That Big, Beautiful Space Above Your Head

pink sky

I will largely be off doing things today, important, non-interwebsy type things, such as being an act-first-think-later style international master spy equally at home wearing a tuxedo as carrying a sniper rifle. Or maybe I’ll be out tracking that black bear that’s been making cameos in suburban Cincinnati this week. With luck, I can reunite Yogi and Boo Boo, and then the three of us can share a pic-a-nic basket.

Okay, so maybe not. Regardless, I won’t be online much, which means no time for rambling out a proper post.  In its stead, I hope you’ll enjoy this picture of the sky I took last night, just about sundown, right as storm clouds were about to roll in.

I thought it was kinda pretty, at least.

Have a great Monday. We’ll chat soon!


Games Writers Play: Seven Lines from Page Seven

A few days ago, I was tagged in a one of those chain-style Facebook memes where someone is chosen to do something very specific and then post evidence of it a status update, at which point they’re free to tag some non-zero number of other friends, family, and/or in-laws to carry on the cycle.

In general, I kind of enjoy these kinds of things, especially the writing-related ones. For one thing, it means getting picked for, well, something. Sure, that’s gotta sound a little strange from 41 year old dude with a  penchant for attention seeking and more than his fair share of egotism. But you have to remember I was the kid frequently not picked for things back when my lack of skill with a whiffle ball was rivaled only by my lack of speed around makeshift bases. Thus, it’s still nice to get picked for stuff occasionally, even now.

Well, except for, like, jury duty, or when the Puddinette picks me for extensive home projects. For some reason those things don’t give me quite the same thrill.

Moving right along….

My agent represents a whole host of brilliant writers, and we’re a pretty close knit group, as far as these things go. So I wasn’t surprised one bit when, after watching this particular meme circulate among writers on Facebook for a few weeks, one of my agency-siblings tagged me. Thus tagged, I’m more than happy to  play along.

The way this particular chain meme works, once you’ve been hit up, you’re supposed to go to either page seven or page 77 of your current work in progress, then proceed to line seven, and post the seven lines of your work that follow.  And I was pretty excited to do that, especially after reading what I had to share on page seven of my current novel (page 77 is still blank, I’m afraid).

The only problem, though, is that I’m a bit of the foil-hat type when it comes to posting things to Facebook.  I mean, I don’t mind spilling whatever’s on my mind in the occasional status update, but putting anything out there that I consider Copyright, 201X, Puddin makes me more nervous than an arachnophobe at an arachnology convention during Halloween.

See, Facebook likes change its legal Terms and Conditions from time to time and do things like, oh, claim everything posted in a status update is property of Facebook to do with as they like.  Now, admittedly, the likelihood of that happening in this case is roughly the same as me flapping my arms and flying to the moon where Captain Morgan himself would offer me a shot of rum.  But, better safe than sorry.  Also, sometimes I just like to be the contrarian.

But! Then I realized that if I post said sliver of the work-in-progress here, everybody wins, right? So, here it is, then, seven lines of page seven, from my current work in progress, codenamed Project Hermey:

The door was swinging closed, but no one had come in or gone out. Bones and Chee were still waiting outside by the light, and Chee was scrolling through something on his phone. Probably checking his online dating profile, which, after a bit of hacking, Molly had uncovered was nothing but a sackful of lies from the words, “Welcome to Chee-ville, hot stuff!” Apparently he liked to tell potential—that is, unsuspecting—dates that he was the owner of a chain of booming coffee houses and that he enjoyed thought-provoking, sad books, spa days, and long walks along the beach. Truth was, the last time he’d been at the beach, it had been with her family, and he’d gotten stung by jellyfish.

The other patrons of the laundromat had looked up at the mysterious door too, but finding no one, had already gone back their folding. The pair of kids though, barely more than toddlers, were now giggling together in the far corner of the shop.

With that done, now, I’d say that’s more than enough rambling about spiders and tin-hats from me for one week. Look me up on Facebook if you’re curious who, if anyone, I tagged to continue the chain.

Now get out there and have a great weekend!

And, uh, try not to set the place of fire.



Some Days

Some days, the life of a part time writer is not so much about red carpets, adoring fans, or even pantlessness, midday whiskey, and the endless struggle to find a few perfect words to describe a simple thing with subtle elegance.

Well, okay, so life is actually never any of those things for the part time writer, except for maybe the last one. And some days not even that one is on the agenda.

