Thursday, March 7, 2024

Preliminary Qualifications

This is what I believe will be the first chapter of my next novel. I started it this morning and typed out my first one thousand words. I welcome any comments. 

Wade Watson stood at the chain-link gate to the Liberty State Hospital.

“Can I help you?” Said the canned male voice from the intercom speaker just above the gate. 

Wade turned around and looked up at the brick guard tower. He turned back to the speaker. “I want to apply for a job.”

The electronic lock to the gate buzzed. He walked into a small cage-like entrance as soon as the outer door locked and there was a buzz to open the inner door. 

It was a routine seen and heard many times by Wade and never experienced. Over the past years, he would often be with his mom to pick up his dad when his dad worked there. 

Wade’s dad got the job when he was 45. It was his last chance at employment that offered a retirement beyond Social Security. The reality, it was likely the only place that might hire a man with few skills and a sketchy work record. 

Wade Watson filled out his application for an attendant’s job at the Liberty State Hospital. He handed the application to a young lady seated behind a desk. 

She lifted her glasses and glanced at it and said, “You meet our preliminary qualifications.”

Wade thought, “Six two, two hundred, that’s all she had time to read.”

“ You should be hearing from us shortly, within a week.,” she said placing the applications in her out box on the desk. 

Three days later Wade sat in front of the desk of Ralph Korman, director of personnel at the Liberty State Hospital.”

“This job can be challenging,” Korman said leaning back in his chair. “The men you will manage are diagnosed as mentally incompetent to defend themselves in a court of law. Some fake mental illness to stay away from prisons. Others are forced on us by the prisons because they can’t handle them. This is a mental facility and the people in charge must deal with inmates mentally.”

“I understand that,” Wade said. “My dad worked here.”

“Who was your dad?” Korman said.

“Duke Watson,” Wade said.

“Duke Watson was your dad?” Korman smiled. “I should have seen it in you. You look just like him. He was a good man. How long has he been gone now?”

“He’s been dead for a little more than three years,” Wade said.

“I started out on the wards when I first hired in,” Korman said. “Your ole man show me the ropes. We didn’t have all the medications we have now. The meds make the job easier. We were always putting somebody in the hole.” Korman chucked. “Your ole man used to tell ‘em, ‘Ya got your choice; there’s two holes, the one down the hallway or the one across the road in the graveyard. We had this guy who came in here from the State Pen. He was too tough for them to handle. Four of us couldn’t get him in the hole. Old Duke tells everybody to get off him and back away. Your dad grabs a leg from a broken chair. He told the guy, “That’s it, This ends only one way.’ Then your dad picks up the phone and calls the charge room. He tells them to start diggin’ a hole. Your dad walks toward the guy slappin’ that chair leg in his hand. The guy runs around your dad like a halfback. Your dad swings and cracks that leg across his back as he ran by. That guy ran straight to the hole and closed the door on himself. From that point on, the best inmate we ever had.”

“I’ve heard that story a few times,” Wade said. “I always thought Dad was shoveling bull.”

“How’s your mom?” Korman said.

“She’s doing well,” Wade said.

“Next time you see her, tell her I said hi,” Korman said, “and be sure to give her my best.”

“I will.”

“When would you like to start?”

“I can start anytime,” Wade said.

“Can you start Monday?”


“There will be a physical and the rest of the week will be orientation and training,” Korman said. “Then for the next 30 days, there is an evaluation and then we’ll assign you permanently to a ward.”

“I don’t suppose two or four is open, is it?” Wade said.

Korman chuckled. “That was you ole man’s ward, wasn’t it?”


“It takes some whiskers to get on that ward,” Korman said. “Best wards in the joint.”

Korman stood and shook Wade's hand. “Be here at 7:30 Monday.”

“Thanks a lot, Mr. Korman,” Wade said.

“Don’t mention it.”

“By the way,” Korman said as Wade started to turn away. “This doesn’t have to be a dead-end job. You move up. And I don’t mean just being a charge man on a ward or a supervisor. Other things can open up. You can take courses at the branch. We can work out a schedule for you. There’s a lot of downtime here. You can use that time to study. That’s what I did.”

