Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Well...My Book's In One Library

My mother-in-law first told me of the little lending library on Main Street in our town, but it took until last week before I visited it. I decided to check it out, and I thought it would be neighborly to help out.

So, I took a copy of Speckled and donated it.

I put it among the others. There were some westerns, a few political books, and even a Robert A. Heinlein in the collection. There was a cowboy poetry book that I'd like to check out, and the book Christmas Jars that I've always wanted to read.

Before I dropped off my book, I wrote a note to all my fellow Farmington-ites. I hope if they do choose to read my book that they enjoy it, and I'd love to hear what they think.

Tonight, after cub scout pack meeting, I stopped by the little library to see if my book was still there. I'm happy to say it was not. Of course all the books had been re-organized. When I saw that I wondered if maybe I had violated some rule of the Little Free Library I didn't know about and they took it out. Maybe I can't just add books whenever I want.

Then again, maybe some fellow towns member took a chance, picked up my little collection of stories and gave it a shot. That would be cool. But, hey--if anyone asks me if my book is in any libraries, I can honestly say it is.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Getting My Weekly Totals...No Big Deal

I got an e-mail today from Facebook. I get an e-mail from them about once a week. Apparently Facebook wants me to know just how many people are "liking" my Facebook author page. And not just the number of "likes" I get, but they're keeping track of all the stats.

Stats are interesting. Back when I first began this writing adventure, I attended many writing conferences. I remember going to one class in particular where they discussed an author's online footprint. Someone brought up a fact that a writer got a book deal just because of how many people were following them online. I guess if you have 50K Twitter followers, someone will agree to publish your book. I wonder if it even has to be good.

So, when I created my Facebook author page, I had several hundred Facebook friends. I thought I'd get several hundred Facebook author page likes. Turns out that didn't happen. About a year later, I had more Facebook friends so I asked those who I hadn't asked before if they'd like to "Like" my author page.

And I got a few more.

I then had a decision to make. Was I going to fret and feel bad that I wasn't getting the response I though I might get? I could, of course. But at the end of the day, it really didn't matter. Maybe it does to someone out there. Perhaps I'll submit a story or novel and they'll check my Facebook profile and see my "likes" and decide to pass. But I'm not going to keep hounding people or try and guilt them into liking a page. If they do, they do. If they don't, that's okay, too.

So, I continue getting the e-mails from Facebook. Today I learned both my Weekly Total Reach and People Engaged stats are down 100%! 

That's terrible.

Do I choose to worry about it?

Or do I choose to get on with my life?

I think you know the answer.

Monday, August 14, 2017

That Time I Was In A Miniseries...Because "Nothing Lasts Forever"

Back in 1994 I found myself on the set of a Made-For-TV miniseries, Sidney Sheldon's Nothing Lasts Forever.

Never saw it?

You're probably not alone.

Then again, you may have seen it and forgot--it's been twenty-two years, after all.

The courtroom shoot lasted a week. I took time off work and we put in 12-hour days--that was just for the extras. There were about a dozen of us, those who were spectators for the courtroom drama. I learned from that experience to always bring a book to read. I also learned that those behind the camera work their butts off and put in long long hours to create what looks seamless on screen.

Even though I lost money for the week (they paid us, but I would have earned more at my job...), I loved the experience. I saw some true celebrities, and spoke to some--even though the extras were told not to disturb them, something I completely understood.

Because this wasn't the most successful miniseries, it hasn't been seen much since 1995 when it was released. I even looked to see if I could buy a DVD copy, or even a VHS copy. I found none. But thanks to the miracle that is YouTube, I can watch my 15 seconds of screen time (if that...) any time I want! Just google "Nothing Lasts Forever" and YouTube and you too can be entertained by such stars as Brooke Shields, Gail O'Grady, Vanessa Williams, Saul Rubinek, Gerald McRaney, Chris Noth, Meshach Taylor, Lloyd Bridges, and yours truly. I also met Mike Lookingland. He was a cameraman--nice guy. Just click: HERE to access my episode.

So, here's my claim to dated fame. I was a law student pulling for the prosecution. That darned shifty defense attorney--he was just beyond the pale. That poor (rich...) widow should have gotten all the inheritance; none should have been awarded to that killer doctor.


The defense attorney had no shame, tricking the widow to prove his point. Meshach and I were completely disgusted.


