Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Time On Me Is Wasted Time

Sorry about the lack of updates.... that should just be programmed into the top of my posts, make it come up automatically.

I've been setting up a new store for work and with it my second week of my promotion, aka salaried payroll, I've been working a lot, in addition to the commute, so I'm pretty pooped when I get home.

It's been an interesting experience, this time around. Lots of swearing on this coast, for one thing. Also, I've found myself a bit standoffish, less likely to goof off and make friends with the kids setting up. I haven't really figured out if that's because I'm trying to take my job more seriously or if it's because most of the people I'm working with are goofballs that I don't find very appealing. Maybe I'm just getting old and crotchety.

I love setting up stores, but I kind of wish I was in my  new store, it needs a lot of work, and I'm anxious to get in there.

Uh.. other than that, I don't have a lot to report.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Support Your Local Record Store!

Saturday, April 17th is Record Store Day!

A day set aside to celebrate those bastions of good music, free thinking, old school traditions and snarky, know it all record store clerks!

As a former snarky, know it all record store clerk, I cannot stress enough how important this day is to our very way of life! Maybe I'm stuck in the dark ages and indeed, record stores are going away, but I LOVE walking into a record store. No matter what town, what state, you're bound to find something awesome, something bizarre and something a little bit of both. I guarantee it.

And they're getting hard to find. Like an endangered species, record stores are being forced into extinction by digital media and big conglomerates. Even the bands themselves, those who owe their very existence to these little shops are making exclusive deals with places like Wal-Mart and Target.

Forget that noise. Who can walk into a friggin Wal-Mart and find a new artist they love playing over the intercom and commiserate with a fellow shopper over the crappiness of the newest (Your second favorite band here) album. In my experience, all you leave with when you shop at Wal-Mart is a few more grey hairs a weird funk from that other shopper and the newest Hannah Montana CD.

I had planned this to be a really heartfelt plea to support your local businesses, both music and book stores, because they really are something special, but I'm a little frazzled tonight and it will likely look very rambling come morning. So instead, I'll just tell you about two awesome record stores that are still going strong and could use your patronage.

Rockin' Rudy's in Missoula Montana.

This is a record store that, at times, makes you forget it's a record store. Whether by design or for survival, they've managed to morph into a store so full of unique and amazing gifts, both gorgeous and kitschy that I know people that shop there regularly that don't own a CD player. They're fiercely independent and know how to become a bastion of super cool in a town that's already pretty damn cool.

Budget Tapes and Records in Pocatello, Idaho.

This is the store. The one that made my collection of music balloon to the thousands, that introduced me to hundreds of awesome little bands. Lined in wood that still hold the smells of the incense burned throughout its 25+ years of existence, this little shop has CDs, DVDs, audio equipment, gifts... It's pretty damn sweet. My father in law, a crazy hippie and very cool guy has run it since the beginning and though times have gotten hard, he still loves that place, adding services like film to DVD transfers and A/V supplies in an attempt to keep the shop breathing. I hope he does. It's one of the few left, and it's special.

And I'm not just saying that because I met my wife thanks to that store.

So please, pull aside twenty bucks on Saturday and search out that little hole in the wall record shop in your town and support them. They should be doing some sorts of specials that day. I know Budget has everything 25% off and is featuring  Record Day exclusives from bands.

Let's keep the music playing.

Writing - 

 I sent off my first query letter tonight. Hence the frazzlement.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Days Off, Comin' At-cha!

FINALLY, a couple of days off. What shall we do?

1 - I'll likely cook something in the crock pot, probably involving mushrooms and some sort of meat.

B - I'd like to get the boys out to the walking path I used to drive past on the way to work every day. If I can find it.

$ - Finish Percy Jackson and the Olympians so that I can chat about it with my nephew, James.

3 - Try and track down a copy of The Deputy, by Victor Gischler.

L - Clean out the spare bedroom's closet and fashion some sort of writing/craft room for us to use... if we can figure out where to relocate the kitty litter box.

42 - Make everyone I know go HERE and read a guest blog by Bryan Bliss on  Suzanne Young's equally awesome blog. (Even though she writes books for girls. Eeew, girls!)

