No News Newspapers

It’s hard to imagine a day without newspapers; but it’s here.  Not long ago the morning began with the driveway search for the paper and brewing of the first cup of coffee.  It had been that way for as long as I can remember.  It was comforting.  Alone with coffee and the paper was my ideal way to start the day.  Not so much now.

I no longer read the paper newspaper.  Now it’s on-line.  No doubt, it’s more convenient, up-to-date and searchable; but it’s not the same.  My paper, for much of my life, was The Daily Oklahoman.  That paper was owned by one man who was a legend in Oklahoma.  During my high school days, a new paper, The Oklahoma Journal, appeared.  I read them both for years.  One was very conservative and the other was only a little less conservative (it is Oklahoma).  I wrote a series of books about this time; The Muckraker series with Stanley Nelson.  Most of the story is fiction but there are facts tossed in, too.

Newspapers are not what they were.  Most of their power and influence has declined.  There are still great papers and journalists, but many papers have become not much more than advertisement flyers, with the added bonus of sports pages.  A mere shadow of what they once were.  Of course a lot of the power and influence was used in ways that did not always benefit the country, only the owners, so maybe the decline was inevitable.

Not personally being involved in decisions can allow a person to be critical without really knowing the facts; but who decided that the best way to survive as a newspaper was to reduce the amount of news and increase the number of ads?  That decision seems dumb on the surface but maybe, if your goal is to survive, you do things like that.  Plus, you get rid of editors so most of the paper will have obvious errors in the little that is actually still news content.  Everyone likes errors, right?

When I moved to Denver there were two major papers in the market; The Denver Post and The Rocky Mountain News.  At that time, they were competing in a fierce price war and the competitive juices extended to the newsroom.  Some of the best journalism I have read came from that overheated era of nasty competition.  Cheap papers and great reporting—a reader’s dream.  But no doubt a financial disaster. 

Those papers used to be so heavy, even on weekdays, that you almost had to make two trips to the driveway.  No doubt it hastened the end of many a delivery person trying to toss the equivalent of a couple of bricks every morning—to almost every house.

Success in many things is not to be the best, but being the most profitable.  Today much of our news comes from people talking to other people who give great opinions but offer very little in actual news.  The advent of cable news in effect killed much of the news gathering business and established our current culture of bubble seekers.  I want to find the news that fits my beliefs—to hell with anyone else’s facts.

The larger national papers still seem to generate an abundance of great reporting but local papers have taken a significant step backward from what they were in the past.  It would seem inevitable that most towns, even big ones, are going to be without an active news gathering organization in the future.  I would imagine that soon they will abandon the pretense of being a “newspaper” and only have a sports section and celebrity stuff along with ads.

I’m adapting to the easy access of electronic news.  The constant updates and endless drum of breaking news becomes tiresome but also addictive.  While I think it is important to stay engaged and informed, we may be going a bit too far with the never ending drone of breaking news flashes. 

Is it possible to know too much and therefore nothing at all?  The volume of news seems to change its importance.  My past morning ritual of reading about the news from the previous day in the early hours over a leisurely cup of coffee seems to be a fading memory; now it is constant updates on my phone about what happened in the last hour. 

Maybe this morning I will watch the cartoon network for a few hours and just relax. Uninformed may not be so bad?

Thanks for being a reader!

My Advice Is

Advice: guidance or recommendations offered with regard to prudent future action.

On occasion I get questions from one source or another about writing.  Many of these are prompted by “interviews” for web sites that promote books.  One such question was; “what advice would I give someone who was thinking about writing their first novel?”  Generally, I respond to these in kind of a casual way, more or less assuming nobody actually reads the answers.  But for this one I was stumped, it seemed to deserve a more serious answer.

One of the first things I learned about writing was that it’s hard.  So maybe I should pass that along—hey, this is hard and more than likely will cost you money and a huge amount of time.  You might self-publish something and have the first review on your Amazon page be by someone who thinks; “This book is terrible. There are punctuation errors and my goodness this author sure needs a better spell checker.  The cover sucked.”  You have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to produce this masterpiece and the first review just tossed it into the trash.  My advice is; don’t do it!

