Sunday, September 26, 2010

Birth of an Idea

...Thursday evening.

An autumn sunset has created a smudge of color across the distant skyline. Like an oil painting, variations of pink and orange blended together from the hand of an artist touched by an angel.

From both sides of the ball field, young men raise their arms into the breeze, four fingers outspread...fourth quarter underway.

As they've done throughout most of the season, the game has long been decided, both teams having already pulled their starters, allowing their second string players a chance to scuff up their cleats.

I watch my son standing along the sidelines with his teammates, helmets clutched at their sides, smiles spreading like an air-born virus. Thus far the season has been a success. Fourteen year old athletes riding a four game winning streak, dreaming of varsity ball under the lights, less than a year away.

My son turns toward the stands, spots me in the crowd, offers a grin before returning his gaze to the action. I answer with a chuckle. Sky's the limit for that kid.

Down by thirty, the opposing team is threatening to score. They line up at our ten yard line, their backup quarterback barking out the play.

The football's hiked, the passer shuffles his feet, winds up and tosses the ball into the an awaiting receiver, hands outstretched.

A blur of blue and gold and our backup defender sweeps into the action, snags the football, and bolts in the opposite direction.

My son's backup, the boy doesn't get much time on the field in most games. An interception is a rare treat. Standing along the sideline, my son and his teammates leap for joy.

Then as the boy rumbles into the open field, I spot something else. The boy's father, unable to stand pat, stumbles to the asphalt track outlining the football field, and begins sprinting along the sidelines to the same pace as his the boy hits the fifty yard line, his legs churning like the pistons of a car.

The boy's head turns, spots his father, in blue jeans and t-shirt, a ball cap turned backwards, matching his stride as he heads for the score.

The boy aims his sites on the distant goal line. Quickens his pace. The crowd rises as one, father and son on a footrace to glory.

...and I think, "This is a story."

I see the track and think, "Not a football game, but a track meet. A runner, for some reason disqualified, but running for no other reason than pride alone. Racing along beside the track, versus opposing runners, competing...but not."

The young defensive back rumbles over the twenty, no one within ten yards of tripping him up. His father keeping pace, nearly plows over a young lady balancing a plastic tray overfilled with nachos, oblivious to the drama.

And I think, "Not a boy. A girl. Really fast. But for some reason unable to participate."

Behind the endzone, an ambulance is parked, its occupants jumping up and down, their hands clapping in anticipation.

And I think, "Perhaps an injury. Or maybe a religious dispute. A family's beliefs thwarting the athletic prowess their daughter was born with."

The boy falls into the endzone. His father leaps into the air. The crowd roars their approval.

And I think..."Need a name for that girl."

Hours later. The kids are tucked in. The excitement of victory settling down for another day.

I hear my wife giggling from the office. "Hey, come in here," she calls. "Check this out."

I enter the office, follow her gaze to the computer screen, my brow rising. "What's this?"

"One of those funny emails," she says. "This one determines what my porn name would know, if I'd be in that line of work."

I shake my head, "In that line of work? Really?"

Then I see the name. "Derby Wayne."

And I think, " a race track. Or somebody's nickname. For somebody who's really a girl. Derby Wayne."

"That's perfect," I say.

"It is?" my wife asks. "Like...your wanting me to change careers, or what?"

"Absolutely perfect," I say, ignoring her.

"Perhaps I should look for an agent," she continues.

But I've already left the room, yanking a sheet of paper out of the printer, my other hand snatching a pencil from under my wife's elbow, next to the keyboard. My brain spinning somersaults. An outline literally writing itself.

And while "South of Charm" heads toward the galley...a new story begins.

That's how it works for me...

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"Full Circle" (A 100 Followers Tribute)

...I've been debating ways to express my gratitude over achieving my 100th follower last weekend. Contests appear to be the norm, but with a busy calendar, I fear the results would be disappointing, if not prolonged. Then I had a thought, and rolled with it. Kind of spreading the love, announcing the new title of my upcoming novel, and...well, you'll see.


...the air tasted moist, salty from the Gulf's shores, tendrils of endless water slapping sand just around the block.

With evening's approach, the temperature managed to flutter below triple digits for the first time all day, yet the humidity remained unforgiving, like crawling through a sauna. From their expressions, the locals seemed oblivious to the heat, as was I. For nothing could've dampened my spirits on this day.

