Saturday, June 23, 2012

Loving "Longmire"

Scott D Parker

Now that Don Draper's gone for another year, I have a new Sunday companion: Walt Longmire.

This new A&E television program follows the cases of Sheriff Walt Longmire in the fictional county of Absaroka, Wyoming. A recent widower, Longmire has a grown daughter, Cady, a staunch deputy in Victoria Moretti (Katie Sackoff), another deputy vying for Longmire's job (Branch Connally), and the "Barney Fife" deputy (The Ferg). To top it off, Lou Diamond Phillips plays Henry Standing Bear, a bartender at a local bar, friend of Longmire, and the diplomat between the sheriff and the folks on the reservation.

Based on the novels by Craig Johnson, I have never read these books, but I'm very much enjoying the new television program. As in nearly every good mystery program, it all boils down to the characters. Longmire, as played by Australian actor Robert Taylor, is exactly who you would think would be the sheriff of the western state. He wears jeans, boots, blue denim shirts, brown jacket, and, of course, the cowboy hat. Mr. Taylor is a striking figure when he is dressed like this, the typical hard, rugged man as any grade-school kid would imagine him. He is the visible embodiment of integrity, according to my wife. His mouth is often set in thin, hard line with his study chin and chiseled jawline. From the looks of him, he's the kind of bad-ass sheriff you want on your side.

But Longmire is different. When he's wearing the hat, you can barely see his eyes. When he removes the hat––always when walking into a building and when talking to the relatives of recent victims––you get to see his eyes. And that is where his soul lives. He may have a hard, gruff exterior, but his eyes are soft, tender, full of empathy because he knows what it's like to lose a loved one. In the first episode, he has to tell a new widow her husband is dead. Instead of the more efficient way of doing this (phone), he insists on driving hours to meet the woman in person. The tears in his eyes as he breaks the bad news, the haunted look is pretty much what sold the entire program for me. Longmire's empathy and sympathy reminds me of CSI: Miami's Horatio Caine, especially as both pilot episodes show a lead protagonist that is as compassionate as he is tough.

The stories themselves are good, especially when you add a brand-new twist at the 45–minute mark as they did last week. As good and compelling as Longmire is as a character, it's the supporting cast that can make a good show more than the sum of its parts. Sackoff's "Vic" Moretti is a former police officer from back east. As the show premieres, Longmire has been in a funk after the death of his wife, with Vic and Branch picking up the slack. In Longmire's absence, the two of them started doing things their own way, something that rubs Branch the wrong way once Longmire returns to the game. Vic has Longmire's back and, lest you think that the older Longmire and the young Victoria are destined to be romantic with each other, nothing can be farther from the truth. They basically have a father–daughter relationship or mentor–student relationship. He trusts her, but often leaves her to do the small-ball work of police work while he goes off and interviews suspects.

Branch Connelly is exactly what you think of with the modern detective in a Western state. He's young, has a military looking persona, and has modern ideas about police work, even if the feelings of the people don't exactly enter into his equations. And, given the fact that he's running for sheriff against Longmire, there's some natural conflict.

As you might expect from a laconic character like Walt Longmire, the show "Longmire" can best be described as unhurried. I'm not saying it's boring, not by any stretch. This show shares the spirit of the good BBC mysteries like "Foyle's War" where there's a lot unsaid and subtle, but, this being the west, gunfights do ensue. That's always fun.

"Longmire" airs Sunday night on A&E. Here's the website. Give it a look and see if there's a better way to spend an hour a week during this summer.

Friday, June 22, 2012

First Impressions

By Russel D McLean

This week, I have finally been indulging properly in the first seaosn of Boardwalk Empire, over a year after everyone else managed to see it. But, hey, I've never been one for keeping up with the zeitgeist.

What initially impressed me - before anyone uttered a word - was the incredible opening sequence. There was a feeling for a while that opening titles were going the way of the dodo. And after years of generically bland "introduce the characters" titles, a-la CSI, you could see why. A spot of soft rock. A bunch of shots of the main cast with their name underneath. Job done.

