Monday, March 28, 2011

A Chat with Hibbs... I read an Ebook the other day, "The Bear with Two Shadows," by Roland Yeomans. The story of a youthful bear named Hibbs, who may in fact be something a bit more than your average bear. A journey through an enchanted forest, where trolls lurk in shadow...where an ancient boulder covered in moss for generations, may not be a boulder upon second glance. It's the story of a befriended hawk who speaks in riddle...of impending violence...a love affair that simply can not happen. A bear named yearns to grab a tuft of grizzly fur and squeeze, yet holds back, riveted, but unsure. After all, he's still a young bear...

Roland Yeomans, the author to whom Hibbs should be forever grateful, has stopped by the homestead while on tour, (a Bear Fest of sorts ;) for a little Q 'n A.

Q-...Roland, as I read your story, skipped along the wooded path behind Hibbs the Bear, (remaining at a safe distance, of course,) I was reminded of Neil Gaiman's "Stardust," one of my favorites. Of C.S. Lewis's classic journey, beginning right on the other side of that wardrobe. And even went so far as to recall Kenneth Grahame's "The Wind in the Willows," a childhood masterpiece. And so I'll ask you the first question I'd consider asking each of them, were I ever so lucky to be granted the exchange. Being a writer myself, but not of fantasy scribe, what was your inspiration to create Hibbs the Bear?

-"Echoes beyond the sunset," Hibbs might say. The echoes of my mother's voice in that frozen basement apartment, murmuring that magic does exist...just beyond the grasp of mind's eye.

Echoes of those very books you mentioned, Elliot. Plus "The Last Unicorn" and "The Princess Bride," which can be read and watched with enjoyment by both adult and child.

I aimed at writing a classic--not out of ego--but out of the storyteller in me, wanting to reach the minds and hearts of children, in body or only in heart, to bring alive that sense of wonder, magic, and adventure which made my childhood never lonely.

Those magical voices tugged me out of the coughing fits, into a mystic realm where anything was possible--even getting better.

And on those ugly Detroit streets where my father deserted me as a six year old, those voices told me if Ulysses and David the shepherd boy could survive, I could too.

I wanted to make the magic live again...for don't we need to see the magic some days just to get through them?-

Q-...A question I'm often asked, and have yet to come up with a viable answer that doesn't result in a flustered, romantic mess..."I've read your work, and just gotta ask, when did you realize your passion for writing, and how long did it take before you considered yourself...ready to be read?"

-For as long as I can remember, I would insert myself into the adventures of my favorite heroes as I read along. I would make up characters to chat with and do battles alongside, against the monsters I imagined in the shadows.

I owe a great debt to a wealthy neighbor, Mrs. Hilton. She took care of me while my mother was ill in Lafayette. Catching me reading a frayed, read-worn copy of "Green Lantern," she prompted me to make up a story of my hero where his worst enemy attacked him, using his greatest weakness.

She typed as I talked. Then, she had me read aloud my own story. And from that moment, I was hooked. I knew what I wanted to be: a storyteller!

As for when my tale is polished enough for a reader--I remember Mrs. Hilton again. I read my tale aloud. When it sings for me, then my tale is ready.

But a part of me feels as if I am sending my "child" out too soon, asking it to fly when it can barely walk. Yet, as with children, sometimes we just have to trust our instincts over our doubts.-

Q-...Upon completion of "The Bear with Two Shadows," readers are left yearning for a sequel. Have you begun work on Hibbs' next adventure? And if so, will you once again choose Ebook publication? I understand many writers are experiencing success using Kindle.

-I stopped it like that for a reason. I have reached the end of a favorite book, only to feel depressed. No more adventures were just over the horizon. I stopped "The Bear with Two Shadows" as I did to let my readers know there is more to come...that the story of life is never over. Ripples of a loving life lived with courage and determination go on out over the horizon of the ocean of existence, ending up who knows where.

I have started a new chapter in Hibbs' adventures where they stopped. Just a chapter, but the plot unwinds in my mind.

