Ted Clifton's   Updater   2020

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Random Ramblings and Rowdy Bars


January has always been a dreary month for me.  In most of the places I have lived, it is cold and miserable.  It is however, the new year, so it will all be better; but after only a few days the newness wears off and the new year looks just like the old year, with a different date.  Spring is several months away and the promise of major snow storms in the weeks ahead offers little comfort.

There are some sports events that demand attention.  Football, has some big games ahead.  The biggest, the super bowl, is actually in February.  Basketball labors on, and my favorite pro team, the Nuggets, are doing well but will no doubt loose to the very top teams.  At least it won’t be Golden State this year.

You would think, with that bleak background, January would be a big writing month for me—it has been in the past.  Working at home, with a snow storm pounding outside and a fire crackling in the fire place sounds like an ideal time to be creating fictional characters in a fictional world.  But so far not much is happening.  For many reasons, my energy level is low.  Sorry, if that sounds like whining.  It’s nothing bad, like health or anything, just seemed to have lost my “oomph.” 

Had a busy year last year, two new books; Fiction No More and Four Corners War, also updated (with extensive rewriting) the three Muckraker books—Murder So Wrong, Murder So Strange and Murder So Final.  Made extensive progress on Durango Two Step and minor progress on Doctor Hightower.  All in all, that might be close to my capacity for one year—so maybe a slow start to 2020 was inevitable.

Writing is a pleasure and a great joy to me.  When I’m deeply engaged in a book, I feel absorbed in the process and productive.  In other words; happy.  It is also hard work.  Yeah, poor me digging away in the trench of thought—Hard Work?  Okay, it’s not exactly hard but maybe stressful.

My books start with an idea.  Usually it is something simple, a character, a plot element, a title—yes, I have had the title before a book is started.  Very seldom do I know the complete plot.  It grows as I write.  Just keeping the story straight without major holes is a challenge.  It is one of the reasons these breaks are so hard; when I return to writing, it takes a bunch of re-reading just to remember what I was feeling.

It looks like my break from my creative endeavors will continue for a while.  I’m sure February will be a better month, and I’ll get Malone involved in Durango and Santa Fe once again.

Triples was a bar featured in the Muckraker books.  There were several key scenes that took place in that Oklahoma City bar.  Those books were set in Oklahoma City in the late 1960s and early 70s.  During that time there was an actual bar called Triples that I visited with some regularity.

Thought I would show you a picture of this long-gone (at that location) bar.  So it is off to the internet the source of all knowledge and photos.  Yes, that ugly looking bar in the above photo is Triples.  I sure don’t remember it being so grungy.  I think, this is a photo after its heyday and just before it was torn down.  It was my favorite spot for a while —pretty sure if it still existed and looked like that, I would not even go in.  My memory of the place is entirely different. Memories are often like that; not very accurate.  It was not a high-end fancy (read expensive) bar by any means, but this looks like a dive bar; that is not what I remember.

Another observation; the internet is great for research as long as it is something that existed or happened in the last thirty of so years.  You go back to the bars in OKC in the 1960s and you get very little or almost no images.  But how about thirty years in the future; you do a search for bars in Denver in 2020, and you will get everything possible including menus. 

Speaking of bars, I had a bit of advice from a reader suggesting that I include the Wild Horse Saloon in downtown Durango in one of my books when Malone is visiting his friend Younger.  Durango Two Step is my next book and while the title references the second time around for Malone to be involved in murder in Durango and nothing to do with country dancing, it stills seem somehow appropriate to include the Wild Horse Saloon in this book.  Thanks for the suggestion.  Might have to make a quick trip to Durango to check it out myself.  My rowdy bar days are mostly in my past, but they do serve lunch.  Might be safer especially when you considered this notice on their web site:

What is Wild Horse Saloon’s policy on fighting?
We want everyone to have as much fun as possible, but fighting and/or physical confrontation will not be tolerated, AT ALL. In the event of a fight/confrontation, it is Wild Horse Policy to ask and enforce that both parties leave the premises for the remainder of the evening. In the event that you were trying to fight/ confront any member of the Wild Horse Saloon staff, you will be “86’ed” PERMANANTLY. DO NOT DISRESPECT ANY MEMBER OF MY STAFF!!!!!!

