Sunday, December 27, 2009

Writing During the Holidays

This time of year isn’t the easiest to find time to write with everything going on. Still, I’ve been able to carve out some time in the mornings to work on the thriller I’m writing. Our daughter is visiting and she and my wife like to stay up late and sleep in. Being a morning person, I’m up and ready to go in the morning so that’s my writing time before everyone else wakes up. I’ve also been researching Nikola Tesla. He’s a fascinating character—an incredible inventor of alternating current engines, the first remote control device, wireless before Marconi as well as weapon systems. He also had a wealth of personal quirks including not wanting to be touched, doing things such as swimming laps in multiples of three and being afraid of germs even though he fed pigeons in his hotel room in New York before his death in 1943. Tesla provides a great background for a story I’m wiorking on.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Speaking at Retirement Communitis

When speaking at retirement communities I always meet such interesting people. I gave a talk this afternoon and the audience stayed engaged, laughed at my jokes and asked great questions. People also share their stories. On the sad side, one woman described being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in her fifties, took medication for seven years and then another doctor determined she did not have Alzheimer’s. In the meantime the medication took a toll on her and she had to quit her job. She had been through a lot of suffering and had a very unhappy expression on her face. She told me she hoped to be able to smile again. On the positive side, a man spoke up about how much he enjoyed living in the retirement home. He was a widower and was delighted at all the attentions he was receiving from the ladies.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

State of the Book Business

A lot of changes lately in the book business. In addition to the consolidation of companies and cut backs due to economic conditions, Kirkus Review is going out of business. This was one of the premier sources of reviews for new books, and I hate to see them disappear (especially since they are known as tough reviewers and gave my second Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery, Living With Your Kids Is Murder, a good review). Also, the recent announcement of Harlequin starting a vanity press subsidiary has Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America up in arms. Harlequin has been disinvited from RWA’s annual conference and Harlequin has been placed on the list of non-recognized publisher by MWA. For me as a writer, I’m plugging away, half way through the first draft of a thriller. I had one signing snowed out last Sunday and participated in another signing yesterday at a Barnes and Noble in Denver. The best part of that was spending time with fellow authors Carol Berg and Deb Stover. I have several presentations scheduled at retirement communities later this month and then I’ll be ready for the new year.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Back to Writing

After a wonderful Thanksgiving week visiting two of our kids and our granddaughter, I’m back to writing again. I didn’t write much during the trip with attending Men of Mystery, taking our granddaughter to school, picking her up, driving her through the Los Angeles freeway congestion to after school rehearsals, Thanksgiving dinner, a visit to Disney’s California Adventure, several trips to Knott’s Berry Farm, attending a Disney preview of Prep and Landing, tree decorating and such. Several mornings I had a few minutes to check email and work on the thriller I’m currently writing but now I’m back to my regular schedule of writing in the morning, exercising at lunch time and then tackling administrivia and email in the afternoon. Upcoming events include the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Holiday party and a signing at Who Else Books in Denver at 3 PM on Sunday, December 6.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Men of Mystery

A week ago Saturday I had the opportunity to participate in the Men of Mystery Conference in Irvine, California which brought together approximately 50 male mystery authors and some 500 fans for a day of fun, discussions on mysteries and schmoozing. Each of the authors gave a one minute pitch and over lunch we each had a chance to speak with people at our tables. Key note speakers included Tim Dorsey and Michael Connelly. Tim, the master of off-the-wall humor and psychotic characters, described how at a presentation he gave one time, everyone in the room was laughing at his jokes except for a small group of people who never even smiled. Afterwards he approached one of them and asked about this. The response: “We’re psychologists. We came to observe you.” Michael Connolly’s advice to writers: “Write every day even if only fifteen minutes.” I met a lot of great people and reacquainted myself with a classmate from graduate school at UCLA from forty years ago. Dick Holt is a thriller writer and neither of us knew the other was now writing. He has a woman protagonist in her eighties and we joked about getting his character, Jan Richter, together with my octogenarian protagonist, Paul Jacobson. Joan Hansen ran a great conference, and coming to Southern California gave me and my wife an excuse to visit with two of our kids and our granddaughter.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hostage Negotiations

Last week I had an opportunity to participate as a role-player in a negotiation training program conducted by the FBI at our local police department. Police officers had spent several days in class learning how to deal with hostage and other treat situations. In my scenario I was a marine who had returned from two tours of duty in Iraq, discovered my girlfriend having an affair with my best friend, shot and killed my best friend, was holding my girlfriend hostage and threatening to kill her and myself. A police team arrives on the scene and starts negotiating with me from outside a room where I’m holding the hostage. Their goal is to keep me engaged for an hour and not killing anyone while the tactical SWAT team deploys. In their training they were taught to use effective pauses, paraphrase, use “I” statements, provide minimal encouragers through emotional labeling, open-ended questions, summarizing, and reflecting/mirroring what I said. During the day the other role-player and I ran through the scenario for four different groups, each time varying the situation slightly. The first time I demanded a helicopter. Thereafter I asked for a four-wheel drive vehicle so I could go off my myself to Montana. Twice I set a time limit, saying I would kill my hostage if they didn't get the car within forty-five minutes. I mixed ranting, swearing and shouting with going silent. One time I got mad at the negotiator and demanded to speak to someone else. I also demanded a pizza. The negotiation team consisted of a lead negotiator, a coach who fed ideas to the lead and a supporting team who wrote down what was happening and contributed ideas on what to say. In our room where I held the hostage we also had an observer who gave us ideas on how to make the role-playing as realistic as possible for the negotiation team. The biggest problem in this situation is keeping the suspect engaged without him going nonlinear. The negotiator had to constantly respond to my demands by saying that they were working on it, because they could not give in to my wanting a vehicle to escape. One of the instructors had been involved in a real situation where a man with a bomb strapped to his chest entered a local hospital and threatened to blow up himself and the hospital. She negotiated with him for six hours before he ultimately tried to move farther into the hospital and was taken out by a SWAT sniper. She had been the officer first called to the scene and worked to keep the bomber calm, engaged and not going over the edge. Fortunately, she had received negotiator training and kept the deranged man under control until the SWAT team deployed. By the end of the day playing the role of someone with post traumatic stress syndrome who had been betrayed, I was exhausted, had lost my voice and felt emotionally drained. It also gave me a keen appreciation of what our police officers go through to protect the public.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Jane Doe

One of the long time mysteries in Boulder, Colorado, was recently partially solved. In 1954 the body of a murdered young woman was discovered in Boulder Canyon. She was buried in Columbia Cemetery with a gravestone marking her as , “Jane Doe.” The Boulder County Sheriff’s Department reopened this cold case and local author Silvia Pettum raised funds to exhume Jane Doe’s body. DNA extracted from a tooth and facial reconstruction led to clues, but for a number of years no match could be made with missing women from 1954. One likely candidate recently turned out to have been living in Australia. Then with the fortunate circumstance of a niece of another missing woman contacting Silvia through information found on her website, DNA was matched to a family member and after 55 years Jane Doe was identified as Dorothy Gay Howard. Detective Steve Ainsworth identified a suspect for the murder as Harvey Glatman. Glatman killed several other young woman, was living in Denver at the time of the Jane Doe murder but was executed in California in 1959 so there is no way to confirm the suspicions. Silvia recently published a book titled, “Someone’s Daughter” that recounts the work to track down Jane Doe. Quite a story.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Create Our Future

