Sunday, December 25, 2011

Holiday Giveaway Winners

This will be quick, 'cause I've got a zillion gifts to help our five-month-old unwrap before we head out for holiday follies that may or may not involve copious amounts of toxic eggnog & rum-soaked Christmas cookies...

The following is a list of those who so kindly entered my Thank You For Air Zoe giveaway, and their assigned numbers for the giveaway drawing:

1. Lisa
2. Beth Bartlett
3. Natalie
4. Melissa A.
5. Amy
6. Laura Chapman
7. Jeryl M.
8. Megan Karasch
9. Margaret
10. Kristen
11. Anne M. Cole
12. Steven B.
13. Nancye
14. StephTheBookworm

And according to Random.Org, the winners are...

***drum roll***

Congratulations to Melissa A. and Jeryl M.! I'll be in touch soon to get your addresses, and I expect I'll have the books in the mail prior to New Years Eve.

Also, a huge holiday thank you to everyone else who entered this giveaway! The spirit of Christmas can be a yearlong vibe, so please stay tuned to this blog, 'cause I fully expect future giveaways for random reasons. Like Valentine's Day. Or Easter. Or Debbie Gibson's birthday.

I'll sign off with the video for my favorite 80s Xmas tune, a sweetly melancholic little song that U2 released in 1987.

Til 2012...

...Stay young & keep on rockin'!


Monday, December 19, 2011

I Want Candy, a Vegemite Sandwich, and a Chili Dog Outside the Tastee-Freeze

When you think of 1960s music, you might think of it as the decade when rock and roll truly exploded. You think of The Beatles and their rabid fan base, The Rolling Stones and their bad boy swagger, and the era's epic mountaintop: the freewheeling carnival that 60s kids called Woodstock.

When you think of 1970s music, you might think of groovy teens rating pop rock records on American Bandstand, the funkadelic dance floor of Soul Train, and the garish glitter of Saturday Night Fever.

And when you think of 1980s music, well...

You probably laugh.

And think of hair. Lots and lots of hair.

Looking back, I now think of the 80s as a decade that was too insecure about what it wanted to look like musically, so it tried on every conceivable outfit in the hopes that one might fit. Either that, or it was so secure that it believed it could get away with wearing things like skintight leather, even tighter lycra, rubber bands, safety pins, and the occasional flower pot. Yes, only in the 80s did Home Depot and Staples do double duty as apparel stores.

Unlike other decade, 80s music was impossible to compartmentalize. Weekly Top-40 radio shows played like a dozen teenagers' mix-tapes had been thrown into a blender and squashed into one incomprehensibly goofy megamix that incorporated drum machines, axe-shaped guitars, and massive synthesizers that could simulate pianos, string sections and spaceships in one deft keystroke.

And therein lies the charm of 1980s music.

If you've read my novel Thank You For Flying Air Zoe, you'd know that much of the story's soul is rooted in its protagonist's passion for 80s music. And if you haven't read the novel, this here blog post is your opportunity to snag a copy.

For free. Pretty awesome, huh?

I am nothing if not a devotee of holiday spirit and cheer. I suppose that once you've weathered 28 consecutive Decembers of hearing Do They Know It's Christmas? almost every single day of the month, it's hard not to feel like you shouldn't be giving stuff away.

And all you have to do to get to this giveaway part is indulge my silly meditation on 80s music.

From a Top-40 standpoint, the 80s was all over the map.  How many of you learned what a vegemite sandwich was in the 80s? Who among you was puzzled by the fact that there were three Thompson Twins, and none of them were related? Did you ever watch the video for The Safety Dance and think, “Wow, that’s not safe at all!”

Have you ever dialed 867-5309?

If so, did you stay on the phone long enough to ask for Jenny?

The decade gave us Top-10 hits from toe-tapping, knee-knocking F-Word films: FlashdanceFootloose and Fame. Also from the world of cinema, the 80s gave us memorable anxiety anthems from the Brat Pack oeuvre like Don’t You Forget About MeIf You Were Here, and If You Leave.

Still, none of those soundtrack classics could compare to the grand champ of 80s movie music -- a bouncy little pop jingle about being alright that even to this day conjures up images of a dancing gopher.

The 80s also gave us some crazy scary stalker songs, such as the legendary Every Breath You Take, the playfully creepy Private Eyes, and the carnally charged Hungry Like the Wolf.

By the way, a question to any member of Duran Duran who may be reading this... How exactly does someone smell like they sound? I don’t really need to know the answer -- I long ago accepted the excellent nonsense that 80s lyrics often brought to the party. I mean as long as the melody is catchy, you’ll even sing along with gibberish like “See that chameleon, lying there in the sun, all thanks to everyone, Run Runaway.”

We'll get to song lyrics soon, but for now, let's take some more time to bask around the 80s lunatic fringes as we ponder all that the decade gave us...

It gave us Hit Me With Your Best Shot, a power-pop song in which five-foot-nothin' Pat Benatar proved she was way tougher than Robert Conrad and his silly 70s Battery-On-The-Shoulder bit.

It gave us a duo previously alluded to -- Hall and Oates. Back in the 80s, almost everyone I knew pretty much claimed to loathe Hall and Oates. Myself included. Naturally, all this distaste is indicative of why they scored twelve Top-10 hit singles between 1980-1985. Seems to me that everyone kinda lied. Myself included.

