Friday, May 31, 2013

Snippets of People

     When I do a book signing, I meet and talk with so many interesting people.  Last Saturday, at the Barnes & Noble in St. George, Utah, a man bought a copy of PITCH GREEN and had me personalize it to his Dad with a Happy Father's Day wish.  His Dad likes thrillers and an author signed copy seemed like a special gift.
     Another couple I chatted with bought a book and had me dedicate it to a local elementary school. The wife was librarian there. 
     "School is out," she said, "so I'll have plenty of time this summer to read the book before I put it on the shelf." 
     Her husband smiled. "After we've both read it."
     Since I live in the area, she took my business card.  Next fall, she'd like me to come visit with the kids about writing a book.  I'm pretty excited about that opportunity!
     I had a taste of what fun that would be when 3 young men dressed all in black stopped by the table.  One of them asked a lot of questions, not just about PITCH GREEN, but about the writing process and how you get published.  A sharp fellow.  As they left, I wondered if I might be stopping by his book signing table one day.
     But two visitors that day were total surprises and totally welcome!  I was sitting at the table and saw my wife visiting with two ladies who had their backs to me.  One of them looked vaguely familiar.  Then she turned around.  It was Mary--my niece!
     I had to blink several times before I could process who I was seeing.  My wife and Mary laughed at the look on my face.  Mary was in St. George on a "girls weekend" with a friend, enjoying a break from the demands of busy families.  She had heard about the signing at the last minute and decided to just surprise me.  She did.  For a moment I wasn't sure I was in the right universe.  How fun to see her.

Once I recovered from that surprise, a fine looking young father approached with his family.  I saw my wife give him a hug and wondered who she was so friendly with!  He looked familiar.  He started to speak and I knew immediately.  Michael Foley.  Our children grew up with him in Michigan.  My wife taught him several years at a 6 am class held before high school. Mike was always cheerful and ready with a joke that early in the morning.  And now he is a radio DJ, hosting the morning show.  Perfect for him.  And look at those cute kids!
     A short slice of time is all I have to meet each person.  As they walk away with a signed book, I think, "Sure would like to know what they think of it."  And, if a young man has decided to start writing his own book.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

It flows in the veins!

           I received an email from my daughter with a copy of a scary story written by my 7 (almost 8) year old grandson, Scott.  I could not be more proud.  So, without further ado, I am pleased to initiate the writing career of Scott Wessel:

            Once upon a time I was sitting next to a fire and I heard a noise.  I asked my dad.  He didn’t know.  I wasn’t scared.  I went to investigate.  I saw two red eyes.  I got a little scared.  But I was brave.  I saw a ghost.  It was scary.  It wanted to scare the people.  But before it did I scared it!  The End. 

            Watch out Stephen King!  Here is the original version:


            And here is Scott, (he is also a soccer star):


            It is so fun being a grandparent.  I just wish you didn’t have to wait so long to get there.


Monday, May 20, 2013

When it is SCARY!