Yesterday I attended the Create Our Future celebration in Boulder County, Colorado. Create Our Future is a strategic planning initiative to create a vibrant community where we all age well. We brainstormed on ideas of what we needed by the time we reached eighty-five to be able to stay in our community. This included proposals for easy access to transportation, assistance to be able to stay in our homes and opportunities to be involved in the community. The keynote speech given by a Colorado state representative described how a study has shown that the largest factor in reducing hospital readmissions is for patients to be involved in their own follow up care. I had attended a lecture earlier in the week on Alzheimer’s Disease. The recommendations to help reduce the onset and effects of dementia included physical exercise, mental exercise, good diet, sleeping well, socializing and reducing stress. As we age, the more we can contribute to our own good health and stay active and involved, the better chance we have to create a personal future that remains positive.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Geezer-lit Thriller

I'm currently rewriting my first geezer-lit thriller titled Reset. The subtitle is "Saving the World Between Naps." It's an interesting challenge thrusting an octogenarian into life and world threatening situations. Needless to say, my protagonist steps up to the challenge. Older people may not have the strength and stamina of thirty-year-olds, but they have the life experiences and wisdom to apply to difficult problems.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Aging is part of our human predicament. At first we want to be older: to be able to stay up past ten o’clock, to get a driver’s license, to vote, to buy a drink, to rent a car. Then suddenly our perspective changes. Whoa. I don’t want to be thirty, forty, fifty, sixty. I recently looked back over each of my decade milestones. When I turned ten I was in fifth grade, having just suffered the indignity of being required to wear shoes to school in Honolulu. I celebrated by twentieth birthday in France in the middle of an adventure, learning another language, experiencing a different culture, exploring new ideas, starting to discover what I was about. At thirty I was immersed in a career, married with a four-year old son. Forty found me having achieved some success in business and about to leave a large company for my first foray into the world of start-ups. At fifty I was struggling through a bad work situation (about to get fired), had acquired a daughter-in-law and was soon facing an empty nest. At sixty I was a grandfather, dealing with the issues of my aging parents, settled in at work, experiencing the excitement of learning the craft of writing and looking forward to retiring. Birthdays used to be a big deal. But when I turned sixty, my wife was in Los Angeles selling her mom’s house, so I celebrated alone, fixing a TV dinner. Just another day. Recently I reread parts of a journal I had kept in the 1980s and early 1990s. Two things struck me. How things are different now and how things are the same. My core being is the same as when I was younger and I’m still grappling with the same issues: self-consciousness, fears, relationships, attitudes and deciding what I want to be when I grow up. Yet so much has changed. I’ve mellowed and don’t get as uptight as I used to. I go with the flow more now. I guess you could say that’s part of maturing. But I still picture myself as a young person. It’s just that I’m trapped in an aging body. I’m now more aware of the next steps, having dealt with the issues of placing my mom and stepfather in a retirement home followed by assisted living facility and then facing their deaths. And I have retired from a career in the business world to write full time. With six plus decades of life experience, I find much material to work with.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bouchercon 2

I had a great time at the Bouchercon conference. The only problem was getting off the ground in Denver. When I arrived at the airport, the flight showed on time until half an hour before scheduled departure. Then it began to slip due to foggy conditions and after moving six times I ended up back at the original boarding area before taking off three hours late. That was the only glitch. From there everything went well. Wednesday night I had dinner with the 4MA people, a wonderful group of avid mystery readers. The conference kicked off on Thursday and I had an opportunity to participate in a continuous conversation with Barbara Fister, Molly MacRae and Libby Fischer Hellmann. Thursday night I participated in the talent show along with others including Parnell Hall, Don Bruns, Peter Lovesey and Liz Zelvin. On Friday I attended the guest of honor interview with Michael Connelly. His advise was to write what you know and what you never want to know and to move your story ahead at least one step every day. Friday night we had a gathering of the Five Star and TeknoBook authors including Beth Groundwater, Patricia Stoltey, Molly MacRae, Julie Hyzy, Mike Black and Deni Dietz. On Saturday our Geezer Lit Comes of Age Panel with Naomi Hirahara, Chester Campbell, Mary Saums and Patricia Stoltey played to a packed room with lots of laughs. On Sunday I participated in the Book Bazaar where each attendee had five tickets to use to get signed copies of authors’ books. It was a madhouse due to not having enough space for everyone to walk through the aisles between the author tables. I picked up books by Brett Battles, Wendelin Van Draanen, Lori Lacefield, Cricket McRae and Julie Hyzy. During the conference I attended two sessions put on by I learned that they have a beta program for Author Central whereby authors can post their own information to be put up on Amazon’s Author Pages. Another session discussed Kindle which can now hold 1500 books with a battery life of two weeks of continuous reading. Over 370,000 titles are now available on Kindle. I had a chance to meet authors as Michael Connelly, Charlaine Harris, S.J. Rozan, catch up with old friends and make many new ones.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


This coming week I’ll be attending Bouchercon, the largest conference in the United States for mystery fans and writers. At last count at least 1500 adults and over 700 kids were registered. I’ve been to a number of writer or fan conferences such as the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference, Pikes Peak Writers Conference, Left Coast Crime Conference and Malice Domestic but this will my first time at Bouchercon. I set a goal of going once I had two published mystery novels and with the release of my second one this April, I signed up. I’ll be moderating a panel titled “Geezer Lit Comes of Age, The Graying of the Genre” with panelists, Chester Campbell, Naomi Hirahara, Mary Saums and Patricia Stoltey, a great group of authors. I’ll also perform a comedy routine at the Author Talent Show, participate in the Continuous Conversation program, auction off a character in a future novel along with Beth Groundwater, Bonnie Ramthun and Patricia Stoltey and sign books at the Book Bazaar. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting a lot of new people.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Author Fest of the Rockies

Yesterday I attended the Author Fest of the Rockies. Irv Sternberg and I conducted a panel on Geezer Lit Humor, and I had a chance to catch up with old friends and meet new people. The luncheon speaker was Alec Greven. For those of you who haven’t heard of Alec, he’s a ten-year-old fifth grader in Colorado who wrote a book titled How to Talk to Girls that became a New Your Times bestseller. He gave a delightful talk about his writing and promotional experiences including being on the Ellen DeGeneres show. During the question and answer session someone in the audience asked Alec if he still gets in trouble. His response, “Everyone gets in trouble.”