Some days, instead, you spend your morning and afternoon sweating the details that come with rolling out a new project at a customer site.

Some days, a part time writer is left with roughly twenty minutes in an airport terminal to fire down a 4 PM lunch consisting of the wrong package of M&Ms while waiting for a plane to come fling him home.

Some days are actually today.

But that’s okay, because by the time anyone but that part time writer reads this, he’ll be back at home, grilling dinner for his family.

Some days turn out perfectly okay in the end.


How to have an Uber good time

A very good friend of my celebrated his 40th birthday (belatedly, but that’s not important right now) this past weekend, and, as you do when making hay about such things,  roped the Whole Gang together to do so.  The husbands—and yes, that includes me, regardless of whether I’m still authorized to carry a Man Card—began early Saturday, with tees time at a golf course that assured us several hours of hacking at dimpled balls with reckless abandon.

Well, okay, yeah, putting it that way makes it sound kind of offensive. But then, if you’ve ever seen me attempt to play 18 holes, you know the sentiment in question isn’t half as offensive as my golf game.

At any rate, after spending most of the morning and early afternoon in mildly ridiculous heat, we got cleaned up and heading into downtown Cincinnati for a night in the city. I believe I’ve mention this before, but on the off chance you haven’t been following along lately, Cincinnati is kind of an exciting place to be these days. We’re not quite booming like back in The Day of America’s Westward Expansion (when the city was the gateway to both the south and the west), but the place is kind of electric with promise and growth at the moment.

The only problem is, for a dude and his wife from the (dreaded, for you urban-y types) ‘burbs, planning an evening to take place at a variety of locations in town can be problem for those of us dependent on cars. You know, because parking costs actual US dollars, and I’m not keen on shelling it out multiple times, once at every location we decided to hit. Luckily, though, the better portion of the Hip and Happening areas of Cincinnati are concentrated in walkable areas that seem to be stretching out as time goes on.  That’s a very good thing. It also helped very much that the Gang figured on an eventual visit to the Horseshoe Casino to wind out the evening.

Oh and hey, they offer free parking at the casino! And, well, I do enjoy free parking. Almost as much as puppy kisses, back rubs, and bourbon.

We decided, then, to start the evening by parking at the casino and leaving the car there until we needed it later.  Then we just needed to somehow  meet up with everyone else from the Group. Only problem, though, is that Group Rally Point A was a hotel some 12+ blocks away. Which, yeah, I know, 12 blocks is really Not Worth Complaining About For Urban People. But, in my defense, the ambient temperature outside was hovering somewhere between “the daytime surface temp of Mercury” and “a billion and a half degrees”. Plus, I’d already spent most of the day sweltering in the sun on a golf course. I didn’t want to get all shiny and sticky again just before dinner.

The fact is, I had plans for sweating that evening already, but those plans were based on the Celebratory Meat Sweats, not your average, run-of-the-mill OMG There A Ball of Nuclear Fusion In The Sky Spitting Radiant Heat Upon Us All Sweats.

Also, the Puddinette and I were dressed reasonable well for once, and I didn’t want to ruin our Swank Factor so earlier in the evening.  Admittedly, when I say “reasonable well dressed,” I, obviously don’t mean that I was rocking a tux with tails or anything. Let’s face it, if I was going to be the kind of primate with any manner of rear adornment anyway, I think we all know I’d be that baboon with the angry red butt.

But I digress.

Point is, yes, we could have walked, but it wasn’t an attractive option. Now, if the city had some kind of rail system—say, a streetcar—we could’ve hoped aboard for a buck or two and ridden to the rendezvous point without a concern. But uh, the streetcar isn’t set to the open until 2015, I guess. Or 2016? One of those.  Either way, not this weekend.

And that’s when I remembered Uber.

If you haven’t heard of it, Uber is a car service (new to Cincinnati but in lots of other cities) that hooks people in need of a ride with drivers interested in earning a few dollars by getting John Q. Passenger from Point A to B.  The whole thing is  managed by an app on your phone, including paying and tipping your driver. Which means that if you’re an introvert like me and the thought of having to make small talk with the guy with your life in his hands at 40+ M.P.H. fills you with a kind of cold, liquid, existential dread, it’s the most magical service ever created in the history of services. You click “Request car”.  You watch the GPS map on your phone as the car makes it way to you.  The car arrives. You get in. You’re driven to where you wanted to get dropped off. You get out (saying “Thanks” and “Goodbye” are optional, but introvert doesn’t have to mean jerkknuckle). You go about living the rest of your life. Uber emails you a receipt. The world is full of rainbows, unicorns, and lollypops.