It gave us rappers Run-DMC, Salt-N-Pepa, and The Beastie Boys. Back then, rap was new, and many thought it was just a fad. I wonder how many 80s kids believed back then that the genre would far outlast and surpass heavy metal, new wave and goth.

It gave us the faux media-fueled feud between teen queens Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. Over two decades after their reign atop the pop charts, the two sirens came together to star in a SyFy Network B-movie called Mega Python Vs. Gatoroid.

The film was, predictably, totally freakin' awesome.

It gave us a third decade of Rod Stewart, who despite starting to show some wear and tear, still had the macho moxie to sing lines like "I'm coming home real soon / Be ready 'cause when I do / I'm gonna make love to you like fifteen men."

Um... Uh...

Okay, moving on.

It gave us more epic and catchy one-hit wonders than probably any other decade -- Too Shy by Kajagoogoo, the immensely fun Come On Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners, and my personal favorite, 99 LuftBallons by Nena.

By the way, A Flock of Seagulls was not a one-hit wonder band, and Space Age Love Song was far superior to I Ran.

The 80s gave us Morrissey and his band The Smiths, who routinely made the morbid sound downright whimsical. Yes, Girlfriend In A Coma, I'm talking to you.

It gave us West End GirlsWild BoysKids in America, and Superfreaks.

It gave us countless awesomely awesome hair bands who probably tore through enough hairspray to ultimately set back the lifespan of Planet Earth by a full century. Oh, and for the record, amongst all of the power chords and flammable bombast, the bands White Lion and Tesla totally deserved better.

It gave us MTV, and watershed moments in video history like the videos for Take On MeMoney For Nothing, and Thriller.

It gave us Milli Vanilli. Fortunately, we quickly passed them over to the 90s.

It gave us scandalous and unmentionable innuendo songs like Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Relax and Billy Squier’s The Stroke -- two songs about how to succeed at golf.

And finally, it gave us legends both new and old. Prince. Madonna. U2. The Boss.

MJ, R.I.P.

The 80s were also a powerfully transformative decade, turning hard rockin’ monsters like Van Halen and Motley Crue into Casey Kasem’s favorite cream puffs. So too did the 80s turn Hippie Nation on it’s dreaded heads when The Grateful Dead’s Touch of Grey reached the Top Ten back in 1987. But honestly, was any transformation any more gruesome than Jefferson Airplane’s nosedive into its reincarnation as Starship? In a parallel universe, someday 60s Grace Slick will meet 80s Grace Slick, and she will kick her ass into the third row for We Built This City.

This nutty decade also posed many important and potentially life-changing questions. Questions like: Who ya gonna call? Who’s that girl? Who can it be now? How will I know? What about love? What is love? Why can’t this be love? Do you believe in love? What’s love got to do with it? How am I supposed to live without you? Don’t you want me? Do you wanna touch me? Where is the tenderness?


Sorry. For a moment there, I was having flashbacks of being dumped at the homecoming dance.

Back to the 80s... Specifically its song lyrics, which will (hopefully) soon segue nicely into the big giveaway.

Some of the decade's lyrics have become almost iconic:

Out on the road today 
I saw a Deadhead sticker on a cadillac.

Oh yeah, life goes on
Long after the thrill of livin' is gone.

Put another dime in the jukebox, baby.

Other lyrics are unexpected pop music poetry:

Aspirations in the clouds
But your hopes go down the drain.

Spinning on that dizzy edge
Kissed her face and kissed her head
Dreamed of all the different ways
I had to make her glow.

Let me smell the moon in your perfume. 

Yes, the 80s gave us some totally excellent lyrics. Unfortunately, they also gave us lyrics that were totally looney tunes:

You played dead
But you never bled
Instead you laid still in the grass
All coiled up and hissing.

Before the cream sits out too long
You must whip it.

Candy on the beach, there's nothing better
But I like candy when it's wrapped in a sweater.

I stumble into town just like a sacred cow.

War is stupid, and people are stupid.

Who's that eatin' that nasty food?

And then there's the band Wang Chung, who apart from committing the atrocity of attempting to turn their band name into an actual verb, gave us the following verse in their single Dance Hall Days:

Take your baby by the hair
And pull her close, and there there there
Take your baby by the ears
And pray upon her darkest fears.

I can only imagine that the reason we have not heard from Wang Chung recently is because they are all safely locked away.

One final lyric for you to contemplate:


That Thomas Dolby guy... He just got it, y'know?

So anyway, let's finally get around to giving away copies of my novel Thank You For Flying Air Zoe! I will be giving away two paperback copies of the novel on Christmas Day, and the winners will be selected at random by the aptly named website Random.Org. Here is all you have to do to add your name to the mix.

I would like to hear a lyric or verse from one of your favorite 80s songs. It can be a snippet from a favorite song, a few lines from a song that sparks a special memory, or just something you find howlingly funny. Share your song lyric here in the comments section of this blog, or share it on my Facebook Author Page, and just like that, you've entered the giveaway!

And here's a groovy holiday bonus I've come up with. If you already own a copy, you can instruct me to send it to someone as a belated holiday gift. That's right, I will send them a signed copy of my novel, whether they like it or not! I'm giving like that.

