Category Archives: Robert Gregory Browne

What We Hear

by Rob Gregory Browne

So I walked into Best Buy over the weekend and starting wandering around the TV section for no reason other than I like to look around.  I don’t need a TV.  I’ve got a really big one that I don’t have time to watch, although my wife gets a lot of use out of it.

Anyway, I was wandering around, checking out the 3D TV—where everything looks like 2D cardboard cutouts placed in 3D space—when a saleswoman snagged me to give me a demo of the new Google TV.

Now, this post isn’t about Google TV, but let me get this out of the way:  Google and Sony have made the first real step toward marrying the TV with Internet browsing.  Yes, I know there was WebTV years ago and that was a disaster, but this is so much more than that.  It is, however, still in its infancy and it’ll be a while before it’s ready for prime time.  Although this was about as close as I’ve seen.

But like I said, this post isn’t about that.  Flash forward about half an hour and I’m in the car with my wife and we’re headed toward Target where she can do some shopping and I can slip into the little sushi store next door and order a roll.  Gots to have my sushi.

So we’re riding along, heading down the freeway, when I start telling her about the Google TV and I admit I was pretty excited about it.  I’m telling her, “I’ve been waiting for this for ten years,” and went on to describe some of the features.

When I was done she said, “I’ve got a potential blog post for you.”

“Oh?”

“Do you remember that cartoon by Gary Larson?  The one where the owner is talking to his dog?”

I said I did.  It’s one of my favorite cartoons.  In fact, here it is:

 

 

“Well,” she continued, “after you said ‘Google TV’, all I heard was blah blah blah USB blah blah blah Leo Laporte blah blah blah.”

The post, she said, should be about what people say to us that makes us automatically tune out.  In her case, anytime I start talking technology it’s pretty much a foreign language to her, so she starts thinking about things like how worried she is about the kids or whether or not the DVR is properly recording her tennis game or what she needs to do when she goes into work on Monday.

For me, I tune out as soon as someone starts talking sports.  I’ve never been a sports guy and the moment the conversation turns to whatever pitcher or quarterback or point guard is screwing up the team, all I’m hearing is blah blah blah.

Or clothes and shoes.  When I’m around women and the topic, as it always seems to do, turns to somebody’s GORGEOUS shoes, I’m on another planet.

Of course, all this time I’m nodding and pretending to listen because I don’t want to be rude, but honestly, sometimes you just have to tune your brain to an alternate station just for survival’s sake.

And I think that’s true for all of us.  We hear bits and pieces of what someone is saying, but for the most part we’re gone.  For every single one of us, there’s a topic of conversation that just doesn’t hold our interest for longer than a nanosecond, and we do what we have to to survive it.

So before this post turns into one of those topics, I’ll ask what I came here to ask:

What subject is an immediate turn-off to you?  When do you find your mind wandering to the point that all you hear is blah blah blah blah blah?

I promise to listen. 🙂

Really.

The Games We Play

by Rob Gregory Browne

When I was a kid, our next door neighbors were our best friends.  The Ruckers had five kids, so I never went without someone to hang around with.  My buddy Cricket and I did everything together, and when school started and Cricket got too old to be hanging around with a pipsqueak like me, I started hanging out with his younger brothers Jack and David.

Our parents were best friends as well.  I remember many a night when Bob and Bonnie Rucker came over to play cards, or to take late night swims in our pool.  It wasn’t unusual to come home from school and find Bonnie and my mom having coffee at the dining table, gossiping about god knows what.

There was a lot of drinking and listening to music.  My parents used to get albums by the 101 Strings Orchestra and they’d put it on as background music as they played canasta with the Ruckers and laughed until their stomachs hurt.

After hearing one of my dad’s albums, Bob decided to go out and get a 101 Strings Orchestra record himself, and one night came over with The Soul of Spain

Unfortunately, when they played the thing, they all agreed that it was terrible.  Probably the worst album they’d ever heard.  Bob tried to give it to my parents, but they told him thanks but no thanks.

But Bob conveniently forgot the album that night and refused to take it back when my dad later tried to give it to him.

My dad being my dad, he decided Bob was going to get it back whether he wanted it or not.  So one afternoon, he sneaked over to Bob and Bonnie’s house, stuck the album in their stack of records, then went about his business.

