Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking Bad RIP

Breaking Bad RIP. Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler. Did you cry?


Did you cry when Walter White died at the end of Breaking Bad? I didn't. Probably because of all the internet predictions. With the exception of him giving money to the Schwartz family to give to his son, most of the predictions were right on. Spoiler alert, spoiler alert, spoiler alert.

Overall, I liked the final episode. It spent a little too much time at the Schwartz mansion, and not enough providing closure with the other characters, but I did like the grim inevitability of the it. Walt's grim facade reminded me of Clint Eastwood at the end of Gran Torino where he prepared to say good bye. I did like the cameo out of nowhere by Badger and Skinny Pete. I did like him bearing the Nazis with a spring gun and Jesse riding off into the night. The final show of Walt dead at the floor of the meth lab was also very moving. . .

But I didn't cry. Perhaps because we had people over and I was thinking about clearing the dishes, and wondering about the score of the Patriots-Falcons game. I wanted to be enveloped in the ending, but I was thinking about life too much. I think I had more of an emotional reaction when Hank died.

The death of Gus Fring is still one of the best scenes that I have ever watched on television. I nearly vomited when Jesse's girlfriend was shot and had actual nightmares about that, and about Jesse being trapped.

Yet, I didn't cry when Walter White died.

I had a tear at the ending of Lost for some reason as Jack died. Hell, I shed a tear at the end of Battlestar Galactica...

 I watched them alone.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ban Breaking Bad? Ban Miley Cyrus!

Ban Breaking Bad?  This weekend I met someone, a liberal, who thinks it actually should have been banned. I then watched a TV show on the conservative Fox network which seemed to be calling for the banning of Miley Cyrus. Ironically, both were calling for the bans on similar grounds. What do you think?

As for the Breaking Bad ban, the person felt it glamorized drug use and manufacture. In this person's view, after people see Breaking Bad, they might start tweeking and that was a slippery slope. She talked about how her own son was currently in treatment, and she blamed the media.

The panel discussing Miley Cyrus was also talking about her glamorizing drug use, and they were against her appropriation of African dance styles. In this panel's view, after seeing Miley Cyrus, people might start twerking and that was a slippery slope.

News Flash. I'm against banning both Breaking Bad and Miley Cyrus on first amendment grounds with its freedom of speech. The slippery slopes are indeed there, but people are intelligent enough to grab handrails. These "handrails' are education from family, friends and even clergy. For example, the "faces of meth" campaign is enough to get people to avoid even starting using meth. The faces of Lindsay Lohan blitz in the media, is enough to get people to avoid a lifestyle like Miley Cyrus...

I'm not a first amendment absolutist, I believe in reasonable time place and manner restrictions. I don't necessarily want Miley Cyrus performing at an elementary school. I do have to admit that Breaking Bad is on a little too early for my tastes running against the animated Simpson episode. But then again, we were all scared that by watching the Simpson, we were all going to be Breaking Bart and emulating Bart Simpson.

So when you watch Breaking Bad's finale tonight. Enjoy it, and think. And then crank up the Miley Cyrus...but don't slip on that slope!

Friday, September 27, 2013

My New Mexico, Breaking Bad's New Mexico

I had an earlier blog about my Albuquerque versus the Albuquerque of Breaking Bad. As I go on a book tour to Silver City, NM, I can't help but think of my entire state of New Mexico as opposed to the more limited New Mexico portrayed on the TV show. I like mine better!

The one thing about the show is that they try to have showdowns in the most photogenic places possible. The site of the fist cookout and final shootout could be taken out of a western film. They indeed shoot on film which makes the colors and the shadows pop even more on the small screen.

The train robbery in dark territory was another scene that could have been from a film.

Unfortunately, every beautiful New Mexico scene is fraught with danger. It's the humans causing the damage. I'm sure there's a symbol of the something. My New Mexico inspires other emotions.

There are places in this state I hope that they never film, and I'm driving to some of them this weekend. The solitude of the drive between Socorro and T or C, and then the extreme solitude of the turn off between Hatch and Deming. You just don't see 46 miles of nothing anymore. I might take the scenic route back from Silver City which has one of my favorite windy roads. The first sighting of the Sandias in any direction, from the east, west north or south gives me a sense of relief that my journey is nearing an end.

I have some other great locations. Don't expect to see them in a film anytime soon.
The new Star Wars is filming here in the next few months. I have mixed emotions about that one.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ted Cruz, Obamacare and my speech in Silver City

Senator Ted Cruz is doing a "filibuster" against Obamacare on the Senate floor even as I write this. There's a chance he will still be speaking when I give a speech of my own on at the Silver City (New Mexico) Public Library this Saturday at 2 PM. My speech should be a little bit shorter and is about writing mystery novels. Cruz read a passage from Dr. Seuss  during one of his seventeen hours and counting. That actually doesn't sound like a bad idea.

