Now available in paperback

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Fifty-seven years ago I killed a boy. Tonight, Euart Monroe walked into my room with a Mossberg 510 and a stained hobo mattress and fired a shot into my belly. It should have killed me right off, but he didn’t want that. He wanted me to know who pulled the trigger.

***
I’m excited to announce that Ordinary Handsome is now available in paperback. It’s an oversize 6.69″ x  9.61″ book with a matte cover and cream pages. Pardon the indulgence, but it really is quite handsome. Weighing in at a whopping 187 pages, it’s got a spanky new cover and even a tiny author photo on the back for your mustache-drawing indulgence. Please check it out and let me know what you think. As always, thank you for reading. — Steve

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Revised cover

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The big dreamers weren’t anywhere to be found in my bar that day. You know the kind, if you’ve ever been in a saloon. The big talkers who like to think they have life by the throat. If they were just a little luckier, or if fate was a little pluckier, they could improve their lot in life in a minute.

But you hear all those dreams, those half-lit ambitions, and you know they’re not going anywhere but from the bar stool to the privy, and back to their bar stool. And the drunker they get, the loftier the dreams.

Old Walt Zuckerman, who used to manage the Red & White, he always had the dream of buying himself a house boat. Said if he had one, he’d float on the lake all day, drink beer, and enjoy the fruits of his labor. What particular fruits, and what particular labor, he never said, but he was keen on buying that boat. And on what lake, I don’t have any idea. Wasn’t a lake within 200 miles of Handsome. I guess if you’re going to dream something up, the matter of a lake shouldn’t have no bearing.

Then he decided he was going to build that boat. He studied diagrams in Popular Mechanics, and even bought a garage-full of lumber. He said he sent away for blueprints from a company in Pennsylvania.

Walt spent endless weeks talking about that boat, and how he would name it “The Marie” after his high school sweetheart, and how he’d paint it green and stencil her name on it with bright orange paint. He would have a fully stocked kitchen, which he called the galley, and eat pork and beans and put ketchup on his eggs and leave a bottle of bourbon on his bedside table at night because no one could tell him he couldn’t because he would be the goddamned captain of The Marie.

Of course, the lumber gathered termites, and his hammer and nails turned rusty, and it came to pass you couldn’t buy Walt a drink if you mentioned The Marie. He was done with it, and he never spoke of her again.

Time slipped away, like it always does, and life got in the way. And so it is with everyone who leaves a crumpled dollar bill on the counter of my bar. For every “trade her in for a new Cadillac, maybe next summer,” there’s another greasy sawbuck in my cash drawer.

***

Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome, available here. Thanks for reading!

Brother Efrim

Ah, brother Efrim. He never told his story well. Everything about him was submerged. He wore both masks, the comic and the tragic. When he drank, he was the best goddamn drunk he could be. Sober, his heart was larger than anyone she knew. Elani loved him and she understood the depths, the wear-and-tear of pride, the oscillating moods. She tried to rescue him, and still hoped she could. He was stubborn.

She often drew him in her sketch book, always from memory. He had little patience for sitting still or staying in the moment. His face was angular and whiskered, pliant skin over bone. The portraits were always in charcoal and pencil, because that was him, practically a Dickensian character, bare meat on his bones, unwashed hair, seared lips.

She found him once, on one of her rescue missions, slumped on the sidewalk. The street lights dredged the pavement like flour, and he was a shapeless drift of luminance. He was waiting for the better angels to show up. Or his sister.

She cupped the back of his head. No more, he mouthed, but the words were a malt liquor vapor.

***Excerpt from a work-in-progress, The Stone Age***

A Very Tall Summer

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It was a very tall summer in 1957, and I’ll tell you why…
And so begins the most terrible summer for Charlotte Windover.
She and husband Jeremiah began a new life together surrounded by a wide expanse of a corn and sky. After years of brutal disappointment, she finally resolves to change her life. When Jeremiah is suddenly killed at an abandoned homestead, life becomes more isolated and harrowing. And with the threat of random fires being set by a mysterious figure known only as Croy, Charlotte’s life has become even more desperate.
In a land of big skies and small dreams, A Very Tall Summer is the tale of a woman’s resolve to overcome her broken past, and at any cost.