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tough Crowd

As an author I give talks at a number of retirement communities. Last week I was invited to an assisted living facility that specializes in memory care. As people arrived I went through the audience and introduced myself. One man shook my hand and said, "I'm Hal." Five minutes later while waiting for others to arrive, he came up to me and shook my hand again and said, "I'm Hal." When everyone had settled, "I said, good evening. I'm Mike Befeler." One man in the audience shouted, "Are we done yet?" Five minutes into my talk a woman jumped up and yelled, "I'm outa here." She took off. Five minutes later she returned and announced, "I'm back." Then a few minutes later she jumped up again and shouted, "I'm outa here." Still, the audience laughed at my jokes, nodded their heads at my description of the upsides and downsides to aging and gave me a good round of applause. A tough crowd but appreciative.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Geezer Cussing

The protagonist in my Geezer-lit Mystery series, Paul Jacobson, cusses. I've had some readers object to his language. I've told people that Paul picked up this bad habit when he was in the military during WWII and that I've tried to remind him to tone it down, but because he has short-term memory loss, he forgets. When asked to read from Living With Your Kids Is Murder, I warn listeners that if they have delicate ears to be prepared for Paul's language. Even with this warning, I had an audience member object to my reading a month ago in another state. Last week at an event in my home state of Colorado, I asked the audience ahead of time if there was anyone who who would prefer that I skip over the cuss words because I had someone object in another state. This time someone piped up and said, "This is Colorado, we don't mind."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Writers Conference

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference in Denver. In addition to moderating six panels, I renewed friendships with other authors, had a reunion with my online critique group and attened a number of excellent presentations. Eldon Thompson, science fiction writer and screenwriter, kicked off the Friday night dinner by telling us the six Ps of writing: passion, preparation, practice, patience, prioritization and perserverance. Saturday night's keynote speaker, thriller writer Joseph Finder, summed it all up with this statement: "How cool is it to be paid to make things up." In a session he conducted, he also stated that the most successful writers aren't necessarily the best writers but are the most stubborn ones who learn from rejection--stubborn in not giving up, but learning and adapting from the feedback they receive from agent and editor rejection notices and not taking criticism personally. He suggested including at least one of--reverse, reveal or surprise--in every scene written and writing what you love to read not what you think will sell. Crime writer James Born, concluded on Sunday by saying, "Nothing has been improved by whining." He describes how he writes thirty minutes every day and puts someone wanting something on every page. All and all a great conference with inspiration and good fellowship.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


After a tough week dealing with the death of a relative, the next week was a refreshing change as my wife and I took care of our two grandsons in Iowa. There’s nothing like the smiles on grandkids’ faces to raise your spirits. Spending the day chasing after a 2 ½ year old and crawling on the carpet with a six month old, left me tired but contented. Sure, there were the outburst and crying jags, but they recovered quickly. I enjoyed walking through the nearby woods with my grandson while he collected sticks. When we came to a fallen log, he inspected it, nodded knowingly and informed me, “Too big, Grandpa.”

Sunday, August 30, 2009


This is a tough blog for me to write. My wife and I just dealt with the death of a relative who was killed by a drive who fell asleep and caused a head on automobile collision. I arrived home from taking a walk to find my wife in tears after she had been called with the news. We immediately arranged an airline flight and flew the next day to Los Angeles. The following morning we drove to the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office to pick up personal effects from the accident. We were surprised that our relative had a large amount of cash on him at the time of his death but there were no keys to his condo. I called the California Highway Patrol and they quickly determined that the keys were with the car in the towing company impound area and arranged to have all the keys except the car keys released to us. The next stop was the mortuary to make arrangements then on to the towing company to pick up the keys. The key chain we were given had a dozen keys and we hoped one of them would open the condo since we needed to find personal papers, financial records and any will. The sight of the front end of the car looking like an accordion up got to my wife. My experience occurred an hour later when we arrived at the condo. After much trying of keys, I got the door open. It would only budge two feet. I stuck my head through the door and had my shock. The condo was piled three to five feet high with trash. I could see no furniture and no appliances in the kitchen as all surfaces were covered with trash. I squeezed in and found that the whole condo was covered with trash. A pathway on top of three feet of stuff wound through with larger mounds to the side. It took my wife, daughter and me two hours to clear junk away enough to open the front door completely. We had never been invited to the condo and had no idea our relative had become a hoarder. Since then, I have read about hoarding problems. It is a well-defined disorder that affects many people. The novel, My Brother’s Keeper, by Marcia Davenport published in 1954 is based on the Collyer brothers who died in over 100 tons of trash in a brownstone in Harlem in 1947.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Elder Abuse

A week ago I attended a two day seminar on elder abuse. It was a dry run for a program that will be given to law enforcement officers in Boulder County where I live. Much as domestic, child and sexual abuse remained hidden for many years, elder abuse is an epidemic that is now gaining more awareness. The difficult economic times also lead to an increase in elder abuse. Elder abuse takes many forms including physical, emotional/psychological, sexual, neglect and financial exploitation. This program trains law enforcement officers to focus on victim safety, avoid assumptions (e.g., someone with dementia might still be reporting real abuse), recognize abuser tactics and work collaboratively with other agencies. As I thought through what I learned in the program, it brought to mind how we deal with difficult situations. Basically, there are four options: 1. Change the situation, 2. Change your attitude, 3. Suffer, or 4. Get out. As these choices apply to a victim of elder abuse, changing the situation would include confronting the abuser and seeking outside assistance. Changing your attitude is a key point made by Victor Frankl in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” When he was in a Nazi concentration camp in World War II, Frankl concluded that the Nazis could control everything except his attitude. While this applied in his situation, I wouldn’t recommend an abuse victim changing his/her attitude to accept the situation. Much like the Stockdale Paradox as described by Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great” when faced with a difficult situation as Admiral Jim Stockdale did as a prisoner in the Vietnam War, it’s necessary to do everything possible to overcome the adversity while still confronting the brutal facts of the current situation. In other words, you can’t be off in never-neverland pretending there is no problem and you can’t give up, but need to keep trying while being realistic about how bad things are. Alternative three is to suffer, which unfortunately is what most victims of elder abuse do. The fourth alternative is to get out. This can be by leaving and going somewhere safe to live. Again, many victims of elder abuse aren’t mobile enough to pursue this alternative. What often happens is that the victims suffer until they get out by dying. Identification of an abusive situation by police or other agencies can alternatively lead to a positive outcome where the situation is changed through the victim being put in a safe situation and the abuser being arrested.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Guest versus Colonizer

Do we act like guests or colonizers? I think this is a very good comparison to make. Colonizers are arrogant and take over. Guests come for a visit, blend in and don’t walk off with the towels.
This concept applies whether we are tourists or property owners. A colonizer takes away the resources and isn’t concerned about what is left behind. A guest takes care because it is a privilege to be there and wants to be invited back again.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Large Print

My second novel, Living With Your Kids Is Murder, has now been released in a large print edition as well as regular hardcover and audio book editions. It’s great that all types of readers can be accommodated. As I give presentations to groups of seniors in retirement communities and service organizations, I find many that struggle with regular sized print. There are also older citizens who suffer from macular degeneration and continue “reading” with audio books. Reading is a pleasure we can pursue for a lifetime and it’s important to have alternatives available.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Aging Services