The most effective speech I ever heard was ONE sentence long. It was the closing argument in an attempted murder trial and it was given by an attorney friend of mine. The case involved whether the defendant pointed a gun at someone and said "I'm going to kill you," then fired, but missed. That sure sounds like attempted murder to me. The Defense argument was that the Defendant didn't even know he had a gun in his belt, and tripped and when he grabbed the gun, it accidentally discharged.  The prosecutor said 'We'll let the Defense go first and show you the Defendant's intent." The prosecutor had a powerpoint presentation waiting to go illustrating all the witness statements demonstrating intent.

The Defense lawyer said "If they don't think they have a case, they must not have a case. I waive closing argument." Because the Defense didn't say anything, the prosecution had nothing to rebut. The case went to the jury and there was a not guilty verdict within ten minutes.

I actually saw this occur, so I put it in my first novel, Rattlesnake Lawyer. Incidentally the main character in my next two novels was named Luna Cruz. No relation as far as I know.

Polonious in Hamlet, said that brevity is the soul of wit. I'm sure you can think of something to rhyme with the word "wit" when brevity does not occur.

If you happen to be near the Silver City library at 2 PM on Saturday, please drop by. I won't be as short as the lawyer in the attempted murder case, but I will be shorter than Senator Ted Cruz. I do promise to quote Dr. Seuss.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Peyton Manning throws to Stephen Colbert

What is the connection between Stephen Colbert and Peyton Manning? We switched between Monday Night Football and the Colbert Report last night and saw two people at the top of their game. Colbert did to his national audience what Manning did to the Raiders defense. The question is how do I do that with my writing?

Obviously both men started with incredible talent, and then worked extremely hard to get where they were. They also had people who believed in them. Stephen got his break from Jon Stewart, Payton had to get his start from his father, before the coaches at Tennessee.

Payton Manning is perhaps the only quarterback you can identify from space. If aliens were watching from above and they saw Payton's unique style of audibles and running around, they would say that's Payton again. Much could be said about Stephen Colbert. While almost every talk show host is the same, Colbert seems to try harder.

Both are not perfect, Payton does throw the occasional interception and is no RGIII on the ground. Some of Colbert's interviews that he does in character come off a little flat-- like a quarterback that is throwing a slant pattern while the receiver is running a screen.

So how do we get there? Hard work of course. The willingness to improvise mid-play like Payton. Colbert's strength is his commitment to character.

Right now, I'm doing my imitation of Payton Manning as I sit at my keyboard. I'm looking in all directions, shouting out meaningless numbers, faking a bit, and then looking deep downfield...well looking deep into my computer screen.

It seems to be working. . .hut, hut, hut...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sleeping Bad?

Breaking Bad won the Emmy last night of course. Were you sleeping bad after watching Breaking Bad?  Everybody" loves" the show, but it is perhaps one show that people actually don't enjoy watching. In fact, last night's episode and the season finale will probably cost many people a good night's sleep. I have a splitting head ache this morning as I write about the show--.My goal of course is to be able to write a show like that.

My wife cried when Hank was shot. We both felt ill when Jesse was caught trying to escape the Nazis and then had to watch his girlfriend get shot by Todd. We were screaming at the small scene. By the end of the show, neither of us were smiling. I had nightmares last night and tossed and turned worried about Walt's fate. Needless to say, we both are going to watch again next week.

Why does the show affect us so much? On a global level, the writing and the acting are so far above the norm that it sucks you in. The camera literally transports you to over the characters' shoulders, and inside their heads and most of all inside their hearts. These are real people caught in extraordinary circumstances and we can relate to them. We are there with them.

On a "local" level, it feels even realer to us because we live in Albuquerque. Todd met Lydia at the Grove restaurant and we've even there, and even sat at the tables where the conversation took place. On note, there is no table service at the Grove, but that is a quibble. I did an early morning run past the Grove when they were filming that scene.  Instead of making it feel artificial, I felt like I was at the table with them.

I used to watch the Simpsons on Sunday nights, and then Celebrity Apprentice. I never got physically ill watching the Simpsons. Celebrity Apprentice however, that's another story. I get ill just thinking about that.

So after next week, I don't know if I can go back to watching the Simpsons. Then again, I've heard Family Guy can get you make you lose sleep as well.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My ABQ; Breaking Bad's ABQ

I work in Tuco's hideout. In Breaking Bad, Walt takes a meeting with an evil drug lord and then blows the place up. They filmed the interior at the studio, but the exterior of the building is where I take meeting with my clients. No one's blown anything up . . . yet. Everywhere I go in ABQ, I recall a scene from Breaking Bad. That might not be a good thing.

