Thursday, January 31, 2008

Just a little Friday humor:

A list sent to me by a gentleman down the street ~

THE WORLD’S THINNEST BOOKS


FRENCH WAR HEROES
By Jacques Chirac

THINGS I LOVE ABOUT MY COUNTRY
By Jane Fonda & Cindy Sheehan.
Illustrated by Michael Moore

ALL THE WOMEN I HAVE LOVED BEFORE
By Barney Frank (D-Mass) & Boy George

HOW I HELPED AFTER KATRINA
By Rev Jesse Jackson & Rev Al Sharpton

THINGS I LOVE ABOUT BILL
By Hillary Clinton

MY LITTLE BOOK OF PERSONAL HYGIENE
By Osama Bin Laden & Willie Nelson

THINGS I CANNOT AFFORD
By Bill Gates & Warren Buffet

THINGS I WOULD NOT DO FOR MONEY
By Dennis Rodman

THINGS I KNOW TO BE TRUE
By Al Gore & John Kerry

A COLLECTION of MOTIVATIONAL SPEECHES
By Dr. Kevorkian

ALL THE MEN I HAVE LOVED BEFORE
By Ellen de Generes & Rosie O’Donnell

THE GUIDE TO DATING ETIQUETTE
By Mike Tyson

DELICIOUS SPOTTED OWL RECIPES
By PETA

THE AMISH PHONE DIRECTORY
Author unknown

OUR PLAN TO FIND THE REAL KILLERS
By O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake

HOW TO DRINK & DRIVE OVER BRIDGES
By Ted Kennedy

MY BOOK OF MORALS
By Bill Clinton

HOW TO WIN A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
By Al Gore and John Kerry

THE SMARTEST THINGS I’VE SAID
By Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)

HOW TO PROPERLY PLAN FOR A HURRICANE
By the Mayor of New Orleans and
The Governor of Louisiana

WHAT I LIKE MOST ABOUT GEORGE BUSH
By Cindy Sheehan

THE WAYS WE PROPOSE TO CUT TAXES
By the Democrat Party

SEX OVER 60
By The AARP

BEING SENSITIVE TO OTHERS
By Neal Boortz

BUSH DECISIONS WE AGREE WITH
By Harry Reid & Nancy Pelosi

WINNING THE HEARTS OF CONSERVATIVES
By Cynthia Tucker (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

ACCEPTABLE RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION
By the ACLU

GETTING TO THE WEDDING ON TIME
By Jennifer Wilbanks ( The Runaway Bride)


Tongue in cheek, that's all it is. Well that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Chapter 1: Part 3

“Counsel,” Farnsworth warned, “none of that. Now how do you respond?”

My apology, Your Honor, and to you, too, Kyle,” she said, her expression flat and insincere. She stood, walked toward the bench and assumed a pose in the middle of the floor. Her suit was hand-tailored, as were most of her clothes, to look appropriately conservative and yet hint at the shapely body it clung to. “I meant to say that this is a clear and simple case. My client properly applied for the rezoning permit, he lawfully obtained the necessary approval, and as directed in the rezoning decision, he will replace the trees that are to be removed with new plantings elsewhere on the property. Furthermore, he intends to add other landscaping elements that will leave the neighborhood more beautiful than it has ever been. My client fully intends to minimize disruption and make Liberty Park a better place to live for the current residents, as well as those who will eventually purchase his new condominiums.”

Kyle drummed his fingers on the table and felt a twitch starting under his eye. He reached under his jacket and rubbed his chest where the pain had been even though it was now passed; it was a habit he had had for some time. He faced Allison. “If your client is so well intended, you might think he would have accepted at least one of our invitations to meet with the homeowners.”

Emma nodded in agreement and her neighbors’ chorus of approval could be heard rising in the background.

Farnsworth rapped his gavel hard and Emma jumped in her chair.

“Your Honor,” Kyle continued, “the former school site is the only public green space in the neighborhood. The trees are integral to what makes Liberty Park beautiful, and it is beautiful right now,” he said looking at the developer once more. “The trees represent the childhood history of these taxpayers; they play with their grandchildren and great grandchildren under those trees. Your Honor, it is our position that the zoning variance was awarded in error; it clearly violates the language of the Ordinance. We respectfully request that you give a permanent order today that enforces the letter and intent of the Ordinance.”

“I’ll review both the Ordinance and the rezoning decision in question, and I’ll hear your arguments,” Farnsworth said, looking first at his watch and then his calendar, “next Tuesday morning, ten o’clock. In the meantime, the temporary injunction stands. No action is to be taken with respect to altering the land and trees in question. And that includes painting any additional red X’s.” He hit his gavel on the bench again and motioned for the bailiff to clear the courtroom.

Kyle rocked in his shoes as a prickly sensation crept up his back. He felt like he might topple over and land facedown on the floor. “Your Honor, the Ordinance expressly states….”

“I said Tuesday, Counsel. Now don’t anger me.”

“If I may, sir….”

Farnsworth brought his gavel down hard. It echoed like a gunshot. This time even Kyle jumped. He pressed no further.

Kyle looked at Allison, who grinned at him like a spoiled princess who had once again gotten her way. “Let’s go, Emma,” he finally said as he reached to pull his client’s chair away from the table. “I’m afraid we’re finished here for now.”

