Home for Beaver is a wild river in Arizona, and like Ratty in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows he can think of no better place to live than somewhere surrounded by water.
The snag is that the river seems to be drying up and someone needs to do something about it. The Trouble Upstream chronicles the adventures of Beaver and his friends Skunk and Ringtail as they trek to the river’s source in search of a solution.
In their journey they tangle with a succession of creatures native to the area — each with an impact on their mission. Pack rats, ground squirrels, a rattlesnake, javelinas, coatimundis and a Gila monster are among the more prominent characters.
As in the human world, difficult decisions have to be made and the result will not satisfy everyone. But, in fighting to preserve their homes, the creatures are surely following a justifiable precedent.



* * * * * *

Accepted wisdom is that a good cover is crucial in today’s publishing market. Thanks to illustrator Sav Scatola of Edinburgh, UK, the cover for The Trouble Upstream is not just good, it’s fabulous. To see more of Sav’s creativity, go to http://www.boxy.co.uk/

* * * * * *

Shine Like The Sun

Can rock stars find solace in retirement? Roy Huntley thought so, but it’s hard to shed the role that had dominated his life. He’d come of age believing music could change the world, and that he could play a part.

As with each generation, he struggles to reconcile advancing years with the aspirations he held in former days. His identity is defined by the spotlight. Can he give it up? Will fans and family let him?

As the new century dawns, Roy Huntley is in his early 50s and well past the usual shelf life for a rock and roll star. He has had his share of fame and fortune, and settled for a scenic Shangri-La in Arizona and a second wife young enough to be his daughter.

Hanging out with fellow British bandmate Chris Russell has passed the time nicely for a couple of years. But time to reflect has had its down side. A chance to reactivate their rock group revives dormant dilemmas. Is Huntley ready to let go of the role that has been so central to his life? Is he still capable of a comeback? Questions of legacy and self worth come into play. After all, performing music and the accompanying acclaim seemed to have come to him as a birthright.

Leaving the old life behind seems to be the rational choice. It’s not so easy to walk away though. There’s one last chance to prove himself. As the group assembles for its comeback concert without him, Huntley confronts his estranged colleagues. His credibility hangs in the balance. Even Huntley isn’t sure what he wants. But his fans have not forgotten him. Whether he likes it or not, he can’t escape what he has become. Even his wife will not allow that.




* * * * * *

Far-flung and Foreign

My thanks to editor Nicholas Litchefield of online literary magazine Lowestoft Chronicle for including my story Tourist Attractions in the 2012 anthology, Far-flung and Foreign. To find this transporting volume online, go to: http://www.amazon.com/Far-flung-Foreign-Nicholas-Litchfield/dp/0982536534/ref=la_B007ZRUXMG_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338827460&sr=1-1

* * * * * *

Travel broadens the mind, the saying goes. But sometimes there’s a price to pay. In these three stories, set in Latin America, travelers discover that unfamiliar ways can lead to lethal consequences.

Differences in language, custom and red tape can be intimidating. Fresh surroundings can be a mortal challenge.

It’s enough to make a visitor weigh the cost against the benefits.


* * * * * *


Course I remember him now.

Now you mention the camouflage gear. Hard to miss, weren’t he.

We’ve had our share of weirdoes in ’er, but he took the prize, he did.

How did it start? Give me a second. Let me think.


* * * * * *

A Note On The Blue Guitar

The format may be digital, but the thrill of seeing one’s work on public display is tangible enough no matter what the medium.

I’m among the creative spirits featured in the Spring 2013 issue of The Blue Guitar, an Arizona-based ezine that takes its name from a Wallace Stevens poem, “The Man with the Blue Guitar”.

As always, I look forward to reading the work of fellow contributors and hope that they find similar enjoyment in reading the featured excerpt from my novel, Shine Like The Sun.

Sometimes it seems that the book world is altogether too preoccupied with celebrity and sales. Of course most of us want recognition. But a publication like The Blue Guitar is a reminder that the essence of creativity is close to home. The themes may be universal, but the details and the passion are right in front of us. And that’s why local support counts for so much. So thank you editor in chief Becca Dyer and her talented team.


* * * * * *

Bloggin’ ’Bout My Generation

The truth is I’m a reluctant “baby boomer”. As that designation proliferated in the media over recent years, I felt blindsided. I was being cemented into a segment of the population which experience had shown to have a tenuous sense of unity. This is a generation, after all, that has produced Clinton and Bush (George W.), Ted Nugent and Morrissey. Any illusion I had that people of a similar age necessarily share values vanished along with the Woodstock spirit.

It’s the same, no doubt, for any generation. Those Xers and Y-ites, not to mention the Zsters on the horizon, will come to ruminate on their divisions. Time may well reveal that youthful exuberance masks serious, perennial ideological differences.

Anyway, so here I am, an enrollee in a boomer group on the book lovers and book creators site, Goodreads. I ask myself: is all this generational labeling just marketing? Or does an age bracket define us better than I’d like to think?

I’m about to find out. Goodreads’ Boomer Lit group invites authors to post samples of their work for something called a blog hop. I’ll try it. Sounds more my style than hip-hop. Maybe those mid-20th century childhoods have forged a common bond after all.

Here’s my contribution (from my novel Shine Like The Sun):

“Light and a beat. The one so piercing it fogged his eyes with iridescence, the other a heart-churning pulse with no discernible point of origin.

He staggered on to the angular wooden deck extending from the house, and skipped over the cracks between the planks in mimicry of a childhood game. It had been so long since he had moved. Really moved, that is. Would anyone care? Was he even capable?

A tremor rumbled through his torso — his own faltering voice, it dawned on him, self-activated by nervous energy. And then, dazzled by shimmering beams from the east and intoxicated by the moment, he could hold back no longer. Glass clapped loudly on wood as the bottle dropped from his hand. Voice synchronized with steps in a self-absorbed fantasia. Yes, he still had it. He could still rock ’n’ roll.”

* * * * * *

It’s The Price, Stupid

Remember that old song about love and marriage going together like a horse and carriage? I think I can add a couplet to that, something along the lines of Significant Other and Kindle are as inseparable as a needle and thimble.

OK, so I didn’t say it was a chart topper. The point is though that SO is a voracious reader. She goes through more novels, mostly mysteries, in a week than I get through in, well, many weeks.

The Kindle has brought a major change in lifestyle. No more of that dead time between returning books to the library and getting out a new batch. Now it’s just continuous reading.

Bookaholic Nirvana, you may think. Well, there is a hitch. As she reads, SO can often be heard giving a running critique.

It goes something like this: “I can’t believe someone could write this badly … Listen to this … What rubbish.”

The question likely to pop into your head, as it popped into mine, is: “Well, why read it then?”

The answer is simple. Price. When you’re a fast and furious devotee of fiction, the cost of all that downloading can add up quickly. So you go for the 99 cent offerings, and take the rough with the smooth.

That’s not to say price is the ultimate measure of quality. Just look at many publishing industry forums and you’ll see that writers are experimenting with price, and it seems the jury is still out on the most effective ways to sell.

Still, it’s another dilemma to solve for those of us who e-publish and grapple with marketing. Do I price low and hope to make up the difference in volume? Or do I give my work a price tag that reflects, in a more conventional way, the effort and care I put into it?

Either way, there’s some good fiction going for a song if you’re an e-book reader. Just hope the song scans better than my lyrics.

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