The Guilty Party

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Investment Opportunity of a Lifetime!

A few years ago I squandered several hundred dollars in order to bring my novel out into the light of day. I had spent a decade or so--on and off, but still, a lot of time--in creating it, a couple of years and lots of paper and postage in attracting an agent who would shop it to the big publishers, and another couple of years getting nice emails from my agent with the latest "We loved it but have no idea what to do with it" rejections from those big publishers. Confident that all it needed was a cover, a photo of Your Truly and a spot on Amazon.com, I did the self-publishing thing through iUniverse and in the course of the next few years came within almost several hundred dollars of recouping my investment. In other words ROI was nothing to brag about to the accounting department (wife) or shareholders (rest of family).

Then, a bit over a year ago came an opportunity with a nice UK writers' site I have frequented to have Do-Overs. And Do-Overs without several hundred dollars involved. So I gave the book a polish, changed a few things that seemed to need changing, including the title (Boomerang), and so far the ROI is on the positive side. Cool.

But I have recently been approached by iUniverse with a marketing idea that is what only can be called Sure Fire and I Want To Share It With You!

Here is the entire copy of the correspondence I received from Sheryll Gomez, Marketing Guru and Millionaire Creater Extraordinaire at iUniverse:


Does your book have Hollywood potential? 

You worked hard on your manuscript and took the necessary steps to have it published. Now, you can see your work come to life in a live-action Hollywood Book Trailer.  With professional actors and Hollywood producers, your video will be a high-quality piece that you will be proud to show off.

In addition, We  will submit your work to a professional agent who will review your Hollywood Book Trailer and decide whether to represent it to movie production studios and other entertainment companies.  The agent has been responsible for selling such books to film to studios such as NBC Universal , Time Warner, Lionsgate, Sony and many many more.”


With a Hollywood Book Trailer, you get:

  • 60 to 90 second custom-made, live-action Hollywood Book Trailer
  • A review by a professional film agent
  • Placement of your book trailer on multiple well-known sites, including YouTube, Metacafe, DailyMotion, and your book details page in the Xlibris webpage
  • A single targeted e-mail campaign with a link to your Hollywood Book Trailer distributed to 1,000,000 potential customers
  • A press release with a link to your Hollywood Book Trailer
  • A social media marketing set-up of sites like Facebook, WordPress, MySpace, Flickr, to name a few, where your Hollywood Book Trailer will either be embedded or provided a link to
  • Web streaming capability and high-quality video downloads

Hollywood Book Trailers make a compelling addition to your press releases, social media sites, and personal web sites.  You will own all the rights to your Hollywood Book Trailer and will be provided with the final video file to share with readers, friends, and family and include in your marketing materials.  In the competitive marketplace, a Hollywood Book Trailer will catch buyers’ attention and make your book stand out in the crowd!

*Hollywood Book Trailers work best for promoting mystery, action, suspense and drama pieces.  Science fiction, historical novels, poetry, cookbooks and children’s books may not work as well.  Please consult with your Marketing Consultant to determine if a Hollywood Book Trailer is right for your work.

The value for the Hollywood Book Trailer is $19,999 but I can give it for you for only $16,999.15 so you save up to $2,999.85. Great savings right. This promotion is only up until December 30, 2009. A great way to end the year by getting this Hollywood Book Trailer.

This service is available in payment installment options using credit or debit card with a one-time $30 processing fee paid in a 30-day increment.


If you have further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me by phone or by e-mail.  


Best regards,


Sheryll Gomez
Marketing Consultant
iUniverse, Inc.




So, for those of you who have the foresight to see the enormous profit potential of such an endeavor, here is your opportunity to become a part of a World Wide Phenomenon. Yes, you can proudly tell your friends and associates that you are a Producer of the Book Trailer for Close Enough for Government Work (aka Boomerang), with a minimal investment of just four thousand dollars. Once we have the right number of investors in place production will commence, including a musical production number that has come to me in a vision and is sure to make this Sure Fire Idea into Something Even Better. Picture, if you will, the classic spectacle that is "Springtime for Hitler", but with J.Edgar Hoover leading the ensemble. Bethie can be the head chorus girl. The world will flock. Yes, it will flock. It won't be able to help itself from flocking!

And you will become rich! Fabulously rich! Insanely rich! Obscenely rich! Ooh, how cool will that be?



So don't delay, send your check immediately. This opportunity won't last long! Once we've reached our limit of twenty investors, the door to this Pathway to Wealth and Power will be closed!




One other idea that springs to mind is a more modest investment of about ten dollars for the paperback of Boomerang or just a couple of bucks for the ebook edition


Whether you pick the path to sure riches (four thousand) or sure entertainment (ten or two), be assured you are making one author very happy indeed!










Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sometimes the Best Advice Comes From the Least Likely Source: Our Own Darned Self






Carpe Your Own Diem, Buddy!



Several days ago a young woman at work was saying that she would just as soon the holiday season be over and done with. Not her favorite time of year. She didn't elaborate on what it is about November/December that she doesn't like, but my guess is at least some of her reasons are very much along the lines of It's Too Long; It's Too Commercialized; and All the Stores (including, unfortunately, the excellent establishment that employs us both) Play Godawful Music. If so, then let's face it, she's right on all counts.

I know very well what it is to face with dread that chunk of the year that for some reason we call The Holiday Season. As someone who has paid the mortgage and put food on the table by working in the retail industry the phrase "holiday season" is one hell of a misnomer. For decades, for me it meant six or seven day work weeks, long hours on those days, early openings, late closings, customers screaming at me because a small child's Christmas will be ruined because a product is out of stock, and a predictable percentage of employee absence, tardiness and theft. Like my young coworker I couldn't wait for it to be over either.

So why, when confronted with "I can't wait for the holidays to be over." from a lovely, intelligent young woman, didn't I just nod my head in empathetic harmony? Why did I feel the need to bring her round to a more positive frame of mind? Why did I trot out my own personal version of Carpe Diem/Smell the Roses/All We've Got is Today So Look for the Blasted Silver Lining on her?

I'm not really sure, but even if my attempt to get her to see that each of us is responsible for how we approach not just each season, but each day, hour and moment, didn't make any sort of impression on her (I hope she didn't just see it as Old Man Babbling On, but there is that distinct possibility) I am quite selfishly glad I did it. Why? Because I needed the reminder myself. Heck, I need it a lot. I've known for a long time the value of time and energy and how what we do with each is perhaps the biggest factor in creating the life well-lived. I know the importance of not squandering these finite assets in wasteful pursuits. And I know one of the most wasteful pursuits is that of Waiting For This to Be Over So The Good Stuff Can Start. Well, the Good Stuff shows up when it darned well pleases, following nobody's calendar and calling ahead to announce its arrival time just about never at all. So we need to be ready for it. Maybe even create a bit of it for somebody else so it knows it will have company. That's a good thing that usually doesn't require Waiting.

I know all these things but am I good at incorporating them into my own life? Not so much. I grumble; I look forward to end-of-shift; I wish for cool weather when it's hot and warm weather when it's cold and blustery; I see the future as the place where the good stuff happens and the present as a swamp I've got to slog my way through. Too often I can't wait for tomorrow because today is whupping my butt or boring or just not what I wanted it to be.

So I would like to thank her for expressing her self-admitted Scroogified attitude and in doing so giving me an opportunity to lecture myself by bouncing it off of her. We all needs the ol' whack-upside-the-head sometimes, and every once in a while the best hand to administer the whack is at the end of our own arm.


Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Ted and Jerry Christmas Story

I would love to hear any and all ideas for a title. In the meantime, I hope you like "A Ted and Jerry Christmas Story"



A Ted and Jerry Christmas Story
by
Alan Hutcheson


It was a busy intersection, with traffic rushing through and three of the four corners bustling with commerce. On two of the corners stood grocery stores, shoppers swarming in with lists and hustling out with ingredients for holiday dinners and parties. On the third corner was a home improvement superstore, half of its big parking lot filled with cars, the other half brimming with Christmas trees and people. Huge, fluttering banners on the fence surrounding the lot proclaimed Guaranteed Lowest Prices& Biggest Selection. Brilliant lights were strung from tall poles, and atop the poles were speakers booming dance versions of holiday tunes.

