The whole series on Kindle Unlimited


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5150 and Half have always been on Kindle Unlimited, but now M3X1(0 and A Quarter are too. If you subscribe to Prime, you can read one book per month for free. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read all four whenever you want!

Read 5150 on Amazon for Free if you have Prime or Kindle Unlimited

Pathetic Fallacy and Other Literary Devices

It sounds much harsher than it is. Pathetic fallacy is a story-telling technique in which the environment surrounding a character is an extension of what is happening inside their head. My first introduction to pathetic fallacy was in Wuthering Heights when Heathcliff is raging somewhere on the moors while thunder and lightning crash and flash. At least that’s how it’s stuck in my head all these years later. It is also when human emotions are attributed to an inanimate object, like a “sad” cloud or a “grumpy” sidewalk.

I wonder if Allen Ginsberg’s “angry fix” in Howl is pathetic fallacy or another literary device. If you say “I ate six bowls” when you mean “I ate six bowls of soup” then you’ve just used synecdoche.

My favorite literary device is semantic syllepsis. (Sometimes called ‘Zeugma’). In semantic syllepsis, a part of speech is used once to represent both the literal and the figurative sense of the word in the same sentence. Huh? Okay, an example. “I ate the meal and the cost.” I “ate the meal” is literal. I “ate the cost” is figurative. And you only say “ate” once – so that’s syllepsis/zeugma.

Language can be fun. What are some of your favorite literary devices? I would love to learn some in foreign languages, too. Like when you say “seven stone lions” in Mandarin – it’s a real tongue twister.



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From bane to boon

Readers ask me how I manage to construct complex sentences without grammatical errors. My answer is always the same: ‘Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition’.

In Junior High, I had two great English teachers. They were night and day when it came to their teaching style and curriculum. The only constant was the cursed Warriner’s grammar book.

“Today we’re diagramming sentences.” The class would give a collective groan. What was the point of breaking apart sentences and sticking every part of speech into a uniquely placed branch off the main clause? So what if “clause” is the object of the preposition “off”, and “main” is an adjective modifying “clause”? So what if “the” is the article of the object of the preposition? Why will I ever care?

That’s a question that answered itself over the years.

Is this why I’m so good at creating flowcharts in Visio?

There is another facet to my savant-like knowledge of grammar. I studied two foreign languages in Junior High. Learning Spanish and French forced me to return to grammar in order to understand the difference between adjectives and adverbs. The subjunctive tense left me baffled at first, but grammar helped me identify the exact place in the sentence where doubt or will shaded the sentence. Articles and prepositions were familiar friends.

5150 and the other books in that series were written in the first person present tense. There is no way I would have navigated the challenges of such a creative choice without my understanding of foreign grammar. Nothing makes you more aware of verb tense and person than a pop quiz in Spanish class!

I know now why our great teachers forced us to endure mental torture on beautiful spring days when we should have been outside playing. It was so I could write that previous sentence with confidence.

Ritual vs. Bursts of Genius


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Which one are you?

A scantily clad miner
Writing can be drawing if you need it to be

Are you the writer who makes an appointment each day or week to sit down and write for a set period of time? Or are you the writer who can only write when inspiration strikes?

If you know me, you know I’m a bit of a slob. I blame it on left-handedness and the need to keep tasks visible on my desk. Similarly, I find schedules really kill my hard on for writing. Right brain thinkers, in general, don’t do well with discipline. It tends to do exactly the opposite to which it was intended. Hand me a rigorous schedule, I will spend the rest of the day figuring out how and when I can skip everything on it.

Writing and a corporate job are tough for folks like me. If inspiration strikes between 8 and 5 Monday thru Friday, I can only scribble my thoughts on a notepad on my break. Technically. Google Docs is a game changer, but I don’t want to go down that road with you today.

If Inspiration strikes while I am home, great. I can usually finish dinner or pause my Netflix show and write. Weekends are the best. I’ve published four literary novels writing primarily on inspired weekends. If I’m in a visual mood, I might design a cover. If I’m bored with my literary fiction, I switch to my smut persona. I’ve published twelve smut novels and/or short stories under a different character. They’re short, so don’t think my ratio is 3:1 smut to legit fiction…it’s really pretty balanced.

If my right brain needs a rest, I take time to re-read and edit my work. If it’s ready to go, I format it for publishing and write marketing blurbs. Yesterday I re-did a cover of a poorly performing pulp novel about coal mining. I drew a scantily clad miner covered in coal dust. I took a snap of the drawing and ran it through some filters and editing tools until I got him the right size and width. Then I re-skinned my eBooks and changed the cover on the paperback. Just for fun I wrote a hook and tacked it to the front of the blurb. I don’t know if it worked yet. The changes went live this morning. But I didn’t write much…it was a burst of inspiration of another kind.

Do you write at a set time and place? Are you prone to bursts of inspiration? Share your thoughts!

You Gotta Have a Hook


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I discovered that all four of my book blurbs were lacking “the hook”, that killer first line that makes a casual book shopper want to read the rest of the book description. I added hook lines to all my blurbs a few days ago. It should not be “keyword optimized”, but rather a well-crafted plain English one-line pitch for the book.

