Playscapes, Play Dates, And Parenting Illusions

Editing a brilliant manuscript on an iPad in the play area of a suburban McDonalds. I love the future.

This is my setup today while I do some work and still try to stay engaged with the kids. Since I gave up the full-time freelance life I essentially have one full-time day job and two part-time jobs with my freelance editing business and my novel work. That’s a lot of work, but the money allows us a lifestyle that wouldn’t otherwise be possible on just one income and it’s fun and feeds my creativity in  way that my day job doesn’t and I’m grateful for that.

But one of the things I miss most about working from home is the amount of time I was able to spend with the kids. This is made worse by the fact that a few times a week to get my work done I need to leave the house and go to a coffee shop or McDonald’s to focus and that’s more time away from the family which is no fun (actually the worst part is that I don’t always feel bad about it and kind of enjoy the solitude but the bigger picture does make me feel bad).

To compensate for some of that I like to take the kids to McDonald’s with me where they can play and I can work but I’m right there with them and feel more engaged with them. Today was one of those days. I have off for the July 4th holiday and it worked out very well. I got a lot of work done and still had fun with the kids and it was great. I anticipate a lot more fun times with the kids and Becky this weekend even though I still have A LOT of writing and editing to work on as well.

Enough Controversy, Let’s Be Silly

Believe it or not this is a fiction writing related post. For the last few days I’ve been talking about controversial things and being dropped by friends and family and generally feeling miserable from both sides of the political and religious spectrum. I don’t make a habit of talking about this sort of stuff very often because 1) it’s exhausting and 2) I’m really not very good at it.

I’m good at writing about my emotions and what I’m feeling and such and I’m very proud of the piece I wrote here about finding myself between a rock and a hard place supporting supporting gay marriage, but I hate following up with those discussions. I hate defending my positions and mostly i just had dragging it out. Once I’ve written about something I’m done with it, I’ve had my say, and I’m looking to move on to the next thing. And after a big social and religious post, I usually like to move on to something silly. And getting back to that first sentence, this has all, once again, made it very clear to me I have no interest in writing social fiction or serious fiction or psychological fiction or whatever it’s being called these days.

As much as I’d love to be the next Lehane or Lippman or Megan Abbott or whoever, that’s just not my wheelhouse. I can’t keep a straight face. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to tackle serious issue or complex or controversial issues, I just need to do it with some humor and, more often than not, in an exaggerated and satirical fashion. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what my next writing project will be (this is what happens when I get close to the end of one project, I can’t think of anything but what I want to write next)and this point has popped up a number of times. I want to write a “bigger” book and a more commercial book but I need to find a way to do that within my own style which, on initial examination, doesn’t appear to lend itself to a big commercial canvas, but that my job as an artist to make it work, right?

For now though, I have a very supportive publisher who is contractually obligated to publish whatever I write next as long as it’s good. I’m still working on making it good, but I can pretty much guarantee it’s not going to be serious.

 

An Update On What Was Wrong With Me

You’ll recall that just over a month ago I was at the urgent care clinic and had finally reached max tolerance of whatever virus or flu or curse had been inhabiting my body for nearly seven months. I am happy to report that the very next day I started feeling much better and have gone now six weeks feeling great. Here’s what happened:

First, the doctor at the urgent care clinic heard my sad story, looked inside my head holes and then jabbed me with a giant needle full of what he called an “antibiotic booster.” I had never heard of that before and had never been poked with a needle that big, but I had felt so awful for so long at that point I was ready to try anything. And wouldn’t you know that within an hour of getting that shot I started feeling much, much better. In addition to the Giant Shot of Healing, I had also just started a daily regiment of allergy pills and nasal allergy spray that was starting to show results as well.

I can’t tell you how much better I feel. I’m just now starting to get caught up on all of the side jobs I had fallen massively behind on due to the inability to maintain any sort of productive energy level for longer than an hour or so at a time and that feels great. Getting paid for that work makes Becky feel great. And we’ve been feeling great together quite a bit more as well.

Now the only time I feel groggy or crappy is when Natalie is up all night crying with teething pain like she was for the past few nights. But man, it feels good to be breathing free and clear and not passing out every few minutes from exhaustion.

And how are you all feeling today?

