Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Christmas Wishes

I hope everyone is gearing up for a wonderful holiday celebration, whatever holiday you may be celebrating.

I have a few simple wishes for Christmas this year.  I'm confident my kids will have a wonderful day tomorrow, as will my wife, and other than a whopper of a head cold that's sinking into my chest, I have nothing to complain about.  I am quite aware of how fortunate we are to have our home and health.  I am also aware that there are many who do not share in that fortune.

That being said, here are my Christmas wishes:

1.  I hope my step-mother Diane is feeling well enough to enjoy the day tomorrow.  She is almost done kicking cancer's ass.  The tumor is gone, says the doctor, but the fight is clearly taking its toll.  She has three more doses of radiation, and will be done with her treatment on 12/29.  I want her to start the New Year cancer-free and recovering from the chemo and radiation treatments she's been enduring for the past two months.

2.  At a library event on December 15th, a young girl attended the reading.  In talking to her, I found out her family is homeless.  I hope they have someplace warm and comfortable to stay, and that she is somehow touched with a bit of Christmas spirit and magic that will make this holiday memorable in a good way, despite her unfortunate circumstances.

3.  I hope you and your family have a wonderful and safe holiday ;-)

Merry Christmas, and have a Happy New Year!

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Code Red- Household Alert

The Problem
A misplaced Nerf dart.  Not so bad, eh?

The Location
A light.  More specifically, the cup-shaped cover under one of many bulbs on a high hanging light.

The Challenge
The light is out of reach by hand, about four feet from the railing in the loft. The standing ladder is not tall enough to reach it from the floor.  There is an extendable feather duster, but it does not have a grab-nabber attachment.

The First Attempt
Try to dust it out.  Try not to swing light too much but dammit the dart is really lodged in there.

The Danger
Son keeps wanting to observe from right under the light, presumably to catch the dart if it drops.  The light is swinging farther now and in theory it should be quite secure but parental paranoia kicks in and you can see the whole damn light come crashing down…

The Solution
Clear son from under light by telling him to get a roll of masking tape, in laundry room.  Remove tip from feather duster and extend it to its full length.  When son arrives with tape, tear off foot-long strip of tape, wrap once around the tip of the feather duster, and crumple the remaining length into a semi-loose ball.  Drop tape ball into cup-light and go fishing. 

The Result
Tape made contact and loosened dart, then on the next attempt it made sustained contact.  Success!  Dart cleared from light.

Lesson Learned
Not a damn thing.  It happened before and it’ll happen again.  Maybe not this exact Nerf dart and this exact light, but a similar situation will present itself, I’m sure.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

A Very Special Interview

Thanks to Sheri Larsen for the great interview with Jason Hodgin, whose father found "The Man in the Cinder Clouds" in the ice at the North Pole.

Check out Sheri's blog to find out what questions she had for Jason, and what his reaction was when he found out they had a book showing the true history of Kris Kringle and how he came to be known as Santa Claus.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

You want WHAT for Christmas?!

'Tis the season for Christmas lists.  I have two boys, ages 10 and 7, and both of their lists have subtle surprises.

My older son is a Lego aficionado.  No, that doesn't mean he completes Lego sets with a snifter of brandy and a fine Cuban cigar.  He can't get Cuban cigars because they are illegal and he's a Good Boy.

His Lego enthusiasm makes him long for the biggest, most complex Lego sets available.  At least he's still focused on the sets, and he's not planning to spend years designing his own gigantic replica of famous landmarks, like OSU stadium, i.e. "The Shoe". 

His first request was the Taj Mahal.  This little beauty used to cost a mere $300.  Then David Beckham said he works on a Lego Taj Mahal to relax, and the price skyrocketed to nearly $1,000.  Thanks supply and demand! Sorry Max...

But it's OK, because my son also wants the London Tower Bridge set.  This is much more affordable at $214.99 on Amazon.com.  (NOTE: The Tower Bridge is not to be confused with London Bridge, as I learned earlier this year on a trip to England.)

He also wants a remote control helicopter (he actually wants a real helicopter, but I talked him down), a ripstick (a mutant skateboard designed by the insurance industry as a way to expedite the denial of accident and injury claims), and cold hard cash.

My younger son is a different matter.  The first item on his list:

A robot snake.

"Where did you see one of those?" My wife asked him, hoping to get a head start on her shopping.

"Nowhere," he said.  "I just thought it sounded cool."

As if keeping up with with commercials, ads, and grade-school fads isn't enough, now we have to satisfy the unbridled imagination of a seven-year-old boy. 

Fortunately, my wife, being the ultra-pro shopper that she is, found a robot snake.  We're still working our way through the rest of the list...

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Now Appearing Across the Interwebz...Part Two

This is a big month for me.  I'm doing all I can to promote my new Christmas book, The Man in the Cinder Clouds (which is a great Christmas gift idea, hint hint).  Yesterday I met with a school librarian to prep for an author visit this Thursday, and later in the afternoon I visited a 4th grade class to read to the students and take them through a writing workshop on the elements of story telling.

Bane of Anubis (aka Real Name Withheld) posted a fun interview with yours truly yesterday on his blog, Bane's Blogging Blues.

Today, Michelle Davidson Argyle is hosting a guest post on the origins of Christmas stockings (as revealed through The Man in the Cinder Clouds) on her blog, The Innocent Flower.

Also hosting a posting today is Bryan Russel of The Alchemy of Writing, with my guest post on the challenges of writing a story no one in particular was asking for, and why I'm glad I followed my heart and told the story anyway. 

Thursday I'm scheduled to appear on another blog, details will be provided Thursday morning...and Thursday afternoon I will be visting two more 4th grade classes and then the aforementioned library author visit in the evening.  Still more clasroom visits on Friday and next week, and another library visit on Thursday the 15th. 


And I'm loving every minute of it!!!

And for the other bloggers who have agreed to host a post but haven't received said post, I'm working on them, I promise!

If anyone else is interested in hosting a guest post or interview, let me know and we can coordinate a date / time.

For those that have been supporting my promotional efforts, thank you!  Every voice counts...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Now Appearing Across the Interwebz...

Sue Quinn was kind enough to host me on her blog again today, click here to find out why a took a dare with my new Christmas book.

Sue has been a great help to The Man in the Cinder Clouds.  From excellent editorial feedback to thoughts on cover design to help promoting my origins-of-Santa story, she's been there. 

Sue is also a great author in her own right.  I recently read her book, Open Minds, which is a Young Adult paranormal thriller (it's kind of sci fi, kind of paranormal; I'm not sure where mind reading and mind jacking fits genre-wise...but it's cool!).  Sue does a great job building a world where reading minds is the norm and controlling minds is a dangerous ability for a young girl to have...Definitely a recommended read!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Things I am Thankful For

Here are some things that I am thankful for:

1. Sarcasm.  No, seriously, I love sarcasm.  I mean it.  I am NOT being sarcastic right now.  It'd probably the first time in months, but I swear I'm not.  You know what?  This really isn't working.  I better just get started on my turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Win a Signed Copy of "The Man in the Cinder Clouds"

If you're looking for a gift idea for your favorite reader for Christmas, young or old, click the link below and enter to win a signed copy of "The Man in the Cinder Clouds":

http://sherahart.blogspot.com/2011/11/win-evidence-of-santa-clause-no-snow.html

There's also an interview about my writing history and methods, with a nice teaser about the sequel to "The Man in the Cinder Clouds".

