Authors Life, Blog, Uncategorized, Writing

Going to California

be5f02cf88aeafc1d98e957190fe210cLike Sandra, one of the main characters in my Thuperman Series, as a kid I always dreamed of going to California. After all, it was the cool place to be, where movies and movie stars were made, as well as most TV shows that I watched. It was a fantasy world with mountains and an ocean, famous cities and Disneyland. My dad often talked about picking up stakes and moving out west. Of course, California was one possible destination…but that didn’t happen.

I grew up on a farm near a small Midwestern town in west central Ohio. Vacations, if we were able to take them, meant driving to eastern Kentucky to spend a few days visiting relatives. Dad was always worried sick about whether the livestock was fed, and other daily chores were done in his absence. Calling the farmhand who he’d left in charge did little to settle him mind. So, our time away from the home was always brief.

As I grew my view of the world continued to expand. When I was ten-years old I saw Lake Erie for the first time. When I was twelve I flew in an airplane for the first time, from Columbus to Detroit and then on to Toronto on a group tour of the factories where some of the farm equipment my father used was manufactured.

My first time seeing an ocean can when I was in college. I flew to Florida to visit my sister who, at the time, was serving in the Air Force. That was the Gulf of Mexico, technically not the ocean but close enough for someone who’d never seen a body of water larger than a lake.

My first opportunity to fulfill my California dream came in the mid 1980’s while I was served in the Air Force. I spent a year attending a language school in Monterrey. While there I did some traveling and exploring, checking out San Francisco, Los Angeles and a few other places. Of course, some of those experiences would lend settings for my future writing. For example, there are a couple of scenes in the third book of the Thuperman Series (to be published in 2019 or 2020) that take place in the Monterrey area.

A friend and I spent The 4th of July weekend camped out in his cousin’s living room, within walking distance of Newport Beach. As you might suspect, that area also became the setting for a book, a sci-fi detective story set in Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach, cities in that vicinity. Besides providing a supplementary storyline for the Wolfcat Series (Book 1 due out this Fall 2018), it provides a backstory for the Fried Windows Series and shares characters from the Thuperman Series.

It’s odd how sometimes things that happen in a writer’s life connect with fictional stories. Beyond providing settings for books, curiously I’ve unwittingly connected with some people from those places in my more recent past. A good example is the real-life muse who inspired Wolfcats. She used to live in Costa Mesa.

Back in January, my son moved to Irvine, the next town over from Newport Beach. His wife, though originally from Florida, has lived there for some time. Since they are having a baby in a couple of months, they have asked Grandpa to help them take care of the baby. So, sometime in December I’ll be relocating there to live once more, for a while at least, at the edge of the world.

Blog, Books, Editing, life, novel, Publishing, Uncategorized, Writing

Being a Writer in the Modern World

full length of man sitting on floor
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There is something about a bookstore. Maybe it’s the special smell of relatively fresh ink on paper, or just the atmosphere of being surrounded by the worlds of imagination captured between the covers and shelved in row after row, divided by category. A library gives me a similar sensation. I love visiting libraries, too, but usually it is for research. In a bookstore I’m looking for a story and characters to love.

Some of my best memories as a father were reading to my children when they were little with bright eyes and minds filled only with potential. Everything was new to them. Anything was possible. And in a way that is distinctly childlike, they didn’t care whether they had already heard a story. They wanted to experience it again, perhaps something would change. Occasionally, I provided the change and almost immediately one or the other of them would point that out.

I loved taking my children to the bookstore to spend an hour or three perusing the shelves. As they grew older, of course they went off in separate directions in search of something different. It was an exciting place for them and for me.

The Barnes & Noble in Melbourne, Florida was where we usually went, even if we weren’t intending to buy anything – just to look around. Usually, each of us bought something, though. There was a Books-A-Million closer to where we lived, and we frequently stopped there as well, but the B&N always had a different atmosphere. My kids preferred it, and so did I, not to mention that they served coffee.

cup of coffee in distance with red rose
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At the time I had just published my first novel, One Over X. It was listed for sale on B&N’s website as well as Borders and the then upstart Amazon. Like most authors, I would have loved to see the book on the shelves in my store. What’s more, my kids would have loved seeing Daddy’s book added as part of that fantastic world of real, tangible, printed books. But alas, my publisher was a small press out of Connecticut. Even though everything about my first book had been done in a meticulously correct way according to acceptable standards, including have the press run completed at a one of the offset presses the Big-Name publishers use, the fact that I was not with one of the Big Five seemed the impenetrable barrier to getting my novel stocked in the bookstore chains. However, I was successful in getting the book into my local library, and a several others.

When I talked to the local store’s manager, she gave me the conditions for stocking my book, which, as a business person with years of retail experience, seemed summarily ridiculous. I needed to accept all returned, damaged and shop-worn books. It would be stocked briefly, on consignment and contingent only on my direct support with a book signing or a reading. If it sold well, they might reorder. Despite it not being a good deal from my perspective, it was a deal. I did my part and promoted the book with personal events.

As scary as it might seem at first, signings and readings are a lot of fun. I sold a few books and made some friends.  Still, the conditions up front were ludicrous and slanted way in favor of the store. Clearly, they weren’t going to lose any money, and for all the lip service they were giving me about supporting a local author, they had no interest in me making money. Yes, it was discouraging.

Of course, the goal with an author’s first book isn’t about making money, though that would be nice. First books tend to be about gaining an audience of readers who will, hopefully, want to buy an author’s next book and so on.

I had better luck with a couple of small shops. They displayed my book but, again, it was a consignment deal. Even though the book was available through Ingram, a major book distributor with channels worldwide, the store preferred calling me when they needed more inventory. I personally delivered the books. As I kept some inventory at home it wasn’t a huge problem. Still, being the distributor and delivery guy as well as the author limited my efforts to the immediate geographic vicinity.

Interviews on local media and reviews in local papers proved next to impossible. The first question asked was: which publisher are you with? And when it was someone they’d never heard of…We only accept submissions for review from major publishers.

My initial publishing experiences never dissuaded me from writing more books. After all, a writer does not choose whether to write but, instead, what to write. I was convinced that if I continued to write stories that eventually I’d grow a following, one reader at a time. And write I did. All the while I worked a full-time job to support a wife and three children, one of whom was already in high school.

After publishing my second book and having similar experiences with bookstores, I decided to self-publish my next. After all, I was doing everything anyway, I may as well handle the production as well and make more money on each book sold. There was a lot going on my life, though, and the company for which I was working was struggling. Eventually, they would go out of business. They paid me severance but I was unemployed for a little while. Money doesn’t last long. I found a summer job selling cars that lingered into the autumn. All the while I continued looking for something more suited to my background. Every evening I worked on a manuscript that eventually became two books. Around Christmas I landed another job that would see me along for the next few years.

In the background I witnessed the sad, slow decline of large bookstores chains. Amazon was growing its presence in publishing, while making the process of self-publishing easier than ever. B&N, et. al., claimed to support eBooks with their own version of a reader, but they still refused to deal with indie and small press authors whenever it came to stocking books in store. The funny thing is that most books published in the eBook format come from indie authors. Anyway, they treated indies as if our books were inferior, as if they carried the same stigma as vanity-press products of the past. They refused to adapt to the paradigm shift, turning down many good writers in the process.

