Sunday, May 31, 2009


Over the past week I've given a number of telephone interviews--usually newspapers calling to get background on my most recent book and to create some unique angle for a story. But the fact is, I have no unique angles. A typical interview usually goes like this.

Q: So tell me, Mr. Alleycat, what was the inspiration behind this book?
A: Frozen pizzas.
Q: Frozen pizzas?
A: Yeah, my son eats a lot of frozen pizzas and if I sell a few books, I can pay my grocery bill.
Q: I see . . . but did you, say, vacation in Paris or some exotic location to gain some inspiration for this one?
A: No, I usually compose my books while I'm riding on my Cub Cadet lawn mower.
Q: You compose books while you mow?
A: Yeah, it cuts down on the time it takes me to type it up. I compose a whole chapter and then I transcribe it later.
Q: I see . . . but surely you must have a source of inspiration. A muse, perhaps?
A: I've got Gomer Pyle. He has some funny quips. Ever seen the show?
Q: Well, er . . . no. Not lately. Anything else you can tell us about yourself?
A: I'm in good shape, for the shape I'm in. I kayak the creek next to my house. I once ate a grilled gopher on a stick.
Q: Anything to do with writing?
A: I've got 350 floppy disks loaded with inane crap that I'm still trying to sell. Wanna buy a short story? An essay? A poem? Got tons of 'em.
Q: I write for a newspaper, sir.
A: I see . . . and how do you feel about that?
Q: (muffled cursing sound)
A: ?
Q: Well, thanks for your time.
A: Any time, my friend. Any time. Gotta go mow.

Friday, May 29, 2009


A little tome that held my attention for a day was The Art of Leadership, by Don Walters--a classic business/leadership book published back in the mid 80's. It's a book that is still relevant for today, and Don doesn't overwhelm the reader with a bunch of facts and figures. He just states his case for simplicity in leadership and what this means. His lists are great, too.

My first leadership positions were probably in high school. I was a co-captain of the basketball team (big whoop!), was president of the Letterman's Club (another big whoop!) and also was one of two from the high school sent to Hoosier Boys State (okay, not bad).

I learned last week that another distinguished member of our congregation was also at Hoosier Boys State in 1978 (the summer hot as hell). Last weekend, he and I met to sing to our wives and children. We sang the Hoosier Boys State theme song, which amazed and astounded them.

Indiana is our home we come from far and near
From north and south and east and west
So hear our lusty cheer!
Hoosier Boys State. Hoosier Boys State!
We are one and all for you . . . etc. etc. etc.

Singing that song (I sing it every day, are you kidding me) reminded me that it is a prerequisite to have fun while leading. That's why, while at Hoosier Boys State, I created hundreds of posters for my candidate for Governor: Ignatz Kaputnick. No kidding. He got three write-in votes.

Now that's leadership! When you can create a fictional candidate and get votes, you've got clout.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


A few weeks ago I read Paddle Indiana--a book published by a small firm that is a type of guidebook to the waterways of the Hoosier state. I noted that White Lick creek is not profiled in the book, but Becky and I paddled down White Lick creek last night nonetheless.

We put in at our house and put out at the church. (I'm talking about our kayaks, folks, not . . . well.) It was a nice little trip, with only one portage along the way. And how did we get home? I'll let MasterCard tell you . . .

Cost of Text Books at Ball State: $850

Cost of 1st Year at Ball State: $18,895

Having Your soon-to-be-twenty-year-old-daughter pick you and your wife up in an old station wagon in the church parking lot that she wouldn't be caught driving otherwise: Priceless

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Summer Reading

I've already started thinking about my summer reading program. In particular: which cheesy, low-life, hottie-tottie romance paperbacks do I want to buy at a used bookstore for fifty cents? What mystery/crime/suspense novels can hold my attention for three hours? What books can I read/destroy/and otherwise abuse at the same time?

This year I have my eye on a some John Grisham. I've read five or six of his novels (earlier ones) but lost track about six years ago, and he's written quite a number since then. Some Raymond Chandler would be nice. And I've got a Dorothy Sayers paperback collection of her mystery stories that might find its way into my suitcase.

