Category Archives: Books

I’m currently in the process of getting my first novel published. I’ll give you the inside scoop of the process.

homo erectus-electus-ejectus

Driving to the End of the World

Still floating about in the isolation chamber. Coordinates are by latitude and longitude found by spelling out the word weird, clicking your heels twice, hoping your inner wicked witch doesn’t spit on you in a big box store, no mask-no admission denial rage.

There is a spectrum of reactions to the hellacious reality the world has been forced into by bat cave craving carnivorous culinary outliers. Anthony Bourdain may have performed a disservice to our species by nudging the curious to eat from the forbidden fruits and bats of Asia.

As earth rushes headlong toward billions more inhabitants there is this sense that within our species lurks a self-destruction seed. Adolph may not have been a one off.

Sunflowers

I am a creature of the infinitesimal, working class, lunch bucket, card carrying-bus transferring-shop steward protecting endangered species. My kind is the $600 a week quitters’ slime. John Maynard Keynes would recognize the austerity obsessive Republicans as the kind that would double down on a recession and make it the mother of all depressions because they see bootstraps, belly dancers and deli trays in their version of how an economy works.

Regulation you can believe in

This summer I’ve been threading my way back and forth through the Western slope. A vast area surrounding Grand Junction, Colorado is running 2.5 degrees centigrade hotter now than a century ago.  “Heating begets drying, and then drying further begets heating, farmers once growing between 350 and 400 tons of hay; in 2018, raised 30 or 40.” Quote from Washington Post.

I can speak with civility to a farmer running an irrigation pivot. I know about pushing yields with nitrogen, spraying for broadleaf, or if water or electricity given their costs makes growing a hay crop even pencil out.

In the before times, before the virus, we were all too busy to give the climate emergency much if any of our attention. Scientists have been trying to warn that if we don’t like the pandemic then we are sure to just hate the living snot out of the climate change crisis.

Today for fear of being killed by an invisible pathogen you no longer have to imagine what it is like to not be able to go outside.

I’ve thrown my hopes in on science coming up with a vaccine. I’d like some semblance of day to day life back. I’m with the crowd that believes whatever the new normal turns out to be it will not resemble anything like the old normal. Our world, our economy, our challenges are just too steep for us to play dumb about the climate fight we have on our hands.

Meeting of the Minds

We’ll keep rolling out more renewables, expand battery storage, electrify our transportation systems, figure out how to make steel without burning fossil fuels, repower our aircraft, retrofit heat pumps in every single building in the world, pay a living wage, scrap this employer based health care insurance fiasco, vaccinate every last stubborn one of us, send our kids to school, graduate more engineers, figure out how to grow more nutritious fruits and vegetables and stop this crime against the living that goes by the name factory farming animals.

I kind of think a no good rotten stinking stubborn human being of any kind, color or gender will enjoy the challenge of deploying a 21st Century energy system that future generations will thrive upon.

Joe Biden said, “Climate change poses an existential threat to our future,”

Squares up with what I know.

Some yesteryear type replies, “What’s your climate change solution that doesn’t include taxation and socialism?”

That’s got the stench of Rupert Murdoch and Mr. Charles Koch smeared all over the doubts and fears of the can do spirit we once possessed.

Cline curing sonic therapy

Doing nothing might work if you got cheating on your mind but given the corner we’ve backed ourselves into we’ll just have to figure things out. It’s called doing something about the pickle we are in. Miss Patsy Cline had seen her share of cheating closeup, and put it this way, “Don’t leave me here in a world, filled with dreams that might have been…”

running west with the wind

Buffalo Head

In the 1970’s I played my show in Colorado. Autumn was preferred. Instead by hubris in winter late near midnight I drove Highway 160 over Yellowjacket Pass in thirty below. I made Durango that night for a show the next day. My teeth chattering, I climbed into my goose down bag tossed a blanket over my dog. Getting out of my bag at daybreak was agony.

Four decades later Colorado mountain towns have swelled up and are too big. Roads are full of vehicles. Hillsides are dotted with second homes. While there are still vast sweeps of undeveloped landscape there are fewer to be found and their unbound nature has been nibbled on by the crush of humanity seeking a piece of their own.

