Austin Authors

Joe Robbins Learns Something about Climate Change Deniers

 

 

Several years ago, I worked for Webb Elliott at a company called Connection Software. Some crazy things happened at the company. Some people got hurt. I almost killed Webb at one point, literally, but I won’t go into that now. The story has been well documented.

I still don’t care for Webb, but I do respect his intellect and his business instincts. A week ago, I ran into him at a coffee shop, and we chatted about this and that. Somehow we got on the subject of global warming. He had some interesting ideas, and with his permission, I recorded that part of the conversation.

Joe: I want to chat briefly about climate-change deniers.

Webb: Okay. It’s your blog.

Joe: I find it fascinating that some politicians deny the science behind global warming. I’ve got a quote here from Scott Pruitt’s interview on CNBC:

“So no, I would not agree that it [human activity] is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

Webb: Hmm.

Joe: Ted Cruz said pretty much the same thing.

Webb: Surprise. Surprise.

Joe: I gather from your tone that despite what these guys are saying, you think they agree with the science community’s conclusion.

Webb: Of course they do. They’re not idiots. You’d have to be slow-witted to read these studies and not agree that human activity is the primary driver to climate change.

Joe: But . . . but elected officials are supposed to act in the interest of citizens.

Webb: Please. Spare me the naiveté. That’s always been your Achilles heel. But as long as we’re quoting politicians, let me pull up a statement Rick Perry made on his interview with CNBC.

“The fact is this shouldn’t be a debate about, ‘Is the climate changing, is man having an effect on it?’ Yeah, we are. The question should be just how much, and what are the policy changes that we need to make to effect that?”

Joe: Interesting. I don’t think I’ve heard that quote.

Webb: This is the key. This is what the so-called climate change deniers truly believe: Yeah, we are changing the global climate, but what should we do about it?

Joe: All right, let’s say I accept your premise. What do these politicians believe should be done?

Webb: Here’s where it gets tricky. I see three camps.

First, you have the survival-of-the-fittest types. The Koch brothers, and anyone they support, fit in this group. Here’s what they believe: Sure, global warming exists, and there may be terrible consequences for polar bears and coastal cities and so forth, but not in my lifetime. I’m the strongest, and I get to take what I want. That’s what it means to be a human. Might makes right. Don’t try to muck that up with a bunch of feel-good-about-the-planet regulations.

Joe: I can see some folks subscribing to that position.

Webb: Now comes the second group. They believe that humans will always find a way. We are the most adaptable species on the planet. Originating in the warm climes of Africa, we have figured out how to live everywhere from rain forests to the frozen north. We will sort out how to survive global warming when we have to. In the meantime, let the party continue.

Joe: Uh huh. Charming folks. Who is next?

Webb: The third group—and you can count me in with this bunch—believes that we’re doomed no matter what we do. Humans may be adaptable, but we are also the greediest species that ever evolved. Ninety-plus percent of the people on the planet want one thing: More.

Joe: More what?

Webb: More of everything. We all want a higher standard of living. So long as we crave better food, bigger houses, faster cars, and luxurious vacations, the planet is screwed. We can recycle plastic water bottles to the moon and back, but it won’t change a thing. The extreme weather will only get worse.

Joe: So according to this group, and you, there’s no hope.

Webb: Pretty much. Actually, the only chance I see is the one you referred to in your post on negative fertility rates. I hadn’t focused on that before. If women reach a collective decision to have fewer children, the human race might have a chance.

Joe: I’m depressed.

Webb: Sorry, man. As much as I’d like to believe it, capital markets won’t save us this time.

End of interview.

So that’s it, folks. The conversation left me feeling uneasy about the ethics of politicians. But I did learn something. I believe Rick Perry spoke the truth. It’s not whether global warming is happening. It is. The question is what should we do about it.

Best, Joe

Joe Robbins–an amateur detective with mixed emotions–is the hero of three novels: A Fateful Greed, A Just Rage, and A Siren’s Love.

Joe Robbins on Presidential Hair

JR Swoosh 2

I know what you’re thinking. You think I’m about to criticize our president, the highest elected official in the land. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m a huge fan of President Trump’s hairstyle. Any man who dons a do that delivers one hundred different descriptions deserves my deepest respect.