One thing's for certain. I'm not taking along any theology, any Bible commentary, or anything that is remotely "religious" or "Christian". I'm bored enough as it is. (Though, I will admit, I've once again learned that the Bible is filled with lots of odd, humorous, strange, and sexually-charged stories, so much so that the Good Book has once again grabbed my attention through the Nasty Book sections.)

But I need to read something I can toss in the trash. You know, the kind of stuff I actually write and see in the dumpster.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Business Cards

I have a formidable stack of business cards. I have cards from people who sell cars, carpet and appliances. I have cards from people who sell me services. I have cards from people who just want me to remember their names.

And I have my own business cards, too. But mine are boring.

The most interesting business card I ever read about was author Robert Fulgham's. His cards had his name and a simple line that read, Philosopher. I like that. I want a card like that.

A few years ago, I printed up a batch of business cards that identified me as a "pastor, writer, and speaker" but this often threw people for a loop. One guy looked at my card and said, "Writer? Now what does that mean?"

I tried to explain that it meant I wrote--articles, books, etc. But he couldn't wrap his feeble mind around it. A writer, you say? You write stuff. What the heck does that mean? You write. You mean, like writing with words

I gave up on identifying myself as a writer after that. I tossed those 500 cards in the trash.

But some day I'm going to get a new batch of cards. I'm going to think of something cutting-edge. Like:

Todd Outcalt
ShamWow Representative

Any way you want it . . .

Todd O.
Just Groovin'

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Call

I read Fred Brenning Craddock's book, Reflections on My Call to Preach, in two days. It's a thin volume, primarily a collection of childhood and teenage memories that sometimes wear a bit wearisome and inane for the reader. But Craddock is, perhaps, the best-known homiletics teacher of my generation, so I endured his tome with a steely-eyed desire for insight.

I don't think I discovered any great truths here, other than Craddock's insistence that the call to preach is never a lightening-strike moment. The call comes for most preachers through people, places, times, and the slow matriculation of a life-unfolded in God's grace.

I guess I can buy that. I did. Paid $15.95 for the book.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Out of the office reply . . .

Friday was interesting. I had an early breakfast with a friend, completed some chores around the house, made some phone calls, completed a couple of church presentations, made some more phone calls, and then settled down for some writing. I eventually completed a book proposal that I was so excited about, I had to drop it to some of my editor friends for review.

Trouble was, none of these editors were in the office (Memorial day weekend?)

Without exception, all of my emails came back with the reply: Out of the office . . .

Which, of course, shifted my mind into warped gear. From now on, I'm going to set my computer to reply to all emails with one of the following prompts:

Todd is not on the computer right now; he has a life; not much of one, but a life nevertheless. He is probably sitting in the office at church eating a donut (have you called there? Ask for "the big silly-looking guy").

There is a strong possibility of a firm maybe that Todd is away from his desk currently. He has been fighting the rickets with lemon-filled donuts and would appreciate your understanding and patience as he tries to lick this dreaded disease.

Yeah, Todd ain't available to receive your paltry little email, but so what? I mean, is this attachment really necessary? He's an important man, doing important things, like holding the hands of the sick, feeding creme of wheat to children, and humming "Amazing Grace" on his kazoo. Try again in two weeks.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thumbs Down

It's been a difficult month for me . . . as a writer anyway. Most of the book proposals that I sent out in January have by now come back with "rejection" written all over them. Sure, the publishers always attempt to couch their rejections in flowery language like

Just not right for us at this time
We wish you the best in placing your brilliant idea in the hands of an unsuspecting publisher who can really make this crap shine like shinola
Better luck next time, Bimbo

But when I read these rejections (and thank God I rarely get form letters anymore) I always feel a bit disheartened. I think of all the coffee I drank, all the late nights I put in, and all the Gomer Pyle reruns I could have watched . . . and I think, "I have wasted my life." Mom was right. I should studied to be a brain surgeon. Or at least a plumber.

Shazaam! Gohlee!

Thursday, May 21, 2009


It's been a few weeks since I've discussed some of my reading, but I did finish Mark Helprin's excellent book about the strong pull toward copyright reform (which is a scary threat to writers, musicians, movie producers, script writers, journalists, and anyone who creates anything with words, images, sounds, or data).

