Friday, September 28, 2012

The 50,000

Photo:  Me, taking a phone call from a rabid fan who wanted an autograph or, perhaps, trying to calm my wife after she read my latest blog.

Last night I noted that this blog finally hit the 50,000 "hit" mark . . . meaning that it has been viewed, through the years, 50,000 times.  I'm grateful for those 100,000 eyeballs that have looked at it.  That means there have also been 50,000 noses pressed to the screen and an equal number of mouths and chins.  But that makes 100,000 armpits, too . . . which is remarkable, and 49,999 navels (I have a friend without a belly button who views this blog . . . he just sort of "popped out" of his mother's womb, much like an unfrosted Pop Tart or a potato being launched from a tube).

So . . . thanks for reading "Between Pages" . . . this little 5-year old blog detailing, in often-nauseating detail, tidbits of my reading and writing habits.  I'm grateful for every ONE of you (especially that lady in Germany who viewed one of my books here and purchased it off Amazon at full price).

Still, many of you do have questions about this blog, so let me try to answer the most common ones.

Q: When are you going to stop the nonsense and quit writing this blog?
A:  Well, my wife gave me permission to quit back in 2008--in fact, she insisted.  But I never listen to my wife.  Oh, I'll take her advice when it comes to love or making out or smooching or pitching woo twice a year . . . but listen, she doesn't know diddly about blog-writing. 

Q: You mention your wife a lot on this blog (often in a disparaging manner). Has she ever kicked your butt?
A: Kicked it last night.  And I loved it

Q: Really?!
A: (I never kick and tell.)

Q:  So . . . if I'm wanting to get information about books or learn more about writing, is this a good blog to visit?  Or do you just make stuff up?
A: This is difficult to explain unless you have a deep understanding of quantum physics . . . but here goes: First, I'm the real deal.  I do exist.  And it is obvious that I am writing this blog (or, sometimes, one of my clones).  I do read books and comment on them.  And I do write each day in an effort to expunge myself of various inner-demons, most of which make me puke a green sauce.  But here's where things get tricky, as I am often writing this blog in my sleep and sometimes hover between Plato's ideal plane and my world, which is littered with dirty dishes.  So, when you are visiting this blog you may get the sense that, while I am indeed writing it, you may not be reading it.  In short, this blog exists somewhere between these two worlds. And chances are, if you are reading this blog on a regular basis, you are sicker than I am.       

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Goodnight Moon

In case you don't know it . . . the world is a very dark and silent place at 5 a.m.  I should know.  Most of my days begin at 5 a.m. . . .and sometimes earlier.  Not only do I make the morning coffee at that time, but I am usually sitting on the couch in total darkness, hammering away at the keyboard before the sparrows begin to chirp.  (Sometimes, if I'm still asleep and don't know any better, I drive to the gym when it opens at 5 a.m. and then return home to write after a grueling workout and a Hilligoss donut.)

Funny . . . as I age, my days keep getting longer.  Part of this is due to all of the work that needs to be accomplished, work that keeps me hopping throughout the day and many evenings.  I have to rise early, anyway, in order to have a fair shot at meeting these challenges.  But the other part of these early mornings consists of the many writing assignments I must complete before deadline (real or imagined by me).  And some of these deadlines take me late into the evenings, too.  Some days, I meet myself going to, and rising from, bed.  I'm not sure this is how life is supposed to work, but as long as I have work to do and editors who want my work, I'll keep working.

Most of my writing these days is accomplished, however, through pure adrenaline.  (Lots of coffee and donuts doesn't hurt, either.)

I find that there must be a spark, a goal, a drive, a fire in the belly.  Without it, I wilt from exhaustion.  And it helps to get a nod from an editor who is willing to pay, also.  I'm far more driven to write all night when some unsuspecting magazine editor makes a mistake and assigns an article, and a paycheck, to me.  As long as they are buying, I'm writing. 

These tiny paychecks, I hope, do make a difference, too.  It's fun sending the cash forward at the end of each month to help with missions, or food pantry needs, or even to build part of a Habitat house.  I guess I could say that some of these tiny checks pay big dividends.  At least I hope they do.

