Thursday, May 31, 2012

Shopping Cart

Recently my agent carted a few of my books on a shopping spree.  The idea was simple:  cart them off to Book Expo and let editors and publishers have a look-see.

I like the idea.  But my cart is getting full.  I feel like I've finished pushing buttons online and now it's time to "check-out".  Trouble is, no one's punching the "purchase" button.

There is a radical shift happening in publishing these days.  It's been taking place for some time, but the distances between digital publishing and traditional are growing at a breakneck pace.  And authors are bearing an increasing weight when it comes to producing the material that publishers are using for marketing and advertising, too.

My cart is loaded.  I've got books stuffed into the basket, but also underneath the cart (next to the wheels) and there are children riding in the front seat with their legs dangling over the edge.  These kids are wailing, and they are constantly reaching for candy bars at the check-out aisle.

Someday (soon and very soon) I hope to receive a good word.  I don't want to be driving a cart with a squeaky or loose wheel.  I want a straight-roller.

And it would be nice if, in the future, I could actually begin rolling downhill instead of pushing the weight to the top.  I feel like Sisyphus and his boulder.

I don't want to be crushed by my own cart.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

The past week has offered me a wealth of interesting writing developments.  Among them:

The Good
    A couple of editors accepted my material and gave me some affirming words on a nice blend of genres, including a personal essay on death, a humor piece about the Greek debt, and a satirical poem.  I enjoyed showing off a range of work--some of it warped and weird, and the rest drop-dead serious.

The Bad
     A lot of rejections in the past five days.  I stopped counting at a dozen.  But then, I never keep track of rejections . . . you can ask my wife.  I just keep moving and try to look acceptable in blue jeans.  Sometimes I leave a suggestive note at the dinner table.  

And . . . The Ugly
     It is always frustrating to receive a lengthy hand-written rejection from an editor saying, "This one came close! Always love reading your work and I always welcome other submissions from you.  Keep sending my way."
     Well, that's nice . . . but I'd prefer the editor accept my best work when I send it.  I'm not so talented that I can write stellar material every night.  Sometimes an editor has to jump.
     All that ripe material, after all, doesn't grow on trees.          

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

2 Fer

I have discovered that many editors work on National Holidays.  Surprisingly, I had two pieces accepted for publication on Monday, one of them a reprint.  (It's always a double blessing when I can sell a piece of writing twice!)

But I didn't have much time to bask in the okie-dokie, as I was relegated to clean up after my son's graduation open house on Sunday.  I even cleaned up the muffler that parted ways with my son's pickup truck--a near 6-foot length of tail pipe that I discovered in the driveway.

Somewhere in all of this mix of open houses, photo ops, and pre-wedding plans, I have a quiver full of essays and stories waiting to be written.  All I need is the time and attention necessary to complete them.

But right now, I'm high on sugar.  I can't wait for my life to get back to an even-keel so I can find my old boring pace again.  

All I can seem to manage right now is picking up the pieces of the leftovers.   

Friday, May 25, 2012

Greek Geek

I may have officially entered the hallowed halls of Geekdom yesterday when a satirical magazine agreed to publish an essay I wrote about the Greek debt.  It was a piece I had worked on diligently, and includes a copious number of references to Greek classical literature, mythology, and the pantheon of gods and goddesses.

In short, it's a classic essay and I am glad someone, at last, recognized the moribund and bawdy humor in it.

This Greek piece, along with several poems of classical Greek reference and another humorous essay I wrote on Latin cognates, would seem to make me an official Geek.  I expect to receive my decoder ring and club membership in a plain brown wrapper any day now.

