Everyday is a Miracle!

After 2020 can you identify what is most important to you?  Is it money, health, family, good TV? Maybe good government should be on the list?  Or good health care? Or freedom?  Most of us don’t really know what is the most important until something causes a disruption.  2020 caused issues for almost everyone in one way or another.

In many ways the most disrupted aspect of my life in 2020 was health.  Gandhi said, “it is health that is real wealth, not pieces of gold or silver.”  Of course, without a little gold or silver you would starve.  Not a healthy situation.  But when you are ill or broken, you know, at least for that moment, that good health is the only thing that matters.  Once your healthy again, you soon start to worry more about money than health; so maybe money is more important than health.  Or maybe, if you have money, you can buy health?  Maybe not?

I’ve written about my belief that community is essential to a good life.  That can be family, religion, maybe even a gang; but we all want to belong to something.  I think that feeling a sense of community is becoming more difficult.  But maybe my sense of community is all wrong.  Could a community of people on-line suffice that need?  I’m skeptical, but it does seem to work at some level, just not for me.

The one consistent value in my life has been a sense of accomplishment.  There is no question my self-worth has been based on my success at whatever I was trying to undertake at that time.  Student, businessman, author, artist, accountant, whatever it was; my desire for success (money?) was the driving force in my life.  I was not a joiner, so my world was work and my family.  If I was successful at that time, everything was fine.  During periods, and there were many, when I was not successful; I was miserable.  So, is that a way of saying the most important thing to me was my ego? 

Not being a joiner meant that community to me was usually ridiculously small.  A few friends and family.  However, there was something that I had not given much thought to until recently that had provided me comfort.  It was being an American.  I’m not a nationalist and have often been critical of the leaders of this country.  But I had a sense of belonging to the idea of the USA.  I admired the dreams, hopes and ambitions of a country full of all kinds of people striving to achieve their personal goals.

A nation is a community, even an exceptionally large nation.  Nationalism is the ugly side of that community but feeling a sense of belonging with your fellow countrymen is not bad—it is good.  The history of the country is your history—yes, even the bad history.  It is the same feeling we have with family; it isn’t always perfect, but it is ours. 

The frightening and ugly scenes of a mob storming the capital were disturbing.  They laid bare the ugly truth of how divided we are as citizens.  I know there are people who just want to destroy, out of anger, or disappointment or fear; they want to smash things.  While I watched this display of anger all I felt was sadness.  Even though the people carrying out this offense are only a small fraction of the people of the country; they represent an attitude that is widespread.  It is an attitude of entitlement.  I have a right to destroy.  I have a right to smash and break because I feel I have been disrespected.  I have not received my fair share.  I have been slighted.

I have no idea how you get to the mind set that violence and destruction are the appropriate remedies for your failure, but apparently many have reached that conclusion.  They are wrong.

At some point in life most of us realize the things we worry about the most, jobs, money, careers, status, houses, possessions are of little real value.  Family, health, accomplishments, and community are all keys to a good life.

My goal is to write books, not because I make money or achieve fame; but because it is what I do.  It makes me feel good about me.  My goal is to be a better husband, father, grandfather, neighbor, person and citizen.  Achieving those goals is controlled by me, not the government, or the President, or my next-door neighbor, or anyone other than myself.   I will have a lot of help, much of which will go unnoticed; everyone in my life helps me achieve my goals by being my community.  I also will help myself by helping others.

“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein

Thanks for being a reader!

Self-employment Keys to Success

This blog post is about entrepreneurship.  Not my normal stuff; but this is my background and writing about small business has been something I have done for years.  I was in the process of writing several “Success Paths” books at the end of 2019 and beginning 2020 when the whole small business world was turned upside down due to the pandemic.  I still anticipate writing those books as we slowly return to normal.  Thought this might be of interest to you if you are giving any thought to opening your own business in the future or know someone who is giving that scary adventure some thought.

During my working career which has spanned almost 60 years, I have been self-employed for approximately half of that time.  Or said another way, for 30 years I worked for someone else.  What is interesting to me is that I fully identify with my self-employment years and have only vague memories of my many jobs—I was a good employee but was always looking for the next deal.

For many of my self-employment years, I was a small business consultant.  This was a mixture of accounting, general business guidance and assisting those companies secure loans.  I saw an unbelievable number of poorly ran businesses by people who had no clue what it took to be successful.  They fully operated by the seat of their pants.  Now, don’t get me wrong, many of these organizations were successful.  Almost all, but not all, success in business is based on luck and someone else’s money (usually family). 

Some of the best ran and potentially most successful of these businesses failed not because they were mismanaged, but because they lacked capital (no dad money).  Some of the worst ran businesses succeeded because they had sufficient capital (thanks, dad) to fail but surviveOn the fourth attempt Junior succeeded and became a family legend.  Capital almost always determines the likelihood of success not “hard work,” innovation, creativity, great product or great management—it is always money.

