RANDOM NVDT – Writerly Concerns #35

Killing Off a Major Character

In a gathering dust “I wanna be a Women’s Rights Activist” WIP I considered killing off the major character. Which would have made her an unsung martyr, her struggles useless. Coming to grips with her self-inflicted demons was more 20th Century than suicide or murder. I also considered killing off a substantial supporting character, but even the most cleverly disguised Fairy Godmothers are unkillable. I have the feeling she would have jumped off the page and kicked my ass if I’d tried.

I have a piece now where the main character seems to be a big chunk of money. Two big chunks of money. I have considered making one chunk counterfeit, much to everyone’s dismay. An therein lies the possible mechanism for turning the story and the bad guys inside out. Maybe. Death to half the money!

There’s more than one way to lose a character, major or minor. I open a book with the main character getting a descriptive presentation of his father’s death on an offshore platform. A little later his mother takes off in a little red sports car with a greeting card designer. Two Firestarter hitmen end up being fed to alligators by a successful businesswoman. Killing off characters is more about timing and surprise, I think. Like I never saw it coming in Tishomingo Blues.

Now, let’s be totally honest. I like happy endings, even in crazy capers. There are enough stories we all hold about old friends with four personalities who wake up one day and blow their brains out, ex high school cheerleaders who can’t get enough Oxy, the girl in your English class who never came home from a Rolling Stones concert, the frat party rape victim who did a swan dive from her dorm window, the crazy crack head who raped the baby sitter, filled her vagina with lighter fluid and lit it. After forty years I asked a friend whatever happened to members of the hometown crew and learned of unimaginable outcomes for regular kids. I still hear this one lost a child in a gunfight with police, that one lost one to drugs, how those with promise and pocket money who mangled their lives recovered and survived only to die alone and lie undiscovered in their big house for weeks. Things more horrible than I could ever write, or wish to write.

How easy it would be to kill off a tragic character. To recreate Romeo and Juliet on motorcycles, to write an existential tome questing meaning in the meaninglessness of a life poorly experienced, tragically lived. Not for me.

At the beginning of this I mentioned the would-be feminist. I fell into a scene where I found the opportunity for something more substantive and illustrative than waste. A good thing, because believe me, I was about to throw her off a bridge into the river Cam or get killed by human traffickers if she didn’t pull her head out.


… “Run away, yet again, with unfinished work and an unexplainable child, or worse, a death sentence disease? Seventeen ninety-two, please, Ms. Collings.”

“Mary Wollstonecraft. A Vindication of the Rights of Women?”


“Definition by profession, not partner. Who we are, not who we marry.”

“Overly simplistic but suitable, for now. However, forget the work, study the woman and see the loss. In the end, she married an anarchist just to quiet the storm of her life, had another child immediately, and promptly quit this Earth. She was chastised and ignored for over a century because of poor choices and a taste for flamboyant men. An incredible waste of life and time.”

“But she wrote –”

“What she wrote is less important to me than who she was. And more importantly who she could have been. We don’t need any more well-spoken, well-intentioned passionate but foolish feminist casualties, Ms. Collings. What good are you to me? To us? As Wollstonecraft delivered the bastard child of a foreign charlatan into the home of an anarchist you may do the same because you’re intelligent and attractive and have some good reviews? Or as you might continue to behave with less sense than a stone path into a bog in your quest to spend valuable time with sketchy, depthless men who have no comprehension of your ideals or your heart? Who will take you to museums and high tea and fawn over you? The inevitability of those behaviors continued will make you an inexcusable waste of my time and Erskine’s love. When you see the gifts of Wollstonecraft, see the tragedy as well. Gender studies isn’t all flag waving and chants and posters of heroines in parlor picture books, Ms. Collings. It is full of the tragedy and misunderstanding and confusion that reside at the very core of what being female has meant since the beginning of time.”

The baseboard heat radiators thumped occasionally, Erskine the Labrador snored with a slow, airy rhythm. Deanna pulled her arm out from under Erskine, wiggled her toes in the lumberjack socks.

“I guess I should get up and get my notebook.”

