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>The Mass Grave…


Crazy murder investigation, a daughter is gone, Bones in the Tree, Mark Reeder didn’t see that coming, Ripped… is wrapped, a note to Fat Duck fans, roses roses everwhere, and more…
Best News First! I have completed my first round of edit reviews on Ripped From My Cold Young Fingers! It has been a long slog but finally, yesterday morning after a 5-hour late-night marathon followed by a 6-hour Saturday morning, I finished. So what does that mean?
The folks at Focus House granted me full veto edits BUT ONLY if I agreed to four complete edits: editor then me, editor then me…and so on. We have now finished the first most grueling round (averaging me between 1 and 6 pages per hour, depending on the section and the number of suggested edits per page). We have three more rounds to go. I would expect that each successive round will be about twice as fast as the one before it…but I’m guessing.
Since the first round of Zachary Pill, The Dragon at Station End edits are not ready for my review, it looks like I have a week to focus my energy on two new stories and a non-fiction release article kids. They are:
·         Bones in the Tree – Not a horror story but a little tense J.
·         Millie’s Tomb (working title) – a captain’s treasure destroys a family and leave’s Brenda’s life in tatters.
·         The Super-Loop – How to make an amazing airplane for kids.
I’m telling on Fat Duck: Fatty and I have had a predictable week. The last few nights he’s found his own way onto the porch just before dark. BUT a couple of times he has snuck back on the porch after morning breakfast. The first time I found his little “accident,” he and I had a talk and I offered to keep it a secret. But after today’s three really terrible “incidents,” I told him that no matter how famous he has become I’m telling on him. So here it is:
Fatty is doing poo on the porch!
So there!
Now, the questions are: will Fatty see a drop in his ever growing fame because his fans all know? Or will I see a drop in readership because who wants to read books by a tattletale J?
My week: My daughter moved out this week with her fiancé, and is off on her first apartment adventure. Though I wished she had slowed down a little more, she felt it was time. So, a good part of my time this past week was spent moving furniture and helping her fill a last minute list of needed items. But, as of now, she’s officially away.
I know some parents feel the need to push their children out into the world as quickly as possible, but my wife and I have never felt that way. Though I hope my children leap with amazing success into life and careers, they are always welcome back to our home. Of course, my youngest son accepted our generous offer (he’s in his first year of high school) and says he’s going to live with us until he retires at age 65. Of course, we’re expected to continue buying his game systems until Play Station 26 comes out J).
I also spent Saturday afternoon (with help) creating and installing new rockers on an antique rocking chair for a friend. She was ecstatic with the result and won’t wear those oak rockers out in this lifetime. Sunday afternoon I finished planting new rosebushes around our newly landscaped well. I also planted this year’s annual flowers around the railing of our windmill. I promise to post pictures as soon as the new grass is in.
News – The “Mass Grave” investigated in Texas: Is it just me or does someone need to explain to ALL police departments that there has never NEVER NEVER been a proven case of a “medium,” “tarot reader,” or “prophet” who has actually been successful in helping to solve to solve a crime, find a runaway or recover a body.
This is craziness. Just because Patricia Arquette (Medium) and Jennifer Love Hewitt (Ghost Whisperer) both did amazing jobs with their ghost communication television shows, that doesn’t make these supernatural reports any more true.
For all of you supernatural fans, please know that I’m with you. I desperately want to believe that ghosts surround us and that angels are directing traffic to get us back and forth to work and school safely, but that doesn’t mean we should wait for a ghost to pass a message or zoom through traffic lights expecting higher beings to intervene.
Let me repeat, contrary to all the wacky stories we hear in oddball news outlets and all the stories told by self-proclaimed mediums on Larry King and other interview shows, there has never EVER been a police case solved by a psychic, medium or other person who was not personally there or involved with the crime.  
So which yahoo in the Texas police department took this report and wasted taxpayers’ money on someone’s inspired dream? Whoever it is should be forced to join with hundreds or maybe even thousands of other law enforcement officers who have humored similar reports. They should all be sent to a simple seminar called: MEDIUMS DON”T SOLVE CRIMES, INVESTIGATORS DO!
Where do I get twisted ideas for stories like The Shaft? I’d like to say that every story has an easy-to-pinpoint basis, but they come from virtually everywhere. Some might come from overheard comments or from insane news story (like the one above). Others are exaggerations of true events I might have experienced, and yet others seem to crawl straight from the air into one of my ears.
As for The Shaft, I can only say that I’m often accused of being too humane. I’ve been a strict vegetarian for the past 16 or so years. I protect animals of nearly every stripe and don’t even like to kill most insects (excepting ants, mosquitoes and ticks–ants damage my house and the other two chomp on my animals and family members). So, for me, The Shaft was a story about forced survival, friendship and finally death. I hoped that by painting the characters, both the man and the spider, with a sympathetic (or is that empathetic-I never get those straight) brush, I would allow the readers to understand the need for survival doesn’t negate capacity for caring. I’ve always said that though I am a vegetarian, I would be the first one in the woods with a rifle if my family needed food and it was the only way.
I always loved the Native American view of hunting: Though a hunter kills, he does it with respect and thanks. Though it provides little compensation to the poor dead deer, it at least demonstrates that need not aggression is the driving motive.
Of course, veggie burgers are now available to all tribal members J.  
Thanks so much, Mark Reeder…for your generous review of From My Cold Young Fingers.
His review…
««««« (5 out of 5 stars) May 21, 2011 
I Was Fortunate…
In the next blog (Wednesday June 15th): A dead duck, my review of Ender’s Game, the secret to YOUR success and more….
Thanks for spending time with me J!

>A Halloween of Shame…


A kid finds work, Fat Duck has a routine, my movie review of Unstoppable, an update and excerpt from Ripped From My Cold Young Fingers, Thanks to DebA for her review of From My Cold Young Fingers, and more…
My First Job: I sit here staring at a blank page trying to think of a story, any story, from my past that might have value, entertainment or otherwise. My first thought is, how sad it is that I’m well past four decades and can’t think of a single story worth your time? Fortunately, my mind refused to believe I’d lived four completely useless decades, so it burped up a tiny dribble of a story. Whew! Apparently I’ve lived at least six hours of notable time J.
I grew up in a rural Maine city, which means we had running water, electricity, a train (oh, make that 6 hours plus a train story for next time J), enough traffic to grab bumpers and skateboard behind, and pretty much everything that everyone else has or had at that time. I lived just one block from a family-owned corner store and bakery. The owner of that store was gruff and seemed to be in a constant “let me explain something to you” mode, at least in regards to the neighborhood children that used to flock to the place like seagulls around a fast food parking lot. It was Halloween Day, and I was probably ten or eleven–just at the age when you’re supposed to be too old for Halloween but secretly look forward to it.
Well, one Halloween Day the gruff old store owner who knew every neighborhood kid by face and family, if not by name, intercepted my best friend Jones and I as we were passing through his fine establishment for one of the dozen reasons we thought of each day.
“You kids want to make some money?” he asked.
Excited, Jones and I exchanged glances. It was every kid’s dream. Sure, there were older people with jobs, and even some older kids had jobs, but how many kids our age had a chance to pad our usually empty pockets. Of course, we jumped at the chance.
“Sure,” I said. “What do you need us to do?”
Of course, Mr. Gruff didn’t take our job acceptance at face value, not when he had a chance to lecture us on the way the world used to be so undependable but was now filled with kids who had no sense of responsibility. He finished by saying, “So you two really think you can do this job and be responsible, because I’m not so sure.”