Thanks, Sheryl, for including me on your blog!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The History of E-Books and The Future of Self-Publishing

E-Books and self-publishing have an interesting history.  They have an even more interesting future.

The first edition Kindle was released on November 19, 2007.  Other devices followed suit (e.g. Nook, Kobo, iPad, etc.).  Publishers and the buying public were slow to accept E-Readers, though. 

And for good reason.

In addition to the expenses (and bugs) associated with early-generation E-Readers, content was an issue.  Publishers treated E-Books as second-rate, releasing them long after print books were published, so content was either unavailable or old news.  E-Books were viewed as sales cannibals and had to be properly isolated in the market...you know, squash the competition.  (NOTE: It's The American Way.)

Rather than embrace the transition to digital media for what it's worth, it looks like the publishers resisted the move in every way possible.  E-Books were created by scanning print copies, and they came out with so many errors you'd think publishers screwed up the typesetting intentionally out of spite.  Not to mention the rights-management nightmare authors (and agents) faced.

While publishers dragged their heels, slowly and obstinately venturing into the E-Book market like a child being forced to eat a plate of cold Brussels sprouts, self-publishers have embraced the medium, learning its ins and outs and providing content that has quality competitive to traditionally published books. 

In the meantime, E-Readers took hold with consumers.

Earlier this year, news broke that Amazon.com sold 105 E-Books for every 100 print books.  While E-Books account for only 14% of all general consumer fiction and non-fiction (according to Forrester Research), it is clear that they are on the rise...although it is also clear that print is not dead.

But that market is changing, too.

Print-on-demand (POD) services like Lulu have been around for many years (since 2002 in Lulu's case).  Authors were limited in how they could use them, though.  Publishers had a lock on distribution, there was no other way to get into a major bookstore or library.  Vanity projects dominated the self-publishing market.  In order to sell copies, authors had to find ways to get copies in front of people on their own.  Marketing options were limited and sales were low or non-existent.

Then, one of the world's foremost booksellers, Amazon.com, opened its doors to self-publishers.  We could now get our books on shelves (albeit virtual shelves).  Companies like CreateSpace (owned by Amazon.com) offer print-on-demand with a slew of additional services, ranging from interior and cover design, to access to an expanded distribution network—i.e. the wholesalers who sell to libraries and bookstores.

Many talented writers have embraced self-publishing.  Some—Barry Eisler and J.K. Rowling, for example—stepping away from lucrative contracts, and others—like John Locke and Amanda Hocking—starting out on their own and finding success.

I think the future is bright for self-published authors.  We are on the forefront of the E-Book market, embracing it faster and deeper than publishers and since we are individuals, we are each able to maneuver faster.

We can also mobilize, and find strength in our numbers.  Add in the power of social networking, and marketing your work becomes much more dynamic (and affordable, with the primary investment being time).

Don't let anyone tell you "Don't try to self-publish...you're not [INSERT NAME FROM ABOVE] and can't expect their success.  Traditional publishing is still your only real option."

You're not one of those people, and shouldn't try to be.  Be yourself.  And write the best book you can.  If it's really good, and if you work hard, you will find your audience.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Self-Published Books: The Perception of Quality

I'm proud to share a guest post from a great writer and good friend, Sue Quinn.  Sue is also an excellent critique partner, with a very keen eye for character development.  So without further ado, here's Self-Published Books: The Perception of Quality

by Susan Kaye Quinn, author of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)

The question of quality in self-published books is a sticky subject, just because self-publishers and traditionalists tend to line up along this issue, ready to duke it out (Note: I’m a fence straddler, firmly in both camps. I’m self-publishing my new paranormal/SF novel Open Minds, but still pursuing traditional publication with my middle grade stories).

Whose Perception?

The perception of the quality of self-published books (or traditionally published books) depends a LOT on whose perception you’re talking about. For a long time, self-published books were considered, by people in the publishing business, to be the last resort of desperate authors not sufficiently talented to get published through a real publisher. I’m not exactly sure when this viewpoint became prevalent. Sometime after Lewis Carroll and Mark Twain self-published their works and before John Locke sold a million self-published e-books on Amazon. Many writers who aspired to be real authors would never seriously consider self-publishing. There was a belief (still held by some) that an author needed the stamp of approval—the cachet—of being selected for publication by a large publishing house in order to separate them from the riff-raff of self-publishing. (There was also the issue of distribution—NY publishing houses had a lock on it.)

These were the perceptions of the industry insiders—writers, agents, and publishers. But there’s really only one perception that matters: readers.

And I’m fairly certain that most readers have no idea who publishes the books they read.

For sure, I couldn’t name two publishers before I started writing. Most readers just are interested in the story and to some extent the craft. With the advent of e-books and digital distribution, more readers are reading self-published books. Has their perception changed? I don’t think so: they still want quality books to read, and don’t really care who publishes it.

But the perception of industry insiders with regards to self-publishing has started to change, for two reasons: 1) money and 2) the authors choosing to self-publish.

When JK Rowling fires her agent and goes the self-publishing route with Pottermore, industry people sit up and take notice. When self-published authors start selling thousands of books a month, more people pay attention. When traditionally published authors start self-publishing their backlists, and make serious money doing so, industry insiders (writers, agents, and publishers alike) start to wonder how this is going to change things for them.

But What About Quality?

I believe that the quality of a book is a highly subjective thing.

I’m not talking about typo’s or grammatical errors. Those are quality measures that are easy (EASY!) to meet, and any self-published or traditionally published author would do well to make sure their books are thoroughly copyedited. An occasional typo is going to get through (this happens in traditionally published books too). That’s not a problem, but chronic lack of copyediting is.

What I really mean by Quality is whether a book can be considered good enough to rave about or recommend to your friends. This is an enormously subjective thing. Again, industry insiders (writers, agents, and publishers) have their own ideas about what kinds of books are high “quality” and should be published. But once again, readers have their own perception of quality, one that is measured by a single metric: book sales.

Example: Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Did you love this book? You’re in good company with 30 million copies sold. I hated it. Seriously, I could NOT get through the first book. Gave up after 100 pages, skipped to the end, and STILL couldn’t read it. I love the Lisbeth Salander character, but I just could not wade through the descriptive passages and maudlin tangents. Even Nathan Bransford thinks that this book would have a hard time getting published today.

But there was something in that book that people loved (even though I couldn’t find it). There are other examples: The Shack, Twilight. These books were phenomenons because of some aspect of the story, not because of the quality of their craft.

So do sales = quality, or at least the kind of quality that matters, i.e. quality to readers? Does the inverse hold true? Low sales = low quality?

Not necessarily.

Readers buy the books that they like. The pool of readers who like your particular brand of gritty spaghetti westerns in space may not be as large as the vast ocean of readers that like vampire romances. This doesn’t mean your book is low quality; it means that your book has a small readership. If however, your gritty spaghetti western is really an awfully written book, with no plot, cardboard characters, and a trite ending, then even that small readership is going to say meh and move on to the next book.