Of course it would not be a problem for our hero; Vincent Malone, rowdy bars were his natural habitat.


Favorite Artist

Johnathan Harris

Artist Statement
Creating artwork is my passion, a refuge from the modern world, a time for me to reflect and express; an absolute necessity for me to feel complete. I try to give the viewer a window into a perception of a reality in which I find solace. I prefer to focus on Southwestern landscapes and European landscapes not only for the naturally beautiful compositions, the colors and endless inspiration, but also because of the effect of seasonal changes and variations due to light in those magical parts of the world.

Mister Harris's bio says he was born in Arkansas--but I don't believe it.  This is obviously a person who was born and bred in New Mexico.  This is absolutely wonderful stuff.  Check out his web site, plus lots of prints available of these gorgeous works.  TC
Ted Clifton (short) bio
Ted Clifton, award winning author, is currently writing in three mystery series—Pacheco & Chino Mystery series, the Muckraker Mystery series and the Vincent Malone series.  Clifton’s focus is on strong character development with unusual backdrops.  His books take place in Southwest settings with some of his stories happening in the 1960s, 1980s and current times.  The settings are places Clifton has lived and knows well, giving great authenticity to his narratives.  Clifton has received the IBPA Benjamin Franklin award and the CIPA EVVY award--twice.  Today Clifton and his wife reside in Denver, Colorado, with frequent visits to one of their favorite destinations, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

New Mexican Pozole

Pozole is a super easy and amazingly tasty stew made with pork, dried chiles, and hominy. To some, this soup is at its best thanks to the garnishes, which provide balance and flavor in addition to decoration. Although the total cooking time is close to two hours, you can choose between cooking the stew on the stove or placing it in an oven-proof pot in the oven.
Pozole is traditionally served with warm corn tortillas to help soak up the savory broth and topped with a variety of fresh, flavorful, and crunchy garnishes including fresh cilantro leaves, chopped scallion, sliced or shredded radishes, and shredded green cabbage. Each guest tops their bowl of stew with their preferred garnishes. You can change up the traditional way of serving the stew, by dressing the shredded cabbage with a bit of lime juice and toasted cumin seeds or include slices of avocado. For extra flavor, ask the butcher for a pork shank or knucklebone to add to the pot.
2 pounds pork shoulder (or butt)
3 cloves garlic
3 dried red New Mexico chiles (or other large, mild, dried red chiles)
2 teaspoons salt (plus more to taste)
3 1/2 cups cooked hominy
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
Garnish: Cilantro (chopped)
Garnish: Scallion (chopped)
Garnish: Radishes (chopped or sliced)
Garnish: Cabbage (finely sliced)

Steps to Make It
  • Gather the ingredients.
  • Cut the pork into chunks. Fairly big pieces are traditional, but if you prefer, cut the pork it into bite-sized pieces.
  • Put the pork in a large pot and cover with cool water. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that has formed in the pot.
  • Peel the garlic and remove the stem and seeds from the chiles. Add the garlic, chiles, and salt to the pork.
  • Reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer, cover, and cook until the pork is fork-tender, for about 90 minutes. Alternatively put the covered, oven-proof pot in a 350 F oven for the same amount of time.
  • After the pork has cooked, add the canned and drained hominy and the oregano. Continue cooking at a simmer until the flavors blend and the pork is very tender, for another hour. Add additional water, if necessary, to keep the moisture at a good level, return the mixture to a boil and reducing back down to a simmer when needed. Taste for salt
Serve the pozole in deep bowls.
Odds and Ends
Reprint from recent Ted Clifton blog
Most of my life has been as a businessman, not a writer.  My first love was art.  Even in college my desire was to be an artist.  I was a creative person who wanted a career doing just that—being creative.  Like a lot of people, those first impulses didn’t work out.  I needed to make a living and someone said CPAs made a lot of money—so why not.  It’s only my life we’re talking about.  What could be wrong with being stuck at a desk the rest of your life crunching numbers?  The answer, of course, was a lot.

What does it mean to be creative?  When I was painting, it meant creating an image of something that was unique, or interesting, or appealing or what?  If my picture of a tree looked just like the tree was that creative?  How about just taking a photo of the tree, was that creative.  I think my art career never happened because I struggled with images that were not unique.  I wanted to paint a tree that didn’t look like a tree but was the essence of the tree.  Even I didn’t understand what that meant. 

