I’m often asked by different people if I’ve ever smoked, i.e. doctors, dentists, optometrists, insurance people and a Walmart greeter. (I think the greeter was just being nosey.) The truth is I smoked for a little over a year starting when I was eighteen. By the time I was twenty, I was no longer smoking, but I was chewing snuff, the original nicotine gum. As is often the case, the cure was worse than the disease. I chewed tobacco far longer than I smoked, until one day I realized I didn’t even like the taste of tobacco. I had never ordered tobacco-flavored ice cream from Baskin Robbins or sprinkled tobacco over meatloaf to enhance its flavor. The only reason I was chewing tobacco was to get rid of the nicotine urge that plagued me. After a time it occurred to me—genius that I am—that if I stopped chewing, the nicotine urge would eventually go away, and I wouldn’t have to put up with a taste in my mouth I didn’t even like.
I’ve been tobacco-free for years now. I can’t even remember exactly when I stopped, although at my age it could have been yesterday. But I know I never paid a buck a can for Copenhagen, and I spent twenty-six years in law enforcement without chewing, so it’s been a few decades at least.
When I was young, I once lived in an apartment with three smokers. It was a short term thing. We all knew we would be moving out in six months. The only guy I knew before I moved in I’ll call Abe. Abe had put the whole thing together and had invited the other two, Dawg and Pinkie—don’t worry about Pinkie; he’s not important to the story. If we had been four women, there would have been about a hundred and twenty-three different apartment rules, and that would just be for the bathroom. There would be silly things like: take off your shoes at the door; don’t fart in the living room; flush the toilet every time you use it; don’t use someone else’s toothbrush to clean out the toe jam on your feet …
The women would go grocery shopping and sit down with a calculator to make sure each woman paid the same amount for everything. We threw some money in a pot at the beginning of each month for food. If it ran out, you were on your own. We only had two rules: Don’t burn the place down, and no alcohol allowed in the apartment. Abe was a recovering alcoholic, and he thought his fragile sobriety would be better protected if he didn’t have to be tempted by twelve cases of beer beckoning to him every time he opened the refrigerator door. The rules didn’t bother me. I’ve never been a pyromaniac or a booze hound. Dawg on the other hand was an un-recovering alcoholic. It became clear within the first couple days that Abe had asked Dawg to live with us so he could put him on the straight and narrow.
After a couple weeks of nagging, Abe finally talked Dawg into going to an AA meeting with him. I was sitting on the couch watching TV when Dawg walked into the apartment.
“How’d the meeting go?” I asked.
Dawg looked at me with wide eyes and an absolutely stunned face. “They expect me to stop drinking … FOREVER!”
It was the last meeting Dawg went to and by the end of the six months, he was hiding a bottle in his room where he would go every now and then to have another swallow or two. They say to give something up, you have to want to. Dawg wasn’t close enough to Want-to to hit it with a sniper’s rifle.
In case you’ve forgotten—I know I did for a little bit—this is about smoking. All three of my roommates smoked and I did not. This was a time when people could still smoke indoors, and our apartment was normally filled with a thick cloud of blue smoke that sometimes made it hard to see the TV, the other people in the room and whatever was on my plate that I happened to be eating. Which since we cooked our own meals was probably a good thing. New research has shown that secondhand smoke isn’t nearly the danger they once thought it was, but there were times after sitting in the blue cloud for a few hours that my lungs would hurt.

I often wondered why the smoke detector didn’t go off, until one day I tested it, and it didn’t work. Dawg said it had been constantly chirping so he pulled the battery out. I guess we were okay because we had the rule about not burning down the apartment.

I’m giving away two copies of my new book, The Almond People, on Goodreads. You can still register for a chance to win until April 29. Just click on the link below and check it out.

Goodreads link for The Almond People free giveaway

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Announcer (in a deep, manly, announcer voice): Stay tuned at the end of this blog for a chance to win free prizes. Now excuse me while I go smoke a couple more packs of cigarettes so my voice gets even deeper and manlier.

