“Big Shots” know it all!

A really long time ago I worked for a large public company that was doing acquisitions in the oil field.  They were interested in acquiring anything related to oil and gas; reserves, drilling companies, service companies, equipment companies—anything.  Unfortunately for them, it was a time when many companies were looking at oil and gas assets as a smart diversification move.  That meant a lot of competition to acquire anything of value.  I had been around that oil and gas industry some and knew the guys from other backgrounds were in for a rude awaking-especially the New York guys who employed me. 

From my perspective, it seemed the first rule in the industry was not to make anything clear.  Who owns that well?  Depends on the time of day.  Stupid answer, but it might be true.  What is the division of profits?  Depends on circumstances that will not be clear until we have finished drilling.  So, people invest in this well but don’t know what their percentage of ownership will be?  Yep!  When you’re drilling a well how are the costs shared?  Sorry, I’m not allowed to tell you that.

But, the New York boys knew they were a lot smarter than some clod kicker from Oklahoma; and in most things that was no doubt true—but the oilfield?  Maybe, not.

My job was to run numbers, lots and lots of numbers.  Huge spreadsheets on columnar paper—this was long before personal computers.  Pages and pages of numbers.  Taped together spreadsheets that would almost fill the largest conference table. 

What did the numbers say?  With great clarity the numbers said; go home and invest in shipping, or mining; something other than the oil business.  Of course, if you’re the smartest people in the room (or on the planet); you don’t listen to numbers crunchers.  To be a man you had to trust your gut.

All of the projections and resulting analysis were based on conservative and realistic projections on the price of oil.  What was the cost of a barrel of oil today and what would it be in five years, or ten years or even twenty years?  From that analysis we could determine a rate of return on various assumptions about the initial investment. 

The time was the middle 70s, just after the oil embargo.  Prices were unstable with little agreement on where they would be in the future.  For most of our analysis we were using projections in the $40 to $60 a barrel range—and that felt risky.

As the big shots continued to miss out on one deal after another due to their low-ball bids, they made a “big shots” decision.  They told the numbers crunchers to start assuming the future value of oil at $100 a barrel.  I remember there were a few laughs in the room (mine included) when they made their brilliant determination about value.  Of course all of the new analysis (now being done using “big shot” values) was supportive of higher values on those desirable assets.  They started acquiring those wonderful assets as they dreamed of being a hero back in New York City—maybe CEO?

Most of the overly worked numbers crunchers dreamed about having some piss-poor oil field assets they could sell these suckers.  But of course they didn’t—they were only numbers crunchers.

I did hang around long enough to see their ridiculous decisions come home to roost.  Oil is volatile to say the least—the latest current price for a barrel of oil is about $30.  There were some times in those ensuing years when the price pushed towards $100, but only for a very brief period. Soon as the price of oil fell instead of rising, the highly sought assets were becoming a huge liability and needed to be unloaded at any price–no more CEO hopes.

The best example of that dumb headedness today is food delivery.  It’s not the same as the oil field, of course, but what is the same are the “big shots” who think they know something no one else knows; and who can ignore the obvious questions because they do not like the answers. 

Great source of fun facts and relevant financial analysis is a newsletter called The Margins, should check it out.

From that newsletter:

“Grubhub just lost $33 million on $360 million of revenue in Q1.

Doordash reportedly lost an insane $450 million off $900 million in revenue in 2019

Uber Eats is Uber’s “most profitable division” 😂😂. Uber Eats lost $461 million in Q4 2019 off of revenue of $734 million. Sometimes I need to write this out to remind myself. Uber Eats spent $1.2 billion to make $734 million. In one quarter.”

I was young when I met the “big shots” from New York, and I was impressed.  They looked like they knew everything; fancy cloths, smooth talkers (also loud) and they were big shots.  I later learned they knew very little and had a major flaw—they didn’t know how to listen.

Many business people (and politicians) have this critical flaw.  They know how to hire people who have expertise they do not; but few know how to listen to that advice when it doesn’t agree with their preconceived objectives. 

Of course the people at Doordash might say “hey, it’s not our money; and I’m making a bundle!”  They would be correct, and I offer my sincere apology for disparaging their business venture that is losing millions—no doubt, I’m just jealous.  The “big shots” always win, one way or another.



Four Corners War is now available as an audiobook.

Thanks for being a reader!


Skytrain to the movies

Midwest City was America’s premier post-war planned community. An ultra-modern shopping mall was centerpiece to lovely, winding neighborhoods, well placed schools, and beautiful parks. Included in this design was the streamlined style Skytrain Theatre which opened by December 1944. It was closed in 1980.


