Friday, September 18, 2015

SOTC: What it Took - Idea to Book

Welcome to the Blog Tour for Adam Gaylord's New Novel ~

Sol of the Coliseum

Follow Along to Read Reviews, an Excerpt, and Spotlights.

Survival is an act of defiance.

I've been waiting for the day that I could take part in announcing the release of Adam Gaylord's debut novel. That day has finally come! Read Adam's message regarding what it took to take Sol of the Coliseum from idea to book.

"What made you want to write a book?"

Authors hear this question a lot. I’m sure there are as many reasons to write books as there are books. I’d like to share mine.

Back in 2005 I happened to pick up an urban fantasy novel at the local used bookstore. I don’t know why I picked it. Maybe it was the cover or the blurb. Regardless, I bought it, read it, and let me tell you, it was awful. I really mean that. At several points in the book I almost stopped reading only to have sheer morbid curiosity push me on. I figured, it had to get better, right? I mean, bad books don’t get published. Right? Wrong. The only good thing I can say for this book is that it was consistent. Consistently bad. I finished, feeling cheated and angry, and said to myself, “Hell, I can write something better than this!”

So, over the course of the next four years I wrote a book. Coming up with an idea wasn’t hard. I’ve got a crazy imagination and always have. What I learned was that having an idea and translating it into a story are very different things. Sure, gladiators are cool and fight scenes are awesome but that’s not a story. Those are elements to a story. You need characters with depth and feeling and a world that people are interested in. Writing a book is hard. And time consuming. And really fun. I fell in love with writing. I gave my gladiator a home and something to fight for. I gave him friends and enemies and tough moral decisions. I learned that the only way to learn how to write is to write. I also learned humility and, while I still think that urban fantasy was awful, I found respect for anyone who finishes writing a book and manages to get it published.

Eventually I finished writing, edited the manuscript myself (no beta readers or anything), and tried to get an agent. Query letter after revised query letter I sent out. No luck. No interest. I despaired. I put it on a shelf and said, “Someday.”

A year or so latter I decided the story needed a huge revamp. No more Roman style coliseum. I would make the story about a gladiator planet with hundreds of alien races and other dimensions and crazy weapons. But then I sat down and read my story. And you know what? I liked it. I reconnected with the story and the characters. So I got serious about getting it published. I asked friends and family to read it and provide feedback. I made tough decisions and cut out portions and tightened the storyline. Then I started submitting again. That went on for a couple years and this time I had interest. Publishers and agents asked for partial and full manuscripts. But no takers.

Once again I despaired. Sol and his world would probably still be in a drawer if it weren’t for a friend who asked me every time I saw him, “How’s the book coming? Get it published yet?” That friend pushed me. Let that be a lesson to everyone: push your friends. They’ll thank you for it. So I kept submitting and what do you know? All at once three different publishers showed interest. A lot of negotiating and a fateful decision later and my book was due to be published with Mirror World Publishing. And now Sol of the Coliseum is finally a book I can hold in my hands (and you can hold in yours).

So that’s what it takes: persistence and help and a will to move forward. Which is what most good things take. And I hope you think SOTC is a good thing.

About Sol of the Coliseum:

Deep in the bowels of the Coliseum of the mighty Astrolian Empire, the orphan, Sol, is raised by a makeshift family of guards and fellow slaves to become the most famed Gladiator in all the land. Alongside K'nal, his giant Frorian fighting partner, Sol must battle cunning warriors and fantastic beasts to delight the crowd and stay alive. But when an oppressed populace transforms Sol into a revolutionary folk hero, the Empire sends its most ruthless assassin to put an end to the uprising. Sol’s only chance is to do what no slave has ever done: escape from the Coliseum and the only home he’s ever known.

Follow the Blog Tour:

Title: Sol of the Coliseum

Author Name:  Adam Gaylord

Genre(s): Epic Fantasy, Adventure

Tags: Fantasy, Adventure, Epic, Coliseum, Gladiator

Length: Approx. 259 pages

e-Book:  978-1-987976-10-6 

Paperback:  978-1-987976-09-0

Release Date: September 17, 2015

Publisher: Mirror World Publishing (

Read an excerpt from the novel:

A baby’s cry.