      The following is a guest blog we did for the site, by the intrepid blogger KATRINA.  Her blog is very original and entertaining.  Check it out.
            Why are we afraid of the dark?  (A question purportedly answered by the movie The Sixth Sense.)  Why are some people afraid of clowns (something I never understood), or worse, of nuns? (which I understand even less--it seems to me that nuns have more cause to be afraid of the rest of us, than we do of them.)
            Why are we afraid?  I don’t mean, why do we have phobias.  We all have phobias.  I have “vexophobia”, the fear of being annoyed by other people.  (Okay, okay, I just now made that up.  Back off already!)  I mean something deeper; something way down inside of our dark, hidden selves.  What is it down there that reaches up, grabs us by the throat and tells us when to be scared?  Why are we afraid?
            As a writer of scary stories this question is something more than metaphysical to me.  It is, in fact, not only practical, but a means to earning an income.  So, as you may imagine, this is something I have thought about extensively.  Shoving all the psychology aside, I think that fear is determined by our perception.  It all comes down to when we look out our little window-eyes, what do we perceive is out there, and more importantly, how do we perceive what is out there.  Depending on how our minds perceive what our little window-eyes see, I believe, determines if we are to be afraid or not.
            As I frequently do when I blog, I’ve reached a point where I have mentally painted myself into a corner.  Oh, I can get out of the corner, but can I do it without leaving red footprints all over the place?  (For some reason, when I paint myself into a corner I always do it in red paint).  I will try to get out of this corner by giving you an example:
            “I cut my victims down one by one; slicing their life away as I dismembered their limbs.  They did not go willingly.  As I attacked them with a large, serrated blade each would groan in protest.  They scratched at my face and hands in futile defense, clawing and tearing my flesh.  It did them no good.  After cutting them down, they screamed as I eviscerated their remains.  They could not stop the inevitable.  With heartless determination I finished the job, and then carefully cleaned up the mess so there would be no evidence of their remains left behind.”
            The above statement is all true, and took place just a couple of weekends ago.  I am describing a Saturday morning’s work trimming a number of trees, and pushing the cut limbs through a wood chipper.  Remember Fargo?
            It wasn’t really that scary, unless you were the tree.  Perception.

Friday, May 10, 2013


            Mother’s Day is coming, and it has got me thinking about what I should get my wife as a gift.  I have been buying her gifts for 33 years now; you would think that I was better at it.  I’m not.
            The thing my wife would like the most is to spend time with her grandchildren, but that is not going to happen this year.  At least not on Mother’s Day.  They all live too far away.  She would also, I know, like me to write her a long romantic note stating how much I love her and (she would never admit this part) how wonderful she is.  In fact, she is wonderful.  I’m just not very good at writing the long romantic notes.  Which is weird because, after all, I am a writer.
            I am more of a “say it with flowers” kind of guy.  Which is another way of saying that I am kind of lazy.  You know what would be better than saying it (whatever “it” is) with flowers, would be to say it with chocolate.  Admittedly, to fairly say how much I love my wife and how wonderful she is would take a hell of a lot of chocolate.  But that just makes it that much better of an idea.
            We should all carry chocolate on our persons all the time, because there are so many things we could say every day with chocolate.  For example, if someone should hold a door open, we could say, “Thank you, have a piece of chocolate,” and then hand that person a piece of chocolate.
            Here are some other ideas of when to say “it” with chocolate:
            Your kid scores a goal in her soccer game, “Way to go!  Have a piece of chocolate.”
            A friend’s cat dies, “I’m sorry.  Have a piece of chocolate.”
            Neighbor’s kid gets an A in school, “Great job!  Have a piece of chocolate.”
            Neighbor’s kid gets a D in school, “Too bad.  Have a piece of chocolate.”
            A first date goes very well, “That was fun, I’m calling you again for sure.  Have a piece of chocolate.”
            First date goes poorly, “I am never calling you again, but, hey, have a piece of chocolate.”
            Oh, what else?  There are so many.  Let’s see.  “You look nice today, have a piece of chocolate.”
            “Bad hair day?  Here, have a piece of chocolate.”
            “You didn’t win the lottery? Again?  Well, have a piece of chocolate.”
            “Your car keeps breaking down?  Buck up, have a piece of chocolate.”
            “You bought a new car?  Congratulations, have a piece of chocolate!”
            It even works in reverse.  “Really, officer, you are giving me a ticket for going 5 mph over the speed limit?  See that bag of chocolate on the seat next to me?  You get none!”
            And it doesn’t always have to be just a piece of chocolate.  The chocolate could be representative of the feeling it is portraying.  For example:
            “Your wife just had twins?  Here are five dozen chocolate chip cookies.”  (You see, that is both congratulations and condolences.)  Or;
            “I hear you are being audited by the IRS.  Here, take this seven layer, double chocolate, chocolate chip cake with fudge icing.”  Almost makes it worth it.  Almost.
            I feel I may owe an explanation as to why this works to well so that those people who don’t like chocolate can understand, (I know who you are and where both of you live, too).  But, if you don’t get it, you are just not going to get it.  Kind of like the guy who asked how much the Lamborghini cost.  If you have to ask . . . .
            If the social/emotional value of chocolate is not intuitive to you, then, well, I feel sorry for you.  It is one of those right brain things.  You just understand that saying things with chocolate makes the world a better place.
            Once you understand, there is virtually nothing you can’t say, and say well, with chocolate. (I’m allowed to use double negatives because I used to be an attorney.) I guess my wife knows what she is getting for Mother’s Day.  And yes, I will write her a note too.
            By the way, Father’s Day is just a month after Mother’s day.  I prefer Ghirardelli or See’s chocolate.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


