Friday, November 27, 2009

It's Almost Over

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for you non-writers; the whole dirty, unkempt lot of you! Just Kidding, really!) is almost at its end. I'm only at 14,000+/- words as of today. I had expected to get about halfway through, but I hit a snag about three days ago, and haven't been able to make that final push. The snag is in the direction the story veered off in. I didn't see it coming. If you're not a writer and you're reading this, you probably wondering how a person can write a book and not know where its going. But novels are a funny beast--they take on a life and a consciousness of their own. The book rarely winds up where you planned for it to. I had my mini-plot for it written out (first time I'd ever plotted a novel before I even wrote the first word) as a road trip with a writer and a man who just got off parole for manslaughter. The killing was really more murder, but lack of evidence, yadda-yadda. Anyway, the writer is stuck in a rut, and thinks a week or so on the road with a man who's lived on the other side of the law will help him get his edge back and write a great crime thriller. In my plan the killer terrorizes the writer, forcing him to commit crimes, threatening his loved ones. Somehow it has become a fight against a malevolent alien being that starts out like a parasite. Both the ex-con and the writer are in it together, fighting for their lives, and the lives of every man woman and child on the planet.

It's more exciting a story now, but my pace has slowed as I try to keep the flow going. And a great short story is making me its slave. I'm not divulging the details of that yet, it's getting to the 2/3 point, and I don't want to jinx it.

Ain't writing fun?

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Well, I'm sitting here, procrastinating. I need to work on my NaNo novel, I have the next few scenes basically in my mind, so why am I writing a blog instead? Because I can. What other reason should there be? I need to get a blog out just because, so dammit, I'm going to do it.

What it really is, is that I've spread myself thin lately. I reopened my Facebook page, and have been doing a little catching up with people I haven't talked to in fifteen years. My wife wanted me to get a Farmville account on it so I can be her neighbor, so I have to keep up on that. I'm doing some flash fiction pieces to keep a little newness and diversity in my writing, and my Grandma just had two heart surgeries. The baby had her shots on Wednesday. I'm fighting a cold. But it's all good. Keeps me busy, and when you're a stay-at-home dad with four+ years sober, busy is good. Of course, relaxation is good, too. I just don't know how to do that.

And for inquiring minds: Grandma had an eblasion--they seperated her heart (the top from the bottom), so know she lives off the pacemaker. She was already feeling better from that. Better than she's been in a LONG time. But one of her valves was bad, and leaking into her lungs. So they knew they'd have to fix that. Yesterday they replaced it with a pig valve, keeping some of her original valve. They are very optimistic, and so are we. Her old heart doctors didn't do much for her, these new ones are really on the ball. So all is well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

50th Post

Well, here we are--my 50th blog post. I've ben lax in keeping up with the blog for the last few months. Now, with NaNo going on I have no time to blog either, but I thought I'd make an appearance and tell you of my progress. I'm right at 8,000 words. Not bad for a novel I started 9 days ago, except that to hit 50k by Nov. 30 I should be at 15,003. But I can still catch up. We were busy last week preparing for my son's birthday, it was a three day event with all the different grandparents wanting to see him on different days. And my wonderful angel Rachel was not feeling great, so she's been fussy at night more than usual, during my usual writing time. But she's asleep now, so time for work! Good luck to any other NaNo-ers who read this, and go St. Louis!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

My Story is Out

Issue #9 of Horror Bound is out! Check out my story for a scare (or a laugh--depending on your sense of humor).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Upcoming Story

Most of my friends from Absolute Write have already heard the good news: I have a story to be published in an upcoming issue of Horror Bound Online Magazine. Hard work is finally paying off! I'm absolutely psyched! Now, I have to keep going, and build my reputation and my publishing credits, and this is the first step. I have to thank my friend Effie for pushing me to submit the story--though she doesn't want the thanks, but if she hadn't pushed I might not have submitted it. So, thanks Effie (and I mustn't forget Bettielee! Thanks Bettielee!), now, it's off to write some more! (Yes, I LOVE exclamation points!)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Four Years

Yesterday, September 29, 2009, I celebrated four years of sobriety. It's great to not have to rely on alcohol to function, and I never thought I would make it this far. But here I am, sober, happy, I pray for many years to come.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


So I don't have what most people would ever call "good" dreams. Sometimes they're nightmares of the wake up sweaty with your chest pounding variety, sometimes they are just strange, like Willy Wonka invaded my subconscious. I don't know if it got this way after my coma in '07, since it was a chemically-induced coma I did dream the whole time, and they were unimaginable. Terrifying. And maybe one day parts of them will fill in the pages of a best-selling novel.

It does seem like the string of "bad" dreams began after the surgery and coma. Maybe some of it has to do with the medications I'm on, but whatever it is, I don't want to lose it. I like the nightmares. What does that make me? When I wake up from a scary dream and the situation wasn't resolved I want to get back into it. No matter how bad it was. Of course, so far the dreams don't have to do with harm to my family... THAT I wouldn't want to get back to.

Oh well, just musing out loud here.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Well, I've been on hiatus for a while. The reason, som of you know, was due to my second thoracotomy in two years. Almost two years to the day--the first, to remove scar tissue from my right lung, was 7/23/2007. The second, to remove the lower lobe in the same lung and parts of the other two lungs, was 7/31/2009. So after having close to half my lung removed I've been recovering. The weird part--in the hospital I wrote almost every day, over 3,500 words. Since I've been home I have done less than a thousand. And I was discharged on 8/16/2009. But I am starting to feel a bit more like myself, so hopefully it will pick up. And the good news is, so far, I think there is going to be a lot of benefit from this surgery.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Got Muse? A Writer to Writer Meme

Got Muse? A Writer to Writer Meme

Got Muse? A Writer-to-Writer Meme:
1) Where do you write? In my living room. My desk is sadly three feet from the television. But it's the only place in the apartment I can put it.
2) When do you write? Usually between 1 and 4 in the morning. But I have to change up my schedule to accomodate the baby. It's both great, and a great pain in the ass being a stay-at-home DAD/WRITER. I wouldn't change it for the world.
3) Planner or Pantser? Both, and neither.
4) Coffee or tea? Coffee. Only tea with lemon, and instant tea with lemon at that. Got hooked on it in prison. It was cheap, and better than plain water.
5) Pen and paper, or computer? Both. The computer 90% of the time. But if I get ideas for other parts of a piece I'll jot them down in a notebook. Or when I'm in the hospital I have to use pen and paper.
6) What gets you in the writing mood? Sunshine and rainbows. Usually I get inspired when I'm watching some television program or movie I've seen a thousand times, when I'm really only half watching it.
7) What pulls you out of the writing mood? Not much pulls me out, but I can sometimes be distracted easily. Various life-stuff; feeding the baby,m my son also loves to talk to me when I'm at the computer. Can't wait to have a real office where I can lock the door.
8 What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever read/heard/received? JUST WRITE! Even if it's crap it needs to be put down on paper/in the computer. You can go back and change it later. And Stephen King's "On Writing" is full of little tips. For anyone who hasn't read it, it's a memoir, not an instruction manual--but it has a lot of gold in it.
9) Got muse? Got milk?
10) Who is the biggest supporter of your writing? My wife, and my Mom.
11) Sound or Silence? Depends. If I put on music it's usually Iron Maiden or Stevie Ray Vaughan. But alot of the time the TV is on because, as I said, my "office" is the living room.
Instructions: Please answer the Meme with a post on your blog, and reference the original link: Got Muse? A Writer-To-Writer Meme. Leave the link to your Meme in my comments section, so we can go read it!

Desperate Need

I seriously am in desperate need of a laptop. Who wants to give me an early Christmas present? Okay, so I know THAT's not happening, but you can't blame a guy for tryin'. I need one, with my frequent hospital stays and stuff, and how much easier it would be to sit on the couch and type sometimes with my chronic back pain, you get the picture. So, if anybody has an old notebook or netbook they would be willing to sell, and let me pay in installments, shoot me an e-mail. And if not, just pray and wish me luck in finding one.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I've Been Away

Well, I haven't posted anything since June 30. I have a good reason, though. And first, i want to thank BettieLee and E.Collins for their concern when I was missing. So here's the story, as best as I can tell it.

And now the baby cries, interrupting me. Hold on, folks... Okay, her nap is over. But she is being a sweet, content girl in her bouncy-seat.

So, back to me, LOL. On July 3rd I started coughing up a lot of blood. The day before I'd been coughing up bloody sputem, which is not a totally unusual experience--since the lung surgery in '07 it happens sometimes. But on the 3rd it changed over to straight blood. Mouthfuls of the stuff. Scared my wife Crystal a lot. I was leaning over the bathroom sink just making everything red. I had her get the kids into the car to take me to the hospital, and cleaned up as best I could so when she got back home it wouldn't frighten her too much to see just how much it actually was.

In the ER they of course told me I was going to be admitted. Then they did blood work, and a CT Scan to make sure I didn't have pulomary embolisms again. The on Saturday the 4th I saw my pulmologist (he works out of that hospital, and was on call over the weekend), and he told me the CT showed a possible aspergaloma. It's a fungus that can cause bleeding in the lungs. So I was scheduled for a bronchoscopy on Monday the 6th.