What sours authors on queries to big publishers is the lunacy of the process. It is designed to dissuade unsolicited submissions. Rarely do the Big Five have open submissions. When any of them do, you can imagine what it’s like when the flood gates are opened. Odds are your manuscript upon which you have worked for perhaps a year or two will be lost in the shuffle.

The usual case for an author to gain approval for even submitting a manuscript is to go through a literary agent that the publisher recognizes. So, along the way I queried several literary agents in my genres. I learned that finding an agent is almost as hard as connecting with a publisher. Even when a manuscript is solicited, it may not be approved. And so, an aspiring author may expect to be out some money and wait forever only to be told his or her book baby is ugly.

Still, I continued to write, because that is what a writer does. By now, my family and friends figured I was insane— you know, the adage about continuing to do the same thing expecting different results? I wrote for at least three and sometimes as many as six hours a day. At times I missed doing things with the family because I was writing or taking a nap after staying up all night to enjoy the peace and quiet of the wee hours, a perfect time to compose.

There comes a time when it should be clear that the world has shifted, or perhaps moved on without giving proper notice. It also happens with businesses and I firmly believe that around the time I quit my last job in management the end began to accelerate for large box bookstores. Though I was determined to make it as an author, I knew that utilizing more time at self-promotion, brand-building and writing was what needed to happen. I never had the time while working 60 hours a week in management, always away from my home computer. And yes, when I quit my last job to devote full-time attention to writing, my family considered this proof positive that I had lost my mind.

It was a perfect time for a change. My kids were grown and moved away. I was divorced. I’d already begun to reduce my expenses. I didn’t have any money saved, but that was all right. I was going to walk a tightrope without a safety net. No, it didn’t work out all that well. I crashed and wound up couch-surfing with relatives, which was not as fun as it sounds. But eventually things turned for the better. I found a small publisher with goals and a vision of community that I share.

books bookshop bookstore business
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As I approach bookstores anew with fresh product, I wish I could say that they have adapted to the changing times.  They still believe in the old system where five or so major publishers decide what everyone should be reading. The same barriers I confronted almost 20 years ago are still there. Meanwhile, some small bookstores have begun welcoming new authors as a means of survival. It still requires a good sales pitch, but at least they are willing to order through a distributor.

Over the past couple of decades as a writer, I’ve learned a lot about the publishing business and I’ve helped other people promote their work. It’s kind of funny, because as the influence of the big publishers over the marketplace wanes, the industry is reverting to the way things were done in the 19th Century. Back then, authors found ways to gain attention, publishing short works in newspapers and magazines. Those who had the funds published their own work, by and large, at least until they garnered a significant following and were able to contract a publisher to do the hard parts (editing, layouts and such) for them. A couple of hundred years ago, authors sold their books directly to the public and made their own deals with bookstores. The only difference today is that with the evolution of publishing technology a lot of the hard parts can be accomplished electronically with much greater ease.


An Ethical Man’s Family

Note: The following is something I wrote a few years ago as a tribute to my father. It is accurate to the best of my knowledge, though I suspect when and if my sisters read it they will tell me things that need to be corrected – especially the stuff that happened before I was born or too little to know much about. I am publishing it here as a memorial to my father who passed about fifteen years ago around this time of year.



Mom and Dad

Bruce Williams, my father,  was born in April 1914 near West Liberty, Kentucky. He was an honest, decent man who was raised on a farm. All he knew was farming. So, it was natural that it would become his life’s work.

When he was starting out, he worked for the government in a federally funded recovery program called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Dad worked on reservoirs in the Tennessee River valley and helped construct roads throughout Appalachia. He saved his money and, after two years in the CCC, he returned home and married Alta Ferguson, my mother, in the early spring of 1935.

Jobs were scarce in Morgan County, Kentucky, where my parents grew up. Bruce heard there were better opportunities in Ohio. So, in late summer, he left my pregnant mother behind with a promise he’d send for her when he saved enough money.

Mom, Dad and Baris (Brother) Circa 1940

He found a job as a laborer in a feed and grain store that serviced farmers in west central Ohio. The last throes of the Great Depression still stifled a good portion of the economy. He worked all week for enough money to buy denim overalls to wear at work. He saved every cent he could spare. Mr. Ballenhoffer, who owned one of the largest farms in the area, offered Bruce a small place to live. It was actually an old chicken coop that my dad cleaned out to make ready for bringing his wife from Kentucky to live with him.

My brother, Barris, was born on May 4, 1936. Shortly afterwards, Bruce brought Alta and the baby to Ohio.

Despite his responsibilities as a new father, one day he had an argument with his supervisor. He never told me exactly what the argument was about, only that it was a matter of principle and ethics. So, I’m sure it was something he considered wrong. My dad hated no one except for liars and cheats and would never compromise his beliefs for any reason. I’m sure his personal integrity was challenged. What he did tell me was that being right does not always matter in an argument. When his supervisor threatened to fire him, Bruce quit.

The same day, Mr. Ballenhoffer hired him as a farmhand. Maybe they didn’t need another hired hand, but Mr. Ballenhoffer knew Dad from the feed and grain store. He witnessed first-hand how hard Bruce worked.

It was a struggle for my parents to survive their living conditions in those first years of marriage. To keep out the cold winds of winter, Alta had to chink rags into the cracks between the clapboards of the chicken coop that was their first home. She blamed those harsh conditions for why my brother Barris was sickly as a young child.

Arial view of Wildman farm on US 42

In time, Bruce was offered a sharecropping position on a farm near South Charleston. As part of the deal, my folks could live in the property’s farmhouse. During that time, Dad suffered a severe injury. While attempting to straighten a nail to be reused in repairing a loose board, the nail snapped in two, and one piece flew up into my father’s face, putting out his right eye.

Bruce’s position as a farmer was considered critical and exempted him from being drafted into military service. Although Dad was patriotic and wanted to serve, he was not allowed to volunteer. His eye injury prevented him from going to war. Perhaps the reason my sisters and I were born was that he lost his right eye in an accident – if you want to believe in accidents.

In 1945, a few weeks before his birthday and the end of the war in Europe, my brother Barris, died. He succumbed to seizures that my mother called Epilepsy, though they could not afford proper medical treatment and so the illness was never diagnosed. He was buried in Kentucky, at the Cold Iron Cemetery, near where my parents were born.

Bruce and Alta were devastated as they grieved the loss of their firstborn child. Parents are not supposed to outlive their children. It was several months before the emptiness in their life seemed bearable. It was over a year before my mother and father attempted to replace him.

During that time, Bruce was offered a job managing the farm where he had once worked as a hired hand. It was considerably more money and so he decided to take the position. Still, my father left on good terms with the Wildman’s, whose farm he had been operating for several years. He helped them find someone to replace him.

Family Pics-6

Joyce, my oldest sister, was born on February 7, 1947. She was not the son Bruce wished to replace his loss, but he doted on her all the same. My family’s living conditions were dramatically improved from when my parents last lived on the Ballenhoffer farm. They were allowed a farmhouse as part of the compensation, and land to use for a garden and raising their own chickens.

