What is the creative process?

I have done many creative things in my life; painting, writing novels, woodworking, digital art, and of course accounting.  Accounting?  Some of those sales forecasts were pretty creative!

Painting and writing share a lot of attributes.  To be creative you first have to start.  Starting is hard.  When I was painting a lot, I would often find myself in front of a blank canvas wondering what to paint.  For some reason there were times when nothing would pop into my brain.  I had no ideas.  I would sketch some things, but it just wasn’t working.  Why?  Other days I had what seemed like hundreds of ideas on what I wanted to paint.  It was like everything I saw looked like something I wanted to paint.  Once again why?

Writing is even more dependent on an idea.  If I had no idea on what to paint, I could always spread around some color and call it abstract art; depicting the beginning of mankind.  Brilliant!  Not so with writing.  I suppose you could just write your life history over and over, but the book sales would not be good.  To write you have to have a fairly well developed idea that begins on page one.  I write mysteries, so in most cases I need to have a good idea how the story is going to go before I start.  There is a structure to mystery stories.  There is an event, action or something that prompts someone to want to uncover what happen, where something is located or hidden, and who did it and why.  So to begin the book you have to have an idea on how it ends.  Now, there is no question that as I write, the story changes.  I began The Bootlegger’s Legacy as a different story than the one I ended with; but that is mostly about false starts and starting over—I’ve definitely done that.

It would be hard to write a book and not have some idea of what the book is about.  But more than just a story line, you need developed characters and a detailed plot.  So where does this stuff come from? 

Inspiration is defined as “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.”  That is inspiration, but where does it come from.  During my working life I was the guy with ideas.  Other people seemed not to have ideas.  Is there an idea “talent,” sort of like playing the violin?  It sure seems like some people are creative and others not at all.  I have bumped into that non-creative mind set.  There are people who actually seem to take pride in being a non-idea person; like that is a good quality.  “Don’t ask me about that stuff I’m not an idea guy!”  Maybe that is just a way to avoid having your ideas laughed at.  I’ve sure experienced that.  Being creative means taking a risk; because quite often some of those creations are real monsters.

If you’re a religious person you probably adhere to the “God-given” talent aspect in almost all things.  So creative people have been born with a creative trait that comes from God.  That’s a little too mystical for me, but it’s hard to argue with the sentiment.

In our society we have some very “talented” people who play sports.  These people are honored and paid huge sums of money for what would also appear to be “God-given” talents.  While physical skills are often inherited, the people who are really good at sports have taken those talents to entirely new levels by enhancing their inherited abilities with training, exercise and working day and night through repetition to reach the highest levels of sports.

Maybe creative is something similar, sure you’re born with certain creative traits, but most people ignore those skills and never really develop what might be call pro creative talents.  So maybe rather than lift weights, you develop creative skills by studying creative people.  Reading or viewing art could be to the creative mind the same as running around a track to the athlete.

I know much of my love of reading occurred from one source, Classics Illustrated comic books.  I loved the art with strong bold colors and I loved the stories.  My brother had a stash of the comics but was not really interested in them (he was seven years older than me and had discovered girls –he was never the same); for reasons that escape me, I began reading his collection.  It was wonderful.  I couldn’t wait to begin the next comic in the stack.  Obviously I was a troubled child—but I was quiet.

My parents would probably have preferred that I was out running track or thinking about baseball; but there I was in my room reading and reading and reading.  Rather than trying to alter my behaviors they went with the flow and bought me an increased supply of the wonderful (and cheap) comic books.  I believe the first comic I read was The Three Musketeers.  It was a story of adventure, friendship; all taking place in another world—it was absolutely great.  Not sure how many of those comic books I read and then re-read, but it had to be hundreds.

Now today, I have buried in my old brain hundreds of stories and great memories from classic books.  What a resource to stimulate the creative process.  Now a more cynical person would say most of those great memories were destroyed by hours of television; but I think Classics Illustrated comic books gave me the brain muscle memory to be a creative person.

Being creative is not magic but probably based on much of the same process as athletes honing their skills, you have to work at it; practice.

