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Got Travel Plans? Head to the Badlands

Thinking of where to go on vacation?  The badlands of the western plains would be an awesome adventure.  What might seem like a bunch of dry hills are really rich with beauty and incredible geology and paleontology.  Do not underestimate the land of dinosaurs.



Badlands Reviewed in Montana’s State of the Arts

Montana native Thomas Biel’s collection of short stories, all set in the fictional town of Riverside, are infused with the urgency and unpredictability of adolescence. Matthew, the teenage narrator and son of a Presbyterian minister struggling with his faith, recounts coming of age in a town “that sits on the edge of the vast apron of badlands,” where he discovers that life “is lived between the smooth bones of death.”  From Montana Arts Council’s State of the Arts Newspaper, July-August

Montana has a long and proud literature and arts tradition.  The state has prided itself for its abundance of writers, which appears to be ever growing and expanding if one looks at the Montana’s State of the Arts Newspaper and its “About Books” page.

I am pleased to present this review included in this bi-monthly edition of State of the Arts.  Even though I am becoming a Wisconsinite, I will always first identify with Montana, my birth state and the place that imprinted upon me more than any other place in which I’ve landed over my lifetime.

Follow the link to read the review.  You will notice if you peruse the other reviews that Kristi Niemeyer and Judy Schafter write all the reviews.  Wow!  My hats off and sincere appreciation for their work and dedication to giving coverage and critiques to all of these writers and their books.

Here’s the link to the page in the July-August edition of Montana State of the Arts Newspaper:

A review! A review! (Is a review if it’s a good review)

Mark Twain?  I am not going to argue with the overreach here, but really? I’ll take it.  I think I’ll go build a raft and float down the Milwaukee River.

This is a review from US Review of Books that came by grace of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards.  Please feel free to share this, liberally.

Badlands, Thomas Biel, Three Towers Press – The author is a master storyteller in the tradition of Mark Twain and Garrison Keillor, creating characters that readers care about through the unexpected twists and turns of events. His stories stretch playfully like a rubber band, then unexpectedly snap with new understanding, emotion or consequences. Narrator Matthew Davis relates boyhood hijinks with his best friend, Idaho Wells in a small town near the Montana Badlands. Beneath the situational humor, there’s truth—sometimes painful, sometimes awkward or uncomfortable, but always reaching into the guts of humanity. Davis’ father is a Presbyterian minister who’s lost his faith; his brother is a draft dodger; another friend, “Mona Lisa,” is suspected of being gay, but his reality is a bigger secret. Each chapter stands alone, but are also part of the larger fabric of the book. The book is funny, dramatic, tender, and sad, with characters so real you forget that they are fictional.

To view the review page, link:


Not a Glitch in Our Stars

Outside the BEA with free pizza.  Looks like I ate the whole pizza!

Outside the BEA with free pizza. Looks like I ate the whole pizza!

Yesterday while perusing the Journal Sentinel I found an article on John Green, author of the phenomenally popular YA novel The Fault in Our Stars, that included a description of the reception he received at the Book Expo America (BEA) in New York City last week.

Evidently, when Green showed up for his autograph slot, he was greeted by hundreds of screaming fans, as delirious for his attention and giddy with excitement as they would be for One Dimension or Beyonce.

Well, I was at the BEA last week too. And we had some similar authorial experiences, John Green and I.  I too had screaming fans, well, I had one screaming fan. That was my wife. And she was screaming all right. “Wipe that pizza sauce off your face, now!  My god!  You can’t go in there looking like that!”  Having a fan so concerned is unique and very endearing, not to mention motivating.

The thing with being an author of an immensely popular book is that this clamoring for your attention by fans doesn’t stop.  My fan for example was screaming at me the night before too!  This time we were heading out to a couple Indie book awards banquets in NYC.  She was screaming for my attention: “Are you really wearing that shirt! That’s it?  You didn’t bring a tie!”  Now how many authors get that kind of fan support?

The attention is almost overwhelming.  Fans of John Green probably want to touch him too, maybe even get a lock of his hair or something.  I totally empathize.  My fan can’t get a lock of my hair because I don’t have any, but she did scream out in delirium (or horror, I’m not sure which), “My god!  I could braid those eyebrows! You want me to braid those eyebrows?  Jesus, Mr. Author, look at your ears!  Are those spider webs in there!”