“That was today’s session, Ms. Collings. ‘The Hope of Feminism as Tragedy.’ Let the light from the windows become longer and your toes warmer and show that dog your elbow when he snores. Tea will be served in just under two hours. Until then I want you to think of your home and the young man who understands how your clothes should fit. Of Mary Wollstonecraft’s life and how her behavior left us all an impoverished legacy that could have been so much more brilliant. Of your own potential that you are trying to usurp from yourself and how your journey has led you to be in this room. For tomorrow afternoon you will have those thoughts prepared for me in six to ten pages.”

“Yes ma’am,” Deanna yawned. ‘Full sheet typed. None of your loopy longhand in a composition booklet nonsense’.”

“Perhaps there is hope for you yet, Ms. Collings.”


And hope is something we’re short of in entertainment these days.


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RANDOM NVDT – Writerly Concerns #34

Curb Appeal

I am recusing myself from this talking to cover designers issue. When I need an artist, I can find one. Talking, communicating with them is a whole other universe.

To stand out from the oatmeal we need to be different. These days that’s write better, think art.  Read on if you wish.

I have read a number of Indie books. They all have the same glossy covers from Harlequin shirtless underwear models to photo collages to prop staging you dee on the shelves. I gave a friend of mine a copy of  Elmore Leonard’s Touch I picked up at Half Price Books. The cover not all that dissimilar from the stacks of “new” books by authors I never heard of. I was in the Dollar Store picking up ‘grandkids build a diorama day’ stuff. There was a hardback, with a decent, watercolory cover about murder in the Bahamas or somewhere. I did the same thing in those places that I did when I picked up a Baldacci, all red dust-cover hardbound at Barnes and Noble for under $5. I opened them. Anywhere in the middle third. And I got treated to the same thing. Abysmal call and response dialogue, oatmeal style blonde curls bouncing like tulips in the wind hair tossing tags paragraphs in circles. I put them down.

Not unlike popping open a preview on Amazon. All the same four or five motifs only in thumbnails. What’s inside is what matters. And there’s a lot of oatmeal out there.

The indie community is all part of that. And why there are so many shiny covers in the cut-out bins, complaints about this is my 37th novel and nobody cares. Has anyone considered, and I’m talking to people in this blog hop as well, being more concerned with our content than a shiny cover? Spending a little money and a lot of time on Richard Lanham’s Revising Prose instead of the perfect cover to wrap our amateurism in? Or spend money once or twice on an editor who will bust our chops, show us our shortcomings and bad habits, whether we agree or not, instead of a great cover?

Am I a grumpy old fart? Probably. But I spent my life in creative for $. Art directors, videographers, photographers, graphic artists, dancers, musicians. What I learned dealing with everyone from Van Halen to Herbie Hancock, Bob Moog to Kurt Vonnegut – half-assed doesn’t cut it. Professional content creators pretty much leave the covers to someone else and spend their time on content.

Before any of us spend any more time on covers we should all spend two more weeks editing out all the elliptical sentences, winding road paragraphs, lengthy useless descriptions and out of tune “clams” we can find in our work. And then find a cover that is different.

The only way to stand out in a crowded field of oatmeal is not to be the same ol’ same ol’. Until we are the modern Vonnegut or Leonard or even Baldacci that people buy by name, not cover we need not just be pretty, but good.


1. Link your blog to this hop.
2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.


I answered the knock on the Holiday Inn door in Cav’s robe, got a cursory glance from Tavius as he pushed past me into the room.

“Where’s Moreno?”

“You people need a new question.”

“I don’t have time for your shit. Moreno. Has she flown?”

“Depends on where she had to go for food that doesn’t come in a yellow paper wrapper.”

“That might take her days. For future reference, the better choices from over there come in cardboard boxes.” He paced, looked around, opened the bathroom door, hit the light, checked inside. “White truck’s gone. She must have found her keys?”

Rip’s keys. That a real question?”

“This is.” He kept up the pacing, tapping his thigh with his index finger. “What’s in the convict’s van?”

“Figured you’d already run Usman’s credit card receipts or used some superspy Xray vision glasses on the van.”

“Cute, like the robe. Again?”

