An AI Experiment

Over at Writers Supporting Writers, our latest chat included a discussion about Artificial Intelligence (AI). During the conversation, Audrey mentioned she might try an experiment. Feed some elements into ChatGPT or Bard and ask for a short story based on those elements.

I thought that was an interesting idea, so I tried something. I have a story about a carnival. I wanted to give ChatGPT some elements based on that story and see what it came up with. Here was my request:

Write a 2,500 word short story about two odd characters who work for a carnival in the 1950’s. One is an old man nearing his end. The other a younger man humored by the older man’s stories. 

ChatGPT produced a story that was significantly shorter than the requested 2,500 words. What follows are two short pieces. One is ChatGPT, the other is my piece that inspired the request.

To me, which is the ChatGPT piece is pretty obvious. But I’m curious if it is obvious to other readers. Let me know in the comments. (And, if you’ve read Killing Berthold Gambrel, you should know the answer to this.). Beyond which version is which, I’m curious to know your thoughts on the version you think is ChatGPT.

Option #1

The echoes of children giggling, mothers yelling, and men boasting still reverberated along the midway.  A full moon hung without a net in the sky above the ferris wheel.  The ground was tacky with spilled sodas and ice cream splatters.  My nostrils were filled with the odor of popcorn and the vomit left behind by the punk coming off the tilt-a-whirl with a shit-eating grin on his face, convinced he was gonna knock down the bottles until his stomach started to rumble.   

“Sallie, let me get that for you.” 

I leaned against the booth’s frame.  “Thanks, Buck.  It’s like an ice pick borin’ a hole in me tonight.” I massaged the small of my back and then reached out to pat him on the shoulder as he reached up to bring the door down, the clanging rattle of the door on its tracks getting slammed to the ground chasing away the last echoes of the day and the quiet of the midway late at night overwhelmed me like it did most nights.  Most everybody else had finished up, cleaned up, locked up and returned to their trailers in the boneyard, tucked away in the far corner of the parking lot, where I had a bed and a locker in the bunkhouse.   

“Why they call you Sallie?” Buck asked, snapping the lock shut on my booth.   

I sighed and looked over his shoulder at the shuttered midway.  The flashing lights were off, the stuffed animals stowed away.  This was my time.  I could shuffle my old bones through the games and rides and remember … 

… The Griswold Traveling Carnival.  I was fourteen when I ran away.  Ol’ man Griswold took me under his wing.  

… The Elastic Girl, who just so happened to be my first.  And Griswold’s daughter.  And the reason I had to run away from the Griswold Traveling Carnival when I was sixteen. 

“I mean, you an old white man.  It’s not like you a girl or nothing like that.”  Buck paused for a moment.  I tried to laugh him off.  It didn’t work.  “You ain’t a girl, right?” 

Apparently, I wouldn’t get the quiet I wanted. 

“Why Sallie?”  I muttered at Buck as I began to walk and motioned for him to follow.  “Well, that’s a story we may not have time for.”  I thought for a moment I might stall him.  He was a 24-hour man and with the joint breaking down soon, he’d be gone in the morning, scouting out our next stop.  We were barnstorming that summer and Buck had to get on down the road. 

“Hell, at your pace, it mighta be a week ‘fore we get to the trailers.”  Buck took a flask from a pocket and took a swig.  “Whassa story?”   

I noted he did not offer the flask to me and silently thanked Buck for that.  Maybe he knew.  It was always hard to know, in the little world of a traveling show, what people knew.  Stories were told.  Rumors shared.  Maybe he knew I was on the wagon.  At least for that day, I was.  The problem was … there was no story to tell.  I was born.  I had a name.  What it was didn’t matter.  When I hit the road, somebody called me Sallie.  And it stuck. 

But sometimes, you know, you gotta tell a story.  Buck and I, we were walking by the concession stands, where the smell of cotton candy and corn dogs and stale popcorn had stayed strong.  Next up was the chump twister and a row of apple joints.  Shuttered for the night.  Quiet, except for the echoes that rang in my head of the carnies spinning their lines.   

… Old man Griswold, I told him it was the boys on my street who came up with it.  That’s all he needed to hear. 

… And later on and further down the road, when I told a girl it was my momma’s name and when she died, I took as my own and that got me a whole lot of everything. 