Towards the end of my career, I became a consultant for M&A firms who were assisting medium size firms complete acquisitions or to sell the business.  What was surprising is that most of the good and bad I saw in small companies was the same nonsense going on in big companies.   In most companies the biggest asset of the company is the employees.  There are exceptions to this rule where an innovative product may drive success, but in most cases it’s the employees who have the most influence over success.  Yet, with hardly any exceptions, employers treat their employees like shit.

Why would they do that?  Because of their egos.  I have yet to meet a business owner who didn’t think all of his success was due to him or that all of his failures were due to his employees.  Logic be damned the ego must be protected. 

The keys to business success. 

One is capital.  The more money you have the greater your chances of success.  This is painfully obvious but is ignored by most entrepreneurs, they always think whatever venture they are starting is an exception.  This business I’m starting is so great all I need is a few bucks, and I will be a zillionaire in a week.  They are always wrong; you must have more money than you can probably acquire to be successful in a new business.  New businesses have a ton of surprises that cost money you did not count on.  The amount you thought at the beginning was more than enough will not be.  Your initial capital needs to be as large as possible and you should plan on sources of additional capital as the business grows.  Capital drives success.

Two is hard work.  I have met many people who wanted to open their own businesses because they were tired of working hard for some asshole boss who never did anything.  As an owner you will either work extremely hard, or you will go broke.  Anybody who thinks it is easier to be a boss/owner than an employee has never owned their own business. 

The third key might surprise you—it’s employees.  Unless your new business is a one-man operation you will be totally dependent on employees for your success.  For many new business owners this is an afterthought—they assume they can always hire people.  But can you hire the best?  Because that is often what it takes to succeed.  Learning how to hire people, manage them, retain them, keep them motivated without costing a fortune are some of the most important skills of a manager/owner.  In a successful business, your employees are always more important than you are; but can your ego be kept under control so you can support these key assets as you grow your business.  I have heard story after story from successful business owners who talk about their key employees when they first started, but now almost hate their employees, because they are never satisfied.  If you cannot mange people successful (and, no– being a tyrant is not managing a successful team); you should not start a business that needs employees to succeed.  You will fail.

Fourth is the product/service/business idea.  This is usually where the business entrepreneur starts.  I have an idea for a business that will be a huge success.  Yes, you need that idea, but it is the least important key to success.  Mater of fact many successful businesses were just a rehash of an old concept; but done better. 

The best time of my life was when I was self-employed, and the business was successful.  The worst time of my life was when one of those self-employment ventures was failing.  And, I have, for sure, experienced both of those extremes.  Even with that experience a day does not go by that I don’t give thought to a new business venture.  This one for sure will be a huge success, and I can do it on a shoestring.  Once it’s in your blood it’s hard to give it up.

Free e-book box set on Amazon on January 3rd.

Thanks for being a reader!

Mental Clutter and Human Connections

Looking forward to the new year.  The old year was one big disaster.  I write books.  Mystery books.  I published exactly zero books in 2020.  My least productive year since I began this writing thing.  I started writing books late in life, really late.  Spent a lot of time and energy trial-and-erroring my way through some false starts but eventually managed to publish my first book in 2015, The Bootlegger’s Legacy.  To date I have written ten books and once this disastrous year is over, I believe I will publish many more.

What happened in 2020?  A few accidents and a couple of health problems combined to cause me to accomplish almost nothing in the whole year.  Along with being depressed about the world in general and the pandemic in particular; I’ve just gotten by.  I’m sure everyone has periods like that where the best you can do is “just get through it!”

As I’m starting to write again (working on Durango Two Step the number four book in the Vincent Malone series), what occurs to me is how quickly I forgot what I had written.  I have reread the manuscript to get up to speed on where I left off.  It is amazing how much I had forgotten about this complicated story.  As always, it’s a murder mystery, which means there are many clues/hints left at the very beginning of the story that will be part of the conclusion.  Some in a meaningful way and others just red herrings. 

When your mind gets all cluttered up with “real world problems,” trivia, politics, money, health, bullshit of all stripes, it is hard to write a mystery story.  For me at least, I need full concentration on laying out the various paths which will lead to the “surprising” answer to “Who Did It?” 

My father owned his own shoe store.  It was a dream of his to be self-employed.  He worked two jobs for many years to be able to start his own business.  His first store was in a new shopping center in a suburb of Oklahoma City.  Next to his store was a dress shop owned by my mother’s good friend Libby.  The next store over was a hardware store owned by my friend Joey’s father.  Who had retired and opened the hardware store because he loved hardware stores.  Next to the hardware store was a Jewelry store owned by a husband-and-wife team who were from somewhere foreign but who were the nicest people I had ever met.  This was a large strip center that went on like that for maybe a dozen more stores—all owned by “normal” people providing goods and services to their neighbors.