Even better, I got a promotional credit for signing up for an account, meaning that the company picked up the $12 tab for Saturday’s ride and the next one, at least.

From there, the evening only got awesomer.  It was filled with a massive, delicious steak, good times with great friends, and even an improbably up night at the casino.

Of course, the biggest problem with having an awesome weekend is that the Monday toll man inevitably rolls in and reminds you of just how far you can fall from Life’s peak to valley in 24 short hours.

And thus I am today, drinking my bitter Monday brew, basking in the warm glow of Saturday’s memories.

And also wondering why baboons have such funny colored butts.


Unfortunate Friday Decisions

I really should have known better, especially considering I’ve got a lot to do today and a weekend barreling towards me like a kid with a $5 bill trying to chase down the ice cream truck. But I never have been very smart, so I went and did it anyway. I followed my coworkers to the Chinese buffet and I consumed  delicious umami-rich goodness until I was essentially one more steamed dumpling away from exploding like a Death Star with an unprotected ventilation duct.

Which, of course, means that:

  1. I hate myself right now. Seriously, self-loathing is at unquantifiable levels as of this moment.
  2. I am never, ever, EVER going back to that Chinese Buffet. I mean, Taylor Swift will be calling me to get back together before I go there again.
  3. Anyone have a cot? Holy crepes, I would pay a kajillion dollars to be able to take a nap and without interruption.
  4. I couldn’t wedge so much as a Girl Scout Cookie into my gastrointestinal tract right now. It’s like an expressway from Michigan to Florida on a holiday weekend.
  5. Yet, is, um, anyone else kind of…hungry?

At any rate, my brain is sluggish right now like that green stuff your kids buy even though you know it’s somehow going to end up getting stuck in the fabric of your family room couch. Of course, once that happens, you’re condemned to half a decade of telling guests not to worry about sitting in that dark spot on the cushion because it’s not what they think, it won’t stain anymore, it’s just, you know, old gak.

Once again, here we see plainly exhibited evidence of the evils of the Chinese buffet. I just spent an entire paragraph talking about gak, for the love of all that’s gross and slippery.

So here’s my weekend advice to you, fellow puddintopians: enjoy your Friday lunch with as much gusto as you can. Make it a marvelous, adventurous meal. Treat Friday Lunch with the respect it deserves. But be cautious, too, and when you’ve got a busy weekend looming in front you like a red-faced, white-haired librarian with a Past Due slip, don’t eat at the Chinese buffet.

Because you’re going to need to stay quick on your feet to have any hope of slurping out this weekend’s delicious meaty marrow.

And right now, I couldn’t slurp up a Coke even using a McDonald’s patented “Firehose” straw.

Have a great weekend, kids! And, uh, try not to set the place on fire.


Summer Vacation, Week Three: The Initial (Ugly) Face Of Boredom

The first two weeks of summer vacation are usually kind of a blur.  The first is mostly an expression of the pure, unadulterated joy of having no responsibilities after nine long, grueling months of school activity. Believe it or not, I’m talking every bit as much about adults as I am about the kids basking in the joy of being able to get up whenever the sunlight moves them and casually enjoying a bowl of Lucky Charms while watching whatever happens to be on.

I mean, admittedly, I haven’t basked in a leisurely bowl of Lucky Charms in this millennium, but at least now I only have to worry about getting up in time to get to work rather than making sure everybody gets on the right bus with the right lunch box and the right jacket. And that says nothing about after school activities.  Indeed that first week after school ends is like a great sigh of relief for the adult psyche.

But Week One ends. And then Week Two comes and goes, and in all likelihood, some manner of summer camp activity goes with it. For us it was basketball camp and soccer camp.  And then you find yourself at Week Three, and all of the sudden the freedom isn’t exactly novel anymore and your Magnificent Parental Summer Plan slams into the sharp beach rocks. That’s when any hope of keeping your children active, engaged, and somehow fascinated by learning about the migratory cycles of Asian Flamingos goes right out the window along with every parenting magazine in your house hosting some psychotically grinning helicopter mom with perfect hair, perfect teeth, and a perfectly dressed, un-stained toddler spelling out college-level words in blocks in the cover.

