You THINK you’re in control…

Kevin and Jack Ride Again

My second children’s picture book is finally published and available. You Can Rely on Kevin and Jack! is about doing what you’ve said you’ll do for another person and doing it well. A simple ethic, but like so many “simple” ethics it’s one that’s hard to stick to. The idea for the book came from a lesson my dad taught me when I was very young. Do your best. At least, you’ll have respect for yourself. At most, others will respect you and further reward will come from that.

Link to the Amazon page for You Can Rely on Kevin and Jack!

Teaching Update

Since returning to teaching after a two-year sabbatical, I’ve reached my first big milestone. I made it to Christmas break relatively unscathed. Worn to the bone, but psychologically intact. (A tough profession, but somebody’s gotta do it.) Honestly, the whole experience has felt like a string of many miracles that played out for months. Example? I commuted two hours each day, never broke down once, never was late to work, didn’t miss a day or even part of a day. That alone was miraculous and it represents only a small fraction of the challenges I’ve faced in re-entering the teaching workforce full-time as an old(er) fella. I’m blessed!

Book Review: The Martian Chronicles


Christmas break for an overworked teacher… I need a good book, a standard that I can rely on. This is my fourth time through THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, but it still has reader’s magic for me. Ray Bradbury’s poetic prose, deep themes, and tongue-in-cheek about the human condition remain a comfort that holds over from my youth.

I’m still creeped out as I rediscover the deception of Captain Black and his crew by the wonderfully crafty Martians. (I won’t reveal how that plays out, in case you’ve never read the book. Believe me, “The Third Expedition” is a classic chapter, a good short story by itself.)

And who can forget Spender, tragically idealistic Earthling, from “–And the Moon Be Still as Bright”? The themes are just as relevant today as when the story was published in 1948.

“Spender quietly laid his pistol at his feet. ‘I’ve seen that what these Martians had was just as good as anything we’ll ever hope to have. They stopped where we should have stopped a hundred years ago.’

‘They have a beautiful city here.’ The captain nodded at one of several places.

‘It’s not that alone. Yes, their cities were good. They knew how to blend art into their living. It’s always been a thing apart for Americans. Art was something you kept in the crazy son’s room upstairs.'”

Link to the original Goodreads review:

Video Recommendations

The Village. Literary depth, a touching love story, and Shyamalan’s best writing.

The X-Files TV series. Start with season one of the original series. Great stories and characters. Good writing and directing.

The Horizon

Short stories. New novel. Kevin and Jack, part three. Doing my best to help ninth grade students pass the end-of-course biology exam that Texas administers in May.

God, family, and friends help me cope with my deep fear that I will not accomplish what I am supposed to accomplish, that I will not be a man you can rely on.

You THINK you’re in control…

… but you’re not. Life is a series of miracles, different sizes, many of them hard to interpret or even recognize as miracles. We don’t seem to have any control over how and when they arrive. Nonetheless, we hope and pray for them.

Pray for miracles in your life and the lives of people around you. The best thing you can do for others is pray for them every day.

Have a miraculous 2018!


Unscramble the words, unscramble the question, ask yourself the question, answer the question.

Si  ot  hatn  zipaz  dogo  hetre  omre  ifle  nopipeepr  dan  viomes?



New Horizons

Today’s blog: the teaching life, writing/publishing progress, review of Nevertheless


Still writing, but the pace has slowed. I’m back to full-time teaching at a high school that specializes in fine arts. It’s good for me to be among people again — they provide great inspiration for stories… and there’s less loneliness.

How do I fit in the writing work? Thirty minutes to an hour, here and there. Right now, I’m starting the first draft of this blog at 4 a.m. on a Thursday. It takes grit to keep at it. I’m proud to say that I’ve got grit. I really believe someone should nominate me for a Gritty.


I’m excited about a new, BIG project that I’ve proposed at school. A massive fusion of science and visual art! It involves all (or most) of my students (over 100). (They are excited about it as well. Most are excited. Many are excited. Quite a few are excited.) How big is this project? It will take all year to complete AND approval by administration is necessary.


Still in progress: Kevin-and-Jack Part Two, a short story, a third novel.

New: another short story has emerged.

I’ve submitted Something for an IPPY award (literary fiction with a southern U.S. focus). After researching contests for independent publishers, the IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Award) seemed to be the most reputable. A win, or at least showing, would increase my exposure to the publishing industry. (That’s my hope.) Results are announced in May, 2018.


Alec Baldwin: A man who (like me) loved Seconds.

I still read, even with so little extra time on my hands these days. Since I now have a two-hour commute to work (one hour each way), my latest reading project was done with a book-on-disc. This was fortuitous because the book is Nevertheless, a memoir by Alec Baldwin — hearing him read it aloud in that great voice of his intensifies the best parts.

One of the strongest aspects of Baldwin’s Nevertheless is his brutal honesty. It begins immediately with his admission to us that he wrote the book to make money and that if we are offended by that admission perhaps we should stop reading. The writing and the story are so good that even if you are offended… you continue. (And you soon suspect that there’s more to this than the money.)

Nevertheless has much to say about Baldwin’s perspective of the politics and mechanics and history of the acting industry. I suppose that it would be a good book for aspiring thespians, a source of inside information regarding what to do… and not do, whom to adhere to… and whom to avoid. BUT… what makes it really good, captivating, read-it-to-the-end-worthy? — The stories of his youth, those formative years that made him the sensitive, emotional, and admittedly flawed (admitted by the uncomfortably honest Baldwin himself) man that he is today.