Grall was sure that was what he’d heard. In the depths of the Coliseum a person became accustomed to various cries of pain or despair. Prisoners, men broken physically or mentally, called out in the night. Spoils, the women given to victorious fighters to do with whatever they saw fit, cried out often. The beasts, crazed by captivity and seclusion, howled and cackled. Even Grall, though the proud young guard would never admit it, sometimes fought back tears that came in the dark. Over time, one could learn to block out the sound completely.

But the cry of a child, an infant, a sound that had no place in this world, could not be ignored.

Grall made his way slowly down the roughly-carved stone hall, unenthusiastic in his search for the sound’s origin. He knew what was expected of him when he found the child. His stomach clenched at the thought.

“I don’t need this,” he thought aloud, his voice barely a whisper. “I should be in bed.” In truth, only minutes before he had lain wide awake, willing dawn to come and give him a reason to abandon his tossing and turning. With the day came his duties; blessed menial tasks he could lose himself in, briefly forgetting his loss.

Grall had come to the Coliseum only a few months before. He had been a guard in the city of Astrolia, capital of the Astrolian Empire, until he refused to participate in a drill using live captives. His protests changed nothing. The captives had died regardless and he had yet again angered his captain, the man that controlled his fate. As punishment he had been transferred to the Coliseum, a post feared by guard and soldier alike. Far more than the danger and brutality, what inspired dread for the post was that for all intents and purposes the Coliseum was a closed system. Be you slave or guard, once you entered it you probably didn’t leave. He had begged his captain, promising him utter obedience. But for the Captain, Grall had made it personal. It mattered not at all that Grall’s young wife had just given birth to their first son. Neither did it matter that he would probably never see either of them again. Even if he managed to be one of the few to live long enough to see retirement, his son would be grown with children of his own.

He had been all for packing their meager belongings and making a run for it, but his wife’s cooler head had prevailed, as always. They lived in the middle of the Astrolian Empire, two week’s hard ride in any direction from free lands if they had a mount, which they didn’t. She was still weak and sore, not yet recovered from a difficult childbirth. Most importantly, they had a brand new baby. In the best of times the road was no place to raise a child, and they would be in hiding.

“No,” she had answered stoically through her tears, “you will go to the Coliseum. You will send us your pay. I will raise our son.”

He protested and argued to the point of exhaustion, vainly fighting the logic in her words. Eventually he conceded, packing his bag and leaving his family, barely started, standing at their doorstep.

He still grieved for the son he would never know.

And now there was this.

“I don’t need this,” he repeated to himself, stopping outside the door to the women’s barracks.

They had promised to take care of it.

He knew the mother. She was a slave in the luxury boxes. As sometimes happens, one of her wealthy male patrons had an eye for her and he raped her after she refused his advances. She’d hid the pregnancy well at first but eventually her condition became all too obvious. Grall had been sent to deal with it. The women of the barracks had assured him that though uncommon, such things were not unheard of. The baby would be disposed of in a quiet manner. He had relented.

An infant howling down the halls was not a quiet manner.

Grall took a deep breath and opened the door. His broad frame and barrel-chest filled the doorway while he let his eyes adjust to the dimly-lit barracks. Women were sitting awake in their bunks, eyeing him with considerable disdain. He made his way down the candlelit center aisle toward the source of the disturbance, avoiding the hostile glares and trying to keep his face passive. He didn’t want to be here any more than they wanted him here. The object of his quest lay wrapped in a blanket and was held by a rather large cook. He saw the mother lying in a bed off to the side, unmoving. The sheets were soaked with blood but it was her face that drew his gaze. She had obviously been beaten, badly.

“She panicked,” the cook said flatly to answer his unasked question. “She confronted the father. He did that and she gave the last of her strength giving birth to this boy. We’ve named him Sol.”

A heavy silence settled over the room; the baby was finally quiet, as if showing respect to his deceased mother. Grall’s gaze lingered on the dead slave, her many bruises contrasting with her pale skin and long blonde hair. In life she had been beautiful, a curse for a woman in the Coliseum. In the peace of death she still held her beauty, despite the violence she had encountered.

“And now you’re here,” the cook broke the silence accusingly.

“I’m sorry. Melina was well liked,” he said, attempting civility.

The cook nodded. “She never let this place get to her.”

He nodded, recognizing the compliment. There was a long pause.

“You can’t keep it,” he said plainly, surprised at the feeling he was able to keep out of his voice. Several hisses sounded behind him. The cook neither responded nor moved. She just sat holding the child.

“You know the rules as well as I.” He could feel the animosity radiating onto his back from the bunks.

