Sunday, December 18, 2016

FALLEN TREES is now a best-seller!

It's a magical time for any author when they learn their book has become a best-seller. I received that news on Friday, when I learned FALLEN TREES earned that distinction at Watermark Books in Wichita.

Here's confirmation in print:

If you haven't read FALLEN TREES yet, you can pick up a copy at Watermark or Ellen Plumb's City Bookstore in Emporia.

It's also available online at Watermark or Amazon. Barnes & Noble will order it upon request.

Book clubs are picking it up and having spirited discussions, so if you belong to one, nominate it as a selection. You'll be glad you did.

A literary festival worth celebrating

I was among four authors featured at a local literary festival hosted by Watermark Books in Wichita last Sunday.

The turnout was strong, with a steady flow of visitors throughout the 2-hour event. Many of them bought copies of my book, FALLEN TREES, which was an added bonus.

I'm grateful for the support! Thank you!

Here I am with a longtime friend, Holly Laird, who came to the festival with her mother, Kathy. They were the first to buy a copy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"I couldn't wait...."

" get home to read more."

Lovely words from a recent review of FALLEN TREES.

If you're looking for a holiday gift for a book lover in your life, FALLEN TREES is (if I may say so myself) a good choice. I say that because people of all ages and backgrounds have written to me to say how much they enjoyed it.

I had a feeling after I'd finished the book that it would resonate with readers....and so far the reaction has verified my instincts. That's immensely gratifying, because I believed in the story and was convinced it would find an audience.

You can order FALLEN TREES through Amazon or, if you prefer to support an independent bookstore (and I know many do), you can order from Watermark Books in Wichita.

Monday, November 7, 2016

"Face" time

I stopped in at Watermark Books for a few minutes on Saturday to check on a few things.

While I was there, I noticed they had moved shelves around a little. I went to see where my book FALLEN TREES happened to be and was pleasantly surprised by what I found.

Authors have told me getting "face out" space in a book store is a bonus in a bookstore because it allows readers to see the cover without digging the book out of the shelves. I was pretty happy to see that.

If your book club is looking for an engaging read and some lively discussion, consider FALLEN TREES. A number of local book clubs have already put it on their reading list and I'll be meeting with one of them on Nov. 21. I'm looking forward to that.

Friday, November 4, 2016


I've reached 40,000 words in my next novel, tentatively titled SHATTERED RHYMES.

I like where the story is going and how we've arrived there. Pecking away at the keys as part of NaNoWriMo, it's like getting to know old friends again.

No, not all 40,000 words have been written in four days. I pretty much shelved the book for the last 7 months or so, after we learned of my mother's cancer diagnosis and her eventual passing in early June.

The muse shut down, just as it did 14 years ago after learning of my youngest sister's diagnosis of breast cancer. Fortunately, she was able to beat it and is doing very well now.

And, fortunately, the muse was merely on hiatus, as SHATTERED RHYMES has shown. It's a very different book than FALLEN TREES, but like FT it's a story that wouldn't let me alone. Once the idea sprouted, the muse kept tugging at me with more and more details until I realized I had to do something with it. I have no word count goal or timetable for completion, but I've got to keep going until it's done.

And then the hard work begins, as any writer will tell you: honing the drafts until it's tight and gleaming. If the reaction to FALLEN TREES has taught me anything, it's to trust my instincts.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Time to join the party

November is National Novel Writing Month around the nation, during which writers strive to write a book within the next 30 days.

I've never officially taken part in the venture, simply because my job has always been so demanding that I couldn't promise to have much time to devote to writing a book.

But I'm going to dip my toes in the water this year just to see how it goes. I won't vow to start and finish a novel or write a minimum number of words each day. I'll just work on either SHATTERED RHYMES, the novel I'm currently writing, or see if the muse wants to get started on something else.

After all, I have a half-dozen novels waiting their turn - and the muse is even stirring some on a potential sequel to FALLEN TREES (which would be good news for all the readers who have been demanding one).

It may seem a folly to throw together a novel in 30 days, but as this story shows, some really good work has been produced. Yes, I was surprised, too.

What good's a book without......

........a good bookmark?

Oh, they can still be excellent without one, but a good bookmark sure comes in handy when you're reading.

I finally got around to ordering some for FALLEN TREES and they arrived today. I'll be handing them out at appearances down the road, such as the Watermark Literary Festival in December and at gatherings with book clubs that have chosen my book to read and discuss.