This last year I’ve had the pleasure of participating in the Countywide Leadership Council in Boulder County where I live. This organization is involved in creating vibrant communities in which we all age well. There are many issues of aging to be addressed in our community. Even with a large number of professionals living in Boulder, basic needs of the older population must still be met. In our county 12% of people 65 and older are below the poverty level and 21% can’t afford healthy meals. Through a number of organizations including Meals on Wheels, food is being provided to those in need, but often older citizens aren’t even aware of the resources available. For those with computer skills, internet access is available at the public library. A new website directs people to the variety of resources available. One central phone number 303 441-1617 provides an entry point for a caller to be directed to the needed service. The challenge for the year ahead is providing food, housing and access to information for seniors.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I spent a week in Sacramento along with my wife being nannies for our ten week old grandson. In spite of the over one hundred degree weather, we had a great time getting to know our little grandson while our daughter-in-law was in rehearsal for Into The Woods. It’s amazing how one little kid can keep two older adults fully occupied. Whenever he got fussy, I’d take him for a ride in his stroller and that would calm him down or put him to sleep. His favorite attraction was a large blue vending machine that glowed and hummed. Watching this seemed to put him in a happy trance as if communing with something on another plane. I did take off one day to drive over to the Bay Area and give a talk and sign books at Ed Kaufman’s wonderful bookstore, M Is For Mystery, in San Mateo. This was also a chance to catch up with old college friends and cool off from the hot Sacramento weather.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Arrogance and Lighthouses

I’ve never been able to get away with being arrogant. Whenever I’ve started feeling I’m hot stuff, I’ve had a comeuppance. When I played competitive tennis as a kid, I would start thinking I was really something, then I’d get beaten by an unranked player. At school I’d think I was pretty smart, then I’d do poorly on a test. At work I’d feel I was better than everyone else, then I’d do something dumb that put me back in my place. Arrogance is the flip size of inferiority. Feeling better than or less than takes away from just being. I’ve ping-ponged back and forth between these two frauds, first feeling on top of the world then after a comeuppance feeling no good, like a squished bug. So why not just be? I know for me it’s getting in the trap of comparing myself to others. Am I a better writer than the other guy? Am I smarter? Am I a better husband, better grandparent? We, as human beings, seem to always be classifying people. This person fits in this pigeonhole and that person in another. Why do these things matter? I started asking this question in high school where we had all the cliques such as jocks, popular kids and brains. I hung out with some of the jocks since I was a good athlete and the smart kids because I did well in school. Then my senior year I made a random group of friends who weren’t classified. We just enjoyed each others’ company without any labels. The truth is we can always find someone who is superior or inferior to us in some dimension. So rather than trying to feel better than or worrying about being lesser than, we just need to be what we are. My favorite story about arrogance is this. On a stormy night two men looked out and saw each other’s signal lights. The first sent a message, “Move aside.” The second sent a message back, “No, you move aside.” The first puffed out his chest and said to his first mate, “Nobody orders me to do that.” He sent out the message, “You move aside, I’m a battleship.” Then the response came back. “You move aside, I’m a lighthouse.”

Friday, July 10, 2009

What happens if you swear at a police officer

What happens if you swear at a police officer? This morning I participated in another police training exercise in which another volunteer and I exhibited strange behavior and the use of fighting words. The strange behavior came easy for me. I wandered around the park where we conducted the exercise waving my arms and acting zoned out. Then when the pairs of police officers-in-training showed up, my roll playing required that I swear at them until they warned me against using fighting words and when I continued, they arrested me. During the morning I insulted six police officers, got cuffed four times, picked up a knife which I was told to drop, and had a concealed gun in my pocket. All part of a day’s work. As role players we were given driver’s licenses that had been previously confiscated. When asked for identification, we turned over these licenses which the officers used to call in our identification. One interesting coincidence occurred. One of the police officers-in-training actually recognized the name on the license that my fellow role player was using. It was someone he had gone to school with in Ohio. Talk about a small world.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Police Training Exercise

I had an opportunity to participate in another police training exercise. This time I role played someone illegally camping. I spent most of a sunny morning sitting in a reclining camping chair while new police officers in pairs showed up to give me a ticket. It wasn’t stressing work and the intent was to give them a first experience in writing tickets and calling in information. I had been given a driver’s license that they used to check out my identity. In a second scenario my buddy and I roll played drinking and being obnoxious (I don’t drink but the obnoxious part came easily). In one instance the police officers had to cuff me. We ended the morning with a picnic just as a thunder storm rolled in. I encourage anyone who is interested to volunteer for this type of exercise with a local police department. It provides a needed service for the police and also insights into what police officers have to deal with.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Road Trip

My wife and I recently took a road trip to Los Angeles to visit our kids and grandkids. The drive through Western Colorado and Utah was beautiful, but once we hit Nevada it became, to use Thomas Friedman’s popular book title, “Hot, Flat and Crowded.” The hot and flat parts are obvious but Nevada crowded? Just try driving through Las Vegas. Interstate 15 is undergoing constant construction and just outside of the city, traffic grinds to a halt. I guess it’s a warm up for driving in Los Angeles. The problem is that there is no way of avoiding Las Vegas. I’m not a big fan of the Las Vegas lifestyle anyway so we tend to just drive through. Correction, try to drive through. On the return trip I tried taking bypass freeways around Las Vega but this didn’t help much either. On a positive note, once we reached Los Angeles we had a great time with our grandkids including watching a soccer tournament, attending a birthday party, playing WII sports, swimming in the motel pool and going to a Fathers’ Day celebration. In Los Angeles as we drove around listening to a local radio station, we heard a reoccurring commercial which became the theme for our trip. This commercial advertised the “smell good plumber.” My wife and I wondered if the plumbers used special perfume, took showers before each plumbing gig, had special deodorant or what. Every time we heard mention of the “smell good plumber” we couldn’t help but smile.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Walk with the Five Senses

I enjoy walking and its permutations hiking and snowshoeing. When I had to give up jogging thirteen years ago because of my arthritic hip, walking became my prime substitution. On weekdays when I can get out at lunch, I take an hour walk, and on Sundays I go up in the mountains to hike or snowshoe, depending on the season. When I walk by myself, it is an activity for my body, heart, mind and soul. The exercise is great for staying healthy (body), the joy I get from being outside gives me a positive emotional feeling (heart), I often come up with ideas by letting things I’ve been preoccupied with percolate (mind), and I’ve recently learned a technique that helps my overall spiritual well-being (soul). This is to walk with the five senses. To be fully present while I’m walking, I pay attention to each of my five senses and concentrate on the moment. I open my mouth, lick my lips and taste my surroundings. Then I take a deep breath and smell the aromas around me. The flowers, trees, hay, skunks--good or bad odors are part of the moment.