On the fourth corner was a much smaller tree lot occupying a portion of the parking lot that had served half a dozen small shops, all of them shuttered and with For Lease signs in their windows. Approaching that corner, not in a car, but on a bicycle, were two men. The man pedaling was very large,not very happy looking, and had a guitar case slung across his back. The other, not nearly so large man, was unencumbered by any package, which was good as he was sitting on the handlebars, swaying side to side, swinging his feet back and forth and singing "All I Want for Christmas" at the top of his lungs.

The large man bobbed his head from side to side, trying to find the right counter rhythm to the smaller man's swaying, which was making it difficult for him to see ahead for more than a second at a time.

As they drew alongside the little tree lot, the man on the handlebars raised his voice even louder, in gleeful competition with the speakers across the street, but he was cut short when the front wheel of the bike hit a fragment of pine tree stump on the sidewalk, stopping the bike suddenly and sending him tumbling. He landed next to a beautiful noble fir. When he looked up he saw a young boy next to the tree. The boy was not looking at him, but rather at the large man, who had barely kept himself and the bicycle upright and who was now inspecting the guitar case, which had swung around in front of him.

"Jerry, you idiot!" the man growled. "You're lucky nothing happened to her." He gently eased the guitar case back behind him. "You can walk the rest of the way.' But when he tried to push off on the bike, he found that the front wheel was bent. "Gah!"

"Are you okay?" a woman was standing next to the boy, holding his hand and looking down at Jerry.

"Yeah, sure," said Jerry. He stood and inspected his light jacket, which was ripped near the elbow on both sleeves. He followed the gaze of the little boy. "Don't worry, he's harmless."

"I think he's looking at the guitar," said the boy's mother. The boy nodded slightly, his gaze fixed on the instrument case. "His father used to play." She looked back at a man who was holding a tree out for a young couple to inspect. They shook their heads and went back to their car.

"Hey, Ted," said Jerry, "how about a tune for the kid?"

"No, thank you," said Ted. "I've got a broken bike to carry all the way home, thanks to you." He lifted the front of the bike off the sidewalk and tried to spin the wheel, which wobbled and caught against the forks.

"I can fix that," said the father, who had come over to the fence.

"I don't want to bother you," said Ted.

"It's not like I've got anything else to do," the father said. He gave his wife a rueful smile.

"See?" said Jerry. "He said he can fix it."

"I heard him." Ted lifted the bike with one hand. "You're still not getting any more rides." He carried it inside the tree lot.

The father took a look at the wheel. "Make yourself comfortable," he said, nodding at some hay bales. Then he took the bike behind a trailer sitting at the back of the lot.

Ted sat, placing the guitar case across his lap. Jerry began wandering among the rows of trees.

"Don't you love the smell?" Jerry said, practically burying his face in a Fraser fir. He sneezed loudly.

"Idiot," muttered Ted, noticing too late that the little boy had come to sit next to him. "Not you," he said to the boy. The boy just stared at the guitar case. "You like guitars?" The boy nodded. "Me too. You want to see her?"

The boy's eyes widened. He didn't nod or say anything, but it was clear that he would very much like to see the guitar. Ted opened the case. The boy looked at the instrument, its honey-golden body and dark neck, intricate inlays on the fretboard and gold plated knobs and pickups.

"Play him something," called Jerry, still checking out the trees.

"I don't know any kid's tunes," said Ted.

"He likes Christmas songs," said the mother, who had come back with two mugs of coffee. Ted accepted one of the mugs, took a sip, then put the case on the ground in front of him and took out the guitar.

Ted strummed a couple of chord, then closed his eyes, as if to shut out the world, especially the canned music coming from across the street, and began to play "Silent Night". His huge hands, which seemed to be too thick, too clumsy of construction to negotiate the six closely spaced strings, moved over the fretboard with the grace and unpredictable but purposeful delicacy of butterflies touching down on a bank of flowers, extracting the sweetness of each blossoming note, then rising and touching down again and again.

The mother sat next to her son. He climbed on her lap and she wrapped her arms around him and began to sing. Although Ted made slight changes, added little embellishments with each repeat, she followed easily, holding her son, her own eyes closed as she sang.

As they began the last verse "Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love's pure light" the boy nudged his mother and she opened her eyes to see her husband standing there, the repaired bicycle at his side. The other sounds of the intersection had seemed to fade to almost nothing, a distant hum of activity. As Ted strummed the final chord Jerry's voice came from the rows of unsold trees.

"I don't know, how much do you think it should be?"

They all looked in Jerry's direction. He was standing at the end of a row, holding a tree out for an old man to inspect.

"It doesn't matter," said the old man. "I've got no money to buy a tree. I just heard the music and thought I would come have a look. Remember better times."

He turned and went back to the parking lot. But when he got to the old sedan, he opened the trunk, took out a battered guitar case and came back to Ted. "This belonged to my best friend. We got together every Christmas and played carols for the neighbors. Just strolling down the street, Sam on his guitar and me on my fiddle. Used to drive the wives crazy sometimes." He smiled for a moment. "Sam died three years ago. Lottie, that's his widow, gave his guitar to me. I'm ashamed to say I was going to sell it. But it looks like the music shop isn't here anymore." He stood there for a moment, as if studying Ted. "I'd like you to have it. It's got a lot of music left in it and the way you play I know it'll be in good hands."

He opened the case to reveal an old acoustic guitar, the soundboard almost worn through around the pickguard. "He called her Frankie," he said. "Never told anybody why, including me."

"Sarah's the jealous kind," said Ted, his arms enveloping the golden instrument on his lap. "But if Frankie's looking for a new home, you brought her to the right place." He nodded at the father. "Jerry, hold the bike."

Jerry took the bicycle and the old man handed the guitar to the father. He held it high, close to his ear, plucked a single string with his thumb and nodded. But he handed the guitar back to the old man.

"She's beautiful," he said. "But I can't give you anything for her."

"But if he's giving it away," said the mother.

"We don't take handouts," said the father.

"You weren't just going to give it to him," said Jerry. "Were you?"

"Ahh," said the old man. "Actually I―"

"Nah," said Jerry. "He was talking a trade. One guitar for one tree."

"My Marian would like a tree," said the old man. "And Frankie sure is tired of sitting in that case all the time."

"I don't know," said the father.

"We have a lovely noble right over there," said the mother. "It needs a home too."

"Then it's a deal," said the old man.

The father took the guitar once more. Ted played an open string and the father tuned the old guitar to the honey gold Sarah. Ted began to play "Silent Night " again and the father joined in, strumming chords tentatively at first, and then with more assurance. When he looked up briefly the old man was gone. But coming from the parking lot, by where the old sedan had been, came the sound of a violin, playing "Silent Night" along with the guitars. As if drawn in by the music, came cars into the parking lot; and out of the cars came people. Families and young couples and friends. And they gathered around the music and sang and then they bought trees. All of the trees on the lot.

Except the noble fir. It was already gone.




Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kreativ Blogging Award



Hey, I've Gotten an Award!

Incredible though it may seem, Sketches by Plumboz has received the coveted Kreativ Blogger Award. This prestigious award involves a substantial amount of cash, to be paid to my descendants in irregular installments as determined by the cast of "30 Rock", dinner at the White House with Dick Cheney (date to be chosen from among "President and Family Not In Residence" dates on White House calendar), and a guest spot on a repeat episode of "Montel Williams Cooks Thai!".

Naturally, an award with such special and profitable consequences has a string or two attached. I have to expose seven things about myself that are not general knowledge, and I need to recommend seven other worthy blogs.

So, here goes.

1.  I like the music of Gary Lewis and the Playboys

2.  My shoulders are not even

3.  I played Geoffrey, the middle son of Henry II in a college production of "Lion in Winter" and I did not look too terrible in those damned itchy woolen leggings we had to wear. Just terrible enough for people to comment.

4.  I can't get my lawn to look good no matter what I do.

5.  I like cloudy days.

6.  I live in the sunniest metropolitan area in the country (Phoenix) Okay, so that's not really a little known fact, but let's face it, my life is an open book. With highlighted paragraphs and dogeared pages.

7.  I make really good waffles.

Wow, that was tough and not a little embarrassing. But it's over, so now we'll move on to Seven Blog Worth Your Time.







