Monday, January 5, 2015

2014 - My Year in Reading

I had another good year in reading, though I didn't reach my goal of 45 books. I hit a dry spell for most of the first half of the year, then picked up steam in the second half, ending up reading 31 books (though a number were novellas...)

Here's what I read in 2014 - have you read any of these?


Frank L. Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter
Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence
Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost
William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland

Modern Classics:

John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany (one of this year's favorites!)
Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep
Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca


Louise Erdrich's The Round House (another of this year's favorites)
Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile
Agatha Christie's Cards on the Table
Thomas Maltman's Little Wolves
James Lee Burke's Swan Peak
Erin Hart's The Book of Killowen
Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child's (a bunch of 'em):
    Cemetery Dance
    Fever Dream
    Cold Vengeance
    Two Graves
    White Fire


Kealan Patrick Burke's The Tent
Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane (this might be considered more fantasy than horror)
Rocky Alexander's The Him
Brian Freeman's Blue November Storms
Stephen King's & Joe Hill's In the Tall Grass
Stephen King's Revival (another favorite of the year)


Gary Clayton Anderson's Little Crow; Spokesman for the Sioux
Robert Edsel's & Bret Witter's The Monuments Men; Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, & the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
Tony Horwitz's Boom; Oil, Money, Cowboys, Strippers, & the Energy Rush that Could Change America Forever

I'm off to a running start on 2015. What were some of your favorite books you read in 2014?

2014 - My Authorish Year in Review (more or less)

2014 was a fun year for me. I spoke at a lot of places - 23, in fact - travelling around Minnesota and North Dakota to do so. I also had 9 book signings, presented/taught at 3 young writers conferences (in Marshall, Rochester and Mankato, Minnesota) and taught a writing class through our local Arts & Cultural Center. Teaching writing was a first for me, and good God, does doing something like that make you appreciate actual teachers who do that full-time. Just the little bit I did nearly wore me out!

I also created a book tour that wound through Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. My daughter Paige accompanied me and kept me on my toes. And okay, I admit that it was actually an excuse to visit Yellowstone again. Just don't tell my wife that. But anyway, due to that tour, a lot more historical societies and gift shops carry my YA historical novel Ox Cart Angel now - including one of my favorite places for all things kitschy, Wall Drug! They even ordered additional copies a few weeks after I got home. If you'd like to read about my author tour, you can start here.

I released a couple more short story collections; A Wrinkle in Crime (mystery/crime stories) and Bedtime Stories for the Apocalypse III (horror, mostly) and I've made a lot of progress on my sequel to Ox Cart Angel, called Uprising Angel, which takes place during the Minnesota Uprising in 1862. To be honest, though, I am itching to write another horror novel, as well.

I also started a monthly (or thereabouts) newsletter to keep folks informed about my writing, travels, etc. You can also win stuff on there, too! You can sign up here, if you're interested:

So anyhoo...

I hope you all had a wonderful 2014, and may 2015 be even better!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Museum of Historic Torture Devices

This summer my family went to the Wisconsin Dells. The Dells, in case you don't know, is full of water parks, go-cart tracks, water-ski shows, fudge shops and interesting museums - basically a bombardment of kitsch. But a fun kind-of kitsch.

One of the places I checked out (sans wife and kids) was the Museum of Historic Torture Devices (or the TORTURE MUSEUM, as the sign says out front).

It's not huge, but big enough, and the cost of admission is reasonable. They even have group rates, so if you want to take your local scout troop there...

Torture Merit Badge!
There are informative and illustrated placards above the items to show how they were used, most also accompanied by a Spanish translation. (Nobody expects the Spanish Translation!)

"Hey, Dave - I can smell my boogers."
The device below, called a Judas cradle, is used by lowering a suspended victim's butt onto the pyramid, using the weight of the body to inflict pain and damage. Probably not the kind of 'pyramid power' they'd hoped for.

As I strolled through the museum, a feeling of nausea crept over me. The museum is well done, very informative, and certainly worth going to, but around every corner was another reminder of the cruelty of our species.

Heretic's Fork - later replaced by the Heretic's Spork
Also, it's hard to ignore the number of devices intended chiefly for women - like the various 'scold's bridles' pictured below. The bridle wasn't a punishment for murder or adultery or burglary; it was used for over-talkative women. Too bossy? Gossiping too much? Here, put this over your head, dear...

Below is a brindle. Another device to punish women. The head went in the large hole and a hand went through each of the smaller holes. You realize as you walk through the museum just what a load of dehumanizing shit women have had to put up with over the centuries.

There were a lot of other items on display. A torture rack, a cucking chair, various nasty looking whips, iron gags, crucifixion nails, an electric chair, thumbscrews, reruns of the Teletubbies...

There's also a display on John Wayne Gacy. Below is one of his paintings.  

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to the crawl space I go...