Some day all of this will be behind me.  I won't be able to work sixty hour weeks and write an additional twenty.  I won't be able to formulate my thoughts or type while I'm gumming my food or drooling over myself.  My wife will have to remind me that I was once able to write whole chapters at a single sitting and that there are closets filled with my discarded and rejected crap that no editors wanted.  In short, she will lie and tell me that I was once important and that, yes, there was a time in the not so distant past when I witnessed most of the sunrises. 


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Question of Copyright

Most recently I've had questions about copyright and how it works.  Questions like: If I write an essay, does it belong to me? or How much does it cost to copyright a self-published book? or What the heck is a copyright, anyway?

First, the good news.

You don't need to worry about copyright.  As soon as you write something (even if it's a blog), and as long as you didn't plagiarize from someone else, you own the copyright for that intellectual work and are covered under copyright law.  If you publish in a magazine, or have a book published with a company, they apply for the copyright for you.  Again, you don't need to waste any time worrying about copyright.  Really, who's gonna steal your junk?  Is your writing that good?!

Now, the fun stuff . . . (sorry, I'm going comedic here).

Q:  What exactly is a copyright?
A:  The copyright was created by the Founding Fathers back in 1789 after it was discovered that the French were copying large portions of The Declaration of Independence and using it to make low-budget political films.

Q: What happens if someone rips off a paragraph from my diary and signs a contract with MGM for a major motion picture based on my life?
A:  Heck, this happens to me all the time . . . are you familiar with George Clooney?  That's really my life he's living, but do you see me complaining?  I think my wife has been sending him excerpts from my diaries for years in an attempt to steal a kiss.  But it's not working, and I'm getting terribly frustrated.

Q: Okay, but what if I do write something that's so valuable, people in Singapore or Malaysia just have to have it?  What about that, smart-alek?
A: Again, this happens to me all the time, only substitute Hymera, Indiana and Akron, Ohio for these exotic locations.  I've discovered that people have been ripping off my work for years and using it on billboards and in high-school musicals.  By my calculations, I've lost millions of dollars to these plagiarized works, and the sixteen-year-old kid responsible for these intellectual thefts will be getting a wedgie.

Q: So . . . you're telling me that I don't need to worry about anyone stealing the essay I wrote entitled, "How to Remove a Coffee Stain from Your Sofa Cushion"?  Wouldn't an article like mine be worth millions of dollars to a magazine like Redbook or Better Homes & Gardens?
A:  Perhaps.  But you have to remember: I've already written that essay.  Where do you think I got it?      

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Man on the Street

I write all types of poetry.  Some wacky. (Some, insanely wacky and warped.)  Some romance.  Some that others might even find offensive. But, in spite of evidence to the contrary . . . I also write a fair amount of social commentary.  In fact, most of my published poetry in the past year has been in the social vein . . . introspective and a tad disdainful, I'm afraid.

Recently The New Poet ( selected me as one of their ten featured poets.  I'm in Issue 3, and my poem is entitled "The Scarecrow".  Hope you like it . . . or, I should say, hope you find it a tad troubling.  It is a poem of reflection on a life-situation that we encounter far too often, and one we each try to resolve in our own way, or find difficult to resolve at all.  (Thanks, David, for including me in The New Poet.)

The poem is also a sonnet, but I wrote it in non-orthodox stanzas.  And, as memory serves, I wrote it in the car as I was driving home from a visit to Riley hospital (sans paper and pen, and complete from memory when I was finally able to lay it down proper on my computer).

But enough . . . hope you can visit The New Poet and have a read.  Issue 3.  "The Scarecrow".  I'm next to last, near the bottom of the issue. 

Photo credit:  Jacob Hawk

Monday, September 24, 2012


On Saturday morning Becky found my used copy of The Collected Poems of e.e. cummings.  After reading a few poems from this massive book, Becky asked, "What do you make of his work?"

Here I was grateful for the opportunity to enter into English major mode and point out that e.e.'s favorite subject matter was love and that, despite the cursory glance that most people give to cummings's poems and arriving at the conclusion that he wrote in odd forms or nonsensical language, cummings was, in actuality, a very formal and accessible poet--both in style and structure.  A great many of his poems are sonnets.

"Refresh my memory . . . what's a sonnet?"

