A Blip on the Radar

Today is Friday, January 18, 2013.

We’re well past the apocalypse and things seem to be making a little more sense lately.

Until tonight. I watch this movie called (don’t be alarmed) “Jesus Henry Christ” and it hit me like “Napoleon Dynamite”, “Garden State” and “The Princess Bride” did all those many, many long, consecutive years ago.

Once again, it’s called “Jesus Henry Christ”.

But don’t look it up on Google.

The publicity and web-site are currently terrible. Even the story summary on the home page is in tiny font and unbelievably boring to read.

Stream it and watch it anyway. Decide for yourself if it wasn’t better than watching the evening news.

It’s available on Netflix. It might even still be in some cool theaters in cool big cities.


Find it.

Watch it.

But, don’t feel bad if you have to rewind to play some parts over again. It’s a good movie, but there are some complicated relationships and one key story point in particular is not emphasized enough.

Other recent movie recommendations: “Craigslist Joe”, “Queen of Versailles” and oh, yeah, once again, “Jesus Henry Christ”.

(If nothing else you might learn where the H comes from!)


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ASTEROIDS? Maybe Jared was right!

FRDP Final Cover

FRDP Final Cover

Jared Doffelsberger is a fictional, paranoid astronomer who rents an apartment in the dangerous paradise of Venice Beach, California. He’s a big, some might say lumbering nerd who keeps a small sailboat in nearby Marina del Rey. He is known for his awkwardness around other people in the building … and his paranoia about surviving the impact of NEO-487, a big ass asteroid approaching Earth that he found in the night sky.

Today and tomorrow, my fiction crossed paths with our reality.

At 5AM EST this morning an asteroid 120 feet wide passed between the Earth and our moon. Tomorrow, it’s much larger cousin, a 3 MILE wide monster known as 4170 Toutatis, will pass 4.3 million miles from the Earth (which is relatively close in astronomical terms) on its once every 2.7 year swing by our fragile, little blue marble.

A wild, though timely coincidence in light of the still pending release of “FOR RENT: Dangerous Paradise”, which at this point is hopefully next month, aka the post-apocalyptic month of January 2013.

Jared – here’s a shout out to ya’! I hope the world gets to fall in love with you soon!

(In the meantime, here’s a cool reminder why we should remember to enjoy life, even just a little, everyday. Because our celestial footprint is perilously precarious, even when we don’t know it!)




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Spock On The 2012 Election

Mr. Spock on the 2012 Election

What do you suppose the Ferringi are thinking as they watch from their ships?

You just know we’re being watched. Roddenberry knew it back in the 1960′s and it’s a pretty safe assumption here in the early 21st Century. I imagine their thoughts are much like Spock’s.

And mine.

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Decisions, Decisions: Cover Art

A designer I hired on spec to do the cover art of “For Rent: Dangerous Paradise” just sent me a .jpg of his design.

FRDP Drew's Cover

idrewdesign’s FRDP cover art

I like it.

But don’t totally love it.

What do you think? I welcome any comments or suggestions, either publicly below, or privately to my e-mail address eric at venicedude dot com.

The main thing that I think is missing in his design is any hint at the ghost story subplots in “For Rent: Dangerous Paradise”. The story is not just about the modern day mystery surrounding the disappearance of a single mother and her son. It’s also the tale of several former residents still lingering and searching for peace in the shadows of the apartment building.

Designing a book cover is complicated. It has to be an aesthetically pleasing sales pitch without seeming so. For print editions and e-publishing, an enticing and graphically appealing cover is very, very important. Just ask my friend Deb Coonts about the difference cover design art made in sales of the first book in her Lucky O’Toole series, “Wanna Get Lucky?”.  Why was the sequel selling better than the first one? Cover art.

Many consumer studies have shown that a good cover is often what compels a potential reader/buyer to pick a book off a shelf, or click it on an electronic list. Especially when they aren’t already familiar with the author.

EJM's FRDP Cover Art v1

The author’s attempt at cover art for “For Rent: Dangerous Paradise”

Ironically, getting readers to turn a book over to see what it’s about more often than not depends on the cover art.

A picture is indeed worth a thousand words. Especially when it comes to book sales.

My publisher’s cover art designer is apparently overloaded with work, which I’m told has impacted the release of my novel. I took a shot at designing a cover myself, but she wanted to give her in-house artist “a shot.” That was two months ago. So I took matters into my own hands and hired an outside cover artist. Like I said, I like what he came up with, but I think I’m going to ask him for one or two more designs just so that I can present the publisher a few different options.

