OUT OF STONE: the New Novel

Having spread my soul wide open to the cutting edge of the editor, endured the ruthless attack on the manuscript, I have survived. A little shredded perhaps, humbled to be certain, yet more or less intact. My new editor, Martin Coffee, did an excellent job cleaning up some horrendous grammar (you want a real horror story you should see my uncorrected proofs – now that’s scary), kept the characters where they belong, righted my wrongs, and got most of the jokes. You can always tell whether someone is really reading your story or just correcting. Not put off by the vulgarity and some of the over the top graphic descriptions, Martin Coffee read it. He also liked the story, a lot!  So much so it has inspired him to read my previous works. ‘Right on, Martin!’

  Receiving your edited manuscript back comes with a frightening thrill. Incorporating the changes and editorial suggestions brings the work into its full dimension, cleans it up, and in general makes the novel ready for you to read. Editing is a milestone in the publishing process. It is the end of one phase and the beginning of another.

With this publication we are pursuing some of the tricks used by the big publishers. Advance copies of the novel have been sent to top horror reviewers in the country, Colleen Wanglund and Jeff Padget. These folk know good horror when they see it and they won’t let some palsy imitation sneak through. For me they are an acid test that could wind up in my face, because they tell it like it is. I hold confident. Their reviews will be part of our promotional package and be published in the book with their permission.

The story line holds, the action intense, character development full, and enough blood and mayhem to make one of my readers, R, miss some sleep. She can no longer read the story before bed. I like. R is vastly intelligent and highly critical and will have no qualms about giving me shock treatment if I have pulled any punches. R will also have her thoughts about the story published along with Colleen Wanglund and Jeff Padget.

Very soon the manuscript will be sent to Danil Mugaliev for final formatting into book form, for both hard copy and e-editions. We have worked with him on anoxic zone, Halocline, and Black Tide and look forward to his expertise and suggestions. It was his idea to use the syringes for chapter separation in anoxic zone. A very clever man.

Speaking of, we will also be using Mohamed Sadath for our cover design as well this time. His creativity on all three covers of the previous books has been outstanding. He’ll have his work cut out for him this time.

Front cover design, title, back cover, bio, publish, easy, right? Yeah, right. It’s a challenge and a half to get a professional looking product out there. As a self-publisher, you do all of these things yourself. Of course you have to farm out some of the work. You cannot edit yourself. That’s a given. Formatting and cover anyone can do, but if you want it great, get a pro. Your limitations are few, budget and imagination. Hell, I just wrote a book so the imagination is there. The budget is what it is. We do the best we can with what we have.

The working title of the new novel was Sechra, Tears of Stone. It works. It’s a great title. Unfortunately, Tears of Stone, has been used to death, literally, figuratively and any other way you can imagine. So it gets round filed. After due consideration and googling every stoned combination of words, the publication title will be ‘OUT OF STONE‘. The significance of the title will come clear when you are reading .

Black Water Books hopes to have hard copies and e-editions available in early 2013.

Not using any song lyrics this time should hasten the process a bit, haha. Sorry, it’s an inside joke but I’m sure some old British rocker might consider my comments (on using a couple of his song lines) slanderous.

We are very excited about getting, OUT OF STONE, on the way to being a published work.

If you haven’t read my previous works, get ready!

Postcards From Cambodia

The title of this blog is the name of a song by Bruce Cockburn. If you’ve never heard it before, give it a listen. The song speaks aptly of the many sights and sounds, and life, Mara and I experienced while being in Cambodia this last November.

 The flight was long, seventeen hours, but the layover in Narita, at the United Club, was a worthwhile break from the grind and prepared you for the next leg to Bangkok. From there it was but a quick hop to Siem Reap, Cambodia, Gateway to Angkor Wat. Low season was just about over. In about a month, the hordes of tourists would descend on this little town, bursting it at the seams. Mara hooked us up at a little B&B, ‘La Fromager’, that was off the main drag and quiet. A perfect little spot to view the frenetic pace of traffic and commerce. Really, just crossing the street there is like playing Russian roulette. There are no real rules of the road, but somehow the seeming chaotic, accident about to happen traffic patterns, flow swiftly without interruption. It’s a totally different scene than here in the states. You gotta laugh as tourists rent scooters and attempt to navigate the streets of Anytown, Cambodia. Yeah, we did it, too. There’s nothing like taking your life in your own hands. I have to admit that driving here would take a few years to get the hang of, if you survived that long.

