Thursday, March 21, 2013

The New Dad's Guide to Stuffed Animals: Volume I

We are a little family with a big problem.

It's a simple problem, really.

We have one child.

One of these creatures is not a toy.

And he has 173 stuffed animals.

How out of hand has it gotten? Well, consider this. A few months back, we got this guy...

And he got so completely lost beneath our mountain of plush...

Yorkie 2.0
That we totally forgot we had him, and bought another one.

By now, we have just about bought out northern New Hampshire's entire supply of stuffed animals. Our toddler's collection, once just a sweet cozy bin in the corner of the loft, has ballooned into a sideshow we could possibly sell tickets to see. There have been times when I've thought long and hard about adding "Zookeeper" to my professional resumé.

I'm telling you, it can be a jungle out there.

So here now is a loopy little parental PSA for all wayward new dads who aimlessly wander this jungle of overwhelming sites like The Big Zoo & Stuffed Safari in search of the perfect plush. Hopefully I can help you decide which critters to embrace, which to avoid, and what to do when your collection has hijacked your entire home!

The New Dad's Guide to Stuffed Animals: Volume I

This is Bucky. He came to us prior to our son's birth, just after we brought his twin brother (also named Bucky, I believe), from the Seattle airport to the newborn of a good friend in San Diego. Bucky #1 had been traveling with us throughout our weeklong vacation in SoCal, and because we were five months into our own pregnancy, we started getting attached to him. But sadly, this guy was earmarked for a three-week-old in SD, so dutifully we delivered him to our friends, then tearfully said our goodbyes. So what is he doing here in The Guide? Well, when we landed late one night back home at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport, yours truly got a little bee in his bonnet about getting our own Bucky, so I raced from one Hudson News stand to the next, searching desperately for another Bucky.

And at the very last open newsstand, we found him.

I am sure he's eager to reunite with his twin brother one of these days.


This is Rafter, named after my wife's favorite tennis player ever, Aussie Patrick Rafter.

I sort of hate him.

But not really.

A few weeks later, in a misguided attempt to level the score, I tried to name our new stuffed hedgehog Hingis, but it didn't really stick. In hindsight, I probably should've named her Steffi...


"Thanks for noticing me." -- Eeyore

This is Eeyore.

He's sort of a legend on the toddler circuit.


This is Tom Brady. He threw 3 interceptions in the second half of the 2013 AFC Championship game, and made my son cry.

Or was it me who cried?

Either way, this guy is a chump. Stay away from him at all costs. At least until next football season, when hope is once again in bloom.


♫ I'm a bee,
♫ I'm a bee,
♫ I'm a bee-bee-bee-bee.

Seriously, can anyone tell me what's so special about The Black-Eyed Peas? 'Cause I sort of don't get it.

Anyway, this is Buzbee. We never really call him anything other than "Bee!" which our son shouts out with great delight whenever he sees Buzbee. I have concerns that our boy's fondness for giving him great big bee-hugs will not translate well to the backyard this summer, and as a silly preemptive measure, I'm trying to teach him the difference between indoor bees and outdoor bees. Fingers crossed on this one.


This is Deadhead. Three years ago, I had a big plan to give my wife an Orca for her birthday. See, in the San Juan Islands -- way up in the northwest corner of Washington state -- there is a program wherein someone can "adopt" an actual orca for a nominal fee. The adopter would be sent monthly reports tracking the orcas travels within its pod, an official adoption certificate, and a few other sentimental odds and ends. One of the whales in the archipelago's K-Pod was born in 1994, and named Deadhead to honor the passing of Jerry Garcia. Apparently marine biologists have hippie tendencies -- and what luck, back in 1994, my wife did, too! So I set out to adopt Deadhead at the San Juan Aquarium, only to find that we would be one of dozens who've already adopted her. 

"Hey sweetie, how 'bout we save a few bucks and I just buy you this little orca instead?"

She was on board with that.

Here's a wildly cool side note that I just discovered while checking in on the original Deadhead. Since our purchase of Plush Deadhead, Original Deadhead gave birth to her first little one. A fiesty little guy named Ripple, born in July of 2011.

The same month our son was born.


~ ~ ~

Eventually, maybe after the first few dozen animals have seized your living space, you are going to have trouble thinking of new names. Our son is still in the babbling phase, but I suspect that very soon, he will be vocally skilled enough to not allow us to skate by with names like, "Bear, Bear Two, Teddy, and Teddy Two." So when you find you're stumped, you've gotta dig deep. You've gotta get two parts creative, one part clever, and maybe a dash of crazy.

For example:

Our otter.

His name is Welcome Back.

Go ahead, tell me you didn't laugh.