Hibbs, to safeguard a wounded faerie queen against the three High Queens and their armada, uses the artful weapons Archimedes devised to defend Syracuse against the Imperial Roman army and fleet.

Feral Sidhe are on the horizon. Racing across a whirlwind of flying boulders. Facing off for the final showdown between Hibbs and the Gray Bear.

But my blood work drains me. Also there are the sequels to "Victor Standish" and "French Quarter Nocturne" that I am also writing.

I would E-publish Hibbs' sequel, but his sales have been so meager as to not warrant the time spent away from my other two books to spend the necessary time and creative effort.

Still, Hibbs is alive in my mind, images and sounds of his further adventures vivid in my I may write them sooner than I think.

If I can conquer how to format my work for myself, I may E-publish the first two Sam McCord adventures, set in the Bermuda Triangle of 1853, "Rites of Passage," and "Adrift in the Time Stream."

Unless you can get into the top 100 Kindle sales list on Amazon, you just languish and wither away. You need 10 favorable reviews to lure strangers into buying your unknown quality of a book.

Say several people in different cities were to buy my book at the same time, while another person posts a favorable review...ZOOM goes my ranking.

Right now I'm at #46,000--an entire galaxy away from being in the top 100.

I'm saying this for those considering E-publication. You have to find some way to garner attention and desire to buy your book. Perhaps a hook of a title: "I was a Teenage Ghoul Prostitute." No, Lindsey Lohan is too old to star in the movie. (Just joking, Lindsey.)-

Q-...Roland, knowing how busy you are promoting your release, I'll leave you with a final thought to ponder. A while back I wrote a post involving the two of us and several of our writing peers, celebrating the completion of a successful book signing down in your neck of the woods. Writing it was fun like ice-cream, and the buzz it generated on both Blogger and Facebook made it well worth the time invested. And so I'll ask...if and when that day arrives, when the two of us find ourselves side by side, signing our names to the stories we each created, where's the favorite "hot spot" eatery down there to celebrate the day? Hey, we're writers...dreaming is what comes naturally;)

-Easy answer: Meilori's, the Crossroads of Worlds. We could chat with Samuel Clemens, Raymond Chandler, H.P. Lovecraft, Ernest Hemingway and the like as we get THEM to sign our books! Hibbs and his two "brothers" might even show up.-

...Thanks for stopping by, Roland, and may the power of a humble bear lift your sales to new heights!

Contest: Drawing to take place on April 1st. Read and follow carefully to win one of these autographed books.

A comment will give you one entry to win one of the signed books above. Another two entries for linking the book to twitter or Facebook. Any blogger who posts a legitimate review on Amazon by March 31st will get three entries into the drawing. That is a win, win since you will get to read Roland’s amazing book. If you twitter and do the Facebook link, make sure you email Roland at: rxena77@yahoo. with the links to your to your twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Journey with Friends...

...often times they're spaced apart like thin sprouts of foliage over barren soil. Difficult to find on occasion. Sometimes even harder to keep once attained. But then, come to think of it, that's the beauty of friendship. Like the sun's warmth upon one's shoulders, nothing generates a smile more than a colleague, a peer...a friend.

Fellow writer and blogging buddy, Donna Hole, recently awarded me the "Friends for the Journey, Encouragement" award. And while, considering my tedious schedule, am often prone to accepting awards, then allowing them to smolder and fizzle out, in this case, I'm sparing a moment to share the love.

The objective...pass the badge along to seven friends as we all trek onward, sharing our experiences while straining for the goal...always so close, but...

To Brie from "Brie the Cheese," a college girl, buried in her studies, who still manages to sneak in a spare minute or two for commenting on my gibberish.

To Jules from "Trying to get over the Rainbow," a task she's achieving nicely. Read her work and you'll agree.

Follow the legs in heels to Wendy Tyler Ryan, and you'll find more than a pair of well sculpted lower limbs...her voice reeks of poetic soul, a future publication practically a foregone conclusion.

