Sunday, May 30, 2010

Life Is Pleasant

And blog titles are generic.

But it has been. The weather is nice, work, though hectic and filled with long hours has been pretty rewarding, and things are finally starting to stabilize out here in Maine.

We have some new friends that love our flowering bush out back...

 I wrestled ten escaped lobsters in the back of Stormalong when they managed to stage a jailbreak en route to work....

My brother escaped his operation scathed, but doing well...

I made some stickers for Stormalong so that, in addition to being unique, he is now uniquer...

And best of all, a few days ago in the mail, this arrived!

And personalized by very reliably stupendous and ridiculously witty Marshall Karp himself! (I assume. It is possible that he farms out the sigs to Kylie...)

Review coming soon!

I also have a much needed day off Tuesday, which means the store manager that I've been covering for is back from his vacation... mixed blessings there.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sculptures Rising Up

I finally got some replacement sculpting supplies out here.

I can't wait to start creating some horrible monstrosities again!

For now, Off to work.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I finally finished mowing my lawn today. Now the other half needs it again. Sigh. Updating my blog via text because my laptop is too hot to hold tonight. SLAHIS

Monday, May 24, 2010

Thoughts Of The West

Tomorrow, my little brother goes under the knife, for what he has termed the "William Wallace". It's a fairly common procedure, and from all I've read, everything looks golden. It should restore him from the posture of an ancient man and make his life back to mostly normal. It better. For months, he's been wracked with pain, unable to function happily, or even move in some cases.

It took them a long time to figure it out too, from trip after trip to the docs, voodoo witchcraftery, steampunk devices and hollywood magic, but after tomorrow, all should be on the mend.

I'm freaked out though, as anyone should be before an invasive procedure, regardless of how common, and I sincerely hope all goes well. I don't really pray, but as my grandma says, I fret. And if anyone would like to help me fret, or send out a prayer, I'd appreciate it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Rejection... And Possibly Starting Over

Back in the day, when I was just finishing up The Whispering Ferns for the Delacorte Press contest, I was contacted by an agent out of the blue. She said that my story looked intriguing and that, when it was ready and after the contest deadline had been passed, she would be willing to consider my manuscript. Now, any agent saying this would have been great enough, but this came from a well-respected newer agent, with nothing but good reviews and an excellent client list.

It took a long time to get it there. I re-wrote the beginning, cutting over a thousand words of lead up and added some elements throughout the story as well. I also shattered my right arm and moved cross country to Maine, which contributed to the delay.

Finally, I felt ready. Even better, a few days after sending it, she wrote back and told me that she remembered me and though she was busy, she looked forward to reading my sample chapters.

Man... I confess, I let my imagination get away from me that day. I'm usually pretty reserved in my flights of fancy, but the idea of actually getting an agent occupied my thoughts for days. Off of that simple note from an agent. Ha!

Eventually, for it did indeed take her a while to get back to me, I kind of set the book aside in my mind. I started working on a Post Apocalyptic Crime novel and inched my way towards finishing Graves, I also started drawing again, which has been long overdue. So the waiting was a good thing, no doubt.

When her response did arrive, as I'm sure you've surmised, it was a rejection. But I had expected that. Honest. I may have let my mind wander to happy published fun land, but I figured a rejection would get here eventually. For one thing, no one writes their first book, is approached by an agent and gets that agent with his first ever query letter. If that person exists, there are a lot of aspiring authors out there that want to spit on him or her.

But what a rejection! Polite, personal, chock full of genuinely useful constructive feedback... As much as I wanted to be despondent and give up, this letter wont let me.

So what did she say? That I have a "neat setting" and a "great premise" and that's about the extent of the outright good comments. But that is okay. Who wants a letter full of praise and raves about your book that ends in a rejection?

The important part is what I did wrong, and not only does she point them out in a useful way, but to my surprise, they were exactly the things that I had started questioning myself.