… And the truth. 

That it was the Elastic Girl who called me Sallie one night when we were in her trailer because when you’re the daughter of the owner you get a trailer to yourself instead of a broken down cot in the bunkhouse – which is nothing more than an 18-wheeler pulled up besides the trailers – not that I was complaining because it was the trailer that provided the place where I discovered the things that men need to know.   

The haunted house came up on our left.  On our right, a coin toss game.  Up ahead, the moon had dropped a bit, just touching the upper edge of the ferris wheel.   And Buck waited while we walked. 

“Her name was Katie.” 

“Yeah?  Who?” 

“She was the Elastic Girl at the first joint I worked.  She said I wasn’t no rube.  Or a clem.  Or chump.  No, Katie said there was something about me that she saw.  I was a bit stronger.”  We approached the arch at the entrance to the show.  The empty parking lot awaited us.  “She said she didn’t know a guy like me.  ‘You can take a name like Sallie, can’t you?’ she said.  I remember this, we were in her bed with the sheets wrapped around us.  I was teasing her nipple with my finger.  I’da ‘greed with just about anything she said at that moment. 

“The next day, I was walking to my game – I was operating a cheese wheel, ‘cause it was all ol’ Griswold thought I could handle – when one of the freaks called out, ‘Hey Sallie, my boy.’” 

Buck stopped.  “You shittin’ me, man?” 

“No.  I learned something that day.” 


“The freaks … they stick together.” 


Option #2

The old carnival stood as a worn-out relic of a bygone era, its faded colors and cracked paint giving it a certain melancholic charm. Nestled in a forgotten corner of a small town in the heartland of America, it welcomed visitors with its creaky gates and tattered banners promising a spectacle like no other. Within its tenuous embrace, two odd characters forged an unlikely friendship amidst the wonders and oddities of the 1950s. 

Old Man Elijah, his withered frame clad in a patched-up suit, was a living relic himself. Wrinkles etched deep grooves into his face, and his rheumy eyes held a wisdom accumulated over many decades. He had been with the carnival since its inception, his stories as much a part of the show as the feats he once performed. A crowd-drawer in his youth, he had juggled fire, tamed wild beasts, and amazed audiences with his acrobatic stunts. But age had finally caught up with him, confining him to a quieter role as the carnival’s resident storyteller. 

Young Tommy, on the other hand, was a sprightly soul with a perpetual glint of mischief in his eyes. Barely twenty, he found solace in the carnival’s whimsical world, leaving behind the dull monotony of his small-town life. Tommy was the carnival’s jack-of-all-trades, a wide-eyed dreamer with a knack for fixing rides, painting signs, and captivating audiences with sleight of hand tricks. He possessed a voracious appetite for adventure, which drew him to the charismatic tales spun by the aging Elijah. 

Every evening, as the last remnants of sunlight painted the carnival in warm hues, Elijah and Tommy would gather beneath the flickering glow of the main tent. The old man would regale the younger one with tales of daring escapades, each word an invitation to a world of wonder and mystery. Tommy listened with wide-eyed fascination, marveling at the courage and audacity that infused Elijah’s stories. 

“Picture this, lad,” Elijah began, his voice quivering with excitement. “The year was 1923, and we were traveling with the ‘Circus of the Extraordinary.’ We had a lion tamer who could whisper secrets into the wild beasts’ ears, making them dance like graceful ballerinas.” 

Tommy leaned closer, hanging onto every word. “Really? That must’ve been something to see!” 

“Oh, it was, indeed,” Elijah continued, his voice a melodic lullaby. “But the true magic was in the camaraderie between us performers. We were a family, bound by the shared thrill of the unknown. The world was our stage, and every show was a chance to become someone else, if only for a fleeting moment.” 

The young man’s eyes sparkled with anticipation. “Do you think I could ever be a performer like you, Elijah?” 

Elijah smiled, his eyes lighting up. “Ah, lad, the carnival is a calling that chooses its own. It takes a curious mind, a brave heart, and a touch of madness to truly embrace its enchantment. But who knows? Fate has a way of guiding lost souls to their rightful places.” 