Okay that would be a bit snarky.  So what would my advice be?

Expect disappointment, but never give up.  Sure the hard work is more like digging a forever ditch than anything creative, but there are wonderful rewards for doing something that is uniquely you.  Nobody else can write the book you write.  It may be great or may be not so great, but it is yours.  Tell a story you have in your head and be proud of the results.  The number one way of becoming a good (and successful) writer is to write.

I’ve written before about practicing to be creative.  That idea seems counter to what we think of in producing something creative.  We want a burst of creative genius, not hard work or practice—but the dirty little secret is that most creative activity, from writing, to art, to singing, to dance is based on effort and practice. 

In my circle of family, friends and acquaintances there are people who believe I write a book over the weekend.  They have never said that; but by what they do say– it is apparent they think writing is based on talent and happens in a flash.  If you have talent you just dash out a 300-page book like it was nothing.  I’ve tried to correct that misconception with information about the hours it takes to write a book.  For me it is usually about three months of writing, but often that writing is interrupted by periods of no activity.  This can be just the outside world needing my attention or it can be writers block.  I have written books from beginning to end without any delays; that would be the three months I mentioned, others have taken much longer. Usually when I give out this real information, I get looks that suggest they don’t believe me, and I’m just trying to make what I do sound harder than it really is.  My list of family, friends and acquaintances that I talk to is steadily getting smaller every day.

After my private writing part of the book is “finished”, it is only the first draft.  Currently my books are going through months of editing by up to three editors.  This could be because I’m a sloppy author and if I was better this wouldn’t be needed.  But all professionally prepared books are edited at some level or another.   And then you have cover design and other aspects of publishing.  All and all, at least for me, it is about six months from start to finish—assuming none of those writer’s block demons drop in.  Of course there are examples of great works taking the author years and years or maybe, even decades.  That is dedication!

Writing a book is not easy.  It is hard work.  Once all of the work is completed and you have a finished product there is a great sense of accomplishment and pride.  The author knows better than anyone the effort it took to complete.  Now you publish and submit it to the public.  Unless you’re a proven, known author you have no idea what will happen.  You work on promotions and marketing and hopefully sell some books.  Then you see the bad review; highlighted, one star, standing out like a sore thumb –saying you wasted your time.  You’re a moron.

If you do something creative that is subject to this sort of criticism, then you will understand the angst that is created by someone, who may or may not have any ability to objectively comment on anything, who says whatever they want regarding something you spent hours, days, months and often years creating.  In a matter of minutes, they can turn that effort into a hurtful, ugly feeling of self-doubt.  Tiny bit of more advice—ignore them; all of them (except those wonderful, obviously accurate 5 star reviews).

Write every day, seven days a week and never worry about what some faceless person says—it’s your story to tell how you see fit.  Stay true to yourself, study your craft and write the next damn bestseller.  Screw everything else.  The more you write; the better it gets.

Thanks for being a reader!

Reading for Pleasure

A strange thing happened to me when I started writing; I stopped reading.  From a very early age one of my great pleasures was reading.  If you’re a regular reader of this blog you know that my favorite “literature” as a child was Classics Illustrated comic books.  The great joy I experienced then has continued throughout my life—I have read lots of books.  And I mean lots. 

Then I decided to try my hand at writing a book.  It was kind of a lark based on an encounter with a “published” author.  This was in a social setting and the person was a creative writing instructor at a local community college.  He and I got along—we agreed on a lot of important stuff; like politics.  Our wives got along, so we ended up socializing on other occasions.  At one of those he gave me his book—the only one he had written, I think—which apparently experienced a level of success and was published by a known publisher.  I read it (at that time I read everything) and decided it was okay but nothing special; still I was impressed that he had written a book and it was published.  Based on the grade school playground logic of “if he can do that, so can I“— I decided to write a book.

