Chris A. MacKinnon

Author of "The Shoeman Curse" – Fiction

Review – Ashley Simon

Review of Chris A. MacKinnon’s The Shoeman Curse

by Ashley Simon

Ashley Simon

Dusty Shoeman, protagonist of The Shoeman Curse, is a family man with a secret. He loves to write. He’s working on a short story. It’s a thriller about a woman, Janet, who’s recently lost her son to cancer and is undergoing a brand-new therapy that may just screw up her life forever. In the attic study where Janet comes to life, Dusty can lose himself in another world.

But back in the real world, things are spinning out of control. His wife Stella is mad at him, but she won’t tell him why. His kids only notice him when they need something. His co-worker, Hank Stricker, a pessimistic scruffy fellow with a loud, off-key singing voice, has a penchant for getting on Dusty’s nerves. And then there’s the pesky business of The Shoeman Curse, which is a fancy way of saying Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Readers of The Shoeman Curse are sure to fall in love with Dusty Shoeman. He’s the kind of guy you want to hang out with in real life—lighthearted, fun-loving, and full of dad jokes. He’s got a bit of an ego, but he pokes fun at himself before poking fun at anyone else, and his punchy gripings about his family life are sure to strike a chord.

The dialogue in The Shoeman Curse is realistic and makes the characters come to life. I particularly enjoyed Hank Stricker, Dusty’s annoying co-worker. He reminds me of that one kid in class who just won’t shut up, and I found myself rolling my eyes along with Dusty when Hank went on another off-key singing tangent or tried to hurl an ill-timed joke.

On a deeper level, The Shoeman Curse provides a novel and unique look at a dad’s perspective on family life. Because this is a terrain that is usually dominated by female narrators, I was often surprised by the insights that Dusty had into his life as a dad.

Near the middle of the book, the plot seemed to drag. However, excerpts from the story Dusty is writing kept me turning the pages. As a reader, you’ll find yourself equally invested in Janet’s story, which brings a realistic dimension to the character of Dusty Shoeman.

I’d recommend this book for anyone who has a dad in their life or simply enjoys a lighthearted story with memorable characters. Chris A. MacKinnon’s debut novel is sure to delight readers of all ages and backgrounds!

—Ashley blogs at www.ashleyesimon.wordpress.com. You can keep up with her latest reads by following her on Twitter (@ashleyesimon) or on Goodreads (goodreads.com/AshleyESimon).

Review – D.M. Kirtaime

D.M. Kirtaime – “I must congratulate Chris for his writing style. One which made reading this book such a pleasure.

The story within the main story was ideally placed through the book, I felt. It also gave magnificent strength to the character Dusty Shoeman as an aspiring author.

This book of course has two paces. One for Shoeman’s book and one for the main story itself. I really enjoyed reading both stories.

All the characters in Shoeman’s everday life are quite unique and really do set the scenes. If Chris were to write a sitcom bundling all of them into it, that would be well worth following.

As for the curse that shadows the Shoemans, I think many readers would agree they know of similar experiences – either their own or of a friend or relative.

I would recommend The Shoeman Curse as a gift for readers, regardless of genre.”

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The Shoeman Curse Excerpt – Can’t Get Home Fast Enough

At this point I’m wondering if I’m the only person who finds it weird that I had to go through this ordeal to find Enterprise, but all seems well to the staff who are standing outside looking like they are expecting me. They are all smiles as I pull up to the curb.

As I get out, I notice I’m sweating a bit. I think my body is more anxious than my brain, which is telling me I still have time to make the flight.

“Hello, sir, welcome to Enterprise. How was your drive?” the young male attendant says.

Man, he looks 12 years old.

“Fine, thanks. Why are there no signs to tell me where this depot is? I’m running late and thought it would be with all the other rental car companies.”

He actually giggles and says, “Yeah, sir, a lot of people ask me that.” He walks around the car and checks things off on his list. “Looks great sir, have a great day.” He’s smart and friendly enough, but I’m seriously questioning his common sense.

“How do I get to the airport from here?” I ask.