He couldn't go into the cavity where the most damge in the lung is, because it's a dangerous area. Given my past history with surgery--my thoracotomy ended up setting into motion events leading to a three-week coma, I'd almost died--he didn't want to take the risk. But he took cultures. The pulmonologist told me there was no aspergaloma, and my lung looked surprisingly good. If I continue to have the bleeding issues I might have to have the artery clotted off, which appearantly is not as scary as it sounds. It's fairly common. You have to blood sources to the lungs. So that issue seemed dealt with. And they did e-rays because I was sure I'd broken some ribs coughing. I did. I have osteoperosis, and really weak bones. (Right now the ribs are giving me the most problem. They friggin' HURT!) But that's a side note.

So the idea was that I would go home on Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest. My body had other ideas. Tuesday morning, at 11:30, when I was going into the bathroom, my chest started hurting, and I felt a great pressure. I felt my pulse on my wrist, and it was going so fast it was hard to feel. I waited to see if it would go away, but when it didn't, and the pain got worse, at 1 o'clock I buzzed for the nurse. They checked me over, called the doctor, set me up on an EKG, and found out I had gone into atrial-fibrillation. Basicaly, the top of my heart (the atrium) was firing offat 190 beats a minute, and the bottom was trying to keep up. There's no actual heart-rhthym when that happens. It's not life-threatening, just uncomfortable. Very.

So they moved me down to the heart center, and kept me monitored. The IV meds they gave me to try to right the rhthym didn't work, and the plan was to use the electronic defibrilator to shock my heart back to sinus rhthym on Wednesday morning. The next morning the cardiologist said I was responding enough to the meds to hold off on that. They head gotten my heart-rate down a lot, but not enough, and I was still in A-Fib. But they wanted to hold off on the shocking because I'm on blood thinners for my clotting problems. Thank God, an hour later my heart went back to normal sinus rhthym on its own. That was not expected, but great.

They monitored me the rest of the night, and Thursday, the 9th, I was discharged. I still have to go next week to see the pulmonologist, then the following week to see the cadiologist, but I'm feeling better. Maybe 80% now. Besides the ribs, which are killing me. We had to get rid of our son's rabbit because I had just found out I'm allergic, and hopefully that will help my asthma. But I'm glad my heart is staying in check, for the time at least. I'm used to lung problems, had 'em all my life, but I've never had any problems with my heart. And now that it's gone into A-Fib, it's likely it will happen again at some point.

I wrote 5500 words, longhand because I don't have a laptop, half of them on my new novel, and parts on two new short stories, so that was good. What else am I going to do in the hospital? I finished the last 100 pages of "Life Expectancy" by Dean Koontz, read "Winter Moon" by Dean Koontz, read "The Dangerous Days of Daniel X" by James Patterson, and 129 pages of "Lisey's Story" by Stephen King while I was in there. Plus, we have a portable DVD player, so I had all kinds of movies. Gotta make the best of a bad situation. I have now finally transcribed the longhand onto the computer.

So, that's my past two weeks. Life stays interesting!LOL!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Reading: Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz
Listening to: Jimi Hendrix & BB King-The King's Jam 1968
Writing: Not enough

Okay, that last part isn't completely true. Doing the Summer Writing Challenge, I have written 9,346 words on a new novel. Since June 8. For me, that's FAST. It also makes this the second longest document in my computer, the first being the 55,000 word first draft of a novel I may never actually finish. It's a shame, on that--I like the concept, but just can't get it out right. Maybe one day I will have the tools to do that. But this new book is going well. At times it takes off on its own. If you are a writer you know how cool that feels. If you're not, I can't explain it so you will. But the characters, the idea, the personalities, it's something great. Of course there will be a lot of editing before it's ready for anyone to see it, and some of the things I think are great today may seem like utter crap tomorrow, but it's been the most fun I've had writing anything so far.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Meme Time (Better than Mime Time)

I was tagged by bettielee for this meme. Of course, I'm not savvy enough to know what a meme is, but I'll play along 'cuz it's fun.

Sinful Nature
"Sometimes you can learn more about a person by what they don’t tell you. Sometimes you can learn a lot from the things they just make up. If you are tagged with this Meme, lie to me. Then tag 7 other folks (one for each deadly sin) and hope they can lie."

Pride -- What is your biggest contribution to the world?
I once found the cure to the common cold, but lost the formula... Dammit!

Envy -- What do your coworkers have that you wish was yours?
Autographed picture of Kari Byron hanging above my printer.

Gluttony -- What did you eat last night?
Goat cheese and fried newt, angel hair pasta with squirrel brains sauteed in butter.

Lust -- What really lights your fire?
My wife and Kate Beckinsale

Anger -- What is the last thing that really pissed you off?
I don't know, everything pisses me off!

Greed -- Name something you hoard and keep from others.
My Coca Cola... nobody touches my soda!

Sloth -- What’s the laziest thing you ever did?
Since I've been on disability all I've been is lazy... it's driving me nuts!

I tag the following people:

Jamie Mason
Queen of Swords
Tabitha Todd

Now I challenge you to figure out which answers are real, and which are horrible lies.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Baby Toes

Is there anything in the world cuter than baby toes? So tiny, with soft skin, never yet marred by the ground. Of course, that's an observation maybe only a parent can fully appreciate. But you look at something so small and wonder how they can ever grow up. The miracles of God and nature are truly something special. So if you're feeling down, depressed or blue, look at a baby's toes. I guarantee it will make you smile.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Need A Drill Sergeant

Over 1600 words on my Summer Writing Challenge piece since I started it on the 8th. That's pretty fast writing for me, maybe deadlines are a good thing for me. A good deal of my problem is staying motivated. I want to write, I need to write--it's the career I desperately have to make work. I'm not qualified for anything my body can physically handle, and since I'm on disablilty I have the time to work on it. But it does me little good if I don't utilize the time I have. Maybe I need to find someone who can keep me in line. A friend I can report progress to on a weekly basis, who will let me know if I'm slacking.

Any takers?

Monday, June 8, 2009

I haven't left, but...

I haven't been around much, which is good. It means I've been writing. I'm putting everything I have in progress on hold for now to do a summer writing challenge. Write a complete first draft during the summer; like NANO, but with a little more time to do it. This is, in a big way, to see how I do with deadlines.

So let's see if little Rachel lets me have the time to write, lol.

Friday, May 29, 2009

3 years 8 months

So as of today I have been sober for three years, eight months. Through the month, the 29th isn't on my mind, until about the 20th. Then I start realizing another milestone is coming up. It's great. Like the anticipation a child feels before a birthday.

One of the best things now is having our little Rachel, and me actually being around. See, when out son Randy was born in 2001 I worked days, and of course bought beer as soon as I clocked off. I would spend most of the night driving around while my wife was on maternity leave. I wasn't there to help her as much as I should have been. When I was home I helped, of course, but how good can a drunk be with a baby anyway? I might as well have not been there. And I missed Randy's 2nd and 4th birthdays in jail. Now I have a good relationship with both my children--Rachel's only 16 days old, I know, but she loves me already. I am thankful. I can never say that enough!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Story of Recovery

The Path Was Rocky, But Worth It
By Steven Michael Sarber

Sobriety is different for everybody, and so it is hard to put down into words what it feels like to have reached such an awesome goal after so many set-backs. But I will do my best.

My path to sobriety was rocky, and full of detours. I lost my way often; and often stayed lost. I am sober now. Not 'dry', or 'on the wagon', but 'sober'. That is one magical word. Sobriety. While in active addiction, it feels like the most unreachable goal ever dreamed.

While I was drinking, I never- not once, for a fleeting second- believed I could ever be sober. The most I ever hoped to accomplish was the illusion of sobriety. In truth, I would even suffer panic attacks if the night was nearing a close and I hadn't acquired any money for alcohol. I sold everything I could to buy beer; guitars, my wife's CD collection, whatever wasn't nailed down.

Now, in looking back, my degradation saddens me. But it shaped me into who I am. Today I like myself. Today my wife and son love me more than I probably deserve, considering the things I did when I drank. I was hateful, self-centered, rotten. I only thought about; cared about, drink.

At twenty-one, I received my first DWI. My blood-alcohol content was .284. I never fully understood what that meant until I was in rehab. A counselor explained to me that my blood was twenty-eight percent alcohol. Twenty-eight percent! And I was out there driving. It was appalling, but I also wore it as a badge. It was the highest BAC of anyone I knew.

It took four more DWI's, a near-divorce, and more than fourteen months total prison time before my eyes finally opened. During separate occassion's I missed my son's second, and fourth birthdays. I missed Christmas', Thanksgiving dinners; I missed a whole lot of important things I took for granted anyway.

I still wasn't learning. I cared, but not enough to change.

During what I thought might have been a real good attempt to become a sober man, I suffered pulmonary embolisms; three blood-clots in my right lung. I was twenty-eight at the time. The day I got out of the hospital, I bought a bottle of vodka. I didn't need the excuse; I would have drank anyway. I wasn't ready yet.

I hid my drinking from my wife for about four months, then I drank openly in front of her. It was like a slap in the face to her, and that was were she began to fall out of love with me. I still hid my drinking from the rest of the family, and I felt terrible when they would tell me how proud they were of me.