The book is entitled, Digital Barbarism, and Helprin speaks for all writers and artists everywhere in a compelling and artistic way. Currently, copyright law allows for a writer to own copyright to his or her work for the writer's lifetime, plus seventy years after one's death. This copyright law is vitally important for writers and artists who, through their hard labor, sacrifices, and valuable work, should have equal opportunity to provide for their children and grandchildren, just as any business owner, producer, or farmer has the opportunity to pass along their ownership to their children, etc.

Without copyright law, just as if there were no estate laws for heirs, eventually the state would own everything and we would no longer have a free enterprise economy, but a government-owned, government-backed, and government-producing economy. We may already be traveling there at light-speed.

Our founding fathers and mothers regarded copyright as so important that it is written into the U.S. Constitution. Let's keep it that way . . . and if anything, extend copyright law rather than shrink it.

God knows there's enough of me that is already shrinking. Writers, musicians, screenwriters, journalists, and actors don't need copyright stripped. The day that happens, it's the end of creativity. After all, who would produce a work without some promise of income from one's labors? Who would incur the cost of producing a movie, a play, a book, an article, or a song if any Joe off the street could then claim it, print it, produce it, copy it and then sell it as their own?

I may be old-fashioned, but that used to called theft.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Going Hollywood

Over the weekend, I shot three "info-mercial" videos that my various publishers want to put on the web. Evidently this is a new fad: having authors talk about their books. One of these is supposed to show up on YouTube in the next month.

Shooting these videos, I felt like Billy Mays, the pitchman who sells everything from OxyClean to kitchen knives. I was outside of my element, for sure, but I tried.

Hi, my name's Todd Outcalt, and have I got a deal for you! If you are planning a wedding, have been considering a wedding, or have ever dreamed of having a wedding . . . then you'll want to buy my book at full price! This book will not only save you money, it will save your life. Heck, you might even decide that the guy you are hoping to marry is really nothing but a dead-beat and you might decide to kick his sorry butt all the way to a curb in Alabama. That's what this book can do for you! Save you heartache, time . . . AND MONEY! So make sure you buy the book. Heck, buy two. 'Cause we can't do this all day!

See what I mean? The longer I talked, the louder my voice became. By the time we were done filming, I was screaming at the top of my lungs like a Pentecostal preacher calling the congregation forward to drink cyanide-laced Koolaid. I don't even yell at my son that loudly, and now this stuff is going to be out there on the Internet attracting "customers".

My only hope is that the vid will go "viral" and people will tune in because they will be laughing and me and asking all their friends, "Have you seen that YouTube vid of that weirdo in Brownsburg who is trying to sell a wedding book?"

Who knows . . . maybe I'll be the next William Hung. All I have to do now is learn how to sing, "She Bangs".

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Okay . . . More Limericks

Couldn't help it. I was reclining on the couch late last night and spinned these new limericks in a few minutes. Equal opportunity offensive, once again.

There once was a pastor named Bart
Who made rhyme and meter his art.
But then he ate beans
And soon lost the means
Because he couldn’t find any word or combination of syllables that would rhyme with “art”.

A pastor from Brigadoon
Would often sleep in until noon.
But one morning with yawn
He rose before dawn
But then went back to bed very soon!

A Buddhist from Singapore
Reached Nirvana then could do no more.
So he sat on a stool
And started to drool
Then wondered, “Why isn’t three, four?”

A rabbi loved bagels and lox
And carried them home in a box.
But one day in a rush
He ate a quick nash
And found that he’d eaten his socks.

A priest from the region of Kent
Complained about where he was sent,
So the bishop O’Dell
Sent him straight down to hell
And made him do penance through Lent.

There once was a Mormon from Dunn
Who had thirty wives just for fun,
But one day at the mart
He met a young tart
And asked her to be thirty-one.

A pastor whose mind was this dense
Wrote rhymes that ‘oft gave offense.
And some wrote him letters
Saying “Put him in fetters!
For this is your recompense!”