I thought they turned out well. What say you?

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Monday filled with gratitude

Exciting news to share!

Watermark Books has asked for several more copies of FALLEN TREES because "the book is selling so well," I'm told. It's now featured in the Regional Authors section of the independent book store in Wichita.

Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A brainstorm pays off

A few weeks ago, after my first shipment of FALLEN TREES copies arrived, I thought it might be a good idea to donate a copy to the hair salon where the fabulous Leslie Stuart cuts my hair --- somehow managing to make me look good --- and also at the office of my chiropractor, Mike Hermann.

I thought customers getting perms or waiting their turns might enjoy having something to read other than the gossip mag of the week. If they liked what they read, they could copy down the book title and order it from Watermark Books in Wichita or Amazon on the worldwide web.

I've been told folks at the salon have been reading it eagerly and that a few patients have jotted down the title and my name after reading several pages. I was delighted to hear that.

Today, I heard one that topped the list: one woman enjoyed reading the opening pages so much - and was impressed that the author was a patient of the good chiropractor - that she looked it up on her Smartphone and ordered a copy on the spot.

Can't beat that, I guess.

A doff o' my fedora to you, wherever you are.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

One summer weekend around a swimming pool

Not long after I finished the first draft of FALLEN TREES several years ago, an online friend in Maine asked if I'd be willing to share some chapters with her because she would have to stay home over the July 4 weekend for work -- which amounted to keeping an eye on the buildings of the school district where she was employed.

I sent Page the first six chapters, not sure how much time she'd have - or how quickly she read. Later that day, she asked for more chapters.

"Wow, she's a fast reader," I thought.

I sent her 10 more. The next morning she sent another e-mail, pleading for the rest of the book. She'd printed out the chapters and taken them to her condo complex swimming pool. Others at the pool were curious about what she was reading, so she began sharing the chapters as she finished them.

An impromptu book club sprouted at the pool, spirited conversations had broken out as they discussed the twists and turns in the story line ---- and they needed to know how it all turned out.

Needless to say, I sent her the rest of the book. The reactions were varied, which I found gratifying because I wondered if that would happen. My friend, Page, told me the readers were a wide cross-section of life experiences and professions, which pleased me because it suggested the book has broad appeal.

This episode is why I say FALLEN TREES is great for book clubs --- it spontaneously spawned one around a swimming pool over a summer holiday weekend.

Oh, this story has a nice footnote, too: Page, without my knowing until she told me later, put a rubber band around the printed manuscript, walked over to Stephen King's house and knocked on the door. Yes, she lived in Stephen King's home town.

King's wife answered the door, Page said, and she told her, "You need to read this. It's really good."

But King's wife declined, saying they already had more manuscripts to read than they knew what to do with. I didn't blame her. I was nevertheless touched by the unique endorsement by my friend.

If you belong to a book club and are looking for an engaging read and lively discussion, you might consider FALLEN TREES. You can get it through the beloved Wichita independent book seller Watermark Books or, if you prefer a nationally known option, Amazon.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Where did FALLEN TREES come from?

It's natural for some readers of FALLEN TREES to believe the novel is semi-autobiographical, since I was born and raised on a farm in central Kansas and the main character in the book was as well.

But I'm not kidding when I tell people that assumption simply isn't accurate. Any time I tried to inject myself or someone I knew into the story, the muse would simply shut down. I had to 'back away' and stop trying to direct the story or it wouldn't resume.

I've wanted to write novels ever since I was a child and became entranced by the Hardy Boys and Trixie Belden and Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew. I loved how readers could get to know the characters in these stories and then get to learn more in new installments in the series.

I even created my own 'series' --- short mysteries featuring Billy and Joann, siblings in a small town who couldn't resist trying to solve mysteries that they stumbled upon. Mom saved a couple of them and I read one a few months ago. I was impressed with the organization and plotting in stories written when I was maybe 10 years old.

But several attempts to start a novel when I reached adulthood simply went nowhere. I had to resign myself to the reality that the muse would let me know when the time was right...when I would be ready.

That time came when I was driving back to Wichita following some time at the farm, and I saw a grove of trees that had been cut down next to the highway. This grove was so substantial it served as something of an area landmark ---- you knew where you were when you saw them. It struck me how much the landscape changed when those trees were cut down.