It is really wonderful to be so close to your fans.  I’m sure that not one of John’s fans felt so at ease with him that he or she could suggest that he trim his ear and nose hair.

You see, guys like John Green don’t get all the attention.  Oh yeah, sure, he had a time slotted at the BEA for autographing and a stage all to himself.  Okay. That’s just slightly more than I had.  I only paid to get in the door, went in as an Educator (because it was cheaper than to go in as an author, plus, I am one when not being besieged with attention from my fan), and went around to all the industry booths telling people I was on break from my own booth and in the meantime, I have a book I’m promoting. Now, that is some industry recognition.

As for the books themselves, sure John Green’s is moving and touching and heart wrenching and being made into what will undoubtedly be a blockbuster movie, but my book, Badlands, which also has been hailed as a Young Adult phenom (runner up for Young Adult literature in the Midwest Independent Publisher Book Awards) has all kinds of wholesome drug use and mild swearing of all types. And it also has some great lines about stars.

So there you have it.  Two fine books.  One which received incredible attention and has become an industry in itself, called The Fault in our Stars, and the other, Badlands, with the undying support of the best fan, who will keep the author’s eyebrow and ear hair under control—and the pizza sauce off his face!




Independent Publishers Book Awards Awarded to Badlands

One more award came in last week, an IPPY.  Don’t know exactly why they call it an IPPY, but the award comes from the Independent Publishers Book Awards, which is known as “the world’s largest international and regional book awards” <>. How about that.  Badlands was awarded a gold medal for best fiction in the West-Mountain Region.  I feel very good about the book being able to represent the West.  It is not a book written or told in a typical “Western” voice, but it is a voice that comes out of the west and it is a tribute to eastern Montana and its stark beauty, its  people, it’s dusty and sometimes booming and sometimes busting towns, and the area known as Makoshika just outside of Glendive.

Lena and I are off to NYC to attend the Next Generation Indie Book Awards reception.  Most definitely looking forward to participating in that, at the Harvard Club, which already makes me want to sip brandy and puff on a good cigar.

Badlands Lands Indie Publishing and Book Award Recognition

The book award season for 2013 books is pretty much over now and I’m happy to announce that Badlands did quite well.  Feel free to share this post! Here is a list of recognitions, beginning with the best finishes:

Next Generation Independent Book Awards:  First Place Short Story Collection–Fiction  (Awards not posted on their site yet, but link here to their webpage:

Eric Hoffer Book Awards:  Runner Up General Fiction:

Eric Hoffer Book Award: Short list for Grand Prize:

Eric Hoffer Book Award:  Finalist for First Horizon Award:

Eric Hoffer Book Award: Finalist for the Da Vinci Eye Award for book cover and book design (Dale Beckman ( artist):

Midwest Indpendent Publishers Book Awards: Runner Up for Short Story Collection and Young Adult:

I would like to congratulate Doug Rose for winning the Midwest Independent Publisher’s Book Award for Literary Fiction. Doug is also a Bay View (Milwaukee) writer and Bolt is his first novel.

Thanks to everyone who has supported Badlands along the way, and keep it up if you can.  The book is available at and at Boswell Books in Milwaukee and hopefully at other book sellers soon.  Pass the word. Write an Amazon review. Recommend it to a friend for good summer reading!  Thanks!

Good News for Bad Lands

Well, there’s good news here and not-so-good-news, but that not-so-good-news-ain’t half bad news.

Good news first:  Badlands has been named a finalist for two categories in the Midwest Publishers Book Awards: for Short Story/Anthology and for Young Adult Fiction.  The finalist lists are short lists of just three books, so regardless of any further recognition, to make those short lists is something I feel good about.  The link to that website is here:

Another Milwaukee writer also published by Three Towers Press (HenschelHausBooks) Doug Rose is also a finalist for his novel Bolt which is nominated for literary fiction. So, congratulations to Doug and check out his book (at Amazon).  It’s a great read, different, and compelling.  We will wait until May 14 for the Awards announcements.