Two and a half years later, William E. Bailey, a young attorney in Springfield, contacted my dad. His last surviving parent passed on, leaving him the family’s two farms. The Wildman’s recommended Bruce to Mr. Bailey. My father accepted the position, establishing a business relationship and friendship borne of mutual respect that would endure for their lifetimes.

Subsequently, when Mr. Wildman died of a heart attack, Anamelia Wildman offered the operation of the two farms she owned and the farmhouse where my parents lived before. Between the Wildman and Bailey farms, Dad was overseeing the operation over 2400 acres and had four hired hands working for him.

Still, Bruce wanted to have a son to carry on the family name and to inherit a farm he dreamed of buying, a goal for which both my parents were saving for since they were married. Again, they tried to replace Barris.

Gentte and me 1959

Genette, my other sister, was born on January 10, 1952. Once more, my parents brought a beautiful daughter into the world. At that point, with the doctor’s recommendation, my parents decided two children were enough.

Over the next three years, many things changed for my mother and father. The crops were good and the livestock markets were rewarding. My parents saved enough money from their share of the profits from the farms to buy two acres of land from Mrs. Wildman. They planned to build a new home.

My mother told a strange story that I am sure she believed happened. Dad was convinced it happened, too. She heard a voice telling her to have another child. When she consulted with Dr, McIntyre, the family doctor, he confirmed that she was not too old but he warned her, as he had after Genette’s birth, that it would be very risky.

It was not an easy pregnancy. There was a point when she was convinced she would miscarry. With her faith and the prayers of others, she weathered the crisis. On May 7, 1956, eleven years to the day after the end of the war in Europe, I was born. Finally, my parents had a son to replace Barris. I grew up in my dead brother’s shadow, more so than either of my sisters.

Front yard on US 42

My dad asked his cousins who were carpenters to come stay for the summer and build the new house. When it was complete, my parents moved the family into a modern home, the first they ever owned.

As I grew up, Dad referred to me as his buddy – his little helper. As I grew older, I could help with the chores and a good deal of the backbreaking labor of working on a farm. The days that I worked with my father wore me out. It was time well spent, though. I appreciated how hard my dad worked for a living. I was amazed at how smart he was. He seemed to have the solution for every problem. Nothing was beyond him.


When I was big enough to reach the pedals and steer the tractor, I spent many a summer day in the hot sun. Whether it was piloting a tractor towing a baler along windrows making hay bales for my father to stack on the wagon we pulled behind or cultivating the corn and soybeans, it was what I did and Dad paid me a man’s wage.

Joyce graduated from Southeastern High School in 1965. The event fulfilled a part of one of Bruce’s personal goals, that his children would earn diplomas. Dad always wanted a high school education. But when he was a teenager, the Great Depression began. He had to quit school to work on the farm and help support and feed his family. He had a ninth grade education. Mom finished the eighth grade. Education of their children was paramount in importance to both my parents. They wanted to offer their children the opportunities they never had.

Around that time Dad and Mom realized their lifelong dream; they bought a farm. It was adjacent to Mr. Bailey’s farms so, even though father now had an additional 160 acres of his own land to work, it was close enough to some of the other farms that it was not as much of an increased burden. The new farm also allowed expansion of beef cattle production. The problem was that operating Mrs. Wildman’s farms, which were several miles away from our new farm, was increasingly difficult. Bruce continued to do it for an additional year, but all the time he was seeking someone to take over the operation from him.

The other logistical consideration was that we still lived in Selma, on land adjacent to the Wildman’s farms. Mom wanted to build a new house on our farm so she could correct all the deficiencies she found with our present house. I was ten at the time and had mixed feelings about moving away from the only house I remembered living in. The idea of a new house excited me and living on the new farm made a lot of sense. But I had memories. The house where we lived was my home.

Joyce standing beside new '63 Chevy Impala Convertible

Once again, Bruce called on his cousins to come spend the summer while they built another dream home. Meanwhile, Dad and Mom were remodeling the interior of the farmhouse on our new farm, with the intention of Joyce, her husband Jerry and their newborn son, Jame (Jay), living there.

Family Pics-9

While driving back from working on the old farmhouse, Mom, Genette and I were in a car accident. Other than the bloody nose I received from slamming my face into the back of my sister’s hard head and the resulting knot on Genette’s noggin, my mother was the only one injured. Her wrists were badly sprained from where she braced herself against the steering wheel in anticipation of the impact. Her right kneecap was shattered. Our car, a Candy Apple Red 1963 Chevy Impala, was totaled.

Mother spent the summer in a full leg cast in a house that was built before central air conditioning was common. She spent a lot of time sitting on the front porch, with her cast propped up on a chair while she hoped for a cool breeze. When it didn’t come, she used a box fan and an oscillating fan to fend off the heat.

Despite recovering from her injuries, she had to take care of the new baby while Joyce worked. Of course, Genette helped, not only in caring for the baby, but also doing housework and cooking.

It was not an easy summer for anyone. We had two house guests. I gave up my room  to Marvin, one of my dad’s cousins. Norman, the other cousin, slept in the room we called the breezeway, a family room we had made from enclosing a walkthrough between the house and the garage. My bed was a foam rubber pallet on the living room floor.

Mom’s cast was removed in early September. She was leery of driving but she liked our new car, a 1966 Chevy Caprice.

A few weeks later, we moved into the new house. Regardless where I lived, I was still  attending school in Selma. That was where the school district’s consolidated middle school was located. The only difference was I rode a bus to school instead of my bike or Mom dropping me off.

I matured a good bit over the next couple of years. My dad and I began to work together as a team and sometimes we traded places. My muscles recovered much more readily from the aches and pains of strain and overexertion. It was a welcome relief for Bruce to have someone he could count on to do some of the things he was never able to trust to hired hands.

As I entered the eighth grade, the newly constructed elementary school in South Charleston was ready to open. My class received the honors of naming the school and selecting a mascot. There were several suggestions and a good bit of campaigning, culminating in a school assembly, after which everyone was allowed to vote. The school’s name became Miami View. It was apt as a branch of the Little Miami River flowed behind the school. The mascot for every athletic team was The Patriots.  Of course, the school colors were red, white and blue.

The chores continued, either in the morning before going to school or in the afternoon after I returned home. On weekends I helped my dad on the farms. Sunday was the only day either of us had off. Dad refused to work on Sunday, except to feed the livestock. Dad believed that God understood His animals needed to be fed. Otherwise, Dad refused to do any business whatsoever on a Sunday.

Old Bachelor's House on Jamestown RoadArial view of Old Bachelor's farm

Dad purchased an adjacent 90 acre farm that had belonged to a man we referred to as the Old Bachelor. He was descended from the family that had once owned not only the farm where he lived and our farm, but also much of the surrounding land. He died in his house. As I was on friendly terms with him and went to see about him from time to time. It was an unfortunate circumstance that I discovered his body.

The family farm was now 250 acres.

When I  worked I was constantly analyzing everything, figuring out more efficient ways to doing nearly every task. Dad said it was because I was lazy, but really it was not. When given the option of working hard or working smart, I opted for the latter. If an easier way could be determined to do the exact same thing with less effort, I would take that course. Anyone would.

The problem with my father’s dream for me to take over the family farm was related to my allergies. A day of baling hay, for example, would result in irritated, itching, swollen and watering eyes. I’d sneeze throughout the day. At night, I was beset with coughing fits. Still, by the next morning, I was ready to go at it again. I had to endure the discomfort. However, it was obvious I was not cut out to be a farmer.


