Monday, May 27, 2013

A Reminder...

...of what Memorial Day is about.

Photo by Francisco Diez

Thank you to those who have and are serving.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Break Time

I've been toeing this line for some time, now. I sit here and struggle to come up with a post, or I spend some time during the week working on the beginnings of posts, then find myself on Monday or Friday mornings ripping my hair out to finish it off properly. At those moments, I think, "I should just call a time out, take a few weeks off, and come back to it." And then, every single time I'm about to pull that particular trigger, I get a burst of inspiration, find something to write that is halfway decent (I think), and on I go for another week. Not this time.

This is not really about re-imagining the blog, or re-purposing it, or re-branding myself, or whatever. This is about a short break. As just about all of you know, there's pressure in coming up with something of value twice a week. I don't like the head-exploding feeling I get sitting here trying to turn something into something more. Writing books is hard enough, isn't it? And rather than put myself through that stress, and then feeling guilty when I slide in a half a post with a music video thrown in, I'm just going to step away. Not for long, mind you. I'll be back at the very least for Lisa Regan's Aberrant blog hop (sign up today!), maybe sooner. And I'll still be flitting around the blogosphere, dropping my pearls of wisdom (snort!) on your blogs.

Ahh, that's more like it

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to find my suntan oil and a nice, cold Strawberry Daiquiri....

Friday, May 17, 2013

Oh, forget it

I have a couple of posts in various stages of completion, but nothing complete enough to whip out and finish today. I really need to start getting ahead of this game again. Here, have some Tom Petty:

On a good note, The Magpie is now home for the summer following a very successful freshman year at school, The Catbird picked up a couple of awards at the high school last week, and I received more positive feedback on BARTON'S WOMEN. Further encouraged by the news about Last Man Standing, I've submitted a 200-word bit of flash fiction I wrote a while back to a couple of places and am taking a second look at some other short pieces that have largely arisen out of my writer's circle. Sadly, I have not done much in the way of heavy writing on my newer project. I've got some of the elements in place for it, but I think I'm still searching for The Secret Ingredient that will bring it all together. PARALLEL LIVES has been out on query for over a year, and I have to consider what I want to do about it. Aside from two early requests that went nowhere and provided little useful feedback, there has been zero interest in it. The question is, Is it my query, the opening pages, or something else?

That's about it for me here, what's new with all of you? Have a great weekend!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Shameless Plug Day!

Self-promotion has never been something I'm especially good at. I'm just not overly-comfortable touting myself. Still, here goes: I'm thrilled to say that my short story, Last Man Standing, has been selected for the Summer's Edge anthology, coming soon from Elephant's Bookshelf Press—Woohoo! The theme behind the anthology is the short-term relationship, "a love or relationship that is or appears to be short-lived or not long for this world." That certainly describes Last Man, which was a lot of fun to write. More details on publication date and availability will be forthcoming, but I'm pretty excited about it.

Second, this is indirect self-promotion, based on the notion, "If it's good for my wife, it's good for me." If you've been hanging around this place for any length of time, you know I believe platform for fiction writers is either misunderstood or vastly overrated. I'm not going to get into that whole thing again, at least right now. Despite my repeated rantings against 'platform', I do believe a website is quite important; I just think writing comes first, especially when you're new to the game and trying to break in and break through. Enough about that. Anyway, my wife designs websites, does web to mobile conversions, text message programs, and…other stuff that, technophobe that I am, I really don't 'get'. She's bugged me from time to time about doing a website, but I feel like it's not time for me to have one yet.

But that doesn't mean it's not time for you! If you're at the stage where a website is something you need (or really, really want), and you don't know where to start, or you have a website that's not really doing what you want it to do, why not give her a call? Check out some of the sites she's designed. Her rates are very competitive and she's great to work with!

Can I list myself?
Third, Lisa Regan has a new book, Aberration, coming out on June 6th. Rather than do another exhausting blog tour, Lisa has decided to try a blog hop. The Aberration bloghop will run on June 6th and 7th. From Lisa: "All you have to do is list your top 5 choices for the most aberrant characters in fiction, television or movies. Also, if you're a writer, you can then include a short paragraph about who you think is the most aberrant character from your own work."

There will be prizes! It will be gruesome fun! Hustle over to Lisa's blog and sign up now!

Finally, my alarm went off this morning to this song. It went off on Friday morning to this song. There's a strong chance this song will be playing when my alarm goes off tomorrow morning, too. One of the saddest things about the evolution of radio is how you can set your clock to it.

That's it for me, what's new with you? Have anything to plug? Feel free to share (unless you're that guy trying to push the sunglasses on me. No thanks)

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Playoff Beard

The NHL playoffs are almost two weeks old, and you know what that means: playoff beards! Yes, this is the time of year when the majority of NHL players whose teams are still in the hunt for the Stanley Cup stop shaving. By the time NHL Evil Overlord Commissioner Gary Bettman passes the Cup to the captain of the winning team, the players look like Grizzly Adams—if he sprinkled his face with Miracle Gro.

The idea behind the playoff beard is simple: once the playoffs start, you stop—shaving, that is, until your team either hoists the Stanley Cup or is knocked out of the playoffs. What's not so simple is figuring out why players do it, or where it came from. Most people credit the New York Islanders teams of the early 1980s with starting the tradition. When the Islanders hoisted the Stanley Cup for the first time in May, 1980, a handful of players sported beards they didn't have in the regular season. John Tonelli, Clark Gillies and Gordie Lane were most prominent.

