For those of you totally ignorant of the fact that Valentine’s Day is coming up (I’m looking at you, men), the humor anthology My Funny Valentine is still available in print and e-book. (I have a few copies on hand myself.) Maybe your loved one is sick of chocolate, or flowers, or chocolate flowers (Chocolate flowers? The perfect gift!) I’m one of the contributors to My Funny Valentine, which is unsurprisingly about Valentine’s Day.
If your loved one has an e-reader, the Kindle version is just $2.99. If they don’t have one, don’t be cheap—buy them one. If they already have one, be cheap. Or, you could get the print version for $9.95 at Amazon:
I’d advise against getting them the book for the second or third year in a row, though—they’d certainly notice. But I suppose in that case you could go over to (or Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, etc.) and grab one of my romantic comedies for the loving one you love.


Holy cow, I just got notice of my deadline for the September addition of 4County Mall! The paper doesn’t publish in July and August, so it’s easy to get out of practice.

It’s been a big adjustment for me, going from writing a weekly column to a monthly one, even without the summer break. Deadlines can be a good thing. I wonder if I shouldn’t start writing humor again, say twice a month, on my own regular deadline? Then I could either have a few columns saved back in case of illness or other delay, or put the extra material into another Slightly Off the Mark book.

Or I could just dedicate myself to writing another thousand words of fiction on a weekly schedule. What would you do?





If you’re going to spend the day proofreading (it is called a proof copy, after all), why not do it at a picnic table in Pokagon State Park?




It worked out great for me. But for the dog, well … we had a walking path on one side, and more picnic areas on the other side—it was way too distracting for Bae. He didn’t get any work done at all.





I only found four mistakes, and there’s a little work to do on the back cover—not too shabby.



“(My first) apartment was slightly smaller than my ’76 Pontiac Ventura, but contained what I needed: a table just large enough to hold my manual typewriter, a stack of scrap paper with one clean side, and a dictionary. The rest would be history, and someday there’d be a little plaque on the front door (okay, the only door) of that one room salute to literary beginnings.  


“Years later, after I’d moved on and my writing career hadn’t, the building burned down.  

“Boy, I wish I’d gone to college.”


Slightly Off the Mark: The Unpublished Columns is just $8.75 in print, or $1.98 as an e-book … I’m not sure you can even get movie popcorn for nine bucks, anymore. Maybe one of those small bags that’s half spilled before you reach your seat. If you spill a book, you can just pick it up. If you like to bring books into the theater (and who doesn’t?) and you’re worried about the pages falling on a sticky floor, read it on your phone (but only until the movie starts). You’re already seen all the ads, anyway.


But if you like coming attractions, I'm also in need of reviews, recommendations, and reposts.



A little late, but episode 2 of Slightly Off the Mark -- the video series. No, really.

I was tagged by Samantha Branham for the 7x7x7 challenge: seven lines from the 7th page of my work in project. I’m not tagging anyone, ‘cause I don’t do that, but if you’re a writer and it strikes your fancy give it a try! I suppose this serves as the official announcement of my next book project, in honor of Indiana’s bicentennial: A humorous look at Hoosier history. Don’t look at me like that, I promise you’ll like it.


(You won’t be hearing much from me for the next couple of weeks, due to research involving this very project.)


“Champlain made the first accurate coastal map of Canada, and also had a drink named after him. Unfortunately, he’d had several of those drinks first, and ended up misspelling his own name. As a result, he never got the credit he deserved for champagne. Upset by that, and also freezing, he headed south and became the first European to explore the Great Lakes area. So much for booze never being good for anything; thanks to Champlain Indiana became part of New France, with the promise that the French Empire in North America would go on for a long, long time.


And we all know how well that worked out.


However, the first white man to actually set foot in Indiana is believed to be Robert Cavalier Sieur de La Salle, whose name I’ll shorten to La Salle for obvious reasons.”


It's historical. No, it is. Well, maybe not by European standards.

Coming soon to an ear near you:

A preview for audible episode 2, where I tell the graduates like it is …

If you’re in the area, the newest “Slightly Off the Mark” column is out in the Kendallville Mall, in various locations including the outside newspaper box at Albion Village Foods. This month I give a graduation address …


If you’re not in the area, here’s something to tide you over. Remember awhile back, when someone edited “Mary Poppins” to look like the trailer for a horror movie? Well, somebody had similar fun with the pilot video for my column:


The good news is, thousands of writers report they’re making a pretty good living.

