Monday, October 31, 2011

My Study Group

For the past decade my wife, Becky, has been in a breast cancer study group.  She fills out forms, answers questions, gets free check-ups, and twice a year receives some reimbursement for her participation.

But why can't a guy like me be in a study group?  Surely there's a sociologist out there who could create a study focused on the life of the boring 51-year old man.  We could be paid in licorice, or laxatives.  I could be President of the study group.

It would be easy to get participants.  Some TV lawyer could drop an ad, or perhaps a full-page newspaper invitation could be submitted:

Wanted: Boring 51-year old men willing to submit themselves to the derision of others.  Must be forgetful, married, and preferably a father to some average children who bear a resemblance to someone else who is successful.  Both testicles a must.  Should also have a long history of personal struggle coupled with a fair amount of animosity from the wife.  Midwesterners preferred for this study, but will also consider derelicts from the streets of New York or throwback hippies from the San Francisco area. Must have own transportation or moped and be willing to pee in a bucket if the wife demands you keep the seat down.  Participants will also need to enjoy reading thick, academic-style manuals containing tiny photographic plates of the human body and be willing to admit they have nothing better to do.  Four notarized affidavits from female, non-family members will also be required, each swearing that the applicant is one of the most boring men they know and, even in the event of a nuclear tragedy where half the human population is wiped out, they would never consider having the applicant's baby.  Serious applicants only!  And gosh darn it, we mean it!  

Any men want to join me, we'll get in touch with a University very soon.  I know there's government money for this!  Stay boring, my friends!


A couple of weeks ago I received a query from a young lady in England who had finished a book, had submitted it for publication, and who wanted to know how long she should expect to wait for a reply from the American publisher. 

Here's what I told her:  Forget-about-it!

The worst thing a writer can do is wait unproductively for a publisher to receive, read, and respond to a manuscript.  This could take months-years-lifetimes!  I know.  I'm still waiting on publishers to respond to submissions I made in 2009 (they tell me they are "thinkin' 'bout it").  I am also expecting the publication of a new book in December that has been in the publication process for nearly four years.  FOUR YEARS! 

No, make a record of your work, jot down the particulars, and keep writing.

Or, like me, you could just completely forget about what you've written, or when you wrote it, or who you sent it to . . . and when you do get a response it will be like Christmas in July. 

"Holy, Guacamole!" I often find myself saying.  I don't even recall writing thatWhen did I do it?  How did I find the time? 

Last night I spent a few hours perusing my submission note cards (which number in the hundreds . . . yes, hundreds) and I learned a few things.  For example, I discovered three short stories I'd forgotten about (don't even remember writing them) and I noted the publishers who are still considering them.  I discovered a whole trove of forgotten poems.  I also sent out three book proposals that were gathering dust, but which had made the rounds of rejection and were doing me no good sitting in a floppy disk.

Now . . . I can forget-about-it

Although, if memory serves, I did send one of these proposals to a publisher in Canada.  Isn't that the suburb of England where people eat maple syrup with their grits?  Or am I just way off in my geography?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Put Up Your Duke

I shall be submitting a brief bio for the next Duke Alumni magazine, but it's always tough to know what to write.  My main goal is to let folks now of the publication of He Said/She Said: Biblical Stories From a Male and Female Perspective (with Michelle). Maybe that's all that needs to be said.

But I could add more.

How about:

 . . . Following the publication of the book, the male author intends to have a publication party at his house, which will entice him to pour a fresh coat of white gravel in his driveway.


. . . Unless people buy this book, it won't be in print long.


. . . We know that Duke grads rarely read these bios, they are so busy making millions, but we hope you will share the information about this book with ten of your co-workers. But we warn you not to break the chain, otherwise something very bad will befall you (like losing to UNC, or losing both of your big toes in a tractor-trailer accident).  Make sure you write your letters today and send them to ten friends (and be sure to mention the book title).  If you do this you will have one year's worth of good luck, including, but not limited to, finding coupons in your Sunday paper that you can actually use, or dousing for an oil well, or getting a raise.  We can't guarantee any of these, of course, but you'd better write those letters just in case.

