Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Diary of a recovering serial killer

Welcome my guest writer, Elbert Marshall, author of  "Nomad."  The spine-tingling novel is available now on and

Diary of a recovering serial killer

In writing “Nomad,” a follow-up novel to “Plotz,” which Sandy Bruney and I co-authored as Marshall Bruney, one of the toughest tasks was to assume the role of a serial killer. With my background in newspapering (as a reporter and an editor), the passages about my lead reporter, Evan Parris; the chapters involving detectives with the Glamorgan Police Department; and the written word about a female behavioral analyst flowed freely from past memories.

Becoming Nomad, the serial killer, was not so easy. My Google searches presented me with thousands, perhaps millions, of results to sift through. Finally, I assumed the mental role of a serial killer and wrote “Nomad.”

Afterwards, I felt withdrawal pains through random thoughts and a couple of nightmares. I wrote about it in a June 2012 elbertreble blog – see

I have found that writing may ease an affliction, so I penned the following item titled “The Diary of a Recovering Serial Killer.” It is meant to be humorous while seemingly macabre and enlightening.

(DISCLAIMER: No one, including my wife, was injured (or murdered) while penning diary entries.)

Day 1: Woke up early this morning and gave the sleeping wife an evil eye, and wondered “what if?”

Day 2: Same old pattern, but too chicken to ask her to be my next “victim.”

Day 3: Ditto to Day 2.

Day 4: Changed directions. Went to the Food Court at the mall and nursed a Chick-fila-a sandwich and Diet Coca-Cola for an hour while scoping out my next “victim.” A security guard eventually asked, no, told me to move on, and clean up my table mess. Said I was scaring the children. That wasn’t true, of course. Nomad was no pedophile.

Day 5: Went to Les Myers Park and occupied a bench for about an hour. No prospects.

Day 6: Went to Walmart and sat on a bench at checkout, checking out the checkers out. Got some mean looks from boyfriends/husbands. Decided to move on before I got my ass whupped – in public. Or, got arrested. I can hear the dialogue now …
      “But officer, I’m not a real serial killer! I just write about them in my new psychological thriller, ‘Nomad’!”
      “A serial killer? Jeez! In Concord!”
      “Hands behind your back! Cuff him, Dano!”
      “Let’s take a ride uptown.”

Day 10: Finally convinced the CPD that I was merely a recovering serial killer, and not a real one. A condition to my release, I was asked to avoid public places and ogling blonde women in their mid-twenties.

Day 12: Withdrawal pains.

Day 13: To soothe withdrawal pains, read Pages 30-33 of “Nomad” – once, twice, thrice to ease the desire.

Day 14: Doing better. Only read Pages 211-215 one time.

Day 22: On the wagon. So I begin researching a flashback section of my follow-up to “Nomad” by asking my Facebook friends what they remember about 1977. No replies.

Day 23: Still no replies about 1977. What happened in 1977 that everyone back-erased their memories? I pick up “Nomad” but resist re-reading Pages 30-33 and Pages 211-215.

Day 27: Jeez! 1977 must be a blur to everyone. In despair, I fell off the wagon and read Pages 211-215. Feeling somewhat better, I finished off my “high” by reading Pages 30-33 and all of Chapter 29.

Day 28 (early morning): My wife is missing! Horrors! I search every room in the house – including under our bed and the bed in the guest room, plus every closet. Even the basement. No wife. I stand on the edge of the deck and look for unusual humps in the back yard. What have I done?

Day 28 (later in the afternoon): The cellphone rings. It’s the wife. She’s in Virginia visiting her daddy and wants to know how I’m doing. “I miss you,” I moaned.

Day 28 (late night): Decided to go back on the wagon – starting in the morning.

Day 29 (10 a.m.): Re-read Chapter 29, then Chapter 30 and Chapter 31 of “Nomad.” Felt some better, but had to read the Epilogue to really feel better.

Day 29 (high noon): Officially went back on the wagon. No more serial killer thoughts.

Day 30: Had bad thoughts all day but didn’t feed my disease with “Nomad” readings.

Day 45: All right! Fifteen days sober and counting. Oh, does a teensy flash across the brain count as falling off the wagon? No, I decide.

Day 46: The wife returns. Happy days are here again!

Day 60: A full month sober. “Who Slew Bonnie Blue” research progressing well. Thank goodness Google doesn’t have a memory lapse about 1977.

Day 90: Another month, another day without a s.k. thought. (I abbreviated serial killer so that I wouldn’t get a vivid picture of Nomad stalking, kidnapping, toying with, leaving his signature in blood, and murdering another female victim).

Day 90 (three minutes after above post): I’m reading Chapter 1 and Chapter 3 of “Nomad.” Jeez! Off the wagon! Thank goodness I bookmarked all of the chapters devoted to Nomad!