I told him about the grenade launcher and SAMS. Crazy people in possession of surface-to-air missiles are good attention getters.

SAMS? Where the fuck they get those?”

“Our surface-to-air buyback fail after Russia walked Allfuckedupistan?”

“You aren’t running for office here, Comparo.”

“Standard automatic assault rifles, frag loaded anti-personnel shotguns. I know there’s more than what I saw and what Usman claimed.”

“Explosive ordnance? Mortars? Rockets?”

“Only what I saw.” I left out the RPG7 rocket launcher because I didn’t actually see it. “One of them was big on Chuck Norris’ dirt bike that shot rockets out its ass. Maybe they have one broken down in the other flight cases.” I rubbed some of Cav’s eucalyptus lotion on my scraped knees.

“She got the shave gel to go with that?”

“Imagine so.”

“Use some, you gonna keep wearing her robe.” He paced back and forth in front of a silent baseball game on TV, tapped his fingers on the top as he went by. “After Kansas, the original cash-money hijack is off. She has no reason to stay. You see my concern for her and keys to a vehicle?”


“Kansas, Paro. That wire report from up there? Shit reads like a cheap paperback crime novel full of dead bad guys in bum fuck. Ends up all over law enforcement com channels. Me?” He leaned over in my face. “I say the key to unlocking that entire shituation is the missing pilot.”

“You say that to anyone?”

“Nobody cares.” He stood up, resumed the pacing. “Cops everywhere laughing about free money, five self-closing homicides. It reeks of being staged by someone who knew how to make it fly. Leaving the rent-a-soldier’s money was the touch that sold it.”

“Greed is a deadly sin. Will you sit down?”

He checked his watch, spun a chair from the round table, sat in reverse, arms folded across the back.


“I got what was left of the money, sixteen and change. Moreno set three of that aside for the convicts as a farewell present since their part of the robbery was off. She decided we still needed them after she got a text from Woody sayin’ he’s on the way, drivin’ a van like one of the money vans, with four motorcycle escorts. Unless that was one of his that ate it for me earlier today out on 66. Then there’s only three, and they’re already here.”

“You don’t know?”

“Goddamn it, Tave, you’re the spy. You come in here askin’ me where’s Moreno, where’s Woody? I have no fucking idea, but by tomorrow afternoon’s mail delivery guaranteed they’ll all be in Kerrigan with the rest of the party.”

“This is not good news, Paro. I need to hear you have a plan.”

“I’m thinking, you know, instead of going to look for any of them I should do this like an old Western. Any road into Kerrigan, I put curious locals on the rooftops. When somebody spots inbound bad guys, they signal a little barefoot, bowl haircut Mexican kid. He’s wearing one of those karate outfits that make him look paisano, and he runs as fast as his little kid legs will go to wake up the kindly old padre and ring the church bell. Except there’s not a church with a bell tower in Kerrigan.”

“That’s the only problem you have with that?”

“It’s a small town. There may not be a Mexican kid with a bad haircut and a karate outfit.” I waited for that to land, for him to look at me. “Somebody, who went to West Point and worked for our government, could download SAT intelligence for me.” I let that weigh in, too. “Because without it, I’m tellin’ you now the whole five-ring circus plays Main Street Kerrigan.”

He pursed his lips, rubbed them slowly, thumb and forefinger, corners to center several times.

“I’ll see what I can do,” he said, already somewhere else in his head. He stood, spun the chair back under the table, pulled the curtain and surveyed the parking lot. “Paro, when I hear that smartass shit from you instead of some straight-up shit I can use?” He checked his back holster, tightened the tuck of his tailored dress shirt on the way to the door. “I regret ever signing you on.”

“That makes two of us.”

I’d have to tell him again, sometime when he was listening. My smart-ass shit had been and still was the only thing I had over the spreadsheet for casualties, collateral damage, contingency CYA plan sound-bite desk jockey assholes. One thing I’d learned in Allfuckedupistan working with bureaucratic spies was that without people around them who could improvise, they could and would fuck up a crowbar.

