Please, go ahead & judge this book by its cover!

The sequel to my 2019 novel, John J. McDermott & the 1971 U.S. Open, is finally for sale at Amazon.

I think I bettered the six months it took John J. McDermott & the 1971 U.S. Open to make it from finished manuscript to published but not by much. It’s a great feeling to be finished writing but a lousy one to anticipate all of the annoying steps that have to be taken before anyone can read your book.

Right now, it’s eBook only. An issue with the cover formatting undermined me at the last minute. Hopefully, you lovers of paper books will be able to grab a copy later in the week.

In the meantime, Cottonwood the eBook is waiting to be read.

Please, go ahead & judge this book by its cover!

February 7: Musicians who are missing in action

The internet is an endlessly fascinating place. It has made finding new wonderful musicians easy and immensely satisfying. I could not begin to name all of the musicians who have crossed my path, quite by accident, over the last decade or so.

The odd thing is that occasionally one of them (or two in this case) will go missing, leaving only the music that led me to them in the first place.

The first is Brendan Campbell. He may have had another record at some point, but the only one I know of is Burgers & Murders. I’m listening to Pleiades right now. This guy is so gone that he doesn’t even have a licensing deal with iTunes anymore. I found that out when I realized that none of his songs were on my iPhone. Had they not been downloaded to my MacMini years back that music would have been gone, maybe forever.

Brendan Campbell

The other musician is even more obscure. All John Danley left behind are a handful of videos. He was (is?) a wonderful finger-style player. From what I’ve been able to find he’s totally done with the whole music deal. The last reference I saw about him mentioned that he’d turned to a career in psychotherapy.

John Danley

A handful of years ago, he had a working website. What must have happened for him to let both his website’s eponymous domain and the site itself slip below the electrons of the internet? I just don’t get it. It’s just too easy and inexpensive to keep a website online to let one slip away. I actually mentioned Danley’s name to Will Ackerman a couple years back, along with a link to one of his videos. I had a kind of fantasy that Will might have recognized Danley’s talent and would want to set about using his industry connections to get him discovered, but Danley’s anonymity remains frustratingly intact.

How many more wonderful musicians am I doomed to find and lose? To put a tiny spin of optimism I could say I’m fortunate to have found Danley & Campbell at all, and that’s true. It’s always hard to keep from wanting more, I suppose.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Had I been willing to let this post wait until tomorrow I would have done a better job. For some reason tonight the WordPress desktop app will let me do everything but write a post.

The optimist would say how lucky I am to be able write what I have on my phone.

February 7: Musicians who are missing in action

February 5: Hill climb & pano

The winds have been blowing off & mostly on for more than a week. When we had measurable rain a while back I allowed myself a bit too much optimism, at least as regards the drought.

Now that optimism is being blown away and that’s a lousy feeling. The only benefit of Santa Anas this time of year are cloudless, scrubbed-blue skies and fantastic visibility. Even though the winds were less intense today, the skies were still quite clear.

My valley to valley hike is front of mind. I’ve been looking for a map that shows all of the fire roads in Los Angeles and Ventura counties but I haven’t found one so far. I made a trip to REI today since they have a good selection of maps and guides on hand but they didn’t have what I needed. There was an interesting trail map of Conejo to the ocean that should have easily covered the entire relevant area except that the folks at NatGeo decided to plop the map’s legend right over the west end of the valley, where it meets up with Palo Comado. Oh well. What do those folks know?

This is iPhone pano looking northish (those are homes in Bell Canyon on the left).

This is a nastyish hil climb I use to inaugurate my legs and lungs every time I use the Victory Trailhead. From the middle to the top you actually ascend on toes. It’s possible to descend it but if it happens to rain again this hill will be impassable both up and down. The photo doesn’t do it justice; it’s damn steep.

No hike is complete without a refreshment and today I promised myself a blood orange IPA from the pizza and beer tavern at the intersection of Victory & Valley Circle. Somehow I’ve managed to miss the name of the brewery both times I’ve enjoyed it there. That fact gives me a good excuse to drop in for another pint someday soon.

Tonight’s writing soundtrack is He’s Fine from The Secret Sisters 2017 record You Don’t Own Me Anymore. It’s far and away the best song on the record; clean, simple and bound to no genre or time. It’s fantastic.

Thanks for reading.

February 5: Hill climb & pano

January 17: MLK Day was a kinda long one in 2022

Things started out perfectly today with a couple more pancakes at Bernardos-Pavilions this morning around 10 but got a little more complicated shortly after we left Sacramento around noon.

Siri was trying to tell us something but we weren’t listening. She was trying to shepherd us down Interstate 5 but we ended up on the 99 until…

…until we realized there was a big ugly accident on the 99 just north of Bakersfield. The words “expect long delays” had us scrambling and we ended up making our escape SW from the 99 via the highway 198.