Been watching a lot of television lately. Mostly bad stuff, but some good mixed in. My first experience with entertainment was the Skytrain Theatre—home of the Saturday triple feature. That experience was a combination of bad and good. The trolling manager with the flashlight looking for noisy children and smooching teens. Somehow the image of this frightening woman was the spitting (not allowed) image of the bad witch in the Wizard of Oz. Both terrified me.


My father worked on weekends at a shoe store in downtown Midwest City just around the corner from the Skytrain. On many of those weekends he would take me with him and deposit me in the Skytrain. No doubt this was a gift to my 1950s working mother. I was a regular on Saturday along with a house full of other kids whose parents identified the quarter admission as an amazingly cheap babysitting service.


On a few occasions during the week my older brother would take me (no doubt he was bribed or threatened by dad) to the movies at the Skytrain which was within walking distance of our small house. This never turned out well, and still is a source of bad dreams. My brother and his hoodlum buddies thought it was hilarious that I was terrified by “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” for them it was a source of great entertainment to continue the horror as we walked home in the dark. Kid’s fear is a long lasting source of deep psychological problems.


Another humiliating experience was when the evil witch in Wizard of Oz first showed up and tossed fire balls at Dorothy—I was gone; to the lobby. My brother tried to get me to go back into the theatre with a promise of that was the only “bad” part. I didn’t believe him; based on lots of brotherly experiences. Much, much later I saw the movie and wondered why it spooked me so much; but in my little kid brain that was one bad witch, who I wanted nothing to do with.


Most of the movies showing at the Skytrain in the 50s were not very scary, or for that matter very anything. There seemed to always be a feature of Francis the Talking Mule (have no idea how many of these they made, but it had to be a lot), Abbott and Costello chasing ghosts and mummies (and no it was not scary), and thousands of westerns.


Of course some of the most remembered or hated movies of the time were horror, sci-fi/space creatures, and comedies featuring the dumbest people on the planet. Kids like to watch dumb adults. Ma and Pa Kettle seemed to have a new movie every month—probably didn’t take a whole lot of time to make those gems. I watched them all. As I got older very few scared me the way the Wizard of Oz and the Creature from the Black Lagoon did—I had matured.


The movie ticket price break for kids was at 11. One price for a kid –a quarter; and a monster price for a young adult 12 to 16—seventy-five cents. One Saturday morning I walked around the corner from the shoe store to the Skytrain and plopped down my quarter. The lady starred at me and demanded in a threatening voice, “how old are you kid?” I stammered that I was eleven. She eyed me and my unusual height and demanded a king’s ransom of 75 cents.


I knew she was wrong, but she had an expression that seemed to suggest she had caught some international crime kingpin. I had some money for treats and a little hidden stash; so rather than argue; I forked over the extra 50 cents. Things changed after that, and I seldom went to the movie. Accused of being a liar changed my feelings about the Skytrain.


No more Saturday mornings at the Skytrain full of kids; loud and unruly, but always under the watchful eye of the sister of the evil witch from OZ with her trusty flashlight. I didn’t miss her at all. I did miss the movies; even the bad ones.


Thanks for being a reader!

Favorite Artists

In my monthly newsletter I have featured authors and artists whose work I enjoy.  The list of these people would be all over the map; from famous to unknown.  The only common element is that I like their stuff.  Personal preference is a fascinating human characteristic.  Why does one person think an artist is the greatest in the world, and someone else can describe the art as trash?  This can often be people who, on most matters, agree; but when it comes to art or writing see the world through different lenses.

For no reason, other than not to dwell on covid-19 or politics, I was giving thought to my favorite painters.  With only scant thought, I came up with a list of eight.  What I immediately saw was a common theme of bold colors.  The one exception was Monet; with his softer tones but engaging imagery.  I like abstract, I like somewhat realistic, I like color, I like daring images with bold hues.  Not sure what this pattern is or isn’t?  The famous quote “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like” is a way of saying that the best art is just personal preference.  The fact that a list of the top fifty artists would have mostly the same names has to do with who compiles those lists and their native biases. 

My list has famous names not because they are famous, but because I like their stuff.  But, also, it’s because those are the artists I know.  Many, many artists never become known outside a very small following (thanks, mom!).  In that “who the hell is that list,” I’m sure there are artists who could replace Picasso as my favorite—but only if I know they exist. 

Painters and indie-authors share this lost in the crowd problem. 