The story starts too slowly. Despite trimming off two full chapters, nothing continues to happen for another few. At the time, I felt this important to build the world and the supporting characters, to immerse the reader in the misty world of Moonstone Bay, but that doesn't work with Middle Grade books, or any modern books for that matter. You want to start with some action, you want to "hook in the young readers." I'll be honest, I didn't do this out of my own stubborness, much to my regret. I hate books that start with some exciting sequence, only to flash back to where the story really starts, just to get the readers attention with a splash. That seems disingenuous to me and often, it is very blatant feeling. However, a book can do this effectively, I just have to figure out how. And with modern readers having a ridiculously short attention span, I don't have a choice.

She also confirmed my earlier suspicion that my story was written in a too old-fashioned a manner.  I wrote about this a bit ago, asking whether there was room in today's world for a timeless feeling book. The resounding answer was yes, there is room. That gave me a lot of reassurance and helped me sleep at night, but since my rejection arrived, I've reached a caveat to that statement.

There is room in the modern world for Timeless Books - But they have to be written in a modern style.

I mistakenly believed that because my book had a timeless feeling and setting, that it would still resonate with modern readers, but what I didn't register is that my style of writing is dated. I took a formal storyteller position while writing The Whispering Ferns and it never gives the reader a chance to get into Smith's head, to really join him on his adventures. A novel can be what I want it to be, I'm certain of that, I just have to cater to the audience I'm selling it to, and that is not me as a ten year old. Heck, even when I was ten, they probably weren't designing books with me in mind. I was a weird kid that used to read while he walked home from school, lowering the book between page turns to check whether my path was clear in front of me.

So what does this mean? I think it means I need to re-write the Whispering Ferns from Smith's point of view. I should jump into the action, perhaps even creating an earlier conflict to dive at. I may still send off a few more query letters, if only to keep my hopes up as I dive back into a story that I'd hoped was finally finished.

It's a little disheartening, but I believe in Moonstone Bay and I think it's a world that kids could really enjoy, so if this is what it takes to tell my story, I will happily do it!

And though I'm not sure how much agents like to have their name and words bandied about, I do want to take a second to thank the agent. For her time, her willingness to consider me and Smith and most of all for her feedback. I think it will help me become an author. Someday.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Catching Up On My Writing About Reading

A million books! Give or take. It's been far too long since I've updated my reading list and reviews on here. I'm not sure why. If I'd just write the dang review right after I read it, I wouldn't have such a daunting pile of books in front of me! Onward!



by Lawrence Block
1999, 272 pages

1 -   The third book in the increasingly over-the-top Tanner series finds our sleepless hero travelling across the country, collecting an increasingly screwball collection of refugees.

2 -   I found myself getting annoyed with Tanner's character as this story progressed. At first, I loved the idea - a man that never sleeps and uses the extra 8 hours a day to learn languages, read books and champion lost causes but it seems to have changed to championing radical military groups from assorted countries, which I find much less appealing.

3 -   Tanner is still a great guy though and despite the escalating goofiness, I enjoyed the ride.

4 -   It should be interesting to see where the series goes with the next book.

5 -   Block initially resisted the title, preferring The Lettish Tomatoes, but I like the title quite a bit.


by Robert B. Parker
1998, 304 pages

1 -   Police Chief Jesse Stone has to protect his sleepy town from an elaborate and not very well planned out robbery scheme.

2 -   Jesse Stone remains a very appealing character. He has a distinct set of ethics and despite the self loathing is a good man. That kind of character is fun to read about, which would explain why there are over thirty Stone novels and a series of movies starring Tom Sellick.

3 -   Speaking of whom, Stone compares himself to the actor at one point, which made me wonder which came first, I would assume the movies.

4 -   The character of Crow is a good one. Nasty and mysterious, though you never really get a good feel for why he's so bad.

5 -   I felt this book ended far too abruptly, with everyone kind of just giving up, dying or escaping in a few pages.


by Robert B. Parker
2007, 322 pages

1 -   This was the first Spenser novel I've read, though I used to watch the show regularly as a kid.

2 -   Spenser is just as cool in the books and Hawk is even cooler.

3 -  Spenser gets caught up in a simple infidelity investigation that turns complex, with spies, murder and government secrets.