And then the muse began to work: What if you had a character coming home to this abrupt change? A story began to unspool before me. By the time I got home I had a couple of chapters already written in my mind. For a while, I tried to figure out the rest of the book before I began writing, but it never seemed smooth in my mind.

Instead, those two chapters ---- eventually a third came into focus ---- nagged at me so much that I simply wrote them to get them onto paper, so to speak. As I wrote, another chapter emerged, then another. I never knew more than a chapter or two ahead what was going to happen in the book. It drove me crazy for a while, but I eventually learned to trust the process.

I've told friends and family that I felt like a stenographer for this book ---- the muse was writing it and I was simply typing it. There were times when I'd be writing and I'd be so tired I would close my eyes and lean my head against the wall in my cozy dining area ---- and my fingers would still be typing away on the story.

There were times when I would think, "What does this have to do with anything?" Then, several chapters later, its value was made clear. "How the heck did that happen?" I asked myself. But it was part of the journey toward trusting the muse.

I have said many times that even if FALLEN TREES never saw the light of day as a published book it was still valuable because when the opportunity came to write INTO THE DEEP with Robert Rogers in 2005 about the tragic death of his family in a flash flood on the Kansas Turnpike, I didn't flinch. The idea of writing a book didn't intimidate me because I'd already done that.

Writing nonfiction is entirely different than writing fiction, but I still knew how to execute the project. Now that FALLEN TREES has been published and has been getting such strong responses, I am gratified that so many people are enjoying it.

I have some unusual and powerful experiences to share from the writing of FALLEN TREES, but I'll save those for the future.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

"A magnificent character-driven novel"

Glowing reviews are never a given, which is why when one comes along it feels a bit like Christmas morning.

That's how I felt when I saw the most recent review of FALLEN TREES posted on the book's Amazon page.

Fallen Trees is a magnificent character-driven novel. Stan Finger's style does not rely on an overly-descriptive narrative that can leave readers' minds attempting to paint a specific physical picture. Rather, his dialogue-driven story allows the characters to speak for themselves, leaving them at the forefront of the story while simultaneously granting us a clear and crisp view of life in the Midwest. Stan's story flows seamlessly, carrying the reader from moment to moment alongside his characters, making for a brisk and satisfying read.

On his Facebook page, the reviewer added that he doesn't normally read books like FALLEN TREES, but decided to check it out after hearing positive buzz about it. It sounds like he's happy he gave it a look.

If you'd like to order the book, there are a variety of options now: You can pick it up through Amazon, at an independent book store in Wichita called Watermark Books (one of my favorite places in town) or even online through Barnes & Noble. B&N doesn't stock the book on its shelves, but it does handle orders for FALLEN TREES.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Five stars!!!

Funny how little things can mean so much.

I've gotten wonderful reader responses to FALLEN TREES so far. They've been even stronger than I dared to hope when it was published.

For several weeks, those reactions had been informal -- either in person, via e-mail or on social media -- but I noticed someone finally posted a review on the Amazon page for FALLEN TREES.

And it was a treat to read for an author.

"This book was fabulous. I can't wait for this author's next novel!"

They gave it 5 stars to boot. 

I realize it wasn't the New York Times Book Review, but I'm still delighted. It's gratifying that FALLEN TREES is striking a chord with readers. 

May it long continue.

If you haven't ordered a copy yet, you can do it here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A book even folks who don't like to read books are enjoying

One of best compliments I received about my latest book, FALLEN TREES, came before it was published.

I had e-mailed the manuscript to a friend of mine who liked to read. I bumped into her at a gathering of friends and she told me how much she liked it. Then her husband piped up.

"I don't usually like to read books," he said, "but I really enjoyed this one."

That's always nice for an author to hear, but it was particularly gratifying to me because it told me the story resonates with more than one demographic of readers.

It suggested it reached people who don't even like to read much, which has value no matter what.

You can order FALLEN TREES by clicking on this link. I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A holiday weekend around a swimming pool

Some years back, after I had finished the first draft of FALLEN TREES, a friend of mine in Maine asked me to send her some chapters so she'd have something to read over the upcoming holiday weekend.

She had been assigned to keep an eye on the school buildings where she worked, so she couldn't go anywhere for the holiday. Not knowing how quickly Nancy read, I sent six chapters. A few hours later, she e-mailed again, asking for more chapters.

