Sunday, January 27, 2013

New Broom(stick) in Town!

Hey y’all!  Welcome back to Flowers on the Fence Country.  Today one of my best cyber buddies visits to celebrate the release last week of Tex, The Witch Boy.  Tex is in high school.  And I don’t know about y’all, but if somebody told me I had to go through high school again, I’d run screamin’ to the nearest insane asylum.  ‘Cause the first time just about drove me crazy.  I wouldn’t survive a repeat.  And I’m thinkin’ Tex’s experience isn’t all that much better, am I right?

Hi Gail! And thanks for allowing me to visit and talk a little bit about my book Tex, The Witch Boy.

Yes, let’s chat about high school. Even though I’ve been out for (ahem) quite some time, I still have nightmares about it. The cliques, the ongoing quest for acceptance. Dodge-ball. But mostly, I still remember the cruel unnecessary bullying.

Richard “Tex” McKenna, a high school sophomore, faces these challenges every day. Really he just wants to survive high school along with his small, but loyal, group of friends. But Tex has got bigger issues going on. He’s learned he’s a witch. Not even a warlock or something cool like that. He’s a bonafide witch. Now you’d think witchcraft powers might make his high school life easier. You’d think wrong! 

Sort of a supernatural trouble magnet, Tex finds himself deep in mystery and danger when someone starts murdering the high school bullies. The sadistic vice-principal, the police, and fellow students believe Tex is involved. He has no choice but to use his new-found witch powers to uncover the murderer. Before the murderer targets Tex and his friends.

Whew. And you thought your high school days were tough?

Tex, The Witch Boy began life based upon a handful of bullying incidents that happened to either me or a friend of mine in high school. They were a particularly cruel and violent bunch. Sadly, bullying hasn’t changed since my tenure in the hells of high school. My daughter recently finished high school and supplied me with updated tales of bullying. I wrote the book to try and reach bullied teens. I want to let them know there’s hope and to hang in there. 
And there’s nothing wrong with finding a sympathetic adult and telling him what’s going on.

So I guess you can say Tex, The Witch Boy is kinda, sorta a true story. Except for the witchcraft and serial killer aspects, of course! It’s a murder mystery, suspense thriller, comedy-drama, romance, lightly paranormal whatsit.

Here’s Tex now. I’m going to let him tell you about the first time he met his friend Olivia…

I’d only known Olivia since the start of our sophomore year, but already she was one of the few people I could honestly call a friend. One week after school started, a short girl wearing a beat-up jean jacket, a Clash T-shirt, and a streak of orange adorning the long black hair hanging over one of her eyes burst into speech class. She carried a folded-up piece of paper and a sense of excitement about her.

After Miss Swanson studied the paper, she announced, “Class, this is Olivia Furman. She’s a new student here, so please make her feel welcome. Olivia, go sit over by Richard.” Since I was short on friends and “school cred,” several seats were free next to me.

Once Miss Swanson assigned the latest group project (which I always hated, since I felt like the overweight kid, always chosen last in gym class), Olivia turned to me and said, “Okay, what’s the deal with that Hastings Nazi?” Arville Hastings was the notoriously scary, hard-ass vice-principal of our beloved school. Right then, I knew Olivia was someone I wanted to know and have in my corner.

“What happened?” I asked.

“I just came from that jerk’s office.” Her one visible eye lit up. “He spent forty-five minutes telling me I needed to stay away from the stoners, the slackers, and the freaks, and if I wanted to make it, I should dress more appropriately and get to know people like the cheerleaders and the football team and…” Olivia had been listing off every notation with her bejeweled fingers. She was so out of breath with indignation, it took her a minute to stop and notice I was laughing. Suddenly, she burst into a loud guffaw, attracting the irate attention of Miss Swanson.

“Is there something funny about our group project, Richard?” Miss Swanson asked.

“No, sorry. We’re just trying to come up with a topic for our group speech.” I leaned in closer to Olivia and said quietly, “Welcome to sophomore year of ‘Nazi High.’ I’m Tex, by the way.”

“I thought your name was Richard.”

“Well, I suppose technically, it is. But Richard’s such a stupid name, and I’ve learned the nickname for Richard is something far worse…”

Olivia stared at me until she realized what I meant and bellowed out another donkey-laugh. With lightning speed, Miss Swanson stood over our huddled heads, arms akimbo, attempting to intimidate us into silence.

“Do you have a topic for your group speech, yet?” Miss Swanson barely kept her anger simmering under the surface of her matronly manner.

