I’m back from Cuba ….

Hi, friends and readers:

Cuba balconyTwo good friends joined me for a trip to Cuba, leaving last Saturday (7/2/16) and returning today (7/9/16). I came home with a nasty case of diarrhea and a boatload of memories, some amazing, some sobering.

We spent three days in Havana, where the architecture defies description. The beautiful colonial buildings, both commercial and residential, keep coming at your every time you turn a corner. But most every structure is in disrepair and badly in need of paint. For every one in good shape there are nine that are not. And the unemployment in Havana is depressing.

Cuba schoolWe spent four days in Playa Larga, on Cuba’s southern coast, about 2-1/2 hours’ drive from Havana. One of our most gratifying experiences was our visit to a small village outside of Playa Larga, where we distributed gifts to the residents. We brought baseball equipment, soccer equipment, and a Ping-Pong set that the whole village will share. We also brought  school supplies, stuffed animals, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and other small items for the kids. We distributed soap, toothpaste, shaving razors, herbs, and spices to the adults. The people in the village seemed so grateful for the things we brought them. The town’s unofficial mayor showed us a water purification system the Catholic church had bought the village, which they are very proud of.

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A beautiful Tucson sunset ….

TucsonHi, friends and readers:

About seven years ago I traveled by plane to Tucson, AZ, to visit someone I’d met over the Internet. I wanted to see if we might be compatible.

We weren’t. 🙁

I spent five days out there–it was my first visit to the city–and afterward I wrote a short story about my visit there and how sometimes two people just aren’t meant to be in a relationship. I also described Tucson like this:

“Ever visited Tucson in late June? It’s like a dry sauna, from sun-up to sundown. The town sits in a valley surrounded by brown mountains with jagged peaks. Most commercial structures are one or two stories and nondescript. Homes in town are squatty, either brick or mission style, and none have grass. Yards are simply dirt the color of bran flakes, dotted here and there with thirsty-looking shrubs. Most trees are stunted. The only tall ones are Italian pines, Washingtonia palms and the occasional eucalyptus. Commercial streets are lined with small businesses: take-away, Tex-Mex, tattoo parlors, tire stores, motels and fast food chains.

tucson #2“Few people roamed the sidewalks; the day was simply too hot to be outdoors.

“Arizona University, where (name redacted) matriculated, was the town’s most impressive institution. The buildings were contemporary, mostly red brick and glass. A football stadium existed for the Wildcats, who play in the Pac Ten Conference. But even on campus there was not much grass, save for one treeless plaza; it sat unused and out of place, amidst all the brownness.

“The foothills were different.

“Like I said, (name redacted) lived in Ventana Canyon, where several country clubs were located. The courses there were green, but barely, with yellow patches here and there. The homes in the area were two-story; many were boxy, adobe-style structures. Vegetation was more lush than in town. No grass grew, but many trees did—mesquite mainly—they grew to fifteen feet or more. I saw pines and aspens as well. And everywhere in the foothills, saguaro cacti grew, those multi-branched monsters you see in cowboy movies. Many were twelve feet tall or higher, and some were eight hundred years old.”

I am writing a new novel about two college-age boys who are traveling on I-10 from Florida to California in a panel van. Right now I am writing about their time spent in New Mexico, and so I pulled out my old Tucson story to refresh my memory of what I saw there. Boy am I glad I wrote that story ….

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How Americans see the world ….

World mapHi, friends and readers:

I’ve done a lot of traveling during my life, all over Europe, South America and Mexico, the Bahamas, Australia, Canada, and so on. I’m always amazed by how marrow-minded Americans can be when it comes to travel. One summer, when I told my friends I would spend three months living in Berlin, they asked me questions like, “Do they have electricity over there?” Or, “What if you need a doctor?”

Look I love my country, but there are also many other amazing places to live, and different ways to live. I think we, as Americans, would be wise to spend a little more time in cultures different from ours.

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My new novel, “The House on Fremont Drive”, is released ….

The House on Fremont Drive final cover smallerHi, friends and readers:

Today is a big day for me as an author. My latest novel, titled The House on Fremont Drive, was released this morning by Dark Hollows Press. Here’s a blurb for the book:

“Eighteen year-old Nate Ziegler has problems. A dead boy’s ghost dwells in the crawl space above Nate’s walk-in closet; the ghost won’t leave Nate alone. Nate’s cross-country teammate is a neo-Nazi astrology freak; he wants to recruit Nate as his disciple. Nate’s new boyfriend is an emotional mess; he’s a victim of physical and psychological abuse. And Nate’s parents don’t even know Nate is gay. How will he deal with it all?”

This is a large book, over 300 pages, and it took me nearly seven months to write it. I had to do a lot of research on astrology, cross-country running, and Nazi mysticism. It’s unlike anything I have written previously, and I have no idea how it will be received by reviewers and readers, but we’ll see. Here’s a buy link to the Dark Hollows website:

http://www.darkhollowspress.com/#!the-house-on-fremont-dr/cwki

And here’s a brief excerpt form the book where the main character, Nate Ziegler, has his first encounter with the undead:

****

Copyright Jere’ M. Fishback, 2016

I woke to a sound that made my eyelids flutter. I glanced at the alarm clock on my nightstand. The time was around two A.M. A metallic, tinkling noise came from someplace close by, somewhere inside my room. My limbs stiffened when I heard the sound again, and then I heard something else as well: the sound of human breathing.