Also, many of you have told me that you have not been able to leave comments on this blog -- apparently through some Blogger related hitch. So if you can't access comments here, and you're not a Facebooker, please feel free to email me -- address at the top right of this page -- and I will add your lyric to the comments myself.

This giveaway will end when the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve. Rest assured, I will remind you ad nauseam until then. And of course, if you feel like spreading the word and sharing this giveaway post with anyone you think might be interested, I would be impossibly grateful.

Lastly, it wouldn't be fair if I didn't include a favorite lyric of my own. I have a handful of favorite songs from the time period -- songs by the ever popular Fleetwood Mac and U2 (Gypsy and Bad), as well as songs by more alternative acts like The Replacements and 'Til Tuesday (Skyway and Coming Up Close). But my pick is from a one hit wonder that hit close to home during an icy adolescent New Hampshire winter back in 1985-1986. Got into a whole lotta trouble that year, and for whatever reason, jacking this song up on the walkman and drowning in its psuedo-psychedelia, booming tympani, and hypnotic chanting was my great escape from the angst that ailed.

Plus, I met my wife during that school year. So looking back, I'm sort of fond of my 1985-1986 winter, and my crazy life in a northern town...

'The Salvation Army Band Played
And the children drunk lemonade
And the morning lasted all day
All day'

Dream Academy
Life In A Northern Town
Winter 1985-1986

So what's your 80s song lyric?


Monday, November 21, 2011

I'm Gonna Hit the Highway Like a Battering Ram...

 a burgundy minivan.

Yup. That’s me. A Bat out of Hell in our scorching new minivan.

Adios, carefree youth. We had one hell of a ride, didn’t we?

I had an alternate silly song title for this post. It was almost called I Can’t Drive 55, because the truth is, I’m not sure that the van can reach such top end speeds. We’ve had it for a few weeks now, squiring our four-month-old son around city side streets like a regal king in a sad little chariot, and I haven't had enough open road to take this beast of a vehicle up to even 40 MPH. Our trips ate a constant circuit of stop signs, traffic circles, and school zones. Though I openly joke that the chariot's zero-to-sixty time is seven hours, deep down I know that it could probably hit higher speeds if given the space.

And the proper tailwind.

And a new engine.

And most importantly, a cool name.

Thus far, we’ve added the following to our list of possible minivan names:

The Burgundy Bruiser
The Purple People Eater
The S.S. Eggplant
The Pampers Camper
The Humility Bus

No joke, we had an easier time naming our son.

Anyway, let’s get back to this whole concept of cool. Upon announcing on Facebook that I had in fact fallen down the rabbit hole and was in the market for a minivan, a friend of mine shared THIS VIDEO – the rabbit hole’s #1 single “Swagger Wagon” by a fictional group called The Sienna Family. It’s part of a genius 2010 marketing campaign by Toyota that takes comic aim at the prevailing notion that the minivan is unequivocally the least cool vehicle on the road today. And really, after hearing this hardcore hip-hop jam, which features a cookie cutter of a dad in glasses and a sensible sweater laying down tight lyrics like, “I roll hard through the streets and the cul-de-sacs,” well…

Let’s just send a shout-out to the Toyota Marketing Team. Nice work. We bought your Swagger Wagon.

And for sure, I'm all jacked up to trick out the minivan and have the coolest ride in Seattle's westside. Or at least the northeast quadrant of the westside. Oh yeah, once I figure out what "tricking out" actually is, I'm all over it!

To be honest, I probably stopped being cool behind the wheel on the very day I bought a teal Toyota Paseo back in 1993. But even if there was a hint of hip to my Paseo back when I first bought it, I definitely abandoned cool when I rode this very same car right on into the 21st century. And given that I'm still driving this relic of an auto, it's conceivable that time behind the wheel of a minivan might actually elevate my cool quotient. However, with a Blue Book value that’s less than my laptop and gas mileage that’s still above 30MPG, this little toy car has become the untradeable engine that could.

My kid will probably laugh at this little teal monster once he’s old enough to consciously do so. But I'll get the last laugh, because in sixteen years, it will probably become his first car.

Of course by that point, it will be the last Paseo on the planet, and will be classified as Vintage Cool.

I imagine we've all tried to be cool at one point along the timeline, though we were likely too cool to admit that we were actually trying. For me, it started in the seventh grade, when I hit three balloons with as many darts at a local fair, and won a three-quarter sleeve Van Halen shirt. I must've worn that shirt five days a week. The other two days, I alternated between the Rush and Cheap Trick shirts that I won later in the day.

Those balloons, they were pretty big that day.

From that point on, manufactured cool continued to plague me over the years, and it wore many ridiculous costumes. OP t-shirts and Vuarnet shades. Leather bomber jackets and skintight jeans. Docksiders without socks in snowy, sub-zero weather. Tie-dyes, goatees, flannel, Birkenstocks, earrings, long hair, short hair - and so goes this calamitous list of affectations I adopted just so I could project the image and attitude of the person I hoped I was. All along, of course, this person was constantly changing - sometimes evolving, sometimes regressing, but always in flux. Such is the oft insecure urgency of youth. Now that I'm (*cough*) slightly (*cough*) older, I wonder if cool is not caring about whether or not you're cool. I hope so, because nowadays I go a week without shaving, have no idea if what I'm wearing is clean, and oh, did I mention that I drive a minivan?