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An Unfinished Story

A couple of days ago I shared on the Twitterer that I had a dream that went something like this. I have a story that I’ve finished and I want somebody to read it. But not just anybody. I wanted Berthold Gambrel to read it. Why? Because I had tried to write a funny story and, as Berthold knows, I really struggle with finding humor in stories, even when it is intended. But Berhold. He likes funny stories. Has written a few himself and counts P.G. Wodehouse as probably his favorite writer. (Hope I got that right.)

So, in this dream, I am standing there with my story and Berthold approaches me. I ask him to read my story and let me know what he thinks. And then I wake up not knowing what he had to say about my story. Berthold, of course, jumped into the breach and began a thing. What follows is something, I’m not sure what, but he and I traded a few bits and pieces and here it is, in all it’s unedited glory. The thing is though … it’s not finished. It’s clearly not finished. (My apologies for the inconsistent formatting. A glitch between OneDrive and WordPress that I can’t figure out.)

Paxton Marcus awoke drenched in sweat. He had been dreaming he was furiously typing out 

the final pages of a comedic masterpiece; a novel of such gut-busting hilarity it would put P.G. 

Wodehouse to shame. He had finished the final zany denouement, in which all the plot threads 

resolved themselves. Erica’s pet poodle… the mystery of the missing Santa Claus magnet… 

and the longstanding misunderstanding between Leslie and Johansson… all had been neatly 

resolved in a beautifully orchestrated symphony of Pythonesque humor. 

But already, he could feel the details slipping. His perfectly composed masterpiece was fading 

quickly into that oblivion into which all dreams must fade. 

“No!” he cried aloud. Then, realizing it was 4AM and he must not wake his wife, or their cat, 

German Shepherd, he quickly cut off his cry. He eased himself out of bed and walked slowly, 

softly, into his study, where he opened his laptop and pulled up a blank document. Quickly, the 

began to jot down as many details of the story as he could remember. Let’s see now… there was 

certainly a cake, he was sure about that. And there was a pineapple stand where they dipped 

their fruit in pizza sauce… but even as he frantically put these things down, he could feel it all 

becoming fuzzier, more distant. 

His head fell into his hands. It couldn’t be…. This was it. It had been the story, he was sure of it. 

And now it all faded away into gauzy ephemera and half-recalled feelings. He forlornly 

scratched at German Shepherd’s ears as she strolled up beside him. 

He was about to give up hope when suddenly he remembered something else: In his dream, he 

had given his story to a man he knew named Bertrand Gumball who styled himself as a literary 

critic. It was of course, only a dream. But… perhaps… just perhaps it was a hint. Perhaps Mr. 

Gumball himself knew something of the story. 

Marcus was desperate, so he decided to try. Quickly, he hammered out a message to Mr. 

Gumball, outlining his situation. He didn’t really expect a reply, so as soon as it was sent, he 

resumed scratching German Shepherd’s ear and staring sadly at the page of hastily-written 


A ding from his computer alerted him to a reply from Gumball. It began, as was not unusual for 

a Gumball message, with a quote from H.P. Lovecraft: 

“Dreams are older than brooding Tyre, and garden-girdled Babylon.” 

Gumball continued: 

I, too, have dreamt of reviewing your manuscript. I seem to remember I liked it, but I 

can’t recall the details just now. I am now in the state you humans call ‘awake’, so I 

cannot read it. But perhaps, when I again venture ‘beyond the wall of sleep, as Lovecraft 

put it, I shall once more be able to access it. 

That was better than nothing, Marcus thought. It would at least give him some hope that all was 

not lost, that perhaps this story—THE story—might be recovered. 

It was not until he was once again in bed, German Shepherd curled up at his feet, and gently 

drifting off, that another thought occurred to him. 

Hadn’t Bertrand Gumball died years ago? 

* * * * * 

For it was true, Gumball had died a horrible death on the winding, fog-filled roads of the Mendocino coast. 

But was he really dead? For what is death but a temporary state? Or, as Stephen King has said: 

“There was a lot they didn’t tell you about death, she had discovered, and one of the biggies was how long it took the ones you loved most to die in your heart.” 

And so it was that Gumball never lost the hearts of those he loved, even as a moldering corpse, or was lost by those he loved. 