And finally, after being so disillusioned with the whole process, a bald law student wearing a stylish teal sport jacket walks away to consider his career choice. Will he go back to law? Will he turn his back on the scales of justice forever? We'll never know, but the cute blonde doctor won so I guess that means America won.


I was an extra on a couple of other projects, even met America Ferrera before she traveled in pants (which she most likely did before she became famous for doing it...). Back then so many projects were filmed in Utah--not so many now. I'd like to be an extra again. Maybe one day.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Church...Interacting With Some Great People

In our religion congregations are divided up geographically. We have in our area a nursing home facility and all the congregations in the area take turns helping out with their Sunday services. The facility is not big--only a couple of dozen residents call it home. Today, our family helped out. My son helped administer the Sacrament, my daughter sang, my wife and I gave talks. 

Interacting with people who have lived almost a century can be fascinating. I found it interesting in another way. I'm a state employee and my team handles state benefits for many people living in nursing homes. I worked as a caseworker for many in nursing homes until a few months ago when my caseload changed. The point is, as a caseworker, rarely do we ever talk to any of the people on our caseload. I work in a non-public facility. I do my correspondence mostly by phone and from digital paperwork.

As a civil servant, I never interact in person with the people I'm serving.

It's too bad, too. But, it's also a necessary evil. There are a couple of dozen state employees to handle thousands of nursing home cases. Thanks to technology, we're able to stay ahead of the workload. If we had to see and interview every person in person, we would need to hire hundreds of new state employees and that's just not in the budget.

Today, though, as I gave a talk, I was able to see the people, talk to them, thank them for having us be part of their Sunday morning. We drove away after the services, and I felt good. I felt good in a way that I never get at work. I guess that's one of the differences between government and religion. When it's done right, you're both helping, but one just means more.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Steve Martin's "Bowfinger"...An Under Appreciated Gem!

Anyone interested in film, comedy, the art of storytelling is familiar with Steve Martin. The talented man has gone from "wild and crazy" to a serious and important voice in entertainment. His fans can rattle off their favorite Steve Martin films, The Jerk, Roxanne, LA Story. Cheaper by the Dozen (1 & 2), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and many many more.

But there's a little film from 1999 that doesn't get much love when people talk about his projects, and it's one of my favorites, Bowfinger. I watched it again today--first time in a long time--and enjoyed it as much as when I first saw it, maybe more. Martin and Eddy Murphy make a fantastic team.

If you're not familiar with Bowfinger, here's the lowdown. Bob Bowfinger is nearly-broke filmmaker. The movie begins with him reading a script, an amazing script, a script that is so good, it must be made into a movie. The problem? Bowfinger has no money and no resources. His solution--get the world's biggest mega movie star to be in his movie, only the star rejects the idea outright. Not to worry--Bowfinger follows the star and secretly films him doing everyday things. With a cast of crazies, the film gets made and Bowfinger perseveres through it all.

Bowfinger has one of my all-time favorite lines of any film. He tells one of his actors that Tom Cruise didn't know he was in that vampire film until two years after it was made. As if Mr. Cruise walked around as a vampire in his everyday life. And speaking of Mr. Cruise, Bowfinger doesn't hold back in its opinion of Scientology.

Martin not only carries the film, he wrote it, too. He's written other film as well--he definitely knows how to create a successful screenplay. In addition to my favorite quote, I love the montage at the end of the film. As the film is shown the ragtag group of lovable losers sit and watch themselves on screen. Finally, Martin hears the applause and simply smiles. For an entertainer, that says it all, and I wonder if, when filming, Martin had to act. I'd like to think this is how it feels to create something that is loved by millions. And Mr. Martin has experienced that feeling time and time again.

The show holds up well, even though it's almost twenty years old. Eddy Murphy playing duel roles is amazing, total comedic genius. If you haven't seen the film, give it a shot--if you're a fan of Martin and Murphy, you'll love it. And if you have seen the show, watch it again and you'll realize just how great it is all over again.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Experienced The "Back To School" Madness...For The First Time

Today my wife suggested we go shorts shopping. I've needed to go shorts shopping for a few years now (you know how guys are...). And because of the Back to School sales, we thought we'd find some deals.

We found deals, all right.

We also saw the craziness that is "Back to School Shopping."

While I looked for shorts in my size, while I waited for a dressing room to open up, while we stood in line to check out, I realized something--this may be the first time I've gone Back to School shopping since I attended public school.