Then I remember why I'm driving a minivan. It's because we need space for our super cool baby boy - the apple of my eye, my very best bud, and the Atwell household's top dog. If ultimately we need even more space, I won't care if I'm out there cruising the streets in a used UPS truck, or a hollowed out school bus.

I've heard some say that you stop being cool the moment you become a parent. Seems to me that this is actually a good time to start being cool. A time to reallocate the energy I've routinely spent on myself. A time to skip the daily shower because the little one is having a tough day and needs attention. And finally, a time to paint the minivan like it's the second coming of the Partridge Family bus.

My wife won't mind this last project, right?

So for now, we roll in a burgundy minivan, and I feel pretty damn good about it. Given my tendency to drive a vehicle long past its junkyard point, I'm sure I'll have a follow up minivan post at some point down the road. In fact, I think I already have a title for this post.

Life in the Carpool Lane.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Time Keeps On Slipping, Slipping, Slipping...

About three months ago, I kicked off this blog with the intention of posting at least once a week. And if you know me, you know that I talk too much, and I never shut up.

That's not totally true. Sometimes I actually do shut up. I just wanted to shamelessly reference a Run DMC lyric in my blog. My point, however, is that I am rarely without something to say, so I figured it would be easy to scribble snippets from my limitless sprawl of nutty thoughts here in this blog. 

Oh yeah, this would be a breeze.

Then along came my very own Mini-Me, who through his charm, charisma, and relentless pursuit of oohs, aahs and dry diapers, turned my easy breeze into a howling cyclone that devoured nearly every hour of every day.

As the saying goes, "Old habits die hard." But I'm willing to wager Mini-Me's college fund that whoever first said this never had hands-on experience with a fiercely loving and interactive infant. Because this boy completely dusted most of my pre-paternal habits. Not that I'm complaining - these old habits have been replaced by fantastic new habits like Sesame Street and Tummy Time. However, when it takes exactly 45 hours and 33 minutes to watch the season premiere of Modern Family, you know that free time has become elusive.

That was not a typo. 45 hours, 33 minutes. Or approximately the same amount of time it would take me and a motivated copilot to drive from Seattle to Atlantic City. 

Time suck aside, I was in fact able to accomplish a few writerly things during September, and if you haven't yet internet stalked me, I'd be happy to have you retroactively do so by checking out the following...

Recently I was given the opportunity to hold a week long author Q&A over on the amazing site Goodreads, which is basically a Facebook for rabid readers. You can check out the transcript of the session by clicking HERE .

Prior to that, I was asked by Laura Pepper Wu, owner of, to write a guest blog post on my flailing attempts to balance writing with raising a little one. Laura's excellent website is both entertaining and informative as it helps writers of all levels find a critique partner as they aim for the top of the Bestseller charts. If you're interested in reading my guest post, please click HERE.

And kicking off September, I had my very first author interview. And I'm not talking about one of those interviews I conducted in the mirror with myself before I was published, but a bona fide interview, complete with fun and challenging questions befitting the wide-eyed rookie author that I am. The interview was conducted by Leah Graham, editor and founder of, and it can be found by clicking HERE.

All my gratitude to Rossy, Fran, Laura and Leah for giving me these totally awesome opportunities. Rare are those who take the time to help out fledgling writers by giving them such an incredible stage - I just want you all to know how much I appreciate it, and that I will not forget your generosity.

So anyway, here I am now, fresh off of my disappearing September. Slowly, v-e-r-r-r-y  s-s-s-l-o-w-l-y, I am learning how to both reclaim and maximize my time. Though it took me damn near two days to watch the season premiere of my beloved Modern Family, I'm happy to report that it only took me about 19 hours to watch the second episode. 

Small victories in the mirror are larger than they appear.

Also, in order to conserve precious time, I even asked my wife to cut my hair for me. Though she refused about 98 times over three weeks, she finally buckled upon my 99th request. And now I have a spare hour or two to write a blog post because of her incomparable shearing efforts. 

As an added bonus, she's agreed to stay married to me even with this new haircut.

I'm kidding. It's actually a pretty impressive haircut. Kind of Vidal Sassoon meets Supercuts meets Sesame Street. 

We call the look Noveau Pรจre.

I wonder if it'll catch on...


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Like a Rhinestone Cowboy...

I've been getting cards and letters from people I don't even know.

Okay, that's not exactly true. But lately I have been getting Facebook friend requests from total strangers, which kind of baffled me. Remember, I now have a one-month-old son, so baffling me is easy these days. Ask me a question, and my first word will be, "Um..."

Then there'll be a 5-10 second pause.

Then I'll say, "So..."

Then I'll pause again. I may even randomly leave the room.

Then I'll ask you to repeat the question. Possibly from the other room.

2+2. These days, I question whether or not the answer is actually 4.

Seriously, 22 is a totally reasonable answer to this.

So anyway, I'm easily baffled - this we now know. And eventually, I figured out the influx of odd friend requests. I was probably getting these because I wrote a book, a few people have actually read it, and this is what they do if they like it. They understandably want to link up to whatever author, musician or artist makes a positive impact.

I was not so prepared for this. So here I am now, scrambling to oblige all comers.

