Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Random Train(wreck) of Thought

            This social media business is a bit fascinating, and sometimes confusing.  Until Jolly Fish Press more or less forced Berk and I into the blogging/Twitter/Facebook world I had no idea how out of touch I was.  Oh sure, I had heard of blogging, and Twitter and Facebook.  My head was not that deep in the sand.  (Don't ask my kids about that last comment, please!)  I just personally had nothing to do with it.

           Now that I am at least trying to be involved in social media I realize that I was an absolute cyber hermit.  I lived on a virtual island from where I could see the mainland, but did not interact with anyone there.  For me, email is still high tech stuff.  The problem with folks my age, (at my age I can legally be referred to as “folks”) is that when we were younger high tech stuff stayed high tech for more than ninety days. 
            Computers were amazing for years, and car phones for decades.  Now, I will still be astounded with some new technology and it will already be old school crap.  It hardly seems worth trying to keep up.  That last part wasn’t stated well.  It may or may not be worth trying to keep up; it is just beyond me to do so.
            Fortunately, blogging, Twitter and Facebook have all been around long enough that they are all old school, even for an old fart like me.  Wait, I forgot what I started to write about.  Oh yea, this social media stuff; pretty phenomenal. 
            Anyway, as I was social networking along, I came across a blog from someone from my past.  It turns out that Daniel K. Lubben, from my home town in Ridgecrest, California, (not far from Trona) is a blogger.  His blog is at  He has a fun blog that covers just about anything, anything that he happens to be thinking about.  I enjoyed his website because it has a poem on it called “Little Sally Liked to Sass”.  I remember this poem from when he originally wrote it, back in the olden days when he was in high school and I was in junior high.
            I remember the poem a little differently.  I remember it being called “Missy Molly”.  But she still liked to sass.  I’ll let you read it on Dan’s site.  It is listed under “Fun Stuff” on his web page.
            And the reason I bring that up is because “Missy Molly” is the only poem I have ever been able to remember and recite.  I still remember it today.  Funny thing, I never even tried to memorize it.  It just stuck with me.  No other poem, or piece of literature, or even scripture, that I had to memorize for a class, or wanted to memorize for any reason, have I been able to retain for very long.  Once, more for the heck of it than for any other reason, I memorized “The Walrus and the Carpenter” from Alice in Wonderland.  Today I don’t even remember the first line.
            At this point you may be wondering where I’m going with this.  I wish I knew.  But it does remind me of all the poems I wish I could recall from memory and recite.  (Thanks Dan.)  My favorite poet is someone you wouldn’t think of as a poet, and maybe you haven’t even heard of him.  His name is Mason Williams, and frankly, I don’t know if he is still alive or not.  He was a comedy writer for the Smother Brothers, and may be best known for writing an instrumental piece of music entitled Classical Gas.  You can listen to the orginal cut on Youtube here:   It’s a good song.
            He also wrote several bizarre and interesting books.  One book unfolds, and unfolds, until it is a life size poster of a Greyhound bus.  No kidding.  He also wrote poetry, of a sort.  He had his own style and the poems were titled with names like “Them Lunch Toters” and “Them Dog Kickers”.  They’re called the Them Poems.  My favorite two are “Them Moose Goosers” and “Them Toad Suckers”.  I can remember a few lines from each, but I have never ever been able to retain them like I could “Missy Molly”.  I don’t know why. 
             So, anyway, for your enjoyment, by poet extraordinaire, Mason Williams, here are two of my favorite poems:
Them Moose Goosers
How about them Moose goosers, Ain't they ‘cluse?
Up in them boondocks, goosin' them moose
Goosin' them huge moose, goosin' them tiny,
Goosin them medlin' moose in they hinny!
Look at them Moose goosers, Ain't they dumb?
Some use an umbrella, some use they thumb.
Them obtuse Moose goosers, sneakin' through the woods,
pokin' they snoozey moose in they goods,
How to be a Moose gooser? It'll turn you puce;
Get your gooser loose, and rouse a drowsy moose!