To be creative, you must try to be creative.  This may result in failure, most likely a lot of failure; but with practice you learn to polish those creative energies into something unique and hopefully amazing.  Write, design, paint, sculpt, sing, compose, sew, dance, act, build and maybe even develop that sales forecast and become the best creative person you can be.

New Mexico inspired digital art

Thanks for being a creative reader!

Fake Authors

I’m a baseball fan, more specifically a Colorado Rockies baseball fan.  They had a disappointing year and it has been hard to be positive—but I still watch.  Maybe that is the definition of a fan; even in bad years you root for your team.  Baseball is a frustrating game to watch because it’s about failure.  The top hitters in the league hit on average 30% of the time.  That means 70% of the time they fail.  That’s a lot of failure to observe over a course of the season. 

Baseball and Indie authors share some attributes—mostly failure.  “Around 12% of the top 20 books on Amazon are self-published. 12% is not much by any standard. It perfectly illustrates the hardest challenge for any indie writer: Marketing and book promotion! Very few succeed indeed.”  This is a quote from a web site called kindleranker.

With the article quoted above there was a list of the most successful indie authors on Amazon and the number of bestsellers they have written.  This is a strange list of either “not authors” or unknown names.  So 12% of top selling books are by indie authors nobody heard of?  This does seem odd.  I randomly picked three to see what was going on.

The number one “indie author” is Dartan Creations with 171 top 20 sellers.  This is obviously some sort of self-publishing group that turns our all kinds of mostly non-fiction books.  The trick seems to be to list the author as Dartan Creations with co-authors, who no-doubt are the real authors.  So Dartan Creations has many successful books but it represents multiple authors.  No harm, no foul—but a little deceptive.

This was a common aspect of about half of the top ten indie authors; Book List Guru, Premise Content, Pretty Planner and others—they are not authors at all.

Number two on the list was also not an author “Jade Summer”—it’s a brand of adult coloring books.  They even brand the books with what looks like an author’s name and positioned it on the cover to mimic where the author’s name would be.  Is this illegal—no.  Is it wrong—no, again.  Maybe a little deceptive if you goal is to get on top 20 lists on Amazon based on authors.  There is not a top 20 list based on “brands.”

The next one I picked was because it was the only name I recognized; Anton Chekhov.  A dead Russian author was self-publishing? This was a little confusing in that for some books they are published by Random House but for others they appear to be self-published—and apparently they sell well.  Don’t really know the details here but someone is messing with Amazon.

The only other name that I thought might be a real author was V Moua.  This does appear (that doesn’t mean it is so) to be a real person with an odd name.  He has written something like 170 children books and would appear to have significant sales.  Looks like price is a factor.

So what does this mean and why should you, or me for that matter, care?  What it means for sure is that fiction indie authors are very low on the list of best-selling authors.  No doubt fiction mystery authors are even lower.  Indie mystery writers are like baseball players; they fail a lot.  However, baseball players are paid huge sum of money to fail—not so much writers.

Some of my blogs get to deep into the book business aspect of my life and may have little interest to most readers—sorry if that is the case.  The most important aspect of the article from kindleranker was the comment that the hardest challenge for any indie writer is marketing and book promotion.

I spend as much time (or maybe more) on marketing and promotion as I do on writing.  If you are thinking about writing you should be aware that success only comes from having a “great” book, or at least a “good” book and knowing how to market your book and yourself.  There are probably more cases of having a “bad” book and having great knowledge about how to market and being successful than the other way around.  So to be a successful indie author you need to know marketing, first and writing, second.

This goes against everything I learned when I was thinking about writing.  The experts all said concentrate on writing, produce the best book you can and keep writing.  So maybe if you have 170 great books that you can afford to sell at a $1.99 on Amazon you will reach some level of success?  That sounds like a very narrow window for success.

There is a great joy in creating something from nothing.  Take an idea and some months later it is a published book on Amazon.  Maybe that is like hitting 30% of the time and calling it a success.  As long as you’re doing as good as your competitors—it is success.  Although I think I would prefer to be on the best seller list.  Maybe next month?  Or I could change my name to Jade Summer.

Thanks for being a reader!

Is it hard work being creative?