Oh yeah, I need to finish my final revision and send out my first query letter!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Trouble... Trouble, Trouble Trouble Trouble...

Now Playing -
Trouble, by Ray Lamontagne

Life - 
Work. Lots of it, and I keep doubling back, so close one night, leaving for work at 2pm, arriving home around 11:15pm, then I leave for work at 7 am and arrive back home around 5pm. The problem is that I can't go straight to bed after work, I have to goof around and eat and shower... maybe read a bit, so I don't usually hit the pillows till closer to 1am or so. Bah to that. My new store is full of well meaning but poorly trained people that I will soon have to change.

Writing - 
Speaking of trouble. I'm becoming concerned about my book. All modesty aside, I love it. I think I would have read the crap out of it as a child. It has fun characters in it, like Smith himself, who is shy and embarrassed about it. He's the son of two renowned explorers and scientists, yet his bravery hides behind the covers of books. Uncle Cannon, who never met a story he couldn't turn into a better lie. The sweet and understanding Aunt Grace. Birdsey - librarian, historian, quilter and kook. The cousins extraordinaire. Trouble makers, twins, pranksters. Their older brother Beckett, who collects treasure after storms and pines of leaving the tiny village for bigger things. And of course, Smith's friend Noelle Carniveau, who is smart and funny, confident and daring - everything Smith wishes he could be.

But that may be my downfall. I've become afraid that Smith is the product of an earlier age, a fictional world that has faded into obscurity while a snarkier, crasser, modern class takes the stage. I intentionally designed the village of Moonstone Bay to have a timeless quality about it. There are no cell phones and when Noelle goes missing, they have to call the state police to get help combing the area. I wanted it to concievably exist in the 1950's as easily as today. There are modern conveniences of course, the twins have video games and Cannon's boat, the Luna Sea has radar and GPS mapping, but I wanted the feel to be there.

I was hoping to evoke the tone of the classics I read as a kid, the gothic drama and mystery of the John Bellairs books, the secret nights of Something Wicked This Way Comes, where anything can happen. The whimsy and clever humor of Roald Dahl and Donald Sobol. And I think I did pretty well.

Unfortunately, I'm not totally sure that today's reader wants that. I've been reading a few Middle Grade books lately that are more contemporary and they've made me question my choices a bit. Percy Jackson, for example, is sarcastic and, for lack of a better word, kind of bitchy. A few others keep that tone, and with the exception of a few british authors, I'm not finding much with the feel of my novel.

Is there room in this modern world for an innocent story about ghosts in the forest, exploring creepy houses and making new friends?

Man, I hope so. I have, more than once, considered re-writing The Whispering Ferns as a more modern story. I wrote a few chapters in first person, with Smith more sarcastic and knowing, and it did let me show off a bit more. He could be humorous and still lovable. (I think) But it didn't feel totally true to the story I wanted to tell. The more worldly I make him, the less convincing it is when he's worried about making friends, or nervous about trying to rescue Noelle by himself.

What say you, people of the world wide web? Is there room in a modern, texting, Family Guy universe for an innocent series about ghosts, buried treasure, family and friends?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

New Store, Pretty Much The Same Old Job

Life - 
I started in my new store today. It's a very new place, with the latest in shelving design, layout, decor, machinery.... Though the registers are still the same ones they premiered back in 1987. It's a lovely store, with low shelves and upbeat employees, but I have my work cut out for me. Any time you start in a new place, there's a learning curve, and I know the Big boss man is expecting quite a lot out of me, pretty quickly, so I need to get to know the employees and customers fast.

Luckily, I'm pretty good at that and everyone seems willing to learn. And man, do they have a lot to learn. Training, especially in a store as slow as this one is should be much further along than it is.

We have to drive to Scarborough tomorrow and pick up Bluebelle, drive it home, then drive back there to go to work that night. Ugh. On the plus side, that means both of us will have wheels again and Lindsay can start her new job without us needing to work out a ride schedule or nonsense like that.