Days passed, with no word from Bob.  Then one night, as my mom and dad were climbing into bed, they found the The Soul of Spain peeking out from under my dad’s pillow.

I have no idea how long this went on.  Weeks?  Months?  Years?  All I know is that album mysteriously appeared in various places around both houses, went back and forth more times than anyone remembers, was even sent through the mail at one point (addressed to “Jeff” Rucker) and became a running gag in a friendship that lasted nine years.

The last time anyone remembers seeing The Soul of Spain was when we took the pool cover off for the summer and found it laying at the bottom of the pool.

I don’t know why this memory sticks with me.  Probably because my parents and the Ruckers seemed to get so much pleasure out of playing this little game.

But, frankly, I’d forgotten all about it until about five years ago, when I found myself caught up in my own little running gag.

It started at Thrillerfest, Arizona.  The first and best Thrillerfest, I think many of us will agree.

I was standing outside a room as a bottleneck had formed at the doorway, people heading in for the next panel discussion.  There was a tall, attractive blonde trapped just inside the door, unable to get past the throng.  She looked pleadingly at me and said, “I’ll pay you a quarter if you’ll get these people to stop.”

So I threw my hands up and shouted “stop” at the wave of people approaching, allowing the blonde to slip through the doorway to freedom.

A couple hours later, I ran into her in another hallway. 

“Where’s my quarter?” I asked.

She looked at me.  “Seriously?”

“Hey, you promised payment,” I said.  So she gave me a frown, dug through her purse and handed me a quarter.

The next day I found her again—found out her name was Twist Phelan—and gave her her quarter back.  “I was just kidding,” I told her. 

Twist insisted I keep it, but I wouldn’t hear of it.  And I’ll be damned if I remember much of what happened with that quarter after that until we fast forward a bit, to either Bouchercon or LCC (I can’t remember which), when Twist not only gave me the quarter again, but this time she had painted it with acrylic paint.

The next conference (or two or three) I returned the quarter, but I added a small car, gluing the quarter into the driver’s seat.

When I got it back from her (at the next conference), there were now two quarters, plus a few plastic cows riding in the back seat.

Obviously, things had escalated, Twist and I trying to top each other.  But when she handed me the car with the cows, I was stumped.  How am I going to top this? I wondered.

Fortunately, my wife came up with a solution.  And because I was so busy writing, she was good enough to put the thing together for me as LCC 2010 approached. 

When I went down to L.A. for the conference, however, I realized that I had forgotten the “thing” (what do we call it at this point?) and had to drive all the way back home to get it.  (click on photo to enlarge)

Needless to say, Twist was a bit blown away by my wife’s efforts.  But not one to shrink from a challenge, she flagged me down at Bouchercon a couple weeks ago and presented me with her addition to the “thing” and, of course, she once again managed to take things a step farther.

Now we had two quarters, two cars, three cows, one of them dead and covered in blood, a crime scene, plus a tsunami full of sea creatures.

I can only imagine what it’ll look like in another five years.  But, trust me, I already have a new addition in mind—one aided and abetted by Mr. Brett Battles—and I think Twist is in for a nice surprise.

All of this, of course, brings back those memories from my childhood and that damn Soul of Spain album.

So the question of the day, I guess, is—have you ever or are you currently involved in a similar type of gag?  If so, tell us about it.  And, if not, how about sharing a memory of fun times from your childhood?

Rob out.

On the Road Again

by Rob Gregory Browne

As you read this, I’m headed up the coast toward San Francisco, where I’ll be attending Bouchercon along with several other Murderati authors.

I knew I had to write a post today. Then, of course, I started washing clothes, packing and trying to figure out what I needed to take and what could stay home, and about three minutes ago it suddenly hit me.

I had forgotten completely about the post.

Typical.

I find the older I get, the harder it is to remember stuff.  Nowadays, I get up from my desk and go into the kitchen for a cup of coffee and get in there and forget what I went there for.  So I go back to my desk, sit down, then suddenly remember, oh, yeah, coffee.

So I get up again, go to the kitchen and by the time I get there, I’ve forgotten all about the coffee again.

