I've struggled with my weight my entire life. I hate when I get fat, but I have these awful cycles where I'll just regard the treadmill as a piece of modern art in a museum — to be looked at and admired, but never touched — and plop down on the couch with a bag of Reese's whatevers.
So I know the entire spectrum of waist sizes of the pants you'll find in a store like Target or Kohl's. They start at 30 (as in 30 inches around your waist, you skinny prick) and go up to either 40 or 42, depending on how far they're willing to go to satisfy customers.
But 42 is the absolute upper limit, baby. If you need 44 or above, Wal-Mart can't help you. You're off to Jerry's Big & Tall shop.
Now, knock wood, I've always been able to get a handle on my weight before needing to go beyond 42s. I've had a couple of close calls, but I never crossed over.
Here's the thing, though: Imagine going into Jerry's Big & Tall and telling them you need size 44 pants? You'd be the skinniest guy in the joint! All the size 56 guys would be looking at you with genuine envy.
I'm not suggesting you try this — that is to say, bulking up to the point where you need 44s just so you can oddly feel skinny again — but keep in mind that no matter how big you get, there's always someone bigger who would give almost anything to be the size you are.
And Jerry, of Jerry's Big & Tall shop, will never, ever judge you.
Back in November of last year, I attended Rhode Island Comic-Con for the first time. I knew beforehand that it was going to be a madhouse, a much bigger con than I was used to, but there was one name on the list of celebrities that had seduced me: Weird Al Yankovic.
I had been a huge fan of Al's since the early '80s, and I had seen him plenty of times in concert, but this was going to be my first opportunity to actually MEET the man. I was beside myself with anticipation in the weeks leading up to the con.
My wife and I came up with a highly convoluted plan that would get me the maximum amount of time with Al: we would get in line for his booth and get him to sign one of his 8x10s, then we would have a photo op with him, and then we would bring the photo op photo to him to sign. Nothing stalkerish about that, right?
So we lined up for Phase 1 of the plan, and I can't recall ever being so nervous about meeting a celebrity in my life. We finally had our moment with him, and it was ... okay. He wasn't rude or mean or anything, but he also wasn't particularly warm or friendly. I tried to engage him in conversation, but he didn't seem interested. So I told him that we had a photo op with him later and we'd see him then.
The photo op setup was, not to put too fine a point on it, a shit show. We waited about 40 minutes in a monstrous, increasingly agitated crowd, and when we had our moment with Al, it was literally just that. A moment. It was hard to tell if he recognized us from before. He probably didn't.
So then back to his table to get him to sign the photo we'd just taken together. By this point I felt like we had paid the equivalent of a VIP pass so we'd get a little more out of the man, but no. He was just signing pictures and shaking hands. Nothing more.
It might not have been so noticeable if his booth hadn't been set up next to Thomas F. Wilson's (Back to the Future's Biff). Thomas was striking up conversations with everybody, whether they were paying him or not, and really took the time to make everybody feel special. Not Al. He just did what he was brought there to do. No more, no less.
I realize it's not fair of me to impose Biff's gregariousness onto Al, but honestly, if I had fans who really wanted to meet me, I would be tripping over myself to make them feel welcome. But not Al.
The worst part about this entire experience is that I've soured on Al's music. I used to really, genuinely enjoy it, but now when I hear a song of his, all I can think about is his weak handshake, his lack of enthusiasm, and his shrugging demeanor. So yeah, take this lesson from me, kids. Don't meet your heroes. They'll only break your heart.
I don't know if I actually have fans of my books.
Well, that's not entirely true. I know quite a few people who are fans of my books. But those are all people I know. They have to be fans. Can you imagine having dinner with friends and over appetizers they say, "Not really digging your books, there, Lomer. Sorry."
I'm talking about people who only know me because of my books, people I've never met before. My wife works with someone whose daughter claims to be the biggest fan of Typo Squad, but I've never met the girl, so I can neither confirm nor deny her existence.