An orange moon celebrating the year's harvest was rising above distant rooftops as I enjoyed the cobbled streets outlining the Riverwalk along the southern tip of New Orleans. Neon lights twinkling from shop windows, and children dashing through a nearby fountain, their proud parents hovering nearby, sipping iced teas and conversing like relatives.

Following Katrina's wrath, this area had been looted to a pile of rubble and broken glass, but along with the drowned city, her people rallied behind a spirit unwielding, and the outdoor shopping complex was resurrected.

Stepping at a leisurely pace, enjoying the evening, I rounded Canal Street, skipped over to Bourbon, and heard the jazz before spying the nightclub in the distance. A moment later and the neon sign for the Bourbon Street Blues Company rose like a beacon through humidity's mist. I grinned like a child, and made haste.

The air inside the elderly structure smelled of cigars and whiskey, sweat and the lure of sirloin from the kitchen. I considered the dim lighting, tables scattered about, a bar supporting numerous patrons, and a table in the back, the silhouette of a friend relaxing in seclusion. My smile broadened.

I passed by the stage, offering a nod to the rhythm guitarist, an old acquaintance, who smiled in return, his fingers strumming soul.

At the table I stopped, considering the shadow hunched over his nearly empty glass. "What, couldn't wait for me to get here?" I asked.

"Long day, my friend. Thirst and fatigue demanded respite."

The figure rose and extended his hand, which I accepted. "Long day, I agree," I said. "But not without reward. This idea of yours was a revelation."

Roland Yeomans grinned despite himself. "I'm so glad you could attend. Your presence capped off the festivities."

"Wouldn't have missed it for anything. My hand aches from signing."

"It's a pleasurable pain, my friend. Remember the old days, the struggles."


"Don't think for a minute you'all can start without me!"

Roland and I turned as a true southern belle approached, toting an armload of novels under one arm, balancing a drink with the other.

"Wouldn't have dreamed of it," Roland said. "How's Olivia this evening?"

Olivia J. Herrell dropped the books on the table, released a sigh, and said, "Boys, that was the best damn book signing I've ever been a part of. I've no idea how many covers I sold, but it was worth the drive, I can promise you that!"

I motioned toward the pile of literature. "You were supposed to sell the goods, not bring anything back with you," I teased.

"Oh these...well, there were just too many writers here today that I wanted to read, so I made a few rounds as well."

"As did I," Roland said. He then turned as a hand clamped onto his shoulder.

"Roland, this event of yours was a marvel," Anne Gallagher said, offering Roland a hug. "I haven't sold this many copies since my debut."

"Glad you could make it," Roland said. "This was indeed memorable."

"Anne, my dear," Olivia said. "Couldn't help but notice that you were quite chummy with Charlene Harris today. You guys wouldn't be teaming up for a power novel anytime soon, would you?"

"What?" I chimed in. "Genna suddenly grows fangs and starts chewing on Pete in all the wrong ways?"

Anne placed her hands on her hips. "Well, Elliot, you never can tell."

"I'm headed to the bar," I said, spotting another group of colleagues planted on stools and conversing with the server. "Anyone in need of a refill?"

I took the order and approached the bar, placing a hand on Karen G's shoulder along the way. "So, was it worth coming down from Utah?" I asked.

I was greeted with an embrace. "Elliot, signed more copies than I thought my fingers could handle," she said. "Roland's book fair idea was spectacular."

"And House of Diamonds is doing well?"

"It's a dream come true."

At the bar I placed the order, listened to the opening segment of the next jazz hilt, then spotted a pair of fellow writers laughing over their drinks nearby. They saw me and motioned for my presence.

"Hello ladies," I said. "I take it you both had profitable outings?"

Smiles coated the faces of both Jemi Fraser and Becky Miller.

"Unforgettable," Jemi said.

"Best sales I've ever had," Becky agreed.

"Good to hear." I motioned toward our table at the back of the bar. "Roland was the brains behind the event. Don't forget to stop by."

"On our way!"

I returned to our table and recognized yet another familiar face. "Christine Danek, all the way from P.A. Tell me, was it worth the trip?"

"Just spoke to my husband," she said. "Told him if sales remained this good down here, I may not return!"

A chorus of laughter rose the decibel.

"Roland and Elliot, leave it to you two to sweet talk a band of Yankees to play jazz in a bar in the deep south!"

"Terry!" Roland exclaimed. "So glad you could make it!"

