Pain and Suffering: A True Story

When I tried to get out of bed this morning, I discovered I could not straighten my back.

Don’t worry, this morning wasn’t the first time this has happened. Slightly more than thirty years ago, I was hit by a moving car while walking across the street. The car’s grill struck my left hip, propelling me up onto the hood and into the windshield. When the car slowed, I rolled off the hood and fell to the ground beneath the still-moving car. I heard Gretta scream before I lost consciousness.

I came to in a Fire Department ambulance on the way to a hospital emergency room. My neck and back were strapped to separate braces that kept me immobile. I was wheeled into x-ray where they took a full set of 8 x 10 glossies.

My head had cracked open where it had collided with the windshield (Gretta told me later that she saw my hard head actually shatter the shatter-proof glass in that windshield). I received a half-dozen stitches and a shot for the pain. Three doctors examined me and let Gretta drive me home with a brace around my neck, stitches and bandages on my head, and a handful of pills that included prescription muscle relaxants and pain killers.

Long story short: I was lucky to be alive.

When I went to see a doctor again the next day for follow-up, she told me I had hairline fractures in my cheek, jaw, and left hip. She said they would eventually mend. The muscle in my left hip was severely swollen and badly distended. She said she doubted it would ever heal properly.

It didn’t.

I had no medical insurance at the time because I was a free-lance writer barely eking out a meager living selling an occasional short story, a work-for-hire novel, or a magazine article. I managed to pay the rent, purchase pipe tobacco, feed the cats, and put food in my own stomach, but I sure as hell couldn’t afford medical insurance. Fortunately, the driver of that car had insurance. The driver felt terrible about hitting a pedestrian, the insurance adjuster said. I agreed to sign a waver forfeiting the right to sue for future pain and suffering if the insurance company paid for my current medical bills and the cost of replacing the three-piece suit I had worn that was ruined by blood and rips in both the pants and the jacket.

I wish now that I had sued. My hip never did heal. That muscle is still distended and if I turn over the wrong way in my sleep I awake in terrible pain and can’t straighten my back.

I also walk lopsided, like the way an automobile drives when the frame is knocked out of kilter by a collision.

But I consider myself lucky to be alive. Not only did my head shatter that windshield instead of the windshield shattering my head, when I rolled off the hood one of the front wheels missed pancaking my head by less than an inch. That, according to Gretta, was what made her scream. She was certain I was road kill.

It’s now 8 PM, thirty-some years after the accident, and I haven’t been able to straighten my back since yesterday. I have to walk hunched over like Igor or Lon Chaney. I’m in pain as I write this. As I said, this isn’t the first time this has happened. I should be back to normal in a week or so.

Until the next time I strain my back and this happens again.

It’s always nice to know that I have friends who worry about me. When I don’t post for a while on various social media sites like Facebook or one of my multiple blogsites, I get e-mails or phone calls wondering why. If I don’t appear at a con where I’m normally a fixture, plenty of people wonder why. If I haven’t been my usual prolific self with new stories and novels and book reviews appearing in print, you probably wonder why yourself.

Here’s why:

1. I am carefully crafting a breakthrough novel that’s dynamite. My agent asked to have the novel polished for submission by the end of August. It’s now whittled down from 140,000 words to 95,000 fast-paced words and almost ready to fly.

2. I’ve been invited to submit to four anthologies, one of which is a shared-world, and those deadlines are also approaching.

3. After neglecting personal self-care for five years, natural aging finally caught up with me. My eyes, knees, and teeth cried out for attention. I may not yet be the Six Million Dollar Man, but I’m getting real close.

4. Lizza and I are coordinating our fall convention wardrobes during cook-outs and dinners in area restaurants.

5. Daily deluges turned my front and back yards into virtual rainforests that require constant cutting, chopping, and decluttering before my humble abode completely disappears and I turn into the Swamp Thing.