“Does he mean we get to keep our trees?”

“For a few more days, at the least.”

“A few days? That’s all?”

“We’ll know more on Tuesday.

“You can talk him into longer, can’t you?”

“I intend to, Emma.”

“Well that was fun,” Allison said, closing in on Kyle with her client close at her side. “Much better than when in your days working with legal aid, don’t you think?”

“No cause for celebration, Allison. The Ordinance was written to prevent circumstances such as this.”

“I like how you promised to be aggressive.”

“What are you doing here? I was expecting Goldberg.”

“It was a last minute change, that’s all. Don’t let it upset you, Kyle.”

He wanted to charge, to get in her face, but restrained himself. The floor seemed to be moving up toward him; he locked his knees. He reached for his briefcase and then looked back at Allison. “See you Tuesday; come prepared.”

“You never stood up to me before, Kyle. I like it, I think it’s sexy. Too bad you didn’t try it sooner.”

“You still think every man wants you, I see.”

Allison, unaffected, nodded and walked away, followed by her client, who kept looking over his shoulder and grinning like an idiot at Kyle.

“You know her?” Emma asked.

“We’ve had words before,” Kyle said as watched his opponent leave the courtroom. He then guided Emma outside into the hall where the neighbors stood together, waiting patiently for them. Kyle explained the proceedings and reminded them the tree ordinance was a relatively new law; it had not yet been tested in court.

After a few questions the small crowd broke up, leaving Kyle and Emma standing in the nearly empty halls of the courthouse. He turned to face his client.

“I let you down today, Emma.” He unbuttoned his collar and loosened his tie even more. “I should’ve spoken up more but I didn’t. It won’t happen again.”

“You tried to, I heard you.” She patted his arm and smiled. “You’re a good lawyer, I know, ‘cause we prayed and then the Lord sent you to us. Now if you don’t mind, I’d appreciate you showing me to the bus stop.”

“I brought you here, Emma, and I will take you home.”

“I don’t want to be no trouble for you.”

“It’s no trouble.” He took her by the arm and slowly led her down the hall toward an exit.

“You didn’t let me down today, Mr. Griffin, you did just fine. I especially liked the way you told the judge how rude that man was, ignoring us like he did.”

Kyle tried to grin but managed only to clench his teeth, remembering when he tripped and fell running after Allison.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Trees: Chapter 1, Part 2

Kyle thought of how friendly Emma and her neighbors had been at their first homeowners’ association meeting held at the neighborhood church just one week earlier. They’d brought food and sweet tea to share, and hugged one another as if the meeting were really a long anticipated family reunion. Before he could get them focused on the business at hand, they had insisted he eat while they spent time getting to know him. And he, in turn, while washing down collards, black-eyed peas and greasy but irresistible fried hoe cakes with dark tea so sweet he thought it was maple syrup, got to know something about them. His clients were more than mere neighbors; they were lifelong friends and family who had established time honored traditions and a strong sense of community pride within the boundaries of their old and crumbling neighborhood.

“We’re going to save all the trees, Emma,” he said as he sat down. He opened his briefcase, pulled out a folder thick with stapled documents, and stole a cautious look at Allison.

She was watching him; her blue eyes still vibrant beneath her perfectly plucked brows. Sitting turned askew in her chair, her legs crossed at the knees, her sculpted shin and ankle pointing toward him, the sharp toe of her designer shoe bobbing slowly and rhythmically in the air.

“I don’t intend to let anyone down,” he added quickly, turning back to his folder and randomly, awkwardly, thumbing through its contents.

“I see you still have a soft spot for the underdog,” Allison said, grinning as she leaned across the aisle toward Kyle.

“Don’t insult my client,” he said, turning quickly and taking care to make deliberate stern eye contact with her. But he couldn’t help himself - his attention was drawn again to her hair, thick and soft and draped behind her shoulders to make sure it didn’t hide an inch of her flawless face.

“It’s been a while, Kyle. I’m eager to see how well you perform.” She smiled, then turned to her client and began to whisper in his ear.

Kyle hated that phrase. She had first said it to him when she let him know she was ready to allow him make love to her, when she let him know if he didn’t please her, there wouldn’t be a second chance to satisfy her.

Somehow, it seemed, Kyle often found himself in one shot situations.

“Why’d she call me an underdog?”

“It’s best just to ignore her.”

“Can’t hardly ignore a woman like that. We don’t see much of the likes of her in Liberty Park.”

Until now, the residents of Liberty Park were a quiet and acquiescent group who managed the neighborhood simply by being good neighbors to one another. They observed an unwritten code of conduct that required them to keep the front yards clean, watch each other’s children, and never start a lawn mower on Sunday. There, no one walked the walk of old money and high expectations.

“Shoot, you the first lawyer I ever even spoke to,” she added.

“I’ve read your petition, Counsel,” Farnsworth said to Kyle, “but humor me for a moment. The Board of Education has the right to sell the land and the developer has the right to remove those trees in keeping with the architectural plan that was approved when the property was rezoned. So tell me, why should I give you a permanent injunction against Capital City Construction?”

Kyle stood, cleared his throat and scanned his notes again. His tie suddenly too tight around his throat, he reached up and tugged on it.

