Listen to Pilot Light

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The different faces of fishing

The photo above is one I took in Vietnam. We were there a short time, in 2012 and didn't get much chance to hang out with the fishermen. I regret that.

I'm intrigued by the similarities and differences of rural peoples, and in particular, fishermen, which is curious, because I'm lousy at fishing. Fishing villages and the fishing folk are far more interesting to me than tourist destinations. 

Dagny (who catches far more fish than I) and I spent one of our years in Venezuela, a little more than that, actually, living among the scattered fishing villages along the north coast of the Golfo de Carriaco. We became friends with the fishing families and learned to respect their craft, their lives. 

The picture below is me (at the motor) and T-Bone Fisher out in my penero on the Golfo... on the way back from making a beer run to Cumana. I bought a 40HP Suzuki, much to the disdain of the fishermen who are big Yamaha fans. Although we left long ago, and T-Bone is (I think) dead now, the boat and motor are still there.

On the trip to Colombia that starts next week, I intend to visit a fishing village. I expect it will similar to the ones in Venezuela, but there will be differences. Those differences will be important to Book Two in the series I'm writing with J. Lee Porter, as some of the story will take place there. I'm looking forward to the adventure and brushing up on my fisherman Spanish.

I'm excited about that. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Headed South to Stare at the Future

On the first of January, I'll be getting on a place for Cartagena, Colombia, by way of Phoenix and Fort Lauderdale. After a few days there I'll be going to Medellin for a couple of weeks before retracing my steps. This trip has three objectives. The first one is that I'll meet up with J. Lee Porter for our first face-to-face meeting. He and I are working on an exciting project--a series of novels about the way Cryptocurrency is changing the world, focusing on the ways people, governments, and institutions (regulators, banks, law enforcement agencies...) respond to its benefits and threats. It's also about how people who are unwilling to relinquish their freedoms fight back.

It's been going along well, but it's going to be great to sit down and talk over some facets. The world is changing faster than we could imagine and much of what we thought would come to pass soon is happening already.

We've got a great team helping us with the books... a pro cover designer (Elizabeth Mackey) and interior designer (Domini Dragoone) will make the books even better. Elizabeth has already done the ebook cover for the first book: CRYPTO SHRUGGED which will be ready for preorder in Q1 of next year (toward the end, don't get too impatient). When we get closer, I'll post the cover so you can get as excited as we are.

We will also be researching Colombia as the locale for one of the upcoming books. The feel of a place, the way it strikes you, is more important than facts about it. What it smells and sounds like stay with you. We want to capture some of that.

The third reason for looking forward to this trip is simply that I've never been to Colombia. I've been in Venezuela and Ecuador and now I'm looking forward to Colombia.

I'll post some photos from the trip and keep you advised of our progress. As I said, this is an exciting project.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Cambodia in books

Books written about Cambodia, especially modern Cambodia, are not, as a rule, cheerful reads. Most focus on the monumental, incredibly destructive force that was the Khmer Rouge. They look at the effect a relatively small number of people had on the lives of their countrymen and the way their rule twisted the country's history. Now, with HunSen resisting a popular movement that is tired of his long and heavy handed rule, people are watching closely. And they should be. My Cambodian friends are afraid of a powerful government that doesn't respect the people--and with good reason.

In this context, it is probably a good time to refresh our memories.

Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land

 In 2008 and 2009, Brinkley returned to Cambodia to find out. He discovered a population in the grip of a venal government. He learned that one-third to one-half of Cambodians who lived through the Khmer Rouge era have P.T.S.D.--and its afflictions are being passed to the next generation. His extensive close-up reporting in Cambodia's Curse illuminates the country, its people, and the deep historical roots of its modern-day behavior.

One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung's family to flee and, eventually, to disperse. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed.

There are many other fine books that detail that period and its troubling effects, and I recommend you check around and read some. With all that is happening in the world, ignoring the changes going on in SE Asia, given its turbulent history, would be a mistake. 

Canadian in a Cambodian Mindfield; American with a Suitcase Full of Sutras

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a lighter book on Cambodia. John Pocock initiated this project when I was living in Kampot, Cambodia. He came up with the idea of using my photographs and a series of mental images that we'd use poetically to capture impressions of the place and time. It seemed like fun.

This book was prepared in 2012 and isn't a serious discussion of anything. It is intended to play with ideas, poetic and visual images, that I encountered living there, and twisting them through two different perspectives.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Free Humor and Poetry in one volume at no cost

For some reason, my lovely little short story, that satirizes academics, poets, and poetry itself has never gotten much love. Not that people don't like it, but that they never seem to discover it. And that is a shame, because it's fun and free.

THE POTATO PROFESSOR is sort of about potatoes, and it is totally, completely, free at, which in turn links to Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and other stores so you can get it in your favorite ebook format without charge. Yes, this free book is free. It's fun, if you like strange. And it's poetic. Maybe that's the problem. Even if poetry isn't your thing, maybe satirizing poetry would tickle your fancy. So give it a try.

I mean it's free, folks. You have nothing to lose but your sanity, and your appreciation of fine poetry, and maybe the respect of your neighbors. There isn't even a sales pitch inside. And the best part is, you can download it, making me happy, but if you never read it, I'll never know. If that isn't a win-win situation, what is?

Monday, September 4, 2017

Fall has fell -- staying fluid

September always sounds like fall... school starts (has already started in some places) and even though it still feels a lot like summer... the year is flitting away. The ninth month of twelve is already being consumed. It gives me a feeling much like knowing the next to last of some treat I've squirreled away is being eaten.

It's a good time to regroup and rethink. I like this time for doing that better than the year end. All such milestones are as artificial as our Gregorian calendar anyway and this avoids the end of year crush.

So I think about what I'm doing and, sometimes more importantly, how I'm going about trying to achieve my goals. It's an important bit of navel gazing to periodically simply ask: "Is my life going the way I want and what can I do to improve things? What can I do better?

I'm not much at scorekeeping, mind you. This isn't an exercise of seeing if I've met my goals... it's simply a look around to see if I'm on course or if some unnoticed current has set me down and taken me on a longer path. If so, maybe I can correct. Or maybe, the deviation is a good thing.

Years ago, we made our first night crossing on Float Street, going from Grenada (Mt. Hartman Bay) to Trinidad. For the entire night the prevailing wind and current tried to send us to Venezuela. At the time we had no intention of going there, so we fought it, even though it made the passage rough, our skinny boat rocking all night in the high swells.

We were making the passage to do work on the boat, and had our faces and minds set on getting there. That's an example of rigid thinking. We made it fine, and as you see below, we hauled out and did a lot of work on the boat. Too much, probably.

Float Street hauled out at Peake's in Trinidad
Later, when we sailed to Venezuela from Trinidad, we loved it there and found it a better place to haul out (at Plout's in Cumana, where all the good fishing boats go). Going there is the first place, not fighting the power of the universe, but listening to it, might have been a better way to go. But you never know ahead of time.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Voice

Writers are commonly told that they need to find their own voice, a way to express their unique vision of the world. That's true. Who wants to sound like everyone else? What reader wants to read someone who doesn't show a personal flair?

It's less often mentioned that an author needs to find the right voice for a particular story. Every story puts its own demands on the writer. He or she is faced with selecting the parts that matter and portraying them in an interesting, effective way (with the reader getting to decide if it is interesting; the effective part is the writer's call.) That can be easy, or hard.

When I wrote THE LEGEND OF RON ANEJO (available at Amazon and everywhere else), the voice was simple enough. The story is intended to be mostly humorous and it's based, loosely (playing free with reality) on real events and people who chose to live around, in, or on boats in the Caribbean. Dagny and I were among them on our boat, and what I saw, the people I met intrigued and amused me and I wanted to capture that life. I took the role of a naive narrator relaying the antics of people around him and the world he was swept up into. Never mind that in the more real world, the one most people live in, I was directly involved. Some might say even an instigator. But nothing was ever proven and we were never caught. I mean charged.

