Category Archives: Uncategorized

The 3rd Annual Gingerbread House

I bought a gingerbread house kit from Walmart once again, and we put it together on Sunday while my oldest son was home on leave from the Marine Corps.  This little photo essay is inadequate for fully understanding the scope of the epic mess we made, the sugary sweetness of eating the thing as we built it, and the challenge it was to my diabetes and diet.


I did not realize when I bought this kit that the gingerbread house was already put together and glued in place with sugar paste.  So the first step this time was chocolate frosting and candy decorations.



Last minute special touches only cost $1.95.


My son the Marine did the Christmas tree on the side in green frosting, not realizing that we had a package of green marshmallow stuff in the kit for that purpose.



I am told that the best part of the process was tearing it all apart and devouring it at the end.  I even ate a tiny piece myself.



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A Bittersweet Season

tree time banner

I married into a Jehovah’s Witness family, so I have not celebrated Christmas since 1994.  They believe real Christians shouldn’t celebrate a holiday that has its origins in pagan Roman traditions because first century Christians did not celebrate birthdays or Christmas.  I suppose they have a point.  But being a Jehovah’s Witness is not really who I am any more.  The faith has left me more or less alone and isolated, and I don’t have much to do with them any more. My son is in the Marine Corps, a situation that caused him to be disfellowshipped and thrown out of the faith.  I am celebrating the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas with my son, home on leave.   He came home in time to help with my hospitalization recently for a heart scare that turned out to be nothing.  While all of that was going on, I self-published my novel Snow Babies, a book that is built from a lot of old Christmas memories and holiday regrets. We always need to do more to help others.  We need to come together more and care more and feel more and remember. Christmas is a time when people traditionally respond to those needs.  So I am living with that heightened sense of a special time of year again, for the first time in a long time.  And it means everything to me.  So that is it for the moment.  This is my merry time, and I have to hold on to every bit of it that I can.


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The Very Best Way to Have the Worst Possible Publishing Experience – Part 2

Yesterday I started a rant about publishing novels.  I guess I only filled that word balloon halfway up with mad gasses and bull puckie.  So it isn’t fully inflated with noxious opinions of publishing, indie publishing, and getting a book into print.

val at barn cover3

Having written a competent young adult novel that was well-reviewed by anyone who actually read it, I was faced with the question, “How do you get your work noticed to the point that more than just the members of your family will read it?”  So, I took another of my decades-old manuscripts and transformed it into a contest novel.  It was Snow Babies, the first of my Valerie Clarke novels.  (That’s Val in the cover mock-up to the left above.)  I entered it in the 2012 Chanticleer Book Reviews’ Dante Rossetti YA Novel Contest.  I surprised myself by being one of eleven of the hundreds of contestants that made it to the final round of judging.  Of course, it is a contest open to anybody who could write a novel-length glop of words and pay the entry fee.  But the final round contained only those novels that could be actually considered viable for publication.  While I didn’t win a prize in that contest or get the recognition that might bring, I had my novel confirmed as something worth getting published.  So I vowed to find a publisher that would not charge me for the publication of my novel.


So this time I found myself working with a small press called PDMI Publishing LLC.  They absolutely loved my novel and gave me a contract.  I had high confidence that I would see the novel in print.  And, as a business, PDMI actively worked not only on printing authors’ books, but on promoting and marketing them, putting in appearances at various Comicons and Dragoncons and other nerdy Con-cons.  They even owned their own bookstore at one point.  They assigned me an editor, Jessie Cornwell from Seattle, and she was a delight to work with, bringing insight and wisdom into the development of my work.  But one small problem developed.  Just as my novel became fully edited and ready for the next step, the whole publishing company broke down and went out of business.  It was sad.  So many, including me, had invested a large portion of themselves into the whole novel business; writing, editing, printing, and marketing.  So many were left scrambling with their hopes and dreams spilling out of the bicycle basket of PDMI after the bicycle crashed into a wall.  I completely lost touch with my editor, so I couldn’t even offer her money that I didn’t have to pay her with anyway for her wonderful work.  Something else had to come along to keep my dreams of putting Snow Babies into the dreams of the reading public truly alive.


