cafe writing

July 31, 2007

Here I am, writing in a cafe. I’ve never done this before, since I thought there would be way too many distractions for me to try to write in public, but it’s working out pretty well. My short story Sharpest Knife in the Block is finished and submitted. I think it turned out pretty well. It’s a little dark in mood, but I like it. Today was the deadline, so it had to get done, although I’m sure I’ll still be changing parts of it weeks from now. The cafe I’m sitting in isn’t the type of cafe you are probably picturing in your mind. There is an indoor ice skating rink here. There is a pizza stand. There is the restaurant where I had breakfast and there is a coffee stand which will provide me with all of the Starbucks Caramel Lattes I can drink. There is not a lot of activity in here, even with all of those attractions, since the main attraction around here is located just through the doors at the end of the room. There is a beach out there. And the ocean. That’s where all of the people are.

I am not a big fan of the beach and the ocean, so I am sitting in this “cafe” banging on my iBook, drinking overpriced beverages and thinking about stories. Ahhh. This is the life.

good stuff

July 24, 2007

All right. We survived the Potter party. Got home at 3 a.m. Number 1 son slept on the floor of Borders right next to the greeting card rack. I was drinking a large sized caramel latte at 1:30 in the morning and H.P.-obsessed-14-year-old was happy and excited.

So there.

Hey, look what I got in the mail today.

Isn’t it great? Just the right size for … my wife, who confiscated it immediately.

Music: Why, oh why has it taken me so long to discover Amos Lee?

the mania sucks me in

July 18, 2007

I just realized that I never got around to telling you the story about our journey into Harry Potter pre-orders, so here it is.

The last time there was a big Potter book release, I took my then 12-year-old to the release party at our nearest Borders store. The party was ok for someone like me who isn’t a huge fan but has nothing against the Harry Potter franchise and will gladly encourage his kids to read. The then 12-year-old, however, is a huge fan and had a blast at the party. I don’t know a lot about J.K. Rowling’s fictional world but I do know a thing or two about my real world and I knew enough to make sure to NOT pre-order the book at Borders. My decision was fully justified when we left the store around 11:30 pm and the line for pre-order pickup was out the door and well past the jewelry store next to the book store. It was still a half-hour before the book was released.

It took us almost exactly a half-hour to drive to our local Acme supermarket, which was open 24 hours, and pick up a copy without waiting at all. I’ve spent the past two years marveling at my brilliant plan and how well I pulled it off. It was so successful that I even considered buying a few extra books that night and driving all the way back to Borders and selling them at a small profit to those at the end of the line, but didn’t. I’m no scalper.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is to be released this Saturday, at midnight and the Potter parties are Friday night. My 12-year-old is now my 14-year-old and she is just as excited about this one as she was about the last one, maybe more. She has been bugging me for at least 4 months to pre-order her copy, but I remembered well my brilliant plan from 2005 and I was eager to use it one more time. I just needed to confirm that my local Acme was going to have the book otherwise, my plan will make me look like a goof and cause the girl to hate me through her tears. Couldn’t take that chance. I headed out two weeks in advance to set things up.

“No, sorry.” the Acme person said.
“What do you mean?” I asked “Are you not going to carry it at all, or just not at the stroke of midnight?”
“We don’t know anything about it.” she replied.

That’s ok. I had options. The last time I bought something at Kmart, the receipt read:

Join Kmart for our Harry Potter release party on Friday, July 20! Your store is paticipating. See store for details!

So I did. The very nice people at my Kmart had no idea if they were having a party or not (how could they not know?) but assured me that they would have the book available when they open at 8:00 am on Saturday. “Is there any chance that you’ll have the book for sale at midnight?” I asked. “Well, I know we will have the book, but we might not be open.” was the reply.


That’s ok. I still had an option. WalMart is always open.

I approached the service desk at WalMart and got in line behind about 6 other people. I waited for about 10 minutes before the woman behind the desk asked, “May I help you?”

“Oh, yeah you can.” I said “I would like to know if this store is having a Harry Potter release party on Friday, July 20.”

“Harry Potter?” she asked. Then, without waiting for confirmation, turned to the person next to her and wispered something in her ear. The other person just shrugged her shoulders. I could tell this was not good news for me.

“What now? Harry Potter … book?” she said.

