Final Project Part 2 – Inner Demons

So, here is the second thing I am going to share. During week 2 of this class we had to outline and describe our “bucket list” book. The book we have always wanted to write. I knew immediately what I wanted to use for this, but… it is such an undertaking and will require a decent amount of research asI want to do it right. I want to do it justice because it is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. It is a story largely about rape. No, it doesn’t go on and on providing the details of women being raped, but rather, the damage that is caused by a single incident and how that lives with the victim long after the event. When I started writing the paper outlining this “bucket list” book, I didn’t know I would be starting the book with my final paper. My idea is actually a Sixth Sense type of story where the reader is dumbfounded at the end. I don’t know if I can accomplish that, but this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Too many women in my life have been sexual assaulted/abused/raped. Not enough attention is paid to it (#metoo wasn’t enough) and I wanted to write a story with that as a focus. I want the reader to feel what the protagonist is going through and why she is doing what she is doing. It IS justified and should be recognized. I feel like I am ruining the story that I will eventually put out so I am going to stop there. I know I am a man who could never understand the depth and reality of this topic. Believe me. I get it and I don’t. But that is why it is my “bucket list” book. I already have several volunteers who are willing to tell me their stories. This takes courage and I respect the hell out of them for a) stepping forward and for b) helping me tell their story through a little bit of fiction. I will do the research and I only hope I can do their stories justice.

Also, I should add, the start of our story had to have an emphasis on nature for the project. This will not be the start of the story as I already have a different idea in mind (and did before I wrote this) but given the parameters, my original beginning wouldn’t work within the realm of the assignment. So I improvised. This will probably be the start of Chapter 3 or so (and will be heavily revised). Also, don’t read into the names. These are not final (and are nowhere near the final). I pick a name when I start writing. That is all it is, a name. Usually, somewhere between 40-80% I end up having a conversation with the characters and they tell me their name. That is the way I work. I don’t outline. I get an idea, highlight a few points and fill in the rest as I write. I hope you don’t judge me for that. My placeholder names are usually generic and usually a little bit out there, just so it is easy to find (and also it forces me to find their true character).

Also… not professionally edited. Just a minor Grammarly edit. Don’t judge me on tense/grammar, etc. I did a couple passes, but in reality, I suck at all that :). Please let me know your thoughts.

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Raindrops pelted Maryanne’s face, driven by the fierce blowing wind as she looked into the deep ravine in search of her fugitive. Why do they always have to run? she wondered. It’s because he’s a rapist scumbag, that’s why. They always run. The rain made looking for the perp almost impossible. The slick, muddy ground didn’t help matters either. Movement caught her eye to the south, and she saw him following the path of a small creek nestled between the thick cover of aspen and pine trees.

“I’ve  got eyes on him. Heading south through the ravine,” she said into her walkie talkie.

“Roger. Patrol units are en-route.”

“And air support?”

“A bird is also en-route. We should have eyes on him in two minutes.”

Maryanne kept her visual on him from her higher vantage point under cover from the thick bows of an old cedar tree. Normally, she’d already be down in the bottom of the ravine hot on his tail. The mud made such an endeavor nearly impossible, and as such, she remained at the top of the hill, shielding her eyes with her hands so she wouldn’t have to squint and possibly lose him.

The whir of helicopter rotors entered her peripheral hearing, and she urged them to hurry before he disappeared in the forest, or down a culvert. She didn’t want this guy back on the street. A serial rapist of many women (of all ages and ethnicities), he’d been in and out of the system since he was fourteen. It seemed there was no woman (or girl) who was off-limits. He was probably abused himself at a young age, which is why he fell into this life. But that was no excuse.

He neared the edge of the ravine, and soon she was going to lose sight of him. “Where is that damn helicopter?” He slowed his progress to traverse a number of large boulders that blocked his path. From this distance, they looked like limestone.

Flashing red and blue lights lit up the base of the ravine and bounced off the walls of the cliffs, as well as the wet street below. Seven squad cars squealed their tires as they came to a screeching halt. The officers jumped out of their cars and drew their guns. They used their vehicles as a shield. She heard the deep mumbling voice of one of the officers who was issuing orders over his megaphone. Ricky stopped, and his head darted back and forth.

“No, you don’t, you son of a bitch. You’re not getting away from us today.” She grabbed her walkie. “Where is the helicopter? The suspect’s escape route has been sealed, but he’s looking for another way out. I need eyes in the sky.”

“Roger that,” came the response. “Bird should be there in fifteen seconds.”

An answer to her prayers, the helicopter flew over her head. It wasn’t dark yet, but given the weather conditions, there were so many shadows and it made finding Ricky next to impossible. The helicopter switched on its spotlight and bathed the damp ravine in bright light. They could see his every movement.

More orders were issued over the megaphone, and it looked like Ricky was out of options. But Ricky didn’t think so. Even from her distance, Maryanne could tell he was panicking and wasn’t about to give up. He had that trapped rat in a cage look about him. His head darted in all different directions while he looked for an escape. Maryanne knew he had very few options. She could see quite well from her little perch, even in the rain, and he literally was surrounded. If he turned around, she’d be on him in a second. He could hide in the trees, but there was no getting out of them. Cliffs bordered both sides of the ravine. The best he could hope for was to hide in the trees. But the helicopter had infrared and would be able to keep tabs on him until the officers moved in.

Speaking of which, several of the officers slowly closed on his position while the officer with the megaphone continued barking instructions. Ricky turned around for a second. She knew he realized he was trapped. While the officers moved closer, he reached behind his back with his right hand.

“No, no, no. Not like this. Please, God,” she said. She grabbed her walkie. “Do not shoot. He doesn’t have a weapon.”

More gruff orders and Ricky continued to reach for his back pocket.