When I was young I used to have a fairly good-looking physique, or at least a fairly human-looking physique. Today I stand naked in front of a mirror and the mirror and I both shield our eyes and throw up a little in our mouths. Some species of ogre is staring back at me from the mirror, and not even one of the better-looking ogres, but an ogre that couldn’t get a date for the ogre prom if his life depended on it, an ogre that even the other ogres tease and make fun of for looking goofy. And where did all this hair come from? It’s as if an evil Tinkerbell splattered me with magic hair dust. I have hair everywhere. It crawls out of my nose and ears. Every inch of my body has hair. I’m slowly turning into a giant ogre Chia Pet.
My energy is gone, too. Have you ever heard stories about young men who would work all day chopping down a forest with a pocket knife, then go out drinking, partying and carousing with women all night, and without going to bed, go out and chop down another forest in the morning? Young men who would go for days without sleep and have the energy of someone who just got up from a full night’s rest? When I was young, I was one of those guys who heard stories like that, and I could listen to those stories for hours—or at least until I went to bed at ten—and it wouldn’t tire me out at all. Now just writing about it makes me want to take a nap.
I haven’t been to the doctor to get checked yet, but I know what the problem is. I’m coming down with Old Age. It’s a hereditary thing. My father was afflicted with Old Age as was his father before him. It runs in our family. I think my grandfather was born with it, because I don’t remember a time when he didn’t have Old Age. My father got Old Age when I was a teenager. It made him very stupid. I remember wondering how a thirteen year old like me could be so much smarter than someone his age. It of course was the Old Age that made him stupid. He did go into remission eventually, and by the time I reached my thirties, he had recovered considerably with the intelligence part at least.
Old Age is a disease that carries an embarrassing stigma with it like an STD. People will deny they have it, especially women, and they go to great lengths to mask the signs and symptoms with special creams, paints and dyes. For some it works for a while, but it’s like zombies putting on lipstick and hoping nobody notices they’re zombies. There’s an old saying, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you’re the only fool you can fool all of the time.” (Or something like that. I can’t remember. Loss of memory is one of the symptoms of Old Age.) I think it applies here. You can put a Band-Aid on a goiter, but eventually people are going to notice the goiter.
Old Age is a chronic illness with no known cure. Complications from Old Age are the leading cause of deaths worldwide. (Okay, I’m guessing here. To know for sure would require extensive research and it’s easier just to make stuff up.) As devastating as this disease is, I don’t know of a single organization working on a cure or even a vaccine, and I know why. Old Age effects mainly the elderly, and nobody cares about a bunch of wrinkled old Chia Pets. Wait until cute babies and sweet little kids start coming down with Old Age, then there will be fundraisers and telethons up the wazoo. Well I for one am not going to wait that long. Starting right now, I’m going to work endlessly until at least ten o’clock to find a cure for this scourge of humanity. If you have a few thousand or an extra million dollars laying around—my motto: no donation is ever too large—and want to help with a good cause, you know how to get ahold of me. Just be very careful that you get the address right, because there are a lot of scams out there.
Announcer (in an even deeper, manlier, announcer voice): Starting today you can register for a chance to win a signed copy of THE ALMOND PEOPLE on Goodreads. (cough, cough) Just follow the link below and sign up. Two copies will be given away, and it’s entirely free. Not even postage and handling, because that’s where the scammers get you.
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I have great gums. I’ve had three dental hygienists tell me so. Recently one told me my gums were all twos and threes with maybe a borderline four, but it was nothing to worry about. I don’t have a clue what any of that means. I would have asked her to explain it to me except she probably would have and don’t have any extra room left in my brain. My head is already filled to capacity with all the information it can hold. If I stick another fact in my head, one of the ones already in there gets pushed out and splatters all over the floor. (I always try to blame the mess on the dog, but my wife makes me get a pail and mop and clean it up anyway.) It wouldn’t be so bad if I could choose which fact came out—I could do without knowing who Magellan was (the first person to go around the world) or my phone number when I was eight (115), but which fact comes out is completely random. I could lose something vitally important such as how to do CPR to save a life or the full lyrics to Don McLean’s American Pie. I’m sure someday they’ll find me wandering aimlessly around in my bathrobe with wet pants. It won’t be Alzheimer’s or dementia. Just a new fact will have pushed out my knowledge of how to find the bathroom.

Where was I again? … Gums! That’s right. I have great gums, and I take good care of my teeth. I haven’t had a cavity in over thirty years. I have my teeth cleaned once a year, and it only takes a few minutes to have it done. The dental hygienist said she was amazed how little plague build up I have, although she didn’t give it a number. So I have well-cared for teeth sitting in excellent gums—mostly twos and threes—and they are falling apart faster than a car whose warranty has just expired.