Walt had a meeting with Lydia at the Grove restaurant to discuss blue meth. I walked past the place when they were filming it. I've taken my wife to the Grove for the daily special which can involve something blue-- blueberries, pistachios and creme fraiche. When I go back to the Grove, I won't think of Lydia. I think of relaxed Sunday mornings with my wife.

While walking to pick up files one day, I saw them filming a big crowd scene at Civic Plaza. A security told me to walk around, but I couldn't help but try to sneak in and check it out. The completed scene would be where Jesse was supposed to set up Walt but ran away instead.

Someone asked me if I was an extra. I wasn't, but I might actually be in the scene, walking off in the far distance...

I am not an extra in my own life. Last night, we went out to Petroglyph National Monument and hiked to the base of the dormant volcano, and then scrambled to the top to watch the sunset. The rocks are made out of dried lava, and you feel like you have gone back to the Jurassic era. I felt a vibration or two. Was the long dormant volcano about to explode? Or was it just my heart beating a litter faster?

This was the fourth time we've done this in September, the perfect time of year.  Each September sunset has turn into one of  the very romantic moments of my life in my memory. I don't recall any Breaking Bad scenes taking place on top of the volcano, but as we look out onto the vast desert to the west and the bustling city to the east, we can point to places where scenes have been filmed. . .

For one moment, I thought this  would be a cool place for a scene --a drug deal gone wrong, with someone being thrown off the cliff perhaps.  And yet one look at my wife, with the sun setting to the west, and I stopped thinking of TV. I thought of us.

We spent  forty minutes on top of that volcano. We each went out too far on a rocky promontory to snap the same pictures we had snapped over the last few years. We saw the Sandia mountains turn pink. We saw those rays of red light that you see on the Arizona flag. We even saw a UFO (turned out to be a weather balloon, but we didn't know it at the time).

 Even if they did film a scene up there on top of the volcano at sunset, it wouldn't matter. . .This was our memory. Our Albuquerque.

I don't know where last episode's climactic shoot out where major characters were killed was actually filmed. It sure looks like a nice place for a picnic.

They actually filmed a scene from In Plain Sight in my home, right by my mailbox. Didn't see it. Don't care.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Huge Rejection

I am always a finalist in the Southwest Writers Contest. I am always a finalist in the New Mexico Book Awards. Until this year. That might be a good thing.
This year was the first year that I wasn't a finalist in much of anything. No awards, nothing on my resume. Seriously, I was going to hold off on sending out a resume until I knew for sure that I was a finalist. Why didn't I win in either contest? I can say that my writing doesn't easily fit into the categories, but I will just come out and say it. The competition was stiff this year, and perhaps the other competitors were just better. I can live with that.

There is an awards banquet on November 15 for the New Mexico book awards. I was contemplating hiring a publicist and going on a massive publicity tour. I was going to put my life on hold until then. Now, I'm already planning my entries for next year and figuring out what I'm going to begin writing in December.

When I was writing  Rattlesnake Lawyer, all my eggs were literally in one manuscript. When I got a rejection, I would be on the edge of tears because that meant it would be all over. As of this moment, Laws & Loves is coming out as an ebook in a few weeks, my Southwest Writer's anthology project is also coming out, perhaps at the same time. One or both of those projects could take my to the next level. I have complete manuscripts already done-- my modern western set in Navajo Country and my science fiction book, A Million Dead Lawyers. The question isn't if they get published, but WHEN.

And then there's this silly blog. I had hoped that I would have won the Southwest Writers contest with this blog by now. Well, that's not going to happen, but I will have more material and I will try again next year.

Does it hurt to lose? Hell yes, it does. I moped around all afternoon, but I'm up at dawn ready to go. See you next year!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Miley Cyrus, Grand Theft Auto, Breaking Bad & Me

Miley Cyrus has the number one album in the county, the game Grand Theft Auto made 800 million in a day, but there were more articles written about Breaking Bad in the websites I checked this week. What does that mean for me when my e-book comes out? I'm not sure.

Does anyone who watch Breaking Bad buy Miley Cyrus's albums? Did anyone in America purchase all three entertainment products? Would someone who listened to Miley Cyrus's album want to purchase my e-book? As for Grand Theft Auto V, it was the biggest launch of an an entertainment product in history. More people purchased it in a 24 hour period than saw Robert Downey Junior in Iron Man or Superman made in their entire runs. Yet, in my electronic world, I read six different recaps of Breaking Bad and I did not  see a review of Grand Theft Auto. I certainly did not see an ad for Grand Theft Auto or Miley Cyrus on the Breaking Bad commercial breaks. How many Breaking Bad viewers even have the appropriate console for Grand Theft Auto.

