The word retreat can conjure up various images depending on our backgrounds and lifestyles.  To some, the phrase “beating a hasty retreat” may be reminiscent of something none of us usually depicts as a positive action.  Picture if you will, Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Russia in the summer of 1812 where he led an army of more than 500,000 individuals.  He went in strong and sure of victory only to retreat, unable to withstand the guerilla-style tactics of the inhabitants and the harsh winter weather.  Napoleon’s army suffered a devastating loss of more than 400,000 men that winter. It sounds like he had a bummer year and most of the rest of his life proceeded pretty much on that same slippery, downward slope. 




                Those of you who have read THE SURVIVALIST series can envision the Rourke clan hanging out in the great room at their Retreat, watching old movies and nuking popcorn, the waterfall in the back of the room making pleasant background noises.  John Rourke, in my scenario, is apologizing once again for having vinyl instead of leather furniture due to the length of time in use as he explains that leather, by this time in their lengthy stay, would have cracked and rotted. Their retreat into the depths of the Retreat was done out of necessity, the only path left open for long term survival.  This was in no way a cowardly decision but a decision to remain alive against certain death plus, Jerry and I were not ready to end the series thanks to the massive response we received from readers all over the world. 

                A retreat doesn’t need to be a complete turnaround; a forward motion now going in the opposite direction to avoid conflict nor does a retreat necessitate having a mighty fortress ready to  shroud and protect you from harm. 

                I agree with this quote from Albert Camus.  “In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion."  Most of us can relate to biting off a bit more than we can handle and retreating to a safe spot to regroup and once again move forward with our plans. Sometimes, a stop along the way is the only option.   This can be as straightforward as taking one step back and trying to reorganize, maybe think through a situation or just recharge your inner battery to make things clearer and less stressful.  A retreat can be as simple as a long soak in the tub with the bathroom door locked or listening to your favorite tunes through a good set of headphones while the rest of your family is engrossed in watching the game or a movie on the Hallmark channel.  A good entertaining book can take you anywhere instead of where you are; it can take you where you want to be or surprise you with an undreamed of location. A two hour action flick might be all that stands in the way of you doing bodily harm to someone and regretting it later or saying something that may not be what you really want to be remembered for.

            Just remember that if you must retreat make sure you don’t end up retrogressing, because I don’t think it has any other meaning except to put you in a worse place than you are.




Yesterday I received a copy of a southern oriented magazine I’ve subscribed to for many years.  Besides the usual gardening tips and recipes and travel information, their home decorating section had an article dealing with styling your coffee table.  After reading the one page tutorial and looking at the photograph of a finished example, I realize I am sorely lacking in coffee table finesse. 

                There’s this tray that I’m supposed to place on my table that “will set the tone” and “anchor the composition” of the look I’m to achieve.  Next, I’m to arrange books on the table.  Now, this does not mean you’re supposed to display books that you actually are reading; what would people think if they saw a paperback thriller or a steamy romance novel sitting out in plain view?  No, only hardcover books that “reflect your interests” are allowed and they must be neatly stacked with the spines prominent.  More than one stack is preferable with some on the table and some placed on the tray. I’m sure color is dependent on your living room walls and accents already in place unless you want to perform an entire redo.

                The dos and don’ts go on as you are advised as to what other accessories are needed to fill this coffee table and the heights and shapes required that will work to achieve success.  After following this step by step guideline you’ll perhaps try running out to your local home décor store to buy additional items to display.  If you still feel this tray is lacking something or the look is still not what you want, you can go online for additional help with an instructional video.

                I’ve decided rather than going to all the trouble and expense it’s going to take to impress visitors, I’ll just become a recluse and invite no one into my home.  Order is not the norm in my life and I do not embrace coordination unless walking down a flight of stairs is involved.  I proudly embrace chaos and welcome it into my abode

                Whenever there’s a family gathering, you can be sure that not all the adults are drinking from a matching set of wine glasses and you can count on one of the younger folk sucking down Ginger Ale from a Christmas themed mug or one of the other mismatched vessels available.  My serving plates fall into the same category.  I have a platter that is the last remaining piece from our first set of dishes.  We had a service for twelve with all the various extras that we bought for $29.95 from Montgomery Ward in 1968.  I have a platter that belonged to my mother and one or two that belonged to my mother-in-law.  I don’t call this style informal; I’d just like to think of it as interesting or comfortable. 

                The living room coffee table was acquired over thirty years ago.  I liked it then and I like it now.  It’s just a simple wooden table with glass inserts.  Our children grew up using the table to do homework, draw pictures, leaf through magazines and coloring books and, of course, act as a snack and dinner counter when necessary.  Cats and dogs were on call to help with any cleanup necessary. Shoeless feet and decks of cards could be found stacked there frequently accessorizing and adding detail and height, finishing the total look that we were aiming for.  