The subject made me wonder about the history of presidential hair. One article I read selected a top five: Carter, Hayes, Pierce, Reagan, and Kennedy. But I believe they missed the point: Control is over-rated when it comes to hair.

It’s been many years since we’ve had a president who really put it out there with his haircut. Okay, Reagan was good, but you have to go back over a century to find anyone close to Trump.

Martin Van Buren (POTUS #8) never let male pattern baldness stop him.

 

And what about James Polk? (POTUS #11) He brought the mullet to Washington.

 

Don’t overlook John Adams. (POTUS #2) Now he made a statement with his hair.

Yes, we have Donald Trump to thank for bringing conversation-worthy hair back to the White House. I mean, Barack Obama, nice guy and all, certainly articulate, but hair? Short. Short. Short. BORING!! Aside from changing color, Obama’s hair did little more than cover his head.

Of course, some would argue that covering one’s head is the primary purpose of a man’s hair, but why stop there when you can make a fashion statement.

President Trump’s hair does all kinds of things, particularly in the wind. If you’re not sure what I mean, try Googling “images of Trump’s hair.” Did you see the one with the dude surfing the comb-over? No words.

Now fun is fun, but some people have taken it too far, placed President Trump’s photo next to some crazy images, including a cat, a squirrel, a pheasant, an ear of corn, and the truly disturbing: Ryan Gosling. Now that’s what I call disrespect. I’ll admit; some of these likenesses are eerie, but you have to know when to draw the line.

And putting all politics aside, whether you think he’s better than Reagan or worse than Nixon, you have to respect the man’s hair.

Best, Joe

 

Joe Robbins–an amateur detective with mixed emotions–is the hero of three novels: A Fateful Greed, A Just Rage, and A Siren’s Love.

Disclaimer: Joe Robbins is a fictional character. Even so, his opinions leap from the keyboard unbidden, and thus, out of necessity, the author and the publisher disavow any responsibility for his words.

 

Joe Robbins on Classic versus Craft Cocktails

My favorite place to grab a drink is a local bar: Chinatown.

Yes, it’s also a restaurant, and they serve up a mean Kung Pao, but more often than not I stop by for a drink only. The regular bartender—Sonny—makes a honest-to-goodness worth-the-money martini. They have the old style big glasses, and when Sonny is done pouring from the shaker, I take that first sip carefully to avoid spilling any.

Anyway, last Thursday, I stop in around six, figuring I deserve a little reward since I’ve been working hard all day. (Actually, I’m between gigs, so working hard involves a two-hour exercise routine and reading a lot, but life is short.)

I stroll in with Bombay Sapphire and olives on my mind. But as I round the corner of the bar and step toward my usual seat, I notice something: No Sonny.

Instead, standing there with a curvy figure and curly hair is a new bartender, or maybe I should say, a mixologist.

She’s in a white sleeveless shirt with an open collar and has these unbelievable tattoos on her hands. They are Wonder Woman tattoos. Gold in color, sparkly even, they cover her fingers, hands, wrists, and the first six inches of her forearms. Having lived in Austin for years, I’m as unflappable by tattoos as the next person, but my eyes linger just long enough that when I glance up, I know she knows that I’ve noticed.

“What can I get you?” she says. Big smile.

“Um.”

Suddenly, the old style martini seems flat, like I’m not with the current generation of hip. The craft cocktail revolution has gone mainstream. If you’re drinking whiskey straight or a gin and tonic, it’s like you’re wearing khakis with pleats. Sonny never cares about that stuff. But Wonder Woman?

Sure enough, she turns the handwritten menu my way.

“We’ve just published the latest,” she says. “Chinatown originals.”

“Uh huh.”

“New spins on old favorites. The Singapore Slang drops the pineapple juice and triple sec and subs in mango with a touch of cinnamon bitters.

I nod.

“The Piña Piñata swaps tequila for rum and is punched up with chili liqueur.

“Sure.”

Now I rub my chin, like I’m thinking things over, but inside I’m flipping. All I wanted was a quick Sonny special, a little something to take the edge off of life, to make the streaming Netflix waiting for me at the condo a little more interesting. Maybe I should leave.