"Fourteen lines, usually iambic pentameter," I say.  "Cummings wrote in varied schemes, however."  I read some of his sonnets aloud.  His love sonnets.  My wife nods.  And then I waltz into my office and grab the first love poem my fingers touch, the one atop the large stack I have written and I keep on the windowsill . . . for romantic emergencies.  I read my love poem, too. Becky likes what I have written. But then, these are her poems.  The ones she never reads.

I like cummings.  e.e.  I like his little initials.  His originality of language and presentation.  A love poet who wrote sonnets of great warmth and who was able to capture moments of grace and mystery in a sparse net of words.  A guy who was not averse to mixing nouns and verbs.  A poet who makes a person consider the enormity of the gift of love.

I go back to my poetic journal and skim this one off the top, too.  I see that I wrote in on February 6, 2012.  I like it.  And I've certainly written worse.

Inside This Day

Inside this day
There is another day
That you will remember
For what did not occur
Within the boredom
Of routines or the exacting
Rituals of our rehearsed.
But you will be blessed
To recall in gratitude
Some small act
Of kindness
That was not there at first.

And in remembering
This day versed
In memory of what
It could have been
But was not,
You would have
Lived it well
And loved before
You had not
Lived it
Or forgot.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Late Night

I'm up late.  I have to be.

By Monday morning (my deadline) I must complete three book reviews, two columns, two essays, and a new book proposal about breast cancer--which, by invitation of a very kind publisher, I may get to complete as a face-to-face, hand-delivery by early October.

So . . . I'm up late.  David Letterman. Conan.  Keyboard.  The nights flow together like coffee and cream.

My wife, of course, wants to know why I won't join her in bed.  Not that we'd actually do anything.  We wouldn't.  Why would we?  Oh, we might talk, or read a book, or decide which can of Chunky soup to open for dinner the following day . . . but we wouldn't push the envelope too far.  We would not discuss Chef Boy-R Dee, for example, or Bush's Baked Beans, or wonder what our son was doing at college.  No, we would turn out the lights and then ask, "Did you lock the front door?" or "Do you miss the cat?" or "Have you ever considered what it would be like to sleep on a bed of nails and enjoy it?"
No, I will not be engaging in these raucous conversations.  I will be up late working calluses into my fingertips.  

I'll save these deep conversations for later.  When I'm rested.   


Thursday, September 20, 2012


I've been writing with an eye toward publication since I was twelve (more than 40 years now), and I received my first paycheck for my writing at the age of eighteen.  But I have yet to figure out why some of my best work goes unnoticed by publishers.  Naturally, this is a common theme among writers.

For example, although I have had a wide-array of poems published in 2012, a casual reading of my backlog led me to ask why several other poems (what I consider my best) were rejected, when less-stellar verses were accepted?  This is a hazy mystery:  a riddle wrapped in a Twinkie, perhaps, or a villanelle wrapped in a sonnet.

Among my short stories, I'm flabbergasted that no editor has picked up "Steiner the Violinist"--a story I wrote nearly twenty years ago, but nevertheless consider one of my best. Every time I re-read it, I try to be critical and objective, but I'm still moved by it.

Every writer has his/her oddball assortment of unpublished pieces that, in fact, are quite fine, but just can't land a home.  I've got hundreds of these orphans (I think) . . . but every now and then one of them is adopted.  I guess persistence and sustained effort is the key . . . but after thirty years, even some of the best work needs to be shelved.

Looking back, I also have some very funny material that will probably never find a home.  Pieces with such illustrious titles like "How to Work Your Butt Off" or "How to be a Politician" or "Sanitized for Your Protection" (yeah, it's about hotel toilet seats).  My wife thinks some of these are the rudest and crudest pieces I have ever written . . . so I know they must be good.

I rarely give up on a piece of writing, but sometimes it's for the best.  I write too much as it is.  And I know I should be engaging in other fun: such as amorous activity, or deep conversation with the wife, or cooking Lima beans for breakfast.  But, well, somebody has to write all this material for the rejection pile.