7.  Anthony Bourdain  I think he would especially like to be awarded the Kreativ Blogger badge of honor.



Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Time for a Thank You

I am sitting here, listening to a rare Dick Haymes LP, and it strikes me as an appropriate time to express my thanks to the men in my life who made this moment possible. I have had the great good fortune to have some beautiful women in my life: my sweet, gentle, proper mother; my athletic, gregarious, outgoing sister; my amazingly focused, can-do, beautiful wife; my talented, smart and lovely beyond her own comprehension daughter. Many female friends over the years who have supplied me with ample evidence that God did indeed save the best for the last gender He created. I like women, about that let there be no doubt. But today I would like to say thanks to a few of the whiskered (and in some cases, male pattern balded) people who contributed so much to what little I can claim in the way of admirable, or at least fairly unique, character traits.

Why did the Dick Haymes LP bring this subject about? Chances are Dear Reader is waiting for me to explain just who this Haymes fellow is, or was, or is about to Google the name or submit it to Wikipedia. Here's a very brief intro, feel free to do your own research; Haymes was a pretty big name in show biz in the 1940's. He was an honest to gosh movie star in many musicals of the 40's, and a lot of songs from those films became popular hits for him, like "It Might As Well Be Spring" from State Fair. By the time I came around and grew a bit and had funds to purchase records, the name of Dick Haymes was ancient history and certainly not of interest to a Baby Boomer like me. But Dad had always had music in the house. Having grown up in the Thirties and Forties he of course gravitated towards the Great American Songbook and the jazz of the Dorseys and Benny Goodman, Harry James and Count Basie. But he also had a nice classical collection, with Dvorak, Tschaikovsky, Ferde Grofe, Howard Hansen, Jacques Ibert, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmoninoff and, of course, Gershwin on both LP's and 78's. Not to mention the weekly Boston Pops programs on PBS we watched as a family. I grew to understand and appreciate musical excellence in both popular song and concert hall styles. So when, as a young man of twenty-four I found a single copy of a newly released Dick Haymes album, I read the album notes, saw the song list and went for it. It's not my most frequently spun platter, but when I do dig it out, it's always good. And it wouldn't be there if it hadn't been for Dad.



 But I wouldn't have anything to spin it on if it wasn't for the generosity of my late friend Paul. The Dual turntable I have was given to me by Paul shortly after my Technics one gave up the ghost and I had no funds with which to replace it. Paul was in the market for something new himself, he said, and the Dual had already seen good service with him, but that was the way with him, he was careful to disguise acts of well timed generosity to minimize what he felt might be too much unnecessary gratitude on the part of the recipient. A couple of years before he passed away from multiple myeloma, he gave me his reel to reel tape deck and collection of tapes, including the recordings he and I made with our short lived band Spectrum and some often ridiculous, occassionally inspired jam sessions we conducted with our mutual friends Dane, Doug and Neal.

Paul was my friend for thirty-five years. We were in plays together in high school, reconnected when I came back home from a year in California and shared an apartment for five years until I got married. He was married shortly after. We tried to meet for coffee every week and played on opposite sides of the net in doubles tennis almost every Sunday with our mutual friends Jon and Andy for decades. He was the best man at my wedding and, along with my wife, I will always consider him to be my best friend, that rare and precious individual who understood what was going on inside me without needing any words. The guy who knew all the same cultural references, memorized all the same song lyrics, went ga-ga over the same female movie stars and singers. We shared so much, good and bad. It's good to have his turntable to play my LP's on, whether it be Dick Haymes or, more to Paul's taste, John Coltrane. When I lift the tonearm and gently place the needle in the grooves, I think of Paul.

The photo is from right before my wedding. Paul is the one of the left. He brought the fake nose and moustaches for himself, Andy and Jon. I liked my springloaded specs. The minister did not approve.





Mr. Jay Dean Jones was my theater teacher in high school. From him I learned about discipline, courtesy, fun, making choices, hard work and its payoffs, and the absolute joy of collaborative effort. He was my teacher in all of the theater classes Westwood High offered, my director in school plays as well as community theater musicals. He was patience itself, yet knew when and how to command your attention without ever having to raise his voice. He was gentle and authoritative, precise and freewheeling. He took chances but never compromised. He made me want to be a teacher, but when I went away to college I found I wasn't him and I was so disappointed that I veered from that path. I have tried to get back on it a couple of times since then but circumstances have not been in my favor. Perhaps that is for the best. I would forever be trying to be a second rate Jay Dean Jones, and the world doesn't need one of those. It has already experienced the real thing.

I hadn't become enamored of photography until near the end of the time I had working with Mr. Jones. It took some scrounging to find a contact sheet that included this shot of him directing an actress in a production of "Showboat" I was in.




There are plenty of incredibly generous, talented, patient, good hearted, intelligent people, both men and women, who have blessed me with their friendship, guidance or just a few minutes of their time. But these three men will always be at the top of my list. Heck, they all knew me when I looked like this and they still liked me.





Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I Just Came Here for the Band

ASU Band Day 2009 056

Our daughter is in the high school marching band. Her journey there began when she was six years old when we were on vacation in Seattle. We spent a good part of one day at a place called Experience Music Project, a fantastically designed building celebrating the act of making music, specifically dedicating itself to blues and rock and roll. Lots of exhibits, but more importantly, lots of ways of making music yourself. We had a blast. Our little daughter found a love of percussion. Couldn’t get her away from the place where you could pound out a rhythm along with anyone else who chose to join you. Doing our duty as parents, we asked if she would be interested in taking drum lessons when we got back home. We weren’t really expecting a positive answer, and if we got one we were fully prepared to see this “phase” last a few months at best.

Nine years later she’s still at it. She stuck through six years of private drum lessons, played in the elementary and junior high bands, handling a variety of percussion instruments, but finally gravitated to the mallet instruments: xylophone, vibraphone and bells. She can still handle a snare, chimes, tympani, or just about any other instrument that you strike with a stick, but she has narrowed her focus and she’s getting really good at it.

Makes me smile.

Way back when I was in high school I wouldn’t have been caught dead at a football game. My attitude toward the whole affair and those who participated in it was disdainful, to say the least, and my attitude hadn’t changed much in the ensuing decades. I couldn’t see the point of the whole exercise and as a student I resented the attention the sport received in the press, the budget they commanded (when my beloved theater department had to scrounge for funds), and the adoration the players received from a majority of the student body. Especially the pretty girls.

But now, thanks to my daughter and her passion for music making, I am at least a partial convert to the addiction that is Friday Night Lights. And it isn’t because I’ve suddenly developed a passion for the game that Andy Griffith described as “some kindly of a contest where they see which bunchful of them men can take that punkin and run from one end of that cow pasture to the other without gettin’ knocked down… or steppin’ in somethin’”. Nope I came the first time just for the band (more specifically for our daughter) and I come back for her and because the entire show is just so darned much fun. Doesn’t really matter what’s happening on the field–although a good, close game has its own charms–because even during a timeout, all you have to do is look around and there is something interesting, entertaining, jaw dropping or just plain silly happening somewhere within view.

It could be the cheerleaders performing what to me seem to be death defying acts of group acrobatics. Or the kids just past the endzone running an impromptu game of their own Or the young men (I think they must be on the gymnastics team) who dress up, quite minimally, in blue shorts and blue paint, and run around with flags spelling out the name of the team, then pump out pushups totally the number of points the team has scored; or the kids in the stands texting their friends sitting two rows away; or the mom shouting herself hoarse as she implores our team to take down and punish the fellow on the other team who is gaining a few too many yards to please her. The last game we attended had some miniature versions of the blue group, trying their best to emulate the big boys and having a great time doing it.

And sometimes even the football game is exciting.

But the one sure fire entertainment winner is always the band. You want to see and hear a group that exudes fun and high spirits and dedication and good sportsmanship and wickedly funny humor? Look no further than the band. The half time show is only a part of it. What they do in the stands keeps the crowd tapping their feet, cheering and sometimes laughing. From rollicking renditions of “Timewarp” to the trumpet section shouting out commercial jingles to the band director leading the crowd in choreography to “Louie Louie”, the band is the group to watch and listen to.

But the real fun, the absolute best part of the game for me is watching my kid, all intensity and concentration as her mallets fly. I don’t care what sport brought the rest of the crowd, I’m there to watch the seed that was sewn almost a decade earlier during a trip to a music museum blossom under the Friday Night Lights.
cheer squad
lil toros 2
color guard and toro
intense vibes

Thursday, October 29, 2009

So Why Is It Called "Sketches" by Plumboz?