4 -   Soon, Spenser has to call in his buddies to protect his lady. They were my personal favorite about the book. Loved them.

5 -   Robert B. Parker died recently and I've just started reading his work. There's a good reason he's so respected. His books are fun to read and have excellent characters.


by George Axelrod
  1952, 202 pages

1 -   Old-School crime from the author of The Seven Year Itch.

2 -   Another extremely fine release from the good folks over at Hard Case Crime, with a gorgeous new Orbik cover and the retro-sweet touches that make me googly eyed.

3 -   Satiric, fun and nasty, a hapless book publisher has to unravel the secret behind a prestigious and previously unknown manuscript from a recently deceased Nobel Prize-winning author. But if it's unknown, why do so many people seem to know about it, and why do they all want him to print it?

4 -   Swishes hollywood starlets, thinly veiled homages to authors and personalities around in a tumbler to create a delightful little drink.

5 -   Did I mention how much I love Hard Case Crime? Look at that cover above, then go here to see the original. Back? Isn't this new cover a peach? I raise my glass to HCC for reprinting these gems and scattering them out for a modern audience. And making them look good.


by Michael Connelly
2000, 450 pages

1 -   A rarity for Connelly, a one-shot featuring a "villain" as the main protagonist.

2 -   Years ago, Cassie Black went to prison for her part in a casino robbery gone horribly wrong. Out on parole, she tries to leave her old life behind. Until she learns something that forces her to take a job back in Vegas, to the same casino where her beloved died all those years before

3 -   Standard Connelly, which is to say a quick read with original characters. I liked it, but I never got the feel of Vegas that I usually get from books like this.

4 -   A couple of silly parts in here too, and the villain was never as stone-cold as they made it sound on the cover. In fact, he seemed a bit bumbling.

5 -   My cover, featuring a white and black casino chip in an eclipse is much cooler than the cover online.


by Rick Riordan
2005, 375 pages

1 -   I wanted to not like this. But I did.

2 -   Percy Jackson is kind of the Middle Grade fiction that gets on my nerves. Modern feeling, with a sarcastic and snarky main character, a gimmick, and a huge following.

3 -   I read this because it's my nephew's favorite book and I promised him I would, if he would read the second one when I finished. He's read this installment six or seven times but hasn't read the second.

4 -   I was surprised at how likeable Percy ended up being, though his female friend is pretty forgettable to me. The idea, while gimmicky, is pretty well executed, too.

5 -   I love Riordan's previous adult novels, modern detective books. Check them out! (It's also possible that this is why I didn't want to like the Percy Jackson books, I like Rick's adult stuff too much to want him to stop writing them.)


by J.L. Bourne
 2009, 224 pages

1 -   Zombie mayhem written in diary form! Originally self published online, the book now has a proper release, a sequel and hollywood nosing around.

2 -   Too bad it's so dire.

3 -   The characters are thinly fleshed out, even the main character, who seems like a generic army boy. Stupid, well versed in gun terminology, conveniently able to fly a plane... Ugh. I'm really afraid that others will read the zombie novel I'm writing and say the same thing about it, but I got so annoyed with the main character here.

4 -   The zombies seemed to change their definitions slightly throughout the story, and not in the good way, more like the author forgot whether they could do something and just winged it.

5 -   All the same, it was a fast read and won't disappoint fans of the genre too much. I liked it enough to finish it on my computer when my version on the nook konked out 3/4 of the way through, I just really disliked the Hoo-Rah dumb jock main character.


by David Brin
 1997, 336 pages

1 -   When the world ends, a lone shyster finds a postman's uniform and mailbags and inadvertantly starts a revolution of civilization.

2 -   I dig the concept of this book, and Brin creates a very bleak but realistic world for the postman.

3 -   It starts out great, really strong, with one of my favorite post-apocalyptic worldviews and interesting people living in it.

4 -   Then it throws in genetic supermen, over the top war sequences, silly coincidences and an all too pat ending. Blast!