 To go distances longer than you’d care to walk, forget the scooter and take a tuk-tuk. It’s cheap transportation, they’ll wait for you, and the best part is they drive!

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

 With Angkor Wat a fair distance from Siem Reap town, Mara and I, taking the advice of our driver, would arrive before dawn. Because Angkor Wat is so well restored one can begin exploring before the sun is fully up.  Nearly every stone surface has been carved, with rarely a blank wall. Hindu imagery collides with Buddhist creating a mind–boggling menagerie from massive stone heads twenty feet high, to a tiny Buddha image carved into an otherwise unnoticeable niche. Then there is everything in between.

 We used up every bit of our four-day pass visiting half a dozen other temples surrounding Angkor. These other Wats are not as restored and have a mystery all their own. Giant trunks of fig trees have grown through the walls, ceilings, and, well, pretty much everything.

 These places are huge. The moats surrounding them enclosed anywhere from fifty to one hundred acres. The Khmer population at around 900A.D. had to have been in the millions to build and maintain these monstrous undertakings. Of course, the fertile plains surrounding Angkor stretch as far as the eyes can see. And everywhere is rice, the lifeblood of a nation that is still sown and reaped by hand.

 History Cambodia’s got. From the ancient and much revered distant past all the way to the more recent bloody swath Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge tore through Cambodia in the late 70’s, not so very long ago. The Cambodians do not hide that particularly dark time as remnants of the killing fields and caves have been maintained and preserved. Not so much as a solemn remembrance of the past, but as a tourist attraction.  For the young tuk–tuk drivers, who will take you to hell and back again, the sights are just another stop on the tourist trek, much like the bat cave, the bamboo train, and the winery.  It’s strange and I wonder if they really understand what went down during the days of the Khmer Rouge. Does anyone?

The older fold remember. You can see it in their eyes, behind the smile. Fear. But life goes on. Monsoons come and go, flooding the rice fields and continuing the cycle.

Bamboo Train , Battambang, Cambodia

Bamboo Train, Battambang, Cambodia

 After about a week in Siem Reap we headed, by bus, to Battambang. It’s an old town with enough of its own history to generate a thriving bit of tourism. There are Angkor era monuments and enough Wats to do some serious temple hounding. Battambang is a bit of a hub for western Cambodia so there is a lot going on and worthy of a few days exploring and eating our way across town. With tourism not being the main point of Battambang’s existence, you get a good cross section of Cambodian life.  It may not all be beautiful, but it is real and fascinating. The working class is armed with their smile and are probably lucky just to have a job. Those not working are busy starving. Landmine victims hustle the dining tables at the edge of the street where they vie for space with homeless kids and hungry eyes.

 Cambodia is not for the squeamish. There is just too much reality going on here. Just how long can you hang cow parts in an open–air market at 90 plus degrees? Plus there are more parts to a cow, or any other meat for food than you can imagine. Restaurants advertise that they don’t serve dog, rat, cat, or birds. Nice of them to let you know, but if you are a meat eater, there’s a good chance you’ve already had some.

Dried Fish at Market

Dried Fish at Market

 After four or five days of a comfortable bed and hot showers at the Lux, it was time to catch a bus for the half­­–day ride to Phnom Penh. The main road to the capitol is a little off the tourist route. Most of the towns and villages economy revolved around agriculture, not tourism. The most obvious sign of this was that the stores only sold things you needed. No shiny new plastic or impractical clothing or trinkets. Fresh fish, dried fish, fermented fish, unknown fish, trays of deep-fried bugs, veggies, flip–flops, rubber boots, and tools. What more does one need? It was only as you closed in on Phnom Penh that you began to see stuff that you didn’t need, for sale; ridiculous clothes, a lot of cell phones, plastic things, cheap booze and hookers. And once in the city, that was all you could get.

