Old Photographs & Wild Dreams


My latest book is now for sale and you can get it from the link below. This is a beautiful hard back book with 100 poems, prose and stories covering a range of subjects: trains, bicycles, bars, cafes, California beaches, streets, Denison, abstract feelings, coffee shops, night hours, Hollywood, East Texas, old preachers, and cowboys.

click on the lick below to purchase:


Notes from the Winter

The California winter of 18/19 brought many new aspects, bits and pieces. I worked daily on a new book of poetry that will be published and available for sale later this year. The title is “Old Photographs and Wild Dreams” and deals with roughly ten completely different subjects with a total of 100 new poems. More on this later…

Los Angeles awoke from it’s long drought and brought rain almost daily. February was the coldest in over 100 years and we Angelenos who covet the seventy degree mark, never saw it once. So, for we hot house flowers, we froze our asses off.

The weather induced a time of reflection, introspection and appreciation for the gift of life and friendship. The Oscars seemed to be perfect for once, although to those, whom life is just one long complaint, it was still the worst. Thanks to Movie Pass and later on A-List (AMC), Edina and I saw more movies in a season that ever before. Many, many great ones and a few duds.

I read some excellent books as the rain fell and the coffee brewed against the gray skies. Willy Vlautin’s “Don’t Skip Out On Me” and his latest “Lean On Pete” were at the top of my favorites. “Bad Jobs and Poor Decisions” by J.R Helton brought back memories of my own life of ten years in East Texas. A really great read that deserves a large audience. Anthony Bourdain’s foray into a crime story “Gone Bamboo” and Michael Koryta’s “The Last Honest Horse Thief” were the ones I read in one stetting they were so good. I’ve been a John Grisham fan from the start and his “The Reckoning” is the best in years. “White Rose Black Forrest” by Eoin Dempsey is a poignant tale of Germany during WWII, while probably my favorite was a non-fiction account of “Life at the Dakota” by Stephen Birmingham, that examines a thorough history of New York’s upper West Side.

Streaming television has become an addiction and there was plenty to enjoy. Netflix and Amazon kept pouring good stuff out there almost daily, and occasionally, Hulu brought a surprise. Showtime’s Ray Donovan reset in the Big Apple and once again kept my interest week by week. HBO’s 3rd season of True Detective returned to its former glory and may have been the best series of the winter.

My sons insisted I start listening to podcasts several years ago and although I don’t tune in for as much content as they do, Marc Maron’s WTF twice weekly podcast has become a fixture in my weekly routine. He’s moved into a new house and garage, but still has the same insecurities and opinions. His cutting edge guest list keeps informed about current culture as much anything out there, I guess.

Because of a long tenure in Colorado, I’ve been a life long Broncos fan since the 70’s. About ten years ago I promised God that if he would intervene and bring an NFL team to LA, I would convert, no matter the team. So. a few years back I became a Rams fan, and what a ride it has been. Horrible disappointment set in fast over the Super Bowl loss, but I recovered quickly as spring training followed. I am over that last two World Series losses to our city and am ready to root for the “Blue” once more. Hope springs eternal and “go Dodgers!”

Edina and I fell in love with camping near the coastline a few years back and we are chomping at the bit for another season on waves, wildlife, and wonderful sunsets at Point Magu. We were able to spend a few warm days in Pismo Beach the end of January and that helped ease the camping blues.

Hollywood Bowl season is also near and we love the “bowl events” where we can take a load of fried chicken and TJ wine into the concert and escape into that special magic. The first one we have planned is the first week of June with Dead & Company. We saw Dark Star Orchestra at the Saban in Beverly Hills last month and they wrestled the Dead’s set list alive and had the place jumping till it shook.

I’ll write more posts in the coming days.

“When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez and when it’s Easter time too.”-Bob Dylan




Vesuvio Cafe


One of my favorite places on earth to visit is Versuvio Cafe an old North Beach bar in San Francisco. North Beach is right up the hill from Fisherman’s Wharf and adjacent to Chinatown. Just standing on the sidewalk is breath taking. The cool breeze from the bay mixes with the foreign smells of authentic Chinese cuisine. Fruit markets bulge with sights rarely seen at your local grocer as third story windows have wet laundry hanging from wires. Next door to the bar is its cousin- City Lights Books, home to the beat poets, writers, revolutionaries, activists, and curious tourists. While sipping an Anchor Steam from the second floor open window, your eyes look at framed copies of Howl under the spell of a street musician playing saxophone jazz and blues. The bar has been around since right after World War II and was a popular watering hole for Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, and their friends. The bar still opens at six am and is visited by old poets having Old Crow whiskey for breakfast and discussing their lives. I love just being there and feeling the vibe of the many ghosts that have sat here and walked around.