A westerner understands what I mean. Emptiness is essential. Mustangs need room to roam. So do prospectors, outdoorsmen and curmudgeons.

Michael’s Diesel Truck

In Ely, Nevada I had the pleasure to speak with a retired military man. The mother had not much cared for Ely and had run off with another man leaving Michael and the children. Everything about life in Ely is hard including finding a reliable wife. So, it was to be the father completed the task of raising his sons.

For twenty-four years he worked at the Robinson Mine four miles west of town. This is an open pit copper mine. Gold is also found in the ore as well as molybdenum. There are no easy jobs when you hire on to work at an open pit copper mine.

Strolling the Neighborhood

Luck is changing for this Ely, Nevada resident. South 216 miles is St George, Utah. Michael has become partners operating a big rig diesel service shop. Putting the finishing touches on his home in Ely our military veteran is ending all these hardscrabble days preparing to sell his property and move on to life’s next chapter.

He’ll be leaving behind 4000 of Nevada’s most remotely located citizens to take up a new life in St George where near 88,000 Mormons, near Mormons and never will be Mormons reside. Michael’s servicing long haul trucks means he’ll be wrenching on equipment one quarter the size of the behemoths he kept serviced at the mine in Ely. Cracking off a two-inch bolt is that much more work from removing a three-quarter inch piece of hardware.

Backbreaking awaits high desert immigrants wanting to make a life out here. Punching water wells, wrenching on studded snow tires for the season, or assembling a Quonset hut will humble the uncalloused hands of a Great Basin newcomer.

Cooking beneath Cottonwoods

Michael invited us to remain parked right where we had stopped to make dinner and sleepover beneath the cottonwoods. Social distancing being what it is Michael explained most of what I’ve retold here. Michael’s veteran military status had provided him with a healthy skepticism. Politics and rattlesnakes were both to be sidestepped, left alone so that a citizen could move on to better things to do with a mind and a life.

Wandering into the least parts of the American West is where I often find the most durable characters. Keeping intact this emptiness makes room for those few odd citizens that seek to build a life as near to civilization’s edge as a soul may travel.

Getting to perform

Going into the Closet

I’m recording my latest novel. Finding the voice work a splendid creative challenge. This is a sprawling complex large cast of characters I’m trying to bring to life. I’ve found the voice of the oil patch baron from Oklahoma City. His voice is not complete, he needs a few more colorings and he’s set.

The narrative passages are straightforward. Where there are challenges has to do with the ambitious vocabulary that I’ve written into the manuscript. My written vocabulary is larger, more muscular, and as it turns out more challenging to read aloud.

Here is a short list of the most important female characters. Circus arts instructor, youthful ambitious political activist, Canadian wine advertising executive, corporate lawyer, vixen roommate, another much younger circus arts student roommate.

Males includes a lieutenant from the local fire department, a rogue deputy sheriff, the sheriff, a pair of 22-year-old man-boy’s, one from a wealthy family the other shy but a physically gifted athlete. There is a motorcycle racing champion, and of course this oil baron.

Technique at the microphone requires careful planning. I prefer to stand than sit, clothes that make no sound help as I like to wave my arms and animate my body as I bring the script to life. I won’t attempt to explain all the challenges and choices to do with setting levels as they are many and I have yet to decide what I like most or least.

 All those fancy long sentences I penned are not so willing to be recited aloud without having a good gulp of air before you run off and start the first word while trying to make it to the last.

I’m recording in a closet for acoustical reasons. Fan motors, refrigerators, hallway foot traffic, street noise, birds, unexpected computer chimes and cellphones going off all need to be considered. Patience and persistence are requisite traits of character for this endeavor.

I’ve recorded the first two short chapters. Hah! I thought they were short. I estimate the first third of the novel will span somewhere near three hours. I’ve nearly one hour complete though I’ll have to return (I am sure) and rerecord the initial chapters as the characters voices undoubtably will evolve as I dial them in.

I’m a half breed, part performer and part writer, recording the novel joins my talents dead center at the confluence of my creative life. Having spent decades speaking aloud while performing proves to be helpful but be warned that a sensitive microphone will be the cause of much hell on the path to enunciation’s exacting demands.

