Do one thing every day that scares you

I came across this recently and hadn’t read it or heard the Baz Luhrmann song in years, but it’s worth reading again. “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young”, is an essay by columnist Mary Schmich. It was written as a 1997 hypothetical commencement speech in the Chicago Tribune.

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blind side you at 4 PM on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself. Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them. Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.

Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Year End Already

I’ve been remiss about blogging during a busy 2015. My next book, featuring Schmitty from the OCSD and LAPD Detective Mata, will be finished in early 2016. It’s called Bullet in the Blue Sky. I will keep everybody posed on the publication details.

Speaking of which, James Scott Bell wrote a blog recently about the future of publishing. Here is a link:

I’ll take this opportunity in advance to wish my blog friends and readers a very happy holiday season and coming 2016!

I’ve started watching The Affair on Showtime, which is well into its sophomore season. I have to remind myself that it’s not just a soap opera story of an affair, the aftermath, and the consequences, but there’s a murder mystery underlying the direction of the story.

The series—​which earned best drama series and best actress at last year’s Golden Globes – has taken us through the impulsive and the depraved of struggling writer Noah (Dominic West), a married father of four. Actress Ruth Wilson is fantastic as Allison, whose marriage evaporated after the loss of a young child. The series explores the story from two different perspectives in each episode. And it encompasses four main characters when you include the spouses.

Some of the discrepancies in each character’s accounts of the same events are too divergent, but its particular brand of unreliable characters, personal baggage, and life crisis has captured a following. Through a series of flash forward scenes, we not only know the detective has put Noah in his sights as the primary suspect in the murder of Allison’s ex-brother-in-law, Scotty. We know Noah will be charged and face a criminal trial. Yet most of the main characters have at least some motivation to kill Scotty. I know I will keep watching.

True Detective Season 2 – How Will it End?

Keeping up with True Detective is a like trying to follow a shell game with about a dozen shells. Some people have been “hate watching” it while others have been waiting for coherent resolution. For sure, the rambling detours, Hitchcockian backstories and somewhat sparse momentum have all cast a certain drabness over the plot. Whether or not the storyline is fulfilled rests squarely on the shoulders of the season finale this Sunday.

The criminal premise of the season is spot on. A bunch of wealthy people planning to cash in on the California high speed rail quagmire. It actually presents a viable reason to build the ridiculous rail line in the first place! So corrupt politicians, criminals, and other officials can scam money off land deals. It’s a modern flair to a classic California story like Chinatown or some of Chandler’s stories where the power players and the seedy politicians are in cahoots behind the scenes.

And the epicenter of corruption is the fictional city of Vinci, modeled after places like Bell and Vernon (and many other cities that don’t get the press).

Not at all surprising to see the Vinci chief of police and lieutenant are a bad guys, but what’s with the “Blackwater” team working for Catalyst? Why was Lieutenant Burress outside the door and why did he want Woodrugh’s phone? To catch Ray and Ani?

The “Laura” connection is the lead to who killed Caspere? That would mean she avenged her parents’ killing, but blamed Caspere who was the accountant at the LAPD station? Lots of questions need to be answered. Not the least of which, who is the man who abducted Ani into the woods when she was young? Her dad or one of the other bad guys?

Frank burning down the casino and coming up with a plan was the high point of Episode 7. He now knows where he stands and what he’s going to do about it.

This Sunday it’s time to find a way out of the classic “nowhere to go” scenario. Frank will probably team with Ray and Ani to face Osip and find Laura. We have to see what happens with Chessani the younger, and whether his drunken mayor father does something.

Nic Pizzolatto will leave some questions unanswered, but let’s hope the resolution isn’t like time in a flat circle.

Season of Aquarius

1960s Los Angeles. Crime drama. David Duchovny. Charles Manson. Interesting ingredients for Aquarius on NBC. At first I thought it was going to chronologically pick up where Mad Men left off. After all, on Mad Men, Megan had moved to LA and Don increasingly went to California where he found enlightenment in Big Sur in 1970. What if Don had been meditating up in Topanga with Charlie Manson?

Rewind just a bit. Welcome to 1967 and the world of LAPD Detective Sam Hodiack, played by Duchovny. For those of you who’ve binge-watched, I’ve only seen the first couple episodes. Hodiak is a World War II veteran with a drinking problem, an ex-wife problem, and a son who has gone AWOL from duty in Vietnam.

The Hodiack character rings not only true, but represents a formidable place in the history of the LAPD. A large part of the LAPD rank and file in the 1950s and 1960s was WWII veterans. Juxtapose that generation against the tumultuous 1960s, drugs, free love, draft dodgers, and general disrespect for any establishment, and you have an attention-grabbing, conflict-prone backdrop. But where the hell is Jim Morrison?

Producer Marty Adelson told The Hollywood Reporter: “That period was a pivotal moment in our country. I grew up in LA, I was a kid then and it changed everything. We never used to lock our doors until Manson happened. That’s what makes this story so fascinating is that it could turn on a dime.” There is a noir throwback style to this show. Duchovny deftly plays an old school loner with a quick wit and a disdain for lies and rules. Despite his X-Files resume, I see Duchovny more in his space as Hank Moody, but he’s great in Aquarius. He’s cool, unflustered, and has problems. Not unlike a Philip Marlow or Lew Archer.

We’ll see how the revisionist history part works out. The storyline weaves a lot of fiction around Charles Manson, who is portrayed by Gethin Anthony with psychosexual charisma, but he’s really just delusional, desperate, and a manipulator extraordinaire.

