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Meeting a legend

Over 40 years ago when I was a young adult in Aspen, Colorado, a one-man show came to town. A talented, but fairly unknown actor (not Hal Holbrook) had memorized almost every line and moment of Mark Twain’s life. The actor even had the look, gestures, and witticism of Samuel Clemens down to an art.

I sat mesmerized by the performer, enthralled to see my writing hero Mark Twain come alive before me. Every wave of the cigar, each dancing smile of self-satisfaction at a joke well received, and the playful Southern accent drew me into the act.

Toward the end of his evening of entertaining, the actor said he would answer any questions from the audience. The Aspen crowd was quick to ask Mark Twain about his take on current (1980s) politics and trends. The actor enjoyed adding Twain’s satire to his answers and took delight in the give and take.

Finally, I raised my hand. Sweeping across the room, expecting another barbed question, he drew near and asked, “And what would your question be, Little Lady?”

I replied, “I want to be a writer. What do I do to become a better writer?”

Suddenly the room fell silent. The actor and audience looked into my earnest face. They realized I wanted Mark Twain, not the actor, to answer my question.

The man’s face softened, his mind switched gears, and he drew even closer, as if Mark Twain and this young woman were to have a private conversation. Everyone leaned forward to listen.

Mark Twain looked me in the eye and said, “Experience of life—not of books—is the only capital usable in writing well, and one can make no judicious use of this capital while it is new.”*

Quite frankly, I don’t remember the words exactly, I just remember he talked about living life more fully so you can write more deeply and richly.

In that one, stellar moment, Mark Twain came down from a high literary pedestal and touched me with his words. As I looked into those Mark Twain eyes, I heard that old father of American literature answer my question, and it changed my life. In those eyes, I felt Mark Twain bless my journey as a writer, a journey I’m still taking.

Thank you for visiting,
Lori Hoeck


*An adapted quote from a letter Mark Twain sent to Bruce Weston Munro, 21 Oct 1881 (Karanovich collection)

Let’s keep it fiction

The Judgment———

Somewhere in the near future

“Trent Johnston, stand.”

The community judge’s voice filled the sweat box of a room, chilling Trent to the bones. He’d heard the tone before–the arrogant voice of someone trying to squeeze their viciousness and bullying into overly kind words. Appearance always mattered more than truth in what once were called halls of justice.

The sweat-covered and all-too-eager bailiff started to wave the five community officers standing behind Trent to get him to his feet. Before they could move, Trent stood. Back straight despite the recent pummeling from the five behind him. His eyes stared like lasers, but were unable too meet the shifting eyes of the man before him.

“Trent, you stand before us today accused once again of Mongering. I can’t let it slide this time.”

After spending 10 of his last 18 years on unforgiving city streets, Trent placed a mask of contempt over his face. Scrapping and scraping as an urban wild child, the child of a convicted Monger parents, Trent knew what was about to happen.

“You would think your parents’ exile to UrbanPrison should have taught you a lesson, but no.”

The judge, a fat man in skinny community, looked at the FedState’s record of Trent’s LifeNotes and shook his head.

“Perhaps your parents’ Mongering tainted you. It says here you were an accessory in their first offense for conspiring to start unsanctioned, untaxed, and unsupervised community gardens on the rooftops.”  The man’s jowls jiggled as he shook his head and muttered a tsk, tsk noise.

“You know that Mongering–or anything related to buying and selling apart from the FedState’s benevolent care–is what caused the horrors of American arrogance and oppression.”

The FedState propaganda rolled off the judge’s tongue like a wannabe’s badge of honor.

“Equally heinous, is that your parents sought to withhold their hybrid plants from discovery by the FedState so they could sell them for profit. These super-producing plants would have disrupted farming throughout the nation, causing farm-camps to no longer need half their workforce.”

Trent sensed the revulsion for his parents roll around the room like a sickly smell. None of these community helpers, as they liked to call themselves, gave a damn for the families that relied on his parents’ work to avoid starvation through the Dark Days after the Collapse. All they cared about was feeding their power through intimidation and lies.

“Young man, now we turn to your crimes. First there was the incident with the Oldsters on Jackson Street when you were 12. You willingly and knowingly deprived Community Workers–our own hard-working C-Dubyas–from helping those seniors by undercutting their services with black market goods and services.”

