Tag Archives: John L. Sheppard

Needs Work Blitz

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Fiction
Published: October 2019
Publisher: Paragraph Line Books
Once upon a time in Cleveland… Phil Derleth, a former Army “combat cartoonist,” comes home to Cleveland, Ohio after a messy divorce. Phil is brain-damaged from a war wound and there are holes in his memory. His father Larry, a stone mason living on disability, takes him in. Soon enough, Phil finds himself embroiled in all sorts of trouble, including dodging the Ohio Department of Transportation, blood-stealing tramps, the ghost of his dead mother and stray dogs who are more than they appear to be. One stray in particular will show Phil the way back to a life that he may have forgotten.
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 Excerpt

 

I was let go.
That was months after my wife threw me out, taking our daughter with her. I was twenty-seven and starting all over again with life. I moved in with my father. Moved back to Ohio, a place that I thought I’d left in the rearview mirror. Instead, it was in my cracked and hazy windshield.
My car, a ten-year-old Ford Mustang, broke down in my father’s driveway never to recover. It had thrown a rod.
I got out of the car. The parking brake popped. The car slowly rolled into the street. A small fire crackled under the hood. In few minutes, dark black smoke poured out from the undercarriage and a red glow simmered within the passenger compartment. For a moment, I saw a shadow behind the wheel, a remnant of my former self, the one who was so confident that he would never again grace the state of Ohio. A small explosion. Another small explosion. They sounded less like explosions than someone manually popping a paper lunch sack. The driver’s side front wheel fell off and the car tilted over. The Mustang emblem clinked onto the pavement. A car, and then another car, drove past as if this sort of thing happened all the time. Nothing to get excited about.
“My clothes are in there,” I said aloud. “My employee of the month certificate. My Army uniforms. My crazy pills.”
My father emerged from the tiny house I’d grown up in, leaning forward on an aluminum walker, a wry grin on his mossy face. There was a reason why he’d never grown a beard while my mother was alive. The beard was patchy in so many ways. The coloration was wrong. The growth was uneven. There were too many things wrong with his beard to list.
The look he sent my way told me that he hadn’t yet forgiven me for not coming around while my mother was dying. I came to the funeral. Wasn’t that enough?
The police arrived. They pulled their cruiser up to the curb. A decal on the side of the car read, POLICE INTERCEPTOR. An older fat patrolman strolled up to me. He stood alongside me in silence and we watched my car burn for a while. Finally, he said, “That yours?” His name tag said, SMITH.
“Yes,” I said. “I have no money.”
“Who does?” He patted me on the shoulder solicitously.
The flames licked the air. It was sensuous.
“This is my son.” My father was beside us, opposite the cop.
“Total loss,” the friendly, gray-haired patrolman said. He rubbed his belly like there was a cat underneath his shirt.
His partner, a youngish woman, her hair pinched into a severe bun at the nape of her neck, stood near the car in the street, waving other cars past. When the street was clear, she pulled out her ticket pad and wrote me up.
My state of Illinois vanity plate fell off the back. It read, “E4MAFIA.” It was a joke that wasn’t funny now that I was out of the Army. I’d been out of the Army for years. I was in the Army for four years, most of it spent in a Navy hospital in Illinois, recovering from my war wounds. The Navy corpsmen would wheel us all up to the roof of the hospital at times, I remembered. We’d sit up there, high above the base, staring at Lake Michigan. It was calming. The hospital specialized in traumatic brain injuries. It was why we were all there. We were learning to speak again. To feed ourselves. To walk. To read and write. The Navy’s corpsmen school was there, so the student corpsmen would come by to gawk at us, or help us out with basic things. Eating. Finding our way back to our ward.
About the Author

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John L. Sheppard, a graduate of the MFA@FLA creative writing program at the University of Florida, is a native of Cleveland, Ohio. He lives in Illinois.
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Doug Liberty Presents Bandit the Raccoon – Blitz

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Humor
Published: November 2018
Publisher: Paragraph Line Books
 
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Effete alcoholic Tris Edgar finds a talking raccoon digging through his trash one evening. Tris tells a story of heartbreak, loss and self-defeat, and of his life as an instant celebrity in the internet age. At turns dark and whimsical, Doug Liberty Presents Bandit the Dancing Raccoon is a uncanny fable for the 21st century.
Praise for Doug Liberty Presents Bandit the Dancing Raccoon:
“Sheppard is a hugely imaginative writer, deftly balancing humor, pathos and lyricism.” -Self-Publishing Review
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Excerpt
When I went to work the next night, Delores wasn’t there. She was supposed to be there. She left behind a note on the back of an order pad that said she was returning to Zanesville, Ohio, and that I shouldn’t follow her because nothing good could come from my following her to Zanesville. She’d double-underlined and capitalized Zanesville in each instance of its use in the note. She helpfully wrote down the address for what she said was her parents’ place in Zanesville at the bottom of the note.
This is how people get in trouble, you know. Not following directions.
It was an adventure. I took the note, left the restaurant, locked the doors and shoved my key under the front mat. I could have tried to drive my car to Zanesville, but it wouldn’t have made it.
I didn’t have much money. I’m not very good with money. This is a problem of mine going way back. All the way back. And all the way forward, too, to the present day. Ask the raccoon, if you can find him. He didn’t appreciate my situation.
I walked down to the Trailways bus station with the intention of buying a ticket to Zanesville, or maybe Cincinnati or Cleveland. I was unsure concerning the geography part of the adventure. Ohio was north. I knew that much.
At the bus station, a dude wearing a white, bellbottomed jumpsuit with “FATTU” spelled out in golden sequins sparkling on his back and sequined flames sewn into the seams from his armpits to his white ankle boots, hired me to ride shotgun with him from Florida to Ohio. I found him pacing around the bus station near the coin-operated TV sets. I’d been on my way to the ticket counter. I expected him to speak in an Elvis-inspired drawl, but he didn’t. His voice was Midwestern flat. There was no musicality to it whatsoever. He spoke quickly, too. “You want to go to Ohio? Let’s do this. Here’s two hundred dollars.” He handed me $300 in twenties. I counted it in front of him and tried to give back the extra hundred. “You keep it! You keep it! Good job! You’re trustworthy. We have a circle of trust going.”
I was wearing my work uniform. We were quite a pair walking out of the bus station to his waiting car, a mid-1970’s Camaro painted gold, like the car in the Rockford Files, glowing under a streetlight. Or was it a Pontiac Firebird? The engine was running. I could see blue smoke rising out of the tailpipe and up into the humid air. It was the rainy season. Everything was wet—ground, trees, people, air. I flung my straw boater onto a palmetto bush growing at the edge of the lot.
Where did I leave my car? Should I have sold my car? It wasn’t worth the effort to think about the car, so I didn’t.
He produced an glass amber bottle of black beauties. The bottle had been around since the 1970’s, like his car. Maybe he’d found it under the bucket seat. I popped a tablet, he popped four. He told me he was going to dictate his novel to me, and I was going to type it all down. He handed me an Olivetti in a brown leatherette zipped case and a roll of paper from a paper towel dispenser. “This is going to be my masterpiece. Type it all down! I’m the new Kerouac!” The speed made me feel like there were invisible live wires under my skin. I kept shouting, “Woop! Woop!” I typed the guy’s masterpiece while he drove. He had an organist’s keyboard built into the dash, and he played it. Bach fugues, mostly, to accompany his dictated writing. There were pipes in the doors. Every note vibrated through them. 
“Her lips were pillows for my psionic mind.” I remember that line. I don’t remember a lot of the rest of it. Most of it was like that, though.
All the roadsigns that I’d read from my annual trips north were still there somehow (Stuckey’s, See Rock City, etc.).
I typed, and the paper kept getting stuck. The ribbon was on its last legs. The paper tore, so I ripped it and tossed it in the seat behind me. I looked back at some point and there were all these curls of typed-upon paper back there.
“Is it done?” he asked me, riffing on the keyboard. “Is it done? Is it done?”
“Yes,” I told him. “It’s done.”
“Cool,” he said, and drove us off the side of a low bridge in Kentucky, bounding over rocks ten feet down before sloshing nose first into the river below.
“I should have asked for more money,” I muttered as the car splashed down.
“What’s that?!” he shouted.
“Never mind.”
We somehow survived. I rolled down the window, climbed out of the car, swam ashore and looked back. The car was gone. So was the author.
About the Author

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John L. Sheppard, a graduate of the MFA@FLA creative writing program at the University of Florida, is a native of Cleveland, Ohio. He lives in Illinois. He wrote a series of books about the adventures of Audrey Novak.
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