Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Christmas Remembered

It is Christmas Eve day and I am once again seven years old. I am at my grandparent’s farmhouse standing in front of their picture window looking out at what to my youthful eyes is a winter wonderland.

My mother helps bundle me up against the cold for our sledding trip to Shadyside Park. After a couple of hours on the hill, my cheeks are chapped, and my mittens are soaked. I am freezing cold, and very happy.
The hot chocolate my grandmother has ready on our return restores the circulation to my numb fingers and toes.

I cannot stop thinking about Santa. I worry that he might come early and see I am not asleep and pass by without leaving me anything.
“Mom, can we leave Santa some milk and cookies?”
“That’s a good idea,” she says, smiling.
In the living room, a cloud of smoke from my grandfather’s cigar floats above him while he laughs at something on the Ed Sullivan Show. He tells me if I have not been good Santa will leave coal in my stocking instead of candy. But he is only teasing . . . I hope.

Once my brother and I are in bed we listen closely for the slightest sound of Santa’s approach. At one point he whispers, “I think I heard footprints on the roof.” We quietly debate this possibility for several minutes until the fatigue from sledding and the warm milk take over.

Ordinarily, on school mornings all I want to do is stay in bed and sleep. However, this morning, like past Christmas mornings is totally different. By the time the first red glow of sunrise paints the bedroom window curtain, I, along with my brother and sister are wide awake and pacing impatiently behind the closed living room door.
One of us taps on mom’s bedroom door. “Mom, wake up. Did Santa come, did he?”
She appears from her bedroom dressed in her bathrobe, yawning and smiling.
“Let’s go see,” she says.
It is tradition for mom to open the living room door. She does this much too slowly. My circuits are nearly overloaded.
The door is open and the lights come on.

“Wow” is all I can say as I race for my section of gifts. My eyes are as bright as headlights. My heart is racing. All three of us are calling out in a chorus of excitement what Santa has brought us.
“I got a Lone Ranger mask with a holster and gun and a new basketball and an eight ball you shake and it really tells the future,” I squeal all in one long breath.
“You have something else over there,” mom says, pointing to a spot beside my basketball.
“Some new underwear,” I exclaim, but with much less enthusiasm. She did that on purpose.
I am still busy with my new toys when the delicious smells of the Christmas dinner my grandmother is preparing drift into the room.


I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

tagged again

1. Dawno’s first AW Monday Meme: Feeling rather holiday-ish tonight I thought the first AWMondayMeme should be: what are the 10 books or sets of books you most wish you could find under/beside/in your {insert appropriate holiday decor/object}?

I was tagged for this meme by Joanne Kiggins (writingafterdark).

1. I would love to have the complete set of Stephen King books (autographed)

2. The collected works of Edgar Allen Poe

3. Would wishing for Stephen King to come down my chimney on Christmas Eve and ask if I would like to discuss his book “On Writing” with him be asking too much?

4. Autographed first edition of William Faulkner ( doesn’t matter which book)

5. Do lunch with Kurt Vonnegut and have him autograph my collection of his books. The guy is hilarious.

6. A collection of the Spiderman comic books( in mint condition) that thrilled me as a teenager.

7. 2006 copy of Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition.

8. The complete set of the Foxfire books.

9. Nocturnes by John Connolly

10. More bookshelves (I’m running out of room!) :)

Thanks, Joanne.

Okay, Anonymous, you get another chance to participate. Tag, you’re it. :)

Saturday, December 3, 2005

Jeff's Novel-Writing Tips

Have you always wanted to be a writer but were afraid to ask how to do it? Are you a published writer bemoaning the fact your books are sitting on the discount clearance rack? Finally, are you sick and tired of buying every Tom, Dick, and Jane’s manual on writing only to find them so complex they leave you feeling like a dangling participle?
If so, then it’s time you bought, JEFF’S NOVEL-WRITING TIPS.
Yes, that’s right, now for the first time ever, Jeff is offering his tips for becoming the writer you’ve only dreamed about.
Simple and down to earth, JEFF’S NOVEL-WRITING TIPS were designed to give novice and veteran writers alike the tools they need to shoot their way to the top of the best seller list!

Let’s hear from Teddy, creative writing workshop drop out and an early bird customer of JEFF’S NOVEL-WRITING TIPS.