Nevertheless begins with a description of Baldwin’s early family life in New York — grim and insightfully dysfunctional, informative and inspirational at the same time. I was especially fascinated with the details of his father’s career as a frustrated, yet committed, high school teacher. (Father Baldwin sacrificed the “good” life for his “art.”) For me, the story of Alec Baldwin’s family and how his life and his siblings’ lives played out in a sort of middle-class chaos (an existence that many of us are all too familiar with) was the best part of this multifaceted book.

The following is a particularly telling and well-written passage about Alec and his five siblings.

“The six of us were lost souls washed up on the shores …. Six pieces of driftwood, just bobbing through our neighborhood, without a current to carry us in any particular direction .… always mindful of how little we had.

One day, I was walking out of my house, headed to see some friends or ride my bike by myself, and I saw my brother Stephen up the road, bent over something. As I got closer, I could see he had a stick from a tree branch in his hand and was poking at a squirrel that had been crushed by a car .… ‘We have to bury it,’ he said. .… ‘Will you help me bury it?’

And as he looked at me, I thought, ‘He’s that squirrel. So am I. All we have is today and the hope that we don’t get crushed by something. We have nothing. And everything seems so fragile.’”

Link to the Goodreads review:


Be good.

“Het  fo  reeth  file  ni  yaw  gritheousessn  si.”

Texas. HOT! (Still Smiling.) Bagels?!

Jack and I are holding up. Amidst scorching Texas heat, a local (insane) squirrel population run amok, and alternating periods of anxiety and depression, we’ve still found at least a few moments to smile. And why not? Overall, life is pretty good.

And what about bagels? Bagels are good. That’s something positive. Right?

Heat and psychotic squirrels and bipolar disorder aren’t keeping me-n-Jack down. We’re still doing our two-a-days at the park, takin’ care of bidness.

Time for bagels…

Something Signing at BOOPA’S

This is the third signing that Holly Pils of Boopa’s Bagel Deli has hosted for me. She’s a kind-hearted lady who does a lot for her community. (I will always be grateful to her for giving me my big break into book signing.) Thankfully, that commitment has rewarded her with years of successful business and a great reputation in Fort Worth.

If you’re coming to the signing, here are some pre-arrival details that might be helpful:

  • Time: 11 – 1:30
  • I’ll be in the back of the shop, sitting next to a box of books. (I’ll have some of my older titles available, in addition to Something.)
  • Plan to eat lunch there. The food is always good! I’ll put a link to the menu below.
  • Payment for books will be directly to me, so bring cash (tens) or check (no plastic).
  • Address: 6513 N. Beach, Fort Worth, 76137
  • Here’s a link to BOOPA’S web site:


BOOK REVIEW: Henry Reed, Inc.

(This review was recently posted at Amazon and Goodreads.)


It was a hot (HOT!) summer day in Corpus Christi, Texas. I was bicycling home from the public library with eleven books stacked precariously on my handlebars. (No basket, just books-on-the-bars, old style. Why eleven? If you have to ask, you’re not a bookworm/bibliophile.) One of the eleven was HENRY REED, INC. by Keith Robertson.

HENRY REED, INC. would soon become one of the favorites of my youth. (The version I enjoyed was illustrated by the masterful Robert McCloskey.) On the cover, bespectacled, slender, sly-faced Henry sits with feet propped on a desk, a tank of laboratory gas standing nearby. (How could a nerdy, bespectacled me NOT be drawn to this book?) Robertson’s skilled writing relates to us the fascinating tale of Henry’s summer adventures in Princeton, New Jersey with Uncle Alfred, Aunt Mabel, Henry’s new friend/source of irritation, Midge, and of course… a dog! (A high-spirited beagle named Agony.)

What does this book offer young readers? An entertaining, tongue-in-cheek introduction to the world of research and development mixed with good, clean, humorous summer fun. Almost thirty years after first reading it, during my initial semester as a middle school teacher, I spied the long-forgotten book on the shelves of our school library. Delighted at discovering this old friend, I checked it out and re-read it — still a good read as an adult. A decade later, I would incorporate passages from a copy I purchased (and still own) into one of my high school physics classes.

HENRY REED, INC. — Good for ALL ages!

(Try to get one of the originals that has McCloskey’s illustrations.)

“I sold another dozen earthworms today and we rigged up a trap to catch the white rabbit. We haven’t had a chance to try it out yet, but I think it will work.”

Here’s the link to the original Goodreads review:


Current Work

I’m finishing up a second Kevin and Jack children’s picture book. This one is about being able to rely on people to stick to their commitments. It’s inspired by a specific lesson I learned when I was a child — When you say you’re going to do something, you do it. And you do it well.

The release date is up in the air right now because I’m also looking for gainful employment. (Such is the life of most writers. Ah, well.)



Feeling low? Heat baking your brains? Squirrels knocking at the door?

Think you’re alone in this hot, crazy, cruel world?

You’re not.

Please hang in there. You’ve got something important to do. If you don’t know what that “something” is just yet… Wait! It will come to you.

It may be the next knock on your door, the next person you meet, the next email you answer, the next phone call or text.

And when IT happens, remember to do well what you’ve been given to do…

And to be thankful.


Babies all over the place!

Grandbabies, adult babies, dog babies, insane babies (… that last one would be your assessment of me right about now…).

Why did I title this post “Babies”?

