Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Short Story Sale Back in the Day

Ah,  2009

Obama, Madoff, Sully Sullenburger, the Underwear Bomber, Avatar, over 9% unemployment, Yankees win the World Series, and I sell my first short fiction piece. And now a decade has passed. I was a blogging machine back then with 29 posts in November alone and a record 365 posts for the year. I was also posting on another blog and working vigorously on my Ten-in-Six plan.

After selling a short story in 2012, I abandoned shorts in favor of fiction novel first drafts. The results were fantastic. From 2013 to 2018, I completed two or three novel first drafts per year. Like the lazy slug I am, only a handful have seen publication as essays or novellas or actual books - a parody, a horror novel, and an autobiography.

Dismayed, I focused this year on short stories. And while I've only sold one, it felt quite pleasing to notch a sale for the first time in seven years. "Mark of the Bruja" will appear in the Horror: California anthology due out soon. Can an arrogant young playwright and a drunken old house painter stop an ancient evil from nesting in a Hollywood apartment building?

Pick up a copy, read, enjoy.

In the meantime, I type away, attempting to complete a short story that has grown into a novella. Provided I don't fall back into old habits of sloth characterized by web surfing dolphin videos and fat people skate boarding, I should publish by the end of January.

An unwritten plan of action is a wish list.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Surfers Point 5k Race Report

A docile Pacific Ocean.

Sea Side Race Sees Chilly Start

Cold down near the beach at 6:45 AM. Forty-seven degrees Fahrenheit according to the thermometer in our warm SUV. Back in sultry September, a nice cool beachfront run in Venture seemed a sterling idea. Not so much that morning.
Warming up with t'ai chi.

That Sunday, 5k-10k-half and full marathons were on the running menu for 361 participants. I love these smaller races. Running 5ks in LA, I usually have that many people just in my age group. Here is the 5k breakdown:

For the 3.1 mile run there were 90 participants; 36 men and 54 women, including my wife Joy—running/walking with me for the first time in 26 years. I stressed to Joy the importance of relaxation, fun, and breaking into a trot at the sight of an event photographer. (You can always shuffle later.)

Out and Back, Mostly Up, Then Mostly Down

Forget the milling cattle starts of big city races. Here the field opened up pretty early, save for a bike trail climb up from the beach. My Chi Running form worked well uphill. I was able to pass any number of huffing-puffing runners without significant increase in my cardio. This is highly motivating when you're old and overweight. Downhills were wheeee fun as I let gravity do the work.
Joy spots a photographer.

After the turnaround, I focused on passing the runner in front of me. This only worked when they were older and fatter. Nonetheless, I soon spied the parking lot and a cadre of high school cheerleaders recruited into encouraging the runners. Later in the morning, I noticed they broke into enthusiastic shouts whenever a cute guy ran past. For me, they didn't even stand up. ("You're almost there." Yawn.)

 And soon I was across the finish line. I handily beat both women in the race with strollers. Like Griffith Park, my form disintegrated trying to hustle at the end. However, this time I emerged without injury. And something else . . . .

Ready For Product Endorsements

. . . my very first age group medal. I was the third fastest in the 60 - 69 age group. (35:05; an 11:17 pace.)   Of course, there were only about eight of us, four on walkers and two on life-support, but, still, I'm prepared for any marketing opportunities or speaking engagements that arise. Except for Nike. Brooks, yes.

Joy displays her finish line bling.

A man glutted with medals. 

 A fine race and a pleasant mini-vacation for Joy and I. We might just give Surfers Point another try in May. Should my training progress, I'm considering the 10k worthy of my best efforts.  More on our plans soon.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Veterans Day 2019 and USMC B-Day

Greetings and Grief

Traveling yesterday, so a happy belated birthday to the United States Marine Corps. A long time ago, I myself stood on the yellow footprints. Since then, at least two guys from my neighborhood who enlisted with me—Tom Poto and Steve Lovell—have passed on. And so it goes.  Happy 244 to all my fellow Marines, especially Tom, Steve, and Kurt Macholtz. Semper Fi!