“ There was a time when I felt like a total failure when it came to writing. My writing class always had me read my work last for critique so they would have something to laugh about on the way home. I suffered from an inferiority complex so profound I was placed on several different mood altering medications. You can imagine what THAT did for my writing. I had characters that didn’t fit and plots that made no sense. And I don’t even want to talk about grammar. I had to have the computer dude disable the “grammar check” on my laptop because it kept going off nearly every paragraph with some stupid crap.
Then I picked up a copy of “JEFF’S NOVEL-WRITING TIPS and I’m here to tell you it has revolutionized my writing. This little book cuts through all the in depth analytical garbage you find in so many writing manuals and breaks it down into simple and easily understandable steps for success. Thanks to JEFF’S NOVEL-WRITING TIPS I feel like a modern day Shakespeare!”

Martha, from Milwaukee writes, “ I came from the old school where the only writing instruction I received was a “rap on the knuckles” with a ruler from an old prune- faced bitty if I misspelled a word or simply left out a quotation mark.
Needless to say, by the time I got out of that writing class from hell, I was so fearful and paranoid I couldn’t have told you the difference between an independent clause and Santa Claus!
JEFF’S NOVEL-WRITING TIPS changed all that. After the first chapter I could already feel the tension in the muscles of my back and neck begin to relax, and I quit looking over my shoulder every five minutes. Jeff’s tips have given me the knowledge and courage to pursue my career full steam ahead. It’s like manna from heaven.”

The following excerpts are but a small sample of the remarkable advice you’ll find in JEFF’S NOVEL-WRITING TIPS.

From Chapter 1 on GETTING STARTED

“Make sure you have a typewriter or computer that works.”



“ Make sure your character’s are interesting.”



“Remember, what goes up, must come down.”


And finally, from Chapter 10 on WRITER’S BLOCK

“It’s a myth. Get back to work.”


As you can see, this is no mere gimmick to take your money.

These tips are perfect for people of all ages and mental capabilities!

Be the first writer on your block to take advantage of JEFF’S NOVEL-WRITING TIPS for three easy payments of $1,500. You heard me right, three easy payments of $1,500 and you’ll be on your way to a writing career that rules!

We here at JNEP have never been able to distinguish the difference between shipping and handling. How can you ship something without handling it? Oh, well, just don’t worry about it.

CALL NOW! 1 - 800 - SAY - TIPS That’s 1 - 800 - SAY - TIPS

Operators are standing by 24/7.

As always, all major credit cards are accepted if you are not already over your limit.

NO REFUNDS! After you’ve read the tips it’s not like we can take them back, now can we?


* Remember, if all else fails you can always order JEFF’S NOVEL-MAKING MACHINE.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Jeff's Novel-Hawking Personnel

Are you tired of searching for an agent that is “just right for you?” Is spending countless hours sitting near the phone waiting for it to ring with good news driving you nuts? Do you worry that your agent has your manuscript sitting on the back burner?
If so, then it’s time you considered hiring one of JEFF’S NOVEL-HAWKING PERSONNEL.
Yes, that’s right, JEFF’S NOVEL-HAWKING PERSONNEL are individuals who have undergone an intensive three-hour course designed to equip them with the essential skills required to HAWK YOUR NOVEL!
Our team of shameless energetic shakers and movers are more than willing to prostitute themselves solely for your personal benefit.
Too many writers spend their time in restless agony wondering what, if any, progress is being made toward publication of their work. We say, enough already!

Let’s hear from Robbie, one of our first and most sought after graduates.

“I was able to successfully hawk my first novel less than two weeks after graduation. With my clients manuscript in hand, I simply parked myself outside the entrance of a major publishing house and refused to move until I was granted a hearing with the person in charge. The first hearing I received came before the local judge on charges of loitering and being a public nuisance. I beat that rap. It’s a free country, after all. Undaunted, I disguised myself as one of the janitorial staff and easily made my way into the office of the chief executive with my clients manuscript hidden skillfully under my mop bucket. After locking the door behind me and disabling all outside communication, I broke into a continual refrain of, “Follow The Yellow Brick Road,” until the stunned and weary man agreed to read the manuscript and sign on the dotted line if I promised to shut up. I owe it all to JEFF’S NOVEL-HAWKING CLASS."

Cassandra, another model employee of JNEP gave up a successful lap dancing career to come on board. “She is a tremendous asset to our company,” says Jeff. “She literally dances circles around the competition.”

Trained in various techniques (some of which fall within the confines of the law) our hawker’s know how to have potential buyers eating out of their hand.

We represent ALL genres.