"Wouldn't have missed it for anything," Terry Stonecrop announced, accepting hugs around the table.

"Roland and I thought those boys on stage kinda fit the bill for an event like this," I said.

"Definitely a good fit," Terry agreed.

"Don't start the party without me, you rubes!"

Everyone turned as Lola Sharp found an empty spot at the table. "Talk about a gathering of the minds!"

"Where you been, sweetheart?" I laughed, greeting the writer from across the table.

"Rendezvous," she grinned sheepishly.

I arched my brow. "Does your husband know of this?"

She answered with a blush. "He was the rendezvous."

"Ha!" I laughed. "Well done!"

"Yeah, that's what he said."

Roland nudged my shoulder. "Isn't that Anita at the bar with her husband?"

"Sure is," I said. "She wrote my first review on South of Charm. I'm forever in her debt."

"Sometimes a good review is all it takes."

A whine escaped from Olivia as a pair of gentlemen passed by and lingered.

"Oh calm yourself," I mumbled into her ear.

"Can't help it," she said. Every time I see him, I still can't believe I now keep the same company."

"Neil, how are you this evening," Roland asked, accepting a handshake from Gaiman.

"Thanks for inviting us," Neil said. "This event was invigorating. A southern book fair with waiting lines into the streets. Unforgettable."

"My only question," said the man next to him. "Is how did you two manage to get my old man down here?"

"Was nothing, Joe," I said. "Told him he'd own the stage at Bourbon Street, and he agreed immediately.

Joe Hill released a whistle. "Well played."

We all turned and enjoyed the seedy tune from the stage where The Rock Bottom Remainders played front and center. Dave Barry on lead guitar, Ridley Pearson on bass, Mitch Albom on keyboards, and of course, Joe's father, Stephen King strumming the rhythm guitar. He offered us a grin as our glasses rose in salute.

"Does your dad know that Roland just surpassed him on the best-seller list?" I asked Joe.

"Might wanna wait till he's done playing before bringing that up," Joe kidded. "About time someone knocked off the old man anyway."

"Can you'all believe this," Olivia said, looking around the table. "From Blogger buddies, to best-selling writers, and here we all are, celebrating in Nawlins!"

I dug my phone out of my pocket, sensing the vibrations. I then read the text, unable to hide the grin.

"More good news?" Roland asked.

"My wife," I said. "The adoption just went through."

"Cheers!" Anne announced. "So your headed to Africa?"

"Next week. It's a dream come true for her. Adopting a little one from across the ocean."

For a second time glasses were raised, drinks toasted.

The party lingered into the wee hours of morning, a gathering of long time starving artists who's ships had at long last sailed to port. Of lives changed overnight, friendships harbored over dreams. Dreams having come true.

It can happen, my friends. Keep pounding the can happen:)

"South of Charm"-Coming 2011

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Grillin & The Gridiron Karen G's Blogger Barbecue winds down this weekend, considering the time of year, only fitting that we top off the Blogfest at a high school football game.


...September's autumn breeze, like a newborn's touch, kissed our cheeks as we claimed our row in the stands.

On the football field, a pair of youth teams clad in helmets and their respective school's battle fatigues were preparing for competition.

Familiar faces began filing in around us. Mothers and grandparents, worrisome lines etching each brow, concerned for the safety of their loved ones. Proud fathers, their arms folded over thick chests, confident grins upon their faces, nodding to one another while sharing the same gleam in their eyes as their offspring on the field.

I followed suit. The passing of an athletic torch from a father to a son.

I turned to my wife. "Want any popcorn or a Coke before kickoff?"

She threw me a nod and a wave while chatting with a fellow mother about the latest rumor floating about. A student with a new string of flu, or a teacher suffering through a sobriety test the past weekend. I left them to it, the craving for a pre-game hot dog too urgent to pass up.

Sensing the breeze strengthening with the passing hour, I jogged out to the car and grabbed our jackets, figuring I'd get congratulated for planning ahead.

My return to the stands however was greeted with a chorus of scowls, not only from my wife, but from the entire section of hometown faithful. Then I glanced at the row behind us and determined why.

The couple was obviously rooting for the opposing team. The lady was dressed in a strapless top the color of a fire hydrant. A pair of cutoff Wranglers were riding up to just below her bum, varicose veins like sporadic bolts of lightning traveling the length of each thigh. She'd already slipped out of her sandals, a set of callused feet, gangly toe-nails bearing a layer of chipped polish matching her shirt, were propped on the back of my seat.