Three bullets cracked through the air, and Ricky fell to the ground. Maryanne collapsed to her knees. This wasn’t the fitting end she had in store for Ricky. He needed to be punished, not killed.

[JH1]Blue highlights errors related to UCOL Guidelines, Turabian citation and reference list formatting, and/or professional standards expected by editors and agents.

 

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Poem: The Sound of Death

This week in school we had to write poetry. I’ve never been a big poet. It feels too short and I’m long-winded (haha, at least I own it). This week was tough. Not only because I was in the hospital, but also because there was a school shooting right down the street. I moved to Highlands Ranch with my family in 1991. I met my wife at Highlands Ranch High School. I graduated from Highlands Ranch High School. And while the shooting wasn’t at my High School, it was right down the street. My wife and I moved to Parker in 2004, but it’s still in the same county (Douglas County). My kids go to school in this county. My wife is a teacher in this county. It all hit too close to home and I’m not happy about it. I had to write three poems this week. Given my ER trip and the school shooting, they all were in the theme of death. I had an idea for my third poem and approached my son. I asked him what he was feeling about the shooting and we chatted for a few minutes. He is very lyrical (creates his own rap music) and I asked him if he’d collaborate with me. We sat down for a couple hours and created the below poem. I haven’t really edited it, but I wanted to share it. Please feel free to give us feedback.

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The Sound of Death

We all don’t want to cry for help,

But sometimes we fear for our health,

Try to run and protect ourselves,

Try to avoid the pain we felt.

 

It used to be we went to school

We learned, we had fun, we lived life,

Empty minds, we followed the rules,

Not knowing the impending strife,

The thought had never crossed our minds,

This moment, a cut in our time,

It has to change, now is the time,

What will you do, government minds?

 

We all don’t want to cry for help,

But sometimes we fear for our health,

Try to run and protect ourselves,

Try to avoid the pain we felt.

 

A normal day, sitting in class,

Listen to our teacher ramble,

Biggest thought was letting time pass,

Alarm sounds, nothing flammable,

So many sounds, screaming abound,

Bullets whiz by, fear for my life,

Loud crashes, bodies hit the ground,

Now I won’t live to ninety-five.

 

We all don’t want to cry for help,

But sometimes we fear for our health,

Try to run and protect ourselves,

Try to avoid the pain we felt.

 

I feared for myself, my friends gone,

A battle ensued, yet I stand,

I’m still stuck here, but they moved on,

Too many fell due to one man,

As I remain, I recollect,

They’re on the ground, their souls have left,

Another mind that’s left unchecked,

So many lives we all bereft.

 

We missed our chance to cry for help,

Without a thought for our own health,

We didn’t run, thought we had stealth,

As bullets fly, their sound is death.

Short Story: That Particular Sunday

Sharing another short story from school. The prompt was that particular Sunday and we could do it in any style.

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Sundays were a ritual for me: my day of solace. I’d wake at the crack of dawn and walk the trails through my neighborhood with no destination in mind. It’s the silence and being alone that kept me going. In my hectic life, these are the few hours I have to myself. Until last Sunday that is.

Long before dawn, I threw on my clothes, kissed my wife on her forehead, and walked outside. The air smelled fresh, like the previous night’s rain washed the Earth clean of its sins. The wind tickled the back of my neck and I wished I’d brought along a jacket. I could always return and grab one but knew I’d get hot before too long.

Luck was on my side this Sunday morning. There were usually a few other walkers out and about, but today I had the trail to myself. The sun wouldn’t make its appearance for another hour or so, but already it painted the edge of the horizon a light orange. I welcomed the sight.

In the dark calm of the early hour, I spotted a soft flashing light in the distance. It was peculiar. The flash hid behind the tall trees crowding the smooth pavement of the path. If I were a wise man, I would’ve turned back right then and there. But I’m not and I pressed on.

The flashing grew brighter and I noticed the light’s rhythmic pulse, mesmerizing, and I fell into a trance. Shaking my head to get my wits about me, I crept closer, making sure I stayed behind the trees. There was a large pasture normally filled with cows, but this morning, the thick grass hugged the edges of a ship. Several thin, humanoid shapes stood out against the flashing light. The ship wasn’t large but filled the emptiness of the pasture. The humanoids busily went about their tasks. A shiver traced the curve of my spine and my mouth dropped open. I was transfixed, unable to move.

For several minutes I stared, watching the creatures pack up, readying themselves to leave. One stopped and looked at me. I wanted to duck behind the trunk of the tree, but couldn’t. Its gaze penetrated my soul and I froze. It stared at me for over a minute before nodding its head and flourishing its hand. It climbed the ramp and disappeared inside.

In a manner of moments, the ship lifted off and disappeared in a blur across the sky. In a haze, I returned home. I haven’t been right since. I’m hearing voices and always feel like someone is following me. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think I was crazy. But that can’t be. I know what I saw. It’s burned into my memory. Or is it? Each day that passes, the details grow murky. I can’t bring myself to walk the trails on Sunday mornings, and my sanity is slipping further away because of it.

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And don’t forget to visit my webpage to find out more about my books and other writing projects.

Short Story: The Long Deceit

I have mentioned it before, but I am currently working on my MA in Professional Fiction Writing.  It’s been a long couple months (with a year and a half to go) but I wanted to share the short story I wrote for one of my classes that recently ended. I would appreciate any feedback.

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Tom climbed the stairs from his basement—as he had many times before—without a care. It was well past midnight and he had an early conference call. The stairs creaked beneath his feet, alerting his dogs who came running from the second floor. He hoped they hadn’t awakened his wife, Jessica.

When he walked into the family room, he startled. The lamp was on. She never left any lights on. He let the thought go and walked toward the kitchen. Although he was ready for bed, he always made sure he put his cups and dishes in the dishwasher. It wasn’t Jessica’s job to clean up after him. In the little light offered by the small lamp in the other room, he clearly made out the three Skoal cans on the kitchen counter.