“Oh sure, sir, you just go around the other side of the building and wait for the airport shuttle.”

“Wait? I don’t have time to wait.” I have about 30 minutes before the aircraft boards. “Can someone from here drive me? I’m late for my flight.”

“Oh no, sorry sir, you’ll have to wait for the shuttle. We’re not allowed to do that.”

I am convinced “The Shoeman Curse” is in full effect. “How long before the shuttle arrives?” I ask.

“It usually comes every 15 minutes or so, sir.”

“Listen, I’ve got twenty dollars cash for you if you can get someone to drive me.”

He looks at the money, looks around, and says, “Gee, sir, I don’t know.”

“What would make you know? I’ve gotta get there now. I have to go through security still.” I reach into my wallet and pull out another twenty. “Here, take it, please.”

“Okay, sir, give me a minute.” He runs in the building, runs back out, and says, “Okay, follow me.” He leads me to the back of the building and we jump in a nice canary-yellow, convertible Ford Mustang.

He drives faster than anyone I’ve ever driven with. Would I make it to the terminal alive?

“What airline?” he yells.

I can hardly hear him with the wind. “What?”

“Who are you flying with?”

“Oh, Delta.”

He kicks it into a higher gear and we’re almost flying as fast as an airplane. Why don’t we go all the way home like this? Seconds later, he drops me off at Terminal 3. I jump out, grab my bags out of the back seat, and run into the terminal.

There are a crap-ton of people and a crap-ton of lineups. I spot an attendant, who’s about three feet tall, and she’s wearing a bright red jacket that says, “Ask me for help – I know everything”. Great! I run over to her. “Hey, can you take a look at my ticket and tell me where I need to be? My plane’s going to leave without me.”

“Why, yes I can, sir. I’d be pleased to assist you today.”

I swear it took her three years to say that. I could have learned Mandarin and said it before she did. She’s looking at the ticket and I’m ready to run in any direction she points.

“Oh sir,” she says, still looking at the ticket.

“What? What’s that?”

“You’re flying Delta, but Delta moved to Terminal 5. They’re over there now. You’re in the wrong Terminal.”

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The Shoeman Curse Excerpt – Shooting Stars

I sit on the curb to wait for Stella. There are two stars in the sky starting to pierce what’s left of the sun’s glow. A shooting star flies clear across the sky. Shooting stars always amaze me, but this one in particular was almost bionic…faster, stronger, bigger. I decide to make a wish out loud. “I wish…I wish life were easier. I wish things weren’t so hard all the time. I wish this bloody curse would lift already, so I can get just on with enjoying life. You know what, star? I also wish I knew what the blank to write next about Janet. I wish things would fall into place in her life too. Then my book would have relevance and direction, and maybe, just maybe, someday tons of people would read it. Well, stars…maybe that’s all too much to ask for.”

“What’s too much?” Stella says approaching me on the curbside.

I pause for a minute and decide to play the love card instead of the pity card. I stand and put my arm around her. “You’re too much, my love.”

“Oh am I now?” she says, wanting to believe me.

“You really are, you know.”

I’ll worry about real life tomorrow. Tonight, I’ll enjoy my wife and maybe a butter pecan ice cream too.

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The Shoeman Curse Excerpt – Caught in the Act

“Do you know how to start a barbecue?” she asks. “Brittany’s trying to light it now, but it just keeps clicking or something.”

“Yeah, sure. It could be out of propane.”

“I guess so. We don’t know much about barbecues.”

I’d wager they don’t know much about much. “Ah, they’re pretty straightforward, let’s give it a whirl,” I say.

She jumps up to get ahead of me. “That’s the spirit, Dusty.” She walks in front of me, intentionally wiggling her behind to give an old fella a treat for helping her out. Not my cup of tea. I try to ignore it. “Hey, girl, this is Dusty,” she says to Brittany.

“Oh, hey,” Brittany says in excitement.

For God’s sake a long-haired, tanned blond in a skimpy red bikini with white edges? This can’t get any worse.

“Oh, ha,” I say awkwardly. “Did you happen to check the tank?” Did I really just say, “Oh, ha?”

