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My Game Plan Through 2020

My book schedule through the end of next year.

Where I Have Been

It seems like only yesterday that I started writing. It’s hard to believe that it was over two years ago. I have learned a great many things, mostly through mistakes. My first book, “Country Boy,” was released in February of 2018. My first short novel, “Joshua and the Shadow of Death,” published in October of that year. “Humor Deeper Than A Holler,” came out in February of 2019, and “Harold and the Angel of Death,” released in April.

There has been a lot of labor, money, and tears invested in the first four books. “Humor Through The Ages” is due out later this year. Despite my physical limitations, I have pushed hard. This effort may be the hardest I have pushed myself in a couple of decades. I have been learning a lot about the book industry, in addition to how to become a good storyteller.

Where I Am Going

As I grow in knowledge around advertising and successful book sales, I hope to share my experience with others. However, at this moment, many of my tactics are still in the proof of concept stage. What needs to happen to get these ideas beyond POV? Book sales.

Although I love writing, no author can write book after book and not stop to pay attention to the business. After all, at its heart, self-publishing is a small business, and our books are our products.

The last quarter of this year and most of next year will be a sales focus. Additionally, I will be working on the third book in the Berserker Series, “Bill and the Sting of Death.” Also, I will continue to post weekly short stories. I love to share these, and they help in the continual improvement of my writing and editing skills.

Join Me In The Journey

Are you a reader who enjoys my books? I hope you will stick with me through the coming year. Next year promises to be full of challenges and adventures, both real and imagined. Are you a writer? I hope my stories of success and failure will aid you in your journey.

I look forward to sharing the coming months with all of you.

Bitten

Careful where you step.

Jerry’s pace quickened against the crisp mountain air. Dusty clouds emitted from his jogging shoes as he traveled up the dirt road. A view of the Rockies was on his left and an Aspen covered slope on his right. His agile legs expertly guided his feet around the rocks that could twist his ankle.

The smell of pine and fresh air filled Jerry’s nostrils, and a smile remained transfixed across his face. The dirt road turned sharply and substantially increased in grade. His leg muscles started to burn. The smile left his face for a few moments before it returned, and the burning disappeared.

The sun was beginning to break over some of the lower crests, and its warm glow fell on the back of Jerry’s t-shirt. He turned the next switchback, and the sun heated his face. He glanced up at the clear, blue sky when a sudden pain struck his right ankle mid-step. Instinctively, he kicked and saw the small rattlesnake go flying off into the bushes.

He stuttered, wobbled, and stumbled. The blood swiftly pumping through Jerry’s veins began to burn.

Jerry let himself collapse in the middle of the road. He screamed, and the morning’s smoothie ejected from his stomach. Tearing at his shirt, he fashioned a tourniquet using a nearby stick. His hot muscles and veins fought against the restriction put upon them.

Jerry blocked his instincts to stop tightening the torn fabric and twisted the stick between gasps for air. Dizzy and nauseous, he worked to control his breathing.

He had wanted a quiet run, and now it looked like he was going to die in the effort. The minutes ticked by, and his right leg became numb below the tourniquet. Looking down, his toes and foot looked as though they would pop if someone poked them with a needle.

An unnatural rumble emitted from the bottom of the valley. Jerry blinked, shook his head, and strained to decipher the sound below. Whatever it was, it was climbing up the dirt road. The distinct sound of an engine began to grow louder, and Jerry said a prayer of thanks.

A black jeep appeared around the bend and Jerry hollered and waved with everything he had left. The red-headed driver stopped and jumped out. Her tight hiking outfit and boots fit her girlish figure like a glove.

Jerry gasped, “A rattlesnake bit me.”

“Don’t move,” insisted the young woman.

The hiker went back to her jeep and got one of her walking sticks.

“Grab hold of this. I’ll take your other shoulder and help you up. Then we’ll get in the jeep.”

Jerry managed to keep his foot off the ground. A warm wave rose from his stomach to his chest, and the road rose and fell under his feet. He swallowed hard, and they worked their way over to her jeep.