It was day one in my new writing career.  I won’t go into the ugly details, but it was mostly a disaster.  Nothing was easy and no one (other than maybe my family) gave a crap about my sudden declaration of being an author.  The whole experience was demoralizing.  I did write a book; sort of.  It was a mess.  I just jumped in not knowing what I was doing and thought some sort of inspiration would take over and guide me to a great book.  The inspiration never showed up.  What I learned is that writing is hard.

After that experience, I licked my wounds for a while; but eventually decided I still wanted to be an author.  Now I knew I needed guidance, professional people to assist in the editing, cover design and all sorts of things to produce a successful book.  From that first experience, it was almost six years before I wrote again.  Some of that time was healing time, but most was doing the things I should have done before.  I began to do the prep work on becoming an author.  I found people to help me in various areas and spent time thinking about writing, reading about writing, and studying about writing.

Once I decided I knew enough to try again, I started writing.  That book was The Bootlegger’s Legacy.  The whole experience was different.  It was still not easy.  I had worked on an outline and got about three chapters into the book and decided it was not going well—but rather than scream, I started over.  The second attempt worked.  I finished the book and was pleased with the result.  That first “real” book won a Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Book Publishers Association and I was hooked.  Suddenly, I really was an author.

During the writing of The Bootlegger’s Legacy, I found it was disruptive for me to read other books.  Not sure why or if this happens to other people; but it was difficult for me to enjoy reading because I was comparing it to my writing.  I was critical of the writing; I couldn’t seem to concentrate on the story, because I was focusing on the structure, or punctuation, or the totally stupid way the author said something.  I had never done that as a reader before.  Now I was a critic.

I stopped reading.  That was about five years ago and I have rarely read since.  I was a person reading dozens of books a year and enjoying the experience. But now, due to my writing, I couldn’t enjoy reading other people’s books. 

The primary way I learned to be an author was by reading.  Now my head was full of my stories and other people’s stories just interfered.  So, I guess, today I write because I need something to read.  Four Corners War was just released.  I worked for a long time on that book—I’ve written before about that experience so I won’t retell it here; but it was a very difficult project for me over an extended period.  By the time it was done, I was mostly exhausted by the whole thing.

After a little lull in writing, I decided to actually read the finished book; Four Corners War.  Okay, I shouldn’t say this, I liked it –a lot.  News flash, author likes his own book!

There were points in the process, like time schedules, deadlines, and endless editing that made me lose sight of the actual story.  Even if it is my book –it’s a good story about characters I have come to know as people and care about.  I’m glad I have the book to read.  Of course, if need be, I could always return to my childhood favorite Classics Illustrated comic books. 

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!

Fake Authors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for being a reader!

Hard-Boiled or Cozy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thanks for being a reader!

Wyatt Earp rides again?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks everyone for being a reader!

Ignorance and Fear

While the children follow Jack. The kids
all do the “rain dance” chanting “Kill the beast,
slit her throat, bash her in”. Simon, not knowing what is going on, runs to alarm the other kids of a finding of his, the kids mistake him for the beast because his rustle through the tree scares them.

This is a departure from what I had planned to post today. The mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, was so upsetting I had to comment. I lived and worked for many years in Las Curces, New Mexico, which is a few miles north of El Paso. I moved to Las Cruces to take a Controller’s job with a large propane supplier which had dealings in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. Plus, this company did significant business within Mexico through Juarez. Prior to this experience I had spent my entire life in Oklahoma, with all of the middle America bias that would suggest.

My experience in a multi-cultural, multi-language border community was an amazing awaking for me. One of my joys in life had been painting, but it had been dormant for a long time. Almost immediately this seemingly barren desert land and its colorful culture inspired me. Everywhere I looked there was something wonderful that I wanted to paint. The awareness of texture, color and beauty that I had felt, when I was young and thinking I wanted to be an artist, returned. I didn’t see a barren desert– it was alive with color and contrast. I have never painted as much as I did while living in this radiant part of the world. I fell in love with cacti—okay maybe it wasn’t love, how about fascination.