Shit! Did I leave those out earlier? That thought wasn’t plausible. Jessica would’ve noticed them. But that meant she put them there and surely there’d be an argument. I’ll just ignore the cans—and this whole situation—until tomorrow. It’ll be best that way.

He put the glass in the dishwasher quietly—still concerned he’d wake his sleeping wife—and turned. Jessica was sitting in the family room chair, glaring in his direction. His heart beat intensely, and sweat beaded on his forehead. How am I going to get out of this?

“What are you doing awake, honey?” He knew full well why she was awake.

“Do you want to tell me what those are?” She pointed at the counter.

“What? What are you pointing at?”

She rolled her eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Are you a child? Am I talking to our eight-year-old right now?”

He walked around the counter and acted like he was searching. “Oh, these. I don’t understand. Where did you find them?”

“Do you ever tell the truth? I don’t understand why you keep doing this to me.” Her voice caught in her throat. Tears welled in the corners of her eyes and she turned away.

“They have to be old… before I quit.”

She spun around and anger flashed across her face as she stormed across the room, unconcerned with how much noise she was making. She grabbed the three cans and showed Tom the first one. “Really? Old? Look at this. The seal isn’t even broken. It’s not old; it’s BRAND NEW!” She threw it at him.

“Whoa, calm down. I know you’re upset, but you’re going to wake the kids. I still don’t understand where you found these.”

“You… are… unbelievable. You think you can turn this around on me?” She jammed her finger into his chest. “I don’t even care about the chew. I’ve told you that before. Whatever you want to do you can do. For some reason, you had to make a big deal about quitting, and then you lied to me about it. Why?”

“I’m not lying to you. With the exception of tonight, I never said I don’t chew.”

“Are you kidding me? You think you’re going to get out of this on a technicality? I… I can’t even begin to tell you how upset…” She turned her back and her voice trailed off.

“I can tell you’re angry, but it’s after midnight. The kids need to sleep.”

“THEY AREN’T HERE!” She pulled at her hair.

He jumped back, shocked by her scream. After a moment, he said, “They’re not here? Where are they?”

She slowly turned and faced him, wiping the tears away from her eyes. “I was trying to hang the picture I painted the other day. I needed a hammer.” Realization filled his eyes, and she noticed. “That’s right. When I went to get the hammer I found your secret stash. I knew if you were lying to me about this, there had to be more. This fight was inevitable and I didn’t want them around. I took them to my parents’ house a couple of hours ago.”

‘You don’t get to make those decisions.”

“Oh… I believe I do. You lost that right the second you started lying to me again.”

“I haven’t been lying. Maybe I was hiding something…”

She interrupted him. “It’s deceitful—which given our track record—is the same as lying.”

“It’s not.”

“Do you think I’m your parents or something? Like you’re some six-year-old with his hand caught in the cookie jar? You can’t talk your way out of this, so stop trying.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“It means your children are more honest than you’ve ever been with me. I don’t feel like I know you anymore. You were once my knight in shining armor. Now, you’re like a roommate. I have a better rapport with our dogs than I do with you.”

“That’s ridiculous. So I lied about my little habit. I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.”

“I wish I could believe you, but I can’t. I’m not staying here tonight. I’m going to my parents’ house.”

Tom ran forward and put his hand on her shoulder. She shrugged away. “Please don’t go. We’ve hit rough patches before. We’ve always gotten through them by talking it out. Surely we can do the same thing now.”

She turned around—her eyes red and puffy—and stared at him. “You want to talk. Fine! Let’s hash this out. What else are you lying about?”

Tom’s eyes drifted toward the ground. “Nothing.”

“I don’t believe you. Did you open any more credit card accounts? Do we have new personal loans I need to know about? You’re gambling again. That has to be it, right? Any more fake checking account registers you want to show me? Is bankruptcy right around the corner? Come on. You wanted to talk so let’s talk.” Between each question she paused, waiting for him to respond.

“I told you I’d never do any of those things again.”

“You told me you’d never do this again either, which I DON’T EVEN CARE ABOUT. Yet, you had the nerve to lie to me about it. Oh, I’m sorry.” She waved her hands in the air. “You weren’t lying; you were just hiding it from me. So let me rephrase. Tom, what else are you hiding from me?”

“Nothing!”

“That’s it? That’s all you have to say to me. I rail on you, and your only response is ‘nothing’? I’m glad we’re talking; glad we’re working this out.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Oh, I know just how sorry you are. You’re sorry you got caught; that’s what it boils down to. I know there’s more going on in that head of yours, but you continue to feel the need to leave me out. I never know what you’re feeling. You keep everything hidden and I can’t take it anymore.” She walked around the corner and came back pulling her suitcase. “I’m leaving until you can grow up. I’ve seen you with our kids. You’re a great father. There’s nothing you wouldn’t do for them. You love them so much and I see it every day. I can never take that away from you. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you lie to them. I hate that I have to worry about it. But I do, every day. Do you know what that does to a person?”

He wanted to respond, but she didn’t give him a chance.

“You don’t. Because you don’t ever worry about that. I love you so much—you were there for me when I thought no one could be. You were my rock, and I thank you every day for it. But as a husband, you’re an asshole.” Tears ran from her eyes down her cheek. “My only wish is that you loved me as much as you love them.”

“But I do love you, with all my heart. You’re all that’s important in my life.”

“No.” She shook her head. “You don’t. If you did, you’d stop doing this to me. Deep down, I still love you—which is something I hate myself for—but right now, I despise you.”

She turned and walked away. Tom wanted to go after her, but something told him to stop. He heard the car start up and he walked to the garage where he watched her pull out of the driveway. When the lights disappeared up the street, he turned and punched his toolbox. He knew he’d feel it in the morning, but right now he didn’t care.