I crinkled my forehead, already feeling a little scared. What was going on?

Many hours had passed since I’d smoked the Kush at Riley’s house, but I still felt the weed’s effect. My brain seemed fuzzy and my mouth tasted like I’d stuffed a woolen sock inside it. I had jerked off hours before, when memories of Peter and Riley filled my mind’s eye. Then, afterward, I lay in a weird sort of netherworld—half-asleep and half-awake—until about midnight, when I finally dozed off.

Now I sat up in my bed. My sheets rustled and the bedsprings squeaked. The palest glow from a fingernail moon entered my room through the windows, casting a faint rhombus of light onto the room’s oak floor.

“Mom, Dad,” I whispered, “is that you?”

No answer. Then I heard the tinkling sound again—I heard the breathing noise too—and my scalp prickled. Who was in my room and what did they want?

After I’d turned thirteen, back in Seattle, my folks sometimes left me at home by myself while they attended parties or enjoyed their twice-monthly “date night.” I didn’t mind, but I felt uneasy about falling asleep whenever I was alone. Break-ins in our neighborhood happened occasionally and what would I do if an intruder entered our house? What if he attacked me? So without my folks’ knowledge I always kept a wooden baseball bat under my bed—it gave me a sense of security—and now, in my Fremont Drive bedroom, I reached beneath my bed frame to retrieve a 32-inch Louisville Slugger™.

Clutching the bat, I rose to my feet while trying to stay as quiet as possible. The noises continued; they seemed to come from the corner where my closet door was located. I wore only boxer shorts and my bare feet didn’t make any noise when I took a step toward the closet. Already, sweat trickled down my ribs from my armpits. My fingers flexed against the tape on the bat’s handle. Again, I heard a metallic tinkle and the sound of breathing; the noises grew louder and more distinct as I approached the closet. No light shone from beneath the closet door’s lower edge. I took two more steps, and then I heard something else: a moan and a whimper—it was a guy’s voice for certain—but whose was it?

I reached for the closet doorknob; I turned it as quietly as I could. Then I flung the door open. I switched on the closet’s overhead light while raising the bat over my shoulder. I was ready to deliver a nasty blow to my intruder’s head, but…

No one was there.

The only sound I heard was my own breathing. My forehead crinkled while I swung my gaze here and there. Nothing seemed out of place—everything looked normal to me—until I saw the belt. It hung from a hook on the backside of the closet door, just to one side of the mirror, about four feet from the floor. The belt was made of leather, about two inches wide. I hadn’t worn it in a year or more; I stored it with my other belts in a box on the closet shelf. Someone had passed the belt’s strap through the buckle to form a sort of noose. They also enlarged one of the prong holes on the strap so the hole could fit over the hook on the closet door, and this allowed the noose to hang freely.

A shudder ran through me while I studied the belt and tried to make sense of what had just happened. Was it possible I’d imagined the noises I heard? Who knew what people saw or thought while high on Kush? I’d come home from Riley’s feeling light-headed and spaced. I barely spoke to my parents at the dinner table, and then I bolted for my room right after I’d finished my meal. Maybe I had messed around with the belt while I was high. But why would I make a noose?

My mom’s voice sounded in the hallway, startling me.

“Nate?”

“Yeah?”

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Mom.”

“It’s late. Why are you up?”

I flexed my fingers against the baseball bat, feeling confused as shit. Was I going nuts? Had the Kush fucked up my head so badly that I’d lost contact with reality? Honestly, I’d never felt as creepy or bewildered as I did at that moment.

“I’m okay,” I said. “I woke up ’cause I needed to pee.”

A few seconds passed before Mom spoke, and when she did a hint of skepticism laced her voice. “All right, honey,” she said. “I’ll…see you in the morning.”

****

Wish me luck with this one, friends.

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I’m off to kayak the Colorado River ….

colorado riverHi, friends and readers:

If you follow this website then you know I am a huge devotee of travel, especially when I am going someplace I have never been before. I’m also big on the outdoors, when it comes to vacations; I always feel rejuvenated by nature and its beauty. I like all kinds of environments: jungle, beaches, the mountains of Maine and the California coast. And, of course, I love Florida’s natural beauty, from the Georgia border to the Florida Keys.

Tomorrow I will jump on an airliner that will take me to Southern California. Several friends and I will travel the Colorado River in Nevada with our kayaks, our camping equipment, and plenty of food and alcohol. We will kayak the river for three days while camping on its banks.

I have never been on the Colorado River; I’ve only seen it from the rim of the Grand Canyon, so I am stoked. Wish me luck, friends.