Genette’s goal was attending Wittenberg University in Springfield. It was an outstanding private college with high academic standards. If she attended Southeastern High School, he believed she could not receive the sort of education she needed to qualify for admission. From her sophomore year to graduation, Dad and Mom paid tuition for her to attend Shawnee High School in Springfield, reputedly the best public school in the county. As a result, Mom drove her to school every day until Genette was old enough to get her driver’s license. Once Genette was able to drive, Dad bought her a 1968 Plymouth Barracuda.

In the early summer of 1970, Genette received her diploma from Shawnee High School. She was preparing to attend Wittenberg in the fall, to study art education. She became the first of our family to go to college.

My dad and mom wanted me to follow in Gennete’s footsteps. Obviously, Shawnee prepared her well for college. But, because of the overcrowded conditions in all the public schools due to the ‘baby boom’ of the 1950’s, Shawnee was no longer accepting tuition students.

At the time, I was seriously considering a military career as an officer. I wanted to attend the United States Air Force Academy. I felt that if I attended a military school it would be a great help in meeting the admission requirements. Mr. Bailey, my godfather, was a personal friend of Congressman Brown who represented the US Congressional District where we lived. So, obtaining a letter of recommendation for appointment was no problem.

Me in miltary school uniform

Greenbrier Military School in Lewisburg, West Virginia accepted me and I began classes in late August 1970. Although I got over homesickness and adapted to the structure of the school, there were very few students who were there for the sake of getting a quality education. Most needed correction and many of them were still resisting the effort. Drugs were a problem and my roommate was one of the people involved.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, I told my parents what was going on at school. My father called the school and had a lengthy discussion with the administration about what I told him. They promised my father I would be moved to a private room. It seemed everything was resolved.

While I was home for Thanksgiving break, my father and I discussed everything and I was fine with going back to school. But when I returned, the new room to which I was assigned was a disaster. It needed repairs and there was a big inspection coming in a few days. There was no way the room could be made presentable before the inspection. It was obvious to me that I was set up to fail. It was punishment for opening my mouth to my parents about what was going on in the school. In the minds of the school administration, I broke a code of conduct. If I had a problem, I should have gone directly to the administration. No parents needed to be involved. The reputation of the school did not need to be tarnished.

I was in fear of the retaliation I might suffer from the other students. I called my parents to come take me back home. While I waited, I did anything to avoid being in my room.

When my parents arrived at the school, they had a lengthy discussion with the administration after which I packed my things into the family car and returned home.

Although I was prepared to attend Southeastern High School, my dad and mom insisted that I not. They rented an apartment in the Springfield Local School District so that I could live there, ostensibly with my mom, and attend Shawnee High School. I was never to tell anyone at school that I lived alone. Not only was it no one’s business but also I knew my parents trusted me. If anyone found out Mom wasn’t living with me, she could get into a lot of trouble with the State. Despite my emotional and mental maturity, I was still a minor.

At first, Mom came to the apartment regularly, almost daily. I always had food. Although I could do my laundry and knew how to cook for myself, whenever she was there, she took care of those things. She let me clean my apartment, vacuum the carpet, mop and wax the kitchen floor, clean the bathroom and carry out the trash. At night, I set my alarm clock to wake up in time to get up and get ready for school. The bus stopped for me in front of the apartment complex.

Twice, my mother slept in the apartment. That way she could say she stayed there without telling a lie. The phone was in her name. Each morning, when I woke, I called home. Each afternoon, when I got off from school, I called home. Mom would call me some time in the evening to see how I was doing. She called at random times, even two times in an evening. Although she said she trusted me, I understood she didn’t want me to think I could get away with anything. She was minimizing the opportunity for me to become a bad boy. On Friday afternoon, when I got off the bus, Mom would meet me at the apartment. I slept at my parents’ house on the weekend and helped my dad on the farm every Saturday. On Sunday morning I did the chores and then went to church with Mom. In the afternoon, I did my laundry and folded it. In the evening, after dinner, Mom drove me back to the apartment.

As far as anyone at school knew, I lived with my mother. They assumed my parents were divorced. No one bothered to ask for clarification, and so, I never provided any details.

Over the summer before my sophomore year, I periodically stayed in the apartment. I told my parents that for appearance’s sake I probably should spend time there. Besides, I liked some of the freedom and privacy I acquired. All of my things were there, so when I was at my parent’s house, it felt a lot less like home to me.

One of the nosier neighbors at the apartment complex stopped me in passing and asked where I had been all week.

“Oh, I was helping my dad. He has a farm,” I said and started to walk away.

“Where’s your mom been?”

“She was seeing her sister. She’s been sick,” I replied. It was true that my mom had seen her sister and Aunt Verna was sick. Despite my inference through omission of detail, Mom did not stay with her sister, though.

“Where’s she now?”

“Working,” I said. That was also true. My mother was a housewife. So, when was she not working? Then, I smiled at my neighbor. “Okay, it’s my turn. Why is any of this your business?”

“I was wondering where you’ve been?’

“I always help my dad on the farm when he needs help. He pays me. I can always use the money.”

Apparently that satisfied her. No one else at the complex ever bothered to ask me anything about my business.

Sometimes, Genette came to see me. She was taking summer school classes at the university. She moved onto campus when she pledged to join the Sigma Kappa sorority. Although Mom maintained her room at home, like me, my sister was seldom there.

Genette and I would see movies together. Afterwards we went shopping in Springfield or at the Upper Valley Mall. She took me to her sorority and hung out with her sorority sisters and her friends who were in fraternities. I sat in on some of her classes and met her professors. We went to the library and the Student Union. I really liked the learning environment and the campus atmosphere.

My primary means of transportation throughout that summer was a ten-speed Schwinn. I rode it everywhere, into Springfield, across town to my friend Brice’s house, and sometimes to Wittenberg to see Genette. Sometimes I rode the bike to my dad’s farm, which was thirteen miles from my apartment.

I rode the bus for another school year. It was pretty much the same routine as during my freshman year, except I spent some weekends at the apartment. My dad decided to get out of the livestock part of farming and so he raised grain only. There were fewer chores to do and less need for me to help him on weekends.

The summer before my junior year, I took driver’s education in summer school. I was eager to get my license. The irony was that I had been driving for years. As a farm kid I was allowed to drive farm equipment on the roads between farms. On the farms, I drove my dad’s trucks to and from the fields.

I rode my bike to school every weekday until the conclusion of the course. The day I received my certificate of completion for the course, I took my driving test and received my license. I acquired the gold 1972 Camaro my mother had been driving. As she liked Camaros, dad bought an orange and black one as a replacement for her.

Once my junior year ended, I was grandfathered into attending Shawnee for my senior year. I did not need to live in the school district. So, I moved back home and drove to school each day from my parent’s house.

It felt strange being back home, especially since I had grown accustomed to considerable personal freedom. I also played bass guitar in a rock band and had a number of outside activities. During my senior year, I think I tried my parents’ patience to the limit more times than not.