I guess that's me.  I should know.  I've been doing it a long time.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mr. Clean

In many respects September is the "new year" for writers.  This is the month when most magazines, publishers and journals once again open their doors and windows to let in a fresh breeze of writing.  And, consequently, there is a mad rush to fill the slots that these publishers are providing.

For this reason, my September becomes busier than ever, as editors begin to correspond with me daily in the aftermath of my wide-ranging submissions of essays, stories, poems, columns, articles, and book proposals.  And because I don't keep good records, I am often surprised to hear from some of these folks (yeah or nay) and I have to ask them to refresh my memory.  "What was it I sent you?" I usually ask.

"You don't know?"

I pretend to be older than I am.  I make excuses . . . hardening of the arteries and all.  And then I eventually admit, "I have hundreds of pages in circulation.  Just tell me which pages we are talking about so we can get on with it." 

Which leads me to this story:

Last week, following a series of emails and phone calls with one editor, I came to realize that we were friends (though we have never met).  We not only had been exchanging pleasantries for years, but we had also shared more personal information about our families, our histories, our stresses and goals.  In short, we were communicating beyond the usual formal approach to publishing.

After this editor expressed some of her anxiety over deadlines and the stresses of bringing out a new issue every month, I asked her how I could help.  (Really, I wanted to help, and even volunteered to ease some of her editorial responsibilities if possible.)

"You help by being Mr. Clean," she said.  "I rarely have to edit your work.  It's clean from start to finish."

Of course, she wasn't talking about my language here, but my readable text (I suppose).  But her analogy made me laugh.  And I can dig it, too.

Next time I mop the kitchen floor (which I do, folks! . . . you can ask my wife), I'll be aware of the importance of keeping my writing crisp, concise, and controlled. 

I'll be Mr. Clean.  And I plan to get my ear pierced and my head shaved on Friday so I can look the part.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Author Photos

Professional-Studio Author photo (2010), GQ look, which provoked my daughter to ask: "Why are you playing with your wrist, Dad?"

Recently, at the request of a publisher, I scheduled a new slate of professional author photos.  It's an expensive venture, and I'm not sure if the publisher is sending me subliminal messages like:  "You now look like an old goat" or "Please take your next set of photos in dim light" or "Do you have a stunt-double?" or "Can you photoshop these puppies?"

But it could be that the publisher is readying to take the plunge and actually send me a new contract. I can only hope so.  I'd hate to take all of these new photos just so Becky can throw darts at them.  This is humiliating and does nothing for my marriage, though she gets a kick out of it when she scores a bulls eye inside my right eyeball (my "good" eye).  I have a feeling there are many other people who would enjoy tossing darts on my face as well.  However . . . .

Author photos do create a sense of belonging.  Whenever I pay for new ones, especially, I feel as though I am part of a special fraternity of wordsmiths who, though sometimes known by face or name, long to be more intimately known through their craft.  I don't really care about the photos.  I deeply care about the sentences I commit to paper (or digital).

Photos also remind me that, while some day I will depart this life and my face and name will seep into the dust like thin brown gravy, there is at least a small chance (though dim) that some sentence or paragraph I have written may yet live on in future pages or publications.  I have no idea what Shakespeare looked like, or Milton, or even the prophet Isaiah . . . but their words have impacted me. 

OK.  I'll get my photo taken.  I'll even diet, workout, and tan to get ready for the photo shoot.  But shoot . . . I'd rather be writing.

Monday, September 17, 2012

One More Donut

Two weeks ago, when I ceased publishing my Donut Diary blog (, I believed that I had exhausted my foray into the world of dough.  But Sunday afternoon, while visiting my daughter in Bloomington, I decided to go in search of Crescent Donut--a Bloomington landmark that, evidently, created donuts to die for.  I had read about the place.

As fate (or maybe God's will) would have it, I didn't have to drive very far.  In fact, Crescent Donut was bunkered down at the bottom of a hill, a mere 200 yards from my daughter's apartment complex.  I could have walked there.  And I will!

After eating at the Irish Lion, I treated the whole family to a dozen at Crescent.  But as I compared my elation of this donut discovery to my daughter's disinterest in dough, I then realized why she had moved out of the house.  I crave donuts.  She craves a honeymoon.  I have nothing else to live for.  She has everything to live for.  I have an old wife, arthritic shoulders, and aspire to lose weight while eating fourteen donuts a week.  My daughter has a life and her highest aspirations and dreams do not include dough.