I don’t know. Maybe I got it from Jack’s picture; he’s smiling as he sits on the park bridge we’ve crossed nearly every day for several years. He’s ten now, but I remember when he was just a little dog baby. (Sniff.)

Perhaps it’s because I’ve recently entered a phase of my life where I’ve got grandbabies (Ethan Alexander and Olivia Rose) and the 24-7 news-and-activity feed that necessarily accompanies that. (Another video message just popped up on my phone!)

Maybe it’s because right now I’m tired and frustrated (Waughghgh!) and I’m feeling the need to act like a big ole baby. (I’m okay. Really! Just a crazy adult baby acting crazy.)


  • Baby ramblings (You already read that. The philosophical baby-psychobabble above.)
  • What’s happening with Something
  • Current projects
  • A review of Robert Pirsig’s work
  • A new puzzle
  • Parting shot (kapow!)


The early responses from readers of my second novel have been uplifting, so much so that I am considering entering it into a reputable national competition for indie writers. If you’re not familiar with this book yet — a strange mix of stray-dog chasing by the middle-aged mentally unbalanced AND cross country biking by the young-adult mentally unbalanced — here’s a link that will let you read a bit of it…

Huge and sincere thank-yous to my readers — there aren’t many of you, but it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. (I never was a guy with a lot of friends, but the friends I have are people I can count on. It really is all about the love.)

Signings and direct sales? Who knows… I’ve got something cooking (for Something, ha ha!) in Denton, since that fair city was so good to me for The Extra Key promotion… perhaps mid-to-late July. If you live near Fort Worth and you want to purchase a signed copy directly, don’t hesitate to contact me — I’ll set up a coffee shop meeting wherein I will supply you with the book and we can chitchat for few minutes along literary and philosophical lines. I’ve done this with with other readers who didn’t want to purchase the book online, and it’s been loads of fun. (My contact email:


I’m likely to finish my second Kevin-and-Jack children’s picture book by the end of the summer. It’s nearly complete and working on it will provide a nice change of pace from writing the last novel.

A link to the first Kevin-and-Jack book:

Notes and passages continue to pile up for my third novel. I’ve amassed different versions of beginnings and endings, titles, book cover designs, characters, main plot and subplots, etc. In the fall, I’ll start writing full chapters.


(This was posted at Goodreads and Amazon.)


Robert Pirsig’s ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE is valued by many learned readers as a book to be read and re-read… and re-read, not so much for entertainment — although it is an enjoyable read — as for a reminder about what it means to value a life of quality.

“Quality” is a concept explored in fascinating detail by Pirsig in this book of modern-day philosophy that weaves relevant discussion about everyday existence in our highly technological world with the account of a summer motorcycle road trip taken by a man and his son.

Over the course of thirty years, I’ve read ZEN three times. It has been a subtly exciting study in each instance. The ideas presented regarding living one’s life (and attempting to solve the small and large problems that come with that) in a carefully examined manner were life-changing to me. It is not an exaggeration to write that Pirsig-and-ZEN is an example of writer-and-book that truly had the power to change the way I regarded my day-to-day life. Practical proof that I’m not just pontificating to beef up a book review? — I’ve regularly recommended this book over the years to my more scholarly-minded students, occasionally even presenting copies as graduation gifts.

This was Robert Pirsig’s only major work, but well-read bibliophiles and scholars know it as a classic. Most authors would sacrifice a body part to have just one book like ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE to their credit.

“The difference between a good mechanic and a bad one, like the difference between a good mathematician and a bad one, is precisely this ability to select the good facts from the bad ones on the basis of quality. He has to care! This is an ability about which formal traditional scientific method has nothing to say. It’s long past time to take a closer look…”

Pirsig taught me, or perhaps reminded me, to ask my students (after they’d asked me if the class was going to be a good one, if they were going to learn anything of significance), “Do you care?” That’s the critical question. DO you? Do YOU? If you really want the best solution to a problem, if you really care about learning something significant… then you will.

Because you care.

This is the link to the original Goodreads review:


Q1 (scrambled letters and words):  a  si  woburdzz  hawt  sipirgs  nez  ni  jomar?

A1 (in code):  H-12-1-F-6-11-13

Q2: The main title of the sequel book?

A2: Please answer in code. Look for solutions on the ABOUT  KEVIN page in a week or two.


I’ve got a job interview tomorrow for a part-time teaching position, and I am worrying about it way too much. (That is the Way of Kevin, to overthink things to the point of miserable misery in such a way that it threatens to make nearby loved ones miserably miserable as well.) The following is my advice for myself (and for you, if like me you are one of the anti-chill elite) tonight and tomorrow, a lesson taught to me by Chill-Master Jack (the dog’s got a black belt in chill):

Do your best. Chill the rest.




So… BIG news… My second novel is out! It’s called Something, but I suppose it could have been titled Fear and Uncertainty Experienced as Jimbo Grows Up in a Strange Family, Rides a Long Bike Tour, and Chases an Ornery Runaway Dog. I decided to stick with Something. Here’s an excerpt…

Prologue: Thieves of Peace

I’m nine. It’s the summer of 1969.

I hear a knock at the front door of our little suburban starter shack in Corpus Christi, Texas. Since my dad is still at work — it’s midafternoon in our simmering city by the Gulf — and little sister and Mom are taking a nap, I’m the only one in the house awake.

I open the main door… a thick, sturdy, wooden slab… and look through the unlocked screen door. A man looks in at me.

“Son, are your folks home?”

He’s a beefy fellow — taller than my dad, who’s six-one — but seems respectable enough, in my nine-year-old opinion.