The tag says this little guy is named Tolee, who is evidently a modern-day cartoon koala bear. Ever ones to flip scripts, my wife and I nixed the name, and set out to give him a new one. No easy task. For whatever reason, it was easier naming our son. With this guy, we were stumped. But then  one day, probably after one too many mix-CDs featuring mid-90s jam bands, my wife took one look at the koala's big head and said, "Let's call him Todd!" It was brilliant. No word on whether any monsters will one day join the animal kingdom. 

My wife couldn't decide on which boxer to bring home from a recent trip to the supermarket, so she took 'em both in. Unfortunately, this kind of indecision on both of our parts usually leads to no decision, and all nominated animals usually end up in the shopping cart. Anyway, these are our boxers.

They're named Simon & Garfunkel.

We're worried that if they ever split, the one on the left is gonna have a successful solo career, while the one on the right will languish unsuccessfully through ill-advised ventures into acting, painting, and poetry.

Two words...

Eddie Rabbit.


~ ~ ~

Sometimes, just to break tedium and grab a few cheap grins, I've found it effective to extract a few key players from the zoo, and reenact scenes from favorite shows, movies, books, etc...

I've included a few examples below.

This is a scene from a Thomas and Friends episode called "Thomas' Tall Friend." In the episode, Thomas is told to bring a giraffe to the zoo, but he predictably doesn't follow directions. Thomas stops near a field of cows. The giraffe eats too much and passes out cold. Sir Topham Hatt gets pissed off. But later, in typical Thomas fashion, he saves the day and gets his picture on the front page of the paper. He's kind of a prima-donna. Y'know, for a train.


I have never seen Disney's The Fox and the Hound, but based on our miniature board book -- one that makes Cliff's Notes seem like a Tolstoy novel -- it looks like a powerful story about the unbreakable bond between best friends. Sort of like Thelma & Louise, but with four-legged protagonists and minus the nationwide manhunt for murder.


One day, my little lion cub, you will be king...

*P.S. Nice photobomb, Eeyore.


Dashing through the snow,
In a red and green dump truck.
This is getting weird,
Seriously, what the...

Sorry, but when you've gone and bought 173 stuffed animals, you don't exactly have the cash lying around for a one-horse open sleigh, y'know?


In this pivotal NFC North matchup, the gritty but undersized Detroit Lions take aim at the mighty Chicago Bears and their massive linebacker...

~ ~ ~

You are not likely to know which ones until it happens, but some of these animals are going to give you moments that will melt your heart. 

Here is my story.

Penny arcade legend has it that only a chosen few have what it takes to succeed at what is commonly called, "The Claw Crane Game." Nationwide, children of all ages pump quarter after quarter after quarter into these games, only to leave the arcade angry, penniless, and possibly in tears. To be sure, this is not a venture one goes into with great expectations.

But on a brisk autumn morning in a northern New England Walmart, I found myself with two quarters in my pocket, a restless 15-month-old in my arms, and the ominous Claw Game by the store exit. So I thought, "Sure, let's see if I can win the little dude something!"

This story does not go where you might think it goes. 

Nope, I did not conquer the mighty claw on my first and only try.

My son did.

And oh man, did my proud goofy heart damn near explode!

Here's what happened... I went over to the machine, and before I could even plunk the coins into the machine, my kiddo reached for the joystick. He didn't really have much of a plan -- just kind of wanted to hold it, jiggle it around a bit, and occasionally tap the button on the top of the it. "Hmmm," I thought. "Maybe I should just let him try it."

So in went the coins. The crane creaked to life, and my son started yanking the joystick every which way as the timer ticked down from 20 seconds. 16 seconds. 12 seconds. 8 seconds.

"Hey buddy, ya gotta push the button, okay?"

5 seconds... 4... 3... 2...

"Um, button?"

Then he did it. He pushed the button.

The claw lowered.

Lowered some more.

Started to close.

Oh. My. God.

Now you have to understand, the crane was near the glass on the right side of the machine when it hooked this green plush ball of some sort. The drop slot was in the front left corner. To me, this meant that the distance the green plush had to travel was pretty much about 2.5 miles before we could call our mission a success. Or at least that's what it felt like. I looked at our son when he latched onto the ball, his wide eyes suggesting that he totally knew what was happening.

The claw's grip looked absolutely flimsy as it painstakingly hauled its catch from right to left, and I found myself whispering Please let him have this, please let him have this, please let him have this...




So this is Greenie. It may be hard to tell, but he is actually a bear. Or at least I think he's a bear. Yup, a bear made out of the cheapest possible felt, and rescued straight outta the hallway of a nearby Walmart. 

And he is one of my very favorites. 

Not even joking, if his cheap felt ever tears or his thin stitches pop, I will take sewing classes just so I can learn how to fix him.

After all, I am the Zookeeper.

No one here gets dinged up on my watch!

So yeah, 173 stuffed animals. Way too many.