Kinda scary, when you think about it, but I think I can chalk it up to the simple fact that I’m always preoccupied.  Not just a hazard of the profession, but a hazard of being me.

I have a report card from when I was a kid with a note that says, “Robby is a good student, but spends too much time daydreaming.”

I don’t know about you, but I think that teacher was kind of an idiot.  What’s wrong with daydreaming?  Lord knows she wasn’t holding my interest.

Anyway, the bottom line here is that I forgot about this post and since I’m getting up at five a.m. to head out to Bouchercon, I’m going to completely flake out on the Murderati crowd today and go to bed.

Yeah, yeah, I know.  Good thing I’m not getting paid for this gig, eh?

But before I go, let me throw out a random question:

If you could be a character in any novel you’ve ever read, who would you be and why?

 

My Pit

by Rob the Slob

Photos of our workspace, huh?  Be careful what you wish for.  Just click on the thumbnails to see the full-sized photos.

MAN STYStealing blatantly from my hero, William Goldman (whose book you’ll see prominently displayed), this is what I refer to as my pit.  And, believe me, it really is a pit.  My wife calls it my Man Sty.

I’m not known as Rob the Slob for nothing.

This is where I sit every single day and most of the night.  I must be spending twelve or more hours a day in this chair lately, including weekends.

My ass is sore.

As you can see, I write on an iMac.  I’ve long been a PC guy, but I love my iMac.  On the right is a screen that at the flip of a switch is a secondary Mac display or a Windows 7 monitor.  Depends on my mood.  I’ve got a PC under the desk.  

The thing with all the knobs on the left is my newly acquired Mackie Oynx 1640i firewire mixer.  I write and record music and this helps me do that.

THE LEFT SIDE OF HEAVENThis area is directly to my left as I sit at my desk.  I like the bookshelf there so that I can reach over, grab a book at random and get inspiration from my favorite authors. When I’m low on writing energy, there’s nothing better than reading someone else’s work.

I probably could have cleaned up and made everything pretty, but let’s face it. Most writers are slobs.  We’re right brainers, so what do you expect? I’m looking at some free time late in October and I plan to rip everything out of here and completely redesign this space into something resembling a real office—and recording studio. 

MY BELOVED CHILDRENHere we have an old Fender Bullet Strat that’s worth about ten bucks, which I bought during the Fender CBS years (I worked for CBS at the time as a script typist).  The black one is a Gibson Les Paul, which is on loan from my daughter.  And to the right of that is my new Paul Reed Smith Tremonti, which I absolutely love.

You’ll note the piles of Gold Medal books in the b.g.  My “collection.” Turns out I collect more dust than books.

I’d show you a wider shot of the room, but you’re already disgusted enough.  You do not want to see any more than this.  Trust me.

LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THAT HEAD!This is a reverse shot—and what I look like most of the time I’m writing. Spiffy glasses, eh?

And finally…

MY BRAIN ON DRUGSThis is my real pit.  Where I keep all of my files, all of my notes, all of my ideas… It’s my portable office. I try to carry it with me wherever I go.

Sometimes I forget to bring it.

Hilarity ensues.

————————-

JT’s INSPIRATIONOkay, this shot is for JT, who insisted.  If I got embarrassed easily, I’d be very red-faced right now. Because, let’s face it, I’m really baring my soul here.

Blank

by Rob Gregory Browne

Stop reading this post right now.

I mean it.

Okay—wait, not yet. Because I have something important to tell you before you do. I want you to learn from my mistake, you see. I want you to understand what I went through one panic-filled day not long ago, in hopes that you won’t ever in your sweet life have to go through it yourselves.

So don’t stop just yet. But when I’m done here, you’d better do exactly what I’ve told you. Because you may not get a second chance.

He’s being cryptic again. I friggin’ hate it when he’s cryptic.

Here’s the story:

It started on a nice summer morning. The air was chilly, but not cold, at least where I live. I sat down to work on my latest manuscript—which I’d made significant progress on—and when I opened the file…

…it was blank.

Wait a minute—did he say blank??

Yes, you read that right.

Completely, utterly blank.

