Friday, November 30, 2012

Hey, I get it.

People pretty obviously don't like the direction my blog is going --  you can see it on the stats.  I spent years 2 through 4 never checking the stats and was perfectly happy,  so I'll just go back to doing that.  There are things I can do and subjects I can pursue that would increase hits and I've never done them except when I already wanted to do them. 

I mean I want all the readers I can get, but with the understanding that this is my sort of diary and I'll put that first.  Hopefully, a few interesting things happen along the way. 

My blog follows what I'm doing and what I'm doing is writing and there is probably nothing more boring to most people than reading about writing.

As far as fiction is concerned, again I get it.  I don't tend to read fiction on other people's blogs so I can't expect people to want to read it on mine.

So be it.

I really can't or won't get into politics.   Business is humming along and I don't feel like bitching -- subjects I do feel like bitching about either hurt other people's feelings or my bitching doesn't change a damn thing.  Funny thing is, just in the six years I've been doing this, I've decided that everyone's circumstances are different and everyone does it different.  It's not up to me to tell them how to do it.  (Oh, I could  -- yes, indeedy.)

Success is the best revenge.

I put six years into this blog already, and if it ends up just being me, myself, and I -- I'll find those three guys absolutely fascinating.  Heh.

So when a commenter says, "You used to have an interesting blog" I sort of want to respond in Jon Stewart's immortal words:  "I'm not your monkey."

But of course I don't want to respond like that, because people might think I don't appreciate they're reading this...

I mean, I love it when people read the blog and comment.  Feels like community.  But I totally understand that the more internal this dialogue gets the less externally interesting it probably is.

I'll still try commenting on other things, too, if you want to check back once in awhile.

Freedy Filkins, International Jewel Thief, 18.

If you enjoyed this story, and I hope you did, please click here to buy.  Thanks for reading!

Freedy held the huge gun awkwardly, at first putting his finger on the the trigger, then -- feeling a little too tense -- keeping his finger away from the trigger, then nervously trying to estimate  how fast he could put his finger on the trigger if he had to.

Charlie was scowling at Garland's reminder of his promise not to kill the three home invaders.

"I wasn't going to shoot them," he muttered, as if he'd been caught thinking about that very thing. 

"Charlie, it wasn't our fault."  Alex tried to sound proud while pleading.  "They pressured us, Charlie.  They said we could keep living on the mountain if we found you and they'd give us good jobs.  Otherwise they'd throw us out."

"And I suppose the big fat reward on my head had nothing to do with it," Charlie said, his voice flat but wired like a steel thread.

Alex shook his head, but his two companions looked away in embarrassment.

The door to the deck opened and Billy stomped out and walked directly to Alex and without hesitation kicked the home-invader in the balls.

Alex dropped to the deck and rolled in pain.  The other two invaders backed away, eyes wide, looking over the railing of the deck as if wondering if dropping twenty feet wasn't preferable to having their nuts compacted.

"After all we've done for you and your family," Charlie said.  He raised a finger at Billy, to keep the young man from continuing his pummeling.  "My granddaddy took in your granddaddy, and we've let you live here rent free ever since.  All we asked for was your friendship..."

Alex rose to his knees, and the pain seemed to have knocked some honesty into him.  "Friendship?  We've been your slaves -- the Emmit family gofers and hand-holders and yes, sir, yes, ma'am, yes, Master..."

"If you didn't like it, you could've left."

"That's the thing, Charlie.  Your nasty little strings, attached to everything.  'Here's free rent and a job, you poor benighted hillbillys.... but you can leave at any time.'  I watched my dad kiss your dad's ass for years and swore I'd never do it."

"That's not fair, Alex.  We used to be friends, we played together as kids."

"Is that what you think?  You really think you always won those games fair and square?"  Alex sneered and Freedy saw Charlie flinch.   "I was never so glad as the day when they padlocked your doors and kicked your ass out of here.  So to hell with you and to hell with your goldmine, Charlie.    I don't really care."

Charlie stood pondering for a moment.  "Well, good.  Because as of now, you're on your own.  I can't throw you off the land you've been living on -- I don't break the law.  You can stay or leave -- but from now on you pay the rent."

He walked over to Alex and pulled him roughly to his feet.  "Meanwhile, I want you off my property."

Charlie was a good six inches shorter than the other man, but he grabbed Alex by the waist and hoisted him over the rail.  Alex's fingers held on for a couple of seconds with a scrabbling sound, then he disappeared from view.

Through the slats of the deck, Freedy saw and heard and -- with a visceral empathy, felt -- the miscreant hit the underbrush of the steep hill and roll flopping a few feet.  Alex stumbled to his feet, which collapsed under him and he rolled a few more yards down the hill.  Then with a loud moan, and a distinct limp, Alex tottered off into the darkness.

"Now..." Charlie said, sounding satisfied.  He turned to Alex's brothers.  "What are we to do with you two?"

All the rest of the miner crew was on the deck by now, even Bob, who looked a little woozy but was on his feet. 

"Hey, Boss," Skinny Jay said.  "Didn't you say we could do some target practice?"

"Why, now that you mention it..."

 "But what should we shoot at?" Fat Jim joined in.

"I think something moving would be good..." Billy said, sounding murderous.

"Yeah, let's go hunting, boys!" Steve and Sam both shouted.

Charlie had turned his back on the two prisoners, now he turned around as if surprised to see them still there.

"I've decided to let you two fellows go," Charlie said.  "Go!  Scoot!"

The two men hesitated, then edged their way past the glowering miners and started running, out of the driveway and toward the road.  About a hundred yards down, they veered into the heavy underbrush. 

Charlie raised his voice, making sure they could hear his last words.

"The guns and ammunition are in the van, boys.  Go get them."

The important thing is to keep writing...

I've decided the most important thing is to keep the creative flow going.  And trust that the rest of it will take care of itself.

I have to trust that the creative-wellspring will just keep refilling.

Obviously, once I get going I get pretty prolific.  What I didn't see a year and half ago when I started this process was that it would be a long slow descent into a writer-frame-of-mind.  The writing is an offshoot of the intent.

I once had a college professor tell me, I had a "facile ability with words."  He didn't mean it as a compliment -- I took it to mean, I could easily do B level work, but that I should be striving for A level work.

But I find writing is just writing -- and how it comes out and what comes out and how good it is -- is almost beside the point. 

Re-writing, on the other hand, is where I need to be hard-working and patient and strive to get better.  The mindful attention to the skill, and how to get better.

The creative flow is soothing, spiritual and fulfilling.  And fun.

Re-writing is a horrible bitch.

So, for instance, Freedy Filkins is filling the creative flow need in-between more serious work on the novels.  I'm holding back one last quick rewrite to Nearly Human in case any agent or publisher ever asks to see it.  I'm going to get serious about a rewrite of The Reluctant Wizard right after the holidays.

Freedy is an attempt to do what I always wondered if I could do -- write a book like I write my blog, a little bit each day, first drafty-ish, some corrections but mostly move on to the next day.  Let some colloquialisms slip in, some made-up words and purposely artful awkward phrasing, and just have fun with words...

I couldn't hardly write a thing the last two days because I was working.  (couldn't hardly?  see what I mean?  relaxed writing)  I'd mostly already finished one entry, and it took me two days to write the other entry. Time off is crucial, not because I take so much time writing but because I take so much time maintaining the creative-wellspring by cogitating and pondering and just kind of sitting in the flow and trying to catch whatever flows by.

I figure there might be some nuggets among all the dross.

I know intellectually that getting an agent will be very hard, and getting published even harder.  I'm trying to prepare myself for the inevitable rejections.  Meanwhile, prepare the way for going digital.  Linda and I both have websites registered, and I continue to try to ponder the proper routes, which will undoubtedly include Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  (Meet the devil.)

So the important thing is to just keep writing.

Friday fuds.

Guy comes in and asks for Terry Goodkind's The First Confessor.  I can't find it on my wholesale list.  I research it a little, and find out it's only available on Kindle and Nook.

Hey, guess what.  All of Terry Goodkind's books are unavailable -- in my store, as of now.  If anyone wants them for half price come and get them.  Otherwise I'll be tossing them.


Chuck was in the store and I asked him why we didn't have any Christmas Lights on our street.

"Oh!  We're saving your street for the Grand Lighting!  But didn't you notice the balls in your tree?"

"Well, I noticed they were really big balls."

"Yes, well I told them to save the biggest balls for the tree in front of Pegasus Books."

"Which is only appropriate..."

We kept rolling like that for quite awhile.


Money is wasted on the rich.


"Yeah, but Duncan," you say.  "You will probably be publishing an ebook yourself!"

"What, huh?  Oh, you want to talk to Writer-Duncan, not Business-Duncan.  I'll see if he's available."