Still, here it is, making it up as you go along. In due course I’ll have this novel recorded. We’ll see what audience this journey may find. For now, the creative challenge is the reward. That’s all to my benefit and pleasure. Hope is my zeal for this tale may rub off on others.

running hard to the great divide

Sundown coming

Blowing twenty, pegging the mercury at triple digits. Tullamore Dew is God’s Irish answer to pub life when saloons are shuttered. Here in Cold Springs, Nevada you can throw a silver dollar down for a shot of amber inducing truth serum. The barkeep wants to believe the pandemic hasn’t arrived. I’m running Highway 50 with a good deal more caution.

Hot, dusty, looking for a piece of shade to set my folding chair so as I may enjoy a jigger or two. The crusade of flies setting down upon my campsite suggests my spiritual work is not done.

Nevada’s contrarian streak is as predictable as an invasion of Mormon crickets. One hour by highway north of where I’m camped is Santa Rosa-Paradise Peak Wilderness. On the eastern slope live more or less one-hundred citizens in the town of Paradise Valley. Every decade there is an subterranean insect hatch and this throng of big bugs destiny is to crawl down the mountain into this settlement. The Mormon cricket is a frightful looking insect but does not fly, bite or sting. Still they’ll ruin a hayfield, so an insect extermination effort is mounted by the citizens. At the wars peak wave upon wave of squished Mormon crickets caught crawling across a highway can be so slick a vehicle can lose traction and spin out of control sliding over this bugs oozing remains. I mean to say Nevada isn’t for the faint of heart.

Road from where they come

If this were Mars and you were suffering untold solitude a fly could be a heavenly messenger. Collared lizards are always welcomed in my book. Pesky squirrels are a sight to behold. My double negative curse is feeling deep in my soul that life isn’t without its parts I would rather do without.

East of where I am camped there runs north to south hundred-mile-long valleys suited to grazing sheep. Basque herders immigrate here to seek their fortune in the Great Basin before sending airfare back to the Pyrene’s for their faithful Basque wives.

Kindred Spirits

Select tumbleweeds are taking advantage of today’s splendid blow while many more seem unwilling to let go of who and where they are, to wait for more favorable conditions. Wanderlust tumblers best not depart before conditions maximize an advantaged ride with the wind. Being genetically linked to tumbleweed’s is a certainty, don’t know if tumblers can appreciate the kinship. Perhaps there is a secret behavioral nexus between man and plant. There are things beyond our knowing but since there is so much nothing to do here, we can avail our time to think these possibilities through to their improbable conclusion.

Sunset

Sun has set over the ridgeline. I’m able to come out of the shadows setup a windbreak and light a fire on my camp stove. Boil potatoes, warm a pot of scratch made beans, sauté kale and set my table and eat my supper. By the time my dishes are washed I can settle down atop my bunk to read and wonder. There is darkness now and not a sound to be heard. Another day is my beautiful reward.

Voice of the blog dude

Women of the Oak Savannahs is the title of my fourth novel. I am doing some recording work of the manuscript. Here is one paragraph.

I’ve recorded various pieces to previous novels. I’m still messing around trying to get the first chapter finished. A lot of time is getting taken up with learning how to use the software recording and editing functions.

Then this is a novel with a sizable cast of characters, many are women, so the degree of the challenge is substantial. I noted that the first chapter is 20 pages long and times out in length of nearly 30 minutes when read aloud.

Voice recording a manuscript is fun and is also hard work. I’ve discovered a few words no matter how I try still come out of my mouth wrong. Try saying “Jo’s peremptory laugh…” it turns out I can’t do it. Who knew?

So enough I’ll have a few chapters completed. I’m hoping some folks who don’t read much might enjoy listening.

I’m putting this short piece here to figure things out, how to upload, so on and so forth. If you can listen great, if you run into a problem of some sort let me know.

Prologue

Minting Ghost Towns

Dirt Track up to Ridge for View of Sunset

You can call me at home. I’m home. Home is where I’ve been spending my time.