The people who owned these stores also belong to the Kiwanis, the Lions Club, the Elks Club and Garden Clubs.  They were on the school board, they were members of the city council, they were leaders in the local churches.  They were a community. 

For many years communities like that one thrived all over America.  Then one day it started to change.  Malls opened with thirty shoe stores from national chains.  They offered more selection and cheaper prices.  Soon Walmart was every where selling the same goods at close to the cost of the small store owner.  Customers loved the small local store with the owner who was the backbone of their community, but cheaper was more important.  Large hardware stores opened that were twenty times the size of the mom-and-pop hardware store.

The small stores slowly closed.  The school board became mostly extreme advocates for rapid change in the way school was taught, or maybe the manager of the Walmart who had just moved to town.  Businesspeople who lived and worked in their community were replaced everywhere by people who had agendas.

I saw my father struggle and eventually lose his dream.  Walmart thrived and grew, and soon there was no local shopping district with stores ran by fathers and mothers of kids you went to school with.  A community no longer existed; only shoppers looking for the best deal.

It was not a good deal.

One of my favorite stores during this era was a toy store.  It is hard to imagine a toy store like they used to be.  It was magical.  The one I visited was owned by a very old man who absolutely loved model planes.  The ceiling was covered with these hanging wonders that he had built.  I must have gone into that store hundreds of times without buying a single thing, and every time he would treat me like I was his best customer.  He talked about models and his love of flying.  He seemed ancient and almost magical.  I asked my father once about him and he said he had lost his son in the war and he was still grieving.  I wasn’t sure what that meant, I just knew he was the most interesting person I had ever met.

One day the toy store did not open.  It never opened again.  My father said he died of a broken heart.  That didn’t make any sense to me; I just knew I had lost a friend.

The Hard Work of Being Creative

Grandma Moses

A friend, maybe ex-friend, once described my art as primitive. The only thing I could think of was Grandma Moses. I really don’t think he thought it was an insult, just descriptive. To hell with him. What is art? What is primitive art? Most people don’t know, nor do they care.

“A complex and, at times, contradictory tendency, “Primitivism” ushered in a new way of looking at and appropriating the forms of so-called “primitive” art and played a large role in radically changing the direction of European and American painting at the turn of the 20th century. Primitivism was not so much an artistic movement but a trend among diverse modern artists in many countries who were looking to the past and to distant cultures for new artistic sources in the face of increasing industrialization and urbanization. Beginning at the end of the 19th century, the influx of tribal arts of Africa, Oceania, and Native Americans into Europe offered artists a new visual vocabulary to explore. In many ways, Primitivism provided artists a way to critique the stagnant traditions of European painting. Primitive art’s use of simpler shapes and more abstract figures differed significantly from traditional European styles of representation, and modern artists such as Gauguin, Picasso, and Matisse used these forms to revolutionize painting and sculpture.”


The above paragraph from http://www.theartstory.org is one of the reasons most people yawn when art is discussed. Who the hell knows what these people are talking about?


Gauguin, Picasso, Matisse and my favorite, O’Keefe all borrowed from “primitive” art in creating their bold (for the time) art. Now, of course, we know my stuff is not in that category. And a lot of my art would not be called primitive, maybe just bad. Or nice try, maybe give it another shot?

The process of being creative fascinates me. When I write, I’m being creative, when I paint it is creative, when I mow the lawn it is not? Even though they are all work. If I’ve spent a long day writing I am exhausted, much like doing physical work. But mental work takes on a different quality, something slightly mysterious; or does it?

During one of my active painting days I might paint several pictures, none to my liking. Most of those paintings were not seen by anyone other than me. Yet, those days were often my most creative. The “failures” led directly to the good paintings. When writing and painting, I have thought of what I was doing as work. It might have been creative work, but it was also hard work.

There maybe those “creative” people who create some wonderful work of art that just pops out without much effort in full-blown glorious form. I kind of doubt it, but it could happen. For me it has always been work. Put in the time writing and with luck you will produce something worth sharing. But you have to do the work.

Writing and painting are both creative endeavors that seem to fit in different worlds for most people. When I was mostly occupied with painting, people would often say they had no ability to draw, which of course was nonsense—they had the ability, it’s just that the results were bad; or closer to the truth they just didn’t want to make the effort. With writing, many people seem to think they can write a book; after all I did! They will ask process questions, about how you start, or how you do some minor aspect of producing a book. It’s like if they had a check list, they could produce a book; but there is no way in hell they could create a painting.

My experience has been that writing and painting skills are very much the same. It is the vision or idea that drives them both. My best paintings were based on something I saw fully completed in my head and set out to put on canvas. The same with the storyline of my books. Usually I had an incredibly good idea on what that book would look like. I didn’t know every aspect or character, but I had the “big picture” in my head. The task was to get that onto the page.