If you want more sales for your novel, options include: 1) writing a better book, 2) writing a book with broader appeal, or 3) doing a better job of matching your book with the audience that loves it. Quality is a part of #1, and is the part you have the most control over. Taking charge of all three is part of being an entrepreneurial author.

The Democratization of Publishing

I think we’re moving from a patronage model of publishing to an entrepreneurial model. Writers are empowered by the option of self-publishing to treat their writing as a small business, investing in their writing careers to get them off the ground. This means that more books will see print than ever before, and not just ones that previously were dashed off by writers impatient with the traditional publishing process. These are books that would have been trunked when they didn’t catch the golden ring of a big publishing contract.

This summer and fall, I’m seeing a huge number of very talented writers stepping off the traditional-publishing-hamster-wheel and taking a spin on the self-publishing roulette. As more and more of these writers get their books into the hands of readers—as more and more of them climb the Amazon bestseller charts—I think the perceptions of industry insiders with regards to the “quality” of self-publishing will seriously start to change.

Because readers will love these books, buy them, and recommend them to all their friends.

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See more guest posts about Open Minds at the Virtual Launch Party!

When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep. 

Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her. 

Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn is available for $2.99 in e-book (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords) and $9.99 in print (Amazon, Createspace). 

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PRIZES!
Susan Kaye Quinn is giving away an Open Books/Open Minds t-shirt, mug, and some fun wristbands to celebrate the Virtual Launch Party of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)! (Check out the prizes here.) 
 
Three ways to enter (you can have multiple entries):

1)    Leave a comment here or at the Virtual Launch Party post

2)    Tweet (with tag #keepingOPENMINDS)
                Example: When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous
                thing to keep. #keepingOPENMINDS @susankayequinn #SF #YA
                avail NOW http://bit.ly/psX1Hh

                Example: Celebrate the launch of OPEN MINDS by @susankayequinn 

                                                                                  #keepingOPENMINDS #SciFi #paranormal #YA avail NOW  
                                                                                  http://bit.ly/SKQOpenMinds
 
3)    Facebook (tag @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn)
Example: Celebrate the launch of paranormal/SF novel OPEN MINDS by @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn for a chance to win Open Books/Open Minds prizes!
 
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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Amazing Sand Artist

So you know I like sand art.  I try my hand at it every year at the beach.  I'm getting better with each attempt, learning to sculpt with more detail and getting more creative with my subject matter, but this morning I saw a video that takes it to a whole different level.  I doubt I'll ever attempt this grand of a scale, but it's inspiring to see someone pull off a picture using such a large piece of beach as canvas...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Origami and Erections

WARNING: This post is not excessively adult-themed, as may be inferred from the title.  However, it is quite silly and immature, which can be ascribed to my general nature and should therefore be expected.  Please read on.

My wife took my kids to the hobby store recently.  The kids brought their own money and made their own purchases.  (NOTE: They are both loaded.  I don't know where all the money came from, but it can be helpful in those times when my wife and are desperate for cash.) 

First item: An origami kit.  It has an instruction book and paper, and with it one could make a dozen different endangered animals, if one could somehow decipher the instructions, something neither child is capable of. 

So I've been attempting a lot of origami lately.  We almost made a zebra, except it only has one hind leg.  That's easy to explain though, as zebras and lions are known to have special encounters that could easily explain the absence of such an important appendage.  I consider the zebra a success.

We also have a koala head and a panda head, but neither animal has a body, and I don't think they ever will.  The pictures in the instruction book make IKEA furniture assembly look simple and intuitive. 

My older son also purchased an Erector Set.  It also has an instruction book with amazingly complex drawings, but it is a book someone with a degree in mechanical engineering could easily use as reference.  Sadly, I am lacking in such a degree, but in an effort to reduce the volume of whining in the house, I have been making due.  And swearing under my breath.

My in-laws were here this past weekend, and I spent the whole time waiting for my mother-in-law to mispronounce the toy as an "Erection Set" because I am immature and think that would be really funny. 

Which reminds me of the time our dog had bladder stones.  Nearly 60 of them, and they had gone from the bladder into his urethra, where they all got stuck. During the examination the vet reached back between my dog's legs and felt the stones.  He encouraged me to do the same, not realizing that I was in no way mature enough to engage in a general conversation about my dog's urethra, let alone actually touch the underside of my dog's vacant scrotum.  (NOTE: I have not shaken hands with the vet since then.)

I struggle with this inability to take important things seriously.  It's an ongoing battle that I am sure is pointless, as I have no intention of ever winning it.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Let's go to the hop...

No, it's not a '50s dance party.  It's a blog hop, and I'm in on the action.  There are a lot of great writers out there, and this is a good way to find a great many of them all at once.  More specifically, Matt and Alex are running a blogfest with more than 200 blogs linked together.

As a participant, I'm supposed to recommend three blogs and why you should visit them:

The Literary Lab: This is my favorite writers' water cooler.  The three moderators raise interesting points about reading and writing, and the community of followers add to the discussion in the comment threads.  Writing is a long process, and there's always more to learn.  Following the experiences of others is a great way to pick up new tips / tricks.

Nathan Bransford: I started following Nathan's blog in hopes that he would one day represent my writing, and I continue to read it now that he is done agenting because it's insightful and well-written.  Plus it's another blog where the comments are a big part of the attraction.

D. Michael Olive: Mike's posts are a combination music review and wine review...two things that sit close to my heart!  Mike has introduced me to many guitar and bass greats.  His link compilations can serve as an incredible distraction, though...they make me want to pop a cork and sit back and listen to 45 minutes of music, the rest of the day be damned! 

BONUS BLOG:

Roger Ebert: I've been a fan of Ebert's movie reviews since the late '90s.  Even if I don't agree with his rating of a film, I enjoy reading his opinion of why he rated it that way.  His blog takes that same writing (Pulitzer prize winning, I might add) and applies it to a wide variety of topics, from film and TV, to his battle with cancer and subsequent perseverance, to politics, religion, and the world.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Got a Question For You...

Before I had kids I used to think answering a child's questions was a wonderful way to help that child grow and become a better human being.  I was eager to respond to any child's general inquiries about life and the world, to have the opportunity to share my knowledge and help that child learn.

Then I had kids, and that all changed.  I realized that the questions Just. Don't. Stop.

I began to burn out when my older son hit the early threes.  That's when "Why?" made its initial appearance.  Then my kids got to thinking I know absolutely everything about anything, like I'm Wikipedia or something. 

Here's an example from the time we took them to an amusement park over the summer:

How high is that roller coaster?  I don't know exactly.  Pretty high.
Is it a hundred feet? At least.
Higher? Maybe.
How much higher?  Two-hundred feet? I don't know.
How fast is it? Really fast.
Is it faster than our car? It depends on where we are driving.
What year was it built? What, our car?  2009.
No, the roller coaster.  I don't know. Google it when we get home.

A month later we took a family vacation that involved an airplane.  As we made our descent at the end of the first leg, both kids looked out their respective windows.

How high are we?
Are we as high as the Wind Seeker?
What about the Drop Tower?
We're definitely higher than the Diamond Back, aren't we?
Are there any pyramids this high?

As we got settled into our seats on the next flight, my son started asking me more questions.  I fought back.  I took out my notebook and started writing them down.

