Thursday, December 26, 2013

More Complaints from Yours Truly

Hope everyone had a good Christmas.

Last week, I let everyone know my computer had been hacked. I’ve said enough words about that (except that the hacker hasn’t taken me up on the offer to teach him how to write grammatical extortion demands), so let me vent on something else that was exacerbated by that unfortunate experience.

Part of my process in mitigating the damage done by the attack on my computer was to try to notify Yahoo and to follow their directions for assuring I’d done everything correctly to protect against another such attack.

Everyone, including Yahoo, needs to understand that a certain percentage of their users do not speak computerese. The second thing Yahoo should recognize is that some of us who were not raised with computers as surrogate nannies occasionally need to speak to a living, breathing human being. And I fall into both of those categories. Squarely into both categories.

I’ve used Yahoo for years as one of my email addresses and have had relatively little trouble. Until, that is, some idiot revised their whole system. Things that were easy to find are now hidden or camouflaged to make them more difficult to locate. Even when I ran into trouble, there was a telephone number to Technicians who lived and breathed and had blood flowing through his or her veins. It might take a time or two, but they always successfully talked me through the solution to whatever problem I might be experiencing at the moment. That telephone number was 1-866-562-7219. However, I tried it one day and received an automated message saying the line was no longer supported and referring me to Yahoo’s web site for instructions.

For the past three months (possibly longer), I’ve had trouble retrieving emails from the Inbox. I "left-click" on the Inbox … nothing happens. I hit the refresh button … nothing happens. In order to receive these messages I must hit the red X (actually it’s white on a field of red) in the upper right hand corner, pull Yahoo up off the Toolbar again, click on Mail, and lo and behold, the site deigns to release my emails from hostage. My computer service support people tackled this at least three times, and got it to work properly for a maximum of one day before it reverted to form.

Two weeks ago, I decided this was Yahoo’s fault, not my computer’s, so I tried to contact them. Easier said that done. It’s simple to get help if all you need is change your password. No problem. Change it all day long, if you want. But try to report a problem such as this one…good luck. I futzed around for half a day pushing this button and that, looking for sites they directed me to check...only to be unable to find the damned things. Then one day, I received an automated message saying since they hadn’t heard from me in forty-eight hours, they assumed the problem had been corrected. Corrected! I hadn’t even heard from them and the problem not only still existed, it had never been corrected. So I sat poised over my keyboard to give them a piece of my mind, only to find this was a “non-responsive” address that only sent mindless messages without accepting replies.

With a heavy sigh, I tried to go through the process again. Haven’t generated any other sign of interest from them. Not even from a dumb address that talks but doesn’t listen.

Then came the Day of the Hacker. This was serious enough of a problem that it was imperative I reach Yahoo to make certain I’d done everything possible to keep someone from taking control of my computer again. When I finally located a line that asked about messages being sent "asking for money," I thought I’d found Salvation. Instead, I found a response that said to “change my password.”

Larry Greenly, a friend from SouthWest Writers and someone much more computer savvy than I, found a number for Yahoo in Sunnyvale, California which looked to be the company headquarters. So I dialed 408-349-3300. A pleasant (robotic) voice welcomed me to Yahoo and then gave me three options: Press 1 if I had a problem or question about any of their products. Press 2 if I knew my party’s number and press 3 for any other questions. I pressed 1 and got a message to dial 866-562-7219 for Customer Service. Does that look familiar? It’s the number that says it is no longer supported and to refers to the web site. Well, it still says exactly that!

I called California again and tried option three. That response doesn’t even bother to refer you to a non-functional telephone number, it flat out says go to the web site. I called a third time and punched “0,” which sometimes gets you to a living, pulsing operator. No such luck. The "call the 866 number" message is simply repeated. I gave up.

If anyone from Yahoo reads this lonely cry, please respond.



Next week: Well, I got that out of my system, so we’ll see what next week brings.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I’m Pissed!

A bad day…which actually started turning sour last night. I had a recurring dream that would not go away even after brief periods of waking up. I don’t remember the dream in detail, but the Pope and I were finalists in some sort of contest – don’t ask me what kind because I don’t know. Nonetheless, I was distressed as His Holiness clearly had an overwhelming advantage.

I don’t know the resolution of that puzzling reverie because early this morning my telephone rang right in the middle of my denunciation of the unfairness of the situation before a panel of judges. You guessed it, before a court of six Cardinals…and I’m not talking about red birds with topknots and feathers.

The caller was an old friend asking why I’d gone to Manila so soon after the terrible hurricane hit the Philippines. That was my first clue my computer had been hacked. I thanked him and bounded out of bed to try to address the problem. Please understand, the email address hacked was for my other iteration of Don Morgan. Apparently everyone on my/his contact list received the following message:



I am sorry for reaching you rather too late due to the situation of things right now. My family and I had a trip visiting Manila (Philippines), everything was going on fine until last night when we got attacked by some unknown gunmen. All our money, phones and credit cards was stolen away including some valuable items. It was a terrible experience but the good thing is they didn’t hurt anyone or made away with our passports.

We have reported the incident to the local authorities and the consulate but their response was too causal, we were ask to come back in 2weeks time for investigations to be made proper,But the truth is we can’t wait until then as we have just got our return flight booked and is leaving in few hours from now but presently sorting out our bills here and also getting a cab down to the airport. Right now we’re financially strapped due to the unexpected robbery attack, Wondering if you can help us with a quick loan to sort our bills and get back home. All we need is ($2,650.00 USD) or anything you can afford, I promise to refund you in full as soon as I return hopefully tomorrow or next. Write back now to let me know what you can do.

