Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Panel Envy?

What is panel envy? WC Fields once said they he would never act with children or animals. I wonder what he would say about author panels? This Sunday at four, I'm on an author panel at Congregation Albert. In late September I'm on a panel at the Southwest Festival of the Written Word in Silver City NM. Everybody on both panels is a great person and a great writer. Is that a good thing? Or should we have someone on the panel that is really famous that we all envy and secretly hate?

I remember a show called Meeting of the Minds, where the late Steve Allen would interview the very, very late celebrities of all time. If memory served, Genghis Khan and Galileo were on. Galileo was plugging his book on astronomy, Genghis Khan was pitching his conquest of China.Marie Antonette gave cooking tips. Needless to say, I would get a bad case of panel envy if I was the guy sitting between Genghis Khan and Galileo.

I don't think Genghis Khan is available for Congregation Albert's panel and I don't know if Marie Antoinette's cake recipe would be kosher.

There was an episode of the Simpsons where Comic Book Guy asked Homer questions of a panel regarding Itchy and Scratchy. There are times when I feel like Homer up there.

You probably have your own ideas on the ultimate panel, author or not. You also have ideas of the questions you'd want to ask them. I've been on panels before where one person where one person was a best selling author and the other was self-published. Ironically, the self-published author had relatives in the crowd who were asking questions on whether some character was based on them. The best selling author and I looked on with bemusement.

Invariably in every panel, someone will ask all of us if they can be sued for writing about someone. I always give the same answer. "If you sell less than ten copies, you won't be selled. If you sell a million copies, you will be sued. My goal is to be sued."

I always get the biggest laugh of the night with that line. Perhaps, Genghis Khan, Galileo and Marie Antoinette should be wary about being on a panel with me!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

See You Next Sunday!

The CBS show Sunday Morning always has a profile of a famous author. The authors never really know how to explain their success. Needless to say, it's my goal to be profiled on Sunday Morning. I have no idea what I'm going to say either.

On today's show, they had a feature on Nora Roberts. It felt more like an episode of MTV's Cribs, then an inside look at an author's success.

The most memorable profile was the one Bill Geist did about the grandma who wrote romantic stories with explicit sex scenes. The camera did a close up of an embarrassed Geist literally blushing as the woman read a passage from the book. The author demonstrated the mechanics of a three-way with Barbie and Ken dolls on a bed. Geist has been a network correspondent for years, yet looked positively mortified. Needless to say, the author didn't reveal her literary techniques, if any.

I did enjoy Stephen King's profile. King is someone that I wish I knew MORE about. We can always imagine King really sitting at a typewriter at an abandoned Colorado resort typing "All work and no play makes Stephen a dull boy." (If I have to explain that reference, you don't know Stephen King).  I do wonder if he sold his soul for a career, literally and figuratively.

I don't know if they've had a profile on the author of 50 Shades of Grey. I would turn 50 shades of blue.

Best case scenario, everything comes together in the next few months, and I hit the best seller list. I would not wait to show the reporter my new house in Santa Fe, I would show them the messy place where I compose my stuff on an old HP laptop. If Bill Geist asked me what the secret to my success, I would tell him that my entire career was coming down to this moment.

And that would be true.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sharknado at a Signing

A recent disaster film had a "sharknado," a tornado that picked up sharks out of the ocean and carried them to Los Angeles. At last night's book signing, it felt like a sharknado had come to Albuquerque. Sharknado or not, I learned a valuable lesson about being a man.

The signing was on the westside of Albuquerque, nothing seemed amiss when I parked my car at five, set up my table inside the store and sold a few books. While doing a sales, I saw a judge whom I had based a character on. I told the potential customer "That woman over there is in the book, and I made a sale." I thought that was the most interesting moment of the night.

I was wrong.

My wife called and told me that it was storming downtown and she would be unable to join me for dinner. "Is the storm there yet?" she asked. I shrugged. Moments later, the winds picked up and soon it began raining. People coming into the store were drenched. I went outside and the parking lot was turned into a lake. I saw a vehicle go down into two feet of water, and splash the other vehicles like a ride at a bad waterpark.

I laughed for a moment, until I realized that my car was one of the vehicles it splashed. I hurried out into the rain to move my car. When I was in the deep water, I felt something move by the side of my leg. Was it a shark? I didn't ever find out, I hurried to the car, and drove it to higher ground. I did feel something hit the side of my vehicle, but I think it was a shopping cart rather than a shark. In some ways, a shoppingcartnado can be more dangerous than a sharknado.

The store was soon empty. Everyone was outside watching the storm. My wife called and told me there was no power and asked if I would bring home dinner. The cats were restless. She sounded lonely, but brave. Would the sharknado get her as well?

As the store was empty, I went next door and ordered spaghetti to go. The bartender learned that I was an author and he tried to pitch me his own story, I quickly hurried back out to the rain. I am more scared of author pitches than sharknados.

The sharknado soon abated, and people were returning. I could have sold a few more books if I wanted, but the choice was clear. When a sharknado strikes, I have to be the hero.

Friday, July 26, 2013

No Amarillo this August

I wrote a book about my book tours, called Amarillo in August, An Author's Life on the Road. It's now totally obsolete, but tonight a little bit of Amarillo comes to Albuquerque.

I used to go to Amarillo and Lubbock every August from 2002-2007. Amarillo was the corporate headquarters of Hastings Corporation which was at one time one of the largest new booksellers in the country. I had one night at a Hastings where I sold 52 books, my largest single day of book sales ever. I had one four days stretch when I sold well over a hundred books.

One of those books was sold to a corporate vice president and we had some email conversations about going on a national tour, before he left for another job. One of the great lost loves in my life moved to Amarillo, but that's another story.