I'm bringing this up to describe the fracturing of American entertainment. It is not necessarily a bad thing. If Grand Theft Auto had tried to be a TV show, would it even get picked up by the networks. I think Breaking Bad could actually make it as a game, but that's another story. I'm not saying that Grand Theft Auto is better or worse than Breaking Bad. When we saw the clips from the show while we were watching the Daily Show, we were suitably amazed. I am intrigued and might get a used a year when the prices goes down.

I certainly can't say I want to ever buy Miley Cyrus's album.

Which brings us to my books. I figure that I am in the Breaking Bad demographic, whatever that is. Do Gamers read? The sheer numbers of the GTA launch indicates that they do. While Barnes and Nobles doesn't sell games, Hastings does, Walmart does. Those stores sell my book, so conceivably someone could go to the store and buy the game and one of my books.

Then again, maybe I can go on tour with Miley...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dating a Defender (From Laws & Loves)

“You don’t fit my expectation of a Roswell public defender,” said my date between mouthfuls of won ton soup at Roswell’s best Chinese restaurant.
“What did you expect a public defender from here to look like?”
“I don’t know—a cowboy riding a flying saucer, holding the scales of justice.”
“Well I’ve only been a Roswell public defender for a month. Give me some time.”
“Amanda” had gone to my high school up in Albuquerque and then attended an elite university. She’d just started her first job as a rookie reporter at the local TV station.  Far prettier than Princess Leia, she looked more like Natalie Portman’s Queen Amidala from the Star Wars prequels. Like Amidala she wore a touch too much make-up from her hours on camera.
To use the obvious metaphor, we were both aliens in Roswell in more ways than one.  At this early stage of our lives here, Roswell felt more like a cross between West Texas and the less fashionable sections of Tattooine, Luke’s home world in Star Wars. We’d just found each other after many years, neighbors at the one apartment complex geared toward young people in town.  Our complex felt more like a bunker in a residential part of Mos Eisely without the alien cantina for nightlife. Now at dinner, she seemed even more nervous than me, a war correspondent on her first trip abroad, waiting for the rocket’s red glare to finally start.
She seemed happy to see a familiar face when we had passed by the empty pool earlier in the day, and eagerly agreed to dinner. I wasn’t sure whether we were really on a date, or she was interviewing me for deep background.
“When did you decide to you wanted to do criminal law?” Amanda asked, checking off a question on her mental interview list.
“I didn’t plan for this, that’s for sure.” When I graduated from law school, I didn’t want to be a trial lawyer, I wanted to save the world. I first worked for the Department of Interior in DC, a research drone on natural resources issues. When I finally got to see a case we’d worked on, my supervisor took me to the wrong courthouse. We finally arrived at the right room just in time to watch a US Attorney use my paragraphs to triumph in an oil and gas dispute.
“I wanted to be a lawyer like that,” I said. “A real lawyer.
“My dad was in the Navy,” she said. “But he rode a desk. He always said that the Marines always thanked the Navy for taking them to the fight. He secretly wanted to be a marine.”
“Exactly. I wanted to be in the trenches, the courtroom trenches. I wanted to get dirty.”
 “You’re getting dirty all right. And Roswell? How on earth did you end up in Roswell? The Sunday New York Times arrived on Tuesdays here.”
“I keep ending west.” I talked about my misadventures in the East and Central Time Zones. “I’m sure I’ll end up in California someday.”
“Been there, done that.” Apparently her internship in Hollywood didn’t work out and she was heading east.  We both had ended up home in New Mexico like two ships colliding in the night. “Couldn’t you get a job at home up in Albuquerque?”
“I’m here by choice. Sort of.” When I wound up back at New Mexico, the only entry level jobs listed in the Bar Bulletin were for Fifth Judicial District which included Roswell. They actually paid better than the Albuquerque jobs, especially when you factored in cost of living.
“But why not a DA job?”I told her about my interviewed at the District Attorney’s office. They had blue blazers with the words “Fighting Fifth” engraved on the lapel for docket call days. Mr. Fighting Fifth actually began our meeting by saying, “I am now going to ask you questions that are off the record and will not be used at all in the interview process.” He proceeded to ask me my age, marital status, political party, alcohol use and what I liked to do on Sundays. Whatever I said was wrong, especially the Sundays part since I didn’t repeatedly use the word “church.” He then got to asking about my grades, but unfortunately that question was on the official part of the interview.
Down the street to interview at the public defender’s office, I must have crossed over Checkpoint Charlie into the free world. This was also about fighting, but more about self-defense, like legal ju-jitsu. Mr. Miyagi, the mentor in the Karate Kid would be proud that we would only use our skills in self-defense. I just felt more comfortable, especially when I met one of my bosses, “Pete.”  Pete boasted they did more trials here in the Fifth than anywhere in the state and even received combat pay. I could be a real lawyer at last.
Amanda laughed when I mentioned combat pay. “I deserve combat pay,” she said. Apparently being a rookie journalist in Roswell did not pay network wages which explained why she was in the same apartment complex that I was in. “What did you do on your first day as a public defender?”
“I went to jail.”
“You go to jail? You don’t look like you’ve ever spent any time in jail. Did you go all by yourself?
“Well, not the first time.” I had accompanied a female attorney who was eleven months pregnant. Yes, eleven months pregnant, and her belly nearly took over the cramped interview room of the Chaves County Detention Center. I watched her interact with the client, a man facing the eight year habitual offender enhancement.  They both casually referred to the enhancement as the eight year bitch. I was terrified that getting bitched referred to something to defense lawyers if they got locked inside.
(Author’s note: Years later, I would encounter the attorney and her son at an event. I was able to say casually to the young man, “We were in jail together once.”)
“Were you still scared when you had to go by yourself?”