  • 5150 – Psychosis is not for the faint of heart.
  • Half – A halfway house is a terrible place to fall in love.
  • M3X1(0 – During the 1988 financial crisis in Mexico, even a broke, homeless American could live like a king.
  • A Quarter – The only thing worse than being mentally ill is being mentally ill and strung out on dope.

These hooks mark my best efforts, but maybe some of my readers have better suggestions. Creative writers, even with an MBA, are not always the best at self-promotion!

Serial Employee

Picture of the Stud in its heyday
I got laid off because I was underage

It wasn’t until I wrote the fourth book (A Quarter) that I at last had one of those “know thyself” moments. I have been laid off or fired from nearly two dozen jobs. I’m smart, very good at solving problems…but I don’t fit in with corporate culture. I don’t even fit in with anti-establishment culture. Here is an incomplete inventory of the jobs where I had to quit or was let go for incompetence, under-agedness, or spite:

  • Vallejo Times Herald – Paper boy
  • William Morris Reproductions – Wallpaper sample pack creator
  • Union Hotel – Busboy
  • Varsity Theater – Ticket vendor
  • Second Coming Records – Store clerk
  • Patricia Field – Shop girl
  • Milk Bar – Janitor and Barback
  • Diggery Inn – Dishwasher
  • Stud Bar Barback
  • Sparky’s – Prep cook
  • Grubstake – Dishwasher
  • International Center -Towel boy
  • Marcello’s Pizza – cashier
  • Broadmoor Hotel – Slave/Waiter
  • Peachy’s Puffs – Cigarette boy
  • New Line Cinema – 3rd Production Accountant
  • Tupperware Lady
  • Sixteen to Life – Assistant to Executive Producer
  • Married to the Kellys – Assistant to Line Producer
  • New Line Cinema – Product placement assistant
  • Ascent Media – Project manager
  • Miller Group – Advertising account manager
  • Deluxe Media – Billing process manager

A few jobs in my life were a decent match. They ended for reasons like a major geographical move, or widespread layoffs:

  • Marriott’s Great America – Self-reflexive juice salesman
  • Tower Records – Store clerk
  • TimeShare Consultants – Phone sex bookkeeper filer and dog walker
  • Italian Welfare Agency – Social worker
  • Italian Cultural Institute – Event promoter, News segment producer and Radio DJ
  • Lavender Lounge – Segment producer
  • New Line Cinema -Post production accountant
  • Verestar – Global account manager
  • The Acres – Musician
  • La Lucha – Producer/Director/Writer/Editor
  • Deluxe Media – Manager – Overseas Back Office
  • Psychotic Break Series – Author

The primary pattern: I need to express myself and feel good about the work I’m doing. I need to be in a group of similarly creative and quirky outcasts. I have waxing and waning periods of creativity and energy, so I need to have a job that lets me make my own hours or is only intermittent work. Travel and languages keep me interested for a while, too. Tower Records was a really great group of people. I loved working there. Second Coming Records was hell in a glass box. I write about them in the prequel. Several people who worked there have been diagnosed with PTSD. So, if I’m going to work for the man, the boss better be cool.

The boss on this one was super cool…me!

The Quartet Is Complete

I started 5150 in 1997. It’s taken 22 years to go from a single manuscript to a complete series. I honed my craft. I learned to self-publish. I opened my inner life up to public scrutiny. It has been a rewarding journey. As I pen the last words to the fifth book (a prequel to the series) I complete the tale of an incredibly difficult period in my life. It makes me grateful for all I have now. My dog just sighed and gave me the eye. What a wonderful life.

Click here to go to Amazon

The prequel is in progress.

Take guns away from Trump!

Today felt like a slap in the face with a lollipop. Donald Trump is going to “seize guns from the mentally ill.” This is being discussed despite the fact that violent crimes are carried out by people with no record of mental illness at a rate fifteen-fold higher than the mentally ill. The idea of getting guns off the street is glorious. The idea of targeting, vilifying and seizing property from a group of people arbitrarily deemed less fit is totalitarian at best. Consider three points:

First: Under HIPAA laws, a person’s mental health record is not publicly available. Are we going to make an exception for mental health only? What about your mother’s anal fissures? Your brother’s genital warts?  Would we make those public as well? Doesn’t that sound embarrassing?  That’s because it is!  Your health is private for a reason.

Second: While figures show that 15% of the population at large will commit violence towards others in their lifetimes, less than 1% of those diagnosed as mentally ill will do so in theirs.

