Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Yesterday my six-month old baby girl started running a fever and vomiting. After Tylenol and a bath, her fever kept going up. So we took her to the ER.

They gave her Motrin, which brought down the fever some, and scheduled some tests.

They wanted a urine sample to make sure she didn’t have a urinary tract infection. Now, that in itself is not bad, but they wanted to obtain the urine via a catheter, which was obviously very painful to Bella.

Then they wanted to do a sinus culture, which involved sticking a flexible plastic stick down her throat via her nose . . . which was obviously very painful to Bella.

Then they wanted to draw blood to test for viral possibilities. The phlebotomist came and stuck the baby in both arms, fishing for veins with no blood being drawn. After hearing Bella screaming and gagging from the obvious pain, I told the nurse we were finished with the training session.

Then they wanted a chest x-ray to see if she had pneumonia. I watched as they strapped my screaming baby to a board, arms over her head in a vise. The picture reminded me of the much-televised Baby Jessica as rescuers brought her out of the well many years ago.

The doctor came and said they really needed blood to rule out as much as possible. I agreed, as long as they had someone that knew what they were doing and were not fishing in her arms and legs with the needle. So I watched, holding my tearful wife, as my baby screamed for Da-Da while the nurses took the blood they needed.

Bella is home and doing fantastic. Her fever is gone and she is back to normal. All the tests showed up negative and she is happy and content as she always was.

I tell you all this so you will understand what I am about to say:

I never knew true joy until my Bella Grace was born.
I never knew true pride until I first heard her say Da-Da.
I never knew true love until I saw her smile when I walk into the room.
And I never knew true pain until watching her endure her own.

I know there will be worse things ahead as she grows older, but my God I had no idea it would be this painful. As the person sworn to protect my Bella Mia, it was pure torture watching her scream for me, her gaze never leaving me, as I stood by helpless.

Her external scars will all but be forgotten in a few days, she no longer favors the soreness from needles and caths, but the scars inside me will burn for the rest of my life.

And that’s what it’s like to be a father.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

New Book for Horror Writers

Writers Workshop of Horror is a collection of articles and interviews on the craft of writing horror.

Each article -- written by some very big names -- tackles a specific element of the writing craft as it relates to the horror and dark fiction genres.

Release date and other information will be forthcoming.

I will post pre-order dates and info in my newsletter when nailed down. You are invited to sign up for the newsletter at: and follow the newsletter link.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Valentine Balloon

This Valentine's Day my wife and I will celebrate seventeen wonderful years together . . . we also celebrate the releasing of our seventeenth balloon.

Let me explain, we’d been dating only a few weeks when Valentine's Day was approaching. I bought flowers, candy, and a beautiful card for her . . . she bought a rose and a huge helium-filled balloon for me.

We decided to meet at a local grocery store parking lot before going out to eat. In the parking lot, she handed me the rose and balloon, except I thought the balloon’s string was tied to the rose, and she thought that I had a hold of the string and rose. We both watched helplessly as the balloon rose slowly out of sight. It was at that moment I asked her to "go steady" with me . . . fortunately she said yes.

Every Valentine's Day since, we have made our way to a grocery store parking lot and released a balloon into the sky. With this tradition we have turned a blunder into a celebrated moment.

Since then, we have released balloons from various states, and have been so busy at times we were forced to make a special effort to even continue the tradition. In 1999, balloon number seven was released in the middle of a hectic week of packing as we were moving from one city to another. Balloon number six was the very first to be released outside our native state of West Virginia, and on February 13, 1996, my wife's father passed away after only one week in the hospital . . . the next day we tearfully released balloon number four.

So, what have I learned in seventeen years? Well, I’ve learned that true love is not about flowers, candy, gifts, or even balloons. I’ve learned it’s not about possessions, wealth, youth, or power. I’ve learned that tough times are par for the course, but the course always gets smoother if you just keep playing. I also discovered it’s not always about me.

But more importantly, I’ve learned that true love comes with no strings attached.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Call for submissions for new regional anthology



Title: Appalachian Holiday Hauntings

Editors: Michael Knost and Mark Justice

Publisher: Woodland Press

Publication date: November 1, 2009

Word count: 1000 to 3000 words

Pay: three-cents per word plus contributor copy (one-cent per word on reprints)

Submit to:

Format: Attached RTF or Word Document file. (do not copy and paste into email body)

No simultaneous or multiple submissions

No explicit language or sexual content (this project will be in regional school systems)

Deadline: September 1, 2009 (do not inquire on status of submission until after this date)

We are looking for traditional Christmas ghost stories set in the Appalachian region. Think Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with an Appalachian backdrop. However, given this example, we want to make sure you understand that stories may be set in any time frame, including the present.

We are not interested in tales that disrespect or alter the religious aspects of the holiday.

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