Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Blood Cries Chapter 30


Louella emerged from the Piggly Wiggly and stopped outside the entrance long enough to situate her purse in the toddler seat of the grocery cart.

“Miss Harper. Miss Harper. Miss Louella Harper.”

Louella up to see who was calling her name and was somewhat startled to see a late middle-aged black man hobbling toward her from across the parking lot. Her first instinct was to pull the cart back into the store and hope the staff could offer her security, but she forced herself to remain still by reminding herself that this was a public place in which she could expect a reasonable measure of safety. Besides, while the man did not fit the profile of her average reader, the fact that he knew her name showed that he was not some random criminal.

When he finally reached her, the bent over and rested his hands on his thighs while he caught his breath. Louella took the opportunity to move her cart out of the path of the sliding glass doors that would be spitting out shoppers every few minutes.

“Excuse me, Miss Harper. I’m sorry to bother you,” the man said, still panting. He took off his fedora and used it to fan himself. He looked to be in his late fifties. He was bald, with wrinkled skin that stretched around the back of his head.

“Well, you’ve already done so. My heart is beating a hundred miles an hour. You might as well tell me who you are.”

Judging by his expression, the man was disappointed at having been forgotten. “It’s me,” he said, “Evan Waverly.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know that name.”

“You came to my house, Miss Harper. I was Reverend Baxter’s next door neighbor.”

Louella’s face wilted into an expression of supreme distaste. She checked for traffic and then pushed her cart into the parking lot without another word. Mr. Waverly fell in alongside her.

“I’m sorry to be contacting you this way. I reached out to Jim Easton, but he wouldn’t give me your number.”

“My friends no better than to give out my private information,” Louella said, “or they won’t be my friend much longer. As I recall, the last time I saw you, you wouldn’t speak to me.”

Waverly smiled sheepishly. “I’m sorry for that, Miss Harper. I didn’t want to threaten a business arrangement. I hope you understand.”

“Oh, I understand perfectly. You were negotiating with a television producer as I recall. The fact that I’m speaking to you now makes me assume the deal has fallen through.”

Waverly shook his head sadly. “Yes ma’am, it did. I never should have trusted that man. I’m sorry about that.”

“You aren’t the first person to pin his hopes on a Hollywood fantasy. It’s a bitter lesson to have to learn.”

“I know that’s the truth.”

“The fact that you’re here, dogging my tracks, makes me thing you’ve changed your mind about telling me your story. Is that also the truth?”

“Yes ma’am. I’ve given it a lot of thought. I said to myself, ‘Evan, you should have talked to that nice lady when you had the chance.’ What I did was downright inhospitable, and I apologize.”

Louella stopped the buggy behind her black Lincoln Continental and slid the key into the trunk lock. “Well, I suppose after you help me put these bags in my trunk, you can fill me in on what you know.”

“Yes, of course.” Waverly scrambled to move the woman’s bags from the buggy to the trunk. Afterwards, they stared at one another across the empty grocery cart, each waiting for the other to speak.

“Well,” Louella said.

“What? You mean, here? You want me to tell the story right here in the parking lot?”

“Well, it’s not the lobby of the Ritz Carleton, but it’ll do in a pinch. Now, hurry it up if you don’t mind, before the milk curdles.”

“But, we haven’t even discussed the conditions of our arrangement.”

“Okay, here are the conditions. You tell me your story and I’ll listen, or else I’m going back to my hotel. Are these conditions satisfactory?”

“No, Miss Harper. I meant financial conditions.”

“Good day, Mr. Waverly.” She pushed her empty buggy towards the nearest shopping cart corral.

Waverly hustled after her. “Wait, Miss Harper. You’ll want to hear my story and all it’ll cost you is three thousand dollars.”

Louella abandoned her cart in the corral and turned back toward her car without looking at him.

“Two thousand,” Waverly said.

“I believe our business is concluded, Mr. Waverly. As I said, I have to attend to my milk.”

“Okay, one thousand, but that’s as low as I can go.”

“At this point, I find that hard to believe,” Louella said. She opened the door and slid into the driver’s seat.  Waverly continued to speak to her, but his voice was muffled and she did not understand him. As she pulled out of her parking spot, his tone grew louder and more menacing, but she drove away without another glance in his direction. 

Go to Chapter 31.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

How Many Books Should I be Writing at One Time?