I didn’t even have to look at Jones to say, “We can do it!”
We were probably going to have to unload a truck or maybe do some sweeping or cleaning. Either way, it seemed certain we could wrap this project up, get paid and still have plenty of time left over to harass hundreds of little kids as they went about their candy collecting that night. Yeah, it was turning out to be a really good day.
Chests out, faces pursed with determination, we followed Mr. Gruff outside the store and around the corner. When we marched past the back of the store and the next two buildings, I wondered if there was a hidden warehouse down the block.
“Where’s he taking us?” Jones whispered from about three steps behind the store owner.
I shrugged. Everyone knew that the store family owned several nearby buildings, but I had no clue which ones. About the fourth building down, the store owner marched into a long, narrow driveway that was overstuffed with a fancy motorhome.
Jones and I had, of course, seen the motorhome hundreds of times as we walked, ran, and bicycled up and down that main artery between the local grocery store, library, and our railroad-bordered neighborhood two blocks the other way. Neither of us, however, had known the vehicle was his. It made sense, I thought. Why wouldn’t a rich store owner own a fancy motorhome?
“So what do you think?” Mr. Gruff said, standing beside his shiny vehicle.
Was he looking for a compliment? Neither Jones nor I really knew anyone with money, so we had never been this close to a motorhome. What did he expect us to say?
“It’s nice,” I offered.
“So what do you think of your job?” he asked, hands on hips, staring at the motorhome.
“You want us to clean it?” Jones asked, his neck craned to look up at the monstrosity.
I knew what he was thinking. We were barely taller than the tires. We’d need a couple of good ladders and a pretty powerful hose to get this job done. I also had a sinking feeling that this little project might interfere with our Halloween adventures.  Suddenly, being employed wasn’t sounding like such a great idea.
“No, I don’t need you to clean it,” Mr. Gruff said, brushing a tiny piece of dust off the shiny blue finish. It did look impeccable, certainly in comparison to the rust buckets that both Jones’ and my parents drove and seldom, if ever, cleaned.
“Neither of us has a license,” I offered, truly confused as to what other service he might be expecting.
“I want you two to guard it,” Mr. Gruff announced.
That sinking feeling in my stomach suddenly turned to a cramp. I swallowed hard, having already put the pieces of the puzzle together.
“You want us to guard your motorhome tonight,” I said, “on Halloween.”
Mr. Gruff wiped his hands on his apron, something I noticed all bakers tended to do. Back then, it seemed like a stealthy signal from a secret baker’s guild, but I’ve recently come to believe it’s just to clean their hands.     
“Most kids your age are useless,” he said, “but you boys seem to be a little different. You said you wanted some work, and here it is. Frankly, I’ll be depending on you to make sure no one throws anything at my motorhome tonight. ‘That going to be a problem?” He wiped his hands on his apron again.
Like a couple of whipped dogs, Jones and shook our heads. We took the job.
Just as agreed, that evening at 5:00 pm we trudged up the street to take our positions in front of the motorhome, a vehicle we had already grown to hate. Mr. Gruff had two folding chairs ready and even handed us both a Coke.
“Remember what I told you,” he said. “No one touches my motorhome. Got it?”
With no enthusiasm at all, we nodded.
The first hour passed and we were okay. It wasn’t really that dark and only a few really young kids in costumes had walked by with their parents. Who cared about Halloween?
By 6:15 pm, however, our resolve was tested when we saw a dozen of our friends going by, some in costumes, some not, but all with big smiles on their faces. They were heading out to have the time of their lives.
Not us. We sat there. And sat there. And sat there.
By 6:30 pm, the silence between us was as thick as Mr. Gruff’s chocolate frosting.
Another cluster of our friends passed.
“No one tried to throw anything yet,” Jones finally said.
I glanced behind and up at the motorhome that towered over us like a school principal. It didn’t have a single smear from thrown candy or anything else.
“Seems a shame to make them waste money when nothing’s going to happen,” I said. I was leaning forward in my seat…just to ease the cramp in my back.
“Wasn’t that Kenny?” Jones said, pointing down the street to a shadow that could have been anything from a dog to an elderly woman.
“Yeah, I think it was,” I said, standing…to get a better view of Kenny’s shadow.
Jones was already on his feet.
“You don’t want to wear a stupid costume, do you?” he asked.
“That’s no fun,” I told him as we jogged in the direction of our friends.
6:30 pm.
Fat Duck Settles Into a Routine: Fat Duck and I seem to have found a routine (assuming a routine can be as short as 5 to 7 days). At about eight each morning, I let him out of his cage. I then throw bread across the driveway to Original Duck and his few wild mallard followers. I then throw three pieces of bread to the bottom of the stairs for Fat Duck. After nibbling at a few crumbs he left outside his cage the night before, he flies down to the driveway and eats most of his breakfast. On the good mornings, he then wanders off to the side of the pond and his hay bale. On the bad mornings, he forgets and comes back up onto the porch where I have to shoo him away whenever I happen to notice he’s back.
Then, for the rest of the day he lives the life of Riley and relaxes by the pond. Near dusk, he waits for me to come fetch him off his hay bale. Now, this isn’t as simple as it sounds, because the hay bale has to be approached circularly so that I come at it from between the bale and the pond, otherwise Fat Duck might instinctively fly into the water (which, as we’ve discussed, he hates). Once I have circled around and come up behind Fat Duck–he never looks anyone in the eye–and poke him in the back. The poke is necessary because sometime during the afternoon, he has both forgotten that he can fly and has developed a fear of 16-inch hay-bale heights. I sometimes have to poke him a second time before he takes the hint and re-remembers that his wings are for flying and he flutters down onto the driveway. I then march behind him until he sees the porch stairs.
And that’s it. Once he sees the stairs, he remembers how much he likes it up there. I follow him up, herd him a couple of steps and close him into his cage. As I fill his water bowl and drop in a couple more slices of bread, he says, “huh-huh,” a sound like you might make if you cleaned your glasses by fogging them up, which I choose to believe is Fat Duck for “Thank You.”
Of course, next week, he may have a whole new personality. After all, that’s what makes him famous.
My Movie Review of “Unstoppable” – 2010, starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, directed by Tony Scott.
My rating ««« (three out of five stars)
A half-mile-long freight train full of toxic chemicals accidentally has its throttle set to full speed and is sent hurtling–unmanned–through the Pennsylvania countryside. Experienced engineer (Denzel Washington) and new conductor (Chris Pike) throw all caution to the wind to pursue the “land missile” in a separate locomotive.
Will their most unusual scheme succeed in saving Stanton, Pennsylvania? Or will they just be adding their own deaths to the inevitable carnage?
I have to say, this movie is populated with an incredible cast, starting with Dewey the bumbling conductor that lets the train roll away (Ethan Suplee of My Name is Earl fame), Galvin the head of train operations (Kevin Dunn), Connie the Yard Boss (Rosario Dawson), Ned the Welder turned Locomotive Chaser (Lew Temple). Combined with the two a-list stars, this should have been a slam dunk.
Unfortunately, the premise teetered on the edge of unbelievable for me. Suffice it to say that when someone says it’s impossible to derail a train, I say *&^%$#it! What exactly would be so hard about pulling a couple of rails? Last I knew, trains can’t fly, especially around curves. What? You don’t have time to pull rails but you do have time to round up military-style rescue crews and special on-top-of-the-track derailment equipment?
