Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Next Lou Prophet Book Giveaway at GoodReads!

Sign up for the Goodreads Giveaway of my new mass-market paperback Lou Prophet novel due out next month from Pinnacle...This book is two 50k word Lou Prophet novels in one. Each I published briefly as ebook originals but when Pinnacle asked if I could send them a book fast to fill a hole in their schedule, I took those two ebooks off Amazon and put this single volume together. The books are framed by a fictional introduction by an old, ink-stained newsman who got to know Lou when Lou, in his later years, had gone off to California to consult for the "flickers," the silent movie westerns, and ended up driving off a road above Malibu in a car filled with starlets and moonshine. He lost a leg. He's old and tired and he's living in the Odd Fellows Home of Christian Charity, but still has enough vim and vinegar to recount tales of his past life as a bounty hunter in the old West...

And, by the way

Patriotism Ain't Dead at Mean Pete Press!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

New Lou Prophet Covers 2018

I just received a new Lou Prophet cover from Pinnacle, so I thought I'd post it here. This is the second of three books Gary Goldstein at Pinnacle is publishing over the course of the next year. The first one, STAGECOACH TO PURGATORY, will be out in late August. 

I'm also posting the links, so if you're of a mind to pre-order either...or can. (I could use the beer money.) I'm about to wrap up the third book now, which is around 80k words at the moment and will likely clock in around 95k before I write THE END. The first book in the series, THE DEVIL & LOU PROPHET, was published right around eighteen years ago this summer. Weird. 

I still remember where I was and what I was doing--walking my dogs down a country road near my old hobby farm in western Minnesota, as usual--when that title popped into my head, and kicked my ticker into overdrive.

Anyway, writing ole Lou along with his sometime-sidekick, sometime-lover, Louisa Bonaventure, aka "The Vengeance Queen" hasn't gotten one bit old. In fact, I'm having more fun now than I ever have. Weird.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Stories My Mother Told

(I'm reprinting this from a mother's day past...)
My mother never met a grisly story she didn’t like. 
And she never met one she considered unfit for her children, no matter how young we were. In fact, she often retold these stories to my little sister and me with startling, sometimes morbid delight, as though she not only wanted to tell us stories of death and grisly destruction, but she considered it her parental duty to do so.
I’m not just talking about the vague imparting of mishaps in broad strokes, either. I’m saying she really got down there in the muck and with a keen reporter’s eye relayed calamities she’d heard from another party or recounted those that she herself had witnessed first-hand.
I once heard my grandmother tell about how “Daddy,” which is what she and everyone called my grandfather, had “cut himself with a hatchet” one day when the children were young, while he was out splitting firewood. For my mother, my grandmother’s tepid little generalized anecdote was much too murky and way too lacking in all the horror, dread, and grisly details of the actual event.
Though I and my sister were standing right there and I was probably only six years old—if that—and my sister was three years younger, my mother hopped right in with: “Oh, god—I remember that day so plainly! He buried that blade so far in his leg I didn’t see how anyone was ever going to get it out. I think Bud or Wayne finally got it out, but only after a lot of pulling and grunting--and oh my gosh, there was blood everywhere!”
“Oh, Yvonne--the kids!” my grandmother scolded my mother, jerking her head at my sister and me.
The admonishment didn’t derail our mother a bit. The proverbial horse was out of the corral and it was galloping across the back forty...
“I remember we got him into the car, that old Model-A we had, and we all thought for sure he was going to bleed to death before we got him to the doctor in Rugby--twenty miles over rough roads. He was as white as a ghost! And afterwards, when he was all sewn up and we got him home, we kids had to go out and clean the blood out of the car. I remember his boot was half-full of the stuff!” 
“Oh, Yvonne!” our grandmother admonished once more in defeat. 
But it was too late. The horse was heading for the neighbor’s filly, and the image of that bloody axe and the deep gash in our white-as-a-ghost grandfather’s face had been burned into my and my sister’s impressionable young brains. 

