Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dripping Cave (aka Robbers' Cave)

On Saturday it was cool and cloudy and we went for a 6-mile hike in Aliso Canyon. Their were a lot of bikers so we decided to take the easy canyon trail rather than walk the ridge and spend our time dodging bikers on a narrow trail. Being out in nature is a relaxing way of grounding yourself when everything around you feels chaotic. Judging by the number of hikers and bikers who were out early on the trails, a lot of other people were looking for the same kind of relief from a crazy world. Strangers smiled and greeted each other in a kind of an unspoken recognition of our connection to nature and each other.

About half way, we stopped at Dripping Cave for a snack and a drink of water. It's a small, open cave reputed to have been used by thieves. It's not much of a cave, but you can see that the the ceiling is blackened from old campfires. It's enough to spark your imagination. Funny how places can engender a story. I let my mind run free just to see what it would conjure.

* * *
It was afternoon when the three of us stopped at a creek to water the string of six horses we had stolen early that morning from a rancher near San Juan Capistrano. Me, Walter Paisley, and Jake Coster had ridden hard and we were parched. The two of them planted their faces in the creek and drank deep as the horses. My canteen was near empty, but I didn't know if the water was good and wasn't about to risk getting the trots. I'd boil my water soon as we made camp. Jake said he had a hideout nearby. 

The fact is, I didn't know much about Jake or Walter. We had all been on a long card-playing drunk and it just seemed natural to fall in with them at the time. I was a lot more sober now and feeling somewhat anxious. We secured the stolen horses behind a grove of scrub oak, remounted, and followed Jake into the brush. The deeper we went, the darker it got. My horse was acting a little skittish on account of the fresh mountain lion scat.

Soon we all dismounted and walked our horses. The canopy overhead was too low and the undergrowth was thick. My horse spooked when Jake stepped on a dead branch. He reared up and nearly trampled me, but I yanked hard on the bit until the bastard, snorting and pawing the ground, finally settled down.

"It's just a little further," Jake said, looking back over his shoulder. About that time a little bubble of light broke through and you could see a wall of yellowish rock.

Jake looped his horse's reins around a bush and walked ahead. I made sure my horse was securely tethered to a tree. I didn't want to have to chase him down. I was bone tired by now, damn hungry and thirsty, and remembering that all I had left in my saddlebag was some jerkey and dried beans.

The hideout was concealed by a screen of sapplings and brush that Jake pulled aside. In truth the place wasn't much more than an overhang of rock, but Jake insisted on calling it a cave. An old, cast iron pot sat in the middle of the room and a stack of firewood was at the far end. A moldy looking pallet of twigs and leaves was tucked in the farthest corner.

"Home sweet home," Jake said. "Just needs a little housekeeping." He took a can of snuff out of his shirt pocket, stuck a wad in his cheek, and fixed his gaze on me.



  1. Six miles? No way I could do that much walking. By Mile 2 someone would have to carry me.

  2. Jake Coster sounds like a rascal....

  3. Yup, it sounds like Jake just might turn out to be the bad guy.

    Rogue Mutt - I guess you'll have to steal a horse.