Sunday, December 18, 2016

Humble Heroes Just Do Their Job

  John Glenn died recently. I think most of us would agree that he was a national hero. To mention just a few of his accomplishments and contributions: he was a multi-decorated fighter pilot of 150 combat missions; the first American to orbit Earth; a national political figure for 24 years in the Senate; and at 77 years of age, the oldest, by far, to return to space via the space shuttle Discovery.

But I want to focus on something else. John Glenn was not only reluctant to talk about himself as a hero, he apparently didn’t think of himself as one. He said, “I figure I’m the same person who grew up in New Concord, Ohio, and went off through the years to participate in a lot of events of importance.” When referring to his Earth-orbiting mission, he was flatly dismissive. “What got a lot of attention, I think, was the tenuous times we thought we were living in back in the Cold War. I don’t think it was about me. All this would have happened to anyone who happened to be selected for that flight.”

I don’t think it was about me. I’ve noticed that many of the greatest heroes have this self-effacing quality. We see them often. A cop or fireman risks their life to save the lives of others, and what do they say? “I was just doing my job.” When asked, they say they don’t think of themselves as heroes. They habitually defer to others and avoid the spotlight. They don’t think of themselves as superior to anyone, and praise and attention often embarrass them. If I may be permitted a personal reference, this is a major quality of Turtan, my fictional hero. For God’s sake, don’t praise him or make speeches in his honor. He was just doing his job.

This description describes to a T the values of Irena Sendler, a Polish woman. She risked her life to save the lives of 2500 Jewish children during World War II. She was caught, tortured, and severely beaten by the Gestapo who tried to make her reveal the names of the children and of her comrades. Despite her agony, Irena Sandler refused to do so. She was then sentenced to death and narrowly escaped. You would think after demonstrating such courage and conviction, that this woman would pat herself on the back a little and accept a compliment or two. Not at all! When interviewed, Irena Sandler said, “Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this earth and not a title to my glory.”

In other words, I was just doing my job.

I’m not saying that people who display bravery and courage are not heroes if they thump their chest and brag a little. It’s okay to strut a bit and bask in well-earned praise. And I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t like movie superheroes and men and women of action who risk their hides and do glorious and splashy deeds. It’s just that during my life, I’ve noticed that it’s often the unsung and unnoticed heroes who are the most noble and praiseworthy. They may not be as glamorous or romantic, but they shine with a truer light, the kind you may have to watch closely to see.

I’ll give you one more example. I taught for nearly forty years at HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Often the families were poor and struggled to send their children to college. As an English professor, I came in contact with single mothers who labored at two or more jobs to afford a higher education for their children. To me, they were heroes. There was no stirring, uplifting music when they got down on their knees to wash a floor, and they weren’t featured on TV shows or the covers of any fashionable magazines. Nevertheless, in my book they were heroes, and I sometimes reflected on the strength and courage they must have possessed, especially when they themselves pursued a higher education thirty years or more after they had dropped out of high school.

In a way, these women were just doing their job too and didn’t think of themselves as heroes. Yet they were, and I believe such individuals deserve our recognition and appreciation far more than the glamorous stars we so often worship.

CONQUEROR OF THE STARS, Book 4 of John’s Inspector of the Cross series releases January 2017 . . . Pre-order now $3.00.  AMAZON                                       MUSEITUP
The first three novels of John’s Scifi-Adventure Inspector of the Cross series are available at


Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Maggie Tideswell, author of A Convenient Marriage.