Naturally, I will have to tell me wife about my Geek fortunes next time I see her.  She is always perturbed by my writing choices (as they produce no money) and she continues to request that I sell one of my novels for a tidy sum.  She doesn't understand why I would waste my time writing about Zeus, or Heracles, or Hades (god of the underworld, in case you didn't know).  She thinks I should focus on writing mysteries or thrillers (of which I have many) and most recently she has insisted I write romantic novels of the type and variety that women purchase by the truckloads.  So, I thought I'd try my hand at it . . . a romance novel with paragraphs like:

She undressed him with her eyes but then realized this was the way most men his age looked while they were taking a shower.  He was hideous and she walked away in disgust.  She didn't realize a man could have udders and she felt, suddenly, hungry for a Dairy Queen Blizzard with Reeces Pieces.  She removed five dollars from his wallet and sped away in a cloud of purple exhaust fumes, wondering why she had married him twenty-eight years before and how her life would have been different had she married Stew, who was now a sales manager for H.H. Gregg and could get her a sweet deal on a plasma television.  But she knew she would never leave him; he had hooked her big time years ago when he washed her chassis for free and then wrote heartfelt notes to her mother, asking for her hand and her heart.  She would love him forever, into the twilight of their years when, at last in retirement, they would study the works of Aristotle in the original Greek and would, some day, make out in the back of the pickup on an old mattress they had once purchased for their son from Goodwill.  Theirs was a classic love story for the ages, and they were still writing it in large 14-point Times New Roman font.

You see what I mean?  No wonder my wife wants me to write romance.  I could make a million.   

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dr. Who?

Yesterday I bumped up against a deadline for a literary magazine that will soon be publishing some of my erudite humor.  I say "bumped" because I waited until the last minute to submit my responses to the editor's mandatory list of pre-publication questions. Included in the list were several legal questions such as:

Do you swear that this material is yours and is not plagiarized or lifted in whole or in part from some other work?


Do you own the legal rights to this work?

Well . . . these are easy.  I've never plagiarized a sentence in my life.  Why would I?  If I can't submit my own work, what's the point?

But the questions that gave me pause were these:

In 45 words or less tell us about yourself and why our readers would find you interesting?


How are you currently feeling about life?

I'm not joking . . . these were the questions.  And I love them.  These editors know how to rap.  But I was having problems getting my thoughts in order.  I wanted to be cute and funny and insightful all at the same time.  So, here's what I submitted.

In response:

The readers need to meet my wife. They would be impressed. Impressed that a guy like me chose so well and, in doing so, has earned the right to be admired and respected.  Anyone reading this piece will also suspect that I am a highly-educated fellow of some classical learning who has by now forgotten most of what he learned, including the notion that he could once read Latin.  Readers will also note that I am high on life, but have very good relationships with legions of funeral directors.  I can be reached through my blog, should anyone desire to correspond with me, but I am frequently out of the office, as I am attempting to transition my children out of the house.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Digging It

There are fallow times for every writer:  periods when the writing, though written, lacks something.  That's when looking back can help one look ahead.

Here's a poem I unearthed from my 2012 poetic journal, a piece I wrote back on February 23.  Reading it now, I can see that it's not too bad.  The day must have been cloudy and my experience was best summarized as melancholy, I suppose.

Nevetheless, here it is. 

The Cloudy Day

What to make of gray
And the lack of desire
That a gray day brings
Is most illuminating
In its plainness.

And what one might
Learn to appreciate
In overcast skies
Is nothing if
Nothing is paradise.

Even the birds
Become landlubbers
On a day overcast
With lack of blue
When the sun won't last
And the shadows do.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Running Out of Ink

I received word this week that another one of my books is "going out of print". This is always a sad announcement, when the volume of sales (or lack thereof) preclude that the book pass beyond the bounds of the press and enter that great remaindered category in the sky.

As a writer who now has most of his books in the out of print category, it's difficult to feel affirmed.  It's another form of rejection.  And writers like me are continually looking for other ways to feel warm . . . that's why we buy heating pads and use lots of Tabasco sauce.  