Thank You.



I have reproduced the phony email above exactly as received by one of my other email accounts. What a sorry piece of writing, not to mention a criminal act. It’s not too hard to figure out someone with English with a second language is the author of this pitiful literary effort.

So all of my foreign friends and acquaintances are suspect. If it were done in poetic form, I’d have the culprit nailed.

“…sorry for reaching you rather too late…” was bad enough, but “…My family and I had a trip visiting Manila…” is terrible. And really, can you imagine me saying “$2,650.00 USD?”

Even though I’m “Oopsie prone,” I don’t use run-on sentences or commas in the place of periods. I put commas after introductory phrases and use proper spacing after the close of sentences. And everyone knows I’m a slave to the serial comma. I don’t mix tenses, and my subjects generally agree with my verbs.

I have an idea! If the perpetrator of this fraud will come forward and join our writing class, we’ll teach him/her/them to write a proper extortion note.

My heading says I’m pissed. And I am. The bastards deleted all of my contacts, so I’m starting from scratch in getting them reentered. I changed my password, ran a Norton full check, tried to contact Yahoo (that’s a subject for another post), and did everything I know to do to protect against this happening again.

Despite all of this, let me wish everyone Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday.




Next week: Depends on what disaster befalls me between now and then.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Had a couple of positive comments on the two flash fiction pieces, so thought I’d give it another try. Hope you like it.


The little dog was one of them butterfly beasts. A Papillion, or something like that. Cute little tyke. Mostly white with black markings. Long snout, perky ears, and a bark somewhere between a yip and a yap.

“Hello, guy.”

He turned and trotted off toward the woods before halting and facing me again. When I hadn’t budged, he dashed back to yip/yap in earnest. I’d have sworn the fur ball wanted me to follow him. Maybe I oughta steal the bugger. Expensive dogs from what I’d heard.

Nah, I was a bad-ass, not a dognapper. The little guy led me across the barrow ditch and disappeared into the trees. I paused a moment before following. Wasn’t any problem locating him; he kept up a constant yammer, like he wanted me to hurry.

I pushed my way through a thick clump of mulberry bushes into a small glade and found him standing beside a body. The mutt’s bug eyes seemed to plead for help.

“Whata we got here?” I knelt beside a young man lying face down, his left hand flung out. A big ruby set in yellow gold on his ring finger caught my eye. His other arm was beneath him. “You okay, fella?”

I wasn’t much interested in his answer because dead or alive, I was gonna have that ring. I poked the shoulder of his soft suede jacket. Expensive. This guy might be a treasure trove.

Catching me by surprise, he rolled over onto his side, exposing a black revolver hidden beneath him. “Just stay nice and still.”

The good-looking guy with a pleasant voice got to his feet. He shoulda been playing soccer on the other side of the big park, not waylaying suckers in the wooded section. A trickle of sweat rolled down my left side, but it was excitement … not fear. Amateurs. This guy had just made the biggest mistake of his life.
“Take it easy, fella. You got no trouble from me. But I ain’t got nothing worth stealing. You picked the wrong mark this time.”

The kid waggled the revolver. “It’s not a robbery, man.”

I frowned. Maybe I oughta be worried. “Damned good imitation. I like the way your dog brought me to you.”

The bastard’s smile got even bigger. “Neato, huh? Took a year to train him. He helps me get my kicks. My thrills.”

My eyebrows climbed like I was scared. “No, man. I … I got a family. Wait, let me get my wallet. I got something in it you’ll like.”

With my left hand stretched in front of me as if to ward off a bullet, I slowly reached behind me. But it wasn’t a wallet I whipped out. It was my trim little .25 semi-automatic. It barked twice, and two spots appeared in the middle of that fine suede jacket. Crap. It was ruined.

The kid’s mouth gaped. His eyes went round like he couldn’t believe it. Then they went as dead as the rest of him. I went over to slip that ruby off his finger and check my marksmanship. Two heart shots. Had to be with a little .25, else he’d be able to yank the trigger on that big cannon.

A whine drew my attention to the dog at my feet. Maybe I oughta take him along to lure suckers for me. I examined the tag on his collar. JUDAS. A hell of a name for the little guy.

I heard a strangled gasp and whirled. The kid stood with two cups of coffee in  one hand and a big six-shooter in the other. No, that wasn’t right. The yokel lay sprawled on the ground, still dead. But there he was, standing wild-eyed and pointing a revolver at me.

“You killed my brother to steal his dog?”

I raised my .25 … but I didn’t manage to get off a shot.


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. Please take time to check out some of the other pages on this site and let me know how my flash fiction hits you.



Next week: Depends on how industrious I feel.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


I'm sitting here staring at a blue-gray screen without a thought in my head. That shows you the perversity of life. Last night, when I desperately wanted sleep, a whole host of thoughts kept crowding the Sandman out of my head. Today, when I need a few ideas to do this blessed post … nothing. Can you do an entire blog post about “nothing?” Doubtful. At least for me. There are probably authors who can write an entire tome on nothingness, but I’m not one of them. Well, according to a few critics, that might not be entirely true.

So maybe it’s time to take a second crack at some flash fiction.


      He sprawled on a big, striped towel spread over the warm sand . Cool sea breezes, lightly perfumed with the scent of hydrangeas, fought the heat of the sun to a standstill, making the atmosphere just about right. The wind dried the light sheen of sweat on his brow as soon as it popped out. But he stared out over the calm expanse of blue-green water, listened to the lap of wavelets against the shore, and felt … nothing. Despite the clean, clear air he found it hard to breathe, drawing oxygen through his mouth like a fish out of water.