Finally, I went back to prison after violating my probation. When I shipped out to my state home, it was truly a God-send. I hadn't known my wife was falling out of love; she told me over the phone the day after Christmas. I cried. In a room in front of eighty-some-odd hard-cases, I sat on the phone in tears. What had I expected? That she would let me walk all over her forever? That getting evicted from three apartments, having our power shut off on numerous occasions, having most of our friends not even want us around, that none of that should matter to her?

I had never cried in front of her. She realized a change was coming over me. I was finished. I couldn't live like this anymore. She agreed to keep an open mind, and to see how things would be when I was released from prison.

I immersed myself in recovery. I spent all possible time in AA and NA groups. The prison I was serving time in happened to have the most groups of any prison in the state of Missouri. It was exactly where I needed to be at the time.

I gave my addictions over to God, and my cries for help were answered because I was ready to help myself.

Now, my ideal day is a sober one. I spend time with my son. I see my wife when she gets home from work. Then I go to work in the evening. It is not exactly a perfect arrangement, but it works for us. I write when I get home from work, and every night when I go to bed, I thank the Lord for another sober day. Then I ask for the next day. I do it this way because it works for me.

I do not think I am unique. I do not think I am special (even if my family would now argue that point). I am loved and blessed. I have a wonderful system of support. I am still recovering, and it is great. I love the time with my son, who is now almost six. He does remember I was away for awhile, and he knows it was jail. Thankfully he was too young to remember me at my worst. Now, because of the path I have chosen, where doors were once closed, new ones are opening. My family respects me again, and that is a feeling I wouldn't trade for the world.

I am thankful every day for my life, and my sobriety.

My sober date is September 29, 2005. I have not touched a drop, nor desired to return to my former level of self-destruction. I am living proof that it can be done- for anyone suffering in the same way, there is hope.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Baby Dreams

I want to know what babies dream. They can sleep with such unadulterated peacefullness it's mind-bending. When our new daughter sleeps, sometimes she has this look of concentration, I wonder if all the questions in life couldn't be answered by the purity in a babies' mind. They know no hate, no violence, nothing except love. This world could be better off if we could all dream like babies.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuesday Teaser

Here's a bit of something I'm working on, called The Dental-Phobe:

The hum of the overhead fluorescent lights droned in Alexander's head. His knees shook, and chest was pounding. The hum may have been the thrum from his blood pressure, in reality. His vision was blurred—he couldn't make out the words of the People magazine in his lap. His hair clung to his forehead, drenched in sweat.

“Is this pain really bad enough for this?” He said in a cracked voice.

A startled ten-year-old girl clutched onto her mother, newfound fear in her own eyes.

“Scaring kids, what a loser,” he muttered. “I'm leaving, that's all there is to it.”

So he ran out of the waiting room like the place was on fire, laughing at the thought that his hasty exit probably scared the little girl more than his crazy appearance and absent-minded mutterings. But laughing hurt—bad.

Ten minutes later he plopped down on the red futon in his sparsely furnished bungalow. The pain pills he'd taken had long worn off, but he couldn't will himself into getting up to retrieve more just yet. He was nursing an abscessed molar, and the pain was incredible. It no longer was confined to his jaw—his entire head was a victim to its wrath.


I may post more of this when I have more done, this is the beginning of the umpteenth rewrite of it, so we'll just have to see what happens.

Friday, May 15, 2009

And she is HERE!

Our little family is now four. Rachel LeeAnne Sarber made her entrance into this world at 9:02 AM May 13, 2009. A beautiful 6 pound 7 ounce little girl, knowing nothing but love all around her. And my son, who for most of the last nine months wanted nothing to do with even the thought of having a sister, loves her dearly. He is already her protector, her guide, and her friend. I am so blessed to have gotten the chance to be a part of something so special. Thank the Lord for all He has given me.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Coming Soon

So, nine day till the DUE DATE. Crystal's on maternity leave now, and Randy will be on summer vacation pretty soon, so my peaceful writing time will be invaded from all angles. I'm not complaining, this is all really great stuff. But the part of me that's still selfish for personal space is very frightened. I've been making good progress on my novel, and pumping out at least one short story a week. I think with a newborn in the house that just might stall a bit. But for a good reason.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Another Milestone!!

So today marks three years, seven months of sobriety. Thank God for another sober day!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Imagine This!

So, 38 1/2 hours ago I had sinus surgery. I was put under MAC (Monitored Anesthesia Control), so I was fully awake, just sedated. The surgeon used local anesthetic to numb the nasal and sinus passages, so all I felt most of the time was pressure. There were two times he had to administer more numbie-meds, all-in-all, it wasn't too bad. The freaky part was the noise. He was also fixing my septum, which was deviated on the left side. When the first administered the MAC, I was unconscious for maybe ten minutes. I woke to cutting and snipping. Then I heard the doc say, "Tap, tap." The nurse tapped on a chisel-like instrument the doc held, presumably to break up the septum. They did this four or five times. I kept thinking, "That thing is going to go right into my brain!" My bones are weak from osteoperosis, and I couldn't help imagining the base of my skull, under my brain, just cracking.

"That's loud in here," I said.

"It's just sound effects so you think you're really getting your money's worth," the nurse answered.

We joked around like that alot for the rest of the procedure. Once they were done chiseling, I wasn't too nervous anymore. I had a covering over my eyes, and around my mouth, over my chin. When the doc would move sometimes I could see the surgical spotlights through the covering. I kept saying, "No, Steve, don't head into the light!"

They had a problem with the camera and monitor, so the doc was "flying blind," he joked. Almost at the end of the surgery the technician got there to fix the resolution. The problem was that everything had a green tint. They could see what they were doing, just not as clearly as they should have been able to. The tech fixed it, and they marvelled about the new HD software. I was his first patient to have the surgery done where they could see what they were doing in High Definition, and the damn thing wasn't working properly for 7/8ths of the operation. Oh, well. There were no complications, so I'm not complaining.

I can already breathe better. I didn't think I would notice a change this fast. I was able to stop wearing the drip pad already, there is no bruising, and very little swelling. Considering all the work he did up in there, I'm shocked at that. The doc said all my sinus cavities were completely blocked off. Lately I've been using my asthma inhaler many times a day--today I used it three times. And only one puff each time, whereas usually I use two or three puffs.

So I'm glad I had the surgery; maybe I won't go to the ER so much now. Since November I've been to the ER and Urgent Care at least ten times, and admitted to the hospital twice, most recently Easter weekend. Here's to my doc, may I never need your services again--at least not for surgery.

Friday, April 24, 2009

C.I.A: Contrary-Intelligence Allen
By Steven Michael Sarber

I was faithfully following my daily routine; walking around the fountain in the town square. It was the one thing I could rely on to keep them out of my head. Then I realized that was exactly what they wanted me to believe. There was no freedom for Allen, for Allen knows too much! I have heard their plans. It may be time for another move.

I came here to Tipton’s Meadow, New Hampshire because it was quiet. It was an old small town, and one could seemingly be safe here. Maybe not.

I heard the splashing even before I felt the cold fountain water seep into my shoes. Damn! They would stop at nothing. Keeping my mind occupied long enough to steer me straight into the fountain. That was their great joy, making me look a fool, and right in the middle of lunch hour. I saw the cute girl from the University campus library laughing along with everyone else.

Yes, it was time for another move. But how to get away without setting off the alarms?

An idea struck! I would write down the name of every state on separate pieces of paper, then mix them up and pick one at random. Then write down the names of every city in the state I picked, mix them and draw again. They couldn’t track me if I wasn’t making any conscious decisions, right?

The following week I was in Butte, Montana. This had to be better, far away from the source of their power. The Washington Monument. It was really just a huge antennae. Most of us never even notice its presence; don’t fool yourself- it is there. Probing. But the signal has to be weaker two-thirds of the way across the country.

I was walking around the town proper when I happened on some disturbing news. This had been a great mining area. There were massive amounts of copper in the ground here. Another conductor. That was when I heard the voices again. It may be time for another move. Maybe the noise of Las Vegas can drown out their voices. Maybe not.

I had a feeling the only way to truly escape would be to destroy them all. If I only knew how.

END... or is it?

This was a little something I wrote a while back, it took 3rd place in a contest. Won a book of urban legends--pretty cool!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Oh Boy, Surgery Tomorrow

Listening to- Judas Priest: Defenders of the Faith

Fear not; it's only sinus surgery. The good doc will fix my sinuses and deviated septum--didn't even know I had one--and I get to be conscious for it. Or at least somewhat so. I am excited at the prospect of the proposed benefits of the procedure. I was told that my chronic sinus infections are very likely a main cause of my asthma problems. I know this is true. When I was 11, and again when I was 13 I had sinus operations, and they did greatly improve my asthma. But the benifits were short lived. Now they have a better understanding of these things, however, so it should prove to have a better effect. That's the hope, anyway. So, if you want, say a little prayer for me at 10:30 Thursday morning.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Teaser Tuesday (flash fiction story, all dialogue)


“Dude! Driving gloves?”

“They add to the whole Corvette experience.”

“Well, the car’s red--shouldn’t you have Prince on the radio, too?”

“It’s not a car, Jerry, it’s a Corvette.”