Them Toad Suckers
How about them Toad Suckers, Ain't they clods?
Sittin' there suckin' them green taody frogs.
Suckin' them hopper toads, suckin' them chunckers,
Suckin' them leapy types, suckin' them plunkers.
Look at them Toad Suckers, Ain't they snappy?
Suckin' them bog Frogs, sure makes them happy.
Them hugger mugger Toad Suckers, way down south,
Stickin' they sucky toads, in they mouth.
How to be a Toad Sucker? No way to duck it;
getcha self a toad, rare back and suck it!
 You can find more at:  It will be the funniest thing you have read in a long time.  Find a favorite of your own and then share it on social media!  (Bet you thought I’d never be able to bring it home, huh?)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


            My Dad loved cowboy stories.  He grew up in Blanding, Utah where cowboys and Indians, all toting revolvers and shotguns, were everyday familiars.  His Granddad, Dave Black, had been sheriff in their little town, and got pulled into the last Indian war fought in the United States (with the Paiute Indians).   This was a world we boys never tired of hearing about.

            Ambre, Andy's daughter, asked in a prior blog post if her Grandpa told Andy and me stories at bedtime.  I think it's time to pass some of those stories along.

            "All of you down to the bathroom," Mom would order us three boys who shared the same bedroom.  Andy was the youngest, I was the oldest with Allen between us.  As soon as we were ready, we jumped into bed and waited for Dad to appear.  Our room had been added to the back of the house and contained three beds in a row: mine by the door, Andy's in the middle, and Allen's at the far end.  Dad perched on my bed to tell his stories.

            When Dad was a boy, one of his heroes was a real live cowboy who often passed through Blanding by the name of Andy Delany.  According to Dad, Andy Delany was the toughest, smartest, and wisest cowboy in all of the Southwestern United States and Mexico.  Not surprisingly, Dad named one of his own boys Andy.

            Andy Delany stories always had a moral -- a nugget of cowboy wisdom -- at least as Dad told them, and I knew these were things I needed to remember.  One of my favorite stories had two nuggets. 


Andy was a cowboy for nine months out of the year, but cowboys often had to find other work during the dead of winter. . . and prospecting and mining were glamorous at the time.

One winter, Andy teamed up with Old Frank, a cranky hermit who knew a lot about minerals and the local geological formations.
Old Frank's miner’s cabin up in the high mountains was first class – it was weather proof, had two rooms, and a stone fireplace for heat and cooking.

This particular winter, Andy brought a fan of his, Young Bill, who wasn’t that smart, but was strong as an ox and a hard worker.

Each day they mined for gold at a claim several miles higher up in the mountains from the cabin.  It was late winter and they hadn’t been into town for supplies for many weeks.  Out of matches and about out of food, they would start a fire each day from the coals left over from the prior day's fire and hunt deer when they weren’t mining.  The side of pork they'd brought with them from their last trip to town was mostly a pile of bones.

Earlier in the week Andy had taken the pork leftovers with the last of their pinto beans and stewed up a big pot of pork & beans, which was their dinner each night.  They kept the big pot hanging in the fireplace to keep the mice out of it while they were gone to the mine during the day.  This kept the mice out, but the pot didn’t get cold like it would have if they had kept it outside.

The strain of hard winter was wearing on them all.  "I swear, one day I'm gonna kill Ol' Frank," Young Bill would mutter several times a day as he ploughed through some dirty job Old Frank had left for him.

Andy would clap him on the back, saying, "Not today, my friend.  Just wait, he ain't going to be on top forever."

One day, they left early in the morning and stayed until late at night working their mine with little to eat.  "I'll be dying soon, if I don't get some grub inside me," Young Bill muttered as they slogged down the mountain to the cabin.

Inside, the cabin was so cold Andy and Young Bill went right to work in the shadowy dark, coaxing a new fire from the coals in the fireplace.  As usual Old Frank let them do the work.  Dropping his gear in the middle of the dirt floor, he carried the big pot over to the wood table, grabbed a big wooden spoon and started wolfing down the pork & beans.