Is it three o'clock?
What time is it?
Why did the TV turn off? 
Why do they do that?
[Peering at my notebook] Why is it talking about Wind Seeker?
Why are you writing down all the questions?
I'll try not to ask any more questions, okay?
Are you going to show those to people?
What if there was a fire inside the plane?
The flight attendants aren't the pilots, are they?
Why is there an exit way back here?
What if a shark ate the life raft?
What is this volume button for?
Would you stop writing those down? You're annoying me!
When we get high enough I can unbuckle, right?
What does "airborne" mean?
What's "free of charge"?

At this time he pleaded with me to stop writing the questions down.  His attempts to grab my pen and notebook made the process more challenging that I was willing to put up with, so I acquiesced (NOTE: That's a really big word. Thanks, spell-checker, for your help.)

There was one more series of questions that I had to write down, though.  I did get his permission, but I would have done it anyway.  I had pointed out the window and said, "Look at that huge airplane.  You see the higher row of windows?  It's a double-decker."

So there's stairs in there? Yep.
Have you been in one? Nope.
But you've seen one, haven't you? Really?  You just asked that? Dude, I'm writing that one down...

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Birthday Wish...

On October 10 I turn 40.  Next Monday.  Over the Hill.  The Big 4-0.  How the &*^% did this happen? As far as I can remember I'm way too irresponsible to be this damn old.

I have simple tastes.  I don't want a fancy sports car (however, if a Lamborghini ended up in my garage I would certainly drive it).  I don't need a 10,000 square-foot mansion on a hill (I would rather it be on a lake).

I do want to write for a living, and for people around the world to read and enjoy my stories.  So for my birthday, I don't need anything directly, but I would like you all to get yourselves a copy of The Man in the Cinder Clouds

If you already have a copy but haven't read it yet, now's a great time to crack the cover...and then you can leave a review on Amazon.com or Goodreads as a birthday gift.  And then buy copies of the book for everyone you know, 'cause it feels good to give.

If you have a copy and have read it and reviewed it, not only are you an incredible person who has earned my everlasting thanks, you have the opportunity to recommend the book to other people.

And if you read the book and think it sucks, you can always trick someone you don't like into buying it.  I'm not above that.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

My Radio Interview is Available

Since Blogger doesn't host audio files, I've been playing tech-sleuth in trying to figure out how to share this MP3 with you wonderful people.

There is a 50/50 chance that this will work.  Of course, that leaves open a 50/50 chance that this will not work.  Such is life.

The interview experience on The Biggs Show was great.  I am totally ready for Oprah now.  I think she need to start her show up again, or at least do a one-off Christmas special for me.  If any one knows her, please pass along my contact info so we can get the ball rolling.  I hate to keep her waiting.  Thanks!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cinder Clouds Hits Times Square!

My press release this week included an image of the book's cover.  Reuters news service displayed the image on their Times Square marquee, and also one in front of the mall on the Vegas strip.  I don't have a picture of the Vegas display, but here's a high-res photo of my book hovering over mid-town Manhattan.  Click for the big version:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Breaking New Ground

The vast majority of the people who follow this blog are cyber-friends who know me only through this blog and my comments on other writing blogs.  To many I am a sun-glassed smart-ass who has a penchant for photos with water in the background.  But what do I look like without the glasses?  And what do I sound like?  Do have have a deep and sexy voice, or an accent?  Are my eyes lasers that will incinerate you if I remove the glasses? (NOTE: The lawyers from the X-Men will see you now.) 

Some bloggers have turned to web-cams and posted videos to get more personal with their readers. (NOTE: Not that kind of web-cam.  The innocent tasteful kind.)  I have yet to take that leap.  Stand before walk, and sound before sight, that's my motto.  At least for the time being it is.  I'll probably change it later today.  Notably around dinner time my motto will be Feed me! followed by More wine, please!


For those who want to get a little more personal, tune in to 1290 AM Thursday at 1:35 pm eastern to listen to my interview on The Biggs Show.  For those who don't have the advantage of residence in London, Ontario, you can Listen Live via the Internet.

This is exciting because I have no idea what to expect, but I anticipate solving many of the worlds problems in the half-hour allotted.  I might even entice a few people into buying my book, which would be all sorts of awesome.

The offer for the interview came after I issued this press release about my origins of Santa story, The Man in the Cinder Clouds.  (NOTE: I realize you all probably know the title of the book, but I must restate it for search engine optimization purposes.)

I didn't know what to expect when I issued the release, and was very happy when the offer for the interview hit my inbox 19 minutes after the release hit the wire!

So tune in tomorrow afternoon if you have the time.  I'd love to get some feedback after the interview...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

And now for something completely different…

One of the perks of my job is international travel.  I get to meet interesting people, learn about different businesses and industries, and immerse myself in new (well, actually old) cultures.

One of the fallbacks of my job is international travel.  I have to stay up for days on end, eat the stuff they call “food” on airplanes, and hold my pee for inordinately long stretches of time thinking the Chinese girl who fell asleep in the seat next to me and is now leaning on me may wake up on her own in the near future.

My most recent trip was to London, and I thought getting around in England would be a piece of cake, me knowing the language and all.  Plus, I get British culture.  I’ve been a Monty Python fan since the age of eight (NOTE: Thanks Ken, for bringing home The Life of Brian on Betamax!).  I can even fake the accent, mate.

I went to the ticket station at the London Underground (NOTE: This is the subway system, also known as The Tube.  It is not a terrorist cell, as I once suspected.  Good to know.  Mind the gap.)  I asked for a ticket to a station near Southwark Bridge Road.  I said it like it looks: Southwark.

“You’re wrong, it’s Suthick, mate,” the ticket guy said, disregarding many letters in Southwark and compressing the word into a single syllable.

Oookay.  Point taken.  I don’t really know English.

I took the tube to downtown London.  I had reviewed directions from the station to the hotel online and knew the general direction in which to walk (NOTE: I really didn’t do that, but I don’t want to let you know how dumb I can be so I’m changing the story to save face.  Don't tell anyone I told you.  Thanks!).  The simple fact that no London street other than a bridge goes more than 10 meters without curving broke my internal compass.  That is to say, I got totally lost deep within in the winding cobblestone roadways.  I did wander through a nice market that smelled of fish and curry, and after I asked directions several times I found my hotel.  (NOTE: For the record, pulling wheeled luggage across block after block of old cobblestone street sucks.)

I was laughed at for being a silly American when I confused London Bridge with the Tower Bridge, but earned a point back by knowing that Big Ben was actually the bell inside the tower, not the clock.  I earned an additional point for having a real Yorkshireman compliment my accent when I let out a few Monty Python quotes.  For me, Monty Python quotes just kind of slip out, like farts.

I did get some time to walk through the streets of London with two Dutch colleagues.  Every now and again they would start talking in Dutch, and I would tell them to stop talking about me.

We saw the main tourist attractions: Big Ben, Parliament! (I did a Chevy Chase impression for my colleagues, but apparently European Vacation was not popular in the Netherlands, as they just started talking about me in Dutch again), and I also  saw Westminster Abbey and Piccadilly Circus.

When we got to Buckingham Palace, I had to take advantage of the moment to capture on film the unshakable thought that ran through my head all afternoon as I walked the twisted streets of London.  Let me sum it up this way...

