AudioBook Review – Yes! by Daniel Bryan

51+5CFPE7NL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_I don’t do many book reviews. The reason is simple – I read mostly in the genre in which I write, and if I don’t like a book, I still work with these people, so I’m keeping my fucking mouth shut. Also, if I don’t like a book, I seldom finish it. There’s a lot of shit on my TBR list, and it’s gotta be pretty good to make it to the top.

But I had a long road trip this week, from Charlotte to Nashville and back, so I decided that a new audiobook would be just the thing for my trip. I’ll go ahead and apologize  to all my Tennessee and Nashville friends for not visiting – but here’s the schedule for the trip. I left Charlotte at 11AM Wednesday. Got to Nashville around 4:30 PM, had dinner at 7PM with a couple of guys from work (BTW, I also started a new day job, which I’ll talk more about later, and I’m starting a small publishing company later this year, which I’ll talk more about later as well). Then I slept, got up and was at Skyway Studios in Nashville at 11AM for an Arri Lighting LED demo from 11-4, then drove home, arriving home a couple minute before midnight last night. So I didn’t really have any time to stop and say hello. I’ll catch you next time, I promise.

But anyway, the book I chose for the trip was Yes! My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of Wrestlemania by Daniel Dryan with Craig Tello. And while I enjoyed the story, and much of the narration, there are some bits I wanted to talk about.

First off, the structure of the book was strange, and disjointed. The odd-numbered chapters were a third-person narrative, I assume written by Tello, detailing the events of the week leading up to Wrestlemania 30 in New Orleans. It was a fairly close look at the activities of a WWE superstar leading up to the biggest event of the year, but it was dry as toast. It was written in very much AP reporting style, which is fine for newspapers and internet articles, but over 20,000 words is kinda like listening to paint dry. Then there’s the narrator for those sections of the book, who I hated. Peter Berkrot would be a fine narrator for fiction, but a guy with a moderately strong Southern accent narrating the actions of a Pacific Northwest wrestler working in New Orleans was jarring every time his voice came on. And his inability to pronounce some of the wrestler’s names was just sloppy and shoddy work on the part of the producers. I know how the deal works – you either give your narrator a pronunciation guide, preferably recorded, or they get in touch with you and ask how they pronounce names.


Sorry, but there’s zero excuse for getting the pronunciation wrong on a WWE diva’s name. She’s famous, for fuck’s sake.

Then there was Bryan’s part of the book. The even-numbered chapters were Daniel Bryan telling his life story leading up to Wrestlemania 30, and it was okay. Bryan admits early on that he’s not a writer, and isn’t comfortable talking about himself, and that shows. His prose is pretty dry and workmanlike, and could certainly have used the help of a good ghost writer to punch it up a little, but it was fine. He reads well enough, and if he never gets too excited about anything, it just goes to emphasize the things he says about his real-life character, that he’s pretty even-keeled. His narrative bits are totally bland, but harmless, like mashed potatoes.

The most jarring part of the book was at about the one-third mark, when suddenly Bryan was narrating one of the third-person sections, and talking about himself in the third person. I don’t know if the chapter was missed when the other guy was recording, or if it was recorded and sounded like crap, so they just had Daniel do that chapter, but after alternating for several hours, suddenly there were three DB-narrated chapters in a row, and they weren’t the first-person narrative that we were used to from him. So that was a production thing that I found really jarring.

So I give it only two stars for production, and really only three stars as a book. I’d give it more if Daniel’s sections had been longer, and the reporting sections had been much shorter, because listening to him talk about his career, his setbacks, his love for Brie, the loss of his father, his family life, his frustrations at WWE, his love for the indies – all that stuff was gold. I wanted twice as much of that stuff and less than half as much of the shit surrounding WM30. That story has been recounted over and over so many times that any wrestling fan is sick of hearing it, and let’s face it – a casual fan isn’t buying a Daniel Bryan autobiography. The stuff that was there, in Bryan’s words, is gold, there just needs to be more of it.

My final verdict – 2.5 stars out of a possible 5. It’s worth it if it’s on sale or you have some Audible credits, but don’t waste full retail on this one.

Narration – Berkrot – 2/Bryan 4

Production – 2

Story – Tello – 2/Bryan 4


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Starfuckers and the cons that feed them

I hate starfucker conventions, and I hate most of what they stand for.

There you go, kids, career suicide by a barely midlist genre fiction writer. Just what you wanted for your reading entertainment.

But it’s the truth. I hate the conventions, and you know the ones I mean, where the main focus is getting as many people run through lines to have autographs and photo ops as possible, with the least possible interaction with the people you’re there to “meet.”

