Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Tabby's Return

...The cat's sudden appearance under the breezeway startled me, jarring my windup into an awkward stumble over a divot in the sod.

I'd been throwing the tennis ball into the brick fascia for the bulk of the afternoon, negotiating a positive outlook over playing for Walnut Creek next summer. The attempt was pointless.

With every pitch my anger intensified. It stewed in my chest like boiling water. I imagined billowing steam being absorbed into the muscles of my throwing arm. Could almost taste the vapor seeping from every available pore. Pop, bounce, breath.

Berlin was my home. My friends were here. My team. My school. And yet, with the ease of flipping a light switch, my parents were about to take it away, changing the very landscape they themselves provided for me only a few years earlier. And all for another attempt at making things right. Even if it felt so very wrong.

None of us had seen the cat since returning from Washington. We'd thought perhaps he'd moved on in our absence. Yet there he was, poised on weary haunches, considering my emotional state with calm reserve. I hadn't noticed him sitting there until that moment, never sensed his presence nearby.

Feeling the muscles in my arm growing stiff, I turned my back to the tabby and threw another pitch. Then another. Pop, bounce, breath.

Now I did feel the cat's gaze. Ageless golden gems piercing holes into my back. I offered him a glance, then threw. Pop, bounce, breath.

I'd always thought cats tended to follow movement. An insatiable desire to stalk anything considered a possible threat, or their next meal. But with every pitch, the tabby never once took interest in the ball's trajectory, choosing to focus its attention on me instead.

Unnerved, I finally turned and answered his stare with one of my own. A boy and a cat, caught up in a moment of solace. His face revealed no purpose driving its behavior. With the exception of an occasional twitch from a partially mangled ear, his expression was vacant.

My breathing slowed. My anger grew tolerant. The question left my mouth with little thought in advance. "Well, what am I supposed to do?"

Unblinking, he tilted his head as if to say, "Come on kid, be reasonable. I'm a cat."

When at last he sauntered off, I half expected him to do so on two legs, hunched over an ancient cane crafted from a downed hickory...

...the results of some late night doodling while sweating through revisions and re-writes. A ten year old boy with a problem, and an ageless tom with an apparent answer...but so far he's not talking.

Thanks for reading:)

Friday, July 23, 2010

...thrown a curve

...contrary to what has become a popular rumor floating about, my unexpected hiatus is not the result of revision burnout, choosing instead to commit myself fully to the dreaded day job. No sir, not in this lifetime...or the next. The following is an account of the past week...I'd personally classify it in the mental/drama genre, but that's from a biased perspective.

I received an urgent text from my wife last Thursday which stated something to the effect of..."washer has blown up and is flooding the downstairs!"

Stuck serving my ten hour sentencing at the day job, I had no choice but to offer my heartfelt condolences until my work release later that evening. (that's how I view the day job...prison with health care benefits:)

Hours later, upon inspecting the damage, it was apparent that a full load of laundry had been rolling about when the washer's pump decided on an early retirement. Despite my wife shutting off the water valve, a considerable trickle continued to bleed through our first floor laundry room, to our finished basement where I stood next to my daughter's cat for several minutes, the two of us watching in awe as the weight of the flood had managed to ruin an impressive amount of ceiling tiles, and was now pooling onto the floor in front of the downstairs fridge.

Fast forward to Saturday, following hours of sopping up and the continual usage of a dehumidifier, wife and I found ourselves at the appliance store, doing our best at low-balling a salesman for an energy star washer reminiscent of something out of The Terminator series. (Top load washers no longer have agitators...who would've thunk it?)

As we were closing the deal, my oldest son was at home, on the computer, wandering about somewhere in the Web's seedy underbelly. No not porn...but from what I could later determine, hop-skip-linking from one low-budget youtube skit to another, laughing at other's stupidity and feeling cool...and not realizing that he was being tailed by a virus, until the damage had already been done.

Spyware seized the culprit, but not before it had infiltrated into our hard-drive, and like a tick on a stray mutt, embedded itself somewhere way down deep into the folds of our Dell.

On to Monday, where, upon dropping off the computer at the Geek Squad for repair, I stopped at Wal-Mart for some of this, a little of that, and as always, ventured into the book section...a magnetism with the kind of pull I'm powerless to defend.

While studying this week's new releases, I spotted the latest Karin Slaughter novel, and found myself in need of the cart for added support. Her ongoing investigative thriller series featuring Special Agent Will Trent, a fellow she's described as a Jeff Goldblum look-a-like, and his partner, Faith Mitchell. Slaughter can pen a juicy mystery with the best of 'em, but it was the title of her newest addition that drew my angst.


My title. It had been my title for the better half of a decade. And while I'd spent a good deal of time researching other novels with the simple one-word name-tag, it was pleasing to discover that for the most part, Broken was usually included in a title phrase. Broken This or Broken That. Only a scant few were simply named "Broken," and none by anyone I recognized from the best-seller list.

But Slaughter's an established carnivore in shark infested waters. At the present time, I'm a guppy.

So I called David, who said, "Slaughter's a nationwide treat. You're gonna be a local hotshot for a time until that day when your ticket's punched. I think it'll be all right. Go drink a beer and chill out."

Okay. A week spent hunched over revisions, corrections now made with lead and eraser instead of a backspace button, and a plump bill soon to be arriving from the appliance store, with my checkbook already listed in critical condition.

