Some thoughts…..

At the beginning writing books was hard.  A major contributor to it being such an effort was that I did not know what I was doing.  I hadn’t taken classes, study at Harvard for ten years or even tried writing a book before I just began.  Why wouldn’t it be hard?

After a while (maybe ten years) it was easier.  I’ve been thinking about how it got to be easier and realized it was still just as hard, but I wasn’t noticing (as much).  It took the same effort, the same long hours, the same re-dos, the same start-overs, the same mistakes—but none of it bothered me like it did in the beginning. 

The big difference?  The pressure was gone.  Now, I’m mostly writing for myself; before—I was writing for the breathlessly waiting reading public.  A reading public who knew I didn’t know what I was doing.  What stress, what worry—someone was going to knock on my door and demand that I explained what I was doing.  What—I thought I was an AUTHOR!  What sort of arrogance was this?

That fear of being found out to be a fraud is gone.  I do know how to write a book—couple of damn good books, too.

My current active project is the third Success Paths business books; How to Plan and Budget for a Successful Small Business.  I would provide you with an excerpt, but I’m sure you are not interested in anything to do with planning or budgeting for a small business.  You’re welcome.  (just in case you are interested I anticipate a pub date in February)

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Eggs and gasoline—the two things that can make us feel like the economic world has gone crazy or that everything is okay.  When gas prices sky rocket it drives all of our negative thoughts about government, greedy business people, life is unfair thoughts and general malaise.  Now we have soaring egg prices.  Don’t eggs come from farmers—why are farmers trying to screw us?

Of course, as we all know but don’t think about much, eggs come from chicken/egg factories controlled by the CEO big boss (asshole) in charge.  Avian flu killed millions of chickens and suddenly an opportunity arose in the marketplace.  Everything was going up with inflation, why not eggs.    Especially eggs with the double whammy of inflation and dead chickens—”sorry there is going to be a slight price increase as we adjust to these unusual circumstances”. 

The largest supplier of eggs had no avian flu outbreaks but increased prices at a phenomenal rate anyway.  Profits soared.  Gross profit went from $50 million last year to $535 million this year. (a)  No doubt because of these brilliant management moves many of those millions probably went to the CEO big boss.

I’m not one who advocates for government intervention into every market absurdity that arises, mostly because government does not have the skills to do much about it and eventually the market will adjust itself—but I think this is an exception.  This is unfair market control over a staple in every household in America.  Something is amiss if one CEO big boss can control the price of eggs for everyone—FTC do something bold and hold someone accountable for price gouging or just plain old stealing.

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My background is business.  I have always admired the free enterprise system and the great energy brought to this country with the large number of entrepreneurs.  My grandfather owned his own business, my father owned his own business, my brother owned his own business, and I have owned my own businesses.  To me it is the strength of the country.

My father was in the shoe business.  Before malls most shoe stores were locally owned, many retail businesses that once were the backbone of local communities have disappeared because of malls, Wal-Mart, the internet, and no doubt many other reasons.  My father actively participated in the local community, along with most small businesspeople.  They belong to organizations that worked to make the community better, Lions, Elks, Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce, all dedicated to a better life for the people in their communities.  That had a lasting impact on me and how I felt about business. 

I know firsthand that my father gave away shoes, helped numerous people, as best he could, for those who were suffering due to illness or losing a job.  He and my mother became the image of good people, good business people.

I eventually lost that image of businesspeople.  Not sure why it happened over the next fifty years or so, but people became harsher, more selfish, more isolated, less concerned, less compassionate—including me.

Maybe the CEO big boss at the egg factory once worked for his dad and helped local people, but now thinks it’s okay to steal money from people who don’t have extra money, because it makes him more important, more powerful, richer; and that is what matters.

Our whole value system has gone in the wrong direction.

(a) https://www.salon.com/2023/01/24/simple-profiteering-ftc-urged-to-crack-down-on-egg-industrys-organized-theft_partner/

Another Year Full of Hope

The New Year brings on thoughts of the old year’s flaws and hope for the new year;  that humankind will do better.  Usually that hope meets reality with the same ugliness of past years. I still hope.