“You know what I realized trying to understand people?” Hodiak says. “Don’t try to understand them. I know what I’d kill for and what I’d die for and every day on this job we get to see what other people would kill and die for.”


Lawyer up!

Saul’s got some big shoes to fill. Walter White’s. But then again, comparing the two shows isn’t really fair. Better Call Saul starts out immediately after Breaking Bad, at a Cinnabon in a mall in Omaha. We see the cinematic parallel between cooking meth and cooking cinnamon rolls, then we go back to 2002 to the origin of the story, when he was James “Jimmy” McGill.

Jimmy’s case as a public defender seems to go very well for three teenage trespassers, but then the prosecution plays a video tape of the teens engaged in some necrophilia while trespassing. Bob Odenkirk’s portrayal of Saul Goodman is fantastic, and we are now watching a hustler in the making. A lawyer who works from the back of a nail salon, drives a beater, and isn’t even on a bus bench yet. He’s not the confident, quick-talking scammer who’s atop his criminal game yet.

I have a feeling it will be a lot of fun watching Jimmy become Saul Goodman.



So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.

Tecumseh (March 1768 – October 5, 1813)


Top 10 Cool Things about Being A Writer

  1. You can work from wherever you want, whenever you want.
  2. No micromanaging boss looking over your shoulder; instead, you have thousands of bosses who are mostly content as long as your next book is good.
  3. Drinking on the job is not frowned upon.
  4. Drinking at a bar is research.
  5. You can write off trips to New York or wherever you want as long as you write about it.
  6. You get to make people lie, scheme, deceive, steal, kidnap and kill.
  7. You get to have mind-blowing sex with whoever you want.
  8. You get to go to conferences and meet other authors, fans, agents, and industry people.
  9. You get to research topics by contacting a variety of professional practitioners will answer questions about all sorts of cool stuff.
  10. You get to have fun creating something that others enjoy.

Top Ten Christmas Movies

Ah, another Christmas movie list!  But how we love movies at this time of year, right?

10. Die Hard

It’s Christmas in L.A., but not all is quiet on the 30th floor of the Nakatomi Corporation building. Bruce Willis goes there to mend thing with his wife, but has to match wits with terrorists. This action pic has many imitators (and sequels), but this is the definitive holiday action classic.

Die Hard

9. Elf

Will Ferrell’s outing as one of Santa’s helpers is funny and charming.

8. Love Actually

An ensemble movie following the lives of eight different couples in loosely interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London, England.

Love Actually7. Home Alone

An 8-year-old boy who is accidentally left behind at Christmas while his family flies to France must defend his home against burglars.

6. Scrooged

A selfish, cynical T.V. executive is haunted by three spirits bearing lessons on Christmas Eve.

5. Trading Places

The “nature-nurture” theory gets tested in this hit comedy with Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd.

Trading Places

4. A Christmas Story

Ralphie has to convince his parents, his teacher, and Santa that a Red Ryder B.B. gun really is the perfect gift.

3. Christmas Vacation

The 1980s classic written by the brilliant John Hughes. Nothing like the holidays at the Griswalds.

2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

Boris Karloff as the voice of The Grinch who hatches a plan to steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville.Grinch

1. It’s a Wonderful Life

We all want a guardian angel to set us right, don’t we? The holiday classic to define all holiday classics

WLMany older classics like Miracle on 34th Street may be on your lists, but this is mine.

Have some Yuletide cheer!

Patricia Highsmith

“But love and hate, he thought now, good and evil, lived side by side in the human heart, and not merely in differing proportions in one man and the next, but all good and all evil. One had merely to look for a little of either to find it all, and one had merely to scratch the surface. All things had opposites close by, every reason a decision against it, every animal and animal that destroys it…..Nothing could be without its opposite that was bound up with it…..Each was what the other had chosen to be, the cast-off self, what he thought he hated but perhaps in reality loved….there was that duality permeating nature……Two people in each person. There’s also a person exactly the opposite of you, like the unseen part of you, somewhere in the world, and he waits in ambush.

Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train

Bouchercon 2014 and Anthony Awards

I learned it’s pronounced: bough’·chur·con.

Many mystery fans are familiar with the Bouchercon conference which has been held annually since 1970. I just attended my first one this week in Long Beach. It’s billed as “the Annual World Mystery Convention, where every year readers, writers, publishers, editors, agents, booksellers and other lovers of crime fiction gather for a long weekend of education, entertainment, and fun.”

I couldn’t find an official attendee count but it must be well into the hundreds. Probably over a thousand people. It’s not only a HUGE crowd, you have to choose from about five author panels and sessions occurring at any given time.

The panels cover every corner of the crime fiction world: from how-to, to autobiographical, to general discussions about a wide range of topics like suspense, noir, short stories, collecting books…you name it. I’m a fan of police procedural, suspense, and thriller subgenres, but it amazing how many others there are too.

In attendance were big name mystery authors (too numerous to start naming) and dozens and dozens of authors I have never heard of before. It made me realize the immense size of the mystery and crime fiction world. There’s a strong sense of community among crime fiction authors and fans.

Check out Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, online or in person. That gentleman is undoubtedly the foremost authority on crime, mystery and suspense fiction.

Some of the Anthony Award winners:

Best Novel – William Kent Krueger for Ordinary Grace.

Best First Novel – Matt Coyle for Yesterday’s Echo.

Best Paperback Original – Catriona McPherson for As She Left It.

Best TV Screenplay – Jon Bokenkamp for The Blacklist, Pilot.