Friday, January 29, 2010

Amazon Prophet

Weird, but I feel like a book prophet today. On the day that J.D. Salinger died, I made a predication right here on this very blog, boz'n girls, that Salinger's novel, The Catcher in the Rye, would bolt to the number one spot on Bada-bing, there it is.

Of course, Salinger's lone novel has been a best-seller since 1951 (having sold more than 60 million copies worldwide). That's something of a miracle, that one book, written by twenty-year old who became a recluse for the rest of his life, could have netted more than a million dollars a year for nearly fifty years. Sufferin-succotash!

So, if you've not read The Cather in the Rye, but you would like to make a contribution to the J.D. Salinger family estate, go out a buy your copy today! Or better yet, order it on It's number one! And I'm a book prophet.

Getting Here

Last night Becky asked me: "Do you still have that book--What Got You Here Won't Get You There?"

"Sure,"I said, "It's one of the most helpful books I've read in the past decade."

"I want to read it again," she said. "I think it could be helpful in my leadership class."

And so, now Marshall Goldsmith's book is perched on our living room table atop a disorganized pile of magazines such as Better Homes & Gardens, The New Yorker, and National Geographic. I've already begun reading it again. Something tells me I'll be reading some of my wife's textbooks also. If I see them sitting around the house, I'll read 'em.

And now that Becky is taking evening classes again (for the next 2 1/2 years), there's really nothing to do at night except read and write anyway. I watch very little television (with the exception of The Big Bang Theory and Andy Griffith Show reruns . . . maybe an occasional M*A*S*H or some Travel channel or Food channel stuff).

I'm grateful for books like Goldsmith's, which hold their value over time and are great books to read. Especially when you're lonely.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Salinger Dead

I noted this morning that news of J.D. Salinger's death had hit the airwaves (age 91). Salinger was an anomaly among novelists in that, he achieved his out-of-the-gate success at age twenty, publishing The Catcher in the Rye, and then, basically, became a recluse for the rest of his life. I don't think he ever gave an interview, never appeared on television or radio, and yet his first and only novel sold millions of copies (again bringing into question my observation that first novels don't sell).

This afternoon, I went in search of my copy of The Catcher in the Rye--a book that I had read while in my twenties--and I finally discovered my hardback copy of the book, and in a rather pristine condition at that, lurking on the second shelf of the bookcase in my wife's office. I note by the copyright that Salinger published this "coming-of-age" novel in 1951--a story about a foul-mouthed kid named Holden Caulfield who runs away from his high-brow prep school for a three day junket in New York city. (Wow, was Ferris Buehler's Day Off influenced by this book?)

Finding The Catcher in the Rye again (and holding it my lap as I write this blog) also provoked another memory of a second Salinger book that I had purchased some years back, and I located this collection of Salinger's New Yorker stories (Nine Stories) in a tiny paperback edition just behind my desk. Guess my memory isn't too bad yet. I can't recall my wife's name most days, but I can still locate titles among the mounds of three-deep books scattered all around me. Now, if I could only remember my daughter's name--I have to pick her up at that university up north on Friday morning (what's her name?).

I'm not sure what to make of Salinger, really. He was a perfect example of a writer who wrote sparingly, but with enormous acclaim and financial success. His first and only novel became a cult classic and his protagonist, Holden Caulfield, an American icon. (I once won a game of Trivial Pursuit by answering the question: "Name the protagonist in J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.") Now, I guess I'll have to reread it after all these years . . . and I'm certain that, with Salinger's passing, copies of this novel will shoot up the best-seller list--watch for it!

Finally, Salinger's reclusive nature is more akin to my own desires when it comes to writing, too. I hate doing book signings and appearances. I hate doing trade shows and such. But marketing and promotion is very much a part of the scheme of things these days. Still, I'd much rather just sit at home and write something else.

Or, in Salinger's case, I guess he just sat at home and told his adoring public to "get off the lawn!"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Do You Want Fries With That . . . Book?

A few years ago I sat down and did a quick financial review of my writing income over twenty years, as well as an estimate of the number of hours I had spent writing to produce same. The results didn't surprise me, but I always share this little stat with those who might be harboring illusions of wealth inside the idea of being or becoming a writer.

On the plus side of the ledger I had several thousands of dollars in book royalties, as well as payment garnered from writing for magazines, journals, newspapers and such. I totalled all of this up and then began doing a methodical estimate of the number of hours I had spent writing that same material.

What I arrived at was an hourly rate for my work, and as I recall, it wasn't even $3.00 per hour.