When I was maybe five years old, there was a middle-aged farmer named Boob Keller. Boob always dunked his fresh donuts in his black coffee, and I got a big kick out of that, the way little kids do. 
Boob was a big, tall, affable man with a bald head and huge ears and a long, broad nose and jutting chin. His light-blue eyes were always smiling. He’d tell the funniest jokes and stories while sitting around my aunt and uncle’s farmhouse kitchen, often with me on his huge knee. This is when my family was living in Rolette, North Dakota, and we spent a lot of time out on my aunt and uncle’s farm near Cando, where the old Minnesota Vikings running back, Dave Osborn, grew up. 
Anyway, Boob Keller, who always smelled like grease, pulled so many quarters out of my ears that I often thought I’d be rich if I could get at all the money that must have been rattling around inside my head. Boob would give me sips of his coffee, too, and my uncle, Leif Dahl, always told me it would make my blond hair turn black. After every few sips of coffee I’d go run and look in the bathroom mirror...
One night in our home in Rolette, my mother hung up the phone, sobbing. She’d just spoken to my aunt, Lenore. Boob was dead. He’d been killed that afternoon in his gyrocopter.
“In his blame gyrocopter!” my mother sobbed as though scolding Boob himself for being so foolish as to fiddle with something so dangerous.
“How did it happen?” Dad asked Mom, gently. We were all in the kitchen and dining room. Mom had been washing dishes, and Dad was drying.
“Apparently he got tangled up in some power lines and crashed in a wheat field east of his place. Oh, just imagine! All those blades must have cut him up something awful. Poor Boob! And then the electricity... I guess when the sheriff got there, all he could find of Boob was that damn copter and his boots. Otherwise it was all blood. Blood everywhere!
Dad cut a look at my sister and me, both of us staring in hang-jawed shock. “Yvonne, the kids don’t need to hear this!”
Mom looked at us, then, too, tears dribbling down her cheeks. “Pete, you remember, Boob—don’t you? The guy who always dunked his donuts in his coffee? He’s dead!
“Yvonne!” Dad cried in defeat.
I stared at my mother in horror, my heart shrinking, my insides recoiling at the grisly picture of blood and steel-torn flesh that she’d just painted for us. I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the idea of death, but I could see as though in Cinemascope that bloody wheat field and the big, affable Boob Keller cut to bits in it. And his boots.
I was only a little older when she recounted the tale of a bloody car accident that happened when her family was living in Noonan, North Dakota, and she was going to high school. Two teenage boys and a teenage girl who “ran” with one of the boys were drinking and driving too fast on the highway, and rolled their car several times in a ditch. They were thrown from their vehicle and killed instantly. 
Apparently, there was no undertaker in Noonan—or at least none like we have today. Someone drove his pickup out to collect the teenagers’ bodies and deliver them to their families. When the pickup was parked outside the home of one of the dead, Mom and several friends walked over to the pickup to have a look.
Mom gasped and rolled her head and eyes, the way she always did when recounting such a delightfully ghastly event. “Oh, my gosh—you should have seen it. No, I wouldn’t even want you to see such a thing, and I hope you never do! This was before safety glass. The cars back then had real glass in the windows. Imagine that—real glass! And of course no one wore seatbelts. Well, you can just imagine how badly those boys and that poor Candace Syvertsen were torn up. I recognized Candace by her long hair. But the boys--hah! I remember that one had dark hair and one was a towhead, but after going through those glass windows there was no way you could tell them apart!”  
