Cynics and Idealists

Most of my books feature main characters who are flawed and cynical.  That cynicism comes from a life time of experience that demonstrates it’s a cynical world.  There are exceptions.  Tommy Jacks in the Muckraker series, is an exception; he is an idealist.  But he is young and has yet to experience the harsh reality of life over an extended time.  Although he has plenty thrown at him in those books, at the end he is still more positive than negative about his fellow human beings.  Tommy is the exception, someone who might be idealistic their entire life.

Vincent Malone and Ray Pacheco have both sought to find a new place to hide from the cynical world and they both discover new reasons to be optimistic.  These were jaded, hard-edged people who mostly had a sneering approach to their challenging existence.  Now in their “golden years,” they have discovered fulfillment and meaning when they were least expecting it. Both had lived a large portion of their life as non-trusting tough guys, but now they are positive, even unsuspicious and almost romantic.  Contrasting traits tend to make great characters.

I have gone through long periods of my life where I was a cynic.  My defense for this curmudgeon attitude was based on experience.  With the exception of a couple of decades, most of my life I have been self-employed.  This involved numerous business activities; ice-cream store, popcorn concession-stand, shoe stores, accounting, printing, real estate development, business broker, consultant, financial adviser and a few I’m sure I have forgotten.  One of my first business ventures in my early twenties might have led to some of my cynicism.  It was a popcorn concession-stand.

Lots of circumstances played a part in how this happened, including the involvement of my father, but suffice it to say we ended up with a lease in the lobby of a new concept discount store.   This is the late 60’s and Walmart had not happened, yet.  This was a huge store and something new.  It was a big success with massive crowds waiting almost every day to get inside.  The stand was right in the middle of that huge lobby.

We sold peanuts, popcorn and drinks.  You would think you might make a little money peddling such low dollar items; but this was a monstrous winner.  The first year was an amazing success.  Have trouble remembering all of the numbers, but I think the profit for the first year was close to $30,000.  May not sound like much but that was 1969.  In today’s dollars that’s $205,000—selling popcorn! 

The lease required us to pay a percentage of revenue to the discount store.  I reported my sales to them every month and gave them their slice.  They couldn’t believe it.  One of the managers said they had no idea you could make that much money just selling popcorn. 

We had a five-year lease and of course realized with these numbers they would either demand a much higher percentage or they would not renew.  But I couldn’t blame them—it was just a hell of lot more profitable than anyone thought when we started.  But we were going to enjoy the five-year run.

Right after the first year we received a letter saying they were terminating the lease.  They indicated in their letter that they were exercising the option as spelled out on page 14, paragraph H4. Rights of Landlord.  To cut to the chase the landlord had the right to cancel the lease for almost any or no reason at all (should have hired a lawyer before signing that lease).

Here I was barely in my twenties, married, two kids and a group of big businessmen in suits decided my little popcorn business looked too good not to steal (legally, as it turned out).  That would make almost anyone a cynic.

Now to be fair, over the years I have met many business people who were as ethical and honest as anyone I have ever known.  Also many of my less than successful adventures into business deals were aided by people who invested or encouraged me to try whatever my latest scheme was.  Almost always trying to help without any reward for them.  The opposite of the discount store suits.  But it’s funny how you tend to remember the scoundrels who populate our lives while overlooking the good people.

Maybe that is why my books are chocked full of these types of characters.  A flawed person tends to be a more interesting person.  Plus, they are so much easier to write about.  As an author I would think a book about only nice people would be very difficult to write; and maybe even difficult to read.

The latest book I’m writing, Durango Two Step, has a long list of bad guys in only the first few chapters making it great fun to write.  Many of these bad guys will not survive; but our heroes, Vincent Malone and George Younger, will be fine.  It’s great to be an author and create your own world.

Thanks for being a reader!

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

If you have ever tried writing a book or maybe a long letter, or even a multi-page report; anything that takes many sessions, then you will understand when I say “I’m back!”  I go through these spells where I just can’t write.  I would like to, but it just isn’t happening.  The pattern is identifiable to me now.  It starts with anger.  This can be almost anything.  As little as my favorite team losing (which most of my favorite teams do a lot), or politics, or wet heavy snow that has to be shoveled—you can see the trend; it is life.

Something will get me out of my writing rhythm, and I can’t get back.  I try.  It’s not fun to be a writer and not be able to write.  What follows is a period of time where all ideas on the next chapter are absolutely stupid.  The effort becomes a farce.  Sentences are impossible.  A single word is like pulling teeth.