Question: If you were in front of Buckingham Palace, could you resist doing your best Silly Walk?

Answer: Me neither!







The trip ended as I prefer them all to end: with me arriving safely home.  Maybe next time I’ll tell you about my epic trip to Chicago to see The Dave Matthews Band…  
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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I've Been Interviewed!

Kai Strand is helping to promote my origins-of-Santa Claus story "The Man in the Cinder Clouds" and she posted an interview on her blog(s):

http://kaistrand.blogspot.com/2011/09/three-times-charm-with-rick-daley.html

http://cleanwriter.livejournal.com/87925.html

The same interview is on both blogs, so pick either one to find out what I have to say about writing and relaxing!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What Are My Kids Snorting?

My wife and my younger son suffer from allergies.  We all get them to some degree, but they are your above-average sufferers. (NOTE: They are also above average in many other wonderful ways, and I'm not just saying that for brownie points because my wife reads this blog.  Really.)

My wife has a sinus rinse bottle that you fill with a salt-water solution and squirt up your nose.  It all comes out your other nostril and looks totally disgusting, except when my wife does it, then it's kind of hot. (NOTE: Still just sticking to the facts here.  Not going after brownie points.  Love you dear!).

The other day, she offered the sinus rinse to my son.  He was reluctant.  He said he didn't like how it feels; but this was perplexing because he had not tried the sinus rinse before.  When my wife pressed him for more information, he revealed this gem:

"One time I put water up my nose in the bathtub."

It happens, I guess.  When my wife pressed him for more information, he revealed this gem:

"I was pretending to be an elephant."

Gotta love that boy and his extra-vivid imagination...

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Peek Behind the Cinder Clouds

As a follow-up to My Path to Publication, I'd like to direct your attention to Sue Quinn's blog once more for an interview that goes behind the scenes of THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS and explores the origins of my origins-of-Santa Claus story.

Sue also asked me some great questions about self-publishing, and I sure hope I gave good answers.  Click here to visit Sue's blog and read the interview.

SPECIAL BONUS: Read through the comments on the interview post and you'll find out the winner of the epic battle: Superman vs. Bugs Bunny.  Of course you realize, this means war!

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Path to Publication- Part Two

Click here to read Part One.  Otherwise the leap right into Step 7 might be jarring.

Step 7: Right after my agent started presenting RUDY TOOT-TOOT to editors I lost my job.  I'm pretty sure the two events are not related, but who knows, I love a good conspiracy theory.

I took advantage of the two months between gainful employment opportunities to write the first draft of another book.  Thinking I might be best served continuing in the children’s book market, I chose an origins-of-Santa story I’d been contemplating for several years.

I wrote the first draft of THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS in about 6 weeks.  Then I reached out to a diverse group critique partners, including children’s book authors, YA authors, and authors of literary adult fiction.  I had a fifth-grader read my book, and I read the book aloud to a class of third-graders; the kids all liked it.  I incorporated the feedback from my critique partners (NOTE: a.k.a. "critters" in some writing circles) and revised the manuscript and emailed a copy to my agent.  I thought it was pretty good.  My submission was met with:

Silence.

I called to follow up on the submissions for RUDY TOOT-TOOT.  My follow-up was met with:

Silence.

For nearly six months I heard nothing from my agent, and I tried to reach out to her monthly.  I noticed on one call that she now had an intern.  I saw in Publisher’s Marketplace that she was selling books.  Just not mine.

Eventually she responded to an email and let me know that RUDY didn’t get any offers, but said she would read my new book.  She asked me to give her a month.  I did, and when I got back in touch with her, she had not read it.  She asked for another week.  I gave it to her.  She still did not read it.  It was one more week when we both realized that our author/agent relationship was not going to work and parted ways.  It was bittersweet, because as frustrating as the end was, her editorial guidance and feedback helped me to grow as a writer and storyteller.

But I do believe that things happen for a reason, and I'm not about to hold a grudge, because eventually... 

Step 8: I revised THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS again and again.  I applied everything I had learned and poured my heart and soul into the book.  The result is a very special story; I feel honored that The Muse picked my fingers to hammer it out, because I think it's a great read.  I guess that's a conceited thing to say on some levels, but what do you expect?  I'm asking people to spend their hard-earned money on the book and take hours from their busy lives to read it...you should hope I think it's good.  

I considered querying and going the traditional publishing route, but I realized that to do that, my book would not be published until 2012 at the very earliest…more likely fall of 2013.  I decided that I did not want to wait that long.  The story is ready to be told.

But speed-to-market is not the only reason I decided to self-publish.  I’ve been watching the changes to the publishing market over the past several years.  I wouldn’t suggest everyone self-publish.  I don’t know if I’ll self publish my next book.  But for this book, I feel the time is right, and I’m comfortable with my decision.

THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS is available at Amazon.com in print and Kindle editions, and it also available for the Nook at BarnesandNobel.com.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

A New Review and a Book Give-Away

As an interlude between parts One and Two of "My Path to Publication" I'd like to draw your attention to Sue Quinn's blog and a wonderful review of THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS.

If you haven't ordered a copy, drop by Sue's blog and leave a comment today or tomorrow and you will have a chance to win a signed copy of the book.  Click here for more details, and thanks so much, Sue, for your kind words and support! 

Click here to read part one of My Path to Publication. Stay tuned tomorrow for part two, and visit Sue's blog again on Wednesday for an interview that will shed some additional light on the story behind THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS (and my plans for my next book...).

Friday, August 19, 2011

My Path to Publication- Part One

I published a book.  It’s a story-within-a-story (within a story) called THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS.  But despite all the things I’d like to share about the layered story-telling in my book, I have a different tale to tell you now: the story of how this book came to be.

Rather than go with traditional publishing, I chose to self-publish.  It’s not a decision I made lightly.  I did many things before I went down this path…

Step 1: I wrote a novel.  Now to be clear, I am not talking about THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS, I’m talking about the first novel I wrote, FATE’S GUARDIAN, a 120,000-word paranormal thriller.

Step 2: I queried and was rejected.  Eventually I earned a request for a partial from a popular agent. Unfortunately he didn't request the full manuscript.  But I gained something from the experience: great feedback and inspiration to keep trying.  

Step 3: The experience also forced me to swallow a bitter pill: I needed to re-write FATE’S GUARDIAN from scratch.  I started into that process, and was amazed at how much better my second attempt was.  I was learning, and practicing hard to get better at the craft.  I was a writing machine.  I even started writing a new book, a satire about the end of the world.  I woke up early to work on FATE’S GUARDIAN, and I worked on EARTH’S END in the evenings.

Step 4: I read news that a long-time children’s book editor had come on board with a reputable New York agency.  I dusted off a 500-word picture book manuscript I had written for my children years before, a silly little story about a boy named RUDY TOOT-TOOT.  Rudy was born on a bean farm, and he had a special talent.  Something someone who eats beans everyday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner would be expected to do.  He can fart.

The query and manuscript caught the agent’s attention.  She liked the premise, but thought there wasn’t enough to it.  It was worthy of something more; Rudy’s toots needed real plot consequences.  She advised I try to expand it and stay in touch.

Step 5: Several thousand words later I had a fledgling chapter book.  I queried again, and was offered representation…but with a caveat.  While I was on the right track, my story still felt like a small part of a larger work, and my agent asked if I could put more into it.