See, I am by nature a private person, yet achieving my goal of becoming a published author has put me in a very public place. I have absolutely no complaints about this, but I've also struggled to tiptoe the privacy tightrope. Just what can I share that allows an audience into my life, while simultaneously not wholly compromising my family's privacy on such an open forum as the internet?

To continue swiping the words of Glen Campbell: "There's been a load of compromisin' on the road to my horizon." So in an effort to accommodate those I haven't yet met who wish to befriend me, I've succumbed to professional pressure, and have created a Facebook Author Page. Because truly, you're nobody until you're somebody on Facebook. And even then, you're still pretty much a nobody. You're just a nobody on a much more public stage.

So please consider joining in on the Facebook fun - there should be some sort of badge linking to the page over on the right. Here I will try to keep everyone current with blog posts, reviews, events, contests, idle chatter about 80s culture, my secrets to maintaining health and sanity while sleeping two hours a night, and so on and so forth. From time to time, I'll probably also even give away Thank You For Flying Air Zoe swag. Some of it might even be useful!

For example, in the tradition of Nike's amazing Air Jordan's, here is a peek at my primitive handmade Air Zoe's:

(NOTE: Special thanks to Old Navy for their sponsorship. They don't exactly know they're sponsoring my career, but I'm sure they'd appreciate it.)

The above pic is a snapshot of my very first author table at last Saturday's Book Fair at the fantastic Firewheel Books and Beans in Everett, WA. I hope to chat more about the event in a future post, but if ever you're in downtown Everett, do stop by for great coffee, vinyl records, and excellent hospitality.

And FYI, these limited edition Air Zoe flip-flops come with a 90 minute warranty. Act fast - these won't last long!

No really, I'm pretty sure the stickers will fall off by September at the latest.

Do stop by the Facebook page if you have a moment, and as always, thanks for flying!


Friday, August 12, 2011

First Concerts

When did you attend your first concert? Who did you see?

Mine was on March 21st, 1983. Spring had sprung on the closing curtain of my Junior High career, and we eighth grade adolescents were just weeks away from being full-fledged grown-ups. Or at least this is what we thought, so a few of us banded together to lobby our parents to let us see the crazy amazing concert coming to northern New England. For sure, it was a spectacular double-bill, featuring up-and-coming Brit headbangers Def Leppard opening for arena rock demigod Billy Squier.

Yes, this is the second time in two weeks that I've mentioned Billy Squier in this blog. I don't understand it either.

Anyway, this was the must-see event of the season, so we had to be there, even if it meant running away from home. Fortunately, we struck a hard bargain before arriving at this point. We were given permission to go, but we just needed one minor thing to come along with us.

A parental chaperone. 

Sometimes being thirteen absolutely sucked.

The tragic combo of a parent and a rock concert virtually decimated our Cool Kid Quotient. Yet it was sadly necessary given that the concert was ninety minutes away in the big city of Portland, Maine, and the only wheels we had were ten-speeds and skateboards. I can recall with complete clarity that our chaperone brought homework from her paralegal classes, and basically treated this epic event as little more than a TV show in the background. So while Def Leppard was bringin' on the heartbreak in the center stage spotlight, my friend's mom was studying dispute resolution and estate planning with a flashlight. 

Still, something magical happened even in spite of our chaperone's mortifying behavior. From the moment the lights and the music exploded, we were all electrified in a way we'd never experienced. Sure, we all competed to own the town's biggest boombox, and we thought we knew all about enormous  sonic mayhem. But we knew absolutely nothing about pure energy until we were awash in the kinetic flood of rock and roll adrenaline.

In a word, awesome.

A first concert can be a powerful experience. Those of you who've read my novel know that the catalyst for its main character Zoe's rock star dreams was a concert she was snuck into as an impressionable kid - an evening with a then unknown pop/punk/new wave band out of L.A. called The Go-Go's. I'll go no further with story chatter, fearing my own excitement when discussing the novel will ultimately lend itself to me blurting spoilers of my own novel, which I'm told is a massive authorial foul. Suffice it to say, however, that Zoe's fictional New Year's Eve with The Go-Go's was a volcano of a night that turned her world upside down. 

Made me wish I was there, it did.

Cut to over three decades later. Oh, and also cut to non-fiction. Imagine my surprise when this past April, I first looked at the summer schedule for a favorite local venue, and saw that The Go-Go's were coming to town, and they had scheduled a Sunday sundown show just down the street. 

Time was, this would've been an easy call for the summer to-do list. But given our new reality, we had to pause. Could we do this? After all, the date of this concert was less than a month after our firstborn's due date. Our August calendar was looking pretty full. Could we pull the trigger on what would surely be a sold out show, then hope against common perception that we could come up for air long enough to see at least one summer concert?

Would The Go-Go's become our son's very first show?

He Loves a Rainy Night
♫♫ Vacation, all I ever wanted... ♫♫

And look, we even bought a ticket for Eddie Rabbit, our little rock star's fave plush pal. 

I know what some of you may be thinking... "Wait, the boy is only three weeks old, isn't it a bit too soon to be taking him to a concert?" But if you look closely at the ticket, you'll see that it's at The Woodland Park Zoo. So you see, we're not actually taking him to a concert.

We're taking him to the zoo!

And if a concert happens to break out while we're there, so be it, we'll be ready!

