Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Women's Fiction? Yes, Please.

Let's talk Women's Fiction.

What is it?

The Romance Writers of America organization defines women's fiction as, "a commercial novel about a woman on the brink of life change and personal growth. Her journey details emotional reflection and action that transforms her and her relationships with others, and includes a hopeful/upbeat ending with regard to her romantic relationship."

Okay I can live with that definition.

So how exactly did I become a Women's Fiction author?

That's a little harder to pinpoint, but I can tell you it wasn't easy. I never opened my eyes one morning and said, "Hey I think I want to become the next Nicholas Sparks."

And no offense to Mr. Sparks but I don't want to be the next him. I want to be me. Sure I want to write books his audience wants to read, but I want to be me. I want somewhere someday there to be a literary agent or editor that tells an author, "You are the next Travis Erwin." Start growing your goateess now you would be male Women's Fiction writers."

I began writing seriously after taking a college class with Jodi Thomas. I'd always been a lifelong reader and thought I could write a compelling story but meeting her and talking to her I for the first time believe a country boy from Amarillo, Texas could make a go at being an author. 

For those unfamiliar with her work, Jodi Thomas is a  Hall of Fame member of the Romance Writers of America. She is the person that I can credit for launching my passion to be an author. Here is a picture of the two of us taken a  few years back.

I learned a lot about the business and writing from Jodi. Including the fact I'm a Women's Fiction writer. She challenged us to write the first 50 pages of a novel in that class. I did. She read them, liked them and told me "I never guessed a big scrapping guy like you would write women's fiction." 

Guess what Jodi. Neither did I. I simply began telling the story in my head. Funny thing is that story I began oh so long ago has a new title ... a shiny new cover ...and most importantly a release date. yes that book I began 13 long years ago has become TWISTED ROADS.

I doubt any one paragraph is the same. Heck some of the characters are not the same. The book that comes out oh so soon is far better than the stuff I handed Ms Thomas to read but the same emotions the same quest for personal growth and emotional reflection are there. They are there in nearly everything I write. Yes even the Feedstore Chronicles. The growth in that book was my own and I'm obviously not a woman so while that book was not women's fiction I am most proud of the reviews I recieved like this one ...

5.0 out of 5 stars Resilience and true Grit-a coming of age book deeper than the cover, November 10, 2011

J.Smith (Seattle, Washington) - See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Feedstore Chronicles (Paperback)
This book is hilarious. It is also deeply moving, proving one can not judge by a comedic and clever cover. Erwin shows immense depth as a writer, and the story would be funny and worth reading even if he didn't manage to convey the true challenges of being raised by a single mother in a dusty Texas town without whining. Mr. Erwin writes a captivating story, and I was unexpectedly moved and inspired by the prose. A great read, and one I highly recommend. 

That's who I want to be as a writer. I want to delve below the surface so while I might not have intentionally became a Women's Fiction writer I embrace the term. Am proud to wear the title. No I'm not the typical women's fiction author and that has made it tougher to get to this point. But I feel my work can stand on its own. So now that I'm actually going to have a novel out there in the genre I think the fact I'm a 6'5 nearly 300 hundred pound Texan with a twang in his voice and boots on his feet is a good thing. it gives me the ability to stand out in a crowded field of talented writers.

I am the same writer I have always been. I hope to make you laugh, cry, and cheer along with the characters. I hope to make you feel as if you learned something about not only my characters but humanity as a whole. About what makes all of us tick. About what it is like to fight and struggle and get back up again. To fall in love all over again.

That is why I write. That is why we live.

Monday, April 22, 2013

How I Write

How do you write?

I get this question fairly often.

I'm always tempted to reply with crappy grammar and woeful comma use, but generally I resist.

I am at my best when I write the original draft  longhand with pen in a notebook. Then I edit as I type sometimes later the same day and sometimes a week or so later. Sometimes I type beyond what I hand wrote and I keep going but in truth that blinking cursor always taunts me and seems to constrict free thought. 

As far as how I build a story and characters I begin with a what if. Usually a what if for a single character. For TWISTED ROADS it was ... What if you realized you'd spent your whole life loving the wrong person?

I knew a guy that had done that very thing and frankly it destroyed him though I don't know that he sees it that way to this day. I wanted my character to find some redemption beyond his misguided love but of course it's never easy to admit you've spent a lifetime lying to yourself.

So I start with that what if, but to make a story and the character come alive I have to know all the characters inside and out. To do that I write back story for every character. One or two pages for minor characters. maybe as much as a dozen for point of view or major characters.

These are not complete stories but vignettes of emotionally charged events from their early childhood on up to when the story starts. Once I know how they will react to being mad, sad, happy, horny ... they are pretty easy to write in most situations.