“I forgot to close the door and left the jail door open. I figured it would close automatically.  I was wrong. If someone had run out they’d be in Panama by now.”
“Did you like being locked in? I don’t know if I could take it.”
 “I was breathing heavy after only five minutes stuck in the room between the hallway and the jail pod. By my fifth minute I understood why the people in jail wanted to get the hell out.”
Our main course came. I wondered if we had ordered Chinese food or Klingon cuisine.  This was Roswell after all, so I couldn’t really tell whether the meat was of this world.
Amanda didn’t bother to eat. “How long before they trusted you with a real live hearing?”
“About a week.” I told her about my first solo hearing, a detention hearing for an alleged fifteen year old burglar. Unlike the massive Federal courthouse in DC, we had the hearing in a converted broom closet in the old courthouse. It wasn’t before a judge, but before a “special master,” an elderly woman retired from the schools.  The special master did not wear a robe, while I was dressed like the Devil’s Advocate’s junior associate in a black Ralph Lauren suit with a blood red Jerry Garcia tie. My client sported an Oakland Raiders shirt with matching Raiders tattoos on his neck.
I went on for twenty minutes detailing the attributes of my poor client who had stolen a video of the film Scarface from a convenience store. I acted like the lawyer I’d seen in Federal court on the million dollar natural resources case, citing case law and everything. The prosecutor said nine words total. “He was on probation when this happened, your honor.”
Needless to say my client was held in detention.
Amanda smiled; maybe this was a date and not an interview after all. She touched my hand, but before I could relax, she instantly shifted into full Sixty Minutes gotcha mode.  “How can you defend someone you know is guilty?”
I thought back to something Pete had said during my interview.  He was one of the first people inside the Santa Fe prison after the riots and claimed to have seen the mangled bodies and severed heads. “After you’ve seen what I’ve seen, you know how you don’t want someone going to prison unless their guilt can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”
I got preachy to Amanda and told her how proof beyond a reasonable doubt, BARD became my mantra by my third day. I almost had it tattooed on the space between my thumb and forefinger much like my clients had the three dots signifying mi vida loca. The constitution, specifically the bill of rights, could be tattooed on the palm of my hand as a cheat sheet. It applied to everyone equally. Justice wore a blindfold for a reason.
“Are you saying things aren’t fair down here?”
I kept preaching. During my first month in the Fifth District, I saw our clients routinely overcharged--attempted murder, eighteen years at eighty five percent good time when unnecessary roughness, fifteen yards loss of down--would have been the appropriate sentence.She nodded perhaps sensing a two part expose. “Do you like your clients?”
“Actually I do, especially the juveniles, because I still see hope.”  I talked about realizing how lucky I was and how many advantages I had growing up. These kids didn’t have SAT tutors, much less stable home environments. Some of these kids never had a chance. I rattled off some statistics that I had read in a criminal defense magazine.
Perhaps my preachiness bothered her. She frowned, changed the subject. “Have you even won any trials yet?”
I was sheepish. “I’ve only been there a few weeks.” I was only handling juvenile cases and misdemeanors. In my first DWI trials, the defendant might have been intoxicated in court, could sitting while intoxicated be a crime. As a driver he couldn’t maintain his lane, as a defendant he had trouble maintaining his balance.  The jury came back in less than two minutes with a guilty verdict.
“That must have hurt.”
He told me, “I want a real lawyer and not a public pretender.”
“Didn’t he know that you are a real lawyer?”
I looked down. I had wanted to tell my client I wasn’t pretending. This was all too real for me. I was doing my best and not always winning. I learned to take pride in providing zealous representation against overwhelming odds.  I did more court appearances in that first month than my former boss at Department of Interior had done in his lifetime.
“So you lose all the time?”
“I finally won something last week.” It was only another detention hearing and managed to get a fifteen year old shoplifter out of jail, at least pending his trial. I was so happy that I personally took a certified copy of the release order to the jail window. I felt like Moses, I had let my people go.
Amanda laughed at that silly joke. “You don’t look like Moses,” she said. “And that’s a good thing.”
“Wait till my second month,” I said. “I’m aging rapidly.”
When our waitress came by and took away our still full plates, I told Amanda about how the waitress at one of the local Mexican restaurants was dating one of my clients. I never knew how much to tip the significant others of criminals. Should I tip the girlfriends of aggravated batterers more than murderers?
We stared at the empty table for a few moments. We were both still hungry, and not just for food. Amanda asked me if I had any other interesting stories. I’d only been there a month, and other than the detention hearing, I didn’t really have any good stories about my courtroom victories . . . yet.
“I don’t have much yet, but I have a feeling I can get a book out of this place.”
We walked out into the crisp night. The sky was incredibly clear and with some mysterious objects moving parallel to the spine of the Milky Way.  Were they airplanes, meteors or perhaps unidentified moving objects checking out the scene?
I walked her to her door at our complex. “I am interested in learning more about what you do.” She said, shaking my hand, but implying that a kiss might not be out of the question on our next close encounter. “Let’s do this again.”
“If you want to hear the real stories, you should talk to my boss, Pete.”
She shut the door. I was alone under the stars. I took a deep breath of the clean air. Perhaps Roswell would work out after all.  I looked up at the Milky Way one more time, and saw another friendly unidentified flying object. The sky was the limit in more ways than one. It was Roswell after all.
There was a second date, but not a third, Amanda and I never quite worked out. She did have dinner with Pete, and breakfast too perhaps, but that’s another story for another time. Speaking of stories, I did get a book out of this place. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