I have just lived through one of those spells.  It has been months since I have written anything on my book projects.  My latest book, Durango Two Step, is the fourth book in the Vincent Malone series.  I started that book during a high energy period and had the first few chapters in a very short amount of time.  I had also done an extensive outline and had the overall plot.  But then life struck.  Don’t remember the exact cause, but no doubt something silly.  No writing for months. 

Just as the blackout came on unexpectedly, so did the light.  I’m writing again.  Yippee!


Durango Two Step takes place in Durango (duh!) which is located in southwest Colorado.  It’s a touristy place with a narrow gauge railroad that travels from Durango through the mountains to Silverton.  The scenery is magnificent.  The train ride is okay, but still it is a ride on an old train.  The fascination is, of course, that it is an old train and with only a little imagination you could find yourself thinking about the same trip in the 1870s.  But comfort is not necessarily a main feature of the adventure.  If you are ever in that part of the world I would highly recommend a visit to Durango; a very interesting place with lots of great restaurants.


Also I have been spending time working with a designer to re-do the book covers for The Muckraker Series.  The first book Murder So Wrong originally had a red cover with a capitol building.  After the book was released I decided I didn’t like that cover and a new one was designed.  Both old covers are below and the new (improved?) cover the last one.

This discussion is not to try and get you to buy these books—you should wait until the new re-edited editions with the new covers come out—probably in a few weeks.  This is about the process of picking book covers.  Most indie authors sell their books on-line (Amazon, B-N, Kobo, Apple and others), so book covers are small images that potential buyers will only glance at, but the cover is a very important piece of the marketing puzzle.  Will a book sell better with a great cover—obviously the answer to that question is: Yes!  Do we know what makes a great cover—NO. 

Sure there are people who claim to have this knowledge about what is good and bad about these little images.  But I doubt you could prove one theory over another.  There are many elements that drive sales of on-line books; descriptions, reviews, advertising/marketing, price, author’s ranking and many more.  To isolate just the cover would be difficult.  Even with that said the cover obviously does have some impact; maybe a lot. 

There is a whole industry marketing services to indie authors.  One of those services is cover designs.  I have seen prices from $100 (the example of the covers on this web site showed some great looking covers for only $100? —looked too good to be true) to high-end services for thousands.  Typical prices are $350 to $650 for both an e-book and paperback cover.  I would not argue with the value of the “typical” prices, but trying to select the right designer is mostly guess work.  Because the covers are so small on-line, usually bold titles and limited detail is necessary.  But what’s a good, bad or great cover is just one person’s opinion.  The ultimate judge would be if you could isolate book sales based on the cover, but you can’t; so it just speculation.

I have redesigned the book covers (and re-edited the books) to improve the books generally, but to more importantly improve sales.  That would be the ultimate test did the new covers increase sales.  I will be testing that over the next few months as these new covers are released and promoted.  After a few months I will report back the results and maybe then determine if there was an impact or if it was just shuffling of the deck chairs.


Blog direction.  Since its inception this blog has been about writing, indie books and the process of producing/marketing those books—it will continue to be.  However, a new direction will focus on the locations of those stories.  My books take place in the southwest United States and the general region.  This includes New Mexico, Colorado and Oklahoma. 

The Bootlegger’s Legacy takes place in Oklahoma, El Paso, Texas, New Mexico and Juarez, Mexico.

Pacheco & Chino Series takes place in New Mexico and El Paso, Texas.

Muckraker Series takes place in Oklahoma.

Vincent Malone Series takes place in New Mexico and Colorado.

I will feature in future blogs specific places in these areas with special attention to food including favorites restaurants and places to stay if visiting.  Hope you occasionally enjoy reading about these places and their attractions.  (And, yes this may just be a way for me to deduct travel expenses as business costs but don’t tell anyone.)

Thanks for being a reader!

Fictional Books and Real Life

Despite being fictional, literary characters are near and dear to our hearts. But sometimes, those fictional characters turn out to not be so fictional after all.