Mornings and evenings were dedicated to Rudy, and after 13,000 more words I thought I had it.  Rudy had moments of literary glory, moments of humor, and moments of learning.  What it didn’t have was cohesion.  I was trying to be too many things, and my agent told me as much.

Step 6: They say real writers re-write, and since I hope to be a real writer one day, that’s exactly what I did.  I followed my agent’s advice and my gut instinct and found the voice of the story, fixed character inconsistencies, removed an anti-climax and wrote a great ending.  I had it critiqued, and my readers thought it was ready.  My agent agreed, and RUDY TOOT-TOOT went on submission. 

Click here for Part Two: The Arrival of Cinder Clouds...

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

The New 10 Commandments

NOTE: This is a piece of satire.  Mostly.   But regardless, it's bound to offend some people.  If you think you will be offended, please don't read this post.  You have been warned.  If you have a sense of humor and/or you are also a jaded cynic who is fed up with the way religion has been distorted by our political system, by all means, read on and share your thoughts.

I was reading political news this morning (a bad habit I am trying to quit), and I realized something: 

Everything I learned in church was wrong.

I always thought the golden rule was "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" but that's so two-thousand years ago. I started taking notes and doing research today and came up with a new list of 10 commandments that reflect the Biblical virtues extolled by our politicians, pundits, and vast strings of chain emails:

1.    Thou shalt not help the poor, for any reason, ever.  They are all worthless, lazy leaches, and f@#% them anyway.

2.    Thou shalt hate people from other countries and other religions, because f@#% them too.  No more of this "Good Samaritan" crap.

3.    Thou shalt not make any move to protect the birds, the flowers, or any other of God’s creations except your own damn self, because God will take care of them.  Also because f@#% them.

4.    Thou shalt hate all homosexuals, because fuc…wait a minute, no.  F@#% them definitely doesn't apply here.

5.    Thou shalt not have an abortion.  Not even if thou art assaulted, battered, raped, and impregnated by a schizophrenic psychopath.  The demon seed has a right to life.  But if that schizophrenic psychopath also knocks over a convenience store, fry his ass.    

6.    Thou shalt not pay any taxes, ever.  Especially if thou art a corporation.

7.    If thou prayest the loudest and in front of the most people, thou art the most holy, and therefore the best able to translate the scripture into modern legislature.

8.    Thou shalt be the richest motherf@#%er on the block with a pimped out ride and a million dollar crib, because that's what Jesus would do.

9.    Thou shalt read the Bible often, only paying attention to short phrases that can be bent to your ever-changing political whim while ignoring the larger context of the book in whole.

And last but certainly not least, the most bi-partisan of all commandments:

10.    Thou shalt lie thy ass off if it gets thou votes.

I'm so glad I have it figured out now.  I think I'll live a much better life by following these principals.  I hope they work just as well for you!

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Piano Talk, Continued

More Piano Talk for this week!

When the piano teacher was explaining sharps and flats to my younger son, he used a flat tire as an example:

"...So a flat note is going down, like air going out of a tire.  Now what do you think sharp is?"

To which my budding young Beethoven replied: "Putting air back in the tire?"

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Queen of Wal-Mart

Yesterday Nathan Bransford announced a contest on his blog (NOTE: Attention spell-checker- "Bransford" is legitimate word, add it to your damn dictionary already).

The goal: Write a funny scene (in 350 words or less).

Never one to shy away from the opportunity to make people laugh so hard the milk they are drinking shoots out their noses, I channeled my inner fat lady and submitted this entry:

"The Queen of Wal-Mart"
By Rick Daley

It all started when they opened that new Wal-Mart at the corner of Renneck and Hylbly Street…you know the one, the Super Center.  I knew from the get-go it was going to ruin our community, and I was right.  You wouldn’t believe the class of people started turning up.  Rich folk from across the tracks.  Well, they was about to get out-classed by yours truly.  I am the Queen of Wal-Mart.

I saw her from the checkout line.  She was easy to spot ‘cause of her lack of fashion sense.  She didn’t wear nearly enough eye makeup and her hair was too short to pull back with a scrunchy.  Her clothes fit all loose…If I had hips that tiny I’d wear Spandex every day.  Course I do wear Spandex every day but that’s beside the point. 

She was in the produce section, her son standing next to her pulling on her skirt and pointing to the display of chips.  She kept pushing his hand away and picking out vegetables, which is just dumb because the chips were buy-one-get-one-free and vegetables just suck.

I snapped when she said “No” so loud even the people in line 18 heard her and then she dropped the carrots in the cart.  Not even proper carrots, so a kid can nibble on one like Bugs Bunny and then spit that nasty shit out.  She had baby carrots.  I hate those things and everything they stand for.

I marched over, footsteps thundering so hard they made the Muzak skip.  I grabbed that poor boy away from her, grabbed two bags of chips, and carried him back to the checkout line.

She followed me and kept looking back at her cart all protective-like, as if someone was actually gonna steal her vegetables.  Not in this Wal-Mart, sister. 

She got the manager, who took my side until she explained that it was actually her kid.  Apparently they got laws that let rich people abuse their kids, so I had to give him back.  But the best part?

They let me keep both bags of chips.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Scary New Kids' E-Book Hits The Web Today


I just bought a new e-book, written by my friend Anita Laydon Miller.  It's a middle-grade novel, and priced at just $0.99 how could I not add it to my Kindle library? (NOTE: Done.)
It's called "A Scary Good Book" and based on the description it looks like an entertaining thriller for younger readers:

Twelve-year-old Hannah Stone tells everyone she’s “okay,” but that’s a total lie. Two years ago her dad was killed by a hit-and-run driver. The detective in charge of the case never found the driver, but he somehow managed to get Hannah’s mom to fall in love with him. The jerk. And speaking of love, Hannah’s developed a major crush on Ollie Ortega—he’s her best friend and the only one she can talk to—a crush on Ollie is so not a good idea.

Also not a good idea? Searching for a missing person with no help from the police. But that’s exactly what Hannah does when she finds messages in library books—underlined words that point her in the direction of someone who needs her.

And, suddenly, Hannah’s even further from okay. She breaks into a library, gets caught in a kidnapper’s web, and is stalked by her dad’s killer, all in an effort to save a life…but can she save herself, too?


Friday, August 5, 2011

Reviews for "The Man in the Cinder Clouds"

My book The Man in the Cinder Clouds is now available for the Nook at BarnesandNobel.com!  Nook and Kindle editions are only $4.99 and delivery is immediate.  Help spread the word!

Get it in print.
Get it on your Kindle.
Get it on your Nook.
Get it in your iWhatever (NOTE: this is really the Kindle version, you'll need the Kindle app on your iWhatever).

Here are the reviews it's received so far on Amazon and GoodReads.  Thanks to all for reading and supporting my book.  I think it's a special story and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to share it with people.

5 Stars, TRIFECTA! Adventure, humor, and something old made new again., July 25, 2011
"THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS is one of those middle grade books that the grown-ups get sucked into along with their kids. You think you bought if for your young reader but after you browse chapter one you just sort of... can't stop.