My hopes for the new year:

  1. Would it be possible to stop listening to (admiring) the worst among us?  Why are we attracted to the bad people?  Almost instinctively most of us know the difference between a good human and a bad one.  But there we are fawning over the latest narcissist beating their own drum to attract attention.  Maybe the good people are not as visible or not as entertaining as the clowns getting all the attention; but we should know better.  Think about what your mother or grandmother would have told you about those loud-mouth blowhards.  We are being conned by these frauds.  We need to stop listening.
  2. Look to the future.  Our country was founded on high ideals by flawed humans.  They did not create something that was perfect but laid the foundation for us to use as we seek to make a better life for everyone.  Too many of us want to focus on the past, it is the future that matters. We must focus on what needs to be done now.  Our leaders cannot be pollyannish, but they can be positive realists.  Sure, we have problems, but there is a lot that is very good, and we can make it even better.
  3. In so many ways the greatness of humans is their ability to innovate, create and imagine new and exciting ways to accomplish a better world.  Human beings are a community, even though many have trouble believing that commonness, we need to celebrate the achievements by all that will allow us to live better lives in peace and harmony.  We need to speak out against the power-hungry minority that want to control people and build barriers to our common humanity goals.  Hate of humans is only hatred of ourselves.  Recognize the haters as the enemy they are and shun them. 
  4. Celebrate and respect our differences.  We are mostly the same, but the differences should not be barriers but just what they are –differences. 
  5. For the new year, I would hope that more people would read books, become creative, pause, and think, and find time to admire life itself.  Everybody deals with problems, but most of us cope and try to make our lives and our families better.  Don’t focus only on what is wrong but what is right.

When I start writing a new book, I will do a lot of research.  Usually this is about the time and place where that book will occur.  I will also research certain people or groups of people that will have some influence in the story.  Then I will take all that research and twist and smash it into my fictional account of something entirely different.  So, what was the research about?  Credibility.

Book reviewers are amazing in their efforts to catch some illogical portion of a fictional story.  Keep in mind– the fictional story is just made up.  So, when someone says, “that can’t happen that way” or “that person could never do that” and even “the dog would not do such a stupid thing”; I’ve done my research and I know (never respond to reviews to question their personal opinions) that what I said was in fact something that could be done or has been done and dogs have accomplished what I wrote.

I’m always struck, as I do my research, how much history is focused on the worst of us.  Criminals, traitors, dictators, war mongers, corrupt leaders, failed politicians all seem to get top billing in our history records.  Now for sure, there are plenty of good people achieving good things but so much is about the bad guys.

For 2023 my hope is that we can celebrate the good people a little bit more and ignore the worst among us. 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Below is what I wrote at the beginning of 2022.

Another bad year gone.  These bad years are starting to pile up.  Do you think it is something we’re doing wrong?  Religious people might blame our bad luck on some sin committed by hordes of celebrities, famous for doing nothing, especially anything non-sinful.  Not sure about the god punishment angle, but maybe the celebrities should be a little less in your face for 2022.

My guess is the cause of the latest bad trend is a loss of community.  Much of this is the absurd replacement of human interaction with non-human connections– Facebook, TV, Instagram, on-line shopping, and smart phones.  Of course, a bunch of that stuff is because of fear.  Fear to go shopping, fear to be in public spaces, fear of being shot, fear of being yelled at, fear of being sick, fear of dying, fear of weather, fear of fires, fear of politicians, fear of school, fear of the police, fear of being afraid.  Fear of everything.

When we’re afraid we isolated ourselves in protective cocoons and start building a gun collection.  Also, when we are afraid, we talk about freedom.  The problem with focusing on freedoms is that it often infringes on someone else’s freedom.  People who are afraid want to destroy what they fear, when they don’t know what it is that causes their fears, they destroy everything.

I hope 2022 is a better year, but I’m fearful it will not be.

Bad High School Movie

I never intended this blog to become a political commentary.  Over the last few years, it became harder and harder to not comment on the strangeness of our social interaction.  Elected politicians threatening violence as they claim they are not, losing an election becomes justification for questioning the outcome—sure everything is working great when I win!

The original goal of the blog was to provide some insight into my writing for a relatively small following of readers.  Over the years I’ve started focusing the newsletter more on that audience and the blog more towards my thoughts about other things, but still including my writing.

For many people, some of their most turbulent and confrontational time was high school.  Yes, that high school time of grudge settling, petty fights, cliques, group thinking, emotional thinking, emotional non-thinking, tragedy, drama, lifelong friends, lifelong enemies, yes, that high school experience.

