Monthly Archives: March 2011

A Guy Walks Into A Bar

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Another Book On The List

When I finished my book about Christopher Columbus I self-published it through Smashwords and Amazon’s Kindle Store. Well, I’m certainly not getting rich off it like Amanda Hocking or Joe Konrath who are selling thousands of books each month (Hocking sells 100,000+ a month.). But there are a few souls who have bought what I have to offer.

It’s a rare author, either traditionally published or self-published, that makes much money with only one book on sale. Hocking, for example, has 11 available at Amazon and Konrath, who used to be traditionally published but now only self-publishes, has 43!

So, it was obvious that I needed to get more on my list. But how to go about it? The Columbus book took nearly a year to write. Closing in on my 69th birthday I don’t have a lot of years ahead of me to build up much of a list at one book a year. So there had to be another way.

If you look at Amazon’s offerings you’ll see that there are a lot of Public Domain books that people are selling with themselves as the “Publisher.” Most of these books are free, but others have prices ranging from 99¢ to $1.99 and up. Some people are slapping their own “forward” to one of these books and offering it to the public.

What are Public Domain books? As Wikipedia says, “Works are in the public domain if they are not covered by intellectual property (copyright) rights at all, if the intellectual property rights have expired, and/or if the intellectual property rights are forfeited. In other words anyone can do anything they want with a public domain book including selling it if they can find anyone willing to pay for something they can get absolutely free.

One of the biggest sources for books in the public domain is The Gutenberg Project. There are literally thousands of books available here. All of Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, for example and you can download them to your computer or even onto a Kindle if you own one.

Rummaging through Gutenberg I found a ton of wonderful books that would have captivated me when I was a young reader. Great, gripping stories of adventure with one glaring problem. The use of the language a century ago wouldn’t be something a young reader in the 21st century would be willing to wade through. A lot of the books were written by English authors for British readers so the spelling isn’t something a kid in the USA would be thrilled with. Spellings like harbour, colour, neighbour, etc. And simply the way things are phrased. For example: “I don’t believe you just did that,” expostulated Jack.

I labored (not laboured) through a book titled From Powder Boy to Admiral written by W.H.G. Kingston. A great story about three youngsters in the late 1700s who sign on to a Royal Navy frigate and go through some great adventures. Battles at sea, shipwrecks, being captured by the enemy and escaping. All the things that young readers can get behind, but certainly not written with the lasting literary style of a Robert Louis Stevenson.

But I liked the underlying story and decided to edit the book for the modern, young adult reader of today. I went through and changed the awkward, to us, spellings and rewrote almost every paragraph to make it seem like a more modern book. It was also very long at over 112,000 words. I decided to break it in half. Book I follows young William (Henry) Rayner from the time he signs on to the HMS Foxhound until he is made a midshipman. The second volume, which I’m currently working on will take him from midshipman to command.

It took me over a month to edit and rewrite the first volume. I went through it so many times that I got really sick of seeing the same story over and over, but that’s really no different than if you’re writing and editing something you’ve done yourself. It’s just that I didn’t have to create the characters, plot, etc. Just bring the century and a half old story into the modern world.

I priced it at 99¢. It was uploaded to Smashwords Wednesday morning before I went down to David for a weekly meeting with other gringos to practice our Spanish and then to the International Feria (fair). When I got home late that afternoon I’d already sold one copy! (At 99¢ and taking out the PayPal commission I made a whopping 35¢ in royalties. Since then three other people have bought it so I’m up to $1.40. Like I said earlier, I’m not getting rich.)

It’s currently available at Smashwords and should show up at Amazon and Barnes & Noble soon.

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French Lies About American Cooking

Everybody knows the French have a self-inflated sense of themselves, but in the realm of the kitchen it’s quite justified.

My girlfriend Florence was a marvelous Provençal-style cook. You have no idea what I’d give for some of her lapin chasseur (rabbit stew) right now. Actually there were some things that I cooked that she would ask me to prepare. She especially liked my stir-fry pork with honey-mustard sauce.

She remarked, one time that Americans couldn’t cook anything without a can of Cream of Mushroom soup. I told her that was a horrible, outrageous lie

There’s also Cream of Asparagus, Cream of Broccoli, Cream of Celery, Cream of Chicken, Cream of Chicken and Mushroom, Cream of Chicken with Herbs, Cream of Chicken with Roasted Garlic, Cream of Onion, Cream of Shrimp and Cream of Potato Soup as well. So THERE!

Last night I made a Campbell recipe called Fiesta Chicken which uses Cream of Chicken AND Cream of Mushroom soup. It’s delicious.

Fiesta Chicken

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can cream of mushroom soup

2 small tomatoes, chopped

1/3 cup picante sauce

I medium green pepper, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder

12 corn tortillas (6) inches) cut into 1-inch strips

3 cups cubed cooked chicken

1 cup (4 oz) shredded Colby cheese


In a bowl combine the soups, tomatoes, picante sauce, green pepper, onion and chili powder.

In a greased 13”X9” baking dish layer half of the tortilla strips, chicken, soup mixture and cheese. Repeat layers.

Cover and bake at 350° for 40 to 50 minutes or until bubbly.

Take that you Gallic Cuisine Snob!

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No Boats When I Was There

There is a WordPress feature called the Tag Surfer that shows posts others have done on their blogs that you have an interest in.

