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 15: For me, today was Valentine’s Day

I had a wonderful Valentine’s Day (yes, I know it was actually yesterday) for a very simple reason. I was lucky enough to spend some of it with my valentine, at least a few hours of it. She took the whole day off, so from 10 until 3:30 we hiked and talked and enjoyed a gorgeous day. We don’t get many chances to share even part of a weekday so it was an especially rare treat.

The only problem was that our time together was all too short, as it always is.

Our time on the trail gave me a chance to think about the book idea I that occurred to me yesterday. I can see the span of time. I can see some of the interesting events but I can’t really see the story, let alone the all-important ending. My concern is that there might not be a complete story to see. The last thing I want to do is jump into a story without even knowing the ending.

No good can come from that.

So, I’m going to do a little brainstorming about how my new story might end. Since there are biographical elements it’s all too easy to imagine that the story just goes on but that won’t work with a book. If I come up with some ideas between now and tomorrow I am thinking about writing the beginning of the story as tomorrow’s post. If I don’t, I’m not going to start writing. It’s not important for my idea about the ending to be the one I end up using. It’s only important for me to have an idea, even if I eventually change the ending, before I get started.

Ideas come along when they want so this may take a while.

Thanks for reading.

February 15: For me, today was Valentine’s Day

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 16: Sunday in Sacramento

Like I said, this has been a quick trip. Maybe too quick when you think about the numbers of miles to & fro but you know what they say about beggars.

Our Sunday started out slowly with breakfast at Cafe Bernardo’s-Pavillions. There are a couple others Bernardo’s in the chain but this location is my favorite, especially when it comes to their fantastic pancakes. Today’s were sublime; tender, good buttermilk flavor, not over or undercooked and the perfect thickness. I got by with one cake but I would have been able to devour four if self-preservation hadn’t gotten the better of me.

Later, we took a ride out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Carmichael, in the same park as the Ancil Hoffman golf course I mentioned yesterday.

The nature center has a number of trails that meander along and around the American River. As on the golf course there are deer everywhere as well as wild turkeys. The air was just crisp enough to keep a jacket on even with the sun out.

Afterwards, I noticed a brewery in nearby Rancho Cordova that I wanted to check out called Fort Rock. Everything was just a little disappointing. It was too loud (the 49ers were playing Dallas), the tap list was a little blah as was the strip mall ish location. I tried the Lights Out IPA. It was Ok but far from soul-stirring. Maybe I was expecting too much or maybe the relentless din from the TVs and the football fans tweaked my tastebuds. I hate to scratch a brewery off the list after trying only one beer but I may have to in this case.

Ah, but dinner! Dinner was at Obo. Now why the hell can’t I have an Obo in Los Angeles? It’s Italian and it’s fantastic. I went all in with spaghetti & meat balls and it was good as it was last summer, the winter before that and so on. They also have a full bar, a small but well-curated tap list, and a $10 rye old fashioned.

Are you kidding me?

We were celebrating a birthday (not mine) so I had two old fashioneds and the three of us split a slice of cheesecake, chocolate mousse and a chocolate-dipped cupcake that took a ride home with the lucky birthday boy.

It’s HGTV again tonight as we wind down but least it’s Home Town and not the drivel I subjected myself to last night. Nope, I didn’t come up with any ideas for my next book. Maybe tomorrow. I’m not even any more relaxed than when we left Los Angeles but at least we had us some fun and were blessed with good company and a wonderful host.

Tomorrow will be 388 easy miles and a return to reality. I can’t say I’m looking forward to either but I’m glad we made the trip.

Thanks for reading.

January 16: Sunday in Sacramento

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.

January 1, 2022

Seriously, I have to write more already?

Overnight I realized that this whole one year journal idea meant writing on something like a schedule, like other writers do. I read that Shelby Foote started each day writing 500 words, using a quill pen no less. I think I realized this in the back of my mind. As some of you might know, I finished my second novel, Cottonwood, a month or so back. I’m now waiting for my faithful formatter and cover artist to be available so I can get the book up on Amazon where it’s sure to make big bucks. I have a handful of ideas for my next book and I figured that writing everyday would keep me sharp in case any of those ideas suddenly grew from acorn to seedling. That fit in nicely with the one-year countdown to the end of my job at the law firm. Anyway, here I am on the first day of the year. To paraphrase Joe Friday, it’s breezy and cool in Los Angeles today. The high is supposed to hit 57…a tad chilly for me.

A while back I heard an interview with Paul Simon. In it, he was asked what music he was listening to these days. He mentioned that he’d been listening to the Elvis station (disappointed), along with B.B. King and Sinatra. He went on to say that he didn’t really listen to any contemporary music. I thought to myself, what the hell and I’m not totally surprised. Paul Simon’s a somewhat prickly old guy but I would emphasize old more the prickly. It struck me that he had either lost the energy he once had to sift through the crap that is most of everything to find the contemporary music that had worth or that he was simply more comfortable with music that was contemporaneous with his early life and what came before it. That gets me to the word nostalgic. I’ve been thinking about the word off and on and I’ll have more to say about it later. Anyway, I’m glad I haven’t thrown in the towel when it comes to contemporary music. There is some very good new music out there. Is it harder to find than it was in days gone by? I suppose that’s possible, but so what? If you love music you have to take the time to seek it out.

Drop by tomorrow if you’d like to hear more about my efforts to simultaneously organize, preserve and grow my music collection.

January 1, 2022