My Duke education . . . a great investment. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Big Pile

Three months back I happened into the Brownsburg Public Library to do research on a book project. When I sauntered back to the reference section, expecting to find certain sets of reference books waiting for me on the shelves, I discovered that the entire reference section had been swept clean, digitalized onto disks, and placed in the computer system . . . a newfangled tool I have yet to master and one that I most certainly don't use for research.

However, a friendly librarian came to my rescue and suggested that I purchase most of the "leftover" reference books, which were on display in an anteroom near the front.  I was amazed to find some of my sought-after titles there, still gathering dust on the shelves at $1 a hardback pop.  I walked out of the library that day with a truck bed full of books, the shocks loaded for bear, the chassis dragging the asphalt.  And after unloading the books into my office at home, there they have remained, unchanged, in a great heaping pile on the floor for the past three months.

"When are you going to move these stinking books?" Becky asks me every week as she peeks over the top of the great pile.

"I'm not," I tell her.  "I have no more shelf space.  The floor is now my new shelving system."

"Are you going to read these?"

"No," I say, "these are reference books: The Encyclopedia of American History, The Annals of America, a ten volume set of Church History, etcA person doesn't read reference books.  A person does research with them."

"Well then," says the good wife, "you'd better by gosh be doing some research.  I want these out of here.  They are an eyesore."

Eyesore?  I don't know what this means.  How can three hundred pounds of books be considered an eyesore?  Or for that matter, how can the three thousand titles that I've amassed?

Still, I get it . . . from a woman's perspective.  A broom and a mop have to go somewhere.  An obelisk-sized pile of books doesn't exactly make the home decor issue of Better Homes and Gardens.

There are a lot of reasons to get rid of these books, I know.  But I keep reminding her that she will always have something to read.

And somewhere, in those stacks, I might even have a title or two I can no longer find.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Boxing With Myself

I must be honest.  I'm blown away by how many people are reading this blog every month: over 1,000 to be exact.  For whatever reasons, I seem to have a growing readership in the Netherlands, Russia, England and South Korea.  I've never been to any of these beautiful countries, but I appreciate the loyalty, and I'm encouraged by the thought that there are, perhaps, other weirdos in these places who enjoy my brand of humor.

As of late, I've been spending a lot of time boxing with myself. Please allow me to explain.

Writing is difficult work.  It is difficult, in part, because it is so remote, so solitary, so devoid of contact, that a writer literally has to do battle with himself/herself in order to produce anything on the page.  There can be many distractions:  other voices in other rooms, hunger, thirst, the World Series on TV.  A writer has to block all of these temptations out, close a door, and go to battle with the blank page.

I've been punching myself silly of late.  Although I have not signed a book contract for going on two years now, I've been throwing hard punches at magazines, journals, web sites and newspapers, and have landed a fair number of uppercuts and worked up a decent scorecard of acceptances in the past month alone.  

Today, for example (what is this, Tuesday?), I completed the following:

* Sent poems out to three different magazines
* Wrote a personal bio for a magazine that will soon be publishing my book reviews
* Turned down an early-morning phone call request for an interview this Friday (as I will be out of town and don't like giving interviews anyway)
* Received an email confirmation for a book order
* Wrote a funeral sermon
* Started an outline for my weekend sermon
* Read a magazine that I soon hope to be writing for
* Sent an e-mail to another editor explaining that I am not a photographer and would not be offering any photos for my article that will soon be published in an outdoor magazine 
* Wrote this blog

And I did all of this in spite of being in a 7-hour long seminar most of the day.  But that's why a 5 a.m. start is important to me . . . and that's why I fall asleep after I've written for two hours before midnight (or during sex).