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The beauty of my fishing camp on the Chassahowitzka River ….

chassaHi, friends and readers:

I’m just home from a weekend spent at one of my favorite places in the world: my fishing camp on the Chassahowitzka River. The camp is located on a one-acre island with three cabins on it. A boyhood friend owns the island and cabins, and I rent mine along a few other partners. I keep my boat at a marina up there, and we have to travel six miles out the river to reach the camp, which sits in the middle of a wildlife refuge. We have a generator, solar power, a gravity water system, and even an indoor toilet in our cabin. We also have a propane stove and refrigerator that work quite well.

My partner and I took two old friends up there with us this weekend. We drank some beer, did some fishing, and ate some great food. The weather was perfect: warm in the day and cool enough at night that we slept under blankets.

The picture I have posted here is a typical Chassahowitzka sunset, just beautiful. I’m so lucky to have my camp.

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Happiness: 35% discount on my Prizm Books titles through March 31st ….

happinessHi, friends and readers:

One of my publishers, Prizm Books, is offering a 35% discount on my titles with them. This deal is good through March 31, 2016. It’s their way of saying “Happy Easter” to my readers. My Prizm titles are Josef Jaeger, Tyler Buckspan, and Becoming Andy Hunsinger. You can reach the Prizm site to purchase these books by clicking on the covers in the sidebar to the left here.

The discount coupon code is “easter2016”.

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I’m jumping for joy. I just ran 1.5 miles ….

jumping in a fieldHi, friends and readers:

For almost forty years, beginning in my college days, I was a dedicated distance runner. I loved running and the way it made me feel afterward when my heart and lungs were pumping and those sweet endorphins flowed through my bloodstream, making me feel at peace with the world.

Sadly, those forty years of running destroyed both my knees, and after three arthroscopic knee surgeries my surgeon told me my running days were over, unless I wanted to undergo total knee replacement (TKR) surgery.

I said no to the TKR surgery for the longest time, but my knees got so bad I couldn’t hike or surf either, and those, along with running are among my favorite activities. So last year, on May 11th, I underwent bilateral TKRs. It has now been over ten months since the TKR surgery. I did all the required physical therapy, and I went to the gym three days per week to rebuild the muscle tissue in my legs that I lost from three months of being sedentary after surgery.

jump for joyToday, around three PM, I did my traditional, pre-run leg stretches, and then I went to the street and I ran 1.5 miles without stopping, and at a pretty good pace for a guy who hasn’t run in over four years. My knees felt great and so  did my legs, and when the run was over I felt so good.

I can run again!

This will be a life-changing situation for me. I plan to run three miles per day, four days per week. The other three days I’ll go to the YMCA for a workout and lap-swimming. I’ll be a picture of fitness in no time, and how good that will feel?

I’ve heard it said that distance running is addictive, and I guess I am evidence of that fact. But it’s a good addiction. It takes weight off you, it helps control your appetite, and it helps you sleep more soundly. My doctor knew I planned to resume distance running when he did my TKR surgery, so he gave me ultra-strong knee replacements that can withstand the pounding they’ll get when I run. I should be good for at least fifteen years, and that’s enough for me.

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The joy of listening to my old vinyl LPs ….

after bahting at baxter'sHi, friends and readers:

I have a substantial collection of vinyl LP albums that date from the late 1960’s through the 1980’s. I continued to listen to them until several years ago when my turntable died, and then I listened only to CDs until my partner, considerate guy that he is, bought me a super-nice turntable for my birthday about two years ago. Since then I have listened to my vinyl quite often, and that’s what I am doing this evening.

One of my most beloved vinyl albums is one I bought my junior year of high school. I can still remember the day I bought the album, and even where I bought it–a record shop in west St. Petersburg. The album is a Jefferson Airplane recording released by RCA in 1967 titled After Bathing at Baxter’s. That’s the cover you see at the top of this post. I am listening to it as I write these words.

I have always taken good care of my vinyl, and my copy of After Bathing at Baxter’s hasn’t a single scratch on it. No hisses or pops. The sound quality is superb too. Every song on the album is unique, and a few are deeply psychedelic. I did quite a few mind-bending drugs as a college student in the early 1970’s, and I always liked listening to Baxter’s when I was tripping.

One of the great lines in the album’s song titled Wild Tyme says. “It’s a wild time; I’m doing things that haven’t got a name yet.” Ah, to be a 1960’s hippie again ….

I read the other day that the Airplane’s leader and co-founder, Paul Kantner, died in January 2016, at the age of seventy-four. It’s hard for me to believe, but then, when you do the math, Baxter’s is nearly fifty years old.

How time flies ….

 

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Living on an island is the best ….

island livingHi, friends and readers:

Way back in the 1980’s I bought a three-unit apartment building on a barrier island west of St. Petersburg. It was only intended to be an investment; I never planned on living there. But after I retired I decided I wanted to live at the beach, so I remodeled two of the apartments and combined them into one, and then I moved out here in 2004.

I have never regretted my decision to live here. The sunsets and sunrises are spectacular. My neighbors are wonderful, and on weekdays it is dead quiet around here, which enables me to write with the doors and windows open during much of the year.

There is something magical about being surrounded by water; I think it has calming effect on us. I have lived here twelve years and yet I never take a single day out here for granted. I’ll be an island guy for the rest of my life.

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