The young woman already had the passenger seat tilted forward, and Jerry eased into the rear. He laid there on his back with his foot elevated. She grabbed an ace bandage from her first aid kit, and the two of them tied off his tourniquet. Dialing 911 on her cell she jumped in the front seat, turned the jeep around and made her way back down the mountain to meet the ambulance.

“If you don’t mind me asking, why didn’t you have a cell phone?”

Mumbling through the pain, he responded, “Solitude.”

The young woman glanced at him over her shoulder, “Judging from that swollen foot, I think your running days may be over.”

Jerry attempted to smile, his voice strained, “Maybe. There’s always swimming.”

“Does that mean next time I’ll find you floating in one of the lakes?”

“Possibly.”

The woman reached back with one hand grasping at the air. Jerry grabbed her hand for a moment. “My name’s Maria.”

Although he was wincing with pain, the conversation was keeping his mind occupied. “I’m Jerry. Thanks for the rescue.”

The ambulance appeared ahead, and she pulled to the shoulder. The EMTs brought the gurney to her vehicle and Maria hastily scribbled something on the back of a card from her purse. She walked over and put it in Jerry’s hand.

“Don’t lose this. It has my business number on the front and my cell phone on the back. Let me know how things turn out. Maybe we can go to dinner sometime, and you can tell me how you managed to avoid this from happening until now.”

Jerry looked into Maria’s bright, blue eyes and muttered. “Remind me to thank that snake later.”

The EMTs delivered a quick dose of pain medicine and pushed the gurney into the ambulance. Jerry felt himself relax and closed his eyes.

Alone

It is not good to be alone.

Ahmed walked through the steel and glass canyon. He shivered, and his chest tightened as the cold afternoon breeze cut through his blazer. Ahmed distanced himself from the mass of humanity crossing the street.

Two blocks later, he arrived at the familiar breezeway and hurried to an unoccupied table in the empty plaza. Ahmed closed his eyes and let the sun warm his cold face. A chair slid from the other side of the table, and a dank smell wafted in the air. Ahmed opened his eyes. Before him sat a man in dirty clothes, and a threadbare overcoat. The stranger smiled and stuck out his crusty hand.

“Hi, people call me George. Sorry if I disturbed you. I just needed to sit a spell.”

Ahmed kept his cold hands in his pockets. “I don’t want to offend you, but there are lots of other tables.”

George pulled back his hand, “I see.”

Ahmed felt his face flush and quickly interjected, “It’s nothing personal, I came here to be alone for a few minutes.”

George nodded and said, “Isn’t that a coincidence, I used to come here seeking solitude myself.”

“But not today.”

“I do as I please. Look, I used to look miserable like you. I bet it’s your job and maybe the family.” George held up his hand, “No, you don’t have to answer, I can see it in your face. Well, I got tired of everything, too, and I left it all behind. Now I live free and do what I want.”

Ahmed leaned forward, “Did you have a family?”

George stared blankly up into the sky. “I used to. The pressures at my job and home; I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. So, I quit work and walked out. My wife filed for divorce after I didn’t come back home. It took the papers a while to find me.”

George’s hollow eyes looked into Ahmed’s, “I have to admit, I do miss the kids. Eventually, my wife remarried, so the girls got a new dad.” George shrugged, “Nobody seems to miss me.”

“I’m not sure I want to walk out on everyone and everything.”

George waved him off, “Give it time, you will.”

Ahmed stood up, “I appreciate the visit. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll head back to work.”

“That’s the spirit. Before you go, any chance you can give a fella a couple of bucks for his advice?”

Ahmed pulled out a twenty and handed it to George. They shook hands, and Ahmed left, determined never to return.

Happy Birthday

An unexpected gift.

“Happy Birthday Conner! I see you’ve added a few pounds.”

I responded with a smirk, “Glad you’ve noticed Tim.”

“What are you doing with yourself these days?” he asked.

Before I could answer, I noticed his eyes wandered away from me. I glanced over and locked onto the tan woman with wavy, thick black locks that flowed gracefully over her shoulders and partially covered the spaghetti straps of her red string bikini. Tim’s presence faded from my memory, and the noise of strangers chatting up one another disappeared.