Purdue-University Fall

Wittenberg University accepted me a few weeks after I submitted my application. I figured that since my sister was a senior there, they would not turn me down. But I wanted to attend a major university and study journalism, a course that was not offered at Wittenberg. So, I applied to some Big Ten schools. Purdue University accepted me.

In the early part of the last summer I lived at home, I received my diploma. Bruce and Alta saw the last of their children complete a goal neither of them ever reached. A few days after my graduation, Genette received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Wittenberg University, making her the first in the family to graduate from college. I don’t think I ever saw my dad and mom as proud as they were of Genette. She worked hard and even struggled at times to receive her degree, but she would not quit. I was proud of her, too.

At the end of the summer, when I moved to West Lafayette, Indiana to attend Purdue, for all intents and purposes, all of my parent’s kids were grown up. I think the realization that I would not be following in his footsteps disappointed my dad. The dream of carrying on the family farming traditions would perish with him. He and my mother had saved to buy a farm that they could pass on to their children, yet their only surviving son was not going to be a farmer and neither of my sisters had any interest or inclination toward owning a farm, let alone operating one.

After a year of substitute teaching in the public schools, Genette decided that she really did not like teaching as much as she thought she would. She enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1975.

My oldest sister, Joyce, her husband, Jerry and their son, Jame (Jay), moved to Clearwater, Florida in 1978. Joyce became a successful administrative assistant for an executive before leaving to handle the office work for her husband’s private business.

Family Pics-12

Having endured the blizzard in January 1978, Mom said she was tired of living in a cold place. My parents sold their farm and some of their household furniture at auction. My dad had always dreamed of living in the southwest, so they moved to Texas – just about as far south in Texas as they possibly could go. They relocated to a little town called Mission that was just north of the Rio Grande River, near the cities of McAllen and Edinburgh. Genette’s first husband and I helped them make the trip.

At some point during the next year, Genette divorced Andy, her first husband. She received a commission through Officer Training School and, after a few years ended up in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where she eventually met her second and present husband, Michael ‘Scott’, an Air Force pilot.

Genette at wedding reception with Joyce, Jay, Mom, Dad and Me

When I finished my degree in Mass Communication, the economy was suffering from a curious mess called ‘stagflation’, a combination of double-digit inflation and double-digit interest rates. I interviewed with several prospective employers but no one offered me a job. I spent a summer with my parents in Mission before moving to Austin to attend the University of Texas, majoring in Marketing.

Shortly before I graduated from UT, my parents moved to Clearwater, Florida and eventually to Palm Harbor, just to the north of Clearwater. I lived with them for a time, and then moved out into an apartment in Dunedin while I worked for a small advertising agency. A year later I joined the Air Force and learned Chinese Mandarin.

Before I left for my first overseas tour of duty in Korea, I sat with my dad on his driveway in front of his garage. There was a cool breeze that afternoon as we enjoyed sitting in the shade of a large oak. The subject was one we discussed before but never in as much detail as that day. He was a little concerned about what I was getting into with the Air Force. Genette was an officer. He was concerned about her but figured she was safer somehow. He did not understand what I was going to be doing and, frankly, I really could not tell him much because nearly everything I worked with was highly classified.

Dad expressed how proud he was of each of his children, not because of what we accomplished but that we were decent, caring people.

“I’ve had to work hard all my life,” he said. “I didn’t have the kind of education a man needs to get ahead. Your mom and I scrimped and saved everything we could because we knew what it was like not to have anything. We didn’t want for our children to know that kind of hardship.”

“I don’t know how you worked as many years as you did as a farmer. It’s hard work.”

“It’s honest work,” he responded. “I love the land. I enjoy watching things grow and taking care of animals. It’s not an easy job feeding the world. But that’s what I did with my life.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t take over the farm.”

“Farming isn’t what it used to be. It won’t be too many years before having a family farm is nothing but a memory. The world is changing very quickly. I’m not sure how it is going to work out. I’ve always heard that the world will end sometime after 2000. I don’t know if it will. Only God knows those things. But I think if you are ready, it doesn’t matter when it happens. Until then, you need to live as good a life as you can, be honest and always keep your word. When you make a mistake beg forgiveness. When you succeed, be humble. When you have children, teach them how to be good people. That’s the best anyone can do.”

I married in 1985. My son was born in 1986 and my daughters were born in 1988 and 1990, giving Dad and Mom three more grandchildren. My nephew married in 1986 and had a daughter in 1987, my parents’ great granddaughter.

Bruce Williams was an ethical man who raised his family to honor what he stood for and what he believed was right. He fed us, clothed us, and gave us a roof over our heads with warm beds to sleep in. We never worried for a thing as children. If there was not enough for everyone, he would do without. I never knew a soul who didn’t like him. Most respected him and considered it an honor to know him. He was generous to a fault. He helped people who had nowhere else to turn, cosigning for loans when the bank would not give them the money they needed for something urgent.

Family Photo around 2003 -1

My father died a few days before his birthday in April 2000. The family gathered together for the funeral. By then Mom was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s and could not attend. She would pass on nearly on her birthday in April 2003. People came from everywhere my parents had lived to pay their respects. My parents both lived to be nearly eighty-six.

#Family #Memorial #BruceWilliams #AltaWilliams #Ohio #Wittenberg #Purdue #UTAustin #GrowingUp


Family At Thanksgiving – Excerpt From A Novel In Progress

The following is from a novel-in-progress titled Text Messages. This is a Chapter called Family At Thanksgiving. The book is largely set in Connecticut, where I lived for nine years. It is about Barry Woods, an author who is divorced but maintains contact with my ex, Lydia who comes each year to be with the Children, their families and their nieces and nephews, the children of Barry’s deceased brothers.


Family At Thanksgiving

Sherry and Brenda both pushed away, figuring their father might at least understand that much of their dissatisfaction. Then each of them exited his study just as Lydia arrived at the doorway. She knocked in due respect for her former husband’s sanctuary. Even though the door was wide open the room was as dark and uninviting to her as it had ever been.

“Come in,” Barry said.

“I prefer not,” Lydia replied.

“Have it your way. You usually do.”

“I’ll not grace that remark with comment.”

“Ah but you just did.”

“It’s a weakness I have.”

“Always wanting the last word. Yes, I remember. Anyway, I’m glad you could make it,” Barry said.

“Mostly I believe that.” She smiled.

“You should because mostly it’s true.”

“Well, you are full of surprises today! This is probably the longest you have ever spoken with your daughters.”

“We used to talk a lot,” Barry protested.

“You spoke to them separately,” Lydia said. “Hardly ever together.”

“It was in the interest of self preservation. They’ve always ganged up on me whenever they had the chance.”

Lydia laughed. “They are my daughters, too.”

“Is it instinct or did you teach them? Hell, for all I know you might have even put them up to it this time around.”

“Who me? You know that’s not my style.”

“You’re right. You’re more about direct confrontation. You never needed a proxy.”

“Whatever is necessary whether I enjoy it or not.”

“Anyway, I used to read to them. They were together in the same room then. So it wasn’t like I was always treating them separately. I used to read to Tim along with them. Then after he’d nodded off I scooped him up and carried him to his room and tucked him in.”

“When they were really little. After Tim was in school you handled him separately.”

“Was that a mistake?”

“Maybe it was. I know you made up stories to tell the girls. I don’t think you ever did that for Tim.”