     Thirty-five and washed up. He was just a piece of flotsam an errant wave had deposited on the beach. Driftwood abraded bone white and brittle by salty sea water, devoid of blood and nerves.

     Great job. Gone in a flash. “Sorry, Cal, we’re having to cut back. This depression’s hit us hard. You’re young and a great programmer. I’m sure you’ll find something fast.”

     Yeah, right. He nearly sobbed at the recollections.

     “Sorry, Cal, you’re over-qualified for this little job we’ve got. But your resume’s solid. I’m sure you’ll latch onto something more appropriate pretty soon.”

     Translation: You’re too old. Won’t fit into our corporate culture.

     Fantastic marriage sunk in a sea of debt. “I can’t take it anymore, Cal. An old friend of mine in Iowa has offered me a job. It’s not much, but at least I can pay my bills.”

     Yeah. Her bills. What about the ones she’d run up while times were good? And that old friend was a recently divorced old boyfriend. How could she? They'd been so involved, so wrapped up in one another ... until his job disappeared.

     At least Cal still had a twenty-five hundred square foot brick with pool and exercise room. In nine months, that was gone, too. Sold to cover an underwater mortgage. Car hadn’t lasted much longer than the house. And the banker had once been a good poker and golfing buddy, too.

     His entire world in ruins, he’d cashed in what few assets Marilee, the bank, and the mortgage house had left him and headed south. South to Florida, but that wasn’t south enough. So he caught a ride on a trawler probably engaged in smuggling drugs into ... and whatever was in short supply out of ... the US. Somehow he’d found himself deposited on a small, nearly deserted island somewhere short of South America billed as a “tropical paradise.”

     He shook his head. Where the hell was he? Nowhere. With nothing but a few dollars in his pocket. Maybe if he sat in the sun long enough he'd die and end up a withered, forgotten, unloved mummy. A Nothing gone to Nowhere in No Time at all.

     He was about to close his eyes and sink farther inside himself to maybe commence the dying process when he caught something at the edge of his vision. Someone walking. Someone with an inadequate bra and a sarong-like scrap tucked around her waist. Someone with a long, graceful stride.

     She subtly altered her steps so she’d pass a little nearer. He took inventory as she approached. Dark skin. Mexican? Certainly Latin. Narrow waist. Broad hips. Barefoot. Long dark hair falling below her shoulders and bouncing as she walked. Big gold hoops in tiny earlobes. Green eyes. He couldn’t see them yet, but he was willing to bet on it.

     Then she was close enough to discern features. Broad nose, wide mouth, smooth brow. She caught his eyes. And smiled.

     Cal sat up straighter. He hesitated only a moment before scrambling to his feet and starting after her. He’d do that mummification thing later.


Happy holidays to you all. Please take time to check out some of the other pages on this site.


Next week: Haven’t gotten that far. I live week to week.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


A reader recently asked me to identify my favorite passage in my novel, THE BISTI BUSINESS. After thinking for a few moments, I promised her an answer on this blog.

Since that time, I’ve given the question a considerable amount of attention. The real answer is that I do not have a single favorite passage.

I really like the interplay between BJ and Jazz Penrod. Although he is not about to compromise his relationship with his true love, Paul Barton (whom we first meet in THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT), BJ is intrigued by the mixed-blood gay teenager who confidently moves on his own terms through a Northwest New Mexico community not known for its tolerance of either homosexuals or Indians.

I had fun with the easy way Jazz and his skirt-chasing, extremely hetero half-brother, Henry Secatero, worked with one another.

The Bisti Wilderness fascinates me, and descriptions of that other-worldly place would be high on my list of favorites.

However, I decided on the following as the answer to my curious reader’s question. The scene comes early in the book (Page 6) and shows BJ right after taking an after-hours call from a Napa Valley wine mogul seeking to hire BJ to locate his missing younger son. BJ’s office is located on the north-facing third floor of a downtown historic building.


After hanging up, I tapped my desk blotter with a gold and onyx letter opener fashioned into a miniature Toledo blade. I sighed aloud. The Alfano case had all the hallmarks of developing into a nightmare. Working for attorneys was easier; they understood the process. Private individuals had a warped idea of what a PI did, which was nothing more or less than gathering information. But I was committed, so I might as well make the best of it.

I returned to the visual meditation of the landscape outside my window. As nature’s glow dimmed, man-made lights came alive: amber lampposts, white fluorescents, flamboyant neons, yellow vehicle headlights reflecting off wet pavement, and far in the distance a tiny spot moving slowly across the sky—one of the aerial trams hauling patrons up Sandia Peak’s rugged western escarpment to the restaurant atop the mountain.

By leaning forward, I caught the faint, rosy underbelly of a western cloudbank, the lingering legacy of a dead sunset. Was that what had drawn Orlando and Dana to the Land of Enchantment? Spectacular scenery and surreal sunsets? Or was it our rich heritage of Indian and Hispanic art? The two were history majors, and Albuquerque had a long history. It was approaching its 300th birthday, while Santa Fe and many of the nearby Indian Pueblos had longer lifelines.

Beyond my line of sight, the city’s original settlement lay to the west where one- and two-storied adobe shops—some ancient and some merely pretending to be—hearken back to their Spanish colonial roots. Now known as Old Town, it was founded in 1706 by Governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdez as the Villa del Alburquerque—some say Ranchos del Alburquerque. In either case, the Spanish colonial outpost was named in honor of New Spain’s Viceroy in Mexico City. The second “R” of the Duke’s name disappeared in 1880 with the coming of the railroad to New Town, located two miles east of Hispanic Old Town, a signal the Anglos had successfully wrested the heart—if not the soul—of the community from its founders.

