30 November 2011

The After-Turkey Lull - Gift or Curse?

UPDATE (Dec. 3): Despite my assistance, my daughter placed 4th of 18 in her class of "engineering" students! (See below for details of the project.)

Or, how I spent my post-Thanksgiving days....

Now that the tryptophan-induced coma has yielded, I return to the real world with a line of gnomes carefully pinching me to prove I am in reality as we know it.

So what can we make of the post-Thanksgiving lull? Riots in shopping centers? Pepper spray as holiday gifts? Crowds of poverty-stricken materialists breaking down doors to get the latest things they don't need. Sure, it's a holiday season, which by definition is a "holy" day (but which by modern definition is a shopping day), so everyone seems entitled to his or her full measure of merriment and mirth, frivolity and fragmentation--which I mean in a good way. And football!

For me, it was an odd triad of days in which never-before-attempted efforts were brought to bear on the construction of a contraption based on the six simple tools. Trips to hardware stores, Walmart, lumber yards, and back again, combining parts, using tools, measuring twice, cutting once or more. What a weekend! I'm speaking of the father-daughter project known as "science project"--a quixotic attempt to make a small car go forward, ideally hitting a solid wall with such force that it ricochets backwards as far as possible. The total distance traveled will be measured and he or she who attains the longest distance shall be rewarded...what, with a turkey dinner? I hope not. But it was a worthy effort, no matter the results.

The weekend of turkey and stuffing was also filled with many conflicting thoughts. One step forward and two steps back? Or two steps forward and one step back? Hard to tell. Maybe sit for a few hours and see if the lighting changes. I'm being cryptic, I'll admit. Not sure what I can say other than a year of positive direction has suddenly begun to pitter. I'm waiting to see how chips fall, waiting for the sunrise. As any viking-wannabe, I remain stalwart and eager to sally forth (though not, obviously, with Sally, who dumped me back in college after only two dates) with battle axe and battle scars, ready to claim my territory on the bookshelves of distance lands, come what may.

So I remain a positive, cheerful fellow. I know that's strange and certainly unlike me to put readers through such an embarrassingly intimate revelation. However, as is common for me, I have time between the past and the future and tend to fill it, briefly, with words that on occasion have meaning and in other particular situations take on the feel of dictionaries cut apart and pages scattered to the winds. You know what I mean. And if you don't, stop reading. There are, after all, graphic novels available.

Finally, as you go out to shop for fun, for health, for promotions, for compliments, for self-fulfillment, be sure to Buy a Book! Either one of the traditional things full of paper or one of the new-fangled electronic compilations of faux paper called "ebook" will do. As long as it is something written/composed and intending to be read with eyes or fingers, let it appear on your shopping list. Keep the Art of Reading alive! Buy a Book! Buy many Books! Buy armfuls of books! Give out your extra books! Share your books! Have read-a-thons! Keep Reading Alive!

And, if you so choose, and the timing is fortunate, you may yet be able to buy MY Book, AFTER ILIUM.

It's a fun-filled tale of what can go wrong when Alex Parris, a naive young college grad goes on a summer trip to ancient Troy and means an exotic older woman he mistakes for Helen of Troy. What could go wrong, right? Half-romance, half-adventure, 100% Levantine pathos!

Next holiday shopping season, I will have another book to offer you! Stay tuned....

18 November 2011

Ready to stoke the turkey?

'Tis the season of the infamous turkey! 

This time a week hence, many will be slouching and slumping and snoring or snorting, content in the afterglow of their gluttonous indulgences, far and wide. That is our holiday tradition, no matter how the origins and historical developments and political corrections have affected it.

I recommend this source of information about Thanksgiving (<-click) because practically all of it is wrong, or considered wrong to someone. Or the official source, Plymouth Plantation, if you care to surround yourself with facts and speculations.

A bit of personal connection: I visited the Plymouth site as a child, gazed down upon the 1621-stamped big rock called Plymouth, yet did not travel there in a Plymouth automobile. The irony!

Nevertheless, holiday traditions die hard. From time immemorial I and all my relations would gather at the grandparents' residence with food in hand and have a grand feast. My cousins grew up and had their own families, grandparents passed on,and gradually Thanksgiving dinners became separate and self-contained. At some point it became pointless to go to the trouble of it, even at the risk of having no leftovers.

I remember the best of the worst:

  • 2003. Stuck in my doctoral program in the snowy hills of western Pennsylvania, it did not make sense to travel back to Kansas for three days. Especially so when I had final papers to prepare. So I just made burritos at home and kept typing my papers.
  • 2010. Nobody was interested in going to the trouble of cooking a big dinner, so I went out to the grocery and bought a portion of smoked turkey and side dishes from the deli in the store. Ended up I ate it all myself.
  • 1988 and 1989. I was living in Japan so it wasn't even a holiday. And turkey was an unfamiliar bird. I cannot recall exactly what I ate on those days yet it was likely something with teriyaki sauce on it.
  • 2007. I had the turkey dinner, which was fine. On the drive back to Pennsylvania, however, I had a flat tire on a rainy Sunday night passing through the bad part of Columbus, Ohio, and had to stay over to get the tire fixed the next morning. I ate at the Waffle House, but no turkey.
  • Another year in my youth I agreed to attend a "starve-in" at a local church. Young people would empathize with the starving masses of the world by not eating Thanksgiving dinner. At all. To help us endure our hunger we played games and had other entertainments. When it was done, I went home and dove into the leftovers my parents' had. I only went to that event to impress a girl. What a turkey I was!
  • Not sure of the year but it was while I was living at my parents' house, so I must have been young. We had a goose, at my request. Richer taste, oily meat, less meat for leftovers, a free portion of pate de fois gras (liver), and a bad case of indigestion which was later identified as ptomaine poisoning. Cook your bird thoroughly!
Or, as the early founding chefs had the menu, stick with venison and lobster! Or, in the alternative, try soybean pudding, sometimes called "tofu." Perhaps a turkey substitute could be created from various local vegetables and exotic fruits. Use your imagination. And don't forget the turkey chili . . . for the next two weeks!