I also did a signing at the Barnes and Noble there. I've said this before about the Barnes and Noble in Amarillo. It is surprisingly cosmopolitan, and can sometimes pass for a store on the Upper West Side of New York or the one on the Santa Monica promenade. The people who would be going to the Santa Fe opera are at the Barnes and Noble in Amarillo. Since it is a few blocks off the freeway, the store also gets the screenwriter types on the way out to LA stop at that Barnes and Noble.

I had some great times on the trip. I ate a smaller version of the 72 ounce steak at the Big Texan. I ran through Palo Duro Canyon. I met noted actor/author Ben Stein (who is actually in a chapter in my book) at West Texas A and M university in Canyon, Texas and gave him a signed copy of Amarillo in August.

Even my bad times were memorable. I won't talk about Tahoka. Also note to self, NEVER NEVER NEVER ask for the New York Times at a Starbucks  in Plainview, Texas.

As I got older, I found that my body could no longer chug a few red bulls and drive six hours and then sign books for another four. Gas also went up in price, and less people sold books. Once I had a real legal career, I couldn't take off work as easily as before. And now that I'm married, I don't want to sleep in a Motel Six off the freeway, when I can stay at home with my wife.

Tonight, I will be doing a signing at a Hastings in Albuquerque. I will only be driving a few miles, but it will feel like I am in another world. I will greet strangers and sell a few books. I will pretend I'm in Amarillo for the night.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The A-rod of Writing

Alex Rodriguez make more than you. He makes more than me. He makes more than everyone you know put together, and he has not worked a day this year. He's about to get banned from baseball for life. We're all a little happy about that. While there is only one A-Rod, every profession has someone who is making a lot of money based on past achievement and writing is no exception. Who are the A-rods of writing, and should we hate them?

Dan Brown wrote the Da Vinci Code is certainly one candidate. The book has the most ludicrous opening murder of any mystery EVER written. An old man is killed by an albino, while dying, he manages to run around the museum to plant an elaborate series of clues. Imagine the recent Jodi Arias murder trial. Just imagine if the victim while bleeding to death had gone around the household and did the same.  Still the book had some twists and turns and made a half decent film. I have not read Brown's latest book Inferno. I don't begrudge him his success.

John Grisham might be the A-rod of writing, but I will say he is more like Derek Jeter, a likeable guy whose skills have diminished over time. A Time to Kill, his first book was a good thriller with southern charm. The Firm had a killer premise, but the fifty or so books he's written since then all seem to blend together.

It is too early to A-rodize (that isn't a word yet, but it will be) some of the authors of the teen series like Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Twilight et al. I am enjoying seeing them try some different things. Perhaps they could do a crossover series. Who wouldn't want to see Harry have to fight off Team Edward and Team Jacob in a Hunger Game All star match up?

I would say the only author whose success I clearly resent is the author of 50 Shades of Grey. Don't know their real name and can't pick them out of a line-up if I did.

As for me, my first book was clearly my best and my biggest seller. Does Biogenesis lab have something for writers?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Royal Baby at a Book Signing

I'm doing a book signing somewhere in America on Friday, but I'm not saying where. It's like Will, Kate and the Royal Baby doing a joint appearance at a small club downtown. Well, not really, but I'm trying an experiment. I want to know if publicity matters. I might as well make a contest of it--the first person who sees me at the store and mentions the blog, gets a free book. Just don't mention the royal baby.

I am not the royal baby by the way. No one will fly across the ocean just to hear me cry. No one is laying odds on the name of my next book. The odds are the next book will be called "Rattlesnake Blogger" by the way.

I've always said that publicity is meant for the people who DON'T come to an event. I liken it to promoting the NFL. I have seen thousands if not millions of ads for football games, and yet I have not attended an NFL game as an adult. One million ads have not convinced me to shell out a hundred dollars or so for a ticket. I have never purchased any NFL memorabilia either. However, I watch football every week during the season, so it must be working.

Several thousand people were exposed to publicity about my last signing. Needless to say, several thousand people did NOT show up. I had a great turn out and great sales, but I was disappointed. At the event on Friday, I'm going to focus on the people in the room. I am going to live in the moment. I bet I sell more and doubt less. I won't be a baby.

Will people read this article and drive around town looking for me? Probably not. Will someone spot me in a bookstore and then post it on the internet and then tell their friend? Possibly. Most likely, someone in the store, might say "I've heard of you," and buy the book. That will take a lot less effort on my part.

So Friday night, be on the look out at a store that sells books somewhere in Albuquerque...Mention the blog and get a book, as long as you don't mention the baby.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Letters to Letters

Read the classified ads lately? Employers must be embarrassed to use their names in classified ads and hide behind letters and numbers.  That is puzzling to me -- they should be happy that business is so good that they need to hire somebody new. On the other hand when applicants apply for jobs, they don't have that luxury. Unlike personal ads, lawyers can’t call themselves something like “Sensitive Overachiever looking for love.”  It’s embarrassing because every blind submission is an admission that a candidate is willing to work for someone they don’t even know.

In the New Mexico Bar Bulletin, legal employers often mask their identities behind letters.  “Two year associate wanted, experience in bankruptcy and litigation; Write to Box S;” For some reason, I’ve rarely seen a box “q,” “r,” and never a box “x.”

Which brings us to the cover letter--every job seeker knows to enclose a cover letter with each resume. It shows that the job seeker is genuinely interested in this particular job and not firing them off at random.  A good cover letter should display an understanding of the firm's practice as well as convey the job seeker's unique qualifications to fill that niche.

But how do you draft a cover letter to a letter?   The following is one attempt.