For the record, Dragon Con is not what I consider a starfucker con, nor are any of the cons I attend as a guest. That’s not always been the case. Fandom Fest is definitely a starfucker con, with some programming glommed onto the side of it, and a horror con tacked on for good measure. Mad Monster Party is a starfucker con with a badass party attached, and people seem to love it.

I just don’t. If it’s your thing, that’s awesome. If you can actually manage to connect with someone for the ten seconds you get to talk to them, or if you want to support them and thank them with your dollars for the joy they’ve brought into your lives with their work, that’s your choice. For me, I want people to enjoy my work, not the spectacle of meeting me (and God knows meeting me sometimes turns into a goddamn spectacle).

There’s gotten to be a lot of talk all over the place about everybody charging for autographs, all kinds of folks from writers, to comic artists, to Magic:the Gathering Artists, to actors, etc.

Here’s my promise to you – I will never charge money for an autograph on a book that I’ve worked on unless you’re obviously just getting it autographed to increase the value of it. If you’re a fan, and you’ve spent money on my book, or even if you got it as a gift, or just happen to have it, I promise I’ll sign it for free. Personalized or not, your call.

Now if I ever convince someone to hire me to write comics and you show up with a stack of twenty copies of Issue #1 and want them all signed, none personalized, then the first one’s free and we’re gonna have to talk about the other copies you want for eBay.

Because I understand that sometimes people are just in it to monetize a signature, and that’s not cool to the artist/actor/writer/musician. When I did Mad Monster Party a few years ago, I think Corey Feldman was only personalizing thing, he wouldn’t do just a signature. Because he wanted to sign things for his fans, not for eBay. And I respect that. And I understand that people have costs to recoup associated with travelling to cons. God knows I understand, I just dropped almost $2K to go to Dragon Con.

But if you’ve bought something of mine, and aren’t looking to monetize it, then I’m not going to charge for an autograph. I just don’t think it’s right. I also will not charge for photos taken with me, because if you want my ugly mug in your camera, you must really be a fan. And I sure as hell will never charge just to come up to my table and meet me, that to me seems the height if hubris. I do admit that if I’m ever famous enough to where a convention pays for me to be there, and I’m working for the con all weekend, I may not be in charge of what the convention charges for those things. But I won’t ever do it, personally.

This is inspired by a bunch of things that I’ve seen this past year – a blog post by a dad who paid almost $300 to have his kids’ picture taken with the Weasley family from the Harry Potter movies, a comic artist at Heroes Con charging for signatures on anything you didn’t buy from his table, a Magic artist charging for signatures on cards he did the art for, and a general growth across all parts of the creative industry of a desire to get as much out of the fans as we can, all because somebody else is milking them, and they’re willing to pay it.

Well, maybe, just maybe, you should give something back to the fans who allow you to have the life you have. I’m not saying give away free shit, but certainly if someone who loves your work enough to carry a heavy-ass hardback all the way across a convention center to get it signed, give them a little personal attention and a moment of your time, instead of trying to get a couple bucks out of them for the minute and a half you spend with them. You’ll make more in the long run by modeling yourself after folks like Mark Poole, Brandon Sanderson, Pat Conroy, Orson Scott Card and others I’ve seen or heard of staying long after signings to make sure everyone’s stuff is signed, or just folks that are super-accommodating to their fans.

I know this is long, and I know there are parts where I seem to contradict myself, but it’s a complicated issue. At the end of the day, being at a convention is for the fans, and we’re all fans, too. It does us well to remember that, and to wonder how we’d feel if we walked up to a creator with our favorite book, comic, or Magic card, only to be greeted with a sign telling us it’s $3 for a signature.

So before you try to squeeze more blood from the stone of fandom, maybe ask yourself if you’re giving enough back. A lot of you are, but maybe a few could look outside their wallet a little more.

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Twelve Months Later

MamaOne year ago today, at about this time in the afternoon, I was driving north on Highway 49 towards Sharon with the driver’s window down on my truck and Ray Wylie Hubbard blaring on my stereo, singing how we never cut cut loose of our rock n’ roll ways. Tears rolled down my cheeks, and it was hard to drive, but I grew up driving that road and as long as I could avoid the tractors I probably wouldn’t roll up on anything too quick for me to deal with it.

I had spent the day saying goodbye to my mother, talking with my sister, my father and my aunt about what was going to happen the next few days, and finally telling her that she could let go anytime, that she could go now. In that last moment we had together, she opened her eyes, and in a voice stronger than she’d had all day, she said “Let’s go. Where are we going?”