This was actually Ok for 50% of the passengers of the car, the one who found a new and unknown road amusing and a tiny bit of adventure in an otherwise bothersome delay.

We finally popped out onto the 5 at the garden spot of the Central Valley also known as Kettleman City. This reminded me of why I prefer the 99 over the 5.

Sure, Kettleman City is home to every fast food restaurant you’ve ever heard of (in addition to a Denny’s) but they’re all crammed on to one off ramp and the resulting crush of humanity we found at McD motivated us to scurry across the road in horror to the all but deserted Carl’s Jr.

It was the right move and then some. The Carl’s Jr. staff was great and their dining room was sparsely occupied. I downed my usual Western Bacon Cheeseburger and a free ice water before we were on our way again.

The rest of the ride was easy, again, for exactly 50% of the passengers. The weather was a tad wet off and on but mild. Even at the summit of the Grapevine it was still a warmish (for a January evening) temperature of 48 degrees.

I’m home now. A Russian WWII movie called On the Road to Berlin is on Prime Video (my bet is the Russians win) and I am trying to gracefully slide away from the challenges of the day that came before.

I’m going to need another drink pretty soon to ensure I’m ready for bed.

Thanks for reading.

January 17: MLK Day was a kinda long one in 2022

January 15: Sacramento

Thank goodness for the MLK holiday. It gave us a little time to make our way to Sacramento for a very quick getaway and a opportunity to dodge Omicron outside of Los Angeles County. I like this place. It’s not perfect but then again, neither am I. It’s not hard for me to confess the two big things that help me like it here.

The first is the welcome availability of quality golf that’s not crazy expensive. The 27 hole complex at Haggin Oaks was one of the best municipal facilities I had ever played until I was lucky enough to play Ancil Hoffman in nearby Carmichael. This last summer found me sitting on the patio at Ancil Hoffman drinking the biggest $8 Captain & Diet Coke you’ve ever seen. It is a beautiful layout that was in fantastic shape for the middle of summer, or any time of year for that matter.

Of course, that was summer and this is winter. It’s colder here than it is in SoCal. Worse, even though there’s no rain in the forecast the air is incredibly heavy, making tonight’s 43 degrees at 10pm feel quite a bit colder.

So, it’s cold, the days are short, what’s to do? There are great indoors are here aplenty. THat brings me to the second thing I love about Sacramento; the scores of great restaurants and bars. There are also tons of micro breweries around here though I must admit the pale ale I had from Berryessa Brewing this evening was not very good, but those are the breaks.

However, the cheddar burger at Hook & Ladder Manufacturing was superb. Stupid name for a place that is supposed to have an educational vibe (teacher’s desk inside the front door and school auditorium seats for use while waiting for a table).

But wait, am I so simple that burgers, booze and decent golf is enough to get me to relocate to Sacramento? Who knows, but I wouldn’t rule it out. Tomorrow I am hoping to write down some ideas for my next book. I hope you’ll be here to read them.

Sorry, no writing soundtrack tonight. Some idiotic home improvement show on HGTV is filling in, and doing a lousy job of it, I might add.

January 15: Sacramento

January 13: My friend & favorite watercolorist

My favorite watercolorist is also my friend, Alba Escayo. She and I go way back. I think we found each other on Elance which is now Upwork. Yup, a classic internet mogul move; change a good name to a lousy one. Alba lives and works in Spain. She created the cover on my first novel and I wanted her to create the cover on Cottonwood as well. I’m always grateful she’s younger than I am because it means she’ll be around to create the cover artwork for every book I write, if she’s willing and I am able.

I had an idea that involved a Cottonwood tree and a figure carrying a golf bag and walking away from the viewer. From underneath the tree, the figure reaches up and touches the low-hanging leaves. The idea of the walking away is that the figure is walking into the future, like all of us. The figure is faceless. It could be anyone. It could be one of the characters in the book but then again maybe not. No matter who it is, he reaches up to touch the tree, to touch a growing life.

I sent Alba an example of my idea but I did a bad job of explaining my vision to her. Probably I was in a hurry or maybe I thought we had discussed it more completely last time we emailed about it, over a year ago. She sent me this a couple days ago:

Now I have a problem, not a bad problem mind you, more like a decision. This is not at all what I had in mind, but I love it. It’s not a golf book so I had no intention of having an image of someone swinging a golf club on the cover, but there it is. And, now that it’s there, it has me doubting my concept. I’ve been reminding myself of some of my best non-advice advice:

It doesn’t really matter.

Of course it does, but maybe not. I wanted Alba to create the cover because I love her work, and this is her work. Now I find myself hesitant to continue to foist my vision on her, especially after she’s blessed me with this beautiful creation. My concept is not the idea of a visual artist but rather of a lowly writer. Part of me is screaming at myself to leave the artwork to the artist, and that is definitely Alba and definitely not me.