"Hello?  Of course an ebook is great.  Drop the middleman and all that..."

Business-Duncan---"Can I butt in here?  The difference is Goodkind is a successful author because of bookstores and now he's stabbing them in the back."

Writer-Duncan -- "Pffffh.  Whatever."


Since I've fallen completely in a writer-persona, I haven't been reading much at all.  I started reading the first Travis McGee novel by John D. MacDonald, but it's been difficult because it's so dated. (1964)  There's sex that is described that is basically rape.  "Wait a minute, that's rape!" But it more or less passes as 'normal.'  The treatment of women is ridiculous.  Madonna and whore, good girl, bad girl. Ridiculous infantilism of the female.  Manly man takes care of helpless girls (women).  Ugh.


Was interviewed by a guy for Cascade Business News.  He was a-talking -- I'm was a-talking.  We had a-talking war.

Working fewer days means I get even more talkative than when I'm working a full schedule.  And I especially like talking about writing nowadays, and don't always notice people's eyes glazing over.  I found myself apologizing to a couple on their way out the door yesterday saying,  "Sorry I'm so egotistical..."



Thursday, November 29, 2012

Freedy Filkins, International Jewel Thief, 17.

If you enjoyed this story, and I hope you did, please click here to buy.  Thanks for reading!

Freedy and I kept up the charade for the next half hour or so, every ten minutes of so shouting out some nonsense.  It was great fun.

"SNIPERS, DON'T FIRE UNTIL YOU'RE GIVEN THE SIGNAL!" I shouted, in my best bass voice, using my makeshift bullhorn fashioned out of a Field and Stream magazine.

I ran twenty yards to the east as fast as I could and answered myself in a reedy tenor.

"Yes, Sir!"

I was impressed.  Freedy had spunk.  I mean, I'd selected him for the mission, but I gotta admit I was surprised by his initiative and imagination.  I'd been off in the trees doing nature's business when I heard the home invasion.  I started creeping toward the house, but it was difficult to be silent in the heavy undergrowth in the dark.  So Freedy apparently beat me to it.

What I would have done, I don't know.  I'm pretty handy with my cane, especially the hidden sword inside, but taking out three guys would have been difficult.

I listened to Freedy's inspired bluff with amazement.  It was ridiculous, of course.  Sounded utterly phony to my ears -- and yet, there was just enough urgency to the whole situation as to create doubt.  The guys inside probably knew they were being conned, but they couldn't quite be sure.

It was the sirens, I decided.  I wished Freedy would leave the bell out -- that sounded completely incongruous.  But that siren sealed the deal.

I remembered the magazine I'd stuck in my back pocket to use for my outdoor -- necessities -- and rolled it up into a bullhorn.  I had a hell of voice, when I wanted.  Too many nights in a karaoke bar, maybe.



Oh, oh.   Freedy probably shouldn't have promised that.  But not three seconds later, I too saw the headlights approaching.

I was close to the road, so I shouted one more time,  "WE'LL STAY IN POSITION!" then left my position and hurried toward the headlights.  Charlie was just getting out of the van when I arrived.

Freedy quickly explained the situation, and I let him.  Excited, leaving out a few things, but more or less getting it right.

"Alex and his brothers, huh?" Charlie said.  "Ungrateful bastards."

'What are you going to do?"  Freedy asked, looking uttering relieved that someone else was taking over.

"They're expecting a hostage negotiator, so I'll give them a hostage negotiator."

Charlie marched to the back of the van threw open the backdoor.  Garland saw the metal gleam of long black metal and the soft shine of dark wood.  Charlie seemed to hesitate for a second, like a kid in a toy store, then picked out the biggest weapon there -- a huge rifle with an enormous ammunition clip.

He picked up, quickly checked the clip and slammed it into place with a military thunk, and turned toward the house.

"Hey, Alex!" he shouted.

"Charlie?  Damn it, I knew it!  I've got your buddies in here, so don't try anything."

"I hear you want to negotiate?" Charlie shouted.  "Here are my terms!"  He lowered the huge gun, looking half as big as he was, and started firing rounds toward the dirt at the base of the house.  He misjudged the recoil and a some bullets started hitting the concrete of the foundation.

The silence afterwards was deafening -- or maybe I really was deaf from roar of the explosive percussions.  Everyone held their breath -- and I didn't need to be witness to know it.  The entire world was holding its breath.

"My terms are these!.  You let my guys go and you get out here right now or I blow your heads off!"
 He shot the rest of the clip in a circle around the house.

"You'll kill us!"

Charlie fell silent.  Here's the thing about Charlie -- he doesn't lie -- ever.  Now, he might murder the S.o.b.'s but he wouldn't reassure them first.  So I wondered what his response was going to be.

"Unlike you, Alex, I don't hurt people except in self-defense.  I promise you, I'm not going to kill you."

Alex probably knew Charlie's character, too.  But it still took a few moments for him to decide to give up.  He was probably remembering his own caveat:  not killing doesn't mean not hurting.

"All right!  All right! We're coming out!"

"Throw your weapons out first!"

The deck light came on and the side door opened.  "Don't shoot, we're coming!"  A revolver and a machete and a bowie knife  -- which had been hastily wiped but the color red could still be seen in the dim light --clunked out onto the deck.

They came out with their hands over their heads -- first the younger one, as if for cannon fodder, then the older one, and last was Alex.

Charlie slapped another clip into the place and ratcheted it home with a sharp click.  We approached the house at a quick walk -- me with my long strides, Charlie pumping his little muscular legs, and Freedy having to do a little half skip every few yards to catch up.

Charlie handed the huge rifle to Freedy, who looked as though he'd been handed a venomous snake.  Still, guns have a kind of intuitive feel to them and fairly quickly the round little guy put his hands in the right places and pointed the firearm in the right directions.

I walked straight passed the clump of antagonists and hurried into the house.  Four of the miners were still hogtied, though spread out throughout the living room as though they'd been doing contortions to get out of their restraints.  Billy was loose, somehow, his wrists were bleeding from the chafing.  He was holding a damp cloth to his brother's cheek.  He looked around at me and there was dismay in his face.  Bob's eyes were closed and he was moaning  but he was breathing steady.

I pulled the blade from my cane, and sliced the ropes tying the others.  "There's a first aid kid in the glovebox of the van," I said to Jay, when he was free. 

Jay quickly came back, and with Billy, started administering to Bob.  I checked the wound real quick to make sure it wasn't life threatening.  No, there would chunks of Bob's face missing, but he'd survive.

Steve and Sam and Jim stumbled about the living room for a few moments, getting their landlegs again, drinking from the faucet and otherwise cursing in a magnificent symphony of raunch.

When we finally emerged from the house, Charlie had herded the invaders to the backdeck, where they were lined up against the railing.  Freedy still had the gun trained on them, looking much more confident -- smug almost -- in his handling of the giant weapon.

I re-sheathed my sword into my cane, and walked to Charlie's side, took one look at his face, and said,

"You promised not to shoot them."

Happy blog birthday to me.

The sixth anniversary of this blog was on November 26.  There were two days when I technically ineptly couldn't figure out how to write on it, and then started in earnest on November 29. 

Every day.  For six years.

I don't know that I set out to do that.  I'm sure I just thought it was going to be a version of what I was doing all along on paper, a business and personal journal.  I've always found it useful.

Anyway, happy blog birthday to me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday wats.

"Burning Zircoconium Clouds Skies..."  Bulletin, 11/28/12.

Don't you just hate it when that happens?


"Bend Garage Offers Free Parking."  Bulletin.

Just so you knows -- Bend garage always offers free parking for the first two hours, they are just extending that to three hours for the holidays.


Black Friday and Small Business Saturdays were just O.K.  Double average sales, which means that one of the days just makes up for the closed Thursday.  Not like it used to be.  Not as bad as last year.  (Last year really sucked for some reason...)


Pretty bad when they mention the name of a Antiques Roadshow appraiser who has just died and I immediately know who his is: Wendell Garret.  The courtly guy in the wheelchair.

Especially since I don't altogether approved of A.R.  It seems to me that it hypes the collectableness of everything when in fact very few things are truly collectable.  But it's a very comforting show, somehow.


My Freedy Filkins story is loosely based on the Hobbit, which I haven't read in 30 years and to which I haven't referred once.  The further I get into it, the more it veers. In fact, I'm thinking if I took out the reference to the earthhome and big hairy feet, most people wouldn't even catch the reference.

Yes, it's supposed to be fun -- but I wasn't writing it as Hobbit "fan-fic" so when Andy said that, it kind of troubled me. 

Still, it was the original inspiration.  It's not quite a satire, it's just a new story about a stay-at-home type who goes on an adventure...

Freedy Filkins, International Jewel Thief, 16

If you enjoyed this story, and I hope you did, please click here to buy.  Thanks for reading!