But opening titles, when done well, are masterpieces unto themselves and introduce you completely to the tone of the show. Boardwalk Empire's music is perhaps a little anachronistic, but the great, sweeping shots of all those bottles of booze and Buscemi on that beach are just brilliant

The opening credits of a TV show have to put you in the right frame of mind. In the case of Dexter, the juxtaposition of such odd shots of everyday life put you right into the mind of a central character who doesn't see life in the same way that we do. And of course all that blood (and keptchup) reminds you of the basic tent of the show, with Dexter being a blood spatter analyst moonlighting as a serial killer (or is that the other way round?):

But its not just the most recent shows that had great opening sequences. The opening credits of Crime Story, from the 1980's were quite brilliant, but then that show still has, in many ways, a massive influence on modern TV:

And of course, I won't post them all here, but THE WIRE, went a great stage further with its opening credits, changing them from season to season to highlight the different themes involved. By changing the artists recording the main title track, they managed to ensure that each season felt utterly different from the last and yet somehow connected:

I guess you could say that the opening credits of a TV show are something like the cover of a book: they are the first thing the reader/viewer sees, and they sure as hell have to give an idea of what the books are about. And while many of them are generic, those that are unique or truly inventive, tend to stick in the mind.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Memory Lane

By Jay Stringer

   I've been doing some research over the last few weeks. Whilst I don't pretend that the events in the Miller books are acts of wanton journalism, I do like to keep up to date on the real goings on in the area they are set. The truth is stranger than the fiction, of course. We all know this by now. There are things we'll find in 'real life' that nobody would believe in one of our stories. With that in mind I started to go a wander down memory lane, to the time I was young and stupid and knew many of the kinds of people I would later invent in fiction.

   I'm thinking of the time a friend called me at three A.M. asking me to come and fetch him- he'd taken something he was offered in a nightclub and crashed his car, and was now hiding behind a road sign to avoid the police. I don't drive, which made me the single worst person he could have called, but I rounded up another friend and we drove out to where he was. He hadn't crashed his car. Well- he had. He'd gotten in, turned the ignition, put it in gear, and driven into the metal railing of the car park a couple of feet ahead. There was minor cosmetic damage to the car, if that, and he was squatting behind the metal railing thinking we couldn't see him. It's nights like this you learn to switch your phone off. It's also on nights like this you learn the difference between the truth and the tale. In the years since, everyone I've told the story too has preferred the stoned imagination version of events to the real one.

   But even more, I'm thinking of the single most entertaining day I had in this period of my life.

   We were film students. Each of us saw ourselves as the rightful heirs to different directors. Added to that, I was the idiot who wore an Indiana Jones jacket and had to be the expert on everything. Two of my friends, Channy and Pepsi, were making their third year film. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that making a film with these guys was an experience. No scripts, no plan, no permissions. They would set out armed with a promise to get you drunk, a notion of which Scorsese shots they wanted to ape, and a Rolling Stones CD ready to insert their favourite songs into the scene.

   Their third year film was going to be a straight up heist story; they had an experienced actor for one of the male leads and me for the other. I wasn't, and never will be, a decent actor. But I was the best they had. Plus, I had that jacket thing going for me.

   Early on the first day of shooting Pepsi picked me up and asked where we could get the props. Neither of us being master criminals we made it up as we went along. We drove to a chemist and picked up two sets of stockings and took them to the counter.
   "Are these good?" I asked the guy behind the counter.
   He shrugged,
   "Like," Pepsi said, "Would they fit over our heads?'
   This was not the first time we'd had to talk someone down from panic and explain that we were film students. Better was yet to come.

   For the gun we agreed to drive to the local comic shop. Like all comic shops at the time they basically sold a bit of everything. Replica swords, Princess Leia costumes, black trench coats an cuddly toy versions of serial killers. They also sold air pistols and other replica guns. Trouble was, Pepsi didn't know the city centre well, and was taking directions from me. And again, I don't drive. Wolverhampton then and now is a maze; a one-way system from hell surrounded by a large ring road. I think some drivers are still caught up in it after one wrong turn in 1969.