Wow, I thought. She must have really liked what she's read so far. I sent her another 10 chapters. The next morning, she emailed again, asking me to send the rest of the book.

She had a confession, she said: she had printed out the pages at the school and taken them to the swimming pool at her condo complex. As she was reading the chapters, other women sunbathing at the pool asked what she was reading. When she told them, they asked if they could read the chapters, too.

An impromptu book club had formed around the pool, she said, with the women all debating about what the main character should do ---- and now they were all eager to see how the book ended.

I e-mailed her the rest of the chapters. She later told me the book prompted several passionate discussions as the various women debated about "the right thing to do."

If you belong to a book club, I encourage you to read FALLEN TREES. It's managed to form book clubs spontaneously.

You can order copies here...and I hope you find it as engaging as that group of women around that swimming pool in Maine.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A free sample of FALLEN TREES

If this morsel whets your appetite, you can order the book here.

Fallen Trees


            The green sign announcing the county line had been turned into a target. Slugs dented the sign above an “a” and again near a “y,” stripping the paint down to gray metal.
            The county line seemed to flip a switch inside me. I gripped the steering wheel tighter and felt the same kind of dread knotting my stomach as when I was ordered to the principal’s office for tugging on Mary Lou Pfannenstiel’s pony tail in the third grade.
            I wasn’t going to see the principal today. I was going home. But the feelings were nearly the same. Almost every trip brought a cross-examination, as if I had to justify leaving in the first place. I had built a successful writing career after leaving for college and life in the big city. A spacious house in a wooded Kansas City subdivision was testimony to that. But Dad always seemed to find something wrong: he questioned my career choice when I lived in old houses for years, frugally saving my money for the home I’d finally had built a few years ago. He challenged my choices when one relationship after another had failed. He belittled my common sense when farming tasks he could do in his sleep didn’t come naturally to me.
            In the past several months, the freelance assignments that came my way so easily for years had slowed to a trickle. If I didn’t find several writing jobs soon, I’d be forced to sell the house I’d worked so hard to have.
A relationship I hoped would lead to the altar withered to nothing. I made mental lists of jobs I’d have to accept that I would never have considered before, just to pay bills – and the mortgage. Somewhere inside me, I wondered if Dad had been right all along. Still, when he had called and asked if I could come out to the farm and help him for a few days, I accepted.
“I’ve got some wood that needs to be chopped up,” he’d said. “I know you have a fireplace to feed in that monster of a house, and winter’s on the way.”
One chore always turned into a half-dozen, and the drudgery of farm work was one of the main reasons I left in the first place. The offer of free firewood was tempting, because I loved the warmth and sound of a fire on a winter’s night. But the real reason I agreed to come to the farm was that I needed to figure out whether I’d be able to revive my flagging freelance business or it was time to plot a new career course. Walking through the trees that lined our creek had always been therapeutic for me – and this was a great time of year to do it.
I drove past a house and a stand of trees on the right side of the road. The trees grew in clumps and lines out here, cottonwoods and spruces and pines and elms, massed defensively against the relentless wind. The leaves had begun to turn, giving the cottonwoods a golden crown freckled with green. Along both sides of the highway were ripening milo fields, the plant heads turning from a soft green to a burnt copper. Harvest was not far off, I could tell.
My tires hit a set of rumble strips, and I noticed I was closing in on the intersection of Highway 156. Fresh paint marked a single lane leading up to the stop sign, and I frowned. It used to be two lanes, and I wondered why they had made the change. Half a mile ahead was Sanford, a town so small it had been taken off the official state map decades ago. All that remained was a grain elevator, a railroad line passing through, four or five houses and a grade school that closed years before I was born. I thought of those errands to the Sanford Co-op that Dad would send me as a teen. Typically, he offered no instructions – only sharp words if I somehow didn’t come back with the right part or the right feed.
“You should have figured it out on your own,” he’d bark.
I wasn’t going through Sanford, though. I turned right at the intersection, averting my eyes from the sun sliding toward the horizon.  I pulled the sun visor down to shield my eyes, drove over a concrete bridge fording a draw and then crossed a longer bridge spanning the Pawnee River. I found myself looking for the spot south of the highway where the Pawnee met up with the Sawmill Creek, the tributary that bisected our farm. When I was young, my brothers, sister and I spent many a Sunday trying to catch fish in the Sawmill. Most of the time, we wouldn’t come home with more than a carp or two. By the time I was a teenager, however, the Sawmill was dry most of the time. Years of irrigation had sucked the underground aquifer so low that most rivers and creeks in western Kansas didn’t run at all unless there had been a hard rain.
My tires hit the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe spur line that angles across Highway 156 between Sanford and Rozel.
Wait a minute, I thought. That was too soon.
For decades, the Richten family farm had been distinguished by cottonwood trees lining both sides of the Sawmill next to the state highway that paralleled the creek for perhaps a quarter of a mile. Many had grown at least fifty feet tall and could be seen for miles on the flat prairie that stretched out around them. They had been my refuge. But now they were missing.
Then I saw them lying along the banks of the creek. Branches and roots pointed toward the heavens, as if they were drowning men grasping desperately at life before disappearing beneath the waves forever. I nearly drove off the road in surprise, my eyes locked on a sight I could not comprehend.
