Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Christmas Story in March

My new blog plan is to post at least a couple of times a month.  Some of these posts may be just an excerpt from a short story or they could include some comments from me; not sure what will be available on a bi-weekly basis.  The first short story will be serialized in this blog over four posts.  This story from my childhood will be about a different time and to a large extent about a different place--it is also a little out of season--A Christmas Tradition.

Hope you enjoy!

A Christmas Tradition
Part One of Four

Christmas morning in 1954 was a joyous mixture of giving and receiving along with a little gift score tallying.  My family lived in a modest, I would guess about eight hundred square foot, two-bedroom house.  It was just like all of the other houses on our street, East Northrup Drive in Midwest City, Oklahoma.    The first streets in the new town were named after generals, local VIP’s, airplane companies and other references which somehow linked with the massive air force base just to the south of the small but expanding city.  Most residents had some direct connection with Tinker Field.  Usually one family member worked there.  These were largely lower income families who had the greatest of expectations for their future and the future of the country.  Optimism was the norm.  There was a sense of oneness that was no doubt based on a rather homogeneous look of the residents.  It was a predominantly white Christian population with a strong influence of puritan attitudes, and old-time Oklahoma farmer resilience.  Bigotry existed but was kept under the surface, but not far under.  Luxury wasn’t normal and more often than not was measured by an abundance of food.  Authority was respected and schools were honored.  School Christmas plays with a manger and wise men were traditional and well attended.  Almost all people went to church on Sundays, whether they believed or not.

For most, Christmas morning meant gifts, often many, many gifts.  The feeling of great optimism about the future gave people the courage to over-spend, even though their depression era parents wouldn’t have approved.  Within this bubble of innocence and joy there was the score keeping.  Which kid on the block, often extending a couple of streets over, got the most and the best gifts.  A rating system of sorts had developed.  Electric train sets were a ten, apples and oranges a definite one; and of course the dreaded grandmother bag of nuts, a zero.  A system devised by little boys, girls weren’t involved.

My particular competitors were Donny, Ernie, Bill, Bobby and Johnny.  Sometimes some other kids were involved but this was the core group.  Bill was always the hard one to figure.  In a fortunate or unfortunate occurrence, Bill was born on December 24th.  His birthday and the birthday of Jesus were almost the same.  His parents claimed he still received the same number of birthday gifts as any kid born in August, but of course, Bill knew that wasn’t true.  They would separate them and mark some birthday and some Christmas, but Bill suspected his mother just divided ‘em in half without much thought.  So how to keep score.  It was decided after lengthy discussion that Bill could decide which were birthday and which were Christmas, not his mother.  Everyone trusted Bill.  He was the fat kid in our group, although he wasn’t really all that fat, which somehow to the poorly developed brains of little boys made him a truth teller.  Everyone trusted Bill to make a fair division of the gifts.  Plus, Bill had a little brother named Timmy, who everyone hated.  There was great sympathy for the burdens Bill had to endure.

Everyone else was fairly easy to calculate with some discussion and negotiating, but mostly there was agreement as to value.  The other exception was Ernie.  Ernie lived several blocks off of the street everyone else lived on.  It was perceived that Ernie’s parents were poor.  Mostly Ernie got hand-me-down clothes, new socks, new underwear and candy.  In kid terms not much value depending on the candy; but because kids have an innate sense of fairness the rating system allowed some higher points for things like gloves and hats.  So, if Ernie struck a glove-hat goldmine, he could still win.  Ernie was a genius.  All the other students knew it and, of course, the teachers knew it.  Since he was so smart, he wasn’t allowed to decide much, because he had an unfair advantage.  This was the beginning of a formal society structure in which the smart kids stood by and watch the dumb kids mess things up.

My job was clear.  I gathered the facts.  This was due to my parent’s lenient attitude about me leaving the house and visiting my friends on Christmas Day.  Both my mom and dad worked, not the typical family at the time.  My dad worked two jobs, one at Tinker and one at a local shoe store.  Christmas was a day off for them, and they didn’t have many of those.  In addition to their desire for peace and quiet, was the fact that the neighborhood was absolutely safe.  Kids were out and about all of the time, without supervision.  Parents would have thought it odd to “watch” their kids play. 