Over the years I learned in vivid detail about drownings, electrocutions, farm accidents, plane crashes, stabbings and other murders, and even about the death of one of my young friend’s mothers who had gone into the hospital for a simple surgical procedure and ended up dying from a blood clot.
“Dead at thirty-four!” my mother lamented, bawling after learning the news from a neighbor. “She left three little boys and a little girl. Just think, Pete—Julius’s mother is gone! She was younger than I am. That poor boy. Who’s going to raise that family now?”
Mom really drove that one home. The possibility of my mother’s demise haunted me for a long time, keeping me awake nights. 
Another one that troubled my dreams worse than any bogeyman was the retelling of a shooting accident. Two teenage boys and their father, Dale Westemyer, went out hunting deer one fall afternoon. While they were walking through a grove of trees looking for whitetails, another hunter mistakenly shot Dale.
The Westemyer boys and the hunter who’d shot Dale got the wounded father into his pickup and drove him to the nearest doctor. But they were too late. Dale had died on the way to town.
“Just think if something so terrible ever happened to Dad!” Mom cried. “Oh, it’s even too awful to think about!”
But of course I thought about it. For many nights on end. It was as though the void was yawning over me, threatening to suck me up out of my bed and smother me under its wicked wings. Or worse—kill my parents and leave my little sister and me to wander alone in a horrifying world plagued with sudden and arbitrary tragedies.
Sometimes I thought that by relating such violent and chilling events so vividly Mom was being malicious. That she was purposely trying to scare the hell out of us. Sometimes, after some close calls we ourselves experienced on life’s perilous highway, she seemed to enjoy horrifying us even further with what might have happened. Like when we were on vacation out West one summer and a car plowed into the little travel trailer Dad was towing behind our Chevy wagon.
The car missed the station wagon completely but it hit the trailer broadside. Suddenly, our little seventeen-foot home away from home was little more than a scattered mess of sticks and paper plates and cups in a ditch. Mom turned around to look out the back window, eyes wide in horror.
“Oh god, oh look, kids—what if one of us had been riding back there? There’d be nothing left!
Having had time to think about it for more than a few years, in the seventeen years since she died, I don’t think Mom was trying to traumatize us. I think that in her emotional ignorance she was trying to vent and thus purge herself of her own often-overpowering anxiety. True, she did often scare the hell out of us, and her reasons seem a little psychotic and selfish as well childish to me today. I doubt that any current books on parenting would sanction such loss of self-control. 
But my mother was raised during tough times in western North Dakota, on what was essentially still the American frontier in the 1930’s and 40’s, where people died tragically, unexpectedly, and in often grisly ways. My mother’s own father, whom I am named after, drowned after being electrocuted by a water pump at the bottom of a flooded strip mine. Mom and her twin sister were only seventeen at the time, and they’d worshipped “Daddy” as though he’d been a god.
Only a few years later Mom’s oldest brother, Delbert “Bud” Meyer, died near the same mine his father had drowned in. From a mine office window, Bud saw a coal car rolling free on its tracks, and ran out to stop it. Bud climbed onto the car to try and set the brake, but he fell to his death under the heavy iron wheels.
“Cut in two,” was how one of my uncles told it.
No, Mom wasn’t malicious. She was getting all of that off her chest in the only way she knew how. By sharing it. It wasn’t her fault she had a vivid imagination and a way with words. Hell, I do the same thing for a living. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Sunday, April 29, 2018

