Cede Catalogue: giving it all away

The next in my parade of mischief, this one was inspired by a catalogue, as you certainly can imagine, from a local company called Sow True Seeds. The protagonists in these tales all yield in one way or another. (As the cover indicates this one has a record-breaking 378 footnotes!)

Person giving up

From the opening story

Sew True Cedes

I don’t think there ever are. True ones, I mean. They’re inherently reluctant. Anything ceded is, ipso facto, something that someone didn’t want to yield, else it would be “gifted.”

Does that make sense? What I’m driving at here is that if a person truly gives something up it suggests a heartfelt letting go, which one does with a gift but not a concession. A concession is extracted, like a tooth, and face it: No one goes into a serious dental procedure full of glee. (Well, maybe after nitrous?)

But here I’ve set myself up (see story title above) with the task of stitching together some sort of fictional quilt out of whole cloth regarding the up-giving of something or another. That’s the name game I play, starting with a title for a book that forces my hand—or my pixels, I guess—demanding something like 200 pages devoted to the beast thus conjured.

It’s a difficult task, to be sure. But someone has to do it.

Truth be told, I don’t honestly believe very many are up to the job. I mean to say, “I’ve been around the block a few times.”

Here I’m throwing myself into the breach. Think of me as a sacrificial lamb fed raw to the ravenous muse of fiction.

Or, hey, a scapegoat. Whatever gets ceded from here on in? Blame me. I can handle it.


Self-Evident: We Hold These Tooths

More of what you came for!

“I think it goes without saying—which is, of course, ever and always a lead-in to saying what the speaker has just told you didn’t need to be said in the first place—that it is the unvarnished tooth that draws our attention. Am I right? Of course I’m right.

“Sometimes, I’ll be the first to admit, it is “tooth and claw” (italics mine) that rivet us. “Red” said Tennyson and he was occasionally on point, but I submit it is the tooth that most bemuses us. As I faithfully recorded in “Jack,”1 when I was on that rocky ledge looking down and the bear was looking up at me the claws were an afterthought.”

1See Fifty Wheys to Love Your Liver, p. 59 (Fiction, yes, but faithfully recorded.)

You see? Of course you see. So, order already!


13, really? My 13th book? Waist Not Want Knot

So, lucky or not, here we go again. Another collection of improbable stories. But, actually, did you expect better? Really? Am guessing the Trumpidemic and its attendant seclusion has gone viral.
The latest eruption from my fevered head revolves around midriffs, stretch pants, rigging, rope, quipus, and what knot. This time with more than 256 footnotes to amuse and confuse (257, actually.) There’s an excerpt below the pic.

small cover

Waist Not, Want Knot (the title story of this collection)

—Let’s get the nitty gritty out of the way at the outset. This story is not about waists or knots. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a heathen and a cheat.

If you bought this book under the impression that it would contain pop-diet information, something about how to lose ten pounds in ten days, or help in acquiring the Boy Scout Pioneering Merit Badge, perhaps a diagrammatic exposition of the Bowline or the Trucker’s Knot, you are going to be severely disappointed. Though, truth be told, if you haven’t mastered the Trucker’s Knot by now you are a sad, sad case and have likely lost numerous valuable items from your roof rack or pickup bed.

If you have not yet lost numerous valuable items from your roof rack or pickup bed, trust me, it is only a matter of time.

More than a few of you likely saw the word “waist” in the title and immediately pictured an attractive young woman being sawn in half by a stage magician. We might as well nip that one in bud as well. No magic here.1

On the other hand, if you stumbled in here with an open mind and low expectations you might be pleasantly surprised.


1But have you ever considered how many assistants those guys go through before they finally “get it right?”


More Moo

Front cover of Bothwell's latest short story collection.
Bothwell’s 12th book

Cecil is at it again with another collection of short stories. This time with more than 100 footnotes to titillate and delight! The perfect gift for readers in a hurry with one story contained within a brief paragraph!
Within these pages you’ll meet an electrician/goatherd with a “steer”ing problem, an inflated whistle blower, the woman left behind in The Last Train to Clarksville, a ball player with a big head, an art thief, Johnny Appleseed’s spiritual heir, the patron of an unusual library, unsuspecting sisters of different mothers, and more.

Here’s one story in its entirety! When’s the last time that happened?

It goes without saying

We all knew it would happen, or at least suspected as much. Given the circumstances, the proximity, the who, and the who knew who. The how. Particularly after what transpired the day before. No, make that two days before. That would have been the twenty-fifth.

I mean, if you couldn’t see that coming … no, I don’t mean you, personally, but “one,” though that one could be you. If the shoe fits, dear heart. But if one couldn’t see that coming, one had to be intentionally looking the other way.

Sometimes of course it is easier to look away than to face facts, particularly uncomfortable facts. Or incontrovertible and boldly graphic facts. Think bar graph where the bar over here on the right is a whole lot shorter, indicating real change. Facts that make one (you?) choose sides, when neutrality seems far safer.