“C’mon, seriously?” Brittany replies. “Do I look like a tank checker? That’s soo cute.” What’s with this girl? “Can you just get it going for us mister Dusty, sir?” she says, batting her eyelashes.

“Well, let’s see.” I grab the tank like The Hulk. “You can tell, first, by the weight of the tank. This one feels like it’s border line. So if you shake it from side to side, you can tell there’s propane in it. This one’s got some left. What did you girls do to try and start the barbecue?”

Brittany starts shaking her hips. “I moved from side to side like this, Dusty.” She’s obviously had some alcohol or she’s very confident in her hips. “Am I doing it wrong?”

“Uh…no…uh…yes, if you are trying to light the barbecue,” I say with a nervous chuckle.

“Are you nervous, Dusty?” Summer says. She walks closer to me. “There’s no need to be nervous with us. We don’t bite.”

“On the first date, anyway,” Brittany adds. They both laugh.

“I see, yeah that’s interesting.” God I’m as flustered as I don’t know what.

“We’re totally playing with you, don’t worry, we’re just having some Friday night fun,” Summer says, winking.

“Yeah, no, that’s…I get it. Let me try to light this puppy,” I say, as I start turning knobs. So many knobs. Apparently Landon’s barbecue is not your run-of-the-mill family barbecue. It’s some fancy multi-level catering barbecue. What a shocker. Holy crap, I’m nervous. Gosh, I guess I haven’t been around pretty girls like this for a while, it kind of feels nice.

“Dusty, do you really know how to light this?” Summer says. “It seems like you might forget how to heat something up, maybe?”

Okay, now I know I’m not in Kansas anymore. And these girls are getting a big kick out of my nervous schoolboy routine.

“Yeah, Dusty, maybe you need a little help yourself,” Brittany says, winking at Summer.  She moves closer to me, placing her hand on my shoulder.

“I, uh…no, I’m good, I’ve lighted, or lit many barbecues.” Seriously? Lighted? God, I can’t even talk, I’m so nervous. But I have to say, it’s bitter sweet. Sweet because I am thoroughly enjoying the attention, but bitter because I’m twice their age and I should be in my own living room watching sports.

“AHEM.”

Holy frigging mother of shitballs. I know that throat clear anywhere. Stella is standing beside the fence with a scowl that says I’m doing something wrong. Very wrong. I feel like a cat caught in the blinds when its owner walks through the door. Or a middle-aged man talking and smiling with college girls who have their hands on his shoulder. This is not what it looks like. Wait, it’s totally what it looks like. Dammit.

“Oh, hi Stella,” I say, “uh…how was the meeting?”

“Not as good as this one, apparently” Stella says, without missing a beat.

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The Shoeman Curse Excerpt – Therapy Session

Janet uncovered her eyes, and laughed.

“You’re amused,” Logan said.

“Amused?” she asked, “I don’t know what I am, to be honest. What do you mean the door of denial?”

Logan crossed his legs and clasped his hands together on his knees. “This is the easiest door of all. Anyone can get through it because it’s so easy for human beings to deny something is happening…especially when it’s something they cannot bear.” He continued, “Can you think of something that’s happened in your life that you cannot bear?”

Janet realized something, but kept staring at him.

“What are you thinking, Janet?” he asked.

An indescribable sadness came over her. She looked at the tree tops; she had tears in her eyes as she gripped the arms of the chair. Her consciousness was flooded with the memory of her son Logan, and she couldn’t help but cry.

“Janet, what are you thinking about right now?”

Janet wiped the tears from her face. She paused for a moment, looking at the ground. “My son.”

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The Shoeman Curse Excerpt – Teenage Girls

 

For some reason, I notice I have a spring in my step this morning. It’s as if I’ve been depressed for years and my new medication is starting to work. I’m whistling as I walk. I’m hearing birds chirping outside, singing songs of happiness. I have purpose. I have ambition. My god, I haven’t felt like this in a long time. What’s going on here?