“Yes. The seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series is being released that night. It’s a pretty big deal. I’m pretty sure they’ve already printed about 4 billion of them.” I smiled so she would be aware of my little joke. “I just need to know if you are going to have the book available at midnight. I don’t actually need a party.” I said. I could not believe that this woman had the audacity to pretend to be completely unaware of what I was talking about.

“Hold on” she said and then unlocked a door in the back of her little room, went through it and closed it behind her. I don’t know what she did back there, but I think it might involve a cup of coffee or a smoke. A few minutes later she reappeared and said, and I quote, “I don’t know.”

Now, what I wanted to do was to grab her by her little blue smock, draw her face close to mine and snarl “Lady, if ‘I don’t know’ was an acceptable response to my question I wouldn’t have bothered to stand in this line for ten minutes and wait though your little secret coffee break behind the locked door and waste all my precious time coming here because before I did all of that I ALREADY DIDN’T KNOW!”

Instead, I actually asked, “Anybody here who does know?”

“The manager isn’t in today.”

“Can I call him?” I had had enough.

“Well, the books are all done by a vendor, so we don’t know what they’re going to bring in.”

Of course, someone at that WalMart knows if they are going to have what is sure to be one of the best-selling books in history available for their customers to buy. Of course they know. They just wouldn’t tell me.

So forget them. Forget them all. I still had an option.

I pre-ordered from Borders. I’ll be the guy at the end of the line praying for a scalper to show up.

of course I can

July 13, 2007

I’ve been slowly catching up with John and Hank Green’s video blog Brotherhood 2.0, which, for me, is an excellent form of procrastination and one episode I really enjoyed was the one where John gets a phone call from the Printz Award people. It just looked like so much FUN to get an award for all your hard work!

So, I’ve decided that I need a Printz Award also. By the way, they are NOT easy to get and I know that I’ll probably have to go it alone, since you people have not been all that helpful in my quest to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Thanks for nothing. Not winning the Peace Prize may well make me violent.

The hardest part about winning an award for all your hard work is probably the actual completion of the work that is to be recognized with the award. Taking congratulatory phone calls is fun and easy. I think I’m a natural at that. I can show up at awards dinners, shake hands and be gracious. I’m not a natural at that, but can fake it pretty well. Going around and saying things like, “Don’t you know who I am?” and berating any librarian who refuses to salute me will also be fun and easy. Now, in order to win a prestigious national book award, I’ll have to complete my book and also make it really good. Those are my main challenges.

especially with 5 months of the Green brothers’ video blogs to watch.

Oh, one more thing. I went to Teavana yesterday to stock up on loose tea and one of the samples they had available was an iced tea with some sort of plum flavor. It tasted like juice to me (it was sweetened) and when I asked the counter person what kind of tea it was made with, she showed me two flavors. It was a blend. Then she told me I’d have to buy at least the minimum amount of each, so in order to make iced tea that tastes like plum juice, I’d have to spend over $12.00 for the tea leaves. I may have lost my mind when it comes to buying tea from a gourmet tea store, but that is way beyond my level of craziness. I did, however buy some other teas, so when I have a chance to try them I’ll let you know how they are. One of them was the Raspberry Black, which I already told you is very good.

Summer Lull

July 11, 2007

Well, I’m finding it difficult to make time to write very much lately with the kids home all day. Still doing it, though. It’s just more difficult. I find myself getting angry when I’m interrupted from writing, so whenever it is likely that I’ll be interrupted (which is practically all day) I use the time to read instead. I can handle getting bothered by some kid crisis when I’m reading. I finished John Green’s Looking for Alaska and it was very good. I thought it was a bit slow during the first half, but the second half really grabbed me. Probably because I spent so much time getting to know the characters in the first half. I emailed John to talk about it a bit and he was really great in his response. I don’t know him well, of course, but he seems like a pretty good guy. I’m working on Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes now and it seems promising. I don’t know if I like the book, the author or just the concept. Maybe it’s all three. I’ll let you know.

My friend Andrea Glass is in Nashville RIGHT NOW recording her first CD. Good luck, Andrea! This is also her first time in the U.S., so it’s quite the adventure for her.


Beach Torture Event is looming.

I haven’t published a July essay for the site yet, so maybe I’ll just put up a list of links where people can read some of my work that they have almost certainly not seen before. But wow, would that be lazy.

