My Work

Saturday, April 16, 2016

To Garden Or Not To Garden ...

My beautiful child-bride Patty and I live in what some call the inter-mountain west and others call the great basin, right along the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada, about twenty miles north of Reno. Between an altitude of somewhere close to five thousand feet above sea level and the weather pattern disruption created by those lofty mountain peaks, gardening is a crap shoot every year.

There is no normal, but there is an average when we speak of end of frost danger, and that’s where the crap shoot comes in. If one wishes to make a fairly certain bet one could say there will be a cold storm with freezing temperatures and probable snow over Memorial Day weekend. One could get away with saying the three weeks before that would be sunny and warm.

Just one hundred miles to our west, right now, as you read this, in the great central valley of California, gardens have been planted, the plants are growing and blossoming, maybe even showing some fruit. I’ll not plant, even the strongest of my crops until at least May 20, and those veggies most susceptible to frost, on or about June 6. And still be fearful.

The ground is tilled, manure plowed under, seeds purchased, and I don’t even dare start them indoors since we’re talking more than a month before I could put them in the ground. A delightful friend put up one of those hoop house green houses and watched it head for Utah at more than sixty mph last year. It was last year that a dust devil lifted the horses’ weather stalls right out of the ground and set them back down in splinters.

No, a green house in western Nevada is not the answer, unless it’s made of brick and iron, which of course defeats the purpose. Some might ask, ‘why garden?’ Because of such things as fresh corn, tomatoes, green beans, squash, cucumbers, peas, melons, and chili peppers. We eat them fresh all late summer and early fall, can the rest, therefore, eat fresh from the garden food all winter, too.

It’s grand to light the BBQ on a summer’s eve, with two beautiful USDA Prime rib-eye steaks ready for the hot coals, and stroll out to the corn patch, rip a pair of ears from a stalk, and roast them, all the while toasting the gods of summer with either cold beer or fine wine.

Or, at the other end of the spectrum, enjoying the aroma of a leg of lamb in the oven, watching the blizzard bring next summer’s irrigation water to us, feeling the warmth of a roaring blaze in the fireplace, and waiting for a bowl full of green beans, swimming in butter, garlic, and crispy bacon, that you grew, picked, and canned.

So, this period, between the middle of April and the middle of May is true hell. Three days of warm weather and you are champing at the bit, and then it snows. And then, another two or three days of warmth, but no, don’t do it. The big box stores sell thousands of tomato plants to the newcomers the second week of April. Another several thousand a couple of weeks later, and then, damn me, another several thousand a couple of weeks after that. It takes a couple or three seasons before the newcomers catch on.

There’s a mountain peak called Peavine, just northwest of Reno, that stands as the gardeners’ beacon, and those that have lived in the area for many years swear by it. “Don’t plant your tomatoes until the snow is gone from Peavine.”

So, what does a frustrated old farmer do in these long weeks before one can plant? There’s a fridge full of cold beer. A rack full of fine wine. And a library full of good books. I believe I’m in heaven.

Until next time, read good books and stay regular

Johnny Gunn
Member, Western Fictioneers
Member, International Thriller Writers
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You can find my novels, short stories and anthologies at
Solstice Publishing


Barnes and Noble

Monday, April 4, 2016

Learn Something New Everyday

I’ve always believed in the thought that one can and should learn something new everyday and not be afraid of the process. Many people don’t learn because they shy away from the thought or are egocentric to the point of believing there really isn’t anything new that they would be interested in learning.

I tried at one time to be a salesman for one of the radio stations I worked for, and while the change in career path failed miserably, I learned a little something from one encounter I had with a potential advertiser. He said to me, “I don’t need to advertise, everyone knows me and my business.”

I mentioned that to my sales manager and asked what my reply should have been. He said it happens often, and one trick he uses is to ask for the telephone book, pick a page at random and a number at random, make a call on the speaker phone and when the party answers, simply say, “We’re doing a quick one word survey. Do you know Don’s Vacuum Service Company?”

Unless it is a big successful business, most often the answer will be “no.” and the owner will hear that. Think about that the next time you’re putting together a little face book comment or tweet for your business.

This brings up something I learned recently about the publishing business. I haven’t been completely sold on the e-book concept, being a codger, a lover of hard-bound books, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher. You gotta hold it in your hot little hands, gotta smell the ink, feel the paper’s texture.

At the same time, I love to write short stories, and the real market for them is not in print magazines because few even publish short stories anymore. With fifty thousand short story writers and less than ten national publications paying for short stories, the market is limited. This is where the e-books really shine. A short story is a quick read, so taking one or two to camp over the weekend, or to the beach for the day, or on that quick flight to see your sister works perfectly.

Until my publisher, Solstice Publishing brought it up, it would never have occurred to me to think about publishing something in book form under eight thousand words. Novels generally run from about fifty thousand and up, up, up words, novellas are generally between twenty thousand and fifty thousand.

At the beach, at the weekend camp, on a day cruise across the bay, can be hard on a book, and I believe that until recently the majority of books taken out like that would be printed novels. Now, without much trouble at all, one can take one or more short stories in E format for quick reads.

Getting back to that advertising sales job, the sales manager was kind in every way when he suggested that I was a far better announcer and copy writer than I would ever be as a salesman, but I keep his thought in mind about understanding that with more than seven billion people on earth, presently, not counting our alien visitors, of course, there are just an awful lot of people that have not heard of my books. I’ve got to get busy.

Until next time, read good books and stay regular

Johnny Gunn
Member, Western Fictioneers
Member, International Thriller Writers
Will you join me on facebook from time to time?
Or Tweet with me, darlin’?