5 -   No Tom Petty.


by James Lee Burke
 1990, 384 pages

1 -   I love Dave Robicheaux and the Louisianan world that Burke has created. Dave is a real person with a lot of little ticks and mannerisims that make him such a kick to read about.

2 -   To be honest, I don't actually remember what the story was in this novel... But I recall liking it. Something with a bad guy and fishing and... I can't remember.

3 -   (After checking....) Oh yeah! Robicheaux goes to Montana and stomps around Missoula a bit on the trail of a missing person. Which, by the way, I got the feeling that Burke actually visited Missoula for the novel. He manages to get the feel for the country along with details of the area spot on.

4 -   I always want a Dr. Pepper with fresh lime while I read these books.

5 -   The version of this book I read on my nook calls the town he visits "Poison, MT" I don't know if it was an intentional choice to use a fictional town, or if the computer program that converted this to a digital book misread the very real town of Polson, MT, which happens to exist roughly where he describes Poison in my text here...


by David Wellington
2007, 320 pages

1 -   I liked the first one of these books.

2 -   Then the zombies started talking, gaining telepathic powers and other nonsense.

3 -   Then it got worse.

4 -   This book, the third, got even worse.

5 -   That's right, I'm criticizing a zombie book for being over the top and silly. A line must be drawn somewhere!


Team Lope Tyre Clubbe Is GO!

I've been away for a while.. again, and lots of news to share, hopefully tomorrow. But today, I'd like to encourage anyone that can to support my good friends Thom and Blair as they embark on a charity fundraiser for the 2010 AIDs/Lifecycle event that they will be riding in next month.

This is a little late notice, all donations need to be in before June 6th, but if anyone is interested in supporting a great cause and helping two swell fellows pay to ride their fixed-speed bikes 585 miles across the rich landscape of Northern California, follow the link and hook them up!

The Lifecycle event is a great thing, raising over $11m for AIDs research.

And in case anyone missed that, I said they are paying to ride 585 miles on fixed gear bikes  in the name of charity. They make me proud to be their friends and more than a little embarrassed at my lack of fitness.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Some Day We'll Find It...

Growing up and to this day, nothing in this world can bring warmth to my heart, make a smile appear on my face and make the day seem a little less bleak than a artfully assembled pile of foam rubber, felt and magic. The Muppets have always been something special, especially for me. It was a tradition in my home to sit back and let their special brand of hilarity engulf you. Life seemed easier when there was a muppet singing.

I challenge someone to sit down with the Muppets and not feel a little bit happier than before. They taught us how to read and to share on Sesame Street and how to laugh on The Muppet Show.

Behind it, or rather below it all was a dreamer, a creative genius that believed every day was a little better with some madness and hope in it
-  Jim Henson.

Twenty years ago today, Jim died. The Muppets live on, of course, in movies, commercials, online videos and our memories, but Jim himself was something special too. He inspired the best in people. To this day, I get choked up writing about his death. I was pretty young when he died and it felt like I'd lost a friend. The Muppets were like that. No matter  who you are, one of them will connect with you. They'll make you believe.

I just wanted to take a second and remember Jim and thank him for the special moments he brought to me. He's one of the reasons I write and draw, why I try to stay upbeat and look for the best in things. Why I laugh and try again. Why, despite everything, I keep dreaming.

I miss you, Jim Henson.

When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope still is to leave the world a little bit better for my having been here.  -- Jim Henson

Friday, May 14, 2010

Plans, Best Laid & Otherwise

I had intended to write a blog updating my book reviews, but I've read nine or ten since my last update and it's FAR too late for that now, even writing REVIEWS OF UNUSUAL SIZE, so they'll have to wait.

I could write about our trip to Auburn last week too, where we ate some awesome food and wandered in the rain outside fo the second largest church in the East, but the pictures are on the camera, which is clear across the room.

Tomorrow we are hitting a few yard sales before I have to work. We hope to find a love seat on the cheap.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


From the carcasses of thousands of green monsters. I spent the day beheading the little beasties and I still have over half the lawn to mow.