            Gravel crunched under the tires as I turned left past the mailbox and onto the driveway. A barking dog greeted my arrival. That would be Cadet, who had been patrolling the Richten farm for the past ten years or so. I drove through a row of trees that separated the homestead from the highway. Rudy Richten had planted the trees the same year he settled onto the place with Elana Kadlec, the bride he brought home from World War II. Stretches of the creek had become so heavily wooded over the decades that I sometimes felt like I had stepped into the Ozarks when I went for a walk.
            But the signature trees of the Richten farm now lay in haphazard clumps along the edges of a dead creek. The sight shattered a corner of my heart as if a crystal wineglass had dropped to the floor. The driveway curled left around the house before ending at the garage. As soon as I parked, I walked into the back yard to get another look at what my eyes couldn't believe from the highway. The stumps left behind gave the impression the Sawmill had grown teeth – molars so large that two grown men could sit on them and not touch each other.
            That was where my firewood was coming from.
            Mom came out of the house and wrapped me in a big hug. Her hair had turned colors in the autumn of her life, from the soft blonde captured in the sepia-toned photographs of the post-war years to a pale gray. But there was still sparkle in her hazel eyes and strength in the hug she gave me.
            "Oh, it's so good to see you," she said, holding me tight and rising slightly on her heels so she could rest her head on my shoulder.
            She hadn’t really needed to do that, considering she was five-feet-eight-inches tall, but Mom always did back her words with enthusiastic body language. I wanted to say something, but the feeling of being in my mother's arms again felt so good I stayed silent.
            A few moments later, I asked, "What happened to the trees?"
            "The state came in and cut them down," she said as if she were announcing the death of a relative. "They told us the trees had become a danger after that hard freeze we had a couple Halloweens ago. It killed a lot of them.”
            “I didn’t realize that,” I said. “I guess when I was here last year I didn’t notice that a lot of those trees weren’t leafing out the way they used to do.”
            “They told us those trees could fall down on the highway and hit a car, so they came out last month and cut them down. And then they told us it was up to us to clear them out, because they were blocking a major drainage system."
            "Our creek is a major drainage system?" I asked sarcastically.
            "So they say," she said with a shrug.
            “The only time it seems to have water in it any more is when it’s trying to flood,” I replied, the sarcasm still firmly in place.
            I stared out toward the highway, my mind trying to reconstruct how the creek looked when the trees blotted out the sky. I kicked at the sand in the yard, my eyes shifting from my feet to the creek and back like a person wrestling with whether to look at the aftermath of a violent automobile accident.
            "How's Dad taking it?"
            "What could we do? We didn't have a choice."
            She looked out at an empty semi-trailer truck rolling past, lurching with a metallic clank as it crossed the railroad tracks.
            "It sure looks different, doesn't it?" she admitted.
            "It feels different."
            "I hope that, as long as we're here, it still feels like home," she said.
            “Of course,” I said quickly. "Where's Dad?"
            "Out in the field baling. He wants to get the hay up before it rains.”
            I looked to the south, between the brick equipment shed and the old livestock barn west of the house. Trees lining the creek blocked the view, but I knew Dad was out there somewhere.
            "How's the hay doing this year?"
            "It was so dry this winter our first cutting was a month late, but the last two have been pretty good, and this could be our best one yet - if rain doesn't spoil it. Have you eaten? I've got supper in the oven."
            "Good thing I didn't eat much on the drive home. When will Dad come in?”
            "When he's done, or done in, I guess. You know him."
            I smiled knowingly. Dad was stern and stoic as we were growing up, and time hadn't mellowed him much.
            "Oh, he's getting better about coming in at a decent hour,” Mom said, picking up on the tone in my laugh. “If it weren't for the hay, he'd have already called it a day."
            The setting sun painted the western sky pink as it neared the horizon. I walked over to my pickup, opened the passenger door and pulled my suitcase and garment bag from the bench seat in the extended cab.
            "Am I staying in my old room? Or do you have a major project going on in there?"
            "No, it's all yours. I even put an extra blanket at the foot of the bed in case you need it."
            I made my way through the front door, across the foyer and toward the wooden staircase Dad built by hand. The place hadn’t changed in decades, it seemed. There was that photo of Mom, taken back in the ‘50s, her face alight with laughter. Something in the picture caught my eye and made me stop. That photo had been there so long we barely noticed it most of the time. But this time, in the distance behind Mom, I noticed the trees. They weren’t very tall then. Like Mom and Dad, they were young and strong and full of potential. I studied each tree as if it were a young relative whose face I was trying to recognize.
            Mom walked in from the kitchen and saw me looking at her photo.
            “I was young and pretty once, wasn’t I?” she said, a lilt in her voice as she smiled.
            “You’re still pretty,” I said. “Time hasn’t changed that.”
            Her face glowed at the compliment.
            “I was noticing the trees in the background, too,” I said.
            Mom came over and looked at the picture with me.
            “We were so much younger then, weren’t we?” she asked. “I wonder how much longer it’ll be before they cut us down and dump us in the ground?”
            Her directness caught me off guard.
