Category Archives: Misc Meanderings

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 10.11.59 AMSome months ago I was on a train, headed from Washington D.C. to central Florida. I like traveling by train. Or at least, I find I am more likely to enjoy a train ride than I am to enjoy the cattle call cluster of a mess that commercial air travel has become. What I never expected however was an evening of thoroughly satisfying conversation that included an excellent book recommendation. I guess sometimes, you get more than you pay for.

My table mates at dinner were an older couple on their way to catch a cruise ship in south Florida.  As we rolled through Virginia, the husband, a large, jovial man with a gift for conversation and a zest for life, matched me story for story. Retired now, he related that when he was a working stiff, he’d been a doctor. An anesthesiologist in fact. I found this ironic. How was it possible such an excellent conversationalist could have made his living by putting people to sleep?

The world is full of oddities. Thank goodness we stumble upon them from time to time.

During dinner, when the subject of books came up, as it invariably does, his smile brightened up to an even higher wattage than he’d shown to that point, exclaiming that his niece had just published a book that he was quite proud of. He said it was good. Funny, perceptive, and well worth reading. Yet he admitted with some slight embarrassment that he wouldn’t say the title out loud. Instead, he fumbled for his phone, tapped away for several seconds, then showed me the screen. On that little Chinese built glass panel was the cover of Amy Alkon’s masterwork, Good Manners for Nice People who Sometimes Say F*CK. Read More →

Jamie_05_3DTransparentAfter two years of sporadic but sincere effort, the Lifeboat Augusta series is finally concluded. With the release of installment 5, Survival of the Fittest, the story comes to an end…of sorts. There are no spoilers here. Only heartfelt appreciation for the readers who have been following along with the series and the support they’ve given me. Thank you. Truly.

Rather than leave it at that, brief as it is, I will share a bit of inside baseball with you. The literary edition.

One of the lesser known tasks undertaken when publishing a book, or an ebook, is the gathering of blurbs. These usually short, often flattering quips are written by other authors who have a thing or two to say about the story being presented. Fortunately, I have been on the receiving end of some high praise as I’ve put this series together. Authors I read and enjoy like John Blumenthal, Kevin Garrison, and C.G. Blake have been good enough to share their enthusiasm for the story in print. I very much appreciate the kindness.

With this last installment I asked another author whose work I enjoy to read and consider writing a blurb for the inside cover of, Survival of the Fittest. Sam Torode is a good man. I read his novel, The Dirty Parts of the Bible on a whim. Man, am I glad I did. Funny, quirky, totally believable and absolutely entertaining, Sam’s style of writing and his ability to weave a yarn through the dusty depression era midwest caught my imagination and held it.

We’re very different writers, Sam and I. Yet like cabinet makers, luthiers, potters, or tailors, we have an appreciation for each other’s work. Our work may take different forms and focus on different aspects of the human experience, but we each see something of value when we crack the pages of something the other wrote. That’s comforting, frankly. It’s satisfying too.

When I saw the blurb Sam submitted for inclusion in this final installment of the series, I was very pleased with the sentiment he shared. He said this, “Fans of apocalyptic fiction should check out Jamie Beckett’s Lifeboat Augusta series. This could be the next indie publishing sensation.”

How can I not be tremendously flattered by the appearance of those two sentences. You can see them for yourself, in context, inside the pages of, Survival of the Fittest. They’re right there beneath the blurbs of the other authors I mentioned previously.

If I ever succumb to the idea of starting each morning with a daily affirmation, I think Sam’s might be the message I would choose. It’s positive without being gushy. It’s supportive without bombast or hyperbole. Yet it made my day when I first read it, and it continues to brighten my mood each time I come across it.

With great appreciation to Sam, John, Kevin, and C.G. I must say, this has been an interesting journey. Shepherding Randy and Keisha and their peer group into orbit where they suffer one catastrophe after another, it’s been fun. On one level I wish it would never end. Then again, I’m enjoying the freedom I now have to move on to the next thing. The next story. The next book. Adventure awaits.