 Phnom Penh rises from the rice paddies and surrounding country like a darkened parody of western life. Modern skyscrapers jut obscenely from the crumbling early twentieth century facades. The action is along the Mekong river waterfront. The quay teams with Cambodians and tourists wandering the well–lit concrete in search of something to do. One thing the evenings along the quay had to offer was a Cambodian version of public jazzercise set to hip–hop. A couple hundred locals with matching shirts squared off a section of concrete and did their thing. Smiling faces in various degrees of physical conditioning sweated it out. Why and how are good questions! Trying to put a happy face on a ghetto of crime? Then came the fireworks. The first salvo had about half the street ducking before they realized the explosions were for entertainment. A visible police presence keeps the black market discreet. The market for flesh not so much. Hookers abound with children in tow to satisfy one of the darkest tourist markets I have ever seen. Ex–pat Russians have taken a liking for Phnom Penh and seem to own the place. There is even a Russian market that is packed at night. Shoulder to shoulder insane shopping and eating. I think Mara and I spent more time trying not to lose each other than anything else.

 Daytime in Phnom Penh is hot and we would find ourselves working the shaded side of the streets. With a couple weeks of traveling under our belt, Mara thought a massage was in order. With massage parlors lining the waterfront we figured this to be a no brainer. After a few inquiries, we found that the place we were looking for was on the other side of town. You see, the parlors on the waterfront come with a ‘happy finish’. We found a place by the central post office where the massages were done by the blind. I must admit to being quite pleased at the end of the massage, if not happy too!

 The capitol city offers a plethora of attractions to occupy your time. Those of us who love old temples will not be disappointed. Many of the Wats have been restored or have restorations underway. The Royal Palace and grounds are being fixed at this time. The temples themselves are fantastic with a detail of construction that marvels the eye. Gold and the vibrant colors of the spectrum radiate from the repaired structures. The old ones like the Angkor era temples, 900 A.D. to around 1100A.D., are now bare rock when originally the were all painted and gem encrusted.

 Step ahead ten centuries and you have modern Cambodia. If the recent history is more your thing, any number of tours go to the many killing fields and bombed out rice paddies where the craters are still visible. You have the opportunity to view as many skulls recovered from the killing fields as one could possibly want.

Or, if you wish to wade in a little irony, you can take a half day ride to view some killing fields and then go feel what its like to create one. By that, I mean going to the shooting range and fire some extreme weaponry. Handguns, Ak-47’s, RPG’s, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, fifty caliber machines guns, and some ancient iron.

Where else could you get the chance to shoot this stuff! Cambodia! Something for everyone! Even our hotel room had a painting we had to cover with a sarong…

Modern Art - Phnom Penh

Modern Art in our Room – Phnom Penh.

 Is the country safe to visit? Absolutely! Travelling families were everywhere, from couples with toddlers to more mature family groups. Travelling in Cambodia is similar to other locations in Southeast Asia. As long as you don’t go out of your way to do anything stupid, you will be all right. A.K.A., if there are riots, stay near your hotel. Don’t poke the tiger. Health care, however, can be an issue. The rule of thumb is, anything beyond a minor cut should send you running to Bangkok for decent health services. Cambodia’s is sketchy and expensive. Best to get to Thailand, quick!

 Local food, café food, and street cart food was safe to eat and delicious. After a couple days eating lunch at one place, they will start to offer you more exciting local food to try. Take the chance and you will be delightfully surprised with your taste buds screaming for more.

 History, culture, food, agriculture, and natural beauty, yes I have to say again Cambodia has it all. In our two and a half weeks there, we had just scratched the surface of this marvelous place. There is little doubt that we will go there again and immerse ourselves ever deeper into Cambodia’s mystery and splendour.

 After a few days in the city, it was time to head out into the country again. This meant flying out of Phnom Penh to Krabi, Thailand. With more than a little reluctance, we headed by tuk–tuk to the airport, not knowing if life would bring us back again. We certainly hope so. Ahead, however, lay Thailand. It has been twenty years since being there. Change comes to everywhere and it should be interesting to see what the future has done with Krabi by the sea.

 Next: Thailand, culture shocked!