Going out of print also makes a guy like me cling to the love.  I write my wife daily poems in the hope that she might read them and become aroused to the point where she will sign a waver granting me the exclusive rights to her retirement funds.  I dream that she will throw off pheromone signals indicating that she is willing to finish the landscaping project on the west side of the house.  I am also more bold to express how I feel, often through tears, and I often cry when I mention how much it would mean to me if she could Simonize the car and fix the muffler.

Going out of print has this affect on me.  I live in an emotional stranglehold, my nerves raw and close to the edge.  Sometimes I eat buckets of ice cream and call it dinner.  My children ask for $10 and I give them a $100 bill . . . just to gain their acceptance in exchange for five minutes, if only they will sit and willingly listen to my problems.  These in-home counseling sessions usually end abruptly, however, and with laughter.  My own children can't accept that I'm this messed up.  They post our conversations on Facebook and include photographs of me when I was twenty-seven years old and badly in need of a shave.

Believe me, if there are folks out there who dream of writing a book, it's not all peaches and cream.  Sometimes it's just yogurt, and badly spoiled.  Sometimes it's just cutting the cheese and looking sideways at the cat when someone asks, "What smells?"

But I've been out of print many times before and I'll get through this one, too.  All it will take is a lot of poems and a gallon of chocolate chip ice cream.

Or . . . if my wife totally loses her bearings and kisses me tonight . . . all will be well.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Travel Writer

On Friday I was sitting on a bluff in South Haven, Michigan, overlooking a lake Michigan beach, watching sailboats ease past the harbor lighthouse.  And I was reading The Collected Stories of Paul Theroux, sunlight streaking across my face.

The book selection was wholly appropriate, as Theroux's fiction is reminiscent of his many travel books, and his stories seem to blossom from specific locations and cultures.  Theroux's fiction, nonetheless, is not easily accessible and doesn't offer quick rewards for the reader.  One has to be willing to be submerged, as if the story itself is a means by which we may enter a time, place or culture.

I was grateful to have Theroux on a sunny day, and being a traveler myself, discovered enough in these thick pages to enjoy over a hundred mile beach vista and a bottle of chilled water.

Better yet, I was also offered the hope of a book-signing when I purchased the book at a used bookstore in South Haven.  "Next time you're in town," was the word.  I won't forget.

It won't be long before my own travels will bring me around again.  Back to the port, the deep blue waters, the sailboats fastened to the sunset.  I'll have another book then . . . and will likely have a travel story of my own to write about.

Same beach.  Different outcome.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Paper Chase

As a writer I have always had an awareness of, and appreciation for, paper.  I have, for instance, always had a fascination with paper weight, type, and even the binding and cut of books.  Yes, I even admire some books on my shelves for the quality of their print or presentation, even if the writing itself stinks.  (No way to even discuss these things with Kindle format and digital publishing.)

But recently I've been undertaking a new paper chase for my daughter, who is intent on finding the perfect papers for her various invitations, thank you cards, programs and stationery for her wedding.

Last night I brought home a ream of paper that had been sitting on my office shelf for over twenty-five years.  This ream of paper, which I had purchased before my children were born, was meant to serve as my cover letters to editors.  It is a very fine paper, 20 weight bond, with 25% cotton woven into the mix. 

As memory serves, I purchased this ream for $20 back in 1987.  (A tidy sum back then, and I probably forfeited food to buy it.)  Not sure how much it would cost today (maybe less?).  But since 1987 I've been busy writing (among other things) and these 500 pages of paper simply got lost in the creative process.  My cover letters eventually gave way to e-mails and faxes and then, eventually, phone calls and, in some cases, face-to-face conversations with editors.

As memory serves, I also used two pages of this paper.  So technically my daughter only has 498 pages for her wedding.

One of these pieces of paper I used as a birthday card to my wife.  I likely filled it with sappy sentiments detailing the depths of my love and how much I wanted to shake the peaches on her tree.  I also likely included an original poem such as:

Sure as the vine twines round the stump
You are my darlin' sugar lump.

The second piece of paper was used to light a fire in the fireplace.  But for the life of me, I don't remember when . . . and I don't recall having a fireplace either.