For the book, I took a step back and told the story, focusing on the aspects that I found (dare I say it?) exciting and funny.

Jammed into the mangroves in Carriacou for a hurricane

That was relatively easy. As you can see by the photo above, at times we were all rather cheek and jowl. That provided a ready source of story material for sure. (There was, however, a rather mobile hurricane party in the mangroves that didn't make the book... maybe another time.)

The book I'm writing now is quite different. It's a serious attempt to deal with some issues that I wonder about. What they are, specifically, isn't the difficulty. The challenge is finding a way to address "issues" (see, it's an important word, warranting quotes and everything) with screwing up a perfectly good story. It's a balance between a desire to be a good storyteller and a good writer, which aren't necessarily the same thing. Most successful thriller writers are excellent storytellers. Few do much in the way of elegant or interesting writing.

There's a difference.

Finding that balance, the right approach to this story, is what currently is filling my white boards (yes, plural. I have three) with multiple colored notes, admonitions to self, and various bits and pieces of what I consider good writing. The basic story is powerful and bittersweet. This time it takes place in a border town--in Cambodia.

It's a fun struggle and that kind of challenge is one worth taking on.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Noise Level

Another friend (who is also an author and musician) and I were chatting about ideas for ways to let people know about the new work we are doing and releasing it. It's a moving target. Things work for a time, then they are discovered, someone or several someones produce podcasts about how to use the new channel and monetize it. In short order, the new idea is old hat. It's swamped with individual and corporate pitches.

It doesn't matter whether you are talking about advertising or social media channels or even word of mouth (yes, there are podcasts and seminars on getting your message into the mouth's of friends and relatives). There is nothing inherently wrong with that, I suppose, although it suggest that any useful channel becomes a race to the bottom quickly. But it is discouraging, especially for those of us who are not marketeers and don't want to become marketeers. Life is too short. I'd rather focus on enjoying the world and writing my books and music.

So, instead of becoming good at marketing and having great tips to share with my friend (and you. Of course I'd share with you) I've been studying Yuko Na karate at my neighborhood dojo and working on staying healthy so I can travel and work better, with more enthusiasm and strength (mind and body).

And I'm shifting my direction. If I can't learn how to sell, which is to a great extent because I'm an entrenched and rather stubborn bastard, I'm going to be writing the books I want to write. I can't control, or even influence the markets, but I can control the books I write.

There is a major book coming. It takes place here. I'm well into the story, but the writing, ah the writing will take time.

Monday, August 21, 2017

When The Sun and Moon Meet Over North America

Why does everyone focus on the sun? It takes two to eclipse.

Traveling Ed Teja and Harper John are both currently based in the Americas but are "on the wrong side of the street in the shadows of the night"    

so to speak  ...

Both observing the sky, and the chaotic world, and kinda wondering...

...Same Moon

Same Moon, different skies,
Watcha gonna do if the sun don't rise,
and how you gonna look me in the eyes,
It's the same Moon, surprise, surprise.

If you could see me now. Lying with the cowering dogs
of this forgotten town,
That you just lost, and I just found

From the Harper John song ...SAME MOON

The Same Night

Some other moon on the very same night
but it's not quite full and the light ain't so bright
I'm on the wrong side of the street in the shadows of the night
It's the same thing I felt before, and it's still not right.
by Ed Teja, unfinished works

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Emerging Stories

So I'm slowly evolving the first trio of new stories that take place in the same universe that I introduced in THE LEGEND OF RON ANEJO. These aren't stories about Ron, but the place... the fictional island of Kayakoo, which is incredibly loosely based on Carriacou, Grenada, which is about my most favorite island in the world. (Doesn't everyone have a list of favorite islands?) The stories are semi-cozy mysteries, featuring a local policeman named Johnny Cliff... although the people he grew up among know him as Specs.

