When in doubt, add a cat

I always want to add an entertaining element to my videos, but was a bit challenged when it came to making a video about this speaker. The serendipitous solution was my cat, Peeps.

My teammate Tara is a natural

My teammate Tara at my day job is a natural in front of the camera. This is the latest video we made for our company YouTube and Facebook video collection.

That’s Why They’re Called Spirits

A bit more fun from my Flash Fiction website:

Kevin died suddenly. It took him a while to realize it, because he thought he was dreaming. Walking along in wintry downtown Chicago, his feet crunching in the snow, there was a few minutes of discontinuity and then suddenly he realized he was floating. Several feet below him was a prone figure surrounded by…

read the rest at Afterlife Kahlua — Character.City

Smart Elevators Talking in a Chat Room

My weekend video project. Bet you’ll never look at an elevator the same way again.

Alien Invasion … of my Podcast, that is

Episode 2 of my podcast is live, and Joe and I talk about space aliens. The question, of course, is: Are they acceptably real?

Have intelligent extraterrestrial visited Earth? Are they still here? Are they walking among us? Why? What could they possibly want, and how would they get here? These and other questions spring from both Joe and Jerry seeing the recent movie Arrival. Also, would it even be possible for humans to understand the complexities of a…

via Episode 2 – Intelligent Extraterrestrials Visiting Earth? — Acceptably Real Podcast

Am I Obsolete?

It’s me again, being a front man for my day job. Next time, though, it’s someone else’s turn in front of the lens.

My New Favorite Speaker

My new favorite tech toy! This speaker by GGMM has so many features it rivals Batman’s utility belt.

Featured music by Shpongle. Featured streaming radio is SomaFM. Featured podcast is Nerdist.

My New Podcast: Acceptably Real

My friend Joe and I have been working on this project for a couple months now, and it’s finally time to unveil it — even if it is still a bit rough around the edges:

This first episode of our new podcast is a bit different than what we plan for the rest of them, mainly because Jerry had been telling Joe about his childhood adventures with his father, and how one time his father had taken him hunting for pirate treasure down in the Sea of Cortez.

via Episode 1 – Introduction and Jerry’s Childhood Pirate Treasure Misadventure — Acceptably Real Podcast

My Tribute to the Late, Great Philip K. Dick

Phil the Android meets the Dark Haired Girl

If you are into reading Philip K. Dick stories, this is for you. (Click the link.)

His Name Was … Puffiboomboom

Here’s a little fun from my Flash Fiction website:

“Aaaaaaaaaaa?” the hard faced, white-haired lady said. “It says ‘Aaaaaaaaaaa.’”

“Yes ma’am,” he said.

“Your name is ‘Aaaaaaaaaaa?’”

“It’s pronounced ‘Bill.’”

“Bill?” She stared at him in outrage.…

read the rest here: All the Required Paperwork — Character.City

What is this, and why does it break?

My latest video for my day job, I have had to redo this several times because of product name changes. Hopefully this one will stick. And continue breaking.

Watching the Winter Wind

Rain on top of thick river ice, and some blustery winter weather, made a living painting that I simply had to capture. Enjoy!

Sneak Peek at a New Project

My friend Joe and I are working on something we hope is going to be awesome.

Making Elevator Buttons Fun

I take this as high praise: “Dude, who would have thought that a video on elevator buttons could be fun to watch.” ~ Dan Leadbetter

My Star Wars Video

I made this for my day job back when the last Star Wars movie came out. Being that Rogue One is being released today, I thought it might be a good time to showcase this here:

A Wild and Untamed Thing now available on Kindle

My most recent novel is now available on Kindle. Until today, you could only get it printed on the ground up bodies of murdered trees.

A Wild and Untamed Thing

Keep Calm and Let The Digital Marketing Manager handle it

If you’re using Final Cut Pro, there’s no excuse not to start using a green screen. Muy sencillo!

Some of my Slick Corporate Work

I had a hand in creating this series. I helped write the script, did some of the editing, and it even features some of my footage.

The Alexa Family Just Got A Cousin

FABRIQ of Canada was nice enough to send me a couple of their new little rechargeable WiFi/Bluetooth speakers featuring Amazon’s Alexa built in, which puts them in direct completion with Amazon’s own products. But these have a standout feature which actually boosts them above and beyond, and that’s the fact that they will link up with each other.