That’s where we would have ended up today—especially if the health and welfare of the kids was left to me and/or their devices. The Puddinette, being Wise In The Way Of Not Losing Her Parental Shizznit Over Summer had a better plan.  She packed the puddinlings into the car and introduced them to a nearby independent market. And instead of just looking around, the kids were told to select one, and only one, item each which would at some point be made into dinner.

And after an awesome time perusing the wares of many local vendors, they came home with quite the assortment of awesomeness.


Before anyone freaks out, no, I most decidedly did not include the jerk rub and the “Inferno” seasoning in one meal.  In fact, given the pick-you-up-by-the-nose-hairs-and-fling-you-about-like-Raggedy-Ann-doll punch of the that Inferno stuff (which as you can see, includes both jalapeno and habenero), I doubt very seriously I’ll manage to use all of it in twenty-one meals. 

Stuff is 200-proof Potent.  And yes, I do mean that be italicized with a capital P.

I did, however, slip a wee pinch or so of it into the most important thing they picked out but didn’t get a picture of: the “bacon burger” ground beef.  Yes, some genius not too far from my home is taking top quality ground beef, grinding in some bacon along with a handful of other delightful seasonings.  All of which means that the burgers I grilled up tonight were without question the tastiest ones I’ve ever taken off a grill. That alone would have made today’s trip to Friendly Market a magical thing.  But, no, I’ve also got a plan for that jerk seasoning and a roast that’s going to include a charcoal barbecue in the next few days. Granted, I’m still not sure how I’m going to fit that homemade strawberry butter into a dinner, but I’m not afraid to go a little Iron Chef on it if I have to.

Long story short, today my wife turned the first curling edges of summer boredom into a pretty fantastic dinner, and the kids had a blast along the way.

If you ask me, I’d call that Surviving Week Three Boredom: Achievement Unlocked!


The Best Gift is The One You Didn’t Know You Needed

Before I go any further, in reference to Father’s Day, I must say this: I am not an easy person to buy things for. While the desire to acquire trinkets, toys, and gadgets was well-documented in my youth, age (and I hope, maybe, wisdom?) has led me to the realization that I need little to be happy. So, I don’t want for much besides the occasional few minutes of peace. Also, meat and beer, but that kind of goes without saying.  Also, it gets to the other thing that makes me not easy to buy things for: when I do want something (say, meat or beer), I tend to get that something without much delay.

I’ve kind of always had poor impulse control. Which, incidentally, is why my youthful collection of trinkets, toys, and gadgets was so easy to document.

With that said, then, I have to brag on my family somewhat. They didn’t get Big Things for Father’s Day. Because, let’s face it, not only is a yacht not exactly in the budget, I wouldn’t know what to do with it anyway. So instead, they got me these things:


I could not be more pleased about it. Not only did Father’s Day replenish my waning supply of word-making reward M&Ms, they gave me a candy device that will standardize just exactly how many M&Ms I get when I hit each each day’s word count goal. I’ll get honest, in the past, the “handful” of M&Ms I’ve promised myself has probably been anywhere from 10 little round pieces to a quantity upwards of a quantum bajillion. Rounded up to the nearest tetrahydrojillion, of course.

Yeah, I’m thinking my girlish figure will likely appreciate a more regular dose for a day’s work. You know, since they don’t airbrush thigh-gaps into author photos (yet).

As for how I actually spent Father Day’s, I wasn’t entirely sure when the weekend kicked off on Friday if I was going to manage to survive it. Squeezing in a holiday among the usual list of weekend responsibilities is always a challenge, regardless of whether or not said day is theoretically devoted to Me Me Me! So while Father’s Day should have somehow meant a day of laying, sloth-like, horizontally across the surface of my couch, life rarely fulfills one’s wishful thinkings.

The thing is, while spending an entire day strewn across my sofa would have, indeed, been a marvelous thing, it would have also demonstrated a kind of selfishness I try to avoid. I’ve got a father, too, you know. As does the Puddinette. Meeting my lethargic potential might have been fun for a while, but it also would have been kind a dick move. There’s just no excuse for not paying just dues to the men responsible for teaching me, the wife, and even our kids about the world we live in.

Rather than be a self-centered pig, then, Saturday evening I grilled great hunks of ribeye for my dad and Sunday we had lunch with the Puddinette’s whole family. And while I’m a little surprised to hear myself admit that anything could be better than a day of lounging upon my furniture while sports, movies, and or naps occupied my hours, I’d say we did a fair deal better than the “doing nothing” I’d have managed if left to my own indolent devices.