Unfortunately, that’s a proverbial iceberg tip, being held up by several hundred thousand writers deep underwater. Have you ever tried breathing while being held underwater by thousands of writers?

The median income for authors is less than the amount they spend on computer equipment, Starbucks membership cards, and books about how to write for a living.

Now, I’m not telling you this so you’ll feel sorry for me, a writer. No, I’m telling you this so you’ll feel sorry for me and buy my books. That’s the way it is, for a working writer: It’s not work if you don’t sell it. Until then it’s a hobby that saps your health and makes all your relatives question your sanity, but you still can’t stop

In other words, it’s an addiction.

There’s no Writer’s Anonymous meeting to go to, because a real writer is unwilling to quit. Oh, they’ll keep saying they will … but they can be found late at night, hiding in their home office also known as the basement, attic, or spare bedroom, working by the light of a computer screen. “I can quit anytime I want. Just … one more novel. And this one will sell for sure!”

So, if we write for the joy of it, why do we try to sell? It’s an art, right? We’re supposed to starve for our art. Somebody said it, so it must be true.

Yeah, you go ahead and starve.

Are there really that many artists who don’t care to make a living at their art? I’ll bet not. I’ll bet, deep down, that most artists dream of selling enough paintings, pottery, or macramé wall hangings to make a living. If it’s your joy, you want to do it all the time, right? With just enough break time for lunch?

So when I published my latest book, I decided to go on an all-out selling frenzy, to see if I could possibly push enough copies to encourage me toward that eventual goal of taking early retirement. The good news is, in eight years I can take full retirement, at which point I can expect a regular check of half what I’m currently making.

In other words, one way or another, in eight years I’m going to be taking another job—whether it’s writing or not.

The experiment started when my wife and I decided to drop the e-book price on my already-published book, The No-Campfire Girls. It wasn’t exactly flying off the shelves, partially because it can’t be found on a lot of shelves. We dropped the e-book price to 99 cents, which is less than you’d pay for a trip to most soda machines. We also increased how much of the profit goes to support my wife’s former Girl Scout camp, from a third to half.

Yeah, I know, that flies in the face of my earlier desire for a living wage, but sometimes it’s nice to do something nice.

I sent notice of this to all the local media, and to the local media down in Missouri, where the camp is. I also hit a heavy rotation on social media, blaring the word as far and hard as I could. I became so annoying that some of my internet friends flew in from other countries and knocked on my front door, just so they could slap me.

“We get it! You have a new book! But you’re interfering with our cute kitten videos!”

I sold four copies.

Not long after that my newest book, Slightly Off the Mark: The Unpublished Columns, came out. This was a book of my unpublished Slightly Off the Mark columns. You probably figured that out. I’m writing a column now for the Kendallville Mall, but I had a lot of material left over after being downsized from my old job.

I spent two weeks being as obnoxious as I possibly could about this book, which to be honest I’m pretty proud of. I blabbed about it on Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, and I’m pretty sure I got it up on a site that normally caters to people who dress in Wookie costumes to go swinging in Rio. I sent it to newspapers in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Well, the one newspaper. I sent it to CNN. I sent it to that guy who used to publish Penthouse magazine: “Dear Penthouse Letters, I never thought this would happen to me, but I published a book!”

I sent my grandkids out with sandwich boards. I decaled my website ( on the side of the car. I wrote the book title in white paint on several area streets, thus causing an incident I’d rather not talk about. (It did NOT look like a railroad crossing sign!)

The result? Mediocre. I have not turned in two weeks’ notice at my day job.

Now, we’ll see what happens when my next book comes out, on August 24th. But that’s another media blitz.
ozma914: new novel cover art by Kelly Martin (Default)
( May. 11th, 2015 04:42 am)
I know what you want: You want to know what other people have to think about Slightly Off the Mark: The Unpublished Columns. And who can blame you?

What, you don’t want that? You want … brownies? Well, okay, go get a snack and then come back.