Now, I have no idea how the hell it got that way. It wasn’t as if I’d gotten drunk and erased the entire manuscript before saving it. I can only assume it was a glitch in the software that somehow corrupted the file and wiped away every single word I had spent god knows how long writing.

I didn’t panic, however. Because, hey, I’m not stupid or crazy. I always back up my files. I was using something called Windows Live Sync, which is a great little free program that uses the Internet to sync whatever files you choose to all of your computers.

I have five computers and at least three going at any given time, and they had all been set up with Windows Live Sync—even my Mac. So that’s a good thing, right?

Well, not really.

See, the thing synchronizes your files every time you change them.  So when whatever happened happened, rendering my manuscript blank, the blank copy was synchronized and every single computer had that same corrupted file.

Blank.

But it still wasn’t time to panic.  Because, folks, I really do have a brain, and I also used another backup system called Mozy.  

Mozy backs up any files you choose to their online servers.  It’s a free service up to 2 gigabytes of data, and I highly recommend them.

I set Mozy up to only do backups when I told it to.  And apparently I told it to backup the file right after it got corrupted

So guess what?  The file I restored was… you guess it—

blank.

This is around about the time that tiny little knot in my stomach became a giant fucking lump in my throat. Because, folks, I had just lost a crapload of work.  

Many thousands of words.

Gone.  Completely.  Vanished.  

And I did not, did not, did not—oh my FUCKING GOD—have a back up.

What I had was a blank screen.  A very, very blank screen. And the moment I realized I now had to start writing my book over—completely from scratch—I thought I would cry.

Did I make that clear?  COMPLETELY FROM SCRATCH.

Now I know I’m blaming computer error here.  Because, after all, I had backed up to the cloud and to all of my computers.  I did what I was supposed to do.

But the one thing I hadn’t done that I always do, is email myself a copy.  I don’t know why I didn’t, but I didn’t.  And if I had, I would have had my manuscript back.  Simple as that.

But my manuscript was gone.  Along with all of the great scenes I’d written.  All the the brilliant scenes and pithy dialogue (see, I could think that because I couldn’t read the thing to find out if I was deluding myself).

So now my job was to start at the beginning and see if I could recreate the magic.

A word of advice:  never try to recreate the magic.  Never sit there and try to remember all the witty shit you wrote, because you won’t remember it, or even if you do, it won’t be quite the same, have that same snap. It’ll just lay there on the page looking like the stalest, most awful crap you’ve ever in your life written.

Why?

Because you can’t recreate the magic.  At least I can’t.  Your mileage may vary.

I worked a full eight hours and guess how much I managed to write?

Two paragraphs.  Two really lousy paragraphs.

Needless to say, I was feeling a little depressed.  And I seriously considered just giving up on the book, because…

Why oh why didn’t I email myself a copy?  Why why why????

I got all kinds of sympathy from my friends.  And I appreciated that.  I got people telling me they were horrified when they heard what happened and I’m not surprised.  Because what happened to me is, frankly, every writer’s nightmare.

In addition to writing those two lousy paragraphs, I also spent the day running hard disk restoration software, scouring my hard drives looking for remnants of the erased file.  I was ready to pay a lot of money to purchase that software if it actually found anything.  But it didn’t.  Neither did the other demo I tried.

I had to finally face facts that the file was gone and gone forever.  So back to those two lonely paragraphs I went.

But then, late that night, I thought, why don’t I go back to Mozy and try to restore one more time.  This time I decided not to restore on my desktop.  I went directly to my login on their site to see if I could restore it there. Chances were pretty good that it would be the same blank file, but I figured one last try wouldn’t hurt.

I then learned something about Mozy that I hadn’t realized.  Not only do they back up your files, they don’t overwrite the previous day’s copy.  And there, sitting on their server, was a copy of my manuscript which I had backed up the morning before!

Oh my God.  I couldn’t believe it.  I quickly restored the thing, opened it up and lo and behold, I’d only lost the previous day’s work—seventeen pages.

Seventeen pages!!!!

Any other time I would have been very depressed about losing so many pages, but when I saw that decidedly not blank file, I started jumping for joy.  Literally.

Okay.  So now we get to the lecture part of this post:

Always back up your files.  Don’t rely on your memory to do it, make sure you have an automated system. Make sure you not only back up to another drive, but another computer, a thumb drive, an online server, two or three different online servers.