I know a lot of writers who excitedly share when a fan reaches out to them on Facebook. I know writers who have fan pages that other people (y'know, fans) have set up. And there's this one writer who is forever yammering on about how popular her books are and how much money she makes in book sales, so I assume she probably has a huge fan following. (I'm actually surprised she doesn't go on and on about that. Maybe she really only cares about the fame and the money.)
But I haven't had any of those experiences. If I have fans beyond my circle of family and friends, they're very quiet and don't communicate much. Maybe my stuff appeals to the introvert crowd.
Whatever the reason, if you are a fan of my work and you and this blog somehow cross paths, I just want to say thank you. And to tell you that you can say hello if you want to, I don't bite.
As a counterpoint to all of the above, to my knowledge, I don't really have haters either. Just as I've never received an email from a stranger saying, "Hey, loved the book," I've also never received one that said, "I've read your books. Kill yourself." So maybe no news is good news after all.
I admit it. I had a problem. I was addicted to the news.
Now this is a strange admission, especially for me. I think if I started off by saying, "I was addicted to Reese's peanut butter cups," people who know me would nod sagely and say, "Yep. That sounds about right." Chocolate is a logical addition for me. News is not.
Mostly because I never cared about the news. School shootings, fires, murders, rape . . . all of it is so depressing and it has a hopelessness and a terribly repetitive pattern to it that makes me run as far away from it as I can.
And then came Trump.
I am unabashed in my hatred of Trump. I think he's a terrible person, a terrible president, and a terrible American. But it was because of him that I found myself addicted to the news.
Every day I would go to a news site and there'd be a headline saying "TRUMP TAKES A PISS IN THE ROSE GARDEN" and my heart would begin to pump fast and I'd think Finally. This is what's going to get rid of him.
And then nothing would happen.
So I'd obsessively refresh the news site and a new headline would pop up saying "TRUMP CALLS GEORGE WASHINGTON A PIECE OF SHIT ON PRESIDENTS' DAY." And I'd think, Yes! He's gone for sure now!
And then nothing would happen.
That's what my days became. Refreshing the news, getting mad about what Trump said or did, getting madder that there were no repercussions, lather, rinse, repeat.
Until finally, about a month ago, I said to myself, I just can't do this anymore. And it was true, I couldn't. I was completely burnt out on the news, on Trump, on everything. So I quit. Cold turkey. I stopped visiting news sites altogether.
And you know what? I am so much happier now.
It took me cutting news — and Trump — out of my life to realize how miserable it had all been making me. I'm sure there have been major news stories that have come and gone since I gave it all up, but honestly, I don't care. I can't and I won't get sucked back in. I plan to vote in November to make positive changes, but until then, I refuse to be baited by all the negativity that circles through on a minute-by-minute basis.
I know a lot of people who take breaks from things like Facebook, and I totally get it now. I strongly recommend taking a break from the news like I did, even if it's just for a week. See if you don't feel better once you're disconnected from all the drama and histrionics.
I'm betting you will.
I'm not sure how other families are, but in my family, everyone from my mother's generation was a saint. From the moment they exited the womb until the moment their casket was lowered into the earth, they could do no wrong. They were kept on very high pedestals, with nice lighting and appropriately angelic music.
The stories these people told about themselves and about one another were equally stain-free. They grew up, got married, had babies, and dutifully attended each other's birthday parties. It was truly remarkable that such a large family could remain so scandal-free for so very long.
But once these relatives shuffled off this mortal coil and were no longer able to paint their pasts with their own brushes (and no longer had siblings to continue telling the same slanted stories over and over), the truth came tumbling out. And the truth was, in a word, fascinating.
Let me give you a for-instance. My mother had a sister named Grace, and Grace lived in several different places throughout the years I knew her, but wherever she set up shop, she always displayed one photo prominently. It was a black-and-white 8x10 of a very stern-looking man with an even more stern-looking crew cut. This man was Hal.
Now I believe that Grace and Hal were married, since she had a different last name than the one with which she was born, but since I never met the guy, it's hard for me to be sure. Maybe she married someone else and kept a flame for Hal. I never asked. I'm also not sure of Hal's fate, whether he left Grace and started a new life or he died.