Dear S:

I am seeking the Solicitor situation shown in the State Bar Bulletin.  I am aware of your sterling status among the letters; in fact the most sizeable volume of the World Book Series is Volume S.  Many scintillating and successful words begin with S, although regrettably I am currently S free.
I am also impressed with your strength at the end of words.  Many words would not be able to become plural, and would remain singular if it was not for S.
Appropriately enough, I am looking to practice in the field of name changes. My slogan would be "Your first vowel is free, consonants assessed according to law."  Obviously I would love the opportunity to tell my clients that if they are going to change their names, S will always be there.
Incidentally, I understand our firm has a good softball team.  I can help you there, as I lettered in college.




I’ve also seen ads in other publications with numbers. “Excellent opportunities for personal injury practice: contact Box 12345.”
But what about letters to box numbers? They have far less personalities than letters. How can the job seeker impress good old Box 289 for example?


BOX 289

Albuquerque, NM 87102

 Dear 289

I am responding to your ad in the Federal Jobs Register.  I have worked for three years for Box 17, which I especially enjoy as it is a prime number. However that does have its drawback, in that my work has not been divisible by others. As 289 is the square of 17, I believe that I would have much to offer, and could bring in potential clients from referrals from Boxes 34, 51 and 68. I would also like to expand our practice to affluent areas like 90210. In law school in the 303 area code, I was 123rd in my class.  As the editor of the "NUMEROLOGICAL LAW JOURNAL," I had an article published on "1983 Suits since 1991; Too much 12(b) 6?" I am also interested in Title Nine work, although I've done considerable work on First Amendment cases. Please contact me at 505-555-5555.



With the advent of computers and e-mail the future of job seeking promises to be even more impersonal. Resumes are already stored electronically, and potential employers can hit a few keystrokes and find their match. Hit {ctrl f5, alt f6} to hire their new litigator. So job seekers might as well be original and write cover letters like the ones above -- if not they’ll be just another number.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Klout in the Street

Klout is the worst thing that has happened to the internet. Klout is like a drug that makes you do things that you regret. By the way, my Klout score is higher than yours.

For those who don't know, (ie people without Klout) Klout is an alleged ranking of your influence on the internet. Your score goes up every time someone comments on your Facebook post, shares your link, or even likes the photo you post of your cat. I'm not sure if its better to be liked a hundred times for one post, or to post a hundred times and get a single like for each post.

It would be better if I actually got paid for each like, and I could use my Klout score to negotiate a better contract.

 By reading this article, my Klout score goes up. Or at least it doesn't go down. I think so, no one knows how Klout works or if they change their algorithm on a daily basis.
Al Gore allegedly invented the algorithm, but that's a different story.

As an author with an e-book available on Amazon, I became obsessed with my Klout score. I think the President and/or Justin Bieber has the highest Klout score of 99. Just imagine if Justin Bieber became President.

I didn't care if my book wasn't selling, as long as people were liking on my Facebook posts. I had nearly 5.000 friends on Facebook which meant I should get a lot of likes. My score reached a high of 63 shortly after my wedding a year ago, and 93 people clicked that they liked my status change. I started posting less and my Klout score plummeted every day to a low of 55 early this summer, but then I added LinkedIn. On my first anniversary a few weeks ago, and with a thousand LinkedIn connections, I made it back to 62. If I were to get onto Twitter, and do posts about Kim Kardashian having an illegitimate son with Prince William, my score would go higher.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my Klout score was higher than several models and semi-celebrities. Well it is now, but it wasn't a few weeks ago . . . Unfortunately, I post too much on some days, and I find that there are diminishing returns. The more you post, the less likes you get. If I only knew the algorithm.

So I am making a vow not to check my Klout score this week, and try to focus on quality and not quantity. Maybe that will make my Klout score go up . . .

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Book Falls in the Forest

A book is made out of trees, right? Well, if you do a book signing in the forest, does anyone hear it? I am mixing metaphors, but you get the idea. I had a great signing yesterday, and a respectable turn-out, but I was hoping for a hundred people-- a veritable Cibola National Forest of people. I had a small grove of cottonwoods at best.

I did get more people to attend than a best selling author with a big book deal and a publicist. I just had this vision that all 5,000 of my Facebook friends, and 1066 of my LinkedIn friends would show up and there would be a line stretching down the Rio Grande all the way to El Paso.

Still, I have a feeling that there are some green shoots out coming out from the roots.

The Community Relations Manager could not have been nicer. Hopefully, we will be able to set up a signing for our Southwest Writers anthology project when it comes out in November.

There was a lovely couple who bought two books and asked me which order to read them. They also had one of my books already, which they asked me to sign. No, I didn't get a sale from that book, but it was a good feeling especially when the husband said "We'll tell all our friends about you."

After my presentation was over, I talked with an author who is doing a signing at the store in a few weeks. He was considerably older than me, but he was excited about seeing his first book in print. I asked him the title of his book, and wished him luck when I signed a copy of mine. I could see in his eyes that he wanted to bring more people than I did.

Someone was there from the administration of my alma mater and invited me to do a presentation at the school. I was flattered, but she didn't buy a book.

My mom and wife were both at the event as well. They are extremely supportive of me. They didn't buy books either.

All in all, it was a great event.

Yesterday, a book fell in the forest. People definitely heard it . . .

Friday, July 19, 2013

Rattlesnake Butcher, Rattlesnake Baker, Rattlesnake Candlestick Maker

I am known as the Rattlesnake Lawyer. This Saturday, 3 PM at Bookworks, I will tell you how to become the Rattlesnake Butcher, Baker or Candlestick Maker, or whatever line of work you are in.
So just what is a Rattlesnake Lawyer anyhow?

I was a public defender in Roswell to start my career, yes THAT Roswell. On my way down there, I had begun working on a diary, so I was recording my thoughts into a tape recorder. After two hours of absolute oblivion, I passed over the County line into the Fighting Fifth Judicial District and the first evidence of life was a sign that said "Watch for Rattlesnakes" on Route 285 at the Mesa rest stop.