This coming Sunday. Gorillas and Go-Go's. Win-win.

I am sure that decades down the road from here, our boy will be telling his own narrative about a first concert, and it will not involve The Go-Go's. No, his will probably either be a band that's in its fledgling stages in some suburban garage, or The Rolling Stones, who will inexplicably still be selling out stadiums at age eighty, even though Keith Richards has to be wheeled out onto the stage and propped up with backstage scaffolding. But whatever the venue and whoever the artist, it will likely leave an indelible fond memory, and what more could a parent want for their child?

Oh, and kiddo?

If I do have to chaperone, I won't get in your way. But if you need me, you'll probably find me dancing with your Mom somewhere near the back of the venue.

When did you attend your first concert? Who did you see?

Did it totally blow you away, or what?


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Letter to a Little Guy

Dear Sweet Child Of Mine,

Let's get one thing straight. You are seriously making a mess out of my fledgling writing career. How can I possibly expect to focus on blog posts and pitch perfect prose when you’re sleeping three feet in front of me? You're just too cute. Too awesome. It's impossible to not just sit here and stare. I mean you are barely a week old, and you’re already...

Time Out.

You just made a silly sound that was sort of a cross between a squeak and a sigh.

I am thisclose to melting.

And now I have no idea what I was going to say to you. None. Your charm is a magnet on my mix tape of thoughts. Whatever noise is going on inside my busy head gets wiped clean the instant you make a sound, share a wide-eyed expression, or even show off a little toot.

Anyway, I'm hoping that maybe you’ll give me a moment to concentrate, so I can jot down a few things I'd like to say to you as you take on Week Two of your big adventure.

Kiddo, your dad is a child of the 80s. There unfortunately is no way around this, and as you grow up, it will probably embarrass you at completely inopportune moments. I can tell you that I will try not to pick you up from the seventh grade dance while blasting Billy Squier’s The Stroke from the tape deck of a Toyota that should’ve been sold for scrap metal in 2001. But I make no promises. Because see, as you barrel through all of the speed bumps and potholes of youth, I’m certain I will watch with a sense of nostalgic pride. I've made a promise to myself - to remember as much as possible about what it felt like to be just like you. I want to recall the uncertainties of being a kid so that I can understand your troubles, fears and incredible sense of urgency. I want to never lose sight of how very vital everything feels during the emotionally dizzy days of childhood and adolescence. 

And most of all, I want to relate to you. I'm new at this parenting thing, but I'm pretty sure that this will take us both a long way.

So when I pick you up from your Junior High dance, I will probably want to travel back to my own years dancing to cheesy 80s songs in the Junior High gym. By the way, for me, this "dancing" was characterized by a signature move of the decade - jumping off folding metal chairs and performing daredevil kicks & spread eagles reserved mostly for freestyle skiers, figure skaters, and a young David Lee Roth. You may think this move will show off your athletic prowess and impress the ladies. But trust me, it does not.

For the record, I look forward to one day seeing your own baffling "signature move."

And hey, speaking of impressing the ladies... Please do know that if you’re trying to win over the Junior High Winter Carnival Queen, I will gladly turn the car stereo down for you as I pull into the parking lot. Or at least switch the tape player from Squier's Stroke to Journey's Open Arms. I recognize that when courting a Carnival Queen, or any gal at all, ambiance is crucial, and nothing bursts with romantic crescendos quite like a well-placed Journey song. 

You laugh, but son, you can learn many important things from the culture of your old man’s youth. The Tao of 80s Tunes – a.k.a. Everything I Know I Learned From Watching MTV – is an undervalued doctrine of hidden wisdom and insight. 

If you take nothing else from this letter, please always remember these words of advice:

Son, don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past, you must fight just to keep them alive. Just dream those dreams, scheme those schemes, and hit them with your laser beams. We’ve gotta hold on to what we’ve got. It doesn’t really matter if we make it or not. We’ve got each other, and that’s a lot. We have to believe we are magic, and nothing can stand in our way, because there’s no one who can tame our animal style, and we won’t be caged by the call of the wild! So when you feel like you’re always in the dark, living in a powder keg and giving off sparks, just remember that we are all just children, fighting our way around indecision.

And lastly, when a problem comes around, you must whip it.

Little Guy, I could go on and on, but I'll spare you. After all, you're only nine days old. Everything probably feels a little overwhelming at the moment. But more than anything, I want you not to worry about navigating life's massive roadmap. Me and your mom - we've got your back. We joke about how because your birthdate was July 24th, we'll have to call you The 24/7 Kid. But I think what I want you to know most of all is that I aspire to be The 24/7 Dad

Yes, Sweet Child, it’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you…

...because you take me by the heart when you take me by the hand.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The July 19th Glob Post

Today is July 19th. It is a date that we've had circled on our calendar ever since the doctor gave the green light to our inaugural Reproduction Project. So last night I went to bed feeling pretty confident that because our due date was July 19th, I would wake up in the morning, and our new little bundle of a rock star would be sleeping there in the very crib we've been using as a storage bin for the last two months.

I was wrong.

This is fine. As long as my belief that our child will be born with the ability to change his own diaper is soon validated, I'm okay with being wrong every once in a while.

