Binge Reading

a pile of booksSince October 1st I’ve read 120 books. That’s 4 books a week, every week, for 7 1/2 months.

I’m a big reader, but even for me that’s some serious binging.

Part of it was discovering a new author (John Lescroart) who falls squarely into the category I like to read. And part of that was that I re-read the entire works of Robert Crais and Michael Connelly. There were a few one-offs, a little nonfiction, things like that. There were some I started but didn’t finish; I’m not counting those.

During the same time period I’ve dealt with some emotional trauma, financial concerns, very special events, a big business upswing, starting a new story series with a character who’s been waiting ages to see the light of day, and finishing a book I start long, long ago.

Over the past two months I’ve been shifting, physically. Taking on more projects that require shopping at the home improvement store, sawing and hammering, digging and planting and whatnot. After a year and a half of extreme fatigue, getting my energy back has been highly motivating.

Most of that reading time is going to be spent on my own writing, and on a little more physical activity now that I can do that again.


wading naked into my stream of consciousness

the sky is grey instead of blue that’s one thing here, the sky is almost always blue but that’s because it’s too hot for clouds they burn away before they’re born borne on the wind to somewhere else past the mountains snagging on the peaks leaking leaks we do get rain maybe even some later this week but it’s a desert after all so not much eh and let’s face it july through october it’s just too hot seriously any time the temperature is over 120º that’s not okay and the ac chugs and chugs but hey it still costs less than it did in Sacramento eight years ago half as much if only we could balance the upstairs and downstairs the music room is too too hot and it’s not good for the instruments but if I shower four times a day and we keep the air on and now that I have shades for the three hottest windows maybe four hottest windows and I’ll do the fifth maybe this summer it’ll be better because one way or another I’ll make it better we’ll make it better together


Molotov Brothers

Transcript (but it’s better if you listen)

My brothers discovered Molotov cocktails when we were teenagers. In case you don’t know what they are, as my brothers discovered it’s just a little bit of gasoline and a little bit less oil in a glass jar with a rag stuffed in the top. Wet the rag with the gasoline in the jar, light it on fire, and throw it. When it lands and explodes it creates a smoky fire that, in battle, or riots, disrupts the enemy, adding confusion and a smokescreen and fire and broken glass and all kinds of mess and nonsense.

I’m the middle brother, one brother 18 months older, the other 18 months younger, so we went through life almost like triplets—except one of us didn’t go around making Molotov cocktails. We lived right at the bottom end of San Diego Bay. There were disused railroad tracks right across the street and quarter of a mile away, a railroad bridge. Down below the bridge, 20 feet away, was a tiny stream and rocks where my brothers experimented with their Molotov cocktails. First a baby food jar with a tablespoon of oil and a quarter cup of gasoline which exploded, made a nice boom and burned till the water washed it away.

Then mayonnaise jars. Finally, when that wasn’t exciting enough, a quart of gasoline and a pint of oil in a glass gallon jar.

They lit it on fire, leaned over the edge of the railroad bridge, and dropped it on the rocks below. The explosion fluttered their pants and took all the hair off their faces and some off their heads. They were half way home before they realized they were running, and in their bedrooms studying for some imaginary school quiz when the police and fire department showed up to see what the explosion was out there in the estuary where all the protected wildlife lived.

I’ve always assumed they hadn’t blown up any California least terns or other endangered species but I wasn’t there so I don’t know. My father found out virtually everything they ever did (we discovered later because he’d also done the same things) but I’m not sure that the experimentation with blowing things up ever came to light. But I also know that after they almost blew themselves up and removed all their facial hair in the process, they never experimented with blowing things up again.


Aging Squared

My dad was 26 when I was born. I was 26 when he died in a traffic accident.

My mom was 18 when I was born. As I approach 60 this year, she just turned 78.

When Dad died at 52 he was riding his bike 20 miles each way to work every day.

Mom has never been quite so active. These days, she’s bedridden and uses a wheelchair to get around—except when she doesn’t.

She’s started falling down. A lot. We’ve reached that point where we’re having the difficult conversations about her care and her living conditions. She’s mentally competent, so it’s her decision, but we worry about her living in a regular apartment instead of somewhere there’s onsite help when she falls.

I’m too old for this. Also too old to have a 15-year-old daughter excited about learning to drive later this year.

Maybe I’m just too old, period.

(Nah. Saw a short video about a wonderful lady who’s 108 and still chugging along, happy as Moses and loved by so many people. Here’s to my next 49 years!)


Massive Mustard Mess

Transcript (but it’s better if you listen)

When the Texas economy crashed in 89 I loaded my pregnant wife and 3 small children into our tiny little Isuzu and drove cross country to San Diego California where I knew people, had family and friends and hoped I could find work in construction.