For a small extra fee, we have thousands of undergraduate trainees who will eagerly promote your published novel in the following ways:

1. Infiltrate publishing houses to make sure the number of copies promised are the actual number printed.

2. On sight supervision of loading and unloading the boxes containing your novel.

3. Be available in all major bookstores to make sure your novel is moved from the storeroom to the front of the display rack featuring new releases and whenever possible, removing a couple of books from the New York Times ten best sellers rack and replacing them with yours. What’s it gonna hurt?

A writer should be working on their next masterpiece and not worrying and fretting over the ups and downs of the often unpredictable and frustrating publishing business.

Don’t wait! Put us to work for you!

The minute we receive your initial $10,000 deposit, our hawker’s will be out the door and pounding the pavement. And not a penny of that money will be spent until you have a valid contract in hand or twenty-four hours pass, whichever comes first. The remaining $10,000 may be split up in four easy payments of $2,500.

Call now . . . 1- 800 - THE - HAWK ---- That’s 1- 800 - THE - HAWK

Operators are standing by.

Our satisfaction is guaranteed.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

fast food fun

Five cars in front and five behind.
Ten full minutes pass and finally it’s my turn to pull alongside the giant menu board with the tiny speaker box.
After hearing nothing for more than thirty seconds, I wonder if the unseen person inside is waiting for me to speak first.
I decide they must be, so I lean my head outside the widow, but before I can ask if anyone is there, a sudden loud blast of static from the box containing only a few unintelligible words startles me so bad I jump, banging the top of my head against the window frame. “Ouch, dammit!”

In my mirror I can see a grin on the face of the moron behind me. I hope they are out of whatever he is waiting to order.

I have no idea what the person plugged into the speaker box said. I have to assume they want my order. I pull my hand away from where I have been rubbing the knot forming on my head, surprised to find no blood.

I risk leaning out the window again and say, “I’ll have a number 4 value meal without ketchup and a coke,” ducking quickly back inside before another ear piercing blast of static.
I wait. Nothing for another thirty seconds.

The moron behind me is no longer grinning. I think I see his hand moving slowly toward his horn. He’d better not.

Another blast of static and I give up. “That’s correct,” I yell.
At the window I find a twelve-year-old wearing a headset.
He doesn’t smile or say hello. Glancing in my general direction he says, “Three eighty four.”
The five dollar bill I’m holding dangles from my extended hand while he ignores me and carries on a lengthy conversation through his headset.
There is rhythmic acceleration behind me. I grit my teeth while fighting off the urge to put my car in reverse and floor it.

“You got a quarter?” headset asks when he finally accepts my money.
“I’m outta quarters.”
“You don’t need to give me a quarter,” I say. “I gave you a five dollar bill. My meal costs three dollars and eighty four cents. Just give me a dollar, a dime, a nickel, and a penny back and we’ll be all square,” I say, forcing a smile.
He looks at me puzzled, as though I had asked him to give me the meaning of life itself.
“Look, I’m in a hurry and I have a migraine. Just let me have my food and keep the change as a tip.”
“We aren’t allowed to take tips. I’d get canned.” Oh, we wouldn’t want THAT to happen.

Eventually, I get my change, minus the dime, accept my drink and sack of food and pull away. Pushing the straw through the plastic lid I take a sip of what is mostly carbonated water. Once again in the flow of traffic I use one hand to unwrap my sandwich and take a bite. A big glob of ketchup drips out and lands on the crotch of my pants. Cursing, I reach into the sack only to find there are no napkins.

Next time I think I’ll park and go inside. No, better yet, next time I’ll just go home and fix a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

At least I’ve got a roll of paper towels at home.

Friday, November 11, 2005

keep it or delete it?

These are the opening lines. I'm having trouble deciding. Feel free to be honest.

It had been a struggle for Martin to cut and then lift out the circular block of ice. The ice was unusually thick this year, which made it even more difficult for a man approaching his seventieth birthday. He left the block sitting next to the hole and sat down on his folding chair to rest, his breath escaping in rapid white plumes.
“Dang fish better bite after all this,” he muttered to himself. He removed his gloves and cupped his hands around the globe of the small kerosene lantern, savoring the warmth to his arthritic fingers.

After several minutes, when his breathing and heart rate had returned to normal, Martin put on his gloves, pulled his fur-lined cap down over his ears and opened the door to his hut. Still an hour before sunrise, the frigid wind like tiny needles stung his nose and cheeks. As quickly as he could he pulled the block of ice outside then stepped back inside and slid the wooden latch across the door.

