Lamont and Dude Ponder the One Story


“How was your date, Dude?”

“Don’t ask.”

“Not good?”

“I said, don’t ask.”

“Ahhh. So what did she look like?”

“Short. Ferocious. I hate short girls.”

“Did she bite you?”

“Ha ha.”

“Why don’t you give it up? You’ve had enough love stories in your numerous incarnations to last an eternity.”

“I’m not like you, Lamont. I’m not bitter.”

“I’m not bitter. Just have better uses for my time. Or times.”

“Like what?”

“OK, look. How many times have we mated, spawned and died? I can’t count them. Can you? That lovely time when I was a salmon, everything was glorious cold water, bubbles, changing light, rushing upstream with my friends, laying my eggs and…dying. Wow. That puts a fine point on everything, doesn’t it? Love = death.”

“Good god, Lamont. Talking to you in the morning is a great way to destroy all the possibilities of an entire day.”

“Why? I don’t understand, Dude. You’ve been through this thousands of times. You KNOW the story. It doesn’t end differently.”

“I don’t get YOU. That IS the story. If you avoid it, you avoid EVERYTHING.”

“Let me look at that bite.”

Lamont and Dude are characters I made up a couple of years ago. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their past incarnations. This gives them a unique perspective on life, the universe and everything.

Wistful Memory of Abandoned Vices


I miss mine, just like I miss the solid wooden workbench to which it was bolted and the garage that surrounded them, us. It was incredibly handy. The one thing wrong with my house now is I have no workspace where I can go, saw things, paint things and yeah, use the heavy duty vice that I would have if I had a workbench, a garage, a window and damn. Of all the houses I could have bought in this town, I think I bought the only one that never had a guy working in his garage as a former owner.

A Decade with Dusty T. Dog

Dusty and burned out adobe house

If I’m an expert on anything, it’s Dusty T. Dog. After ten years — that’s right, ten years today! — of living with this guy, I think I have figured it out. Dusty is big, black, barky, and protective. A Labrador retriever mixed with Doberman, he’s a force to be reckoned with, but he’s a marshmallow inside, less likely to bite than your average Chihuahua.

Dusty was a rescue, a damaged little dog soul that had been kicked, beaten and pushed out of a car on the freeway. After professional training, and lots of love and attention from me and his dog friends, he has turned in into a dog that gets mail from the electric company complaining about his bark. Yes, his bark is scary. Walk into his house, with me here, and he will love you to death.

Dusty LOVES everything he learned in his six weeks of professional training. He does not pull on a leash; he doesn’t even need a leash. He loves to sit, stay, lie down but he doesn’t know any tricks. I think tricks are for dogs that are smaller — and more light-hearted — than Dusty is. Dusty has never played with a toy, but he did play with his Husky Moms and Bear cajoles him into playing with  her.

He’s a complex creature, a fatalistic Eeyore kind of dog, with a heart of gold. He loves those he loves passionately and deeply and grieves their passing. In his life he’s lost all of his Siberian husky moms. I suspect he fears that he will lose more of his beloved dog friends. If I take his little sister/daughter, Bear, outside alone, without him, he waits at the open back door until she comes back.

10 is on the cusp of old age for a dog, and Dusty is beginning to have the bumps and lumps of old dogs of his breeds; he hasn’t slowed down, but sometimes I catch him looking into space with the sage expression of other dogs I’ve had into their old age. I love him a lot and I’m proud to have been his human for a whole ten years!

Dusty T. Profile

Dusty T. Dog


Part three of “So You Want To Be a Writer”🙂 Thank you Marilyn for making space on your blog for my voice.


Me in ObfeldenIs today Saturday? No, it’s Sunday. This should have appeared yesterday. Right here. Except — I thought yesterday was still Friday, but woke up very early this morning with the distinct feeling of having missed a deadline. In more than 40 years of working as a professional writer and editor — this is my first missed deadline. I suppose it was bound to happen someday, but I’m very sorry anyhow.

And so … a day late, but not too late … is the third of three posts by Martha Kennedy on getting a novel into print.

This one hits close to home for me. It’s the same process I went through. Many of us have self-published, and even more, will do so eventually. With traditional publishers thin on the ground, we find ourselves facing a choice: self-publish or keep trying to get a publisher to pay attention. At what point do you decide to stop waiting and move ahead on your…

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Happy Goethe’s Birthday!