Okay, so let’s get past that unlikely conundrum and move onto the lesser plot issues. Since when don’t railroad companies know what their trains can and can’t do under power? Since when do onboard engineers have to make guesses instead of companies relying upon disaster assessment specialists and advisors? Again, I’ll leave that issue to smarter men.
So what do those concerns leave us with? A pretty good piece of action eye candy with some mostly good speeding train effects. It also allows us to enjoy some pretty great actors saying and doing some almost believable things.
Worth a Redbox fee, but probably not more than that.
“Ripped From My Cold Young Fingers,” update & excerpt: I was desperate to give you all good news this evening and say my review of the first edit is done. Unfortunately, I still have about 50 pages to go, which means another day to a few days.
Here’s an excerpt from the latest edits…
“Grandma Clara! Grandma Clara!” I yelled as I rushed into my kitchen. Uncle Finneus appeared beside me. Of course, my grandmother had long ago returned to Heaven for the night.
“Out,” I said, to my Uncle Finneus. “Out of here right now!”
I was glad when he shrugged and disappeared. The last thing I needed was for his black sensibilities to affect my grandmother’s willingness to help.
“Grandma Clara!”
Suddenly she appeared. Her face was tight with concern.
“What is it, Nate?”
“It’s Vicky. Her light turned red. She’s going to die!”
Grandma Clara’s hand shot to her mouth.
“Oh no,” she breathed. “That poor child!”
“What do you mean that poor child? We have to do something. We have to stop this!”
Though her body trembled with concern, she said, “I’m sorry, Nate. There is nothing we can do. I can’t interfere down there. No one can.”
“That’s crazy. God created the Earth, everything. Why can’t he help my sister?”
“Nate, the Earth, the heavens, even Hell, they’re all part of a system. That system can only exist with rules, rules that we can’t break.”
“This makes no sense. You know what’s going to happen!”
Uncle Finneus knocked from the other side of his basement door.
“Not now!” I screamed at him.
“We have to help, Grandma. I can’t just let her die.”
“Nathaniel,” she said with a measured tone, “there is nothing we can do. I’m sorry.”
Uncle Finneus beat at the door.
“I said not now!”
“It’s time for me to go, Nate,” Grandmother Clara said. “I can’t be party to this.”
“To what?” I asked, turning to face her. But she had already disappeared.
“For God’s sake, Nate. Open the damned door!”
I did as demanded, and Uncle Finneus stormed up into the kitchen. He had his hat in hand and his hair was wildly askew. His eyes danced angrily back and forth. I watched as he took a series of breaths to recover himself. He ran his fingers through his hair, and then somewhat calmly placed his top hat back on his head. Within his anger, I thought I recognized a sliver of what had allowed him to fight his way up to me. The fire was still in his eyes as he spoke.
“Do I strike you as a particularly frivolous man?”
I could hear the sarcasm in his voice and didn’t think this was the moment to mention that I didn’t know what the word frivolous meant. I shook my head.
“Then why, pray tell, young Nathaniel, would you choose to ignore my knocking when it was evidently URGENT?”
“Uncle Finneus, maybe this isn’t the best time for you to drag your point out too long. My sister is about to die, and I need to call Aunt Alice and the others for help. What do you want?”
“Your grandmother was lying.”
“Grandma Clara?” I asked.
“None other.”
“She can’t lie,” I said. “She’s an angel.”
Thanks DebA for your kind review of “From My Cold Young Fingers – Advance Reading Copy (under-heaven)” (Kindle Edition)
Her review…
««««« (five out of five stars)
Very Nice, 25 May 2011
This story about a little boy murdered in the 1940’s takes an immediate twist when we discover that all kinds of souls (even those from Hell) can meet in a place called Under-Heaven. An unexpected pleasure to read. The mystery about Heaven, life after death and this possible place in between was fascinating. The plot moved well and kept me intrigued the way scenes moved from Under-Heaven to Earth and back again. I really enjoyed the story and the unfolding mysteries kept me guessing right to the end. I highly recommend the book. Nate and the entire cast of other characters were lovable and the author certainly brought them to life. While not a Christian book, this fictional Under-Heaven satisfied my belief system and gave me hope that in our world filled with pain and tragedy, there is goodness and purpose. Pick up “From My Cold Young Fingers” and you will not put it down.
Wrapping up: I apologize for taking so long to get the chat/blog session started tonight, but my youngest son had his high school Freshman Year awards ceremony, and family is always a priority. We were very proud to see him accept his award this evening J.
My Thanks: I once dreamt of writing for a living. Though a lot of my time is spent writing for nonprofit corporations and charities around the country, work that is incredibly fulfilling and that I will continue to do long after it is required on my end, each and every day more of my income comes directly from readers of my books. Please know that I couldn’t be more sincere in my appreciation.

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>Antimatter News and Fat Duck News That Matters…


Fat Duck gets curious, Tim plants a lawn and builds garden boxes, Antimatter is captured for 17 minutes, all about the Santa Conspiracy, filming begins soon, Maria Staal’s review, and more…
I didn’t Know Ducks Could Be Curious: Fat Duck continues to amuse tons of people. Some days I think he receives more emails than I do. That’s okay, though, because he hasn’t let the fame go to his head yet–even though some mornings his head feather do rise to make him look a bit like ElvisJ. 
It turns out, Fat Duck pays more attention than we all thought. To describe my yard, it would be easiest to envision a pond, then a house, then a huge barn behind the house, all in more or less a big line. What that means is that Fat Duck usually sits on his hay bale toward the front of our house, near the pond. This weekend, I had been working for several hours in the yard beside the barn, a spot where Fat Duck could see me from his perch a hundred or so feet away. But when I began working behind the barn, he couldn’t see me but could probably hear me. I had been doing some landscaping back there for about thirty minutes when I suddenly saw my hefty white friend land about twenty feet away. To my knowledge he’d never been in that section of the yard before, not even close.  I didn’t know what he wanted, but it almost looked as though he just wanted to see what I was doing. It was all quite cute, until Patsy, my dog (see new video of her and Fat Duck) started romping a little too energetically and sent Fat Duck winging back toward our porch.
So, the question is: Do I have a curious Fat Duck or just a Fat Duck who was reminding me of his cage and snack time? Leave a comment. I’d love to know what you thinkJ.
My weekend: Last weekend was spent filling the atypically flooded area around my well. This weekend I managed to finish up spreading the loam and grass seed over that entire area. Of course, the robins and other small birds are eating that new seed at an alarming rate, so I fear I may have to plant weed seeds next timeJ. I also spent part of yesterday and today helping my sister-in-law and her husband remove debris from the back corner of their yard and build two four-foot square planter boxes about 18 inches high each. She is an amazing gardener and her yard should appear in a magazine one day. In the meantime, it was nice to help people who are always available whenever we need them. I’ve often thought that our lives should not be measured by money or passing friends, but by the number of deserving people that we’re able to help. Wouldn’t it be something if rather than bragging how much we’ve earned or what we’ve purchased, if instead we were able to say I helped a dozen people I cared about this past week, year….
Another good portion of my weekend was spent reviewing first edits for “Ripped From My Cold Young Fingers.” I’m within a few days of wrapping up and hope to report that very achievement in Wednesday’s blog. We’ll see J.