Excellent question. Like many enterprises, this one started with a certain plan in mind, a method of operation that I thought I would be able to sustain, that in fact, would in itself help me in keeping a blog fresh and up to date. I would sketch something, use it as an original illustration to top off whatever I wanted to write about at that moment (whether it related in any readily identifiable way with the drawing or not), and in so doing not only reap the benefits to be had from the act of drawing (just ask Mr. DaVinci how drawing exercises the mind and puts one in touch with the world around us), but provide a source of amusement to my readers. The term “wobbly sketches” was coined by a reader friend just for my drawings
But as so often happens with original intentions, the drawings subsided. Time, interest, and subject matter (or at least subject matter I could come anywhere close to rendering in a recognizable fashion) all seemed to become less and less abundant. It has been months since I have opened up my sketchbook and done my worst with a pencil.

Shame on me.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t trot out a few of my favorites once more. Perhaps it will inspire me to take up the pencil once more. Perhaps not. But it’s pretty certain they will provide at least a chuckle or two from those who can make a tree look like a tree.

bench
A bench in our backyard. Hardly ever gets sat on. Pity.
harolds
Used to be a store called Harolds in the same shopping center as the store I managed. Both stores are gone now.
ruffsketch
Tried to draw Odie, my longhaired doxie. Hope he never sees this.
PICT3171
Front window of Victoria's Secret, also close to my old store
wine
Think I can get a gig at Bon Appetit magazine?
gardentours
By our patio door.
There you go, a Greatest Hits from my Sketching Period.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Operation eBook Drop and the Local Media

A few weeks ago a fellow writer at an online critique site clued me into a couple of places where I could go to promote the Kindle version of Boomerang. Before that I had no clue as to where or how to even begin getting the word out that an ebook edition was even available. Well, that one nudge from a kind and disinterested person had a few very positive effects. First, I learned about a site called Smashwords, where I could make Boomerang available for many different e-book readers in lots of formats, giving it a much wider potential readership. Once on Smashwords, I learned that the way I had formatted my book for e-readers was a whole lot less than optimal and I got easy, step-by-step instructions on how to correct the situation. During the course of this education I met quite a few helpful and interesting people on these ebook sites. And when I had Boomerang looking good, sales improved dramatically. Makes sense, eh?

And then, on Kindleboards.com, I happened across a thread about a brand new, absolutely grassroots effort to get free ebooks to troops stationed overseas. Started by a gentleman named Edward Patterson barely a month ago with an offer by him to send one soldier a collection of ebooks as file attachments, Operation eBook Drop has since expanded to almost two hundred authors, several small publishers, and a growing number of military personnel, including the crew of the Los Angeles class attack submarine, USS Oklahoma City.

As a participating author, I receive fairly regular emails from Ed, letting me know of any new troops who have signed up and been verified as eligible. I then send that soldier an email with a link to Boomerang on Smashwords and a coupon code that allows him or her to download it for free.

There is a real sense of connection when I log on to my Smashwords account and see that a Troop Coupon has been redeemed. And it's a joy to receive thank you notes, like the one from the commander of the USS Oklahoma City or the one from the mother of a soldier who is filling his Kindle in anticipation of his redeployment overseas. It the kind of endeavor a person wants to help make as successful as possible.

And so many of the Operation eBook Drop authors have been sending out press releases to their local media to help get the word out about this way we are trying to say thanks to the men and women who serve and sacrifice for us everyday. But I've got to tell you that the going has been slow, as most of us have run into a solid wall of Who Cares from newspapers, radio and television. I do not know the details of what other authors are sending out, but I try to make it clear that I am not looking for publicity for my novel and I don't care if they even mention my name, I'm just hoping to get the word out about the program. Because practically everyone either has a loved one or knows of someone who has a loved one in the service and the percentage of military personnel who have and use ebook reading devices is much higher than the general population. Which makes sense, since they allow a library's worth of books to be easily transported, an essential for a soldier. And reading is a great way to help pass the time, improve the mind, lift the spirit when so far away from home. Frankly, we would love to be swamped by requests for free ebooks. But in order to that to happen we need people to know what we are offering. So far the Phoenix media has been closed to me as a way of getting the word out. And I honestly don't understand why.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Apple Cream Cheese Pancakes

Apple Cream Cheese Pancakes

Oh Yeah


For decades now, or so it seems, it has been my assignment to produce Sunday breakfast for the family. Actually, it's kind of an honor, and I like doing it. But coming up with new things to serve, while still staying in the What Everyone Likes territory can be kind of challenging sometimes. Pancakes and waffles are the standard fare, but sometimes it's good to introduce some variety while still working with the tried and true. Here is something that has gone over very well with my family.

The pancakes are the same as what I always make. Here is the recipe I use:

3/4 cup of white whole wheat flour (King Arthur brand is really good) You can use regular whole wheat flour if you want, but I would reduce it to 1/2 cup instead and adjust the unbleached flour accordingly

1 3/4 cups of unbleached all purpose flour

Sift the flour. Really. I know it says "sifted" on the package, but sift the flour.

Add 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar

4 teaspoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

Stir up the dry ingredients

Beat two eggs. Don't be mean about it, just get them nicely, well, beaten.

Add two cups of either whole or 2 percent milk to the well beaten eggs. Then...

Add 2 tablespoons of canola oil

Stir up the wet ingredients and add to the dry stuff. Mix it up with a fork until the batter is pretty smooth, but not completely without lumps.

Smash up a couple of nice ripe bananas and add to the batter. Fold it in gently.

Heat up a griddle. I have a nice non-stick flat pan I use. Medium heat works for me. When the pan/griddle is hot I do a light smear of canola oil on a paper towel and rub it on the pan to make it very lightly greased.

With a big spoon, pour enough batter to make pancakes about six inches across.

Flip them when the edges begin to kind of pucker. Just pay attention and you'll know what I mean.

About a minute after flipping they will be ready. Put those on an oven safe plate in the oven set at about 210 degrees F and do the next batch.

That's the pancake part. Now here's what makes it kind of special.

Before you do the pancakes, thinly slice four apples. I like Granny Smith's for this, but last time I did it I only had Galas and they worked fine too. Don't peel them, you lose too much apple goodness when you peel them.

Put the apples slices in a nice sized pan, one that can accomodate four apples worth of slices with maybe just a little layering. Sprinkle a generous amount of brown sugar over the apples and then as many dashes of cinnamon as you like. Let them cook nice and slow over medium low heat. Add more sugar and cinnamon if you like. You want to cook them down to what I think we'll call apple pie consistency. Juicy and floppy and sweet and a bit tart.

All this is happening in the apple pan while you're making the pancakes.

When the pancakes and apples are ready, spread some whipped cream cheese on the top of one of the pancakes, spoon a generous amount of apple slices on top, spread a bit more cream cheese on the bottom of another pancake, put it on top of the apple slices, top the whole thing with a few more apple slices and maybe three or four banana slices, and repeat for all the pancakes you have. This recipe should give you about sixteen pancakes, or two stacks each for four people.

Real maple syrup warmed up and oh so yummy and you're ready to go.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Back on Track

The business of a writer, one would be excused for thinking, is to write. Sit down, scribble on a page or tap on a keyboard, and produce something. And since I have been identifying myself as a writer for some time now, one would also be excused for thinking that I occupy as much of my time as possible writing.

But lately that hasn't been the case and it is not a satisfactory feeling at all. Which is strange since what has been taking up what should be my writing time has been promoting time. A single note on the authonomy.com site from a fellow member there pointed me in the direction of a place called Kindleboards.com. There I learned so much about the production and distribution of ebooks that for the last four weeks have been devoted to first Making the eBook of Boomerang all spiffy and easy to read, and then Getting the Word Out. Result, at least so far, is what should be a very gratifying bump in number of copies of Boomerang out there in the real world. In that four week time span more than one hundred and fifty people have downloaded Boomerang to their Kindles or other ebook devices. That is a nice big leap in my readership and it ought to make me pleased. And it does. But getting there has been such a blasted diversion from writing the satisfaction of making the sales has been fleeting. Ooh! I sold four copies today! Sweet! Let's see where else I can get the word out and maybe tomorrow I'll sell five!

