My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Saturday, February 27

Time According to Calvin

Thanks so much, Bill Watterson. I think Calvin and Hobbes is my favorite comic strip of all time. And this is one of my favorites of my favorite, maybe because it says something about fleeting time, one of my main themes this past thirty years. I guess I thought I too would be six all my life, or at least that the years past six wouldn't have flown by as they have. And now I'm thinking more and more about the details of my life I'd like to put in order. And the questions I have about the time that's left. Will my cats outlive me and if so what happens to them if they outlive both of us? What will happen to all my cds and books when I die? Will I ever need to buy any more underwear? Have I bought too many of those expensive quadra-something razorblade heads? I keep thinking about T. S. Eliot's words from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock": "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." Well, I seem to be measuring out my life with razorblades, or haircuts, or prescription refills, or the passing of old friends and relatives. So, I guess I should just go to McDonald's.

Friday, February 26

Stray Thoughts & Observations

Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again,” but I think he was wrong. You can go home again, but then you get the hell out as soon as possible, just like I did when I was eighteen.

Last night a thought struck me: the similarity of the words martial and marital, I mean, just the placement of the “i.” So I came up with this: “If the eye wanders, marital blisses might become martial hisses.”

It was still dark when I drove to work this morning and the new moon was just up in the eastern sky, a tiny sliver of a jack-o-lantern smile right on the bottom of the gray-tinted full moon. Arizona is the only place I’ve ever been where you can see night skies and moons that look totally phony. Phony but beautiful.

A linguistic prude: “She was the kind of woman who’d call a mystery novel a whodidit.”

A thought I had about my writing and trying to sell what I’ve written: “It's like dropping stones in a pool of oil—not even a ripple as they sink into the depths, nothing to indicate they’ve ever been dropped.”

Two of the biggest coyotes we’ve ever seen wandered through our backyard this morning, sort of going through the back hedges, trying to scare up something edible. No luck in our yard, so they wandered down the property lines to the north. They certainly didn’t look very hungry. And that leads to the other side of the subject: residents who are so afraid of coyotes they call the State Wildlife to have them removed or trapped and killed. A few years ago there was an old Snow Bird who was walking her dog near Grand View, and she swears she and her dog were attacked by three young coyotes. So Fish and Game hired a private contractor to come in, trap the three, and kill them. How stupid. The coyotes in our city limits are part of the charm of SCW, and none of them would even bother to attack a resident. Now, tiny pets running loose are another matter. But they have an unlimited supply of natural game here, like millions of rabbits. Without the coyotes, owls, and hawks, we’d be up to our butts in rabbits. We need the coyotes, and we need to keep them here.

Another month nearly gone, like an arrow zipped toward Eternity (to borrow from Emily Dickinson), and the quiver is getting light.

Tuesday, February 23

King Calvin

Calvin again. “It’s a lot more fun to blame things than to fix them.” He says, “When everything goes down the tubes, I can say the system doesn’t work . . . ,” the system in this case being the current administration. Calvin ought to run for office with that last statement as his rallying cry: “The system doesn’t work, so kick it out and vote in something new.” That seems to be what the Republicans are now intent on doing—obstructing all legislation, even if it’s legislation they originally supported, filibustering everything to death so that the voting public will scream in rage against a system that doesn’t work. Then, in 2012, they can regain power. I may be politically na├»ve, but if even a part of what I just said is true, then maybe we should just kick everybody out—Democrats as well as Republicans—and elect a king. That would serve us right.

