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A game warden holds the murder weapon I found at the bottom of a lake.
I think it's safe to say most people will never be called to testify in a murder trial in their lifetimes. It's just not that often, I think, that people are adjacent to murders. 
Well, I just testified in my second murder trial. The first one I documented in my book, Deadly Vows, The True Story of a Zealous Preacher, a Polygamous Union and a Savage Murder
The second just happened yesterday. Well, it happened earlier this year. Here's what happened:
On Feb. 11 of this year, I took my family out to play in the lakebed of Lake Eufaula in eastern Oklahoma, because to that point, the year had been really dry, and the lake was much lower than it normally is, exposing the bed and the shells of dead mollusks, which the kids love to crunch underfoot.
While they were engaged in that pursuit, I saw what appeared to be a toy pistol half-buried in the lake bed. I approached it, and as I picked it up, I immediately realized it was too heavy to be a toy. I looked in the cylinder and it appeared to be loaded. Now, there's no good reason a loaded pistol should be at the bottom of a lake, so I immediately called 911.
While I was on the phone with dispatch, a game warden happened by, checking out our vehicle. I waved him over and told the dispatcher I was going to give the gun to him.

Fast forward a week. The chief deputy in McIntosh County called me and asked if I could show him where I found the pistol. So I did; it was throwing distance from a small boat dock.
He told me the pistol had been used in a murder and he was hoping against hope to find it because it was a necessary piece of evidence tying his suspect to the murder. He knew the suspect had thrown the gun into the lake, but it's an enormous lake, so he had no idea where to even begin looking.
Earlier this month, I was subpoenaed to appear in court and help establish chain of custody on the gun. So I did. As I was leaving, the family whispered "thank you," and that made me happy. It was an expensive pistol, and the deputy said most people would have just kept it and cleaned it up, so apparently doing the right thing is rare these days.
Also, apparently, I attract murder cases.
Country LivinMurder Magnet
UPDATE: Don't read this. It's horrible. Query writing sucks. Seriously. Don't read it.
I'm still working on the query letter for Father of Malice. I'm taking this long because I want it to be intriguing and perfect. My past two novels have been published without an agent, which necessarily limits the size of the publishers. I'm very happy with Promontory Press, the publisher of Robby the R-Word, but I can't tread water; I need to step up the effort every time I get a novel published.
That means I need an agent to pitch my book to larger publishers.
And to do that, I have to have a really good query letter.
After much iteration (and even more Scotch), here's what I have so far:
Fired as editor of a big city newspaper, Scott Drury is forced to move to hicksville, Oklahoma to find a new job, despite his sniggering disdain for local hillbillies. But he fails to notice his arrival in the bucolic town coincides with the deaths of several townsfolk — until the mangled ghosts of the recently dead beg him to stop the slaughter. Investigating the horrific killings, Scott finds he is being personally targeted by the son of the Angel of Death - and the town is paying the price. He is also forced to confront his greatest embarrassment — the fact he's the son of first cousins, no better than the locals he ridiculed.
The angel’s son sees Scott as his only obstacle to fomenting a 365-year epoch of suffering for humanity. Try as he might, Scott, possibly a distant descendant of the archangel of strength, can’t just pack up and run away, because he’s been lured here by powers beyond his influence. 
He must try to summon an inner resolve that might not even exist, and stand up to his deadly nemesis. With the help of a disillusioned and possibly crazy cult leader, Scott uncovers the deeper secret of his incestuous ancestry, maybe giving him the slimmest of chances to defeat the unkillable offspring of an angel and a woman.
FATHER OF MALICE, thriller/horror, 110,000 words, is complete and features elements that will appeal to readers of The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker.
As a newspaper editor of 30 years and a longtime ghostwriter for televangelists, I have a unique personal perspective on both aspects of Scott’s challenges, from dealing with ancient theology coming alive to assigning reporters to cover it. I am also the author of three trade-published books, Deadly Vows (true crime, 2015, New Horizon Press), Minister of Justice (mystery, 2016, Moonshine Cove) and Robby the R-Word (police procedural, 2017, Promontory Press). 
It's not completely perfect yet, but I feel like it's a lot better than my first stabs at it. Writing query letters is completely different from writing novels, so I'm really feeling my way around in the dark on this one.
Father of MaliceQuery Letters
That's Gene Longcrier on the left. I'm on the right. We're playing "Sweet Child O' Mine." Yes, I know that's a Stratocaster and I should have been playing that on a Les Paul, but gimme a break. I'm old.
My 30th high school reunion was a week ago. My wife's 20th is this weekend. For you math geeks, yes, she's 10 years younger than me, and yes, I'm old. Really old.
