The Write Room Cafe

The Write Room Cafe
Kevin Lynn Helmick

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Write Room: Proud to announce, Driving Alone has been nominate...

The Write Room: Proud to announce, Driving Alone has been nominate...: Proud to announce, Driving Alone has been nominated for a Spinetingler Award, 2013 best novella/short novel. Voting polls are open and t...
Proud to announce, Driving Alone has been nominated for a Spinetingler Award, 2013 best novella/short novel.

Voting polls are open and the competition is fierce. Here's where you can vote. Vote. Driving Alone, 2013 Spintingler Award for Best Novella/Short Novel

Sunday, March 3, 2013



I watched a movie once where a book was used in the story as prop, a buried metaphor to help serve the plot. It’s not a real book, in that you cannot read it, buy it and sell it or anything else we conceive as a real. The book doesn’t exist outside the story in the film. I tried to look it up and it only exists as, a key, if you will to help support the theme of the film. I found this an interesting usage or analogy, as a constructor of stories, if nothing else.

 It had a title of course, and it was good one, although it’s not important to what I’m writing about here. It may even be distracting from the point, which is metaphor.  The metaphor’s important. Metaphors are always important. They show us truth and justice from a different angle, a kind of sideways view, and sometimes that’s really the only way to see these things clearly, the most interesting way of seeing things, creatively anyway, because if truth and justice, or anything else worth knowing is disguised as a secret or mystery then we are more inclined to seek it out. Inquiring minds want to know what is being kept from them and why, so we search for that.

This metaphor is described in the film by a child obsessively reading the book and trying to explain to everyone as a cultural vision quest, a dream that everybody’s having. The same dream at the same time, and billions of people are in fear of their sanity because they’ve never experienced this kind of… breakthrough, for lack of a better term, no one has. But they’re not crazy, they’re just seeing glance of something much bigger than themselves for the first time in human history, collectively speaking. And maybe they’re realizing that like voyagers of the past they’re possessions of value, their cargo, their baggage, and their passions, are all less important than their survival. In fact it is the very things they carry that keep them from moving ahead and they have found themselves in, Horse Latitudes, in a panic. So maybe they are crazy after all, but understandably so, crazy on a ship of fools, as they say.

Either way it got me thinking about Horse Latitudes.

So what does that mean, Horse Latitudes?

One theory goes that centuries ago, seamen, Spaniards, traveling the trade winds into the South Atlantic with hundreds of horses bound for the new world would find themselves near the Tropic of Cancer in a dead calm. As the days turned into weeks, maybe even months, and their sails remained limp and heavy as the curtains in an ancient funeral parlor, and their ship sat like a stone on a beach. The heat and silence and maddening lack of moving on began to have its effects while the food and water supply began to diminish. They would have no choice but to herd the horses off the side and stern of the ship into the sea, kicking and screaming as they drowned one by one.

And when the last horse gasped his last breath they would turn to weaponry and then personal belongings, and then, each other, anything to lighten the load, get the ship moving.

 Horse Latitudes can also been seen in Greek Mythology as Scylla and Charybdis. It’s been referred to as, The Devil and Deep Blue Sea and Realm and Conquest. We westerners have adapted it as, between a rock and a hard place, and can, I think, even be tied into our own rural urban legends of a crossroads where grave decisions must be made. Call it whatever, real or fictionalized, they’re all a metaphor for human drama. The very core of what is the human experience, at least in this mind.


We as thinking animals can relate I think when we find our lives in Horse Latitudes, where truth, justice and integrity seem like disposable cargo, unnecessary for survival. The wind has left our sails and the weight of all we carry has anchored us seemingly in place. Try as we may to keep our precious treasures that we’ve worked so hard to acquire and keep and to label us one way or another, civilized. When all seems lost, over the rail it goes. It must be.

And as the water line on the hull rises into view and the furrows in the sails begin to move ever so slightly we begin to wonder if we would have just waited, could have just held on a little longer, would we have been able to keep those things we once valued so highly? We look back into our ever quickening wake and wonder if we could have been stronger. It’s the question of life. The Metaphor of what it means to travel, to voyage through this existence we call here and now. Looking back at our sacrifices and wondering if we could have kept them in some way and still sailed on eventually if we had only waited a little bit longer.

Or, did they ever have any value anyway? Should you have thrown yourself to the unknown depths along with them, and what difference would it have made, if any at all. What does it take to captain the ship?

The question is a valid one. It’ll take whatever it takes.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


The Write Room: THE NEXT BIG THING. INTERVIEW: On DRIVING ALONE.:   THE NEXT BIG THING: On DRIVING ALONE There’s this thing going around with a group of writers I’m familiar with, a sort of chain ...




There’s this thing going around with a group of writers I’m familiar with, a sort of chain interview titled, The Next Big Thing, which I’m not, but It sounded fun so when Caleb J Ross sent me the invite, I said sure, why not. I was honored to be included.

Anyway… for anybody interested, I’m going to shoot down these questions for you, and them, and for the sake some promotion, any promotion, and of something to put up on my blog. They’re good questions, I think, so thank you, who ever, for putting them together. Thanks to Caleb for nominating me and thanks to you all for stopping by.

If there are any other questions we don’t cover here that you’d like to know, by all means, speak up.


1)      What is the working title of your next book?

It’s actually a current book, and titled, Driving Alone.

2)      Where did the idea come from for the book?

I don’t really remember having a complete idea at any given time. For me those ideas kind of manifest, change and take shape during the process. A novel is a collection of ideas that support a theme, if you’re lucky. But I knew I wanted to write an American novella, short, southern, and sexy, like a Tennessee Williams play, but that was about all I had in the beginning. I do remember the title coming from an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations though, and a light bulb kind of went off. I had a concept in those two words, which I thought would be widely understood.

3)      What genre does your book fall under?

I like calling it a Modern Southern Gothic. It seems to fit.

