Monthly Archives: May 2015

Only Breath – Illustrations and Characters

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Only Breath: A Ghost Story, to be released June 19 (pre-release copies available here),  includes pencil drawings of characters.














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Only Breath coming June 19

My next novel, Only Breath: A Ghost Story, becomes available in Kindle format on June 19, 2015. Preorders can be made here. The paperback edition should come out about then too. If you’re interested in reading this novel before it’s released (and saying something about it on Amazon?), send your name and email address to I’ll send you a free, pre-release copy (kindle e-book).

The title is from a quote from the poet, Sappho: “θεοί· ἠερίων ἐπέων ἄρχομαι ἀθανάτων –My words are ONLY BREATH, yet they live forever.”

Only Breath is the first in the trilogy called Language of the Gods. The second book (early 2016?) will be called Only Words, and the third (Late 2016?) will be Only Hope. Perhaps I should call this the Only Trilogy.

As one might surmise from the subtitle, Only Breath is a Ghost Story. The short description goes like this: Cement magnate Luca D’Angelo stole corpses from the morgue and used them in a macabre ‘lost-wax’ process to cast statues to adorn his mansion’s grounds. Recoiling from the indignity, angry ghosts haunt the statues and make the park a dangerous place. They drive visitors insane, knock them unconscious, strike them blind. When William Kepler sets out to calm these angry spirits, he uncovers a century-old murder. Uninhibited Marci Moore and insightful Lisa Hart compete for William’s affection as they resolve the mystery, bringing fire and wit to the undertaking. Will this unlikely trio discover what upsets the ghosts and bring peace to the park?

I’ll post several blogs over the coming days about Only Breath but here I want to comment on the narrator. The narrator is a character, but not the protagonist. His/her identity isn’t revealed directly but there are many hints and, in the end, he/she invites you to guess:

So, this is where the voice in your head, the one speaking while you read, falls silent, and I can’t help but wonder, did you question ever who is it who tells you this story? Who knows all these things and finds words to put them into your head? If so, perhaps you put two and two together; it’s not the riddle of the Sphinx, after all.

One hint as to the narrator’s identity is his/her regard for literature and satisfaction in having this important job. He/she begins the narrative with an observation about literature:

The world of literature is a sacred mirror that shows not the reality around us but the dreams and fears that reality stimulates: It’s not where we live, but life itself. What follows are images in that mirror, manifestations of thoughts, reflections within a reflection, ghosts of spirits once alive. But, what else are ghosts but spirits brought back to life?

Yet, he/she realizes being a character in a novel is an ephemeral existence and pleads, in the end, for you to continue inflating the words that give him/her life:

Perhaps you, like Sappho, understand spoken words are only so much breath, but, if so, what are words never spoken, words only in your head? Are they less than breath? Since I am made up from such words, and not from the breathing world, this is a question about me. I am such stuff as dreams are made on and the sleep that rounds my little life is within sight. So I have one request as I leave you. Go back and read this last paragraph aloud. Give my words breath. Give me breath. Spare me for a fleeting moment from my inevitable return to airy nothing.

This narrator has many observations about life and literature; I look forward to hearing reader’s reactions.

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Thanks to everyone who participated in the weekend giveaway. I hope you enjoy Passing Through Paradise!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the weekend giveaway. I hope you enjoy Passing Through Paradise!

Passing Through Paradise ebook is FREE THIS WEEKEND!!!

I’m delighted to draw your attention to a new cover for Passing Through Paradise, originally published early in 2013. The new cover is a colorized etching designed by my daughter,

Cover Becca 1Becca Vickers. You can see more of her work here. All of my other books, Witless, Bluehart, The Second Virtue, Adam’s Apple, Between the Shadow and the Soul, Double Exposures, and Mikadawizi Storms, feature covers Becca designed, and now Passing Through Paradise joins them.

Passing Through Paradise is a literary collage, i.e. a collection of short narratives, definitions, journal entries, poems, whatever, arranged so location highlights common themes. There are 88 elements. Two linear story lines are interwoven into the mix, along with numerous complementary entries. Here are a few of the entries, in no particular order.

Life Eternal

Silenus. “Walking Notes.” Dog Treats: Chronicles of the Jaunt. Chicago: Collar & Leash, page 277.

The trees are the first to know. A blush of warmth returns to the soil; roots push their sap up into frigid trunks in response. So it begins anew, yet there is no beginning, only the eternal cycle of life – earth, warmth, air, water, acting together with purpose. Trees stretch sun-ward. Individuals seek identity, esteem, self. Trees, bears, humans, all the same; also frogs, ants, worms. Behold the dance of identity, the self-loving endeavor of each personality, our hamartia. All dance the same dance, sing the same song, play the same game. – Silenus

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

Orpheus. “Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down.” North Coast Gazette 15 October 2011: A2.