News – CERN Researchers trap antimatter atoms for nearly 17 minutes! How did they do it? By trapping the hard-to-pin-down atoms in a magnetic field. I believe it was less than a year ago when Hadron Collider researchers near Geneva were excited about merely capturing antimatter for a few seconds. Now seventeen minutes! Not being a scientist, I can’t say exactly what the ramifications are, but I can tell you THEY’RE HUGE. We are on the verge of breakthroughs that will make technology of today look like Colonial-era gadgetry in a few decades. Time travel, maybe not. But new energy, yes. New transportation almost certainly. And space exploration and colonization might well be next.
Let’s hope so, because our kids are going to need the spacecraft construction jobsJ.
Keep HADRON COLLIDER a favorite on your news search scroll. Mark my words, Star Trek-like science is just around that corner.
How did Skip Ralstat and The Santa Shop come about? Thanks to Carrie and the rest of the crew at Focus House Publishing, I’ve had a few weeks filled with interviews, story requests, and lots of questions about my novel The Santa Shop. Those questions lead me to remember one pleasant post office clerk who had seen my book release announced in the local paper. He picked up a copy and for several weeks would ask me about it each time I stopped in. His first assumption was that it was a true story (it’s not). I asked him why, and he said, “It’s the strangest thing. Maybe it’s because I know you personally, but every time Skip is described I see you, and every time he speaks I hear your voice.”
I like to think that all of my stories hold a little “Tim,” that every character I write is in some way a reflection of myself. When I wrote about the pain that Skip endured, I found myself drawing upon memories of my brother’s death (he died in a car accident when I was a teenager). I also found myself remembering an elderly man that I used to deliver newspapers to when I was even younger than a teen. I remember that kindly old man telling me that one day that he was worried about how his wife would get by when he died because he was very ill. Just a few weeks later, she was watering their roses and died from a bee sting. To this day, I remember the staggering emotional agony that man suffered after her death. Then and now it makes me wish he had been the first to go.
So those two personal experiences fed a lot into Skip’s journey. Beyond his grief though, The Santa Shop was born of my desire to know why conspiracies are relegated to and always perpetrated by the bad guys. When I envisioned Skip’s world, I knew I wanted to provide him with help, even in the depths of his grief. I also knew that he shouldn’t directly see or even suspect that help existed. And those two concepts, grief and my wishes for a conspiracy for good were the ingredients that became the first book in my Santa Conspiracy series.
Of course, The Hollywood Ending is an extending ending for that book. More books in the series are planned, but my slate is so full I can’t promise when. Keep sending emails, though. A little pressure never hurt anyoneJ.  
Tim’s upcoming appearances: Some of you may remember that late last year I was writing a script for a book trailer. Well, that trailer and other videos are moving into production in the next couple of months. I understand that I’ll be with them while they shoot on location at sites ranging from a Santa Shop-like bridge to several mountain settings. I assume shoots dates and locations will be announced in the local New England papers, but as soon as I have times and other information, I’ll share as much as I canJ.
Thanks so much, Maria Staal, for your kind review of “The Santa Shop.”
Highlights of her review:
««««« (5 out of 5 stars) May 27, 2011 
Interesting story with a large feel good factor
The Santa Shop…leaves you feeling good….

In this first person narrative, we get acquainted with Skip, a man who after the tragic loss of his wife and baby son ends up living on the streets of Albany. Filled with remorse and guilt about the death of his family, he decides that he can’t go on living…. As we follow Skip on his journey, we…sympathize. The people he meets…are believable and real…(like) Father Johnston, a priest who lets Skip sleep in the chapel…Barwood Stone…and Jenny, owner of a corner store.

The Santa Shop is…well written…and keeps you wanting to read on. Ultimately you feel…the world really can be a better place…. I recommend The Santa Shop to anyone who is in need of a feel good story….  

In the next blog (Wednesday June 8th): More about Tim’s crazy menagerie of pets. My review of something or other, a story from my past, an update on “Ripped From My Cold Young Fingers,” and more…
Thanks for hanging with me J!

>The Night My Family Died and How Fat Duck Nearly Broke My Neck….


In The Blog Tonight: The Night My Family Died, how Fat Duck Nearly Broke My Neck, my upcoming appearances,  my movie review of I am Number Four, an update on and excerpt from Ripped From My Cold Young Fingers, Thanks to Alex Le Soum, the UK author of Space Turbulence, who reviewed The Santa Shop, and more…
The Night My Family Died: I was taking my first creative writing course. My college professor was an older woman who was constantly glancing my way in class, almost as though I was an oddity to be categorized and explained. She once asked me to read a portion of a story aloud but then rather than critiquing my segment as she had with the other students, she fell silent. Another day, she asked the class to write a story within the duration of the class. I finished mine and received the highest grade in the class. She then said, “We know you can create a free-flowing narrative, but I’m betting you’ll have a tougher time with structured non-fiction.” She assigned a standard “problem, argument, summary” format. I found it fairly straightforward excercise so wrote both a factual essay about the “problems with” nuclear power and a spoof about the “advantages of” nuclear power. Of course, children that glow in the dark thereby saving energy, and children with muliple extra limbs for harvesting the garden were positive points. Needless to say, I had hurdled another of her challenges. We were about halfway through the semester when she asked us to write a true essay about our past. This is more or less what I wrote…
From the time I was an infant, I remember being frightened of noises at night. I can’t explain why but I always felt that my family would one day be in danger. There were six children in my family back then, and I was barely seven when it happened. I heard a constant loud tapping on one of the second floor windows. It was really late at night, and I instantly knew this was the moment I had always feared. I sat bolt upright in bed and tried to pinpoint the sound. It was coming from one of my sister’s rooms on the other side of the second floor. Someone was trying to get in our house. I had to let my dad know!
I was so frightened that my tiny body was nearly frozen with fear, but I somehow forced myself to peer out my bedroom door. I could hear someone, maybe several someones, moving around. The strangers were already inside.
And they were between me and the stairs to the first floor!
Not knowing what else to do, I crept along the backside of the wall to my older sister’s room. Sharon was sprawled across the bed with blood covering her chest. They had slit her throat.
Gasping for breath, but not daring to scream, I forced myself to keep breathing. Some how, some way, I had to get my three other brothers and sisters to safety. I could hear pounding coming from the next room. Fear clamped around my chest, I crept to my brother Ralph’s room…and had all I could do not to faint. He was dead. Blood covered his pillow. His head was gone.
Not much more than a zombie now, I knew they were all gone, and probably my parents, too. There were a couple of loud thumps, but I no longer cared. I went to the next three bedrooms and confirmed what I already knew. Each and every one of my siblings was dead. Brutally killed in the middle of the night, right in our own home! I didn’t know why I hadn’t been slaughtered yet, but I knew it wasn’t fair. How could it have happened. Why us!
I ran to my room, but not from fear…I was beyond that. I ran because my head and my heart couldn’t take any more. The intruders had already killed everyone, taken everything from me. My most raw, darkest fear had come true. I crawled under the covers and rocked back and forth. At first, the noises I made were just gutteral reactions to pain…
At this point, just moments after I had turned my handwritten essay in, my professor looked up from her desk. “Is this true?” Her lips were quivering. “Did this really happened to you?”
I nodded…
I made those gutteral sounds for maybe an hour, maybe longer. But then I began to pray. I hadn’t been a religious kid, not really, but I had nothing left to do. My world was shattered. My entire family was dead. I prayed and I prayed. I prayed for it to be a dream, for God to somehow come down to Earth and make things okay again. I prayed to not be scared anymore, but most importantly I prayed for the lives of the people I loved. I had never realized how much I loved and needed each and every one of them until that moment. From the deepest most sincere core of myself, I prayed for things to go back to the way they were.