Writing - 
Continuing to work on my query, thanks largely in part to the help and advice from my wife and the good folks on the BlueBoards and Nathan Bransford's Forum.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

Now Playing -
City Of Ember DVD

Life - 

My wife finally found a job out here in Maine! Hooray! And when I say finally, I mean she waited until we had two cars, chose one place that she was excited by, went in, talked to someone for 20 minutes and had the job a couple of days later. Freakin' show-off.

I think she'll like it. The job is night audits for a fairly swank hotel/spa/wedding facility in Brunswick. So it's nearby, pays decent, is in the industry we eventually want to work in and she should have time to work on her writing while she's there. Right on.

And I got promoted today. Which means I'm one step away from getting my own Walgreens store some day. It's the same position I volunteered to step down from around a year ago, but I decided that this district would be a better place for the position and took it. The added money was also a consideration, of course. It means I'll have a slightly longer commute, I have to drive to Portland every day now, but it's a pretty significant raise that should help us pay off our debt eventually. (I've started getting the official bills from my car accident and while they aren't as bad as I'd feared.... they're still hefty.)

We also found a tick on Pooka's forehead today, right smack in between his eyes. Stupid tick. Stupider dog. Trying to get that dog to hold still while we pulled it out was like wrestling a bull hopped up on crazy juice. I've never seen a tick before, or at least, not that I remember... not a fan.

I saw some turkeys on the way to the Hannaford's yesterday too, running through the fields outside my house. So many odd beasties out here! Though I still haven't found anything as cool as the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.

Writing - 
I officially started writing my query letter a couple of days ago. Yeeek! I've posted a few drafts online to get fellow aspiring author's opinions and thus far, the few I've gotten are encouraging. It needs some work, and I may make a second version for certain agents, but as of this Monday at the latest, I plan to have queried my first agent.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Legend Of Captain Stormalong

A New England Folk Tale
As told by the Riverman
Back in the old days, things would happen that you'd never believe now. Why, things that seemed downright magical were commonplace back then. Pigs could fly, birds could talk and farm boys could marry princesses! I know some of it because I was there and some of it because other folks have told me. My name is Riverman, and I tell stories for a living. Or maybe I live for stories. Either way, I have a whopper for you today, you lucky people. A tale so tall that the stars... well... you'll see what the stars have to do with the story later!

We start out on the coast of New England. Now, I know, some of you are sayin' "Why Riverman, that aint one certain place, that's a whole mess of states! Well, it happened a long time ago, and like I said, things was different then. In New England, there was a boy born. A boy so big, his momma must have burst wide open, cause we never heard from her again! (Though for those worried about such things, I'm sure she survived having this boy and is just fine. Probably eating a whoopie pie somewhere right now!) 

This boy was huge! Why, he was bigger as a baby than some small men are as boys! His proud poppa named him Alfred Bulltop Stormalong. A big name for a bigger baby, and soon, young Stormalong grew even bigger. By the time he was up and stomping around, Alfred was five fathoms tall! (For those of you that fancy yourselves landlubbers and don't know better, that's near 30 feet, which is plenty tall.) All his childhood, Stormalong was fascinated by the Atlantic Ocean. Every day he would wander down to the sea and gaze out at it, watching the boats as the worked and the waves as they crashed.

Finally, one day, much younger than you or I could have gotten away with it, Stormalong walked up to a fishing boat, it's sails wide and white, and joined the crew. The captain was nervous about taking the lad on. Not because he was so young, mind you, but because a mouth that big can eat a mighty amount of food. But the nearby lighthouse had been damaged in a storm and the good captain knew that he needed someone for a lookout that could see for a long ways and without a doubt, 30 foot tall Stormalong sure fit that bill!

It wasn't long to sea before their new lookout earned his keep. It was a Wednesday, memorable because the crew got the good grog on Wednesdays, when Stormalong happened to look up and noticed a ship fast approaching, and with his big eyes, so high off the ground, he noticed something else... Every man aboard the ship was carrying cutlasses and looked dangerous - pirates! 

Stormalong's ship went into a flurry of motion, but they were a simple fishing boat and didn't have much along the lines of defenses. Then our lad had an idea and poured their thick barrels of real New England Maple Syrup across the decks. When the pirates boarded, they were stuck fast in the syrup, bogged down in the sweet trap, and Stormalong simply knocked them out, swinging a 10 foot log like it was a baseball bat! (Though of course, baseball didn't exist back then, so no one rooted for the Red Socks.) 