CC Robbie Grubbs
          Slowly I pushed the door open, straining to see into the bedroom without actually stepping in.  The door opened all the way against the sliding closet doors behind it, and I could see that both closet doors were closed, so I knew there was nothing immediately behind the door I was pushing, but I had no idea what might be waiting for me in the closet.  The hallway lights were off, but there was still enough light behind me that my form cast a long pillar across the room and onto the far wall.  Nervously, I crouched to minimize my dark shadow, knowing there were hidden eyes watching me, waiting for my next move.
           Reaching carefully around the corner into the room, I flipped the light switch hoping a light might come on, but nothing happened.  Though it was hopeless, I flipped the switch a couple more times, thinking it might elicit a response from someone in the room–still nothing.  Except for a lamp stuffed into a far corner of the room and covered with a white sheet, the room was dark and mostly hidden in black shadows–nothing moved,  except when my imagination was playing tricks on me.  A blanket hung across the outside windows, blocking all light from the outside, and another blanket had been tied so that it hung from the non-working ceiling light across to one end of the window blind–it completely hid one corner of the room.
         This was a new configuration.  I had no way of knowing what to expect.  Getting down on my hands and knees, I tried to see under the beds, but the blankets on both beds had been pulled all the way down to the floor, hiding anything that might be underneath.  Holding my breath, I listened for any noise–breathing, rustling, any sound that might betray a stalker lying in wait, but I heard nothing, except my own heart beating.  The first move had to be mine, so I stood and leaned further into the room.  There were deep piles of blankets and pillows on the bed to my right.  I decided not to go that way–who knew what was under those piles.
          Sliding into the room with my back against the closet door, I kept one hand on its handle, so I would know if anyone tried to open it from the inside.  I stepped quickly past the closet and into the middle of the wall on the other side, keeping my back to that wall, facing out into the room, always watching for any movement and listening for any noise.  I was now close enough to the second bed that with a couple quick steps, I could hop up on top of it.  It had no blankets or pillows on it that might be hiding something–it looked safe.  As I stepped forward, getting close enough to hop up on the bed, a hand suddenly shot out from under the bed, grabbing my ankle.  I yelped in surprise.  They had me and I hadn’t even seen it coming.
          In a sudden rush of relief, the tension was released, and I was safe once more.  Of course, I had never really been in danger–it had just felt that way.  And that was the fun of our home made haunted house, or in this case, haunted bedroom.
           This was a game invented by our cousins, Sandra and Steven.  Fraternal twins and a year older than me, Sandra and Steven were naturals at inventing new games.  They didn’t come to our house often, but when they did, there was always something new and interesting going on, and it was usually scary.  As the evening wore on and it started to get dark, when our cousins were visiting, someone would always say, “Let’s make a haunted house.”  Because the grownups didn’t want us ransacking the entire house, it was really just “a haunted room,” but that was all we needed to create some serious haunting.
          The rules of the game were very simple.  One of the kids was sent away to wait in the front room while all the other kids turned a back room (usually a bedroom) into a haunted house.  When someone in the haunted house yelled, “Ready,” the designated victim would try to find all the monsters hidden around the room before one of them could grab the victim by surprise.  Because there were so many monsters, and only one victim, the victim always lost, but everyone enjoyed the mystery and suspense of being the victim.  It was a challenge trying to anticipate where all the monsters would be hidden.  Sometimes a monster would be left out in plain sight just to distract the victim from another monster hidden nearby.
          At the same time, we all enjoyed being monsters too.  It took a lot of creativity to not just do the same thing every time–there was no mystery or suspense in doing the same thing over and over.  In addition, a good haunted house required more than just mystery and suspense.  In order to be really scary, a good haunted house, or for that matter, a good horror story needs one or both of the following:  (1) a dangerous threat from an unknown source of inhuman power, and/or (2) a warping or distortion of something that is normally familiar and friendly.
          The victim in a haunted house (or the reader of a horror story) must feel a personal threat either to him or herself directly or to a significant other (like the story’s main character, who the victim personally cares about).  The more significant the threat, then the scarier the threat, with life and death threats being among the scariest.  A good horror story first creates a bond between the reader and the character at risk, so the threatening unknown power will hang heavy over the reader as it hangs heavy over the character in the story.  However, a constant stream of excessive blood and gore is not scary, and in fact will drive the reader out of the story in disgust, leaving the reader reluctant to come back again to that particular story or to any others like it.
           In addition to simply killing off other characters in the story, another way to make the unknown power threatening, or to increase a sense of the threat, is to create a sense of revulsion through the warping or distortion of the familiar.  Few things are more fascinating, and at the same time more scary, as something familiar, even mundane, that has been horribly warped or distorted to the point that it has become painfully ugly.  Even without feeling a direct personal threat to oneself or a significant other, an encounter with a painfully ugly distortion of the familiar can elicit gut wrenching feelings of revulsion and fear.  This has been done successfully with clowns, birds and even mothers.
          Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was learning some interesting lessons in the hunted house game.  A really good haunting or horror experience requires some personal skin in the game (either your own or a significant other’s), while at the same time dealing with a life threatening risk from an unknown source of inhuman power that is presenting itself as a painfully ugly distortion of something that is normally familiar and friendly.  A subtle presentation of these elements will beat a stream of blood and gore every time, and will keep your readers (victims) coming back again and again.  Though you will need to be creative to build the mystery and suspense anew in each new story, your readers will love you for it.