The door closed behind him. I took a couple of long strides to the window, pulled back the curtain to see what Tave was driving, but he’d vanished. The only other car in the lot aside from my Ram was an older, green with peeling paint sealer Honda Civic hatchback sitting sideways in the lot. The driver looked straight me, raised a long handgun with a suppressor on it in my direction. I fell over a chair and on my ass when I backed away. A bullet came through the window, tore a hole in the curtain, thudded against the wall over the bed. I heard tires screech, the quick pop, pop of an unsuppressed handgun. A small car revved up for a few seconds, followed by the boom-crunch of a no brakes applied car crash.

I eased up on the side of the window, pushed the curtain back to see the hatchback turned into a steaming, over-sized green accordion embedded in the cinder block wall of the feed store across 13th Street.  Alarms. Sirens. People were running from the feed store, the hotel, from across Main. They all ducked, covered their heads in a unison dance move when the Honda exploded, showering them, 13th Street and the Holiday Inn parking lot in old Honda and assassin pieces. The cloud of white dynamite smoke drifted west, dissipating slowly as it rose in the afternoon heat.

I’d played dodgeball with the Reaper twice in one day, and it wasn’t even dark yet. Been too close to two dynamite explosions and seen enough illegal weapons to take Cuba at siesta time. Moreno was gone. With my keys and my clothes and my gun, maybe three million dollars, and as I looked around and couldn’t find it, my wallet and ID. Maybe she had hit the afterburners. Mr. Mysterious had vanished spy style. And, how special, in no time at all there’d be cops at the door to interview me, in Moreno’s robe, about did I know why a pisolero put a bullet hole in the window of a room where I wasn’t a registered guest moments before someone shot him and he and his car exploded all over the side of a feed store.

I cinched the satiny robe, and just for the security of having something on under it I wished that Moreno’s undies fit me. I held up a pair…What the hell was I thinking? Sirens wound down in the Holiday Inn parking lot, doors slammed, radios crackled, firefighters barked at each other.

Madre de Dios…


The lone, cheap-suit-for-special-occasions Shamrock detective arrived and immediately hit on all the extreme kink theories a Presbyterian Deacon with a badge could pull from the headlines of every perverse behavior Daily Mail article ever forwarded to him. I’ll give him this. I had prepared for some boredom-central bombastic cop theater, but he’d questioned me in an offhand, good ol’ boy manner even though his material was on the kink far side. I could also see him rethink his questions before he started up again. Doing all he could to reorder a scene with very little evidence into an imagination fueled kink fest he could sell himself or entertaining enough to sell to his superiors. Or The Daily Mail. By his third revision, the exploding Honda was no longer a player. In fact, contrary to witness reports, he decided to drop the Honda shooter altogether. “Too much confusion. The Honda driver, too. Heard shots, drove into a wall and the car blew up.”

With the truth written out of his theory, he concentrated on me in a too-small satiny woman’s robe, the missing woman who was the registered guest, our supposed spouses, pimps, love children, relatives, the Armed Ladies Morality Watch… all of whom offended enough by our behavior to end our sordid affair with gunfire.

An hour and a half into it Cav had burst into the room with a breathless, wide-eyed “Dios mio, Comparo! Que pasó?” and shoved a bundle of dryer-warm clothes and a grocery bag of hot food containers into the detective’s chest just when he’d decided to cuff me.

I thought she’d almost overplayed the pretty ‘no comprendo, no entiendo’ Mexican girl card, especially after the detective had studied her California Driver’s License for a good ten minutes. A license with a ‘Licensed Since’ date that looked to me, from a distance, to be sixteen years ago. However, that information meant nothing to the cop because he never questioned why her English language skills weren’t slightly more advanced. But, for reasons known only to him, he took it to mean that she wasn’t a prostitute.

For my part, I played the broken Spanglish guy, capable of just enough Spanish to order in a restaurant like a native or get laid. I joked with him about that, winked, raised my eyebrows, nodded toward Cav while he went through my wallet that he’d found in Cav’s purse. He shuffled my veteran’s cards, FAA licenses. He made a few calls, motioned to my clothes during one of them, so I hit the head and changed.