It has all boiled down to a Big Whoop without some fresh writing to accompany it.

So today I get back on track. I have a feeling whatever I crank out is going to be lousy, but as Anne Lamott would remind us, shitty first drafts are where it all begins. The compost from which the good stuff sprouts, as it were.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I've Finally Got This ebook Thing Down!

After quite a few tries, most of them without benefit of any sort of informed assistance, I finally found (well, okay, stumbled across) a great guide on how to properly format Boomerang for ebooks and now, after waiting for several days for the good folks at Amazon to decide that yes, Alan Hutcheson does have the rights to this particular piece of literary nonsense, the Really Good ebook Version of Boomerang, along with the very nice new “cover art” by a gentleman who goes by the online moniker of 911 Jason, is finally available on Amazon’s Kindle site.

I’m pretty psyched about it.

The book is good, if I do say so myself, and in ebook form it’s just a dollar, which is a darned good deal, once again if I do say so myself.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

There's Editing and Then There's...

Tossing out bits and pieces of your life. Sometimes it's tough to know which is which until you go looking for something you thought for sure you still had. I couldn't have gotten rid of that, right?

Several years ago, in one of my occasional efforts to Edit and Move Forward, I sorted through my many LP's (vinyl records that is, in case "LP" is a mystery to you) with the intention of freeing up some shelf space to accommodate more books. No more bookshelves seemed to be in our immediate future and there were lots of old records I hadn't spun in many a moon. When I was done with my winnowing I had a couple of boxes full, maybe a hundred or so, that I was sure I could do without. I had moved past them, outgrown them, gotten over the, didn't need them anymore.

Well, it was nice to have the extra room for more books, I mean books just keep needing to be acquired, don't they? But the fun of using the credit they got me at Bookman's Entertainment Exchange has long since worn off and every once in a while, when I'm sore in need of a dose of Jethro Tell, Focus, Procol Harum, Yes or even Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, I'm screwed. What was I thinking when I presented the tatooed man behind the counter with my complete Moody Blues collection? Geez, I even traded in my Mahavishnu Orchestra LP's. It's true that a person only needs to hear "Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love" maybe every two or three years, but when you need it, you need it and downloading a compressed version off of iTunes just ain't going to do the trick. Besides, it costs ninety-nine cents.

What prompted this particular Geez, I Shoulda Just Bought Another Bookcase on Credit moan? In today's newpaper the full page ad from concert promotion company LiveNation includes upcoming concert dates for Loggins and Messina (Together Again!), Gordon Lightfoot (This Time He'll Be Sober!), Steely Dan (Performing AJA in its entirety), Ian Anderson (Plays the ACOUSTIC Jethro Tull), Little Feat (40th Anniversary Tour), and The Phoenix Symphony Performs the Music of The Doors, with Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger. Yes, you read that last one right.

It all just made me want to crank up the old Dual turntable and listen to an unadulterated analog version of "Thick as a Brick", but I traded that away for the equivalent of fifty cents credit towards Vanity Fair or something. Fair trade? Maybe. But I still want my Days of Future Past.

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's ebook Time!

I am diving into the world of e-books and let me tell you, it's a new experience and I'm learning something practically every step of the way. I had posted Boomerang as a Kindle book on Amazon, but since then I have had the great good fortune to be pointed in the direction of Smashwords.com and the great Style Guide written by Mark Coker has helped me polish up what apparently was a not so great formatting job I had done.

So now Boomerang is also published through Smashwords and the cool thing is that they support numerous formats that cover just about any device, including your run of the mill PC, that someone might have to read books electronically.

The price for the e-book version of Boomerang is just ninety-nine cents. And while it would be great to see those royalties pile up (yep, even at ninety-nine cents a book the guy who wrote it actually receives a bit of cash for his efforts!) if you drop me a note here and say you saw this blog entry, I'll send you a coupon code that can make the book free!

Boomerang on Smashwords

Best to all,

Alan

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Words Since Last Update: 356

Current Word Count: 17567

Current Chapter: Just Finished Eight!

Okay, so I said I would not only have gotten to the end of Eight but be into Nine by the next update (this one). Well, a little case of stomach flu has slowed me down but I'm still happy. I've got a roaring headache and I haven't eaten anything besides crackers and a bit of fruit for the last twenty hours, but Chapter Eight finally makes a bit of sense and I got it to the point I wanted. The ending point.

Today was supposed to be a work day, but after the usual manifestations of stomach flu made themselves at home in (and out) of me last night work was not where I was destined to be today. Slept, fitfully, for almost twelve hours, staggered into the shower, sipped water, sat in the recliner and that was about that for a while. Beethoven called to me again, but not the symphonies I listened to yesterday, woodwind ensemble pieces instead, played nice and softly. Then I thought perhaps I would have a look at the ol YouWriteOn website. I've been a member almost since its inception over three and a half years ago but I haven't participated much this past year. But I clicked on, asked for an assignment, and received a piece that actually was written pretty well. Fun dialogue, good scene setting, the whole shebang. Even through the headache, it was a pleasure to read.

Well, my chicken soup is ready now. I'm hungry.

See ya.

Ha! I got through an entire post without once mentioning Boomerang. Well, until now, that is.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Words Since Last Update: 401

Current Word Count: 17211

Current Chapter: Still Eight

I know, four hundred words seems pretty good, but honestly, I feel like I'm spinning my wheels, not really making progress. I've been stuck on this one section for way too long and at this point I would just like to walk right past it and try getting into the next one. It's not like I can't go back and make it better once I've given myself a bit of distance, which often provides clarity. And of course sometimes the answer shows up later anyway, and it's just a matter of going back and making the necessary adjustments. I like making adjustments.

I've been listening to Beethoven this afternoon. Spinning old LP's at first, with Walter Gieseking playing the Emperor Concerto and then Solti leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the Sixth Symphony. Just switched to my Beethoven station on Pandora, which is currently serving up Jeno Jando playing Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 13 in E flat major. I'm trying to get back that steely determination to forge ahead in spite of it all. If Ludwig could do it, with as challenging a life as he had, seems I should be able to, one would think.

Yesterday was another late one at work. Go in at three in the afternoon and leave around midnight. The last few weeks "around midnight" has meant a whole lot closer to 1:00 AM or later. This time we had a smaller shipment to process and even after taking care of some stuff that is normally left to the morning crew we were out of there by 11:30 PM. Not bad. I even had an idea while driving home that I tried to incorporate into this troublesome Chapter Eight. Problem was my mind wasn't exactly operating a top speed when I finally got to sit in front of the keyboard and what seemed so brilliant while cruising down the freeway was suddenly darned difficult to put into actual words that held together really well. So while I've done okay in piling on more words, I'm not so confident they are the right ones. We'll see.

Visited Mom today. She was more into her little world than ever, barely acknowledging my existence until just a few minutes before I was ready to leave. I had my guitar again, this time playing some of her favorite show tunes. Not a glimmer of recognition, whereas not that long ago she would give up a little smile or turn the pages for me, which although it was never when I really needed the pages turned, showed me she was at least engaged on some level.

When I came back home it was time for lunch. I had a bit more than half of a large frozen CPK pizza leftover from yesterday, or so I thought. When I took the foil off the plate in the fridge there was one small slice left. So lunch was that and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and few under the breath choice words concerning food pilfering by ones own family.

It is away game night for the marching band tonight, so we will not be attending the game. Instead the wife and I will find ourselves a not very expensive place to have dinner for two and then come back home and watch "Sunshine Cleaning" on DVD. After that it's Stay Awake for the Phone Call telling me our vibraphone playing daughter is ready to end her very long day, come home and get some sleep. After, I would imagine, some sort of nourishing snack. I know I'd want something to eat.

Time to vanquish Chapter Eight. Here's my vow and I'll expect you to hold me to it: No matter how sloppy or generally unsatisfactory it may be at the end of my writing session today, Eight will be done.

At least for now.

And Nine will have at least its first few words.

See ya.

Oh, I've got to say that it has been good to see Boomerang register a couple of sales on Amazon lately. The only problem with these occassional sales is that it makes a person greedy. If two, then why not ten? Surely, there are ten souls out there who would enjoy the book? And if ten, why not ten thousand? Honestly, it's not that big of a leap.