"For the kids: The story starts with an adventure gone dreadfully boring as a boy accompanies his dad on an expedition to the North Pole. He discovers that the exotic location can't overcome the drudgery of hanging out with scientists for a few weeks, even if Santa Claus is reputed to live somewhere nearby. The scientists make a discovery in the ice, though, that captures not only Jason's imagination but everyone else's. For one thing, not even the scientists can figure out why the book they've found appears to each person in his native language.

"If the book they've uncovered is what it seems, it tells the tale of how Santa Claus came to be the figure we all know today. The traditions and images we associate with Santa are all rooted in his first Christmas venture to find one example of goodness in humanity. He fulfills his own quest while helping a brother and sister who desperately need an ally.

"For the grown-ups: THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS is intricate, with two stories unfolding together as Jason discovers the history of Santa Claus and the children in the Santa story overcome their own hardship by taking care of each other. It's also funny, with humor and references the kids will get but doesn't rely on lowbrow jokes that an older reader would just find silly. The wit shines through in chapter one and the story carries you right through to the end.

"I'm going to recommend this one to my school librarian as well as my kid's teachers. Charming, satisfying, warm, and plain old fun to read."

5 Stars, loved it, August 2, 2011
"I have read and watched many santa claus stories and movies in my many years on earth, and by far this is the best christmas story I have ever heard. I agree with Debbie it needs to be a movie, Good work Rick I can't for many more books to by written by you."

5 Stars, Very good book, July 22, 2011
"I love this book. When you get to the end you don't want to leave the characters. The story is very well written and my only complaint is that it is over too soon! I would love to see this as a Christmas movie."

5 Stars, A bit biased, but who doesn't love Santa, July 30, 2011
"I know Rick interpersonally (i.e., from the web via his terrific blog)and he's by far one of the funniest people out there when it comes to kids' humor (and adult humor, for that matter). This book melds that humor with his typical charm into a tripled layered tale about doing the right thing (A Rick Daley joint) with a familiar protagonist (i.e., Santa Claus) in an inventive origin yarn. Definitely would recommend for the kid in all of us. "

5 Stars, The read, July 22, 2011
"I found this book well written in every way.
Organization, story line, imagination, all excellent!
Should be made into a movie!"

5 Stars, The Man in the Cinder Clouds, August 4, 2011
"what a great book. I enjoyed all of this story and you get so involved that you just can't lay the book down. I guess it just brought the kid in me out. This would make an excellent movie and would be especially great around the Christmas season. Keep up the good work Rick!!! Can't wait for the next book."

5 Stars, Great Read!!, August 3, 2011
"Christmas in July!! What a perfect time to release this book and to read it! I'm sure all ages will love it- It is an easy read, and a hard to put down book! Would make a great movie during the xmas holidays! Can't wait to read more from this author!"

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Kindle Alert!

My book The Man in the Cinder Clouds is now available on Kindle!  It's only $4.99, if you've been waiting for the lower-priced eBook version, it's time to download...

Many thanks to all who have already bought a copy of the print version.  The personal feedback I've received has been great, and there are 6 awesome reviews on Amazon!  Check out what readers have said so far.

For those with iPads and similar devices, there's a Kindle app available for free (unless Apple has removed it...I have one on my iTouch from a year ago). 

For Nook users, hang tight...I'm working on a Barnes & Nobel upload, and hope to have a Nook version available in the near future.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Creative Problem Solving

The Problem: Six kids, one trampoline, and I want to drink my beer in peace.

The Solution: A kitchen timer, 5-minute intervals, and 2-kid limits.

Cheers!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Piano Talk

Our sons have piano lessons this evening, and the piano teacher said this:

"Play an F and A."

But they way I interpreted it, because I am immature and it is much more fun, is:

"Play an effin' A." (The common substitute for a full blown F-bomb (In case you didn't know)).  "No, not the C.  Play the effin' A."

Chuckles from the kitchen, and then an F and an A resonated through the house

"Attaboy!"

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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sand Art- Kris Kringle Hits the Beach

All of the other sand sculptures this week were practice sessions for my special The Man in the Cinder Clouds sculpture...it was Christmas in July on Hilton Head Island!

Here we have Kris Kringle hanging out under the branches of an evergreen tree.  I wanted to add some other characters, but didn't have the time.  I also wanted to make a fireplace with his boots / legs in it, and an evergreen ranch and burnt chair leg on the hearth and a stocking hanging and a dollhouse and pair of boots...Maybe next year.

Sand Art- What a Croc!

Friday was the last day at the beach.  Yesterday we were up at 5:30 am, on the road by 6:45am, and thanks to loads of traffic that at one time required 90 minutes to move forward 10 miles, we made it home by 9:15pm.

I made two sculptures on Friday.  First was an alligator, but it may really be a crocodile (NOTE: Crikey!) because I tried to show some teeth outside its mouth.  I think that's the major difference between the two, aside from the spelling of their names, but I'm not willing to consult Wikipedia right now so someone will have to fact-check me in the comments.  The final sculpture will be posted later today...




Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sand Art with a Porpoise

Today's art has meaning, a theme. It exists for a porpoise...

I had to do this quickly, the tide was coming in.  It's still just a warm-up for the end of the week Cinder Clouds sculptures, which may not be posted if they totally suck.
A porpoise surfaced at the beach

Hey buddy, got any fish?

Some other sand artist is at work today...

And doing a damn good job!  This was there before I started.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sant Art: The Sphinx

Here are some pictures of my first sand sculpture: The Sphinx.  I'm warming up for a Cinder Clouds-themed sculpture later in the week.  I think a croc / alligator will invade the beach too. 

The Sphinx lasted about an hour before we watched the tide destroy it, which of course is half the fun.

After I had completed the Sphinx, my kids were helping me build the perimeter wall when several other kids came by to see the sculpture.  Then they left and reappeared with shovels and quickly got to work helping us.

"Cool, we have slave labor," I said.  My younger son picked up on that and relayed that little factiod to every other person who came by.




Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sand Art

I'm going on vacation next week, and one thing I like to do at the beach is build sand sculptures.  I need suggestions for new things to build.  If you have any ideas, please leave a comment.  Here are a few examples from vacations past:

Sand Shark

Bugs Bunny

Surf's Up Doc
That's all, Folks!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Past Lives

The other day, we were all driving in the car and my younger son said, with absolute deadpan delivery: "I really enjoyed my past life as an alien."

Tough not to burst into laughter at his matter-of-fact tone of voice, so of course that's what the rest of us did.

"What? I did," he insisted.

I am really enjoying this life as that boy's father ;-)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ancient Book Discovered Under Arctic Ice

COLUMBUS, OH (July 2011)- A team of climatologists just reported a startling discovery: an ancient book of unknown origin was found embedded deep in an Arctic ice core.  The team immediately set out to excavate the rest of the book—the drill had only punched through its center—and spent days piecing it together before cracking the cover.  The text is in English, Spanish, and Japanese, and tells an incredible story you have to read to believe…

Such is the premise of The Man in the Cinder Clouds, a debut novel by Rick Daley.  This brilliant re-telling of the origins of Santa Claus brings the nostalgia and wonder of the old clay-mation Christmas specials to life.  “Rather than try to trace Santa’s history through the years, I focused instead on his first Christmas, and the challenges he faced that year,” Daley explained.  “I wanted to make it real.”