One thing I’ve discovered since putting this video together is that, at least on Mac systems, the groups of synced FABRIQ speakers show up as an option for sound output, somewhat like Apple Airplay speakers.

I am liking them so far!

Google Home and Amazon Echo: Best Friends!

Lord knows I love my gadgets. Good to know they love each other as well.

Music in this video is by Zoe Keating and Lokumu. <3

The Chicago Cubs Finally Won

I am not a huge baseball fan, but a lot of the people I work with are, and I made this video with them (using simple still shots and some creative Final Cut Pro editing) to celebrate the historic occasion:

Halloween Videos 2014 and 2016

I made these for my day job, just for fun, and they weren’t hard because Apple’s iMovie did all the heavy lifting for me. All I had to do was plan and take the shots.



Eleven Days on Earth

The Goddess Synchronicity is very unhappy with Jon August…

New Novel: All You See is Light

I am quite happy to announce that this is now available in both print and ebook from Amazon, and soon from other places as well…


This story is related to, but not directly a sequel (or prequel) to Eleven Days on Earth. Besides sharing a few characters, and also giving a bit of backstory to the other book, this one stands completely on it’s own.

It’s the mid 1970’s and 17 year old Thomas Harrison just lost his parents in a plane crash. His life as he knows it is gone, and he’s forced to live with his swinger aunt and uncle in a small costal town nestled between an oil refinery and a golf resort. Feeling alone and lonely, and struggling to deal with his loss, he makes his way through a weird world of bullies, witches, horny MILFs, and someone who may or may not be an actual angel from above.

Is she there to save him, or is he there to save her? Neither of them know because … well, she can’t remember!

Maybe they’re supposed to save each other?

Print Edition - Only $14.99  Kindle Edition - Only $2.99

The Truth about Amazon Echo

Yes, I’ve discovered the truth behind the Amazon Echo … and it may not be what you’d expected.

Updated Short Story Collection

Not only does this have a new cover, and not only is it now available in paperback, but it has two new stories in it as well.


(Click zee picture for zee details!)

What does “Auld Lang Syne” mean, anyway?

I think it’s funny that the official (by general consensus) New Years song in the United States of America is something that most Americans don’t understand, and can only sing three or four lines from, and then mutter the rest.

This is a Scottish folk tune that dates back as far as 1677 (probably earlier) that is sprinkled with old Gaelic, and as far as most people can tell, is about “Old Lang Signs.”

Whatever that means. No one cares … it’s generally sung when you’re three sheets to the wind.

Curious, I had to research this, and it turns out the song, in a nutshell, means, “Should we forget old friends?  No.  For as time goes by, we’ll all drink a cup of kindness yet.”  It goes on to sing about even though you may be far away from old friends, at least you’re all in a pub somewhere, drinking to each other at the same time.

In 1677 they didn’t have telephones.  Instead they used widespread synchronized drinking as a sort of telepathic way to reach out to each other.  You sat at a pub and drank to old friends and knew in your heart that at that very second they were doing the same, drinking to you.

So in the spirit of that, as the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve, I will be raising a bottle and drinking to all my family and friends.  I wish for you a happy new year!  Let’s defy the doom and gloom news media and make it a wonderful year for everyone.

For the curious, here’s the actual lyrics to the original authentic version of Auld Lang Syne:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o’ lang syne ? 

For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !
And surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot,
Sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
And gie’s a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
For auld lang syne.


Tips for NaNoWriMo Writers

337_notebook_writeAh, November. Most people think of Thanksgiving and ramping up to the Christmas holidays, but to writers it’s also the yearly marathon of National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo.

For any of you out there poised to endure this mad dash to 50,000 words, here’s some random tips that I’ve found to be true for fiction writing. Hopefully they’ll help:

Skimp on character details. You only have to give your character about three simple descriptive characteristics, if even that. Tall. Short. Freckled. Thin. Bushy red hair. Scruffy. Thick glasses. Neat and well dressed. Everything you leave out, the reader will fill in themselves. You only create part of the picture … your reader creates the rest. Fiction writing is collaborative with the fiction reader. Give details that point them in the direction you want them to go and let them do the rest.