The Liberty Park case had been handed to him less than three weeks ago, after Whitaker agreed to take it on the request of a golfing buddy who was distantly related to one of the homeowners. Whitaker had quickly become bored with the case, it didn’t have a big payoff other than returning a favor, after securing a temporary emergency injunction against removing the trees. “I want to see how well you work under pressure,” he said when he tossed the file onto Kyle’s desk. “Partners have to deal with a lot of pressure around here. Prove you can handle it, and maybe we’ll have something to talk about.”

“Your Honor, the residents of Liberty Park are here asking you to save a small grove of yellow poplar trees that stand on the property. Many of them planted the trees as small seedlings all the way around the old school during an Arbor Day ceremony decades ago. After the school burned down, the students who never moved from the neighborhood spent their own time and money maintaining the area, cutting the grass, pruning the shrubs, and planting flowers each spring. They turned it into their neighborhood park.”

“I said humor me, not bore me. Skip the soliloquy and get to your point.”

Allison halfheartedly covered her mouth to muffle a chuckle.

Kyle was beginning to forget her hair, remembering instead how much happier he had become since their breakup.

“Your Honor, we certainly don’t want to cause any ill will with the defendant,” Kyle continued, “but our intent is to see that these trees are preserved in accordance with the Tree Protection Ordinance. To assure that, we’ll resort to the recourses made available by the ordinance, no matter how aggressive.” He turned toward the well dressed developer sitting beside Allison and ignoring her, addressed him directly. “If we see that any of those trees have been harmed, if you so much as spray paint another X on even one of those trees ….”

“An X?” the judge questioned, lowering his glasses as he spoke.

“To mark ‘em for cutting down,” Emma blurted out, leaning forward in her chair and pounding the table with her gnarled little fist.

“That’s right, Your Honor,” Kyle said, grinning and holding his hand up to calm his client. “A red X is painted on each tree they want to remove; eight were marked before the homeowners intervened. We are here to preserve the trees, Your Honor. We’ll do whatever it takes to make sure they remain standing.”

“Counsel, the gentleman sounds serious about this case,” the judge addressed Allison, pointing to Kyle with his glasses. “What say you?”

“He sounds naively optimistic.”

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Book Update & Sample

Just as location is everything in real estate, timing is everything in publishing. The planned launch date for Daddy’s Little Girl has been February 26th, but after careful consideration, which includes discussion with major book sellers, it has been decided to postpone the release date until May 6th. While I’m disappointed I now need to wait an additional 10 weeks to see the book on shelves, I completely understand that it is a daddy-daughter gift book and as such stands a better chance of breaking into the best-seller list if released at a time when dads and daughters are beginning to think of gifts for one another (graduation gifts, spring wedding gifts, Father’s Day, etc.). I’ve never had a book rise about 6th place on the New York Times list and my hometown newspaper, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, has never mentioned a word about my series in the Arts and Books section (apparently the books are too conservative for the bleeding-heart liberal rag), so if this plan betters my odds of accomplishing either of these milestones (especially finally entering the Top 5 on the NYT list) I am all for it.

In the meantime, I’ll continue working on my novel TREES (just finished a rewrite of the first chapter yesterday). Here is a brief description of the book:

“Nicole Fischer, unable to give herself fully to the man that loves her, turns to her grandmother for advice and support. Set in an old inn in the mountains of North Carolina, “Trees” is the tale of a love story once kept secret, but when finally told, changes the lives of those who hear it. Inspired by the classic ballet, "Giselle," and interwoven with the story of Joyce Kilmer, American poet and author of a poem by the same name, “Trees” is about a lasting love that even death cannot put asunder.”

And here is a portion of Chapter 1:

The last person Kyle expected to see in the courtroom was Allison, but there she sat, looking as beautiful as she did the night she threw her engagement ring to the ground at his feet and walked away, leaving him with a heartache that sometimes still awakened him in the middle of the night.

“You’re going to save my tree, ain’t you, Mr. Griffin?” the old woman seated beside him asked.

Distracted, the lawyer didn’t answer his client. He sat up straight against the cold wooden bench and pulled his shoulders back, but the posturing did little to stop the draining away of the confidence he had walked in with. He fingered the buttons on one cuff of his dark blue wool suit jacket, chewed on his lower lip and watched Allison, wondering if she had spotted him too.

“Mr. Griffin?” the old woman repeated.

“Yes,” he answered without looking at her for even a half-second.

“What about my tree?”

He shook his attention free from the long blonde hair he once loved to run his fingers through and turned toward his client, Emma Townsend. “I’m going to save your tree,” he said, forcing himself to pay attention to her.

“You promise?” A short and frail old woman, Emma’s voice was soft and clear and contradicted the obvious signs of her advanced age. Her hair was curly and white and her dark coffee face was lined with deep wrinkles. Her fingers were painfully twisted with arthritis and thick bifocals magnified the wearied look of her brown eyes.

“Yes, I promise.” He had to save her tree. If he didn’t he knew the partnership Sidney Whitaker, one of the senior partners of the law firm, had dangled under his nose would be snatched away, never to be seen again. Morehead, Sterling and Whitaker didn’t give second chances.

“Good, ‘cause we don’t want to spend all our money on a lawyer that ain’t any good.”

“You won’t spend all your money; we will settle this today. I’m sure we’ll get a permanent injunction; the law is clearly on our side.”