Trent could barely restrain himself from blurting out, “Your C-Dumbies were selling them dumpster-food from restaurants and calling it recycled foodstuffs!” He remembered the beat down he’d received trying to argue that point so many years ago and remained silent.

“And then at age 15, you sought to teach classes of first aid to your peers, thus undermining the credibility of our C-Dubyas on the Med-Force…”

The list of offenses, once honorable acts of citizenship, went on and on.

At least I did my parents proud,” Trent told himself as he heard his supposed crimes against the FedState and Community. Finally the judge reached the most recent event.

“And now to yesterday’s incident. You have been accused and now stand convicted by my authority for once again undermining the credibility of our Community by using your Monger-learned first aid skills on a little girl struck by traffic. Bystanders all agree in these signed reports that you did not wait for the Community Ambulance Service and Med-Force to attend to her, but instead interfered, and by doing so, delayed proper treatment.”

Trent spoke for the first time. “She would have bled to death if I’d done nothing. But doing nothing is just what you leeches want, isn’t it? Make us afraid to act, and you suck all our personal decision making out of us.”

The punch to his kidney from behind him dropped him to his knees. Most community officers preferred shooting, stabbing, or punching in the back because of a general adherence to cowardice. Trent recalled his parent’s words, “It used to be ‘To Protect and Serve.’ Now it’s ‘To Force and Convert’.”

In his agony, Trent couldn’t see, but he could feel the dog pack and mob mentality surge. He knew the five were practically salivating to be given the go ahead. He pictured the judge’s small smile of satisfaction race across his face and the bailiff’s fingers twitch with anticipation of forming a fist.

Trent knew even if he did make it through the next few minutes, he’d end up in UrbanPrison with too many injuries to survive the brutal welcome such a place was famous for. Fortunately for him, his parents had secretly taught him how to fight, both striking and grappling styles. He’d rarely used his skills, but now someone was going to pay.

Just as Trent steeled himself to launch into attack mode, the door burst open in the back of the room. All eyes turned to see who would dare interrupt a powerful community court session.

“Stop this immediately!” A familiar voice of authority brought everyone but Trent to attention. The figure crossing the floor toward them came surrounded by armed soldiers. Trent knew only two groups in the nation carried weapons — FedState Blackcoats or underground rebels from The League.

None wore black coats.

“Help him up,” the leader of the armed group said, pointing to Trent. His soldiers rushed to comply while the five bullies melted aside.

As strong arms gently lifted him up, Trent suddenly knew that voice. It was the voice behind The League’s Speak Free media broadcasts. The man, known only as Rafael, had an unmistakable Hispanic accent.

Walking up to the judge, Rafael growled his words. Trent could barely hear them. “You worthless wannabe bureaucrat. You would beat and imprison the man who saved my daughter’s life just to make yourself feel big and important?”

Drawing a menacing breath, Rafael added quietly, “What are you trying to compensate for little man?”

Trent noticed with satisfaction that the judge’s power was running down his pant leg. It made the judge speechless for the first time in a long time.

Now that he had the man’s full attention, Rafael made his words slice like a knife. “You will quit your job today. You will make all the reparations you can to the lives you’ve ruined. Do this and you will live.”

Turning away in disgust, Rafael made a quick hand gesture and his team quickly moved to tie and gag everyone but Trent. As they did, Trent found Rafael’s hand shaking his. “I owe you one, young man. Thanks to you, my daughter is alive.”

Trent, unused to unabashed appreciation, simply nodded.

“Trent, The League needs brave people like you. Will you join us?”

“Yes,” came the immediate reply.

For the first time in 10 years, Trent felt like he was going home to a place where things were right instead of upside down, a place where honor, character, and merit were valued. Without a look back, he followed The League Members into a future he would help shape.


The Roar of the Storm

spinning-cloudsDust floated, blew, or blasted into the house, depending on the wind strength. It filled the air with a choking dryness, a desert in every breath.

After fifteen years of high plains living, Margie longed every spring for the little green that would fill the sparse trees and wild grasses. Her friends in the city sighed at her lack of lawn or flowers, but her small well could never be allowed to run dry.

No, the water could never be wasted on a lawn or a rose garden. The few farm animals and chickens needed it, as did her vegetable garden.