No matter what happens this year, indulge in moderation and may your moderation be indulgent. See you on the other side.

11 November 2011

FIBP Author Danielle Raver's Book Launch!

Congratulations, Danielle!

not so breaking now BREAKING NEWS!

Anyone near Troy, Alabama, stop in at the University B&N now 11-11-11 & get Danielle Raver's new fantasy novel "Brother Betrayed"!

Danielle Raver (center), Author of Brother, Betrayed at her book  launch on 11-11-11.

Until then...check out this: "Brother, Betrayed"

Don't be a Betrayer

Buy this book! 

Help a Betrayed Brother out!

Fantasy as Real as it gets!

Click for some Book Reading happening.

10 November 2011

Blogging and the Curse of 11-11-11

I have been getting emails and Tweets and Facebook messages (even a few Hallmark cards) asking me--indeed, beseeching me--to write another post on my blog.

It is a little surprising because there are not so many people in the world (Earth, that is) who even know this blog exists. That bespeaks volumes about the multiple reasons I had for creating this home away from house in the first place. And, with the venerable 11-11-11 time cue due to grace our lives tomorrow (11/11/11, that is), it seems completely unrelated.

Which brings me to my first point: not too much I ever write seems related to much of anything else. Especially all that I choose not to write. It seems to please some people more when I don't write. Sure, there is the occasional linguistic parsimony or the dabbling in daunting deliberations that tend to confuse and frustrate the prurient purists. However, in general, I am occasionally lucid and as engaging as a handful of sand. That may yet be my downfall. (Did I answer the question? Or shall I pose a question, then answer it? This is what I'm getting at.)

There are times when I post something about my writing, either an excerpt or a how-I-did-that discussion, or the more bewildering why-I-did-that report. Other times, I have news to share which is new (for a brief moment in time, that is), which typically has some connection to my writing, or to the writing of my friends and associates, or to the art and craft and science of fictionalization in all its many, many forms.

And still other times I seize upon the opportunity to throw down a bagful of words and arrange them--or try to arrange them--into something comprehensible and loathsomely profound. Such seems to be the case today, as I digress between preparing a lecture on analysis and interpretation for a research writing class and my own semi-serious babblings about the non-uniqueness of the 11-11-11 phenomena. (Yes, I actually did "tweet" that I was holding out for 15-15-15!)

There you have it: a post! Wasn't that easy? Wasn't that meaningful? Not really? Well, it felt good for me, at least, getting out the excess of words that had been building up. What else could I have done? Pondered the meanings of political candidates' guffaws and gaffes? The mistakes of misanthropes? Compared the passing asteroid to a summer's day? Ranted on all that riles my sensitive sensibilities? Complain about having tornadoes, hail, flooding, and earthquakes all happening around me in the same weekend (true, I'm unhappy to say)? Or something else....

Frequently there is a sense of satisfaction that, if I type long enough and use enough words, that something will make sense to someone. I have heard that a certain number of chimpanzees typing on a certain number of typewriters (obviously before the age of computers), would, in a certain number of years (given a reasonable amount of nutritional sustenance), produce the works of Shakespeare. That, certainly, is a major digression, especially when all I've sought to do today is exercise my fingers.

It is that time once again:

May you all have something better, something more enjoyable, more productive, entertaining or enlightening to do today than read this posting a second time. Doing that (the second reading) would likely label you a true fan of moi. Yet I would not embarrass anyone by repeating that label. Further explanation of such devotion shall have to wait until another empty hour in my pre-fab life unfolds unceremoniously and grins something akin to a Cheshire cat.

And so, without additional adieu, I fade....

P.S.--I wish to throw a hearty "Good Luck" to everyone who has scheduled some important event on 11-11-11, especially to fellow Fantasy Island author Danielle Raver, who will have her fantasy novel's book launch (Brother, Betrayed), and to those particular sci-fi films coming out on 11-11-11. I hope everyone has much success!

02 November 2011

The Interview

Must be the Halloween effect...spooky things happening, such as...the school newspaper wants to interview me tomorrow, especially about me teaching the Creative Writing course for the first time in 3 years. 

So...what are my qualifications? I have an MFA degree in Creative Writing and I have a novel coming out. 

See? Look at the cool cover (created by Claire Chilton):

From FANTASY ISLAND BOOK PUBLISHING (Click Here) and available soon at Fantasy Island Books, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and my closest street corner!

Thanks for your support! 

I hope you enjoy the story. If not, please rewrite it following your own sense of morality.

Cover design by Claire Chilton, fellow Fantasy Island Book Publishing Author (Whatever Became of the Squishies?, also coming soon) and FIBP Graphic Designer, Webmistress, and unofficial York tour guide!