He crept to the cabin, sidestepping the pools of light from the windows.  There were loud bangs and crashes from inside, and a few cries of pain.  A single shot rang out -- louder and more alarming than Freedy expected.  Then it was strangely silent for a moment.

Freedy crawled under a window and held his breath.  What was going on?

"Enough," he heard the voice of Alex, the guy he'd met on the mountain.  "I've got a revolver, and my brothers have a machete and a bowie knife.   You boys got, what? -- plastic sporks?  Give it up.  We only want Charlie."

"Bullshit," Bob said.  "You'll cut our throats the minute you get the chance."

"Really, no," Alex said, and Freedy thought he heard truth in his voice.  "We get Charlie -- alive -- and we get a big reward.   Killing you boys doesn't do a thing for us -- except maybe get us the death penalty.  Now be reasonable, and let us tie you up."

"It's  six against three," Billy said, backing his twin.  "You may get one or two of us, but we'd get you in the end."

"You sure about that?" Alex said, and there was a loud re-cocking of his gun to make the point.

Freedy heard a short spirited discussion.  Billy and Bob were prepared to fight to the death, Jay and Jim wanted to surrender, and Sam and Steve where somewhere in-between. Freedy took the moment to poke his head over the window sill.

Billy was looking right at him, and his eyes widened in surprise.  "You know what?  I think we have to surrender," he suddenly said.

The others fell silent at this unexpected reversal.

"Well, it's about time."  Alex said, back to his cocky self.  "Tie them up boys."

The two other men were obviously relatives.  They had the same wiry strength and quick movements.  One of them was nearly a boy, maybe seventeen or so.  The other looked much older than Alex, and whatever it was they were taking to give them such energy was showing on his gaunt, pockmarked face.

Once the six miners were hogtied, they were lined up sitting down against the wall.  Alex grabbed a chair and straddled it, facing them.

"Where's Charlie?"

He was met with stony silence.  He sprang up and tossed the chair to one side.  He nearly jumped at Bob and grabbed his head, moving in upward until it had to hurt.  He put out his other hand, and waggled it at his brother.  "Cary, give me the Bowie."

His younger brother put it into his hand as if not quite sure this was something he wanted to get involved with.

"Now...I was telling you the truth when I said I wasn't going to kill you.  But that don't mean I won't hurt you if you don't tell me what I want."  He took a pinch of Bob's cheek, and sliced it off.

Bob howled, quickly followed by the howls of the others, including Alex's two sibling who shouted in surprise.

"Where's Charlie?" Alex said again calmly when the shouting died down.

"Fuck you."

Freedy dropped down, unwilling to watch again.  His butt hit the ground as the screaming began again.

Someone had to do something!

Where the hell was Garland?  Wasn't this his job?

How unfair, Freedy thought -- he was just a little thief -- hired to, you know, to steal something.  He wasn't supposed to be an action hero.

The screams from inside were getting louder.  He had to try something.

He ran to the storage shed, at first just remembering the big bell he'd seen.  What would happen if he rang it?  He almost tripped over the siren, and then an idea bloomed in his mind. A crazy, probably wouldn't work idea, but what choice did he have?

Another shriek decided him.  With a big gulp of air, he reached down to the bell handle.  Once started, his little pretense would have to be played out for all it was worth.

He rang the bell, at first tentatively, and then louder and louder.   It whacked his eardrums with more impact than he expected.  What the bell was supposed to represent, he didn't have a clue.  But he needed to do something to stop the apparent mayhem inside the cabin.

There was sudden silence as the bell tones echoed away.

He rang the bell a few more times for good measure, then he ran over to the siren and grabbed the crank.  It was stuck!  It wouldn't budge.  He leaned one way on it and then another, and then just took solid hold with both hands and dropped his body weight toward the ground and hung on.  The crank made a snapping noise, which almost drowned out the more fleshy sounding snap Freedy imagined he heard in his arms.  But once moving the lever kept moving.

Though at first only a squeak came out."Rrrrr!"  it said, like a tired alarm clock.

He pulled the crank up and put his weight down on it again with a loud grunt.

"RURRRRooooRRRRRuuuuRRRR!"  Piercingly loud and satisfying.  "RRRRRRRRRRR!!!!"

He let the machine cry reverberate and ran to the P.T. Cruiser and reached inside and turned on the headlamps.  Only one of them came on, and it was a little dim -- but it looked strong enough that anyone afraid it was a searchlight might be fooled into thinking it was a searchlight.  He climbed up onto the hood of the car, and felt the metal crumble under him.  In as loud a voice as he could summon from his fear, he bellowed.

"You In There!  You're  Surrounded!"  The temptation to putting a Cagney burr in his voice was almost irresistible.   He managed to keep his tone flat, what he imagined was authoritarian.

It sounded kind of weak.  Damn!  What was he thinking?  He jumped down off the Cruiser and ran over to the shed, where in the side peripheral light of the car he could see the tin sheeting he'd seen on his way to bathe in the stream.  He grabbed a smaller sheet and wound in into a makeshift bullhorn.

But first, he cranked up the siren for a few more  revolutions.

"RURRRURRRR!" Man, he could do this all night!  He really shouldn't be enjoying himself so much. The vision of the slice of flesh coming off Bobby's cheek sobered him up, and he almost quailed in his turning.

He climbed back up on the hood of the Cruiser.

"COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP!" he shouted into the curled tin sheet.  Yes!  That was satisfyingly loud.  'Except -- something warned him in the back of his mind -- what if they did what he asked?  What then?

He'd run off into the dark and hope the others got away.

"Who are you?" He heard a frightened demand, and he was pretty sure it was Alex, the guy up on the mountain.

"CALIFORNIA STATE POLICE!  he shouted, again enjoying himself more than he should despite the danger.

"I don't believe you," Alex was trying to sound confident, but his voice cracked at the end.


"We've got hostages!" 

That was more like it, Freedy thought.  Hostages -- they could be here all evening negotiating about hostages, and by midnight Charlie will have returned, hopefully armed to the teeth.


"Then shut up!"

Yeah, well there was that.  What would a police negotiator say to that?


"Come and get them!" 

Freedy cranked the siren, and rang the bell a couple of times for good measure.  Let them try to figure that out, he thought.

The headlamp of the P.T. Cruiser was growing dim and he ran over and turned it off.  Let them wonder.  Anything to keep them occupied.  Make them think we are planning an assault.  Let them believe we're almost on top of them.

Wait.  There was no we...he was getting fooled by his own con.  He was still helpless, still with nothing to offer but a bluff.

Sure enough, the sudden darkness seemed to freak them out.

"Don't come near!  We'll kill them!"


By now,  Alex figured the three sets of brothers inside the house would have recognized his voice and they'd know that the cavalry hadn't really arrived and hopefully they'd be making plans themselves.  Anything to keep the enemy occupied until Charlie returned. 

He'd said midnight, and dusk had been -- what, 7:00 or so?  It probably wasn't even close to midnight, he thought despairingly. 

"How come I don't hear anything?  What the hell are you ringing a bell for?"


"Forget that! I want to talk to someone else!  Anyone else?  I'm beginning to think you're all alone out there!"


"Bullshit, you're that guy I met up on the mountain.  I got to admit, I never would've thought you had it in you.  Now go away."

The jig is up, Freedy thought.  What else could he do?  He could stay in the darkness and threaten to be a witness.  Maybe they'd stop torturing if they knew there was someone who could testify against them.  He threw down the rolled tinfoil, which rattled so loud they could probably hear it in the cabin.

He cupped his mouth, ready to use the 'witness' threat before the torture started again.  But before he could speak, he heard a blast of a horn from the other side of the cabin.


It was loud and impressive.   This was what a real bullhorn sounded like, Freedy realized.  His tinfoil con had probably sounded pretty pathetic.


Freedy jumped down and snagged up the tinfoil again and put a full-throated shout into the metal.




 "YES, SIR!"

Freedy almost giggled at the resentful tone Garland managed to put into those two words.

Garland was here -- everything would turn out all right.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Freedy Filkins, International Jewel Thief, 15.

If you enjoyed this story, and I hope you did, please click here to buy.  Thanks for reading!

Freedy stared gloomily down the slope at the clear running stream.  Sweat trickled down his back and off the end of his nose.  A narrow trail, looking like a faintly luminous snake in the twilight,  could be made out meandering down the hillside from the far end of the house.

Inside, the miners had found a deck of cards and were playing for invisible nuggets of gold, in the shape of toothpicks.

The side door slammed and he heard Charlie call out to the others.  "I'll be back at midnight with the guns.  We'll do some target shooting tomorrow."  There were delighted hoops and hollers from inside.