Because you can never have enough backups.  And to avoid what I went through with all of the back ups I had, make sure you use software that creates a new dated and timed copy every time it runs a task.  You may wind up with hundreds of copies of your manuscript, but believe me, that’s better than none.

Here’s what I now use, all which are FREE:

1. JaBack.  A brilliant piece of software that allows you to create thousands of tasks and run them automatically.  JaBack sends date/timed copies of my manuscript every hour into—

2.  My Dropbox folder (thank you, Toni).  Dropbox regularly backs up all of those copies to its server and shares them with my other computers.  I also use—

3.  Mozy, as mentioned above.  Mozy does its thing a couple times a day.  And—

4.  Since I’m extremely paranoid, I also use SpiderOak, another online service, and—

5.  I still email myself a copy every day.  I created a special macro for my word processor that I simply have to click and it sends my manuscript as an attachment to my google account.  I use gmail because it stores all of those attachments on its server and not on my computer.

I think I’m pretty safe now.  The worst that could happen is that I lose a day’s work again, but it doesn’t seem likely.

Okay.  If you made it this far, it’s time for you to go now and start backing up your data.  Don’t put it off until later.  Do it NOW.  Seriously.

Because the last thing you want to find yourself facing is a blank page.

——-

In today’s comment section (come back after you’ve done your thing):  Tell us all about your data disaster! 

Fat City

by Rob Gregory Browne

I am so fucking fat.

Yes, it’s true.  I’ve put on at least forty pounds in the last four years.  That’s ten pounds a year folks. Disgusting.

This really hit home when I was in Hawaii last week. You see, going to Honolulu is kind of a free-for-all in the food department.  Even though we rent a house, we usually dine out every meal (although breakfast is often just a cup of coffee).

And when I say dine out—you gotta understand.  Hawaiians (meaning people who live in Hawaii, not just the native Hawaiians) REALLY know how to eat.

Here’s the typical plate lunch, which is a staple over there:

Three hamburger steak patties, two scoops of white rice, A scoop of macaroni salad and one honking shitload of gravy.

Substitute chicken, fish, teri beef, tonkatsu for the hamburger on subsequent days of the week.

And that’s just lunch.

Anyway, after eating like that for a week and a half, you tend to walk around feeling like you’ve been vacationing on a cruise liner and hitting the buffet every ten minutes.

Don’t even ask me about undressing in front of a mirror.  Burn that image into your brain folks—it’s certainly burnt into mine.

Around about day six, I could barely walk.  I was dragging my fat around like a pregnant otter.  I took a look at myself and said, “Rob, this is ridiculous.  You’re turning into a blimp.  Seriously, you’ve gotta do something about it.”

I think I can safely say that my wife agrees.  And I don’t blame her.

So now I AM doing something about it.  Ever since we got back, I’ve begun watching my calories again—which is how I lost 50 lbs back in 2005.  (Can anyone say YoYo?)

I find that if there’s actually low cal food around—meaning fruit and veggies and other goodies—I don’t have a problem eating right.  But if there’s nothing in the house… ugh.  I’m tempted to grab a tortilla and a pound of cheese and make a half dozen quesadillas.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to resist such temptation so far.  And every day, I enter my consumed calorie count into my little iPhone Lose It! app (thank you, Brett) and watch my progress.  In fact, in just a few days of not eating heavy island-style food, I’m already feeling lighter on my feet.

Go figure.

The great thing about Lose It! is that you can enter you current weight, your target weight and a few other factors, along with the date you’d like to achieve that target, and it’ll tell you how many calories you can consume a day.

Currently, I’m at 1,869.  Which isn’t bad, considering the average is 2,500 for males.

As of this writing, after breakfast lunch and dinner, I’ve only consumed 1,416 calories.

ICE CREAM!!!

But I think I’ll go for a walk, first.  That’ll subtract a couple hundred calories from my count.

Nothing like food for incentive, eh?

So the question today is, do you ever diet?  And what diet plan do you use or recommend?