The most successful way I’ve experienced to make contact with readers is to give away books.  “Here’s a free book, if you like it, buy my other books.”  Sure that makes sense.  But it bugs the hell out of me.  Okay, this next little part is whining.  I spend months and months, lots of money (for me) writing and producing a book.  Yes, I enjoy writing—but what creates a book is effort.  That is real, dig a hole in the backyard effort.  When I’m really writing at a good pace and I reach the end of the day; I’m exhausted.  Sure, after fifteen minutes of digging that hole I would be exhausted, but the analogy has merit.  It is hard work being creative.

So after all of this “hard” work, I’m now giving away the product of that effort.  The explosion of free books is the result of Amazon, book promotion web sites and Indie writers.  Free book promotions would exist without those factors but to a much lesser degree.  I’m sure there are readers who never read anything other than free books—if the authors choose to give them away, how are the readers at fault?  They’re not.  This is 100% an author’s decision based on a “you have no real choice” option to promote yourself and your book.  And it works!

Yep, there’s the rub.  It actually works.  You do expand your reader base; and these free book readers do buy other books.  Now, for sure, there are only free book readers—but even those might give you a good review which will help your sales.  But why does it still feel wrong to me?

I’ve spent most of my working life providing advice, usually something to do with finances, to business people.  Something I spent a lot of time working on was pricing—how should a business establish a price for their product.  Yes, I was hired by people to establish the most profitable strategy for pricing their product—I was a pricing pro.  Now for my own product, my advice is free!  That would not have made my clients happy if I said the most profitable, strategic price for your product is nothing.

Why does that work with e-books?  It’s simple, there is no cost.  Free e-books exist because there is, in most cases, no actual out-of-pocket cost to giving away that electronic file—the e-book.  However, there is an investment in the e-book.  The effort writing, the cost producing; which can be thousands and thousands of dollars before anything is assigned for the author’s time.  But, and this is the famous big “But”—how do you allocate that cost.  If you spent $5K producing a book and expected to sell 5K of e-books and paperbacks that would be a dollar cost per book.  But of course it’s not that simple.  You don’t know how many you will sell or the mix of paperback and e-book—plus paperbacks have actual cost per book for each one printed; the e-books don’t have additional costs.

Way too much in the weeds, right?  The bottom line is you can give away e-books and more or less assume you have no cost with what you gave away as free.  But, yes another big “But”; does it lessen the value of your brand.  Would readers decide that you will eventually give away each of your books at one time or another and just wait for the bargain.  Or on the macro level, does giving away books lessen the value of all books.  Are authors training readers to only value books at zero?

As an ex-pricing pro I can tell you giving away books is stupid. Unless your goal is to make no money at something you invest money in and spend many hours producing—that would be financial suicide.  I should know better—but I’m still giving away e-books.  I’m doing it less and less, but still doing it.  Because as an Indie author it is hard to break-through the fog of so many book options for readers.  There are more books available than most readers can possibly have time to read. 

Another point I want to make—and would love your input on this; readers now have libraries of free books on their devices.  They have not invested a penny in those books—do they read them the same way they would a hardback they just spent $20 on?  Probably not—if the book doesn’t hit them right within the first few pages it’s total garbage.  They move on to the next no cost book.  I remember many a book (usually purchased at a hardback price) that did not hit me at the beginning—maybe it was my mood, or the weather or something; but I was not engaged in the story.  And then sometime later, I returned and loved the book from beginning to end.  Some books take a commitment to get to the flow of the story, maybe by accident or by design by the author; but without a commitment it’s garbage.

Maybe I will re-think my marketing strategy and stop free books, or maybe not?  It’s a question that is not easy to answer.  One thing I know for sure “it bugs the hell out of me.”


Okay, just to prove I have no scruples, or maybe I have no sense; you can get a free copy of the e-book for The Bootlegger’s Legacy, Tuesday September 10th on Amazon.  If you get a free book (and like it), the least you can do is give me a good review.

The Bootlegger’s Legacy was my first book (it actually wasn’t–but that is another story) and as I have said many times, it might be my favorite.  The backstory about Pat Allen, the 1950s Oklahoma bootlegger, and his most desirable mistress, Sally, is some of my best writing (my opinion). 