Explosions rumbled like rolling thunder from distant sheet lightening. Puffs of grey dust ballooned from a hundred places around the base of the ancient building. For a moment, the theater hung suspended, frozen in time. Observers held their breath. Slowly at first, accelerating quickly, the magnificent old theater fell. Steel girders screeched, concrete disintegrated, bricks rumbled and tumbled over each other as they plummeted onto the heap forming in the basement. Suddenly a second noise, the whump of gas igniting, filled the air. A third noise, the deep, thunderous boom of tons of concrete dust exploding, followed immediately. This last explosion blew a wall of hot gas past the observers, turning their faces away. Some ran for cover but made only a few frantic steps before the artificial wind subsided and the fire resolved into flames licking the fallen carcass, rubble of the Lost Paradise.

A cloud of smoke enveloped the collapsed behemoth, billowed into a giant ring, and rose majestically into the fiercely blue sky. “Do you see it?” a voice shouted, “Groucho Marx! His face! There! In the cloud!”

“Eva Tanguay!” a second voice corrected.

Undeniably, the smoke formed a face as it rose against the sky, maybe Marx, maybe Tanguay.

“It’s Jesus!” a third voice screamed as the cloud drifted farther away and the face seemed to form a beard. A dozen cameras snapped photos, opportunities to reconsider what shapes the smoke took, what faces witnessed the execution, how this citadel of drama exhaled its soul into the morning breeze.

Now loaders and trucks work the rubble like beetles feeding on a carcass. Now only the hole remains, and that is the best place to end the story. Greed destroys this aging dame of the theater and leaves not a ruin, but only her hole.

Homily on The Hill

Anon. Dog Treats: Chronicles of the Jaunt. Chicago: Collar & Leash, pages 453-460.

Silenus stopped walking, leaned on his stick, looked over the Dogs following up the hill. They picked up their ears. A hush spread through the crowd as the hard breathing of climbing gave way to concentrated attention.

“We are cast into life’s journey with no map,” he called out. “Anyone can understand, wants to understand, needs to understand, but no one is born understanding.”

Though the rules of the Dogs forbid it, some fumbled with phones to capture these words live.

“We make stories. What else can we do? We become artists of language, our ancient paint and canvas. When we find the right words everything is captured, everything is explained, we understand everything.” He grinned; his eyes twinkled in the early morning sunlight. “So we imagine.”

Those near the front exchanged looks. This was important, an important addition to the Canons.

“Words are only words.” He waited for the import of this to take hold. “Blesséd are those who know two languages!” He laughed. “The bilingual! They see the world with two eyes; they stand on two legs; they grasp the earth with two hands!”

The Dogs remained silent and listened intently. Dark clouds moved along the distant western horizon. Brown prairie grass bent in that direction, stretching toward the rain. Slivers of light flashed from cloud to earth. A minute later thunder rumbled in the distance, the sound of huge bass drums.

“Our stories are phantoms of fleeting moments reflected in mirrors.” He turned slowly, looked to the west. “In truth, we are mere images of apparitions, impermanent as convenience-store bananas.” He slapped his hand against his chest as he made this point. “The only question is, what sort of word will you be? Will you be lie, or truth?” His gaze moved from dog to dog, locking onto each pair of eyes in turn. “Certain, or uncertain? Clear or unclear?” He grinned and raised his hand over his head, open palm. “Blessed are the certain, the clear. Without them the world has no truth.” He signaled to move on toward the east in advance of the storm. “And blessed are the bilingual!” he shouted over his shoulder. “They hold the world in two hands!”

Thursday, December 28, 1989

Andreas, Damien. “Life Notes.” Unpublished Journal. n.d.

With one eye in the natural world and one in the supernatural, Mother was quick to notice when something was about to go wrong. “There’s no word for what I have because other people don’t have them,” she said. “I call them blinklings. They come to me quick as a blink and they’re delicate as angel breath.” She wondered why I didn’t have them too, since I was her son, home schooled, and had her curly hair and brown eyes. I tried, and she tried to teach me, but I was blinking blind. I never doubted they were real though; they were as everyday as the bowl my oatmeal came in. They were a familiar part of living with Mother until I was eight-and-a-half years old, the day she died.

To celebrate Passing Through Paradise, version 2-point-oh, price of the paperback is temporarily reduced to 12.50$ in the US, with corresponding reductions internationally, and the Kindle book IS FREE ON SATURDAY, MAY 16!

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