And feel real it does.  This story-within-a-story (within a story) reveals the origins of all of the most famous aspects of the Santa Claus legend: from his red suit and white hair to Christmas trees, stockings, and lumps of coal (and everything in between).  The story also answers the age old question: How does Santa fit all those presents in his sack?

“The little details are a big part of the book’s appeal.  They are not gratuitous; they all make sense in the context of the story and the characters.  Sure his suit is red because that’s his favorite color, but why is red his favorite color?  It’s no spoiler to say he meets Mrs. Claus and falls in love, but how does their relationship grow? That’s what was important to me in writing this tale,” Daley said.  “And while the main character is Kris Kringle—known as ‘the man in the cinder clouds’ after an accident involving a chimney—the layers of the story above and below Kris’ tale are thrilling…from the people who found the book in the ice, struggling to decide if they should keep it and get rich or find a way to return the book to its rightful owner, to the two orphans Kris befriends after their greedy uncle robs them of their inheritance.”

If you've ever believed in Santa Claus, this is the book for you.  And there’s no need to wait until Christmas, you can open this one early: The Man in the Cinder Clouds is currently available in print through CreateSpace, and will be available at Amazon.com and other online retailers in the coming weeks.  A Kindle version is scheduled for release in early August.  For more information, visit www.cinderclouds.com.

Publication Date: July 12, 2011

IBSN-13: 978-1461091684

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Adventures in Parenting: Tequila Edition

Here's a fun endeavor for our more adventurous parents.  This is a step-by-step guide to sure-fire laughter and joy:

Step 1: Invite friends over for a cookout and margaritas.

Step 2: While the food is cooking, use a small bottle of Patron Silver to make several rounds of margaritas.

Step 3: Observe a nine-year-old boy playing with the now-empty bottle, which has a cool shape and a convenient cork.

Step 4: Observe that your wife is not in the room.

Step 5: Emit a mad scientist laugh and tell the boy we're going to play a trick on Mom.

Step 6: Rinse the bottle well, but leave a little water (about 3 shots worth).

Step 7: Have the boy walk up to Mom, hold up the bottle, and say, "Dad said I could drink this!"

Step 8 (must be done IMMEDIATELY after step 7, timing is critical in comedy routines): The boy uncorks the bottle and chugs while Mom stands up in a panic saying, "No, I'm sure Daddy...NO!!!"

Step 9: Laugh. 

Step 10: Catch your breath and wipe the snot bubble from your nose.

Step 11: Laugh.

Step 12: Repeat steps 9-11.

Hope you did something fun on your holiday weekend too!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Adventures in Parenting: Wilderness Edition

For this installment in our Family Adventure series, we’re going camping. That’s right: camping. Our style is to rough it to the hilt, as you will soon see. We are Expert Campers. That’s right: Expert First-Time Campers.

Sure my wife and I have camped before, growing up. We even camped together. Once. And we pitched the tent with our kids in a friend’s backyard a time or two (NOTE: That doesn’t count as camping).

We knew this trip would be enlightening. We would learn fun facts, like “How fast can you unzip the tent door in an emergency?” (Answer: Not fast enough. Keep reading, if you dare.)

Step one for a fun family camping adventure: Packing.

We brought: Tent, tarp, sleeping bags (4), pillows (4), air mattresses (2), blankets (3), flashlights (3), fan, cooler of food (eggs, bacon, cinnamon-swirl bread, fresh-cut veggies, fresh-cut fruit salad, sliced turkey, lettuce, brats, hot dogs, home-made slaw and chili for the dogs, buns, ketchup, mustard, paper towels, trash bags, salt, pepper, a rhubarb pie, a Buckeye pie, some nuts, and Dorito’s Cheeseburger-flavored chips (NOTE: Yes, they do taste like cheeseburgers. No, that does not make them good)), cooler of beverages (wine (red and white), beer to drink, beer to boil brats, water, Gatorade, ginger ale, Fresca, lots of ice), camp-fire skewers to roast hot dogs and marshmallows, guitar, lawn chairs (4), sparklers (6 boxes), fishing poles and tackle (2 each), duffle bags of clothes (2), duffle bag of towels, and bathroom kits (3).

Can you believe it, we forgot the kitchen f*&^ing sink. Like I said: Roughing it.

Step two toward a fun-filled camping trip: Getting there and setting up.

The kids enjoyed the ride there because I drove fast over the rolling hills and it tickled their tummies. My wife didn’t enjoy the ride there as much because I drove fast over the rolling hills and it tickled her tummy.

My aunt & uncle were already there with a pop-up camper set-up and dinner on the grill. I spread out our tarp and unpacked our tent, and just as I exposed the tent to the air it started raining. The faster I worked, the harder the rain came down. I think it’s important to tell you that the top of the tent is all screen, and before the rain cover is attached it’s kind of like a giant cup.  I’m glad we brought the duffle bag of towels.

Step three to a relaxing time in the country: Food and activities.

We brought some food with us (see Step One) and ate well for every meal, except lunch Saturday because we ate so well for breakfast we weren’t hungry. It happens.

My wife and I took the boys canoeing. I asked for a three-hour tour, but we settled for the five-mile trip. There were several places where rope swings overhung the river. We stopped at one and the boys and I climbed 5-6 feet up the bank and swung out and dropped into the river. It was cold, but fun!

Step four to an exercise in sleep deprivation: The wake up call.

At this point in the story, those of you with weaker stomachs will find out that you have a lot in common with my elder son. It started all evening long, when he ate a chili dog, a bratwurst, rhubarb pie, buckeye pie, a brownie, and a s’more. Then, at precisely 2:35 a.m. he began moaning and kicking my air mattress in such a manner as to deliberately wake me and/or my wife. It took some time for him to convince me that there truly was something wrong, for this child has called wolf a time or two in the past. I made a quick deduction: he had been complaining about the bathrooms since we arrived the day before, so he must be holding something back, and it reached critical mass. (NOTE: Man, that is one complicated way of saying he had to take a shit.)

We loaded into the car and drove to the main bathroom / shower facility. I will put it loosely and tell you everything came out all right (read all the way into that one). Our drive back to the campsite was exciting, as we came very close to scoring some fresh venison on the way.

At exactly 4:32 a.m. my son woke me up again, kicking furiously and saying he needed to go to the bathroom again. Since it was Father’s Day, I poked my wife and suggested she take this shift. Then my son got up really fast and yanked on a zipper on the tent door. Unfortunately the zipper he pulled was to the flap covering the screen, not the zipper to open the door, so he was still stuck inside the tent.

What followed was a sound similar to a bucket of slop being dumped on the ground. Twice. I sprang into action.

First order of business: Open that door. 

Second order of business: Get a flashlight and assess the damage. Luckily a blanket we had laid out by the door caught most of the…let’s just call it a chili dog, a bratwurst, rhubarb pie, buckeye pie, a brownie, and a s’more.

Third order of business: Get rid of that stinking blanket before any foul odor has the chance to permeate the tent (NOTE: I almost made it).

Final order of business: Clean up, helped him rinse his mouth, and get back to bed.

Step five to a camping adventure: Packing up and heading home.

‘Nuff said. 

Stayed tuned for the next installment in our Family Adventure series: The 5k Race…