You really can't argue with the mighty stork. He's got his own ideas of a due date, and we here are powerless against his scattershot schedule. That said, over these last two weeks, the general emotional climate of our cozy condo has been all over the map. Two weeks ago, we were glowing with excitement, tying up all loose ends and preparing for the little guy to land. Last week, the mood shifted to a healthy anxiety as we wondered each morning if this would be our boy's birthday. And this week...

Well, this week our little pinball machine may have finally gone *TILT*

Evidence of this:

I've recently been hard at work inventing a new, though slightly derivative brand of footwear. The key component of the design being a hand-painted logo on a pair of dirt cheap high-end Flip-Flops. My misguided mission: To create a phenomenon much like the Air Jordan sneaker craze in the 80s and 90s. Only with Flip-Flops.

Not just Flip-Flops, but Air Zoe Flip-Flops.

That's right - Air Zoes.

Admit it - you know you want a pair.

I'm not the only lunatic here, however. See, just yesterday, I caught my wife in a wholly embarrassing position. Yes, while waist deep in accounting spreadsheets, I caught her singing along to a Whitney Houston song... complete with dramatic facial expressions befitting only the most self-assured of divas.

Seriously, as I watched her sing, I could feel how truly passionate she was when she decided long ago never to walk in anyone's shadow.

So yeah. We here in Babyland, we're not quite right at the moment. Truth is, I almost forgot that I'd planned on writing more here before the baby came, but fortunately my wife reminded me.

"Don't forgot to write a Glob Post," she said.

Even worse, I knew exactly what she was talking about.

Probably for the best that we're getting our dim bulb moments out of our system now, huh?  The good news is that I've written out a checklist of things to bring to the hospital when it's Go Time:

1. Baby Clothes & Gear
2. Car Seat
3. Wife

Oh yeah. I've got this totally under control.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Number 19,821 With A Bullet!

I am absolutely certain that raw vulnerability and the corresponding unbridled angst are the bane of the debut novelist. Thank You For Flying Air Zoe took about three years to go from the flicker of an idea to the bonfire of a full novel. During these years, I moved from LA to Seattle, got married in Maine, and essentially ended the novel as a totally different writer than the guy who started it. The Air Zoe project traveled some truly important miles with me, and in so doing, became indelibly etched into the scrapbook of these miles.

This book. It was so very important to me and my amazing new family.

Cut to today, about eleven months after finishing Air Zoe,which has now been available for the grand total of about a week. I am undeniably excited about this. For me, the story of Zoe and The Flip-Flops is now more real than ever. It is officially Flip-Flop Season, and I am undeniably excited about this.

I am also a nervous wreck of a writer with a jaw-dropping list of silly concerns...

Is there is an evasive typo somewhere in the story that dodged endless edits, and will somehow torpedo my fledging career?

Will '80s pop music darlings The Go-Go's take offense at my referencing them without permission and serve up a crippling law suit?

Will people like the book?

Will people even buy the book?

Vulnerability and angst are not emotions that can't be quantified.  Or are they? See, I think they are. I think they can be accurately measured with the employment of one cruel and uncompromising internet measuring stick...

The Amazon Sales Rank.

As a reader, I never paid a speck of attention to this. I bought what interested me, regardless of where the book landed in global popularity contests. Yet in my first week of actually having a novel on Amazon, I have become mildly obsessed with checking my own Sales Rank. I have high-fived my wife upon cracking the top 100,000, and I have huddled in the corner gnawing on my hand when I slip below 300,000. Never mind that I don't have a clue what these figures mean - I just want that number as low as possible.

Or rather as high as possible.

See, I don't even know what I want. That's the power of the Amazon Sales Rank - it makes irrational buffoons out of all authors unequipped to fend off anxiety.

Anyway, yesterday was a big day for me on the charts. I rose to my highest point yet. Thank You For Flying Air Zoe was ranked #8,110. I had somehow, at least on this magical day, powered past novels by Snooki and Nicole Richie. And in my sights, literary wunderkind Justin Bieber and his recently released memoir.

For the record, at 17, I was not writing a memoir. I was skipping school to drink cheap beer on top of ski jumps, at the base of local ledges, and in the drivers' seats of logging equipment left alone for in local forests.

Suffice it to say, I don't give myself much of a shot at catching this kid. He's hovering near 3,000, and after yesterday's peak, I'm now at...

Ugh. 26,537. When I started writing this, I was climbing, and my ranking has risen from about 30,000 back up to 19,821. But now I see that I have tumbled a bit. Tuesday has become more Roller than Coaster. If anxiety is the bane of the writer, then the Amazon Sales Rank is uncut Kryptonite.

I expect that soon I will become immune to these numbers. And truth be told, my "obsession" has already become more of a comedy than a drama, which I suspect will allow me to maintain a proper perspective.

Still, who doesn't want their work to be admired, y'know? I have always aspired to both entertain my readers, and to a tangential extent, leave some sort of small positive mark upon their lives. This here is my first opportunity to do just that, and I hope I leave no bullets in the chamber in my efforts to win over as wide of an audience as possible.


It's cool. I've got faith in this book. I think we can go places.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

It's A Book!

The first of two amazing July deliveries arrived just the other day, leaving me proud, awestruck, and totally wiped out.  I had been given a mid-July date for its expected arrival, but you know, sometimes The Fates have other ideas. In this case, the bundle came early.