It seemed as though a similar battle was being waged between Dana Norville and Anthony Alfano for the heart and soul of Orlando. Papa Alfano had given me cell phone and pager numbers for his son. He kept his pup on a short leash—or tried to. Not only that, but the old man had checked Norville out at the first signs of a budding friendship between the two. I’d bet Alfano was accustomed to throwing his weight around, railroading or buying whomever he wanted, including his son. My instinctive dislike of the homophobic bully made me wonder how far he would go to “turn his son around.” Maybe Orlando went on the run to get out from under the thumb of his tyrannical patriarch.


Why did I pick this pastoral scene instead of some action-filled part of the book? Because it reveals something about the soul of not only my hero, BJ Vinson, but also the soul of this city that I love, Albuquerque, New Mexico. BJ accepts the assignment to locate the missing gay son of an apparent homophobe despite being revolted at the attitude of his new employer. He accepts the job because two young men may be in trouble.

The scene contains one significant fact that is sort of a throwaway. Confidential investigators have been romanticized in literature, in television, on radio, and in the movies so much that we lose sight of the real goal of these professionals: gather data for their clients. And I believe it is true most of them prefer to work for attorneys who recognize their actual role in the scheme of things.

And finally, as BJ seeks to tamper down his agitation at Anthony Alfano’s crude and bullying attitude, he does it by looking out the window and contemplating the past and the present of the second protagonist of the book, the City of Albuquerque, indeed, the great State of New Mexico.

At any rate, that’s my judgment. Hope you agree.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Please take the time to check out some of the other pages of this site.


Next week: It'll be whatever it be.
New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

More On Aging (Or: It Never Ends … Until It Does)

My ineptitude with tools (mechanical and electronic) is widely recognized among my kin, friends, and acquaintances, although I do wield a knife and fork with considerable dexterity.

I had a rather sickly childhood. At six years of age, I was diagnosed with tuberculosis and sent to a sanitarium for a long, lonely, and miserable three months. The point of this is that while my youth was rather uncertain, my adult years have been quite healthy. I joined the army weighing 100 pounds (they almost rejected me, and this was while they were still looking for bodies to send to the Korean Peninsula). I left the army at 134 pounds. Then I got married. As I think I have said before, my late wife, Betty, came from a family of ten, and she did most of the cooking. Our grocery bill the first year of our marriage was outlandish because while she was a very good cook, she only knew how to prepare for ten … at one sitting.

Well, you know where that led. Her cooking and my penchant for sweets inflated me like a balloon. Despite my weight gain, I was healthy as a horse … say a Clydesdale. Candy and cookies and cakes were on my menu for every meal save breakfast. As fate would have it, my poor wife (who did not eat sweets to any extent) contracted diabetes. Since she smoked two packs of cigarettes a day while I didn’t smoke at all, I always figured wry fortune would take me down with a heart attack or cancer. Alas, pneumonia took her first.

As is my wont … I digress.

Over the years, my excess tonnage caused me to develop a condition known as sleep apnea. The doctor sent me to a lab where they put more wires on my head than I had hair and told me to lie down and go to sleep. In a strange place. With a TV camera watching every move. With two attendants outside the room where I lay frozen discussing the misbehavior of one of their boyfriends. Result? I slept for only one hour, which didn’t seem enough time for an accurate diagnosis. Nonetheless, the result came back as severe sleep apnea.

That stark proclamation was rewarded with something called a CPAP. I can’t translate acronym, but I can tell you when you strap it across your face like some giant blood-sucking insect, you can say goodbye to a good night’s rest … for the remainder of your life. The first time I put the mask on, I tore it off feeling as if I were suffocating. That’s silly, of course, because the thing is blowing air down your nostrils. At any rate, for a couple of years I wore the monstrosity, always waking at 2:00 a.m. to tear it off in order to get some rest.

Then I entered a very fine program at the VA called MOVE, which is a healthy living regimen. I lost 102.2 pounds and reached my stated weight goal in almost exactly one year. Not only that, but I kept it off, varying only five pounds on either side of that goal. The results were amazing. I went off blood pressure medication and got rid of that damned CPAP.

At the end of July last year, I fell and injured my back, which resulted in surgery. The surgeon not only repaired the slipped disk between L4 and L5 but also reamed out the nerve channel and corrected a stenosis problem. Recovery was slow and painful … and continues. I couldn’t exercise during the early months of recovery, but I could still eat. You guessed it … my weight started to climb after six years of remaining steady.

During a recent routine visit to my doctor … excuse me, my primary health provider … I discussed several items that were niggling at me. I have trouble getting to sleep and don’t want to rely on chemicals. That sounded like sleep apnea to her. I woke up often. Sleep apnea. At times I’m a bit uncertain on my feet. Sleep apnea. My right thigh goes numb when I sit too long. Sleep apnea. The ingrown toenail on my right big toe is acting up. Sleep apnea. Just to make certain she wasn’t on remote, I asked her how her kids were doing. “Sleep ap… Oh, they’re doing great. Thanks for asking.”

Result? She sent me to Sleep Medicine at the VA. I sat through an interview with a very nice intern who wore a small jewel on the left side of her nostril. I’m not sure if it was a strategy for keeping eyes off her rather ample bosom or not, but it sure worked that way. I sometimes lost track of the conversation because I was studying that oddly-place little diamond stud.