My list of favorite artists (at this moment):

Pablo Picasso

Claude Monet

Henri Matisse

Jackson Pollock

Andy Warhol

Georgia O’Keeffe

Vincent Van Gogh

Diego Rivera

O’Keeffe and Van Gogh probably had the most influence over my attempts at art.  O’Keeffe in particular, due to our shared fascination with the landscapes of New Mexico.  While Van Gogh was a Dutch painter, many of his paintings had the same sense of space and color as O’Keeffe. 

Art and fiction writing are two distinct areas of expression, but for me they have a lot in common.  The stories in art are usually less obvious, but the stories exist just the same.   Fictional murder mysteries are not art in the sense of a Diego Rivera painting but the attempt to tell a story in words has a lot in common with painting.  Some stories are bold and jump out at you with a sudden explosion of emotion; while others build a story layer by layer until the picture becomes clear and meaningful.

Okay, my favorite, favorite artist of the unknown variety.

Ted Clifton


New book by one of my favorite authors.  His “The Devil in the White City” is one of my all-time favorites.  Have not read this new book but I would bet it is terrific.

Thanks for being a reader!

Grandma Rules

A blog about books and writing has no business discussing politics or religion.  I remind myself of that a lot—stay away from divisive subject matters.  Advice given, even to one’s self, can be (and often is) completely ignored. So it shall be again.

George W. Bush made an appeal for unity as part of a pitch to get people to give to some charities supporting various aspects related to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.  He closed with: “Finally, let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat. In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants, we are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.”

In his first election for President, I voted for George, in the second I didn’t.  He wasn’t my favorite Prez and on occasion I’m sure I said some harsh things about his abilities.  But this appeal for unity seemed mild and appropriate for an ex-President.  I gave him a thumbs up and thought even though he had serious issues as President, all in all, he has been a good ex-President.  Soon after his appeal, there was some controversy about his comments which seemed out-of-place considering what he said. 

My first impression had been positive, but It occurred to me that what he said was not true.  First, “our differences are small.”  On what basis would we say our differences are small?  We all breath air?  We eat and sleep?  Okay, there are some things that most of us have in common.  But how about what we think, or what we feel?  We have huge differences on many, many topics.  While some differences might be small, a bunch are colossal.  And the differences are growing.  We are not headed toward a Kumbaya moment.

“we are not partisan combatants”.  I wonder if even George believes that?  Combative seems to be a desired trait for all sorts of people, from TV talking heads, to Senators, to Presidents.  In-your-face attitudes even show up with religious leaders.  Kind, gentle, forgiving might be a good thing for grandma, but the rest of us seem ready to fight.  Bring it on asshole!

“we are human beings”.  Okay, I will give George that one.

“equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God”.  In the sight of God is the problem here; who can speak for God (definitely not me; and maybe not George).  So, if we turn to the people who claim to speak for God, is this true?  Of course not.  Almost all of those God spokespersons only find true equality with their fellow travelers; not the strangers standing on the edge.  Yes, my people are all equal (with the exception of the leadership people, such as myself), but all of the others are infidels or something like that.

And finally, “we rise or fall together.”  What a farce.  The inequality in our American society is enormous.  The impacts of this pandemic are not equally spread amongst the classes.  Ask the people working in restaurants, ask the nurses, ask the garbage collectors, ask the grocery store workers, ask the factory workers. 

I’m sure George believed what he said, but that does not make it true. 

If from my comments, you think I have solutions to these issues—you are wrong.  Just like everyone else, all I can do is spout off.  But there does need to be solutions and soon.  Maybe the country needs a grandma to run the show.

Every cloud has silver lining.

Audiobook sales for Dog Gone Lies and Sky High Stakes are going well.  Thank you very much.  This is new ground for me and had no idea how it would start.  Got a couple of ads running and there has been a good kick-off for these audiobooks.  Four Corners War should be available in about a month or so.

Thanks for being a reader/listener!

Community Lost

My focus for most of my life was business; often as a business owner.  Even if this corona virus crisis ended immediately the business world will change.  Many businesses will no longer exist.  Much of what we considered normal about business will not return.  The trend toward on-line purchases will continue and totally destroy the already weak retail organizations. 

Amazon and Walmart will capture an incredible percent of total retail revenue.  That is not good for anyone; maybe not even good for Amazon or Walmart. 

In the 1960s and 70s my father was a retailer in a small town which was next door to a larger city.  He sold shoes.  His customers were his neighbors and friends.  I worked in that store.  It felt like no one came in who didn’t either know my dad or my mom.  He extended credit to the people who needed it—even though he was not rich.  He was active in local politics and was on the school board for many years.  This is the America many people still dream about, although there were huge social problems right under the surface.