A pastor who isn’t like me,
Wrote limericks and poems with glee.
But his blog was a dud
And his talent like mud
(No, I told you he wasn’t like me!)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Man of Steele

This past Sunday our guest speaker was Ned Steele. Ned had a great message . . . but I felt that I didn't show him enough hospitality. So, I thought I'd write him a poem. And, since I didn't have a photo of Ned, I had to imagine what he might look like in a couple of years after St. Mark's in Bloomington has their way with him. Enjoy.

Man of Steele

By Todd Outcalt

You’ve probably read of the Superman
And his amazing, spectacular pecs,
But “super” is just a relative term
As to whom he's standing next.

See, Superman ain’t so “super” if
He can’t preach a decent act,
And he surely ain’t no Superman
If he has no polish or tact.

And Superman has to wear a cape
And a large “S” on his chest,
But I know a Superman named “Ned”
Who is D.S. of the West.

It’s true he never wears a sock
And he doesn’t need vestments of color,
But Ned is super in many a style
And you’d better believe it, brother!

He’s more “super” than Superman
‘Cause Clark Kent never preaches,
And though the Superman can fly
Have you heard the crap he teaches?

Sure he’ll talk to Jimmy and Lois
And give them a lesson or two,
But Ned is super to all he meets
And a friend to more than a few.

They say that Superman saves the world
And keeps his nose to the wheel,
But for my money I’d rather have
The other man of Steele.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Name on Google

The other day I took the liberty of typing my own name in a Google search. I was astounded at how many "hits" there were for TODD OUTCALT. But I didn't have time to really look through all of those hits and ponder what they might mean.

Today I sat down (after mowing the lawn) to peruse some of the 650+ "hits" that were produced when I typed in my name on the Google search. Some of the weird ones led me to the New York City Marathon web site and to a theatrical trailer for a children's theatre production. Odd, both . . . especially since I have never run in a marathon in my life (I hate running) and have no plans to ever run for anything, including any political office. And as for the children's theatre, I had written some children's skits years ago, which were indeed published, but I thought no one would have the audacity to actually stage any of them!

Most of the "hits" were book covers, author photos, and a veritable cornucopia of Wittenberg Door back issues--a magazine I contributed to for more than two decades but which is now, sadly to say, out of business.
Lord, I do miss THE DOOR. Please come back. I need a regular outlet for my religiously-hyped imagination and warped humor.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Promotional Writing

One of the newest fads that publishers are using now is asking their authors to write promotional copy for their respective books. It's a fascinating concept. Here's how it works. The editor calls and says something like, "We'd like you to write a series of promotional copy that can tell the reader why you wrote your book, or what you like about your book, or what the reader can find in your book. And we also need a photo of you." (Here's the only photo of me I could find when I GOOGLED myself.)

Other publishers are asking their writers to blog. Twittering has even entered the picture now. (But seriously, who on God's-green-earth would want to read a boring twitter from Yours Truly?) (And what would I twitter?):

Made a pot of coffee. Yum...

Cleaned up cat puke, tastes like chicken.

Helped my son with Algebra.

Ate can of Pork-n-beans for dinner.

Wrote promotional copy for book.

Wrote more promotional copy.

Ate can of corn for dessert.

Two church meetings. Home now.

More corn.

Said hello to daughter.


Wrote new chapter for book proposal.



Cat puke.

Said goodnight to wife.

More writing.

See what I mean? I'm just too boring to be a writer!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

They're Back . . . More Limericks

Okay, I'm an equal-opportunity offender . . . so either enjoy this new batch of limericks or give me the heave-ho.

There once was a rabbi from Kew
Whose congregation was notably few.
So with no boys to briss
He was never remiss
And his scissors were always like new.

A rabbi once born with crossed-eyes
Was nevertheless very wise
So he told all his boys
That his scissors were toys
Before he performed circumcise.

A priest from the region of Plooze
Sailed around the world on a cruise
But the ship ran aground,
No survivors were found,
But not a word of the wreck made the news.

Two scholars who gossiped all week
Would look through the windows and peek.
One day without tact
They caught two in the act,
But they couldn’t translate from the Greek.