Having an acre and a half of hilly... hill, littered with stealth monoliths is not pleasant on lawn mowing day.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Helpful Kitchen Tip

When cooking french fries in the oven, line the cookie sheet with a piece of aluminum foil that you have wrinkled up, then loosely flattened back out.

This will help the fries cook and brown more evenly and they come off easier as well!

Yes, I am indeed too lazy to write a real post tonight.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Day Out And About In Maine

Life - 
Friday was a good day, in fact, it might have even been a great day! And this is on a Friday that we went shopping at Wal-Mart, something that we never enjoy.

We started out simple, a couple of bagels and some coffee, both of us finally off work. We hit a few stores nearby, the Target for an air conditioner, Goodwill for random stuff, Home Depot  had parts for a light table I was building, PetCo for cat food. (The cats have been eating dog food for the last few days and not really digging it.)

Then we grabbed Lindsay's check and headed to downtown Brunswick to cash it. This is one of the perils of moving cross-country. Back in Idaho, we had two accounts, a small one at US Bank, Lindsay's since she was young, and my credit union account at the university, which I'd had since I was twelve. Well, naturally, every auto bill pay we have and my direct deposit is still set up for that credit union account. Partly because the people there usually treat me really well and partly out of laziness.

When we arrived out here, we discovered that US Bank is a Western chain, so we started yet another account at Key Bank. This has been a hassle. They've always been polite and friendly, but their banks keep useless hours and if you want to cash a check, good luck, buddy. They will only give you as much cash as you have in your account, regardless of it being a payroll check. So we left a bit annoyed, unsure how we are going to get the cash into my credit union account before the car payment comes due...

So we decided to eat lunch. First, we hit the Dunkin' Doughnuts, where Linz got an iced Latte. DD is YOOOGE out here, like everywhere you turn and we had only tried a less than impressive muffin from one in a Wal-Mart. Turns out their coffee sucks too. She drank about half and tossed the rest.

Across the street from the bank and the DD is a park of sorts, kind of a long strip of grass between roads, and every so often along the way, there are brick cutouts designed for food wagons. We'd seen them before and been intrigued. After all, our favorite mexican food comes from a wagon. And there was a mexican one!


But, as I'm sure you can guess, it was run by white people and the food was overpriced and designed like Amerexican restaurant food. Bah.

So we hit up Danny's, a red wagon next to it that had a line along the block last time we'd been by. Oh, man. What a great choice.

Lindsay chose the crab roll, which was really great. Fresh and mixed just right. I, in my infinite wisdom, chose the Steak, Cheese, Mushroom and Onion sub. This is what I got -

 Look at that thing. Steaming hot, crispy grilled roll, melty cheese, tender steak chunks... This was the best sandwich I have ever had. Seriously. Especially for five dollars. Linz and I split it and I was so full I had to waddle back to Stormalong.

After eating our most satisfying and delightful lunch on a park bench in the sun, I got us lost. Pretty much just picked a road that I thought might head to Wal-Mart and drove. Eventually, it became clear that we were nowhere near it, but there was ocean on either side.

Clearly, the ocean is FAR better than Wal-Mart so we continued, devising a plan to finally get a bit of the Atlantic on our skin and also, find something for my mom for mother's day.
Then we got sidetracked by a beautiful old cemetery, where we wandered for twenty minutes or so.

Back on track, we ended up in.... A town whose name I've forgotten and will have to add once his wife wakes up and reminds me. It wasn't much, just a few houses on a finger of land, pointing at some islands, a far off lighthouse and, eventually, Europe. Once again, we were surprised at how anti-tourist everything was. Not that we wanted an amusement park, but there wasn't even public parking or a tiny gift shop, just a decent looking restaurant in a bit along the finger. So we parked there and walked to the beach.

I touched the Atlantic for the first time. It was cold, wet and presumably salty. It didn't change my life, but it felt like some sort of vague accomplishment all the same. We bought some ice cream in the restaurant, which had only been open for a day or two for the season. The girl that dished our treats did not have the forearm strength needed for hard ice cream dishing, especially if they get any kind of tourism in the summer. It was amazing though. Super-creamy, rich, flavorful, adjective, additional positive adjective.

