I feel like such a loser. I don't have a lucky number.
Now, to be honest, there is a number that keeps showing up ALL THE TIME. I'm afraid to tell you what it is because some people are really freaky about numerology and I know what they'd say about my particular combination.
But if I went to buy a lottery ticket there wouldn't be numbers that speak to me. I know that lots of Americans say 7 is their lucky number, but all I think of when I see that number is John Elway.
There was a survey done recently with people from around the world, asking them what number they'd definitely use in a lottery. The number that came up the most often was . . .
I love my country, but I can’t understand why we suck at soccer.
Arguably the biggest sporting event in the world, a tournament that captivates billions of people around the globe, wraps up this weekend when France tangles with Croatia in the World Cup Final.
It’s not embarrassing that the United States didn’t make it to the championship game. But isn’t it humiliating that our country didn’t even play well enough to get into the tournament in the first place?
I say this as someone who doesn’t particularly care about the game. I’m not a fan of soccer, but I am an American and therefore, by nature, a competitive s.o.b.
Two of the best books I ever read about writing didn't spend much time on writing. And that makes sense to me. I’m (mostly) in the camp that you either know how to do it or you don’t. Sure, you can get better. But I'm convinced the biggest obstacle to writing and publishing isn’t on the page/screen, it’s between the ears.
Both of those books spent a lot of time on the mental part. That resonates with me (and maybe you) because, even after publishing 15 books, I still battle fear and doubt. Every damned time. Then I finish writing a book, it’s printed, and I wonder what all the fuss was about.
I won’t beat you over the head with a sales pitch. But I’ll tell you that my latest book, called The Color of Your Dreams, follows the same path: Fix your head and you’ll likely fix your writing.
You're in a happy relationship, and you'd never dream of hurting your partner's feelings. But there's this little matter of sleep. If they're keeping you awake, is it time to think about changing your sleeping situation?
I'm talking about finally breaking down and sleeping in separate beds. Or, in some cases, even separate rooms. It's something we've covered many times on the radio show, and it's an interesting exploration of a social custom.
Because, for whatever reason, our society has the notion that sleeping apart somehow means you don't love the other person anymore. Which is funny. It's just sleep. You're unconscious. Why is it so important to be unconscious together?
The other day I was on the fence about whether or not to go see a movie. There wasn't really anything showing that Gretchen or I wanted to see, but it was a cloudy, rainy day - the kind of day you don't mind sitting inside and enjoying mindless entertainment.
But that wasn't the deciding factor. It was the fact that once I got the notion of movie popcorn in my head, it wouldn't go away.
Harlan Ellison died last week. Perhaps you knew of him, perhaps you didn’t. I knew him for two reasons:
For one thing, he was one of the most celebrated writers of speculative fiction, winning every award imaginable. I had several of his books.
More significantly, he kicked my ass. In person. Figuratively, of course. Physically he was of small stature. Creatively he was a giant. Yeah, I could’ve taken him in a fistfight, but he eviscerated me with words.
he line at the post office snaked almost to the door. I couldn’t do the self-serve kiosk because I was using Media Mail, so I had to get to the counter. Looked to me like about a 20-minute wait.
I began to contemplate a tactical move. What if I went up to the second or third person in line and offered them $10 to swap places? Not let me cut in line, because that would piss off everyone who essentially got bumped back another spot. No, the person would walk back and take my spot and I’d move into their place, in exchange for an Alexander Hamilton.
They might take the deal. Or they might say no, whereupon the person behind them - or ahead of them - might say, “I’ll do that.”
There may be no two words in the English language that bring more joy to a kid’s ears than Summer Break. Hey, I loved school, but I still salivated over the idea of weeks and weeks of sleeping in and goofing off.
But parents and teachers also talk about something known as the summer brain drain. The concern is that too much down time allows students to not only fritter away what they might have learned in the previous school year, but it also gets them out of learning mode.
What’s your favorite memory of your mom? It’s easy to pick out the mushy stuff, which is fine. But what about the quirky, odd memories? The ones that, in hindsight, remind you how much you take her for granted.
When I was in the third grade, our family lived in northern Italy. My dad was in the Air Force, and we were stationed near Lake Garda for a couple of years.
Our school was a small island of American military kids, clustered along a river running through Verona, Italy. Field trips are always fun, sure, but they really get interesting when you don’t speak the language.
As a housewarming gift in December my son and daughter-in-law gave me a turntable. I’m talking the old-fashioned device used to spin vinyl. I quickly ran to my storage room and dug out a couple of dust-covered boxes holding more than a hundred albums. Soon my house was bathed in a sound I hadn’t heard in decades: the crackling, popping beauty of a needle on old forgotten records.
Not long ago we were all told to toss those albums because vinyl was dead, gone the way of 8-tracks and cassettes. And then, for who knows what reason, they began a quiet comeback. Not a massive comeback, mind you, but a trendy one.
I’m ambidextrous, which is kinda fun. I write with my right hand, I shoot pool with my left. I play tennis and racquetball with my right, bowl with my left. I eat right-handed, kick left-footed. Drum right-handed, but strum a guitar with my left.
As one good friend said: Dude, make up your mind. You’re a goddamned mess.
I played a lot of baseball as a kid, and as a left-handed pitcher I did pretty well. By age 15 I led the summer leagues in ERA. I couldn’t hit for shit, but I struck out a lot of guys from the mound. Yet by my junior year of high school I walked away from the game because I was already working full-time in radio. My trusty mitt was put on a shelf in the garage.
On a vacation a few years ago we stumbled across a bar that truly kicked ass. It was outdoors, on gently-sloped property behind a restaurant, a rectangular bar overlooking a small river. Towering shade trees provided respite from the sun. The drinks were moderately priced, the service impeccable.