“My dad talked about some guys who did that,” Wade said.

“Your dad was old school,” Korman grinned, “too much education can ruin a good man.”

“Dad always wanted me to get an education,” Wade said, “but always talked about guys who had an education as worthless.”

“Likely, I was on your dad’s list,” Korman said. “But I respected him.”

“Dad changed from day to day,” Wade said. “One day you were a good guy and the next day you didn’t know what you were talking about.”

“To be honest,” Korman grinned, “he was probably right. There were those days I didn’t know what I was talking about. I hope they were the same days.”

“And there were a lot of days my dad didn’t know what he was talking about.

“There’s a lot of frustration with this job,” Korman said. “Sometimes the best thing to do is talk it out; if you know what I mean.”

“I don’t think my dad talked it out very much.”

“More than most,” Korman said. 

“I know my dad had a reputation.”

“That he did,” Korman nodded. “He crossed the line a few times.”

“More than a few,” Wade interrupted.

“He probably had to. We had few options in those days,” Korman said. “We train people better now.”

“I’m not anything like my dad,” Wade said.

“I hope you are in some ways,” Korman said. “He could talk an inmate down before he blew up.”

“Blew up, my dad or the inmate?” Wade joked.

“Probably both,” Korman said.

 There were some inmates he really cared for and looked after. It didn’t show, but he did.”

Wade walked through the gates and back to his car. He smiled just before he grabbed the door handles. “It ain’t much of a job, but it’s a job.”

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Return to Monhegan

This excerpt is from the novel Sailing Beyond Beyond. It is the first episode of the first chapter. The book is available in paperback, digital, or audible

Return to Monhegan

The Odyssey sailed free and true. It was born for the sea. It was never meant for weekenders. She had adventure in her soul and rode the waves as good as any before her. And Rich felt the same. He felt at one with The Odyssey; as if this was all meant to be.“Salty,” Rich smiled. “I must see Salty again.”Rich took a reading after sailing for 45 minutes and adjusted The Odyssey's course for Monhegan Island.“I wonder how the old salt is doing?” Rich said squinting into the afternoon sun.

Dread fell upon him like the shadow of the mainsail. Dave Smithson, Judge Franklin Stafford, and Sam White pried into his mind like a pack of pestering rodents.  They were beyond conscience. They lacked the ability for compassion and integrity. And Rich was haunted by how easily he was nearly taken over by them.

“Who got to them?” Rich wondered. “How could someone be dedicated to a cause that was ultimately brutal? People gravitate to acceptance and comfort. They have needs beyond what can be provided by truth and kindness.”

“I pray to never lose myself into something that strips me of what is good and natural,” Rich said aloud. “God, I pray to protect my heart and thoughts and to never let my mind become a breeding ground for disease and abhorrence.”

A cool soft agreeable breeze washed his face. It seemed to remove the past like blowing dust from an old cherished and forgotten book; the sort of book read by a grandparent, put away, and picked up years later. A rediscovered innocence, but now with the temperament of maturity.

Rich thought of Salty. “What tethered him to Monhegan Island? Did fear keep him from a try at a sail around the world again? Would a second failure be devastating? Were there other pressing obligations? It is a selfish venture. I, I only will be the recipient of any good. How could it possibly enrich the lives of others? Perhaps that was the conclusion Salty arrived. Although, planned for some sort of selfish accomplishment it has become for me a matter of survival.”

Rich lifted his eyes above the starboard bow and scanned the distant horizon. A thin green coastline lay quiet and serene. “Monhegan,” Rich said. “I can’t wait to see the smile on Salty’s face.”

He adjusted course to steer south of the island and enter the harbor by heading north.

The plan was to arrive after sunset to not attract attention. Smithson had contacts all over the mid-coast of Maine and the outer islands. Who knows how many acquaintances he has alerted and if one of those who live on Monhegan?

Rich assumed nothing. Although he tossed a crate to float in the waters indicating a European destination, certain that Smithson would recognize it coming from The Odyssey, weeks might pass before discovered.

