King

Oh What a Day

      I am old enough to remember vividly where I was, what I was doing, and who delivered the news to me that Elvis Presley had died. Miss Addie stood in the front door of her little house talking to Mom and me with her screen door open. Mom and I were sitting outside in the driveway in our VW Beetle talking to her when she turned her head back to her living room. I don’t remember her television being on or whether it was her radio, but turned back in a nonchalant way and delivered the news that would rock Mom’s world and change me forever.

        “Huh,” she said. “Elvis Presley just died.”

      I was eleven when he died. I will have to say, growing up on the tail end of his life was unremarkable. Mom was a fan so we had the usual collection of movie albums, 45 rpm records, and eight track tapes (cassette was just around the corner, but not yet). I liked him well enough, but I couldn’t count myself a fan at least not yet. That would take time to develop but once it did there could be no bigger fan than I.

      You see, while growing up at the tail end of his life was unremarkable, growing up as I did in the mist of the madness that Elvis Presley the industry became was extraordinary. It hit its stride by the time I was in high school and was at its peak as I hit my early thirties. His songs were packaged and re-packaged into new albums and collectors sets. People couldn’t get their hands on them fast enough. When cassette tapes dominated, the songs were cobbled together again and resold. People ate them like they were food. Sometime during the eighties, it was announced that Elvis Presley the entertainer had surpassed one billion in record sales and that was before the VCR, DVD, and CD phase of music. Once again, re-packaged and rolled out like they were new songs, people attacked them like ravaged wolves.

      There was – is – something about Elvis. People just can’t get enough. From the avid belief that he was still alive and all the shows, books, and television specials that generated to the lurid details of his sex life and self-abusive personality, people just have to know about Elvis. His music was legendary and his command of the audience was unmatched, yet somehow the man’s very life became bigger than the music. If you google Elvis, you can read thousands of articles, watch endless video clips of interviews with people who knew him, women who dated him, even people who just met him and you do all this without once touching on the music itself. To this day, Graceland is the second most visited house in the United States, behind only the White House. I have been to Graceland

and his birthplace in Tupelo for that matter. I haven’t been to the White House. I probably will go back to Graceland before I visit the White House.

     Whether it’s the man who once delivered a woman a wheel chair after seeing her need for one while watching the news or the man who belittled and berated his friends and buying them more cars than they could possibly need while managing to shoot the screen out of a television or two along the way, people just have to know all they can know about Elvis Presley.

      Oh yeah and the music is pretty good, too.

     Anyway, it all ended in the early afternoon of August 16th, 1977.

     Except for those of us who were raised in the mania of Elvis the Industry, it had just begun.

Tim

August 16th, 2016

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How Do You Write?

How Do You Write?

      I am interested in your words always. That’s the predominate reason I continue to blog after all these years. But I am also very interested in how you do it. What is your routine? Is it early morning? Is it late at night? Do you like coffee when you write or tea or beer? Do you have a word count that you must hit each day? What is your editing process like? Do you have a pre-writing process? Do you outline?

     One of the things I like so much about writing is that there is no single method for getting where I want to go. I still have a job that go to every day, you know, the one that actually pays the bills while I get this writing off the ground. In that job, there is a discipline required, certain way of doing things, and there are repercussions for not completing tasks in that manner. With writing, it is not so. The only thing that matters is success. Are my stories understood and does my audience like what I am writing. Really the two criteria for a story, especially so for fiction.

     I don’t have a particular set order for when I write, how much I write. I know some famous writers have set for themselves a target for how many words a day they will write. Someday when (notice I didn’t say “if”) I am a full time writer with writing being my only job, I might have such a standard. But now I work close to fifty hours a week. I travel for my company more than I like to so the whole word count thing doesn’t work all that well. My goal is to write everyday. If it’s ten words, if it’s ten thousand words, I just want to put my fingers on the keyboard and let my mind run wild.

    My favorite time to write is when I am done with whatever chores I feel are necessary to keep my house of cards from blowing down. This is around five in the evening on most work days and earlier on the weekends. It is not a requirement for writing, but I like staring whatever I am going to be working on when I have just opened a beer. I can’t write while drunk, but a couple of beers will always seem to put the world I have been fighting behind me and bring out the creative juices. Being creative is what it is all about. I would do almost anything to be more creative. It is a drug all its own. Those of you who know what I am talking about, know what I am talking about.