“I planted it myself, and watered it everyday until its roots took hold. It’s my tree.”

“I know, and I’m going to see that it stays that way.”

“They painted a big red X on it. I can see it from my front porch.”

“All rise,” commanded the courtroom bailiff as the door separating the Judge’s chambers from the courtroom began to open.

Kyle stood and absentmindedly gave Emma his left hand to help her come to her feet. As she pulled herself up, using his hand for support, a pain ripped through the left side of his chest beneath his shirt pocket. He winched but braced himself to make sure his arm didn’t give way under her weight. Emma rose and stood beside him, the top of her head barely reaching the height of his shoulder.

Judge Farnsworth, the Circuit Court Judge entered the courtroom and took his place behind the bench. “Be seated,” he said, looking down upon those before him. He wore wire-rimmed glasses, his salt and pepper hair was wispy and his head shined bright under the harsh lights overhead. His black robe seemed too large for his stature, and his small frame was even further accentuated by the high back of the leather chair he sat in. It rose nearly six inches above his head.

“Liberty Park Homeowners Association versus Capital City Developers,” the bailiff nearly shouted to the room.

“That’s us,” Kyle said, holding his client’s hand that was slick with hand lotion, and guided her toward a courtroom chair. He saw Allison leading her client to their table. She moved in a distinctive gait he remembered well - perfect posture, commanding attention as she went, exuding an air of authority and self-respect. It was the well-heeled walk of old money and high expectations.

Allison paused at her chair and waited. Her client seated himself, but then seeing her still standing, jumped up and pulled out the chair for his lawyer.

She sat down without thanking him or giving an appreciative nod.

Emma paused a moment to straighten her back and then stepped forward with a little hop to get herself moving. Arthritis gripped her back, hips and knees, too. Eighty years old, she was the grandmother of her neighborhood; the one everyone confided in or turned to when advice was needed. It was understood by all at the outset of their lawsuit that she would be the one to sit with their lawyer at the plaintiff’s table.

Kyle watched the Judge as he glanced over the papers on his bench. The lawyer was not deceived by the diminutive appearance of the man in the baggy black robe. Sidney Whitaker, who had thrust this case upon him, warned that old man Farnsworth was brilliant but quick tempered and impatient, and had a reputation for wanting to get things over with quickly. He hated for his calendar to get backlogged. Worse, he hated lawyers who slowed him down.

Kyle placed his briefcase on the table, nodded to the judge and pulled out a chair for Emma. While she shuffled toward it, he rubbed his hands together to rid himself of her hand lotion. A vaguely familiar floral scent reached his nostrils.

Before sitting down Emma looked back at the small gathering of her neighbors who had come to the hearing. The men were dressed in their best; in some cases that was an old suit but most were in shirtsleeves and a well-worn tie. The women all wore Sunday dresses and a few even sported hats. Some of her neighbors were nearly as old as she was; others were as much as thirty years younger.

“They want to keep their trees, too,” she said, pointing toward her friends. “We’re all counting on you.”

Kyle looked back at his other clients. He had met most of them but couldn’t recall all their names, although the unusual names came easily to him. There was Frog, the retired bus driver and chain smoker, Ruby, the woman who always wore a thick coat of red lipstick, and Mr. and Mrs. Roundtree, the married forever couple who lived in the little house next door to Emma.

I’ll post more if you are interested; let me know.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ramble

I haven’t posted anything yet this week because it has taken this long for my fingers to thaw. It was only -2 degrees Sunday morning in Indianapolis, with a wind-chill factor of 20 below. How do those folks live up there? Nonetheless, Linley’s team placed second in the national competition! Go baby girl, we are proud of you! And happy birthday, too (she’s now 14)!

The real reason I haven’t posted is because I’m working hard to keep my New Years resolution of writing 500 words a day. It doesn’t sound like much but when writing fiction it is damn hard. Not only do you write a story, you invent characters and construct conflict and chaos. Every page must have punch so that the reader wants to keep reading, and you must arrive at this punch without cliché or contrivance. It is indeed like weaving the most elaborate lie, one in which you cannot get caught.

I’m also reading a lot right now, examining how other writers write and succeed in their story telling. I’ve just finished reading for the second time one of my favorite books, “The World According to Garp” by the great John Irving (sometimes I think I am Garp reincarnated). Before that I read “The Butterfly House” by Marcia Preston, this morning I started “The End of the Road” by John Barth, and when I’ve finished that one, I’ll turn to the four Rabbit novels by John Updike. If only I could write so well.

Just found this kind review of “Why I Still Love You” on Amazon.com:

“It was probably easy to rationalize your love for your spouse on the day you married. Will that love stay alive, that is, will it grow as the years pass? Or will it stagnate? If it's real, Lang believes, it will never die. And he explains through the books 100-plus pages, many of the reasons why this is so. The reasons will often appear familiar. "I knew that," you'll find yourself saying as you read. But we occasionally have to be reminded. Lang opens by relating the poignant story of his observations on the 50-year marriage of his aunt and uncle. It's the kind of relationship all of us hope for as we wed, but few seem to achieve. The pages that follow list 100 reasons--contributed by successfully married persons--why love is still real. It all sounds so easy--and maybe it's easier than we let ourselves think. The best use for this little book is to keep it handy and refer to it once in a while. It just might prompt you to realize how very fortunate you are to have a life's partner.”