Naturally, his quick thinking and mighty brawn made Stormalong mighty popular on that there boat, and he was promoted to first mate, forthwith. For a while, things went just grand for our lad. He  grew and grew, his strength matching his height, and he sailed the atlantic, eating whole schooners of Clam Chowder, drinking vats of coffee and having adventures. 
Then, one fateful day, something changed. That's what made it fateful, you see? The ship was attacked by the Kraken. I see some of you recoiling in fear and some of you raising your eyebrows in confusion. Those recoiling are correct, for the Kraken was a truly fearful creature! Hundreds of feet long, half teeth, half tentacle, one quarter beak and two thirds giant eye, the kraken has wrecked more ships than king Neptune and that iceberg from Titanic combined! 

It was close for Stormalong's crew. their hull was cracked, their hopes were dashed and the Kraken was hungry. So thinking big, the only way he could think, Stormalong dove into the water to distract and fight the kraken on his own! Just his mighty dive sent tidal waves to Africa and the ensuing battle was so tremendous that a mighty crack opened in the ocean floor, lava flowed out, an island was created, then torn apart by their battle. 

Then that fateful thing happened. First Mate Alfred Bulltop Stormalong lost! The Kraken wrapped it's mighty tentacles tight and squeezed him until he was close to death. But the beastie was in pretty rough shape too, Stormalong was no pushover, and before it could finish the job, it had to retreat, and fled to the depths of the Atlantic.

His mates towed Stormalong to shore in Maine, where they revived him by dropping anvils on his chest from the Portland Head Light until he coughed up the seawater he'd swallowed.

Defeated and despairing, Stormalong did something even I could never have forseen. The mighty sailor walked two hours away to Idaho, the only place that grew potatoes big enough for Stormalong to pick without crushing them. One time I visited ol' Stormalong's farm and asked him for 150lbs of potatoes. And you know what that giant said to me? He said "Why Riverman, you're gonna have to get your potatoes from somewhere other than Idaho if you want 150lbs! We don't cut our potatoes in half for no one!"

Then winter arrived in Idaho, and Stormalong realized that he didn't much like the snow or wind and he strolled South, to big, bold Texas, where he bred blue oxen, even selling one to a lumberjack fellow up north. He was pretty happy in Texas. They had spicy food and everything was big down there, but the land was flat and they got mighty twisters - mean tornadoes that tore everything up. 

The first time Stormalong saw one of these, he hollered to his neighbor. "Hey there!" he said. The neighbor stopped and nodded his hat to Stormalong - even during a twister, Texans are polite to their neighbors. "What do we do during a tornado?" Stormalong asked. "I've never been in one!"

His neighbor pointed to the ground and shouted "Jist git low an' hole on tight, partner!" then he ran into a barn.

Stormalong thought about the advice for a bit and did just that. When the tornado got close, 'ol Stormy ducked low and grabbed that twister tight around the middle! Well it didn't care for that! That twister went to bucking and writhing, twisting and un-twisting! It was a mighty strong wind, but Stormalong had been working out since the Kraken and he was even stronger, and he held tight! Finally, the tornado gave up and fell apart, dumping Stormalong into the gulf of Mexico.

Well, as Stormy's feet got wet, he remembered how much he liked being a sailor and walked right back home - North to New England. 

The folks up there were wicked happy to see him back and threw him the biggest lobster bake ever thrown. After the feast, where Stormalong ate over three thousand lobsters, he built himself a boat, the biggest sailing ship ever built!  Named the Tuscaroura, after the mighty and beautiful Indians where he grew up, Stormalong's ship was so long, the crew used a stable of Arabian horses to get from one end of the deck to the other. The sails were so large that they had to be stitched in the desert and the mast was so high that they had to fold it down at night to let the stars pass by! (I told you the stars would be in the story later!) The ship was so wide that onece, sailing past the Grey Cliffs of Dover, the ship got jammed up and the crew had to cover the cliffs with soap to slip free, turning them white. 

