A Good Deed today…

Let me start by saying we are supposed to push into the 90s today. Sure, that isn’t as bad as where I grew up in South Carolina, but for Wisconsin, that is hot. Luckily today I am in an air-conditioned office being a logistical wizard. I did brave the heat to pick up some lunch for myself and a coworker.

I walk out of the place where we had ordered from and this slightly heavyset, obviously Native American man with a duffle bag calls out to me, “Marine?” Now, gentle readers, picture this: I am a 6’5, 350lbs computer geek. Granted I have decided to keep my head shaved because I am balding so bad it is pathetic (helps that my wife likes it shaved so I do it for her). In my opinion, I in no way look like a Marine, current or former. I calmly respond, “No sir, my grandfather was one in WW2.” Don’t ask why I volunteer such information to so odd a question asked between complete strangers. It was a reflex response. The other man has stopped across the car from me near the front corner of my passenger side as I open the driver’s door.

He tells me this story about how he is visiting his brother on the reservation (points west so he did know where we were in relation to the reservation) and says he is trying to get to the east side of town. I hate to assume anything of anyone on appearances alone, but my immediate assumption that he is probably homeless will be clear in a moment.

I shake my head slowly, replying, “Sadly I am heading north back to the office. I was just picking up lunch for one of the guys and myself.” I could see disappointment flash across the man’s face. He began pressing me if I could just “take him as far as I was going”.

I know the world is full of horror stories about hitchhiker’s. Hell, I might use this in a thriller or horror book if I ever write one. Something told me this guy was harmless. I pause and I could tell he was thinking I might relent. I respond, “Look, I can take you up to the Kwik Trip before I get back on the highway.” For those of you unfamiliar, Kwik Trip is a gas station chain. Probably one of the best I have ever seen for their hot bar of sandwiches and such. Their gas seems to run pretty well in my vehicles compared to BP or Shell.

The man was pretty excited about it. It was hot and I am sure even the mile I was moving him along would be a help to him. It also put him near a pretty busy intersection so maybe he could find someone else who is going across the river to the east side of town. He climbed in the passenger side and we began talking.

He tells me that he asked if I was a Marine because I looked like an old buddy of his from the service. He knew it couldn’t be his old friend because the fellow soldier died in combat in Afghanistan. I expressed my sympathies for his loss and my appreciation of his service. I did not end up joining the Air Force when I had graduated high school, but my little brother served two tours overseas. Veteran’s and service personnel are true heroes, even if they never see combat and just are the ‘paper pushers’. Someone has to make that big machine keep rolling.

Waiting on a stoplight to turn green, this is where I knew he was saying whatever he could to get someone to help him. He begins talking about his time as a member of Seal Team 4, and how horrible it was that the enemy took out Seal Team 6. In my head I am trying to reconcile him being a Marine in Afghanistan, and a member of Seal Team 4 (which is South/Central America according to the Navy website by the way). I didn’t call him on his discrepancies. It was bloody hot out and I didn’t really go out of my way. I had a small concern that he might try to grab the wheel or something of the car. I figured I could probably handle him if it came down to it. Even though the idea that this could end badly flashed through my mind, my gut reaction was that he was just down on his luck.

So away we went. A short mile or so later I dropped him off at the gas station with a full parking lot. We said good bye, he thanked me again for the short lift and off he went.

“Matt”, if that is your true name. I don’t know whether you were a true Vet or not but it did not matter to me. You were a fellow human being, obviously suffering, and I was glad I could be a little help. I wish I had been just out for the day, I might have dropped him off somewhere on the east side of town. Sadly my job requires my presence so I had to head back. Take care.

A Brief Car Ride

The hot sun blazes
The car is cool and shaded
“Can I get a lift?”

A man down on his luck
Approaches me in a parking lot
“Man it sure is really hot,
Can I get a ride in your truck?”

“I have been visiting my brother
But now it’s time to head home
I’m hoping to find another
Going my direction.”

“Sir, I wish I could be of help to you
But at the highway I turn north
It’s only a mile but if that’ll do
I can drop you at the station.”

“That would be great
I appreciate it man
You are a good soul.”

“Don’t mention it sir
Thank you for your service too.
Good Luck, Safe Travels”

Interview with Lloyd Lofthouse, Author

Lloyd Lofthouse Redemption of Don Juan Casanova

Today I get the pleasure of interviewing the author of the new book, The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova, Lloyd Lofthouse. Mr. Lofthouse, let me start by saying thank you for your service to this country. It is always an honor to meet a veteran such as yourself. In the format of my previous interview, my comments are in Green and Mr. Lofthouse will be Blue.

Let’s dive right in shall we? Your latest work, tell us a little about it.

I’ve always enjoyed reading murder mysteries. For instance, I’m a fan of Dick Francis (I’ve read most of his work), Dan Brown, Lee Child, James Patterson, John Grisham, David Baldacci, James Lee Burke (my favorite), Patricia Cornwell, Richard North Patterson, Dashiell Hammett, and Tony Hillerman (I’ve read all of his novels and even the last one written by his daughter after his death), and this is my short list.