As an autumn glow from the sun disappeared into the waters Rich dropped anchor off the southwest coast of Monhegan in Lobster Cove. He launched the dinghy and rowed 200 yards to a stony beach. He pulled the dinghy to shore and looped the line around a rock.

Up a steep slope, a pathway surrounded by brush and long grass led to a lane and Rich followed it into the village. He was careful not to walk as if to attract attention. The path led past several weather-beaten shake shingle homes sitting quietly and alone overlooking the sea.

He attracted the attention of a dog bolting from a dog house beside a stack of lobster pots. The dog charged with ears pinned against its head. Rich jerked.  He bent down and grabbed a handful of stones and tossed them. It was not to the dog's liking, thus it returned to a more comfortable position – inside the dog house

Rich spotted Salty’s quaint dimly lit cabin and knocked quietly.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Poetry All-Around

This is an excerpt from The Desperate Summer of '62.
It's from a chapter called The Perfect Night. The book is available in paperback, digital, and audible

Poetry All-Around

Mrs. Larsen dropped Rich off at the main gate of the county fair around 11:00 AM. Joe Quinn, who had a car, was supposed to meet Rich later and drive him home. 

A big day was planned. Rich had twenty dollars earned from baling hay. He ordered two hot dogs with mustard and onion along with a coke, at a food tent sponsored by his school. One of Rich's seventh-grade teachers, Mrs. Dotson, waited on him. 

Mrs. Dotson was a short stout woman and looked as if she was used to hard work. She wasn't flabby, but just thick. Her skin was tanned as if working in the fields. She had salt and pepper coarse hair, styled with waves. 

Rich was a disruptive student and he didn’t think she much cared for him.

She made her way to where Rich sat at the counter. “Enjoying the fair?” she asked like a suspicious Baptist aunt.

“I just got here, but, yeah,” Rich said feeling like a guilt-ridden sinner in need of redemption.

“How long are you going to stay?” She said wiping the counter that was not dirty.

“Till they close,” Rich said smiling and tossing a crumb where she wiped.

She smiled and wiped the crumb to the ground. “You’re going to stay out of trouble, aren’t you?”

“Me and trouble, you know better than that, Mrs. Dotson. I stay away from trouble.”

“That’s not the way I remember things,” Mrs. Dotson smiled placing hands on hips.

“You seem not to remember, I was your best student at speed map,” Rich said.

“You were pretty good at that,” she recalled.

“Andorra,” Rich bragged. “You thought you could fool me with that one.”

“I think you’re the only student in the seventh grade who knew where Lichtenstein was too.” Her brow furled and she said seriously, “How did you do this year?”

“I passed.” Rich said and added smiling, “Just.”

“I think you can do better and you know you can,” Mrs. Dotson said.

Rich smiled; being uncomfortable with what was turning out to be a sermon from ‘Reverend Dotson.’

“Mrs. Dotson, thanks,” Rich said.

“Thanks for what?” Mrs. Dotson asked.

“For giving me some help. For not coming down on me too hard,” Rich paused, “And reading Jesse Stewart.”

“Really, what book did I read?” Mrs. Dotson asked.

“The Thread That Runs So True.”

“Oh yes, “ she said, I do like that one. “What did you like about it?”

Rich had to think for a moment. “First of all, I like the way you read it. I felt like I could see the Appalachians, the small town, and the schoolhouse. And second, it was just a good story, written so everybody could understand.”

“First of all, it was Mr. Stewart who put you there,” she corrected. “And if you don’t believe me go to the library and read his book of poetry, Man With A Bull-Tongued Plow. I think you’d like that one.”

“I really don’t like poetry,” Rich said.

“Poetry is all around,” Mrs. Dotson said sweeping her arm around. “When you stroll down the midways, listen to the men at the concessions and think of rhythm, miter and the concise use of words. Do you remember covering that in English?”

“Yes,” Rich said.

“Then listen for it,” Mrs. Dotson said. “Those guys are quite good.”

“The least amount of effort to produce the maximum amount of vision and thought, that’s what you told us poetry was,” Rich said recalling her words from class.