Goethe birthday.001

Cheating the Daily Prompt since the first place the word “cheat” takes me is to the Evil-X and I don’t want to go there.

Today is August 28, Goethe’s birthday. I don’t know why this isn’t celebrated everywhere, but maybe because (poor) Goethe now has a “literary reputation” for being deep and inscrutable and profound and being the “Shakespeare of Germany.” I am more interested in Goethe’s discussions of life and art than I am in his songs, poems, plays or fiction. I know there are nine-hundred million different (and often pedantic) takes on what Goethe meant here or there. They don’t interest me; my relationship with Goethe is a personal one. In some strange way, I think we are friends.

Among the many things Goethe was, he was at the right place at the right time with the right miserable and depressing little novel, Sorrows of Young Werther. Novels were a relatively new thing at the time, it seems a mostly English thing. Goethe loved the novels he’d read, especially The Vicar of Wakefield, which influenced not only Goethe’s perception of the world, but the story behind Werther.  There had never been a book like this before. It was an instant international “bestseller” and Goethe was forced to drag Werther around with him for the rest of his life.

Goethe, broken-hearted over his rejection by Lotte Buff and the suicide of his friend, Jerusalem, discouraged by his inability to get his work published, wrote Werther. I imagine Goethe’s mind at this moment of his life as a giant crucible into which pain and loss had been poured, partly in an effort to make sense of it, partly to create something from it. I know that crucible; I have my own.

I think that there was a time in Goethe’s life when he was a pretty dreamy young guy, I don’t mean a dreamboat, but a guy who looked at the world through dreams.

I think that dream-laden mind is apparent in Werther and visible in the attempt of the protagonist to turn Lotte Buff’s family into the family in Wakefield. I love Goethe for that — among other things. I’ve struggled all my life to make a distinction between the dream in my mind and the reality in front of me. This was a lifelong quest for Goethe, and he has been my lighthouse for the past twenty years. I’ve always sensed that, as a writer, nothing mattered more than developing the ability to observe the world, life, as it is.

“What can we call our own except energy, strength and will? If I could give an account of all that I owe to great predecessors and contemporaries, there would be but a small balance in my favour.” Conversations with Eckermann

Here’s a beautiful thing for Goethe’s Birthday!

Montana Picnic


Emma carried the big, yellow Pyrex bowl filled with potato salad and covered with clean dish towel across the bit of pasture between her house and that of her daughter, Mary Ruth. Her ten year old granddaughter, Linda Louise, danced along beside her, proud to be going with grandma.

“Mother’s here,” called Helen who quickly put out her cigarette. It wouldn’t do for “Mom” to see her smoking.

Martha Ann looked up. Too small to be useful, but not too young to be interested, she saw her grandma hand the bowl to Uncle Hank and then lift the top wire and push down the middle wire of the barbed wire fence so she could come through.

“I’ll build you a gate, Mrs. Beall.”

“The day I can’t climb through a barbed wire fence, Hank,” she laughed.

But the next day, Hank cut the wire and put in a makeshift gate. A a year later, that section of the fence was wood with a gate that latched.

The late afternoon Montana light broke against the distant Beartooths. Martha Ann saw how the golden rays hit her grandmother’s white, white hair making a halo around the old woman’s face.

The potato salad was set on the table with everything else. Florence, Mrs. Beall’s oldest, arrived in her red Mercury with her youngest, Ed, and her teen-aged daughter, Harriet. Her oldest, John, had joined the service and was in Japan. He’d sent grandma gaudy silk pillow covers with Mt. Fuji embroidered on them.

“You still driving that old Merc, Sister?” asked Stocky, the husband of the youngest of the Beall girls. “How many miles on that thing?”

“It gets us there,” said Florence. Her husband had died the year before.

Mary Ruth was wearing Martha Ann’s favorite dress. It was chartreuse, with a beaded and embroidered pin that looked to Martha Ann like the Ford emblem on the front of the family car. She called it the “Tennessee Ernie Ford” dress and no one understood why, but it made sense in the logic of a five year old. Her little brother, Kirk, was trying on everybody’s hat.

“Hide your hats!” said his cousin Greg, learning Kirk was coming.

“Is the chicken ready? Why do you use that electric skillet?” asked Helen. “Frying that way adds a lot of fat.” Helen had recently been diagnosed with hypertension and high cholesterol. “I suppose you use lard?”