Monday, February 22

Olympic Beauty and Tiger

All right, A few posts ago, I was a little too negative about these Olympic Games, calling them boring after the first two days. Well, now I have to rectify that earlier comment: about half the events are boring; the other half are dramatic and worth watching. The speed skating, the cross skiing, the acrobatic events involving snowboarding, the downhill skiing events are all good (just too much time between events and competitors that must be filled with commercials and in-booth commentary). The other thing I've noticed right from the beginning is how attractive nearly all the competitors are. It must be that athletic training in cold weather makes for beautiful people. When the nations entered the stadium that first night, waving flags and smiling at the audience and each other, nearly all of them were handsome and beautiful. The one exception in my mind is that ugly, sour-grapes Russian, Yevgeny Plushenko. Or maybe it's just his ugly attitude that makes me see him as less than attractive. Nah, he's really unattractive. I tend to notice female beauty more than male. I guess it's a guy thing. Many of the female competitors are drop-dead gorgeous--Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso, Tanith Belbin, Lindsey Jacobellis, Torah Bright, to name only a few. I seem to be stacking the results in favor of the U.S. team, but those are the ones seen most often on U.S. television. The other nations' teams have men and women equally attractive.

* * * * * * * *

Lots of people have weighed in after Tiger's televised apology last Friday. Ernie Els called Tiger selfish for scheduling it when he did. Ernie, would you have had him speak at midnight on a Sunday? And all the others that criticized him for reading from a script, should he have winged it? Would any of you been able to wing it in front of millions of viewers? I don't think so. I read Michael Wilson's view the next day and applaud him for his accuracy. What do you think?

"Sincere, Heartfelt Apology"

Commentary by Michael Wilson, Washington Post

We analyze everything now, studying the videotape for the slightest flaws and hints that may or may not suggest the end of the world as we know it. The most dramatic example of this has been the Tiger Woods sex scandal, every detail of which has been examined to the extreme—or to the absurd.

And though it’s difficult for me to imagine anything a golfer says should command the attention of the three major networks, the Tiger Woods apology Friday was pretty powerful stuff.

I’m in the camp that believes Tiger’s infidelities—anybody’s infidelities—aren’t my business and aren’t yours, either, and that all these people who seem to feel they are owed some kind of apology aren’t owed a damn thing. But now even Tiger seems to have moved out of that camp, because his 13-minute apology was about as thorough and as sincere as any reasonable person without an agenda could hope to hear.

I was struck by a great many things during his talk, two more than everything else. First, he owned up to the thing that brings down more public figures than anything: a sense of entitlement. It’s not often you hear people say, “I thought the rules didn’t apply to me. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted. . . . I felt I was entitled, thanks to money and fame.”

And second, therapy apparently has helped him see his sexual indulgence as the larger problem of getting away from the core values he learned from his mother and father as a kid.

“I want to start living a life of integrity,” he said.

There are skeptics who will say Tiger Woods was simply reading from a script. One of my colleagues on ESPN even said Tiger appeared too perfect while delivering his controlled message. What, he wanted Tiger to butcher the language and show up unshaven and disheveled?

Personally, I wasn’t expecting an apology quite that wide-ranging, quite that specific, quite that self-critical and quite that exposing. He seemed damn sorry for putting his wife and family and friends through the drama that has unfolded.

Tiger didn’t take any questions Friday, for which he is being roasted by a great many people in the business of asking questions. As an academic matter, I understand. As a practical matter, I don’t care about the number of women Tiger slept with or about any of the other titillating stuff that have kept the tabloids buzzing.

Tiger said rather emphatically that his wife Elin, despite reports, never struck him Thanksgiving night. He said he has been in therapy for 45 days working on his issues. We know how he feels: like he let the entire world down, starting with his wife and mother.

The big, big question still hanging out there—and let’s just be selfish about this—is when he’ll play golf again. And it didn’t sound to me like Tiger Woods will be at Augusta National in April. It didn’t sound as if he’s thinking of himself first as a golfer, which is how most of us think of him.

Though a great many of the people following this still are titillated by the number of paramours Tiger had and how he hooked up and whether he’s addicted to sex, it sounds as if he’s determined to atone for what he’s done and become a better man. For those who don’t find that good enough or revealing enough at this point, well, maybe they have their own issues.