"Bring back the brew!" one of them shouted.  "Bring the brew!  Bring the brew!" the others quickly took up the chant.

"And munchies!" Fat Jim yelled out, and then there were two chants.  "Bring the brewskie! Bring the munchies!  Bring the brewskie!  Bring the munchies!"

Freedy shivered.  He wasn't going to stick around if Charlie brought back both booze and guns!  (Well the munchies sounded like a good idea.)  These guys were wild at the best of times.  He heard Charlie slide the van door shut with a solid thunk and drive away.

He started toward the house, but through the window he saw Jay coming back from the showers, which by his reckoning of the totem pole status of the crew meant only half of them had showered.

Just the memory of the clear flow of the stream was more refreshing than waiting for the shower.  His mind's eye visualized the path down to it and the blue water reward at the end of it.  Instead of going inside, he veered to the side of the house.  His shoes were just outside the door and he squeezed back into them.

Then he wandered around the back, past the gated 'garden' and onto a faint trail that wandered generally in the right direction.  There was a shed just a hundred feet or so beyond, full of discarded lumber and equipment.   There was an old railroad bell, and right next to is a windup siren.  For some mysterious reason there was an abandoned purple color P.T. Cruiser.  Then again, maybe it wasn't so strange -- who'd drive a purple P.T. Cruiser?

He picked his way through the clutter and down the slope.   The path became wider where it merged with another trail about halfway down.  Freedy started enjoying his walk.  He'd been cooped up for so long, he'd forgotten what it was like to get his legs and arms freely pumping.

Someone had built a tiny dam in the stream, which had created a small pool.  On the muddy grassy banks, there were a couple of rusted metal lawn chairs.  He kicked off his shoes, and looking around and seeing no one, he took off his clothes and dived in.

It was icy cold, but after huffing and sputtering for a few moments, it felt good.  He climbed out onto the bank, warmed up a little and then dived back in.  He ran his hands over his body, feeling the sweat and grime sluice off him.  To hell with the little outside shower!  This was the way to bathe!

On the spur of the moment, he grabbed his clothes and submerged them in the clear water, winding them up and rinsing them out.  When he finally felt clean enough, he put the wet clothes back on and started walking back up to the cabin.  The sun had just sunk below the mountain, but when Freedy came parallel to the house, he figured there was enough daylight to keep walking.  The road had split off just before the cabin, and he went back to that fork and started climbing.

Maybe I can find this goldmine Garland was talking about, Freedy thought.  If not, at least his clothes would be dry by the time he came back.

Then a strange thing happened.  Somehow, he'd gotten it in his head that he'd climb to the top of the hill.  (Later he'd kick himself and remember that it was called Lorn Mountain.)  Every time the road would top another slope, there would be another slope just ahead, and he'd start walking toward it.

By now he was sweating again, and he was thirsty, but he just kept walking and walking.  What had appeared a gentle slope to the eyes wasn't so gentle to his legs, he started feeling sore at the hips and calves.

'I'll tell them I climbed to the top!" he told himself.  "They'll be impressed."

The road kept going and going, and he started feeling faint.  He sat down for a couple of minutes, but once he had his breath back, instead of heading back down again, he kept climbing.  What had gotten into him?  By now he knew he wasn't going to reach the top -- he'd caught a glimpse of the far off peak.  But he kept trudging.

Just a little further!  The sides of the road got steeper with tangled roots sticking out of the red rock and dried mud.  He saw a couple of torn down homesteads, all that remained were the broken stumps of chimneys and a few base stones and weed filled holes.

He never did reach the top, but he did hit a plateau where the road was level for a fair distance, and the trees thinned enough that he could look down the mountain.

It was breathtakingly beautiful.

It was getting darker and he couldn't make out all the details, but the rounded foothills and the shadows of the trees, wisps of clouds floated between him and the shining stream below, sprinkled with lights of houses here and there had a fairy-tale quality.  It would be a shame to tear off the top of this mountain, he thought.  To let the poisons run downhill into that beautiful valley.

Well, his walk wasn't a complete waste.  If nothing else, he had a better appreciation of the stakes involved in the possession of this land.  He figured he knew what side he was on.  Not to mention, he'd have one eighth of a gold mine if they succeeded!  Sure, he'd help if he could, though he couldn't imagine how.  If it weren't for Garland's strange confidence in him, he'd have bailed out by now.  

Enough.  He'd head back to the cabin.  The soft yellow dust of the road still glowed as if lit be daylight. 

About a quarter of the way down, he saw a metal gate on the side of the road that he hadn't noticed on the way up.  Huh, he though,  I wonder if someone else lives up here?

Just then a man stepped out of the shadows.

"Hey, you.  Can I talk to you for a minute?"

There was a challenging tone in the voice that immediately had Freedy's hackles up.  He almost walked over to the other side of the road, intending to pretend that he wasn't pretending to pretend not to hear the guy.  But the guy raised his voice and there was no ignoring it.

"Come here, man."

Freedy put what he figured was a stupid, harmless smile on his face.  "Just out for a walk," he said pleasantly as he approached.  Hopefully, the hitch in his step hadn't been too obvious.

The guy wasn't any bigger than Freedy, in his early twenties.  He was barefoot with torn off jean shorts, and an unbuttoned shirt showing a tan chest smudged with dirt and sweat.

"Out walking?  In this heat?"  Again, the voice was challenging.  Not quite challenging enough to make Freedy run, but close.  The interrogator had a weirdly energetic grin on his face, but flat eyes and he vibrated with a strange energy.

"Yeah, I was thinking I'd walk to the top of the hill."

"Are you kidding me?" the guy said, sounding genuinely mystified.  He'd relaxed a little as if realizing that not only was Freedy acting and sounding harmless -- he was harmless.  "What kind of idiot would do that?"

Freedy's smile froze, but the stranger immediately guffawed.  "Just kidding you, guy.  Where you from?"

Without thinking, Freedy blurted.  "I'm staying at the, uh, Emmit house."

The man's dull eyes suddenly lit up.  Until that moment, Freedy thought the stranger was probably just doing a power trip on him, vaguely threatening the the city boy for a hoot.   Most likely he had a marijuana patch up here, or considering how the guy was micro-shaking, a methlab, and he was just making sure that Freedy wasn't a narc.

But the minute Freedy mentioned Charlie's name he knew he had made a big mistake.

"Charlie's back?"  Now it was the other guy who was trying too hard to be casual and it sounded just as false.

"Not for long.  He might be gone already.  I was just going for a last minute walk, you know."

There was a power vacuum -- the kind that the most nervous party in a conversation will fill, and Freedy tried hard to keep his mouth shut.

The guy smirked, as if seeing Freedy's effort.

 "Hey, come and have a beer with me."

"I have to get back."  Freedy started to get really frightened now by the man's manner.

"Oh, come on, man.  It's just a beer.  Sit down, take a load off.  I'll drive you down if it gets too dark."

I'm not getting in this man's car, Freedy thought.  He started edging away, still radiating harmlessness.  "No, really.  I just want to get back.  They're expecting me..."

"Tell Charlie that Alex said hi, O.K?" the man called out.

"You bet," Freedy said, walking away as fast as was seemly.

He turned the corner and walked even faster.  Somehow he wasn't surprised when he saw headlights coming down the road slowly just a couple minutes later.  He turned off the road and walked a ways into the trees and stood still.

An old sedan with lousy shocks -- a Buick or Pontiac or one of those kinds --  rolled by, and Freedy could barely make out the crewcut head of Alex searching the road from side to side.  He crunched past, and then accelerated,  swaying over the bumps in the road.   Freedy let out a big sigh of relief.

Freedy figured he was about halfway down the mountain now, and he picked up the pace though his legs were starting the cramp.  Another mile or so, and he heard a car come up the hill this time.

Sure enough, it was the same Buick,  only Freedy could make out three heads in the car instead of one and they were all doing searching lighthouse turns.  Freedy stood still again, and tried a little harder to hide behind the trees.  He had no pride left.  Maybe he'd laugh about this tomorrow.  About how he'd freaked out over a stranger asking him to have a beer.  Weird.  Yeah, it was just weird.

He was about to step out onto the road again, when the Buick came roaring down around the corner above him, and Freedy froze.  There was no cover.  The car went roaring by, the three heads facing foward, and Freedy realized that it was truly dark now, and the even the light dust outline of the road was faint.

He started trotting down the road.

His heart fell as he hit the fork in the road and saw that the Buick was parked next to the cabin.  All the lights were on, but they were being strobed shuttered by the frantic motion of bodes passing the windows.

Freedy slowed down as he heard shouts.  And then, clearly above all the chaos, he heard.

"Up against the wall, you stinking miners."

help with the story.

O.K. all you legal and computer savvy people out there who have been reading about Freedy.