My Friends, My Family, And Pride

I am celebrating for many of my friends who can now be married thanks to the Supreme Court decision that legalized same sex marriage across all 50 states. While this puts me strongly in the majority of my publishing friends and colleagues and many of the friends I grew up with in theater and choir, it also puts me at odds with much of my family and many more of my childhood friends.

For some historical context, I was raised in an evangelical Christian household and went to private Baptist schools until high school. I made some very close friends during this time who still are active in this religious tradition as well as most of my immediate family members including my parents and my sister. I love these people dearly and it hurts me that they can’t celebrate this great moment in our country because of their interpretation of the Bible. It also hurts me to see so many people I respect who are celebrating this decision also expressing judgmental and angry opinions about anyone who disagrees with it. While there are many, many people who come to that view from an ignorant and hateful or manipulative place (I’m looking at you entire slate of Republican presidential nominees), there are others who are truly conflicted between their desire to love and their desire to live their view of a biblical life.

It’s easy to knock on evangelicals for being so aggressive in spreading their view of the gospel and their view of the world, but as someone who grew up in that world I can emphatically state that almost all of them do it from a place of love and a desire to save the world from a fiery eternity. What the world sees as annoying and aggressive Bible thumping, they see as yelling to the world about an impending danger.

This doesn’t mean they’re right, but it means that, like most things in life, there is no black and white, no good guys and bad guys. These are complicated humans with emotions and fears and desires and failures. I’m saying this to myself as much to anyone else. It’s easy to get frustrated and condemn dissenting voices, but this is America and the wrong voices get to have as much say as the right voices.

So I will celebrate my gay friends and my secular straight friends and I will have lively and engaging discussions in person with friends and family about these issues at family holidays, but this is likely all you will hear from me about this issue on social media. This is not because I’m ignorant or afraid of defending my positions, it’s because social media discussion of complex issues is like defending yourself against a murder rap using old episodes of Law and Order in a language you have only a passing fluency in.

I Loved Jurassic World And Strongly Recommend Everyone See It. Yes, Even You.

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Becky and I went to see Jurassic World on Saturday and it was everything I could hope for in a summer popcorn movie about killer dinosaurs. Due to scheduling and babysitting needs, the only show we could go see was the 3-D IMAX one. That turned out to be a key point in our enjoyment of the film. That look on Chris Pratt’s face above is how we looked up at the giant screen the whole time. IMAX 3-D has come a long way in even the 3 years since I last saw Tron: Legacy.

But really, this movie was awesome. It was funny and scary and sweet and intense. It had all of the major plot failings of summer movies, of course, but the CGI wasn’t nearly as distracting and fake looking as I had been led to believe. Even in the giant versions we were looking at. Aside from giant plot holes though, the film was also really smart is some spots, especially it’s commentary on theme parks, and greed, commercialization (I REALLY want to see what a PepsiSaurus would look like) and sequels. Anyone who has spent significant time at a massive theme park will find special delight in these moments.

And the world of Jurassic World really feels alive and lived in. I feel like this was a park I could actually go to after the movie (you know, if everyone hadn’t been eaten recently). Even what was put forth as the stupidest part of the movie – why in the hell would anyone create such a horribly misguided dinosaur as the one that highlights this film – had a logical, believable answer.

The best part though, is how this movie deals with the original in both scathing and sentimental ways. There is a phenomenal cameo at the very end that really made me smile. This was by far my favorite in the series since the first one. It had all of the wow and commentary about humanity as the first one, with the zip bam pow action and humor of the third one. And let’s talk about how HUGE Chris Pratt is going to be.

 

Barnes and Noble and Me

And would you look at what showed up at the Livonia Barnes & Noble down the road from me.

First, let me say how much I love indie bookstores. So far I’ve had incredible support from my local indie Aunt Agatha’s as well as Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale and Murder by the Book in Houston that gave me spots on their event schedules, but I’m also looking for an audience outside of just the core mystery audience and that means sales from big chain bookstores like Barnes and Noble.