It makes me so happy when someone “gets it.”

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Indiana or bust!

In a few moments we load ourselves into the car and begin the drive through the snow to reach the site of Linley's cheer competition in Indianapolis, about 8 hours from here. Jill plans to navigate. With no time to write today, I resubmit to you a short story about my beautiful navigator:

My wife has a flaw everyone knows about but to which she cannot admit. She cannot navigate her way out of a cardboard box. This flaw came as a surprise to me when I first discovered it. We were headed out on our first road trip, a long journey to the mountains of West Virginia and then onward to Cleveland. It was a trip neither of us had taken before, so we needed directions.

Jill is an organized woman. She keeps files in her car trunk of lesson plans and worksheets for her students. She keeps files on her desk filled with receipts, itineraries, and bills to pay, and a calendar on the wall that she updates every afternoon as the kids reveal to us their last minute plans. When she announced she was going to serve as navigator on this trip, I was certain my organized wife would find the most expedient route.

When she came onto the porch and showed me her folder marked “Directions,” I was impressed. I shouldn’t have been. Little did I know what challenges awaited me.

The morning of our departure arrived. We rose early, loaded the vehicle and pulled away from the house. Jill sipped coffee, confidently clutching her folder. Approaching the exit of our neighborhood, I asked my navigator what to do. She smiled broadly, sat up straight, opened the folder, and then to my horror, read every step of the directions. I don’t mean a few turns in Atlanta, I mean all the way to Cleveland. When she finished, she put the folder away, reclined her car seat, and fell asleep.

When she finally woke up, the first words out of her mouth were, “Where are we?” A navigator, indeed.

This scene has been repeated over and over again. Before each road trip Jill announces she is going to navigate. Before each road trip, I find some alone time to study a map, write down directions, and hide them for the time that is certain to come, when she has fallen asleep soon after the seat warmer has done its job. Before we leave home, I serve her decaf coffee to make sure she falls into slumber more quickly, before we get lost.

Even the girls have picked up on our navigator’s shortcoming. While on summer vacation we were walking to a cafe Jill had chosen for lunch. With a map in hand she had obtained from the hotel, she reassured us “it is just around the corner.” After a half-hour the girls started to complain. Jill kept waving the map, saying “it’s just right ahead,” and held up her fingers separated about an inch to show us how much further on the map.

After another fifteen minutes I insisted to see the map. It turns out a quarter-inch equals half a mile. The girls and I promptly hailed a taxi.

Once I took the family for a weekend getaway to a place where we have been before. Jill tried to convince us her sense of direction improves when she is going to a familiar destination. As she scolded us for teasing her and insisted I not make a turn unless she told me to, we drove right past our destination.

They say the first step of recovery is admitting you have a problem. I don’t think my navigator is to that point yet, so in the meantime I’ll say: “Just go to sleep, honey, and I’ll wake you when we get there.”

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bridges

Sometimes what comes out of your mouth is not nearly as polished as it seemed when you rehearsed it in your mind. I stumbled, fell head first really, upon such a time last night at a homeowners association meeting (admittedly, they are quite often like running blindfolded through a mine field) – my point was lost in the reaction to my statement. I was unable to sleep later, disrupted by my concern that I had upset a neighbor and left others with a less than flattering impression of me. This morning while taking Linley to school, she noticed my funk and asked me what bothered me. I gave her the Spark notes version, explaining I was worried about perhaps having set an unintended fire to a bridge.

She, sipping her grande peppermint white chocolate soy milk frappe with whip, pondered for a moment, and then said: “Just remember my favorite Dr. Seuss quote, ‘Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.’”

I love that little monkey. She cracked me up. I mean here I am with a Ph.D. in human relations and a foot in my mouth and she is a cheerleader quoting a cartoonist. I did feel better after I stopped laughing, though. Although I won’t live by that philosophy in the strictest sense, I will use it to mitigate my worry. I’ll also remember this Aesop’s Fable:

A man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”

So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”

So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn't gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

Well the Man didn't know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passersby began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren't you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor Donkey of yours, you and your hulking son?”

The man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the Donkey's feet to it, and raised the pole and the Donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together, he was drowned.

“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them. “Please all and you will please none.”

Did you know that many years later, Abraham Lincoln said the same thing?

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody! And try not to burn any bridges, but if you do, at the very least make sure they weren't worth crossing in the first place.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Here and there

I am now 9 pounds closer to my goal. Wow, nearly the first 10 off in two weeks. If only that trend would last!

We are going to Indianapolis this weekend to watch Linley in a cheer competition. The temperature will be between 3 and 13 degrees each day. The love runs deep and wide.

The other night Jill and I watched a football game and eat pizza with three other couples. Three husbands sat side by side on the sofa, beer in hand, and yelled and screamed at the umpires while I sat with the ladies and discussed wine and pizza pairings, the best way to poach an egg and speculated on whether Julia Roberts feeds her baby organic baby food (she does). When the evening was over the football fans high-fived each other and the ladies hugged me good-night. Now who do you think was the smartest man in the room?