For plot reasons, I need a reason for Freedy to break into a data center (like the ones in Prineville).

Then later, I need a reason for him to break into the offices of a law firm in a big skyscraper in New York. 

I posit in chapter 14 that some corporation has changed the deed records and filed for a mineral claim on Charlie's land. 

Any ideas?

Never mind.

Turns out my blog earlier today about a bookstore was inaccurate.  They haven't closed, they've moved.  Mea Culpa.

Freedy Filkins, International Jewel Thief, 14.

If you enjoyed this story, and I hope you did, please click here to buy.  Thanks for reading!

The cabin was a rat's nest of rooms, piled to tipping with every kind of knickknack and...well, there was no other word for it -- crap.   Most of the items seemed to be nicked or broken, the paper yellowed, the clothes faded or torn.

"My mom was a bit of a collector," Charlie explained.

More like a full-blown hoarder, Freedy thought, but he didn't say anything.  They moved piles of clothes and baskets of cans and bottles and stacks of magazines out of the living room, and scrunched enough chairs and couches from the rest of the rooms for them all to find a place to sit.

The refrigerator was empty, but the sink in the tiny adjoining kitchen still ran cold water after letting it run for five minutes.  They all took turns drinking from the faucet, none of them trusting the spotted glasses.  The linoleum on the floor was peeling up, and the tiles on the counters were chipped and faded.

The trio of brothers all broke out pipes and cigarettes and cigars and soon the room was filled with smoke -- tobacco as well as another vaguely familiar sickly sweet odor.  Freedy had seen the little wired off fence at the side of the cabin with six very tall, very lush marijuana plants.

"Strictly legal," Charlie said.  "For my glaucoma..." His round and clear eyes were perfectly innocent, until he gave them all a very large wink.

Now Freedy never much liked pot -- made him even more paranoid and anxious than usual.  He'd quit cigarettes years before, but not soon enough, because he'd damaged his cilia or something.  Every time he was around smoke he'd cough up phlegm for days.

The room was getting stifling as well.  One by one, the others went off to shower in the small outside shower.  Freedy figured he was last again.  Finally, he couldn't stand it any longer, and he went to stand out on the porch.

Garland was there smoking a pipe.   He nodded at Freedy and then turned back to his examination of the stream below.

"What does Charlie mean, take back his property?" Freedy said, standing on one foot and then the other.  The first thing he'd done upon arrival was take off his sweaty, stinking, sticky shoes.  Now his huge hairy feet were frying on the dark slick wood of the deck.

"Strictly speaking, we're trespassing."  Garland shrugged.  "Not that the corporate owners care that much -- they took over this land because they plan to mine it for gold.  But they're waiting for the price of gold to go up.  Charlie and his friends made a modest little living off their little mine, but somehow word got out that the whole mountain was full of gold."

Oh, ho!  So they weren't loggers, they were miners!

"Is it?" he asked.

"Is it what?" Garland turned and looked down on him, frowning.

"Is the mountain full of gold?"

"Only if you take bulldozers to it and leach off and leave behind the  arsenic, contaminate the ground water and kill every living thing within miles..."  Garland puffed furiously.

"How did they steal it?"

"Somehow they got into government records and changed the deeds, and Charlie was lax in keeping his own records.  They made mineral claims, and Charlie couldn't prove he was owner.  The "Lorn Mountain Corporation" hired the slickest law firm in all of New York.  The boys have gone broke trying to fight them.   So they decided to fight larceny with larceny and we intend to steal back the deeds and change the government records again."

Freedy wasn't sure any of that made sense, but he wasn't knowledgeable of what sense he needed to make sense of, if that made any sense.

"But what can I do?" he asked.

"In time, in time," Garland said.  "I've got some ideas."  He patted Freedy on the shoulder so reassuringly that for a moment Freedy almost believed him.

 "We have to do two things," Garland continued.  "Change the government records by infiltrating the data centers and changing the computer information at the source; and break into the Lorn Mountain Corporation headquarters in New York and steal back the deeds."

"All I can do with computers is browse the internet," Freedy said, and his voice sounded whiny even to him.  He tried to put some timbre back into his tone.  "And I've never broken into anyplace but my own home, and even then I had to hire a locksmith!"

"For god's sake, don't tell the others," Garland snapped, sounding annoyed.


Garland was already walking into the house.  The screen door slammed behind him.

Freedy Filkins, International Jewel Thief, 13.

If you enjoyed this story, and I hope you did, please click here to buy.  Thanks for reading!

As if someone had drawn back the blinds, the solid sheet of gray folded back and there were blue skies and sunlight behind it.  The temperature started to rise.  And then rise some more.  Freedy took off his coat, then his sweater.  Underneath, his t-shirt was wet with sweat.  He hadn't showered on the whole trip, which was into late into the third day. 

At a rest stop outside Albuquerque, New Mexico, Garland and he waited, perched on a picnic table, drinking the Dr. Peppers.  They were mostly quiet, talking about how hot it was getting.  The heat seemed to be pounding off the pavement into their faces.

Drowsily, Freedy wondered why he wasn't more curious.  He had Garland at his mercy, but he was satisfied with simple companionship.

Why didn't he ask what they were doing?  Where they were going?  Freedy felt overwhelmed and when he felt like events were over his head he tended to shut down and deal with what was in front of him.  He figured they'd tell him what they wanted from him when they wanted it.

When the van pulled up, he could see that the others were surprised to see him with Garland.

"You didn't even know I was gone, did you!" he exclaimed.

Charlie frowned.  "Oh course we did."

"We missed your company, pal," Billy assured him.

Billy and Bob paid more attention to him than the others,  maybe because they felt bad about breaking his skylight.  He was beginning to be able to tell the twins apart.  Both were tall and angular, with thick blond hair, and both wore goatees.  Billy had slightly longer hair, his nose was tipped up slightly more as if he'd been in a fight.  Bob was a tad chunkier, and favored all black clothing.

Freedy didn't believe their protestations.  He was an afterthought, he was sure of it, someone Garland had decided to add at the last moment.  Under false pretenses, at that.  He was no Master Thief.  Last time he'd stolen anything was when he was six years old and that was candy and he'd been caught.

Sam and Steve roared up on their motorcycles, and the conversation was drowned in the roars of the engines.  One thing Freedy had always hated  -- revving engines.  It was like fingernails on the chalkboard for him, like a thousand kazoos were blowing in his ears.  His idea of purgatory was a Nascar race, and complete hell was a Monster Truck rally.

The two brothers kept revving and revving, even though they'd already kicked down their stands.  It was as if they couldn't bear to let the noise stop.   Steve and Sam weren't twins, but were close in age and appearance.  They'd taken off their huge ponchos, revealing again that they were little guys, with loose clothing, gaunt faces and scraggly black beards and hair.  They weren't much bigger than Charlie but without the strong personality.  They usually just grinned at the conversation around them, laughed at the jokes, but rarely joined in.  Their Harleys spoke for them.

Jay and Jim were complete opposites.  One was tall and skinny, the other short and fat.  Same bemused look in their face, surprisingly delicate features -- thin nose and mouth, high cheekbones and flattering thick eyelashes over deep brown eyes.

It was a ridiculous number of new names for Freedy to try to remember.  He was still calling each brother by the other brother's name a good fifty percent of the time.  It usually came out as:  "Hey, Sam, I mean Steve" or "Jay -- Jim!"  Still, Freedy was kind of proud of himself.  It was usually hard enough for him to remember one name after introduction, much less eight new names.

"We can get there by nightfall," Garland was saying to Charlie when the bone-rattling revs of the Harleys were finally, blessedly switched off.   The traffic suddenly seemed to be whisperingly quiet in comparison, even the decompressions of the trucks pulling into the rest stop.  Cicadas buzzed relentlessly in the background, and it soothed Freedy.  He closed his eyes and soaked up the sounds, the taste of Dr. Pepper, and unmoving table under his butt.

The simple pleasures of travel.  Which mostly consisted of short respites from the discomforts of travel.

"I'm not sure we should arrive in the dark," Charlie said.  "But I long for a shower and a hot meal.  So let's push on."

They tumbled into the van, and it wasn't long before the heat and the rocking, creaking of the back compartment put Freedy to sleep.

He woke and his neck was frozen at a forty-five degree angle.  He put his hands up to his head and pried it sideways.  There was a loud snap.  That's it! he thought.   He wasn't spending another night in this van.  They could leave him in the ditch.  At least he'd be able to lay down!

They were winding up a mountain road.  It was still dusty and hot; by now the back window was completely covered with dust and he couldn't see out.  He peered over the seat.  They went over a couple cattle grades, made several bewilderingly roundabout turns, and arrived on a bluff above a small stream.

A log cabin was perched on stilts on the slope.  The crew suddenly seemed alive and excited and Freedy guessed they'd reached their destination.

