Thursday, April 19, 2018

Hillsborough haunts pages of Danny Rhodes' novel Fan

Over spring break we took a family trip to Washington, D.C. It's been years since I'd been there, and I'd never stayed in the city before or visited for more than a day at a time. This time we did four nights in the Embassy Row neighborhood near Dupont Circle. Nice neighborhood, and if my feet hadn't been so tired from walking all day every day I would have liked to have explored Massachusetts Avenue a little more and seen more of the embassy buildings from various countries.

I did find time to visit a book shop a couple of blocks from our hotel, called Second Story Books. Which is on street level, not the second story, but it sold used books, hence the name. I could have spent hours in there scanning the shelves, but unfortunately didn't have that much time. So I bee-lined for the fiction shelves and netted a couple of Richard Russo novels (Straight Man and Mohawk). And then another book caught my eye. Fan by Danny Rhodes. I don't remember where, but I read something about it in the not too distant past, just enough for that "hey, I've heard of this" lightbulb to click on when I saw it. It's a novel about a rabid Nottingham Forest fan whose life is changed after witnessing the Hillsborough tragedy from the other side of the pitch.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Coming Summer 2018

It's been three years since I released Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed. Three long years. What the heck have I been doing all that time?

Following a brief break and a series of false starts that resulted in a collection of abandoned Chapter 1s, I settled on a new story, which turned into two books, and may eventually result in a third (fourth, fifth?). My goal is to release the first, entitled The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo, this summer. Jason is 15, going on 16, and still waiting for his parents to grow up. The story is set in 2003 and told entirely through online exchanges with friends. I'll describe it as The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole meets Nick Hornby's Slam. (Not sure what the Venn diagram of readers for that combo looks like. Anyone else in the intersection with me?)

I'm currently on the nth round of revisions, with at least one more pass to come. I'm still toying with releasing both books together, but the longer things drag out, the more I rethink that.

If you'd like to be the first to know when they are available, please sign up for my email list. I promise, I do not spam. I only send messages when I have something significant to announce (which as you might guess from the fact it's been three years since the last book came out, isn't all that often).

In the meantime, if you want a taste of what's to come, here's the first ~2,000 words of The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo. (It's not divided into chapters, which should make sense once you read it.)

Friday, March 9, 2018

Discoverability and pure dumb luck

As an indie author, I have a soft spot for indie artists generally. I particularly love to discover a new band that hasn't broken big (yet). I've found bands on Twitter, sometimes from a tweet recommending them (Rizzle Kicks, H/T to James Corden), and sometimes via direct contact from the band itself (Lux Lisbon). Discoverability has always been the key to an artist's success, but discoverability is so different now to what it was a generation ago. Musicians can find an audience halfway across the world without trekking there in a broken-down van to play a crowd of 20 people. Sometimes purely by accident.

My son is 8 and into music. If you drew a Venn diagram of what we like, there'd be a reasonable sweet spot in the middle. Most of those songs are ones I've introduced him to, despite his initial reluctance to give anything I like a chance. From AC/DC to Trombone Shorty to Snow Patrol, he has added a fair number of my tracks to his mp3 player and/or Spotify list. It doesn't often flow the other way, though. He gets a lot of his music from whatever they play on Dude Perfect, which mostly all sounds the same to me, bland synthesized music and cliched lyrics that play well behind footage of morons performing trick shots.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Parkland survivors offer hope that something might finally change

A lot can change in a week.

Seven days ago, 17 lives were needlessly lost in the horrific shooting in Parkland, Fla. My first awareness of it came via Twitter, before any details were available. Another school shooting. The all-too-familiar depression and hopelessness that washes over me during these incidents struck me harder and harder as information was reported. Many injured ... multiple fatalities ... more than 10 deaths ... then, finally, 17 dead. And eventually a grim sense of relief that the count had finally stopped going up.

Happy Valentine's Day.

I had taken the afternoon off to buy and prep a steak for our traditional Valentine's cookout. But by the time my wife got home from work I didn't feel much like celebrating anything. It felt wrong to be grilling--to be doing anything I enjoyed--with such a tragedy for all intents still unfolding, knowing so many families were being irrevocably torn apart. I felt more like crying than anything else. But I put my best face on, partially because I still don't want to talk about things like this in front of my son. He's 8. He shouldn't have to know these kinds of things happen.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The muddy fence

Every morning during the week, I wait for the school bus with my son out in front of our house. Yesterday morning something looked different. It took my brain half a second or so to process it, because it was so unexpected. An entire panel of my neighbor's fence had been turned from white to black.

Theirs is a corner house, and over the years they've been victims of a number of lawn jobs, which sadly seem to happen on a semi-regular basis here in Suburbia. This time, however, it appears to have been an inside job.

Those tracks in the snow come from the driveway, where I'm guessing someone was blocked in. There are five driver-age occupants there, requiring quite a bit of car shuffling at times. My working hypothesis is someone was parked in, decided it would be quicker to pull across the lawn than get the blocking vehicle moved, got stuck, and spun their tires until the sky rained mud.

I only wish I could have seen it, because it must have been spectacular. I mean, if you look close enough, you can see mud on the fence surrounding their pool in the backyard. How high must have it been arching through the air? I bet it was beautiful. In a dirty, muddy sort of way. And in the way that things like this are always more spectacular when it's not your fence.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A little bit of everything on my 2017 reading list

For a few years, earlier this decade, I read baseball books almost exclusively. I reviewed them both for my own blog and for Baseball America. I cranked through baseball biographies, season recaps, offbeat observations, novels, and minor-league-chasing-the-dream tales. Some of them were quite good; most, in the grand scheme of things, were somewhat forgettable. Inevitably, I got burned out on baseball books. In looking back on my reading list for 2017, there's not a single one in the bunch.

There's not really much of a theme to this year's list at all. I had a few re-reads, especially early, a couple of which were prompted by the political dystopia we were plunged into after the catastrophic 2016 election. Others I plucked off the shelf on a whim, some of which had been sitting for years, never read, waiting for the moment I would finally get to them. Here they are, roughly in chronological reading order.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Christmas is the time to say Billy Squier rocks

We are now officially into December, which means Christmas music is fair game. Go ahead and tune in that station on your radio that plays Christmas tunes 24/7. We started the Christmas dance party at our house this afternoon. It will continue, Christmas ale willing, for the next 3 1/2 weeks.

And the song we were all jonesing for was ... "Christmas Is the Time To Say I Love You," by Billy Squier. Why? Because it's the best Christmas song. Ever. No debate. Sorry. If you disagree, it's because you're wrong. It rocks, it's sentimental, it's Billy Fucking Squier. Enough. Why are we still talking about this?

And in case you were curious, here are the top 10 Christmas songs, ever.