   So we drive the wrong way down the one way system and get flashed by a police car. As Pepsi pulls over I say to him, "just blame me. Play dumb. You don't know the area and you're taking directions from someone who doesn't drive."
   "I've got it," He says.
   He climbs out, and says, "Sorry officer, but we got lost, we're on our way to buy a gun."
   After another bout of having to flash our University badges and explain the whole crazy film student thing, and that, yes, there is a connection between us buying a gun and having stockings on the seat, but it's not quite the connection you think, officer, we made it to the film set.

   The film set being a street, next to an office building, and with a nice secluded car park. The actor and meself donned out 'masks,' and spent the next hour or so repeatedly robbing someone dressed as a security guard, then running off down the street when the getaway car wouldn't start.

   the thing about office buildings is that they tend to have office workers in them. And these office workers, when they see two men run past carrying guns and wearing stockings over their heads, tend to jump to irrational conclusions. Totally unjustified. Still don't know why they panicked, or even thought they should need to call anyone.

   Hi officer, yes, I'm wearing a stocking, and what? This? Not even a real gun. It's all a misunderstanding. We're students, you see...

   This is all around ten years ago now. And in the years between I can't count the amount of times I've sat down and tried to fictionalise this into a short story. But the thing is, nobody would believe it as fiction.


Couple of quick mentions. First, our buddy Nigel Bird has an ebook available for you all to buy and love, and t'other friend of DSD, Paul Brazil, has a website waiting for you to go and flirt with it. 

Finally, a quick shout to Craig at Gritfiction. He's offering to help people out with kindle formatting, and I can vouch for him- he's helped me on a project you'll be hearing about soon and did a great job. Go check out his site and clicky-click some of those links. 

Okay that's me done for today. Get off my lawn.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Once-a-Year Problem

By Steve Weddle

OK. Over at the DSD Book Club, we're reading THE LAST KIND WORDS. Grab your Tom Piccirilli and  head on over. We'll start posting discussion topics there, probably next week.


The InBox here at DSD HQ has been flooded with articles and links about this here "One Book A Year" Thing.

According to the NYT, Lee Child and John Grisham are being asked to write more than a book a year.

Which makes sense.

Publishers say that a carefully released short story, timed six to eight weeks before a big hardcover comes out, can entice new readers who might be willing to pay 99 cents for a story but reluctant to spend $14 for a new e-book or $26 for a hardcover. That can translate into higher preorder sales for the novel and even a lift in sales of older books by the author, which are easily accessible as e-book impulse purchases for consumers with Nooks or Kindles.

So, publishers are asking writers for smaller, promotional pieces? OK. And publishers are asking writers for more than one novel a year? OK. Publishers want to make money. Writers want to make money. Selling more of a thing means more money. And one thing can lead into another. OK.

I remember when The Office was a popular television show. They'd have "webisodes" you could watch online. I never did. But they were supposedly these 10-minute clips you could watch between shows, between seasons, to get your fix.

Spring training and winter ball are good examples for baseball. Fall league. Rookie ball. These are all ways to keep interested in The Sport of Baseball while the main show is on hiatus, I guess.

What seems odd is the various responses of writers. Some look at the new opportunities and delve into something different. Grisham, as that NYT piece says, writes young adult between his thrillers. Others write prequels or alternate universe pieces for their main series.

But some writers seem to see the new opportunity as a burden. Seems they feel like Lucy and Ethel working on the line at the candy factory. Traditionally, writers with a series -- thriller, mystery, etc. -- would put out a book a year, often in the same month. The bookstores would know that August is Johnny Author's month and would plan accordingly. Stock. Signings. Then every October is the newest dog training mystery from Jane Deplumme. There was a schedule, damn it. Now it's all screwed up. Now full-time writers are being pressured to write more than a book a year.