He lived on in a way. Maybe it was felt most towards the end of each October when his home in the wilds of Ohio was lit up, even years after his passing, with pumpkins and ghosts and black cats. Oh my! Gumball was nothing if not a fanatic for the holiday. Known alternatively among his friends as Pumpkinhead, he surely was still alive in those wind-swept Fall days that led to Old Hallow’s Eve.  

Surely he was. Ol’ Pumpkinhead still lived. There were times when those who set up cameras to catch wildlife in their yards and their farms posted videos that went viral, and all too frequently, there was an image to be seen. Of an eerie orange face, with a gap-toothed smile leering out as it sped across the screen. Pumpkinhead had returned. 

Every year, this was so. Why couldn’t, therefore, Marcus believe it was possible that he would hear from Gumball, finally, about his story. Whether or not the story even existed. and so, when the next Hallow’s Eve arrived, Marcus waited. For surely, on such a night, as the Ol’ Pumpkinhead flew by, Gumball the critiquer would drop some notes down Marcus’s chimney, or maybe leave those notes behind in his treat bowl.  

Surely this was so, for wasn’t it the renowned actress Natalie Portman who once said: 

“Lying is the most fun a woman can have without taking her clothes off.” 

Marcus grew impatient. Surely word would be coming from Gumball at some point. Eventually, as the Halloween season approached, he decided it was time to take a chance. So he booked a flight to Ohio, to find the mysterious Mr. Gumball.

It didn’t take long. All the local Ohioans told ghost stories and sang fearful songs of Gumball Manor, the high mansion on the hill, surrounded at all times by bats and jack-o’-lanterns. But Marcus was undeterred by any of it.

He followed the winding path up the hill, passing scores of Halloween decorations as he went, until at last he reached big door of Gumball manor. It was made of the finest oak, and had a huge brass ring mounted on the front that glistened in the moonlight. Not that this matters for this story, but it’s the sort of detail some readers demand to know.

Marcus tried the doorknob and, rather to his surprise, it worked, and the door creaked open, to reveal a cavernous room, mounted wall-to-wall with computer monitors. There were tables piled high with video games, books, and yet more jack-o’-lanterns. 

Cautiously, half-expecting something to leap out from the shadows, Marcus approached the nearest monitor. It was black, with only some basic green text on the screen:

Bertrand Gumball Chatbot Awaiting Input

Marcus typed his question into the Chatbot … “What did Gumball think of my story?”

The computer hummed for a few seconds, the green cursor blinked at Marcus, a bit of steam came out of the CPU’s vents. Marcus began to worry that maybe he had gone a step too far.

After all, Gumball was dead. Was the story even a story? Or was it all just a dream? A wonderful, fantastic dream that he would soon wake up from. If that was the case, there were no flying pumpkins. No mansion on the hill. It was probably July, but certainly not All Hallows Eve. Marcus began to wonder … had he finally gone insane.

Just then, when that thought entered his head, the blinking cursor stopped, it froze on the screen. The steam stopped as a fan in the CPU’s innards clicked on, whirring to life. And then, the screen went blank before clicking back to life. 

Gumball’s blog, A Fantastic Mansion on Halloween, popped up. Marcus stooped to peer at the screen. There was a new post there, something Marcus hadn’t seen since Gumball died an unfortunate death in the fog of Mendocino. The title of the post … Paxton Marcus’s Hilarious Tale.

For years, Gumball had posted reviews and critiques of books and short stories, films and video games. Literate in his presentation of his thoughts, those reviews were always a pleasure to read. Marcus couldn’t wait to see what Gumball had to say, forgetting, of course that if none of this was a dream, that if it was all too real, there was actually no way Gumball could have read his story, wrote a review, and posted it to his blog. He was … dead, after all.

Marcus scanned down to the line of the post and saw the first few words “… is an absolute abomination, a waste of words. I can’t believe I wasted my time with this drivel.”

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Things are Changing

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m doing a few things other than writing these days. Acrylic art. Photography. Having a booth at at the Elk Grove Festival of the Arts at the end of April.

I’ve thought a lot the last couple of years about creating a website to see if I can sell any of the art or photography on-line. But, I’ve been lazy about it. So, while I twiddle my thumbs on the website idea, I thought I’d make some changes to this blog so that it features all three creative avenues I’m pursuing.