4)      What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

When I was writing it, I was totally thinking of Johnny Depp as Billy Keyhoe. Although the age doesn’t match up, it’s not really that important. Depps’ voice patterns, facial expressions, sly restrained smile, a stray dog charm, yet prone to violent outburst, it’s all in there, for me anyway.

Feather Dane, the lead female is tougher to nail down. The character almost demands a mysterious unknown. Feather is seductively irresistible and dangerously so. It’s a game of cat and mouse, and it’s never really clear until the end who’s the cat and who’s the mouse.

5)      What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Small town loser, Billy Keyhoe takes off for the open road and a new life only to be confronted at the crossroads of destiny with his inescapable past in this rural noir, southern gothic thriller, of life death sex, and sin.

How’s that?

6)      Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Neither. This book was published Dec 1st 2012 by Blank Slate Press of St. Louis and is available pretty much anywhere and anyhow, right now. I don’t have an agent at this time, but I’m thinking about that more and more. We’ll see how it goes.

7)      How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It’s a small book, a novella, less than half the size of anything I’d written before. I think I had a first draft complete in a couple months, Jan to March of 2012. There really was only one draft, ever. I tinkered with that a couple more months, sent it out to a handful of publishers, started formatting and playing with text and cover. I had planned to self publish because I didn’t think anybody would be interested in it, and by May I had a few offers, so that was a nice surprise. But not much has been changed since the first draft, necessary editing, couple of scenes and rewrites, what not, but that’s about it.

8)      What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I was asked that question by the publisher for the distributors marketing dept and couldn’t really answer it. I didn’t feel equipped or something. After it went to print I was curious, so I asked the publisher what they came up with, they said, Crooked Letter Crooked Letter, Winters Bone, and, The Devil All the Time. If you can compare one book to another, those are good ones to be compared with, so I was alright with that.

9)      Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Just the idea that I love novellas and how they can linger with you, how they can be far heavier than a big epic. I wanted to give that a try. I wanted to strip away all the bullshit and tell a true and honest story. There appears to be smoke and mirrors in there, but there really isn’t. It’s straight up, no ice. I also loved the idea of a sweaty Deep South morality tale, God and the Devil and everything in between, so I went there.

10)  What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

I think being able to read this in one sitting should be of interest, won’t take too much commitment, time. I think it’s something you could enjoy reading again and again. I think there’s a lot here to think about. The paperback fits nicely in your pocket too, it’s travel friendly.

Is that it? Seemed short. Thanks a lot folks, and here the book.

Driving Alone, can be found at any of your favorite bookstores websites, or easily ordered here at Blank Slate Press,



Thanks all, next week, Bud Smith, over at -

There’ll some be some more interviews by other writers and their projects coming up that haven’t gotten back to me and I’ll tag them as they come in but here’s few others that have gone before. Check em out.

Support independent writers and books. It’s where the good shit is.

Paul David Brazill

Caleb J Ross

Richard Thomas

Friday, November 30, 2012

This Fuckin Western

Okay, so here's the deal, writing can hard and writing can be easy. Somewhat easy anyway when you're having fun at it. I've flapped my mouth before about work ethic, not waiting for the muse, but power through, get it done, so on so on. But there comes a time sometimes when you have to say fuck it, this isn't working. I'm probably way past that, just to stubborn to admit it, till now.

But I made a decision today that was not an easy one. I have decided to shit can some 30.000 words of a novel I've been working on. Or not working on. At least for the time being. There's some good writing in there so I saved a draft to nag at me like a missed opportunity or maybe come back to it later. But I'm done beating my head against the wall on this thing.

It's a fuckin western, 1st problem. I'm more of a contemporary writer, so I've discovered. Although I love western movies and reading westerns, I've found out, I don't much like writing them. To much research. guns, horses, etc etc. So fucking boring. I hate research. And the conflicts, again, boring, and over used. All the character attributes seem cliche and one dimensional. The setting, shit, I have no idea what existed in 1899 Oklahoma, as far as towns, roads, technology. Again, research, Ughhh! Not interested.
That pretty much covers problems 2, 3, 4, 5. And that's more than enough for me.

I have never felt so disconnected with a story and it's characters as I have this one, this, fuckin western.

So, I felt it was time to put it aside and work on something that's been developing in mind like a movie. The way it should be. A cast, a beginning a middle and an end, although distant, misty and flexible, it'll come unto it'self as I go. It's there, all there, all I have to do is type it out. It's something I think will be dark, yet humorous, sexy, but classy, sleek but gritty. And best of all...It'll be fun, can't wait to get started. And that's how I've felt about all the books I've written up to this, fuckin western.

Hell I'm even thinking about it while I'm writing this, fucking western, so it must be right.


I don't even know why I'm sharing this, outside of venting and maybe seeking some closure and validation. I mean I've written 60.000 word drafts in 12 weeks before. I've been working on, and, ignoring this project for almost three times that long. It's become ridiculous. This fuckin western.

I don't know. New territory for me.

So how about a question? What do you think?

Have any of you readers ever picked up a copy of something from a favorite author and thought, 'what the hell is this? This is a genre my writer shouldn't be writing in.'

And this probably a stupid question but,

Have any of you writers had a hard time putting aside a considerable amount of writing and moving on, or did you power through, finish it, then move on? Ever had your own, fuckin western?

I think the thing that was bothering more than anything is that I have developed a body of work with a certain feel, certain voice, although sometimes rural, sometimes urban, I think it's identifiable as mine, and this book I was writing was not me, wasn't fitting in. Not with me, my personality, or with any of my other work.

So what do you think...readers and writers, should a writer push himself to explore new frontiers even if he doesn't want to?

There's a part of me, the working man, that feels I should. There's also a part of me, the artist, that says, fuck that. If it ain't fun, don't do it.