Well, this wouldn't be a good tale if Stormalong never met the Kraken again, and rest assured, this is a good story. He met that beastie many a time and each time, he did a little better fighting it until the last time, when Stormalong was old and big and wise and hairy, like any good New England sea captain, he finally defeated that slimy monster, by lassooing it Texas-style and drawing the creature into a massive whirlpool.  Some say it's there still, trapped in the ocean, and if you stray too close, it can still pull you down, so Stormalong drew a triangle around it so that people would know to stay out.

He had many other adventures. Stormalong challenged the captain of a newfangled steamboat to a race and won after a hard battle, he helped dig the Panama canal and finally, one night, after Stormalong was old and tired, he fell asleep at the helm, the first time ever and found himself blown into the midst of a hurricane! He wasn't alone though, for hurricanes are sneaky and like to collect ships, and there were many boats a-flying around in that storm. Stormy knew he had to do something, so he gathered them up as they flew past, plucking them from the waves and carefully lashing the boats to the deck. 

It was hard, dangerous work, but that's what sailors are best at and by the end of the hurricane, Stormalong managed to save every last boat caught in it. The storm was too much for the giant man though and he died just as they reached Boston safely. From the depths of the green waters a boiling, bubbling form arose. It was Davy Jones himself, towing his locker along with him, to accept the great sea captain into it. All of New England showed up for the funeral at sea, saluting the legendary Alfred Bulltop Stormalong as he faded into legend.

Are you gonna finish that last dunkin' doughnuts' muffin?

Riverman is a traveling talesman, a spinner of lies and a twister of truths. He wanders the nation collecting stories and telling tales. If you see him in your town, offer him a crust of bread and some soup in return for a story. You wont be disappointed.

This was just for fun... I wanted to type, but didn't feel like working on a book, so I decided to retell the legend that we based the name of our new car on. Riverman is the narrator of a different book I'm writing who has managed to hijack the story, insert himself into it and make everything better. Or so he says.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Quarterly Reading Update - 1st Quarter, 2010

What a crazy three months! Had a broken arm, packed the house (Or "supervised" my wife anyway) moved to Maine, lived in a slumlord's motel, moved to a new house, worked in four different stores and a district office as an admin, drove 3,000 miles to get our pets.... I can't wait for things to settle down!

I did get a pretty good amount of reading done though, likely a lot more than the next quarter, when I'll hopefully be spending some time working on my book and exploring Maine.

The list -

by Eva Ibbotson

by Lawrence Block

by Lawrence Block

by James Lee Burke

by Richard Stark

by Stuart Woods

by Stuart Woods

by F. Paul Wilson

by Joe Hill

by Steve Berry

by William Lashner

By Lawrence Block

By J.A. Konrath

by Richard Stark

by Nelson DeMille

By Bill Bryson

By William Lashner

By Robert Terrall

By David Baldacci

By Lawrence Block

By Bill Bryson

By James Lee Burke

By Richard Stark

By Richard Stark

By Victor Gischler

By Lawrence Watt-Evans

by William Lashner

by William Lashner

by William Lashner

by James Rollins

by Stephen Hunter

That's 31 books, 11,530 pages, or an average of 128 pages per day.

It was also the first quarter where my reading was done largely on the nook, my new ebook reader. I don't really have a scale for whether it increased my reading or not, but I do enjoy it quite a lot. 

As far as the actual books, a few favorites. I enjoyed Heart-Shaped Box quite a bit, and I discovered William Lashner, who is an excellent author. There were also new book by J.A. Konrath and Victor Gischler in there, both super awesome, and I re-read some old favorites, like Lawrence Watt-Evans' unique horror novel and Bryson's works.

What am I looking forward to in the next quarter? A ton of great new books, that's what! 

Mister Marshall Karp has a new book coming on June 8th called CUT, PASTE, KILL, about a scrapbooking serial killer. That's right, a scrapbooking serial killer. Everyone should pre-order that NOW. He also just released a softcover version of Flipping Out, which was my favorite book of last year. He also has an adorable dog.