Still, I had to point out that Crescent Donuts is open 24 hours a day.  "Did you see the neon sign in the window?"

"Yes.  What about it?"

"That means you can walk down to Crescent any time you need a donut.  I'm talking 24 hours a day!  Place never closes.  Weekends.  Holidays.  Massive pileup on highway 37 . . . doesn't matter.  That place has an open door!  You can always get a jelly or a creme-filled or a cinnamon twist.  Do you hear what I'm saying?!"

I saved a raspberry jelly for the drive home, and after stopping in Martinsville for a cup of Starbucks coffee, I bit into this monster.  

Now I know why my daughter moved to Bloomington.  And when I'm not sitting in her apartment, wondering when she is going to ask me to leave, you can find me at Crescent Donuts across the street.  I'll be the old, lonely guy with a boxed dozen on the table staring up at the apartment complex at the top of the hill, wondering what the rest of the family is doing up there saturated in mirth and laughter.  Come join me.   

Friday, September 14, 2012

They Like Me . . . Well, Some Editors Really Like Me!

In the past week I've had two accolades that have, quite frankly, made my day.  The first came from an editor who confirmed that she wanted me to become a weekly columnist for her magazine . . . like, a regular contributor, a real Jim-Dandy . . . and paid at that!  (Not much pay, but I can buy a jar of peanut butter now and then.)

The second accolade came from yet another editor at a literary magazine who, after rejecting my work in usual pattern, at last wrote back to tell me:  "I always look forward to your submissions.  You are one of the most interesting and wide-ranging writers I've never met.  Keep sending!  I'm a fan, but just can't squeeze your humor in this time."


So . . . I'm interesting and wide-ranging, but what does that get me but some feel-good topping to a very busy week?  Still, when all is said and done, I'd rather write for a readership than I would write for an editor who thinks I'm interesting and decent and moral and kind and thrifty and clean.

In truth, I'm none of the latter (though I might be moral and thrifty) . . .but I never wash my socks . . . so decent and clean?  Well . . . .

It is a fine thing, though, to have regular assignments as a writer.  A monthly column.  Now a weekly column.  A daily blog.  It all keeps one rather busy and well-rehearsed while writing on the big stuff.  And there's always big projects, too. 

Thanks to Nick and Amy for making me week, though.  I hope I don't let you down and inadvertently send in my recipe book that reveals how I mix my cans of Chef Boy-R-Dee, or how I can take an ordinary wedge of cheese with, say, mold two-inches deep and turn it into a bitchin' cheese pasta.  I hope I don't accidentally send in the romantic letters I've been writing to my wife for three decades (and which she never reads) mistaking them for some type of romantic novel.  And I hope you don't read my blogs.

I'd like to keep my writing jobs intact.  God knows I need the outlet.  It's been months now since I sold a longer manuscript, and I'm getting backed up. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Words Worth

My son called from college last week to inform me that he had received his first college grade:  an "A" in speech class.  He had practiced the speech when he was at home over Labor Day weekend, but was, nevertheless, nervous. 

"What was the speech about?" I wondered.

"It was about how to give a speech," he answered without a hint of irony.

As old Dad, of course, I had to wax nostalgic about my days as a nineteen-year-old college freshman.  "You know what I wanted for my nineteenth birthday?" I said.  "A Bible concordance."

"What a nerd!"

"Yes," I said, "my Dad offered to buy me anything for my birthday and that's what I wanted.  I still have it, too.  Still use it every week."

My son wasn't reasonably impressed yet.

"You know what I was doing when I was nineteen?  Speaking in churches.  I preached my first sermon on Easter morning, 1980.  I was nineteen.  Been doing it ever since.  And I still hate every sermon I preach."

"I've got to go," he told me.  "Got important things to do."

"I hear you," I said. 

Nineteen . . . ?  Crap, I've been in the public-speaking biz for thirty-four years.  And taking into account a conservative estimate, I've preached at least 1000 sermons (most of them written new, or memorized).  And this would not include my longest sermon in Indiana history (12 hours) or the speaking engagements I've assumed in settings beyond my appointment. 