The biggest obstacle to my finishing novels seems to be a slight case of ADD. Just when I start moving along on a particular project, I get side-tracked and start working on something else.  

That's why, beginning in 2015, I started a new system. Every morning, I wake up at five, make coffee, and begin work on my main priority novel. I am determined to finish that book this year, hopefully by the end of the summer. After writing a minimum of one page, usually more, I may or may not begin work on another project. I also give myself time in the evenings after I get home from my day job to work on whatever happens to capture my attention. So far, this plan seems to be working and I have made steady progress since I started in September.

Below is a list of my current projects in the order I expect them to appear:

1)   Blood Cries (crime fiction) 40,000 words and counting. 40,000 words in six months is nothing to some writers, but to me it feels like I'm accomplishing something. Loosely based on a series of insurance murders allegedly committed by a Baptist preacher with ties to voodoo, the story alternates between covering those events that took place in the 1970s and an investigation undertaken by a famous author not completely unlike Harper Lee. In real life, Lee investigated the story for a nonfiction book in the tradition of In Cold Blood, but the manuscript, if it ever existed, was lost. New chapters appear every two weeks on Expected Publication date: Late summer/early fall 2016

2)There Are Sneetches in My Breeches and Other Parodies (Humor/Parody) Print edition: 60,000 words/eBook: 40,000 words. The print edition includes the satirical science fiction parody Dinosaur Ghost, which has already been published as an eBook. This collection of very silly humor pieces runs the gamut between high and low brow, playfully satirizing authors from JK Rowling to David Foster Wallace. The book features open letters (in the tradition of Ted L. Nancy), fake book reviews, essays, poems, short stories, and the romance parody novella The Oiliest Secret. All of the pieces in this book have been completed, and I am deep into the revision process. Expected Publication Date: July 2016.

Cover Design by Christiana Helgeson

3) Franken Bubba (Humorous Paranormal Thriller) Word Count: 30,000 and counting. The story of Bocephus T. Boswell, the world’s greatest redneck zombie. He’s trying to track down the man who once killed him with the help of his lazy friends and the demented scientist who brought him back to life. I haven't worked on this one for a while, but I plan to start back once I finish Blood Cries. Expected publication date: summer of 2017.

4)  How to Trick Your Children into Eating their Vegetables and other Parenting Advice by Some Random Guy (Humor/Parody/Parenting) word count: 5,000 and counting. A silly take on the parenting genre based on my own experience raising children. This one comes along slowly as the kids give me ideas. Consequently, I only work on it sporadically. Expected Publication Date: My youngest is only 10 months old, so it may take a while.

5) Dashboard Hula (Humor/Satire/Literary Fiction) Word Count: 65,000. The book in which I hope to launch a new (tongue-in-cheek) religion. My wife and I joke that this is the novel I’ll be working on for the rest of my life. I started it 20 years ago, and I've never been able to get it right. I refuse to give up on it, though. Sooner or later I will finish this book. Expected Publication Date:?

I have plans for others of course, but these are the ones I am most active about. As long as I stick to my strategy and refuse to deviate from my priority novel, I believe I will be able to start pushing out finsihed product. 

So, what are you working on, and how do you prioritze? Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Blood Cries Chapter 29

September 1977

A newspaper was spread flat across the kitchen table, covering most of the walnut surface, and leaving only a small space available for a half-empty coffee cup. Louella sat at the edge of her chair and leaned into the middle of the table, propping herself up on her elbows. Though vaguely aware of Lydia bustling about behind her, she was thoroughly engrossed in an article.

“This is so strange,” Louella said as she turned a page.

“What’s that, hon?”

“Have you been keeping up with the trial in Jackson City?”

“You know I don’t read the newspaper.”

“It’s like Ringling Brothers up there,” Louella said.

 “Is that so?” Lydia asked without interest. She continued sorting through a stack of mail.

Louella turned away from the paper to look at her. “I told you about this story. This is the one I’ve been following. The one about the voodoo preacher.”

“Oh, yes, I remember. The one who got shot.”

“Killed at the funeral of one of his victims,” Louella said, returning to the article. “The story just keeps getting crazier.”

Lydia tossed a letter into the trash. She watched Louella out of the corner of her eye. “Maybe someone should write a book about it,” she said.