He walked back into the house, shaking his fist. It was dark… dark and silent. There was none of his wife’s normal laughter. There was none of his childrens’ laughter. He didn’t care for it.

His home was built on a tumultuous relationship. She was emotional. He was not. They were the yin and yang needed to live a balanced relationship. It was okay if she had a history. He didn’t and was always there to pick up the pieces. But a relationship doesn’t work when both sides don’t communicate. Did Tom not have issues of his own|? Of course, he did. The problem was, he never let her pick up the pieces. He was so closed off and emotionally detached, he never let her in. He never let her be there for him. She resented him for it.

Something she’d said struck a chord with him and he had to think about it for a moment. He never did lie to his kids. Why was that? Because they’re innocent in all this and I have to raise them better. To be better than me. But is that more important than being honest with his wife? The one person he loves more than anything else on this planet? She deserved better, and he knew this. So why does he keep lying? Where did all of this start? He shook his head to clear it. There was one thing he needed right now.

He walked to the kitchen and reached into the cabinet where they stored the liquor. Their drink of choice had always been whiskey. He had a bottle—a bottle he should’ve never purchased since they had no money, and this particular bottle cost eighty dollars—hidden deep in the cabinet. Behind all their cheap vodka and gin was the Holy Grail. A bottle of eighteen-year-old Glen Garioch scotch. Hard to find—and in recent years very expensive—he’d bought it on a whim. She’d never know. At least, that’s what he thought at the time. He worked hard and deserved to spoil himself from time to time. She never felt this way, and he felt a little resentful just thinking about it. But of course, he’d never tell her.

Standing in the kitchen—only two lights lit in the entire house—he pulled off the lid and took a long sniff of the cork. The oak and spices apparent with even the smallest of breaths, it called to him. He tossed the cork aside and took a long drink from the bottle. He was all alone; what did he care?

No! He had let her down. For over 15 years he’d let her down. He should’ve let her in sooner, but it never seemed pertinent in the moment. As long as she was happy, he was happy. That was his mantra. It was what he lived by. Everyone jokes about happy wife, happy life. But isn’t there some truth in that statement? He walked a fine line every day, trying to make sure he kept that balance. And what did it get him?

He took another drink from the bottle, almost forgetting how expensive it was, and forgetting all about the rich flavors. What have I done? She was gone. She’d taken his children. She was upset—at her breaking point—and unwilling to work through the situation. Could he blame her? No… he couldn’t. Another drink. He put the bottle down and gazed about the room. If he couldn’t have his family, maybe life wasn’t worth living. He decided, maybe it wasn’t. He left the kitchen and made his way upstairs. Each step on the twenty-year-old stairs creaked beneath his feet. A constant reminder of “what are you doing?” And, “are you sure you want to do this?” He shrugged them off.

Buried deep in their closet was a safe. It was dusty and hadn’t been opened in awhile. He typed in the code and looked upon their most valuable possessions. He pulled out their passports and couldn’t help but open them up. The smiles haunted him. They were so happy once, before all of this happened. He couldn’t look at them and tossed them aside. Then he came upon his marriage license. What a special day. A pang filled his heart. It was literally the happiest day of his life. Watching her walk down the aisle. Why did you fuck it all up, then? He didn’t know and pushed the license gently to the side.

Under a stack of important papers, he found what he’d been searching for. The Heckler and Koch VP9. It was small and compact. It would do the job and he’d feel little remorse. Except he already did. He picked up the weapon—the metal smooth against his skin, like it belonged—and walked to their bed. They’d called this home for so long. He remembered when they brought Adam home. Such a small precious child. But he’d really grown into himself. Tom only wished he was as smart as Adam when he’d been in middle school himself. In a flashing moment, he saw Heather. She was daddy’s little girl. A smile crossed his face and his eyes fell to the gun he held folded in his lap. Could he orphan them? Could he leave them without a father?

He stared at the gun, and for the first time all night realized, he wasn’t thinking about her. What am I doing? Gun still in hand, he walked downstairs. He grabbed the bottle of whiskey and plopped himself on the couch. He took a long drink.

He grabbed his cellphone and dialed her number. Two rings and straight to voicemail. “Jessica, we have to finish this conversation. I know you sent me to voicemail; it only rang twice, unless you’re talking to someone else at one in the morning. Please call me back.”

He tossed the cellphone on the coffee table and picked up the glass. From the corner of his eye, the gun taunted him. How can I fix this? I can’t unless she calls me back. We have to finish this conversation. But he wondered if it would really help. He had to fix himself before they could fix their relationship.

Still holding the glass, he took another drink. When did he start lying? He’d never had a great memory but tried to recollect where it all began. His earliest memories were all good. Eating in a restaurant with his family. They were always engaged, always asking questions about his day. They were young, but that didn’t matter. They always made things work. Every year they went someplace new on vacation; even if it was a hotel room a six-hour drive away, it still felt special. There was always a closeness. Something wasn’t adding up. Frustrated, he found the unopened can of Skoal and put a pinch behind his lower lip. His thoughts cleared as the nicotine tingled through his bloodstream. He sat back down on the couch and dug deeper through his memory.

The most foreboding moment was when his mother showed up while he was working at a fast food restaurant in high school. She walked through the door casually and ordered a coffee. As he gave it to her, she asked him to join her.

He clocked out for his break and walked toward the seating area. The lighting was dark—not as bright as before—as though he were entering a damp cave and a creature waited, ready to pounce. His heart pounded in his chest, about to burst through his ribs. Each step grew more difficult as if he were walking in quicksand. He reached the booth and sat across from her. It was rough and cold beneath his skin. Her eyes locked on his and he could see her disappointment. Her anger bored deep into his soul.