At that moment, I decided my diary would be called Rattlesnake Lawyer. I am now on my seventh Rattlesnake Lawyer novel. I have rattlesnakes on my business cards. And yet, even I'm not always sure what the term means.

In its strictest sense, a Rattlesnake Lawyer is someone who adapts to a harsh environment and like the sign says it is someone or something worth watching. A rattlesnake is not like any old snake, it's got style! It's not just worth watching, it's worth listening to as well.

So what does that mean to you butchers, bakers and candlestick makers? I don't know if I want to meet the Rattlesnake Butcher or Baker, but I do want to know about candles. To be the candle maker for example, would mean that you are doing your best in the highly competitive candle making economy and also that you are worth watching. I'm sure there are crazy stories out there in the candle business, outsize personalities, bruised egos and the like. There IS a novel about candles and YOU can be the one who writes it.

EVERY profession, even the lack of profession is worth writing about, because every human being is worth writing about. So come to my talk on Saturday and I will tell you about how to get started, how to get finished, how to get published, how to get promoted and how to get BITTEN!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Saturday, Saturday, Saturday

This Saturday is my big event at Bookworks. I'm hoping that JK Rowling, Stephen King and Dan Brown might drop by. Perhaps JJ Abrams and George Lucas will be in the audience to offer some hints on the next Star Wars film. Even better, maybe JD Salinger faked his own death, and will read excerpts of his unpublished sequel to Catcher in the Rye. Well, an author can dream, can't he?

Who would be on your ultimate author panel? When I was at the American Film Institute, we were lucky enough to meet some of the most powerful people in Hollywood. I asked James Cameron a question. I don't remember the question, but I do remember the cold look he gave me as if he was the iceberg and I was the Titanic. I tried to pick up on Salma Hayek, but that is another story.

I mention JK Rowling because she is literally richer than the queen of England, but I probably could not pick her out of a line-up. I do want to know if she had any idea how successful she would become. It's not her writing that I admire so much, it's her faith.

Dan Brown wrote the Da Vinci Code, and is currently on the best seller list with Inferno. How can someone with so little writing talent come up with such amazing ideas?

I might get in a tiff with Stephen King. I recently read his book on the Kennedy assassination. The parts about the Kennedy and Oswald are brilliant, yet there's a 200 page detour about being a small town teacher that is among the most self-indulgent passages that I have ever read. The Under the Dome  TV series started well, but really sucks now. He also said that he didn't like Jack Nicholson in the Shining. I'd like to see a fight between the two of them. I'd bet on Jack.

As for JJ Abrams, he has had my career, the one I have always wanted. I would ask him if I could have it back. And JD Salinger, what the hell did he do for the last sixty years of his life after he finished his last book...and what the heck is a bananafish?

Perhaps, it's good that I will be the one on the panel on Saturday at Bookworks. Still, I will leave some empty chairs

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Are you happy?

This was one of my first published stories...

            At the University of Colorado Law School, my resume opened a lot of doors; my GPA quickly closed them. For that reason I interviewed all over the country -- San Francisco, LA, and Washington -- but door after door after door slammed in my face. Each rejection somehow made me want the next opportunity that much more.  In the spring of my final year, I received a letter from an international law firm in New York City. For a twenty-five year old, awash in anxiety, this was my last best chance to make it to the big time.

            My dad had grudgingly lent me the money to fly into New York so I felt even more pressure taking the elevator up to a top floor of a magnificent old building. The firm's reception area had a tasteful Asian décor; it looked like a firm that did mergers and acquisitions for Samurai. There were beautiful window frames, but the view only went out to the building across the street. The secretary told me the partner would be right with me. She let me peruse the Wall Street Journal as I waited. Reading the Wall Street Journal while on Wall Street itself -- I had finally arrived.

            After an anxious hour, the hiring partner ushered me into his office. He was a dour man in his late forties, and had a stack of half-opened files on his desk. Each stack was meticulously separated by yellow, blue and pink post-it notes.

            “We don’t get many people from Arizona who want to work here,” he said with a slight sniffle, barely looking up.

            “No, I'm from New Mexico. I went to law school in Colorado.”

            “I see.”

            “Tell me about what you guys do here.”

            Had I really used the word “guys” to describe these masters of the universe? He wasn’t offended. He smiled a real smile as he began his favorite part of the interview.

            I quickly grew mesmerized by the international litigation the firm handled. The size of the deals, the reputations of the participants, the travel, the excitement, and of course the money staggered me.  His war story covered the near calamity of crossed cultural signals in a Tokyo deposition. I almost told him of my only international experience--searching for a drunken buddy in Juarez, Mexico who had gone to the wrong bar and then hitched a cab ride up to Las Cruces.

            After about twenty minutes of tales of Rotterdam, Kuala Lampur and those bastards over at Baker and McKenzie, he glanced back at yellow post-it notes on his desk. His world tugged him back.

            I needed to say something. Something innocuous, that would keep him smiling, and keep me in this magic place.

            “Anything else?” he asked, picking up the yellow file.

            “One more, an easy one,” I said. Like any great lawyer I wanted a question that I thought I knew the answer to.

            “Are you happy?”

            For some reason that question hit him like a ton of bricks. He actually sunk in his seat, stunned. “No one's ever asked me that before."”

            He avoided my eyes and turned instead to the pile of documents and files on his desk. He made a few attempts to talk, but thought better of it each time.  He glanced over at the door, and at the window, as if his cohorts might listen in to some attorney-client privileged information.

            Finally, satisfied that the coast was clear, he spoke in hushed tones about his crushing work load, the trans-Pacific travel playing hell with his immune system, and how he somehow wanted something else. He didn’t say what, almost as if he‘d forgotten.

            He was especially distraught today. An impending merger might cost him his job. And then as I sat there in amazed silence, he told me about his divorce and how much he missed seeing his children grow up.