Building secondary plots and having all them them relate in some small way is a challenge for me. I tend to be a character driven writer and my plots can get lost because of that. Editors often want me to be less subtle and more flamboyant and direct. I have to work to add the necessary layers and emphasis.

Sometimes they mean not how do I write, but how do I find the time to write with a family and job? I steal it here and ther and in bits. This adds to why I hand write. I can't always sneak off to the computer though I try to get some time in at the computer every night when the kids have gone to bed.

There it is. How I write.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Music as it Should Be

I am a big supporter of live music from local bands to touring acts that stop in at small venues. I'm done with with huge arena shows and hundred dollar tickets for pyrotechnics and auto tune performances.

My favorite venue here in Amarillo is a place called The Golden Light Cantina.

The Cantina is to the right of the Cafe, which by the way is the longest continually open cafe along old Route 66. They make a might fine greasy cheeseburger and great fries. They also serve cold Shiner.

The Cantina has room for something in the neighborhood of a 100-120 people and just recently became smoke free.

Thursday night I had the pleasure of catching Hayes Carll perform. Hayes is  one of my favorite songwriters. He has a wit and truism to his writing that speaks to me on several levels

Warren Hood and his band opened and backed up Hayes and their set was great in its own right. They have almost a cajun, bluegrass feel. Folky but contemporary. I didn't record this clip but found it on YouTube.

I picked up the bands new CD which isn't officially out and it's just as good as their show.

I knew Hayes Carll would be good. he was after all nominated as the 2011 Americana Music Artist fo the year. But frankly I didn't expect him to be as good as he was. good isn't the world. Hayes put on a damn fantastic show. Pardon the audio of my phone as I recorded these clips myself.

Visit Hayes Carll's Amazon store to pick up his music. Or visit his website.

Or catch him live and in person if you can.

 04/21/13 Albuquerque, NM The Dirty Bourbon United States Hayes with Warren Hood and The Goods Buy tickets
Time: 8:00pm. Admission: $17. Age restrictions: No Minors. Box office: 505-296-2726. Address: 9800 Montgomery Blvd. Venue phone: 505-296-2726.
 04/24/13 Tucson, AZ Hotel Congress United States Hayes and The Goods Buy tickets
Time: 8:00pm. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 311 East Congress Street. Venue phone: 520-622-8848.
 04/25/13 Phoenix, AZ Musical Instrument Museum United States Hayes and The Goods Buy tickets
Time: 7:00pm. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 4725 E. Mayo Boulevard. Venue phone: 480.478.6000.
 04/26/13 Indio, CA Stagecoach United States Hayes and The Goods Buy tickets
Time: 5:00am. Admission: $239. Age restrictions: All Ages. Box office: (888) 512-SHOW. Address: Empire Polo Field. Venue phone: (888) 512-SHOW.
 05/02/13 Alexandria, VA Birchmere United States Hayes with Warren Hood and The Goods Buy tickets
Time: 7:30pm. Admission: $27.50. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 3701 Mt Vernon Ave. Venue phone: 703-549-7500.
 05/04/13 Livingston, TN Livingston Americana Festival United States Other artists TBA Buy tickets
Time: 12:00pm. Admission: $25. Age restrictions: All Ages.
 05/07/13 Sellersville, PA Sellersville Theater United States Hayes with Warren Hood and The Goods Buy tickets
Time: 8:00pm. Admission: $21.50, $29.50. Age restrictions: All Ages. Box office: 215-257-5808. Address: 24 W Temple Ave. Venue phone: 215-257-5808.
 05/08/13 York, PA Strand -Capitol Performing Arts United States Hayes with Warren Hood and The Goods Buy tickets
Time: 9:00pm. Admission: $18. Age restrictions: All Ages. Box office: 717-846-1111. Address: 50 N George St. Venue phone: 717-846-1111.
 05/09/13 Annapolis, MD Rams Head On Stage United States Hayes with Warren Hood and The Goods Buy tickets
Time: 8:00pm. Admission: $22.50. Age restrictions: All Ages. Box office: 410-244-1131. Address: 33 West Street. Venue phone: 410-244-1131.
 05/10/13 New York, NY City Winery United States Hayes with Warren Hood and The Goods Buy tickets
Time: 8:00pm. Admission: $28/$25/$22/$20. Age restrictions: All Ages. Box office: (212) 608-0555. Address: 155 Varick ST. Venue phone: (212) 608-0555.
 05/11/13 Somerville‎, MA Johnny D’s United States Hayes with Warren Hood and The Goods. SOLD OUT! Buy tickets
Time: 7:00am. Age restrictions: All Ages/Licensed. Address: 17 Holland St. Venue phone: 617.628.1028.
 05/11/13 Somerville‎, MA Johnny D’s United States Second Show just added. Hayes with Warren Hood and The Goods Buy tickets
Time: 10:00pm. Admission: $17. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 17 Holland St. Venue phone: 617.628.1028.
 05/14/13 Ashville, NC The Grey Eagle United States Hayes with Warren Hood and The Goods
Time: 9:00pm. Admission: $15. Age restrictions: All Ages. Box office: (828)232-5800. Address: 185 Clingman Avenue. Venue phone: (828)232-5800.
 05/15/13 Atlanta, GA Terminal West United States Hayes with Warren Hood and The Goods Buy tickets
Time: 9:00pm. Admission: $20 / $17. Box office: 404.876.5566. Address: 887 West Marietta St NW. Venue phone: 404.876.5566.
 05/17/13 New Orleans, LA One Eyed Jacks United States Hayes with Warren Hood and The Goods
Time: 10:00pm. Admission: $15. Box office: 504.569.8361. Address: 615 Toulouse St. Venue phone: 504.569.8361.
 05/18/13 Houston, TX San Houston Park United States Festival with Dwight Yoakam, Robert Earll Keen and more… Buy tickets
Time: 10:00pm. Admission: $40/$25/$150. Address: 1100 Bagby St.
 05/25/13 Helotes, TX Floores Country Store United States with Turnpike Troubadours.
Time: 7:00pm. Admission: $20, $15. Box office: 210/695-8827. Address: 14492 Old Bandera Rd. Venue phone: 210/695-8827.
 05/26/13 Kerrville, TX Kerrville Folk Festival United States With Warren Hood and The Goods and Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis Buy tickets
Time: 7:00pm. Admission: $25, $180. Age restrictions: All Ages. Box office: 830.257.3600. Address: 3876 Medina Hwy. Venue phone: 830.257.3600.
 06/01/13 Dallas, TX GEXA Energy Pavillion United States Also on the bill – The Avett Brothers, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Matt & Kim, Dawes, Milo Greene Buy tickets
Time: 4:45pm. Admission: $55. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 1818 1st Ave.
 07/19/13 Telluride, CO Sheridan Opera House United States Lincoln Durham supports Buy tickets
Time: 8:00pm. Admission: $135. Age restrictions: All Ages. Box office: (970)728-6363. Address: PO Box 2680. Venue phone: (970)728-6363.
 08/02/13 Hailey, ID Northern Rockies Music Festival United States