But shoot me an email if you have any leads on either a pelican or a bighorn sheep, 'cause we're totally looking!

We could also use a gopher. Preferably one that dances to Kenny Loggins songs.



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Have You Restored Your Town's Former Library Today?

If you've followed this blog over the past several months, you're aware of how much I cherish the childhood I had in my little New Hampshire hometown. One memory that always makes me grin comes from my grammar school days -- when our teacher would rally the troops, line us all up single file, and march us through the center of town, over the stone bridge where Jackson Falls spills (often powerfully) into the Wildcat River, and straight to the old town library for story-time, study-time, goof-around-behind-the-shelves time, etc. The stroll from school-to-library was all of 500 feet, but when your legs are little and you're trudging through two feet of snow in zero degree weather, this epic trek may as well have been the length of the entire Appalachian Trail.

Photos of the library like the one below are what childhood memories are made of.

The old library in Jackson, NH was opened in 1901 at a grand cost of $1,900. In its day, it was a nice little architectural achievement which was designed by famed architect William Ralph Emerson.

Y'know, of the Boston Emersons? Cousin of that writer guy Ralph Waldo Emerson? Apparently a pretty big deal.

Anyway, this was our town's library all through the 20th century. In 2010, the town opened up a new library, a much, much larger architectural achievement with a price tag just north of seven figures. This building is a great story in and of itself. Its structure is actually a repurposed barn that was first built in 1858, disassembled in 2008, then reassembled a half-mile down the road where it would become Jackson's new library. At 3,300 square feet, this impressive space could probably fit the old Jackson library inside of it three or four times.

I wonder, when it closes down on account of a newer and even more awesome structure some 100+ years down the road, will there be townsfolk who seek to keep the memory of the newer old library alive?

See, that's what this post is all about. Preserving and restoring a beloved building and its memories.

Upon moving back to my hometown area back in May, a friend of mine who's on the committee for the old library mused that it would be fun to hold some sort of Air Zoe book signing/fundraising event for the facility. The building itself is already part of a district that's included in the National Registry of Historic Places, now the goal at hand is -- much like the old 1858 barn -- to repurpose this building so that it might be used for functions like art exhibits, literary events, and a whole variety of artsy crafty things.

So on Thursday, September 27th, The Shannon Door Pub in Jackson, NH will be hosting the First Annual Old Jackson Library Fundraiser Slash Thank You For Flying Air Zoe Book Signing Extravaganza.

And you should probably stop by if you're able, because with an event title like this, we might exhaust the budget on flyers alone, and there may never be a Second Annual Old Jackson Library Fundraiser Slash...

Never mind. You get the point.

The Fundraiser will start at 5PM and last 'til an undetermined time that is contingent upon how many pizzas, pints, and books are being sold. See, on this night, $1 for every pizza sold by the pub, and $2 for every book sold by yours truly will be donated to the Old Library Foundation so that they can continue their noble preservation and restoration work.

You should come. Even if you're multiple time zones away, you should totally just hop on a plane and do it, because the pizza is that good.

The book is okay, too. (Huge understatement, it's actually wicked awesome.)

In an author bio that's circulating around the internet, I joke that my writing career started in grammar school, where a one page history class assignment ballooned into a forty page fictional account of a politically controversial silversmith in Boston circa 1776. The story is true, and I still have memories nearly thirty years later of doing research for the saga of the scandalous silversmith in the library's history section. Pretty sure I sat on the library's old wooden window seat and read Johnny Tremain cover to cover so I could accurately capture the spirit of the era. So yeah, this library was clearly pivotal to the ultimate rise of Thank You For Flying Air Zoe. And hey, libraries aren't just vital to the cultivation of curious young minds, but they can also be a whole lotta fun, too.

Just ask these kids.

Whether you're a brain, an athlete, a princess, a basket case, a criminal, or none of the above, thanks for reading along, and I hope to see you up at the Shannon Door Pub next Thursday! If you can't make it and would still like to be a part of the fundraiser in some way, please contact me at the email address on the right side of the page, and we'll come up with some sort of clever solution!

And remember, as John Bender wisely said, "Without lamps, there'd be no light."


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Put Your Tiny Hand In Mine (a.k.a. A Letter to a Little Guy: Vol. II)

Dear Little Guy,

So tell me, how do you like the ride so far?

You probably don't remember this, what with the impossibly lovely and busy year you've recently completed, but I wrote you a similar open letter last August. Way back then, mind you, we had absolutely no idea that we were just a few months away from packing up a minivan and moving us all 3,000 miles from one coast to another. Truth be told, we didn't even know we were about to buy a minivan. But that's pretty much indicative of this past year. These days, our lives are all about improvisation, creatively crazy decisions, and big surprises.

And without a doubt, no surprises have been greater than the wondrous ones you have given us.

