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.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

If I EVER See Three Little Birds On My Doorstep...

Welcome to this month’s installment of Good God, Where Has The Time Gone?!

Yet again, it's been far too long since my last post, and with continued chaos in the forecast, I'm hoping to make amends by including a giveaway for a copy of my novel Thank You For Flying Air Zoe.

It’ll be fun. I expect many laughs at my expense as the contest plays out.

So let’s begin!

As many of you know, my wife and I are the proud parents of a musical prodigy. Or at the very least, a cute little peanut who can canonically babble with perfect pitch while whaling on an empty Pop-Tarts box with impossible rhythm.

Y’know, for a seven month old.

Music was in our boy’s blood from the very beginning. When labor reached the twenty hour mark, we theorized that the peanut’s reluctance to come out was because of the cold and hushed hospital environment. Basically, we needed to turn the room into a concert hall, so we created an epic three-hour Labor Mix that spanned the alphabet from Armatrading to Yaz. It was for sure a long strange trip -- one in which we lit out from Reno trailed by twenty hounds, went to see the doctor of philosophy, and blew out our flip-flops on pop tops. Labor may have been a bit too laborious, but it was at least musical. And as we waited for the child within our hearts to rise above, we faded into Mazzy Star, and had our hearts eclipsed by Bonnie Tyler on what was for sure a marvelous night for a Moondance.

Oh, and for any future parents out there, Peaceful Easy Feeling by The Eagles is really a horrible selection for a child labor playlist. Just a little intel there for you.

Anyway, to make this extra long story short, the Labor Mix worked. So having given our son such a musical debut, we knew that we needed to maintain this momentum and properly nurture his innate talents. We needed to assemble another playlist of amazing songs.

We needed to locate a collection of lullabies that would lull the boy into a shiny happy dreamland when necessary.

Rookie parents probably know one or two lullabies tops, and for me, the most obvious traditional choice was Rock-a-Bye Baby. However, it takes all of four lines to realize that this lullaby classic was, in terms of its message, a complete train wreck of a tune.

Rock a bye baby on the treetop,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

Yeah no. My kid is not gonna be falling out of any tree, real or imaginary, until he’s old enough to build his own treehouse with construction grade cedar, and sign a waiver stating that his parents are not responsible for any mayhem that may occur when at ten feet or more off the ground.

So we turned to the next mainstream lullaby – Hush, Little Baby, which at its core, is pretty much a song about bribery. This one was also dismissed from the playlist.

Once we were fully liberated from the standards, we happily set out to take some of our own personal faves and turn them into naptime tunes. And after many, many, many months of experimenting with styles and arrangements (who knew 99 Red Balloons, a song about war, could be truly calming when slowed down!), we ultimately came to the following conclusion...

Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds is the greatest song ever recorded, and without it, our family would have been reduced to little blubbering puddles by now.

So yeah, we located the golden lullaby, which for weeks on end squired the little man to sleep with almost incomprehensible success. And the lyrics conveyed an almost unbearably sweet sentiment - one that any parent would wish upon their child:

Rise up this morning,
Smiled with the rising sun.
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Saying, "This is my message to you."

Singin', "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing
Is gonna be all right."

Bob Marley was said to have fathered eleven children. I bet they all slept great.

Here’s the thing. In the Summer of ’85, I couldn’t get enough of the hit song St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion) by John Parr. Those were the days when if you didn’t have a song on cassette or LP, you would glue yourself to a favorite radio station, and like a cat on a rodent, slam the record button on your boombox when the song you were trying to capture came onto the air. True story – I think I spent two or three years trying to record Pilot of the Airwaves by Charlie Dore this way. With that song, I was more like Wile E. trying to catch The Road Runner.

Luckily, St. Elmo’s Fire was an easy prey song, and I nabbed it quickly. However, after playing the song probably a dozen times a day for the span of the entire summer, it got kind of old. Which brings me to a hard confession.

I love, love, love Three Little Birds. But it’s getting kind of old. So much so that I’ve taken to rewriting the lyrics to keep me on my toes.

Rise up this morning,
Dow Jones is down again.
Three little birds
Might be my breakfast
If this market
Doesn’t rebound real fast.
I bet they’d taste good with dijon glaze.