For Rent sample cover by Laura Miller

Laura Miller’s sample cover art for “For Rent: Dangerous Paradise”

I think it’s important for me to distinguish my novel a bit within the murder mystery genre. To that end I would like to see a cover design that hints at the building being haunted. I think this design that my wife did in PowerPoint begins to accomplish that, but unfortunately my publisher has already rejected it even as an inspirational jumping off point.

So I need to decide whether to present idrewdesign’s idea to my publisher next week, or find/commission a different design from either him or someone else that evokes more of the spooky undertones of my marketing mission.

With that in mind, again, I welcome any thoughts, comments or suggestions, either publicly below, or privately to my e-mail address eric at venicedude dot com.

Decisions, decisions. What pretty picture will ultimately tell the tale of “For Rent Dangerous Paradise”?


Who knew being an author means wearing a lot more hats than just a writer?

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Vegas to L.A. – A Driver’s Idea of Vacation

The drive from Vegas to L.A. can be fun. But it’s not something to underestimate.

We left about 8:30 on a Saturday morning. Mostly sunny. Slightly brisk with a light breeze, traffic on the I-15 South was heavier than I expected but most of us buzzed right along. The desert sky, a soft mix of yellow and crimson low clouds tucked against shimmering distant mountains, filled us with giddy optimism.

Of course, my wife and I are a little goofy already so giddy optimism isn’t much of a stretch.

One of our wedding CD’s was in the CD Changer. The upbeat blend of the Shins, Elvis, Beck, some ’80′s music and some Rat Pack served as perfect morning music. About an hour later we passed Barstow and switched the vibe over to Mark Twain’s recently released autobiography. Laura had downloaded it from Audible.com onto our new, way cool Samsung tablet.

We had learned in a previous attempt to listen to Twain’s autobiography that there was about 100 pages of scholarly preamble to it and that he never quite finished taking various stabs at writing it. Although unfinished at his death, his last will and testament forbid the release of any of it until 100 years AFTER his death which IMHO gave various scholars far too long to make their own interpretations of it.

So we skipped ahead and got to his actual words.

Though a little disjointed, we found Twain’s passages interesting, though lacking much of his world renowned wit. Twain’s reasoning for delaying the release of his autobiography was to protect the people he had been in business with during his life. If you ever read (or listen) to any part of his autobiography you’ll understand why he was so serious about withholding the release of his autobiography for 100 years. It was a very noble gesture on his part. As a 19th century entrepreneur and avid investor in many new technologies of the day, he got burned several times.

But many of the lessons he learned the hard way are still relevant for today’s inventor/investors, which is why I recommend giving the heavy tome a try. Plus, his candid dissection of his close personal friendship with Ulysses S. Grant will appeal to any history buff and appeal to fans of Twain’s famous wit.

Now, even without listening to a firsthand account of hundred year old history, driving across the Mojave Desert in the morning provides an ample infusion of Zen into any introspective person’s life. On a Saturday morning, the road from Vegas to L.A. is empty of the testosterone jubilation/rage that fills it on Sundays. The winners and losers that regularly engage in vehicular combat with each other between the lanes are still gorging themselves at the buffet tables in Vegas.

So, on Saturdays, if you glance across the morning sheen rising off the road, particularly the one that drifts into the pale horizon like a timeless veil, you might be lucky enough to glimpse an old wagon train slogging across the dusty flats.

A good day for those intrepid pioneers of yesteryear was getting across the dry gullies and spiky brush of the arid Soda Lake bed to the front range of the Cady Mountains. Today, that arduous journey of less than fifteen miles takes less than fifteen minutes in an air conditioned, self-contained habitat humming along at 65+mph.

I love those fleeting hours when the journey becomes more important than the destination. They’re magical and never very far out of reach, especially when you have a full tank of gas, a hopeful destination and live under the vast western sky.

Driving between Las Vegas and southern California is rarely arduous when you travel opposite the vacationing tides.

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“FRDP” Accepted!

I just got a letter of acceptance for the first novel in my “For Rent” mystery series!

It was picked up by Writers-Exchange, an international English-language publisher based in Australia. They are primarily an e-publisher (which is where most of the money is at for authors these days!) but they also do print runs for books that hit reasonable e-pub sales goals. They’ve been in the e-pubbing business since 2000 and have released over 300 titles to date. Since they were an early adopter of e-publishing, they have forged solid working relationships with Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble, Apple and all the other major e-publishing outlets in the USA, UK, Europe and Australia.

So that’s a large marketing network that I’ll get plugged directly into! Plus, since they stay up on all the formatting requirements for the various electronic readers (Kindle, Nook, Apple, etc.) that frees me up to concentrate on writing.