Now as we know from the long-forgotten art critic, some of my early paintings were “primitive”; and yes, some of my first attempts at writing were primitive—but they created something. They became books and paintings. Bad, good or Wow the most important aspect of creating is to do just that; create. You must do the work. Actually create something, put your name on it and let someone see it. They might say it’s primitive or bad or great or “what the hell were you thinking?”; but from that comes something better. Because all art is based on practice. The more you do the better you get.

When I tell people the most important part of my writing success is only plain old hard work, I would guess they think I’m just complaining about the labor it takes to write a book. It’s not that. It really is the most important part—do the work, spend the hours, days, months or years it takes. Being creative requires effort. And, of course, it helps to have an active imagination. But an idea, is just that, until you do the work.

Thanks for being a reader!

Strange Fiction

Some years ago, I experienced the madness of the criminal justice system that finds all sorts of ways to charge fees to people accused of minor crimes.  Most of these crimes are drug related and go away without any jail time but would appear to be part of a money-making scheme with full cooperation from people in charge of the “justice” system.  The absurdity of this revenue farce is that most of these people are poor; they have no money.  You could threaten them with jail time or death, they still would not have the money to pay the court costs, jail fees, or other fees with meaningless descriptions, such as drug reform fee. 

Now I don’t know how much of the cost of the criminal justice system is covered by these fees, but if it is only a minor amount, then the fees themselves would appear to be just another form of punishment.  As if jail time and probation are not enough, they must add additional humiliation with fees most cannot pay.  Or in the other case, if it is a substantial sum being collected– doesn’t that create an incentive for cops to arrest people to bring in the all-important revenue.

Maybe the legal crowd has a quarterly meeting to discuss the shortfall from last quarter and assign additional cops to select areas of town to bring in more revenue?  Many cities have special drug cops who must bring in a ton of revenues; mostly by re-arresting the same people.  Or maybe they even award bonuses to officials who have generated the most revenue.

People of means, who get caught up in this nonsense, gladly pay the fees and even thank the judge because they have just experienced the humiliation of losing control over their lives.  They would pay almost anything to get out of this fix and run like hell.

With my new knowledge of the cash generating game came the experience of sitting in a court room for hours watching the shuffling of people who had no recourse, they were treated as mere cogs in some kind of strange revolving process conducted the same every day with little emotion and often little thought.  It seemed to be almost rehearsed, people who had no power were brought before someone with all the power and told their fate.  Sure, most likely those people broke a law or at least were accused, but no way in hell would they ever see a trial or be treated like they were of value.  It went on every day all day long.  An endless stream of people trapped in a madness of defeat and humiliation. 

I had never been in a criminal court room before, and it was shocking.  Lawyers milling around everywhere having their own conversations, a judge running through one case after another, cops shuffling in people in groups in the endless parade of misery.  Never once saw a Perry Mason.  It was all deals and scheduling.  Most of the time was spent setting the next court date to do something that by all accounts would seem they should have been able to do at this time; but it was not time yet, for whatever that was.

Most people had public defenders who were constantly shuffling files and asking for postponements.  All the lawyers, public defenders, clerks, cops and judges were obviously on one team, and the criminals (or accused criminals) were on their own (loosing) team.  The court team spoke in code, often in soft whispers so as not to disturb the deal making attorneys scattered about.

Due to unpleasant circumstances, I witnessed this pattern repeated many times.  Many of the defendants were street people, and over time, I saw the same people again and again.  The judge would forgive some fees that had never been paid, big shock, and apply new fees.  To me the street people seemed more like they were playing a role.  They knew the script and performed their parts perfectly.  But, of course, it was not acting just repetition that made it seem so absurd.

My time visiting court soon ended.  I learned that all the respect I had for the criminal justice system was based on something I had seen on TV, and the reality was a ridiculous farce.  Totally lacking in logic or humanity. 

Much of my experience watching this nonsense was during the holiday season.  Every year around this time, I think about all the people I saw who were treated with such disrespect.  It changed me and not for the better.  I fear cops in a way I never did before, and the fear of the “justice” system is imbedded in me and will never go away.  Sitting in the other world, I also began to irrationally fear people in suits.

I know most people will say those people caused their own misery; but to watch them being treated as if they had no meaning is to lose some faith in humans.  It is how we treat the weakest among us that establishes our humanity; we need to do better.

Some of these experiences ended up in my books.  Both the Vincent Malone and Muckraker series draw on these actual court room experiences during legal proceedings in those books.  However, I did not make it as strange as it actually was, because I thought it would seem unbelievable.

Thanks for being a reader!

What me Worry?

Ray Bradbury, one of my favorite sci-fi writers, had a huge influence on my reading habits during my young developmental years.  Recently read a very good article discussing some of his thoughts on writing.  Worth reading, especially if you write.