If that wasn't enough, Victor Gischler has a new novel that should be in stores any day now, THE DEPUTY, a western flavored, hard-boiled crime novel.

And as the icing on a sweet cake of books, Donald Westlake, the author of so many awesome crime novels it makes my brain hurt, including my beloved Parker series (Writing as Richard Stark) has a posthumous novel just released by Hard Case Crime! Entitled MEMORY, it looks like a great read. You can order it HERE, and then join HCC's book club and have the rest of their books delivered to your door when they're released!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Day Two - Cross Country Cage Caravan

Day two dawned cold. Dawned cold! (Haha Lame Punnery) We all slept well, lulled to sleep by the gentle rumblings of the nearby semis generators, though the lights of the rest stop were a bit intrusive. We'll likely make curtains for the E our next modification. I've made makeshift ones a couple of times before but they've always been kind of half-assed and shabby or unwieldy.

We were meeting our Uncle Steve in North Dakota for lunch, so we got a move on pretty quickly, watching the road fly under our wheels. It was smooth and flat and cold.

Now, Uncle Steve likes to talk big, in fact he's the biggest talker I know, so I was pretty excited to see this mystical wonderland he speaks of, this Northern gem of the United States.

It looked a lot like Eastern Montana except flatter.

Of course, we did not visit in the optimal time of year, as Uncle Steve explained, on the way to lunch, in the summer, ND turns green and pleasantly temperate. Children come out to frolic, birds sing and the accordion players take to the gazebo in the park, all with the charmingly rural backdrop of the coal trains, trailers full of ebony chugging slowly along.

I could see what he was talking about, the little town where he lives does have a lot of character, but that particular day, it was cold and windy, and frankly, I was already tired of driving, not even half way into the trip.

Lunch was superb. We had the choice of Traditional German Cuisine (I don't like it, said Steve.) or their favorite Chinese food place. We left our cats in the house and the boys steaming up the windows in Stormalong, and rode with Uncle Steve and the family to the Rice Bowl, a local place located in the upstairs of the library, which I thought was awesome.

The Rice Bowl had some of the best Chinese food I've ever had, especially their sweet and sour chicken, which had a thin and super-crispy breading that nearly melted in your mouth. The food was supplemented with stories about Lindsay's grandfather, a hilarious and good natured old fellow.

Boueyed up by the food and conversation, we plowed on, driving straight through the state, stopping only for potty breaks and gasoline.

Speaking of which, we got pretty good gas mileage, averaging around 20 mpg on the trip, though it was amazing how quickly it still ate away at our finances. Apart from gas, we stayed pretty thrifty throughout, only buying the occasional snack or treat, some excellent chocolate covered toffee, some Wisconsin cheese curds, things like that.

There isn't much else to say about the trip apart from breakfast the next day, where we met our friend Sarah. She chose a place along our route, outside of St. Paul and we met her and her charge, a young girl she nannys for.  Apparently, we've managed to develop a reputation amongst our friends for being notoriously picky about food places. Sarah was actually worried that we wouldn't like the place she chose and she put quite a lot of thought into it. She didn't need to worry, the restaurant was amazing. Linz ordered a foot wide caramel roll and I got an order of amazing chicken fried steak.

We chatted for a while, said our goodbyes, cleaned up the gallon of water the dogs spilled on the floor of the car (Thank god for Elements!) and kept driving.

And kep driving.

And kept driving.

Sleep became the enemy keeping us from ending the trip at home, so I only napped for an hour or so every once in a while, climbing back with the boys and zonking out for a few. I ate sunflower seeds to stay busy and listened to comedy routines on the complimentary xm radio that came with the new car (The only reason I could really see paying for radio like that - on long trips, it is nice to have the variety.)

I hated driving the toll roads through the last few states, absolutely despised them. I'll probably rant about them in a later post all of their own, but we ended paying $70+ in tolls and avoiding a large number of appealing attractions and diversions because we couldn't leave the road without paying more than if we stuck to the road.

I stopped caring about anything but getting done with the trip, and we finally got home on March 28th, at around 2am.

And that's about it. Not many awesome insights or anything this time around, not a lot of pleasure, frankly. But it was worth it. Having our pets home was worth all of it!