Young Bill snarled, "Old Frank's gonna eat everything that's left!  Don't you try to stop me this time!  He's got it coming."

Andy laid a hand on his shoulder.  "Wait a minute."

As Andy pulled him back to the flickering start of a fire, Young Bill said, “I’m gonna kill that selfish old buzzard.  We do all the work around here while he does nothin' but eat up all the food.”

Now Andy knew something about selfishness (Old Frank’s problem) and he also knew something about an over blown ego (Young Bill’s problem).  Andy said, “The selfish will eat the bitter fruits of their own selfishness all by themselves, unless there is some proud fool around eating too!”

This brought Young Bill up short.  What was Andy talking about?  Was there something here that was escaping him?  About this time the fire in the fireplace was big enough that Andy could light a small stick, and carry it over to light an oil lamp.

Andy trimmed the lamp and the cabin filled with light.  Suddenly Old Frank started gagging and bolted for the still open door.  Outside Old Frank seemed to be throwing up his own guts. 

Andy and Young Bill walked over and peered into the pot.  The whole mess of beans was moving.  It was alive – alive with maggots!

Staring bug-eyed at the heaving mess of beans, Young Bill finally turned and smiled at Andy.  “I think I’ll let Old Frank eat these fruits all by himself!”

The End

At this point, all three of us boys were also bug-eyed and ready for Dad's moral.

Now it's your turn, Ambre--or anyone else.  What nuggets of cowboy wisdom did we hear?


Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Welcome, all. 

Today we're part of a blog hop, officially known as THE NEXT BIG THING.  Many thanks to C. Michael McGannon for inviting us to hop in after him.  You can check out his blog post at  He and D. C. McGannon are working on the next book in their YA series, Charlie Sullivan and the Monster Hunters. It is going to be great!

 If you've never heard of a blog hop (which we hadn't until a month ago), it's a bit like a game of tag.  Our official assignment reads: 

 “THE NEXT BIG THING” is to raise awareness of our work, or work in progress. We do that by answering ten questions about it. We graciously thank the person who nominated us, and tag four to six other authors whose work could very well be THE NEXT BIG THING.

And now, tag we're it!

What is the working title of your next book?

 Pitch Green, set to come out March 16, 2013.  We're also working to finish its sequel, Mojave Green.

 Where did the idea come from for the book?

Ever since we were boys, around campfires or at late night gatherings, we have told a scary story that was sure to mesmerize and scare the socks off our listeners.  Our children now delight in terrorizing their children with the same story.  We took the seed of that tale, and turned it into Pitch Green, the 1st book in our Dimensions in Death Series.

What genre does your book fall under?

Young Adult Horror.  Definitely scary. 

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

That is a hard question.  Perhaps Hailee Steinfeld, who recently played Mattie Ross in True Grit, for our female protagonist.  Not sure who would match her male counterpart.  Gabrielle Anwar, from Burn Notice would do nicely for the FBI Agent who unknowingly helps them. For the two old FBI agents at the end of the book, Bruce Willis and Clint Eastwood.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Two teenagers try to discover why children in their little town keep disappearing, only to uncover an evil presence lurking in a old mansion that will kill them if they cannot discover its secrets.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Our book is being published by Jolly Fish Press.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About 3 or 4 months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.  Partly because grisly murders and threats of more stalk Bod, his main character, but mostly because we love Neil Gaiman's writing.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Andy and Berk attended the Backspace Writers Seminar in New York City, November 2010.  We attended different subgroups, both of us hearing from many agents that they wanted YA Horror manuscripts.  After the general session we found each other and said almost simultaneously, "We have a scary story to tell!"  We wandered the streets and subways of New York City, talking plot and characters.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Pitch Green will keep you up all night reading it, and then still keep you up listening for that stinky something that is coming to eat you.
* * *

Here are the fabulous authors we’ve tagged to tell you about their Next Big Thing! 
They will be posting on 1/16/2013.   Enjoy!
Elsie Park -

Jenniffer Wardell -

* * *


Here are some authors who are posting this week with us, also tagged by C. Michael McGannon.