A couple of the remarks he made struck home with me.

Don’t think too hard:

The intellect is a great danger to creativity . . . because you begin to rationalize and make up reasons for things, instead of staying with your own basic truth—who you are, what you are, what you want to be. I’ve had a sign over my typewriter for over 25 years now, which reads “Don’t think!” You must never think at the typewriter—you must feel. Your intellect is always buried in that feeling anyway.

-from a 1974 interview with James Day

Writers’ block is just a warning that you’re doing the wrong thing:

What if you have a blockage and you don’t know what to do about it? Well, it’s obvious you’re doing the wrong thing, aren’t you? . . . You’re being warned, aren’t you? Your subconscious is saying I don’t like you anymore. You’re writing about things I don’t give a damn for. . . If you have writers’ block you can cure it this evening by stopping what you’re doing and writing something else. You picked the wrong subject.

-from “Telling the Truth,” the keynote address of The Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, sponsored by Point Loma Nazarene University, 2001

I, of course, go through periods where I have trouble writing, at least on in-progress novels.  So, this “what the hell are you doing” comment about writers’ block seemed very appropriate.  I like his simplicity.  If it ain’t working, try something else.  Too often when I get bogged down in a story, I consider that fault to be me, and it’s critical that I correct my block as a personal failing.  Bradbury is suggesting it just a bad story, and you should move on to something else.  I have trouble abandoning my efforts in that it feels like giving up.  A failure.  Could be his approach is better, will have to give that more thought.

The “don’t over think” remark also fits well in my world.  There are times I completely over think everything I’m doing.  My best work was when I “felt” the story in an emotional way and the words just came.  I think my best novel was The Bootlegger’s Legacy.  Once I got started on that book it just seemed to almost write itself.  Had a little trouble at first, but once it was going it was basic truth at its best.  The characters had meaning to me.  I knew them, and it was easy to tell their story.

The Bradbury book that had the most influence on me as a teenager was Fahrenheit 451.  It had been published in 1953, but it was in the 1960s that I first read it.  In many ways I did not like the book, but it had influence on how I thought about freedom and my life.   The dystopian world he saw in the future was not that relevant to my comfortable world of the 1960s, but the threat was there to consider.  The book is probably much more relevant today than when Bradbury wrote it. 

Sci-Fi was my genre of choice when I was younger.  Later in life, my favorite books are all mystery.  But as a young man the Sci-Fi writers seem to have a clear vision into human existence, even it if it was fifty years in the future. 

Like the main character in Fahrenheit 451, the human excuse of “I was just doing my job,” has been at the center of much misery.  The sad part of that reality is that the people committing atrocities because it’s their job are good people.  I think that is why we can often identify with these trapped souls.  Really evil people exist in books and real life, but they are few compared with the “good” people doing bad stuff.  That’s what scares us; we could be that person.

I’ve always been a worrier.  Even as a young man, I worried about everything.  Much of this is because I spent a great deal of time reading and thinking.  The next step after reading and thinking, is worrying.  Bradbury’s dystopian world was a great source of worry.  Who said reading was not fun?

I still worry, but at some point, it is more habit than dread.    While I greatly appreciate Bradbury’ books and short stories; I don’t think I will re-read them.  Currently the worry part of my brain is full.

Thanks for being a reader!

New Clarity

While recuperating from my fractured knee, I’ve been isolated to a couple of rooms in my house.  They are nice rooms, but still they increasingly feel smaller and smaller.  Activity outside those rooms has been limited to doctor visits.  Been having dreams about walking upstairs and venturing out onto the deck.  It seems so wonderful.

Of course, pre-fracture, walking out onto the deck was nothing; did it almost every morning with coffee in hand.  I looked at things.  Mundane boring things.  How the plants were doing, filling the bird feeder, just looking off towards the mountains.  Now, that every day, no-thought activity has become a dream.

I think much of our life is like that.  Taken for granted and just lived, as it should be.  But then something happens, and it is suddenly different.  Often that is about health, family or even money.  Something tragic happens changing our world.  With new clarity, we can see what is important.  Maybe just a sunset viewed from the backyard deck.

My books are structured around that concept.  Of course, in my books the something that happens is usually death.  They are after all, mostly murder mysteries.  There were two tragic deaths that had great impact on me while I was writing.  I’ve mentioned before how the books are almost like living the events when I’m writing.  I lay out a general premise with an outline, but the writing itself seems to take on its own life.  The characters are developed as I’m writing.  Even though I’m creating the story, sometimes the events I’m writing about have an emotional toll on me.  I know, sounds stupid, but it happens.