In last year's letter, I joked about how I couldn't wait to see what baffling signature moves you'd bring to a junior high dance floor. Never once did I think that between now and then, you'd have perfected a dance floor classic -- The Sprinkler. Not entirely sure how it happened (okay, maybe I showed it to you once or twice while your Mom wasn't looking), but now when we're playing, all I have to do is call out, "Sprinkler!" and you instantly bend your arm at the elbow, put your hand near your ear, flash that amazing five-tooth smile, and shucka-shucka-shucka-shucka off you go -- the Brave Little Sprinkler, gettin' down and watering our loft with style!

And don't even get me started on the electrifying shimmy you show off whenever you hear the opening rockabilly riffs of the Dinosaur Train theme song. Seriously, little dude, you've got moves that could put Johnny Castle to shame and make Frances "Baby" Houseman stand in a corner.

Of course, this is just one trick in your dazzling and multiplying arsenal of new talents, and here as we kick off Year Two of you, every day is a new excuse for wonder, awe, and Awwww... If I've come to develop any new tricks of my own -- and at my age, I thought I was for the most part fairly solidly formed -- it has to be a rekindled appreciation for all things simple. There are times when I am moved to a shiver just watching you identify books in your library, or critters in the colossal plush zoo we used to call "our loft." Little Guy, you have definitely brought delight to the ordinary, an ideal I once held dear, but perhaps neglected as adulthood carved little scars and notches upon a once innocent and optimistic belief system.

Being your dad is a dizzy dichotomy of euphoric exhaustion; a time in which I scarcely sleep, yet am buoyed by the rejuvenation of a youthful spirit. I have never come close to taking on a challenge quite like you, but the rewards seem both unimaginable and limitless. Just these past few weeks...

Oh man.

See, I've always thought I had a relatively decent vocabulary. But to me, the most impressive words I have ever heard actually came from you here in our manic magical Summer of '12...


"Uh oh."


To think I once thought age made me emotionally immovable.

Ah, but for all of our smiles, laughs, and mind-blowing moments, you also have to occasionally endure tough times of intense frustration. Sometimes everything about this enormous world suddenly gets too overwhelming for you, and the pure excitement of it all brings you to a fierce mental crash. Sometimes you struggle to fall asleep, or stay asleep. Sometimes you get irritated that we're not giving you our undivided attention for a whole 10-15 seconds.

And sometimes you fall down.

As your new words completely melt me, so too does even your slightest tumble break my heart. Intellectually, I am well aware that toddlers will toddle 'til they topple, but when it happens, my emotions don't so much care about what my intellect knows to be true. When it happens, a part of me topples with you, and I struggle not to hate myself for letting it happen as though I can be everywhere at once. See, I know you need to own these little unsteady moments...

But as your dad, I don't have to like them, and I have every right to swear that I'll never let it happen again.

Even though I know that it will.

Kiddo, here as we kick off Year Two of your big adventure, let's say we make a deal. You keep on inspiring me as only you can do, and I'll do my part to ensure the ride is a safe trip. I am wholly confident you'll be able to hold up your end of this bargain effortlessly -- being delightful is just how you roll.

I just hope that I can give you as much as you've given me, 'cause I kind of owe you everything.

Little one, the whole wide world is yours for the taking. So put your tiny hand in mine...

And if you fall,
I will catch you,
I'll be waiting.
Time after time.

What, you didn't honestly think I'd forget to drop a few cheesy 80s song references, did you? ;)

Go get 'em, Little Guy!

With Endless Big Love,

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been...

We did it.

We made it home.

After 13 sleepless days and 3,700 loopy miles across 14 states, the beatnik baby boy and his two grungy parents finally tumbled out of a cluttered van and bee-lined for grub at the fave hometown pub back in early May.

I bet even Jack Kerouac would be proud of us.

When I left this town back in the summer of '93, I did so in a shiny new Toyota Paseo. The Paseo was the bright star of the Toyota marketing department at the time -- their new sporty alternative to the ever-popular MR2. It came with a price tag of about $12K.

120,000 miles later, this car is now parked alongside the van in our driveway, its paint dulled by years of SoCal ocean air and steady Seattle rain. Its Blue Book value is currently sitting at $775, but I'm sure that if the cassette player wasn't broken, its value would easily be $780.

Seriously? A cassette player?

Yup. This is what happens when you make it a personal goal to own the last running Paseo on the planet.

Anyway, to my point... Hands down, the most common question I've been asked over these last few weeks has been, "How does it feel to be home?"

I always reply that it's absolutely amazing to be back here -- this seems to be the best way to simply and truthfully communicate just how I feel about being home. But sometimes I also find myself holding back a more complicated emotion -- that it strangely feels like I just went out for a casual 120,000 mile drive that took 19 years to get from Point A to Point A.