 

A Little R & R

by Rob Gregory Browne

You’ll have to forgive me for failing to show up at my appointed time last week.  Thank you to Dusty for so graciously stepping in to cover for me.  That’s one of the many great things about Murderati.  You know you can count on your fellow bloggers to cover your ass.

Right now I’m lying in a little bedroom in Aina Haina, a suburb of Honolulu.  We just arrived today and I’ve eaten an amazing sushi meal and I’m feeling a little zoned out, partly from the food, partly from the time change (it’s much later for me than the clock says) and partly because I’m coming down from one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever had as a writer.

They always say that your second published book is the hardest book to write.  The reason, of course, is that when you writing your second book, life has suddenly changed for you and you have this little thing called a deadline to deal with.  That puts a whole new twist on the situation.  You’re no longer an apiring writer (although I’m not sure I like that term.  If you’re writing regularly, you’re a writer, published or not), they’ve just paid you a hunk of money and it’s time to get professional.  Meaning, get the book in on time.

Well, I’m here to tell you that your second book is nothing.  It’s your seventh book that nearly kills you. 

(No, those of you keeping track haven’t miscounted.  I also write under a top secret pen name.)

After writing a draft of this current book very quickly, I was not satisfied with it.  I turned it in, got some much needed guidance from my editor, and just spent the last several months restructuring the book and adding some 30,000 words.  What I turned in on Monday is what I think is a much, much better book.  Hopefully my editor will agree.

I have to tell you that the task of fixing this book is probably the hardest I’ve ever worked.  I not only restructured, but the underlying mystery was changed, an entire subplot was scrapped and replaced with a new one, a new character added and a character who made a cameo in the original is now a major force in the story.

In other words, a LOT was done.  Not only were those 30,000 words added, but probably 50,000 were completely revamped on top of that.  In fact, there wasn’t a scene in the book that wasn’t changed.

Who ever said writing was easy?

So, now, here I sit, kicking back and taking it easy–or at least trying to.  Despite taking off to Hawaii for some much needed R & R, I’m having a little trouble winding down.  Although I have a feeling by tomorrow I’ll be doing just fine….

Anyway, no, not a lot to talk about — I’m all “talked” out right now.  But I am interested to know:

1.  What do you do to wind down after an intense period of work?

2.  Where is your favorite place to go to get away?

Until next time….

 

And He’s Got Quotes

by Rob Gregory Browne

PLAYTIME

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
—George Bernard Shaw

Sometimes I forget this.  I get so wrapped up in my career and my work that I forget to take a break and have a little play time.  I don’t know about you, but even though my body gets older and my bones creak and my feet ache, I still feel eighteen inside, and playing should come naturally to me.

When I’m really feeling the strain, sometimes I just pick up my guitar and start strumming. Just like I did when I was a kid after I’d had my heart ripped out.  

There’s nothing more soothing to the soul than music.  Or to my soul, at least.

What do you do when just need to let go? 

THIMNK

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason so few engage in it.
—Henry Ford

I don’t know what it is, but it seems to me that a whole of of people spend whole a lot of time reacting these days, and very little time thinking.  Of course, Henry Ford said this several dozen years ago, so maybe things haven’t really changed all that much.

I guess I could often be accused of thinking too much.  I’ve always got something on my mind, a book I’m writing, a personal problem, a family issue, a money issue…

So maybe it isn’t that people aren’t thinking, but that they have so much to think about that they just get overloaded and finally explode.

Cue the clowns. 

THE FEAR INSIDE

Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.
—Samuel Johnson

If this is true, then I certainly don’t ever have to worry about doing anything great.  I find that creative people, by and large, are the most insecure people on the planet.  And that’s saying a lot, considering pretty much everyone alive is insecure.

I don’t know what it is—maybe it’s that whole “putting yourself out there” thing—but when I finish a book and send it off, I’m almost certain that anyone who reads it is going to have to hold his or her nose as they’re turning the pages.  And when somebody tells me they liked one of my books, there’s a little guy inside my head that says, “really?” with genuine surprise.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have my moments of great confidence when I’m writing.  I feel that, even though I’m still learning, I have a fairly good handle on my craft.  And even if I don’t have that confidence, I think the writing itself sounds pretty confident, so that’s half the battle right there.

