The Very True Legends of Ol' Man Wickleberry and his Demise

(This is the big non-Radio Red announcement post that only newsletter subscribers have seen so far. As we'll see later, it does relate to Radio Red--in a big way.)

Awhile back I was invited to write a story for a fiction anthology e-book: The Very True Legends of Ol' Man Wickleberry and his Demise. Me being the type to kill two birds with one stone (It's just an expression!), I made a connection between that book and Radio Red, and had a lot of fun with it. And now it's up for ... free!

Ol’ Man Wickleberry is a man of legend – or is he a legend of a man? With a scruffy beard and a dislike for humanity, how long has it been since he met his demise, and what is he doing in his ghostly afterlife? The stories may differ, but all of them are true. We swear. So if you’re ever wandering alone in the woods at night, and find you’re not really alone, it just might be Ol’ Man Wickleberry.

Enjoy eight tales by seven talented authors including:

Vendetta by Chris Harris: Mr. Baker is on his way to steal a deal when he’s snowed in. Stuck waiting at a rustic tavern, he’s ambushed by an old man with a strange story – a story that’s beyond belief. Or is it?

Evil Animals and Automobiles by Mark R Hunter : Ol’ Man Wickleberry hates deer so much he sometimes prompts them to an untimely end, with the help of those newfangled automobiles. But the next victim might be Ol’ Man Wickleberry, himself.

The True Story of Ol’ Man Wickleberry by Jonathan Harvey: Jonathan Harvey puts the Terrible Turtle spin on the Wickleberry legend. He names himself Papa Harvey and weaves a tale that is strange and bizarre, but still interesting. If only he wasn’t constantly being interrupted.

Out Walking by Joleene Naylor: The mysterious carnivorous white rabbits sound too strange to be true, but Ol’ Man Wickleberry can’t stand the thought of missing some rare game. It seems a walk is in order…

Body Swap by Ruth Nordin: A teenage boy makes a trade with a man who was thought to be dead.

Weirdly Normal - The Hike by Simon Goodson: Vincent hates hiking. But more than anything else, he hates their guide's endless wittering about the horribly scary myth of Ol' Man Wickleberry. Just when Vincent is certain the night can't get any worse... Ol' Man Wickleberry himself makes an appearance!

Wickleberry Elixir by Terry Compton: Rick and his two fellow college students just wanted a few extra college credits and the money from the work study. Then the professor demanded more details. But details sometimes lead to answers no one really wants or believes.

Ol’ Man Wickleberry (The Other True Story) by Jonathan Harvey: Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O, and next to this farm lived Ol’ Man Wickleberry, E-I-E-I – Oh. It seems Ol’ Man Wickleberry doesn’t like these kind of goings ons. A short story that’s rhyming good fun.

It was loads of fun. And the best part for me is that connection I mentioned earlier: My story about Ol' Man Wickleberry happens to take place during the opening chapter of Radio Red--but from a very different perspective. It's not a spoiler: The scene is the inciting incident of the novel, and is actually on the back cover blurb and in the story's description, so fear not!

You can find Ol' Man Wickleberry for free on Smashwords and Barnes and Noble:

 And it's on Amazon. At the moment it's 99 cents there, but our illustrious editor is working on price matching and getting it down  to zero, too--keep checking back!

It's a Trappist! ... In Twelve Parsecs

The headline stopped me cold: "Seven Objects Found Circling Dwarf".

My first thought, as you might imagine, was: "Wait--I thought 'dwarf' was now an insulting, politically incorrect term, like 'midget', or 'calm political discussion'. Sure, you have dwarfs in online gaming, but that's a whole other thing. Have you ever tried to get an Orc to clean up his language?

"Excuse me, Mr. Orc, but the proper term is 'little people'. Wait--what are you doing with that double bladed ax? Help!"

Anyway, my second thought was, "Someone needs to help protect that poor dwarf from those seven--seven? I mean, not me--I have an appointment. My sciatica is acting up. Danger makes my ears bleed."

Turns out it was a red dwarf, which seemed even more insulting until I discovered that's a type of sun. This particular sun should be very familiar to Han Solo, who could reach it in twelve parsecs (that's how far away it is), but for the rest of us a parsec is a unit of distance: It would take several million years, even if we took an empty jug along instead of stopping for bathroom breaks. At 39 light years it's close, but that's in astronomical terms: It's like saying a government project is "only" a few million dollars.