“It is that and much more. Enjoy your lunch,” Mrs. Dotson said. “I got some customers.” She walked away to wait on another customer.

Mrs. Dotson always made Rich think beyond the obvious. It was as if she knew how his mind worked and then made it work. 

Rich finished his meal. 

“Mrs. Dotson,” Rich called to get her attention, “the guy down there with the big hammer trying to ring the bell – that’s poetry isn’t it?”

Mrs. Dotson smiled, “Yes, that’s right. Poetry and a whole lot of physics.”

“That’s cool,” Rich said.

“That’s really cool,” Mrs. Dotson added and smiled.

Rich spent the rest of the afternoon listening for the natural poetry from the carnival barker’s recitations and converting all things to reason and logic. 

It was an afternoon of discovery. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024


This is an excerpt from the novel The Odyssey of ID. Rick Larsen has run away from home. He is now couple of days from home, peddling his bicycle toward his destination; Maine. He meets a variety of people on his way. 


“It’s Monday,“ was the first thing to come to Rich’s mind. Again, the morning birds woke Rich. He crawled from the tent and stumbled around in the twilight packing things and securing them on the bike. 

Over a cup of tea from a small campfire, he envisioned the morning at home and the school bus slowly stopping at his parents’ house, the driver would beep his horn, and wait. He will become impatient and drive on. His homeroom teacher, Mr. Carpenter, will hardly raise an eyebrow when discovering he is absent again. Some of the students will look curiously at each other and a moment later not even recognize the absence. 

The tea was warm, sweet, and smoothed with powdered creamer. It was reminiscent of Melinda, his older sister by 10 years. She learned to drink it with cream while at nursing school and prepared it for Rich one day when she was home on break. He always thinks of her every time he has tea. “Go ahead, try it,” she said. “This is the way the English drink it.” He remembered her delight as he sipped it “This is good!” Rich smiled and sipped the tea and for a moment thought about crying. 

Then his thoughts turned dark. For a moment he thought of Melinda and how she was unafraid of Dad. “Where did she get the courage I never had?” Rich thought. “She would understand more than anybody why I left. Someday I will knock on her door and she will be so proud of me. And we will sip tea again, just like old times.” 

Rich buried the fire using an Army trenching shovel. He pushed out of the woods atop the loaded bike and onto the road. His legs felt strong and vigorous. His thoughts were clear and his eyes keen to the beauty of the rolling wooded countryside. He stopped after a couple of hours of vigorous peddling beyond the Pennsylvania/New York state lines. 

He ate the last can of sardines. He vowed it would be a long time before he ate sardines again. What was sumptuous two days ago seemed to make every effort to escape today. 

While struggling to climb a hill a farmer driving a car pulling a single-axle trailer half full of bushel baskets overflowing with various types of grapes gave Rich a ride to a grocery market near Jamestown. Rich helped the farmer unload the grapes at the market. 

The farmer handed him a cluster.

“Try ‘em,” the farmer said. “They’re the best, the best in the world.”

Rich pulled several from the cluster and heaved them in his mouth. “Concord,” Rich said. “But the ones at home are just as good, maybe even better”

The farmer laughed. “Impossible, nobody has better-tasting grapes than me; you just miss home.”

“No sir,” Rich smiled, “I don’t miss home, but there may be some truth to what you are saying; I do miss the grapes.”

Rich thanked the farmer for the ride and peddled through Jamestown steering with one hand and eating the second-best grapes in the world with the other.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

My First Audiobook

For the last few weeks, I’ve been exploring the
possibility of making my books into audio formats. Without boring anyone with all the gruesome details of publishing an audiobook, I’ll give some the the highlights.

First of all, here is a link to my first book in audio; The Desperate Summer of ’62. It is the first in the Rich Larsen adventure series.

I first thought about narrating the book myself. I’ve never been a good sight reader. However, with software like GarageBand and Audacity, it’s easy to edit mistakes. I chose one of my novellas (Shepherd’s First Winter) as my test project. I read the first episode (about 1,000 words) over and over. It was terrible. 

I’m sorry, I’m getting into the gruesome details; I can’t help myself.