Thursday, April 18, 2013

That Certain Shine

Hey, give me a Shiner!

In other parts of the world that statement could get you a jab in the eye.

Here in Texas, it will get you a beer.

And not just any beer, but in my well versed, or in this case well drank, opinion the best overall beer around.

But I've waxed poetically about my love of Shiner Bock before so let's move on to how a few Shiners on a fine Friday night led to the book cover of Twisted Roads.

After I handed in the manuscript for Twisted Roads to Dee over at TAG Publishing asked me if I had any cover ideas. I told them I did. You see a friend of  mine that plays bass guitar had posted a picture of herself in red heels standing by her guitar. I liked the imagery put the guitar was wrong and she had on black pants and I thought a short skirt with bare legs would work better.

Dee liked the premise and said she'd check out some stock images. A week or so later she reported they were having trouble finding a good stock image, so I said, "Heck, I bet we could get the picture taken just as easy as we could buy a stock photo."

Dee seemed a bit hesitant but I really liked the concept so I assured her I could get the whole thing put together without blowing the budget.

But then a reality hit me. I wasn't exactly in the leg game anymore. I know lots of women but for the cover of a book not just any old legs would do. They would have to be long, and fit, and willing to pose.

I knew the right photographer. Brad McBride had made me look good with my headshot for the last book and if he could do that with a mug like mine I knew he could do amazing things with a nice set of legs. I knew I could acquire an acoustic guitar. So that left legs and a backdrop to find.

But try as I might I couldn't find the right legs.

Turns out, "Hey baby, I like those legs. Wanna pose for the cover of my next book?" isn't quite the pickup line you'd think. I'm kidding. It didn't really get to that point but close.

Then one Friday night I went along with my to a birthday dinner for one of her coworkers. I know most of her friends at work but still they are her friends more than mine so Is at at the end of the table and take great joy in the fact they had Shiner on draft. Shiner in big 32 ounce frozen mugs to be exact. Here was my view that night.

I was on my third maybe fourth frosty mug when in walked the legs. The legs I'd been searching for. I leaned over to my wife and whispered, "There are legs I need for the cover."

Now this girl or should I say young woman as she is in her early twenties was not a stranger. I'd met her before and she used to work as an aid at the school where my wife teaches. She was wearing heels but not red heels and not a skirt.