“I did it for all of them. But the types of stories were different. A father and his son have distinct bond but a man and each of his daughters has a relationship. I didn’t want to reveal any secrets about one to the other.”

Lydia smiled. “That’s good. It’s a lot of bullshit but it’s sounds pretty good.”

“I’m glad you approve.”

“I didn’t say I approved.”

Barry shrugged.

“Oh, there it is!”


“You know.”

“Oh, yes. The dreaded shrug,” Barry said. “I’d almost forgotten how much it irritates you.”

“I doubt you forgot except for maybe how much you enjoy doing it. So, how are my two beautiful daughters doing? I’ve barely talked to them all year.” She shifted the subject to avoid further confrontation.

“They’re fine,” Barry offered. “They’re always fine. How’d you sleep?”

“Actually, I slept very well. I was honored that I got to sleep in my old bed.”

“I changed the sheets and comforter,” Barry said. “I even dragged your favorite pillow out of storage and washed it especially for the occasion.”

“I’m flattered.”

“Your daughters and I were just talking about some things, the past and all that.”

“Well I wondered where everyone was,” Lydia said. “I saw Tim and Cindy in the hallway upstairs. Billy called me Gram. That was irritating but I guess it’s to be expected. His hugs are worth allowing him to call me that.”

“Where are the others?” Barry asked.

“The smokers are where they usually are this time of day, puffing away on the back deck. But I sort of expected to find my daughters in the kitchen amending the caterer’s recipe for mashed potatoes.”

“Actually I should probably do that before he serves.”

“I think the girls will handle it.”

“So, where all did you look. You had to expect the girls would be talking with me?”

“Well this should have been the first place I looked. Apparently your daughters have learned to look here. It has always been your sanctuary, ‘the room’ as they call it. More like ‘the tomb’. Why does it need to always be so dark?”

“I’m no fond of the sun, unless I’m outside. That’s where the sun belongs. In fact, when Sherry came looking, that was where I was – outside.”

“Whatever for? It’s frigid.”

“Your blood has thinned living in Phoenix.”

“You haven’t taken up smoking again, have you?”

“No. I just needed to clear my head. The cold helps.”

“I see.”

“I really think I should check on things.” He brushed past his ex-wife to immediately exit ‘the room’, growling a little in the process.

“What was that?” she asked but he didn’t respond. Instead of answering he continued on his way, pausing first with the caterer’s staff to inquire when dinner would be served, then briefly checking the amendments his daughters were already in the process of making to the trays of mashed potatoes, something they did every year and it always required a handheld mixer toward the end.

One of the caterers began to protest but Barry halted him. “It’s fine,” Barry said. “It’s a good thing. You should ask them for the recipe.”

“Perhaps I will,” he said.

“Have a taste when they’re done,” Barry said over his shoulder as he departed the kitchen, passing the dinette and opened the French doors to exit out to the redwood deck, joining the smokers of the family. He nodded to each as he said hello to one and all then individually by name, impressing a couple of them that he even recalled as he rarely talked to any of them, only on the sporadic occasions when he called his daughters were not home.

“Aren’t you cold?” Brenda’s husband Roscoe asked.

“Not at all,” Barry said. “Are you?”

“It’s freezing!”

“Is it, now? Then why are you out here? Oh yes, the need to smoke. How insane is that?”

Roscoe stared at his father-in-law, mostly wondering what could possibly be wrong with him. Was he playing tough guy again, seeming impervious to the elements.

“It’s all in the mind,” Barry said looking directly at him, giving him the eerie feeling once more than Barry could read his mind. The wry smile then turned to a hearty laugh as he leaned over the deck railing, appraising the blanket of snow covering the backyard, pointing to tiny tracks left by squirrels and rabbits.

Almost in unison, the others suddenly decided to extinguish their butts. None of them wanted to deal directly with their father-in-law or uncle as the case might be.

“No coals on the deck,” Barry warned. Even though his back was turned to them. “Against the shoe soles.” Each of them responded per instruction and then, butts in hand, they began looking for a can.

“It’s at the end of the deck,” Barry directed. “Behind the kitchen alcove. I should have put it out where everyone could find it but I guess I was hoping that all of you would have quit the nasty habit by now.”

“That’s actually pretty damned creepy, Mr. Woods,” Winston, Sherry’s recently newlywed husband said as he passed by en route to returning to the warmth and comfort inside. “Are you a mentalist?”

Barry laughed as he turned to face his youngest son-in-law. “I’m a writer, as you know. We’re often accused of being mental but hardly ever mentalists. It’s a trick.”

“I see. “

“And actually, since the wedding you’ve been allowed to call me Dad. You’re soon to be the father of one of my grandchildren. That gives you permission automatically.”

“Dinner is served,” The lead caterer held opened the door for his announcement prompting everyone to begin filing inside.

“I’m starving,” Winston said, bowing his head but quickly moving away from what was a most uncomfortable encounter with his father-in-law. He was headed for the washroom to rid the smell of nicotine from his fingers before eating.

As he arrived he had to wait on first Roscoe and then one of the cousins who had forgotten that the house had five bathrooms and three washrooms. Winston had an excuse, at least. This was his first Thanksgiving with the Woods family.

Barry chuckled to himself as he remained on the deck. He might have even been amused if he had followed behind Winston. He could have made him even more uncomfortable standing behind him as he waited just as needlessly in line to wash his hands.

“Dad, what is wrong with you?” Tim asked as he poked his head out the door. “It’s cold as Hell!”

“Have you ever explored the irony contained in that expression? By other accounts Hell is pretty damned hot.”

“Well, you never know. There are levels, right? At least one should be extremely cold.”

“I suppose it’s all according to which torment would best suit you for eternal condemnation for your sins against God…but not Mankind.”

“Why not Mankind? Do you think we are somehow more forgiving?”

“No, certainly not; not at all. With people I think it’s more about apathy. Sin is nothing special where people are concerned. We do it without thinking, much like breathing. Forgiveness is the alien concept. Even when you figure that out and fully intend to forgive it doesn’t mean you forget so whenever you are reminded of the transgression the previously offered forgiveness instantly vanishes.”

“Not to get all bogged down in another discussion of philosophy and religion with you but don’t you think that a sin against Mankind may actually at least irritate God?”

“You may have a point.”

“But, Dad, honestly! You are out here contemplating sin and forgiveness in a silk shirt and jeans! It’s well below freezing.”

“Around ten degrees, give or take.”

“That’s my point.”

“Look at it this way. At least I’m dressed,” Barry said as he passed by his son to stand just inside the door as Tim closed it, shutting the cold air outside where it belonged.

“Everyone else is probably piling food on their plates waiting in great anticipation of whatever it is that you want to tell us before we all dig in.”

“Tell them to enjoy the moment and wait on Winston.” He pointed. “He doesn’t know where the other washrooms are.”

“You could have at least told him.” Tim nodded in acknowledgement as Winston turned to see why his name was being discussed.

“So could Sherry. She knows the secret.”

“You have a point there.”

“See, now who was cruel to him, me or his own wife?”

“She probably didn’t think to tell him. Marriage is still new to her. And she’s distracted, you know – seeing everyone again.”

“You’re probably right. They haven’t been married long enough for her to have intentionally omitted telling him something useful. Are you coming?”