I won't say "Happy" Veterans Day, since its purpose was not time off from work but remembrance of sacrifice and loss. Below is a fascinating—short—video illuminating the casualties of World War I by country. Think of someone you know. When you see coffins, think of that person filling one coffin. See how many coffins you can fill with friends, family and acquaintances, good and bad. Countries lose soldiers, individuals and families lose more. And so, as nations, we remember.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Prostate Book Prospers

Hot Prostate Book Finds a Friend

A metaphorical friend, to be sure, but a powerful one by any standard. What in the name of hickory do I mean? It all involves mysterious Amazon algorithms.

Honor by Association

Note the screen shot. My book is displayed as often being purchased with Dr. Patrick Walsh's definitive tome on prostate cancer. (Which I drew upon in my work. Walsh's book also happens to be co-authored by award-winning science writer—and most excellent supporter of my writing—Janet Farrar Worthington. ) Then, I'm linked yet again to the Walsh text in the "Also Bought" section. Wondrous additional promotion. It never hurts to pal around with #1.

Also (see above) I'm #6 in my softcover book category.

But What Have We Here?

Nothing less than my softcover and ebook occupying adjacent spots in the top 30 of all-encompassing category prostate health. (Such excellent positioning for an indie author.) Enough. My arm aches from patting me on the back.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Hallow Mass and Stalinfest 2019

quote ideas

No posts, nothing, a ringing silence, then a plug for Hallow Mass. Fancy a bit of seasonal scares and a boot in the butt to political correctness, give this horror-comedy tale a try.

Most of you may go away now as I intend to delve into things Stalinist.

My friend Dutch, author and raconteur, is moving after 35 years in Hollywood. I shared his dwelling for six of those years and remember the time as darn interesting. A ferocious reader, Dutch encouraged me to rummage through his book collection, an assortment mighty by any standard. Given our mutual love of history, I selected several books on a cheery little topic called Stalinism.

As an appetizer, I re-read Darkness at Noon. Arthur Koestler's fictional depiction of an old Red caught up in the meat-grinder of the Moscow Show Trials teased the palate, preparing me for the historically nourishing:

The Great Terror: A Reassessment by Robert Conquest. Reviewer Larry Slawson says:

"[Conquest's} reliance on such a wide variety of sources, in turn makes [the] book feel both informative and very scholarly in its overall approach. Conquest also possesses a superior writing style that showcases itself time and again throughout each chapter. The end result is a historical work that reads more like a novel with its narrative-driven style."

 I met Robert Conquest at the LA Times Festival of Books back in 2003. He mentioned a certain pride in deducing the terror's casualty figures. Considering the book was first released in 1968, I give the man mad respect. Back then, nothing emerged from the Soviet Union save weapons and propaganda, and several tank brigades for the disobedient Czechs. Amazed was I  by Conquest's accuracy as subsequent history would prove. (Sounded a bit like Yoda, did I.)

A break may be needed after "Terror." A stroll, a bit of fiction, I think.

Back to the table after my walk and right into a second Robert Conquest book, Harvest of Sorrow. From a review at Barnes and Noble we learn that those harvested were peasants of the Soviet Union in 1932 - 33. Stalin caused:

"a "terror-famine," inflicted by the State on the collectivized peasants of the Ukraine and certain other areas by setting impossibly high grain quotas, removing every other source of food, and preventing help from outside—even from other areas of the Soviet Union—from reaching the starving populace. The death toll resulting from the actions described in this book was an estimated 14.5 million—more than teetotal number of deaths for all countries in World War I."

Quite the under reported slaughter, though the New York Times reporter Walter Duranty wrote that everything was just fine and, besides, who couldn't stand to lose a few pounds? That's why I was glad to discover a few years back that Anne Applebaum had written Red Famine: Stalin's War on the Ukraine. Her book will constitute Stalinfest dessert as I look forward to encountering such new information as might have emerged since Conquest's 1986 book.