Boomerang on Amazon

Or an autographed one directly from Yours Sincerely can be had right here with the nice PayPal connection near the top right. You can even tell me how you would like it signed. A popular choice is J.K. Rowling.

See ya.

Really.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Words Since Last Update: 94 (we will not dwell on this number, except to say, at least it's something)

Current Word Count: 16810

Current Chapter: Eight

Yep, still on Chapter Eight. Today has been a bit more of a Living a Life than a Writing a Novel time. Another early day at work. At six o'clock this AM I was leading a team of seven in the big push to set-up the current sales campaign at the store. Good people, each and every one of them, resourceful, hard-working, easy to get along with, I could ask for no better working companions. We got a lot done. As a matter of fact in spite of a few challenges we have faced the past two days, we are ahead of schedule and the place looks pretty good. A gratifying day at the ol' day-job.

Then I come home to a bit of a reaction to what I had originally posted as "Monday, September 7, 2009 (part 2). If you scroll on down now, what you will see is my revised version. The original should have never seen the light of day and I have to say I am ashamed of myself for ever hitting the "Publish" button after writing it. I am still ambitious to see Writing a Novel, Living a Life begin attracting a wider readership, but in the original I made a comment about the fellow who has the fascinatingly titled blog The Bloviating* Hammerhead** that was out of line and, if I may say, out of what I hope is my true character. Shame on me.

But oft-times when we do something wrong, and repent, something positive can come of it. Jim Bennett, author of The Bloviating Hammerhead, wrote a comment, I went back and read more of what he has posted, and we have since exchanged a couple of very agreeable notes. We may still have differences of opinion, but thanks to his generous nature, the door was open to a gentlemanly reconciliation and for that I would like to publicly say thanks. To top it all off, Mr. Bennett ordered a copy of Boomerang, an act I will not soon forget. I very much hope he enjoys it.

After the blog hoopla it was time for dinner. My turn to cook. The basil is finally beginning to do something out in what passes for our garden, so it was pasta with pesto this evening. Good eats.

Tomorrow I can sleep a bit later than 4:00 AM. And once the grocery shopping is done I will still have some time before work to get some writing done. Sounds good to me.

See ya,

Alan

* according to my Merriam Webster, "bloviate" means "to speak or write verbosely or windily".

** I have no idea about the Hammerhead part. But you can bet I will be asking Mr. Bennett.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

September 8, 2009

Words Since Last Update: 347

Current Word Count: 16716

Current Chapter: Eight

Okay, I hate to keep bringing up The Olde One, but today it has been more difficult than usual to keep my mind off Boomerang. That's what happens when a copy actually sells through Amazon, which it did yesterday, sending the ranking zooming from over two million to 94,000. That's quite a jump from one sale, but the thing is, unless another sale comes along and soon the giddy atmosphere of a five digit ranking soon dissipates and just a day later here comes 500,000 looming on the horizon, getting nearer and nearer every time I look. Which I shouldn't be doing, I should be writing, right? I told myself I could check on Boomerang twice a day, morning and night, and that was it. But when, after weeks and weeks of no action whatsoever, at least on Amazon, a sale happens and the rank goes nicely up, it makes one think, Hey! maybe folks are finally discovering it! Maybe more sales will happen, and soon! Maybe, just maybe good things will begin to happen.

But it never happens and I should know better. At the very least I should let it do its own thing and just keep moving forward.

But you know, that's not easy. Not one bit. So I guess what with having to be at work at six o'clock this morning and the break room being noisy as heck while I was trying to write during lunch, and things needing doing when I got home, I should be glad for a word count of three hundred and forty seven words today. And although not a whole lot of forward progress was made, what I produced today is, I think good stuff.

See ya.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Words Since Last Report: 548

Current Word Count: 16369

Current Chapter: Eight

Labor Day, so of course it was a work day for me. Makes sense, does it not? It was a good day, busy, with a project well underway and lots of customers to help, which is always nice. I like getting projects done, but I like helping people find what they need even more, especially when they really don't think there is a solution for what they are trying to accomplish.

CEfJ is shaping up better almost every day, although maybe I'd better not say anything like that in case it makes the trend reverse. But I really do feel that as long as I'm putting words down on a regular basis, you know, making a habit of writing? Gee, what a revolutionary idea.

I have just introduced a new character by the name of Sarah Warner. She is with the State Department and she is six-feet three inches tall and she isn't very happy about the fact that Rimtan keeps wandering away. If you want to know who Rimtan is (and why wouldn't you?) please check out my in-progress chapters right here on my blog. Each chapter has its own page.

There may be a corpse soon. I know, I said that before, but really, it looks to be inevitable now. Maybe Chapter Ten.

Under the Well, Isn't That Swell! category of news I am happy to report that Boomerang has sold another copy on Amazon. An actual, paper copy this time. It may have something to do with the report making the rounds that my first novel is in the process of being optioned by film auteur Quentin Tarantino, I really don't know, but it's a sale so I'll take it.

See ya.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Words Since Last Update: 214

Current Word Count: 15821

Current Chapter: Eight

Today is Dad's birthday. He would have been 87 years old. I miss him.

It seems the friendlier my day-job schedule is toward my personal/family life, the less time I have to write. When I had a long string of shifts that started no earlier than 10:00 AM and often started as late as 1:00 PM or later, I was cranking out words at a pretty good clip early in the day before going to work. Now, with a week of mostly early shifts behind me, I can see that progress has slowed considerably.

It's always something.

Most of the progress that I have made the last couple of days has to do with what I guess I will have to accept as part of my writing life, which is Going Back and Making it Better. I have, I think, worked out a couple of kinks that could have come back to bite me in the butt (not to mention cause considerable work) if I had left them for later. Plus, in reworking Chapter Seven a bit I found some clarity for the action I needed in Chapter Eight. So, although my net word count is a miserable 214 over the past couple of days, I've probably written closer to seven or eight hundred as previous bits have been sliced, diced and chucked into the disposal.

Anyway, I just spent over three hours on my Sunday off writing my own performance review for my day job. We won't go into details beyond that. So now I have just a bit of time to turn in my report card here, and squeeze in a few minutes of novel writing before family time takes over (as well it should).

Sixteen thousand is a tougher nut to crack than I thought it would be. But next time we'll be there.

See ya.


Oh, and remember, if you would like to see what I've written so far (and yes, I update the chapters whenever I make changes), you can find them at my Wordpress blog.
Writing a Novel, Living a Life.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday, September 4, 2009

Words Since Last Update: 475

Current Word Count: 15607

Current Chapter: Chapter Eight

Yesterday was a long one. Up at five o’clock, got the kiddo to band practice a little after six, took the dogs for a walk before it got too awful hot, went to the grocery store, deposited that bounty back home, went to Costco to get stuff we needed that the grocery store doesn’t have, or charges too much for, came back home, had lunch, and then did some writing.

And then about quarter after two in the afternoon it was time to go to work. Got home from work around two this morning. Read and snacked and generally wound down for a while before hitting the hay around 3:00. And for some reason I woke up a little after 8:00 this morning and it just seemed I needed to get up. For some reason I haven’t exactly felt what you might call perky today. But I did yardwork (pulled lots of weeds, mowed the lawn, picked a whole bunch of limes), got a load of laundry done, cleaned up the kitchen, dusted the house and now, when I should be writing my book, I can’t keep from warming up the ol’ fingers with an entry here.

One of my writing friends has a much more extensive list of blogs she follows (she’s a lot more organized than I am) and one of those blogs belongs to a literary agent by the name of Rachelle Gardner. Last week I checked it out since Ms. Gardner was conducting a sort of talent search for guest bloggers. I submitted my entry then and I guess we’ll see pretty soon if I will have, at least for a short period of time, a much wider audience for my musings. When I was doing the wee hours wind-down after work, I clicked on Ms. Gardner’s blog again and this week her subject is “Reasons Not to Quit”. She was said she wanted to know what keeps writers and publishing professionals going when there are so many obstacles to success. Tough question to answer without hauling out the cliche wagon, but the thought I had to offer was that this blog helps keep me from quitting. These words I’m typing right now may only be seen by me and God, and She may be multi-tasking many times over whilst checking out my word counts, but somehow Writing about Writing Helps Me Write.