In what seemed like an overnight change, two large malls opened in the bigger city.  There were twenty shoes stores in each mall that all opened on the same day—each of those stores was three, four or maybe ten times the size of my dad’s neighborhood store.  His business changed overnight.

Their friends and neighbors still shopped at the local store, but almost immediately the older kids did not.  They wanted to go to the mall and buy from the “cool” stores.  And of course, even many of the friends bought from the mall because their prices were “better.”

I observed that dramatic change in retail close-up.  Many described it as progress.  But almost all of those small businesses that were the beating heart of the smaller town dried up; and their owners no longer had time to meet at the Lions Club or Kiwanis because they had lost their businesses and now were employees somewhere, often in the malls in the larger city.  The small town government and school board became dominated by political activists not local business people.

My dad hung on longer than most.  He worked harder and harder, but the level of business that had once been never returned.  He eventually closed his stores and retired.  What replaced those family shoes stores was different and definitely not something better.  What was lost was a community.


Reader reviews nag at me.  Some are good, even great; some are not.  But I read them, all of them.  Is that good, or just a waste of time? The average review of all of my books is above four stars—so by far the majority of readers like the books.  As I have said before, the majority of bad reviews are because of language.  My use of the F-word is, no doubt, not comfortable to some; and I will occasionally toss in other words that fall into that taboo category. 

But there have been the reviews that seem to suggest I’m an idiot.  The Greek root of idiot means a private person, or later a common man.  Someone who was not an official or important person.  Okay, I might be an idiot.  Of course the word now means a foolish or stupid person.  I might rub some people the wrong way, but I’m not a fool or stupid.  So there!

Of course the reason I’m talking about reviews at all is because they are important to authors.  The reason they are important is that they influence sales.  Better reviews equal better book sales.  The more books you sell; the better life looks.  Yes, the quality of life is determined by book sales—oops that should not be said out-loud.  Sure, there are other factors to happiness, but if you are an author who has spent hundreds if not thousands of hours writing books—book sales are a key element.

Thanks for being a reader!

Grumps Welcome

My nature is not to be a joiner, not keen on group activities, actually abhor enthusiasm.  I know that sounds rather down-beat.  So what!  Yes, I don’t seek out people based on their high-energy quotient.  A high-energy, enthusiastic, up-beat person is someone I would try to avoid.  Okay, so now you’ve got the picture.  (As an aside, I believe I’m a friendly, likable guy—no matter the mental image you just developed.)

Recently had my fist audiobook published on Audible, Amazon and iTunes.  This is a little odd in that it’s the second Pacheco & Chino book—the first one was narrated first, but has not been released from ACX (the production arm of Audible) for some reason. The later book, Sky High Stakes, was approved.  No issues that I’m aware of, so Dog Gone Lies audiobook should be available soon.

Next step is to market the book and let those eager readers/listeners know that the audiobook they were seeking is available—come and get it!  First I talked to some authors I know.  The short answer was—there is no way to market an audiobook.  Okay, not very helpful.  So, next, next step, search the internet.  Now we find all sorts of resources on how to market your audiobook.  Many of these are YouTube presentations—including many from ACX themselves. 

Now in my feeble (pre-author stage) brain I would have said much of the marketing should be done by Amazon or Audible or iTunes since they make money when a book is sold.  Sorry, indie author, we are only casually aware that you even exist.  We let our computers deal with you; our humans are busy working with real authors planning great promotions. 

I’m not even offended.  I know it’s a money thing.  Can’t make big bucks off of an unknown author—they want a big name author, maybe even a celebrity or a famous jerk or hated politician—just a name they can market. 

Now it’s YouTube video time.  Why not go right to the source, ACX.  They must know all of the answers, after all, it is their business.  Just 15 minutes of viewing and I will know all of the secrets to having a successful audio book.

Without any warning, such as a parental advisory, or maybe a boring rating—it just started.  Two up-beat, fast-talking, confident to the extreme (read super annoying) people start talking at some speed obviously designed to maximize the words per second objective of all instructive videos.  In between their over active presentation they would flash a screen full of bullet points that amounted to nothing other than a blur as they swept across the screen and back to the charming people smiling like they were actually doing something.

I watched and I learned that I should use social media to its full advantage—whatever in the hell that meant?  I should mention my audio book often and continue to mention it every time I mention anything until the people I’m mentioning it to start to scream.  Okay, I can do that.  Might make more sense to indicate I would stop mentioning my audio book if they would buy one.  At least it would give them another option rather than avoiding me at all costs.

Have I mentioned that I have a new audio book available………………..

Have I mentioned that I think you would really enjoy it?

My new blog schedule is no schedule.  I expect to have a new post once a month but it may be more depending on what is going on or less depending on what is not going on.