She’d learned the ways of scarcity from her grandparents, who’d owned the farm for years. Grandma and Grandpa took her in after her own parents had died in a car wreck when she was ten. Now they’d both passed on within a year of each other, leaving Margie the farm.

Life on the harsh, wind-swept plains meant “doin’ without” and Margie had learned her lessons well.

“Waste not; want not,” Grandma always said.

“Fancy things are for fancy-pants people who don’t know nuthin’ but how to spend money,” Grandpa said whenever she wanted something new.

Taking these words to heart instead of as advice, Margie shied away from fancy things all her life: going to college, accepting a marriage proposal from a wealthy land owner, and her dream of becoming a writer in the big city.

One early summer day, as Margie dutifully dusted the house, she noticed a difference in the wind, the kind of thing a farmer notices, because so much rides on the weather. Walking outside to the porch, she looked to the west and saw a huge thunderhead building in the sky.

From years of watching storms come and go, she knew this one was a freight train headed straight at the farm. Keeping a wary eye on the storm, she shooed the chickens back into their pen, covered her still small tomato plants with buckets to prevent hail damage, and put the car in the old shed for the same reason.

In the house, she visited the storage closet to pull out emergency candles and the extra flashlights and batteries too see if they were all set to go, just in case the electricity went out.

Back outside, she looked up and gasped. Never before had she seen a storm’s cloud wall so menacing and swift or the color so green, the latter a sure sign of hail.

As she watched mesmerized, a small white cloud spun itself into a downward pointing arrow that stretched quickly toward the ground. Rising from the ground to meet it came the dust. They met fifty feet in the air and formed a now dark, twisting, writhing funnel of death headed straight for her.

Her feet would not move. Planted in the dust, she remained awed at the raw power in front of her. The tornado’s thousand-demon roar filled her ears and heart with a surge her scarcity-driven life had never known.

Before the swirling debris field hit, she dropped to her knees. Without thinking, she raised her hands at the same time. Not in prayer, not in surrender, but in an embrace.

In that moment, the funnel danced up and over her, carrying its ripping and tearing winds a few yards away, where the tornado once again tore open the earth with its fury.

Margie jumped up and turned to follow the destroyer with her eyes. She lost view of it as the storm let loose with ice-cold rain. Fortunately for her and the farm, the hail would wait and drop a mile east.

Drenched, Margie walked to the farmhouse. Just inside the door, she paused. Something odd tickled at her mind. It took her a full minute to realize the house was somehow smaller and less of a home than a house. In the next few hours, as the storm raged with lightning and rain, the house began to feel like a sweater two sizes too small, the collar gripping the neck uncomfortably.

Finally the clouds broke and the setting sun lit up the back of the departing storm. Margie decided to put away her extra flashlights and candles, glad the electricity still worked. As she opened the storage closet and placed them on a shelf, her elbow knocked a box to the floor. Picking the box up, she noticed they contained her notebooks from high school, including her once much-treasured writing journal. As she put the box back in place, she grabbed the journal, blew off the dust, and took it back to the kitchen table.

With the smell of fresh rain still filling the air, she found a pen, pulled up a seat, and let the words flow.



I grew up in the Tornado Alley area of the country in Oklahoma. Storms still fascinate me, and I would be a storm chaser running down tornadoes with a camera if I could.

Thank you for visiting,
Lori Hoeck


Setting the table

Coffee in hand, she watched the morning clouds first glow pink, then slowly fill the sky with a canopy of fire.

“Red sky at night, sailors’ delight; Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.” The old timers’ saying made her wonder, did the sky know her heart?

Even with the warmth of strong coffee, she shivered, but not from the cold. The handgun on the kitchen table lay ready. She hoped she was as well.

Her friends all said she had choices, but from her viewpoint there was only one. He’d already made it clear he would never let go, never stop looking, never give her up. She’d lived through enough blood, bruises, and broken bones to know what he could do.

It was time to put a stop to it all.

Down the hallway, she heard their son stir in his bed. His birthday was next month, “The Big Fife,” as the boy called it.

At least this birthday wouldn’t include a trip to the hospital with the smell of cake and blood mixed together.

Visions of that day burned resolve into her soul. She carefully set down her coffee and picked up the weapon. It felt right in her hand, heavy and durable.