The ravened haired goddess waved and began to saunter our direction. Can this really be happening? I had never had such a beautiful woman show an interest in me. She opened her arms, my heart started to race, and then Tim’s frame invaded my vision and hugged her passionately.

“Conner, this is my girlfriend, Debbie.”

“A pleasure.” Her bikini-clad body wrapped me in a bear hug. Debbie released me, winked, and traced my cheek with her fingertip. I shuddered and prayed that no one noticed.

“Tim, you didn’t tell me the birthday boy was so cute.”

George, Cindy, and Julia mercifully walked up, and Debbie’s bottom lip stuck out in a mocking pout. Tim took Debbie’s hand, and the two went wandering off on their own towards the other side of the roof deck.

“Conner, where were you born?” asked Cindy. “I was telling George I thought it was somewhere in Kansas, but Julia said you were born in St. Augustine. I have a steak dinner riding on the answer, so make sure you get it right.”

I was just about to disappoint Cindy when I heard someone yell, “Time for the Birthday Cake! Get Conner over here.”

Thirty people surrounded a table and waved me over. A large white sheet cake with red printed words, “Happy Birthday Old Man.” took up a large part of the table. I walked up to everyone encouraging me to make a wish.

Various voices in the group gave their opinions and advice concerning my wistful aspirations. I smiled and inhaled deeply. I somehow manage to blow out all thirty candles. Julia handed me the first piece of cake, and I walked over towards the pool as friends and acquaintances lined up for their sugar rush.

The quick bite of chocolate cake and buttercream icing sent a wave of pleasure over my body. As good as the cake tasted, the quiet waters of the swimming pool beckoned me to slip under their surface for a quick respite.

I put the cake down, looked over my shoulder, nodded towards my well-wishers, and then jumped into the freshwater. I slowly let the air release from my lungs and allowed my body to gently rest on the bottom of the pool. I closed my eyes and let the stillness and watery embrace wash away the stress from the workweek.

The sound of a small object plopping against the surface of the water six feet above caught my attention. A second plop and both my eyes looked up towards the wiggly image of my best friend dropping ice into the pool. I broke the surface of the water to find out why he had interrupted my short meditation.

Trey stood by the ladder with a towel extended.

“What?”

“I thought you’d like to know that Tim left the party with Debbie’s red handprint on his face.”

He had my attention. I quickly cleared the pool steps and tore the towel out of Trey’s hands. “What happened?”

Trey shrugged, “I would guess another woman. The fire in her eyes tells me Tim won’t be coming back.”

My lips pressed together tightly as I thought for a moment. I caught a glimpse of Debbie standing alone at the far corner near the condo entrance from the pool deck.

“I should go say something,” I said to myself as much as to Trey.

“All’s fair in love and war, eh?”

I ignored Trey’s quip and tossed the towel on a chair, grabbed my birthday cake, and walked over to console Debbie.

Debbie kept her back to me and waved me off, “Some friend you are.”

“Excuse me?”

Debbie’s voice cracked as she spoke, “You just came over here to steal your friend’s girl while she’s brokenhearted.”

I took a bit of cake and took my time chewing. Finally, I responded, “So, do you always leave your handprint on the side of Tim’s head when you two argue?”

She crossed her arms and turned to me, “No.” Her eyes began to pool up.

Before I could stop myself, I held Debbie in my arms. Coconut wafted up from her suntan lotion. She released her arms and pulled me in tight. Debbie whimpered, and I could feel her tears trickle against my chest.

“He cheated on me,” she stammered.

I chose my words carefully, “Tim is a fool.”

I gently stroked Debbie’s silky hair. I thought I felt her soft lips pressed against my chest, and then she pushed away.

“Thank you.”

I pointed over my shoulder, “Why don’t you join me in the pool? I promise it can do wonders.”

Debbie cocked her head, and her black eyes twinkled, “Only if you take me to dinner afterward.”

“I would enjoy nothing more.”

Debbie brushed against my body as she walked by towards the pool. Then, she stopped, looked over her shoulder, and said, “Happy Birthday.”