You may be thinking that this isn't that unusual. I mean, a lot of guys don't take their kids shopping for school clothes. Admittedly, I saw fewer dads shopping with their kids than moms, but consider this:

We have four kids, the oldest is 22, the youngest just became a teenager. That's a lot of time with kids  in school. But, we homeschool so when everyone else is searching high and low for super deals on clothes, backpacks, pencils, and Trapper Keepers (my age is showing...), my kids are already in school, sitting in our front room in their sweats (in the winter...) and shorts and t-shirts (in the summer...). We just don't do "Back to School."

My wife and I went to only one store today. I got two pairs of shorts (killer deals, by the way...) and we picked up some leggings for my daughter. We were done, but all those haggard parents and bored kids were most likely not. They probably had miles to go before they slept, or stopped.

Over the years people have asked us questions about homeschooling. We've answered them many times concerning why we do it. After today, I can add "Avoid the Back to School Madness" to my list of things reasons why.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

If You Are On Twitter And A Ute Fan...You Should Follow Andrew Zaugg!

I've admitted before that I don't fully understand Twitter. What's there to understand? You ask. I mean, how hard can a site be that restricts all posts to 140 characters or less?

Good point.

Twitter is an interesting site. I don't spend a lot of time on it. I do post a link to each of my daily blog posts, so I've tweeted at least 2393 times. Actually, I've tweeted a few more times than that, but not much. There are people with millions of followers--I've got just over 1800. And there are people who have posted tens of thousands of tweets, some hundreds of thousands of times. That I don't understand.

I'm not following a lot of people, but not surprisingly, many of those do I follow are University of Utah fans. Utah fans are like fans of other sports franchises. Some are cool, some are goobers, most are passionate, hence "fanatic." There's one Utah fan who I follow that I actually know, Andrew Zaugg, teacher, friend, fellow thespian. I've known Andrew for at least ten years. We've even done a few shows together and he's a good guy.

Last Christmas we found ourselves sharing the stage once again. I talked to him about Twitter. He loves it, and it shows. He's witty, snarky, and bright when it comes to his tweets. He seems to save his best stuff for all things U of U. And, thankfully he's not a jerk fan.

Because the football season hasn't yet begun, and because Andrew's a teacher, he has time to tweet to his heart's content. There's something hypnotic about pre-college football season hype. And Mr. Zaugg dishes it out with the best of them. So, if you're a Utah fan and you're on twitter, You'll mostly likely enjoy his tweets as much as I do.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Stephen King's "Full Dark No Stars"...A Book Review

Title details for Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King - Available

I'd never heard of this particular book before. I found it while searching for my next audiobook on our library's website. For the most part, you can't go wrong with Stephen King. There's only one Stephen King book I couldn't finish, and I believe it was one of the very first books he ever wrote, The Long Walk. If you know about the book, you know it's pretty gruesome. Maybe one day I'll finish it.

I should say that Full Dark No Stars is gruesome at times, too. It's a collection of short stories, most likely novella-length. There's the story of a farmer in the 1920s who kills his wife, first-person. There's the story of a woman writer who is attacked and how she plots her revenge. There's another story of a man who trades all his bad luck for good, and the bad luck he experienced somehow transfers to a friend he inwardly hates. And finally King includes a story of a woman who discovers her husband's dark secret and how she deals with it, how the couple deals with it, and ultimately, how their marriage ends.

These are creepy tales, folks. Each stands on its own, but there is one thing I found that ties them all together. With each story, a secondary voice/character played a part. The farmer has an alternative personality that he can't control. It's the bad man who justifies the bad thing the farmer does. The writer has a voice tell her things she should and should not do. The man who sheds his bad luck meets a man by the road who talks him into his choice, so even though this isn't a voice inside the character's head, it still sort of works. And finally, the wife learns first-hand how her husband listens to an evil voice telling him what to do.

I'm not normally a fan of horror. Reading it makes me feel uncomfortable. For many, that's what they enjoy most about the genre. I can understand it, even respect it on some level. I do enjoy shorts that get to the point and stay focused. These stories definitely do that. And, as always, the man knows how to write. I didn't know about this collection. If you're a fan of King and you didn't know about this one either, you might want to check it out.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Happy Birthday Bob...Here's To Many, Many More

Saturday night, my wife and I attended a birthday party for a good friend. More and more of my friends are eclipsing the half-century mark. I admit, it was a tad daunting when I crossed over from my forties to my fifties. But, the sun rises the next day and you're pretty much the same person, except you can now join AARP (something, I haven't done...).