But I did catch her comment when she concurred with my doctor’s suspicion that sleep apnea was ruling my life. When she mentioned a visit to the sleep lab, I put up such a spirited objection (although I was careful to say I wasn’t refusing to go … when you do that at the VA they tend to lose interest in you) she excused herself to go talk to her boss. A few minutes later, the senior doctor came in … ‘stache and pony tail and all … and said he had an alternative proposal, which I took to be an interim step before hauling my carcass to the sleep room.

They had a simple device to wear on my finger at night to measure my oxygen levels while I slept. This, he said (he was very nice and professional despite my jaundiced description of him), would give us a strong indication if apnea was a problem. I agreed on the spot.

Don’t worry, we’re getting to the punch line.

As I awaited the arrival of the oxygen-measuring device, I began to consider my options. The one that kept coming to mind was … to cheat. Well, I don’t know if it’s cheating, but it ought to improve my odds, at any rate. Breathe Rite Strips! Simple, right? They open your nares and you get more good, clean, life-sustaining, apnea defeating oxygen.

I’ve never used the devices before, but a friend gave me six of her strips for a trial run. And here is where such advanced technology and I parted company.

The first night, I was mindful of Bobbi’s instruction to bend the strips slightly to make them fit properly. Of course, I removed the protective tape from the thing first. Result. I got the strip stuck to my fingers. In fact, to the fingers of both hands as I used the second to free the first. So after passing it back and forth between fingers a few times, the strip went straight into the trash. On the second try, I got the bright idea of bending the thing before removing the protective strips. Okay, but I had to bend it back the other way to remove the damned things. Still, I managed to settle it over my nose in the proper way and oxygen flowed into me so well I wore it for an hour at the computer before going to bed.

The next morning, Breathe Rite was still where it was supposed to be, and I’d had a better night’s sleep than usual (although whether it was real or imagined, I cannot say with certainty). As I put the thing on my nose the second night, I didn’t like the angle and lifted one side to readjust the strip. Breathe Rite didn’t like that, so sometime during the night, the right side gave up and let go.

I was certain I did everything properly the third night and went to bed to enjoy a restful sleep. But I tossed and turned a lot and woke several times, as I usually do. When I went into the bathroom to clean up the next morning, there was a big dragonfly perched on the bridge of my nose. The damned strip had come loose on both sides and there it sat, wings spread wide, poised for flight.

The remaining two strips are sitting on the bathroom counter. And I still await the arrival of the oxygen-measuring device. What are the odds I’ll screw that up, as well?

Best to you all,



Next week: Your guess is as good as mine

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Friday, November 15, 2013

On Aging

For the first time in 74 weeks, I missed a Thursday morning posting deadline (except for when I was in the hospital for my back surgery. I worked up the post, but forgot to go through the procedure to publish it. Another Oopsie, right? It fits into what I'd prepared and is presented below:


This is sort of a cross between an Oopsie and a Wowsie. You all know what an Oopsie is. I’ve been pointing out and making fun of my errors, mistakes, and lapses in this space for quite a while. This one started out as the former and ended up the latter.

I have a nightly routine upon retiring. After cleaning up (I’m a morning shower person), I turn back the covers, make certain everything is where it should be (my cell phone in case it rings at night, a hankie for my sniffles, etc.). Then I touch the top of the urn on my chest of drawers and say goodnight to my late wife, Betty, before turning out the light, settling in bed on my right side, and covering up. The other night, I followed my usual procedure. After a couple of minutes, I realized something was wrong. I opened my eyes, turned on my back, and looked around. It took about sixty seconds to identify the problem. I’d forgotten to turn off the light. I struggled out of bed, remedied the situation, and then laughed at myself before thinking about what had happened.

That’s when the thing turned for me. The fact that I’d left the light on that made it an Oopsie, but the fact I’d had to figure that out turned it into a Wowsie.

We all recognize that age brings changes to the body…sagging muscles, droopy skin, our frames expanding horizontally and shrinking vertically. We accept it even…with varying degrees of grace. But I wasn’t prepared for the mental changes I’m experiencing.

A few years back, I would have said “Dammit, I left the light on,” bounded out of bed, snapped
it off, reclaimed my place on the mattress, and gone to sleep. Well, I probably wouldn’t have left the light on in the first place, but that doesn’t make my point. That particular night, I had to figure out what was wrong and then clamber out of the bed.

To put a finer point on it, I seem to process stimuli in a different manner than in my salad days. In considering the situation, it is probably easier for us to accept the physical aging because we look in the mirror a couple of times a day and see what time is doing to our physical selves. But we can’t look inside the brain (without medical help and a lot of expensive technology), so it’s easier to discard or ignore what’s going there. We casually dismiss mental missteps with an, “Uh-oh, I just had a senior moment.”

I don’t know why this comes as a shock to me because my mother died a few years back (at age 97) from Alzheimer’s. No, I don’t think I’m going into Dementia, but does anyone know if there’s an earlier stage called Confusia?

Best to you all,


Next week: I have an idea, but it hasn't gelled yet.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

One Too Many at the Oak Barrel

Flash fiction is one kind of writing I’ve not attempted, so I thought I’d give it a shot this week. Of course, it depends on how you define flash fiction. The piece that follows is less than 1,000 words, but it sure wouldn’t fit into a 500-word category. Anyway, I hope you enjoy what follows:


One Too Many at the Oak Barrel

     Eric glanced at his watch as the hum of subdued conversation swirled around him, punctuated by an occasional laugh or exclamation when someone lost at dollar poker. Almost 2:00 a.m. Closing time. Ordinarily, he and his wife would be home in bed…with Myra’s smooth, round butt warming his groin.

     He signaled the barkeep for another draft and took a swig when it arrived. The Oak Barrel was a mini-brewery with a bar and a few tables. Dark wood everywhere. No garish neons, just a sedate, dimly lit place with a long etched mirror reflecting the small room behind him. Comfortable.