That was my mother’s mantra for many years – “Let’s go.” If there was a defining characteristic of my mother for most of my life, it was motion. She hated to sit still, and it didn’t matter the destination, she was ready to go. And wherever she decided to go, she went. And whatever she decided to do, she did.

Sometimes people ask me how I’ve managed to do the things I’ve done in my life. I’ve worn a lot of hats – million-dollar salesman, manager, award-winning designer, theatre owner, stage director, actor, poet, spoken word performer, blogger, poker journalist, novelist, short story writer, husband. Sometimes folks ask me how I manage to fit that into 42 years, and I usually tell them that “I’m too stupid to fail.”

That’s a lie.

I accomplish things because I watched my mother accomplish things she wasn’t supposed to accomplish. I succeed because I have no concept of failure, because I grew up watching an extraordinary woman decide on something, and do it. I never heard her ask if anybody thought she could do it. I sure as hell never heard her ask anyone’s permission. I just watched her, time and time again, decide that something needed to be done, or that she wanted to do something, and then watched her bend the universe to her will until it happened.

I was in second grade the first time I saw my mother do what she wasn’t supposed to do. My elementary school was short on substitute teachers, and with her youngest child (me) out of the house, Mama decided that she would be a sub. One problem – to be a substitute teacher in Sharon, SC in 1980 required either a high school diploma or a GED, neither of which my mother had. She had dropped out of high school in tenth grade to help raise her 11 younger siblings in a household with an alcoholic father. So she didn’t have the paperwork required to babysit a bunch of rowdy eight or ten-year-olds, according to the rules.

So my mother went to night school at York Tech and got her GED. I think she was forty-eight when she got it. Then she went to the schoolhouse and signed up to be a substitute. I loved and hated when my mother worked at the school. I loved it because I didn’t have to ride the bus, but I hated it when she was my sub, because I couldn’t get away with shit, my mama was watching.

emily baptismA few years later, she decided that smocking looked pretty and she wanted to try it. So she bought the pleating machine and learned to smock, then went around to craft shows selling handmade baby bones and dresses. A few months ago, one of my nieces found her baptism dress that Mama smocked for her, and her daughter wore it to be baptized. Mama would have approved. That’s a picture of my great-niece Emily in her mother’s baptism gown over to the left.

After I got done with elementary school, Mama decided she was done with substitute teaching and wanted to make extra money as a substitute mail carrier. Now that she had her GED, all she had to do was take the Civil Service Exam and pass it, and then she could work one or two days a week delivering mail.

She passed on her first try, and soon her red and white pickup was bouncing all around the roads of Western York County delivering mail.

Always involved in the church, she served multiple terms as a deacon, often at the same time that my father was serving as an elder of the church. She served at least two terms as Chair of the Board of Deacons, and spearheaded efforts for our church to acquire its first church van and to install a wheelchair lift to the sanctuary. She wasn’t alone in working on all these things, of course, but I don’t think I exaggerate much when I say they wouldn’t have happened nearly as quickly without her. Later in life, in her late sixties, the Deacons of the church asked her to come back and serve one last term. The church had a new pastor, and needed some institutional memory. She went back, and served one year as Chair before passing that torch on to a younger man, one I’d grown up with in church youth groups and Sunday school.

That last run on the Board of Deacons was the end of her service life, as the dementia started to take hold pretty severely not long after that. Eventually she couldn’t drive anymore, and her travels were over as well, as her own brain turned traitor and locked her alternately in confusion and the past. The last few years and after her passing we would find things wrapped up with little notes telling us what they are and where they came from. She knew what was coming as her mind betrayed her, she’d seen her own mother suffer from dementia and finally succumb.

But until that time when her body and mind turned on her, she was a remarkable woman. She helped raise eleven siblings, almost all of them at some point either living with my parents when things got too bad at home, or just working for my father in his peach shed or chicken farm. She raised four children, none of whom ended up in prison and all of whom lived to adulthood no matter how stupid we were (and a couple of us set that bar pretty high). She helped raise six grandchildren, none moreso than my youngest niece, who was her sidekick for years.

She was a pillar of the community, one of the women leading the fire department fundraisers whenever someone lost their house to fire, or got cancer, or just needed help. She was part of the grapevine, the Western York County Trinity of Miss Tot, Miss Faye and Miss Frances. If you wanted news to get out, you only had to call one of those three women and everyone who needed to hear it would know. She sold Tupperware, held toy parties, ran a booth at a flea market on weekends when I was at college, and taught me everything I know about sales and selling. She never met a stranger, and could sell ice cream to Eskimos. She was a square dancer, a rose gardener, a seamstress, ran a fabric store out of a converted peach packing shed, held out a helping hand to a local drunk and gave him work fixing up our roof and outbuilding when he needed it, and wasn’t afraid to be the first one on the scene at a fire or traffic accident.