Memories are magnified when you're standing at their source. As we sat in the aforementioned pub on that first night, surrounded by old friends, I recalled with improbable clarity my going away party at that very same pub almost two decades prior. The memory played tricks with my wiped out brain -- did I really spend almost 20 years living up and down the west coast, or did I just fall down some sort of wonky New Hampshire rabbit hole?

This area known as Mount Washington Valley is unquestionably a community that has evolved to accommodate commerce and progress. Yet it has also managed to simultaneously uphold its uniquely colorful small-town charms. And as my first few days passed by, during which I consistently crossed paths with the distant-but-familiar, my connection with the hometown strengthened in accord.

So much of what I'd filed away as a fond memory was once again vividly in front of me.

The same talented local musicians are still playing at the same local restaurants and taverns.

I still know the corners and potholes of The Valley's back road shortcuts well enough to probably drive them blindfolded.

The weather is still a wild card, and the old Valley adage, "If you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes," is still totally true.

Black flies are everywhere. This isn't exactly a fond memory, but it's all part of this excellent hometown package, so I'm surprisingly okay with them.

Bears are also everywhere. Mostly at dumpsters like this one outside the condos at a local ski area:

No joke, we took this photo from our van.

Top that, Kerouac.

I wanted to toss the bear into the back of the minivan and later give it to our son for his upcoming first birthday, but my wife kindly reminded me the difference between teddy bear and dumpster bear, so I let it go.

So what else is still virtually the same about my town?

The little wooden schoolhouse in the center of the village.

The pizza at the now twice mentioned pub is still totally the best on this side of the solar system. My amazing wife gets a lifetime supply of gold stars for once having it shipped 3,000 miles to Seattle, and I'm thrilled we now have about 2,998 fewer miles to travel to pick up a couple of 'em.

The little league field just down the street is also the same, though the pond in left field seems a bit closer to home plate than it once did.

The local swimming hole -- Jackson Falls. Funny, though... Now that I'm a father, I look at the Falls' jagged rocks and racing rapids and I find myself thinking, "Oh wow, is it actually safe to swim here?"

The excellent breakfast joint in the middle of town is still serving pancakes the size of a Frisbee. However, the service there is possibly a bit more questionable than it once was. See, the owner of the restaurant has been a friend of mine since the 7th grade, and she graciously gave me a few shifts waiting tables so that we could pay for this crazy move. I think we're all hoping that hiring me doesn't end up being a massive gaffe on her part. I figure that as long as I don't hospitalize customers and/or burn the place down, I'm probably doing okay.

Oh, and get this! She also, out of almost impossible kindness, offered me a glass-enclosed case in the front entryway where I could set up a small Thank You For Air Zoe display, and possibly end up selling a copy or two.

A very good friend, this boss of mine.

Friendships. This is the number one reason we moved back here. I have known so many of these friends for the bulk of my life, and all of them, at their core, are still the same kids I grew up with. I can only hope that despite all my west coast city years, they see me in the same light, 'cause I know I still feel like the very same optimistic and daydreaming writer boy who's perpetually eager to put his next story down on paper ASAP.

I'm sure many would argue that similitude stifles creativity, but for me, this surreal synthesis between the old and the new has set off some serious creative sparks. I've joked that our son keeps us so busy that I probably won't get around to writing a second novel until he treks off to college in 2029, but I'm not so sure the story I want to write can wait that long.

Cue Bon Jovi's Who Says You Can't Go Home.

Crank it up.

The Valley is luminous, and its hills are alive with...

Yeah no. You didn't honestly think I'd go there, did you? This town may have awakened a saccharine poetic sap, but I do believe I can keep the schmaltz in check once the initial glow of our return simmers.

If it simmers, that is. See, we somehow achieved the mantra we aspired toward when we pointed the Swagger Wagon eastward last April... 

Outside our windows these days, there are no sirens, and a whole lotta crickets.

We are glowing.

We are home.

And what a long, strange trip it's been.

Meanwhile, as the settling in winds down, the career once again looks to ramp up. Tomorrow I kick off another big Air Zoe Blog Tour through TLC Book Tours. The dates for this tour can be found by clicking HERE, and you can also find links to the reviews as they trickle in by going to my Facebook Author Page (the link to this is located in the right margin). 

Additionally, as part of what I hope will be Air Zoe's Soaring Summer Of 2012, and in conjunction with the blog tour, I will also be giving away a copy of Thank You For Flying Air Zoe right here on this blog. As has been the case in previous giveaways, just leave your name and email address in the comments section, and when the tour ends in about four weeks, I will draw a winner at random. 

And hey, if you wanna share something about your own hometown, I'd love to hear it!

