney Drive. We could see the HMMWV carrying the flag draped casket at the end of the road, waiting for the escort to get in place. Another hundred or so soldiers lined the road in solemn ranks. Everything seemed to happen at once; almost a sensory overload. A C-17 just landed, bringing with it a fresh batch of soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division. None of the newbies were enthused. Many wore fearful looks, much the same as our merry group had upon entering enemy air space all those long months ago. Marching out from the opposite side of the road was a group of our guys heading home. They were laughing and shouting in joy. Naturally there was some good natured ribbing going on between the two groups. Combine them with our silent bunch and it was almost too much. Midnight chimed and the SF procession began. A color guard marched in front of the HMMWV, flags waving in a weak breeze. A C-17 waited. The back ramp was down and an ominous red glow filled the cavernous body. Directly behind the plane, almost as if Fate had a hand in this affair, the full moon hung low and bright, illuminating the snow covered mountains in the distance. Marching boots echoed in the silence. The honor guard was comprised of fellow SF men formed up on both sides of the vehicle. Many had tears in their eyes. Others that look of anger from being robbed of a friend.  A pair of Apaches zipped by, followed by Chinooks carrying a company from the 82nd.  The soldiers lining the road snapped to attention and saluted as the funeral procession passed them. I could see the end of the casket now and it inspired strong emotions. Rage, sorrow, pride. I could clearly see the pain in those SF soldier’s eyes as they escorted their friend and comrade down the flight line and up into the belly of the plane. Joe and I went to attention and saluted with our rifles. It was much harder to keep a straight face than I imagined. I’d been to the occasional funeral back in the States but those deaths were from training accidents, not combat. This man that none of us knew inspired me. He awakened raw emotions I forgot I had. Strange pride warmed me. I can’t say where it came from but it was a moment I’ll never forget. Seeing that casket roll by I suddenly realized why I was still in the Army and why I really volunteered to go to Afghanistan. Any lingering doubts were gone, replaced by a sense of satisfaction that came from knowing each and every one of the men and women standing beside me were ready to lay down their lives for people they hardly knew. That’s it. That’s all it is. Soldiers share a bond no newscaster or civilian will ever understand. We’re here so you don’t have to be. So you never need know the horrors of war. That’s what makes us special. It’s the undying devotion to each other that sets us apart regardless of race, creed or nationality. I stayed in the Army all these years not for myself but for those next to me. We carry on despite seeing our comrades fall. We bury our heroes at the expense of our nation’s freedom, whether they support us or not. But that is merely an afterthought. While deployed the only thing that matters is the people on our flanks. There’s no way I can find to successfully convey the strength of emotions I felt after I dropped my salute. One thing I was sure of was that as long as men and women were willing to leave their lives behind to go fight in a country they never heard of, for people they’ve never met, I’ll be right alongside wearing my nation’s uniform and serving with pride. All of these events helped make my deployment to Afghanistan enduring memory that I can still see when I close my eyes on a quiet day. There are no words to describe the emotions that run through a deployed soldier’s mind when he/she is exposed to such events. Even now as I write this, almost a decade later I can still see the wounded. Can still hear the machine guns and explosions. I can still feel the cold when I step outside and see mountains.