Some folks seem to think that this is the fault of self-published writers. See, they bust onto the scene with four or five trunk novels and now Johnny Author's publisher wants Johnny to do the same.

Other folks, who have done the math, have pointed out that if a full-time author writes 1,000 words a day, then the full-time author (FTA) will have 365,000 words each year -- four or five novels.

The FTAs have countered, saying that you have to figure in research time and travel time and convention time and editing time and promotion time.

Others have pointed out that if you have a Grisham book on Jan. 1 and then a Grisham novella on June 1 and then a Grisham novel on Sept. 1, then the people who read Jo Blo because they were told "she's like a midwestern Grisham" might never have discovered her, because there's no Down Time for Grisham publications.

Our own Joelle Charbonneau has 17 books coming out in the next two years. Friend of the blog Chris F. Holm has two "Collector" books coming out this year. Many authors -- maybe you -- have more than one book a year coming out. Heck, I know writers with non-author day jobs who do a book a year.

Obvious point that must be made: Everyone writes at a different pace.

I'm not sure, as some have said, that this is the fault of self-published authors flooding the marketplace with three books a year each.

Self-pubbed books -- or indie books, or whatever it is this week -- might take less time to "produce."

If I'm a big seller of vegetables, I might get vegetables from farmers all over the planet. They produce and then send in to my warehouses. I have to have those little stickers printed. I have to work with the grocery stores. I have to work with advertising agencies. I have to argue for eye-level shelf placement. I have all sorts of things I have to do. I have committees set up for this. This takes a great deal of work, a good amount of overhead, as it were.

Meanwhile, there's a man down the street who pulls his cukes out of the ground (updated below) on Friday morning, rinses them, drops them into bushel buckets in the back of his truck, and carries them down to the farmers' market.

Are the farmers' market cukes better? Maybe. Maybe not. But have they been "vetted" by the corporate committees looking to make a profit? No. Have they been through all the steps that the corporate cucumbers go through? No. Might there be spots on them that aren't on the corporate cukes? Maybe. But I've had my share of corporate cukes that were bland or blotchy.

But the farmers' market is able to get things into your hands much faster, once the cuke comes out of the ground.

When the grocery stores and food corporations lose market share to the farmers' markets, they're going to lower costs, to increase their revenue, to work on the bottom line.

More cukes at a better price? Yes, please. It's what the cuke eaters of the world want. And it's what the corporations of the world want.

Readers want more to read. And they want it quicker. The corporations that have signed FTAs to multi-book deals want more to sell. Of course they do. Why wouldn't they? And if a 10,000-word Jack Reacher story between novels helps to promote the upcoming novel, that's a win for the corporation that owns the book and the reader who enjoys the book and the author who wrote the book.

The old adage still works: Write the best book you can. Just, you know, write more of them. Because if the grocery store runs out of cucumbers, there's a market open downtown that has some. And folks love them some good cukes. Is that the fault of the farmers' market?

UPDATE: I've been informed that my cavalier reference to pulling cukes from the ground is incorrect. Cukes actually grow from the sky.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Time and the Reading is Easy

Summer is just about here for me (less than a week of school left).  I always get a ton of reading done in the summer. 

Usually I try to shake things up in the summer.  Read something big (3 years ago THE POWER OF THE DOG and THE GIVEN DAY, last year AMERICAN GODS and GAME OF THRONES).  But at the same time I also like to fall back on some favorite writers. 

Right now I'm reading some Don Winslow.  Up next is Chuck Wendig.

But to be honest, I'm opening up this post to the comments.  Sell me on something cool (and maybe even a bit different) to read this summer. 

Go to it: 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Snubnose Press is one year old today - some thoughts

On June 18th, 2011 Snubnose Press released it's first book, Speedloader, an anthology of six original stories.  Here we are, one year later. 