I’ve had the opportunity to see many milestones in Meagan’s life – learning to walk, missing a tooth, first day in school, learning to drive, reading her college acceptance letter, etc. While I’ve witnessed a few events with Linley, they all have been only those that occur between the ages of 10 and 14. The “big ones” had already happened before we met or are still a few years away. But then, it depends on where you look. She hates needles. I’ve accompanied her on all but one of her emergency room visits (there have indeed been many) and my main purpose was to hold her hand when the syringes came out. This is true for the dentist and orthodontist, too. Once she left fingernail impressions in my hand that lasted for days. But yesterday at the dentist, where she was to have a cavity filled and we knew a shot was waiting behind door number 1, she looked at me and said, “I think I can do it by myself.” Before I could say “I’m not ready for you to grow up yet!” she was up and on her way. No jitters, no tears, no nervous jiggy dance. A half hour later, she came out with a smile and a new degree of self-confidence. I smiled and concealed my bittersweet mood, and then reminded myself I still have four years before she, like Meagan, leaves the nest too. It helped.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Big ?

The print date of the book is now just three weeks away and the on-the-shelf date is now only five weeks away. I can’t wait to get my hands on a real copy. I remember when my first book came out. I watched its progress everyday, tracking its sales rank on Amazon.com and the Barnes and Noble website, and following the NYT’s best-seller list each week, hoping to see my book make an appearance. That was nearly six years ago. Over time I became less obsessed with sales charts and even eventually stopped watching the NYT’s list. I’m proud of each book and grateful for how well they’ve done, but as do all things that happen again and again, the whole “new book” thing became familiar and less exciting for me.

Daddy’s Little Girl, however, is a different story.

Not only is it the first book I’ve written for HarperOne, it is my first full-length book. At over 200 pages and more than 45,000 words, it is the test case, at least in my mind, of whether I am going to make it as an author. To date my other books have been in the neighborhood of 3,500 words, something that could be read in a matter of minutes. High in impact but admittedly short in content, a challenge for some to accept as little more than long gift cards. Daddy’s Little Girl overcomes that criticism, it is indisputably a “book,” so now the question is can I hold a reader’s interest for hours? Will you read it to the very last word, and when you put it down, will you have liked what you read?

So I’m excited about the debut of Daddy’s Little Girl, and I’m anxious, too. Anxious as all get out, as we sometimes say.

Yes, I will rip into the box like a kid at Christmas when I see UPS bring my author copies to the door. I will eagerly give copies to my neighbors and then wait on their doorsteps for their reaction. I will watch its ranking at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and, of course, on the New York Time’s list. I will prowl the aisles of bookstores looking to see how many copies they’ve shelved, and maybe hang around waiting to see if someone will reach for one and decide to purchase it or put it back on the shelf. I’ll be humble but giddy if good reviews appear, and quiet and blue should a negative one cross my path. I’ll go to the mailbox hoping to find fan mail, maybe a story of how my words changed someone’s life, or was the perfect birthday gift or the way a wife told a husband a baby girl was on the way.

And I’ll be hoping that finally all will agree, I can write.

Cross your fingers for me please.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Based on a True Story

Hi folks! Thanks for coming back. Sorry about the limited posts this week; I've been swamped with the other details of life.

Some of you have asked about the novel I'm working on. Actually there are two - both love stories, one a traditional southern tale, the other a romantic comedy of sorts set within a tabloid newspaper. Here's the description of that book, "Based on a True Story":

"Five World War Two Air Force planes fly through a thunderstorm. Radio conversation with the control tower confirms the planes are lost somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean in the area of the Bermuda Triangle. During frantic efforts to find their location and return to base, the planes fly into a rainbow and disappear from sight. So begins the mystery of Flight 19.

ANDREW WORTH, an idealistic journalist who believes in telling the naked truth no matter what the consequences, gets fired and blacklisted within the mainstream news publishers after revealing an unflattering fact about his publisher’s wife. We first meet Andrew asleep in the back seat of a cab driving through downtown Miami. He is headed to his first day of work at THE RUMOR.

Unable to find respectable work, Andrew has accepted a position with a struggling tabloid owned by a spirited publisher, WALTER HOLIDAY. Walter dreams of transforming the tabloid into a “serious” news publication, and hopes to one day surpass the circulation of The National Enquirer. Frustrated that none of his staff share this vision, he brings in Andrew with the expectation that he will transform the tabloid and make it a huge success.

Walter asks Andrew to investigate the story of DOROTHY TAYLOR, an elderly woman living in a nursing home in Florida who claims that her husband, an Air Force pilot who flew with the ill fated Flight 19, is alive. Andrew attacks the story in an earnest investigation and with the full support of Walter, but much to the displeasure of JERRY, the undermining Managing Editor who more than once attempts to foil Andrew, and ultimately Walter. It doesn’t help matters that Andrew and Jerry have ambitions for the same girl, Walter’s pretty assistant, CATALINA.

Andrew travels to meet Dorothy Taylor. She is a charming woman who compels him to search for her husband, LT. CHARLES TAYLOR, in spite of his serious doubts about the possibility that her husband is still alive. Andrew is motivated by the discovery that an aviation artifact belonging to Dorothy could only have come from the type of plane flown by her husband during Flight 19.

During his investigation, Andrew meets FRANK POWERS, a military surplus and antiques dealer. Frank sets out to help Andrew understand the mystery of Flight 19, long rumored to have fallen fate to the Bermuda Triangle. Later Andrew learns that Frank is the son of another pilot that disappeared on Flight 19.