SHERLOCK HOLMES in The Sherlock Holmes Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
INSPIRED BY: Dr. Jo
seph Bell

Arthur Conan Doyle met surgeon Dr. Joseph Bell in 1877, when he served as his clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. After writing several popular stories about consulting detective Sherlock Holmes (who really needs no introduction), Doyle admitted that the man was at least partially inspired by Bell’s super observant ways and his ability to make large assumptions with little evidence. Apparently, Bell was quite proud of the connection and even went on to help with police investigations in Scotland alongside Sir Henry Littlejohn, whom Doyle also cited as an influence. In a letter to the author, Bell even joked, “You are yourself Sherlock Holmes and well you know it.”

Ten Fictional Characters Inspired by Real People


Have spent the last several months re-editing the Muckraker books.  That would be Murder So Wrong, Murder So Strange and Murder So Final.  This was my first time to return to a book and look at the results with a critical eye.  While there were changes made, the most obvious will be new covers, overall I really (still) liked the story.  I think this round of tweaks does improve the reader experience and hopefully will increase the popularity of this series.  The new look is not available yet but will be shortly.

These books were written with a co-author; Stanly Nelson.  We share backgrounds, both being from Oklahoma, and also a love of newspapers.  Me as a reader and Stan as an editor-writer on several papers.  The books are about a time in Oklahoma City when two major newspapers battled for the market with very distinct and opposite perspectives.  We both lived during those times and enjoyed the competitive energy that was created by the warring groups.

Many of my books are based on actual events that I experienced or people I have known.  The main character in the Muckraker books is Tommy Jacks, a recent journalism grad who is having his first encounter in the real (and very dangerous) world of cut-throat reporting.  His mentor in the story is Taylor Albright, a fish-out-of-water New Yorker trapped in the totally different world of middle America.  Taylor is cynical and totally without fear.  Tommy both admires Albright and hates him.  It is a relationship with many facets. 

The Albright character was based on someone I knew at the time.  He was an abrasive, smart, and fearless columnist for the new paper trying to carve out a market against an old established publishing empire.  The real Albright pushed the boundaries of acceptable journalism until he was fired.  Anyone who read his columns knew he would soon be gone.  He offended everyone.  One week he would be cheered by one side as he attacked the other side and the next week it would be the opposite.  He seemed to have a desire to have people hate him.  I liked him.  Of course he never wrote about me in his columns.

After he was fired, I helped him put out his own very small circulation tabloid—I owned a printing company at the time.  Eventually he alienated all of my employees and we parted, although we were still friends.  Never heard from him again. 

I’ve mentioned before how important it is to me to have an element in my books that comes from my own experiences.  Obviously (or maybe not?), I have not experienced the murders and general mayhem I write about; but the places and the people are familiar to me.  In the Vincent Malone books I use Santa Fe almost like a character—something familiar and comfortable.  Having often been in Santa Fe and experienced its unique, quirky qualities, helps me make them real to the reader.  I know the atmosphere and it helps me feel comfortable with the characters by placing them in those surroundings.

The Muckraker books take place in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.  I grew up in Oklahoma City and definitely knew every part of that town.  Way into my twenties it felt like home.  Then something happened, no doubt, something to me.  It started to feel different, less comfortable.  I felt like I didn’t belong there.  Wasn’t sure where I did belong but definitely not there.  Why would that happen?  Cities change, but that’s not the most likely reason.  It’s people.  I changed and Oklahoma City stayed the same.  Eventually we moved to New Mexico and it felt comfortable.  I was a stranger, but felt at home.

Places have an energy to them that either fits a person or doesn’t.  Not sure what it is but I know when someplace is good for me almost immediately and when it isn’t.  Houston and LA were good for me; New Orleans and Dallas were not.  The good place list includes my current home Denver; but it has been amazingly cold recently so San Diego is sounding very nice.

The Muckraker books brought back a lot of memories.  Triples was a real place, so was the Denny’s on Classen Boulevard Albright frequented.  That was where I met the real Albright by accident.  Deep Deuce in The Bootlegger’s Legacy was an area I knew.  I was known to visit a few of the bars that hung on past their prime in that part of town.  All familiar memories with history—even some bad history.

So I write about things known to me as I tell stories that are total fiction.  The real gets mixed in and creates a sense of knowing even though much of the story is only imagination.  My books are about characters.  We can all relate to them as they try to solve a mystery or untangle a past action; make-believe based on real people.  They are flawed, but I hope they are people you can care about.  The locations add texture to the story, but it could occur most anywhere—as long as the writer can capture the real feeling of the place and can help the reader feel that uniqueness. 