I'll be doing a launch when all three are done are releasing them quickly. Then, if you like them, there will be a lot more Kayakoo Mysteries.

As an aside, my friend sailing buddy David Goldhill, who runs Bayaleau Cottages there (on Carriacou, not Kayakoo. The last time I checked, he wasn't fictional) sent me a photo of one of my favorite tourist destinations on the island... a portable rum shop. I decided I'd post the picture as I think it characterizes the charm (and enterprise) of the island. Enjoy. And if you go there, be sure to try the Jack Iron.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Confessions of a Jade Lord

Alat Asem’s Novel “Confessions of a Jade Lord” (时间悄悄的嘴脸)

Bruce Humes and I worked together back at Asian Sources in Hong Kong. We worked in different departments but often had lunch together, escaping the company cafeteria in favor of some local restaurant, usually in Aberdeen (Little Hong Kong) where his fluency in Cantonese came in handy. He also was fluent in Mandarin, which meant he did a lot of work for the company in Mainland China over the years. 

We both left Hong Kong and full-time trade press work, but fortunately have stayed in touch. These days he does Chinese-to-English literary translations from a variety of locations around Asia (with a short period studying in Turkey). He recently translated a novel by a bilingual Uyghur author, named Alat Asem. It's a curious work, oddly reminiscent in my strange mind of some work by contemporary Japanese novelist, at least stylistically.

You can read an excerpt of the book at and make your own decision.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Superstitious Man

I recently collected some of my songs that related to my travels in the Caribbean together and I've released them as a digital album. Sailors are superstitious people and superstitions and other mores fascinate me, so the album is called A Superstitious Man.

It's available through CD Baby, and the songs are available singly on iTunes. They are mostly about travel and the people I've met. Sometimes the connections are obscure, but sometimes even I find my logic impenetrable.

All this came together as I'm working on a new series of books... Kayakoo Mysteries. They are going well and they'll involve a lighthearted look (the only kind I'm really good at) at life and crime in the islands with an emphasis on life.

And I have a request. One song on this CD, called Pilot Light, has special meaning to me. If you love it or hate it, I'd appreciate hearing it either way. It's a bit off kilter, in the scheme of things, which means it is suggesting new directions for me that are attractive. You can contact me through comments on this page or Google+. Go ahead and connect!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Back to Carriacou

When I wrote THE LEGEND OF RON ANEJO, I based the story on the fictional island of Kayakoo in the Caribbean. Well, as everyone who lives there, and most people who know me know, Kayakoo is a highly fictionalized version of Carriacou, where I spent most of two years living on a boat. I also wrote the short story THE RUM SHOP in an attempt to capture a sense of life on that lovely island.

I used Grenada itself as a location in the story DEATH BENEFITS too. Why? Because I like the place.

I haven't been back in a lot of years, far too many, but stay in touch with some people in the area. And now I'm working on some more Caribbean stories and it's on my mind.

Then, today I got an email about the movie Vanishing Sail. I don't normally mention commercial products, but this movie is about boatbuilding, Carriacou, and an amazing boatbuilder named Alwyn Enoe. We had the good fortune to work with him on our boat--he did the hard stuff. He not only did some hull patches on our old wooden boat, but replaced a deck beam with a single piece of purple heart. We went to the launch of a fishing boat he built too. It was a grand experience. Watching him work, mostly with an adz was amazing.

Captain Ed hauling out in Carriacou

I've been dying to see the movie and now that the DVD is on sale, I'm putting in my order.
Given that I'm finding my mind drifting back to that time and place and knowing it will be a while before I can return and see Alwyn again, at least I can see the video. If you love old sailboats and the islands, get a copy.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Roper Lake State Park

We needed to go to Safford Arizona to get our van, Moby, serviced as they are the nearest Nissan dealer. It's only two hours but we decided to make the trip fun. We'd go the Sunday before and camp at Roper Lake State Park, which is a few minutes south of Safford.