Andrew and Frank, flying over the Bermuda Triangle in Frank’s restored airplane identical to the one his father flew, encounter a thunderstorm and a rainbow, and the grasp of the Bermuda Triangle. Finding themselves on an uncharted island where time stands still, they discover the entire crew of Flight 19, as well as others who have mysteriously disappeared and been the subject of tabloid rumors over the years, including ELVIS PRESLEY and D. B. COOPER. Andrew also discovers that Lt. Taylor knows how to escape the island and return home, and that he has kept this a secret to himself.

Andrew convinces Lt. Taylor to return to Florida to see his wife before she dies. Frank remains on the island to live with his father. Andrew and Lt. Taylor return to Florida in Frank’s plane, neither realizing that a stowaway is on board. Dorothy and her husband are reunited for the first time in sixty years. Lt. Taylor ages rapidly and they die in each other’s arms.

Andrew refuses to write the story of his incredible adventure because he had promised Lt. Taylor he would not jeopardize the safety of those remaining on the island. He settles with Walter on a slightly fabricated story about finding D. B. Cooper’s money, some of which D. B. had given him while on the island. The story proves to be the turnaround event Walter was dreaming of, greatly improving the circulation of The Rumor. Throughout the adventure, Andrew and Catalina have fallen in love. Andrew also realizes telling the truth sometimes has unfortunate costs, and in those times a white lie is nobler if it saves others from heartache and ruin.

Andrew and Catalina travel to a Las Vegas to get married and stay in a hotel where an Elvis Presley convention is being held. One particular contestant is introduced as Elvis Presley from Bermuda. He takes the microphone and begins to sing. Andrew recognizes the singer as the true Elvis Presley from the island. Elvis announces his comeback to a joyful audience."

Silly, I know, but a good diversion from the other stuff I write or think about most of the time. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Closer


I had a very nice time yesterday talking with Jim Vanore of the Cape May County Herald, NJ, discussing my book “Why I Still Love You.” He is writing a Wedding feature and has elected to cover the book in his article. Married thirty years, he had great insights of his own about what are the hallmarks of a great marriage, but he focused on one of my 100 reasons as a telling sign of a happy marriage. It was:

“I still love you because when I reach for you, you still move closer.”

This reason is the companion for a reason I wrote in the original book, “Why I Love You,” which I wrote for Jill. That reason is:

“I love you because when I reach for you, you move closer.”

It struck me that Jim focused on that particular reason because it describes perhaps the single most powerful evidence I have of how much Jill loves me. She has never pulled away, never shunned my affection, never been to busy for my attention, never been indifferent to my desire for her. In this way she lets me know that she is mine. Not as in she is chattel, but as in she has given herself in whole to me. How very blessed I am.

The other day I was less than the most understanding husband and I ended up hurting my wife’s feelings. When I realized what I had done, I apologized earnestly and then reached for her hand. Without a moment of hesitation, she interlaced her fingers with mine and held on tight. How very rich I am.

That’s all I’m going to write today. I have flowers to buy, champagne to chill, food to buy and prepare, and a card to sign. How very happy I am.

We are alone in the house for the next four nights. How very eager I am for my beautiful wife to come home.

Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Random thoughts

A day hemmed in prayer is less likely to unravel.

I'm struggling to get my bearings today - this weekend Meagan cleaned out her room of the things she can't see taking to college with her. There were bags and bags of stuff in her room waiting for me to carry downstairs to the garabage this morning. It took me hours to get the task done - kept getting distracted by the memories of days back then as I looked through the bags and saw signs and symbols of times we've spent together. She doesn't know it but I pulled a few things out and set them aside for my memory box. They will comfort me when I'm old.

One day last week Linley and I spent an afternoon having lunch and shopping. During this time we were twice referred to as “daughter and dad.” Mind you, we look absolutely nothing alike (a fact for which she is quite grateful) except that we are both tall. How could the merchants make this mistake? It must be the way we interact with one another. I’ll take that compliment!

Speaking of Linley, she had a childhood friend spend the night with us this weekend. During her visit she observed a marker board we have near the back door, one on which we write our grocery list, appointment reminders and notes to one another. Sometime before she left she wrote her own note to us: “I enjoy this household!” Another compliment we are all happy to accept.

Although it is January and just days ago the temperature dropped to 14, it was a balmy 60 degrees yesterday. This brought out our friends – Jill and I visited with five different couples yesterday as we sat on the porch or walked through the neighborhood. And as you might guess, no porch visit is complete without a chilled chardonnay. Hey, my resolution was to skip wine during the weekdays, not the weekends.

Speaking of resolutions, I’m now 5 pounds closer to my goal. They say the first ten are the easiest. Get ready Greg, in a few the real work begins.

And while I’m talking about the neighborhood, let me recycle this article. I wrote it a year ago and think I’ve posted it before, but it is on my mind again since I’ve been asked recently to put it in our neighborhood newsletter:

“Welcome to my porch, the place where I sit to relax with my family, chat with neighbors, and reflect on life. It is a real porch, one outfitted with seating for four, a coffee table for serving brunch or wine and cheese, an iron statue of a dog I’ve named Rusty, and an end table featuring a lamp that stays on late into the night, welcoming passersby who succumb to the temptation to walk up onto the porch and sit a while. Here, everyone is welcome.