Like I said, humans can be a cruel species. I'm just glad this torture stuff is all in the distant past.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bedtime Stories for the Apocalypse III

You survived the first two volumes of Joel Arnold’s BEDTIME STORIES FOR THE APOCALYPSE…barely. Are you ready for volume 3?


In this collection of 10 short stories you’ll meet:

A herd of cows protecting a dead woman from her abusive husband.
A beached mermaid on the shores of Lake Superior.
A group of friends whose love of Halloween keeps them together for a long, long time.
A little girl who deals candy – and something far more sinister – from her bright red wagon.
A teenager who must embrace the very dark side to survive a fate worse than death.
A mysterious visitor who drives a man mad with a strange smelling package.
These, plus four other stories, will keep you up late at night with a light on and your teddy bear screaming for mercy.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

New Release! A Wrinkle in Crime; 10 Stories of Foul Play, Murder & Revenge

My newest release!

In the Midwest, the saying goes, “Revenge is a hot-dish best served cold” – or something to that effect. In Joel Arnold’s new short story collection A WRINKLE IN CRIME, revenge is also served at a lakeside resort, in an outhouse, at a state fair, on a camping trip in the Gallatin Mountains, and along a snow-swept lonely highway.

In these 10 stories of foul play, murder and revenge, you’ll meet:

A man who takes advantage of an unfortunate accident to pull off a perfect crime.
A woman whose only refuge against a knife-wielding assailant is a fiberglass outhouse.
An elderly gay couple who come face to face with murder – and their past – at a cozy lake resort.
A sister whose dark secrets reside in a beautiful pearl.
A man who poses as an old woman’s personal assistant in order to murder her at the Minnesota State Fair.
These plus five more stories will keep you up late at night, turning the pages!

"Joel Arnold is, hands down, one of my favorite short story writers.  This collection is impressive, diverse, and always great fun!” - Ellen Hart, author of the Jane Lawless and Sophie Greenway series. 

Available on:

The Opportunity
Taking Care of Katrina
Hole in the Fence
Leave No Wake
White Crosses
The Cheater
Blue-Eyed Mary

Mississippi Pearl

Friday, November 14, 2014

Things I Learned While Watching Forensic Files

Melissa and I have enjoyed the show Forensic Files for many years. It's sort of a guilty pleasure, and when there's a Forensic Files marathon on (which seems to happen a lot) we'll leave it on late at night and fall asleep to the awesome narrator Peter Thomas's voice. His delivery and tone is a perfect match for the show.

After watching so many episodes of the show, I've learned a number of things not to do while trying to get away with murder.

1. Don't plan out a murder on your personal computer and then label that file "The Plan."

2. Don't claim innocence while sitting in jail and planning a hit on the case's prosecutor.

3. Don't pull up a lawn chair and sit with a cooler of beer while watching the forensic team comb through your house containing your recently murdered wife.

"Just try and prove it, coppers!"

4. Don't misspell words in a ransom note and then give police a writing sample with those same words misspelled.

5. Don't immediately sanitize your house right after the police take the body away and claim that the place was simply due a cleaning.

6. Similar to #5, getting your car detailed immediately after reporting your spouse/significant other missing is not recommended.

Bleed, rinse, repeat.

7. Don't use the victim's bank or credit card at an ATM machine while grinning evilly at that same machine's security camera.

8. When your spouse or significant other or other victim washes up on shore, don't offer up an alibi of being out on that same lake fishing.

And last, but not least:

9. Probably just don't murder anyone.

"Not even the cat?"

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Weepy Old Man Syndrome

Over the last decade or so, I've been experiencing what my wife likes to call 'weepy old man syndrome.' I get teary eyed at the simplest of things, whether they're inspirational videos, sad movies, happy movies, sappy stuff...even some (ack!) commercials. I never thought I'd be one of those people, but I guess I am.

There's a particular song that gets me going a lot lately, and it's this Sesame Street song:

The reason is because I sometimes catch my 12-yr old son Zachary singing it. Zach has autism, and I often wonder if he's lonely. When he sings this song, perhaps he just likes the tune; he doesn't seem sad or melancholy while singing it. But still - to me it feels like a punch to the gut.

Zach's pretty non-communicative, so it's hard to tell what's going on in his mind. Sure, you can tell when he's angry (he screams and/or hits) or excited (he practically bounces from one end of the room to the other) but the reasons are often unclear. And overall, he's a sweet kid.

But this song. Geez. It's so melancholy - someone just wanting friends to play with, the longing, the loneliness...I wonder if Zach feels that. Maybe he's perfectly fine without friends, or without others his age who get him. I don't really know how much peer interaction he gets at school other than that it's pretty limited.

And so when I hear this song, no matter who sings it, I get a bit teary and wish so badly that Zach was able to have friends, just regular friends like so many of us had growing up.

And damn, there I go again...