Anyone left reading? I thought not.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Thank You, People of The Netherlands!


For reasons known only in Holland, I received almost 1,500 hits from the Dutch over the last several days. Ah, but why? What website or publication sparked this North Sea surge? Good or bad? Positive or lurid? (I enjoyed the acting of the late Rutger Hauer, but was modest in my praise.) If anyone in Holland is late to the party and writes English, please leave a message explaining the interest.

Working on Book 2 of my Hallow Mass trilogy. Since August 8, I have written 32,519 words coming out to 109 pages. Keep in mind that Truman Capote's novella Breakfast at Tiffany's rolled in at 108 pages. (That's the 1993 Vintage Books edition.) Comparisons? We both follow female protagonists and my current efforts are one page longer. That's about it.

Yet, out of my 32k worth of repetition and word bilge, there skulks a story about teaching, power, and the price of blind arrogance, all adorned in a dark urban fantasy hoodie. When will this tale see print? Right now, I'm thinking next March. First in line is my long short story on transgenic beasts and corruption as a young baseball player hopes to slide to safety in the face of an environmental experiment gone haywire.

"Eat Out" will be my first work published using Draft 2 Digital, a software program that formats your ebooks, then places same in markets such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple Books. Similar to Smashwords, but the formatting process is reputed to be friendlier.

Should sales be brisk, I'll certainly include an edition in Dutch.


Sunday, September 29, 2019

Prostate Surgery Softcover Picking Up Steam

Durable Softcover Climbs the Rankings.
Up it goes, wedged in with dreary texts on machines lopping open men and removing certain organs soiled by cancer. My autobiography. Currently No. 7 and certain to rise higher. Of this, I am certain. And, yes, it is still available in glossy ebook format. Who knew cancer could be so profitable? I'd settle for a number of dry days, but those are the wishes of yesterday. Still, modest literary note is delightful and I'm going to continue saying as much.

huffington post

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Vancouver Vacation and Washington Sunshine

Behold, the 32nd longest cable suspension bridge in the world!
Flying to Vancouver, then driving down to Washington, we passed over the Alex Fraser Bridge. A fine bridge with adequate lane space and no gaps in the roadway. All I ask for in a bridge. Despite the rain, and crappy airlines, we enjoyed ourselves and the favorable exchange rates currently available in Canada.

In Washington, we were fortunate to experience a sunny day. I went out for a short run—my first in the state since 2008—and observed the fabled Mt. Rainer.

In between the pole and some trees. Not much, I know. 
Better, more photogenic, views arose later but my camera was not available. Great to see the cousins and relax after a hectic time in Vancouver. Before leaving, my weight was down to 245 from a high of 271 in March. But I fear vacation eating has edged the scale back up. Then I'll start again, by heavens. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

9/11 Recalled 2019

K called from Florida, "Planes crashed into the World Trade Center and one of the towers just fell." Unemployed in Los Angeles and half asleep at 7:30 AM, I shuffled downstairs to the TV, past Joy as she prepared for work. At first, all I saw was a dirty cloud obscuring southern Manhattan. Then a stunned announcer said the second tower had just collapsed. Joy joined me, work forgotten as we learned of the attack.

Other friends phoned throughout the day. Paul Rugg speculated about the pilots of the doomed aircraft, certain they weren't Americans forced to crash. TJ, a Vietnam vet, was incensed at the footage of jubilant Palestinians with their candy and AK-47s. He wished he could gift them with a nice buttering of napalm. In a grim mood, I agreed.

Watching TV and power-chewing Nicorette, I mostly felt numb — except when the subject was jumpers. Then I felt horror. Go to work, sip coffee, joke with your pals, then decide whether you'll suffocate, burn alive, or leap a quarter mile to certain death. Questions of etiquette arise: jump solo or hold hands with a co-worker? Perhaps several of you link arms and form a chain, finding courage in numbers. Or do you clutch a table cloth and step into the air, desperately hoping it slows your fall?