Many of my books take place in this part of the world. The Bootlegger’s Legacy has key scenes in Juarez and El Paso. The center of the mystery in the book begins to unravel in Las Cruces. Dog Gone Lies starts in Las Cruces and moves to T or C, New Mexico. Vincent Malone finds his mojo in Santa Fe. Yes, no question, that part of the country had great impact on me.

I attended numerous business meetings in El Paso and Juarez both as the Controller of the large propane company and then later as a self-employed financial consultant. There was one constant over those many years. The kindness and friendliness of the people I dealt with. Often these were Mexicans or Mexican descent Americans who more comfortably spoke Spanish than English. I was always treated with great respect and never did my lack of knowing their language cause any issues. They were bi-lingual and often some of the smartest people I have ever met in business and yet they accommodated me. If they ever thought what a dumb yokel I was, they never showed it.

Over the years I learned that graciousness was not something they did to accommodate a fish-out-of-water Okie, it was who they were; it was part of their culture to treat people in this wonderful manner. Now don’t get me wrong there are plenty of bad people who live in this area, but a lot fewer than most imagine. Over a very long business career I can assure you my most horrific experiences with people happen in places other than these border towns. One of the worst business meetings I ever had was in a high rise in LA with some of the biggest jerks on this planet—but that’s another story.

My experiences in Juarez were especially surprising to me. The business people I met in Juarez were some of the most sophisticated and knowledgeable people I’d ever been around. They were often running huge companies with international dealings and yet were polite and accommodating. I never went into a business meeting that did not feel warm and comfortable—even if we were negotiating difficult issues. Every meeting was conducted in perfect English to accommodate me—with no remarks about my inability to speak Spanish.

Some of this good feeling I experienced started to change before I left the region and definitely changed a lot after I left; due to the increased drug traffic. That change harmed both sides of the border and I believe was mishandled as much by us as the Mexicans. But even with increased violence due to the drug gangs these communities along the border are connected in ways it is hard for outsiders to understand. It was not that long ago that most of this area was Mexico. Many of the people who live here have grandparents or great grandparents who were born here when it was Mexico. Calling these people immigrants is the height of ignorance.

Our relationship with Mexico is a complicated mixture of joy, mistakes, misery and national treasure. But it is not foreign. We have great historical links that provide a wonderful cultural gift to everyone who lives in this country. We should celebrate our good fortune every day that we have this diversity. The hate we see from a few is based on ignorance and fear.

The human race has a long and troubling history with ignorance and fear—but we can’t seem to move away and embrace the goodness that exists all around us. Let’s hope someday we can.

Thanks for being a reader!

Creative Marvels and an Oddity

On occasion I will post a list of books created by some unknown person on the internet—top 50 titles by British authors, mystery best sellers, greatest books of all time and more. This is often something I would place in my newsletter; because I do like lists. So how about my lists? What are my top 5 favorite books? Once I started thinking about this, I realized that my top 50 would be easier to name then my top 5. Much too restrictive. There must be 25 mystery writers that I loved every book they wrote. In terms of book titles there’s a couple hundred right there. At one time I was an avid Sci-Fi reader and became absorbed in the genre for several years. Another hundred or so. And of course, the classics are just that; classics. How do you get that down to the best 5?