A little old lady from Sudd
Enjoyed writing hymns in the mud
But her finger went flat,
She was sharp where she sat,
And so all of her songs were a dud.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

First PC

My first professional writing instrument was a Tandy 1000, which I purchased in 1985. I splurged and purchased a 1000 that had two floppy drives a month after I graduated from Duke. These were the large floppies, when the disks actually flopped or bent when you picked them up and slid them into the PC.

I spent $1000 on this piece of crap. I wrote on it for ten years. I wrote dozens of books (none of which were published), dozens of stories, and perhaps two or three hundred essays. I still have this machine stuffed down in the basement along with, perhaps, a hundred floppies that are absolutely loaded with material. I'll never revisit this stuff.

I learned how to write by writing on this mono-chrome monster . . . and Becky can remember (pre-children) when I would sit in my office hole for hours every night and type away. It's miraculous, in fact, that we have two kids. According to her memory, I spent more time on the PC than I did with her. Could be . . . but look what I've accomplished: stacks of unwanted material, dozens of books that will never see the light of day, closets stuffed with gigantic piles of paper. And heck, I spend more time with her now, and she can't understand why.

Who could ask for anything more?!

Publication Dates

Yesterday I received a great deal of "pre-publication" feedback about my book: $5 Youth Ministry. The reviews were ranging . . . as all reviews are.

One reviewer thought I had avoided the "cheesy-youth-ministry-book-factor" quite well, which was, of course, my intent all along. I love cheese, cheddar particularly, but I don't want to put any cheese in my books. I know what the reviewer was talking about--as I've read my share of cheesy books--and I was glad to learn that I had avoided lactose.

Another reviewer thought I had assembled a massive collection of helpful/practical ideas. Which, again, was my goal.

Publication date?

I asked the lead editor this question yesterday and learned that August 1 is the "ideal" date. And if that date pans out, this will, no doubt, be the fastest book I have ever written (from actual concept, submission, production, and into print and onto the bookshelves.) If the August 1 date holds up, I think the whole kit-n-caboodle was completed in less than 9 months. Eb-eb-ebedeeeeee . . . that's fast, folks!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Newspaper Interviews

Over the next few weeks, I'm scheduled to be interviewed by a number of newspaper journalists. I never know what to say in these interviews, or how much to disclose.

For example, if an interviewer asks me "What advice would you give to an engaged couple as they plan their wedding?" . . . I'm never certain if I should respond with something cutesy like "Don't!" or if I should wax philosophical and say something like, "Well, Skippy, it's all relative."

Usually I just quote Kierkegaard and call it a day.

In a few weeks I have an interview scheduled with a newspaper that covers events in my old home town, and I'm sure the dude will ask me questions like, "What was it like to graduate from North Central in 1979? Were you a love-child? How large were your bell-bottoms? Ever smoked a doobie? What was your wife's maiden name . . . and are her parents still living so I can contact them and verify their deep and abiding love for their son-in-law? And, didn't I do a story on you in 1977 when some kids t-peed the rival football stadium?"

Hope he doesn't recognize me. I'd rather he respect my body of work.

Monday, May 11, 2009

On Mothers Day . . .

Yes, I gave my mother (and my mother-in-law) a gift on mothers day. I gave them each two books. And as it turns out, they were books I have contributed to.

"You mean, you've got an essay in here?" my mom asked.

"Yeah," I said. "And it's about you."

Mom read my essay and actually laughed, which was a good sign. Afterwards, she sighed, "You nut!"

So . . . I do hope all mothers had a nutty-fantabulous day on Sunday.

(No, that's not me . . . that's mom. Just wanted you to know where my good looks come from.)

My Writing Friends

Every now and again I receive an email or a postcard from someone I have known because of a writing association. (I'm not a part of any writing association, mind you--I hate clubs and I have far too many meetings in my life to want to clutter my life with more of them!)

But this past week I joined Facebook. And right away I've received a few emails from other writers who ask things like:

How's it going?
What are you writing these days?
Are you still a loser?

I write back and tell them things like:

I just signed a million dollar contract with PIXAR to have one of my books published as an animated short. Watch for it in theatres.