As it turned out, the road to Roper Lake is right where the Nissan dealer is. That was a nice bonus, but things would've been great anyway.

We got there around two in the afternoon, having stopped in Safford to check out Home Depot. (Dagny found a great deal on a set of drill bits.) We use the nonelectric campground and got #46, right on the lake.

If you look close at the picture, there is a heron on the beach!

The cheap campsites are $20, which is expensive compared to what we usually pay, but a deal compared with staying at a motel. The campground is excellent, with nice hosts, and although there is some road noise, very nice.

We had a nice dinner, cooked in the van, and breakfast in the morning, and leisurely wandered to the dealer Monday morning, got the van serviced (nice people) and then drove home.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Understanding the experience

I've been writing a report on my trip to Ecuador. I spent most of February traveling around, exploring, looking at the place, first with my younger brother Dan, then alone. So far I've written about the first half, but I stopped.  As written it's a factual, chronological tale. A travelogue. What I wanted was a personal account. I want to capture the sensations, and explore my own reactions to the place, both good and bad. This draft hasn't come close to doing that.

Dan in Cuenca, Ecuador
In general I both liked and was disappointed by Ecuador. That shouldn't be a surprise. That's what happens when you travel, when you start experiencing a place and separating the expectations from te realities. What I'm trying to do now is translate those reactions into understandings. Why did certain things excite and others disappoint? I have superficial answers, but my intention is to dig deeper.

I've come back to a pile of work to do, ghostwriting assignments to complete, miscellaneous business to take care of. It's happening and that is giving me time to consider these important things, to digest the trip.

Alausi, Ecuador

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Baby it's warm outside (and buggy)

I'm in a guest house on Simon Bolivar in Guayaquil, Ecuador. It's Saturday evening and the politicos are campaigning in true South American style at the riverfront across the street. A prerecorded and endlessly repeating marching band playing WHEN JOHNNY COMES MARCHING HOME, just drowned a lot of off key political favorites being played by a rock band. Now they've switched to the Marine Corps song. It's about 88 degrees and 75% humidity, which is perfect for political rallies, since both stifle thought and make your brain freeze. It's all pretty loud and in this heat I'm not sure how far I'd get in any attempt to escape.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


My brother Dan and I are traveling in Ecuador at the moment. He was interested in seeing if it was a place he might like to retire. For my part, I was curious about it. Venezuela was the only country I'd experienced in South America. We've been here just over a week and it's been hectic and fun. I'll write about the places in future posts, but now we need to catch a plane to fly from Loja to Guayaquil. Tomorrow we will take a bus to the coast.

I took the photo in the plaza in Vilcabamba yesterday. It is a lush place.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Significant Point of View