“Yeah, well you look like a dickhead.”

“But a dickhead driving a Corvette!”

“Why’d you get it in red anyway? You know how cops love to pull over red sports cars.”

“Red pulls in the Pussy. Capital ‘P’.”

“Okay, you got me there.”

“And we’re going to go test that out, Jer.”

“What? The pussy-magnetism of this ride?”

“Hey, you didn’t capitalize the ‘P’. I could hear it in your voice.”


“We’re here.”

“Oh, boy, Roxy’s. You know I’m allergic to the perfume strippers use.”

“Come on… you’ll be fine.”


“Hey! Where’s my car?”

“Dude, it isn’t a car--it’s a Corvette!”

“No--it’s gone!”

“Well, look at that, Rick--they left your driving gloves, right there in the parking lot.”


Sunday, April 19, 2009

What I'm reading now: Ghost Story by Peter Straub

What I just finished reading: Grim Light by Kristin Baxter

What do you mean, you've never heard of it? It's a helluva good read! Not available for public consumption, yet, though. But watch for it... it will be, I am sure. I was thrilled when she agreed to let me read it so I could give her my insights. I'm no technical-critiquer, but I think I can give good opinions on a story from a reader's perspective. Sometimes as writers we forget what it's like to just read and enjoy a book. We want to pick it apart. Grim Light is an engrossing story, filled with humor, suspense, good vs. evil, a strong female lead--all good things. Kudos to Kristin, keep it up, girl, you have a lot of talent!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I'm Mr. Mom

So I'm Mr. Mom. Since I'm disabled, and my wife works full-time, I take care of the household chores. The cooking (which I'm exceptional at), the dishes, the laundry, dusting and cleaning. These, besides cooking, are all things I used to really hate. Now I don't mind as much. But because of the nature of my disability, it's still hard. I have to do things in spurts. If I'm folding clothes, or doing dishes, I absolutely have to stop when I feel my back start to lock up, or I'm out of commission. One time, last fall, I was taking a handful of my son's clothes on hangers into his room. I was holding out the hangers with my left hand, and I coughed, hard. Cracked a rib. The osteoperosis has weakened my bones considerably. Big bummer of that night... our son was camping with my parents. My wife and I had the apartment to ourselves, and big plans for a romantic evening. But what are you gonna do, right? Things happen, and we have to let the unpleasant things strengthen us. The life I've lived has been full, to say the least.

I hope that will make me a good writer. I have a lot to draw upon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Teaser Tuesday Excerpt (extreme language)

The latest rewritten opening to A Birthday Suicide. See what you think.

A Birthday Suicide
By Steven Michael Sarber

Part One
Choosing a Path
“I am a man who walks alone, and when I'm walking a dark road, at night, or strolling through the park...” -Iron Maiden; “Fear of the Dark”


So where do I begin? At the beginning, I guess. I was pretty much an average teenage boy. I had the usual interests, I had good friends, I had no money. Nothing in my life was exactly remarkable, yet nothing unremarkable, either. My friends and I didn't run in any particular social circles at school, we just hung out with anybody who wanted to hang out with us. At least until my junior year in high school.

That was the year I met Willis Jefferson.

Willis became my mentor, my boss, and my friend. To put it mildly, he changed the course of my life.

I was sixteen years old the summer of 1995. St. Louis summers are, simply put, hot and humid. One August afternoon I was playing guitar in a band at my friend Danny Johns' house, sweating so badly I could barely hold the pick in my hand. It was a sweltering ninety-eight degrees, and probably a hundred twenty in the garage where we were practicing. We didn't really care, just hanging out and jamming made us feel like we were on top of the world.

Danny's parents had a refrigerator in the garage stocked with Busch beer, and they didn't mind if we helped ourselves to a few cold brews on a hot day. At least they never seemed to notice any missing. So when we finished our practice we popped the top on a few beers, toasted ourselves, and began discussing ways to get some money.

I was splayed out on the well-worn love seat against the far wall of the garage and Danny was in a lawn chair tossing darts at the dartboard on the wall about four feet to the left of my head.

“You could miss and put out my eye,” I said. “Then I could sue your parents. I'll split the money with you.”

“Yeah,” he answered, aiming up his next throw. “But my parents don't have anything. Plus, you wouldn't like being called 'Patchy.'”

“How do you know? I could be like that dude on that soap opera. That patch gets him laid.”

“But you'd have no depth perception with only one eye. How would you be able to jerk off? You wouldn't be able to locate your tiny pecker!”

That sent us laughing hysterically, even at my expense. That's what was great about Danny, he could bust my chops and it never mattered.

Before long we got serious. “I've been dealing for a guy,” Danny said. “I'm pulling in some good money, man; I'll be buying a Monte Carlo tomorrow. I'm sure I can get you in on the gig.”

“But I don't even do drugs,” I said.

“That's what makes it perfect for you,” Danny punctuated this point with a bulls-eye. “If you don't use you get more profit.”

That made sense. “Fuck-a-duck... all right, set it up. I'll meet with the guy. “But what are we talking here?”

“Coke or pot. He doesn't deal in heroin. Occasionally a little Ecstasy.”

“So where's the best money?” I asked.

“Pot's pretty cheap, but everybody has it. So coke is the way to go. I can help you get set up, and we can partner up to keep from stepping on each other's toes.”

Mike Burne and Pete Van Allen, our drummer and singer, had been smoking a joint, giggling at our exchange. Mike stood and walked over to me, holding the roach pinched between his thumb and forefinger.

“Here, Dex. Get yourself some firsthand job experience.”

The skin on my fingers was calloused from holding down my guitar strings, so I didn't feel the sting as I inhaled from the roach, but I heard the skin sizzle as it singed. Two more drags and there was nothing left but a bit of charred paper.

I didn't feel anything. Not high, not goofy or giggly, nothing except a scratchy, dry throat. I started sucking down beer but it didn't help. The more I drank the thirstier I became.

“Hey, take it easy there, you fucking lush,” said Danny.

It wasn't even funny, but I just couldn't help myself. I laughed so hard I got a stitch in my side, and that just made it all the funnier.

I imagine that's how it begins for a lot of people... a little discomfort, a little laughter, and suddenly drugs are a part of your life. I didn't really care for pot, though. After smoking the roach I spent the rest of that afternoon searching to put coherent thoughts together, and felt as if I couldn't make complete sentences. I still can't figure out why anybody would want to intentionally make themselves stupid. But I won't preach. As you read my story you'll see I have no right to.

Monday, April 13, 2009

So who knew that Hugh Laurie (tv's "House") is also an author? In 1996 he released The Gun Seller, a comedy/crime thriller, and appearantly is coming out with Paper Soldiers. I'm actually interested to read one of his books. He is a brilliant man. And, for any enquiring minds, he really is playing the guitar and piano on the tv show. As a guitarist it has always bothered me to see someone "play" on tv and in movies when they have no idea what they are doing. I mean, it wouldn't be that hard to fake it properly. And these people get paid a lot of money to act well, so they should learn to mimic the proper guitar technique. So kudos to Hugh Laurie for being multi-talented, and damn good at it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

So Many Ideas, So Little Time

I have so many ideas floating through my head right now it's not even funny. Problem--they're distracting me from finishing the two novels I have going. The good point is that I want to keep writing the short stories so I can try to get some more publishing credits under my belt. Right now the only story I have published was an autobiographical essay titled The Path was Rocky, but Worth It, in "Voices of Alcoholism." I have submitted a short story to nine markets, with one rejection, eight still pending. It's a good story, so I'm very hopeful it will be in print soon.

Then I have a horror story with a new take on werewolves about 2/3 of the way finished. But I wonder if horror is really my niche at all. I mean, the first novel I wrote is more of crime drama, and the story I have submitted is a mainstream story chronicling the last moments of an elderly woman's life through her memories. I lean towards horror because it what I've always read, most movies I watch are horror, so I guess it's my comfort zone.

But does it being a main area of interest mean it is the best genre for me to write in? Probably not, but it's still where I feel comfortable. I just have problems with being too mean. I want to make my characters deep and likeable, so sometimes it's hard to do outrageous things to them.

Oh, well... I'll figure it out.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ultra-Flash Fiction

I wrote this a couple of years ago as an assignment. The requirement was to write a story in exactly one-hundred words. This was what I came up with.

The Chase

Donald ran, pausing only once to look over his shoulder. Mordecai was ten yards back, huffing and puffing. Donald turned back ahead, and saw that the perp had gained some distance. He holstered his service pistol and tucked his head down. He closed in on the perp quickly, and tackled him like a linebacker. Both of them tumbled across the vacant gravel lot in front of the now empty bait shop. Donald's arms were cut and bleeding, but the perp looked much worse for the wear. Mordecai caught up, panting, and wheezing. "All this over a stolen pack of gum?"

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Just Rambling

Well, my birthday was yesterday. Thirty-three years old now. But I don't feel a day over sixty. Anyone who has combed through the rest of this blog understands why I say that. For the benifit of any new readers, In 2007 I had a thoracotomy to remove scar tissue from my right lung. I crashed and spent three weeks in a coma. I had to have a surgical wound put in my back to promote good tissue growth, the cut a couple inches out of three ribs--right next to where I broke my back in '95. I also broke my neck in that accident. I have osteoperosis, severe asthma, eczema, chronic sinusitis, I've broken close to forty bones, ripped the tip off my right middle finger--in short, I'm falling apart.