Today, I’ve started updating the Pages on this blog (for those unfamiliar with Pages on WordPress, they are the tabs at the top of the blog). First, I consolidated the separate pages for each book into one page titled Books. Next up will be the development of a new page featuring the acrylic art and another one featuring photography.

And posts here will broaden beyond my writing life. Who knows what I’ll have to say about the other things, but I’m going to work on expanding the subject matter and see if I can turn this blog into a way to market some of this stuff.

And ultimately, at some point, I want to change the look of the blog. It’s been like this for a long time. Maybe the look needs to change to.

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What I’ve Been Up To

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted here, and also since I’ve done a podcast episode. There are reasons!

After publishing Killing Berthold Gambrel and The Basement via Draft2Digital last fall, I decided to republish all of my previous efforts on Draft2Digital. Why? I don’t know that it helps my sales much, but I like the idea of my books available much more broadly than what Amazon and Kindle Direct Publishing makes available. In the last few months, I’ve republished One Night in Bridgeport, The Dime, and my two previous short story collections. Those collections I combined with The Irrepairable Past into a single volume titled A Little Bit of This.

Here is what publishing through D2D has made possible. My ebooks are available on just about every ebook platform there is and they are also available to libraries through Overdrive and a few other platforms. Meanwhile, the paperbacks can make their way into bricks and mortar stores and are also available in on-line book stores. So far, my searches have seen my books show up on the following websites: Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, Books-A-Million, Harvard Book Store, Walmart, and Amazon, of course. I’m sure there are more.

Here are links for each of these books. The links take you to a list of where the ebooks are available. Click on the link of your favorite ebook retailer and it should take you to my book.

A Little Bit of This

One Night in Bridgeport

Killing Berthold Gambrel

The Basement

The Dime

By the way, if you like the covers, and are a writer looking for a cover artist, I highly recommend Karen Phillips ( Very reasonably priced and easy to work with.

That should be it for my publishing activities for awhile. I’ve got nothing new in the pipeline. Which leads me to the next bit of news. I’ve assisted another writer over the last year — reading three of her manuscripts and providing editing and feedback. In return, she read what I had written on The Jump and offered me some valuable feedback.

I’ve started to, very slowly, go through The Jump and make changes based on her feedback. The most fundamental change is that I’m revising it from dual first person narratives to third person. This will allow me to introduce additional aspects of the story into the piece. But, it’s also tedious and monotonous and the last thing I want to do. So, it’s a struggle. I just need to keep reminding myself that it will improve the story. I’d love to have this all done in a few months, but realistically, I don’t anticipate The Jump will be finished and ready to publish until the end of the year.

There are, as always, other stories that keep trying to bubble up. The next episode of my podcast will include a reading of Carnies, a short story about an old carnival barker. It’s a part of a larger story that I want to write some day. There’s also a sequel to The Dime that I both need to and want to write. I left that story in a bit of a lurch at the end and I want to finish it up. I’ve thought today that I don’t need to do it with another novel-length piece, but instead write another novella-length part — Part IV — that wraps things up. I know how I want to start the rest of the story and what the primary theme will be. Just got to sit down and do it.

And then there’s Carlota — my sexy, end of the world, space romp. And every once in awhile, I ponder Jack McGee. When I finished Bridgeport, I came up with two additional story ideas featuring Jack and additional crises he faces later in life. I’d like to take a shot at those stories at some point.

And there’s more.

But these days, I’m not writing much. Why? Because at the end of January, I applied for and was accepted for the Elk Grove Festival of the Arts. I’ll have a booth there on April 29. I’ll be featuring my books, my acrylic pour art, and my photography. Since I got the news, I’ve been spending a lot of time getting ready for it. My wife suggested making coasters with my photographs, to provide a cheaper, more accessible option for my photographs. So, I’ve spent all of February making coasters. I have a little over 100 unique pictures that I’ve picked out for coasters. I’m also going to do a few additional acrylic pieces. And then there are all of the organizational matters I have to take care of. How to display all of this stuff, for instance.

That’s what I’ve been up to. No short stories to speak of in recent months, although I’ve had an occasional idea.