Get detailed only when it’s important to the story. When there’s something that is important to the plot, or important to move the story forward, that’s when you can get detailed in your descriptions of people, places, or things. If it’s something the reader needs to remember, describe it in various ways about three times throughout the story before the detail is actually needed. Don’t spring it on them like pulling a rabbit out of a magic hat — they’ll feel cheated, or surprised, or confused. You don’t want a confused reader, because that pulls the reader out of the story. You want the reader to stay immersed in the story.

Remember, an author can time travel. If you’re stuck later on in your manuscript, and you do need to “pull a rabbit out of a hat” (so to speak) remember that you, as the author, can time travel back into the story and write the necessary details in, where appropriate, that will lead up to the rabbit coming out of that hat. So don’t worry about it, pull the rabbit out if you have to, but make sure to go back and either write in the details leading up to it, or at the very least make notes at the beginning of your manuscript reminding you to go back in and add it later.

A story arc must remain consistent. Don’t start one type of story and morph it into another. Elements can be blended, but if you start a romance, it must remain a romance. If it’s sci-fi, it remains sci-fi — it doesn’t turn into fantasy. If it’s horror, it remains horror. Remember, you don’t want a confused reader, or a reader to feel cheated.

Pull from your beginning toward the end. When you get bogged down toward the end of the manuscript, and most of the time you will, simply go back in and steal or pull from elements at the begging. Refer back, or add something to flesh out what happened back there, or pull inspiration from back there. This will also help make the story more circular (the best stories end at the beginning) or at least will help make the whole story feel more well-rounded.

Don’t screw your reader. They’ll invest a lot of time out of their life to take the journey with you. Respect them. Don’t let them down. Give them a payoff so that they’re glad they spent the time with you.

When you’re all done, rewrite, rewrite again, polish, polish more, and then get an editor (or trusted readers) to comment and point out things you’ve missed.

Above all, enjoy what you’re doing! If you don’t, why do it at all?

Further reading: How To Be A Novelist »

Also: If you’re not participating, but you’d like to help the NaNoWriMo folks continue to inspire and encourage the future creators of literature, you can donate: NaNoWriMo Donations »

Mom’s Phantom Visitor

moms-phantom-visitorBeing that this is Halloween month, it’s time for a ghost story. This is a story that my mom used to tell back before she, too, became a ghost. (Miss you, Mom. And Dad. And Brother. I’m the only member of my original family unit who still doesn’t know what it’s like “on the other side.”)

The little girl woke up to see a man standing in her doorway.

It was dark in her room, and there wasn’t a lot of light from beyond the doorway. All the little girl could see was an outline of the man’s figure. He came forward into the room and spoke her name, and his voice was familiar. It was the voice of her favorite uncle. “How is my little sweetheart?” he asked her.

She rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “Okay,” she told him.

Her uncle came closer, but not too close. “I’m sorry to wake you up, but I wanted to say goodbye. I’m going away for a while, so I’m not going to be able to see you so often.”

“Oh.” The little girl didn’t like that news. He was the one who always brought her candies and new dolls. “Where are you going?”

“On a trip.”

“Are you going to be a long way away?”

“A very long way away. That’s why I woke you up, sweetheart. I wanted to say goodbye before I leave.”

“Okay.” She was just a little girl, and didn’t know what to say. “Goodbye.”

Her uncle seemed to want to come and hug her, but wouldn’t allow himself to. This was odd. He sounded very unhappy, too. “Goodbye my little sweetheart. You take care of your mommy, now. Okay?”

“Okay. Bye-bye.”

“Goodbye. You go back to sleep now.”

“Okay. Goodbye.”

“Goodnight.” Her uncle backed away from her, edging toward the door.

The little girl settled back into her bed, and glanced for a moment at the clock. She could just barely make out the time. It was after 11:00 PM, very late indeed. When she looked back up at the doorway, her uncle was gone.

The little girl went back to sleep.

In the morning, her mother was unusually silent, and spent a lot of time staring off into space. She’d burnt their breakfast eggs. While the little girl was eating, she suddenly remembered her uncle’s late visit. “Mom,” she asked, “where is uncle going?”

Her mother seemed shocked by the question. “What?”

“When he was here last night, he told me he was going away. Where’s he going?”

“Uncle was here? Last night?”

The little girl nodded.

“When?” There was an edge to her mother’s voice.

“It was really late. My clock said after eleven.”

