Three Things I Have Almost Blogged About…

Broken PencilSo when I started this blog, I had nothing but the best intentions. I made lists and lists of different things to write about.

… Then I sat down and did way too much about Disneyland and Game of Thrones (two things that should never be in the same sentence again).

Let’s have a brief tangent- I’m one of the few book readers that is thrilled that Game of Thrones is passing the books. The script writers for the show certainly have their problems (for example, they go darker than the books, amazingly), but one skill they do have is the ability to edit. They cut, cut, cut the books down to something a little easier to consume and that is no small feat. I’ll never be totally happy with the calls they make (poor Sansa) or even the calls Martin makes (poor Ned), but at least we’ll be getting an ending to the tale in the new few years.

Okay, where was I? Recently, I found my list of original ideas for blog entries, focused on only one current theme- what interests the guy writing this.

Hey, it’s my blog, what can I say?

Below are three items I always wanted to dive into and never got around to. Not to say they aren’t interesting, it’s just… I’m a very important and busy man (no, I’m not). I have a lot of writing responsibilities (ha!). These short essays are the best  I can do (that is probably true). Continue reading

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“Home” by Sheryl Crow

Literary Map of EnglandMusic has always been very important to me. Many times when I look back at a time or a memory, a song will sneak in before an image. I thought it would be interesting to look back at people and moments by tapping into this quirk. The first in my series “With Music” was about Ben Folds and a girl with elf ears (here), this time I take on a song by Sheryl Crow.

This is about the time I almost disappeared

The first thing you have to understand about me is I have a knack for romanticizing things. Moments are never just moments for me, I see the potential for some kind of poetic license in everything. Maybe I read one too many romantic poets back when I was in college, but I would look for messages in nature and life. Messages just for me. Let me emphasis this point- not for you or the rest of humanity, just me. Yeah, it’s just a sunset, I get that, but could those colors be reaching for me, embracing me, telling me something for only my eyes?

Destiny. Fate.

I was sure I had it all in spades.

When I was in college I used to romanticize the idea of exploring Europe by myself, nothing but a backpack and my wits for comfort. Besides meeting with the travel agent to work out the flights and some tours along the way, what I would do while there was all on me. One of the few things I had certain about me and my trip was I would arrive in London on the first day and fly out of Paris on the last. Point A and Point B. Continue reading

This and the Other Thing: A Writing Update

Even Superman writes!So this is my life right now.

I got this book. I can’t really talk about it. I mean, it’s still being created. It’s fresh, still new, like a babe. Let’s call it SB for Secret Book. This book has taken over a good part of my daily thoughts, and I’ve spent the last few evenings just working on it.

SB has also entered my dreams. No seriously, I’ve had two dreams with it and both moments ended up in the book.

This is the part of writing that I love about writing. The pure joy of creation, not being bogged down in marketing, query letters (to agents and publishers), etc. Just me and a blank piece of paper. Nothing but possibility.

The only thing I can compare the feeling to is back when I used to play jazz. For me it was the saxophone (alto and soprano), and there is this wild feeling of freedom once you know a song and its chords. That confidence that you are on this, you are in control and you can take the song wherever you want. There is pure improv possibility at that moment. It’s a flash of lightning, controlled energy.

That… right there, is what putting together a first draft feels like for me. And I’m in the midst of it. That is the smile on my face.

Hello. Continue reading

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, November 2014

BoredI am suffering the case of the blahs. Oh, this is not a bad thing related to my life or anything, this is related to books. I’ve done the book reviews for my local NPR station now for over a year and half. That is over 30 books. (You can listen and read my reviews via the links on this page of my site.)

See, I’m struggling through a book review by a very popular author. Some people will love the book, I am certain; others will hate it. Me, I’m just mildly disappointed and that is what gives me the blahs.

Let me start this over… I love writing a good book review. There is nothing more fun for me as a reviewer than breaking down a good book, introducing it to a listener/reader and discussing why the high points are the high points. Talking about good books is my soapbox and I like being on it, thank you very much!