Louella tilted her face away from the article. “Maybe,” she grumbled.

“Doesn’t your sister live near Jackson City?” Lydia asked. She used a silver letter opener to slice open an envelope.

“Maris lives about thirty minutes from there.”


“What do you mean, hmm?” Louella asked.

“Nothing, I was just thinking. It seems like you’re interested and you were planning to visit Maris and Jarvis soon anyway. Maybe you could poke your head into Jackson City while you’re there.”

Louella slowly turned a page. “I see what you’re up to,” she said.

Lydia dropped the mail on the counter and pulled up a chair beside Louella. “It could be like Kansas again.”

Louella shook her head. “Kansas was different,” she said. “That was Cecil’s book. I just went along for the ride.”

“You know that’s not true,” said Lydia. “That book would never have seen print if it wasn’t for you.”

Louella continued to stare at the newspaper, but she was no longer reading.

Lydia stoked Louella’s back. Her voice softened. “Isn’t this the kind of project you used to talk about?”

Louella pushed the paper away. “Well, maybe I’ve changed my mind since then.”

“Have you?”

“Sometimes I think it would be better if I never publish another book. Maybe I only had one in me.”

Lydia continued in a level voice. “Lou, every morning you go into your office, and I have to listen to your blasted typewriter clacking for the next four hours. It sounds a lot like writing to me.”

“Yes, but once I get out and start asking questions, I’m going to have to start answering questions about why I’m doing this, and that’s going to start creating expectations in people’s minds.”

“You have to stop worrying about other people’s expectations.”

“You don’t understand. I HAVE to consider other people’s expectations.”

“This one is a crime story. It’s completely different,” Lydia said. “To judge one against the other would be like judging apples and oranges.”

“Oh, it will be judged,” Louella said. “Believe me, it will be judged.”

“Give people credit. Give your fans some credit. They’ll love it because you wrote it.”

“The critics won’t.”

“You don’t write for the critics.”

“I can already hear them sharpening their knives. There’s only one direction I can go at this point. Straight down.”

“You listen here, Louella. I know you. And I know you want to write another book. I believe fifteen years is long enough to wait.”

“Exactly, it’s been 15 years, and that makes it worse. That means the expectations are going to be that much higher. For it to take this long, people will be expecting another masterpiece.”

“Why saddle yourself with that? Why not write the thing and see what happens?”

“Let’s say I do write another book. What do I have to gain? If I succeed, I get, what? Some more money? Some more praise? I don’t need either. But if I fail, it destroys my legacy and gives credence to all those stupid fucking rumors that Cecil wrote the first book. It’s a no-win situation.”

“This isn’t about winning, Lou. You’re a writer. It’s one of the reasons you were put on the Earth. You can’t not write.”

“I do write. Every day. You said so yourself. I don’t have to publish.”

“So write the book and don’t publish it.”

“What would be the point of that?”

“The point would be to be yourself and not worry about publishing or what other people would think. You write books. You know good and well you’re ready to write another one.”

“If I write it, even if it just looks like I’m going to write another one, I’ll have to publish or else I’ll never hear the end of it.”

“Lou, people already come up to you on the street every day. You already receive a three tons of fan mail every year. Do you really think anything is going to change that much?”

Louella pushed her chair back from the table. “I need to clear my head,” she said. “I’m going for a walk.”

“Just think about it,” Lydia said. She watched Louella go out of the room and then shook her head. She pressed her lips together as she contemplated what to do next, then she went over to the table and flipped back to the article. She scanned it until she found the name of the lawyer of was representing the man who killed the voodoo preacher. Then, she lifted the phone handle from its perch on the kitchen counter. She pressed her finger to the zero and then spun the dial.

“Hello, operator. I need a listing in Jackson City, Alabama. The name is Melvin Little.”

Go to Chapter 30 . 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Blood Cries: Chapter 28


On the day the Reverend lay in state, a rolling thunderhead blotted out the sun. The temperature dropped ten degrees. The wind picked up as the sky darkened. Some of those who had gathered on the lawn of the funeral home to chat and smoke cigarettes before the viewing turned their faces skyward. Women held the tops of their heads to prevent their hats from blowing away. Others commented on the sudden change in weather.

Most had made the pilgrimage out of a morbid sense of curiosity. Others were young people, friends or acquaintances of Lucy Woods. Some wanted to pay their respects to the Reverend. Some just wanted to be sure he was dead.