For what it’s worth, the bar was ergonomically perfect, too. Just the right depth to the tabletop (not too skinny, not too wide), at a comfortable height, and with foot rests positioned just where they needed to be. You may, or may not, understand exactly how all of that matters. Some of us happen to be "eat at the bar" people. It matters.
I like Christmas, but I love Thanksgiving. It’s got everything you want in a holiday: time off from work, a chance to hang with family and friends, a little bit of football, and the best food of all time. On top of that, while it might inject a little bit of stress, it doesn’t come close to the crushing pressures we associate with Christmas.
The only problem is that Thanksgiving comes at the wrong time. Let’s move it from late November to the fourth Thursday of October. Here’s why:
He was barely old enough to walk, but his dad thought it would be cool to introduce the little guy to airplanes. So off they went to an air show, where little Neil sat atop his father’s shoulders and watched the flying acrobats. Three years later, he took his first ride into the sky, aboard a small airplane affectionately known as the Tin Goose. It was July 20th, and he was five.
Thirty-three years later - to the day, strangely - he climbed out of a different flying machine and kicked up some lunar dust. On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon.
Thought-A-Day calendars are generally pretty cheesy. (Today’s thought: You CAN do it!) For years, though, I’d receive them as Christmas gifts, and I’d dutifully flip that page every single day. It usually produced an eye roll from me.
Until one day it didn’t. On a random Thursday in August I tore off the preceding page to find this Turkish proverb:
No matter how far you’ve traveled down the wrong path, turn back.
An article recently caught my eye, and not because it involved a celebrity. (I personally find stories on celebrities to be mind-draining and borderline painful, but I suppose there are people who can’t go a day without reading about Taylor’s current love. People are different.)
This piece focused on a comment Reese Witherspoon made regarding life balance. Or, to be accurate, the lack of life balance when you choose to work while raising a family. The interview in the magazine Southern Living quoted her on work/home balance: “No one’s really doing it perfectly.”
I suspect she’s right, but I’ll go a step farther: I don’t think it’s even possible to have balance.
The bed-and-breakfast sits about a mile from the historic City Centre of Canterbury, tucked into the somewhat-modern suburbs of the British town. The perfect distance, as it turns out; one can find a peaceful night's sleep outside the hubbub of the action, but get in a good walk when it's time to explore.
With a backpack slung from one shoulder, I cross a pedestrian bridge over the A28 and approach the stark, gray stone walls encircling the city. They're about a thousand years old, and look it: forbidding, in a way, and yet softened over time by weather and distress.
After doing book signings for more than ten years, I wanted to offer up an explanation of how my signing events have changed - for the better - and why you might wanna drop by sometime.
If you’ve been to an author’s book signing event, chances are you found a writer sitting behind a table, staring up at people and holding a pen in his/her hand. Maybe there were people in line. Maybe you were the only person there.
My friends chuckled when they heard I was having a garage sale. I guess I’m not what you’d consider “garage sale material” - whatever that is. True, the last time I did it Reagan was in office, but I think that’s just about the right frequency. Everyone should have a garage sale once every thirty years.
Of course, now I’m an expert. Not because I’m so experienced in the ways of peddling and bartering, but because I’m a lifelong learner and first-class observer. While you may simply sell your junk and pocket the dollar bills, I study the process and the people.
And, by doing so, I’ve developed: Seven Iron-Clad Laws of The American Garage Sale
My goal was simple: Give away 1500 books - written under one of my pen names, Buster Blank - to elementary schools. This would be a slam dunk. Dozens of schools signed up for the giveaway, ten were selected, and the congratulatory emails were sent. Next stop? Happily delivering boxes of free books to schools that too often have to scrape together funds to purchase library materials.
But wait, not so fast; something strange happened on the way to Littleton, Colorado. One of the winning schools, in the course of ten days, shifted from accepting $850 worth of books to BANNING the book entirely from their campus.
was a teenager when Paul McCartney released a single called Let ‘Em In. I was a huge Beatles fan, and enjoyed Paul’s solo work, too - but I hated that song. At the risk of sounding like some intellectual snob, the song was just plain dumb. Consider the lyric: “Someone’s knocking at the door, somebody’s ringing the bell. Do me a favor. Open the door, and let ‘em in.”
C’mon, man. I know Macca wrote some silly tunes in his day (the guy actually released a version of Mary Had A Little Lamb, for chrissakes) but my initial reaction was that he was using his superstardom to just put out anything - really, anything - and his name would sell it.
Oh goody, there’s a new entry in the Superman/Batman movie series. The third Divergent film debuted last week. The seventh Star Wars movie splashed in December.
Scan the top twelve box office hits of 2015 and you’ll see that nine of them were sequels, reboots, or retreads. Two others were animated hits aimed at kids. That leaves one - one! - non-cartoon film in the top dozen that was an original idea (The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s fantastic and fun novel).
This likely will launch a new round of complaints that there are no new ideas coming out of Hollywood.
There are few things that make me cringe more than receiving notice of an upcoming “brainstorming” meeting. What the notice should say is, “Please join our group as we stare at each other and accomplish little.”
I’m sure there have been some great ideas that have sprung from these sessions, and there likely are constructive ways to collectively dream up a winner. But I’m an advocate for getting away from the group in order to truly stimulate creativity.
We live in an age where promotional hype outshines almost everything else. It has trickled down from national television programs to just about every creative outlet in the country. And, with the explosion - and undeniable power - of social media, it’s now easier than ever to hype a message to thousands - sometimes even millions - with a click or two.
But an important ingredient is often left out of the cake that eager artists are trying to bake: Good content.