Settled back in his chair, Martin reached into his minnow bucket and retrieved a wiggling shiner. Through years of experience, he deftly impaled the bait onto his hook then slowly lowered the line down into the gently lapping water. With the desired depth reached, he stopped letting out line and set the drag on his reel. He set the fishing rod down on the ice next to his chair. That done, he settled back in his chair and picked up the thermos of hot black coffee Helen had packed for him and prepared to wait. He unscrewed the cap and filled the outer plastic cup half full of the steaming liquid. Just as he was bringing the cup to his lips, he saw the end of the pole jerk twice. He sat the cup down and picked up the rod gripping it firmly with both hands.

“Come on,” he muttered. “Take it.” He waited for several seconds but nothing happened. “Changed your mind, huh?” he said. He was just about to lay the rod back down and get back to his coffee when it nearly jerked free from his grip. He struggled to hold on while the end of the fiberglass pole bowed, the tip dipping below the surface of the dark freezing water.
Despite the cold, drops of sweat formed on Martin’s brow as he struggled to reel in his catch. “You must be a real prize,” he said between pants. “You picked the wrong breakfast this morning old boy.”

Martin smiled. This part made up for all those lonely cold hours sitting in the middle of a frozen lake and catching nothing at all.

After several minutes, that seemed more like hours, the battle was nearing an end. When he saw a long shadow move slowly beneath the surface, Martin held tightly to the rod with one hand while he reached for the net with the other. The shadow appeared again and he lowered the net.

A sudden explosion of water from the hole drenched Martin’s arms, face and chest. The shock of the cold water took his breath away causing him to drop the net and pole. While he tried to wipe the water from his eyes, a pale gray hand with long yellow nails snaked its way out of the hole and clamped itself around his ankle. Stunned, Martin grabbed his knee with both hands and tried to pull his leg away. It was dragging him toward the hole. He searched frantically for something to hold on to as the pressure increased like a vice around his leg, but there was nothing but his overturned chair, thermos, and kerosene lamp. His fingers clawed along the ice as his foot and then entire leg disappeared below the surface.

“Help me!” he whimpered. The hole would never be able to accommodate the bulk of his stomach and chest. Buried to his waist with one leg submerged and the other twisted at an unnatural angle above the hole, Martin waved his arms frantically.

“HELP!” he yelled, although he knew there was no one within miles to hear him.
The pressure around his ankle and hip was searing. The pain was brilliant, and went beyond anything he ever imagined. Gasping, he saw bright spots swim across his vision. He thought he was losing consciousness. He prayed he would.
Martin’s scream echoed across the vast emptiness of the frozen lake when his femoral head tore away from his hip socket taking with it skin, muscle, and tendons. He felt a momentary release of pressure when his leg separated from his body, but a second, even tighter pressure around his waist quickly followed. He could not hold on much longer. He was bobbing like some macabre jack in the box as blood splashed out of the hole and spread across the ice inside the hut. Several ribs snapped as his chest wrenched downward. Unfortunately, he was still conscious when only his arms, neck, and shoulders remained above the hole.
He managed one last desperate look around the tiny hut.

“Helen” he murmured, just before bloody mucus bubbled from his lips. Then he closed his eyes, raised his arms, and slipped below the surface. Surrendering to what lay below in the icy depths.

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Jeff's Novel-Cleansing Machine

Jeff’s Novel-Enhancing Products now offers, JEFF’S NOVEL-CLEANSING MACHINE.
The Watch Your Mouth Institute offered Jeff’s Novel-Enhancing Products a big bunch of money to design a product that makes any novel you purchase squeaky clean and pure as the driven snow!

How many times have you picked up a novel expecting a sweet, happy story, only to find it chock full of “dirty, potty-mouth words”, and naughty scenes between men and women that are better left behind a locked bedroom door with twin beds?
Relax, because now JNEP is bringing you, Jeff’s Novel-Cleansing Machine.
Simply attach any novel to the specially designed spindles, and Jeff’s Novel-Cleansing Machine does the rest by recognizing and replacing all offending words or scenes.
The magic spindles are adjustable for hardcover as well as paperback books.