I ain't writin no fuckin western.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


DRIVING ALONEDRIVING ALONE, Kevin Lynn Helmick. The steamy, sexy, southern gothic of life gone wrong is now available for pre-order, from Blank Slate Press

Feather slid her backpack down her arm, smiled and walked on air toward the open door. “Real gent, hey.” She tossed her pack in first and sprawled across the sun cracked leather. Billy closed the door and looked all the way down her and wondered what kind of creature could be found on a lost highway in South Georgia. Still lucky, he thought.

He trotted around the back of the car, got in and said, “Savannah it is. Ever been?” She just smiled and dug in her bag for a pair of heart shaped sunglasses with cherry red frames and slid them on and a memory swept him away. He’d seen them before, a long time ago on a pretty little child at the county fair. She was maybe seven or nine and so was he. He had fallen then too, as soon as he saw them gleaming in the sun behind a cloud of pink cotton candy at the house of fun. He had led her off from there and behind the trailers and into snakes of electrical cords that hummed, vibrated and squirmed in the mud after a fresh afternoon rain. He stole a kiss and talked her into a game of; I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. He could remember it well and considered it his, first time. That first pungent smell of sex and what he saw when he put his face down close and touched it. And when it was her turn, she put her little hand out and squeezed it tight with her sticky tiny fingers while the sounds of the carnival filled the air and what it did to him then and what it was doing to him now as he recalled it. And he recalled it often like a secret treasure.

He breathed deep as a light breeze from nowhere brought that familiar musky scent to him now.  He looked at her and she shined like the sun on the first day of spring, and batted her lashes at him again as if saying, remember me?                                                                                                                           

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Write Room: Allison, Manarchy Magazine

The Write Room: Allison, Manarchy Magazine:   ALLISON   Ally fixed her scarf tight and waited in the cold for ...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Allison, Manarchy Magazine




Ally fixed her scarf tight and waited in the cold for the 9:15 to the city. She pulled the collar up on her pea coat, tucked a lock of hair that had fallen behind her ear and adjusted her hat, an oversized dockhands cap she bought in Italy and thought of as, stylish. She checked her watch. It was late again, always late, and she felt the heavy shade of guilt. Twice a week she would go and twice a week it was late.

Dr. Throckmorton said she needed a hobby. But he never spoke of the frustrations in that. ‘Waiting for late trains. He knew what that would do to me. What could I expect from somebody with a name like that? A stupid name for a stupid man.’

Ally didn’t believe it was his real name either. But he knew things, secrets, lots of them. He knew everything.

Almost everything.

She bought a Nikon with good intentions, a worn paperback, which she only pretended to read to keep conversation away, tools of her new hobby. All she needed was for that damn train to be there on time, for once, just once, and she’d know it wasn’t her fault at all, and maybe she’d be alright.

Some months past, she couldn’t remember exactly when, but she had added an element to her assignments. She would wear only her bra, panties, garter belt and stockings under her coat. But now even the bra and panties were left behind. She liked the feel of the belt though, the nylons and straps on her thighs. She left that part out when she told the good doctor she’d taken up photography. She wanted to tell him. It was her favorite part and had become the reason for doing it at all. But she didn’t.

Now she worried about the summer. She felt her breast rub against the silk lining inside the heavy coat as she swung her shoulders. She looked up the tracks and checked her watch again, 9:20.

There was another person waiting as well but too far away to see, just a black figure, the shape of a man, small from her perspective. She wanted to apologize for the late train but she couldn’t. She imagined them together like lovers in a scene of an old movie but it was too sad and she waved the thought away.

She turned and watched her breath roll out into the cold night air. She had always loved street photography, but only the black and whites. They spoke to her. The ones she saw at the galleries captivated her: shots of street performers, the young and the old, forgotten and homeless, sleeping safe in their gutters. The hookers outside the Ritz downtown hung like vapors. The souls of the city can only be seen at night.

She’d watch and wait for hours and photograph them from shadowed distant alley ways and her heart would pound for the hunt, the shot. And then she’d hurry back for the west bound home, find an empty car where she could be alone with her images, touching herself to the slow rolling vibrations of the metra. But what would she do when summer came. She didn’t know.

She took a few steps toward the man and felt her thighs rub together. The quiet whisk of her nylons made her flush and warm. She turned back and walked the other way, feeling the same as her heels clicked on the concrete. She moved her hand in her pocket behind the paperback, through a hole she had cut there and touched herself as she walked.

‘Oh, this damn train. What’s wrong, where is it?’

‘They must know about me,’ she worried. ‘They must have saw me and radioed ahead or something. Maybe the police were on their way. They would lock me away again, for good this time. They would be more doctors, question and judgments, shit.’

She stopped walking, let out a sigh and noticed her toe had crossed the yellow safety line, that sickening yellow line. ‘Stay behind,’ it said in letters large enough to see from another world. ‘Stay behind?’ She looked around in the darkness for an enforcer but there was no one there. She stepped to the edge of the platform, standing full in the caution way and touched herself again, leaning her head back and closing her eyes.

 A small pat of snow rested and melted on her warm cheek. She put her tongue out to catch the another, but it never came.

She looked back at the far away man and wondered if he knew. When the spring came and the nights grew warmer, he would. He would see. The whole world would see. She couldn’t wear her coat in the summer and she couldn’t go back to those dreary clothes, god awful dress’s and slacks. She couldn’t bear the thought of it. What would be the point? The photos meant nothing. She looked past him and down the tracks into the darkness. Nothing.

Her mother had notice the talent in her images. First she was shocked and angry but showed them to a gallery owner and they offered her a show, her own exhibit. Ally didn’t take it as compliment and wanted nothing to do with it. She would have to explain herself, and she couldn’t do that. She knew then that the photography was not the real hobby at all. But she knew that before, even when she was a little girl. Her earliest memories were of that self awareness and it was at its strongest in public theatre.

She checked her watch again, 9:22.