I think “For Rent: Dangerous Paradise” will have wide appeal in a global (read “non-New York centric”) marketplace because Venice Beach, where the first book in the series is set, is internationally famous and loved by Brits, Aussies, Kiwis and Americans.

Following my main protagonist to Las Vegas in the sequel won’t hurt either!

There’s no advance, but like I said they handle all the formatting for the different platforms (Kindle, Nook, Apple, .mobi, etc.) and they have over ten years of experience marketing books in digital format.

I LOVE THAT because that means I don’t have to re-invent a wheel that has already been invented, tested, polished and perfected!

Based on their standard contract, which I’m still waiting for, my royalty is going to be a bit more than the standard author royalty paid by NY publishing dinosaurs, I mean houses. Sure, e-books sell for a fraction of hardcovers, but overhead is low for everyone involved in the creation and distribution. Plus, e-books are selling at much more volume than traditional hardcovers and paperbacks so I’m very excited to venture into cyberspace with an experienced ally.

A huge shout-out to my friend Wendy Merrill of J.W. Merrill Real Estate (www.merrillreinc.com) for introducing me to Bob Beers who took a look at my manuscript and recommended me to his editor at Writers-Exchange. Bob has been e-pubbing since 1998 and has two pretty cool fantasy series BTW, “The Milward Chronicles” and “The Tony Mandolin Series” which is sort of like Sam Spade meets “Lord of the Rings” set in modern day San Francisco. Check out his blog here: http://fogcityfiles.wordpress.com/

I don’t have a final contract yet, or an exact estimate on when my book will be available on the Kindle, Nook, etc., but I hope it will be relatively soon because according to Bob and Dennis Griffin, another writer friend who is published by Writers-Exchange, they typically get things rolling pretty fast.

It’s a good thing I’ve already started the sequel to “For Rent: Dangerous Paradise”! Tentatively titled, “For Rent: Neon Paradise” it leaves Venice Beach and finds spunky young journalist Dana Santoyo embroiled in the lives of a whole new cast of weird and wonderful neighbors. Living in a week-to-week motel located just off the famous Las Vegas Strip, Dana will encounter new friends, new enemies, another ghost story and another deadly mystery as she works towards her goal of becoming a network news anchor.

Assuming FRDP is released this summer, I hope to have a novella that explores the full back story of the ghosts in the apartment building out by September and then the Vegas-based sequel out by Christmas 2012.

So that’s my big news. Thank you all for your support during the extra long creative process of getting the first novel in this For Rent series finished and out the door.

Stay tuned for when “Dangerous Paradise” becomes available on your favorite electronic technology!


Now I’ve got to go chill some champagne! :- )


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Yeah, Flashing Gang Signs Past Midnight is Really Cool

I’m flashing old gang signs at my dog at 3AM PST and she is looking at me with a curious expression. It’s clear she is no wine connoisseur. But take my advice. Get out a funnel and blend a bottle of Trader Joe’s Coastal Cab with a bottle of TJ’s Coastal Syrah 50/50 and you will turn two $5 bottles of wine into two $20 bottles of wine!

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100th Anniversary of the Original Unbridled Enthusiasm

Damn the torpedeos!

Today is the 100th anniversary of Day Three of Titanic’s fateful voyage from Southhampton, England in 1911. They were on their way to New York, New York USA – a coincidence not lost on a writer trying to get to the same destination via Las Vegas, Nevada in 2011.

Aside from that haunting similarity, this remains a brief, very special and very momentary period in time to celebrate the joy those adventurers felt in-between departure and disaster.

On April 10, 1911 the Titanic set sail fully loaded and fully provisioned from Southhampton, England. At the time it was the largest, most extravagant and engineered boat ever built by Man. Bound for New York City (1911 New York City!) imagine the enthusiasm of all those looking over the rails as they plied the across the Atlantic Ocean!

Bon Voyage!

Bon Voyage!

So often we hear of the dying hours of the Titanic, but this 100 year anniversary of the five glorious days between departure and demise are rarely told, and too often NOT celebrated.

Those 2,228 very special people embarked on the most lavish luxury liner ever built by man on April 10, 1911. Okay, we all know what ultimately happened. But imagine Day Three at sea aboard that vessel, clear skies; the pestilence of Belfast and England behind you; the promise of the New America in front of you.

I mean, some of these people became Frank Sinatra’s parents’ and Bruce Springsteen’s grandparents’ neighbors! How cool is that?!