Her mother went pale, and her mouth hung open. It took her a few moments to say anything. “Your uncle loved you very much. I don’t doubt he stopped by here to say goodbye to you.”

“Where’s he going?”

Her mother fumbled with a pack of cigarettes, pulling one out and putting it in her mouth. Her hands were trembling when she lit it. The flame wiggled and she had a hard time keeping it at the tip of the cigarette. “Your uncle went to heaven, honey.”

“Heaven?” The little girl didn’t understand.

“He was killed in a car wreck last night.” Her mother began crying, and so did the little girl. It wasn’t until a few days later, after the funeral, that she overheard her mother telling relatives in a hushed voice about the late night visit from the uncle. The other relatives gaped at the news, astonished, and gave the little girl strange glances. It was then the little girl learned that her uncle had died at about 7:00 PM that fateful evening, while driving home from a restaurant. The person who had come into her room at 11:00 PM could not have been her uncle, unless…

That little girl, as you probably guessed by now, was my mom. She swore up and down that this was true.

I believe her, mainly because of this story (which I was involved in): Nana Arrives in the Mail >

Bombs, Black Widows, Daisy Wheels, and Floppy Disks

Not long after the Mexico trip I took with DT — which left me penniless — my dad convinced me to go back to work for him. He had a job that paid a very good wage and would allow me to live in hotels. That sounded oddly romantic to me, and so I went into it with enthusiasm.

Exterminate! Exterminate!

Little did I know I would be defusing ticking time bombs.

You see, electric companies have lots of these things called transformers. They look like big metal buckets, or boxes, (or sometimes Daleks), and they take high voltages and transform them down into smaller voltages. When overloaded or overheated, they have this nasty habit of exploding.

A lot of electric companies keep their transformers underground, where they’re safer. They rest in things called “subsurface transformer enclosures.” The problem is that sometimes these enclosures fill up with water and soil, and over the years the heat from the transformer bakes the dirt into a hard clay. This keeps the transformer from cooling, as the heat is trapped just like it’s inside a thermos. This overheating leads to breakdown of the transformer, and power outages, and a big nasty detonation.

The only way they knew how to get the dirt out was to shut off the transformer, and then dig it out with shovels — which usually resulted in damaging the transformer to the point where it had to be replaced. Also, this entailed turning off electricity to the surrounding area, which also resulted in a loss of income. Instead of going through all this, the electric companies would just let the transformer explode before they’d deal with it. This was actually cheaper than preventative maintenance — even after taking into account the wrongful death lawsuits brought by surviving relatives of anyone standing near the explosion.

Don’t believe an electric company would think this way? Just watch the movie Erin Brockovich — she was dealing with the same electric company that I was.

My father figured out a way to use his Terravac vacuum trucks to clean out these transformer enclosures without the power company having to shut them down. We did it gently, with water pressure and suction, so it never damaged the equipment. We had to be very careful, because the high voltage plugs that the linemen called “elbows” would, if knocked loose, also result in an explosion — and most likely kill whoever was working on it.

I became really good at doing this. I would diffuse an average of four to six of these “bombs” a day. I never got comfortable with it, though, which is probably why I’m still alive.

There was this one job in Monterey where I encountered another danger. Working in posh shoreline neighborhoods, sucking out sand and mud from these enclosures (which often were embedded in people’s lawns), I would feel something crawling up my leg and I’d slap it, hard. This is exactly what the lineman I was working with told me to do. “If you crush them, you’re okay,” he told me. “Black widows don’t bite after their dead.”

This area, you see, was completely overrun with black widow spiders.

black-widow-spiderDid I mention I’m afraid of spiders? I have a very intense case of arachnophobia. Black widows especially. There was one time when I’d hung my wetsuit out to dry, and I pulled it down the next day and almost put it on, when a big, fat black widow dropped out of the sleeve. I swear I nearly had a heart attack.

So there I was, slapping at every little twitch in my leg, just knowing that this guy was playing a trick on me and it was all my imagination. But still, I slapped my legs until they were sore. All day long, slap! Slap! Then finally, at the end of the day, I went back to my hotel room and pulled my clothes off, and there were maybe thirteen dead black widow spiders on my socks.