Well here is my list—with the caveat that if I did this same exercise next week, it would probably be a different five.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. This would probably show up on a lot of lists of best books. I remember the first time I read these books—I did almost nothing else for days. It was an amazing experience. The world and characters created by Tolkien totally absorbed me. In many ways this was like my childhood experience of reading Classics Illustrated comic books on steroids. Even the second time I read these books, it had an overwhelming impact on me.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I had read this book before Lord of the Rings and at the time it formed a lasting impression. I was, of course, younger when I first read Lord of the Flies so I’m sure I identified with the “kids” who are the characters in the book. The book stayed on my mind for a very long time after finishing. It troubled me and took many years to fully come to grips with how it had impacted me. I always intended to read other books by Golding, but for some reason never have. Maybe I will soon—or maybe not.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I read this book when I was in high school. I knew at that time that I was an anti-war person. I could understand the logic of WWII but did not understand the reason for the wars afterward. And, of course, I was looking at the draft for Vietnam, and war looked like an extreme personal threat. This book cemented my anti-war beliefs. Some of the greatest message books of all time have been satires, and this is a great one. For some time I’ve been under the impression that this was the only book he wrote–amazing that I was not aware of the others. Good example of getting something in your head and never questioning it again. He did write other books which I didn’t read–think maybe I will try one. I would guess it was hard to follow Catch 22.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. This may seem like an odd choice but this book was almost impossible for me to put down. It is a historical non-fiction book about a legendary architect/designer working on huge projects of the time—world fairs. But there are other plot lines; including murder. This is a fascinating book and an amazing writing achievement. Another book falling into this same category was The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan. (This book is also a top candidate for longest title ever). I almost included The Worst Hard Time as one of my top 5 favorites. It is not a joyful book but in its own way very inspiring and extremely well written.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I loved this book just like millions of other readers. It sure isn’t the greatest book every written, but for just pure entertainment this is at the top. And that is why we read most of the books we read—so it’s on my list.

Like I said at the beginning, this was hard. Coming up with hundreds of books I have loved would be easy– selecting the top 5 is a challenge. These are the ones that came to mind today and each one is highly recommended.

How about my least favorite? You know the strange thing is I usually enjoy a book even if it is not my favorite. I have always had (even before I was a writer) great respect for someone who wrote a book—and if I didn’t enjoy the book—I was still reluctant to be critical. Now there have been many I did not finish—but even with those I often thought; maybe it was my mood and I should try them again later. Actually did that on some and enjoyed the book on the second attempt.

However, there is one book I have to include as my top least favorite book of all time. The oddity Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I had read other Rand books and liked them—actually thought The Fountainhead was very good. I knew about her beliefs and lifestyle. All of which made her someone I was interested in reading. But Atlas Shrugged is the worst book I have ever read—and the damn thing goes on forever. Now maybe Ayn Rand is some kind of god for you, and being critical of her is not allowed—well, that would probably also mean you have never attempted reading this monstrosity. This book is very, very long and very, very bad—I still hold a grudge for the lost time. (I’m sure she would not have cared.)

Authors are often people who live in their own bubbles (just like most people-but authors can create their own worlds easier than most). Rand needed a close friend who could have read this thing and offered advice along the lines of cutting about 50% of what she’d written—or maybe just start over.

Being creative is hard. Often when we are at our most creative we feel like geniuses in our own bubble, and yet, the result is more akin to garbage. Living inside your head and making stuff up is creative for sure, but can be dangerous.

Have any thoughts on books you like the most or even the least leave a comment. I would enjoy hearing from you.


Release Sept. 3rd–Pre-Order Today!

Sheriff has disappeared, leaving behind the body of his wife. Evil is lurking in this small town crime drama. Pacheco and Chino are needed at once. Four Corners War available for Pre-Order now!

Thanks for being a reader!

Work hard or else

Time for a break!

Before I became a writer, one of my jobs was to advise business owners on a variety of subjects. My background was financial, but much of what I did was offer guidance on matters related to employees—because that was often the most pressing issue for my business owner clients. How to get the best results from employees is a question as old as work itself. Small business owners, the majority of my clients, often treated their employees in one of two ways, like shit, or like family. That strange dynamic is a good indicator that most of those owners were in way over their heads and didn’t have a clue on how to manage people.

My advice generally ran along the lines of creating a respectful environment for work, pay appropriately for the skills and the market, and never promote someone for the wrong reasons. Sounds simple but it’s not. Respecting employees, all employees, is a challenge. My experience suggested that about 20% of the workforce are excellent employees—which means that 80% are not. That does not mean they are bad employees –just that they are not excellent. The owners consistently expected all employees to be above average. Those expectations led to anger, confrontations, firings, a work environment without respect—all bad stuff.

