Thursday, September 13, 2018

Deluge: A Fictional Account of What Would Happen if Extreme Weather Hit California




atmospheric river


Deluge is a disaster story. A real potential disaster is bearing down on the East Coast, and people would be wise to take every precaution. Everyone stay safe.

 Here is an snippet from the book that tries to put moving water in perspective.
Evarts examined the sky. He could discern not even a dull glow where the sun would be at this hour. He swiped water from his eyes.  The rain was bad enough, but the wind made the ocean surface bumpy, and the nose of his surfboard kept splashing salt water in his face as he paddled. He wanted to keep a clear eye out to sea, so it presented more than an annoyance. The larger, outside waves could be brutal, and he didn’t want to be caught inside in what surfers called the impact zone. People generally thought of water as benign. It watered gardens, you could drink it, bathe with it, freeze it to chill a drink or a sore back, swim in it, or laze on the surface in a boat or on a floater. Water was an essential element of life, useful and often great fun. But surfers knew water could also be a killer. No one who had been hit by a huge wave disrespected moving water. You couldn’t fight it. You couldn’t beat it. You could only get out of the way or let it throw you around like a rag doll in a Rottweiler’s grip.


Storms,politics, and gangs pillage California but that isn't the scary part.


Sunday, September 2, 2018

God Created Men and Sam Colt Made Them Equal



samuel colt

In Hartford, Connecticut, Samuel Colt built the world’s largest private armament factory. The factory was not only the largest, it was probably the world’s most advanced manufacturing facility. As a precursor to Henry Ford, Colt used interchangeable parts, production lines, and standard work. In 1856, the company could produce 150 weapons per day.


Samuel Colt was an engineer and mechanic who continually refined his designs. For his famous revolvers, he obtained dozens of patents. In 1873, after his death, the Colt’s Manufacturing Company introduced the iconic Colt Single Action Army revolver, also known as the Peacemaker, which has since been in continuous production except for a short hiatus in the 1940’s and 50s.

The Colt’s Manufacturing Company has produced more than 30 million pistols, revolvers and rifles. Samuel Colt, one of the richest men in America, once wrote, “Money is a trash I have always looked down upon.” There are several ways to get rich, but fun way is to do something you love, and doing it so well that customers flock to your door. These people built empires that last generations, and they didn’t do it for the money. Money was a byproduct of their passion. If you don’t believe me, ask Samuel Colt, Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, Coco Chanel, or Bill France (NASCAR). Steve Jobs and Bill Gates fall into this category, but I'm not sure about the current generation of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. They seem to be in it for the money.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

4,000 Goodreads Ratings. Cool!



Woke up this morning and went through my normal internet routine with my first cup of coffee. I check Twitter, Facebook, and my book sales and reviews. At Goodreads, I saw something that made me smile. I had hit exactly 4,000 ratings for my books for 4.0 stars. Thank you to all my readers, especially those who take an extra moment to write a review or rate the book.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Why do my characters boss me around?


No Peace starts at del Monte Hotel in Monterey (photo circa 1880s)

In a previous post I wrote that I had started the next Steve Dancy Tale and the title of the seventh book in the series would be Coronado. I had a plot outline, a nifty cast of characters, and enough research on San Diego history to fill a nonfiction tome. Steve had other ideas. I started the story in Monterey, California, intending to travel down to San Diego by way of Redondo Beach and Pasadena. Don’t ask. I won’t tell you the storyline because I’ll probably use this material in the next book. Suffice it to say that Steve got himself into so much trouble in Monterey that he can’t go anywhere until he cleans up his mess.

Wait a minute, isn’t Steve Dancy a fictional character? Yeah, that’s what irks me. Who gave him the right to change my story? When I start a new work, I know the beginning and how it ends, but allow the characters to show me the way to get from one end to the other. Many times, I put the characters into a scene, give them a couple lines, and then transcribe the rest of their conversation. I know them so well that I trust them. But never has a character taken me off the rails and done his own thing. This is outrageous. Perhaps he’s miffed that I abandoned him for a spell to write Deluge. Hell, I thought Steve and Virginia wanted to be left alone on their honeymoon. Which brings to mind the first time I knew something was going haywire. The new book starts about two years after our newlyweds rode off into the sunset. I’m writing the first chapter and Steve and Virginia suddenly announce they have a one-year old son. I’m typing away, and suddenly Jeffery Joseph Dancy enters the story uninvited. Cute kid, though.