The idea of two complete strangers getting hitched has always intrigued me, for one simple reason—why would they do such a thing? Could such a relationship succeed? By successful relationship, I understand not only the longevity of the marriage…but is it possible for the participants to actually fall in love with each other in such a strange arrangement? Love is found in the most unexpected places.
A Convenient Marriage grew over a number of years. The basic story was simple—a divorcee with two children, an ex-husband being difficult over visitation, as well as a fiancée unable to commit. Holly’s friends suggested that she needed a new husband, placing an advert in the paper for one behind her back. Joshua was struck by a simple plan when he saw the ad and responded to it.
Why would Holly marry a man she’d never met, and why would Joshua respond to an ad for a husband, then actually propose to a woman he had never clapped eyes on? So, in came the dawdling fiancée, Nicole. Both Holly and Joshua were justified in not planning the marriage to be a real one, because they each had an agenda of their own, but Nicole was the injured party. For their plan to succeed, they had to marry—the real kind, down to that all-important piece of paper married—and they had to seem to be totally in love with each other. That it is all a scam, only they would know.
And here comes the ‘but’. Holly and Joshua’s plans go awry from the moment they meet on the steps of the chapel where their fake marriage is to take place, when both recognize the immediate attraction. Back at Joshua’s wine estate—yes, he is a rich landowner where Holly expected him to be a pauper—Holly meets Joshua’s mother, his brother and sister-in-law, and Nicole, the fiancée, who found out about Joshua’s duplicity in a room full of people. No one can blame Nicole for being a tad upset. Or can they? To add to Holly’s woes, she seems to have acquired a ‘ghost’ demanding she tell a story.
Amidst Nicole’s shenanigans, Joshua’s mother’s disapproval, Holly’s ex’s aggression, and the ghost following Holly around, will these two accomplish what they set out to do? Or will life get in the way?
Joshua’s and Holly’s journey through the uncharted seas of a blind marriage, where no rules apply, is a stormy one. Place your order here:

About the Author
Maggie Tideswell lives in Johannesburg—South Africa, with her husband, Gareth. She began writing when her kids were still very young, squeezing a few paragraphs at a time between the hectic schedule of raising three children, and working full time in the catering industry. She wrote many books before considering having them published. Now that the children have all made lives for themselves, there is more time for writing.

After much experimentation, Maggie writes passionate paranormal romance, of varying levels of heat. The paranormal, things that happen for which there are no logical explanations and ghosts are of particular interest to Maggie. What events in a person’s life would prevent that person from ‘resting’ after death? The ‘Old Religion’ is another special interest. And love, of course. Why do people fall in love? What keeps them together for a lifetime when so many relationships fail?
Maggie’s advice to aspirant novelists is two-fold. Never give up, and write every day. Writing is a craft that has to be honed with practice. And the only way to practice writing is by doing it. And a bonus, never stop reading your favorite genre. Reading it and writing it is the only training for a writer.

“Maggie Tideswell's latest novel, A Convenient Marriage, will have you turning pages as her characters cope with a marriage of convenience, well-meaning but nosy friends, a meddling ghost, jealous exes, and more. My advice: Make room on your Keepers shelf for this story!” (Loree Lough, best-selling author of 107 award-winning books, including Harlequin Heartwarming's "Those Marshall Boys" series.)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Nettle Tree Blog Tour: A Collection of Wild & Woolly Speculative Western Tales

*Two Free Print Copy Giveaways chosen by lot from visitors' comments below.

  Be sure to visit the publisher's bookshop at    

Next Post in Blog Tour . . . August 28 at Kenneth Weene's site at!excerpt-the-nettle-tree/rjl5i

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Title: The Nettle Tree

Publisher: Chase Enterprises Publishing
Editors: Kenneth Weene and Clayton Bye
ISBN (print): 978-1-927915-10-3
ISBN (eBook): 978-1-927915-11-0                                    
Format: Trade Paperback and eBook

Pages: 166
Genre: Speculative western
Price: $17.95 (print) $3.95 (eBook)

The book and pdf eBook can be purchased at:
It is also available on Amazon in print form and on Smashwords for all eBook formats (there are still some bugs in the formatting, however).


My "High Concept" Story in The Nettle Tree

When I was invited to submit a short story to The Nettle Tree, I was immediately enthusiastic. I turned on my TV, sat down, and bang!, the basic idea came to me. It's what they call a High Concept, which is an original and unique premise with mass audience appeal. At least that's what I aimed for.