The Not-so-good-news-that-ain’t-really-bad-news:  Last week or so we found out that Badlands is a finalist for the Eric Hoffer First Horizon Book Award [] and was included  on the first finalist list for the overall Eric Hoffer Book Award.  I know that Lena posted something on FB about it, and I put it on the Badlands FB page.  The First Horizon winners have been posted and unfortunately, Badlands did not win that award, but again, the good news here is that it made the finalist list,  a distinction of its own.



Second in a series and Head and the Heart

Saw a really good concert tonight with Lena.  We saw Head and the Heart at the Riverside in Milwaukee.   So fun to see. There just is nothing like listening to your kind of music, played live by a band of people putting all their talents together into a team and coming up with just this perfect fucking blend of sound.  We had a great time and if you don’t know the band look em up.

Every time I see live music it raises my spirit, so I can only imagine what it must be like to play it at the highest levels, whatever kind of music it might be.  Playing music really must be the most fun of all the things to do, the most heavenly, and lasting.  Joyful.

So, in tribute to the live music, this the second in a series of Badlands snippets.  Night music, Please!

From “Hell on Wheels

Jesus drank his own pee,” I said, with a little pointed edge toward Augie.

“Jesus did not drink his own pee,” said Augie, defensive as if he was shocked at the idea.

“Yes, he did.  Harvey McAuliffe told me about it.  He told me and his little brother Terry one day when I went to their dad’s church.  I ain’t lying.”

“I think Jesus made his disciples drink it, too.”

Idaho and Augie just stared at me.  Idaho came to my support.  “Matthew’s dad is a minister, so he probably knows.”

“Well, I’m Catholic and I’ve been through catechism and no one said anything about anyone drinking pee.”

“So, at the Last Supper, what did Jesus have his disciples drink then?” i asked Augie.  I would prove my point with logic.


“That’s right.  Jesus had everyone drink his blood at the Last Supper, so why would it be so difficult to believe that they drank their own pee?  I’d rather drink pee than blood anyday.”

“I’d rather drink blood,” said Idaho.

First passage in a series: “You called me a stray.”

Folks, time flies.  Badlands is now nine months old and the presses are cooling off.  My friend Robert Vaughan told me awhile back about a book, “It’s like your baby.  You’re the only one who is going to keep it alive.”

Well, maybe some social services would come to the baby’s rescue, but probably not the book’s!  So, to that end, I’m going to get a little more active in promoting Badlands again, and I’m going to post a series of short passages from the book, one from each story over the course of the next few weeks.  Don’t want to wear out the welcome, but wear it I will.

From “Open House”:

“You called me a stray.”

I felt swallowed up inside of that huge space that made up the skies of eastern Montana, no matter where you were, on the bluffs, in the badlands, on the river, or in the graveyard.  I looked up and saw the fingery branches of the trees. They were outlined in silver moonlight.  I looked down there at Idaho, my best friend, sitting in a grave, his knees drawn up, and he looked up at me.

“You son of a bitch,” he said.  “You bastard. Give me a cigarette.”

Badlands is available at, at Boswell Books in Milwaukee, and a few bookstores in Montana that you will have to travel far and wide to find.

Badlands Finalist

I’d like to announce that Badlands has been recognized as a finalist for the da Vinci Eye Award for the Hoffer Book Awards.  The da Vinci Eye recognizes book cover and book design.  Badlands is entered into the awards for its writing as well, but those results won’t be known until May.

In the meantime, I’d really like to congratulate the cover designer/painter Dale Beckman for his smashing cover design of Badlands and for the inside drawings that head each chapter.  Here are Dale’s site links: and

Dale is a superb landscape artist and his work is visually exciting, stimulating, and original.  I was so lucky to get him to do the cover because I think as much as anything his cover helps sell the book.

Dale’s work is inspired by the wide open and rugged landscapes of eastern Montana and New Mexico.

Take the time to visit Dale’s websites, linked above.  You’ll like what you see.  His prints are affordable, and if you are really interested in the real stuff, his originals are great investments.  Truly, his work is unique and beautiful and striking.  See for yourself, and thanks Dale!  I hope that we’ll go beyond finalist, but you know, every bit of recognition is good.  Congratulations on your work.