Sites I have found to be
interesting and helpful:

The Passive Voice
A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Dean Wesley Smith
David Gaughran

A few fictional characters I’ve enjoyed reading about.

Matthew Scudder
Harry Bosch
Mickey Haller
Cletus Howell Frade
V. I. Warshawski
Sherlock Holmes
Kinsey Millhone
Jim Chee
Joe Leaphorn
Thomas Pitt
Charlotte Pitt
William Monk


Prince Valiant
Terry Lee
Pat Ryan
Steve Canyon
Mary Perkins
Rip Kirby

A first-hand remembrance of the making of the classic short film Johnny Lingo. In this small memoir, one of its key makers recalls not only his recollections of an enthusiastic cast and crew, but the unusual and little-known last-minute circumstances involved in finding a location that he and others believe made it possible for the film to be made. Even at the time of its release, few outside its crew were aware of these events. The film was released um-teen years ago—well, in 1969—with little fanfare. But it is fondly remembered today by legions who have seen it. It is even remembered by many more who were not yet born when the film was made, and it is still being shown today.

 How did this happen? Part of the answer may lie in the purpose for which the film was made: it is a portrayal of love and loyalty and respect that is timeless.

$1.99—Buy for the Kindle

I have always been fascinated by the time period of the 1930s, and many of the stories you’ll find here are set in or close to that time. It was the last period in the history of the world when there were vast areas still relatively remote and unexplored. There were cities whose names whispered mystery, adventure and romance. Certain names fairly glowed with an enticing aura of the unknown: Istanbul, Cairo, Baghdad, Lhassa, Shanghai, Calcutta, Rio. And more.

What changed that world, of course, was World War II, and I’ve always thought it was a great loss. Fortunately, there are still stories to be told about that time, many of which could have happened in our own backyard, a place that could also be full of mystery, adventure, and romance. You can still find a few small, tattered remnants of that world in the political wilds of, say, Washington DC, or London, or Paris, or Moscow, but when any kind of light is shone on their dark corners, what you’ll see today is usually more tawdry than romantic.

A lot of things are going wrong in Lt. Blake’s war, especially as Christmas approaches. His hopes of glory in combat are dashed by a new job and a swift promotion. When he sets up his new headquarters in an empty building, dimly remembered as a former saloon, and the best gathering place in the North African city of Casablanca, he is haunted by the big blowup on his last evening with Lillian, his fiancé. And by Lucianne, a woman he glimpses in the streets of the city, who eerily reminds him of her.

It doesn’t help that he thinks he can sit on the sidelines as the French turn on their own heroes and charge them as traitors because they tried to help the American landings come off without bloodshed. On Christmas eve, Blake has a decision to make. Lucianne just needs a little help to arrange her husband’s escape to Lisbon.

A novella. $3.99—Get it for the Kindle

Blake’s Saloon and The Movie Casablanca

At the end of the movie Casablanca, we say a farewell to Rick and Captain Renault as they walk away into the darkness and the future.  It has always been interesting to think what their future might have been, and I’m likely not the only one to whom this thought has occurred.

But, in the end, I’m always glad I don’t know, because what has gone before stands well and truly on its own, and speculating about their future would sort of lessen or perhaps even erase the magic of what has gone before.

At the same time, I’ve often  wondered how Rick’s old saloon, as he, himself called it, would have fared under Signor Farrari’s new management.

Not well, perhaps.

With that thought in mind, it was easy to let my mind fast-forward from that last scene at the airport to November of 1942. Patton’s army lands at Casablanca and several other points on the African coast. Rick’s old saloon stands empty and forlorn, seemingly forgotten. At the same time, the French, mindful of their vows to a conquering Germany, curiously adopt the Nazi attitude toward dissenters. A charge of treason is quickly laid against those French officers who actively tried to assist the Allied landings. Orders are issued for their arrest and punishment by firing squad.

Being busy with other more pressing matters, Patton  and his staff do not intervene in this injustice.

One his officers, newly-promoted Captain Blake, finds a suitable place to set up his headquarters in what appears to be an old saloon, empty and only dimly remembered, but with all its facilities remarkably intact. It doesn’t take long for Blake’s new headquarters to be dubbed Blake’s Saloon.

But Blake’s Saloon is not a replay of the old movie. It has its own hero, who must confront not only a major mistake he made with the girl he left behind, but also one of the major injustices of that war. Captain Blake soon meets the wife of one of these ‘traitorous” heroes who desperately needs to get out of town, hopefully to a certain neutral country.

I’ve tried to do it without poking into the lives of the old saloon’s former inhabitants, except for what might, or might not, be one brief, un-credited cameo appearance by one beloved character.

Ben Maxx is a young man with a dream in the golden age of Hollywood.

He quickly casts aside his new college diploma to follow a haunting desire to make travelogues as he walks in the footsteps of his great grandfather, a renowned world traveler and lecturer who left vivid descriptions of the fabled cities of the earth. To follow the dream, he takes passage  on a ship bound for Rio de Janeiro, expecting a sensuous interlude in a sun-washed paradise.

 But even before he steps ashore, his world is turned upside down. His cameraman and mentor is brutally murdered, and he is quickly faced with the reality of his own lack of experience, and with sudden doubts of his own ability. At the same time, he is ready to fall in love with a beautiful English girl he meets on the voyage. But it seems she only wants to play the role of a good undercover agent and discover what happened to a secret roll of microfilm.

With few resources, Ben struggles to make sense of the murder and of brutal rivalries he discovers ashore. He must not only learn his new trade in a hurry, but quickly discover whether he has the will to take another life that desperately seeks his own. Of one thing he is sure. His long-dead idol is standing by, looking on, offering encouragement. But that is the trouble. That seems to be all he is doing.

A Ben Maxx novel.  $4.99—Buy for the Kindle

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