Next Week: Part Two

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Unless you lived in Oklahoma City in the 1960s this story may not be familiar to you; but much of the circumstances described in this book are true.  The newspaper war that is at the center of Tommy Jacks world was actually happening.  One of the main characters, Taylor Albright; was based on a real person.  He was someone I knew and spent a lot of time discussing all of the important matters of the day.  I owned a printing business where he printed his gossip tabloid.  Never got paid for any of that, but it's long past now.  This, of course, is a book of fiction; although based on some truths.

If you have not yet read this book, you should.  Buy it Now!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Free e-books on Amazon

One of the marketing tools used by myself and other indie authors is limited time free e-book promotions.  These free book days are then promoted on book promotion web sites and generate a lot of new readers. Beginning with my April newsletter I will start publishing these dates in advance for that month.  This will give you an opportunity to get one of my books maybe you have not read FREE! Or if you wanted to recommend one of my books you could pass along the date for the free book to a friend.  Obviously giving away books does not make me anything, but it is a way for me to build a following of readers--and hopefully get some good reviews; which does help me sell more books.

If you have not signed up for my email list on the web site you can do that here.

Upcoming free e-book promotions on Amazon.

March 13        Sky High Stakes
March 23        Dog Gone Lies
March 24        Murder So Strange (Latest release)
March 30        The Bootlegger's Legacy
March 31        Murder So Strange

Remember sign up for the monthly newsletter to get the free dates for April.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

2018 -- Big Year!

2018 is shaping up to be my biggest year yet.  In the next week or so the 2nd Muckraker Series book will be released: Murder So Strange.  Lots of intrigue; and twists and turns in this one.

Also this year the following books will be published:

  • Santa Fe Mojo.  This is the first in the Vincent Malone Mystery series.  This is a throw back to the hard-drinking tough guy PI of yesteryear, but the story is a current day story about that aging investigator and his search for a little calm at the end of his days.  This first book introduces the Blue Door Inn in Santa Fe where Malone has taken a dead-end job as a van driver.  Soon there is a murdered famous sports agent and the suspects are his guests at the Inn who are his professional sports clients.  Lots of fun for me, hope you enjoy this new series.
  • Murder On Account.  This is the third book in the Muckraker Series featuring Tommy Jacks as an enterprising reporter in the 1960's political world of Oklahoma.  This story focuses on the U.S. Senate race with three very interesting candidates.  Tommy Jacks is in the middle of all of the action.
  • Blue Flower Red Thorns.  Second book in the Malone series.  He is still in Santa Fe and finds himself involved with the marijuana business in Durango, Colorado helping the son of two of his co-workers at the Inn.  Also he is trying to solve the disappearance of a newly famous Dutch contemporary artist who is the featured artist at a major art show in a famous Santa Fe art gallery.  Soon death and murder rear their ugly heads.
Definitely has been a busy time for me.  All of these books are in some stage of editing and production except for Blue Flower Red Thorns which I'm currently writing.  Thanks for your support as readers.  If you have not already, it is a great benefit to me to have you review my books on amazon.  Reviews drive sales which is how I survive to write more books.  I would like to say only good reviews but actually your thoughts about the books are welcome even if not five stars (just not as much).

Sunday, February 4, 2018

New Cover and New Book

While looking at options for the cover of book 2 in the Muckraker Series: Murder So Strange it was decided that the cover for Murder So Wrong needed to change to match up with the new series look.  So it was changed--may be up on Amazon already, if not now, in a couple of days.

Murder So Strange should be available before March 1st on Amazon.  Hope you are enjoying this new series with co-author Stan Nelson.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Indie Author

Was asked the other day what it meant to be an indie author.  Mostly what it means is that you have little structured support for the process of writing books and also the marketing of those books.  You are on your own.  Okay not completely.  I have help with editing, cover design, formatting and some distribution aspects from two great people Saul Bottcher and Nas Hedron.  Maybe it just seems like you are alone on most days.

It was great writing the Muckraker series with Stanley Nelson in that there was someone else involved who could provide a different perspective.  His input was an important element in the authenticity of the story line regarding journalism. Although when in doubt, I just make things up--it is fiction.

The real challenge for an indie author is promotion/marketing.  I would guess that this is not the strength of most indie authors.  You write your book, deal with all of the details of having a finished book, get it on-line and nothing-- now what?  Especially if it is your first book, unless you have done a great deal of prepublication marketing (costing lots of money, which most indie authors do not have), nothing happens. No sales, no reviews --nothing.  I have no idea how many one-book authors there are on Amazon but I would guess a lot.  It is very discouraging to have written a good book and no one reads it, because it is lost in the forest of on-line books for sale.  So many of those authors I'm sure just give up.