“Yes,” screamed Olivia, “teenage anarchy!” And with that, we both did our worst at stifling the rush of exploding laughter. We also knew a friendship was forged from the fires of speech class. Literally saved by the classroom bell, Olivia was spared another visit to her new friend, Arville Hastings. The fates were kind to us that day.


Saturday, January 5, 2013


Yesterday I lost a friend I’ve never met.  Not physically, that is.  That’s one of the wonders of cyberspace. That you can meet so many people who become friends, even if you’ve never actually “met” them, people you know as well and sometimes better than the people you work with every day.

Nowhere is this truer than in the world of e-books writers.  I entered the professional world of e-books in 2011, a raw newbie who’d written for twenty years and promptly thrown each completed book in the closet.  The world of e-publishing opened opportunities for writers unheard of in the traditional publishing industry.  My first book was accepted for publication in April, 2011.  I was overwhelmed, excited as all get-out, and scared to death.  The writers of e-publishing companies connect with each other via e-mail (fancy that) and I read every e-mail with bated breath, taking note of names and forming impressions of each writer.  It didn’t take long for me to take note of a gentleman by the name of Dale Thompson who wrote as Pat Dale.  And quite frankly, he scared the hell out of me.

Dale Thompson said what he meant and meant what he said.  He had firm opinions and he pulled no punches.  And I resolved to stay way under his radar.  Then I wrote my first blog, a guest blog actually, before I’d ever set up either of my own two blogs.  That particular blog was a memorial to a dear friend I’d lost a few years back, an explanation as to why, when my first blog went up, it was going to be dedicated to her memory and named “Flowers on the Fence.” 

Dale Thompson, aka Pat Dale was the last person I expected to stop in and read that guest blog.  But he did.  And he left a comment wherein he told me I’d left him “teary-eyed”. I emailed him privately to thank him as opposed to thanking him in the “writers loop” where the writers generally corresponded. That was the beginning of a friendship I will always treasure.  Already multi-published (whereas I still didn’t have my first book out), he became one of my mentors, offering the benefits of his experience. 

He was a Renaissance Man, a professional musician, a teacher, a writer.  A student of the human condition. I had a very long book that had haunted me for twenty years.  Sometimes I thought it was wonderful.  Sometimes I thought it was awful.  But having become a “professional”, I knew it had become a mishmash of evolving styles as I’d worked on it through the years and learned a bit of writing craftsmanship.  I didn’t know what to do with it, whether I should re-write what was already there or just delete it in its entirety and start over. 

I sent the first few chapters to Dale and explained the situation. And told him I was really close to just deleting the whole thing and being done with it.  He sent back, “Do. Not. Discard. This. Book.  Do you hear me?”  That’s a direct quote, with exact punctuation.  I’ve got that kind of memory, a handy thing for a writer to have.  That book became two books, actually, The Color of Seven and The Color of Dusk, published individually and as the Dark series set.

Very shortly after that, Dale announced to the writers’ loops (we both published with two of the same publishing companies) that he’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which had been discovered much earlier than pancreatic cancer is usually diagnosed, which was an awesomely good thing.  Unhappy with the course of treatment described by his first set of doctors, he sought a second opinion.  Actually, as he said, his wife Patricia sought a second opinion and discovered a wonderful set of doctors with a highly successful protocol for treatment. 

Dale Thompson loved his wife.  It was obvious in every word he wrote about her and his family.  Married for over thirty-five years, I’ve seldom known a man so in love with his wife.  That love, for Patricia and for his family and for life in general, pulled him through.  At the onset of treatment, when he knew he’d be out of touch for weeks, maybe months at a time, he emailed me, “I’m not going down without a fight”.  I sent back, “No, old friend, neither of us is going gentle into that good night.”

He fought.  He won.  That’s both the beauty and the sadness of his death.  Before Thanksgiving, the doctors declared him cancer free.  He had a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas with his family.  He began to re-gain weight.  He worked on his books, not that he’d ever really stopped that, no writer ever does.  If all else fails, we just write in our memories and hope enough survives for future translation to the computer screen.

On January 4, 2013, Dale Thompson, also known as Pat Dale, died of a massive heart attack.  And no, he did not go gentle into that good night.  He went in triumph, a warrior who’d won his battle and left a legacy.

His books will remain up and available.  In fact, Magic of the Chimes will publish very shortly, his final gift to us.  And so goodbye and Godspeed, old friend. I never met you, but I loved you.  I’ll miss you.  And you'll forever be a Flower on my Fence.