     The busy Friday night had quieted down over the last half hour. As Eric was the only patron seated at the bar, the bartender, a guy named Harry, an Afghanistan War vet working his way through Central New Mexico Community College, engaged him in conversation.

     “Where’s your better half tonight?”

     “Have to let her off the leash occasionally,” Eric said. “She went to Atlanta this morning to see her mother. Be gone a few days.”

     “Well, don’t let the Albuquerque Ripper get you while she’s gone.” Harry moved off to fill an order for the Barrel’s only waitress, another CNM student. He returned a moment later.

     Eric wiped foam from his lip and nodded toward the girl. “She’s more likely to be a victim than I am.”

     “Ever since the Ripper’s been on a rampage her two brothers come pick her up. Besides, the bastard don’t just stick to women. He took down two guys, you know.” The barkeep shook his head. “That don’t compute for me.”

     “Sure it does, if you remember rape’s about power, not sex. Besides, you’re no rapist.”

     A smile played over the other man’s lips. “Nope, cajoling them darlings into bed is the best part of sex. Well, almost the best.”

     When Harry got busy preparing to close up, Eric finished his brew, left some money on the counter, and took his leave. The autumn air was chilled, but not uncomfortably cold. He zipped his jacket to the throat and headed off, regretting he’d walked instead of driving. Oh, well…he liked to hike. And it was only a mile to his house.

     The night was quiet; the streets deserted. A wind brisk enough to kick up fallen leaves swirled around his ankles. His ears were cold. Shoulda worn a scarf. He tried to enjoy the night, but his mind kept returning to thoughts of the Ripper.

     The shadowy killer had shown up in the news two months ago when a woman was discovered on the Arroyo del Oso golf course…raped and hacked to death. A machete, the cops figured. A week later, an older woman in a diversion channel. Same situation. Then a young man under a pedestrian bridge spanning Tramway Boulevard. Raped. Murdered. Just a week ago, a man of about thirty…his age…found in his own home. The fifth, a matronly woman attacked and killed, also at home. Not more than a few blocks from his own house, as a matter of fact. A chill ran down Eric’s back that had nothing to do with the autumn night.

     It wasn’t until he cut through the pleasant little park just north of the community college that he grew apprehensive. He halted in his tracks and spun around. Nothing. The park was deserted. Bushes swayed and a squirrel chattered nervously. But all those cottonwoods lining the perimeter of the green could have hidden a dozen stalkers. A wave of goose pimples rolled down his back, bringing a sudden urge to pee. The hair on his neck rose.

     Eric exhaled slowly, willing away the creepies. He was an adult male perfectly capable of taking care of himself. He worked out; kept fit. Still, he wasn’t armed with a machete. Damn, he wished Myra were home.

     He picked up his pace east toward Juan Tabo. He left the park and started up the trail into the open, unimproved stretch of rough ground that led to the well-traveled street. No trees here, but it was hilly, blinding him to what lay over the horizon. A paved arroyo paralleled him to his right, just the kind of place the killer liked to dump a body.

     Stop it, man! Get those screwy thoughts out of your head. Psyching yourself into a panic.
     Nonetheless, he went south on Juan Tabo rather than scaling the John B. Robert Dam and walking the edges of the holding pond. Too secluded.

     Before he reached Manitoba, where he turned east again, he’d become so skittish, he was almost constantly looking over his shoulder. No one was there, but he kept hearing footsteps. Or were they just in his mind?

     His throat was dry. His bladder was about to give way as he reached his house. He ran up the steps, ready to thrust the door key into the lock. Footsteps. Now he was sure of it. He felt blood drain from his face as he glanced over his shoulder and saw a man. Bundled against the cold. Something in his hand. Something long. Almost at the edge of the yard.

     Sweating heavily, Eric fumbled with the lock. Despite clumsy, nervous fingers, his key went in, and the tumblers clicked. He shot through the door, slammed it shut, and snapped the deadbolt. He fought with the chain on the door restraint until it was secure. Only then did he take an easy breath and move to the window. Parting the drapes, he saw the man halfway up the street. Feeling foolish, Eric recognized the lumbering gait of a neighbor who walked with the aid of a cane. Cursing his foolishness, Eric snapped on a table lamp. He turned, and his breath caught in his throat.

     Harry, the friendly bartender, stepped out of the shadow of the hallway. A wicked-looking machete in his right hand.


I’m not used to all those broken sentences, but a verb saved here and an adjective dropped there add up. Anyway, I think it works. How about you? Let me know.

Next week: I’ll think of something.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Character Profile: B. J. Vinson

I have had some questions recently from aspiring authors and readers about how deeply I go into the character of the individuals who populate my novels. In my opinion,I should know the protagonist of the work as well as I know my siblings. When a major player takes action or thinks on the pages of a manuscript, those actions and reactions must be consistent with the character of that individual.

Almost everyone who’s done serious writing sooner or later will say, “I couldn’t get So-And-So to do that." I like hearing such a response because it means the writer has taken the time and trouble to create a multidimensional individual for the novel. That is something I strive to do, and in aid of that (along with the sharp eye of a good critiquer), I go to the trouble of creating a pretty deep character profile of my protagonist and usually of the principal antagonist, as well. In a continuing series such as THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT, THE BISTI BUSINESS, and upcoming THE CITY OF ROCKS (Martin Brown Publishers), I also do profiles on the recurring characters in the series, although these secondary characters do not receive such extensive treatment.