But I'm a recovering alcoholic with three years, six months and nine days of sobriety. And compaired to all my ailments, that makes me a very joyful person.

That may be hard to believe, since I write horror, and suspense/thriller type stuff generally. But I'm really a nice guy, and moderately laid-back. I haven't killed anybody in over a week *wink*. Truth be told, I'm still learning to have patience. It doesn't come naturally for me, but for the most part I'm doing good. I lack patience with my son and his friends when they're being noisy and hyper, but I'm tryin, Ringo. I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd. (Sorry, channeling Jules from Pulp Fiction there.)

Back when I was drinking I had no patience-- I was the ultimate asshole. It reminds me of a line from Robin Williams 1986 Live at the Metropolitan Opera House cassette I used to have: "I realized when I quit drinking, I'm the same asshole, I just have fewer dents in my car."

So here's to fewer dents in my car, and better relationships with my family and friends.

Friday, April 3, 2009

This Game is Tough!

The writing game is no game, really. Many of us, I'm sure, when we were younger, reading a good book, said; I can do this! It has to be the easiest job in the world! And for a precious few, it very well may be easy. But not for the majority of us. A friend just reminded me of a Hawthorne quote: Easy reading is damn hard writing. No arguments here.

You create this work from your mind, then you have to go and tear it apart and rewrite it, and rewrite it, and rewrite it, until it might not even resemble what you ever imagined it to be in the first place. I have started out with an idea for a horror story that ended up a drama piece, and with suspense that wound up more comedy.

I've learned that you have to be a receptacle for what the story wants to tell you, the writer. I'm learning to be open to suggestion from collegues. Now that's a tough one for me. I'm used to being able to stand on my own, with little outside help. Writing doesn't work that way. Not if you want to be successful. So take what you need from every story you read, from conversations you listen to while in line at the supermarket. Be a sponge for the advice of your friends and writers, because this is a tough game, and we need all the help we can get.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Copse

The Copse
I look into this thicket of trees
I see squirrels, chipmunks, pine cones and bees
This whole little universe, in such a small space
And it was all put there by God's loving grace
Lush green grass, growing up down below
Then covered in leaves, then covered in snow
On warm sunny days the jackrabbits bounce
The sqirrels play, the chipmunks trounce
The butterflies flutter, the honeysuckle smells sweet
An old hollow log is a raccoon's retreat
As I watch this happen before my very eys
I realize it's our world, wears a disguise
They say men are animals, and that's a disgrace
The animals aren't uncivilized- only the human race.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Wouldn't ya know it?

I didn't make it to the GED classes. Life and health cancelled that out for this time. I guess just like eveything else, when the time is right the stars will all align, the lungs will function, the back-pain will be at a minimum, and I will stop writing in hugely blathering non-stop run-on sentences.

But for life to throw a curve ball is nothing new. The same thing happened when I was trying to quit drinking. I knew what I was doing was destroying me, but everything has to be right for it to work. And for me, writing falls in to the same thing. I can sit down and put words down a few at a time, while my back allows- maybe fifteen here, then thirty more twenty minutes later. That's why it's so hard for me to have a really good set time to write and routine to follow. This post alone has taken me more than fifteen minutes to type. But for some reason, I write well when I've been up for about twenty-four hours. Maybe it's because I loosen up, and stop worrying about making it perfect. At least with the first and second drafts, perfection isn't forefront in my mind. Just getting the idea and basic story line out is the important thing.

But for right now the important thing is getting the sinus operation that should help my lungs get better. That part won't help my back, but one thing at a time.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Breathing new life...

... into my first novel, A Birthday Suicide. It's been a slow-going effort, I finished the first draft a year ago, right around my birthday, which is fifteen days from now. (Well, sixteen- it's still the 21st for another twenty-one minutes.) Since then I've started the rewrite so many times I lost count. I got five chapters into it this time, and thought I had written some great stuff, but overall I still wasn't inspired. A friend of mine was gracious enough to read the first draft and give me good insights. She did that a while ago, and I just recently sent her the first three chapters of my rewrite, knowing she would tell me the truth about it. I figured that if I was on the right track I would just keep trudging on and hope the muse found me. While she agreed I was improving the writing of it, she gave me guidance on a different direction to take it. And I am grateful, because new life has been breathed into a project I was becoming afraid would end up "in the drawer," never to be finished.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Working on My Craft

I'm trying to be a better writer. I think I've come a long way for someone who has only been doing this three and a half years. But I'm having a hell of a time getting over the "show vs. tell" hurdle. I am a fairly intelligient guy, and I usually catch on to stuff pretty easily, but this one is tough. And it drives me crazy. It used to be more acceptable to tell a story, but now you have to show it. And my natural voice for storytelling is just that- storytelling. So what can I do but try to change the way I am?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Still Writing

Well, I'm still writing. Slower than I'd like, and it's this blog's fault. And MySpace. I blame everyone but me.

No, I need to buckle down. I know that. I am going to start GED classes with my Mom soon. I hope adding some structure to my life will help me to get my priorities straight. If I want to make a living as a writer I have to put in the work. Nobody is going to hand my dreams to me on a silver platter or give me a magic computer that will take what I think and write it out for me.

But speaking of computers, I have got to somehow get a laptop. Sitting at the desk kills my back. I got the results of my bone density test today. I was diagnosed with osteoperosis in 2005, I broke my neck and back in 1995, the surgery I had in 2007 seriously mangled my back. I'm a mess. If you want to see why my back is mangled, follow this link: insane, huh?! Anyway, my T-score is 2.1 now. That means I'm at high risk for fracture. It means my bones are weak, and sitting here can be torture. Thank God for Vicodin.

So it will be nice when I can get a laptop. Then, if I'm inspired, but in pain, I can recline on the couch and write. The good thing is I know my writing is drastically improving. It's something I can feel as I put it down into written word. The biggest problem I still have is too much "tell," not enough "show." But I'm finally developing my personal voice. I've only been doing this for three years and a half years, so I'm really still a newbie.

But I'm still writing, that's the greatest thing I can personally do for myself. Because I'm someone who always had trouble following through on stuff. It's like, when I drank, I had this switch that would shut me down whenever I got too close to success in anything. Like I felt I didn't deserve to have good things. I have a beautiful wife, a great son, a daughter on the way- now I want to have a career as an author. And I will have it.

And I'm still writing...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Self-Pity (a poem about the feelings of addiction)


I once had a dream
Awoke with a scream
The sweat still in my eyes.

Nothing was what it seemed
Life was fiction I deemed
As I heard the rabbit's cries.

Strong coffee and cream
To clear the fog, I mean
Is it true that everyone dies?

Then I awoke from my dream
The dream within a dream within a dream
And life goes on I despise.


That was written while I was in jail, at the start of my drying out time. Not my sobriety. I drank after I got out that time. I think that was why I worded the end "I despise." I knew I wasn't sober, even though I knew that was what I needed. Sobriety is a tricky, slippery thing. And you know if it's not there; even if you desperately want and need it to be. I look back and it depresses me a little that I wasn't there at the time. But I can't beat myself up over it, only realize it wasn't time yet. I had to be broken down even further to become fully accepting to a life of sobriety.
And it is a good damn life now.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Creeping Myself Out

I'm sitting here listining to the Best of Iron Maiden, and taking a momentary break from the horror story I'm writing. It must be good so far, because it's creeping me out. And if that's the case, I really have high hopes for the finished product. Of course, I just finished my "outlining of where I think things will go," but any writer knows that things rarely go where we expect them to when we start the project. And my method of outlining is very crude, purposely done so for the leeway it provides. Some writer's map out everything in an outline. And that's what the first draft of my first novel essentially became- a 55,000 outline. So now I feel locked in to the path I created for the main character as I work on the second draft of that story. But for the ghost story I'm doing to release stress, I am held by no bonds- and maybe THAT'S what really creeps me out, that the antagonist in this one can truly be as depraved and evil as I want, or vice-versa if it fits the situation.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

3 years, 5 months

Well, yesterday marked three years five months sobriety. Just like with a birthday, the more you have the less you notice them. And that's a pretty good thing, because it would be very hard to remain sober if it was all you ever thought about. I know the date my anniversary will fall on, and I respect the accomlishment, but we never make a big deal out of it. Hell, it would feel weird to have an "I'm sober," party. Thanks to everyone who has believed in me, I couldn't do it without you, as cliched as that sounds.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears...

What is sad in a way, but really not so bad is the fact that I have no friends of my own anymore. Well, that's not entirely correct, I still talk to one of my oldest and best friends, just not all that often. Since I got sober I just don't have much in common with my own friends. In treatment they tell you that you'll have to change your people, places and things. And we all balk at that idea. "I'm not going to get rid of my friends!" we say. But the reality is we don't have to get rid of them. Eventually, if we are serious about recovery, the differences will win out.