So anyway, here are the vitals...

Birthdate: July 5, 2011
Height: 61 inches
Weight: 72 pounds

One day I will read them all!
And as you can see from the photo, this bundle is a little literary monster that's already trying to leave home.

Here's the thing. It would have been more than enough seeing just one copy of my first novel, Thank You For Flying Air Zoe. This was a project that spanned about four years between inception and fruition, so I'd grown attached to its fate. Yeah, if I had been given even a single copy of this, I'd have been ecstatic.

But I didn't receive just one copy.

I received 96 copies. All at once.

So I did what any author would do when presented with such a rare opportunity. I stacked them on top of one another so I could see which one of us was taller.

Three-quarters of the way through the stacking, things got serious. Kind of like when you're deep into a game of Jenga, and you realize upon surveying the unstable wooden tower in front of you that physics will not allow you to extract this next piece. To be sure, the game is just about over.

Yes, at about 85 books, my tower started to topple. However, just as I did when I was bogged down while writing the novel, I swore, pouted and stomped like a two-year-old, swore again, then blindly pressed on. Rome wasn't built in a day, but this book tower would be.  Never mind that it was closing in on 11PM, or that my 38 weeks pregnant wife was staring as though she was just then realizing that all adult decisions regarding parenting would heretofore be made solely by her. My wires had crisscrossed. This tower needed to be completed.

Apparently publication itself was not the end game.

The end game was a five foot tall book tower that needed to be raised, at any cost to the collective household sanity.

So... You wanna know what happens when you see your book in print for the very first time? Or analogously, what happens when you achieve something that's been on your to-do list for one hell of a long time?

You completely lose your mind.

But you know what?

My kid is totally gonna have a dad who can build towers out of pretty much anything!

So I think it was all worth it, don't you?


Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Fasten Seatbelt Sign Has Been Turned On

And welcome to the complete demolition of life as I once knew it. It’s alternately thrilling, terrifying, exhilarating, and exhausting. But it is also the life I asked for, so I'm aboard for the long haul.

You’re wondering. Blogging 101 teaches bloggers to not be too cryptic. I'm failing already, so I’ll cut right to the quick of it.

My first novel, titled THANK YOU FOR FLYING AIR ZOE, will be available on July 19th.

Our first child, untitled at the moment, is also due on July 19th.

Tomorrow is July 1st, and my quiet, cozy world is about to get a holiday firecracker right between its sleepy little eyes. And I absolutely can't wait. The way I see it, our lives are often measured by the quality of our memories. Given this, it seems to me that our present days are best served by creating the memories of our future. 

Live urgently, live passionately, live now.

Sure, nothing ever goes exactly as planned, but July 19th looks like a major launching pad for memories. 

Okay then, just give me a second to climb down off of my soapbox so I can dial it down and talk about this blog. Even though I don't really want to talk about the blog as much as I just want to write the damn thing and see where it goes.

See, I have spent far too many hours obsessing over what this blog should be, and midway through my very first post, I still don’t have much of a clue. I am clearly off to a confident and well-calculated start.

I do expect the blog will be a function-over-form kind of spot, mostly because I know next to nothing about layouts, designs, HTML codes, etc. My amazing wife is also tripped up by tech toys and the like. Truth be told, this is one of the main reasons we’re having a kid – so he can teach us how to use computers in about 8-10 years. But for now, I hope I can create an experience akin to finding a great cup of coffee in a simple and nondescript cafe.

I hope this blog will be a place where not only can I interact with readers and writers, but they can also interact with one another. Deep down, however, I worry about the Wild West nature of the internet. The blog of a favorite writer recently shut down completely because it fell into a venomous flame fest propelled by conflicting personal, political and religious beliefs. I hope this won't happen, but I know that it could.

At some point, I am confident that spammers will burrow their way onto this blog, and riddle the comments section with links to discounted Play Stations, replica Gucci handbags, and Russian dating sites. I will try to zap them away, but they will probably return, and ultimately I will have no recourse but to buy you all Play Stations and knockoff handbags for Christmas.

You’re on your own if you’re hoping to find love in Russia.

I also expect that this blog will frequently lapse into nostalgic musings and diatribes. The novel itself leans heavily on the vibrantly diverse tapestries of '80s culture, and it would be a waste to not tap into this lovably loopy decade on a regular basis.

So… Do you want to know more about this novel?  Tell you what. I'll give you a sneak peek at the back cover.

I know. It's totally awesome. You'd think it would be the most totally awesome thing a writer could have happen, but it's not.

This is.

Little Air Atwell, February 2011

Good lookin' kid. Definitely takes after his mom. 

So yeah, this is gonna be one hell of a ride, and I hope I can keep all of you aboard for the next few weeks… months… years… however long this writing career of mine can sustain. Sure, it’s probably 50/50 that my July 30th blog entry will look like a can of Alphabet Soup exploded on your monitor because I’ve slept for 12 hours over a 14 day period, but I promise I’ll do whatever I can to keep you properly entertained. And if that means posting videos of me singing a slowed down version of Walk Like An Egyptian as a lullaby to my kid, oh yes, I will.

But please don’t make me do this. Not yet. I’m just getting to know you, and it would be a shame if I sent you running for the door so soon.

Besides, I do a much better version of Every Rose Has Its Thorn.