Another One in the Proverbial Can!

2012 was a pretty cool year for me, all in all, which was a pleasant and welcomed change, but something tells me 2013 is going to be fantastic! My wish for you? Health, prosperity, and creativity. I wish you the ability to roll with the punches and feel deserving of the strokes, to claim the positives that are already yours and waiting for you, and to be strong enough to hold the negativity at bay until it dissolves back into the paper tiger it is. I look forward to yet another year of sharing my life with you.



Happy End of the World!

I figure if there is the remotest chance of a Big Kaboom happening today, all of the our departed rockers will be welcoming us to the Other Side with the greatest concert ever held. Imagine the line-up! But I doubt we'll see it just yet. Instead, check out my son Micah Atwell's latest recording. It's called 13th B'ak'tun and is just awesome!...


The Spirit of Christmases Past

Every year at this time my mind and heart take me on a ride down Memory Lane. It's emotional, it sometimes includes regret, and it always keeps me in the Christmas Spirit, be that good or bad. But when you get my age there are so many memories, the ride is uneven, hilly, and full of both hairpin curves long, boring stretches...


Play It Again

During the time that I've been writing my trilogy, I've gotten into the practice of going to Gordon via meditation when I need inspiration, ambition, or to be unblocked. Believing that our characters are often no more than undeveloped facets of our own personalities, I feel that we writers have access to these when we need them...


The Anti-Nigel Force Field

It's a gold-colored metal puppy fence and it works. He hardly notices the fence and bows, and it saves me a lot of aggravation. Plus, it creates a great looking space for the pressies to come!


Is It December Yet?

Outside of a couple of enterprising, inspiring souls, my blog list hasn't changed much in a week or so. Not that I can complain. I haven't written anything either. Blame it on the holidays. That works for me...


The Season of No Dread

This is the first holiday season I haven't dreaded with every ounce of my being since about 1995. It's not that I'm a Grinch, because I'm not. I've always loved the holidays. I love the baking, the decorating, the time spent with family and friends, the music, the shopping, the chaosevery bit of it. It's just that since my last Christmas in Colorado, in 1999, I haven't been able to afford what I thought it took to enjoy the season, even nominally. It seemed like a frivolous expense I couldn't afford...



"Get a puppy," I said.
"He'll add to the family," I said.
"It'll be fun," I said.

Please tell me he won't be a puppy forever. I'm too old for this shite.


Writing With a Puppy in the House

I guess I either don't remember what life with a puppy is like, or else my two experiences raising puppies happened when I was young enough not to notice, but I certainly didn't expect it to be what it is. Nigel is a good dog. A great dog, actually, but I'm no longer in my thirties as I was when I last lived with a baby dog.

The good news is that at just under 9 weeks old he is both crate and potty trained. This means he goes into his crate all by himself when he's sleepy and he asks to go outside when he needs to do his business. He learns quickly; show him something twice and he has it.

Of course, there are typical puppy things that try my patience, like waking me up in the morning and chewing on my hairand my hands are a mess from scratches and nipsbut these things will pass in time. I suppose it won't be until around the 12-week mark that I'll be able to get back to my writing when the spirit moves rather than during puppy nap times.


The Beatles... in My Life

I've never considered myself a typical Beatles fan. Not in the strict sense of the word. Yes, I had all of their albums and yes, I had their pictures on my walls (I was 12 when they came to America in 1964 and was prime material for the Beatlemania that ensued), but, as I've said many times, I never wanted to marry a Beatle, I wanted to be a Beatle. In fact, when I went to the Beatles' concert at Dodger Stadium in August of 1966, I was pissed because I couldn't hear the music. I mean, the sound systems were bad enough in those days, but all the screaming certainly didn't help, especially in so large a venue...



You'd think that with all the great things happening in my life right now I'd be soaring along, surfing the crest, riding the wave, mixing my metaphors with unbridled abandon. The truth is, I'm growing increasingly overwhelmed. This picture says it all: a tsunami crashing on the no-through road of life...


The Dog Days of Autumn

I have gotten myself a puppy. A barking, yipping, whining, piddling, pooping puppy... and I love him! Everyone, meet Nigel the Doxador...



I believe I need to invest in one of those Magic 8-Balls. Years ago a friend of mine had one, which she'd named Snodgrass for some reason. We consulted Snodgrass all the time and he was eerily right-on. Or maybe it just seemed like it. Those were the days of legal, organic ecstasy after all, and everything made sense in that New-Agey synchronistic sort of way that made up the bulk of the 1980s in my little corner of southern California...