“Crisco,” Mary Ruth answered putting her lips together. 

“You should use corn oil. It’s low in cholesterol.”

“I suppose you use margarine, too?”

“Who made the pies?” asked Bill, Martha Ann’s dad. “Did you, Mrs. Beall?”

“No, Madylene made them.”

“Well, she’s done you proud. They look beautiful. You taught her well.”

Madylene’s youngest was still a baby, the next youngest, Lee, was almost three and fascinated with Martha Ann’s little brother, Kirk. Her two boys, Paul and Tom, were in Rapelje with their other grandparents.

Martha Ann was happy to get some red Jell-o with fruit cocktail in it and a chicken wing. The pie had been apple and raisin and everyone thought it was almost as good as grandma’s.

The meal was eaten, the sun sank lower, the paper plates went into the trash. Martha Ann stared a while at her cousin Harriet’s vivid, red and pointy fingernails and developed a life-long antipathy for the look (they scared her).

“I think I’d best go home,” said grandma to Mary Ruth, buttoning her pink sweater over her apron against the evening chill.

“David! Greg!” called Uncle Hank to his sons. “Go home with your grandma. See she gets home safe.”

“Can I go?” Linda asked Kelly, her mother.

“Sure. Maybe Martha Ann would like to go.”

Martha Ann was suddenly alert. These were BIG kids. Greg was 11 and so was Linda. “I’m only five,” she thought.

“Mom?” she looked at her mother who nodded.

They crossed the pasture through the tall grass. The grasshoppers leapt into the air with the crackling whir of summer.

“Goodnight, kids,” said grandma at the back door. “Thanks for seeing me home.” She held each grandchild against her ample bosom and kissed each on the head. “Now be good,” she said, sending them off.

The kids raced back across the pasture. Because she was too small to manage it herself, Greg held the wires of the fence, and Martha Ann went through. This had been the most grown-up adventure of her life so far and she couldn’t wait for more.

“You kids want Popsicles?” Mary Ruth called out the backdoor.

With grandma gone, everyone could smoke in peace. The grownups all sat in a circle in the backyard, their cigarettes glowing ends of day against the purple coming night. Stories, disputes, and laughter rose with the smoke and settled in the memories of all the children.

Lamont and Dude Are not Mistaken

Lamont and Dude as dinosaurs

“Lamont, have you ever made a mistake?”

“Have I ever NOT made a mistake, Dude. That’s a better question.”

“You look a little down in the dumps, buddy. What’s up?”

“Meh. These incarnations. Don’t you find them a little repetitive?”

“Yeah. They are repetitive. Summer reruns. Groundhog Day. There’s a lot of that. I just figure it’s due to the normal trajectory of life.”

“‘Normal trajectory of life’? You make it sound like we’re launched from a cannon or something.”

“In a way we are. And here we are in old ‘kill or be killed’ again, making the best out of whatever conditions we find. That’s all window dressing, stage-setting, props, a plot line. We sentient beings plod across the stage of a lifetime, back and forth, as infants, children, young whatevers, adult whatevers, fornicating, repopulating, fading, dying…”

“Have you been reading Shakespeare again?”

“Shakespeare’s not to be read. His work is to be WATCHED.”

“Oh Dude.”

“All the stuff we do? We take it really seriously but it doesn’t matter a jot in the grand scheme. Better go at the whole shadow show with a sense of wonder combined with abject indifference.”

Abject indifference?”

“Sure, you know, passionate apathy.”

Lamont and Dude are a characters I made up a couple of years ago. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their innumerable incarnations. This gives them a different perspective on things than most of us amnesiacs have.

What’s the Wall, Anyway?

bear hiding her eyes

Li Ho, Tang Dynasty

Heaven is dark
Earth is a secret
The nine-headed monster eats out our souls,
Frosts and snows snap our bones.
Dogs are set on us, snarl and sniff around us,
And lick their paws, partial to the orchid-girdled,
Till the end of all afflictions, when God sends us his chariot,
And the sword starred with jewels and the yoke of yellow gold.