Or, to put it into a scenario that might be more identifiable . . . I would have made more if I had worked those same hours moonlighting at McDonalds.

But then with me, writing is a lot like dipping fries or flipping burgers . . . I just keep churning out pages (books, magazine articles, essays, poems, blogs, stories, and proposals). My goal (when I die) will be to hang a sign on my casket that reads: "Billions and Billions of Words Written!" My hourly rate really stinks, but I'd rather write all night on a twelve-year old computer and suffer the threat of electrocution than come home at three a.m. smelling like grease.

It's a dirty job, being an after-hours and all-night writer . . . but somebody has to do it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Somebody Stop That Woman!

Okay, bear with me boys'n girls while I go off in this blog and try to stop a complete stranger from ruining her life. You think I'm joking. But I'm not kidding.

Here's the story:

A few months ago I was talking to a friend about another friend (THE WOMAN!) who was going to quit her $50,000+ a-year teaching job with-benefits to follow her dream of writing a book. Okay, I get "dreams" and "visions" and the "not-getting-any-younger" existential hungers that can lead people to take risks and jump ship into other careers. Hells bells, I'm a freakin' pastor and I get that, I really do! And besides, my wife has switched careers so many times in the past twenty-five years that I can't hardly remember what her job is NOW . . . but when my friend told me about this woman who was quitting her job to follow a dream of making a living as a writer, I literally screamed: "Stop That Woman!"

As I turns out, this woman had always had a "dream" of writing a book about chocolate. Okay, I get the chocolate thing, too. I really do. Love it. But something in the deepest recesses of my gut told me that this woman was following a "dream" and was not basing her decision upon anything "real", "researched" or "well-documented." Her dream, which is the same freakin-fallacy that so many people follow whenever they hear the word "book" is this: I'm gonna make a living writing a book about chocolate and I'm going to be wealthy, famous and secure--preferably all at the same time.

But here are the facts folks . . . and any writer worth his or her salt would scream this same litany of truths at the top of the lungs to Stop This Woman! from making a very big mistake.

Fact #1: There were 300,000 new books published in the U.S. in 2009 (and I published three of 'em). Read that 300,000 number again, boys'n girls and try to comprehend it. Then proceed to fact #2 (but only after you've really grasped fact # 1).

Fact # 2: 90% of all books published in the U.S. each year make NO MONEY for either the publisher or the writer! Do you hear me now, woman? Can you comprehend this? Have you done your homework? Have you really researched the life of a writer? Do you really know how publishing works? Do you understand how books are produced? Whose gonna buy your book about chocolate?

Fact #3: To make the equivalent of a $50,000 per year teacher salary (plus benefits) a book writer is going to have to be in the top 1% of all writers in the world (in the world, honey!). That book on chocolate is going to have to sell at least 50,000 copies per year, every year, year-after-year, for the author to reap that kind of a windfall in royalties. Or, that woman is going to have to have the most successful book on chocolate in the history of human civilization.

Fact #4: The odds of any of this happening are so minuscule, sweetheart, you might as well take your $50,000 a year salary, load it into a slot machine at Rising Sun, and pull the lever once.

Please, for the love of humanity. Somebody stop that woman!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Best American Stories

One of the books I received for Christmas (and have now read) is The Best American Short Stories, edited by Alice Sebold. This annual collection has some fine stories--and most by relatively unknown, new, or young writers. There were only a few stories by notables such as Annie Proulx or Alice Sebold (author of The Lovely Bones, now a major motion picture).

I always enjoy this series of books, and manage to purchase a few of the titles each year; the bibliography alone, found in the back of the book, features a list of national magazines with addresses and editors names, and is worth the sticker price alone. Well, it is to me anyway.

I did also note that a couple of the stories featured in this year's anthology were taken from author's blogs or websites. Does that mean I can start submitting my blogs as "published" material? Interesting question.

Having said that, I have been submitting much more material for publication on web sites of late, and this is certainly a new outlet for writers like me who cannot gain the respect of those who read books and magazines.

Well, but I'll keep trying. Maybe I should look into some new publishing formats . . . such as writing books on paper plates that have been stapled together, or on tin cans, or perhaps on the sides of my 1991 Caprice station wagon tires now that I don't have hub caps. That would be certain to gain some attention, and that way I could say that my writing actually made people dizzy.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Over the weekend I've been engaged in communication on a scale never before seen in the likes of this household: emails, phone calls, mailings, websites, and much, much more. Essentially, I've been in conversation with the dozens of writers around the country--in places as far reaching as Washington state and as close to home as Chicago, IL--who have contributed to the upcoming Ultimate Christian Living (to be published and distributed nationally on March 1).