Vicki M. Taylor

Pam Funke

Berk & Andy

Saturday, January 5, 2013


            The holidays are past and most of us are back at the day job.  But writing is still what oils the cogs and wheels of daily life at our house.  Around Halloween, I wrote a story for the Creative Frighting contest sponsored by our publisher, Jolly Fish Press.  Both Andy and I had fun writing Halloween stories and he has already posted his.  (Scroll down the blogs to see "Trona Honeymoon.")
            But I never got a chance to post my story.  Somehow, it didn't seem appropriate during the Christmas holidays. So now that dreary weather is upon us, we'll put the candles back in the jack-o-lantern.  Hope you enjoy.


            Sighing contentedly, Millie slowly closed her book.  She had feared the story wouldn’t end right.  She hated stories that didn’t know how to end, but this ending was perfect.  Relishing the moment, she sat immersed in the book’s final, triumphant scenes when a sudden unfamiliar noise jolted her from her reverie.  Disoriented, she stared up into a room engulfed in nighttime blackness.  Except for a crisp circle of light on her lap, everything else was hidden by darkness.
Her aging eyes didn’t see well in the dark any more.  Her husband, Gregory, had gotten tired of watching her squint when she tried to read in the old house’s dim lighting.  “Your face is all puckered up like a prune, trying to read that page,” he’d complained.  Last Christmas, he had presented her with a bright, battery-powered clip light that she could take with her anywhere around the house.  Right now it dangled from a hook on the wall above her, encasing her in a narrow shaft of light.
She sank back into the softness of her over-stuffed chair and closed her eyes, feeling suddenly weary.  The waning autumn sun had gone down unnoticed while she read, and the big, creaky house still needed to be shut up for the night.
            When Gregory was out of town on business, Millie was careful to close windows and lock doors before the sun went down, but this evening she had been distracted.  She wasn’t scared to be alone, but the neighborhood had changed in the last few years, as old friends moved to warmer climes or smaller homes, and the newcomers were not as neighborly.  Millie had suggested to Gregory that they move to a newer, smaller house, but he wouldn’t hear of it.
            Irritated, Millie sniffed and immediately crinkled her nose at the unpleasant scent.  The old house always had a musty, dead smell, so on warmer days, she liked to throw open the windows to collect as much fresh air as possible.  With the cooler fall weather, she now opened only the downstairs windows.  It had been weeks since she had last unlocked and opened any of the upstairs windows.
Rising stiffly from her chair, Millie reached for the clip light behind her, but her hand brushed it off the hook before she could grasp it.  With a loud crash, it smashed into the hard-wood floor, shattering the bulb and sending broken glass tinkling across the floor in all directions.  Everything was suddenly enveloped in the inky blackness of the night.
Millie stood still, her bare feet frozen in place.  With broken glass all around, she dared not take a step until her eyes adjusted to the darkness.  The dark shapes of the larger pieces of furniture began to appear, but strain as she might, she could not make out the tiny glass shards she knew were scattered around her.
Millie’s locked knees began to complain, making her fear they might buckle.  Swishing out her breath in frustration, she was about to take her chances in the dark, when she was startled by that strange, unfamiliar noise again--like someone whispering far away, saying something she couldn’t quite understand.
Alarmed, she took a quick step forward, and immediately, a sharp pain flashed in the heel of her right foot.  The glass shards!  But, fearing the strange noise more, she kept moving.  On tip-toe, protecting her injured heel, she groped towards the backdoor, where she knew a light switch waited in the dark.  Miraculously, she did not step on any more broken glass.
When her hand finally touched the wall, she paused to listen, but all was silent.  Taking a shuddering breath, she followed the wall until she found the door, and then the light switch beside it.  She flipped the switch up.  Nothing happened.  All was still dark.  Frantically, she flipped it again, repeatedly.  Still nothing.