“And then there’s the Sloe Comfortable Shrew Down the Hall,” she says, “which keeps the sloe gin but drops the Southern Comfort in favor of Campari. That’s the shrew part.”

“So many great choices,” I say. “Gosh, it’s tough. Feels like I’m choosing a college major or something.”

“Over the top, right?” she says, shaking her head. “I went to classes to learn how to make all this stuff. Mixology school. Two thousand dollars and eighty hours of instruction.”

“I don’t doubt it.”

“The thing is, when I’m drinking on my own time, sometimes I like straight up booze unencumbered by all the sweet stuff.”

“For real?”

“Some nights you just can’t beat a MACALLAN neat.”

“Right.”

“So what can I get you?”

“Um, a martini? Bombay Sapphire?”

Her eyes scrunch. “Wait. Are you Joe?”

I chew on my lip.

“Sonny told me you might drop by . . . said you always order the same drink. Joe’s usual. I got it.”

She gets right to it: ice in the shaker, long pour of the gin, a trace of vermouth, and shake, shake, shake. She moves fast, lots of energy. With an eyebrow cocked, she smiles again. Her curly hair bounces on her shoulders. She has a beautiful neck.

How old is she? Late twenties? Thirty? I’m mid-thirties myself. Okay, so I’m pushing late thirties. If she was thirty-two, that would be okay, right? When is younger too young? Should I ask her?

“So,” I say, “are you going to be working here steady now?”

“Nah, just subbing. I’ve known Sonny forever. Too bad, though, I like it here. Nice people.” She slides the big martini glass toward me, and even though it’s filled to the brim, she doesn’t spill a drop.

Sometimes classic beats craft like a champ beats a chump.

Best, Joe

 

Disclaimer: Joe Robbins is a fictional character. Even so, his opinions leap from the keyboard unbidden, and thus, out of necessity, the author and the publisher disavow any responsibility for his words.

 

Joe Robbins, an amateur detective with mixed emotions, is the hero of three novels: A Fateful Greed, A Just Rage, and A Siren’s Love.

A Joe Robbins Clip — Dog Fighting

Ferocious barking came from the back of the cabin, followed by a man’s shout and then nothingdoberman-untouched. I got out of the Jeep and walked toward the door. A faded blue Mercedes sat parked in the sun. The covered porch was made of unfinished hardwood.

As I approached the porch a movement caught the corner of my left eye. I glanced that way and saw dark shapes moving across the ground, sleek, fast, and quiet. A low guttural noise came at me, interrupted by inhalations of air to feed the charge.

The Dobermans sprinted toward me, closing from a hundred feet away.

Pressure surged in my chest. I ran for the porch, my heart thumping as my toes dug into the dirt. My eyes tracked the lead dog, his teeth bared, his legs stretching fully with each stride. I stepped once more on a bare spot of dirt, and then leaped to the porch to grab an upright beam. I scrambled up the beam, sucking in huge gulps of air, my hands grabbing, slipping, and grabbing again.

I got a hand on the porch roof, the shingles tearing at my skin. The lead dog jumped, his jaws open, his body in full flight, and I shot a kick in his direction that glanced off the left side of his face. His jaws clacked shut on empty air, and he slammed into the beam. His mate ran behind him. She slowed her pace to study me. With eyes wide I pulled myself up, my other hand on the roof and legs wrapped around the beam. As my legs began to sag they fell into range. The bitch ran onto the porch and leaped from there, her jaws closing around my left shoe, pinching my heel. Her weight pulled my leg from the beam just as the male jumped again. I kicked blindly and clubbed him in the snout with my right foot. He whined and fell to the ground. The weight of the bitch stretched my arms as I kicked at her, finally landing a hard enough blow to loosen her jaw.

I wrapped my legs around the beam again, my chest heaving, while the dogs barked insanely. They took turns attacking, snapping jaws at the apex of their leaps. Each time they jumped my stomach tightened, my legs retracted, and I stared as their jaws snapped. My arms ached. Sweat stung my eyes. I had battled them to a temporary stalemate, but how long could I hold on? No more than a minute, maybe two.

A man laughed.

He strode toward me at a leisurely pace. He wore work boots, khaki pants and shirt, and a safari hat. A dog leash hung from his right hand. He shook his head as he continued to laugh, big chuckles that crashed against the cabin and thundered out to the hills.