Some of these people have invited me to their home states. One guy in Arizona even volunteered to arrange hotel accommodations and limo service for me if I would be willing to do a book store/speaking tour. I'm not sure about the tour thing, but the sunshine sounds wonderful. I hear the sun actually shines in other states! And I hear that elsewhere in this great land, people are actually healthy and warm and free!

I also had conversation with another gentleman, a well-respected medical doctor in Houston, who has offered to help promote this book in some venues that are both remarkable and unique. I hope we will meet some day and I can actually enjoy some sunshine!

And, yes, I've had contact with folks in places like Alabama, and Florida, and even Mount Airy, North Carolina (Andy Griffith's home oughta' visit!). And in every one of these places, believe me, the sun is shining!

Which brings me back to Indiana and the question: why do I live here? Why do I continue to subject myself to the god-forsaken, gray-skied, boring-terrained landscape of Hoosierland? Maybe it's just January talking. But for some reason, these other places just seem so much more exciting and bright and the people I'm talking to actually have a lilt in their winter-voices.

I guess that's why editors live in Indiana. Somebody has to do the dirty work. And Indiana is probably about as dirty and glum as you can get.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Electronic Submission

On New Year's day I spent a good deal of the afternoon preparing manuscripts for submission: printing, sorting, clipping, stuffing, addressing, posting. It was all very dizzying, and at the end of the day I had a rather formidable stack of mail. Happy New Year!

Increasingly, however, magazines and publishers are moving toward electronic submissions. These submissions via the internet are usually free (just cut/n paste or attach document) but sometimes they cost money. I've become rather adept now at signing up to submit electronically, and pay by account number as I go.

Most of these submissions are quite reasonable in price (about the same amount I'd pay to send a manuscript via the "snail mail" with return postage attached). Others, however, are a bit more pricey. Hey, what's the deal with ten-dollar per submission? Is someone trying to buy a yacht?

It is also fascinating to get rejection via email:

"Sorry, but we can't use this right now."
"We apologize for this form response, but, hey, you're a loser!"

Still, every now and again I do get the word:

"This is excellent stuff . . . better than hard cheese'n crackers. Send us more! Send us more!"

Oh, don't worry. I shall.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Yes, Virginia, There is a Writing Clause

A few weeks before Christmas, while working with dozens of writers on the final draft of an upcoming book, I received a very nice email from a young high school writer who wanted to know: "How can I get published?"

I did write her back. Helping younger writers is actually one of my joys. I love helping other people accomplish a life goal (would that more people had life goals!). But in the case of "Virginia", I thought it might be helpful to offer some tips here that could help any aspiring writer. Here's what I wrote back (sort of):

Dear Virginia,
Thank you for writing to an old dog like me: a guy who, if he allowed his beard to grow out, would now look like Santa Claus. I've been writing for a long time, Virginia, and I've learned that there are always people out there who will say "it can't be done." Sometimes, it may be people in your family who tell you this. Or it may be your friends or teachers. It may even be an editor or an agent (but don't worry about that right now).

My advice to you presently is, don't worry about "getting published." Make sure you write. Be the best writer you can be. Grow in your writing. Find people who can offer feedback on your work. And make sure you read the types of books you want to write. Analyze these books and learn what makes them work, how the writing works, and why. You'd be surprised how many young writers want to write mysteries, or science fiction, or romances . . . but they don't read mysteries, or science fiction or romances to learn how successful books work. Read. Read. Read. And write. Write. Write. There are no shortcuts. Turn off the TV, the video games, the cell phone . . . and read and write.

Now, once you have created a nice piece of writing, there are actually many outlets for younger writers. I could give you a dozen or so to try. And visit the library and read (there's that reading stuff again) about how to prepare a manuscript for submission to an editor and how to write a cover letter. Master this craft alone, and you will be light-years ahead of most writers.

And Virginia, here's the most difficult next step: you have to send your work to an editor, even though your work will likely be rejected. But you have to keep writing and sending your work in. Don't dally over work you've already completed. Write something else. And then write something else. Let an editor see that you are a writer (a producer of words . . . and the articles, essays and books you produce are the commodities you offer). Farmers produce soy beans and corn. Writers produce words!

Eventually, if you persevere, you will get a "yes". And then another "yes". But being published isn't the most satisfying (and cannot be the most satisfying) part of this process. It must be the writing itself--the solitary, fire-in-the-belly experience of word selection, that drives you.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Writing Clause, and it still lives in all of the hearts and minds of young writers like yourself. A hundred years from now, a thousand years from now . . . it will still live on. So keep writing.