Finally, if you happen to find yourself staring at this very same covered bridge... Drive on through, then stop about a half-mile down the road, and pop into Yesterday's for epic pancakes with 100% pure NH maple syrup -- the kind that would make Mrs. Butterworth & Aunt Jemima close their doors and head for the shuffleboard courts of Boca Raton.

You will no doubt recognize me by my wide-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights look as I smile and say, "Hi, I'm Erik, I'll attempt to be your server today."


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

International Chick Lit Month Blog Hop Ebook Winner

Just a real quick post to announce the winner of a Thank You For Flying Air Zoe Ebook...

Huge thanks to everyone who left a comment - really thrilled you visited the blog, and I hope you'll continue to do so!

The following names & corresponding numbers were dropped into the Random.Org blender:

1. Tobi, 2. Rhonda D., 3. BRN2SHOP9, 4. Savannah Page., 5. Natalie Aaron, 6. Amy, 7. Allyson, 8. Bethany Scruggs, 9. Lisa (Lost in Literature), 10. Theresa, 11. Barbara, Cari-Bella Creations, 12. Tonya, 13. Patricia W. 14. Kassandra, 15. erinmir, 16. mimirose41209, 17. Kristen, 18. Mary D., 19. Lizeth, 20. Sidne, 21. MaryJean, 22. Margaret, 23. scrapperjen, 24. gina herberg, 25. Isdarlys, 26. Erica, 27. Terri R, 28. Lauren M., 29. Joanna, 30. Sheena

And Random.Org told me that the winner is:

Congratulations to Patricia W.! I will get a hold of you & we can figure out just how to get your Ebook delivered to you soon!

Thanks again for participating in the International Chick Lit Month Blog Hop -- I do hope you all found all sorts of amazing new authors along the way! And if you ever get your hands on a copy of my own novel Thank You For Flying Air Zoe, please feel free to shoot me an email & let me know your thoughts -- I am always eager to hear feedback!

Thanks for flying & keep on keepin' on!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

CHICK LIT AUTHOR BLOG HOP 2012: It's (Not Really) Raining Men

Recently I was asked by my Twitter pal and colleague Tracie Banister, author of BLAME IT ON THE FAME, if I wanted to participate in a Blog Hop celebrating International Chick Lit Month. Jokingly -- at least I think jokingly -- she added something like, "if it's not too girly for you." See, readers who visit every participating blog and collect the Blog Hop's secret words (more on that later) will be entered to win a gift card from Sephora. It's possible that this is a very girly thing. Dunno. Never personally heard of Sephora, and it's probably best I remain blissful & oblivious.

Blissful & oblivious. After all of my recent traveling, this is pretty much my default state, so I shouldn't have a problem with this.

Anyway, I told Tracie that I'd be thrilled to pen a piece for the Blog Hop. I mean what's wrong with "girly," y'know? Some of my best friends are girls. My wife is the world's very best girl. Most readers of my novel THANK YOU FOR FLYING AIR ZOE are girls. Artists from Kool and the Gang to Motley Crue to Cyndi Lauper celebrate girls with hip-swaying, head-banging, hair-flipping panache. So if May is all about celebrating novels written about, for and by spirited women... Oh yeah, count me in!

Even if I am -- *gasp* -- a guy!

Not surprisingly, when anyone asks what my novel is about and I tell them, "It's a snap-crackle-pop chick lit kinda story about a grown-up gal's loopy quest to reunite the all-girl band she was in as a teenager," I get a lot of crooked looks. Like I'd said this purely by accident. I swear, there should be a movie a la "White Men Can't Jump" called "Men Don't Write Chick Lit." No, we write taut thrillers, grisly horror tales, and gritty crime novels about down-and-out detectives with questionable ethics.

But we definitely don't write chick lit, right?

I guess I never got this memo.

I tend to miss memos. Sometimes on purpose.

It's not a secret in the world of publishing that chick lit is routinely dissed and/or dismissed as a passe genre. The powers-that-be would have the reading public believe that they're tired of Bridget, Carrie and that wacky Shopaholic. Apparently, readers are tired of fun or something, and these days, serious fiction writers shun fun in favor of globally weighty issues.

Issues? Please, I have TONS of issues! And furthermore, my chick lit novel actually does dare to practice planetary betterment, as an entire section or two is devoted to educating the audience about the endangered status of Western Australia's Golden Bandicoot. In fact, let's elevate my global awareness Klout score right now... Here is a pledge -- for every copy of THANK YOU FOR FLYING AIR ZOE purchased or won over the week long duration of the Blog Hop, I will donate ten cents to whatever foundation is responsible for the preservation of the Golden Bandicoot.

I'd donate more, but this author gig is still a few books away from my retirement party, y'know?

But seriously, chick lit fans, I'm sure that having heard ad nauseam that your fave genre is somewhat of an endangered species itself, perhaps you feel a sort of kinship for the Golden Bandicoot?