Vegas Dead-End

Hoodoo Brown and his gang

“Big Chief” Chino knew he had fucked up.  Hoodoo Brown was the meanest son-of-a-bitchin’ white man he’d ever met.  He had known a couple of loco Apache warriors who could have matched his violence but few could have matched his lack of humanity.  If Brown discovered the gold Chino had hidden; “Big Chief” would suffer the vilest death possible; nobody fucked Hoodoo Brown.

It was the late 1800’s and much of the uncivilized portions of the United States were a dog-eat-dog existence.  That way-of-life was dramatically demonstrated in Las Vegas, New Mexico.  The town had come into being as part of the Santa Fe Trail; but once the railroad reach this at-the-edge location, a whole new level of prosperity arrived.  Great fortune was accompanied by some of the worst elements in all of humankind.  Each one looking for a fast buck, or at least a moment of guilt free pleasure. 

Some of the most notorious characters of their time found their way to Vegas.  The lure was money and sex.  Often it was also a place to hide.  No lawman entered Vegas without the permission of Hoodoo Brown, who was the Justice of the Peace and County Coroner.  He ran everything with the help of his gang.  He was the law and the law breaker, all wrapped up in one package.

The railroad executives eventually brought a certain form of law and order, but for a time this was a wide open town; with Brown in charge.  It attracted the famous and worst the country had to offer; Doc Holliday, Big-Nose Kate, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Bob Ford, Wyatt Earp, Rattlesnake Sam, Cock-Eyed Frank, Web-Fingered Billy, Hook Nose Jim, Stuttering Tom, Durango Kid, and Handsome Harry the Dancehall Rustler. 

That is the beginning of a new book Vegas Dead-End, # 4 in the Pacheco & Chino series.  My whole attitude toward this book goes back and forth; from enthused to tired.  I like the characters, but made a decision to end this series after a very difficult time finishing the last book, Four Corners War.  I was going to concentrate on the Vincent Malone books and let Ray Pacheco retire and spend his remaining days fishing.

It was a good plan for all concerned.  The flaw in the plan was that the Pacheco & Chino books sell better than my other books.  That’s good, but also bad.  I can claim my goal in writing books is to produce fine literature; or I could admit my goal is to sell books.  If selling books is the goal, it makes no sense to stop the P&C series since that is what the readers want.  Okay, yes; my goal is to sell books.  So, Vegas Dead-End is in the works.  Full time—whatever in the hell that means to me. 

I have no idea how many books indie authors sell.  As far as I know there is not a source for that data.  What I do know is that there are a ton of indie authors.  One way of knowing that is the amount of service businesses that cater to that audience.  My guess is that the only people making money off of indie books are those service providers.  If the indie book industry is not profitable, why are there so many people selling things to them?  It’s ego.  Indie authors are optimistic to a fault.

The number one marketing tool for indie authors is to give-away books.  Brilliant marketing scheme, spend money with advertisers developing a huge number of readers who only read free books and feed that audience an un-ending supply of such books.  It is embarrassing to me that I’m part of that madness.  Now you can make a case that free books grow an author’s brand, or that other books at full price will be sold because of the free book promotions; and I’m sure some of that is true.  And, of course, there is always the one example of a writer who gave away books and suddenly was discovered by the wider book audience and became an “instant” success.

Can’t blame free book readers—if the authors are dumb enough to offer their books for nothing, it isn’t up to the readers to say no—and complain; I would rather pay you something for your effort.

Then why do authors give away books?  Because it is the most affordable marketing tool available.  An indie author can run ads on Amazon, Facebook, or even Google (or a full page ad in the New York Times—there goes my retirement stash)—but it is expensive and without some kind of hook or name recognition, difficult to cost justify.  Free book sites are cheap and you get results.  It’s just that the results have questionable value. I now have another free book reader who only reads free books. Yippee!

The people who know what an author should do to sell books advise much of the same type of stuff.  Even this blog is considered an essential part of establishing a “brand.”  I’m starting to think a bunch of this is just nonsense. 

My plan right now is to spend time writing books.  The one piece of advice I have received about achieving goals in writing that I believe in the most, is to write.  Just write the best book you can and let the chips fall where they may.  I’m going to discontinue this blog on a regularly scheduled basis and devote the energy associated with this effort towards creating new books.

Not sure if I will be writing a blog a month or just when something occurs that I want to comment on; but not every week.  My monthly newsletter will continue.  If you have not signed up for the email releases, please do so by going to my web site at www.tedclifton.com.

Thanks for being a reader.

Audiobook now available-Thanks for being a listener!