I am not Dorothy Parker. She used to take a glee in writing a bad review. Me, I find it disappointing. I can do it certainly, and they are easy to do, but they do not give me pleasure. Also, I like to say more than simply “I don’t like it.” I go out of my way to explain why something doesn’t work. Okay, this could be argued as a second soapbox, but not as big or important as the other one.

But there are no soapboxes when the book is a blah, middle-of-the road, half-a-shoulder-shrug. In a way, I see this blah around me in the environment too, as all the days are gray and getting colder. Of course, the review will be written in a week or so and my life will go on. I can’t guarantee anything regarding the weather.

Let’s move on to happier thoughts! Here are the five things I think are awesome right now. Continue reading

My 6 Favorite Blogposts of 2013

ChampagneEvery year, I like to stop and take a look at my life and the year that just was. And one of the great things about having a blog is it makes it quite easy to do just that! I get all of the highs and the lows, they are all there in easy to read formatting… sometimes even with cute pictures.

How did I feel about being a parent or on a child’s birthday, it is there. It’s like a personal photo album, but it is available for all to share. I just hope I am not that annoying friend who is showing you slides of their last family outing. That is the blogger nightmare, I guess.

Looking back, 2013 has been a great year for me. I finished writing a new novel (Permanent Spring Showers), I had two very well-reviewed books published (A Jane Austen Daydream and Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare), and I continued to watch this blog and my writing grow. Over the course of the year, my blog gained 600 new subscribers (now having over 1000) and my digits are higher on all of my other social media platforms.  It all almost calls for champagne.

Okay, I don’t like champagne. Seriously, I’m a light drinker. It is almost embarrassing. It makes my patient wife laugh how little I can handle. And when I do order drinks they come with funny straws and too much chocolate. I’m not James Bond, but I wish I was. I also threw up once in college after drinking goldschalger. You remember a moment like that, trust me. I kept drunkenly thinking, “There is gold everywhere! Look at all the money!”

For those new to my blog, or those who are catching up, here are my six favorite posts from the last year. If you have already read the articles, I have included a new afterthought to each. Something for everyone… about me. Enjoy! Continue reading

Why The Littlest Angel is the worst holiday story… ever

The First Cover for the "classic"When The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell was published in 1946 it was a holiday phenomenon. This “classic” story has since been published numerous times (with many different illustrated versions); made into movies (cartoon, musical, and live action); and in the list of best-selling children stories of all time (!) it comes up in the top 20. 

Heck, even holiday crooner Bing Crosby sang a song based on the plot of it! 

I remember the first time I heard this story. It was at catechism. and the teacher read it to us as if she was bestowing a great holiday gift on us children. I can still see her smile. While the other kids casually sat near me with crossed legs, I remember really being bothered by the story. I couldn’t put my finger on it then, but that reaction to the tale has never gone away for me. And that day, I raised my hand for I had some questions.

My hand is still up in the air.

The fact is, after thinking about it far too much, and being haunted by it like Marley’s ghost each year, I can’t escape my problems with this narrative. I have come to the opinion that this Christmas traditional yarn is… just awful. Horrendous. Possibly the worst holiday story. Oh, God, it is just bad.

Okay, it takes a lot for a story to be a worst holiday yarn than the appalling song “The Christmas Shoes” (which for those lucky not to know is the materialistic and disturbing ditty about an ignorant child who leaves his dying mother’s bedside to go shopping, assuming that the shoes he puts on her feet will go with her soul to heaven and there impress Jesus), but The Littlest Angel does it. It does it ten times over.

Grab a cup of hot chocolate and a Christmas cookie, snuggle in by the fireplace, and let me tell you why… Continue reading

Drums and Kings: Turning Forty

Gandalf by Ted Nasmith I have always been a book nerd.

A great example of what I mean is my first reaction to J.R.R Tolkien’s masterpiece The Lord of the Rings. I read the book that first time when I was around nine and while I loved it, my favorite moment was probably not the same as for other readers.

There is this wonderful chapter in the first book The Fellowship of the Rings called “The Bridge of Khazad-dum.” For those that don’t know or remember, this is the lowest point for the fellowship as they run to escape the dark of Moria, pursued by unspeakable evils. Yes, I worried about the heroes but really what made me sit up straight and take note was what Tolkien did in his writing and I had never seen anything like it before.