The first such event occurs in The Bootlegger’s Legacy.  A critical portion of this story takes place in the 1950s in dry Oklahoma and involves a bootlegger and his mistress.  Her name was Sally.  Sally was one of the best developed and complex characters I have created.  She is the heart and soul of this book.  She was young, beautiful, independent and smart, living in a mostly backward world in 1950 Oklahoma.  She was alone and totally dependent on herself for survival in an inhospitable environment.  She plotted how to survive and selected the high-flying bootlegger, Pat, as her best option.  They fell in love.  Tragic love.  Pat had a wife and son, and while he was very much in love with Sally, it was not meant to be. 

Sally left Pat because she was pregnant and knew it was never going to work out between them.  She gave birth to a daughter in Chicago and was making ends meet, using her great looks and personality, when tragedy struck.  She became ill.  In a short time, she died.  Her sister was with her and took the child.  A child Pat never knew about.

Writing this part of the story was very emotional for me.  Sally was such a great character and yet she had to die.  It was incredibly sad.  Even thought about changing the story but didn’t; she died.  This was because it was the daughter who returns to the story in the future and is a key element to the Bootlegger’s Legacy.  It was the daughter who lived with the impact of her mother’s death.

The other tragic death was in Murder So Wrong.  The main character is Tommy Jacks, a young journalist just starting out.  He gets flung into the middle of mayhem occurring all around him and discovers his skills as a journalist.  While the story is about a newspaper war between competing papers and police corruption, it is also about Tommy’s first love.  Her name was Judy.  Tommy fell head over heels in love with Judy.  But Judy had many troubling issues.  She was beautiful, but Tommy could see the trouble in her eyes, something was very wrong. 

Judy had a tragic past that was slowing driving her mad.  During the madness she had made mistakes and now was having trouble living with her past actions.  In a scene that was extremely hard to write, Judy is shot by the police because they thought she was going to kill Tommy, she wasn’t.  I shed a few tears writing the tragic end of Judy.

Judy’s death had a great impact on Tommy.  It was this tragedy that made him the character he was in the next books in the series.

I know my broken knee is not the same as death, thank goodness.  It is only a small thing, an inconvenience, but it has changed how I see the world.  I hope I will never take for granted again a crisp morning on the deck watching the birds while sipping coffee.  It is those small things that makes life whole and enjoyable.

Thanks for being a reader!

Truth or Lie?

Never thought much about my values, they just happened.  Being raised in Oklahoma in the 1950s my childhood was molded by family, school and church.  My parents were church going people but in a casual, this is what you do, way.  Those influences gave me a strong sense of right and wrong; but my independence gave me lots of questions regarding several things on the edges.

One trait that I always believed was a measure of goodness is truth.  Sure, everybody lied some; but telling the truth was especially important to my sense of being “good.”  Of course, I lied or fibbed just like any normal person, but it was always wrong to me and brought shame.  I expect people to be flawed but I also expect a sense of shame.

My books are populated with flawed people.  While a book might be interesting in the abstract about a perfect person; most readers would quickly find the goodness of such a person boring.  Bad people are much more interesting than good people.  That, of course, is in books.  In our real lives, we want truth tellers.

Now comes the problem, how do you know who is a truth teller?  After all, much of our world is clouded in opinions masquerading as truth.  I think this or that while you think some other this or that; which is true?  Over the years I always thought I could tell what was true and who to trust by just listening to them and observing.  In business this is an important skill, to be able to discern what has value and what is junk.  Yes, this is the famous bullshit meter.  And once you identify the bullshitter, you can be guaranteed he will almost always be a bullshitter.

As a writer, my favorite characters are almost always bullshitters.  I like real life bullshitters, because they are almost always entertaining; but you can never, ever trust anything they say.  So, a bullshitter can be a casual friend but not a real friend. 

My first experience in the business world was retail and food.  Most of the people I met were “good” people, just trying to get by with a focus on their families.  Next, I became an accountant.  The accounting world is populated with some very boring people who mostly seemed to be unhappy.  They were often depressing, but if you asked a question, you got facts for an answer.  Bullshitting was a sin.  Then I ventured into M&A and venture capital.  Made good money but I do believe everyone I met was a bullshitter, and at a professional level.  However, they were never boring. 

Shading the truth to get a deal done was considered normal.  It wasn’t up to you to divulge every fact, that was the other sides responsibility, and if they didn’t do it; that’s on them.  This was the “every man for himself” world of high finance in the 1990s.  Everyone did it, so it was okay.

Many of my characters come from these people.  They were not evil just a little bad.  The ability to rationalize your behavior keeps us sane but does not make us better people.  In the Muckraker series I explored the murky world of politicians and the acceptance of the ends justified the means approach to winning. 

In case you haven’t guessed I’ve been reflecting on my choices, and how I was influenced by the people around me at different junctures in my life.  This is a process I go through while writing, incorporating my experiences and the people I’ve met into those stories.  My latest work in progress is China Deep Dive.  The story is about one of the most brazen cons I think anyone ever attempted.  At the heart of this con was an amazing ability of one man to lie in such a believable way that most people knew he was a con man but couldn’t help themselves, they went along with his schemes.  They liked him and helped him.   