I thought it might be interesting to show the profile of the lead character in the above-mentioned series, a confidential investigator named Burleigh J. (do you blame him for using his initials?) Vinson. Warning: As with most things, events and personalities evolve a bit over time, so any changes penciled in during the writing of the three books do not appear below. You’ll also see detailed descriptions of such things as BJ’s home, office, and automobile so I can be consistent about such details. Let’s take a look:




CHARACTER’S NAME:      Burleigh J. Vinson

ALIAS/NICKNAMES:         BJ and Vince

DOB/POB/AGE:                    September 12, 1972   (33, almost 34 at the time of Zozobra)


RACE:                                    Caucasian

ETHNIC GROUP:                 Anglo (English)

HEIGHT:                                6”

WEIGHT:                               170 lbs

COMPLEXION/SKIN TYPE:  Sandlewood – light brown

BLEMISHES:                        A lentigo, a brown spot on his right cheek no larger than a mole

EYE TYPE & SHAPE:          Deep-set

EYE COLOR:                        Apple green or light green

NOSE:                                    English –narrow

HAIR COLOR/STYLE:        Mocha – Used to wear it in a Marine razor cut, now touches collar

FACIAL HAIR:                     None

HEAD SHAPE:                      Oval

MOUTH:                                Broad with full lips

CHIN:                                     Firm chin, almost stubborn, with a cleft

CHEEKS:                               Hollow, but not gaunt

TEETH:                                   Pearly, the front uppers just miss being bucked

FACIAL TYPE:                     Aristocratic, which he considers funny as his people came from
                                                shepherds and barkeeps.  Chiseled features.

BODY TYPE:                        Lean, but athletic from years in the military and the police gym

NECK:                                    Obvious Adam’s apple

SHOULDERS:                       Square, still retains military bearing

HANDS & ARMS:                Corded arms and surprisingly long, sensitive hands

CHEST:                                  Defined pecs, sprinkling of light hair between nipples

BELLY:                                  Flat, first hint of love handles at his sides

LEGS & HIPS:                       Leggy, runner’s muscles

FEET:                                      Like his hands, are long

VOICE:                                  Throaty baritone that fluctuates with mood and conditions

DISTINGUISHING PHYSICAL FEATURES:  Bullet scar on inner right thigh, lentigo on right cheek, cleft chin

PHYSICAL CONDITION (Fit, Unfit, other):  Fit

PHYSICAL IMPERFECTIONS (Would like to change most):  He would prefer a heavier frame

CHARACTERISTIC GESTURES/ TYPICAL BODY LANGUAGE:  Often emphasizes his words with a shrug. Leans forward when intense. Muscles sometimes bunch when he’s under stress


RELIGION:  Presbyterian


            DOB:  9/12/72

            POB:  Albuquerque, NM

            1978 – 1990 – grade, Jr. High, and High School in Albuquerque

            1990 – 1992 – Albuquerque Technical-Vocational Institute (AA Lib Arts)

            1992-1996 USMC – Military Police

            1996-2005 Albuquerque Police Department

            2000 – Completes BA in History at UNM by attending classes at night school

            June 2001 – makes detective at APD

            4/12/02 – Meets Del Dahlman

            1/31/03 – Both parents die in automobile crash on I-40 in Albuquerque

            3/15/03 – Dahlman moves in with him

            5/10/04 – Shot in the right thigh as he tries to apprehend a suspected murderer

            5/10/04 – 3/20/05 – Hospital and on recuperative leave for his wound

            3/20/05 – Medical retirement from APD

            6/21/05 – Del Moves out

            9/15/05 – starts B. J. Vinson, Confidential Investigations

FAMILY BACKGROUND/LINEAGE (Family Tree, description & ages of immediate family):  Robert and Frances Burleigh Vinson, both 65, are retired Albuquerque Public School teachers. Conservative in nature, Robert nonetheless makes a loan to a struggling new Albuquerque business that goes on to become Microsoft. They leave an estate worth $12,000,000 after inheritance taxes when they die in Jan 03

There was an older brother who died as a child. The Vinsons had no other children

YEARS OF SCHOOLING:  See personal background. Good grades, a 3.8 grade point average.
Special Occupational Training: Marine Corps Provost Marshall’s training, APD police academy

SKILLS, ABILITIES, & TALENTS:  Reads people well. Is a careful observer.

AREAS OF EXPERTISE:  Good investigative skills. Well versed in local history. Decent marksman. Did light boxing in school. Good swimmer.

OCCUPATION:  Licensed confidential investigator operating from a suite of offices on the third floor of a historic five-story white concrete block building with an open atrium that goes all the way to the roof. The building is located on the SE corner of 5th and Copper NW across the street from the main Albuquerque library.

PAST OCCUPATIONS:  See Personal Background. As a child and youth, had paper routes, took tickets in local theater, projectionist in theater

MILITARY EXPERIENCE:  Four years in USMC, Provost Marshall’s Office. Mustered out as a First Lieutenant. Saw no combat. Spent entire time in Southern California

HOME:  Inherited Residence from parents at 5228 Post Oak Drive NW, Albuquerque, a ‘50’s contemporary, cross-gabled home with a stone foundation and red brick walls with tall windows and white trim. Symmetrical, fronted by a wide, low-ceilinged porch enclosed by a stone balustrade topped by a wooden railing high enough to prop one’s feet on it while sitting on a porch rocker. Square, tapered pedestals set into the stone balustrade support a heavy roof at the corners and on each side of the concrete front steps. Pale Shrub roses and English Legends line the front of the house while Heirloom roses bank the driveway up the left side of the house all the way to the detached garage. The home has a basement with small casement windows.