I can only hope that my daughter can make better use of this high-quality paper . . . and that she will find a use for it some time in the next 25 years.  She'd better hurry and find a reason, though.  In another 25 years she may be planning my funeral.  But she can print my obituary on this paper.  I know it will hold up well under duress, and the cotton fiber absorbs tear-stains very well. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Suitable for Framing

In the past year our little household has seen three diplomas earned:  one college, one high school, and my wife completed a two-year master's certification for administration.  I have been feeling like a slacker.  But yesterday I received my "official" letter from a magazine that had selected one of my poems as a best of 2011.  And the word was that this letter was suitable for framing . . . should I want to impress my friends.  (But I have no friends who would be impressed by me.)

I won't be framing this letter . . . I don't have anything framed!  Most of my important documents are stuffed into a filing cabinet somewhere and, should I need them, I will have to die in order for them to be discovered.  I'm not framing my letter . . . I'll just write another poem and hope to do better with my next effort.

If I were to frame important documents, I might opt for some unassuming ones. 

For example, I might choose to frame a recent Valentine's Day card . . . in which my wife outlined the various ways and reasons she loves me, and wants to love me, and desires me, and also thanked me for cleaning up the basement where the cat puked.  I didn't believe a word of it of course, but some poet at Hallmark did touch my heart with his sentiments and made me shed a tear.  I haven't been able to toss this card since February 14, although I have created several doodles on it and have scrawled a few phone numbers in the upper right hand corner above the words:  "I love you like a wild gazelle crossing mountain ranges in search of a decent mate."

I might also frame a Walmart receipt from a recent mailing envelope purchase. I use a lot of these envelopes and it would be nice to remind myself that I need to fill these mailers with quality work, stuff that will make editors cry, or sneeze, or at least pull a hammie.  A framed Walmart receipt might have this effect, especially as I age and feel my energies being reduced to the full force of a triple-A battery.

I might also frame my first published story (and probably still one of my best) that was published way back when in a now-defunct University of Southern Illinois literary magazine.  People would stop and ask, "What is this important-looking document stuffed inside this $1.99 frame?"  And I could touch my shoulder blades together and answer, "That, my fickle little friend, is my first published story.  I am very proud of it, and have been holding out hope for years that writing stories like this one would be a real turn of for my wife."

I could also include a photo of my wife in all of these frames, I suppose.  But that would require work.  And, although I hate to admit it, I don't even know how to remove the film from the camera.  That roll has been in there since 1978, and the last time I pulled out the film to look at it, most of the photos of Becky appeared to be ruined.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Me? Cynical?

In the past two years I've had the privilege of mentoring some younger clergy.  (Why, we'll never know!)  I recall that, in my younger days, it was helpful to talk to older and wiser clergy who had already been around the block a few times, had seen it all, heard it all, and yet were still managing to hold on to a few scraps of hair with a smile.

I'm not sure I'm older and wiser, necessarily, but at least I can tell my younger colleagues that I've moved seven times, have served ten congregations, and have met, by now, tens of thousands of people (most of whom were elated to see me leave).  I've also kept a copy of Reinhold Niebuhr's pastoral memoirs, Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic on my shelf for years.  It was a book recommended to me when I was a young whipper-snapper for its honesty, insights and guts about the real issues in pastoral work.

The book is severely dated now, and I rarely see it listed on recommended reads for new clergy, but the book does have a timeless quality to it that can speak to the trench mentality that many clergy eventually (and wrongfully, I believe) assume in their approach.

Me?  I don't believe I have ever succumbed to cynicism (though every pastor fights periodic battles of self-doubt, depression, listlessness, restlessness, loneliness, and even ego-mania, envy, or workaholism).

After 30+ years in the work, it's wonderful to arrive at the conclusion that cynicism doesn't work, and isn't very helpful, and that it is best to laugh about (and at) one's self and the church.  Most of ministry is failure.  Existence is messy.  God's grace is sufficient.  And there are few answers we can orchestrate or bring to fruition on our own.