But we are talking about me. So, in the end I couldn’t help myself and I emailed Alba with my thoughts. As I said, I love the cover she’s done, and I want it, and I’ll pay her for it gladly. It will hang proudly over my desk and I will smile each time I see it. It may not end up being the artwork I use on the cover and then again it might be.

The decisions made in writing a book, especially a self-published book, go on and on. I’m very happy that no matter what decision I make about the cover art, the work will be Alba’s and it will be fantastic because it is hers.

Today’s writing soundtrack is an elegant 1974 record by Bills Evans called, Symbiosis. It is some of the best of jazz and classical (read: orchestral) music I have ever heard. It is melodically and rhythmically evocative of both times and places I’d like to be. I know a pianist who doesn’t think much of Bill Evans’ work from this era, but I think it is wonderful. Maybe you will, too, so take a listen.

Thanks for dropping by.

January 13: My friend & favorite watercolorist

January 8: A profound optimism.

I know I’ve mentioned this before but I want to get into it again, at least briefly. The purpose of this journal is to keep my writing brain sharp while this eventful year makes it way toward the next. Behind this is a belief, really a profound optimism. It is the optimism that says that I have more books to write, better books at that. I suppose there’s no reason to believe it. After all, most writers are winding down by the time they’re 60. There are exceptions of course, but as is always the case the exceptions involve the work of exceptional writers and that ain’t me.

Still, the optimism persists. I can’t identify its source but I can feel it.

So this journal, even though it costs me a few hundred words a day worth of time and effort, is intended to help be stimulate my tiny writer’s brain toward finding what’s next for me. For the most part, the journal is for me. It’s about what I’m thinking or imagining or worrying about. Today was a typical Saturday. A weekend day of awakening late and listening to the oral arguments in the Supreme Courts cases involving the federal vaccine mandates, especially Biden v. Missouri. Eventually, I did drag myself out of bed and started my day but it was quite late. I looked ahead to a Zoom meeting I had with one of my clients in Japan, the maker of a high end putter. The meeting was scheduled for 4pm my time so I kind of set my whole day up so I could deal with the meeting and the fifteen minutes that I estimated it would take.

Wrong. It took nearly an hour and left me contemplating an explanatory email to make all of my verbal meanderings more comprehensible to my client. Sure, his English is about a million times better than my Japanese but my ongoing estimate of the instances wherein what I say is wholly understood by him seldom exceeds 30%, and I am not being unduly pessimistic.

See? My optimism extends beyond my creative writing and into my day job. What can you say about someone who thinks as I do?

Tomorrow I will meet the morning with breakfast followed by the crafting of my email to my client, who is meeting with his investor on Tuesday morning, which of course means Monday to me also meaning I cannot put it on ice over the weekend. But, even though winter get’s me sleeping more I feel good about my overall energy level. Things seem possible, if challenging, and everything seems designed to push me forward to destinations unknown and I certainly like that.

By the way, I know I have already blown my promise to myself from yesterday. Rather than finishing today’s post before the sun went down I started this right before 11pm…again. Well, there’s always tomorrow. But I will tell you this; there’s nothing like the last night flow when it comes to writing, at least mine.

Speaking of flow, today’s writing soundtrack flows from last night’s. It’s Bill Evans Interplay Sessions from 1962. Come on; it’s Bill Evans at his peak. Plus, it includes some of the only playing from Freddie Hubbard I actually enjoy. If you like jazz but have never heard it, buy in now. If you’ve never really listened to jazz but want to try it to see if you like it, this is some of the best you’ll ever hear and it’s as accessible as it gets. It’s just beautiful stuff from the first track until the end. Is it better than Evan’s 1976 Quintessence? We can argue about that another time.

In the meantime thanks for reading…again.

January 8: A profound optimism.

Time enough, but none to waste: A journal of transition

December 31, 2021

Until I finished my first novel I didn’t think of myself as the kind of writer who would or could write a novel. But, after I finished the first book I started in on the second without even thinking about it, or enduring a moment’s uncertainty about whether I could pull it off. The same may go for memoirs and journals. Outside of a less than half-hearted attempt to keep a journal back in high school this is the first time I’ve tried to write one. I enjoy autobiographies. But the truth is I enjoy autobiographies because I enjoy learning about noteworthy people. Bobby Jones wrote about himself when he was still in his 30s, or maybe even younger. Then again, he was Bobby Jones. I’m 60 now, heading for 61 in April. Things have changed, and a definitive change is coming at the end of 2022. My longtime employers will be closing their law firm. It’s time. Their decision is understandable. One of them is 66 and I think the other is pushing 70. One just lost his wife to cancer and the other’s daughter is battling a form of lymphoma. When the end of the firm finally comes I will only have one emotion…gratitude. Both of my bosses have been more than employers to me. They’ve been friends and will remain friends until that other end. I’ll have more to say about both of them later on, I think. The point is that this journal is about a particular transition, from one job to another, at the time in life where I now find myself. The determinate nature of the transition period allows me to focus and plan for the future but also to experience the days of the coming year in an unusual way. Most big changes hit without notice but this one has announced its impending arrival quite conveniently.