An open letter to Vince Gilligan of Breaking Bad

Dear Mr. Gilligan:

I understand that there will be a spin-off to Breaking Bad called Better Call Saul. Please hire me as a staff writer. You are receiving thousands of solicitations from people who are writers, and people who are lawyers and people from New Mexico. This will be one of the only letters from someone who is all three.

As a writer and novelist, I have an MFA in film from the American Film Institute. As an associate producer, I wrote thirteen episodes that aired for the television show, Arrest and Trial which re-created famous crimes. One episode was about the Ninja Bandit, a cop who dressed up like a Ninja and robbed banks. That certainly sounds like a case for Saul. I had to move back to New Mexico because my Dad had cancer and resume practicing law. I have written seven novels, crime thrillers all of them set in New Mexico. La Bajada Lawyer took second place in the Foreword Magazine National Book of the Year contest, mystery category, Lawyer Geisha Pink took third. Lawyer Geisha Pink sounds like something that Badger and Skinny Pete would love. All my recent novels have been finalists in the New Mexico book of the year contest.

As an attorney, I have represented thousands of New Mexicans through the public defender contract. I've had many trials involving drug manufacturing throughout the state. I've visited jails and penal institutions throughout the state on a weekly basis. I'm certainly the only applicant who knows the difference between hydrous and anhydruous ammonia and its role in manufacturing.

I grew up in New Mexico only a few miles from Hank's house. I've practiced law here for most of my professional career and done cases in many of the judicial districts of New Mexico. I know many of the dark corners of the state that no one else knows of. I have story ideas and locations that no one else can have.

So please hire me. I'm available immediately. Thank you for your consideration.

References available upon request.


Jonathan Miller

Monday, September 16, 2013

Are you happy?

(From the upcoming Laws & Loves)

            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? My innocence made him smile; I was clearly not the barracuda lawyer to be who usually sat across from him. 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 bums 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. Imagining myself as a 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?”

Sunday, September 15, 2013

How Breaking Bad Ends; Spoiler Alert

I know how Breaking Bad ends. If you watched last week's episode, you know there was a shoot out. Who will live and who will die? And what will the actors who play the characters and the writers who write their stories do next? The staff of Breaking Bad has a chance to break for the better, but will there be a happy ending or will they become Lost?

Well, we all have heard that there's a prequel, with the title Better Call Saul.  The fact that it's a prequel indicates that Saul can either live or die and the show can still go on. I'm betting on Saul living. Bob Odenkirk has been everywhere today.

One thing is for sure, it doesn't really matter which character lives or die, the actors and writers have unique opportunities to cash in, and I bet they do. But that window won't last forever. We can look at the window of the show Lost. The actor who played John Locke got to be on Hawaii 5-0/ He also got his own show 666 Park Avenue. The reason I'm saying the character name as opposed to the actor, is because I couldn't immediately recall his name. Terry Something right?

I haven't seen Person of Interest, but it is an undeniable hit for Michael Emerson, the actor who played Ben Linus. He's the winner as far as the cast of Lost goes and he was the probably the one you didn't think would be the biggest star.

Quick, who played Sawyer? He has a series coming up, and we'll see how it does. I am betting on him,  but I thought he would be more famous by now. Hurley had a show that was canceled. Yunjin Kim is on something called Mistresses while her "husband" Daniel Dae Kim actually got a role on Hawaii 5-0 even though it will get lost on Friday nights next season. I haven't watched either show. Evangeline Lilly is going to be an elf in the next Hobbit.