Got a white shirt and tie on, doesn’t he? A little sloppy, and his shirt’s coming out in places at the waist. But his hair’s short… and he’s wearing black horn rims, just like you.

Doesn’t look like any long-haired, LSD-injecting criminal you’ve ever seen on a TV show…

How bad can he be?

“Just my mom. She’s asleep. Dad’s at work.” I look up at his unsmiling, but clean-shaven face. He reminds me of those bland character actors who guest star every now and then on Hawaii Five-O — one of my favorite shows.

Book ‘em, Danno!

Wait… Those bland-looking guys always end up being psychotic!

I look closely at Mr. Sloppy Necktie.

Nah, looks harmless.

“Young man, could you go get your mother for me?”


I leave him at the door and go back to my parent’s bedroom.


“Hey, Mom.” I shook her shoulder. She had a pretty good snooze going, face completely relaxed, snoring lightly. I suppose she was tired most of the time, with all the housework and taking care of the two of us kids.

“Mom. There’s a man at the front door.”

Her eyes snapped open at that, then rotated toward me and narrowed, her face forming a frown.

Guess the nap’s over…

“What did you say?”

“I said there’s a guy at the door. He said he wants to talk to you.”

She jumped up and headed quickly to the front of the house. I followed. My sister was still asleep on the other side of my parents’ bed.

Before my mom got to the front room, she put her face near mine and said in an urgent and ominously quiet voice, “Stay here.” So I did.

Interested in more? Here’s the Amazon link:


I’m currently reading Chaim Potok’s In the Beginning, Ty Tashiro’s Awkward, and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. As soon as the dust settles from an intense May (see below), you can expect reviews from one or more of the aforementioned books. Spoiler alert: I like all three of them.


Tons of exciting things are happening in my piece of the universe, and all during a compressed, less-than-a-month period…

  • The publication of Something
  • My 35th wedding anniversary!
  • The birth of my second grandchild, Olivia Rose!!
  • Exciting new job prospects (No. They aren’t going to keep me from continuing to write.)

It’s all good, but it’s worn me out. In fact, I feel like taking a nap right now.


(I didn’t take a nap.)

If you’re a poet and/or love reading poetry and/or love a good love story, you should watch Paterson, starring Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani, written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. The romantic type? You’ll love it. A cynical, old fart? Force yourself to watch Paterson (…you can secretly enjoy it and no one will be the wiser). Here’s a link for more info:


Both of these review sites had nice things to say about my first novel, The Extra Key.  Here are the links:


Stuj  a  ytin  lepzuz  hist  thomn.  Mi  teba!


Lookin’ Out for You People!

I know what you’re thinking when you see that picture. Boondawg Saints, right? Nope. Just me and Jack. Roamin’ the streets at night. Keepin’ your ‘hood safe so’s you can sit indoors, peaceful and sound, eatin’ Skittles, drinkin’ diet Dr. Pepper, and watchin’ Gilmore Girls videos. (That’s what Jack and I do when we’re not fighting crime; we’re assuming you have similar top-drawer values.)

No thanks are necessary. It’s just our JOB: Lookin’ out for you people!

List of Psychofermentation Products in Today’s Blog:

One – an anniversary

Two – progress of novel two

Three – upcoming summer activities

Four – review of a Rendell book

Five – movie/book recommendation

Six – puzzle

An Anniversary

One year ago (April, 2016) my first novel, The Extra Key, debuted. (The world will never be the same.) Responses, reviews, public readings, and sales have ranged from good to super-wonderful. (A HUGE “Thank you!” to readers and reviewers. I’d buy each of you an orange-and-turquoise Ford LTD, if I could afford it.) Currently, Kirkus Reviews is rating the novel’s literary worth; any week now, I’ll hear the results. I’m hoping for at least an above-average review from them.

Progress of Novel Two

All three editorial reviews of the new manuscript have been received; all three were highly favorable. I am well into the rewrite AND the design of the cover (super cool!). I anticipate a late May release. (Early June? Could be… my second grandbaby is due in May, so…)

Upcoming Summer Activities

In addition to being baked to a crisp by the cruel Texas sun, I’ll be marketing the new book (unusual readings and signings are planned – don’t miss them), starting Novel Three (I’ve already started, actually, with regard to outline and notes and… experimentation!), finishing another Kevin and Jack picture book, baking cakes (a new hobby I’ve picked up – part of my research for the third novel; I’m making Cake Four this Friday), and… messing around with grandkids.

Review of Ruth Rendell’s The Crocodile Bird

Eve and Liza: Lost Souls?

The late Ruth Rendell’s literary-quality psychological thriller, The Crocodile Bird, is a treat for discerning and disciplined readers who love well-written suspense.

About two decades ago, I was at a local Fort Worth library looking for a book-fix when I saw a copy of Rendell’s Road Rage in the mystery/thriller section. Inspecting the first few pages I could tell the author wrote well, so I checked it out and read the entire book. I was not disappointed. Road Rage possessed what I would come to know as signature characteristics of Rendellian books: skilled writing style, deep character exploration, and complex plots.

My next Rendell was The Crocodile Bird. After reading it, I was hooked. Ruth became my favorite writer for the next twenty years. As far as I can tell, I’ve read all of her published fiction, at least twenty novels and several short stories. For many years, the first thing I checked when arriving at the library was the “New Books” section for the latest Rendell (or Barbara Vine, the pseudonym she used for several of her books). When I scored, it was a fantastic day in the stacks! (Sadly, all that has ended with Rendell’s recent death and her last book, Dark Corners.) Despite reading so much from this author, and thus becoming a Rendell expert, The Crocodile Bird remains my favorite of her works; I’ve read it three times, and often recommend it to high-minded literary acquaintances.