I didn't want to go to my reunion, simply because I believe I have kept up with all the people from high school I gave a shit about (hint: it's not very many). But my friend, Heila Shultz convinced me my band had to play for the reunion's afterparty, so I got the guys together and said, "Let's learn a bunch of old 80s stuff (I graduated in 1987), and play for the reunion. 
We didn't really practice, except for one run-through two days before.
So we set up for the gig, and of course, I can't remember lyrics (that's not a function of being old, it's something I've always had), so I printed out a bunch of lyrics sheets. But the bar in which we were playing was dimly lit (a lot more dim than the picture above, taken with a flash, indicates). Turned out, I couldn't see the lyrics. Not a one of them. So while I was setting up my fancy rig (the Crate and Marshall amps you see there), I asked my wife to go get me the one thing every rock and roll singer needs: reading glasses.
That's right. Reading glasses. So I could see. The. Fucking. Lyrics.
The show went off pretty well, especially for four guys who hadn't really practiced, but I couldn't get over the fact that I had to have reading glasses to play a gig. What it means is, I'm old. 
That's Steven Gann, the quarterback from our state-championship football team. I'm not the only one getting old. Just saying.
I'm not the only one. When I went into the reunion, I was shocked. There were so many old people there, and faces I really did not recognize, that for a moment I remarked to my friend Roy Thornton that I thought I had stumbled onto the wrong class reunion.
I talked for 20 minutes to a person I truly had no memory of, but I just went along, speaking in generalities, until he introduced himself to my wife. Turned out, he was a guy I spent tons and tons of time hanging out with in high school. 
Most of these people—and this was oddly shocking to me—have children who are between 25 and 30 years old. For comparison, my oldest son is 5, starting kindergarten this year.
Isn't my wife pretty? But what's up with my eyes?
It may be that my wife is so young, though her oldest is 15, so maybe I just started late. I think it's instructive that we all had to wear name tags. Like, I know there were something upward of 500 people in my graduating class or something, but I honestly remembered maybe seven of the people at the reunion. 
That's a sign that, either I'm really aged and probably soon to die, or high school was stupid and I didn't pay attention. Or both.
Even Roy got old. But I will never disparage someone who says, during the show, "You can never have enough Kiss songs." Roy wins the reunion, in my book.
And where did all the time go? I often think I've lived enough for four or five lifetimes, but when I'm at a place where everyone looks so old, I realize maybe I've lived exactly the right amount of time to be where I am. But it really got me reflecting on the things society declares are important to us. 
I was trapped in the same prison as these people back in the late 1980s, and I guess that's supposed to imbue us with some kind of bond, some kind of Stockholm Syndrome that ties us together forever. But I didn't feel any kinship. It was more of, "Oh, yeah, I remember you." And then ... nothing. Oh, you've been embalming corpses for 25 years? How fascinating. Accounting? You don't say. I'm sure they're all completely engrossed with me working with words for so long. Oh, you fix split infinitives? How have you avoided the Nobel prize?
I have nothing in common with these people. Except that we're the same age and went through the same bullshit three decades ago. 
I don't think I'll go to the next one.
I am oldRants
I totally have an IMDb page, which means I'm famous, right?
I was in Legends and Lies, the series about the Old West from the now-humiliated Bill O'Reilly on the Fox News Network, which is hilarious, since I'm about as liberal a human as you can come by. 
I have also appeared on Dateline NBC, Deadly Devotion on Discovery ID and The Debra Duncan show on CBS. Also, I have made numerous appearances on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the Inspirational Network and Outlaw Radio.
The point is, I'm so damn famous. Like, Paris Hilton. Only without the sex tape. And the weird little dog. OK. I have a weird little dog. Like five of them.
Pop CultureTVI'm Really Famous
So I was interviewed by some guy online about my books and whatnot.
It was a good interview. 
Read it.
FacebookInterviews
Fish and chips.
So this week's "F Word" dish was fish and chips. Because I have to watch my carbs, that was a tricky one for me, but I just used almond flour instead of regular flour, and voila!
The chips were interesting, because Gordon Ramsay's recipe called for frying them at 300 degrees F, then letting them rest, turning up the oil to 350, and frying them again. Turns out, that's amazing. Makes the chips crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.
I used Alaskan Cod as my fish, and it turned out great!
For the curious, the recipe for the batter is simple: Three cups of flour, two tablespoons of baking soda and a 12-ounce can or bottle of beer (I used Miller Lite, because my wife loves it and it was handy [When I drink beer, I'm a Guinness man, but I prefer Scotch. As I tend to say after a glass or two, I like my whisky from Scotland and my beer from Ireland, but alas]). Also, a cup or so of dry flour seasoned with smoked paprika next to the batter is used to dredge the fish before dipping it in the batter. Once the oil (I used canola oil) is heated to 300, dredge the fish in the dry flour, then dip it in the batter. Once it's coated, hold the fish halfway in the oil for a few seconds, then drop the whole fish in and cook it for six minutes (I turned it halfway through). Pull the fish out and let it drain on a crumpled paper towel.