There are a whole lot of fence sitters on this planet, with one leg in each pasture, so to speak, unwilling to take a stand what with their feet a foot off the ground, or each foot a foot, meaning that in one context they are arguably two feet up. Lucky indeed to be seated on the flat edge of a split rail, rather than, say for example, on a run of barbed wire. Ouch! Ready to go one way or the other as needed to maintain plausible deniability.

“No officer, I was over on this side the whole time.”

Not that there are officers involved.


So as the whole thing unfolded like a paper crane uncreased to its pre-origamic pristine squareness, as the true nature of the substance of the situation was rendered plain as the Wonder Bread® Mom used for your PB&Js, right there, nakedly exposed, for you to examine, corner to corner, obverse and reverse, proximal and distal, I heard someone say “See?”

It was not at all clear to the rest of us whether your nod indicated mild agreement or slight puzzlement.

I think it would be accurate to say that anyone who has followed the whole sorry affair to this point shares my concern. This is not a happy situation.

But we’ve gotten to the bottom of it now. Am I right?

Order yours here!


Fifty Wheys to Love Your Liver

Cecil Bothwell delivers another improbable batch of short fiction. Deadly serious or wildly funny they cascade from his faulty noggin like lava into a community swimming pool. Relationships run afoul of disparate musical taste: Paul Simon or Bob Dylan? Angie has lists, lots of them. Almost no one in a work share co-op is satisfied with their trades and a bike shop owner ponders cosmology while adjusting brakes and chains. Oh, and then there’s the crocodile.
Brave Ulysses Books, 2018, $16

Order yours here!


Can we have archaic and idiot? 2

A quirky collection of short stories written between 1999 and 2009. Meet a research assistant with a glass eye and a fellow with two left feet, a group of corporate lawyers stranded in the Canadian wilderness, a math teacher challenged to a glacial duel, a postal worker with a wicked golf swing, a man who comes home to find he has three roommates (!) who don’t speak English, a woman who designs fireworks displays and  other everyday folk.

Order yours here!


Usin’ the Juice

My tenth book – this one a collection of speeches and sermons delivered across the U.S. between 2010 and 2015. When I ran for Asheville City Council in 2009 a group of political opponents decided to tar me with accusations of atheism. No stranger has ever done me a bigger favor. With a little help from Rachel Maddow who aired a story about their efforts to prevent me from taking office I garnered my 15 minutes of fame and launched a modest career as a speaker for humanist, secular and atheist groups. The attack did wonders for my book sales as well.

Thanks folks! I needed that!


Whale Falls

Whale Falls is an examination of how our beliefs shape our lives and a memoir of a difficult relationship, lessons learned and, finally, forgiveness.

A whale fall is the carcass of a dead whale sunk to the deepest depths of the ocean. They were only discovered in 1987 by a crew aboard the submersible Alvin.

Due to the very low oxygen content of deep ocean water, whale carcasses that sink to the deeps decay over decades, perhaps as long as a century, and wholly different organisms have evolved in the resulting mini-ecosystem. Related to the creatures which feed at volcanic vents in the ocean floor, the basis of the food chain is methane gas, the result of anaerobic decomposition.

Whales were the first major source of liquid fuel and at one point the world’s great cities were lit by whale oil street lamps. It’s arguable that the discovery of easily accessed petroleum in Pennsylvania saved the great whales from extinction, since drilling and pumping were far cheaper than the hazard and unpredictability of the hunt – particularly as cetacean numbers plummeted under the industrial onslaught.

Petroleum, added to the already enormous coal industry, has offered us great wealth at staggering cost. Climate change is driven by the accumulation of combustion by-products in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is the most prevalent. Methane is the most potent.

Now some scientist have speculated that if runaway heating of the planet seems unstoppable, it might be possible to inject the methane eating microbes found on whale falls into the upper atmosphere to consume methane. Hence my thematic metaphor for this book: looking at unexpected consequences of our beliefs and choices, and how solutions to our problems may be found in their origins.


The Prince of War

In 2007 I published what was and is the only critical political biography of Rev. Billy Graham. Most of the books about Graham are the product of the Graham ministries, and all of the others focus on the putative “good” he has done in the world while glossing his political influence. Five years of research went into this book, with the help of three interns and a hired researcher working in the National Archives.

The untold story is that Billy Graham advocated war from 1948 forward, under every U.S. President, apparently in the belief that American armies would Christianize the world.


An earthquake in Haiti

She Walks on Water: A novel, Brave Ulysses Books, 2013

A young woman in Haiti, a young man in Japan, a strange connection across species, across the ocean, around the world. It all began with an earthquake.

A story of immeasurable loss and profound love, the puzzle of linguistics, the testing of faith, and the lyrical resonance of pop culture.