And... Action!

I didn't go to college until I was 35 because I'd had my first child right out of high school and quickly became a single parent. Instead of sitting in classrooms, I sat in factories, shipping rooms, and offices, each in their turn. When I finally was able to enroll as a music composition major (in my mid-thirties), I applied myself with a fervor that worried the people around me and raised no little degree of jealousy in my fellow students...



"We all shine on like the moon, the stars, and the sun."John Lennon


The Attic is Always Dustier Over the Garage

This is my goal for our garage starting tomorrow, to be accomplished by Sunday evening. The garage in the photo isn't ours, but it's close enough. We have a large, corner workbench area, a full, blank wall opposite, a set of steel shelves, and a pull-down ladder that leads to a large attic space that needs to be addressed as well. But it's not too bad up there. Boxes are stacked and things are pretty neat, if a little dusty. Okay, a lot dusty...


Home is Where the Sand Is

Something weird and wonderful happened to me almost immediately I left the airport terminal in Santa Barbara last August. As soon as I steered my rental car out of the lot and onto Fairview Avenue toward the coastline, I became instantly Californian again. In a matter of seconds the past 12 years in Oklahoma were totally erased. Obliterated. Everything in me changed instantly, my mindset, my attitude, my sense of place in the universe. My exile in Oklahoma had had no impact on me except to make me appreciate California more. It wasn't what I expected to happen...


Are You Holding Back?

Am I holding back? This is a question I ask myself every day of my life. The next question, because the answer is usually the same one, is, why? When I was younger I held back because I didn't want to look stupid. I don't mean unintelligent, I mean foolish. "If I  _____  they'll think I'm stupid..." That's how kids think. There was an event in my early life, however, that set me on a path to healing this erroneous thinking...


Sharing the Day

We all share our birthday with several others who happen to be famous. On this day I'd like to tell you who I share mine with, other people who were born on September 24th...


Devils Without Conscience, Angels Unawares

When thinking about where I wanted to stay while in Solvang, there were really only two choices: The Mirabelle Inn or The Wine Valley Inn & Cottages. I've stayed at both in the past, but I opted for the latter because the former was booked solid.  This was not a lesser choice, I must add. It's a quaint, cheerful hotel and the staff are wonderful...


Ventura Highway in the Sunshine

For the first three days of my trip, I didn't really get the feel of California. I was staying at Ernie's house in Santa Barbara and, outside of a quick outing for dinner one night and another spent in a night club on the Ventura Marina, dancing the night away to Ernie's band, I pretty much stayed indoors. I was getting used to being on my own, and the freedom the trip offered still felt illusive to me...


Anke if You Love Royal Tunbridge Wells

Only a couple of days before I returned from California, I won this groovy tee from the Anke Blog. I say won, but actually, it was Mr. Anke's remarkable generosity that got it for me. He had a contest going for which the 500th person to Like his page in Facebook would win a tee of their choice from his blog store. The only condition was that the winner send him a photo of themselves wearing said tee.

After the 500th person had won, Mr. Anke felt a bit more generous than usual and he posted that the first person to reply to his status would also win a tee. Well, I came in second, but I pulled a pretty good pout I guess, because he told me to pick out one as well. I was over the moon! My argument was that, because my Beyond The Bridge trilogy is set in Tunbridge Wells, I really needed one and I promised to wear it at my first official book signing.)


Pouring it On

For the past two days I've really been pouring it on where writing is concerned. On Monday I put in a solid 15 hours and yesterday I worked only slightly fewer. Today promises to follow suit; I haven't even had a cup of coffee and I'm itching to get at it...


Jayne's Room With a View

Looking back at my trip, it was all so perfect and fun that it's hard to choose experiences or events that stand out more than the rest, but one that I can truthfully say was a highlight was the evening I met author Jayne Martin...


Gordon, is That You?

Hey, looks like Gordon Hammond attended BandTree, too!

Actually, I don't know who this young man is, but when he walked in the door I had to blink and do a double-take. It wasn't easy getting this surreptitious photo of him, but I'm glad I did.


Wines and Bungees

Farewell to the beautiful 101.
I made it back in one piece, no worse for wear and definitely lighter of spirit, but it would be easy to let my "real life" bring me down, so I'm throwing myself into work. I have a lot of projects on the table which need to be prioritized and dealt with if I want to make my dream come true...


It Might Be Fun to Find Out

I've spent a a lot of time on this chaise.
As I sit in the window of my hotel suite looking out at the ocean, I'm having to work very hard at not depressing myself. Tonight is my last night in California. I'll be flying home tomorrow.