            “Hopefully, not for quite a while yet,” I said, turning to head up the stairs.
             I glanced back and saw Mom studying the picture. I took a left at the top of the stairs and headed toward the bedroom at the end of the hallway. My bedroom. A rush of cool air greeted me when I opened the door, courtesy of an air conditioner grumbling from the window. It sounded like a bearing was going out somewhere, but it sounded like that when I was a kid, too. I shut it off, pausing to look out the window at the garden on the other side of the driveway. Pale yellow stalks of sweet corn stood weary sentry over a patch of ground that had fed our family since before I was born.  Somewhere in there, I suspected, lay pumpkins and squash and late-arriving tomatoes. The garden had always been Mom’s personal piece of magic: she could go out there and come back with something good to eat no matter what time of year it was.
            The bed I slept on as a teenager was freshly made, with two pillows tucked carefully under the covers. I opened the sliding door in the wall and hung my garment bag on the wooden pole that served as a clothes rack. I ducked my head as I did it, because the upstairs had once been the attic and the walls sloped sharply toward the top of the roof. Handmade wooden drawers were one sliding door over. I wiped away dust thick enough to write my name and unpacked my suitcase.
            When I got down to the dinner table, I saw there were only two place settings. Dad was obviously still in the field. I washed, combed my hair and checked to make sure my shirt was tucked in - echoes of the table rules we had all been raised with. After Mom and I prayed, we ate for a few minutes in silence. That made it easy to hear the rumble of an approaching tractor.
            "There he is," Mom said, jumping up to set a place for him.
            I could feel a flinch of trepidation within me as the tractor came closer. I wondered what kind of mood he would be in. I was already finished eating when he made it to the table.
            He changed a room just by walking into it. He stood 6-foot-5 and had a voice that could strip hide when he raised it. Every Veterans Day he put on his old Lieutenant's uniform, polished the shoes and the brass until they gleamed and marched in Larned's annual parade with his head held high.
            "Get it finished?" I asked as he sat at his customary spot at the head of the table.
            "No, but I will tomorrow," he said, adding "after Mass" when Mom gave him a look.
            "I thought we could go visit the grave tomorrow," Mom interjected.
            Randy, my younger brother, was killed in a car wreck seven weeks after graduating from high school. He was the baby of the family, born less than two years after I was. He grew up with a knack for things mechanical, had a way of getting things to grow, and loved to make things out of nothing. In other words, he was a natural farmer.
            In retrospect, I realized, my biggest flaw was simply that I wasn't Randy. But I didn't want to be like Randy. I wanted to write, to challenge my mind, to explore the world. I saw the farm as a massive chain that kept me from being who I wanted to be. Randy saw the farm as a garden for the world, and he would be its caretaker when his time came.
            "Are you sure the rain's going to hold off long enough?" I asked.
            "We'll see," he said.
            "I can't believe what happened to the trees," I told him.
            "That's where your wood's coming from,” he said as he chewed a bite of baked steak.
            "So I gathered. But do you have a chainsaw stout enough to handle trees of that size?”
            "Oh, we'll figure something out. I need to get that wood out of the channel, and I knew you needed firewood for that big house of yours.”
            "How long is it going to take?"
            "How long do you have?” he asked with a gleam in his eye. “Unless you stay here until spring, we won’t get it finished before you leave.”
            “How long are you staying?” Mom asked hopefully, sitting across from me.
            "Until I fill up the back of my pickup, I guess," I said with a laugh.
            "That's fair enough," Mom said quickly, looking at Dad as she said it.
            Dad was chewing, his face betraying little. His eyes refused to look at me, and I realized he had hoped for more.
            “Actually, I’ll probably be here for about a week,” I said. “That should help at least a little.”
            “Good,” Dad said. “I could use the hand.”
            I helped clear the table after Dad finished eating. Cadet barked in the darkness, and I wondered if coyotes were prowling around the creek. I walked into the living room, where Dad was settled into his recliner, reading a magazine. I found a stack of the local weekly newspapers and began browsing through them to get a sense of what had been happening in the area recently.
            Without looking up, I asked Dad, “So how’s the hay?”
            “Won’t know ‘til we get it up,” he said. “Sure wish that rain wasn’t in the forecast just now.”
            “Will it be enough rain to really mess up the cutting?”
            “Could be.”
            “Figures. Never seems to rain when you want it to, and always seems to rain when you don’t want it to.”
            We settled back into silence, and my eyelids grew heavy. Glancing at my watch, I realized it was later than I thought. The news was about to come on, but I didn’t feel like waiting up for it.
            “I’m calling it a night,” I said, walking past Dad’s chair and tapping the arm rest. “’Night.”
            “Night,” he said without looking up.
            I saw Mom puttering in the kitchen, so I poked my head in there.
            “I’m off to bed. Wake me about 7."
            "Are you going to want breakfast before we leave? I made cinnamon rolls..."
            “Then my answer is ‘yes,’” I told her.
            The metallic taste of the farm's mineral-laden well water assaulted my tongue as I brushed my teeth. When I was young, I thought it was the best-tasting water in the world. Now it just tasted "old." Returning to the bedroom, I turned out the light and crawled into bed. I thought about all those nights I stared at the same ceiling while I was growing up, wondering what life had in store for me.
            The next sound I heard was someone thumping the ceiling of the kitchen below me with a broom handle. It was Sunday morning. Time to get up.