Yours truly,
Santa Todd

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Out of the Salt Shaker

How do I begin to review Mark Kurlansky's excellent book on Salt, apply-titled, Salt: A World History? This is a book about . . . well, salt. And what a book it is. Do you know the history and significance of salt? Did you know that the word "salary"comes from the root word for salt, when people were paid in salt? Or how about the history of the phrases: "Salt away" or "Worth your salt?" Kurlansky's book will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about salt and it's place in human history. Wars have been fought over salt. Millions of lives destroyed for this mineral. Oh, yes. All for salt!

This book even provides a history of the many ways that salt has been used to help men become better lovers. Yes, women used to salt their men. No, I have not been salted. But . . . .

Kurlansky really stretched my imagination. I just didn't know that ordinary table salt could be used in so many ways.

In the past, I'd only used salt for two reasons: to kill slugs, and on popcorn. Guess I should try combining the two sometime.

Translations I'd Like to See

Sure, any publisher can find some bozo overseas who will translate a book into Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, or even Polish, but how about digging up some really obscure languages? And since none of my books have been successful in the English language, I'd love to see a few of my titles translated into:

Still a mystery language. No scholar has been able to crack the Etruscan lingo. These pre-Roman salt-makers and warriors are an enigma, and I'd love to see someone translate one of my books into this language. Besides, I had a few years of Latin in college (studying Ovid, Virgil, and others), studied Greco-Roman culture and Near Eastern languages in seminary . . . and quite frankly, I'm sick of the Romans. Bring on the Etruscans and let's have something new.

I don't know, I'd just like to say I had a book translated in Swahili. I like the sound of it. Jambo! Abadi-gani!

Not too far from Hoosierland, there are an entire race of people who speak in an other-worldly accent. Let's get some books translated for these fine folks. Ya'll come-n over and read-a-spell on the front porch'n I'll bring some sun tea and wa'il hav'us a grand ol'time a sippin' an'a pee'in. Ya'll bring your yung'ns, too cauz we' got us a barrel-ring.

Author Note: This blog is an equal-opportunity offender and is written for Hoosiers and Kentuckians alike. If the author has offended anyone with his wit, he apologizes for the inconvenience. All complaints should be submitted in Homeric Greek at this blogging address and will be responded to in the order in which they are received.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Beijing Book

I was curious to know if other translations of my books were available online. To my surprise, they were. But then, why not? One can find and buy most anything online these days, I had no trouble locating Chinese bookstores that were carrying the Mandarin translation of Candles in the Dark. Well, I assume this is Candles in the Dark.

I have often wondered how many copies have been sold in Chinese (could I say that my books have sold a million copies?) since there are, of course, a lot of people in China.

Later this week, I'll try to find an answer to this question . . . but book sales and stats are difficult to come by. Publishers seem to guard these numbers as closely as Tiger Woods guards his text messages, so, it may take some digging and a bit of help from NBC, but I'll get to the bottom of this mystery.

I'm also going to try to locate a Chinese copy of my book, Before You Say "I Do", which was translated into Chinese more than a decade ago. However, I don't have a copy of this book on my shelves, and it's been driving me crazier than Miss Daisy just thinking about what the cover might look like.

Next blog: other languages I wish I could be published in. Don't miss it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Best Things in Life . . . In Portuguese

One of my old friends (meaning, my age!) recently sent me an email that read: "Did you know that there is another Todd Outcalt out there who is writing books in Portuguese? I found this book online and wondered what it was about."

Attached was a jpeg file of a book cover, in Portuguese.

"Actually," I wrote back, "that's me. That the Portuguese translation of The Best Things in Life Are Free."

Portuguese, you say? Yeah, Portuguese. Don't ask me how publishers make these decisions or why some titles get translated into, say, Spanish, while others appear in Swahili. I'm not attune to the gentle swirlies of the publishing biz and the decisions that emerge after a publisher plops the seat down.

And there are other questions, too. People always want to know: how much do you make from the Portuguese translation? How large are the checks that are rolling in from Brazil and Portugal? Answer: I don't get checks from translations and I've never made any money from a translation of one of my books. Other writers might. But not me. I've been a bozo without an agent and the publishers get to keep all of this foreign currency.