She initially sat at the far end of the table but wife waved her down to our end.

I explained the deal and she said she was game.

We hashed out a few details and the day of the shoot she showed up with several pairs of heels and those cool black hose you see in the cover shot.

Brad found this cool weathered fence which we used as a back drop. I think the cover in itself tells a story, or at the very least suggests one. Lloyd the design guru over at TAG did a great job with the script and arranging the title and my name.

Twisted Roads is a Women's Fiction novel set in the fictional town of Grand, Texas. The e-book is set for a May 1st release with the print edition coming out May 15th. 

I will be giving 5 Kindle copies away on release day. To be eligible for one of those copies all you need to do is correctly guess the songwriter for any lyrics I have posted this month including those at the end of this post.

Lyric #10

I want to go home with the armadillo, country music from Amarillo and Abilene
The friendliest people and the prettiest women you've ever seen

Lyric #11 (just for Mark "Walkingman" Durfree

She's quite the mediator A smoother operator you will never see She'll see you later And no one dares disuade her openly
She knows music And no music till you see She's got the power

Lyric #12

I'll bring you precious contraband
And ancient tales from distant lands
Of conquerors and concubines and
Conjurers from darker times
Betrayal and conspiracy
Sacrilege and heresy


Sunday, April 14, 2013

THE MEAT #1 ... Eh!

Time to pay homage to the name change of this here blog.

Let's talk about meaty goodness, dark ales, and writers from north of the border.

It pains me a little to write this, but fact of the matter is, the satisfying piece of meat I've ever eaten was not cooked here in the great state of Texas. Or for that matter ingested within the borders of the Lone Star State.

Let me set the scene. We'd been walking for hours. now y'all know I'm a particular eater. Far from what you would call exotic. So as we trudged along World Showcase at Disney's Epcot in Florida I was in sort of a dilemma. I ate some meat nachos in Mexico but it was slim pickin's after that.

Norway, China, Germany, Italy.

I had a few beers to tide me over and when we hit the American showcase the Turkey legs didn't look bad but it had only been a  few hours since those nachos and I had some good German beer sloshing around in my belly so we walked on.

Japan then Morocco.

We shopped around. Watched a few shows. Me and the genie from Aladdin compared goatees.

My wife bought some quiche at France. What the hell is quiche anyway? This shit was wicked green from I think spinach.

At the UK I had another beer and was in line for fish and chips when I heard people talkign about a steakhouse in Canada.


Hell yeah!

That's what I'm talking about.
I couldn't get there fast enough but my wife wanted to look at a tea shop and other stuff in England so my gut growled on. it had been hours since those Mexican nachos and frankly they were not all that hot to begin with.

We finally get to said steak dubbed Le Cellier only to be told there was an hour wait. I didn't care. I was willign to camp out right there in canada and wait. hell by that point if they'd asked me to don a beaver pelt speedo and shout "I LOVE CANADIAN BACON!" I would have done it as long as there was a hunk of hot beef waiting for me afterward.

So we finally get in and seated and I look at the menu. Oh there is meat aplenty but every last bit says it has been marinated in some kind of maple concoction. I'm immediately thinking syrup and I'm tired, hungry and grouchy so it pisses me off. What the hell is wrong with these damn Canadian, I mean I could forgive them for being confused what bacon is because there idea of it is pretty damn good atop pizza but maple syrup has no place in a steakhouse. I was worried they didn't know the difference between a Waffle House and Sizzlin' Sirloin.

So I asked the waitress if I could have a steak any steak devoid of their maple marinade. She shook her ehad. We marinate everything the day before. We don't have steaks on hand that are not already. I don't know where the Disney people store there steaks. maybe they are all finely aged in Goofy's underwear. What I did know was that I was starving so I said fine bring me the bone-in 20oz ribeye, medium rare.

They served that sucker with a giant maple leaf right on top. yes that pissed me off all the more.  I scraped off the offending vegetation and dipped one tine of a fork into the juice atop the steak.

I tasted it.

A hint of maple but not in anyway sweet or syrupy.


I sliced a small piece. The beef melted in my mouth. That damn marinade was actually good. Subtle. Didn't overpower the beefy flavor but added to it. The steak was cooked to perfection and damned if it wasn't the most satisfying steak I've eaten even now. That was 1998.

I have been back to Le Cellier several times since but they changed their menu and the steaks are no longer marinaded int he same thing nor served with a maple leaf on top. They are still tasty but not as tasty. If any of my Canadian friend knows where I could acquire said marinade I'd be forever indebted.

Now to my favorite Canadian beer.