                At the break of dawn, or more to the point, when the dog frightens me into thinking she can’t wait any longer to be taken outside, I usually have a clear picture in my mind as to what needs to be accomplished that day.  By 9:00 am I can still see the picture.  By lunchtime the edges are getting a little out of focus and by late afternoon I think to myself that I might need stronger glasses to see around the holes left in my perfect picture.  I don’t beat myself up over my unfinished list of to dos; rather I can look back at the day and see what I did do that I hadn’t even thought of doing.  I guess that makes me an over achiever or perhaps an over doer!  (Does that mean that what task I have completed is overdone?)

                I do realize that there are some tasks that have to be accomplished within a reasonable time but there are others that might be able to be put aside for a while like taking the dog for an extra walk or two because she’s nosey and wants to see what the neighbors are up to and to take a look at the new puppy across the street.  When you remember a friend that you’ve not talked to in a while that might be the perfect time to give a call and say hi.  If you wait for the perfect moment it may be too late.  Dishes pile up, dust collects and you may not have gotten half the tasks done that you’re supposed to and your desk or coffee table may look a mess but think of the other things you’ve done or saw or heard today that might have gone unnoticed otherwise.  Life has two sides, order and chaos.  Who’s to say we can’t have a bit of both?  BTW I’m waiting to see if a photographer from that magazine comes to my house to do a photo shoot.  If it happens, I’ll let you guys know!




For various reasons many writers find it necessary to have some or all of their works published under names other than their own.  The reason might be gender.  Many early female writers wrote under a manlier sounding name or just used initials, letting readers assume it was written by a man.  The Brontes wrote under different names to both conceal their gender and to shield themselves from their neighbors and friends who were many times depicted as characters in their novels.  Ellery Queen was a pen name for four collaborating authors.  Mathematician, Charles Dodgson wrote fantasy as Lewis Carroll using his given name on his more serious tomes.  Many well-known authors wrote porn under various names to pay the bills while waiting to get their “literature” published.  Some, prolific wordsmiths use many pseudonyms depending on the genre of their work.  Some publishers insist on pseudonyms for their various “house” series with numerous contributors writing as one.

Most of you know that we did some of our writing under an assortment of pseudonyms such as Axel Kilgore and Jack Hillock.  Axel, of course, wrote THEY CALL ME the MERCENARY series for Zebra books between 1980 and 1984.  At the time it seemed prudent to keep that series and THE SURVIVALIST series in separate corners of the bookstore racks.  John Rourke and Hank Frost were both heroic men but in totally different ways.  We kept Rourke’s character so “straight arrow” that most of the time he was totally without a sense of humor. He wouldn’t know a joke if he tripped over it; not that Rourke would ever allow himself to trip.  Hank on the other hand saw humor in everything even if it was while facing a firing squad or explaining how he had lost his eye.  Anyway, it helped us keep John Rourke in the character we chose for him if we could blame Axel for all the stupid, fun stuff in the mercenary series.  Of course there was plenty of blood and gore, much more than in The SURVIVALIST.

Jack Hillock wrote a lot of gun and second amendment articles for certain magazines when Jerry was on the masthead of another.  This happened frequently in the mid to late 70s.  Jack was able to say things that might have been at that time, not politically correct for Jerry to discuss. It was also a good way to start getting fiction looked at by publishers since Jack would get the rejection letter and not Jerry. 

We also shared a pseudonym with many other writers over the years.  We did two Nick Carter-Killmaster books in the early 80s.  There were more than 260 books published between 1964 and 1990 in the series.  Nick Carter always carried his Luger which was named Wilhelmina and his pearl handled stiletto, Hugo.  Pierre, his poison gas bomb was positioned behind his scrotum ready to release its deadly gas with just a twist.  A cross between James Bond and Derrick Flint, they were guilty pleasures to produce.

Jack “Doc” McDuff and Bob “Popcorn” Pruitt were characters we invented for the two books in the RODEO series under the pen name Red Mitchell.  McDuff, is a bronco rider and a veterinarian; Pruitt, a Brahma bull rider.  Both followed the modern rodeo circuit, with plenty of danger both in and outside the arena and the usual supply of pretty women in distress.  Good with six guns and even better with a CAR-1, they travelled in style with Popcorn Pruitt behind the controls of their Beechcraft Baron airplane.  They were both fun characters to explore.  You had the tall, dark and handsome Doc McDuff who usually played the lead and then you had Popcorn, a big burley guy who came off like a country bumpkin but was actually a pretty smart guy. 

I guess today pseudonyms are even more popular than ever.  How many of you use fictitious names on Facebook or on eBay?  Did this all start in elementary school when you had to sign your name for the substitute teacher?  How many Jim Shoes were in your class?