The orcs and goblins chasing our team were using drums but their drums were more than drums. They were speaking.

Doom, boom, doom, went the drums in the deep.

They are relentless, and obviously doing more than simply beating. They are screaming a warning, building to a crescendo over the course of the chapter until finally at the end Gandalf is lost and the drums then fade into the distance, leaving the fellowship and the readers all breathless.

But for me, I wasn’t breathless because of the action and the loss.

No…

I wanted to know how Tolkien did that.

Continue reading

My Time Lost in Books…

A fellow writerLike I said in my post “The Five Books That Made Me” I can get pretty sentimental about books and my history in reading when one of my novels is about to be released.

It’s like a kid going off to college! Packing the bags could be working with the editor, the drive there could be finalizing everything with the publisher, and dropping them off is the big goodbye. So that’s me this week, the parent trying to hide the tears.

Okay, I’m a little surprised this analogy is working…. What would that make the aftermath of the publishing? No idea there, but the grades are reviews, right? Perfect. Hopefully, my book won’t party too much.

A Jane Austen Daydream is set for release on April 30 exclusively via amazon.com, ending a project of years in the making. I could not be happier with the novel and I look forward to hearing what everyone thinks of it. Until then I am going to continue to enjoy my sentimentality. Care to join me? Here are ten of my favorite posts on my site around books:

  1. Missing My Vonnegut MomentVonnegut
  2. Me, Myself & Charles Dickens
  3. I get James Joyce… Well, no, not really
  4. Ray Bradbury
  5. Maurice Sendak: Childhood Visionary
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien; The Crazy & Magical Grandfather
  7. Say Hello to Mr. DeVere, I Mean Shakespeare…
  8. Hidden Away: The Marvel of Disappearing Writers
  9. The Folio Society: Celebrating Literature
  10. Living With Snoopy

Only a few days left!

Braving Austen: Introducing My New Novel A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM

Me and the proof copy of my book

A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM is published by Madison Street Publishing and can be purchased in print and as an eBook for only $3.99.  It is available for the KindleNook, andKobo.

Jane Austen was one of my two Mount Everests.

The other Mount Everest in my adventures as a writer was Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Yes, I just said Hamlet.

See, I’ve always been obsessed with that play and even attempted over a summer to memorize every line of it (I discussed part of that experience in this comedy essay) and I always had a unique vision for the play (and how many of its famous soliquies could be reinterpreted on stage or on the screen). I decided to focus on a screenplay, and like a swimmer jumping into cold water, over the course of one week (one), I took my decade’s worth of notes, a torn paperback copy, and did it.

Yes, in my house and on my computer is sitting my screenplay adaptation of Hamlet. It is one of my lifetime dreams to see it made, but if it does is anyone’s guess. Whatever the case, I can look back on that mad week (with its large doses of caffeine, twenty hours of nonstop writing, and my mad acting out performance of it) as the literary equivalent of me standing on that snowy slope with flag in hand watching a new dawn.

Hamlet, yeah I did that.

But Austen? Whoa boy… That is when things get tricky. Continue reading

The Posts of an Anglophile

Guarding the QueenCheerio!

What inspired me to write my editorial this week, “The Happy Anglophile,” is that I am in the process of editing two different books- A Jane Austen Daydream (to be published in April by Madison Street Publishing) and Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare (which I am self-publishing and sharing the experience via posts, like this one where I discuss my great new cover artist). They are both very British books; one putting the spotlight on Miss Austen, the other trying to capture the world and vibe of Sherlock Holmes.

Not bad for a kid from Michigan, eh?

And it doesn’t stop there! I’ve been thinking about writing a post on a controversial belief I have on Shakespeare next week, and I have been debating myself for months on writing on my love of PG Wodehouse and Douglas Adams (I should have done the Douglas Adams one nearer his Birthday… damn).

Anyway, looking back over the blog, my anglophile-tendencies have been on display ever since I started writing, from books to movies to television to music. For your reading pleasure this weekend here are links to some of my more popular posts on my favorite second home.

Pip pip!