Jodi Henry from "Turning the Page," is not only a mother, a lucky fellow's significant other, but somehow finds enough time to hammer the keys and paint her literary masterpiece. Give her a read...she won't disappoint.

To the "Golden Eagle," an avid book worm and dedicated critic/admirer of storytellers both well known, as well as those just starting out. (I'm keeping my'll be getting one of my first copies momentarily:)

To that Georgia peach, Olivia J. Herrell, from "That Rebel with a Blog," who's currently typing up a southern belle that I can't wait to read. Agents take notice...this girl's got moxie.

And finally, one can not journey through Blogland without hearing wind of Roland Yeomans, and his recent release, "The Bear with Two Shadows." It's of my utmost opinion, that he's simply the best online writer whom one can enjoy with nothing more than the click of a mouse. At the moment he's invaded N.R. Williams's writing pad, discussing "The Bear," touring the land, spreading the word. And for sharing his pad, as friends often do, N.R. gets the badge as well:)

And speaking of forming friendships...

...I stood atop the pitcher's mound, feeling uncomfortable. Coach Hummel dropped a ball into my mitt and backed up.

Having never practiced pitching, I wasn't even sure what kind of windup to use. Standing on the rectangular, rubber marker atop the mound, I kicked up my foot, stumbled through a cloud of dust, and released a throw that sailed high into the air, above Bruce's head, behind home plate, and into the backstop.

I heard an exhale of breath from behind me where I knew Coach Hummel was standing. Bruce retrieved the ball and tossed it back, confusion upon his face.

Unsure of what to try next, I ended up duplicating my first attempt. Again the ball sailed high, nearly eight feet into the air before clanging off the fencing behind home plate.

Glancing out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that Coach Hummel had turned his back on me, choosing to stare off toward the distant parking lot rather than offering me any advice.

"One more, Kaufman," he said. "Then let's call it a day."

I turned and faced Jason one last time. A tear was gathering at the corner of my good eye. The other was now swollen to the point where my vision had tightened to a slit.

And as I gathered the strength for a final pitch, Bruce stood up from behind home plate, and jogged toward me. He pulled the baseball from my mitt, massaging the leather, his eyes focused. We stood there, studying each other before he finally spoke.

"Look, I've watched you in dodge ball all winter," he said. "You and Richie have the best arms in your class. I hate playing against you two because you throw it so friggin hard."

With his cleated foot, Bruce kicked my left heal off the rubber. Then he nudged my right foot until it barely touched the corner of the marker.

"It's called toeing the rubber," he said. "You're tripping over it when you throw. Don't step over it. Kick up your knee and glide along beside it. Wind up your arm just like you do in dodge ball."

He met my questioning gaze before continuing. "You love throwing a dodge ball at me. This is the same thing, just a smaller ball. Don't even look at Jason. Just throw it at me. Try to get me out like we're in the gym at recess. And think of something that pisses you off. That always helps me."

Having never actually spoken to Bruce before, I remained quiet, considering his taut expression, unsure why he was helping me. It was true. I was always trying to get him out in dodge ball. Always gunning for him, the top athlete in the third grade. And yet, here he was, offering me advice.

As if understanding my confusion, Bruce shrugged his shoulders and mumbled, "You know, Jason's a dick." With that, he turned and jogged back to his spot behind home plate.

Releasing a deep breath, I studied Bruce's open mitt, realizing that he was right. I was still throwing at him. My favorite target. Just a different ball. A different game.

Completely ignoring Jason's presence, I did as Bruce instructed. Pulling the ball back in a long windup, much like I had grown accustomed to doing while tossing the large rubber dodge balls during recess. I reared back and fired a blazing strike, right over home plate, right into Bruce's mitt, and way in front of Jason's failed attempt at making contact. The ball cracked as it sunk into the glove, causing Coach Hummel to turn.

Across the infield, I could hear several players whistling their approval.

"Throw another one, Kaufman," Coach Hummel said...

"South of Charm" 2011

Thanks for reading

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Rescued" wife runs a successful daycare business out of our finished basement. She's been at it for more than a decade.