Anyway at free it’s got to be a bargain.

Thanks for being a reader!

Right or Wrong?

There are a lot of things that annoy me. Flies annoy me, leftovers annoy me; often I annoy me. But there is something that really upsets me; the upbeat, happy people who offer advice on how to be better, happier, richer or achieve whatever-your-heart-desires. These people tend to be attractive, high-energy, smiling people who may or may not have a clue about any of the nonsense they offer to the unsuspecting. They are more than likely happy people who, for whatever reason, life has “just worked out.” That is hard to accept if you’re an important person who wants everyone to follow your advice—it can’t be just stupid luck that your happy and rich. It must be because you know more shit than the next person and now, from the goodness of your heart, you’re willing (maybe at a small price) to share it.

There are a lot of these people in religion; especially since someone dreamed up the prosperity gospel. This seems to be based on a premise that it’s okay for me to be rich and a man of God because it is God’s will; and if you want to be rich, you should give me money–God wants you to. Now that last part seems a little difficult to follow for me, but apparently it is completely logical to a large number of folks. My bible school background left me believing that rich people were not on the “A list” in heaven—but I lived among hypocrites so contradictions were normal.

I wrote about someone in The Bootlegger’s Legacy who found religion and soon became wealthy, preaching a form of the prosperity gospel. His name was Mike Allen. Mike was the son of the notorious bootlegger of the title. In a lot of ways his venture into religion was more about saving his marriage to the most beautiful person in the whole world; but once he started, he discovered something else that was even more appealing—adoration.

Love has induced some of the most bizarre behavior in human beings. In most cases this involves one person who loves or is loved. But adoration with hundreds or thousands of people who not only love but worship you, must be an awesome experience. Most of us can only imagine. We have celebrities, politicians, self-help gurus and, of course, ministers who seem to be addicted to this worshipful, adoration from the masses. I’m somewhat of a private person so having hordes of people loving me feels more like a threat than something wonderful. But it must be a powerful feeling to have “followers”, who hang on your every word and toss money at you. Would it be possible to be in that position and not take advantage of it? My guess, would be —no.

In TBL, Mike soon succumbs to his baser instincts and decides sex with his young, attractive worshipers was an entitlement being offered because he was such a wonderful, worthy person. Sin, under those circumstances was measured on a sliding scale. This is the same person who had suffered great emotional trauma because of his father’s sexcapades, but, as if often the case, this was different. Mike’s journey from an insecure, troubled businessman who was only looking for a small amount of financial success and a way to keep his most attractive wife; into a domineering, overly confident minister of a faith, which he knew little about, would have made a good book all by itself. However, it is only a small part of TBL—but a critical part.

On occasion I have mentioned this somewhat strange feeling I have in that the characters themselves are directing the flow of the book—okay, I know that is not true; but it does feel that way. As I write about a character they take on a whole personality, as the story progresses that character will react to the other characters and events in the story in ways that make sense for that character. Mike had always been insecure in himself. He never felt comfortable with who he was and whether he was loved or not. This had a lot to do with his father, the bootlegger, and is at the heart of the plot line of the book. He was insecure in his relationships with his father, mother and his wife. His only secure relationship was with his best friend, Joe. Who he abandoned once he discovered crowd adoration, and accumulated massive wealth.

While the main plot of TBL is a treasure hunt with a backstory on how the treasure came about and was hidden; the sub-plot is about the collapse of a life-long friendship between two flawed people. Each was looking for something different to fill an empty life. They found that something, but also lost an important part of what had made them who they were; a friendship. A friendship they took for granted until it was gone.

Probably a stupid thing to say; but I like The Bootlegger’s Legacyduh; it’s my book? Yeah, I know. Also it was my first book and maybe my best. Technically it might not be edited as well as the others—but this was a great story. My later books are mostly murder mysteries—which I enjoy writing. TBL is a different kind of story about people and their histories. I think TBL was an accidental novel—if I had planned this, it would not have happened. Maybe that is why I think it is good (sorry if that sounds like bragging). It just flowed as I wrote it. The characters allowed me to tell their story; and I’m glad I did.