The Crocodile Bird is the story of Eve and her daughter Liza, living isolated in a remote area of England – Eve, by choice; Liza, by parentally imposed requirement. Rendell’s delicately written prose explores the psychology that motivates seclusion at all costs… and the wonder that accompanies escape from such seclusion. In some ways, the themes of this novel reminded me of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, a story that is also about vain attempts to protect oneself and loved ones from the evils of society by social insulation.

Here are samples of Rendell’s prose from The Crocodile Bird:

“‘The difficulty is,’ Mother said, ‘that Mr. Tobias is a restless man and wants to see the world, while I intend to remain here for the whole of my life and never go away.’ She said that last bit quite fiercely, looking into Liza’s eyes. ‘Because there is nowhere in the world like this place. This place is the nearest thing to heaven there is. If you have found heaven, why should you want to see anywhere else?’”

. . .

“It might be that she would never see it again, any of it. She would never return, so she stopped and looked back like the woman in the picture at Shrove had done, the tall sad woman in white draperies who Eve told her was Lot’s wife and her forsaken home the Cities of the Plain. But instead of those desolate and wicked places, she saw between the trees that rose out of the misty water meadows, the alders and the balsams and the lombardy poplars, the gracious outlines of Shrove House.”

One thing I’ve learned in my fifty-six years (maybe you, too): Never say never.

Link to the review at Goodreads:

Movie/Book Recommendation

The 1966 science fiction movie, Seconds, is hands down (in my opinion) Rock Hudson’s best movie. (You’ve never seen him in a role like this.) It’s a classic sleeper film directed by John Frankenheimer. I’ve watched it several times; it’s worth the rewatch. After the first time, I tracked down the obscure novel (same name) it was based on by David Ely, and I loved it, too. (How obscure? Very hard to find this fascinating book in a library. Sad.)

Link to the movie:

Link to the book:

Six – Puzzle

Q1 (scrambled letters and words): gintest  het  how  refe  saber  torwe?

A1 (in code): 15-iv-16-11  iii-8-5-iii-11-17

Q2: His newest novel?

A2 (in code, please): [A2 will be revealed in “About Kevin” after a week-ish.]

In Closing…

Have a joyous, protected, and godly life. Good fortune to you and yours from those crazily faulted superheroes, Kevin and Jack!


Sight… or Vision?

Archaic Dutch Proverb

Some see the trees, but can’t envision the forest.

Some envision the forest, but can’t see the trees.

Progress on Novel Two

All is well. The first draft was completed two weeks ago. I’ve already begun proofing and editing for the second draft. May 2017 still looks good for publication.

Review of Phaedra Patrick’s Novel, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper


What does Phaedra Patrick’s first novel, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, offer to readers? I’ve come up with eight answers — one for each charm.

(1) When I’m screening the many literary choices available to modern day readers for a book that I might read from cover to cover, the first go-no-go decider is the quality of writing. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper passed this test with well-designed and skillfully executed prose. Patrick’s writing is professional quality.

(2) From the outset, main character Arthur Pepper is portrayed as likable. Later, we see his imperfections, but overall, the author presents a family man, workingman, and gentleman that we are motivated to care about.

(3) Gradually we are introduced to a wide variety of interesting minor characters. By “interesting,” I do not mean outrageous (with the exception, of course, of the couple whose tiger roams the grounds of their estate). They are interesting because we identify with their ideals… and their flaws.

(4) The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper has a complex and mysterious plot; it embodies the concept of an imaginative tale. The litmus test of this? You can’t predict how it will end.

(5) The novel’s prose is not vulgar, as so many new literary offerings seem to be. This is not to say that the book steers completely away from unpleasant people, situations, and language — it’s just not saturated with those elements.

(6) The plot includes the sort of unexpected twists that are indicative of real life. It’s not just in books and movies that even the mildest of people occasionally make illogical and seemingly unlikely choices that put them at risk. (The stories I could tell. The stories YOU could tell…)

(7) The ending, like many other parts of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, causes us to wonder about our own life choices, those that we are required to make each day, and the attitudes that we bring to those decisions.

(8) Perhaps most importantly, Phaedra Patrick’s novel reminds us that people can change no matter how old they are — if they are open-minded and adventurous to the end.

“He didn’t want to feel like this, be treated like this. An urge swelled in his chest. He needed to say something so she wouldn’t think him helpless, hopeless and useless, like Mrs. Monton, who hadn’t left her house in five years and who smoked twenty Woodbines a day, or Mr. Flowers, who thought there was a unicorn living in his greenhouse. Arthur had some pride left. He used to have meaning as a father and husband. He used to have thoughts and dreams and plans.”

Here’s a link to the review at Goodreads:

Puzzle Three

Question 1 (words and letters of words scrambled):

amadiccle  fo  numart  stom  teacop  krow  het?

Answer 1 (in code): 9-14  3-15-12-4  2-12-15-15-4

Question 2: The city of his birth?

Answer 2: Should be expressed in same code as Answer 1. Answer 2 will appear in “About Kevin” after a week or two.

DVD Recommendations

Irrational Man with Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone. One of Woody Allen’s best. Dark, suspenseful, thought provoking.