            He stopped exactly fifty minutes later, as if a light had flashed indicating the end of therapy. He shrugged his shoulders. “I guess the answer to your question would be no.”

            There was a buzz at the door, and his secretary rushed in. His 4:30 was waiting outside. He nodded to her and then nodded to me. It was time to go. I noticed that he was filling out a form marked “INTERVIEW WITH CANDIDATE ____”

            I’ll always remember the last words he said to me on the way out “By the way, what were your grades again?”

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Fugitive

Here's an old story from the upcoming "Laws and Loves" collection.






I am a fugitive. I was also a lawyer.

I was still on the lam as I parked in a dirt parking lot next to an abandoned white car and breezed through the metal detector in a courthouse somewhere in New Mexico.  Little did the guards know that stashed in my pocket was a crumpled, but very active, arrest warrant from a small town in California.

Ironically, I was in court to plead my client to a charge of concealing identity. Unlike Harrison Ford in the film of the same name, I wasn’t even a very good fugitive.  I had left the California authorities with my forwarding address.

My rap sheet wasn’t very long or very cinematic. When I’d lived in LA, I’d left town on a Friday afternoon to visit with an old girlfriend up north. LA was a jealous mistress and wouldn’t let me leave; traffic on the 101 seemed to stretch all the way to San Jose.  As I stared out, utterly impotent, at the belching exhaust of a shiny silver BMW, every beckoning cliché of the open road raced through my mind.  As if it was fate I switched to a classic rock station and heard a familiar refrain:


Get your motor running,

Head on out the highway,

Headed for adventure,

Or whatever comes my way. 


            "Born to be wild," I sang along with the chorus.


A hundred miles out, the traffic finally thinned and I was in open country at last. It was dark, but I could still make out the outlines of the brown, barren hills. I felt the bounds of civilization loosen just a little as Southern California ended and the Central Coast officially began. A billboard proclaimed a restaurant was “famous for pea soup.”

            “I hate pea soup,” I muttered under my breath.

As if he heard me, a California Highway Patrol squad car edged out onto the road just in front of me.  He drove at a constant rate of fifty miles an hour.  I had out-of-state license plates, so I slowed and stayed right behind him for a few miles, always careful to stay below the speed limit.  I swear that I gave him far more room than the Silver BMW back in LA.  Suddenly he pulled off the road and let me pass.  I breathed a sigh of relief -- Too soon.

A moment later his lights whirred and it all began.

“But I wasn’t speeding,” I protested when he came over.

“No one said you were speeding,” he said, handing me a ticket to the tune of a hundred and fifteen dollars.  “You were following too close, and that’s even more dangerous.”

I was a lawyer after all. “I plead not guilty,” I said. “Set a court date.”

He was polite and efficient and quickly let me back on the road and I didn’t think anything more about it. I then moved back to New Mexico.


Two months later, long after I had forgotten my visit to the land of pea soup, I received an official-looking letter.

 “Dear Sir/Madam:” it began.  “This department has a warrant for your arrest . . . . This letter does not preclude arrest on warrant at any time.”  The bail was 340 dollars. By the way, did I mention that I had two hundred dollars in my checking account at the time?

This was the real thing.  Given the advent of national computers, I could be thrown in jail anywhere in the country and spend hard time with gangsters and serial killers.


            I called California immediately. If they wanted me, they’d have to bring me in. Hopefully, the media would be there as I walked defiantly into the jail, as vendors hawked Free Jon Miller t-shirts as the cameras rolled. 

            Unfortunately, they wouldn’t extradite me, the bastards.  They told me my only choices were to fly out there to fight the ticket or pay it and be done with it.  

By the time I had finished talking with the California authorities, it was too late to go to the bank to get the check. I had to lay low for a while until the heat died down, or I could still make a break for it.  I called a few friends to see if they’d drive around the back streets of America with me, eat frozen burritos at 7-11 and sleep in stolen cars in old trailer parks. They all politely declined.

My mind quickly envisioned a screenplay. Given the recent trend of movies about people on the lam from the law and America's fascination with the dark side, I came up with Natural Born Tailgaters. Two messed-up kids travel around the country, and follow other cars too closely. 

I couldn’t pay the ticket the next morning either, since I was stuck in court on that concealing identity plea.  I could hardly ask the judge for a postponement for my client on the legal grounds that I was an outlaw.  I scanned the gallery and saw anxious defendants waiting for the law to come down on them.  I clenched my fist in solidarity.

            As I waited with my client, I glanced at a beautiful, sad-eyed woman with tall proud hair, who strained for glimpses of her boyfriend as he was brought in from the jail. 

            “Why go for local talent?” I almost said, reaching into my wallet to show her my warrant. “I’m bad. I’m nationwide.”

Although no words were said, she looked at me strangely as if she sensed that there was something different about me, something dangerous.  She smiled. I nodded at her. I then hurried up to the bench as my client's case was called.  After we did the plea, I explained to my client the twenty-seven or so conditions of his probation, and the consequences of even the most minor violation.

 “One bad urine and I’m sending you up,” his Probation officer had said on the way out. By paragraph seventeen of the probation agreement, a life of crime didn’t sound like fun anymore -- especially if you got caught.

My client paid me the rest of the money he owed me. I felt a sense of relief. I could finally pay off the debt.  Who says crime doesn’t pay?

I left court and drove briskly to the bank, excruciatingly careful not to drive too close, purchased a money order and sent it to California, certified mail.  And yet, I will always remember, that for a short while I was a wanted man.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Getting Sentenced

I just got sentenced! I have a new expression in writing promotion--"getting sentenced." Getting sentenced means receiving a single sentence in a major publication as in "Jonathan Miller will be signing his book at Bookworks next week." Don't get me wrong, I love getting sentenced, it beats the alternative sentence of no words at all.