Day 90 (ten minutes after above posts): “What’s wrong with you?” the wife asks as I hungrily thumb through and read page after earmarked page.
      To which I replay, “Would you like to play a game with me?”
      “What!” she inquires.
      “Serial killer meets his sweetheart.”
      To which she replies, “How about serial killer meets his end”; and she clobbers me over the head with her handy, 75-pound purse. Twice! No thrice!

Day 90 (a split second after above post): I am no longer a recovering serial killer. My mind has been freed of stalking, kidnapping, toying with, leaving a signature in blood, and murdering female victims.

Day 200: Okay, it’s been a “clean” 110 days. However, after doing my research for my “Who Slew Bonnie Blue?” flashback to 1977, I’m on the brink of another addiction – maybe two or three combined. It seems that 1977 was a pivotal year that altered “free sex” to “protected sex/abstinence,” when drug use was at an all-time peak and pornography, thanks to a Supreme Court decision on the First Amendment to our Constitution, became an in-home pleasure – thanks to Beta and VCR machines.

To be honest, I think I am too old to be a sex-drug-porno addict. I think I’ll go back and re-read Chapters 1 and 3 of “Nomad” – and take my chances as a recovering, not-recovering, recovering serial killer. Seems safer to me.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

When Do You Know It's Christmas?

One year I nearly missed Christmas. We had just moved to the sunny South and summer seemed to linger on...and on. December came with balmy breezes and shirtsleeve weather. Without the first snowfall to alert me, I failed to shop, to send cards, to do much of anything until the boys, then 7, 10 and 12, stuck their wish lists in my face and shocked me into awareness.

Sometimes we get so caught up in preparing that we skip right over the event. Usually, though, there is one moment that defines the season. Maybe it's when the gifts are wrapped and under the tree, and you peek in at your sleeping children and wonder at their innocence before going to bed yourself.

Or it could be in the morning--the early morning--when you hear their excited giggles of anticipation.

It might happen before that. One time it was during the Christmas Eve service when we sang "Silent Night" with only candles to illuminate the words. We didn't need more light; we knew the song by heart. The peace and joy that filled the sanctuary was a miracle in itself.

Once it was after all the excitement was over: presents unwrapped, dinner eaten, the family sitting in front of the TV watching a cartoon special. I stepped outside to do something, take out the trash or shake the crumbs from a the tablecloth, when I looked up and saw the stars. The air was crisp and cold, and they shone like diamonds, so close I felt I could reach up and grab one in my hand.

The same stars that blazed in the same sky over 2000 years ago. And I felt the miracle of the birth they celebrated.

When does Christmas come for you? Do you savor the moment and hug it to your heart? Does it cause your breath to stop because the emotion is too much to bear?

I hope so. Then you know Christmas is really here.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Grand and Frenzied Traditions

If anyone is unaware that Christmas is fast approaching, she has been confined to her home with no newspaper, radio or TV access.

Or children (or grandchildren) with lists.

I am amazed by the articles written about how to take the stress out of the holidays...simplify your holiday...cut down on the hassle this year...

Why? You might as well forget all about it as leave out all the traditions that make the holiday uniquely your family's. I'm not saying you have to go crazy, but don't those people who have their shopping done by July 31 have a teeny little feeling that they are missing something? The decorations, the music, the hum of excitement in the air?

My particular frenzy is baking. In 2010 everything I made burned or was underdone. I swore never to bake again.

In 2011, I forgot my oath. Everything came out just fine. I plan to bake up a storm this year, confident that my mojo is back. I will make ginger cookies from my great-grandmother's recipe (identical to one I found that was supposedly from Thomas Jefferson's kitchen!). As I roll out the dough and cut out the stars, angels and bells, I will remember the year the three boys iced them all in blue icing. Letting them ice the cookies was part of our tradition and I usually left the room and let them have at it. It was a mess when they finished, but they did have fun--and for a change, shared an activity without arguing.

I will make sugar cookies, so thin and crisp they have to be handled very carefully. They melt in your mouth.

Then there are the pinwheels, a combination of vanilla and chocolate layers rolled together and sliced. There is nothing Christmasy about them, but they are my oldest son's favorite, so they are on the list. Also chocolate and peanut butter fudge, and peanut brittle. Pecan pie. Caramel corn. Orange Crush pound cake.

The list is small compared to what Mom used to make. Fondant, Divinity, dates stuffed with peanut butter and rolled in sugar, fudge, jellies, pecan roll, and cookies, cookies, cookies. We ate Christmas cookies until Easter.

I don't intend to simplify my holidays one whit. That said, I don't intend to forget what it is all about, either. Not family, friends, and being together, but the greatest reason to celebrate there is: the birth of our Savior.