Here’s a review by author DM Yates, who’s more than just a trophy wife:

She compares me to Mark Twain, despite the fact that I’ve never piloted a riverboat, and I look terrible in white. We’re both Marked, though.

Here’s a review by Kay Kauffman, who has a signed affidavit that we’re related by neither blood nor bank account:

Kay insists the book is chock full of laughs, as opposed to initial reports that she laughed ‘till she choked, and a three day investigation by the Wapello County Sheriff Department has confirmed this.

Those and two other reviews can be found on Goodreads:

The other two reviews are by Barry Parham, who himself is a humor writer and thus should know better, and Joleen Naylor, whose horror stories about vampires make her an expert on politics.

By Federal statute Goodreads can only list books that are good reads, as determined through a review by the Mount Airy, North Carolina, Police Department. Writers who violate this statute can be thrown into a weekend drunk tank with Otis, a long-term convict rumored to have both body odor and severe halitosis. These reviews can, then, be viewed with a high degree of accuracy.


The print run of Slightly Off the Mark: The Unpublished Columns is here, but we could run out quickly! (Not really, we’ll just order more.)


You can get a signed copy on my website at using PayPal, or do that whole credit card thing. Or, you can get a print copy on Amazon and pair it with the Kindle version at half price. Or, just shoot me a line and we’ll make arrangements.


On that same website page, sign up for our mailing list and get notifications, information, humor, and stuff. (Stuff to be announced.) I’ll endeavor to be entertaining.


Needless to say, order any of my other books there, too! I’m not all about the funny. Some people feel very strongly about that.

It still looks like this.




This is what I was going to post to get the ball rolling on the release of Slightly Off the Mark: The Unpublished Columns (which are now the published columns). But now it’s up on Amazon, and on the website, and … we just got our delivery of print copies!



“I turned around a few minutes later, walked into the Albion New Era office with the aura of confidence and skill, and said ‘I changed my mind. Pleasssseeeee!!!!!!’”

--Slightly Off the Mark, from “Why I write, or: I hate needles”.


Thus began my career as a humor columnist, which resulted in some 1,150,000 words over the next quarter of a century.  Now, although my column has moved to the monthly Kendallville Mall, I’ve collected all my unpublished earlier columns into one volume.


Because “volume” sounds somehow more official than “book”.


It’s a short book, but my fourteen regular readers have short attention spans, so it’s all good. Now I’m asking you, my other hundred or so readers, to purchase Slightly off the Mark and then actually read it, and then tell all their friends. It’s a lot to ask, but I have no shame.


You can find links to all the ways you can get the Slightly Off the Mark on my website,, or at regular internet places, and soon I hope to have news on such things as book signings and other places where you can get a copy. Or, knock on my door, or stop me in the street. Not in the middle of the street … maybe wait for me on the sidewalk.


To show you what you’ll be treated to—I hope that’s the right word—the book is divided into sections including:


Part One: because someone has to go first

Part Deux: the final second

Part Three: medical stuff, and things

Part Four: the writer’s life for me, or: Brother, can you spare a dime?

Part Five: how do you spell miscellaneous?

Part Six: part two of the writer’s life, or: Six into two makes … something

Part Seven: politics, or: Maybe you shouldn’t read this section—(my editor didn’t)

Part Eight: What’s the sundry word for miscellaneous?


If that’s not enough for you to part with your Starbucks money, at the end of the book you’ll find the first chapter of my upcoming space opera novel, Beowulf: In Harm’s Way. There’s humor there, too. Really, there is. I would recommend you pay particular attention to that part if you’re, say, a publisher, or an agent.


Hope you like it!




You know what I like? Well, yeah, Mountain Dew. Okay, sleep, I like sleep. But in this case, I like when my new book gets reviews before it’s technically even published:

Okay, it’s technically published. Let’s now make it officially published. (I also like chocolate.)



you should happen to wander over to my Amazon author page, you might find some ahead-of-time surprises that even I wasn’t expecting.


Okay, maybe I am the type to jump the gun. But I’d put the safety on.