The back door groaned open, and the late afternoon light slanted into his eyes, blinding him for a moment.  Charlie was standing there, looking down on his with a slight smile.

"Welcome to Lorn Mountain," he said.  He waved at the cabin and then beyond to the stream below and then up to the rising slopes.

"This mountain is my ancestral home, Freedy.    I need you to help me take it back from the thieves who stole it."

Monday, November 26, 2012

Freedy Filkins, International Jewel Thief, 12.

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Rain,  rain and more rain.  Freedy was sick of it.  The High Desert turned into the Great Basin and looked just the same, except maybe even flatter and more boring.  A curtain of gray, clouds and sheets of rain, a muddied mixture of browns and tans and bright red rocks.

Miles and miles of it.

As last man onboard -- or maybe it was low man on the totem pole -- Freedy was stuck in back of the van nestled among the supplies.  He had a streaked occluded back window to stare out of and nothing else.  He could barely hear the conversation in front, much less join it.  Didn't sound like he was missing much -- desultory comments every few miles, a bit of grim laughter.

At least he was out of the rain, unlike poor Steve and Sam, who were riding some loud Harley's behind them.  They looked like two giant wheeled ponchos with tiny little goggled heads poking out.

IDAHO,  he saw on a sign in passing.  Not long after, NEVADA, and then UTAH and ARIZONA.

But it all looked the same.  No stopping at casinos, or resorts, or Grand Canyons -- just endless driving.  The others took turns driving or snoring.  They didn't ask Freedy and he didn't volunteer.  They stopped for gas and bathrooms and kept on driving.

Weaving in and out of the traffic, seeming to be part of the caravan sometimes and sometimes not, was a little white Miata with Garland driving.  He'd disappear for hundreds of miles and come up roaring behind the van and winking at Freedy.

Freedy, who was pretty sure he was locked into a hunchback posture for the rest of his life, eyed the empty passenger seat of the Miata with undisguised hunger.

They pulled up to another reststop.  Freedy tiredly climbed over the backseat and out the side door,  (none of the others gave him the courtesy of opening the back door).  He walked bent over the bathroom.  Pretty bad when the cold toilet seat felt luxurious, he thought.  What had he gotten himself into?  What if he just hid behind the trashcans in the back until they left? Would they even miss him?

And then what? He'd left without money, his credit cards were tapped out.  Somehow facing being broke and alone in a strange land was worse than staying with the expedition.  He was being ignored, but it was a kind of being-included taken-for-granted kind of ignoring.

He trudged out of the restroom, windmilling his arms and trying to straighten his back.

Garland's Miata came roaring up, and slammed to a stop parallel to the sidewalk.

The door popped open.  "Hop in!" the old man said.

Freedy gratefully slid into the front seat.  At the same time, he felt a trepidation.  No interaction with Garland so far had been without a steep price.

Oh, my god.  The seat was heated.  It felt as soft as his bed at home.  The music playing was some sort of ethereal new age music but it sounded heavenly.  He sighed loudly.

"Sorry about that," Garland said.  "The boys are pretty accustomed to hardship and they forget not everyone is used to it.  But they enjoy their comforts, too.  You'll see."

Freedy had nearly nodded off at the softness and the quiet and the warmth.

"Ummmm,"  Freedy said, nearly humming in comfort.  His stomach growled.  Except for his hunger, he was in paradise.  (A couple of times a day, the designated cook -- Jay?-- would hand him a cold sandwich and some lemonade.)

"How are you enjoying your adventure so far?"  Garland asked, with a straight face.

How to answer?  He hated it?  Despised it?  Loathed the whole damn experience?

"It's all right," something compelled him to mutter.  These guys wouldn't appreciate softness, he thought.  So he'd pretend to be hard.

Garland laughed.  "You aren't fooling anyone.  You hate it, don't you?  This land is beautiful at times, but it can also be pretty dreary in the fall.  And there are miles and miles of it."

The old hippie looked at Freedy as if really seeing him.  "Hang in there, Freedy.  It'll get better."

"Are you sure you haven't made a mistake?" Freedy heard himself asking.

"We'll find out, won't we?" Garland shrugged.  "I don't think so -- not if you have one tenth of Tessie's grit.  Why, you want out?"

Freedy felt a surge of hope.  Was Garland making an offer?

"Well, uh, I'm just not sure I'm cut out for the adventurous life."  Strange, as he said it, he felt like he was pulling a piece of himself out of his chest and smothering it under his fat butt.

Garland drove in silence for miles.  Then he roared past the caravan and shot down the highway.  As the horizon blurred, Freedy looked at the speedometer -- 80, 90, 95....   The car started shaking slightly at 95, and he closed his eyes and quit looking.

"I'll tell you what, Freedy Filkins.  If you want out, I'll drop you off at the nearest bus station with a ticket and enough money to buy some food.   We'll cancel the mortgage payments to your house, of course.  But good luck to you..."

Freedy's mind became a whirl of competing thoughts.  He slammed his head into the window, as if to knock all the thoughts out, and it worked, for a moment.

"No," he said clearly.  "I'm in."

A toe in the door.

The agent asked for the first three chapters of NEARLY HUMAN and a synopsis -- mostly as a favor to the other writer.

I got it off in half an hour.

I pushed my luck a little and included an attachment for the first three chapters of THE RELUCTANT WIZARD, too.  Told her, if I was pushing the boundaries, to ignore the second attachment.  But since the flavor of the two books are so different, I thought it wouldn't hurt.

Anyway, at least I've passed the first hurdle -- thanks to the recommendation.  If she doesn't like the first three chapters of the two books, fair enough.  It is a reasonable facsimile of my current writing abilities.

Have to prepare myself for rejection, since I think the odds of getting an agent on the first try are pretty enormous for a myriad of reasons.  Very stressful, but it has to be done if I'm going to get anywhere.

She immediately responded, and said she'd try to get back to me within the month.  So, back to Freedy Filkins.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Freedy Filkins, International Jewel Thief, 11.

If you enjoyed this story, and I hope you did, please click here to buy.  Thanks for reading!

Freedy woke sprawled zigzagged over a pile of broken crockery near the fireplace.  Every soft tissue part of his body was gouged as if he'd spent a night moving his bony parts off the ceramics and plopping his fatty parts on.   He vaguely remembered dreaming he could barely move, but that all the contortions somehow made it more comfortable.

But that isn't what hurt.  His head felt full of shattered shards,  as if all that broken pottery had used the point of his head as a nexus.   He vaguely remember running out of beer and resorting to his wine cellar, always a bad idea for the next morning.  He felt faintly nauseous, beer and wine mingled on his tongue tasting like -- something rude.

A dream.  It all had to be a bad dream.  He pried his eyelids open with one hand.  Nope.  No filthy loggers to be seen.  He winced as he saw a red stocking cap over in the corner.  Well, maybe they'd been here, but thank god they were gone.

"Finally!" he heard a cheerful voice from the hallway.  It was Garland, his gray suit looking immaculately spiffy and his long flowing beard and hair combed and shined.  "The crew got tired of waiting and started loading up the vans."

Freedy tried to get up, and his hands met the sharp remnants of his mugs.  "Ouch!"

"Sorry about that," Garland said.  "I tried to stop you, but you kept encouraging them to throw the mugs into the fireplace after every few rounds.  Shouting 'They'll be tossing me out into the street any day now.  I'll not let the creditors have them!'

Freedy tried to answer, but it came out as a moan.

He looked around the room, thinking something felt different.  It was darker, and he looked up to see that the broken skylight was covered with a tarp.  Most of the room looked clean, except for the pile of crockery near the fireplace.

"They went to get gas," Garland continued, sounding piercingly awake.   "As soon as they're back,  we'll load up the perishables and be on our way.  I took the liberty of packing for you."

Garland threw a backpack at Freedy, who almost fell down trying to catch it.  

"What...what are you talking about?"

"You're coming with us, don't you remember?'

"No...bloody way." Freedy said.  His head was spitting open, his brain was threatening to plop onto the floor, he felt like he'd been sleeping on broken pottery all night, and he was in no mood for jokes.

"Hey, you signed the contract!" Garland shrugged.  "Your copy is over on the table."

Freedy stumbled over and sat heavily on one of the few upright chairs.  His hands were smudged with greenish ink, the same colored ink that smudged the paper. The contract was handwritten in his most careful scrip -- the sort of thing he found in the morning after a night of binging when he had thought the most profound thoughts and found them written out in neat concise gibberish the next morning.

"I, Freedy Filkins, a Master Thief coming from a long line of Master Thiefs, do hereby agree to steal the object (to be identified later) that is the purpose of our mission.  In return, we the below signed parties agree to pay said Thief an equal share (one/eighth) of it's value. 