Now I’m ready. We’ll see if 16,000 falls into line today before I need to pick up the kiddo from school, make dinner and then go to the first football game of the season. With our daughter in the band, we’re going to a lot of games this year, that’s for sure.

See ya.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Happy One Month Anniversary to Writing a Novel, Living a Life.

On August 3rd, I reported 2598 words so far. That means 12,534 words (net) have been produced in one month's time. At this rate, I should have a first draft at least by February 20, 2010, which is what I'm shooting for. Product ready to send to agents by August 1, 2010.


Okay, that's enough celebration, time to get something done.

Words Since Last Update: 458 (not so hot considering it's been two days)

Word Count So Far: 15132

Current Chapter: Just started Chapter Eight!

You'd think as somebody passing himself off as a writer I would be better at taking notes. You know, jotting down ideas so that when I need them (which is almost never when I actually get them) they are there, ready and willing and fresh as a daisy.

But I'm not there. Case in point, today I did the grocery shopping. I had a list, mostly filled in by my dear wife. I came up with the last dinner idea, which requires "good quality marinara sauce". No problem. Heck, I even found a coupon from ol' blue eyes Paul Newman his own dearly departed self that would save me something like fifty cents on a jar of his stuff. But what I didn't do was write it on the grocery list. Result? You bet, I forgot to buy it at the grocery store. Ended up getting a Costco three pack of Classico sauce instead. Spent more money and it'll probably be a while before we use jars number two and three since we tend to make our own sauces around the Hutcheson household.

Anyway, I know marinara sauce doesn't have much to do with writing a novel, but the same thing, only with worse consequences, happens to me all the time. I'll get a great idea while driving to work, or eating breakfast or as I'm just about to fall asleep or right as I'm waking up and I don't write it down and before you know it, the blasted thing is gone. Poof! And what is worse, Costco doesn't carry what I need to correct that situation, not even in the gallon size.

A quick word here about Boomerang. (The link will take you to Boomerang's Amazon page) Since making it available for Kindle download (and that link will take you to its Kindle page) in April, a total of three people have invested one buck each in the book, and the latest to do so did it just yesterday, as far as I can tell. I think it is neat that books can be made available that way and I'm glad I was able to get Boomerang (and lastly, that link will take you to the page here on Wordpress where you can read the opening chapters) out there like that. But I am worried that my very limited computer skills have resulted in a product that isn't quite what it should be, presentation-wise. Impossible for me to compare to other Kindle downloads since I don't have a Kindle nor do I have an iPhone or iTouch, both of which can take Kindle downloads. All I can do is preview on my computer and for some reason the prologue keeps coming out with weird indents no matter what I try to tweak. So..............if there is anybody out there who can give me a nudge in the right direction for Kindle formatting, please raise your hand. I'd really appreciate it. In the meantime, I do hope those three people who have each put down a dollar on the book enjoy it.

Time to sidle up to 16,000.

See ya

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Words Since Last Update: 221

Current Word Count: 14674

Current Chapter: Still Chapter Seven

What was I saying yesterday about loving short chapters? Going on so proudly about producing an entire, if admittedly petite, chapter in one day? I couldn't leave the darned thing alone and now 221 words later it is less a size three and maybe closer to a size seven. Still svelte, but I'd better watch the excess verbiage calories or Brevity is Wit will become Shut Up Before Someone Throws Something at You.

I hope the additions make it better. I won't worry about it too much for now because it is time to move on to Chapter Eight! What will happen? Who will be involved? Will there finally be a corpse? Will Jerry get a beer? All these and many other questions will be answered as soon as I get my butt in gear and start writing.

On the way home from work today I was listening to an interview with British musician Imogen Heap. I had kind of, sort of heard of her, but had no familiarity with her music. What I found out from the interview was that she likes to use all sorts of things to create the sounds in her songs and she is very fond of the connection with her listeners that she gets through blogging and Tweeting (is that supposed to be capitalized?) Her latest album was created very much in the public eye, with her blogging about it and sharing ideas and feedback with those who were interested. One quote in particular caught my attention:

"It's been so amazing. I've always struggled with this barrier that I felt like I'd had up until blogging came along," Heap says. "Just one comment from somebody really sparks something in me. It doesn't need to be this huge war between me and the listeners anymore. I really thrive on that."

While I have no illusions about achieving the sort of widespread attention Ms. Heap's imaginative and really quite fun music have gotten her, I do think it would be great to have actual by-golly readers* checking out and even chiming in about what I am doing here. Like Ms. Heap, I find a real spark is generated when that sort of interaction takes place. We'll just have to see if the process of writing a novel holds anything like the fascination the making of music.

We're coming up on the one month anniversary of Writing a Novel, Living a Life. I have added about twelve thousand words to this early draft since August 3rd. On September 3rd we'll come up with my precise progress. But in any case, not bad, especially for me. I am mostly doing this on faith, pretty sure that hardly anybody is watching, hardly anybody really caring if I make it to the end. If you would like to bring some spark to the festivities, please know that it will be most welcome.

Here's a link to the interview with Imogen Heap. I think it is worth listening to.

NPR interview with Imogen Heap

See ya.
*It's relatively easy to catch the eye of other not-yet-successful writers, all you have to do is promise to read their stuff and tell them it is brilliant. Not nearly the same thing.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

Words Since Last Update: 449

Current Word Total: 14453

Current Chapter: Seven!

Don't you just love short chapters? I know I do. Chapter Six, which was not particularly short, gave me almost as much trouble as Four. But the worst part about the first draft of Chapter Seven was just getting the first words down. That's the way it is with almost any new chapter for me. Hurray! I've finished a chapter! Oh crap! I have a whole new one waiting to be formed, what in the heck is going to happen in this one? But Seven, which is one of the short, Here's-What's-Happening- Elsewhere bits (this time we travel back to the fictional Middle Eastern country of Bodhran for a nice little explosion and a little quality time with Prime Minister Hadi ali Ahmad) came easily once I got the fingers moving and it was undeniable fun. I hope that once I get it all shipshape it will read fun too.

Well, it is after 9:00 PM and the day will start early tomorrow, so it is time for a bit of reading (I am rereading the marvelous book The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins) and then off to snoozeland. Five o'clock will come around soon enough, eh?

See ya.

Here's the link if you want to check out what I have so far.

Close Enough for Jazz first draft

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Words Since Last Update: 360 or so

Current Word Count: 14004

Current Chapter: Chapter Six is on its own for a while. Time to move on.

Friday I got another rejection note from an agent regarding Boomerang. Yep, even though it is a real book and you can buy it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and all that (hint, hint) I am still every once in a while trying to see if maybe it can see more of the world through the good services of a bit larger publishing enterprise. One that can actually put it in bookstores and give it a snappy cover. The rejection was one of those supposedly "encouraging" ones I read about in the latest Writers' Digest magazine since she included the phrase "your work sounds intriguing" although I suppose that could be standard verbiage for that agency's form letter. But it was not quite the usual "Please excuse the impersonal nature of this note" that is the norm, so that was nice. Still, it was a rejection and so there we go. I have sent out four queries in the past few months. Two have come back with No Go. A third was sent to an agency that promises not to respond at all if they are not interested (don't know why I bothered) and the fourth, which was actually the earliest one I sent and the only one that went snail mail, accompanied by SASE and the first fifty pages, is really the only one I'm very much hoping will say "yes". At this point I'm thinking that's either not going to happen or their incoming box is so stuffed they haven't even gotten to something sent close to three months ago. In any case I just keep on with the new one. Not much else to do, eh?

So here's my report on the last couple of days.

Once again going against what I declared my was going to be my modus operandi (did I spell that right?) this time around, I did spend a bit of time yesterday before work and this morning trying to catch typos, logic gaps and whatever else wasn't up to snuff in what I had already written. I've really cut down on this Revise As I Should Be Forging Ahead thing, but I still do it and I still find ways to justify it in my head. The main defence I have is that a big reason I love to write is because every once in a great while I craft what might just qualify as a Really Good
Sentence or a Choice Turn of Phrase and the satisfaction that comes with doing so is tremendous. My heroes are writers who do that on an irritatingly regular basis. They are true wordsmiths, forging sparkling gold necklaces from the same twenty-six letter links most writers struggle to form into paperclip chains that get themselves tangled with little or no encouragement. I don't want to just tell a story, I want to make the page sparkle. And for me to come even within shouting distance of that goal means lots of revision, lots of fine tuning.