What about Matthew Fox who was the "star" of Lost? He's always working, but he will never be as big as he was. He had a golden ticket.

The biggest winner--JJ Abrams -- who is directing Star Wars of course. We've almost forgotten that he was the executive producer.

The Breaking Bad cast has set themselves up nicely, for now. Bryan Cranston is in ten movies a year, he will be working until the day he dies. Aaron Paul showed that he is a real actor, but I expect him to go into more romantic leading parts. Dean Norris who plays Hank already has a hit in Under the Dome. Anna Gunn would be a great DA on a legal show, if not her editorial in the New York Times shows she can write shows of her own,  Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) deserves his own show.

I'm betting on their continued success, but I doubt that anything they ever do will ever compare with what they did on Breaking Bad.

So spoiler alert, there will be a happy ending for the staff of Breaking Bad.

For now . . .

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Captain Hook Writes an Ebook

Clap your hands if you believe. A publisher just sent me a contract to publish "Laws & Loves, Real Stories of the Rattlesnake Lawyer" online. In Peter Pan, Peter and the Lost Boys never grew up in Neverland, Neverland. There's a chance that this might be my one way ticket out of Never Neverland. Or then again, there might be no way out.

I have the kindle app on my phone. Many of you have the kindle app on your phone. I can read my book while waiting to go through a metal detector at a public building. If you are behind me  you can ask me what I'm reading. I can say it's my book. You can then download my book and have it on your phone by the time you get to the other side of the metal detector. I will have made 99 cents or so as I get scanned regardless of whether I beep or not. I actually might beep for irony.

And hopefully while you are waiting in line tomorrow, the process will repeat. Clap your hands indeed.

But I might be living in my own private Never Neverland. There is no guarantee that at ebook will sell or make it out of the big time. There certainly is no guarantee that I will make money. We had nearly a thousand free downloads of Rattlesnake Lawyer, but that has only led to a few downloads since then, by few, I mean a handful or in Captain Hook's case, a hook full. (I do have an image of Captain Hook and Edward Scissorhands texting each other, but that's a story for another time."

So I am not clapping too hard. Yet...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11

Where were you on September 11, 2001? I was in LAX, about to fly home to ABQ. At that moment, my biggest concern in the world was telling my boss why I was going to be late for work. I had been in LA to give a speech at USC on writing Monday night. At the time, I was working at a law firm, and was supposed to be at the office first thing Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, my flight wouldn't get me back to Albuquerque until ten in the morning, but I figured that I would be able to talk about airline delays and avoid getting in trouble. Being late for work was all I was worried about.

I was in the Southwest terminal when the first plane hit. I noticed that a crowd of people had gathered around the TV and listened to the voice of Peter Jennings. I checked in at my gate and was told that there was a slight delay... There was an audible gasp coming from the TV when the second plane hit. The delay for the plane got even longer. I called work, and it was clear that if I wasn't at my desk hard at work, there would be consequences....

When the first tower went down, I made a decision. I left the terminal and went outside to find the first rental car I could find. It was a Hertz. Thankfully, I had a good credit card and told them I was driving. I tried to call my office but could not make it through.

I did not stop until Barstow, got gas and grabbed a bit to eat. In Barstow, it was impossible to understand the extent of what happened at the Carl's Jr. where I had a burger and three cokes.

Next stop Needles. I wasn't able to get radio along the Interstate, so I was still in the dark. I tried to call the office again, but it was not open. I didn't know whether

I was almost driving off the road in Flagstaff with fatigue, so I finally forced myself to stop in Gallup. I had been on the road for nine hours, but still had two more to go.

When I was paying for my gas and grabbing a red bull in the truck stop off Exit 18 in Gallup, a local kid came in and greeted the clerk, apparently an old buddy. "Why is the Gallup Mall closed?" the local kid asked.

The clerk wasn't sure. They looked at me. I didn't have an answer either. I got back on the road.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Washington "R Word"

I will never again use the "R word" after the second quarter of last night's Monday Night Football. Yesterday I finished working out at a sports club and was heading toward the door. The front desk person was watching the Philadadelphia-Washington game on TV, we'll call him Martin. Martin's a Navajo currently enrolled in grad school studying engineering, I've known him for years and he's an all round good guy. He works at the club on four afternoons a week to help pay for schooling.

Most days, he doesn't bother to check my membership card and just waves me through. When I forgot my locker he's the guy I trust with my watch or smart phone. Unlike most health club professionals, he's not in the greatest shape as he doesn't always work out at the club--he's either working at another job or studying.