Freedy F. Filkins.

Billy and Bob Boppin.
Jay and Jim Jarps.
Steve and Sam Surky
Charles E. Emmit.

And in different writing below, there was a different, larger and more flowing handwriting.

"P.S.  The above parties have agreed to make 2 months mortgage payments for Freedy Filkin's house, that it might not be foreclosed on in his absence, to be deducted at the successful conclusion of our mission.  Oh, and we'll pay you back for the food in the pantry and the next brew party is on us!"

G.G. Garland,  witness and agent of above enterprise."

He knew he was staring with his mouth open cause he could hear his own breathing, but he couldn't move.

"This isn't legal!" he declared, feeling more and more certain of it with every word.  "A contract to commit an illegal act?  That's crazy."

"Oh, the contract is with Charlie and the others.  I don't suppose they'd do much more than make your life miserable when they get back.  Then again, the chances of them getting back safely are pretty small, so that's in your favor."  Garland had been almost laughing, but now he suddenly turned serious.

"Aunt Tessie told me that Filkins never break their word, but I suppose that's just family lore bullshit."

"Tessie?  You knew Tessie?"

"Tessie was a fine woman, and she thought highly of you, Freedy.  Not that I could ever see it.  Still, when the lucrative opportunity for some real money came up, I thought of you."

"Well, I was drunk," Freedy said.  "I don't even remember signing it.  Surely they'll realize it was a mistake.  I'm no thief, master or otherwise!"

"No?" Garland asked.  His eyebrows were bushy and intrusive over his piercing black eyes.  "Very well.  We'll be at the bottom of the hill for another half an hour or so.  If you change your mind, come on down."

He turned and walked out without a backward look.  Freedy felt slightly, what?  Disappointed?  As if he'd hoped to be talked into it?

After that momentary letdown, though, he felt vast relief.  He had more than enough of his secret stash to last for awhile longer, and he was certain a new less provocative opportunity would come along soon enough.

He trudged down the hallway to his private chambers to shower and change.

Freedy slid to a stop at his door.  He brain blanked, his legs weakened, his eyes rolled back in his head for a moment, before sharply coming back down on the disaster before him. 

His dresser lay smashed on the floor, the hollow leg pulled out and staring him in the face as if mocking him.

His stash was gone!

Freedy rarely got angry.  He just avoided any situation which called for anger.  But his face flushed and he stamped his huge feet on the wood floor with a giant slap.  Damn!  They steal from him and then want him to join them?

Lucrative opportunity indeed!

"Oh, dear..." he heard a voice behind him.  It was Billy -- or Bob -- one of the two, looking at him with real concern on his face.  "We didn't do this, I swear.  We never steal from our own."

For some reason that Freedy never understood, he believed him.  At the same moment, he saw several blond hairs caught in the splintered wood.

Freedy had always feared his neighbor Stu would become dissatisfied with his 10% share, which was why Freedy had never complained about the almost certain larger share the huge man was taking.

A huge, mean man.  Freedy felt helpless.  He couldn't do anything about it -- he couldn't report it to the police because he understood that Tessie's hoard wasn't legal.  He couldn't fight the monster who lived at the base of the hill, who would just laugh at him and deny it.

 He was screwed, screwed, screwed.

"I gotta say," Billy said, looking slightly puzzled.  "For a Master Thief, the old hollow leg trick is pretty lame.  Unless..." his face brightened.  "It's so obvious you thought they'd never look!  Pretty canny!"

Freedy didn't say anything.  He felt numb.

"Charlie said to hurry," Billy said.  "We're leaving in just a few minutes."

Freedy stood in the middle of his room.



Remembering Tessie and how excited he'd been at her stories.  Yes, he had to admit it -- he'd seen himself in her daring tales.

Maybe he was still drunk.  Maybe he was scared of being broke.  Maybe he really did want an adventure.  But he found himself running out of Filk's End shouting,

"I'm coming!  Wait for me!"

It's like tomorrow, I start writing.

I think I'm done writing for the season, except for my little Freedy jaunts, which I'm enjoying if no one else is.

I sort of solidified my plans yesterday.  Send the proposal off to agents for a few months.  Turns out writers' websites often list their agents, so that's the route I'll pursue.

Apparently, they don't even bother with rejections anymore.  They just don't answer ya.  So there's that.  Anyway, if I'm serious, I'll just have to put up with that.  On the other hand, there isn't anything against trying more than one agent at a time.

I've already figured out a couple of improvements for my proposal for the next time.  Keep refining the synopsis, and my biography. 

I need a bit of a break, I think.  I'll give the manuscript one last through going-through if anyone asks to see it.  Otherwise, the first three chapters are ready to go if they ask for that.  If they don't like the first three chapters, then that will be a pretty fair test.

I feel like I've gotten serious about the whole process.  I'm girding myself for rejection, which is part of the game.  Not going to get through this unscathed -- so best to realize that right now and prepare myself.

Weirdly, I heard the Beatles Decca audition tape the other day, and you know what?  I wouldn't have signed them up either!  All kinds of examples of that.  The right book and the right author have to find the right agent and the right publisher.  And that probably doesn't happen naturally.

I'm actually more comfortable with stranger to stranger transactions.  I'll get a good honest response.  I just can't see how putting it online I'll get the same measure of judging; it might be too harsh, or too generous.  Bottom line, the stranger is buying it because they think they can make money off it.  Can't get more honest than that.

I'm beginning to see this all as a pretty haphazard process.  The first two books out of the gate are already so different, and Freedy is very different from either of those.  So which are the stronger efforts?  I feel like Nearly Human probably has some structural problems that just can't be overcome.

The danger is that I subvert myself -- and not give an impartial outside party a chance to judge it.

I've been thinking a lot about The Reluctant Wizard and what I want to do there.  I've got a few scenes that I think will improve the story, and I may move things around a little --- I already have two versions, and while I like the version I have, the other version is probably structurally better.  (Brings the action and bad guys into the story earlier.)

Biggest thing I want to do is fully flesh out the backstory, and then infuse the story with elements of that.

So finish that book -- and then move on to the next.  At worst I have a pile of stories to dump on my new website (being built) and at best I get better and the right book hits the right agent/publisher.

So here's where I'm going to be honest.

I don't think I'm all that much better than I was when I quit 25 years ago.  Turns out, the skill needs honing.  Which is what I've been doing for the last year and a half.  But it wasn't until recently that I felt myself kind of slipping into my old level of consciousness.  I think I'm a little looser than before, and a little more patient.

What I have are slightly better work habits -- a bit of age -- and especially modern technology.  The modern technology is such that, if it had been around 25 years ago, I probably could have kept writing.

My natural talent is I think "good enough" with a whole lot of effort and further learning.  In other words,  I think I get about 50% of the way there on my first draft and through hard work I can get to 80% of the way there.

(So how do you get the rest of the way? A friend asked.  A magic pill, a moment of inspiration, Maxwell Perkins, I answered.)

That isn't putting myself down.  It puts me in striking distance.  After working pretty hard on writing for the last year and a half,  I can see a path forward.  I'm willing to pay the price.  I very well may not be there yet, but I can see how it isn't impossible for me to get there.

(The only really scary thing is how isolated I get.  Hours and hours in my room, days and days without leaving the house.)

The book itself is what the agents and editors are going to be looking at -- and it's very easy to get off on the wrong foot.  But how do you know?

You just have to keep writing, and try to apply what you learn to the next effort.  Too much worrying about whether it's good enough, or the 'right book' is just a recipe for blockage.

The point I'm making is, that instead of starting writing a year ago, I was really starting the process toward getting serious about writing again. 

So NOW I get serious.

It's like tomorrow, I start.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Freedy Filkins, International Jewel Thief, 10.

If you enjoyed this story, and I hope you did, please click here to buy.  Thanks for reading!

"Oh Stewball was a racehorse, and I wish he were mine.
He never drank water, he always drank wine." 

Freedy was having a marvelous time.  When the hirsute crew started singing, he was a tad dubious.  But the more ale he drank, the better they sounded.  Unexpected harmonies among all the gruff and out-of-key notes, sounding Beatlesque, Freedy decided.  Burp.  John, Paul, George and Freedy.

They careened into another song.

"I see you are a logger,
And not just a common bum,
'Cause no one but a logger
Stirs coffee with his thumb.

Bang!  Bang!  Bang, bang, bang!  BANG!

Freedy frowned.  Someone was drumming on the wood completely out of rhythm.  The others trailed off singing while his suddenly flat sounding voice kept caterwauling.

"...And it's here I wait for someone
To stir coffee with his thummmmbbbbb......!!!"

They were all staring at him.  Well, ah, hem, excuse me!  I wasn't that bad!