For those of you who are Star Wars fans, I should add that this is a red sun we're talking about, named by the movie series' Admiral Ackbar: "It's a Trappist-1!" It's only a little star, slightly bigger than Jupiter and twelve times smaller than our own Sun. The truth is, red dwarfs are the most common types of stars in the galaxy, so in all ways it's unremarkable except one: We've discovered planets circling it.

Lots of planets.

Not only that, but most of the planets are around the size of our Earth. Not only that, but three of those planets are in the star's Goldilocks zone. And so, in the most stunning astronomical discovery ever, we can definitively announce that we've discovered planets inhabited by bears and little blonde girls. The worlds are thriving, and covered by porridge, making them just right.

Or maybe that's just a term astronomers use for a planet that's the perfect distance from its sun for life to exist: Not too hot, not too cold. Liquid water could exist there, which means you could, indeed, make porridge, although I prefer oatmeal. It's sweeter. At least, it is when I'm done with it.

Since Trappist-1 is so small it's very dim, like a 15 watt bulb, or a politician. (I never get tired of that ... even when everyone else does.) So to be in the Goldilocks zone, three of the planets whirl around very close to the sun, and to each other. The years are very short, the sun dim and red, and you could stand on one planet and see the others as plainly as we see our Moon. As a result there are probably a lot of tidal forces there, so you'd have no problem keeping your clothes clean. Really, it's like a paradise, except for the violent earthquakes and volcanoes that would come from the tidal forces, and I just realized they aren't talking about laundry detergent.

We don't know a lot about these planets, yet. What kind of atmosphere do they have? Is it like Montana, or Beijing? Is there water there? Considering how much water we've discovered across our own solar system, it's likely. And the best part is there are no gas giants, leading us to believe the entire system is devoid of both lawyers and Congressmen. (What? It's still funny.)

But regardless of that, this is still the largest number of planets we've yet seen around an exoplanet, which is to say a planet not circling our own Sun. It's like they're an outtie and we're an innie. And all of them close enough to Earth-size to make us sit up and consider the possibilities.

So, is there life? Bacteria? An ape civilization? Starbucks? Most important of all, do they have chocolate?

Or ... dare I say it ... something better than chocolate? Granted, seems unlikely.

Maybe we could send Han Solo to check.

Do newsletters work for you?

I'm at odds over what to do with my newsletter: I promised subscribers early notice of writing related stuff, and exclusive content (and a dog photo with every e-mail), but I just can't seem to attract many new subscribers. When you add that to the fact that some subscribers don't open all the e-mails, I have to question whether I can justify putting so much effort there. On the other hand ... I promised.

Now, the newsletter has a button that allows me to put notifications up on Twitter and Facebook when a new one comes out. Alternately, I could take the newsletter and also post it on my blog, where I have more followers, and presumably some of those followers actually read my blog. I could announce on my other social media sites when it comes up on the blog, which I do for just about everything anyway, but that would take away from the whole special aspect of it that I had in mind.

Or I could do some combination thereof.

Many authors swear by newsletters over blogs or social media, saying there you have people who actually opted in to hear what you have to say. But if you're not already well known, you have the problem of getting people to opt in to begin with. What do you authors do, and how does it work for you? And as a reader, where would you prefer to hear from your favorite writer? Also, as a reader, am I stressing out way too much about this exclusivity thing? I mean, I'm not giving away the formula for KFC's special coating.

"You haz chicken?" My very first blogged dog photo, from way back when.

Speak of the Devil: Kansas Will Want To Murder Me For This

Maybe shouldn't read this if you're from Kansas.

Speak of the Devil: Kansas Will Want To Murder Me For This: I have an image blog for you today. Enjoy!

A taxing job

I'm working on my taxes ... by which I mean I'll get all the paperwork together, then pay someone else to work on my taxes. Something tells me I'm not the only one who procrastinates until the year is gone, then rushes to find all the paperwork.

This is when I put together my writing costs and income, and I've got to say 2016 wasn't a good year for author-stuff. As a business goes, it's a pretty darned expensive hobby. In the electronic age there's less cost in paper, ink and postage, but more cost in everything "e": electronics, electricity, enternet ... *ahem*.

Last year wasn't as red inky as I'd thought, though: I ordered fifty copies of Radio Red, but it was after the first of the year. That means I have to go all Harold Hill to keep 2017 from being red inky, too. (Not to worry, dear reader--as soon as they arrive I'll do my best to recover my cost, which is to say I'll push them like a desperate drug dealer.)