She turned, stepped back away from the edge and under the light of an iron lamp. She watched the man checking his own watch and looking down the tracks. She watched for a long time as he shuffled his feet. The urge to apologize almost brought her to tears. She slid a hand into her coat and squeezed her breast out of defiance, kneading herself, daring for him to guess her secret.

She reached into her camera bag with the other hand and pressed the shutter. The motor drive fired, capturing only the black silk inside and she closed her eyes and tried to expose her thoughts on the film. The sound and feel of the camera made her breath quicken and her inside hand moved from her breast and down passed her garters as she thought of the dark stranger.

“Look at me,” she whispered.

She stopped just before. ‘Later,’ she thought, placing her hands on her cold cheeks. She slid them back in her pockets, rocking back on her heels; she looked down at her open toed Prada’s. A gift from mother, like the doctor, like the camera, like the coat, like the hat…like the late train.

She checked the time, 9:25.

She didn’t know how much more she could stand, this waiting. ‘It’s so rude,’ she thought. ‘Why would they lie to her? People always lied, everybody.  And what if it was early and she’d already missed it. What if… what if, it never came? Somebody should do something about it. They can’t just leave people standing in the cold like that. So wrong.’

“I bought a ticket goddamn it,” she said out loud but didn’t mean to.

She put her hand to her lips turned her back on the dark man. She caught her own musky scent from her fingers and kept her hand there for a while, breathing in deep. She placed the tip of her tongue on her middle finger, and then closed her lips around it pulling it out slowly. ‘What is wrong with me?’

Pulling her sleeve back she checked her watched again, 9:27.

She walked back to the edge of the tracks and looked and watched and waited. ‘How would she get her pictures if it never came?’ Her eyes moved from the lonely empty tracks to the man. He was preparing to light a cigarette and she pulled her camera and shot from the hip as he brought the flame to his face. ‘That’ll be good.’

When summer came she would have to adjust or abandon her little hobby altogether. She didn’t know and couldn’t think of any other way. It brought her to a panic whenever she thought of it. It was all she had, all her life. Twenty five years old. She couldn’t stop now. Her entire life was made up around it. It was the best thing ever and she loved it so.

A voice like from an electronic god echoed from the black sky. The 9:15 was now boarding.

‘Boarding where, Milwaukee?’ Another lie.

She watched the great light come around the bend and flood the darkness. Her heart began to pound. The warning whistle made her jump breaking the perfect silence and sending chills across her body and through her soul like it always did. She looked at her watch, it was 9:30. ‘What’s the point? What’s the use?’ The approaching engine made her body shake and her nerve ending pulsed with excitement.

She felt her mind dizzying as the long phallic engine threatened to pass her by. She stepped into the caution yellow and watched. Her breath quickened. ‘Coming too fast,’ she thought. ‘Stop, oh please stop for me.’ The whistle blew again and took her breath away.

Summer was coming like a rushing late train and there was nothing she could do about it. She set her camera on the platform, rushed to unbutton her coat and threw it off in a slump of wool to the side. She put her hands up in the light of the train. The man with the cigarette had finally noticed her.

The stop whistle filled the cold night air and rushes of hopeless melancholy filled her over.

It had started to snow and she wanted it to stop so badly. She put her arms out, closed her eyes and stepped off the platform into its drenching light.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

GET IT DONE On Writing and Publishing


I got this, thing about advice or opinion columns, because…well, they’re mostly bullshit. So as you might be wondering. ‘What are you doing then, ain’t this one of those?’ No it isn’t, not really. It’s more about getting on, getting it done, they way I see it anyway. Doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong or the only way.

Writing advice columns usually come from some blowhard you’ve never even heard of, like me. I mean, ya rarely read advice from best selling writers, hardly ever, and when you do its like, ten simple rules or something like that and they’re outta there, back to doing what they do, part of which of course involves ignoring most of those rules.

I could have, maybe should have, titled this piece, “What I Don’t Know.” But I was worried that might turn into some sort of all consuming black hole to which there would be no escape and just run on and on forever. Or, “What I think.” But that would imply that somebody gave a shit about what I think or that it mattered and I don’t wanna give that impression. So I’m just writing a little article on what I’ve learned along the way in this little writer’s career project, and what I believe so far.

So you think you can write a book? That’s cool. You wanna live forever, literally speaking, be rich and famous and adored by millions for the brilliant mother fucker you are? Great. Hey, let’s be honest, those are all worthy and honorable goals. Not realistic but still a good jumping off point, and who gives a shit about realistic. No realist has ever done anything really all that cool anyway so don’t worry about that. It’s the dreamers, when put into action, who change the world Maybe this article will help you with some of those delusions of grandeur though. Maybe not.

But maybe you don’t have a degree in Creative Writing, English Lit, or not even that all valuable MFA, right. Nothing? That’s alright, neither do I and probably all for the better because the writer in you hasn’t been built by somebody else. You’re not bogged down with formulas, methods, styles, usages and all the other shit they tell you you must or must not do. Hey, who knows, you might even have talent that you’re not aware of, and everybody knows talent blows that other stuff all to hell anyway, every time, sorry, it just does.

You are free. Free and enjoy it while you can, all that shit can get in your way later.

I’d been writing for most all of my adult life, some of it good, some of it bad. You’re gonna have that too. I stopped for about a decade or a little more and when I took it up again, I did so with sole intention of publishing a collection of selected stories and poems I call, The Lost Creek Journal. Well I did that but discovery took hold. I wanted to write a novel then, a book. I wanted to write a goddamn “Great American Novel.” Pretty lofty, huh? Well you have to shoot for something.