The journey takes ten seconds.

Air velocity rips away your shoes.

You explode on impact.

I will always be haunted by the jumpers of 9/11.

Oceans of paper were blasted from the towers, filling the New York sky like the Devil's ticker tape. Invoices and wedding invitations floated down to gray sidewalks.

My friend Cathy, who worked in D.C., reported chaos as the government sent everyone home at once following the Pentagon attack. One jammed intersection turned scary as a man leaped out of an SUV brandishing a pistol and attempting to direct traffic.

Being murdered is not a heroic act, though it can be. Flight 93 passengers fought back and died, saving many more in their sacrifice. North Tower Port Authority employees rescued over 70 people before perishing.

There were many heroes that day.

My sister Mary Pat and I had dinner at a coffee shop. She was passing through town, leaving a job in Mountain View, CA to return to Phoenix. Depressed by the day's events, our meal was not jolly.

Later, Joy tried to give blood, but the hospital was overwhelmed with donations and refused.

Vulnerability, grief, dismay, anger.

Such a beautiful morning with a sky so blue.

(Photos from: Little Green Footballs.)

Repost: Sept. 11, 2008

Update: Strange to reread this. TJ died in 2009 and K passed away just over a year ago. My wife, Joy, and I are doing well, as is Paul Rugg who now rides the train

Repost: Sept. 11, 2013

Update: I had cancer surgery last year, but recovered. My wife is doing well and my sister battles her own health woes. I have not heard from my friend Cathy in a few years.  Paul Rugg continues riding the train in addition to being a voice over machine.

Repost: Sept. 11, 2015

Update: Paul Rugg's daughter was not quite two years old on 9/11/01. Now she is a freshmen in college. I have retired from TV animation writing, though, as stated elsewhere, I find retirement to be indistinguishable from unemployment. (Save for a small annuity.) And very soon, I shall ride the train to see my sister. (Explanatory post t/k.)

Repost: Sept. 11, 2017

Update: Ten years have passed since I composed this post, 17 years since the incident. Alas, the greatest hit to our nation continues to be a colossal security apparatus that can't seem to function without monitoring everyone's communications, then lying about it. I'd rather not comment on airport theater. Still, my wife remains gainfully employed and I'm racing to complete a dystopian thriller by Christmas. Amidst the great events, the little things carry us forward.

Repost: Sept. 11, 2018

Update: About to publish a softcover version of my prostate book. Meanwhile the Afghanistan Forever War continues. I refuse to believe that for almost 20 years, there's been no better way of fighting the Taliban than sending billions to Pakistan to provide hiding places for them while they infiltrate Afghan government forces and assassinate our advisors. The Byzantine Empire lasted over a thousand years battling multiple enemies on different fronts, employing a combination of diplomacy military prowess, and strategic alliances. With the entrenched, consequence-proof dimwits we have infesting Washington D.C., we'll probably end up surrendering to the Taliban.

Repost: Sept. 11, 2019

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Sunday, September 01, 2019

JP Mac Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Running

My tale of murderous witchcraft in a Hollywood apartment building has been selected by Soteira Press. "Mark of the Bruja" will appear in an upcoming anthology of stories themed around horror in California. Keep an eye out for publication updates. A lot of water under the old author bridge since I last published a short story. Nonetheless, no better promotion for a writer.

"Prostate" inches toward publication as a softcover. The PDF should be finished by tomorrow and, hopefully, the back cover and spine by Tuesday. Possibly a dummy copy will be in our hands by week's end.

On the running front, my knee has been tender since early July. I've still been going out 3x a week, but taking it easy. Yesterday, I put in 3 miles, but failed to arise early and suffered from the late summer heat. Slow on the running front, but speeding across the literary veldt like a cheetah on the keyboard.

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