Harold Hill? Come on, the fast-talking salesman in "The Music Man"! Look it up.

So it's not looking good for the whole "retire into the life of a full-time writer" plan. Still, as long as I have a pencil stub and a piece of scrap paper you'll find me writing something, somewhere. That's just what we do--for most writers, it's an addiction. Maybe the desperate drug dealer comparison isn't that far off.

Much as a writer needs to write, a working writer needs to sell, so I'm cutting into my writing time to get manuscripts into the mail again. No agent or editor is safe from me! For you authors out there (Working writers are "working", whether they're trying to sell or not), how much time do you put into selling and promoting?

Good times.

50 Authors from 50 States: Cara Marsi Shares Some Dumb Delaware Laws

50 Authors from 50 States: Cara Marsi Shares Some Dumb Delaware Laws: I’m a native Delawarean. Some are very proud of that fact and even proclaim it with bumper stickers. I like to say I managed to esca...

Pay For a Pumper at Naughty Bingo

So here's the scenario: You want to support your local volunteer fire department, so you go to their fund-raising bingo night. And it's your lucky day! You get the B-12, and the I-C, and the IN-diana, and G-whiz, and even the O-boy! (I don't actually play Bingo, but I assume that's how it goes.)

"Bingo!" You've won! This is so much more fun than when you and your buddies got drunk and had that nose hair plucking contest!

And here's your prize. Powered by D-cell batteries, it's three speed, in brilliant white plastic--real plastic, not that fake stuff. You look at it, puzzled. Is this some kind of back massager? And then the realization hits you:

You've won a sex toy.

Well done, sir (um, or ma'am)! Your Valentine's Day gift-giving dilemma is over.

That's how they roll at the Hometown Volunteer Fire Company in Schuykill County, Pennsylvania. Their idea of "hometown" appears to be at odds with what I would imagine. But like any volunteer fire department, the Hometown Fire Company has the ongoing challenge of finding enough money to stay in operation. The good news is, they appear to have hit the jackpot, or rather the bingo: Naughty Bingo.

Naughty Bingo night is March 11, and I know you're interested. I assume it'll be held at the fire station, which is already chock full of talk about nozzles, hose, pumpers, and squirting of various sorts. And you thought a hose bed was just for hose.

Hometown tried it for the first time last year, reasoning that their supporters were getting tired of all the old fundraising tropes. I mean, you can only have so many fish fries, pancake breakfasts, porkburger sales, chicken ... mmm, I'm hungry. Where were we?

Oh, yes. They decided to try something new, and it brought in a standing-room only crowd from several counties in two states. (New Jersey. Go figure.) Just 160 tickets were sold, and they were snapped up faster than a leopard-skin whip at a San Francisco clearance sale. Do they make leopard-skin whips? Wait, don't tell me.

The firefighters, already well known for finding 'em hot and leaving 'em wet, were understandably concerned about community reaction. But everyone seems to love the idea--maybe because it beat raising taxes. Really, with fund raisers it's already a small step from sex toys to bratwurst. "Now remember, this is silicone: Don't try to put it in a bun. Wait, let me rephrase that ..."

The real question people should be asking themselves is: Why should emergency responders have to spend enormous amounts of their time begging for it? Money, I mean? If there's one area that should be fully funded, this is it.

Maybe every government department should have to do fund raisers:

The parks department could set up a lingerie football league.

The water department can host wet t-shirt contests.

And, of course, the street department would have ... street walkers.

Until that time comes, it seems to be mostly small fire departments that need to get a stiff shot of cash by raising funds. If they have to do that, then I say let them do whatever gets their finances up--we've already had racy firefighter calendars of both sexes, so maybe this was the next logical step.

And if Naughty Bingo is here, then strip poker can't be far behind. I'd better start working out.

Reviews are Like Chocolate

I didn't catch this when it first came out, but here's another review of Hoosier Hysterical ... and new reviews make this Hoosier hysterical:

It was actually posted the last day of 2016, which means I'm still waiting for the first review of this year. Remember, to authors reviews are like chocolate: Sure, in theory you could have too much--but it very rarely actually happens.

Brownie Heart Attack

For Valentines Day, Emily said she would make me some brownies. That's about all I need in life.

But what she ended up making--shown here fresh out of the oven--was not just a brownie. It was a three layer heart shaped brownie, with chocolate frosting between each layer, and chocolate chips on top.