“My, my. You’re up a tree.”

“Get your dogs off me.”

“Lady. Heel.”

The bitch immediately left the porch and stepped to her master’s side, silent. The male kept barking and jumped again, his jaws snapping as they closed on empty air inches from my leg.

“Brad. Stop that.”

Brad barked again, coiled for another attempt. His master deftly looped a choke chain around his neck and pulled him from the porch.

“You can come down now,” he said.

I eyed the female suspiciously.

“She won’t attack unless I give her a command.”

Unwrapping my legs, I dropped to the porch, exhausted and out of breath. My hands shook; I leaned to press them against my knees. I focused on breathing in and out, inhaling lungsful of air, until I could stand upright again.

“Those dogs are vicious,” I said.

“They’re protective. You’re trespassing.”

“You should post a sign on the gate.”

“Yeah, I meant to do that.”

The bitch sat obediently at his side, panting. The male growled low in his chest and struggled against the chain.

“Anyway,” he said. “Why are you here?”

For the first time I studied the man carefully. Tall. Blond hair. He looked a little different without the fedora and sunglasses, but I recognized him.

“Hey,” he said. “I know you. I’m not talking to you.”

Suddenly, standing there, still breathing heavy, it all seemed worth it: the hours of driving on back-country roads, the frustrating answers from county clerks, even the mad scramble to stay clear of the dogs.

Lady began to growl. I didn’t worry much about her so long as Brad stayed on the leash. One dog I could handle. Two were a problem.

“You’d better talk to me,” I said. “You help me, and I’ll put serious coin in your pocket. You don’t, and I promise the police will be out here tomorrow.”

Lady continued to growl. Cunningham considered my offer with a snarl on his face. If he made a move toward Brad’s leash, I planned to run two steps and kick Lady hard in the stomach.

He smiled an ugly smile. “Or I could just let these dogs loose and watch them tear you to pieces.”

“Do you really want to add murder to your résumé? Murder? Or would you rather make some money?”

He cocked his head to one side as if listening for something. For a moment I thought he was going to unleash Brad. Lady thought so, too, for she stood on all fours and growled louder. We remained like that for long seconds, with me ready to move on Lady, Lady readying herself for battle, and Cunningham trying to decide what to do.

“Lady. Heel.”

The dog obediently returned to a sitting position. I inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly.

“Is there someplace we can talk more peacefully?” I said.

 

This thriller scene was taken from chapter 20 of A Siren’s Love.

 

Joe Robbins, an amateur detective with mixed emotions, is the hero of three novels: A Fateful Greed, A Just Rage, and A Siren’s Love.

 

A Joe Robbins clip — Suicide at the Driskill Hotel

As we walked through the front door, the clip-clop of a horse-drawn carriage drew near. We stepped down to the brick sidewalk and turned left. In the middle of the sidewalk, just outside the entrance to the hotel, was an azure pump with a three-inch heel lying on its side. “Look at that,” Rose said. “Someone’s lost her shoe. It’s like Cinderella.” She turned to look at the carriage. “Where is she?”

Just then the shoe’s twin dropped on the sidewalk, almost hitting Rose. At first I thought someone on the balcony above us was throwing their clothes over the side, but when Rose turned to look, she drew a quick breath. The smile on her face disappeared, instantly replaced by fear.

I hurried to look, my pulse quickening.

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The inciting incident occurs on the balcony of Driskill Hotel

Above the sidewalk in front of the Driskill was the large balcony that extended out from the ballroom-level floor. Above that, a second balcony extended from a master suite on the fourth floor. Standing on the concrete rail of that higher balcony, in her azure dress and bare feet, was Amanda Sorenson.

I stared at her without blinking. I raised my hands, palms open, every muscle in my body tense.

She stared straight ahead and took the ballerina’s first position, her arms circled in front. She did a plié and then lifted her right leg straight up in a stretch; her raised hand touched the heel of her foot. She had replaced the strand of pearls around her neck with a thick, dark choker.

My heart pounded at my ears.

“Amanda!” I shouted, stepping closer. “Get back from there. It’s dangerous.”

She must be drunk, but no . . . she didn’t appear drunk; her movements were sure, but at the same time dreamlike.