Then Georgia appears in front of me in the hallway, dressed to the nines, and says, “Dad, I need you to drive me to the soccer complex at 8:30. I’m meeting the girls there and we are watching a boys’ soccer game at 9:00.”

“Why are you dressed like you are going to the prom at 7:45 in the morning?”

“Hardly. Anyway, please don’t drive anyone anywhere until you drive me first.”

“Sure, Georgia. Nothing like doing something for myself even. I’ll just stop the press for Vicki Vale.”

“Who?”

“Never mind. She was a character in Batman and—”

“Dad, seriously.”

“Well you asked. Anyway, I can’t drive you anywhere because I have to take Lucas to the library. You’ll have to ask mom, or see if Karleigh can drive you.”

“What? No. I told them I’d be there and you could drive us.”

“And you checked with me, when, to see if all that was doable before you told them?”

“Ugh. That’s not the point.”

“Yes, Georgia, that’s a pretty big point.”

Please, somebody shoot me. I can’t hear birds chirping anymore—they’ve probably all being eaten alive by teenage girls.

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The Shoeman Curse Excerpt – Session Therapy

After working most of his life helping grieving parents, Dr. Koslov teamed up with two Russian scientists who invented a virtual therapy, called “Session Therapy”, where clients are placed in virtual situations and their brains are essentially tricked to think and feel differently about real circumstances in their lives. The therapy consists of a strict program with few sessions as possible to achieve a desired level of success, or, in Janet’s case, be able to cope with life after the death of her eight-year-old son, Logan.

However, with cutting edge therapy, there are always risks and uncertainties. Anyone undergoing Dr. Koslov’s therapy must sign a waiver that removes responsibility from the Center if a client’s symptoms get worse, which can potentially happen when the line between what’s real and not real becomes blurred. That is, the sessions can actually distort reality in a negative way when problems are encountered, beyond anyone’s control. Sometimes the virtual software can do unexpected things, or clients react differently than Koslov’s team expects.

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The Shoeman Curse Excerpt – Nitwit

As I pull into my driveway after work, the first person I see is my neighbor, Landon Rossiter. I don’t even know where to begin to describe this pretentious nitwit. Actually, that’s pretty good. Go to any online thesaurus and search for “pompous”. Landon’s a single, kid-less guy in his early fifties, who inherited tons of money from one of his grandfathers. He hasn’t worked in eight years, has a pool in his backyard, and has parties almost every weekend. I’ve never been to one of his parties. If I’d known him before I moved into the neighborhood, I’d be living on another street.

At any rate, Landon is a guy who exudes pretentiousness. And here he is watering his shrubs in his flip-flops, yellow short shorts, and bright-pink golf shirt. The worst part of his attire is the flipped-up collar on his shirt. And mirrored sunglasses…seriously? God, what a bonehead.

My car can’t go fast enough up my driveway. If only I had an underground parking garage, I’d never have to listen to him. I have a love-hate relationship with everything in general, but Rossiter is definitely on the hate-hate side.

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The Shoeman Curse Excerpt – Family Fun

I can almost touch the tension as everyone gets ready for school and work this morning. All I want to do is escape from having to save everyone but myself, as the arguments spew from Stella and the kids, whizzing by me like bullets on the beaches of Normandy. The argument enemy is powerful. I know if I can get the hell out of the deep water, to the car, I’d liberate myself from the onslaught of the enemy who is pretty much fighting with itself at this point. Run, Dusty, you idiot, I think, as I round the corner to the front door, and slip on a smear of yogurt.

I look up at the ceiling, thinking, A broken back wouldn’t be that bad today. Truth be told, I would trade peace and quiet for almost anything in life. When things are quiet, I am alive. When things are peaceful, I can somehow connect with the universe and flirt with it, almost control it. I can make major life decisions standing on my deck at night in Blackwater, Arizona, looking up at the stars, saying, “No stars, you are not that smart. I am the one in control of my life.” I’ve lived in Blackwater all my life, and the stars have not changed. But the stars are smarter some days, and today, October 23, they are telling me to suck it big time—by putting yogurt on the floor to ensure I would indeed suck it.

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