"State of the Art" starts with a standard theme in the western genre: a gunslinger rides into a cattle town, on the alert for anyone eager to shoot him in the back to steal his reputation. Johnny Graves is tired and exhausted, his wild days long gone. He only wants to be left alone so he can live in peace. Above all, he wants to find the girl he left behind.

Abilene in 1882, though, has surprises in store. Anachronisms abound, the first of which is "a sleek red Chrysler with tail fins" parked outside the saloon. What is it, and what is it doing there? Thinking about it, Graves realizes he's seen more and more "strange objects" lately. Clayton Bye has published other speculative anthologies which require that stories have a "strangely different" slant. In my story, the first strangely different element is the sleek red Chrysler. I use it to perk the readers' interest and make them wonder. Then I introduce another element that doesn't fit, and another…

I've deliberately only hinted at what my high concept is because I don't want to spoil the story for you. Suffice it to say it has something to do with our modern society and the complex nature of reality, which we don't understand as well as we think. Despite the grim, gritty surroundings of my tale, I try to introduce some humor. I hope you laugh or at least chuckle a little, and that you enjoy all the other stories in this wonderfully varied anthology.   


Clink on Link below to see Movie Trailer:


Author Bios

 Jeremy C. Shipp 


Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker Award- nominated author of Cursed, Vacation, and In The Fishbowl, We Bleed. His shorter tales have appeared in over 60 publications, the likes of Cemetery Dance, ChiZine, Apex Magazine, Withersin, and Shroud Magazine. His twitter handle is @JeremyCShipp.

                         Phil Richardson  


Phil Richardson writes speculative fiction, horror, mystery, and literary fiction often with a humorous bent. He is retired from Ohio University where he met his wife in a creative writing class. He has published two collections of short stories: Little Bits of Out There, and Little Bits of Darkness, and over 80 stories online and in print including 21 in anthologies. Two of his stories were nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

His website,, has links to many of his stories and to his website describing his Navy experiences in the Antarctic.

              Casey June Wolf


Casey June Wolf is a writer of occasional poems and speculative fiction stories that range from moody slipstream to hard science fiction. She is a fairly incompetent rider but nevertheless loves the view from a horse’s back, especially when that view is the hinterland of mountainous British Columbia. “Fog” is dedicated to her mum, Lorraine, who introduced her to both science fiction and westerns—and everything else that’s fit to print. Casey lives in East Van, BC. Read her musings and find links to her work at Another Fine Day in the Scriptorium:  (And check out other anthologies from Clayton Bye—you may find a story or three of hers in them, too.)

 John Rosenman


John was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and he is a retired English professor from Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Va. He has published three hundred stories in The Speed of Dark, Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber's Aliens, Galaxy, The Age of Wonders, and elsewhere. In addition, he has published over twenty books, including SF novels such as Speaker of the Shakk and Beyond Those Distant Stars, winner of AllBooks Review Editor’s Choice Award (Mundania Press), and Alien Dreams, A Senseless Act of Beauty, and (YA) The Merry-Go-Round Man (Crossroad Press). MuseItUp Publishing has published six SF novels. They are Dark Wizard; Dax Rigby, War Correspondent, and four in the Inspector of the Cross series: Inspector of the Cross, Kingdom of the Jax, Defender of the Flame, and Conqueror of the Stars. MuseItUp has also published The Blue of Her Hair, The Gold of Her Eyes (winner of Preditor’s and Editor’s 2011 Annual Readers Poll), More Stately Mansions, and the dark erotic thrillers Steam Heat and Wet Dreams. Musa Publishing gave his time travel story “Killers” their 2013 Editor’s Top Pick award. Some of John’s books are available as audio books from

Two of John’s major themes are the endless, mind-stretching wonders of the universe and the limitless possibilities of transformation and transfiguration—sexual, cosmic, and otherwise. He is the former Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association and the previous editor of Horror Magazine.
The Turtan Trilogy is available at

Christopher Wolf


I was born in Long Beach, California and grew up in a Military family. I spent most of my life bouncing between California and Arizona, finally ending up in Phoenix in my late teens. I had planned from an early age to join the United States Army and follow    in my family’s footsteps. Fate would intervene, however, and in the seventh grade I found myself in a full leg cast due to an A.T.C. accident. Finding myself unable to run, my career plans were no longer an option.