As my Marley remixes have grown ever more boring and bizarre over the last few weeks, I’ve started to shake up the lullaby playlist, turning to personal karaoke staples like Take Me Home, Country RoadsThe Gambler, and most successfully, Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Still, while Lightfoot’s nautical, rolling melody seems expressly written for the sole purpose of rocking a little one, the lyrics are a beast for any singer who doesn’t have the benefit of a karaoke monitor. And when wildly lost in the middle of such an epic song, well...

Sometimes you’ve just gotta get creative:

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
Something something, the next word is Cleveland.
Don’t know the next line,
Which would totally be fine,
If my left arm had not lost all feelin’.

The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound,
And a wave broke over the railing.
Forgot the words again,
This lullaby must end,
As a father I just might be failing.

So yeah, I’m sort of in the market for a new lullaby.

And this is where the giveaway comes in -- I would love for you writers, readers, and music lovers to help me find one.

Here are the loose rules for the giveaway. In the comments section below, please give me the title of a song you’d like me to try turning into a lullaby. It can be any song at all, but please know that while I will make every effort to do your selection justice, if I don’t really know or cannot easily learn the words to the song, I will probably improvise and/or butcher it à la Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald.

And if you suggest It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) by R.E.M., you will be disqualified on the spot.

As the suggestions come in, I will start giving each one a shot at becoming our household's 2012 Lullaby Champion. This title will be awarded to the lullaby that gets our son down faster than all the others.

And yes, I'll be using a stopwatch.

Granted, there are variables about this little giveaway that are far beyond my control -- most notably our boy's fatigue level. And for the sake of my already questionable sanity, if I'm ten minutes into the lullaby and the peanut isn't showing any signs of nodding off, I will probably pull the plug on the song. It's rough enough that he has to hear me try songs beyond my limited vocal reach, but doing so for any excess time will probably end nap time before it even begins.

So there are the rules -- I do look forward to hearing what all y'all come up with, be it from the swingin' 70s, the awesome 80s, or any other era. Also, please leave your email contact info with your post so I can contact you if you're the one who comes up with Version 2.0 of the Golden Lullaby. I will close the door to entries at this time next Sunday, and I'll try to post the times of each lullaby here in the comments section as the giveaway contest unfolds.

Thanks so much for your suggestions.

Oh, and if you're looking to send our son a gift, he would love THIS.

Really, he would. Swear it's not for his Dad.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Blog Tour 2012: They Say That The Road Ain't No Place To Start A Family

Book tours. They're so 20th century.

Once upon an uncivilized lifetime ago -- i.e. that prehistoric era before the internet -- authors hit the road to promote their work. Today, however, traditional book tours, unless you're either a best-selling author or a celebrity, are becoming almost obsolete. Brick-and-mortar bookstores are closing at tragically alarming rates, as book lovers have increasingly taken to sites like Amazon to either order books, or have them delivered electronically to their Kindle in less time than it takes to open up a wallet. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads now provide authors of modest means a tremendous opportunity to expand their marketing reach.

Oh, and yeah, the larger the book tour, the more money it costs. And over the past few years, the publishing world doesn't really have too much cash to toss around.

So where can an author turn here in 2012 to introduce themselves to new readers? 

Here is where:

The Blog Tour.

13 blogs and 13 reviews over a span of 21 days.

One week from today, my novel -- and by extension, my silly authorial ego -- stand before the judges like a small-town teen lookin' to make it to Hollywood Week on Idol. And am I nervous about this?

Yup. Definitely.

But I'm also incredibly fired up about it, because this all we authors can ask for -- a chance to connect with new readers. So over the next few weeks, thanks to the totally awesome Samantha at CLP Blog Tours, I get to go on a book tour from the comfort of my very own home.

Which really works for me in terms of gas money and hotel bills. 

Plus, at just six months old, our little one is still probably a few months away from a good ol' cross-country road trip. Even if the trip is to help keep him swimming in stuffed critters & squeaky toys.

At some of these Blog Tour stops, I've been given the stage to contribute a guest post or an author interview, so please do follow along, because I can promise big laughs directly at my expense! All you'll need to do is just click on the banner above to know where I'll be along the Tour. Or alternately, you can follow along on my Facebook Page.

So Happy New Year to everyone who's been keeping up with me over the last six months of Air Atwell mayhem! My novel and I are hoping for even bigger air here in 2012, and I'm excited to continue sharing everything we encounter along the way.

Even the turbulence. 

But don't worry -- even though I've never taken a single flight lesson, I totally think I can still get this plane down in one piece.

I mean Ferris Bueller never had an oboe lesson either, and he sounded pretty awesome, so...