The bottom line is that I’ve changed the title for the book. It is now called No Peace, A Steve Dancy Tale, but who knows, it could change again. Now I have a true appreciation for what it means to have a character driven story.



One last thing; because of my recent focus on westerns, I was concerned that Deluge might not be accepted by my readers. It was contemporary, and although there were horrific gunfights, the main antagonist was a nasty storm. I’m pleased that the initial reception has been great. The ratings on Goodreads score it 4.4 and the initial Amazon reviews rank it 4.6. Thanks to all of my readers.

Gotta go. Steve's telling me to get back to work.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Is there life east of Pacific Coast Highway?



My wife and I are about to return to Omaha from San Diego. Darn, where did the time go? I’m going to miss friends and family, surfing, walks on the beach, and Mexican food.

When I was a teenager, we rarely ventured away from the beach. In fact, we didn’t believed there was life east of Pacific Coast Highway. We called the inhabitants of that vast wasteland inlanders … or worse. A few of my friends became involved with inland girls, but for the most part, we had plenty on our side of the divide. (I admit my wife came from east of PCH, but she grew up west of Hawthorne Boulevard, the next thoroughfare in our neck of the woods. That’s almost native. Besides, she put up with me for all these years, so I can't hold her paganism against her.)

In my youth, if someone had grabbed me on the beach and told me I would live in Omaha, I would have hushed them in fear that one of my friends might overhear. Omaha is in the exact center of the country. As far you can get from an ocean or large body of water. The surf stinks. And yet … I’m looking forward to going home. We have a nice home and I’m eager to see my daughter’s family and our Midwest friends. And focus more diligently on writing. When I get there I’ll play with the grandkids, eat at our favorite restaurants, bring home great pizza, watch the seasons blossom all over the place, enjoy watching the kids sports games, and shoot untold rounds of golf. Oh, wait, I don’t golf. Never mind, that was someone else. But I do look forward to eating at the clubhouse.

In truth, I discovered there’s abundant life in the heartland. I enjoy Omaha, and besides, if I need a fix, I can just jump on a plane and be back in San Diego in three hours.  Thank goodness for Boeing.

Omaha, Nebraska

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Cowboys are cool. Cows, not so much


“A mine is a hole in the ground, owned by a liar.” Mark Twain

I recently saw a college friend for the first time in decades. He seemed surprised to learn I wrote novels. I guess I need to work on that world famous part. 

“What do you write?” he asked.

“Westerns.”

He immediately made a disparaging crack about cowboys and Indians.

I explained there were no cowboys in my novels.

He was incredulous. “Then what do you write about?”

“I write about people … people who happened to live on the American frontier. My characters live in cities, towns and camps, not on the range. They’re miners, businessmen, politicians, schoolmarms, shopkeepers, lumbermen, lawyers, doctors, newspapermen, and they come in all ages and in both sexes.”

“Bad guys?”

“Oh yeah, outlaws aplenty. Otherwise you don’t have a story.”

“And gunfights?”

“Of course. They’re part of the genre. But in six books, I’ve only had one duel where two men stood off against each other. My gunfights are more realistic to the history of the West.”

“But no cowboys?”

“Nary a one. Cows didn’t draw people west. Money laying in the dirt got people to get up and leave home. Mining drew far more people than ranching. The romantic cowboy has been written about since Owen Wister and The Virginian, and cowboys have become the stable of Western literature. When I started writing Westerns I wanted to do something different, so I wrote about mining, instead of ranching.”

mark twain
Virginia City
I continued, “Cowboys have become such a cliché that most people don’t know that Tombstone was a mining town, not a cow town. Denver started as a mining camp. Mark Twain’s encounters with the Wild West occurred in Virginia City, where $305 million was mined from the Comstock Lode.  (Still, the fictional Cartwright’s Ponderosa gets all the attention.) 240 million troy ounces of silver were extracted from Leadville. Almost all of our ghost towns were once thriving mining camps. Mining was an exciting industry that drew every kind of character to the West.  Wyatt Earp made a career of following the action, and he abandoned cows to chase after silver and gold.”

“So you don’t like cowboys?” He said this with an undue sense of satisfaction.

“I do. Cowboys are self-reliant, live by a code, and are skillful with horses, ropes, guns, and nature. I believe their individualism is a metaphor for an important American value. But others have already written about cowboys, cow towns, and the open range. I wanted to explode another facet of the Wild West, so I write about mining, which allows me to get into bustling cities and the technology revolution of railroads, telegraphs, and electricity. Instead of lamenting the demise of the Wild West, I examine the influences that eventually tamed the frontier.