For the last month I’ve been fighting a toothache that turned out to be two toothaches. My bottom tooth broke off a few years ago, and I had to have a root canal and a crown put on it. My excellent, almost prize-winning, gums decided they were too good to associate with an inferior tooth—they can be arrogant little snots—and started pulling away from it, exposing the root. The pain was just slightly more than a railroad spike being driven into my jaw with a sledge hammer. I got that fixed and found that the pain I’d had before had a few advantages, such as masking the pain from the tooth directly over it where the nerves were dying.

My father had bad teeth. He blamed all his ills on them, backache, headaches, the Cold War and disco. He finally had them pulled out and got dentures. He still had headaches and backaches, but the Cold War and disco are gone. Maybe he was on to something. Anyway, because I’ve been in pain for a month, I’m not a very funny guy. So while I can’t give you a big belly laugh right now, maybe I can give you a chill. Check out my new light horror novel from Wings ePress. It’s available at most online locations.

        Amazon link

Barnes and Nobles link

Smashwords link

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I haven’t been online for a while. I had a virus or got hacked, and my computer had problems, too. People kept telling me they were getting friend requests from me. I don’t send out friend requests anymore. I did at one time, but I always felt bad if they didn’t accept, and if they did accept, I always wondered what was wrong with them to want to be friends with someone like me. So if you got a friend request from me, it probably wasn’t from me, and even if it was, would you really want to accept it?

I didn’t want to go online, post something and possibly spread the virus around, so I didn’t post anything major. I’ve changed my passwords now, ran a couple virus scans, said a couple magic incantations, did the Hokey Pokey and posted a couple Dead or Alive poster for hackers. I think I’m safe.

My new book The Almond People is out from Wings Epress. Richard Stroud again did the cover. It’s at the top of this page. It’s a light horror novel. I call it that because the paperback only weighs about a pound. I’ll leave the heavy horror to early Stephen King—I got a hernia lugging The Stand around. Seriously, my new book is good and not that scary. I’m probably the only one who will wet his pants reading it, and that had more to do with old age than the book. There are a lot of thrilling parts in it, and maybe some blood, but it’s not a slasher book for those of you who are worried.

It’s set in the sixties, my teenage years—or as my grandkids like to call it, the Stone Age. It was nice going back and reliving those years: The Space Race, The Cold War, the Vietnam War, civil rights demonstrations, cruising Central Avenue, acne, not being able to get a date …

I’ve said before that I used a lot of lore from my area of Iowa in it and of course there is always the surprise ending. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, write a review. My last book, In The Lake had three or four reviews on Amazon at one time, and for some reason they disappeared. I’m not sure what happened—I’m pretty sure I paid everybody. But seriously, if someone writes a review for this book and it doesn’t show up, let me know. Reviews are the life blood for authors.

On a quick side note, I signed up for Blogarama. It’s a sight that lists different blogs. Even though I haven’t posted for a while, I still get numerous hits from it. All of you bloggers might want to check it out.  Of course I once got a ton of hits from an RV site because someone had posted a link to one of my blog posts, but you might want to check it out anyway. And read my book. Click on the link below and check it out on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle. It’s also available at Barnes and Noble and most other places that sell ebooks.