Two or more hours must have passed. The intruders had come and gone, and somehow they had missed me. For some reason, fate and those murdering thugs had left me to suffer through this terrible ordeal…alone. Finally, drained, a husk of a person, I pulled my covers away from my head and prepared to relive the nightmare all over again.
Like the walking dead, I trudged out into the hallway and heard banging. I looked and could see a tree limb tapping loudly against the glass. Not an intruder?
Holding my breath, I moved cautiously into my older sister’s room. I stared and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The red ribbon from one of her stuffed animals was stretched across her throat. I hadn’t seen blood at all! Her chest rose and fell in steady breaths. I hurried to my brother’s room and found not a headless boy, but my brother with a pillow over his head and a red tee shirt draped partway across that same pillow. And from room to room I went to find unlikely but logical reasons for each and every one of my violent visions.
My family was and remains alive and well.
And my professor? She finished reading that essay then stood in front of the entire class and said, “I want you all to hear something. This is the way we should all hope to write someday. And for the rest of this semester, this young man can do anything he wants. He has a perfect grade in my class.”
To this day, I could be hooked to a lie-detector machine and couldn’t tell you truthfully that event NEVER happened. Was it an answered prayer or just a waking dream?
Logic says one thing, but….
This true story was posted earlier at the website. I’d like to thank Susan A. for asking if a dream had ever influenced one of my stories. This was my response…one dream may well have influenced my very life.
Fat Duck Nearly Broke My Neck: Unfortunately, Fat Duck has gotten into the recent habit of sitting on his hay bale most of the day and forgetting where he belongs at night (I know, I know…last week he seemed to be trained!) The last few days, I’ve simply swatted him off his bale and walked behind him as he waddles toward the porch. Once he sees the stairs, he remembers where he belongs and flies up, one step at a time. Quite cute, and I’ll film it soon (now that the mysterious battery problems with my son’s Flip camera have been solved; it appears you can’t just plug it into the USB port and expect the standard, non-rechargeable AA batteries to recharge. Oops ) Just before last Sunday’s blog, I was in a rush—as I always seem to be–to get to my email, blog and chat session on time, so I forgot Fat Duck on his bale.  When the family realized I had abandoned him, they tried to get me away from the blog, but I suggested that my fourteen-year-old son could handle it just fine.
Unfortunately, Fat Duck had found his way out onto the 25-foot-long stone dam that separates our brook and pond. My son tried but couldn’t nudge him off with an aluminum fishing net, so he called for help. Flustered, I went outside to take care of it myself…in the dark…with no flashlight…and, as usual, fearless and clueless. In the pitch black, I pushed through the branches at the end of the dam and marched right out onto the foot-and-a-half wide dam that consists mostly of loose mortar and lots of missing stones.
My son, of course, shined the flashlight at me from the other side of the brook, blinding me, while I tried to coax Fatty to hell off before I killed myself. As you might have guessed, he ignored me…right until I tripped and fell head first. I got a face full of butt feathers as Fatty flew off and landed handily on the grass. I, in the meantime, landed in the pushup position on a rickety stone shelf with my hands barely catching the edges. It’s true that my brook and pond are relatively shallow (maybe two feet of water and another two of muck) and I likely wouldn’t have drowned, but a face full of granite sure wouldn’t have been much fun. As I recovered myself and marched Fatty to the porch, I noticed with some frustration that he didn’t seem to be in any pain at all. He happily fluttered up the stairs, once “remembering” what to do, and was soon waiting for me beside his cage.
I closed him in for the night, winced from a pulled side muscle and went inside.
Upcoming Appearances: I don’t have a time yet, but I will be appearing on the radio blog in the very near future. I’ll keep you apprised of a time when I have it.
Movie Review: I am Number Four – 2011, based on a book by Pittacus Lore, a pseudonym for James Frey and Jobie Hughes.
 My rating «««« (four out of five stars)
John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) is an unsettled teen who along with mysterious Henri (Timothy Olyphant) seems to be in hiding and off the grid. We soon learn that John is one of a number of alien teens sent to our planet to escape a frightening alien death squad. The story begins with John accidentally giving away his alien nature, which forces him and Henri to immediately pull up stakes and move…barely in time to avoid certain death. Henri leads them to the small town of Paradise, Ohio where he seeks information of some kind. Tired of being ostracized and alone, John rebels against Henri’s orders and says he’s going to school. There he meets beautiful Sarah (Dianna Agron), and starts to realize he is more different and more powerful than he ever imagined. Aliens descend upon the town and what happens next may well decide the fate of our world.
I have to admit I liked this well-cast movie quite a bit. I am admittedly a fan of most hero movies (excepting most military-only plots) and this one left me feeling that my daughter’s movie rental fee was well-invested. In my mind (especially since HBO’s Deadwood), Timothy Olyphant can do no wrong…but his character Henri seemed to be both under-utilized and under-developed. John Smith was a convincing screwed up kid who winds up embroiled in a mess beyond his control and not of his making. The plotlines seemed believable, given the unbelievable premise, and the supporting cast did a good job, even with shallow character set-ups. If you liked Jumper (which I did), I’d say you should see this movie. A little slow to begin, but once it churns along the payoff is worth it.
Rent this movie and settle in for a good dollop of action and entertainment.
“Ripped From My Cold Young Fingers,” update & excerpt: For those of you that are curious how “Ripped From My Cold Young Fingers” is coming along, I’m now about 67% done with my review of the first edits (3 more much faster, I hope, rounds to go). It looks like I’m still at least a week out from completing this, maybe two . I hope you’ll agree the time is worth it. Here’s an excerpt from the latest edits…
Though all houses in Under-Heaven look pretty much the same, it turns out that under certain circumstances, a house can be expanded―downward, to be exact. I learned that the day my Uncle Finneus arrived. At first I thought I had imagined it, but then I heard knocking sounds a second time. It wasn’t coming from either my front or back door.
“Grandma?” I said.
We were sitting across from each other in the living room. For a moment, she looked as baffled as I felt but then nodded and pursed her lips.
“This should be interesting,” she said.
Mystified, both by the knocking that seemed to be coming from my kitchen and by her comment, I got up to investigate. She followed.
“Open your basement door, Nate,” she said. “Whoever is down there can’t come up unless you allow it.”
“But I don’t have a basement door.”
“You do now,” she said.
The pounding had grown louder and more insistent. Together, my grandmother and I crept more than walked into the kitchen. A wood grain door now adorned what used to be a blank hallway wall.
“Go ahead,” Grandma Clara said. “Let’s see which member of the family has managed this little feat.” She motioned with her chin.
Hesitantly, I turned the knob and eased the door open.
A smartly dressed man with a curled mustache and a formal suit stepped energetically into my kitchen. He was tall and, all the way from his shoes to his top hat, was garbed entirely in black. Maybe I had been in Under-Heaven too long, but that much black nearly hurt my eyes. His shoes were polished to a brilliant sheen, and his suit looked so neatly pressed that I imagined he must never dare to sit down. His hat had a flat top like I remembered seeing on a circus poster once. He was what my mother might have referred to as a “dandy.” He removed his hat and bowed, revealing immaculately combed and greased-back dark hair with a perfect part running down the center. His mustache was trim and looked to be curled with wax at the edges.
“You must be, Nathaniel,” he said popping his hat back atop his head and extending a hand. I glanced to my grandmother. She nodded. I shook his hand.
“I’m Finneus T. Buckland, previous of Earth-fame, known as the inventor and distributor of Buckland’s Amazing Bottled Tonic, the finest medicine known to man—up until that time, of course.” He tipped his hat and bowed again with a flourish.