Some of the most extreme politicians seem to be characters out of a bad high school drama.  They want to be the center of attention, they belittle authority, they call others by silly petty nick names, everything they do is the most important ever—they are forty, fifty, sixty-year-old people living inside a bad high school movie.  They are our leaders?

How did it happen that stupid became a desirable trait in a leader?

It would seem entertainment is part of the appeal.  It’s a lot more entertaining to watch this person rant and rave about something or another as opposed to the studious, boring politician talking about actual legislation that might make a difference.  Especially if to get that legislation passed you will have to compromise and listen to your political opponent.  No fun in that!

I believe it is possible for a country to become ungovernable.  No matter who the leader is, the country will stay in turmoil because there are no solutions for being pissed off.    Ask a voter, why did you vote for that person?  I hate his opponent, might be the most common answer.  I’d vote for a bucket of spit before I would vote for a (insert democrat or republican).

This is the sports team syndrome at work.  My favorite team sucks but I love them because they are my team—you say anything bad about my horrible team and I will punch you.  We are all familiar with this team loyalty trait that seems to make people crazy.  In some stadiums it is common for fans of the visiting team to get beat up.  Why?  Because they are wearing the visiting team’s jersey.  Politics has now become very much a team sport with all the associated craziness.

The only logical conclusion is that we now want our politicians to be tough guys, bullies, thugs, hooligans and to defend our team. 

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves…. (when in doubt quote Shakespeare)

If we want a better ran, more congenial country we need to elect people who reflect those qualities.  Fighters fight, managers manage.  If we want a war like, hostile, threatening country to live in, then elect the clowns, they will work hard to accomplish that goal. 

What is the most important thing in sports?  Winning.  Some say it is the only thing.  If politicians believe the only thing that matters is winning, they will do anything to win and will not care who gets hurt or if it is good for the country.

The win at all cost approach may bring home a championship trophy, but it will tear a country apart and bring on unbelievable conflict.

One of the strengths of the US has always been the business community.  There, of course, are exceptions but for most of our history we could feel smug in that our business leaders were also great believers in our basics of freedom, democracy, and a (somewhat) equal society. 

“The CEO-to-worker pay gap has expanded exponentially over the past several decades. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates that CEO compensation has grown 1,322% since 1978, while typical worker compensation has risen just 18%. In 2020, CEOs of the top 350 firms in the U.S. made $24.2 million, on average — 351 times more than a typical worker.”  https://www.cnbc.com/2021/09/15/in-2020-top-ceos-earned-351-times-more-than-the-typical-worker.html

Some of the worst examples of this concentration of wealth with a very small number of people are the tech billionaires.  Especially the ones who enjoy the spotlight.  Many of these wealthy people believe they are characters out of an Ayn Rand novel.  Their goal is to boss the world as they think their wealth has given them vision—it has not.

Without effective politicians and with extreme egotistical business leaders, we are in a spot where there is little responsible leadership from the top of society.  I think our strength must come from somewhere in the middle.  Reject the egoist, the billionaire, the entertainer, the clown and hire the nobliest among us who can care for all.

One big flaw.  Who, except for the usual suspects listed above, would want that job?

Overwhelming Lack of Knowledge

I think what we don’t know is incredibly vast and what we do know is incredibly tiny.  Why are we so arrogant to think we have answers to the big questions?  There does seem to be a pattern in humans, based on my limited experience, the least knowledgeable are the most assured they know everything.

You should be very wary of people who seemed to know everything, it more than likely is based on a lack of knowledge more than knowing.

Beliefs are always more stable than facts.  Most facts will be proven wrong at some level if they are examined closely enough (or long enough), beliefs stay solidly impenetrable because they are “beliefs”. 

The biggest question of all is why are we here and how did it happen?  The scientific, fact-based answer is by accident.  Accidental evolution over millions of years.  From crawly things in the swamp and here we are today flying around in airplanes.  The religious answer is far more pleasing.  We were created in the image of God and as such have complete entitlement to do anything we please, except offend God.  We can even destroy other “humans” if they are godless (or at least godless to our God.)

My guess– yes, I do not know— is that both of those are wrong.  The truth is something we cannot imagine.

Power is a word we understand in politics, business and almost all forms of human interaction.  People with power are at the top of the food chain in most human groups.  All humans seek power.  Having power means you can control your life, live like a king, or conquer lessor beings at your will.  Power is the human goal built into our genetic code.

