Category Archives: Writing

Happy Birthday Mickey Spillane (b. March 9, 1918 – d. July 17, 2006)

I used to send Mickey Spillane a birthday card every year.  I never expected an answer.  Imagine my surprise back in ’03 when out of the blue there was a letter in my mailbox.  If you want to read it, there it is at the bottom of this post.

He was 85 years old at the time, getting ready to embark on a book tour, and he took the time to sit down at the typewriter and reply to my card.

They just don’t make guys like that anymore.

If you’ve never read a Spillane book, I recommend you start with Vengeance is Mine! and if you like that one, read One Lonely Night.   For those who don’t even know who he was, Spillane wrote hard-boiled pulp fiction novels and comic books, including a stint writing Captain America for Marvel.  His claim to fame was the fictional detective Mike Hammer.  He had a colorful life.  He had been a lifeguard, a circus performer, and a fighter pilot in WWII before becoming a writer.  At the height of his popularity he made a series of hilarious beer commercials.  His quotes are legendary.

  • “Inspiration is an empty bank account.”
  • “I’m a commercial writer, not an author.  Margaret Mitchell was an author. She wrote one book.”
  • “I don’t give a damn about reviews. What I like to read are royalty checks.”
  • “I have no fans. You know what I got? Customers. And customers are your friends.”

Just starting out as a writer, he was an inspiration.  I don’t know how many of you have been following this blog since I started it back in 2008.  But back then it was called 808 Hackard Buidling because that’s the fictional address of Spillane’s famous detective.  Plenty has changed.  Blog has a new name and a custom url.  Focus has shifted from fiction to non-fiction.  But what hasn’t changed is my blue-collar approach to this craft.  

You show up every day, you punch the clock, and you put in an honest day’s work.  And while you’re on the clock, you don’t stand around smoking cigarettes or hang out by the water cooler waiting for somebody to tell you what to do next.  You get your butt in gear.  And above all, you never act like you think your crap don’t stink.

Spillane was a hack writer.  He was not politically correct.  He wrote violent books.  But he was authentic.  He was honest.  He respected his fans.  And he didn’t take himself too seriously.  And from him I learned three very important things.

Number one, put the reader first.  Number two, write like it’s your job.  Number three, tell it like you see it.

I write at 500 words a day whether I want to or not.  Otherwise I’m a lazy bastard and I can’t look at myself.

Thanks Mickey.  Happy Birthday, wherever you are.

 

New Book — Pre-Orders Open

Pre-orders are now open for my next book!

The Wildwood Workbook: Nature Appreciation & Survival releases on Feb 15th.  If you pre-order now you can get it for just 99 cents — price goes up to $3.99 the day after release.

Just to tease you a little, take a look at the table of contents below.

This book is the product of 30 years of wistful, windswept  wanderings in the wilderness.

Gitcha some!

The Wildwood Workbook: Nature Appreciation and Survival

TABLE of CONTENTS

Introduction

  1. Make Yourself a Possibles Bag and Dress Appropriately
  2. Memorize the Survival Formula
  3. Learn When to Run and When to Fight
  4. Learn First Aid
  5. Make a Debris Hut
  6. Find and Purify Water
  7. Start a Fire
  8. Find Some Food
  9. Decide to Stay or Go
  10. Find your Way
  11. Understand How the Sun Works
  12. Understand How the Moon Works
  13. Get Accustomed to Being Outside
  14. Observe the Weather
  15. Get to Know your Neighbors
  16. Get to Know a Piece of Dirt
  17. Get to Know A Patch of Woods
  18. Start Making Friends with a Few Plants
  19. Give a Tree a Name
  20. Carve Yourself a Bowl and Spoon
  21. Practice Being a Raccoon
  22. Give Thanks and Avoid Waste
  23. Get Wet and Forage Some More
  24. Make Some Leaf Stamps
  25. Make a Pine Needle Basket
  26. Sketch Some Tracks
  27. Put Yourself in an Critter’s Shoes
  28. Open a Window
  29. Get Fit for Hiking and Woodsrunning
  30. Your Final Exam — Spend a Night Alone in the Woods
  31. Encourage Continuing Education
  32. Take a Snow Walk
  33. Revisit a Piece of Dirt
  34. Discover Springtime Edibles
  35. Make Some Spring Observations
  36. Do a Spring Cleaning
  37. Discover the Meaning of Summer
  38. Reflect on Summer
  39. Discover What You’re Thankful For
  40. See What Falls First
  41. Make Some Acorn Bread

 

Help Pick My Next Book Cover

How about helping me pick my next book cover?  Click the pictures to expand the photos.  Thanks for your help!

The Hermetic Mysteries of Christmas Revisited

I’ve written about the Hermetic Mysteries of Christmas before —  here and here.  What’s a “mystery?”  In the religious sense, “mysteries” are the wondrous things we feel when we put ourselves inside a myth and allow ourselves to fully experience it as if we are there.  The word mystery comes to us from Greek musterion and Latin mysterium where it means “a secret rite or ritual.

Within Catholic and Orthodox Christianity we see embedded the esoteric methods and essential nature of the Greco-Roman mysteries — updated to serve the goal of Christian salvation.