First Beer Brewing Day of the Season!

Yesterday was the first brew day of the season here at Angry Dog Brewing. That's me on the left there with my pal, Bill Schmidt, whom I've known since we were in the fifth grade together in Wahpeton, North Dakota, 24 miles east of where I currently live in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

When I moved back to the old home country a little over three years ago, Bill and I quickly got back in touch, and the main way we got back in touch was through brewing beer together. We brew several weekends over the spring, summer, and fall. It's become a hobby of sorts for both of us. But mostly what we enjoy is getting together, forgetting about everything else in our lives, and solving the problems of the world while bathed in the nectary smell of hops and the autumn-harvest aroma of freshly ground malted barley as well as the smell of the steam rising from our brew kettles, rife with the flavors of both the hops and the juices extracted from the malt.

It was a good day for both of us. Bill brewed a lager and I whipped together an IPA, trying a little of this and a little of that, which I usually do. (I've never been able to follow a recipe in brewing or in life in general.) Only a couple of hours after we'd siphoned our wort into the primary fermenters, my brew had a nice head on it. Here's to hoping it tastes as nice as it looks. I'll know in a month or two...

Monday, April 2, 2018

AUTHOR! AUTHOR! A Hayseed's Apprenticeship

I became a writer when I was ten years old. At least, that’s when I began seeing myself as a writer. An author, really.
I was in the fifth grade, and an editor of the local newspaper, the Wahpeton Daily News, must have needed extra ink with which to fill her pages. She asked my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Bjornson, a matronly sister-of-the-sod and a die-hard fan of Anne of Green Gables, to have her students write poems that might, just might, if they made the cut, be published in the sainted News.
Up to that point, about the only poems I’d read were by folks like John Greenleaf Whittier. In fact, Mrs. Bjornson had instructed each of us to memorize portions of “In School Days,” by that grandfatherly old Quaker.
To this day, when I plant head to pillow at night, lines from that poem will still rake across the time-worn byways of my brain which the obsessive mill of my mind often plunders for grist. I scribbled out a natty imitation in my Big Chief tablet with a number two pencil, all in rhymed couplets, and, lo and behold, “The Hanging Tree” made the cut.
I was a published author!
I began carrying pens and a small notebook in the breast pockets of my pearl-buttoned western shirts and I even bought a pipe at Gibson’s Discount Center (which I carried in the well of my cowboy boot but which I smoked on the sly under the old train bridge lest my mother should skin my ass.) Still, I was a published author. 
I wish I could remember that poem better. I know I held onto the clipping, probably saved many copies, in fact. I’ve scoured files and boxes of old keepsakes, and I just can’t find it. All I remember is that it was about a regal old tree standing alone on a stormy hill and from which many men had been hanged for various reasons, their widows sobbing beneath it and “salting its roots with their tears.”
I had so much fun writing that first poem that I couldn’t stop. Then as now, with a pencil in my hand…or a keyboard at my fingertips…I get giddy and sweaty with the creative fire. I was a shy kid, a self-effacing hayseed. Writing broke me out of my shell. Usually incorporated into my early English classes was one or two hours a week in which we students were compelled to write creatively. Sometimes our teachers would give us a prompt or they’d just let us write a poem, a short-story or an essay about anything we wanted.
I didn’t care. Prompt or no prompt, when I opened that tablet with the prospect of filling a page or three with a made-up world, my heart would quicken, my palms get sweaty, and my mind would race.
Most times when I set out to write, I couldn’t get the words down fast enough. One word, one sentence would lead to another until I was as enmeshed in that imaginary world as much or more than the actual world of the classroom in North Dakota. I didn’t want to surface. I didn’t want to return to the humdrum world of the present when the one in my head was so much more compelling.
I’m feeling it right now as I write this. My heart is beating fast. I’m breathing as though I were walking quickly. I’m warmer than usual, I can feel my pulse in my ankles, my head is stuffed to brimming with thoughts and the urge to get them down on the screen as quickly and as clearly as I can, so that I can make some unsuspecting reader out there laugh, cry, scream, or call me “sick” or “gross.”
To captivate them.  
To captivate, entertain, and evoke a response was my main motivation back then in the fifth, sixth, and seventh-grade English classes, and it still is today. In math or science class, I was a moron. In fact, a teacher or two, throwing up his or her hands in frustration, even called me that to my face—back during a time when a teacher using that term didn’t seem all that unreasonable. Especially in my case. But I excelled in English. That’s where I shone, and man oh man, I loved shining!