 I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading. Again, if you'd like to purchase the book, you can order it here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A milestone moment!

Today marked an exciting milestone of sorts for me. It was National Read A Book Day, and someone was marking the occasion by reading my newest book, FALLEN TREES!

I was both humbled and thrilled...and, best of all, she was enjoying the book! 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Glowing praise for my newest book

I was having brunch today with a friend who was visiting family from out of state for the holiday weekend. We covered a wide range of topics, as we typically do, and one of them was my newest book, FALLEN TREES.

As we were talking, a local friend happened to stroll by our booth on the way to the brunch buffet. She stopped to say 'Hi' and we chatted briefly. Then I remembered she has already read FALLEN TREES, so I asked her what she thought of it.

"Oh, I loved it!" she replied.

She then went on to say she liked it so much she was going to buy copies for friends of hers and recommend it to still others. Talk about music to an author's ears.

My friend from Oklahoma had already bought a copy, but she's now more eager to read the book than ever.

The local friend talked about how she had to remind herself that it was fiction because the characters seemed so real to her. More sweet music for an author.

If you'd like to order a copy, you can go here. Happy reading!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Dusting off the cover

After letting my blog go dormant for more than two years, it's time to reawaken it.

Part of the reason I placed it on the back burner is because I had become so busy with other things in my life that it became a low priority. A bigger reason is because I wanted to shift the blog's focus more toward writing.

I want to write about writing more - the magic, the mystery, the struggle, the journey - because writing is all of those things.

While I suspect no two authors write the same way, I've discovered we have more in common than we may realize.

Perhaps, as I share, others who have been tempted to write a book or short story may find the courage to give it a try.

Everyone has stories to share; it's just a question of how they choose to share them.