Millie tried to calm her rising panic.  Staring out the window in the backdoor, she wondered why someone would shut off the power to her house.  Suddenly, she realized that not just her house was dark.  She could see several houses to each side of her backyard as well as many of the houses across the street from these back-door houses.  All were black.  She could not see a single light in any of these homes that were normally filled with warm, living lights.
Relief flowed through Millie.  No wonder her light switch didn’t work.  The power in her neighborhood must have gone out while she was reading.  She smiled, able to laugh at herself a little.  The power outage was strange, since there had been no storms for days, but now there was a logical reason, rather than a diabolical reason, for why her lights didn’t work.
Suddenly, as if carried upon a wisp of wind, that distant, unfamiliar noise came again.  Like a breathy whisper, the sound came together as a single word, “Millie.”
Sure that the sound had come from outside, from somewhere in the backyard, she called through the door, “Who’s there?  What do you want?”  She was answered only by silence.
Millie struggled to calm her breathing.  It’s just my imagination, she thought.  I’m the only one here.  I need to get a flashlight and get all the downstairs windows and doors closed and locked.  And get that piece of glass out of my heel!
Gregory always kept a flashlight in the kitchen tool drawer, and Millie wanted that flashlight.  After making sure the back door was securely locked, she felt along the wall until she reached the large den window.  Everything outside was quiet and dark.  The breeze coming in through the big open window was cold, icy cold.
Suddenly, Millie remembered that the weather forecast in the morning newspaper had said there was a chance of frost tonight, and she was immediately angry with herself--she should have shut all the windows hours ago.  The house was going to be freezing cold all night if she didn’t get all the windows shut up now as fast as possible.
The den window did not slide smoothly, so she had to use both hands, one near the top and one near the bottom, to get it closed.  Tugging hard to close the final inches, she distinctly heard that breathy whisper again, “Millie.”
Someone is out there calling my name!
Frantically, she pulled the window shut, and with shaky hands, slammed down the metal latch.  For long moments, she sagged against the wall, struggling to slow her ragged breath before peeking out through the window again.  Nothing moved in the darkness, but it was hard to tell.  It was so very dark.  There wasn’t even any moonlight.
It wasn’t my imagination, Millie thought stubbornly.  Someone is out there calling my name!  Whoever it is can’t see in the dark any better than I can, but I know where the phone is, and I’m calling for help right now.
The kitchen phone hung on the wall between the kitchen and the den.  Feeling her way into the kitchen on tip toe, she stopped when her fingers gently touched the phone.  Carefully, she lifted the phone from its cradle and held it to her ear.  There was no dial tone--the phone was dead.  She jabbed at the flash button several times--still no tone.  Now, this was not logical.  Even when the power went out, the phone still worked.
For a moment, she felt an insane urge to rip the phone out of the wall and throw it.
Okay, she thought, as she slowed her breathing again, calm down.  This isn’t going to help.  I don’t know why this phone is dead, but my cell is upstairs in my bedroom.  I still need to lock up the downstairs.  Once everything is safely locked up, I’ll go upstairs and call for help.
With renewed hope, Millie felt her way quietly over to the window above the kitchen sink.  She stopped at the window to listen, then reached up to slide it closed, but even before she touched the window sill, a low, deep voice whispered through the window, “Millie.”
For a moment, her heart stopped.  Biting back a scream, she slid the window closed and locked it before backing away from the sink.  In her panic, she put her full weight on her right heel, and crumpled instantly to the floor, gasping in pain.
For a long time, she lay huddled on the floor eyeing the kitchen window, expecting to see a black figure peering through it.  When nothing happened, she sat up with a sense of urgency and dragged herself over to the tool drawer.  Getting up on her knees, she pulled open the drawer and fished around inside until she felt the flashlight.  Dropping back on the floor, she covered the end of the flashlight with one hand, so the light couldn’t be seen from the outside and pushed the thumb switch up.  To her dismay, the switch wouldn’t go up, but it would go down.
