Bloody Bill Breathes His Last

Bloody Bill Anderson

William T. Anderson, better known as Bloody Bill, was one of the deadliest and most brutal pro‑Confederate guerrilla leaders in the American Civil War. Anderson led a band that targeted Union loyalists and Federal soldiers in Missouri and Kansas. On this day in 1864, Bloody Bill was killed in a Union ambush. A more complete account of Bloody Bill’s life and death can be read here.

My first two books, both stories of the American Civil War, led me to toward an interest in the Old West: gunslingers and bandits, gold rushes and sheriffs. Particularly, I developed an interest in the outlaw Jesse James. My interest was keen enough to start writing a book about the blue-eyed-killer. Jesse knew and rode with Bloody Bill. Posted below is a piece from my book, a piece that, in a round about way, describes Bloody Bill. In the poem, Bloody Bill asks my narrator about a youngin’ Jesse James. Here’s my narrator’s colloquial description of that encounter.

Me and Bloody Bill

I didn’t tell ya yet, but one fella that rode
with us, and Quantrill, was the meanest cuss
I ever did meet. He’d sooner cut some flesh
off your bones and fry it up for bacon
rather than walk an extra step and do the same
to a swine born for bacon slicin’.
He came to me once askin’ ‘bout Jesse,
‘bout how good Jesse was at killin’.
By that time, most knew that Jesse
was Frank’s brother, but they didn’t
talk about it none. Bloody Bill didn’t care
what Jesse’s name was. He just liked
how Jesse’s bullets flew from his gun.
They always seemed to hit what they
was searchin’ for – every time.

That friend of yours, with the blue eyes.
He can shoot. Think he can shoot some more?
I got some ideas for him and me.
Quantrill’s goin ’soft and  it’s time to fill
some Yanks up with holes and bullets, bullets and holes.
And I mean lots of bullets and holes.

I says I reckon he could do that, Mr. Anderson.
I called him mister cause he scared me
and sure enough I was smart to be scared.


Don’t Cry, Wolf: Halloween

This Halloween, the various teaching departments of Wayne Hills High School, where I am employed as a literature, writing, and philosophy teacher, are celebrating Halloween. Each department is picking a theme and members are developing costumes that reflect that theme. The English Department, my department, has chosen to dress as idioms. Not idiots! We are dressing as idioms.

An idiom is an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual of its constituent elements, as kick the bucket or cut the cheese.

My idiom? I’ve decided to represent Don’t Cry Wolf. My plan? I want to assemble a costume that, at least to a degree, resembles a werewolf or a wolfman; however, said werewolf or wolfman will have a prominent tear falling from its eye.

Hopefully, I can pull this off. Wish me luck.

WordPress Photo Challenge: Cover Art


This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is titled Cover Art. The challenge reads, “Abbey Road. American Beauty. Steve McCurry’s “Afghan Girl.” A General Theory of Love. These are just a few famous examples of cover art that uses photography to convey a mood and to suggest what we might find in the work itself. They have a quality that echoes a particular character of their respective subject matter, an essence that words fail to capture with simplicity.

For this week’s Photo Challenge, stimulate your creative process and imagine which of your images you would like to see gracing the cover of a book, an album, or a magazine. Would the image inspire us to take a peek through the pages, listen to the music, or buy a ticket to the show? Would it strike a chord with viewers, making them reflect on or revisit memories of places, people, and experiences?”

I chose a photo I took last week to represent, or be the cover art, of a novel titled When Autumn Leaves. It’s written by Amy S. Foster. Here’s a book description I borrowed from Goodreads.

“In Avening, a tiny town on the Pacific coast, it’s hard not to believe in magic. This is a town where the shoes in the window always fit, where you can buy a love potion at the corner shop, and where the woods at the outskirts of town just might be the door to another world. And, of course, there’s Autumn, Avening’s beloved resident witch. From what’s known of its mythical founding, Avening has always been a haven for people who are a little bit different, a place where they can come to discover what makes them so special.
When Autumn receives news that she’s been promoted to a higher coven, she also learns she has to replace herself. But who in Avening is in tune enough with her own personal magic to take over the huge responsibility of town witch? Autumn has a list of thirteen women and men who just might have what it takes-but how can she get them to open their eyes to the magic in their lives?

This endlessly surprising and heart-warming debut is the story of coming to terms with the magical things we take for granted every day-our friends, our community, and, most of all, ourselves.”

Okay, finally here’s my When Autumn Leaves cover. Think it works? Let me know.

photo by S. Thomas Summers


WordPress Photo Challenge: Refraction

This week, WordPress tasked photographers to “play with light.”  So, I did. I lassoed a smidge of the sun and bound it to a rock below a tree. The captured light then illuminated the underside of the tree’s leaves.