Home. I can't really say that now when talking about Oklahoma. Now that I've been back to my own state I realize that this has always been home. I don't want to leave. I wish I was a millionaire. I'd stay here, begin house-hunting, then I'd just fly my family out when I got a place. That's in a perfect world, of course. In my world moving back to California will take a minor miracle, but I have a fresher outlook on life now and my natural positive attitude is back. I really am not looking forward to returning to all of the seriousness and negativity in Oklahoma. The flatness of it. Not geographically, I mean its personality is flat...


Stage 1 of 5 Completed

Pretending to be a roadie.
Today I complete the first stage of my California Journey, and I have to tell you that everything is going wonderfully. I really couldn't want for anything better. Spending three days at the Ernie's house in Santa Barbara has been everything I could have dreamed. The guys were so sweet to put me in the master wing of their house and they've been the most excellent of hosts. Falling to sleep two nights while listening to Brian practice his sweet, soft saxophone in another room was a heaven I cannot describe, and going with them to their gig in the Ventura Marina on Friday night was just so much fun...


Getting Down to It

How I wish we still used suitcases like these. Before The Big Dump of 2001, I had a set of three tweed striped cases like the one in this picture, which I used stacked, as an end table. I loved those because they'd belonged to my dad back in the day when he was a Big Band drummer on the road before Uncle Sam hauled him off to WWII. Someone needs to design vintage-looking luggage with modern features such as wheels and retractable pull bars. How cool would that be? I'd be so on top of that...


Back to Basics

For a long time, I've been perplexed about why I no longer enjoy blogging. I used to post every day, sometimes twice a day, but then something happened and I lost my mojo, for want of a better term. This resulted in sporadic posts which were sometimes uninspiring, often uninspired. For a writer, this is an unsettling place in which to find oneself.


Soñando con California*

Planning, arranging and booking my upcoming trip to California (I'll be waking up in Santa Barbara two weeks from today!) has sort of occupied my mind and is dominating my time. Everything is arranged though, and I'm really looking forward to it. As I've said in the past, I haven't been home in 13 years and there are old friends I haven't seen in thrice that.

I'll be leading rather the gypsy life while I'm out there: 3 days in Santa Barbara, 2 days in Solvang, 3 days in Ventura, 3 days in Thousand Oaks, and 2 days between Ventura and Santa Barbara... there's the map to illustrate my trip. Click to embigiate.

I'll be very busy while I'm out there: visiting friends, going to band gigs, revisiting some of my old stomping grounds and attending BandTree IV, so I've arranged to spend my last two nights at my favorite little inn, which is located on a small cliff right on the Pacific. After all the hustle and bustle, it'll be healing and restful to sleep with the sound of the surf outside my window, and to spend a couple of days reading, writing and vegetating only 10 feet from the waves.

The extreme drought, the triple-digit heat, the recent prairie fires, health issues, and a number of interpersonal emergencies have made this trip not only welcome, but also necessary; it's been a literal hell here this summer. I didn't think it could get worse than last year, but I was wrong about that. It's a dangerous place to live, not only physically, but emotionally and psychically, and my nervous system has taken about all it can handle. I look forward to this trip as a way to clear my head and to gain a fresh, new perspective about life, thus springboarding me into the next phase.

I'll be posting lots of stories and pictures here, as well as on my California Dreamin' blog and Facebook. Until then, you probably won't see much of me because I have songs to learn and interviews to write, and only two weeks to do that in.


* Sorry if that's an incorrect translation. My Spanish isn't what it used to be.


Either - Or

I'm no genius when it comes to sociology, but I suppose I've learned a few things about life and human nature during my time here. I mean, you can't really be a character-driven author without taking a few notes along the way...


What's In a Name?

Many years ago (26 to be exact) my mentor, Maestro Frank A. Salazar, the founder, director and conductor of the Ventura County Symphony (where I served for six years as his assistant) told me he’d reached a place where he wanted to de-clutter his life. It’s hard for me to imagine, but he was the age I am now. Well, I’ve found myself at the same place. To this end, I feel the need to de-clutter even on the most personal level, that is, with my name...


California Dreamin'

I admit that I'm totally digging my California Gold Coast Dreamin' blog these days. That's probably due to the fact that I'm currently planning a trip to the tri-counties area, where I spent the first 49 years of my life, in September.