 So I started in and had no idea what it was about, what was going to happen, how it was going to end, nothing. Just started writing and let the power that be, be. That was Clovis Point, and it quickly became apparent that it felt as natural as breathing. It also became apparent that I seriously needed to brush up on my basic English, punctuation, spelling and usages. Either way it went along fine and is a good book in my opinion, not bad for a first effort. I polished the hell out of it for editors and submissions, or at least thought I did. You have to remember, my first book, and relying heavily on, ‘that’s the editor’s job, I’m a writer, an artist, I don’t need to do that.’ Ok, that’s very stupid. Don’t do that. Got it? You need to double space that bitch, triple if need be and go over and over and over it, word by word, line by line until your brain is ready to explode and you’re ready to puke at the sight of semi colon, and you’re still gonna miss a bunch a stuff. You are.

I’m gonna jump ahead here; rejections. You’re gonna get em, it’s gonna happen. And if you doing your job submitting, you’re gonna get a lot of em but no reasons to freak or stop writing. Deal with it, part of the deal. It’s not the end of the world and it doesn’t mean you suck. Well, it might, but probably not.

 So there I was sinking in rejections and beginning my second book, Sebastian Cross, because along with that discovery I was speaking of came the fact that I had more I wanted to say. And that’s what writers do when they finish a book, they write another. Also a kinda lunk headed determination that they weren’t getting rid of me that easy had set in. I was not going away. Cross is a damn good book and one I’m proud of. A big undertaking for me too, almost a 150.000 words and it came fast and furious and my creative cylinders were all firing, engine redlined and I was really in the story, like walking around in there and knowing the characters, settings and everything, like reporting or taking dictation. It was a very cool experience that I really haven’t felt before or since. But that’s ok, I don’t think you really need to be that intimate with the story every time.

And in hind sight, as a writer I had not developed enough for book like this, a complex, conceptual epic on art, culture and all the shit that’s wrong with the world. But man it felt right and I wonder sometimes if I’d written it ten or twenty years from now, what it could have been. But I didn’t, so moving on. I got rejections on Sebastian Cross. I got interest too, wow, nice, some compliments and yeah, even a couple offers for full manuscripts. Things are getting exciting. Yeah?

No, no, slow down, keep in check, in the end, just teasers and more rejections. Fuck rejection. It’s obvious when they come so fast that they’re not even reading it and that’s mostly my fault for not polishing it up enough, not targeting the right publishers, and a variety of other reasons of professionalism. They want stuff perfect. Get that through your head. Perfect. Never mind their lack of spelling and grammar in their rejections, your submission had better be ready for print. That’s all my fault. The part that’s not is, I don’t know any publishers, editors, nobody’s ever heard of me and I have no degrees, qualifications, no…resume, for lack of a better word. I have nothing to market, or bring to the table. So who the hell would want to invest their time and money in me? Well you know the answer to that.

I should talk real quick on literary agents. I don’t spend a lot time submitting to agents, because most of the really good agents are not taking submissions. A lot writers starting out will disagree with me on this. They say things like, “they’re the gate keepers, only they can get you a great book deal,” and these things are true, somewhat. But like I said, the good ones are busy with marketable writers, proven writers. A very small percent of debut books get through that gate. It does happen but lightning strikes wherever it pleases.

I hear things like, “I finally have an agent and he or she loves my book, my voice, my writing. They get it.” And hey, that’s great, wonderful, but first and for most, for me anyway is, can they sell the fucker? Do they have the muscle, the connections? Are they “closers” or clowns, just lovers of the written word? We’ve all seen shitty movies, read awful books off the bestseller list. Why? Because some bad ass agent knew their job, somebody that could sell tobacco stock to the American Cancer Society and sleep like a baby at night, that’s why. That’s the agent for me. That’s the one I want. Not the one who “loves my voice.” Although that would be plus too, if nothing else but for my own ego.

I’m one who believes you get what you play for. You have to earn an agent, unless you have an uncle, or a guy who knows a guy or something like that.

 I don’t need an agent, yet. But I do submit to about ten of the biggies.

Okay, that wasn’t real quick, but that’s how I feel about new writers seeking agents. Writing’s like any other business, you have to build it from the ground up and a shitty agent could do you more harm than good. Stephen King never had an agent until he amassed well over a million in sales, mostly for the publisher, but hey we all gotta learn our lessons, even Stevie boy. Elmore Leonard says, just write, build a body of solid work and sooner or later and agent will come knocking. He’s been around the block a time or two. So as you’ve probably guessed, I don’t worry about agents too much.

Enough about that.

Where was I? Oh yeah, well I self published Clovis Point and Sebastian Cross. I did reject a couple of shit offers on Cross, but anyway we’re off and running, people are buying the books, very few, but they’re also sharing and talking and I’m building a readership I guess. People I don’t know, from around the globe are digging the word, the stuff. I’m doing some interviews, guest blogs, shit like that. The readers love it , they don’t care who publishes it… Ah…wait, but the industry does. You know, the NY Times, those so called professional book reviewers, book stores, and they’re getting a lot better about it. But other writers, some anyway, still act as if you have a disease because you self published. Even though some of the best are doing it and have for centuries. Some think It surely must be shit if nobody will publish it, and that can be true but it can also be just plain bullshit. It’s a little like throwing out the baby with bath water. And fuck them anyway, I’m a writer, I write. It’s what I do. I don’t care what they think. I’m gonna get this book to whoever wants to read it, bottom line.


 I begin and finish my third novel, Heartland Gothic with the full intention of writing something as mainstream and friendly as I possibly can. I’m gonna play the game. The masses need spoon fed? Fine. But wait, something happens. That realism shit I was talking about, in form of self realism sinks into the story. It’s not main stream. It’s not friendly. In fact it’s harsh and gritty and spiteful and I realize I was trying to be something I’m not and my “muse” or whatever you call it didn’t like that and it showed. I went with it anyway, the story, it took my hand and said, ‘this is the way we’re going.’ And as any writer knows, the story is always right.

Heartland Gothic.