I found software on the Internet that took a sample of my voice and used it to narrate my book. However, the cost of the entire package would run over a thousand dollars. Frankly, what the software did with my voice was incredible. My voice was used to speak with clarity, no mistakes, and at a good pace. Too expensive for a mizer like me.

Other software products offered AI-generated voices. Some were very good. One company I decided to purchase software from offered it for around $40. I bought it. 

I loaded up my first novel. I listened to it. In the first couple of minutes the word “jibber” replaced about a dozen words. And a message appeared. It said I purchased the “basic” version and if I wanted access to a full dictionary that would remove the word, “jibber” there would be a charge for an upgrade to “pro.” And there would be a monthly subscription. 

I told a friend about this. I won’t say what he called them but I concurred. 

A refund was asked for and granted. They then turned around and offered everything at a one-time price. It was very reasonable. I wrote them, “Fool me once, shame of you. Fool me twice shame on me. No thanks.” 

I watched videos on YouTube ad nauseam. Some are good and informative, others like used car salesmen—no offense to used car salesmen. Some were like ‘Hey, dude, you will make a million dollars in one week with my software,” and others, “Hey, sailor, just get in town? Wanna buy some software?” 

Amazon Web Service has a feature of recording books from your text files and putting them into an audio file. However, Amazon’s audiobook partner ACX will not accept AI-generated voices. 

ACX offers real people to read your books. You can partner with them. Without more gruesome details the cost can run into thousands of dollars per audiobook. Narrators come at around $200 to $250 an hour. Then there’s an audio engineer. The name engineer always scares me. I’ve worked with them. They take a simple five-minute task and make it into a week-long project—that only works on paper. 

I was ready to give up. So I go to the place of last resort—Google. And was I surprised? If you sign up for their service to transform your book from text to voice, it is free. Well not quite. They start you out with a $300 credit. After that is used they charge $16 per 1,000,000 characters. My first novel has about 350,000 characters. All my novels can be done for free.

The downside—the voices used are AI. They are really good voices but they are not dramatic voices. Surprisingly they are not robotic. They don’t do a good job of recognizing exclamations. However. Mark Twain once said, “Exclamation marks in writing is like laughing at your own joke.” 

The bottom line, I’ve published an audiobook. And once again here is the link; The Desperate Summer of ’62. Bonne ecoute!  

Sunday, January 28, 2024

He's Dying

This is an excerpt from my novel The Secrets of Galapagos Man. It is the opening episode. The Kindle and paperback versions can be found on Amazon.

He's Dying

 “I figured it was my last chance to be somebody, to make something of my life,” Alex said. “So at thirty during the war. I enlisted. I wanted to be an officer. It seemed like it was all stacked against me.” 

Alex lay in his bed sunken and wasting away from a sickness no one could diagnose. It was unsettling seeing a man who just a few years ago stood six three and two hundred pounds. He still had massive hands and a barrel chest. Grey stubble covered his face like a burned forest. 

The room was the bedroom of a small home purchased a couple of years earlier. Present was an odor like a load of soiled laundry. A light layer of dust covered everything. The sun struggled to cast its rays through water-stained windows.

“What do you mean, Dad?” AJ said.

“When I went through the physical in basic training they asked me to do a deep knee bend. My knee was so swollen I could hardly walk on it. That disqualified me from OCS. In basic, they all called me ‘Dad’ or ‘Pop.’ I was the oldest guy in my company; hell I was the oldest guy in the battalion. War is for young men made up of old men. They took care of me. There were things that a guy my age and with my knees couldn‘t do. Yeah, they were a great bunch of guys. I‘d like to see them all one more time before I go.”

“Don’t talk that way, Dad,” AJ said. “You’re going to be okay.”

“No, I’m not, son. No, I’m not.” Alex looked at a framed photo of himself taken when he was in the Army. “I’m only half the man now that I was then, maybe even less than that. It’s amazing what years of hard living can do to you. Take care of yourself, son. Don’t let yourself go to hell.”

“I love you, Dad,” AJ said.