She was raised in the Depression, and only ate her meat well done. She had a sharp tongue, and would peel the skin off your ass with a word if she needed to. She was a teetotaler, the child of an alcoholic, and judgmental as hell. She taught me at a young age not to say the “n” word, and to treat people right no matter what the color of their skin. She taught my sister how to make the world’s best fried chicken and rice and gravy, and taught my oldest niece how to make the world’s best banana pudding. And I will whip the ass of any man who challenges that fact.

She taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be, and I did.

A year ago this coming Monday, I was finishing my morning shower at Dragon Con, getting ready to hit the last day of the show. I didn’t have any panels, so I was just gonna take it easy, see a few friends and get on the road early. My roommates knew what was going on back home, and we’d been waiting all weekend for “the call.” As I dried my hair and turned off the water, I felt it. I felt something change, and I realized that somehow, she had known how important that weekend was to my career, and she’d held on for me. And I felt her go. I shed a few tears in the bathroom, then stepped out and started getting dressed. Before I even got my socks on, my phone rang.

She waited for me to finish what I needed to do, because that’s the life she had always led. Then she went home.IMG_0983100_1005100_0999

Bonnie & Tommy



My Dragon Con 2015 Schedule

I’ve got a ton of news and THREE NEW RELEASES THIS MONTH but for now, here’s my DCon schedule. Let me know if I’ll see you there!


Title: Pulp Fiction
Description: Pulp has enjoyed a renaissance in the last few years. Why? And why do authors choose to write in this genre?
Time: Fri 01:00 pm  Location: Embassy A-B – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Van Allen Plexico, Bobby Nash, James Palmer, John G. Hartness)

Book Signing – The Missing Volume – 2:30 Friday PM

Title: Supernatural Variety in UF
Description: Authors discuss the array of supernatural beings appearing in their work, and how their choices affect their stories and worlds.
Time: Sat 01:00 pm  Location: Chastain ED – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: J. C. Daniels, Jenna Black, Myke Cole, John G. Hartness, Samantha Sommersby, Tamsin L. Silver)

Title: Hunting Monsters
Description: Whether a job or a calling, our panelists’ protagonists track down and destroy monsters
Time: Sat 05:30 pm  Location: Augusta Ballroom – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Faith Hunter, Larry Correia, Jonathan Maberry, John G. Hartness, Laurell K. Hamilton, James R. Tuck, Carrie Vaughn)

Title: The History of Pulp Fiction
Description: What is pulp? Where does it come from? Where is it going today?
Time: Sun 10:00 am  Location: Augusta 3 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: James R. Tuck, Bobby Nash, Van Allen Plexico, John G. Hartness)

Title: Backdrop: Settings and Locales in UF
Description: Our panel of authors discusses how their settings influence their characters and worlds.
Time: Sun 11:30 am  Location: Chastain ED – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Myke Cole, Laura Anne Gilman, Julie Kenner, J. F. Lewis, John G. Hartness, Carrie Vaughn, Jennifer St. Giles)

Title: Hard-knuckle Horror
Description: Combining the ethos of hard-boiled crime fiction with supernatural terror
Time: Sun 07:00 pm  Location: Peachtree 1-2 – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: James R. Tuck, Richard Kadrey, John G. Hartness, John Hornor Jacobs, Kenneth Hite)

Title: Vampiric Variations
Description: Authors discuss how their choices of vampire mythos & traits inform their characters and worlds.
Time: Mon 11:30 am  Location: Chastain ED – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Samantha Sommersby, Linda Robertson, John G. Hartness, Julie Kenner, Faith Hunter, Sherrilyn Kenyon)

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The Road of Fear – More of the Story

Yesterday I published my friend Melissa’s story about her connection to The Dukes of Hazzard, the Confederate Flag, and a road that runs between Sharon and York, the town we grew up in and the “city” where we went to high school. Sutton Springs Road is a back road, a windy country road that twists and turns around trees and hills and hollers.

Melissa tells in her essay of her mother’s fear when taking Sutton Springs Road home from church, probably in the 1940s or 50s, because sometimes in the summer the Klan would be having meetings out in a field along that road, complete with burning crosses and Confederate flags waving. Melissa’s essay was the first time I’d ever heard about that, despite having ridden Sutton Springs Road all my life.