For example sleeping in the same bed. I haven’t slept in the same bed for months on end since like ever. OK, maybe in some distant past but not like this.

It’s all food preparation all the time now. I miss a good restaurant, but under the circumstances I don’t miss dining out nearly as much as I covet my current health status.

With Some Spare Time You Can Make a Hinge

I rate my favorite walks on the basis of head count now. A good walk in my book is a desolate stretch of trail with nobody else anywhere. Sorry to zero you out, but these are the times we live in.

My wardrobe counts for nothing. I change it up for my wife, but she doesn’t see my clothes, she just sees me.

That gal of mine and I have no more than a few after supper hours to debrief on the busy days we each have concocted in support of our egos desperate attempt to hide from this horror show we find ourselves surrounded by. I’m making the movie, The Fall of the American Empire. It’ll be out soon.

We have just completed our first jump from California to Colorado. We are totally self-contained risking nothing and encountering next to nobody. We can jump twelve hundred miles in two days time. This is in support of my wife’s work. I’m the professional road dog in the family and with show business shut down I’m playing the role of long haul driver.

Lunch beneath cottonwood in a patch of shade

I miss seeing friends. Miss petting strange dogs.

We’re doing as best as can be expected. I spoke at a safe distance with a proprietor in Cold Springs, Nevada. Cold Springs lies two hundred miles east of Reno, one hundred miles north to Elko, three hundred miles south to Las Vegas, this nowhere spot in the Great Basin is plodding along taking life as it is, was, and always will be.

Proprietor was sunny in disposition and because of the remote location skeptical of anything having to do with the price of tea in China. Warned me to stay away from the goat head thorns, watch for rattlesnakes while walking up the ridge to taking in the sunset, and settle in for the night and take noise from the highway and what sleep I might get as it comes.

Something about a good end of day

This proprietor is hopeful they won’t dry up and blow away. His plan is to bide time and wait the stinking hard times out, no hurry, nothing to hurry about out in Cold Springs, Nevada.

In a general sense Cold Springs because of there being so damn few people living there (a handful of hard scrabble souls at most) that the travelers stopping to slake their thirst or rest their weary behinds will right quick learn they have come to a place that time has asked to stand still.

Most of all you should know that chores and living in Nevada are just two sides of the same coin. Fancy britches and pearl snap button western shirts are of no use. A good herd dog, now there is a useful critter to partner up with. Nevadans come in all shapes and colors, some from the casino populated cities and the rest scattered far and wide over an immense confounding landscape.

The next wave of Great Basin ghost towns are being minted as we speak. Still we figure that our fellow citizens will dig out of the corner they are hunkered down in and will be out there on the high desert soon enough. Come see what is likely to never change. Collard lizard, sagebrush and a posse of turquoise miners will be holed up in a boxed canyon waiting for the privilege of your company. Nothing but cat houses, mustang and hard times for as far as an eye can see. Rural Nevada puts nothing and nowhere at the top of the list somewhere lost on a map. And it is this spot if you set boot to dirt, sweat to brow, hike to the top of that ridge where fellow citizen what you’ll find waiting is what is most worth preserving. This is our America out here.

solo in time of the virus

Berkeley Pier on Autopilot

Weekend walk was solitary. That in the age of the virus is a good thing. Work on the front courtyard continues. We’ll have guests over sometime at the end of next year. Herd immunity it turns out with a vaccine that is only 70% effective might mean the end of this long period of social isolation may continue for the conceivable and inconceivable future.

Courtyard one board at a time

I’ve two or three actionable items on my agenda. Submitting my current novel for consideration to be published, plotting and planning a romantic comedy, and penning a few more good climate emergency jokes. Of course our climate emergency is serious business but so that we can think our way through to solving this crisis it is wise to help the climate scientists find ways to help the public understand not just the scientific peril we face but to help lift our sagging spirits as we all pitch in and try and save ourselves from ourselves. Just explaining that much turns into an intractable and unbearably long sentence. More work to do, but as we are all finding out we’ve got nothing but time for as far as an eye can see.

Imagining Napa County

Mason is a firefighter. Ruth is an old girlfriend. This is just one of several pairs of relationships locked together in a fight to save what remains of an overrun Napa County…

Mason’s mind was too full.

