Monday, October 31, 2011

Five Years and Counting

Funny how time flies.

Five years ago last night I wrote my first real headstuffing blog.

The parallels to then and now are pretty interesting.

Five years ago – in 2006 – I had my first inspiration for a headstuffing post while watching The Wizard of Oz with my little girls then four and five. My beloved Detroit Tigers had just days before lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Five years later, for the first time since 2006 – I find myself again watching The Wizard of Oz – the night before Halloween. And at the point where the Wicked Witch of the West is melted by Dorothy who accidentally splashes her with water while trying to put out the burning Scarecrow – again I found myself thinking “just like the Tigers against the Texas Rangers in the American League Championship Series”.

Only last time the Tigers folded in the World Series – handing the royal crown of baseball to the St. Louis Cardinals.

This year the Cardinals earned it in dramatic fashion – with Game Six of that series in serious contention as the greatest World Series Game ever played.

And I realized headstuffing had reached a milestone.

Is five years a long time for a blog to exist? To persist?

Perhaps not.

I hate the term blog anyways. It sounds so demeaning. This is really just a place for me to put the stories I write. And I hope it will always be here.

Not that anyone would miss it.

Or so I thought.

I mentioned last night to my little family of two little girls and a wife who loves bingo that maybe it was time for me to close the book on headstuffing. Call it quits. I would keep the blog up and running but post no more stories here.

The family disagreed. Loudly. You see it’s not so much mine as it is there’s. The stories are not so much mine as they are ours. And both my daughters – Alannah and Ashley-Rae – as well as my lovely wife Darlene – objected strongly to the demise of headstuffing.

They are the stars of the stories.

Even my faithful black lab Suzy gave a gentle grumble at the suggestion.

And I didn’t even raise the question to the two Grandmas.

Or the Good Doctor or the Nice Nurse Lady.

They are all characters of my stories as well.

Nor did I ask any of the seven hundred and fifty thousand readers who have stopped by over the last five years to read what’s going on. Although I am certain all of you would be less concerned as to whether headstuffing continued or not.

Even Pat “The Book On Sports” Caputo – who I still contend to be the best sports writer in Detroit – who was the inspiration for using a blog to write towards because of how much I enjoy The Books “Open Book” blog every day – and who has been very supportive of headstuffing the past - even The Book would likely be indifferent to the ending of headstuffing.

But I certainly had had a lot of feedback. A lot of good comments thanking me for sharing the cute stories about debating Santa Clause with my eldest daughter or my youngest daughter’s breaking a mirror and subjecting our small household to seven years bad luck – three of which are behind us now – or the little boy Raymond who stormed through Ashley-Rae’s birthday party only to get a kiss on the cheek from her for being such a great friend.

One story that touched many was a tribute to an old friend Bill, who passed away a couple of years ago – who I hadn’t seen since high school, who made such a big difference in the person I grew up to become.

Others caused debate as I referred to the natural way that trees deploy seeds into the earth as God’s Contraptions, or questioned why more attention at Easter is given to colored eggs and chocolate bunnies than the resurrection of Christ. Or that Santa Clause could also be considered to be the Holy Ghost personified – if one were only to believe so.

And others critique my want-to-be sports writer attempts at writing about Tigers baseball – calling my attempts sophomoric at best.

Far be it from me to argue that point.

Like Roger Ebert once complained when he started getting pushback on his movie reviews – “everyone’s a critic”.

There are two hundred and thirty three stories – each about two and third pages long – posted here. That’s about forty six a year. That’s approximately five hundred pages total. Some are just rambling about things in my brain (like this post). Some are personal treasures to me that I wouldn’t have had it not been for feeling obligated to write a post that week.

But I can’t see ever shutting headstuffing down.


And I still haven’t earned even a simple penny from my Google Ads – or Maybe I’m doing something wrong.

We’ll see where we sit five years ahead in time – in 2016 – the next time the Tiger’s challenge the St. Louis Cardinals and all teams in between for World Series supremacy – and the next time I plan to watch The Wizard Of Oz again.

We’ll see where we sit with headstuffing.

Maybe by then I’ll have published my book.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Good Day To Be Thankful

It’s a beautiful morning outside.

There are a couple of scattered clouds in the sky. The maples that lie just beyond the fenced borders of my yard are turning bright reds yellows and browns. The dew sits heavy on the grass.