Lightening flashed in the distance and, a split second later, witnesses heard a tremendous cracking sound across the street. An ancient pecan tree, swaying in the wind, dropped a heavy top branch into the layer of limbs beneath. The limbs seemed to want to catch their fallen comrade, but sagged under the heavy weight and dropped it once more into layer below.  The happened again and again as the broken limb slowly dropped to the ground, where it jackknifed and rolled into the street.

While a contingency of menfolk climbed down the embankment to clear the road, one man who remained on the lawn told a circle of people, “The Reverend did that,” relieving the tension with a burst of laughter.

One woman maintained her concerned look. “You joke,” she said, “but that was no coincidence. That was a sign. You all saw it.” A few heads nodded while they watched the men clear the road.

“It was just the wind,” said the first man. “We’re past due for a summer storm.”

“Do you think something like this just happens by accident on the day they bury…” the woman’s voice dropped to a whisper, “the Reverend?”

The first speaker’s eyes widened in comic exaggeration. He grabbed the lapels of his friend standing next to him. “She said his name! She said his name! Now he’s going to come for us too!”

There was more laughter among the young people, but the woman looked worried. Maybe what he said in jest was true. Maybe calling the Reverend’s name portended a terrible fate.

The funeral took place the next day at the church in Locust Grove where Reverend Baxter had once preached sermons and was presided over by Reverend Martin, the man who had replaced him in the pulpit.

A sense of excitement permeated the church as men and women filed in dressed in their finest mourning wear, with hair freshly cut or coifed just in case they happened to enter the shot of one of several photojournalists documenting the event.

Television crews set up at the edge of a cemetery across the street from the church and filmed people walking into the church. Newspaper journalists fanned out and took positions both inside and outside of the building. Meanwhile, the sheriff’s department made its presence felt both in the streets directing traffic and in the parking lot where they smoked cigarettes while leaning against their vehicles.

Inside the church, a packed congregation sat and watched as Reverend Martin began his eulogy with a question. “Who was Will Baxter?” he asked. “I believe I knew him as well as anybody, but I still don’t know the answer to that question. I still don’t know what made him do the things he did. I could stand here and state a list of characteristics about the man: he was tall, always sharply dressed, a pretty good-looking guy, who seemed to do well with the ladies.” It was a laugh line, but instead it conjured up thoughts of his first two wives, sending a murmur through the crowd.

Sitting on the front row, underneath a black veil, his third wife Cassandra wailed, “Oh no, it’s not true.”

Reverend Martin cleared his throat and continued. “He was a business man and a preacher…” He paused, as if considering whether or not he wanted to continue, “… and many among us suspected that he was a murderer.”

Again, a wave of murmurs passed through the crowd.  Cassandra cried, “No, no no.”

“I know I’m not supposed to say that. And I apologize to his widow. I am not here to disrespect the Reverend, but I felt I owed it to the man to try and reckon with his legacy, and what I’ve discovered is that try as I have—and I have thought about it for many hours—I can never know truly what was in his heart, and I could never have eyes to follow him wherever he went. None of us can.” Reverend Martin smiled and pointed toward the ceiling, “But there is someone who knows.”

A sprinkling of “Amens” emerged from the congregation.

“God knows who the Reverend was. God knew what the Reverend was doing. No matter what else we think, we have to know that God has a plan, and we are all instruments in His hands.”


“Moses himself was a murderer, forced to flee after killing an Egyptian who had been mistreating one of his people. His own people judged him. They said, ‘Who are you to lead us? Are you going to kill us like you killed that Egyptian?’ And maybe they had a right to ask that question, but God still had a purpose for Moses. Moses was an instrument in God’s hand.”


“Now I don’t know if everything they said about Reverend Baxter was true…”

“No. No No.”

“I don’t know whether he did everything people said he did, and you don’t know if he did all those things. We may never know the truth about all of it.  That’s the way the world is. We don’t always get to know.” Reverend Martin smiled. “But that’s okay. That’s okay because God knows what He is doing. And that’s all we really need to know.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

There Are Sneetches in my Breeches: A Perverse Parody

In honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday, here is a poem that hopelly won't make him roll over in his grave. Christamar Varicella's book, There Are Sneetches in my Breeches and Other Parodies, will be published this summer.