In that time we have released 14 titles, including one anthology (Spedloader); one issue of Spinetingler; six short story collections (Cold Rifts, Old School, The Chaos We Know, Monkey Justice, Laughing at Dead Men, Gumbo Ya-Ya); three novellas (Nothing Matters, Dig Two Graves, Old Ghosts); and three novels (Harvest of Ruins, The Duplicate, Hill Country).

So why did we decide to get into book publishing?  How about a little history (I promise I'll keep it quick). Years ago, even as far back as when Spinetingler was owned by another site, we had been looking for a way to branch into publishing.  Once we even tossed around the idea of getting into limited edition hardcovers, kind of like you see in the horror market.  Even back then I was talking about novellas.  Simply put, Ebooks finally allowed us to enter the fray with lower costs.

Also in the mix was a couple of ideas that came together for us, forcing us to decide if we wanted to do something about it.  One, we knew a lot of really good authors who had come up through the short crime fiction scene and knew that they starting to produce manuscripts.  Two, the changing market place seemed to have had a negative effect on certain types of darker crime fiction, so we saw a gap that we could potentially fill.  Three, we were aware, through various personal correspondence , of some quality manuscripts that were floating around not getting picked up by bigger publishers. 

Spinetingler Magazine strives to publish the best in darker crime fiction with a mix of established writers, emerging writers and new writers.  More then one story in Spinetingler has been expanded and published as a novel, and many authors have gone on to signing with agents and publishing deals.  Snubnose Press was started to be an extension and continuation of that ethos.

One question I'm asked sometimes is What are we looking for in a manuscript?  The simple answer is, unfortunately for authors, a vague one.  We want to be grabbed, without a wasted word, and dragged along against our will to the very end.  I want to say "holy shit, I have to publish this".

That idea of what we wanted to publish can, and does, cover a broad range of genres, sub-genres and styles.  Which is how we like it.  But one thing we have noticed over the past year is that we are seeing a lot of hardboiled manuscripts.  I can only surmise that this is one sub-genre that the market changes are squeezing out.  While it is not our intention to be considered solely a hardboiled publisher I have to admit to some pleasure in seeing this written about Snubnose Press:

"Snubnose Press came to hardboiled literature as welcome as ten feet of gauze on an open wound. So much talent had little to nowhere to go. They are such a hardcore, dedicated publisher, that I know whatever title I'll pick up from them will be strong."

It's the little things that really make this worthwhile. 

Over the past year, two of our books have come out in print. I am sometimes asked if we will continue to expand into this area.  The simple answer is yes. The extended answer brings to mind a political phrase, "incremental change you can believe in", which to my mind simply means that we want to continue to grow, to do new things, but we also want to maintain a reasonable pace so that we don't stumble and fall because we want to continue publishing books for a long time to come.  So yes, you may see some more printed books this year.

So where are we headed in year two and beyond?

A key to continued success in year one was to try and keep costs as low as possible in order to maximize revenue.  One thing that we decided to do was to start out using a free blog platform as our website.  We will be looking into an upgrade to a dedicated domain in the near future. 

We will be launching a customer feedback form for people to tell us how we are doing and what we can do better.

Right now, as we speak, I am planning a big batch of Summer titles. In July and August we are planning on releasing at least ten titles.  I've had a bit of a change in philosophy since last year.  Initially I worked one one book at a time, getting everything ready for publication then launching the title, at about a one title a month pace.  At some point I thought that it was silly to sit on a manuscript that was publication ready because of a pre-existing schedule.  So now, we are increasing the amount of titles that we are working on at any one time and when a book is ready, we're going to publish it.  This means that you guys are going to see a huge increase in production over the course of the rest of the year. 