You see, there was something else on Sutton Springs Road in addition to the field where the Klan met, something in addition to the curve where my brother wrecked two different cars in two consecutive years. There was the old Feemster place, my great-grandfather’s land. And the old Hartness place, my other great-grandfather’s land. And my Uncle Erskine, the war hero from WWII, who got a Silver Star and survived the Battle of the Bulge – he lived in a trailer on Sutton Springs Road right in front of his daddy’s (my great-grandaddy’s) house. So I spent a lot of time on Sutton Springs Road as a kid, and nobody bothered to tell me that the Klan used to meet there. Of course, I was a little young to be fitted for a white sheet, so it really didn’t matter. And my father was never associated with the Klan in any way, and as far as he and I know, neither was his father.

His grandfathers, however, may have been a different story. When I was home last week I mentioned Melissa’s story to him, and her mother’s stories of the Klan meeting on Sutton Springs Road when she was little. I knew that my dad was older than Melissa’s parents, and that he’s known them forever. He just nodded and said, “yep, they did.”

Then he told me a story about a flogging on Sutton Springs Road, which, if Melissa’s mom had told her that when she was a little girl, I don’t know if she ever would have taken that shortcut as a teen. I don’t know when this story happened, and Daddy doesn’t remember it, but I suppose it would have been in the 30s, because he remembers some of the aftermath. But there was an African-American preacher beaten and left for dead by the Klan on Sutton Springs Road, which led to a crackdown on the Klan’s activities in York County. At least as much of a crackdown as can happen when the presiding judge in the one case that went to trial was a high-ranking Klansman.

Daddy remembers, and I don’t know if this is memory or story passed down, my family’s involvement in the beating death of this minister. As Daddy tells it “I don’t know if they had anything to do with beating that preacher, but the next morning my two granddaddies, Granddaddy Hartness and Granddaddy Feemster, they went and cut him down and took him home in a wagon, and that’s where he died.”

Daddy tells another story “Now my Granddaddy Hartness would stay over at Erskine’s, and he’d sleep in that front bedroom, and he had this mean old dog that slept on the porch. And this dog was just mean as a snake, wouldn’t let anybody get near Granddaddy without raising Cain. But one night these two old boys came up on the porch and asked Granddaddy if they oughta run, or stand trial for killing that preacher, ’cause a bunch of ‘em, they was running, you see. Some of them boys went to Texas, some of them went to West Virginia, but Granddaddy told them boys they might as well stay. And the whole time they was there, that old dog never made a sound. Now I don’t know if it was just because them boys was that damn mean, or if that dog knew them boys, but it never barked the whole time.”

So I don’t know my family’s involvement in making Sutton Springs Road my friend Melissa’s Road of Fear, but the fear is real, and it touches all of us in some way or another, even if we don’t know it at the time. Obviously I’ve never worn a white sheet, or burned a cross in anyone’s yard, and I work against the racism I see in myself. But it’s important that we not ignore our heritage, and our history. So yeah, the Confederate flag is part of my heritage, but I’m trying not to make it part of me anymore.

The Road of Fear – Guest Post by Melissa McKnight Rouse

Every once in a while a friend asks for help with a writing project. I’ve known Melissa since we were five years old in kindergarten, long enough to call her “Erlene” out of habit because she went by her middle name in high school, and long enough to remember her brother as the fastest runner and biggest hitter in Little League. So when she asked me to look over this essay, I was happy to oblige. What I found was a deeply personal essay about the world I grew up in, and the parts of it I never saw. This is not posted here to start or continue any controversy, but to help her get her words out to what might be a little wider audience. 

I’m not going to discuss this post in the comments, I’m not going to debate this in comments, and if you’re a dick to my friend in comments, I’m not going to approve the comment. We clear? Good. This is her story, and I think it’s got a lot of deep meaning. I’ll tell you a little more about this road tomorrow, the parts of the story Melissa doesn’t know I know, and may not know herself. But for today, lend your eyeballs to one of my oldest and dearest friends, a woman whose entire family I hold in the highest esteem – Melissa Rouse. 

“The Road of Fear”

1981- A Black Mom’s History Lesson about the Confederate Flag to her 8 Year Old Daughter

If you were an 80’s child raised in the South, you probably watched “The Dukes of Hazzard” on Friday evenings. Mom fried fish for her and my father and me and my brother had our favorite; pork ‘n beans. This was well before Beanie Weenies. Back then you cut up a couple of hot dogs and put them in a pot of baked beans and voila, pork ‘n beans! I grew up in a very small town; Sharon, South Carolina, a town of five hundred or less in population. Black and white folk were cordial, but there wasn’t much in the way of mixing; however, there weren’t major problems. Everything was pretty under toned. Before I went to Kindergarten, my experience with white people was in the grocery story or out in public. Although the neighbors down the street would help my dad and vice versa, there was a mutual respect more along the lines of work ethic. If you had a good work ethic, you were respected. So there goes the line in the sand.