With four books and five hard years of writing and publishing them, a break was called for. My wife, Mara, and I have been traveling around the world since we first met. Every few years Mara gets that traveling jones for which there is only one fix. We juggled work and finances. Got a friend to sit the cat and chickens. Basically got our bases covered as best we could and mainlined it to Southeast Asia.
We had five weeks. Back in the day it would have been more like five months. Times change and so do responsibilities; still we had five weeks in which to get it on.

Honolulu to Bangkok in seventeen hours – that’s good time by any ones’ standards. We would be doing Bangkok towards the end of the journey so we booked a hotel in the old district, near Wat Pho – the reclining Buddha, as an extended layover to get our feet on the ground before flying to Siem Reap, Cambodia, and Angkor Wat.
As a ‘wonder of the world’ Angkor Wat certainly lives up to its reputation. At around a thousand years old, the place is awe-inspiring. We heeded the advice of our driver and would arrive before dawn. At that time of day Angkor is virtually empty of people with just a few others, like us, nursing the last of our coffee before it is light enough to walk. By sunrise we would be deep within the ruins. Not a sound. The hefty scent of Nag Champa incense fills the air. There sits a monk shrouded in orange robe and smoke. Very old, wrinkled, eyes blank, hands curled, as he mumbles a prayer. For a few riels, he will tie a red braid around your wrist and bless you. Such a deal and of course we did. A temporary badge of honor.

Then again, when you are visiting one of the ‘killing caves’ and a monk, old enough to remember the Khmer Rouge, ties one on, it’s a totally different experience. You are surrounded by the skulls and bones of those thrown the fifty meters down to their death into the cave. In this particular instance, the Khmer Rouge chose not to waste bullets. There were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds… And this was in 1977, not some ancient history.
Cambodia is a country on the edge. They are still recovering from the days of Pol Pot’s regime and despite overwhelming poverty; there is a surging bit of capitalism bolstered by the tourist industry. There is something for everyone in Cambodia and the salespeople aggressively vie for your American dollar. Meditate with a monk one day and go shoot a rocket launcher the next. That’s Cambodia for you.
After due consideration, I passed on the rocket launcher. The irony was just too much. Landmines and UXO’s still kill and maim after all these years. They lie in rice paddies or buried under the jungles growth, waiting, waiting for that errant footfall to remind the little machines what they were built for. Who was I to mock a bitter past and fearful reminders of the present as witnessed by small limbless music bands who play cheerful tunes for a buck? Better to visit the countryside, and enjoy a people whose smile wipes away any grim reminders its history.

That Cambodian smile. The real thing is something worth trying. When it finds you, magic happens. It is everywhere if you but open your eyes to see it. Wandering the streets of Battambang, and even Phnom Penh – with its grim Russians, tired hookers and burnt junkies – the smile is everywhere. Along with it, there’s the chance to return the smile and share it.

Serpent's Head

Serpent’s Head

You do a lot of wandering when you travel. I mean what else is there to do. Walking a town you do not know, gives you a chance to glimpse the real life at a pace slow enough to get up close and personal. We would walk everywhere. You could always catch a tuk–tuk back to your hotel if the meanderings took us too far. Our accommodations were always low end to mid range in price, 15$ to 25$ a night. Clean with a firm bed was all we asked and generally got more than we asked for. Traveling with an open mind and positive attitude opens up all kinds of doors for you. The karma is instant and generally way beyond satisfactory. You get out of it what you put into it. It’s that simple. Still you needed to be aware at all times. All the smiles and goodwill you can muster will not take care of being dumb.

Every once in while a scooter would pull over and offer you a variety of black market stuff. While the offers seemed inviting, it required you jump on the back of the scoot and go somewhere, with someone you don’t know, to acquire something you don’t really need. That somewhere is usually out in the country or in a part of town you wouldn’t be caught dead in. Either way you end up out of your environment, out of your comfort zone, and at the whim of some very unscrupulous characters. There is the chance you won’t ever come back. It happens. It’s best to just pass on such opportunities.

Which Wat is what?

Which Wat is what?

If however your tastes lean more towards a cross-cultural blend of Hinduism and Buddhism, then Cambodia is just the place for you. For more than a thousand years the dominance of one over the other has waxed and waned. You will find temples – Wats – that have morphed from Hindu to Buddhist and back again with images of the Buddha right alongside those of Shiva. Literally everywhere you look, one or the other, or both, will be in your line of sight.