Monday, February 15

Ad Men, Mad Men

In the old days, the early days of television, that is, we viewers tolerated the commercial time taken from the shows we were watching. It was a sort of unspoken agreement between the networks and the audience that they would take no more than two minutes on the hour and another two at the half-hour, only one minute at each of the two quarter-hour times, for a total of six minutes for commercials and 54 minutes for the stories being shown. And as time passed, the networks picked away at those 54 minutes and picked away so slowly we didn’t really notice the loss of story, the gain of those many bits selling drugs, beer, booze, credit cards, cars, and almost any other product or institution you can think of. And we all got angrier and angrier whenever it was time for a break and the commercials went on and on and on until one or both of us would scream at the set, “Come on, damn you! Get on with it!” We are now giving up 25% or more of the hour each and every hour—up to five minutes on the hour, four at the half-hour, and three or four at each of the two quarter-hour breaks. There are even programs when they break in at times other than the traditional four, and again someone screams at the set, “Hey! We just had a break five minutes ago!” One can take only so many potty stops or trips to the refrigerator. Then we had the nice discovery of TiVo and cable boxes that allowed us to record programs and watch them later, fast-forwarding through all the commercials. Oh, thank you, thank you, advances in technology. We’ve found that we can watch an hour show in only forty minutes. That comes out to twenty minutes per hour for the commercial messages.

Retaliation by the ad people: about three years ago, whenever we went to see a movie, we began to be subjected to commercials for the same products we saw on the little box, cars and coke mainly at first, but then more and more various ads on the big screen with no escape except to arrive just as the main feature began.

What will be the next step the ad people come up with? I can see them invading cell phones with subliminal messages the cell phonies aren’t even aware of. Oh yeah, folks with phones pressed to ears, stumbling into Cadillac dealerships to buy new Caddies, arriving home shaking heads, dazed expressions on their faces. “What in the world did I do, Honey? How’d I wind up with a new car?”

Sunday, February 14

Winter Olympics & Valentine's Day

Only Calvin can express the truth about life with humor. I'm finding it less and less humorous the longer I live. It goes faster and faster and I can't slow it down, except when I'm watching the Winter Olympics this year. Then time slows down to a painful pace. The expression, "Like watching paint dry" should be "Like watching ice melt." Oh, my, is this year's Olympics dreadfully boring, at least so far. The luge requires no appreciable skill that I can see. It seems to me that those who weigh the most and who have the best sleds will win the event. And the difference between winning and losing is only hundredths of a second. Booooring. I've found that in two days of watching, involving twelve or more hours, only a very few events of any interest have taken place. Huge amounts of time are spent either on commercials or on chats with folks in the television booth. Boooring. Maybe things will get more interesting next week. Or not.

Since it's Valentine's Day, I thought a rose would be appropriate. A rose for my Rosalie as well as any Roses out there who may stumble onto this blog.

Monday, February 8

Salve Like Gold

I went to the wound center for my biweekly visit to see how my two holes were doing (wounds, that is). By "my two holes," I mean the two wounds that mysteriously appeared on my left calf almost exactly at the sites of my two series of radiations a year ago. The doctor wasn’t happy with the healing rate after a month and decided to put me on a different treatment, a collagenase called Santyl Ointment. Regardless of what it’s called, it sounded to me like another one of those hold-your-breath-here-comes-the-price salves. And I was right. Thirty grams cost $108. I was still gulping and didn’t think to ask if any of the retail cost was covered by insurance. I’m assuming none was covered. Okay, this one along with the Efudex I got three months ago and the Taclonex I got a week ago comes to 170 grams, with a combined retail cost (what the pharmaceuticals would charge without insurance) of $1658 ($108 + $700 + $850), which then comes to $9.75 per gram. For those who don’t really know what a gram is, if I squeezed enough to lightly cover a dime, that would be about a gram. This number offends my sensibility, and I want to know why we citizens of this country put up with the banditry of pharmaceuticals. President Obama wants to pass a health care bill that would put limits on drug costs, on hospital costs, on doctors’ charges. Why won’t we let him do it? Why are the Republicans so set against not just his bill, but any form of any bill? It offends my sensibility. It enrages me. I feel it seething inside me and I want to vent it but I can’t find any venting place or anyone on which to vent it. Does anyone out there agree with me?

