Vacationland now available on Smashwords!

Dear friends and family,

Just wanted to let you know that Vactionland was recently published as a multi-format ebook by Smashwords.  As many of you know, the story revolves around Donny Coombs, a Maine lobsterman, who is caught up in a mess of troubles.  I hope you’ll take the time to check it out at Smashwords, where you can sample the first 20% of the book for free.

Here’s the link to my author profile:

Here’s the link to my book page, where you can sample or purchase the book:

And in the realm of shameless self-promotion, won’t you also take a moment to spread the word about my book to everyone you know?

Thanks so much for your support.

Sitting Ducks



So my buddy Bob and I are in my little car headed up one-way Preble Street, T boning on Congress in downtown Portland last Friday, early afternoon, first at the light to turn left, to head down to the boat show.  But the lights are all out-of-whack so when mine is green, my target lane is crammed with cars stopped for their red.  There is no room for me to advance, so Bob says, “Let’s go right.”

I pull over to the other lane and the light changes.  I stare at the sign that says, “NO RIGHT TURN ON RED.”  Bob waves me forward.  To my left there is a diagonal car blocking oncoming traffic.  “Go, nobody will see you.”

So, I pull out, and two seconds later there is a whoop whoop and a carnival display of alternating flashing high beams and rotating blue and a shiny grill that fills my rear view mirror.

There’s not much room on Congress Street to pull over, but I ease to the curb with him behind me and we are blocking most of our lane.

Bob shakes his head, “No way.”

The cop comes to my window, full of caution, and stands even with the post between the front and back seats.  I become a contortionist to get a good look at him.  He is all deep blue with lots of dangly chrome and bronze paraphernalia hanging on his chest.  His name is Scott McKenna.  He is my age, no hat, balding, with an open and friendly face.  We are sitting ducks.

“Do you know why I stopped you?”

“Yes sir, I do.”

“May I see your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance?”

My knees are shaking and I cannot shed a crushing guilt complex and my words are getting scrambled in my head before they get to my teeth.  I fumble around for the license from my front pocket and the documentation from the glove box.

He looks over my papers.  “You’re from Lincolnville.”  He looks in the back seat and sees the golf clubs.  “Down here to play golf?”

“We played this morning, and now we’re headed to the boat show.”

“I’m working the show tomorrow.  Maybe I’ll see you there.”

Things are going well and I get a flash in my head.  It’s worked once before.  So I blurt this out: “I have a good joke.  If I tell it to you and you like it, will you consider giving me a warning?”

Scott stands up straighter and relaxes enough to stand full in the window.  “Go for it.”

I’m still nervous and I don’t want to blow it.  I take a deep breath.

“There is this guy who’s just bought a brand new Ferrari and he’s been driving around town, doing the legal speed limits and it’s making him crazy, all that performance and power going to waste.  He decides to take her out, 3AM Sunday morning, no one on the highway.

He’s out there, no one in sight, and he tags her, gets up to 90 miles an hour and she is sweet.  He glances up and there’s a cop car on his tail.

Hey, he thinks, it’s a Ferrari.  He punches her up to 120 miles an hour, looks in the mirror, and the cop is still right behind him.  Now thinking about all the trouble he’s in, he lets off the gas and coasts into the breakdown lane.

The cop comes up and he’s mad.  “What the hell do you think you’re doing?  Do you have any idea how fast you were going?

The guy wilts. “Yes, officer, I know.”

The policeman takes off his hat and runs a hand through his hair.  “Sir, this violation is a felony.  I’m at the end of my shift and if I run you in, it’ll take hours of paperwork.  Can you give me any reason that you failed to pull over and in fact attempted to out run me?”

The guy looks down on his steering wheel, the little Ferrari emblem, and thinks a second.

“Yes sir, well, last week my wife ran off with a police officer, and I thought you might be trying to bring her back.”

The officer chuckled.  “Good one.”

I wait.  The officer asks, “Do you have a current registration?  This one has expired.”

“Expired?  When?”


I’m getting flustered again and my mouth is spitting out fractured words and I bobble through the envelope of important papers.

The officer looks on.  “Tell me you’ve got the stickers in there.”

I cannot find a thing.  “No, sir.  That’s all I have.”

He looks down at me.  “And those straps, they’re called seat belts and the law requires that you are buckled up.”

He hands back my paperwork and says, “I want you guys to have a good, responsible weekend.  Obey the law and get this car registered when you get home.”