Look, I know that Snubnose Press is a small fish in a big ocean but I want everyone to know just how serious we take it.  We went into his with realistic expectations. Our sales numbers during year one have been on the small side but we have all the pieces in place to really see them grow.  As a new publisher, with only a handful of titles, we have been focusing on developing a reputation for putting out quality titles.  Building that reputation is part of our strategy for increasing sales in the long-term.  However, although we do have authors who are earning royalties and receiving payments, building those sales can be a slow process.  We are working hard to grow the sales numbers.  There are some who seem to suggest all a person needs to do is upload their title and start cashing checks for thousands of dollars.  That isn't the case.  Unless the writer has a preexisting base of readers to bolster sales and reviews immediately, e-publishing seems to run counter to print publishing.  In print publishing, the bulk of sales occur in the first few months from release.  In e-publishing, sales tend to build.

Finally, once the queue is cleared out some, we will be opening up submissions again some time in the summer. 

Please drop us a line or leave a comment.  Tell us how we are doing because we would be nowhere without you, our readers. What have we been doing right? What could we be doing better?  Any questions, comments or concerns?

To celebrate Speedloader, our first release, is FREE this week, and all of our titles are .99 this month. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father’s Day: That and a Dime

I am delighted that Steve Ulfelder is back here on DSD.  Since his last appearance, Purgatory Chasm has garnered both a coveted Edgar and Anthony nomination for best first book.  His second book, The Whole Lie, is in stores now.  If you haven't read Steve - do it!  Now!  You'll thank me for it.  Now please give a wonderful welcome to the sensational Steve Ulfelder.

By Steve Ulfelder

Father’s Day.

My books tend to include, even center around, father-son relationships. If protagonist Conway Sax isn’t dealing with the sudden reappearance of his own father (who abandoned him), he’s trying to regain the trust of his own son (whom he abandoned). The stories are filled with sons who believe they’ve never measured up to their fathers, in spite of material evidence to the contrary.

In my writing, I focus on characters or story, letting themes emerge where they emerge. And it’s become indisputable: fathers and sons are a big theme for me.

I’m fascinated by the role of dad in the family. His power. His other-ness, especially in the increasingly rare households with stay-at-home moms.

And his occasional flares of temper.

Ah, yes. The father’s temper.

My dad had one.

Jump to Los Angeles, four-plus decades ago. And let’s begin with some context on my father’s situation at the time. At age 30 or so, he had three kids under the age of 6, a high-pressure job in the aerospace industry, a mortgage on a ranch house in Orange County, a pair of car payments, and a young wife who’d been uprooted and moved 3000 miles from home – with the aforementioned kids.

I can only imagine what pressures my dad felt back then. Small wonder that he sometimes found it necessary to vent in creative ways.

There was the time the lawnmower, one of those engineless jobs perfect for a small Orange County lawn, got hopelessly jammed. Dad responded by launching it over our tall fence into the swimming pool of the apartment complex next door.

No swimmers were injured. The lawnmower was never the same.

I want to be fair, so I’ll point out that his temper often worked on our behalf. One time, a hotrod went blasting down our dead-end street, spinning its tires, barely under control. My father roared at the hotrod’s driver and went running – running – after the car. He must have struck terror into the driver’s heart, because the kid actually stopped and waited for my dad to catch up and offer a piece of his mind.

Yes, my father’s temper had the power to halt speeding cars.

But the story that sticks in my mind occurred one Sunday morning when I was five. My mother had taken my siblings to church, leaving me and dad at home. I watched cartoons while he relaxed and read the LA Times.

My parents had recently begun giving us kids an allowance – a dime a week each. Sunday was allowance day, and though I tried to watch cartoons, all I could think of was that dime. Man, did I want that dime.

I crept into my parents’ room and meekly requested it.

“I’ll give it to you later, when I get up,” dad said.

Fair enough. Back to cartoons.

Time passed. A full three or four minutes – an eternity, in other words, to a 5-year-old with sweet silver on his mind.

I padded back to my folks’ room. “Can I have my dime yet?”

“I’ll give it to you later, when I get up,” my father said, not lifting his eyes from the sports page. There was likely a subtle shift in his tone, a sort of warning bell that I was pushing my luck.

But I was 5 years old, and a subtle shift in tone was no match for that dime.

You know where this story’s headed, don’t you?