PS. You might not know this but TBL is actually a prequel to the Pacheco & Chino series. When I wrote TBL I didn’t know I was going to write P&C. Ray Pacheco first appears in TBL and much of the background from that book helps in understanding some of the events in P&C’s first book Dog Gone Lies.

Thanks for being a reader!

Hard-Boiled or Cozy

I’ve just completed my tenth book. All of them have been mysteries with graphic language. The first book was a treasure hunt centered on a family’s unusual history; and how that search, and the mystery behind it, changed the main characters. All of the other books have been murder mysteries. The Bootlegger’s Legacy was the building block for the other books in style, if not substance. I have described all of the books as being about unique (I hope) characters who are flawed but likable, experiencing some kind of conflict with bad or very troubled, people. The character development and dialogue between characters is an emphasis—there is humor, romance (no sex scenes) and no graphic violence-although, there are murders.

Except for the language choice, some people have described the stories as “cozy mysteries”. I think this may be due in part to my newsletter where I discuss cooking and my favorite recipes. I like cooking—so sue me. And, of course, the Vincent Malone books feature a B&B prominently in the story. So, hey, maybe these are cozy mysteries with a few f-bombs.

In an on-line interview I was asked why I used gritty language in TBL.

My goal was to tell a story about people. Some good ones and some bad ones. Many of the characters in this book are definitely “gritty” and the language they use is part of their character. This book has bootleggers, gangsters, drug dealers and, of course, some nice people. Even the nice people, under stress, can be very expressive.

The Bootlegger’s Legacy definitely set the tone for the other books. The language in all of the books was about authenticity. The characters were real to me (okay I know that is strange) and that was how they would talk, at least on occasion. Bad guys use bad words—it’s part of being bad. Good guys use bad words if someone is trying to kill them—it’s part of being very stressed and unhappy that someone is trying to kill you.

Much of the language is attributed to the personality of the character. In the Muckraker series, Joe Louongo never stops cussing—he is a foul mouth, street smart lawyer who works the under-side of society. Foul language is language to Joe. He doesn’t even notice the words might not be appropriate.

The Governor of New Mexico, Jerimiah Johnson, in the Pacheco & Chino series is a direct speaking no BS type of guy who has forgotten how to moderate his speech. He is direct and foul—so what! That is who he is, and he will not change.

The tenth book Four Corners War will be released September 3rd. All ten books share many aspects; with gritty language being one. The shocking part to me is that it all happens without much forethought. I just start writing and this is what happens.

I had an outline of TBL which did not include the bootlegger back story. It was going to be a misadventure by two “normal” guys trying to accomplish a drug deal in Mexico to fix their financial problems; and how it all went bad. It was going to be a humorous look at how two “good” guys got involved with a bunch of bad guys and didn’t get killed. I thought it was an original story idea—but, of course, we have all seen a ton of movies more or less with that same plot line—only different. I thought it was original because I knew those two guys—really. But the guys I knew never actually did anything—they just talked about it.

I wrote several chapters and realized it just didn’t flow. It was my book and I was already tired of it. It was flat, uninteresting story telling. But something happened. I introduced the bad guys; and wow, the whole story took on a new life. The bad guys were a hell of lot more interesting than my bland, clean speaking Okies. I was inspired. I tore up the chapters I had done and started over with a new vision. I opened with a prologue of the evil gangsters talking in a bar. Foul language, foul people, foul topics—it all seemed a lot more interesting to me and I hoped, my future readers (if there were ever any). The story took off, I enjoyed writing it—and more importantly I enjoyed reading it.

That experience with TBL led to the Pacheco & Chino books; and, yes, some foul language. It just seemed right to me. I know I get criticism from some reviewers who think I should be able to write without using words that offend them—and to them, I apologize that they were offended. But for me, the characters and circumstances dictate the language. All of the books involve very stressful situations and some very bad (or amoral) people. The language becomes part of the story to convey the stress, anger, disappointment, fear, love, hate and even joy that high tension situations can bring about.