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One Final Publishing Update

As noted here a few weeks ago, my new novella, The Basement, is available in paperback and ebook formats just about everywhere. Googling “Mark Paxson The Basement” turns up hits that show it’s available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, (an Italian retailer), Books-a-Million, Vivlio, Booktopia (Australia), and a number of other foreign country on-line retailers. I also know that the ebook is available on Apple Books, Kobo, Overdrive, and a few other ebook retailers. So, if you won’t want to buy it from Amazon, go to Barnes & Noble, or google the book and find your preferred book retailer.

Draft2Digital claims that this link identifies all of the places where the book can be purchased. However, the last time I looked at it, it did not do so.

And, as of tomorrow, my new collection of short stories, Killing Berthold Gambrel, will also be available in both ebook and paperback formats. There is a wrinkle to its availability however. Because a number of the stories have been posted on this blog for free, a fact I acknowledge in the book’s front matter and in the blurb, Amazon will not carry the ebook. Their policy is not to carry any ebook that is available for free or a lower price elsewhere on the internet. I guess that some of the stories being on my blog violates that policy. As a result, you will not be able to buy this for your Kindle. Oddly enough, they will carry the paperback.

But, the book is generally available everywhere else that The Basement is. Check out your favorite retailer, or google it and find your retailer of choice with the book in stock. (A cautionary note: I learned that my publication date on D2D does not mean the paperback will be immediately available. Instead, it’s the date that D2D makes the book available to retailers. With The Basement, that meant Barnes & Noble had it available within a couple of days. Amazon took more than a week. So, I say tomorrow, but it may not be quite tomorrow.)

Here again is Draft2Digital’s incomplete universal link. By the way, Berthold Gambrel, who isn’t quite dead yet, wrote a review of this book. In that review, he described my storytelling this way: The simplest way I can say it is, reading Paxson is like experiencing a combination of a John Steinbeck novel and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” Hey … I’m not going to complain about that description, although it makes me laugh every time I read it!

In case you want to listen to a few pages of the title story in the collection here is the Spotify link that will take you there: (Also available on other podcast platforms!)

And that will likely be my last publishing news for awhile. I’ve got nothing ready to go in the story cupboard, although I am working on a couple of writing projects. While I struggle with those projects, I’m also going to spend the next few months putting together a new website that will seek a market for my paintings and photography, as well as my books. It’s going to be called something like KM Creative. We’ll see.

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More Publishing News

First though, where can you find The Basement. As an e-book, it’s available everywhere. The thing about that link is that it doesn’t include everything. It doesn’t include Amazon. It doesn’t include Overdrive. And a couple of others. So, contrary to Draft2Digital’s advertisement of that link as being a universal link, it is not. But you’ve heard it here … it is available on Amazon for your Kindle, and Overdrive if you can talk your library into ordering it.

The paperback is also now available at Barnes & Noble, and remains pending at Amazon. Eventually, it will also be available at other on-line retailers, like Powell’s and Books-A-Million, and any other retailers that pick up books from the IngramSparks catalog.

Now, on to the new news.

My short story collection, Killing Berthold Gambrel, will be available as an e-book beginning tomorrow almost everywhere e-books are sold. Where is the one place it won’t be available? Well … Amazon. Why? Because the collection consists primarily of short stories that I’ve posted on this blog over the years and I note that in the book materials because I don’t want any of the people who read this blog to buy the book and be surprised. (There are some new stories, but most have appeared here.) Amazon’s policy is that it won’t publish anything that is generally available for free elsewhere online, or at a lower cost elsewhere. So, they have rejected this little collection.

But be not disappointed all you Kindlers. It will still be available everywhere else, including Apple. So, if you have an iPhone or any other Apple device, you can get the e-version and read it on your handy-dandy Apple device. The paperback will be available at the end of the month, once I get a proof copy and confirm it’s worthy.

Meanwhile, here’s the blurb:

In his third collection of stories, Mark Paxson starts things off with the unfortunate and untimely death of a famous writer. A snarky tale that ends as a snarky tale must. From there, this collection travels through stories that touch on real-world horrors, including Aleppo and An Obituary, and others that approach the sublime and the surreal. The collection includes Carnies and Two Spaces After The Period, uncommon love stories, and a number of untitled poems from the archives. 