When I’d dressed, he made the ‘assumed’ joke several times while he apologized for going off the deep end with me and the robe, and yeah, he’d tried on yoga pants one time just to see why women lived in them. I almost told him how, for a split second, I’d thought about Cav’s undies but we’d put all that to bed with a random bullet theory that had to do with an argument between the green Honda and person or persons unknown.

I held the door open, again, for the detective who couldn’t make up his mind to leave. He was long done with the bullet hole but not with Cav and his imagination. I kept good-nighting him, thanking him, nudging him out with the door while he repeatedly found one more question for ‘Is it Miss, or Missus?’ Moreno. I wasn’t sure if he was looking for part-time companionship or a way to sell her to his wife as their new housekeeper. She continued not to understand him. He sighed with finality, gave up. I locked the door.


Cav started to unload styrofoam boxes from the brown grocery bag, stopped, leaned on the table with her fingertips, cocked her head. “Like all the Mexican hookers in California ride the bus, or what?”

“How you decide whether to take a Mexican girl home to meet Momma or not is if she can parallel park.”

“I hope I never hear you repeat that.”

I popped the top off a round container, stuck my little finger in for a taste while I thought through the Moreno conversation I needed to have.

“Twice today somebody has tried to fucking kill me. Three times if you count the boobytrapped convict van. Where the hell were all your alphabet soup spook friends for that, huh? No, better…where the hell were you for most of it?”

She smacked my hand, took the container, gave me a fork and a spoon from a real set of silverware.

Tu problemo, Paro? You don’t like my cooking?”

Every other time something shitty has gone down, one set or the other of your spy buddies is hustling the locals away. Today? I was stuck here in your fucking bathrobe talking to a one-man pervert lynch mob. No backup, no federal intervention, none of that. You’re gone for four hours –”

“Did you say your cooking?”

Si. The housekeeper here, we’re new best friends. I was sick of what I’ve been eating, asked could I borrow her kitchen. She’s young and said as long as I let her watch.”

“That sounds like what the detective wanted to ask us.”

“There wasn’t an answer in that.”

I took another spoonful of the most incredible black bean soup I’d ever tasted, closed my eyes, waited for the heat to sneak up.

“If you cooked this,” I tried to look thoughtful, spoon in my soup cup, “where does the proposal line start?”

“You would expect this?”

“I’d expect you to tell me why you took my keys, my gun, my wallet and left me here like all kinds of sitting duck.”

“I’m a professional woman, Paro. This is comida especial, not a daily.” As if she could read my mind she added, “You’re shiny Walther is back in that place under the floorboard. I didn’t have time to clean it.” She popped the enchilada box open and the room filled with intoxicating aromas that I hadn’t been exposed to since I was a kid at my aunt’s house.

“So if it’s not the food, what’s your problem?”


“Is that a bullshit blow-off mañana, Paro, or…?”

Mañana, Cav. We’ll talk mañana.”

“A sort of blow off mañana, then. That’s doable.”

“Who’d you shoot with my gun?”

“Some pendejo in a green Honda.” She hit the enigmatic smile behind a forkful of smoked chicken enchilada. “Mañana?”

A Good Sign

“Then, last minute, he sees the sun or somethin’ flash on the wire, you know,” Muller, the tall convict with crazy eyes slapped his thigh, laughed like a hyena, “an then he puts the bike down inna skid, under it, the wire, Arnie does, you know, and comes up blastin’ these fuckers –”

“Van Damme,” Dawson said. “That was Van Damme. Not Schwarzenegger.”

“I tink,” Usman backhanded Dawson’s upper arm, “was Chock Nordis maybe?”

“Norris?” Muller hit hyena again. “That old pussy? If it wasn’t Arnie it was Segal. You ever seen that fucker’s feet, Segal? Goddam, man, you know, I was standin’ next to him in L.A one time, at the airport, and he was wearin’ some kinda chukka boots,” Muller held his hands about two feet apart. “Man, they were like suede fuckin’ snowshoes!”