I lived in DC for a year and a half when I was twenty-six, and the fans there are even more passionate than Denver fans, if that's possible. I don't particularly like the Eagles and tend to cheer for Washington teams when I can. Dan Shepard the "me character" in Rattlesnake Lawyer refers to himself as a big fan of the team as well. Speaking of R words, I am impressed by RGIII.

I was about to ask Martin the score of the game by referring to name of the Washington team, and I just froze. I just couldn't say the R word to him without sounding like another R word, a racist. When I think of Native Americans, I don't think of a stereotype, I think about Martin, I think of  the judge I'm going before on Friday, I think of the mother of one of my clients who is a school principal, I think of the woman who ran the museum where I lectured. I think of the man who made the sculpture in my mom's living room that if she sold it could pay off my credit card debt.

I remember that when I went to the Acoma reservation,up to Sky City, many of the tribal members were Cowboys fans, but that's another story.

Chris Rock did a routine on when people could use the n word. He said that it can be used at four in the morning on Christmas Eve. Well, I don't see any reason to use the R word.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Breaking up with Breaking Bad

What are we going to do on Sunday nights when Breaking Bad is over? After tonight's episode there are only a few more to go, and then what? Low Winter Sun? Sorry, but that's no winter sun. At least there's Sunday night football, Cowboys Giants could be interesting.

The Simpsons is coming back on Sundays, but the Simpsons has jumped so many sharks, that there can be a Shark Week episode about that. Celebrity Apprentice? I stopped watching that when the show was pre-empted for the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Don't you think that the President deliberately made the announcement to tee off Trump. If Osama had been only captured and was able to post bond, he might actually have been a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice and we would be talking about the Osama Omarosa alliance.

Maybe I should go to the office on Sunday nights and get ready for the week. There are people who are so organized that they give themselves detailed notes for every day. I wish I could be like that, but I'm not.

We've stopped going out for dinner during this show's seven o'clock run. It's too early for blue meth at seven. We should probably start spending more time with our families once the show is over, and talk about feelings.

Well, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now, I'm worried about whether Walt will kill Jesse or vice versa. Will Walt Jr finally figure out that his father is a bad man? Will Skyler keep the money?

My gut instinct is that when the Simpsons comes on, or I'm watching football, or God Forbid the Celebrity Apprentice, I will still be thinking about Breaking Bad.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Fugitive (From Laws & Loves"


I am a lawyer in New Mexico. I was also a fugitive from California.
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 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 Jonathan 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.  You’ve heard about the Fast and the Furious? How about The Not Fast Enough and the Following too Close?
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 sample 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.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Manning up in Denver

Did you see the Broncos game last night? Peyton Manning threw seven touchdowns. Next month, I'm returning to Colorado for my law school reunion to check out the score in my own life. Don't ask, but let's just say I'm older than Peyton. After seeing shots of the Front Range with all the storms, I couldn't help but wonder what if? Would I have been a powerful Peyton or a flaccid Joe Flacco, in my practice of law, literature and life?

My academic record was mixed at CU, much like Coach Shanahan with the Broncos. My quarterback rating wasn't great, but I was editor in chief of the award winning law school newspaper. After I graduated, I took the New Mexico bar because I hoped to score in the top one percent so I could "waive" into Colorado. Let's just say that I easily passed the bar, but didn't do any waiving hello, I just waived good bye and after a few detours and sidelines, I returned to New Mexico to become an attorney and an author.

Colorado has become a memory for me, which has become greater with the passage of years. Much like Tim Tebow's seven game victory streak when he was with the Broncos.

I went back for CU homecoming a few years ago. Some of my old friends are doing extremely well. I've heard that one is now general counsel for a gold mining company. Talk about metaphors. Some are big firm Denver lawyers who married other big firm Denver lawyers. That might not put them in Payton's paycheck area, but certainly puts them in Wes Welker's. Another friend of mine was working in Aspen. Yes, that Aspen. I turned down a summer clerkship in Aspen to work in Las Cruces, New Mexico which is a story for another time.

Who would I be if I stayed? We checked out the listings in Boulder when we were there, and let's just say I would NOT be living above the Pearl Street Mall with a view of the Flatirons, unless I had inherited a gold mine of my own.  Would I still be writing? I did go to a meeting of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers last year, so I'm sure I would have been writing. Still, Rocky Mountain Lawyer is not as exciting a title as Rattlesnake Lawyer.

I have built a life in New Mexico that is far different from what would have been in Colorado. I probably shouldn't ponder what ifs at this late stage in life, but it is human nature. I went to a UNM Lobos game last weekend. I drove five minutes, parked for free, got in for free after a stranger gave me a ticket and saw ten people I knew just over halftime. That sure wouldn't happen at a Bronco's game.

I wasn't a Broncos fan when I was there because of the excessive hype, but I'm on the bandwagon after last night's performance. Manning up indeed.