I think my character and dialogue development had advanced a lot in three or four years since the first book. I could see and feel it, and although I still didn’t feel it was my best work, and here comes some of that, what I don’t know shit. I got several offers, more than ever. That’s not a lot, but still, makes a guy feel good, like he’s on to something. I didn’t know that these characters and their struggles in Heartland Gothic were representing attributes that were so relatable, identifiable to so many people. I chose and took one of those offers and regretted it from the get go, didn’t do enough homework on the publisher and things started going left instead of right. Editing was a mess, release dates came and went, promised marketing was nonexistent. I cut and bailed, took my book with me and published it myself, again. Some would even called that a “causality,” but it wasn’t, not at all, and I’m glad I did. So far it’s out sold all my other books and pushed the sales of those previous titles up a bit, which is good. Right? Yeah, it is. I’ve gotten some just amazing heartfelt comments from readers of all walks of life, and if I haven’t thanked those people I’m doing it now. Thanks, really, happy to oblige and thrilled that you found something there that spoke to your heart, soul or inner child or whatever. Man, that’s what my favorite books do for me and that’s great. That’s the whole fucking point right there. Thanks. Thank you.

Fast forward, not that fast, not that far, late winter, early spring, 2012, just a few months after Heartland Gothic’s release. It occurred to me that some of my favorite books were less than a hundred pages; heavy little gems that said a lot in short, simple, easy to read prose where the real story marinated in the mind and soul as a massive life changing epic in a hundred or less pages. I wanted that. I wanted one of those.

Driving Alone, the concept, title, anyway came to me from something said on a TV show describing a certain kind of instrumental rock music. But having driven alone, many miles, many years, I instantly got what they were describing and I took it and ran. I mean what better title for a “think book” than that? Of course the stories never end up with what you first envisioned, and that’s fine. And I got grimaces and winces from other writers too when I was finish and told them, yeah, only 27000 words, three characters in the whole thing.

“27, oh man, that’ll be tough sell,” they said.“Only three charcters?”

“Yep, two more than intended, but yeah, 3, two really because ones just clerk in a short scene.”

“Right. Good luck with that.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

Driving Alone is a modernist southern gothic tale of 29 year old fuck up who has pushed his luck a little to far and is forced to get outta dodge. He soon realizes that the world out there is very lonely place for hometown anti heroes and men that are the use to crutches of attention and familiar surroundings. He also unknowingly has a debt pay, one that he can’t run away from and beautiful mysterious hitchhiker appears to remind, judge and collect. The devil must always have his due.

I finished it in about three months and figured it would not be of the word count attractive to a publisher, but I submitted it around anyway, I liked it, and so did some publishers, press’s, and I got me some offers, yes, I did. Some I wasn’t thrilled about, some I was, so I corresponded and took note of whose books were doing what and who was getting back to me and who was blowing me off for days and weeks. I had been keeping an eye on Blank Slate Press for a few months after I submitted to them. I had heard good things about them and their books were getting attention which means, for a small press, they we’re good at what they do, and professional. They weren’t just fucking around collecting change from ebooks and signing every author that came their way. They were building a reputation on quality, and I liked that.

The night they brought home the Bill Fisher Award for best first novel, Fred Venturini’s The Samaritan, was the same night they emailed me from NYC saying that they wanted Driving Alone.

I didn’t have to think about it very long, but I pretended too for a couple days anyway.

I signed the contract a couple a months ago; it’s in the final stages of editing and formatting, reviewed a couple of cover designs last night. And although I’m kinda used to disappointment, I’m feeling pretty good about it all, but keeping expectations low. It has been a little tough getting used to turning some control over. I’ll admit that. I’ve gotten so use to calling the shots on my own work that it’s hard for me to trust or keep from voicing what I think is important about the book, the characters, the readers and so on. Nobody knows the book better than I do at this stage is how I feel. That may or may not be true. Time will tell on that. Later down the road, like my previous books and projects, I probably won’t even recognize it as mine. And some point you just can’t own it all to yourself. It’ll be a living breathing thing of its own. It’ll belong to all of you in one way or another, as it should.

I’ve gotta a couple short stories coming out soon and I’m working on new book, The Rain King. Another fitting title I think.

So we’ll chat again soon, have a good one, and if you’re a writer expecting advice, sorry, don’t go that. I have none, other than keep writing the way you want to, and write often and for god sakes just get it out there in the best shape you can, because all that matters in the end is the story, and the reader. None of that other who’s who bullshit matters at all. Follow your heart. Listen to that little voice, the nagging one, that’s what you should do, so go do it. Get it done. Unless that little voice is telling you to kill your family, neighbor, or boss. Probably shouldn’t do that.
My long term goal is creating a bestseller (I can hear you, don't laugh) and film adaptaion of one or more of my stories.
But until then

Look for Driving Alone, coming out around November 2012 from Blank Slate Press.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


The Write Room: THE EXPATRIOTS: Good morning kids. Here I offer with your morning coffee a short story that I've had around for, oh, at least a couple a years now I guess...


Good morning kids.

Here I offer with your morning coffee a short story that I've had around for, oh, at least a couple a years now I guess.
I kind of collect them in preperation for a book of shorts one day. I only submitted this once, for a contest once that it did not win or even get an honorable mention. I think the whole Arizona imigration thing was a little too hot  of a topic at the time and maybe this a was something the publication felt they could do without. Or maybe it just sucked that bad, eithier way it wasn't as cuddly and cozy as the winning entry of that contest in that particulair publication.
And it was the first and last contest I submitted to.


            Water has memory. It can change the present, but always remembers where it’s been. And like people; it tends to go where it knows. Tyler Hawk pulled off his glove and cupped a hand full of icy water from the stream running wild around his boots. Billy lit a cigarette and said something. Billy and Hawk had met working for Tom Kelly back in Brownsville. That was home to Billy Cooper. Hawk was there for another reason, a mission of his own, and now that it was done they would make their way through the Great Divide and up to Canada. Billy kept talking but Hawk listened to the water. Someone had been there…recently.