“Still haven’t got that foolishness out of your head, have you, Finneus?” Grandma Clara said.
“Well, well,” he said. He eyed her up and down. “It certainly is less than pleasant to see you here, Clara.”
She gave him one of my favorite warm smiles.
“Pleasant or not, you old cur, get over here and give me a hug.”
He did as instructed but made a face toward me as he dramatically extricated himself from her grip.
“I came to meet my nephew, not to frolic with haggard old angels,” he said, turning his attention back toward me.
“How are you, young fellow?”
“Fine,” I said. I could sense there was something very different about him, at least very different from anyone else here in my Under-Heaven. “Are you from Hell?” I asked. It was an uncharacteristically bold statement for me, but something I would find happening more and more as my exposure to my uncle grew.
He laughed a deep and cheerful belly laugh.
“We like to think of it as the other heaven,” he said.
Grandma Clara was grinning like a young girl. I wondered at the connection. Did angels fraternize with the damned?
“You know each other?” I asked.
“He’s my grandfather,” answered Grandma Clara.
“Correction,” Uncle Finneus said. “I was your favorite grandfather.”
“Since my other grandfather was dead before I was born, you were my only grandfather.”
“That, notwithstanding,” Uncle Finneus said, raising his chin in mock indignity, “I was still your favorite grandfather, was I not?”
“You haven’t changed an ounce,” she said to him. “I’m going to go now, but don’t you warp my grandson too much, you hear.”
“Now, Clara. You know all the warping comes from above. We folk down below keep things in a much better per¬spective.”
For a brief moment, I was terrified. Even if it weren’t for the man’s dark color and origin, how could she leave me with a complete stranger like that? I opened my mouth to object, but she spoke first.
“You’ll be okay with him,” she said, “but keep your eyes open, Nate.” Grandma Clara winked at Uncle Finneus. “He’s a slippery old coot, and a bit more dangerous than most, given that he’s so likeable.” She flashed a goodbye smile at Uncle Finneus, and then faded away. I was a little shocked. Other than the one time when I had been sick, she had always used the back door.
My surprise at her exit must have shown because Uncle Finneus said, “Don’t fret that none, young fella. She was likely just showing off a bit for my benefit.”
“Can you fade, too?” I asked.
“Doesn’t matter much,” he said. “Crawl and skulk is what they’ll tell you I do best, and they wouldn’t be entirely untrue about that, either.”
“Why do you say you’re my Uncle if you’re Grandma Clara’s grandfather? Wouldn’t that make you my great, great—”
“Save all the greats, young man,” he interrupted. “I prefer the term Uncle and that’s what we’ll be sticking with. Grandfathers are old and withered fellows―two things I am not. I’m currently in the youth of my death, and I shall not have you labeling me otherwise. Are we clear on that?”
“Yes, Uncle Finneus,” I said with a grin. How could anyone not have liked this man?
Thanks Alex Le Soum (London, UK) for your kind review:
Author of “Space Turbulence,” a science fiction murder mystery (The Kolian Chronicles)
Alex’s review…
««««« (five out of five stars)
Fantastic read, 23 May 2011
This review is from: The Santa Shop (The Santa Conspiracy) (Kindle Edition)
Downloaded this book to my Kindle last Friday. I started reading it during a lull on a visit to an elderly relative, I had intended only to read a few pages, but the story drew me in so completely that before I knew it I’d read the whole thing. I loved the unexpected twist at the end, really clever. Truly a very emotive story, brilliantly crafted. I whole-heartedly recommend this to everyone…and not just for Christmas reading. This is a great book for any time of year.
Wrapping up: Those of you that were following my Facebook posts, emails, or chat notes tonight know that we had a tornado watch here in Maine as I created this latest entry to “The Perfect World.” The warning time has passed and we have, thankfully, come through unharmed. Once again, I’m convinced that Maine is one of the safest places in the US to live. It’s now 12:30 am (I know, crazy late) and I’m typing the last words while my dog Patsy barks like a lunatic in the living room a few feet away from my office. I flip the light on and, sure enough, there’s the beautiful red fox in the driveway only a couple of feet from Slugger my yellow tabby cat, who strolls in the house like it’s no problem. One night, a year or so ago, Slugger actually chased a larger fox across the yard. When I dragged him in, he squirmed to get back out his cat door–I guess so he could go play with his murderer. Needless to say, I held him tight.
My Thanks: I once dreamt of writing for a living. Though a lot of my time is spent writing for nonprofit corporations and charities around the country, work that I will continue to do long after my need passes, each and every day more of my income comes directly from readers of my books. Please know that I couldn’t be more sincere in my appreciation.

>Of Ducks and Dragons…


Tonight on the blog: Fat Duck and the Hay Bale, my physical labor weekend, Greeks may be losing their Country, Zachary Pill a boy wizard and a dragon, my upcoming appearances, David Espinoza – review of From My Cold Young Fingers, and more…
Fat Duck and the Hay Bale: Those of you that are live near me know that I have three really great kids…who aren’t the greatest at following up with their chores (we’ll talk about that another timeJ). Because of this, my lawn is usually one of the last in the neighborhood to get spruced up in the spring (we have weeping willows that shed branches like my dog Patsy sheds fur, for instance). But we have finally gotten most everything squared away EXCEPT for the bale of hay that I left on the front lawn beside the pond this winter. Of course, we’ve already discussed how Fatty dislikes the water, so I was hoping that he and his like-minded friends would use the bale as a wind break from the terrible gales that sweep off from our seven-acre back field. The bale was a semi-successful and used about one fifth of the time this winter. Of course, it remained all spring and was just starting to grow a little moss on the edges when I finally gave up on child help and “thought about” moving it myself. As you all know, Fat Duck and I have had an ongoing “disagreement” of where his feathery butt belongs during the day. Well, this past week it almost seems he has “seen the light” and decided to stay OFF the porch during the day. Unfortunately, his replacement perch is on top of the hay bale. So, my wife and I have now accepted this new two-part lawn ornament. Fat Duck and the Hay Bale stay as is.
My weekend: This has been a physical labor weekend. Yesterday was cool in the 60s but today was beautiful in the 80s here in Maine. This spring we’ve had flooding like I’ve never seen in my fifteen years living in this home. The seasonal pond on the side of our well flooded and water actually rose up to touch the fieldstone edges about 3/4 of the way around. It is a dug well, and having unfiltered surface water seeping into drinking water is never a good thing. So, yesterday and today, my fourteen-year-old son and I shoveled more than half a truckload of sand into the area surrounding the well. The other half will, hopefully, be finished tomorrow. Later in the week, I’ll loam and spread grass seed, solving the problem until a REALLY BIG flood comes along, which I hope will be never.
The Perfect World (Tim’s take on recent news): It is incredibly dangerous for any entertainer (writer, actor, artist or performer) of any type to share opinions that can be construed as either too liberal or too conservative. For a fiction writer, it would be the equivalent of cutting out half of your audience. So, in the interest of assuring everyone that I’m not likely to offend either side, I’ll say I am a registered Republican but I often vote for liberals. In short, I think I’m often a moderate middle-of-the-roader like many Americans. I believe that politicians should be held accountable for what they say, and if someone from either side lies, we need to accept it (not make excuses) and hold them accountable. All that said, I will try never to get overly political.