Back to the point at hand; Friday nights as a youth. My brother and I loved to watch “The Dukes of Hazzard.” I can name all of the cast from memory: Bo and Luke Duke, Uncle Jessie, Daisy, Cooter, Enis, Rosco and his dog Flash, Boss Hog and of course the car that Bo and Luke Duke drove, The General Lee. Man that car was fast! A two door 1969 Dodge Charger, doors welded shut, bright orange with a beautiful red, white and blue flag with a big capital X with stars on the top. Remember this is coming from the eyes of two young and impressionable black children who had not been previously exposed and educated about the Confederate flag, nor the naming convention behind the infamous car. One Friday evening after eating our delicious meal of pork ‘n beans and watching an episode of the “The Dukes of Hazzard”, it occurred to us that we should draw the flag that was emblazoned on top of the General Lee! I know it’s sad, but we didn’t know any better at the time. We pulled out our papers and crayons and began to feverously draw the best renditions of the Confederate flag that a 10 and 8 year old Black American child could possibly draw! Once we were done with our masterpieces, my brother being the oldest and most competitive, called our mother over and asked her to be the judge and pick the best drawing. Well, let’s just say that it went downhill from there.

“What in the world is this?!!” she yelled. My mother grew up the daughter of a sharecropper in York County, South Carolina in the height of Jim Crow. Everything was separate and unequal during those times, so she has a lot of segregation history stored in her memory bank. She hadn’t told us the hardcore truth about our history before then, but our eyes would soon be opened; wide open! My brother and I stood there with blank faces and explained that we were drawing the flag that was on top of the General Lee. In a short history lesson, my mom told us about how her family would travel down a cut through road, Suttons Springs Road, on their way to church. Sometimes on a late summer’s night as they returned home from church, the Ku Klux Klan would be out in the field having their meetings, right off of Sutton Springs Road. She recounted that they would be out in plain view, white robes, pointy hats, crosses burning and the Confederate flag swaying in the wind.

“That flag means they don’t like you because of your color! They brought us over here as slaves and they fought to keep us as slaves! You are never good enough in their eyes and you have to work twice as hard to get ahead! You hear what I say?!” She ended her lesson, shook her head, shrugged her shoulders and stated in a soft hurt slow tone, “That’s just the way it is.”

So, in a span of five minutes we got a very rudimentary crash lesson on the Confederate flag and why I was not liked and wouldn’t be liked by some white people for the rest of my natural born life because I have a beautiful brown skin tone. It just couldn’t be, I thought. I explained to my mom that some of my classmates live off of Sutton Springs Road and that they were nice to me. Her response, “That may be true, but don’t you go down that road. We ain’t got NO business driving down that road!” From that point on, Sutton Springs Road became the road of fear in my eyes, and the Confederate flag, a symbol of hatred.

As I got older and began to drive and take on more risk, I drove down that road. It shaved off 10 minutes commute time. I pay South Carolina and York County tax, so why wouldn’t I drive down that road? As I turned onto the road, my heart fluttered a bit as I envisioned the sight that my mom saw as a youth. The flames rolling off of the burning crosses alongside that big X swaying back and forth, as if to say go back, you are not wanted.

I realize that some believe that the Confederate flag is part of their heritage and not hate; however, one of the primary reasons behind the Civil War as well as the flag being used as intimidation following the lost war gives pause to most Black Americans. Many old pictures from lynch mob gatherings and Civil Rights conflicts occurring post Reconstruction have some form of the Confederate flag being displayed by white supporters along with their look of disgust. The flag not only represented the South in a lost cause, it also became the face of Jim Crow backed racism.

The Confederate flag should not fly on or above our state capital, as we have two flags that should be honored, the American flag and the South Carolina State flag. However, I think any American has the right to fly whatever flag they so chose on their own personal property, unless of course your homeowners’ association discourages that type thing. As well, confederate memorials should not be desecrated, as we all should have a reminder from whence we have come.

June 17, 2015 was a sad day in not only South Carolina history, but in American history as well. Nine lives were taken because of racial hatred, but for me the ensuing issue surrounding the Confederate flag has given me pause to rethink how I now chose to view it.