The computer's back. The funds are low. But our floors are now dry and our clothes are clean once again.

Even without an agitator:)

Sunday, July 11, 2010


...a short time ago, give or take a few days amidst the current tailspin I've found myself wallowing in, Christine Danek, a fellow blogger/writer who's work is deserving of a spot on every reader's shelf, awarded me The Versatile Blogger badge, to which I'm grateful. With the honor comes the understanding of stirring up a post featuring 7 points of interest about myself, which hopefully won't bore anyone to tears. Sorry it took so long, Christine:)

And we're off...

1. My wife and I have been blessed with three kids, currently one foster child and if the phone starts ringing at a late hour, sometimes more, two dogs, and I forget how many cats, (the number tends to fluctuate according to my daughter's preferences:)

2. A twenty minute drive from my home, with mapquest's cooperation, drops you onto the doorstep of the long abandoned penitentiary where "Shawshank Redemption" was filmed. (Arguably one of the best movies of our time.)

3. I once wrote an essay for a friend of mine that ultimately got him accepted to the college of his preference, where last I heard, he was well on his way to an aspiring career. Perhaps not my finest decision, but a wonderful conversation piece.

4. Mindless comedies, featuring light-weighted plots too ignorant to dwell upon in fear of jeopardizing one's I.Q., are the most hilarious movies ever created. "Blind Date," starring Bruce Willis, "The Chase," with Charlie Sheen, "The Big Lebowski," and of course, "The Hangover," stand at the top of their class.

5. I'm curious if there are others out there who read "The Elements of Style," and can't help but wonder if perhaps the book should be shelved in the COMEDY section at Barnes & Noble. "Nauseous. Nauseated. - The first means, sickening to contemplate; the second means sick at the stomach. Do not, therefore say - I feel nauseous, unless you are sure you have that effect on others." (See what I mean?)

6. I find beauty in all things sports related. The amount of descriptive detail which can be inspired from a last second foul shot with victory at stake leaves my tongue wagging like a parched mutt. It's not surprising that both novels I'm currently battling through, while not the focal point of the plot, have sports-related issues which inevitably tie into each story's theme. It's an admitted weakness, but without the lasting consequences of smoking.

7. "Broken," the third novel I've penned, has been accepted by David Wiesenberg, and is currently under round two of edits and revisions. Writing the thing was the easy part...making it pretty, well, that's a different story.

...I'll be sharing the love shortly, but for now, the hour's late and my pillow awaits:)

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Departed









Monday, July 5, 2010

The Procrastinator's Guide to Grillin Supremacy happens, the coals are primed, the meat marinated, the beverages chilled, all's well. Then alas, you pick up that book, or a page of your WIP with revisions on the brain, and next thing you know, its been an hour, that foul odor entering your nostrils was supposed to be dinner, the family's hungry...and will remain that way until the pizza dude arrives. The dog gets to gnaw on the charred remains of what was once a chicken, and you've been relieved of grillin duties until further notice.

Yep, I've been there.

People who are not writers simply don't understand. When a spare minute presents itself, as in playing Emeril on the back patio while the meat simmers, the urge to work on one's project under the setting sun can be too persistent to ignore. And when not paid attention to...meat becomes smoked jerky, and wives forget about manners...even in front of dinner guests.

But that was then...

For writers, inventors, starving artists, procrastinator's and the like, grillin chicken has never been so easy,(and tasty:)

1. Grillin chicken works best with thighs, drumsticks, and of course, hotwings. And pass on those boneless skinless slabs of problematic dis-function.

2. Rinse the chicken under cool water and place into a roaster. Tossing raw chicken onto a flaming grill is like betting on a 3-legged horse at The matter how you spin it, the outcome's not promising.

3. Once the bird is situated in the roaster, add either a half can of Coke, or the contents of a darker brewed beer. I personally lean toward Labatt Blue myself, but Coke does quite well.

4. Next, add a healthy supply of Worcestershire Sauce. Don't bother asking how much, just gauge the amount of meat in the roaster and go with it.

5. Sprinkle whatever spices you prefer upon the entire mess. Garlic salt, seasoned salt, pepper, something exotic from the Greek Islands, you get the idea.

6. Place the covered roaster on the grill, close the lid, find your favorite chair and that novel, do your best to hide that smirk as your loved ones eyeball the smoking grill pit fearfully, and relax. You've just earned yourself between 30-45 minutes of bliss, (depending on the size of your dinner,) while the contents in the roaster go to work.

7. Only when the meat starts to brown on the outside, do you even consider removing it from the roaster, but unfortunately, in time, it will.

8. Time to get serious. Remove each piece of chicken from the roaster and place them onto the grill with a dash of Worcestershire and your preferred barbecue sauce.

9. Allow to sizzle for no more than 5 minutes on either side, or all the work of roasting those important juices into the meat, will burn up like that novel idea you've been mentally pursuing for the past decade.

10. Roasting the meat preserves the taste, the five minute sizzle gives the skin that grilled texture we've all come to recognize as a perfectly charred specimen. It also "bakes" in the barbecue sauce, giving one the impression that you've been slaving over a hot grill for the past hour, when we all know better:)

...this technique also works with certain varieties of pork, but I'd advise against experimenting with that twenty dollar steak...something about tossing a steak into a's just unethical.