Then I concentrate on what I feel. If the air is cool, I sense the tingling on my arms and face. If the sun is beating down, I feel the warmth on my skin. Next I listen to the sounds around me. The birds, the wind blowing through the trees, the whistle of a train, the traffic--whatever is going on. And finally, I take in the sights around me. It is so easy to get preoccupied and miss the beauty that abounds. Aspen leaves dancing in the breeze, flowers, the jagged mountain peaks, other people in their crazy outfits, birds soaring and dipping. I look up and down and to the sides. There is always so much to see whether in a city or out in the woods. When I used to jog, everything passed by too rapidly and I was struggling to move. When walking there is time to appreciate my surroundings. I sometimes walk beside a golf course. The vivid green, the whack of someone hitting a ball, the gurgling stream on the other side of the path, the canopy of trees overhead, the joggers, walkers, bicyclists, roller-bladders passing by are all part of the chain of moments. With my five senses rejuvenated, I’m ready to go back to the pressing issues of the day.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


This last week I took a trip to Florida to give a presentation at the Cummings Library in Palm City, Florida, and did a signing at the Vero Beach Book Center. I had never been to the Treasure Coast of Florida and enjoyed some time to be a tourist as I drove between West Palm Beach and Vero Beach. In Vero Beach I drove by Dodgertown. I was an avid Brooklyn Dodger fan when I was a kid and it brought back memories of my favorite players of the 1950s. Too bad the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, and now they’ve moved their spring training headquarters to Arizona. I had a chance to meet some great people and also enjoyed conversations on the plane there and back. Outside of dodging a thunder storm on the return to Denver, the flights were uneventful and on time. The question I’ve been asked lately is if my Geezer-lit Mystery series were made into movies, who would I see playing my octogenarian protagonist Paul Jacobson? One possibility would be Clint Eastwood since Paul comes across as crusty but really means well.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Rights of All Citizens

Last weekend my wife and I attended a wedding in Memphis. In addition to seeing wonderful old friends, we played tourists and visited Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum at the sight of the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. The exhibits there highlighted for me how far our country has come in the last fifty years. Having grown up in Hawaii, I had experienced a multi-racial culture but had little first hand knowledge of the struggle of African-Americans. Our country has made strides but still has racism as well as other problems to deal with. One other issue I spent time on this week was elder abuse. As part of my role on the Aging Advisor Council for my county, I attended a presentation on elder abuse. Much as protecting the rights of all races and genders, age is another dimension that we all need to be aware of. In the current economy older citizens are being taken advantage of financially as well as abused physically and sexually. In August I will participate in a two day training program on elder abuse that will be tested with volunteers before being taken to local law enforcement agencies. I will keep you informed as I learn more.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rabbits and Being Present

In the rush-rush of daily living, I find it very easy to get completely absorbed in the minutia of planning for the next meeting or fretting about something unsaid in the last phone call. I often find that I’m ping-ponging back and forth between the past (things that have happened) and the future (getting ready or anticipating what will happen) while completely missing the present.
While in Orange County, California, several years ago, I tried to focus more on the moment. As I walked both mornings, I concentrated on being there rather than planning things for the day or regurgitating what had already transpired. And what did I discover? Rabbits. In the neighborhood behind the hotel, I spotted two rabbits hopping across the street. They came to rest to nibble the grass of a well-groomed lawn. One black rabbit and a gray one. As the superstition goes, don’t let a black rabbit cross your path because you might pay attention. A block later I spotted another four rabbits, sitting in a yard. I came to a nursery and found over thirty rabbits of various sizes, shapes and colors luxuriating on a well-nibbled lawn. The next street had half-a-dozen dog kennels, right there in the middle of a residential area. I noticed crows sitting on power lines, felt a gentle breeze ripple across my bare arms, smelled the aroma of bacon being cooked, heard the chirping of birds amidst the periodic barking of dogs from the kennels. It was exhilarating to be present on my walk. So much to see, hear, feel, smell. How unusual. Rather than being consumed in the thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow, it was a joy to be there in the moment. Instead of being locked into recordings playing in my head about “What I should be doing,” or “What if?” or “I forgot to do. . .” I was paying attention to what was going on around me. My feet were moving, I was breathing deeply and I was alive. No big exciting event, no epiphany, just the calm realization that it was good to be there, being me at that moment in time.The typical problem is that I get wrapped up in the busy-i-ness of daily activities and am not aware of what goes on around me. I experienced this over thirty years ago when we lived in Southern California. I was driving along the freeway one winter morning and felt strange. Something was different. Then I realized I could see the mountains! Mount Wilson with a cap of snow appeared in the distance. It was one of those rare clear days, and I could see over the whole Los Angeles basin. At first I was disoriented. I had become conditioned to the tunnel vision of not being able to see beyond the usual layer of smog. I was awed by the visibility of this unusually clear day. This pattern is repeated over and over again. Our field of vision is narrowed to the point that we don’t see what is going on around us, don’t feel the presence of others, don’t venture out of our cocoons. Open your eyes, ears and other senses to the possibilities of the moment. And you’ll see the rabbits.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Drug Bust

Yesterday, I was handcuffed and frisked during a drug bust. It happened while I participated as a volunteer role-player during a police training exercise. Three of us were talking by the side of a building. As two police officers approached, one of my compatriots dropped a bag of “drugs” and all three of us took off in opposite directions. The exercise was to train the police officers on how to handle a situation when there are more potential bad guys than officers. The “dealer” who dropped the bag then pulled a knife and the officers had to neutralize that threat. We repeated this exercise nine times for the total group of eighteen officers being trained. Several times I was allowed to wander off. Some times the officers halted me through voice commands. One officer grabbed my arm and one handcuffed me. When I was allowed to wander off, I circled back, and they had to deal with me again. Then we participated in a Rapid Entry Deployment (RED) where an active shooter was in a building. I was hiding in one of the rooms and the RED team had to find and search me as they swept the building. This all served a useful purpose in police training and helped me as a mystery writer understand more about police procedures.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Teaching a Class

I taught a class for the OLLI West program in Golden, Colorado, earlier this week. It was an energetic group of people 50 and over who were interested in hearing about mystery writing. I spoke on “Aging and Other Minor Inconveniences,” and they had a good chuckle during the talk. One of the people in the group shared a great insight. There are three things you need when you get older: 1. Something to do, 2. Something to look forward to, and 3. Someone to love. Great advice for all of us.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


This week I launched my second geezer-lit mystery, Living With Your Kids Is Murder, with a number of events. I gave a talk titled, Aging and Other Minor Inconveniences, to a senior center and an Optimist Club. Then on Thursday night I had my bookstore launch at the Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver. We had a good group with lots of laughs and dark chocolate. Tonight I’ll be at a mystery dinner theater and will be following up with three more events next week. In addition, Living With Your Kids Is Murder will be up on Kindle next week.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Malice Domestic Conference