6. You already know about my hip and the pain I’m in.

Stephen King, like many of the characters in his stories and novels, is the kid next door. We all knew him when he ran around the neighborhood with poopy diapers and a silly shit-eating grin on his face.

We watched him grow up, go away to the nearly-local state university, fall in love, get married, have a handful of kids, and bury a beloved, but possessed, dog or two. We watched him struggle to make a success of himself. We watched him fall down once or twice and pick himself up. He was a lot like us, we figured. He looked familiar. He sounded familiar. He had similar addictions. When he was good, he was very good. When he was bad, he was very bad.

We could easily identify with all that

He loved books and he loved to read or hear a good story as much he loved to tell one. He still does. Everyone I know can certainly identify with that.

Steve, too, was a pedestrian hit by a moving vehicle. Not everyone can identify with that. But, on days like today, I certainly can.

A Complicated Mystery

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All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford (Alibi, July 2016) is a mystery within a mystery. The characters are complex, fully-developed, because Pen Sheppard is a keen observer and notices details most people don’t. Frank, Pen’s psychiatrist, even comments on Pen’s keen skills of observation as she relates her story.

Pen is a first-year University law student, away from home for the first time. Her classmates play a game they call “The Murder Game”. The object of the game is to mock-kill each your classmates when they least expect it. Pen’s friend Rachel boasts she has more kills than anyone else. Rachel loves to stab or shoot people in the back.

Then students start dying for real, allegedly attacked by “The Screwdriver Man”. Is there a serial killer stalking campus? When Rachel dies from drowning and other students die from drug overdoses, Pen becomes a prime suspect.

None of the people in this novel are nice, nor is anyone who she or he pretends to be. Everyone seems to be hiding something. Whether or not they are all guilty of murder is irrelevant. No one is completely innocent.

All These Perfect Strangers is a complicated story of relationships gone wrong. Recommended for readers who like to sort through all the chaff to find overlooked grains of truth. Worth a read.

My Return from the Dead

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Coming back from the dead is never easy.

I deliberately killed myself off twenty-five years ago. I stopped writing fiction to help my wife overcome chronic life-threating illness. Instead of writing fiction, I earned several masters degrees and worked on doctorates in educational psychology and cognitive neuroscience. I learned hypnotic techniques to help prolong human lives and improve the quality of life. I made a name for myself as a hypnosis instructor and author of journal articles.

But Paul Dale Anderson–the author of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and thrillers–was buried and forgotten.

When I returned to fiction writing in 2012, it took two long years for my novels and short stories to again appear in print. I’m still in the process of resurrecting my backlist, but new Paul Dale Anderson novels are now available as paperbacks and e-books.

I began making live personal appearances in 2014, and this year I’m doing the full convention circuit. I’m getting my face and name out there to show people I’m still alive.

I have been back in the fiction game for four consecutive years, and I am about to have a breakthrough. Breakthroughs come when an author publishes consistently for at least five years in one genre or related genres. Breakthroughs occur when name recognition and writing quality reach critical mass.

It takes at least five years before people in this industry take you seriously, five years of writing your heart out, five years of pitching and submitting manuscripts to agents and editors, five years of attending conventions and doing readings and book signings, five years of reaching for the golden ring, missing it by millimeters, before you can grab hold and hang on.

It takes five years for word to get around that your work is worth reading. Any writer worth his or her salt who sticks around for more than five years should notice a breakthrough at the five year mark.

It takes ten additional years to produce a bestselling book. Your writing improves with each book you write, so the more books you write, the better your writing becomes. Sales, also, are accumulative, and the more you write the more books you’ll sell. And the more you sell, the more readers will recognize your name. The more people who recognize your name, the more books you’ll sell. It’s a vicious circle. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Writing is a numbers game.

In order to play the writing game and have a chance at winning, you need:

1. Name recognition

2. Facial recognition

3. Genre recognition

4. Quality (Content) recognition

5. Peer recognition

People will want to buy your work only if other people buy your work. You must fist show that other people like and trust you. Humans are socially conditioned to do what they see other people doing. That’s why books have lots of blurbs from other bestselling authors and reviewers on their covers and in their front-matter.