I've been invited by the organizers of the Thousand Oaks BandTree Festival to cover the event, BandTree IV, and even help out with the promo, so I'm looking at this as a business trip as well as a brief, much-needed homecoming...


Tower of Power, Lennon Style

Wow, look what a friend just posted in Facebook! Do you remember a couple of weeks ago, I made a post about some Lps I bought at Tower Records in Hollywood? Well, here's a video of a Tower telly advert made by John Lennon.

What a find!


It's All Your Fault!

The Blame Game
by Ken McLeod
Buddhadharma Magazine
Summer 2012 quarterly issue

Blame is refreshing, because it is so unambiguously a reaction. You don't have to think or wonder about it. As soon as you see you are running the blame game, you know you are in reaction. Stop right there. What's happening?

Clearly, things didn't turn out the way you expected or wanted. You are frustrated and disappointed, and you can't tolerate those feelings. You don't want to feel this way.

You have a story about what happened, but that story is immediately suspect because in it, you are the hero. You use logic and reason, the opinions of others, support from friends or colleagues, to bolster your story. You are right!

But remember, when it comes to blame, reason is a weapon you use when you do not want to acknowledge your anger. Or, depending on your predilections, you turn it around--you still have a story and you still have a privileged role, but this time, you are wrong. It's all your fault.

To counter this pattern, the first instruction is to lay all your problems, everything that is wrong in your life, at the doorstep of one pattern: wanting things to be different from what they are. Blame is a wonderful reminder here of how deeply you want the world to conform to your expectations.

The second instruction is to meet whatever arises. Don't avoid it, internally or externally. When things turn out differently, meet that situation, not the one you wanted or expected.

One last point. Blame is a form of mind killing. It reduces the complexities of a situation down to one emotionally charged point. It blinds you to the role of other factors. It provokes reactions that lead people to act against their interests.

Thus, when the blame game is running, stop. Stop right there. Step out of your story. Step out of your judgments. Step out of your obsession with who's right and who's wrong. Step out of your racing mind.

Take a breath and meet the world you are in.


Hollywood is Not all Glitter and Sawdust

One day in September of 1983, I drove to Hollywood to pay a visit to Tower Records, on Sunset Boulevard, undoubtedly the best record store in the world for many years. I was on a kind of vision quest. I had gotten some money for my birthday and I planned to get as many Lps (yes, vinyl) as it could buy. I'd decided to buy cold, too, meaning, I was going to look through the vast bins and pick albums of artists I'd never heard of, all in the folk category...


Sacred Spaces Within

We musicians have a special relationship with our instruments. We fall in love with them, often name them, and sometimes refer to them with either male or female pronouns. When I got my very first guitar, a little $14 6-string that my dad brought home to me as a surprise for my 14th birthday, I took it everywhere I went, even to bed at night, where I gently placed it on the other pillow...


Going in Deeper, See You on the Other Side

Slowly over the past six months or so I have been coming to terms with who I am as a writer. To be honest, most of that time was spent asking myself questions; the answers have only just started to come to me...


The Amazing Never-Ending Project List

I thought, erroneously, perhaps, that as we work our way through a writer's to-do list, said list would, by nature, get smaller. Oh, foolish me! As I complete my writing projects I seem to find more showing up, especially those projects that relate to previous projects: rewrites, new or deleted scenes, &tc. This is all right, but I have new projects I'd like to get to. And, yes, I used projects three times in one paragraph...


Be Big About It

If I perceive a slight by someone I know and love, my first reaction is to give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps I misunderstood or, in the case of email, perhaps I'm reading something they didn't intend to imply. It's difficult to read expressions and tones of voice on the internet after all. After that, I wonder if I said (or wrote) something that they misunderstood.

In friendship, it has to be someone's place to be big about these things; too many people fly off the handle far too easily and feelings get hurt in our wake as we plow through these situations, functioning from fear and ego.

If, after all this has failed and I see that the slight was intended, either consciously or unconsciously, I ask myself, "Is this so bad that I need to rattle our friendship over it, or is this one of the many times I need to shrug and allow them their bad day, physical pain, illness, stress, etc.?" I don't feel that bending like this for the people I love threatens me in any way. I'm not that fragile.

If I didn't forgive my friends, I wouldn't have friendships that go back 50 years, I'd be a lonely, bitter person clutching petty slights instead of embracing people who have enriched my life in so many ways. I must afford them some off days.

Friendship is so precious--to cheat it so thoughtlessly is a punishment in and of itself and we rob ourselves of an opportunity to grow and evolve one step higher. But then, I am a Libra, and we're always weighing everything in our scales.