All of these words make me dizzy.  And it makes me wonder:  Do I have another 1000 inside of me? 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hopeless Romantic Like Me

As of this week I believe I have enough published "love" poems to round out a collection . . . should there be a publisher out there who's just champing (or is it chomping?) at the bit to print another book.  As of the writing of this blog, I have a sizable stack of these love poems poised on the windowsill in my home office, and I hope to show them to Becky next week (or whenever she can schedule me into her crowded calendar and we can sit down for a five-minute conversation over a steaming can of Chef-Boy-R-Dee Ravioli.)
I'd like to prove to her that I am as romantic as any guy who receives his sustenance from a can and washes his socks on a quadrennial calendar.  After the reading of the poems, perhaps we can polish off a half quart of butter pecan ice cream that I discovered in the basement freezer.  Most of it is freezer burned, but we should be able to salvage a few tablespoons.  And after this amazing repast . . . who knows?

Still, here's one poem that I enjoyed writing . . . and as memory serves, I wrote this one riding on the lawn mower.  It's not bad for a "head" poem, and I think it's one of the most romantic poems my wife has never read.  Anyway . . . hope you like it.  The editors did.

The Dream Voyage of Christopher Columbus

I have sailed for you over familiar waters,
Night's tranquility and days deep blue,
Sunlight spread like a pall over the slick decks
Hastening our rendezvous.

And I have glimpsed green lands plush with fruit
Lost in these wonders taciturn,
Pressing toward home through uncharted waters
And the point of no return.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Giving Read

Laura Arillaga-Andreesseen's marvelous book, Giving 2.0, could be a must-read for anyone overseeing a non-for-profit organization, a foundation, or an endowment fund. It's a book chocked-full of ideas and information about charitable giving and the reasons people give (or not).  

I read the book, I must confess, in no small part to be more knowledgeable and energetic in the ways that I could inspire people to give (time, talent or treasure).  The book doesn't necessarily provide quick and easy answers to such questions, but does offer ample evidence in stat and story.  I also hoped to create some new avenues for my own giving.

But reading the back flyleaf of the book, I noted this paragraph:

All royalties received (directly or indirectly) by the author from the sale of this book will be donated to philanthropic organizations.

While non of my books has contained this disclaimer, I've also tried to pay it forward through the paltry royalties my books have earned.  No one is getting wealthy from my contributions, to be sure, but it is fun to give to those causes, ministries, and places that have captured my heart.  Sometimes, my books have made it possible for me to write an extra zero into the total.  So I like Arrillaga's approach with her writing.

And that's one of the keys to giving, according to Laura Arrillaga:  creativity.  So often our time and effort (even one's hobbies) can be turned into opportunities to give.

Some years back I asked a publisher to send my royalties directly to a ministry.  They declined, stating IRS laws and regulations, which I can understand.  But there are times when it would be nice to know that my words could do more than just decorate a page or consume a vial of ink. Maybe words really can give life.

Giving 2.0 reminds me, once again, that giving is fun. 

Monday, September 10, 2012


Recently, on whim, I purchased 50 Things to Do When You Turn 50.  Edited by Ronnie Sellers, it's not a bad book, though a bit heavy on the medical advice. But reading the 50-things reminded me that, all things considered, I've actually completed or accomplished a fair number of these, and some of the 50-things are actually more advice than accomplishments: such as "stay in shape" or "reappraise yourself."

Goals? Maybe.

But one does begin to hear the clock ticking post-50, and perhaps the wisest bits of advice arrive in the form of honesty and the peace required to admit that one cannot complete the life-list.  There is always too much too see, too much to do, far too little time remaining.

Most of the goals I would want to accomplish post-50 are not in the book.  But that's my book.

But of all the advice given in the Ronnie Sellers volume, I'd like to try this one from Garrison Keillor:  "Go without TV, newspapers, internet, or media for six months and just live a direct, experiential life."

Now, honestly, this could be enlightening.  And fun.  News?  Only the news of the street.  Entertainment?  Conversation, good meals, hikes, watching sunsets, reading and romance.  That should be enough, shouldn't it?

I doubt I could do it, but some day soon I may try.  I would have to convince Becky to go along, but she might. 