The Golden Bandicoot
The Offical Animal of International Chick Lit Month?

Anyway, as I was saying, I routinely faced fierce skepticism when trying to get AIR ZOE published. Publishers and agents alike told me that while my story was compelling and that my writing was, like, really quite good, I would have a hard time breaking into the chick lit circle...

Especially as a male author.

Honestly, chick lit men haven't gotten this little respect since Daniel Cleaver back in '96.

Undaunted, I pressed on, knowing that I had a fun story to share. And when finally Booktrope took a chance and published the boy who wrote a girly book, imagine my glow when the chick lit community actually embraced my novel! Seriously, before reviews started coming in, I was sort of ready to be skewered, cooked over hot coals, then raked across said coals once mostly cooked. I was light years from my narrative element, yet somehow I was able to connect with readers through my universal story about one woman's quest to achieve rock and roll stardom 25 years past her musical heyday.

And you know what? You know what other funny little thing happened as the months unfolded and reviews came in?

Men started coming forward to say they enjoyed the novel.

Crazy, right?

So here now is a direct appeal to all men out there in the audience. Join in on the International Chick Lit Month festivities, and maybe you'll be the winner of the $150 Sephora shopping spree. Again, not sure what this entails, equally as unsure if you can find something for yourself at Sephora, but I'm pretty damn certain you could find something pretty rockin' to impress the special woman in your world.

And let's get real, men... Aren't we all kind of about impressing women? I mean why wouldn't we be -- women totally rock. So this seems elementary to me... If men adore women, and women enjoy chick lit, wouldn't it be in a man's best interest to pick up a chick lit novel every now and then?

And what luck -- there are 34 such novels, written by talented authors from all over the map, right here in this Blog Hop!

Speaking of The Hop... I've been asked to share the rules and regulations of the Blog Hop, so here are the pasted instructions. If you have any questions, please do let me know, and I will be sure to immediately shuttle the question over to someone who knows way more than I do.

Additionally, as you will see below, if you're interested in entering to win a eBook copy of my novel THANK YOU FOR FLYING AIR ZOE, all you have to do is leave a comment on this blog.

Even if you're not interested, wouldn't you want to at least help the plight of the poor golden bandicoot.

Here are the rules for the Blog Hop contest:


We're having a party, and you're invited!  In honor of May being International Chick Lit Month, some author friends and I decided to band together to celebrate, promote, and extol the many virtues of this wonderful, entertaining, and underappreciated genre.  Chick Lit Author Blog Hop 2012 will be a week-long event, running May 14th-20th, and 34 amazing writers are donating their time, talent, and some very special prizes to make this inaugural event a huge success! 

Here's how the blog hop will work . . .

  • Each of the 34 participating authors has written a special Chick Lit-centric piece and these posts will go live on Monday, May 14th.  At each blog hop stop, you will have the opportunity to enter to win a FREE Chick Lit e-book from that particular blog's owner/author. All you have to do is leave a comment on the blog post, including your name and e-mail address, and you're automatically entered to win.  If you visit each blog hop stop, that means you have the chance to win 34 different e-books!
  • The blog hop will start at Natalie Aaron & Marla Schwartz and end at Jen Tucker.  You will find a list of all the stops on the blog hop at each auther's blog.  Authors' blogs will be listed in alphabetical order according to last name.
  • In each of the author's blog posts, there will be a "secret word."  This word will be italicized, so it will be easy to find.  All you have to do is make note of this secret word at each blog hop stop.  Collect all 34 secret words and submit your list before midnight on Sunday, May 20th and you will be entered into the Grand Prize Drawing!  The winner of this drawing will receive a $150 Sephora gift card!  $150 to spend on make-up, fragrance, bath and body goodies, skin care, and hair products!  How fun is that?  This gift card can be redeemed online, or at any Sephora store in the US.
  • Winners of each of the participating author's e-books, as well as the Grand Prize winner of the $150 Sephora gift card will be announced on Monday, May 21st.
  • Contests are open to citizens of the United States only.

We hope you'll join us for this exciting event!  Don't forget to tell all of your Chick Lit-loving friends!  The more, the merrier!


So there you have it! And lastly, below is a list of authors participating -- be sure to check 'em out, good luck with the hop, and Happy International Chick Lit Month!

Even if you're a dude.


2012 International Chick Lit Month Blog Hop Authors

Friday, April 20, 2012

My Heart Going Boom-Boom-Boom

If Cheers was a bar where everybody knows your name, my hometown was its township equivalent. With a population of approximately 400 when I was just a little monster cruising its backstreets on a Big Wheel, Jackson was one of the smallest dots on the New Hampshire map. However, it also was the home of three ski areas, multiple secret swimming and fishing holes, and a tiny but mighty Little League team that could barely fill up the nine spots on the field. Jackson was a three season town that boasted recreation galore in the summer, kaleidoscopic foliage in the fall, and both nordic and alpine bliss in the winter. Hell, I suppose if you're a mud lover, you could in fact call it a four season town.