“What life could he hope to have here?” he asked, almost pleading, bristling at the tone of his own voice. He was a guard of the Coliseum; he didn’t need to explain himself. Who were these women and this cook who sat unmoving? Had they taken care of things as they promised, he wouldn’t have to be down here at all.

He straightened up. “I’ll deal with it,” he said firmly. Moving the last few paces toward the cook, he felt the women stir behind him. The cook made to strike him and several cries of protest sounded as he reached for the baby. But something unexpected happened, something amazing. As Grall reached for the bundle, his hand was met by the child’s. Without fear and with a strong little grip, the baby grabbed one of Grall's fingers and held. He froze, as did the women.

Had it been any other guard, hard and embittered with years of service, nothing would have changed, but for Grall that tiny hand struck with the force of a blow. He shuddered visibly, staring wide-eyed at the child. All was still. Grall knew his duty, what was expected of him. The problem with duty was that it belonged in the Coliseum and he was no longer in the Coliseum. Looking at this tiny baby, feeling it holding his hand, the guard was home.

The little hand holding his finger melted Grall's resolve. The women saw it immediately and smiles passed around the bunks. Grall didn’t see them, he only saw the child. He sighed and then without a word he slowly straightened, turned, and walked back the way he had come.

From that moment on, Sol was a child of the Coliseum.

Purchase Links:


Mirror World Publishing

Meet the Author:

Adam Gaylord lives with his beautiful wife, daughter, and less beautiful dog in Loveland, CO. When not at work as a biologist he’s usually hiking, drinking craft beer, drawing comics, writing short stories, or some combination thereof. He’s had stories published in Penumbra eMag, Dark Futures Magazine, Silver Blade Magazine, and Plasma Frequency Magazine, among others.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

All I Ask

Today is the thirty-first anniversary of our wedding. Even the holidays don't rival the depth and breadth of emotions this day brings. Rarely do I publicly expose my deepest yearnings, but today my mind allowed my heart its say.

All I Ask
By Jeff Hargett

I became who I am due largely to her
I found in life what some have sought in vain
But with her gone and me now incomplete
This sorrow I feel will forever remain

I will not get over it nor will I simply move on
Don't say it's time for my mourning to end
My wife was my life and shall always be so
To behave otherwise is to merely pretend

Time is powerless and has never healed all wounds
Nor is it an ointment for mending a shattered heart
There is no salve or balm that heals the soul
Certainly not one so utterly torn apart

No longer shall I apologize for grieving what I've lost
If my tears cause you discomfort just look the other way
I'm coping and adapting the very best I can
And count it a victory when I survive another day

Perhaps I should be stronger. Perhaps you think me weak
Perhaps you think my sorrow is merely one of choice
Remember, some say. Just pray, I've been told too
Why am I not permitted to give my heart a voice

I ask of you no miracles, nor state any demands
It's not a problem that I expect you to solve
Her absence is nothing you or anyone can fix
So of that obligation, consider yourself absolved

This path is mine and its length I'll walk
There isn't anything that you need to say
All I ask of you is this one simple thing
Just hold my hand while I make my way


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

So there's this "Writing Tip Tuesdays" thing...

Back in my blog's early days I ran a weekly Sunday Surfing series that provided links to cyberplaces I found interesting. These were the days I found myself hopping aboard one meme train after another. Remember them? Kreativ Blogger Award, The Versatile Blogger, The Booker, but the one I liked most was The Lucky Seven.

Adam Gaylord
The Lucky Seven (7-7-7) required a writer to post the seven sentences that begin on the seventh line of page seven (or seventy-seven) of their WIP. I found interesting excerpts on many writers' blogs, but there was one excerpt that amazed me. It came from Sol of the Coliseum written by Adam Gaylord. (I linked it in a Sunday Surfing post almost three years ago, but it's worth linking again. You can find it here. And in October 2015, Mirror World Publishing is releasing the book from which that excerpt came, so be sure to congratulate him!)

Writing Tip TuesdaysAdam has recently begun a blog series of his own: Writing Tip Tuesdays. Each Tuesday, Adam--or a guest--provides a tip for us writers. He kicked off the series by inviting someone named David Powers King. (Does anyone out there know who this guy is? I hear he teamed up with Michael Jensen and wrote some book called Woven that's garnering all sorts of rave reviews. Might be worth checking out.)