I just returned from the Malice Domestic mystery conference in Arlington, Virginia. It was a smaller conference this year compared to the last two years but with excellent panels and many chances to speak with readers and other authors. Agatha award winners included Louise Penny for best novel (The Cruelest Month), G.M. Malliet for best first novel (Death of a Cozy Writer), Kathy Lynn Emerson for best non-fiction (How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries), Dana Cameron for best short story (The Night Things Changed) and Chris Grabenstein for best children’s/young adult (The Crossroads). Lifetime Achievement Award winner Anne Perry gave a wonderful interview. She described how when she was a little girl, a bully said he would take her money. She told him how poor she was, and the bully ended up giving her money instead. Anne stated that was the first time she was paid for telling a story. Guest of Honor Nancy Pickard shared an experience from her early journalism career. After reporting on a city council meeting, one of the council members sent a note to the editor saying that Nancy had done a fine job of writing about the topic of discussion but that they actually voted “no” and not “yes” as reported. I had a chance to participate in the Malice-go-round which is like speed dating where I had ninety seconds to pitch to a table of readers before moving on to the next table. After twenty tables some of my voice remained. I also was a member of a senior sleuth panel with Donald Bain, Renee Paley-Bain, Deb Baker and Mary Saums. On the way there I read in the airline magazine a statistic reported by Nielsen Bookscan that 93% of traditionally published books (not electronic published) sold 1000 or fewer copies. A great weekend and the flights both directions were actually on time.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

People, Projects and the Tinderbox

I’ve always been a project person. I get involved and consumed in a variety of activities: work, sports, hiking, snowshoeing, writing, teaching, collecting shells. I’m not one to sit around relaxing. After a few quiet minutes I jump up to work on a project. There’s a good part to this. I get a lot done, but I can overdo it. It’s only in recent years that I’ve learned to relax more on weekends, taking a break to read a book by the pool or catch a nap. There is a golden mean, a balance between frenzy and sloth. There’s a time to charge ahead and a time to take a break.Another dimension is that I tend to get absorbed in the project at hand and lose sight of the human touch, focusing more on the activity than the people I’m with. When my kids and I were in Indian Guides and Indian Princesses, a father/kid program (which seems to no longer be politically correct) sponsored by the YMCA, I heard two stories that hit home. Every year in May we had the Spring Pow Wow, a gathering at the YMCA of the Rockies camp in Estes Park. Over a weekend we swam, played miniature golf, bowled, rode horses, fished, had a campfire and hiked. On Sunday morning the leader held a brief service from which I remember two relevant stories. First, was a discussion about the Cat Steven’s song, “The Cat’s in the Cradle.” This song relates the story of a father who was too busy to spend time with his son. When the son grows up, he’s too busy to spend time with his father. The punch line: “He grew up to be just like me.” For us A-type personalities the message was clear. Make the effort to spend quality time with your kids. Second, the leader told the story of the Tinderbox: Two Indian braves were chosen to compete to become the next chief of the tribe. Each was given a tinderbox with an ember and told to scale the distant sacred mountain and light a fire at the top. The first to succeed would become the new chief. They charged off. Half way up the mountain, the first brave came to an old man shivering beside a pile of wood. “Please help me light my fire so I won’t freeze to death,” the old man begged. The Indian brave looked at the old man with disdain. “I have no time for that,” he said. “I have to get to the top of the mountain to become chief.” So he left the old man huddled in the cold. Moments later the second brave came upon the old man. “Please help me light my fire,” the old man pleaded. The second brave could see the first brave climbing up ahead. He knew that if he stopped, he’d surely lose the race and not become chief. He looked back at the old man shivering in the cold and knew that he couldn’t leave him there to freeze to death. So he took the ember out of his tinderbox and used it to start a fire for the old man. Once the fire was going briskly, he removed a fresh ember and put it in his tinderbox. He knew it was futile, but he continued up the mountain. Down below the people watched and waited. Suddenly, a fire appeared on the top of the sacred mountain. It was the fire from the second brave. The first brave had reached the top first, but when he went to light a fire, his ember had burned out. The second brave arrived later, but his new ember was still glowing. He lit a fire and became chief. Remember the human element and take the time to replenish your embers.

Friday, April 17, 2009


My first Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery, Retirement Homes Are Murder, is now available on Kindle at
The process was relatively painless given the guidance I received from fellow authors Sunny Frasier and Jon Baxley. After getting started at I followed the directions and converted my Word manuscript to html (using Save As and specifying Save As Type as Web). After this conversion, I uploaded the document and added all the information requested from Amazon. The only big decision I had to make was on the price. I ended up pricing it at $4.99 which Amazon discounted to $3.99. Three days later, my book appeared on Kindle. Since then I’ve joined a number of Kindle Forums and began posting notices on:,,,9.0.html,, and Also, I have been tracking messages from people who have downloaded a sample and have purchased the book. Quite a process.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Solution to Somali Pirate Situation

After reading the news this morning about the dramatic rescue of Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama from Somali Pirates, it seems obvious that shipping lines need to have armed guards on the ships that sail along the Somali coast. If the shippers are concerned about the cost, I have a modest proposal for them. In fact providing armed guards could be turned into a revenue source for the shipping companies rather than an expense. Here’s the proposal: establish the Somali Coast Cruises and advertise that customers can sleep out under the stars, be provided with their own AK-47s and have the chance to shoot at floating objects that approach the “cruise ship.” I’m sure this would attract a large number of paying customers who would relish this opportunity. And as anyone knows who has been hiking in the woods during hunting season, this would be a deterrent to the Somali pirates.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Conference on World Affairs

This week the Conference on World Affairs took place at the University of Colorado in Boulder. This is the 61st occurrence of a wonderful conference that deals with a wide variety of global topics. It was open to the public free of charge, and the audiences included students through retirees. I attended two sessions on writing and one on comedy. Next year I’ll have to plan ahead so I’ll have more time to go to more sessions. One of the panels I attended was titled, “Reading Fiction Helps Me Live in the Real World” with Teresa Jordan, Terry McNally and Allan Peterson as panelists. Terry related how he teaches storytelling in the organizational world and that a good story has to have flesh and blood characters, relate a change taking place and use pacing to slow down and show images. Teresa cautioned that people who think they have found the ultimate truth run the risk of then only trying to find evidence of that truth and losing their openness to new insights. Allan stated that all conversation involves stories. As someone who writes about older characters (geezer-lit) and being involved in volunteer activities in support of older people, I found one topic conspicuously missing at the conference. Of the 187 sessions over the week, there were exactly zero that dealt with the topic of aging. I’ve sent a suggestion that this be included next year

Saturday, April 4, 2009


I just returned from a trip to visit my grandkids in Iowa (that’s why I haven’t blogged in a while). Spending time with a two-year-old is a lesson in unbridled enthusiasm. My grandson loves throwing sticks in a stream by his house. Every morning when he got up he’d have a big grin on his face and say, “Grandpa, throw sticks in stream,” and we’d go collect sticks which he would drop off the bridge into the stream and watch float away. And he could do this for hours without getting bored. We went to the stream every day I was there and he was just as enthusiastic the last day as the first. I remember another lesson in enthusiasm when my oldest son performed in one of his first professional musical theater shows. It was at a converted mill in the mountains of Pennsylvania and he was performing Forever Plaid with three other young men. I went backstage after the performance to congratulate them and as I arrived one of the young men had a huge smile on his face and was saying to the others, “And they’re paying us to do this!”