At sixteen I dropped out of high school. I got my G.E.D. at nineteen and with no direction spent the rest of my life drifting from crappy job to crappy job. About five years ago I taught myself how to write to combat the boredom of being a night security guard on fire watch. I’ve self-published three books on Amazon, and I’m continuing to tap away on the keyboard in the hope that people find my stories entertaining.


                                              Clayton Clifford Bye


Clayton Bye is an eclectic writer whose body of work spans a period of more than 20    years and includes such classics as How To Get What You Want From Life, The Sorcerer’s Key and The Contrary Canadian. His more recent work involves too many ghostwrites to count and some great anthologies from his publishing house Chase Enterprises Publishing. The Speed of Dark, a strangely different collection of horror short stories, won four awards and solid 5 star reviews.

To check out Clayton’s work, visit

       Leigh M. Lane


In addition to writing dark speculative fiction for over twenty-five years, Leigh M. Lane has dabbled in fine arts, earned a black belt in karate, and sung lead and backup vocals for bands ranging from classic rock to the blues. She currently lives in the dusty outskirts of Sin City with her husband, an editor and educator, and one very spoiled cat.

Her published works include a traditional Gothic horror novel Finding Poe; the World- Mart trilogy; and the dark allegorical tale, Myths of Gods.

                                                 Richard Godwin


Richard Godwin is the critically acclaimed author of Apostle Rising, Mr. Glamour, One Lost Summer, Noir City, Meaningful Conversations, Confessions Of A Hit Man, Paranoia And The Destiny Programme, Wrong Crowd, Savage Highway, Ersatz World, The Pure And The Hated, Disembodied, Buffalo And Sour Mash and Locked In Cages. His stories have been published in numerous paying magazines and over 34 anthologies, among them an anthology of his stories, Piquant: Tales Of The Mustard Man, and The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime and The Mammoth Book Of Best British Mystery, alongside Lee Child.

He was born in London and lectured in English and American literature at the University of London. Find out more about him at his website , where you can read a full list of his works, and where you can also read his Chin Wags At The Slaughterhouse, his highly popular and unusual interviews with other authors.

      Salvatore Buttaci


Salvatore Buttaci is an obsessive-compulsive writer whose poems, stories, articles, and letters have appeared widely in publications that include New York Times, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Cats Magazine, The National Enquirer, and Christian Science Monitor. An English instructor at a local community college and a middle-school teacher in New Jersey, he retired in 2007 to commit himself to full-time writing.
Two of his flash collections, published by All Things That Matter Press, are available at Another of his books, still selling well, is A Family of Sicilians uttaciPublishing2008   
Buttaci resides in West Virginia with his wife Sharon.


             Ken Weene


“The best part of being a writer is the endless opportunity to do life over. The worst part is knowing that I still won’t get it right.” With that motto in mind, Kenneth Weene offers an ongoing stream of books, short stories, poems, and essays.

Visit to find more of his work.

Tonya R. Moore


Tonya R. Moore is a Public Safety professional from Bradenton, Florida with a penchant for writing speculative fiction. Stories by Tonya R. Moore have been published in the Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road and The Speed of Dark anthologies. Her current projects include Flash Fiction on Patreon, the Spec-Fic Trifecta Podcast, and her space opera novel-in-progress, The Advent of Hegira.
Tonya grew up reading books by phenomenal authors such as Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Larry Niven, and Anne McCaffrey. Their works portray space-faring humans and unbelievable creatures having fantastic adventures in distant  future and far-flung regions of the universe. She fell in love with the remarkable characters and worlds those authors envisioned. Those stories fueled her desire to write.
Tonya is a fan of anime, manga, and all things spec-fic. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Communication.