No one, not even the players from those Islanders teams, can remember exactly why they started it. Was it the show of a team united in a single goal? Was the beard supposed to serve as a reminder of the playoffs, every time a player looked in a mirror? Was it just the result of playing four games in five nights, not having time to shave, and then thinking, "Hey, I haven't shaved for a week and we just won our playoff series—I can't shave now!" Knowing the way athletes think, I tend to believe that last one comes closest to the mark. Athletes are both creatures of routine and incredibly superstitious. I can easily believe something like a playoff beard was an accidental 'discovery' (though it would have been unthinkable in the 1950s, say, when teams were much more strict about the professional appearance of their athletes).

Of course, nothing encourages imitation in sports like success, and the Islanders had lots of it. Four straight Stanley Cup wins, five straight appearances in the final. When the Edmonton Oilers finally knocked the Islanders off in 1983, at least as many Edmonton players had beards as Islanders. Over the years, the beard became a little less trendy, then it came back in a big way. Some day, it may fade in favor of some other crazy tradition. For now, let's bask in the glory that is the playoff beard. What a great time of year.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Monday Musing: Facebook Party!

I will occasionally post something on my FB page titled, "How Not To Use Facebook, #[insert made up number between 1 and 1000 here] In A Series", and link to a news item where someone does something stupid with Facebook. Like this. I do this as a reminder that the things you put out there are out there, so pay attention. Facebook seems to loan itself to frequent bouts of stupidity, though I understand Twitter is not far behind. If I used Twitter, I would probably have a "How Not to Use Twitter" set of tweets, too, but I don't, so I don't.

I don't get a huge amount of friend requests anymore, which is fine by me. Declining or ignoring friend requests makes me feel kind of bad, unless it's someone I don't actually know. I've gotten at least two of those. One was from a guy who at least went to my high school, though we literally never exchanged a single word; the other was a guy I honestly never met, had no idea who he was or why he'd want to be my friend. Turns out he was a friend of a friend, and either combed her list for more friends, or just clicked the 'sure, why not?' button when my name came up in the "People You Might Know" list. Anyway, one of those at least gave me the opening scene for PARALLEL LIVES, so it wasn't a total loss (though it was later changed from a FB friend request to a phone call. I'm old school. Still, credit to Facebook for kickstarting the process).

Occasionally I'll get a friend request from one of the kids' friends. Those cause me particular angst. Do I want to be friends with that high school junior, that college freshman? Do they really want me to be friends with them? Have they really thought about the implications of granting some old geezer--a contemporary of their parents--access to their Facebook page? I'm up to about four of them now, and the glimpse into the life of the American teen is not as frightening as I thought. At least these kids are more sensible than 'Drivin drunk' dude, which makes me feel better. And some of them have an astonishing amount of 'old geezers' on their lists, including their parents. They speak in code, anyway, which is pretty much how I spoke when I was that age, so I don't know half of what is going on.

They want me! They want me!
This weekend I found myself on the receiving end of an invitation to a graduation party from one of these kids. Remember when we were kids, and you would get a party invitation in the mail? Real mail, not e-mail, I mean. In an envelope. With a stamp. When you got one of those, there was no doubt about your invitation status. You were invited! You made the list! Granted, there could be politics involved, even in second grade ("But Mom, I don't want to invite Jeffo!" "Shut up, Junior. His Dad is mayor. We've got to invite him!"), but it sure felt like you were wanted. Not so much with the Facebook mass invite. The doubting begins: "Does he really want me at that party? What would he think if I clicked 'Yes', just to mess with his head? What if I actually showed up? What if I didn't, and found out I was supposed to? Gaah!" Of course, when I popped by the Facebook party page and saw that I, and 333 of his other close friends, had been invited, I suspected a mistake. Sure enough, a few hours later, the event was cancelled. I'm waiting for my new invite, but I have a feeling I'll be waiting a long time.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Jason Collins

It's finally happened.

As reported in multiple places earlier this week, Jason Collins became the first active player in a major North American team sport to announce he's gay. Big cheers to Jason Collins.

It's a brave move for Collins, and a sign of how far we've come in terms of acceptance in my lifetime. This would have been unthinkable when I was a kid. It's been great to see the level of acceptance and support expressed by his peers in the NBA community, the sports world in general, and the world as a whole.

Collins has had a rough time of it. He's spent most of his life keeping a secret from everyone, even his twin brother. That sort of life takes a toll on you. As he says, "It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I've endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie." Having admitted the truth about himself, Collins says he feels whole.

Sadly, his life is about to get a whole lot tougher. Despite the overwhelming support of players like Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace, and the positivity from former players like Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal, next year is going to be very rough for Collins. If he plays next year (and as a 34-year-old without a contract, it's no guarantee, though he seems to be a well-respected player), we'll see what kind of reaction he gets from fans, teammates, and opponents. I can already imagine some not-very-nice jokes about backing into the low post (geeze, did I really just go there? Yes. Yes, I did), for example. It's not always going to be pretty, but this move is good for Collins, good for sports, and good for the world in general. It's about time. And on that note, I'll leave you for the weekend once again with this spot (which I think I've used before), from the You Can Play Project, a group that's encouraging tolerance, acceptance, and equal opportunities for LBGT athletes.