The first time Mara and I went to Southeast Asia, Cambodia was off-limits with pockets of the Khmer Rouge still being eradicated from the country. Thirty years later we made it and are already planning on going back as soon as time allows. A few weeks is nowhere near enough time to really get into a country. Yet enough to allow the exotic flavors, smells, sights, and sounds of Southeast Asia to get deep under your skin. Once it is in your blood, you’re hooked.

Until that traveling jones calls once again, it is back to the books and blogs. My fifth book is well under way and I am deciphering my travel journal to blog the journey with pictures. Luckily I am one of those writers who gets to work full-time, too, so I have all the time the world to do this sort of thing.

Aloha j g rees
NEXT: Postcards from Cambodia

Horror for Horror’s sake: Not

Having just watched the original Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein I realized great horror is timeless. More importantly the tales of the undead shed light upon the human condition, our humanity or lack of it. Ironically enough, the Frankenstein monster turns out to be more human than its creator or any of us for that matter.

Great horror does more than just frighten and entertain the reader. It should also enlighten. I have written four extremely dark and gruesome novels, all with truckloads of gore and imagery that is hard to shake. But is that the story? No, far from it. All of my writing has a firm foundation in friendship, honor and the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do for you. Without it the story falls apart. My protagonists are not pillars of society, but rather part of the evil that writhes through the pages. They eat, burp, shit, doubt themselves and basically have all the frailties of everyman. The antagonist, my monster, is more the darker side of humanity than some slime dripping creature with insane teeth. Greed, ignorance, envy, power and hatred are far more haunting than what lurks beneath your bed.

The horror hits home when the reader sees himself reflected in evil. We all have a little of it in us and once you get a glimpse, a certain morbid curiosity compels you to keep reading. Like a zit in the morning mirror, you have to look close, taking in the disgusting details before the final squeeze. Splat! Yes, we are that freaky as people.

My characters are human thrust in to a super human situation. It is who we are, not what, that makes the leap of believability of my novels that much easier. Of course it doesn’t hurt that first few pages set a cruel hook and you won’t be released until the final pages are finished. The pace is wicked and action non-stop and gore, over the top. But it is not horror for horror’s sake. The violence and blood-drenched scenes serve a purpose. But remove them and you’ve torn the heart out of the work. It is the nature of the beast.

The readers of horror novels are probably the best judge of what works and what doesn’t. Thus far the ‘anoxic zone’ series and my new breakaway novel, ‘Out of Stone,’ have received the nod of approval from readers and reviewers around the world. I will admit to being criticized a few times for excessive violence and the use of disturbing imagery. I stand guilty on all accounts. Only the readers can sentence me for what I have done. At this point I can live with the verdict. They would like some more.

Tired of pablum horror? Sink your teeth in to something that might bite back!
Check out the links below.



Aloha john g

OUT OF STONE: Reviews and feedback


With my latest novel Out of Stone in print for the last few months, fans and professional reviewers are having their say about it. Though not one to pat myself on the back, I have to say I’m pretty stoked about what is being said.

Nick Buchan, from Australia, wrote an excellent review – check it out at: 


Out of Stone was the first independently published book Nick took the time to critique. I’m happy to say he wasn’t disappointed.



  Yes, Out of Stone is perhaps my darkest work yet. My father-in-law, Jack, had a rough time with it. Okay – he’s 80 plus years old and not exactly my demographic, but disturbing prose and imagery knows no age limit.

  Having built a strong group of readers with my first three novels, it was with some trepidation in getting the fourth out there. My writing pushes the envelope and you never know if you’ve gone too far.

  Out of Stone is also my second book that has a woman as the main protagonist. Halocline was the first. In fact, a character that we meet in Halocline is the lead in Out of Stone. Funny how things work out. Though related to the ‘anoxic zone’ series, Out of Stone is a stand alone novel. It is not necessary to read the previous novels to appreciate this one. But it does help and you will get a few more of the jokes and inside dish.