Kenny Wilson



Kenny Wilson is a retired attorney who moved to Arizona in 2011. He continues to write appellate briefs for practicing attorneys which require adherence to strict formatting and word count requirements. Such writing compels a tight style that he carries over to write flash fiction and short stories. Painstaking research is incorporated for historical accuracy, a necessity for appellate advocacy. Each piece is redrafted at least twenty times, until it is honed to essentials.

Kenny enjoys his adopted state by hiking and studying its history. He describes writing as: “like making moonshine; you distill a potent juice out of a vat of goo.” He makes every word count.

Jim Secor


Jimsecor has travelled the world, living, working and studying in Japan, China and Kansas. He continued his study of language use and origins, myths/folktales and various forms of presentation, both theatrical (where he began) and in print. In this comparative lit environment, European Medieval lit and Japanese theatre have had the greater influence but through it all is the figure of the trickster, the trickster hero, a character with a foot in two worlds, often enough laughing in the face of social and cultural norms. . .and every so often getting caught in his own net of foolishness.
Jimsecor is, in this, a profligate trickster of language: the magic and mystery and open-ended quality of language is his reality. Because, from its beginnings, language the multifaceted  and  metaphoric predominated.

It is, indeed, a symbol in itself. Ergo, the result must needs be metaphoric.
This magicalness of language requires a broad and exacting craftsmanship, which enables him to create scope and depth and a plotting that is not as prosaic or as straightforward as one might expect. Another important feature of Jimsecor's writing--one that comes from Japanese Kyōgen--is the use of verbs to create descriptions instead of the more usual nouns and adjectives. This emphasis on action as the engine of description enables him to typify his characters without a lot of dry description. What people look like is simply not important to his take on characterization, for he engages the reader's imagination instead of leaving it fallow passive earth in need of being told what to do with itself.

~ Reviews for The Nettle Tree ~

 Completed on: 07/28/20162016
Reviewed By Hilary Hawkes for Readers’ Favorite, 5 stars!

The Nettle Tree is a collection of short stories compiled by Kenneth Weene and Clayton Bye. Bye has written one of the stories and the other twelve are by other excellent and talented authors. The overall theme of the book encompasses the western/cowboy genre and this is intriguingly mixed with science fiction and fantasy elements. The stories vary in length and include a shorter flash fiction tale too.

An extremely well written and engaging collection of stories, this book will delight fans of short stories with a bit of a dark edge and fantasy elements to them. The authors convey their characters’ personalities and motivations very well. I liked the combination of a variety of subjects and the way the stories seem to fit well together as a collection in terms of tone. While each author has a unique voice, these tales share an overall style and mood as they explore some unusual, baffling, and scary happenings in situations in which the characters find themselves.

As I read, I was on the lookout for my favorite story, but I have to admit each one was equally absorbing and brilliant. I liked the humor in Phil Richardson’s The Sheriff of Hog Waller; the weird mix of horror and western in Jeremy Shipp’s The Carousel; and the dark, speculative nature of Leigh M Lane’s Valley of the Shadow. Many of the stories, including Clayton Bye’s The Nettle Tree, explore unseen forces of spirit revenge, and a battle between those in this life and ghosts – suggesting nothing may be as it seems and that we may be fooling ourselves when we believe we have control over events and outcomes. An intriguing collection that combines western, sci-fi, apocalypse, zombie, and portals into other dimensions into an entertaining and gripping read. Recommended.


Reviewed By Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite, 5 stars!

The Nettle Tree is an anthology of Western-inspired short stories edited by Kenneth Weene and Clayton Clifford Bye. The authors were presented with a challenge: create an original and different Western-themed story in 3,000 words of less. Thirteen writers' efforts are showcased in this volume, including the work of the two editors. After each story, a brief biography of, and links for, the author are given. What is it with the Wild West that conjures up so many daydreams and imaginative rides into the sunset, even for those who never really cared that much for the genre? For some, it's the endless vistas and open spaces; for others, the thrill and danger of measuring oneself up against a tall stranger who's new in town and reputed to be the fastest gun out there. The Nettle Tree's authors share Western visions that are not the stuff of your everyday frontier mentality. Zombies, mages, the trickster, and all manner of odd and unexpected treats await the reader.