True Grit with John Wayne, Kim Darby, and Glen Campbell. I rarely rewatch old westerns. Most are just not good enough to see again. (And new westerns? I don’t rewatch any of those — if they get my attention in the first place.) I have my own copy of True Grit (on VHS, of course), and every time I see this best adaptation of the Charles Portis novel, I am impressed and amused by the unique dialogue and acting styles.

America’s Test Kitchen. The BEST cooking show. Any season, any episode is good. One of my favorites is “Best Blueberry Pie” from the Season 9 DVD.

Parting Thought

Do your best to have both sight AND vision… if you’re lacking. Life is so much richer for you (and those around you) when these are fully developed.

I am Loved



Coming right along… Lots of words and chapters… Loaded with meaningful thoughts and insight… Crazy youth, worn-down old folks, wild dogs, guardian dogs, teenagers, twenty somethings, fear, hope, love, bicycles… Release still on track for May, 2017!

My author link at Amazon:


What should be taught to people… from an early age? Reading, writing, arithmetic… and common sense. Failure of parents and schools to make the teaching of common sense a priority in the rearing and education of children results in chaos and disaster.



What to do, what to do… when you reach sixty — a milestone of middle age — and you’re alone… and lonely? Introverted artist Rebecca of Still Life With Bread Crumbs is faced with starting a new life, late in life. Will she retool and adapt… or give up?

I admire Anna Quindlen’s ability to invent and effectively tell a good story. (And I love that she’s a “dog person” as well!) I first read her work years ago in a nonfiction collection of reflective essays on everyday life. A particular piece so resonated with me that I assigned it to one of my academic team competitors in prose interpretative speaking. My student won the gold medal at the state championship — partly because of her speaking talent — but also due to the rich, well-written content of Quindlen’s essay. I’ve been a fan of this Pulitzer Prize winner ever since.

Still Life With Bread Crumbs draws us into the intimacies of a struggling person we come to care about, and holds us until the last page. In the process, we are taught important and practical lessons about survival and rebirth.

From a middle portion of the book:

“Oh, the loneliness, the loneliness. It lived inside her now like an illness, like a flu that could be ignored and then would suddenly overtake and overwhelm her. If she’d fallen from the railroad trestle she wondered how long it would have been before anyone had even known, who would have cared, who would have mourned. She could almost see the story in the Times, with a photograph of her photograph, alongside, or perhaps in lieu of, a photograph of her face. ‘Rebecca Winter,’ they would say in galleries and restaurants. ‘You didn’t hear? An accident, I guess. Or maybe… well, things were difficult.’ Sometimes she felt as though she was disappearing, that she was being whittled down to just this terrible feeling, like a sudden aching that appeared all over, not in her body but in her soul.”

A link to the Goodreads review:


In addition to my two-a-day walks with Jack — which necessarily involve a lot of sniffing and exploring — I’ve gotten into the routine of taking daily long walks with Cindy. Our favorite venue is Duck-Turtle-Beaver Reservoir in Watauga. The effects on us have been positive, both physically and mentally. (Plus, we get to swing at the playground nearly every time.) When the weather is inclement, we do a two-mile, indoor, Leslie Sansone walking routine on DVD. (Jack doesn’t use exercise videos — he prefers natural exercise — so he just watches.) Leslie is a friendly, encouraging person, and the routines are easy and effective.

Here’s a link to the Sansone video description at Amazon:


Q1 (scrambled letters, scrambled words): si  letti  het  frits  deonntime  sith  glob  ni  kobo  reyv  fo  hte  wath?

A1 (in code): wvorevizmxv

Q2: Who wrote it?

A2 (two words, in code): [revealed in “About Kevin” section in a week.]


I prefer Fruit of the Loom tighty-whities.


Good movies… Five star K-Polman ratings… Definitely worth watching…. I’ve provided links that give descriptions.

A. Meet the Patels. Documentary. Funny, heartwarming.


B. Life, Animated. Documentary. Inspirational. Disney fans will love it.



Something that is easy to lose sight of: Each person is loved by at least one entity. For the very rare few, the only entity might be God — BUT… being loved by God is a given that can be counted on! For most people though, there’s at least one other loving entity… and for some folks, there are many. No matter which category you fit into, it’s VERY important for survival to answer — for yourself — Kojak’s classic question, “Who loves ya, baby?”

I am loved. Be comforted that you are also.


rh  gsviv  zmbylwb  lfg   gsviv?!


I, Puzzler

Sometimes, oftentimes in fact, I ask myself, “HOW is it that you are STILL alive?”

It’s a puzzle, to be sure.

Today’s Post Toasties:

  • DKT Reading #2
  • Review of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  • Review of R is for Rocket
  • A puzzling Christmas gift…


I read. I read a chapter. I read a chapter from my second novel. (It will be published in late spring of 2017.)

“…it wasn’t until we were out of the mountains in late spring, and back in Paris, that the other thing started again.” — Ernie H.

I read a chapter from my second novel during Storytelling Night at Dorothy’s Kitchen Table ( in Denton on Friday, December 2. The material included three slices of a young man’s life as interpreted in the context of his habitual riding of bicycles and… his mental instability. Characters introduced in the reading included well meaning, yet misguided, parents, and their son, a young man lucky and blessed to survive the foolishness of the risks of youth.