Trois Pistoles Dark Belgian Ale brewed by Unibroue of Quebec Canada. Here in my area it comes in both a four pack and 750 ML bottle. It pours dark (cola colored) and has a milk chocolate colored head. It has a malty sweetness with just a hint of spices not entirely different from a good spiced rum. A smooth beer for as dark as it is and it leaves a nice warm sensation in your chest as a good dark ale should.

There are many talented and famous Canadian writers. Yann Martel, Margaret Atwood, and Alice Munro.

There is my good friend Joanne Brothwell who write paranormal romance.

But my favorite Canadian author is Holly Kennedy because she writes books that make me say, "Dang, I wish I wrote that." Her novels The Tin Box, The Silver Compass, The Penny Tree all inspired me to keep writing Women's fiction. Check out both her and her work. You won't be sorry.


Now to today's lyrics. Remember if you can identify even one set of these lyrics you have a chance to win a Kindle copy of TWISTED ROADS at release day. Sticking with the theme of this post think Canada.


Someday I'll get over you  
I'll live to see it all through  
But I'll always miss dreaming my dreams with you


I left her where I found her
And I walked off with a gun
I was half cocked and loaded
I went lookin for someone


We hit the road feelin’ cool as Crosby, Stills and Nash
Overflowin’ with the spirit and the bible on the dash



Saturday, April 13, 2013

Name That Tune .. If you wanna win

May Day! May Day! May Day!

No, there is no reason to panic.

I am shouting May Day! because that is the day the fine folks over at TAG Publishing plan to release the e-book of TWISTED ROADS. That's 18 short days away my friends.

They are planning to release the print version 2 weeks later on May 15th. they tell me the e-book wills ell for 6.99 and the print for 12.99.

As you know TWISTED ROADS is my first novel though not my first book published. But not just any novel, a Women's Fiction novel. My love for Women's Fiction has been the source for a lot of jokes, banter, and good-natured ribbing. I've always enjoyed the fact I'm not your typical Women's Fiction writer. But the fact I'm a 6 foot 5 nearly 300 pound bearded man with a decidedly Texas twang makes it all the more imperative the book be good, the emotions feel genuine, the female POV come across as true. I have faith in myself and this book. To me it is simply fiction from the heart and I still do not see why that msut be the domain of women alone.

Now to the contest. Between now and release day I'm going to post three separate snippets of song lyrics. TWISTED ROADS was inspired by many of my favorite songs and artists and one character is a Texas singer/songwriter so the music I love plays a vital role. All of these lyrics will be from my favorite genre of music. Texas/Alt/ Outlaw Country, Red Dirt, y'allternative. Pick your name. Every set of lyrics is in some way tied to the story or characters of TWISTED ROADS.

I will post the lyrics here and in Twitter. For every set you correctly guess the artist who wrote the lyrics you will get one entry. On release day I will draw FIVE names and give away Kindle copies to the book. You can email me your answers travis@traviserwin.com, tweet them to hastag #twistedroads, or leave them in the comments.

Yes, you can cheat using Google if you have to or by looking at the comments and twitter feed, but you know what they say cheaters never win. Whatever you do, please give these songs a listen. Lyrically they are among my favorites as I said all have a significance to this novel

The first three from yesterday


Sherry was a waitress at the only joint in town
She had a reputation as a girl who'd been around


My life is changing, God sometimes it goes so fast
All my old friends, seem more like ghosts from the past


The dark don't lie
And dreams come true
 Maybe just a few will see you through

And today's batch


I never thought I'd make it 'till I had the guts to try
and I sat up in my tower while the whole world passed me by


My boots are in the corner, covered in dust
My guitar is laid down, strings covered in dust


She holds him tight and kisses him so free
And you scream, lord that should be me

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I Don't Know Why

AJ Swope was a friend of mine.

We met via Twitter.

He was a local guy that somehow found me and my 140 character messages to the world.

AJ appreciated my sense of humor.

He openly admired my talents as a writer.

Funny thing is it took quite a few months before I discovered he had exquisite talents of his own.

AJ was also a writer. A songwriter and singer and musician.

He had many more talents than I'll ever have.

We soon embarked on a project.

He was writing songs based on some of my short stories.

I was writing stories based on some of his songs.

I was also working on TWISTED ROADS and struggling to amend a character that just didn't feel right.

AJ and I met several times over beers.

From the first second we set down it was as if I'd known him my entire life.

An instant friendship born of common respect and admiration for he others ability to turn a phrase.

AJ inspired me.

He inspired Lucas Cahill the male protagonist, the replacement for that other character that didn't feel right in Twisted Roads.

AJ answered ten thousand questions about writing music, playing guitar, being a performer.

I promised AJ a steak and all the Shiner he could drink and if he would swing by my house to answer a few more questions.