That, my friends, is a hard truth most writers refuse to admit.

I now have a New York agent, one of the best in the business at a literary agency I respect. I have made new friends, many of them bestselling authors, who know my name and like my work. I help fledgling authors with reviews and blurbs. I have found heaven on earth and I am once again alive and well.

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Watch for my breakthrough novel to appear from one of the Big Five publishers. I’m hard at work on a sequel and three stand-alones.

I’m scheduled to appear on panels at MidAmeiCon II, the World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City, in August. I’ll be at BoucherCon in New Orleans in September.

Life is good.

Rather than endure long TSA lines at O’Hare International Airport on July 4th,I chose to drive two thousand miles to attend Thrillerfest XI July 5 through July 9 in New York City. It was worth the time and money to attend.

 

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Hate Kills

I don’t normally openly comment on politics. I hide my personal political views within the actions of my fictional characters. I usually try to show both sides of a story as I explicate some of what I think are the real reasons for every conflict. Few things are ever simple in this universe. That is certainly true of politics.

Full disclosure: I am a member of the National Rifle Association. I have been an NRA member on and off since I was a young teen, some sixty years ago. I joined the NRA to learn the rules of gun safety.

I first learned to shoot in the Boy Scouts of America. As I grew older, I fired on the ROTC Varsity Rifle team at Rockford East High School and the Varsity Rifle Team at the University of Illinois, earning varsity letters. Shooting in competition is considered a competitive sport even by the Olympics, and I fired at fixed targets in competition, beginning with .22 caliber Remingtons and Winchester 52Ds in high school and college, and graduating to high-powered M1 Garands, M14s, and M16s when I became an enlisted man and then a Reserve Warrant Officer in the U. S. Army. I fired in Fifth Army, Fourth Army, and ARCOM match competitions. I served as a range officer and weapons training officer. Gun safety was always paramount in my mind. Friendly fire could be as deadly as enemy fire.

Although no longer in the Army, I continued my NRA membership to keep abreast of the latest in firearms technology which I use to make my novels seem as realistic as possible. I recently competed an NRA sponsored handgun safety course to qualify for concealed carry. I don’t carry and never bothered to apply for a permit. I don’t need a gun to kill someone, as my Instruments of Death novels prove. There are millions of ways in the naked city to kill another person, and a gun is only one of them.

True firearms enthusiasts know to put safety first. They place trigger locks on all weapons (or keep them broken down) when not on the range. They never load a weapon until they are ready to fire. Most competent firearms owners store firearms and ammunition in locked safes or vaults. Loaded firearms need to be kept out of the hands of unsupervised children, convicted felons, and mentally unbalanced adults.

I applaud and support NRA training in firearms safety and in hosting national competitions. I condemn and abhor the fear tactics the NRA uses to raise money.

Today I received a form letter from NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. The NRA has declared war on Hillary Clinton.

“Mark my words.” Lapierre says in his letter. “In these next 148 days, you are going to witness the most dishonest, vicious, hate-filled anti-gun campaign that you’ll see in your lifetime.”

The letter goes on to say the battle lines are drawn. The NRA needs my help and financial support. Do they want me to become as dishonest, vicious, and hate-filled as their avowed enemies? The letter sure as hell sounded like it!

Most despicable of all (although brilliant in its own way and in its emotional impact) is this image: “Hillary Clinton is going to blame you personally for senseless murders committed by armed thugs who should have been behind bars. She’s going to point to the most heinous crimes ever committed in this country, and claim that you’re to blame because you choose to own a gun. She’s going to stand shamelessly behind a phalanx of armed guards, and tell you that you have no right to protect your home and family.”

Please, Hillary, tell me it isn’t so. Tell me you don’t blame me personally.

There are enough broken things in this country that need fixing, and gun violence is only one of them. Congress needs fixing. Our roads and bridges need fixing. The pension crisis in this country needs fixing, as does the health care system. Make compromises that can accommodate everyone regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation.