            Hawk stood and pulled his side arm just as a crack echoed though the mountains. He kneeled back down, turned and looked at Billy, his eyes wide, one hand on the strap of his pack and the other on his rifle. Hawk said, “Coop… get the fuck down.” The kid didn’t move except for a shifting of his eyes and the cigarette trembling between his lips. “Billy?”  

            Hawk knew and rolled away behind a rock the instant another shot struck in the stream just ahead of where his feet had been. The kid fell lifeless and face first into the creek. Hawk climbed up into a crevice and cocked the automatic and made his way to the top of the creek bank and waited there in the snow.                                                                                             

            He had rolled out of sight in a way that looked more like a fall and would bring the shooter in to examine his kill. He held his breath and waited. And when he heard the soft crunch of snow under a very careful step he turned and fired, pop, pop, pop. All three shots were kill shots but he ran up on the fallen man and put a final through his head.

            He pulled the assassins rifle away and knelt down and examined the man: his boots, his clothes, and his weapon. He looked at Billy’s body and let out a broken sigh. He thought of the days leading up to this and the ones that lay ahead: hard days and long nights and like the water, he knew those days must run their course. He shouldn’t have let the kid come. “Fuck.” He cursed the unforgiving sky.

            Tom Kelly’s a Marine veteran well into his fifties but could have passed for older. His sun burned and wind weathered face looked like the wood he often worked with and except for an occasional smile had the same physical properties. He sat at his desk gently tugging a rubber band on his wrist that came from that morning’s blueprint he’d gone over with the crew before they headed out. In his office loft east of Brownsville he sat at his desk and studied the men sitting before him.

            Woody Wilson, a Texas Ranger and a friend of Tom’s. He’d been invited to this meeting by Tom and unbeknownst to the federal man, Ray Steele, who had showed up on a job site asking questions, and that made Tom uncomfortable and now he was back.

            Tom wasn’t the kind of man who liked explaining himself and he especially didn’t care much for the government asking him to, but he’d play along, for a while anyway.

            Tom took a deep breath and reached for his coffee. “Not sure what I can do for you Mr. Steele. I told you all I know the other day.”

            “Well…I just needed to get as much information as I could. You know how it is, paper work and all.” He smiled in a friendly way and Tom looked at Woody over the rim of his cup as Steele continued. “When was the last time you saw Tyler Hawk?”

            “Like I said before, last Friday… gave him his check and that was that.”

            “Did you know he was wanted for a war crime?”

            “Nope. He never talked about his military service and I never asked.”

            “He’s all over the news Mr. Kelly. Hawk’s Special Forces, AWOL and unhinged. You just hire anyone without a background check?”

            Tom took a drink of his coffee and said, “I don’t watch the news, and I’ll hire anyone I damn well please.”

            Ranger Wilson adjusted his hat and prepared to speak but Steele quickly jumped in. “Of course, it’s your right. What about Angel Medina?

            Wilson interrupted, “what about him? State of Texas is working on that along side with Mexico. Are ya here for Medina?”

            “No… I’m not,” said Steele. “I’m just trying to build a mental profile of Tyler Hawk.”

            “Well put this in yer profile,” Wilson said. “Angel Medina was dangerous individual and yer not gonna get much sympathy from anybody around these parts for him turnin dead. He would’a ended that way sooner or later anyway.”

            Steele adjusted his chair sideways and looked at Wilson. “Are you justifying the murder of a man Mr. Wilson?”

            Medina was not man. He was drug lord and a cold blooded piece a shit, and if’d a had the reasons Hawk had, I’d a killed him too.”

            Tom shook his head in agreement and said, “Angel was a dead man long before Tyler got here. It was only a matter of time. You should know that Mr. Steele; in fact I think you know a lot more than yer lettin on. So what the hell do you want? You didn’t come all the way down here from Washington without knowing about all of this, all of us.

            Steele said, “true… Medina was wanted by the F.B.I. for trafficking, wanted by the state of Texas for the kidnapping of Hawk’s daughter…Mia is it? And he was wanted in Mexico for murder as well here. But everybody deserves a fair trial, don’t they Mr. Wilson?”

            Wilson smiled. “Now if I didn’t know better I’d say you were insulting my professional intelligence. Medina was an illegal, shouldnt’a been in here in the first place. He was also a goddamn predator. I think, unless ya have anymore questions for Tom, that we should just finish this up at state level Mr. Steele, and let him get on with his business.”

            “I don’t mean any professional disrespect Mr. Wilson, but Illegal immigration is a federal matter, federal law.”

            “Is it now?” Wilson said. “Do ya even have any idea of the illegal traffic coming across the border everyday? Have you ever seen twenty, thirty Mexicans crammed in five foot uhaul and left in the desert to fry after their life savings have been stolen by a coyote? It ain’t a pretty site. Thousands of people are coming across that border everyday and every night, some are good people who want a better life but some… are not, some, are predators, murderous, vicious animals with no respect for human life and they don’t give a good god damn about federal law or anything else. Don’t come down here and tell me about my home son. That girl a Hawks is back now, safe, and the world is free of one less asshole, federal law had nothing to do with that.”

            Steele looked at Tom Kelly and changed the subject. “Another employee of yours, a parole violator,” he thumbed through a folder and pulled the name up with his eyes, “William Bradley Cooper, also missing. Seen him lately?”

            “Billy Cooper comes and goes,” Tom said. “He’s a local. He’s a good kid, a little wild but he’ll be alright. He’ll be back sooner or later. Probably on a bender south of the border somewhere.”

            Woody Wilson’s eyes never left the side of Steele’s head, and if it bothered Steele in the least, he wasn’t letting it show.

            “Do all of your employees just disappear like that?” Steele said.

            “No, but it happens in this business. I’ve got a check here in my drawer I’ve been holding for six months for a guy I heard moved on to California. Coop’ll turn up…Hawk won’t.”