 “Is there drama in mining?” he asked.

“Are you kidding? Money is power … and the power-crazed chase after wealth with a passion. Mining drew fortune seekers, politicians, shysters, engineers, shopkeepers, and people with every kind of scheme under the sun to separate miners from their money. Most rail lines after the transcontinental contest connected mines to markets. Everybody chased after the money: good men, bad men, and hard cases that enforced the will of the greedy.”

“Okay, okay, you convinced me,” he said. “I’ll try one of your books.”

As Hollywood says, this story has been inspired by true events. That means a conversation did occur somewhat along these lines, but I was much less articulate in real life.

Honest westerns filled with dishonest characters.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Return to The Scene of My Crime


What happens when a relentless downpour, politics, and street gangs attack California?



I recently arrived back in California, a state that my latest book makes soggier than a wet biscuit. Deluge is my first disaster story. Usually I kill off a villain or two, but not an entire state. Without disclosing a spoiler, Deluge fits nicely in the disaster story genre, which means that the powers-that-be eventually listen to the smarty pants who keep proposing a wild scheme to save the day, or in this case, the state. Not having previously written in the genre, I had to do wide-ranging research. To my wife’s chagrin, I watched every disaster film produced in Tinsel Town.  Well, maybe not all of them, but the ones I watched ran the gamut from the still entertaining Twister, to the classic Andromeda Strain, to the recklessly realistic Sharknado. Needless to say, I had trouble sleeping for months.


Why a disaster story? Steve Dancy and his new wife insisted on being left alone for their honeymoon, so I needed to document other happenings. I always intended to do a follow-up to The Shut Mouth Society, but the sequel I have in mind requires my characters to age a bit, so they needed a transitional adventure. Now that I’ve given them one, they may not speak to me again. It should be okay. Since I’ve returned to Steve, Virginia, et al., they have time to get over being peeved.

I’m staying at my San Diego condo for three weeks. I going to do a little surfing and a lot of writing on the next Steve Dancy Tale. I plan to have the seventh in the series available by Christmas. So far, so good. I like the storyline and it has bad guys—and gals—aplenty. In the meantime, try Deluge. It’s the most adrenaline you’ll can experience while reclining in a Barcalounger.

Here’s a snippet:
Evarts did a quick reverse K-turn to get going in the opposite direction. As he accelerated down the slight incline, a rush of brown water came blowing across the road in front of him. It looked like a dozen fire hoses all sprayed in unison. If he tried to stop, he’d slide into the torrent, maybe sideways because of the slick pavement, so he pushed the gas pedal to the floorboard. Everyone except Evarts yelled as they hit the water. He gritted his teeth as he focused on timing a hard turn into the horizontal waterfall. When the water hit the truck, he had already turned into it as they blasted through the gush, emerging on the other side, the truck’s rear end swinging back and forth. Then he lost control. The truck spun around two full turns and righted itself, pointed down the road in the direction they had been heading. Lucky. He looked at his speedometer. He was rolling downhill at fifteen miles an hour. To hell with that. He punched it and they sped toward town.

The Shut Mouth Society
Deluge

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Is a Gift Card an Appropriate Gift?



My kids called to find out what I wanted for Father’s Day. When I asked for a gift card from Amazon, they said that would be impersonal. I didn’t argue, but it made me wonder why they asked.

Their response made me think about the appropriateness of gift cards. I think they’re great. If emailed, shipping costs are nil, they arrive at the speed of light, and I get to pick my own gift at the time of my choosing. What could be better?

Then I thought about it. What would be better is a present the giver enjoys giving. A gift is not one-way social exchange. Fathers used to be effusive when they received ugly ties. There was a reason. The giver was a loved one … perhaps a loved one with lousy taste, but a loved one nonetheless. You don’t make someone feel crummy because you didn’t like their gift.



That said; I’m getting an Amazon gift card for Father’s Day. How did I convince my kids? I told them I would email a thank you each time I bought a book for my Kindle. That promise overcame the biggest negative of gift cards; the giver never knows what the recipient does with it ... or if it's lying in a drawer somewhere.



Gift cards are becoming ever more popular and they are changing the ebb and flow of book sales. Print sales are best before the holiday and ebooks are better after the holiday. You can almost feel people using gift cards to load up their electronic devices.

By the way, if you expect a gift card for Father’s Day, download samples of my books now so you can decide where to spend your largess.

Honest stories filled with dishonest characters.