And a couple of leftover heart brownie hearts on the side. It was quite possibly the single best Valentines Day treat I ever got in my life. My wife truly knows the way to my heart.

Or ... does she know the way to my heart attack? After all, she gets the insurance money ...

But what the heck. If I'm going to keel over, I'm going by chocolate.

To My Valentine

On Valentine's Day, it's always good to remember your Valentine, by which I mean the love of your life, by which I'm talking to you, guys. I'm not suggesting women never forget romantic dates ... I mean, there's no such thing as never. But let's face it: Chances are pretty good that anyone raiding the store on February 14th for candy, flowers, or lingerie is likely to be a panicked male.

By the way, guys: Admit to yourself that lingerie is almost always a gift for you, not her.

An important question to ask yourself is: "Would my life be better or worse without this person in my life?" If the answer is better, you need to do some hard thinking. If the answer is worse, then the chances are good you're taking that person for granted. That's human nature.

When I met my wife I was alone, lonely, aimless, and bankrupt. How did she cure me? Let me count the ways:

Working backward, Emily is cheap. This can be a complaint, but to me it's a compliment: She doesn't like to spend money. I don't have money. It's a match made in banking. When I say, "I don't feel like cooking--let's get takeout", her response is, "I don't feel like spending money--I'll cook". And everything's fine, as long as I do the dishes.

Which I do. Why? Because the other night, instead of letting me get KFC, she made these baked chicken thighs that are so good angels smelled them and started crying. I was so happy I did the dishes, and also the laundry, and shampooed the carpets.

It goes without saying that I'm no longer alone and lonely. I'm the kind of person who doesn't mind spending time alone, but that only goes so far. Did you know that watching TV is actually more fun with someone else? You did? Okay, did you know that reading books is more fun when you can discuss them with a loved one? You didn't? Ha!

She talked me into getting a dog. Seven years I'd gone without a dog. How did I stand it?

Since we met, I've published nine books (well, nine as of March 7th), plus pieces in three anthologies. Before we met, I published ... zero. Coincidence? Heck, no. Yes, I've had encouragement from others, but she did more than that: She pushed me. No excuses--do the writing, polish the writing, sell the writing. Not to mention half the books are self-published, and there's no way I had the design and computer talents to pull those off myself.

And finally, she gets me. Sure, women often try to change men, usually for the better. Her work on me has been superficial (and boy, did I need it). She didn't try to turn me into a different person--she accepts me as I am, moles and all. (We get moles in my family. No, not in the yard.) She not only accepts me, but she understands the why of me. And yet, she stayed with me anyway.

Basically ... Emily's awesome. So this Valentine's Day, which is today, I'm going to appreciate her.

Wait. It's today?

Ah, jeez, I gotta get to the store.

Sick, and Sick Again

My grandson Hunter got to visit the ER over the weekend, with a fine and extra-special case of gastroenteritis. Apparently he felt his tonsillectomy from a couple of weeks ago just wasn't enough contact with medical professionals.

If you're thinking, as I did, "aw, just a bad case of stomach flu", look it up and be scared. I know I am.

I dropped off a care package of Pedialite, Gatorade, and crackers, and discovered that I can hold my breath for exactly four minutes and fourteen seconds when properly motivated. That's how long it took to open the back door, throw the bags into my daughter's kitchen, and jump off the porch into the car.

But in all seriousness, take the time to throw some good thoughts/prayers/vibes their way--the family's had a really rough winter, and it's not over yet.

50 Authors from 50 States: Rebuilding Connecticut by Barbara Edwards

50 Authors from 50 States: Rebuilding Connecticut by Barbara Edwards: Connecticut was once known as the industrial center of the Northeast. Every town had manufacturing jobs and factories. Huge bri...

Send Walkers On Over ...

Tonight's "The Walking Dead" featured the most intense game of Red Rover *ever*. Also, possibly the most unexpected smile since the last episode of "The Good Place".

Ol' Man Wickleberry ... Is Here

He's here!

Don't be scared.

(Free on Smashwords and Barnes and Noble, but still set at 99 cents on Amazon. Which isn't an unreasonable price for an eight story anthology. Just the same, Ol' Man Wickleberry's working on it, so keep checking back.)

Speak of the Devil: The Rage Of Edgar Knickerbocker

I'd totally be a suspect.

Speak of the Devil: The Rage Of Edgar Knickerbocker: Police Seek Murder Suspect In Bizarre Case; Weather Forecasters Terrified Minneapolis (AP) A mysterious murder is being investigat...