I am not a loser . . . in fact, have you seen the new Star Trek movie? Who do you think wrote the screenplay for that baby?

With all the crazy things that are floating around out there on Facebook these days, who's gonna know the difference?
(P.S., I have never watched a single episode of Friends in my life. No kidding. But the women sure are purty ain't they?)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Style Manuals

Here's an interesting tidbit many of you may not know: every publisher has a slightly different "style manual" that is intended to guide a writer. Now, for the most part, a style manual is a style manual is a style manual. But there are interesting differences that often drive me nuts!

For example, the latest book that I finished writing (to be entitled $5 Youth Ministry) involved reformatting the entire manuscript. Not a large job, really, just a tedious one. I had to change my indentions for each paragraph (that's each paragraph in the entire book, folks!) and recreate the manuscript in a block-style presentation. I also had to remove italics, bold, asterisks, etc. throughout.

Other publishers want certain idiosyncrasies such as margins, headers, footers, and page numbering to correspond to their respective style manuals. As you might imagine, it can all be very dizzying and confusing. Do I space one (1) space after a period or (2) two? Do I have to go back through the entire manuscript and put an extra space after each line or paragraph? Can I do this without going stark-raving mad?

Heck, folks, I just want to write (and write the way that Mrs. Pohlman taught me to type in 10th grade, when I was the only boy in an ocean of girls and got a D- in the art of hunt-and-peck). Heck, I just want to produce a manuscript without having to stop after every period, comma, asterisk, footnote and letter to ask: "Which style manual am I supposed to be following?"

~#&*(%#@~,~!)-?&^((^% Style Manuals!!!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Buying Books

This week I have read a couple of articles and also participated in a discussion regarding the demise of the bookstore. Two weeks ago I read that Harper Collins is closing Collins (that's like Baskin & Robbins deciding to close Baskin and offer only 25 flavors instead of 50). And this week I read that Walden Books is filing for bankrupcy and will soon be closing many of their stores. Hundreds of independent stores are closing their doors for good, too.

I have always tried to support bookstores in many ways. Whenever possible, I've always purchased my books instead of checking them out of the library (nothing wrong with libraries, though, they buy books, too.) And I've always tried to support independent sellers as I can.

Ironically, there is much being written about the demise of writing and reading (at least in traditional forms). And yes, things are changing rapidly. Every writer's contract now includes what could be dozens of others publishing options and rights. There are digital rights, print on demand rights, media rights, movie and/or tv rights, and other new stuff I've never heard of. But somebody out there could potentially want those words.

I just hope there are people tomorrow who will know how to, or want to, read the words people are writing today.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Book Dedication

I've always found it difficult to write a book dedication . . . even the one line dedication in the front page of a book. Now that I've dedicated three books to my wife, three or four to my kids, one to my parents, two to my grandmother, and yes, even one to my in-laws . . . it's getting creative.

For School's Out, I simply dedicated the book: To Calvary United Methodist Church. That covers everyone. That, and I've signed over all of my royalties to Calvary, too . . . so I hope the sales will be brisk.

I've often wanted to dedicate books in a way that would be wholly unique, too. For example, how about:

To the woman in Dunkin' Donuts who took my job . . . go dunk yourself!

To the mechanic who changes the oil in my 1991 Caprice wagon . . . I left a tip under the floor mat (those dimes and nickels are yours)!

To the driving instructor at A+ who works with my son . . . you got nerve, buddy!

To all the people who throw McDonalds sacks in my yard every week . . . I ain't lovin' it!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Webinar

Yesterday I participated in a most unique conference call with a publisher. It was called a "webinar". Here's how it worked.

I signed up to go online for this seminar. I received a "log in" number and password. At the assigned time, I logged into the web site, submitted my password, and then was instructed to dial a phone number so I could hear the presenter's voice. What I was watching on the computer was the presenter's powerpoint presentation as she spoke. Fascinating.

What made it all the more fascinating was another man's voice that I kept hearing on my phone (I don't know if others could hear this guy). He kept cursing, mumbling, lambasting the presenter. Eventually another voice came onto the line and asked him to "Shut up!"