DKT was gracious in making me the “star” of the evening, but many other storytellers contributed significantly to the event. As the night progressed, stories — both fiction and true — were presented by children and adults, and included:

  • Children’s tales about forgetfulness, misunderstood and overzealous monsters, and boys and their dogs
  • Nature poetry, and tragic biography about deaths of cherished friends
  • An essay about memories and values — those that we inherit from others, and those that we pass on
  • A testimonial from a dedicated teacher whose patience changed the life of a child many people would have abandoned
  • Musical stories about fishing for crawdads and winds called Mariah and the restoring and exhilarating power of imagination

In true Dorothy’s style, each storyteller was encouraged and cheered. Everyone who came by the restaurant that evening was served and fed well with great food and a warm, homey ambience.

How could an author ask for a better reading venue?


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, is a well-written book that allows readers sight through the eyes and insight from the mind of an autistic teenager. Haddon’s book should be required material for all people old enough to read it — an intelligent middle schooler would understand and enjoy it, but it is equally suitable for adults — to provide a practical understanding of autism and to prevent the unnecessary abuse of individuals who are trapped in it.

The novel’s title — taken from Sherlock Holmes literature — suggests humor and whimsy, but little of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is humorous or whimsical, although there are passages that arouse chuckles of frustration… at the tricks life plays. By and large, this is a tale of realistic suspense; the last half is authentically and teeth-grittingly so. Readers are inclined to worry about the all-too-real challenges main character Christopher faces. One wonders, “Will he make it?”

Mark Haddon’s prose is generally excellent, with good flow and intelligent progression. Here is a sample from the first third of the book:

“My memory is like a film. That is why I am really good at remembering things, like the conversations I have written down in this book, and what people were wearing, and what they smelled like, because my memory has a smelltrack which is like a soundtrack.”

Another sample from the middle third:

“And I went up the stairs and I saw a sign saying <—Platform 1 and the <— was pointing at a glass door so I went through it, and someone bumped into me again with a suitcase and I made another noise like a dog barking and they said, ‘Watch the hell where you’re going’…”

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time entertained my book-reading sensibilities AND educated my social consciousness to the plight of autistic and Asperger syndrome afflicted humans in a society that is largely indifferent… and often unkind… to imperfection.

Imperfection. What is that, anyway?

Here’s a link to the review as seen at Goodreads:


Ray Bradbury’s R is for Rocket is a book about and for dreamers… and those who truly desire to understand them. A common character type in his work is the wide-eyed, yearning dreamer who reaches too high, often for a dream beyond his capacity, and who inevitably teeters on the brink of success and failure.

It’s no surprise that Bradbury produced so many pieces that gave voice to themes of blue skies since he himself was a dreamer, a voracious reader and enthusiastic writer from an early age, a man who thrilled himself (and his fortunate readers) on the wild imaginings of his literary soul.

In R is for Rocket, the story “The Rocket” is an excellent example of the author’s heartfelt kindness and sympathy for — and identification with — the hopes and heartaches of a dreamer, in this case one Fiorello Bodoni, a middle-aged, married-with-many-children man obsessed with dreams of rocket travel and space exploration in the face of those who are quick to discourage him.

Excerpts from the story:

“I will ride up in one someday,” said Bodoni.

“Fool!” cried Bramante. “You’ll never go. This is a rich man’s world.” … “No! We live in shacks like our ancestors before us.”

“Perhaps my sons—” said Bodoni.

“No, nor their sons!” the old man shouted. “It’s the rich who have dreams and rockets!” … “No, Bodoni, buy a new wrecking machine, which you need, and pull your dreams apart with it, and smash them to pieces.”

The old man subsided, gazing at the river in which, drowned, images of rockets burned down the sky.

“Good night,” said Bodoni.

“Sleep well,” said the other.

I have read and loved Ray Bradbury’s stories for over forty years because his prose is beautifully delivered and because, as a dreamer myself — who often reaches too high for his own good — I identify deeply with his wonderfully tragic heroes. There were many times that his captivating tales allowed me to escape from grim childhood days and nights, and for that I say to him, now in the Great Beyond for Great Writers: “Thank you!”

Here’s the link to the Goodreads review:


I like puzzles — solving them and… making them. As my students (from many years of teaching) know all too well — the weirder the Polman puzzle, the better!

I give you on this day, dear reader of the kevinpolman blog, an early Christmas gift: a Polman original. Enjoy!

The Puzzle

First, the answer (actually, Answer # 1): e1w  k2lr5e. That’s right! It’s encoded. (Ha, ha, ha.)

Now the question (Question # 1, that is): anim  retahccar  154  how  ni  si  tiehafhern  het? That’s right! It’s NOT encoded, but each word IS scrambled, AND the word order must be restored to form the original question. (Hee, hee, hee.)

Now, Question #2: Give the first name of [Answer #1]’s “poor, poor” wife.

The solution to the whole shebang is the answer to Question #2, but here’s the catch — There’s always a catch, right? That’s what makes life interesting — Answer #2 must be encoded in the same code originally used to produce Answer #1. (Ho, ho, ho.)

Have a hoot, you insane, code-cracking unscramblers!

[I’ll put the solution in “About Kevin” next week.]

Merry Christmas!

Watching… and Working

The “rundown” of this post:

  • My recent book review of Patrick Flanery’s I Am No One
  • An excerpt from my latest short story, Mantis religiosa
  • Gabblings about the novel in progress
  • Other mishmash I felt like including


I recently posted a review of Patrick Flanery’s third novel at Amazon and Goodreads. Here’s an excerpt, followed by a link to the full review:


Patrick Flanery’s third novel, I Am No One, is an understatedly creepy example of the “literary paranoia” genre at its best. I couldn’t help but think of Dave Eggers’ The Circle — another such book that had me looking over my shoulder — as I read it.