Good haunting!  Good horror!

This Guest Post was written by Berk for Pitch Green's Blog Tour.  Find the original post on  Teri Harman's blog


Saturday, May 4, 2013


Saturday, April 20th was an important day for Andy and I.   We celebrated the book launch of PITCH GREEN at the Barnes & Nobel in Thornton, Colorado.  Many friends came to celebrate with us.

I had farther to drive to the event than Andy.  He lives about 5 miles from that Barnes & Noble.  My wife and I drove 625 miles the day before, back across the Rocky Mountains to get there--a journey we had made in the opposite direction just 3 weeks before as we moved from Colorado to St. George, Utah.  We were excited for the book launch, but also for the chance to see some of the many friends we had left behind in Colorado.

I had slightly more experience with book launches than Andy--I had attended one (1).  We weren't sure exactly what we should be doing, but guessed the most important criteria was to have fun.  And we did!

Rather belatedly, we realized we should be taking pictures.  Here are a few:

Can you tell we are enjoying ourselves! Our youngest supporter is Jens--6 months old



 Friends from my critique group came to celebrate with me.  Thanks to Olivia (Zuzanna's daughter), Zuzanna, Greg, and Barb.         

                 Shirley and Dave.

 Ron Smith

Carolyn and Barbara
  Good Friends Reunited.

At one point we congregated in a cozy corner of the store, where Andy read an excerpt from PITCH GREEN and we both answered questions about our writing process and the book.

This is just a small portion of the many who came.  (We wish we had more pictures.  If anyone has any to share, please let us know)  We were busy from 1pm to 4 pm, greeting friends and signing books.  Some who were walking by joined in the fun.  One young man, about 10 years old, whose mother bought him a book, kept her waiting while he asked the authors questions about where the idea for the book came from and how they wrote it together.  Very sharp guy!
A great time. Wonderful friends.

And at the end, every copy of PITCH GREEN had found a new home.

Thanks to all!