The carriage behind us stopped, and concerned voices talked in whispers. Passersby pointed. For the first time Amanda noticed that others were nearby. She looked down at Rose and me and smiled.

“Step back!” I shouted again. My throat was dry, my voice hoarse. “Amanda! Step back.”

But she didn’t. She smiled at me again, gave the slightest wave, and jumped. As she began to fall her dress floated around her thighs.

I lunged forward with arms outstretched, as if to catch a child.

A sickening snap sounded, like a flag blowing in a stiff breeze, only lower and dull. The woman in the carriage screamed. Amanda Sorenson hung between the two balconies; what I thought was a choker around her neck was actually a rope. An acid feeling rushed through me. The pounding in my ears moved to my brain and pressed against my skull. The sound I had heard was the rope snapping taut.

She made a grim spectacle in the light from a nearby lamp. Her feet quivered a few seconds and were still. Those pretty white arms hung to the side. Her blond hair covered her face. Inanely, I wondered if her toenails were painted the same azure color as her dress and shoes and fingernails.

 

This excerpt is from Chapter Two of A Fateful Greed.

 

Joe Robbins, an amateur detective with mixed emotions, is the hero of three novels: A Fateful Greed, A Just Rage, and A Siren’s Love.

Evolution of a book cover: Joe Robbins in a Fateful Greed

When I started writing Hill Country Greed, I had no idea of the marketing imperative of securing a great cover. I didn’t know anything. I was too busy learning how to write an entertaining story to worry about marketing. But after I had invested five hundred hours in the story and was ready to share it with friends and family, I wanted a visual image to accompany the manuscript.

The first book cover, inspired by the prologue

The first book cover, inspired by the prologue

The working title was We Happy Few, a snippet of Shakespeare that appears several times in the novel.

My vision for the first cover was inspired by the nightmare described in the prologue. I sketched that vision with pencil on pad and asked my daughter Alex to turn it into a full-color image. Alex produced this cover in about an hour, and it was distributed to eight beta readers.

My beta readers encouraged me to keep writing, and I invested more hours in polishing the manuscript. I also began to research marketing a self-published book and learned of the importance of a compelling book cover.

A dramatic scene at the Driskill Hotel

A dramatic scene at the Driskill Hotel

I had heard from several readers that the dramatic Driskill Hotel scene was the hook that compelled them to read the entire book. Hoping to capitalize on that sentiment, I hired a professional cover designer and asked him to create an image of that scene.

By that time, my working title had changed to Beware the Brass Ring.

I found too ghoulish for my story. My beta readers felt the same way.

Over the course of writing the book I took several day trips around Austin to do scene research.

Climatic scene occurs at bluff overlooking the Pennybacker Bridge

Climatic scene occurs at bluff overlooking the Pennybacker Bridge

On one of those trips I took several photos from the Overlook above the Pennybacker Bridge. That location is important to the story, and I thought the view might make a good cover. For the second time I asked Alex to help. The title had changed again and was now: Hill Country Greed: An Austin, Texas Mystery.

I really like this cover.  Alex did a fantastic job; she created the clouds and changed the hue just enough to give the cover a suspenseful look.

Meanwhile, I continued to research book covers and learned about the importance of visibility of the title on the Thumbnail-sized photos that are shown on retail websites. The title was too small on the third cover, and I couldn’t envision how to make it bigger with the bridge as the central focus.

Final cover photo is from the Overlook

Final cover photo is from the Overlook

So I hired a second professional designer–Jason Alexander of Expert Subjects, LLC. To begin, I gave Jason several photos I had taken from the Overlook. The next day he gave me three different cover concepts to consider, including what would become the final cover. At first, I found the different font sizes of the words in the title and the bubble-effect of the letters strange, but they grew on me day by day. The first edition of Hill Country Greed was published with this cover.

 

 

 

One year later, a marketing expert told me this cover was not suitable for a mystery. He thought it looked more like a non-fiction book, so I hired a new designer and republished the book in late 2016 with a new cover.HC Greed ebook final v4 1.8MB

 

Finally, in 2017, I rewrote the entire Joe Robbins series, with new titles and new covers. Here is the cover for A Fateful Greed.AFatefulGreed_eBcov_FINAL

 

 

A Fateful Greed is available on Amazon.