Then she heard it. The motor of his pick-up truck coming down the road, gears down shifting to make the turn into the driveway.

I will enjoy selling that truck, she thought, if only to never feel the fearful anticipation again.

She heard the door open on his truck but not shut.

He must be drunk. Again.

Then she heard the front door burst open with a kick, followed by the sound of a shotgun being cocked.

As he made his way through the house and toward the kitchen, he crowed triumphantly,  mockingly, “Honey, I’m home!”

Her jaw clenched. Not for long.

As an EMT who has responded to more than one domestic violence scene,  I don’t advocate this response, but I can understand it.

Thank you for visiting,
Lori Hoeck

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Gonna grab me some boldness


Gonna grab me some boldness
And rip timidity to pieces.
Heart pumpin’, thumpin’ in my chest
My vision, my drive increases.

No map needed–North Star leads.
My compass is tried and true.
Freed feet race along the path
As hope fills my field of view.

My dreams are catchin’ fire–
A golden glow of possibility.
Throttle’s working, opened wide,
Rampin’ up my capability.

Abandon any chains or weights,
Soar, sing, trip the light fantastic.
Through flood, mud, blood
The will remains enthusiastic.

The journey provides strength–
Focus honed by adversity.
All I need, I already have.
My tank’s filled with tenacity.

Copyright © 2014 Lori Hoeck all rights reserved


Power of Words


“Old fashioned,” “out of date.”
“Throwback to another time.”
“Sky-god lover,” “jingoistic.”
Clueless on the world’s design.

The name calling may change;
The sentiment’s the same:
When the self-righteous rule,
Hypocrisy becomes the game.

The fingers point, noses rise.
Time for holier than thou.
Freedom to think is ratcheted down.
The law becomes what they allow.

“Libertards,” “tree-hugger freaks.”
“Lovers of government’s teat.”
“Heathens,” “Worldly fools.”
Nothing but tenderfeet.

The name calling may change;
The sentiment’s the same:
When the self-righteous rule,
Hypocrisy becomes the game.

The fingers point, noses rise.
Time for holier than thou.
Freedom to think is ratcheted down.
The law becomes what they allow.


Copyright © 2014 Lori Hoeck all rights reserved


Ancient Song


“Dividers. Haters. Us vs. them”–
The song’s been sung forever.
Its tune appears right and clear,
But the words can only sever.

Tyrants–by might or guile–
Lie softly to turn hearts dark,
To kill the ties that bind,
To give mistrust its spark.

Tyrants require enemies,
To keep themselves in power,
Scapegoats hung out to dry,
For followers to hate, devour.

A crisis can’t be wasted.
A scab not ripped and torn.
Emotions must be managed,
Liberty left unmourned.

What song do you dance to?
Is it mind-numbing sweet?
Do your feet seek freedom,
Or march to another’s beat?

Can you sing a better song–
One that heals a rift?
Can you link arm in arm,
Instead of raise a fist?

Copyright © 2014 Lori Hoeck all rights reserved


Rebels in the Coffeehouse


Take a stand against command & controllers,
Holier than thou chokers, smoke blowing posers.

They pout ‘N shout, creating doubt,
Pushing buttons so you can’t log out.
The system, the machine, the oppressive dream
Streams from a narcissistic regime
As it builds a compliant, victim-filled team.

Take a stand against command & controllers,
Holier than thou chokers, smoke blowing posers.

They manufacture crisis with chatter,
Fake benefactors. Creeping cancer.
They’re masters of disasters,
Handlers, forgers, personal attackers.
Offices filled with stuck up, suck up staffers.

Take a stand against command & controllers,
Holier than thou chokers, smoke blowing posers.

They cry fake, snake-charmer tears,
Never slake their thirst for puppet volunteers,
“Dance! Prance! Keep the trance, my Dears!”
Their emo-push keeps each tush in gear
To all who hear the bureaucratic overseer.

Take a stand against command & controllers,
Holier than thou chokers, smoke blowing posers.

Time to stand up, step up, rally to the cause.
Embrace humility and reject the applause.
No more boot-lickers or boots on neck.
No Bill of Rights bottlenecked.
No perilous arrogance left unchecked.

Take a stand against command & controllers,
Holier than thou chokers, smoke blowing posers.