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Book Launch

I now have the book launch for my second geezer-lit mystery, Living With Your Kids, set for the Tattered Cover Bookstore on Colfax in Denver for Thursday, May 7 at 7:30 PM. The book is available for preorders on and with the official publication date of April 15 (geezers and taxes share the same day). My first novel Retirement Homes Are Murder is now available in hard cover, large print, book club paperback and audio book (CD and MP3). Living With Your Kids will eventually be available in all of these formats as well. The first conference that the new book will be available is at Malice Domestic on May 1-3 in Arlington, Virginia. I’ll be on a Senior Sleuth panel there.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Left Coast Crime Conference

I spent last week on the Big Island of Hawaii at the Left Coast Crime conference. Mystery writers and fans gathered from all over the world to enjoy panel discussions about the mystery genre, fun and sun (actually the first four days were cloudy but then the traditional Kona sun came out). I hosted the debut author introduction breakfast with twelve new authors and the two fans of honor, moderated a panel, and appeared on two panels. The conference had free time to enjoy the scenery and I also got some snorkeling and sightseeing in. At a breakfast with members of the For Mystery Addicts email loop, we exchanged white elephant gifts and Bob Smith of Adelaide, Australia, was the lucky recipient of one of my “Geezer Lit Mysteries” baseball caps. I also had a contest for another cap. The question was: what three mystery writers and one librarian at the conference went to the same high school as Barack Obama. Sheryl Stevens was the first to answer the question and received the baseball cap. The answer is: the three writers are Victoria Kneubuhl, John Madinger and me and the librarian is Cindy Chow. We all went to Punahou School in Honolulu.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Challenge and Response

When life serves up lemons, do we end up sucking them or making lemon cream pie? I find it fascinating the variety of ways people (myself included) respond to challenges. Some people give up and succumb to problems and others rise above them. We see around us people who overcome tremendous obstacles both physical and mental. We see others who appear to be on the top of the world one minute, then carted away as suicide victims the next. Why does one keep battling and the other give up? What is the spark that motivates one person to climb out of the muck of adversity while another caves in? A lot of it goes right back to attitude. The same situation can be viewed as an insurmountable issue or an opportunity. A chewing-out by the boss can lead to a decision to quit or to explore the grains of truth in the criticism and improve. A sports team such as the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team may coalesce and defeat a more talented and experienced team while a team of all-stars may lose because they don’t care and have never become an integrated unit. So how do we respond to a challenge? Let’s take the example of a bad work environment. When in this situation several times in my career, I learned to face four choices:
· Change my attitude--I could accept the situation and try to make the most of it.
· Change the situation--I could speak to my boss about what modifications would be necessary and convince him to make the improvements.
· Suffer--I could moan and groan about it.
· Get out--I could quit the job.

It’s a good test to run through the four alternatives in any challenge you encounter. When faced with a bad work situation, I try first to change it. If that doesn’t work, since I don’t want to suffer, I decide between leaving or changing my attitude. Dealing with challenges entails hard work. We have to motivate ourselves and need the discipline to persevere. Everyone may be rooting against us so we have to dig down for the extra effort that only we can make happen.
The myth of Sisyphus comes to mind as the symbol of tenacity in a difficult situation. The guy has to push a boulder up a hill. Every time he almost gets to the top, the boulder rolls down again. He sucks it up and starts pushing again. With the four choices possible, he could just leave. But in the myth, the gods have eliminated this alternative as well as changing the situation. So his only choices are to suffer or change his attitude. Does he mope all the time or does he enjoy the scenery while he’s walking back down? And who knows. One of these times he might get the boulder to stay at the top. Joseph in the Bible is one of my favorite stories. The kid was arrogant and had everything. Then he’s sold into slavery and gets put in prison. He hangs in there and becomes right hand to the pharaoh. Along the way he could have given up, but he didn’t. At the end he tests his brothers, but forgives them instead of being bitter and punishing them. This is the epitome of exhibiting a positive attitude when faced with adversity. He has all these adventures, responds to the situation, grows up and succeeds. Part of maturity is learning what battles to fight, when to change the situation, when to change attitude and when to get out--knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. And human resiliency is truly amazing. I’m still awestruck by the obstacles that people can overcome. A haiku poem by Choshu has always been meaningful to me when thinking about challenge and response:
Broken and broken,
Again on the sea,
The moon so easily mends.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Llama Lady

Two days ago I helped with a benefit put on for a 78-year-old woman who lost her house in a wild fire. A group I belong to called the Interagency Network, people providing services to seniors, banded together to put on a silent auction to raise money. The woman who lost her home is known in our community as the Llama Lady because she raises llamas. She was able to rescue all her llamas and no one was injured in the fire but her house was decimated. Over two hundred items were donated as well as food and beverages, and hundreds of people turned out for the event. I haven’t seen the results yet but thousands of dollars were raised to help the Llama Lady who lost much more than insurance will ever cover. It was a welcome sight to see the public come to support a senior in need.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Yesterday at a church near where I live, a man named Bill came in to speak with the pastor, Jim, who was conducting a men’s bible study class. Bill had psychological problems and was about to be arrested for an altercation with a neighbor. Jim suggested that Bill seek psychiatric assistance which caused Bill to go postal, shooting two people, then taking the pastor and five men hostage and forcing them into a room above the church lobby. I was one of the hostages in this SWAT team roll-playing exercise. Bill had us barricade both entrances to the room. Over the course of the next three hours, Bill threatened us, used Jim to shout down one of the two sets of stairs to the police. The police provided a direct telephone for Bill to speak to a hostage negotiator. He let one of the hostages go in exchange for some water being provided. Then another hostage was released for food. The negotiator tried to get more hostage released, but finally Bill put a gun to the pastor’s head and had the other three of us be a shield as he pushed us down the back stairs. The SWAT team appeared, told all of us to drop to the ground and “shot” Bill. Along with the other hostages I had to lie on the floor, be frisked and handcuffed and then released when it was determined I wasn’t the bad guy. It was quite an education being held prisoner and seeing how the negotiations progressed and how the SWAT team took action when the perp made a run for it. It seemed like it took a long time to provide the water and food. Afterwards I asked about this and was told that the police want to be careful before they provide anything to a hostage-taker and also want to make sure they obtain a concession in exchange for what they provide. I’ve attended both a police and a sheriff’s citizen academy and have now participated in three roll-playing training exercises. It’s a great way to learn about police procedures for my mystery writing.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


I’m on an aging advisory council in my county and had an opportunity to review a program for a Medicare Ombudsman yesterday. In addition I also attended a class this last week to learn more about Medicare in preparation for soon qualifying. All I can say is the whole Medicare process is very confusing and requires a lot of attention. If you are going on Medicare, don’t wait until the last minute. Start doing research, learn about the alternatives and seek out any programs your local government or county may offer. After a thirty-nine year career in business and reading many contracts, it still remains a significant challenge for me to wend my way through the morass of information on Medicare. I’m very grateful that my county has a Medicare Ombudsman because I’ve found that just reading the information is not enough. I also need to talk to a knowledgeable human being to help sort out the confusion.