I have been blessed by friends who forgive me and give me the benefit of the doubt in return. This note is just to thank you for being my friend.


Busy, but not with Writing

It started when we went to Dr. Kielbasa's house on Saturday evening for the first cookout of the season. His garden is always beautiful, and he has become my gardening guru, but I've never seen such beautiful hollyhocks in my life. They're 9 feet tall with perfect blooms and lush foliage. I came home obsessed with improving our exterior here at Bookends Cottage...


Too Many Projects?

I've found myself in the perplexing condition of having too many projects waiting on my ever-growing "to write" list. And others keep coming to me, too. So many books to write, so little time. The trick is to figure out my priorities; timing is everything in such a rapidly changing and evolving market. The thing is, I can't write something simply because it would be expedient or tactical, I have to feel the project. I have to have to write it because not doing so would cause me some sort of insufferable, catastrophic inner pain. This is probably why I'll never be on the New York Times Best Seller List...


Yes, I'm Bragging

It's that time of year. It's that long-awaited season when one can make it through a busy intersection without having to sit out two traffic light changes. A time when there are fewer sirens and when cars driving by outside aren't accompanied by wall-rattling ba boom-boom, ba boom-booms. A time when one doesn't have to wait 35 minutes to get a table, nor plow through the supermarket aisles with the deftness of Captain Cook wending Endeavor through the Great Barrier Reef. The students have left town...


In Praise of Luxuriant Language

"I like words—strike that. I love wordsand while I am fond of the condensed and economical use of them in poetry, in song lyrics, in Twitter, in good journalism and smart advertising, I love the luxuriant profession and mad scatter of them too. After all, as you will already have noticed, I am the kind of person who writes things like 'I shall append a superscribed obelus, thus'. If my manner of writing is a self-indulgence that has you grinding your teeth then I am sorry, but I am too old a dog be taught to bark new tunes." Stephen Fry in The Fry Chronicles, an Autobiography...


Get Your Arse Out of Walmart!

It's funny how we think we know so much about the town we live in, only to discover we knew nothing at all.

We had a lovely, full weekend. On Saturday morning, I got up early6:30!so that Nettl and I could hit our local farmers market. I've never been to one of these here in Stillwater. In fact, I've only been to two in my entire lifetime and those were in California. Why do they have to open so darned early? Anyway, we bought some beautiful salad greens, two batches of asparagus, and some locally grown, free-range, grass-fed beef. I cook so little meat anymore (maybe once or twice a week), I'm going to continue to get it from this rancher. Yes, it costs a little more, but at least I'm not feeding my family "pink slime", growth hormones, and plastic pellets...


Brain is Fryed

I've been watching an awful lot of Stephen Fry lately. This is what I do when I don't feel well. I watch TV shows on Netflix. Not the usual kind of shows, though. I prefer what Netflix calls, "Understated" TV series" that are more often than not British. And if it's a really good one, I'll watch every episode of every series in two or three sittings...


Throw the Sob Story on the Slush Pile

There are all kinds of things that detract us from accomplishing the things we want to do, gaining the success we desire, and even attempting the things we want to try. The worst and most insidious of these, I think, is our own sob story.We develop it and nurture it, then we bring it out as if to show people it's not our fault if we can't get off our butts and go for something that's important to us.

You know what I'm talking about. Those slights and injuries that others have inflicted on us. Parents, siblings, classmates, friends, spouses, life itself, and on and on. But the very worst are the bloody stigmata we carry around concerning our childhood. The need to cast blame holds us back more than anything else, yet we display these wounds to prove to ourselves and everyone just why we've failed, why we will continue to fail, and why we shouldn't even try.

It's always amazing to me how many successful and accomplished people rise up from nothing. Poverty, starvation, abuse, illness, and criticism only seem to fire their ambition and their self-esteem while the rest of us go on and on about how our mommy did this, or our daddy didn't do that... Sure, bad things happen to us, but it's what we do with those things that makes us winners or losers. But some people just seem to have an instinct for turning bad circumstances into fuel for success. Their secret is the ability to truly let go of their injuries.

Hanging onto these things doesn't make us victims, it make us martyrs, and martyrdom is a powerfully passive-aggressive, manipulative control weapon. It holds other people hostage, making them accountable for what we are afraid to do ourselves. But worse, it keeps us believing that things that happened in the past have the power to hold us back in the present. It's an excuse and a cop-out, and it's lazy. Let's let people off the hook and do what we want to do with our lives. Let's not continue to die for their sins.