And help me put the final tweaks on some lyrics I was working on for the book.

He said he'd be glad to but he couldn't make it until Tuesday.

He said he'd also been working on a melody to go with them.

I was driving home from work on that Tuesday with my son when my phone rang.

I didn't believe it.

I couldn't believe it.

I shed some tears just the same.

It had to been someone else.

A different AJ Swope maybe.

It wasn't.

He was a local guy that somehow found me and my 140 character messages to the world.

We met via Twitter.

AJ Swope was a friend of mine

Andrew Jared "AJ" Swope

Posted: January 17, 2013 - 1:00am

Andrew Jared "AJ" Swope:   1985-2013
Andrew Jared "AJ" Swope: 1985-2013

Andrew Jared “AJ” Swope, 27, of Amarillo died Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013.
Memorial services will be at 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18, at First Presbyterian Church, with Dr. Murry Gossett and Dr. Roger Hubbard officiating, arrangements are by Schooler Funeral Home 4100 South Georgia St.
AJ was born January 29, 1985 in Amarillo, TX, to Rick and Leslie Swope of Pampa. He graduated from Pampa High School in 2003. AJ was a 2007 graduate of West Texas A&M University where he majored in Broadcast Journalism. While there, he was very active in the broadcast program. After graduation, he was employed by KVII-TV as an on-air reporter, anchor, and assignments editor. AJ then went on to become the Executive Director for Class 4 Winds. He was known for his intense love for his family and his passion for music and song writing. He showcased his musical talents throughout the panhandle with his band AJ Swope and The Last Train Home. AJ most cherished his wife, Wendi, his family and friends and his dog Simon the Dog.
AJ was the perfect husband and devoted son and brother. The love he had for his wife and family was indescribable. Regardless of what AJ did – whether work or play - he was passionate. He was also famous for his adventurous demeanor and his quick sense of humor. His love of life included learning how to surf, sail, snorkel and kayak. He loved the outdoors and spent hours biking in Palo Duro Canyon and riding around the neighborhood with Simon the Dog in a cart behind him. In his abbreviated 27 years, AJ affected the lives of so many through various speaking and musical events. Teaching himself to play the guitar, mandolin, harp and harmonica, AJ believed in chasing his dreams. He leaves a hole in the heart of all those who love and admire him.
He was preceded in death by a very special uncle, Dirk Wright.
Survivors include his beloved wife, Wendi of Amarillo; his proud parents Rick and Leslie Swope of Pampa; a brother, Dirk Swope, wife Valeria and niece, Peyton of Amarillo; Simon the Dog and Buster; Jud and Jan Finney of Amarillo; Renita and Mark Mitchell of Lubbock. Grandparents: Bob and Joyce Swope of Pampa; Carl and Linda Johnson of Pampa, Virginia Freeman of Lubbock, John and Jettie Spotts of New Caney, TX. Aunts & Uncles: David and Susan Boothe of Tuttle and cousins Mandie Boothe Ollinger and Emily Boothe; Kenneth and Jana Ford of Midland and cousins Mackenzie and Madison; Larry and Carol Johnson of Mena, AR; Ann and Guerry Wright of Follett, TX; Randy and LauraLee Swope of Whitewater, CO; Gale and Stacy Brewer of Amarillo; Cindy Barnard of Amarillo; Leroy and Patty Freeman of New Deal, TX and countless friends who loved him dearly.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to the AJ Swope Memorial Scholarship in care of the WTAMU Foundation-WTAMU, Box 60766, Canyon, TX 79016.
Please sign the online guestbook at www.schoolerfuneral.com.
Amarillo Globe-News, Jan. 17, 2013

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Toast

You might have noticed I made a few changes to the blog. Yeah I know blogs are not as popular as they used to be but metaphorically speaking I am married to the venue. I believe through blogging I found my true writing voice as well as a large chunk of my reading audience. Abandoning it simply is not an option for me (I sort of tried the last year or so and it called to me like a siren in the night) and if I am not going to stop I might as well embrace it and try to build it stronger.

The old title reflected not only my goals but my original objective. To take y'all along on my journey toward publication. However I soon realized there were plenty of other bloggers far more qualified and more adept at educating and highlighting the path to publication. So I fell into storyteller mode and began sharing my experiences, opinions, and warped takes on life. I figured if I couldn't teach ya''' anything I could at least entertain you. 

Yes, I have achieved my original publication goals of seeing my name on the spine of a novel. Technically speaking THE FEEDSTORE CHRONICLES was not a novel, but TWISTED ROADS is pure fiction so upon its release next month that last rung I originally transcribed is met.