For some reason, the super-talented Adam also asked yours truly to submit a tip for his series. Fully aware as I am that only the wise can dispense wisdom, I donned my Henry David Thoreau mask and shamelessly submitted a word of writerly advice anyway. So stop by Adams Gaylord Writes and read why I encourage you to Poke Your Head Up.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Elizabeth Seckman Defying Reason

Wow. Final day of the tour. I'm tired and I'm sure the blogosphere is tired of hearing from me, but guess who we're not tired of hearing from? Our buddy, Jeff! 

Jeff, we've missed you! So, for this stop...I sent Jeff questions and commanded him to give us an update. So, let's all welcome Jeff to his very own blog and find out what he's been up to. 

(I know, I'm tricky. And Jeff was worried that this wouldn't highlight my book well enough, so here is how this ties in to my story: Defying Reason is a story about characters who understand that people matter more than things and that love and friendship always conquer all the bad in the world.)

Now, here's Jeff!!!

How has Jeff been?

I've finally started adjusting to my "new normal" widowed identity, by far my biggest ever life change event in terms of lifestyle and emotional impact. I've hit frightening dark periods several times, but I've survived them all thanks to friends, faith, family, and even Isis (my little feline goddess). Sometimes we need others to remind (or even convince) us that our lives still have value and purpose in the right here, right now.

Most of the time though I'm doing okay--or at least well enough to be convincing. I'm a better man for having undergone the struggle and for vowing to continue the struggle knowing the battle will last my lifetime. My healing has been slow and painful, but I am healing. I still meet with several members of our Hospice Loss of a Spouse support group weekly for dinner. We've become good friends and walk together down this road to recovery.

What have you been working on?

A few things actually. The Awakening (Strands of Pattern book #2) is again my primary focus. Lots of plotting and drafting going on, some of which has required plotline tweaks in #1. I've also been enhancing Magic Muse, my novel-writing software. And I've been dabbling with a non-fiction project geared toward men recently widowed. A few new short stories are under my belt and I've amassed loads of story ideas yet to be written.

Biggest challenge for me now is simply making good use of my limited time. I wear all the hats now and things don't get done unless I do them, be they professional, social, or domestic. (Retirement has never before looked so desirable!)

What are your plans for the future?

Twenty months after the fact now and I'm still trying to bring my goals into focus. Deciding which of my pre-widowed aspirations are still objectives I wish to pursue has been oddly problematic. The fervor with which I pursue them varies greatly too.

I do intend to pursue publishing The Bonding if nothing else. That wasn't a promise, but it was something Myra wanted to see and she would expect me to follow through and do it. I'm hoping to get back to blogging regularly at some point, even if on a smaller scale. I've made a lot of friends blogging and miss the camaraderie.

I love the idea of a nonfiction book for widowed men. I think it can be harder on men because they aren't always as connected and expressive as women. But I'm also eager to see Strands of Pattern published. I've beta read this story and it's wonderful. And of course, I'd like to see you blog more too. Seems I want it all, so you better get to juggling!

This Jeff Update was brought to you Defying Reason

The Blurb:

Jo Leigh Harper comes from a long line of trouble-making, white trash stock.
Tanner Coulter comes from a longer line of wealth-creating, blue blood stock.
Jo graduated college top of her class, moving toward a future full of possibilities.
Tanner dropped out of college, trading a law degree for drinking games and one night stands.

A family crisis throws the rich party boy and the poor genius girl together. The attraction is immediate, though neither one is a heart-in-the-sand-drawing believer in true love. But as the summer sun heats up along the shores of the Outer Banks, so does the connection between them. Maybe, just maybe, they can win at love by defying reason.

Author Bio:

Elizabeth is a multi-published author of books for people who are believers in happily-ever- after, true love, and stories with a bit of fun and twists with their plots. The mother of four young men, she tackles laundry daily and is the keeper of the kitchen. She lives along the shores of the Ohio River in West Virginia, but dreams daily of the beach. 

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Heavenly Birthday

Today is my angel baby's Heavenly birthday. Myra would have been 55 today and this would have been her 30th birthday as my wife.

Were she beside me, I'd be ribbing her about speed limits and leaving me in the dust. I'd be taking her out for a night on the town followed by a quiet evening at home. I'd be turning on the charm, giving her winks and probably sneaking a pinch or two while flashing my best grin.

I'd definitely be giving her a tight embrace and cherishing the moment. There'd be a gift or two from me. I'd hand them to her along with my heart.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Myra!

