In 1995, legendary comedian Bill Cosby hosted a show on CBS called “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” In it, Cosby would simply ask children questions and carry on a conversation. He would masterfully revolve the conversation around whatever the young child might say.
Cosby: “Of your parents, who is the boss of the family?”
Chlid: “My mom.”
The audience audibly groans and Cosby gives the small boy a blank look.
Child: “Because my mom bought most of the land.”
Any parent knows this happens when you have conversations with children. They can say things that adults most of the time can’t get away with. Their innocence and honesty at an early age is endearing, sometimes embarrassing, and oftentimes hilarious–no matter how hard we try to hold our laughter.
My brother has a little girl named Dorothy (I’m giving you the name she sometimes likes to be called after Dorothy on The Wizard of Oz instead of her real name). She has a bubbly, ebullient personality that brings joy to anyone who comes into her presence. She is very smart (my brother says it is because she has half of my brain) and has a HUGE imagination.
She can turn any room and situation into one of her favorite movies: either the aforementioned Wizard of Oz or Frozen. She can act out all of the scenes from the movies and recruit others to fill other roles. She knows all the lines, all the songs and can show genuine emotion during any recitation. She is a phenomenal little girl and I love her so much.
However . . .
There was this one time I thought she was going to get us killed. Briefly. Because of something she said in a restaurant.
My brother and I live in the same North Carolina town outside of Charlotte. When our parents come to visit us from out of state, one of our traditions is going out to eat as a family. Occasionally, our sister from nearby Greenville, SC travels up I-85 to come join us.
We let our parents pick the place they want to eat, and they’ve developed a few favorites over the years. The place we went this time was a local, family-owned barbecue place called Troutman’s in Concord. Many of the patrons at this place were either large families. older couples or retired farmers and vets dining by themselves.
It was one of the latter whom I believed wanted to kill us.
As we had a large group, we were seated in the middle of the dining area at a big table. We had placed our orders and were catching up on current news and gossip with our parents while waiting for our food to be served. It sometimes takes a long while between the time an order is placed and the time the food actually comes out at this place. We knew that beforehand. It’s worth it because A) my dad enjoys the food, and B) we get time to catch up with each other.
Dorothy was probably three-years-old at the time and full of questions, comments and one-liners. Like most children, anytime they have to be in public and can not do what they want to do, they get restless. She asked repeatedly if we could go outside and play while we waited and only played briefly with my brother’s I-Phone before losing interest.
Not finding something in her immediate vicinity to keep her occupied, she got quiet and started to look around.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a people watcher. I love being at a busy mall food court and just watching the interesting waves of humanity that surrounds me. I believe young Dorothy is a lot like me in this manner.
There were some older couples sitting along the wall, one small family and one man dining by himself. It was this singular man that caught and held her attention. Because Dorothy and I seem to share this “people watching” gene, he grabbed mine as well. The others at our table went about their conversations, unaware of the situation unfolding around them.
He was hunched over his table facing in our direction, cradling a steaming cup of coffee. He looked like he was probably in his sixties, had a red bandana over his head and wisps of grayed hair fluttering around the edges of it. He didn’t have a beard, but you could tell he had not shaved in days. He wore a camouflaged military jacket that had sleeves going just past his elbows exposing his forearms. On the exposed skin were looking tattoos of snakes, skulls and other scary imagery. His most notable feature was a black patch over his right eye.
As he stared blankly at the table in front of him, eyes never leaving the steam rising from the bland coffee, his lips flared in an eternal snarl, I wondered what events in his life had brought him here. His face was a map of deep set wrinkles, leaving me to believe he had had a hard life and had seen many bad things. His hard expression simmered with hate, loathing and everything in between.
Everything about this man said “Leave Me Alone.”
Dorothy did not sense the abhorrence of mankind coming from this solitary man that I did. Her eyes studied him for several minutes as she sat on her knees in the chair, facing in his direction. She wasn’t bothering anyone. No one paid her any attention. She was just looking around. The old man had not looked up from his coffee. He was seemingly unaware of her interest.
Then it happened.
She sat up straighter in her chair. She was ready to reveal the thought that had been forming in her young, innocent mind.
She grabbed her daddy’s–my brother’s–sleeve to get his attention.
He turned to face her. “What is it, sweetie?”
She gave him the most beatific smile, pointed at the old man, and said in an innocuous, happy voice loud enough for everyone in a five-mile radius to hear, “Look daddy! It’s a pirate!”
My whole world went silent. All my focus was on the old man. She was right. He did resemble a pirate. I literally pictured him pulling out a knife and murdering everyone in my family. For the first time since I started watching him, he reacted.