     I have a favorite place to write. It is in front of my fireplace with a fire going, regardless of how hot or cold it is. My wife thinks I am crazy in July with the a fire going while the air conditioner is cooling everything down but that is what works for me, so that is what I do. It will only be crazy if I am not someday making a living writer. When (not “if”) I am as famous as other famous authors, writing in front of a fire in July will become the gold standard for where to write.

    The last thing I will tackle in this post are my editing and pre-writing styles. I don’t have any. I will piddle and paddle along, tinkering at the edges, reading everything I can to try and have an idea for a story, but it has to be just that. An idea! A thunderbolt. Inspiration. I have never done well when I sat down and tried to manufacture a story. It has to be something that comes to me. When it does, I don’t need an outline. The outline is in my head, clear as a sunny day, ready for me to write. I know the beginning, the middle, and the ending. I don’t have to do anything but write it (Note my Thunderbolts From God post).

     Once it is written, the editing style I have adopted is to just write it again. I print off what I have written, stick it in front of my face and write it again. I don’t have set number of times to write it. I write it until it is a story that I am comfortable with. It is usually three times but sometimes more sometimes less.

      Again, the thing I like about writing is that there are no rules for how to do it. It only matters that it is good. A Hall of Fame football coach once revealed that he only had two rules. Be on time and play like hell. That kind of sums up what I would tell any aspiring writer.

     Now that I have shared my writing habits, I would love to hear yours.

Tim Keen

7/30/16

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I Had Nothing to Say

I Had Nothing to Say

I tried to make a difference today

From my podium above the fray

But for you down in the trench

With your fists firmly clenched

My words had nothing to say

Tim Keen

7/21/16

A shout out to our politicians

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Deadwood

Deadwood

 

I have been advised for very good reason, I think, that as a popular fiction genre, tales of the Old West should be considered off limits. It dominated story telling  in print, motion pictures, and television all the way up to the mid-seventies but has steadily declined since as to now be all but non-existent. It’s easy enough to understand the demise of the Old West tale.

In the early days nearly everyone telling the stories lived in the time of the Old West. Later the story tellers were direct descendants of the people who lived in the time of the Old West. Early motion picture actor Tom Mix attended Wyatt Earp’s funeral in 1929. The young men and women of the thirties, forties, and fifties were grandsons of the men and women who made lived in the Old West. Even in my youth, my dad and grandfather would tell me stories of my great-great grandfather, who was born in 1939, served as a cook in the Civil War, was wounded by a stray bullet, and nearly died, being so sick at one point the doctors ordered a coffin to be built for him. These are the stories that fired the imagination of the people telling the tales to America and made the western such a staple for so long, the longest lasting genre by far.

While the western still hangs on getting stories told here and there, it no longer dominates the story telling world. The current generation we name as the popular demographic doesn’t identify with the tales of the Old West like mine and previous ones did. To the previous generations, these were tales that re-enforced the things are fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers had told us. To the current generation, they are just stories. My children’s grandfathers were born in the 1940’s. They were fascinated by tractors, cars, and planes, not horses, gunfights, and cowboys. Somewhere along the way, the story telling had to change to reflect the needs of those listening to the stories.

While the western may be dead for the younger demographic, I can assure you for the writer of this blog it is not. I still love the tales of the Old West and, as such, planned this year’s vacation to further feed that love. We went out west for five days, to South Dakota and Wyoming, places where quite literally the last days of the Old West played out in dramatic fashion. Custer and Crazy Horse battled to Custer’s death not far from this place. Buffalo Bill Cody and Calamity Jane made names for themselves in this area. The most famous town of the era, Deadwood, saw the death of the quintessential western gunfighter, Wild Bill Hickok.

Deadwood is the prototypical town of the Old West. Gold was discovered by George Custer on a scouting expedition in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1874, but it was a gold discovery in Deadwood Gulch in the 1875 that caused the town of Deadwood to spring up nearly overnight. As always in a gold rush, people rushed to the gold like foolish moths to flames, their heads filled with dreams of striking it rich. The Treat of Laramie was signed in 1868, promising all the lands of South Dakota to the Lakota Indians, but the rush to gold made this treaty all but unenforceable. By the early part of 1876, Deadwood was a bustling mining town filled with miners, gamblers, prostitutes and businessmen. I can’t say for sure if there were batwing doors depicted in so many movies at the entrance of the No. 10 Saloon, but I can tell you that there was one thing the movies got right about the saloon. There was a shootout. Or at least a killing.

As stated previously, the absolute face of the movie-era gunfighter had to be Wild Bill Hickok. Hickok, a gambler, sometimes lawman, and someone who had no issue with finding trouble, was known to have killed six men and maybe a seventh. He was involved in multiple gunfights and one that perhaps gave rise to a myth that was really almost non-existent it the Old West, the standoff in the street.