“It’s an ugly callous that reminds me to always try to love and never hate. It’s that reminder, that there is a brighter day and to keep on pushing regardless of what someone thinks of me. It reminds me of scripture, “Though they slay me, I will trust Him…” (Job 13:15). Regardless of my connection, it’s a reminder to call out a wrong, even when the wrong side of history has been taken. The Confederate flag, a choice to continue in love or to falter back in the line of fear and hatred. My choice is to love without hesitation.”

It’s been more than 34 years since my mama stood over me and my brother and gave us a quick life lesson on race. She now travels Sutton Springs Road from time to time. Little by little, hearts begin to meld and life brings about change.


Melissa McKnight Rouse

Rock Hill, SC

Two Flags

My Facebook feed this week has been dominated by talk of this flag.















And whether or not it deserves to fly on the grounds of the state capitol of South Carolina, or anywhere. For the record, I think it belongs in one place – a museum. I’m a southerner, and proud to be one. I think the South has given us some of the greatest examples of art and culture in our nation’s history, from the Delta Blues, to Memphis Rock n’ Roll, to Nashville Country, to Atlanta Hip-Hop. I think some of the most amazing writers in the nation’s history have come from the south, including Wolfe, Williams, Conroy, Dickey, Ron Rash, Maya Angelou and Harper Lee. I love the South with all my heart and can’t imagine ever living anywhere.

And I hate the fact that the Confederate Battle Flag flies in so many places in the region that I love. This flag is not a symbol of my heritage. A banjo is a better symbol. A jug of sweet tea is a better symbol. An ice cream churn with a kid sitting on top of it turning the handle is a better symbol. Sunrise over Battery Park in Charleston, sunset on the grounds of Wilkes Community College, the fog across the Blue Ridge Mountains – all of these are better symbols of My South.

The Confederate Battle Flag is a throwback to a time when men thought it was okay to own other men and women as property. And it is a symbol of a war fought in part for that principle. Yes, there were other things that went into the Civil War, but slavery was a guiding principal of the war. And this flag was not erected on the SC State House in the aftermath of the Civil War, it was erected in 1962, as a great big “fuck you” to the US government over the 14th Amendment.

Nothing in my heritage supports the segregationist movement in the United States. Nothing. Nothing in my heritage supports the KKK. Nothing in how I was raised or what I was taught is right says it’s okay for me to carry around a symbol of hatred and oppression because I think it looks cool, and besides, I never owned slaves.

I have been a flag defender. I have been a Civil War denier. I never denied that it happened, but I denied that it was about slavery. Even today, I don’t know enough history to name all the causes of the Civil War, but slavery certainly was a huge part of it. I sit here today, telling you that I’ve used the words “heritage, not hate” to describe the battle flag.

I was wrong.

Symbols are how we communicate as a people. Symbols matter. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t care if anyone burned the American flag. And the power of symbols is in what they mean to people. To me, the Rebel Flag doesn’t really mean much. But I’ve never been told I can’t sit at a counter or in a restaurant and eat my meal. No one ever owned my grandfather or great-grandfather. No one ever shipped my family over from our home and sold us to work in some rich asshole’s field. That’s not my heritage. But for my African-American friends, that flag is a symbol of a society that considered them property, considered them 3/5 of a person, considered their life’s worth to be 40 acres and a mule.

Fly the flag on your private property if you want to. I won’t stop you. I won’t visit you, either, but I won’t stop you. But flying the flag of an oppressive regime on state property is telling part of our population “we don’t care how this makes you feel.” It says “you’re still lesser, because we used to own you.” It says “we can do whatever we want to you, and don’t you forget it.” We are very close to a racial boiling point in our country, and I think it’s critically important that we find more ways to band together, rather than rallying behind divisive symbols of wars fought and lost decades and centuries ago.

But today my Facebook feed is populated by flags of a different color. Or more to the point, flags of every color.
















The United States Supreme Court has issued its ruling on gay marriage, affirming what many of us knew and understood all along – that marriage is a right of all people, regardless of color or sexual orientation. It was a surprising 5-4 decision, surprising to me that four educated justices could disagree with this concept. To say that I’m happy with this outcome is a spectacular understatement. I’ve worked in my small ways for gay rights for years, mostly through theatre but also in my writing. I try to portray gay characters as no different than straight characters, unless I’m overblowing something for comedy, which I am wont to do.

I support gay marriage because i think that all people should be able to love and live as they choose. I believe that two men who are committed to each other shouldn’t have to make secret trips to South America and have one of them adopt a child as a single parent because the government wouldn’t let a gay couple adopt. I believe that anyone who has stood by someone as a life partner for decades should be able to sit by that person’s bedside and contribute to end-of-life and hospice decisions. I believe that gay people should pay the same “marriage penalty” on their income tax as the rest of us!