He took a sidelong glance at Dorothy. His head did not move. Just his eyes. He stared at her for a hard second. It felt like an infinite amount of time to me. Then, he did the thing I least expected (because I fully expected to die): his eyes moved back to his coffee mug, took a sip, grimaced and went on as before.
He made no sudden moves. Did not look back in our direction for the rest of our meal.
Soon thereafter, our food arrived. We ate. We conversed. We left.
Dorothy thought nothing of it again as her chicken strips kept her occupied for the rest of our meal. She just smiled as she always does.
Kids say the darndest things.
With November being NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) the Harrisburg Branch of the Cabarrus County Library will host a workshop on Nov. 20th to help aspiring authors to create the next great American Novel. The intention of NaNoWriMo — held every November — is to encourage everyone to write. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s been 4 1/2 years since I published A Murder In Concord. It was a murder mystery based in Concord, NC that the University of North Carolina named as a Notable Book set in North Carolina. It was a lot of fun to do, and a little different experience from the first novel I published in 2006, Moment of Impact.
With A Murder In Concord, I had the opportunity to do a couple of book signings that generated a lot of interest in the community. I sold enough books to pay for a couple nice dinners for my wife and I. Getting a book published doesn’t make everyone rich. There are a select few with the talent and ideas for broad appeal to do that.
Almost before the ink dried on A Murder In Concord’s only printing, I was busy on a sequel. I got to a point with the story of the sequel that I felt it was getting a little too violent for my tastes. So, I set it aside and created WVUPros, which went on to spawn ProsReport.com. Doing that, I published hundreds of articles mostly regarding sports. I have had appearances on ESPN Radio and have had a feature NFL Draft article published in the WVU football preview magazine, The Signal Caller. I’ve been published in the Register Herald in Beckley, WV and recently started doing some freelance work for the Charlotte Observer.
I’ve had a lot of fun growing in this craft, and with the people I’ve met and helped while doing WVUPros and ProsReport. But there’s always been something missing. That feeling that I want to be able to sink my teeth into something much, much bigger than a 1,000 word article. I missed the feeling of crafting a story and creating characters to send on a journey.
Amid working a full-time job and creating and managing content for ProsReport, I decided to take another stab at writing another novel. The only problem I had was: what to write? I thought it and thought about it, but couldn’t come up with anything.
We were on vacation on Edisto Island a couple of months ago, I was doing some research on the early history of that area. At the same time, I came across something about the world’s most infamous pirate that made me want to dig a little deeper.
I went to some of the locals on the island and drove out to a spot that had been destroyed over 300 years ago. During that week, it hit me. THE idea.
This idea has a broad appeal that my other novels lacked. While I love those stories, and they will always be dear to my heart, this one gives me the opportunity to create some new characters, go to real places, reveal some little known history about the settlement of the New World, let the protagonist from my other novels, Lucas Caine, grow and possibly start a series.
Over the coming months, I’m going to take you on my journey of writing this novel. I get asked often about my writing process. I’m different from many writers in that I don’t write down a plot outline. Believe me, I’ve tried. What I’ve found is that doing that takes some of the fun out of crafting a story.
What I do is keep the entire plot in my head. As my novel progresses, and the layers start to come together, it is very fun to start to peel those layers back and reveal the mysteries set forth in the beginning. Sometimes, I find that certain plot points aren’t going to resolve themselves as I’d originally planned, or I think of a better, more surprising way to do it.
This novel I’m working on may never get published. That’s the stark reality of this business. I believe it’ll happen, but I’m not going to bank on that. If I finish this journey, and the novel is going to sit on my hard drive, I’ll release it one chapter at a time. For those that follow me on this journey, that is my promise. In some way shape or form, you’ll read the culmination of my efforts.
In the past month I’ve done more research than I ever have before, on anything.
Oh, I haven’t told you the idea. From the research that I’ve done, and the pieces from the distant past I’ve put together, we’re going to find Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure. Think Dan Brown meets Clive Cussler: real places, real history, modern adventure.
So, follow along. This is going to be a lot of fun.
- Blackbeard and the Queen Anne’s Revenge – Costume SuperCenter (costumesupercenter.com)
- 5 Popular Tourist Attractions in North Carolina (ustravel.answers.com)
On an unseasonably mild August afternoon this week, I joined three other guys at the Rocky River Golf Course in Concord, NC. I hadn’t played golf in a while and I had a few responsibilities at home to tend to, but the weather was just too perfect. So, I joined them for nine holes. I’m glad I did because the most amazing thing happened at the end. Read the rest of this entry »