“I love you too, son,” Alex said and smiled.

“You’ve been a good Dad,” AJ said.

“No I haven’t,” Alex said. “Not even close. If I had it to do over I swear to god it would be different.”

“I know you would, Dad,” AJ said. “You tried your best.”

“No, I didn’t, son,” Alex said. “But there’s some unfinished business. I have to get it off my chest. Nobody else knows.”

“Dad, you don’t have to tell me anything,” AJ said.

“Yes I do,” Alex said. “If I don’t tell you it will be gone forever. I must tell you.”

“Dad, let it be between you and god,” AJ said.

Alex smiled and chuckled with a cough. “God has nothing to do with it. Some things will die with me. You’ll never get that out of me.” Alex cleared his throat. “Go fix some coffee, son, I want you to stay for a while. I got a story to tell you.”

“Sure, Dad,” AJ said. “I’ll put some coffee on.”

“Make it strong, son,” Alex said. “Make it good and strong.”

The coffee was started and AJ walked back the hallway to Alex’s bedroom. He had fallen asleep. AJ sat on a chair next to the bed for a moment expecting him to awaken. He wondered what heavy secret he had locked in his mind and wanted to allow it to escape. Alex seldom spoke of trivialities, it had to be something important to him. 

The sound of the coffee percolating started slow and hurried like a snare drum. 

AJ stood to check on the coffee. Alex said, “Um, that smells good. Put a little cream in it for me.”

“Sure thing, Dad, just the way you like it.”

Carefully AJ walked back the hallway with two cups of coffee on saucers. By the time he entered the room, Alex was sitting in bed. 

“That little snooze helped,” Alex said. “I feel pretty fresh. Not good enough to go fishin’, but fresh enough to tell you a story.”

AJ handed the coffee to him and he sipped it slowly. He smiled. “That’s good. Thank you, son.” He sat the coffee on the table next to the bed where a pack of Camels, a silver lighter, and a Louis L’Amour book, The Tall Stranger, lay face down and open. 

In many ways, Alex was a character from a L’Amour novel. He was tough and could carry his own with anyone who cared to do so. Alex lived out the lives of characters from L’Amour novels in the bars, honky-tonks, and dives throughout Muncie, Indiana. He was a tough man to follow. Everyone expected AJ to be a ’chip off the old block,’ but he cared little for revel rousing and the like. It was difficult for AJ to harmonize fatherhood with Alex’s lifestyle. That, though, was in the past. AJ thought his Dad was at a time in his life when it was necessary to atone for past inequities. At least that is what AJ was prepared for at this time.

Alex’s demeanor was gruff and seldom showed sentimentality or pity. AJ suspected little had been offered him in his time. He was reared in a tough era. He grew up learning to solve conflicts with his fists. This was going to be his memoir and AJ expected little to change.

“It’s a long story, son,” he said, “But it’s got to be told. What you do with it is for you to decide.”

“Sure, Dad,” AJ said and sipped the coffee. He placed it on the table next to him.

Alex looked at the two coffees. “That’s us, very different. You drink yours like a man, black. I could never drink it black. I sometimes add sugar.” He chuckled and slightly coughed. “At one time I wanted you to be like me, but the older I got I didn’t want that for you. Nobody told me how to be. I wished I had that. My dad tried, but I was too bull-headed. I was a know-it-all. My dad was really a good man. I wished he’d lived long enough for you to know him, but even by the time I was born he was an old man.”

“I would have liked to have known him too,” AJ said. “But, Dad, the man you are describing is yourself, I never knew. You were a good father.

Alex continued as if AJ said nothing. “He had a gentle side like you, but ya didn’t dare cross him,” Alex said. “I did it once. He put me on the ground so fast I didn’t know what happened. He was so strong and quick. That was the last time I said anything that resembled a crossword to him. I miss that old man. I wanted to please him, but he died before I really had a start in life. I suppose if he lived I would have done things to please him. I wanted his approval above all else. I don’t think he ever knew that.”

Alex reached for his coffee and sipped it. “The clock is ticking,” he said nodding to the clock on the dresser. “I got to get to the story.”