It could be fun to let every day unfold in its natural course, without any interventions or indoctrinations or set agendas centered around programming, time or expections.

So that's my new goal.  Someday.  When I am, of course . . . older.


Friday, September 7, 2012


Photo (left):  August, 2001.  40-years and Hulk-green with envy (last place finish . . . but the biggest guy on stage)
Photo (right):  January, 2011.  51-years but still writing as a welter-weight

This, the last of my memoirs (, was a prelude to writing a plethora of books and articles about healing and wholeness back in 2002.  I was glad I had the stomach for it, and the muscle.

Now, I've come full-circle and I am writing once again on these themes. To date I've had a number of cancer-related poems accepted for publication and I've found myself writing articles on everything from colonoscopies to fitness to self-given testicular exams (important for younger men).  

My heavy-lifting days are behind me, but I'm producing language.  No more backspacing.  Everything in life is space bar and TAB. 

And as I get older, I know how to use all of the letters on the keyboard.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Photo:  August, 2001. 3 days post-competition, Gulf Shores, Alabama (with Logan as an 8-year-old munchkin).

In the event you are wondering--Is this for real? Is this an un-retouched photograph?--I would point you to my newly-published memoir at (No Gut, No Glory).  But it is true:  I use-ta look like this.  Well, for a short period of time anyway. You know what I look like now (or maybe you don't) but it ain't pretty. 

When this photograph was taken in August of 2001, I was about 3 days post-competition and had, in the span of 72 hours, gained back nearly 10 pounds--primarily from an insatiable appetite for Snickers bars and Almond Joys.  I can recall, at one point, sitting in the car outside of the Walmart in Gulf Shores, AL and, while Becky and the kids shopped for beachwear, polishing off four Almond Joy candy bars and wondering if I would be making a pig of myself if I ate four more.  My six pack of abs was rapidly disappearing.  But since I had not eaten in four months, I had the sugar-cravings of a housefly.

What my memoir doesn't relate, however, is that just weeks after my foray into the underworld of competitive bodybuilding, Becky was diagnosed with breast cancer.  By year's end I had read all of the books, worried myself back up to a lilly-white and unshaven 230 pounds, and written an arsenal of personal essays about breast cancer from a husband's perspective.

One of my essays (The Stigmata and the Breast) was awarded a nice cash prize by the Franciscan Order of the Catholic Church, and another received an award from Bell South, Inc. and was widely used in their employee-education health screenings.  And then CURE magazine accepted yet another memoir for publication (my experiences of helping Becky through her surgery and recovery).  The magazine even sent a photographer to our home.  This photograph is still one of our favorites as a couple--and I will always be grateful to CURE magazine for capturing our moment of grace and healing. 

All of this to say that I can't downplay the role that my competitive bodybuilding excursion played in my fortitude and resiliency through my wife's cancer diagnosis.  I had already endured months of physical pain, sleepless nights, strict diet, focus on the inner-workings of the human body, and the grit and determination needed to gain fifty pounds of muscle (a decade of training) before losing forty pounds of fat (four months of training). From the beginning I knew that all would be well and that I could stand strong.  I wasn't going to lose Becky and I knew it.  To hell with cancer.

Reflecting back on those days now, I can see that I was writing my passions.  I turned fitness articles into cancer-related or support-related reflections.  I could honestly speak to themes like dedication, gut-wrenching pain and recovery, dieting for health and wholeness.  I just went through it a second time (and in another form) when I helped Becky through her cancer.

Ah . . . and I've got some cancer-related poems too.  Lots of 'em, in fact.  And a few that are, after all these years, slated for publication in the next year.  I'm grateful to these new friends, these editors, who want to make them available to a wider public.  

But for now . . . I'm just a slow old man who still hoists and slings black iron (almost daily), but who is not beyond the binge-eating lusts of his younger donut days.  I still have my beautiful, energetic wife.  And I know she loves me, due in no small part, because she allows me to write this blog.  Though, of course, she never reads it.  But why would she?  She's lived it.     


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back to the Future

Photo:  at age 40, 2 days pre-competition, back yard.  Where did I get those shoulders?