I’m always a little suspicious of people who seem to have no fear.  I think most of them are just very good at hiding it. 

LIFE AS WE KNOW IT

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.
—Robert Frost

I think a lot of us at Murderati have learned this the hard way over the last year.  Despite our trials and tribulations, life keeps rolling along and we can either give up on it or try to keep up with it.

As John Lennon said, life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.  Ain’t that the truth?

When I was twenty years old, I had big, big dreams.  I had no clue how I was actually going to achieve those dreams, but I had ’em, and I kept telling everyone I knew about them in hopes they’d get as enthusiastic as I was.

But of course they had dreams of their own.  Some of them realized those dreams, but most of them, like me, just kept planning and planning as life went by in a rush around us.  

A wife, two kids, several cats, a few dogs, a lot of rentals, a new house—now an old one.  A strange city—now a familiar one.

Birthdays, graduations, vacations, illnesses, deaths, births, fights, kisses, hugs, smiles, laughter, and big doses of wine, cheese and chocolate.  Oh, and sushi.  Couldn’t have gone without the sushi.

And you know what?  Fuck the plans.  I wouldn’t trade one moment of my life—even the shitty stuff—to make any of those plans come to fruition.  

I love the life I’ve led.  Every moment of it.  It has given me depth and character and a crapload of material for my books.

The one plan that finally worked out. 

Oh, Crap

by Rob Gregory Browne

I can’t believe how quickly two weeks go by.  In my mind, I just posted a blog a couple days ago, yet here it is, my turn again and suddenly I have to come up with an interesting subject—hell, just a subject, period—and as usual, I’m bumbling about, looking for something to say.

Since I’m a writer, you’d think this wouldn’t be tough for me.  But it always is.

The truth is, I’m just not very interesting.  Ever since I quit the day job, I barely ever go out of the house.  In fact, I bitch and moan about it every time I have to.

“Rob, can you go to the store and get some sugar?”

“What???  Don’t we have some in the cabinet?  I mean, Christ, how much of that stuff do you put your coffee?”

“Rob, just go to the store.  You can walk up, get some exercise.”

“I exercised last week.”

“Yeah, I know, that’s why I’m suggesting it.  Your ass is massive.  So’s your gut.  Have you looked in the mirror lately?”

“I try to avoid that at all cost.”

“Yeah, well you’re avoiding life in the process.  You can’t spend your whole day sitting in that goddamned chair.”

“I don’t have a choice.  I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

“Excuses, excuses.”

This is me talking to myself, of course.  I do that sometimes.  Don’t we all?

Anyway, the bottom line is that quitting the day job and being without a lot of human contact has turned me inward.  Not that I was exactly outward in the first place, but you know what I mean.  And I am now officially a slug.

And I don’t mean one of those cute Santa Cruz banana slugs, either.

I think Mr. Battles may have the right idea.  He gets up in the morning, gets dressed, grabs his laptop, jumps in his car and drives across town to a cafe, where he can watch the world go by when he’s not busy writing.  Oh, and he also goes on hikes and breathes in that pristine Los Angeles air.

But I don’t think I could deal with all that.  I work in a room with the door closed and the shades drawn and a fan drowning out all outside noise.  I call it my “back to the womb” method of writing, where the darkness and the constant drone of that fan lull me into the creative state, allowing me to lose myself in my story.  And sometimes it even works.

Rather than crave more human contact, I seem to crave it less as time goes on.  I guess we adjust to our circumstances, no matter what they may be, and even become comforted by them.  The routine becomes our friend.

So it shouldn’t be all that surprising that two weeks has gone by in the proverbial blink of an eye.  And here I sit, searching for something worthwhile to say, and coming up blank.

My wife often suggests topics to write about.  For today’s blog, she said that maybe I could talk about how I replaced a faucet yesterday—the kind of task that would normally be beyond my reach—and quickly learned that you need the right tools, the right parts, and a willingness to make mistakes in order to succeed.  I could then compare that to writing and all of its stumbling blocks.  The moral, of course, being, as someone much wiser than me once said, that “many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged men who kept on working.”

Now that would have been a good topic.  Why didn’t I think of it?

Today’s Questions:

Are you a slug, or do you get out and exercise?  If you do, what kind of exercise do you like best?