Stephen Paddock, who carried out the deadliest mass shooting in history in Las Vegas, was not diagnosed as mentally ill. He never sought treatment of any kind. Interviews with his friends, neighbors, and relatives painted a curious portrait.  Paddock might have been financially successful, but he had real difficulty interacting with people. He is described as “standoff-ish, disconnected, a man who had difficulty establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships,” according to FBI profilers. This is what psychiatry labels “antisocial” personality disorder.  Is there someone in the White House who fits that description? Antisocial personality, also known as sociopathy, is the leading cause of mass shootings.  Sadly, it is almost impossible to detect, since it rarely causes the person to suffer or seek treatment.  It is labeled a mental illness, but not treated like one, since the behavior is typically rewarded in Western society. Suicide, not mass shooting, is the real danger to the mentally ill.  See this very cool study from the National Institutes of Health:

Third: Mentally Ill people in crisis will be less likely to seek treatment if their health record will be or could be made public. This will lead to more suicides, since most of the diagnosable and treatable illnesses put the individual at very high risk for suicide when left untreated. Another cool article about this –


I want America to stop seeking a scapegoat in a group of people who are largely defenseless and 15 times less likely to commit a crime. Why don’t we go after the people who have difficulty interacting with people, like Donald Trump? Let’s make his anal fissures public. Let’s expose his complete lack of moral compass and antisocial “screw everyone” mentality.  That mindset is what leads to mass shootings, stock market crashes, housing market bubbles, and most of the world’s woes.  The problem, of course, is that sociopaths are at a huge advantage over people with feelings, and they tend to claw their way into positions of incredible power, where their selfish decisions damn the rest of us to suffer and pay for their follies without recourse.

You can always read 5150 for free

The e-book of 5150 is free on Smashwords.  Go to 5150 on You will see that it is set to “name your own price.”  This means you can pay $0.00, or anywhere from $0.99 and up, depending on how generous you feel.  I want the book to be available to the families, friends and loved ones of people who have had or who are having a psychotic episode.  It will give you tremendous insight into the chaos inside their heads, and probably help you sort out what some of it means to them. 5150_cover_09_Page_10

Rosa Parks Didn’t Drive the Bus

I got steaming mad all over again tonight watching a National Geographic special on sexual freedom and government.  They gave a little air time to County Clerk Kim Davis and her one woman protest against the Supreme Court.  She was the lady who refused to issue a gay marriage license to two men because she didn’t want to be condemned to damnation and hellfire.  She went to jail for it.

As ludicrous as her cause sounds to a city slicker, out there in the bible belt a lot of people agreed with her.  One woman went so far as to say “She’s our Rosa Parks.  She’s refusing to obey a law that is unconscionable.”  I was plucked!  I hadn’t seen that little sound byte before.  It didn’t sit right with me not just because I am gay and damn proud of it, but because there seemed to be a logical fallacy embedded in there that I couldn’t name.  I needed a little time to stew over it.

I went to the kitchen, washed and recycled my pudding cup, gave my dog Patsy a treat, and then it struck me.  Rosa Parks was a citizen standing up (or sitting down, actually) in a fight against an extremely oppressive set of laws that were directed towards her from her government.  County Clerk Kim Davis is a government official, trusted to carry out the law of the land.  She is the bus driver, not the passenger.  The laws the Supreme Court passes are part of her job, not part of her private life and certainly not directed towards her.

If she wants to rally against gay marriage in the center of town and spew hate on the steps of the courthouse on her vacation days, I feel she has the right to do so.  In fact, I would actually fight for her to have that right, because denying it to her would be laying dangerous grounds to deny it to anyone else with something different to say.

Religious freedom is extremely important, including the freedom to be intolerant and nasty to people whom you feel are judged in the eyes of God as being lesser than you.  I hate that, but it really keeps things in balance.  It allows others to believe in a more loving God, and it also allows atheists to believe in something entirely different.

I have spent a great deal of time with conservative Christians in the South.  I think a lot of them figured out who and what I was, but they didn’t judge me to my face.  That is, in fact, the Christian thing to do.  As far as they were concerned, if I could sit next to them in the pew and sing, I was welcome in their church.  And I did an awful lot of singing.  I am certain that some folks judged me behind my back.  But they didn’t ask me to leave.  They showed respect and restraint.

I don’t believe that County Clerk Kim Davis showed proper Christian restraint in her dealings with the two men that wanted to get married.  She should have judged them and condemned them to hell silently while handing out the marriage license.  In her scratch-and-win theology, I think that would keep her from going to h-e-double hockey sticks.

When you’re driving the bus, you don’t get to sit illegally in the ‘whites only’ seats.  You’re in the  driver’s seat.  Ms. Davis is in the driver’s seat at the courthouse (assuming she still has her job.)  So she cannot be Rosa Parks in this civil rights issue.  Ever.

Religious Addendum (atheists, feel free to skip this appendix)  In the bible, Jesus didn’t have anything to say about gay people, that was St. Paul, who never actually met Jesus because he was busy persecuting Christ’s followers prior to his conversion.  According to Matthew, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” So you see, Love is the clincher.  (I was going to say trump card, but it’s too close to election time).  So maybe some of the holy folks in Ms Davis’ church will sit her down and explain this concept to her, so she can stop panicking about stepping on a crack and breaking Jesus’ back.  If she adds to the quality and amount of love in this world, she’s on the road to heaven.  If she hates her neighbor, she’s already in hell.  It’s truly that simple.