And do you know the impact this has had on my marriage?


Not one bit. There are only two people in the world who have any impact on my marriage – me & Suzy. My marriage will be completely unaffected by the gay marriage ruling, except that I expect to attend many fabulous ceremonies!

I’m thrilled for my friends that can now get married, and my friends who no longer have to worry about whether or not the state they’re moving to will accept their legal documents. And I’m thrilled to see the rainbow flag replace the rebel flag all over my Facebook wall. Maybe we could get the rainbow flag to fly on the SC statehouse grounds.

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My feelings on Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlin Jenner

I’ll tell you a parable, as it were, in the fashion of another sandal-wearing dude who didn’t like to shave.

There once was a devout man who lived a religious life. He went to church every Sunday, sang in the choir, tithed regularly and performed volunteer work for his church. He was a good man. He never hurt anyone, never had a bad word to say about anyone. He was a good man, a real rarity. His house lived near a river, and one day, in a time of torrential rains, the river overflowed the banks and threatened his home and entire neighborhood.

Emergency workers came to his door in a Hummer to evacuate him, but he refused to leave. “I’ve given my life to God, and God will take care of me.” The emergency workers pleaded with him, but eventually had to leave him. Before long, the water rose so high that he had to climb out onto his roof. As he sat on his roof watching his possessions float away, a man in a boat came by and tried to talk him into leaving the house. The old man refused. “God will take care of me,” he said, as his dining room table crashed through the picture window and floated down the street.

The water continued to rise, and darkness fell on the old man’s street. Eventually the water was so high that he had to climb on top of his chimney to keep from being swept away. A helicopter came over him and lowered a rope, but the old man refused. “God will take care of me,” he shouted to the rescue workers. They tried to convince him to get in the basket they lowered, but eventually they left him there. A few hours later, the waters swept the old man away, and he died.

When he came to the pearly gates, they swung open for him, and he looked up at the kindly man there with a confused expression. “I gave my life to the Lord, why didn’t he save me?”

Saint Peter laughed and said, “We sent a Hummer, a boat, and a helicopter to save you. What more could we have done?”

What does that have to do with Caitlin Jenner? Valid question, I suppose. My friend Trish posted on her Facebook page today her ire with people saying that “God doesn’t make mistakes” and thus transgender people should live in the bodies they are born in and just cope with it. Well what about my cousin with the cleft palate? Should his parents have not had surgeries performed when he was a baby to fix the problem and let him live a normal life? Or should they have sat on their roof and said “God will take of us?” Should my friend Dave still be mostly deaf or should he have the hearing aids that let him live a fuller life? Should I stumble around the world bumping into everything, unable to drive or probably read? Or should I wear glasses and contacts and live a better life?

If you’re a religious person, and where I am on that scale fluctuates daily, you believe that all blessing flow from God. So do all medical advances. So do all scientific advances. So all the technology and medicine that allows Caitlin Jenner to live the life she feels she needs – they all come from God. God allowed her doctors to perform any surgeries that have happened, prescribe any medicines that have happened and basically have allowed her to find her life. God doesn’t seem to have a problem with Caitlin. Why do you?

Note that if a plague of locusts suddenly descends upon LA I reserve the right to change my opinion on whether God has a problem with this. But if THIS is the thing that finally gets a plague dropped on Los Angeles, then somebody wasn’t watching the last three Star Wars movies.

New Bubba out today!

Rest High on that Mountain, the latest Bubba the Monster Hunter short story, releases today! It’s exclusive to Kindle for 90 days, but my Patrons can get it free! So head on over to Amazon and check it out, or go over to Patreon and become a patron at the $10/month level and get it free!

High on that Mountain






















Bubba’s back, and so is baby brother Jason! This time, Jason has sent a pack of wolves to terrorize Bubba’s Aunt Marion for a family heirloom that he thinks will help him take over the supernatural world. He hasn’t taken into account the strength of a mountain woman, or the love Bubba has for home and family. There’s a pack of wolves on the loose, but Bubba’s here, and he’s ready for a fight!

Featuring Great-Grandpappy Beauregard, first seen in Fire on the Mountain!















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Black Knight #5 – In the Still of the Knight Cover Reveal

The pre-order is live. The cover is here. The book will be in your hot little hands on June 30. Buy this bad boy now and make this my best release ever! Enough of you folks click the link, and we can maybe blow up Amazon or something.


In the Still of the Knight

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