Afterwards, we bit the bullet and entered the grocery store into our GPS and let Homer Simpson lead us to shopping hell. The place was extremely packed, but we grabbed our carload quickly, actually got everything on the list and by some miracle ended up with a cashier that was both friendly and fast. Which I had assumed was impossible.

The rest of the evening we spent at home. I installed the A/C, built my light box, drew a picture for R3's weekly jam and relaxed. I whipped up some dirty rice for dinner, which turned out overly salty, next time I need to compensate for the salt in the creole seasoning, but was still good, and we watched Pushing Daisies.

A pretty great day.

Oh yeah, I also got a pretty sweet set of drafting templates and a pencil at goodwill for $5 bucks. Awesome!   (Don't you hate it when you load all of your pictures at the start and at the end of the post, you realize there's still one down here that you forgot about?)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Welcome Screen

Now Playing -
Crazy In Love by The Puppini Sisters

Life - 

Hello everyone out there in World Wide Webville. My name is Kristopher, and I want to be a blogger. Well, actually, I want to write kid's mystery books, sixties crime pulps and run a motel in Oregon. But for now, blogging!
That's right, it's been so long since I've written a post that I feel obligated to reintroduce myself. Ridiculous. I'm not even sure why... Lameness, primarily, I think. Also, I got a new Robert B Parker novel at the thrift store and my nook can play sudoku. 

Ahh, those are crap reasons. 

Anyway. Changes of a minor sort and poverty have occurred! Lindsay has started at her job as Night Auditor at an inn nearby, after months of no jobbiness, so, while that means our schedules have gotten further apart, eventually our finances, which have become rather dire, should get back on track.

I have continued to work in my new position in Portland, which is the same as my old position, but with added lobster. Also, the people in the Portland store tend to either be prettier, more strung out, or whinier than the customers in Bath. Which means I approach helping people with more trepidation, but with hopes of a funny story to come out of it!

What else has heppened in the 16 days since my last post? 

Maine has begun to green itself. Flowers popping up, leaves appearing. It's been odd weather, warm and humid, then rainy, then cold, then hot and sunny. I have no idea if that is normal, but one thing's for sure, especially with Lindsay sleeping during the days, we need to get an air conditioner for the bedroom. It gets mighty stuffy.

The new book by the Always Stupendous Marshall Karp, Cut, Paste, Kill got a starred review in publisher's weekly, and is now available to order. (Marshall mentioned once upon a time, hooking me up with an advance reader copy of this book, and if he has forgotten, I may have to drive to his house and steal his copy. I can't wait to read it.)

Jon's blog got an ginchy new header!

Lossa other cool stuff too, but right now, I'm sleepy, and Spenser has a mystery to solve!

Writing -

My query letter is still out in the wild, though the very cool agent did get back to me and let me know that she is looking forward to reading it, more soon. Frankly, that is good enough for me! Just the idea of an agent, especially one as respected and awesome as this one is being interested in reading my query letter makes me happy.

I also re-read Graves, my zombie/drug store novel on my nook this week. It needs some work, especially with an eye towards getting the personalities tied down, but I was pleasantly surprised what a fun read it was. Y'know, all horn tooting aside.  It was kind of a nice change, reading it on the nook like that. The e-reader's interface for note taking is so clunky that it essentially forced me to just READ it, no edits or anything, and I think that actually made me more able to examine it from a customer/editor's perspective.

RE: Maine

#1005 - People in Maine love to follow you in their car. 

 They will be on your butt in the passing lane and, thinking they want to, y'know, pass, I will cut over to the right lane. Which I avoid generally, not because I'm an ass or drive super fast, it's just in pretty bad shape between here an Portland, with visible ruts, like the dirt roads in a wild west town.

When you do cut over, they don't pass you. Nope. They either continue on, just a few inches behind you off the port side or they'll cut in behind you in the right lane and happily follow you for 30 miles. Very unnerving.