“You’re making that shit up, Muller,” Dawson, sitting in the middle, wasn’t having it. “You and Segal ever in the same state. Besides, Segal, he went under a trailer, or a truck. Like in an alley, he was shooting at somebody, or they were shooting at him…Or…Fuck…was that Van Damme?”

“Now you’re makin’ shit up, man, not me.” Muller’s hyena fell short when he coughed, waved the Marlboro he was smoking, some teacher trying to keep everyone’s attention. “’Sides, dumb motherfucker, LAX, and Terminal Island are in the same fuckin’ county.” He coughed again, reached across to shoulder punch Usman, “And, Norris, you know, he was always blowin’ up renegade gooks and shit off in a jungle somewhere with palm trees, not on motorcycles.”

Delta Force, ‘dumb motherfucker.’” Dawson had his finger damn near in Muller’s good eye, “Norris had a dirt bike shot rockets out its ass the same way you’re talking out yours.”

They laughed like they were the convict version of Hollywood Squares, sitting lined up on the end of the bed across from Moreno who was trapped on the chipped Formica suitcase storage wing of the TV stand-dresser. She sat, right leg over left, forearms crossed on her knee, impassive, unlike me, to their bullshit barrage.

Moreno had told me on the way over not to piss them off, not to shoot at anyone. And shaken by the picture of the resurrected Woody, the biker at the bomb site and the bomb, she didn’t want to tell them about the money I’d brought. Much less give it to them. She’d said we needed what they had in the van, for whatever might go down tomorrow. Like we knew what, aside from her playing Post Office to snag the sixty-four-million-dollar flash drive, was going down tomorrow.

I’d played along, followed orders and listened to their convicts making action movie scene casserole shit for at least twenty minutes because I’d lost it on them last time and had failed to inventory their arsenal. But damn, my ears hurt, my face burned, my back ached. I had sandy mortar funk in my hair, down my pants. I itched all over, my knees and palms were scraped and I’d had enough. I walked into the dingy linoleum and mold bathroom, picked up the can of Hawaiian Memories air spray, flipped it end over end, baton-style, got between the convicts and Moreno and aerated the end of the bed. The spray, settled, mingled with the funk of BO, zoo breath and locker room laundry. Instead of helping, I’d managed to make the small room at the Texian smell like Godzilla had dropped a deuce in the Hilton Waikiki lobby.

All the action figure hot dogs have pulled that sideways bike and sparks stunt.” I hit the spray again. “For the last time, we aren’t stringing wire across the road. We aren’t parking a fucking semi across the road. No one is putting their fucking bike down sideways and coming out the other side of anything, to blast anything. Who can tell me why?”

In unison, they mumbled, “Because they aren’t getting that close.”

“Thank you.” It was quiet.

“Who peezed in yor Pawstuh Tawsties, Pilot?”

“Maybe you,” I grabbed the front of Usman’s grimy blue shirt, against Moreno’s orders to be nice.

“Now you tink maybe we can talk da showp?” He snickered. “Da news gurl wit da tits, her face doan move? She say all da sirens go right past us to a gas explosion. Nashural gas, Pilot.” He checked in with his playmates. “You say to us maybe you fart up too much in dat olt buildink?” They all hyenaed.

“It wasn’t gas, asshole. It was dynamite.”

“Oh no, Pilot!” He made a big-eyed, round mouthed hands-to-cheeks clown face. “Not dyndamite!” More laughter. “Dyndamite iz for chilldaren, eh?” He checked his partners again. “Chock Nordis maybe even.” He pulled up the corners of his eyes “Ah so, you bro up machine gun trower! Dis time I krill you, Chocky Norree!”

God help me. I let him go, looked around the room. “Forget it, Cav. I couldn’t give two shits and a nickel if this room full of comedians were are all dead this time tomorrow.” She gave me an almost imperceptible nod, handed me the keys she’d picked up from the nightstand when we arrived. I walked out. The hyena roar crescendoed behind me.

I unlocked the van, thought about Rip’s electrocution anti-theft scheme, the brick wall pushing me into Route 66, went back in, dragged Usman out. “Open it.”

“You unlock already?”

I nodded. His face went whiter than a Clorox commercial sweat sock, his eyes said cornered rabbit.