My news commentary tonight (very short after the above ramble) is about the GREEKS who may no longer be able to control their own country’s economy. Yes, you heard me right. It looks like Greece is on the verge of total financial collapse again after the European Union already bailed them out once or twice. Now, if they are going to get further financial help, it looks like the EU might actually take over their tax collection and public spending policies until the mess is cleaned up. This is a sad time for economies all over the world, including ours in the US. The global meltdown was real and remains with us, contrary to what we’ve been hearing in the news. Most of the major economies in the world are still on their knees and struggling to find a way to recover. How long will it be before China or some of our other debtor nations decide they “need” their money back. What will the US do then? File bankruptcy? I’m not optimistic that a solution is at hand, but I absolutely disagree with every Republican and Democratic answer I’ve heard so far. We need to fix our own financial mess, and we need to do it without forcing retirees to eat dog food (I purchased a home from the estate of such a man) and without forcing toddlers to forgo medical treatments because their parents still owe medical bills to the local hospital (it happened to someone in my extended family.) I don’t have the solution, but it’s not going to look pretty on a bumper sticker and it sure as heck won’t be easy to vote for. Let’s keep our eyes on Greece…and, please, wish its people well.
Zachary Pill, The Dragon at Station End: Carrie Rourke at Focus House has asked me to spend a few minutes once or twice a week and talk about a past, current or upcoming project. Please email me about any subjects that interest you (past characters, questions about why I did or didn’t include or exclude scenes, whatever) and I’ll get to them in an upcoming blog.
Tonight, I thought I’d talk a little about the first book in my Zachary Pill series. It has literally swallowed up thousands of my hours over the last five years, but I think you will all appreciate the end result. Zachary Pill is a boy that wakes up one day to find that his entire family isn’t from Earth and isn’t human. He also learns that his father is a wizard. That knowledge comes just before bats attack them at their Boston apartment. Suddenly, Zachary is left alone to wonder why first his mother and now his father have disappeared and why creatures from another world want him dead! I’d like to tell you that things get easier for Zachary after that, but all I can say is that he has a tough road ahead. Werewolves, ghosts, orcs and trolls are all in his future, as is the discovery that at any moment he could forever be turned into a dragon!   
Tim’s upcoming appearances: For those of you that have been waiting for me to break loose with some information about my “rough” childhood, please check out either of the two blog interviews upcoming (or maybe already up) at both of the following:
David Espinoza, thank you for your kind review…
««««« (5 out of 5 stars) May 27, 2011 by 
Dave Espinoza (California, USA) – See all my reviews
This review is from: From My Cold Young Fingers – Advance Reading Copy (Paperback)
When I read the description I was interested right away. Then after reading comments on amazon I knew I had to buy this book. From My Cold Young Fingers is a very interesting story that I have recommended to numerous friends. When I started reading this book I felt the need to keep reading, onto the next page, and that next page did not let you down nor did it have you saying” this is a good place to stop” I really had an addiction to this book and the interesting plot Tim Greaton put in for this book and his characters. I could picture this a soon to be Hollywood motion pictures.
For those of you that want to know more about David and his great movie/web company, please email him at:  David Espinoza
In the next blog (Wednesday June 1st): My movie review of “I am Number Four,” a really sad story from my past, an update on “Ripped From My Cold Young Fingers,” and more…
Thanks for hanging with me 🙂
Please have a great beginning to your week!

>All about the ducks, and other stuff….


Tonight in the blog: a review of Vegas Moon by John Locke, more about Fat Duck and Original Duck, Weeny the Cat is introduced, an update on and excerpt from Ripped From My Cold Young Fingers, my take on the latest news, news about my increased online appearances, finally some Tim home life information, the Greaton Easter Bunny story, why Tim is appearing at a soup kitchen near you, A very kind Fran Lewis review of The Santa Shop, and more…
Book Review: Vegas Moon (A Donovan Creed Novel) [Kindle Edition] by John Locke ««««
This is a surprisingly fun but still twisted novel. Donovan Creed, the hired hit man at its core, enjoys a lifestyle you’d more expect from a Hollywood leading man than an assassin. I have to admit I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did. First, you don’t imagine a cold-blooded hit man being the likable type, but he sort of is. Second, I never thought I’d enjoy a book written in present tense. John’s style really works in that regard. Long and short, definitely a keeper. The ending was fun.
Fat Duck and Original Duck: As you all know, Fat Duck can fly and does when he gets bothered too much. A couple of days ago, I tapped him in the side to get him off the porch. He, of course, let go with a runny poop, then soared off the porch. Though he can fly, he isn’t particularly good at controlling it, so that’s when he plowed right into Original Duck, which sent both of them tumbling across the ground. Fortunately, neither got hurt. Sorry I didn’t have a video running J. Last night, Fat duck hopped/flew up one stair at a time (five stairs) to get onto the porch and walked right into his pen. He’s very close to being a trained Fat Duck. I just posted a video of the two of them on Facebook. I’ll try to post on YouTube (which I’ve never done) and link here in the next day or so. It’s about 8:30 in the evening as I write this paragraph. I was just informed I forgot to put Fat Duck in tonight. I scooted outside and found him sitting on the porch next to his cage. Like I said…trained J.
Weeny the Cat: I will also soon be posting a very short video of Weeny, one of our cats. She was originally called Celine, which became Shaleeny Weeny (when my kids were young) and now she’s just Weeny. She’s about 16 years old and we’re thankful she’s still healthy. One of my summer projects is to erect a post and birdhouse right outside her favorite window. It’ll be like TV for her J.
News Commentary: Here in Maine, it looks like all State of Maine funding is about to be cut for Maine Public Broadcasting (radio and TV). I, for one, am saddened and concerned. For one thing, our statewide Emergency Broadcasting System is largely managed by this public broadcasting system. More importantly, a non-commercial broadcast system just makes sense. I won’t get into my opinions about the stations programming, but I will say that to depend on “corporations only” for news, information, and emergency broadcasting is sheer folly. Our current governor is being called a crackpot and lunatic around the country and even around the world. I fear, at the very least, this is proof he has some of his priorities backwards.  
Comments about Online Appearances: I recently received an email from a friend out in California who said, “Your name is popping up everywhere online.” Thanks in no small part to Carrie Rourke my personal angel as Focus House Publishing. In each upcoming blog, I will post new sites where my links and information can be found J.
The Home Life: Those of you that know me personally know that I’m very careful not to expose my family to unnecessary exposure. It’s not fair to them. That, by the way, is one of the reasons I have turned down so many requests to recognize family connections on any of the social networking sites (sorry L). However, I keep receiving emails from friends and fans hoping that I can be a little more open about my home life. With this blog I’ll try to find a comfortable line.  Both of my college children are living home for the summer. My daughter has recently become engaged and I understand she’ll be moving out soon. I’m concerned but she seems to have picked a pretty good guy so I expect it will be okay. My wife and I have always felt our children are welcome to live with us for as long as they want (rent free–though I wish it wasn’t always chore free). My youngest, who is still in high school, has said he’s going to live with us until he retires. He says we’ll still be buying his game systems when the Playstation 26 is out. My U-Penn college son (yeah, he’s one of the smart ones) just recently found a job. I’m pleased to see how responsible he’s being.    
Scheduled dates (soup kitchen): One of my first tour stops will be at the Oxford Hills Community Table (soup kitchen) in Norway, Maine. I know it’s not a typical author stop, but I’ve never been a typical author. That event will likely be taking place early-September. I’ll be appearing in schools for the “Zachary Pill, The Dragon at Station End” series all fall and winter seasons. Please let me know if you have a location Focus House might want to schedule. I will also be visiting, nursing homes, hospitals, libraries, and bookstores throughout the season, so don’t be shy about requesting an appearance in any venue J.