NEIGHBORHOOD:  An older neighborhood settled in the ‘50s by middle class working people. It is now somewhat of a geriatric neighborhood. BJ is by far the youngest resident on his street.


PERSONALITY TRAITS (Select one or more):  Extrovert, Intelligent, Type A

SHORT-TERM GOALS:  Works to make a success of his business. Although he doesn’t need the money, he wants to feel productive

LONG-TERM GOALS:  Searching for a long-term relationship with a life partner.

SHORT TERM NEEDS:  Needs to find a candidate for such a relationship.

LONG TERM NEEDS:  Has to do water therapy on a fairly regular basis to avoid limping from the gunshot wound.

QUIRKS:  Loyal to a fault. Usually takes him a long time to develop friendships; also takes a long time for him to let them go. Stubborn.

IQ:  129

TEMPERMENT:  Calm, pleasant, but not overly social.

METHOD OF HANDLING ANGER OR RAGE (Throwing things, repress, etc.):  Internalizes and analyzes. Dissipates anger with physical activity such as swimming or indulging in his passion for history.

ADMIRABLE TRAITS:  Loyalty. A good work ethic. Fits into almost any social strata, from working the trenches to operating in the boardroom.

NEGATIVE TRAITS:  Sometimes allows his “gut” to override his other senses. He shies away from danger because of the shooting, but plucks up enough courage to go through with the job in spite of it.

BAD HABITS/VICES:  He smoked, but gave it up in 2003

MOST PAINFUL THINGS IN CHARACTER’S LIFE:  Dealing with his homosexuality in his younger years, but he’s come to terms with it now. Split with what he thought was his life partner. Dealing with a gunshot wound and its aftermath.

EVER BEEN ARRESTED?  (If so, for what/ results?):  No

IMPORTANT POLITICAL OR SOCIAL ISSUES:  Tacitly supports gay rights, but does not actively advocate them

OPINION ON ABORTION:  Supports a woman’s right to choose

OPINION ON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES:  As a history buff, he’s careful about the environment. Believes in global warming, for example.

OPINION ON HOMOSEXUALITY:  He is homosexual. He fought it in his teens, but has come to grips with his orientation and is comfortable with it. He is not in the closet, but does not advertise the fact he is gay unless there is a valid reason to do so. He is masculine in his deportment, so casual acquaintances often do not know he’s gay. Monogamous. Prefers masculine partners. Turned off by flamboyant behavior. He doesn’t consciously seek out the company of other gays, but doesn’t avoid them, either. He does not like gay bars; in fact, he doesn’t particularly like bars in general.

OPINION ON MILITARY:  Pro – volunteered for the Marine Corps despite his homosexuality in order to prove a point to himself. Found it a positive experience.

OPINION ON CRIME AND GUN CONTROL:  As an ex-police officer, he’s anti crime, pro-gun control, especially on the matter of assault weapons

POLITICAL PARTY:  He’s an independent, but tends to be socially liberal

INCOME:  The investigations business earns him a decent living, but he derives a satisfactory income from his family trust. He has a personal income of over $120,000 per year. Trust income is larger.

SENSE OF HUMOR:  Wry. Doesn’t object to off-color humor, but doesn’t like it dirty.

FEARS:  The gunshot wound he suffered still haunts him.

HOBBIES AND OUTSIDE INTERESTS: history. He likes to take road trips around the state.

SPORTS:  He played football in high school and follows the sport casually, enough so he can discuss games in a bar situation. Swims and golfs. Shoots in high 80’s.

FAVORITE PASTIME:  Relaxing with friends and taking short trips to historical and natural sites of interest around the state. Occasional rounds of golf, swimming.

ATTITUDE ON ALCOHOL (Drinks, How often, favorite drink):  Limits himself to 2 alcoholic drinks at any one time. He strictly avoids drinking while on the job. If he’s caught     in a social situation while working, he has one drink and then switches to a non-alcoholic drink

FAVORITE MEAL:  Green chili chicken stew

CLOTHNG STYLES/FAVORITE OUTFIT:  Prefers casual clothing—slacks & pullover shirts. Not a natty dresser, but always presents a good image.

SPEAKING STYLE:  Generally soft-spoken, speaks casually, but doesn’t rely on the vernacular too heavily.  Tends to drop the word I at the beginning of a sentence. “Wouldn’t want to do that.” Rather than, “I wouldn’t want to do that.” Speaks limited Spanish, and often uses Spanish nouns for certain things.

PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE:  Live and let live

TYPE AND NUMBER OF CLOSE FRIENDS:  A lot of friendly relationships, but few close friends who tend to be professional or friends from his past

BEST FRIEND:  Detective Gene Enriquez, his old APD partner

OTHER FRIENDS:  Hazel Harris, his secretary and surrogate mother, Charlie Weeks, a retired cop who helps out in the business. A few old school friends.

CAR/COLOR:  A 2003, four-door Chevrolet Impala, white w/tinted windows. In first novel replaced by a 2007, white 4-dr Impala SS w/303 h/p, 5.3-liter V8 engine with Active Fuel Management technology that regulates between 8-cylinder and 4 cylinder operation.

DRIVE FAST OR SLOW/OBEY TRAFFIC LAWS:  Pushes highway speed limits by a couple of MPH, but generally obeys all other traffic laws.

CHARACTER GROWTH BY END OF STORY, CHARACTER CHANGES, LESSONS LEARNED:  Grows enough to let go of a failed relationship to the point he can do business with the man who wronged him. This frees him to begin a new relationship.


So, dear readers, I hope I kept him true to himself? If you find otherwise, please let me know.

Next week: I haven’t the foggiest.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

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