BSP-Blatant Self-Promotion Vol 1
It occurs to me that I should be trying to push my books at readers. The title of this post is taken from a seminar I attended at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference years ago. The author, a woman whose name is lost to me after almost thirty years, was talking about promoting your writing. She indicated that most writers are introverts and uncomfortable with talking about and promoting their books. She couldn't have been talking about me. Maybe it's my Irish genes, but if I corner you in a bar or a local supermarket, I'll talk your damn leg off. She coined the term BSP - Blatant Self-Promotion, and I've always liked that. So, that's why you're here. I will use this space to provide excerpts from my books in the hope that it will tempt a few of you to buy them and explore them further. If it works, great; if it doesn't, then maybe I'll try bribing folks. 🤣 Without further adieu, here's the first couple of tempting bites of my work.
Here are a few scenes and passages from early in the book and my life.
My first decade on this planet was in the 1940s; it wasn't the entire decade, only the last eight years. It contains a few memories of my biological family and a good deal of the trauma that I think contributed to the person I became and am today.
I don't think we are that analytical in our first ten years. We are busy having and recording experiences that will serve as guideposts for our lives.
During this decade, I would be ripped from my grandmother's arms and settled in a strange institution with upwards of eighty other boys I had never known before. And I would learn to follow the rules.
I lived with my Grandma and a man named Duck. I have never known his actual name and don't know if either of my brothers did. How he got the name Duck is a complete mystery. He was always Duck to us. I have no photos of either Grandma or Duck.
I only know of one sister on my father's side. If there were others, I never saw them or heard of them. My father's sister was my Aunt Bert, and she married Ed Riley. I lived with my Aunt Bert and Uncle Ed when I was an infant, probably between one and two years old. I'm not sure how long I lived there before I went to live with my Grandma, but I have vivid memories of the house, especially my "bed."
I lived at home with Mom and Dad for a couple of years based on the stories I've been told. The stories also revealed that my brothers had fun with me; I'm not sure that a baby brother wasn't more of a toy than anything else. I have no memories of living at home as an infant; that's not an altogether ridiculous statement. As you will hear later, I have retained significant memories starting around age two.
I have a vague recollection of the physical stature of Grandma and Duck. Grandma was a small woman with almost white hair. Duck was bigger, but I don't remember him being an enormous man, and I can't recall the face of my friend, Ada, our neighbor. My following and probably fondest memories are at my Grandma's house. I don't remember making a move to Grandma's, just suddenly being there with my two older brothers, Bob and Bill.
It was a small two-bedroom house that was old and pretty worn. The front porch ran across the width of the house, as did the back porch. We never used the front door or the front porch. It may have been one of those "it's only for the company" things people did in those days.
The house was weathered down to the bare wood on the outside. The siding looked like it had been out there for a century or more, a distinct possibility. If it had ever been painted, the Nebraska sun, wind, snow, and rain had long since stripped the house of its pigment. The back porch was enclosed with a waist-high wall. There may have been screening on the top half, or that was added later, perhaps.
As a child, I did not realize how poor we were or our circumstances, but even then, I could tell the difference when we climbed that hill. Suddenly, the houses seemed cleaner. They had well-kept yards and fresh paint on houses. People at the top of the mountain didn't have free-range chickens running around the yard and weeds as tall as I was growing in the yard. The significance of this made little sense until I was much older. To me, that hollow where we lived was paradise.
I should explain that as a child, I was always called Mickey. As I became older and decided that Mickey sounded much too juvenile, I insisted people call me Mike. I was also not too fond of Michael, either.
We had an old fashion icebox like the one shown here that used ice to cool the contents. Someone, and I am sure it was one of my brothers working their magic with their little brother, scared me about that icebox; not the device itself, but its maintenance. My brothers delighted in frightening their youngest sibling. This seems to be an age-old tradition amongst siblings.
Every week, more or less, the iceman cometh to put ice in the icebox's bottom. He would always park his truck out on the dirt road. Using a big black wrought iron set of ice tongs with sharp points, he would grab a block of ice and toss it up to the big leather covering that he wore on his shoulder to protect his body from both the cold and the hardness of the ice, and bring it to the house.
Someone must have told me he would use those tongs on little boys because I would run and hide whenever he came around. I usually hid behind the corner of the house and watched him intently. I was fascinated and frightened by this hulk of a man who tortured little boys.
Suddenly, one day my brother Bill wasn't around anymore. I don't remember any discussion of where he had gone, and I don't remember asking where he was. He was just gone.
It's strange how, as a child, these things happen, and you accept them. I think it's because you haven't experienced life yet, so you don't develop any future expectations. You don't predict the future based on past experiences, and don't judge things by experiences. You take what life hands you and move forward; later in life, you become judgmental and fearful. My brother Bob and I continued to play at Grandma's.
One day Bob was no longer at Grandma's. Again there was no explanation that I remember - he disappeared. Suddenly, it was just Duck, Grandma, and me. I guess I adjusted to that because I don't recall any trauma; the trauma would come later.
I started school while still living with Grandma, but only for the briefest time. The school's name is lost to me, but I would walk up that massive hill behind Grandma's house and up Ames Avenue to get to it. Bob took me to school, so the time between him leaving Grandma's house and my turn to go couldn't have been very long.
This little man came into the house and started talking to Grandma; I didn't like him from the start. Small, bald, and with a mean look about him, he spelled trouble. He sat in my rocking chair by the window. It was where I used to sit, pretending to take pictures with an old broken camera. He sat there cleaning his nails with a pocket knife as he talked to Grandma.
I couldn't hear most of the conversation and didn't understand what I could hear, but at some point, Grandma told me I was going with this man. I panicked. I didn't want to go anywhere with this evil man, and he had to get me into the car forcibly. I was being kidnapped!
I was crying harder than I had ever cried. I didn't know what was happening, but I knew I didn't like what was happening. I looked back at Grandma as we drove away, unaware that I would never see her alive again.