When I offered my advice to one owner, his response was that I just wanted him to lower his standards, he said that like it was bad. He was exactly right. Don’t expect everyone who works for you to be a super employee—they are not, and if they all were; that would be a problem. Cultivate the 20% to be super stars and appreciate the 80% for what they contribute—even if below your standards. That 80% will often be the most loyal, dependable and honest employees you have. They just are not super stars.

My family heritage is based on a strong work ethic. This was more than a work hard and you will be successful someday mantra—it was your duty to work hard. We owed it to the labor gods to work our butts off. My father worked hard, his father worked hard and on and on. To say there is some psychological baggage here would be a gross understatement. But I knew from a very early age that lazy people were evil. This also got all mixed up in Christianity—after all I was raised in puritan Oklahoma; often a confusing place. Work hard or go to hell was never stated, but often implied.

With that quasi-masochist upbringing, it is not surprising I owned my own businesses in my early twenties. These were food service businesses and at one time probably had a hundred or so employees. That was the beginning of a long career dealing with employees—I learned a lot those first years. Most of it was that employees were an incredible burden. I know many people who have expressed a desire to have their own business which would require employees to be able to run it—my advice has often been; don’t do it! I know that sounds harsh– like I’m anti-employee; I’m not. Some of my best memories are of the great employees I have had in various business ventures. But, suffice it to say, my goal later in life was to be an employee or be in a business where I was a one-man-band.

Now I write books, alone, in my little office. I work on my schedule and stop when it suits me. I still carry around the burden of a strong work ethic; but I’m learning to temper my expectations even for myself. I do have a small group of people who help me produce these books so that they are as readable as possible and, I bet, they would say I’m still learning how to control my expectations. Probably true. I still want things done immediately. I don’t find it unreasonable that everything should be perfect. Working at a frantic pace is not abnormal to me. Me missing deadlines is not the same as you missing deadlines!

In my career as an adviser, I believe I always gave good advice. I also believe that most people who advise others are often hypocrites. Do as I say, not as I do, is a cliché for a good reason. Advisers more often than not are flawed people—but their advice can still be very helpful.

This post has only tangential connections to writing and books, but maybe offers a little insight into my background and how that affects the characters you read in my novels. The other point buried here somewhere is that a successful author must treat their writing much like a job. It is not a “fun” lark –it is hard work. When my writing is at its best, I am working with great energy and discipline. Writing everyday on a schedule, even when you don’t want to, is the best way to reach the goal of a finished book.

When I was in my twenties and owned my own business, I knew I didn’t know what I was doing. I also knew I was learning every day and getting better. It was exciting but also very demanding. My ego never got in the way of my learning, and I was never afraid to say “I don’t know.” I’m no longer in my twenties, but I’m still learning—every day. For me, it makes the day interesting and exciting. I look forward to each and every new chapter. Can’t ask for much more than that.


Fiction No More was recently released and has been acquired by a good number of readers. I am grateful. I’m an indie writer and every day is a struggle to get my books into the hands of readers. I’ve discussed in this blog the various ways I go about that—and I have enjoyed a certain level of success.

Anyone who has read my books or even used the free “look inside” feature on Amazon knows I use cuss words. Yep, I do. I use them in appropriate circumstances and with characters who “talk that way.” There are many readers who find cuss words to be vile language and they are greatly offended. They have every right to feel that way. They should not read my books if they are offended by those gritty words.

The success of my books is very much driven by reviews–bad reviews will equal bad sales. This is obvious. Readers value other readers’ opinions—even though those other readers may not be people they would seek advice from on much of anything, but an on-line review carries a great deal of weight.

Fiction No More has just started getting reviews and they are good. But one reviewer was offended by a bad word on page 2. One-star review. I know you are probably saying—so what, just ignore it. I will—I’ve even said these reviews are helpful to other readers who might be offended and I’m glad the reviews are there. But this is my 9th book—plus there is the “look inside” option—page 2 is there to view and avoid being offended. But maybe this is really a crusade to get rid of authors who offend with language, nah, that would be a stupid crusade.

Thanks for being a reader!