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I haven’t written a blog post lately because I’ve been busy growing a beard. My wife doesn’t understand how labor intensive growing a beard can be.
Often she’ll come home from work and say, “Did you finish the laundry I started?”
“Sorry,” I’ll say. “I was busy growing my beard and never had time to do it.”
“So you goofed off all day,” she’ll say giving me a dirty look.
That’s the way she is. If I’m not doing something for her, it doesn’t count as work. Personally, I’m not that narrow-minded. Often she’ll spend the day cooking, cleaning the house, mowing the yard, shoveling snow or trimming the bushes, and do I complain? Of course not. I realize she needs her fun time. Sure she could be doing more important things like oiling my fishing reels or sharpening my fillet knives, but I understand that she needs time to goof off. I have my fun times, too. But when I’m doing seriously important work such as watching football, taking a nap or growing a beard, she needs to understand that just because it’s not for her doesn’t mean she can denigrate it.
I think the problem is she doesn’t like me with a beard. Her friends don’t like me with a beard either, and her friends’ friends don’t like me with a beard. I’m sure there are people I don’t even know and have never seen me who don’t like me with a beard. It’s the strangest thing, because by all rationale the more of my face that is covered the better off I should be.
When I was six my friend Buzzy and I decided to grow beards, because we were going to be mountain men and mountain men don’t shave. I must have looked pretty good with it, because I didn’t shave for the next ten years and never heard a single negative comment.
When you’re six you don’t care what people think about you anyway, especially girls. Girls were just sissy guys who had to wear dresses to school and church even when the temperature outside was below zero. Occasionally I would find my eyes lingering on another first-grader, Mary Kurl, longer than they did on other people, stupid eyes—it was something I would have died before letting Buzzy know.
Mary was a little blue-eyed blonde who, even at six, had legs that wouldn’t quit. I’m serious. She was always running and skipping everywhere. Playing hopscotch and jumping rope. Sometimes I’d yell at her, “Hey Mary, sit down for a minute, will you? Give those legs a rest, already.” I think if Mary had asked me to shave my beard, I might have … but don’t tell Buzzy.
When I grew my beard before, I let it get a little long. This time I’m keeping it close-cut so I can look cool like Brett Favre and Matthew McConaughey. My mountain man is still there, but now he’s internal and wears a full beard while he gobbles down hardtack, jerky and pemmican. The good thing about having him internal is I don’t have to have a long beard that my wife hates, and I don’t have to gobble down hardtack, jerky and pemmican.
My new novel The Almond People will be out in a couple months. Those of you who read it, I would really appreciate a review. I can’t stress how important reviews are to authors. My last novel In The Lake had a few reviews and Amazon took them down for some reason. I’m not sure why. I think I had the beard at the time. So that may have had something to do with it.
Below are links to my books on Wings epress. Check out their site.
IN THE STICKS                IN THE LAKE
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                                                  MONKEY POOP COFFEE
My wife went to the doctor a few days ago and received some devastating news. She has to … GIVE UP COFFEE! She had some DNA tests done and they discovered her body can’t process caffeine. If she keeps drinking coffee, eventually her liver will start to shut down.
When we were first married, my wife didn’t drink coffee. She drank hot water with a slight brown tint as if a drop of actual coffee had accidentally fallen into it. Eventually my wife found out about flavored coffees and creamers. The flavored creamers mixed with what she had passing for coffee made chocolate milk. To get a coffee taste through the creamers and flavors, she had to drink stuff that actually classified as coffee.
So she decided to give up coffee. Now she drinks herbal tea which doesn’t have caffeine and tastes like one of the trees from The Wizard of Oz peed in her cup. Yum, yum. There is nothing better than that great taste of leaf and bark urine. Can seven million beavers be wrong? She could drink decaffeinated coffee, but what’s the point? Isn’t it sort of like a drug addict snorting baking soda because it looks like cocaine?
If it were me, I’m not sure I could survive. I would cry, curl into a fetal position, wet my pants and wait for the end. I like coffee, a lot of it and as strong as you can make it. Giving up coffee for me would be like Jack Benny’s older Robber Routine. Jack was known for being very cheap:

A robber pulls a gun on Jack in a dark alley.

Robber: Your money or your life.

After a few moments of silence.

Robber, angrily: Look Bud, I said your money or your life?

Jack, yelling: I’m thinking it over!