I’ll try to remember to write a blog entry about my experience trying to pre-order Harry Potter and the Unbelievable Hype Machine … sorry … Deathly Hallows. Tomorrow.

David Beckham’s first game for the L.A. Galaxy is going to be a friendly against Chelsea. And it’s televised! Whooo! Yes, the DVR is set.

Speaking of the DVR, it’s time for me to go watch On the Lot, so


gets me every time

July 5, 2007

Our backyard leads to a field. I guess you can call the field a farmer’s field, although the only things that get farmed out of it are these huge rolls of hay. It’s not hay, it’s weeds, but it looks like hay after it has been all rolled up and apparently somebody buys it from the supposedly hay-rolling guy. It is possible that the guy just feeds it to his livestock, if he has any. He certainly seems to have a lot of time to raise livestock, since he only creates the huge weed balls twice a year. For the rest of the year (when the field isn’t populated with strange weed-balling machines) it’s a great place for my dog to poop.

I know this is the second time I’ve mentioned dog poop in my blog and you can use that as evidence as to what kind of life I lead.

My dog is a miniature Schnauzer and she, predictably, has miniature Schnauzer sized poops. The German Shepherd who lives next door has German Shepherd sized poops and is free to leave them anywhere he pleases, which results in his owners wandering their yard once a week with a scooper. Apparently you can’t just leave those and hope they go away. So despite the fact that my dogs “business” is relatively small and forgettable, I still walk her out to the field to do it. No surprises in my yard. I told you how my youngest son likes help do that job, but I still have to do it from time to time.

Now, the field leads to the local volunteer fire company’s station and in front of the station is a white flagpole. This is not a little, stick-it-in-your-frontyard flagpole. It is probably about 4 stories high. What is that, 50 feet? The point is, it’s tall. Tall enough to be seen from miles around. From that flagpole flies a very, very large American flag. When I walk my dog to the edge of the field, we are about 100 yards from the flagpole. And on days like today, when there is a breeze blowing, I can hear that flag snap in the wind and when I look up at it, it always makes me pause and think. Sometimes, looking up at that huge flag flowing in the wind gives me butterflies in my stomach.

I am proud to be an American, but I am not a stepford. I do not subscribe to the “U.S.A. is right and everybody else is wrong” way of thinking. There are many things happening that I don’t agree with, especially the alarming loss of our personal freedom and the government’s increasing power over the individual and the endless stream of false information coming from D.C. When I look up at that flag, I feel patriotism. Patriotism can have many different faces and for me it is a combination of pride, sadness, unity and anger.

and butterflies.

Without fail, every time I look up at that flag and hear it snapping, I think of what is, to me, one of the most moving scenes in the history of American cinema. It is the very beginning scene of Saving Private Ryan, before the Normandy landing, when the camera is moving past the white crosses that mark the graves in the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy. You can hear a flag snapping in the background of that scene. I don’t know why that scene gets me every time, but it does, and so does seeing the flag that flies right behind my house. To me, they stand for the same things.

I’ll try to be funny next time.

p.s. try not to read too much into the fact that I reflect on World War II while two German-breed dogs take craps all over the place.


Flow-mingo has spoken

July 3, 2007

I’m sitting here on the porch tonight watching the neighbor’s fireworks and listening to my top-rated Coldplay songs (Warning Sign, We Never Change, Kingdom Come, etc.) and I think it might be a good time for me to post an update.

still working. These things take time. I’m anxious to get it done and really anxious start sending it out.

finished “London Calling” by Edward Bloor, which I thought was pretty good. Maybe a bit slow at times and just slightly predictable at other times, but still a decent read. I just started into “Big Trouble” by Dave Barry and I was laughing before I even got through the preface. Also started reading “Looking for Alaska” by John Green, just because 1. It’s an award winner and 2. John appears everywhere I look these days, so I figured I’d better read his books.

on Flight of the Conchords this week, Jemaine and Bret both have “rap” names. Jemaine is Hip-Hopopotamus and Bret is Rhymenocerous. I think that’s funny, so I’ve been trying to come up with my own rap name. The best I’ve come up with so far is Flow-mingo. I guess I’d better keep working on it.

Oh, my. Look at the time! Maybe I’ll post more later.