When I think about human behavior, I usually come to two distinct conclusions.  One is that humans are good and one that they are bad.  That’s not moralistic good or bad but just based on behaviors.  Some behaviors that today we think are bad might have been good at a different time in the evolutionary cycle.  Some of those good behaviors would have been weak and not good.  If those good and bad characteristics are changing, how could we have been created in a single image?

The tiny part we know about our own existence and the universe we exist in, does not allow us to understand the why’s about are beginning.  We can only guess.  So, your guess is as good as mine.

My useless guess is that there is no beginning.  As humans we relate to everything in our own context.  We are born, we die.  Therefore, everything must fit that same existence.  Maybe infinity is more than a theory, but a fact.  The universe (or call it something else) has always existed.  Scientists talk about the big bang, or some other beginning, because they have developed theories that make that conclusion a mathematical fact, but is it true?

Okay, no beginning, just on-going always.  Maybe human existence, as we understand it, comes, and goes on cycles of every 100,000 years.  This has been happening forever, not for billions of years, but forever.  How many versions of “humans” are there if there has been constant change forever.

Our own insignificant planet is estimated (by humans) to be 4.5 billion years old.  If “modern” humans have been around 100,000 years that would be .002%–which is more like the blink of an eye.  Let’s say you have $5,000 in the bank, and they were paying that percentage in interest, what would be your annual interest payment?  It would be eleven cents!

We know so little because that is all we can comprehend.  The vastness of our lack of knowledge is overwhelming, so let’s just ignore the obvious conclusion that we don’t know anything and pretend we know everything.

Knowing everything gives us the human need of power.  And if we believe it, it will be true.

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Over the last several months I have been involved in a project in my other life as a financial advisor.  This has taken a great deal of time, more than I had expected, and distracted me from my more enjoyable writing activities.  Also, all progress on the audio dramas has stopped.  My current estimate is that I have about another month on this all-consuming project and then it will be back to writing.

Due to a lack of time (and a mind full of numbers, rather than murder mysteries), I decided to shut down my Patreon activities.  If you had become a contributor, you have been notified of this decision.

My next projects in order of progress:

How to Plan and Budget for Small Business Success.  This is the third business book.  Substantial progress had been made on this book but was stopped with everything else.  Hopefully looking at a March or April publish date.

Vegas Dead End.  This of course is the almost completed audio drama series.  Hope to have this available on several podcast sources by the end of January.  There are currently 23 episodes available here.  Total episodes will be about 30.

Vegas Dead End Plus.  This will be the audio drama turned into a book with a Part Two: RV Adventures.  Expected completion mid-2023.

Durango Two Step.  This book is mostly finished but abandoned so many times I’m not sure I can find the file. 

Tumbleweed Mystery Book 2.  Another kid’s book for all the youth minded adults.

All the above were at some stage of work-in-progress, which was stopped.  After that group is finished, I’m not sure what might be next.

Constitutional Convention?

I have written about the idea of a new constitutional convention that would involve only young people.  This would be a non-binding constitution that would represent the viewpoint of people in their teens and twenties.  What would they consider important to include in this new constitution?  I don’t know, but wouldn’t it be interesting?  They are the future, and shouldn’t they have the most say in what the future would look like?  Who would be opposed to that?

How about almost everyone who is not young.  People with money would hate it, they are obviously the most important people, and no punk kids should be telling them anything.  Politicians would hate it since they can’t figure out how to make money from it.  Older people would hate it because those young ones might not have the same high regard for old farts that the old farts do.  Many people would hate it because the young would be more inclusive and cooperative than their elders.

Okay, so that’s probably not going to happen.  What might happen?  How about a bunch of wealthy people promoting the idea of a new constitutional convention controlled by states?  Participation and decisions most likely based on each state having one vote.  Wyoming one vote, California one vote—sort of makes sense, or does it?

Based on the latest results there are 25 red states and 25 blue states.  Now this can change in those few battleground states that based on small numbers can shift.  This also does not include DC and Puerto Rico which are not considered states—population of about 3.8M.

Well, 25 and 25 sounds about even steven, what’s the problem?  The red states population is 143M, the blue states population is 192M.  Each state will have one vote, so states with 57% of the population will have the same votes as states with 43%. 

Once again there is a certain mind set in this country that does not believe in democracy. 

The country has never been a majority vote with all citizens participating type government.  We do remember when black people couldn’t vote, nor could women.  Native Americans, you know the people who were already here when the white Europeans showed up, could not vote until 1924.  One man, one vote, always meant one white man; and mostly it meant one white rich man.