Technology is a wonderful thing when it works well. But sometimes we also need the human touch to keep people in line.

Oh, and one last thing. I sat next to Governor Mitch Daniels today at breakfast. Can't wait to see Harold Leininger so I can tell him I ate from the governor's plate while the governor was speaking at the podium. I won't wash my mouth for a week. He selected a very tasty donut. And I don't think he even knew I had eaten it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Spy Book

I just finished consuming Neal Bascomb's amazing account of espionage. Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi. Eichmann, who may have been personally responsible for the slaughter of more than a million people, was hunted for over fifteen years by the young Israeli spy agency after WWII. He was discovered in Argentina living under an alias, captured, and brought to trial in Israel, where he was tried and convicted and executed.

I would not be surprised if this historic account is made into a movie (Spielberg?) and is itself captured for the world to remember.

Monday, May 4, 2009

New Photo

I thank Andrew for taking my photograph. He actually makes me look half way decent. Sort of regal. "Author"itative. Get it?

I'll be using this photograph now until I die. I figure I can look this good until the undertaker combs my hair (if I have any) one last time. In fact, I may look better dead than alive.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Storyteller

I have listened to a few books-on-tape recently, and one I enjoyed immensely was John Feinstein's collection of Red Auerbach's tales: Let Me Tell You A Story. As a kid, I watched a lot of Boston Celtic basketball, and Auerbach, the cigar-smoking coach and President of the operation, was already an icon. I watched a great deal more Celtic's basketball after Boston drafted Larry Bird, from Indiana State, and the franchise took another dramatic leap forward.

This book has a great many stories that are not just basketball tales . . . some are personal stories of family, friendship, and heroism.

On Larry Bird, Auerbach does tell this little snippet about meeting with Bird and his agent. Evidently, Bird arrived with his agent in Auerbach's office and laid out a number of stipulations that, supposedly, Bird wanted to include in his rookie contract. Auerbach was offering Bird $500,000 per year, the highest rookie contract in NBA history, but Bird also wanted the Celtics to give him a new car, a downpayment on a house, airfare to fly his mother from French Lick to Boston any time she wanted to watch a game, and a large bonus if Larry Bird made the NBA all-rookie team.

Auerbach thought about these stipulations and then turned to speak to Bird (not his agent). "Look, Larry," he said, "I'm a straight shooter. I don't make deals like this. Here's the thing. I'm giving you the largest rookie contract in NBA history. But I'm not a car dealer, I'm not a real estate agent, and with the money you are going to be making, you can afford to fly your mother to Boston for every game. And as for making the all-rookie team, hell, I expect you to make the team! You'd better be the best rookie in the league with a contract like this!"

Bird didn't even try to negotiate. He just nodded to his agent as if to say, "Red's right. Let's sign the damn thing!"

The rest is history.

Friday, May 1, 2009

My Funniest Book Signing

Some years back, when I was young, thin, and a snappy dresser, I had a book signing in a mall bookstore (Borders, Waldens, Barnes & Noble . . . I don't recall). Becky accompanied me on that little run and, while I was signing books inside the doorway, she happened to be sitting outside the bookstore on one of those mall benches. Shortly, two women also sat down next to her and began talking. Becky could overhear their conversation.

The younger of the two women looked up and happened to notice me sitting in the bookstore at my little author's table. "Oh, look, mom!" she said. "There's a guy in there signing books. Let's go meet him."

The older woman didn't say anything right away, she just looked at me. Studied me. Sized me up. You get the picture.

Eventually the daughter spoke again, "Come on, let's go in there and meet him."

"No, I don't think so," the older woman said.

"Why, mom? What's wrong?"

"Take a good look at him," the old woman said. "Can't you tell that he's gay?"

Now, Becky said she started laughing so hard, she almost spit her diet Coke onto the mall aisle. The younger woman studied me more closely and then said, "Yeah, I see what you mean. He's gay all right." The two women rose from the bench and left in disgust.

I love this story. It's my favorite book signing episode. I remind my wife about it every time we have a little hanky-panky. I raise my pinkie in the air and ask her if I can sign a book. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!--Seinfeld, circa. 1995)