And it hasn’t rained for several days now.

The black tarpon that covers my pool is about six inches full now of its own water, and a few fallen fall leaves.

And my faithful black lab Suzy stretched out on the deck beside my feet.

It’s Thanksgiving Day here in Canada.

It’s Columbus Day to the Americans just across the Detroit River. Apparently this is now a reason for great shopping sales.

The Detroit Tigers are still playing baseball. They won their ALDS playoff series against the Bronx Bombing team that only money can buy New York Yankers. They played all five games of the series through rain and more rain – winning in the final game in a cardiac arresting fifth game pitcher’s duel score of three to two which had me clutching my chest like Red Foxx in a bad episode of Sanford and Son.

After the Tiger’s won, and I put the portable defibrillator away, I realized that I had made about twenty five promises to God of things I would do should he get the Tigers out of this mess and win this last game, only to realize I could only remember seventeen of them.

And hence the Tiger’s lost their ALCS series opener against Texas when God took away the vision from the right eye of home plate umpire Tim Welke who couldn’t call a strike on the right corner of the plate and then poured rain on the game twice forcing Tiger’s Cy Young award pitcher for 2011 Justin Verlander to come out of the game.

Sorry Justin, my bad. Next time I’ll write them all down.

And now I am emotionally spent; at least until four o’clock this afternoon when the game that got rained out last night will be played.

Life is pretty busy right now.

I’m running a men’s pool league that plays every Monday night, every Monday night except for tonight because today is Thanksgiving which ticked-off the players in my league because they either needed a place to go on Monday nights or because they needed reprieve from their own families after the viciousness that erupts at family holiday time.

I can identify a bit with the latter.

I also play in Wednesday night darts league, which I enjoy very much as the pace is quick and the darters throw triple twenties frequently.

It’s all very good stuff. As a married father of two little girls ages nine and ten, I am finding it refreshing to rejoin society after a decade of family and office isolation to hang out with the guys and say bad words and say “nice shot” as I take a sip out of my second pint of beer of the night.

But then Tuesday or Thursday mornings roll around, and I find myself groggily trying to help the girls get some breakfast in them, brushing their hair and enforcing statutory teeth brushing laws before we hop in the jeep for me to drop them both off at their school.

One year, four years from now, in October of 2015, my eldest Alannah will start high school while Ashley Ray remains behind one grade younger at the primary school. That year will be much more frustrating than this as both will need rides, and our morning battles will be much different.

At least until Alannah starts dating the high school senior twelfth grader who drives a fifteen year old Camero and simply refers to me as “old dude” as he picks Alannah up at the curbside of our house with me screaming from the driveway in front of all the neighbors “I forbid you to ride with that long haired hippy looking ear-ring wearing punk”. And as they drive away with some modern day rap remix of Lynard Skynard’s “Three Steps Mister” blasting through the open windows (open only because one of the windows doesn’t roll up all the way), I will stand there half furious with my daughter, half envious of the young man who kidnapped her from me – remembering my own senior year and thinking “those were great days”.

But those days are still four years away. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, although I started saving for the shotgun last spring when Alannah came home telling me all about the new boy in school she likes swearing up and down that she hates the guy.

It’s all very strange now as life continues to unfold.

It’s also very sobering.

I myself still feel like I am twenty six years old – at least in my mind.

The truth comes rushing back to me quickly as I try to teach Alannah and Ashley-Rae how to turn and chase down a long fly ball hit over one’s head – only to find my legs no longer simply glide me effortlessly under the ball – but now instead each stride is a challenge as I bounce up and down trying to keep the ball in jiggling sight only to reach up and barely snag it - instead of stopping and turning to make the catch easily, then panting out of breath as I try to spit out the affirmation “See … … it’s easy … … now you do it”.

But as I said, in Canada, today is Thanksgiving Day.

Here is a list of things I am very thankful for as I sit here this morning:

I am most thankful that my lovely wife Darlene and I still have this wonderful little family of ours, although some days that thankfulness is tested to its limits.

As well, I am thankful that I can still carve the seven ball into a tight side pocket leaving the cue ball to bounce off two rails and leave me a clean tap in on the eight ball in the corner.

And that I can double out from ninety seven by hitting triple nineteen and then double twenty.