No, My journey is not complete. I am still, and hopefully forever will be, growing as an author. I have not gotten that huge advance from a New York publisher, but times have changed and I perfectly happy with my smaller Indie publisher. Should a book take off I am poised to make more than I ever would with one of those New York houses and while it would be nice to have their clout , marketing, and prestige there is no guarantee they would put those things behind me or that they would lead to more book sales. I know people who got that contract and are no longer writing because they never sold. and I know people who self-published or landed an Indie deal like myself that are now on best seller lists the world over.

There is more than one way to climb a ladder.

Back to the new title. Yes only a few days ago I blogged about this whole bacon thing getting out of hand. Don't get me wrong I do enjoy a nice crispy slice of bacon, but it is not my favorite meat. Bacon is however the glory of the meat world and while I debated the name Beef, Beer, and Books simply did not have the same ring.

I also pondered Meat, Mead, and Manuscripts but not only did that sound rather medieval it was also technically off since mead is not really beer and manuscript really is not the correct term for any of the published books I read.

So here we are together at Bacon, Beer, & Books. To that end I am going to create a new blog series. Not to appear at any regular schedule but whenever the mood strikes me. I think I will simply title this series THE MEAT and in each post I will rave about a delectable cut of meat I've sampled (I will share recipes when possible), paired with a beer I've sampled recently (yes I am a beer snob) and a book worthy of recommendation.

There will still be the regular slate of absurd slice of life stories, of me poking fun of myself and those around me so I hope y'all will keep reading and keep giving shout outs on Twitter, Facebook and wherever people gather. Because while I know it is unlikely I'll ever get he amazing amount of hits I once did, it is nice when I know people are out there reading.

So I raise a beer in your honor ... Y'all make this an endeavor worth doing.

Monday, April 8, 2013

He Writes Books and Stuff

Last month I blogged about my son getting to vote for the Bluebonnet award. If you missed that post the gist of it was I tried to coerce him into voting for THE Feedstore Chronicles. I of course was joking but he was serious when he replied, "No Dad, the award is for GOOD books."

No respect for Dad the author that day but this last week I was redeemed.

There we were riding in the car. The subject of Gold came up. As in digging for gold as a euphemism for nose picking. With 10 and 12 year old boys conversations with subjects like nose picking are sadly the norm.

Anyway my wife chimes in and says "You don't want people calling you a Miner 49er."

"A what?" my son asks.

She again says, "Miner 49er. That's what they called gold miners back in the day."

"Who called them that?" I asked no perplexed myself.

Jennifer shrugged. "That's just what they are called. That's why the football team is called 49ers."

I said, "They are called that because the California Gold Rush occurred in 1849, but I've never heard the term Miner 49er."

"Well I have my," wife said, "And I'm telling yout hat is what they were called."

I shook my head and said, "I think you dreamed that up."

It was a this point my son chimed in with, "YOU BETTER LISTEN TO DAD. HE WRITES BOOKS AND STUFF."

Now you better believe. I gave an AMEN! to that statement. And don't think I haven;t used it many times since. Every time my wife even give me a doubtful look I remind her, "Hey, I write books and stuff." I'm thinking about getting a batch of shirts made with the slogan.

By the way I googled Miner 49er and guess what, I did find a reference to the term. Miner Forty-Niner was a two bit villain in a Scooby Doo episode. 

So my wife gleaned her info from the most time honored of History sources --Scooby Doo. And guess what? She would have gotten away with it, if it wasn't for those meddling kids.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I Might Never Eat a Baconator Again

I am quite proud of my meat man status here in the web-o-sphere. Not a day goes by that I don't get a meat related picture, link, or product posted on my Facebook wall or Twitter stream. They never fail to make me smile and bear my carnivorous teeth.

I am every bit as devout in my Lettuce is the Devil dogma as I ever was.

So it might come as a shock when I say ... This whole bacon thing has done got out of hand.

Before I proceed I should point out if you have delicate sensibilities, are prudish, or embarrassed by sexual discussion now might be the time to click that X up in the right corner of your screen as this blog post is headed nowhere wholesome.

Of my regular meat contributors, the Jacksons, Steve and Elizabeth routinely send me the best jokes and most unique links. this morning was no different. (Don't worry Steve I won't question exactly how you discovered thee bad boys.)

Yes, those truly are bacon condoms. Bacon flavored, I read in the article though I do no see that description on the box and further investigation brought me to discover the inside packaging ...

and the actual product.

I have three words -- No! No! No!

Actually I have many more words. So many in fact, I don't really know where to start.

First he obvious pun, This gives a whole new meaning to porking.

Moving on.