“Right behind you. I’m starving.”

“Uh, Winston. Follow me.” Barry grabbed his son-in-law’s sleeve in passing. Winston obeyed. “There’s a private washroom in my study, two sink bowls and a toilet. I never understood the need for two washbowls until the first Thanksgiving that we had in this house for more people than just Lydia, the kids and me.”

“I got the one in the garage,” Tim excused himself. “Oh, and Winston…by the way Dad is being an horrendous smart ass today. It’s not just you.”

“Yeah, I sort of got that.”

“He probably likes you.”

“Now you’ve destroyed everything I’ve been working on up to this point.” Barry shook his head but then patted Winston on the back as he ushered him toward a bookcase that was directly behind the large oak desk, “You have to slide out ‘War and Peace’ at the same time as ‘Sirens of Titan’,” Barry revealed the secret. “The books are alphabetical by author.”

“Odd combination, Tolstoy and Vonnegut.”

“It was close enough for the books to work with the concealed latch.”

“Does everyone know?”

“Tim does,” Barry said. “He’s a guy so I had no problem with him leaving the damned toilet seat up. And your wife knows. She discovered it on her own. I have no idea why she wanted to pull all the books on that shelf at the same time.”

Winston chuckled. “How old was she?”

“Ten, I think. You know why men don’t like to squat to pee in a toilet, right?”

“Uh, it’s unnatural?”

“No, the water’s too damned cold,” Barry said.

“Too deep too,” Winston added.

“I’m beginning to really like you, son.”

“I’d hope so. It’s been several months.”

Tim lingered outside the door of Barry’s study, having washed his hands he thought it might be best to wait for Winston and Dad. When Barry emerged he faced his son, “Are you ready to eat?”

“Yeah, just I need to talk to you about something important. It can wait though.”

“Okay,” Barry said as he focused on his son’s face and read concern. He even knew what it was about, largely anyway. Then Barry turned back to gather his youngest son-in-law. “Come on, if you delay too long with this crowd you’ll have to stop somewhere on the way home to pick up something to eat.”

“It’s not that bad,” Tim said to Winston as the two young men followed Barry into the dining room. “There’s always leftovers.”

“And more mouths to feed,” Barry said as he glanced around the table. “Isn’t that right? I’ll have to get a bigger table soon.”

“Jeeze, Dad. I don’t even know how to respond to that,” Brenda said.

Barry paused at the head of the table. “I love this time of the year. Thanksgiving is really the only time we are all here together as a family and test whether our bonds are stronger than our dysfunction.”

“We have other family ties,” Tim said. “Sometimes it hard for us to be here and not there.”

“And I get that. I appreciate your coming here and honoring my request because I know you have other options. But I figure at Christmas time you can spend time with the other side of your families.”

“What do you do for Christmas?” Winston asked.

“No! Why did you ask?” Tim cringed.

“I’ll tell you later. Everyone’s waiting to eat,” Barry responded.

“Let’s eat, then!” Tim added.

Winston smiled in response but he reserved the right to still worry about his father-in-law even though Sherry had told him in complete confidence what Barry did every Christmas Day since Lydia moved out. He even thought it was perhaps one of the more endearing qualities and the fact that he did it anonymously gave his children and their spouses more cause to love and respect the patriarch of their extended family even more. He didn’t play Santa but instead became a surrogate.

Barry waited for everyone to be seated at the table before he began. “And here we are again, all of you.” He paused long enough to meet the eyes of everyone around the table but his eyes finally focused on Tim who was seated between Cindy, his wife, and Sherry, his baby sister. Then he glanced toward Winston who was seated to Sherry’s right on the other side of little Lydia, Brenda’s daughter who was using a booster chair but insisted on sitting close to her gram, finally old enough to eat at the ‘big people’s’ table.

Suddenly a cup scooted across the floor and Winston scooped it up and handed it to Brenda who begged forgiveness of her daughter exuberance.

“It happens. She’s excited, as well she should be,” Barry said. “I know I’m excited and very grateful for this day of thanks and sharing everything about our great and constantly growing family. I know and appreciate the personal sacrifices involved in assembling us together for another year here in my home. Once again Tim and his wonderful wife Cindy have brought their family here from the west coast to join us, making their effort the greatest distance. I really do appreciate all of you being here. I have always wanted for this to be about us. We are missing a few usual members of the gathering. Let us not forget to remember Kenneth and Bart who are serving in the United States Marine Corps. May God protect them and bring them home to us soon.”

He paused for several moments while everyone, even the children, reflected on his words.

“I know there are some hardships in coming here year after year.”

“Mostly, it’s cold here,” Tim interrupted to complain.

“But here you can dress for it,” Barry said in response as he smiled at his only son. “California is another matter entirely. It’s far too cold there in many places during the summer. It’s just people from the rest of the country don’t realize it until they get there.”

Tim glanced at his wife as she slipped her hand into his. She had never been comfortable with being singled out every year at the family gathering but she still appreciated everything what Barry had done for her, even those few times he had sent her some money to pay bills or buy things for the kids, unbeknownst to Tim.

“I know everyone’s hungry,” Barry said. “That’s some of what this holiday’s about. But I think it’s mainly about being together and being thankful in knowing who you can count on when you can’t count on anyone else.”

Barry looked around the room. Every eye was focused on him to a person except for some of the youngest ones of the Woods tribe. Each of his children and his nieces and nephews knew full well that without his nudge and support at times they would have struggled more often and failed many more times. Still Barry never once asked them for anything in return except flying or driving to Connecticut each year at Thanksgiving so he could see the ever-burgeoning assemblage of his and his two deceased siblings’ progeny.

“I guess I need to tell you that there is no one in this room that I don’t love, admire and adore. I’m very thankful for having the privilege to know each one of you. I mean that from the bottom of my heart and depths of my soul. We are truly blessed to be together on this one day and I thank God for the gifts of this life we share.” He paused as he looked around the table at all the faces and bright eyes, some of them welling tears. “Other than that just eat until you can’t eat anymore! There’s always enough for everyone!”

Brenda and Sherry smiled as their father sat down, they each took the hands of their chosen partners in life and were gratified when Barry made eye contact with first one and then the other, including their spouses.

Each of them waited in anticipation that maybe this was the first time in a long time that their father would eat dinner with them. But then he stood up and walked around the table, ensuring that everyone was satisfied with the quality if not the enormity of the spread. Then he excused himself from the room, just as he always had for the past few years.

But for the first time it was Tim who stood up, not the usual suspect in condemnation of Barry’s inexplicably consistent behavior. In passing Tim leaned over and whispered in his mother’s ear. “I got it, this time you can stay and eat.”

Me crop 2

#family #thanksgiving #dysfunction #writing #story


An Author’s Friends and Family


I’ve decided not to overanalyze anything to do with the response to my recent book release. As there is nothing really controversial in Fried Windows I don’t expect a lot of fallout from anything I have written. Maybe I stretched my imagination a little more than usual, at least as much as I bent the truth, but it’s intention was mainly harmless fun. I’m not sure why my friends aren’t flocking to read it, but that’s okay. Mostly my friends never paid that much attention to anything I said before I started writing. So why should it be different now?