In either case, once Grace and my mother had both passed on, I learned a little more about Grace's youth, which, curiously, was never discussed.
It turns out that when Grace was 16, she had a habit of sneaking out of the house and making her way down to the local dance hall when, if you'll forgive the phrase, the fleet was in. It was at the dance hall that she met a sailor, whose fleet was in (if you catch my drift) and that sailor got 16-year-old Grace in the family way. As soon as that sailor found out, he disappeared—back into the Navy, where she never heard from him again. Grace was sent to a nunnery to have the baby and then shipped off to a school for wayward girls.
All of this was an astonishing revelation to me. When I came along, Aunt Grace was in her mid-fifties and a big believer in God and church and all the trappings, and picturing her as a wild teenager was simply not possible. But she was. Oh yes, she was.
So now when I think about that photo of Hal that Grace always had staring at everyone who visited her, I wonder about him. I wonder if Hal knew of Grace's salacious past. If he did, was he bothered by it? If he didn't, was he kept intentionally in the dark like the rest of us? Oh, Hal. For the first time in my life, I wish you were still here so I could ask you these things.
I also wish I'd had the presence of mind to maybe take advantage of some aunt or uncle's drunken stupor (and believe me when I tell you there were plenty of those) to dig into the past and uncover stories like this. To be honest, I was never a huge fan of Aunt Grace, but if I'd known she was such a wild child, I would have seen her in a whole different light.
Maybe someday I'll write a story about Grace and fill in some of the details about those crazy years.
Yes. Maybe I will.
This weekend — and throughout the playoffs, really — I am throwing my support behind the Philadelphia Iggles.
Now that may seem like an odd choice, given my complete lack of any connection whatsoever to the NFC, Philly, Pennsylvania, the Amish, the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin, and hoagies.
But the Igs are a scrappy team, a fun team to watch, and a team that's overcome a lot to get to this point. That's a team I can get behind.
What I can't get behind is their fight song.
In case you're unfamiliar with the classic "Fly, Eagles, Fly," here it is in all its tone-deaf glory:
Here's my question: Why would eagles fly on a road? That doesn't make any sense. The whole point of flying is that you don't need roads, as Doc Brown informed us at the end of Back to the Future. But I guess they needed some physical thing that would lead to victory, and a road was the only thing they could come up with.
So then wouldn't it be "Walk, Eagles, Walk"? Or "Run, Eagles, Run"? Well, no, that doesn't make any sense either. Eagles don't walk or run. If they're going to be walking or running on the road to victory, they might as well be the Philadelphia Bipeds.
Is there perhaps a road in the sky with which I am unfamiliar? A strange skyroad upon which you can somehow fly?
Maybe we can fix all this by changing it to "Win, Eagles, Win"? But then it would still be "Win, Eagles, win, on the road to victory ..." Okay, it's definitely the road that's screwing everything up.
Let's go with, "Fly, Eagles, fly, to the nest of victory ..." See, now, that's perfect. That's poetry right there.
All we need now is a bunch of musicians, a recording studio, and a cheap distribution platform to get people humming this new version of a classic song in time for this weekend's game.
Standing in the grocery store the day after the blizzard that was supposed to usher in a new Ice Age and wipe humanity off the planet. Turned out to just be snow.
Staring at the completely barren bread shelves. Well, not entirely barren. The healthy breads are still there. Why such a rush on white bread before a storm? Do they burn it to keep warm?
Then on to the milk section. There's plenty of milk, even the healthy milk. Odd. Even more odd is that the egg shelves have been thoroughly raided. Were people going to ride out the bad weather making French toast? No, you need milk for that. Maybe it was a mad rush to ensure fried eggs and toast on that snowy morning.
And then there's that. Ssssshhhhhhhhkkk. The sound of a grown woman, nose a half-inch away from the screen of her phone, dragging her salt-encrusted Uggs across the linoleum. What are you, five? Is recess over and you're showing your reluctance to go back to class by scraping your shoes on the ground? Did the powerful storm render you unable to pick your feet up and put them back down like an adult?