“Thank you officer.  I’ll tell my wife that you want us to have a good time.”

“Tell her Officer McKenna says Hi.”

Once Upon a Nightmare – Chapter 1

A man descends into the drug-running underworld, is frightened by his capacities for evil, and attempts to turn towards the light.  Here is a bit from the first chapter.  More to follow.  This book will be published this coming summer.



Commuter flight 1632 was going to cost him his life.  The whimpering woman several rows to the rear seemed to agree.

The Beech 99, a twin engine prop job out of Boston to Rockland had taken off late afternoon into blowing snow and low clouds.  A late March low pressure system was disrupting the entire eastern seaboard, bringing reduced visibility and turbulence.  Airports below minimums were closing like dominos.

The plane hit an air pocket and lost several hundred feet.  A man in the back screamed and then started to pray. Jesse closed his eyes and listened to the surging sound of the engines and the groans from his fellow passengers.

He opened his eyes and focused on the pilots.  The plane had an informal configuration and there was no barrier between the pilots and passengers.  Jesse sat alone in the first row where he could watch the work of his fellow pilots. There was not much to admire on this flight. The crew was tired and sloppy and nervous.  Even with the terrible weather, there was no excuse to be so far off headings and altitude.  They were one step behind the airplane at a time that called for ultimate anticipation.    The co-pilot tried twice to clip the instrument approach plate in front of his pilot before finally succeeding.   They regained some of the lost altitude.  The windshield was an ominous gray screen.

Jesse could feel the tension of all the souls on board.  The pilots struggled to bring the flight to a safe conclusion but were probably wishing for the game to end.  Jesse pushed fatalistic thoughts to the side and tried to convince himself that all would end well.  A drop of cold sweat dribbled down his side.

The plane continued to descend through the rough air.  It yawed violently to starboard.   Something fell to the floor with a thud.  The engine sounds slewed asymmetrically.  Everything bounced.

Jesse was familiar with the approach procedure. Rockland was a small airport with adequate but non-precision instrument approaches.  He’d done it countless times, even in bad weather, but never under these conditions.  The pilots should be in radio contact with Brunswick Control, who would be instructing them to descend to 1300 feet and maintain a heading that would intercept the final approach course.  The winds were blowing hard from the north which meant a landing on runway 3.

Once established on the final course, they would maintain 1300 feet until crossing the Sprucehead NDB.  The needle would swing from front to back.  They would descend to the minimum altitude of 440 feet.  If all went well, God willing, the pilots would keep the localizer needle centered, they would break out of the overcast before reaching 440 feet, see the runway, and land uneventfully.

The rules for an instrument approach to minimums are based on honesty and self preservation.  Once established on the final approach course and aligned with the runway, you need to keep the needle centered.  If you get too far afield, the time you have for correction is limited, and you are all the time coming closer and closer to unforgiving ground.  And you never ever bust the minimum descent altitude.

Rockland’s elevation above sea level is 55 feet.  On the approach, you’re allowed to go as low as 440 feet. That leaves you flying at 100 miles an hour in the clouds and blustery north winds with only 385 feet between you and granite.  To the right and left are trees and other obstructions.

The pilot brought the throttles back and spoke into his microphone.  He initiated a shallow turn to the left.  The plane descended out of 2000 feet.  Jesse placed them south of Rockland out over the ocean.

The pilot concentrated on the artificial horizon instrument which is driven by gyros and not subject to the thrashing of turbulence.  His hand on the control wheel countered the effects of the wind and was in constant motion.

The altimeter wound down to 1300 feet.  The plane leveled off and turned left to a heading of 079 degrees.

Jesse leaned forward, straining on his seat belt.  His life was in the hands of these two tired pilots who now looked too young to be pilots.

Jesse surveyed the panel, confirming that everything was proper for the approach.  The beacon frequency was correct.  Their speed was good.  The communication channel was set for Rockland Unicom.  But then Jesse noticed a glaring error.  The main navigational instrument still had the Brunswick frequency and had not been reset to reflect their present approach.  The plane lurched right.

The pilot was not scanning the panel but was frozen on the artificial horizon.  The copilot reached out and set the Rockland approach frequency into the number one navigational instrument.  He must have felt Jesse’s gaze because he turned to see if anyone had noticed their error. Jesse saw fear in his eyes.  The plane jerked left and the copilot returned his attention to the approach.

Jesse unclenched his fists and took a deep breath. His face was a sheen of sweat.  He wondered if the copilot’s expression was a reflection of his own unblemished fright.

The plane was at 1200 feet but not yet established on course.  The pilot pulled up abruptly and gained altitude.  His heading was off by 20 degrees.

The localizer needle came alive and the pilot slowly came left to 030 degrees.  He anticipated the strong left headwind and compensated, but too soon.  The needle was not centering.  He came right ten degrees and waited for the instrument to react.  The NDB needle swung aft and went unnoticed.

As the localizer finally started to react, the pilot noticed the NDB.  He brought back the throttles and called for the copilot to lower the flaps and gear.  The localizer needle swung through center and headed left.  The grinding sounds of the flaps and the clunk of the gear were all but lost in the wild confusion. The plane slowed and started to descend too rapidly.  The pilot was chasing the airplane.

They descended through 500 feet.  The copilot looked out the windshield, searching for the airport.  The window was full of cloud.  The altimeter spun through 440 feet.  They were right of course and below their minimum descent altitude.

The copilot noticed the breach and reached out with a bouncing arm and tapped the instrument.  The pilot nodded and slowed the descent but still went lower.

Jesse knew the approach was irretrievable.  His premonitions were coming true.

No Room For Error



I worry about taking the boat across the water, with the ice in the bay and the sea smoke.  I am unfamiliar with the vessel, its quirks and feel, and am apprehensive about signals I may misinterpret.  I am comforted somewhat because the ferry is running, out in the bay with me, so I can raise them on the VHF if there’s trouble.  I am concerned that I’ll not be able to operate the radio.

I think that all my concern is speaking directly to what we want to market as a boat yard – selling peace of mind on the water, so the operator knows who to call, what help to seek, if things go wrong.  I am an example.

I am soothed somewhat because I’m qualified. I have experience.  I know boats and how they run, single screw or twin engine.  The docking shouldn’t be a problem.  You go slow, let the wind do its work, and nestle up to the float.  Come in upwind and get blown to a perfect landing.

I’ve been instructed about the peculiarities of running in such cold weather.  The intake, sucking salt water, cannot freeze and starve the engine of cooling fluid.  There is ice in the bay, but it is new ice, slushy and in lily-patch pieces, not hard enough to pierce the fiberglass hull.

When I row out to the boat on the mooring I am careful to dip the oars into water, not onto the patches of ice.  The waterways on Justin time are covered with accumulated ice from spray frozen on contact.  I am careful of my footing as I board, so as not to slip into the killing water.

The key is in the ignition.  That means that the engine has not been laid up and the through-hull intake valve is open.  I go below and check, to make sure.  It is open.

The engine starts hard, and the alarm beeps intermittently as the engine warms up.  I watch the temperature gauge and wait for the needle to register some warmth.

I walk the narrow port waterway up to the bow, one gloved hand sliding on the hand-rail, the other pulling the row boat along behind me. I struggle to unwind the pennant from the forward cleat because it has frozen itself around the bit.  I tie in the row boat then toss the whole mess off the bow and the boat drifts away.

The boat, named Justin Time, pushes chunks of ice out of the way as I approach the dock.  The dock is covered in packed snow and is ringed by a skirt of ice, splashed and congealed in the chop.

I concentrate on all the little things, and work the controls with forethought.  My passenger comes slowly down the incline, both arms spread out to grasp the railings.  The tide is almost low and the incline is very steep and slippery.  He comes aboard and I back the boat off the dock and spin her around and head towards Islesboro.

February is a private time to boat in Maine.  The summer riff-raff is months gone and months to come, and only we serious boaters are on the water – the boat yard boats and the occasional scallop dragger.  The prevailing wind is from the north and the skies and sea are slate gray, and the water is cold enough to kill you in five minutes.  If anything goes horribly wrong on this three mile stretch of water, and the boat sinks, there is no hope for rescue.

Travelling across the bay is more special because there is no room for error and you are alone.  The boat is like an arrow head and cleaves the waves and lays down a carpet of wake.

This is serious business and you are in control.  The rolling of the waves and the drone of the engine pull you towards complacency, but you fight that and pay special attention.

I pick up the other two passengers on the Islesboro side and we all huddle in the warming pilot house as I maneuver Justin Time through the mooring balls and out into open water, around Spruce Island and into Cradle Cove where the boat yard sits.