So now my friends are my wife's friends. And that's good, because they don't drink much, and not around me at all. That's not to say that I can't be around someone drinking. My recovery is not based on anyone else's actions, but I don't put myself in those situations unless I have to. If we visit my mother-in-law it's a pretty safe bet that she will be drinking. But with her, and Crystal's friends, I don't have that history. My own friends I spent years drinking constantly with. We are all alcoholics, some just haven't admitted it yet.

Crystal hardly ever drank with me. When we got together I was just getting to the worst of my addiction. Watching me slowly kill myself made her hate alcohol. So now she might occassionally go out with some of the girls from work, and have a few drinks, but that is rare. And if she comes home with a buzz, it doesn't make me miss it at all. But I believe if I hung out with one of my old drinking buddies, and he was drinking, it would be a different story. I think I would miss it.

I have been sober for more than three years, and the Lord has relieved me of having cravings. I can truly say I don't have them. But one could be just around the corner if I let my guard down. So I pray for the Lord to keep them at bay. And remind myself that just one drink would be my destruction.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New Edition around May 13, 2009

My wife Crystal and I are expecting our second child, a girl, on May 13. If she comes on her due date. If she comes seven days early she will be born on our anniversary, which also happens to be Cinco de Mayo, and my youngest brother's birthday. Whatever happens, May is a good month for the Sarber family. And a stressful one. But still a good one. But, oh boy, stressful. Never had a daughter before, so it will be a whole new experience. Wish me luck!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Music, Writing and Brain-Bashing Fun

I just read Kristophenia's blog about music and writing. I know how she feels- I used to need to keep the tunes off when I wrote. Now I need to turn the television off when I write. But that's another post for another time. My writing area is not set up for someone who gets distracted easily.

Back to the music. I love metal, blues, classic rock, and even some classical music. I am a guitarist. I believe music is important for life. So why should it distract me? Because whatever I listen to I want to blend in with what I'm writing. My first novel (still working on the 2nd draft) has six parts, and I use lyrics to set the mood going into each part. But I'll probably have to cut them out if I can't get permission to use them. If you read my post of The Silvertone you'll see that Glenn is a guitarist. So, why can't I listen and write?

And that is my goal for today: To try something new. Put on some Iron Maiden, or some Judas Priest, or some Stevie Ray Vaughan, and sooth the savage beast. Maybe I can get somewhere. I need to, because I'm stuck in a funk right now.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I'm new around these parts...

... what I want to find most here is people who can give me honest opinions about my posts. My ultimate goal is to be published by the end of the year, so any critsism at this point will be taken constructively.

The Silvertone (first 7 chapters- rough draft)


Louis Armstrong's “What a Wonderful World” played softly on the old Silvertone console radio in Len Thomas's den. The speaker crackled a little, but otherwise, the antique was in good condition. Len had replaced the Bose CD system in favor of the old radio, and remained happy about the decision. It gave character to the room. And out of sentimentalism, he played only the oldies on it. U2 would have sounded fine, he was sure, but it wouldn't feel right.

Len was a partner at a prestigious law firm in Manchester, New Hampshire. He'd put in many eighty-hour weeks over the course of his career, and was working at home, as usual. What wasn't usual was the calm look on his face. His usual hard look was gone, a slight grin replaced it. Now he stood, extinguished the cigarette he'd forgotten about in an ashtray, and walked over to the oak bar in front of the window. As he poured a bourbon and water he studied his reflection in the glass.

“Not bad,” he said aloud. He'd held together pretty well for a man in his fifties. Hardly a touch of gray marred his full head of hair. No paunch, to speak of, hanging over his belt. Yeah, he was in nearly as good condition as the radio. Of course, it was a bit older. It surely predated WWII. He began to caress the top of the console as he studied his reflection. His reflection appeared different, he couldn't quite put his finger on it, like a reflection out of someone else's past.

The Silvertone clicked off. Len raised his hand from the top of the radio, studying his fingers. It was like looking at a different hand, through another person's eyes. His head hurt a bit. No matter, that wouldn't last long. He turned toward his desk. The message was clear.

Pulling the bottom drawer open Len retrieved the .38 revolver he kept for security. After checking to make sure it was loaded, he left the den. There was a job to be done.

Opening the door to the hall, Len Thomas left the den, and the decency of his former life behind.
He walked down the hall, stopping at the door to his seventeen-year-old daughter Candace's room. Both his girls were in there, watching television and gossiping about boys. Len raised the .38 and put three bullets into his younger daughter, Angela, then the remaining rounds found their mark in her older sister's chest.

Len blinked twice, and turned to the family room at the far end of the hall.

Janis, his wife of twenty-six years rushed toward him.

“Len! What's happening...” she wasn't allowed to finish her sentence. He words were cut off by a crushing blow which obliterated her nose. Len was now holding the gun by the barrel, using it like a hammer. The dark wooden stock stained deep-crimson, more with each crushing blow. He kept going until he could barely raise his right arm.

Finished with his task, Len dropped the .38 and walked to the garage. He selected a length of rope and fashioned it into a noose. After securing the free end to his workbench, he tossed the noose-end over a rafter. Forty-two hours later the county medical examiner cut loose the rope and placed his body on a gurney next to the bodies of his wife and daughters, preparing to take the Thomas family to their final resting places.

The family's only living relative, Janis's older sister Morgan, put the house up for sale. She donated most of the family's possessions to the Salvation Army.

But not the Silvertone.

The old radio went home with her.


This was the time for change and new beginnings. And Glenn Butler needed both. That's what this move was all about. A new place with no familiarities whatsoever. No questions, no sympathy, or empathy, or sugar-coated concern.

And you couldn't get much new and different than Tipton's Meadow, New Hampshire. It was a far cry from St. Louis.

The stereo in his '99 Ford Explorer fuzzed out, another classic rock station gone, time to begin the search for good music again. Or maybe make life simpler and just put in a Cream CD.

Keeping a eye on the unfamiliar highway, Glenn fished for “Disraeli Gears”, the '67 guitar-driven masterpiece.

Glenn started it at track six, “Tales of Brave Ulysses”. A song about an adventurer for a man on an adventure.

And he could relate to Clapton. They had both lost a son. They both played blues guitar, even if Glenn played as a hobby, and Clapton did it to inspire thousands of people across the globe. The blues were an outlet, a way to communicate grief.

There was no excuse for his guilt. Nothing he could have done would have saved his wife and son. Yet the guilt remained. Slightly lessened, but there, nonetheless.

This move probably was a good idea. They told alcoholics and drug addicts the path to sobriety was to change your people, places and things. He wasn't an alcoholic, however they did share a mindset. Guilt, shame, and self-loathing. But could a simple move change anything in his world? Change the fact that, in a cemetery in south St. Louis, Missouri, his family lay in the ground with two stone markers the only proof of their existence? Change how he felt about that fact?

It certainly wasn't going to help if he kept brooding about it. He turned the stereo up and tried to focus on Clapton's tone, the clarity of the notes screaming from the speakers.

“Tales of Brave Ulysses” gave way to “Swlabr” as another highway marker announced he was one mile closer to his destination. Tipton's Meadow; he'd all but pulled that name from a hat. Looking for a small town still close enough to a major city so that he wouldn't feel completely like a fish out of water, he came across that name and it stuck out. It may be foolish to start over at a place picked purely because you liked the name, but hell, he could do any damn fool thing he wanted.

Highway 93 promised hope, showed beauty, and scared the hell out of him. The countryside was beyond what he'd imagined. It was stunning. A place this breathtaking should gestate a deep sense of well-being. Why did the seed it planted feel so wrong?


After flipping the sign in the door to “Come on in”, Ellis McCormick opened the store as he did every morning. With a sigh.

Things just weren't the same since Rosemary passed. Dreading the day he would finally give in and close up for good, he looked forward to it as well.

The store was a curio and antique boutique his wife had run for over thirty years, called simply, “Rosie's”. Ellis had always helped out when she needed someone to move things around, or sometimes at night he'd help clean up. But he wasn't a businessman. He'd left that part solely up to Rosemary. He'd been quite content with his occupation as the town handyman.

Ellis sat on the porch, lit his pipe, and opened the morning paper. If Rosie were still alive, she would chide him. “Forget the newspaper. You need to pick up your Bible once in a while.”

She would be right. Nothing but bad news in here, anyway. But he didn't put the paper down. It had been a part of his daily routine for far too long.

Besides, maybe he'd go to church this Sunday.

Roughly an hour later, the pipe long burned out, Ellis walked out to the recycling box at the curb and dropped the finished newspaper in. That was something you couldn't do with your Bible, not unless you wanted the Lord to strike you down.

As he stood at the curb he spotted a dark green Ford Explorer. That would be the man who bought the Adams house, Glenn Something or other. Not many young men moved out here from the city, especially not from halfway across the country. Ellis wondered what this man's story was, how he ended up out here in nowhere-land.

The man driving waved as he went past Rosie's, and Ellis raised his hand in return. No U-Haul trailer. That fit with what he had heard, that this fellow had no family, and no contacts out here.
So why New Hampshire? Specifically, why Tipton's Meadow? This was no bustling town; there was a small movie theater, and a bowling alley. Other than the high school sports teams there was little to do. It just intrigued him. Most young people were trying to get out, not move in.

And maybe he was just prejudiced. His own daughter moved to New York as soon as she was old enough. They still talked almost every week, and their relationship was not what you would call strained. Though he hadn't seen Kelli in almost eighteen months.