Cover by Christiana Helgeson.

There are sneetches in my breeches.
I don’t know what to say.
I asked them all to leave my pants.
They stayed there anyway.

I tried to be a gentleman.
I tried to be polite.
I said, “It’s time to go, you know,
If that would be alright.”

“Now, please don’t have conniptions,
And please don’t have a cow,
But like Mr. Marvin Katherine Mooney,
You need to please go now.”

And just like Marvin Mooney
They ignored me most completely,
They showed ‘most no regard at all
For the words I spoke so sweetly.

Instead they danced and pranced about
They drove their old go-carts
All around the places known
As my private parts.

They stayed all day, the next night too
And soon there was no doubt
The sneetches always wanted in
And never wanted out.

And each morning they cooked breakfast
Of green eggs, ham, and toast
And late into the evenings
They held marshmallow roasts.

I did my best, I grabbed, I swiped
I tried real hard to catch ‘em
And douse the fires burning me
From my scroat down to my rectum.

Now normally I can handle things
I’m a fix-it kind of chappie.
But they keep messing with my mind
while they’re messing with my lappy.

I said, “Hey all you sneetches,
You snooty kind of smarties
This is not the kind of place
To hold frankfurter parties.

If there’s one thing that I’m knowing
You should stay out of the jeans
Of the man whose mother named him
Sylvester M McBean.”

But the sneetches they just sat there
with their oompahs and their flutes.
Others danced in my grickle grass
while wearing barbaloot suits.

So completely they ignored me,
They shut out all my words
And they invited in new sneetches
To join their growing herd.

Some sneetches had pain bellies
While others wore blue stars
They came from almost everywhere
From anear and from afar.

They swarmed all over every spot
From back ‘round to my belly
And some brought jars of peanut butter
And some brought jam and jelly.

That’s when I screamed, I yelled, I screeched
At those rotten sneetches,
“It’s time for you to leave my pants
And stay out of my breeches!"

It's sad I had to be so mean.
You know I had to ride ‘em.
“Go find a pair of pale green pants
With nobody inside ‘em.”

That’s when one of those fellows
Who was gnawing at some peaches
said, “Man that’s going to cost you, well,
‘bout twenty dollars eaches.”

My friends I am never happy
Giving my money away
Especially when it’s the sneetches
Who are the ones who ought to pay.

That’s when I said, I said it nice,
I never meant to be mean,
“My friends I think you need a trip
through my Sneetch-Out machine.”

And soon it was put together
It klonked and berked and jerked
But when it pointed at a sneetch
The damned thing didn’t work.

The only way it succeeded
Was in taking off their stars
but frankly I don’t give a crap
If they have them on thars.

I tried again and it broke down
The thing just wouldn’t start
When I kicked it in the motor
It completely fell apart.

And the herd it just kept growing,
They invited all their friends
From each familiar story
You’ve read time and time again.

They invited a grumpy Lorax,
The Grinch and a couple of Zax
And 23 Daves and a Yook and a Zook
and a turtle whose name was Mack.

They called a bird named Mayzie
and a goldfish named Gustav
They tried to call Horton the elephant
But I cut the cell phone off.

Then showed up old King Yertle
Saying, “oh marvelous me,
Is that a wocket in your pocket,
Or are you just glad to see me?”

And all those folks kept partying
driving into a frenzy
and you know that they’ve been doing that
a week now come this Wednesday.

Now I have a new feeling
That’s troubling to describe
I find I’m on a new wavelength
With a funky kind of vibe.

They tickle and they shock me
I feel a little gay.
And don’t you know it isn’t my heart
growing three sizes this day.

And now the time comes to admit
That all the fun and biking
The flips and flops and somersaults
Have grown into my liking.

Now I love to have each sneetch
Inside my holey britches
Even if every now and then
My injuries require some stitches.

And for all of you I’m speaking to
Who haven’t found your niches
I suggest opening up your pants
To a couple hundred sneetches.

I know it’s hard imagining
Doing something like that
But this isn’t like Things One and Two
In the book the Cat in the Hat.

It’s wild and fun and squirrely
Just like that Sam I Am
And I promise you it beats the hell
Out of green eggs and ham.

I tell you now, I tell everyone
the whole bloody nation
having a sneetches in your breeches
Is a wonderful sensation.