Okay, forget the tree, I will become a creative accountant.  Of course the first image that popped into my head was a jail cell for being a too creative accountant —not a good image.  I dropped the creative part and spent a good deal of time just becoming a good accountant.  It’s not as bad as it sounds.  I enjoyed numbers and seemed to have a talent for crunching them.  I achieved a level of success that was rewarding, but not fulfilling.

Prior to becoming an accountant, I had been self-employed in several endeavors.  From food service to retail, I had owned my own businesses.  I had some success and also experienced failure, but during this time I realized I enjoyed business.  It was like a puzzle.  Lots of pieces to move around and try to figure out how they all fit together to generate sales and a profit.  Not every day but on many it actually felt creative.

Next came my period of working for giant corporations which was not so creative.  Mostly what I learned from that experience was lots of nuts and bolts accounting and that most top executives were assholes.  Maybe that MBA stood for something else?  Most of the successful people I met had one thing in common, they were bullies.  There were, of course, exceptions but by far the most practiced management style was intimidation.  The age I’m talking about was total alpha male domination, so that might have been the reason; but being kind, considerate, thoughtful or even deceit were traits honored at home and abandoned at work.  The world is still full of those people; be very cautious.

After the big company nonsense, I found much greater joy and success working for myself and several smaller companies.  The biggest difference, other than the people seemed more human, was the appreciation of creativity.  Innovation is the life-blood of smaller businesses.  I’ve always been an idea-guy and eager to share opinions.  My biggest business successes were with companies that appreciated the innovation and my willingness to try new ideas.  At this point in my life I had the right combination of experience, knowledge and guts to try things others wouldn’t—it failed on occasion and succeeded every once in a while.  In many ways I had solved the business puzzle.

Now, I write fiction books.  Writing is obviously creative—I’m making stuff up; can’t get much more creative than that.  I enjoy the process of thinking about the story, the characters and devising the plot twists with subtle hints.  But what is not fun; is the business of writing.  As an indie author I have complete control over every aspect of what I do.  Or said another way, I have almost no help in doing what I do.  This is not the writing part, have lots of help with editors and designers; this is the business side.  Selling the books, planning marketing, making a profit. 

You would think with my business background this would be a snap.  It’s not.  The main reason is that it is very limited.  There are some variables, but mostly the decisions are; do you go exclusive with Amazon or more broadly with a few others?  Do sell your books at x or 2x?  Do you have free books?  Do you advertise on Amazon, Bookbub, Facebook or others?

I’ve been doing this for years now; and I’ve tried most everything at least once.  None of it works consistently well.  Ads are expensive and the return is questionable.  Free books generate interest, but it is hard to make much money from free.  You can go wide and thumb your nose at Amazon, but probably it costs you sales; still tempting.  So-called experts, usually selling something, say develop your brand; establish your presence on social media—no doubt it helps, but only a little.  Most people advising indie authors are making a lot more money than the indie authors.  The real advice might be find a market niche full of desperate people and sell than advice like “try harder.”

It is a new year and time to stop whining and do something different.  Be creative.  Be innovative.  Okay, I’m willing; but not sure what that is?

I’m afraid the indie author phenomena powered by e-books and Amazon has created a creative glut of decent books that nobody knows about.  Maybe even great books that go unread; because there are literally tons of books available and not enough time to read a small fraction of that quantity.    Maybe it’s time to pull out the paint and brushes and create a tree that looks just like a tree but isn’t.

Plan B.  Billionaire Special
This original art is for sell for $7,500,000.  I’m going with the concept of only needing one really rich dumb ass and life will be great.  It’s a very creative concept.

Special note to a reader comment.  I'm glad you liked Dog Gone LIes; and you are absolutely correct the reason that book is so engaging, and my number one seller, is because of Happy, the dog.  And yes, I should write another Pacheco & Chino book and have Happy a bigger part of the story.  The name Happy was explained in the story in that Ray Pacheco thought the dog was smiling and also, the dog made him happy.  The truth is that Happy was the name of my dog when I was a kid; and he was my best friend.  Appreciate your comment.  Thanks, TC

Thanks everyone for being a reader!
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