We had no money of course so we packed food in the trunk and in coolers and planned on driving straight through and fixing food along the way.

Late afternoon somewhere in New Mexico or Arizona we stopped to make some sandwiches. As I got the mustard out I didn’t pay attention to the fact that the bottle was swollen to twice its normal size, having been in the trunk, in the summer, driving from Texas through the great southwestern desert.

When I opened the mustard about half of the bottle came out, part fine vinegar mist and part messy mustard spray. All over the roof of the car, the windshield, the driver’s window, and every part of the front of my body from my waist up including my glasses and my hair.

It took a while to clean everything up. I chose not to have mustard on my sandwiches after that. When I sold the car years later there were still mustard stains on the headliner.

And the happy ending? Sorry. When I got to California construction crashed but it boomed in Texas. And we’d already moved. Eventually I found work in information technology, working with computers, so maybe there is a happy ending after all because that’s the work I really love.

See you next week.


Not the Longest Joke in the World

You’ll find that elsewhere by Googling that phrase, ‘the longest joke in the world.’ That version, though an interesting story, is nearly 11,000 words long, most of it unrelated build up, not joke setup. Mine is 230 words, or about 2% of the original length. For this punchline, it’s still too long.

Coming down a desert dune in his SUV a guy sees something strange at the bottom: a huge snake coiled around a long pole.

He slides to a stop and looks through the window at the snake, which looks back, and then, to his surprise, asks him to put down his window.

“I won’t bite,” the snake says.

Must be the heat. He puts the window down. “What’s the deal? Why are you out here?”

“My name is Nate. I’m the guardian of this switch. If it’s pushed, all mankind dies.”

“Well, that seems dumb,” the man replied.

“Yup. But I know some not dumb things. Stick around and I’ll teach you the secrets of immortality, unending wealth, and how to put a USB stick in the right way the first time.”

Curiosity gets the better of the guy. But hunger gets the best of him.

“How about I run to town and get some snacks first?”

“It’s that way,” pointing with its tail.

He races off, gets his stuff, and comes back. Barreling down the dune, the brakes fail on his SUV—and he’s headed right for the switch of doom. As he fights the steering wheel he realizes that he can pass the switch on the left.

Then he realizes the snake is sunning itself right there.

Of course, he kept going because he figured, better Nate than lever.


Binge In, Binge Out

In the past 75 days I’ve read 50 books. I’m up to a book a day during the past week.

For the first 6 weeks I was waiting for minor surgery on my right foot, and the past month, healing from it. Reading is a great way to pass the time when you can’t be on your feet, walking, biking, digging in the yard, all that. Better than watching soaps.

I’ve also been writing like mad. Finished the first draft of Love Runs Out. Outlined (and today, started) the second Jake Calcutta story.

More words in has always equaled more words out, for me.


Too Old to Travel But Jake is Jake

I begged Best Beloved to add an extra week to this trip north.

If I hadn’t done that, we’d have left for home this morning.

I’m having a hard time finding the joy. I made a bunch of changes to my online life the weeks before we left home and I’ve found myself more than bored.

I haven’t been bored in 15 years.

Things are complicated by an injury to my right foot that makes walking excruciating. Otherwise I’d take long walks every day, enjoying the beauty.

There’s always going for a drive. In my socks.


Jake Calcutta’s first story is going well. Fully outlined. I’ve written 1,500 words so far, and that’s just quickdraft. I’m pleased with how it’s coming out, though it’s not the Edgar Rice Burroughs clone I was hoping for. Maybe I’m not Edgar Rice Burroughs. Maybe I’m me.



A Message from Amazon

A month ago I tried to leave a 5-star review for a cool guitar accessory I’d bought on Amazon. I got an error message. When I followed up with Amazon this was their response:

Yes, in fact, I know people who’ve bought the same items as me on Amazon.

I know some of the authors whose books I’ve bought, read, and reviewed.

And I have been given books in the hopes I would review them.

Never, once, have I intentionally attempted to deceive or mislead anyone about my own books or my opinion of any other item at Amazon. Hey, I’m that guy ahead of you making you crazy by driving the speed limit instead of going as fast as everyone else. I’m the guy who reports cash earnings and pays taxes on them.

In short, I’m honest, in everything, in every way. I’m genetically incapable of lying or cheating.

When I know that there are folks who are gaming Amazon left right and center and making money at it, folks who are cheating every way possible and getting away with it, but whatever mistake I made leads to, with no warning whatsoever, a full permanent ban from ever leaving a review of anything, ever again, on Amazon, it feels unfair.

I’m no longer raging, but I’m still sad. Maybe even a little hurt.

I was planning on asking for your book reviews in my next newsletter. I won’t be bothering. In fact, you might want to avoid reviewing any of my books, in case Amazon decides we know each other.