Everyone has a point of view and so does every story. And the viewpoint is intricately wound into the totality of the story--it is significantly important.
I recall a line from a creature called the Churkengoose. This was a story record I had when I was little. He said: “It depends on how you look at things.” There are lots of truths in kids literature and songs and this one is a biggie for writers. A story not only depends on how you look at things, it also depends on who looks at things. We call that the point of view--or POV, seeing as we humans seem to be in love with acronyms.
In literature, point of view refers to the narrative mode, the perspective of the narrative voice; the pronoun used in narration.
That isn't all that helpful, really, so here is a little elaboration for your consideration.
A story can be told in the first (I), second (you), or third (he or she) point of view, for instance, although the second isn’t used that often, except in essays such as this. That gives us who is telling the story, sort of. It describes the perspective we are getting.
Detective stories are often told in first person. “I walked into the room and found her body.” That sort of thing. If you want some variety, “He walked into the room and found her body,” can work too, but it’s a different choice and the story flows along a different path.
It’s tricky to do well, but unlike those of us walking through real life, a storyteller can change viewpoints, showing different parts of the story from a different perspective. And the viewpoint doesn’t have to be that of a character. The narrator can be someone outside the story, maybe remembering what she was told happened at some point in time or a fly on the wall.
I’ve been thinking about these and discussing them with my noveleering friend Bob, who often has multiple viewpoints on things, and we decided it would be fun to categorize some approaches.
Most people have heard of the omniscient viewpoint, which simply means the writer can tell you about anything that happens in the world. Limiting the viewpoint to one or two characters means you can only let readers see what those characters see. That means omniscience is handy if the characters don’t get out much. It’s also very useful if you are some sort of deity. After all, what’s the point of knowing everything if you can’t show it to the reader? Unless of course you write in mysterious ways (Deity option #4).
In an attempt to provide insight into something or other, Bob and I have come up with a few variations for our own work. I’ve started a novel that takes place in Cambodia. I’ve chosen to tell the tory in the first person so it includes things the main character thinks he sees, as well as the things he actually sees. (After all, we all see things that aren’t there, right? I hope I’m not the only one.) I’ve been flirting with two concepts here—“first person hallucinogenic” and “first person omnivorous,” which is my favorite, because the character is consumed by what he sees. The term hallucinogenic also has the unfortunate connotation that he’s on drugs, and he isn’t. I think it is lost in our contemporary culture that it is possible to hallucinate without taking drugs, and that’s my preferred course. Not only is it healthier, it’s cheap, like me.
Bob is toying with a “first person psychic” viewpoint. This POV lets the writer present what the main character envisions is going on in the heads of other characters. We aren’t sure how useful that will be to storytelling, but it has a lot of interesting potential. It might revolutionize fiction writing, or at least serve as the premise for a lot of stupid science fiction stories.
Camus, of course, single-handedly explored the depths of the “depressed first and third person, in fact everyone you meet depressed” POV, just as Kerouac took on the “first person totally lost” POV. Milan Kundera makes effective use of the “rather cynical narrator” POV which is a modernized version of Willie Maugham’s “don’t you wish you were me, narrator” POV. If you are feeling really adventurous, you can follow a strategy that Kundera and some others use—resort to a metafiction POV in which the author makes up a character right in front of you and proceeds to treat them as if they are a “real” character.
Armed with these useful insights, as you read various writers, see if you can step outside the conventional POV term and identify what theirs really is. It won’t get you anything but some extra entertainment, but it’s interesting to think about. You might even find out how things look from the writer’s perspective—how he or she looks at things.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Impossible Dreams

A number of years ago I was in a failing marriage and, as one does, thinking back on my life. I was writing a lot of songs at that time and often used my songs as a way of working through my own thoughts about the world as I see it. Sometimes it is a great way to see how I got from where I was before to where I had come to.

I’ve never been able to walk lockstep with the culture I was in, partly because I grew up in many cultures. Living in America, I realized that the women I’d been attracted to tended not to be the Miss America types—the gorgeous, perfect women. The model wife of that time was someone who inspired praise for qualities such as her appearance and domestic abilities. They were attractive, certainly, but not people I wanted to be in a serious relationship with.

When I was young, in the sixties, I hung out in coffee houses (playing and learning) and most of the women I admired I met there--women who were well read, clever and independent—kick ass women. More than once, however, I found that such women didn’t believe I (or maybe anyone) could care for them as they were. They thought I was in love with a fantasy I had about them. Perhaps that was true to an extent. I certainly was affected by the American Dream in some way, and this song, in its earliest incarnation, was my attempt to resolve the woman of the American Dream with the women I was attracted to. I called it American Dream.

A few years later I started working with Harper John in Hong Kong and we formed The Lapsap Blues Band, which became Indie Kline. We were working on the album WORLDS APART and I suggested doing the song. When Harper John began playing with it, without knowing the background, he suggested that it was bigger than just an American Dream -- it was an Impossible Dream. I decided he was right and the new version of the song really nailed it much better. He made a few other lyrical changes too (and still does), and they have served to keep the song vital.  

He still performs it in concert and here is a video of him doing it live at The Gates.