And if you don’t, why the hell not?

3D (Maybe I Need a Lighthouse)

by Robert Gregory Browne

Chapter 1 – Discomfort

I’ve never been comfortable with self-promotion.

 

Oh, I’ve got the obligatory Facebook page, the obligatory Twitter account, the oligatory blog and, of course, the obligatory billboards on the bumpers of cabs and the sides of buses, not to mention the ones flashing over Times Square.

 

But for the most part, I tend to shy away from tooting my own horn, much to my wife’s chagrin.

 

Some might argue that I’ve put the lie to that particular claim with all the talk about the TV pilot these last few months, but I consider that a bit of an anomaly, so I hope you’ll forgive me for it.

 

But yesterday my fourth novel came out. So now it’s my duty as a responsible author to tell you all about it. It’s called DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN and it’s quite possibly the most brilliant thriller you’ll ever read.

 

Really. It’s pure genius.

 

Too much? Okay, how about if I simply quote the back cover and let you decide:

The newspapers called it Casa de la Muerte, a grisly house of horrors in the Mexican desert where five Catholic nuns were brutally murdered.

Freelance journalist Nick Vargas knows it’s a terrific subject for a true crime book—and a chance to revitalize his ruined career. But when he arrives at the scene, he learns there may have been a sixth victim: an American woman whose body has disappeared. Now Nick is dead set on finding her…

L.A. prosecutor Beth Crawford thought it would be fun to join her sister on a cruise to Baja Norte. But when she meets a pair of seductive strangers onboard—and her sister mysteriously disappears—Beth follows her suspicions into a sinister world of crime, corruption, and dark superstition.

Now, with the help of reporter Nick Vargas, Beth must enter the heart of evil itself, where all shall be revealed…on the Day of the Dead.

Okay, that’s it. I’m done with the BSP. Now on to other things.

 

Chapter 2 – Disappointment

 

I have a confession to make. Every year I sit down with my wife to watch American Idol. I’ve fallen off lately, thanks to my crazy schedule, but I still catch up online to find out who’s going home. And with all due respect to Lee Dewhat’shisname, if Crystal doesn’t win, this puppy is rigged.

 

Whoever winds up getting the axe tonight, you can bet you’ll see disappointment in his or her eyes. I almost made it, that look will say. I had the crown and somehow it slipped out of my hands.

 

A guy named Jim Fiebig once said that “Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.”

 

Well, it turns out that the TV pilot (there he goes again!) was my scoop of ice cream and it appears it has fallen from the cone. Or rather, CBS knocked it out of the thing and decided to go with another flavor called Tom Selleck.

 

Of course, THE LINE/ATF was not the only flavor up against Selleck, but that doesn’t keep the disappointment from stinging just a little bit.

 

But after many years getting battered in Hollywood, I take the position — like many of your favorite stars (and American Idol hopefuls) — that it is an honor to have been nominated.

 

So don’t cry for me, Argentina.

 

Chapter 3 – Dumbfounded

I don’t care what political party you belong to or what particular world philosophy you hold dear… Is it me, or has this world gone batshit crazy?

I simply cannot stomach the news anymore. I turn it on and within minutes I’m on the phone to my therapist, asking for an emergency session.

 

Yes, I know that the news is mostly bullshit. That it’s slanted one way or another and geared to scare the crap out of all of us so we’ll stayed glued to our sets and buy SUVs and sugary cereals and cleaning products that make our floors sparkle —

 

But come on. Do we really need to be pummeled with negativity day in and day out? And can’t you raving fringe maniacs — on both sides — just take a breather for a while?

 

I mean, really. You’re exhausting the hell out of me and sending my blood pressure through the roof.

 

The way things seem to be going out there, I’m wondering if the book I’m writing is a waste of time. Will there be anyone around to read it?

 

I remember reading once about a woman who moved from the city to become the keeper of a remote lighthouse. Out in the middle of nowhere, she was cut off from the world. Didn’t read the paper. Didn’t watch the news.

 

And she was happier, she said, than she’d ever been in her life.

 

Go figure.

 

Maybe I need a lighthouse.

 

What about you?

 

Page 2 of 1012345...10...Last »