I don’t anticipate this to be a traditional journal. Then again, I don’t know what a traditional journal is like, having never knowingly read one. My anticipation is that it will include more than a few ideas about things I’d like to write. I’m also thinking that it will look back more than I want it to but I’m going to try hard to keep my eyes looking forward. They say a writer has to know the beginning and ending of a novel before sitting down to write it. I agree with that. A journal is a different proposition. No one knows how anyone’s journal will end, even and perhaps especially, their own. There’s a kind of freedom to writing without knowing the ending.

It should be interesting anyway. The year, I mean. No promises about the journal.

Time enough, but none to waste: A journal of transition

How (and how NOT) to discuss a friend’s new novel.

I’m going to take a few minutes to explain how to discuss a friend (or loved one’s) new novel.

Please consider my premise:

The novel was a royal pain in the ass to write. It was a wholly unreasonable thing to try to create while holding down a day job of any kind.

It started out hard & got harder.

Then, as if by magic, it was done.

In the end, the writer failed in ways he never imagined.

In the end, the writer succeeded in ways he never believed possible.

A book should be read, it must be reacted to, so the writer gives it to the audience he imagines will be the most kind and receptive and responsive.

You’re that audience and I’m going to tell you what the writer wants you to say and ask (and also what he hopes you won’t).

First, be aware the writer knows his novel is flawed.

He didn’t write the novel to get rich.

He didn’t write the novel to become famous.

He wrote the novel in an effort to convey an idea or series of ideas in the best and most engaging way he could.

Let’s cover those pesky don’ts first.

The writer doesn’t want to hear about what you’re reading right now and that you’ll get to his book when you’re done.

The writer doesn’t care when you read his book, only how.

The writer doesn’t want to be asked how he intends to promote his book. It’s a valid subject, of course, but in the heady time just after the book has gone up for sale it’s probably not front-of-mind for the writer.

The writer doesn’t want to be reminded how great it is that it’s become so easy for anyone to write a book and sell it on Amazon.

The writer doesn’t want to be asked how many copies have sold so far.

The writer doesn’t want to be asked if he he’s going to send the book to any real publishers.

Let’s move along to what the writer does want you to ask about.

The writer wants to know if you liked the book. He wants to know if you found any of the characters likable or loathsome or fun or frightening.

He wants you to ask him how he went about writing the characters the way he did.

He wants you to ask if any of the characters were based on people he actually knew or knows.

He wants you to ask what it was about the real person that made him want to form the person into a character in a fictional book.

The writer wants to know if you didn’t like the book.

Trust me on this.

He wants to know if you simply didn’t find the story intriguing or the characters engaging. If he fell short (and he surely did), you’re his best chance of figuring out how he did and maybe even why.

The writer wants you to ask how you decided on the book’s sequence. He wants you to ask how you were able to handle the different times and places while maintaining the book’s coherence and flow.

The writer wants to be asked why he decided to write a book at all?

Why make the effort to do something that consumes literally thousands of hours and, in many cases, years to complete with a vanishing a chance of being appreciated by more than a few readers, let alone to achieve financial compensation commensurate with the effort?

It’s a good question that every aspiring writer has asked himself not only when he first set out to write the book, but likely every single time he sat down to work on it.

The way you ask that question may help the writer draw a closer to his own answer when he asks the question of himself.

He also wants you to ask him about other subjects he may be interested in, or may already be working on.

Finally, he wants to be asked what he learned from writing the book.

He wants you to tell him what you regard as the best part and worst part of his book.

Lastly, the writer wants to know what his book made you think and feel. Were you happy to be done with it, to be relieved of the perceived obligation of reading it, or did its ending leave you wanting more?

Did reading it make you think differently about the writer? Did it change the way you thought about what he might accomplish in the future, based on what you see as the promise or lack of promise manifested in the book you just read?

The writer is asking himself each of these questions as he lays his head on his pillow every night.

Is the writer is an honest soul, looking to achieve beyond his prior achievements?

Though obvious to me, I should say that everything I write here assumes the writer in question is an honest soul. I assume the writer was trying to achieve something bigger and far more importantly than bigger or longer, a work beyond anything he may have written before.

Thinking of a novel as leap of faith.

I think every novel represents a leap of faith for a writer and I believe a writer simply wants to be asked what made him want to take the leap.

That’s a question he’s asking himself, too.

How (and how NOT) to discuss a friend’s new novel.