We’ve dropped the e-book price on The No-Campfire Girls from $1.50 to 99 cents, to celebrate the May 1st release of my humor book, Slightly Off the Mark! The print copy of our summer camp story remains $5.00, but if you’re hesitant to give us too much money, then hear this:


One third of the proceeds from The No-Campfire Girls was going to support Camp Latonka, the Missouri Girl Scout facility Emily called home for many years. That is now increased: Half of all profits from the book will go to maintenance and support costs to keep the camp operating. Can’t afford the five bucks you’d spend on some fancy Starbucks drink that will make you die young? Then get an e-book for what you’d spend on a vending machine can of pop that will make you die young!


So read about the story and get it here:


Or read about all my stories and get them here:


Don’t forget to leave a review, retweet, repost, pass it on, support the Scouts! Or at least support our writing costs. I’m cool with that.



We’re making some corrections to the “Slightly off the Mark” cover (by which I mean Emily is), but that’s okay—we want it to be as good as possible. “Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights” and “The No-Campfire Girls” both took three proofs before we had it right.

That’ll for sure push the release date back to early May, but I can still look on it as a spring gift.


We’ve sent for a proof copy of “Slightly Off the Mark”, which should arrive around the end of the month. Another run-through to come, and hopefully no major problems in formatting—then one step closer to a print run. Next will be to decide how many to order.



Here’s the proposed cover Emily did for Slightly Off the Mark, which we hope to have out in print and e-book in April. Let me know what you think!



ozma914: (ozma914)
( Oct. 29th, 2014 05:34 pm)

With mixed feelings I say goodbye to my first writing home, in the same week my column appears for the first time in Kendallville Mall. I’m going from a weekly to a monthly, but otherwise you’ll get pretty much the same stuff in the new “Slightly Off The Mark” … like it or not.




When I started this column I was a green, snot-nosed kid, which was probably just allergies. Maybe a virus. Today I take medicine and always have Kleenex nearby, so I think I’m a better person, or at least more hygienic.

            Today it’s twenty-three years later, and this is my last humor column in the New Era, Churubusco News, and Northwest News. It’s the end of what was once a—ahem—new era, and I’m poorer for it.

            I’m also grateful that the papers’ new owners have allowed me this chance to say farewell to you, the readers, the people who shared my ride of child-rearing, home maintenance, misbehaving pets, and exploding lawn mowers. This has been my best job ever, and if I’d had a choice I’d probably have gone on doing it until they pried my cold fingers from the keyboard.

            This is my love letter to you, the readers, and a thank you to the crews of the three newspapers that made me feel wanted all those years. Love letter is just an expression, by the way, so don’t expect chocolate … or jewelry. Definitely not jewelry.

            I sent articles to the New Era for a quarter of a century, everything from accident reports to features to movie reviews. In February, 1991, they began printing my humor column, and later it also appeared in the Churubusco News and Northwest News. Back then I had more hair, less weight, and no gray.

Let me grab a calculator … taking into consideration the occasional reprints and my poor math skills, we published over 50 columns a year. That’s 1,150 columns, each up to 1,000 words long, although they were getting shorter. That’s one million, one hundred fifty thousand words.

            My last novel clocked in at around 60,000 words. So I wrote 19 books worth of “Slightly Off The Mark” … 14 of them good books. Including the five actual books I’ve written, that’s more words than J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Myer combined. Not that I’d combine them.           

            Emily’s working hard to get the “Slightly Off The Mark” book ready to go before Christmas, but meanwhile … there’s my new job to announce.

            My weekly humor column, orphaned after being dropped from its former newspapers, will now appear monthly in the Kendallville Mall. A go-to place for local ads and coupons, Kendallville Mall is also changing its direction, to feature local and Midwest writers in a kind of monthly feature setup. There’s a good possibility I’ll also be part of Julie Scher’s growing efforts in the area of internet video and social media services.

            In other words, someday sooner than you think, you might be watching my column. Imagine the possibilities! I leave it to Julie to give you more information on that as it develops, but meanwhile the Kendallville Mall’s Facebook Page is here:

            Check there to get lots more information about what they do, and watch for me in your mailboxes (which isn’t creepy at all), or at places such as the box outside Albion Village Foods. Support those who support me! My column will appear on my blog a week after it’s in Kendallville Mall.



ozma914: new novel cover art by Kelly Martin (Default)


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