I assumed she would lower them with my arrival, but was denied the kindness.

"There he is now! That's my boy, number 33! Teddy Jr. Yes sir-ee!"

I cautioned a glance at the proud father and cringed. The man was shirtless, the tattoo of a soaring Bald Eagle covered the width of his chest, its beady eyes glaring at me through a patch of chest hair.

His head was shaved like Mr. Clean, however a strawberry shaded goatee drooped several inches off the tip of his chin.

A collage of artwork coated both arms. A pair of skeletons wielding rebel flags. A ball and chain, the links starting at his wrist and winding around his triceps only to disappear in a thicket of armpit hair.

I sat down, handed my wife a drink and her jacket.

"Can we move somewhere else?" she asked in a mumble.

I answered with, "I've been thinking of getting a tattoo."

"Why aren't they in the visitor's section?"

"Maybe one of those tribal things around my arm. Palm trees or something tropical."

"Will you get serious? He won't shut up about his kid."

"Yes sir-ee, my boy's gonna do some damage tonight!"

I turned around just in time to watch him lift an empty Mt. Dew bottle to his lips, a mass of used up tobacco plummeting from his mouth trailing a thread of stained saliva.

"So, Teddy?" I asked. "What position does Junior play?"

The man's scowl was accompanied with a jaw full of crooked teeth the color of mustard. "Name's Harold, mister." He shared the gaze with the woman in red. I felt a toe stab me in the small of my back. A stressful moment passed in silence, my wife quietly chuckling by my side. Then he said, "Teddy Jr. plays all over the field. No one can stop him. Fastest boy in the county. You'll see."

At this my smile faded. "All right. He's Superman, we get it. But where's he start at on the field?"

"Receiver. Gonna go pro, yes sir-ee."

"I just felt spit land on my neck," my wife hissed into my ear. "Can we move now?"

"These are our seats, Hon," I said. "And anyway, the kid's a receiver." I nudged her elbow, smiling. "Let's watch the kickoff and see what happens."

Moments later all eyes focused on a football rising into the air. Standing alone at the other end of the field stood Teddy Jr.

He caught the ball and rumbled ten yards before anyone reached him. Spinning away from the first defender, he gained the open field and hit a second gear. From behind me the couple began hooting like a pair of exuberant owls, watching their son cross mid-field.

Teddy Jr. rocketed eighty yards before finally getting pushed out of bounds. "Woo-wee!" his father barked. "I told ya! Fastest boy in the county! Now he's gonna score!"

On their first offensive play, Teddy Jr. lined up at receiver, his chest pounding like a snare drum. The ball was hiked, the passer dropped back, his gaze focused entirely on 33 as the boy faked out his defender and loped into the end zone. The quarterback lofted the ball into the air.

"Here it is!" Teddy's father bellowed, showering my wife and I in spit and tobacco juice.

We watched the football flutter toward Teddy's outstretched arms, when a player in blue streaked into the picture. Moving with the agility reminiscent of the "Falcons" logo on his helmet, the defender snatched the pass out of the air just as Teddy's hands were about to close around the ball. The boy bobbed and weaved by several of Teddy's teammates, then found himself in the open field heading in the other direction.

Within moments Teddy had taken up the chase, leaving the two speedsters in a foot race down the sideline.

They remained less than a foot apart until the fifty yard line, when the Falcon defender began pulling away from Teddy Jr. With the hometown crowd rising to its feet, the Falcon swooped into the endzone for the first score of the game.

I joined in the celebration, accepting a hug from my wife, shoulder slaps from friends nearby. Out of the corner of my eye I watched the air deflate from the bare chest of the man behind me.

"Sheesh, that boy was fast," he mumbled. "Who was that?"

"We call him Rocket," someone in the row next to us announced. "The fastest boy in the county!"

"That your boy?" the man asked him.

"Nope...his," a half dozen index fingers angled in my direction. My wife turned and offered a wave. I couldn't help but grin.

"Boy's fast," the man mumbled. "Real fast."

Before the first quarter had ended, with the good guys already ahead by two scores, I sensed a change in scenery and turned.

Without our noticing, the couple had left.

(...okay, so I dramatized things a bit. But his nickname really is Rocket, and he really did snag himself an interception. He's pretty darn fast, but he still can't beat his pop in a foot race:)

Thanks for reading,