One of the first of his two visitors spoke. "Are you going to answer that?"   Billy?  Bobby?  They'd all introduced themselves but only after Freedy plunked an ale filled mug in front of each of them -- well, some had coffee cups of ale, because Freedy just didn't have that many visitors normally.  These uncultured fellows didn't care in the least, as long as there was continuous stream of ale in their containers.  They'd blown through the latest yeasty offerings and were dipping into his emergency/holiday supply.

Billy was the one who had spoken,  he decided, because of all the scratches on his face.  The brother who'd fallen through the skylight.

With a dopey clarity, he suddenly remembered -- these ruffians were intruders!  By singing with them, they could say it was all one big accident and they hadn't meant to fall through the window and they were all friends and they might refuse to pay altogether!

He couldn't remember hardly any of their names, it was all just a cacophony of vowels and consonants and totally common names.  Billy and Bob, Jay and Jim, whatever and whoever...anyway the point was, they weren't invited by any stretch of the imagination.  He really should get up right now and call the police.  Freedy always made a substantial contribution to the Christmas police fund.  (Not being too sure about the provenance of his secret stash, it was a bit of insurance.)

Sure, they had apologized profusely and helped clear away the mess, sweeping the glass to one side and taking the splintered wood outside so they could use the table.  They wouldn't get out of paying for the damage!

"I'll get it," the big leader said.  Garland  -- that was his name.   Freedy remembered his name, because it was memorable and because he was the only one who didn't look like he'd just emerged from out of the back country.  Dressed quite nicely in a gray suit, as a matter of fact, despite his hippy outsides.

He came back alone, or so Freedy thought at first.  But trailing behind, half Garland's size was a clean-cut looking fellow, almost snappy looking in a tight black t-shirt and creased jeans.  Hipster type.  Curling mustache and long trimmed sideburns but wild yet cultivated hair on top.  Black glasses.  Looked liked he's spent all day at Starbucks.  If anything, he was shorter than Freedy.  Maybe five foot.  But a commanding presence.

Or so Freedy assumed when all the others stood up and almost bowed.  Freedy wasn't very good about figuring these status things out, except among his own kind.   Small town status never changed much, and he was at the top and that's just the way he liked it.

"Clear the table away," the newcomer commanded.

"You heard Charlie!" Garland boomed.  He winked at all of them, and drained his nearly full glass of ale.

The others also reverently drained their mugs and cups, and set them on the kitchen counter.  

Charlie crunched over the glass to them, looking down at the mess in evident distaste and giving Freedy a look that said,  'Can't you clean up once in a while?'

Freedy almost objected, but the little man was already flipping a map onto the table with a flourish.

"I've mapped our route," Charlie intoned.  "If we have our Thief, we can get started."

Freedy realized they were all staring at him.

Thief?  Him?

He cleared his throat, he hemmed, he hawed and sputtered and started to speak.  "I it were....I have no.....earthly clue what you're talking about!"

"Don't worry, boys," Garland said, putting his hand down on top of Freedy's head like he was a puppy.  "Freedy here has the icy coolness of a cat burglar, the murderous skills of a bank robber, the larcenous heart of a C.E.O.  He's our man!"

Freedy opened his mouth to speak, but all that came out was a kind of squeak.

Charlie stared at him dubiously, but then shrugged.

"As I was saying, I've mapped our route..."

Freedy Filkins, International Jewel Thief, 9.

If you enjoyed this story, and I hope you did, please click here to buy.  Thanks for reading!

Filk's End was warm and cozy, to be sure.  But being buried in a hill as it was, it had always been a little dark.  Hardwood floors, covered by lush carpets, wood paneling -- it was all a little dim and dingy sometimes.

So first thing Freedy did when he came into his 'inheritance' was put a large skylight at the very center top of his abode.  There he'd sit under, late at night, polishing off a bottle of wine and staring at the stars and imagining long adventures and glittering treasure troves.

If he'd been a more self-aware fellow, he'd have realized that Aunt Tessie's tales had had more of an invigorating effect on him than he realized.

The great CRASH! came late in the afternoon.

CRASH! and Freedy immediately understood what a disaster it was.  Glass tinkering, wood shattering, and then a loud soft solid THUMP.

"OUCH!"  A strong tenor voice, rising to a painful soprano.

Freedy ran to the living room-- yes, ran, something he couldn't remember doing since...since a long time.

His beautiful skylight was gone -- fractured down middle with the shape of a person.  Freedy could see where the head, the torso and two arms and legs had splatted dead center.

On the table beneath a very hairy, very unkempt man was moaning, sprawled in the same shape as the void.

At the same moment, there was knocking at his door.

He fuddered toward the invader, and then back toward the incessant knocking, then back to the moaner and then back to the shouts at the door.

'Oh dear,  oh dear,' Poor Freedy thought,  'What on earth is happening?' 

Since he really didn't want to go even near the intruder -- and since he thought maybe rescue had arrived (surely that crash had been heard throughout the neighborhood!) he padded over the door first and flung it open.

Very unlike him not to check first.

And there was another very hairy, unkempt fellow looking so similar that Freedy couldn't help but jerk his head over his shoulder to make sure the table was still covered by the smashed interloper.

"You the Thief?" The fellow bellowed.  "My bro' here yet?"

A loud moan containing an approximation of words came from the living room.

"Idiot makes the embarrassing entrance as usual,'  the brother at the door muttered and pushed rudely by Freedy.

"Here!  Here now!" Freedy protested.  As the burly visitor absented the doorway, Freedy saw two other hairy men approaching and without thinking, he slammed and bolted the door.

'Wait!' the second thought slapped into place, this wasn't a solution!  It left him locked inside with two alarming characters.

"Get up, you moron!" the second intruder yelled at the first intruder.   "You've ruined our host's window, damn you!  That's coming out of your share, brother mine."

Freedy thought he should march up to the two and demand they leave.  Yes, that's exactly what he'd do!

He marched toward them, and then veered and ran toward the small back door, which was half hidden behind a pantry.  But as he reached the hallway, a huge shadow hovered toward him.

It was the bearded long-haired hippie who'd loomed at his door a couple days before. He filled the hallway.  Freedy slid to stop, his big feet sliding a rug across the hardwood like a sled on ice.

"Ack!" he shouted.  Ack?  What kind of sound was that?  What was happening to him?

"There you are, my good fellow," the flower child -- flower grandpa said, cheerfully.

Shouts and bangs emanated relentlessly from the entrance, and the bearded hippie walked right by Freedy and flung open the door.

And there stood, not just one, not just two more hairy guys, but four more, all of a type -- big and small, tall and skinny and all different shapes they may have been -- but they all wore jeans and flannel shirts and suspenders of different bright colors and lumberjack boots and all had variations of beards and wild hair under knit stocking caps.

"Let's get this party started!" Flower Grampa said.  "Where's your ale, Freedy?  I know you've got a batch brewing!"

Freedy felt like collapsing, right there in the hallway.

But a beer -- you know?  That sounded good.  He hadn't had guests in a long time and his hootch was second to none-- he knew, because he attended every brew fest and none matched his. But no one knew it.

He padded toward the kitchen, suddenly enjoying all the hoo haw.  If nothing else, it'd make a helluva story in his diary.

They didn't mean him harm, he sensed.  Other than to his peace and quiet.

He hoped.

The possibility of danger was pretty spicy.  Just like his new batch of ale.  A couple of spicy tankards was just what he needed.

Black days like this.

So every year I point out that I don't think Black Friday deals are all the much better than what you can get before, during and after the holidays.  I mean, there are some extreme deals, but waiting in line for five hours seems kind of crazy to get them...

But you know what?  People like the 'event' of it.  They like to shop.  That's why I don't think brick and mortars will ever become obsolete.

People like to shop. 


I felt like a real writer yesterday.

I took two chapters that were all right, o.k., and I made them better.  Through working on it, and at the same time keeping my creative side in the mix.   Can't explain it.  I felt I was "crafting" the improvements.

Hey, maybe in another dozen years I can do that on a consistent basis...


I've been in a Walmart twice in my life, tagging along with another, and didn't spend money either time.  I've never been in Target.

So...I'm better then you, face it.  ;)

I think Black THURSDAY is crazy!

But you know what?  It may end up helping us small retailers by getting the big rush over earlier.  My theory is that people rush the big boxes first, and then when they get tired of the spectacle, think about the smaller stores.

Combined with "Small Business Saturday" or whatever they're calling it, we may actually be able to snag some of this holiday loot.


Going to beat last year -- but last year was really horrible which makes by shudder about the year before which must have been ever more horrible.  What happened to November?

Anyway, I doubt I'll beat last Christmas, which came in huge for us.  I'm going with full inventory, not "extra" inventory, so I'm expecting lower sales but higher profits this year. 

I'm hoping.