I Am No One is effective in allowing the reader to embed himself in the travails of main character Jeremy O’Keefe, an academic everyman who — while seemingly innocent of any true crime — is being… watched.

In our newly realized Big Brother age of having e-mails and phone interactions monitored and analyzed by governments and tech corporations, it is quite easy to imagine being subject to the same circumstances as the narrator.

(Aren’t we all, in fact, “no ones”?)

Want to see more? Go to:

NEW SHORT STORY: Mantis religiosa

My newest work of short fiction recently came out on Amazon. If you’re a fan of old-style, light, suspenseful horror in the vein of Ray Bradbury and Rod Serling, you’re likely to enjoy Mantis religiosa. Here’s an excerpt, and the Amazon link:

Mantis religiosa

A Short Story by Kevin Polman

I sat with my back properly stiff — recital mode — in our dining room, playing “Dixie” on my euphonium. My mother and her sisters were entranced by my rendition of this southern classic, or so it seemed. If not… they were doing a fine job of faking it for my benefit.

“Beautiful!” one aunt sighed.

“She’s been practicing with true dedication,” boasted my mom.

“One can certainly tell that,” said the other aunt as she widened her eyes, affirmation of her sincerity… and of my virtuosity.

I was neither pleased nor displeased with the attention.

Why the lack of appreciation and… emotion on my part? Well, let’s just say that I’d been the golden girl of this family since I was born, the shining hope of our clan’s future, destined for excellence across the board — a Renaissance woman-to-be, with doctorate-on-the-way-someday, beauty, and, eventually… talent in multiple fine arts. I’m sure it was expected that I would evolve into one of those rich professors you see as admired characters in the movies, perched at a piano, performing for small, yet elegant, dinner gatherings of educated and important people — performances after which light applause and murmurs of approval always follow. THAT was to be me. I supposed.

Did I really want THAT?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind the attention. Rather, desensitization had set in over time such that I just didn’t care anymore whether I got it or not. Adulation was intoxicating in the early years, but I’d passed that particular saturation point.

I hate to say it — and I would never have been so rude as to express this to my doting relatives — I was bored with being golden.

Was I awful? Taking for granted my vaunted lot in life?

That’s probably what Timothy thought. He was my sharp-minded, quiet little brother, five years younger than me. I knew for a fact that he was jealous of the attention I got.

* * * * * * * *

I remember the time, when I was ten and he was five, that I found him in my bedroom, quiet as a mouse — but just as sneakily destructive — tearing one of my recently awarded certificates into shreds. I was quiet also, and he hadn’t noticed me noticing him, so I just watched him for a spell. And it was spellbinding, observing Tim carefully rend, without haste, the cellulosic proof of my wonderfulness into long, thin strips, as if he was a human paper shredder.

His face had been serious. Not angry, just calmly and quietly determined.

“Timmy, what are you doing?” My intention, to surprise him.

Most people would have jumped at being discovered this way, but my brother just looked up at me with the very mildest of astonished looks. Ironically, I was more surprised.

“Hello, Theresa. I’m just getting rid of some of your trash I found on the floor,” he lied.

Or was it a lie, as far as he was concerned?

Did Tim really know that I took the praise of my admiring elders so lightly, perhaps even a bit scornfully? If he did, that would certainly make the sting of his wounds more sharply felt, and deeper.

A big sister is hated who scorneth her fame.

Care to read more? Here’s the Amazon link:


I’m into “the groove” with regard to my next novel. Into the groove? Several chapters are done… I know where it’s going… and how it will end. Unless I’m stricken with debilitating illness, this one should be out in spring of 2017.

My new work is a tale of two journeys, taken by the same man at different times in his life. Both are fraught with realistic suspense… and lessons about life. The book is partly inspired by an actual road trip that I survived in my twenties.

I’ve prepared and assembled bits and pieces of the novel for several months, but for the last three weeks I’ve been deeply and happily engaged in typing, revising, and storing the first draft.

“Happiness is a novel in the creating.” — Me


Another Reading…

Unless things change, it looks like I’ll be doing another reading at Dorothy’s Kitchen Table in Denton, Texas. I did my first ever reading at DKT this last summer, sharing a bit of The Extra Key and the entirety of The Wisp… and the event was a BLAST — everything a new author could wish for in his first reading. The next one is tentatively scheduled for Friday, December 2, during the early evening. Details will be announced later. Here’s a link to the DKT website:


A Nifty Concert…

I recently attended a public recital of compositions by Matthew Briggs, composer and adjunct music professor at TCU. Matt is a former student of mine; I’ve know him since he was in middle school. Despite the terror I was forced to overcome in travelling the span of Fort Worth during rush hour traffic, I’m glad I went, and I truly enjoyed the music, pleased that Matt’s recital was a success. For more details on the event, and Matt’s work in general, here’s a link to his website:

More Giveaway Promotions Coming Soon…

I’ve got Goodreads giveaway contests planned for print versions of STORIES and Kevin and Jack Go to the Park in late November and early December. (I was delighted with the results of the recent Goodreads giveaway of The Extra Key.)

Parting (Implied) Advice…

I own all nine seasons of Seinfeld, my absolutely favorite comedy series. When I get low, I pop in a disk. Jerry, Elaine, George, and Cosmo… and Newman, of course… never fail to cheer me up.