And these 400 or so people -- most of whom I knew by the time I was twelve years old -- all of them were pretty awesome.

When your entire grammar school -- grades 1-6 -- is made up of about 40 kids, you pretty much become friends with every single one of them. But what you don't realize until you grow much, much older, is that the bonds that are made in small towns are often lifelong. This mighty Little League team I mentioned? A whole lot of them are still among my closest friends some 30+ years beyond our heyday on the town ball field. I could go on and on about us kids, and our little league team, and the pond that was sorta part of left field... but that's maybe for another blog post. This isn't about childhoods past, it's about a future childhood.  See, I personally don't believe I could've done much better than growing up in Jackson and the community best known as Mount Washington Valley. And now that I have a son, one of my biggest wishes for him is that he will likewise have a childhood that he'll one day look back upon with such affection. But what can a parent do to help their child make such memories?

Well, for starters, they could always close the door on a city of 600,000 people and move to a town of just over 800.

816, actually.

See, that's the current population of Jackson, NH.

And that's where we're going.

In two days.

With a minivan stuffed full enough to reduce our gas milage by 25%, we will soon point our headlights to the east and holler out our Great Relocation Project's battle cry:

"Less sirens, more crickets!"
At the risk of dating myself (btw, I did actually date myself once -- made me swear off dating), I left my hometown for the west coast nearly two decades ago. The dream back then was to snag an MFA at a prestigious LA film school, make a cool million or two as a screenwriter, then probably move to a bitchin' California coastal town where I could lounge all day and write all night. 

Or lounge all day and lounge all night. That option sounded pretty sweet, too.

Of course, as most maniac dreams go, this one veered and swerved and changed course wildly and repeatedly over the next several years. Never quite struck it rich, but the consequent roads I've traveled and the friendships I've formed have made me immeasurably richer for it. Probably my biggest fear about making a 3,000 mile move is that I may not see these friends for a very long time -- if at all. See, it is an obsession of mine to treat every interaction with a faraway friend as though you may be seeing them for the last time. As much as we believe that all of our paths will continue to cross as they've always done before, Time has a sneaky, thieving way about it that often puts barricades in the paths and challenges these beliefs. I hope that my own belief in loyalty as cultivated by an unforgettable small town childhood is strong enough to carry all of my big city friendships with me as I now return. 

I think it will be. After all, I left New Hampshire unsure of this very same thing, and I don't feel my friendships have diminished because of this in the slightest.

And hey, to any west coast pals reading this, please know that I hope you will all come visit us in our new/old mountain town...

Just not all at once. After all, I am a role model now.

Of course, now that I've fully committed myself to my career as an author, I'm sure that somehow I will get asked to return to LA and write a screenplay for Air Zoe.

Heh. I'm actually not so sure about that. I just wrote it for comic effect. 

And as an aside to any Development Personnel who may be reading this: I am so totally available to write this script. Call my people, we'll discuss. Sure, one of my people is still in the babbling phase, and the other is subject to involuntary babbling spells because we're all still completely sleep-deprived. But still, give us a call and we'll all do lunch. Let's skip Spago or The Ivy and just meet at our small town ski chalet. Earth First Organics makes this totally awesome pureéd Banana Mango blend -- you'll love it!

Anyway... So now it has come to this -- three lives, eighty boxes, and if I can find them somewhere in the packrat clutter, a whole lotta rockin' mix CDs to give this adventure an appropriately memorable soundtrack. Don't get me wrong -- singing Wheels On the Bus never gets old. And now that I've fully learned the lyrics to The Alphabet Song, this one is also a real treat. But one thing I remember about my 1993 trek from east to west is that the road was musical. I'd like to think that I haven't changed all that much -- at least inasmuch as I have upheld a sense of youthful spirit.

One of my newest silly dreams is to someday be the grandfather who pulls into his son's driveway while blasting early Def Leppard from a Winnebago we don't yet own. I suspect that would be a sure sign that life is good.

48 hours of west coast to go. Doesn't quite feel real just yet -- probably because I'm writing about the road and not actually on it just yet. I'm sure, however, that once I'm about to hit the highway with the rock star and the peanut strapped into the back seat of the Swagger Wagon, there will be a dynamic emotional swell.

Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel. That's the song I'll have in my head as I pull out of town. 

Because I will look at my beautiful wife.

And my heart will go boom-boom-boom.

Then l will look at my amazing little boy.

"Son," I'll say, "grab your things, I've come to take you home."

Of course being only nine months old, he won't be able to grab a heck of a lot. But as long as he grabs Mommy and Daddy's hands, that should be enough.

Yeah. That will be enough.