In the coming days I'll be writing an article for younger clergy on recommended reading.  I suppose I'll keep Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic on my list. 

But I think Niebuhr needed to get his ticked punched more often!    

Monday, May 14, 2012


I noted this weekend that this blog has been visited by more than 30,000 "hits" . . . though I am not sure what this means.  As far as blogs go, I know it's not outstanding, as some blogs receive a million hits a day.  But there has been some consistency, I suppose, among some readers.  And so I thank you for reading this bit of humor.

Not long ago, someone asked me why I write blogs.  And here was my simple answer:  "Writing a blog is how I practice writing."  

Everyone needs to practice.  Painters, athletes, singers, actors . . . regardless of vocation . . . without practice one's skills rapidly deteriorate, muscles atrophy, the brain freezes, and vocal chords constrict.  A writer must always practice to write well . . . and this involves time, patience, and the day-by-day work of putting word to paper (or word to screen).

Anyone aspiring to write can't go wrong with practice.  Earlier in my life, I used to practice writing books by writing books.  I wrote entire books that I simply completed, placed on a shelf, or burned.  The goal wasn't the book, but the ability to complete a book.  The outcome wasn't meant to be art, but the goal of graduation to the next project.

I write blogs to practice, for the most part, humor (which, as most editors attest, is a most difficult form to write).  Writing my book reviews here, I also became adept at writing book reviews so that I could write book reviews.  Now I write books reviews for magazines. I can buy ham sandwiches or take my wife to Wendys (or not).

I also receive boxes of books.  This is another nice perk.  I get to read these books. And then I write about them.

I have written nearly 1,300 "Between Pages" blogs . . . all for practice.  

And after nearly five years . . . I guess practice is helping to make perfect.  But I have a long way to go.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

About once a year my mother asks, "What are you writing these days?"  It is a serious question coming from a woman who has always made me laugh.  Usually, however, whenever I try to explain to my mother what I have written, I get bogged down in the language itself . . . just like I used to do in grade school when she would ask, "Do you have any homework?"  (My mother taught in grade school for 42 years and was my kindergarten teacher, so school was an inescapably serious endeavor.)

My mother was there when I began writing in earnest (and with great seriousness) at the age of twelve.  I soon had a manual typewriter and churned out stories for my friends, as well as creating entire magazines from scratch, which I also illustrated.  I wrote school plays, funny poems and spent, as I recall, one summer whittling limericks (all clean) that eventually filled an entire notebook.

Still, it's safe to say that my mother hasn't even read 1% of all the material I've written these past forty years (but in fact, no one else has read 1% of it either!).

And although my mother doesn't even know I write poems (to my knowledge she has no idea what I write) . . . I did pen this one some months back and had planned to give it to her on Mother's Day.  But I forgot to send it.  So . . . I send it to her here.  (Although, my mom doesn't read my blogs either, so what am I saying?) 

Share it with your own mother if you like.  Just remember where you saw it first!

My Mother's Arms

Then they were young and lithe and strong
When my body was her baby
And the full length of me a song
Singing her only child.

Then as they firmed in adolescent's strife
They coaxed, and taught, and barred the door.
In short, they birthed me into life
And gave to me the world, and more.

Then they were tired and tiring
And deserving of rest,
Having completed those tasks
Which once had blessed.

And at the last, mottled with age,
Yet supple and supine,
When they have become too weak to bear her home--
I shall give her mine.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Real Moody

This week I read Rick Moody's (British Version) of his three novellas, published in England under the title, The Omega Force.  (Published in the U.S. under the title: Right Livelihoods.) The signature story in this collection, "The Albertine Notes", is a celebrated science fiction story about a futeristic drug that not only alters perceptions, but changes reality itself. 

Moody's various novels and tales are spun in various genres, and his memoir of depression, The Black Veil, is a book that I have had on my shelves for years, but have not yet had the stomach to read.