I was once in a meeting with this man and a group of foreign investors who had difficulty with the English language.  This man talked and talked but made absolutely no sense.  I was sure one of the group would stand up and laugh in his face for the ridiculous things he said.  They didn’t.  They shook his hand and invested a substantial sum in his latest venture.  They corned me after the meeting and asked if I could explain what he had said, I said no.  I left and never returned.  Some people are just destined to be fleeced and nobody can help them. 

Liars often succeed.  Politicians and many other “professions” have turned lying into a weapon of mass destruction.  It seems that any meeting I was in over the last years of my deal making days my bullshit meter was always going off and it never stopped.  I decided writing books (alone) was much more satisfying and with a lot less alarm noise.   

Thanks for being a reader!

News and Blog

I think we can all agree 2020 has been a difficult year.  For me, for sure.  Earlier in the year, I fell on ice and broke my arm; which, as a writer, created its own set of problems.  Monday, I fell at home and broke my leg.  There is an ugly trend here.  That is why this week’s blog is late.  Below is what I had ready to go, but was unable to send on Tuesday.  There will be a week or two of disruptions in the blogs due to my physical limitations; but no longer than that, and I will be back.  Thanks, everyone for being a reader.

One of the reasons for this post is that I can use my favorite image of Einstein.  Not sure why, but it always makes me smile.  Some scientists (I think they were scientists) have done some research into the connection of IQ and being rich.  If you have much experience, in the business world, you already know there is no connection between being smart and making money.

For many years my main occupation was assisting business owners sell their businesses.  These were mostly medium sized businesses sold to large national buyers.  In almost all cases, the owners of these businesses became very wealthy after selling their companies.  At least 99% of those owners were by no means geniuses; and most were not even very bright.

“How much is a child’s future success determined by innate intelligence? Economist James Heckman says it’s not what people think. He likes to ask educated non-scientists—especially politicians and policy makers—how much of the difference between people’s incomes can be tied to IQ. Most guess around 25 percent, even 50 percent, he says. But the data suggest a much smaller influence: about 1 or 2 percent.”  Bloomberg article

Yep, just as we suspected (all of us smart people), being smart does not make you rich.  So how do those dummies make all that money?  My experience suggests the three most obvious factors.  Inheritance.  Yes, a rich dad/mom or granddad/grandma is a big benefit.  Luck.  Of course, having a rich parent is luck, but also falling into the right business at the right time is often just luck.  The other is perseverance. 

Persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. “his perseverance with the technique illustrates his single-mindedness” Synonyms: persistence, tenacity, determination, resolve, resolution, resoluteness, staying power, purposefulness, firmness of purpose.

Now that makes sense.  Some of those rich guys I knew who sold their businesses owned propane companies and most of them had worked many, many years to build their business.  Almost all had stories about periods where they wondered if they would be able to make it.  (Most of those stories were exaggerated; but it was a rough and hard business).

Perseverance rather than smarts leads to riches.  I’m sure we all have someone in our past who gave us the sage advice; to get ahead you have to work hard.  We knew that working hard was digging ditches and nobody ever got “ahead” digging ditches.  Well, maybe they do?  Of course, it’s not really “hard” work it is sticking to whatever you’re doing.  Doing you best.  Persevering. 

I relate this to writing books.  When I’m writing and producing a book on a regular schedule, I experience success.  But writing, and writing, and writing is hard.  At a minimum it takes me months to write a book and has taken years.  Perseverance gets tired and wants to take a nap.  In my previous careers, I was known for my tenacity.  I never gave up on a deal.  To make something happen I just had to work harder.  I still have that desire, but creative work is something a little different.  I could work hard to two weeks and maybe finish that book; but it might be terrible.  Maybe this is a clue to why creative people are often not rich.  You can’t work twice as hard to produce something creative; it has to be at the right moment based on the right thought or some nutty vision.  It really isn’t digging ditches.

Box Set Update

As I promised last week the free days for the Series Starter Box Set is this weekend October 17th and 18th on Amazon.  Know anyone you think might enjoy being introduced to these books? This would be a great way to provide them a nudge.  Free is always good.  These are three award winning and highly rated mystery books all in one package.  Since you’re a reader of the blog you know that the books contain some language some people find objectionable; so if your elderly aunt is offended by certain words this might not be an appreciated recommendation; but that foul mouthed uncle might really appreciate it.

Book News and a few thoughts

Latest book offering will be a three-book series starter box set for only $5.99 on Amazon.  Hey, that’s cheap.  This is the first book in each series: Dog Gone Lives (Pacheco & Chino), Santa Fe Mojo (Vincent Malone) and Murder So Wrong (Muckraker Series).  It’s available now; but don’t tell anyone because very soon it will be free; better than cheap!  I’ll let you know the free dates in next week’s post. 