Card #1 - Envelope

Card #1 - Cover

Card #1 - Inside A

Card #1 - Inside B

Card #2 - Envelope

Card #2 - Cover

Card #2 - Inside A

Card #2 - Inside B

Monday, November 24, 2014

Q&A with James I Marino

James Marino is a man who wears many hats. A marketing analyst at a Fortune 500 company for 11 years, James is also an adjunct professor in English and communications at Southern New Hampshire University, and on November 6, he added one more title to the stack as he became a published author.

His formal path to professional writing began in 2007 with his enrollment in the Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing program at Southern New Hampshire University. He began writing his first novel, The Keepers of Mercia, during that time, and was excited to see his project come to life on November 6th.

Here’s a quick Q&A with James – a man who would bring a volume of all of Shakespeare’s works and Pink Floyd’s CD Dark Side of the Moon to a desert island – to learn about his background, writing process and upcoming novels.

How did you become interested in writing?

It’s one of those things that just happened – I’ve always enjoyed writing for classes, whether in high school or college, and everything from essays to literature reviews. I formed a great like for creative writing, especially when I realized how taking creative angles can make my work stand out. From there I realized – I can keep doing this! I don’t have to be in school; I can write for myself.

What is the inspiration for your book?

At some point, we realize our mentors – parents, celebrities, teachers, whomever – aren’t perfect people. They have flaws. They’re human. As a young person that can be scary, because growing up, you rely on those people. They’re a safety shield between you and the world, and it’s unsettling when that safety shield disappears and your safe, comfortable world is stripped away.

[With this in mind,] The idea for the novel came to me in bits and pieces, like mini movie clips of scenes in my mind. Eventually, these wrapped themselves around a ‘coming of age’ story, about having to grow up and make your own way in the world.

Describe your writing process – do you have any quirks or rituals? Did you know how it was going to end?

I do not have any quirks. I do not have any rituals. It is pure discipline.

Some writers do [have quirks and rituals] – but by and large, you have to sit down and write. Whether you feel like you have writer’s block, it makes no difference. You must be regimented and disciplined; you just have to get it done. In the MFA program, I wrote for two to four hours a day. Some days that would yield half a page and some days, two to three pages. But you have to sit and work on it.

It’s also important to remember that a story is a living, breathing thing. I had some ideas about where I wanted to go and what would happen to some of the characters, yes. But as you go, you come up with new twists, turns and ideas. I began with a tentative roadmap, but really the story isn’t done until it’s printed. I made changes right up until I had to turn in the final copy for publishing.

What is the most rewarding part of writing your first book?

First, it’s a sense of accomplishment. Because I know how hard it is to do this, having done it is a real sense of accomplishment, and it’s nice to see my ideas completed on paper.

Being signed by a publisher has added a layer of validation to that as well. It’s difficult to write, and it’s equally difficult to get it published. My hat’s off to anyone who has written anything.

Who have been your biggest supporters?

They would have to be my mentors from the MFA program, who are all professional writers and authors. They taught us the good, the bad and the ugly about writing and publishing, and they taught us everything about making a go in this business and trying to succeed, which can be very difficult. Other members of the writing community and my MFA class, a cohort of twenty students, have also helped because as a writer, it’s important to be engaged.

On top of that, family, friends and coworkers, were truly supportive. They knew I was in an MFA program, and they knew that I was writing throughout the program and have continued. I actually shared the cover with all of them, and the response has been very encouraging.

How have you balanced working full-time and writing a novel?

From 2007-09, I went down to part-time. As the MFA program was non-residency so I didn’t have to be on campus all of the time. For the most part, I was able to do that work from home and strike a balance.

I was nervous in that I knew it was going to be a lot of work, and I wasn’t sure how challenging that was going to be. And it was challenging – but certainly not something I couldn’t do. It’s when you hope something will work out, you hope it’s beneficial to you, and you hope you don’t go home and regret it. And I didn’t.

What lessons have you brought back to the workplace from your experience?

Persistence. Discipline. Confidence.

Writing a book reinforced how invaluable those tools are in accomplishing a goal. Regardless of the challenge – work, school, life – these are the keys to getting it done. It’s nothing earth-shattering; it makes sense.

Not only did I have to be persistent in terms of getting this novel done, but I had to be persistent in terms of getting it published. That part was just as hard. I have stacks of letters of rejection to prove it. You have to continue to be positive and confident throughout it, and you can’t lose heart in the work.