Without those evil gangsters and their foul language introduced in The Bootlegger’s Legacy, all of the books could have been G-rated cozy mysteries. I guess that might have been better, but somehow that would not have been me, and I don’t think those characters would have felt as authentic.


Pre-orders of books allow the book to be promoted before being released-obviously. I’m sure the people who know what they are doing, no doubt, already have the book ready long before the release date. Those people also would have advanced copies out to potential reviewers. Not me. My small working group use the release date as a target date to get the damn thing finished. Yes, it’s no way to run a railroad. But so far we have always gotten everything in place on time—although under pressure. The next release is Four Corners War on September 3rd. And we are pleased with ourselves in that everything is ready to go on September 3rd—we are done.

If you haven’t already consider checking out the pre-order on Amazon for the e-book, please do. The pre-orders give me a nice boost at the beginning of the launch and helps with various Amazon programs. If you are more interested in the paperback, it will not be available to order until the 3rd.

Thanks for being a reader!

Wyatt Earp rides again?

This blog is focused on writing in general, indie books in particular and the overall process of publishing and marketing fiction books. On occasion I have gone off on tangents, not directly tied to that focus; but primarily my intent with the blog is to talk about the challenges faced by the indie author.

Maybe this is obvious, but I will state it anyway—the first and most important challenge for an author is writing a book. It begins with that first step in the journey; when you just have a hint of an idea for a book, way before you have written anything—when everything seems so clear.

I have this idea for a book. The primary character will be a retired city bus driver who has experienced a severe brain injury in an accident and now believes he’s Wyatt Earp. He goes from town to town driving his own small bus and becomes entangled in numerous intriguing plots, all due to the fact that the government has mistakenly identified him as a Russian foreign agent. The actual Russian spy was his room-mate at the hospital after his brain injury. The real Russian is also looking for the man, now known as Wyatt Earp, because he had overheard the secret plans that involved the capture of the President of the United States and replacing him with a body double.

That’s the synopsis and it sounds brilliant, don’t you agree, mom?

Yes, the original idea is always brilliant—an instant best-seller. Hello fame and fortune, I’m over here just waiting. Then you start to write. After some time; when you still have not finished chapter 1, you start to wonder about the story, maybe it needs a little fleshing out—or maybe, it should just be a short-story?

Writing is hard. Most of my books will run 65,000 to 75,000 words. That’s not a short-story. If it is a bad story, that’s way, way too long. When everything is going well for me, it seems the story almost writes itself—two, three even four thousand words a day; and I’m waking up early the next day because I can’t wait to get to it. If it is not going well—well, it just doesn’t go. Zero words per day for many, many days. But no matter your mood or how your mind is functioning (or not) that day, you’ve got to try to do something. I know when everything is going smoothly, writing is a joy, when it is going the opposite of smoothly, it is hell. Oddly, for some reason my best stuff happens when it’s going badly. Could be it’s because the story is at a challenging point, so the pressure and tension come into play creating stress, but also creative energy and focus. Probably nonsense, but I write my best when it feels like I’m full of doubt about my writing. Writing is a creative experience, and I think we know very little about how the creative process works.

Four Corners War has just been finished. This is the third book in the Pacheco and Chino series. I began this book in 2015. Got started and quickly became stuck. It was years before I returned. But during that time I never stopped thinking about the story. For years it was on my mind. I wrote other books during that time, but Four Corners War was always there—nagging me to come back. That is part of the creative process—the mind never lets you rest until you have finished.

Not all books are great or even good. With the huge number of Indie Authors writing books today; some of those books might even be bad—but every one of those books took effort. And in most cases it was a work of commitment, passion and love that generated that less than perfect masterpiece. I have great respect for people who are willing to put their creative efforts on display for others—not knowing what those others will have to say.

I’ve complained about the process of publishing, editing, cover design and, of course, advertising/marketing because those are things that have great impact on success or failure. And like most things in life, writing a book incorporates who you are and how you think about yourself—so failure is devastating. But the truth is—none of that matters. There is only one thing that matters; writing the book.

To finish Four Corners War, after many years of frustration and doubt, took only one thing—effort. All I had to do was write the book—which is what I did. Four years later.

Thanks everyone for being a reader!