It was popularized by writers of the time, made famous by later writers and in the movies, but the standoff in the street almost never happened. In 1867, in Jeffersonville, Nebraska, it did happen to Wild Bill just like the movies would have you believe. There was a confrontation in a saloon that caused Wild Bill to call four men out into the streets for a gunfight. At a distance of fifteen feet, the men waited while the bartender counted down. At the end of the countdown, Wild Bill Hickok drew his gun and killed three of the four men with a shot to the head, wounded the fourth while taking a bullet to the shoulder for his trouble. A gun fighting legend, as well as a gun fighting myth, was born. Or at least reinforced.

Accounts vary as the arrival of Wild Bill Hickok into Deadwood. Some have in the spring of 1876, others in July of the same year. What is known is that, by this time, Wild Bill was no longer Wild Bill. Having accidentally killed one of his deputies in a shootout in 1871, he had given up his gun fighting ways. He made his living touring with Buffalo Bill’s wild west show and gambling. When he arrived in Deadwood, it was the gamblers and their money he was chasing. He at once set up shop and managed to stay somewhat solvent in this endeavor. It would be this endeavor that would be his end in what can only be described as a strange death for a man of such courage.

On August 1st, 1876 Bill Hickok was involved in a card game with a young Jack McCall, a game in which saw Hickok take a large sum of money from McCall. At the conclusion of the game, Hickok reportedly advised McCall to not gamble any more until he could recover some of this losses. This both embarrassed and infuriated McCall.

On August 2nd, 1876 Hickok entered the No. 10 Saloon with the intent of entering a card game. He reluctantly entered the game, even though he would have to sit without his back to the wall, something he reportedly never did. While he played, a drunk Jack McCall walked up behind him and shot him in the back of the head, killing him instantly. One of the most fearless and respected gunfighters of the Old West had been killed in one of the most cowardly acts ever recorded.

Jack McCall ran from the Saloon, was captured and arrested. He was tried with a thrown together jury of gamblers, miners, and businessmen. Reports vary as to whether Jack McCall actually had a brother, but at the trial he used the vengeance of his brother’s death at the hands of Wild Bill Hickok as his defense, showing no remorse for what he had done. The ploy worked. He was acquitted by the jury of Deadwood.

Not long after the trial, in a town where nearly every single member of the town turned out for the funeral of Wild Bill Hickok, Jack McCall was advised that it might be best for his health if he left town. He took the advice and left for Wyoming. It was here that his loose mouth and boastful ways would finally see justice served to him.

He ran about Wyoming, bragging to anyone who would listen that he had killed Wild Bill Hickok. This caught the attention of certain Wyoming officials who then ruled that the trial which had acquitted him from the death of the western icon was invalid due to the fact it had occurred in Lakota territory outside of U.S. jurisdiction. McCall was arrested on 8-29-1876, tried and convicted of murder over the course of three days in early December and hanged on 3-1-1876, bringing to end one of the strangest cases ever tried even in the Old West.

In conclusion, I would have to say that I agree with the advice I was given. The evidence is too clear to not give heed. The Old West may not be entirely dead as a genre, but it’s lure has been diminished. It would have to be a well written tale to catch someone’s eye. Should you decide to write that tale, my advice to you is to read about Wild Bill Hickok and the events surrounding 1876 South Dakota. This should give you a good starting point for whatever tale you are writing.

 

Tim Keen

 

Please check out After Hours on Amazon.

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Porcelain

Porcelain

 

Porcelain is my friend

How many times have I turned to him?

Whether I sit on his rim

Or hover over him in time of need

While my body heaves

He’ll be there for me again

Porcelain is my friend

 

Tim Keen

6/26/16

 

 

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When He Was Done

 

Okay, I know. I am breaking the rules again. The experts tell me that when posting with the goal of getting people to read my fiction that I should never, ever post with original fiction. So, let me get this straight. If I want you to read my fiction and potentially buy my fiction, the last thing I should do is post my fiction where you can read it.

     What?

Alright, I am making fun of some very smart people, some of whom are actually making a living writing. I do pay attention to what they say every chance I get, but the bottom line to all of this comes down to two things:

I have never been a big fan of rules when it comes to writing, especially fiction. Anything goes as long as it is good. I see no reason not to apply that to blogging as well.

I write fiction. That’s what I do. While I try occasionally to draw you in with other posts, my life is not nearly interesting enough for posting week after week. I must rely on what the good Lord set down in my bones.