His throat constricted; he couldn’t breathe. Sweat trickled down his forehead. The walls closed in around him, and the booth grew smaller. He scratched his head and started bouncing his leg. Instead of saying anything, she only stared. He looked around for an escape. He wanted to get out of here. He had to get out of here. But he couldn’t. There was no doubt; she’d wait all night if she had to.

After an eternity, she spoke.

“I got a call from Mr. Dryden at school today. Is there anything you’d like to tell me?”

Tommy crossed his arms in defiance. “No.”

“When are you going to grow up? In just two months you’re going to graduate from high school, God willing. You can’t be doing crap like this.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She rolled her eyes and looked out the window into the parking lot. After a moment, her gaze returned. “Cut the crap. I know you missed third period today.”

“No, I didn’t. I went to the bathroom and was just late getting to class.”

“Tommy, cut it out. Mr. Dryden said he walked to your classroom near the end of the period and you weren’t there.”

Tommy, who’d been doing his best to ignore his mother’s penetrating eyes, turned and looked deep into them.

“How do you know? Were you there? That old man keeps a bottle of vodka in his bottom desk drawer and I know I’ve smelled it on his breath before.”

She sighed. “Kind of like how I can smell the stench of cigarette smoke wafting off of you right now?”

Tommy reverted to old habits and looked away.

“Your father and I only want what’s best for you. We’re not even pressuring you to go to college. Why can’t you see that?”

He didn’t respond.

“In two months you’ll be done. Until then, you have to abide by our rules. You need to graduate high school.”

Tommy harrumphed.

“I spoke with your father, and until you do finish school, we’re taking your car away except for driving to work. And that’s only because we don’t have the time to drive you back and forth five days a week.”

Anger filled his eyes as he turned his head and faced his mother. Spittle flew from his lips.

“You can’t do that. I paid for that car. What gives you the right to take it away?”

Again, her gaze shifted to the window. “All you do is lie. You never tell us the truth. You may have paid for that car, but you’re still living under our roof. And you’re not eighteen yet. So until that time comes, you will listen to what we have to say.” She brought her eyes back to his. “Do I make myself clear?’

He glanced at his watch. His ten-minute break was over two minutes ago. He couldn’t do this any longer.

“Fine!”

“I mean it. And if we get another call from the school we’ll get more drastic. We’re both fed up.”

“Whatever,” he said and stood.

“Now get back to work before you lose the only good thing you have going for you in your life.”

He spun around and stalked back to the counter so he could finish his shift. He never saw her leave, but as soon as he was sure she was gone, he said, “Bitch.”

He shook his head to clear it. This wasn’t where everything went downhill. Far from it. He remembered the pain in his mother’s eyes. He remembered how she looked. How she couldn’t believe they’d gotten to the point they were at. Looking back at it now, he knew she was right, especially now that he was a parent himself. There was nothing they wouldn’t do for him. They only wanted the best, and for him to be happy. But he always resisted. Just like when he smoked in high school. They always knew. He thought he was so slick. He carried a bottle of mouthwash in his car and always had a fresh stockpile of gum. He hadn’t smoked in years, but when anyone stepped outside to smoke around him now, they stunk for an hour. Who did he think he was fooling?

He sipped a little more from the bottle of scotch, now that his glass was empty. Damn, this really is good. He had to go deeper if he wanted to get to the root of the problem. He conjured an image from when he was twelve. His friends had wanted to ride bikes to the nearest convenience store to buy candy. He wanted to go too. But he didn’t get an allowance. His parents didn’t believe in paying their children. They had chores and responsibilities around the house, but he had to ask for money. He’d gone to the pool the night before and his parents had given him money. They also drove him and his friends both ways. They were always doing that; they were very accommodating. So when they said no, he couldn’t understand why. He asked his dad, who of course said no since he’d gone to the pool the night before. He took matters into his own hands. He had two siblings: a younger sister and brother. He was the oldest, his sister next. They were all born three years apart. His sister was a bit of a hoarder. Anytime she got money, she stashed it in her room. After his dad said no, he snuck into his sister’s room. He raided her usual spots but only came away with a little more than a dollar. He didn’t have time to search her room any further and resorted to his backup plan.

His dad kept a sock filled with change in his drawer. He’d never taken money from his dad before, and something inside told him to stop this before it got out of hand. But he really wanted to get some candy. He stepped into the hall. To the left was the family room and a clear conscience. To the right was his parents’ room. After a moment of thought, the need for candy won out and he raided his dad’s change sock. He didn’t take much—just a couple dollars—before sneaking out of the room and lying to his dad that he was going to play with a different friend.

That night, his sister accused him of stealing from her and told his parents. It was such a low amount and she didn’t have any proof, so his parents let him off with a warning about theft. He didn’t listen and continued taking from his sister and dad until his dad finally noticed. When confronted, he lied about it. It didn’t matter, they still grounded him, but only for a week.

Tom looked at the clock. It was after one. He did have the conference call in the morning and should be getting in bed. But something in him stirred. He needed a resolution or he didn’t think he’d sleep at all. He tried calling Jessica again, twice. When she didn’t answer, he resorted to texts. He sent several. For five minutes, he stared at the phone, but she never responded. The bottle of whiskey he longed for sat on the table, but he decided to take a break. He drifted back into his memories. Everything so far had been long after he started lying. Then it hit him. He remembered fourth grade. Before that year, he’d always been a good student. But in fourth grade, he ran into Hitler. She was an aged teacher who he thought wanted nothing more than her retirement. She didn’t engage with him like he thought she should and so he gave up. He felt she labeled him a troublemaker. She gave out happy and sad grams every Friday. The time he got his first sad gram, was the day that changed his life.