Truth in Fiction

There are general themes to most fiction books—sex, greed, hate, love, sadness, happiness. These and other attributes get mixed together to form the basis of a fictionalized story. It could be a murder mystery, like most of my books, but basically it’s about human beings; their faults and their strengths—for me it’s usually emphasizing faults (after all it’s a murder mystery). My stories are made up; fiction not fact. For sure, I didn’t personally experience all of these murders first hand, just so I could chronicle them for you to read about. No, I created the characters, the plot and the conclusion from nothing but thin air. Well almost.

All of my books have an element of truth. This may be a character based on someone I knew, could be a location where I lived, or maybe an event that actually happen. Each book has a kernel of truth which grew into a story of complete fiction.

Some of those truths are small, insignificant little facts; some are very important and major to the story. But for me, each seems vital to being able to tell the story. In Four Corners War, my latest book, one of the main characters (Grimes) was based on someone I had met. The book takes place in Farmington, New Mexico, the place I had encountered this real person. The story is made-up but loosely based on things that did occur, or were suspected.

There was a scene in Four Corners War where Grimes’s girlfriend shoots at him with her pistol while he’s in a swimming pool, causing him to swim back and forth as she shot just ahead of him; like it was a strange, deadly arcade game. That actually happened; or at least the real person told the story that it happened. He was a bizarre man but I don’t think he would have made that up. There was also a scene in his airplane where he demonstrates a hard landing like on an aircraft carrier while landing in Albuquerque—I know that actually happened; because I was in the plane– silently screaming.

The Muckraker series of three books I co-authored with Stanley Nelson were based on actual events–a newspaper war in Oklahoma City in the 1960s. In the story a key character, Albright, was inspired by a real person I knew. He was a political columnist for one of the actual newspapers described in the books. At the time, I owned a printing business (yes, one of many businesses I have owned) when I met the Albright character. And, just as occurred in the fictional story, he talked me into publishing a political gossip rag for him, at no cost. Why did I do that? It was a stupid business decision (one of many) but Albright was an amazingly talented and brilliant man who fought each day of his life against corruption and lies—he was a truth teller; and the world needs every truth teller it can get. That sounds like a noble reason on my part; but the truth is probably I just did it on a lark, and had trouble getting rid of him once it started. But he sure was entertaining and I still think he was brilliant.

All of my books occur in places where I have been or lived, and each location has special memories.

The Bootlegger’s Legacy was the story of two rather ordinary and not so happy guys trying to solve their life issues and fix their money problems. The story began and ended in Oklahoma City, where I was born and lived for a big chunk of my life. Not an exotic location but it had its own uniqueness. The characters were based on people I had known and maybe ever so slightly, myself. The idea of the backstory about a bootlegger was based on a childhood memory when the kids in my neighborhood would talk about the bootlegger who live on the next block over. For one summer it was the major excitement for us to know that there was a bootlegger right in our neighborhood. I remember wondering what it actually meant to be a bootlegger (I was very young). This was kid gossip about something forbidden, and it was very enticing.

Vincent Malone and Ray Pacheco do not represent anyone I have ever met. However, those series do take place in locations that I know well. Las Cruces, Truth or Consequences, Cloudcroft, Ruidoso, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Farmington, Durango, El Paso and Denver. Each book, hopefully, captures some of the charm and uniqueness of these locations. While my books are definitely character driven with a strong emphasis on dialogue; the locations provide a backdrop of authenticity that I believe adds to each book.

Lots of stuff floating around the internet about how to write a book. Seven steps to a successful book. Step by Step process in creating your first book. Most of these will mention creating an outline, developing character details, brainstorming story ideas, create your ideal work environment—none of that has much to do with writing a story; a fiction book—at least not for me. At the core of every one of my books is some personal experience I had. I will take that experience and stretch it, mold it, exaggerate it, throw it against the wall and finally, decide on what I want to write. Not very scientific or even akin to common sense, but it works for me.

Incorporating something familiar, whether a person or a location, can be a good way to add yourself to the story. My best work, I believe, comes from these personal connections. It gives the story a sense of truth—even though it’s only fiction.

Thanks for being a reader!