This collection takes the reader on a journey through the lives of mostly ordinary people facing the curve balls life throws at them. Psychotic former lovers, world leaders out of touch with reality, apartment buildings due for demolition. It’s all in here. Just crack it open and start reading. 

And here’s the cover:

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Publishing News

August 5, 2022 will be a day that lives in infamy. It is the day that The Basement becomes available as an e-book. I am using Draft2Digital to publish the e-book, which means it will be distributed much more widely than my previous books, which were limited to Amazon.

Here are the platforms on which the e-book will be available: BorrowBox, Vivlio, Baker & Taylor, Tolino, Scribd, Apple Books, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Hoopla, Bibliotheca, and OverDrive. You can pre-order the book on any of these sites, except for the last four (Amazon, Hoopla, Bibliotheca, OverDrive), but those four should be coming on-line soon enough.

Once the paperback is available, I’ll post about that here. For now, here is the blurb and the cover:

Her marriage broken and infidelity losing its luster, Chloe Stenhouse is a high-powered capitol lobbyist drifting through life. That is, until she becomes fed up with it all by ending her affair and leaving her husband Mike, a reclusive workaholic who emerges from the seclusion of his basement office only when he must. Mike, hiding his own dark secrets, reacts unpredictably and violently, reminding Chloe of her wedding day promise that she would never leave him, a promise born of pity and destined to fail.

The Basement is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, lulling the reader in with a woman’s awakening from her rut in life before then pouncing on its prey with male toxicity, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, gun violence, vigilantism, and mutually assured destruction. This story is not for the faint of heart but well worth the payoff.

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It was the last day at my old job. Spur of the moment, without checking with my wife, I decided to invite a few co-workers over to my place to just hangout and quietly celebrate my departure. I sent an email to the chosen few and raced home.

As I was pulling into the driveway, my wife was backing out. “Gotta pick up the kids,” she said to me as we passed by each other.

Kids? What kids? I thought to myself. Our kids had long left home. This would not be my first surprise.

Well … whatever. I went inside and was barely in the door before the doorbell rang with the first guest. A couple of my invited co-workers came in. We sat down in the breakfast nook. I wasn’t expecting a big crowd.

Without knocking, a few more came in. Soon, the breakfast nook was too crowded and we spilled into the dining room. 

Who were these people? I didn’t invite this many.

Then a woman came in who I knew wasn’t invited, and she came with her kids and a couple of friends and their kids. All dressed in purple. Something had happened. They were all so happy to be there, to be included in this unplanned, informal going away get-together. How could I stop them?

The flow of people continued. There were so many people in my house, I went out front to get a breath of fresh air and look down the street to see if my wife was on her way back. I was desperate. She would know what to do.

An older man came up to me to thank me for inviting him. He had nothing to do with my last job. He actually was with my new employer. He patted me on the shoulder. I didn’t invite him!

As he walked away, three people came up to me. An older woman I had never met, and two young men, probably in their teens or early twenties, who I had also never met. The woman said something to me. I don’t recall what because as she spoke, one of the young men reached out and caressed my cheek as a lover would. “Come with us, please,” he said. As he spoke, I could tell that he had some type of developmental delay or mental deficiency.

I had no idea what to say, but I knew I wasn’t going with them. The other young man said something else that I didn’t catch, as the first young man reached out again to try to caress my cheek. I stepped back to avoid his touch, while the woman looked at me disapprovingly.


And then I woke up. This morning, I woke up at 6:28. I typically get up then, but I closed my eyes and wished for more sleep. I woke up a half hour later with this dream having played out while I got that extra half hour. I don’t think I’ll be wanting the extra half hour again any time soon. 

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Facilitation – How A Prompt Becomes A Novella

The latest edition of my podcast is up. The opening pages of a recently completed draft of Facilitation, a novella that got its start from a writing prompt back in October.

As always, here is the link on Spotify, but the podcast can be found on other podcast platforms, including ITunes and Apple’s podcast app. Just search for Slice of Life Stories and select the one with the sunset and my name on it.

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New Podcast Episode

Just listen …

(This is the link to Spotify, but the podcast, Slice of Life Stories, can also be found on other podcast platforms, including the iTunes Store and the Apple Podcast App. If you listen and the platform provides an opportunity for ratings or reviews, please do so.)

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