Instead of pointing fingers and fixing blame, let’s all work together and get something done. Let’s make compromises we can live with.

Instead of feeling like politicians have my back, I now feel like I’m about to become a victim of friendly fire. I’m caught in the middle while both sides are taking pot-shots at each other. That is not a comfortable feeling, my friends, and this hate-filled political rhetoric has to stop.

I believe it was hate-filled rhetoric that caused the killings in Orlando. Guns may be the means by which hate crimes are carried out, but it is hate that kills. I don’t want to ban free-speech any more than I want to ban guns, but this kind of “us” versus “them” hatred has to stop. Period.

Wings of Mayhem Flies Fast

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I told you before that Sue Phillips Coletta is a writer to watch, and Wings of Mayhem (Book One of the Mayhem Series,Crossroad Press, June 2016,), Sue Phillips Coletta’s second published novel, proves my point.

Coletta’s writing has matured, especially when she writes from the first-person female protagonist’s POV. Coletta’s language is as uniquely beautiful, as full and rich and supremely confident, as her characters, primarily when she writes about what she knows best: women and crime. Her prose seems to lack that same confidence, however, when she describes men, especially gay men. Maybe that’s only because she’s not as comfortable writing third-person narration as she is writing first person.

Shawnee Daniels, Shawn to her friend Nadine, is a cat-burglar. Shawnee’s day job is the chief cyber-crime consultant for the local police department. At night, Shawnee still burgles. But now she burgles only rich bastards who steal from the poor to teach them a lesson. Shawnee, like a female Robin Hood, steals back from those bastards and donates the proceeds, less her small commission, to the helpless victims of white collar crimes. It’s become Shawnee’s mission in life and her way of making up for her past misdeeds.

When Shawnee sneaks into Jack Delsin’s up-scale house in Bear-Clave Estates to steal $30,000 in cash and jewelry, she discovers Delsin is more than a simple retirement fund embezzler. Delsin is actually the brutal serial killer known as “The Creator” who butchers women and stretches their rib cages to look like angels’ wings. Because Shawnee finds this evidence, plus an antique wooden puzzle box, during a breaking and entering (B & E) escapade, she doesn’t dare tell police. Instead, she confides in BFF Nadine.

If anyone deserves to die, it’s Nadine. People that stupid and self-centered don’t deserve to live. Nadine may mean well, but she’s a disaster waiting to happen. Unfortunately, Nadine and Shawnee have been best-female friends since childhood. Shawnee’s long-term emotional commitment to Nadine turns Nadine into a target. Delsin strikes at Shawnee through Nadine. He slits Nadine’s throat, but Shawnees finds her in time and Nadine survives.

For one street-savvy chick, Shawnee lets her emotions too often get in the way of her better judgment. Instead of striking back hard at Delsin after Delsin kills one of Shawnee’s beloved cats, Shawnee acts like a nervous wreck. She’s conflicted about her relationship with homicide cop Levaughn Samuels. If Shawnee’s honest with Levaughn, he’ll have to arrest her for burglary. If she remains silent, Levaughn could become Delsin’s next victim. What’s a girl to do? Shawnee makes a whole bunch of bad decisions that place her and her closest friends in harm’s way.

There are times while reading you’ll wonder if Shawnee is also too stupid to live. That’s what Coletta wants you to think. She wants readers to feel the fear as Shawnee’s life becomes even more complicated with every twist and turn. She turns up the heat and readers sweat right along with the characters in this fast-paced novel.

There are still a few loose ends that Coletta leaves hanging at the end of the novel, but I expect she’ll answer all our questions in future books of The Mayhem Series. I look forward to learning more about Shawnee Daniels and her family and friends in Book Two.

