Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Gatekeeper

I’ve been working at Nilson Brothers Garage in East Oakland since 1976, and have owned it since April Fool’s Day 1983. So many gritty and humorous events have happened inside and outside the shop, I’ve mentioned in other posts I often feel like the gatekeeper in the Twilight Zone. Another instance of that happened when a customer dropped off his Cad for a diagnostic check, and to get one of the Oxygen Sensors out. He had a couple shops try, but they were afraid to strip the threads and ruin the exhaust manifold thereby causing a thousand dollars in damage over a hundred dollar part. I didn’t blame them.

Recognizing the customer’s name during the phone call before he brought in the Cad, I looked through my extensive records quickly. Lo and behold the gatekeeper was indeed right about knowing this gentleman. He had last brought a vehicle into my shop back in March of 1992. Yep, cue up the ‘Zone’ music. Over twenty-one years had passed in the blink of an eye since the gatekeeper had worked on this customer’s vehicles.

I met him yesterday morning with my clipboard, and asked him if he still lived on such and such street. He laughed and said no, he’d moved out of the area a long time ago, but now was back living in Hayward. We shared a few memories about his past vehicles left in my care decades ago. People are always surprised when they find me still at the shop, but I have a duty as the gatekeeper at the Twilight Zone of Nilson Brothers Garage to be on duty.  :)

The gatekeeper then worked his magic yesterday, extracting the feared Oxygen Sensor without causing a thousand dollars damage, and all was again right with the cosmos.

In writing news I hit #56 on the Most Popular Author’s in Action and Adventure Fiction page this morning. My ten minutes of fame has finally hit, so the gatekeeper is basking in this news while it lasts.  :)

Here's the link, but I don't know how many seconds my name and picture will be in that hallowed position. Fame is fleeting.  :)   Amazon Most Popular Authors in Action and Adventure

Friday, May 24, 2013

2007 Buick Lacrosse - No Low-Beam Lights

Here’s a funny and informative anecdote from my shop. On Wednesday, I was in the back working on a cover for THE LURE OF HELL, when a 2007 Buick Lacrosse drove up inside my shop. Yes, I’m 63, and I no longer book myself up to my eyeballs in jobs every day. I may be a bit guilty of retiring on the job. Anyway, I go out to greet the customer who is exiting the driver’s side. The young lady is one of those folks we OG’s (old geezers) have to rein in our first reaction with. She wore a black thigh high skirt with black nylons, and black medium heel shoes. Her burgundy top was spaghetti strapped with generous exposure. She will be known as Ms. Tat Lacrosse for this post. Tat had tats up both arms, a nose ring, one earring, diamond stud through her left eyebrow, and black hair tied back in a ponytail. Nails, lips, and eyes, were highlighted in black. My guess would be Ms. Lacrosse was in her early twenties, and around five feet, six or seven inches tall.
Look, I admit it, nothing very much bothers me anymore about someone’s looks, except for nose rings and tongue studs. Ms. Lacrosse smiled at my greeting, held out her hand, and said “Hi, I’m Tat.”
She had a tongue stud. Yikes. That’s like the daily double for me and my imagination. Naturally, I have to take a deep breath, while blanking my mind to thoughts of having a cold with those items in place. I may have shivered a moment before shaking hands with Tat. “How can I help you, Tat?”
Tat gestures at the Buick. “My headlights go off at night, and I have to switch to high-beams. It’s happened to me three times at night, and now the low-beams are off all the time. I went to the dealer, and they wanted a hundred and twenty-five dollars to check it out.”
Damn it! I’m probably going to ruin this young lady for being a good customer. I’ve mentioned in the past I study potential pattern failures on customers’ vehicles, because then I don’t get caught doing two hours worth of diagnostic work when the vehicle has a weird glitch. It just so happened, I have a number of customers with late model GM products, and I’d run across this problem in my studies. The dealer is quoting her the standard diagnostic fee, because it’s the right thing to do. The customer expects it. The tech who works on the vehicle has some leeway. The vehicle gets fixed. I should be doing it the right way too. If the problem was a check engine light with noticeable running problems, I would.
“I’ve run across this before,” I told Tat. “There’s a relay under the hood called a headlight drive module. Your daytime running lights and low beam operation work through it using the light sensor on top of your dash. When it senses low light the sensor tells your lights to come on. I have one in stock. The OEM one I have runs about fifty dollars plus labor.”
Ms. Lacrosse gets a tight lipped cross look on her features – not a good look for someone with a nose ring. “Why didn’t the guy at the dealer tell me that?”
Because he’s doing business the right way and I’m not. I save that for my own perceptive conclusion. “It’s bad customer relations to act like we have what is referred to as silver bullets, meaning quick pattern fixes for some problems. The customer many times leaves expecting a magical fix every time they come in with a problem. It’s bad business.”
Tat nods slowly, and then smiles. I know what’s coming. “Why are you doing it then?”
Bingo! “I don’t have their overhead to pay for, and you’re a perfect candidate because your problem is no longer intermittent. I have the HDM in stock. Your low-beams are not working at all now, so if I parts change the module and they come on, it means it’s fixed. If you still had the intermittent problem, I would handle the situation differently.”
“That’s nice of you. Can you show me now?”
“Sure.” It only takes a few minutes to replace the HDM, and the lights come on.
Tat claps her hands excitedly. “That’s great!”
I write up her invoice. I notice she’s scoping me out in that funny manner the young often do, either because of my rather stiff mannerisms or something I’ve done they find amusing. When I lead the way into the office to conclude our transaction, Tat hands me her credit card while perusing my picture walls. Then she lets me in on the amusing part.
“You don’t like looking at me.” She’s enjoying her observation, because she’s grinning away when I do look at her without focusing on some point behind her head as I had been doing. “What bothers you, the piercings?”
Yep. “Actually, nothing bothers me about you. It’s just that I have an active imagination, and when I see nose and tongue piercings the first thing that comes to mind is a cold, cough, and sneezing.”
Tat laughs in appreciation of my honest admission. “It’s not like you think.”
Says you. “Probably not, but you asked.”
She nods and signs the credit card statement. When she hands me my clipboard back Tat pats my hand. “I’ll be back. I like you. You’re funny. I see all the pictures on the wall of your family. I bet you’re a riot at gatherings.”
I grin at that observation. “I have my moments.”
“I bet you do. Bye.”
I reached for one of my business cards. “Here’s my card if you need to schedule any work.”
Tat turned and took the card with a thank you, and continued out. I didn’t follow, because my alter ego was already plotting a blog entry, and I needed to jot down some notes immediately.  :)