I got sentenced in a few months ago for my signing in Moriarty, New Mexico. I was surprised that some people drove over eighty miles, all the way from Santa Fe, just to see me and purchase a book. I won't drive twenty miles to go to a restaurant on a weeknight much less on a weekend. The people said when they heard I was nearby, they just had to come see me, they had no choice. I call that a mandatory sentence.

I've had been sentenced for a book signing a few times, and ended up with more sales than I expected. People just happened to be at a bookstore and then see me. They utter "I've heard of you," but can't remember where. They inevitably buy the book, saying something like "When I see somebody famous, I just have to buy the book out of habit." Is that a habitual sentence?

On the other hand, I once had a full page write up in a local magazine, a magazine with a circulation in the tens of thousands where the review said that I had written one of the best books of all time. I immediately hurried to to see the number of sales. I calculated one maybe two. Assuming that 10,000 people had read the article, did that mean that 9,999 people required even more before spending a few bucks on a book. I'm not good enough, so I suppose that I received a probational sentence.

Still I do wish that it had been consecutive sentences...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Wrattered from Writing

I'm taking a summer vacation from writing. Other than this blog, I'm not starting any new projects for awhile. My brain is battered and my wrists are wrattered. "Wrattered" isn't a word, but don't you think it should be? "Wrattered" is an adjective meaning the pain in your wrists or other body parts caused by writing too much.

2013 has been a wrattering year so far. In January,  I was well into the first draft of my science fiction novel, 2112 Lawyer, which is currently titled A Million Dead Lawyers. I am one dying lawyer, considering how many times, I've gone back and revised it.

I also have a modern western called Navajo Repo. I had originally written it, several years ago, but we decided to publish Rattlesnake Wedding instead, because I still wanted to do additional research on Native American culture. When I went back to the Repo manuscript, I had to do some repo of my own. For some reason, half of the quotation marks are the straight quotes and not smart quotes. I had to go back and change each one.

While I was at it, I also had to make sure that the manuscript is consistent with Rattlesnake Wedding, as it is supposed to happen a few years earlier. To make things even more complicated, Marlow the main character in Navajo Repo, is also the main character in A Million Dead Lawyers. Also some of the other characters in the western, appear in the science fiction book. Don't ask.

I had to go back and make sure that everything was consistent with not one, but two manuscripts. I even wrote some witty dialogue in the earlier book that will echo in the later book. When people will ask me if I planned it that way, I will just smile.

Then there's Legal Lapdances, or is it Laws and Loves? I have entered the Southwest Writing contest with both titles. I won in 2006 and took second last year. The two works have had a shotgun wedding and now comprise of twenty years of non-fiction stories --88,000 word collection. Some of those stories were composed in computer languages that no longer exist. I've gone back and fixed quotations, spacing, as well bad writing. Twenty years ago, I made jokes that I don't get.

Who the hell is Craig Killborn and why was he hosting the Daily Show?

So I think it's time for a break . . . I'm wrattered!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Mensa on my Mind

I'm the stupidest smart person I know. I checked the Mensa website, the organization for bright people and I can just sneak in based on my old test scores. I'm not sure whether this information is a good thing or a bad thing.

I only know one bona fide member of Mensa and she's a retired porn star. I don't think I could pass the test now. I am saving up to buy flowers for Algernon.

I would put my intellectual peak during a Spring semester at Cornell. I was able to make Dean's List and actually understood statistics and degrees of freedom. I studied from six in the morning until midnight at night. In a previous post, I described how I carried the flag at my college graduation and was waitlisted at four top twenty law schools.

I never got off the wait list, but that's another story.

I literally dropped several percentiles during law school at University of Colorado, a top law school. I scored in the 95th percentile on the LSAT coming in, and I just barely passed the Bar exam on the way out. I can even pinpoint the exact moment of my intellectual drop-- halfway through at the end of my first semester second year. I dropped from the top half of the class to the bottom after four Cs.

Why did I suddenly drop? Ironically, I started "creative" writing in law school when I became Editor in Chief of the Law School newspaper. After graduating, I was unemployed for a year, and I had my first professionally published piece during that time. By devoting my intellectual energy to writing, did I lose a few points at problem solving.

Something did happen. because a few years into my legal career, I took a test for a job doing collections work. I obviously must not have passed because I was not hired. I was not smart enough to take cars away from people, and I say Thank God for that.

So when I check out the Mensa website, I wonder if I should send them a check. I am thankful enough that I can still balance my checkbook.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Puig of Their Own--or Writing All Stars

Where are you on the literary food chain? With the baseball all star coming up, are you a Puig or a Pipp?  Puig is the Cuban sensation  who just had the best first month in baseball history. Wally Pipp was the guy who sat down and let Lou Gehrig play for a thousand straight games, the record. He died of Wally Pipp's disease.

I have friends that are working on books they will never finish. Hell, I have friends who are working on haikus they will never finish. Then there are those who say "I've always wanted to write a book."They aren't even in the game, yet . . .

I' watched Stephen King's Under the Dome the other day. Stephen King is now beyond King of the Jungle, he has other jungles that he outsources to management companies. Stephen King is now so high up that even when he writes a really good novel like his one about the Kennedy assassination, he can slip in a bad 200 pages inside the good 1,000 just for kicks. Stephen King is not just a player, he's his own commissioner of his own league-- the Bud Selig of bards.

I have friends in the majors. They are earning a living at this writing thing. They have big time agents that are ready to get them the big prize-- the movie deal, even though that doesn't seem to come in. They are like the players that play for the Pirates that you can't pick out of a line-up. Actually, I do know a guy that got in trouble, and was placed in a police line-up but that's a different story.