The northerly wind has driven ice into the little cove and around the front pilings and the floats.  Here it is a solid mass.  I slow the boat and we cut a path to the dock.  The fiberglass pierces the ice crust and it sounds like chewing.

All goes well with the meeting, but I am concerned that the wind has freshened and this may complicate the return across the bay.  We leave the island and the bow hits the chop and raises spray that freezes on the windshield and reduces my visibility.  I work the wiper toggle switch and fresh water washes some of the ice to the side.  I can see enough through the lower quarter of the windshield pane.

My passenger speaks to me about the meeting, but I am annoyed that he is diverting attention I am trying to pay to the coming landing and then putting the boat back on the mooring.  I plot my technique to catch the mooring buoy and tall pennant stick.

But all goes well. I drop my passengers at the float and when I am finally secured back on the mooring, and the rowboat is tied tightly to the stern, I breathe a sigh of relief.  As instructed, I lay up the engine.  I close the intake value, drain the hose, then restart the engine and pour two gallons of antifreeze into the strainer.  I shut down the engine and close the engine box.  I row back to the dock and realize I worry too much.

Kirkus Review – Vacationland

A Maine lobsterman endures a barrage of threats and sabotage from various people before finally seeking retribution in Goodale’s debut thriller.

Donny Coombs has enough trouble keeping his lobster boat, Pot Luck, above water with the recession and rising fuel costs. But he also must contend with affluent neighbors insisting he beautify his property, another lobsterman elbowing his way into his fishing spots and a father demanding that Donny stop dating his daughter, Shelly. Vague warnings soon turn to vandalism: Someone dumps sugar in his truck’s gas tank and tampers with his boat’s fuel line. As the threats increase and become deadlier, Donny looks for payback. The novel is well-paced; the first sign of problems to come is an innocent visit from new neighbor Del Nelson, asking Donny to clean his front lawn. But while Donny can shrug off Shelly’s father telling him to dump his college-age daughter and deliver a message to obtrusive lobsterman Stanley by cutting the man’s traps loose, he can’t ignore someone poisoning his oak tree or sending his boat adrift. Anticipation heightens as things sour for Donny, especially when someone shoots at him. It’s even more unsettling that the suspect pool, which also includes Del’s abrasive wife, Eliza, is so extensive. Donny can’t be sure who exactly is responsible for each damaging or potentially lethal act. A stellar protagonist who doesn’t back down easily, Donny isn’t above directly confronting Stanley, who, intentionally or not, may have tried to kill him. But the lobsterman earns the most points for the way he treats Tut, his dog. There’s a correlation between the two: Donny the local goes after the rich girl, while Tut has his eyes set on the Nelsons’ poodle; Donny mangles Stanley’s traps to reestablish his territory, while Tut marks his territory throughout the story; and Tut growls at nearly everyone, paralleling Donny’s gruff exterior. It’s a subtly comical link, but the association also underscores in Donny some of Tut’s best traits: loyalty, confidence and, yes, even doggedness.

So understated that readers won’t know they’re reading a thriller until they’re already fully immersed.



The origin of the stadium wave –

So, I’m sitting in the bleachers out beyond left field.  I’m bored.  The sky is blue.  The sun is bearing down and hot.  The grass is green.  The beer is cold.  The game is in the late innings, a pitcher’s duel and no baseball has made it out of the infield.

The Red Sox are up.

I stand up to stretch.  I raise my arms.

The good looking redhead three seats to my left stands up and puts her arms in the air.  She looks over and winks.  She sits down.

I sit down, puzzled.  I stand up and put my arms in the air.  The redhead immediately does the same.

What looks to be a clump of drunk fraternity boys in a center field section all stand up, scream and wave their beers in the air.

Cause and effect?

I repeat.  They repeat, and several people over in the right field bleachers get up and wave their hands.  We are getting the attention of other bored fans.

It starts small, a suggestion.  Then there builds a sense of expectancy to participate, so as not to disappoint.  Even the reluctant ones give in and stand up and wave their hands.  They didn’t think they’d like it, but they do.  It brings a smile and then they laugh.  Everyone watches to their left and cheer as more and more people become part of the phenomenon.

Left field, across to center, through the right field bleachers, down the first base line, around home, screaming out the third base line and veering right at the foul pole and coming again.  Now the whole stadium is involved.

The wave is born.

Why participate?  What’s in it for me?  It’s to be part of something bigger, a collective power that takes on a life of its own.