Four Ways to Seek the Christmas Mysteries This Year

  1. Gospel Reading Meditation.  Get out your Bible and turn to the gospel of Luke.  Read Luke 2:1-20.  Then close your Bible, shut your eyes, and regulate your breathing to a steady rhythm.  Imagine that you are one of the shepherds, sitting by the fire with your friends and brothers, watching over the flocks, when an angel appears.  Allow the story to unfold in your mind’s eye.
  2. Go to a live Nativity Scene.  Try, despite the presence of the other viewers, to imagine you are one of the shepherds as outlined above.
  3. Experience the Joyous Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Click here for instructions.  If you have never prayed the Rosary before you are in for a treat.  The basic idea is that you repeat certain prayers while you meditate on the Joyous Mysteries — the Annunciation of Gabriel to Mary, the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, the Nativity of Jesus, the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, and the Finding of Jesus in the Temple.
  4. Watch this amazing lecture by Jonathan Pageau.  See below.  Jonathan is an Orthodox Christian icon carver, a skilled artisan who understands Christian symbolism as deeply as any churchman — perhaps even more deeply — having spent so many intimate hours carving these sacred images.

Experiencing the Christmas Mysteries as if we are fully present within them is the greatest Christmas “present” we could ever hope for.  

How to Stimulate Your Creativity

It’s more than counter-intuitive.  It just plain doesn’t make sense.  And yet, here it is in all its messed up, crazy, inside-out glory — one of the most powerful and yet simple methods for stimulating creativity and creative ideas.

Try it.  Let me know how it works by commenting below.

Training Randomness in Martial Arts

Over the years I’ve talked a deal about the importance of introducing randomness into martial arts training.  Although some things seem to mesh better with linear progression training, like lifting weights (for me at least), introducing some randomness into training has real benefits.

One of the benefits you get from introducing randomness in your martial arts training is the ability to deal with the unexpected.  Chaos is really annoying.  But its real and you to learn to handle it.

Here’s an overview of what is and is not random in my training regimen these days.

Random

Solo martial arts practice (four days/week).  I select random martial arts focuses by pulling labeled Popsicle sticks out of a pile.  Why not roll dice?  I want some randomness, but I need to cover all bases.  This method insures that, assuming I get through all the sticks in two weeks, I never get rusty at anything.

Running (twice per week).  I roll dice using the following program.  I have no idea if I’m running 3 miles for pace, half a mile as fast as I can, shuttle runs with a weighted vest, or what-have-you.

Extra calisthenics (whenever I feel like it).  I use PTDICE.  I have a few sets left.  Email me and I’ll sell you a set for $15 postage paid.

Not Random

Group martial arts training.  We stick with one  martial concentration and one constitutional (a 7 exercise deep calisthenics routine) for a full month before switching.

Weights (twice per week).  Still, I rotate out all exercises every 6 weeks.  Here’s some info about LPs.

Grip training (5 days/week).  Heath/maintenance 3 days/week,  pushing limits 2 days/week.  I’ve written a lot about this over the years, but recently I’m getting better results more safely.  More to come soon.

I Suck and You Can Too

This is me after my 3 mile tire run yesterday morning.

Earlier this month I tried and failed to beat my 2016 personal record at the calisthenics nightmare called Self-Destruct Sequence.

But that’s not the point.  

After that, two friends of mine, Scott and Leo, completed it for the first time with very respectable times.  Several others beat the pants off me, namely James, Robert and Arman (who got it done in a blistering 23:59).  Then, over the weekend, world famous coach Mark Hatmaker smashed all of us with a superhuman 21:05 (read all about it here).

Lots of people out-performed me.  That’s the not the point.

The point is that I inspired and connected with some of the coolest, most determined guys around. 

Yesterday morning I completed a 3 mile tire run in under 40 minutes.  Why?  Because it’s one of the achievements in the Cabal Fang Cord and Rule Program.  And because, although I did it a couple of years ago, I haven’t done it lately and I said I was starting over.

For those who like stats, my time was 36:21 and I used a Hankook 205/65R16 weighing in at almost exactly 20 lbs.  But that’s not the point.

The point is that you can go pick up that tire and go give it a try.  And together we can inspire each other, and everyone around us, to get stronger.

There was a time when I was 80 lbs overweight, when I struggled to keep minimum wage jobs, couldn’t manage my finances, couldn’t keep a marriage together, couldn’t control my own behavior much less raise a child, and couldn’t keep a friend if my life depended on it.  On top of all that, I was spiritually unfulfilled and depressed most of the time.

Martial arts helped me turn things around. 

Everything I learned from doing things wrong, and all the martial arts lessons I’ve picked up over the last 30+ years, are embedded in Cabal Fang.

Nowadays I’m fairly fit, financially stable, mostly reliable, and reasonably well behaved.  I’ve been happily married for 20+ years,  have lots of fantastic friends, and I’m enrolled in seminary.  But my personal improvement isn’t the point.

The point is that you can get stronger, happier and more successful — probably even stronger, happier and more successful than me.