Push back against political aristocracy.
Jettison gossipy hypocrisy.
Time to throw down. This is our house!
Storm every liberty slaughterhouse.
Meet up, greet up. Rebels in the coffeehouse.

Take a stand against command & controllers,
Holier than thou chokers, smoke blowing posers.

Don’t fight in the streets, but in the beats
Of hearts tired of high-nosed elites.
Live, give the truth; fill the voting booth.
Seek the best; give the rest the boot.
Let ’em see the emperor’s in his birthday suit.


Copyright © 2014 Lori Hoeck all rights reserved.


Powerful ebook on dealing with narcissists

Have you ever been so perplexed by a relationship that it drove you crazy? Perhaps you are in one right now.

Do you feel like you’re the one who is always wrong?
Do attempts to set boundaries only meet with disdain and anger?
Are new suggestions shot down or sabotaged?
Do attempts to withdraw from the relationship create more firestorms of drama?

You just might be dealing with narcissist.

Don’t you wish there was a resource you could access that would explain what was going on and give you some answers?

Betsy Wuebker of PassingThru.com and I are collaborators on a new ebook The Narcissist: A User’s Guide. In it, we discuss such topics as:

  • What creates a narcissistic personality?
  • Why can involvement with a narcissist hurt you?
  • Questions you can ask someone to help determine if they are a narcissist.
  • What can I say to set a boundary with a narcissist?
  • Is the price of caving in worse?
  • Why do some people seem immune to narcissists?

****UPDATE: The ebook, The Narcissist: A User’s Guide, is now available! Just click HERE.

Our ebook is beautifully and professionally designed by Deb Dorchak of Sirius Graphix.

Check out a preview:

Deb writes about how this came about at the Sirius Graphix website. (Read her take on narcissists in this excellent post: “Sith Lords in the Real World.”)

Betsy says she started this project thinking it would be wonderful if it helped just one person. Read her side of this wonderful story at  What Goes Around, Comes Around.

Here’s one person’s reaction after reading the ebook:

If you’ve ever had to deal with a narcissist, you are going to LOVE “The Narcissist: A User’s Guide” by Betsy Wuebker and Lori Hoeck.

If you’re dealing with a narcissist right now, this ebook is a must. It will show you that you are not alone, that you are NOT crazy, and that there ARE ways to cope with the narcissist in your life – including leaving them, and learning to avoid entering into a new codependent relationship in the future.

I’ve read many self development books and ebooks, and this is by far one of the most empowering guides I have ever come across. Highly recommended!

~Vered DeLeeuw
Professional blogger and social media consultant



Bad rappin’ happenin’ here


pop stars on par for flyin’ far
fall ill with the pills and thrills
shoutin’, poutin’, givin’ us an outin’
of their desire to be REAL

i laugh, cause i walked the path,
been there and back about the wrath.
they think, and make a stink, that it’s them, within,
but they’re wrong — it ain’t no song, the bong, or about the strong

it’s not the story, the glory or taking inventory
not in a bottle or who ya throttle or coddle;
yes, the pain, the rain, sorrow ingrained —
they are real enough, make life so tough

but the core, the safer shore is far more;
get out of the rut, kick your own damn butt
’cause the REAL ain’t some deal you can cut
REAL comes from a direction, a connection, an election
not from the same, shamed disinfection

if fame is your only game in the lame fast lane,
if gold’s hold made your heart withhold,
if “tough and cool” guides your inner tool —
time to change and rearrange, get a home on the range
where the buffalo roam beyond styrofoam mange

you think I’m mad, gone all bad, maybe even been had
but the truth will set you free, not me, not yo mommy
Christ is the rock, the lock, the one with the flock

He offers REAL ’cause he lived the deal, sealed it up whole
He’s always ready, steady, a heavy lifter for your soul

earthquakes and mental breaks can shake your bones
but Christ’s love is from above, all about love, not stones;
it heals, gives grace wheels, acts as a shield
and yeah, it’s as REAL as it gets, the perfect fit
He ain’t gonna beg or nag ya; he ain’t gonna leave —
no need, ’cause his creed is  “Just believe.”


For the pop stars who feel their shining light of talent isn’t enough.

Thank you for visiting,
Lori Hoeck

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