            My youngest granddaughter just lost another tooth.  The gap she has in her smile reminds me of a tunnel for a Lionel train set.  I’ve been told she already has learned how to suck waffles through it to the other side.  There was no remorse, no longing for the baby tooth’s return, just pride in having pulled it herself.  Tooth pulling, I guess, is one of the rites of passage into adolescence.

            With the tooth removed and shown to all of her second grade class, her prize was put into a special tooth container and carried home to be carefully scrutinized by her parents. That evening at bedtime, Olivia’s tooth was buried under her pillow, ready for the tooth fairy to exchange it for something more tradable like cold cash.  She slept through the night certain that the tooth fairy would come and take care of business.

            The next morning, with all the confidence a 7 year old can muster, Olivia’s hand reached under her still warm pillow and pulled out her cash reward, just as she knew it would be there waiting for her. 

            Just like my granddaughter Olivia, we all have hope for another day, for something or someone to fulfill our dreams and expectations.  Annie always knew that the sun would come out tomorrow and so far it has, somewhere.  We are generally a people of optimism and hope.  We may have our cloudy days and maybe our rainy ones but we usually believe that things will get better no matter how serious the situation.

A small section of AN ESSAY ON MAN: EPISTLE I by Alexander Pope tells us this:

Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar;

Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore!

 What future bliss, he gives not thee to know,

But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast:

Man never is, but always to be blest:

The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,

Rests and expatiates in a life to come.


Alexander Pope suffered from poor health his entire life and was a crippled and diminutive man, standing only 4’ 6”.  He was denied much of a formal education and was persecuted because of his and his family’s religion.  Given all the negatives in his life, he still advocated that we just don’t know the answers to everything and sometimes we need to rely on hope and faith to carry us forward.  Pope had faith in himself and despite adversities in his life pushed on and became a well known poet; one of the most quoted poets of all time and he was an esteemed translator of both the Iliad and the Odyssey. 

            Just like Pope, we need to have hope and faith in our future but we also need to rely on ourselves to make what we want happen.  That tooth may not fall out on its own; it just might need a little help.

            Hope springs eternal, just ask any child.  







            I’m confused.  I keep getting mixed reactions to what we, meaning the American public, want.  We’re all about rights. Right?  Whose rights?  Some of us understand the concept of state’s rights taking precedence over federal rights but then some people want the federal government to control what’s right, regardless of what it says in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the Untied States.  “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

We want the right to free speech but are told that this is a right only if we don’t discuss certain issues or object to certain people.  By doing what most of us have been doing and saying for generations now offends certain groups of people and their cultural and religious beliefs we have become the bad guys and we should be ashamed by our behavior and stopped immediately. 

We have places now where permits have to be issued before certain religious activities can take place such as tent revivals.  In some areas citizens who want to hold prayer meetings in private homes were told permits may become necessary.  What happens when teenagers need a permit to go out on a date?  Well, some parents might like that one.  Read the First Amendment to the Constitution, people

We all want protection from bad guys but some people working with this regime want to take away the rights from our primary protectors. Guns have become evil in the hands of American citizens unless they are being employed by persons sanctioned by our government. Rather than responding to an immediate threat to ourselves or our loved ones we’re to wait patiently and unarmed for our designated protectors to arrive and save us.   Read the Second Amendment to the Constitution and you figure it out.

I see “preppers” portrayed as loonies and gun crazy gloom and doomers who want to exterminate the weak and the helpless in order to survive the apocalypse, ready to take what they believe is theirs in order to survive.  I see people no different than myself who, just like those generations before us, believe in putting up a surplus in good times for any rainy days ahead.  I see skills that may not be needed in this modern age of electricity and computers and cell towers that might come in handy on that really rainy day when the grid goes down temporarily for whatever reason.  Imagine a weather related disaster coming along and your family is stuck at home without power in the middle of winter.   

  Are you prepared to survive on your own if your vehicle is disabled miles from civilization?  Is that a coyote howling in the distance; do you hear more than one out there?  Of course you’ve got that bug out bag in the trunk full of survival gear and other  contraband items like the extra food you’ve been hording; let’s not forget that extra box of ammo.

The phrase “God helps those who help themselves” goes back as far as ancient Greece. It became more widely quoted though after Benjamin Franklin popularized it in Poor Richard’s Almanack for the year 1736.  In fact, it’s so popular that more people than you might imagine think the quote came from the Bible and some even believe that it is one of the Ten Commandments.  Our government has been trying hard to convince the general population that our needs will be taken care of if we only put our faith in “the system” and lay down our rights as individuals.  All will be taken care of.  SURE!

Have a wonderful day!