When Murder Boy first came out in March, I went around to the local Barnes and Noble stores to ask them to carry the book and was met with mixed to disappointing results. Aside from the Flint store where I had my book launch, no other store carried any copies, including the two closest to my house. That was disappointing. But the thanks to the unceasing effort of Jason and the sales reps at The distributor, over the last week or so, it’s start showing up on the New Mystery shelf at all of the Michigan stores which is just cool. That picture above was taken at the store down the road from me in Northville but I’ve been in the Ann Arbor and Brighton stores as well where I was received graciously when I asked to sign their copies.

As disappointed as I was in the beginning when the book wasn’t showing up, this gives it new life after the initial wave of publicity was starting to wear out. So all that crap writers spout about patience being vital in this business really, really is true.

Things & Stuff & Such: New York City Road Trip Edition

You’ve seen the Riot Load cover, right? RIGHT? Well now I’ve added a summary to go with it so you can get an idea of what sort of trouble Dominick gets into. Again.

But before you get all geeked about Riot Load, you need to read Murder Boy. And as part of my publisher’s Big Summer Sale, you can get your very own digital copy of Murder Boy for just $2.99 at your favorite online retailer ( I know we’re supposed to be retailer neutral here and that link to my publisher provides all of the relevant buy links, but Amazon is HUGE and making their digital bestseller lists helps with visibility so  if you have a Kindle or can read Kindle books on your phone or computer I’ll add an easy link here. Don’t tell anyone, okay?).  Go buy many copies. Please. And leave a review. Pretty please.

In other news, the event at The Mysterious Bookshop went great. I had so much fun talking with Patti and seeing all of our friends and being in new York City for a book event. That’s lifetime dream stuff, folks, and I got it with my first book. I’ve had a very charmed experience so far and won’t soon forget it or the people who helped get me here. But that event officially ends my event schedule for Murder Boy so now we’re in full-on GetTheNextBookDoneASAP mode. I talked a bit about it at the event and people seem to be excited to read it.

The kids liked parts of New York City, but I think they were too young (and too suburban) to really get the full experience. It’s an inconvenient city under the best circumstances, but adding tired kids and a schlep from New Jersey to the mix proved fatal to our ultimate enjoyment of the trip. We did have some fun memories (see some of them in my Flickr album) though and the kids have cool Statue of Liberty toys, but I think it’ll be a decade or so before we return as a family. Also, if I never drive another mile in the State of New Jersey I’ll be a happy man. What a confusing stew of insanity.

Here’s a picture Jason took at the Mysterious Event. People were shocked that I looked professional and that was cool. I look high/or tired but really I was just looking in the wrong direction when Jason took the picture.

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View From The Hotel: Creepy Roadside Hotel Poconos Editions

Best hotel lobby ever.

Instead of a view from the hotel room, this is the lobby of the hotel we’re staying at off the highway just outside of the Poconos resort area in Pennsylvania. This place has Stephen King written all over it, but more 1408 than The Shining. It’s dated as all get out, but doesn’t really seem run down or dirty.

Our original plan was to drive straight through, but the mix of torrential rain, exhaustion, and the ever-baffling New Jersey highway system but the squash to that so here we here at the very first Howard Johnson’s I’ve ever stayed at. If no one hears from us again, blame the hotel.

Riot Load Cover Reveal

I’ll be doing the tourist thing in New York City most of the day with Becky who wanted to come here for her birthday. But in celebration of my awesome signing last night at The Mysterious Bookshop I have a surprise for you: The fancy schmancy official cover reveal for RIOT LOAD. Oooohhhhhh. Ahhhhhhhhh. Am I right? Thanks to Jason Pinter and his team of awesome designers at Polis Books for putting this together. My amazement at what Polis is capable of increases every day.

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View From the Hotel: New Jersey Edition

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But wait, you say, wasn’t this trip supposed to end in New York City? You’re right random Internet question asker, and it will in a few hours. But since I have Becky and the kids with me, we needed more space than what we can afford in Manhattan, so New Jersey it is. The Embassy Suites in Secaucus to be specific. We’re right across from a New Jersey Transit bus stop which I will be taking in a few hours to Manhattan for my signing at the Mysterious Bookshop.

So far I can’t say I’m all that impressed by New Jersey. Not even ten minutes into the state we were almost killed twice by NJ drivers. And the highway system is a baffling mix of confusion and stupidity. I have never seen exit signs so small and so poorly placed. But for now, I have a shower to take and a smell to cover up so we’ll talk soon.