Saturday, December 26, 2015

Post from Writing Wranglers and Warriors

I'm taking today off to spend with my family, so I'm going to give you a link to my Christmas Day blog post for Writing Wranglers and Warriors. But I will leave you with one reminder that it's not too late to give your favorite independent author the perfect Christmas gift--a review on Amazon!

Here's the link and I'll be back next week!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Warm Christmas Memories, Part 4

christmas, tree, lights, decorations, ornaments, festive, holidays, presents, wrapping, bows, gifts, evergreenMy final warm Christmas memory comes from my adulthood. It involves a family Christmas day event. It's not something that involves a gift of great emotional meaning like the writing tablets of my childhood, but it was a lovely family moment that really speaks to the level of affection and fun that is typical of our clan.

Ever since my brother Dave moved to Virginia, it's become standard procedure that the family who are here gather for breakfast (if you haven't eaten my mom's breakfast casserole, I contend you haven't fully lived) in the morning and then the whole family gathers that evening for a raucous dinner followed by what has become known over the years as the shredding of the paper. That part is more about watching the kids open entirely too many gifts and trying not to go deaf from the din of squealing children. That's probably too negative a term for it, but it's ear-splitting.

Well, this particular year, my parents made it a little more about the grown up kids than usual. We had long ago stopped getting gifts for each other, spending all our gift money on the kids since, though we're by no means wealthy, we all pretty much have everything we need and most of the things we want. Well, this year, it was a little different.

After the kids were finished, Mom and Dad broke out a gift for each of us, their four children. Dave,  Barb, and Don each received some sort of gift that was significant to their childhood. I don't remember what Dave and Barb got, but I do remember Don got a toy trash truck because he wanted to be the guy who rides on the back of one when he grew up. He called it being a "momback," which is what he heard a trash man (now known as a sanitation engineer) say to the driver once when he wanted him to back up. Think about it.

Well, I got socks and some meaningless kitchen gadget. I mean, I like to cook, but it wasn't really anything significant. I didn't say anything. I told myself it didn't matter. Everybody else was happy and the family was all together. But I have to admit that I was a little hurt.

Things were winding down and all the shredded paper was being stuffed into trash bags, when Mom sat down beside me. "Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?" she asked.

"Yeah," I replied diplomatically.

"Good," she said. "Hey, what's that over there? Behind the desk?"

I looked over the back of the couch at the desk, expecting to find a mouse or something.

"I don't see anything," I said.

"Why don't you go check it out?"

So I did. Instead of a mouse, there was a stray Christmas present. It was a long, flat box, perhaps almost three feet long. It was marked, "To Joe From Santa." I had an inkling what it might be, so with great anticipation, I pulled off the ribbon and tore through the wrapping. Sure enough, there it was. A Red Ryder Range Model Air Rifle. It was real beauty. I was so excited as I took it out of the box and loaded it so I could go out back and take on Black Bart and his evil posse.

I'm happy to report I didn't shoot my eye out.

Before I end, I would like to make one last plea to you who read this regarding ClutchMOV's Kickstarter campaign. It's such a wonderful publication that does great things to promote the Mid-Ohio Valley and time to give your support is dwindling away quickly. Please consider supporting it by going here. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Warm Christmas Memories, Part 3

Disclaimer: only the first half of this post is dedicated to a Christmas memory. The rest will be crass commercialism. At least it's only half crass.

Free Santa Claus ClipartFor my third memory, I'd like to share something that's not even actually a memory. It was a dream. A vivid, real dream that I woke from convinced it was real. So convinced that I spent part of my childhood trying to prove it to myself. Sadly, I never succeeded.

The bedroom arrangements in our house changed as kids grew up and moved out. I started out when I was wee little in my sister's room because it was just down the hall from Mom and Dad. When my sister married and moved out, the room became my oldest brother Dave's and I moved into the giant attic bedroom with my middle brother, Don. When Dave moved out, if I recall correctly, that downstairs room became Mom's sewing room and the place where all the toys got stored. So when I say the closet in question was in Dave's room, I have to tell you it may or may not have been his room at the time of The Dream.

winter, snow, cold, trees, nature, christmas, woods, black and whiteOne night, as wasn't unusual for me, I was playing in the closet of that room. It was big and deep and very dark when you closed the door, so it was ideal for the little projector toy I had. It was, looking back, nothing more than a kind of scaled-down slide projector with a slot where multiple-slide strips could be pushed through. Each strip, four slides in length, told a miniature story. So anyway, I was playing in there, way in the back. I don't remember how, but I discovered that the back wall of that closet had a secret door in it. When I opened it and crawled through, it was a portal to the North Pole. I saw the elves and the reindeer and even the big man himself. I don't recall if he told me or I just got the sense of it, but I felt like he was showing me this place because someday I was going to be Santa Claus when he retired. It was one of the happiest, most magical moments of my life.

pillows, sheets, bed, bedroom, decor, black and whiteSuddenly, without warning, I was no longer at the North Pole. I was lying in bed with Mom yelling at me that it was time to get up for school. I've never experienced anything quite like it since. Unlike most dreams, I retained every little detail of the trip. I was so convinced that it was more than a dream that, periodically for the next year or more, I checked the back wall of that closet, hoping that the door was only visible when Santa wanted it to be.