The flashlight had been turned on already.  It had been sitting in the drawer; turned on for who knows how long and now the batteries were completely dead.  If Gregory had more batteries for this flashlight, Millie didn’t know where.  Why was he always gone so much?
For a moment, Millie thought she might cry in pure frustration when she had a sudden flash of inspiration.  Sliding over to another drawer, she fished around until she found a box of birthday candles and a pack of matches.  In yet another drawer, she fished out a box of band aids.
Crawling over to the broom closet, she squeezed in and shut the door.  First pushing some cleaning rags under the door to make sure no light leaked out, she struck a match.  Glorious light burst forth.  She almost sobbed.  With trembling hands, she lit a candle and inspected her foot.  What a bloody mess it was, and still bleeding.  She must have been tracking blood through the house wherever she went, but the wound was not wide and she could see the end of the piece of glass poking out.  Carefully, she pulled the glass out of the wound and covered the cut with several large, thick band aids.
Millie was tempted to stay hidden in the closet until the sun came up, but she knew she would be safer if she got the rest of the house locked up, so she blew out her candle and slowly pushed the closet door open.  Everything was still pitch black.  After listening carefully for a few moments to silence, she pulled herself to her feet and felt her way gingerly out of the kitchen and into the dining room.  She still avoided putting her full weight on her right heel, but now she could walk more normally with only slight pain.
Once the dining room door was locked, she inched up to the edge of the dining room window.  She dreaded standing out in front of the window, but didn’t know any other way, with her small frame, to get enough leverage to push the window closed.  Taking a deep breath, she stepped out, grabbed the window frame with both hands and threw her weight into it.  Before it could shut completely, the deep moaning voice whispered, “Millie.”  It sounded so close!
Stop! she wanted to yell.  Stop saying my name!  Who are you?  How do you know my name?  She was sure now that the voice of her tormentor was the voice of a man, but not a voice she could recognize, and he was somehow watching her in the darkness make her rounds as she shut up her house.
Watch on, she thought.  I’m almost done, and I’ll get my cell phone and help will come.
She felt bruised and sore, in both body and soul, but she could move more quickly now with no glass in her heel.  Feeling her way into the front room, she could see faint starlight shining through the open window.  She was sure her tormentor would be watching for her, but she did not hesitate.  She grabbed the window and began pushing it closed.  Immediately, a voice from out of nowhere, but seemingly close by, whispered, “Millie!”
No matter how much she thought she was ready for that voice, the whisper still twisted her insides each time she heard it, and yet, in some weird way, its tones were beginning to sound almost familiar.  Feeling as if she were nearing the end of a marathon, she limped carefully over to the front door and locked it securely.  Shaking all over, she backed away from the door, across the large entry hall and leaned against the banister at the bottom of the stairs, feeling totally drained, but relieved.  The house was all locked up.  She was finally safe.
She had done it.  In spite of the darkness and wounds, she had done it.  Her tormentor was locked out.  In a minute she would call the police, and they would be here, here at her house, and it would be her tormentor who would be looking for a safe place to hide.  She smiled grimly.  She hoped the police would be as merciless with him as he had been with her.
Standing at the bottom of the stairs, catching her breath, Millie began shaking uncontrollably.  She realized she wasn’t shaking because she was scared--she was cold, really cold.  A draft of freezing air, was sliding down the stairs, blowing its icy breath down her back.
But, there should be no draft.  None of the upstairs windows are open!
Millie turned to look up the stairs and could feel the cold wind blowing in her face, but her eyes could see nothing.  Everything was still pitch black.  Then, she thought she heard something.  With every fiber of her body, she listened, and suddenly, a board in the landing at the top of the stairs creaked.  That board had creaked as long as Millie could remember.  It always creaked when someone stepped on it.
Millie slowly backed away from the stairs, and as she did, from the top landing, a deep, growling voice whispered, “Millie!”