Back down the hall for more cartoons. After a reasonable interlude – two or three minutes, say – pad down the hall again. Stand in my parents’ doorway. “Dad? Can I have my …”

And that’s when my father roared.

He roared. He became a force of nature. He let me have it in language and at a volume that would draw complaints at a convention of stevedores.

To say I was chastened is an understatement. I was cowed. I was terrified.

I retreated to my favorite spot – the floor of the linen closet, which was a perfect size for a 5-year-old – and waited for mom to come home.

Now fast-forward 30 years to the basement of the Massachusetts home in which my wife and I have raised our kids.

I need to confess I inherited my father’s temper. It doesn’t blow very often, but when it blows, it blows. My family will vouch for this, unfortunately.

I’d recently introduced my son, 11 at the time, and his two best friends to my own favorite boyhood hobby: building model cars. They had embraced it with fervor. One Saturday afternoon, I dropped in on the makeshift studio they’d created in our basement …

… where it looked like a bomb had gone off.

A paint bomb.

In the manner of all 11-year-old boys everywhere, somebody had accidentally spray-painted somebody else’s hand. Retaliation had ensued. Then escalation, then a full-blown conflagration.

Of spray-paint fighting, that is.

The battle hadn’t ended until the last can was empty. The basement walls and floors, along with everything in the vicinity, looked like a South Bronx graffiti competition.

I tracked down those boys, and I let them have it. Boy, did I let them have it, unleashing a healthy dose of the stevedore lingo my dad had so thoughtfully taught me. I gave them the works: the bugged-out eyes, the throbbing vein in the temple, the clenched fists.

And when I was finished, a funny thing happened.

Only it wasn’t funny. It was terrible.

And it was in that terrible moment that I gained a new kinship with my father. A loop was closed. A new point of view made the scene.

What happened, you ask?

I saw the boys’ eyes.

I saw hurt and confusion, caused purely by me, in the eyes of sweet 11-year-old boys, including my only son.

And I was overcome by shame and regret and the knowledge I had used my power in an awful way.

At that moment, I flashed back to the episode of the dime. And I came to understand what my father must have come to understand then: My loss of control had caused an ugly memory that, while it would recede, and would be counterbalanced by more positive recollections, would never go away.

And this is the part all dads can relate to.

Our power, which seems so great to our families, can be exercised with reluctance and gentleness … or with force and impatience and outbursts of temper.

I believe that because we’re all good at heart, gentleness and grace usually win out.

But because we’re human, they don’t always.

So what do you do? How do you react to a colossal screw-up like this?

Here’s what I did that day, after seeing the fear and hurt I’d put in the eyes of three 11-year-olds I very much loved: I forced myself to remember those looks.

Believe me, I would prefer to forget them. But I don’t let myself. I can recall those boys’ eyes even today.

I wish I could say nothing like that ugly moment has happened since. But I’m human. So it has.

But I’m human. So I keep trying.

I guess I will all my life.

I want to circle back to my dad, lest you think he’s gotten the short end of the stick.

He’s one of the finest men I know. Pushing 80, healthy as a horse, active in all sorts of charitable and intellectual endeavors.

But what’s truly beautiful about my dad is that he’s spent his entire life improving in all the important ways. As he ages, his heart gets bigger and bigger, his capacity for love and forgiveness greater. If I can become half the man my father is, I will have done well indeed.

One last thing. We left 5-year-old me curled up in the linen closet, waiting for my mother to get home from church.

When she did, and I emerged, guess what I found on the rug outside that closet door? That’s right: A perfect, shiny, carefully placed dime.

Happy Father’s Day.

BIO: Steve Ulfelder is an amateur race driver and co-owner of Flatout Motorsports Inc., a Massachusetts company that builds race cars. His first novel, Purgatory Chasm (Thomas Dunne Books/Minotaur), was nominated for Edgar and Anthony Awards and was named Best First Mystery of 2011 by RT Book Reviews. His second novel, The Whole Lie, is available everywhere, and a third book is set for May 2013 release.