One has to be in a mood, I think, to read Moody. 

However, as I ventured forth through Moody's British version, I did so anticipating the publication of one of my own science fiction tales in the British edition, Morpheus Tales.  My story, "The Sea and All That is in It", is one that garnered a full slate of rejections in the U.S., but a story I knew was, nevertheless, a keeper and much worthy of place in someone's pages.  I am honored to be recognized by English editors!

I think I have all of Moody's books on my shelves--he's one I collect.  And someday, I hope to have a collection of my own science fiction stories.  I now have a bunch of 'em.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Very Good Year

While waiting for my son to take a college entrance exam (2 hours worth) I happened upon a book that was written in 1960, the year I was born.  The title?  The Search for Amelia Earhart, by Fred Goerner. 

An interesting title, Mr. Goerner presents nearly 300 pages of lively material making his case that Ms. Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, crashed into the ocean off the shore of Saipan (Japan). Evidently, this book offered one of the earliest theories related to the idea that Ms. Earhart survived, was taken captive by the Japanese, survived in prison for a time, and died of dysentery. She was, purportedly, buried in an unmarked grave.  Mr. Goerner offers various interviews conducted with former Japanese prisoners-of-war who,  purportedly, shared prison space with a famous woman aviator.

Even in recent years there have been reports, new theories, and dozens of expeditions conducted in search of the 1937 wreckage.  The disappearance of Amelia Earhart has also been fodder for numerous novels and movies.

I'm not sure what to make of Mr. Goerner's conclusions.  He's probably living in an unmarked grave himself these days . . . but his ideas still abound.  Although this book has more than fifty years behind it, I'm sure it is still a view shared by many.

I wonder what else I could find that was written in 1960?  Might be fun to see what the best sellers were that year. 

All I know is that in the second week of October of 1960, The Andy Griffith Show premiered . . . and I was born.

Not a bad year, all things considered.  And I think Goober would agree.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Killing Me Softly

Most every year I have essays, poems, and articles that are accepted for publication (and some that are purchased) that never show up in their respective pages.  For years, writers have called these dead-end pieces "killed" . . . as in "the editor killed the story" or "the publisher gave me a kill-fee".  Some writers even work these "kill fees" into their contracts, but these are the successful writers, and not dead-beats like me.

I have, however, amassed a rather hefty supply of killed pieces, and otherwise dead work, that I might as well "publish" now on this blog.  These are pieces that were slated for publication, but never made it into print.  Some, I believe, are quite good.  (But then, I have low standards and so does my wife . . . as evidenced by the fact that she married me.)

Below is a portion of a rather lengthy poem that was slated for publication over a year ago, but was then cut when the publisher wrote informing me that the magazine was no longer publishing verse.  The poem was a longer series of verses on punctuation marks (the period, the semi-colon, the comma, etc.).

This one is about parentheses.  I like it a lot . . . and apparently, so did the editor who was once willing to pay me for it. I died a bit when the publisher told me they weren't going to use it.


((Considerations aside)
Interior monologue
Is often captured
In nets
And even
The unspoken
One remembers
Or forgets.
And between
These bookends
One discovers
A refugee
Lost in the far country
Of a familiar home.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Ode to Goober

George "Goober" Lindsey

Ode to Goober

He played his part well for a Goober,
The guy in the funny hat;
He could air up a tire or a tube or
Patch a hole in a flat.

His Mayberry talents were walking
Like Chester of Gunsmoke fame,
And he sewed up his fingers while talking
Like Cary Grant when he said Judy's name.

But Goober rarely dated,
He was celibate as could be.
And that's why the critics hated
The town of Mayberry.

Who, after all, but Pyles
And Floyds and Crumps and Fifes
Could manage such pleasant smiles
Without husbands and wives?

But now that Goober's gone
I guess it's safe to say
That he never "got it on"
And he never had a lay.