Unfortunately, that door never reappeared, in a dream or while I was awake. Over the years, I've lost the specific details of the North Pole, though I've never lost the sense of joy and wonder that I felt while I was there. The memory of it pops up at the most unexpected times. Often, it's when I need a boost of joy and wonder.

I have a confession to make. When I was older, my folks sold that house to build the one they live in now. I never told anyone this, but before they moved out for the last time and turned over the keys to the new owners, I checked for that door one last time. Missed it again.

And now to the commercialism. I want to tell you about an organization called ClutchMOV. As it says on the masthead of its website,, it's an online lifestyle magazine for the Mid-Ohio Valley. It was created by two amazing young women named Liv Reeder and Sarah Arnold. They are multi-talented folks who feel, as I do, that the Mid-Ohio Valley gets an undeservedly bad reputation as a place only good for giving kids thirteen years of free education so they can leave for somewhere bigger and start their real lives. They strongly believe that this area is an amazing place not just to grow up, but to put down permanent roots. So they created ClutchMOV as a way to celebrate all the area has to offer, from arts to culture to food to history to its amazingly kind, talented people.

I'm committed enough to this cause that I've begun writing for the website. I do book reviews. Soon, I'll start writing reviews of local plays. And, occasionally, like right now, they allow me to contribute short fiction. And I'm one of several folks who contribute our talents, all for free.

And that's what Liv and Sarah want to change. They not only want to move beyond the web to regularly publishing print magazines, they want to make this a going commercial venture in which they can actually pay the people who write and photograph and edit and do all the countless things it takes to run a quality publication.

So why am I telling you all this? For three reasons. First, I want you to go to and just look at all the neat stuff that's there. The writing is top-notch, as are all aspects of the site. Second, while you're there, please consider clicking on the link to their Kickstarter campaign. Their goal is $17,500, which will allow them to fully implement their business plan. But they really need your help. Even if it's just $5. If every person in the MOV contributed $5, they would more than meet their goal, and I'm here to tell you that this is a deeply worthy cause.

The third reason? So you can read my story, of course!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Warm Christmas Memories, Part 2

notepad, pen, paper, writing, business, desk, officeI was born with the writing gene. My mom tells me she wrote dozens of story when she was younger. It was her way of dealing with a highly disturbing childhood. In terms of my writing, I guess I could say it's a shame I have no such trauma to drive it. But I'm okay with that.

I wrote short stories from the time I was able to string sentences together. Right now, if you asked, I could take you to a box in my room that has a notebook in it containing that glorious collection. There's a story of a boy who gets lost in the woods and kills a bear with a well-thrown pocket knife (that one is inspired by a tall tale told by my brother Don). Another memorable one is set thousands of years in the future when giant bees have taken over the world. Still another depicts the origins of Santa Claus. Some are in my childish scrawl while others are re-written by my mother. I was so young that my handwriting was too unclear to be easily read, so she sometimes translated them. She didn't make changes--just transcribed them. Some are on white notebook paper, but my favorites are on yellow. And that's the warm Christmas memory I want to share.

Retrieved from
The Waltons was at it height of popularity. It was probably Christmas 1974 or so. My family and I watched the show religiously. I was completely taken by John Boy, the oldest son of the family and an aspiring writer. I was so enamored of his story and his stories that I read The Homecoming, Earl Hamner's book on which the movie of the same name that served as the show's pilot is based. And I was convinced that I could be as good a writer as John Boy if only I could use the type of paper he used. It was called Big Chief and it had an Indian Chief on the front. The paper was rough and yellow with little bits of wood pulp showing through. Every time we went to any store that might sell paper, I made a beeline directly to it, but it was always in vain. No store in backwards little Parkersburg carried John Boy's paper. And that's what made the gift all the more special.

I woke up that Christmas morning with no idea of anything special. I figured I would get most of the stuff on my list, but how could even Santa, in whom I had begun to have doubts (Why did he give some kids more than others? Why did I hear paper crinkling, scissors cutting, and tape being dispensed downstairs on Christmas eve? Why, when I broke a toy, did Dad ask if I knew how much it had cost when the tag had said it came from Santa?), could pull off finding these precious gems. At first, I didn't notice them. They weren't under the tree. In fact, they weren't even wrapped. Instead, they were placed inconspicuously on the arm of the couch, majestically waiting to be filled with my tales of adventure and romance.

To this day, I don't know how my folks found them. This was decades before the days of Googling something. It was either in the store or catalog or it wasn't. The best you could do was go out of town and look in other stores. But there they were, nonetheless. I ran my fingers across the crude paper, enjoying the uneven surface, contemplating what stories I would tell on those priceless pages. This was, if I may use an image from A Christmas Story, my Red Ryder BB Gun, my greatest gift ever. That my parents had gone to the trouble to find them meant as much as it could to a dippy eleven-year-old. But even more than that, though I didn't think of it in these terms at the time, it legitimized my desire to be a writer. My parents approval meant--and still means--the world to me, and that they not only were okay with it but were so invested in the idea that they would go to the trouble to find my hero's paper was the final proof of their blessing. I'm not sure I ever thanked them properly for such a meaningful gift. Let this serve as that thanks.

So what was your greatest Christmas gift ever? Share in the comments and I'll choose someone at random to win a free gift.