The authors of The Nettle Tree had a challenging assignment indeed, to breathe new and strange life into a genre that all but the enthusiast may consider a bit overrated, trivialized or overdone, and they did so brilliantly. While my taste in Western fiction runs more in the lines of prospectors trudging through deserts looking for mythical gold caches and scouts surveying new lands, I found a number of stories in this collection that had me re-evaluating the Western and its possibilities. Phil Richardson's The Sheriff of Hog Waller is clever and convincing as outlaws, the townspeople, and the law conspire to make a killing off the bounty system. Christopher Wolf's zombie story, Tears on the Prairie, is poignant and intense. But I would have to say the title story, The Nettle Tree, with its transporting energy fields, captured my imagination and kept it close at hand throughout the story, and Leigh M. Lane's trickster in Valley of the Shadow deftly ramped up the suspense and atmosphere. There's bound to be something for just about any reader in this collection of original short stories. The Nettle Tree is most highly recommended.
Completed on: 07/29/2016
Reviewed By Maria Beltran for Readers’ Favorite, 5 stars!

It is not very often that one comes across a genuinely unique book, but this is what editors Kenneth Weene and Clayton Clifford Bye created in The Nettle Tree. The titles in this anthology take readers through many different settings, characters, and elements that no one has probably taken them before, and in thirteen different stories. The major theme is western, but it comes in different forms and genres like horror, science fiction, fantasy, science fantasy, magical realism and even alternative history. 

The Nettle Tree, edited by Kenneth Weene and Clayton Bye, is a compilation of works by thirteen gifted writers who were each tasked to write 3,000 words, and genre shattering western stories. The result is a unique anthology of fiction that will not fail to entertain its readers. From The Carousel to The Nettle Tree to the Devil Tracker, we are confronted by unlikely characters navigating through strange circumstances and emotions that stretch the imagination more than anyone would think possible. 

The Sheriff of Hog Waller is perhaps the easiest to read, but this does not mean the story is lacking in layers. In State of the Art, reality, technology and fantasy are so deftly blended together that it becomes a difficult task to identify one from the other. And the caustic humor in A Hero Comes to Town is indeed a fitting end to a day spent with a book that you would definitely want to finish in one sitting. Reading this book is truly a strange and amazing experience!
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  Be sure to visit the publisher's bookshop at

Next Post in Blog Tour . . . August 28 at Kenneth Weene's site at!excerpt-the-nettle-tree/rjl5i

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


A man sits at a table on the city's busiest sidewalk. His table is big and covered with masks, hundreds of them. People pass him in an endless stream, just as they have been doing for years.
The man picks up one mask and puts it on. Then he takes it off and tries another. And another. Except for short breaks to heed the call of nature or to take a short nap, he is always at the table: morning, noon, and night.
He puts on the mask of an old, kind woman. Takes it off.
Then the mask of a lonely child. Takes it off.
The mask of a white-haired senator, of a scoutmaster, of a beautiful or handsome movie star.
Sometimes the man changes masks so fast, his hands blur in the sun, or seem like wings at twilight.
But always, no matter how slow or fast his hands move, it is obvious to passersby that the man himself has no face of his own. Instead of mouth and nose and eyes, he has only a smooth, rounded mound of skin, devoid of detail and empty of expression.
Still, the people are fascinated with the masks and occasionally stop when he dons a new one. Then some will gasp and point at the mask he wears. "Yes!" they shout, their voices rising in a chant. "That one! That one! That one!"
*Published in Strange Horizons, 6 November 2000

Monday, March 21, 2016


 THE AMAZING WORLDS OF JOHN B. ROSENMAN – 4 Books, 600 Pages. #‎Scifi ‬‪#‎Paranormal‬ – Featuring Preditor’s & Editor’s prize-winning story, “The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes.”

Available at: Amazon:  –             Barnes & Noble:  –                     MuseItUp Publishing: