Tag Archives: extras

Postal Recycling

“You know what I like about Tuesday?” I said.

“It’s not Monday?” the Number One Son responded.

“It’s when the junk mail comes.”

“Ah. Why didn’t I think of that?”

“There’s more.”

“I can hardly wait.”

“It’s also when they pick up the recycle.”

“Well, there’s a mercy.”

“Yes, and an efficiency.”

Characters from Fred: Vernon Crowley

At the beginning of this millennium, I expanded a series of short stories into the Fred books. Jake was in the short stories, but as I fleshed out the story of Living with Fred, I wanted another way into Jake’s story, and Vernon Crowley was born.

In the Texas singer/songwriter tradition there is what I call “the old man” song. I drew my inspiration for Vernon from these two classic songs of the genre.

Desperados Waiting for a Train


A few days after Christmas 2003 I woke up at 3 a.m. and after an hour or so realized I wasn’t going to get back to sleep. I sneaked out of bed, into my office, and started writing Living with Fred. I didn’t start at the beginning. I wrote the scene where Mark Cloud meets Vernon Crowley.

After a few pages I realized I needed to know a whole lot more about Vernon before I could write him with any degree of authenticity. Months of binge-watching WWII documentaries and devouring a dozen or so books from the library of first-person accounts of the European campaign followed.

I ended up with one of my favorite Fred characters. A few years later I wrote a song of my own, The One That Got Away. It’s the first one in this video.

Who’s your favorite Fred character?

Cover for Postcards from Fred

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new Fred book on the way, and once again Amanda has created a great cover. Here’s the final cover for Postcards from Fred, coming out in October. Click to see it full size.

Here’s the book description:

Ever wonder what would Jesus do? On a date?

It’s been a bad weekend. Mark Cloud’s dreams of romantic bliss have been cruelly obliterated, and his friendship with the local moonshiner has drawn unwelcome attention from the local Pharisee, Deacon Fry.

Then two girls enter his life: one a lovely and sold-out-for-Jesus preacher’s kid who just might be The One for him, the other a prodigal wild-child who just might give Deacon Fry the ammunition he needs to rid himself of this troublesome pastor and his vexing family.

Mark’s romantic aspirations and his vow to fly under the church-politics radar crash into his vow to live his life asking the seductive but inconvenient question: What Would Jesus Do? His response will determine not only his dating life but possibly the future of his father’s career.

Sign up for the newsletter to get notified when it’s available, and also to get sneak peeks and freebies. The next issue goes out next week with freebies for the insiders.

Endless Vacation: Deleted Scenes

“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.” –Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, On the Art of Writing, 1916

In the course of bringing a novel to press, a lot of stuff gets left on the cutting room floor, not all of it bad. In the case of Endless Vacation, more was left on the floor than usual in my novels because it went through about 40 drafts as screenplay and novel before I finally shoved it out the door. Entire chapters of flashback story lines and abandoned plots.

Here’s an excerpt that used to be at the beginning of Chapter 5 that I was particularly fond of, but it did slow the pace somewhat in a moment of tension, so I allowed it to be pried from my fist.

The kitchen was reduced to chaos. It was as if a sorcerer’s apprentice had been called away suddenly in the midst of a particularly troublesome spell that had gone awry. Dave scanned the wreckage.

The island was an explosion of vegetables, cheeses, spices, seasonings, rubs, garlic cloves, three kinds of oil, four types of vinegar, wine bottles, condiments and sundry peelings, skins and hulls, in various stages of use and abandonment, interlarded with measuring cups oozing sauces, can openers, corkscrews, used knives, cheese-encrusted graters, discarded wrappings and half-empty boxes of ingredients.

The stove warehoused an array of pans and skillets like a graveyard of burnt-out war machines, some scorched, others glazed with garnishes in hardened grease or coated with a glutinous sauce of dubious provenance, and all overlaid with a dusting of flour like an early snowfall. Spatulas and ladles and tongs and a meat thermometer lay where they had fallen in battle.

The sink overflowed with discarded cans and colanders and whisks and bowls and plates and spoons. The floor appeared to be the work of a Jackson Pollock devotee who had settled on organic matter as his medium.

I especially like the stove paragraph. Oh well, one does what one must. Would you have the nerve to pull the trigger?

Uncle Rex Gets the News

Thought some of you might find this deleted scene from the extras for Endless Vacation, a prologue that ended up on the cutting room floor.

When the doctor stopped talking, Rex thought, “This is not the Middle Ages. People don’t die at sixty-four anymore.”

But clearly some did and he was one of them.

He didn’t meet the man’s eyes. Instead, he looked at the doctor’s leather valise leaning against the desk, at the corner where it was worn through to the fabric underneath.

His heart raced as adrenaline coursed through his system, blood pounding in his ears. It was the panic moment, that point at which you know you’ve done something horribly wrong and nauseatingly irreversible. The split-second in the middle of the intersection when you realize you missed the light and the truck bearing down on you can’t stop.

Here he was, frozen in the second before impact, face to face with the inevitable. According to the doctor, he had months, not seconds, to stare at the semi filling his vision. Was that a second chance or a living hell?

His second thought was a prolonged “No” echoing in his skull. He stared at the frayed leather as if he could zoom in to see the fibers and then the molecules and then the atoms and the electrons and neutrons and further in until a single atom was the universe, or the universe was a single atom. Or perhaps they were the same thing. Or maybe they were nothing at all.

His third thought was, “I can fix this. It will be okay.” That didn’t last long. He couldn’t and it wouldn’t.

He pulled his gaze from the valise to the doctor. The man had done this before, probably dozens of times, but he looked like it was his first time. Let him. It was Rex’s first time, too.

He had heard that four people die every second. Somewhere, right now, in four places on the globe, four people were staring down four semis. He wondered how many times a second a person was told he would die. Fewer than four, certainly.

Maybe he was the only one for this second. He wanted to believe that it made him unique, but the truth was he was just one more snowflake on a glacier. And what did a single snowflake matter in the scheme of things, in this universe inside an atom?

He thought of Bridget and the ghost of a smile haunted his face. She had been more than a snowflake. She had made a difference of some kind, however small, however fleeting. And what more could one ask of a life?

Rex held the doctor’s gaze and said, “Thank you.” He ignored the muted confusion on the man’s face.

It was a second chance and he would make the most of it.

Which way do you think the novel should have started. Like it does now with Dave in his office or like this with Rex getting the news? You can leave your thoughts in the comments.