  When writing Out of Stone, it seemed, at the time, to be a lighter work. Less violence, drug use, coffee, and cigarettes does not mean less of a story. Oh, there is more than enough of the above to satisfy anyone, but I really tap into the darkness on this one and that’s when it gets freaky. In an attempt to lessen the rampant gore, I found pathways into the fiendish nature that lies within us all. When you see a little of yourself in the evil I have created, that means I have done my job. Having your mind blown is more frightening than having your head blown off.

  With the first edition of Out Of Stone available in paperback and all of the e-pubs, we at Black Water Books can take a breath, but only one because the work of writing and publishing is never-ending. With reviews coming in, we will be doing a second edition in the next few months, incorporating some comments into the cover and, having found a few errors in the first edition, re-editing the novel. It happens. No one is perfect and my readers deserve the best I can deliver.

  As this is being written, new reviews have popped up on Amazon.


Each touched on different aspects of the novel; all of them positive and a few so ‘spot on’ it is scary. These should help inspire you to pick up a copy and the story itself won’t let you put the book down. It is that good!

  Again thanks to everyone who helped to make Out of Stone a nightmarish reality.

  The only way to really understand what I’m saying is to read the book.

  Check it out at www.blackwaterbooks.com/Out_Of_Stone.html

Aloha, john g




Cooking with Blood…

ImageWell, all right. We at Black Water Books are pretty stoked after receiving several reviews on my new novel, Out Of Stone. It seems I’ve done it again with phrases like, ’where does he get this stuff?’ and ‘Couldn’t put the book down…’. Plus my favorite, ‘You’re a sick f*ck john g.’ If you have read any of my previous works I’m sure you would agree.

Out Of Stone begins with a brief introduction of our main character, Sechra. A skeleton version of her backstory reacquaints with her twenty years later.

With the stage set and your mind already a bit twisted by her childhood experiences the tale plunges into the macabre tapestry of her destiny. Legends of ancient Romania and allegoricals far more recent are woven into the fabric. The threads of the lives of others, the why and how’s are sewn into the background of our understanding.

Of course, as happens in most of my work there is a shadowed history lesson too. The dark ages of Eastern Europe are about as bleak a time for mankind as it gets. Yes we get to go there and live for a while. This trip is strange yet familiar. Man’s in humanity to his fellow man are timeless. Be thankful it’s only a book.

As books go this one rips and you’ll be turning the pages as fast as you can eat it up. It has been brought to my attention that there are a few minor editing issues. Reading a raw manuscript it’s not. Out Of Stone is neither under done nor over cooked. I consider Out Of Stone seared. Burnt on the outside and bloody on the inside. Personally I’d bring a knife and fork. Enjoy the feast!!!

Available online at www.blackwaterbooks.com/Out_Of_Stone.html
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Out-Stone-john-g-rees/dp/0983192073
and other fine places!

‘Out Of Stone’ Rocks!

Out Of Stone by john g rees
Out Of Stone by john g rees

My new book ‘Out of Stone’ continues the saga of the epic ‘anoxic zone’ series. Twenty years have gone by since we last met Karuna and were introduced to the child Sechra. Jake and Johnny have left the scene along with their arch nemesis, Vlad Tepes III. To say they took evil with them would be a lie. You cannot battle against darkness and expect to win.

History will not repeat itself within these pages. You, my dear reader, deserve far better than that. Tepes is just a pawn in evil’s chess game. The game is young, with more disturbing, more powerful pieces yet to move. ‘Out Of Stone’ is one of those moves.

Two supporting characters in ‘Halocline’ have been forced into play. Whether by chance or fate, it is hard to say, but for Sechra and Karuna the game turns exceptionally ugly.

Sechra’s innocence was torn from her at an early age. In a moment of hatred, desperation, and fear she opened her little soul story to the breath of darkness. Unknown to Sechra and those she loved this darkness, this evil directed her, guiding her to become a master sculptor. After a series of frightening and unsettling experiences, Sechra must take a treacherous journey by motorcycle deep into the mountains of the Transylvanian Alps. A dark fate awaits her.

Karuna, in her love for the child she raised, must reach passed the darkness within her own soul if she wishes to save Sechra from a fate worse than death. Sometimes love is not enough.