Ellis returned to the store, and sighed again. There was one bright spot. His new find. An antique radio he'd gotten at an estate sale the week before. The radio needed a new power cord, and a good rub down with some tung oil, but otherwise it was a striking example of craftsmanship.


The Explorer pulled up in front of the modest Colonial-style home, and Glenn switched off the engine. He opened the truck's door and nearly fell out onto the driveway. He'd been on the road for twenty-plus hours, and hadn't even made a pit stop in the last eight. His legs were like jelly. And the porch seemed worlds away. Willing his legs to come alive, he made it to the front door.
After hobbling to the bathroom and draining his bladder, Glenn went into the bedroom. He bought the house furnished, and though he planned to get a new bed- who wanted to sleep where someone else had sex, unless you count hotels- it would serve nicely right now. He could have slept on the floor.

He woke at noon, somewhat more ready to unpack. Or at least bring his possessions inside.

Unpacking might be pushing it a little.

When he had pulled into the driveway that morning it had been quite chilly, now, with the afternoon sun high overhead, it was a pleasantly mild. A south breeze brought the scent of flowers. Glenn recognized Lupine, butterfly weed, with its striking orange flowers, and some Jack-in-the-Pulpit. His neighbor appeared to have a green thumb.

His wife was, or yet, had been, a botanist. God, would he ever get used to thinking of her in the past tense? She had worked at the Missouri Botanical Garden. It was something she loved, and was good at. She could grow anything. At their St. Louis home, Jenny had planted a mimosa tree on their first anniversary. It was a beautiful tree, and it flourished under her care. Which was no easy task in the St. Louis climate. Most Missourians had a saying; “If you don't like the weather here, wait ten minutes- it'll change.”

Glenn wiped a tear from his cheek and pressed the button on his key-fob, unlocking the Explorer.

He hadn't brought much to New Hampshire. Three suitcases full of clothes; they still had the airport tags on them from their vacation to the Rocky Mountains last year. He took out his pocket knife and cut the tags from the handles and stuck them in the back pocket of his jeans.
A twenty-seven inch television and DVD player, a boom box, his guns, and his acoustic and electric guitars. And, of course, a 15-watt Marshall amplifier. That would probably be getting a workout tonight. It was his support program. He played the blues when he needed to express grief, rock when he felt good, and even heavy metal, when he was angry. Tonight would probably be metal and blues.

The anger still didn't make any sense to him. But there it was, a constant, draining parasite, gripping tighter each time it took hold of his heart. Trying to push it away, Glenn finished unpacking the truck.

After unpacking, Glenn debated whether to shop for some dinner, or go out to a restaurant.

Deciding he would need to stock the fridge anyway, he chose the grocery store.

Johnson's Market appeared to be the only place in town to shop for food. It was a small store with fresh, crisp produce, bright-red healthy looking cuts of meat, and a surprisingly diverse selection of the staples to any bachelor's diet; Chips, canned soups, frozen dinners. Cart filled, he passed by the liquor aisle. Eying the endless row of bottles, Glenn decided against alcohol. He wasn't going to drink alone on his first night here. It would only feed the anger and sorrow. He settled for a twelve-pack of Coca-Cola instead.

After checking out, pushing the cart across the parking lot, Glenn heard a voice call out.

“Hey, there,” the voice said.

Glenn looked over his shoulder to see a man, sixty-ish, tall, rugged, walking toward him.

“I'm Ellis McCormick. And you are the new guy in town.”

The old man gripped Glenn's hand in a strong handshake, his hands calloused and rough; a workman's hands.

Glenn laughed, “Glenn Butler. I suppose you don't get many new faces around here?”
Ellis laughed. “Not really. Most people seem to want to get out of here these days.”

“Small town, little excitement, nothing to do. I get the picture. But it's exactly what I'm looking for. Quiet.”

“Can I ask why?”

Glenn shook his head slightly. “You could, but you wouldn't get an answer.”

“Fair enough,” Ellis said. “I apologize. But know that in a place like this the gossip cooks up quick.

Folks will already have their opinions why you came here.

“Hey, speaking of cooking, how would you like to come over for dinner, Glenn? I've got some salmon just begging to be grilled.”

“I will have to take a rain-check. Give me a few days to get settled, I'm wiped out from the drive up.

“So what are the rumors, anyway?” Glenn began to load his groceries into the Explorers trunk, and Ellis helped, handing the bags over to him.

“Nothing special, so far. Maybe you're on the run from something, maybe the Witness Protection thing. But there will be quite a buzz soon around here.”

Glenn laughed again, “No, nothing like that. Let's just say I needed a change and leave it at that.”

“Sounds good.”

The two men shook hands again, and parted ways, Glenn slid into the driver's seat of the Explorer, and Ellis entered Johnson's Market.


Trey Barker sat on his bed, looking at a movie poster from Pet Sematary on his wall. It was his favorite movie: scary, violent, and morally ambiguous. No good triumphing over evil in that one.
He felt like watching a movie. He should be doing his homework. Case settled, he would watch a movie. Maybe one of the newer splatter flicks. They weren't as good as Pet Sematary, but he enjoyed the graphic nature of them.

What he wanted most to do was find Fat Albert. Albert was the Turnbaum's gray tabby. A bit like Church from his favorite movie, just fatter. Fat Albert liked to bring gifts to Trey's front doorstep. Many mornings he had stepped out barefoot to get the paper for his mom, and stepped on a disemboweled mouse, or sparrow, or snake. He wondered how Albert would feel if it was him whose insides were strewn about the ground. That would turn this quiet little town on end. People would start locking their doors at night. They would talk. A madman is on the loose, one who murders pets. It's only a matter of time before he starts to go after people.

But it was no good. He didn't have the stomach to kill the cat. He was all talk. Or, all imagination.

That would probably be more accurate. Because who would he ever tell any plans like that to? He had no friends. He was just the freak boy. The boy who spent all his time watching horror flicks and making scary masks and gory disembodied hands with latex.

He'd show them all one day. He would be a famous special effects creator working in Hollywood. Of course, the real potential in special effects was computers now. It was all computer generated imaging these days. Not much work for a latex-mold maker. Maybe he could bring back that genre. Kind of like a retro thing. What the hell, if fashion from the sixties and the eighties could come back, anything was possible.

Trey would just go on they way he always had. Maintaining barely passing grades at school, walking home alone, and working on his passion. It wouldn't be long before he turned sixteen. He hoped that after he got his license he could talk his mom into letting him drive out to Hollywood for the summer. That wouldn't happen, but he could hope.

But for now, maybe it would be more prudent to get started on his American History homework.

History, what a waste of time. They said those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Who cares? It wasn't his problem, the men who ran the country made the decisions that affected his life. And they didn't seem to mind repeating history... as long as they weren't the ones who suffered from their decisions.

Opening his History textbook Trey found a note tucked inside. It was from a girl in his class named Tiffany. She was pretty, popular, all the qualities of a girl who would never talk to him out loud, in front of their classmates. So he was surprised to see this note. He was sure it was a mistake, but there it was, addressed to him, containing her phone number and the words call me in bubbly girl script.

He set the note aside. How could he call her? If it was a joke at his expense, well, it would be painful. If it was serious, oh boy! Now that was a thought. The kind wet dreams were made of.


Glenn lay in bed, restless, clutching the one piece of Jenny he'd brought from St. Louis; a white satin nightgown. He had given her that nightie and a string of pearls for their last anniversary. It still faintly held on to her scent, flowery and sweet. Tears welled in his eyes, but did not fall.

After some time he fell asleep, still embracing the remnant from his past. When he woke he found that he was ashamed. He hadn't brought any photographs of his wife and son. They were in a storage unit back in Missouri, along with other items he didn't want to throw away, but didn't feel he could bear to look at every day while he tried to move on in a new place. He still had pictures of them in his wallet, but he would never forget their faces without tangible proof of their existence.

Now the guilt was here again. A Mount St. Helens of guilt, ready to blow at any time.
Maybe it was wrong that he had left nearly all evidence of Jenny and little Sean twenty-five hundred miles behind. Maybe he had done that very thing so he would have a viable excuse to harbor the guilt.

Jenny and Sean were killed by a bad man. A junkie. End of story. It was no one he had arrested, nobody he had ever had a run-in with. Just a bad man. And Glenn couldn't blame it on the neighborhood, they were killed miles from home. That bad man followed them for blocks, and when Jenny stopped at an ATM machine he saw his opportunity to strike.

According to eyewitnesses, the man approached Jenny as she inserted her card into the machine. He had a syringe in his hand, and told her he had AIDS. If she refused to pull out all her money and give it to him, he would stick the needle into her arm, infecting her.

Jenny did as he asked, she took out a hundred and eighty dollars; all that the Butler's had in their bank account. Whether it just wasn't enough, or the bad man planned to kill her anyway, the deal went bad. The man ordered her and Sean into the alleyway between buildings, dropped the syringe into his back pocket and took a hunting knife out instead.

Mercifully, he didn't needlessly torture them. Their end was swift. When Glenn got the call on his cell phone, instead of his radio, the Chief of Detectives, a man Glenn had known for twenty-odd years, even before he had decided to become a police officer, said simply “They didn't suffer, Glenn. There was no pain.”