This morning I came across one featuring paintings by the father of French Impressionism, Claude Monet. The one that instantly struck me was this one done at the small village of Etretat in Normandy on the English Channel (La Manche to the French)

When I spent five days vacationing there in 1991 there weren’t any boats on the beach.


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Closing The Thread

There is one last song I want to have played when my ashes are scattered. It’s not that I just added this to the list because it is actually the second song I’d decided on several years ago. It’s by the a capella group Sweet Honey In The Rock. I’ve presented some of their videos on this blog previously. Of course all these songs have a message in the lyrics. My way of saying “goodbye.”


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Thoughts On Final Farewells

Yesterday I read a great post by Martha Goudey’s Blog “Taking Care of Mom” –Reflections on daily life with a 101-year-old woman. It addresses what one does with the “remains.”

I have to admit that in the two and a half years since my heart attack I think about my own mortality almost on a daily basis and what to do with my remains. I want to be cremated and have my ashes scattered on the Gulf Stream off of Fort Lauderdale. In my years as a boat captain I’ve made many trips up and down the east coast of the United States on boats and I can imagine that some small part of my ashes might take me on one last trip up that way and perhaps an atom or two might even make it all the way across the pond back to England where both sides of my family came from.

One thing I’ve done is to gather some music for the ceremony at sea. I definitely don’t want want “Amazing Grace” played. Yes, I love the song, but it is such a cliché it would make me vomit in the urn and I’d go over the side in a lump.

I’ve made a CD of the music I want played when they take me out to sea for the last time and it’s in the hands of a couple of people so perhaps it won’t get lost. One of the songs, and I can’t find a video of it, is done by Dave Hole, called “Lost At Sea.”

As the sun sinks down like a submarine

You will find me down on the coast.

I’ll be gazing out at the shining sea

That’s the time I miss you the most.

Every star that shines will one day die

Every journey comes to an end.

And there are some things we’ll never know

Though it helps us to pretend.

When I see your eyes

In the gloom around me

And if I’m asked where you are gone

I’ll say you are lost at sea.

One of the songs will be “I’ll Fly Away,”

Another is Tom Waits doing “Shiver me Timbers” which pretty well sums up my life.

And, then it’s time to do the big dump to this tune by the now-defunct New Orleans group the Subdudes. Forward to 58 seconds to start the song at the right place.


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Panama’s Seasons

Basically there are two seasons in Panama. The “Rainy Season” and the “Dry Season.”

They look like this:

Rainy Season

Filmed last May

Dry Season

Filmed Today

Well, to be fair it hasn’t rained here in over a week.

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Read An Ebook Week

I got in on this a little late, but better late than never, I guess.

Smashwords is having what they call Read an Ebook week. Many authors, myself included have made their works available either for free or at discounted prices.

I’m giving away my Sailing Alone To Isla short story for free and you can get my books Despair at half off (for the next four days it’s only $1.50 – a bargain at twice the price). Click on the link to take you to the page for that book or story. There will be a coupon number. Add the book to your cart and when you check out add the coupon and get the discount.

But you have to hurry to get this or thousands of other books available on Smashwords. Sign up for a FREE account and cash in.

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Yes, they celebrate Carnival here in Panama but it’s not the same as when I was living four blocks off of St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. After weeks of parades on the weekend the big day finally rolled around. People “masked” and turned out. In the 10 years I lived there I only went down to the French Quarter and Bourbon Street twice. Much too crazy. Up by my house it was primarily families. DRUNK families, but families none the less. The first parade, REX with the King and Queen of Mardi Gras would pass by my house about 10 in the morning and it DIDN’T STOP until about 4 or 5 in the afternoon. Then there was a break for about three hours and the final parade of the year would come by about 8:30 and then it would be over.

Of course, New Orleans is all about music and Mardi Gras is a part of life there so naturally it’s enshrined in song.

Here’s Al “Carnival Time” Johnson.

The one and only Henry Rowland Bird — Professor Longhair

Dr. John

You went looking for the Mardi Gras Indians sometime during the day and hope you’d find a Big Chief.

And on that note I’ll end this with some musical greats: Dr. John, Professor Longhair, Earl King and the Meters (Art and Cyril Neville, George Porter, Leo Nocentelli, and Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste

NOTE: In the song “Carnival Time” there’s a phrase that, unless you’re from the New Orleans area would make no sense to you. It’s “Throw the baby out the window.” Now, if you have no frame of reference you might think that it’s about child abuse, but it’s not.

One of the traditions of Mardi Gras is the King Cake. New Orleans isn’t the only place that has the King Cake. Here’s the history of the thing:

Tucked somewhere inside the cake (AFTER it’s been baked) is a small, plastic “baby.”

The tradition is that if you have the baby in your piece you are supposed to throw the next party. People have been known to swallow the baby or to palm it and throw it out a window to avoid having to host a party, thus the phrase.

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The Difference Half A Century Makes

I LOVE the dawn. Seeing the world wake up. Listening to the roosters calling up here on the side of the mountain in Panama.

When I was 18 I used to stay up all night so I could see the dawn. At 68 I turn in early so I can wake up and see it.

I KNOW I posted this video before but I like it.

The dawn is such a precious thing there are several words in the Spanish language for it: La Alba, La Madrugada describe the time and amanecer describes the process of the dawn.

Of the two words, La Alba is used most often in poetry.

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