Don’t worry, I set the sun free after I took this photo. Like it? Let me know.


photo by S. Thomas Summers

I’m Moving to a Little Place on the Western Edge of Mirkwood

Map of JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth

Recognize this map? If you do, then your imagination might be as expansive as my own. It’s a map of JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth, that wonderful, terrible place where Tolkien set his novels The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and Return of the King. Tolkien’s work established what is today a most popular genre of literature – fantasy. These fantastic lands, including Middle Earth, provide a home for monsters, elves, dwarves, knights, wizards, magic, quests, and adventures. They provide a place for me to “live.” Yes, if I could own a small cottage on the western edge of Mirkwood, near the heart of Middle Earth, I would. Here’s why.

1. Adventure – In Middle Earth, each day the impossible is probable and the probable is only a step out of your door. Avoid orcs and goblins. Welcome elves (and even some dwarves). Heed the voice of wizards. Hide from the dragons and wave the giant eagles. Adventure!!!

2. Good and Evil – In Middle Earth, evil abounds, but it is easily detected. If it looks evil, it is. And, generally, if it looks good, it is. In our world, good and evil – it’s difficult to tell one from the other. In Middle Earth, it is plainly obvious (most of the time).

3. Yore – Middle Earth harkens unto days of old. Life is simple. Yes, it may be difficult at times, but even it that difficulty, I discover a simplicity that a tend to reach for.

4. Friendship – In Middle Earth, friends are true and honest. They care and they trek over and under mountains to prove it.

I could go on (and on); however, I believe I made my point. Anyway, I’m a busy man. I’ve a house to build on the western edge of Mirkwood. You are always welcome to visit.

Dickens, a Mad Scientist, and a Monster: Why I Read

Charles Dickens

The books I’ve decorated this blog with (See them? Yup, there they are.) are there for a two reasons. I like to read. I like to write. However, when I was a boy, a teenager, I loathed turning the page just as I loathed wielding a pen. In high school, I was assigned an arduous task. Rather, at the time, I felt I had been cursed (cursed and burneded and punished!!!) with a terrible task. I needed to read Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Who was this guy Pip? And Havisham? What was her deal? And, really, how did any of it connect to me? It didn’t. This Dickens guy – what a jerk! Needless to say, I read a page here, a page there, but I, in my junior year of high school, ultimatley failed to read Great Expectations.

Frankenstein’s Monster

In college, I believe it was my sophomore year, I enrolled in a British literature class that focused on the Romantics, Keats, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, etc. Yup, we read a lot of poetry. Hated it all. I was surprisingly thrilled when my professor assigned a novel. Thank God (and I did thank Him!). No more poetry. That novel was Frankenstein. Well, I thought, at least this book has a monster. You know, that big buy in the drab sport coat, with the flat top, a scar, and a few bolts jutting out from his neck. You know – that  big guy, the monster, was Frankenstein. Now, to make a long story short, I was wrong. Frankenstein isn’t the creature, I discovered. He’s the doctor, the scientist. And the creature, he’s not slow and awkward and stupid. Nope!!! He’s graceful and intelligent. He feels sorrow, tremendous terrible sorrow. And it hates. And it loves. And it wants…it wants all the things that I want, that all humans want. That it is a he – a person, a wonderful, terrible person. You guessed it. A reader was born.

After reading Frankenstein, I went back to that poetry I disdained. Loved it. I opened new books. Loved them. I even read Dickens and, yup, I loved him…and all of his words, every single one.

This year, I am celebrating my 22nd anniversary of being a literature and writing teacher at Wayne Hills High School. I also teach the same at a local community college. Oh yes, I’ve written and had published two books of poetry. Finally, my novel is well on its way.

That Frankenstein guy created more than a monster. He created me.

And Dickens? He’s okay too.

The Heavy Days of Autumn

640x410_17444_The_woods_2d_fantasy_landscape_mist_autumn_picture_image_digital_artI keep several journals. In one of them, I allow my imagination a bit of room, allow it to venture where it might. This is where it went a few days ago. These small bouts of adventure help me to keep this writer’s blood flowing.

The day is heavy. Yes, the sun shines, a great gem in the sky. The air dances with itself – the new cool of autumn with the last heat of summer. The leaves have lost their April green and begun to blush. Breathe it deep. Taste it. Fill your lungs and smile; yet, smiles dance with dark reflections. Frowns and sorrow sleep in the shadows between the trees. A day will come when each sorrow will wake and unfurl its wings. It is my task to prepare for that day, to slay the dragons of shadow and sorrow. Yes, this day, today, is heavy.