Saturday, December 29, 2012


            I got my first car because of someone else’s Christmas present.  Gerald Rana’s neighbor got an arc welding kit for Christmas and that very day pushed an old Pontiac into his front yard.  He was going to make a dune buggy.  No one worried about the lawn; Trona has no lawns.  The soil is so alkaline it kills any lawn seed that tries to poke out even a tentative root.
dimasobko / 123RF Stock Photo
            Cutting arc in hand, Gerald’s neighbor dove in and sliced a big cut right through the middle of the car, drive shaft and all, so that the car lay in two pieces.  Then he cut through again, this time in front of the rear wheel assembly and hauled away the whole middle section of the car.  He was energized!  Work continued for days.  After stripping off the car body, he welded together the front and rear pieces of both the drive shaft and the frame.  The car was now half the length it had been.
            The straight-eight engine, with its 8 pistons in a row, took up half the length of the buggy.  Behind the engine on the shortened frame was a bench seat with a gas tank tucked behind it.  With no real weight to pull, that engine knew no bounds.
            The next step was to weld on roll bars and side supports, but Gerald’s neighbor ran out of steam.  Gerald had been observing the project all along and one day his neighbor turned to him.
            “Hey, Gerald.  You like this dune buggy?”
            “Sure,” Gerald said.  “It’s going to be great.”
            His neighbor chewed his lip.  “I think I’m done.  I’m tired of this buggy.”  He raised his eyebrows at Gerald.  “If you want it, I’ll sell it to you for fourteen dollars.”
            Gerald told me he would let me in on the deal if I paid half.
            I approached my Dad as he was eating a solitary breakfast at the kitchen bar.
            “Hey, Dad.  Gerald Rana’s neighbor has a dune buggy for sale.  Can I buy it?”
            Dad looked at me.  I could see dollar signs adding up in his brain, wondering how many hundreds of dollars this was going to cost him.
            “It won’t cost much,” I said.
            Dad smiled and shook his head.  “How much?”
            “Fourteen dollars total.  If I pay seven dollars, I’ll be half owner.”
             Surprise flitted across his face, then his grin widened.  He stood up, pulled his bill fold out of his pants pocket and peeled off a five dollar bill and two ones.  Handing them to me he said, “Here.  Just don’t kill yourself.”
            I had a dune buggy.  It was a very educational purchase as well.  Whenever anything went wrong we’d drive over to the city dump and rummage around in the abandoned cars for a new part.  We didn’t care if it came from a Pontiac or not.  Once, the starter motor went bad.  We found one that didn’t look too corroded and drilled holes in the frame to make it fit our Pontiac.  It started up like a dream.  Already a Frankenstein creation, we were constantly attaching miss-matched parts to make it better.
CC DonQuichot/Wikimedia
            The real joy was what that buggy could do.  And the freedom we enjoyed.  We drove all over the desert, exploring places a regular car could never get to.  The only things we missed were the gauges, especially the gas gauge and the speedometer.  We were always dipping a stick in the gas tank to see how much gas was left, and we never knew how fast we were going.
            Once when Gerald’s parents were out of town, he drove his dad’s car behind me while I raced the dune buggy down the highway as fast as I could go.  In just a couple miles, Gerald started falling quickly back, so I slowed and waited for him to catch up.  When he pulled up beside me, I yelled, “What’s the matter?”
            “When you got past 120 mph, I couldn’t keep up anymore.”
            I never did tell my Dad about that.


Friday, December 21, 2012


     I know, I know, Berk already posted a blog entry with the cover of our book on it, but I want to do it again for two reasons.  First, I didn't get a chance before to send an email to all my friends, (both of them) about the cover; and second, it is a really cool cover and I just wanted to post it again.

    So, here goes:

    We are working on the first pass of the book now, working with the editors.  I am pleased to see how much Jolly Fish Press has improved our writing.  It is a pleasure working with such professionals.
    And to all my friends, (yes, that means both of you), please "forward" my email on to all of your friends, or send them this link.  I just read where that crazy singing and dancing guy in South Korea has gotten over one billion views on his YouTube video.  I am never, ever going to do a singing and dancing video, (can you hear the collective sigh of relief?) and therefore this is my best bet of getting some attention through social media.
     So, send this link on; pass it to all your friends and family, even to some of your enemies, at least to your frienemies, (a new word I just learned from watching "The Next Iron Chef").
    The next time I get this excited will be when the book actually comes out in March, (please notice the timer ticking off the seconds just to the right!)  Well, the next time I get this excited might be the next time I go to IHOP, but when the book comes out, that will be exciting too!  (Look at the cover again, it is way cool, isn't it?)
    OK, I'm done.

Friday, December 14, 2012


The Book, pretty dog-eared now
            Today is the long awaited day.  “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is finally out in movie theaters.  My family has grown tired of the constant updates I have given them of each stage of the filming.  First there was going to be one, then two—no, wait a minute—three movies made from that one book.
            So when I made the announcement at dinner tonight that this very day “The Hobbit” was out, I got pleasant responses, but no huge enthusiasm.  It wasn’t always that way.
            When our 4 oldest children were 5 and under, we lived in a little house with 3 bedrooms on the main floor.  Once dinner was over, the badgering began.
            “When are we going to read, Dad?”
            I glanced at my wife. 
            “Got to get baths and pajamas, first.” she said, shaking her head.
            I shrugged.  “Hurry up, guys, if you want to have time to read.”
            It worked every time.
            Each night we piled up on one of the beds in either the boys’ or the girls’ room.  I sat on the bed with bodies sprawled against me, sometimes with feet pressing against my back, and eyes contemplating parts of the room as they listened.  Pushes and shoves for better positions were given secretly.  No one wanted to be ordered off the bed.
            Each night we would take Bilbo Baggins one step closer to his confrontation with the fearful dragon, Smaug. 
            Someone would always ask a question. “Why don’t they stay together?”  “Why can’t they be nice?”  When I’d try to quit in the middle of a chapter, Ephraim would complain, “No!  You can’t stop now.” 
            We always ended up reading more than I intended.  Not that I minded, but this was all about putting them to bed, right?
            The next day, we’d talk about what Gandalf had done or if the ponies really got eaten.  Seth, especially, would ask me questions.  Sometimes, I had no answer.
            This was not the only time I read The Hobbit at bedtime, but our lives were simpler then, and we read the whole book quickly.
            Once, my son Ephraim and his family were visiting us.  What did he read his children for a bedtime story?  The Hobbit.   Old traditions die hard.
            But now I have another dilemma.  Do I buy the DVD when it comes out, or wait for the director’s cut?  Already, I’m planning negotiations for both.

Friday, December 7, 2012




The cover to our book, Pitch Green, has been released by Jolly Fish Press. 


            It should not make a bit of difference, but with this tangible proof, our book suddenly seems more real.  We are excited to have this great cover design to tantalize and tease your imaginations.

            We got so excited we added something else tangible to our blog—a countdown to the release of Pitch Green on March 16, 2013.

            Nothing much else to say, except a shout out for an exceptional publisher, Jolly Fish Press.


Berk & Andy