I’ve been drinking coffee for as long as I can remember. When I was little my mother told me coffee would stunt my growth, but I still drank it. I remember going into the woods with friends back in South Dakota and making cowboy coffee in an old tin can over and open fire. We moved to Iowa when I was ten, so I was drinking coffee before I was ten. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s why I keep getting invitations in the mail to join the Lollipop Guild.
I started drinking strong coffee when I was a teenager. I could feel the effects of the overload of caffeine. It is a stimulant like cocaine and methamphetamine after all. My heart would pound. My mind would race, and I couldn’t sit still. I was filled with an energy I had to release. I’d do stupid things. I remember racing down gravel roads, sliding around ninety degree corners at high speeds, spraying gravel and coming dangerously close to losing control and going down into a ditch and flipping over. I’m lucky I didn’t kill myself, and I’m sure I would have if I’d had a car.
The body develops a tolerance for caffeine just like any other drug, and I’m the hardcore junkie who needs a fix just to bring me to normal. I don’t feel its effects anymore. I fall asleep minutes after a lay down in bed, and sometimes before I make it there. My resting pulse rate is in the low fifties. They say too much caffeine causes headaches, stomach irritability and makes you jittery. That’s how I feel when I don’t get coffee. It can also cause incontinence, stomach ulcers and diarrhea. Which isn’t a problem for me, although I would like to catch the guy who keeps pooping in my shorts. There is some research that suggests coffee may also be hard on the gallbladder. I had mine removed a few years ago, and maybe drinking all the coffee I do had something to do with that. I’ve seen pictures of gallbladders. They are transparent little bags filled with a green goop. Who wants something like that in their body anyway? I think the coffee did me a favor.
There have been numerous research studies done on coffee, and the results very widely. Some say it has great benefits: prevents Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and certain cancers. So depending who you talk to, coffee is either a miracle that will save world, or the devil incarnate that will end humanity as we know it …  Kind of reminds you of the recent presidential race, doesn’t it?
Wings epress, that has published two of my books and will publish The Almond People in the spring, has done a great job of updating their business and website. They are running a holiday promotion for a free book through Smashwords. It lasts through December. Click on the banner below and check it out.
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The nurse led me into the examining room, took my blood pressure and stood to leave.
“The doctor will be in to see you in a little bit,” she said and left, closing the door behind her.
A little bit is a relative term. To a mountain a little bit can be a century To an adult Mayfly that only lives five minutes, it can be seconds. The doctor’s little bit was closer to the mountain’s than the Mayfly’s. I was just getting ready to text my wife and tell her I might be late for Thanksgiving dinner—it was early October—when the doctor walked into the room.
“I hope I’m not bothering you?” he asked in a voice dripping with sarcasm as he glared at my phone.
“Not at all,” I said. “I was just checking the obituaries to make sure you hadn’t died.”
(Okay, a quick note: NEVER be a smart aleck to someone who is about to do a prostate exam on you. I know it sounds like whining for me to say he was overly aggressive just for spite, but I swear that two days later I pooped out his wristwatch.)
“I got some good news,” the doctor said as he washed his hands and arms up to his shoulders with soap, water, steel wool, bleach and some glowing green cream that gave off a radioactive hum. “Your prostate feels perfectly normal.”
“That’s great,” I said. “I have a bit of a sore throat. How did my tonsils feel?”
(Okay, another note: NEVER EVER be a smart aleck with a guy who is going to have his hands down by your genitals doing a hernia exam. “Turn your head and cough,” becomes “Turn your head and scream.”)
When I had my clothes back on, if not my dignity, the doctor sat me down for his consultation.
“You’re actually in pretty good shape for a man in his nineties,” he said.
I laughed. “I’m nowhere close to that age, Doc.”
He looked at my file again. “As I was saying, you’re in really bad shape for a man your age.”
“So what do I do?
“Make sure your life insurance and my bill is paid,” he said. “You might consider a prepaid funeral contract if you can get a short term plan that you can pay off quickly.”
“No, I mean something to improve my health.”
He started to laugh but cut it short. “Oh, you’re serious,” he said. “I like optimism, but you have to be able to distinguish reality from fantasy.”
“Come on Doc, there has to be something I can do?”
“Well for starters, I usually recommend my patients get a minimum of one hour of exercise a day,” he said.
“Not a problem,” I said. “You’ve got what? Maybe a couple hundred patients? Divide an hour by two hundred, and that’s what …? Maybe eighteen seconds a piece. Count me in.”
“I mean an hour for each patient.”
I looked at him for a moment shocked, then I laughed. “Ha. Ha. Good one, Doc. You almost had me there.”
“I’m serious,” he said. “You should have one hour of vigorous exercise that gets your heart rate up and the blood pumping.”
“I’m sweating and you got my heart racing pretty good right now just  talking about exercise,” I said. “Is there anything else?”
“You need to change your diet.”
“In what way?”
“No more alcohol, tobacco, salt, caffeine, carbohydrates, fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sugars or free radicals.”
“Can I have the radicals if I pay for them?”
“Not even then.”
“How am I supposed to know what’s what? I’m not a trained dietician.”
“Well,” the doctor said. “You can buy books and charts that list all foods and what they have in them. Before you eat something, you can look it up to see if you can have it. Or you can follow one simple rule.”
“What’s that?”
“If it tastes good, don’t eat it.”
“So I can just eat kale, spinach and celery?”
“Go light on the celery.”
“And if I follow all this stuff I’ll live a long healthy life?”
The doctor shrugged. “It’ll add maybe six months to your lifespan.”
“Then why would I possibly do it?”
“Because with that bland and boring of a diet, it will feel like you’ve lived forever. In fact, at times you’ll wish you were dead.”
“Kind of like it was when I was sitting here waiting for you?”
The doctor snapped on rubber gloves and took a syringe with a needle the size of a railroad spike out of a drawer. “I think we need to draw a sample of your spinal fluid.”
(Okay, a quick note: NEVER …

Four months to go to the release of The Almond People.

sticks  In The Lake-WEB  gohpl  cover sm2

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