By now you have probably come to the unpleasant conclusion that there will be a Part 3 to this horrible rant.  But for me, it is a good thing.  It will contain the eventual solution I came up with, and will lead to a cold-comfort happy ending.

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Holding My Book in my Hand


If I never earn a dime from it, it is a wonderful feeling to see so many years of your life finally result in a book in print.

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Hospital Selfie 

Well, being in the hospital with heart monitoring machines is not the way I wanted to start the holiday season.    But I didn’t have a heart attack after all.   And it gives me fiction fuel for the future. 


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Snow Babies at Last!


I tested out Kindle Direct Publishing through Amazon and will soon have the best book I have ever written out in paperback and e-book forms.  I had a contract to publish this with PDMI Publishing and then the publishing company died before my book was actually in print.  I tested out KDP with Stardusters and Space Lizards.  I can now hold a copy of that book in my hands.  That went OK and I learned how to make the next book better.  So be looking for an announcement soon that it is for sale on Amazon.


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Spastic Enjoyment of Conspiracy-Theorist Treasure

So, I understand that the JFK documents are now released to the public.  Old George HW Bush stipulated the date in 1992, 25 years ago.  So I should be thrilled, right?

Here is Politico’s article on what you should do about the document dump; How to Read the JFK Assassination Files


But, of course, Donald Trump held back some of the files at the request of the CIA and FBI for reasons of (supposedly) national security.  Because, of course, the Russians and the North Koreans could obviously make use of the knowledge of what the Secret Service agents were having for breakfast in 1963.  It couldn’t be because there might be clues to a connection between the CIA, the assassination plot, LBJ, and agents who are still living, or whose loved ones have enough money to hire lawyers and make trouble.


What was that smile and wink about on Air Force One in the aftermath?

And we shouldn’t believe that after 53 years the CIA and FBI haven’t had enough time to clean up and sanitize the document trail that might’ve connected them to the plot hatched at Clint Murchison’s house before the event happened with LBJ and J. Edgar Hoover present at that party.  They couldn’t have been talking about the murder the way LBJ’s mistress claimed in interviews, right?  If conspiracy theorists are to be believed, the delay in releasing the documents was authored by Poppy Bush who may have been there at the event and may have been working in the CIA at the time despite the protestations that he wasn’t there, and wasn’t in the CIA, and those pictures that look like him weren’t really him at all.


Actor Bill Paxton was identified in this photo as having been in Dallas that day.  Is that why he died before the release of these documents?

I have heard government and FBI types already telling us that there is really nothing to be found in these documents that will prove anything conspiracy theorists say.  There will be no smoking gun.  (Why would there be a gun among documents anyway?  And the smoke would have to be coming out of it for over 50 years.)

So the documents will be pointed to as proof that Oswald did it, and the questions people have are pointless and meaningless and we should stop asking them.  After all, the history books are already written.  So why should we care?

It is true that some conspiracy theorists are red-faced rage machines like Alex Jones.  Some will claim that shape-shifting lizard men from outer space are behind everything. But the public face of conspiracy madness is often used by perpetrators to aid in covering up the truth.  How many know about the work of reporter and Kennedy Friend Dorothy Kilgallen, what it had to do with revealing the truth, how she mysteriously died, and how her work then disappeared?  Here is a Daily News report about Dorothy Kilgallen.


Can you read that article and still think that there is no reason to believe anyone but Oswald did it?  Do you really believe that the government is telling us the whole truth?  Even with the latest document dump?

Personally, based on the first picture I put in this post, I think the whole thing is a mistake.  The shooter was really trying to kill Trump, and hit JFK by accident.


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