James is familiar with persistence – he finished The Keepers of Mercia in 2009, and though he spent a few months re-working parts of the novel earlier this year, it has taken five years to complete the publishing process. In that time he’s written another novel, government thriller Throwaway Pawns, and has three other novels in the works as well.

The Keepers of Mercia is available at:
On Amazon US
On Amazon UK
On Barnes & Noble
At James I Marino's website ( (signed copies and free shipping!)

About James I. Marino:
James I. Marino is the author of the novel, The Keepers of Mercia. James’ love of writing can be traced back to his high school days. Inspired by the works of Jack London and Stephen Donaldson, James began to tinker with short fiction. As an English degree student at the University of New Hampshire, he fell in love with a wide range of fiction, including the works of Shakespeare, Hemmingway, Dickens, and Emily Bronte, among many others. His admiration and enjoyment of the mastery of craft displayed by so many powerful writers encouraged James to press ahead with his own writing, and as the words began to flow, he recognized that his desire to write was something more than a hobby. He went on to complete a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction writing at Southern New Hampshire University.

Following the completion of his degree, James joined the faculty at Southern New Hampshire University as an adjunct instructor for both the English and Communications departments. He teaches various English composition and public speaking courses.

Having grown up on a small farm in rural Dunbarton, New Hampshire, James developed a deep appreciation of nature that can be seen in the thoughtful, well-crafted images that punctuate his writing. He lives on Haven Hill Farm in Canterbury, New Hampshire with his wife Megan, their son Max, and several furry friends.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Flowers for a Dead Man

Decided I shouldn't let an entire calendar month go by without posting something, so I'm pulling out a short story I wrote about a year-and-a-half ago. It was a rejected submission (too short) but it was my wife's favorite of all my stories. She really really really liked it, which pleased me to no end, of course. 

Fair warning: The tale's just under 1,500 words, considerably longer than my typical post length.

Flowers for a Dead Man
By Jeffrey S. Hargett

Sara told me she loved me with all her heart. What a load of crap that turned out to be. Cousin Kevin said love was the brain's creation, nothing more than hormones, pheromones and trigger-happy neurons. Turns out he didn't have a clue either. Hearts and brains have nothing to do with love. They have nothing to do with hurts and hate either. That kind of stuff lives in the soul.

Need proof? Check my grave. Nothing left of Franklin David Jones but ash and bones. My baby blues turned to dust years ago, right along with my adorable dimples and dashing smile. That's how twenty-three-year-olds like me end up when the Fairlane's got a new set of whitewalls and the girls need impressing. And I did my impressing with all eight cylinders.

That's how I met my Sara.

I'm not really sure what it was about me that caught her eye. She did have a lot to choose from though. Momma raised me to be a modest boy, but still, it wasn't me the ugly stick took to beating. Leastways, I never thought so. But I suppose it could have been the Fairlane's apple-candy red. It did have a dozen or so pounds of the shiniest chrome you ever saw. Most girls like shiny. Sara did too, but I think what got her motor running was the two-hundred horses under the hood. I ain't met a woman yet that didn't like a little muscle. She had all six-hundred-forty-two of mine flexing from the get-go.

Now, Momma raised me to be honest, so I'll admit that Sara caught my eye first. Sara caught just about everyone's eye first. Men tend to notice things like a woman more beautiful than dawn with hair the color of a sunrise.

She'd just got done waiting tables at Charlie's Grill down on Worth Street next to the old Firestone. Charlie dressed his girls in yellow with frilly, white aprons cut to accent hips and hind ends. Charlie's customers were good tippers. I liked to watch from the Fairlane. Watching was free and it didn't require tipping. Besides, the burgers over on Main cost less and came with fatter fries.

When Sara stepped outside Charlie's, I lost every bit of sense I'd collected in twenty-three years. Maybe it had something to do with those hormones and trigger-happy neurons Cousin Kevin always went on about, but I thanked God for my Fairlane. If I'd not been in the driver's seat, I'd have been a red-faced fool. Those swaying hips of hers had my engine revving. Love may live in the soul, but it stirs things you can touch.

I spent the whole night wondering what her name was and where she lived. I'd have followed her, but the sheriff gets involved when guys do that. So I did what any other guy my age would do in that situation. I called Stephen, my best friend since second grade. Now Stephen always gave advice you'd only take on a dare, but she'd left me in a daring frame of mind. And for once, that low-life best friend of mine didn't lead me astray.