When I decided to write my own murder mystery, “The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova,” I borrowed from my experience as a maître d’ in a large night club in the early 1980s.  The Aphrodisiac Academy is modeled after the Red Onion (the chain went out of business in the 1990s, because a few bartenders were caught by undercover police selling cocaine in the club—I was gone by then but borrowed that event and added it to the novel). But when I was still working there, I caught a newly hired bouncer in the bathroom off the lobby being paid off by a drug dealer. I reported what I saw to the club’s general manager and I never saw that bouncer again. For a few days after that, I expected to get shot down when I left my shift after midnight and drove home.

I also used my own mother and older brother to help develop the main character’s mother and older brother. That doesn’t mean they are exactly like my mother and older brother. In fact, the pimp we meet early in the story was modeled after a real pimp who did drive out of Beverly Hills to our club to avoid his enemies, and that pimp, who was not murdered, was confronted by the club’s head bouncer when he was caught abusing one of his girls in the Red Onion’s parking lot. I was there when our head bouncer, who had a black belt, knocked him down and warned him to never bring his girls to the club again.

What brought you to decide to write your first book? Describe the feeling the first time you held a printed copy of your own work.

Forty years slipped by from the moment I decided I wanted to write my first book length manuscript—that still isn’t published—and holding the paperback of my twelfth manuscript and first novel, My Splendid Concubine, a work that took nearly nine years to research, write and complete.

What caused me to want to be a writer was listening to Ray Bradbury in 1968 when he came to speak at the college I was attending with financial help from the Vietnam G.I. Bill. It was my first year of college and two years later I had completed that first manuscript that found an agent and an interested publisher, who took a year to make the decision to go with another writer, due to a budget that only allowed for one new writer a year.

The first time I held that paperback for My Splendid Concubine, if I had any feelings, it was mentally holding my breath as I waited for readers I didn’t know, to enjoy the story. That was almost seven years ago and now the novel has more than 100 reviews on Amazon—a few negative and many positive—and more reviews on other sites. The novel has also picked up a number of literary awards through the years.

Surprisingly, even after having published four books, I still feel the same way every time one comes out—that sensation of waiting and mentally holding my breath to discover if someone I don’t know enjoyed reading the story.

 Where does your inspiration come from for your books?

The inspiration for the stories I write come from many places: for instance, my imagination and the experiences I’ve had through this journey we call life. That journey also includes the thousands of books I’ve read and films I’ve seen.

What do you think makes a good story?

I think what makes for a good story is the collision of characters dealing with what life throws at them, and how they handle the conflicts—internal and external—that arrive like unexpected mental and physical tsunamis and earthquakes.

What has writing taught you about yourself?

Sticking with writing and facing hundreds and maybe thousands of rejections for more than forty years taught me that if you want a chance to achieve your goals and dreams you cannot give up. Once you stop, you’ve lost. You might stumble once in a while and even fall down but you have to get back up and continue the journey that you started. I’ve been falling and picking myself up for decades in my long journey. I hope I never arrive at that final destination. If you fall in love with writing, that probably helps.

Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication? Did you seek out agents or did you go straight to publishing houses?

My journey to publication was a long one, and during that journey I had more than one agent and had more than one manuscript considered seriously but always in the end rejected. I don’t know exactly how many rejections there have been. For instance, back in the 1980s, one of the early agents managed to get the manuscript for my second novel, Running with the Enemy (Dec. 2013), in front of a senior editor at Random House, who rejected the novel after writing that he enjoyed the story, but no one was publishing stories about the Vietnam war anymore, because the market was glutted and readers weren’t buying. That manuscript sat on a shelf for about 25 years before I dusted it off, revised it, had it edited and indie published it. Now that I’ve had some success as an indie author I no longer look for agents or submit my work to publishers.

I see that you were a teacher for 30 years, do you think that has helped you in your writing? How?

Yes, I think being a teacher did help me as a writer. For most of those thirty years I taught English literature and grammar and that helped me discover more about plot, character, conflict, theme and improve my own grammar and mechanics skills. I think that teaching something is the best way to learn it.

In addition, for seven years I was the advisor teacher of a high school journalism class that produced an award winning student generated high school newspaper. I think that working with hundreds of high school journalists and reading their work also sharpened my eye for what grabs the attention of most readers.

Any advice that you would give to fellow writers?

The only advice I want to offer is to never give up if writing is your passion, and do all you can to improve your skills. It’s nice to have talent but talent isn’t enough for most of us when it comes to writing. Writing is a craft and a craft can be learned. That’s why, after Ray Bradbury motivated me to change my goals in college, I changed my major from architecture/urban planning to journalism for the BA, attended workshops out of UCLA’s writing extension program for seven years, and eventually earned an MFA in writing part time through two other universities over a period of several more years. And read. Read a lot. Writers should be readers who have experienced as much life as possible because through life we discover, learn and grow.

Thank you much for your time Mr. Lofthouse.

 You are welcome, and thank you for having me on your Blog as a guest author.

Here you can find a list of links where you can connect with Lloyd Lofthouse. Stay tuned because tomorrow I will have a review of his latest book, “The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova”.