‘Out of Stone’ is a challenging, disturbing search to discover what will happen when Sechra finishes her final sculpture!


THE WHEEL TURNS: Due Diligence

We ride them and ride them and ride them. Once in a while, when you get around to it, the oil gets changed, or a new set of tires or chain – the stuff that has to be done to keep you on the road. But what about all the rest, you know, the stuff we don’t think about or see. Like a car we jump and go. Unlike a car, however, bikes are a lot more exposed to inclement weather conditions.

Get hit in a downpour that lasts and lasts and all the oils and greases will have been washed away. Ever notice how after riding in the rain your chain is clean? Well the same thing happens to other lubed areas.

Then there are the fluids and juices you don’t see and rarely, if ever, think about. Motor oil is a no-brainer. But what about that brake fluid? Does it look like dark tea through that little window or is it clear. Radiator fluid always looks good, green, blue or purple, yet it does become less effective after a few years. When was the last time you lubed your throttle or clutch cables? No doubt for the above mentioned quite a while probably.

This list goes on. Every owner’s manual has a table to let you know the intervals of fluid changes and areas to be lubed. Example: in my last blog I mentioned the about shortening my kickstand. We wont go into that again, but while I had it off it seemed the perfect opportunity to clean and re-grease the pivot points, spring ends, and retainer bolt. Well one thing led to another. Lubed all the cables, shift linkage, and pretty much everything that moves.

The brake fluid hadn’t been changed in 6 years. The book recommends every two years. That spongy feeling sneaks up on you as the brake fluid breaks down, absorbing moisture and creating tiny air bubbles. Bleed your brakes, or have it done and you will be shocked at the difference.

This blog goes out to all riders and especially riders who, because of winter, have the bike collecting dust in the garage. Now is the perfect time for due diligence to your machine. If you have everything you need lined up all you need are a few hours.

For those of us who plan on keeping our bikes this is important stuff. If my 05’ Suzuki DL 650 V-Strom could smile, it would be now. Plan on riding it until I am old and grey. No, wait a minute, I am old and grey already. At any rate, a few more years.

Take care of your bike and it will take good care of you!

Ride safe, be considerate!

Aloha, john g

THE WHEEL TURNS: Customizing that motorcycle

Considering the fact that most bikes come ready to ride these days, why would anyone modify the perfection of factory technology? Well, any number of reasons really. Most modifications are in the nature of bells and whistles; trick little do-dads like custom grips, pegs, sliders, and maybe crash bars to protect all that plastic. These items do little to affect the performance of a motorcycle, but in the eye of the beholder, make it look way cool. Nothing wrong with that. Bike shops love selling this stuff, even more so if you let them put it on for you. Personally I do my own modification work when my skills match the project. Otherwise, wrenching is best left to the pros.

John with his 'baby'

John with his ‘baby’

Case in point. Owning an 05’ DL 650 V-Strom by Suzuki, the original V-Strom, has been, by far, my best motorcycle investment to date. The brand new bike had everything I wanted with the exception of a lower seat height. At 5’8”, it was necessary to tippy-toe at every stop. Not really a problem, though it is more comfortable and secure to able to flatfoot when not moving, especially when on a slanted road surface. A few years went by without incident, then I heard from a friend, who is also a short rider, about the Kouba lowering links. The links would lower the rear end about 1½ inches. This sounded good to me. Still I wanted to learn more before altering the factory specs.

Simply by lowering the rear, the bike would make it slower in cornering. And it did. You could feel it. To compensate for this loss, it is recommended that you lower the front a corresponding amount. In my case, I was able to lower the front about 1/2 inch, which put the cornering ability back to my liking.

Okay, I did everything that was recommended and liked being able to plant my feet. What I didn’t like and had to learn now – was that my kickstand was too long, leaving the bike precariously vertical in a parking lot and impossible to park in many locations. Hmmmpf!

Well, one thing leads to another. I removed the kickstand and took it down to one of the local chopper shops to see if they could chop off ¾ of an inch. They in turn sent me to the local welding fabricator. It occurred to me that a friend could do the job over a six pack. But, being that the V-Strom is my baby, I didn’t want to do a hack job. It cost thirty dollars to have it done professionally. Money well spent. A day later, the stand was shortened and ready and I was confident about the welding job. They even cleaned it up and painted it. Now installed, I am a very pleased rider and stopper.