So, in many ways this multi-cultural, multi-race society is new.  And it’s already coming apart.

The obvious goal of the state constitutional convention will be to not only stop those all-participating trends, but to kill them once and for all.  Will that happen?

That young people constitutional convention would be a shocker.  In a recent survey by Tufts University – Tisch College the three most important issues for government involvement were environment/climate change, racism, healthcare access/affordability.  Another key issue was cost of housing.

Do you think the “let ‘em eat cake” crowd cares much for any of those issues?  No, they don’t.  They would focus more on reducing taxes and eliminating regulations.  Make government small enough it can be squashed.

There won’t be a youth constitutional convention because the people who control such things would never agree to allow an open forum for the future of the country to talk honestly about what needs to be done to insure the declaration of independence goal of pursing happiness. 

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, will have one meaning for the future oriented idealism that many young people feel and a different meaning to the established leaders.

Many people interpreted Thomas Jefferson’s “pursuit of happiness” statement as nothing more than a euphemism for the pursuit of wealth.  Our current leaders might agree.

It’s time to rethink who we are, and a critical part of that thinking must come from young people.

Loosey-Goosey Philosophy

Generally, I’m not a full-time writer.  Not sure this has any real impact, but I do run into times when something else in my world takes precedence.  This is not good for a writer.  Writing is story telling with all sorts of things to keep up with as you write.  Not sure what most writers do to plan a book, but my approach is pretty loosey-goosey.  Yes, that is a technical term. 

I will do an outline, with big picture stuff.  Seldom do I know the ending of the book or even who did what.  This is of course a murder mystery and when I start, I only have an idea who will be the victim and who’s the killer.  This causes me all sorts of problems.

A mystery book shares things with the readers as the story develops, such as clues.  Obviously to do that you have to know who is going to be killed and by whom.  Due to my loosey-goosey philosophy, I often must do re-writes to correct something I said in Chapter two that is total BS in Chapter 28.

Well, the other problem with this jump-in and see what happens approach, is that it is all in my head.  I have this rough out-line that guides me some, but most is being developed as I write.  Now, keep in mind, this is not my choice.  I’ve tried to develop extensive drafts and detail before I begin, but inevitably, I will change all of that as I write. 

Without interruptions I can write a full-length book in a few months.  With interruptions, it could take years.  I’ve been in one of those difficult patterns for the last year or so.

My interruptions are often due to my continued activity related to being an advisor on M&A transactions.  Some of you are aware, others maybe not, that I’m a retired CPA who for many years has provided consulting advice on the selling and buying of businesses.  This is where the business books come from, How to Sell Your Business Without a Broker and How to Start and Run a Successful Small Business.  (Have a small beginning on a new biz book about planning and budgeting.  I know I just said I’m a terrible planner of my books, but I’m a strong advocate for the benefit of extensive planning in business.  Do as I say not as I do.)

I really enjoy the business activity, even if it does interfere with my writing.  Analyzing, running, selling, or buying a business is in its own way much like a mystery book.  There is always an abundance of clues with many twists and turns before you reach the conclusion.  Sometimes the good guys win, sometimes they don’t.  Now in most of my business activity, there are very few bodies (for which I am most grateful), but even without the over-the-top drama, it distracts.  The mind can only hold so much (please keep any personal comments to yourself).

Targeting this latest all consuming business activity to be over in a month or so.  Once that is done, I will concentrate on writing.  Seldom do my plans work out perfectly, but the hope is that next year will be 100% book writing.  That could mean 4 to 5 books available next year and 3 more the next.  All those projects are in some stage of completion, with a couple almost finished. 

Now how about those audio books.  Not sure how many have listened to Chino & Tonto—but you should.  I like this story telling vehicle, but it does have a problem; it involves a lot more people than the writing.  There have been multiple people helping with the voices, so progress is dependent on more than just me.  All the players are doing this for fun (not money) so almost anything becomes more important than my erratic schedule.  When we started, I was staying focused and we made good progress, as I have drifted, they also have drifted.  The final episodes have been written for Vegas Dead End so I’m sure in the next few weeks we will get them recorded and make all available.  After that the audio dramas will be rethought.  Could be it is best for me to concentrate on the books and get some of that promised titles published before I dig too deep into the audio book world—we’ll see.