Ruth was infuriated or not, the irrationality of her anger was hard on the lieutenant’s civic sensibilities. The resolute Canadian surveyed the eyes in the crowd, judgement didn’t matter, Claudia’s contemptible expression on her face was dismissed and irrelevant. The insubordinate woman grabbed Mason, clinched him in her arms and disobeyed department rules and regulations and kissed the man she shared her bed with. After having her way, Ruth leaned back glaring eye to eye until certain Mason fully appreciated the status of her womanhood. Mason stood stunned and that stunning was enough. Ruth hustled off with her flock of mutineers.

Mason dead reckoning with Sheriff Sullivan addressed his superior as an equal. “Anyone hurts her, anyone, I don’t care who they are, they’ll have to answer to me, the father.”

cosmological code

Events of the last week have overtaken not just America but much of the content of my current novel, The Women of the Oak Savannahs. In this book I tell the story of a community of pregnant women that rise up and in act of civil disobedience blockade and attempt to protect and preserve a precious wooded hillside in Napa County.

Five years of work has gone into this manuscript. There are many characters. One of the villains is a dangerous deputy sheriff. His actions taken as part of a tactical squad during a mass arrest of the pregnant women stands out as haunting to my eye. He puts one citizen in the hospital from a beating, falsely imprisons another, forces sex upon a woman in another. 

Many days over many months while dealing with these scenes I was often filled with doubt and a sense of being too contrived, being too dramatic, that there was insufficient reason to place a broken deputy into this manuscript. But, I also have a community of pregnant women committing an act of nonviolent civil disobedience and for the first time in their lives facing arrest and imprisonment.

We live in a precious fragile world. Destroying trees to make room for more vines, more wine, more tasting rooms may nor may not be the right thing. As in George Floyd’s being murdered by four Minneapolis Police, thinking they would get away with whatever they want to do, that is true until it is not true. We don’t know for certain why Mr. Floyd’s murder has triggered such a huge reaction but it is in fact put our democracy on the brink, not since the Civil War has there been such strife.

I was considerably less ambitious and my choice of finding a community of pregnant women to form the blockade was in part my effort to embody the metaphysics of another desecration on the hillsides, the cutting down of thirty-thousand trees, the contamination to the drinking water, the extinction of the salmon, the increased rate of cancers, and my effort to get my readers to care about the people fighting to for a better world. That fight has leaped off the page and out onto the streets of America. Here is a small fragment from the end of the novel, where the midwife speaking to one of the pregnant women gives voice and words to the meaning of bringing a precious new life into the world

“Never give up on the majesty of who you truly are. A woman is the gateway, a mother manifests flesh for the spirit’s vision. That force in your womb is a soul with a birth certificate, named and dated, place and time of first breath, father and mother. Soul… I testify to you, under penalty of punishment for surrendering false word, girl know this, a woman’s heart is not unlocked by merely touching the surface of her skin. Not your white skin, not my black skin. Our power, the heart song that resides within extends like a wave all the way back to that first flash of primordial light, we are the sousaphone player’s belly busting pitch perfect bass note Big Bang. Womankind is light’s most lickerish fusion of mind and body. We are the soul-makers. I can feel our spirits twine-bound, matriarch to matriarch to all these she-trees. You, wounded, pregnant, riven with doubt, up to your chi-chis in doll face despair, the twisted double helix pairings, the genetic plotting points, life’s instruction manual passed down by our ancestors, we are what remains of the best who were here before us, you seize hold of starter batter from your mother, hold this cosmological code in the furnace of your womb sending evolutionary wisdom into the oncoming climate crisis infused onrushing century ahead. Your body’s wonder-working is far more indomitable than you allow your worried mind to know.”

UFO’s & The two dakotas

Let’s Take a Ride

We ask questions in this family. Especially now that the two of us are in lockdown. We don’t ask hard questions, we prefer timeless conundrums, tantalizing brain teasers. Our concerns are all Main Street. Wall Street is of little value to us. For example: what makes the stock market go up or the price of oil go down? The noxious weed problem in the backyard is a bigger concern.