How many copies has the Portuguese translation sold? Is it a bestseller in South America? Have no idea. For all I know, the Portuguese translation (despite it's proliferation on Portuguese websites) may have sold as well as its English counterpart. In other words, about a dozen copies, all of which my family purchased for half price at Costco.

No, friends, there's no joy in Mudville, nor in Buenes Aires either. And I have no idea how I'd go about trading Portuguese currency for a handful of American pocket change.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Phil Gulley on Leadership

Last Thursday I was invited to attend a County Leadership event/dinner. Pastor/author Phil Gulley was the keynote speaker. I've read all of Gulley's books (even the good ones!) and have always enjoyed his television program (he's an Emmy winner) and his Indianapolis Monthly column. We are fortunate to have him nearby.

Gulley spoke on leadership, of course, and did a fine job of weaving some compelling and heart-warming illustrations into the mix. By the time he had finished, I was ready to go out and lead the world to greatness.

Trouble is, I've never been the type of charismatic leader that people would want to follow. My wife, for example, didn't want to follow my lead back to the car that night, though I offered to hold her hand and drag her along like a dog. My son will have nothing to do with my leadership; rather, he is currently being led by the characters in the Jackass movies and some Scandanavian kids known as The Dudesons. My daughter might follow my leadership on certain occasions at Ball State, but only if I send an accompanying check to cover the cost of room and board.

This leaves me with a congregation of people who see all of my faults and weaknesses. I doubt any of them will be following me to Jonestown or Waco. Most would not follow me across the street to buy a screwdriver from Lowe's.

Oh, sure, there are glimpses. And from time to time I get the idea that some people actually follow this blog.

But then Rome wasn't built in a day, either. And neither were those huts in Jonestown.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Reading Otto Penzler

One of the books I received this past Christmas was The Best American Mystery Stories, 2009. This is one of the books of a series published every year (Best American Essays, Short Stories, Spiritual Writing, Nature Writing, Sports Writing, etc.) representing the best writing gleaned from magazines in that genre. I have nearly two entire shelves filled with these titles (dating back to 1985), and I'm beginning to stack the books two and three deep to make room for the new ones.

The Best American Mystery Stories is always edited by Otto Penzler--an icon in the mystery-writer world who owns The Mysterious Bookshop in New York and does the dirty work of gleaning the hundreds/thousands of mystery stories published each year. Otto also writes an introduction to the book.

This past year, reading Otto's into, I was taken by his crotchety approach to the "new publishing", which includes, of course, a growing number of "e-zines", "print on demand" and "electronic formats"--all evidence of the changing face of publishing. Otto spent a few hundred words lamenting the dissipating numbers of readers in America and the continuing changes that are weaning us from print medium to digital formats. I agreed with him, but hold out more hope that, with these changes, new readers and fans will emerge who might actually save publishing as we know it today. But I do agree with Otto: in a nation where the average American buys and reads less than one book per year, there is a premium on learning and knowledge in the classical sense. My hope is that some of the essential knowledge needed is being found online, or through the blogging community, or in other digital formats that are moving at the speed of light.

Like Otto, I'm lost without books. Like Thomas Jefferson, I believe that books contain the knowledge to change the world. And like Erasmus, I buy books (lots of 'em) and if I have any money left over, I buy food.

In fact, in the course of a year, I'm sure my book budget is larger than my personal food budget.

Thanks, Otto, for reminding me about what is essential to life. Even if I'm reading mystery stories.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

American Lightening

A few days ago I finished reading American Lightening, by Howard Blum. This is the fascinating story of America's first experience with terrorism in the early 1900s, the golden age of cinema, and the struggle between large corporations and workers' unions which led to explosive violence and, literally, explosions across the country. What made this read all the more interesting were the connections between Indianapolis, Muncie, and Hollywood, with many of the home-grown terrorists cutting their teeth in the Hoosier state, blowing up trains, buildings, and businesses in Peoria, IL and many points west.

American Lightening is also the story of the first true American detective, Billy Burns, and his international hunt to track down the terrorists and bring them to justice. Not an easy task in the age prior to fast-track communication and transportation, but ol' Billy had a knack for gaining the confidence of hoodlums and corporate executives alike. He figured out the puzzle which eventually led to the arrest and conviction of several involved in an ill-fated plot to bring down big business and win the day for the unions.

Burns eventually retired from detective work and became the first head of the newly formed FBI, but that only lasted a year. J. Edgar Hoover quickly succeeded him as head and began wearing women's dresses shortly thereafter. This will be a tough book to beat as one of my favorites as I devour other books in 2010.