A story from my past: Please don’t ask me to do this every blog or even every week, because either don’t have that many stories or I have a terrible memory (or maybe both). For this blog, I’m going to steal a story from my Facebook info. I’ll add more stories as our blog relationship grows J. The Easter Rabbit Catch: My dad was a great prankster, and I guess some of that rubbed off on me. When my three children were all between the ages of 5 and 11, I posted “No Rabbits Allowed” on every door in our home and built a cage to catch the Easter Bunny if he did ‘manage’ to slip inside. My children were so upset. I had been telling them for years that the big-eared criminal shouldn’t be allowed to enter people’s houses without permission. Well, when my children woke up Easter Morning, they found candy all over the house and their father handily locked and asleep inside the rabbit trap! The schools were absolutely abuzz with how handily that blasted bunny bested their dad.
I still dream of catchin’ that furry criminal J
Latest Book Update and Excerpt:  For those of you that are curious how “Ripped From My Cold Young Fingers” is coming along, I’m now about 47% done with my review of the first edits (3 more much faster, I hope, rounds to go). At the 20 pages a day I’m currently averaging, I should be done this round in another 8 or 9 days. Here is an excerpt from the latest edits…
“No!” I screamed. I struggled to my feet and charged him with my one good arm. I tried to punch his groin, but the butt of the gun slammed into my forehead. Quick like a snake, the man reached down and grabbed me by the hair before I could fall.
“Please,” I managed to say. I wanted to plead for the safety of my mother and sister, but I suddenly remembered all the noise from the kitchen where there was now only silence. If she had any breath remaining, she would have been protecting her children. Whiskey had bested her attacker but must have been too late to save her. My mother was dead. I knew it as surely as I knew my own life would soon be ending.
Another shot exploded in my ear.
I heard Whiskey yelp.
“No, Mr. Edds!” I pushed with my legs and drove my head into Casey Edds’ stomach.
Tommy’s father yanked me up by the hair so I was forced to stare at his grease-coated face.
“God damn it, kid! How the fuck did you recognize me?”
I heard Vicky’s window crash. My God, he was doing it, Whiskey was saving her!
The sound had barely registered in my ears when—with a twist and a jerk from a forearm that had pulled thousands of lobster traps from the briny ocean—Casey Edds, the highliner of Coldwell Bay, snapped my neck.
My soul fled that accursed house before my thin body even had time to drop to the floor.
Thank you Fran Lewis for your amazingly kind review of The Santa Shop! Her review…
Hope is something that everyone needs and never give up on. No matter what life throws at you it’s too precious to take yourself away and out of the world. Everyone has a purpose in life and sometimes events happen that we cannot control yet feel that if we were present the outcome would have been different. Not always the case. Skip Ralstat was a lawyer whose family died at the hand of a thoughtless man who was on drugs. Going to an office party on Christmas Eve and arrive back home finding his wife and son burned to death riddled him with guilt. Deciding his life was worthless; his time on earth limited, he gave up on himself and decided to live on the streets. But, unknown to Skip although he lived alone and wandered the many streets in Albany each day and night he was never really alone nor lacking people who really cared about him and understood his despair.
The decisions we make in life can determine what happens to us in the present as well as the future. Not all decisions will be sound or right. But, making them we have to stand by what we decide. Replaying and reliving failures and successes will not help because you cannot rewind time and recreate the outcome of a decision or event. Skip decided to go to a Christmas party on Christmas Eve leaving his wife and daughter home. Unfortunately, one of the tenants where they lived was careless, on drugs and started a fire that killed many including his family. Was their death really his fault? Would the outcome have been different had he been home? Would the world be better off without him? Hard decision. What would your answer be?
Self- blame is a way out of facing reality. Suicide is one means of escape. As Skip wanders the streets one morning he meets Father Johnson he invites him into his warm church, gives him a warm meal, somewhere to sleep and much food for thought. Kind, caring and understanding and definitely not judgmental, Skip hears what the Father’s message about life is but will he heed his words.
Leaving the church he meets a man named Barwood who shares his story with him and takes him to meet a wonderful woman named Martha who owns a soup kitchen. Justifying being homeless, explaining why he’s living on the streets and yet encouraged the man to return to his life and not give up on himself. Christmas and the holiday season often brings out the best in some and the worst in others. Meeting Barwood would play some positive thoughts and remembrances in his mind as he remembers the good times and the wealth of having a family. But, yet he planned to take his own life and when Barwood tells him about Christmas Leap in the town of Gary, he plans to find a way to get there. Meeting several people along the way, Jenny who owns a lot of property and is striving to open her own shelter. The lady at the Governor’s office who opens his eyes to prejudice and the waitress at the diner that was just plain rude. Yet, Skip in all of his despair and sorrow found a way to teach each one of these people and others a lesson in kindness, humility and understanding.
Arriving in Gary he befriends the man in the Santa Shop who explains how he came to own it and why. But, one toy truck, one man dressed as a reaper would make all the difference to him and many others. Living on the streets, not used to the kindness and caring of others he turns down the gift from the man who owns the Santa Shop, tells the waitress she is rude and finds a way to make a little girl at the inn smile. Why do people treat the homeless and those less fortunate as less than human? Remembering his wife and son he realizes that his own death should be imminent and finds the bridge famous for the Christmas Leap event each year and climbs to the top.
What does happen I cannot tell you or explain? The thoughts played in his head, the words that come out and the fear in his heart is immeasurable. The reality of the situation, what changes him or does not change him you need to read for yourself. The story begins with one man who needs to do something before he and his wife move to another place. Just how the beginning links to the ending you will have to read for yourself. Will he jump or will something in his heart bring him back and show him that life is fragile as delicate as a piece of blown glass which needs to be protected or it will shatter. Find out for yourself because this is one book that everyone should read.
I just lost my mom and my sister. There are times that I feel sad, cry and wonder why they are no longer here. I often wonder what more could have been done by the doctors to save them. I often wonder what would have happened had I been there or told sooner about my sister’s heart attack. You cannot rewind the past but you can make them proud of you and your work in the present.
One man’s heartfelt story and journey from despair to redemption. One man’s voice heard loud and clear and one author who gave me the honor of reading and reviewing it.
Skip could be anyone. He could be your neighbor, friend, husband or brother. This book teaches so many important lessons. First, you are never really alone if you allow others to reach out to you. Second, the kindness of both Martha and Jenny was precious to him regardless of the end result. Third, never letting the words of others sting even though they burn your heart. The tears that came to my eyes were not only for my sister and mother but for anyone who loses faith and does not realize that life means easing the pain of others to sometimes help yourself. The only leap anyone should take is one of faith and hope.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer
My Thanks: As many of you know, I often credit my current position in life, my very sanity, on the writers who provided me with books to hide in when things were tough during my childhood. Today, I feel the same sense of gratitude to you, my readers. I’m most assuredly not a bestseller yet (though I might be the bestselling author living on my street J) but each day I receive more emails, more acknowledgements that my books are not just reaching the hands of readers, but are being appreciated. There is no greater tribute a reader can give than to say that something I created was of value, that one of my books actually made a difference in someone else’s life. I hope you don’t get sick of hearing it, because I REALLY TRULY WISH TO THANK YOU ALL FOR GRANTING ME THIS LIFE, THE LIFE OF A WRITER!