Here in my personal kingdom we are consumed with what to wear, when will I ever get another haircut or where to take my walk today. Under the current circumstances what seems to matter most has little to do with markets going up or down.

Alternate Realities

We do have a glee club. We are giddy of private equity’s sorry state of affairs. Whatever the hell private equity has to do with business remains a mystery. Work in the oil patch will always be a story of boom and bust, a rag to riches and back to rags again story. Credit default swaps and leveraged buyouts are both the frothy concoctions of conniving hucksters. Sympathies under this roof are reserved for the development of more efficient solar panels, wind turbines and desalination water systems.

Of the big questions asked I have much to say even if my outsized opinions are not even a beauty mark on a gnat’s ass. For one thing I thought voters standing in line in Wisconsin during a pandemic was a crap idea. I got a few takers for this Jim Dandy. I don’t feel so alone.

I know I am important because of the great number of mirrors installed in my home and the familiar looking man gazing back agreeing with everything I have to say.

Complexity isn’t just for Marriage

One of our big problems the world faces is to do with knowing when we will be able to restart the economy. There is no one answer to this question. Best I can tell we’ll open sooner or later. Sooner is what most would hope for. Later consists of a percentage of sentient beings (slightly larger than gnats) that have bothered to consider the facts and circumstances humanity has found itself cornered by. Then, you have the odds, are you willing to bet your life? How long we can hold out?

We are between a rock and a hard place. Doesn’t help the situation one bit that the scalding verities confronted are located somewhere in the midst of Russian roulette, Saudi Arabia bone-saw justice, and a mobbed-up money laundering traitor working for a former KGB agent.

That corner we are all in has made viewing just released UFO footage a form of comfort video viewing. I like knowing things are out there that have no explanation. I do not understand why we have an electoral college, why there are two Dakotas when one is more than plenty, or if Liz Cheney has enjoyed sex with a coal miner in a Motel 6 just outside of Casper, Wyoming?

This is how the theory of everything is all puzzled out while on this unscheduled global extended holiday. Making popcorn now.

minding your own business

Man and Mind

I tend to listen to my inner voice and believe every single word. I trust that voice. It’s my voice.

I know that it is just a shameless mind speaking to me. Minds have no pride, they’ll say anything, and never stop talking to you even when they have nothing new to tell you, then they’ll worry, or repeat the same worn out gossip they’ve told you a thousand times before.

I think vacations are more about getting our mind out and about in the world. Keeping a mind confined to one place tends to trigger the onset of idle chatter and then the mind will start yammering on and on about the usual matters often described as having to do with our insecurities.

My mind has enjoyed sleep. We go early so we can get up early. My mind has decided with so much less socializing there really is no reason to remain up until all hours of the night. My mind has been treating me to performing dreams. We suffer engine failures, windstorms, no audiences, funny stuff that is so funny that it has to be a dream because the funny stuff can’t be that funny. Maybe, dreams are funny even without a joke.

Certified Head to Toe

There have been mental apparitions. I’ve been seeing things. It’s all about having the right mentality when you begin hallucinating. I think my mind is concerned about how long this new simple life is going to last and if I did have some sort of mental breakdown it might get us out of the house for an adventure. The lengthy isolation is beginning to take a mental toll.

I’m luckier than most. I have a spouse. I have a spouse I like to talk with. My mind I’ve noticed thinks variety is missing. Every now and again things happen, complaining starts in, there’s this grumbling about not getting out enough, that they’d like to go somewhere and do something. I take my wife along and my mind finds being out and about more soothing to have her company.

On television there is this funny show with this odd man, and he’s got a mind too. You can tell. When he talks, he can’t help giving his audience a piece of his mind. It is funny because when his mind is on display you can tell his mind is kind of different than most minds.

More important to me than demanding optimism from my mind is getting my mind ready, ready mind means I am prepared to pounce upon the next moment and willing to go wherever that next moment may take me. Being in self isolation mode makes this a pretty nifty free ride to the nearest new shiny object my mind might wish to dance with.

My mind reminds me of a yappy chihuahua. Small, noisy and ready to bite your hand. This is what has come of my mind.