I was making my chips at the same time, and to do that, I used golden potatoes, sliced into fairly thick rectangles (see pic above). I fried them until they looked tender, but had no added color, then I pulled them out and laid them on a wire frame, letting them cool and drain. Afterward, I turned the oil up to 350 and put them back in until they were crispy, pulling them out and letting them drain on crumpled paper towels, during which I seasoned them with kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper (which, oddly, does not show in the picture).
The only thing I was missing was mashed peas and tartar sauce, which for some reason I forgot to make. Still, pretty damn good stuff.
It was all delicious, so you should try it.
CookingDiet
In the continuing saga of my three year old's scatalogical interests, he was pooping on the toilet and my wife pointed out his poo in the water. 
He looked and went, "No, it's just shit!"
Cue maniacal laughter from his dad.
Then, just now, he stuck his rear in his brother's face and went, "Look at my butt cheeks!"
He is his father's son.
AsaParenting PoorlyPoo
So I tell my friend, Jan Jordan, who also happens to be a gourmet cook, "I really want to learn how to make pasta."
Without hesitation, he replies: "Oh, that's easy. You just open the bag and put it in boiling water."
ComedyCooking
So one of my faithful readers finished Robby the R-Word today, and she, being an elderly lady, liked the writing, but didn't like the "f-word" being used so much (she must have not been paying attention while reading Minister of Justice) and hated ... HATED the lesbian sex scene in the middle of the book. 
She seemed to be OK with the lot lizard sex scene toward the end of the book, and the sex scene where a dude beats his wife to death during the act, but two consenting adult women—oh, hell no.
So it's not sex scenes she's against, it's just lesbian sex. She even overtly approved of the underage sex scene in Minister of Justice.
Now, don't get me wrong. I like this lady. Always have, always will. And I think it's perfectly OK to not like a book. In fact, I give her kudos for being able to coherently elucidate exactly the reasons she didn't like it. So I'm not talking shit about her. Instead, I'm using her to make a point: not every book is for every person.
The dozen or so other readers I've heard from personally all loved that scene—and the book. But a reader I like didn't. At least she was honest about it, which I also treasure. 
All that said, you'll never know just how offensive the lesbian sex scene really is if you don't buy the book and check it out for yourself!
Ha! See what I did there? I just sold ice to an Eskimo! (Hint: the lesbian sex scene is way more offensive than that Eskimo line). Shoo. Go buy the book.
ReviewsRobby the R-WordSplash of Girl-on-Girl sex
I chose that headline because of the double meaning, obviously. 
I love to watch The F Word on FOX. That said, i don't think a lot of people are watching it, and I'll explain why.
The show is hosted by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, a Michelin Star chef who is as famous for his tirades in the kitchen as for his universally lauded dishes. Each week, he posts the recipe he will be featuring that week on Twitter, and then, during the live show on Wednesday nights, he will sometimes feature some of the dishes prepared by viewers. 
But lately, he hasn't been, and when I went to the recipes earlier today (they post them the day before), they only had 16 likes—for a nationwide show. 
That said, I'm a Gordon Ramsay disciple, and that means I have tried to fix his recipes each week (skipped the chicken parm last week, though). This week was the first week I posted a picture on Twitter for them to peruse, although my pork chops in week 1 were to die for, but I cooked them after the show had aired. 
The dish above is a New York Steak, Sautéed Mushrooms, Fingerling Potatoes and homemade Smokey Barbecue Sauce. Overall, I'd say the dish was a great success (though I'm glad there are no comments on here, because I'm certain Jan Jordan would have something smartass to say about the aggressive sear on my steaks). The outside of the steak did get a little crispy, but the inside was cooked to medium-rare perfection. 
Overall, I think the recipe is largely a keeper, although I'd change up the barbecue sauce a little because I don't like chipotle that much. 
My wife is a vegan, so I took two vegan burgers, coated them in the rub used on the steaks, and cooked them on top of hot grapeseed oil. She said they were delicious, so I guess the rub is definitely a keeper. Other than that, to make the meal vegan, I only had to leave the Worchestershire sauce out of the barbecue sauce (it has anchovies in it), and use margarine instead of butter in the sautéed mushroom sauce.
Anyway, watch The F Word on Fox on Wednesdays. It's a fun show, and any show that can engage me enough to make me want to cook its recipes before it airs is a good show.
CookingTVGordon Ramsay
I finished writing Father of Malice in February. If you haven't read the ad nauseum entries below, I wrote the entire thing (just over 90,000 words) in two weeks. 