            Ranger Wilson stood and adjusts himself in a way that indicated the conversation was over. Steel stayed seated and flipped through his folder pretending to search for something. Steele knew Hawk was gone and could be anywhere in the world by now. He had suspected he slipped into Mexico but the closeness of that made it seem unlikely. And the possibilities of where he was heading was even more troubling.

            Woody Wilson handed him his card and said, “I’ll be in town here a few days Steele, if ya need anything from me. After that I’ll be at that number in Austin.” Steele took the card and looked at Tom.

            “Is there anything else?” Tom asked.

            “Hawks’ wife and daughter, we haven’t been able to find them.”

            “Probably at her mothers…Amarillo. Don’t know her too well, only met her couple a times.”

            “They’re not in Amarillo, we checked.”

            “That all Mr. Steele?” Woody said.

            “Just one more question. Mr. Kelly, did you know Angel Medina had kidnapped Tyler Hawks’ daughter when you hired him?”

            Tom Kelly looked at Steele for a long time and Ranger Wilson shuffled his boots and Tom understood. “I don’t follow the activities of people like Medina,” Tom said. “No I didn’t. Hawk told me he’d gotten discharged and needed work, that’s all.”

            “If ya’d like to know more about Medina Mr. Steele, I got a whole file cabinet on him up in Austin,” Wilson said. “Maybe we could talk about the kidnapping rate along the border. Maybe we could talk about immigration law too…the federal one that is.”

            Steel finally looked at Wilson with contempt. He stood and suddenly he was no longer a bookish irritant but instead, his physic suggested a man who had spent very little time at a desk or with books. “I don’t think that will be necessary”

            “I didn’t think so, but I thought I’d offer,” Wilson smiled. “What branch, exactly, did you say you were with Mr. Steele?”

            “If you hear from Hawk Mr. Kelly, you can call me at this number.” He handed the card toward Tom to no response, and after a few seconds he laid it on the desk. Woody picked it up and looked at it, a government logo, name and number, nothing else.

            “I won’t hear from him,” Tom said. “But if I did…I wouldn’t tell ya.”

            “Mr. might think Tyler Hawk is somebody you know, but I can assure you he isn’t. He is an international fugitive. He is a threat to national security. He’s highly trained, very dangerous and we have reasons to believe he’s planning an act of domestic terrorism. I would hate to see you in any trouble Mr. Kelly, because I really don’t think you deserve it.”

                         “Domestic terrorism,” Tom said, stood and shook his head. “Aint that just something. Why do I get the feeling Hawk won’t be getting one of them, fair trials? Mr. you are so looking in the wrong place. I put a guy to work. I needed another hand and he needed a job, and that’s about the extent of it. I live with threat every day. This community lives with threat and fear. Every day the drug cartel’s comin’ closer and closer to that border. A house full of folks was machine gunned to death just the other day in broad day light, not more than hundred yards from where my grandson gets on his school bus. People are missing, people are dead and it keeps getting worse. The border’s a war zone from here to California. Where is your federal law when it comes to the people of Brownsville, or Tucson, or San Diego, where’s the Mexican law when it comes to those folks. And ya come down here…stand in my office and threaten me? Ya come down here looking for a man whose served his country and was discarded and thrown away? A man, for all I know may have done something right, may have done something you should’a done. Ya damn right I don’t know Tyler Hawk, not after people like you got done with him.” Tom took a deep breath and steadied his nerves and finished up with, “Mr. Steele…get the hell off my property.”

            “Take it easy Tom,” Wilson said. Wilson hadn’t heard Tom Kelly say that many

words in the forty plus years, they’d know one another that long and longer.

            Mr. Steele looked at Tom, cold and emotionless. “So you did know about Tyler Hawk? Mr. Kelly…are you a racist, Mr. Kelly?”

            Tom Kelly grew up on the border he lived on both sides during times of love and generosity among the two cultures that blended into a kinda harmony of language, food, religion and family. Times when he played as a child south of the border and even his own kids played with all the other kids, before it all began.                                                    

            At some point in time, it seemed like a door had closed and another had opened, and his world had went out and suspicion and hatred and something dark and unrecognizable stepped in. He was tired and old, and helpless in watching everything he loved get ruined, run over, run down and nobody seemed to care enough to do anything about it, and it made him wonder if he, himself even did, and that made him bitter.        

            He glared at Steel and said, “conseguir la cogida de mi tierra. Is that clear enough for ya?”

            “It is Mr. Kelly, just call me if you hear from Tyler Hawk, You’re not aware of what this man is capable of. I’m not here to cause you problems, I’m not, but maybe I can prevent some.”

            “Thank you Mr. Steele,” Wilson said and extended his hand toward the door.

Steele picked up his folder and brief case and walked out. The two men watched from a window as Steele walked toward his car and stopped for an instant like he forgot something. He looked around the yard and continued into the black suburban and drove away.

            “What do ya think Tom?”

            “I think…we ain’t heard the last of him, but I doubt we’ll ever see Hawk again.”

            “Tom did you know about Hawk when ya put him on?”

            “Yeah I knew… I knew he was coming and I knew what for. And I knew he wouldn’t stick around long.”

            “You know Tom…you can get rid a one Angel Medina and another one’ll pop right up in his place.”

            “Yeah, I know that too. But who am I to git in the way of progress?”

            Woody looked out the window and laughed a little, but not because it was funny. It had been a long time since anybody laughed in Brownsville without that uncertain hesitation. “Is there anything else I can do for ya Tom?”

            Tom shook his head and thought of the days leading up to this and the ones that lay ahead. And like the water, he knew those days would run their course. He looked out the window and regretted and silently cursed the unforgiving sky. “No Woody,” he said. “I sure wish there was though.”

            “So do I Tom…so do I. Say hello to Maria and the kids for me.”