It rarely happens, but if I don't punch myself . . . Becky can always sock it to me. She's the only one who can keep me awake! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Midlife Crisis

I've been going through a mid-life crisis of sorts.  For a few years now I've been trying to locate a first edition copy of John Updike's Midpoint and Other Poems, a book he published in 1969 to mark what he considered the "midpoint" of his existence.  Two weeks ago I located a first edition that had been released from the Cadillac-Wexford Public Library in Cadillac, Michigan.

It's fine copy, and still contains the library card inside the book cover, where I note that my copy was only checked out 5 times: July 26, 1969, June 6, 1970, May 1, 1971, and January 10 & May 2, 1973.

Midpoint contains Updike's longest poem: a 41-page poetic/photographic retrospective of his life, written when he was likely 35 years old.  The rest of the volume contains some of his best poems, along with a fair amount of light verse--which was typical of Updike's dichotomy in that he wrote poems of both serious and humorous bent.

I won't quote Updike here, but I'll offer my own rendition of a Mid-life reflection.

When I Was a Younger Man

I once could lift the cow and eat
It afterwards--ribeye and pan--
And run a mile or two complete
When I was a younger man.

My back was trap and lat and delt,
My waist was six-pack, firm and tan,
I squatted with a lifter's belt
When I was a younger man.

My wife did not look back and yearn
For when those younger days began;
We lived life then as moments burned,
When I was a younger man.

And now to get the body back
I shorten my attention span
Still hoping I might yet hijack
A scrap of my younger man.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Analzye This

In a few days I will be proctoring a psychology test for a friend who is hoping to be ordained.  I couldn't help but peek at the packet today, wondering how I would fare if I were taking this test.  Naturally, my wife wants to know if my lug nuts are screwed on tight and I wanted to put her at ease as Halloween approaches and I begin dressing more frequently in drag.

So . . . I took a portion of the test.  Here are my results and the accompanying analysis.  

Tell us what you see in the following ink blots.


Answer:  I see a woman, of course.  A real beauty, who looks like a ballerina. Could be my wife, though I've never seen Becky in a tutu.  Or it could be a man in drag dressed for Halloween.  He's got Almond Joys in his candy bag.


Answer:  I see a beautiful flower here.  Could be a rose petal, or perhaps a cluster of black-eyed susans, which look like daisies, but the fragrance is entirely different.  I only see beautiful things around me.  This is not an ugly ink blot.  Whoever made this blot was an artist.  I really believe this.  You should believe me.  I'm not kidding.

Write your thoughts to the following words.  Don't think, just write the first thing that comes to your mind.


Sex            Wife
Wife           Sex
Self            Deprived
Water         Aphrodisiac
Ink Blot      (I can't write these thoughts in public)
Donut         Yuuummmm
Donut Hole  (no comment)
Money         Money
Book           Book
Love           Wife

Analysis:  This weirdo exhibits an uncanny knack at masking his psychoses, which are, by the way, legion.  As we take a closer look at his answers we are amazed that he can hold a job, drive a car, or operate heavy machinery. We are further amazed that he is not now, nor has he ever, taken medications of any type.  Sure, he looks okay, but what can appearance really tell us?  We recommend that this man stay indoors as much as possible and continue blogging.

PS...those who read his blog obviously have problems of their own.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Search For Stuff

I'm losing my mind.  Well, at least I'm losing a portion of it.

In the past week I've gone in search of two books and have found neither.  But I can't recall if I gave the books away, stashed them somewhere inside a book case, or left the books behind (under a car seat, under the basement sofa, etc.). 

And last night I was beside myself trying to locate an essay.  I'd written a query letter to an editor of an outdoor magazine, touting an article I'd written over a year ago.  I knew I had written the piece, that it was not my imagination or a dream, and I thought the article would be perfect for this publication.  The editor responded quickly in the affirmative, telling me, "Send your writing pronto, Bub!"