Friday, February 5


Time for some movie revues.

We finally got around to seeing It’s Complicated. I say, “finally got around to” because the reviews weren’t bad, just not very good, and I must learn not to give such credence to our local reviewer. But we’d seen enough previews of it in the theatre as well as on television that a nude Alec Baldwin didn’t do much for either of us. Thus our reluctance. I’m glad we finally went, though, because it was two hours well spent with popcorn and Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Meryl Streep is one of those actresses who just doesn’t seem to give a damn about the passage of time. She’s willing to show us all her warts and wrinkles and times around the block and still manages to come across as sexy and attractive despite the nose and that stuff I just mentioned. And Alec Baldwin was fine as the off-again on-again lover lusting after his old wife. This must also have been the first time I’ve ever appreciated Steve Martin. Way too often in the past he relied on that really stupid guise that so turned me off. But here he stuck to the straight dramatic role of the other party pursuing Streep. Good for him. Good for It’s Complicated.

After nearly three weeks of exclusive showing at only one theatre, Harkins had the good sense to move Crazy Heart to its other venues. If ever there was a shoe-in for best actor, Jeff Bridges is it. I thought Clooney had a lock on it for Up in the Air, but Bridges picked his locker. He literally became Bad Blake, stinking of automobile sweat, bottled urine, what looked like about five packs of cigarettes a day, and booze, booze, booze with the vomit that goes with it. This was a really simple story, so much like Tender Mercies with Robert Duvall it could have been its twin brother. The media is touting Maggie Gyllenhaal for best supporting actress, but I don’t think so. Hers is a sort of tagalong performance riding on the greasy locks of Bad Blake. Not that she’s not good, mind you. But if Bridges’ performance were just so-so, so too would hers have been. Whew! I’m not sure that last makes any sense.

And here’s another disagreement with our reviewer. Mel Gibson’s Edge of Darkeness opened yesterday to a luke-warm review. We went to it expecting another kind of bang-bang revenge flick like the Die Hard series with Bruce Willis. You know, lots of implausible blows from fists and steel bars and whatever else comes to the hand of the bad guys, blows that have little or no effect on the physical well being of the hero. The action sequences in Darkness were much more realistic. Gibson, as the aging Boston cop, was tough in the fight scenes, but also wily. Despite a few holes in the logic, this was a very satisfying action film, and Mel Gibson is back on track with his audiences.

Thursday, February 4

Transfer Time

I've decided to transfer here most of my other website, the one that describes my novels and other writing. Why? Because I don't think anyone is going to that website, and it's harder to get to than this one. Hey, maybe no one is visiting this site either. I refer again to that empty auditorium where my words echo portentously (or possibly pretentiously) off the back wall. Nobody but me to hear them. I don't care (well, yes, I really do). If I weren't able to write I think I'd rather die. So here goes. How and why did I write stuff and what happened to it?

Sometime around 1970 I had an idea for a golf novel, one built around a crazy golf course with some really crazy holes. And I wanted it to involve lots of golf on an amateur level, with the main character pitted against someone not only in golf but also in romance. And the bad guy is even badder than the main character first thought. I wanted it to involve a late night confrontation between them on the golf course, in an underground cavern that had been secretly created as a bomb shelter when the course was built.

I toyed with the idea for years, always putting off the actual writing because it was easier putting it off than doing it. Finally, though, just after 1980, I got past the opening chapters and the story sort of took over for me. It was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle: episode #1 here, episode #2 there, etc. I discovered that the characters also took over for themselves.