I am very thankful that my daughters both love baseball enough to stay up as late as they can watching the Tigers playoff games, falling asleep on the couches in the living room in the third inning so that I have to carry them to bed; and when they wake up in the next morning the first question they ask is “did we win last night Daddy?”

And I am thankful that so far this playoff series I have gotten to answer that question by saying “yes we did, darling” more times than “no we didn’t sweetheart”.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Still Writing My Book

I haven’t written much on headstuffing lately. Sorry about that.

I have been spending all of my writing time trying to get this book written.

I think it’s going well. To me it reads very well. It isn’t a struggle to read it. It’s actually pretty easy reading, a page turner.

But I’m pretty biased.

I think my characters are very well fleshed out. Complete people you know all about with just enough mystery to continue to make them interesting, and funny.

But what I really wanted to tell you about is how incredibly amazing this whole process has been as an experience. It’s incredible. I know when I’ve hit something good when the story tells itself to me, and I simply write it down.

After writing one of those parts, I sit back and have a sip of whatever I’m drinking, light a smoke, and I read it over again. And I wonder to myself “where the hell did that come from?”

The story literally tells itself to me as my fingers hit the keys on my laptop.

It’s like I’m channeling someone else – I don’t know who – who simply puts the words and ideas in my head.

There is nothing more rewarding in the world … to me … than getting snippet of the story written out and realizing as I read it over again that this is really good.

But as I said before, I am pretty biased.

I find myself reading my book over and over again, and when I get to where I left off, I wonder what’s going to happen next.

I guess I had better explain. I do have a known structure to the story, most specifically a start, and an end, and in between I have an idea – loosely formed in my feeble brain – about how I am going to get from one point to the next in the story.

The part that blows me away, that makes this story so much fun, is all the places this story goes in between all those points. And what makes it so rewarding is how much sense it all makes – how feasible such an unfeasible story seems to be- as I read it over and over again.

I’ve had a lot of friends ask me what the story is about. And I get disappointed when I try to explain the premise in summary form – only to find out how silly it sounds when I say it that way. But then I go back and read what I wrote to tell the story, and I am reassured because the story does make sense – very great sense – in a fantasy fiction sort of way.

I think people will really take to this story, if I can get it in front of them to read it.

A couple of people who have read the snippet I have shared here on headstuffing are intrigued and want to read more. And I feel bad that I can’t simply say “oh yeah? Here you go”.

The other part of this process that I have found so … incredible … is how many people have knowingly or unknowingly inspired my creation of these characters in this book. And since this story unfolds all around the world, I have had so much fun simply interviewing people to learn more about them, to help me flesh these characters out in a meaningful way.

It’s got a little bit of everything – a fantasy that we all have in common; mystery behind the scenes that keeps you wanting to know more; and great characters that everyone will enjoy.

As I have said before here on headstuffing, I simply love to write. And the greatest reward to me is to have other people tell me how much they enjoy reading what I write. That’s why it’s so hard not to simply give everyone who asks me a copy of the story so far.

There is something to be said for taking the approach of simply giving this book away, let people read it for free and hope that they like it so much it might generate revenues for my family in other ways. But what I really need is a writers agent, someone of influence who can present this story to a publisher so that they can see this story – and publish it.

That’s the part I haven’t figured out yet. Maybe you can help me?

I don’t ask for help very easily. It’s a character flaw I have. But I’m asking now.

My lovely wife Darlene has read most of the story so far. She thinks it should be a movie.

But she is pretty biased.

And my little girls ask me every night to read the story to them as they go to bed. So far they love it, all though I do have to skip some parts that they are not old enough for yet. But they love it to.

They are also pretty biased too.

There are components of this story that people will really enjoy.

A little black jet called the Fa├žade.

The Universal Communication Terminals.

And the Angel. Everyone will love the Angel.

But then – like I said earlier – I am pretty biased.

If you haven’t checked out the snippet of the book that I have shared, and you do find what I have described even remotely interesting, then I encourage you to click on the icon on the top of the sidebar to the right of my headstuffing site here, and read it online. It’s pretty short. And I bet you will want to read more.

If you do read it, please leave me a comment and tell me what you think. Even if you think it stinks. I post all your comments here – within reason of course – as long as it meets the standard clean language rule I apply to all headstuffing comments – and as long as your not spamming my comments trying to sell Viagra or something.

Give it a read. I bet you will like it … and you will want to read more.

But I should mention that I am a little biased.

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