I've been fortunate to have found a loyal following for my books.  Winning some awards and having good reviews have helped me generate a base of readers.  Reviews are a big part of finding new readers.  I really appreciate everyone who has reviewed my books--of course, there are exceptions.  Occasionally I will get a less than stellar review.  Ouch!  But mostly they are good.  Reviews are a real key to selling books.  And it is selling books that allows writers to write.

Keep reading!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Tommy Jacks My View Columns

One of the unique features in the Muckraker series is the newspaper columns written by Tommy Jacks; usually appearing after each chapter.  Tommy Jacks is the main character in the Muckraker series.  He is a recent graduate with a journalism degree.  He lands his first job with a struggling, relatively new daily newspaper; the OK Journal and through an unusual set of circumstances is asked to write an opinion column focused on politics.  He soon takes over the name My View for his columns at the request of the publisher, that name has a lot of history attached to it and presents new challenges for Tommy.

The columns often continue the story line from the primary text but sometimes they veer off and cover national news occurring in this time period; the 1960s, or delve deeper into the weeds of local political happenings.

The columns also give Tommy a platform to hammer at the lack of movement by the authorities regarding unsolved murders that have occurred within his world.  And of course an opportunity to land a few well deserved punches to some of the more unworthy political operatives walking the halls of the capitol.  After all he is a muckraker.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Muckraker Series Update

A little behind the scenes news.  The second book Murder So Strange is in stage two of editing with an anticipated publication date of March or April of 2018.  And the third book in this series Murder On Account has just been completed.  This is a first draft and there is still a long path to a completed book.

I hope you have enjoyed Murder So Wrong and will continue reading this series.  We appreciate your input via email or reviews on Amazon or Goodreads.

Some readers have asked me why the e-books only appear on Amazon.  This is due to marketing programs that are offered by Amazon in exchange for exclusive rights.  I know that has annoyed some, but it has made sense regarding our limited marketing budgets.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Murder So Wrong

The e-book of Murder So Wrong is now available on Amazon.  Paperback should be available next week.  The wheels keep turning toward something, maybe a surprise ending.  Book 2: Murder So Strange is in the works and should be fully baked in a few months.  Thanks for being a reader.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New Book--Available Real Soon

Murder So Wrong will be available on Amazon very soon. 

Exactly when, still don't know, but days not weeks.  If you would like to receive an email when the date is fixed go to my web page and sign-up.  Also as a bonus for signing up you will be directed to a listing and description of places in New Mexico featured in Sky High Stakes--A Pacheco and Chino Mystery.

Most fiction is of course just that--made up.  But much about what an author writes is based on some connection with reality; in my case the stories I write all take place in locations where I have lived or spent time.  Sky High Stakes takes place in Ruidoso, New Mexico.  A place I spent a lot of time.  It is an odd mixture of different cultures and people, which I think gives it a unique dynamic and always enjoyed my time spent there.  As such it was easy to write about and I thought provided an interesting background to the story.

If you are one of the first readers of the new book Murder So Wrong remember it is a great benefit for myself and Stanley Nelson if you could take a little time and write a review on Amazon.  Reviews help other readers and unless it's a real stinker it helps the authors.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Pacheco and Chino #3

I've recently had some questions about what had happened to Four Corners War.  The easy answer is I got side tracked.  Some of that was personal.  I think I've written before about writing and life sometimes being in conflict.  For a period of time I seemed to lose the ability to write while dealing with other life issues.

After that spell of inactivity I began a new project; Muckraker Mystery's.  This is a series of co-authored books with Stanley Nelson.  The first book Murder So Wrong will be released around November 1st.  There are two other books scheduled in this series at this time.

Once the third Muckraker book is finished I will go back to finish Four Corners War.  That probably puts that books release in late 2018.  That's a big difference to the originally announced completion of late 2016.  It embarrasses me, but it is what it is.  Maybe the lesson here is not to announce a publication date until the book is completed.

I appreciate the inquires people have made about the book and the fact that they want to read it.  Ray Pacheco and Tyee Chino are great characters and I do enjoy telling their stories and I'm pleased people enjoy reading them.