“I uh, I uh…I…”

What I thought. “Open it.”

“Yah…Yah, I do dat. Quick, maybe.” He tensed up, wiped his hands and reached up under the front fender well. There was a series of beeps, followed by one longer beep. He relaxed by half, exhaled. He turned back to me, sweat staining his pits and the front of his shirt. “Nex time do da codes first, den da door, hokay? Sheet gawdamighty jeezis da fockin’ christ, Pilot…da way you do it, maybe we all go up to da big bye-bye…” He clicked the handle, pushed the sliding van door open.

To the casual observer, the convicts could be a band transporting music gear in the half dozen Gator ABS cases where the middle row of seats should have been. I flipped the latches on the closest large one. Jesus…an M32 six-round 40mm grenade launcher and a twenty-four round ordnance belt. I flipped a pouch open.

“All High Impact?”

“Yah. Who da fock robes bank wit flares?” He picked up the grenade launcher. It looked a lot larger in his hands than it did in Schwarzenegger’s.

“Five loaded. Not so big bang like Hollyvood Arnie’s,” he slapped my back. “Do da yawb, dey do, dough.”

Do-da-do-daday…I popped open the next larger case, resisted the urge to drop my head.

“Doan like doze so mooch maybe?” He didn’t laugh, made a nasty sort of wheeze through his nose.

“How many?”

“Two. One for dem. One maybe for you,” he hooked his thumbs, made a bird out of his hands, flapped them upward, “Boom!” and flipped them apart. “You tink twize maybe to fly wit da money now, eh?” He latched the surface-to-air missile case, slapped my back again, waved off the other cases. “Dat one dare iss RPG 7. Some ARs, AKs maybe, two riot guns…Hey, why dey called dat way? Dey da riot to shot somebodies wit!” He mimed a waist-high shotgun blast, “Boom!” his face expanded in happy. “Ka-splooey!”

Fuck. Me.

“How do I lock this thing?”

First da code, Pilot. Two buttons, over da tire. Lock, unlock, same tink. Left, right, left, left, right. Den da door. Den da keys, turty seconds.”


“Or Boom, Pilot. BOOM!” He started to walk off, I grabbed his arm, hauled him back.

“Hang with me while I try this.”

“Sure ting. Left, left, right, left, right.”

Asshole. I reached under the wheel well, got the beeps. He grinned. I’d never wanted to introduce someone’s face to parking lot asphalt more in my entire life.


“Looks like Tavius brought your ride back.” I pulled up next to Rip’s new pickup in the Holiday Inn lot, leaned my arms and forehead on the steering wheel.

Gracias, Paro.” She squeezed my forearm. For not losing your temper with them. I know it was difficult.”

“I see that Usman fucker, I lose my temper. Men like him’re the reason so many…”

“I said I know. Columbia was the same, si? One more day, Paro. It will, as you say, ‘play out.’ They’ll help us, they’ll get their money, be off with the wind and we’ll never see them again.”

“You don’t trust them to stick around, help build the convict run wildlife park?”

“No.” She checked out Rip’s truck. “No more than I trust your amigo Tavius. Perhaps he is upstairs, waiting for us? No…He is too much the Señor Misterioso who sneaks his way to you when I am gone.” She squeezed my arm again, smiled. “Come upstairs, Paro. Take a shower. I’ll put your clothes in the laundry on the way to get us some food that’s not McDonalds.”

“Does this mean you’re not mad anymore?”

“It means you’re a filthy mess and I’m hungry, Pendejo.”

Pendejo was a good sign. “I still have three million dollars locked in the bed of this truck.”

“Three people only know that. You, Señor Taylor, me.”

Tres Amigos, solamente?”

Tres amigos, amor.” She killed the old Ram, grabbed the keys, leaned over, and kissed me on the lips, quick.

“You need my keys, too, Cav?”

“I’ll need something to drive in the event I’m mistaken and your Señor Misterioso is waiting.” She glanced over her shoulder on the way out, smiled again. “Don’t worry if I have to take your truck. I have my own money.”