Blackwater Val is my kind of place

 

 

Blackwater Val by William Gorman (Crystal Lake Publishing, April 23, 2016) is Gorman’s first published novel, and it’s a hum-dinger! Filled with graphic sex and violence, the author has thrown everything but the kitchen sink into 467 fast-paced pages. There’s a little girl, a dog, a scalp-taking Native American, a white buffalo, a sadistic cop, a plague, a fallen angel, an ex-con, a woman politician, a lesbian, prostitutes, ghosts, haunted houses (hell, the whole Val is haunted), psychic phenomena, a real live witch, Nazis, a reluctant hero, and a whole lot more. There’s even a history lesson or two thrown in for good measure. Blackwater Val is an ambitious first novel.

The story is primarily set in the Rock River Valley of north-central Illinois, which just happens to be where I live. I can recognize many of the landmarks, although the author used poetic license and renamed a few. But I know this haunted place, just as Bill Gorman knows this haunted place. Gorman once called this place home. I still do.

Richard Franklin and his six-year-old daughter Katie return to the Val to scatter Katie’s mother’s ashes in accordance with her last wishes. Michelle Deadmond Franklin had suffered from terminal cancer, but it wasn’t cancer that killed her. She died as a result of a hit-and-run accident in eastern Maine where Richard and Michelle had moved after they married. Eyewitnesses said the dark-colored car that killed Michelle looked dirty, and someone had written “Wash me” on the dirty car. The car and driver were never found. Until now, that is, when Richard sees, parked outside Nain Lutheran Church, a dark-colored car with “Wash me’ still written in the dirt.

Rich Franklin can smell the evil that infests the Val, but he’s blind to how close the evil is to his own family. In fact, Rich is blind to a lot of things until his daughter is kidnapped by the evil and Rich is forced to act. Michelle and Katie are the seers in this tale. Rich sees nothing until Katie shows him.

I can envision this novel as an epic motion picture with a cast of thousands and multimedia special effects. The movie would need an “R” rating, of course, for the violence and the sex and the foul language.

If you like extreme horror with a strong, almost blasphemous, supernatural theme, you’ll love Blackwater Val.

And, if you happen to live in the Val like I do, you’ll find it impossible to sleep nights after reading Gorman’s gruesome tale.

All the Missing Girls is an intriguing mystery

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All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda (Simon and Schuster, June 28, 2016) is an intriguing mystery filled with psychological insights and captivatingly complicated characters. Nicolette Farrell thought she escaped Cooley Ridge, North Carolina, when she was eighteen, but her father and brother still live there so she has to return to help brother Daniel sell their father’s house. Patrick Farrell now resides in a nursing home because his memory comes and goes unexpectedly. Sometimes he recognizes Nic as his daughter. Sometimes he doesn’t. He lives in a world where time isn’t real and the people he loves are only pictures of the past.

Time plays a big part in this novel where the past still haunts the present. Author Miranda expertly manipulates past, present, and future until readers question what is real and what isn’t, makes readers wonder who the real monsters are, and keeps one reading until all of the loose ends are neatly tied up and truth is revealed. Tic toc, Nic. It’s truth or dare time.

This novel is full of insights into relationships. Everyone, including Nic, has secrets they try to keep hidden from outsiders, from friends and family, and even from themselves. Nic eventually comes face to face with all the skeletons in their closets and the monsters that hide in the woods behind her father’s house.

Everything changed ten years ago when Corinne Prescott, Nic’s best friend, disappeared. Now another girl is missing, and Nic and her family and friends are prime suspects. Were both girls murdered? By whom? This is, after all, a whodunit. Who do you think killed Corinne and Annaleise? Or are the girls still alive?

Tyler, Nic’s former boyfriend, could have done it. So could Jackson, Corinne’s former boyfriend. So could Daniel, Nic’s brother. So could Nic’s demented father. So could Bailey, friends with Nic and Corinne, whom Corinne had bullied. Nobody is above suspicion.

They say you can’t go home again. They say you can’t return to the past. Author Miranda proves the naysayers wrong.

If you like first-person mysteries with complicated characters, you’ll love All the Missing Girls. Highly recommended.