But when I went to find the essay on one of my (three) computers . . . it was not to be found among the thousands of Word.doc files.  I panicked. I was pacing the house like a wild animal.  I sifted through stacks of essays stashed inside my writer's closet.  I searched my two filing cabinets stuffed full of printed work . . . most of it identified by hanging folder tabs.

"What are you looking for?" Becky asked me around 10 p.m.  "Why don't you watch the World Series?"

"I'm searching for my brains," I said.  "I think I lost them."

"Join the club," she said.  "Keep looking."

My anxiety sent me back to my floppy collection . . . hundreds and hundreds of floppy disks that I have crammed into small cardboard boxes atop my writing desk.  I must have searched two dozen disks before, Shazam!!!, I discovered the essay in question.

Great essay!  All of that digital information, amazingly, still lingering there on the little 3-inch slice of technology.  But why, I wondered, had I not saved it onto a hard drive?

Perhaps it doesn't matter now, the essay has safely made the journey into the editor's waiting and able hands.  But me . . . they might as well stuff me in a tube and shoot me into space.

My mind is out there somewhere.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

In the News

I'm still old-school.  I read a newspaper every morning before sunrise (if the carrier brings it in a timely fashion).  I trust print as the source of my news far more than I do the talking heads on TV and the loudmouths on radio. I very rarely watch TV, listen to radio, or read internet news sources.  Reading a newspaper keeps a person humble.

First, there's the 120 yard trek out to the mailbox every morning (even on holidays), and if it's raining or snowing, I'm soaked to the bone by the time I get back into the house (paper is soggy, too, but makes for fun reading).  That's why I put on a pot of coffee before I make this mailbox journey.  I want something scalding hot when I get back with the news. I don't take an umbrella, and since it's dark when I make the trek, I doubt the passing cars can see me in my underwear.  I'm still perplexed by why so many honk, however.

Reading news is a great way to start the day.  One has to look for the good news among the bad, of course, but that's part of the fun of reading instead of listening to some high-paid idiot recite from a tele-prompt-er.  I can read a headline, skim an article, or chuck the whole world in the recycle bin and turn immediately to the obituaries or the sports.  My choice.

It's interesting to see how often I'm in the newspaper, too.  Take yesterday. You probably heard about me.  Here's a few of the headlines.

Wild Animals Loose in Ohio
    Okay, the sources got the wrong state, but I've been on the loose for some time.  My wife can attest to it.

Couple Dies Holding Hands
     I asked my wife about this just the other day.  "Can I hold your hand while we sleep together?"  She told me, "Over my dead body!"  The headline is a bit misleading but she would have killed me if I'd touched her during one of her hot flashes.

Lockout Discussions Continue
    I'm always amazed at how quickly news travels and how fast these reporters can gather information.  How did they know that in the past week I've been locked out of the church twice and my house once?  My wife still won't let me in.  I'm writing this from the trunk of my car.

Judge Repeals Lindsay Lohan Parole
     This isn't news.  I could have written this one months ago and been spot on.  And I don't even know who Lindsay Lohan is.  Why is she taking my headline?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Good Morning, Korea

I'm confused.  Amazed, really.  In the past month there have been many Koreans reading this blog.  Almost as many hits as I get from the Netherlands and from Russia (dozens every week).  But I'm not sure why.

Perhaps it is because some Koreans have read the Korean version of my book, Candles in the Dark.  When John Wiley & Sons sent me my Korean copies some years back, I promptly gave them away to Korean friends, as I don't read or speak Korean.  Someone, I reasoned, should get the benefit.

Then again, maybe it's because Koreans understand my brand of humor. Maybe they like to read.  Maybe they enjoy comedy about writing.

Now that my audience is growing overseas, I'll try to maintain the quality of this blog and keep the laughs coming.  

That, or perhaps I could rename the blog.  How about:
M*A*S*H ing It Up
Body, Mind & Seoul

I have to wonder:  do puns translate well from English to Korean?  Is this blog on anyone's Radar?  Regardless, I have to say, "Thanks for reading!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Finding Forrester

Last night, after Chelsey and I discussed other aspects of her wedding plans, she asked if I would watch a movie with her.  Naturally, I said "yes" and then went in search of a DVD among our voluminous stacks of Andy Griffith Show seasons and my son's many Jackass movies and spin-offs.  Back in the dusty side of history I discovered Finding Forrester . . . a DVD that still had the shrink wrap on it. 

"What's that about?"

"Well," I said, "as I recall it is about two writers.  One older, one younger. One black, one white.  One accomplished, one learning.  It's about friendship and mentoring."

We watched it.  Not as good as I recall first time around at the theatre, but a decent movie, nonetheless. 

My favorite quote from the movie was, "Why is it that the words we write for ourselves are so much better than the words we write for others?"

Indeed.  It's far more difficult to write for others.  And when one sets out to do that there is a kind of self-awareness and loathing that can take over the writing.  Seems that way to me, anyway. 

I'm still trying to write something that other people will want to read, and I loathe myself for all of the stalled, slow, and weak results I commonly produce. 

Perhaps one of these days I'll find myself.  That would be an interesting introduction, I think . . . meeting me.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Shel Game

Who knew that Shel Silverstein, author of such books as Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Giving Tree, and A Giraffe and a Half, had so much unpublished material at the time of his death?  And who knew that the publisher was holding onto it?

Regardless, I was elated to read Silverstein's posthumous Every Thing On It . . . a crowning achievement to his children's trilogy of varied line-drawings and poems.  The book now graces my bookshelf among his other titles, and I purchased soon enough to garner a first edition to boot.

Call them children's books if you want to, but Silverstein has always spoken to the kid inside me with his eclectic blend of insights about fears, culture, laughter and life's inherent weirdnesses and idiosyncrasies.  He's my type of poet and his books are some I return to time and again.  He's long since passed beyond where the sidewalk ends, but it's good to know that a writer can still speak from the grave as long as he has an ample supply of unpublished material.

Reading Silverstein again emboldened me to open up some of my own archives.  I'm now trying to retool some of my own drawings and poems that I wrote to my kids years ago when they were young, impressionable, and eager to receive my insanity on a silver spoon.  I found poems about colonoscopies and hemorrhoids . . . just not sure how impactful these poems were on my kids.  I probably scarred them for life.  But I'm not sure I can share the drawings.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Goodwill Hunting

For my birthday I went to Goodwill.  I go there every month or so to search through the books for first editions.  Some great finds there . . . and all for $1.00.

The place was packed.  I could scarcely navigate through the aisles of underwear and T-shirts to get to the book stacks.  I also avoided the people who looked to be carrying spores from a cholera epidemic, but eventually I found the books.

Lots of John Grisham back there.  Almost picked up a copy of Playing for Pizza, but it was a third printing and that wouldn't do.  I also gave a glance toward a copy of The Celestine Prophecy . . . a book that I consider to be one of the worst-written in the English language, but still a mega-ton-million copy seller when it was in its heyday.  And, although I'm not a Danielle Steele reader, there were plenty of her titles to choose from.

This time around, I walked out of Goodwill with nothing in my hands.  Didn't spend my birthday dollar.  If I can't find a decent first edition, I don't pay.

I almost returned, however, to purchase my wife a welcome-home gift.  I miss her when she is away.  But then I thought better of it and decided to just write her a poem or a letter.

Sometimes those personal gifts work out better for me than a pair of Billy-Buck Teeth from Goodwill.  You never know who gummed them first.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Birthday Bash

They arrived yesterday:  a batch of birthday cards.  Most of the greetings were from family.  My mother even sent me a card.  Glad she remembered.  She probably wanted to forget.

My in-laws also sent me greetings.  They expressed how glad they were to have me as a son-in-law and that, after twenty-seven years of marriage to their daughter, they realize I'm not going anywhere.  There were a few undertones suggesting that Becky could have done better had she married that electrical engineer who lived in her dorm at Purdue, but by in-large, they were complimentary and admitted I was showing more promise in these recent years, especially in my wardrobe and my ability to whip out a box of Hamburger Helper.  They didn't go so far as to call me a "keeper", but "a decent for a guy from Shelburn" will have to suffice.  Perhaps the Hallmark poem summarized how they feel about me, and I'll assume it expresses what they might say to my face when we meet next for Thanksgiving dinner.

I am thankful to all of my family and friends who wrote, and believe me, I've read all of your letters and now have these birthday cards stashed in my underwear drawer where, twice a year, I'll read them when I remove a fresh pair for my semi-annual exchange.  Thank you for reminding me that hygiene is important!

As for another year . . . well, my son and I are "batching" it for a few days at home and are living off the fat of Taco Bell and Hardees.  Logan even wished me a happy birthday yesterday when he came home from school and invited me to watch a movie with him last night . . . .  So, thanks to Logan.

Now that I've partied for twenty-four hours, I've got a double-duty gym session planned this morning.  All of that pie has to go somewhere.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


A little ditty on the B-Day while the wife is in Washington, D.C., the daughter is at Ball State, and the son don't care!


A guy feels inferior
When he looks in the mirror
And observes that his hair is gray-spun,
And his wife's an old wench
Who must do in a pinch
When he turns, at last, fifty-one.

His kids have outgrown
The advice he has sown
And he rarely has any fun,
But if he is square
With himself, he's aware
It's because he has turned fifty-one.

He isn't that old
And his farm isn't sold
And he's nobody's prodigal son,
Yet he's long past his prime
To be counting on time
To be kind to him past fifty-one.

No, he comes to conclude
As he sees himself nude
That his problems cannot be outrun.
And since the wife's all he's got
He tells her she's hot
And hopes she will do fifty-one.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


About five years ago a small literary magazine on the west coast published a number of my short stories.  One of these, entitled "Bag of Tricks", was that magazine's nomination for inclusion in The Best American Mystery Stories . . . an annual book series that is published each year around October.

This was the first time one of my stories was nominated for anything--and come to think of it--the only time.  As it turns out, the story wasn't selected by the editorial committee as one of the top 100 for the year, but I've never been a top 100 anything . . . I'm not even a top 1 million.

Still, among all of the hundreds of stories I've written over the years, when people ask me, "What do you consider your best?", "Bag of Tricks" often comes to mind.  

But for some reason, I continue to hang onto the thought that my best stories have remained unpublished.  "Steiner the Violinist", for example, is a story that I wrote nearly 20 years ago, and I submit it anew every year to various magazines . . . but alas, no one seems to want it, although I often get editorial feedback telling me it's a moving tale.  And I recently submitted another story, "The Tall Girl's Wedding", to a romance-writers contest . . . holding out the hope that someone will recognize the chutzpa of this quirky love story about a very tall woman.  I wrote it nearly a decade ago and love it more every time I re-read it.  But then, it might just be fanciful dreaming since I have a munchkin for a wife.

I've got so many short stories completed and in-progress . . . science fiction, mystery, romance, literary, slice-of-life, humorous . . . it's difficult to remember them all. (Actually, I don't remember then all.)  Every now and again I complete another and send it forth to stand on its own legs.  But most stories, I'm afraid, don't walk.  Though every now and then one of them runs away and doesn't come back until it shows up in the pages of a publication.

As long as my brain and fingers hold out, I'll keep writing them.  I keep hoping someone will nominate me for a PERSISTENCE AWARD.  After all, I've been writing stories since I was twelve years old--nearly forty years now--and I might as well continue until I die.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Say What?!

I received word over the weekend that one of my essays about breast cancer is going to be included in an audio book.  I didn't realize publishers were still committing books to audio CD, so this came as a pleasant surprise.  I was even more pleasantly surprised when the reader, "the voice", contacted me to make certain he could pronounce my name accurately when he recorded in-studio.

I told him it's pronounced "Tod", though my wife calls me "Sweet-heart" or sometimes "Tooshie".  I told him I wouldn't mind if he used "Stud" or "Mega-Muffin" either.

Then he informed me he was only interested in accurately pronouncing my last name.  I was totally embarrassed.

"So, how do you say your name?" he wanted to know.

I told him I would not be offended by any rendering, that he could have at my name, have fun with it, and just see how it came out on the recording.  I've outgrown attachment to my name anyway.

After all, my daughter calls me "Dad", my son calls me "Weirdo" and my friends call me "the nut next door".  And you already know what my wife calls me.

Someone says, "Mr. Outcalt" . . . I don't even flinch.

Friday, October 7, 2011

My Survey

Surveys are all the rage these days.  They show up everywhere.  In the past week I've taken a survey offered by my insurance company, another via the web to determine my "health quotient", and I even took a survey after receiving a flu shot at Walmart.  I've given these surveys my all, and no secrets are hidden now.  I'm "male" by the way . . . .

It has been some time since I've offered a survey for this blog, so if you (my faithful reader) will just give me two minutes of your time, I invite you to complete the following so that I can improve the quality of this blog and also put you on my vast mailing list where, once a year, you could receive valuable prizes and/or a phone call from The Fraternal Order of Police.

Between Pages Survey

1. How well does this blog meet your daily humor needs?
a. I laugh until chocolate milk comes out of my nose.
b. I read this blog first thing in the morning and it is a vital part of my day.
c. If you were to quit writing this blog I could do more productive things like raking leaves or making love to my spouse.

2. How helpful are the book reviews on this blog?
a. I immediately buy every book you read and use them to balance the legs on my kitchen table.
b. I don't read books, but I hear there is an app for them.
c. You write book reviews?

3. How impressed are you by the author's vast knowledge of history, psychology, sociology, theology, biography, trigonometry, economics, politics, literature, medicine, ornithology, physics, integral calculus, fine wines, travel, and diet and exercise?
a. The author is an expert in these things and my life hinges on his opinions.
b. Calculus?  I don't think so!
c. He don't know squat!

4. What do you think about the type-face change from Arial to Verdana?
a. I no longer have to wear my reading glasses when I read "Between Pages"
b. He's just trying to be a fancy boy.
c. There's no difference.

5. Now that this blog has been in existence for five years (and over 1000 entries), how are you feeling about the quality of the content?
a. It just keeps getting better, just like the author, whose wife continues to ask each day, "Have you got fifteen minutes so I can have my way with you tonight?"
b. The blog is still good, though I wish he would write a bit more about writing.
c. This blog sucks.

Thank you for taking the "Between Pages" survey . . . expect a phone call and watch your mailbox for a packet of free valuable prizes.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Seems I'm waiting on a great many things these days.  I wait on my wife, my kids, and even the cat.  I'm waiting to get an iPad and an iPhone . . . even though I'm still learning how to use email and my PC.  And my writing file is filled with hundreds of pages of material floating around in editorial offices.  

You know the routine. It's like watching ketchup drip from a bottle.

For those writers out there, or anyone who would presume to write, waiting is essential to the process.  In many ways, I've been waiiting for over forty years for some of my writing to come of age.  I'm still learning.

My agent is still working New York and Chicago, trying to get my material into the hands of great editors who might actually read a few of my pages.  

It's a waiting game.  

Makes me hungry for a hot dog just thinking about the slow ebb of ketchup.  And while I'm waiting this morning, I write some more.

What are YOU waiting for today?    

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Last night I finished reading the bulk of Just My Type: A Book About Fonts, by Simon Garfield.  And while the subject of print fonts might be considered boring to many, I found this subject of peculiar interest . . . as I deal in fonts daily, and have spent many hours of my life working in various types of Type.  Garfield brings a clever and compelling panache to the history and the telling of type's development and the various background-stories about the people who created them.

Lest you think that font selection doesn't matter, it might be comforting to know that I have chosen to write this blog in Arial, as opposed to say Times New Roman or Verdana.

And lest you don't know the difference on the eyes, try reading the following sentences in the following type faces:

What do you think of this?  (Courier)
What do you think of this?  (Georgia)
What do you think of this?  (Helvetica)
What do you think of this?  (Times)
What do you think of this?  (Trebuchet)
What do you think of this?  (Verdana)

Now that I've written this last sentence in Verdana, you might actually prefer it to Arial.  What do you think?  Easier on the eyes?

Do the "eyes" have it?

If anyone is interested, I'll be tallying your votes now.  Let me know if I'm your TYPE.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Half & Half

A recent article in National Geographic on the teenage brain may also shed some light on the declining attention spans of Americans when it comes to reading. Fewer and fewer people, it seems, have an ability to read beyond the length of a Tweet. Editors now request shorter articles from writers, and the day of the feature-article may be drawing to a close.

Last month, I had a "longer" poem accepted for publication (a mere 7 stanzas), but the editor informed me it could only be published as a 5 stanza poem.  I made the cuts, but if I reprint the poem, I'll restore the 2 lost stanzas.

Today, writing seems to be about half of what it was just a few years ago.

Of course, I'm probably only half the man I used to be.  I can't run, can't read without glasses, and have started taking copious amounts of vitamins and minerals to keep the half remaining cartilage in my knees and joints.  I also eat half of what I used to eat, but gain twice the weight when I eat it.  My wife often tells me I'm half nuts.  I don't know what happened to the other bag of cashews, though.

Next week I'm going in search of the other half of me.  I'll look everywhere.

And then I'll get back to writing half the article for half the price and only have half the fun I used to have.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mo' Monday Madness

Last Monday I gave two a.m. interviews and enjoyed both.  One of these should be up-and-running on the internet soon, but like my wife, I always ask:  "Does this Skype camera angle make me look fat?"

Answer: Yes.  And the camera wasn't shooting me from behind!

I have yet another interview scheduled for this week, but thank God it is an e-mail interview.  These are my favorite type of interview, as I get to sit in front of the TV while I type answers to previously posed questions such as:  If the world were on the brink of nuclear annihilation and you only had one hour to live, how would you spend it?

I love these type of hypothetical questions, as they are so much more interesting than real-life questions such as:  What did you eat for breakfast this morning? or Is it true what we hear about you . . . that you can watch TV, write 2000-word essays, and pretend to have a meaningful conversation with your wife . . . all at the same time?  Gosh.  

The e-mail interview affords me the time to consider my answers to life's deepest questions.  If the interviewer wants to know about my personal life, for example, I can honestly tell her I don't have a personal life.  Most of my life is rather impersonal, and consists of little more than a series of e-mail conversations and Facebook entries along with one or two hard-boiled eggs for breakfast.  I don't have anything even resembling a life, and it's always good to get these realities out in the open so the interviewer can move on to more important questions about my hygiene.  Most interviewers seem fixated on my deodorant selection, and some want to know if my home is fitted primarily with the new "green" light bulbs or if I'm going to hell because I use the old filament bulbs (60-watters).  Regardless, I tell 'em what they want to hear and then I drive over to Walmart and buy the 100-watters.

My next interview will be about marriage.  I'll be sharing my expert advice to young couples who are hoping to tie the knot without having to sell a kidney to pay for the ceremony.  I have written a book about the debt-free wedding and given it to my daughter in the hope that she might read the book her daddy wrote.  (She's probably chucked it in the Muncie landfill by now.)  I'm hoping my own advice might save me from having to sell the Encyclopedia Britannica door-to-door in order to afford cake and ice-cream for two hundred ravenous souls who will ask afterwards:  "You call this a wedding?"

I'm ready for these questions.  I've got answers.

But I doubt anyone is listening.