 

Anyway, enough rambling. Please enjoy the story below. If you like it, please spread the word. If you do not like it, then please keep quiet and pretend like you never read it and don’t know who I am.

 

Thanks,

Tim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When He Was Done

 

He rose from her, panting, his heart still racing, pumping blood that warmed him from the inside out. He kissed her gently on the top of the forehead, promised he’d only be a minute and went to the bathroom to take a shower. Work was less than six hours away and the shower would help get him to sleep.

“I’ll sleep good with her by my side tonight,” he whispered to himself as he closed the door to the bathroom.

As he stepped under the lukewarm spray, a smile parted his lips. Who’d ever thought it would come to this? She was just some girl he had known here and there, a place to lay his head when there was no other place. But now it was this! Incredible! That’s what it was. Just incredible!

“You know what I was thinking,” he said as he came back into the bedroom now dressed in his robe and ready for bed. He stopped in his tracks when he saw her standing dressed in the middle of his bedroom, looking at him with a smirk on her face.

“What were you thinking?” she asked. “Or are you able to think at all now that the blood has rushed from that little thing between your legs?”

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I remember the last time you were at my place,” she said. “When we were done, you beat a path to my front door like you had contracted some kind of disease from me. You got what you wanted and you were gone. Just like that. Now, I have gotten what I wanted and I am gone.”

“Okay,” he said. He didn’t see this coming and didn’t know what else to say. “I can drive you if you like.”

“No,” she said. “That’s alright. I can manage on my own. I just have one question for you.”

“What’s that?” he asked.

“How does it feel to just be used for sex?” Her eyes were afire. She was angry. “How does it feel to be a booty call?”

Part of him wanted to tell her how he felt, what the real motivation behind the spur of the moment call to her but he didn’t. A bigger part of him, or a smaller part of him maybe, just wouldn’t allow his true feelings to show through. Ten minutes ago he really thought he was ready, but now, in the face of her anger, he wondered if he would ever be ready.

“Answer me, asshole!” she demanded. “How does it feel to be used just for sex?”

He shrugged, then he smiled.

“Felt pretty damned good,” he said. “Stop by anytime you feel like a booty call.”

His face was still stinging from the slap across the face when he heard the door slam. That door slam had a sound of finality to it, like she would never slam it again because she was so over him.

He doubted she was over him just yet, but she would be soon enough. She was strong like that. Always had been. She had to be to put up with an asshole like him. She wouldn’t waste any more tears on him than necessary, then she would move on.

It wouldn’t be that easy for him. He had played the tough guy for way too long. Treated her like the booty call she clearly was not to him. She had been once, but she was more than that to him now. Had been for some time.

“Still,” he said aloud to an empty room. “You didn’t let her know that, did you? Couldn’t let her know. What is wrong with you?”

Now she was gone.

Another good one was gone.

How many had it been? Too many too count. One after another, really, and he had to ask himself a question. Was it getting easier or harder to lose see them go?

He didn’t have an answer for that question.

He took off his robe, got in bed and turned out the light.

He had less than six hours to go before he had to be at work.

His cheek was still stinging from the slap, everything else was still ringing from her leaving. He had no one to blame but himself.

Shit!

 

Tim Keen

June 12, 2016

 

For more stories like this please check out my Kindle book After Hours. Thanks.

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Honor Them All

I was going to write a short poem here, something that would convey my thoughts on the subject, but I decided a few, short words might do just as well. To the point, with no misunderstanding.

For those of us who live in freedom loving nations, there are elements out there wanting to undermine and ultimately destroy that freedom. Those elements will do anything it takes to achieve that end; anything from blowing themselves up with a bus full of innocents to flying planes into buildings full of even more innocents. These elements will have you believe they are just even righteous in their cause. At the end of the day, for those of us who love freedom and goodness, they are pure evil.

I want nothing more for these people to put down their hatred, to put down their arms, and join the rest of us peace loving, freedom loving people in drink and festivity. I want to put away weapons forever and use all the resources we now us to fend off that evil to cure sickness and feed the hungry. I want it so much I can taste it and think that maybe someday, in some other time or even realm, it can happen.

Until that day comes, however, know that the reason we lay down in relative safety each and every night is because of the sacrifice of our daughters and sons, those who willingly confront the evil that seeks to destroy us, battling that evil even in the face of their own mortality.

There is nothing we can say or do that could ever honor those people enough. Saying thank you somehow rings hollow, but I think for most of them, it would be more than enough.

Tim Keen

Memorial Day, 2016

 

 

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