I was privileged to meet one of the last living beat poets in New York several years ago when I was visiting one of my sons. He took me to the Bowery Poetry Club, across from CBGB’s, as Taylor Mead was doing his Friday night set. Mead was also an actor, and had been in Jim Jarmush’s “Coffee and Cigarettes” about that time. Taylor was Andy Warhol’s favorite poet and a regular at The Factory. The old poet was in his mid eighties when I met him and had fascinating stories about Jack Kerouac, Clint Eastwood and a host of others. Taylor was born to a wealthy family and his father got him a job on the Chicago Stock Exchange. When he read “On The Road”, he quit his well paying job, drove to San Francisco and like many others, discovered himself. There is a story of him being so drunk at Vesuvio, he stripped bare naked, climbed up on the bar and read aloud from “On The Road” as the customers clapped and cheered. For you who want to discover yourself, I recommend trying Vesuvio.

me at Vesuvio

Taylor Mead


Sideshow Small Books

Sideshow Media Group offers a series of small books of poetry that is a tribute partially to the Pocket Poets Series that featured Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and a host of others. Lawrence Ferlinghetti launched the series  in 1955 to be sold at his City Light’s Bookstore in San Francisco, and is still inspiring minds all over the planet.


These books are all available on Amazon and you can click on the links below to buy any of them.





Here is one poem featured in “Hollywood Boulevard” :

Block One 6901 Greta Garbo


Dark and mysterious, the beauty of Camille

out of the shadows and onto the reel

Flesh and the devil “I vant to be alone”

her star is silent, her fame has grown

Anna Christie, the Oscar was close

I walked by and heard her ghost

Never again was one so pure

Never again was one so sure

Days of the silents, she broke the hearts

Talking in pictures, Greta departs…


Writing a Crime Story

Recently, my oldest son, John Jr.,  who writes a weekly column for LA Screenwriter, penned an excellent article that writers need to find their genre or type of stories they are inclined toward. It made me think about what my own genre might be since I seem to write about a variety of themes. However, I gradually realized most of that I like to write has a dark side. Even the poetry I labor over is full of heartbreak, loss of job, loss of status and the down and out. Oh, there is plenty of love for many things, but it is definitely not about rainbows and unicorns. My first and second novels were about cowboys and witchcraft. I wrote a true story about a convicted murderer – Murder and Deceit. I continue to write two blogs about two men wrongly convicted of murder in Minnesota.



So far this year, 2017, I have completed two screenplays,  a western with a dark twist, and a modern crime story. Over my life I can think of two things that affected my love of those kind of stories. In college I read all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series. I felt transported back to London circa 1890 and accompanied him and Dr Watson on every coach ride and all nighter at 221B Baker Street. In the late 1980’s I saw a movie, True Believer, starring James Woods and Robert Downey Jr. The plot revolved around Shu Kai Kim, a Korean wrongly convicted of murder. This was a subject I never considered before and it opened up a new way of looking at the American Judicial system for me.

In the last 20 years, there is one story I become addicted to: HBO’s Sopranos.


Pictured above is the late Frank Vincent and a friend of mine, Chris Caldovino. I have watched every episode over 100 times and go through all six seasons every year. It never gets old. The creators stocked the show with plenty of rich characters and a string of plots that seem real. In the 1990’s I binged on Law and Order and today I am a fan of Michael Connelly, LA’s own creator of Detective Bosh.  The list is long, and I think the point is made how I found what I like to write.

Let me share some ideas on the “how”. Stories need conflict. There is plenty in crime stories. The very subject suggests that is their nature. However, Sopranos took it into ordinary life. Tony and company are rarely shown pulling a major heist and usually only murder one of their own. The series is about the struggles of the day, gangster style.

What if…

In Stephen King’s majestic book, On Writing, he reveals one of his techniques. He explains that he thinks of an ordinary event in his life, and asks “what if”. This is where original fiction is born. In my first published book, Western Soul, there is a short story called “Spearfish Gangsters”, that is based on my family reunion at Lake Texoma. Since then, I have learned to look at other so-called “ordinary events” and ask “what if”. Doing this should help in getting a plot or a premise together.

Memorable characters…

The success of shows like Law and Order, Sopranos, The Wire and Deadwood can be summed up in two words – memorable characters. So, how does a writer create a character, one that audience relates to or cares about? I begin with their names. As I start to think for a good name for the story, I keep a stack of index cards handy. I write a single name and tape it to the wall above where I work. They stay up there until the story is complete. After I feel there are enough names up there, I begin to write a back story, sometimes a paragraph, sometimes several pages, about who these names are. I tape those to the wall under their names as they come to me. This may take weeks. I don’t set a time limit, except to work on them five days every week. I force myself to look at them every day. There is where the story lies.

Outline the story…

This is a key step many writers skip. Sometimes an idea occurs and a paragraph or a page or two is done quickly. Then the writer struggles with where to go from there and the story dies a common death. An outline is the road map to the story. Once the outline is done it needs to marinate as more ideas are produced by finishing the project. As actual writing commences, you will be flooded with more pictures in your mind that add color to the story. An outline will keep the story living and breathing. I suggest the Save The Cat templates that are free online for screenwriting, but are useful in any story.