She walked down the aisle and handed out a yellow letter to each kid. They all knew the drill because they got them every Friday. They were happy grams, her version of a weekly progress report, letting parents know how their kids were doing in class. At Tommy’s desk, she handed him a blue paper. What does blue mean? I’ve never seen one before.

Mrs. Larkin leaned close and whispered, “This is a sad gram. You didn’t turn in two assignments this week and I need you to have your parents sign this over the weekend, just like they would a happy gram.”

Tommy glared at the paper. He knew he hadn’t turned in a couple of assignments, but he fully intended to make them up. Now he had to tell his parents? It was his worst nightmare come true.

The bell rang and while the students packed up their bags and prepared for the weekend, Tommy couldn’t get the sad gram out of his mind. He didn’t even bother putting it in his backpack. Instead, he stared at it. He kept staring his entire walk to the bus, and selecting a seat in the back, he couldn’t tear his eyes away from it. Kids screamed, papers were crumpled and thrown. He tuned it all out. How am I going to explain this to my parents? I’m supposed to be playing the new Zelda all weekend.

The bus pulled into their neighborhood and dread filled his veins. He folded the sad gram in half and stuffed it into his backpack. There was a time and a place for unpleasantness and he decided he’d save this for later. Except, once he got into his room, ready to enjoy the weekend, he couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Maybe I don’t have to tell them. I can just forge my mom’s signature and everything will be OK.

He rifled through the trash and found several of his mom’s discarded receipts while his dad typed away at his computer, immune to what the children were doing in the house. They were all busy playing with Legos or dolls, but he wouldn’t know that. Satisfied Tommy had what he needed, he took a quick glance over his shoulder to make sure his dad wasn’t watching and scurried down to his room in the basement.

At first, he practiced tracing his mom’s signature. He did it time and time again until he covered several sheets of paper. Looking at his progress, he was quite pleased but decided to fill up just one more sheet. His dad had other ideas and called him upstairs. After a quick dinner, he started again. He made it about three-quarters of the way down the blank piece of paper before sleep won out and his head fell on his arms on his desk.

In the morning, he startled himself awake. Bleary-eyed, he looked around the room and realized he’d spent the whole night at his desk. His younger brother snored in the bed opposite him. He had no idea what time it was, but his stomach screamed at him for food. While stuffing his face, he noticed the snowflakes falling outside his patio door. He remembered his plans for his video game. With just a bit more practice, he was confident he could sign the sad gram and get down to the fun he had planned.

His mom walked in and asked him about school. He’d never lied like this to her before. He told her everything was great, but he had an assignment to finish before he could play his video games. She didn’t respond; she just smiled. He could see how proud she was and he couldn’t take it, quickly averting his eyes.

Sunday evening, his arm hurt. He never could quite replicate the ungraceful scrawl of his mother. So he had stayed at it… all weekend. As bedtime approached, he knew his time was coming to an end. His brother was busy snoring in his own bed across the room. He tried one last time on a blank piece of paper. It was close enough. At any moment, one of his parents would crack open his door and tell him it was lights out. He put the pen to the sad gram and hesitated for a second. Footsteps echoed in the hallway, forcing him to action. He scrawled his mother’s name. Staring at it for a moment, he was quite pleased with himself. But he couldn’t waste any time. He folded the paper in half and stuffed it into his backpack before throwing on his pajamas and rushing to the door. His dad peeked inside.

“Light’s out Sport. You have school tomorrow.”

“I know, Dad. I was just about to brush my teeth.”

He smiled. “That a boy. Be quiet so you don’t wake your brother.”

“I won’t.”

His dad ruffled his hair, and Tommy disappeared down the hall.

A couple of weeks later, his mother was going through his backpack. The thing about the happy and sad grams was it wasn’t a new one each week. There were enough signature lines to cover an entire semester. So when she found the blue sad gram in his backpack, she pulled it out and started looking at it closer. He’d gotten a sad gram four weeks in a row. She stared long and hard at the signature line. Tears filled her eyes and she disappeared into her bedroom. Later that evening, his parents called him up for a conversation. They were angry. His mother admitted, she couldn’t remember signing it, but it looked like her signature. He couldn’t think of a way out, so he had to confess his sins. They made him talk to his teacher—which didn’t help his relationship with her—and he had to serve a suspension. One would think he’d straighten up and walk the straight and narrow after that, but Tommy couldn’t help but think he almost got away with it. He did for well over a month. With a little effort, he could perfect his style and maybe not be in trouble at all. It was so easy.

Tom jumped to his feet. This was it. He’d been searching for the problem for the past twenty-five years. The bottle of scotch called to him and he took a drink. It burned down his throat and he coughed, before spitting the Skoal out of his mouth. He’d finally found the moment, the instance where lying became his norm. He had to call his wife. No answer, so he tried texting. He sat down while awaiting her response. Seconds turned into minutes, minutes turned into half hours. The wait was excruciating. He kept texting because he had to talk to her, tell her his breakthrough.

The minutes continued ticking by. Five turned into ten, then twenty. He couldn’t stand it any longer and jumped to his feet and paced the family room. The room wasn’t large, so after a few steps, he turned and headed back in the other direction. With each pass of the coffee table, the gun cried out to him like a baby crying for its mother. He ignored it: looked away, tried his best to distance himself from the table. Maybe if I don’t see it, don’t make eye contact, it’ll leave me alone. But it didn’t. Like a lighthouse guiding a ship, it was a lantern signaling, piercing his eyes to let it in.

His phone rang. This was the moment he’d been waiting for. “Hello.”

“Stop calling me. I’ve said my piece and I have to get up early in the morning.”

He froze. He had so much he wanted to say. There was so much to be said, but he couldn’t find the words. Her agitation was evident over the phone and he had to say something. “I’m sorry.”