In the spirit of keeping joy in my heart for the New Year, let me offer this suggestion. I'll give you a piggyback ride around Stop & Shop and then out to your car. Not only will I be rid of ssssshhhhhhhhkkk, but it's less likely that you'll bump into some poor old woman and knock her down, just because you can't be away from Splitter Critters for two goddamned seconds.
Watching with dread fascination as she trips over a WET FLOOR sign and smashes her phone.
Okay, well, that actually worked itself out nicely. The piggyback offer was sincere, but my back and knees aren't what they used to be.
Yeah, so, I'm not very good at blogging.
Which is weird, because blogging is writing, and I'm a writer. At least that's what it says on my business card. Actually, it says "author," but we quibble over terms.
So one of my goals in 2018 is to become a better blogger. And considering that I've barely blogged up to this point, the bar is set very low. The very fact that I'm writing one now sets me light years ahead of where I was.
This blog, the very first one of the year, doesn't contain anything of any real substance. It's not particularly funny or instructive or useful. But it is a solid declaration of intent, and if I find myself not blogging or blogging infrequently this year, I can look back at this as motivation to do what I said I was going to do.
So if you're reading this, August Stephen, I hope you've been consistently blogging all year. If you haven't, get off your ass and do it.
Happy New Year, everyone! May 2018 bring you health, happiness, and riches beyond the dreams of avarice.
This is the teaser video for my holiday novella, Belle's Christmas Carol, coming December 1st! We all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, the miserable old miser who rediscovers the joy of Christmas thanks to the intervention of Jacob Marley’s ghost and three spirits. But what if there was nothing supernatural going on that fateful Christmas Eve? What if everything that happened to Scrooge that night was carefully planned and choreographed to force him to change his ways? And what if the mastermind behind it was Scrooge’s long-lost love? Discover a whole new take on Dickens’ classic tale in Belle’s Christmas Carol!
With the release of my novel Typo Squad imminent, I've spent this week in full-on shill mode, talking up the book to anyone who would listen. And even some who wouldn't.
People, for the most part, have been really supportive, and more than a few of them have asked where the idea came from. The simple answer is that I spent years and years as a proofreader and copy editor, and knowing what a thankless job that is, decided to give folks in the editorial business some heroes.
The less simple answer is that Typo Squad had been kicking around in my head for a very, very long time. Truth be told, I can probably trace its roots back to 1992. That was the year that the much-maligned (and deservedly so) hair metal band Faster Pussycat released their swansong album, Whipped!
On that album was a very clever song titled "Big Dictionary." Have a listen:
The pause that they put in between "dic" and "tionary" always made me think that it would make a great character name - Dick Shonnary. And how people might call him Richard.
That bubbled in my subconscious for a very long time, until about five years ago, when I decided to build a story around Richard Shonnary. But it wasn't going to be a novel. Typo Squad was going to be a movie.
I made attempt after attempt to get the screenplay written, but I could never get it off the launch pad. I'd get five or six pages in and the whole thing would just fall apart. It was maddening.
And then a couple of years ago, I found myself sitting at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with the great Chris Whigham and our wives, and he asked me what I was working on, writing-wise. I told him of my frustration with writing the script, and he said four words to me that changed everything: "Write the book first."
So I did. I sat down and I wrote Typo Squad, from beginning to end. It took me a really long time, and you know what? It was shit. That first attempt at Typo Squad was absolute swill. I reluctantly torched the entire thing and started over from scratch.
The second iteration of the book was better than the first, but it still wasn't where it needed to be. So yes, I put attempt number two aside and started it again. This time, though, I was able to take big chunks of what worked from the second version and use them in the third. And the third time was the charm. That's the version that the world will shortly see.
So I don't find it strange at all to be thanking Chris Whigham for his sage advice that day. (I actually modeled my favorite character in Typo Squad after him in gratitude.) I do find it strange to be thanking Faster Pussycat, but I suppose I must. So thanks, guys.
And now it's time to release Typo Squad to the world. And hope that the world enjoys it.