I put a ring on Sara's finger less than four months later. I said my "I dos" and meant them all, but just because a man's got a wife at home don't mean he can't still impress the ladies in town. I might have been a married man, but I still looked good sitting on two-hundred horses. When a girl lets her eye linger on you, she expects you to be a gentleman and return the favor. Momma did raise me to be a gentleman.

Nobody ever mistook Franklin David Jones for Ward Cleaver. Some guys got the makings for T.V. dads. Some don't. I was who I was. Folks can say about me just whatever they please. It don't mean I didn't love Sara. Maybe if I'd had a daddy helping Momma raise me I'd have been a better husband. Then again, maybe not. It don't much matter now. I'm dead and can't change a damned thing.

I've got Stephen to thank for that.

Along about September, Stephen calls. He'd found him some cute brunette from the other side of town and his Mercury was in the shop again. Far be it from me to deny my best man a lift in his hour of need. Besides, I was more than a little curious about what kind of girl dates a low-life like Stephen. I loaded Sara into the Fairlane and we set out to salvage what little dignity he had left.

Now I'm willing to overlook a few faults when a girl has a pretty face, but that Angie girl he found didn't know how to shut up. The girl yammered straight through dinner, the whole way to the drive-in and right through the pre-show cartoons.

I kindly yanked Stephen's butt out of the car and dragged his "gonna get me some" grin all the way to the concession stand. The boy thought he was Rock Hudson out with Doris Day. Even asked me if I found Angie attractive. Was he kidding? Anything wearing a skirt's attractive when you're twenty-three. Didn't mean he was getting lucky though.

I'd have spent my whole check on popcorn, Goobers and Raisinets too, just on the chance it'd keep that girl quiet. The funny thing is, every time she got quiet I found myself looking over my shoulder. Stephen was my best friend, but ain't nobody allowed to mess around in my Fairlane except me and Sara. My Fairlane, my rules.

Angie's battery finally ran low just about the time the second feature ended. I enjoyed a good three minutes of quiet on the drive back until Stephen somehow set Angie to squealing. A sudden commotion like that startles a man. I jerked the wheel and the next thing I know I'm Park Lawn Acres' newest resident.

I always did hate cemetery names. I do have to admit though that I'm decomposing under the greenest damned grass in the county. Of course, it'd be a whole lot nicer if all the neighbors weren't dead. Some of these poor souls have been here since Moses saw God. The living might not be able to see us, but we can see each other. We're like faded Polaroids and shimmer when the moon's right.

Some take to moping about and peering at tombstones, sometimes theirs, sometimes not. I thought at first they were searching for someone. They're not. They're just doing what I'm doing. Remembering. The dead don't got much else to do but remember. And we got forever to do it. Dying's a serious thing. I don't recommend it. It takes a spell adjusting to being dead. Some never do. Some go mad. Maybe they were mad before, but now they've got angry and crazy in a gift-wrapped box. Mine comes with a pretty bow.

I never saw Angie here in Park Lawn Acres. Maybe she's staring at tombstones over in Poplar Grove or one of the church cemeteries. Maybe she's still jabbering at drive-ins and squealing in back seats. One thing's for certain. She ain't with Stephen. Stephen's with Sara. My Sara. They've been here. Together. He puts his hand on her shoulder while she plucks stray weeds and places flowers next to the headstone. Flowers! What damn good is flowers to a dead man?

I'd almost come to terms with it, being dead, being a ghost. Never did figure out why I didn't pass on to someplace else. I never really expected it to be Heaven. God knows Momma tried. I always figured I'd be dodging red devils and pitchforks. But this is where I am. The smile-flashing Franklin David Jones everybody loved stays put six feet under. The Franklin David Jones that still feels the loves and hurts and hates stays put too. Ghosts don't leave their corpses behind. Ain't a matter of won't, it's a matter of can't.

Maybe that's what stokes our anger. That, and seeing a new gold band on your wife's finger that matches the one your former best friend's wearing. I can't help but wonder which came first, them patting down the dirt on my grave or Stephen moving in on my wife. At least he don't come here much anymore. Sara does though. She brings a little girl with her. She's got baby blue eyes. Just like me. And she cries every time Sara brings her here. Just like me.

Smiles fade and dimples disappear. You're left to linger on, cling to hates and hurts and loves because you can't lay a hand to anything. The worst part about dying? It's the living that comes after. Especially on the days they bring you flowers.

 - The End