It’s Important!

Mistakes, Successes, the Future

My first book was published about 14 years ago.  It was not great, maybe not even good, but I liked the story.  It was a complete failure.  At the time, I debated about ever writing again.  My goal had been to write a book because of some stupid idea that I could be a success.  That success was going to happen by magic.  I would be found and hailed as the greatest thing since “something or another”.  So having experienced failure, the most sensible thing to do was quit.

I did for a while.  During that time, I also thought about what had gone wrong.  Eventually I convinced myself that my failure was due to me not understanding how to create my own success.  I had to invest time (and money) into becoming a better writer, a better book manager, a better marketer, a better –well you get the idea.  I was the problem.

Five years passed before I released my next book.  I experienced success.  Yes, success!  That was because I was now measuring success in a whole new light.  Compared to my first absolute failure this book was a huge success.  I was elated.  I immediately started the second book (which is really the third, but I don’t count the first one—little history rewrite).

As of today, I have written fourteen books.  Don’t be shocked, but I liked them all.  I hope to publish a few more before I give up, but the fourteen are an accomplishment that I am proud of, even if the success money truck has never arrived.  My books have been read by thousands of people and received great reviews.  In many, many ways I’m a successful author.

And yet.  Yes, and yet I’m still not pleased.  This may have something to do with the first book, the very first book.  I abruptly ended that book as I became discouraged with the amount of time it was taking to finish.  When I was writing that book, I was also involved in very stressful and time-consuming business activities.  Everything started piling on, so I ended the book suddenly.  Here we are going along on this story and bam—THE END. 

Giving thought to going back and redoing the ending in a more thoughtful way.  But why do that?  I know it makes no sense, why not write something new, more interesting, and fresher.  Why dwell on the past mistakes.  It feels like something I did not do well, and that there is value in correcting that little misstep at the beginning of my writing venture.

On the other hand, I’ve got four great books almost ready to be born. 

Doctor Hightower.  This is a few weeks away from being completed.  Some of you have read parts of this book as an Amazon Vella serialized story.  Also, about half of the first part is about ready to release as an audio drama.  Those few weeks are being held up due to a decision I must make.  Is this a one and done book—if so, it will have a certain kind of ending—or is this an on-going series, with an entirely different ending.  I’m leaning towards a one and done.

Mr. & Mrs. Sims.  This is a cozy mystery that I’m having a ton of fun writing.  This story takes place in rural Oklahoma in the 1920’s.  Mr. Sims is a frustrated criminologist working as an ag agent out of Hugo, Oklahoma.  Mrs. Sims is the Home Demonstration Agent in the three counties around Hugo.  As her husband becomes more and more involved in solving crimes and becoming Sherlock Holmes, Mrs. Sims, always supportive of her husband, starts to act like Dr. Watson.  This is also soon to be an audio drama and very soon a book.  Writing this book with my wife, Marilyn.

Tumbleweed Mystery #2.  Marilyn and I are putting together ideas on the second Tumbleweed story.  This story will feature more adventures in Cactus City with kids.  This is a middle grade book and will involve all sorts of intrigue from the 1950s.  The Skytrain movie theatre becomes a central part of an adventure involving the Air Police, the atomic bomb, scary Generals, and kids not sure what they have found.

Chino & Tonto, Vegas Dead End/RV Adventures.  A continuation of the Pacheco and Chino series which will feature Tyee Chino and his new dog Tonto.  Still a gritty PI/murder mystery type book but with Tyee and Tonto traveling around the US helping Apache Tribe members who are accused of various crimes.  These books will begin as an audio series which is fast approaching completion.

The more I’ve thought about it, I’ve decided I should let the past be.  Going back and trying to fix mistakes is a waste of time—move on and make new ones.

Thanks for being a reader!
It’s Important!

Don’t Follow the Haters

Definition of fascism: a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

A key element of fascism is hatred.  There must be an enemy and the hatred must be total, a willingness to destroy your enemy.  The enemy is often a competing political party or people who are different.  Different races or nationalities.

Everything about fascism is based on hate.

Why would anyone become associated with such a movement?  Because it’s a very human thing to do.  Hate is real and a key emotion that humans deal with throughout their lives.  “I hate you!” That is as common a remark as “I love you!”  Hate is real and all consuming. 