So, it is the anniversary of a magical time of dreams and aspirations, not just for the 710 survivors, but for each and every one of the 2,228 epitomes of the human condition that stepped aboard that “too big to fail” boat back in 1911. They are our distant cousins, neighbors and co-workers parents and grandparents cousins and friends; they are also, possibly, time gone by representations of you and me. Today, exactly one hundred years later, I feel a special kinship to their scared exuberance about the future!

True. Unfortunately, they were destined for a special, tragic place in history books. But today it was Day Three on a voyage of hope, wonderment and lavish engineering and I think that’s important to remember. Titanic was not a tragic voyage, it was a voyage that ended tragically.

God Speed Old Souls!

Graciously please steer us away from our own icebergs of equally arrogant stupidity!

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The Tepid Edge of Rock ‘n Roll

The new old-Elvis desperately needs a new band.

Last night Laura and I went to see Chris Isaak at Green Valley Ranch. Before anyone asks ‘why-in-the-world-would-you-do-that?’ the tickets were free, sent to us by the casino probably because we don’t go there much anymore. Too bad their “generosity” didn’t amount to much.

I remember when Chris Isaak had his fifteen minutes of fame in Hollywood in the early ’90′s. Execs at Miramax and other studios salivated and threw project after project at him hoping they had discovered the “New Elvis”.

Well, as we all know, they didn’t because he wasn’t and Isaak’s fame quickly vanished from the airwaves.

After last night’s performance, I can see why.

Although the venue at GVR was just a glorified conference room with a stage, the main reason the show really sucked was because Isaak’s band is so, so very lame.

Exploring the edges of tepid to lukewarm, it’s hard to believe these guys have been playing together for 27 years (a bewildering little factoid shared by Isaak at one point between songs). It’s equally hard to believe any of them have ever been anywhere near their self-proclaimed roots of rock ‘n roll in Memphis. Except for Isaak, his band either doesn’t enjoy the music they are playing or they simply just don’t feel it.

The lead guitarist is some yamaka wearing joke named Hershel who missed dozens of bridge notes on their own songs and also on the well-known Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis songs they covered! Even Isaak called him out and tried to get him to “let loose” but the talent just wasn’t there.

The bass player came to life a little when he traded in his bass guitar for a stand-up bass, but he never once laid down a solid, down home rockabilly or bluesy beat to intro a song or segueway between well-know refrains of popular songs. The piano/keyboard player may once had some fire in his gut, long, long ago, but I suspect arthritis got him replaced on a church organ last month and he called in an old favor to rejoin the band.

I should probably have it in my heart to completely skip saying anything about the drummer. But I don’t. I’m pretty sure he was either one of Dick Cheney’s worn-out, organ donor clones, or a mummy from one of those Brendan Fraser movies. Either way it was painfully obvious that he has a very important side job that keeps him away from all band practice and any tutorials on drumsticks or rhythm.

Now I know that Chris Isaak is the star of the band and that the band is there to make him look good. Some fans may argue the band holds back because they don’t want to/aren’t allowed to upstage him. But Isaak wears his guitar better than he plays it and I bet he’d be the first to admit it. Hell, he even joked he combed his hair and wore a suit (baby blue BTW) with the most sequins on it so everybody would know he was the star of the show.

Make no mistake about it though, Chris Isask is a very talented, charismatic front man whose gift to the world is his voice, just like it was with Elvis. Unfortunately he is surrounded by a boat anchor he calls his band.

I love rockabilly, the Blues and good old fashion rock ‘n roll and it’s clear Chris Isaak does too. He’s still got a great vocal range and he entertains the audience between songs with boozy witticisms and down-home humor. Plus, he gets more excited about playing other people’s music than his own, which extends his audience far beyond the love sick, forlorn material he is known for.

If Chris Isaak wants to stop playing convention halls with low ceilings and bad acoustics (this is the second time he’s been here in two or three years), or get booked as a permanent act on the Strip, he’s got to dump his entire joke of a band and get some decent musicians who love rock ‘n roll as much as he does.

Otherwise, take this as a warning if the Chris Isaak tour comes to your town. Even if the tickets are free, don’t expect to get your money’s worth.

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Dust in the Wind

Jesus saw upon the dust and he spoketh what the f*ck?

How have my crops so withered that sowing produces
a feign tapestry of life that does little to put to rest
the wolves that howl and banter at the doorsteps of my mind?

I subscribe to his religion and yet
am not saved.
Hast Jesus betrayed me?!
My bow quivers.
My arrows quiver.

I quiver.

I look upon the dust and I repeat His words.
I, a servant of Jesus, Lao and Jahweh-dude
beseech the mute sky for answers and walk away with none.

Clearly it’s time to water my crops and pray for a greener harvest.

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