Friday, January 30, 2009

More from the ALA Conference

I ended up spending four days at the ALA Conference in Denver. Working the Bouchercon booth was a great team of Jim Huang, Boucherson co-chairman, authors Rosemary Harris and Bonnie Ramthun, author Craig Johnson’s wife Judy and librarian Barbara Bibel. Many librarians visited the booth to learn about the Bouchercon Mystery Conference. Wyoming mystery author Craig Johnson was signing at the conference and came by afterwards. He shared a story of driving too fast in Wyoming and being stopped by a state trooper. Fearing the worst, he handed over his driver’s license and was surprised when the trouper recognized him and indicated he had read some of his books. He escaped without a ticket but an admonition: “Mr. Johnson, please drive slower. We’d like you to be around to write some more books.”

Saturday, January 24, 2009

ALA Conference in Denver

The last two days I’ve been attending the American Library Association Conference in Denver. I’ve been helping out in the Bouchercon booth, promoting the Bouchercon Conference that will be held in Indianapolis in October. Yesterday, four authors conducted a panel titled Women of Mystery. Erica Spindler who writes suspense/thriller/psychological thrillers described how she combines romance and mystery. Francine Mathews who writes both suspense and historical fiction under different names made the comment that when she’s not writing, she’s not as sane a person. I can identify with that. I’ve had all these ideas swirling around in my head for years. It’s great therapy to get them down on paper. Mary Jane Clark turned journalism into writing mysteries set in the broadcast news world. She mentioned how getting it onto the page is work and then she has a fallow time after a book is completed. She loves having written. I can also identify with that statement. There is a feeling of accomplishment when a novel is completed. Nancy Atherton who writes the Aunt Dimity series told how she is an organic writer, going with no outline and letting the book evolve from her characters. This approach keeps her energy and excitement up during the writing process. As you would expect with four writers, they all have different approaches and experiences but all have produced excellent mystery series.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Open Mic Night

Last Thursday I participated in a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Open Mic Night at the Borders in Flatirons Crossing. Dave Jackson organized the evening of entertainment by local authors and kicked off the event with a rousing guitar and vocal rendition of On The Road Again, intermixed with liver jokes (you remember how much you enjoyed liver as a kid). Betsy Dornbusch read from her vampire short story Kenna’s Song and Linda Berry read from her book Death and the Hubcap, describing a small town character who walks around town with a hubcap in his hands believing that he’s driving a car. Catherine Roy performed a performance art piece called Canary Me about a woman who misinterprets an Italian boyfriend, who rather than asking her to marry him actually suggested they go to the Canary Islands. Chris Devlin demonstrated her vocal and guitar skills with a U2 song. Robin Owens read from her novel Heart Fate. Mike Madigan read from articles he had written to commemorate 150 years of the Rocky Mountain News. One poignant story described the death of Baby Doe Tabor in a Leadville miner’s shanty where she froze to death in 1935. I pitched in with a humorous talk on geezer-lit mysteries. We had an enjoyable evening and provided an eclectic set of entertainment for the group of folks who attended.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Kirkus Review for Living With Your Kids Is Murder

I recently received a copy of a Kirkus review for my second geezer-lit novel, Living With Your Kids Is Murder, coming out in April. After hearing about negative reviews from Kirkus for some books, I was very pleased to see this one positive:

A memory-challenged senior drives the police crazy perpetrating what looks like a one-geezer crime spree.

Paul Jacobson (Retirement Homes Are Murder, 2007) is still on the plane from Hawaii when it begins. Waking from a nap, he shoves the guy in the next seat off his shoulder and discovers that Daniel Reynolds, sales rep for Colorado Mountain Retirement Properties, isn't sleeping. He's dead. Too bad Paul can't remember a thing about the murder. His memory resets every time he falls asleep, so if he hadn't found the note he left in his own shirt pocket, he wouldn't even have known he was flying to Denver to move in with his son Denny and daughter-in-law Allison in Boulder. Denver's Detective Hamilton lets him go after questioning, but Boulder's Detective Lavino isn't so lenient, especially after Paul finds the body of Randall Swathers—another Colorado Mountain rep—in the parking lot of the Centennial Community Center. Soon Paul's a regular at the Boulder lockup. He's hauled in on suspicion of bank robbery when he gives a store owner a bill marked from a dye pack, accused by fellow geezer Nate Fisher of cutting down his tree, even fingered for leaving behind dog poop while walking the family pooch. It gets so bad that Paul's prepubescent granddaughter Jennifer volunteers to act as his lawyer, with payment in Hawaiian stuffed toys.

It's hard to beat a team that includes a wisecracking old fart and a straight-talking young sprout, and Befeler's second geezer-lit entry delivers.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Both.and not Either/or

Life is full of dichotomies. We face many decisions: chocolate or vanilla, to spend time at work or with our family, to take the turn to the right or left. In Western tradition we become used to these binary choices whereas Eastern tradition embraces polar opposites: each positive has a negative and vice versa, the yin and the yang, you are and you are not. The overarching duality calls for us to be both individuals and members of humanity. Both aspect define our humanness. We all share a commonality, but each individual is unique. Science in the last century has also embraced both/and. It used to be thought that matter or energy existed in one state. Then along came the discovery that light acts like both a particle and a wave. The same dichotomy exists within our lives. We can embrace the opposites and not be restricted by an either/or viewpoint. We can learn to balance both work and family so we’re not sacrificing one for the other. Parents may bring children to work, take work home, set priorities and be successful in both roles. In business people get labeled as visionary or action-oriented. How about being both? How about having a clear vision about where a company is going while taking the steps to make it a reality? Rather than having to be either focused or aware of things around you, how about being both? Like a good firefighter who is concentrating on the fire but also aware of threats around him that may prevent him from quenching the fire. Do you need to either have an imagination or be pragmatic? How about both? How about dreaming up wild ideas and then implementing one with down-to-earth pragmatic steps to make it a reality? What about being either intuitive or logical? How about being both? Make the intuitive leap and then build the bridge, plank by plank that gets from here to there. Do you have to either accept your situation or improve it? No. You can both accept your current situation with a realistic assessment of all its warts, problems and challenges and then take the necessary steps to improve it. Embrace dichotomy. And by the way it doesn’t have to be chocolate or vanilla. You can order a swirl.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Our economy is suffering because people aren’t buying enough stuff. On December 31 my wife, daughter and I took a trip to one of our local malls. They happily shopped while I took my daily walk through the two levels of shops. I looked in the windows and watched all the interesting people strolling by and even made several forays into stores. I’m not a stuff person. When I get into a store, all the stuff overwhelms me and I have this mad desire to be up in the mountains or by the ocean instead of being confronted by shelves of clothes and electronic gadgets. I’m constantly amazed at all the stuff you can buy. Who wants all these things? And when I do need something like a new pair of tennis shoes, I want to go right into the first store, try on the first thing I see, have it fit, pay and get out of the store. Part of this may be a male thing. I read that women relax by browsing through stores. Browsing through stores raises my stress level. I like browsing along mountain trails to relax. So adding to my closet of clothes, buying new electronic toys or lugging home furniture has no appeal to me. Buying books on the other hand, that’s entirely different.