Setting a goal to complete is crucial to any project. You start by committing to a daily goal. Let’s say you only want to work  five days per week. Then set a goal of words (if a novel) or pages ( screenplay). When you finish the day’s work, you are done. Go enjoy the balance knowing you did what you said you would do. Make a chart of your progress and stick it on the wall so you can hold yourself accountable. Then set an over all goal of how much this needs in words or pages. Once you do that, it will be easy to see how long until you are done. Don’t worry if you get behind, just keep going.

Real Estate…

There’s a saying in the real estate business “Location-location-location”. The saying applies to story telling and especially crime stories. Most writers agree you should “write about what you know.” Where you set the story is every important, even if the place is fictional. Get to know the real estate in your story. Make it real or make it up. If it is a fictional place then draw a map of what you imagine. Your audience will see this map as it unfolds in your story. Screenplays MUST be seen. The real estate is in every scene heading. Where is it? What does it look like? Day, night or what? Hot or cold. Let the audience feel where the story takes them.

Crime stories don’t need a moral or a point. They must be entertaining. The Godfather has no point to the story, but I love seeing Michael evolve into the Don no matter how many times I have seen the film. The Sopranos have no point but if Gandolfini was still alive I would love just one more episode to see what the old crook was up to. The characters become your friends.

Next Sunday I will probably post a poem I have been working on about my hometown. It’s called “I remember Denison…in its hey day.”



Compulsive Addictive Writing


I have lived in the heart of old Hollywood for many years. It’s not like you think. I started writing long before I moved here, but I have learned some things about the craft through living here worth talking about. Over the years and in many different bars, coffee shops, and various everyday venues I have encountered a number of nice folks who tell me they are writers. Later they reveal not only have they not written anything in years, some openly admit having written at all. I have met some honest to God writers who are very good and a few who are highly successful.

What I would like to share is for those who love to write or want to begin. But, do not mistake this subject for social media or texting. That is not writing, but a gruesome vomit of mediocre (at best) words about thoughts popping into heads all over the planet from rice paddies to office dwellers who are constantly bored. I am not being critical of social media or phone thoughts, but just excluding that from writing.

I am addressing those who love to write, including those who have never sold a single word or those making a living from this art. We are an odd bunch of a wide variety who love to tell stories and entertain the listener. That is all writing is, really. Entertainment. All through history the stories that entertained were passed down and the others were forgotten.

I grew up listening to one of the greatest story tellers who over lived. My grandfather was born in Texas in 1888. He married my grandmother and together they crossed the Red River in a covered wagon into Indian Territory (as it was called then prior to Oklahoma getting statehood. As a child I spent hours at his knee in wonder as he recounted his adventurous life there. After various hard labor jobs in a burgeoning oil fields, he settled in the western region of the state and raised a large family there. He planted, watered and picked cotton on his farm as my grandmother fed them from a vast garden and canned most of it to last through the brutal Oklahoma winter and right on through the Great Depression.

He told me of Indians who lived nearby and how he learned their stories while sitting in their teepees. He loved and respected their culture and felt he came away a better man as he understood how abused and mistreated they were by his ancestors. My grandfather shared with me his love and fear of God. His daddy was a horseman that rode a circuit spreading a Methodist gospel all over the frontier. He made the trip to Fort Sill after Geronimo was jailed their and shed tears over how sad the man was. Frank James shook his hand outside the Lawton bank after the former outlaw was released from prison and was by then in his late sixties. Hundreds of stories poured from his head into mine and I seemed to be the only one marked for life him and his tales.

Story telling is all I am good at.

For those who have never written or would like to begin again, I suggest the following:

Buy a pen and paper. I prefer Moleskine notebooks and have carried one with me for over ten years. Many times the right words come at the most inopportune places and times. The creative process is like a conveyor belt. Thoughts drift by and then fade into air, lost forever.

Begin a journal. Most aspiring writers don’t know where to begin. A journal is a perfect way to acquire compulsive, addicting writing. Write down one sentence about what happened to you yesterday. There! You did it. You will have done something 95% of adults haven’t done in their busy lives. You can’t call yourself a writer of you don’t write. A year later you can go back in wonder and all the things that occurred now forgotten and how much you changed in the past twelve months.

Read. Most adults don’t read books any more. You never be very good at writing of you don’t read. Go to a book store. They are a dying breed but the those who are still standing are a delight to visit. You will love the people who are there and walking around books will energize your mind.

Come back next week and I will talk about how to write a crime story.

Thought Rain…


radiant colors thickly pouring onto the empty street

ideas so beautiful and warm wetting my feet

sunny side of brick buildings making its way

heads turn and the new season blasting an end today

the old bus station’s full and dirty windows pass by

worn out collar to the sharp breeze as electric memories hasten a sigh

a big cup of coffee, a table, and the puddles of afternoon rain

thoughts from a crazy cave washing over my soul a melodic refrain

lost love and islands of despair residing in  frayed telephone lines

remembering that day, the moment of golden much desired wine

books on a shelf and the window breaks a vision of darker clouds

heart beats so faint drowned out by angry crowds

oh that time when all that is halts and spins

tears now stumble and vault to my chin

a prisoner of old thoughts meant to only hurt

my reflection shows me the same old shirt

going on down the lane when the drops slowly leave

a growing reality of a time that decieved