When we students were called on to read to the class what we’d written in our Big Chiefs or spiral-bound notebooks, I knew from experience that I could evoke a response with my writing. And I always did. Positive or negative, I didn’t care. I usually got equal amounts of both.
I didn’t see much difference between a fellow student calling what I’d written “gross” or “weird” and “heartfelt” and “poetic.” It didn’t bother me if someone exclaimed, “Oh, god, why would you write about such a thing? What a bizarre brain you have, Peter!” I didn’t care if they laughed or cried or looked at me as though I were an amber-eyed, three-headed demon who’d just sat down in my chair.
As long as I was getting a response, as long as I wasn’t boring anybody, I felt praised.
I’m like that to this day.
But back to the apprentice me. That first publication gave me the publication fever. If I could get a poem published in the Daily News, why not the…why not the…? There was my problem. Where did an author go to continue his career?
Why not The New Yorker?
My parents always told me that to get anywhere in this crazy world, you needed to aim high. Shoot low, you’d land low. Aim high, you’d land high.
I found out about The New Yorker in the Leach Public Library, a leonine ole edifice sitting on the broad greensward across from City Hall.  I’d gathered enough courage to visit that intimidating building after I’d heard that anybody, even I, could just walk in and check out a book.
I’d stop in to warm up on cold winter afternoons when I was delivering newspapers—the very newspaper of my first publication—to sit and read until I could start feeling my fingers and toes again. After I became an author, I perused the magazine racks for a rag that looked worthy of becoming the home of my next effort.
The New Yorker, it was!
I set about carefully crafting my next gem—a poem about a rabbit in a snowy field. The rabbit is chased by a coyote, as we all are chased by death howling outside our doors. It ends, as does much of my writing to this day, coincidentally, with a good deal of blood.
When I’d penciled several drafts in my Big Chief, I broke out my dad’s portable Royal typewriter, long stored away, to give my carefully considered rhymes the Official Author treatment. I opened the case, rolled a sheet of pure white paper, paper as white as the snowy field in my poem, into the machine, and started to type.
Only, since the machine hadn’t been used since my father’s stint in the state college had ended a decade before, the ribbon was as dry as a dead moth’s wing.
Off to the office supply store for typewriter ribbon. This new stuff was as fresh and black and as professional-looking as all heck. Over half a dozen nights, I hunted and pecked my way through a half a ream of paper before I finally got the whole thing flawlessly hammered out on one black-and-white sheet.
Twelve lines of utter beauty. They looked so good they should have been framed.
Brilliant. The old Quaker himself couldn’t have churned out lines so profound.
Off to the Big Apple went “Death in a Snowy Field.”
How long do you think I had to wait for a response? One month? Two months? Three months to a year?
To my delight, the very next week a tony-looking ivory envelope with The New Yorker logo showed up in my humble mailbox at eleven-eleven Evergreen Court, Wahpeton, North Dakota. They must have loved it so much they couldn’t write back fast enough with a lucrative offer. Could they pay me for the privilege of publishing this weighty, philosophical and insightful work?
Dear Peter Brandvold:
Thank you for sending your poem, “Death in a Snowy Field” for our review. Unfortunately, we are returning it to you with no intention of publishing. While your work does display some interesting imagery and overall promise, we found this poem a bit trite. If you’d like to submit to us again, please remember to include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Without one, we can’t guarantee a response.
Aim high, fall hard.
I had to look up the word in Webster’s. I promptly felt as though I’d been kicked by a mule.
“Stale.” “Tired.” “Unoriginal.” “Common place.” “Pedestrian.” “Worn.” “Stock.” “Hackneyed.” “Corny.” “Cliched.”
I had to look up some of those words, too. By the time I was through, I felt like throwing Dad’s typewriter out my bedroom window. I felt like crawling under my bed and mewling like a gut-shot coyote.
I felt stupid, insulted, angry, sad, furious, humiliated…
And driven to get better.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

New Colter Farrow Western Free Through Today!

The new Colter Farrow western, Book 5 in that series, is free until midnight tonight!

Hop on over to Amazon and snag your copy. I hope you'll leave a review.

Happy Spring from Mean Pete Press. (We can't see it from here in western Minnesota, but we know it's out there...somewhere.)


Next Lou Prophet Book Giveaway at GoodReads!

Sign up for the Goodreads Giveaway of my new mass-market paperback Lou Prophet novel due out next month from Pinnacle...This book is two...