Throughout most days, the lower half of our home can sound like a demolition derby at the county fair. The hopping, thumping, banging, screaming excitement of children at play. And while her patience can at times, dwindle and scatter like dust, my wife's done well for herself.

Among her team of tiny home wreckers, are a pair of girls. Sisters, ages three and a year and a half. While the other children arrive with lungs full of voice, their bodies like capsules housing pent up energy, these girls crawl onto our couch, resting quietly amidst the bedlam. Their eyes focused on Sponge Bob, or The Teletubbies.

They smile when needed. Nod their heads if offered a snack. And at times, will speak if deemed necessary. But not often.

On occasion, the older sister suffers from a tremor. It comes and goes. And while it's no longer as noticeable as it was before her scalp grew in, the one year old's head bears a flat spot behind her temple.

It's a shame the girls don't speak more than they do. For if they would, the story they could tell...

...roughly a year ago, a social worker was accompanied by a Sheriff's deputy to an apartment building. A crippled, brick triplex teetering on a foundation of crack pipes and lost souls.

They'd received a call the other day. There was a "smell" coming from room 4B. Someone thought they'd seen a kid in there.

The first knock roused the dogs. A series of growls and yipping. Pairs of claws being dragged along the lower half of the door from inside.

The second knock earned itself a curse. A male voice, pitchy but definitely from a man, hollering at the dogs to shut up, and for the knocking to cease.

It was the third knock that finally did it.

The door swung open. The social worker was prepared for her usual greeting, most times an uncomfortable confrontation with festering parents, when she found herself unable to voice a single word. Her mouth hung open in a silent scream. Nausea gripped her stomach with fists that squeezed.

At seeing the policeman, the half-naked man in the doorway simply dropped his gaze to the floor and stood back, defeated. Allowing them access inside.

Three barking mongrels, the tallest one standing no higher than one's knee, hopped in circles around the guests as if each one was clenching a bowel movement. One glance at the floor however, revealed that these dogs squatted wherever they pleased.

Without a word, the man backed up, dropped onto a sofa. It sagged under his weight, what with it already supporting his significant other. The lady was passed out under a stained blanket, a stream of drool draining from the side of her mouth.

The apartment smelled of dope and animal feces. Small piles they stepped over en route to the bedroom. Where they found the girl.

She was wearing a diaper and nothing more. Crawling through what the dogs had left behind, some of it smeared on her face, the rest of it coating her arms and legs like grass stains on a used pair of jeans. Her full diaper dragged along the floor as she crawled. And when she saw them, she stopped, tilted her head to the side, and watched them. Curious.

It wasn't until they were leaving, before the little girl finally spoke. Clinging to the trembling social worker as they approached the exit, the girl reached back the way they'd come and said, "Sissy."

The social worker froze in her tracks. She looked from the girl in her arms, to the man on the couch, now handcuffed, the child's mother just now waking up, offering the nearby cop a yawn. Without a word, the man nodded toward the hallway, to the spare bedroom.

They found the girl's little sister in the closet. She was strapped into a car seat. And she'd been there a while. So long in fact, that one side of her head had a flat spot on it from supporting its weight against the side of the plastic carrier.

Just a baby, her arms were a set of twigs, pale flesh gathering around her elbows. A set of chapped lips parted a bit upon noticing the social worker, but no sound left her mouth. Her eyes were once blue, but had faded to a shade of gray. Purple bruises outlined her sockets as if she'd barely survived a fist fight. The battle she was fighting was not one of violence however, but rather neglect. She was dying of starvation, as her parents sat on the couch in the next room, getting high.

The social worker, a longtime veteran of the cause, dropped to her knees upon a floor littered in unspeakable filth, and cried.

...a year has passed. In a week the sisters will find themselves in a courtroom, the final papers regarding their adoption to a nice couple a mile or so down the road from us, will be signed. Their rescue made official.

They still don't talk much, those two. But eventually they will. And when they do, such stories they will tell...

Thanks for reading...