The other thing is that Father’s Day isn’t really about having  a day to do whatever (nothing) you choose without fear of being hampered or interrupted by the pesky wishes and needs of your family. I mean, sure, a day of living like a hermit has it’s attractions, but if that’s what you really wanted, wouldn’t it have been easier just to remain a bachelor?

Let’s be honest, I had plenty of sofa-strewn days in my mid-twenties. I’m not sure I consider them a good use of my time here on Earth in a carbon-based meat sack.

What I am sure of, though, is that when I took my older two sons to the batting cages and the driving range Saturday morning for some Sportsball Hitting of Many Varieties, I had about as much fun as I’ve had on a Saturday AM since back in the day when I’d get up at 7 AM to see if Scooby-Doo was going to guest star Batman and Robin or the Harlem Globetrotters that week.

Did I lounge this weekend in fulfillment of my most base, lazy desires? No, no I didn’t

Instead I spent my Father’s Day weekend being, well, a father, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.


Summer Vacation, Week Two: An Adventure In Space And Time

I guess it’s the second week of summer vacation now? I think that’s right. At least, where we live. Truth be told, the minute summer break starts for the kids, I immediately lose the ability to track time and/or events in a meaningful, relative way. I think it’s like some built-in defense mechanism to keep me from obsessing over the fact that while they’re at home all day doing what I want to be doing—i.e, playing video games, hanging out with friends, bickering amongst themselves about inane pointless things, and eating nacho-dusted snack chips*—I’ll be at work.  You know, working.

That is, trying to find a more comfortable spot underneath the gum-coated sole of The Man’s boot heel.

Aaaaanyway. My whole lack of understanding relative calendar time isn’t the same for me as an adult as it was when I was a kid, newly freed from the bonds of my own educational restraint for the summer. Back then, the only way I knew what day was what as that Saturday had cartoons I could watch while toasting a frozen waffle. But if the day was just some random Wednesday? What did “Wednesday” even mean?  Was it a word? Doesn’t sound like a word. Weird.

Nowadays, during summer, I just can’t keep track of where we are in a given month. Is it June? Early June, right? No? Mid June? End of July. Hell, who knows?

I do know that when it’s Wednesday, it’s Wednesday, and that “Wednesday” isn’t just some strange word made up by non-humans. The only exceptions to the I-Know-The-Day-Of-The-Week assertion, of course, are those days when it’s Wednesday but my brain is being a huge bag of warted jerktoads and is convinced for some inexplicable reason that it’s actually Thursday ahead of schedule. Seriously, brain, get it straight! I mean, Wednesday isn’t so bad. You can cope with it, knowing that a weekend is close enough that it’s safe to start chopping the ice for margaritas.  But when you think it’s Thursday and you’re all ready to break out the tequila, the sunscreen, and that new book with the international spies having sexytimes amidst multiple plots for World Domination, solely because you believe you’re standing over the precipice of two and a half days of free time, only to have reality sink in and remember that playtime is an extra 24 hours further away?

Well, I think Darth Vader said it best when he said:


At any rate, it’s definitely Friday right now, which is quite clearly the opposite of all the kvetching above. That is to say, Margarita Time is Upon Us. Mix, drink, and be happy! And hopefully the oversexed spy protagonist in your book will somehow manage to prevent dastardly World Domination and still find time for one last fling with Throwaway Character Y.

While you think about reading about that, I’m going to spend the next eight and a half weeks tracking the progress of Summer Vacation. That is, I’ll be tagging each week in a post from now until the start of school in the middle of August in order to help us all keep in mind that the glory of summer is finite and fleeting. And also that, Thank All Things Deep Fried And Topped with Powdered Sugar, school will start again soon.

With luck, some of us will still have a thimble full of sanity to meet it.

Have a great weekend! And, uh, don’t set the place on fire.


*I would consume a great deal more of these than the Puddinette lets the kids eat. I would also likely get yelled at frequently for orange fingers.



Tuesday Evening Baseball

The Oldest Son is theoretically going to play a baseball game in half an hour or so.

Beneath this sky, I’m pretty dubious that it’s going to actually happen. The odds, however, of me making a mad dash for the car among a pack of other scurrying, middle-aged parents sometime in the ensuing hour is looking pretty rock-solid.

Hopefully your Tuesday evening plans are looking a bit less threatened. Either way, here’s to keeping your powder and your bald spot dry, no matter what you’ve got going on.

And, uh, and if anyone has a towel I could maybe borrow, that’d be pretty sweet.