And the rest, as they say . . . is history.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Interview Questions

Last week I received a request from one of my publishers for a mock Q & A document that could be used for television and radio shows to promote my upcoming book. (Of course, this is assuming I actually do any television or radio interviews!)

I always find it difficult to write these Q & A documents because they either come off sounding arrogant, self-serving, or full of hot air. But, well, here goes:

Q: Where did you get the idea for this book?
A: From a dream. This was also the same dream that revealed to me two winning lotto numbers and what my wife would be cooking for dinner that night.

Q: What is this book about?
A: It's all about me: my wardrobe, my gas mileage, my grooming habits. Stuff like that. There's an entire chapter devoted to my sock drawer. Fascinating stuff.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself as the author.
A: Okay, well . . . I am slightly near-sighted, but have recently purchased three pair of reading glasses from Wal-Mart. Got a three-pack for $7.15. I argue with my son daily. Oh, and I also have one of the largest collections of John Wesley letter-openers in North America! And, finally, I do cook potato soup at least once a week for the entire family. They hate me.

Q: Why should anyone buy this book?
A: Perhaps they shouldn't! In fact, this book should be banned! Anyone reading this book could, in fact, get killed . . . or worse. My publisher did ask me to create some hype, so I hope this might do the trick. People usually buy books that are dangerous, and this is an underground title that has deep ramifications for the future of the world. Steer clear!

Q: Where can a person buy this book?
A: Readers can purchase the book at participating Long John Silvers, at most 7-11 convenience stores, and out of the trunk of my car. Pirated copies can also be obtained in Hong Kong and Buenes Aires.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Banned Books

Now and again, it is important for me to show my resolve and read a banned book. One of the young adult books that has come under attack (at least it was in the 1970s) was Judy Blume's title, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. I picked up a used copy of this book and read it in a single sitting a few nights back.

This title, which came under attack by Christian fundamentalists (which is commonly the "group" that wants to ban most books in America!) deals with many themes of young female adolescence: the search for self, friendship, questions about God, menstruation, and self-awareness.

Judy Blume's book does not shy away from these themes, and the dialogue and prayers spoken by young Margaret are compelling and honest.

I certainly wouldn't want a steady diet of these YA books (particularly those dealing with young girl's issues) but at least I know that I can suggest this book when the questions arise.

Now, I hope to counter by reading a YA novel for boys. I've already tackled Robinson Crusoe, but that book was written in the seventeenth century, when boys didn't mature until they were forty-seven years old. And besides, it's been many a moon since I met a cannibal.

Monday, January 11, 2010

From Krakow, With Love

Two days after Christmas I received a present from one of my publishers. It was a small box containing four copies of the Polish translation of my book, The Healing Touch. This edition, published in Krakow, is entitled: Dotknieci Przez Boga: Prawdziewe Swiadectwa Uzdrowien.

Of course, when a book is translated into another language, I have to trust the translator's work. I assume the title is: The Healing Touch, Experiencing God's Love in the Midst of Our Pain. If not, well . . . that's a painful thing ain't it?

On the dedication page of the book, my wife noted that the translation reads: Dia Becky . . . raz jeszcze.

"I don't remember you dedicating this book to me," she said. "In fact, I don't remember this book at all."

"I don't remember dedicating it to you either," I told her. "And I don't remember writing it."

"Well, what does it say?"

Actually, I'm not sure. But here are my top five guesses:

To Becky . . . Not Your Ordinary Old Bag
Hey, Becky . . . wanna raz jeszcze tonight?
To My Lovely Wife . . . Becky . . . Who Holds the Stars in Her Eyes
Another One to Becky . . . And Not a Dime to Show for It
Hey, Becky . . . Could You Bring Me a Drink?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

1000 Blogs!


I've been following my blog count for a few weeks now, and determined that I have now written over 1000 blogs in the past three years. That's nearly a blog a day. I can't remember my own middle name, much less the details of these various blog entries.

I'm not sure what to make of this blogging phenomenon. I'm sure that some day blogs will go the way of the Doe-Doe bird and the Passenger Pigeon; blogging will become as extinct as my grandmother's coffee cake.

Not too long in the distant future, someone will invent a new paradigm for communication and the world will change again.

Back in the mid 1970s, a fellow named Alvin Toffler (if I remember correctly!) wrote a book entitled Future Shock. It was a huge best-seller. The basic thesis of this book was that soon our culture would be swamped with information, so much information, in fact, that people would be inundated and overwhelmed with words, facts, figures to the point that no one would be able to differentiate between fact and fiction, or between what is true or false, or between what is vital and what is, simply, fluff.