The next project will be to replace the front sprocket with one that has a few more teeth, giving me more top end. V-Stroms are geared rather low. Since I don’t do off-road, there shouldn’t be an issue. So when the chain comes due for replacement, I’ll look forward to giving it a try, but not without a fair amount of research first. I don’t want to change one thing only to discover that something else is wearing out because of the alteration. Live and learn, but don’t make foolish mistakes because you didn’t scope it out. Costs too much.

The point of this blog is to help other riders to think things through before changing anything structurally on a motorcycle. One thing leads to another. It could get expensive, with a lot of down time, when you’d rather be riding. Plan out your project, have all the stuff you need before you begin, and most importantly – read the directions and talk to folk in the know. What is easy for one person can be a bitch for another.

Ride safely, be considerate and enjoy.

Riding with Aloha from the Big Island, john g

Walking the Talk

 Well, I’ve had my chance to rant on a bit about rider safety. Of course any time you open your mouth you’d better back it up by practicing what you preach or the payback is a bitch. I ride a 2005 Suzuki DL 650 V-Strom.

 The week before the holidays began, I was wrapping up a painting job. The project came out great and I was stoked to have it finished in a timely manner. I was packing out the last of the equipment and finishing the punch list. With saddlebags bulging, top box maxed out, toolbox on the passenger seat and tank bag bursting at the seams – well, it was a little much for any bike without a sidecar. As luck would have it, I had to make a

u-turn on a one -lane road with a 20% grade, something I have done before. Due to the extra weight, however, I wound up undercompensating for it, then overcompensating, and went down. It was a slow 10 MPH drop that sent me tumbling away from the bike into the rocks at the roadside.

 Had I dressed for the weather instead of safety, it would have been a holiday in a hospital for me. My Aerostitch one piece took the hit instead of my flesh and my helmet bounced off the roadway and rocks instead of my skull. By looking at the suit, you would hardly know it just took a beating. Now my helmet, though only moderately scratched will be replaced as it took its hit. Gloves kept my hands from looking like they were in a meat grinder and boots did what they do best. I walked away from it.

 If you ride, there is always the chance you will go down. It happens. Not all crashes are from being hit by a car that didn’t see you. My accident was caused by pilot error, all the more embarrassing, I suppose. The trick is being ready every time you get on the bike. I really don’t think there is a time you should ride naked, or close to it. Bikes go down all the time and all too fast. Even a standing drop, where you try and ease her down can get you thumped.

 What did I learn from this? Well, for one, never overload. Take two trips. Hell, that’s twice as much riding, therefore twice as much fun. What do you have to lose? Nothing, from my new point of view. Also, that sharing this bit of embarrassing bike experience may help to give a ‘heads up’ to another rider or two, that will undoubtedly have the chance to make the same mistake I did. We’re just human. We make mistakes. All the better reason to be prepared. At the dinner table we protect ourselves with a napkin. It’s a no brainer. There is not much of a chance that you will get bashed in the head or dragged down the road. Of course, that depends on whom you are eating with. So what kind of protection do you think you need for sitting on a potential meat grinder instead of a dinner chair? Maybe worth putting something on, ya think?

 Experience is great teacher and sometimes the best. Motorcycling, at the very least, is experiential. But there are few things we don’t have to learn the hard way. Here I take a tip from my riding partner, Kale, and professional riders. Personal protection equipment is on before you get on the bike. It is the rule not the exception. Shit happens.

 On the nickel and dime side, let it be said that plastic is expensive, especially those molded fairings and side panels. I had installed engine crash bars a few months ago never expecting to use them. But I knew that the fancy plastic that gives the V-Strom it’s looks, costs a lot more than the pipe work crash bars. They worked excellently by the way and recommend them for any motorcycle. A few bucks saved many. A turn signal, bent but functional brake lever; something is always going to break besides your ego. Small potatoes, considering the dark side.

 Ride protected, ride safely, be considerate.

Happy New Year!

 Aloha, john g