As if he knew that. The brain is one marvel of science, who can say that the pistons don't keep firing for a few seconds, no matter how fast the death. If you unplug a computer, or a television set, it still holds some power in the transistors. A brain can be no different.

No, he couldn't believe that they didn't suffer. The only possible light at the end of that particular tunnel was that the junkie was found two days later, dead of an overdose of methamphetamine. He suffered, at least for a while.

Glenn thought about all this as he showered. He remembered the phone call to Jenny's parents. Now that was unpleasant. They did blame him. Nothing new there, though. Glenn had accepted that a long time ago.

When he called it was, “If you had,” this, “If you hadn't,” that. But you couldn't live your life by the “ifs”. Not and stay sane, anyway. What else was missing were any inquiries as to how he was doing. Not from her side of the family, and he had no family. He had lost just as much as Jenny's parents. His wife and son were gone forever.

Glenn spent so much time replaying the past the hot water ran out. He finished his shower shivering, but refreshed. Freer than he'd felt in a long time.


Old Eva Birch sat in the dark as she did many nights. She was nearly ninety years old, blind in one eye, but still sharp as ever. She swallowed a gulp a Wild Turkey, straight, no ice, no water, and crushed out the Pall Mall non-filter she'd been smoking. Nasty habit, but who had the nerve to tell her to quit? Not anyone in this town. And certainly not her doctor. Hell, fifty years ago she helped deliver him. You just couldn't tell someone who'd helped bring you into the world to stop something that has been a part of their life for longer than your own. At least that was her guess.
So she sat, and smoked, and drank. Because something was wrong here. Many years ago her father might have said there's a foul wind blowin'. But it was more than that. It was a stench, hanging over the town like pollution. Old Eva didn't know what it was, or if it could be just the onset of senility. God knows she felt fine, but what was actually going on upstairs was anybodies guess.

No. Her mind still worked fine. And it would work even better after she refilled her glass of whiskey. She rose slowly and hobbled to the kitchen where the liquor was kept. The old joints weren't in such good shape anymore, that fact she couldn't argue.


While Old Eva sat in the dark with drink and smoke, feeling something was very wrong with her town, Ellis applied a coat of finish to the Silvertone. He'd already replaced the cord and the belt to the turntable, and once the finish was completed he would plug it in. See if it sounded any good. Probably not, an old speaker would be prone to dry rot. But at least the radio had solid-state components, no tubes to change out.

Yep, the old thing would sure look good when he put a nice thick coat of lacquer on it. This was the part he loved, working with his hands to bring something new life. A good many of the things in this little shop he had resurrected from a fate with the county dump, but few he was able to bring back to the degree of beauty they had come off the showroom floor with. This radio would be one of the few.

He looked at the wall clock. Ten minutes of midnight. It was probably time for bed. Ellis walked up the stairs to his living quarters in the upper floor of the Victorian home. The lower floor housed the shop, the kitchen, and dining room, but upstairs was all his. At least since Rosie passed.

Upstairs were pictures, upstairs held memories. There were many downstairs as well, but the memories hanging on those walls were different. The upper floor had pictures of Rosie, and Kelli, and himself in happy times. In the days when he still had a family.

Kelli had come along late in life. They had all but given up on having a child when Rosie suddenly started getting sick in the mornings. Touch of the flu, they thought. But when the ill feeling persisted for two weeks, Rosemary went to see the doctor.

Nine months later Kelli McCormick came into the world to greet her parents. Ellis was forty-two, Rosie forty. As delighted as they were, they had fear. At an age when many of their friends were soon to become grandparents, they had a baby. It was a scary prospect. But they couldn't have loved her more.

One check in the pro column was that they had money saved up. Just change the notation in the savings book from retirement fund to college fund. It was that simple. A good many new parents couldn't say that.

Naturally the benefits didn't stop there. The way something so small could having such a grand impact on your life defies logic. Or at least, that was what Ellis thought.

After brushing his teeth, he picked up the phone, thought better of the idea, and set it back down. It was late, but Kelli wouldn't be in bed, she might not even be home. Maybe that was what he wanted, to get her voice mail. That would keep things simple, he could just leave an innocuous message, she could call whenever she felt like it. Something inside was pushing him to call his daughter, and if it was something important he should talk to her directly. He picked the phone back up.


Halfway across the country, on Highway 70, driving through Topeka, Kansas, Spike Caan lit up a joint. Something fucked up was happening, and he needed to calm his nerves. A lifelong dedication to operating without direction was suddenly in jeopardy. Spike was being manipulated eastward, pulled by a force he was powerless to ignore.

He didn't like it.

Spike had spent his entire existence running from responsibility, from guidance. Anything controlling his actions was unwelcome. He tried to will himself to pull a u-turn and point the Caddy's front end in the opposite direction, but couldn't. The electrical impulses from his brain seemed not to reach his muscles. Powerlessness- a horrible feeling. He still didn't like it, but fuck it, if you couldn't change something you might as well enjoy the ride. He pressed the gas pedal to the floor, the Caddy's eight-cylinder engine roared, throwing him deep into the driver's seat.
Once he reached a nice straight stretch of rural highway, Spike let the speedometer creep up near one hundred. What the hell, he had no current warrants. At least none that would come back to the name on the driver's license in his wallet. And he had a little grass on him. And if some pig pulled him over and made too much fuss, then Spike could just cap 'im.

An hour or so later he turned into a Chevron for gas. That pulling feeling was getting stronger. Spike was hungry, but didn't think he'd be able to sit still long enough to eat at a burger stand. He grabbed some beef jerky and potato chips and two bottles of Dr. Pepper. Then back to the road.


The morning was turning out to be promising. Glenn had finished unpacking, consumed a half pot of coffee, and eaten a hearty breakfast of glazed donuts, all before ten o'clock.

Now the remaining adrenaline, sugar rush, and caffeine in his system had him walking circles, bored out of his mind.

But what if it wasn't boredom? He didn't feel his usual smattering of guilt spiced up with pain, this was different. Electric, the kind of thing that left your field of focus whenever you tried to lock-on to it. Whatever it was, however, it was there, in his chest. If he were a worrying man, he might think it was a small heart attack.

After aimlessly shuffling around the house for half an hour, that unusual feeling diminished. Glenn decided to go out and check out the town. St. Louis was a beautiful city, with the riverfront and the Arch, and the outlying areas had great scenery. But this was New England, nothing could have prepared him for the colors, the clean smell in the air, and the relaxed somesthesia he got from the atmosphere.

And that was not an unwelcome feeling.

Glenn walked up Fifth Street, which seemed to serve as Main Street for this town. Funny though, there were no other numbered streets. So how did they get from First to Fifth? The rest seemed to be named after Presidents: Washington, Roosevelt, Adams, and Jefferson. Maybe that old codger he'd met last night would know why.

He had seen where the man had come from, good observation skills were important for a cop, even a retired one, and decided the antique store would be a good place to start.
A bell jingled when he pushed open the front door, and a voice from the back called out, “Be right there.”

There were shelves and rows of carnival glass, ancient silverware, portraits, a Civil War sword hanging on the wall, the usual kinds of things you'd expect to find in a small town shop like this.

Against the far wall was an antique radio. It looked brand new, but the scent of varnish hung in the air. The old guy must be refinishing it, and doing a bang up job.

Glenn got that familiar uneasy qualm; funny though, he'd felt fine just a second ago.

Ellis came into the front room drying his hands on a beige dishtowel. Once they were sufficiently dry, he extended his right paw to Glenn.

“I see you found my store. Well, it's really, I mean, was really my wife's store. She's passed on, but she's the reason for everything you see here. I just try to make her smile down on me with what I do with it.”

Glenn glanced around Rosie's and nodded, “I think she smiles. It's great.”

“Thank you, Glenn. It's nice to see some young blood in this town. Small towns have a way of getting smaller, the young all want to leave, and the old die off. But there's no finer place in all New England, if you ask me,” Ellis winked. “But of course, I'm biased. Lived here all my life. I was born here, and one day my body will rest over in St. Paul's Cemetery right next to my Rosie, but enough of that. You didn't stop by to talk about death and loneliness. What can I do for you?”
“Maybe not today, but there will be plenty of time for stories. I guess I just wanted to say hello, you're the only person I've met here so far.”


In Manhattan, Kelli McCormick packed a beat up leather suitcase. She put her laptop in its case, grabbed her phone, and took an elevator down to the lobby of her apartment building. This trip would go one of two ways, as far as she could figure. One, her and her father could dance around the awkwardness between them, making small talk and half-heartedly laughing at lame anecdotes until they said their goodbye's. Or, and it was probably solely up to her to make this happen, they could bury their differences and rebuild the relationship. They could tear down the walls that she had put up after her mother's death.

Kelli grabbed a couple Tylenol out of the bathroom vanity and bumped a bottle of perfume off the shelf.

Chanel spilled down the drain, filling the air with rich fragrance. She didn't wear the Chanel often, it had been her mother's bottle, and now it was broken, her memories running down the pipe, on its way to a water treatment plant. Could this be an omen to how the trip would go, Kelli wondered?

But she didn't believe in that sort of thing.