***

“The land takes hold and humbles and diminishes. It punishes a soul for the vainglorious hope of harnessing it. Rich brown, powder gray, it makes no difference; it overwhelms and chokes a man’s thoughts. It lodges itself upon the skin, under the fingernails, inside work boots and carburetors, it’s always there, at the foot of the bed, in the washing machine, behind the ears, laying claim to you, reminding you it’s there and soon you won’t be. You will be buried in it in time, and even if a hard wind comes and pulls your bones out of the ground, it will mock you, mock your arrogance.

“This was our life, and we expected no more than a decent crop, grocery money, medicine money, repair-the-tin-roof money. Warmth in winter, clean water in summer, the haunting fragrance of corn to placate our shabby mortality.”

Available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01A4YRM5C

That deepest night

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You met her at a roadside cafe just outside of Little Rock. It was two in the morning and you were on your third cup of coffee. You’d been hitchhiking for three days without much sleep. She was a waitress and you were her only customer. She took her cigarette outside and waited for you to finish. But she kept sneaking peaks at you, and you knew it.
You knew you smelled bad, and your eyes were as red as sundown, but you were polite and didn’t have liquor on your breath. You knew you looked used-up, but she saw something in you no one else did. She saw you as someone lost and looking to find a way back home. When she came back inside after her third smoke, she sat right down beside you and introduced herself. And she was bold! Asked you if you had a place to stay, and offered you a decent bed. Not to share it with her, Lord no, but she kept a small spare bedroom that was warm. You could clean yourself up before you hit the road again, and she wouldn’t mind if you did a few chores for her. But nothing funny. She kept a loaded gun in her bedroom and wanted you to know it.
You were so overwhelmed – and surprised – by her kindness that you couldn’t think of a decent excuse to walk away.
So she took you home and you slept in her spare bedroom in the back, next to the laundry room, and you slept for most of a day.
And she was with you every day from then.
Sometimes, in the deepest heart of the night, you woke up clinging to her tightly, fiercely, and you remember that same kind of fierceness as when you were holding on to a pine tree in the middle of a rain storm, that deepest heart of that deepest night. And you swore you’d never let go.

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Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome. Available at http://www.amazon.com//dp/B00P46ZPA0 for only $2.99.

burial

I won’t bore you with the details of the burial. Out of necessity, it was a shallow grave. I buried him where I laid him down. The trees were closely bunched together, but the earth was soft. It didn’t take me more than half an hour. He was so small.

***

Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P46ZPA0

November: A very tall summer?

This morning I came up with a challenge for myself. Or a wishful thought. I’m going to finish a novel by November 1st. This year. A little more than two months from now. I’ve been working on two separate books for the past few months, but steadily on one in particular: the tale of the widow Charlotte and her slow descent into madness (cue the organ music, Vincent Price at the keyboard.) The working title is A Very Tall Summer.  Those who follow my blog with any regularity have seen the progression in several scattered posts. Early this morning, it all came together in my head. And it’s creepy as hell. Continue reading “November: A very tall summer?”

Blog vacation

Floatation device

I think it’s time to take a little break. I’ve been posting every day for over six months now, and it’s time to recharge the creative batteries.

I’ve got some writing projects in various stages of development that I want to work on. The self-promotional stuff is hard work, but if the books aren’t selling it’s time to move on. I’m a realist at heart. Onto the next thing(s).

So a couple of weeks off to get my writing back to where I want it.

But I’ll be around.

And the books are still available anytime.:)

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P46ZPA0 http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WUC3RBA

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Randomness

Couldn’t seem to get out of Pennsylvania. I kept goin’ back to the barn and found a couple more paintings, and they was just as nice but not as big. Albagon painted a tornado that looked like a three-color Popsicle on the side of a shed, and somethin’ that looked like a Chinese owl on an outhouse just a few feet away from an abandoned Texaco garage. Continue reading “Randomness”

Dawn

Dawn came in muddy, like coffee that’s been in the pot too long. There was no traffic. Folks in Handsome didn’t rise to greet the morning unless they had to, and there was no reason to today. The weather was going to turn foul and there was nothing to do but wait it out. Waiting for something better wasn’t a new thing, except it never seemed to happen. Continue reading “Dawn”