Oooo, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Somewhere along the line it seems folks have lost the thread that makes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge so remarkable. It’s not really about dumping ice-water on your head or shaming your friends into doing the same. It’s about raising awareness and funding to battle a horrific disease. So when I was challenged to participate, I accepted – but I threw in a twist I wish more of us would include in our videos.

Enjoy it or hate it, watch if you will. Then consider how you might do something a bit more beneficial than just dumping water on your head. The concept is timeless, so if you feel a need to help someone, do it. You’ll be glad in the long run.

Sometimes people ask me why I so routinely include music in the fiction I write. Burritos and Gasoline, is thick with musical references. So much so that a fan in England wrote to ask if I would consider compiling a soundtrack package to accompany the book.

I liked that idea.

To be completely honest, I include music in my writing because music has always been a major influence to my life. It’s a key to the American experience as I see it. From my earliest memories of my mother singing show tunes around the house, to my first glimpse of the Beatles, the Stones, the Byrds, and the Lovin’ Spoonful on Ed Sullivan’s variety show, to the band my friends Mark and Bob and I formed in the seventh grade – music has been one of the great joys of my life. Read More →

Screen shot 2013-08-07 at 8.21.11 PMHere in my home neighborhood of Polk County, Florida (and yes, it was named after the 11th President of the United States, James K. Polk, just like you thought it was) there’s a new magazine on the stands that’s devoted to the local population. That doesn’t mean the native population. We get plenty of visitors from out of state. Heck, we get plenty of visitors from other continents. They wing their way from where ever they call home to the place that I call home, because the place I call home is so stunningly beautiful, affordable, dynamic, awe-inspiring, and maybe even a little relaxing. Whatever the reason, they come. And now that 863 Magazine is on the stands as a freebie, those visitors from far off places can be just as in the loop as any of the long-timers in town are.

The title, 863 Magazine, refers to the area code in these parts. 863 is the prefix assigned to Polk County, a plot of land that’s considerably larger than the state of Rhode Island, yet without all the snooty seaside mansions and old world stuffiness you might find in other parts of the world. Nope, here in Polk you can check out an art museum or go fishing. You can attend the theater, or get sweaty on the bike trails that weave through the Green Swamp or surround Lake Hollingsworth. Polk is a collection of 17 separate and unique municipalities that each have a charm and an identity that’s worth getting to know. There’s no better place to start that research project than in the pages of 863 Magazine.

Check it out. Plan a vacation with it. Walk the streets of any town in Polk and see if you can pick out people who have been featured in the magazine. Go shopping at one of the merchants who advertise in its pages. You just might have fun. Truth be told, there’s at least an outside chance you’ll have so much fun that you’ll feel compelled to shop for a house and move in – at least for part of the year.

Yeah. Polk County is really that cool. Really!

This song is called, Give Up Your Heart. The place is a long gone club that was located across the street from the train station in Hartford, Connecticut. It was Murphy’s Pub, where we had quite a following.

Enjoy, dance, sing, live!

RANS 2Like a lot of people, I have a bicycle. Actually, I have two bicycles. My wife has two bicycles as well, and one of my daughters has one too. You can’t really call us a bicycle family, however, because I am the only member of the family who rides often. And even then there are restrictions. I do not often ride my 29” aluminum diamond frame beach bike, because it is…shall we say, uncomfortable? Yes, I think that’s the word. It’s uncomfortable. I would be happy to never ride it again. It’s barely used. The little rubber nubby bits are still on the tires for goodness sake and I’ve had the bike for well over a year now.

That’s got to say something about my lack of affection for the thing.

My other bike gets a fair amount of use. Thousands of miles so far, in fact. It’s a RANS Rocket, a short wheel base recumbent with 20” tires and more gears than I care to use. Although to be honest I have used them all at one point or another on the road. Read More →