I finished it in the summer of 1982, finally called Match Play, and I was thrilled to think that I'd actually done it. And it was sure to be published, right? It filled a gap in the current market by appealing to those millions of golfers worldwide who had just taken up the game, plus the millions more who had always been ardent golfers. It had golf, it had humor, it had sex, it had violence and suspense. A sure thing, right? Wrong.

I did the homework on publishers and requirements and letters of inquiry. I sent out several letters to major publishing companies, like little ships out on stormy seas. And then I waited for replies. And waited. And waited. It seems that in publishing the wheels grind exceeding slow. And when I finally did get a response, it was invariably "Sorry, but your manuscript doesn't meet our present needs."

I spent nearly three years learning all the outs and outs of publishing. The old Catch-22: You need to have an agent to be considered for publication; you need to have already published to be considered by an agent. And then there were the agents who would agree to consider your manuscript for a nominal reading fee (anywhere from $100 to $300) but always they were interested only in the fee, not in representing you. I found it was a cruel game.
I even went so far as to print copies of my manuscript and send them to people I thought might have some influence on publishers: Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Jack Lemon, Kevin Costner, etc. Many were returned undeliverable and unopened, many were never seen again. The only one decent enough to write me and thank me but no thank me was Jack Nicklaus. The editors I was able to contact over the transom told me that Match Play didn't fit any genre they were interested in.

That's when I decided to write one filled with blood and gore and see if that didn't fit a genre they could live with. This one was called Dust of Autumn, set in a high school near Buffalo, centering on a young girl who, because of her father's sexual abuse, created an alter ego named Maleeva. And Maleeva was able to do rather horrible things to those who crossed her.

Couldn't even get anyone to read it, let alone consider it for publication. By this time, near the end of the Eighties, nearly all publishing had been swallowed up by only a few of the large publishing houses, and they had their family of best-selling authors and would rather put their money into pushing the sure things than try anything new. I don't mean to sound like sour grapes, because there are still young authors who are able to break into publishing. But that break-in, about as tough as entering the vaults at Fort Knox, still involves knowing someone in publishing or being very very good or very very lucky.

Then I said to hell with it and wrote one because I wanted to write it. I would set it in my home state of South Dakota, in a town called Prairie View, very much like my hometown of Mobridge, S. D. And I would color it with characters I'd known from my boyhood, and a plot that would involve some romance, some suspense, and a grand chase that would lead to the top of Rattlesnake Butte west of the old Missouri River (now an immense body of water instead of a river). I finished Prairie View in 1990 and felt very good about it. But I didn't pursue the hopeless task of trying to get it published. I'd had all the pain I needed from that pursuit.

In 2000 I first heard about a company called Xlibris. It was a self-publishing firm that would print my book or books for a very resonable price. And I took them up on it with Match Play. And then again with Prairie View.

In 2005 I wrote a children's book called Life in the Arbor, using as my cast of characters the various critters I and my wife Rosalie had observed in our back yard over the years. And in 2006 I had it published by Xlibris. In 2008 I finished an old project and wrote a novel called The Black Widow and had it published along with It's a Doggy-Dog World, a memoir I'd finished about five years earlier in 2003.

Now, to have all my writing (or most of it) published, I had them publish my second novel, the bloody one set in New York called Dust of Autumn, and a collection of short stories and essays called A Baker's Dozen Plus Two. Now, to keep me out of mischief, I've started another novel, called Happy Valley, about a guy very much like me who feels the weight of mounting years. And it will have a story within the story, a children's story about two desert elves called Joshua and Saffron, and their faithful companions called Smoke, a no-nonsense cat, and Cree, a Harris's Hawk. I hope to have it finished sometime before I die.

For a closer look at any of the above before I get it moved to this location, you might try I even have a little music there for your entertainment.