But you can't refine what you haven't mined. And I am getting better at bringing the ore to the surface.

I do think I will have some fun with the character of Rimtan. He is like a younger, hyperkinetic Jerry, so the two of them should drive Ted completely out of his gourd. Not sure if we're going to have a corpse here soon, but it's looking like a possibility. I hate to kill people in my books, but sometimes it's just the best thing for the story. Ya gotta be heartless in this business, I'm tellin' ya!

Oh, I'm not at all sure how this would work properly, but is anybody interested in setting up a sort of betting pool (no money involved, please) on when the first draft will be completed? I know I have what should be inside information, but honestly, I've only finished one first draft in my life and that took waaaaaaay longer than it should have, so I have little on which to base my guess other than optimism and giddy enthusiasm.

I say February 20, 2010.

Any other guesses out there?

See ya.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Words Since Last Update: 877 !!!

Current Word Count: 13639

Current Chapter: I think we’re about done with Chapter Six. Maybe.

If you would like to read what I have so far, that can be found on my Wordpress blog.

I am pretty happy with my word count for yesterday. The action moved forward and we got to meet Rimtan, the young jazz musician from Bohdran as he makes a flying entrance from a second floor Hooters restaurant in downtown Tempe, AZ. Since I didn’t have to be into work until 3:00 PM yesterday (it is now 1:18 AM and I just got home from work about half an hour ago) I had plenty of time to do some by-golly writing, and although I will admit that too much time was squandered in Facebook dithering and seeing if I really remembered how to play “Body and Soul” on the guitar, all in all it was a good day of writing production.

But after reading over some of my stuff during my dinner break at work, I think it is important that I point out the fact that the work I am posting here is EARLY DRAFT MATERIAL. This is kind of like the way a play comes together. If you watched the early rehearsals of a play, especially one where the script is still being fine tuned, the dance numbers worked out and the lighting and scenery still to come, you would think to yourself “This is all that professional theater people are capable of producing?” and wander away, shaking your head. Well, early drafts of a novel are kind of like that. It takes lots and lots of fine and not-so-fine tuning to take the rough material of what initially pours (or dribbles) out of an author’s imagination to turn it into a polished bit of storytelling. Everything from misspelled words to amazing gaps of logic in the storyline can be part of the first, second or third drafts. But without those early, oh so rough versions, there can be no shiny end product. You gotta have one before the other.

So please, keep in mind that what you are seeing here is not, by any means, the final product. You can see lots of final products at Borders and Barnes and Noble. But if you are interested in where that Final Product came from, I’d be mighty pleased to have you follow along as Close Enough for Jazz goes from basic idea to completed rough draft.

And then you can say “I was there. I witnessed the birth. And you know what? It was messy. But interesting.”

See ya.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Words Since Last Update: 280

Current Word Count: 12762

Current Chapter: Still working on Chapter Six.

Yesterday, at least as far as writing is concerned, was mostly puttering around with the end of Chapter Five and what I already had for Six. Not what I really want to do, but when you get an idea on how a sentence, paragraph, bit of action, whatever, can be improved, I think it's best to act on it while the thought is still warm. Heck, while it's still on the radar. My notekeeping skills are way below what they should be, so if I don't incorporate a change, especially a minor one, Right Now, I'm screwed.

Still, I did get a bit further in Chapter Six; Ted and Jerry and Special Agent Parker are on their way to meet Rimtan, the jazz musician from the tiny Middle Eastern nation of Bodhran, when they suddenly have to take a detour into downtown Tempe. Seems sixteen year old musical prodigy Rimtan has a taste for the ladies and he has escaped from his hotel to the nearest Hooters in order to sample the local culture. Parker has bolted out of the car, after giving Ted and Jerry instructions to stay put. Of course Jerry follows close after, which means the limo driver/other agent goes to fetch him back. Ted is left alone in the back of the limo with Sarah, his beloved Gibson jazz guitar which also featured in Boomerang. Does Ted follow the others to see what the fuss is in Hooters? If so, does he take Sarah with him? At this point I'm not sure what is going to happen. And heck, I may come up with something and have a much better idea two days or five weeks from now. But the action has to move forward and that's what is going to happen in about ten minutes when I'm done with this entry.

Today is a Go In At 3:00 PM day at work. Merchandise offload shift which should keep me there until midnight or a bit later. It's a long day when you get up at 5:00 AM in order to get the kid to band practice a bit after six o'clock, but it hasn't killed me yet. I'll sleep in tomorrow and my wife will somehow squeeze in being the school taxi before she heads to work.

Just for jollies (and to properly limber up the typing fingers) how about we have a look at just a few of the headlines that are in today's Arizona Republic newspaper?

Arizona panel: Ban paddling of schoolkids. Yep, it seems that thirty-two of the state's 214 school districts have policies that allow a teacher or administrator to hit a child. You can call it corporal punishment, you can call it paddling, but hitting is what it is. And the lesson a child gets from being hit? Well, seems to me the lesson learned is usually this: If you're bigger and/or in a position of power, and/or don't like what someone else is doing, you can hit people. Tom Horne, our state Superintendent of Public Instruction, who has enjoyed a bit of publicity lately due to his tendency to acquire speeding tickets, is quoted near the end of the article. "I've always felt corporal punishment is inappropriate in schools." Good on him. But maybe he could have stopped before adding, "Only parents should be able to do that." Hit kids, that is. Oh, in the earlier article chronicling Mr. Horne's challenges as regards traffic laws, it was mentioned that he is considering running for State Attorney General.

Bear climbs ladder to escape sunken skate park in Colo. Good for the bear and good for the Parks and Rec workers of Snowmass, Colorado for lowering the ladder and giving the bear a means of exit.

No cure for health care at town halls. Columnist E.J. Montini once again writes plainly and convincingly about the real and disastrous effects our current health care "system" has on real, hardworking, law-abiding, citizens of our great nation. Montini writes of a man who would have liked to have attended Senator John McCain's town-hall meeting on health care reform but couldn't because he had to sell his car to pay his medical bills. A bit later in the column, Montini cites a study recently published in the American Journal of Medicine that said that roughly 62 percent of bankruptcies are due to medical bills. We may or may not need a government run health insurance option, you know, like the one that covers our elected representatives so well? But we sure as hell need reforms in place that keep insurance companies doing what they should be doing, instead of spending so much time and energy figuring out ways not to because they think it will increase their bottom line. If some folks (Sarah Palin, anybody?) are afraid of death panels, they need look no further than the accounting departments of health insurance companies.

Big headline on page one of the "Arizona Living" section: Seduced by 'Sexting' It seems teenagers are sending inappropriate images and texts to each other. Really? Who put the means to do so into their hands? Sure, we can all trust our kids to do the right thing all the time. Lapses of judgement never afflict the cautious teenagers in our lives. Right? Besides, if we catch 'em doing it we can always correct the behavior by smacking 'em on the butt. With a two-by-six with holes drilled in it for increased speed. Tom Horne says it's okay.

Lastly, and then I'll get on with Fun with Ted and Jerry.

Pizza guy's car back for lots of dough. John Schnatter, founder of Papa John's Pizza, is all happy because he located and bought back his 1971 Camaro Z-28. He had sold it in 1983 to raise money to help save his father's tavern in Jeffersonville, Indiana. A worthy and commendable sacrifice. But he missed the car. So Schnatter put out a quarter of a million dollar reward for it. The people who had originally purchased it from Schnatter had sold it, but they did some searching and found the current owner, who, admirable fellow that he is, put aside his own affections for the vehicle and sold it back to Schnatter for the reward of $250,000. The folks who helped track it down received $25,000 for their trouble. In celebration of the Finding of the Lost Camaro, Schnatter had all his Papa John's locations hand out free pizzas Wednesday to anyone driving a Camaro.

I know that it was Schnatter's money and he should be able to do whatever he wants with it. I know I don't want people telling me how to spend the fiver that every once in a while strays off course and finds its way into my wallet, but does anybody else think $275,000 could have been put to better use?

We'll have to see how I view this scenario after I become quite nicely rich.

See ya.

Oh, wait a sec! I baked scones yesterday. With dark chocolate chunks in 'em. They are good.

A Bit About Me

My photo
I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.com. As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.