The person in the room above me heard my hoarse scream as if I were standing right next to him. Within minutes people were banging on the door. I actually let the hotel manager in and showed him the socks. People crowding around outside the door, peeking in to see if there’d been a murder, also gave off shuddering exclamations and at least one danced around as if there were spiders crawling on her legs.

Proof that I can be a brave person: I went back to work the next day.

I had rubber bands around my pant legs, but it didn’t help.  I still got black widows up my pant legs — and I was working in the infested area for over a week. There wasn’t a day where I didn’t come home with at least three dead spiders. One day, I swatted a live one off the lineman working with me — it had made it all the way up to his chest, nearly to his neck.

The perk of working this dangerous job was, of course, money. Lots of money. I made more in three days than I did working a month back in Berkeley.

daisywheelThe computer boom was upon us, then, and I knew at some point I would replace my trusty old IBM Selectric typewriter with a word processor. But the computers at that time were not portable, so I settled on a “smart” electric portable typewriter that that had a parallel port on the back. Hook it to a computer and it would be a daisy wheel printer.

I’m all set, I thought, and dragged that big white beauty with me from hotel room to hotel room, up and down the California coast, as I typed out the second draft of Travels.

This dangerous but lucrative job depended upon contracts, and when one job was finished there was no guarantee it would immediately resume elsewhere.  I spent the between time at home with my parents, in my old room, working on my stories and spending all the money I had saved up.

There was a sale at the local computer store for a computer at an amazing low price.  Not just any computer, but an IBM.  It was called a PCjr.

Wow, I thought.  I can afford this.

PCjrSo only seven months after spending $799 on a fancy typewriter, I spent a mere $999 on a computer that had, get this, an astounding 128K of RAM. And, because I was friends with people who worked at the store (one eventually became my wife) they threw in IBM Writing Assistant (aka pfs:Write) for free.

A word processor! Finally! I was in heaven.

However it was not so wonderful. You see, IBM had purposely crippled this machine so as not to compete with their “real” computers, and by the time I bought all the third-party add-ons to bring the thing up to speed, I’d spent enough to have actually bought one of the “real” computers. Also, all the work I did on it made me, over time, into a bona fide computer expect — which led to a new career (one that sidetracked me for years).

Anyway, so I finally get this word processor, and I had the second draft of my novel Travels all typed out and ready for a third draft. So during lulls in my work I sat at my new word processor and wrote a third draft of the novel.

As I typed the manuscript into the word processor, I threw the page I’d just finished into the trash. When the trash filled to overflowing, I threw it out. Then I’d fill it up again.

Garbage trucks came and went. Page by page, the only hard copy of my manuscript migrated to an anonymous landfill.

Then, one fateful afternoon, I finished typing. Done, I thought. Completed. Mission accomplished.

I knew that the next step was to back the files up. Immediately.

Floppy Disk
This was back when floppy disks were actually floppy.

Now, this was in the days before hard disks. I had two floppy drives on the computer, and what I had to do was make a copy of the floppy disk with my novel on it, so just in case anything happened to the original, I had a duplicate.

Lord help me if anything happened to the disk, because it was my only copy.

It’s a simple process. You put the original disk into one floppy drive, and a blank disk into the other, and you type in the DOS command DISKCOPY A: B:

Nothing hard about that, right?  Pretty darn foolproof, wouldn’t you think? Of course all of this depends on you putting the right disk into the right floppy drive. If you don’t, you end up copying the blank disk onto the original disk, erasing everything.

That would be bad.

How do I know? Because that’s exactly what I did.

Intending to protect it from being lost, I ended up erasing it. Completely. Poof. The novel was gone. All I had left were the few pages of the last chapter, none of which at that point I had actually used.

The novel, in essence, had vanished.

I spent about a week mourning it, and then I sat down at the word processor and thought … well, I know this story frontward and backwards by now … why don’t I just type it out again? So that’s what I did. I typed it all out, from memory, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t turn out a lot better.

This time around there was no fussing and fighting with the prose, no tight wedging of things in, no forcing this or that character to do some unnatural thing for the sake of the plot. Why? Because I knew the plot already, I knew from page one exactly what had to be laid out, and when. I knew the characters like they were family. I could see how they’d interact naturally, and was able to realistically portray their growth through the course of the story.

That was months later. Months. When finished, it still wasn’t finished, because it was now a first draft again. I had to rewrite and polish it before sending it off.

Little did I know that that would take years.