Back in August of 2001 I competed in my first, last and only bodybuilding competition.  This escapade was, in terms of physical demands (and I might also add intellectual and spiritual), the most daunting challenge I had ever undertaken.  Reducing from 240 pounds down to 200 pounds in 4 months with, of course, the underpinnings of intense training and diet, was brutal.  I was up every morning at 5 a.m. for an hour-long workout with weights, and returned to the YMCA (Baxter Street) before dinner time to burn an additional 500-600 calories on the stairmaster (a machine that was, back then, the most torturous of the fat-burners).  I completed this insane schedule without the aid of steroids, growth hormones, diuretics, or other aids . . . just sheer will and knowledge gained from reading hundreds of pages in the bodybuilding mags over the course (and training) of twenty+ years.

But this experience also provided a rich source of humor, too.

Following the competition, I wrote like a madman--substituting my two-a-day workouts for a two-a-day writing blitz (which has carried over to this day).  I ended up with several books and a cornucopia of articles for fitness magazines.  I also recorded my experiences for posterity in several memoirs.

Now, a full decade later, one of my little memoirs is up an running.  You can read it on BioStories (  

Be advised . . . this one is not for the faint-of-heart.  If you want to learn something about natural bodybuilding from an idiot like me, then please read it.  It's rather raw, but truthful and behind-the-scenes.  My essay is the first memoir on the web site version (just scroll down) and is entitled:

No Gut, No Glory:  My Adventure into the Underworld of Competitive Bodybuilding.  

I want to thank Mark for publishing this in BioStories (with photos).  And reading this memoir makes me realize that once was enough--I'll never step on stage again.  I will probably develop skin cancer later in life due to the many hours I spent in the tanning bed.  (Look at the photos and you'll see what I mean.)


Calling Mr. Asimov

About every 18 months or so I re-read one of Isaac Asimov's ego-centric collections of Science Fiction.  This foray is usually enough to jump-start a few of my stalled efforts or, at the very least, produce a laugh.

After re-reading Gold on Labor Day, I did manage to complete yet another book proposal, which I promptly punted to my agent (this sounds so Hollywoodish, doesn't it?); and, because I was so far behind on my correspondence, also managed to answer several editors who were kind enough to inform me that they were publishing my work.

As always, most of these editors were requesting a one-paragraph biography, and I always struggle with these things.  Like Joe Friday, I usually just "stick with the facts, ma'am."  I offer a couple of my book titles, inform the audience where I live (who gives a crap where I live? Brownsburg?  Where the heck is that place?), and then offer a few words about the things I enjoy doing (but who cares about what I like?). 

These brief biographies remind me that I have nothing to tell.  I'm like the guard on Hogan's Heroes.  I know nussing!

The longer I write, the less I know.  The more I talk about the things I like to do, the less I enjoy doing them.

One of these days I'm going to get up the courage to submit this biography to an editor.  I'd love to know if anyone reads it.

The guy who wrote this junk couldn't help himself, and, quite frankly, he can't be helped.  We'd give you his name here, but we know you really don't care.  To say that this guy is alive and writing should be enough, and there's no point in telling the readers his various book titles, or where he lives, or what he enjoys doing with his wife.  It should suffice to say that his wife doesn't enjoy any of his pursuits anyway, and it might be of some comfort to many of you to learn that this guy spends most of his free time writing even more of this crap.  If you wish to reach him (to thank him for his inspiring words, to complain, or to leave an obscene message on his voicemail) we can provide contact information. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Working on Labor Day

One thing I've learned over the years:  many editors work on holidays.  They must.  On Sunday night I received an array of correspondence from editors informing me that they were:

a. Rejecting a short story that I had sent to an inaugural issue of a literary magazine.

b. Inviting me to write a blog.

c. Informing me of an upcoming publication that includes my work.

d. Accepting a poem I had written for my daughter's wedding (but not the one I read at my daughter's wedding) that will be published in an October literary magazine.

Quite a diversity here.  Almost enough to inspire me to work overtime in the week ahead.  Rising extra early.  Enduring into the night. 

This list reminds me that are still editors out there who will say yes.  And some of them even invite me to submit additional work.  I like this about these Labor Day editors.  They don't rest on holidays.