Representatives of WYMI remained on site 24/7 during every phase of development of Jeff’s Novel-Cleansing Machine, feeling free to make any necessary self-righteous demands.
“This is a bold and glorious step backwards,” says Mrs. Stern, spokesperson for WYMI. “We’re hoping to see Jeff’s Novel-Cleansing Machine made mandatory in all schools and libraries. It’s time we got back to the good old days of controlling what people read and how they think.”
Jeff questioned Mrs. Stern about the obvious infringement of the right of free speech with use of this product. Her reply, “I don’t care. People who think differently than we do here at WYMI are simply wrong. End of discussion.”

Here are some examples of how this marvel of morality works:

The naughty F- word is instantly recognized and changed to “having relations.”
The appalling Sh-t word changes to “stool”

Likewise, A-- is converted to “rectal area.”

And of course, the blasphemous uttering of GD is switched to “God’s blessing.”

H-LL replaced with “heaven”

Here is a sample passage from a recent novel after being spun through Jeff’s Novel-Cleansing Machine:

Tony felt like stool. He was not used to dragging his rectal area home at dawn. The scene in the casino the night before was nothing more than a God’s blessing joke. All he wanted was to get inside, swallow a few aspirin, and fall into bed. The dull throbbing in his head was just a prelude to the hangover heaven that was coming.
Fumbling for his house key, Tony failed to notice the huge shadowy figure slipping up behind him on the porch until it was too late, and he felt the cold steel of the barrel against the back of his neck.
“Don’t move rectal area hole,” the man growled, “or I’ll blow your God’s blessing head off.”
“Oh no,” Tony groaned. He knew that voice. It belonged to Crusher, one of Vince’s goons, a real bad-rectal area. Crusher was a huge man with dark, greasy hair, a bulldog face, and spiked yellow teeth. A long jagged scar stretched his thick upper lip into a permanent snarl.
“Vince don’t take to you having relations with him,” Crusher hissed into Tony’s ear. Tony could smell his breath, a mixture of scotch and garlic. “See, Vince is a nice guy, and he ain’t got time to waste on little stools like you who don’t wanna pay back his relations money.”
“I’ll get the money,” Tony said, his heart hammering. He knew Crusher was crazy as heaven, and wouldn’t hesitate to pull the God’s blessing trigger, or at the very least use his giant hand to mash his head like a relations grapefruit. “Okay, okay, I’ll get the money tomorrow.”
“See that you do,” Crusher hissed again, “or there’ll be heaven to pay. Now, don’t turn around, and keep your relations hands where I can see em.”
Tony felt the barrel move away from his neck. And just as quickly as he appeared, Crusher was gone. Tony stepped inside his house, locked the door and sighed with relief.
“Stool,” he muttered, “ I gotta find some relations money real quick.”


Doesn’t that read so much cleaner and easier?

Some early praise for Jeff’s Novel-Cleansing Machine:

Bessie, from Georgia writes, “ Before Jeff’s Novel-Cleansing Machine, almost every novel my husband read gave him naughty ideas. Why, just the other night, after reading an un-cleansed novel, he came to bed acting like a heathen! I shudder at the memory. He started grabbing my womanly parts, and before I could say diddly doo, I found myself pinned down by him, and I tell you, I laid there in stiff, stark terror for the full two minutes while Hubert did his business! Now with Jeff’s Novel-Cleansing Machine, those impure thoughts have been removed, and we can return to our normal relations-free marriage.”

Scary story, but a happy ending!

Clifford, from Michigan says, “ Like many others, I have to read out loud to get the full understanding of what I am reading. Needless to say, I was getting pretty fed up with trying to read a good novel while on a bus or in a waiting room, only to have mother’s scowl and cover their children’s ears, or suffer the embarrassment of being assaulted by little old ladies with umbrella’s. Jeff’s Novel-Cleansing Machine has changed all that. Now I’m not afraid to read anywhere, anytime!”

Don’t spend your days in puritanical fury! Get Jeff’s Novel-Cleansing Machine for the ridiculously low price of $5,000. You read it right, only $5,000.

And, if you call now, WYMI will send you absolutely FREE a one year subscription to their “Right is Right” magazine. Inside, you will find such articles as, "How To Organize And Host Your Very Own Book Burning Party!"

Don’t wait . . .call now . . .1-800 Say-What
That's 1-800-Say-What

Visa and Mastercard are accepted if you are not already over your limit.

The operators are tired, but still standing by 24/7.

And . . . If you’re not completely satisfied with Jeff’s Novel-Cleansing Machine, we say, “tough stool, you bought it, you keep it.”

*** This product and the views expressed are NOT those of JNEP. But we’re damn near broke and need the money.