The party was great. I saw friends I hadn't seen in years, had great food, and enjoyed some good music. Of course, Bob, the man of the hour, was busy socializing and being the gracious host. We chatted and caught up a little bit. All of Bob's family was there and it was good to catch up with siblings and his parents as well.

I've known Bob since Jr. High School. We graduated high school together and college together. We performed as wild west stuntmen and sang in famous venues and in private settings. We camped, rode whitewater rapids, and even pledged the Sigma Gamma Chi fraternity together. We've seen each other at our best and our not so best. For me, Bob's the pure definition of friend. He's a successful businessman, husband, and father. When it comes to financial expertise, he has a brilliant mind and an even better heart--when looking for a money expert, that's a wonderful and rare combination. I'm lucky to have known him for so many years. Here's to even more memories in the next fifty!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Nothing Says "Happy Birthday" Like Bowling At Boondocks...

Tonight we celebrated your youngest's birthday. We asked what he wanted to do and he said he wanted to go bowling. Thankfully, there's a bowling facility in the next town over. On Mondays they have a family special--perfect timing!

Bowling is one of those activities where, I believe, going too often can be too much. Plus, I don't know if my body can do a lot of bowling anymore--it's what happens when you get old.

Tonight was fun, except we had a haunted lane. It broke down, gave us more points than we earned, robbed one of us a sure strike, and kept us guessing the whole time. Haunted bowling--give it a try sometime.

The whole family went. There are now three teenagers in the family. Most families don't even have three kids and when they think of having three teenagers, it's enough to make father lose his hair. Luckily for me, that happened decades ago. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Yes, family bowling--like I said, too much and it ruins the experience. Glad we were able to go.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Tour Of Utah, 2017 Edition...

Friday several hundred people rolled through our sleepy little town, some in cars, some on motorcycles, but it was those on bicycles that people came to see. For the second year in a row, we watched as the Tour of Utah raced down Main Street.

Like most kids, I grew up on a bike. We had the Schwinns and the ten-speeds. That was about it. I was a pre-BMX kid, but the Schwinns and ten-speeds seemed to satisfy all our needs. And like a lot of us, I watched the movie, Breaking Away and ABC's Wide World of Sports and realized people can actually make a living riding a bicycle. I also followed the sport as Americans made strides in the Tour de France, before all the doping scandals hit. I admit, all that bad press has soured me a little on  competitive biking.

I don't know if the Tour of Utah bike race is a big deal. It sure looked like a big deal as the participants rode past with their support vehicles and major sponsors. And when the motorcycle cops blared their sirens an people began clanking their cowbells, it didn't matter how big or how little the event was--it was cool to see these elite athletes fly by, powered only by the strength of their own muscles.

Like last year, I was fortunate enough to have the off work when they came through. Thanks Tour of Utah organizers for that. I hope that I can enjoy the sport next year, and for many years to come.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Ever Been To ToshoCON? Neither Had I...

I'd never heard of TosoCON before this year. My son had friends who were setting up a booth so we decided to check it out yesterday. What we found was...interesting.


Not that I'm all-knowing when it comes to conventions. All the ones I've attended have a writing component to them. I may be wrong, but I don't think there were a lot of panels on writing at this particular convention. I didn't see a lot of convention attendees with notepads or laptops.

What I did see was a lot of teenagers. ToshoCON was held in West Jordan Utah at the county library. When I think "library" I usually think there's enough room for a convention. I was partially right--they had a nice space, but a couple of hundred teens, many cosplaying, can make even a semi-decent space too small.

The vendor area was nice. There wasn't a lot of diversity as far as selection goes, but that's okay. Those looking appeared to be interested. I hope my son's friends did well at their booth today.

The convention was inside/outside, which was nice, except it was a little warm. And those participating in the karaoke were either drunk (hopefully not since this was a teen anime convention...), lacking in singing skills, or they were unable to hear the music. I hope it's not the last one because the music was a little loud (old man talkin'...). 

We stayed long enough. We saw what was there. Apparently this convention has been going for years, so if my kids decide to participate next year, we'll know what to expect, cosplay, lots of teens, vendor booths, loud music, and iffy karaoke. Sounds like a recipe for fun--if you're a teen and into anime, of course.