Wednesday, February 3

TNT & the CW

In the very old days on television (old for someone as old as I am), we had only three channels to watch—CBS, NBC, and ABC. Take ‘em or leave ‘em, that’s what we had. HBO made its move slowly, sort of creeping onto the national scene beginning in 1975, and in 1983 went as a national subscriber network. And then along came ESPN with its strictly sports coverage. Then Ted Turner decided to buy into the act and TBS and TNT appeared. And the Golf Channel and the Weather Channel still later. Somewhere along the way FOX showed up and became the fourth major network (some would say, even bigger than the big three). The point I want to make is that now we have a bunch of networks that are producing really quality shows that compete with and sometimes surpass anything the old Big Three came up with.

Consider TNT, which now has four very good hour-long shows: The Closer, Men of a Certain Age, Southland, and Raising the Bar. And many would include in that list Leverage. And last season there was Saving Grace, which is still on but with a very limited run. Kyra Sedgwick has taken The Closer and made it competitive in the Emmy awards with the other networks. Ray Romano, in Men of a Certain Age, has a light drama about three aging buddies that raises the bar for situational dramas on the other networks. And speaking of raising the bar, Raising the Bar is as good as or better than any courtroom drama on the tube now or in the past. Southland was too good for NBC, which dropped it after a short initial season. I guess their viewership demanded more reality bologna, most of whom probably couldn’t understand this gritty drama about L. A. cops. So TNT picked it up. Good for TNT. Hurrah! for TNT.

And one more example. CW’s Life Unexpected is about a 16-year-old’s attempt to achieve emancipation after spending her life in assorted, unsatisfactory foster homes. Instead of emancipation, she is put under the joint control of her two biological parents, a near-failing bar owner and a popular female radio jock in Portland. The parents are just barely older than their daughter, who often seems to have more adult sense than they do. This is a moving, dramatically solid hour, besting by a bunch anything on the standard Big Three. If you haven’t seen any of the above, be sure to tune in. You won’t be disappointed.

Taclonex Salve

Another reason for some kind of health care bill. My dermatologist, after looking at my legs yesterday, gave me a prescription for Taclonex, a topical salve to apply once daily to my disgusting looking legs. You see, I’m now suffering from plaque psoriasis in exactly the same areas that had been afflicted by the squamous lesions I’d fought for nearly six years. Dr. Flynn didn’t think there was any relationship between the two, but I don’t see how that’s possible. Almost immediately after my last surgery for another of the many squamous cell cancers, these patches of psoriasis began to bloom on both legs from mid-calf to ankle. No more squamous lesions, but more and more psoriasis patches. From the literature I’ve studied, this is a disease of the immune system. The disgusting red patches are a result of my system producing about ten times as many skin cells as normal but shedding only ten percent of them (the normal rate). Thus, I get these expanding red areas of thickened skin with a tannish silvery material on the surface, stuff that flakes off or can be peeled off in chunks from tiny to half-dollar size. Really a pleasant mental image, right? Okay, back to the beginning, the Taclonex salve. I went to CVS to pick up my 60-g tube of the stuff and the pharmacist said she was about to call me . . . about the cost. I said, “Just give me the number.” I was already prepared for an excessive amount. She said, “$457.” I wasn’t prepared for an amount quite that large, although my earlier experience with Efudex had demonstrated the stupidity of some pharmaceutical charges. I then asked her if she stocked Taclonex in 100-g tubes. She said no, it was too expensive to carry. The day before, I had phoned a Taclonex number offering a savings card that would allow me two 100-g tubes for no higher than $50, but they had to be 100-g. I got my prescription back from CVS and went to Walgreen’s. They had a 100-g tube and they would honor my savings card and I got the prescription for that still too high price of $50, but much better than the $850 price the pharmacist told me it would have been without the card. Thus, my earlier statement that we need to pass a health care proposal that would disallow pharmaceuticals from charging these totally unreasonable prices. And the drug companies are just one side of this ever-growing triangle of medical costs—the hospitals and doctors complete this obscene figure.

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