That's all well and good, but I hate writing query letters (essentially a four or five-paragraph pitch to agents asking them to represent the book. I wrote a query letter toward the end of February, and sent it to one agent, which was a mistake. Because the query letter sucked. It focused on the protagonist and his struggle, which isn't a bad thing on its face, but the danger in the book, the horror, stems from a much larger picture than the main character, and the query letter I wrote back then woefully failed to capture that.
So last week, I gave it another shot. I haven't sent it out to any agents yet, but I thought I'd post it here. Somehow, seeing something in public helps me view it with new eyes. So here it is:
Haskell City is being stalked by an evil so ancient, the darkest recesses of human nightmares can't recall it—a shadowy malice that spreads, both killing people and replicating itself with brutal efficiency. The malicious force is infiltrating surrounding cities, including the strange cult outside town that worships it. 
Scott Drury, a big-city editor forced to take a job at the tiny town’s newspaper after a scandal at his old paper on the west coast, is thrust into the middle of a supernatural war he doesn’t believe in, much less understand. The mysterious antique library at his new house seems to compel him to fight the son of an archangel — just as his new girlfriend wants to pull him away from the fray. Could the demigod embattling the city be using Scott as a pawn in a celestial war to instigate an epoch of evil on the earth?
In Father of Malice, (90,000 words), the reluctant and unlikely forces of good face off with a tangible evil intent on foisting a 700-year reign of terror upon mankind.
I am the author of two trade-published novels — Minister of Justice (Moonshine Cove, 2016) and Robby the R-Word (2017, Promontory Press) — and a true crime book, Deadly Vows (2015, New Horizon Press).
I'm not sure if this is the final form the letter will take or not. Right now, it's just an exercise to get my mind working so I can refine it to send to agents. I don't allow comments on this site, but if you want to tell me what you think, email me here
UPDATE: Now that I've let it sit for a few days, I see a lot of weaknesses in that letter. The first two sentences repeat each other, and the first one is too long. With too many adjectives. The third sentence should end at "supernatural war," and should delete "on the west coast," since Scott was already established as a "big-city editor." No need to belabor the point. The fourth sentence should change "at" his new house to "in". That sentence should also delete everything after "archangel". No need to introduce a character here that doesn't get mentioned again. Fifth sentence, "embattling" is a weak word; "on the earth" could go, too. These are all just notes for me. Feel free to ignore them.
UPDATE 2: Here's my new iteration of the query letter:
Haskell City is being stalked by an evil so ancient, the darkest recesses of human nightmares can't recall it—a shadowy malice lurking just outside our most animalistic fears. When a man is instantly mummified in a seedy motel, the malicious force infiltrates the small town with a speed and force no one can resist, including the strange cult outside town that worships it. 
Scott Drury, a big-city editor forced to take a job at the tiny town’s newspaper after a scandal at his old paper, is now unwillingly thrust into the middle of a supernatural war. The mysterious antique library in his new house—and the ghosts of the people dying in the city—compel him to fight the son of an archangel. Could the demigod silently slaughtering the city be using Scott as a pawn in a celestial war to instigate an epoch of evil?
In Father of Malice, (90,000 words), the reluctant and unlikely forces of humanity face off with a demigod intent on foisting a reign of terror upon mankind.
I am the author of two trade-published novels — Minister of Justice (Moonshine Cove, 2016) and Robby the R-Word (2017, Promontory Press) — and a true crime book, Deadly Vows (2015, New Horizon Press).

REBOOT: Blah. I hated both of those. So I completely rethought my thinking, or whatever. Here's the new one:
The last situation Scott Drury thought he’d find himself in was a fight with an angel’s malicious spawn, who invades the minds and bodies of regular people, inciting them to viciously murder those they love most. They don’t teach that kind of stuff in journalism school, and he certainly never ran across any half-angels or spirits at his old job as a big-city newspaper editor. Now, however, in a small town in Oklahoma, he has been thrust face-to-face with the offspring of the Angel of Death.
What’s Scott supposed to do—critique the thing to death? The ghosts of the recently killed who are haunting him don’t seem to care that he’s not qualified, as they beg him to stop the spreading malice before it infects even more people. Digging deep for courage he’s sure he doesn’t have, he must stand up to the evil, or face becoming its captive for the rest of his life. 
In FATHER OF MALICE (90,000 words, horror), humanity collides with supernatural powers bent on foisting their wills on humankind, and Scott Drury must come to grips with a sullied past that cost him everything once and threatens to do it again. Combined with themes of workplace trysts, teenage angst and coming of age, the terror comes from the depths of depravity lurking inside humans.
I am the author of two trade-published novels — Minister of Justice (Moonshine Cove, 2016) and Robby the R-Word (2017, Promontory Press) — and a true crime book, Deadly Vows (2015, New Horizon Press).
I think that's much better.
UPDATE: No. Those all suck. I'm working on an entirely new idea. Ignore all the shit that precedes this sentence.
Father of MaliceQuery Letters