As for me, I put myself at Triple A ball most days. I do get paid for doing this. I occasionally get a nice-write up and even make a highlight film. I hit some homeruns now and again and filled a stadium--well I've spoken before 200 people which is a big crowd for me. Some days, I'm down in Single A--doing a signing at a supermarket and selling six books, or less . . .

To mix baseball metaphors, I'm still pitching my books, but I'm trying to hit a homerun.

Yet, I'm up working at the craft, taking the batting practice to get into the show. Puig, I'm coming for you!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Homer and Marge

Have I become Homer Simpson? I'm gaining weight, losing hair, but still happily married to the same woman. We stayed home and watched a re-run of the Simpsons last night. After all these years, the show still has it. There were a few laugh out loud lines, but more importantly there was still genuine emotion. I interviewed for a job on the Simpsons.

I watched the first episode of the Simpsons back in 1988. I was not particularly impressed. However it was an early episode where Marge falls for the bowling gigolo, where the show knocked over the final pins of my heart. Homer gave Marge a bowling bowl that said Homer on it.

For my first anniversary, I gave my wife a bowling bowl that said Homer on it  Not really.

When I lived out in LA, I was interviewing for entertainment law jobs and I managed to get in the door at Film Roman, which was the production company for the Simpsons. The building was  a bland warehouse in the Valley, that could have been Dunder Mifflin from the Office. I met with a young lawyer who looked like Waylon Smithers and did the merchandizing agreements. He did not seem particularly happy as he went over contracts for a living, and did so in a building that could have been Dunder Mifflin from the Office. I tried to suck up to him, told him that he was part of the creative process in his own way. He did not smile. He did say the word "excellent," but I don't remember why
He had a cow when he saw my grade point average.

He did show me around where the American animators did some of the work. They were all in cubicles and it looked like a mushroom farm. It smelled like a cross between the nuclear plant and Moe's tavern.

I didn't get the job by the way. Not excellent at all.

It goes without saying that I would love to create a show that lasts twenty five years. More importantly, I aim to have a marriage that is as filled with love as Homer and Marge after 500 episodes.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Top Twenty with a Bullet

My friend Chuck Greaves is doing a signing at Bookworks on Monday night. Chuck won the Southwest Writers contest's Storyteller award a few years ago and has parlayed that onto the best seller list. Well, I just made the top twenty in two categories of the same contest. Could the same thing happen to me?

The blog that you are reading at this very moment was entered into the best non-fiction book proposal category as "Rattlesnake Blogger." If you go back to the first few dozen entries, you can read what I entered. I also had to put in my marketing plans, along with a query letter. I also had to include a chapter list. I had to anticipate the subsequent chapters of the book. I predicted that I would place, but not necessarily win and then I would have to make a decision on whether to publish this book on my own or submit it to a publisher.

To be honest, I had expected this blog to do well. I've won the non-fiction book proposal category before and took second last year. I was pleasantly surprised that my entry in the action/adventure category "Lawyer 2112" made the top twenty. Isn't that a science fiction book, you ask? Yes, and there was no science fiction novel category this year. I'm competing against mysteries and westerns and cop dramas. I am not optimistic that I will even place.

Assuming that neither entry places, I will be back at the computer the next day. I've used the metaphor of the computer as a slot machine. One even uses the same muscles on both If I didn't win today, perhaps I will win tomorrow or the next day.  . .

So if I do win an award, then what? I'm not sure.  I do have a book project with Southwest Writers coming out for the Holidays. I might try to publish Rattlesnake Blogger at that time. My existing publisher owns the rights to Lawyer 2112, so that might be moved up.

In any event, I will talk to Chuck tomorrow at Bookworks and get some advice from him. I hope I do have that problem.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Leaving Los Angeles or Dwight of the Living Dead

Former Laker Dwight Howard is leaving Los Angeles and taking his talents to Houston. I left Los Angeles and took my talents to . . .Albuquerque? I was once the Dwight Howard of screenwriting.

Like Dwight, I was all upside. In the year 2000, I had just received an MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute, and within a few weeks I was an associate producer on a TV show called Arrest and Trial. I wrote about a dozen episodes of the show, and while it was canceled, I was still very much in the midst. Did I mention that my first novel, Rattlesnake Lawyer had been published, and I was pitching it to Dick Wolf's people, the executive producer of my show (and also a little series called Law and Order)?

So no, I didn't win a championship in 2000, but if I stayed I could be playing with the big boys. Dick Wolf might as well have been the Phil Jackson of TV.

In late 2000, my Dad fell ill and after the show was canceled, I came back home to help out. In  January 2001, I went back to LA for one more month. As I related in my non-fiction book Amarillo in August, I appeared on the TV show, Win Ben Stein's Money. If I won, I could received the 5,000 prize and I could stay. If I  lost I would have to go home. I looked at it as a choice between writing and law. Unfortunately, I tied.

I moved back home to New Mexico in February 2001. After house-sitting for my Dad for six months, I blinked and twelve years have passed. I have a lovely wife, my own law practice and I own a loft that I would never be able to get rid of. I'm not going anywhere.

Do I have regrets? Part of me wishes I could be JJ Abrams and go from Lost to Star Trek to Star Wars. That probably wouldn't have happened. However, I was able to write TV scripts very quickly. I could probably be a staff writer on something on the ID channel right now.

But did I make the right move? Dwight Howard was not going to win a championship in LA, especially with an injured Kobe Bryant. He has a real chance of winning in Houston. The stars finally seem to be aligning for me right now--in fact the entertainment industry is coming to New Mexico. I might win a championship of my own by staying in the loft I would never be able to get rid of.

We'll have to wait an see. I'm keeping my talents right here. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Oh Say Can You HEAR????

I never answer the phone on the Fourth of July. A few years ago, I only had one phone line, no assistants and would take as many as seventy calls a day for my law practice. I would usually do well on about sixty of them. We went down to Carlsbad Caverns for the fourth, and someone kept calling and calling and calling and calling about a legal issue. He wanted me to call the judge that very instant.

With every call, I kept pressing the phone to my ear with frustration, and I found that I could hear less and less. That person called a fourth time asking the same question on the Fourth and I just exploded like a firework ...

"It's the fourth of July," I said. "The courts are closed."

He hung up and didn't call again. A short while later, I found that I couldn't hear things in my left ear. It was as if a wall had gone up over my ear and there was only a single opening. When I went to a restaurant that night, all the sound seemed to go through that opening like flood water going through a hole in a dike.

It didn't get better. A few days later, I went to a doctor who removed ear wax from my ear. Essentially, by pressing the phone down for the last few months that the wax essentially blocked my ear canal. She removed pieces of wax the size of earthworms.

I could hear again . . .

It was as if God was telling me to respect the sanctity of the holiday.
The phone has already rung this morning, but I didn't pick it up.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Grinch who stole Independence Day?

Tomorrow is the fourth of July. I remember a family trip back when my father was alive and we spent the entire night on a quest to find a fireworks show in a small town. We ended up finding America.

We had gone up to Colorado and had a late start coming back. We were still hours away from our home in Albuquerque and ended up in a small town. I honestly don't remember where. We were going to spend the night, but we might as well see the town's firework's show. The problem was, we didn't know where it was.

It was starting to get dark. My Dad was driving. Every time we saw a single rocket's red glare. My Dad would turn the car in that direction. "That must be it." By the time we got to the rocket's presumed launching pad, there would be no one around.

And then we would hear another . . .

The fourth time it happened, we heard a few rockets go off and then police sirens. "That definitely must be it."

When we arrived at the site, it turned out to be police arresting some kids for setting off illegal fireworks. My mom asked the police where the main show was, the officer replied that it had been canceled. He wasn't sure whether it was because of finances or because of drought.

We looked around the neighborhood. It was a little bit scary.
Dejected, my Dad decided that we would make it home that night after all.
 I was about to cry.

And yet at midnight, when I finally got home, the lights of my hometown looked a little bit brighter that night. While searching for radio stations, my Dad found one playing the Star Spangled banner. You've heard of the Grinch who stole Christmas? After the Grinch stole all the Christmas toys, the residents of Whoville still had their Christmas spirit. For some reason, I felt the same feeling about Independence Day at that moment. Even without fireworks, I still felt that American spirit.

Happy Independence Day everyone!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pussycat Writer

Since I got married, I made a major shift--from cat person to dog person. Would I become a pussycat writer?

As you know, I used to wake up well before at dawn, chug a Starbucks Doubleshot espresso can and begin my first paragraph before the last drop of fluid was down my throat. Occasionally I spilled a drop, perhaps I spilled a few words here and there. I was cat-atonic. Now, when I wake up I have to feed the cats first. Has that extra moment of reflection helped my writing? As I scoop the IAMS cat food and pour the water into silver bowls, I do tend to self-edit a little more. However, I am a hundred words less productive as I write five minutes less a day. If writers like cats have nine lives, I'm spending one life feeding the cats. That might be a good thing.

One cat, Oscar ignores me in the morning, but Miko the black cat watches me while I write. He will sometimes sit and stare. I wonder if he is reading my thoughts telepathically and transferring them to the feline version of the NSA.

I am definitely the cat scratch writer. Miko is not always passive. He has taken to pawing me with his sharp claws, usually when I am in the midst of an intense action or romantic scene. Is he making a commentary on my writing, or is he just hungry for treats? My gut instinct is that he wants treats, but perhaps he just wants to play because he senses it might cheer me up. Cats do read facial expressions, do I make funny faces when I type?

Curiosity killed the cat, but curiosity might be causing the cat to become a writer of his own. When I finish typing, Miko has a tendency to jump on my keyboard. There might be a logical explanation for that. I scooped out his food with my hands and then used the same hands to type. The keyboard literally might smell like cat food. On the other hand, perhaps Miko is expressing his own creativity in his own way. He typed out "fdadfsha" one time. I have no idea if that stands for something. Miko also might be playing editor. He once jumped up and managed to delete a document that I forgot to save. Talk about a cat-astrophe.

I had to start over again. It was much better the second time.

Miko does know one sentence in English now. "Get off of there!"

All in all, I do like being a pussycat writer.
Meow Meow Meow Meow...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Writing after Marriage

Today is my first wedding anniversary. I had wondered if I would still be able to write after marriage. In fact, my last novel, Rattlesnake Wedding, dealt with many of the anxieties of preparing for getting married. But most of it was written BEFORE I tied the knot.

So what have I written in the last twelve months of marital bliss?

Well, this blog was my wife's idea. She kept saying that I should write something productive as opposed to posting so much on Facebook. Turns out it was a great idea, over 3,000 people have checked it out. I've also submitted this blog to the Southwest Writers Contest. We'll see if it wins.

If the stars align, there's a very real chance, that this blog might become an ebook before the end of the year.

Speaking of Southwest Writers, my collection of short stories, Laws and Loves took second in their writing competition in the non-fiction. That was at a ceremony where we had the worst meal together as a couple, but that's a story for another time.

I've edited Laws and Loves and it is also ready to go.

Through Southwest Writers, I am also the executive producer of their compilation of member submissions. Look for it November 15.

All three books might come out on the same day.
But wait, there's more . . .

For the National Novel in a Month contest, I started a science fiction novel, tentatively titled Lawyer 2112. That's in pretty good shape. I also revised a western novel that was sitting in my computer. Believe it or not, the western novel has some of the same characters as the science fiction novel, and I put in an extra paragraph in the old book tying it to the new.

So far, the wedding has been good for my writing! And the writing has been good for the wedding!