Literary Wave Making 101 (call to action):

Re: Vacationland  – buy/review/share with all your friends, and have them share with all their friends, ad infinitum.

Let’s get this literary wave going, and see what happens.  It’s the New Year.  Let’s GO!

Hot Off The Press

Of course you want to know what it was like to run drugs in the 1980s. Once Upon a Nightmareis now available in print form from Amazon, and as an ebook from Amazon and all the other ebook retailers.


Begging for Feedback (sound like a dog)

Dear Readers,

I’ve been spending a lot of time researching what it’ll take to get Vacationland onto bestseller lists.  I believe I’ve accomplished the first and foremost task of writing a good story.  I do, however, have questions about the next critical elements: cover design, back flap description and price.

I realize that many of you bought the book because you know me and you didn’t think twice about the above questions.  I appreciate that level of faith.  Now I’m trying to drive sales outside this tight circle of friends and family.  I’d really like your ideas and insights.

Does the cover “grab” you?  Does it make you want to flip to the back to read the description?  Does it convey what might be inside the book?  How could it be different or better?

Does the description on the back entice you to know more?

Are you resistant to the price?  Apparently, the sweet spot price for an ebook is $2.99 to $5.99.  It’s a balancing act between attracting more readers or more revenue.

With today’s technology, I can remedy any and all of the above with a keystroke.  Again, I’d be very grateful if you took a moment to consider and then drop me an email



Eating Disorder


I’ve got an eating disorder, know what I mean?  Of course you don’t, but stay with me here.  I’m sitting on the sofa in the kitchen, like six in the morning and the wife has got the ice box open, takes out a tub of yogurt and sets it on the counter, pops the lid.  I’m deep into this good book. Jack, my terrorist dog, is leaning hard on my leg, fast asleep.  You get the picture – home-fire bliss, kids still got a half hour before the wake up drama, all quiet on the eastern front.

So she turns on me, brittle, harsh words spit out between those fangs, dripping venom.  “Did you eat the cream off the top of the yogurt?”

“What?”  I’m still half in the book.  What the hell?

“The top cream, did you eat it?”

I got a small recollection of the thought that, hey, this is good stuff, late at night, me slicing the soup spoon sideways along the surface of the yogurt, squeezing a trail of honey on the top, sliding it into my mouth and letting it sluice down my throat, tickling the taste receptors on my tongue.

But hey, now I’m like, where did this attitude come from?  I might need to get to the emergency room, have the stab wounds stitched up, she comes on any stronger.  She’s right on track.


“I had some yogurt last night.”  Now I’m like, I don’t deserve this!  And I’m drawing into myself real quick, getting freaking angry, thinking “back off.”

She comes on stronger.  “And you didn’t mix the top in with the rest?”  She’s aghast with incredulity.

I’m getting really short now.   I can lash out with my own sword play, let me tell you.  But, from past experience, I know it’s best to seethe in silent fury, no eye contact, she isn’t worth it.  And then, we all know, if I’ve got an eating disorder, it still pales to my anger issues.  Injustice does that to me, and I can get volcanic.

I manage to spit this out: “I didn’t see any instructions on the stuff.  What?  It has to be turned over?  Then put a post-it on the top.”

I retreat into my book and silent rage fills the kitchen from two sources.  Jack is sound asleep on my leg.  He should be up and growling at this assault on his master.  Damned dog, where is he when you need him?

And I know, can’t you see, that this little episode – the yogurt incident – is just going to be added to past indiscretions.  I can count them on two hands – the school oranges, pizza for the kid’s lunch, the box of granola put back in the cupboard with a thimble full of crushed cookie dust in a corner of the cellophane.

The food in my ice box is too good to eat, don’t touch it.  And if hunger calls, then for God’s sake don’t eat what I am not supposed to eat, what am I thinking?!  Never the good stuff, leave it alone.

I’m thinking I just about got the woman’s talk down pat, all meaning between the lines.  “If you have to ask what I mean, then you don’t care about me.”  You know what I mean.  And now this!  I need a freaking guide book, maybe a GPS, whenever I get the urge to open the damned ice box door!

I get it, whatever.  So what if I have an eating disorder?  I think I’m going to write a book – the disorder diet.

I got the kids out of bed then took some meat out of the freezer.  The roast thawed faster than the marital iceberg.

My ten year old daughter thinks we need two ice boxes, their food and then what I’m allowed to eat.