Usually, people join hate groups out of fear.  Fear of government is often the beginning of fascist movements.  They will take over the government and destroy the evil people in charge.  Then, of course, replace them with themselves and will eventually become the evil government in charge.  Usually, if not always, much worse than what they replaced.

While fear of government is often the start, the force that drives these hate movements is based on the general fear of the “other”.  The other can be different races, or nationalities, or religious beliefs, anything that makes a person different than the chosen group.

With just a little observation, we can see that these groups will always become more destructive and target an increasingly wider range of people to hate.  The chosen group becomes narrower and narrower.  This is a self-destructive philosophy which will always consume itself in a hatred of everything.

Okay, so it’s a human thing to hate, but most people would not want to have others die because they are not part of the “chosen” group.  So, how does that happen?  The leaders of the movement create the illusion that the “others” are evil beyond belief—they must die, because they represent the most evil forces that have ever existed.  They are not just different—they are monsters.  They eat babies, they consume human blood, they crawl on their bellies to destroy everything that is good.  How do leaders create that image?  They lie.  They lie some more.  They lie until it becomes the truth.  Once the evil is identified and the group believes it, that group will kill and destroy because they must stop the evil.

It’s easy to identify leaders who have this characteristic to sway people into actions that they would never normally consider taking.  The leaders are liars, always have been and always will be.  They hate the truth.  They have no moral boundaries.  They exist only for themselves.  The concepts of family, community and general well-being do not exist; it is only about them.  This is a self-destructive nature that fights everyday to survive in what is a hostile environment for the leader.  Everyone is out to get that person—that person is constantly in fear of being found out to be a fraud.  The fear is all consuming.  The only way to deal with that fear is to attack.

But in the odd quirk of humanness, these people are appealing.  There is no evident self-doubt.  They have become such great deceivers of themselves that they are playing a role that looks confident and even smart.  It’s the opposite.  Hidden under the shiny exterior is an ugly center of despair.

The followers think those leaders are strong, but they are weak.  That weakness must be hidden by ever increasing aggression.  Eventually the recklessness of the leader will lead to self-destruction, along with horrible consequences for the followers.

There are good reasons to fear other humans.  There are bad people among us.  However, most people are good.  They want the same things everyone wants, a happy life, to be able to support their family, a sense of wellbeing.  These goals may include personal things like a good job, a nice place to live—but most people want a feeling of belonging that is common in all races and nationalities.  A comfort of home.

We all should have the good sense to stop listening to the haters—following the haters is a proven path to self-destruction.

Where there is truth, there is hope!

Price of Live Chickens

No matter what you believe is true, no matter how much evidence you possess to support your belief; someone else can believe it is a lie.  I never thought the world was that way.  I thought there were truths we could all agree on. 

At one time many people thought the earth was flat.  Probably a somewhat reasonable belief if all your evidence seemed to suggest a flat world.  Then came far distance sailing, eventually photos from space; all proving without a doubt the earth was round.  Except there are people today who still believe the earth is flat.  How can that be? 

The answer is, of course, they do not believe the evidence right before their eyes because it interferes with some other beliefs.  No matter how self-evident something is, someone can believe the opposite. 

I’ve been writing the first book in a new series that takes place in rural Oklahoma in the 1920s.  As part of my research, I’ve read many old newspapers from that time and place.  Some of those papers were The Hugo Daily News, The Norman Transcript, The Antlers American, The Oklahoma Farmer, just to name a few.

Now my interest was mostly in the local “crime” news.  The story, which will first be an audio drama and later a series of books, is about a newlywed couple who, through various circumstances, find themselves as an Ag Agent and a Home Demonstration Agent to rural farmers through the US Department of Agriculture.  The Ag Agent person studied to be a criminologist, but there were not that many of those jobs available, so he is the county Ag Agent but really wants to be Sherlock Holmes.

My search through the papers was to find “real” crime stories from the time that I could incorporate into my story—with lots of changes, which is my right, according to my creative license.

What struck me is that there was almost zero news about anything other than local news.  The news stories might be as far afield as the county, with a tad of state news; but almost all was very local.  At that time there did not seem to be any interest in what was going on in the rest of the country and very specifically nothing to do with Washington D.C.

Calvin Coolidge was president; he had won with 15 million votes.  Now I’m sure, if I was reading the papers from the big cities in the east, they would be filled with the sensational stories about politics of the day; but small towns were apparently, not interested.