I wanted to hate her. I wanted to confront her. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to ask her what the hell her game was. I wanted to ask did she know about the exploding van. I wanted her not to smile like that last one. At least not for anyone but me.


Photo (edited) Credit – Chuck Norris in Delta Force

RANDOM NVDT – Writerly Concerns #33

Are Audio Books Reading?

1 – Personal Short Answer for technical and/or informational/self help/historical/magazine use – yes

2 – Personal Short Answer for entertainment – no

1 – Backstory – When dinosaurs were busy turning into butane for disposable lighters I worked as the audio guy in a video production company in Houston. We made hard hat movies (safety films) as they were mandated for certain industries, like petrochemical refining, by OSHA. We were the only game in town. We got sincere, authoritative types with non-nap inducing voices for voice talent, usually local newscasters and radio personalities. The guys who ran the place were from one of the biggest FM stations in the US during the 70s album rock heyday. They knew how to modulate their voices for a given audience, and who to hire when they needed to. But that was on-camera and VO for “Don’t Sniff The Benzene” at the refinery, how to run the cash register at Safeway or spot shoplifters at Neiman Marcus stuff, not fiction.

On topic – I tried audiobooks on cassettes. I had a music industry road rep Product Specialist/Artist Relations/Sales gig. And I tried. Really. On those long drives through two-lane nowhere and I just couldn’t get behind them. Partly because they were rarely edited for VO, and mostly, for me, it came down to the old adage about not putting in too much detail describing characters, let them belong to the readers. I suppose a History of World War II by some newscastery type is OK. That goes for anything in that vein, or as above, in the Benzene fumes will turn your brain into Jell-O content.

2 – But a character-driven book, whether serial or one-shot? Finding the proper one “voice” for those is almost an impossibility for me. Whether it’s Spenser or Travis McGee or Laura Levine’s fluffy Jaine Austen, I know what they should sound like to me. And the TV series bunk? When PBS took on Tony Hillerman’s Navajos? Puh-leeeze. Elmore Leonard’s Justified? Okay, until he died. Then it lost itself, sunk like a rock. What did they expect?

I realize I am not the audience for most audiobooks. But who is? Do they even bother to run a few focus groups? I mean, swear to God, if I had to listen to an authentic Bostonian read Spenser I’d throw whatever was playing it out a window. I’m sure the same holds true of a real southerner reading James Lee Burke or Faulkner aloud for a Californian or New Hampshire Yankee. I know that because I had a boss in NorCal who told me (I was fresh from Texas) to please write my reports because all he could see when I talked was hillbillies and outhouses. I wanted to tell him all I heard when he talked was nasally tenor gameshow hosts, but I liked my job. So…

Sidebar – If they were to dress audiobooks up like old time radio shows? Say, Torchy Blane or Star Wars without the film? Hell yeah. And sign me up for Foley and sound design duty yesterday!


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RANDOM NVDT – Writerly Concerns #32

Organization – What?

I am not an outline person, notebook person, longhand person. I sit down, the story starts to play, I try to keep up. Sometimes I need to backtrack, see where or what or who did what when. Then –

Scrivener. I am not a shill, huckster, or compensated spokesperson.

Scrivener. Because I write in chunks. Scenes. Bits. I have the characters, they’re playing it out in my head. I try to keep up. I see their story. However, dialogue, ideas, peripheral characters may hit me anywhere. I tell my phone, I scribble, I make mental notes. I may have what I consider a good bit, sketch it out.

Scrivener. I can see the whole project at a glance. Chapter by chapter, scene by scene. I can purge, reorganize, cut and save for something else…all drag and drop.

Scrivener. Because once you watch a couple of videos and figure it out you can export it to almost any doc/epub format known. Page numbers, TOC, done.

Regardless of where you are in a project you see how it relates, where the holes are, where the junk is, where you lingered and where you skated. I realize that plot holes and time collapses are all the rage as trickle down from screenplays but they drive me nuts. Scrivener makes them glaring.

Did I mention it’s inexpensive, the customer service and support materials are excellent and it rocks an iPad or iPhone as well as your desk/laptop?

It saved me from going nuts trying to see and number docs in a Word folder.

Simple is better.


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