It is from this porch that I find inspiration as an author, taking note of what is said or what I see in the community park before me and on the sidewalk passing before the front steps of my neighbors’ homes in this neighborhood where we live. It is where my wife and I read the newspaper, talk about our children and our hopes for their lives, and spend time lingering in each other’s company. It is where we laugh out loud with, listen to the worries of and have meaningful conversations with our two daughters. It is where our neighbors sit and share their life stories and major announcements, leftover meals, and sometimes their tears.

Our neighbors really are our friends. I don’t mean casual acquaintances; I mean the kind of friends with whom you exchange house keys, to whom you lend your car or a stick of butter, even if it means they go into your refrigerator when you aren’t home. The kind of friends that watch out for your children when you aren’t looking, who grab your newspaper from the sidewalk and toss it onto the porch when you are away, or who rescue your mail on a rainy day if they see it sticking out of the mailbox.

It is from these moments I observe while sitting on my porch that I find material to write about. My writing is auto-biographical, sometimes poignant, sometimes humorous, but always based on events or conversations that have actually happened. In my books, and now in this column, I share stories about my family and friends, ponder out loud about what perplexes me, and, I hope, occasionally cause my readers to reflect on their own lives and stir them to embrace those they love a little tighter.

My front porch is also where I now and then spend time alone with Rusty, worrying about the things that keep a father and husband awake while everyone else in the house is asleep and peacefully dreaming about shoes. It is where I think about the life I’ve led, the sins I’ve committed, the things I want to make right, the work I have left to do, and wonder how much longer I might have on this Earth to get to it all. And in the end, I suppose, that is why I write - so that in case I can’t get to everything, you will know that at the very least, I meant to.”

Now lest you think I embellish the story of our neighborhood, I’ll invite you over for lunch today to have some of the chili Laura cooked for us, followed by the Boston Cream pie Karen gave us.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

388

As I opened the Word document to write this post today I realized I needed to create a 2008 folder in my electronic filing system. It is my third calendar year writing online and this is post #388. It is hard to believe I’ve found so much to say (albeit some might question the value of much that I’ve said!) and as I write this I wonder if the proverbial well my mind draws from will ever run dry. I hope not but to help me find content day to day I carry a little notebook with me everywhere I go. In it I jot down the things I see or overhear, believing that when I sit down at this desk I will find a hurriedly scratched out note that will inspire me to write something worthwhile. I also find inspiration in the email I receive from readers each day. The credit for today’s post goes to my friend and frequent emailer in FL, Richard, and a woman ahead of me in line at the grocery store yesterday who said something I wrote down once I got back in my car.

Whole Foods is having a sale; 20% off on cases of wine. When standing in line yesterday to checkout I lifted a case of wine from a LOL’s (Little Old Lady in text-speak) cart to the belt at the cash register. As she thanked me I remarked I had resolved to give up wine until my weight was back where I wanted it to be. She touched my arm and said:

“Honey, even Jesus drank wine. You can’t deprive yourself of the good stuff; it’ll make you cranky.”

I laughed as I wrote it down and then thought if I walked an extra thousand feet to burn off a few more calories, I might allow myself a glass of the good stuff now and then.

And then from Richard this morning:

“I’ve never made new years resolutions but I respect the practice. I would like to give you some advice on yours. All the items on your list are worthy except the one concerning wine. I assume you drink wine responsibly and you don’t fill the glass past the curve. You should be drinking 2 glasses per day for heart maintenance (but not at the same time). Of course no wine is worth more than $15.00 per bottle. I've had some $5 and $6 wines that were as good as a $70.00 bottle of Cabernet. Do yourself a favor and cross the wine resolutions of your list.”

So in a toast to Richard and the LOL I hope to see again one day, I close this post so that I may bundle up (it is 14 degrees outside!) and walk to Whole Foods and visit the sommelier. It is just over a 2 mile roundtrip stroll – just enough to offset the glass of wine I’ll have after dinner tonight. Who am I to ignore sage advice?!

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy 2008

Now is the time for the pursuit of worthy goals with an action plan to achieve them. Yes, I’m talking about my New Year Resolutions:

1. Weigh less than 210 pounds by June 15th.
a. Walk 12,000 steps a day.
b. Forgo all fried foods
c. Forgo all desserts.
d. Never go back for seconds.
e. Deny all temptation to have a glass of wine on a week night.

2. Finish the novel I’ve been working on.
a. Write no less than 500 words a day.
b. Deny all temptation to have a glass of wine while writing.

3. Live a more Green life.
a. Use cloth totes instead of plastic bags at the grocery store.
b. Walk to any destination within 1 mile of the house.
c. Increase the range of products we recycle.

4. Stay within the budget!
a. Deny all temptation to purchase wine that cost more than $15 a bottle.
b. Stop buying everything at Whole Foods.
c. Learn to say “No” to the girls.
d. Veto Jill’s request to increase Princess’ clothing allowance.

OK, that’s enough - a short but manageable list. I also plan to post more regularly on this blog this year, which should be easy to do now that the launch date of Daddy’s Little Girl is less than 2 months away. But as far as today goes, this is it. We had 26 people over yesterday for collards and black-eyed peas, the traditional southern meal for bringing luck to your new year, and I still have dishes to clean. Have a great 2008!

Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!