There was a long pause. The courage built inside him. When he opened his mouth to speak, her voice filled the emptiness.

“You don’t get it. Maybe you’re not listening to me. Maybe that’s been the problem all along. You only hear what you want to hear. My pleading has always fallen on deaf ears and I don’t think there’s any changing you. You are who you are. I love you for most of your qualities, but I don’t know if I can ever get over this. How can I trust you?”

“I suppose you can’t, but I’ll do everything in my power to prove that you can,” he said.

“I don’t believe you.”

“You have to. I’ve made a breakthrough…”

She cut him off. “I don’t have to do a damn thing. We can’t do this anymore. It’s late and I need to try and get some sleep. I didn’t even want to talk to you anymore, but I saw your texts and missed calls. I hoped you’d had some profound revelation, but it’s apparent you haven’t.”

“Please, you have to listen to me. Baby, I love you.”

“No… no, you don’t. If you did we wouldn’t be where we are.”

“You don’t understand. I know what I’ve been doing. I figured out when all of the lying started and I think I can finally get help to fix it.”

“You had your chance. I’ve given you so many opportunities. You ignored my pleas and here we are.” He heard her sigh through the phone. “Maybe your next wife can help you with that. Maybe you can connect with her.”

Tears flooded his eyes. “Let me explain. I want to work this out and I don’t want another wife.” The phone clicked as she hung up. “Baby!” She was gone. Damn! She didn’t give me a chance to explain? He couldn’t blame her. He’d been lying ever since he was a child. It’s all he knew how to do. It had to stop, tonight. She was more important than this and didn’t deserve what he was doing. He put his phone in his pocket, before grabbing the bottle of whiskey—or what remained of it—in one hand, and the gun in the other. His life was in his own hands and he knew what he needed to do. He stared at the two items, got up, turned off the light, and made his way to their bedroom. He put the gun back in the safe—where it belonged—before collapsing in the leather chair nested in the corner of their room.

I have to stop lying. It was the first time he’d ever admitted it to himself, but it was the truth. He realized now, he always lied because it was the easier path, but in the end, he always got caught… and it was always worse. He’d go to her tomorrow. One of his coworkers could handle the conference call. He had to talk to her first thing in the morning. It wouldn’t be easy, but he had to take the first step. He had to convince her to stay. He loved her too much to let it end like this.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Also, please check out my books either on my website or by visiting my page on Amazon

My Writing and My Books Free From Amazon 10/27-10/31

Hello Everyone.

So, I self-published my first book, The Unknown Man, (Book 1 in the Keepers of the Orbs Series) back in 2012. I had no idea what I was doing and the book was nowhere near ready, as I quickly found out. However, this turned out to be the best learning experience I could’ve ever imagined. When I published it, I was in a unique spot in my life. I had just started working again after being unemployed for 2 years, had my second child, and was in school full-time working on my Bachelors Degree. My wife and I literally had no money and I couldn’t afford to pay an editor. I relied on family members to edit the book who were much better at it than I was, but they’re not professional editors. I think this is reflected in my books. Regardless, I spent the next 2 1/2 years revising that book (I think I’m on version 20 something now) and finally reached a point where I couldn’t do anything more to it, other than send it to a professional editor.

Since then, I have published 3 more books (the next two in the series and a standalone) as well as a short story, but considering that when I finally got a job half way through 2011, I went with the best organization to offer me a job. However, it was in a new industry for me and I accepted an entry level position that only paid roughly 60% of what my job paid me pre-2009 when I was laid off. It didn’t matter, my wife and I struggled for a couple years, but were able to remain afloat, not lose the house or cars, and have some semblance of discretionary funds so we could afford to eat out or go to a movie every once in a while. As a result, when I published the next 4 books, they were also self-edited. I think the books and my writing have improved, but I still need that professional touch.

Anyway, I’m sure you’re wondering why I am going on this long diatribe. Two and a half years ago I accepted a new position that allowed us to pay off the small amount of debt we accumulated while I was laid off/starting over in an entry level position and I’m finally in a position where I can spend some money. My next book, an Urban Fantasy/Vampire book, is currently with…. a PAID EDITOR and will be the first book to receive this treatment. I am so excited, but it is only the beginning. I plan on submitting everything else I have released to the editor as well over the course of the next several months. So I was just looking at my Amazon account and noticed I hadn’t done a free promotion on any of my books in almost a year. Since they’re all eligible, and since I am going to be paying for an editor for all of them before I re-release them all anyway, I figured I would just go ahead and list all of them for free for the next 5 days (10/27-10/31). It may not be the best marketing strategy, but what the hell, right?

So if you’re interested, feel free to hop on over to my Amazon account and download a copy of one or all of them. They’re not perfect and will get better, but I know this and just gave you a heads up. 🙂 Click Here

Koto Series Image

I should hopefully have some news on Vampire’s Curse by the end of November. I planned on releasing Book 4 (the final book in the Keepers of the Orbs Series) in December, but now I am going to wait until books 1-3 are edited first. So that will be early 2018 now. After that I will focus on my Sci-Fi book, Saukarian Children, which is completed, but I will re-work it and submit it to an editor before I do anything with it. Then I have about 12 other ideas, so stay tuned.

Thanks for the support, and please check out my social media sites to stay up to date.

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Update – May 11th Edition

It has been awhile since my last post (man do I have to get better about this) so I thought I would put an update out.

I’m still shopping Elves of The Sugar Maple to agents, but there is nothing to report yet. This is my Young Adult fantasy novel that mirrors many of the religious/racial issues our world currently faces.

I completed The Saukarian Children. I currently have the book in the hands of a couple beta readers and am awaiting feedback. This is my Sci-Fi story that I am very excited about it and think it has a lot of potential.