I straddle my horse but there is no way back,
On the lake which swamped Li-Yang the waves are huge as mountains,
Deadly dragons stare at me, jostle the rings on the bridle,
Lions and chimaeras spit from slavering mouths.
Pao Chiao slept all his life in the parted fens,
Yen Hui before thirty was flecked at the temples,
Not that Yen Hui had weak blood
Nor that Pao Chiao had offended Heaven:
Heaven dreaded the time when teeth would close and rend them,
For this and this cause only made it so.
Plain though it is, I fear that you still doubt me.
Witness the man who raged at the wall as he carved his questions to Heaven.


When I looked for this poem this morning, hoping not to have to type it all out, or find the book (which I think is in the garage), my Google search demonstrated how many people have comments on this poem, how Pink Floyd (ew) used it in a song (is this THE WALL???).  If so, I think they had a lot of nerve…

I read this poem first in the 1970s in a book a friend gave me for Christmas. It brought tears to my eyes. My friend inscribed the book, “Maybe this is a book you haven’t read yet” because once I read everything. I had not been in China (yet) and had no idea that I would ever go.

I had begun my “writer’s life” at that point. I had (so far) only one story that, it appears, I will never finish. I was dedicated. I spent my weekends at my Smith Corona banging out the book. I have banged out that book four times now. It’s half banged out and saved on this laptop. If I finish, that’ll make five times.

It’s a love story.

So this poem. In my 20s, I saw the wall was an obstacle holding him back from Heaven, but at the same time he would have had nothing on which to carve his questions if he had not had a wall, making it a beautiful paradox. This morning I realized that without the wall, he would not have had questions; Heaven would spread in front of him with all its glorious answers.

In my 20s I thought it was magnificent and brave, what he was doing, using the medium at hand to write beautiful poetry. I thought the poetry — the writing — was the be-all and end-all of the whole experience of life.

This morning, with $$$ invested in PR for my book, anticipating more $$$, doubts about the decisions I’ve made, wondering if the whole point of everything is just carving the wall (because Heaven is silent), feeling quite small here in the middle of the world’s largest alpine valley, spurred to revisit Li Ho thanks to the daily prompt’s cryptic little word, “Witness” I find this poem is still a friend.

Non-Fiction in Fiction

72-The Bros Path Cover Promo

IndieBRAG has invited me to write several posts on their blog. Here is the second:

“Non-Fiction and the Brothers Path”

My consuming interest as a writer of historical fiction is to get as close as I can to the daily life of my characters who are, usually, just ordinary people. I’m most interested in how these sweeping events that are sketched for us in “history” were in their lives. With The Brothers Path I had some very intriguing facts on which to hang the story.

Here is the first post, Inspiration’s Mysterious Power.


Lamont and Dude Ponder Obviosity


“Ha ha ha ha ha, Oh my god, ha ha ha…”

“Lamont, what’s so funny?”

“Oh Dude, someone on the tube — I mean on the plasma —  just said, ‘It’s as obvious as the nose on your face’. You know, nothing is LESS obvious to the person BEHIND the nose, the person from whose face the nose projects. Of all the people in the world, THAT person alone has no chance of seeing the nose, that is, without a mirror and THEN they’ll see it backwards.”

“I don’t get what’s so funny.”

“It’s a great metaphor. In my innumerable lifetimes, I’ve experienced, time and again, that there’s nothing less obvious than the obvious.”

“Obviously. Remember when I found you, all lovelorn and shit, on that promontory, waiting for a message in a bottle?”

“Dude, you forget. It was I who found YOU.”

“Right on. Well? Whoever it was, it was obviously absurd, right? But it finally arrived.”

“No it didn’t.”

“It didn’t?”

“No, Dude. That was trash.”

“Whoa. Really?”


“But I remember a wine bottle washed up on the beach.”

“Yeah, that did happen, but remember? The cork was all swollen from the salt water. We broke it open, well, I broke it open and the message was some guy’s receipt from Wines’R’Us.”

“Oh well. Long distance love affairs are pretty challenged from the get-go and then when your main squeeze lives in another country and communicates through messages in a bottle, what chance does it have? You wanna’ go get a chorizo burrito? Remembering that made me hungry.”

“Where? Do you want to go to Alibertos, Aibertos, Albertos or Robertos?”

“Doesn’t matter as long as it’s some ‘bertos’ or another.”


Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a couple of years ago. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their past lives which gives them a rather different perspective on things. If you enjoyed this, you can read more by typing Lamont or Dude in the search bar.