Welcome to our world, Mr. Toffler.

This overload of information affects us all. We have to pick and choose what we read, what we listen to, who we listen to, what we watch, who we watch, and the amounts of information we accept or reject.

And me? I'm still trying to get my kids to listen to me. The more they learn, the louder I have to shout to get attention. My wife stopped listening to me years ago. Now, I just sit on the couch and grunt. I emit basic animal sounds which inform my wife that I am hungry, or thirsty, or desirous of other affections.

We live in a fast-paced, yet Neolithic world . . . and I have returned to the animal basics.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Robinson Crusoe

A few days back I happened into a used bookstore, and before I knew it, I was walking out with three books. Only thing was, all of these were classic Young Adult (YA) novels. I've been reading these books this week, hoping that they might inspire me to get back to work on some YA novels of my own. I have two that I want to send to editors very soon.

One of these used books was a copy of Robinson Crusoe, the ancient Daniel Defoe tale about a man stranded on a deserted island for twenty-six years. That's much longer than the three years that Tom Hanks spent on his island in Castaway, but there is no doubt that Steven Spielberg used Defoe's tale as a cheat sheet for his movie.

My wife has always loved Castaway. Every time it's on TV she watches it and says, "I love that movie." I ask her why she loves it and she just says, "Just dreaming, honey . . . just dreaming."

Secretly, I think she is hoping that I will end up on an island somewhere so she can try out

That's the problem with old concepts like Robinson Crusoe and an island full of cannibals. Those were the fears that 17th century people carried when they considered being stranded on an island. Now, they fear not having access to the internet so they can begin dating again.

But there's enough savagery and butchery in Crusoe to keep me fastened to the edge of my seat. And in case I'm ever stranded on an island, you can bet I'll know how to survive. That, and I'll call my wife every couple of days on my cell phone just to check in. I'll be asking, "What's for dinner?" or "You're not seeing anyone are you?"

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Blogology 202

Some months ago I attempted to secure advertising for my blog. And why not? It's income and, who knows, there might actually be businesses out there who could appreciate the mighty clout of my endorsement. But, since the Tiger Woods scandal, businesses have been . . . well, skittish at best, and many have pulled the plug on their celebrity endorsements. Still, in case there are businesses out there who are looking for people like me to endorse their products, here are a few products that I might consider supporting.

I've never used a ShamWow, but boy would I love to! I mean, I can't write on this blog all day, and a ShamWow would be the perfect fit for me. I could use it to clean the keyboard on my twelve year old computer, since the greasy build up on the "F", "J" and "Spacebar" keys is enormous. If I were arrested for, say, shoplifting a Garden Weasel, the police could identify me from the fingerprints lifted from my computer keyboard. They wouldn't have to use fingerprint dust. They could just remove the prints from the keys by prying the grease up with a screwdriver. Yes, I'd say a ShamWow endorsement would be just the ticket for me. What a cleaning tool!

Dog Biscuits
My dog loves 'em, and so do I.

I have no idea who invented the pillow, or what companies manufacture pillows today, but I'd endorse any style or variety (except dainty decorative pillows used by old ladies at tea parties). Having a pillow advertisement on my blog would be unique, as I don't think I've seen an advertisement for pillows . . . EVER! So, let me be the first celebrity to say, "I love my pillow. I take it with me on vacations. I use it to prop myself up in bed while reading trashy romance novels. I also write trashy romance novels using my pillow. I have been using the same pillow for thirty years and it has not yet fallen apart. So, my pillow is well-made. That's a testimony, folks. Get a pillow like mine. Oh, and yes . . . my wife and I use pillows for other entertainment, too. (Details can be found on my auxiliary blog:"

Paper Plates
I would love to endorse these. They are not only good for meals, but also can be used for crafts, scrap booking, and for notepaper when I have to go to the grocery store. I love 'em. I have a closet full of 'em. Yes, I would definitely endorse paper plates (and let me expand that to include any paper products like cups, napkins and such, you get my drift). If I lived alone, I would eat off of paper plates exclusively. I would use one paper plate per week. I can give a testimony as to how this can be done. Don't wash 'em. Yes, I could definitely see a paper plate ad on my blog.

Advertisers . . . please call me. Let's work something out.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Blogology 101

In recent weeks I have taken to interacting with other bloggers, trying to parlay this blog into another stratosphere of awareness and readership. But with millions of blogs floating around out there, it's a tough business.