Anyway, part of becoming an authors is seeking new friends. They’re called readers. The reason is not to discard and replace old friends but to acquire followers as a supplement to those who have known the author since before… Unlike old friends, the new friends find it easy to become fans. Why shouldn’t they?  They know an intimate part of the author, what he or she writes. I’m not sure every old friend can become an avid follower and reader of an author. It may have something to do with being there in high school and knowing the real story. Old friends saw the stupid crap we did. They were the ones carrying our drunken asses to dorm rooms in college. They were the ones we confessed any number of things to here and there along the way.

Family isn’t much better as as source of readers. There are exceptions, but most buy an authors book out of familial obligation. Few ever read the book all the way through. Those who do probably deserve a medal for perseverance. I get that.

You see, like friends, family knows us for our flaws and secrets. They know some things abut us better than friends because they share a genetic identity. They understand our special level of crazy because they were not only there with us while growing up together but also they have some of the same traits.

Like fiends, relatives hear a real voice when they read our words in print. Sometimes that is at least unsettling. I suppose it can be unnerving, especially when reading a fictional account that seems kind of familiar. Moreover, family is used to giving us advice, not necessarily hearing concoct long, convoluted stories that may actually make some sense – especially when those stories come pretty darned close to revealing things that really happened to this or that other family member.

FINAL Final Fried Windows Front Cover Only

In Fried Windows I have tried not to borrow too much from reality. But there are some situations that some might recall. The book is a fantasy, though. There are always pieces of an author’s life that find their ways into a book. That why names are changed to protect the author as much as anyone else. The parts that borrow from real life distort the facts enough to be mostly idle fabrication.

On balance, I think I’ll gain friends from having written the book. I doubt I’ll lose any friends along the way – I hope not. I wrote the book to be a fun read and I think it accomplishes that. I wanted it to change the way every reader looks at the world around them. Maybe it does that. For those who will read it, please let me know what you think. And yes, there is much more of Brent’s story left to be told.

Me crop 2




Jackson Paul Baer – Literary Suspense Writer And Father

Jackson and Kids

Jackson Paul Baer is an author of literary suspense whose most recent release, The Earth Bleeds Red launched late last October from Pandamoon publishing and is available in both eBook and paperback from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online book sites. Originally from Woodstock, Ga (north of Atlanta) he’s a huge Braves and Georgia Tech fan. However, he lived in Oregon for the over five years and only recently moved back to North Georgia. Over the past twelve years he had been all over the country. He loves the Trailblazers as well as Oregon State, where he will soon graduate with a B.A. in English in June 2014. He has been married for eleven years and has four beautiful children, ages 4-9.

He graduated from a Bible college in 2003; that’s where he met his wife. He spent seven years as a youth & teaching pastor, but has not been a pastor for the past three years now. “I’m not very religious though you will find spiritual themes within my writing due to it being such a large part of the majority of my life. My characters, much like myself, struggle with faith, doubt, and love as a part of their everyday lives.” The Earth Bleeds Red is by no means a Christian novel, however, with language you’d find in real life, as well as situations not suited for a church service.


Jackson’s favorite author is Joyce Carol Oates and he also loves Junot Diaz and Sherman Alexie, among many others. “Their novels have influenced me the most and I’d like to think my writing style resembles their amazing books. Them by Joyce Carol Oates is the best book I’ve ever read. If you’ve never read it, stop what you’re doing right now and read it. Seriously, do it now.”


Jackson’s latest book is The Earth Bleeds Red:

Scott Miller has everything he’s ever hoped for. He has a successful marriage to Jessie, a stunningly beautiful, creative woman. His seventeen-year-old daughter, Ashley, is both gorgeous and intelligent, and has just been accepted to the University of Notre Dame, where Scott received his PhD. He has a comforting home in the woods, and a fulfilling career as a college professor at Oregon State University in Corvallis. He’s blissful, and at peace, until it all comes shattering down.

welcome Oregon State

Ashley is kidnapped. The scene of the abduction is horrific and bloody, and the police are convinced she couldn’t have survived. They accuse her boyfriend, Brandon, of Ashley’s murder. He declares his innocence, and claims that a masked man who entered his house and overwhelmed them both took Ashley. No one believes Brandon.

Corvallis River

Then the bodies of three other missing girls are discovered, all bearing the mark of a known serial killer the FBI has been hunting for years. Evidence mounts. As Special Agent James Duncan tracks the Hail Mary Killer, Scott and Jessie try to move on with their lives. But they can’t shake the feeling that Ashley may still be alive, and that the time for saving their only daughter is quickly running out.


In the best tradition of literature and suspense, Jackson Paul Baer has weaved a heartfelt tale of one family’s struggle to survive after a despicable evil wrenches them apart.

Corvallis Scenic

Jackson is current working on a literary psychological thriller titled The Lights Will Never Fade.

He gave me the chance to ask a few questions and learn more about his fascinating life and his writing:

Q: How much research do you do before starting a novel? Does the research help develop the plot or do you use it for all background details?

A: I researched a lot for The Earth Bleeds Red. I went and took pictures in the city of Corvallis, or that I pictured as I was writing the book. I wanted my writing to accurately reflect the city. I also had to do a good deal of research with regards to police procedure, crime scenes, what happens to a person after death etc… With my write-in-progress, I emailed people who live in the town I set the book in to verify the types of trees, flowers, close rivers, and other things like that.

River near Corvallis

Q: Creative people tend to be spontaneous. In particular, most people think that writers are at least a little crazy. Tell us the most unusual thing you have done in your real life that doesn’t directly relate to writing.

A: I’m a fairly spontaneous person. I travel a lot, playing cards, and have been known to take a road trip on a whim. I don’t do this as much anymore as I’ve gotten older and my kids have gotten bigger, but I’ve driven ten hours before, only an hour or so after deciding to go.

Q: Every writer has that one story that clicked, inspiring him or her to pursue writing as a career. What was the story and what was there about it that made it influential?

A: The story line in “Them,” by Joyce Carol Oates has to be one of the biggest influences on me as a writer. The characters were so flawed and imperfect. I actually heard her speak at Oregon State and after that, I went out and bought that novel. I read it and fell in love with her writing.

Q: Creativity comes in many ways – for example, painting, photography, sculpture, music and theater. What other things do you do or have you done that are examples of using your imagination or other artistic talents?

A: I’ve actually written a handful of songs and even recorded four or five of them several years back. It was more for fun than trying to make a career out of it, but I do enjoy music. I play guitar and bass and songwriting is really where I got my start in writing.

Q: When writing I’m sure you hit snags where characters aren’t behaving or the plot just isn’t working. When that happens to me I play video solitaire. What do you do?

A: I usually take a break and read. I think that any good writer is an avid reader, as time allows. With work, school, and a family, my time for reading has been limited. I am almost done with school and will be able to devote regular time to reading and writing again. I miss them dearly.


Jackson Family

Q: There is usually someone in a writer’s past that is to credit or to blame. In your life, who was that, when and what happened?

A: I had a professor at Oregon State who spoke to me. He was real and down to earth. To be honest, it started at the community college I went to prior, but this professor’s class was the first actual writing class that I took. I began to write short stories for the class and realized how much I loved creating this world that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

Jackson and Kids 2

Check out Jackson Paul Baer online at:

And Jackson’s Previous writing:

Jackson Book Cover Old