In one of those obscure on-line interviews authors give to help sales (it usually doesn’t), I was asked which series was my favorite.  I fumbled around and never really answered the question because each series means something special to me making it difficult saying one is my favorite.  Sort of like someone asking which child is your favorite.  Rather than favorite, how about what I think is the strength of each series?

Dog Gone Lies.  No question the best part of this series is the interaction between Tyee Chino and Ray Pacheco.  Entirely different people in almost all respects, they developed a caring and humor filled relationship that I believe makes the series.  Of course, the first book also focuses on the loveable and smart dog, Happy.  Dog Gone Lies is my best- selling book, and I think, it has to do with dog being in the title.  Should have featured a dog in each series even if it didn’t make any sense.

All of my books are a blend of cozy mystery and hard-boiled detective.  Mostly the hard-boiled part is language, for which I take a lot of abuse.  That language, that some find offensive, is a reflection on my take of the characters and the trauma filled existence of murder mystery genre. 

Santa Fe Mojo.  Best part is the depth of the very human character Vincent Malone.  He could easily be a cynical down-beat loser after all his bad experiences; but he is not.  He’s caring and funny besides being “tough.”  He has ended up at the end of his life working at a new B&B for two of the nicest people on the planet (if that is not cozy mystery material nothing is).  Of course, in hindsight, I can see I should have given Vincent a dog—would have helped sales and made him even more human.

Murder So Wrong.  This series is the poorest selling of the three.  Not sure why?  I think this is a great story about political corruption, the newspaper industry in the 1960s and the difficult like of a beginning newspaper man in a dangerous time.  Tommy Jacks is the main character, but this series features a long list of interesting characters.  Plus, the core of this story is true.  I was there and knew many of the people included in the books.  It is very much a fictional account of those events, but at it’s beating heart, it really happened.

This set would be a great way to recommend my books to someone you think might enjoy them. (Especially once I give you those free dates.)

True confession, my favorite book is The Bootlegger’s Legacy; it is the prequel to the Pacheco & Chino series, but an entirely different set of characters and focus.   It is my first book and maybe that is why it’s my favorite; but also, this is to me a great story.  I have reviewers say some of the back stories which go back in time are confusing.  About a third of the TBL takes place in the 1950s during the time of active bootlegging in dry Oklahoma.  That lays the groundwork for the adventure of the bootlegger’s son and his friend as they search for the hidden fortune referenced in a letter to the son after the bootlegger’s death.

My favorite part of this book is the story of the bootlegger and his mistress, Sally.  Sally is an amazing character and one of the most interesting and tragic of anyone in my books. 

About reviews.  I have written before about the bad reviews related to language.  Most of my books have stuck at the top of the reviews section a reader review that warns others about the “foul” language.  I have also begun adding to the description of the books a “beware of swearing” notice. 

The result is that most of my reviews for the last several months have all been positive (usually 5 star).  I must admit that makes me happy.  Writing books is mostly a private, self-fulfilling activity; but also most writers want to please the readers.

Speaking of free books; if for some reason you have not read any of my books, you should check out a couple. 

Ebook free on Amazon October 16th Santa Fe Mojo

Ebook free on Amazon October 20th The Bootlegger’s Legacy

I’m sure it’s best that I don’t comment on any election issues other than everyone should vote.  That is everyone who is a citizen should vote.  Or is that only a citizen who is legally qualified can vote.  I live in Colorado and one of the amendments up for a vote changes the constitution from “Every citizen of the United States who has attained the age of eighteen years, and……..are eligible to vote…..”  to “ONLY A CITIZEN of the United States…….”

A group of people went to a great deal of effort to get sufficient signatures to get this on the ballot.  Why? Not sure.  The only logical reason is that these people feared that through some mechanism non-citizens will be allowed to vote; or citizens under 18.  Wow, that is really something to worry about?  If that happened, which it wouldn’t, it would require all sorts of changes to the law and challenges in the courts.  I sure haven’t heard about this being something considered anywhere; but for some reason this bit of silliness seems important to someone. 

We’ve got more problems than you can shake a stick at, and here is a ballot amendment to fix nothing.

“Approaching, speaking, listening, looking at, coming to know and understand one another, and to find common ground: all these things are summed up in the one word “dialogue”. If we want to encounter and help one another, we have to dialogue. There is no need for me to stress the benefits of dialogue. I have only to think of what our world would be like without the patient dialogue of the many generous persons who keep families and communities together. Unlike disagreement and conflict, persistent and courageous dialogue does not make headlines, but quietly helps the world to live much better than we imagine.”   Pope Francis (3 October 2020)

Thanks for being a reader!