Blowjobs are glorious things. I sang their praises in THE FEEDSTORE CHRONICLES for those who ahve read that little tome. But who the hell wants to get a blow job while wearing a condom, and furthermore who would want to suck on a chuck of latex? No doubt the Center for Disease Control recommends protection for oral sex, but let's face it, if you are ready to put another person's dick in your mouth you are probably a live for the moment, throw caution to the wind kinda of individual.

Now I get the bacon flavor is meant to cover up the latex taste so for the sake of arguing let's toss aside the blow job while wrapped up debate and move on to the next WTF moment.  

Bacon is Delicious. It is hard (no pun intended) to resist. No, I am not saying these condoma are going to turn a straight man into a cocksucker. Or even a hungry woman into one. You either are or you aren't. Makes no matter to me and if you are thank you for making the world a better, happier place. What I am saying is it takes teeth to eat bacon. The last thing you want in that glorious tender moment of bliss is teeth crunching down.

"Oh shoot, honey. I forgot I was giving you a hummer. My mind went blank and I thought I was at Denny's having a Grand Slam."

"How many stitches you think that's going to take?"

Now let's forget all about blowjobs. (Y'all have no idea how hard it is for a man to type that sentence) 

Let's say a fella is wearing one of those bacon flavored condoms, complete with bacon scented lube. Yep, it says that right there on the box. And let's say that fella is going to town like Peter Cottontail on crack. Friction comes into play and that lube gets warm. Like bacon grease in the frying pan.

Now the last thing you need is the distraction of a growling stomach just as you are hitting your stride.

And what happens when that delectable scent of hot bacon grease drifts out of the room. I happen to have to hungry growing boys. If that scent were to reach their bacon grubbing nostrils they would be bounding down the stairs shouting "BACON!" at the top of their lungs.

Try explaining that to the kiddos.

"Sorry son, but I don't have any bacon."
 "I don't care what you smell." 
"No, we didn't sneak off my McGriddles." 
"That is the smell of me and your mom preventing more of you hungry little heathens."

And God forbid they find the discarded aftermath of your porky poke.

Therapy for sure.

And let's say you don't have kids. You are a fun loving single out our for the  prowl. Why limit your quarry. What if that person you pick up is Muslim? Jewish?

No siree. I can't see one positive benefit.

If you want to wrap you wiener in bacon, might I suggest this ...



Monday, April 1, 2013

No Joke

Happy April Fool's Day. Today marks this blog's 7th 6th birthday. (Leave to a mathematician to correct me. Sir Stephen Parrish has pointed out I've only been blogging 6 years. Well it feels like 7 to me). Seven Six years. Given that internet time is much like dog years I think that makes this particular blog rather old. So much has happened these last seven years that in many ways it seems like a lifetime ago I started this journey.

Not as many people stop by as once did but I want think each of you who take time to read and comment whether it be every post for only occasionally.

This is going to be one of those rambling, a bit of everything posts that has no great them, message or even direction.


So the other day our supervisors calls us into the break room and informs us that someone has apparently been masturbating in the bathroom stalls because the custodians have been complaining about suspicious stains on the walls.

No, I am not kidding.

All I got to say is somebody is WAY more excited about coming to work than I am.


Now that I start typing I realize I might have a theme after all.

I've wnated to share this story despite the fact my son will be appalled if he finds out I did.

Zalen is 10 now.  Here he is taking a flying leap into about a foot of water at Palo Duro Canyon.

His is my quiet, deep-thinking child. As well as a budding soccer star. He doesn't talk a lot but when he does you better watch out because you never know what is coming because just as in the picture he lets his true thoughts fly.

A kid in his class got stitches so on the way from school he begins grilling me about stitches. As with most conversations with 10 year old boys the chat took a bathroom humor direction when he said, "What if someone had to get stitches in their wiener?"

I said, "Most boys do get stitches in their wiener when they are circumcised."

We ride a  few miles down the road in silence before he says, "Why do boys get circumcised?"

I explained that not all boys do but that it is a cultural thing done for both religious reasons as well as hygiene.

A few more miles of silence.

"Why don't they circumcise dogs."

I kind of chuckled and said there is no need. Dogs take care of their business and keep things cleaned themselves.

Again silence until Zalen states matter of fact, "Well, they should at least circumcise show dogs."

I'll never watch Westminster the same.


Following those two stories is probably not the best introduction, but still I want to share the cover of my next book with y'all.

TWISTED ROADS will be released in May though my publisher still has not determined the exact date.  I'm excited to share the story. Even more excited than I was THE FEEDSTORE CHRONICLES. I think because this story is pure fiction. A creation purely of my mind rather than a creative retelling of events. Long before I starting this blog I had the dream of seeing my name on the cover of a novel. This book fulfills that dream.

Satisfaction without staining the walls, or painful surgery. 

Thank y'all for traveling the twisted road with me these past 6 years.