He may have kissed a girl
And he knew how to dance
But spoonin' in a curl . . . ?
Goober never had a chance.

He was, of course, a Goober
And a Pyle at that.
But we'll know him on the Tube for
The guy in the funny hat.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Royalty Statements

April and October are the usual months when book authors receive their royalty statements from publishers.  Here, the publishers share information about the respective book's sales record (number of copies sold, total revenue, number of copies returned, royalties owed, royalties held against returns).  These spreadsheets are dizzying, and are designed to confuse the author so he or she will not understand how badly the book is actually selling.

Most authors need to hire professional accountants to read these statements and make sense of them.  (I never have, but some writers--such as successful ones who actually sell books--do.)

Last week I received the bulk of my various royalty statements. Among them, I received but one check, and that one a tiny one, about the size of Rhode Island in comparison to Texas.  The rest of my royalty statements brought tears to my eyes and one envelope induced me to puke. 

Opening these royalty statements is not for the faint of heart.  And writers who live and die by these things are in a sorry state.

That's why I don't worry about them.  I look them over, decide once again that I am not a high-level mathematician with a Ph.D. in actuary science, and toss them into the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet in my home office (a space now littered and consumed by boxes of books, piles of papers, and a still-growing array of floppy disks and zip drives).  I write, and I don't worry about trying to make sense of these statements.

The latest royalty statement I received, however, offered me a glimmer of hope.  I noted that, after nearly four years on the market, that one of my books is on the cusp of earning "royalties paid against books returned."  This last phrase is dubious terminology that is found in all book contracts and is also a category on royalty report spreadsheets.

I can only hope that this book sells a few more copies over the next six months . . . and if these sales exceed the number of books that bookstores and book sellers are returning to the publisher . . . I should receive a royalty check in early November.

So, I have that to live for.  And if the check comes through, I'll be buying a milkshake.  After four and a half years of waiting, I will have earned it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Wedding Words

As father of the bride, my primary charge in the wedding ceremony (June 16) will be the homily.  But what does a father say to his daughter and future son-in-law?  "Go forth and multiply?"  "Let the marriage bed be undefiled?"  "Have a great honeymoon?"

See what I mean.

Sure, I could tell this young couple a bunch of bunk, but personal experience forbids it.  As I begin to write this homily, I'm playing around with a few concepts similiar to the ones below.  But I welcome comments and suggestions.

Friends, family, countrymen . . . lend me your wallets:
It was nearly twenty-eight years ago that my wife and I set out on this path called matrimony, and look at where it has taken us.  Here, to a barn, where our daughter is leaving us for a handful of promises and a few appetizers that are displayed mainly on tiny, round crackers.  Yes, I like those little water chestnuts wrapped in bacon fat while some of you might prefer the goose liver spread on those stale Triscuits . . . but my point is:  today is not the main course.

Soon these two people will be diving into the full fare of marriage, complete with exotic fruits of passion and lots of other stuff that will bore the socks off 'em.  We all know it ain't that big of a deal, but I've paid a bunch for this party, so indulge me for a few minutes, okay?

Sure, my wife could be up here with me, and she could tell you things about me that would make you scratch your head and wonder:  "Is he sane?"  She could also relate incidents and incidentals that would curl your nostril hair.  And later, over by that punch bowl full of lime sherbert, if you ask her kindly, she will probably be glad to tell you that I'm a fantastic lover who gets to the job done . . . and quickly, I might add.

But you didn't come here today to learn about marriage from a guy like me.  You came to hear me talk about what I've learned about marriage from my wife, who is the linchpin in this partnership, a woman who still turns heads and who, even when she's dressing down, looks good from all angles.  Every good thing about my daughter comes from her, and all of the other remarkable traits that my daughter possesses makes me wonder what I was doing the night she was conceived.  I really don't remember, but it must have been an incredible experience for my wife.