I recently realized the process of querying my work as the only means of attracting a potential agent is absolutely ludicrous. As such, I joined the RMFW (Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers) and have joined a critique group. I also plan on attending several conferences as they become available. I also plan on entering both the above titles into the Colorado Gold Writing Contest at the end of this month. The finals for this contest will be held the beginning of September. More than anything, I am looking for feedback and for areas where my work could use improvement, although if I actually final with either of them I would be over the moon J. As a result, neither of these are flagged for Self-Publishing at this time.

With my other projects completed, I recently returned to the world of Nithor with my friends Raythum, Liniana, Aglina, Matt, Jaeden, Milenthia, and let us not forget the despicable man name Lutheras. The third book in the series is currently at right around 50% complete and I am still hoping to have this released by the end of the year. Since the first two books in the Keepers of the Orbs Series are already self-published, this will go directly to Amazon (more news to follow).

Yesterday, I had a hard time concentrating on anything else as I recently had a new idea for another YA Fantasy novel. I think this idea could have a lot of potential and I am currently just writing down notes and creating the characters/building the world. I hope to start writing it in the near future and will update when appropriate.

I won’t be writing at all this weekend as my wife and I are off to Wisconsin to celebrate my grandparent’s 66th wedding anniversary.

While you wait for my upcoming work, you can still get your hands on the first two books in my series.

I am running a free promotion on the first book, The Unknown Man. You can get a free copy through this Saturday May 14th
HERE

And the second book, The Rising Past, can be purchased HERE

Book Review: Xanadu (The Keszthelyi Chronicles Book 2)

Xanadu

This was a fabulous story that quickly brought me in and kept my interest throughout. This is the second book in The Keszthelyi Chronicles and was written by Zichao Deng.

In all honesty I had no idea this was a series until I finished reading the book. Never was it an issue that I had not read the first book, so i tip my hat to the author for writing a book in a series that is able to standalone.

I really enjoyed the main characters Nicolas Keszthelyi and his counterpart Estrade. I think Estrade was truly my favorite character as I liked the no nonsense way he went about his business (especially his plan for the company).

The story is primarily set in Kabul Afghanistan. I have never been to Afghanistan but the author does a wonderful job describing the landscapes and the people. I could get a wonderful picture in my head.

I will say I was a little hesitant about this book due to several of the names or titles in Chinese, but the author provided a wonderful blurb describing how to properly pronounce them, and it put my mind at ease. I would also like to point out that I have never played mahjong before, and the author made this a non-issue by giving the audience a quick run-down on the basic rules so we as readers were not left saying “huh?”.

I will say while I think the character Bibi brought plenty of comic relief to the story, her language and manner of speaking began to wear on me by the end of the book. I also felt like the ending was a little abrupt, and I felt like I wanted a little more closure; then again this is a series.

For those who love stories of adventure in far off lands, this is the book for you. I truly enjoyed the story and have given it 4 out of 5 stars . Personally, I plan on going back and reading the first, and I look forward to future installments in this series.

I was provided a copy of the book for free in exchange for a review

Short Story – Page 3 & 4

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And the story continues.  I am working on a couple ideas for the title.  When I have it narrowed down, I will post them for feedback.

Page 3 and 4

Last night he made Molotov cocktails and they were all lined up in a row on his counter. He packed them into a small, old milk crate.  He ran to his bedroom and into his closet.  He started tossing clothing over his head, out of the closet, and into the bedroom.  He searched for a red duffle bag he knew his wife kept in the closet.  His thoughts drifted to his wife and he had to choke back the tears. Stay focused.  Now is not the time.

He found the bag in the back corner of their closet.  He grabbed it and ran back to the kitchen.  He stuffed the milk crate into the bag, along with the Glocks and spare magazines.  It wasn’t much of an arsenal, but it had to be enough.  With the bag packed, he pulled out a notepad and searched their junk drawer for a working pen.  When he found one, he took it and the pad back to the table and sat down once again.

He wrote slowly, so that whoever discovered the note would be able to understand it.  He wanted his writing to be crisp and concise.  The people, the survivors, had to know what happened, and this was his only chance.

He wrote the letter for well over a half hour.  He read it over multiple times, to ensure that the reader would get the message.  He made several revisions, before settling on the final draft.  It took much longer than originally anticipated.  He neatly folded the sheets and wrote a message on the outside.

They used one of the bedrooms as an office, and in it was a large, floor standing safe.  He opened the safe and placed the letter inside.  If he succeeded, he would be fifty miles away. He hoped it was far enough the safe would survive.  No use worrying about it; there was nothing he could do about it now.

A Move to Action

Mike grabbed his duffle bag and put his now dry jacket back on.  He brushed aside the curtains once more and thoroughly checked the back yard.  Satisfied no one was lurking in the dark, he turned off the propane heater, grabbed his large box of matches and carefully opened the back door.

He looked one more time, before stepping out.  His SUV was in the driveway, and he ran to it, tossing the duffle bag in the backseat, before climbing in and starting up the engine.  He jammed the SUV into reverse, and squealed his tires exiting his driveway.  He took off down the street and headed west.  The sun set behind the Rocky Mountains, creating an orange and purple filled sky.  Mike enjoyed the moment, realizing this was probably one of—if not the—last sunsets he would ever see.  It truly was majestic, and a sight to behold.

As he navigated through his neighborhood, he was glad he had talked his wife into buying an SUV.  Cars were stopped, broken and battered, with car doors open, and parts littered the street.  Blood and body parts lay everywhere and Mike had to drive over curbs and onto lawns to actually make it out onto the main street.

It was truly amazing to consider what could happen in less than 24 hours.  The main roads weren’t much better, but at least there was more room to navigate.  It all happened so quickly, and he was fortunate it had taken place during the middle of the afternoon when people were still at work; not that anything that transpired in the last 24 hours could be classified as fortunate.