For many people in 1924 truth was shared and believed in a very small circle of influence.  Most people spent their lives trying to survive as best they could, with very little concern about the matters of government—until it directly impacted them.

While we are almost 100 years in the future from that time, those attitudes are inbred into the American mind.  Nobody wants to be told what they should or shouldn’t do, and for sure, not what to believe.  Independence of body and mind are quintessential American qualities.

With independence comes the right to believe whatever nonsense you want; and to be proud that you believe such silliness. 

Some of the latest strange stories do seem to be over the top and beyond anything we have experienced before.  But that may not be true.  There has always been a very large portion of the population that held certain beliefs that stretched credibility. (a)  I think the biggest difference between now and then is that most of those unusual beliefs were not newsworthy.  The local crazy quilt society meetings were not covered as news events.  The writings of Looney Larry would not be published on the web for all to see.  Miss Jane’s less than appropriate skirt lifting photo was not available to every student in her fifth-grade class and their parents.

Our sense of privacy has changed.  If you believe nutty things, you must publish them on Facebook.  If you have an inappropriate photo, you must send it to someone.  All those things beg the question, why?

Not sure.  But being private is not in vogue.  Being polite is not a good trait.  Being angry is the new normal.  Maybe we have too much information, and we can’t handle it!

The price of live chickens in Antlers may not be big news, but it is also not very upsetting.

  • (a) The John Birch Society held some controversial beliefs in the 1950s and 1960s but was mostly rejected by the dominate political parties.  JBS was basically very opposed to a democracy and insisted that the US was a republic and state rights should always have priority over federal rights.  Those concepts which are increasingly popular today felt un-American at the time.  State rights were almost always code words for certain groups not participating fully in the governing process, including voting.  The JBS also had a bogey man fear of communists and they saw them everywhere.  The JBS was featured in my book Murder So Final about elections in the 1960s for governor with the JBS being very active in the election process which led to violence.

It’s My Art—It’s My Words

Who is the artist if the work is created by a computer program with only a few words entered by the “artist”? 

Most likely you have heard of the AI assisted software that can create dynamic renderings with only a description to guide the program.  (New York Times article about an artist winning first at the Colorado State Fair with an entry produced by the computer program.)

For much of our history art has been a process of imagination, but also skilled crafts people who could turn the imagination into a finished work of art.  Often those skills were very precise and took years to hone to the point your work was considered “good”.  These were generally realistic artists creating images that all could recognize.  Before photography this was an amazing craft and many of our most famous artists are from this school of art.  Later there were impressionist and modern artists.  These were emotions created in different ways and in different shapes and colors.  While all of that was called art, many saw value in one form, but not the other.

Now we have art being created with a minimum amount of human involvement—but in my mind, still art.

This new AI assisted art can be discovered at Midjourney—although it is not completely user friendly, expect a few hiccups.  What you can see there is amazing “pictures” (art) by thousands of people, being created instantly.  Some of this is wonderfully complicated and bold, some is satisfyingly simple but beautiful.  All of it, in its own way, can be called art.

So, as an artist what do I “really” think?

It feels more like a game than the act of producing art, but there is no question that the result is art.  It takes a different kind of skill set, but it takes the same imagination and eye for what is “right” to you.  And, just like most things, it takes practice.

Now, I don’t have much patience for practice, so I just jumped in and gave it a try.  I entered “southwest landscape, bold colors, tall cactus with flowers, highly detailed, bright sun, puffy clouds, art deco” and got.

(You may say, hey, that’s not so hot—keep in mind I spent literally about a minute “creating” the above work of art.)

I still have lots of questions about some of the steps and the function of the web site.  Without a doubt, at the very least, this sort of stuff is fun.  Does it detract from “artists”—probably.  Why buy anything if I can just add a few words and create my own art?  Of course, that means you like your own stuff created with the help of AI computer program, which may or may not be true.  But this type of art can be very impressive.  If you have not seen the piece created for the state fair entry, you will be impressed.

Okay, it’s goodbye artists, hello AI computer art done by you (sort of).

I think we’ve been on this path for a while.  Goodbye humans, hello cyborgs (or whatever they would be called).  As a person who observes and comments on the less than stellar activities of humans, maybe this is not a bad trend.  Now, having computers decide what is right and wrong could go very wrong, but, hey; were not doing such a hot job ourselves. 

Hey, mom, I would like you to meet my new friend—ZX2008MOD-5.  He, She, It, They just wrote a book for me! So long authors!