One thing I have noted though . . . I'm a traditionalist. I still try to use the English language in my blog. I at least attempt to communicate through the socially-acceptable forms and fonts of correct language. And yet, I am oddly drawn to those bloggers who write like:

ijustwannatellyouallaboutsomethinthathappenedtomelastweekwhileIwasatthegrocerystoreandthisladycomesuptomeandasksforadollar.Would youhelpherifyouwereme?

Now, if you can read this, or want to read this--more power to you, honey. Me? I'll stick with English.

Or how about those bloggers who include more photos and images than words? (Do you like my turkey photo?) Actually, that's me as a child when I had a ruddy complexion and was suffering from the mumps. Not pretty, huh?

Or how about those bloggers who have more advertisements and twitter-links than words? I'm jealous of them. How did they get sponsors?

Next blog, I'll tell you about my attempts to get sponsors for this blog and why I failed. It's a fascinating story.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Squeal Like a . . . Mouse

Many writers are inspired by mice. Evidence? There are a great many "mouse movies" out there. How about The Green Mile & Mr. Jingles (written by Stephen King)? How about Stewart Little (written, of course, by E.B.White, author of Charlotte's Web)? Or who can forget those "big mouse movies" of the 1970s starring Michael Jackson: Willard and Ben?

Still, I must confess I am not inspired by mice crawling up my leg while I am writing late at night. Sure, the little guys are warm, furry, and okay . . . even a bit cute. But still, I have to crunch 'em. Might even use my bare hands and hope they don't bite! C R U N C H.

We have a cat, of course, but she is fourteen years old and she has no claws. She brings the mice up to the master bedroom at night, drops the furry critters on the floor, meows, and then attempts to catch them again as they scurry under the bed. My wife always squirms and whispers at two a.m.: "If that mouse crawls under the sheets, I'm going to have a heart attack."

Of course, I have to brush her leg so I can hear her squeal. I might even make a little sound like, "eeeeeekkkkkkk." Oh, just so softly in her pillow in the middle of the night.

Yes, this is where horror stories are born boys-n-girls . . . in the very real fears we carry with us into the night. Late at night. Late. While writing. While trying to sleep. Eeeeekkkkk!

Wanna sleep over at our house? Believe me, right now our house is scarier than Neverland. Scarier, even, than Michael Jackson!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My Raise

A few days ago I received a nice letter from an editor who not only sent me a small check ($30) but also a note which explained: "I'm giving you a raise."

Wow, instead of $25 per feature, I was now going to get $30. If my mathematical and financial prowess is intact, that's a 20% increase for 2010. Not bad. And I'm going to take that extra $5 and buy myself a donut and coffee (what am I saying, I'm getting a vanilla latte!).

Naturally, I was curious about this raise, and why the editor thought I deserved it. I wrote her an email and asked: Why do I deserve this? Me, a guy who gets by on eating hamburger helper or stale white bread and greasy butter as main course? A guy who sends all of his money to a university in Muncie, who drinks tap water at a fancy restaurant while the rest of the family drinks EVIAN? A guy who writes late at night among fast-moving cockroaches and darting mice? A guy who wants nothing more out of life than to love, and to be loved by, his woman? Why honor me with this robust payment when there are so many other starving writers out there who could use the extra fiver?

She wrote back: Don't be so hard on yourself. I can always count on you. You write to the point and you write well. Enjoy the extra bit.

May she be live to be a hundred, this editor. May Zeus grant her more wisdom than the Oracle. May she prosper. And may she accept more of my work.

An extra $5. Not much . . . but the accolade of receiving a raise is payment enough.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My New Blog for 2010

Dear Readers:

Thanks for reading my blog. I'll try to keep this thing funny (and even allow you inside my dementia from time to time). On this particular blog I note that I've now written some 550 entries, and rising fast. Still, there's always more to write . . . and to read. So I hope you'll continue to join me.

And, should you be interested in reading some of my previously published material, I've started a new blog for 2010 that I'm entitling ReadTreads ( In the coming year, I'll be "republishing" some of my work that, I suppose, one could find in library archives and on microfilm. But I'll save everyone the trouble and just reprint some of it on this new blog. I won't be able to reprint my entire life's work (WAY TOO MUCH published work by a guy who's been finding his way into print for over 30 years!) . . . but I hope my readers might enjoy this new peek into the archives of a working writer.

My first entries on this new blog will go WAY BACK to my adolescence . . . when this old man was a young, aspiring pup who, somehow, found a way to convince an editor that his words were worthy of placing on a page, and, in some instances, even worthy of a paycheck.

Todd, the Guy Who Reads and Writes Between Pages