One other writing item came up. My novel PEACE has hit the good sales point where I drew two ‘Book Killers’ in the same week. Although the one star hit pieces do hurt sales, they also mean that I attracted the ‘killers’ due to some pretty good sales. Such is life in Author-land. The ‘killers’ are kind of funny because as I’ve mentioned before, Amazon gives the reader SEVEN chapters of PEACE free to sample the novel. Believe me, if a reader reads seven chapters of PEACE, they will know whether they are going to like it or not.  :)

Monday, May 13, 2013


I finished my HARD CASE sequel last night. THE LURE OF HELL came in at close to 98,000 words. Today, I of course start the editing process. Editing reminds each of us storytellers marketing our word plots, how important loving what we write, and the characters we create, really is. I can only imagine what it would be like if I hated everything needing to be honed into a saleable product, or if the story bored me to tears, or the characters didn’t strike an emotional connection with me. THE LURE OF HELL is experimental in a number of ways. I ended up enjoying the experience of writing in first person point of view for John Harding, Book One, HARD CASE. In Book Two, I’m introducing two new cold blooded killers to John Harding’s Oakland crew, Clint Dostiene and Lynn Montoya. The fact no publisher or agent would touch HARD CASE, and I did send it out nearly seventy times on the query trail, enhances the fact it is selling very well on the indie market. No publisher or agent would ever touch THE LURE OF HELL either. I don’t head hop in THE LURE OF HELL, but I use more than one POV – a mortal sin in the writing world. I have a day job. Even at my newly advanced age of 63, I can still crank out the repair jobs, so I can have fun writing as I commit publishing mortal sins.  :)

The second observation I realized over the weekend that should have hit me a while ago is what a distinctly visual society we’ve become. This may be old news to my writing friends, but it’s something that didn’t strike me until my books began selling. People can go to the movies, sucking up the ‘Die Hard’ franchise, Avatar, Avengers, The Expendables, The Transformers, etc. without any questioning of believability. They suspend reality like a worn out Kleenex. When they read a fiction novel, however, they suddenly go nuts if the author creates a larger than life character or plot. It’s like, ‘hey, you can’t do that’. Well, oh hell yeah I can. I luckily grew up reading Tarzan, Conan, James Bond, Matt Helm, John Carter, and superhero comics of all kinds.

I realize I should be wringing my hands, wondering whether someone who can watch a multicolored robot turn back and forth into a car and a rocket firing death machine without blinking an eye, will be able to handle a larger than life character like my icy cold killer, Lynn Montoya in THE LURE OF HELL. I take my entertainment where I can get it. No wringing of hands for me. Think about it. Authors worrying about the same people eating up goofy looking, blue skinned, dragon riders going ‘wow, that’s so realistic’ – but reading about a larger than life fictional character or plot-line throws them into open mouthed, stunned disbelief. So funny.  :)

Anyway, it’s on to editing and formatting for me today... and of course fixing cars and trucks.  :)

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Book 3 in my YA Trilogy Demon is finally listed on Amazon, titled DEMON AT WAR. With Mike and his canine sidekick Demon communicating directly, it enabled me to write many more humorous interchanges between the two, making this one the most fun to write. If you've read DEMON and DEMON INC, you're in for a real treat with this new chapter in my Demon Inc teen crew's adventures. :)
Getting this one formatted and listed took some time out of finishing the last scene in THE LURE OF HELL, my HARDCASE sequel, but it will be full speed ahead with it now. I can’t release it before July 4th anyway. I received another 5 star review on my older novel PEACE. It was short and to the point. I’m getting a real charge out of the interest in my older novels. May’s issue of BTSe-mag is out with my ads too. I opted for the same layout because they were so good. The articles, reviews, and columns in this one are very good. Check it out here: