Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Full House

Although I'm living in a full house again (daughter home from college, son still at home, wife working long hours) I'm discovering that each of us lives in our own cells.  Even during the "down times" it's rare to find the four of us sitting together for a meal, enjoying a movie, or playing a board game. (Though sometimes this still happens!) 

Take Sunday, for instance.

Although the four of us were in the house and Elvis had not yet left the building, each of us lost track of time.  My daughter was working on lesson plans for the upcoming week of her student teaching; my son was writing homework (so he says); and my wife was writing her principal performance reviews for teachers.

Me? I was on the couch writing on a laptop.  I began at 2 p.m., and when next I glanced at the time, it was 10 p.m.  I'd been writing for eight consecutive hours.   If I took a potty break, I can't remember it.  And if I had sustenance and drink, I can't recall what it was.

And what did I accomplish in this foray?  I wasn't sure at the time, but as I note my "recent documents" file I see that I produced three essays of some length (one, a humorous interplay of words about Latin abbreviations and their English equivalents, is actually funnier than it sounds).  I also wrote four poems, a one-page article proposal, and two book reviews--in addition to reading the two books.

All-in-all I can't complain.  Full house or not, I figure between my wife, my daughter and my son--all of whom were, supposedly writing on Sunday--we produced over 12,000 words in an afternoon.

Not bad for a family at rest.  I guess that's our new version of a full house.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Deadline Artists

Last Friday I accompanied my son on an all-day orientation visit to Ball State.  But since my daughter is now a senior at BS, and this is the campus I helped to build, I did not participate in many of the orientation shenanigans, but rather, sat in the Woodworth Hall dining area for hours and read Deadline Artists: America's Greatest Newspaper Columns, edited by John Avlon, Jesse Angelo & Errol Louis (Overlook, 2011). 

I was elated by this book.

Anyone who enjoys a good column, or revisiting the ambiance of the golden era of American journalism, will appreciate this smorgasbord.  Amazing fare here including such liminaries as Ernie Pyle, Mike Royko, Erma Bombeck, Jimmy Breslin, William F. Buckley Jr., Molly Ivins, Dave Barry, and a cast of contemporaries like Peggy Noonan, George F. Will, and Marjorie Williams.

And with the book divided into themes such as War, Politics, Humor, Sports, Local Voices, Farewells, and Pursuit of Happiness . . . one can dot around in the book for an insight or a laugh without feeling overwhelmed by any one voice or topic.  Read on!

This book also inspired me to meet my deadlines . . . as upon arriving home on Friday night, I discovered several large packages on my front door, each of which included books for my review.  Now I have to write my columns!

I shouldn't have any problem doing this.  I'll read these books pronto and whip out a slick review for each.  I won't be working on a typewriter with a cigarette dangling from my lower lip, but I might brew a pot of coffee and type with two fingers ala Ernest Hemingway. I may work all night or rise extra early some mornings this week to whip these book reviews into submission.

And for all those writers out there who are having trouble getting off the dime and writing that next essay . . . just imagine you are up against a wall and have a deadline looming . . . every day. If that doesn't light a fire and keep you up nights I don't know what will.  Let that deadline of the mind torment you, eat at you, inspire you, give you indigestion . . . and then type on into the dark night of the soul.  You can pee later.   

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pulp Fiction

Some months back I began collecting and categorizing the short stories I have written over the past thirty-five years (at least the ones I could find on hard copy or disk).  My thought was: I certainly have enough published stories to produce a "collection", and I do.  In spades.

But my problem goes deeper than just collecting these pieces.  I'm finding, as my agent has always pointed out, that I defy categorization.  What type of work do I produce, anyway?

Well, as far as short stories go, I've got traditional and literary, science fiction, mystery, fantasy, western, horror . . . even romance.  And even among these genres, I'm difficult to stereotype.  Editors have always pointed this out.  "Like your work," they'll say, "but this seems to be a hybrid of science fiction and horror."  "Very moving and touching story," some say, "but I'm not sure our readers would want to cry this hard."  "Send me more," others write, "but not so edgy . . . this is too eclectic."  "Very funny piece," they say. "Love your humor."

One editor, not long ago, even said she would publish one of my science fiction stories if I turned it into a novella (over 20,000 words), as she thought my 5,000 word tale wasn't long enough.  "You didn't write far enough into the piece," she said.  How long does it have to be?  She wants 20,000 words? Heck, I could give her 80,000, too! 

Writing fiction is also frustrating because, among the dozens of pieces I've had published, I always feel that my best work is sitting at home in a box or on a disk.  Why can't editors see that this story is superior to the one they published?  It's a mystery to me.  One, I think, I will never solve.  

Last week, in a lengthy phone conversation with my agent (thanks for representing me, Cynthia!), I discovered that I am the anomaly on her client list.  She wanted me to decide who I am as a writer.  What is my niche?  Do I write non-fiction in categories of self-help and religion?  Do I write theology?  Do I write history?  Do I write fiction?  And if so, is my concentration more on shorter forms or novels?  Do I write mysteries, thrillers, literary, romance?  Am I a humor writer?  Why do I write so much that is poignant or moving or personal or informational--but on the other hand write so much that is totally warped and off-the-wall insane?

The fact is, I know I defy categorization.  But that's just me.  Only a handful of people on this earth actually know me!  Most folks relate to me as either a stereotype, an image, an idea of a person (or pastor) or as someone they think they know.  But few know me.  I have always written what I want to write . . . every day.  And that's broad.  Just as my interests are broad.  Complex.  Just like me.

No, I defy categorization.

I'm as much at home doing research and writing history as I am writing an insane, spur-of-the-moment blog about hemorrhoids.  I can make my wife cry over a poem, or write one that can make her howl with laugher or cause her to threaten to disown me for my brutal honesty.  I write deep; I write shallow.  I write heart-felt; I write parody and satire.  I write novels of all variety and persuasion.  I have published pieces of history, works about cancer, helpful tips for couples planning a wedding/marriage, works on nature and science, personal observations about life, essays on fitness; I write columns, blogs, poetry, and slice-of-life.

I now have a sizeable mound of published work (and growing quickly) and a file cabinet full of published tear sheets.

In short . . . I guess I just write.  That's my category.  And how I would define myself beyond the concept of "writer" is anybody's guess. 

Categorization?  Heck, I'm still trying to figure ME out.  And writing is how I do it.   

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

From the Archives

Here's another piece from my now ancient children's book: One Strange World.  This one was easier to draw.  My kids seemed to enjoy it along with the other poems about hemorrhoids, hickeys, and hobos.  They may not remember the book now, but they seem like normal kids to me.  Guess I didn't warp them too badly as they prepare to leave home (for good?) and leap into life.

Two Clams

Two clams washed up on a sandy beach
And both of them talked for hours.
They talked until the sun went down
And when the clouds brought showers.
Both clams talked as long as they could
In their shells that looked like a cup.
How sorry they were when the tide came in
And they both had to clam up.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Say It Again

Some have been asking about He Said/ She Said: Biblical Stories from a Male & Female Perspective.  Well, I'll say it again, this time for certain:  the books are finally available.  My first Amazon shipment arrived yesterday.  I hope folks will like this book, as it is offered in one of the most unique formats you'll find anywhere.  Tell all your friends.  Hand out copies at work. Kick the drunk in the gutter and tell him his copy has arrived.

My wife even told me last night that she might read portions of this book . . . and she rarely reads anything I write.  I'm getting somewhere.

Last night, late, I did tell my wife about one of my latest "love" poems that had also been published on Monday in The Christian Science Monitor. (Yes, you can read this, too.)

I was wanting to surprise her, as I always do, with another little romantic ditty.  She read it. Said, "That's nice, honey."  And then went back to writing her school reports.  Once again, the world's most boring man.

Okay, I get it.  Too much of me in one day.  Should have waited until today to surprise her with romance. 

I just can't wait to get rid of all these copies of the book.  I think they are cluttering my style.

Monday, January 23, 2012

More Fan Mail

In the first 20 days of 2012, I've received a number of new pieces of fan mail.  Some have arrived via facebook or email, and others via letters to publishers concerning some of my pieces/contributions. I thank all of these friends for their kind words of affirmation and encouragement and, yes, I hope you'll keep reading.

One piece of fan mail arrived from a young lady who had discovered my "old" book, The Best Things in Life Are Free, and shared with me how this book had impacted her life and helped her gain some new insights.  She even wrote a book review.

I've also received tidbits from folks who have appreciated some of my recent essays on youth ministry or the changing face of transportation and communication, and one of my editor friends keeps sending me updates on his readers' favorite poems and inviting me to send more verse.

Another dear lady in Massachusetts wrote to inform me that she had just recently discovered some of my poetry, enjoyed it, and had become addicted now to my various blogs.  I'm grateful for her addiction and hope she'll keep tuning in for more doses of my warped attempts at male/donut humor.

Likewise, for all of those who would like to send fan mail, my mailbox is always empty.  I get out there every morning before sunrise to retrieve the newspaper, frequently ill-clad and shivering, and it would be a real boost to my low self-esteem to find letters from admirers.  Especially more female admirers.  I enjoy telling my wife about these chicks and reminding Becky that she doesn't have to go "looking for love in all the wrong places" . . . "she's got me, Babe" "six days a week" "all through the night" "until the morning comes" and "the last dance."

Many of my poems are like fan mail to my wife.  She rarely reads my poems, however, though I usually write her several a week.  I'm just holding out hope that she will write me back someday. After all, I'm her biggest fan!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Numbers Game

I have far too many numbers in my life.  And, although I completed every math class my high school offered--including analytic geometry, trigonometry, and calculus (1 & 2)--I am essentially a mathematics nerd.  I have difficulty balancing my checkbook and I frequently forget my home address and my cell phone number.  When people ask me how old I am, I often bumble the answer and scream out, "Forty-five!"

Increasingly, it seems, I am being asked to remember far too many numbers to be a writer.  Recently I submitted a piece to an editor who promptly shot the piece back to me along with a curt note that read, "It's only been two weeks since your last submission and our policy is you must wait sixty days to submit again!"

Sixty days?  What are we . . . living in Biblical times?  I could probably remember forty days and forty nights, but sixty?

Now it's commonplace.  I've got other numbers to remember like:

A day next month when an editor asked me to contact her about an essay she is interested in discussing.
A publication date for a magazine piece I wrote about beavers.
The phone number for my agent.
The phone number for a local Chinese restaurant (I sometimes eat and write there).
Pass codes for online submission guidelines and the days I can submit.

You see what I mean?  I wish I had one number that would fit all . . . kind of like a gigantic pair of sweat pants.  I could just plug in the same number and get to where I'm going.

And no one would ask me my phone number or my age.  I'm tired of being forty-five, and I'm really sorry for giving out the number to that Chinese restaurant to so many editors.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hit Me!

Yesterday was a big day for my blog.  For the first time I surpassed 300 hits, with a total of 345 hits in one day. 

I'm not sure what this means, but I guess I had 300+ visitors yesterday who wanted to read this tidbit of humor.  I hope they found a laugh.

I'm never sure why folks want to read this blog, but I'm assuming they either like reading and writing or they enjoy a chuckle.  I am glad to serve.

Funny thing is, absolutely nothing happened to me yesterday that was humorous.  My day was basically a bucket of boredom.  I spent time in a restaurant, the car, a campus lunchroom, the hospital, and the office . . . and what's funny about that?  I always have to search for humor like a diamond in the rough. 

Perhaps that's where my cooking comes in.  I did cook dinner last night.  Chicken on the grill.  Mashed potatoes from a box.  Green beans from a can.  My kids thought that was funny.  But they weren't laughing so much as gagging. I also brought home three slices of three-day-old stale chocolate cake and a donut in a bag for dessert.  But no one gave me a kudo. 

I'm not sure, exactly, how many people re-visit my blog on a daily basis, but I'm grateful to the 300+ who do read from time to time.  

Bless you.  But be gentle with me.  Don't hit me too hard.  I'm older now and I could easily break a hip.   

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More Mixed Nuts

Last week, armed with a full day at the keyboard, I managed to whittle out an auspicious amount of material that should be, even as I blog, on its way to publications far and wide.  Among the various acceptances I procured and wrote in an afternoon were:

* A book review
* A column for our Indiana area UM Church publication
* A 1500 word essay and sidebar on grant writing that is slated for publication later this winter in a leadership magazine
* An essay on donuts for a teen magazine

I also wrote several blog posts, a handful of poems, and continued work on a book proposal that I intend to title: Debt-free Wedding Ideas.  As father of the bride, I've got a lot of opinions about the latter and I eagerly share my knowledge with any or all who will listen!  This book is more than a proposal however, it's approaching 200 pages and getting thicker.  I'll have the entire book written in a matter of days.  

Finally, my day of mixed nuts also gave me ample opportunity to finish a sermon, draft letters of appreciation to several family members and friends, and read a few chapters from various books.

It was a nice day. And when I grow up, I want to be a writer.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tip Top

Now here's an interesting turn.  Last week I noted that my book, $5 Youth Ministry, was chosen for inclusion in a list of 40 Books Every Catholic Should Read.  Among some of the other top titles were The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Who Moved My Cheese?, and several other best-sellers.  My book was included as the one youth ministry book that would be most impactful in today's tough economic climate.

Well, $5 Youth Ministry is not a best-seller (far, far from it).  But I am a bit surprised that more people haven't discovered it.  I'm especially confused by folks who overlook it in today's tough economy.  Who wouldn't want to save money?

Some months back, I did get one piece of mail from a pastor who was complaining that, while the book advertises a $5 Ministry, it cost him $9.95.  His point, I guess, was that the publisher should price the book accordingly and, essentially, give it away.

I'm all for freebies, believe me.  In fact, all of my personal copies of the book have been given away over these years, and I've purchased many others at my own expense and given these away, too.  What little royalties I have received, I have given to others in the form of cash, more books, or checks to charities of a wide assortment.  Always have.

Every time I write a check, my wife wants to know when I am taking her to dinner.  I remind her that I cook most of the meals and this is her payback.

I don't know if making this list will impact the sales of $5 Youth Ministry, but I can still dream of earning more than $3.76.  I have however promised my wife that, the next time I get a royalty check, I'll take her out to dinner at Wendy's instead of giving the cash to some guy on the street who is holding up a "Will Work for Food" sign.

I guess I've earned a break from the kitchen.  And it will be nice to have someone waiting on me for a change instead of slaving over this hot stove. I can't wait to hear the waitress ask me, "Do you want fries with that?"  


Monday, January 16, 2012

World History

Like the Energizer Bunny I'm still going on J.M. Roberts's, A Short History of the World, which I began reading back in November, 2011.  But the book, as one might expect, is anything but short.

Having entered the world of the Egyptians, the Babylonians and Assyrians, the Persians and Phoenicians, I am finding myself in familiar territory, having succumbed to the stacks of the Duke University library some thirty years ago while consuming large doses of Ancient Near Eastern history, lore, and art.  The Phoenician language--regarded as one of the earliest written--is a distant cousin to other Semitic tongues like Assyrian and Hebrew and is the language from which we get the word "Alphabet" . . . a phonetic rendering of the first two letters, Aleph and Beth.  (And much akin to the later Greek rendered as Alpha & Beta.) 

I may never finish A Short History of the World in a short period of time.  This is the type of book that requires snatches of concentration snuggled in between other reading and writing.

Considering such a long history of existence, one wonders why we even bother to consider ourselves of much importance.  Thousands of generations have come and gone, and like the writer of Ecclesiastes once observed, "A generation comes and a generation goes, and the latter do not remember the former.  They are soon forgotten and pass away."

Depressing thought for a Monday . . . but then one also has to remember that the ancient Babylonians didn't have a Dunkin' Donuts nearby.  It's amazing how encouraged one can become after a short walk for a donut and cup of coffee.  Dunk 'em if you got 'em.    

Friday, January 13, 2012

Buying Candles

Every writer has a favorite creation, and thus far, I consider my best book to be Candles in the Dark (John Wiley & Sons, 2002).  I hate telling people that the book has long been out of print. 

This past year, however, I've been buying up used copies.  Most of these, I've discovered, are well-read.  In fact, I've not been able to locate a pristine copy of my book for some time now, which tells me that those who bought the book seemed to enjoy it and they actually used it.  The pages are frequently dog-eared or tattered, and on many occasions the owner wrote his or her name inside the cover.  I feel like calling these folks or trying to locate them on the internet, but they probably wouldn't associate my name with any book they have read.  I'm not memorable.  And people aren't standing in line to purchase my next title.

Candles in the Dark is a good book and I'm glad I wrote it.  It was by far the most ambitious project I have written, was years in the making, and actually cost me pocket money securing certain foreign rights (which, for some reason, fell into this author's lap and required that I make numerous overseas phone calls and talk to people who answered the phone: "Hello, much pleasure to help you . . . my name Peggy!").

With the advent of Kindle, however, Candles is still available.  That's a good thing about electronic media.  And I've noted that some people have actually purchased copies of Candles in the Dark in Kindle format.  God bless 'em.

I wish that Candles hadn't blown out of print so soon.  Sometimes I'd like to light it up and lead a sing-along. 

But book publishing, alas, is mostly a fleeting thing.  Like a candle in the wind.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Announcing My Upcoming Engagements

I would hereby like to announce my upcoming engagements.  I don't usually say "yes" to these things (as I've turned down many proposals over the past six years and have spurned all available suitors).  But in the past week I've said "yes" twice.  Does that mean I'm easy?!  Have I been playing "hard to get"?

First, I accepted an engagement to speak to a group of women next month.  This was an easy "yes"!  A room filled with women?!  Heck, yeah!  Of course, I haven't told my wife about this engagement yet.  At this engagement I am supposed to be entertaining and enlightening.  My wife will have all of these women believe that I am neither, but that's just her opinion.  Becky has never really seen me in a room filled with estrogen.  And she sure hasn't seen my yo-yo routine.  I'm also planning on spinning a few plates and spritzing myself extra heavy with aftershave.  I'll add Jesus in there somewhere for the enlightening portions.

A few weeks later I'll be speaking to a group of historians from the far ranges of North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, and some other states that I can't pronounce.  At this gig I'm being asked to be both humorous and historical, with copious references being made about dead United Methodist bishops and the sacred role of the local church archivist.  I'm not telling my wife about this one, either.  She couldn't tolerate the idea that I know anything about church history or that, even in some perfect world, I could actually keep an organized filing system or remember an anniversary.  I'll let Becky continue to think of me as the guy who piles his dirty underwear by the bedroom door and who, when screamed at for his untidiness, can quickly pick up socks or create perfectly organized stacks of magazines on the coffee table . . . including National Geographics by month.  You should see these piles when I'm through. Very organized.  And I often weep at the sight of them.

I have other engagements, too. But these are the marriages that should be the most fun.  

I just hope none of the organizers read my blog.  They might back out of these commitments when they learn that I ain't that funny or that my yo-yo and numbchuck skills have evaported over time.  They might decide to leave me at the altar.  However, I've been jilted many times.  But believe me . . . it still hurts and the welts still linger.  A guy like me can only take so much rejection.

If they do cancel, however, they should expect a tussle. I'm not giving back any rings.  Plus . . . I really want to keep these dates on my calendar, as I've once again forgotten when my wedding anniversary is and I'm assuming my wife is expecting a really hot evening.   

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On the Job

These first two weeks of 2012 have been a whirlwind of activity.  I've had lengthy conversations with a few editors, with my literary agent, and have also shipped out boxes of books for review.  I've also picked up some new writing jobs, including a commissioned essay (and sidebar) on grant writing.  I'll take it.

Of course, I rarely share the news of my good fortunate at home.  My wife is too busy, my daughter is wrapped in the throes of student teaching and wedding plans, and my son doesn't care.  All in all, the writing gig is just a private affair and (when or if) I do get a small paycheck I usually end up buying groceries or gasoline.  The food is consumed overnight by the boy.  The gasoline goes up in fumes, burned in the frantic drive-time rush of dawn and twilight in four rattle-trap automobiles.

But me?  I write calmly on. 

There's something peaceful to be found in the writing, hunkered over a pot of coffee at five a.m. or with a glass of milk at midnight.  A guy could do worse.

And this week I also received two other accolades that have pleased me deeply.  An editor informed me that one of my poems was the most-read piece in his magazine in 2011.  And another editor wrote requesting that I write a short piece every month for her publication . . . not a column exactly, but enough to keep me busy for fifteen minutes.

And I've got my next job lined up for tonight, seeing as how Becky isn't in the mood to read one of my new romantic poems.  I'll save these for another day when I need to earn a point with the little woman. 

Until then . . . write on.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Visit With the Old Man

On Christmas Eve I read The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. It had been years since my last reading (in college), but this very short novel lends itself well to a single sitting and to various interpretations.  Me . . . I just like the old man.  He's macho.  A tough SOB. 

Becky, of course, knows I'm a wimp.  I cry during chick flicks.  I weep when my wife spurns my advances.  My daughter will not allow me to officiate at her wedding because she says I will sob uncontrollably like a child.

That's why I like to write about tough characters.  I've got a new science fiction story, for example, about some macho men who tap radiation leaks at nuclear power plants.  I have written many mystery stories about tough cops and even tougher private eyes.  And whenever I write memoirs of my life, I paint myself into a good light by fabricating tales of sewing up my own gaping wounds with catgut or performing abdominal surgeries on myself without the aid of an anesthesia.

In reality, about the toughest thing I do each day is work out at the gym and grit my teeth through my arthritic shoulder pain.  I've been conditioned, through marriage and parenting, to ignore little aches and pains and to shy away from rejection . . . which happens often.  I write in the dark so my wife won't make comments about how old I'm looking these days and so she won't be able to get a decent glimpse of me in my new Christmas underwear.

Come to think of it, The Old Man and the Sea might be a parable about my life.  I always think I've landed something big, but by the time I get home to tell my wife, my good news is usually chewed to pieces. 

So much for Hemingway. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Discount Double-Check

The advent of a new year has also brought new blessings--including a cluster of "lead-off" acceptances and a thicket of small paychecks for various essays and poems.  In most cases, if I decide to subscribe to the magazines that gave me the nod, I get a discount as one of their contributing authors.  Discount double-check?  I guess so!

I've also had some nice correspondence with editors of late who have, while rejecting my work, also made a personal plea for me to write other work for them, or to submit additional material.  Okay, that's a nice beginning, too.

The new year has also brought new questions from a number of folks around a common theme.  Most notably:  Where do you find the time to write so much?

January is always a good month for explanation, so let me try to elucidate.  Here's my prescription (which I have, essentially, followed for the past 40 years).

1. I rise early.  Some days, very early.  Like the Marines, I can write more before 7 a.m. than many folks do in an entire day.

2. I write most evenings also.  Sometimes this writing doesn't begin until eight or nine o-clock; it depends.  On a good night, I can put in another five hours or so.

3. I try to take Fridays off.  On my day off, I might write ALL DAY.  Again, depends.  Or I might do re-writes or mailings or submissions.  But generally, I might put in a full day, or even a double-helping of writing for a full sixteen hours.

4. I write in my sleep.  I keep a notepad next to the bed, and I often wake in the middle of the night (see my Manopause blog on why I must rise three times in the night!) or first thing of a morning, and I write down phrases, ideas, and (yes!) sometimes fully-developed paragraphs or poems or sermons. Don't ask me to explain this, I just know that it happens and it drives my wife nuts.  

So . . . this is my life and welcome to it. 

Going to keep reading?  THope so.  Just double-checking.  

Friday, January 6, 2012

Christmas Cards

What a day to savor Christmas cards.  Among my favorites of the year include:

Two cards from my English teacher, senior year, high school. Thanks, Miss Wallace for writing me yet again, reminding me of why the study of literature and the English language has always been such a joy in my life.  I know I don't write often enough, but in case you are wondering, I like verbs best.  I try to give special attention to my verbs, especially when I'm talking to Becky.  You remember her?  The girl who sat next to me while we read McBeth?  Well, I married her.  Sure, she was as plain as a mud fence back then, but you should see her now.  She likes adjectives. Describes everything non-stop!  I act, she tells me what I've done wrong.  It's a perfect marriage!  And your cards meant a lot to us both!!!

And get this: I also received a card from my literary agent.  The first time this has happened in nearly forty years of writing. Thank you, Cindy!  I'm grateful for the confidence and the encouragement.  Indeed, I do pray that 2012 will be the year!  Hope springs eternal.

Now that I've read all of these cards, I'm not sure what to do with them.  Toss them?  File them?  Sautee them in onions? 

Becky says we keep them until next Christmas inside the ornament box and replace the new with the old.  This sounds like a plan.  And from the way she describes it, I don't really have a choice.  But that's an adjective for you . . . .

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Winter Cleaning

Over the weekend, at the insistence of my wife, I agreed to "clean" my home office/library . . . a feat I had not undertaken for nearly two years.  And I use the word "undertaken" literally, as I unearthed items I had long thought dead and buried.

For example, over the past two years I had simply piled manuscripts and letters and rejection slips into several heaping piles:  some on the windowsill, others on the floor or on top of a filing cabinet.  Sorting through these took hours, and based upon the amount of mouse poop and other defecation I uncovered in some of these piles, I'm rather certain I have now resurrected the bubonic plague.

I also "discovered" plagues of poems I had long forgotten about, swarms of short stories, and herds of cover letters and mailing envelopes (many with postage still affixed but unmailed).

One of my best discoveries was a science fiction story I had written--and a rather good one once I sat down to read it.  But for the life of me I can't recall writing it.  I must have, however . . . as the story has my name and distinctive tone to it.  I'll be sending this one along to an editor very soon.  Glad I found it.

Most of the material I unearthed in my office, however, was cartoned into boxes and is now making its way to the recycling bin.  I had several heavy boxes of material (duplicates, rejection slips, notes, letters, printed emails) that I simply don't have any place to store.  I nearly broke my back loading the stuff into the car.

My office now looks rather clean and polished.  Once I lift the other stacks of books off the floor and shelve some of the hundreds of books I've brought home in the past two years . . . the place should look good as new.

I need an office.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Writing Retrospective

Each year I try to make an assessment of my growth as a writer (among many other goals and objectives). And, although I'm not one to look behind (except at my wife), it is always a good practice to take stock of one's accomplishments.  Here's what I completed in 2011 on the page . . . and I can see that it's been a very good year.

Project           # Completed   #Accepted for Publication

New Book Proposals   5                         0
Novels Submitted       2                         0
Columns                   10                       10
Essays                     15                        3
Poems                      143                      11
Blog Posts                346                      346
Stories (Fiction)         14                        3
CD                           1                           1
Kindle Books              2                           2
Various & Sundry?                              ?
Letters to my wife      2                         0 (PWAK--Paid With a Kiss)

Humor (or Satire)       7                          1
Sermons                   48                        48

I have no idea what this output represents in terms of number of words or number of pages.  Let's just say I've typed my fingers blue.  And I can think of a few occasions when I typed so fast and so furiously for so long that my wrists went numb.  

As I look forward to 2012, I anticipate a better year. A banner year.  Always do.  And I'll be setting my goals to achieve all that I can.

I'm also looking forward to writing two new blogs.
Manopause:  my blog about one man's experiences in mid-life (http://www.manopauze.blogspot.com/)
The Donut Diary: my blog about my search for the perfect donut experience (http://www.thedonutdiary.blogspot.com/)

I will, of course, be writing this same blog every day as well.  Hope you'll keep tuning in.  And THANKS FOR READING!!!!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My First Paycheck of 2012

I had planned to publish my writing stats for 2011 today, but my reflections were preempted yesterday (January 2) by an editor who wrote to inform me that she was accepting yet another of my poems for publication (thanks, Susan, you've provided a great start to the new year).  For some reason Susan loves my love poems, but when I told Becky about my acceptance she shrugged it off with a casual, "That's nice, dear."

I quickly pointed out that the editor was also going to pay me.

"How much?" Becky wanted to know.

"Enough that we can have a nice dinner at Bob Evans," I said, "or the check could swing a real humdinger of a meal at Wendy's, complete with Frosties for dessert and maybe a couple gallons of gasoline to get us back home so you won't have to walk on your bunions."

"What kind of poem is this?  Anything I've read?"

I pointed out to Becky that she rarely reads anything I write.  "I wrote it for you some weeks back," I said.  "No, you haven't read this one.  It's not the type of writing that interests you.  It's a love poem.  A real hottie.  A poem full of passion and sweat and swirled silk sheets.  I really had to use my imagination!"

"It's got to be fiction.  After all, what do you know about love?" Becky asked.

"What do I know about love?  Heck, what does a woodpecker know about rotten wood?  What does Paula Dean know about cooking with pounds of butter?  What does Simon Cowel know about talent?" 

"I should read this," she said.  "If it's going to be in print, will it embarrass me?"

"Of course the poem will embarrass you," I said. "That's why I wrote it.  I'll send it to your mother as soon as I get a tear sheet copy."

"How many of these love poems have your written, anyway?"

"Last year?  Dozens just like it!  And I'll write a hundred more in 2012.  How's that for romance?"

New Year's resolutions.  Priceless.  2012 is off to a great start.  My first paycheck of the year.

And thanks again, Susan, for agreeing to pay for the love my wife won't read.  Makes me feel tough.  Like a gigolo.    

Monday, January 2, 2012

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012

It is difficult to believe, but in the past year (2011) I have written 280 "Between Pages" blog posts.  I've also been taking inventory of my writing goals of the past year and making a summary of what I have written.  I will be posting these results tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'm also setting new goals for 2012 . . . some involve writing, others pastoring, and still others are family and personal goals.  I usually set my bar so high I end up failing at most of these goals, but I would rather aim too high than settle for too little. 

As I look ahead to 2012 I see many enormous changes looming on the horizon.  A high school graduation (please, Lord!), a college graduation (sweet Jesus, financial relief!), and a wedding (good gravy, more money needed!).  My wife also has a new position and is working very long hours, and I may also have other extended family issues to deal with in 2012.  Still, it's all good, and through it all I'll be writing my guts out--rising early and working late to accomplish my goals.

I'm also going to be writing two new blogs starting later this week:
Manopause: Musings of a Mid-life Male  (a blog that I hope to turn into a humor book of same or similar title)
The Donut Diary (my personal search for the perfect donut experience along with history, recipes, and weird conversations about pastry)

Naturally, I'll still be right here at Between Pages every weekday also, writing about writing and reading.  So YOU keep reading, too.  And watch for the two new blogs later this week.