Now I stand here offering my words of wisdom, which come directly from God and which, as they pass through the reverb setting on this sound equipment, sound very authoritative, don't they?  I imagine this is how God must have sounded on Mt. Sinai, or at least how Charlton Heston must have sounded in the out-takes of The Ten Commandments before the took out that really big staff of his.

So, what I really want to say is . . . you will be blessed.  I'm not joking here.  Your pantry will be stuffed in no time if you work hard and save lots of money by switching to Geico.  You'll some day have a house and everything.  You will mow a yard, plant flowers, and in a few years fall into patterns of behavior that will border on the insane.  Your love will be proven by the fact that you won't stab each other with serated steak knives.  Perhaps you will have children, but not too soon . . . your mother and I want some time to travel and recuperate from this mess before we begin the new cycle of diaper changing.

Soon, of course, Becky will be changing my diaper.

We will throw another party when this occurs.  There will be snacks on crackers.  And I promise there will be something stronger than lime sherbert in the punch bowl at this future event.

Thank you for attending this black tie affair.  I look forward to seeing some of you at my funeral.     

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Road Kill Rejection

Last week an editor rejected an article I wrote about Road Kill.  Believe me, it was a great piece--a body of work that was gutsy and robust.  The essay wasn't bloated, and I had flattened out the details until the whole piece was slim and fat free.  In short, I killed it.

The editor, on the other hand, wasn't biting . . . and she thought the piece stunk. 

I had mastered my research, however.  With calls to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, I was able to obtain some marvelous quotes about the proliferation of coyote, red fox, raccoon and possum in our various neighborhoods.  These animals are everywhere, and that's why we flatten them.

And, in case you didn't know . . . you can keep your fresh road kill.  You've got first dibs. (I'm not kidding, there are laws for these things!)  So go ahead, fill the trunk.

Naturally, my wife wanted to know how I got off on a road kill tangent, and she never was sold on my road kill essay.  "No one's going to pay you for that," she told me last week over a plate of fricasseed squirrel heads and possum feet.

"You're buying it," I said flippantly.  "In fact, you're eating it." 

Since I cook most of our meals, I can say things like this, and I love waiting for the reactions from the family.  It's amazing how I can torture a pound of ground turkey meat and make it look like something scraped fresh from the asphalt.  It's an art, but I've mastered it.

I'm not sure if I will sell my road kill essay.  I may not even submit it again.  After all, rejection is tough . . . and I don't like being squashed repeatedly before dinner.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Graduate

In celebration of National Poetry Month (April), I thought I would offer this poem on graduation (which takes place in May).  Considering my son's graduation from high school, I have come to the conclusion that this is a great achievement for his parents.  Not every mother and father, for example, allow their progeny to live.  And in the animal kingdom, some species eat their young.

Believe me, I understand.

In spite of these facts, I still love my son and trust that, the day after his high school graduation, he will begin packing his bags in preparation for moving out of the house.  After he has vacated his room, his mother and I plan to call an exterminator and have his living quarters fumigated and the carpet suctioned for worms. I recall that, when I graduated from high school, my parents had to live with tapeworms for two months and I don't want the same to happen to me.  Worms are fine for dogs--which prefer the worms as a source of protein--but I enjoy Hamburger Helper better.

I'm still in deep prayer, hoping that my son will make these final weeks count and will not lapse into an all "F" report card.  That can't happen.  Becky and I have already begun making plans to spend our children's inheritance and we don't want to waste time.  We are getting too old to walk to the mailbox and we are looking forward to visiting the many exotic places we hope to see before we die.  Cities like Akron, Ohio and Nowhere, Wyoming top our list.

Graduations.  They are not for wimps.  And neither is the hope that springs eternal.

College Acceptance

The letter came in the mail
Addressed to my son,
But my wife and I opened it
And called to offer him our stunned

He was nonplussed at first
And then said, "Great"--
Unwilling to accept our pride
Or the long-distance weight
Of adulations.

We will, of course, be pleased
If some years from now
We learn of his "passing"
And the wonderful "Wow"
Of graduations.