Below is a sneak peek (don’t tell anyone) of a couple of the new covers coming for the Muckraker books. I’ll let you know when the updated books are available.

Thanks for being a reader!

My dread of Halloween

I write mystery books.  Also on occasion I write short-stories.  For no particular reason these often are about my childhood in Oklahoma in the 1950s.  You probably grew up in a different time and place, but I hope you find these little odes to the past interesting, or funny, or maybe even a little sad.

This is a true short, short story about Halloween.

In small town America in the 1950s Halloween night found every kid within miles walking in the neighborhood seeking those wonderful treats.  There were no trailing parents or watchful cars standing by to rescue little Johnny, because no one perceived a need for such caution.  It was a time when people had a sense of belonging that created a, no doubt, false sense of security.

On one memorable Halloween I had spent hours out with my group of buddies canvasing our immediate neighborhood and several blocks over in both directions.  At many of the houses the adults knew some of us and greeted us warmly.  There were kids everywhere going door to door.  Now, to be fair, there were a couple of houses we stayed away from.  One was occupied by an incredibly old man who glared at kids if they got close to his domain.  The kid rumor was that he was an escaped convict hiding in our neighborhood.  The legend was that he had been convicted of murdering his own children.  The chance of that tale being true was exactly zero; but every kid knew to stay clear of his un-kept house.

On this one night I had stayed out longer than usual, because I was also collecting Halloween goodies for my friend Bill who was sick.  He begged me to take his bag and get double treats—it was a pitiful scene with this huge kid begging me to get him candy while he coughed all over me; condemning me to catching some dreaded disease. 

My last lap was one street over from mine.  It was the rich people’s street in the neighborhood.  I had waited until the final push of the night to make the biggest haul.  Some of the houses had turned out their lights, but most had not.  There was an occasional grumble about me collecting two bags but most were still pleasant and generous with the goodies.

At the end of the rich people’s block I was loaded down.  It was about the maximum I could carry and I felt both joy and a self-important sense of accomplishment.  I couldn’t wait to get to Bill’s house and give him his bulging bag.  Bill was in kid’s terms, the fat kid.  He ate everything and in huge quantities.  He was going to be delirious.

It was late, even for Halloween, and I was now alone on my last leg.  First stop would be Bill’s and then finally home where I could explore my huge bag of sugary joy.

I heard the car before I saw it.  It had stopped hard just behind me.  When I turned I saw a car full of teenagers.  Now if you’re a pre-teen kid in safe, small town America there was one great fear in your world.  Teenage boys.  Often you knew them; maybe even friends of your older brother.  But you had seen their group behavior before.  Bullying, head rubbing, taunting; they were the most feared menace in your protected world.

It was the apocalypse; four teenagers on Halloween night charging a ten-year-old kid with two huge bags of candy.  In a flash I was on the ground with pain in my hand and elbow without any candy.  The old Ford hauled ass down the street.  I thought I could hear them laughing.

I stayed still for a while.  Then without warning I started to cry.  Curled up in a ball on a very dark Halloween night in the middle of a stranger’s yard, all alone, I bawled.  Just like a baby.  All of that work, hours and hours of trick or treating; gone in a matter of seconds.  Soon I stopped crying and almost immediately became angry.  More angry than I ever remember being before.  I stood in the middle of the night and shouted “Shit,” as loud as my little body could muster.  I knew that was wrong, but I had had it with being bullied and stomped on by those stupid teenage hoodlums.

I made it to Bill’s and gave him the bad news.  He was obviously very sad.  He suggested I still had time to go back and get some goodies.  I just looked at him like his head had exploded.  I said good-night and went home.

Once home I told my parents the story.  My dad was furious.  He debated about calling the cops or getting in his old car and finding the creeps.  My mother soothed him and told him it was bad but it would be best just to forget it.  He mumbled something and went outside to smoke his foul smelling cigar.

My mother consoled me, telling me those boys did not mean to hurt me, they were just being teenage boys.  That seemed like a lame excuse to me.  She hugged me and I cried again.  She tucked me in and read one of my favorite books.  I dreamed of the day when I would be a teenage boy and how I would treat everyone so nice and wouldn’t tease or torment little ten-year old kids.

From that time on I dreaded Halloween.  When I became a teenager, I definitely had my typical teenage boy moments, but I never tormented little kids and usually stayed home on Halloween.


Another holiday short story.

Click to go to my web site where you can download this short story

Thanks for being a reader!

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!

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!